First Posted: August 18, 2007
Suggested music: “This Brilliant Dance” by Dashboard Confessional
James spent the rest of the day with a small flock of Healers. They allowed his mother in the room but told Lily and Sirius that visiting hours were over. Lily checked out and they left St. Mungo’s to find something to eat, more because they couldn’t stand to be in there any longer than because either one of them was hungry.
They stepped out onto the sunlit street and started walking, not really knowing where they were going, but feeling a little better because they were going somewhere. The beautiful day felt odd to Lily, after such a nightmare.
“Lily? Is that really you?!”
Lily turned, bewildered, and found herself being smothered by a tall person with long, familiar arms. She looked up and saw her father’s face beaming down at her. Her mother appeared behind him, a map crinkled in one hand. She was out of breath and her eyes were puffy and wet.
“Lily!” she cried, throwing herself at her daughter. “I can’t believe it’s you. The owl came with the note saying you were in the hospital and we had to find out where it was and we didn’t know if you were okay and we finally got directions but we still couldn’t find it and we’ve been trying to figure it out for ages and here you are!” Lily’s mother paused to take a breath. She held Lily at arm’s length, as though rethinking her decision to embrace her so hard, and looked her up and down. “Thank Heaven you’re okay! What happened?”
Lily thought about the answer to that question. She couldn’t relive the previous night; she just did not have the strength.
“It’s a long story, Mum. I don’t really feel like talking about it, okay?” she said, looking from one parent to the other. “We were just on our way to get lunch. Do you want to come?”
Her parents exchanged a look, their smiles slipping. They looked from Lily to Sirius, squinting in the sun, waiting. Lily took a ridiculously long time to catch on.
“Oh. This is Sirius.” Lily turned to Sirius, who had taken a few steps backward to give Lily room with her family. Lily grabbed his hand and pulled him forward. “Sirius, these are my parents.”
Mr. and Mrs. Evans looked uncertain for a moment and Lily feared that they weren’t going to accept her attempt to change the subject or this tall, long-haired boy as her “friend.” Sirius looked uncertain, too, and they all sort of stood there staring at each other. But then the moment passed and her mother and father both smiled and shook Sirius’s hand.
A gleam of interest sparked in Mrs. Evans’s eye. “You’re the one she’s dating—?”
“No, that’s James,” said Lily, stopping her. “James is the one I’m dating.”
She swallowed hard as the image of James’s blank stare forced its way into her mind. It struck her as odd that Sirius was meeting her parents before James. She wondered, fleetingly, if they would ever get to meet James or if they would just get a glimpse of him in his hospital bed. Would they understand what had happened to him? How could she explain?
“Oh,” said Lily’s mother, a million questions in her eyes. “Well, shall we get a bit to eat, then?”
The four of them walked up the street to a café a few blocks away. They ordered sandwiches and sipped tea, making small talk. So many things had happened to Lily since the last time she had seen her parents and yet she found it hard to think of things to say to them. It made her sad. Lily wanted to tell them about school and her life but everything that came to mind had something to do with James and she couldn’t bring herself to speak of him. She couldn’t picture the common room without seeing James there, lounging in a chair in the center, kicking his heels or fooling around with a Snitch. She couldn’t imagine any of her classes without a teacher scolding James for playing catch with the teapot they were supposed to be charming. She couldn’t see the Great Hall or the corridors without James’s dimpled grin popping up. His face haunted every corner of her mind. His laugh echoed across every memory.
“So how long have you two been friends?” asked Mr. Evans, eyeing them over his teacup.
“I don’t know…” Sirius turned to Lily. “How long would you say, Evans?”
Lily looked at him. She thought she detected a shade of amusement in his voice and she imagined that he was thinking about all the crazy ups and downs of their strange relationship. But Sirius’s eyes were solemn and tired, staying open just to be polite.
“It’s hard to say,” said Lily quietly. She felt like Sirius had always been there in some way.
“Where is James?” asked Lily’s mother, looking like she had uttered the question on a dare.
“He’s in the hospital, Mum.”
Lily knew she was going to ask why and she would have no choice but to say that he had been tortured by his father and then she would have to explain everything—about the curses and the attack and Voldemort and that whole, terrible night. There was too much they didn’t know, too much they could never understand.
But Lily’s mother didn’t ask why James was in the hospital. And Lily felt a little better, a little closer. Like maybe they understood more than she thought.
“How’s Petunia?” asked Lily, swirling her teabag, as though this was not another loaded question.
Mrs. Evans glanced at her husband. “She got married.”
Lily stopped the swirling and gaped at her parents.
“When?” she sputtered.
“Two months ago. It was a short engagement. They went to Paris for their honeymoon and now they have a flat in Surrey,” said her mother, looking worried.
“And she didn’t even invite me to the wedding?” demanded Lily.
“It was a really small ceremony, darling.”
“I’m her only sister!” Lily sat back in her chair.
Then she took a deep breath and looked through the large window at the cars and people moving past. She thought about Petunia and her husband and then she thought about James and found that she couldn’t really care about not being invited to the wedding. It didn’t matter.
“Is she happy with this bloke?” she asked.
Her mother smiled at her, her eyes filling with tears. She nodded as she stood up and slid into the booth next o Lily, taking her into her arms. Lily felt her face grow hot as her whole body ease into her mother’s touch. She sank into her and let her mother’s shoulder catch her tears. Lily wondered how many more times this could happen before she ran out of tears to spill on someone.
* * *
After being assured many times that Lily was all right, Mr. and Mrs. Evans went back home and Lily and Sirius returned to the hospital. Mrs. Potter was in the tearoom. When Lily looked at her drained and haggard face, she didn’t have to ask if James had improved.
“Professor Dumbledore came by while you were gone,” she told them.
“What did he say?” asked Sirius.
“He’s arranged for the Knight Bus to bring you back to school.”
“Is that it?” asked Lily. What about Voldemort? What about Hogsmeade? What about Di? And Clive Pritchard? And that other Death Eater? And—
“That’s it,” muttered Mrs. Potter.
“What about Mr. Potter?” asked Lily.
James’s mother looked at Lily with wide, puffy eyes. Then she turned away again, resting her hand on the back of a chair, as though trying to steady herself.
“He’s been arrested,” she said, staring at the floor. “But they can’t take him to Azkaban until he recovers from the curse.”
“But how can they do that when they know he was under the Imperius Curse?”
“He still needs to be tried. Please, don’t worry, dears. Just make sure you get back to school safely.” She hugged Sirius and then Lily. “Nice to meet you, Lily. Take care.”
“You too, Mrs. Potter. Goodbye.”
They headed back down the hall. Sirius began to descend the stairs to leave, but Lily caught him by the arm. He stopped and looked back at her.
“We have to say goodbye to James.”
Sirius stared at her. His eyes darkened but he nodded and followed her to James’s ward. The Healers had gone, with nothing left to do for him, so no one saw them creep into his room.
Lily held her breath as they entered, hoping and trying not to hope. The window shades blocked the sunlight, casting lines on James’s face. He lay in the bed, just the same as before. Lily hurried by the bed and yanked open the shades. She pulled too hard and they jumped upward with a crash. When she turned around, Sirius was staring at her again.
“What? He’s not dead! He shouldn’t have to lie here in the dark.”
Sirius just grunted. James kept looking at the wall.
Lily sat down on the edge of the bed and gathered enough strength to look at him. His wide, empty eyes seemed to fill her. They pressed against the inside of her head, strained her lungs, enveloped her heart.
She blinked and tried to keep her eyes away from his so that she could keep on breathing.
“Well, James,” she said, taking his hand. It was warm, like always. “We have to leave now. We’re going back to school. We wish you were coming with us. Don’t we, Sirius?”
Lily looked to Sirius, her eyebrows raised. He was hunched over in the chair, gripping his head.
He stood up with a jolt. He gave Lily a look that begged for mercy. “I can’t talk to him like this, Lily!” he cried and swept out of the room.
Lily pressed James’s hand against her cheek as she stared at the door that had closed behind Sirius. “It’s all right, James. He’ll be back.” But something closed around her throat as she spoke.
She dropped James’s hand and leaned closer to him. Tears dripped down her face. Some of them slid off her chin and onto his. She wiped them away, though he made no sign that he felt them. He was staring blankly at her ear.
Lily shuddered from the pressure of the sobs, suppressed inside her chest, as she cupped his face and kissed his chin. His head lolled slightly but he made no response. Slowly, gently, she pressed kisses along his cheek, each side of his mouth, up to his temple and his forehead. The sobs grew stronger each time she felt nothing in return. She kissed his ears and his brow and the top of his head. When she pulled away, she bent close, their noses nearly touching, and searched his eyes. She tried to find a hint of the spirit, the feeling, the fire that had always roared inside of them. Any sort of spark and she would have known that he would be fine.
But there were only ashes.
* * *
Lily and Sirius had nothing to say to each other on the trip back to the castle. Dinner was in progress inside the Great Hall, as noisy and lively as ever, but they were in no mood to eat. Although they had only left school that previous night, it seemed as though they had been away for weeks.
Lily felt like a stranger, even to herself, as though she did not belong there anymore. This didn’t feel like her life and this didn’t feel like coming home. What were they supposed to do? Sirius didn’t seem to know either, so they walked, silent, to the Gryffindor Tower.
When the Fat Lady portrait swung shut behind them, Summer, who had been sitting alone by the fire, immediately rushed toward them.
“Oh, thank God you’re back,” she said softly. She hugged them both. “Dumbledore sent me an owl. How are you doing? How’s James?”
Lily fell into an armchair. The fireplace was alive with flames, even though it was June. “He’s alive,” she said.
“Barely,” added Sirius. He looked at Summer. “What do you know? Where is everybody? Has Moony come back? And Di?”
“And how about Tara? Is she all right?”
Summer took a deep breath and sat down across from Lily. “McGonagall found Tara in the corridor and brought her to the hospital wing. I was there a few hours ago. She’s fine. Remus is there, too. He’s fairly bloodied up but he was eating and everything so I’m sure he’ll be fine as well, though I still don’t know what happened to him.”
“What about Di, Summer? Is she upstairs? Or was she taken to the hospital wing, too?” asked Lily.
“All I know is that they took her took the Ministry,” said Summer.
Lily and Sirius caught each other’s eye. Summer noticed.
“You know why they took her, then?” she demanded. “What happened?”
Lily kept her eyes on the flames. “She killed someone, Summer. She killed Clive Pritchard.”
She heard Summer’s gasp. Then she heard her start to cry. Lily wasn’t sure how long she listened to Summer cry before she choked out a “goodnight” between sobs and went to bed.
Then there was silence. It dragged on. Other students returned from dinner and still the silence dragged on. Lily and Sirius sat staring at the fire while everyone around them talked and did homework. Their lives had not changed. The silence continued after people started heading off to bed. It stayed there after the common room had emptied. There was nothing that Lily or Sirius could say to each other that they didn’t already know now. All of it burned in the air between them, flaming around them like the fire that had long died out. The weight of it was theirs. They shared it all.
There was nothing they needed to say.
A/N: Please review. :)
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