All right, this is one of my most recent Harry Potter stories. It's a Lily/James, which I'm sure you've noticed. This story is in three parts. It was originally going to be a one-shot, but then it got a little too long for my liking, and I wanted to make it a little bit more suspenseful.
Just so everyone knows--I had a little trouble with this on HPFF when I first posted it there--the italicized part is the part that is not real. It's the what-if part of the story that would happen if Lily and James never got together. However, since we know that they did, it couldn't possibly be real.
Part 1 – Regrets and What-Could-Have-Beens
Lily Evans took a deep breath and exhaled in frustration as she watched him walk into the Great Hall with her. She could barely stand to look at the two of them, hand in hand, happy, grinning and not stopping. Frankly, it was disgusting. Angrily, she set down her cup of pumpkin juice and returned to her food with a sullen smile on her face. She barely heard the words of her best friend as she spoke to her, trying to get her attention.
"Lily, are you all right?" asked Elle anxiously.
She shook her head sadly but refused to look up at her friend. "I'm fine," she answered slowly.
"No, you're not."
"I will be."
"It's Potter, isn't it?"
"Why do you always assume it's him?"
"Because it always is James Potter when you're upset. Merlin, Lily, you sure know how to pick 'em."
"What is that supposed to mean, Elle?"
She shrugged and replied, "Oh, Lily, I know you fancy him."
"I've told you before: I'll never like Potter. We may be Heads together, but that doesn't mean any romantic relationship will come of it."
"But he's not even asking you out anymore."
"I've noticed. It's nice."
"Are you really happy that he gave up on you, Lily?"
"Yes, of course. I yelled at him for a long time. It took him almost four years to figure out that I won't go out with him."
Elle hesitated, not sure whether she should let her friend win or continue pestering her. Finally, she settled on the latter and said, "You're saying that you couldn't ever like him? That you're glad he barely even looks at you anymore?"
"I'm perfectly fine with it. It's still just a little weird—that's all. I mean, just a month ago he was still asking me out and now we only talk when we're working on our Head duties. I'm not upset about it. I just don't understand how he can change so quickly."
"That's what you say," returned Elle. "Do you really think I believe that, Lily?"
"You should. It's the truth."
"If you say so."
"Can we just go to class already?" she sighed, picking up her glass of juice and finishing it before removing herself and her bag from the Gryffindor table. Elle slowly followed her.
"Well, what else is there for me to say, Miss Atwood?" asked a twenty-three-year-old Lily Evans as she carefully examined the woman across from her. "I'm very happy for you, though, Mary."
Mary Atwood smiled back at her. "Thanks, Lily. I know you really mean it, especially after everything back in Hogwarts. After all the grief he put you through, I'm surprised you're not trying to mess up our wedding."
"You're a good friend of mine—I'd never dream of it, even if James Potter was a prat to me for four years."
Her smile grew larger as she said, "Thank you again. Is it really a good wedding dress, though?"
"It's lovely. It suits you perfectly."
"Would you wear it, though?"
"Why such a silly question? It's not like my opinion really matters on something like this. I'll never get married anyway."
"I still want to know."
"Well, I guess I wouldn't. It's too fancy for my taste. I would wear something very simple but still elegant," she said thoughtfully before pulling back into reality. "But that doesn't matter. This is your wedding. You'll wear whatever dress you want to wear, Mary—and you'll be beautiful in it, too."
"Oh, thank you so much, Lily!" Mary eagerly took the boxed wedding dress in her arms and moved toward the door of the bridal store. "Have a lovely day!"
"Lily, stop trying to deny yourself the simple pleasures of life," demanded Elle in frustration.
"I'm not denying myself anything. I'm not denying anything period. I'm glad he's with Mary Atwood now. She's perfect for him. She's a ditzy, skinny girl with a bunch of money. It also helps that practically her whole world revolves around him."
"And that doesn't bother you?"
"Not for a second."
"He's only with her because he can't have you and she's easy."
"Oh great. If he were still trying to impress me, he'd really impress me with his mad skills at seducing girls that already want him and aren't me to begin with. That would really make me date him."
Elle jumped as Lily slammed her books down on the table in the back of the library before saying cautiously, "I'm not saying it's a grand move on his part, but he's just upset about you."
"Just because he's upset doesn't mean he has to go to some cheap whore to get laid."
"I don't think they're having sex."
"Oh, yeah, why?"
"He's too infatuated with you."
Lily actually snorted at that, causing her best friend to raise her eyebrows. "He's gotten over that—thankfully."
"If you say so."
"You've been saying that a lot lately, Elle."
"And you've been denying things a lot lately."
"No, I haven't."
Lily groaned angrily. "You're impossible."
"Thanks, Lily. That means a lot to me, especially from you."
"What does that mean?"
With a short laugh, Elle turned toward the exit of the library. "I'll leave you to your work. I wouldn't want you to get in trouble with the librarian, now would I?"
"Of course you wouldn't," muttered Lily.
The telephone rang as Lily was making her way toward the door to go out, causing her to jump toward the table on which the telephone sat. "Hello?" she asked impatiently.
The voice on the other end of the line was familiar and she recognized it almost immediately. "Hey, Lily. How are you?"
"Oh, hi, Mary!" she said excitedly. "I'm doing quite well. How is the wedding planning going?"
"Quite well, thanks. I was thinking, though, that we barely see each other anymore. Perhaps we could get together some time?"
Lily nodded and then said, "Yes, that would be grand," when she remembered that Mary couldn't see her through the telephone.
"Excellent. How about lunch tomorrow?"
"Oh, anywhere you like."
"How about Florean Fortescue's in Diagon Alley?" suggested Lily.
"I'll see you then."
"Yes, goodbye, Mary," she said and hung up the phone once more. With a deep sigh, she continued out the door to go to work.
"Let's make this quick, Potter," snapped Lily as she sat down in the prefect meeting room. "I have to study for NEWTs."
"It's not all about you, Evans," James responded bitterly. "We need to work on the Graduation Party. There's a lot to organize and pay for and convince McGonagall and Dumbledore to do or get or whatever."
She took a deep breath and said, "I'm surprised you actually remember all of the things we need to do."
"I'm not a complete failure, you know. Just because I haven't changed for you—that doesn't mean you should still be rude to me. I did what you've wanted me to do for as long as we've known each other. I am leaving you alone."
"Well, you're still the same selfish, overly prideful, annoying prick you've always been so I don't see why I should change my opinion of you."
"I'm not asking you to. I would just like you to keep that opinion to yourself a little more now that I'm not asking you for a date or a snog every day of our lives. It's really the least you could do."
After a short huff, she didn't say anything until finally settling on changing the subject back to the work at hand. "So what's there to organize?"
They spent the rest of the hour working on plans for the celebration they would have after officially graduating from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry at the end of the term. When they were finally done, Lily tried her best to leave before he could say anything else on the matter of her constant dislike toward him but failed miserably as he caught her at the door.
"Listen, Evans," he said with a deep sigh, "I know I never actually apologized for what I did—everything I said to you, making fun of you, asking you out, and everything—so now's as good a time as any. I'm sorry, Lily Evans, for doing all of that… but that doesn't mean that I didn't like you at all. Asking you out wasn't just for a conquest, and I'm very sorry if I made it appear that way."
She didn't say anything, her head down in slight shame at being so mean to him when she knew that she really did fancy him after all. And, now that he had actually apologized, she felt even worse because the only reason she had turned him down was her own insecurity and fear that he was just doing it to make fun of her or just to say that he went out with her. She knew that he was telling the truth that he had liked her truly from the sound of his voice
But that wasn't what scared her this time. It was the way he had said it just then: "But that doesn't mean I didn't like you at all." He had said 'didn't', which meant that he had liked her before but no longer did. And it was a horrible feeling to know that she had completely missed her chance to be with someone that really cared for her at the same time she had cared for him. It was so scary.
So, after saying that, she just allowed him to leave, knowing that he didn't return those feelings anymore and that her hope was lost, and she was left alone in the room in shame and sorrow and regret.
When Lily arrived at Florean Fortescue's ice cream parlor, she was almost fifteen minutes late. But, after looking around, she noticed that Mary was nowhere to be seen. Had she left already after waiting so long? Or had she not even come to begin with? Or had she just been delayed as well? Was something wrong? She chose a small table by the door so that she could keep watch on the all the incomers, hoping that Mary would arrive some time soon.
But she was surprised when she discovered that the next person to enter was not Mary but her fiancé, James. Startled and a little afraid of seeing him after years of not contacting him at all, she watched with wide eyes as he noticed her and approached her table.
She easily told herself that she no longer cared for him as he steadily grew closer and that there was no way he could ever return any feelings even she still had them anyway. It had been far too long—she had gotten over that a long time ago. She had been in several relationships after leaving Hogwarts and getting over him—not that any of those lasted very long anyway.
"Hi," he said a little anxiously as he sat down across from her. She couldn't tell if he were anxious because they hadn't seen each other in so long or if it were because something was wrong.
"Where's Mary?" she asked immediately, trying to avoid anything to do with anything between them.
"She couldn't make it. Emergency at work. She asked me to stop by to see that you knew why and weren't alone."
"Very kind of her," nodded Lily nervously. "Er, what kind of emergency?"
"She didn't say, but I think there might have been another attack."
"Then, why aren't you out there?"
James furrowed his brow in confusion. "What do you mean?"
"You're an Auror, aren't you? Shouldn't you be out there then?"
"You're obviously not up-to-date on my life, Evans," he said, allowing the last name basis to slip out in his short, mirthless laugh. "I work at the Daily Prophet. Today's my day off."
"What?" she asked, startled. "But you and Black always said in Hogwarts that your dream was to be Aurors."
"Mary talked me out of that after Sirius… er, passed away," he said sadly, and she knew she had struck a cord with mentioning his best friend. "Too dangerous. I guess I see her logic now." He paused, probably thinking about Sirius Black again before continuing with the conversation they now had going on. "But what about you? You work at a bridal barn?"
She shrugged. "Not exactly my dream job, but it's enough for me."
"Didn't you want to be a Healer like Mary?"
"I wanted to be a Healer, yes. I always wanted to help people."
"Oh, yeah, a great help you are now."
"Don't take that sarcastic tone with me, Potter. I decided against it when I failed my Potions NEWT."
"I remember that. How could you have failed that? I remember you were always leaving Head duties to study for that one especially."
Lily took a deep breath and let it out in the form of a sigh. "I couldn't concentrate. I was too busy thinking about… stuff."
He nodded in understanding, remembering the previous night to their NEWTs all too well. He, however, had been able to concentrate most of the time, though, despite all that had happened. Trying to not be too awkward, he finally said, "I should be going now, Miss Evans. It was nice to see you again. I'm sure Mary will contact you again to reschedule lunch."
"Yes. Could you please tell her that I'm sorry she couldn't make it?"
Barely able to hold back the tears as she struggled up the staircases to reach the Fat Lady, Lily easily ran into something strong and hard as she tried to maneuver through hazy eyes. When she looked up to see what was blocking her path, she discovered a very well-known face before her. "Black!" she exclaimed shakily.
His arms extended to steady her as he said, "Are you all right, Evans?"
She nodded determinedly as the tears finally overflowed and began to fall down her cheeks.
"Erm, I don't think you are," he replied.
"I'm fine," she snapped, her voice cracking on the second word, as she tried to force her way past him.
Easily criticizing her bad job of trying to escape him, Sirius held her in place. "You see, I don't really understand how you can say that with those little wet streaks down your face and the droplets of salty water collecting on and falling from your chin. For some reason, you being fine and those tears just don't match up in my book. So, until you tell me what's wrong or beat me up, I don't think I'm going to let you go," he reasoned.
She tried to escape him again but already knew it was futile. Eventually, she stopped struggling and sighed in frustration. "Fine," she said after a long time, "I'll tell you."
"I'm upset because I've just realized that I've just started my period."
He quickly pulled his hands away from her at that point to give her space in case she bit his head off and yelled at him or something of the like as she was known to do. But, when he noticed she was laughing, he realized that she had just said that so that he would release her. "Damn," he muttered, angry that he had fallen for it, but he replaced his hands where they were to stop her again.
She didn't try to run away again, though. Laughter was just what she had needed at that point, and, once she had started laughing, she couldn't stop. Her short, small giggle had turned into a hysterical, uncontrollable mess that took a lot of energy to end. When she finally did stop, she turned to him and said, "Thank you for that," with a smile.
"You're welcome?" he answered hesitantly. "So, you gonna tell me or not?"
Lily's smile faded, and she said, "I guess I could, but only if you promise not to tell a soul, especially James Potter."
"But James is my best friend," he whined.
"There are some things I keep from Elle, so no complaining," she snapped in return.
He huffed but agreed nonetheless.
"Well," she began slowly, "I like this guy, but I know he doesn't like me because he has a girlfriend."
He was unfazed by this. "And?"
"And I just realized that I ruined any chance I have with him because I'm stupid and stubborn."
"Hey, that's just part of being a Gryffindor."
"I really don't need you to comment on everything, Black."
"He just told me that he did really like me, but the way he said it insinuated that he doesn't anymore and he won't ever again. I lost all chance with him—I know I did," grumbled Lily, balling her hand into a fist and flinging it at the nearest thing, which happened to be Sirius's chest.
"Oops," she mumbled apologetically.
He let go of her again and rubbed the place where she had hit him as he asked, "How do you know you lost all chance?"
"I just do," insisted Lily.
He snorted at that. "Oh yeah, since you're always right. That's definitely why you actually missed a question in class yesterday."
"Thanks so much, Black, for raising my self-esteem," she responded sarcastically, rolling her eyes. "You're really making me feel so much better."
"At least I'm trying."
"No, you're not."
"All right, so you're correct this time but it's not all the time. I'm just saying that, although intuition is usually correct, it isn't always. You might still have a chance."
"I doubt it. He's getting really serious with this girl. She's practically in love with him."
"Practically is not the same as actually being in love. Besides, are you in love with him?"
After a moment's hesitation, she said, "I'm not sure, but I know I really like him, as much as this girl does anyway."
"Well, figure that out before you cry over him. If he really matters, he's worth crying over, but, if you don't love him, then don't cry."
She sniffled but still was able to eye him suspiciously. "You know, it's a bit strange to be hearing this from you, Sirius Black. You're anything but a paragon of virtue and finding true love."
"Yeah, well, you're listening anyway, aren't you? And I am making pretty good sense, I know."
She laughed lightly once more. "Thanks again."
He bowed lowly to her. "Anything for a lady, especially one as beautiful and lovely as you, Miss Evans."
"What was it like?"
Lily had been very startled when she had seen him storm into the bridal store, his face wrought over with anger and frustration and fear and longing. She hadn't understood any of it, even when he had said those words. She shook her head in confusion, signaling that she didn't comprehend his question, and took him aside and away from the customers. "What is it?" she finally asked him once they were in private.
"I just want to know what it was like with him."
"Sirius, when you were with Sirius."
"Like, in our relationship?"
She looked back, trying to remember everything that had happened just after graduating from Hogwarts. "I guess it started at the beginning of the semester before we graduated. I was upset and he helped me, which I really wasn't expecting. I think that's when I first started to accept that he wasn't as bad as I thought he was before then."
"Not that. I've heard that before from him."
"Well, I just wanted to make sure you knew it all," she snapped. "Don't interrupt me." After a deep breath, she continued, "Maybe five months after graduation, we ran into each other again. The two of you had started training to be Aurors, so he was very busy, but he asked me to have dinner with him anyway—just as friends to check up on everything.
"When I told him that I had gotten over… what I had needed to get over, he was very happy, so, the next time he asked me out, he meant it as an actual date, which he thankfully clarified. If he hadn't clarified, I don't think I would have even understood. I'm not good with relationships, after all.
"We started being boyfriend and girlfriend a month after that. You know most of what happened in here, I'm sure, because he must have told you most of it."
"This isn't what I want to know. You know what I mean."
She nodded, scared to even think about what he wanted to know. He had never asked this of her before—no one had since it had happened—and she was afraid to say it out loud. It had been a long time, but it was still scary and painful, and it still seemed dangerous in a way. "Okay, here we go.
"It was on Halloween—I remember that. It was October 31, 1978. For some reason, the whole day had just felt weird and out of place. We had just left the Order meeting when it happened. All of a sudden, they were on us. We couldn't tell what was going on at first. It was so dark and they were wearing black, so I couldn't see them very well but for the spells that were bursting from the ends of all the wands. The Cruciatus Curse was used a lot—I remember that very well—on Sirius, I think. And, then, all of a sudden, there was a green flash, and then I remember hearing Dumbledore's voice and hitting my head. That's all I remember, I swear."
James nodded dejectedly as his head slumped down to his chest.
"What brought this on?" she asked curiously, reaching a hand out to touch his shoulder as comfortingly as she could.
He shrugged away from her and replied, "I was just thinking back to our conversation the other day when I realized that you called him by his surname. I was confused, wondering if something had happened before… before the incident."
Lily shook her head to try to assure him. "No, I loved him."
"Then, why do you call him by his surname now that he's gone?"
"Well, when I say I loved him, I don't mean in the way that a man and a woman love each other. I mean that I loved him as a friend. I remember that, on that very day, I had been planning to, after the meeting of the Order, end my relationship with him because it just didn't feel right to me. I just wanted to be friends with him, and saying 'Black' instead of 'Sirius' was just a way to do that without actually saying it aloud or to his face because he's now dead and I can't really say it to his face. Besides, that's just who he is to me from all the years I knew him."
He nodded again and started to leave the shop.
"Wait," she called after him. "Don't just leave. I've barely seen you in a long time. We should… we should get together some time to talk about what's been happening." She knew she would regret it if he agreed, but she also knew she would regret it even more if she never saw him again for the rest of her life.
"Fine by me," he said and stepped outside.
Lily sighed, realizing that, even after all the years of trying to get over him and liking other people, she still liked him… or, as she had told Sirius all those years ago, she was still at least practically in love with him.
Thanks so much for reading. Please leave me a review!