Chapter Ten: The Flight of the Wingman
Lily sat amongst the small pile of presents, a plate of cake in her hand, smiling at her little group of friends and family. It was her birthday; a month since she'd severed all ties with James. She wasn't doing great, but she wasn't doing horribly either. She'd stopped tearing up every time someone mentioned his name, and could even talk to Sirius about James, though not for very long.
But now, that feeling of being completely lonely was returning. It was her birthday; she was supposed to be happy, but all she could think was, I wish James were here.
Lily mentally slapped herself. She couldn't think like that. It would contradict everything she'd been telling herself to keep from thinking about what could've been if she'd just realized her feelings a little earlier.
Her attention snapped back to now. Marielle was looking at her expectantly. "Are you going to open your gifts?" Marielle asked.
"Oh," Lily said distractedly. "Sure…" She reached for the first one, from her mother and father. She took her time unwrapping the presents, thanking everyone individually with a hug and kiss as she exclaimed over their gift.
Soon, she came to the last one, from Sirius. She unwrapped it just as slowly, and as she was doing so, she heard a slight gasp from Marielle, who was sitting right next to her.
"What?" Lily started to ask, looking up.
Her eyes met James's. He was standing across the room from her, but when he saw that she acknowledged his presence, he started towards her.
"What are you doing here?" Lily asked him once he reached her. He knelt in front of her, the only available space left in the room.
James grinned, something Lily hadn't seen in quite awhile, something she missed seeing. "Well," he said, his smile crinkling the outer corner of his eyes, "you didn't expect me to chicken out of our bet just because of one lousy little fight, now did you?"
Lily was confused, James's presence muddling her thoughts a little. "What bet?" she asked him.
James took a box out of his pocket. "The one that said I wouldn't remember your birthday. Here." He handed it to her, and she unwrapped it.
A small, black velvet box lay in her hands when she was finished, and her eyes widened in surprise as her glance darted up to meet his. "James, what is--"
He reached over and opened it for her. Sure enough, nestled in the black velvet, was a silver band with a medium sized princess cut diamond in the center, flanked by two smaller, baguette diamonds. He was grinning at her. "You did say you liked diamonds, didn't you?"
"And silver," she whispered.
"And silver," he agreed. "See, men do have good memories."
She was quiet for a moment, trying to comprehend what this meant. James reached over and took the box from her again, taking the ring from it. He took her left hand in his and slid the ring onto her finger. Lily's mother could be heard emanating slightly strangled sobs from the corner.
James inhaled deeply, and stared straight into Lily's eyes. "Lily, I know that we've had a stormy relationship at best, and that I've said some things that I shouldn't've, and that goes both ways. But the fact of the matter is that I love you, and I have since that first date, even if I didn't realize it. If my loving you can withstand you separating from me, another girlfriend, and your other boyfriend, then it can certainly withstand a marriage. So what do you say?" He grinned at her. "Wanna marry me?"
Lily beamed back at him. "Oh, you know you had me when you opened that damned box."
He laughed, and leaned over and kissed her. Lily let the kiss last as long as she could breathe.
"What about Claire?" Lily asked when they pulled apart.
James sighed. "Well, there's an interesting story about that," he said. "See, when I went to the jewelry store, it was to buy a ring for Claire."
"You almost married my cousin?" Lily demanded, her elation stoppered for a moment.
"The point is, I didn't. Can I continue?"
Lily didn't respond, and he took that as a yes. "But then, as I was looking around the store, I realized that I wasn't even considering the types of rings she would like; you know, the ones with sixteen carat yellow diamonds or whatever. In fact, I wasn't even looking at rings that were her size--you're an eight, she's a six, by the way. It hit me then that I came in intending to buy a ring for the wrong girl, and I just bought this before I could change my mind. That was three weeks ago." He smiled.
"It took you that long to decide that you wanted to marry me?"
"No. It took me that long to decide how I was going to break it off with Claire. I always knew that I was going to marry you," James said without hesitation.
Very pleased with this answer, Lily asked, "So how did you break it off with Claire?"
"Told her the truth. She wasn't thrilled, understandably, but she said that she sort of expected it. Am I really that predictable?"
"No," Lily responded truthfully. "I had no idea you were coming here, or that you were going to do this."
James smiled yet again. Actually, he couldn't stop smiling. "Well, then, Sirius has been doing his job. He's known about this since I bought the ring."
Both Marielle and Lily turned to face Sirius, who was beaming proudly. "You can keep a secret?" Lily asked.
"Yes, I can."
Lily turned back to James and said, so quietly that only he could hear her, "But…James, all the things I said and did…"
James sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "My, we've got a lot to talk about, don't we?"
After everyone had left, Lily sat facing James on her bed. "You start," she said, looking down at her ring. Gods, this was surreal.
"Well, first off, I don't want to get married right away."
She looked up at him. "We haven't even been on a real date, have we?"
James grinned. "No, we're doing everything backwards. We got engaged first, and we're dating later."
Lily smiled back. "So how long do you want to wait?"
"Well, I say we do it when we feel…ready to. I'll wait forever if you want."
"I don't want to wait forever."
"How does two years sound?"
Lily considered this. "Two years sounds good."
"Okay, we shall get married two years from today. Now, on to more…present events. What I said to you at that breakfast. Why did you say that I was a good kisser in front of everyone? And don't you dare say, 'Because I meant it'."
Lily smiled sheepishly. "It didn't just slip out, of course. I was so frustrated and mad at Claire, and at you, that I just had to say something to shut the both of you up. I daresay it worked."
James muttered an affirmative reply. "But you do realize that that was the start of everything?"
Lily was confused. "What do you mean--James, you were mad."
He chuckled softly. "Of course I was. I was extremely mad, but I couldn't've let you just get away with that--you say a lot of stupid things, Lily, and I was tired of you taking me for granted. But, of course, I can't stay mad at you for long."
Lily was stricken. "Is that what I what I was doing? Taking you for granted?" He nodded.
"You were always so sure of me, that I would always be there for you--you saw me as your fallback husband or boyfriend-- and the fact that I had someone else absolutely terrified you." James looked up at her knowingly. "Right?"
Lily flopped back on the bed, completely surprised that he had her pegged again. "That's exactly it…not--not that I never saw you as prime husband material, I--"
"Lily…. I really don't want to talk about that anymore. I am willing to put it behind me…at least 'till later…I want to ask you something."
She was startled at his sudden change of tone. "Um, okay."
"You said that in seventh year, you had a crush on me."
Lily blushed. She couldn't remember saying that at all. "Well, I did. You're very attractive. Why?"
He shrugged. "Why did you have a crush on me? I never talked to you."
She smiled. "James, you didn't have to talk to me for me to be attracted to you. You're cute. It was a long time ago, anyway."
He kissed her. "It really wasn't."
~December 8, 1979~
"The sun'll come up pretty soon," Lily whispered to Marielle anxiously. She clutched at the bouquet of pink roses and lilies-of-the-valley and bit her lip as she glanced out her window.
"That's what we're hoping," Marielle responded, a little irritably. It was too early for her to be as chipper as Lily was.
Of course, it was Lily's wedding day, so that was understandable. James and Lily had stayed true to their first agreement where their wedding was concerned and had planned their marriage ceremony exactly two years from the day James had proposed to her.
They had decided to marry outdoors, and at dawn, so it was very, very cold. The weather didn't dampen Lily's mood at all; it didn't even seem to concern her. Her dress had halter straps that extended from the very edges of the top of her dress and gradually angled themselves to meet at the back of her neck, leaving her chest pretty much bare. The veil was very simple, a sheath of lace stemming from a tiny tiara comb that rested at the crown of her head and went down just past her shoulder blades. Lily's hair was curled, but only after several Freezing Charms did it stay that way, as her hair was naturally as straight as it could possibly be.
Lily bit her lip harder. "I don't see him," she said nervously, standing on her tiptoes to look further out the window.
Marielle straightened her friend's veil absently. Lily swatted her hand away just as mindlessly. "He's probably going to stay inside as long as possible. It's cold out."
Lily knew this, of course, but didn't say so. "I want to see him," she said softly.
Marielle smiled patiently. "I know," she replied, patting Lily's shoulder. "You make a lovely bride, Lily."
She turned tearfully to Marielle, beaming. "Really?" she said eagerly.
Marielle nodded, just as sadly. "Yes. You're going to make James very happy."
Lily nodded frantically, and swiped at her eyes. "Stop it, you're going to make me cry."
"Bit late for that," Marielle told her shakily, and they both giggled. "You're getting married!"
"I'm getting married," James whispered as he straightened his tie in the mirror.
"Yeah," Sirius grumbled next to him. "'Bout time, too. James, stop it, you're only screwing it up worse," he added, referring to the state in which James's tie was in. He leaned over and fixed it. "You always were hopeless at that. Remember in school--you had to have the clip on ties because you couldn't tie them yourself?"
James blushed, and then smiled. "Yes, but I was always ready before you, wasn't I?"
Sirius grunted. "That's not because of the ties. It's because you have punctuality, something I do not."
They both chuckled at that, then turned back to the mirror. "Do you think I'm doing the right thing?" James asked quietly.
Sirius turned to his best friend again. "Marrying Lily?"
James didn't look at him, but nodded.
"I don't think there's anything else you can do, James. You've done everything else with her," Sirius said, grinning. "I mean, you did the friend thing. You did the one night stand. You did the 'I-hate-you-don't-ever-speak-to-me-again'. You dated. What else do you guys have left?"
James sighed. "Don't phrase it like that."
Lily glanced out the window again, and spotted two dark heads walking up towards the front of the altar. Lily squealed, immediately recognizing James.
"Marielle, there he is!" she exclaimed, pointing to him. "Look…oh, I knew I was right about that tux; he looks brilliant, doesn't he?"
James and Sirius reached the altar and turned to face the growing number of guests, laughing and talking to each other. Lily bit her lip again. "He doesn't look nervous at all," she commented.
Marielle grinned. "He's just as nervous as you are, Lily, don't worry about that."
"Yeah," Lily muttered, still watching her fiancée.
Just then, Lily's mother knocked gently on the door. "Lily, dear?" she said quietly.
The bride in question turned to face her mother. "Yes?"
Sirius was waiting for Marielle at the back door. "Hullo," he said cheerfully.
"Hi," Marielle returned.
Unlike James and Lily, Sirius and Marielle had not stayed together those two years. They broke up--amicably, of course--six months after their friends' engagement.
Now, Sirius and Marielle linked arms and began to make the slow trek down the aisle, towards James, who was teetering backwards and forwards on the balls of his feet. The man who was presiding over the ceremony gently put a hand on the groom's shoulder to make him stop. James smiled sheepishly up at him and watched his friends come towards him, eagerly awaiting Lily's arrival.
The past two years of dating had been a piece of cake compared to their year or so of friendship. That wasn't to say that they had had gone without fights. There had been arguments, especially a very threatening one considering a (three-second) kiss under the mistletoe with Claire on James's part at Christmas that very nearly caused Lily to call off the wedding, the plans for which had just begun. But after two weeks of not speaking to each other, they made up, and the wedding went on.
"Here Comes The Bride" began on the charmed ensemble orchestra, consisting of a piano, harp, flute, and violin. Lily inhaled deeply and glanced hurriedly at her father, who was looking straight ahead stoically.
"Don't worry," Mr. Evans whispered to her, without moving his head. "Everything will be fine."
Lily nodded, put on a smile to hid her nerves, and took that first step onto the thick blanket of rose petals that was the aisle. She nearly fainted, but looked straight ahead at--James.
He was grinning, and he looked her in the eyes and nodded gently. Lily smiled genuinely this time, truly happy to see him. She took another step, and James's eyes seemed to be telling her Keep going. Another step--keep going. Step--keep going.
It continued on like that until, before she knew it, Marielle was prying her bouquet out of Lily's clutches, squeezing her hand as she did so.
James took Lily's hand now, and he could only smile at her, and that was the only thing that kept her standing up.
The man presiding over the ceremony said a few words, but Lily didn't hear them. She only started listening when James opened his mouth to speak.
"When I met you," he began, and it was only now that Lily detected any nervousness in his voice, his eyes, his hands--in any part of him, "you were a bossy, demanding, sharp, timid, seventeen-year-old girl, and I admit, I didn't pay you much mind. But then I met you again, at twenty, and it was like I was meeting a completely different person. You grew up, and I'm glad I had the chance to meet you as the adult. You had your faults--" Lily snorted to herself there, and he gave her that crinkly-eyed smile. James knew her faults better than anyone. "--but once they were pointed out to you, you worked on them. But that's not the point, Lily. The point is, I notice a change in you every time I see you. I want you to keep changing, even though I have no doubt that you will, even without my prodding.
"I love you Lily, and even through your changing, you could never change that. I stood by that position, and I stand by it now. Even when you try to disown me, as you did two years ago, I'm not about to give up on you."
Lily was dumbstruck, and tried to find her voice to reply. It took her a full thirteen seconds before she began, "I can be stupid sometimes, and you understand that, and you even know the reason why I'm being stupid. You said once, in one of those times, that you can't choose who you love. I'm beginning to realize why this is true. I think that there's one person out there for everyone, and you can't pick person, much as you'd like to. James, even if I could pick the person I fell in love with, it would be you…" She trailed off. She had written more the night before, but she couldn't remember it now, and decided that she didn't really want to.
It sounded just fine like that.
A/N: Well, there you have it. Shall I continue? I don't really know where I could go from there…
Yeah, this ended really fluff-like, and I guess I apologize for that. =) But really, that's the way I had pictured this ending, with the proposal making a nice, full circle with the first chapter:
Lily seemed very amused with James's indignant replies. "So if I told you my birthday now, you'd remember it and send me a birthday present?"
"If it would illustrate my point. Fire away."
"My birthday is December eighth," Lily told him, smirking. It was March. "And I expect a gift from you now, James Potter. I don't much care for gold, but I do like diamonds."
So, I guess that was kinda foreshadowing on my part…a little…okay, not really…
But thanks SO MUCH for all the feedback I've gotten…reviews are amazing, and I am absolutely floored when I go to my stats and see that there are six or seven more, and a new favorites' lister. So thanks to everyone who's ever reviewed, and even the lurkers (like me!) who read, but never review…that's okay too….