"So this is where you fell
And I am left to sail
The path to heaven runs through miles of clouded hell
Right to the top
Don't look back"
Imagine Dragons- It's Time
James had always been quite confident when it came to his appearances, but not anymore. These days, he avoided all sorts of mirrors and cameras whenever he could since they were all reminders of how much he'd changed.
His pale face. The dark circles under his eyes due to lack of sleep. His hair that was even untidier than usual. If it weren't for the fact that he moved, blinked and breathed, despite everything, one might think that he was actually dead.
He looked dead. He felt dead. And he hated it.
As soon as he'd wiped away the fog from the mirror that hang on the wall in his aunt's bathroom, he looked away. He couldn't stand seeing himself in there.
Couldn't bring himself to face what he'd become. What he'd lost.
James took a deep breath and closed his eyes slowly, muttering under his breath:
"Get a grip"
That's what he told himself whenever this happened, whenever he felt like he was about to break. His aunt didn't like it, said that he should welcome all feelings rather than trying to pretend like they didn't exist. And even though trying to pull himself together hardly ever actually worked James didn't want to feel. At all. Because he'd never been good at expressing his feelings, or even admitting that he had any.
James Potter had always been that person who laughed it off, refused to cry or show even the smallest sign of weakness whenever he hurt. He was that strong, confident young man who got good grades without even trying and who impressed girls with his Qudditch skills and witty remarks.
Well, of course Lily Evans had never been one of thos girls. And perhaps he'd been this weak all along. Perhaps she was the only one who saw right through him. He'd asked her out so many times he'd lost count and he'd tried his best to impress her during the last couple of years and yet he'd never, not once, told her how he actually felt about her. How the bare sight of her made him feel like he could do anything. How she was the only one who could make him smile whenever he felt like giving up.
Talking feelings had never been James' thing.
But for some reason, his aunt just wouldn't see that. Ever since he got here, over a month ago, she'd reminded him at least once a day that he could talk to her whenever he felt like it and that it'd just make it worse to hold it all back.
He was sick of it. Sick of her, even though he knew how much she'd done for him ever since they passed away. How she'd let him spend all time inside the house since he, at first, hadn't even been able to go outside. How she'd stayed up with him for hours when he didn't want to go to sleep because of the nightmares that constantly haunted him.
They still did, and that was the worst thing about all this. That it just never... stopped. In fact, James almost felt like it got worse every day.
"James, I need to use the bathroom! Are you done soon?"
His aunt knocked on the door, but her voice was gentle and he knew that if he only told her to give him another couple of minutes, she would. But what was the point? He might as well rotten in his bedroom as in here. Not that it was his bedroom, he hadn't been to his house ever since that day, and he didn't think he'd ever be able to go back.
He unlocked the door leading into the bathroom and his aunt gave him a small smile, putting a hand on his shoulder.
"Good morning, I've made breakfast downstairs if you want some"
James forced himself to smile back, but it felt more like a grimace.
"Thank you. I just have to get dressed..."
"Of course, take your time!"
His aunt waved her hand impatiently and as soon as she'd closed the door behind her James was left alone in the hallway, thinking about how everybody treated him like a bomb that might explode at any second. Sirius, Remus and Peter had sent him tons of letters and yet he'd thrown most of them away without even tearing open the envelopes.
They pitied him. Wanted to know how he was. If he'd come back to Hogwarts when summer was over.
Those was all questions James didn't know how to answer. And he didn't want people to feel sorry for him. After all, he was still here. He wasn't the one whose last sight had been a bright, green light...
He tried to think of something, anything, to get his mind off his parents as he got dressed. Truth to be told, he would have enjoyed just going back to sleep but he knew it'd worry his aunt which meant he'd never hear the end of it. Besides, if he was awake he could at least control his thoughts...
So James made his way downstairs, one step at the time, trying to focus on nothing but breathing. Walking. Getting through another day in hell.
Get a grip.
Lily Evans stirred in bed, keeping her eyes shut even though she knew that she would not be able to ignore the sunlight for much longer. When she finally gave up, and cast a quick glance at the alarm clock on her bedside table, she realized that it was only 8:30 AM. Far too early to get up on a morning in August when she had nothing special to attend to during the day.
"Dad!" she groaned, for he was the one who'd pulled her curtains aside, and covered her head with her pillow. "Why won't you and mum just let me sleep? It's called 'summer holidays' for a reason, you know!"
But her dad simply ignored her comment and ruffled his daughter's bright red hair playfully before pointing out:
"You said that yesterday, remember? Besides, it's Sunday and we always have breakfast together on Sundays"
"And that would be a very nice tradition..." Lily muttered under her breath while slowly sitting up in bed, wiping the sleep out of her eyes. "... If Tuney didn't act like a complete assh..."
"Lily Evans!" her dad exclaimed, trying his best to look angry but failing quite miserably.
"It's the truth!" Lily lay down in bed again, a pouty look on her freckled face. "She's treated me horribly ever since I got home for Christmas during my first year at Hogwarts and..."
"...And avoiding having breakfast with her is not going to help" her dad interrupted her and there was something in his voice that told Lily that this conversation was over. "Now get dressed and we'll see you downstairs in a couple of minutes, okay?"
"Fine" Lily snapped, rolling her eyes as her dad left her alone.
She waited until he'd closed the door behind him before she slowly got out of bed, squinting at the sunlight that shined in through the two big windows in her bedroom. It was a beautiful morning; the sky was clear blue and when opening one of the windows to get some fresh air Lily felt that it was also quite hot outside.
With the lovely weather, and with birds singing from somewhere in the distance, she couldn't help getting in a better mood as she got dressed and put her long hair up in a messy ponytail. She quickly made her bed and was just about to leave her bedroom and head downstairs to have breakfast with her family, but something caught her attention right as she put her hand on the doorhandle. Something lying on her writing desk. Something she hadn't been able to throw away even though it had arrived weeks earlier and even though she'd re-read so many times she'd lost count, without really knowing why.
The article about Mr and Mrs Potter's, James' parents, deaths in The Daily Prophet.
It had been a bit of a shock for Lily when the owl had arrived with the paper that morning around a month ago and she'd spotted the headline covering half the front page.
MR AND MRS POTTER MURDERED
Likely the work of supporters of You-know-who.
She'd read the article, her hands trembling slightly, and found it quite hard to take any of it in. Of course she'd heard a lot about this "You-know-who" by now, whose real name was Lord Voldemort, but she'd never expected him to get this close... That he'd get to someone she knew. To James. It worried her.
Naturally, she still hated Potter for everything he'd done and said through the years but she'd never wish that upon anyone. Ever. And according to the Prophet, James had actually been there when it happened. He'd watched the whole thing.
Having to experience something like that, Lily could scarcely imagine it... Shivering at the bare thought, she tore her gaze away from the paper and opened the door leading into the bedroom.
It was one breakfast a week she had to have with Petunia. One. She could handle it.
"Your Hogwarts letter has arrived"
How his aunt had managed to get to the kitchen before him, when she had still been in the shower whilst he got dressed, was a big mystery. Perhaps he'd tried to be as slow as possible, for spending time with any other human being, including his aunt, was exhausting.
James sat down by the kitchen table, his voice empty as he replied:
He could see his aunt's worried gaze from the corner of his eye.
"Well, aren't you going to open it? It seems slightly thicker than usual..."
"But it's not" James interrupted her, spreading some butter on a piece of toast simply because he knew he wouldn't get away with eating nothing. "I was made Quidditch captain last year, remember?"
That was a year ago. A whole year, 365 days, had passed since he'd received that letter that had made both him and his parents so proud. He'd kept the badge on his bedside table, looking at it every night before he went to sleep with a huge grin on his face. Now, it was hard to see how something like that could ever be so important...
His aunt interrupted his thoughts:
"Well, we still need to go to Diagon Alley and buy your new books and since I'm not very fond of opening other people's mail..."
James rolled his eyes and snatched the letter from her.
"Fine" he snapped, but realized a second later that it was a big mistake since her face quickly expression changed.
After a short silence she put her hand on his arm again.
"Look, if you're not ready to go back..."
"I want to go back" James said shortly, slowly tearing the envelope open. "Besides, I have no choice unless I don't want to graduate"
His aunt looked like she wanted to oppose but remained silent, watching as James pulled out the first piece of parchment that said that he was welcome to his seventh and last year at Hogwarts. The next piece of parchment was the traditional booklist and he read many new titles he'd never heard of before, probably books he needed to pass his NEWT exams. The bare thought of that made him panic.
"James... What is this?"
He looked up from the booklist at the sound of surprise in his aunt's voice and a second later he realized why; she was holding a badge in her hand that had accidentally fallen out of the envelope, and a big smile spread across her face.
James opened his mouth to ask what it was all about but then decided on reading the last piece of parchment that the Hogwarts owl had brought with it. It was written in Mc Gonagall's handwriting.
Dear mr Potter!
We are pleased to inform you that the headmaster himself, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, has chosen you as this year's head boy. Please note that this post comes with a lot of responsibility and you will from now on always have to consider that you're a role model to younger students and the teachers' right hand.
You will meet with the other prefects and the head girl in the front carriage of the Hogwarts Express on September the first, at 11:30 AM. Please be on time.
M. Mc Gonagall
Before James could say anything, or even properly react, his aunt squealed in delight.
"You're head boy! Oh James, I'm so proud of you!"
He was quiet for a few seconds and then slowly put the letter down, saying:
"This has to be a mistake. They must have sent it wrong. I wasn't even a prefect, Remus is the one who should have the badge..."
"Don't be stupid" his aunt interrupted him, handing him the head boy badge. "It says 'J. P' right here, last time I checked those were not Remus Lupin's initials"
James paled slightly and he couldn't help feeling a bit sick. If this was not a mistake, which it had to be, that meant that this year would come with more responsibility than he could ever handle. How could he be a "role model" to the younger students and the teachers' "right hand" if he could barely take care of himself at the moment?
"Your parents would have been so proud. I know they always dreamed of this"
His aunt's voice was soft and the tears forming in her eyes made James look away. He couldn't stand it. And he knew that what she said was the truth. His dad had always said that he knew that there was more to his son than "pulling pranks and playing Quidditch" and his mum had always agreed.
They'd believed in him. Could he let them down now? He already knew the answer to that question.
"I'm sure you will do a great job"
James shook his head slowly, laughing hollowly.
"No" he said. "No, I won't"
At least not compared to the head girl, and he had a feeling who that might be...
Lily tried to make her way down the stairs as slowly as possible, thinking that every second that she didn't have to spend in Petunia's company was worth cherishing. Once she reached the kitchen she found her mum, dad and sister already seated by the table.
"Good morning darling!"
Mrs Evans hurried forward and kissed her daughter on the cheek. Lily smiled, sitting down opposite her sister and next to her father who was busy reading the paper.
"Good morning mum. Do we have any eggs? I'm starving!"
"Help yourself then" Petunia snarled but Lily didn't have time to retort before their mother interrupted them both:
"Girls, it's a Sunday morning and we're supposed to have breakfast together. Please be civil!"
Petunia looked pleased at the surprised look on her sister's face and once her mother was out of earshot, for she'd started preparing eggs, Lily muttered under her breath:
"Un. Bloody. Believable. I didn't even..."
"Honey, can you please explain to me again how these pictures can move?"
Mr Evans furrowed and glanced at his wife over the top of the newspaper which Lily, just now, realized was today's copy of The Daily Prophet. Her mum sighed slightly, heaving some eggs onto her youngest daughter's plate while answering:
"I don't know dear, it's just magic, isn't it? Why don't you ask Lily? After all, it's her paper..."
"Her freak paper..." Petuniasaid, giving Lily a fake smile which she ignored before answering her dad's question by posing another one:
"When did that arrive?"
She nodded towards the paper in her dad's hands. He slowly folded it together and handed it to his daughter.
"Right before you came downstairs. The owl didn't seem willing to leave at first so I gave him two of those funny looking coins you showed me..."
"Oh right, that's what they're called"
Lily scanned the front page of the newspaper, only to realize that nothing very exciting had happened since yesterday, and thanked her mum for the eggs. Once they'd all sat down to eat she turned to look at her dad again.
"Why would you read the Prophet, dad? I'm sure there's not much for you in there"
She didn't miss the glance her parents exchanged. Ever since she was a child that look had meant that they were both referring to something that they didn't want their daughters to know about. However, Lily was far too curious to let it go now.
"What?" she asked. "What's wrong?"
Her mum took a long sip from her coffee, as if she needed some time to find the right words.
"Nothing is wrong, sweeheart. Your dad and I just... Well, we thought that it might be good for us to be a bigger part of your world. We send you off to Hogwarts every year and yet we have no idea what's going on in the wizarding world..."
"Well..." Mr Evans interrupted his wife, clearing his throat slightly. "It's not entirely true that we know nothing of your world. I mean, you've told us things..."
"But why now?" Lily asked. "You've never bothered reading a wizarding newspaper before"
Her parents exchanged another glance and now, even Petunia looked up from her plate to listen to the conversation that seemed to be heading in a quite serious direction.
"We're a bit... worried" Mrs Evans finally said, her voice low as she looked right into her youngest daughter's eyes. "Are you sure that you should be going back this year?"
Lily looked from her mum to her dad, expecting them to burst out laughing and say that it was all a joke. But they didn't. Eventually, she snorted in disbelief.
"Yeah I hope you are too, because I couldn't stand having her around all year" Petunia pointed out but once again Lily ignored her.
What had put this thought into her parents' head? They had always found her education at Hogwarts nothing but interesting and a great experience for her. And not going back simply wasn't an option. This was her last year. Her NEWT year. The year where she might finally become...
"And what about this dark wizard who's gaining power?" Lily's mum asked, suddenly looking deadly serious. "You told us he hates muggleborns..."
"Mum" Lily said, taking a deep breath not to lose it. "Hogwarts is probably the safest place to be if You-know-who gets even stronger and more powerful. Dumbledore is there..."
She missed the look her sister sent her at the mention of the old wizard's name and soon continued:
"...and nothing will happen to me with Dumbledore around. I promise you I'll be fine"
There was a short silence. Her dad finally took a minute to wipe his glasses on his shirt and then, looking up at Lily again, he said:
"Well... I guess we can't make you stay..."
"But what about that couple, then?" Mrs Evans still looked very upset when giving her husband an angry look. "The one you read about up in Lily's room a couple of days ago?"
But she'd barely uttered the words before realization hit her.
"You mean the Potters"
Her mum's eyes widened in surprise.
"Their name was Potter? Isn't that the name of that boy who always bothers you at school? The one who's in love with you?"
"He's their son..." Lily mumbled, and once again her thoughts drifted off to how James must be doing at the moment. "And he's not in love with me mum, he tries to impress all girls with his amazing Quidditch skills and bullying..."
But that was not entirely true. Sure, almost every girl Lily knew at Hogwarts had had a crush on James at least once but he'd never annoyed any of them the way he annoyed her. He paid far too much attention to her, and she hated it.
"But he's never bullied you, has he?"
"No" Lily shook her head. "But he and his friends are always so mean to Sev..."
She drifted off. Even speaking her former best friend's name hurt. She hadn't spoken to him all summer and last year in school he'd practically ignored her all the time. Perhaps their friendship was over for good, perhaps they were now too different. But despite the fact that he was now only hanging out with evil slytherins who were likely to become death eaters within a couple of years, she missed him.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a loud snort coming from Petunia.
"Well, I don't blame anyone who thinks bad of him..."
It was a lucky thing that the two sisters were sitting on different sides of the kitchen table, because otherwise Lily was pretty sure she would have jumped right at her. She'd had enough. Over the years she'd done her best to befriend Petunia again, to fix the relationship they'd once shared and make her believe that she was still the same Lily she'd always been.
But Petunia had refused to listen and now, six years later, Lily didn't even bother trying anymore. She just hated her sister's mean remarks about everything that had to do with magic.
Suddenly, Petunia shrieked and it only took Lily a second to figure out why; a big, brown owl was flying in through the open kitchen window and landed right in front of her. She could tell from the letter it held in its beak that it came from Hogwarts and her heart skipped a beat.
This was it. The letter that could change everything. All summer she'd hoped, without admitting it to anyone in case someone else would get it...
Not even her sister's "GET THAT FILTHY OWL AWAY!" made her look up from the envelope she was now tearing open, holding her breath...
Author's note: Those who read this should know that English is not my first language and that's one reason why this story will never be "perfect". Please let me know if you find some grammar and/or spelling mistakes that bother you.
I'm pretty sure this plot has been done many times before but I figured I'd give it a try anyway. I have always wondered what made James change and Lily to fall in love with him after having "hated" him for so long. Please leave a review if you liked it and want me to continue :)