Chapter 1 : Smile
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Disclaimer: I own nothing. The lines from the song, which are in italics, belong to ANNA NALICK “Breathe (2 AM)”. And as we all know, Harry Potter and other subsequent characters belong to the ultra fabulous J.K. Rowling
Day he turned twenty-one at the base of Fort Bliss
Just a day he sat down to the flask in his fist,
Ain’t been sober since maybe October of last year.
War is ugly. Even in the Wizarding world it is so horribly ugly. Only with a wand can one human being make another human being twitch, thrash and wither in pain without even touching them.
When I was a little girl, I did not like guns. I refused to play constables and burglars with my sister and the other kids in our neighborhood. Of course, they called me all sorts of names; coward, chicken, baby, sissy, spoil sport. But the fact is that I didn’t care. I didn’t like guns and I was not going to pretend to play with them. It was ridiculous to my young mind, and frankly still is to my older more matured one.
It wasn’t only in games that I stood out though, oh no, I was labeled weird for many things. I didn’t like watching action or horror movies at the cinema or on the telly. Even reading the great Les Misérables, and seeing it preformed on stage, gave me nightmares for weeks on end. The saddest part of that truth is that happened only two years ago. Yet, here I am at twenty, fighting in my own war. Fighting in a war for people like me; a war for the muggleborns, or as we are colloquially known as “Mudbloods.”
When I was young, much younger than I am now, I was so very excited to learn that I was witch. I thought that for one thing, I could be special, and for another, that I would never again have to face the violence and mindless bloodshed that stained muggle existence everywhere. I was so naïve, but I had thought, why would a people so advanced need to revert to pain to solve their disputes? So, when I held my very first wand at Oilvander’s I was both excited and frightened by the power I felt sizzling from my fingers.
I did not understand then what I do now. I did not know that the Wizarding world was on the brink of war itself, or maybe, I never would have come at all. But I did, and that is in the past now. The present is the only thing that matters, the present and the future. The past? Well sometimes it is best just to forget the past. To forget the way I was disowned by my sister after my parents died. No, no, it is much better to focus on the life I have now.
I am staying at the headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix. The Order is a rebel resistance group fighting against Lord Voldemort, or as most of the Wizarding world likes to refer to him “He Who Must Not Be Named.” We aren’t working against the Ministry of Magic, exactly, but we are fighting against a corrupt government. People are under Voldemort’s control left and right, either by fear or by force, which is to say by cures.
It was at the Order Headquarters that I came across James Thabious Potter, on what I assumed to be just an ordinary, albeit bloody evening. People had died in this fight, and his best friend Sirius Black was lying in a bed somewhere, yet to have woken up. I had just finished showering, a book clutched to my chest fully intent on something of a respite, when I saw him.
It was obvious he hadn’t showered yet, with his hair more disorderly than was acceptable for even him, and clothes rumpled and dirty. His shirt was caked with dirt, sweat, and what I suspected to be blood. I hadn’t remembered him getting hurt, so it could have been Sirius’s red marks. He looked miserable with a grimace plastered to his face. He was staring off into nothingness, and I believed that he would just ignore me as I walked by. Still assume he would have, but something in his left hand caught my eye, making me stop. A glittering pewter flask was caught bitterly between his fingers.
I do believe that it was this sight that made me sit down next to him on the stairs. I was hard pressed to recall a time when I had seen James Potter, the James Potter, Mister Carefree, look so absolutely dejected and crest fallen. I sat down next to him, utterly at a loss of things to say. After awhile though, James broke the quiet on his own. With a long gulp from his flask he turned his eyes on me.
“Didchya’ know today was my birthday? I’m twenty-one now.” He slurred a little. I have no idea how long he had been drinking, nor how strong the liquor within his flask was, but it was obviously starting to take some type of effect. I believe he caught the slur in his voice and the next words from his mouth were more easily understood, if not forced. With this he glared angrily at the flask in his hand, as if it had committed some grievous crime against him, he said, “Thing is though, I’ve been using this damn thing religiously since last year.”
But my God it’s so beautiful when the boy smiles.
It wasn’t until this very moment that I realized James Potter was not who he had once been. “Oh how the mighty have fallen,” or something vague along those lines. The truth was, that this was not the James Potter that I knew. I had never seen this defeated looking boy in my life. I can’t image how I had missed this side of him, and if he really had been drinking since last year, then I had missed a lot.
“James,” I whispered, reaching my hand out unsteadily. I wanted to help him. I wanted to help this broken figure sitting beside me. But I will not for a moment declare my motives selfless. I wanted the old James Potter back. I wanted him back because he was stable. He was reliable, he was always happy, and always causing trouble. I wanted him back because he was a constant in my life. When everything else was messed up, and the world was falling on its head, I could always count on James to stay the same. Apparently, my desire to use him in this way had made me blind.
I forced myself to think back, forced myself to relive memories, and to realize that James had been slipping for a while. If I was honest with myself I would admit that his smile had been more forced, and his laughter had been fake on more than one occasion. A bitter laugh escaped my mouth as I realized I had been blind because I hadn’t wanted to believe that this war was affecting anyone else, and that everything was just going to keep on going as it had always been. I was so absolutely foolish.
My laughter had not escaped James’s notice, nor had the bitterness it held. He looked at me for the first time, as if just realizing that I was sitting beside him. James loosened the white knuckled death grip he was using on the flask, handing it over to me gingerly.
“Here,” he said, “It’s Muggle liquor, stronger than anything you’ll find in regulation here.”
I took the flask gingerly, and very cautiously raised it to my mouth. I am not an experienced whiskey drinker, and I do believe that was made painfully obvious to him, for he laughed at me while I choked. Apparently you’re not supposed to gulp it, but rather take small sips.
“Burns a little doesn’t it?” he asked with a smile playing across his lips. “It’s Royal Brackla, made in Scotland.” He supplied, carefully taking the flask back from my trembling hands. “Next time, slow sips, Lily,” he explained taking a rather large mouthful himself.
When I stared at him skeptically, he laughed again. It was sounding better and better, more and more real.
“I’ve been drinking it longer,” he explained before the flask went to his lips yet another time, “I’m pretty much used to it.” I did notice however, that he drank less this time.
James went to hand me the flask again, but I pushed it back into his hands. I was never going to touch that stuff ever again for the rest of my life, and I told him so, quite seriously.
He laughed at me again, the smile staying on his face as he screwed the cap of the flask back on. “Alright,” he assured the traces of laughter still prominent in his voice. “No more for tonight then.”
It was then that I realized that I was in love with him. Or rather, I allowed myself to get my head out of my own self-denying arse, and see it. The way his smile touched the corners of his mouth, even as he spoke was beautiful. I promised myself that I would see this wonder more often. That I would pay more attention, and that I, Lily Marie Evans, would be the reason that he, James Thabious Potter, smiled.
A/N: So yes, that was the story :-). Reviews, critiques and cookies are much appreciated! ( I really like feedback as it helps me improve as a writer!)