Disclaimer: Haha, I wish.
James Potter woke on the morning of his graduation with a splitting headache and a woman in his bed. For a second he had mistaken her for Lily, but upon seeing the dark hair splayed across his pillow and the manicured brown hand clutching his sheets, he realized the disappointing truth.
"Hestia." He touched the girl's shoulder.
"Your animigus form is a bunny!" Hestia cried out. James sincerely hoped that she was still dreaming, so he shook her awake. "Ten, give me ten more minutes," she murmured, swatting at his hand.
James sighed, rolling onto his back. He folded his arms behind his head, wondering how and when it had come to this. He liked Hestia Jones. She was a tough, feisty Gryffindor girl that loved to party and had a soft spot for the Marauders and their endless pranks. He went out with her a lot, and recently they had started sleeping together. But Hestia was fiercely independent and James only had eyes for one girl.
James closed his eyes, and she materialized before him. She smiled shyly and her green eyes sparkled. He leaned toward her, tucking a lock of her beautiful red hair behind her ear. He kissed her and her face suddenly changed. The light went out in her eyes and the smile morphed into a heartbreaking frown. Her eyes filled with tears and she fled.
He didn't run after her. He let her get away.
"Oh, Lily," he whispered, opening his eyes.
"Actually it's Hestia."
Hestia grinned, but James didn't find it funny. As the cruel truth wrapped his sheets around her chest and cuddled with his pillow, she only succeeded in making him feel worse. She reminded him that she was here, in the flesh, but that Lily Evans was nothing more than a dream.
"Hestia? I don't remember a Hestia, there must be some mistake." James forced himself to keep his tone light, attempting a joke.
"Well, then I guess I'll have to make you remember." Hestia smiled seductively and pounced on him. He caught her lips in a kiss so full of energy, but yet so meaningless. They had energy and experience, but James didn't have the passion and Hestia had too much because it never mattered to her. No one had ever captured her eye or rendered her speechless. No one had ever stolen her heart, like Lily had stolen his. Because Hestia had never been in love, not like James had.
"Lily," he groaned, pulling away from her. Hestia never minded when he messed up her name. When he pushed her away, she nipped at his ear instead. He finally grabbed her slender wrists, pinning her underneath him. The grin on Hestia's face faded, as she finally realized that he was in fact serious.
He looked down at her, envying how she could give her heart to no one and everyone at the same time. Why was love so painful? Why did it have to strike him, of all people? He was a Marauder for Merlin's sake. He could have any girl in the school. So why was he pining after the one girl who didn't want him?
"You're not Lily," he whispered sadly.
"No, I'm not James," Hestia answered, with a puzzled frown.
James sat up, dropping his head into his hands. He heard the sheets rustle and felt Hestia's hand on his bare shoulder.
"James," she said softly.
"I can't Hestia, I can't do this anymore." He tore at his hair. Images of Lily - Lily laughing, Lily smiling, Lily talking, Lily crying, Lily running - they plagued him, racing through his mind, flashing before his eyes. It was as if he had stepped into a pensieve and it kept replaying over and over again. He kept seeing that moment when she had run away from him. And he just stood there and let her get away from him.
"Look at me James," Hestia coaxed him to lift his head and face her.
"I know you used me," she told him bluntly.
Hestia was a beautiful girl. She broke the guy's hearts and did the dumping. James could never figure out why she was always there for him when it was so obvious that he would never love her. Maybe that's why she came back, because she liked the fact that he would never care for her.
"I'm sorry," James apologized, kissing her forehead.
"Don't apologize, you served your purpose." Hestia risked a grin and James chuckled. "But I'm afraid you're useless now," she sighed.
"Useless? Was I really that bad?" James asked her, panicking.
"No, no, darling, you were always…good… But James -" she ran a hand through his unruly hair and then suddenly pulled away, finishing, "I don't sleep with married men."
James didn't know how to reply. Hestia left him, gathering her things and heading for the shower. He wasn't married. What did that have to do with anything? James found a pair of pants on his trunk, and pulled them on. The bathroom door was wide open, and he could hear Hestia humming some silly love song inside.
"I'm not married." He walked right in.
"Sorry, I can't hear you. Your voice is so thick with denial!" Hestia started to sing loudly, and James knew that he could never compete with her horribly out of tune voice. It was like listening to a screaming banshee. Finally she stopped and the water was shut off.
"Can you hand me that towel?" she asked. One of her hands pushed back the curtain and waited expectantly.
"Only if you tell me what you meant by that," James answered, holding the towel hostage.
"I think it was pretty self-explanatory," Hestia retorted from behind the curtain, but when James refused to give her the towel, she sighed and gave in.
"Okay James, I'll spell it out for you." She paused dramatically. "You love Lily Evans."
"Of course I fancy her," James snorted at Hestia's poor attempt at an explanation. "I've wanted to kiss that girl since the day I laid eyes on her,"
"No, I mean that you." He heard a frustrated sigh. "Just give me the damn towel!"
"As you wish." James threw the towel over the shower curtain, hearing her gasp as it hit the soggy floor. She swore, but appeared a moment later with the damp towel wrapped around her.
"What I meant was that you love her James, you really love her, you're practically a married man," she said seriously.
James stared at her and then threw back his head laughing.
"Hestia, I'm barely eighteen," he laughed and shook his head. "I'm much too young, you can't possibly think that-"
Hestia gave him a hard, meaningful look, but said nothing.
James forced another laugh.
"There are so many other women out there. I'm still a kid! I'm not ready to settle down. I have my whole life still ahead of me!"
"Your life might end a lot sooner than you expect," Hestia interrupted him before he could continue.
"Are you saying that I'm going to croak within the next few hours?" James asked incredulously.
Hestia shrugged, and went into the other room to get dressed. James sat down on the sink, letting the words sink slowly into his head. What if she was right? Hestia returned, fully clothed with her wand. She rubbed a spot clean in the foggy mirror and began applying charms to her hair.
"What are you trying to say Hestia?" James studied the girl, who had never struck him as the serious type. For Merlin's sake, the girl dreamed about bunnies! But the simple words she had chosen spoke volumes and penetrated deeper that he'd ever expected.
"All I'm saying is that we're entering dark times James. You want to be an Auror. She wants to be an Auror. Already your life spans have been shortened by at least ten years." She dried her hair with a flick of her wand, and started on the makeup.
"But what's this got to do with Lily," James wanted to know. "She hates me. I thought we were doing fine and then one day she says we can't continue and runs away from me."
"Oh, James! You're so thick headed, that sometimes even I want to crack open your head!" She rounded on him suddenly, grabbing him violently by the shoulders. "Lily loves you James, that's why she ran away. She's scared too. You're both in love and you're both scared. Merlin's beard, why is it that difficult for you two to comprehend! It's just love! Give into it and get it over with!"
James brought his face close to hers, almost pitying the girl that stood before him.
"You can't understand how hard it is," James whispered, smoothing the hair from her forehead as he continued, "because you've never been in love." He shook his head and turned away.
"That may be so, but at least I know how to recognize it," Hestia hissed, but she fell back against the opposite wall, suddenly looking weak and weary.
"I think you should at least give it a try," she suggested softly. "What's the worst that could happen?"
"Rejection." James was painfully reminded of that feeling. He had been rejected one too many times by Lily and when she ran from him, he didn't have the strength to chase after her.
"If you truly love her James, you won't let your fears stop you."
"How would you know?" James asked bitterly.
"I just do." Hestia smiled sadly and grabbing her things, she left him mulling over her words.
A couple of hourse later, James was finally dressed in his best robes and ready to go. He pocketed his wand, stealing one final glimpse of his reflection as he passed by the hall mirror. He was nervous, but not because of the graduation, or the speech that he had to give in front of all those people. His hands were shaking because this might be his last chance to talk to Lily Evans.
It was only half past eleven, but James was in a rush to get there before everyone else. He wanted to speak to her before it started.
"Sorry!" he apologized, as he practically trampled a girl heading for the portrait as well. A pair of green eyes met his for a fleeting moment. He stopped dead in his tracks.
Lily was already halfway up the steps by the time James caught up with her.
"Lily, wait!" James was determined not to let her get away this time. He only wanted to talk to her for a minute and say goodbye while she was alone. With a burst of speed, he hopped the last three steps, barricading her path.
"Can't this wait?" Lily asked in annoyance as James wasn't willing to budge.
"No, it can't wait!" James inhaled, catching a whiff of her flowery shampoo. "I have to do this now."
Lily raised an eyebrow, but her eyes were bright with curiosity. James grabbed her by the waist, pulling her to him. And there in the middle of the staircase, he kissed her. Lily didn't push him away, but she was hesitant when it came to returning the kiss. When he pulled away a moment later and saw the torn expression on her beautiful face, he knew that Hestia had been right, at least about his own feelings.
"I love you Lily," he whispered. "I just wanted to tell you that."
Tears filled Lily's green eyes and James feared the worst. He held onto her, praying that this moment would last just a second longer. Suddenly he felt her hands on his face, and her soft lips meeting with his own.
"I love you too, James," Lily whispered. "I'm sorry, I was afraid to tell you."
"Don't apologize," James breathed, kissing her again. "Just, tell me that you won't run away again, because I will have to hunt you down."
"I won't James, I won't," Lily promised and they gave into what both of them had been fighting for so long.
James and Lily arrived at the graduation at the very last minute. Some people giggled and raised their eyebrows suggestively at the sight of the couple's flushed faces and James's disheveled hair. Many more noticed the way their hands came together, finally entwined.
No one though, saw Hestia Jones smile sadly and raise a trembling hand to wipe away a single tear.