Disclaimer: Harry Potter and his world all belong to J.K.Rowling. I’m just grateful she lets me play in it from time to time.
Lily woke with a start. Her eyes were screwed tight shut. ‘Come on. Come on,’ she urged herself. ‘It’s there somewhere. It must be.’ Despite all her efforts, gradually the light broke in and her eyelids unfurled. She lay back on her pillow desperately trying to bring back the lost memory.
‘Damn,’ she whispered softly to herself. ‘Another one gone.’
She dressed quickly and helped herself to a slice of bread and honey in the kitchen, exchanging a brief word with Dilly, the house elf, who was busily cleaning out the grate. She didn’t know quite where she was headed, but she knew she needed to spend some time alone. The Potters were wonderful but Lily was starting to be afraid of that.
Lily walked through the village, enjoying the sights and smells of the early morning. She waved at the milkman and paused outside the bakery. She hadn’t brought any Muggle money out with her so she could only drool over the freshly baked rolls and cakes.
The lane carried on, past the last little cottages which were so pretty in the spring with their clematis and honeysuckle clambering all over them. Lily kept walking, climbing up what was proving to be quite a steep hill. She saw a footpath off to the right and decided to see where it led.
The sun was high in the sky and very warm before Lily stopped. She’d reached a tiny little church on the top of a high hill and she could see for miles. She couldn’t understand why anyone would build a church somewhere like this, so far from any houses. Thankfully, she noticed a low bench placed among the gravestones where she could sit and catch her breath.
There was no-one to hear her sob. She let her tears overwhelm her as she had not done since that first, dreadful afternoon when James had found her. She’d thought she’d known what grief was then, but now… It was worse, she thought, like losing her parents for the second time. All her memories were drifting away. She was forgetting her parents, her sister, her own life and there was nothing she could do about it.
She’d just begun to breathe more normally again when she heard a telltale pop behind her.
‘I can go away again, if you want.’ James’s voice was unusually hesitant.
Lily shook her head but didn’t turn to look at him.
‘How did you know I was here?’ she muttered.
‘Lucky guess. Someone saw you come down the lane and I’ve been trying all the likeliest spots. I was - we all were - worried about you, Lily.’
After a few minutes, she felt him come to sit beside her.
‘Do you want to tell me about it?’ he asked cautiously, not wanting to demand her confidences.
Lily nodded but didn’t say anything.
‘Is it… is it your mum?’
She started to cry again.
‘Oh, sweetheart, come here.’ James pulled her into his arms and soothed her as best he could.
She began to tell him about the dream she’d had the night before, struggling to get her words out between the sobs that racked her body.
‘I dreamed that… I was at home. My home. Up in my bedroom. And… and I wanted to show Mum something… so I called her. But when she came… it… it…’
‘What was it, Lily?’
She hid her head in James’ shoulder. ‘It wasn’t my mum, at all. It… it was yours.’
He held her close, still stroking her hair, trying to work out what this meant.
‘But that wasn’t the worst thing.’
‘What was the worst thing, darling?’
‘I woke up and… I couldn’t remember her. I can’t remember anything any more. I can’t bear it, James. I’ve lost them all and I can’t even remember properly.’
‘Oh, sweetheart.’ Understanding her fears now, he began to wonder how he might help her. ‘Do you have photos of them, Lily?’
She nodded. ‘At school. A photo of Mum and Dad and one of us all.’
‘Okay. Good. So you won’t ever be able to forget what they look like, not really.’
She nodded, appearing to be comforted at this thought.
‘Will you tell me about them, Lily? Tell me about your mum. I’d really like to have known her. And if you tell me, maybe I can help you remember.’
She slipped her hand into his and looked wonderingly into his face. ‘Would you really, James? Would you really like to know?’
He smiled. ‘Of course I would, love.’ He pulled her to her feet and they began to walk down the hill together.
Once Lily started, she found that story after story came spilling out. She wanted James to know everything, to understand what it had been like growing up among Muggles but always feeling she was different. She wanted him to understand how much her parents really had loved each other, how her mother had never tried to use her magical ability or her sacrifice of it as bargaining tools with her father.
‘Except when the Hogwarts letter came for me.’ Lily chewed her lip. ‘I think she might have threatened something then. That was when things became more complicated.’
‘What about your sister? What’s she like?’
‘Petunia.’ Lily looked meditatively across the fields. ‘Well… I think she’s mainly just very insecure. She was always the pretty one.’ James interrupted with a scathing noise and a kiss. ‘No, she was. She was pretty and petite and all the grown-ups loved her. She always seemed to know how to do everything right. Say the right thing. Not like me. She liked being the centre of attention. She used to do ballet and we all had to go and watch her performances and things. And then, when I got the letter…’ Lily stopped.
‘Go on,’ encouraged James, softly. ‘Tell me.’
‘She resented it so much. Not because she would ever have wanted to go to Hogwarts; she was always terrified when we went to get my things at Diagon Alley but because it made me the special one. Because…’ she drew a breath, ‘because Mum was proud of me.’ Lily let out the breath and turned to James, smiling. ‘I never realised that before, but I know it’s true. She was really proud that I’m a witch.’
James grinned back at her. ‘So she should be. And not just any witch. The cleverest in school.’
Lily smirked. ‘Yes. She was always pleased with my reports and grades and things. I just thought it was for my sake, because she knew I was pleased, but maybe it was more than that.’ She frowned. ‘As if she was glad that I wouldn’t have to miss out, like she had.’
They had reached a beautiful meadow, full of spring flowers amongst the grass. James suggested that they sit down for a bit. Lily lay with her head in his lap, looking up at the blue sky.
‘You’re amazing,’ she whispered. ‘I don’t know what I’d do without you.’
He laughed, tickling her chin with a blade of grass. ‘You don’t have to know.’
She sighed and closed her eyes.
‘Look, this may be all wrong and it’s definitely okay if you say no, or you don’t know or not yet, but… I would really like it if you’d agree to marry me one day. Lily, will you?’ She could hear the tension in his voice. She loved his voice.
‘I didn’t think you meant it.’
‘Sorry?’ James was confused.
Lily rolled off him and turned so she could look at his face. ‘Don’t you remember? That day in the Hospital Wing, after Mum… And you said we’d get married when we left school and have our own family.’
‘Oh. Yes, I remember. You looked terrified.’
Lily smiled. ‘I was until I decided you didn’t really mean it and then I didn’t think about it any more. Until now.’
He sighed and pushed a hand through his hair. ‘Look, I know I scared you before and I don’t want to scare you again. But I think you should know I’ve never meant anything more.’
Lily closed her eyes and bit her lip. Eventually she realised she had to say something. She cleared her throat. ‘James, I… I think it’s too soon.’
Her hand groped for his and squeezed it and he knew that one day the answer he’d been dreaming about would come.