A little oneshot inspired by my coworker's recent spill. Hope you enjoy!
Please know that all characters are not mine; they belong to the one and only JK Rowling.
"You're crying." Obviously. The young boy stared at her, hazel eyes fixed on her shaking shoulders, and for some strange reason he felt nothing but pure jealousy. Well, perhaps he felt a trifle bit of sympathy, she was, after all, crying.
The girl made no response and so the dark, messy haired boy closed the door softly behind him and walked towards her. Slowly. Quietly, but not too quietly as he did want her to know he was there. He didn't want to make her scream of fright now, did he? A smile passed quickly over his face. Well, yes, he would enjoy making her jump of fright, but perhaps not now. No, James had grown up a few months ago and could now tell the difference between a good time to prank and a good time to shut up and do nothing.
He knew he shouldn't prank, but what he didn't know was whether or not he should shut up and do nothing or speak up and do something. He opted for doing something, clearly, as he was now merely inches away from her hunched, shaking shoulders.
The classroom was empty, dimly lit by a large, fancy, medieval chandelier in the center of the ceiling, along with a few torches lining the walls. There was a chalkboard at the front of the room which still held today's notes. James briefly looked over them. The last class in here had been third year potions. He had done well on that particular project, even, but, he thought as he directed a soft gaze towards his left to fall on the girl still crying uncontrollably, she had got it perfect.
He slowly extracted a chair from its resting place behind a desk and cringed as it made a really loud sound. He sat down, seemingly unaffected by the fact that the girl still hadn't turned to look at him. He sighed. He watched her. He leaned over the desktop, head in palm, elbow resting on the hard polished wood.
She made a few sniffling sounds – an improvement according to James – and he looked up and over to her once more, and waited. He waited for a while. And for a while longer. And even longer. The girl was clearly having a breakdown of sorts.
He brought his chair closer to hers, careful this time to pick it up and move it over instead of dragging it across the floor. He wanted her to say something, yes of course he did, but he didn't want her to yell at him for making an unnecessary amount of noise. He brought his elbows to his knees letting his shoulders droop, and clasped his hands together. He looked at his hands. His nails were dirty. Well, dirty in the sense that they were going to be orange and purple for at least another three days. His last adventure had been messy. Graffiti is always messy. Imagine graffiti with magic.
He continued to stare downwards, stare at his shoes, his robes, the concrete floor, and concluded that the person who had been designated to provide decorations for this particular room had either been underpaid or just plain unmotivated. Honestly, concrete floors in a dungeon! How unoriginal!
His silent and very unproductive thoughts distracted him slightly, but not enough to notice that the young witch's crying had slowed slightly, and that her head was now turned towards the blackboard. James ran his hand through his hair one last time and brought his face up. He was staring at her ear, which was actually being threatened to be hidden from his view by a few thick strands of auburn hair. An ear, to him, was much more interesting than hair. Especially this ear, for James was always staring at Lily's hair and had never really gotten the opportunity to see her ears. Well, her right ear was sure…Lily-esque. Of course, in James' own personal dictionary, anything Lily-esque meant almost perfect.
Of course, the definition says "almost" for simply one reason: anything perfect was hiding flaws, which, hiding in itself is a flaw. Something that shows its imperfections out in the open without guilt or remorse is, in essence, perfect, as it does not hide what composes true beauty. Lily was, without a doubt, almost perfect: her imperfections, her quick temper, her inability to feign, her very forward almost intimidating character (a turn off to some guys) made her so much more real to him than pretty girls batting their magically-extended eyelashes, bearing perfectly straightened white teeth.
He waited for her to talk. She was the one who was most likely feeling uncomfortable. After all, James had walked in on her crying. Lily Evans never cried. Lily Evans never went to the bathroom with a group of giggling girls. Lily Evans – Lily Evans hardly got embarrassed or uncomfortable, he remembered, and thus inhaled, readying himself to speak.
"Mind if we talked about it a bit?" She asked him. James' mouth was still opened in a very unflattering way as he had been stopped in mid-breath. Yes, Lily was very much in control, and it was then he figured she had also been in control of her incontrollable crying.
"'S what I'm here for." He didn't bother smiling at her in a comforting way – she was still staring at that blackboard, but his voice was light, not high pitched like when girls talked to babies, but light. It carried no pressure, no strain, no unease. It was simply light.
Lily's mouth opened slightly, just slightly, and quavered. James figured it was anger or something. Surely Lily wasn't quivering out of grief or hurt. She was simply angry. Lily was often angry with him and he'd seen her arm shaking a little bit at times. She also would clench her fists until her knuckles turned white. James' eyebrows lifted in dawning realisation. So that's why some people chose to suck up to Lily! They were scared she'd sock them!
"I can't stand it, you know. I don't even know why it's affecting me so much. I mean, look at me!" He hadn't taken his eyes off her. Obviously, she was the one not looking at him. "I'm sitting in the dungeon I regularly try to avoid, sitting in the desk of one of the most ugliest students Hogwarts has ever seen, sitting next to James Potter of all people, can you imagine? And I'm crying." He tears flowed freely once more. James noticed this because he had taken his eyes off her ears long enough to see her blink a waterfall away.
"What's worse, though, is that…is that I don't even know why I'm crying! I mean, the only reason I can think of is…is – But I'm way over him! I, we've been over for months now, we just stayed together because of routine, but I mean, we – still, we broke up almost six weeks ago. Seven weeks actually, if you count from when we officially broke up." James stared.
She quickly turned in his direction. Perhaps something about his feelings had changed the air or something, because Lily looked almost apologetic. "You don't, Potter, I'm sorry… It's not like what we did was anything bad, and not that I didn't feel anything when we, we just, I just…we just –"
"I don't really want to hear it, Evans. You can keep that information private, can't you?" Honestly, was the woman really going to tell him? He almost had the urge to stand up and smack her on the head. He actually visualised himself doing it, but realised, when his little daydream had shown him her reaction, that it was wrong. Very. Wrong. Indeed. To just be thinking about it!
"I can't stand it, Potter!"
"What can't you stand?"
She stared at him as though he was stupid. "Are you stupid or something?" Now that hurt. Actually, it didn't, but James still put on his most dejected face ever. "Come on, Potter! I am crying! And I KNOW it's not the first time you catch me at it either! So just give it up! It's not working!"
"So why do it?"
"Why keep crying when you can't stand it, and when you've made it very clear that you think you're over him?" It was his turn to look at her as though she was a bit dense, but he didn't. He let the opportunity pass. She was obviously in a very…tumultuous state and he didn't need to send her over the edge.
"If I knew that, I wouldn't be doing it, now would I?" She snapped at him. He leaned back in his chair. She turned around back to the blackboard. He could tell she was staring at it as though it was the reason why she was so miserable.
"Mind if I told you what I think?" She nodded. At least, James thought he saw her nod. Or maybe it was a shake of her head. Or maybe it was just his imagination. Whatever it was, James took it as permission to speak freely. "I think that you, Lily Evans, are a very bright girl, and I mean that not only because you've got your wits about you, but also because you're forceful. And, before you spit at me, let me explain.
"You're stronger than almost anyone I know. You, you take charge of things, you take responsibility, and you also honour a good citizen's role by taking it onto yourself to be the one to defend the defenceless. In a way, you're like, I don't know, this invincible persona or something because, from what I see, and trust me, Lily I pay more attention to you than you might feel comfortable with, you are a very, very independent person.
"Actually, that's why I was a bit confused the first time I walked in on you with your red eyes and all," his eyes had now moved to his hands. Orange and purple nails, honestly! But he had shifted his eyes downward as soon as Lily had snapped her head towards him. He didn't want to see her reaction to what he'd say. That's not why he was saying it. He was saying it because he wanted her to hear it. That was all. No hidden incentives, no perverse motives, he just wanted to tell her this. "I was thinking, 'Why in all of things magic would Lily Evans be crying?' I mean, it was considerably out of character – the character map I had sort of never drawn of you but always referred to whilst trying to catch your attention or whatnot – and was more than unexpected. And it was actually highly uncomfortable. Here, to me, you were this big strong headed redhead and then I see you bawling like a three year old!"
"Honestly POTTER, you're NOT helping much, are you?" She cut in abruptly. Oops, so he had lost focus.
"I wasn't finished, let me finish will ya?" he said under one ending of a breath. "What I was working towards is that, well, whatever had broken your sort of invincible shell – actually, come to think of it, it's not really invincible if it's broken, is it?" He trailed off but caught her very loud sigh. Time to move forward! "Anyway, if you were crying, it was because it was something major, something devastating to you, something that was beyond your ability to cope with the way you so easily cope with everything else. I actually believe, my dear Evans, that you loved him."
Her green glare pieced through the wire rimmed glasses. James actually had to check to make sure the glass hadn't actually cracked. "What did you just say?" she growled at him in a lower tone than Sirius was able to match. James' voice, in all actuality, was the lowest of the Marauders, but Sirius' was, although not high pitched like Peter, a slight bit higher than Remus' and a lot higher than James'. Anyway, the thing was, Sirius' voice was about an octave lower than Lily's and James was sure Sirius was unable to get his voice to reach as low as Lily had just then.
He almost had to clear his throat to laugh off some of the intense discomfort he was feeling at the moment. "I said that you loved him." She let her arms fall to the desk in front of her, forgetting all about the lock of hair she had been smoothing out.
"I did not love him, Potter, I hate him! I hate what he did to me! I hate –"
"What did he do to you, Evans? I honestly heard you broke up with him."
Her face softened. Slightly though, but still softened a bit. "It was mutual, if you really want to pry into other people's lives, Potter. We both agreed it was time to let each other go."
"So what do you hate about a mutual agreement? That he didn't fight to keep you?" James's eyes now dug deep into Lily's. She didn't react to his comment. A slight bit put out by that, James continued. "Evans, don't you think that –"
"No. I didn't want him to fight for me, Potter. I wanted us to break up."
"So then it happened before the break up?" she shook her head. "After." Again, her hair shook slightly. "Then what, Evans? What did he do to you? Absolutely nothing? Did he take you into his arms and make you feel little again? Like his arms were there to comfort you even though you didn't need to be comforted? Like he was going to protect you from meagre things that surely you would be able to fend off on her own, but the fact that he would do it would mean more to you than any 'Outstanding' on your O.W.L.s did? Did he show you too much passion? Did you return it?"
"Answer me, Evans! What did he do to you to make you hate him so much? I know for a fact he was loyal to you and always kept in check with fidelity. I know for a fact that he let you reign free, that he didn't keep a clutch on you, that he didn't strangle you or suffocate you with attention or anything that you hate. He respected you in both the way he talked to you and the way he acted towards you –"
"No, Evans. Why do you hate him?"
"BECAUSE OF WHAT IT'S DOING TO ME NOW, POTTER!" She screamed in anger, her eyes so swollen with tears that James actually wanted to jump off the Astronomy tower or something for having let himself take it so far. She threw her face into her palms and began crying again, this time, with loud noises, sniffles and all. She was bearing everything out in the open now. James realised that there was no turning back. Things between him and Lily would henceforth never be the same again. He waited for her, fearful to say something that would further open her wound. She finally spoke after about two minutes, although to the young wizard, it had felt more like two hours. "Because of how much it hurts," she spoke in a feeble voice, a voice so fragile James was scared to let his mechanical ears and brain convert the sound waves into electrical pulses that his brain could decipher and interpret as intelligible speech. What if his eardrum got it wrong? "I walk by him in the corridors, Potter, and my heart plummets down into the Chambers of Secrets or something. It's just…I can't stand to not speak to him, and I can't stand looking at him. I don't know what to do anymore. I'm so lost, so incomplete without him that I think that I might actually break and shatter into a million pieces in front of his feet and he, obviously happy with our understanding, wouldn't even notice and he'd step over my crumpled parts, unaware of the crunching beneath his feet."
Wow. James was…floored. He was right, had been right – Lily Evans had fallen in love. He smiled weakly, unable to contain the joy he felt that someone had been able to snatch this fiery witch's heart. Unable to hold back the pain he himself felt inside at this very idea. What to say to her? What could he possibly say to Lily to make her feel…if not cheerful than less resentment towards her reactions. After all, wasn't it normal to be a complete mess when the person you love is no longer yours to hold?
He laughed a low "hmmhmm", catching her attention. She glared at the curl in his lips. "I'm sorry, Lily, I know you probably don't want to hear this but, that is probably the most untainted and beautiful thing I've ever heard you say."
Again, shock and disbelief ate her strong eyes. "WHAT? ARE YOU COMPLETELY DAFT?"
"Evans – Lily, please. I just mean that, not what you said but, the fact that you said it – the fact that he can do this to you, that your affection and feelings for him run so deep as to make you lose yourself in grief when you part – that is the world's most fascinating, purest and wonderful thing. This love, bond, if you will, that you share with him, it's definitely unique and special. And it means a lot to you, and it's really…touching and all."
"Not. Helping. Much. Here," tears filled her eyes once more. Realising this, she rolled her eyes at him in a very desperate, very painful way. "You cow! How could you do this to me, tell me that you are enjoying my pain!"
James dragged his chair (yes the sound broke the sniffles in the room) closer in towards Lily, to the point where they were now sharing the small desk space. He placed his arm slowly on the desk, and leaned the back of his head into it. He tried not to smile, but he couldn't. At least she hadn't called him a bastard. Bastard would have meant definite anger. Cow meant that she had liked, at least in part, what he had said. Cow meant her mind was too busy pondering his words to focus on coming up with a really good insult. "Cow" was actually a plus for James.
"I'm not enjoying your pain Lily. I'm simply enjoying the fact that you feel it, that you can feel it, feel this kind of emotion that not many people realise they are even capable of feeling." She eyed him suspiciously then, a question evidently dancing around on her lips and tongue. He glanced at them – her lips – expecting her to come out and ask whatever was on her mind. But she didn't. The question never came. What came instead was a loud sniff! She brought her sleeves up to her eyes, wiping the lower contours of her lids. He gave her a piece of cloth (his robe sleeve which was still very much still on him) so that she could wipe the liquid coming out of her nose.
"Eww, James, that's just disgusting. I'm not wiping my bogies on your sleeves," her cheeks turned red, her eyes defiant, but still she chuckled.
James hid his hand inside his sleeve and pushed his thumb into it. He then used his protected thumb to wipe the clear snot that was threatening to come out of Lily Evan's clogged nose. She huffed but didn't say anything. Well, she did thank him after watching him use her own sleeve to wipe his robe on. She laughed.
"And here I thought you were being chivalrous!"
"I was. But then I realised that laundry isn't for another two days. I don't wanna walk around with dried snot on my black robes!" His eyes were wide behind his glasses, his lips pursed into a shape that said 'this is the most disgusting thing you will ever see me do!'. She laughed. He liked that she laughed. Loved that he was able to cheer her up after witnessing her go through so much pain. He hoped that he had been able to at least lift a part of that pain.
They then sat in silence just staring at each other. This time, though, James was sure it had only lasted two minutes, but when he looked at his wizard's watch, it told him they had looked at each other for thirty four and three quarters of a minute. Curious.
Lily shifted in her seat when he looked at his watch. This blanket of discomfort fell across them. Suddenly, James was very much aware of how close they were, of how he could almost feel her heart beat's wave of blood in her veins create her pulse. He was sure she could hear his own heart's thumping. Obviously, they had been caught in a moment. A moment James would have loved to have for the rest of his life.
"You changed, Potter," she said a bit softly. He almost had to strain his neck so that he could place his ear next to her mouth so that he could hear better.
"As did you, Evans." He looked at her chin as it began to tremble. He couldn't take it anymore, his heart grew heavy and he just didn't think he could bear witnessing another Lily Breakdown. He placed his curved index finger beneath her chin. "Hey, Evans, it's okay –"
"No, no it's not okay," she said as her voice was impregnated by tears and sadness.
He smiled reassuringly. Devoid of arrogance, free of any feeling of self-existence actually, James' smile was more reassuring than he had ever planned it on being. "It's beautiful, even, to the point of near-perfection."
Lily's eyes spoke more than she did. Her mouth let the word "Don't" slip while her eyes invited him to continue, holding a warning about what it could mean if he continued.
James' insides were tearing apart. He loved Lily. He knew he did. And if he didn't, then James was sure he'd never know the difference between true love and what he felt now. He wanted Lily so much, wanted her as she was: snot almost spilling from her nostrils, eyes and face as red as her hair, giving her a sort of Christmas like theme with her green eyes. Emerald eyes.
"James," she warned, "don't do this." Her eyes spilled more tears. "I don't need this from you right now…"
"Lily I…" how could he explain it to her in a way that would be unselfish, unfazed, in a way that would describe to her how attractive she looked to him right now, and how her personality, her hidden secret of frailty, all contributed to his ever more persistent love for her? It seemed an impossible feat to accomplish. He was doubtful that he should even try it. "We've both changed."
She nodded, recovering quickly from her last tear spell. "A lot," she added.
"It's been a long time since fifth year," he continued, sighing loudly, although it was more of a 'I'm not sure what to say' sigh than a depressed one.
"And last year," she added again, albeit solemnly. So much had happened in the world since their O.W.L.s that James had honestly not been able to keep up with it all. It became extremely testing to such young minds to try to wrap some sort of comprehension around what was happening in the world. To understand the full extent of what growing up really meant.
"Last month," he continued. She looked at him with an indecipherable gleam in her eye. Perhaps it was a sparkle. Hope.
"Potter," she warned again.
"Lily, no. I can't, I can't handle pretending anymore." The difference between Lily and James was that James was not afraid to stare Lily in the eye whilst ranting about his pain. She looked terrified beyond reason. "I've been head over heels about you ever since the middle of fourth year, and ever since I've discovered you, Lily, I've been unable to content myself with just being some guy you glare at when I try to get your attention. I'm tired of seeing you happy with your friends when I want to be beside you instead of them! I'm, I'm sick of you sitting six rows over from me in every class we have! I can't take it anymore Lily! I can't take the rejection!" Her breathing was louder than his, although both chests lifted and drop with a lead-like heaviness. "I can't STAND seeing you with other guys! I can't take the invisible knife in my back each time I hear you've accepted another invitation to Hogsmead with another seventh year Hufflepuff or fifth year Ravenclaw. I can't take it anymore, Lily Evans. I won't accept it. Not from you. Not anymore."
"James – I…I…" she began, tears, again, welling up in her eyes. Although James couldn't see. His face had grown hot, and the basement's cool air, mixed with his body heat, had created a sort of fog in his lenses. That, and the fact that he also had tears in his eyes blinded him completely to anything but the blurry blob in front of him.
"No, Lily. I've seen you just now! You TOLD me everything, Lily, you told ME!" he started laughing hysterically, unable to control the trembling of his muscles. "H-a-a-a-and you know what? It made me feel as though you and I, Lily, as though you and I should never let each other go. You opened yourself up to me, Lily. ME. Not Remus, not your ex's, not Dumbledore or any of your friends; you opened up to ME. James Potter. ME." Each time he said 'me' he jabbed himself in the chest, as if his vocal stress of the word wasn't enough to get his point across.
"NO BUTS! NO BUTS EVANS! THERE IS NOTHING TO BE UNSURE OF!" he hadn't meant to yell, but the emotions he felt now he'd never felt so strongly before. It was almost a sort of perverse, animal instinct or something. He wanted to punch a hole through a brick wall, felt as though he could actually accomplish this, but at the same time felt like brushing a tender hand across Lily's cheeks to wipe away at her tears. He wanted to be a soft, gentle, and, caring as possible to become. He lowered his tone, realising through his visual predicament that Lily had actually jumped slightly back. He reached to her, placing his hands over hers, bringing them up to her face and using his thumb to wipe away her tears. "I just want you to let me love you, Lily. I don't need anything in return from you. I just want you to let me show you that I can protect you, that I can make you happy. I want you to give me a chance to let –"
"You've already had your chance, Potter. And you ruined it." She sounded angry, but he felt her shaking uncontrollably again and deduced she was now sobbing again.
"How could you expect me to cause you so much pain and turn away without mending your hurt?"
His voice echoed off the walls. What he said came back and registered in his head.
"We've changed," he whispered almost inaudibly, taking her face into his hands. "We've grown up, we've come to terms with who we are and what we want. What we need, what I need, Lily, is you to stop being strong and to let yourself give into what you know you feel. Do that for me, Lily, do it for us. For you."
Lily leaned her face into his hands, placing her hand behind his and rubbing her face on his palms. He was right, she understood now. She now understood why he had been so relenting to let her go.
He hadn't wanted to break up with Lily Evans. Evans had wanted to break up with him…and James, always eager to please her, to make her happy and give her all she ever wanted, brought up the subject, swallowing his pain and pride. She had exclaimed to him how relieved she was that he had brought it up and had agreed with her. Gosh, he had been such a fool! He should have talked her out of it, told her that she had to hang on to them because he knew that today, James and Lily was the only thing that was significant, that was solid and real. James and Lily was what defined his reality. Surely, it defined hers as well.
"Be with me, James. I want to be with you," she whispered. He wasn't sure if he was making this up in his mind, and hesitated. Not for long though, for Lily had viciously thrown her arms around James' neck and was almost choking him. Almost. James slowly wrapped his arms around her, deliberately increasing his hold on her until the strength of their grips were equal.
James and Lily had returned.
James smiled. Reality had returned, and it was about time that it did.
Yes, it's fluffy, but what do you expect. It's sort of based on a true story (although they didn't get together in the end! sad!). Anyway, I hope you liked it. Let me know!