Clandestine by colorfulwonder
They walked silently through the corridors, back through the Great Hall, and out the massive double doors that served as the castle's entrance. Her shining Head Girl badge meant that nobody inquired as to where they were going, and for that he was glad.
The day was crisp, with a sky that looked like a painting – clear cerulean, with white cotton ball clouds evenly spaced, as though planned. The trees had just begun to change their colors, the deep greens changing subtly to browns, oranges and reds. She led them across the grounds, her loose hair flowing behind her in the autumn breeze, while his lungs struggled to keep up with her purposeful stride. He hadn't moved this quickly in months, and he felt the pumping blood begin to lubricate his joints as they continued, her sights on the lake.
As they approached, the glassy surface reflecting the clouds overhead came more clearly into view. A bird of prey circling low overhead dove suddenly, splashing the crystal surface, and rose with a wriggling fish clamped in its beak. The ripples from his catch slowly moved out from the epicenter toward the shore where they now walked, Lily's pace now slowed to a more comfortable stroll.
So far, she had led their procession a consistent half-pace ahead, not sparing him a glance but knowing that he was following her lead. Now that she has slowed, she turns her eyes to him. His cheeks are flushed, his eyes a little too bright under dark lashes; she pretends not to notice his breath is coming in harsh gasps.
The Forbidden Forest borders the lake on the far side from the castle, huge, dark trees rising like spires into the sky. The evergreen needles make this the only shaded spot around the lake's edge, leaving him blinking as they left the sunlight's warmth. When his eyes focused again, she was hoisting herself up the side of a boulder, her skirt brushing her thighs as she grasped natural holds in the rock. Once situated at the top, she looked back at him.
"Come on up, then," she said, reaching a hand down over the edge as if to help him from there.
He pressed his lips together, if yesterday was the most exhausted he'd ever felt, he was surely to die today, and gingerly placed his hands in the small grooves.
He wasn't always like this. He wasn't always just a mess of bones, haphazardly packaged within pallid skin and adorned with a mop of hair. There was once a time when he, too, was radiant with life.
At 11, he was slight for his age, but had the attitude of a dozen 11-year-olds combined. He demanded attention, from the way he ate to the way he entered a room. Even his whisper was a dramatic affair, drawing curious glances, despite the fact that the very nature of a whisper was to be surreptitious.
At 12, he had grown an inch, but his recruitment to the Gryffindor Quidditch team (the fact that he was second string need not be mentioned) only gave him more reason to swagger through the halls. He was a child still, but the world was at his fingertips. He was unstoppable, and everyone seemed to know it. It was only a matter of time until he was seventeen and ready to rule the world.
At 13, his gallantry got the best of him in a number of hallway duels, sending him and Sirius to the infirmary in unexpectedly jovial spirits. "Did you see his face when he stumbled?" he crowed. "Did you see his faded knickers?"
At 14, he retained his ego, but an uncomfortable tickle at the back of his mind gave him a sense that reality wasn't quite as he imagined, and life perhaps wasn't where the heroes always win, and dreams are always in reach. But it was easy enough to press these small inklings into a small space, and they only really came out to bother him at night.
15. He kept up appearances, but all was not as it seemed. After all, he read the papers when nobody was looking, his eyebrows drawn, a small crease beginning to form between them. His hallway duels now held a greater purpose. Mudblood. The word reverberated in his head, his soul uneasy, his late night worries turning into full-blown insomnia. He wrote his parents more often than usual.
Sixteen. We don't talk about sixteen.