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Disclaimer: JKR owns what you recognise; the rest is mine.

 

 

 


 

 

 

It was funny how one little piece of paper could suddenly change the entire course of your life.


 

I had reread the letter twenty times, now. Thirty. Forty. The information in it stayed the same.


 

At first Scorpius had denied that it was true - grabbing the parchment, reading it hungrily, shaking his head back and forth like a broken bobble - but Adam had confirmed it, the responding note addressed to both of us indented heavily with the regretful drags of his quill. Even the old leather bound book had a paragraph explaining the law of it, scrawled deep in its depths to perhaps soften the deafening blow:


 

In order to prevent the Flashes of the Future seen, there is only one thing the Woman can do. She must sacrifice Herself, for without Her the After is not set in its course. Once She makes this decision, the Curse will be passed down to Her Daughter once She has come of Age.


 

So the narrative I had lived my life by was a built illusion, and I both wanted to believe this new past and future and also desperately wanted it not to be true. My mother had not killed herself out of selfishness or fatigue or indifference, but instead in order to save the life of someone else. And her mother must have, too, and her mother before that, and her mother and her mother and hers. And maybe I would as well. The thought terrified me, sent brief flickers of panic and horror through my veins at random intervals throughout every day, and I was thinking about the possibility of it as I stood in front of the mirror, robotically running locks of my hair around my wand to give it a slight curl.


 

“He’s just so-so irritating!” Mia was ranting from behind me, Willow just behind her. “He’s rude and he’s lazy and he never does anything he’s supposed to!”


 

“Who hasn’t done anything he’s supposed to?” I asked idly from the bathroom, even though I knew exactly to whom she was referring.


 

Flynn!” Mia threw her hands up exasperatedly, pacing with her bare feet around the threshold bathroom. “He never knows when to stop being an absolute arsehole!”


 

“From where I was standing yesterday it looked like you didn’t want him to stop,” I waggled my eyebrows suggestively, and Mia growled with frustration like I knew she would, throwing herself on the side of Willow’s bed.


 

“I don’t know how he keeps doing that!” she shook her head rather venomously, and Willow and I shared a look in the mirror.


 

“Oh, so it’s Flynn’s fault?” Willow raised her eyebrows playfully at Mia as I turned off the bathroom light with a flick of my wand and walked out to where they were sitting.


 

“I don’t know whose fault it is, but he’s the one who kissed me first originally, okay? Okay?” Mia demanded again when neither Willow or I said anything in response.


 

“Okay,” I held my hands up, much more the picture of acquiescence than Willow, who was still smirking a bit. “But either way, it’s very entertaining for the rest of us.”


 

Mia shot me a look, her beauty marred by annoyance. “Shouldn’t you be off throwing your old money around?” she huffed, and I rolled my eyes at her as I slipped my heels on in confirmation.


 

“Just try to keep your hard-on for Flynn in your pants while I’m gone,” I told her liltingly, and her responding expletive met my proud ears as I slipped out the dormitory and down the stairs.

 

 


 

I met Rose Weasley around the corner from the entrance to Professor Slughorn’s office. We were in opposite attire: she had chosen a pale cream flared dress while mine was dark and fitting, my hair in loose waves and hers trapped in a tight bun.


 

“Of course Al is the one with patrol tonight,” Rose grumbled to me in lieu of a proper greeting as we began approaching the large wooden door. “Of course he got Catherine to switch with him so he wouldn’t have to go to this horror show.”


 

“Maybe we can fake food poisoning and leave early,” I suggested, but we both knew it was a plan without an ounce of promise.


 

The moment we walked in the door a Hufflepuff in the year below eagerly snatched Rose for conversation, and since Rose was too kind to remove herself I was forced to venture further into the office alone, choosing to be antisocial and find my place setting instead of heading towards the enticing array of drinks, where Diana Jenkins’ mouth was moving so fast that it appeared to be almost blurred.


 

James was sitting at the table with a bored expression, and God he looked so perfect in his dark suit and skinny tie that I could hardly stand it, but as soon as I spotted the name placard next to him my stomach dropped. Because the two of us had been sat next to one another, and at an event like this one it was an undeniably dangerous choice. I could see Lyra Rosier watching me with narrowed eyes from across the table as I approached my place, and as she did my fingers automatically went to the long scar on my wrist where my grandmother had inflicted her opinion, the lines of it still raised and jagged.


 

“Hey,” James told me quietly as I took my seat beside him, and I sent him a tight-lipped smile before facing the rest of the table, my shoulders back and eyes alert. I could feel him watching me for a moment before he turned reluctantly towards Slughorn, but I didn’t meet his burning gaze.


 

To any other guest, this dinner would seem exactly the same as all the others - the stifling linger of cigar smoke, the artwork of the hors d'oeuvres splashed across the white canvas of China plates, the deep velvety curtains that protected against the horrors of bare walls - but yet the night was so drastically different. Because now I was publicly dating James Potter - Witch Weekly’s proclaimed “Heartthrob of Britain,” and while I was certain Slughorn had heard word of it I was more worried about the Purebloods, especially after Calliope Yaxley’s previous warning and Lyra Rosier’s current glare.


 

“Good evening!” Slughorn called over the din in his booming way, and the various conversations settled down immediately, the remaining stragglers making their way to their seats. “I am delighted all of you could make it here tonight.” He paused, hands resting comfortably on his sizable stomach. “Tragically, however, this will be our last little event of the school year.”


 

There were various hums of disappointment and forlornness. I caught Rose’s gaze, and she rolled her eyes at me while sipping her drink to hide it from Slughorn.


 

“But fear not!” said Slughorn, beaming as his beady eyes swept around his chosen circle. “For those of you who will return to Hogwarts, our time is endless -  and for those who are leaving us, you are on to bright and exciting futures!”


 

The table applauded delicately, the Seventh Years all sharing knowing looks, as if graduating was some secret no one else was privy to.


 

“Now, Nellie Burke!” said Slughorn eagerly, and I jolted, both surprised and wary at having been chosen as his first target.

 

 

"Professor?" I replied obediently.

 

 

“I saw your dear Grandmother just a few days ago,” Slughorn continued, and while I was able to remain impassive at the mention of her I felt the tablecloth shift slightly with James’s instinctive hand clench. “She’s doing quite well, yes, yes, but tell me - how is your father? Busy, I presume, as the Head of the Department of Mysteries!


 

Slughorn always liked to declare my father’s title as if he were announcing the winner of some sporting match, and I could hear Rose struggle to disguise her snort of laughter with a coughing fit.


 

“He’s as enigmatic as always, Sir,” I said, and Slughorn beamed, apparently not noticing the sardonicism in my tone.


 

“Well, I hope he would be - he’s got lots of secrets to keep, you know...and, James, m’boy!” Slughorn’s eyes shifted to the boy beside me. “One of my soon-to-be Alumnis! I’ve heard wind that you applied for acceptance into the Ministry Curse Breaking programme - a job for the adventurous, hm?”


 

“Yes, Professor. I hope to hear back soon.” James replied, and I could see his transformation right in front of my eyes; his gaze turned cold and hard, jaw set and unrelenting. I’d learned that this was a defense mechanism of sorts; it was easier to be removed and stony and pompous than to be his usual self: fun, sharp, teasing, albeit still a bit arrogant.


 

“Oho,” Slughorn breathed, and suddenly his gaze was almost hungry with anticipation. “Well, Phineas Braxillby (Head of the department, of course) is a dear old friend of mine, you know, and I had a little chat with him about what an excellent student you are. Decisions aren’t officially out, of course, but Phineas assured me weeks ago that you secured a place amongst their ranks!”


 

James’s perfectly indifferent presentation fractured ever so slightly with his surprise. “Really, Sir?”


 

“Of course, m’boy!” Slughorn cried. “So congratulations to James are in order - yes, cheers! They only accept two candidates every year, so bravo! Bravo!


 

I don’t know who started it, but all of the sudden everyone was raising their champagne flutes to James, looks of appreciation and awe coming at him from all directions, and I felt a strange surge of pride deep in my stomach, as if I had just accomplished something incredible as well.


 

“Thank you so much, Professor,” James bowed his head slightly, but then his expression took a form that I’d never before seen displayed on him: a forced sort of obsequiousness. “And may I just say, your generosity and inspiration has shone through so many generations of students and professions. You’ve truly shaped what the Wizarding World looks like today, and I, like all the other fortunate students at this table, are so indebted to you.”


 

The table started applauding as Slughorn began what I predicted to be a long and rambling speech, but as I clapped my hands together they suddenly felt numb and out of time with the rest of the room.


 



 

After two more hours of incessant flattery and fake laughter, we were finally excused from the table, and although I usually vacated the event as quickly as humanly possible, tonight I lingered around the place settings with James and some others, effectively inviting the Pureblood trio to approach me, which they did at the exact moment that James brushed his hand on my elbow and jerked his head towards the door.


 

“Nellie,” Calliope said in her quietly deadly voice, always the one to speak first. “James. How is the evening treating you?”


 

“As well as it always does,” I replied, and before I had even registered it my voice slipped back into the old-money intonations that the Slytherins tended to speak in. “And how are you all?”


 

“Nostalgic.” Calliope pronounced flatly. “Tell me, Nellie, don’t you remember your first Slug Club?”


 

Our first club,” Lyra added from slightly behind Calliope, not to be overshadowed.


 

“It feels like so long ago!” Seph Selwyn chimed in, her round face kind and blank as it always was.


 

“How things have changed,” Calliope smiled coldly, her gaze sliding over to James and then back to mine, dark eyes narrowing. “How things continue to change.”


 

“Perhaps they haven’t really changed much at all,” I replied, and we both knew that I meant perhaps I haven’t changed, not really anyways. Because I hadn’t - I had never been interested in the Pureblood conventions or lifestyle; it was now just finally becoming completely transparent through my apparently rebellious actions.   


 

“We do still have the same tart as we did at our first Slug Clubs,” Lyra agreed, evidently missing the unspoken topic of conversation between Calliope and I.


 

“That we do,” Calliope concurred blandly, and as Lyra and Seph turned to join a conversation with Arabella Rowle she reached out a hand, her long nails resting on my forearm like a lion’s paw without its claws out. “It’s been lovely to see you so healthy, Cousin.”


 

“And you as well,” I told her. I reached my arm out to mirror her position, wrapping my fingers around her elbow with enough firmness for it to be slightly uncomfortable, and as I did something passed in her gaze, so fleeting that no one else would have noticed. But I understood: she was just as threatened by my discordance as I was by her conservativity.


 

As we released one another and she walked away with her head held high, I noticed the tag to her dress sticking out slightly from the collar, rubbing a rough edge of humanity into the pale skin of her neck.


 




 

As we made our way back towards the Seventh Floor towers, James was the first one to say anything.


 

“You act so different with them.” James commented rather quietly, and even though it took all I had to not correct his sentence to differently I was more irked by the content of his statement.


 

I do?” I asked incredulously. “What about you? What was all that ‘shaping the Wizarding World’ rubbish?”


 

“He basically just secured my career, Burke,“ James snapped, already on the defensive. “It’s only right to award him a little gratitude-”


 

“But it was fake!” I retaliated. “If you’re going to be gracious then be gracious, but don’t be so phony-”


 

“Oh, I’m the phony?” James retorted, an air of disgust laced between his words, and now pretenses of civility had vanished. “You hate those girls and yet when you’re around them you completely change everything about yourself! What’s more fucking phony than that?”


 

“I’m doing it for my survival, Potter. What’s your excuse?”


 

The words cut through the air as sharply as I meant them to, and although James opened his mouth to bite back with something assuredly just as harsh, he stopped his movements, jaw sort of hanging there.


 

“Ah,” he said after a minute, face contourted into a painful grimace as he scratched the back of his head, almost as if he were embarrassed. “Yeah. Okay.”


 

“Okay, what?”  


 

“Just - okay.”


 

“Okay what?” I demanded, but the anger was dissipated from my tone as I read his body language.


 

James glanced over at me slightly tortured. “I’m not going to say it, Burke.”


 

“I want you to,” I told him, and I clasped my hands in front of my chest for good measure. “I need you to.”


 

“Fine,” he groaned. “Merlin, you’re a pain in the arse-”


 

“Say it!”


 

“You’re right, okay?” James threw his hands up in exasperation. “You win!


 

“I do, don’t I?” I said immediately, grin uninhibited. Even though it was the first time he’d ever outwardly declared my victory, it didn’t really matter because the two of us had no reason to win or lose anymore - it was just us, an ebb and flow of energy of instead of an endless struggle over some notion of power, and I quite liked it that way.


 

“Happy, now?” James glanced down at me, and it was comforting to see his expression back to normal: brows raised with mirth, lips unscowled, eyes crinkled by his smirk of a smile.


 

“Unequivocally. Except - earlier, you used the word ‘different’ as an adjective instead of as the adverb ‘differently.’ Just thought you should know.”


 

James was silent and slack jawed before responding.


 

“Jesus Christ, you’re such a bloody Ravenclaw,” he muttered before tugging on my arm abruptly so I crashed into his chest, and as my lips met his all too willingly I realised that him saying such a thing used to offend me down to my very core. Perhaps Calliope was right after all: maybe things had changed.


 


 

 

 

It was much later in the evening when I made my way to the kitchens, and I was rather surprised to find Albus Potter there as well, sitting on the counter and nursing a plate of sweets.


 

“Rough night?” Al asked, handing me a slice of vanilla cake that the house elves had just hurriedly put in his hand, and I took it gratefully.


 

“Rough life,” I corrected, scooching up onto the marble surface next to him.


 

“Slug Club was that bad?” asked Al sympathetically, and I nodded, focusing more on trying to generate a bite with the perfect frosting to cake ratio. “What happened?”


 

“Same old,” I shrugged, in the kind of way that didn’t leave much invitation for follow up. “Think James got into the curse-breaking programme, though.”


 

“Wow,” Albus raised his eyebrows even though he seemed largely unsurprised, but then he grew strangely serious, his body shifting so he was facing me more. “Hey, listen - Mia said when you fainted last week you had a dream of someone falling off of their broom during a Quidditch match, and then it happened yesterday. Like, she said you saw the future before it even happened.”


 

My chewing slowed, because of course she had told him what happened. Mia Templeton was a lot of good things, but a secure confidant had never been one of them.


 

“And,” Albus continued. “If I remember correctly from Divination, those are trademark symptoms of someone who can tell the future. Of someone who can See.”


 

I sort of just sat there, with my mouth open and fork limp, because what the fucking hell was I supposed to say to that?  


 

“Am I right?” Al pressed when I didn’t respond.


 

“No,” I whispered finally. “Yes. I don’t know. It’s a family curse on the women in my family, not real talent. I’ll get headaches and weird dreams and then these weird sort of...visions - flashes, they're called - for the rest of my life, I guess.” I took care not to mention how short my life may be.


 

“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked after a moment, and he seemed almost unsurprised at my confession.


 

“I don't know,” I said, because I really didn't. “Scorpius might. He knows everything. But I don’t know if I do.”


 

Albus looked at me for a moment and then shrugged, turning back to his dessert. “Okay.”


 

I stared blankly at him eating until he glanced back at me. “What?”


 

“That's it?” I asked. “No freaking out? No calling me a weirdo?”


 

“It just...makes things fit into place,” Al said. “Like, on your birthday, on the roof...most people have an out of body experience when they turn of age and reach their sight. That was why. It's all in the books.”


 

I set my plate down entirely, now, absolutely floored. “You read up on this?”


 

“Well, yeah,” he said, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Mia and I both.”


 

I kept staring at him, bewildered, until he grinned and settled back onto the counter, his fork pausing on the last remains of his cake.


 

“You have to remember,” said Al, “that my father was a living Horcrux, my mother was possessed by Voldemort, and not one but two members of my extended family are part werewolf. Stranger things have happened than inheriting some dreams.”


 

And for some reason, after he said that I couldn't stop laughing.


 



 

We told everyone else early the next afternoon.


 

“So, what’s new today?” Albus asked; a rehearsed line.


 

“Oh, I don’t know,” replied Scorpius thoughtfully. “The sun is shining, the sky is blue, Nellie’s a Seer...”


 

Flynn stopped chewing the five chips hanging out of his mouth. “Nellie’s a what?”


 

“A Seer,” Mia said. “You know, someone who sees the future? It’s a pretty straightforward vocabulary word, Flynn.”


 

Flynn shot her a glowering look. “Oh, okay. Nellie’s a Seer. And Al’s a ghoul, and Scorp’s a banshee, and I’m a bloody dementor.”


 

“No,” Scorpius shook his head with the most annoyingly self-satisfied smile dancing around his features. “Nellie’s an actual Seer, mate.”


 

“I really can’t tell if you’re having a laugh or not,” said Milo after a moment of pause, which was probably more accurate than he let on, since he usually was gullible enough to believe the most outrageous of jokes.


 

“Sadly, no,” Al sighed, mock dramatically. He had told me I had to tell Flynn and Milo, and so when I told him I didn’t know how to do something like that he promised that he and Scorpius would just casually mention it in conversation.


 

“Are you taking the piss?” Flynn demanded, peering intensely into my eyes as if he could find the truth in them.


 

“I’m not a bloody Seer,” I grumbled, but then a hand came out of nowhere to slap me reproachfully on the arm.  


 

“I mean, technically you are,” Mia rolled her eyes as she withdrew her reach. “Just because you only see bad stuff happening to people you know and you inherited it from an evil family curse doesn’t mean we can’t call you that.”


 

Now Milo’s eyes were wide open underneath his mousy brown hair that had gotten considerably long of late. “Family curse?”


 

“All the women in Corn’s family inherit it,” Scorpius . “Just like my Mum inherited the blood malediction from her ancestor centuries ago.”


 

“All right, then, Nels,” Flynn crossed his arms. “What am I going to say next, hm?”


 

“It doesn’t work that way,” I told him rather tartly. “I can’t just see the future when I want to which is why I’m not a Seer-” I glared pointedly at the rest of them. “Just afflicted with the occasional flash of the future. That’s it.”


 

“Oh, yeah,” said Flynn airily. “That’s it! No big deal!”


 

“You know, sarcasm is the lowest form of wit,” quipped Mia haughtily from a couple of seats down.


 

“Oh, is that why you choose to use it so much?”


 

“Well, I don’t rot my brains away with vodka and cigarettes every night, so I actually possess intelligence-”


 

“Oh, fuck off, Mia, you smoke just as much as I do-”


 

“I should think the fuck not-”


 

“Can you explain the Nellie thing more, please?” Milo said over their bickering, but surprisingly when he spoke both Mia and Flynn stopped, both apparently wanting to hear the answer to his question.


 

“Like, you know when Nellie used to get those terrible headaches and be well arsey?” Albus started up again, and I pulled a face at him but he continued. “That’s an early sign of Seeing. And after Nellie’s seventeenth birthday she inherited the powers, and so she saw Will Davies fall off his broom days before it actually happened, but she couldn’t stop it from happening because that’s the condition of the curse.”

 

 

“Hm,” said Milo, and then his eyes were brightening in the way they did when he got a new book or discovered an intriguing plant. “You see these visions only when something bad happens to someone you know? How often do they come? How long do they last? How long after the episode does the vision come true in the future?”


 

Scorpius answered for me - Yes; the book says one or two times a month; I don’t know; whenever - while I drummed my fingers on the table, letting my nails hit the wooden table one after the other to some imaginary beat playing in a distant part of my head.


 

“So Nellie's a Seer,” Flynn stated in summary after Scorpius was done, and then rolled his eyes. “God, of course you are. “You’re such a bloody know-it-all it makes sense you’d know about the future, too.”


 

“This is a secret though, so only rag on her when it’s just us,” said Albus, and in response Flynn glowered at him.


 

“No, actually let me just go sell the story to the Hogwarts Times, Albus,” Flynn retorted. And then Mia asked him if he could drop the attitude, please, because this was a sensitive topic, and then Flynn told her he would drop the attitude as soon as she stopped pretending to be so high and mighty all of the time, and then the two of them began bickering again and Milo spilled pumpkin juice all over the table from getting too excited about some new species of mold discovered in South Africa, and it was all that easy.


 

And yet, Scorpius and I didn’t reveal the exception to the condition of the curse, instead choosing to keep this information between just the two of us, perhaps more to protect the ones we loved than to protect ourselves.


 

And I also made no plans to inform James Potter about my circumstances. I’d thought about it so much that I’d almost memorised the different arguments for and against telling him, but every fake discussion in my mind always led to the exact same conclusion: I couldn’t, no matter how much I wanted to. It would be selfish and foolish and unnecessary; a blackened burn on an otherwise picturesque scene, and besides, we had only been dating a few weeks - no matter how much I cared for him we just weren’t at a place where we could truly make anything serious.


 

I was thinking about all of this as I was leaving supper with Mia when James himself came out of nowhere, pulling me off to the side slightly so that I was away from the crowd.


 

“I have to ask you something incredibly, magnificently, life-alteringly important,” he said, and I my pulse immediately quickened.


 

“What?” I demanded urgently, but James just grinned, his eyes lighting up with the boyish mischief that seemed to characterise his features of late much more than the avert indifference used to.


 

“Do you have a sleeping bag?”

 

 


 

 

We snuck out at five past ten, all eight of us - Marley, who had managed to nick about a gallon’s worth of Firewhiskey from the kitchens; Leta and Fred, with only one sleeping bag between them, even though Leta kept saying she would just conjure one for herself; Riley, Axle, and Q, who’d already drank about a quarter of the giant sized handle amongst themselves, and James and I, his hand bumping loosely into mine like an iambic rhythm, every once in awhile glancing down at me with that look that I'd come to love, the one like I was the only person in the world he could see even when there were millions of distractions elsewhere.


 

We set up camp just inside the forest, where the trees were thick enough to shield the castle away from us but not so dense that we couldn’t find our way back easily. It took only a couple of seconds to set up the fire pit, and a couple more to organise some foldable lawn chairs around it. Fred had nicked some beef patties and marshmallows for us and cauliflower of all things for Riley, who was sometimes vegan but always vegetarian, and we all took turns tending the fire, charring everything we put into it but eating it all the same. It was funny to watch the way everyone cooked their marshmallows: Leta and Fred both simply stuck their rod in the fire so that they would flame instantly; Axle, James, Marley and I both toasted ours with the utmost of caution, trying to spread the golden brown outside uniformly, but where Axle and I succeeded, James and Marley quickly got bored of the whole thing and succumbed to Fred and Leta’s tactic. Q didn’t even bother to toast his, instead popping two in his mouth at once, while Riley just roasted her cauliflower, dodging everyone’s jokes about her meal choices with enigmatic shrugs.


 

“I’d never thought I’d be here,” Leta said. It was almost midnight now; the rum was down to its last dregs, the weed merely a haze that settled comfortably over the trees and around our heads. “You know, having my lasts of things. Time running out.”


 

“We have, like, four weeks, Le,” said Q, from where he was perched between two trees. He had opted for a hammock instead of a sleeping bag because he claimed it was more comfortable, but James told me earlier that it was really because of his fear that bugs would crawl into his bed while he slept.


 

“But then, that’s it,” Leta’s eyes popped wide open, then closed again as she took a long drag of the thin blunt perched delicately in between her fingers. “Then we’re adults.”


 

“We’re already adults,” said James, his hand resting loosely in my hair. “Just without responsibilities.”


 

“I don’t want responsibilities,” Fred decided, as if that declaration could somehow free him of them.


 

“At least we’ll still have each other,” Riley said, and then her gaze flickered to me, and I instantly felt guilty that I was invited - this was probably their last forbidden sleepover, one of their last times to make memories all together under the comfort of Hogwarts - but then Marley turned to me, slinging an arm around my shoulders and pulling me close to her.


 

“And we have Nellie, who will continue our legacy and sneak us back into the castle whenever we want!”


 

“Of course,” I told her, and she beamed. That made James smile too, for some reason, and James smiling made me smile, and as the rest of the group continued on talking he found my hand and squeezed it tightly; a hidden message between us that I somehow understood just as well as if he had said what he was thinking out loud.




 

At one we were drunk, and it was funny in a way how little anything mattered. We were boundless, outside of the worry about homework or finals or Filch, and it was the most free I could recall being in a long time. Next to Leta and I, Riley was braiding Marley’s hair while Q told us a story about some prank he and Fred once tried to pull that landed them stuck headfirst into the trick step by the painting of Barnabus the Bloated.


 

Axle, Fred, and James were throwing rocks at a target Fred had charmed on a tree, but James insisted on shooting the stone between his legs every time, resulting in all three of them collapsing into a fit whenever it was his turn. They were boyish and unlimited, free, and I realised that I loved watching James Potter, as he joked and laughed and just was. I’d used to be bothered by all of the things I didn’t know about him, didn’t understand what it meant when he glanced at me to make sure I was still looking and laughing and noticing, but now that I did it was glorious, like he was a God - not immortal and untouchable, but imperfectly divine. Just divine.


 

“We’re so glad you found your way here,” Leta told me softly as the stars shone above us and Riley and Marley burst into laughter at something Q had said, and as I looked back at Leta I could tell that she knew I was, too.

 

 

 


 

By two, shouts and giggles had faded into yawns and whispers, but while everyone else began climb into their sleeping bags we went on a walk, just James and I.


 

The night was warm and sultry, and I wasn’t scared. It was easy to feel overpowered in such an anonymously vast landscape, but as we stood there underneath it all, somehow I felt like I was just as tall and important and relevant as the skyscraping sycamores around me. Like I belonged.


 

“Do you ever think your life comes down to a few important moments?” I whispered, breaking the sanctity of the sleeping forest.


 

“Maybe it’s not a moment,” said James, softly. “Maybe it’s this, right now. All of this.”


 

When he said this, I knew he meant us. And then he looked at me in a way that could make the world stop and said something that made me lean in and kiss him with some power I’d never felt before - but even though I don’t remember what it was, that’s what I thought about in our sleeping bag, as the sky began to lighten ever so slightly, pigment by pigment by pigment.


 

And so I lay there next to James Potter, swaddled by the warmth from the heat of his body, intertwined from fingers to feet with his slow breathing washing over my skin like an ocean wave. And as his chest rose and fell I whispered what he had said to me earlier - something that somehow held the value of forgiveness and sacrifice and commitment - and I meant every word, every syllable, every letter of it.

 

 


 


 

 

Author's Note: Four chapters left.

 

 

 


Up next...A story of cynicism, fear, and sacrifice.

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