The World Didn't End

A Harry Potter story by Mehitabel

I am terrified that I'll walk alone
Among the tombstones and golden lilies,
Fall asleep beneath the rattling
Screw pines, and dream of no one.
  - from On the Road to Hana by Jim Willis


Lily's first impulse, after the funeral, was to go get really, really drunk, can't-stand-up-straight puking-on-shoes stinking drunk. By the time she finished her second drink, though, she mostly just wanted to sit still and stare at the sticky bar floor. James ended up having a lot more than she did, before deciding that was enough of that and dragging her home to the flat.

"Look," he said then, "maybe you should just get some sleep." Lily was half-listening, looking out the window. It was still light out. It was only the middle of the afternoon. They were both still wearing black, and Lily in heels. She kicked them off and threw them in the pile of shoes jumbled by the door.

"This place is such a fucking mess, she said. "When are you going to clean up already?"

He sighed. "Don't worry about it."

"Yeah, she said, peeled off her coat and threw it on the sofa, wandered over to the bedroom and shut the door behind her. The contents of the tiny closet were strewn around the floor, from her desperate search that morning for a black skirt that wasn't too old or too skanky. She shoved a pile of clothes out of her way and went over to sit down on the unmade bed. Everything was such a mess.

"You look like hell," the wall mirror chirped happily, and Lily ignored it. That was the only thing that mirror knew how to say; it had been a housewarming gift from Peter.

She stretched out on the bed, not bothering to change clothes, pulled the blanket up to her chin. My parents are dead, she thought, numbly, and then again more deliberately as if trying to convince herself: mum and dad are dead.

She didn't know how much time passed before James opened the door without knocking and came in to check on her, pretending of course, that he was doing something else entirely - looking for his cigarettes, yeah right. He only smoked when Sirius was around too, to show off.

"Taking a nap?" he asked, and she shook her head.

"Just moping."

James ran a hand through the back of his hair. "Ah," he said, awkwardly. "Mind if I join you?"

Lily smiled a little and gestured at the empty side of the bed. He lied down on his back, on top of the covers, managed to keep his mouth shut for a few minutes, and then turned to her and said, "So, this moping, kind of a quiet activity, eh?"

"Well, it was until you showed up."

"Sorry, he said, "moping's not really my style."

She thought about the summer before seventh year when the Death Eater attacks had been coming more and more often, when it had stopped being safe anymore even for purebloods, and the letter she had got from Sirius saying that the party next week was off because James' father had been killed. He didn't say how; he didn't have to.

Then, it had seemed sad, of course, but nothing so extraordinary. By her sixth year at school, there were lots of students wandering around like ghosts, holidays came and the dorms were still full. Lily hadn't seen James after that until the beginning of school. He hadn't brought it up and neither had she. Looking back on it, she wasn't sure why. Probably just that neither of them had been quite sure of the rules, during that awkward transition from mutual dislike to something else.

Fingertips touched her shoulder, and Lily realized he'd been saying something else. "What? I'm sorry, I was--"

"Thinking really hard, huh. He didn't sound angry, or anything, really, except tired and more cautious than usual. "About what?"

"Just... I don't know. My sister, and all that."

James frowned "Oh." He waited a moment, and when she didn't respond, said quietly, "She shouldn't have said those things to you."

Lily sniffed. "I thought you were going to punch her or something there, for a minute."

"I would have, but I didn't think that'd go over too well."

"Yes, generally bad form at funerals, to start assaulting the mourners," Lily said, rolling her eyes, and James smiled.

"I meant with you. What do I care what all those muggles think?"

Her smile faded a little, and she looked down to the foot of the bed, James' dirty shoes resting on the covers, long legs bent at the knee. She'd have to do a cleaning charm on this blanket, now. She had finally learned to pick her battles, living with a dirty boy, but actual mud in the bed was going too far.

"It's all wrong," Lily said. "Can't you see that? Pet's right, this doesn't happen to muggles. Our parents don't all die, it's ridiculous -- we're far too young."

James ran his finger down her arm. "It's the war," he said.

"Muggles aren't even having a war. They don't even know about one." The small hairs on her arm prickled, and so did her eyes, but she blinked it down. "We should go be muggles."

"OK," he said, and she could hear his smile. "I'll probably be total crap at it, though, fair warning. You'll have to give me lessons."

Lily sniffed, and didn't answer. She didn't feel sad, exactly, or like crying, but her eyes kept welling up anyway. "Muggles never gallop around in forests in the form of a large deer for fun on weekends," she said finally. "You'll have to break yourself of that first thing."

James didn't say anything, but his hand came to rest on top of hers and he laced their fingers together.

After a few minutes, Lily rolled over to her other side to face him. James was lying with his glasses off, eyes closed, not quite dozing. Neither of them had gotten any sleep last night. She thought about how helpless he looked then, how useless -- blind as a bat, no older than she was, no smarter. He didn't even know how to be a muggle. It made her think of how Petunia looked at Vernon, stupid fat Vernon like he was the answer to all of her prayers. Poor Pet, she thought. Pet needed them so much.

She thought of how the two of them must look right now, motionless black lumps on a white bed, barely touching, not moving. Like corpses. And tomorrow James would go back to work for Dumbledore and she'd take the train to her parents' place and sort through their earthly possessions.

She hadn't noticed, but her eyes were watering again. James mumbled something and reached out, touched the side of her face, accidentally hit her in the eye with his thumb and then got it right and stroked her cheek. "Hey," he said, "it's going to be all right."

She swallowed hard. "Put on your glasses, you idiot."

He reached behind him, fumbled on the bedside table, knocking over three books and an empty mug before getting his fingers around them. She couldn't help a smile, and wondered if he was clowning on purpose -- he wasn't usually as clumsy as all that. He got them on, finally. "Better?"

"Yeah, she said. The sun was starting to set, and the light coming through the half-closed window cast strange shadow shapes on the bed.

"Padfoot owled earlier, he wants to come over tonight. He says he'll bring more booze. Should I tell him to fuck off?"

Lily sighed. "Please." Then it occurred to her that James's letter would no doubt actually say Lily says fuck off, and that seemed unnecessarily rude. "Wait, no, just tell him not tonight."

"All right then. He yawned. "Want me to fuck off?"

"I think I'm going to really sleep for a bit. If you want to..."

James rubbed his eyes and sat up. "Nah, I've got things to do." He waggled his eyebrows a little. "I'm a very busy and important man, you know."

Lily snorted into the pillow and flipped the bird at his retreating back. She didn't think she was going to fall asleep right away, but the next thing she knew it was dark in the bedroom and she was blinking, disoriented, at the clock. Pushing the covers aside, she hauled herself to her feet, wincing at the cold floor and right bathroom light.

There was no one else around, which surprised her a little, but all of the rest of the lights in the flat were on, which meant James couldn't have been gone long. She had been preparing herself for a good 24 hours of hovering; it was slightly annoying to discover she missed it. He hadn't left a note, either.

There was a pile of parchments on the table, which Lily halfheartedly leafed through, stopping on a white paper envelope looking very out of place near the bottom. Turning it over, she saw the address, and sucked in a breath-- it was her mother's handwriting. Funny, she wouldn't have thought that the small loopy cursive was so distinctive, but seeing it there in smudged brown ink hit her right in the gut. She turned the envelope back over, traced the ripped edge where she'd first opened it, a month or so ago.

It seemed terrible, all of a sudden, like something from a ghost story or a horror movie: letters from dead people. A dead person wrote her this letter. It contained news about Mrs. Billingham from next door, a reminder to water her plants every other day. It was completely trivial.

Without taking it out again, she crumpled the letter and envelope together into a little ball and threw it in the direction of the overfull rubbish. It bounced off and landed on the floor. There'd be a houseful of this crap to deal with tomorrow. She'd have to figure out what to do with all of her mother's stupid letters, and her hand-woven basket collection, and her potholders. It seemed overwhelming.

There'd be more useful things, too, of course, like money. Her inheritance, as wizards would no doubt refer to it. She wondered if any of it would come through in time to use for this month's rent-- it would have to be converted into galleons, first, of course. When would she have time to do that? Everything was so difficult now, with the war on.

Lily pushed a pile of gloves and scarves off of one of the mismatched wooden chairs and sat down. It wobbled, a little-- James kept insisting he could fix it and then not getting around to it because he had more interesting things to do. She just had time to put her head in her hands when the lock clicked and the front door opened.

Quickly, she wiped her face, tossed her hair back, and hoped she didn't look too pathetic. It was James, of course, holding a brown paper bag and trying to be quiet in case she was still asleep.

"Hullo," she said.

He jumped and then looked relieved. "Oh, good," he said, "You're up. I got dinner."

"I see that," she said, tried a smile, but he gave her a funny look and she knew it hadn't quite worked out.

"What, you thought I skipped town?"

Lily shook her head. "Of course not. You know you couldn't last a day without me."

"Wouldn't want to, wouldn't try," he said.

It wasn't really a joke, and she didn't quite know how to answer, so she took the bag out of his hands instead and opened it. "Mmm... fried rice for me?"

"You truly have a gift for divination, Miss Evans," he intoned, while taking off his coat, and then, in his normal voice, "of course, it makes it easier to guess when you always want the same thing."

"Are you saying I'm boring?"

"Never, darling." He fluttered his eyelashes, and then wandered off into the kitchen area, came back with the last two remaining clean forks, said, "dig in."

The food was decent, and they finished it up quickly, without much talking. James kept sneaking glances at her out of the corner of his eye, which she pretended not to notice. She wondered how she was doing on his evaluation of her mental state. Probably not too badly-- she felt all right. A little numb, but all right. Afterwards, he cleaned up and washed dishes without her even asking.

Sometimes Lily felt like all they ever did was play house, pretend to be real adults with bills and housework and responsibilities, like it was a game. She didn't feel like a real adult, not at all. All of her old muggle friends were still students, getting one degree or another, eating ramen and living in dorms. She didn't know if she wanted that, either-- it seemed so alien now.

It had, at least up until now, always seemed like an option. For the first time she understood that it wasn't. How could she go back-- who would she go back to? Would she look up Jennifer and Bridget in the phone book, call them up and declare that she was back from a place they never knew she'd gone? Try to con her way into some office job with no education the Human Resources department could understand? Petunia would just be angrier, of course, at Lily trying to horn her way back into her life.

Wait, Lily wanted to yell, at Petunia, or her parents, or somebody: Wait, I haven't decided yet. Don't leave me here.

There was no point to that, of course. Or to wallowing in melodrama. A little embarrassed, Lily swallowed it down and got up to help clear off the table. There was always work to do, and no reason to leave it all to James just because he was feeling obligated to be nice today. He had had a tough day too, and another one coming up tomorrow.

And things weren't so bad, anyway ? stupid to get all worked up over her terrible life. Maybe they didn't know what the hell they were doing, but they were both determined, at least, and if anyone had the power to make things work out by sheer force of arrogance it was James Potter.

"Hey, he yelled over the sound of running water, "come get your fortune cookie."

"I don't know," she said as she went over to stand on the ugly greenish linoleum floor, leaned against the counter, teasing, "I've heard these things aren't very accurate."

James dried his hands off on a dishtowel. "No one wants an accurate fortune. Here, gimme the other."

"That's funny," she said, digging through the paper napkins at the bottom of the bag, frowning. "They only gave us one."

"Whose is it, then?"

She looked down, considered the cookie in her hand, cracked open already, white paper just sticking out and visible through the crinkly plastic wrapper. "Well," she said, "I suppose it's both of ours."



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