Chapter 1 : Destination Destination Destination
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Her apparition lessons had not been going well. Only twice in the entire twelve week course had she actually been successful in disappearing from her spot in the Great Hall and reappearing in the designated hoop in front of her. Lily had found this most frustrating, especially as her group of friends had seemed to have conquered this specific magical art with relative ease. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be, she was the top student, the one who excelled in almost all subjects. Hadn’t she always been mocked for being so studious and clever?
Actually, now she thought about it, just recently she hadn’t. Since the Christmas holidays the gentle, friendly jibes of ‘teacher’s pet’ and ‘boffin’ had dwindled, and the nastier name calling and abuse (mainly from the Slytherin’s) had seemed to have increased tenfold. The past few years she had had to put up with a lot of abuse from the Slytherin’s for being a Muggle-born witch, but she had always let it go over her head and ignored it. But the last couple of months Lily had been unable to ignore it. She was still adept at ignoring the people who aimed such abuse at her, but she was unable to laugh off the insults and forget about them. Now, each one would stay in her mind, swimming around in there, constantly picking away at her confidence and self esteem. And this seemed to be affecting her ability to perform magic – to the standard she usually did anyway.
This morning she was feeling particularly irritable. The fact that her dorm mates hadn’t woken her to join them for breakfast and then to walk to Hogsmeade with them, made these insults spring to the forefront of her mind. This was all she needed today. She was never going to pass her Apparition test feeling like this!
Lily shook her head to try and dislodge some of the negative thoughts as she reached the entrance hall. It didn’t help at all. The negativity was still there as she hurried across the entrance hall and out the main doors. Filch, the caretaker, was just closing the main gates at the end of the path and Lily knew that he took great delight in making the students of Hogwarts lives a misery and so would not reopen the gates for her once he had closed them.
‘Wait!’ Lily cried as she sped up to a sprint towards the gates. ‘Please!’
‘I’ve got better things to do than wait around for students who are too lazy to get out of bed on time. I should make you stay here, make you learn the meaning of punctuality and responsibility.’ Filch grumbled at her.
‘Please, I’m only a few minutes late.’
Filch continued grumbling but eventually took her name and let her pass through the main gates, slamming them behind her.
Stupid bloody Filch, Lily thought as she pulled her robes further round her and trudged along the long, sodden pathway to Hogsmeade, trying to remember and concentrate on Apparition. She had slowed her pace down now that she was outside of Hogwarts. She was still quite a way behind the other sixth year students, but the nearest ones in front of her were the sixth year Slytherin boys. Lily could recognise Severus’s gait anywhere, and there he was, her ex-bestfriend, in the middle of the gang of boys who were the main perpetrators of Lily’s abuse.
Lily sighed angrily. Could today get any worse? She looked down at the floor, not wanting to watch Severus associating with such horrible, vile people, and slowed down a fraction to ensure she didn’t catch them up. Before the end of last year these boys would not have passed comment to her when they were in the presence of Severus, but after his and Lily’s fall out at the end of the O.W.Ls there was no stopping them. Admittedly, Severus would not join in with the name calling, but he didn’t stop them as he used to. And he had made it quite clear what he thought of her when he had called her a Mudblood all those months ago. Thinking about this depressed Lily even further and Apparition was the furthest thing from her mind now.
She was so deep in thought, with her head down against the rain, she was not aware of where she was going and that she had reached her destination, and walked straight into another sixth year boy she would rather have avoided. James Potter.
‘Lily!’ James exclaimed with a wide grin. ‘What a lovely surprise. You know, if you wanted a hug you only needed to ask, I’d be only too happy to oblige!’
At this James spread his arms wide towards Lily who scowled at him, her cheeks red with embarrassment and anger.
‘Piss off, Potter!’ she retorted, stepping away from him and heading for the other side of the crowd, not bothering to look for her friends - If she could even call them that anymore, as they had become ever more absent from her in the last few months.
‘Someone’s tetchy. Maybe she’s realised that this test is pointless for the likes of her - dirty Mudblood!’
Lily closed her eyes and took a deep steadying breath, willing herself not to retaliate as this remark was rewarded with vicious laughter from all the Slytherin’s. A flash of light permeated her eyelids as she stood there silently seething. She opened her eyes to see Avery fall to the floor with a thump. He grabbed his wand and pointed it round at the crowd of students, trying to work out where the hex had come from. But before he could do anything the Apparition teacher appeared and told him to get up and put his wand away. Lily glanced in the direction the spell appeared to have come from to see James, who winked at her with a smile as he discreetly pocketed his wand before turning to the teacher who was now addressing the students.
Lily could not concentrate on the teacher’s speech as her mind whirled with the events of the morning. She should have been - and would normally be – avidly listening to what the teacher was saying since she was evidently useless at this particular magic. But instead her mind had wandered and she heard not a word of what the man was saying until he said ‘so, you will all be Apparating to the green opposite The Three Broomsticks. My colleague will be waiting for you there. Off you go.’
Lily looked around at the determined look of concentration on her peers’ faces. One by one she saw them spin around and then vanish, presumably appearing again outside the pub. She couldn’t do this, she knew she couldn’t. She’d end up just looking stupid spinning on the spot, or worse splinching herself. She was cold, she was wet and she was thoroughly fed up. She should have stayed in bed.
The Apparition instructor approached Lily just as she let out a disgruntled sigh. ‘Come on, dear. Don’t be nervous, you can do it. Just remember Destination, Determination and Deliberation.’
Few students were left now, and Lily looked up to see that James Potter was one of them. He was not attempting to Apparate, but was watching Lily with an encouraging, yet amused, look on his face. This forced Lily into action. She screwed her eyes tightly closed trying to picture her destination. ‘The Three Broomsticks... The Three Broomsticks... The Three Broomsticks...’ she thought to herself over and over. She was determined to do this, she really was. With these thoughts she span deliberately on one foot...
Nothing. Lily wobbled slightly, only just catching her balance as she opened her eyes to find that she was still in exactly the same place. She noticed that James Potter was still there, now trying to disguise his mirth at her failure. Great! She thought. Just great! She felt tears prickling at the back of her eyes.
With greater determination now she closed her eyes tightly again. She would not cry. James Potter would not be the thing that broke down her last defences. She tried again to concentrate on The Three Broomsticks. But instead all her insecurities, worries and upsets flooded her mind. Severus; mudblood; her so called friends who’d abandoned her recently for no reason; Petunia despising her; her falling grades and mounting work load; prefect duties; the ongoing war, of which she was bound to be a target; her father’s death; the wet miserable weather – it was all too much for Lily to handle! She wanted to be away from all this. She wanted to be on the sunny, secluded, palm tree lined beach she had frequented on her family holidays as a child. A place she associated with being care free, a place she had been when she had been the apple of her father’s eye and her sister had been her best friend in the whole world. That’s where she wanted to be... and that’s the destination she thought of when she span on one foot...
Everything went black. Lily felt her chest tighten and pressure being pushed on her from all sides. This feeling only lasted a few seconds and just as it felt like her head was going to explode, the pressure vanished and Lily gasped for breath. She had done it! She had actually, finally, Apparated!
But before Lily even opened her eyes she knew she wasn’t where she was meant to be. This was not Hogsmeade. She was no longer surrounded by dank, dampness. Instead she could fell the rays of the scorching hot sun on her face. The ground beneath her was no longer damp and hard and she could feel her feet sinking into the soft, warm sand. She could hear nothing but the gentle, relaxing sound of the waves lapping at the shore. Lily had no doubts as to where she was. She was at the beach. Her beach!
Lily’s eyes flew open and she marvelled at her surroundings. It was just as she remembered it; a place of serenity, of calm and happiness. This was not a tourists’ beach, it had been untouched by human hands – no sun loungers, no cafes, no shops selling inflatable’s, no lifeguard station. Here there was nothing but the sparkling white sand, the clear turquoise sea and the fringe of palm trees isolating the crescent shaped beach from the rest of the world, the palm throngs moving gently in the breeze. Lily felt like nothing could upset her here. That her worries had miraculously vanished.
Lily kicked off her shoes, removed her tights and threw her cloak from her shoulders. This was bliss. She sat down and wriggled her bare toes in the white sand. She couldn’t quite believe she had managed to get here, and without splinching herself. Briefly, the thought crossed her mind that this would mean she’d fail her Apparition test, but at this very moment she didn’t care. At this very moment she didn’t much care about anything. She was away from everyone and everything that was causing her distress. There was no-one here to call her names or to try and jinx her, no teachers asking where her homework was, and here she didn’t need to worry about friends who were not talking to her.
She lay back onto the sand and closed her eyes again, letting the sunrays wash over her as she played with the sand, letting it sift through her fingers. I could stay here forever, she thought to herself. She remembered feeling this way when she had visited as a child.
As she lay there wondering how such an amazing place could still be left untouched and apparently unused, Lily hitched her skirt up slightly higher to reveal more of her legs to the sunrays. As she did so, she heard a soft popping noise further down the beach. She thought nothing of it and kept her eyes closed, her face turned up to the sun. It was only when a shadow fell across her face that she realised that the popping noise had actually been somebody else Apparating onto the beach. She should have known someone would find her, she realised now that the Apparition instructors must have a way of tracking their students. Damn it, she thought.
‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean...’ she began, hoping she wouldn’t be in too much trouble. But she stopped mid-grovel, as she opened her eyes and looked up at the figure standing over her. She could not see the persons face clearly due to the blinding sunlight behind them, but that messy black hair could belong to only one person... ‘Potter?! How the hell did you get here?’ Lily was suddenly fuming. She sat up and hastily pushed her skirt back down to a more decent length, remembering she’d hitched it up and that James Potter could probably have had a view of her knickers.
‘The same way you did, I Apparated.’ James replied simply. Lily had adjusted to the light now, and from her upright position could now see his face perfectly. He was smiling down at her. She didn’t want him here smiling at her like that.
‘Well, obviously!’ she retorted angrily, glaring up at him. ‘I meant how did you get here, to this beach?’
‘What? You think you’re the only one who could manage inter-continental Apparition?’ James sat down next to Lily, removing his cloak. ‘Didn’t realise that was what I was doing when I Apparated though.’
‘What do you mean, you didn’t realise?’ Lily replied angrily.
‘Well, I didn’t know where I was Apparating to. I didn’t know where you were so I couldn’t focus on a specific destination to find you. So I focused on you when I Apparated. And here I am... with you... on this beach, which I am pretty sure is not a place in England!’ James removed his shoes and socks as he spoke, then made himself comfortable, resting back on his elbows.
Lily looked at him in confusion and frustration. ‘Why would you focus on me? Why did you not just Apparate where you were supposed to?’
‘I did.’ James smirked at Lily’s irritation, an attitude he’d come to expect from Lily. ‘I Apparated to The Three Broomsticks just after you vanished. You weren’t there and no-one had seen you, but I had clearly seen you Apparate, so I thought I’d come and find you.’
‘You thought you’d come and find me?! More like you didn’t like the thought of someone out-doing you on something! I managed to do inter-continental Apparition, so you thought you would too!’ Lily jumped up from where she sat, wanting to get away from James bloody Potter. ‘You are something else, Potter!’
Before James could reply Lily had begun strolling down the beach towards the sea. James made no hesitation in following her.
‘Lily!’ James cried after her in shock. Did she really think he was like that? 'That’s not how it was! I just told you I didn’t know where you’d Apparated to. I was genuinely worried about you.’
‘You were worried about me? Why? You thought a stupid, dirty Mudblood like me couldn’t possibly have Apparated safely and that I’d be lost somewhere having splinched myself?’ Lily retorted irrationally.
‘Don’t use that word, Lily!’ James admonished angrily. ‘Don’t ever call yourself that!’
Lily stopped suddenly in her tracks and turned round to face James. She had the decency to look abashed, suddenly feeling a little bad. James Potter may be an arrogant, cocky show off, but he was certainly not one of those blood-purists. He had proven that time and time again. For the second time that day James Potter had caused tears to spring to her eyes. Merlin, her emotions were all over the place today.
‘Sorry’ was all Lily could manage to mumble.
‘No, I’m sorry.’ James replied earnestly. ‘Sorry that certain bigoted idiots have made you feel that that’s what everyone thinks about you. But yes, I was worried that you may have splinched yourself. Not because you’re a Muggle-born but because you seemed to be rather stressed and distracted - certainly not in the right frame of mind for Apparition.’
Lily didn’t say anything in reply, so James carried on. ‘Actually you’ve not been you for a while now. You’ve been late to classes, and then when you are in class you’ve been much less attentive. I never see you swatting over your books like you used to. You never seem to laugh with your friends anymore, in fact I rarely see you with your friends at all. And most notably, you’ve stopped reprimanding me and Sirius for every little thing we do!’ James smirked as he said this. ‘You’ve lost your spark, Lily. What’s up?’
Lily stared at James, still not saying anything. James gazed back at her, his eyes full of concern. She was amazed by how much he seemed to notice her, and by how much he sincerely appeared to care about her. She had always thought he was too egotistical and self-absorbed to truly notice anyone else, and Lily had always brushed his affections and attention aside, always seeing them as James’s way of winding her (and Severus when they had been friends) up and driving her mad. But now, seeing the concern etched onto his face, she began to think that maybe he really did like her.
This did not change Lily’s mind about him though. She still thought he was arrogant and annoying, and she certainly didn’t want to talk to him about her problems. Blinking away her tears, knowing that if they started to flow James would demand she explained them to him, she gestured to the stretch of wet sand in front of her. ‘Shall we walk?’ she asked, hoping to distract James.
‘Ok,’ James replied, falling into step with Lily as she began to stroll along the water’s edge. ‘Ok, you don’t want to talk about what’s wrong, I get that. I don’t like silence though, so how about you tell me where exactly we are and how you ended up here?’
Lily was surprised but grateful that James didn’t push her to talk about the things she didn’t want to talk about. ‘Well, geographically, I have absolutely no idea where we are.’ Lily stated, slight embarrassment evident on her face.
‘Really. I used to come here years ago when I was a kid, the last time was probably when I was about 9, and although I remember this beach I cannot remember where exactly in the world it is.’
James laughed at her and shook his head in amazement. ‘So, how did you manage to Apparate here today then?’
‘Don’t laugh at me, Potter.’ The usual scolding, defensive tone was missing from Lily’s voice as she said this. ‘I tried to picture the Three Broomsticks, I really did. But I couldn’t concentrate on it; I didn’t really want to go there. I was cold and wet – and you were laughing at me – and I wanted to get away, somewhere hot, far away from everyone and everything. And so this beach came into my head. Simple.’
‘Well, I can see why. It certainly is an amazing place.’ James stated as he kicked at the waves lapping at his feet.
Lily nodded her agreement. As they strolled down the beach Lily regaled James with stories of her childhood holidays. Lily was enjoying reminiscing about her past in the place she had always loved, and James was enjoying hearing about them and seeing some of the spark return to Lily as she talked so animatedly.
As they reached the end of the beach, their path blocked by trees, they turned around to walk back to where they’d left their cloaks and shoes. Lily was aware that she had been dominating the conversation for a long time, and felt that she was probably boring James with her tales of holiday bliss, so fell silent as they retraced their footsteps.
Rather than being awkward, the silence was comfortable and easy, and Lily was quite enjoying the peace. James, who was more comfortable with noise and rowdiness, was not enjoying it so much. So when Lily accidently sprayed him with water as she kicked her feet as she walked, James saw this as an opportunity for some fun. He deliberately fell back from Lily and kicked the water hard, splashing Lily from behind, soaking her from her shoulders to her feet.
‘What was that for?’ Lily moaned, turning round to face James. On seeing the mischievous twinkle in James’s eyes she splashed him back, deliberately this time. ‘Take that, Potter!’ she said as she drenched his shirt and then turned back and began racing up the beach.
James laughed raucously and raced after her, splashing in the waves as he did so. The water fight continued the whole way up the beach and by the time they reached their belongings they were both soaked through. Out of breath, Lily fell onto the sand where she had previously been sat and lay back to dry off, not caring that her wet clothes were being embedded with sand. James, however, removed his shirt and trousers and levitated them onto the nearest palm tree to dry. Lily couldn’t help but watch him undress. He really did have a rather nice body, she thought.
‘Stop perving, I’m not a piece of meat you know,’ James smirked. Lily laughed and her eyes opened a little wider at this remark. ‘Like what you see, Miss Evans?’
Lily blushed. She was very aware of the fact that James Potter was stood before her in just his boxer shorts, and that she had just been staring at him. Even worse was that she had, for all intents and purposes, been ‘perving’ at him. She closed her eyes and turned her face up to the sun as she responded, trying to look and sound disinterested. ‘Meh. I’ve seen better.’
James noticed the flush of her cheeks and the smile she was evidently trying to keep from appearing on her face. He lay down next to her, grinning to himself – Lily was starting to like him, he was definitely winning her round. This beach truly was amazing!
They lay in silence for an undetermined amount of time, simply enjoying the sun, both acutely aware of the presence of the other yet not acknowledging each other. It was James who broke the silence again as he thought how frantic Sirius and the other Gryffindor’s would be by now. They had been gone for hours.
‘I think we should go back now.’ James said, summoning his now dry shirt and trousers back from the tree and putting them on.
‘No way, it is too nice here, I’m not leaving!’ Lily stated firmly, remaining laid down with her eyes closed.
‘Everyone will be wondering where we are. Half the group went off round Hogsmeade searching for you. Think they’ll be a bit pissed off if they find out they’ve been there worrying while we’ve spent all this time on an exotic beach.’
‘Bollocks! I bet you were the only one who even noticed I was gone.’ Lily replied in a sulky tone, finally standing up, noticing with gratitude that James was now fully dressed.
‘Well, I was initially, but only ‘cause I was the only one to see you Apparate but not reappear where you should have done. When I told everyone they were really worried about you, especially your friends. You know, you should stop pushing them away like you have been. They really do care about you. Come on, let’s go back and you can make it up with them.’
‘I’m not so sure about that. And it’s so nice here - even with you for company. Can’t we stay a bit longer?’ Lily pleaded, unsure why she was even asking James’s permission.
‘I really think we should go back. But we can always come back here for our honeymoon, and for family holidays when we have our four children.’
‘Come on, Lily, you know that one day you will eventually agree to go on a date with me, fall in love with me and ultimately agree to marry me! Look how much you’ve enjoyed my company today; it’s just a small step towards our happy ever after, Lily.’ James grinned widely and suggestively as he picked up his cloak.
‘Keep dreaming, Potter.’ Lily laughed and hit him playfully with her shoe.
Lily was aware that this was not her usual response to those sorts of remarks from James. And she knew that James would have noticed this shift in her attitude towards him, and that he would see this as proof of his earlier remark. Before today she would have been horrified to think that she was giving James hope of a relationship between the two of them, essentially giving him permission to carry on harassing her. But now she found this was not such a bad thing. After all, she had enjoyed his company, and after today she saw him in a slightly different light.
In fact, today had been an emotional rollercoaster for Lily and it had made her start seeing a lot of things in a different perspective. A day at the beach, her beach, had been just what she had needed to clear her head. The crisp sea air had blown away most of her self doubt and worries, making room in her head for her self-esteem and confidence to return. And the fact that she had Apparated here had boosted her renewed confidence.
She supposed James was right; they did need to return to Hogwarts soon and Lily suddenly felt ready to show everyone the new and improved Lily. Just as she thought this, she heard the faint pop of someone Apparating onto the beach behind her. Turning to the sound, she saw that it was indeed the Apparition instructor, and he was striding purposefully towards them.
‘James...’ Lily said timidly. ‘Thank you for today.’
Firstly, James was taken aback that Lily had just addressed him by his first name for the first time ever, and then even more taken aback as Lily threw her arms around him in a warm embrace.
‘You’re welcome, Lily.’ James breathed into Lily’s hair as he hugged her back, enjoying this moment immensely.
The moment did not last long though. All too soon the instructor was by their side and the pair broke away from each other. He immediately began to berate them for their failure to Apparate to the correct spot, complaining about the extra work this had caused him. He then added that he was impressed that they had had the sense not to attempt Apparating back again without supervision, but that this meant they had missed their test. Neither Lily nor James were overly concerned by this, and grinned at each-other as the instructor rambled on.
‘Now, I’m going to have to take you back by side-along Apparition. I don’t want you two going missing again, who knows where you’d end up this time. So, if you could each take my arm – one on each side. Hurry now.’
Lily laced her arm through that of the instructor’s as she took one more look at her surroundings with a smile. Almost immediately, the instructor span on his heels, taking Lily and James with him, and everything suddenly went black as the pressure built up on her for the second time that day. She was sad to be leaving so soon but she knew she would return to this beautiful beach again one day. And maybe, just maybe, she would return here with James Potter!