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Chapter 1: The Time of Day
The Time of Day
Lily sat perched on the edge of the bed, hands folded and resting in her lap. As the sound of the familiar voice reached her ears, she stirred slightly, tilting her head to the side before slowly opening her eyes.
James was standing in the doorway, one shoulder propped against the frame, a gentle smile pulling at the corners of his lips.
“It’s time,” he said again.
Lily nodded at her husband but did not rise, allowing her gaze to travel around the room before landing on the mirror that stood erect in the far corner. She stared intently at the ornate piece, taking in her own reflection as though she’d never seen anything like it before. The creamy pink skin and fiery mane of hair that should have been a familiar sight seemed instead to belong to someone else entirely - some stranger that had invaded her body.
Her eyes still fixed on her own image, she slowly got to her feet, maneuvering around the end of the bed until she was standing directly in front of the mirror. She lifted a tenative hand, watching as it drifted upward and came to rest against the cool surface of the glass. For an instant, Lily was sure she felt a flash of heat as the two palms met, skin touching skin. And then, just as quick as it came, it was gone
James appeared in the mirror, stepping up behind his wife and wrapping his arms around her shoulders. He nuzzled the side of her head, pressing his lips against her temple.
Lily leaned into him, her body perfectly attuned to his.
“You don’t have to do this,” he whispered, placing another gentle kiss on her cheek.
“It’s already done."
James seemed to understand her meaning, nodding once before releasing her, his arms dropping back to his side.
Lily allowed herself another long moment with the mirror before finally turning away.
“Walk with me?” she asked, reaching a hand out toward her husband with near childlike innocence.
James took it without hesitation and the two made their way out the door.
The day was warm and bright, the sun hanging high overhead, enveloping the world in a shimmering golden glow. The street was deserted, the trees lining the road standing tall and still, like sentinels left to guard their way. The pair walked slowly, their steps falling into a natural rhythm, their arms joined together in a “V” that stretched out between them.
It didn't take them long to arrive at their destination. The park that lay before them was large and flat, a wide expanse of ankle-high grass and low-sitting bushes divided down the middle by a narrow stone path that wound its way toward a children’s play area. Somewhere in the distance, Lily could make out the sound of laughter, but from where they stood, she could see no one.
“Are you sure this is the place,” James asked lifting his hand to shield his eyes from the sun as he raked the ground for signs of life. “I don’t see anyone...”
But Lily just nodded. “He’ll come."
And come he did.
Within minutes, Lily caught sight of him -- the small figure off to her left, making its way through the high grass, heading towards the sandbox that sat perched in the center of the park.
Catching sight of the figure, James made to step forward, but Lily raised a hand, stopping him. “I think I can take it from here."
James looked at her, studying her face for a long moment before finally falling back.
Freeing her hand from his grasp, Lily gave him one last smile and walked on alone.
He was already waiting for her by the time she reached the end of the path. He was sitting cross-legged on the ground, his small hands working furiously as he dug out pile after pile of pale yellow sand. Lily was shocked at how young he was. Nine perhaps. Ten at the most. His skin was pale save for his cheeks, which were flushed by the effort he was making as he cleared the sand from the ever-expanding hole.
Lily approached him with caution. He did not seem to notice her at first, intent as he was on his work. She watched with growing fascination as his movements were punctuated with the occasional grunt or groan of exertion.
“What are you doing?” she asked after a time.
The boy looked up at her, his expression blank, seeming to be neither surprised nor bothered to find her standing. “Digging,” he said before turning back to the task at hand.
“Yes, I can see that. But why? Why are you digging?”
This question seemed to catch the boy off-guard. He paused for a moment, considering his reply before finally shrugging one shoulder and using his cupped hands to dredge out yet another pile of sand. “Because it’s what I do.”
Lily took a guarded step toward the boy, bending down so they were nearly eye to eye. “Would you like some help?”
The boy shrugged again but moved aside to allow her better access. Pushing up her sleeves, Lily began to dig.
For what seemed like hours, the two sat there together, digging a hole to nowhere. Lily stole frequent glances at the boy, but he seemed neither to notice nor to care. At last, sweat now covering his smooth brow, small grains of sand clinging to the pale hairs on his arms, the boy stood up. He stepped back, examining their progress.
Then, without warning, a flash of anger tore across his face, twisting his features into a ferocious grimace that looked to Lily like an expression of deepest grief and pain. The boy began to kick widely at the piles of sand that sat at his feet. The sand flew high into the air before raining back down to earth, filling the hole he had been so intent on creating.
“Stop!” Lily cried, instinctively reaching out and grabbing his arm, but the boy wrenched free of her grasp and ran to the far side of the sandbox, where he collapsed onto one of the old rusted swings.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” he mumbled under his breath, continuing to kick his feet, the swing rocking awkwardly back and forth.
Lily watched him for a moment, unsure whether to follow. He looked so small to her then, so young and vulnerable, his skinny legs dangling beneath him, his dirty hair clinging to his even dirtier face. But most of all, he just looked tired – a weariness that seemed to emanate from the very depths of his bones. Her heart ached at the sight of him.
Slowly, she crossed the distance between them, taking her place beside him on the only other swing that wasn’t hanging broken from its chain.
Sitting so close, she could see now that tears had begun to roll down his cheeks. Soon his shoulders were bobbing, his small body racked by the intensity of his own sobs. Lily reached out a tentative hand, placing it gently on his bony knee. And so they sat there, until at long las, his body fell still, his small sniffs telling her the tears had run their course.
“We can always dig another hole, you know,” Lily offered, patting at his knee.
The boy didn't answer. Instead, he began twisting in his seat, the chains of the swing crossing and uncrossing, rocking him gently from side to side. Lily mimicked his movements, the two of them twisting and spinning on their swings until she began to feel dizzy. For a second, Lily was sure she saw the corners of his mouth turn up in amusement but as quick as it appeared, the smile faded and the boy fell still once more.
“I like it here,” the boy said.
“Me too,” Lily replied, looking over at him.
“One could stay here forever and ever, couldn’t they? And no one would bother you ever again. Isn’t that right?
“I suppose so–”
“And you could stay here with me." He was speaking fast now, his words almost frantic. “Just the two us, doing whatever we please. And no one else. Never the others. Never him."
“That’s not how it works –“ she began, but he cut her off again.
“The others aren't welcome because they don’t understand." He was agitated, pumping his legs back and forth, his swing rising higher and higher into the air. " They pick and tease and expect too much. You tell them no but they don’t listen. They scream and hit and hate. But not me. Not anymore. Not when it’s just you and me. Me and you.”
He swing was several feet off the ground, rising nearly even with the overhanging bar. The boy seemed entranced as he watched his own legs flinging back and forth. Back and forth. When he reached the top of the arc, he leaned forward, prepared to leap.
“Don’t!” Lily cried.
But it was too late. The boy was already soaring upward. For an instant he was frozen, suspended high in the air like a puppet on invisible strings. But then his body was on the move again, crashing down to earth before landing in a tumbled heap.
Lily leapt to her feet, running quickly to the boy's side. He'd landed on his chest, his face turned away from her. She knelt beside him and grabbed his shoulder, making to roll him over, but he recoiled at the touch, rounding on her instead, his face twisted in rage.
“I don't need help from filthy little Mudbloods like you!"
The boy was panting now, spit gathering at the corners of his mouth. He seemed unable to breath, his eyes bulging as if the air was being squeezed out of his lungs. A sudden flash of shock and agony engulfed his face as recognition spread through him. His body seemed to seize under the weight of his own understanding.
Lily fell back in horror, watching as the drama of his own life played out behind the boy’s eyes. He shook violently, his limbs betraying him as their movement thrashed him from side to side. The veins in his face seemed to rise to the surface, sweat dripping from his brow.
At long last, he fell quiet. When it was all over, the boy lay sprawled on his back in the tall grass, his eyes closed, his face pointed heavenward.
Lily crawled over to him on her hands and knees. She took his small hand in hers, lifting it to her cheek. Slowly, he opened his eyes.
“I know you,” he said, his voice no more than a whisper.
Lily squeezed his fingers as tears filled her eyes. “Yes. Yes, it’s me, Severus.”
He coughed once, struggling to rise onto his elbows. “I didn’t-- ” he sputtered, his gaze locked onto her. “I never meant--”
“I know,” she said, placing a steady hand on his chest. “It’s all right now. Be still.”
He was crying again, silently this time, quiet tears flowing spilling down his face. Lily wiped them away, moving to cradle his head in her lap, holding him like the child he was.
“It’s all right,” she repeated again and again, rocking him back and forth. “It’s over now. It’s done.”
They stayed that way, wrapped up in each other’s arms, until the tears ran dry. High overhead, the sun began to make its way westward, streaks of purple and pink painting the horizon. Lily's eyes glanced from the setting sun to the boy still curled in her arms. He too seemed to sense that time was growing short.
He sat up then, his small hand still tucked safely in hers.
“It hurts,” he told her.
Lily looked down at the pallid skin of his exposed neck. Like a pair of blood-red eyes, two circular wounds seemed to appear out of nowhere, gaping and raw. In an instant, they were gone again, disappearing in a wave like summer heat rising off the pavement.
“No,” he said, sensing her gaze. "Not there. In here.” He lifted their clasped hands, pressing them against his chest. Lily could feel the faintest thump of a heart beating, the rhythm a perfect match to her own.
“Me too,” she said. “It hurts me too.”
“Does it ever go away?” This time his voice was so low, she could barely make out the words.
But she just shook her head. "I don't know..."
He considered this for a time before gently releasing his hold on her. “I’m rather tired," he said. "Now that it's all said and done..."
Lily nodded, watching as the boy climbed to his feet. As he made to leave, he turned around, glancing one last time over his shoulder. “Do you think you’ll remember me? Once I’m gone?”
*Quote courtesy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, US edition page 648
A/N: I originally wrote this for the figment competition but chickened out when it came time for submitting it. I figured I might as well post it here if I ever plan on getting back into the swing of things again.
*Edited and hopefully improved on 01.28.13*