Refuge

Summary: He fell in love with her for her temper. And even though her hatred eventually ebbed away, that never did. LJ oneshot.

Disclaimer: Every character and familiar plot sequence you recognize belongs to J.K. Rowling. Everything else belongs to me.

Author's Note: Okay, several things… firstly, the summary wasn't the best in the world and doesn't fully "summarize" the piece. And most it's most unfortunate, but Lily seems a bit OC when you look back at the HP books. But I would have had to totally refigure the story to change that, and because I happen to be a very lazy person when it comes to stuff like that I didn't. Another thing is that the story in general doesn't really have a lot of dialogue in it apart from a flashback…it's more of a reflection type of thing. Hopefully you don't mind and, even more importantly, I hope you like it. As always, any criticisms or comments are much appreciated.

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I can't remember why, exactly, I began to like Lily Evans.

Maybe it was because of her hair. It's bright red, you see; not the orangey-type you get most of the time, but a pure sort of auburn. She was the only one I'd ever met with that shade – unless you count some of my Mum's old friends who used dye. But even that wasn't the same, not really. Lily's hair was like fire, a long mane of twisted curls that managed to look tame and wild at the same time. It was unique.

Or maybe it was her eyes. They were exotic, more so, perhaps, than even her flaming hair. Most of the people that I knew to have green eyes had a boring, light shade – either that or the "green" was mixed in with twenty other different colors and ended up making them almost brown. But not Lily. Whenever she got angry they would flash so brightly you could see them from fifteen yards away, and even when her emotions weren't in an uproar they were still a bright, salty emerald, just like the trees in the Forbidden Forest when the sunlight drifted through the leaves.

Maybe it was just because Lily was so pretty. Even without her hair and eyes, she was thin, but not terribly so, and her face was naturally angled and free of blemishes – unless you count her freckles, of course. She never wore clothes that were very flattering (although, come to think of it, the universal dress robes worn at Hogwarts were all rather bulky) and she didn't put on as much makeup as most of the girls I knew. She never needed it. She was just naturally beautiful.

I'm sure that it wasn't just Lily's appearance that I noticed, though. She was always confident for a Muggleborn, and – most of the time – she was cool and composed. Even the way she walked, her bookbag strew across her shoulder carelessly and her left arm swinging by her side, displayed her self-control. She was the smartest pretty girl I knew (most girls, as far as I could see, either cared about school or their appearance, leaving the other element to sink down to Hades) and somehow managed to wrangle top of the class from me and Sirius by the end of seventh year.

But it wasn't like she was always in control of her emotions, either. There were times that she would drop her mask and fly into a burning rage, usually on behalf of someone else. She never was afraid to speak her mind. If she thought you were conceited, she would let you know. If you were being particularly disruptive or rude, she wouldn't waste time in turning around and snapping for you to shut up. And she would forever be seen sticking up for younger students or rival House members (i.e. the Slytherins) while everyone else would sit back and do nothing. Including me.

I think that it was this that ended up first drawing me in. I'd never before met a girl that wasn't afraid to challenge me, especially not in the way Lily did. In the past, almost everyone had practically fallen on their knees before me. In first year, it was because of my family name – "Potter" is one of the richest Pureblooded families, seeing as all of us were well-respected Aurors. In second year, I won respect on the Quiddich pitch and started to become better friends with my roommates – Moony, Wormtail, and Padfoot, although they weren't known by those names at that time. It was then that the pranking began in earnest, going to such an extent that even some of the older students knew our names. After we reached third year, I started to notice girls, and, the fact that I was a Marauder, Quiddich Chaser, Potter, and devastatingly handsome at that, they naturally came running.

Lily never bought any of that.

She didn't care whether my family had four premium Gringotts vaults positively stuffed with gold. She never saw the importance in my skill with "throwing around a dumb ball while hurtling through the air on a rake." She despised my obvious disregard for authority and never found the pranks I pulled to be funny, especially when they were at the extent of others. She couldn't see why someone with messy black hair and glasses could possibly be attractive. She hated me for being cocky and bigheaded (a result of all of my highly appealing attributes, I'm afraid) and loathed the "blatant discourtesy" that I apparently gave everyone. And she never failed to update me on her views.

Either which way, around third year my crush on Lily developed as the first I'd ever had on a girl.

I didn't muster up the courage to ask her until the middle of fourth, but I did go out with a few others in between when they asked me. When I finally did ask her, earning a sharp slap and a shriek of "No!", I was more intrigued than disheartened by her reply – I'd known that she'd ostensibly disliked me, yes, but I never thought she'd refuse me. And so the asking continued, up until the point where it got so bad that we would go as far as to have shouting matches in the Great Hall. Around sixth year, I finally figured out that Pretty Lily wouldn't go out with me if I stayed the way I was, so I set about changing myself. By seventh year, I had matured considerably, stopped hexing random people in the hallways, and even lessened the amount of pranking (lessened, it can be noted, does not mean stop completely). Lily noticed and, after only a few months, had agreed to go out with me.

But as many things as there were that made me like Lily, there was just one thing that that caused me to fall in love with her.

Her temper.

It might seem strange to hear me say such a thing. I had just got over saying how she yelled at me in very public areas, and now I'm saying I love her for it? Why would anyone in their right mind love a person that would constantly blow up in their face and yell at them? But this wasn't just any person. It was Lily. Whenever she lost her temper, it was because of one of two reasons. Some of the time it was for righteousness' sake and she was actually indignant about something that she deemed wrong or immoral. Other times it was just that she was in a bad mood and one little comment managed to pull her strings just the right way.

I happen to be an expert at causing the second reaction to come out.

You see, even after we began to go out, Lily still had her moments, sometimes even leading us to break up. For instance, there was one time she caught me after curfew cursing Snivellous. She wasn't supposed to find me – I had, after all, had completely innocent intentions of going to the kitchens. It just so happened that along the way I'd found Snivellous, and, well…the rest probably isn't that much of a mystery. It didn't really help at all that Wormtail had just told her I'd gone out to "have some fun for a bit". Stupid git. I still haven't forgiven him. Anyway, once Lily had found me she proceeded to yell about how she'd thought I changed (which I had) and how the Head Boy was supposed to set an example (which I was – people had to learn how to defend themselves against Slytherins) and how I'd broken her trust (no defense there, unfortunately). She then told me that she wanted a "break" and left me standing there feeling both guilty and furious at Snivellous to have been walking to the kitchens at the same time as me and presenting such a lovely target.

Of course, none of our arguments ever lasted too long. She always managed to forgive me in a week or less upon realizing how much she missed me, and then we would manage to forget all about it until the next month.

A lot of the time our fights weren't based on noble reasons. Usually Lily or I would just be in terrible moods and end up taking it out on the other party. Those were always the worst ones, because they were harder to forgive each other for, much less apologize.

It wasn't like we fought all the time, though. It was just that we clashed a bit at times, both being headstrong and – as much as I hate to say it – dreadfully mulish. And as much as the fights happened, we always managed to get back together. She was the logic to my recklessness, the conventionality to my daring. As clichéd as it sounds, she completed me. And sometimes, because of that, I would be the only one she could turn to, the only one able to calm her down. She always despised showing weakness, but I made sure that she never had to worry. I made sure that she never had to feel shame if she broke her image.

When we first started going out, she didn't quite realize this fact. Before exams she would retire to her room and stay there for hours and hours, and when she came back out again she would be almost scarily calm and collected. The day she received a particularly nasty letter from her awful sister Petunia she remained poised and unruffled throughout the morning but as soon as she got in from the Prefect's meeting that night she immediately retreated to her room, claiming exhaustion. I always knew when she was upset because she would go there, away to her refuge so that no one could see her lose her unwavering cool, and I set about trying to change that. I wanted to be her refuge. I wanted to be the one she turned to.

It took all the way until Christmas Break before she realized it. She had invited me up to her house for New Years for a party her parents were having with her sister's boyfriend's family and I, of course, was delighted to accept. Apparently it was a very informal sort of thing, and I figured that I could do with a change from my own family's stiff get-togethers. Of course, there was always the advantage of seeing her again as well.

Arriving around seven o'clock, I had been immediately met with warm embraces from both of Lily's parents. I couldn't help but wonder how Lily turned out the way she was if her family – as far as I could see – was like this. After properly introducing myself I was shown into the living room where several of the guests were gathered. Several minutes later Lily came down from her room upstairs with a small frown on her face, but as soon as she saw me it disappeared and was replaced by a genuinely bright smile.

"James!" she said happily as I came forward to meet her at the bottom of the stairs, grinning widely and feeling immensely proud of myself as I appraised for the first time in a week the beautiful woman that I could now safely call mine. She greeted me with a light kiss on the cheek. "You're here already!"

"Wouldn't be late if it meant seeing a gorgeous redhead of mine," I teased, though by no means lying. I picked her up and spun her around me. "And is that all I get? A peck on the cheek?"

She laughed and rolled her eyes before surreptitiously peering around the corner to see if anyone was paying attention. "Maybe," she said lightly, sliding her hand around the back of my neck and sporting a wicked half-grin. "I suppose you'll have to prove it to me first."

I mirrored her mischievous expression and took a dramatically deep breath before beginning to recite an epic wizarding poem. I was halfway through and still going strong by the time she began to lose control of her giggles, any valiant effort to hide it having failed rather miserably. I paused and said, my tone exaggeratedly hurt, "What, that wasn't good enough for you, Evans? I'll have you know that I spent several hours trying to memorize this as an attempt to impress you—" She cut me off then by pressing her lips to mine, albeit briefly, and pulling away again with a smirk.

"You got your kiss," she smiled, walking away back toward the living room. I grabbed her arm to drag her back, grinning and shaking my head as if at a small child.

"Nah, that one didn't count," I mumbled, swooping down and claiming her mouth with my own. Her lips were sweet and soft like they always were, her hair just as smooth, and her tight sweater and jeans were rather nice changes from Hogwarts' large robes. I drew away reluctantly a few moments later upon hearing the approaching footsteps, noting the darkened color of her lips with some satisfaction.

"Lily, Petunia's just arrived with Vernon. Apparently she has an announcement for us," Mrs. Evans said when she came around the corner approximately two seconds later. Lily's buoyant expression instantly became reserved, and when she replied, it came out emotionlessly.

"Of course, Mum. We'll be right there." She reached backwards and took my hand to lead me back into the living room. I gave it a slight squeeze in an attempt to reassure her and forced myself to bite back a frown when she merely continued to hold on lightly, her palm cold. I sighed and tugged her a few inches closer to rest my chin on the top of her head for a split second before drawing away again like I knew she wanted me to, hating that she wasn't letting me in.

When everyone had gathered, which meant that the room was crowded with several aunts, uncles, and far too many cousins to remember, I saw Petunia come out of the kitchen, a tight smile on her thin face. I had to immediately bid myself not to roll my eyes when I saw her – fluffy dresses with ruffles really don't go well that long-neck – and turned to look at the man Lily had told me was her boyfriend. Vernon Dursley.

This time I didn't have to fight to roll my eyes; indeed, it was difficult enough to refrain from laughing out loud. You see, Vernon Dursley was about the last person on earth that I would have ever expected for Petunia to date. In abrupt contrast to her scaldingly thin figure, Dursley was about the largest thing I'd seen since Davy Gudgeon, and that kid wasn't small. Whereas her neck was long and white, his couldn't be seen because it was hidden under rolls of fat the color of reddish puce. And here was I thinking that it wasn't even possible to combine those two colors.

By the time they had both successfully traipsed into the room (well, traipsed for Petunia; waddled was more like it in regards to Dursley), Vernon's father, a man almost as large as Vernon himself, was fighting sleep and his equally as fat sister was doting on an ugly dog she'd brought with her.

"We would like to tell you all something," Petunia said, casting a sharp look of distain over her boyfriend's sleeping father.

"Oh, do hurry up dear, I've got to go check the stove," Mrs. Evans said blithely, breaking she short silence that followed. Petunia cast a dark scowl her way, or at least as dark as one as a "proper" lady should use, and turned back to Vernon, taking his fat hand in her own. I suppressed a shudder.

"Vernon and I are engaged," Petunia announced in a sickeningly sweet tone, smiling in the direction of her parents and lifting her hand to show off an enormous diamond on her third finger. In just a moment the room had erupted into a flurry of chaos from congratulators and well-wishers, making me feel slightly uncomfortable that I had intruded in on a family event. I glanced over at Lily to see that she had gone white and was holding the arms of her chair tightly.

"Lily?" I said, concerned. Her head flew in my direction, and to my immense frustration she quickly shook her head and relaxed her posture.

"Of course not," she insisted, before getting up to congratulate Petunia herself. I stood up as well, knowing that it would be polite for me to offer my best wishes too. When I drew nearer to the two sisters, I stopped, realizing that their conversation was far more bitter than should be for someone about to get married.

"…don't want you coming and spoiling everything for me with your kind," Petunia was biting harshly. Lily looked hurt for a split second, the first time I had ever seen her show pain, before masking her face and firing back,

"My kind? Whether you like it or not, Petunia, you are my kind because you are my sister!"

"I don't want you coming and ruining my day!" Petunia repeated, pretending not to have heard Lily's words. "You don't belong in this family, you never did, and by coming to my wedding you're just going to inconvenience the rest of us. No one wants you here anyway because you're such a freak." Petunia turned around dismissively, leaving Lily behind her with an uncharacteristically crestfallen expression.

I approached then, shocked and furious that Petunia would act in such a way to Lily, especially on New Years, a night meant for commemoration and new resolves. "Lily," I said, enfolding her hand in my own and attempting to draw her near. "Lily, don't listen to her, you're not—"

"I know I'm not what she says, James, I'm not stupid or anything," she snapped, yanking herself away from me. She sighed then, seeing my hurt face. "Look, I'm sorry. It really isn't all that important, though. It's not like it's anything new—" Her voice cracked a bit, but she instantly pulled herself upright and gave me a supposedly reassuring smile. "I'll be right back, all right? I just remembered something I had to do in my room."

Oh no, I thought. Not TheRoom again. She shouldn't have to keep going there to solve her problems, not when she had me. I shook my head, trying without success to block the feeling of disappointment burning in my chest. "Bloody hell," I muttered, watching her go. Lily meant more than anything in the world to me, at least as much as Moony, Wormtail, and Padfoot. In just a moment I had bounded up the stairs and was knocking loudly on the only closed door, rightfully presuming it was Lily's. "Come on, Lil, open up for me," I demanded in a voice that held an odd mixture of fury and compassion.

The door opened just a crack. "What are you doing, James?" Lily said, deliberately calm. Despite her tone I was quick to notice the redness of her eyes and the way her teeth were clenching her bottom lip.

"Don't play dumb with me Lily, just let me in," I demanded, my voice taking on a more agressive tone. She appeared unfazed.

"Look, James, I just have to write a letter before I forget—" she began, but even before the first word left her mouth I knew she was lying.

"Cut the bullshit," I interrupted, anger beginning to bubble inside of me. She was killing herself, couldn't she see that? Every time she left to The Room a little bit more of her soul was eaten away. "I know what you're doing and I want to know why the hellyou're doing it when you know you have other people to turn to."

She was beginning to get angry, I could see it in her face. The redheaded wonder that I first began to notice was finally coming out again. "You don't know a damn thing about me James, now go away!" she snapped, trying to slam the door. I caught it with my hand.

"I don't know? I don't know?" I retorted, my face growing a disturbing shade of red probably similar to the back of Vernon Dursley's neck. "How come I know that every time you get that blank expression on your face, just like the one you had on a second ago, how come I know that that means you're hurt? How come I know that every time you go up to your room you go to let out your emotions instead of risking the chance of dropping your façade? How come I know that every time anyone says ANYTHING that invokes a reaction out of you your eyes cloud over and get completely evasive? Don't tell MEthat I don't know you, Lily. I think it's you that don't know yourself."

Somewhere along my monologue my words had cut her to the point where she was unable to speak. When she finally drew a breath, her voice was shallow and deep. "If you knew me so well," she said, her voice wavering slightly despite her attempts to keep it still, "then why didn't you just leave me like you knew I wanted to be left?"

"You shouldn't have to deal with things on your own," I said, my voice lowering until it was barely above a whisper. I felt horrible, knowing that I had come close to making her cry and never wanting to do that in the first place. "I want you to trust me, Lily. I want to be the one you can turn to in place of your room."

A tear escaped from the corner of her eye. "Go away James," she said, swiping the corner of her eye furiously. Her voice gained strength as she went on. "I don't need you. I don't need anyone. I'm not weak like that." She shut the door into my unsuspecting face, leaving me to stand in front of it in complete and utter hopelessness. Once again she had shut me out.

I waited there for God knows how long, knowing that she would need a little bit of time because she would no doubt suspect that I would come right back. Finally I couldn't stand to wait any longer. I opened the door cautiously, taking my first step into Lily Evans' Bedroom.

Normally I would have taken note of the creamy yellow walls and the whitewashed bulletin board that carried pictures from Hogwarts dating all the way back from first year. Now, however, all I could pay attention to was the figure kneeling by the queen sized bed. Even when she was alone and in The Room, Lily still imposed such an extent of control over herself that her tears were rare and slow as they fell down her cheeks. She didn't notice that I had come in until I had wrapped my arms around her soothingly, ignoring her feeble attempts to break away. I turned her face into my chest and rocked her slightly, rubbing my hand on her back.

"Just lean on me, Lily," I said hoarsely, knowing that she would catch the double meaning behind my words. "Just lean on me and I'll hold you."

I don't know quite how long it took, but eventually she began to relax into my embrace until her arms were splayed across my chest and her faced burrowed into the crook of my neck, her tears beginning to fall faster and faster, not so pretty now that they were blotting her face. While I was like any other specimen of the male species as far as being uncomfortable when faced with a crying woman, I pushed my awkwardness aside and continued to hold her, knowing that this might be the way I could gain her trust.

As uncomfortable as the situation was, I couldn't help the feeling of elation that spread through me as I held her in my arms. This was the last time she would ever have to flee to The Room whenever she was upset. From now on, I would be her rock. I would be her anchor. I would be the one she would trust. And as terrible as it was to think that she would ever have to go through any amount of pain again, I was happy.

I held her that night for what might have been hours, abandoning the celebrations of New Years and coming wedding in favor of being with Lily. By the time the clock struck midnight she was asleep, tear streaks stained on her freckled cheeks, her body limp in my arms. It was amazing, really, how small she was, how easily she fit in my arms. Like she was meant to be there.

When I was finally sure that she was asleep, I stood carefully, lifting her gently with me. Pulling back the covers of her bed, I laid her down and gently tucked the covers around her slim form before sitting by the bed next to her. I brushed a strand of her hair away from her forehead, captivated for some reason by her face. Somehow she was more beautiful than I had ever seen her, in spite of the tearstains and rumpled curls.

Finally the exhaustion sinking into me made me realize that I had to leave the room. Almost groaning with the effort, I made to stand, only to feel a soft hand on my own, pulling me back. I turned around to be met with Lily's drowsy face, lit by a ray of the moonlight through The Room's window.

"Stay with me, James," she whispered, and I knew I couldn't refuse. I made to Summon a chair from her desk, but she shook her head blearily and pulled my arm until I was kneeling in the space next to her. "I don't mind," she whispered, her eyes fluttering shut and a yawn adorning her lips. "I just…want you here."

Something stirred inside of me when I heard those words, deeper than anything I'd felt before. Not knowing exactly what it was, I lifted the covers and sank into bed next to her, smiling when she turned around to face me, tucking her head into my shoulder and expelling a muffled sigh of content. It only took me a moment before I had wrapped my arms around her, one hand brushing against the back of her head and the other tucked protectively under her back.

Just before I blinked my eyes for the final time, I realized what that feeling was, why I was always so happy when Lily was around.

I loved her.

With that thought I turned around for the final time that night, a smile on my face, and eventually drifted off to sleep, a deeper and more peaceful sleep than I can ever remember having. Lily Evans had finally let me in, and there couldn't have been a happier man on earth at that moment.

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So you see, this is where it all started. This is where I finally realized that she was the only thing in my life that was really worth living for, where I finally knew that all that trust and hope had finally paid off. And now, every time since then that we have gotten into a fight, I think back to that moment, and I know for sure that I won't ever stop loving her. Not while that temper lasts.

That's why I'm fingering a ring in my pocket right now. That's why I'm about to take the biggest risk in my life for this woman, the one that tested and vexed me the most. That's why I'm about to go in front of a hundred people that thought they were just going to see a graduation ceremony in order to ask her a question that will change our lives. That's why I'm about to abandon my youth to plunge headfirst into the world of responsibility.

But I'm not afraid of the risks. Because I know that I'm her refuge. And I know that even though she never really said anything out loud, she knows it as well.

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Hmm…I'm not to happy about the end. And the whole thing was rather longer than I'd expected. But here it is, despite my misgivings, and I think that because I put off my World Cultures homework I deserve some reviews. Good plan??