Title: Flashbacks and Echoes
Summary: "She awoke to a crying child with a blood red scar, and a dead husband lying on their welcome mat." Lily Potter, Moonlight Sonata and picking up the pieces. / AU, one-shot, for PSdancer54 and HPFC.
Prompt 1: Advent Calendar challenge - LilyJames, and birthday.
Prompt 2: key / couldn't keep her focus / Sunday / "Every time you smile, I smile." / sunshine
Day: Six geese a-laying, fix gold rings... four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.
Notes: This was written mainly for PSdancer54, as part of my Advent Calendar fic-give-away, and also for Being a Wallflower's Ultimate Taylor Swift Competition over at HPFC. My song was 'Red', by Taylor Swift, and this idea just... appeared. It's half happy and half sad, but I really hope you love it all the same. Enjoy!
"Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you never met, but loving him was red." - Taylor Swift, Red.
Lily sat alone in the attic.
Downstairs, she could hear muttering voices and muffled laughter, but other than that, the house - her house - was silent.
In her hands she held five multi-coloured envelopes. Each of them had been stuffed in a forgotten box, intended to be unpacked but never had.
"James," she whispered as she held one, turning it over and over in her hand. "Remus. Petunia. James. James." Water splashed down onto the paper surface, and she looked up, expecting to find one of the leaks that James had promised he would fix.
Instead, she held in a sob and realised that the water was tears.
She stroked one of the cards, and held it tightly to her chest, like it was a key to the one box that had always remained locked. Like it was the key to the past, waiting to be opened and warped, made better by decisions that weren't made and choices that were changed.
Moonlight Sonata began to play, and sunlight filtered in through one of the windows, but her heart was the colour of dark grey; empty and cold and all alone.
After all, the past was only flashbacks and echoes.
30th January, 1971
"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday to Lily..." They all chanted around her, and Lily smiled - this big happy smile that was free and careless, and spoke of childhoods and futures and being Lily Evans. She clapped her hands and laughed.
Petunia presented her with a card - a pretty one, with two laughing girls on the front that Lily belatedly realized were them. They had their arms wrapped around each other, and were grinning widely.
"Thanks, Tuney," Lily whispered, acting as though she wasn't hastily blinking back tears and giving a watery laugh.
"Well, go on," Petunia told her, pointing to the cake and smiling too, even though she had been pulling her pretty red hair less than an hour ago, urging her to get out of bed so Petunia could brag about the number of presents she got last year.
Lily leant forward, and took a deep breath.
She dreamt of princes and castles, noble steeds and love-at-first-sight. She imagined driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street (her new favourite car, because Lily may have been named after a flower, but that didn't mean she was dainty) and falling in love with summer.
She blew out the candles.
Around her, her family cheered and her mother took pictures and slapped her dad on the arm when he pretended he wasn't tearing up. Petunia gave her a rare hug and various aunties left lip-stick stains on her cheeks.
Nobody noticed the doorbell until it rang twice. Lily looked round at her family members - maybe Great Uncle Marius had decided to sober up and come over? - and sprinted to the door.
After fumbling about with the keys, she opened it to reveal an eccentric looking man with a long, greying beard and twinkling blue eyes looked down at her from behind half-moon spectacles. The sunshine glared him behind him, and she squinted against it. The man smiled.
"Hello," Lily whispered, because she couldn't forget her manners, and this man appeared to be carrying a small, cream-coloured envelope. Maybe Uncle Marius had a friend, and had instructed him to give Lily her birthday present.
She doubted it.
"Hello," the man greeted her cheerfully. "I was wondering if I could have a word with your parents?"
Lily nodded, and just before she turned to get them, the man knelt down and, smiling softly, he handed her the envelope. "No post on Sundays. Happy birthday, Miss Evans." And so, that was the beginning of Lily Evans.
30th January, 1973
Lily sat alone in her dormitory.
She hadn't been able to go home for Christmas this year; her parents and Petunia were going skiing, and couldn't afford to take her too, what with having to buy her new robes and school equipment and... well. They didn't want her there, at any rate.
Most of her friends had been called home, too, and though they had argued to stay, many of them missed their parents, and vice versa, so they were forced to leave.
Thankfully, Potter had left (most likely to go and shop for the most expensive broomstick then demand that his father buy him two, the ungrateful sod) as had Black (though, strangely, he had looked less than pleased, but Lily wasn't one to pry... much) and Pettigrew, too.
Remus had stayed.
Lily didn't want to ask why.
Suddenly, though, a tapping noise came from the window. Presuming it was the wind, she ignored it, but the tapping persistently increased. Lily screamed into her pillow - just one day, she thought, I'd like to be left alone with my melancholy thoughts- and went over to the window, expecting the worst (Potter on his broom, tapping on the glass and grinning like an idiot).
Instead, an owl sat on the windowsill, lazily pecking at the glass with its beak.
Sighing, Lily searched for the key, not bothering with her wand, and let it in. It sat on her bed and waved its leg at her. Attached was a very small envelope, reading Lily in black italics.
Curious, she ripped it open.
Dear Lily, it read, Happy birthday! I know this is a letter, not a card, and everyone is aiming to basically be a collective group of twats, but stay strong! The sane ones among us will eventually rule over the insane little twat-ish creatures, with inconceivable amounts of chocolate and balloons.
You don't need ski trips or those giggly ones in skirts to be happy. Come meet me down in the common room, some time. I hear the twats have vacated it.
And if Lily cried a bit once she got down to the common room, those who were around - namely, Remus - were too polite to comment on it.
30th January, 1976
"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you..." Lily smiled round at her friends; they were all hugging her, wishing her happy birthday, offering sweets and presents and cards as they sat down at the Gryffindor table. All of them were ignoring the fact that Lily didn't go home for Christmas, and the fact that they had stayed at Hogwarts with her.
"You look like a Muggle and you fly like one too!"
The Great Hall fell silent.
"For god's sake, Potter, he's not worth it!" Lily shouted after him, as Potter and his band of tyrants stood up and approached the Slytherin table. Surprisingly, Remus also had his wand out. Unsurprisingly, Black was standing at the front, grinning like a cat and twisting his own wand through his fingers.
"And why not?" Potter growled back, turning round to face her. He looked angry; not just bored, or annoyed, or amused, as he usually was when there was a fight afoot.
"Well, if you knock him out, his poor lone brain cell may finally give up attempting to make that much body mass function," Lily said cruelly, and the hall laughed.
At the Head table, McGonagall had stood up, and was approaching them with a disapproving, disdainful look.
"What about that, eh, Evans?" Potter asked softly, and she turned to face him, confused and questioning. What about what? Fighting with Potter was like trying to solve a crossword and realising there was no right answer. Lily sighed; McGonagall had already marched over now, and was looming over them, her mouth thinner than she had ever seen it.
"Detention, Potter, for threatening another student. Three detentions, Avery, for that disgusting display of prejudice, and in the Great Hall, no less! And I shall give you a warning, Miss Evans."
As McGonagall turned away in a flurry of robes, Lily swore she saw her wink.
Potter cleared his throat, and Lily stared at him, wondering what he wanted now. Silently, he handed her a red card (not a Howler, but a deep burgundy one with spindly silver writing on it, and sat back down.
The writing moved elegantly across the page, curling and twisting, and each time it stopped, it spelt out the words, 'Happy birthday, Evans.'
Inside was a picture of her and her friends, sitting under one of the willow trees and laughing at the boy behind the camera - Remus, she remembered vaguely, offered to take it for us. He must have forgotten to give it back.
Lily tucked the card in her pocket, intending to throw it away when the opportunity presented itself.
Strangely, it never did.
30th January, 1978
"Come on, Potter," Lily begged, leaning forward and holding his head in her hands. "Just tell me.
"Give it up, Prongs!" Sirius shouted across the common room, and Lily laughed. Clutched tightly to her chest, she held a little green, love-heart birthday card that softly sang Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata whenever she said James.
"Why do you want to know?" James wondered aloud, rolling his eyes behind his glasses.
"Because I do!" Lily huffed, crossing her arms.
"I bet it's secretly green, Prongs," Remus offered, chuckling from behind Peter's DADA homework. "You know... Like somebody's eyes." He winked at her.
"And someone else's house tie!" James protested. "It's definitely not green."
"Blue?" Lily offered. Blue was always sad to her; like oceans and losing. But it was a popular colour...
"It's definitely not blue," he said surely, leaning casually back against the sofa cushions and raising an eyebrow. "Why are you so adamant to find out my favourite colour anyway? Maybe it's black! Maybe I like a shade and not a colour at all!"
"Dark grey," Sirius suggested, wiggling his eyes. "Like my eyes..."
James raised his hands. "Straight! How many times do we need to clarify this? Straight!" He sighed. "Plus, grey's a depressing colour." Lily nodded; dark grey was storm clouds and missing.
Not like... say, red. Red was autumn and roses; it was Gryffindor and passion and the colour of her hair. It was...
"Red!" Lily shouted, jumping up and jabbing James in the chest with her finger. "Your favourite colour is red!" She danced up and down, waving her arms in jubilation, laughing as she did so, though she didn't know why. James stood up too, grabbing her round the waist. "Why are you smiling?"
"You got it, Lily flower," he told her softly, kissing her cheek and stroking her hair. "And every time you smile, I smile." Carefully, he picked her up and started spinning her.
Moonlight Sonata started to play from her little card. After all, red was love.
30th January, 1980
"James, darling," Lily said softly. "If you could kindly stop pressing on my bladder..." James jumped back from where he had his arms wrapped around her in an affectionate hug. He offered her a shy smile - something she never thought she'd see on James Potter's face - and rubbed the back of his neck.
"Sorry, love," he said, "but I'm just so excited! This is your last birthday alone, imagine that?"
"Well, I'm not alone..." She stressed, and James wriggled his eyebrows, crawling up the bed to join her.
"And what is it you'd like, milady?"
"Well..." She dragged a finger down his cheek, staring up at him. "Breakfast in bed would be lovely, dear." James sighed, then perked up again. "Normal breakfast in bed. Not kinky. I'm two months pregnant, I can't do kinky." He visibly deflated.
"Fine," he huffed. Just as James was leaving, he turned around and, with the aim of a natural-born Gryffindor chaser, threw her a little rectangular object, the one she had seen him writing last night. "Enjoy!"
And, he ran.
The card was blue and pink - cliché, Lily thought - and had a red-headed woman on the front - predictable - and read, simply, Happy Birthday! Which was obvious.
Inside, though, was written: Sorry, Lils. We're out of milk. And bread. And eggs. And those Danishes you like. And possibly cups. And cutlery. You know what? How about we skip breakfast in bed? We'll do it on Sunday.
But I just wanted to tell you that you're gorgeous. All I've ever wanted is right here in front of me. You are fantastic and smart and fiery and I wouldn't trade you for the world. I know you don't feel the same, but that's (hopefully) only because little Harry or Amelia comes first, and Remus isn't a dick like the rest of us. I love you.
Happily third place,
Lily closed the card with a fragile shake, and padded downstairs to hit her husband and laugh at him, just so she didn't hug him, or worse, cry. Oh, James.
He was sat at their piano, his fingers splayed over the keys. Lily watched through red hair as James began to play Moonlight Sonata, just for her.
31st October, 1981
"James," Lily sobbed, cradling her husband's head to her chest. She didn't feel sadness, despite her tears; she felt empty. She felt used and forgotten, an afterthought in both Voldemort's campaign and Dumbledore's. Voldemort, the wizard who had almost killed her, and Harry, the boy she tried to die for. The spell never hit her; but it was supposed to.
He had turned his wand on Harry. No sound came from downstairs, and she had collapsed, hitting her head and turning the world red.
She awoke to a crying child with a blood red scar, and a dead husband lying on their welcome mat.
Harry cried softly from upstairs. Lily didn't hear him.
She didn't think gruesome thoughts, like he'll come back, or, he's just sleeping. Her mind was consumed with thoughts of James and dead and gone and HarryohgodHarrymybabyboyHarr y and James!
James' eyes were open and staring, but Lily didn't want to look at them; she didn't want to see. But she touched him gently, carefully, with reverence and regret - and she wished that she had never found love that strong.
There was a pain in chest, like her heart was burning and she wanted to laugh or scream or cry - she did none of those. Lily felt lost; her key was gone. And now the lock had broken.
She didn't know what to do.
She had never lost a friend and never lost a lover; she never had the chance to say goodbye to anyone who deserved that much.
Lily wanted to rip out her tongue so it could speak the words for her, rip out her heart so it could tell him how much she loved him. She wanted to be able to hold him and offer up her life in her cupped hands, so that he could be cherished like he deserved to be.
She wanted to write a eulogy worthy of him. She wanted the world to worship James Potter.
Instead, all she could do was see red everywhere and cry. James and dead and gone and HarryohgodHarrymybabyboyI'msosorryHarryHarryI'msorryDaddy'ssorrynobaby and James and no and James and please.
30th January, 1982 (Present Day)
Lily lived as normally as she could; but she couldn't forget him. Forgetting him was like... was like trying to know somebody you've never met - impossible. Remembering him was like knowing the words to her old favourite song - constant and bewildering and caught in the-land-of-yesterday-and-childhood-and-birthday-cards-and-James.
People came to her house and left again, and if they noticed anything out of the ordinary, they didn't mention it. But they still knew never to wear red.
Because Lily's house was sparse of red - anything that reminded her of James. The piano had been Reducto-ed and the photographs burnt. Everything but the birthday cards had been destroyed.
She couldn't keep her focus, not without James.
"Lily?" Remus stood in the doorway, holding little Harry, who was fast asleep in his arms, and the key to the attic door. He smiled at her wearily, and joined her on the dusty attic floor. His eyes skipped over the broken floorboards and cracks in the ceiling, then to Lily herself.
Not saying anything, he passed her Harry, hugged her, and left, leaving the key in the lock.
"You are going to be amazing," Lily whispered to her son, holding his sleeping form close and rocking him like she used to do when James -
Well. When James.
"You're going to be a Gryffindor, like Mummy and Daddy, and you're going to play Quidditch, and annoy your friends, and open birthday presents. You're going to make some poor girl fall completely in love with you and you are going to spend the rest of your lives together. And you are going to be so happy."
The Sunday sunlight still streamed in through the window, and Lily rocked Harry softly and cried into his black, James hair.
Because loving James was like driving that childhood Maserati - faster than the wind and passionate as sin and dead before it could reach the end. It was the key to her heart and the lock around it in the first place.
It was autumn and roses and keys; Gryffindor and passion and the colour of her hair.
And in the end, loving him was red.