The Truth Of The Heart
Summary: Lily Evans has always, ALWAYS hated James Potter. So when they become Head Boy and Girl, nothing could be worse. But could working with him change Lily's opinion? Has she been ignoring the truth in her heart all along?
Disclaimer: I don't own any of this….except a few minor characters, so please don't sue me, JKR, 'cause I have nothing you want….unless you're into human flesh (you're not, are you?)
The two girls, with James in their stead, hurried to the Entrance Hall. Just as they approached the stairs, Sirius came down them. He turned a keen gaze on them. "Is Lily not with you?" he asked.
"No…" Emma said slowly.
"Ah." Sirius glanced at James quickly. Unfortunately, Emma caught it. Her voice took on a note of real panic.
"Boys, where is she??"
Chapter 36: Repercussions
"Well, she's not in the common room, I just checked," Sirius said. "But," he added hastily, "that still leaves a lot of places she could be."
Sapphire was looking at Sirius a little strangely. "You actually went up to the common room?"
"Yes," Sirius retorted defensively. "You may not think so, Sapphire, but I do care about Lily as a friend. I'm not completely heartless."
"Could have fooled me," Sapphire muttered under her breath. But she looked remorseful a moment later, as Sirius turned an unreadable gaze on her.
"Hold on," James held up a hand. "You were there?"
"I was in the doorway." Sirius laughed a little bitterly. "And I was the one who saw Tom and Serena in the first place. The only reason I got Remus to tell her to go was because I didn't think she'd take me seriously."
"Why are you being so calm about this?" Emma demanded.
Sirius shrugged. "I've had my suspicions about them for a while now."
"So why didn't you say anything?" Emma wailed.
"I did," James said dully. "She wouldn't believe me – thought I was jealous and told me to mind my own business."
"You knew too?" Emma cried, turning to him.
"Look," Sirius interjected sharply. "While you sit here playing Twenty Questions with James and me, we still don't know where Lily is."
"Good point," Emma's face changed from indignant to worried.
"What's everyone so panicked about it for?" Sapphire questioned. "I mean, the worst she can be doing is crying, right?"
"Maybe I should clarify," Emma said quickly. "Last time Lily got into a really bad state, she made a voodoo doll, stuck it full of pins, burned the clothes in the fire, and nearly fell out of a fourth-floor window trying to throw it into the lake."
Sapphire paled. "Okay. I'll go check the girls' dormitories – you wouldn't have got up there... or would you?" She walked quickly up the stairs, brushing past Sirius, who only then realised she had actually joked with him. His mouth quirked as he came down to ground level.
Emma turned. "I'll have a look around too." She and Remus disappeared. James turned to Sirius, remembering his glance.
"What's really going on?"
Sirius looked uncomfortable. "She's not on the Marauder's Map," he said finally.
"Are you sure?"
Sirius pulled a tattered piece of parchment out of his pocket, and James scrutinised it rapidly. "Where on earth is she?" he said, his nose barely a few inches from its surface as he checked it again. "She can't know about the secret passages to get to Hogsmeade, so then..."
"And I hardly think she's one to go drink her sorrows away," Sirius joked weakly. His eyes suddenly lit up. "Oh, I still have that Firewhiskey stashed -"
"Really not the time right now," James cut across him. He rubbed his forehead. "I dunno...the map shows everywhere in the Castle, if she's not on it, then...she's not..."
He and Sirius stared bleakly at each other, both racking their minds. The torches lighting the corridor shivered as another gust of wind blew in through the open doors, and James, noticing this, went to heave them shut.
"You seen Lily anywhere?" The oh-so-familiar tones had James spinning on his heel to see none other than Tom, addressing Sirius.
"I wouldn't be telling you even if I had." Sirius' face hardened. "Haven't you done enough damage here, Jacobs?"
"I haven't done – I need to talk to her!" Tom said defiantly. "Make her see reason. She didn't see what she thought she saw!"
Sirius' lip curled. "Mate, I saw what she thought she saw. It was pretty convincing."
James came up beside him, and Tom gave him a glance of contempt. "This is between me and her, Black. If you don't know where she is, fine. Forget it."
"Jacobs, leave her alone." Both boys spoke at once, and Tom's face creased into an ugly - and uncharacteristic – sneer.
"I knew about Potter and his little obsession," he said snidely, "but I didn't know you were sweet on her too, Black. Amazing how such a stuck-up little prude can have us all hanging after her."
Sirius lunged at Tom, and James only just managed to haul him back by the sleeve of his jacket, despite wishing that he could let him go. "At least she's got principles and some decency!" he spat, trying to shake James off. "More than can be said for you!"
Tom, who had stepped back in some alarm, gave them both scornful looks. "Get away!" James said through gritted teeth. "Just leave us." Tom opened his mouth again, but at another lunge from Sirius, seemed to think better of it and walked off.
"Why'd you stop me?" Sirius hissed, yanking his arm away from James and glaring. "How could you let him say that – that filth?"
James rubbed his eyes tiredly. "I can't," he said. "But slugging him one in the face won't achieve anything helpful. It's just a waste of time. Let's just find Lily."
Sirius, still glowering mutinously, shrugged, and they both started walking, but had got no more than a few steps before they were accosted by another unwelcome passer-by – none other than Severus Snape. He emerged from a side, twisting his hands together, his Ball attire looking entirely too much like his usual bat-like robes.
"What do you want, Snivellus?" Sirius said, narrowing his eyes, one hand already on his wand.
Snape stare at them both for a couple of seconds out of his fathomless black eyes, the firelight reflecting unfavourably off his hair. "Is it true," he said at last, "that that boy Jacobs and Lily Evans have broken up?"
"What's it to you, you greasy git?" Sirius snapped. Snape bridled at the tone, but James shook his head; he seemed to have lost the energy to attack.
"Leave it, Padfoot," he said in a low voice, and then louder, "What does it matter?"
"Is she alright?" he asked, still in that new low tone of ambiguity.
"What does it matter to you?" Sirius questioned again, his face ugly.
"I was just curious," Snape responded, in his usual smooth tones. "There is much talk in the Hall." His face curled into a customary sneer. "But I'm sure she'll be fine with two such chivalrous pet dogs defending her honour."
"You-!" For the second time in ten minutes, James had to haul Sirius back as he lunged, this time for his wand.
"Just get away, Sna – Snivellus," he shot through gritted teeth. "Get back to the Ball."
Snape looked supremely unconcerned at the fact that James was still hanging onto Sirius' arm to stop him reaching his wand. "Very well. It might interest you to know, Black, that they are running the costume contest final now, and that you are supposed to be in it. Let the Head Students look after each other." He turned and walked coolly off. James let go of Sirius' arm, and Sirius massaged it, glaring furiously.
"The nerve of him! Who is he – how did he have the nerve to come up to us – I should have just hexed him into next week!"
James however, was staring into space.
"Head students," he murmured. "Padfoot, she's in the Heads' Common Room." He smacked himself on the forehead. "It's the only place in Hogwarts we wouldn't have put on the map, because we never knew it existed!"
Sirius gaped at him. "You sure?"
James shrugged. "Dunno, but its my best guess."
"Well go on then, check! You're the only one who can get in, mate!"
Without waiting any longer, James took off at a run towards the common room.
By the time James had reached the corridor with the doorway to the Heads' Quarters, he was beginning to pant, and wrestled impatiently with his tie as he gave the password ("Oculis claro!") and climbed into the common room.
The room was dark and flickering, and at first he thought that she had gone safely to bed and he was unneeded after all – and then a low voice sounded to his right.
Swivelling hastily, he saw Lily curled up on the sofa next to the fire, and didn't know whether to be relieved or disappointed that she was still awake.
"Hey," he said, walking tentatively over, and sinking into the sofa opposite as he tossed his jacket to the floor. "Did you uh...did you leave straight after..."
"Discovering?" Lily interrupted quietly. There was a strange quality to her voice that James couldn't quite place. She took a sip of the Butterbeer she was holding and looked up at him. "Yeah, I did."
Still struggling fruitlessly with his tie, James eyed her carefully. "Are you okay? I – I mean," he stumbled, as she raised her eyebrows at him, "do you want to, you know, talk about it?"
Lily shrugged. "Not much to talk about," she said flatly. She watched him pull at his collar for a few minutes before setting her bottle down and getting up to come over. "You'll tear it," she said quietly, unknotting the offending item and proffering it to him.
"Thanks," he said, taking it. An uneasy silence fell – uneasy at least for James, who could not work out what mood Lily was in. Had she been in floods of tears, or storming with rage, it would have been easier to cope with than this passive silence.
It was Lily who finally broke it. "You don't have to stay, you know," she said quietly. "I'm quite as happy by myself."
"Nah," James answered honestly. "I was kind of getting bored of watching Sirius get all the girls anyway."
"Fine by me." There it was again; that odd drawn-out way of speaking. "You might want to change, though." It was only then that James realised she was no longer in her dress, but in a pair of trousers and a t-shirt. Suddenly the prospect of wearing more comfortable clothes seemed extremely appealing.
"Give me a moment," he told her, and bolted for his room. Having switched the uncomfortable trousers for jeans, he came back, unbuttoning the collar and cuffs of his shirt, with a new approach in mind.
"Do you hate him?" he asked bluntly, as he sat down again.
Lily took a moment to respond, staring into the flickering flames. "No," she answered at last. She drained her bottle and conjured another. "You want one?" James shook his head and she shrugged. "I don't think I can actually bring myself to feel that strongly."
There was a pause as James regarded her searchingly. "So...what?" he asked quietly.
Lily tilted her head, placing the cool bottle against her cheek before drinking. She gazed at the fireplace for so long that James began to wonder if she'd even heard him in the first place. "Lily?" he tried again.
"Disappointed," she said finally. "Part of me..." She tore her gaze away from the fire and looked speculatively at her Butterbeer, heaving a sigh. "Part of me wants to know why he did it. Why I wasn't good enough for him."
"Not good enough?" James said incredulously, standing up. "Lily..." He crouched in front of her. "Lily, if anything, you were too good for him. You know that, don't you?"
A non-committal shrug was all the answer he got.
"Truly!" he insisted, firmly moving her chin so that she was looking at him. "Cheating is...the ultimate unforgiveable. You have to be pretty low to do it, and to do it as arrogantly as he did too."
Lily looked at him for a long moment. "Yeah," she said. She squared her shoulders. "I don't want you to think I'm upset. I'm not upset."
"Never said you were," James countered, sitting back on his heels.
Lily drained the last of her bottle, conjured another and emptied it halfway. "'Spose I owe you an apology," she mumbled.
James looked up in confusion. "Huh?"
"You tried...you tried t'tell me..."She looked rather puzzled as she placed the bottle back on the table. "But I didn't...listen. Wonder why..."
She looked up at him, and he was startled to see that she was having difficulties focusing on him. A suspicion began to form in his mind, and he looked more shrewdly at her, before turning his gaze to the Butterbeer.
"Lily, where are you conjuring these from?"
Lily shrugged. "Downstairs. T'Hall. T'Ball." She leaned forward, clearly intending to have another sip, but James snatched it out of her reach before sniffing it and gingerly taking a drink.
"What?" Lily asked, blinking at him.
"He's spiked the bottles," James said in exasperation. "Trust him." He looked speculatively at Lily, then raised his wand and Summoned a small glass vial from his room, which he handed to Lily. "No more Butterbeer. Drink this."
"What...is it?" Lily questioned, holding it to the light.
"A potion that'll take away the worst of any hangover you get tomorrow...since I actually don't know how heavily these are spiked and how many you've at. Drink. And then you're going to bed."
Lily made a dubious face as she looked at the murky green solution, but nonetheless removed the stopper and obediently gulped it down – James suspected this was purely because she no longer had the wits to formulate a coherent argument against him.
"That tastes...like sick," she announced, flinging the bottle onto the floor and slumping back into the sofa.
"Well, it tastes exactly how you'd feel tomorrow if you didn't take it," James muttered grimly. He pocketed the little tube, then got to his feet hastily, seeing Lily's eyelids drooping. "No Lily, you can't sleep here. Let's get you to your room."
"Lea' me," Lily mumbled, swatting weakly at him as he shook her shoulder.
"No, Lily, come on, get up, it's only a few steps away." He prodded, poked, coaxed and threatened in vain. Finally the only way he could manage it was to pull one arm over his shoulder and hoist her up. Attempting to let her go proved to be a bad idea, as she swayed dangerously, and he finally settled for looping her arm more securely around his neck and walking her towards her door, trying not to drag her too much.
"Sirius, I am going to kill you," he muttered as he tried to open the door whilst simultaneously supporting a now half-asleep Lily. He'd forgotten the narcotic effect of the potion, but it was making Lily, usually a very light, graceful figure, become a lumbering awkward weight in his arms.
Entering her room, he looked around for a bed...which at first sight didn't appear to be there. In fact, the entire room was so different from his own deep blue and cream room opposite, that for a moment, he simply stopped and stared.
Lily had created a fairytale dream in this space. The ceiling was hung completely with festoons of a white gauzy, floating material, which gave the room an ethereal look, and beneath his bare feet was a soft carpet of dark green. There was a tall antique-looking wardrobe, and opposite was a dressing table, the surface littered with a frightening array of little multicoloured pots, and a mirror illuminated with tiny candles, which was all the light in the room. There were boxes and bags scattered around on various comfortable-looking cushions and seats, James guessed they were from earlier.
Shaking his head in amazement at the explosion of creativity, he looked around again, wondering if she actually had forgotten a bed in all of this – and then realised he was staring right at a four-poster, hung with more gauzy white fabric, but with no actual bed. He pulled Lily forward and pushed the fabric apart to stare in astonishment.
The bed itself was sunken into the floor.
Still trying to understand the concept of this sleeping arrangement, he gently laid Lily down, deciding against trying to change her out of her clothes from the impracticalities, and made to disengage her arm from his neck. At this, her eyes fluttered tiredly half-open.
"No, James, don't," she mumbled, so quietly that James had to lean down to hear her. "Please...just...not after...don't leave me alone..."
James stared down at her, torn. "No, Lil," he said, trying to sound as firm as he could despite the tremor in his throat. "You'll be fine, I promise...you'll regret this..." He tried again to unloop her hand, but then her other came up to join it.
"No," she mumbled. "Please...don't leave me. Not you too."
James swallowed hard and looked around, before looking back down again at her. Then, he slowly crawled in and lay down beside her (on what turned out to be a very cosy bed) on his back, staring up at the misty ceiling. Lily, beside him, was nothing more than a dark shape, her back to him, already breathing deeply. He tried to relax, to fall asleep.
In fact, it took less time than he expected, and he was almost completely asleep when he heard a stifled sniff from beside him. Turning his head, he saw, by the dying candlelight, a slight shake of her shoulders and another little sound. There was a moment of indecision, and then he rolled over so he was facing her back and gently slid an arm across her waist.
"Shh," he whispered, and felt her relax back, even as another sniff was repressed. Trying not to think about what would happen the next morning, James fell asleep.
When Lily opened her eyes the next morning, her head was still throbbing faintly, and it took a moment for her to remember where she was. Squinting against the daylight filtering in through the drapes, she rolled over and buried her face in the pillow, thinking that she couldn't deal with memories of the Ball just yet.
But as she did so, and odd, unfamiliar scent hit her nose. Her pillow smelled...unusual. Of soap, and grass, and...cologne.
Her stomach actually felt as though it had done a somersault as the final moments of last night washed over her, and she sat bolt-upright, staring at the place where he was. Or rather, where he had been. There was nothing left now but a small piece of parchment, folded over, and bearing her name in his slanted scrawl. She picked it up tentatively, and then lay back down, concluding that since her head was still throbbing and the smell was quite...comforting...she might as well read while horizontal.
Hope you're feeling okay when you get this. Woke up early, so went to see the others off to the station. Will be back soon, and find you then.
P.S. Don't worry about last night.
She put the note down again, and sat up slowly. There was an uncomfortable feeling she couldn't quite place, which had nothing to do with the spiked Butterbeer, and everything to do with a certain messy-haired boy.
Having showered and pulled on some fresh clothes, she wandered around her room, absent-mindedly tidying away the relics of ball preparation. Prodding herself for some emotion at the discovery of Tom's duplicity last night, she was half-shocked, half-relieved to find that in fact, she felt nothing more than indifference now, mixed with a residue of disappointment that she had been so misled. Embarrassment that half the school had had to witness the altercation, and that James, of all people, had to pick up the pieces.
Warmth flooded her face, and she leaned her forehead on the cool glass of the window, staring out unseeingly at the snow that fallen overnight.
How could she have let herself put him in such a position, even with spiked Butterbeer? She should have just gone straight to bed when she came up, not lingered to think...and to end up clinging to James, forcing him to stay with her, to sleep with her. However innocent it was, he must have been so uncomfortable...no wonder he had left early.
She turned over these thoughts for a while, feeling more and more unsettled the more she thought about him, until it occurred to her that right now, even more than the cosy comfort of her room, the snowy white expanse outside had never looked more inviting. Swiftly, her mind made up, she collected her cloak, gloves and scarf and methodically put them on before heading out, praying she wouldn't meet anyone along the way, as this truly wasn't a time she felt she could answer questions.
Luckily, she was unobstructed, and soon enough she was out, standing in untouched snow, which glittered in the weak sunlight. It was beautiful. The dazzling white spread up to the lake, where she could see a thin layer of ice over the top.
She turned around and began to walk vaguely across the grounds, tripping ungracefully over rocks hidden in the snow several times. It wasn't until a few moments later that she realised she was heading directly towards the Quidditch pitch. An overwhelming memory of waking up to James' cologne in the morning rushed back, and she blushed so violently that she was almost surprised the snow around her didn't melt with the force of the heat. Stooping down as she entered the pitch, she gathered a double handful of powdery flakes and pressed it against her cheek.
What was wrong with her? Why was she so completely unsettled by last night's events when her only feeling regarding the break-up was of overwhelming relief? She began to pace the edge of the pitch as she struggled to think through her feelings logically. She was relatively free from issues as far as Tom was concerned, it seemed, beyond a resentful desire to feed him to the Giant Squid, but those emotions were practically post-breakup rights. There was mainly...relief.
But relief about what? Lily asked herself.
About not having to choose between spending time with friends or with him this last year, about not having to fend off his affections in public...
But being affectionate in public was what couples did. And she'd been like that often enough with past boyfriends...
People would see...
So? People did see. It wasn't as though it was unusual, or as if her friends cared. Remus and Emma did it often enough...
Lily flushed again, and took a deep breath, hands clenching unconsciously. Images of the past term began to flash across her mind, of Tom, of James, of James in all his moods, laughing, sober, furious, concentrating, worried, stressed, mischievous. And with that, as she searched her heart for the real truth, a wave of realisation crashed over her, and she stopped abruptly in shock, sinking until she was kneeling in the snow.
It was always James that I felt uncomfortable being with Tom in front of...it was always James I didn't want to have to spend time away from...
It was always James...
All her efforts for something with Tom...and all along it had been James who had truly been in her heart.
Lily stared at the snow, her fingers idly tracing patterns on an unbroken patch as she tried to process her thoughts. The next moment she realised she had traced "L.E. 4 J.P." and scrabbled it out as fast as she could, disgusted with herself.
So she liked James, and she'd been rather a fool, she told herself sternly, trying to shake herself up before she sank completely into being a soppy love-story heroine. So what? Was this going to change anything? She still didn't know how big this was, and okay, so they might have had their...moments...but that was what you would expect with two people with their history. He'd probably given up on her a long time ago.
But what if he hasn't? her heart whispered.
But if he hadn't...if he hadn't, he must have been through complete torture, Lily thought, softening, having her closer to him than she had ever been before but unable to take that final step...
Well, that was past, she told herself firmly, mentally shaking herself for the thousandth time. He'd probably got fed up by now, any normal person would. And she wasn't about to toy with him. The best thing to do would be to act completely normally, not think about this too much, and then...and then maybe it would go away. Maybe. Probably.
And if it doesn't? a little voice in the back of her head said.
"Shut UP!" Lily said out loud, and she pulled herself upright, brushing snow fiercely off her now-damp legs.
"Normal, normal, normal," she muttered as she paced briskly back towards the castle, teeth chattering as the cold finally set in.
"Normal, normal, normal," echoed through the corridors towards the Heads' Common Room.
"Normal, normal, norm-" The words died on her lips as she stepped through into the room and came face to face with the man of the moment himself. Despite her strict injunctions to herself, she flushed desperately and an uncomfortable feeling shot through her.
"Where've you been?" James asked, coming forward. "I got back ages ago – oh, the others say to give you their love, and Emma and Sapphire say that if you don't write to them today they'll send Howlers – and Good Lord, woman, you're dripping snow. Are you not cold? Go dry in front of the fire."
Lily bit her lip. "Yes. Fire. Letters. I will. Just...got to go change..."
She stalked into her room, shut the door, and leaned on it, and made a despairing face as a waft of James' cologne hit her.
"Normal my foot!" she groaned.
A/N: Finally, she gets it! This chapter was shorter than I expected, surprisingly, for organisational reasons, but seeing as I've had it written for well over a year now, I'm sorry it didn't get put up earlier. Life seems to keep getting in the way. Anyway, thank you ALL for all the lovely reviews which make me smile - a smiley me = more writing :) feel free to write another now and tell me what you thought!