Chapter 1 : A Letter, A Common Room, A Boy, and A Piece of Toast
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Now, I leave you to enjoy Carpe Diem...
It was a brisk December morning for the students of Hogwarts and yet, despite the apparent lack of insulation within the castle, all were tucking in cosily to a wide-ranging breakfast from sausages to strudel. The entire Great Hall was relaxed in a comfortable quiet while they ate. That is, before a boisterous shriek of frustration escaped a certain brunette beauty at the Gryffindor table.
“Argh!” Robin screeched after five minutes of flipping through a library book in desperation. “I hate this! The teachers obviously have it out for me! I swear to you that they get together and plan to assign all their major essays at the same time!”
Lily snorted and blushed as some scrambled egg shot out of her mouth. She recomposed herself and returned her focus to her friend.
“I’m sure they’re not out for you,” she said. “I mean, if you managed your time better you could have gotten them done on the weekend-“
“Oh, I’m sorry little miss I-need-to-be-a-perfect-role-model-because-I’m-Head-Girl, but I was a little busy with a Quidditch practice to write up a schedule!” Robin retorted.
“Well, personally, I feel homework is a bit,” she put her thumb and index finger about an inch apart from each other, “more important than Quidditch.”
“Ppft!” scoffed Robin. “That’s not what you said a few weeks ago when the team practiced extra hard to beat Slytherin in the opening match!”
Lily shifted her gaze to the Slytherin table where Sev was sitting with Mulciber, Avery and a few pureblood girls. She furrowed her eyebrows at the future Death Eaters and then rolled her eyes back to Robin.
“That’s a special case,” Lily muttered.
Just as Robin was about to respond, a plump dirty-blonde girl with grey eyes walked up to the pair and asked, “What’s a special case, Lily?”
“I bet she was talking about James Potter, Holly,” said a shorter girl with long black hair and blue eyes who seemed to appear out of nowhere.
The girl’s statement seemed to disgruntle Lily, for her piercing green eyes widened and she huffed, “I was NOT talking about Potter, Mary. Besides, what would you know? You’re a sixth year!”
“So?” Mary questioned. “I chill with you guys more than anyone in my year, but whatever. What were you talking about?”
“Nothing really…” Lily began in almost a whisper as she tried to remember how the conversation had started. “Robin is having trouble with her homework.”
“Am not!” said Robin defiantly.
Mary raised her eyebrow at Robin and said, “It looks like you are.”
“Fine! I am! So why don’t you help me?”
“Well, according to Lily, I’m a sixth year who doesn’t know anything. Ask Holly!”
“Me? No way! Lily’s the smart one, ask her!”
The three girls began to debate who was the most qualified to help Robin with her many essays when a hundred or so owls flew into the Hall. The argument between the girls had reached such a point that the loud CLUNK!s of packages hitting wood didn’t even register in their minds. It took a piece of toast in the face from Robin to wake Lily up and make her notice the brown speckled owl sitting in front of her.
“A letter?” she asked in honest confusion as she took the parchment from the owl before it flew off. “From my mum? But she only writes every other Friday.”
Robin and Holly shared similarly confused expressions to that of Lily’s, but Mary looked slightly fearful.
“You don’t think something bad happened, do you?” she asked with a pleading look for Lily not to attack her for thinking such things.
“Of course not!” Lily answered a little too forcefully.
“Well, then just open it Lily,” whispered Holly.
Lily followed orders and ripped open the seal. She unfolded the letter tenderly and realized that the writing was smudged and covered in tearstains. Her pupils went back and forward as she read through it repeatedly. Tears formed in her reddening eyes but she looked down to hide them from her friends.
“What did she have to say, Lils?” Robin quietly asked.
Lily, ignoring the question, threw the parchment away from her and stood up abruptly from the bench.
“I…I have to go,” she choked out before running down the aisle of the Great Hall. But before she could reach the door, a scruffy boy, with grey eyes and deep brown - almost black - hair, who obviously didn’t notice her tears, stopped her.
“Whoa, Evans! I love it when chicks race towards me, but sorry, you’re Prongs’ girl and I couldn’t do that to him!” Sirius winked but Lily just shoved past him forcefully and left.
Sirius walked up to the girls sitting in stunned confusion and asked, “What’s with her?”
Mary and Holly just shrugged, but Robin picked up the letter from the pile of eggs it landed in. She shook off bits of yolk and scanned the writing quickly. She then set the parchment down with a shaking hand and looked up pensively at the other three.
“Her father just died of a heart attack,” she murmured.
* * *
Lily stepped through the portrait hole and sighed. She was glad that everyone was down at breakfast because she didn’t want anyone to see her crying. She collapsed on the elegant maroon couch, for she didn’t have enough energy to reach her dorm, and stared into the flames as they flickered about the fireplace.
It was impossible to hold it in any longer, so Lily suddenly broke down and started sobbing uncontrollably. She couldn’t believe it was true and yet accepted it as fact. He was gone. Her father. Her Daddy: the man who taught her how to ride a bike and played teatime with her dollies, despite how girly it was. The man who loved and supported her unconditionally, even when he found out she was a witch.
Lily chuckled between sobs when she recalled her first trip to Diagon Alley with him and her mum. He was so amusedly intrigued by everything, and he even bought himself some books to read up on the wizarding community. She smiled and remembered sitting with her dad in front of the fireplace reading Hogwarts: A History.
Her smile vanished, however, as she realized that he would never get to see her graduate…or get married…nor will he get to meet his grandchildren. It wasn’t fair! For him or for her! The tears got worse and her throat was constricted. She just sat there, crying.
That is, until she heard the unmistakeable sounds of someone coming down the stone steps from the boys dormitories. She broke her staring contest with the flames and quickly wiped all the tears away with the sleeve of her cloak. The boy reached the bottom step, but she couldn’t see who it was.
“I’m Head Girl and demand to know why you’re not at breakfast,” she commanded quite shakily.
“Well, the thing is, I’m Head Boy so I don’t have to tell you that I slept in,” James Potter said with a smirk. “Besides, since when has it been a rule that we must go to breakfast?”
“Oh. It’s just you, Potter,” Lily sniffed.
James walked towards the couch and could clearly see that she had been crying.
“Lily, what’s wrong?” he asked sincerely.
Lily looked up and realized he was staring straight at her from only a few feet away. She immediately turned her head away and said bitingly, “I’m fine.”
He tilted his head slightly and raised an eyebrow at the back of her head.
“Seriously, Evans, what happened?” he asked as he slid himself over to the couch and sat down beside her. “Did another Slytherin call you the M-word?”
“No, Potter, a silly word wouldn’t make me this upset!” Her frustration with the boy seemed to clear up her throat so that she could easily shout.
He was not, however, taken aback by the shouting. Instead, he smirked and said, “So you are upset then.”
“I hate you so much right now.”
“Now I know that you don’t mean that, but that’s beside the point.” He was no longer smirking. His face was completely serious and his hazel eyes held such an intense sincerity that Lily seemed to be drawn to looking into them.
“What’s wrong?” he asked again.
Her jewel eyes attached themselves to his hazel. Her whole body began to ice over, the crystals starting from his stare and branching out across her body. And yet, the ice was more like one of those intense heats that you mistake for the cold.
The odd sensation made lily feel strange. She fought her frozen body and turned it away from the bespectacled boy on the couch. The orange flames of the fire seemed to be on his side, however, for they reflected his sincere expression.
She didn’t know what made her do it, probably how unexpectedly comforting his presence in the fire was, but she started pouring out the contents of her heart to him. She told him of her father’s untimely death and how unfair the suddenness of it was. How she wishes she were there to say goodbye and comfort her mother, but yet, doesn’t want to miss school because he wouldn’t have wanted her to. She even let slip a few personal memories and delved into a long explanation about how tense things are between her and her sister.
It started slowly, but soon her rivers of thoughts and secrets broke through her dam of composure. Then, quite suddenly, she broke down in tears once more and buckled into James. He surprisingly didn’t seem perturbed by their abrupt closeness and embraced her tightly. He rubbed the back of her head down to the nape of her neck as she continued to sob into his shoulder.
“Shh,” he whispered as he held her, “it’s okay. I know what you’re going through.”
Lily took a breath, forcing the air through her clogged wind pipe, and looked up at James.
“What do you mean?” she asked him.
“Well,” he grazed her hand with his, unwilling to grab it, “my father died near the end of 6th year…”
Lily was amazed at how he could say it with such ease. Her mouth opened to ask, but her mind was just as quick to answer. James would have had months to cope. She slipped away from his shoulder and turned sideways on the couch to look at him.
“I don’t mean to poke, but,” she looked down at her left foot and crossed it in front of her to lay on top of her right thigh. She sniffed and looked back up at him, a dark line creating a path down her cheek as a mascara-covered tear rolled down, “how did he die?”
“Oh, er,” he looked into her exquisite green eyes that resembled fog covered lagoons more than anything else, “he was pretty old actually. Him and my mum, er, had me kind of late in life. So we weren’t too surprised. We almost expected it…ever since he retired from the Auror office because he was too weak.”
“Oh,” was Lily’s only response.
They sat there in silence for quite some time, neither mentioning the fact that they were missing Potions. James knew that Sirius would make a convincing enough excuse for James had often skipped classes in his former years at Hogwarts, while Lily knew, although she would never admit it out loud, that Professor Slughorn adored her and would except any excuse she gives him at their next lesson.
The silence was eventually broken by Lily,
“James,” she asked, not acknowledging his eyes snapping open in joyous surprise of being addressed by his first name, “do you think it’s better when it’s expected or when it’s sudden?”
He took a moment to answer, letting the only sound to resonate in the common room be the crackling of the burning wood.
“I don’t know, Lily,” he said, mirroring the use of her first name. “I really don’t.”
“Yes.” There was a look of desperation in her eyes as she took hold of his hands. “But what do you think?”
“Well,” he took his time to decide, “I guess you need less time to cope afterwards if it’s expected, but when it’s sudden you don’t have to spend your life waiting in dread for it to happen…”
With her eyes drooped and looking at her feet, Lily nodded her head up and down. Her mind was digesting the words.
And then she stopped: the intensity of what James had just said finally processed inside her.
“You waited in dread for your father’s death,” she realized. It was more of a statement than a question, but James nodded anyways. “That must have been horrible.”
“It wasn’t as awful as you’d think.” He elaborated when he noticed Lily’s baffled expression, “I mean, it really made me appreciate life and taught me to do everything I can before it’s too late.”
These words struck Lily with more might than the piece of toast Robin whipped at her earlier that morning. She’d never seen this side of James Potter and not once did she ever expect him to be so deep.
James Potter was a prat and a git and a useless sack of owl droppings…
But never was he the comfort Lily sought as she cried on a couch.
And Lily had no idea what to make of this new insight. Potter - James had a mind. James had a heart. This was, honestly, the most attractive he’d ever seemed to her.
“So you learned to live every day like your last; seize the day basically?” she asked, maintaining her gaze on his trusting hazel eyes. She forced the conversation as opposing thoughts rose in her head.
“Basically,” he answered, leaning towards her slightly.
“Well that explains a lot,” she smirked, smiling for the first time since receiving that damned letter. She echoed his body language by moving in, her body taking control over her conscious mind.
“And yet, very little,” he breathed as he closed the gap between the two of them.
As their lips touched, that same heated chill swept through both their bodies. The impassioned kiss was wrapped in an indescribable tenderness that surprised Lily. Whenever she saw James with another girl, it was like a hyena attacking its prey
This, however, was so much different. They both sat there with their bodies facing each other on the couch and fingers intertwined as James rubbed his knee against hers. James kissing her was incredibly nice. James Potter intertwining his fingers with hers felt like rubbing a cozy wool blanket directly after it came out of the wash. James Potter with her was…James Potter with her!
When Lily’s consciousness realized whom she was snogging, she immediately broke their connection.
“Now that is what I call seizing the day,” whispered James with a stupid grin, as his left eye twinkled in the morning light.
Though, while James was engulfing himself in the satisfaction of finally snogging Lily Evans, the redheaded girl was in a panic.
Her mind was racing. Only one thing in the known universe could overcome her grief for losing her father, and this was it.
Oh Merlin! She screamed inside her mind, How did that happen? I, Lily Evans, kissed James Potter! And enjoyed it! This is so wrong!
“I gotta go!” she finally managed to say as she turned her entire body away from James and stood up from the couch.
“Wait,” James awoke from his daze, “what?”
“See you in Transfiguration,” she hurriedly said before mumbling something that sounded to James like ‘or not’ under her breath. Then she ran towards the girls’ staircase, leaving behind a very flustered teenage wizard.
As Lily disappeared around the bend of the stairs, the portrait hole opened to reveal Sirius Black.
“Hey Prongs,” he said automatically when he noticed James in the common room. “Where were you in Potions? You normally warn me ahead of time when you’re going to skip, so I had to make up an excuse on the spot for Slughorn. By the way, you have a bad case of diarrhea from something you ate at the Hogshead during the Hogsmeade weekend.”
Sirius smirked and began to laugh heartily, but when James didn’t react, he stopped laughing and became concerned for his best mate.
“James?” When James, once again, did not respond, Sirius tried to gain his attention by waving his arms wildly above his head. This seemed to buy the boy’s attention, for James finally took notice of his friend and stood up to meet him.
“Pardon?” he said.
“What happened here, Prongsie?”
“I-” James looked back at the stairs leading to the girl’s dormitories, tilted his head to the side, and then turned back to Sirius. With the look of a lost little puppy, James admitted, “I don’t know!”
“What do you mean you don’t know?” Sirius asked in mild frustration. “You were here! If either of us shouldn’t know, it’d be me!”
Sirius gave him an impatient look as he licked his lips. Before he bagan he state of incoherent rambling, James automatically shot his hand to the back of his head and ruffled in already-messy black hair.
“Well…I, er, I, well I, er, was talking with Lily and then we, er, kissed,” he ended lamely.
“You WHAT?!” Sirius shouted in shock, his eyes bulging from their sockets.
“What were you thinking, mate?”
James collapsed back on the couch and decided on an appropriate answer.
James shrugged and turned to his friend. With an innocent half-smile, he said, “Carpe diem.”
* * *
Lily climbed the stairs in such a rush that she was panting heavily by the time she reached her dorm room door. She opened the wooden door in a wild gesture and stepped inside before closing it behind her. Then she fell back onto it and slid down with her back against the wood grains as they led to the floor.
She sat there, breathing in and out, as she let her conflicting thoughts float through her head.
Soon, she heard someone, a guy due to the bass vocals, shout, “You WHAT?!”.
Lily quickly recognized the voice as Sirius’. When she overheard James’ response, she understood Sirius’ shock: she was still shocked herself.
“What were you thinking, mate?” she heard Sirius ask James. She too wondered what he was thinking when he kissed her, not to mention what she was thinking when she kissed him back…
She awaited James’ reply and heard, “Carpe diem.”
Seize the day? Lily was furious that a simple Latin phrase was his only answer. She didn’t even know what he meant by it. The confusion and curiosity overcame her furiousness as she repeated the phrase over and over again to herself. Then something clicked, liked she only just figured out the final ingredient for a complicated potion. She remembered what James had told her about his father’s death.
‘It really made me appreciate life and taught me to do everything I can before it’s too late,’ he had said.
And though she tried to fight it, she could not deny that James had his moments.
Lily would hate herself later for it, but she couldn’t stop a small smile from painting itself on her face at the memory of those words. She was swept up from the world and all of its troubles at that moment, and she no longer cared that it was James who kissed her.
But only for that moment.
She would give herself this moment to enjoy it; she will seize the day.
“Carpe diem, James,” she said to no one but herself, “Carpe diem.”
(you will forever hold a special place in my heart if you review!)
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