Chapter 1 : the world suddenly turns colour
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Love, the world
Suddenly turns, turns colour.
- Sylvia Plath, "Letter in November"
Her hand, though mittened, was clasped around his with such fervour that he made no attempt to resist as she pulled him along the snow-covered walk. His own gloved hand had gone sticky with perspiration and he was sure that more rested on his temples despite the frigid air. One misstep rattled his glasses against the bridge of his nose, but she pressed on relentless, holding her wand out before them to light the way up the steep rise.
“Hurry up, Potter. We’re already late.”
They rounded a corner, ice and gravel crunching beneath their feet.
“Yes, out after curfew, Evans.”
“With permission.” Lily sounded rather too pleased with herself.
James stumbled again and she held him upright, pausing a moment to grasp his flailing arm. For someone who was an expert in the air, he was hopeless on the ground.
“Merlin’s beard, how’d you manage that?”
Her laughter echoed against the rocks, against the mountains, bursting into the sky. She looked up in wonder as though she could see the sound waves weaving ice-touched knots around them. He followed her gaze, seeing nothing. Only the air, the night sky littered with stars, flakes of snow floating down from mountain peaks, craggy rocks on which the snow collected, all things, but not the magic of the place.
He, who had always known magic and could not imagine a world without it, would never see it as she did. She, the Muggleborn, had actually discovered magic.
What would that have felt like?
“I told the professor we’re doing some extra observations.” Once again, she did not disguise the pride from her voice.
“Of what, exactly?”
Lily angled her wand so that the light illuminated his face. Her eyes narrowed, and it was still with some scepticism that she at last turned away, leaving James blinking into the darkness.
“An astronomical event, that’s all.”
“Come on, Potter.”
The mittened hand clasped around his once more and he found himself stumbling along the path in her wake. He set his jaw, forcing his legs to move in sync with hers. It was impossible that she should be a full two-and-a-half inches shorter than him yet be capable of sprinting along mountain paths as nimble as a hinkypunk. He could not imagine the girl with carroty braids balancing on rotted logs and dancing over polluted streams. Nor could he imagine the young woman with hair like an angry dawn, balancing at the edge of two worlds, hesitating on the brink of life. To him, she was Lily. That was enough.
It grew more difficult to breathe as they ascended. How far? The inevitable question. How far until a professor’s patience broke? How far until a prank caused injury? How far. How far. The words rang in his mind with every step.
One corner, then another. Endless upward slopes. Their boots sliding on ice, shifting rocks aside. An abrupt halt, feet stilling, her hand grasping his tighter than ever. She flicked out the light on her wand and tilted her head toward the open sky.
All was darkness but for the tiny points, so far above, flecks of dust on velvet curtains. He could not tell where the earth began and the sky ended, blurred black peaks jutting into an even blacker sky. There were clouds to the west, heavy and rounded with snow, reflecting pink over distant towns, but here overhead there was only the universe and the thousand million other worlds. Worlds that might not know of war and suffering, of greed and envy. But they were worlds without her. Worlds with no Lily.
The air pressed in around the two on a mountain top, dwarfed by the immensities above them. A thick wind shoved them back upon snow-covered rocks, but still Lily gazed upward, eyes darting back and forth as she traced the lines between the stars, measuring, creating.
A streak of green and blue and all the shades between burst through the night, a paintbrush slicing across a dark canvas once and again, guided by a furious hand. James startled at the sight of it, so like the killing curse, shattering through the night, but Lily’s hand held his and he calmed as black turned to azure, the dusty stars fading against an iridescent sky. There was light everywhere, a endless stream of changing colours filling – blinding – his eyes.
He did not know what to think. Every blink brought a new image, a new line of colour, a new shade of green or blue rippling over their heads.
At times he had glimpsed it from the valley below, faded green clouds creeping away from the full moon’s light. But they were no more than flickerings of colour that only just caught the eye between mountain peaks and bare-limbed trees. In the absence of the moon, in the stark, clear air of this terrifying height, the aurora borealis was alive.
He could now understand her awe, the certain lift of her chin, the subtle parting of her lips. The light from the sky reflected in her eyes, or was it that the sky reflected her eyes? The same endlessly changing shades were there, as though her parents had reached up into the sky to bring down that light and mould it into the shape of a child.
Suddenly she was looking at him, those eyes upon him. Yes, the aurora was there, living still.
His breath caught, stolen by the northern wind that swirled icy flakes into their faces.
There were too many things he thought of her, a thousand million hundred things that flooded his head, overflowing into all that he did. She was the dawn to which he opened his eyes and the star of his dreams each night. To see her pass by, to find her eyes upon him, to listen to her speak and smile and be was a balm, a sweetness that sent the shadows away. Even Snivellus crept out of his hole to grasp at the barest thread of that light, recognizing its power, knowing it could save him, his dark eyes consuming it as he would consume her. Until there was nothing, the only green a death’s curse streaking through the night.
James had no interest in consuming, in possessing. He wanted only to bask for a while and, if he was fortunate, make her brighter still.
To act and speak around her had never been a greater challenge. He could no longer ask her out on dates and shrug away her sharp replies, nor could he follow her through the castle like the sick puppy Sirius laughingly called him. As the world grew darker around them, he wavered like a moth around the candle, waiting for the breeze that would send him into the flame. He could only flutter while she burned, ever constant.
Half-fearing, more than loving, he longed to reach out now and touch her face, brush the flakes of snow from the loose strands of hair that wafted over her cheeks, to be the wind that caressed her with chilled fingers, to be here each night and find her here, looking toward the sky, awaiting the dawn.
One word could destroy him now, send him reeling out of the light she cast from every smile, from every glance.
One look at his face and words were bitten back from the tip of her tongue. She narrowed her eyes and tilted her head to one side, regarding him with amusement pulling at her lips even while the old suspicion, too firmly rooted in the faint lines upon her brow.
“Do you see it, Potter?”
Lily turned to glance at the sky once more as though it called her, beckoning her home.
She pulled him closer. “I hoped you would. They change so much, don’t they? And no matter how they change, they’re still beautiful. I thought–” A pause. A little laugh almost lost with the wind. “I thought to tell you that what you’ve done, Potter, the way you’ve changed, it suits you.” Her voice held the slightest note of something else between desire and desperation. A need. “I don’t always trust that it’s real, but I want it to be.”
He struggled to keep his face from falling, the wind pulling at his hair, pushing him toward her. Not at all the same. She did not see herself in the sky. She saw him.
“And I hope you haven’t done it just for me. Just to impress me. You should want it for yourself. It should make you happy most of all.” A mittened hand rested on his cheek, brushing against the rim of his glasses. “Does it?”
The wind brought them closer, or so he thought. He was pulled toward her, leaning forward, lost in her eyes. Lost in the endless changing colours, the union of aurora and boreas, the dawn and the north wind.
“Yes. Most happy.”
Another laugh. Another touch of wool as she brushed flakes of snow from his hair.
“That’s not what I meant.”
But she was smiling, actually smiling, shaking her head in wonder and exasperation. A green ribbon spread across the sky above them, a curling, glittering light reaching for the stars.
When he took a breath, the air burning his lungs with cold, he could not find any words. What was there to be done? He had not thought of what would happen when she would finally take notice of his renewed character, his open generosity, his cheek-biting patience, his careful manoeuvrings between old habits and new resolutions. The two angels on his shoulders, one shaggy and dark, the other pale as the full moon, whispered opposing encouragements in his ears, but he pushed on toward his goal. True north. To where she was.
He was certain of his course. He knew it was right. And yet she asked him if he was happy.
James looked up as she had. The light blurred beyond the rims of his spectacles, and even the glass, magicked to remain clear, was not entirely as it should be. Ribbons turned to smudges, and Lily became one with the shifting, churning colours.
It made him happy to speed through the air, to be the wind. To feel the rush of blood that came with each goal, each success. To see the flush of joy on Moony’s face, the smiles that broke through years of fear. To watch the ink spread across the surface of their map for the first time. To run, free, inhuman limbs beating against the earth.
Yet there was more. There was a lightness, a growing lightness. A flash of gratitude. A moment of prudence. A kind word. All so small. Meaningless to some. But not to her.
She waited still. Not for the light, but for him. His answer. His promise.
The wind had dropped, leaving silence. It waited too.
“I’m happy with you.”
The voice didn’t even sound like his own. Soft, but not weak. Shaking with emotion, but not quavering.
Let the colours, the lights, the very sky above change and change again. That beauty would be gone by the morrow, cast aside by the dawn. He wanted to remain in dawn’s light, to live by day, to see the fire in her hair and breathe in the warmth of her life. He was more than a fleeting wind, a fluttering moth, a flickering band of light. And he would do everything, give everything, to prove it.
Her eyes were upon him, passing over the contours of his face.
“And I with you.”
The mittened hand slipped into his once more, and with her lips still bent in a smile, she turned to the sky, fingers grasping his through the thick wool.
The lights burned high above, forever changing shape and shade, reaching higher and higher still. He relished the warmth of her hand, the brush of her shoulder against his, the glitter of green light upon even greener eyes, the parted lips that he longed to touch and taste.
But there would be years and years for that and more. For living and being and laughing. And for all the colours of life to reflect in her eyes.
Author's Note: The Sylvia Plath Inspired Challenge on the forums offered the quote, and while the resulting story has nothing to do with the poem "Letter in November" as a whole, those two lines made me think of the song "Lights Changing Colour" by Stars, which in turn reminded me of the aurora borealis. I saw it once, snatches of green against the sky - I can only imagine what it must be like further north.
Many thanks to milominderbinder for the challenge!
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