I know there's no excuse for how ridiculously late this update is. The last time I updated was... April of last year, I think. Wow. That's bad. I had a horrible summer (two more people in my family died) and then senior year started and it has been beyond hectic, juggling 3 AP classes, extra curriculars, college apps, financial aid forms, and scholarships, not to mention trying to keep my sanity and maintain somewhat of a social life. I'm sorry this is so late. I hadn't even given this story a thought in months until last week, when our internet went out. They said it would take a week to fix, so I started just flipping through the files on my computer and found Chapter 50, Part 2. I was utterly disgusted with what I had written- it was complete crap. So I rewrote it and decided to break the chapter into three parts instead of two (it works better for the flow of the story). So it's still partially crap, but not as horrible as it was. It may not be as long as you were hoping for (and definitely not as soon) but it's here- an update. Enjoy.
Chapter 51- The Magical (and Problematic) World of Relationships, Part II
Lily and James didn't sleep snuggled up together that night, but Lily did remove the line that divided their bed. James woke up the next morning before her, unable to sleep. He showered and dressed, then went out onto the balcony to enjoy the view of the sunrise and think. Today was going to be the day that he and Lily tried to work things out. Things were going to be better today. They were.
James trusted Lily. He really did and always had. For days now he had beaten himself up over his delayed reaction to her questioning of that. Now was the time to start changing things, and this time he was not going to mess them up.
Drifting back into the room, his eyes fell on Lily... he was so lucky to have her and be here, of all places, with her. She looked absolutely perfect right now, curled up in a little ball with her hair fanned out over the pillow. He could sit there and look at her forever.
But he realized that he couldn't do this... breakfast was being served in the hotel's restaurant until nine-thirty, and it was eight-thirty now. James knew from past experience that it took Lily twenty-five minutes at the least to get ready, so he needed to go ahead and wake her.
He shook her shoulder lightly, and she began to stir. "Mm... five more minutes," she mumbled, pulling the covers tighter around her.
"Lil, it's time to get up. We have to get to breakfast," he whispered.
Lily cracked one eye open and looked at him, hoping he was just teasing and that she could get more sleep. Unfortunately, he wasn't. "Uggh," she grumbled, rolling over and stretching her arms toward the headboard before curling back up in a ball.
"Come on, Lily. Seriously. I don't want to miss breakfast."
"Oh, phooey on breakfast. Sleep is better," Lily said, turning her back toward him.
"Okay, that's it. You're getting up."
With that, James jumped on the bed and began tickling Lily, causing her to shriek with laughter as she frantically pushed his hands away. Finally, James pinned her with her hands above her head. The laughter ceased.
"Okay. I'm getting up," Lily said softly, looking James in the eyes.
James got up off of her and Lily rolled out of bed. "See? I'm up."
"Okay. What next?"
"Shower. I'm going to shower."
"That's a good start."
"Yeah, I thought so, too. It won't take me long. Don't worry. We'll be at breakfast by nine."
"We better be."
"Oh yeah?" Lily said with a smirk. "Or what?"
"Or I'll tickle you again."
"Hm... not so sure that I would mind that," Lily said with a smile before gathering her things and heading into the bathroom.
"Alright, everyone- let's settle down and get things started," a petite and elderly Spanish woman announced to the busy and bustling crowd that had gathered into the hotel's conference room. Each group of witches and wizards made their way to their respective tables, which were set up according to Ministry. Lily and James took their seats along with everyone else as the noise calmed down.
"Good morning, and welcome to the first of five Defensive Spell Creation Seminar Sessions," the lady said. "I am Ana Suarez, Minister of Magic for Spain. We at the Ministry hope that you thoroughly enjoy your time here in Barcelona, and we do wish that you learn as much as you possibly can in the short period of time you are here. It's an honor to host the seminar this year, but an even greater honor to see a talented and eager group of Aurors before me. I now turn the program over to a much younger and more capable leader. This young man is your first teacher of the week. He is the Lead Spell Creator and Tester for the Italian Ministry, the youngest to ever hold the position. I hope you take the great opportunity that you have to learn as much as you can from him, and now it is my pleasure to introduce to you, Mr. Marco Matteo"
Lily was completely gobsmacked as Marco, her Marco, walked out onto the stage, decked out in dress robes with a charming smile to match. James cut his eyes sideways at Lily, trying to catch her reaction without being overly obvious, while Lily did her best to hide her shock.
"Again, good morning and welcome to your first session of the seminar," Marco said in a voice much different than Lily remembered. This voice seemed more mature, more confident, and much more powerful. "As Minister Suarez said, I am Marco Matteo, and I have been working with the Italian Ministry's Spell Creation Department for over three years. I will be your main speaker for the next three days, and I will be assisting each group individually over the course of the following days as you attempt to create your own defensive spells.
"Now, we shall begin with a bit of background on defensive spells that should be review to you. The strength and effectiveness of each particular spell relies on a variety of elements involved in its creation, but in the end, much depends upon the dedication and focus of the caster. A broad knowledge of powerful ancient magical language is important, but not necessary, to the creation of a defensive spell. If you will turn to page seven of your Ministry-issued Information Booklet, you will find a condensed list of the more popular and widely used charms and the words used to achieve the desired effect."
As the room was filled with the sounds of flipping pages, James continued to sneak glances at Lily. If the fact that Marco was leading these sessions bothered her, she was hiding it quite well. Lily did not appear flustered in the least as she picked up her quill and began to scribble notes in the margins of her booklet, already amassing information and plotting what would be the pair's winning spell.
"Lily! Wait up!"
Whipping around in the doorway of the conference room, Lily saw Marco coming toward her with a wide grin on his face. The conference had just let out for the remainder of the afternoon, and James had gone off to the hotel's Quidditch pitch for a game with his friends from the mixer; one team lacked a Seeker, and he was more than happy to oblige (only after many assurances from Lily that she could survive a few hours without him). She was now caught up in the crowd that was exiting the conference room to enjoy the rest of the day.
Moving off to the side so she wouldn't block traffic, Lily waited with a warm smile as Marco finally made his way over to her. "So what did you think of today's session?" he asked with a rather smug expression.
"I liked it," Lily admitted, "but I had this small problem with the speaker... see, I met him last night and he totally forgot to mention that he wasn't a participant in the seminar, but in fact an instructor," she teased.
Marco laughed. "I sorry. I should have told you," he apologized. "But most girls are usually intimidated by it all."
"What, the whole Head of Spell Creation and Testing of the Italian Ministry at only twenty years old? Why would anyone be intimidated by that?" Lily asked.
"You know what I mean," Marco said. "I just didn't want to be the abnormally gifted wizard for once in my life. Please tell me that this small omission hasn't ruined my chances of taking you out to dinner tonight."
Lily was taken aback for a moment. The way Marco had slipped that into the conversation in such a casual (yet remarkably adorable) way kind of left her breathless. She was startled and nervous for a second, but quickly regained her senses.
"Marco... I don't know. I'm not sure James would be too happy about that," she said.
"James? That man you said wasn't your boyfriend last night?" Marco's face reflected his confusion.
"Yeah... we tried to patch things up last night. We're taking it slowly... civility, honesty, trust. You know, the basics."
"What better way to test his trust in you than to go out to dinner with me?" Marco offered with an incredibly charming grin.
Lily shook her head, seeing the flaw in her argument and giving in to defeat. "I guess you're right. What time?"
"Why don't you meet me in the lobby around 6:30? And don't wear anything too dressy; we're not going to a four-star restaurant, I can promise you that."
"All right then. I'll see you at 6:30," Lily said, turning and leaving a very happy Marco behind her.
She just hoped James would feel the same way.
James stepped out of the elevator on the seventh floor the second the doors slid open. He was on a Quidditch high and couldn't wait to tell Lily about the brilliant catch he had made in the match. After that and a quick shower, he intended to take Lily out for a fancy dinner followed by a nice walk on the beach, where they could watch the moonlight sparkle across the clear crystal waters of the Mediterranean Sea and talk for hours.
Little did he know that Lily had other plans.
He slipped his key in the door, anxious to see how Lily would react to his plans. He pushed open the door to find her already getting ready for the evening's activities. She wore a pair of jeans with a simple white peasant blouse, and her shiny red hair was pulled back from her face. She was slipping on a little lip gloss as James shut the door behind him.
"Wow, you look nice," he commented, smiling at the sight of her happy face. "A tad under dressed, but-"
"James, I'm glad you're finally back," she interrupted, capping her lip gloss and dropping the tube into her purse. "I didn't want to just leave a note, but it's almost time for me to go."
"Go where?" James asked, perplexed.
"I told Marco I would meet him for dinner tonight," Lily explained, watching as James immediately tensed up, his eyebrows drawing together and his mouth forming a stiff line. "It's nothing huge, I promise."
"But, I thought we could go out tonight," James told her. "You know, try to get things back to normal."
Lily's face fell. "James, I'm sorry. I already told him I'd go with him."
There was an awkward silence before James asked, "Is it a date?"
Lily shook her head. "I don't think so. I told him that we were trying to patch things up and he seemed to be accepting of that."
Another silence fell over them, this one lasting considerably longer. James was trying to gain some control of the anger that was boiling over inside of him, taking deep breaths to prevent him from shouting at Lily that she could never see this guy again.
"Do you like him?" James finally managed to ask in a semi-calm voice, but he wasn't quite able to hide the acidic edge of his speech.
Lily sighed. "James," she whispered, stepping closer to him and bringing her hand softly to the side of his face. "We're supposed to be trusting each other, remember?"
"I know, I just..." James began. His anger had completely vanished the minute Lily touched him, but it was replaced by a whole new kind of tension.
"James, look at me." Lily's hand moved his head so that his hazel eyes met her green ones. "I don't like him like that. Please, don't be this way. I'm begging you to trust me," she murmured, brushing her soft hand down his slightly stubbly cheek.
Almost every worry James melted away when Lily said that. There was no way that he would ever trust this Marco guy, but he had no reason not to trust Lily.
"So I guess I'll see you when you get in tonight?" he asked, offering the slightest suggestion of a smile.
Lily's face lit up. "Of course," she said, standing on her tippy toes to kiss his cheek.
"Don't stay out too late," James told her as she stepped into her shoes and picked up her purse.
"I won't. Wait up for me, okay?" Lily requested with a smile as she opened the door.
"Don't worry. You can count on it," James said, returning the smile as Lily slipped out the door.
He didn't have to tell her that he would be waiting up because he was fraught with worry that this Marco character would try something on her. Nor did he have to tell her that letting her walk away from him took every ounce of self control in his being. She looked absolutely stunning, and he had to hold himself back from capturing her mouth with his.
This was going to be more difficult than he thought.
"So how did your friend take the news that you were going out with me tonight instead of him?" Marco asked Lily. They had just finished dinner at a quaint little restaurant and were now strolling the streets of Barcelona, admiring the way the city lit up at night.
"He wasn't exactly thrilled," Lily answered truthfully. "But all things considered, I think he handled it well."
Marco smiled. "I can't blame the guy for getting jealous. I mean, you're gorgeous. Don't even try to deny that our waiter was hitting on you."
Lily blushed. "Come on, stop it."
"I'm serious. You're a very attractive woman, Lily," Marco continued. Lily noticed that he had managed to move a little closer to her as they walked. His proximity made her a bit nervous. "Last night at the mixer, every guy in the room had his eyes on you. Don't you ever notice it?"
Shaking her head, Lily answered truthfully. "No. I'm always noticed for being the brains of the operation, not the beauty. I can't say that I mind it, either."
"Because," Lily began, "I want people to see past it. There's more to me than just my looks. That's why I'm so comfortable around James. I mean, he tells me how beautiful I am or whatever, but that's never been his reason for liking me. He sees past it and likes me for who I am."
Marco nodded. "Just so you know, I like you for who you are, too. You're one of the first girls I've met that can actually hold an intelligent conversation without spacing out every five minutes."
Lily laughed. "Thanks, I guess."
They began to slow their pace before eventually stopping in front of Sagrada Familia. The building was absolutely stunning, lighting up the Spanish sky and making the moon and stars seem absolutely dim in comparison.
"Isn't it beautiful?" Lily said, her eyes wide as the lights of the church sparkled in them.
"Yeah, it is," Marco replied. Lily didn't notice that he had been looking at her, not the building.
Lily was still admiring the building when Marco leaned down and pressed his lips to hers. She was in complete shock and followed her first instinct- to push him away.
"What the hell was that?" Lily asked, glaring at Marco in disgust.
"A kiss. In Italy, it is a generally accepted sign of affection," Marco explained. "Is it not so back in Britain?"
"Not when the object of your affection is in a relationship already," Lily informed him.
"Lily, you said so yourself- he's not your boyfriend."
"Yes, he is. We're trying to work things out."
"But he just let you come out with me tonight?"
"Marco, he trusts me!! Besides, he knows that you're just a friend."
Marco's face fell. "Just a friend?"
Lily nodded. "Marco, I'm sorry. I just don't see you in that way. The truth is... I've never seen anyone but James in that way."
There was a silence as Lily allowed this realization to sink in for Marco. "I guess if the only way I can have you in my life is to be your friend," he finally said, "then I'll just have to be your friend."
"Good, because I like having you as a friend. Now come on," she said, linking her arm through his. "Let's start heading back toward the hotel before it gets too late. I'll spring for some ice cream on the way back."
Lily's heart felt like it was going to beat out of her chest as she made her way back to the hotel room later that night. She hadn't felt a thing when Marco kissed her, only regret that the wrong pair of lips were against hers. Marco liked her, but the only person she had and ever would truly love was waiting for her on the other side of the door.
She opened the door to find James leafing through the booklets they had been given at the session that morning, scribbling something frantically in the margins of the workbook pages. He looked up when he saw Lily come through the door, then stood and quickly shoved the papers off to the side.
"Hi," he said rather breathlessly, searching for any clues as to the evening's events in Lily's countenance.
"Hi," Lily returned, dropping her purse on her bedside table, turning to look at James.
"So... how was it?" James inquired nervously.
"Dinner was really nice," Lily answered truthfully. "But afterwards kind of sucked."
Not meaning to, James perked up when he heard this. "Really? Why?" he prodded, trying to retain some sense of normalcy to his voice.
"Well... Marco kissed me."
Every fiber in James's being immediately tensed as he took deep breaths, trying to calm himself. "What did you do?" he finally asked.
"I pushed him away," Lily replied. "Because all I could think about was how absolutely horrible his kiss was in comparison to yours, and how you were the only person I could ever feel anything for-"
Lily didn't get the chance to say anything else. James had bridged the space between them in what seemed to be a single stride and had slipped his arms around her. His mouth was on hers in the blink of an eye. It wasn't creepy or cold like it had been with Marco; it was a warm and welcome kiss that made her feel bubbly and breathless. She didn't hesitate to let her hands snake up to his hair, lingering on his chest and shoulders momentarily.
It had been so long since James had kissed Lily that he didn't think he ever wanted to take his lips from hers again. Judging by the sounds Lily made as his hand brushed lightly over her neck, she felt the same way. Their current positions weren't allowing him much access to her mouth, so he gently pushed her back against the wall and deepened the kiss.
A moan escaped Lily's mouth as James's hand slipped behind her neck, turning her head at a slight angle. His body was pressing into hers, and she suddenly felt so tiny and fragile against his tall and muscular frame. He had never kissed her like this. Most of their previous kisses had been so sweet and reserved, but this one had a raw passion to it. James wasn't holding anything back, and neither was Lily.
This went on until it became painfully obvious that Lily's lungs require more oxygen than they were getting. She unwillingly pried her lips away from James's, gasping for air. He didn't miss a beat, just moving to place soft kisses down her neck.
"James," she whispered, taking a deep breath.
"Hmmm?" he murmured, his lips never leaving her skin.
"I thought we were taking things slowly," she said, silently cursing her mind for over-thinking things when her body was telling her to shut up and kiss James again.
There was a soft groan as James stopped kissing Lily's neck, pausing to rest his forehead against her shoulder and breathe. He took a moment to regain some control over his actions before apologizing.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to let that go as far as it did. I just-"
"No, don't be sorry," Lily interrupted him. "That was... wow. I just... that's as far as my mind will let me go tonight. You were working on destroying every last bit of self-control I had in me. And I kinda need to breathe for a minute."
James nodded, pulling himself away from Lily and walking across the room. He sighed and ran a hand through his hair before grabbing a pillow and an extra blanket from the bed.
"What are you doing?" Lily asked curiously as James began setting up a makeshift bed on the floor.
"Making me a bed for tonight," James explained. "If I sleep in the same bed as you tonight, I won't be responsible for my actions. Not to mention I'm pretty sure that's a step you're not ready to take just yet."
Lily sighed and nodded in response. "Well, at least not a step I'm willing to take tonight," she admitted.
James's ears perked up. "But soon?" he asked hopefully.
Lily nodded. "Very soon."
I hope that was worth it. Sorry to keep you waiting for so long!!! I'll completely understand if you yell at me in your reviews (or even refuse to review), but I felt obligated to post what I had so far.
Life is going well for me, other than the fact that I'm sick with a virus right now. I've gotten into 3 of the 4 colleges I applied to, and two have offered me a lot of money (one, which I think I'm going to, offered me a LOT of money). I'm still waiting to hear back from the fourth college. School's going well... all As so far. Hope everything's going well for my readers, too. I miss updating every week for yall!!! I wish I could still do it. Life was so much simpler back then. But anyway... until next time, lots of love and falling asleep in the middle of movies because of cold meds, Emma.