When I was sixteen, I decided on my dream job. I would be The (please note the capital) Fanfiction Finder. My job would be to promote pieces of fanfiction, to shove it into people’s faces and yell as I dance around them wildly. It has been a while since I thought about that job, as dreams changed and life changed but now I return to it.
There is a tendency to think of fanfiction as the lowest form of literature – one that simply exists to satisfy our need for the story we wish it would be. Fanfiction can be and is, written by everyone. For those who look down on the literature of the masses, it is as low as one can get. For this reason and many more, I believe that fanfiction may be among the greatest types of literature. It is written by people so hungry for a story that they will not allow the author to have the last word, they make themselves part of this transaction. People who write fanfiction read, breathe and think as stories.
On one of those days, when we were sitting in the Department, Arul sir proposed a fanfiction series, written by some of the students who had sent in entries for Fandom Menace. As this was obviously the greatest idea ever, I pounced on it and declared that it would be done. The piece you are about to read is the first in the series and was written in October for Jilytober. This story keeps me warm like a cup of hot chai until I reach the end when my hands turn cold. It slips into the tiny and huge moments in the lives of James and Lily Potter, gentle and so full of heart, in a way that only fanfiction can be. It is with great love that I ask you to read the first in our fanfiction series, A Promise by Sandra Jibu, about one of my favourite couples in the world.
– The Fanfiction Finder (Otherwise known as Shefali Mathew)
It was a cheerful morning.
James hopped down the stairs full of energy. He was still finding it hard to believe that he was married to Lily Evans. It had been two weeks. Waking up to see her beautiful face framed by the fierce red hair, her lips slightly parted, a small smile playing on her lips, the freckles on her cute little nose drawing up their own map, his breath caught every morning when he realized she was his wife, Mrs. Potter.
It was dark times, the war was escalating. When they left Hogwarts, they were sucked into the war immediately. They all wanted to make a difference, but as time passed, missions failed, friends and family died, they were scared- for their life as well as their loved ones. They scrambled to find little hope to keep fighting every day.
Their wedding was a joyous event but small. The Order members were there, and everyone was scared for security. The wedding took place in Potter Manor which had protection. The added security also took some of the nerves away. But nothing seemed to help James’s nerves on the wedding day. He was freaking out, Sirius was bent over laughing and Remus stood in the corner amused. But every nerve disappeared the moment he saw her, walking down the aisle. All the world disappeared around them, all he could see was her. He felt his eyes welling up. Both their parents were there. James was happy, but he knew his parents were keeping a secret from him, they seemed a little tired.
He got up in the morning planning to make his wife a lovely breakfast. He heard a sound from the stairs, the third step from the top creaking. He smiled to himself, she always forgot about that step. A moment later a slender pair of arms snaked around his torso from behind. He set the pan down and turned around. “Good morning beautiful”, he said. She chuckled, she thought she was messy when she got out of bed. But in his eyes, she was always beautiful, her lips curled in the corner, her green eyes twinkling, her red hair in a messy bun.
“Good morning handsome”. He went back to cooking and she took a seat at the table, watching him with sleepy eyes. They were silent but it was not awkward, they were just enjoying each other’s company, feeling secure in the presence of the other. When Lily went to collect the posts, he set the table up. She took a longer time than necessary so he went looking for her in the living room.
She was sitting on the couch, the mails scattered on the floor, clutching a letter so hard that its sides crumbled. Her face was blank, her eyes had a scary emptiness in it, her hand shaking, lower lips trembling. He slowly approached her, crouched in front of her. She didn’t even acknowledge his presence.
He pulled her closer to him and she sank into his arms without any protest, she just fitted right. He took the letter from her hand, she let him. The red wax of the Ministry of Magic gleamed in the morning light. His heart raced so fast that he thought it would jump out. His eyes scanned the paper. As his eyes went down, reading the neatly written letter, his shoulder slumped, his eyes burned.
It was as if she knew when he finished reading, her breath came in gasps, crying. He let her and he let himself cry. His parents-in-law were dead. Killed by death eaters just because they were muggles. Or…no it couldn’t be, maybe he was the reason. The death eaters warned him, threatened him for associating with muggles. Now he had married a muggleborn. Maybe he was the reason. He killed Lily’s parents.
They both sat on the couch, their breakfast long forgotten, allowing themself to mourn, seeking as much comfort from the other. And that’s how Sirius found them, asleep on the couch, with tear-streaked faces, Lily resting her head in James chest, his head leaning on her forehead. Sirius took the opened letter from floor, he knew what had happened, the Order had heard about it. He came to see how they were doing and he expected the worst.
James was his best friend, his brother. He gave him shelter, love and even shared his parents with him. He would do anything for that idiot, even die. Lily on the other hand was like a sister to him. ‘Red’ he used to call her. Nothing angered her as much as that word does, well, maybe James but that is different. When he calls her red, her cheeks turn red, at first it was because of anger, but now simply of frustration. He smiled to himself. Lily understood him like nobody else. They bonded over the sibling who abandoned them. They were such idiots to still trust and care about them. They knew what it felt like to be ignored by the sibling who once was your best friend.
He saw Petunia’s letter in the pile on the floor. He knew Red cried over Petunia’s letter. Sirius knew he shouldn’t read, but he did it anyway, his blood boiling with rage. But he calmed himself down. He put the letter away, he would give it to Lily, but not just yet. He levitated them to their room, and settled himself on the couch after sending Moony his patronus explaining that he would be staying over tonight.
James woke with a start and wondered for a moment where he was. The last thing he remembered was falling asleep on the couch but they were in the bedroom now. Suddenly he remembered everything that happened, he looked at the figure sleeping next to him. She did not deserve this, none of them did. He got up from the bed slowly afraid of waking her up. He went downstairs to get a glass of water. In the living room, he saw a dog in the couch, now it made sense how they ended up in the bedroom.
The next morning there was no chirpiness, Lily moved like a corpse. James couldn’t bear to see her like that. He wished she would at least shout, scold Sirius for getting dog hair all over the couch, an annoyed expression in his way, but nothing.
The next day they went to the funeral, before leaving, Sirius took Lily aside and gave her something. She cried. James approached her but Sirius stopped him. He would handle her, he was good at that.
The three of them and Remus went to the funeral. In short it was a nasty business. Petunia wouldn’t stop glaring, she accused Lily for killing their parents. James wanted to defend Lily, but she just clung to him and he knew that she needed him.
When they reached the house in Godric Hallow, James pulled Sirius aside and asked for a favour. He smiled and nodded. James helped Lily settle in. He hovered in the door, unsure of what to do next. She smiled and cuddled him. At last she spoke. “Its my fault… Tuney said so, and I know I should not listen to her, but she has a point James. They died because of me, because I am their daughter, because I’m a muggleborn”.
James knew he should let her get everything out, but he could not keep hearing her blaming herself. “Lily, he said her name softly. “I know you think this is your fault, but sweetheart, look at me, I thought it was my fault, because I married you, but neither of us is the reason. They died because some lunatic thought he was better than others. We are going to fight this war Lils, together, until the end, we will not stop until Voldemort is dead, do you hear me? Don’t blame yourself. If you did that, if you start doubting yourself it’s as if letting him win.” He looked into her eyes. She saw the fierceness in them, the determination settling in.
She nodded because she wanted to believe his words and a part of her knew he was right. His hazel eyes, that drove her insane everyday lost the mischievous look and were completely serious and sincere. She kissed him. He grinned like an idiot. She decided to take a nap.
She woke up feeling something licking her face. She opened her eyes and saw Padfoot smiling and her. She shook her head and got up, allowing him to lead her downstairs. James looked up from the couch he settled into. He had invited all their friends to their home. Everyone was weary and tired. None of them realized how exhausted they were until now. He saw Lily, her eyes puffy from all the crying but now a startled look on her face. Marlene, Alice, Dorcas and Mary went to hug her. He knew she needed this. He knew they all needed this with everything that was going on, a little bubble they were going to snuggle into, just for tonight and forget everything about the war, to act like the teenagers they were.
An unspoken agreement was placed to not talk about anything tragic. They drank firewhiskey, talked about the pranks, the fun times, embarrassing times. They laughed and laughed feeling the tension and stress leaving their body. Lily came to sit beside James, he squeezed her arm and she smiled at him. Unspoken words passed between them. “Ooy, stop making out with your eyes you love stricken idiots” Sirius shouted throwing a ball at James. Lily laughed, everyone laughed. He could sit there forever just hearing her laugh.
They were happy, they were together and they are going to come out of this together, he made a promise to himself, looking at all their faces. Alice and Frank cuddling, Remus resting his head on Mary’s shoulder, Marlene and Sirius having a drinking competition, Dorcas judging them by rolling her eyes and Peter eating pizza talking to Frank, Lily snuggling to James’s side laughing at Sirius ridiculous expression.
He looked down at Lily, kissing her forehead and promised to protect her at any cost, even if he has to die for it. A promise he made many times. But it didn’t matter in the end. As he stood at the bottom of the staircase, wandless on the Halloween, seeing the killing curse aimed to his chest, all he could think was how he failed them, failed her. He died to protect her and his son but in the end he was not capable of protecting her, his Lils.