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Chapter 2 - Hogwarts Express
“Please eat, Lily. You have to. You can’t get keep getting weaker. You need-” the deep voice faded from her ears like a distant memory. She felt her eyes begin to close again, her heart doing what her mind couldn’t and shutting her down completely. In and out. In and out. Asleep and unaware, or awake and dying. That was her life. She let the black fog edge into her vision, let the voice of James - or maybe Sirius - drift away from her. Eat. Eat. Eat. Why did they all want her to eat? If she stopped eating, maybe she would stop hurting, too. Maybe it would all just stop and she could leave this place, she could see her parents again.
“My mum tried to get in touch with your sister, Lily. She tried to get her to come, but-” the words were ushered away as her heart grew tired and let all but the rhythmic pumping of her blood shut down.
She nearly sobbed with gratitude when black fog beckoned her to its suffocation, coaxing her to drown out the world that was much too harsh. Petunia, where’s Petunia? Why wasn’t her only sister crying with her, promising her that everything would be okay? Promising her that she would be okay?
The pain stabbed through her so completely that she couldn’t control the cries that trashed from her throat. She wept for the fog to come dull the broken pieces that were slowly ripped from her, to take her farther under, until nothing but mute whispers and shadowed feelings remained.
Did she hear shouting? Who would be yelling in her distant world of comfort? No one yelled there.
No, no she wasn’t asleep anymore. She was awake. Her eyes were open, weren’t they? Maybe it was dark, maybe that’s why everything still looked black. How long had she been away for? She strained to hear the words that were seeping into her hazy mind.
“So that’s the only reason Petunia decided to try to contact her? After days of us begging her, pleading for her to come see Lily
, to come and help her, the only reason she finally talked to you is to let you know about the funeral?” James’s anger sliced into Lily’s ears.
“This just means Lily’s going to need us more than ever. We’ll all go, and if her sister still wants nothing to do with her at least she’ll have all of us to fall back on.” The strong voice of Olivia Potter vibrated around Lily’s mind.
But how could it sound so real when it was so far away? Why wouldn’t her sister come to see her? Did she still hate her? Why would James and Mrs. Potter be talking to Petunia about a funeral — a burning anguish spread through her body like a flame to paper as her weary mind drew to the surface the reality that it had been running from.
The strength of that anguish forced her to scream out in loud, gut wrenching sobs. They’re dead. They’re never coming back. Her tears blended into her mind, she didn’t realize that the echoes of cries weren’t only in her head, but reverberating through the room.
She heard the pounding of footsteps crash over the wood floor and opened her eyes just enough to make out the shape of James running through the large, French doors and into the room. He was beside her in a second and she felt the mattress sink under the weight of him. The callouses of his hands caught the strands of hair as he smoothen them back, away from her tear soaked face. She heard the melody of soft words slipping from his lips. He was singing to her, singing her back into the black fog that protected her from the jagged edges of reality. Singing her into the sleepy world where nothing could hurt.
The house nested atop the green hill was slowly drawing in for the evening. First the front room flames were blown out, followed by the large set of sapphire curtains being swept across the windows upstairs. It seemed that all the members of the white, plantation style home were tucked away.
That was partially true, for Lily Evans was already fast asleep. She wasn’t dreaming quite yet, which was a blessing for her because, as of late, her dreams had been riddled with nothing but nightmares.
William Potter was settled into his large bed, waiting patiently for Olivia to join him so they could talk about tomorrow morning already being the first of September. Their boys would be starting their seventh year of Hogwarts in less than a day, how had the time flown away so quickly?
James, Sirius, and Peter were further down the hall from William, sprawled across the floor of James's room massive, rectangular room and submerged in a game of wizarding chess.
Sirius was just getting ready to send his pawn crashing into James’s knight when a gentle knock on the door drew their attention away.
“Boys, there’s some left over pudding downstairs if you’d like to finish it off.” Olivia Potter’s sea green night-robe was tied tightly around her thin waist. Her dark, pixie like hair, speckled with strands of whitish grey, was a bit mussed up from a long day of shopping in Diagon Alley.
“Brilliant, your puddings are are always the best. Also, thanks for offering to take us to the station in the morning, Mrs. Potter,” said a shorter, sandy blonde boy as he blushed a bit at Olivia. Peter had always enjoyed staying at the Potters, and was quick to thank James for anything and everything that his parents did.
Sirius stood with a smile, thanking Olivia as he passed. His eyes had the same purple shadows surrounding them as James’s; the last few weeks hadn’t been easy on either of them.
“James?” Olivia said, as her nearly grown son also got up to leave. He understood the questioning tone of her voice, and told his friends to go ahead. He moved over to his bed to sit next to his mum, and let his eyes glance around while he waited for her to tell him whatever it was that was on her mind.
His room was something he always missed when he was away. His large window that showed him everything over their trees. The smell of cinnamon that his mum had somehow bewitched to linger at just the right strength. But more than anything, the way he could always count on his mum or dad to stop in and talk with him about everything from a story in their Auror days to the score of his few favorite Quidditch teams.
“James,” Olivia began as she reached forward to take her son’s hand. He knew by the soft feel of her green eyes, and the way she rubbed her thumb over his much larger palm, that she was about to get to the reason of why she lured his mates downstairs with sweets.
“I know how worried you are, but Lily wants to go back to Hogwarts. Ah,” she held up a finger to stop hin from interrupting. “You know Professor Dumbledore and myself have been talking a great deal for the last few weeks, and he would give her as much time as she needed, but it’s her decisions. She wants to go.”
“She’s barely left that room in three weeks, mum. Can’t you just make her stay? You make Sirius and me do all sorts of things,” James mumbled.
“Sweetie, even if I could, I wouldn’t make Lily do anything. She’s a strong girl, she’ll be okay. Alice and Isabelle have been here nearly every day, between those two and all you boys, she’ll have plenty of people to rely on. Being busy is the only thing that is going to begin helping her. She’ll start faking that she’s okay, and after a while, she’ll realize that she isn’t faking it and that she really is okay.”
James sighed as his mother’s words set it. He understood what she was saying, but part of him didn’t want to accept it. At least with Lily here, his mum was always near; she always knew what to do.
Three weeks ago he would have given anything to get day after day to spend alone with Lily Evans, now everything was different.
He glanced over at his mum next to him, the woman who he knew had done everything from arresting some of the most dangerous wizards, to learning how to bake the muggle way because it looked more relaxing. He couldn’t image a life without her.
Lily tried to say she was okay, but James knew that she had loved her parents just as much as he loved his, and that she had a long way to go until she reached okay.
“I’m so proud of you, darling.” Olivia whispered as she pulled James in for a hug. “I’ve always been proud of the person you’re turning into, but I’ve never seen quite so clearly just the kind of man you will be until now. You have so much of your father in you, did you know that? So much to give in that big heart of yours.”
James hugged his mum back, thankful that her sentimental side didn't come with a teary one.
“I love you too,” he mumbled, “and I’m sorry for making you feel like you had to try to convince Lily to stay. I should have realized that when you picked all of her things up in Diagon Alley, she would be going back right away.”
“James! You have to try some of this, I swear, even if I live to be as old as Merlin, I’ll never eat something else that tastes so good,” Peter said as he came back into the room, Sirius close behind, with a bowl of whatever his mother had concocted.
Mrs. Potter smiled at the two, the soft look covering her eyes quickly changed to amusement. “I’m happy you boys like it. So, we’ll be leaving first thing in the morning. I’ve already owled Augusta, and she’s happy to have us apparate over to her home. She’s barely a block from Kings Cross, so we can walk with her and Frank to the station. Will Remus be joining us before we leave?”
The three boys glanced at each other. They were lucky that Olivia had yawned just then and missed the silent communication that passed between them.
“No, Remus’s mum is taking him.” Sirius answered, fidgeting with the black hair that grazed his ears.
“Alright then, you three get some sleep, and I’ll see you bright and early.” She shut the door quietly as she left. James let out a long sigh, leaning back against the wall as he stretched his arms over his head.
“I don’t know why Remus just won’t let us tell your mum about his situation. He knows she wouldn’t care,” Sirius remarked as he pulled off his muggle jeans, shaking them from his ankles then pulling a pair of pajama bottoms up.
“I don’t know, either. But I wish he would've let us come with him to transform tonight. I know his mum has a safe place and all, but..” James trailed off.
“He’s going to look like dragon dung on the train tomorrow, that’s for sure. I’m going to go use your washroom, James,” Peter said as he finished double checking his school trunks, and pulling a clean pair of pajamas from it.
“So, what did your mum want to say?” Sirius asked when they were alone.
“Just that Lily hasn’t changed her mind about taking more time off. She’s so goddamn stubborn, she just lost her entire family. No one would blame her for needing more time.” James fought to keep his annoyance in check. He knew it wasn’t fair to be frustrated with her, but he just wished she’d realize that she didn’t have to be some super witch, and that her marks wouldn't suffer with a few extra weeks off.
“At least this way we can keep an eye on her, right?” Sirius said, only half joking. James knew that he more than trusted the capable eye of his mum, but Sirius did have a point. The four of them had known Lily for over six years. And even when she wasn’t one of James’s biggest fans, she still spent loads of time with all the others.
“I want to talk to you though, before Wormtail comes back, about Lily, the night of her parents and all.” Sirius said, glancing up at James.
“Yeah?” James prompted after Sirius stayed silent.
“Just that, you’ve been really great with her and all. I mean, I know what a good bloke you are, and that you care about Lily, but you’ve really been there for her. Your reputation as a prat might slip if any of this gets out, though.” Sirius joked, and though James couldn’t help but laugh, he felt a certain amount of doubt fill him. Why did he feel like that wasn’t all that Sirius had wanted to say? But maybe he was just making things up in his head, because Sirius had never hesitated to tell him anything before. Why would he start now?
Maybe they all just needed a good night’s sleep.
“Lily, what’s wrong with you? I’ve been telling you about my trip to the States for the last fifteen minutes and you haven’t said anything! What, did you have such a delightful summer that you just want me to shut up so you can talk all about it?” The sharp voice of an impatient sixteen year old echoed through the compartment of the Hogwarts Express.
Lily had desperately needed a few moments of nothing but silence, and excused herself from the compartment that she had been sharing with her friends. She assumed that by making her way to the oldest, farthest part of the train, where the walls still smelled like hundred year old mold, and the seats lacked the plush, ‘sink into me’ feel, that she would find the solitude she craved.
Less than a minute after sitting down, Violet Clarke strutted in beside her. She’d never been close with the sixth year Gryffindor, and would even go as far as to say that Violet was one of the few people Lily just didn’t care for. She was just thankful that the blonde was a year younger than her and they’d never had to be dorm mates. Usually Lily had the patience to at least fake polite conversation, but now, when it felt like the girl was throwing everything Lily had lost in her face, she couldn’t so much as force a sound from her throat.
She was preparing to make an excuse and leave the compartment when a knock on the door, followed by a sea of black hair, distracted her.
“Hullo James, can we do something for you?” Violet asked, a sickeningly sweet tone ringing from her lips. She shot James an endearing smile before using a small, suntanned hand to pat the seat beside her - motioning him to sit.
“I’m hoping you can excuse Evans and myself.” His voice wasn’t cold, not exactly. But the demanding tone to it made it clear he wasn’t asking Violet to leave, but ordering her to.
Violet looked from Lily back to James for a moment, then as if she had been horribly insulted, stormed from the compartment and slammed the glass doors behind her. James drew down the shades of the transparent barriers and locked the handles before rushing to Lily’s side. His arms reached for her, encircling the small, delicate form of her body and pulling her closer. Brutal sobs escaped her throat, sending tremors through her bones.
“Lily, it was too soon. I wish you would have stayed with my parents for longer.”
Three weeks. That’s how long it had been since the horrific car wreck claimed the lives of Lily’s mother and father. Three weeks of hell caused by mere moments of metal meeting metal, glass flying into flesh, and somber police officers telling her it was too late.
Her only living relative was Petunia - who barely spoke a few polite words to Lily at the funeral before rushing off with her fiance, Vernon - so she had remained under the care of the Potters. Parts of her were immensely grateful that her sister had dealt with everything: the funeral, selling her childhood home, all the details Lily couldn’t handle thinking about. Despite that gratitude, she wasn’t able shake off the sickness that plagued her whenever she thought of how little they had spoken. The memory of her older sister’s voice still rang through her heart. The way Petunia had told her that dwelling on what could not be changed was useless, then leaving her alone once again to face the darkness with nearly no light; it was the worst possible insult placed on an already severely injured soul.
Olivia and William Potter had more than likely saved her life by giving her the kind of compassion and love that was required to salvage the broken pieces of her heart.
“I need to be busy. I need to forget.” Her last word came out in another sob, causing James to tighten his arms. “As much as I dislike Violet, I don’t think she meant anything on purpose. My parents were only in the muggle paper, so she couldn’t have heard. I’m okay now, you don’t have to babysit me. It’s fine for you to go join our friends.”
James kept silent, letting the initial annoyance of her attempt to brush him off fade. When he felt her relax farther into him, he spoke.
“I’m not babysitting you, Lily. I want to spend time with you. I don’t care what Violet said - it hurt you, though. That’s what I care about. Besides, with all the time I plan on us spending together, it will give you more chances to tell me what a prat I am.” James watched as amusement swept over Lily’s face. She moved her head from his shoulder to meet his eyes with what could have been a glare from her own.
“I won’t have to tell you that if you don’t act like one,” she mumbled as the false glare remained in place. The look that truly conveyed her anger was nothing like the adorable one she was currently fitted with. And if anyone should know what angry Lily looked like, it was James Potter.
He felt a small shift click inside of him as she rested her head back to his shoulder. Parts of him had changed: irrevocably, perhaps. Watching Lily break so drastically; watching her struggle every morning to open her eyes and get out of bed, then seeing her grow a little bit stronger day by day, had made James know without hesitation that he would do everything he could to help ease the path of destruction that spiraled through her.
Lily sat up in the aged bench and let her head fall back, resting the base of her skull against a faded blue wall. She blinked a few times to shoo away the remainder of the water that laced her lashes, and when she went to look back at James her eyes instead moved to the side, her own reflection was clear as day in the darkened window. Lily was surprised that she no longer saw the empty green stare that she had grown accustomed to witnessing in the mirror the last few weeks. This time there was something else rooted deep into her eyes: determination. She would be okay.
“Let’s go back to the other compartment. I think the mold on the floor is starting to work its way up my shoes,” she was pleased that her voice was stronger than before, the words a bit more stable. James remained silent as he looked at her - into her, until he finally smiled and stood to lead the way through the glass doors and out into the hall. They would need to change soon, anyway. The train was already starting to slow down, and that could only mean one thing - they were almost home.
This chapter has been rewritten as of Nov, 17, 2012. I hope the changes are positive ones!
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