I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.
- - - - - - - - - -
He has always loved autumn. Autumn is when the air smells crisp, like apples, and the wind is brisk against his face when he flies.
Autumn is when the leaves turn orange, the exact shade of his wife’s hair, and he tucks one fallen leaf into her hair above each of her ears and tells her she looks like a funny ginger cat.
It is a season that conspires with the sun and rejoices in its own cleverness. It is the season of freedom and of triumph and of never taking no for an answer.
It has always been a time of Marauding. It has always meant invincibility. A season that has never recognized the word “can’t.”
Oh, yes, he has always loved autumn.
For autumn is exactly itself - nothing more, nothing less - the dwelling place of those boys who are no longer children and not yet men.
And even as the skies darken and creak with expectation, those miniature soldiers resolutely search out every pile of freshly fallen leaves and splash about in the oranges and reds.
But they are soldiers, and that is what separates them from the rest of the world. It defines them, sets them apart, makes them better - but it also marks them. The way that the fragile leaves crumble into dust in the center of his palm has not been lost on James.
He is a soldier, and he embraces the burden. He knows his greatness cannot have been for nothing. His talents are meant for something more than the schoolyard. And thus far, he has used them well. He fights where many would cower. He advances where most would retreat. Fear is a fleeting idea he entertains out of philosophical interest.
For who has time to fear when he is always moving, going, doing? There is no room for doubt, no place for pause or backward glances. He knows only one direction, and he draws his strength from motion. Life is dynamic. Life is vivid. Life changes colors before his very eyes.
James does not sit still and wait. He has never understood the word “can’t.”
So what is he to do, locked down in this picturesque prison, trapped in this farce? James is not one to hide, sit idle, watch meekly as others march on without him and the world passes him by. An earthquake rumbles within his chest, but the earth does not feel it. And he thinks that when he finally flies again it will never be high enough, and when he finally runs it will never be fast enough. He could run five times around the center of the earth and still wouldn’t tire. And maybe then he will be himself again.
But for now, he hardly knows who he is.
The fear is foreign: the doubt and the worry and the terrors that invade his dreams. He has nothing to do all day but sit inside his own head. Nowadays, there is more than enough time for fear.
He doesn’t tell her about the nightmares; she gets them, too, and he reckons it’s better for both of them if he pretends he doesn’t. He does a lot of rationalizing these days.
He knows he’s not the only one realizing his own ineffectiveness. She shares his futile distress, though she deals with it better than he does. She makes it almost enjoyable. With her, it’s almost natural - this quiet, this placidness, this peace that has been forced upon them. And some days, he forgets they’re trapped behind a pane of glass, watching the world go to hell in front of their eyes, unable to do a damn thing to stop it. There are times when it doesn’t seem wrong, though it is.
And he can’t decide whether it makes him feel like a child, being told to sit here and behave and wait for further instruction - or whether it makes him feel older than he ought, knowing the shadow that looms over the earth is searching for his family, and he is the one tasked with protecting them. He doesn’t fear for himself, but for those he values even more.
He doesn’t trust this game of hide and seek, sitting here, immobile, hoping not to be found. And with a sickened feeling in his stomach, he realizes he’s begun not to trust himself. That feeling of invincibility has been whisked away on a crisp breeze that smells of apples and pumpkin, to be bestowed on some other boy who still feels life in his fingertips.
Autumn taunts him now, taking place outside his windows, just beyond his reach. What good is autumn air to a boy who can’t fly? He jumped in a pile of leaves yesterday and stuck a few in Lily’s hair, and for a moment life felt normal, though it wasn’t.
It doesn’t belong to him anymore. It slips away and takes a part of him, and he can barely recognize himself. He looks for it in the golden leaves, but they crumble to pieces in his clumsy hands.
Still he clings to it - a silent war that he wages on his own - he’s not ready to let go or give in. That time has not yet come - and a smaller but stronger voice tells him it never will.
In the moment of reckoning, when the door bursts open and the earth shakes with rage and terror – when his castles crumble and he drowns in his own future – when his glory days point and laugh and leer like old enemies – when a needling voice inside his head whispers, Give up, you pathetic child. It’s over. Just give up…
That is when a part of him – not that part that is Potter, or Prongs, or Sweetheart, or Daddy, but that part of him that is James
– answers back:
A/N: So this one-shot obviously used the Marauders Era and the season of autumn. The concept pair I chose to use for this one-shot was Valor/Heroism. Please tell me what you think! The next one-shot will be a Hogwarts/Post-Hogwarts Era piece set in summer, and after that will be Next Gen set in spring. Thanks for reading!