She could barely get her mind around the idea that she'd spent seven years at Hogwarts.
That she might never return to it, after tomorrow morning, until it was time
for her own child to attend. And perhaps not even then; now that she thought
about it, she couldn't remember seeing a single parent inside the school in the
past seven years.
Looking out the window and out over the grounds, she sighed and did her best to
fight off a wave of bittersweet regret. She had so much to be grateful for:
she'd ended the year at the top of her class, as Head Girl; she had a job
waiting for her after she got home; her friends would be nearby, and they
wouldn't lose touch.
She had James.
She caught herself smiling at the thought of him, and nearly laughed in the
midnight-silent room. Her feelings about James Potter had undergone such a
radical change over the past two years that she could hardly credit it.
He had changed so much over the past two years that she could hardly
credit it. But there it was, as direct as his deep hazel eyes, as clear as his
sense of humour, as sharp as his intelligence. James Potter had grown up in a
very major way over the past years.
And he was all hers.
She did laugh then, but softly. She didn't want to wake up the other
girls. She didn't mind bending the rules--not as much as she once had, at any
rate. She supposed she had James to thank for that. Still, that didn't mean that she wanted
witnesses. Even her dorm-mates still thought of her as someone who didn't break
That had proved convenient more than once over the past school year.
She looked up at the moon, shining half-full through wispy clouds, and realised
that she would be late if she didn't leave soon. Slipping her robes on, she
took a cautious look around the room before deciding that she was, once again,
the only one still awake. She slid quietly between the velvet hangings and out
of the room, carrying her shoes.
James was waiting at the bottom of the girls' stairs, grinning up at her as she
descended. She felt her stomach flutter at the mingled admiration and mischief
in those sparkling eyes, and grinned back, a bit dazed.
"Come on, Evans," he teased when she'd reached the bottom of the
staircase. "We'll be late." He dropped a quick kiss on her forehead,
then his hand took hers and tugged. She let herself be gently pulled across the
Common Room and through the Portrait Hole into the corridor.
"Have a good time, dearies," the Fat Lady said with the tiniest of
Lily managed to make it halfway down the corridor before giving in to giggles.
James was blushing, and she could tell by the way his jaw was clenched that he
was trying desperately not to acknowledge the cause.
"How does she do it?" he muttered out of the corner of his
mouth, once Lily was over her fit of giggles.
"Well, I'm sure she sees enough to put two and two together," Lily
said, mock-primly, and saw the corners of James' mouth twitch upward.
They were barely able to contain their laughter as they made their way down the
staircases to the ground floor and out one of the many hidden doors onto the
grounds. When they were finally outside, away from the possibility of what
James called Filch detection, she collapsed against him, giggling madly.
His arms caught her; they always did. Maybe it was the moonlight, or the
breeze, or the knowledge that the real world was waiting on the other side of
dawn, but this time she realised it fully. He was always there to hold her when
she needed him.
And she had come to depend on that.
It shook her to the core, that simple knowledge. It had been waiting there for
her to discover it, patient, growing. And now, discovered, it blossomed and
spread, gentle and steady and perfect. She wondered, for a moment, how long she
might have gone on without recognising it for what it was. Wondered if even a
month ago she would have found the same thing, if she had only looked for it.
She looked up at him, her giggles winding down into silence, and met his eyes.
He was smiling at her. That was nothing unusual, but this time was different.
This time, she recognised the emotion in his eyes, because it mirrored her
His finger traced her jawline, gentle and warm. "I hoped," he said
simply, and after a trembling moment when those hazel eyes went dangerously
overbright, he smiled again.
She had no words.
None were needed.
She leaned against him again, her arms sliding around his waist.
And this time, they held each other.