Lily was crying.
The owlry was deserted, and she took advantage of that on the chilly December night. The paper in her hands was smeared with ink where her tears had fallen, but the message was engraved into her mind. The wind ripped through her winter coat, but she couldn't feel the cold, her body was already numb with the pain. Her neck and fingers, on the other hand, were numb with the cold, for she had no scarf or gloves.
There was a crunch of footsteps on the stairs.
Lily fiercely wiped at her tears and stood up. She kept her eyes downcast as she exited the doorway onto the icy stairs.
"Hey Lily-Flower!" a familiar, yet unwanted voice called from a few steps below her.
"Potter," she remarked coolly, and tried to rush by him. She ran into his arm. "Potter let me go," she snapped, her patience was gone.
"Only if you go out with me," he said in a sing-song voice.
"Let me GO!" Lily yelled, and looked up at him, forgetting that her eyes were red from the tears. His hand dropped, and the goofy smile that was on his face a moment ago fell. Lily took off.
"Lily?" he called after her, but she ignored it. Her mind wasn't properly working, as she hurried down the steps. Her footing faltered. Her heart skipped a beat, and she fell in slow motion. Her hands scrambled for something to grab onto, and instead went out behind her to try to break her fall. She fell hard to her butt.
"Shit," she muttered, tears welling up to her eyes, maybe from the letter, or the cold, or maybe because of her fall.
"Lily? Are you all right?" James asked from right beside her. He had tried to stop her from falling, but in reality he only watched her ungraceful landing.
"I'm fine," she snapped and tried to get up, but her feet slipped on the ice again.
"Here," he said, and hooked his arm under her armpits and lifted her to her feet. "You may want to be careful, it could be icy," he said, a smile playing on his lips.
"You know," he said stepping in front of her, thus blocking her only exit. "I'm not quite sure if we've meet properly. Hi, I'm James Potter, you can just call me James though," he said extending a hand in her direction.
"I don't want to play games," she said, and turned around to the half wall behind her, and leaned over it, admiring the view of the snow covered Hogwarts grounds.
"I'm not playing games!" James insisted eagerly. "What's your name, or what is it I can call you?"
"I'm Lily Evans, you can only call me Evans," she said coolly, not looking at the boy who stood next to her.
"Nice to meet you," James said and shook her hand energetically. "Now what is a beautiful maiden doing up here all alone?"
Lily turned away; she was used to James' constant bantering.
"Lil-uh-Evans. Hey, what's wrong? You're-"
"It's nothing Potter," Lily said.
"Yeah it is. Evans, you're always smiling, and now...well...I mean you're not," James searched for the right words. He knew this was a one-time opportunity that he really shouldn't-couldn't mess up.
"Wow, great observation Potter," she said with a roll of her eyes.
"You're not as pretty without your smile," James said quietly. Lily smiled into her hand.
"Thanks," she said, and a shiver raked her body. She was still pointedly not looking at James, but she was enjoying the warmth of someone standing shoulder to shoulder with her.
"Here, you look cold," James said. She looked over to him. He was unwinding his scarf from around his neck, exposing his very white skin to the cold.
"No, I'm fine, you keep it-" she was cut off. His mittened hands wrapped the Gryffindor colored scarf around her mouth and down her neck.
"I don't need it. Not when a la...uh, yeah I'm not too cold," he caught himself. "Evans, are you alright?" he asked again, leaning against the wall next to her, leaving a small space between them this time.
"I'm fi-" she sighed mid word and bowed her head. The boy-the guy next to her had changed so much from just last night. "No, I'm really not," she muttered into the scarf that smelled of cologne, animals that she couldn't place a name to, the sharp wind, and oak.
"Wanna talk about it?" he asked, his breath warming her cheek. Lily shook her head, her red hair falling from her braid on the top of her head.
"Ok." Lily looked over to him, surprised at how quick he stopped his questioning. She looked into his hazel eyes, his face was weary from sleep, and his eyes didn't contain that mischievous spark at this late hour tonight.
"Are you OK?" she asked. His lips split into a grin.
"Oh finally-" he began in a loud voice, he stopped. "No sorry that's not what I meant to start. Uh-I mean I'm fine, but seeing you without that smile, can really tear me-er, yeah-uh-make my day worse?" he questioned.
Lily smiled meekly at him. She could tell he was trying so hard to not piss her off. "Won't the boys be wondering where you are?" she asked as he took his turn to look out upon the grounds.
"Nah-Sirius is either dead drunk, or him and Re-Remus are smoking, and Peter's gone for the holidays," he said. "Why aren't you gone? I mean not that I mind," he added quickly. "It's just...you know you're normally home with your family." He turned back to the girl next to him just in time to see a watery look come over her emerald green eyes.
"They told me not to come," she whispered, so quietly that James moved up right next to her.
"Why?" he asked softly.
"My sister...well she let it 'slip' about what I was to the neighbors, and I guess that she somehow showed them. So they, well I mean you know what can happen when Muggles find out about us...James, they honestly want to kill me." A tear slid down her pale cheek. James' soft mitten brushed across her cheek, and the tear disappeared. Only to be replaced by another, and another.
Soon tears were pouring down her face, and sobs shook her form. James hesitantly put his arm around her shoulders, and pulled her into his chest. "James. She-she wanted t-to be a witch...like me," she gulped, "Sev-verus a-and I s-saw the letter sh-she sent Dumbledore. H-how cou-ld she?" she hiccupped.
"Shhh. Shhhh, Lily," James muttered, his hand running in her hair. Lily cried into James' shoulder for what seemed like forever, and James held the girl he was in love with tight to his chest, giving comforting words when appropriate.
"Thanks," she said, pulling away after darkness had fully settled on the castle grounds.
"Would it help my dear lady if I walked her to her common room?" he asked, a smile splitting his face as he bowed low to Lily.
Lily finally smiled, something real, where the warmth touched her eyes and made that emerald green soften. "Of course you may," she said, and took his arm. "James what am I going to do this summer?" she asked quietly.
"Well hopefully it'll just blow over," James said, with a shrug.
"That's the thing. I live in a very religious neighborhood, it's not just going to blow over, and it's not like I can cast an oblivious charm over the whole community."
"Ok...well. Uh-don't hate me-I mean...my house is always open," he whispered.
Lily looked up at him. "I don't think that'll fly, but thanks for the offer."
"Yeah-yeah that's what I thought," James said, and ran a nervous hand through his hair. "I mean I'm sure the McKinnons wouldn't mind you. Or the Prewetts, someone will take you in Lily."
"You're right. Anyways, it's only Christmas time, I have six months to figure it out," Lily smiled and squeezed James' arm.
The clock across the grounds began to chime. The two stopped and James mouthed out the numbers. "Twelve," he said. "Happy Christmas Lily!" he said, merrily.
"Merry Christmas James," Lily said and yawned. "Boy that crying took it right out of me," she said.
"Come on Lily, it's only midnight," James said, a crooked smile playing on his lips.
"Yeah, and that's past curfew," she said.
"Ugggg! Such a stickler, but if you insist," James said, as they started off again.
"Why were you up at the owlry at this time anyways?" Lily asked, the thought just occurring to her.
"I needed to walk," James said. He wasn't going to tell Lily about the Marauder's Map and the fact that although he did need a walk he purposely went there. "Remus and Sirius were starting to get on my nerves. They never stop fighting these days, I don't get it."
"You don't?" asked Lily, clearly surprised.
"No. Should I get something?"
"Probably not, sorry," she said.
"No, is there-"
"James, it's something that Remus should probably say to you. Don't go bugging him about it either," she warned.
"Is something wrong with him?" James asked, concerned.
"No," Lily said, with an eye roll. "It's just-"she was cut off by James's cool hand over her mouth. She looked over to him. His eyes were wide, and all pretense of joking was gone, he was now alert.
"Filtch," he warned. Lily's eyes widened, if she were to be caught out after curfew McGonagall would be furious, she was a prefect after all. "Follow me," he whispered. He had dropped her arm, and instead had taken up her hand.
Lily only followed after James tugged her hand earnestly. The pair took off through the corridors of Hogwarts, trying to out maneuver all patrols that were out at these hours.
"Here!" James gave a final tug and hauled Lily into a secret tunnel behind the one-eyed witch, just as Filtch's wheezing breaths, and shuffling footsteps turned the corner.
James looked at the girl beside him, they were crammed into a tight space, and James could see the flush on her cheeks, and the gleam in her eyes. "Geez, thanks James! How'd-"
"Shush," James said, and covered Lily's mouth with his hand. They could still be heard, even from behind the statue, he knew from personal experience.
When the footsteps and haggard breathing faded James allowed Lily to speak. "Sorry, he could still hear us," James whispered, apologetically.
Lily only smiled, before she continued, "How'd you know about this?" she asked, steel laced the curiosity in her voice.
"Trial and error," James replied lightly, he couldn’t tell her about the Map, that's just lead to more questions, and once Lily started talking to him; he had enough sense to know it'd be hard to stop. "Come on, pretty sure no one else is out there," he pushed the statue outward and peeked his head around to a deserted hallway. "M 'Lady," he bowed and offered her his arm.
"Ah, thank you good sir from saving me from the wrath of our dutiful caretaker," Lily said, laughter bubbling up. She wouldn't want to admit it to anyone, but this James Potter was one that she could love, quite easily.
"Dutiful!" scoffed James. "He's out to put me Sirius, Remus and Peter in detention, I swear that is his only goal in his life!" he exclaimed.
"Don't blame him," Lily muttered.
"Sorry!" James exclaimed quickly, noting a change in her tone. "I didn't mean it-I mean I-uh..." he trailed off and just looked at Lily with wide hazel eyes.
"No, I didn't mean it in a bad way! You are all fun, funny, but it can get overbearing at times, and...sorry...but it has turned into bullying before," Lily said. They both knew what incident she was talking about without going any farther into details.
"Sooooo-what's up with Remus and Sirius?" James asked, quickly changing subject.
"Oh, it's really nothing, I think if you are supposed to know you'd know," Lily said quickly.
"If you insist," James said with a small shrug. They walked in silence the rest of the way, to which Lily was grateful, she was afraid he was going to bring up the subject of her family again, and it was hard for her just to think about.
"Middle Earth," James told the Fat Lady who just nodded sleepily and opened for the pair. James jumped through the portrait hole first and held his arm out for Lily.
"I don't need-"Lily started.
"I know you don't, you're a very capable lady, but I must insist that I help you, for chivalry is not dead," James said, with a winning smile.
Lily only blushed and took his arm. "Thanks," she whispered as she hopped into the Gryffindor common room. The uncommonly quiet common room.
Lily looked up from her hand which was grasped on James' arm. Sirius and Remus looked as though they had stopped in the middle of something and had frozen. Remus' shirt was on the floor and Sirius had a bottle of fire whiskey halfway to his mouth.
Sirius was the first to move. With a great sputter he spit out a mouth full of fire whiskey right onto Remus' exposed neck and face. Remus didn't react, his mouth was wide open, and had fire whiskey dripping from it now.
"James, what did you do to Lily?" Remus asked in a slow tone, barely even moving his lips.
"He-" Lily started, but was interrupted by a loud whoop from Sirius.
"Look, our itty Prongsies is all grown up Moony," Sirius said, in a parental voice. "He's enchanted a girl, and he's even brought her home," Sirius said as he swayed back and forth, swirling the fire whiskey around in the bottle. "S'cute," he mumbled, before throwing an arm around Remus, and unceremoniously putting most of his weight on an unsuspecting Remus.
"Guys, I didn't..." James started, staring on the scene in hopelessness. The only time Sirius was ever this drunk was when he had too many feelings to deal with. He looked at the two on the floor and back at Lily.
"Hey...so you could land them in detention...like-I get it, they're too drunk...but what if I just walk you to your dorm, and I'll deal with them?" James asked quietly.
Lily looked upon the scene and just nodded, she was too worn out to deal with a drunk and very lovesick Black.
James sighed in relief, "Thanks Lily, I owe you one," they walked across the common room to the entrance to the girl's dormitory.
"You'll make sure they're alright?" Lily asked, turning to the boys. Remus had finally untangled himself from Sirius' gangly limbs, and was straightening his jeans. Whereas Sirius had his head wrapped up in Remus' shirt that had been on the floor.
"Yeah...I've dealt with a drunken Sirius too many times in my short life," James said with a grim smile. "Uh-so well, good night I guess," James said when they stopped.
"James...thanks, that meant a lot to me," Lily said and turned to look up at him, she still hadn't let go of his arm. "Please don't tell-"
"Oh-I wouldn't dare, believe me Lily," James said quickly.Lily smiled, "I do," she said and hurried up the stairs, afraid at how close she had been to kissing him.