I took well-deserved deep breath and shakily pushed some haphazard curls from my face. I had no idea what would have happened- what those four would have been capable of doing if given a few more minutes- but I knew that if someone hadn't intervened like Remus had, the outcome of the night would have been bleak. The Malfoys, though I hadn't met any of them before now, weren't people who should be provoked or crossed. Lucius Malfoy was a few years older than me, and graduated well before I had ever attended Hogwarts, but his reputation preceded him with whispering gossipers in the halls and articles in the Daily Prophet from time to time.
I rubbed my arms and muttered, "What was a Malfoy doing here in Chicago, anyways?"
It wasn't the ideal way see one of the four again, and I was suddenly very aware that the time last we spoke, I left without a single goodbye.
Remus turned to look at me, swiftly pocketing his wand. I sheepishly avoided his gaze, following his actions to stow my own wand safely away. The Bludger Brigade was still playing, their tone echoing lightly in our silence.
"Regulus- the black-haired one- he's Sirius' brother. It's a long story that I won't go into, but Sirius sometimes invites him to our concerts. I guess he decided to bring some friends- namely, Malfoy," Remus informed me grimly.
I nodded and looked down at my feet. One of my heels was scuffed around the edges, probably from my swift kick to Malfoy's shin. Dirty prat.
"I hate him," I whispered, blinking back tears. I was tired and emotional, and really only wanted to take a bath. I sniffed and took another deep breath.
Remus nodded, staring at the wall. "Regulus."
"Malfoy," I corrected, holding back a shudder just remembering the feeling of his hands.
Remus sighed, shoving his hands into his pockets. "Who doesn't?" He shrugged wryly.
A tense silence descended on us. I knew we were both thinking about the same thing. He wanted some sort of explanation from me. From my viewpoint, I really had no idea what James decided to tell his friends. Catching Sirius' eye during the concert, and his reaction, only left me confused on many more levels.
Remus had saved me, but he wasn't the type of guy to just let something like that happen without trying his best to intervene. All the blokes of Black Magic were decent, so the fact that Remus had helped . . . well, that didn't give me much of a clue what he thought of me now. But the silence did give me some direction of his feelings. And the way he avoided my eye added to it.
"Thanks," I told him softly. "I don't know what would have happened if you hadn't have shown up."
"I can take a guess."
His last few replies were short and to-the-point. His taut expression- one I previously perceived as anger directed towards those despicable toerags- hadn't softened the slightest. He was angry with me.
"And," I hesitated, my pride becoming an issue. "I . . . that is to say . . ."
He closed his eyes for a moment before turning to look at me. I cowered slightly under the intimidating image of his accusing eyes and stiff jaw. My eyelids swept down sheepishly.
"Why did you do it?" he was quick to ask, like he'd been waiting a lifetime for this moment.
I opened my mouth to retort just as quickly, but found I needed a few minutes to actually find some plausible explanation to justify my actions. Scratching the back of my neck, I shrugged.
"I . . . I'm not all too sure what James told you," I thought to start off slowly and rather meekly.
Remus stepped forward and then turned, leaning back against the wall. It happened in a split second: his taut face relaxed, his eyes softened with understanding, and he nodded. Just before I could consider the fact that he might have been hit with some sort of mood-altering charm, he said, "I see. James." A ghost of a smile traced along his lips. "So, how'd you find that out?"
"You called him James," Remus informed me. "I wasn't sure, but I had a feeling that might have had something to do with your disappearing act."
"Oh, er," I blushed, looking down to observe my wand instead of watching Remus watch me. "Yes, erm . . . I was walking by a door. Um, you lot had all been talking behind it." I paused before going on in a whisper, "I found out James was . . . James."
"So you left? I must say, Lily, you do have a way of leaving a trail of drama in your wake. Turned James upside down, you did."
My eyes snapped up to him. "Yeah, well, it's not like I really meant to do anything like that. I didn't ask to hear all that stuff-"
"You eavesdropped!" said Remus, laughing in what I perceived as an incredulous way. "If that's not all your doing, I don't know what is-"
"Fine, yes, but I didn't ask to be lied to!"
"Oh, come off it, Lily! Can you really blame him? If Sirius hadn't taken it upon himself to reveal the rest of us to you first, I would have lied to you as well."
"A fine confession. I suppose you thought you couldn't trust me, then," I sniffed, crossing my arms self-righteously.
"Yeah, that's right!" Remus stepped a little closer to me, not breaking eye-contact. "We knew you for one day , Lily. I don't know how easy it is for you to trust someone, but, please, put yourself in our shoes for even just a moment: I'm- we're - Black Magic. It's not every day we reveal ourselves to strangers.
"Curse it, Lily! I don't think you've grasped the magnitude of this. The entire magical population is placed under a special type of Confundus Charm so as not to reveal our identities- yes, Lily, even you. We went to school with hundreds of students and teachers that knew us quite well even before we were Black Magic and because of the clever intuition of Albus Dumbledore, our secret was never to be known to anyone but who we wanted to know. I could go up to anyone on the street as Remus Lupin, and no one would be any the wiser that I'm a drummer."
I stayed silent.
"A select few- families, close friends, and Albus Dumbledore- are the only ones that know who the members of Black Magic really are. And then, just a few days ago, Sirius decided you should know, too. Merlin only knows why he felt compelled to tell you," finished Remus tiredly.
I let everything I'd just heard sink in. Confundus Charms on everyone . That concept winded me. Of course, concerning a great wizard like Albus Dumbledore, many things winded me.
And then there was Sirius. Why did he tell me who he was? Was it in his nature to spill secrets like that to anyone who would listen? He wasn't that reckless, from what I could tell. Surely he had some tact. The question nagged at me, but a stronger one occurred.
"So," I said quietly, the hall still buzzing from Remus' loud outburst, "do you regret that he did it? Told me, that is?"
He was breathing heavily, as though he'd just run a long distance. Still leaning against the wall, he halfheartedly kicked one foot back against the bricks. I watched him as a rainbow of emotions flitted across his face. Just as I began to think he wasn't going to answer, he asked, "Are you really sorry you left?"
"I'm sorry I hurt James," I replied, running a shaking hand through my limp curls.
Remus nodded, satisfied. Then, pulling something out of his pocket, he pushed off from the wall and walked towards me. "Here." He took my hand and placed a thick slab of chocolate on my palm. I stared at him weirdly for a moment.
"Sorry, I'm not in the mood for sweets . . ."
"It'll make you feel better. Now, eat," he insisted. Tentatively, I took a few small bites. My insides felt better after a few seconds, but I made no mention of that to him. In fact, I finished the rest in silence, glancing at Remus from time to time.
"Thanks," I murmured after I'd finished.
"Trick my mum taught me; chocolate always seems to remedy a nasty situation," informed Remus. "I don't regret it, by the way, that Sirius told you."
"No," he answered firmly. "I admit that when we'd found you gone . . . well, I had my suspicions that maybe you'd rat us out. Now that I trust that you haven't . . ." He breathed out a laugh. "I meant what I said about you drawing out drama wherever you go. You do have James in a right state, but I suppose maybe that's a good thing. He's never been one to put himself out there with girls- don't get me wrong, he's not shy around them, or anything; he's actually been rather arrogant on some occasions. But, you . . . Sirius, Peter, and I, we all had a talk last night about you two. We think you're good for him-"
"See, that's where I really must disagree," I interrupted, now wringing my hands. "I'm not good for him. Remus, I've thought about this . . . a lot. . . You know first hand how I handled the thought of a relationship with him-"
"You were shocked," said Remus, ironically defending me against actions he had a few minutes prior been accusing me of.
"Yes, and afraid, mortified, at the prospect of dating someone half the world wants to date, too." I crossed my arms. I briefly wondered where Petunia ran off to. Chances are she left me for real this time.
"Don't make this out to be more complicated than it really is," said Remus lightly. "He's pretty upset, but I can talk to him. He was afraid you . . . betrayed him or something, but once I tell him-"
"That's really, really not necessary, Remus." I stepped forward to retrieve my purse, which had fallen earlier. I distractedly searched through it to make sure I still had everything I needed. "I mean . . . I'm not . . . who am I ? James Potter with a nobody like me? It's just," I shrugged and let out a disheartening laugh, "I mean, it'd be too hard, Remus. Now, I'm sorry without saying goodbye, but part of me isn't sorry that I left."
He seemed disconcerted at the turn this conversation was making. With a hint of earnest laced in his voice, he said, "Let me just talk to James." He grasped my shoulder, "Then you two can talk; it's never wise to leave things unresolved like this."
"Remus, I'm sorry." I shook my head, backing away from him. "Thank you for saving my sister and I; I- I don't think I can really express how. . .well," I gripped my purse a little bit tighter, "just. . . tell the guys I said hello.
"Maybe . . . maybe, we'll see each other sometime in Diagon Alley," I shrugged, flashing him a weak smile, and then turned around. Hearing him call my name, I resolutely quickened my pace. Luckily, he didn't follow.
It turns out Petunia had left without me. She'd been hysterical after she ran off, and bolted straight to her car. I had taken a cab home, having to wake my father up so he could pay the difference to the cab driver. It had been a long night, with me explaining to him why I actually arrived in a cab and the details of the night over a cup of hot chocolate under the his warm gaze. I went further, and explained the events of my trip here, Jim-James, the rest of Black Magic, and the reason I left Remus standing in the hall completely defeated.
We were sitting on the couch in the living room, in front of the still fiercely burning fire. I'd taken a quick shower and put pajamas on when I first arrived, before going into all the details to my father. Now, after everything was said and done, I sat there, with my legs curled underneath me, a soft afghan my grandmother knitted before she passed away settled tightly around me. My dad sat with his sock-covered feet propped up on the coffee table, sipping occasionally from his cooling cup of tea. He appeared pensive, while I frowned into my empty cup.
"Sounds like you've had quite a week," he finally noted.
"Yeah," I answered softly.
"You know," said Dad with a small, wistful smile, "when your mother and I decided to divorce, I'm not too sure we went about it in the most tactful direction."
Startled, for my father never talked about Mom, I looked at him. "What do you mean?"
"I mean," he sighed, "Lily, I know I'm not in any position to make assumptions about your life; the last time we saw each other was when I was just moving in to this house two years ago. And even with phone calls and-," he breathed a laugh, "and owls, well, I don't know all that much about you anymore- that's why I asked you to come.
"From what I've been able to learn from sparse phone calls from your mom, I know you're having a hard time getting close to people."
I twirled the silver ring on my right-hand, ring finger and asked in a nonchalant voice, "Why do you say that?"
"I heard you don't see much of Sarah or Millie anymore, or any of your old friends from school."
"We kind of grew apart," I explained. "Sarah's always wanted travel, learn about different types of plants and stuff; she was always brilliant in Herbology. And Millie, well, pursuing a Ministry career takes up a lot of her free time."
Dad nodded empathetically, "And studying to be a doctor must take a lot of time as well."
"Healer, Daddy," I corrected, grinning.
"Right, Healer. It must take up a lot of your time, too."
"I suppose so." I leaned over to set my cup down on the coffee table.
"So much time that I haven't heard you talking about any new boys recently- well, until now, that is." I avoided his gaze opting for burning my retinas by staring avidly into the fire. When I said nothing, he continued, "You sound like you're rather fond of this James fellow."
"That's not the point," I said. "He's . . . he's James Potter -"
"Yes, you've told me that about three times now," my dad smiled, amused. "He's just a boy, princess."
"He's not just a boy , though." I licked my lips, trying to find the right words, and very much aware that this was my father I was spilling my heart to. "I just . . . he's special."
"He's famous," my dad elaborated.
"No!" I exclaimed, but quickly reddened after that. Going on in a quieter tone, I said, "No, it's not because of his fame. I knew he was, for lack of a better word, special when I first met him. He was so kind and sweet."
"But, he lied to you," he pointed out.
"Yes, but . . . he did it because he wasn't sure he could trust me. I mean, well, I can understand why he didn't. I've only known them for one day, after all, and I'm sure anyone in his position would be cautious."
He stayed silent, and I continued softly, "He likes to dance. Both Rodger and David hated to dance."
Dad scoffed at the mentions of both my ex-boyfriends; he never did approve of them. Grant it, when I was dating David, I had just turned thirteen and my dad felt I was too young for a relationship. And Peter, well, he was having a rather off week when he met my dad. He didn't think highly of either of them.
"I always had this dream of dancing with someone all alone, in silence. Someone I was comfortable with; with whom I didn't need to hear music, because we'd make our own." My pulse quickened when I felt my eyes mist over.
"Well," my dad said briskly, standing up and retrieving both empty mugs, "who better qualified than a musician?" My eyes darted to him.
" Night, pumpkin. Don't stay up too late." He swooped down to kiss my forehead affectionately before standing again, glancing out the window behind the couch. "The snow's kind of pretty at night, isn't it?"
With that, he left the room, leaving me to watch the fire lose some of its severity and attempt to tame my wild thoughts. I listened as he put the cups in the sink, heard him flick the light switch off, and then listened as he made his way up the creaking stairs to his bedroom.
Tugging on my sloppy ponytail, I silently turned and adjusted myself to my knees. I stared out the window, watching the snowflakes catching the beams of streetlights, and was suddenly reminded of watching a similar scene that night looking out a pair of glass doors. Before, I had cringed at the sight, not really keen finding a ride home in that. Now, though, under different circumstances, in warm pajamas, wrapped in a soft quilt with the fireplace illuminated, the snow looked so peaceful, so right. It was, at that moment, after all evening's murkiness had passed, a perfect winter night.
Sometime that night, I fell asleep.
"She disowns me- ha! I disown her, " I muttered to myself, viciously pulling each of my coat buttons through their slits. What was it about Petunia that caused my patience to dwindle and my mood to instantly die?
The snowfall had ceased by late the next morning. It was about ten o'clock, and my lovely sister was already driving me out of the house. I tied a scarf around neck, too distracted to notice I was choking myself until the coarse fabric scratched uncomfortably against my skin.
"I'll be back later, Dad," I called out before loudly shutting the door. I trudged along the shoveled sidewalk, hardly taking note of where I was walking. My mind was one-tracked, so my anger at Petunia soon faded and I focused completely on- who else?- James.
Eventually, I stopped walking and looked around. I had long since strayed from shoveled ground and was now leaving footprints along a wide field. From the thick array of trees in front of me now, I cleverly deduced that I must have walked to the outskirts of a small forest. It was a pretty clearing; undisturbed banks of snow, and the trees were highlighted with a large conglomeration of flakes on their branches. It was overcast that morning, and it looked like it could start to snow at any moment.
Checking my watch, I saw that I had been walking for a little less than thirty minutes. I shouldn't be too far from Dad's house, and Petunia was probably still there, ranting and raving. I took out my wand and conjured up a rod iron bench to sit on, planning to wait out my sister.
I sat there for a few minutes until my ears perked to the sound of crunchy snow behind me. Curious to see who else would have walked all the way out here, I turned slightly to sneak a quick glance over my shoulder. It took a few minutes to register, but when it did, I did a double-take. Turning a little more, I rested a glove-clad hand on the back of the bench for balance, watching James Potter slowly and steadily walk towards me.
My expression was one of utter shock, my eyes popping out of their sockets and my jaw suspended. When I met his gaze head on, I quickly gathered myself and stared back at him apprehensively. Whatever I was feeling at that moment, though, couldn't stop me from noticing just how attractive he looked with his hair windblown messier and his cheeks flushed from the cold. He shot me a small smile with a hint of reassurance hidden somewhere on his lips.
James slowed as he drew nearer and gradually came to a full stop a few feet away from the bench. "Hi," he greeted, kicking away some fresh snow by his feet.
"Hi," I repeated cautiously. "What, er . . . what are you doing here? How'd you find me?"
James, who didn't answer, observed his surroundings for a moment before asking, "Can I sit down?"
"Oh!" I glanced down quickly before looking back up. "Yes, please, er, have a seat." I turned back around to sit properly, folding my hands nervously on my lap. Once he was next to me, I began fidgeting.
We sat in silence for a few moments before James broke it by saying, "You weren't this antsy on the flight."
I forced myself to stop moving, opting instead to inspect my mittens. "Sorry. You do have to admit, this is a little awkward." He rubbed his hands together, and I noticed he wasn't wearing gloves. "Where's your mittens?"
"Peter knocked a bottle of firewisky on them last night." He shrugged in good humor and added sarcastically, "Serves me right, though. I shouldn't have left them on a coffee table."
"Why didn't you just clean them; you do have your wand, don't you?"
"Well, yes, but you see, Peter is a terrible drunk," James explained conversationally. "And he decided, before I could intervene, that they couldn't be salvaged, and so the crazy bloke threw them into the fireplace." My eyebrows shot up and a smile played across my mouth. "Never allow Peter with alcohol near open flames; it's a right mess, that is." I laughed, and he joined in, both of us happy to have some sort of icebreaker.
When the laughter died down, I decided it was my turn to contribute something to this conversation- and my input was definitely not going to earn a laugh. "I'm sorry, James. I never should have left the way I did."
He said nothing for a moment, but then replied, "Did you enjoy the concert?" He met my gaze. "You finally got to see one."
"It was great," I told him earnestly. "The concert . . . not the rest of it."
"Yeah, Remus told me about last night," said James with a hint of bitterness in his own. "Sirius had a talk with his brother; Regulus isn't allowed at anymore concerts. The Ministry got a hold of them, too, because they used magic, but Malfoy's family intervened as usual."
"Figures," I mumbled. I really owe Remus."
"How's your sister?" asked James, pushing his hands into his pocket for warmth.
I shrugged and said wryly, "She crashed her car last night. Ran into a wooden fence on her way home because she was so worked up." James made some sort of sympathetic noise, so I quickly went on, "Don't worry about her; she blames the whole thing on me, so she'll be fine." I rolled my eyes and tightened my scarf slightly.
He changed the topic, "I guess I owe you an apology, too. I shouldn't have lied to you about who I am."
"I was angry," I said, wrinkling my nose as the redundancy of that statement.
"I know. So was I," he remarked. "I guess all along I'd been expecting the worst; I was kind of hoping you'd do something like that, so I could fool myself into believing I was doing the right thing by not telling you who I really was. That I was right by not trusting you."
"I know why you did, though. I understand why you didn't trust me." I took a deep breath. "Remus made some fantastic points last night. You had only known me one day. But, James, you have to believe me . . . I'd never go after someone because of their fortune. I'm not that type of girl."
"I know . . . not many of those types of girls would have left like you did once they found out just who I was."
"Yeah, I guess," I mumbled. "You know, 'James' suits you better than 'Jim'."
He tossed me a lopsided smile that made my heart flutter.
Then, there was another silence. We'd both apologized and forgave one another, and I'd been relieved of a lot of tension by just that thought. We'd moved passed that problem, but what was next? James took it into his own hands by saying, "I don't know what it is about you, Lily. I've . . . It seems unreal how short the time's been since we've known each other. I feel like I've known you for years." I avoided his eyes , my resolve to forget about a relationship with James weakening by the honesty and wonder in his tone. Yesterday, when I left Remus, it seemed impossible to even consider that I might see him again, much less have another chance to be with him. And, I tried to tell myself I was fine with it. I tried to bury my doubt underneath thick layers of false assurance, telling myself that something so potentially complicated was not the route I should be taking. But, with our surroundings- a pristine backdrop with no other living thing around, with nothing but James, me, and the humble bench to taint the picturesque scenery- I found myself adapting to the simplicity of it all.
"I know this is fast," James continued, and I found myself marveling at how calm and collected he held himself, "but, Lily," He turned slightly in his seat, taking his hands out of his pocket to reach and and hold mine, "I'd like to see how things go if . . . if you'd consider dating me."
Despite the cold weather, I felt the heat from his hands through the fabric of my mittens. The heat spread up to my cheeks. Staring down at our hands, I chewed on the inside of my cheek and mulled over his words. Date James. Be James' girlfriend; James Potter, my boyfriend. A relationship. "James, don't you think it'd be hard?" I asked him, regret in my voice, "I mean, you're on tour for so much time out of the year- how often are you actually in England? I just don't think it would work."
He moved closer to me, and after forcing myself to meet his gaze, I saw the same earnest expression that Remus was wearing last night before I left. "Lily," I said softly. "As long as there's a chance it could . . . Merlin, these last few days have been the most miserable ones I've ever lived."
I took a deep breath, "Same here."
That seemed to motivate him. "Then, don't you think, it might be worth the risk to just- just try ?"
"But, the tours, James-" I insisted weakly.
"We don't even need to think about that right now; yesterday's performance was the last one of this tour," explained James. "And, as for future ones . . . well, you've seemed to handle yourself pretty well thus far- with a few minor complications, mind you. My mates seem rather taken with you.
I swallowed and licked my lips. "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying," he shrugged, beginning to play with my fingers, "You've bewitched me, Lily. And, I'd want you to come along with us if we do another tour."
"Seriously?" I exclaimed. "James, you don't know anything about me."
"I've got time to learn," responded James. "This isn't an engagement, Lily. All I'm asking for is . . . a date. Would you come along with me to have a cup of coffee?"
" . . . No."
He stopped playing with my fingers, looking away from me. "Oh," was his only reply. James let go of my hands and began to stand, but I touched his arm and he paused.
"Why don't we just sit here for a while?" I whispered, throwing all my concerns and inhibitions about dating a rock star away. It began to snow. He turned back around to look at me, his sudden, hopeful smile making him look childlike. I made the right choice. "Get to know one another a little better? I only know what the magazine-"
"Wait," he interrupted quietly. "There's just something I . . ." He trailed off, and instead of taking my hands into his again like I thought he'd do, he instead cradled my face and slowly maneuvered closer to me.
I had envisioned kissing James Potter a lot over the past week, but none of my dreams had ever come close to how the real thing felt. His intoxicating presence overwhelmed my senses, heightening each sensation his warm, extremely soft lips provided. Feeling as though I'd just consumed five bottles of butterbeer in less than ten seconds, I responded slowly to the kiss, my breath hitching when his thumbs swept across my cheeks, leaving a strong, tingling sensation in their wake. He took one hand away and deftly wrapped it around my waist, pulling me closer to him. I reached up and grasped one of his lapels, my other hand sweeping through his damp hair.
When he pulled back after what felt like years, leaving us both breathing heavily, he kissed the side of my mouth . "I've wanted to do that all week."
I grinned, staring at his lips, transfixed. "Yeah?"
"Yeah . . . you looked so cute after you took that nap on the plane." He pushed some of my hair behind my ears. "Beautiful green eyes still clouded over; hair tousled . . ." He traced a cool finger down the side of my face to my chin. "A trail of drool dribbling down your chin."
My eyes widened in mortification. He began to laugh quietly, pecking away a snowflake that had landed on my cheek. I closed my eyes and took in his scent. "You never answered: How'd you know where I was?"
"Some savvy detective work." I quirked my eyebrow, and he elaborated, "Remus asked Frank, who phoned Alice, who owled one of your friends, who told us your dad's address."
My eyebrows shot up. "That's a lot of work."
"Eh, you're worth it." I blushed.
"But, how'd you find me here. Dad didn't know where I was going," I said.
"Simple," he shrugged, "I followed your footsteps."
"Ah," I grinned.
"And, I have a message for you, too," James informed me with a toothy grin, hugging me to him.
"What's that?" I asked, closing my eyes.
"Lunch is in . . ." I felt him fidget, and through a half-opened eye, I saw him glance at a muggle wristwatch. "fifteen minutes. We really ought to head back; I left Remus, Peter, and Sirius with your Dad back at your house. Peter'll never shut up if we're late for lunch, and Sirius will probably want my head for taking so long to bring you back."
I pulled back and laughed, smoothing down the front of his coat. "Okay," I replied eagerly, looking forward to what awaited us at home. James stood and pulled me up as well, resting an affectionate arm around my waist. We made our way gingerly through the snow. I couldn't keep a smile off of my face.
"I'll be wanting that cup of coffee with you sometime soon," James warned me.
I glanced up at him. "You'll have plenty of coffee dates with me," I assured him.
A/N: Well, there you have it, ladies and gents. I'm not sure I liked the ending of this, but I'm satisfied enough to leave it this way. Also, for those of you who don't wish to see this end, I'm planning out a sequel that should be up sometime soon. I don't have a title to give you yet, so as far as finding it, I'd recommend adding me to your author alert list, or just checking my profile from time to time; whatever you want to do. Anyways, thank you so much for reading this story. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it!