October of Seventh Year
Lily sat in an abandoned corridor, tears streaming down her face as she clutched her knees. She hated this feeling. She hated the emptiness in her stomach, the aching in her heart, and, most of all, the sting in her eyes and the warm liquid that trickled down from them. She hated feeling weak.
It didn’t matter to Lily that she had a good excuse for her grief. She didn’t care that people would think her heartless if she wasn’t crying. All she wanted was for the tears to stop.
And for her parents to still be alive.
It had been sudden, unexpected. A car accident with a drunk driver. It was so commonplace, so mundane. But that almost made it hurt even worse. But the part that really stung was the fact that her sister, Pentunia, hadn’t seen fit to inform Lily until over a week afterwards. She hadn’t even been able to attend the funeral.
Lily let out a frustrated sigh, reaching up to violently scrub at her cheeks in an attempt to remove the evidence of her crying. But it was a futile effort, as more tears continued to slip from her eyes. She pulled her hands away from her face and laughed bitterly as she examined the water that had collected on her palms.
“It doesn’t make you weak, you know.”
Lily jumped when she heard the voice that came from above her. She didn’t have to look up to know who it was. “What are you doing here, Potter?”
James Potter slid down the wall, taking a seat on the floor next to Lily. He watched her with a guarded expression, although she didn’t notice. She was too busy staring fixedly at a crack in the wall opposite her.
“You ran out of breakfast pretty quickly there,” James responded mildly. “I just wanted to check on you.”
“Make sure I’m okay?” Lily asked bitterly.
James gently paced a hand on her shoulder, which Lily promptly threw off. She paid no mind to brief flash of disappointment that crossed his face, choosing to look down at her knees instead.
“No, that wasn’t it,” James said slowly, withdrawing his hand. “No one would be okay after both their parents died.”
Lily whipped her head around to stare at him, shock going through her. “How did you know that?”
James gave her a slightly guilty look. “You, er, left your letter behind when you left, so…”
“You read my letter?!” Lily gasped in outrage. Her hand flew out to smack him across the back of the head. “That was private, you sod! You had no right!”
“That’s true,” he agreed, much to her surprise. “It really wasn’t my business. But I saw the look on your face before you sprinted out of the Great Hall. So I just wanted to find out whether I should come talk to you or just leave you alone.”
“You should have just left me alone,” Lily grumbled petulantly, looking down at her knees. She didn’t notice that her tears had stopped falling.
“No, I don’t think I should have,” James contradicted gently.
“And you are you to judge that? I can assure you, I do not want to be in that Hall right now.”
He shrugged. “I’m not disagreeing with that. But just because you don’t want to be around a lot of people, doesn’t necessarily mean you want to be alone. In fact, I think that right now, the last thing you want is to be alone. And that’s why I’m here.”
Lily narrowed her eyes at him skeptically. “Sure it is. You’re probably just here to ask me out, like usual.”
“Yes, because when a girl loses her parents, my initial reaction is to try and persuade her to go on a date with me,” James deadpanned, but when Lily looked at him, she saw irritation in his eyes.
“Right, sorry. Ignore me, I’m being thick,” she mumbled, looking at her knees again. She’d always liked her knees. It sounds odd, but she really did have nice knees. They were the same as her mum’s.
A warm arm settled itself around Lily’s shoulders and she turned to face James once more, so startled that she didn’t bother to attempt to escape his grasp. “You’re not thick,” he told her. “You’re the smartest person I know. You’re the smartest, most beautiful, brave, funny, and amazing girl I’ve ever met.”
She couldn’t meet his eyes. “If I’m so wonderful, then why do I feel so awful?”
“I’d be worried about you if you didn’t feel that way,” he said simply, tightening his grip.
Lily felt the corners of her mouth wobble as her eyes filled with tears once more. “I just can’t believe I’ll never see them again,” she gasped, sobs forcing their way through her chest.
“You will see them again,” James murmured, pulling her over to cradle her head against his chest. She felt bad as her tears soaked into his shirt, ruining it, but she didn’t pull away. “Death isn’t forever, Lily. Just a temporary delay.”
“I – it just… hurts,” she said lamely. She couldn’t really find the words to describe how she felt. It was an aching, burning sadness that weighed down on her heavily. Everything seemed darker, more fragile. Throughout childhood and adolescence, children always have an unshakeable belief that their parents will always be there for them. But Lily’s belief had just been forcibly ripped from her, crushed to pieces with along with the car that her parents had been driving that day.
“It’s okay to hurt,” James said, now stroking her hair. “It means that you loved them.”
“If not loving them means I wouldn’t feel this way, then I think I might make the trade.”
James pulled Lily’s face up so he could look at her, his gaze suddenly fierce. “Don’t say that. Love is never a bad thing. Never. In our lives, people come and go, but you should never regret loving them.”
Lily stared at the wall behind his shoulder. “You’re right. Of course you are. I just… can’t think right now.”
“And you have the best of excuses for that,” James responded, letting go of her. She found herself missing the comfort of his arms, so she cautiously leaned her head against his shoulder. He slung his arm around her shoulders once more, a smile Lily couldn’t see finding its way onto his face.
“Thanks for this,” Lily said after a moment of silence. “You were right, James, I didn’t want to be alone.”
When he didn’t say anything, she looked up at him in slight puzzlement. Taking in the expression of shocked elation he was wearing, she raised an eyebrow, tears running dry once more. “What is it?”
He stared at her, smiling tenderly. “You… you called me James. You’ve never called me James before. Ever.”
Lily frowned. “Surely I have at least once before,” she said, more to herself than to him.
“No.” He shook his head. “You never have.”
She blinked once. “Oh. Well I guess… maybe I should fix that?”
“Right,” James snorted.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
He just shook his head. “Nothing. Never mind, it’s not important.”
“No, tell me,” she insisted, pulling away from James to look at him better. She almost though he looked… bitter.
“I just… Look, I’ve pretty much given up on all hope that you’ll ever see me as a good guy. I’ll always be ‘Potter’ to you.”
Lily looked away. “Maybe I’ve never seen you as a good guy because you’ve never given me a reason to.”
“Back then, yes, but what about now?” James questioned.
“What do you mean?”
“People change, you know,” he said mildly. “Some forever and some for better. I like to think I’ve done both. And can you honestly say you’re the same as you were before?”
Lily gaped at him. “You – I… what are you saying?”
James rolled his eyes. “Think about it. When was the last time you saw me hex somebody for fun? Or asked you out in a ridiculous, public way? Or even the last time I was in detention? And think about yourself, too. At this time last year, you never would have let me talk to you like this. Comfort you, or whatever.”
“Yeah, well, you… you’re Head Boy this year. You have responsibilities… and we work together. I… know you better this year,” Lily defended uncomfortably. He merely raised his eyebrows.
“Do you really?” he asked in doubt. “Know me, that is?”
“Yes,” she said stubbornly. “I know that your favorite color is green. I know that you look up to your dad more than anyone else. I know that you became friends with the rest of the Marauders because you believe everyone deserves a chance and that now they’re like the brothers you always wanted but never had. I know that you hate peas but have an unhealthy obsession with treacle tart.
“I know you want to be an Auror because you hate everything that Voldemort stands for. I know that your reputation as a womanizer is exaggerated and untrue because you believe in treating all women with respect. I know that you get up early every morning to watch the sunrise. I know you, James Potter,” Lily insisted, surprising herself just as much as James.
James opened his mouth to speak, but all that he could manage was a faint choking noise. He looked so shocked that Lily felt herself begin to color. And she couldn’t help but wonder how she’d learned all that. Half of the things she’d just said she hadn’t known that she knew until she was telling it to James.
“I stand corrected,” James managed after a moment. Then he glanced down at himself. “Or sit corrected, if you want to get technical.”
Lily shrugged, still feeling a burning blush in her cheeks. James ran a hand through his hair idly. “How did you know all that stuff?”
Lily shrugged. “I don’t really know, to be honest. I guess I’m just more observant that I give myself credit for. And some of it you told me yourself.”
“And you remembered?”
She gave him an indignant look. “Of course I did. I’m Lily Evans, remember?”
James gave a weary chuckle. “Oh, I know. I don’t think I could ever forget.”
They lapsed into silence, James’ arm still around Lily. With a jolt, she realized that she was already feeling better. She still felt the loss of her parents, deep in her heart, and she knew that she always would, but James made it feel better.”
She found her voice once more, breaking the quiet for a simple, but very meaningful moment. “Hey, James?”
Later that day, Lily walked into the Gryffindor common room where she was immediately assaulted by her friends. They clamored around her, asking her questions about her wellbeing and state of mind.
“We’re so sorry for your loss,” Alice Prewett said sincerely. “Are… are you okay?”
Lily caught James’ eye from across the room where he sat with his friends, watching her in concern. She smiled at him softly. “Yeah,” she assured her friends. “I am.”
Bam! New story! This one won’t be very long and it won’t be chronologically accurate. But Lily and James are, without a doubt, my favorite pairing in the entire Potterverse and I really wanted to write something revolving around them. The Marauders and friends of Lily’s won’t be featured much – they’ll be involved, but not a lot – because I really want Lily and James’ relationship to be central. Things are going to jump around a lot, so one chapter might be about a fight they have in their sixth year, and the next might be their wedding. I don’t really know what exactly is going into this story, but I know I’ll have a lot of fun writing it! So leave me a review and tell me what you think!
Story Title and Chapter Title taken from the song "In My Life" by The Beatles. Song Inspiration for chapter was "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkle.