A/N- This chapter is dedicated to Collette and Molly for their support of this. Without them, you would most likely not be reading this. ILY both.
The passing beams from car headlights illuminated the ceiling over James’s head. His eyes picked out each individual line that ran through the expanse of plaster. The lines did not interest him; it was just a way to stave off the inevitable nightmares. He felt his eyelids flicker, and he sat up in bed. No matter how hard it was to stay awake, he knew falling asleep would be ten times worse.
He flung the duvet cover off his legs. He immediately felt goose pimples flare up along his shins. The night air was bitterly cold, and he shivered. He paced around the room, the ancient floorboards creaking underfoot. The wood was rough and tiny splinters pricked at the soles of his feet. As he walked, he tried to stop his thoughts from wandering by examining old knick-knacks from around his bedroom.
As James walked, he heard a cautious knock at his door. “Who’s there?” he asked slowly, reaching to grab his wand from where it lay on his desk, muttering, 'Lumos'. It was Albus who pushed open the door, which moaned softly on its hinges.
“Mum and Dad have stopped fighting,” Albus whispered, tip toeing into the room. He hoisted up the waistband of his pajama bottoms as he walked. The material did not cover his spindly ankles. James knew better than his younger brother. His parents were still arguing; they had just cast a silencing spell so as not to disturb them. Albus collapsed onto James’s bed, drawing the duvet up to his neck. Looking at his brother nestled in blankets, James felt as if Albus was once again seven years old. He was still too skinny and rumpled and just too young.
“I wish Lily would come back,” stated Albus simply. It was not said with much emotion – he was not on the brink of tears or anger. It was just a fact. Albus had never been one for big displays of feeling.
“I think we all do,” said James. Albus nodded, his eyes cast downwards. James looked at his fragile little brother, feeling the same protective instinct that he’d often felt when Albus was younger. He would so many things to stop Albus from being hurt. Another thing that he resented Lily for.
“I miss her,” whispered Albus to the floorboards. James placed an arm round his shoulders. He drew Albus into his chest, and Al rested his head on James’ chest.
James had no answer for this. He felt the hole of Lily’s absence right through his family, and he did not feel the need to put that into words. When his elderly primary school teacher had died, his uncle Percy had taught him about the five stages of grief, in a rather misguided attempt to cheer him up. He reckoned he was stuck somewhere in the midst of depression. Albus had made the most progress. He was the only one who could even speak Lily’s name without some kind of emotional breakdown.
“Do you miss her?” asked Albus. James nodded, unable to find sufficient words to reply. Albus shifted his head where it rested on James’ chest. He was on the brink of falling asleep. James readjusted the blankets around his little brother.
The sound of the doorbell ringing promptly shattered the silence.
“Who’s there?” asked Albus, his voice cloudy with grogginess.
“I don’t know. Some crazed fan, I expect. Let’s get Dad,” replied James. He rose from the bed, and walked across the floor to his door. When he opened it, he was met with a wall of darkness. He held his wand up high to illuminate the stair case in front of him. Albus stayed close to his side as they shuffled along the corridor.
James raised his hand to knock on his parents’ door. “Who is it?” James heard his mother ask, her voice a mixture of concern and irritation.
“James,” he said, pushing open the door. His parents were not in bed. His mother sat on the bed, twirling her wand between her fingers. His father stood with his back to the door, staring out of the window at the darkened street below.
“What’s wrong?” asked Harry, seeing his children where they stood in the doorway.
“The doorbell rang,” said Albus. As if on cue, a second peal of the bell rang through the house.
“Who’s ringing the doorbell at two in the morning?” asked Harry with a groan, checking his watch. As if on cue, the bell rang once more. James wondered if he had been right, about it being a fan. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time something like this had happened.
Harry pulled a dressing gown over his pajamas and marched down the stairs. He snatched his wand from the inside of his sock, where he kept it when it was not in his hands.
“Stay back,” he said, throwing out his arm to stop Albus from following him.
James nodded, leaning over the banister to watch the scene below. Harry approached the door. There was a silhouette framed in the small window in the front door. James thought it looked like a woman.
Harry grasped the handle and pulled the door open, ready to demand just why the person was ringing the doorbell at this time of night. His words died in his throat, and he just stared, silently, at the person in the doorway. Ginny let out a little moan, and her wand clattered to the floor, where it rolled away. Nobody made an attempt to retreat. Instead, Ginny turned to Albus and James, who were just as dumbstruck as she was.
In a strangled voice, she uttered one name. “Lily.”
James’s mouth dried up, and he swallowed heavily. He blinked back the surprise. He tried to say something, anything, but his mouth no longer worked. He had lost the power of speech.
“Lily?” croaked Harry, echoing his wife. His wand was held uselessly at his side, and a draft flowed in through the open door. He did not seem to notice that his teeth were chattering. Albus and James watched their parents with bated breath, awaiting some conformation of the night time visitor. The girl stepped through the doorway and in to the hall. It was as if no time had passed since that fateful October night. She was a little taller perhaps, and her hair shined a brighter red, but she was undoubtedly Lily.
Ginny was the first one to react. She walked down the stairs, her legs shaking ever so slightly. When she reached Lily, she threw her arms around her daughter and clutched her close to her chest. James heard her let out a sob.
“Mum,” said Lily, extracting herself from her mother’s embrace. “What’re you doing?”
Ginny drew in a sharp breath at her response, tears still trailing down her face. When one tear fell, it was immediately replaced by a new one. James didn’t know where to look. While his mother was silently weeping, Harry was standing there motionless.
“I’ve only been gone for five minutes,” said Lily, her tone one of curiosity.
“Wh-what?” asked Ginny, her mouth falling open. Lily looked to her father for an answer. He finally found it in himself to react to Lily’s appearance. James hadn’t even properly processed what was going on.
“Lily, you’ve been gone for a year,” said Harry. He did not approach her, but kept his distance from her.
“Dad, what are you talking about?” she asked, with a kind of nervous laugh that did nothing to hide the confusion in her voice.
“You’ve been missing for a year,” he said.
“Is this a sick joke?” she asked, her features flickering with annoyance. “What’s going on?”
“It’s not a joke,” said Albus. Lily’s eyes snapped up, to stare him in the face. “Stop pretending! Haven’t you done enough?”
James could hardly believe it, but Albus looked angry. Albus opened his mouth as if to say more, then turned on his heel and stormed up the stairs. James did not know what could be achieved by following him, but he wanted to be anywhere but here. A thousand times he had envisioned Lily’s return, but not once had it played out like this.
When Lily returned, life was meant to return to normal. However, James was fast realising normal was something that, although once held, could never be regained.
“Al?” asked James, rapping his knuckles against the wood of Albus’s bedroom door.
“Go away,” hissed Al in response.
“No,” said James simply. “What the hell was that?” Al didn’t reply. James pushed open the door. Albus was curled in to a ball on his bed, his hands clutching the folds of his duvet to his chest. His back was to the doorway, and he curled himself up tighter when James walked in.
“Al? Are you okay?” asked James, sinking on to the bed next to him. Albus did not move or make a sound in response.
“Albus,” said James softly, placing a hand on his shoulder. Albus did not shake it off, but he did not respond to it either. “Come and find me when you want to talk.”
With that, he rose from the bed and left the room.
A/N- It’s up before the queue closure! (Something I thought was not going to be possible). I know I said this last time, but future chapters will be longer. I hope you enjoyed it! Please read and review if you have the time.
Still undergoing extensive rewrites. It is really from the next chapter that details will start to be altered. Please bear with it for the next few weeks (basically, anyone reading this in August 2012).
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