Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter and all of its characters belong to J.K. Rowling.
A/N: Revised.:) Reviews are much appreciated, thanks. Cheers!
"I give up."
"But what if..."
"Oh, who am I kidding? I've had better chances with a bloody hippogriff..."
Sirius Black fixed his eyes on the raven-haired boy that was pacing back and forth the common room. He listened as the Head boy voiced his thoughts, actually mostly just murmuring to himself to be honest, and he was growing impatient. He looked around the common room at the other Marauders checking to see if anyone else was really listening to James' too familiar monologue.
Remus, who was lounging in front of the fireplace with a book in his hand, was only half-heartedly listening as his eyes flickered from James to his book every few seconds. Peter, bless him, didn't even bother to keep up pretenses as he snored lightly on the floor, his mouth hanging slightly open.
Sirius sighed. They've heard all of this before. Every year it was the same words, the same frenzied thoughts over that bloody red-headed bird and Merlin, it was getting tiresome seeing his best mate sulking over that girl.
Every year he would hope that James would get tired of running around and chasing after Lily Evans and would finally, finally accept that she would never look past her extreme dislike for him. He hoped even more at the end of fifth year when Lily all but hexed James at the sight of him, after what he did at the Black lake.
It shouldn't have been that difficult when birds threw themselves at his friend—looked longingly at the Marauder they could only hope to have... who couldn't even be bothered to look at them because he was too fixated with trying, albeit desperately failing, to impress someone else.
But when James didn't laugh the incident off like he would have done so many others as they headed back to the dormitory after sparing the world from the view of Snivellus' possibly graying underpants, Sirius got suspicious.
James tried to forget Lily's rage, tried to crack a joke or two about Snivellus' pathetic excuse of wandwork and sputtering lame curses, but Sirius could see right through him— could see the disappointment and to his surprise back then, the sparks of guilt that would flash in his friend's hazel eyes at the mention of Lily Evans' name. And when James surprised them all with trying to apologize to Evans one supper time at the Great Hall, that was when all hell broke loose— almost quite literally too.
It was the night. It was the night when Sirius Black wasn't the cause of massive chaos, when Lily Evans was the cause of said chaos, when Marlene McKinnon shouted a mountain of curses at her friend for everyone in said hall to hear, when James Potter refused to draw his wand to defend himself, when Remus Lupin finally used his position of authority to speak up and when Peter Pettigrew had the gall to face Lily Evan's curses with his own (miserably failing, but not for the lack of trying) to save his friend from being blasted to oblivion. It was a night that, though never to be retold or repeated at the risk of being hexed by a certain red-head, wouldn't be quite forgotten in the years to come by any or all that had been there to witness what would later on be speculated as the day James Potter gave up.
But these momentous and rare occurrences were not the point of that eventful night.
The point, in Sirius' view was that, that was also the night when he knew that the game James started to play with Lily during their third year had ended. When exactly that happened, he was not sure. But he was certain though, that this was not a game anymore— not to James, at least.
It all went downhill after that, of course, for the remainder of their fifth year. Not that it wasn't already headed that way what with James and Lily's history, but it just made the course of everything else that happened from that point in time on more certain.
The James who would have jumped at the chance to proclaim his undying love to Lily (and more importantly, to the rest of the world), suddenly turned ashen at the mere sight of her wild curls. His smooth words turned to sputtering nonsense just from an exasperated look from her. His casual, if not sometimes almost airy, demeanor turned forced and at times, jumpy, with a single glance from Lily Evans. With each glare Evans directed at him, the bright smile that would normally be on his face would slip just a little, but it was enough for Sirius to see— enough to make James look suddenly unsure and hesitant. And something that James Potter never was around people was just that— unsure and hesitant. In short, James was short of a bloody mess and all because of a bloody bird who, in Sirius' opinion at the time (though he would now deny it if anyone asked) had her head shoved too far up her arse.
And as much as James tried to stop chasing after the girl he held in a pedestal for years, as much as he tried to act like himself whenever said girl was around (ridiculously making himself look more like a prat as he did, however), as much as he tried to ignore the redhead and move on like what he should have done numerous rejections ago, he just couldn't find it in himself to stop.
As mental as his mates made him out to be where Lily Evans was concerned, James knew, he just knew that in the end, they were supposed to be together. He said this to them without a hint of doubt and without a trace of arrogance. He said it merely like it was a known fact that James Potter and Lily Evans ending up together was as inevitable as the sun rising each morning. He was already hers but someday, hopefully soon if he played his cards out just right, she would also, finally, agree to be his.
And although James simmered down his advances since the night to, well frankly none— as much as he led the school to believe that he was done chasing after Lily Evans— Sirius (and the other Marauders, at that) knew that there was more of a chance of Snivellus ridding his hair of its undesirable grease than of James actually moving on and giving up on the girl.
James had fallen hard for Lily, as much as Lily, sadly, had disliked her idea of James Potter.
Even now, on their seventh year, Sirius could see that his mate was still done in by the fiery Head girl. James was too far gone to be swayed. He wasn't in it for the chase. Everyone could see that he really did fancy Lily Evans— everyone but her.
So with everything that happened between Lily and James, it wasn't really a surprise that James' mates were tired of hearing the same words over and over again from their tousled-haired friend. They thought that when things finally looked up for his mate, as they were doing now (finally), they would be mercifully spared from having to be subjected to this. But of course, as with being James Potter's friend, they should have known that things (for them, at least) would only get worse.
"I mean, I've fancied her since third year... well, alright, I've fancied her properly since fifth year—"
"— or was it fourth year? You know I think it's somewhere in between—"
"— is there even such a thing as properly fancying someone seeing as you get all these improper thoughts—"
"— doesn't matter. Do you even know anyone else who could do that bloody complicated jinx at thirteen but her? Well, aside from us of course but that's—"
"— and there was this little glint in her eyes and she looked so bloody gorgeous—"
Sirius drew his wand out and muttered under his breath, "Silencio."
James stopped pacing, his hands flying to his throat as the sound of his voice was suddenly cut off. Remus looked up from his book, a startled expression on his face at the sudden absence of his friend's voice. Only Peter's snores sounded throughout the common room now.
James looked at his best mate, outraged that he would cut his impassioned words just like that. His mouth opened and closed, soundless words of injustice directed at the other Marauder pouring out.
"You've been harassing our delicate ears for the past hour, mate. It doesn't even matter what you say. We all know that you're not giving up on that bloody bird. Right, Moony?"
"He's right," Remus had put down his book, a small smile on his face at Sirius' exasperated expression, "'Specially now that you're finally becoming friends with Lily."
James started to speak, but then looked at Sirius pointedly.
"Oh right, sorry," Sirius said, a wicked grin on his face as he lifted the spell, not appearing apologetic at all.
"We're not friends," James frowned, "At least according to her, we're not."
"Lily said so?" The disbelief in Remus' tone deepened the frown on his friend's face.
"Well... she didn't say that we weren't friends," he muttered, scratching his head in thought, "Actually what she said was that I was a 'surprisingly good partner'."
Sirius laughed loudly, earning a yelp from Peter as he woke up at the sound of his friend's highly amused laughter.
Peter mumbled, rubbing the sleep off his eyes. "Prongs still going on about how Lily hates him?"
"Oh no, Wormtail," Sirius grinned mischievously, "No, no, they're partners now."
He caught on Sirius' mischievous grin and thumped James on the back. "Well done, mate! Thought you'd never get anywhere with that one."
"Partners, are you? How's that working out for you, Prongsie?" Sirius nudged James, wiggling his eyebrows, "Being a good partner and giving our lady friend everything she needs? Very good partner you are, I hope."
James threw a withering glare at both grinning Marauders. "Oh, sod off. That's not—"
"Ah, James. No need to be embarrassed. We all know you want to snog the pants off her."
Sirius and Peter laughed louder as James aimed his trainers at them, a tinge of pink rapidly coloring his cheeks.
"You're not friends?" Remus raised an eyebrow, "But you've been getting along quite well since the start of term. Surprisingly so, I might add."
"Yes, well, it seems that 'getting along' doesn't quite equate to friendship for dear Lily."
"Then what does?"
"How should I know?" James grumbled, "I haven't the faintest idea what runs through that bloody complicated brain of hers. Merlin knows I've been trying to figure it out for the last three—"
"Four," Peter supplied.
"— four years," James nodded at the other Marauder, "And look at where that's got me."
"Thank you, Padfoot," James scowled.
Remus chuckled at his disheartened friend. "Well, at least now you can actually stand in the same room without setting the upholstery aflame—"
"That was just the one time!"
"— I wouldn't count that as 'practically nowhere.' That's definitely some much wanted improvement."
"It is actually becoming a little too quiet in the common room, now that you mention it," Sirius frowned, "Even when those two think to grace us with their presence every now and then."
James looked thoughtfully at his friends. "You know, as mad as it may sound, sometimes I think she actually enjoys my company when we patrol together."
"Oh, she enjoys your company alright," Peter chuckled, receiving a nudge from Sirius.
James' eyes lit up at his friend's words, "So I'm not imagining it?"
"Don't be daft. All the giggling and shoulder bumping was almost enough to make Wormtail here puke," Sirius rolled his eyes at his oblivious friend.
"You were practically gagging with all of their flirting, git."
"Hey, I—" James argued but then stopped as he eyed his friends suspiciously, "Hold on, how do you lot know all this?"
"We could've... might've borrowed the cloak," Sirius shrugged.
"While you were on patrol," Peter muttered.
"Once or twice," Sirius grumbled.
"Maybe more," Peter pursed his lips as Sirius threw him a warning glance.
James' lips quirked up in amusement. "And you knew about this, Moony?"
"Knew?" Sirius barked a laugh, cutting Remus off as he was about to explain, "It was his idea to begin with. Bless him, I didn't even know he was capable of such deviousness."
"Moony's idea?" James' eyebrows skyrocketed as he looked at his Prefect friend in surprise.
Rarely was Remus the one to instigate any pranks or acts of childishness. Once or twice he would join them but most of the time, he would merely watch on as his friends made a fool out of themselves. This, out of anything else, made the rest of them feel foolish indeed.
"Someone had to keep an eye on the two of you and make sure you didn't hex the trousers off of each other," Remus shrugged, "Seemed like a good idea at the time."
"Good? It was bloody brilliant!"
"You would say that," James fought off a grin, "As it was to Wormtail's and your amusement."
"Yes, well," Sirius waved him off, "At least we can be pretty sure now that after those first few rounds you wouldn't have been hexing the trousers off each other, if you get what I—"
"We get it, Padfoot. Enough," James rubbed his face exasperatedly.
Remus smiled at his friend sympathetically. "Why don't you talk to her?"
"And risk being decapitated?"
"I think you should worry more about being castrated," Sirius muttered.
"Are you mad, Remus?" James resumed his pacing but stopped abruptly, "Why don't you talk to her?"
"Him?" Sirius and Peter exchanged looks of uncertainty.
James shrugged, "He's been mates with Evans for years. Who better to talk to her than Moony?"
Remus Lupin loved his friends— there was no question about that. But at certain points in his life he couldn't help but wonder just up to what extent he would be willing to go to because of that affection. Now, for instance, would be an excellent example.
It was an unusually quiet night as they patrolled the fourth floor together. Not once had they seen the occasional snogging couple behind a suit of armor, or the exasperatingly naïve little first years who thought that getting away with running around the school after curfew was that easy.
Remus shrugged at the red-headed girl walking beside him. "It was just a thought, Lily."
"What, in Merlin's name, could have made you think that?" Lily gasped in apparent horror, "I don't know how you could possibly think that I," Lily went on, purposefully looking ahead, "Would suddenly start fancying James Potter."
At the tone of Lily's voice, Remus snuck a quick glance at the Head girl. He couldn't help but notice the small tell-tale blush that was starting to radiate through her cheeks.
"I know he infuriates you sometimes—"
"And sometimes isn't often enough?"
"Lily, James is a good person," Remus smiled patiently.
Lily shrugged, "Never said otherwise."
"Yes, you have. You do. Frequently."
"I— you know I only say that when he acts like a dolt. And Black and Pettigrew don't really help his case either but, I never really mean it when I say those things."
Remus raised an eyebrow.
Lily sighed. "He makes fun of other people for his own enjoyment— publicly humiliates them just to show that he can," she shrugged, but the slight red tint on her cheeks darkened, "I am therefore not accountable to whatever words that come out of my mouth whenever I catch him doing so."
"But he hasn't pranked, hexed, jinxed, singed or blown up anything or anyone recently. Since the start of term, actually."
"That we know of," Lily muttered.
"He's top of the year."
"That doesn't mean he's grown up. And he's always been top of the year."
"Even better, then. Shows that he's actually smart... even if he is a prat."
"That's rather contradictory, don't you think?" Lily's lips twitched.
"Almost everything about James is. Don't you think?" Remus grinned, obviously amused.
"I... suppose," Lily glanced at his partner, "Why are you telling me all this?"
Remus merely shrugged, trying to make it look like it was nothing.
"Did he put you up to this?" Lily's face grew bright with amusement.
"Of course not."
The red-head raised an eyebrow.
"I— He might have mentioned something at one point in the conversation."
"Typical Potter," Lily smiled wryly, "And here we were— well, you were— talking about how he's actually grown up."
"He's not as he was before, Lily. I know even you can see that. He has changed."
"Yes, of course he has. That's why he's in detention right now instead of patrolling with me, of course— because he's seen the error of his ways and had the ultimate change of heart."
"Well, he wouldn't be James without a detention or two."
Lily chuckled. Almost affectionately, Remus noted. "But he would still be Head boy."
Remus opened his mouth but closed it quickly, "Yes, he— we can't figure that one out either."
Lily smiled slightly at this, "And here I thought I was the only one."
"Dumbledore has his reasons, I suppose. And James does have his, er, redeeming qualities."
"Well, everyone has them. James' is just more... hmm..." Remus frowned, "Well, that's not really the point at the moment."
"Then what is, Remus?"
"Dumbledore made James Head boy for a reason. If Dumbledore can see enough of the good in James to do that, then surely, you can see the better side of him too."
"'Good' and 'James' in the same sentence, in that order, really calls to mind a lot of arguments."
"No, Remus, you don't have to tell me anything," Lily smiled slightly.
"Really, Remus, you don't have to press your point," Lily countered just as Remus was about explain, "You don't need to tell me that he's not pathetically dim-witted and hopeless because despite helping me with Head duties and having Quidditch practice almost every day and studying for NEWTs, he still manages to finish the piles of homework we have and scrape an O on almost every one of them and stay on top of the class and he's turning out to be an actually brilliant Head Boy."
Remus shut his mouth with a snap, blinking in surprise.
"You don't need to tell me how he isn't really unkind because no matter how tired he is, no matter how exhausted I find him in our common room, he hates saying no to someone who needs help. He would go out of his way to help, without even having anyone ask him. Don't tell me that he isn't really arrogant and that he doesn't really think highly of himself or his blood status or his heritage because he treats everyone equally and he's actually really loyal and understanding and honest."
"Yes, he knows just the right words to say and his eyes light up the whole room when he smiles and his bloody charm just seems second nature to him and it'sbloody frustrating and you don't even have to tell me how fit he's become or just how bloody gorgeous he's turned out because I think anyone with well-functioning eyes can see that."
Remus looked pointedly ahead, feeling a little awkward with Lily's feelings flying off in all sorts of directions, and at the same time trying to fight off the smile that was threatening to break through his lips.
"In fact, you don't have to tell me that even though I tell him that he's a prat that can't get his head out of his arse, he's actually bloody brilliant and he does everything so magnificently and makes it look so easy and," Lily paused, finally, to catch her breath, "Don't even try to convince me, Remus, because I don't want to hear it."
Remus' lips quivered slightly with the effort of holding back his laughter, "Like I said, it was just a thought."
Lily tugged Remus to a stop and he looked around, raising an eyebrow in question.
"Did you hear that?"
"I certainly heard every word you said, Lily."
"No, not that," Lily's grip on her wand tightened, "That."
This time Remus acknowledged the sound too. They raised their lit wands, looking around for the source of the sound.
The two seventh years swiveled around, Lily's hands getting sweaty in anticipation... only to come face to face with a very disgruntled portrait.
"Keep it down, will you?" Barmy the Bard eyed them grumpily from his portrait, as he retrieved a pair of ear muffs and placed it over his ears.
"Sorry," Lily whispered, fighting back a chuckle.
"And put that light out. Bloody kids," he muttered, as he tried to shield his eyes from their wand light.
They lowered their wands but made no move to extinguish the light. They resumed their leisurely pace, both chuckling under their breaths at the annoyed portrait.
"I swear they get grumpier each year," Remus whispered, earning a smile from the Head Girl beside him.
Silence surrounded them then— so loud that their footsteps resonated throughout the corridor in a distinct rhythm, swallowed only by the occasional loud snores from the portraits' sleeping inhabitants.
Lily sighed. "Is it that obvious?"
"Well, if Barmy's reaction isn't enough for you—"
"Remus," Lily rolled her eyes, laughing at him.
"Weren't we talking about grumpy portraits?"
Remus chuckled. "Lily?"
She nudged his shoulder, laughing a bit. "Is it really that obvious?"
"You know, that I..." Lily muttered, "That I fancy Potter."
Remus glanced at Lily, finally letting his smile break through. The blotches of red from her cheeks spread, making her face almost as red as her fiery hair.
"Well... I mean," Remus quickly retracted seeing the dismay on Lily's face, "We know you. We know Pron— James. And we certainly know how you couldn't stand him when we were younger and seeing how you are with him now and actually having just heard what you think of him... Well." Remus shrugged.
"When you say 'we'...?"
"James is still pathetically dim-witted, as far as anything about you is concerned."
Lily almost sighed with relief. "Good. I don't want him to know yet."
Remus smiled. "We can keep a secret, you know."
"You three? Keep a secret from Potter?" Lily said in disbelief, "That's like asking Alice and Frank to keep their hands off each other."
"That's not entirely impossible, you know."
"If you disillusion one of them, maybe."
"I fear that that would only be counter-productive. But really, Lily, you should have some faith in us," Remus patted her on the back as they turned a corner, "In me."
Lily shook her head, "Oh, I have plenty of faith in you, Remus. It's the other two I'm concerned about."
Remus frowned. "Why don't you want James to know?"
Lily started to look at the floor with sudden interest. "I will not give him the satisfaction of knowing that he won."
Remus raised his eyebrows. "Won? Won what?"
"We both know that this is just a game to him—ever since he's made it a habit to ask me out— and that I'm one of the fair few who say 'no' to him just makes him more persistent to get me to say otherwise."
"James can be an arse," Remus stated, "He can be a bit daft too, Lily, but he's not that thick. And he's certainly not cruel. He never plays with someone's affections."
"Can you honestly say that he genuinely fancied all the girls he's been with?"
After the night, more and more of those blasted birds threw themselves at James and couldn't take no for an answer. They forced themselves on his mate and James tired of having to tell them to bugger off. He didn't have it in him to keep on rejecting them (knowing full well himself how much rejection hurts). So James gave them a shot, honestly thinking that maybe, just maybe, being with someone else could help him forget his fascination with Lily Evans. And Remus could say that James tried his hardest to like those girls back— could even go as far as to say that some of them he really did start to care about.
In fact, James was never the one who asked to break up. It was always the girls— the bloody birds who wanted to steal James' heart away from an unknowing Lily Evans but couldn't... The girls who couldn't stand seeing James' attention waver when Lily walked into the Great hall, only to have her turn and glare at him.
He would feel bad when they asked him whether he still fancied Lily Evans because he always couldn't answer them. He couldn't say yes since he knew how devastated they would be, and he more so couldn't lie to their face and say that no, of course he didn't fancy her anymore. Because, James would reason to his mates after, wouldn't lying about how he was still crazy over that infuriating, devilishly beautiful red-head be worse than pretending to have moved on?
And then James would feel frustrated after the hopeless birds ended it with him— would beat himself up over why he couldn't leave Lily bloody Evans alone.
James had his reasons, Remus thought— reasons he knew that he couldn't tell Lily, no matter how much he wanted to just so that James and Lily could finally work out.
Lily thought that Remus' silence was all the answer she was going to get.
"You're his friend," Lily smiled sadly at him, "So forgive me if I think that your opinion may not tend to be impartial when it comes to him."
"And you've thoroughly expressed your dislike for him for almost six years," Remus shook his head, "Pardon my saying, but I don't think you can be an accurate judge of his character as well, as far as impartiality goes."
"Really, Remus?" Lily laughed lightly, "After telling you that I fancy James, can you really still call my idea of him prejudiced?"
"That's the problem, isn't it? You only know your idea of him, not who he really is," Remus smiled patiently at Lily.
"I know that James is a good person. You needn't have praised him so much. If he'd have heard you, you wouldn't have heard the end of it."
Remus chuckled and Lily could see the Marauder's fondness for his friend, shining straight through his eyes.
"I don't think I built him up too much, to be honest. I let you do all the talking after all. So I guess you're the one who needs to be careful of who hears who."
Remus almost regretted reminding Lily of their conversation as he watched the smile slip off her face.
"Promise you won't tell him? Any one of you?"
Remus hesitated. "Why are you so averse to him knowing, Lily?"
"Well, the stars never have been much in our favor. I feel like James finding out would wind up to another catastrophic disaster."
"I wasn't aware that you took a liking to Astronomy," Remus joked in an attempt to lighten Lily's now damp mood.
"Prat," Lily's lips quirked up in a small smile.
They stopped walking. The suit of armor guarding the portrait to the Heads' room stood, unmoving, a little ways to the side.
"You should talk to him, Lily," Remus said quietly, "It's quite obvious he feels the same way."
"You're sure about that, are you?" she asked, "Because I'm almost quite certain that the moment I show any liking in him is the moment that he would end his interest in me. And I just don't fancy myself getting hurt again, Remus."
Oh, Lily. Remus thought. Prongs would never want to hurt you.
"Just let things run their course. Please?"
He sighed but nodded, "Alright then."
"Thank you," Lily finally smiled at him and bade him goodnight.
Remus watched the suit of armor spring aside to let her in the portrait hole, revealing the common room inside bathed in warm Gryffindor colors.
He started his way back to his own common room, and waited till the next turn before he said, "You can come out now, Padfoot."
Remus heard the swish of the cloak and saw Sirius materialize at the corner of his eyes.
"Evans has got some issues."
"Lily's been through a lot, you know that," Remus sighed, his eyes narrowing, "Having played a crucial part in one or two of those unfortunate events yourself."
"Blimey, do you always have to make me feel like a five-year-old?"
"I won't have to if you stop acting like one."
Sirius scowled at the prefect, "You're a horrible mate. Do you know that?"
"Yes, you have pointed that out quite a few times. Still, it astounds me why you've yet to bugger off despite that, though."
Sirius chuckled, seeing Remus' amused expression. "Wait, what gave me away?"
"To Lily, hopefully nothing, thanks to old Barmy," Remus chuckled.
"Ah," Sirius groaned, "I couldn't help it. Admit it, you almost peed your pants towards the end there."
"Well, it's not every day that Lily confesses to fancying James back."
"In a lot of unneeded but utterly delightful words, I might add," Sirius chuckled, the sheer amusement evident on his face, "I've never seen Lily-petal so flustered. Oh, I wish Prongs was there to see her face. It was almost as red as her hair."
Remus chuckled quietly along with his friend. But soon enough, the laughter ended.
"You do know that we can't speak a word of this to James, don't you, Sirius?"
Sirius glanced at Remus, noting his friend's serious tone. He frowned, "I still can't understand why she doesn't want to tell Prongs."
"You heard Lily. She still thinks this is a game to James."
"But it's not," Sirius rolled his eyes.
"I know. We all know that. But unless Prongs can convince her otherwise, I'm afraid there's nothing we can do."
"There has to be something," Sirius offered.
Remus sighed. "We shouldn't interfere, Pads. At least, not yet."
"I... but Moony, Prongsie will be so—"
"Give me your word, Sirius," Remus shook his head, "Marauder's oath."
Sirius hesitated for a moment but wilted under his friend's determined gaze.
"Fine. I won't breathe a word to him. Marauder's oath," then he scowled and muttered under his breath, "Bloody bird."
As they passed Barmy the Bard again, Remus fought the urge to groan in frustration.
Why was this so complicated? In fact, why did everything that concerned Lily and James end up being so bloody complicated?
If only James hadn't made a habit of asking Lily out in every way possible when they were younger, then maybe Lily wouldn't be under the impression that he was only taking the mickey out of her and was only asking her out for a laugh. If only... if only...
Maybe Lily was right. Maybe the stars were to blame.
When they finally reached the portrait of the Fat lady, Sirius saw that his friend was still deep in thought and he knew better than to interrupt him, what with the small frown on his face. So when they entered the common room, he bid Remus goodnight and left him alone to his thoughts.
Remus settled himself in front of the fire, thinking of what he would say to James when he would, surely, corner him tomorrow morning. He wanted to tell James, oh how he wanted to, if it meant making his mate the happiest bloke in the world. But he promised Lily that he wouldn't, and he made Padfoot swear to keep his mouth shut and he knew that he could rely on Sirius' word.
So it wasn't really a question of what Remus should or must do, but of what he will or won'tdo.
The problem was that, though Lily fancied James, she did not want to be the one to admit it. She still had it in her head that James was only playing her, despite the huge difference of how James was in the past and how James was now. At the end of it all, Remus thought, it really boils down to James— of how far he would go to win Lily over and how much longer he was willing to wait to gain her trust completely.
Remus rubbed his temples. Someday, he swore, his friends would be the death of him.
"My dear Lily," Remus sighed as he stood to retire to their dormitory and finally extinguished the fire, "How can James win if he's not even playing?"
"Can we please interfere now? I mean, seriously," Sirius grinned at his own pun, "How can two people as brilliant as them be so thick?"
"We promised not to interfere."
"Actually," Sirius grinned, "I only swore not to tell James. I never said anything about leaving Lilykins alone, Moony."
"Lily asked us to just let things run their course."
"Technically, she asked you. Not me and certainly not Pete."
Remus sighed. Sirius did have a point.
"All this sexual tension isn't good for us, I tell you," Sirius muttered, eyeing James and Lily across the room.
And as they continued to watch the two Heads, Remus was starting to think that Sirius was right. Almost a month had already passed since Lily acknowledged her feelings for James and anyone within foot's distance from them right now could wrap the tension between the two with their bare hands.
It was exhausting to see them try and hide their feelings for each other and fail miserably. In fact, everyone was just waiting for them to go ahead and snog already, as Sirius had so graciously put it last week. But Lily was... well, Lily— stubborn and proud Lily, who wouldn't dare initiate anything if it meant giving James the liberty to gloat about it afterwards, as she put it. James, on the other hand, didn't want to ruin his relationship with Lily, not when everything between them was finally, finally going smoothly, as he put it.
It was maddening to see how oblivious they were to how they were feeling, much more as to how they were acting. Lily would steal glances at James as he wrote something on his parchment and when James looked up, she would have already looked back at her work and he would start staring until he realized that he had that far-off expression on his face, went back to what he was doing, and coincidentally, that would be when Lily would glance at him again. And this would go on until one of them was done or when it was time for rounds.
At first it was amusing but right now, as they were doing it again, it was frustrating to watch.
Then there was the touching.
It was Sirius who noticed it first. They would find excuses to touch each other when they could— their hands brushing against each others' as they walked, James' hand on Lily's back, Lily's hand on James' arm. And as this went on, it was Remus who noticed how unconscious they were already of what they were doing— Lily ruffling James' hair, James playing with Lily's hair, Lily's head on James' shoulder, James' arm around Lily's waist...
But then, always, one or the other would realize that they were acting too comfortably and would start to put some distance and then everything would be sobloody awkward and it frustrated anyone who was around the two Heads. When this happened, Remus and Sirius, now even Peter or anyone who was near, could feel the current in the air— the magnetic draw that James and Lily were trying, only Merlin knows why, to resist.
"What's gotten your trousers in a knot?" Peter slumped down on a chair, joining his friends to see what they were frowning at, "Ugh. Don't know why they don't just snog already. How can you two just watch them like this?"
"Watch who like what?"
They looked up at the sound of Marlene McKinnon's voice. Slowly, a smile crept up on Sirius' face. Maybe they couldn't say anything, but that didn't mean that other people couldn't.
Marlene eyed him warily. She knew Black well enough to know that look. She also knew that nothing good could possibly come out of that look. "Alright, spit it out. What are you planning?"
"You're close to Lilykins, right Mar?" Sirius asked, a mischievous look on his face.
"Are you close to James?" Marlene laughed at his question, "You're really asking me that, Black?"
"Just making sure that we're talking to the right person for the job," Sirius grinned, fixing his attention back to the issue at hand.
Marlene followed his gaze and snorted, "Oh no. If this is about Lily and James you can count me out."
"What? Why?" Sirius looked back at her, suddenly indignant.
"Lily told me that you knew—"
"Looking at those two, only someone as thick as dragon hide could not know," Sirius muttered under his breath, "Honestly."
"I promised Lily that I wouldn't interfere and I know you did too."
"We haven't interfered, Mar," Remus assured her, "James knows nothing."
"Clearly," Sirius muttered, looking back pointedly at James who was muttering to himself about shrinking spells and was completely unaware of Lily's persistent gaze, "They would be otherwise pre-occupied if he did."
Marlene sighed, looking at the hopeless couple in front of her. She hated to admit it but like Black, her patience was wearing thin, "I'm sick of it all, actually. They're starting to become bloody pathetic."
"Then let's do something about it!"
"Black, we promised not to—"
"Not to interfere, yeah, yeah," Sirius scowled, waving his hands in frustration, "But we wouldn't be interfering. Not really. We'll just be... giving them a little nudge, yeah?"
"Just a little nudge, eh? Might as well just shove them altogether— hopeless the pair of them, really," Peter said, nodding towards the Head boy and girl.
The four of them frowned as they watched James playfully shove Lily, earning an amused smirk from the Head Girl. He muttered something against her ear and she shook her head slightly, muttering something in return. James grinned mischievously, his eyes bright with mirth, as he stretched out and lay down on Lily's lap, pushing aside the books and rolls of parchment that previously occupied the spot he now claimed. "James!" They heard Lily's tinkering laugh as she eyed the impossible boy who was now using her legs as a pillow. The undeniable surge of color on her cheeks became darker as the Head boy refused to move, encircling her waist with his arms. The soft smile on Lily's face disputed her attempt to look disapproving, as they continued to talk in low tones, oblivious to the four sets of exasperated eyes on them.
She was funny when she didn't try to be. She was interesting and could start up a good conversation. She was also quite smart and was part of the Ravenclaw quidditch team. And she was pretty enough. She was a brunette with pretty skin and pretty green eyes. In fact, if James wanted a word that would have summed Clemence Wartby up he would have chosen that— pretty. So James couldn't figure out what was wrong with him. He should have been attracted to her, as any hormonal seventeen-year-old should have been. Well, alright, maybe he was attracted to her. He would have been afraid if he wasn't. The problem was that he just wasn't attracted enough. His eyes should have been glued to her pretty face. He should have felt his stomach go in a whirl with her pretty little smile. He should have been enthralled with her sparkling, pretty green eyes.
But they're not the right green.
James shook his head, trying to clear it of his earlier thoughts. "Clem, I..."
Clemence frowned. She knew without him even saying, just from the tone of his voce. She tilted her head to the side, curious. "So you won't even give me a chance?"
"I'm sorry," James sighed, "You're a nice girl and—"
"How would you know?"
"How would you know that you don't really like me if you won't even give me a chance?" Clemence prodded, a small and sad smile on her face.
"Just one date, James," she muttered, "Just one date's all I ask. And if you really can't care to be with me, then that's that."
James looked at her, her pretty lips turned down in a small frown, her pretty green eyes begging him to consider saying yes, just this once, to consider her.
They're not the right green.
"I— Well..." he mumbled, his hands rubbed the back of his neck.
James felt her hands squeeze the side of his arm as he thought it over. He didn't really particularly fancy Clemence Wartby but she was asking for a chance.Just one chance. His fifth year self flashed in his mind, standing in front of a hot-headed red head, asking for exactly just that but never getting it.
"Clemence..." he muttered.
"I thought you'd give me as much. I mean, you always give people chances," she said, her pretty green eyes widening just a bit as she gazed at him.
Not the right green.
He found his mind flying, unable to process what the girl in front of him was saying. He thought of just what it took to make the right kind of green and as he looked back at Clemence just to see what was missing with her kind of green, he became aware of how close she suddenly was and how she was reaching out to grab his tie.
"Just one chance," she whispered.
With her green eyes much closer he still couldn't work out what was wrong with this kind of green. He knew. He just knew. They're not the right green.
Clemence brought a finger to his lips, and whispered, "Shh."
James didn't know how it happened. Well, he knew how it happened of course, but he didn't know how it could have happened so fast.
One minute Clemence was standing in front of him, trying to plead her case, the next her lips were on his, trying to snog him. And although his head was flashing a red light, instead of trying to push the girl away, James suddenly found his hands gripping the robes on her waist. Because despite the warnings his head was giving him, James was still a seventeen year old boy and Clemence was still a very fit seventeen year old girl, and when a very fit seventeen year old girl who fancied you, tried to snog you senseless just to go on a date with you, well, it could be quite a task to get her to stop. And James had to give it to her, she was starting to get quite convincing— she was a right great kisser. Clemence, with her pretty hair and her pretty face with her pretty little smile and her pretty green eyes... But they're not the right green.
James stiffened. Bloody fucking hell, what was he doing? Fancying one bird but snogging another, in the name of Merlin's soggy pants, something, no, everything was wrong here.
James put his hands on her shoulders and tried to put some distance between them, but Clemence had an amazingly tight grip. And then he remembered that she was a Chaser, so of course she had a bloody great grip. With this in mind, he tried to lightly push her away again but he suddenly found that he needn't have done so. Even without his assistance, the sound of a strangled sort of cry effectively tore the two teenagers apart.
His face became ashen as he turned to see Lily staring, wide-eyed and hands covering her mouth, at the sight before her. Clemence was still clinging on to James' tie, both their faces too flushed and their lips too red and their breathing too heavy.
"I— sorry," Lily whispered, her voice cracking a bit to the end, as she whipped around and stormed off in embarrassment.
James stood, shocked and distraught while Clemence looked from Lily's retreating back to James' ghostly pale face.
"Wait, are you— Oh my God," Clemence whispered, "I didn't know... You and Evans... I thought..."
Clemence broke off as James snapped back to himself, already shaking his head.
"I'm so sorry, James," she muttered, a horrified expression on her face, "I mean, I know you— but Lily! I'm so sorry."
"No, we— I mean, I..." James let out a sigh of frustration as his fingers roughly brushed his hair away from his face. "It's not like that, between us."
"Nothing's... nothing's going on between us," He never liked saying this out loud, really.
"That was nothing?" Clemence raised her eyebrows, not quite deciding yet whether she was more amused than irritated or horrified.
"She doesn't like me that way, Clem," James grumbled, "I think the whole school knows that, really."
"Honestly, James?" Clemence's eyes darted to the direction Lily set off before she turned slowly back to James, an amazed expression on her face, "How thick can you get?"
James raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"She clearly does!"
"She fancies you. Lily Evans fancies you."
James looked at her, baffled. "No... That's not..."
"Bloody hell, James, if it wasn't clear to you before, it can't be any clearer after that," Clemence gestured to the direction Lily ran off to.
James looked helplessly at the direction Lily went.
Clemence sighed, exasperated at how positively clueless this brilliant boy in front of her was. "This would be the time to go after her, you know."
Lily couldn't possibly fancy him, James thought. He didn't dare hope for that. But he did feel the need to go after her to explain things. He didn't know why he had to explain what happened to Lily but he knew, again he just knew, that he had too.
"But," He looked at Clemence, a little self-conscious, "What about you?"
"I'll get over it," she said wryly, "Besides, she's Lily Evans. I'm no match for that."
James just stood there, almost gaping at the sudden transformation of the girl in front of him. Amazing creatures they really were, these birds, he thought. Just a few moments ago she was smiling kindly at him, asking that he go out with her, that he give her just one chance. Now, there she stood, eyes blazing, a grim determination on her face, telling him to go after another girl even if she just confessed to him a while ago, and snogged him to prove her point. Only then did James see her, really see her, past her pretty eyes that weren't the right kind of green.
Maybe he could have liked her, if he had agreed to give her a chance. But he knew he wouldn't have given her that anyway, no matter what he thought now. So he would never really know if he would have taken a liking to Clemence at all, would he? Not that he really wanted to know. He was just slightly shocked from the possibility that maybe her eyes could have become the right kind of green. But again, that didn't matter now. He was already hopelessly lost to someone else.
"I— thank you."
James hugged her and she sighed, thinking how wonderful it felt and just how bloody mouthwatering the Quidditch captain smelled.
"Honestly, what are you— James, just go. Go after her," Clemence mumbled, trying not to get too comfortable against his chest.
He let go and gave her a quick kiss on her cheek, smiling his thanks before he gave chase.
Clemence crossed her arms, her face a blazing red, as she watched the Head boy race through the corridor after Lily Evans. She let out a little sigh of disappointment.
It was such a shame, she thought. James was gorgeous and kind and a bloody good snog. They could have got on but even she knew, after what happened, that going after James would have been a lost cause. She shook her head and turned around to go back to her common room, wondering what on Earth James Potter could be thanking her for.
"That is awfully quite distracting, you know."
In the end, James wasn't able to catch up with Lily and had resolved to go wait for her in the Heads' dorm. But once he arrived, he noted the soft glow of flickering lights coming from Lily's bedroom and knew at once that she was inside.
James was surprised though, that he didn't even need to beg entry into her room. He called out to her and she promptly answered, making no business to hide her presence. James expected a little amount of resistance, at least, but as he almost always was with anything concerning Lily, he was wrong. Nonetheless, James was still wary when he entered the room and he sat down in front of her. The fact that Lily was playing with her wand, causing sparks of different colors to shower the room, also wasn't helping James' nerves at all.
"Sorry," Lily muttered and finally tucked her wand away, "What did you want to talk about?"
James hesitated. "I wanted to explain... er, what you saw earlier..."
Lily shrugged. "You don't have to explain anything to me."
Someone other than James could have been fooled but James knew Lily. He watched Lily far too much to not see the tension rolling off her shoulders, causing the straightness of her back and the stiffness of her neck.
"No, Lily, it wasn't what it looked like."
"You're seriously using that line on me?"
"It's not a line. It's the truth. I swear."
Lily raised an eyebrow. "So Clemence Wartby wasn't trying to eat your face off?"
"No, she— we're not—" James huffed, his hand tugging at his hair in frustration.
Lily sighed. She suddenly felt exhausted. "You don't have to explain yourself, Potter."
"That is your name, isn't it?"
"No," James' eyes suddenly flashed dangerously, a grim determination shone on his face, set on the curve of his mouth, "No, we're not going back to that. I won't— Lily, please."
Lily's breath hitched with the way he said her name. She could see and hear his desperation, the plea for her to listen.
"Clemence asked me out... but I was going to say no. She wanted me to give her a chance, and yes, yes I hesitated but only because I knew that— I knew how—" James' hand flew to his hair again, his dept fingers pulled at its edges, "Clem saw me hesitate so she kissed me. And I admit that for a moment... for a moment I lost my head and let her and I'm sorry for that. But Lily—"
James saw Lily's expression harden as her eyes started to grow brighter. He saw it— she was shutting him out again, denying him of the chance he was asking for, again. He struggled with his words in a way that only Lily Evans could make him, and it was not the time for that. It was absolutely the most inopportune time for James Potter to stumble and stutter and fail to make his point.
"Lily, I don't fancy Clemence," James groaned, "I was pushing her away. I was trying to push her away when you saw us."
"Why are you even telling me all this?"
"I— I just know that I have to explain."
James almost shivered at the cold stare Lily was giving him. He was afraid that this would completely throw them off balance yet again, but he was also starting to get angry. The almost hostile look in her eyes as she seemed to judge his every movement was all too familiar to him. She was doing it again. They were regressing to the old Lily and James... to Evans and Potter, and he couldn't let that happen. They've come too far for that.
"I just have to."
"I really don't see how this matters, Potter."
James grasped her shoulders lightly and felt Lily stiffen under his hands. "I know I hurt you. You can deny it all you want but I can see that you're not alright," he continued, not allowing her to argue, "And I know that I've fucked things up spectacularly and I can't— I won't let that get in the way of our... our friendship."
"Yes, because we're such bloody good mates aren't we?"
"Aren't... aren't we?"
Lily hesitated before muttering, "I don't know."
James felt the strangest sensation at the pit of his stomach. He wanted them to be friends (well, of course he wanted more than that but he would get what he could). It was different for him and Lily than it was for him and the Marauders but they got on well enough, that was for certain. And for the past few months, he honestly believed that they were mates— that they were on good enough terms, great even, to be called such. But honestly, he knew that it was too much to hope for that. Because if he were to tell Lily what he really thought, it was that he knew that they could never be just friends. It was always something else entirely with James and Lily, never being just.
"What do you think we are?"
"I don't know."
"Well, what do you want us to be?"
"I told you, I don't know," a dangerous spark of anger flashed in her striking green eyes.
James let out a frustrated sigh. "I'm trying my best here, Lily."
Lily laughed wryly, "You don't have to do anything, Potter."
"Don't call me Potter."
Lily ignored his almost pleading tone. She ignored how the light in his eyes had gone out, how the usually bright hazel was now dimmed with chaos. She ignored the desperate hands that were pulling at the nest of already messy hair atop his stricken face, ignored every lovely strand of hair that stuck up due to his frustration. Just a game.
"I never understand what goes on in your head, Lily. I try to, Merlin knows how much I do. But every single time, just when I think that I finally understand you, you do or say something completely opposite of what I expect and I—" She watched him take a deep breath, obviously trying to collect himself, "I want to understand you, Lily because I have to— I need to make you understand, too."
Lily's mouth set into a thin line. "I understand perfectly."
James shook his head. "I don't think you do."
"I do," Lily's voice quivered. She clenched her hands at the side, trying with all her might not to let her tears fall. Not in front of him, she kept thinking. Not in front of James. "I've understood ever since you started this whole game."
James frowned. "What?" He was suddenly at a loss, "What are you on about? What game?"
James' eyes followed her as she stood up and started to pace in front him.
Lily had finally come to terms with fancying him and she was right. It was all just a game to James and she was right. She had hoped that she thought wrong— made herself believe in these past few months that James was serious in his pursuit. But she was right. It was all just a game to him. He didn't really fancy her. How could he when he snogged Clemence Wartby? James' explanation didn't even matter because, however much he said that he didn't fancy Clemence, he still kissed her back. He snogged Clemence bloody Wartby and seeing them like that ripped her insides... and it made her want to puke but that wasn't the point at the moment. It was all a game and she was right. She didn't know that being right could possibly hurt like hell.
"This," she said, gesturing between the two of them, "This being nice to each other and not fighting all the time and getting along and just— this, whatever this is."
James raised an eyebrow. "I'm failing to see where what you said can be mistaken as some sort of competition."
Lily all but growled on frustration. "Don't play coy with me, James Potter. You know what I'm going on about."
"I don't..." James trailed off, almost helplessly.
Lily averted her gaze, a blaze of red suddenly coloring her cheeks. "You've been asking me out since third year, giving all those grandiose proposals and outrageous proclamations, getting me to give you a chance, trying to get me to like you... It's been a game to you hasn't it? Getting me to say yes? And now that we're finally getting along, I bet you think that you're this close to winning me over don't you?"
"Winning you over?" James' eyes narrowed in disbelief, "You think this is a game to me?"
"You don't have to pretend otherwise, you know," Lily said, looking anywhere but James, "I've always known that... that you... that I'm not—" Lily's voice broke.
James' eyes widened with concern. "Lily..." After all this time when he was trying to show Lily how much he truly cared, after all this time Lily thought he wasn't serious? That this was merely a plot to get her to say yes? That this was all just a game, all just about the chase? "Is that what you really think?"
"It's what I know," she murmured.
"Do you really think I could do that to you?" James said whispered, still shocked that she could think that, "Do you really think that little of me?"
Lily's eyes snapped up to his and James' stomach twisted at the tears that were threatening to fall from her eyes. He mentally berated himself for causing her to be in such a state. He wanted to be the reason for her infectious laughter and her warm, cheery smile. Not for the sadness and hurt that shone in her bright emerald eyes.
"It just made sense," she shrugged, trying to appear unconcerned, "I've rejected you a hundred different ways and you're a right incorrigible prat who never took no for an answer. It was only logical that you'd make a game of it, of earning my trust, of gaining my friendship... of trying to make me say yes."
James stood up and reached hesitantly for her hand. "I did all those things because I wanted to, not to trick you into liking me or... or giving me a chance. All this, this is because I—" James let out a deep breath and shook his head to clear it. "It's not a game Lily."
"You're speaking in present tense," she noted.
James sighed, a little guilt making its way to his eyes. "It might have been a game when we were younger— annoying you, trying to get your attention, trying to change your idea of me..." Lily's eyes tightened and James continued hastily, "But it hasn't been like that for a long time already. It might have started out as a game, as you put it, but ever since—" James drew in a deep breath, "it's just... it's not a game at all now, Lily. A part of me still hopes that you would say 'yes' someday, and maybe that is part of the reason on why I've tried so hard for us to get along," James smiled, almost sadly at that far-fetched hope, "But mostly I tried because I genuinely wanted to know you better, because you make me curious and because no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to figure you out, because I love seeing you smile and laugh and I wanted to be part of the reason for that... And now that we do get along, I've found that I don't have to try at all, that getting along with you is as easy as breathing— that it's easier to get along with you than to argue all the time for reasons that I can't even remember. As much entertaining as our arguments may be to the rest of the school, I hate it when we bite each others' heads off. It's quite tiresome, if I do say so."
Lily almost smiled at his attempt on humor. Almost. James' eyes stayed trained on hers, unwavering as always, and his gaze caused her face to heat up, and her heart to race. She saw the clear sincerity shining through his face but she refused to give in to him— refused to succumb to his charm or his words.
"It doesn't even matter if you're telling me the truth or not," she reasoned, trying to convince herself more than she was trying to convince him, "We can't— I can't be friends with you."
"Why not?" James asked, his tone suddenly indignant.
"Oh come off it, James. We can't ever be just friends. I know you know that," Lily grumbled, "Too much has happened. There's too much between us."
James' eyebrows shot up, "Too much between us?"
Lily gave him a curt nod.
"So you're admitting that there is something between us?" A sly grin appeared on James' face.
"I... you're twisting my words."
"That's not even a proper argument you've got there."
"It's not— you just don't get it," Lily answered stiffly.
James simply looked at her, concern suddenly washing away the incoming irritation from Lily's words. Lily fought the urge to look away as the warmth in his hazel eyes slowly returned. She felt self-conscious under his steady gaze.
"Lily, what's really on your mind?" James sounded concerned, "What's going on?"
"It's nothing, James."
"Why can't we be friends?"
"I already told you!"
"Don't lie to me," James' irritation suddenly made its way back to his tone.
"I'm not! I—"
"It's— Oh fuck it," Lily fought the urge to growl in frustration, "I fancy you! I like you, you sodding, thick-headed, frustrating prat. That's why we can't be bloody friends!"
He blinked as Lily Evans' eyes widened as she realized what she had practically shouted (thank god they were inside her room). He blinked as she covered her face in embarrassment, as she shut her eyes and tried to calm her breath. He blinked as his mind turned over the Head Girl's words again and again, unsure of what she really said. And finally he repeated the words in his mouth, trying to familiarize himself with each letter, each word strung together to make the most beautiful sentence he had ever heard up to now.
"You fancy... me?"
James didn't know why it came as such a shock. Looking back at the past few months, it could have been blatantly obvious how she felt. But this was Lily Evans and James knew that he could not trust himself wherever she was concerned. Maybe he did see the signs— the small glances, the quick touches, the secret smiles— but he was so used to not hoping that he easily shoved them aside, not seeing them for what they really were. Even when Clemence said it earlier, even when James knew (though he still didn't know how) that someday she would finally agree to give him a chance, even now when Lily said it herself, he still couldn't bring himself to believe it that easily.
Lily wanted to keep on hiding behind her hands, wanted to at most peek in between her fingers. But then she realized what she was doing and suddenly, she felt like a coward. She was a Gryffindor, bloody hell, and here she was— distraught at seeing James Potter snogging Clemence Wartby, flustered at James' words of re-assurance, agitated with him asking for her friendship and asking why she couldn't give him that, mortified that she all but shouted how she felt about him... Here she was, all but cowering because of James Potter. Merlin, if Godric could see her now.
She chanced a look at the boy in front of her.
James was still looking at her, his eyes bright and warm and disbelieving, as she turned to face him. "I— Blimey, did you—I... I think I heard wrong."
"No, I—" She took a deep breath, but her voice still quaked when she said, "I fancy you, James. You win."
Clemence was right, James thought. Clemence was bloody fucking amazingly right and Lily just said it again and... Wait, what did she just say?
James frowned. "What do you mean?"
"I honestly hope you're not asking me to explain what it's like when you fancy someone," Lily said, her face reddening in both embarrassment and growing anger.
"No, no, I know what— Of course I know because you're— I mean," James shook his head in attempt to arrange his thoughts, "What do you mean, I win?"
She merely looked down at the red, carpeted ground. A spark of recognition flashed through James' eyes.
"I told you, it's not a game, Lily. This," he gestured between them, "Is not a game to me. I would never do that to you. You know I wouldn't hurt you like that. You know that."
"Do I?" she muttered.
James groaned. "You're doing it again. You're shutting me out. You're not listening to me, again."
"I am listening! But that doesn't mean that I'll believe everything I hear."
There was a soft, almost tender expression on his face as he said, "I fancied you since third year when you jinxed me and Sirius for trying to turn your hair green. You've rejected me for far more times than I care to count or even remember but I'm still here. I still want to be a part of your life, no matter how small, or inconsequential a part that may be."
Lily looked pointedly away. If she looked, even so much as glanced, at James' eyes now she knew it would be her undoing. And she would not, could not let that happen. If she let herself believe James, if he hurt her... if she lost him...
"I care about you," James said, sighing in frustration, "Can't you see that? After all these years can't you... can't you see— maybe I don't mean as much to you, or maybe I don't mean anything at all but, Lily... can't you see just how much you mean to me?"
"You don't believe me, do you?" James gritted his teeth. His nails were already biting the palm of his hands but his grip never loosened.
Lily steeled herself and finally looked him in the eye. She tried not to be overcome by the sudden sadness in them. "I... don't know."
"I don't know how many times you want me to say this but, this isn't a game to me," he was angry, she could tell, "But if that's all this is to you then I can't do anything about that. I'm not playing, Evans. I'm not playing you."
"I didn't— that's not—"
"I care about you. I like you so much, Lily, and I would do just about anything for you but I don't think... there's nothing more I can do to prove myself to you," James looked away, a tired expression overcoming his face, "I'm done."
And as James left the room, Lily couldn't help but feel that it was done. Game or not, she had indeed lost.
"You're sulking," Marlene sighed, "He's sulking. It's almost Christmas and everyone's in a frustratingly gloomy mood and you and James are not helping lift the atmosphere one bit."
It did feel quite gloomy in the Common room, now that Lily thought about it. But she had been feeling despondent herself, so it didn't really have much of an effect on her as much as Marlene wanted it to have.
"You're obviously bothered by this whole thing, so why don't you just go and talk to him and make up already?"
"I don't have anything to say to him."
"Really, Lily," Marlene reproached, "Stop being so stubborn."
"Stubborn? Me?" Lily said, indignant, "He's the one who—"
"He's been nothing but nice to you, Lily Evans, and you know it. Even now when you're in a fight or... or whatever this is, he's still helping you with Head duties and trying to make things easier for you and—" Marlene's voice was steadily gaining volume, making Lily shrink back in her chair, little by little, "He's done everything he could to prove that he's not fooling around but you still refuse to see it."
"He snogged Clemence Wartby."
"And he explained himself already, you said so yourself," Marlene rolled her eyes.
"But he still did it! No matter what he said it still proves that he's not as serious he claims to be."
"The way I see it, Clemence pretty much threw herself at him and he was caught by surprise. You told me James said he was trying to push her off, right?"
"He said he was," Lily muttered.
"And technically, he wasn't doing anything wrong by kissing her since you're not even together. So why does this matter?" Marlene raised an eyebrow.
Lily narrowed her eyes at her best friend. "Whose side are you on, really?"
"No one's," she hesitated, "James hasn't dated anyone since term started, you know. He's refused every single girl that's asked him out and Merlin knows he's had more than a few fit girls trying to seduce him in every corner. I'm just trying to figure out why you're so adamant on pushing him away and closing yourself off from anyone who might genuinely care for you."
"Come now, Marlene, you know why—"
Marlene cut her off with a look. Blimey, she could be scary when she wanted to be.
"And what's maddening is that you like him back but you refuse to do anything about it despite him telling you how much he likes you too and it just doesn't make any bloody sense at all. Do you know just how many people would kill to be you right now?"
Lily's look darkened. "Funny, I thought they'd kill not to be me."
Marlene stopped abruptly. Realizing what she just said, her eyes flashed with apology. The times were not easy, especially for Lily. If all else, the killings and the attacks on Muggleborns and blood traitors only caused more stress to the Head girl, building up more tension than was already needed.
"Oh Lily, I didn't mean— I only wanted to make a point."
Lily smiled slightly, acknowledging that she understood. There was silence for a while.
"I know you miss him."
Lily's stomach twisted in coils. She glanced at her friend who was giving her a pointed look. "How'd you make that one out?"
"I see how you look at him when you think no one's looking, you know. Merlin, that's how James looks at you too when you're not looking."
She raised an eyebrow. "He looks at me, does he?"
"Bloody hell, Lily," Marlene rolled her eyes, "He's always looked at you. I won't be surprised if you're all he sees, honestly."
"I doubt he would be able to see anything without his glasses on, honestly."
Marlene noted the fond but sad smile on Lily's lips as she attempted to make light of her situation, as she always did when she didn't want to let on just how bothered she really was.
"You're in a right mess of things aren't you?" Marlene muttered.
"I know," Lily sighed.
"So that's it, then?"
Lily raised a questioning eyebrow.
"You're just going to sit there and not do anything about it? You're just going to sulk and let James slip through your fingers?"
Marlene looked at her friend, a tired, almost sad look overcoming her face. "It's just... you were lucky enough to find someone you feel this strongly about. And even better, James feels just as strongly for you too. Not many people have that much luck, Lily... especially with this war threatening to take over everyone's sanity. I just can't see how you're not doing anything to stop him from leaving."
"I don't..." Lily sighed, finally letting her frustration show, "I know I messed up, Mar. I just... I don't know how to talk to him. After everything I said," Or didn't say, "I don't see how he can still... I hate this. I hate how we're not talking to each other but I— I don't know if I can do this, Mar."
Marlene stared at her friend. A whole different emotion clouded her eyes as Lily shifted uneasily under her unwavering gaze.
"You know what, Lily? The problem isn't even him. It's you."
"You say you like James but you still can't see him clearly. You're still the same old Lily who thinks that James could never be serious about fancying someone."
"I... I know he fancies me, he's told me—"
"Yes, yes, he's told you," Marlene waved her hand dismissively, "But do you believe him, Lily? Do you actually see it?"
Lily looked away and frowned.
"Merlin, why does everything between you and Potter have to be so difficult?" Marlene muttered, "Honestly, just go snog him already and be done with it and everything will be solved and everyone will be happy."
Lily sputtered as her cheeks blushed a deep crimson, "Marlene!"
Marlene looked at her red-headed friend, sighing. She still had a mountain of essays left to do and to top it off she had Quidditch practice tomorrow morning, which she was not particularly looking forward too. James was a storm cloud of depression these days and though he did try to not bring that gloom to the pitch with him, there were times when he would slip. This resulted to him eyeing them even more closely, pointing out every mistake, every little flaw that he could see his team doing and he would not let them rest until they do it perfectly. Marlene knew, despite James telling them that this was to the benefit of the team that really, his intensifying their training was to keep him distracted enough. And that alone, spoke mountains. It took a lot to distract James from Quidditch, and Lily was doing that without even lifting a finger. The sooner Lily and James worked this out (whatever this was), the better for everyone.
"He's not fooling around with you, you know. He might've been when we were younger but ever since that night, I don't think he has been. He really does fancy you, maybe even more. It's glaringly obvious and everyone can see it," Marlene stood up, giving her friend a last, meaningful look before letting her thoughts start to stray on her Charms essay, "Maybe, Lily, it's about time you see it too."
"Prongs, mate, you don't look pretty."
"Your point being?"
Sirius shrugged. "You're supposed to look pretty."
James continued to scowl, poking the offending piece of sausage on his plate. "Should I take that as a compliment?"
"He looks pretty enough, Sirius," Remus chuckled.
"Pretty awful, if that's what you're on about."
"You're being overly dramatic again, Padfoot," James sighed, eyeing his supper with disdain before finally pushing it away.
"He's not actually," Peter quipped, grabbing the neglected sausage on James plate and shoving it in his mouth, "You can give the Bloody Baron a run for his money."
"He's right, you know," Marlene sounded disgruntled as she sat down across from James, a small frown already present on her lips, "You look like someone who slept in a roomful of boggarts."
"I don't think anyone can sleep in a roomful of boggarts, though," Peter mused.
"That's sort of the point, Peter."
Marlene sighed, looking almost pityingly at the disgruntled boy in front of him. "I don't get it."
James raised an eyebrow, questioningly.
"You're both miserable. You're both obviously so worked up about all of this... but neither of you are doing anything to fix it."
"Seeing as how I never seem to say or do the right thing around her, I think I've done enough, honestly," James muttered glumly, "Where is she, anyway?"
"I don't know, actually," Marlene scowled, "She's quite depressing to be with right now."
"Yes, well, James has been nothing but a bright ray of sunshine, haven't you mate?" Sirius said, a wry smile on his face.
"Shove off," James muttered.
"See what I'm getting at?" Sirius said, the smile on his face tightening infinitesimally, "Can't you just kiss and make-up?"
James cast him an irritated look and Sirius merely shrugged. It was clear to all of them that neither James nor Lily was willing to take the first step, and they honestly didn't want their holidays to be plagued by the depressing air surrounding the two Heads.
"James, you know how Lily is. Can't you just talk to her and get it over with?"
"We have talked," James shrugged, "And it is over."
All four Gryffindors raised their eyebrows at him.
"You don't really mean that," Remus frowned.
"And why not?"
"Four years, James," Sirius reminded him, "Four bloody long years."
James shot him a look and stood up, muttering something about heading off to the pitch to warm up for practice. "Besides," Marlene continued matter-of-factly as James departed, waving off his reminder to be down at the pitch in twenty minutes, "How can it be over when it never even started?"
"Well, how can anything start when she doesn't even want it to?" Peter asked.
"Whoever said that she doesn't want it to?" Marlene argued.
"I don't know about you, but I think that when a bloke spills his guts to the girl he fancies and she does nothing but scoff at his feelings, then it may just be another way of her saying 'Bugger off you prat, I'm not interested'," Sirius chuckled dryly.
Marlene rolled her eyes at him. Ever since they were little, Sirius did have a flare to over-dramatize just about everything. "Not interested? She already admitted to fancying James, you git. So instead of all this sulking about he should be snogging her senseless."
"She said she fancies James but then rejected him," Sirius raised an eyebrow as he mauled a treacle tart, "What's a bloke to do?"
"She did catch him snogging someone else."
"Oh please, Wartby attacked him," Sirius argued, "And when he got his wits about he tried pushing her off."
Marlene's eyes narrowed. "Can't have tried too hard, can he?"
Sirius waved her off, "The question still stands— what's a bloke to do?"
"Pursue her," Marlene shrugged.
"He's been doing that for four years, if you've been living under a rock and haven't noticed, McKinnon. Pretty much nothing left to it. The way I see it, it's all on Lily now."
Marlene groaned. "But you know how stubborn the girl is. James likes Lily, Lily likes James, they snog, the end. Why can't it be that simple?"
Remus smiled, almost tiredly. "Come now, Marlene. When has anything concerning James and Lily ever been simple?"
It was a particularly draining Quidditch practice, both physically and mentally. Not only was James' focus almost non-existent, but his team was also distracted by his agitation. So when he dismissed the team, coming to terms with the fact that practice that night was particularly bogus, he came up to the Gryffindor common room with Sirius and Marlene to fix some kinks in their strategy. They didn't accomplish much though since James' mind kept drifting off to his four-poster, and Sirius had to all but kick him out of the common room to make him retreat to his private quarters. So by the time that James did go back to the Heads' dorm, his body was aching and exhaustion was gnawing at his remaining wits.
He was expecting the Heads' common room to be empty, as he had come to expect these past few days whenever he retreated to his room. Of course, he knew that Lily had a habit of sleeping early (well, earlier than most people) so an empty common room was to be expected, especially when you return past midnight. It was therefore a surprise to him when Lily emerged from the loveseat as he made his way through the portrait hole noisily, and stuttered his name.
She stood before him now at quarter past midnight (had she waited up for him?), blushing furiously and making it doubly difficult for James to determine whether he was indeed still awake or had fallen asleep somewhere along his journey back to the Heads' dorm.
"Evans," He greeted her, warily.
Lily's stomach twisted again and her chest slightly tightened at his use of her last name, "Can I talk to you?"
"Er, can't it wait till morning? Quidditch practice, you know..." he murmured, purposefully avoiding her gaze, "I'm completely knackered."
"You've been practicing all this time?" Lily sounded a little surprised. She did a quick calculation on just how long it's been since she entered the Great Hall during supper— when she found Marlene hunched together with the other Marauders and told her that James had already gone to the pitch to warm-up for their practice.
"No. No, I headed to the common room after. Talked with Sirius and Mar about modifying some parts of the strategy we devised seeing as how it went earlier," James frowned slightly.
"Oh. Practice didn't go so well, I take it?" she smiled slightly, trying to lighten the sudden constriction surrounding them.
James shrugged. "It wasn't brilliant but, we're working on it."
"That's... good then."
James nodded. His eyes flickered to Lily's face and his stomach twisted in familiar coils as he saw what looked like a dejected expression on her face.
"So, er, I guess I better head up now. I feel like I'm practically dead on my feet," James gave her a small smile, "We can talk tomorrow, yeah?"
"Oh. Yes, I suppose..."
"G'night," James muttered, turning to leave.
Lily's heart clenched painfully at the sight of his retreating figure. So that's it, then?... You're just going to... let James slip through your fingers? Marlene's words came rushing . Lily rushed forward and grabbed James' hand.
James looked at the small hand enclosing his and turned to raise an eyebrow questioningly.
"No, James, it can't wait."
James looked straight into her bright green eyes, for the first time that night, and had to refrain from losing himself. Merlin, did he miss staring at those startlingly beautiful eyes. He knew that look in her eyes too well and knew that she didn't give him much of a choice but to stay and talk. He brought up his free hand to ruffle his hair and sighed, "Alright then."
He felt a thrill go up his spine as she squeezed the hand she was still holding. Bloody hell, he missed her touch. He missed talking to her, playing with her hair, holding her. He missed the sound of her laugh, the ball of warmth that coursed through his body when he made her smile, her whole face brightening when she did. He missed her. But despite that, he couldn't let himself go near her without feeling that sickening weight crush his chest and take his breath away. Despite him missing Lily horribly, it hurt having her so near but not near enough. It hurt not being able to have her. It hurt knowing that he couldn't be hers. And it was ridiculous, really. Because they could be together.
He looked at her curiously, watched as she blushed and stammered under her gaze. If only Lily let herself trust James. If only she believed him. He sighed.
James fought the desire to let Lily hold him longer than necessary. What hurt more than not being able to touch her as he pleased was that Lily's touches appeared to not mean anything at all. He subtly removed his hand from hers, and shoved it in his pocket.
"What did you want to talk about?"
"I... I miss you," it was rushed, Lily's words— almost a string of incoherent thought expelled while she let out a deep breath. But James heard it well enough... well enough to second doubt what he did hear.
"What?" James' voice was hoarse, the breath knocked out of him.
"I— it's not the same without you, James. When I don't get to talk to you or, or be with you, it's like I'm missing something important and I—" Lily's face was as red as her hair, her eyes brighter than he'd ever seen, "I miss you."
"You miss me?" James shook his head slightly, almost in disbelief. "How can you say that?" How he wished he could show her how much he missed her, let her understand just how painful it was trying to stay away. "How can you say that when... when you keep pushing me away?"
"It's not like I mean to push you away."
"Well, what exactly do you mean to do?"
"I don't... I don't want to push you away, James," Lily murmured as she glanced up at him, "Even though it seems like that's all I'm capable of doing."
James merely looked at her, searching, intrigued.
Lily shook her head desperately, her eyes imploring his, "You were right. This isn't a game. Not to me and not to you and I see that now, I... I believe you."
James hesitated. "What do you believe, Lily?"
"I believe you. If you say that your feelings are real and that you're not just fooling around and that you were pushing Wartby off then I'll believe you. You told me this isn't a game to you and I believe you. James, you've been nothing but honest and true and wonderful and... I'm sorry I've been stubborn and thick enough to try and stop myself from... from feeling everything you've made me. I'm sorry for being a coward and if I keep hurting you or if I made you think that you don't mean anything to me because that's not true, James. Of course that's not true. You— you're— this isn't just a game to me, too, you know and I just— I wanted to... I'm sorry," Lily whispered.
Lily was shaking in front of him, and it shattered him to see her like this. But he couldn't take it anymore. James felt like he was being led in circles, felt that though she was opening up to him now, tomorrow or maybe the next day, or the day after that, she would just shut him out again like she always did and he was growing tired of it. He felt like he couldn't take another stab at his chest.
"I don't—" James' hands ran through his hair again, pulling at the strands. Lily wished he would stop doing that. She hated seeing him so unsettled and upset. James let out a long breath and finally met Lily's gaze. His face was passive but his eyes showed a conundrum of different emotions. "Look, Lily, I'm really tired and this... I just need to think."
James turned to walk away but was stopped as his heart practically leapt out of his chest. Lily's arms encircled his waist, her hands clutching at his robes, as she murmured a string of apologies. He tried to ignore the blasted pounding against his chest, tried to ignore how every fiber of his body seemed to explode as he felt Lily's breath against his neck, her warmth against his back. He was pretty sure that she was crying and it made him feel more frustrated and panicked and Merlin, what was he supposed to do? What did she want him to do?
"What are you—" James gritted his teeth, "I don't get you, Lily. One minute you flirt with me and tease me and the next you're pushing me away. You tell me you fancy me but just flat out reject me and don't believe me when I tell you how I feel. You act like you want me to just clear off and leave you alone but then you go ahead and do this and..." James clenched his hands at his sides, trying to keep himself from holding Lily arms tighter against him, "You're confusing the hell out of me, Lily. You're driving me completely mental and it's maddening and frustrating and everything's just bloody fucked up and yet... I keep wanting to..." he let out a defeated sigh as Lily's grip around him tightened, "I just can't stay away from you."
"I don't want you to."
"...What?" he gasped, almost helplessly.
"I don't want you to stay away from me," Lily muttered against his back.
James' eyes widened. The beating of his heart steadily climbed as his hands tried to relax her grip on his waist. He turned to face her and he looked at her face curiously, searching. "Why?"
"Because... I... fancy you," Lily said, forcing herself to not look away from James' questioning gaze, "I really like you, James. And like I said, it's almost... unbearable, not being able to talk to you, not having you with me. I don't think I can unlearn your being constantly there for me, anymore," Lily frowned, pushing away the mere thought of trying to forget what it felt like to have James around, "I don't want to."
James continued to gaze at her, entranced by the blush on her cheeks and the way it spread to her neck. "You're saying that now," He said, almost sadly, "But what about tomorrow, after you've slept and thought things over? Or the day after that or the next couple of weeks when you get tired of constantly having me around? Would you shut me out again? Are we going to have to go through this, again?"
"If it meant us finally being together then I'd go through all of this over and over again. It'd be worth it," Lily's lips twitched, "Don't you think?"
"I've always known that you would be worth it, Lily," James felt heat rush to his face. The words had tumbled out without his consent.
Lily could still see the uncertainty in James' eyes and she wanted it to go away. It felt odd, having to re-assure James when it was usually the other way around, "You're worth it, James," His eyes widened, surprise and joy and uncertainty all swimming in his penetrating gaze, but most importantly to Lily, there, making the hazel glow against his black lashes, was hope. "You've spent so long trying to prove yourself," she said, a small smile on her lips, "It's time for me to do the same."
"Why are we at the Astronomy tower?"
"Well, it is a step up from that empty classroom on the 3rd floor."
"Mmm, if you wanted a quick snog you could've just said so."
James smirked mischievously. "Ah, who said anything about it being a quick snog, love?"
Lily giggled as James nuzzled the side of her neck, gently nibbling on the smooth, pale skin. "Really James, what are we doing here?"
James wrapped his arms around Lily's waist, bringing her snuggly against his chest, and shrugged. "It's a nice night out. And Remus did mention something about you taking a liking to Astronomy," he smirked.
Lily laughed, but her cheeks still blushed at the reminder.
"Now, Lils, I wonder why he'd be under that impression when I know you barely tolerate the cursed subject?"
"Why indeed?" Lily smirked.
James twisted Lily in her arms and rested his forehead against her. "Come on, won't you tell me?"
Lily sighed, happy and content in James' warm embrace. "I might have mentioned something about the stars not aligning at just the right time for us."
James stayed silent, pondering over the thought. Then almost abruptly, he whipped out his wand and waved across the firmament, muttering under his breath. From the end of his wand, tiny, little orbs of light emerged and flew up, up until they were nothing but tiny little dots. With another wave of his wand, the little dots were brought side to side to form a long line of bright, shimmering white lights, twinkling, almost indistinguishable from the stars that lit up the night sky.
"There. They do now, don't they?" James grinned, giving her a short, sweet kiss.
"Quite literal, aren't you?" She smiled as she brought his lips back to her, feeling amused by her boyfriend's spellwork but secretly pleased all the same.
"It wouldn't matter, anyway," James would then say brightly as they made their way back to their dormitory.
"What wouldn't matter?"
"The stars," he said, tugging Lily's hand and pulling her against his chest, "I'd still love you, no matter how uncooperative or chaotic the stars were."
She smiled, running her hands through her boyfriend's smooth hair. "I know."
"What," James frowned playfully, squeezing her waist, "No 'I love you, too'?"
"You love yourself enough for the both of us," she grinned.
The Head boy laughed as his girlfriend disentangled herself from his arms and ran away from him, hastening to be first to reach the portrait hole. He walked instead though, taking his time to go back to the common room. When James finally went through the portrait hole, a soft echo of laughter made him look up and he spotted Lily, sat at the edge of the desk, waiting for him.
"Took you long enough," she said.
James raised an eyebrow and smirked. "I could say the same to you."
Lily's smile widened as she pushed herself off the desk and wrapped her arms around his neck. James smiled endearingly at the Head girl, his arms encircling her waist.
"Four years isn't that long," she said, teasingly.
"You're right. You shouldn't have done anything till after we left Hogwarts."
Lily shrugged. "I couldn't put it off for too long. Who knew when you'd get tired of waiting? I was tiring you out, you said so yourself."
"Rubbish. As long as you never told me to bugger off, I would've kept on waiting for you."
"Well then, maybe I should have kept you waiting. Would've done Wartby a tad bit of good."
James chuckled. "You know that I wouldn't have said yes to her."
Lily raised an eyebrow, "Yes, you would have snogged her instead. I'm still scarred, you know."
James groaned. "I told you she had a firm grip."
"If that's all it takes to snog you, then..."
"You should know," he smirked.
Lily laughed. Then she was quiet for a moment before she asked, "You really wouldn't have said yes?"
It's been months since they'd been together, but James knew that that particular roadblock still bothered Lily no matter how hard she tried to brush it off. And James would still feel guilty because of that moment of weakness but they were working on it. Day by day, they would work on it— would prove to each other the depth of their feelings to the other until no thread of doubt lingered in their minds anymore.
James' grip on her tightened as he nodded grimly, "I would never have said yes."
"Why though?" Lily never could understand how James could have refused Clemence. Merlin knows she was one of the prettiest girls in the school. She was quite fit, Lily had to admit, and had one of the most charming smiles she had ever seen.
The Head boy shrugged and looked straight in his girlfriend's green eyes. The right kind of green. "Because she's not you, Lily."
Lily's stomach jumped with the way James was looking at her. She didn't think it would ever stop doing that. She stroked the Head boy's cheek affectionately before kissing him softly. "I love you, too, James,"
James grinned and said, "I know," before deepening the kiss.
And later on when Lily really thought about it, it really didn't matter if the stars never did align for them. Because he was James Potter and she was Lily Evans and they balanced each other out like a fiery winter and a cool spring. And what didn't make sense when they were apart, now just fell into place and seemed perfectly right.
Because even if the stars conspired against them, the universe fought for them, they fought for each other, and now the stars did align for them.
Because he had always been hers and now, finally, she was his— as it was always supposed to be.
It never made sense as to how they would come to be together in the end, but it made sense that they would and it made sense now that they were... just as the universe planned them to be.
And that, if anything else, was enough.
– End –