A/N: This is a sort-of prequel or companion fic to my "Worth Any Danger", also posted here at ff.net, although it's not necessary to read that too.
As always, enjoy and please R/R!
~Worth the Risk~
James Potter had made a decision.
It had taken a long time for him to make it, would probably have taken longer, but for what had been in the Daily Prophet that day. Another Muggle family had been murdered by Dark wizards, leaving the Dark Mark above the house, as always. He remembered the picture that had accompanied the article, that green snake head flaring above the house, the mark of terror.
They marked the 7th in a series of murders of random Muggle families by Dark wizards in the past 6 months. And that didn't even count the number of wizard families that had been targeted as well.
It was getting worse every day. The Dark Times had come and they would only get darker.
No one knew as yet who the leader of the Dark wizards was. There were whispers, rumors, legends even. Nothing concrete, nothing approaching a name. He was just referred to as the Dark Lord now, in hushed tones of fear.
And even at Hogwarts, despite the presence of Albus Dumbledore, students were beginning to go around with fear in their eyes and speaking in hushed tones. They no longer awaited the arrival of mail with any anticipation, all fearing to receive the dreaded black envelope or see yet another report of a killing by the Dark Side in the Daily Prophet.
And today James Potter had finally had enough. He had made his decision.
He sighed, thinking he'd rather throw himself off the top of the Astronomy Tower than have to do this, imagining the look on Lily's face. But he had no choice. He had to do it, for Lily's sake.
He took a deep breath before heading back down to the Gryffindor Common Room, knowing he would find Lily there. She was always in the Common Room for at least an hour or two after dinner, tutoring any of the younger students who might need help.
She looked up when he came in, her face lighting up with a smile. "James!"
He flinched inwardly even as he forced himself to smile back. "Hey Lily, I was wondering if we could talk. Alone."
He ignored the whistles and catcalls made by Sirius, Remus and Peter as well as some of the other Gryffindor boys, at this statement, not in the mood to confront them. Little did they know, he only reflected somewhat bitterly.
Lily looked surprised, her green eyes wide and slightly confused but utterly trusting as she looked at him. "Sure, James. Just a minute." She turned back to the second year student she was helping with their Potions work, checking to make sure the girl, Violet Connelly, understood the properties of the asphodel root, before standing up.
James followed Lily out of the Common Room, feeling the eyes of his friends on him as he left, no doubt snickering to themselves. James going off to spend some quality time with his girlfriend. James's lip twisted rather mockingly. Oh yes, quality time indeed.
They had reached the Head Girl's room and Lily said the password, "Pardassus seur: amor."
He followed her inside, feeling numb, which he supposed was a good thing. Otherwise he knew he would never be able to get through with this.
Lily sat on her bed, curling one leg under her, in a habitual position with her, looking at James curiously. "What did you want to talk about?"
James shifted from one foot to the other, before unconsciously squaring his shoulders and, staring at a point directly above Lily's head, said, very quickly, "I think we should end this."
Lily gaped at him, her green eyes filled with confusion and hurt. "James, what? Why? I… I don't understand."
James flinched at the raw hurt in her voice, trying not to look at her eyes now welling with tears. "It's not that I don't love you, Lily, I do. I just, I can't be with you anymore. I'm sorry, Lily."
He turned and walked out of the room, before he could give in to the voice in his head that was screaming at him to take what he had said back, just to get rid of that deadened look from Lily's green eyes, those eyes he loved so much.
James was nowhere to be found for the next few hours. Lily had shut herself up in her room, for once neglecting her duties as Head Girl.
No one asked James any questions when he finally returned to the Gryffindor boys' room, where he spent most of his free time and even slept, usually, despite his having his own room as Head Boy.
Remus and Peter quickly decided after one look at James to take advantage of the clear sky and work on Astronomy, considering the exam coming up, leaving Sirius behind, after an exchange of looks.
Sirius just waited, knowing James would eventually speak up as to what was bothering him. Merlin knew they hadn't been friends for the past 10 years without having the occasional serious talk, despite all the pranks and the fun they had.
And eventually, after a few minutes of silence during which Sirius had waited patiently, James spoke. "Sirius, I just broke up with Lily," he said flatly.
Sirius blinked and then stared at his best friend, before shaking his head as if to clear it. "Sorry, Prongs, I think I misheard you there. I thought I just heard you say you had broken up with Lily."
James just looked steadily back at his best friend of so many years, the look on his face saying it all.
James watched as disbelief, shock, confusion, and finally anger made their way across Sirius's face.
"Bloody hell!" Sirius finally exploded. "What the devil did you do that for?!"
James flinched a little at his friend's vehemence, as Sirius's violent reaction just echoed everything his own mind and heart had been yelling for the past few hours since he had last seen Lily. "I had no choice, idiot! Do you think I'd have done it willingly?!"
James glared at his friend before flopping back on his bed. He closed his eyes, seeing Lily's face again, the straight nose, those lips he'd kissed so many times, those beautiful green eyes, awash with shock and hurt. He stifled a groan. Great Merlin, how was he supposed to face her again, when all he could see when he closed his eyes was the look on her face as he told her he couldn't be with her? How was he supposed to be Head Boy with her as Head Girl when seeing her would just make him want to tell her everything he'd last said had been a lie and he'd been an idiot? He didn't know how to act like Lily was only a colleague. She'd been his friend for so long, his girlfriend for the past year. He barely remembered a time when he didn't love her.
James came out of his reverie to realize that Sirius had asked him a question.
"Why, James? Why did you need to do that?" Sirius finally asked, his voice quiet. "You love Lily and she loves you. Why break up then?"
James closed his eyes, again seeing Lily, before he opened them again to look Sirius directly in the face. "It was because I love her that I broke up with her."
Sirius just blinked. "Come again?"
James sighed, sitting up, before explaining again all the reasons he'd been thinking about for the past few weeks, what he'd been reiterating to himself in the past few hours since he'd actually broken up with Lily, to keep himself from going back to her. "Come on, Padfoot, think about it. My parents were killed by Dark wizards because of their being descended from Godric Gryffindor and their open hatred of the Dark Arts. I'm just as much of a target as they were, especially now that I'm the last living descendant. I can't put Lily through that. I can't ask her to. She's already in some danger just because she's Muggle-born; you know how she's treated by gits like Malfoy and Avery and Nott! I can't put her in more danger than she's already in, Sirius. So I ended it. I'd rather hurt both of us now than have any harm come to her because of her association with me."
Sirius was shaking his head slowly at James's reasoning, not looking at all convinced, James noticed, with a flare of something like apprehension in his stomach. He didn't want Sirius to argue with him. It was hard enough keeping his resolve as it was. "James, listen to me. You're not thinking straight. You're…"
Something inside him seemed to snap and James glared at his best friend, cutting him off. "No! Do you think I haven't thought about this? Do you think I haven't lain awake nights thinking about it?! Do you think this was easy for me to do?! Merlin's ghost, Sirius, I'm in love with Lily! How do you bloody think it made me feel to know I was hurting her? To know I had no choice but to hurt her like that?!" James turned away, his chest heaving from the strength of his emotions.
He heard Sirius sigh before speaking, his voice completely sincere in a way that few people, he knew, ever heard Sirius speak. "James, you love Lily and she loves you. You guys were meant for each other."
James winced at those words. Meant for each other. He'd thought so, before he realized what that would mean for Lily.
Sirius continued speaking. "Everyone who's seen you two together knows that. I've never really been in love, never found the girl who could complete me that way. I envy what you and Lily have, you know, that complete trust and love. James, if you throw what you have with Lily away because you're afraid of what might happen, then I am going to think you are the world's biggest prat and a coward at that. Sure, there's danger, but believe me when I say that what you and Lily have is worth the danger a hundred times over. And if I had something similar, I'd never let go like that; I'd hold on to her with all that I had in me." Sirius finished his little speech almost in a whisper.
James didn't speak, couldn't speak. His throat felt as if it had closed up. Was Sirius right? Was his love for Lily worth it?
James barely heard Sirius as he left the room, saying something about Astronomy. He tried to imagine life without Lily, life after graduating from Hogwarts.
He couldn't. And he realized something that he had always known in the back of his mind but never really acknowledged. There were very few certainties about his future. He knew he could count on Sirius and Remus and Peter, too. And he knew he would always love Lily, wanted her to be with him, needed her with him. His life would be so empty without Lily in it to bring her own brand of warmth and humor, her smile, her laugh, her understanding.
And he remembered something Headmaster Dumbledore had said a few months ago. We must not allow the Dark Forces to take away all our joy in life. That is their intention and their desire. To do so would be to let them win. Even in the Darkest Times, we must remember to keep our hopes alive, for without hope, we would be truly defeated.
Sirius was right. He couldn't give up Lily out of fear of what might happen. What he felt for her was too strong, she was too important to him. Their relationship was worth the risk of danger, more than worth it, as Sirius had said.
Dear Merlin. And he'd nearly lost it.
He stood up so quickly he nearly lost his balance again.
Grabbing his Invisibility Cloak, just in case anyone was around, he ran towards the Head Girl's room, and knocked, wishing for once that it could just be a normal door that he could open.
"Go away," he heard Lily say, and flinched again, at this proof of just how much he must have hurt her. Nothing less than heartbreak or a mortal injury would have caused Lily to shut herself up so, ignoring her Head Girl duties.
"Lily, it's me. Please, I need to talk to you," James pleaded, willing Lily to feel his remorse and his love through the door.
He could almost sense her hesitation until finally, she opened the door, keeping her eyes averted.
He could see that she'd been crying and he flinched again. Merlin, nothing was worth this, nothing was more important than Lily.
He put his finger under her chin so he could look into her eyes, wiping away the tears on her cheeks with his other hand. "Lily," he said softly, seriously, "I'm so sorry for what I said. I was a prat and a coward. I was just afraid of your getting hurt because of me, because I'm the last descendant of Godric Gryffindor. I couldn't stand the thought that you might one day be in danger because of me. That's why I said I couldn't be with you. But, Lily, I realized, or Sirius made me realize, that I'd rather be with you. I can't give you up, Lily. I love you too much."
Lily had started crying again, even as her green eyes were shooting sparks at him. "James, do you think I haven't thought about that, too? James, my parents were killed too! And I'm already in danger, I know that. We're all in danger, you know that. But, James, I decided a long time ago that I'd rather have whatever time I can with you than be safer without you." Her voice softened, as her hand reached up to cup his cheek. "James, I love you. I want to be with you."
James struggled against tears. "Lily, I'm sorry. I love you too," he said softly. "Forgive me?"
And she smiled at him, that smile he loved, a smile that lit up her face and went straight to his heart, and then drew his head down to hers and kissed him.
They stumbled towards Lily's bed, still kissing, until Lily fell back onto the mattress, bringing James down with her.
For a moment, they pulled back, green eyes staring into brown, and in that moment, promises were made, promises of love, of faithfulness, of trust.
Lily's eyes were shining as she stared up at James, his messy black hair, his warm brown eyes. She loved him so much, would always love him. "James, stay with me tonight," she finally whispered.
He pulled back slightly, understanding what she meant. "Lily, are you sure? I…"
She cut him off by kissing him again. "James, I'm sure. I love you; I want to be with you."
Carefully, she laid his glasses aside, as he lowered his mouth to hers again…
The next morning, when he woke up, Sirius found a note had been placed on his pillow, next to his head.
It was very brief, and Sirius grinned when he read it, before tucking it into his trunk.
You were right.
Of this story, at least.
A/N 2: Oh yes, one more thing. The password Lily uses for her room means, if I haven't totally screwed up what little Latin I know, Love above all. I thought it was appropriate.