Author: Queen Nightingale
Rating: M (For Language and References)
If love wants you; if you've been melted
down to stars, you will love
with lungs and gills, with warm blood
and cold. With feathers and scales.
Under the hot gloom of the forest canopy
you'll want to breathe with the spiral
calls of birds, while your lashing tail
still gropes for the waves. You'll try
to haul your weight from simple sea
to gravity of land. Caught by the tide,
in the snail-slip of your own path, for moments
suffocating in both water and air.
If love wants you, suddenly your past is
obsolete science. Old maps,
disproved theories, a diorama.
- Anne Michaels, Skin Divers
They say you have blue blood – but all you can taste is red, red, red skin red hair red knuckles. They say the only place gingers have that fire colour is on their heads, and you're dying to find out – drooling over her shoulder in Divination, peering into her lap – trotting after her fluttering skirt in the hallway, nudging your chin up at Sirius, who is leaning against the wall, rolling his sore eyes as you flit past.
There's a shade of plum in her bottom lip that you want wrapped around your middle finger. You wonder if her breasts give rise to veins, blue and green and purple, electric wires under her skin, circling the phosphorescent shade of nude. In Potions, you purposefully sit beside her on the first day, and press your forearm against hers as she writes with her left hand. You are startled when she does not move, and the feeling of her skin pressed against yours isn't as romantic as you'd like – it's a shade of damp perspiration locked between skin cells. Your right hand still noticeably shakes as you try to take notes.
"I love you, Evans."
It's in the middle of a Quidditch game against Hufflepuff, and Gryffindor is creaming them since your team caught the Snitch in the first half of the game, and Sirius is basically just randomly smacking the Bludger in different directions and the crowd looks half asleep and more than partially drunk.
You fly down to the middle of the arena even though the rest of your team is darting in and out of the part of the field that once was Hufflepuff's, and you're gripping your broomstick with two hands spaced out and muttering a cushioning charm under your breath and suddenly you're standing up and hollering LILY EVANS I THINK I LOVE YOU and all the students in the stand burst into laughter.
You sit back on your broomstick and dart towards the stand, where a couple of female Hufflepuffs shriek in fright, you fly so quickly. She's sitting in front of you blushing as red as a ripe tomato, refusing to make eye contact, and your grin is the size of London.
She doesn't reply, merely glares at her feet from under an arched eyebrow. The girl sitting next to her, Dorcas, is giggling uncontrollably.
"Evans, how about you wear my scarf?"
"No." She mutters under her breath, still a marvelous shade of fuschia.
"Oh, come off it, don't be rude now girl."
The teenagers sitting around her burst into raucous laughter, and you can't help the wide grin on your face stretching out a bit further.
"I'm NOT wearing your scarf, Potter."
You untwist the Gryffindor Red and Gold from around your neck and fling it in her lap, which causes a burst of giggles to emit from Dorcas, who looks close to pissing herself. She instantly grabs it and stands up, meaning to throw it back at you, but you're off in the air again, floating a bit further out and roaring with laughter.
"Take it back, POTTER!"
"Gold suits you, baby, you were meant to be CLOTHED in it!" You yell back in response, then take off towards Sirius, who is currently punting Bludgers at a poor Hufflepuff bloke about to fall off of his broomstick.
That night after the Gryffindor victory party, you find the scarf neatly folded outside your dormitory door, with a small piece of parchment laid perfectly in the center. It reads: "I'm not a big fan of scarves, James, but thank you for the sentiment."
There is a violent shade of peach dripping down her temple, and as you watch her cup the flower in her hands, she gently presses the dark purple petals in between her fingers.
"Way to fondle the flower, Evans."
She rolls her eyes, ignoring you, focusing on the strands of blue arching down the thick stem.
"I'm actually curious, Evans. Are you allergic to romance?"
You find her in the girls' lavatory, screaming and aiming her wand at different mirrors, shards flying everywhere, the doors banging open and closed.
One of the Slytherins had muttered something to her when she walked into Defense class that day, but you assumed she could handle it and was under control. When she spontaneously left class twenty minutes in, you feigned the need to visit the nurse to see if she was alright. Judging by the velocity of spells emitting from her wand, she wasn't.
"Evans, are you mad? Breaking mirrors cause seven years of bad luck!"
She ignores you, whipping around to blast a green ray of rage into the mirror closest to your face, causing you to duck and swear loudly.
"How the FUCK are you going to explain this to McGonagall when she does her rounds! Evans, stop!"
Your comments simply appear to enrage her more, and a sink goes flying over your head.
"Stop it, for Merlin's sake – stop it, stop it, LILY STOP IT."
You roar out the last three words furiously, and Lily is shocked, startled out of her skin, turning towards you with a vein throbbing out of her forehead. Suddenly she is in your face, panting, a tear of sweat sluicing down her jawline.
"What do you know about pain, you stupid," she spits, "Arrogant, spoiled asshole."
You grab her wand suddenly, wrenching it out of her grasp, and she is punching your shoulder, and you are shoving her into the wall, mirror shards crackling with every step that the two of you take.
"Calm the fuck down, Lily!"
"GET OFF OF ME, POTTER! STOP IT!"
Finally, there is a bruise blossoming on the side of your chin and you have her pinned against the wall, her head limply sunk into your shoulder, her sides heaving and tired. You aren't ready for this moment of silence, and you don't know what to do, so you just stand there, with a paper-bag princess wrapped around you, diamonds falling down to coat your upper back.
You gently pull her head back from your shoulder and stare at her face. She's not looking at you, red hairs wrapped around her cheeks, one strand stretching across her forehead. It take a bit of time, but you slowly pull each hair back in place as she stands up.
Then she covers her face and sobs.
"I hate them, James, I hate them so much. They've ruined my life. I'm not a mudblood, I can't take it, I don't know what to do, I'm so tired, I'm so tired, I'm so tired."
You don't say anything, just wrap your arms around her shoulder and firmly press her into your cloak, the black enveloping the two of you standing amid the completely destroyed lavatory.
"Oh Merlin, I'm going to be suspended now, aren't I," she mutters, still not meeting your eyes, wiping her face with the palms of her hands, "Look at this place."
You step back from her and take a glance at the completely demolished bathroom.
"It's not ... that bad."
With your statement, she bursts into a fresh round of tears, and panic starts swelling in the bottom of your stomach at the sight of her distress.
"No, no, Lily, stop crying, don't cry please, we can fix this, it's not that big of a deal."
You pull out your wand and something rises up in your throat at the sight of her sinking to her knees and burying her face in her thighs.
Suddenly the mirror shards are flying everywhere and you instantly cover Lily with your body, and there's a large creaking noise from the concrete sink rising up in the air again from where it was landed by the front of the lavatory, and you close your eyes until the noise stops again.
You pull back from Lily, and look around in amazement at the perfectly clean lavatory in front of your eyes. Lily is standing up slowly beside you, her jaw dropping, and you can't help a small smirk erupt on your face.
"I'm such a good wizard."
She bursts into laughter.
You can't write anymore you find the words sticking in between your canines and your veins sputtering as they try to soar out but they can't
You used to scribble in your journal every night right before falling asleep and the ink pot used to splatter all over your sheets and Sirius in the other bed would roll over and make that soft groaning noise that you were so used to but now you sit propped up against the headboard and stare at the blank pages because you are lost for words.
"... Mate, what are you doing," Sirius says, out of sight, "I can still see the lumos from your wand, go to fucking bed."
You grunt back in approval and dim the brilliance of the light that you're holding in your left hand. You hear Remus shuffle a bit against his blankets, and then three seconds later Peter lets out a snore.
You tilt your head back against the headboard and look up at the high, vaulted ceilings.
Your hand shakes.
You do not know how to explain a Helen of Troy.
"Lily, Lily - "
You chase after her in the hallway, loudly calling her name. You know that she hears you – you, stumbling through the crowd of first and second years, but she keeps swaying her hair back and forth and doesn't turn around.
"LILY!" You finally catch up to her and grab her arm, twisting her around abruptly. There is a wry smile on her face, but you scowl back.
"I know you heard me."
"Nope," she says matter-of-factly, yanking her arm out of your grasp and marching ahead forward. You roll your eyes and try to ignore the thudding veins exploding in your palm.
"We're supposed to work on this project together, when are we going to work on this."
"I don't know, Potter," she drawls your last name, and you feel like strangling her, "Don't you normally just breeze through life?"
"Lily, for Merlin's sake, what is wrong with you."
"Maybe you should go talk to that Sadie girl you were laughing with in class, maybe she'll be a better partner."
You grit your teeth.
"Well?" She continues, not looking at you, her head bobbing beside your lanky frame, "Go on then."
There is a sudden gap in the crowd of students and you grab her shoulders, yanking her into a small marble enclove. She gasps and shoves you once you let go.
"What the bloody hell!"
"You are so irritating," you explode, "I just want to know what you want me to do for this project."
"Maybe if you weren't such an irritating prick you could figure it out yourself! I'm not your goddam mother!"
She shoves you back and stalks off, you leaning your head against the side of the wall, clenching your fists with anger.
You don't remember the first time that you saw her – that wasn't important. Your version of romance was not photos of forced smiles and blood diamonds, it was crying in the open field by the Quidditch court at eight in the morning because of no good reason but the blood thudding in between the wings in your chest.
"Lily? Lily, what are you doing - "
Your voice goes weak and quiet against the sound of rushing wind in the field, and you are jogging forward and she is standing in her school clothes still holding onto her orange juice from when she abruptly left the Great Hall.
You walk towards her frame standing alone in the field by the Groundskeeper's Hut, and the feeling comes back underneath your ribcage. Your eyes connect for a second and you want to know what now why now how who when but she turns too quickly and it feels like there are six blocks of coral reef between you and her red hair.
Finally you stand behind her and you smell the cigarettes that she and Marlene were no doubt sneaking before breakfast.
"I hate orange juice."
"Okay, okay, okay," you murmur, eyeing up the glass that she is holding clutched to her frame, "Okay."
A second pauses and you are staring into the Forbidden Forest and there are two first years running past you, eyeing the pair of you strangely.
"Can we go back inside now?"
"What are you doing, Lily."
"What do you mean what am I doing."
Both of you are staring into the forest, neither of you looking at each other, but you glance quickly down (in a momentary act of bravery) and she is fiddling with her glass and looking at her feet.
"James, what are you doing."
"Well, I'm seemingly having a moment with you, but I have no idea about what."
Suddenly she rages.
"You know what I want to know, James? You know what I really want to know?" She twists around suddenly and you feel like you have stepped on a bomb and your eyes are wide and hers are narrowed. "I want to know why James Potter and I are having a moment when for four years of our life we never spoke to each other outside of 'Hello' and 'Goodbye' and 'What's the homework for Charms class, Lily?'"
You stumble a bit backwards in shock, and you feel her hand wrap around your wrist and pull you upright. It's an unconscious gesture, and the two of you go silent, knowing that she accidentally answered her own question.
"I just don't get it," she says quietly, looking straight at your shoulders.
You swing your arms over her shoulders and press your lips to her forehead.
"There is no formula," you murmur into her skin.
She always liked dancing. You never understood it, never could combine the steps in the right patterns to glide across the ground. You watched her dance with empty arms around the Observatory Tower at night, and wished you were better at the tango.
She always liked blue hats. You watched her careen around her room wearing one of them when everyone else was at Hogsmeade, buying candies and sweets. When you kissed her and she wore her blue hat, she tasted like water, no whisky. When you kissed her and she wore her blue hat, you opened your eyes and watched moonbeams dart around the hollows of her closed eyelids. When you kissed her and she wore her blue hat, you were the tide and she was the shore. Or you were the tide and she was the foam. Or you were the waves and she was the ocean.
Her bottom lip was a madman's foxtrot, a symphony to dihydrogen oxide, and you had front-row seats.
The explosions start to go off at around two in the morning, and when the red lights start flashing and McGonagall's face magically booms through the air you feel something in your gut churn.
"All Gryffindors to the Great Hall, immediately. All Gryffindors to the Great Hall, immediately. All Gryffindors to the Great Hall, immediately."
You're up faster than you ever have been, and Sirius is already out the door, his black hair flying past you. You wrap your robe around your midsection and scream at him that you've got to find Lily. He pauses in the door and the two of you make eye contact, then he goes racing down the steps, presumably to check on his little brother.
You realize in your mind that Sirius' little brother could have done this, but you shake off the thought and sprint down the steps.
"Lily!" You yell, staring at the craziness in the Common Room, where prefects are trying to organize groups of crying younger students. Longbottom races past you and you grab his shoulder quickly.
"Have you seen Lily?"
"No mate, I'm just trying to find Finnigan." He shrugs your grip off and you make the quick decision to jump over the trip step to the girls' sleeping area, sprinting up the steps to the area where Lily often stays with Marlene.
You fidget with the doorknob and then slam open the door, exploding into a situation of Dorcas bandaging up a startled Marlene, who looks at you with a mixture of fear and worry.
"What happened," you say quickly, your eyes darting around.
"I was on patrol with Lily, and they set off firecrackers in the closets, but they were aimed directly at us, it was insane. It must have been the older Slytherins. But the other Houses on patrol, they got burned pretty bad, there's a Hufflepuff who got his ear taken off, that fifth year, Kirstenal or something."
"Must be with McGonagall in the Hall. James, they're saying this was an initiation for the Death Eaters or something, I don't know, it just seems so insane, do you really think that's true?"
You inhale sharply and glance between the two girls, a sense of horror pulsing in your spine.
"I know. It's starting, James."
Realization pours through your nerves and you want to rest your head against the doorframe and scream but instead you inhale pure desperation and nod.
"I've got to find Lily, you'll be alright then?"
On her words, you turn quickly and jump down the stairs, taking them two at a time. There are a group of second years clogging the Fat Lady, but you jostle through the crowd and run to the Great Hall, where McGonagall is pacing up and down the teacher's section, away from the groups of huddled students.
"Potter. There you are." You're horrified by the sight of your favourite teacher in a bathrobe, her hair in curlers and a sense of terror rising out of her skin.
"Was it Death Eaters?"
She closes her eyes in front of you and doesn't answer.
You want to burst into tears because you're just a boy but you need to find Lily, you need to find Lily.
You turn from McGonagall quickly and suddenly there is a burst of red stumbling in through the south entrance and you are sprinting, sprinting down the room towards the girl who keeps your heart safe.
There are loud noises around you but everything goes a little bit hushed and you are in front of her and there's a bruise on her cheekbone but she is there and there are tears skin diving out of your eyes and then you are wrapped around her and her head is on your shoulder.
There are a thousand students gawking at the two of you but you close your eyes and let the fear peek out of your eyelids and it doesn't matter because her hair is in your teeth and your shirt is wet and her back is sobbing but her lungs are moving and it is the most beautiful rhythm that you have ever memorized.
"James I love you, I love you. I love you."
Words aren't enough and you breathe and her spine is moving against your hand and you want to study the texture for the rest of your life.
"I didn't know what happened to you James, I didn't know, I wasn't sure if they got you, I didn't check patrol tonight, I thought you were in the Hospital wing, I ran all the way there, James, James, James"
There is something burning coming out of your eyes and you close them and press her body closer to yours and you can feel her crying and crying and crying but she is moving Lily is moving and there is relief and something stronger than all of this flooding through your body.
You wrap your arms even tighter around her shaking frame and you can feel her face shoving into your chest but her arms are clenched around yours and you won't let go, you won't let go.
Ten seconds pass and you remember you are in the Great Hall and she gently moves back, but your arms are still around her shoulders and her face is still under your chest.
You look to your right and the third years are looking at you, stunned, and a couple of the girls have tear tracks down their faces.
A little boy who you recognize by the name of Creevey is the furthest on the row, and when he pipes up in a wavering voice, the entire Hall goes silent.
"That's what we're fighting for."