Chapter 1 : Caught
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beautiful image by runaway at TDA~
Nobody likes being stuck.
Lily's laugh ricocheted through the air as she ran towards the enormous oak tree, red hair flowing behind her like rippling river. "C'mon!" she yelled over her shoulder to James. "Let's go!"
Squinting in the bright sun, James jogged to keep up with her. The late afternoon air was more like molasses than oxygen, so his breaths came in ragged puffs.
"Is this safe?" Lily was pointing at the rickety rope-ladder leading up to the tree house above her. James laughed as he approached, nodding. "Of course."
Eyebrows raised skeptically, Lily regarded him with her hands on her hips. He laughed again. "I'm serious! It's fine. See?" He shook the ladder back and forth to show its sturdiness. "Perfectly safe."
"If you say so," Lily said, though she remained unconvinced while grabbing the first rung. She hooked her foot onto the bottom rung and began a slow upward ascent. But she paused, unsure, barely three feet up, glancing down at James apprehensively.
"I'm right here," he said gently, smiling his encouragement. "I promise I'll catch you if you fall."
Trusting irrevocably in his words, a smile stole Lily's lips as she turned and continued up the ladder. I promise I'll catch you if you fall.
When Lily reached the top, she climbed into the tree house and looked around in wonder. It was a very simple structure, one-room, nothing out of the ordinary, and yet it was completely beautiful. She felt all around her James' childhood, his young hopes, dreams, aspirations. She imagined him climbing the ladder and stepping into a whole different world, a world full of magic and imagination and the impossible. She walked around the interior, running her fingers across the aged wood, practically feeling the excitement of the little boy as he laughed and played with his friends, scheming and joking and playing make believe.
As she walked into the middle of the tree house she looked up and discovered a tiny oval window set in the ceiling. Sun poured in through it, outlining a circle on the floor. She realized after a second of looking that the circle of light illuminated a faded carving in the floor. She bent to her knees to take a closer look – it was a heart. Her heart pounded foolishly as she traced her eyes along the edge of the carving and the messy initials it surrounded: JP and LE. She brushed her hands across the childhood drawing, feeling pretty, sentimental emotion bubbling in her chest.
"See, that wasn't so bad, was it?" James voice came from behind as he reached the top of the ladder. Lily stood to face him as he came into the tree house, smiling enormously. She pointed towards the drawing on the floor.
"Ah," James chuckled self-consciously, shoving his hands in his pockets and shaking his head at the carving. "You've found my childhood attempt at art."
"It's..." Lily rubbed her lips together. "Kind of adorable."
"Oh, only kind of?" James asked, as if he was offended. He raised his eyebrows and nodded. "I see how it is."
With a laugh, Lily stepped forward and laced her hands gingerly around his waist. She looked up into his eyes. "I'm only upset that it wasn't my idea."
"Well," James brushed back a lock of hair from her face. "It was a pretty good idea, I'll agree with that."
Sighing with a contented smile, Lily leaned her head against his neck. "This is the best hideout ever."
James smiled against her head and brought his arms around her back. "Agreed."
After a few silent moments, James took Lily's hand and led her out of the embrace and over to the entrance of the tree house. "Come have a look at this view."
He sat down with his back against the wall, motioning for Lily to join him. She sat down and leaned against his propped up knee, eyes scanning the scene before her. The Potter property stretched far beyond her eye line, all trees and bushes and flowers and field drenched in buttermilk sunlight. Closest to the tree house she spotted the exquisite garden, adjacent to the Potter's idyllic cobblestone cottage. It all seemed like a landscape out of a fairytale. "What a place to grow up in," she said dreamily, turning to look at James. "Lots of room to run free."
"Still not big enough for Sirius and Remus and Peter and I," James laughed, and she joined in because she understood. There was a beat. James continued. "Still not big enough for how much I love you." He mentioned, stroking his fingers across the freckles that dusted Lily's exposed shoulder.
"Oh, so it can't fit in here?" Lily asked teasingly, pointing around the tree house. "Should we go to space, or something?"
"The whole universe wouldn't be big enough," James whispered in response. The corner of Lily's mouth twitched upwards and a blush crept into her cheeks. "It's so big, in fact, that I might just explode one of these days."
"Well," Lily leaned closer, bringing her hands about his face. "I think I love you too, and I definitely wouldn't want to see you explode." They were barely an inch apart. Her eyes searched his face. "Maybe we ought to take advantage of the fact that you haven't combusted yet."
"Yeah, maybe we should," James murmured, as she leaned in the final inch. Their lips met in the middle.
The world outside of their quiet touch suddenly seemed obsolete. The contact was so perfect that it could only be the fabric of a dream...
...consciousness drained back into my mind slowly, like a hard pressure pounding gently against the inside of my cranium. The moment it took over, I became painfully aware of it. My neck was craned uncomfortably across my desk, and there was the lump of a quill sticking awkwardly against the side of my face.
I winced and squeezed my eyes open, bending slowly into an upright position. My eyes immediately met sunlight that was trying to peek through the blinds. I was surprised I'd managed to sneak in a few hours of restless sleep – the night had seemed like it would never end. I glanced looked down and discovered my makeshift pillow: Lily's journal. My eyes drifted over what I'd written.
I suppose this is supposed to be a title but I’m not sure what to write
By: James Potter
Er, hi. I'm James Potter. Perhaps Lily has mentioned me before?
I gather from reading her past entries that you knew I might eventually get a hold of you, so I guess it's not really a surprise...oh, dash it all. This is bloody weird, talking to a piece of paper. I can't believe I'm actually doing this. Writing in a diary. Merlin, I've gone mad. Yes, that's it, I've gone barking mad. Stark raving mad.
But...pathetic as it is, you're all I've got left at this point. Of Lily, that is...I believe the two of you have met.
Well, as long as I'm here, I might as well tell you a little bit about myself. Um, hello. Like I said, I'm James, and I'm 17. I enjoy Quidditch (as you've probably picked up), walks in the woods, and miss the simpler days of my youth, when it was just me and my stupid friends and our endless jokes. I'm (not so) secretly a sucker for English literature and my hair is the most untamed beast I've ever met. I still don't have slightest idea how to tie a bowtie and have an incredible potential to feel insecure. But most importantly –well, probably the singular most important thing is that I'm hopelessly, pathetically, inescapably in love with Lily Evans.
That much, I suppose, you've figured out by now. But do you know the full extent of it?
I wanted to tell her the first day I saw her, you know. That I loved her. Because I knew, just like that. Or maybe not that I loved her right then, but that I would, one day. Because one look and I knew. I remember thinking something along the lines of, "Oh. There she is."
I'd tell you how in that moment I realized if the sun hadn't been shining, her face would have coaxed it from behind a cloud, or about how my toes and ears went numb without a cause, but that would all be a little overboard. So I'll simplify it: she got me. And since then, I've been stuck.
Stuck. Not the coat-stuck-in-the-door kind of stuck, or even super-glue-stuck. It's more of a...well, when I figure out exactly what kind of 'stuck' it is, I'll let you know.
I'm sure you really enjoy listening to me marvel at my own past. It's probably the most exciting think I've done in the past three hours. I'm going to be honest, my life just fell down a rabbit hole. Her words won't leave my head. “I can’t- I can’t believe this..I believed it. I believed you.”
I didn't lie to her. I didn't betray her. You've got to understand that. But she couldn't understand that, because I couldn't tell her without explaining the secret – which isn't mine to tell.
But dwelling isn't doing me much, good, is it? There has to be a way to fix this. Broken things are meant to be fixed, right? And though I hate admitting it to myself, I broke it. So it's my job to fix it.
Okay, well. It's been a nice...chat? I guess? I'm really sorry. I'm new at the diary thing. Er, journal thing. So I'll be back, probably, maybe for more help. Thanks for listening, I guess.
Over and out.
I closed the leather-bound journal, letting my fingers linger on its spine. It still felt weird that I'd actually written in it. Un-masculine. But I'd been exactly right. The journal was all I had left of her.
I glanced at my watch; it was nearing five o'clock in the morning. I really hadn't gotten more than a wink of sleep, and I was feeling it. The tiredness was deep in my bones, as if it had been there for a very long time.
I ran a hand through my hair and took a deep breath; it shuddered back out of my chest almost immediately. Breathing still seemed pointless. But I had to keep breathing if I wanted to fix what I'd broken.
The sun peered further through a crack between the curtains with each passing second, willing me to open them and let the light spill through. But I was in no mood for brightness or sunshine. Instead, I stood up, stretching the soreness from my muscles, and shoved the curtains shut entirely, turning again to face the dankness of my bedroom. Shaking my head just to make sure it had actually happened, I quickly stripped off my sweater and reached for a clean t-shirt. With a final glance backwards at the journal, lying closed on my desk, I gently opened my door and stepped out. I stood for a moment beside her door, reaching out to touch it with my fingertips. But I retracted my hand immediately and forced myself down the stairs. Lingering in despair was no use.
I descended down the stairs as quickly and silently as I could, running away from the feelings I'd felt at her door. As I took to the hallways, Hogwarts was silent. Granted, it was only five the morning. But I had business, and I couldn't afford to wait for a decent hour.
I reached the Gryffindor tower with practiced footsteps, where I discovered the ever-elephantine lady in the painting to be sound asleep. Naturally. I was breathing rather heavily and feeling just a little bit distraught, so unfortunately for her, manners were the last thing on my mind.
"Oi!" I exclaimed loudly.
The portly painting startled awake with a unnecessarily melodramatic cry, clutching at her chest as if she'd just laid her eyes on a dementor. "Great goodness, Mr. Potter!" she shrieked, the heavy jewelry adorning her neck and ears rattling with the vibration of her voice. "Whatever do you think you're doing, scaring me half to death like that?"
I shook my head halfway, regretting greatly that I couldn't simply break down the entryway. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. But I have some really important matters to attend to in there," I motioned the Gryffindor Tower that lay behind her. "And would rather like to get in now, if you don't mind."
The Fat Lady narrowed her eyes at me and snickered haughtily. "Well, obviously, I will be needing a password if you're to go in there at all."
"Right, right." I crossed my arms. "Flitterbloom."
The glare coming from the painting was so humanly real that I forgot for a second that it was only paint on a canvas...that happened to be able to talk. After a few painful moments of guilty silence, the Fat Lady angrily obliged and slid open. I muttered "thanks", avoiding her glower, and stepped inside.
The Gryffindor Common was licorice black, but I knew my way around. I climbed the circular staircase to the boy's dormitories, approaching the third door on the right. I hesitated only momentarily before turning the handle.
I was met with a room almost as dark as the common room below. Like in my own room, sunlight tried to sneak in through the closed shades on the windows. There were five beds, each inhabited with a lump. I walked to the first bed on my left, where I discovered the lump that was snoring the loudest. Only a mop of shaggy black hair was visible above his covers. I rolled my eyes and pulled the pillow out from under Sirius' head.
A loud "urghmff!" escaped him as his un-supported head fell onto his mattress. "What the bloody f-?" he started, half-sitting up and blinking ferociously. He shoved his hair out of his face and squinted at me. "What the bloody hell are you doing in here?" His voice was ragged with sleep.
I sighed. The truth felt very heavy inside of me. I pulled up a chair from the corner of the dormitory next to his bed, folding my hands together.
I looked up at him. "We need to talk."
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