06/01/2018


Phoenix

"You will always be fond of you. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit."

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray


In 1969, Lily Evans stole her sister's red nail polish and a note was sent home from the primary school. The covers of her school books were adorned with large, scarlet lettering, citing mantras copied from the protest signs she saw on the evening news.

BAN THE BOMB

NO MORE HIROSHIMAS

NIRVANA NOW

Her mother tossed the books in the kitchen bin and dragged her out of the house by the wrist to buy more. She didn't receive pocket money for the next month until the cost of the replacement books had been repaid.

In 1969, James Potter was given his first racing broom.

In 1970, Lily Evans set down her knife and fork and looked across the kitchen table at her father. His half-finished cigarette lay in an ashtray at the centre of the table, wafting smoke between them, put on hiatus as he ate his supper.

'Dad?'

'Yes, my dear?'

'If London got bombed, would we feel it here?'

Petunia gave a great sigh of protest. 'Why does she always talk about this?'

'Lily,' began her mother, 'where do you get these ideas?'

'The news said-'

'I've told you not to watch the news when we're not with you,' scolded Irene.

'I didn't!' Lily insisted, but under her father's probing gaze she offered up: 'I bought the paper on the way home from school.'

Irene wore the same pained expression she wore whenever her daughter did something inexplicably. 'Oh, Lily.'

'London's not going to be bombed, Lily,' assured her father.

'Ninety thousand people died when Hiroshima got bombed,' said Lily indignantly.

'Lily, be quiet.'

'Mum, it's true! The encyclopaedia said so.'

'Lily,' snapped her mother, and her voice was venomous now, 'I told you to be quiet.'

'But-'

'Lily Evans, stop talking about things you don't understand and go to bed.'

That night Lily Evans climbed into bed, pressed her face into her pillow and began to cry.

'Lily, stop it,' her sister hissed at her across the blackened bedroom. 'You're keeping me awake.'

Lily Evans cried until she slept, and when she slept she dreamt of her mother and father and sister and a bomb falling on Cokeworth. In the dream her roof caved in and her sister screamed and rubble enveloped them.

When the dust cleared she climbed out from the rubble and walked into the street, and in the street she saw the asphalt had been cracked, and the biggest crack ran down the centre of the road, the width of Lily's hand. Within the crack Lily could see bare, brown earth, and from the earth a sunflower was growing.

In her nightgown, Lily Evans walked to it and put a finger to the soft, dark centre.

It's like Sev's eyes, she thought to herself. Brown like Sev's.

She looked around at the rubble and said to herself: This is what Muggles do, and I'm not a Muggle.

In 1970, James Potter saw England win the Quidditch World Cup, the first and last time he would do so. (Their next victory would be in 1982.)

In 1970, Lily Evans woke to find a sunflower beneath her pillow. She pressed a finger to the brown centre.

She climbed out of bed and took herself down the passageway into the kitchen. Irene was at the stove top, stirring a pot of porridge, and when Lily opened the door she looked over her shoulder, saw who it was, and turned back to pot without a word.

'Mum,' said Lily, moving to her side and extending her hand in front of her mother's face, clutching the sunflower. 'This is for you.'

Irene's brow pinched. She set down the stirring spoon and raised a hand to grasp the stem of the flower. 'Oh, Lily, it's beautiful.'

'You and Dad were right. I'm sorry.'

'Where did you get the flower?'

'I made it,' said Lily. 'I took it home from my dream.'

Her mother looked at her. Lily couldn't decide if she was proud or terrified. Irene set the sunflower down on the kitchen counter and wrapped her arms around her dinner. She placed a kiss upon the top of her head and said into her hair: 'What are we going to do with you?'

In 1971, James Potter received a Hogwarts letter.

In 1971, Lily received no letter. Instead a stranger knocked on their door with an invitation and Irene Evans began to cry. Holding her daughter, she kissed the top of her head.

'I knew you were special, Lily. I always knew.'

Lily patted her mother's shoulder. She wasn't special: she just wasn't like them.

In 1972, James Potter made chaser on his house Quidditch team.

In 1972, Lily Evans was called 'Mudblood' for the first time.

In 1973, James Potter asked out Lily Evans for the first time for no better reason than to see if he could make her jinx him before she jinxed Sirius.

In 1973, Lily Evans reached for Mary MacDonald's hand in the middle of the night, their arms extended between four-posters, clutching fingers through the weightless dark.

'I've decided,' said Lily in a whisper, 'that you're my best friend now.'

'You're mine too.'

'But we can't tell anyone,' urged Lily. 'I can't let Sev find out.'

In 1974, James Potter witnessed Hector Mulciber withdrawing his wand and aiming it at Mary MacDonald's back. Her legs flew out from under her and, as if clutched by an invisible force, she was dragged screaming to the top of the marble staircase and tossed down it like a rag doll. Her fall was broken when she hit the landing at the bottom of the stairs.

In 1974, Lily Evans followed the screams and yells from he Great Hall out to the marble staircase. Mary MacDonald lay huddled on the floor, unmoving. Lily looked around for an answer, and at the top of the stairs she saw it; James Potter with Mulciber pinned against the wall. There was blood all over Mulciber's nose and lathered on Potter's fist.

In 1975, James Potter returned to Hogwarts after the Christmas break.

'Just keep your head down this term,' Euphemia told him. 'You're not doing yourself any good getting involved with that sort of politics.'

In 1975, Lily Evans received an envelope addressed to her from her father. When she ripped it open she found nothing but a clipping from yesterday's edition of The Guardian.

SAIGON GIVES IN WITH A SIGH OF RELIEF

Lily Evans thought back to that day and that dream and that lifetime. The Napalm on the TV set. Protests in London she was too young to march in. A sunflower, brown like Sev's eyes. A whole other world and a whole other war and a new one that was only just starting. But this war was her war - this war was because of her.

In 1975, James Potter read the morning Prophet over Remus's shoulder.

MINISTRY DECLARES 'WE ARE AT WAR'

'It's official then,' said Sirius. 'He's calling it what it is.'

'Took his time about it,' said Remus.

James said nothing, but scanned the table and found the girl he was looking for. It was not The Prophet she had in her hand, but a small news paper clipping. He knew it was a Muggle paper because the pictures on the backside of the clipping weren't moving.

James couldn't see what is was that Lily was reading in the other side, but he could see that she was crying.

In 1976, Lily Evans let go of her last desperate, bloody, fruitless grip on Severus Snape.

In 1976, James Potter knew there was something burning in the pits of being that he didn't know how to extinguish. He knew that he liked Lily Evans. Properly, truly, not-just-for-a-laugh liked her. He realised in in the way it stung when she turned away from him by the lake one too-hot afternoon in June.

In 1977, Lily Evans was made head girl.

In 1977, James Potter was made head boy. For the last year he had been training himself to hold his tongue, to tame his anger, and now all that progress seemed to spit in his face.

In 1978, Lily Evans knew that she liked James Potter. Properly, truly, not-just-because-he liked-me-first liked him. She knew it when he dropped onto the icy stones of the dungeon floor in the first week after Christmas break to sit beside her.

'Please don't look at me like that.'

'Like what?'

'Like I'm the most pitiful thing you've ever seen.'

'I wasn't actually. I was looking at you think "I wonder how long she's been down here and not frozen to death and I hope she stops crying because I don't want to stay here too long".'

Lily gave a hiccuped laugh and wiped her eyes.

Later, as they walked through the silent school grounds, guarded from eyes of teachers by the darkness of winter, passing a bottle of mead back and forth, she would see him turn to her and say, 'You don't have to tell me if you don't want to, but I feel like I should ask you what's wrong.'

And with the mead heavy in her head and her face stinging from the cold she told him how easy it was to forget there was a war when she was back in Cokeworth; how being at home with parents was so simple she almost wished she didn't have to come back to school; how if she was to die at home with them then at least she wouldn't have to figure out how to keep on living without them, and how selfish she knew that made her; how Mary was applying for internships abroad because she didn't want to stay in Britain amidst it all; how she so desperately wanted Mary to stay, and again how selfish that made her.

He had told her he was sorry, and that he hated the Ministry for not doing their job, and that he didn't know what to say to make it better.

And later again, as they climbed the winding staircase to Gryffindor tower, slowly and uneasily and drunkenly, James had called her name.

'Lily.'

She turned back to look at him, perched a few steps lower on the staircase, halted with his hand on the balustrade and his eyes on her.

'Mmm?'

'I just thought I should say: you're not alone, you know? There are purebloods out there who hate this as much as you do.'

She found it hard to look at him in that moment and had turned to the window. The moonlight illuminated the school grounds.

'I guess I know that,' she said slowly. 'I just wish it was different.'

'I'm with you on that one.'

And then there was nothing more to say, for the time being at least. They reached the portrait hole without another word and climbed inside. They strode across the empty common room to their respective dormitories.

'Thanks for the mead,' Lily said to him.

'Any time, Evans. See you in potions, yeah?'

'Charms is first tomorrow.'

'Yeah, but I'm not gonna go.'

'Of course. Goodnight, then.'

And they departed, James to bed and Lily to her windowsill to gaze out into the darkened grounds through the stained-glass window. The clouds had cleared and the quarter moon gleamed uncertainly. It's yellow face was cast a dark gold through the copper stained-glass. She pressed her finger to the window pane. Gold like James's eyes.

In 1978, James Potter would find Lily Evans in the owlery and make her a proposition.


On Saturday the 26th of May 1978, James Potter returned to Gryffindor tower to find his dorm-mates in he midst of a disagreement.

'You owe me money, Lupin.' This was Sirius, slurring.

'You are so full of shit, Padfoot.' This was Remus, bored.

James nudged the door open. Remus was on his bed reading. Peter was crouched on the rug by the hearth scribbling away at an essay. Sirius was on his back, sprawled on the floor at the centre of the room with a cigarette in one hand and a bottle of mead in the other. Their two other dorm-mates were absent.

Peter looked up at James as he stepped inside. 'James is back,' he said loudly. 'Look, you two, James is here!'

'Ey! There he is! The man of the hour!' cried Sirius, thrusting his cigarette in the air in greeting. He attempted to sit up, but only managed to roll himself over to face James, sloshing mead onto the floor. 'Prongs, come drink with me! These two are being tossers!''

'Looks like you've been doing fine on your own,' said James reproachfully, crossing to his four-poster.

'What's the matter? Bad day?' asked Sirius. 'Remus, did you hear that? James had a bad day. His date with Evans was bad.'

'It got a lot better once you had fucked off,' said James.

'So you think you'll see her again?' asked Remus, but James ignored him and addressed Sirius once more.

'You need to write to them.'

Sirius dragged on his cigarette. 'Who?'

'Ted and Anna, you prat.'

'Fuck Anna. Fuck her stupid freckled husband. They're so fucking smug. Don't you think they were smug? Ooh, look at us, we're married. Look how nice my dress is. Look how many freckles my husband have. Look how fucking stupid my daughter's name is.'

'Merlin, what the hell happened at the pub?' asked Peter.

Sirius gave a dramatic groan to build suspense, but James interrupted before he could explain. 'You weren't listening to thing Ted was saying. About the Order.'

Sirius groaned again. 'You believed that shit? He's a smug git.'

'Get the fuck up. We're going to the owlery and you're asking to meet them again. We gotta at least find out more.'

'Fuck off, James.'

'What are you two talking about?' piped up Peter. 'The order? What's that?'

'The Order of the Phoenix - it's a group fighting Voldemort. I'm going to join but I need Ted Tonks to tell me how to do it.'

'What?' cried Peter.

'Here we go,' moaned Sirius.

'How do you mean fight?' said Remus shrewdly.

'I don't know. Ted says they work alongside the Ministry, but seperate, and Dumbledore started it, and Ted friends asked him to join but Anna won't let him, but I bet if we told him we want to join-'

'No, no, no,' said Sirius hotly, propping himself up on his elbow. 'There's no "we" here. Who the fuck is this guy to go telling teenagers about some top secret group? It's total bullshit, Prongs. Every idiot on the street had a story no-one else knows about Voldemort that they tell in bars to make themselves sound interesting, and this is Ted Tonks's take on it.'

'They obviously want recruits,' said James. 'That's why Ted told us. He knows you left home, and that you hate this Pureblood mania. He knows you'd want to join.'

Sirius gave a bark of laughter. 'Well, he can think again about that. Even if this group really existed, which it doesn't, do you seriously think I wanna get myself killed doing the job the aurors can't do?'

'Oh, bullshit, Sirius. Don't be a contrarian. You jump at any opportunity to have a go at your brother and his mates. Now you'll actually have a purpose.'

Sirius sat up. 'Don't bring Regulus into this. Seriously, don't.'

'I don't get it,' said Peter, looking at James. 'You really wanna join? Like, properly fight?'

'I don't have anything better to do,' James replied.

'But you could get killed.'

'It wouldn't have to be combat, Pete,' said Remus soothingly. 'There's lots of things people could be doing to help. Trouble is nobody's doing it. If there was a proper group to organise people to get things done that could make a big difference.'

'So you're in?' James asked of him.

Remus gave a wan smile. 'I'm not sure I said that.'

'Why not?'

'Because - well, we've got exams.'

'After that, obviously.'

'Then we've got results.'

'Yeah, no shit, but after that.'

'But after that we need to start applying for jobs or internships and apprenticeships and work out what we're going to do, and I might end up needing to move to London and if so I'd need to find a place to stay, and everything will be up in the air and - Jesus, do I need a reason?'

'Yes, you do. What about your aunt?'

Remus gave him a pointed looks. 'She's fine. Thanks for asking.'

'She's fine now. What about next time? What about your mum?'

'Our house has protective charms all around it. Dad wouldn't let anything happen to her.'

'Well, that's good for her, but what about the other Muggles who don't happen to be married to your dad? Lily's parents and MacDonald's and a million other people. Who puts protective charms around their houses?'

Sirius gave a mirthless laugh. 'Protective charms aren't gonna stop a war.'

'It might stop people getting killed. Maybe that's what this group does - maybe it organises wards around Muggle neighbourhoods. Wouldn't you wanna help?'

'Well, if it was just that I guess I could help,' said Peter.

'How the hell would you know how to put up wards, Wormtail?' demanded Sirius.

'I could learn,' retorted Peter. 'These Order people could teach me.'

'Exactly,' said James victoriously. 'So you're in?'

'I suppose. I mean, if it really is just protective charms and stuff like that. I don't want to, you know... have to kill anyone.'

'For fuck's sake, Pete,' snarled Sirius. 'You can't be believing this shit.'

'Why are you so reluctant to think this could be real?' asked James sharply. 'Is it really because you don't want to give Anna and her husband any credit? Is that it?'

'Oh, please, I'm not that bloody complex,' snapped Sirius. 'I'm not wasting my time chasing after some make believe militia just because you don't have any other plans once school's over.'

'And you do?'

'Don't push your existential crisis on me.'

'Why can't you just write to them?'

'You write to them if it matters so bloody much to you,' barked Sirius. He clutched the end of his four-poster to haul himself onto his feet, glowering at James. 'I'm not your bloody mother. I don't have to sign your name for you. And just by the by, if the Order is real then don't even bother telling me, because I don't want anything to do with anyone who says they're fighting Voldemort but won't do anything when these lunatics blow up streets in Winchester.'

And with that he turned on his heel and stormed from the dormitory, slamming the door after him. James watched him go, scowling, and then proceeded to aim a kick at the trunk that lay at the foot of his bed.

'Well, he has got a point there,' said Peter timidly. Remus suppressed a laugh.

James Potter would not speak to Sirius Black until the following Tuesday.

'You should probably say sorry,' Remus told him on Sunday evening after twenty-four hours of estrangement. 'He was already pissed off when he got back from Hogsmeade, and you know how he gets about Regulus.'

'But I didn't do anything,' snapped James. 'He's being a brat. Peter, isn't he being a brat?'

Peter, who was sitting across the dormitory trying to immerse himself in potions revision, looked uneasy. 'I suppose so.'

'See? Peter agrees.'

'Peter agrees with everything always,' sighed Remus. 'I'm sick of him leaving the room when you come in. He's always so dramatic about it.'

'He should be apologising to me,' growled James. 'He dragged me and Evans along and then stranded us there with them. It's humiliating.'

Remus was pensive for a moment before he spoke again. 'But you said it ended up being alright with Lily, right?'

'That's not the point.'

'But do you think you'll see her again?'

'Bloody hell, stop asking me that. I told you I don't know. I haven't seen her today.'

Remus correctly suspected James's absence at lunch and dinner was due to his preference to shoot the quaffle alone on the empty Quidditch pitch than sit in silence with Sirius. Remus chose not to confirm this, and instead asked: 'Well, are you going to ask her?'

'Can you not worry about Evans for a minute?' demanded James. 'You still haven't told me what you think about joining the Order.'

Remus was silent once more. The familiar knot between his brows appeared, which James knew mesnt he was thinking quickly. 'Okay, but just hypothetically,' he began slowly, 'if you were going to ask Evans out again...'

James said nothing, but got to his feet.

'What?' said Remus. 'What, are you mad at me now too?'

James strode across the dormitory without another word, slamming the door after him.


Lily Evans, for all her saintliness and morality, had a habit of breaking curfew. She did so for reasons she was neither happy nor proud about, and that reason was that she shared a dormitory with four other girls, each of which Lily knew had a demeanour far more forceful and a character far more compelling than her own.

Lily, who by seventeen had come to accept the labels of passive and submissive she had so long resisted, only had so much patience. And so very often, when Marlene would begin reciting Sirius Black's movements for the day, and Hestia and Mary would start bickering, and Charity and Indra would be giggling for hours, Lily would extricate herself.

Years ago, when her wandering had first started, she would invent for herself on these walks some other life to inhabit. She was not this plain, timid little school-girl with too many freckles; she was wondering this castle as a ghoul, an archeologist, a person who was beautiful and interesting and very unlike herself.

These days she dwelled on nothing so fantastic; she was just Lily, same as she'd ever been, but it was the world that was different. She would throw herself back to that other life she had before she knew she was stuck with herself forever and before the killings started and before she lost Severus.

She never had anywhere to go and never had anything to do on these tardy strolls. She would wonder where she wanted to, biding her time, sometimes painfully bored and sometimes painfully lonely and sometimes dreading returning to her dormitory. Tonight found her at the peak of the owlery.

She had wanted to walk - wanting to stop her thinking by making her legs hurt - but it wasn't enough. Back in Gryffindor tower, Mary had been talking about finding a job in America and Hestia had been talking about getting married; Lily wanted neither of these things, and yet she found her heart pounding with jealousy, and that jealousy made her feel guilty, and that guilt always made her feel scared.

She leant against the edge of the tower and gazed across the dark forest below. Why didn't she have more to offer anyone? Why didn't she have anything to offer herself?

The sound of movement behind her made her start. She turned, suddenly panicked, as if she had been caught in the middle of something shameful. James Potter was at the top of the staircase. He caught sight of her and frowned. 'Oh, hello,' he said.

She quickly assured herself that he wouldn't be able to see any hint of philosophising on her face. 'Hi.'

'I didn't know you were up here,' he told her quickly, as if he needed to assure her of as much. (Not too far into the future she would learn that such a thing was no so extraordinary).

'I felt like a walk,' she explained. 'My dormitory's crowded this time of night.'

'I can imagine.'

Lily wondered if he was thinking about Indra, who she knew he used to go with. She found she didn't much like thinking about it.

'Didn't want to interrupt your alone time,' James continued when Lily remained silent.

'But you're not,' she assured him. 'But I don't want to interrupt yours - I should be going.'

He stepped towards her the moonlight setting his dark face in an amber glow. 'Want to stay and have a smoke with me, Evans?'

She pursed her lips, half smiling and half disapproving. 'I don't smoke, but I'll stay and watch you if you want the company.'

'You're too good to me.' And he pulled out a tin of tobacco and began to roll. 'Has MacDonald turned your dorm into a war zone yet, or is she saving that until next week?'

'She's on the verge. What's the atmosphere in your room? Unbearable?'

He lit his cigarette and took a drag. 'Surprisingly tolerable. Peters quite adorable when he's contemplating suicide, and Remus may as well not be there as he doesn't speak to anyone when he studies, and Jones doesn't care because he wants to work in Quidditch, and Stebbins is so thick I don't think he even knows we have exams.'

'And you and Sirius?'

'You know me, Evans. I'm good at most things. Studying's quite irrelevant.'

'Of course, and I saw Sirius drinking down by the lake today so he's obviously not too concerned.'

James didn't reply, and instead took another heavy drag. Lily watched the smoke billow from his nose and over his lips.

'What's the matter?' she asked.

He looked at her. 'What? Nothing.'

'You're not still mad at him, are you? It wasn't his fault. He was upset because of his brother.'

'I'm not mad at him.'

Lily was silent, studying him as he smoked, before declaring: 'I think you are.'

James sighed in defeat. 'Well, can you blame me? He was being a prick. Having a dick for a brother doesn't give him a feee pass for the world.'

Lily was silent again and she knew that James knew that she disagreed, because he carried on. 'It's not even about what happened yesterday. It's about the fact that he just doesn't give a shit.'

'About what?'

'About everything,' snapped James. 'About the war. About what happened in Winchester. About any of it.'

She could see now, in the way he squeezed the butt of his smoke and the sharpness of his eyes behind his glasses, that he was upset.

When she spoke again she tried to choose her words carefully. 'I don't think that's true. I'm sure Sirius cares a lot. Only sometimes it gets really exhausting. Sometimes I wish I could just shut it all out. Stop reading the paper and hope nobody tells me about it.'

'Yeah, but you don't,' said James. 'If you had a chance to stop it you would, and now Sirius has a chance and - and...'

He stopped, tossed his cigarette and turned back towards the staircase.

'James...' She reached for his arm, but he was walking away now.

He strode under the thatched roof, inspecting the owls dozing in the rafters. 'I came up here because I want to send a letter but I don't know if I should.'

It was hard thinking of a response when she had no idea what he was talking about, but she tried her best. 'Why do you think you shouldn't send it?'

He turned back to her. 'Because Sirius told me not to and Peter said I'd get killed.'

And then all at once she knew what he was meaning. 'The Order,' she said slowly. 'Like Ted Tonks was saying?'

He gave her no confirmation, but merely continued. 'As long as I can remember my parents have told me not to worry about this stuff. They used to say there were people out there who knew how to fix it, so I shouldn't worry. I don't know why I believed them for so long.'

'My parents are just the same. When I was little there was this Muggle war, and they used to get so... angry when I'd ask about it, and I didn't understand why they were mad at me.'

'I don't get why they can't tell us the truth.'

'I suppose they don't want us to worry the way they do.'

James have a huff of laughter. 'My parents don't worry. Not as long as they've got their house elves and the manor house and their vault at Gringotts.'

This surprised Lily. She had always believed James had been nothing but spoiled in his childhood.

He seemed to see this in her eyes because he told her: 'I know that sounds bad. They're not really like that - they're good people. They're not like other purebloods. They're just set in their ways. It's only I'm sick of them telling me to keep my head down.'

'What is it you want to say in this letter?'

'I want to know how to join.'

'Really?'

'Is that crazy?'

'It's not crazy. Ill-advised perhaps.'

'And then Sirius said that he doesn't want anything to do with people if they're not even going to stop what happened in Winchester. And after he said that I realised how stupid it was - how excited I got when I heard about it.'

'So you want to - to prove him wrong, or something?'

James shrugged. He was no longer bristling, but now seemed somehow deflated. 'I don't know. I guess so. I just want to know, you know?'

'Then you should write to Ted.'

'You think?'

'Yeah. If for no other reason than to get it out of your head. It doesn't hurt to find out more, does it?'

He ran his hand through his hair. He gazed out over the cloudless sky before looking back to her. 'Evans, you're smart.'

'I know.'

'Come tell me what to say.'

Writing a letter as short as the one they went ought not to have taken the time it did. James wanted answers; Lily wanted to be polite. There were many revisions and crossings-out and 'What do you think about this?'

Lily chose the owl she favoured for sending letters, a screech owl with a speckled beak. He came when she called to him and she gave his neck a scratch.

'Is this your owl?' asked James.

'No, I don't have an owl, but he's my favourite. He's the prettiest and he knows me.'

'What's his name?'

'I don't know. Do the school owls have names?'

James looked perturbed. 'Your favourite owl and you haven't even named him? Really, Evans?'

'Is that bad?'

'It's shameful.'

Lily nodded solemnly. 'You're right. I must name him immediately. What do you think?'

'You have to do it. You know him very well.'

'Yes, but you'll know him well too soon enough. You must start sending your letters with him now that I've introduced you, or he'll be very hurt.'

'That's fair. What about... Er... Peter?'

'No, we'll get them confused. Which is your favourite Beatle?'

'Search me. I don't know Muggle music.'

'Not even the Beatles?'

'I like the man with the eyes. You know that guy?'

'Ah. Bowie. Or David, maybe?'

'Dave,' said James, satisfied, and Lily nodded approvingly.

James attached the letter to Dave's ankle and Lily carried the owl to the tower's edge.

'Safe flight, Dave,' said James.

'Take care, you pretty little boy,' said Lily, and she raised her arm.

Dave launched off from her and soared away. They watched him go, side by side, the owl-shaped speck fading on the horizon. She felt James shift beside her and turned to find him looking at her. She realised now that they were very close in proximity.

'Well done, Evans.'

She wondered, quite suddenly and somewhat terrified, if he was going to kiss her, right then and there, illuminated by the moonlight with their feet crunching on mice bones and the owls twooing from the rafters. He raised a hand, grazed her shoulder, frowning as he did so as if unsure where to put his hands, and the proceeded to pat her on the head.

She blinked up at him. 'Thank you.'

'You're welcome.'

'That was very nice.'

'You've earned it.'

And suddenly she felt sad. He was surely realising, as everyone else did, how unremarkable she truly was.

'I should go to bed,' she told him.

'Me too.'

'Yeah. Night.'

She turned away hurriedly. Half hoping he would stop her, she moved across the tower to descend the staircase. She heard his footsteps come after her.

'Hey, Lily?'

She turned back to him. There was a distance between them now - too great for her to even entertain the possibility of him reaching for her. 'Yeah?'

'If Ted writes back, do you want me to tell you?'

Lily hesitated. No matter how James saw her, she knew what she wanted. 'Yeah, could you?'

And just like that, Lily Evans sealed her fate.


As mentioned earlier, James Potter would not speak to Sirius Black until the following Tuesday. It was not unusual for them to argue. It was unusual, however, for an argument between the two to reach a point that would render them not speaking. They simply had too much to say to each other and too much to get done not to speak.

It was for this reason that James Potter trudged down to the lake bed on Tuesday afternoon to the clearing within a sparse thicket of trees where James knew from habit he would find Sirius, drinking from a bottle of mead and smoking a cigarette.

Sirius glanced over his shoulder when he heard footsteps approaching. He said nothing, but merely continued to smoke and turned back to the lake.

'Hey,' said James.

Sirius didn't look around. 'Alright?'

There was a moment of silence as James dropped down onto the grass beside Sirius and lit himself a cigarette. 'Is this where you were during potions?'

'Who needs potions?'

'True,' said James, and he took a drag to bide his time. 'I wrote to Ted Tonks.'

James had not been anticipating to be met with silence, but he was, and so he continued.

'He told me he wants to meet with us. He said he knows we won't have another Hogsmeade weekend before the end of the year so we should have a drink in Diagon Alley over the summer. I told him it couldn't wait that long.'

Sirius remained silent.

'I asked if he could meet us in the village Friday night. We need to do it before the full moon on Saturday, or otherwise Remus won't be able to come.'

More silence.

'So whoever you're shagging on Friday, you're gonna have to take a rain check.'

Sirius stubbed out his cigarette into the earth. The force with which he did so reduced the butt to a shred. 'So you've decided for me, have you? As per fucking usual. And Remus and Pete, decided for them as well?'

This was the resistance James had been waiting for. He had a response on hold. 'They want to go. They know it's important, and I know once you're there you'll realise it too.'

'Did it ever occur to you that maybe I just don't want to get involved?'

'That doesn't sound like you.'

'Trying to piss off mummy and daddy, are you, Prongs?'

James caught himself from retorting and took a steadying breath. 'Evans thinks I should cut you some slack because of Regulus.'

'Oh, well if Evans says so then it must be right. Is she your adviser now?'

This he hadn't been so well prepared for. 'No, we were having a conversation. You know conversations, Padfoot? Sometimes adults have them, where they talk about things.'

'Okay, let's talk. You like Evans, right?'

James found he didn't want to answer that. He had patted her on the head. That wasn't what he did with girls her liked. 'I don't know yet.'

'What do you mean you don't know?'

'We only went out once, and I don't think that even counts, thanks to you.'

'Fucking hell, can you let that go already? As if Evans cares. You asked her out. You must like her.'

'Well, sure I like her. Everyone likes her.'

'Then why do you wanna do this to her?' asked Sirius. 'Are you going to bring her along on Friday?'

'I told her I would, yeah.'

Sirius gave a dark laugh. 'You're dragging her into something she's not going to be able to get out of. You don't see anything wrong with that?'

'I... She's her own person. She decided for herself.'

'You're gonna get her killed. Pete and Remus, too.'

Before he knew it, James was on his feet, glowering down at Sirius. 'Are you coming or not? That's all I want to know.'

'No, Prongs, I'm not.'

'Good. Fine. I'll see you at breakfast.'

It wasn't like that, he said to himself as he wound his way up the sloping path from the lake to the castle. He wasn't like that. He made them a proposition and they accepted.

It was Sirius who was wrong. Sirius who thought he had better things to do. Sirius who wanted to drink and smoke and meet a different girl every night rather than do something that mattered.

It was he and Remus and Peter who were right, who knew what they should do, who knew what they had to do. And Lily knew, too.

His mind wondered back to the owlery. He had told her the truth when he said he hadn't known she would be there, but he was glad she had been. He thought of her shoulder against his as she leaned over him to read his scribbled writing and the way she bit her tongue as she read. He thought of how he had reached out pull her towards him and had faltered at the last minute. He thought of how he ought to have kissed her, because now he didn't know when he would get another chance.

When exams started she would hardly be aching to spend her evenings with him in expense of revision time, and if she were to accompany him on Friday then Peter and Remus would be with them. And if, by some stroke of luck, they found their way into the Order, then what would they be? Colleagues or comrades or soldiers but certainly not dating.

Dating. Even the word seemed stupid when he considered what he had asked her to. He had asked her to fight in a war.

Perhaps Sirius was right. Perhaps that's not what blokes did to girls they liked.

He had patted her on the head, after all.

James Potter went to bed that night feeling worse than he could remember feeling in a long time. Sirius didn't want to speak to him, and he no longer felt that he could claim to have the moral high ground. He knew so little about the Order, and thought perhaps he would have been better off knowing nothing at all. He had missed what was perhaps the only chance he had ever had to kiss Lily Evans. In two weeks time, he would wake up alone in his bedroom in his parents' house and Remus and Peter and Sirius would wake up in their own homes and school would be over. They'd never be coming back. It hurt so much it made him angry.

James Potter fell into uneasy sleep. He wasn't to know that across the country, in a Muggle pub outside of Manchester, Ted Tonks was meeting a man named Frank Longbottom. He wasn't to know that over in the girl's dormitory, Lily Evans was lying awake wishing she had the courage to ask James Potter why he didn't want to kiss her. He wasn't to know that by the end of the week the man named Frank Longbottom would offer him his hand and welcome him on board.

In 1978, James Potter joined the Order of the Phoenix. By 1982 he was dead.


A/N: For various reasons the only thing I had to write and edit this on was an iPad which was fucking torture. Sorry for the endless typos I'm sure I've overlooked.

As always thank you so much for reading! If you have any opinions whatsoever please let me know in a review! Xxx