Chapter 1 : A Light in the Dark
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Lily looked up from her butterbeer. James Potter was standing in front of her table, and he was flicking a sickle between his fingers.
She sighed and glanced around the Three Broomsticks. It was bright and bustling with students enjoying their last Hogsmeade weekend before they went home for Christmas. She’d sequestered herself behind one of the levitating Christmas trees with particularly bright blinking lights to wait for her friend Jane to show up; she didn’t much feel like small talk, and she’d half-considered not coming to Hogsmeade at all.
Leave it to James Potter to track her down, anyway.
“What do you want, Potter?” she asked tiredly.
He shrugged and pocketed the sickle. “Can I join you?”
She considered him for a moment. James had become significantly more bearable since they’d started their sixth year; she’d spent the last few months expecting him to manage to slide back into old habits, but to her considerable surprise, it hadn’t really happened. It was almost as though he was starting to grow up or something ludicrous like that.
However, he still wasn’t her first choice for company, particularly when she was feeling broody and solitary.
“Why?” she asked finally.
He seemed to take that as an invitation, because he slid into the chair across from her. She restrained herself from sighing. “Because,” he said cheerfully. “And anyway, prefects need to set a good example, and you’re here ruining the Christmas spirit.”
“I-” she started indignantly, and he snorted.
“Yeah, you are,” he interrupted her. “You’re sitting here hiding behind the Christmas tree with the most blinding lights looking like someone killed your kitten.”
“I don’t have a kitten.”
“Good, because then the poor thing would be dead, and no one likes dead kittens.” He reached across the table to nudge her gently. “Come on. What’s wrong?”
She scrutinised him for a moment. His face was open and he looked genuinely curious - even a little concerned.
Now she really did sigh. “I’m just nervous about going home.” His eyebrows rose a little, but to her slight surprise, he didn’t crack a joke. After a moment, he waved his hand for her to continue. Wondering why she was opening up to James Potter, of all people, when she’d been resolutely insisting to everyone that she was perfectly fine, she said, “I’m going to be meeting my sister’s boyfriend.”
Meeting the infamous Vernon was something Lily had been dreading for several reasons. First off, Petunia had already informed her through a letter their parents had sent by owl that under no circumstances was she to do anything that would suggest to Vernon that she could do magic.
Lily suspected that her mother had sanitised her sister’s words a little, because she couldn’t imagine Petunia putting Lily’s being a witch in such a neutral way.
It wasn’t that Lily had had any intention of telling Petunia’s boyfriend that she was a witch - she mostly certainly hadn’t. However, the fact that her sister felt the need to attach such gravity to it was more than a little hurtful, because Lily could tell that Petunia wasn’t worried about her at all. She was worried that her boyfriend would think worse of her if he discovered that her sister was a freak.
From what Lily had heard of Vernon from her parents, it wouldn’t surprise her to learn that that was true, but Petunia shouldn’t care more about her boyfriend of five months than her sister.
But she did. Or at least, it felt like she did.
And however unfair it felt, Lily was determined to make a good impression, in hopes of starting to mend her strained relationship with her sister.
She just had no idea how to.
“So what’s the problem?”
She started. She’d nearly forgotten James was there. “Er-” He still looked perfectly attentive, and she wrinkled her nose. “Oh, hell with it.”
When she’d finished outlining exactly what the problem was, James looked flabbergasted for a moment. “Wait,” he said. “Your sister doesn’t like magic?”
Lily shook her head. “She hates it.”
Lily let out a loud, undignified snort despite herself to hear Petunia described by her favourite insult to level at Lily whenever magic came up, and James looked a little pleased.
“That’s what she calls me, sometimes,” Lily told him. “Because I’m a witch.”
James shook his head, but declined from commenting further on the subject of her sister. Lily suspected it was because he had nothing that was remotely nice to say, and she marveled at the change. Six months ago, he wouldn’t have had the self-restraint to keep his mouth shut.
“Well,” he said, “I’m sure this Vernon bloke will like you fine.” He winked at her. “I think your biggest concern should be that he’ll fall madly in love with you and lose any interest in your sister.”
She giggled. “I doubt it.”
He grinned back at her, and they sat in silence for a moment. Then he said, “Hey, Lily, I wasn’t going to mention this, but we’re sitting under mistletoe.”
She glanced up instinctively. There was nothing above them but a strand of cranberries. “We are not.”
He threw back his head and laughed. “No, we’re not, but I was hoping you’d kiss me before you figured that out.”
She kicked him gently. “Potter, you’re a jerk.” He shrugged, not looking at all perturbed, and she rolled her eyes. “What are your Christmas plans?” she asked, changing the subject.
He looked a little taken aback by the question. “What? Oh. Um.” He thought about it for a moment. “I dunno. Sirius will probably come over for Christmas dinner with me and my parents. That’s about it.”
“You don’t have any other family?” she asked in surprise. She, her parents, and Petunia always went to her grandmother’s house on Christmas Eve for dinner, and they usually spent a solid hour on the phone talking to her father’s parents, who lived too far away to reasonably visit with for an evening.
“Er - no,” he said awkwardly. “My grandparents all died before I was born.”
She clapped her hands to her mouth. “Oh, god. I’m so sorry. I had no idea.”
“It’s all right.” He shrugged. “My parents are kind of old, so most of my grandparents died before I was born.”
It took her a moment to process that. “Wait,” she said slowly. “I thought witches and wizards lived longer than Muggles.”
“They had me really late,” he said.
He seemed a little uncomfortable with the line of questioning, so Lily dropped it, though she was inwardly marveling at the idea of anyone being able to have children so late it life. She knew that wizards lived longer that Muggles, but that was just ridiculous.
“Come on,” she said. “Inquiring minds want to know. What’s a Potter family Christmas like?”
With a little more cajoling, she managed to get him to talk a little more about his family’s Christmas celebration. Typically, he fixated on his mother’s cooking, and she hid a smile and tried to stop her stomach from rumbling. Food was sounding very, very good right now.
“What?” he asked when he caught her studying him.
“Why are you less of...” She searched for a non-offensive word, but couldn’t think of one. “... a- er- jerk, lately?”
He sniggered. “Nicest word you could think of?” She opened her mouth to apologise, and he shrugged. “No, it’s fine.” He thought for a minute, and then said, “You were right.”
“I know,” she said immediately. “When?”
James smiled faintly and ran a hand over the back of his head. She was surprised to find that it didn’t bother her the way it once had. “By the lake,” he said. “At the end of last year.”
She flushed. That was not a memory she liked to dwell on. It had not been her finest hour, and she’d lost a good friend that day. “I didn’t mean it,” she said after a moment. “Well, I did, but-”
He shook his head. “You were right,” he repeated. “Yeah, you were also meaner than you had to be - comparing me to the giant squid was a little uncalled for,” he said pointedly, and she felt her face get hotter.
Definitely not her finest hour.
“But you were right in general,” he continued. “I really was kind of a jerk, and knowing that that’s how you saw me was...” He sighed. “I mean, I don’t think I’ve lost my sense of fun-”
“You haven’t,” she said immediately. He and Sirius had landed themselves in detention just the week before for transfiguring every desk in the Transfiguration classroom to curl up and purr loudly whenever the student sitting at it spoke.
He grinned. “Yeah. But I didn’t want to be- well- mean, and I realised that I kind of was, sometimes. So I decided to scale that back, a bit.”
“Well, it shows,” she said softly.
“I figured. At this time last year you’d have told me to shut up and leave you the hell alone.” He hesitated, and then said, “And I’m sorry about Snape. He probably wouldn’t have said that if I hadn’t-”
“He definitely wouldn’t have said it.” She finished the last of her butterbeer. “But it doesn’t matter. It’s not your fault. He shouldn’t have said it, anyway.”
“Well, I can’t say that I’m too disappointed that he’s not hanging on your every word anymore,” James said offhandedly, and she frowned at him.
“What do you mean?”
He studied her for a heartbeat before shrugging. “Nothing,” he said. “Nothing at all.” He glanced at her empty glass. “Do you want another? My treat.”
He drained his glass and slid out of his seat to carry the two empty cups to the car. Lily watched him as he smiled at Madam Rosmerta and gestured at the glasses, feeling decidedly uncomfortable for very different reasons than she had before he’d sat down.
Maybe uncomfortable wasn’t even the right word. She was suddenly starting to feel pleasantly warm, and there was a twinge of new nervousness in her stomach that she didn’t really want to think too hard about.
“James Potter,” she muttered under her breath. “Really, self?”
The boy in question soon returned and slid a newly-filled mug of butterbeer across the old wooden table toward her. “Feel any better?” he asked with a smile.
She nodded mutely, and after a moment, he steered the topic onto what other plans she had for the Christmas holiday.
After about fifteen more minutes, Lily saw her friend Jane enter the Three Broomsticks and begin to scan the crowd for her. She hesitated to wave - she’d spent what had felt like hours waiting for Jane to show up, but now that she was here, Lily found herself feeling almost disappointed.
James twisted around and saw Jane. He glanced back at Lily a little oddly before waving his arm. Jane spotted him and began to pick her way through the crowd toward them.
“Well, that’s my cue to leave,” James said, beginning to slide out from the bench they’d been sitting on.
“Wait,” she said. He turned back, looking startled. She got up and brushed her lips against his cheek. “Thank you,” she said softly.
His face got very red. “I-”
She smiled. “Happy Christmas, James.”
A broad grin was beginning to spread across his face. “Happy Christmas, Lily.”
He departed, and Jane slid into the seat he’d vacated, looking quite curious. “What was that all about?” Lily shrugged, and Jane raised her eyebrows. “Lily, darling, are you falling for James Potter?”
Lily felt her face flush. “No,” she said defensively. “He just-”
Jane snorted. “Liar,” she said cheerfully. “Well, I wouldn’t blame you. He really does seem to have grown up over the summer, and I know you wanted him last year.”
“I did not,” Lily said without much conviction as she settled back into her seat. “He was an arrogant, obnoxious-”
“Yeah, I know.” Jane grinned and wiggled her eyebrows suggestively. “But you still wanted him a little, provided he’d keep his mouth shut.”
Lily looked away from her best friend, who was sometimes a lot more perceptive than she could take. “Shut up,” she muttered, and the brunette laughed.
“Lily, love, there’s no shame in noticing a fit bloke,” she said. “And hey, now he’s even bearable when he does open his mouth.”
Lily bit her lip to keep from smiling. “Yeah,” she agreed. “He is.”
She didn’t think that she was quite willing to go out with James Potter - at least not yet - but the warm feeling that had started to creep over her while they’d talking didn’t leave her for the rest of the day.
A/N: This one's for you, Allison. I hope you liked it. <3
For fans of "A Light That Never Goes Out," I hope this prequel didn't disappoint. For new readers, if you choose to check out "A Light That Never Goes Out," I hope you like it. :)
As always, lovely readers, if you have a moment to leave a review, I would greatly appreciate it. I always value your feedback. :)