It's not mine; it's J.K. Rowling's.

Chapter 18: In Which Lily Punches Back

Or

In Which Lily Finds her True Love ... Again

Lily was filled with reckless rage and, steeling herself, she grasped the tapestry and yanked it aside. She watched with a faint bit of pleasure as the laughter disappeared from the two boys' faces and was replaced with astonishment.

Remus, in fact, looked like he was just about ready to faint from surprise and James was stuttering, "L ... Li ... Lily?" all the while opening and closing his mouth like a giant surprised goldfish.

Lily was sure she must have been quite a sight, dressed up all fancy in her green ball gown, holding a fish bowl, and looking like she wanted to kill something cough James cough.

"James," she replied as James pulled himself together and wiped the surprise from his face.

"What are you doing here?" James demanded coldly.

"I came back for my wand and then your house said I should talk to you, but apparently you've already found another girl to replace me," Lily said with a bitter smile.

James looked confused at first when she mentioned talking to his house, but then he had the audacity to look surprised, "Oh, I've found a girl to replace you, have I? Well, at least I'm not a cold-hearted, lying bitch."

Lily's mouth dropped.

Had he just called her a bitch?

And a cold-hearted lying one at that?

What a bastard.

She was going to kill him.

Smartly snapping her mouth shut, she turned to Remus. "Would you hold Diver for me?" She asked politely, holding out Diver in his bowl.

"O .. Ok," he said, accepting Diver's bowl and cradling it carefully in his arms like a new born baby.

"Thank you, Remus. You're so sweet."

She turned back to James and smiled sweetly at him while squaring herself up as she'd learned in self-defense class. Pulling her arm back, she gave him a wicked smile and then swung at his face, hitting him solidly in the eye. She resisted the urge to shoot her arm up and shout, "YES!" After all, she was more dignified than that.

James let out a cry of surprise and pain, stumbling backwards. He regained his balance after a few steps, but by that time, their little spat had the attention of the entire ball room.

Lily watched as James' eyes hardened. She hadn't even realized that his eyes had been soft and gentle before, but they'd been hidden by his glasses then. His glasses, which were now lying shattered on the floor.

She was suddenly afraid. She knew that James would never hurt her. At least the James she knew wouldn't hurt her, but this hard-eyed James, who looked scarier than the Dark Lord himself, there was no telling what he could do ... what he would do.

She watched in morbid fascination as he shook his head and gently reached a hand up to touch the undoubtedly painful area around his eye. She remembered how much it stung after she'd gotten her black eye. James bent down and felt around for his glasses, finding them he pulled out his wand and whispered, "Oculus Reparo." Standing up he looked at her, anger-filled eyes now hidden behind his glasses. Gods, he looked so handsome standing there, rippling with anger, hair all askew. If only he wasn't angry at her.

"Damn it, Evans!" James snapped, "That's going to bruise!"

"Aww ... poor baby Potter has a little black eye," Lily mocked, her voice filled with poison. "I'm sure it won't bother your girlfriend too much."

Her hurt and anger at being called Evans gave her more daring than she'd thought she had. He hadn't called her Evans since 5th year for Merlin's sake! The only thing keeping her from breaking down in tears at the mere thought was her sarcasm and anger.

"Girlfriend! I don't have a gods damned girlfriend," James said, his voice frighteningly controlled as he advanced toward her.

"Oh, so you're just playing around. I guess it's true what they say about leopards never changing their spots. I can't believe I ever even entertained the idea that you'd stopped being a player," she spat.

James stopped, staring at her in open mouth shock," I am NOT a player, Evans! I gave that up ages ago. You can ask anyone." He paused and looked mock thoughtful, "What I can't believe is that I thought I'd broken your heart of stone. I guess I was wrong; it's just as hard and bitter as ever."

As his words died away, Lily stared at him, meeting his eyes. She saw that beneath the surface of pain and anger that his eyes ... his beautiful eyes ... were filled with something else. Probably hate. But maybe ... maybe it was love.

Oh, who was she kidding; he couldn't still love her.

Besides, if he loved her why would he find another girl?

'Well maybe he thought you abandoned him' a tiny voice said inside of Lily's head, and she blanched, breaking eye contact.

Oh shit!

She'd kind of forgotten about the letter thing.

What if he'd just been trying to prove he was over her? What better way was there to prove you didn't care about a woman than replacing her. That sounded like something his pride would spur him to do.

Potter pride.

It was so insufferable, but she loved it just as much as she did every other part of James.

She took a shuddering breath. "It's not stone," she said, her words barely sounding at all since she blew them out on a sigh.

And it wasn't. Her heart had been hard before James, but now, even after him, it wasn't rock, it was ice. Ice, and that could be easily melted with James' warm looks and gentle kisses. She'd been foolish to open herself up to that heat and let it melt her heart.

She straightened up, looking at James, who was examining the floor with apparent interest. She then looked at Remus, who seemed positively torn between his friends and appeared to be wishing the floor would suck him in.

Lily sighed; she didn't feel like fighting anymore.

"Tell your parents that the party is lovely, Potter," she said.

She reached her hands out toward Remus to take Diver back from him, but then stopped. She turned back to James feeling an overwhelming urge to tell him how honestly sorry she was. "I'm sorry about that letter; he shouldn't have done that to you."

As she swiveled toward Remus again, her arm was roughly grabbed by James.

"What do you mean 'he'?" James asked, his tone harsh, but his grip on her arm gentle after his initial tug.

"Exactly what I said. He had no right to do that."

"Stop dancing around the question, Evans," James hissed, his grip on her arm tightening.

Lily cringed back, feeling a tendril of fear wrapping around her.

"The Dark Lord," she said, tugging fruitlessly at her arm.

James flung her arm away from him with a look of disgust on his face. She stumbled backwards toward Remus from the momentum of his shove. Remus did a funny juggle of Diver's bowl as he tried to hold it and catch her as well, but she managed to do the job herself, grabbing his shoulder to support herself.

"Sorry," she muttered to Remus.

Remus looked worried. "Are you alright?" He asked quietly.

Lily, thinking he was referring to her black eye, said, "Yeah, it doesn't even hurt if I don't touch it." Of course, since she was talking about it, she reflexively tapped it with her finger, which made her cringe. She then shrugged sheepishly and gave Remus a small smile.

Remus looked even more worried now than he had before and he opened his mouth to say something, but was cut off by James.

"How did you get a black eye?"

"Same way you did, Sherlock," Lily said, quirking an eyebrow at James in a way designed to make him feel hopelessly stupid.

"I meant," James ground out through clenched teeth, "Who gave it to you?"

"I don't know," Lily said truthfully.

"You don't know," James mocked, "I'm not stupid enough to believe that, Evans."

"Well, I wonder what that says about your intelligence level then," Lily shot back sarcastically, "because I honestly don't know who it was that gave it to me. I'm sure you've heard that Death Eaters wear masks, right? Well, let me just tell you, masks kind of make it hard to tell who a person is, so I don't know."

"What the hell are you talking about L ... Evans? Baramore was months ago."

"You know, Potter, my advice to you would be that next time you get some correspondence from me that announces my sudden departure without any of my luggage, including my wand, you might want to wonder if it's actually from me because generally I do travel with my wand. And for your clarification: yes, my first trip to Baramore was over the summer, but where the hell do you think I spent the past week? Sleeping in the forest? Although," she added thoughtfully, "I bet the ground in the forest is much better for sleeping than those cots in Baramore. I do honestly believe that they are stuffed with horse hair."

"So you're saying that you didn't write that letter and Voldemort kidnapped you. Am I right?" James said, bitter sarcasm lacing every word.

Lily shouted, "Well done, Potter, you've finally figured out something intelligent!" Sending him a sickeningly pleasant smile, she started pretending to applaud his achievement.

James grabbed her wrists, stopping her claps. "Well, if you didn't write the letter, who did?"

"I don't know exactly," Lily said, feeling defeated; she had no way of proving who had written that letter, "But I'm guessing it was the Dark Lord ... I just know it wasn't me."

"Do you really expect me to believe that?" James said, shaking her by her wrists.

"You know what I think," he shouted, "I think you're a physcopathic liar, telling me all of this shit about Baramore! Maybe you're a Death Eater! Maybe that's why you never say Voldemort, you always say the Dark Lord, just like his servants!"

Lily pulled her wrists out of his grasp with a violent tug and slapped James hard across the face.

How dare he even imply something as vile as her being a Death Eater!

She shoved her left forearm right into his face to make sure he didn't miss what her point.

"No Dark Mark, James, and it's my right to call him what I wish. I'd call him Tom if you would know who I spoke of because he certainly isn't Voldemort. That's just a stupid make believe name he fashioned for himself and I refuse to call him that!"

James opened his mouth to retort, but Lily cut him off. "And you may believe me or not, but I'm telling the truth no matter what you decide ... I went outside Christmas night and ran into the Dark Lord; I have no clue why he was there or how he knew I would be. It was child's play for him to take me, I didn't even have my wand and I'd taken off the necklace ..."

Lily felt remorse flowing over her. She'd promised him she'd wear it and she hadn't even kept that promise a full day. No wonder he wanted another girl.

She looked up at James to see his eyes were calculating, weighing what he'd heard and deciding what he would believe.

She had always liked that about him, his decisiveness, how he was always able to make a choice and once he did, he never looked back.

But she shouldn't like anything about him.

She was supposed to hate him.

She couldn't, though.

She couldn't look into his eyes, clouded as they were, without feeling her heart soar with love because she couldn't stop loving him.

She should, but then again, there were a lot of things in life she should do, but didn't.

James finally spoke, his voice thoughtful, emphasizing the fact he didn't want to believe her, but for the moment was giving her the benefit of the doubt, "Let's suspend reality for a second and say that you were kidnapped by Voldemort ... in my backyard ... last week. Voldemort then decided to write me a letter from you ... for no particular reason ..."

"Maybe you wouldn't come after me," Lily interjected.

James shrugged and nodded, "And you then managed to miraculously escape and return to my house."

Lily nodded.

James cocked his head to the side, "So why in the bloody hell do you march in here calling me a player?"

"Because you are one, you dimwit! I'm barely gone a week and you've already found some other girl!" Lily said, her voice starting low, but ending in a wail. She wanted to burst into tears just saying it out loud. How could he do this to her? She loved him!

James looked like he was caught between two buses coming at him head on.

"I haven't found another girl."

"Then what was Remus talking about!"

"Remus?"

"Me?" Remus' voice chorused with James'. "I haven't said anything about James finding anyone, girl or otherwise, in at least a week."

"You didn't say he found her!" Lily spat back, heartache burning her senses, "You said he was in love with her."

Lily paused as her voice trembled before pressing on, "Then James said that I meant nothing to him."

"I would never say that!" James cried, as Lily tried to wipe up the tears that were leaking out of her eyes.

Remus, opposite of James' indignation, which was quickly turning to embarrassment as he realized what he had said, looked like he'd had a sudden epiphany.

"But you did, James," Remus said, then shook his head, "Not that you meant it. Remember? I was pestering you about that girl you danced with and then you couldn't remember her name ..."

Remus trailed off as a look of horror crossed James' face.

James turned to Lily, who in addition to being thoroughly confused was still rather preoccupied with the fact that James had implied that he still had feelings for her.

"Lily, I'm so sorry," James gushed, "I was being sarcastic and Remus was saying I wasn't in love with her. I couldn't even remember her name and she's absolutely nothing compared to you and I was just being an ass and moping around and I didn't mean it at all Lily ... you could never mean nothing to me ... you're my everything."

As soon as he finished, James colored with an intense red blush that could even match one of Lily's worst.

Lily didn't know what to say. What was there to say?

He loved her!

This was the time when the sappy music needed to start playing and he needed to sweep her off the floor in a passionate kiss. James didn't seem to be catching on to that fact though.

He wasn't even looking at her, just inspecting the floor. Remus was readjusting his grip on Diver's bowl and the rest of the room seemed to be holding it's breath.

She didn't know what to do, then she saw Sirius' head pop out of the crowd. He waved to get her attention and mouthed something at her.

Lily narrowed her eyes at him in an effort to show that she had missed his words.

He mouthed them again.

She shook her head, she still hadn't gotten them. She was a terrible lip reader. She mouthed back, 'What?'

Sirius tried again. Had he said 'fish something'? What in the world was he talking about?

Sirius gave up after that and announced loudly, "Kiss him already, will you!"

And it was Lily's turn to blush as James jerked his head up and made some rude hand motions at his best friend. James then launched into some very creative death threats while Sirius pretended to be terribly hurt by James' words.

It hit Lily then that Sirius was right. James loved her (at least that was what it sounded like), she loved him, and they were on the verge of surviving their first major 'I hate you, you hate me' fight. If they beat this, they could beat anything. And if he didn't want to kiss her then she would damn well just kiss him!

"And I'll chop your corpse into tiny pieces and feed them ..."

Lily never found out what James was planning to feed bits of Sirius to since she was far to busy kissing him.

At first James was clearly surprised, but he quickly pulled her close to him, cradling her head with one hand.

"Lily, I love you," he whispered into her ear, after they pulled apart.

Lily pulled back a bit from his embrace to look him the in the eye and said proudly, "And I love you, James."

He laughed joyously, pulling her into a kiss that lifted her feet clear off of the floor. He set her down with a flourish, smiling like he would never be sad again.

Lily looked over at Remus who was looking slightly bemused and then the silence of the room stuck her.

Was everyone watching them? Lily felt a blush coloring her cheeks.

She looked at James for direction as to what they should do. A bow would probably be appropriate after the show they'd just put on, but he didn't seem to know what to do either since he was staring at Sirius.

Obviously he'd been using some sort of top secret silent Marauders communication because a second later Sirius rescued them by stepping out of the crowd and saying, "Well, that was jolly fun. And no more lovers quarrels for you two," he humorously shook a finger at them like they were naughty children, "They do numbers on the rest of us."

Everyone laughed and James pulled her closer to his side, "Sorry, Padfoot, we'll try to keep it at a minimum."

"Excellent," Sirius said, slapping his hands together, "Now I'm going to steal your girl for a dance."

Sirius grabbed Lily's hand and started twirling her around in an off beat dance that the band quickly picked up and began playing. Soon other couples joined in as well, which allowed James to sneak over to the sidelines. Lily spotted him being teased by his father while he let his aunt and mother heal his eye.

Lily let her head sink forward onto Sirius' shoulder, groaning.

"What is it?" He asked.

"I gave him a black eye and then I declared my love for him in front of all of these people," Lily whispered mortified.

Sirius laughed. "He probably deserved the black eye for being such a moping prat. I swear, he was driving us nuts with those crying fits. And as for the love thing, I'm sure James couldn't be happier that all these people know, because that will only save him the trouble of going up to each of them personally and telling them he's the luckiest man in the world because you're in love with him."

Lily blushed, hardly believing that all of this had happened. But they loved each other and in the end that's what really mattered.

As the dance finished, Sirius gallantly escorted her over to where James was sitting.

Krista looked up at Lily and smiled, quickly squeezing Lily's free hand. Lily felt like glowing as Tristan complimented his wife's gesture with a wink. These were such wonderful people to still accept her after the letter incident ... and after she'd punched their son in the eye.

James stood up and gravely accepted her hand from Sirius.

"I'm off then," Sirius said with a wink, "I've got to go beg forgiveness from the old ball and chain for abandoning her."

"Forgiveness from whom?" Ally said, coming up behind Sirius with her eyebrow raised.

Sirius winced and turned, "Did I say ball and chain? I meant lovely angel of beauty and light of my heart."

Ally laughed and kissed his cheek. "I didn't realize you were the type of guy who was into chains," she said as she pulled him away.

Lily and James both burst into laughter as they watched Sirius being led away like a puppy dog on a leash.

As their laughter died, James deftly tugged her into his arms, settling his chin on her shoulder.

Everything seemed perfect.

Lily spun in his arms and kissed him gently, pulling back a little to whisper, "I love you."

"I love you too," James said, looking like he was close to tears he was so happy.

He leaned down and kissed her again, pulling her even closer to him and wrapping his arms securely around her waist.

Tristan coughed and they pulled apart, blushing.

He and Krista soon headed out to mingle a bit and reassure any offended guests that while they were not sorry for the amusing display that had taken place, it wasn't intended to offend anyone.

After thinking that she'd lost James forever, Lily couldn't be close enough to him. She also was having the urge to say "I love you" every 3 seconds, an urge she was giving in to.

Remus walked over with Diver a little bit later when Lily was curled up on James' lap.

"Oh, thank you, Remus," Lily said, standing up and taking Diver off of his hands. After setting Diver down on the small table next to James' chair, she hugged her friend.

"You're the friend who never fails," she told him.

Remus beamed, "Thanks, Lily, and congrats to you and James on getting together ... again." He nodded at James (probably more secret Marauders talk).

"Happily ever after is the least of what I wish you, Prongs."

James stood up and hugged Remus as well, "You'll find someone as well, Moony." Pulling back James whispered conspiratorially, "I'd make you my best man, but Padfoot would kill us both and frankly I'd rather not spend my wedding dead."

James and Remus exchanged a grin and Lily cut in, "Best man? We won't be needing one of those for quite a while."

"I know, love," James said, running a hand down her cheek, "But I like to plan ahead."

He and Remus exchanged another grin, this time accompanied by gleeful glances.

Remus leaned toward Lily, who was eyeing them suspiciously, and said, "You ought to see the dress he has picked out for the flower girl."

Lily laughed and Remus melted back into the crowd.

"You don't really have a dress picked out for the flower girl do you?"

It seemed only a few minutes passed before the band leader announced the midnight dance.

James pulled Lily out on the dance floor with him. They fell into step next to Ally and Sirius, gently spinning through the notes.

The song came to an end as the countdown began ...

10 ...

She was with James ...

9 ...

He was smiling at her ...

8 ...

He was whispering that he loved her ...

7 ...

He was smiling as she was whispered that she loved him ...

6 ...

His eyes were bright with love and joy ...

5 ...

He was gently running his hand through her hair ...

4 ...

His own hair was a wreck, going every which way, as always ...

3 ...

His eye was beginning to tinge black behind his glasses ...

2 ...

He blushed as she touched his cheek lovingly ...

1 ...

He leaned down, his nose brushing hers ...

HAPPY NEW YEARS!

His lips were on hers ...

She knew that this was right.

That they were meant to be.

That no matter what they would face the world together ...

Hand in hand.

Look out world, here we come!

The End

Thank you to all of my reviewers! Thanks for reading and reviewing; you guys are awesome!

Special thanks to Daystar the most awesome beta in the whole world. She also gets credit for the chapter title cause I'm not feeling very creative and made her do it for me.

CzarinaKathryn