A/N: Someone asked me to write something where Lily attends James's wedding to someone else. And I did. Except I didn't. You'll see. Just read until the end, yeah? It will be all right.
"Are you excited to see him?" Dorcas asked in a voice that could have easily been singsong. Though her eyes were hidden behind her sunglasses, Lily could imagine them sparkling as they did when she could barely contain her excitement.
At Lily's stubborn silence, Dorcas laughed, the wind from her open window sending her blond hair swirling around her like a pool of sunshine. It annoyed Lily even more. "Lighten up, Lily," her friend said when there was still no response from the redhead. "You can't tell me you didn't miss him."
Lily tore her eyes away from the blur that was the city speeding past them. She did not deny the fact. "You told me we were going to go see Ben," she said at last, having spent the drive in a furious silence since she realized where her friend was driving her to. She realized how childish the words were seconds after uttering them but she did not care.
Dorcas flicked a dismissive hand before fumbling with the radio. Balancing her attention between changing the station and the road ahead, she said, "Fenwick hasn't changed much in the six months you were gone. He's still the same prat. You won't be missing much, believe me. James on the other hand…"
Her pulse picked up at the mere mention of his name.
"He's a famous football player these days…" Dorcas hedged, glancing at Lily for a reaction. "He's on telly and everything, playing for one of those football clubs. Looks like they play him now instead of keeping him on the bench. He took his shirt off one time after a match and my goodness."
Lily simply hummed noncommittally. She had seen the match she referred to online.
"He was also asking about you…," Dorcas continued, a knowing smirk on her face, her voice leaving no doubt that this was what she was getting at all along.
Lily attempted to mask all interest from her expression, stubbornly staring ahead at the road instead. She was grateful that her friend had to keep her eyes trained on the road, keeping her from closely studying her reaction. The question almost left Lily's lips, however, when Dorcas guessed what she longed to know.
"He'd ask me about you every time I ran into him. You know, wanted to make sure you were all right," Dorcas stated, momentarily distracted with checking the traffic in the rear view mirror. "Though honestly, I think he just wanted to make sure you hadn't run off with some Italian model while you were over there."
Lily rolled her eyes, prompting more laughter from the blonde. "He could have asked me himself," Lily said, failing to withhold the bitterness in the words.
Dorcas's laughter ceased. She threw Lily a puzzled look. "He never wrote to me or called," Lily explained, cringing at the unmistakable hurt in her voice. Angry with herself, she cleared her throat to help the knot in her throat subside.
"Maybe he was busy?" her friend offered after a moment of thought.
"I was busy with my workload and I still managed to call you, Marlene, and Ben every now and then," Lily refuted at once.
"Yes, but he was probably even busier than you with football," Dorcas went on. "He must be training like mad. Last time I spoke to Sirius, he said James had a good shot at making the national team."
Lily said nothing after that, too preoccupied as she was about containing her stomach. Their surroundings became even more familiar as they drove out of the city and the concrete was replaced with beds of green. She remembered traveling that path many times on her way to visit him over summer holidays, except this time her insides felt like ice and not warm with the anticipation of seeing him.
"Wow," Dorcas said as they turned into his street. There was an unusual number of cars parked all along the road, leaving no room for theirs. "Block party, is it?"
"Good," Lily said brightly. "We can just turn around and go home."
Even with sunglasses on, Lily could tell Dorcas rolled her eyes. "Don't be so silly," she said, focusing her attention in finding an empty break in the line of cars along the street. "Ah," she said hopefully at the sight of a spot, only to sigh in frustration when it was occupied by a tiny car.
After several more minutes of searching, Dorcas huffed impatiently. "Why don't I just leave you here and I'll try the next block?"
Lily threw her an indignant glare. "No," she answered defiantly.
"Lily, don't be difficult. You are dying to see James as much as he is dying to see you," the other snapped back.
"He doesn't even know I'm back," Lily argued.
"That doesn't mean he doesn't want to see you," Dorcas replied instantly.
Again, Lily had nothing to say.
"How do you know he's at his parents' house?" she asked instead.
"I called his flat and the housekeeper told me he'd be here all weekend."
"Meticulous," Lily commented.
"Just go," her friend encouraged driving up to the front of his house. Several people in uniforms hurried about carrying large trays of food. Upon closer inspection, Lily could see they were caterers.
"I think they're having a party," Lily observed. "I can't just drop in uninvited."
"You've been mates for ages. Showing up unannounced is nothing out of the ordinary," Dorcas reasoned. "Besides, you would have been invited if he knew you were back."
"Were you invited?"
"I haven't spoken to him in months."
"Neither have I."
"Just go," Dorcas said impatiently.
Knowing she was fighting a lost battle, Lily begrudgingly climbed out of the car, mindful to throw her friend an unappreciative look as she did. Dorcas responded by sticking her tongue out and driving off.
Lily regretted exiting the car as soon as she stepped foot inside the house. Along with the group of caterers, there were all sorts of people rushing about, carrying assortments of different things.
She bumped into two different people on the way into the vast living room, both too busy to stop to apologize.
There was no one around whom she recognized. She was considering turning around and trying again another day when she caught sight of Mrs. Potter.
"These are going outside, dear," she directed kindly at a group carrying a stack of folding chairs. Her attention fell on a tall blonde boy carrying an arrangement of flowers. "Those are fine on that table over by the stairs."
"All right, Mum," said a voice from somewhere in the commotion. "I'm as ready as I'll ever be."
Mrs. Potter's eyes found her son and she stopped mid-sentence. "James," she whispered, lost for words at the sight of a grinning James. With a fond smile that brightened her eyes, she said, "You make such a handsome groom, my dear."
Lily froze, heart sinking horribly.
Groom, the word reeled inside her head like a maddening echo.
It was suddenly very clear where she was and why he had never contacted her. Her hands found the wall to retain her balance. Perhaps thinking he simply didn't care was bliss over knowing he had moved on.
"I make a handsome anything, Mum," James replied with a grin as if the world hadn't just changed seconds ago. For him, she realized, it hadn't. And it was that realization that was the worst of all.
"So modest," said a sultry voice from behind them. It belonged to a curvy blonde who ascended the stairs wearing a satin lavender robe. Only half of her long, golden hair was elegantly pinned against her head, as though she had walked off in the middle of styling. Though her tone was meant to be sarcastic, it was ruined by the anxious way she assessed the progress of the preparations.
"That's why you chose me," James replied without missing a beat. He flashed her a grin, another blow to Lily's stomach. He used to grin at her like that.
The blonde made no effort to return the humor. Instead, she surveyed James anxiously, her mouth pressed into a thin line. "You ate in the suit, didn't you?"
James glanced down at himself and laughed. "Amazing," he marveled. "I was careful not to get anything on it. It's like you know me."
She arched an eyebrow at him though the corners of her mouth trembled slightly with a smile threatening to break. "It's because I know you that I ask," she said, but her eyes fell on a pair of girls struggling to carry a vase bursting with flowers. "You're joking, right? Those aren't out yet?"
The girls paused, terrified. But before they could answer, James chuckled. "Don't mind her," he assured them, gesturing them to carry on. "Big day, you know?"
"Rebecca, dear," Mrs. Potter started just as the blonde opened her mouth to argue. "You really ought to get ready if you ever hope to be finished by two."
Her blue eyes moved to the clock, a sharp curse that made Mrs. Potter's eyes widen leaving her lips. "You're right, you're right," she frantically muttered to herself before rushing to the stairs, almost tripping on her robe. A laughing James steadied her, though she did not seem to notice. " I still have to get dressed and Charlotte needs to finish my hair." She stopped at the first landing to stare at James. "Be on time, Potter!"
It was far more than she could handle. Regaining some feeling in her arms and legs and heart stammering painfully at her throat, Lily swirled around and made for the exit. She did not make it very far, however, for she painfully crashed into a vase someone had set down on the table behind her at full speed. It smashed with a thunderous sound against the floor, sending shards of broken ceramic everywhere.
Mortified, Lily ignored the throbbing pain shooting up her arm and quickened her step, Mrs. Potter's startled cry the last thing she heard before sprinting outside.
Lily did not make it very far before she heard hurried steps following her.
"Evans?" said an incredulous voice behind her.
Defeated, she slowed her step as she reached the sidewalk, having no other option but to turn around.
"James," she whispered, her voice on the verge of breaking.
Mrs. Potter had been undeniably right. He looked particularly handsome in the elegant suit and the very sight of him made her throat tighten. A brief memory of eight year-old James draping his father's suit jacket over his tiny shoulders laughing at her side crossed her mind.
James, meanwhile, grinned widely as he took her in, reminiscent of that memory, completely oblivious to the erratic beating in Lily's chest. Smile never faltering, not even for a second, he filled the distance between them and took her in his arms.
"James," she murmured again, her silent way of begging him to stay with her like that forever. James, as though answering, buried his face on the crook of her neck, his strong arms tightening around her. Instead of breaking her, their strength pieced her back together.
"I've missed you," he murmured, his voice vibrating through her body like thunder. "When did you get back?" he asked, breaking apart at last.
"Last night," she replied, maintaining as much control of her voice as she could.
"You should've called," he said, smirking crookedly at her like he always did when he pointed out something obvious to her.
"I could say the same," she replied before she could help herself.
His hands, which were still holding her shoulders from their embrace, dropped to his side. All remnants of humor fled his face, his jaw tightening instead. "I couldn't call you while you were in Italy," he said. "Long story."
Hurt and anger swirled inside her with dizzying force, particularly when she remembered the small pang of hopefulness she felt every time the phone rang. Her eyes fell back on his house, slowly reflecting more and more the festivities of the day as people bustled around it with decorations. It was not a long story, she thought angrily. It was simple and and it would always fall short to the lifetime they had spent together.
"I have to go," she managed, feeling her eyes itch again.
He immediately moved closer. "What? Why?"
"I shouldn't be here."
"You just got here, Evans," he complained, instinctively grabbing her wrist.
"James, please. I have to go," she implored, unsure how much longer she could maintain control.
Dorcas was nowhere to be seen and she mentally decided to walk to the city if she had to. She tugged her hand, only halfheartedly and wishing more than anything that he would never let go. He did not for the time being.
Something in her expression twitched, or perhaps he knew her better than she gave him credit for, because he became concerned. "Er…" he started awkwardly, running his hand through his messy hair. He had never been good at consoling her when she cried or when she was on the verge of doing so. "What's wrong?"
"I should be home," she said quietly.
"Don't be daft, Evans," he told her. "This is your home, too."
Lily said nothing, using her free hand to push up the tip of her nose, an involuntary gesture she had done since childhood in an effort to abate any crying. He sighed in the way he did when he admitted defeat. "Fine," he said. "I can take you home if you want. I just have to…" he trailed off, looking over his shoulder at his house.
"No," Lily assured him quickly before he finished the sentence. "You don't have to. Dorcas brought me."
"Dorky can stay, too," he offered, looking at her hopefully. He blinked his eyes exaggeratedly like he did when they were children and wanted to get his way.
"James," she started, feeling more like a child with every protest.
"Just come back inside," he insisted a bit more gently. "Mum will be ecstatic to see you."
Lily said nothing, the urge to escape gnawing at her insides with more urgency.
"There's also someone you should meet," he told her, gesturing towards his house.
There it was. Her insides froze.
"No, please," she said a bit too quickly.
"James, please stop."
That urge worsened, threatening to rip through her.
"Because!" she blurted out loud enough for his guests to hear.
He waited, eyebrows raised.
"Evans, you're being–"
Words failed her.
She had to say it.
"Because I love you."
The world seemed to have gone very still. The silence between them almost deafening and tarnished only by the sound of Lily's pulse. She averted her eyes to the floor, unable to handle the heat of his gaze, aghast as it was.
"What?" he asked at last, almost inaudibly.
Even if she could stop herself, there was nothing left to jeopardize. Fueled by her new-found courage, she met eyes with his. "I'm in love with you and I can't watch you get married to someone else." Her voice seemed to lose steam with every word because in almost a whisper she added, "That is why I have to go."
Lily dropped her gaze again, too afraid of what the reaction would be. When he said nothing for far too long, however, she braved a glance at him. To her utter shock, he laughed.
"Lily Evans," he said in between laughter, unable to utter anything aside from that.
She stared at him, utterly shocked. Too soon, however, her surprise turned into annoyance, particularly when her scowl made him laugh even more so. Though he tried, his amusement prevented from saying anything else. Instead, he shook his head and moved closer to her.
"James Potter, you unmitigated prat," she started angrily.
But just like him, she could say nothing beyond that because at that very moment, he gently pulled her towards him by her wrist, and, bodies a fraction of an inch apart, he caught her lips with his.
Her body tensed up, lips unresponsive at first. A small voice in the back of her mind reminded her how wrong kissing him was given the circumstances. But every other part of her body, from her drumming chest to her trembling legs, screamed with the urge of kissing him back. She felt his smile when she began to move her lips against his, tenderly at first but soon escalating in enthusiasm. Everything about him intoxicated her, from the smell of his cologne to his hand cupping the curve of her waist, so hot against her skin that it felt as though it burned through the fabric of her dress. Lily, submitting unabashedly to the urge to have him closer to her, pressed her body against him, arms wrapped desperately around his neck. The movement off balanced him momentarily, but he recovered instantly, breaking their kiss to chuckle.
Their bodies maintained their proximity, neither moving to separate. His lips lingered over hers, vanishing the feeling from her legs. "I can't believe the girl I've been in love with my whole life is so daft," he murmured before kissing her again. This time the kiss was carefully measured, as though he intended to make her stomach clench in anticipation with its subtly.
It was Lily who broke apart this time. "In love with?" she asked, so close to saying "We can't do this" instead.
"Since we were fifteen," he said very seriously. "Perhaps even before that. I was an idiot at that age. You remember."
Lily stepped away from him, shaking her head. "James," she started, dizzy from trying to grasp everything at once. "It doesn't matter anymore. You're getting marri–"
"I'm not getting married," he interrupted, fighting with the grin that threatened to break across his face. He managed to do so poorly.
"Yes you are," she argued stupidly. "I heard your mum saying you made a handsome groom."
"Well, she's not wrong, is she?" he said, grinning broadly and gesturing at the suit he was wearing.
More laughter. "It's a favor I'm doing for my friend Rebecca Ackerley," he explained.
"No," he laughed. "She's a designer and she created this–" he used both hands to gesture down at his suit again, "– as part of a wedding collection with her mate Charlotte."
Lily searched his face for any sign of dishonesty. She found none and so she continued to listen.
"Formal attire is not really her style but her mate talked her into it and they're having this…er.. posh demonstration thing for a bunch of snobby talent scouts," he said, his face reddening for some reason. "Mum offered the house to save them the pain of finding a venue. And, well, here we are..." He looked particularly embarrassed as his explanation trailed off.
Lily processed this without saying a single word.
"So," she started after a long pause. "You're her model?"
"No," he quickly deflected. "She said- We're not calling it that."
"A model and the 'posh demonstration thing' is a fashion show?"
James became impossibly redder. He opened his mouth to continue arguing but just then, the blonde Lily had seen earlier, now fully dressed in a tight but elegant black cocktail dress emerged out of the Potter house.
"James Potter, if you got mud all over that suit, I swear I will–" she stopped at the sight of Lily. "Oh, hullo," she greeted as kindly as she could manage in her current state.
James opened his mouth to introduce them but the blonde cut in, extending a hand. "Rebecca Ackerley, nice to meet you."
"Lily Evans," Lily replied, shaking it.
A knowing look crossed the blonde's face as she looked at James. "So you did call her after all," she said, bumping his shoulder with her fist. "Knew you'd give in and beg her to come back."
Lily glanced at James who looked as though he wished the ground beneath him would open up and swallow him whole.
"Anyway," the blonde went on in a business-like tone. "I'm so sorry to cut this short but you will have all the time in the world after this to catch up on whatever you need," she threw a significant look at James. "We're starting pretty soon. Potter, please, please, please go clean up any damage you may have done to Charlotte's suit before she sees you. We can't have our models looking this unkempt in front of these fashion snobs," Lily smiled slightly at the word "models." James, on the other hand, avoided meeting her eye. The blonde turned to Lily. "Lily, you are more than welcomed to stay. You can have a seat next to Mrs. Potter once this all begins." She looked down at her wristwatch and groaned. "Where the hell is Black?"
"He should be on the way," James said.
"If he wore his suit on that motorbike of his I swear I will murder him," Rebecca muttered, exasperated. And with that, she rushed back towards the house.
James turned back to Lily. "I have to go back inside," he said, his tone indicating that he wished for nothing more but to stay with her.
"Your life depends on that apparently," she teased.
Lily nodded before moving close to him and kissing him again.
"We're not done here yet," she told him when they broke apart, her hand signaling from her chest to his.
"Not even close," he agreed.