Destroying the Illusion
Disclaimer: Let's see...looks around...am I a successful author? Nope. Do I have two kids, with a third on the way, and a great husband? Nope. Am I the creator of a series of books that have captivated the whole world? Nope. Therefore, none of this belongs to me. Got it? Great. Keep going.
Summary: How is it that two people can be so blind to reality? And who is it that is about to get a rude awakening: Lily, James…or both?
This entire fic (however long it becomes) is dedicated to Annum, for being one of the most amazing people I have known for a long time, who I've had so many hilarious conversations with (three letters – H.S.D. – see me for a translation!) and who's listened to me babble whenever I have problems. She's always been there for me (and somehow knows when something's wrong even when I don't mention it – are you psychic?!?). Hope you enjoy this Annum, because I wrote it for you!
By the way, this is a relatively fluffy ficlet, so if you don't like that kind of stuff, look away now! I'm not sure how good it will be – it may sound a little rushed in places, and if that's the case, sorry in advance!
"What?" James turned to face the redheaded girl behind him. Lily Evans was standing behind him, wearing an impatient expression.
"Remember to come tonight."
James looked perplexed. "What?" he repeated.
Lily sighed. It was just her luck to get the biggest idiot this side of the twentieth century as Head Boy. Two weeks in, and he had clearly already forgotten all about the responsibilities that came
with the shiny badge.
"We. Have. A. Meeting," she said, speaking very slowly and enunciating each word carefully, in case he had suddenly forgotten how to understand English as well. "Business."
"Right…right…" James still looked slightly confused. "Uhm…just remind me what time this is?"
Typical. Lily gritted her teeth. She could have been lucky, like Amanda Crosby last year, and had someone like Ethan Lanuor. Arguably one of the most diligent, not to mention good-looking, Head Students for several years. Instead, she had landed this…this…
"Eight," she said irritably. "Charms classroom, in case you forgot that too."
"Ah." James pushed a hand through his hair, and Lily resisted the urge to scream. Or punch something. Preferably his face. "The thing is, I can't make it." He looked at a first-year scurrying
past. "Quidditch – Quidditch practice."
"The season hasn't started yet."
James looked rather surprised that she was even aware of this fact. "Yeah, but you see…we need to get out there. And practice." He had an entire catalogue of facial expressions, all, in Lily's opinion, perfectly calculated to convey his emotion while also making him look irresistibly appealing. Right now he was wearing the Apologetic-Yet-Irresistible face, and using it to full effect.
"Whatever," she said grudgingly. "Bye."
She stalked off, barely acknowledging his reply.
She watched him on Saturday morning as he ran into breakfast late with Sirius, white shirt only buttoned three-quarters of the way, belt of his dark jeans barely done up. He looked as if he had just climbed out of bed, which Lily highly doubted. Knowing his reputation, it was more likely to be the opposite way around – he had probably woken up extra early to create the 'I'm-Extra-Late' look.
Abandoning her own toast, she got up and took the seat next to him. He didn't even realise she was there until Sirius nudged him and cleared his throat loudly.
"Oh, sorry Lily," he said hurriedly, wiping his mouth. "Hey."
"How was Quidditch?" Lily asked. A frown crossed his face, but she ploughed on. "I'm sure it was absolutely invigorating, especially since McKirick tells me that he really enjoyed his evening.'
She stared accusingly. "Of course, I think anyone would have enjoyed spending an evening in their common room with their girlfriend – he certainly did. At any rate, he didn't get much practice done, did he? Well, not of the kind involving Quidditch, anyway."
Sirius winced in sympathy for James, who was trying to cover up his thunderstruck expression.
"Well," he said vaguely. "I thought I'd better work on some…strategies before I let the team loose on the pitch."
"Right," Lily said, not trusting him an inch. "Look, I don't have time to argue – next Friday, okay?"
James' eyes widened behind his glasses. "I can't, Lily. I'm sorry."
"What, you have Quidditch practice?" Her tone was unmistakably sarcastic.
"No…" James said. "I have…business…with the boys."
"Which clearly takes precedence over business with the entire school, I suppose?" Lily's tone was scathing.
"Look, I'm free any night – just not that one."
"Well I'm only free that night!" Lily snapped. "Forget it, I'll talk to you later." She walked off for the second time in two days.
When Lily confronted her 'colleague' for the third time, she was not entirely unprepared for it. She had talked to someone on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and to Remus, and had ascertained from both that there were no outside commitments that James could claim as an excuse. Armed with this knowledge, she tracked him down after dinner, and asked, with as much politeness as she could muster, if he could possibly spare some of his time for a quick meeting.
James exhaled. "I can't."
"What no excuse to follow up?"
James shrugged. "I can't make it."
Lily lost what little patience she had. "Look, don't tell me you've got Quidditch or friends or whatever rubbish it is that you've trotted out so far, because I checked with others." She watched unconsciously as he pulled off his jumper and undid the top buttons of his shirt. "If you can't be bothered to help out, then maybe you should rethink actually doing the job at all."
James loosened his tie and exposed the top of his chest. Lily knew full well that had any girls been walking past, they would have gone into immediate fits over the 'Accessible Schoolboy' look that he was now displaying. The unbidden thought that it suited him rather well frustrated her even more. "Are you going to remain mute all day?" she demanded coldly.
James put his jumper into his bag and regarded her quietly with his piercing eyes. "I'm busy, Lily," he said tiredly. "Believe what you want to about that. I'm not trying to skive off." He walked off, muttering a faint "See you" over his shoulder.
For what seemed like the millionth time, Lily wondered why people like James Potter were even part of the human race, and why it was her cursed fate to have to deal with them personally.
It was Friday evening. Lily was sitting at a table, doing her Charms essay, having ignored her friends' pleas to go upstairs and relax. Well, perhaps 'attempting' was a better word than 'doing'. In the last hour, she had managed an underlined title, and four lines about how the Fidelius Charm had been developed.
"Just another five feet and eight inches to go," she muttered to herself, staring blankly at the books in front of her.
The problem was that a certain irritating boy kept cropping up in her mind's eye. She was very much tempted to find out what he was doing that he was so secretive about, but that was near impossible – he could be anywhere in this huge castle, or indeed, outside – she had a hard time believing that he would have any qualms about venturing out even on a dark, windy evening.
As if to add to her distraction, a group of sixth-year girls wandered in and plopped down on the rug beside her table.
"…he is so good-looking, though…" said one girl dreamily. "I mean, what's not to like about him?"
"He must have a great body," another piped up. "All that Quidditch…can you believe that James Potter has never let a girl get that far with him?"
There was a chorus of shocked "Really?"s. Lily resisted the urge to groan at the sordid turn the conversation was taking. Why am I even listening? she thought, trying to block her ears.
It didn't work. Things like that never did, especially when you really wanted them to. The words were soaking through her hands and finding their way up to her brain.
"Yeah," the girl said. "Apparently no girl has got him further than kissing…ooh, he must be a good kisser, you can tell from his lips."
Lily silently snorted. Tell he was a good kisser from his lips? What did these people do, photograph individual features and analyse them? She looked back down at her parchment, and felt a rush of irrational annoyance at the fact that if the aforementioned prat had bothered to have a meeting, she could have put this ridiculous essay off for another night.
"…has to be a good kisser," someone was saying. "I mean, you've never seen any girls start gagging in the bathroom after a date, have you? It's the opposite – they practically beg for more."
"Well," said a hitherto silent girl. "I can tell you that he is hiding some serious muscle under that shirt." She looked smug as her friends gaped at her. "Rebecca once went into the locker rooms after one of their Quidditch training sessions to find Nathan, and she saw him. In nothing but a towel."
Gasps of envy sounded, and Lily was surprised that none of them were sitting in pools of drool.
"She is one lucky girl," a blonde-haired girl said jealously.
"Well she got into a changing room with both Sirius Black and James Potter in it, what d'you think?!?"
"Sirius has better hair, though," someone observed.
"Do you really think so?" the blonde one asked. "I mean, yeah, Sirius is definitely sexy in a classy way, but that messy hair….it was made for you to run your hands through it."
"I've always loved his smile," a girl sighed. "It's all cheeky…and his eyes…he looks so clever and serious until he smiles and then you know he's got that wicked glint in his eyes…"
"Never mind his hair, if he's got that good a body, imagine what he'd be like in b-"
Lily had heard enough. Stuffing her things into her bag, she walked straight through the group of girls who were giggling furiously as the blonde one completed her sentence. Trying not to throw up at the mental image they had just created, she headed for the library, hoping for a little more peace and quiet there.
The library was mercifully almost empty. A girl was sitting at a table near the door, and further back in a corner, tow figures, one tall, one small, were waving wands and talking in hushed whispers. Lily settled down with a sigh of relied and began work again.
Although the foundations of the Fidelius Charm were set down in 1232, it was almost a hundred years before wandwork had progressed sufficiently for wizards to be able to take the spell to the next level, and be able to conceal the abstract concept of a secret, rather than material things…
Ten minutes later, she looked up again to stretch her neck, and yawned, watching the two people converse. A line of their conversation drifted over to her and she froze.
"…no, not like that, flick it a bit higher…"
Wary now, she strained her eyes, and caught the flash of a pair of glasses in the torchlight. It couldn't be…this couldn't be what he was doing…could it?
Before she knew it, she was walking across the library floor until she reached their little alcove, and sure enough, there was James, his back to her, demonstrating a flick and flourish with his wand. A little girl, her hair in plaits, concentrated hard as the teapot in front of him turned into a turtle.
"That's all you need to do," he was saying, as he changed the turtle back with a flick of his wand. "It's easier than it looks, just be a little more confident."
The girl narrowed her eyes and jabbed and flicked her wand. The spout slowly turned into a head, and four legs sprouted.
"I did it, I nearly did it!" the girl said excitedly. The turtle opened its mouth and emitted a puff of steam, and the girl giggled. "It's cute."
James laughed. "Well done, kiddo," he said, patting her on the back. "And you told me you couldn't even transfigure a match into a needle – look at you now!"
"I have to write down how to do it," the girl said. She was beaming with pride as she turned round. "Where's my bag – oh -" She seemed to shrink as she saw Lily standing there.
"What?" James turned too. For a moment, his face registered shock. "Lily? How long have you been there?"
Lily glared at the boy opposite. "Potter," she said frostily. "We have to talk."
James looked wrongfooted at her tone, but turned to the girl. "Okay Ailsa, we'll leave it there for today – you've done well. Practice what we covered."
Ailsa stuffed her books into her bag as quickly as she could. "Thanks, James," she said hurriedly, and bolted. James watched her go.
"Cute kid – hey, what's the big deal?" he protested, as Lily pulled him out of the library too.
"The big deal," said Lily, as the door swung shut behind them, "is that you lied to me!"
"Excuse me? What do you mean, 'lied to you'?" The look of confusion on James' face was beginning to be replaced by anger.
"You didn't tell me you were tutoring first-years!" she said. "You didn't tell me the sort of person you really are!"
James looked at Lily as though he thought she was mad. Then it clicked. "I know what's eating you up, Miss I-Know-Everything," he said slowly. "You don't like the wool being pulled over your eyes, do you? You don't like being made a fool out of, do you?"
"Of course not! Lily protested. "I mean, of course…" She shuddered angrily. "I don't know what I feel any more!"
"You thought I was a 'bad boy', didn't you?" James continued cruelly. "You believe all the gossip and rubbish that everyone talks about, don't you? That's your trouble, Lily, you've judged me by what you think I am, and not by who I am! You thought I was just some arrogant prankster -"
"No," she lied.
"Another arrogant idiot who thought he'd try out his luck on the cleverest witch in the school, see if he could add another notch to his imaginary bedpost!"
Lily was dumbstruck. No boy had ever spoken to her like this, least of all James. She was used to him complimenting and flattering her, usually hoping for a date. This was like being doused with icy water.
"Well let me tell you, Lily," James continued, and he pointed an angry, accusing finger at Lily. "I could have had almost any girl I wanted. And no, I'm not being bigheaded, it's the truth!"
Lily nodded meekly; she knew that for once, James was right.
"But I chose you, Lily, I decided to go after you, Lily, someone who was so high and mighty that she wouldn't even look at me twice -"
No, it wasn't like that, Lily thought, almost tearfully. I thought you were so bigheaded that I wouldn't give you the chance to show me who you really were. I didn't want you and everyone to see that I was like every other girl. I didn't want to make an idiot of myself.
As if echoing her thoughts, James' voice cut into her thoughts.
"I chose to make a complete idiot of myself in front of my friends, in front of your friends," James raged, "and all because…all because…"
Lily barely knew what to expect next. "Yes?" she asked softly.
James shrugged self-consciously, and turned his hazel-coloured eyes away from the girl opposite.
"All because I think I've fallen in love with you…"
Whatever Lily had been expecting, it certainly wasn't that.
Where did that come from?
An enormous silence fell on the room. Lily took a step towards him and reached out to touch him on the shoulder. "James…I don't know what to say…"
"There's nothing to say," he said sullenly, and turned away. Lily pulled him back and forced him to look at her. Something was beginning to register in her mind, and it spilled out before she knew what she was saying.
"You're right," she said quietly. "I thought you were conceited and arrogant, and a thousand other things. I saw you as the opposite of me, in the worst way possible. And I couldn't…I couldn't understand why part of me…liked what I saw."
"What?" James looked as though he couldn't believe his ears. Lily shrugged, flushing.
"What did you just say?" James repeated, advancing on her.
Lily took a step back. "Well, any girl would feel a physical attraction…"
James stopped. "Is that how you think? You need to justify everything you feel with every reason under the sun other than the truth?" He looked at her. "You know, I always thought that our…relationship would never – would never be anything more than hopeless…and I always hoped that maybe you'd change, even though you acted so much more grown-up…that maybe there'd be a point to me going after you for God knows how many years." He shrugged. "Now I see that maybe it wasn't you…that I'm the one who's grown up…you haven't changed at all. Not one bit." He picked up his bag. "Bye…Evans," he said, and walked off. Lily watched him go.
Somewhere inside her, there was a powerful ache, as though a protective layer had been stripped away to reveal a raw spot underneath. A defence had been broken down – the question was, what was it that had been hidden all this time?
A/N: There we go – that was pretty much one day's worth of scribbling on the sofa, ending up with 9 pages of bright red pen (it was a bit of an eyesore to type up). There may be a second part to this, orI may leave it hanging. It all depends on whether I feel inspired or not. Anyway, leave a review if you can!