Chapter 9: The End of Summer
Lily was surprised that she was not dreading the fact that school would be starting soon. She had two days until she needed to board the train at 9¾ platform. She truly welcomed the distraction of her school work from her grief. Lily was impressed she had moved beyond the shock and lifeless state that had concerned her mother right after her father died. She honestly believed for a time that was the only way to live her life going forward. Somewhere, deep-down inside of her, a small part of Lily knew that talking with Tyler had helped her. Lily still cried constantly and knew her heart was shattered, but she could finally acknowledge she still had to live. Every day was just a new day to survive through her heartache. She just wanted to make it to the end of the day, every day. She would succumb to her grief but live with it despite the agony.
As Lily started to pack her belongings for school, she let her mind drift to the lifeline that kept her afloat the last couple of weeks. The regular conversations with Tyler reminded her of her humanity. Tyler was funny. He confided many out of school exploits with his friends to Lily. He talked with such passion about his friends that Lily felt a little jealous she had never established a friend group such as Tyler's during her time at Hogwarts. She reasoned that she was partly to blame since she could be stand-offish, and she constantly buried herself in her school work. If she wasn't a good student and above average looking, she probably wouldn't have many surface level friends. They would not have a reason to tolerate her recluse personality. Or so that is what she convinced herself of.
Since her first year at Hogwarts, Lily had detested quidditch without much reasoning besides the stubborn response she didn't like it. There was not a real reason why she did not, but Lily had an inkling that the seed of dislike was planted and watered thanks to James Potter. His obnoxious boastful tendencies with anything related to quidditch while as a first year put Lily over the edge. If he had not talked it up so much in the Gryffindor dormitories and then made fun of Lily when she was the only first year in their group with Madame Hooch to not control a broom stick…maybe she would not have cast off the sport so early on. A truly petty motive, but Lily could be as stubborn as an ox when she would commit to not liking something. Over the years at Hogwarts, she squashed any desire that ever ignited in her to cheer on Gryffindor in quidditch; especially, once James Potter was on the team. She could not let the prick win in any small way, ever. Not when it came to school work, mixing potions, casting spells, or his misplaced affection for her.
The way Tyler talked about quidditch to her during some of their conversations made Lily accept she had been unfair to write off the sport for so long. Tyler made a compelling argument about the teamwork, skill and thrill the sport offered to those who participated and watched. Lily couldn't help but notice that Tyler was very good at talking up quidditch and its role in his life without giving her much to go on. His words had a way of evading giving away any real detail to unmask who exactly Tyler was or where he went to school. The more she talked to Tyler, the more she wanted to know who he was.
She had yet to be bold enough to ask him how he came to work at Hope to Cope. She was afraid if she did, that he would pry into her private life as well. Every detail she found out more about Tyler was something she found herself holding on to dearly. When Lily realized this, it confused her. She did not know if she was drawn to Tyler because she didn't have much experience with boys, her father had just died and she was missing a dominant male presence in her life, or if there was something about him that made her feel like she was developing a crush. Regardless of what it was, Lily was grateful to feel something other than pain when she talked with him.
Lily finished packing and sat back on her bed. She picked up the daily planner on her night stand and reviewed her timeline.
Leave for Hogwarts in two days. Talk with Tyler tomorrow and figure out how to keep their calls going during school. Get through today.
She closed her planner and settled on her bed. It was coming now. She could no longer put it off. "I miss you, Daddy," Lily whispered to herself before the grief washed over her and the pent-up tears spilt out.
….. ... ... . . . . . . ... . ...
Summer was almost over, and James felt as if he turned over a new leaf. The core of who James was remained the same (quidditch obsessed, loyal to his fellow marauders, oozing charm and wit, always enjoying a good prank) but he was self-aware now. His good fortune in life had blinded him to how much of a prat he could be. A lovable prat, hence his popularity at school, but also an ignorant one.
The last few weeks of his summer he spent working at Hope to Cope made James grateful for his life, family, and friends. He always has been grateful, but now it was on a whole different level. The time he spent comforting others around his age and younger had a profound impact on him. It rocked him at his core. The accumulation of the weeping and grief filled stories shared with James carved out a personality trait he had never developed before. He learned to be humble. And to humble the massive ego Lily Evans always accused him of having was a major feat.
James hadn't bothered Lily all summer. He had intentions of pursuing her with "love" letters during the summer, but his good fortune allowed sense to be talked into him by Remus. Sirius was all for it- naturally. He was the devil on James's shoulder to Remus's Angel. In the end, Remus's logical explanation of how James was "too much" finally sunk in.
James then intended to call on Lily with an owl towards the end of the summer after giving her space by Remus's suggestion. Though at the moment, that was the last thing James wanted to do. James's infatuation with Lily began their first year at Hogwarts. His young self was memorized by the only girl with fiery red hair in the Gryffindor dormitory. His fatal mistake for his future romance prospects was made when he made fun of Lily for not being able to call a broom to her hand in their first flying lesson given by Madame Hooch. In his defense, it was a cover to deflect an emergency going on with Remus in that class session.
From that moment on, his dumb first year self stayed the course of the harass Lily train. His teasing was meant to be harmless. He found it too fun with her reaction every bloody time. Her face would flush, her eyes would lighten in fury from an emerald to a shamrock green (yes, James really took the time to look up different shades of green to characterize the color shift), her nose would crinkle in displeasure, and at times she would get so fed up that she would throw her hands in the air in exasperation. James cherished the hilarity of those moments- until his fifth year. He slowly stopped looking to Lily for just amusement and started observing her talent for potions, her flawless spell casting ability, how she earned perfect marks in each class most of the time, and how she was a role model witch for their year. He caught on finally to what most already saw at Hogwarts.
James soon found out what everyone else did not take the time to notice. Lily was not a naturally good and perfect student. She worked for it. If she wasn't in the library studying, she would be in the Gryffindor common room with her nose in a book. He caught on to her muttering spells- for practice - under her breath as she walked the halls of Hogwarts. She had more to prove coming from a muggle family. Something James forgot to remember most often.
Lily would not yield. That is what James astutely observed. He admired that about her. She was the top student of their year because she wanted to be. James was smart, but he never put in as much effort as Lily. He scored close to her grade on assignments and exams, but he never beat her. Nor did he deserve to. He put in one fifth of the work she would. He was sure that Lily, on some level, found that maddening but never showed it.
Lily's work ethic was not the only thing that had caught his attention. Lily was not popular like him, but she was well liked by the students who interacted with her. She was kind- except to James. He could admit he knew where it came from. A handful of times she had extended her kindness to James and it blew him away. Like when James missed two day's worth of classes due to a "mysterious illness", Lily provided him all her notes and helped him catch up the assignments he missed. He later found out Lily had not volunteered but was forced by McGonagall to help James since Lily was the one most on top of things. Lily never once complained about the imposition to James and just did what was asked of her. That mysterious illness was actually James needing to heal lots of severely broken bones that resulted after an incident with Remus during the full moon.
James was also not blind. Lily was beautiful. Not the sort of beauty that everyone flocks to, but a simple beauty that was enhanced by Lily's character. Her smile, which he was hardly on the receiving end of, could make him weak in the knees. He wanted to count and memorize each freckle the adorned her beautiful cheeks and petite nose. Her eyes betrayed her emotions all the time and he loved it. Her laugh was usually a low rumble but would go up an octave if she found something really funny. Her red hair, he found it memorizing. Especially when she let it dry naturally. She was a true beauty to him. He liked her and wanted to know so much more about her.
But that feeling was not as strong as it once was. His fascination with Lily, the never-ending flame of desire he thought had grown for her, was starting to lose its steam. This was a result of Amy.
The first two calls with Amy had been fun, after the rocky start. James and Amy had established a good banter between themselves. Light and amusing. He loved it. After those calls, Amy and James realized keeping their topics of conversation generic was limiting the dialogue given they had several more conversations to be had before school begun. The ban on no personal information was modified to allow moderate personal information shared at the discretion of the teller, and the listener could not ask follow up questions that dove into more personal detail. Following the establishment of this new rule, fireworks set off. Everything flowed so naturally between them without worrying about tippy toeing around personal information.
James discussed his friends (in code), his family (with being sensitive to Amy since she granted him permission to share if he liked), his ambitions, and everything in between. He was positive he did not like Amy, he was her "counselor" at the hotline. It was his job to provide comfort on varying levels. Even outside of his normal scope of work/script. He was just being supportive of her wishes after all.
James did catch on that the enigma of Lily Evans was less and less on his mind towards the end of the summer break. Perhaps it was a welcomed change. James could possibly work up to being her friend and that could be enough for him.
"James! Where is your head?" James's mother called after her son again.
"Sorry, mum. I was just lost in thought thinking about how the summer went." Mrs. Potter looked at her son with pride.
"You've matured a lot these last few weeks. Your father and I are very proud of you. Especially me. Look at the bathroom! Still clean as a whistle." She smiled warmly at her son. James's heart swelled with love. He was truly happy to still have his mother in his life at 17. Something he learned to appreciate only recently. He walked up to his mom who was standing in his door way. He wrapped his arms around his mother and told her he loved her. Mrs. Potter wiped a tear from her right eye and returned her son's embrace.
"I love you too, James." She released her son from his hug. Mrs. Potter looked around her son's room "Are you packing already?" She asked her son. She couldn't hide the surprise in her question.
"I am. I volunteered to work up to my last day before I head to Hogwarts. I won't have as much time to get everything together if I don't start now." James smiled at his mother.
"I am so happy you are helping them out. Not everyone could stomach doing your job and it is such an important one. I won't disturb you anymore. Come down to eat dinner whenever you are ready." Mrs. Evans turned away and left James to himself in his room.
Hate the chapter title, but I could not think of a better one. Next chapter, Lily and James will have their last conversation and decide if they will continue their conversations when school starts. If they do that, how will they get it to work out and also not reveal their identities? Well…thanks for reading. It is always a pleasure to write a chapter for this story.