Disclaimer: Not mine.
Eight days, it'd been, since he talked to her.
Eight days since he'd last asked her out.
Eight days since she'd done something that ended up being the biggest mistake of her life.
It had been the usual situation. James Potter had approached Lily Evans at the breakfast table, a warm smile on his face and a birthday card in his hand. He wished her a happy birthday before asking her if she'd like to accompany him on the next Hogsmeade trip, when she'd angrily replied that she'd been having a nice birthday, and she didn't need him ruining it, thanks very much.
His smile had gone out like a light bulb. "Fine," he replied coldly, eyes flashing with hurt and anger. "Fine," he repeated, as he stared hard into her eyes, ripping his carefully crafted birthday card into as many pieces as he could manage.
"Happy birthday," he spat, turned, and walked quickly out of the Great Hall, ignoring his friends' calls.
Well, Lily thought bitterly, he'd done it. He'd ruined her birthday. She'd never felt more awful in her life.
As much as she'd like to deny it, her heart had been pounding when he approached with a birthday card. She liked him, and the night before, she'd wondered whether he cared enough to do something for her birthday. She knew he did, but that didn't make her any less nervous when it happened.
So she did the only thing she could think of.
She insulted him.
And this time, she was paying for it.
She was an idiot. She deserved to be given the cold shoulder, and she knew it.
She didn't see why she picked this time to be angry, though. He'd never seemed fazed about being turned down before.
Her mind flickered back to a conversation with a friend the night before. There's only so many times a guy can be rejected.
She shook her head, trying to rid herself of the thought. She'd come down here to clear her head, after all, not to make herself feel worse than she already did.
She sighed, leaning back against the beech tree, watching the reflection of the moon on the lake.
She was distracted, though, by the sound of approaching footsteps.
Lily turned around to see James Potter, staring at her with what seemed to be a moderately pleased look. She was sure she'd imagined it, however, because a split second later it was the stony, cold expression he seemed to adopt around her as of late.
"Oh. It's you," he grunted. And with that, he turned and walked away.
He'd barely gone two steps when she said it.
He stopped, but did not turn around.
She stood up, walking towards him. "James," she said quietly.
He turned, the same coldly indifferent expression perched upon his face. Even with the dirty look that now graced his features, Lily couldn't help but think he was handsome, especially with the way the moon was hitting it.
"I'm sorry," she said quietly. He cocked an eyebrow. Clearly, he wasn't going to make this easy for her. She sighed. "It's just… I didn't mean to hurt or embarrass you. I always turn you down… I figured it'd be like any other time – you'd let it roll off your shoulder and try another way to ask me out the next day. I didn't think I'd"—she bit her lip—"hurt your feelings or anything."
He had stared at her with his arms crossed throughout her entire apology, but near the end, Lily swore she saw his features soften, if only slightly.
"Well, you were wrong," he said bluntly. "It did hurt my feelings. Every time…" He looked away bitterly.
Lily wrung her hands uncomfortably. "I didn't know. You always acted so… calm… about it. That's one of the reasons—" she paused, looking hesitant.
"Go on," James said.
She looked at the ground. "Well, it was one of the reasons I never said yes. You never acted disappointed when I turned you down, so I figured it must not matter much to you. That it was… well, a joke."
James snorted incredulously. "How could you think that? Why would I waste so much time and effort if it didn't matter?" He kicked a rock moodily, then met her gaze. "It's funny, I put so much effort into never letting you see how much being turned down hurt, but all along, showing the pain you put me through might have been what would get you to finally say yes."
Lily scratched the back of her neck, apparently at a loss of what to say. "Well… I suppose," she said awkwardly. "I mean… I definitely wouldn't have been so nasty to you if I knew it put you through… pain." She looked into his eyes sadly. "I had no idea."
James threw his arms in the air. "How could it not have?" he practically shouted at her. "How are you supposed to feel when the girl you've lo—liked for years turns you down nearly every day? When a girl who's nice to everyone except you treats you like scum, and goes out of her way to yell at you on a daily basis?" He was breathing heavily, his face screwed up with emotion. "How could that not hurt?" he said desperately, his voice now reduced to a near whisper.
"James," she whispered pleadingly, "James, I'm sorry—"
"It's not your fault," he grumbled. "It's not your fault you didn't feel the same way. I shouldn't have kept trying to push you into it," he said in a tone that sounded somewhat self-loathing. His hazel eyes looked slowly into her green ones, his voice gentle, "I only ever wanted to make you happy, Lily. I'm sorry I've spent the past few years doing the opposite." He sighed. "I won't be wasting your time—our time—doing… that… anymore."
And with that, he turned and started to walk away, leaving Lily standing dejectedly at the beech tree.
"Wait," said Lily for the second time that evening. James stopped, and this time, turned slowly around.
"I—well, the thing is, I've grown quite—I think I might—I mean I've started to—well, I've started to—to return your feelings." She gulped as his face remained expressionless. "That is, if you still have them," she added uncertainly.
It all happened in an instant.
One moment, they were standing a few feet apart, James with his arms crossed, Lily with her hands wringing nervously. The next instant, however, James had pulled Lily into him, one hand around her waist, the other already delicately weaving its way through her long, red hair. His breath tickled her ear as he whispered, "Of course I still feel the same way." And before Lily could register what was happening, he had dropped his lips softly onto hers.
For several seconds, she was frozen. Only when James started to reluctantly pull away did her body snap into action.
One hound found its way into his silky black hair, the other grasped desperately onto his arm for support.
He leaned farther and farther into her as the kiss deepened, and before she knew it, her back was pressed up to the beech tree.
Finally, breathing heavily, James pulled away, resting his forehead on Lily's.
"You know," he whispered, fingering a lock of her red hair, "It would have been a lot easier going through all the rejection if I knew that in the end, I would get this."
Smiling, Lily placed her lips on his, thinking that James was right – all those years had been a small price to pay for this.
a/n: review, yeah?