Oh God, I love it so much.
I've actually been meaning to review this for a long time now, but December and January both left me with very little wiggle room. I'm here now, though! Except I feel like nothing I could say in this review would do any justice to this story; especially when all I really want to do is just throw a long list of quotes back at you and tack 'OMG THIS LINE I DIED' at the end of each. In the interest of not sounding like a complete and utterly daft loon, however, I'm going to at least attempt to be a bit more articulate than that.
*takes deep breath*
NOPE, I HAVE TO QUOTE FIRST: "Her eyes would follow the motion of his hands as he wrote his essay, a rare moment of labour for one who never knew the meaning of "try". He simply did." - OMG THIS LINE I DIED. Okay, that's the only time I'll do that, I promise. Seriously though, this line (and the entire paragraph that follows this line, too) showcases just how perfectly you get them. I adore James/Lily (they're my canon OTP) and you understand them so thoroughly both as individuals and as a pair, which is evident right from the start and throughout this entire section and story. This line just captures so well how I've always imagined James to be, with his ability to excel using what seems to be absolutely no effort whatsoever; he just does - exactly. I love the brief touch on the struggle Lily is going through as far her feelings for James go, with "the painful realization of attraction" she's trying to suppress, to battle. I love how she watches James. The hand thing is such a lovely touch.
*fights urge to quote every other line here* I love seeing this side of Lily, in her hometown where life is average and she is just another Muggle girl on another Muggle street instead of the princess on the pedestal that she despises so much. There's something so tragic about her here, but what really stands out to me is the big reason you gave for her having never accepted James and his feelings towards her: "It was what she despised most: that he should love her without knowing her." This is one of the few times I've read about a Lily not stationed strictly at Hogwarts and it opened up a whole new side to her character for me; one that feels so very genuine in its telling that it seems like it must have come from J. K. Rowling's mind herself. I think that speaks volumes for your level of talent.
"Untouched by flame, blind to the shadow, James Potter did not understand. Did he know the smell of Muggle streets, the endless din of machines and thick, black smoke blocking out the sun? Did he know of corruption and suffering, of loneliness and betrayal?" The way Lily sees James... it's just so exactly how I've always imagined it to be. It's like you looked around my head, gathered up all my stray thoughts on them both, polished up all of my incessant rambling, upped the quality tenfold, and wrote this story for me. It's just incredible to see them portrayed in a way that I could only dream to have articulated myself. Lily's desire for more, always more, even in the face of so much wonder, is so palpable and relatable. I too always want more, more discoveries, more knowledge, more experience, more awe; I think most people do. I certainly hope most people do. The end of this section! Ha! I... I can't find the words, so whatever, I'm quoting you again: "Never before had she seen so much contradiction in a person's face. Was he elated or disappointed? Annoyed or excited? It seemed that he was all of these things at once, and she had to admire his facial features for taking on this challenge." This. haha
"The others had their demons, only half-concealed by pranks and childishness, but there was ever a shadow in their eyes. James knew nothing of darkness or demons. He was, as ever, naive." I've just given up on the whole attempt at not over-quoting you, haven't I? I blame you. I mean really, though, it's just... it's perfect, really. It's a stunning journey through Lily's mind as she goes from this idea of James and his blessed life, one that she believes has never known a true moment of struggle or worry, into the final moments where we do see that bit of James that is bruised and blemished and nearly broken, and it's her. "You think everything I do is stupid." *cries in the corner*
Ugh. You are so truly talented. Every aspect of this story is so precisely executed so that every word bears weight, bears significance. Your versions of James and Lily are to die for; it's as if you crafted them yourself and Jo Rowling was all like, "Yo, I'mma borrow them." I can't in my wildest imagination fathom crafting a story as wholly stunning as this. It's actually unfair that one person should be so gifted. Exactly who did you sell your soul to and where can I make my own offer?
OH BUT WAIT: "His self-induced state of oblivion implied an (a, not an) pain that gripped him from within, a sense of suffering that she'd never ascribed to his disposition." - Ha! An error! She is imperfect! :-p It's cruel, but that little 'an' makes me feel a bit better about myself. Muahaha!
Honestly, I just want to copy and paste the entire story into this review and yell, "THIS WAS MY FAVORITE PART!" But oh well. I suppose this will have to suffice. *bows down to your greatness*
Author's Response: How is a person meant to respond to a review like this?! I'm floored that you enjoyed this story so much. It was my first foray into the Lily and James relationship in years, and it does look at that relationship differently - there's still the mild antagonism and rivalry, but there's no romance here, nor is Lily like she appears in fanon. So to see someone flailing over this story makes me ridiculously happy and confident that I'm not insane after all.
You did each part individually too! ^_^ It's perfect because I wrote the parts individually - only III was written to fit in between. The others were like three separate episodes that I pieced together. But in part III, I wanted to return to Lily's observations of James and the problem of creation. For James, creating things is easy - he does spells and understands them unlike most of his peers, whereas Lily, who knows of all these things through reading, having had to catch up after the missed 11 years of childhood, has to work for everything. Or at least she feels like she has to. In this way, she's a bit like Hermione, feeling the need to overcompensate for being a muggleborn - and Lily is very sensitive to her Muggle-ness, both because of the insults of her sister and the Slytherins. She gets it from both sides, and it affects her deeply, more than she'd ever show.
But she can't help admiring how good James is at magic. He's like a highly talented artist, making everything seem effortless. Yet even he has cracks beneath his veneer, and it takes Lily a long time to see past the art, the surface of the talented, cocky prankster pulling back to reveal someone as troubled as her.
I'm surprised that there aren't more stories about Lily's life at home. The contrast of it with her life at Hogwarts has so much in it to explore. At times with Marauder fics, it's almost easy to imagine that Lily isn't a muggleborn, that she's always at Hogwarts, always part of the magical world. Yet JKR not only makes her a muggleborn, but one from a lower-middle class family in a shabby industrial town, a girl whose sister escapes by marrying someone like Vernon Dursley, seeking greater financial security. Lily's story would make a fantastic novel on its own, beyond the romance and her experiences with Snape and James - what were her private struggles? how did she fit within Hogwarts' society? she became popular, but how? what was it like for her to learn magic? It's a story that we don't get in the books, and sadly we also don't get it in fanfiction either.
It's fantastic to hear that you like how Lily sees James in this story - not just likes, but agrees! *dances* She almost falls in love with his naivety for the outside world, like he's the princess in the tower while she's always been on the outside, battling the dragons. But James is the privileged pureblood, like a Malfoy or even like Ron in his ignorance of the Muggle world. James may be a positive example of a pureblood, but he still comes that background, and it shapes him. Lily can't figure him out, and she becomes more and more interested in him as she puzzles over him.
But like Bluebeard's wife, she sees too much. She sees that he's shattered too - despite his privilege, he can still bleed. She was in danger of treating James as he was treating her - idealizing him, placing him on a pedestal of a sort, only to watch the idol smash to the ground. I thought it was interesting that he made it her fault, believing that she despises him although, throughout the whole story, we've seen quite the opposite. Although she has seen him for what he truly is, he still does not see her - he still can't read her - and that's where that feeling of emptiness emerges.
I just can't with your compliments. You're much, much too kind! It means a lot that you have enjoyed this story so much. Haha, thank you for pointing out that typo - there are always a few that escape me. Oh, I can't thank you enough for this review! Thank you! *glomps*