Chapter 1 : Signal Fire
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She stood on the bridge that led down to Hagrid’s house, leaning against the sturdy wooden railing. I only wished that she had chosen to lean against me instead. All I yearned to do was comfort her, stop her from crying and breaking my heart. All I wanted her to do was notice I cared, that she wasn’t truly alone in her pain.
Since I saw her on the train in first year, I had been mystified by her fiery red hair and laughing green eyes. Her kindness and fairness towards all, including Slytherins, opened my heart to a new emotion: love. But somehow, I could never say the right words to her; she ended up being either severely annoyed or dangerously angry at anything I said or did to make her laugh. That’s all I wanted, to see her laugh; that was when she was most beautiful.
As the years passed, I could never understand why she hated me so much, or at least acted like she hated me. Whenever I would stick up for her, she somehow would turn it around to make me look like the villain. If I tried to talk to her, she always had an excuse to leave. Anything I did that other girls liked had the opposite affect on her. It’s taken me over six years to realize my mistake: she’s not like any of the other girls. She was something that they’ll never be.
She was perfect.
Beside me, Remus nudged my elbow, trying to prod me forward.
“Go to her,” he said. “She needs someone, and that person has to be you.”
If there was one thing about Remus that I envied, it was his ultimate sense of knowing. He understood everyone, he knew all that needed to be known (well, maybe not that much, but you see my point). However, though he had never said a word about it, I knew that he secretly liked Lily, perhaps as much as I did. The two of them could sit for hours talking or doing their homework together, while Sirius, Peter, and I looked on in wonder. Remus and Lily were friends, that much I knew from what he had revealed, but nothing more. It was as though Lily was immune to the male species, because not even Sirius, whom all the girls seemed to chase after (though he rarely ever noticed), could not turn her head.
Looking into Remus’ calm eyes, I saw the answer. If I wanted Lily to see me, not as a self-centred prankster, but as someone who cared for her, who loved her. Fortunately for me, Sirius would not be nearby to watch me make a fool of myself in front of Lily. The four of us (Sirius, Peter, Remus, and I) had been planning on an afternoon spent by the lake. When I had seen Lily on the bridge, I could not go on. Remus had chosen to stay with me while the other two continued to the lake. He knew, in that peculiar way of his, that I would need support, someone who would give me the push I needed to go to Lily.
Which is exactly what he did. Slowly at first, but with growing energy, I walked across the lawn and down to where Lily stood, tears still running down her cheeks.
Admittedly, and I shall never tell a living soul about this, I wanted to kiss all her tears away. At that point, I promised myself that I would never, ever, let any harm come to her, even if she did tell me to go away. I was in too deep to turn and join my friends.
She didn’t notice my presence at first, she was so engrossed in her own thoughts.
“Lily?” I asked, my voice quiet. “Are you alright?”
At the sound of my voice she turned, her green eyes suddenly flashing with vexation.
“Potter! Leave me alone! For the last time...” she exclaimed.
I stepped back, surprised at her outburst.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to...” I started, but she cut me off.
“Of course you did! You always mean to be around me for some reason. Isn’t it possible for just one moment that you could stay away from me? All you do is follow me everywhere, asking if I want to go out with you. Then you and your friends keep causing trouble all around the school. I know what you did last week with Snape’s cauldron. You could have gotten someone killed!”
I swallowed, thinking it best to deal with this situation very carefully.
“Wait a second, can’t a person who sees you crying ask what’s wrong? Honestly, Lily, I’m not a monster. I just wanted to see if I could help you. And that thing with Snape was a just a harmless joke. Everything we do is.”
“It didn’t look that harmless to me.”
Before I could defend myself, she continued. “And right now, I don’t need anyone asking me how I am or mooning over me.” Her voice was beginning to shake slightly with an onslaught of more tears. “Just go, James. Please.”
You know, I almost left her then and there. It was obvious that I was only making her feel worse. It seemed that all we could ever do was argue and yell at each other. Did I want that sort of relationship? Was this true love? Looking at her tear-stained face and blood-shot eyes, I no longer saw the perfection in her. I now saw a real person; someone who felt fear and anger, love and passion. Suddenly, within her deep green eyes, I saw a person whom I could live with until the end of time.
It was at that moment that I knew what true love was. Finally, I really loved her for who she was: not because she was an ideal, but because she was human.
Hesitantly, I reached out my hand and gently laid it on her shoulder. She had turned away, thinking that I had gone, but when she felt my hand she began to cry again. Before I could pull back, she shoved the letter she held in my general direction.
“Read it,” she stammered. “Read it and see what’s wrong with me.”
I took the letter and opened it. The paper was heavily crinkled, as though someone, most likely Lily, had crushed it into a ball numerous times. Wet blotches, probably her tears, marred some of the words, which were written in a flowing, laid-back manner.
It is of my authority to inform you that your parents are dead. They were found in their home last night, both dead from what seems to be the killing curse. Your sister was not there at the time, though she refused speak to any of the Ministry’s representatives.
As you know, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has been killing muggles and muggle-borns for the past few months at an alarming rate. With the event of your parents’ deaths, I can only assume that he may come after you as well. I must warn you not to leave Hogwarts until the year is ended. Professor Dumbledore will be made aware of your situation and will act accordingly.
I am very sorry for your loss, Miss Evans. Please accept my condolences.
...but the name was blotted out by tears. Obviously, she hadn’t begun crying until the end of the letter, then re-read it to fully grasp what had happened.
Even though I had never met her parents, I still felt a lump in my throat. How could Voldemort do this? How could he kill innocent people just because they weren’t pureblooded wizards? I could not see any logic, or any point, to his beliefs. Death was a horrible thing, but to want people to suffer was even worse.
When I looked up from the letter, Lily was staring at me, waiting for my response. I swallowed, trying to build up the courage to speak to her. What could I say to this tragedy? Lily was now alone in the world, most likely her sister had disowned her, blaming Lily for their parents’ deaths. I couldn’t change the past and bring her parents back, but maybe I could find a way to fill the hole in her heart.
“Probably the last thing you want from me is my sympathy,” I began. “So I’ll give you this instead...” Leaning forward, I touched my lips to hers. She was surprised at first, her eyes wide with amazement, but when I pulled away, there was a hint of a smile on her face.
I breathed in the champagne-like air, my head dizzy with excitement.
“Are you feeling better now?” I asked with a crooked smile.
She touched her hand to my cheek, deeply looking into my eyes. “Thank you... James.”
It was as though my feet were no longer on the ground. I could feel the blood rush into my cheeks. They must have looked as red as Lily’s hair. But there was still something else I had to say.
“Lily, I’m really sorry about what’s happened to you and how I’ve treated you in the past. I just didn’t understand. I put you up on a pedestal, but from there, I wasn’t able to see who you really were.” I charged on before she could interrupt me. “Let me make it up to you somehow.”
The smile was still on her face when I lifted my gaze from the ground.
“You already have, James Potter,” she said, leaning forward.
The second kiss was far better than the first, probably because she started it. Like Remus, Lily seemed to know everything and could relate to everyone. But I didn’t want to think of my friends, I only wanted to think of her.
When we pulled apart, I caught my breath and told her what had been in my mind since I noticed her on the bridge. “Let me protect you, Lily, from anything in the world that would dare to harm you. Watching you cry is something no one should do.”
“Especially you?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.
I grinned in spite of myself. “Especially me.”
We kissed again, this time deeper and more heartfelt than before. At that moment, we became part of each other: a team, a couple. Within myself I had discovered a love for this girl that was more true than any other on Earth. Lily never told me what she found within herself as we kissed, but somehow, I know that she found some happiness, even through her sorrow.
Once we broke the kiss, Lily suddenly burst into tears and buried her face in my shoulder. Muttering calming words in her ear, I held her tight against me, never wanting to let go. I would protect her forever, even if it meant my life. For this girl, I would do anything.
From the wood not far away, I heard a loud and familiar laugh. Still holding Lily, I turned my head to see my friends spying upon us from the trees. Sirius, the owner of the laugh, was making cat-calls while Remus tried to quiet him down, ending up pushing Sirius into a bush, where he continued to make noises. Peter watched, surprise etched on his face. The three of them didn’t stay there long, soon going up to the castle for dinner, but Lily and I remained on the bridge until darkness fell. She mourned the loss of her family, while I kept her safe from the monsters of the night.
Story title and lyrics from the song by Snow Patrol.