War can tear people apart.
But it can also bring them together.
Lily ran up the steps, threw open the door, and jumped over the threshold.
Her heart was beating fast, too fast -
James ran after her, and slammed the door behind them with a jolt.
They both stood for a moment, opposite each other, one on each wall, panting desperately -
But Lily could not keep still.
She whipped away from the cracking wallpaper, and walked, as fast as she could without running, down the hallway, her face twisted into a painful expression, fighting back tears -
‘Lily,’ James yelled, running after her. But she would not stop. James still pursued.
’Lily,’ he growled.
He followed her into the sitting room, where Lily was pacing back and forth.
’Lily!’ James snapped.
He was scared shitless, his heart was racing, he could barely breathe, his head was aching, his whole body hurt with gashes and bruises and sprained muscles and broken bones, and all Lily could do was pace, and she wasn’t listening to him -
But, then, she stopped.
Her eyes wide and fearful, her mouth agape.
She looked so…lost.
James heaved a sigh and collapsed into one of the chairs, his face in his hands.
The fight was chaotic. It was a mess. It was…brutal.
Bodies, everywhere, screams were carried on the air, there was green light, the shrieking of curses, the thud as another fighter lost their life.
James was facing off against one of the many hooded figures, and a few metres away from him was Lily, her face hard, her arm movements sharp as she fired curse after curse after curse.
Maybe James wouldn’t have gotten two of his ribs bruised if he hadn’t been looking over to her every two minutes, but how could he not? He had to make sure she was OK, he had -
Just been disarmed.
Another spell blasted him off his feet, and then he was on his back next to the dead body of a member of the order. He couldn’t bring himself to distinguish the features of his comrade. He didn’t have time.
He swallowed against the rising bile in his throat and backtracked, away from the corpse, his hands scraping against the gravel and dried blood, grappling for his wand -
He looked up, into the hooded face of a Death Eater.
A wand was pointed at his throat.
His opponent seemed to be savouring their apparent victory, and he soon found out why -
They took off their hood, and then James found him staring into the triumphant face of Avery.
'Ready to die, Potter?’ He sneered, flourishing his wand.
'Like hell,’ he spat, blood splattering Avery’s robes.
’You - ’ he hissed, disgusted, pointing his wand, but he did not get to finish the sentiment.
A flurry of red and the swish of a cloak.
Lily had a choking hold on Avery from behind, and she did not waste any time -
There was a gargling noise, the snap of a neck being dismembered, and the pooling of fresh blood at James’s feet.
Lily hauled James to his feet, and turned to face her next opponent.
James located his wand, and had it firmly in hand, when he heard a scream from behind -
They were losing the fight, so many had been lost, and now -
A death eater had a hold on Lily’s waist, and she was writhing desperately in his arms, screeching -
James didn’t even think.
The death eater was thrown backwards, and Lily was thrown forwards -
He heard the crack of the former’s spine just as he caught Lily in his arms.
'James - ’ she gasped.
'We have to get out of here.’ He said, urgently. 'Now.’
'But, the others - ’
Most of the Order were disapparating, or had already retreated.
Lily looked at James with a stony resolve on her face.
She grabbed his hand and they were both dissolved into darkness.
James’s hands were dragged off his eyes, and he looked up too see Lily looking at him with such a reverent sadness it was a wonder he didn’t break on the spot.
'I - I’m - ’
'It’s OK.’ She said, sitting down, slowly, onto his thighs. 'It’s OK.’
James heaved a shaky sigh as Lily put her arms around him, and buried his face against her neck, as Lily kissed his forehead, her eyes fluttering shut against his hair.
Lily had moved James from the chair to the couch in front of the fire, and left, cautioning him to stay put.
James remained, looking into the flames, ignoring the throbbing in his left temple and focusing instead on the way the fire licked at the wood in the hearth, and how it reminded him of -
The fight. Don’t think about the fight.
He blinked, trying to rid his mind of the image of bodies, when Lily returned, holding rolls of bandages and gauze, some towels, and an array of potions in her arms.
He turned to look at her. 'Got enough there, Evans?’ he said, laughing bitterly. But his voice broke, and he couldn’t keep the despair from his voice. He closed his mouth.
Lily smiled, sadly, 'Probably not, if I’m to fix up this mess, Potter.’ she replied, gesturing to his face.
'Oh, harsh.’ He said, his eyes pooling with tears.
'Shut up.’ She said, smiling against her own watering eyes, 'Now sit still.’
She leaned over the sink, her breathing laboured, her heart pounding, and her eyes wide.
She had almost lost him.
James, her James, caught in the middle of the throng, on his back, at the mercy of the enemy.
She’d barely been able to think straight.
Lily had just dismissed her last opponent when she threw herself at Avery, an arm around his neck and her wand at his throat.
She’d been blinded, but she’d done it -
She’d gritted her teeth, and tightened her grip, and uttered the spell that had dismembered his neck, causing the life to drain out of his body, and his blood to pool at James’s feet.
And Lily had barely seen James back to safety before she’d jeopardized her
But she didn’t understand. They weren’t safe. They were never safe.
She closed her eyes and clutched the enamel rim of the sink.
The dying embers of the fire lit a warm glow around the darkening room, casting shadows against the furniture. The darkness frightened them both, but they focused on each other, instead, to keep from fretting over how the shapes looked like a cloaked figure was standing, waiting in the dusty concealment of the curtain -
’Ouch,’ James hissed, grimacing as Lily held a cotton swab, doused with antiseptic, against a cut on his jaw.
'Hold that there,’ she said, reaching behind her for a towel, soaked in lukewarm water, as James took the cotton pad from her.
The nasty gash on his jaw was the last of his injuries that required any special attention; Lily set to work on cleaning up the rest of his face.
She, gently, pressed and wiped away any traces of dirt or dried blood from his cheeks, forehead, nose, lips -
Because even in the aftermath of the fight, he was still beautiful, all sharp angles and hazel eyes and unfairly long lashes -
'Lily?’ James asked, his own hand coming up to cup hers where she had the cloth against his jaw.
She brought her other hand up to his jaw on the opposite side, fingers gently skimming along the rim of bone -
She stopped, brought her hand down, as James did his, and Lily returned to cleaning the other souvenirs of battle from James’s skin.
After a time, when James was clean, and the warm glow of the potions had ebbed away some of the ache in their bones, and the fatigue, the exhaustion had begun to settle in, James took the cloth from Lily.
'Your turn,’ he said.
Lily didn’t even want to think about the state of her own face, arms, hands, filthy, latticed with cuts, and bloody from the fight -
Lily nodded, settling herself back against the cushions of the couch, crossing her legs, whilst James went to wring out the cloth and re-wet it.
When he returned, he sat beside her, gently pressing the towel to Lily’s face.
James could be tender, if he applied himself.
He worked slowly, wiping the dried blood from Lily’s small, pink, dainty lips, smoothing out the gagged wounds on her pale, freckled arms, washing away the dirt that lay in the lines on her porcelain skin -
He, very benignly, ran one calloused thumb along Lily’s lower lip, with the pretense formed in his mind that there was a stubborn speck of dirt that needed sorting out -
'James?’ Lily asked, hesitantly, her head tilting back, slightly.
He looked at her, properly.
She looked tired, concerned, worried.
James brought his hand up, his fingers gently brushing her cheek.
He drew away, looking down at the cloth in his hands.
Lily uncrossed her legs, her shoes touching the ground as she took the cloth from James and placed it on the table with the other first aid items.
She scooted closer to him, her hands moving under his arms, wrapping gently around his torso. Her head came to rest against his chest as his chin lay atop her head, and his arms enveloped her frame, and the pair of them sank back against the pillows, entwined.
And, suddenly, they could breathe again.
They lay like that for what seemed like an eternity, and it still wasn’t long enough.
Until their eyes shut, they stared into the embers of the fire, but, soon enough, exhaustion took over.
Lily’s eyelids would blink slowly, tiredly, but the images of war would not let her sleep.
Her head rose and fell with James’s breaths.
He was exhausted, but still kept her protected, his arms wrapped around her.
The flames danced before his eyes that were tired of seeing.
But, as he looked down at the bundle of red hair, green eyes and unshakeable strength that was Lily, he liked - loved - the sight he beheld.
Almost as though she sensed his eyes on her, Lily broke their position, moving to sit up, her arms either side of James’s torso and her neck elongated to look at him.
'Alright?’ she asked.
He nodded, smiling softly.
Instead of lying back down, though, Lily sat back, her knees brought up to her chest. 'I’m tired,’ she said.
'Same,’ said James.
Tired of fighting. Tired of losing.
But they had each other, and that, in itself, was a triumph.
Lily moved again, getting up, and walking across to stand by the mantelpiece, looking into the flames.
James stood as well, and came to join her.
She looked at him, and he engulfed her in a hug once more.
When they broke apart, they both latched onto each other’s gaze -
The look seemed to hold for longer than expected.
Lily leant up, almost without realizing it -
Their breath caught.
Their noses were almost touching.
Lily, slowly, stood as high as she could, her hands folding into the fabric of James’s shirt.
She pressed her lips to his.
James responded almost immediately, kissing her back, his arms wrapping around her waist, this time, lifting her to him, and Lily’s arms went around his neck.
He pressed into her, furthering the pressure, and Lily’s toes curled in their socks.
A small noise of approval sounded in the back of her throat, and she pressed into him.
James had lowered her, slightly, so that she stood on his toes. He still had one arm around her waist, but the other came up, his fingers tangling into her hair.
Lily’s hands moved to run up James’s torso -
He growled against her lips. 'Would you rather take this up this upstairs?’
She broke away from him long enough to say, 'And what do you mean by that?’ She returned to work, trailing little kisses along his jaw.
'I mean,’ James said, his grip tightening on her waist at the feel of her lips against his jawline, ’d'you want to sleep, or,’ he looked down at her, ’d'you want to, maybe,’ a cheeky grin curled at his lips, and his hazel eyes regained some of their usual mischievous glint, 'do something else?’
'Either way, the bed sounds good,’ said Lily, pulling away to smile at him.
She was still on his toes.
'Well, then,’ he said, his face alight, 'let’s go.’
He steered her across the room in circles, ensuring her feet never left his by the encasing grip around her waist.
'James!’ she shrieked, laughing as he spun them both around, 'we’re going to be even more injured than we were before, you idiot.’
'Would you rather I stopped?’
'I didn’t say that. Just - be careful, for Merlin’s sake.’ For James had almost caught them both on the edge of the dining table.
'It’s not my fault you’re a terrible dancer,’
It was a welcome change.
When they did finally make it upstairs, they were, admittedly, somewhat more bruised than when they began.
But, as to what they did when they reached the bedroom - well, that’s up to you.