Chapter 1 : Stars Shining (so) Bright
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The final rays of the red-golden sun had just shone enough the late spring day and the glow of the moon had decided to dominate the grounds of Hogwarts and the vast sky with its light. In a far away distance, a young woman watched as the Evening Star took its place just above her, shining like never before, twinkling wickedly against the darkening skies. The warmth from the earth beneath her was ever so slowly vanishing, the winds turned chillier, and the lake stirred restlessly. She felt the glow of the moon upon her petite figure; but unlike the sun, it never managed to warm her.
Her glowing almond shaped emerald eyes, which were stained with flecks of amber, surveyed the scenery of the lake and the forest beyond. She would often take a stroll to the lake after dinner, feeling confused, overworked and having a lot of things to think of; feeling she couldn’t deal with them in the presence of her friends or people in general. With N.E.W.Ts around the corner and the pressure from Head duties, she needed the time to think; of herself, of existence. So many unanswered questions, an unknown future heading toward her far too quickly... She wasn’t ready to stand at the edge of the wide world. She wasn’t ready to take the step that would change the course in life. And with the war constantly present over one's shoulder; it was a lot of weight upon her shoulders. And sometimes she could simply not deal with it.
Lily Evans sighed tiredly to herself; her entire weight leant against the ancient oak tree. She had too many thoughts zooming about her head, and she certainly did not need it. There was the everlasting matter of a certain James Potter, whom had recently showed he could act like a mature young man, rather than like an idiotic toerag. He had helped her tirelessly to set up and decorate the Great Hall for Halloween and Christmas. And he hadn’t even complained, no matter how tiring the work really had been. He just bit his teeth and dealt with it. Recently, a third-year student’s family had been brutally murdered in the area of Hampshire. Muggleborn, the boy was. And James had comforted him, no matter how much it broke his heart to watch the boy cry. Lily would have done it; but she hadn’t been able to deal with it. To stay strong. To believe that it wasn’t only darkness that was awaiting them all beyond the walls and charms that protected Hogwarts. She didn’t believe it. She wondered if she ever would again.
So yes, he had proved himself to be serious when he wanted to – and mature as well for that matter. And that was what confused her the most. She had promised them all that never in a million years would she even consider the thought of James as – well, anything – but lately, forbidden images had begun appearing inside her mind’s eye. She wanted answers! Not clues.
It wasn’t right; nothing was right. The puzzle she herself had once set was shattered, scattered plainly in front of her. And she didn’t know where to begin to regain her knowledge about where the pieces were meant to be. But after all, nobody had ever said that life was easy. So she just wouldn’t give up. She would never give up – that was what war was supposed to make you do, to weaken you – but she never did, and had never done, what one expected of her. I’ll fight, she thought and smiled tiredly to herself, eyes closed, head leant back against the tree.
“What are you smiling at?”
The question was so sudden, so unexpected, that she as good as jumped in fright and snapped her eyes open, all in a mere second. The next thing she knew, she was holding her wand in her hand, standing unsteadily on her feet and gazing at the insufferable, arrogant (and handsome) face of James bloody Potter.
“What in the name of Merlin are you doing, Potter?!” she hissed and narrowed her eyes dangerously. James took instinctively a step back and raised his hand to show that he was unarmed and innocent.
“Whoa, whoa, take it easy there, Lily,” he said and flashed a rather insecure smile at her. Lily slowly lowered her wand, knowing that she had overreacted, but what was she supposed to do? She would have done it, had it been anybody else as well. She was incredibly glad she hadn’t hexed the hell out of him. Now that would only cause more confusion and trouble than they already had to deal with. And I wouldn’t want that, now would I?
“I – Sorry, I just reacted,” she stated the obvious and James chuckled lightly.
“It’s fine,” he said offhandedly and sat down on the spot. He looked at Lily with big, curious eyes, his glasses reflecting the moon above. Lily drifted off for a second far too long, but as soon as she regained her composure, she sat down by the tree once again.
“So... What are you doing here exactly?” she couldn’t help but ask him, seeing as he did disturb her peaceful environment and scared her to hell. She had the right to know, she figured.
“I – I couldn’t sleep actually,” he said honestly and she took her opportunity to look over at him. His eyes glazed behind his round-glasses and she found that she had a difficult time averting her gaze. What is up with me?
“And you?” he asked before she could ask him why he couldn’t sleep. Darn, why was she there anyway? She looked toward the horizon, where strands of deep, deep purple still lingered stubbornly. Then she raised her gaze and watched the stars. Feeling a tranquillity filling her in that exact moment, she said, “The stars are the reason."
“The stars,” she said and lowered her gaze to look him in the eye. “They make me relax,” she added at his questioning glance. He smiled then, not in that usual arrogant way, but more timidly. It made something inside her melt. No, no it doesn’t, Lily!
“Well, and what brings you here? Not the stars or the crescent moon, I assume,” she said a bit mockingly and her eyes drained him of... something. Something that was important, he felt inside. He hesitated.
“I... I couldn’t sleep, s’all,” he said and turned his face and observed the horizon, and the top of the snow-covered hills. She, on the other hand, did not turn her head. She felt it necessary to look at him. To take him in - his features and his body-language. It suddenly felt important to her. But she didn’t know why it felt that way. It was inexplicable. Nothing made sense to her anymore.
His jaw-line was sharp and very noticeable. He had rather high cheekbones and warm eyes. His mop of black hair stood as always on end. She found it charming that night in early March. She snapped out of her pleasant reverie and decided that she preferred to be caught looking at the horizon or the stars than being caught glaring at him. That would be way too embarrassing and she could not handle embarrassment. Not in the case of James Potter.
“By the way,” she began when she thought about time and corridors and Filch. And why and how Filch ever managed to enter her mind, one would probably never know. James looked over at her, where she sat, some feet away from him, his gaze enquiring.
“How in the name of Merlin,” - a dramatic beginning and James was sure that there was not any good news in any way coming. And that tone – the tone, he noticed. – “-were you able to sneak out of school after curfew?” Yes, they were past curfew and neither felt worried. Particularly James, of course.
James smirked this time and Lily couldn’t help to arch an eyebrow. Some things just never changed. For better or for worse, neither of them knew.
“That’s a secret I usually don’t tell anybody I pass randomly,” he said and Lily just sighed exasperatedly.
“Oh, please James, let us ignore that part. I know you want to tell me - now I'm asking nicely for your secret. Oh, and I will not tell anyone. I promise!” she added when he looked sceptically at her.
“Lily, you never step a toe out of line. How can I trust you?” he wondered and she wondered too.
“You can’t – all you can do is to take my word for it,” she said honestly and he shrugged. Then (her heart pounded in her ears and she felt thrilled), he picked up something that glistened oddly in the night. It was something of a silver fabric, thin and seemed to be almost transparent in the dark. Lily’s heart stopped beating.
“You’re joking! Is that an Invisibility Cloak?” she gaped and crawled ungracefully toward him. She just wanted to hold it.
“It is,” he said and handed it over to her when she settled comfortably on her bum. She grabbed the fabric both gratefully and carefully and ran its silky material between her fingers. She had never thought in a million years that she would even touch one of them.
“These are priceless, James!” she exclaimed then and he shrugged, a bit awkwardly.
“It’s been in my family for ages, to tell the truth. They hand it over to the first-born. Often, at least,” he said and smiled at her.
“Well, it’s absolutely brilliant. But... Ah, but of course... That’s how you’ve been able to lurk around the school at night. Considering that, I should report this to the Headmaster...” she began and his eyes widened in horror.
“You said you wouldn’t!” James exclaimed and Lily actually chuckled. He felt it had been a while since he’d seen her genuine smile and heard her laugh. And she certainly felt like it'd been a lifetime ago since the last time she actually laughed because something was amusing. Strange, life’s many quirks.
“I’m joking, James,” she said and handed him over the Cloak. “I would never do that. At least not after today,” she added and smiled warmly at him. Inexplicable. Her feelings were inexplicable.
The air between them grew heavy in a matter of mere seconds. It was an intense silence, one which she thought she’d be able to touch, had she had the power to raise her hand and dig into the air. It was the strangest feeling in the world; and she did not want it to disappear. She was certain that the power it possessed over her would soon casue her to faint. James was slowly nearing her, his eyes on her lips and his mouth open a bit, longing to taste her. And for a second, she could even feel his warm breath upon her cheek. But she couldn’t go on with it; something stopped her just before she’d feel his lips against hers and she drew back and rose. It was not right; no matter how much she wanted it.
“I – We should return, don’t you think? You can cover us both,” said Lily, her voice shaking, her hand trembling. She tried to smile, but failed. James’s heart ached and he let out a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding. He looked away and Lily couldn’t see his face, but she guessed what it was his face expressed. But what could she do? He couldn’t blame her for being confused; it was he who confused her. He who hadn’t even looked at her twice the past three months. He who seemed to be going on with life perfectly easy, while she was stuck somewhere you couldn’t even breathe normally. She didn’t know anything any longer and she hated him for all the thoughts he filled her head with. Bloody git.
“You don’t need to explain yourself. And you’re right; it’s getting late. Let’s go back,” he interrupted as soon as he heard her voice. Then, he rose and grabbed his cloak, beginning his stroll toward the castle, leaving her space to catch up upon. She, on the other hand, never moved from her spot.
When he noticed she wasn't trailing him, he stopped in his tracks and turned to face her. He looked quizzically at her, all the disappointment gone from his handsome face.
“What is it?” he asked and she glanced at the cloak in his hand. But he never got the memo. “What?”
“Argh, the cloak! Aren’t you supposed to cover us with it?” she cried in frustration and James just looked down at it.
“Why now? It’s not like they would see us,” he stated but she shook her head.
“I will not take any risks at midnight, James. So please, can you cover us up? Besides, we’re dealing with Filch and Peeves and Mrs. Norris. For all we know, they’re standing by the entrance door,” she finished lamely and James nodded his head.
“Okay, okay, I get your point. Come here then,” he said and with a triumphant, yet a tad timid smile, she strolled over toward him and when she stood by him, he covered them under the Invisibility Cloak. Lily had the biggest smile on her face. She felt as if she was eight years old all over again, hiding beneath a white blanket, pretending to be a ghost on Halloween. She remembered managing to scare Petunia even. Or perhaps Petunia just pretended to be frightened. Then she realized that she would never really know if Petunia had been scared or not. But despite that, and the sudden longing for her sister and for the lost, carefree days, her smile never left her face.
“Why are you smiling?” James asked as they began their walk back toward the castle.
“Memories,” she answered honestly and dared to glance over at him. He smiled at her and she understood in that moment that he wanted her to share her memories and open up her heart. Perhaps she would someday. She averted her gaze for what felt like the millionth time that night, then concentrated on being as quiet as possible in the Entrance Hall. She noticed out of the corner of her eye that he struggled not to overrun her with his feet and stamp her heels. She couldn’t help but feel amused at the thought.
It was not often she walked underneath an invisible cloak with the young man that always made her head want to explode. But despite their past, the many disputes and disagreements, she felt that there was nowhere else in the entire castle, or the entire world, she’d rather be. It felt perfectly right to walk alongside him; and for a fleeting moment, she even considered grabbing his hand in hers. She needed more of his warmth. Why were there so many things one couldn’t explain?
After tonight, things would definitely be different between them. And she was certain to a hundred percent that it was for the better. She had, after much consideration and persuasion, come to have known, or seen, a different side of James Potter that she hadn’t, until recently, realized existed. And she thanked the fates, or Merlin, or God, or even the stars, for making that night happen.
The silence which reached the moon at that point became comfortable and Lily couldn’t help feeling slightly dizzy. She was feeling too many emotions at the same time. But she ignored it, kept going, and breathing, out, in, out, in. His breathing echoed hers.
And yet another flight of blasted stairs. She wondered if she ought to say something. Anything. The portrait was nearing and before she even knew it, he uncovered himself only and woke the Fat Lady. She was not happy, that much was gathered. But Lily just grinned from underneath the cloak. Had she been in a right state of mind (as said, she was very confused), she would have uncovered herself as well and explained. But for once, she didn’t want to set things in order. And of course, didn’t want her to know that she stood there. James risked his own skin everyday pretty much; this was Lily’s first time and she wasn't planning on visiting Dumbledore for explaining her midnight stroll.
After ten minutes of persuasion, James managed to convince the Fat Lady to allow him an entrance and both climbed delightedly through the portrait hole. The only noise in the common-room, besides from their breathing, was the crackling fire which was slowly fading into the darkness of the circular space. She loved the common-room at night; the only thing she missed were the golden and red colours that decorated pretty much everything. Her head snapped back to reality and she removed the cloak and passed it to James.
“Thanks,” she said and he understood. For everything.
“Anytime,” he said and flashed a contented smile. But when neither spoke, an intensified silence appeared between them and felt heavy once again. She had an urge to search for it in the darkness. They were both confused at that point, uncertain of what words to share, afraid of saying too much. They were after all, barelyfriends.
“So,” James began awkwardly and she raised her eyes to look at him. He met them and his expression softened somewhat. “I'll see you tomorrow, yeah?”
“That you will, I can assure you,” she said and smiled shyly.
“Heh. It was a stupid question, I s’pose.”
“Wasn’t it rhetorical?”
“I guess it was.”
“Well then. But yeah, we will see each other tomorrow like every waking hour of the day. If I don’t decide to hide in the library,” she added and his expression changed.
“Why would you – I mean, I thought, after tonight – I” he stumbled and she smiled inwardly. It was nice for a change to see James at loss for words. So when he wasn’t busy asking her out, he was verbally stumbling out of nervousness. It didn’t make any sense, she thought.
“What I am trying to say,” he began and regained composure of himself and his tongue, “I just thought that things’d be different from now on... After tonight,” he said and he changed his expression again. How many expressions could a person’s face hold?
“I suppose they will be. Let’s just take it slow, yeah?” she said and was surprised at her own forwardness. James seemed caught off guard at this as well; what did she mean by that anyway? Yes, she would give it a chance. He deserved it and she felt, quite inexplicably, that she wanted to. She needed to. Her heart raced inside her chest; if he listened hard enough, he’d probably hear it.
“Besides, after all the help you’ve given me, it’s impossible to ignore you. But... Well, yeah. We both need our beauty sleep,” she joked and he chuckled light-heartedly.
“Yeah, I s’pose we need it. Well, I see you tomorrow then,” he said and the awkwardness appeared again. But after many fluttering arms, (and 'oops' and 'oh's') they embraced and James kissed her cheek. She was positive that she would melt. It was too much at that point! She leaned in a fraction into his kiss but then drew her head back. It was a beginning and she didn’t want to ruin anything.
“Goodnight,” she whispered as he let go of her. They pressed their foreheads against each others, breaths warm against their faces.
“Night,” he said and then headed towards the boys’ staircase. Without a backward glance, he ascended the steps to his dormitory. Lily remained rooted to the spot and thought. Thought, thought and thought. His smell lingered beneath her nostrils, the fabric of his robes tinged beneath her fingertips and she was still floating inside his hazel eyes. Oh, bloody hell, what am I thinking? She regained her composure after what felt an eternity and then turned and walked over to her own staircase. The steps were everlasting and the more the time passed, the more she yearned for her four-poster. She definitely needed her sleep. Though she wasn’t looking forward to the aspect of having to deal with James in her dreams as well; it was enough in reality.
But as she turned the door-knob, she felt relieved, her heart less heavy than it had been all year. She could deal with James without yelling at him. All could be handled with a regular, civilized conversation she noted after years. And after all, he had proven himself mature. And that was all it took for Lily to give him a second glance. And a chance.
The stars in the velvety-blue sky shined peculiarly brilliant that particular night; having had experienced the beginning of a new journey which would be filled with nothing but love.
Author's note: Also an old idea that has been among my many documents forever. It's rewritten though. The first time (or kind of) I've written a story that isn't all angsty. Felt good to write something with a happy ending for a change. Anyways, haven't got a beta for this, so let me know if you notice grammatical errors or typos. Very appreciated! Overall, thanks for reading and possibly reviewing!
Edited the 08.08.07 because of time/setting issues and flow.
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