&hearts &hearts &hearts
I hope you have a wonderful day, my lovely. =D
In honour of the occasion, I present:
There Comes A Time
Lily; James/Lily, mentions of Remus/Sirius
PG-13, 3600 words.
Summary: Now school is over, going home isn't as easy as Lily thought.
Notes: This was just meant to be a happy James/Lily ficlet, and it sort of mutated and grew when I wasn't looking. Still, I hope there's suitably squishy bits - enjoy, Leigh!
Lily spends the whole train journey back from Hogwarts, this last time, resting on James' shoulder and watching the remnants of her school days flit past her through the window. They've crammed as many Seventh Years into the carriage as they can – Remus and Sirius have willingly squished into one corner, and Lily smiles as she sees their intertwined fingers under Sirius' jacket. Peter lounges casually at the doorway, an armed doorkeeper ready to hex any Slytherin that might appear on sight. The Gryffindors stay there for the whole trip, whilst Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs come and go, and the noise level is constantly deafening. They reminisce on every treasured memory of the last seven years, sharing out humiliation to almost everyone. James is nearly crying with laughter as he relates Sirius' fateful first adventure with a Billywig, which caused him to be unable to hover less than a metre above the ground for a week.
They buy out the entire trolley of Chocolate Frogs, and swap cards for tradition's sake, even though the only person that still invests time in his collection is Remus, and the only wizards he's missing are collectors' editions he'll never have the Galleons for. When not talking about school, they're dreaming of the future, trying to out-do each other (the Gryffindor way, after all) with grand fantasies of their future careers. With sneaky winks at the other Muggle-borns in the carriage, Lily spins a yarn about she's planning to ascend to the British throne within five years, to Sirius' goggle-eyed amazement that she knows Remus will not let him forget for a long time.
As the chatter continues unabated around her, Lily feels her eyes drooping shut with chocolate-induced tiredness. Her mind wanders, to returning home and the long summer that stretches out in front of her. Her parents have begun to drop poorly hidden hints in their letters that they want to discuss career plans with her, and she knows it will need to be done, for big decisions lie just around the corner.
Yet as she feels James play with her hair, and hears Frank embark on an epic tale of past heroics, she is quite content just to relax into the lull of the train. James really is exceptionally comfortable, after all.
Arrival is as much of a commotion as ever, as parents fling themselves on their offspring with little regard for passers-by. Lily clutches her trunk a little tighter as a troupe of Second Years barrelling down from the other end of the train threaten to knock it out of her hands. They linger on the train as the hordes descend, all somehow unwilling to move away to meet their families.
"Come on," James says, coughing slightly. "Else we'll all stand around and get sentimental."
The five of them step out, exchanging smiles as they watch the dramas of Wizarding Britain play out in front of them. Babies cry, owls hoot, and children chatter excitedly or try to shrug off their parents' attentions. They spot Mr Lupin first, whose tired face breaks into an enormous smile as he sees his son.
"I'd better go," Remus says apologetically, which prompts of a flurry of goodbyes, and he's swept up in a round of hugs of varying awkwardness before he can extricate himself. Sirius follows him down the platform, insisting on helping him carry all of his stuff, prompting a mutual eye roll between James and Peter.
"Isn't that your mum over there, Prongs?" Peter asks.
"What? Oh… Yeah it is. Eh, they can wait," James replies airily. "Should hang on for Padfoot anyway."
"Oh no –" Peter mutters, as a woman hurries up to the three of them.
"James!" she cries. "How lovely to see you again! And this must be Lily – hi, I'm Peter's mother, heard a lot about you over the years, you know."
Peter's eyes are wide in horror, and he frantically mouths at Lily, who just laughs. "Very nice to meet you, Mrs Pettigrew."
"I hope it won't be the only time – Peter, you must bring these nice friends of yours home sometime," she said with a pointed look at her son.
Peter groans. "Alright! Come on, let's go." He turns to James and Lily. "I'll see you soon, yeah?"
He makes to extend a hand to James, who just laughs and pulls Peter into a hug, causing his already pink and embarrassed complexion to redden still further. Lily giggles. "Don't worry, Peter, I won't embarrass you too. Take care, won't you?"
"And you." Peter grasps his mother firmly by the arm, steering her away as she begins to talk rapidly at him. "Have a good summer!" he yells over his shoulder.
James shakes his head with amusement. "Poor sod."
"You just be grateful your mother hasn't spotted you yet," Lily replied.
"What? You haven't even met my mother!"
Lily smirked. "Yeah, but I know she raised you. I bet she fawns all over her precious Jamie."
"Hmph. Catch me asking you over in the summer, then."
"You were going to?" Lily asks, feeling startled.
James frowns in confusion. "Well, of course I was – what, you thought you were going to get away with not seeing me any more?"
"Well, no, I- I don't know, I hadn't really thought. Just, I'm going home, and I don't really know what happens after that."
"Not planning on living with your parents for the rest of your life, are you?"
The crowd is beginning to thin now; Lily knows her parents will be wondering where on earth she's got to. "I should really go," she says regretfully.
James takes her hand. "I'll see you very soon, won't I? Apparate over any time."
"Of course I will. And I'm sure your mum is lovely, I'd like to meet her."
"I'll have her bake a cake in your honour."
"Oh well, in that case!" Lily grins, and James smiles back.
She takes his face in her hands, and is unable to resist ruffling his hair for a moment. James glowers at her. "It's just as well I like you, you know."
"Yeah," she murmurs, before sliding a hand to the back of his neck and then kissing him. She's harboured dreams for a while of the romantic greeting or parting at a train station, and she smiles as the train whistle goes.
"I'll miss you, you know," she says.
"Don't stay away long enough to miss me, then," James replies. "Or I'll be forced to break my new Apparator's license restrictions and Apparate into a Muggle area."
"You devil, you. What would McGonagall say?"
"I know! Now go on, return to the bosom of your family."
Lily nods. "I promise I'll see you soon!" She walks away quickly, and only looks back when she reaches the barrier. James is still standing there, and when he sees her he waves. She waves back, takes a deep breath, then shoves her way out into King's Cross.
"There she is!" she hears her father declare, and at the sight of her parents she breaks into a run, leaving James behind for a moment as she's enveloped in hugs, smiles, and a hundred questions.
She tries to cram six months' worth of stories into one car journey home from London, but even talking at an uninterrupted gabble it's impossible. Next to her, Petunia rolls her eyes at talk of NEWTs, but she helps Lily carry her things inside, and even gives her a hug once the front door's shut behind them.
Ensconced back at home, she curls into her corner of the sofa and clutches tea while her dad tells her all about Uncle Joseph's hip operation and Petunia glows with pride as she talks about her recent promotion to assistant manager at the bank. Once the preliminary information exchange is complete, she claims tiredness and retreats to her room.
She can't help but smile nostalgically as she's greeted with the sight of pink walls and all kinds of fluffy monstrosities. She sits on the end of her bed and flops backwards, there to gaze for a few dreamy moments at Marc Bolan's beautiful face that rests on her ceiling. She laughs, and decides not to mention this to James. She rolls onto her side to stare out of the window, where the sleepy neighbourhood stretches out in hundreds of roofs, roofs covering lives that Lily can't help but think of as unbearably mundane. Hating herself for that thought as soon as it drifts across her mind, she closes her eyes and doesn't wake up again until dinner.
"Now that you're home, we're going to have to see about getting you a boyfriend, Lily," Petunia announces casually as she carries potatoes into the dining room.
"Excuse me?" Lily stares at her sister in consternation. "I forget the part where that's your job! Besides," she continues, snatching the bowl indignantly from Petunia's hands, "I've got a boyfriend already."
Her parents glance at each other, and Petunia sits down rapidly, eyes narrowed.
Lily feels herself going red, and grins shyly. "Yeah – you remember James, don't you? James Potter, I must have mentioned him before."
Her mum smiles bemusedly at her. "Last time we heard anything about him, he was 'a spoilt, conceited prat', if I remember correctly."
"Oh- err, yes, I suppose he was." Lily takes a breath. "Well, he's not anymore! He's a lot nicer now. Obviously. And he was Head Boy, so we had to spend a lot of time together, and he's had a crush on me for ages, and things just sort of- happened, I suppose." She gesticulates vaguely with a fork. "He's nice," she repeats. "Really nice."
"Yes, I think we got that," her dad says, leaning over to take her hand. "Well, if he makes you smile like that then I'm sure he's good enough for us. Might we hope to meet him over the summer?"
"Oh, absolutely, I mean – I was going to visit him for a while, but yeah, he could come here."
Petunia was looking incredulously at them all. "That's it? It's all fine?"
"Petunia…" her mum says in an undertone.
"None of us know the first thing about him – I suppose it's too much to ask for that he's at least faintly normal like you, is it? I thought so. And Lily, we've been reading that ridiculous paper you send us, and do you really think it's a good idea to stay tied up in all of that?"
"Petunia!" her dad interjects more loudly.
"No, don't pretend you two haven't been thinking it too." She looks at Lily with mingled concern and exasperation. "If all of that's true, it's not safe, and you're home now, you don't have to be mixed up in all of this nonsense any more! Look, there's this really nice boy that comes in to deliver things on Wednesdays, I'll have a chat with him, see if he's seeing anyone…"
"Are you finished?" Lily asks coldly.
"Don't take that tone with me, Lily!"
"Oh for Christ's sake, Petunia, you're not mum, you can't talk to me like that. No, no I will not have you talk to some delivery boy, I will not have you talk about my life as if it's 'nonsense', and I will not let you try and tell me what to do with my life."
She stands up, anger and magic coursing through her in equal measure.
"Girls, please…" her mum says weakly, but she waves it off.
"No, don't stop her – why don't you get all out, hmm?"
Petunia rises to meet her, eyes flashing in a way Lily hasn't seen for years. "I swear to God, you are so stupid. You've had your head turned by all these freaks you spend your time with. You think that just because you go to some school that teaches you magic tricks you can throw away your life? I'm telling you, you can't. You're not one of them, not really – you're normal, like us. And from the sounds of things, there are nutters out there that want to kill you for that! So why in God's name would you go out looking for trouble? I don't know how many times you've told us all about how much you hate this Potter boy, so I don't know what's got into you. Ditch him, ditch the whole stupid thing, and stay here – you can be safe, Lily, you can be normal. Come on, you've had your fun, it's time to settle down and have a proper life – time to just grow up!"
Lily stares at her sister, fists clenched. She takes a long, deep breath, then musters all the self control she possesses and turns around to leave the room. She spends the rest of the evening sitting in her room and staring out of the window, and is enormously grateful when her mum places a plate of food outside the door without trying to initiate a conversation.
The next morning, Petunia is already at work, and when she arrives downstairs her parents both make upbeat conversation, so last night is pushed to one side. Lily eats toast, and tries to work out what she's doing to do during the coming weeks.
The answer proves to include a range of things. She reads books in peace, a welcome change from the raucous common room – though sometimes she misses the yelps of Exploding Snap-induced pain. They go to visit Uncle Joseph in hospital twice, and on the second time Lily is so frustrated by the poor hygiene in the wing her uncle's in that she casts a quick Scouring Charm when the nurses are looking the other way, much to Petunia's outrage.
Daily owls come from James, so that Guinevere the owl becomes a regular fixture of lunch times. They're filled with stories of debauchery from Sirius and his daily jaunts down to the local pub, a decidedly dubious establishment known as the Singed Nargle. She sends chastising responses, but she tucks the parchment away in her bedside cabinet and could recite each one from memory.
After a week, it seems as though she'd been on the Hogwarts Express a lifetime ago, and ever since her world has been contracting.
Her mum hovers in the doorway with a small smile.
"You haven't unpacked, I see."
Lily just shakes her head, and doesn't try to explain.
When she dreams, it's of James. She's back at school, he's windswept from Quidditch, and she doesn't even remember what they talk about, just wakes up still feeling his warm hand against her cheek.
She waits for three more days, until Petunia accepts a dinner invitation from a salesman she's met at work. Lily cooks pasta for her parents, and when she sits down she can see that what she's about to say isn't coming as a great surprise.
"I'm going to go and stay with James for a bit, I think." She twirls spaghetti round and round on her fork. "It's not that I don't like being at home, really it's not. But – " she gazes around the room, a room that has never felt so small as it does today. "There's a world out there, and I miss it, and it's where I'm going to spend the rest of my life."
"But all the things we've read about," her dad begins. "Your sister had a point, you know."
Lily nods. "I'm not saying it's not dangerous. But it's dangerous getting into a car, or coming home late at night, and this is worth it. There's a war coming, and my friends are going to fight in it, and so I can't have an opt-out clause, I just can't."
Dinner is a mostly quiet affair after that. She tries to talk about lighter subjects, listening to her dad's predictions for the cricket, but there's been a mood shift in the house, and she can't take it back. She goes into the kitchen to help her mum wash the dishes.
"So, this boy, James," her mum begins with a teasing note in her voice, and Lily grins. "Tell me all about him."
"Well – he's captain of the Quidditch team," she begins, mock swooning against her mum's shoulder, "and he's got dark hair and piercing eyes…"
Her mum swats her with a tea towel. "Is it serious?"
"Could be." Lily smiles suddenly. "I care about him a lot."
And at that, she's swept up in an enormous hug. "You won't forget us, will you?"
"Of course I won't. I'll see you all the time, I promise I will."
Later that night, she sends an owl off to James, telling him she'd be there in the morning, and he sends her a map in response so quickly then she thinks he's been expecting it.
Petunia doesn't even look at her at breakfast the next morning, and Lily feels supremely unconcerned about this. As soon as she's finished she summons her trunk downstairs – the magic bringing a smile to her parents' faces, as it always does.
"I'll see you soon," she promises, and goes out into the hall.
Destination, determination, and deliberation. She thinks of James with all her heart, pictures his house as she's seen it from photos, and it is about to go when Petunia appears.
"What do you want?" she snaps.
"Lily, I'm telling you – don't go! Because if you do, you'll never shake the hold that this has got on you. Please, I'm your big sister, I'm trying to help you. Stay here, be normal, have a normal life."
Lily doesn't feel angry this time, as though all of this is already far removed from her.
"The things I can do – but you've never understood, you always want to conform, and not have anything out of the ordinary happen to you. I couldn't do that, I just couldn't."
She looks at Petunia sadly. "It's not like I'm going away forever, I'll be back again very soon. But I can't live the way you want me to, I'm sorry. When you've seen the things I've seen – I couldn't, I just couldn't."
She reaches out to hug her sister, but Petunia's arms are stiff at her side, and her face stony.
"Goodbye then," she says, and doesn't bother to wait for a response before vanishing.
Her first thought when arriving on James' front patio is that his house is enormous. Set back from the town, it's surrounded by fields and rises up in three mismatched stories, with more chimneys than seem to be strictly necessary. She walks up to the front door, smiling as she sees a trio of brooms hovering to one side of the entrance.
She rings the doorbell, and after a moment hears a commotion of stomping down stairs.
"Told you, that Evans girl, she just can't keep away from me. Don't know how to just let her down gently." Sirius' voice really is exceptionally loud.
"Sod off, Black," James answers, and suddenly there's a dark shape in the glass and he pulls back the front door.
"Hi," Lily says, feeling unaccountably shy.
"Hi," James replies softly.
"Evans!" Sirius' daft face appears over James' shoulder as he grins inanely.
James coughs pointedly, and elbows Sirius in the ribs.
"You know what, I'm going to and see if your mum needs help with anything. Catch up with you later, Evans, yeah?"
Lily struggles not to burst out laughing. "Yeah, alright. I want photographic evidence if you wear a frilly apron at any point, ok?"
Sirius winks at her and flounces off. James closes his eyes for a moment, looking pained. "That was awful, my parents aren't even at home. Thank God you're here, you can bring some sanity into this madhouse," he says, before picking her up and swinging her around his entrance hall.
She hits his back with flailing arms. "James! Get off me!"
"Only if you tell me how long you're staying for."
"Oh put me down, you idiot," she repeats, and he relents.
"I'd like to stay for – for as long as you'll have me. I don't want to live at home any more, I really don't. My sister's got even more awful, if that's possible, and I just – I can't do it."
"Well, I'm sorry about your sister and everything, but – " James breaks into a beaming smile. "That's fantastic from where I'm standing!"
"Oh God, James, it's embarrassing how much I missed you," Lily confesses. "I was just doing all of these mundane things, and thinking about you, and I couldn't take it any longer."
She brings her trunk inside, and shuts the door.
"I love you, you know," James says.
She's smiling so much that she's forced to idly wondered if her cheeks might split somehow. "Yeah." She walks up to him, resting her hands on his chest. "And I love you."
James is just looking at her, seemingly lost for words.
"Now," Lily continues, "if we've dispatched with Sirius for a bit, and your parents aren't at home – well, it's only proper you should show me upstairs, I think."
James laughs and takes her hand. They stumble up the stairs, and Lily's giggling against James' arm, feeling giddy and breathless. They sink in a tangle of limbs, and suddenly James is whispering stay forever against her skin. She brings James' mouth to meet hers, kissing him with promises and love, and she knows there's not a place in the whole world she'd rather be.