IMPORTANT: This story will no longer be updated in its current version. My writing style has simply changed too much in the six years since I started this. Instead, I will be crafting a new version from scratch that will incorporate some of the old plot, but most of it will be fresh material.
I am in the process of finishing an outline and then writing the first chapter. In the meantime, I will be posting a companion/sequel piece entitled Into the Twilight We Go.
A big thank you goes out to those of you still interested in reading this. I apologize for leaving you all hanging, but I'll do my best to make the new version worth the wait for my writing skills to mature. Please feel free to PM/email me with questions (other than when I am going to update).
Chapter 15 – James the Hyena
Not long after Lily and James had established their dubious truce, Madame Pomfrey came bustling into the room to check on Harry. After fussing over his sleeping form, all the while muttering a few choice words about the dangers of Quidditch, she turned to the two anxious parents-to-be with a reassuring smile.
"He just needs a good night's rest and he'll be as good as new. I gave him some sleeping medication, which ensures that he won't wake up until tomorrow morning. Although the two of you are more than welcome to stay here for the night, I greatly advise you to return to your dorms and rest properly. Merlin knows it's been a long, trying day for all of us."
Both Lily and James breathed sighs of relief at the proclamation that their son would be all right. Neither of them, however, had any intention of leaving his side and told Madame Pomfrey as much. She nodded in understanding and left the three of them alone in the ward.
An uneasy silence immediately settled over the room as Lily and James both groped for something to say.
A nagging concern kept popping into Lily's mind, even though her better judgment cautioned her to let the issue rest for the moment. Before common sense could take over, she blurted out, "How long have you known?"
The question instantly caught James' attention, causing his head to snap up in surprise. "About you and Harry?"
Lily nodded in affirmation and gestured for him to continue.
James sighed in resignation and reluctantly stated, "Well, I wasn't sure of anything until you all but confirmed it tonight, but I've had the idea for a while. I guess the first time I started to suspect was the day I walked in on you and Harry in the boys' dorm, hugging on the floor. I knew that something had changed in your attitude towards Harry, since you seemed to be avoiding him like the plague up until then. And then you two started to spend practically every waking moment together, and I just sorta figured it out."
Lily was surprised at his answer. "You mean you didn't just all of a sudden discover something that convinced you of the truth? Or, Harry didn't mention anything?"
"No, there was nothing sudden. And why would Harry mention anything to me? The two of you apparently agreed that it was 'for the best' to leave me completely in the dark," James trailed off bitterly, referring to Lily's earlier excuse of why James hadn't been told of the situation.
Lily winced at the bitterness and hurt evident in the tone of his voice. She had the grace to look down at her hands in shame, nervously twiddling her thumbs. He was absolutely right. He didn't deserve to be left out. For perhaps the first time in six years, Lily agreed with James Potter.
"I just hope both of you know what you're doing," James spoke up again. "I mean, have either of you really thought this through? Getting too close to each other could very well result in the both of you being devastated when we have to return to our own time."
Without warning, James' hands shot out to grip Lily tightly by the shoulders as he looked imploringly into her eyes. "Please, Lily. You have to realize that it's never going to work." He searched her face for any hint of a response to this outburst, silently begging her to understand.
She raised her hands up to her shoulders to settle on top on James' and slowly slid their clasped hands down to hang between the two of them. James briefly ran his thumbs in a circle around the palms of her hands, before releasing them. He was still awaiting an answer. When one finally came, it was definitely not what he expected.
"What are you talking about?" There appeared to be nothing but utter confusion on the redhead's face.
"What do you mean, 'What are you talking about?' Are you so blinded by your feelings that you don't even acknowledge the fact that you're both going to hurt each other incredibly when we leave?" James couldn't believe that Lily could be so completely irrational about the whole situation. She always seemed to be one to think things through before she made any major decisions.
"Well, it's not like I'll never see him again," Lily momentarily paused at the thought of what ensuring Harry's existence would entail for her personally, but the idea of eventually getting together with James somehow didn't seem to be as horrific as she had once envisioned. Surely, that was just because she had become accustomed to the notion. She quickly appended, "That is, if everything still goes to plan, with us being in the future and all. I don't remind that I'll have to wait a few years to see him again. He'll catch up eventually."
It was official, James decided. Lily Evans had truly lost her mind. She simply had to be insane to even consider extending her and Harry's relationship to a time when she'll be twenty years his senior. She was going to wait twenty years to be with James' future son. The madness of her intentions instigated a most unlikely response from him.
James started to chuckle. Then he chuckled a bit more. Gradually, his mirth grew in magnitude until he was all but rolling on the floor, clutching his stomach to prevent himself from keeling over. The funniest thing of all was that James didn't find anything to be the least bit funny, which made it all the more comical. Wait…that made no sense. But it fit with the sheer lunacy of the situation.
Clearly, this wasn't the response Lily was expecting. "Okay, James Potter," she tried to refrain from screaming at the hysterical boy, but failed miserably. "First you're mad because Harry and I didn't explicitly tell you what was going on. Then, you claim to have suspected something all along, but never showed any indication of knowing what was going on nor acted in the least bit upset. You even tried to be nice to me on a few occasions." Lily's voice steadily rose in a crescendo as she continued, "But now, tonight, you go and blame ME for not telling you, and you have the NERVE to basically tell me to stay away from Harry! Then, you go spouting all this cryptic crap about Harry and me getting hurt just because we wanted to get to know each other a little bit!"
At this point of her tirade, James had ceased his hysteria and merely stared at Lily in dumb fascination as she ranted on.
"And then, you just start LAUGHING like a hyena when I try to set you straight! Have you finally lost what little sense you had? Or are you just mad because you think I'm hogging all of Harry's time that should 'rightfully' belong to you? Huh? Answer me, James!" Lily panted, slightly out of breath as she awaited a reply.
"Uh…James?" The look on his face was enough to further grate on Lily's already worn nerves. "WHY are you just staring at me like that? Say something!"
A pregnant pause hung between them before he finally spoke up, "You want to know what's so funny, Evans?" There was something in the dangerously quiet tone of his voice that made Lily suck in a breath in apprehension. The volume of his voice did not increase as he continued, causing her to lean closer in order to hear him. Even at their closer proximity, however, Lily had to strain to catch his next words. "I find it simply hilarious that you're dating my future son!"
There was total silence in the room.
So that was it. The sheer absurdity of their argument had boiled down to just a huge misunderstanding. He thought that Lily was dating Harry. Lily was DATING Harry. Lily was dating HARRY.
When she had been trying to reason logically with him and nothing she said had been funny whatsoever, James had laughed his head off. When he made a statement so utterly absurd that it should have sent her into peals of laughter, all she could do was stare at him dumbly. What irony.
"What?" James sneered. "Is it starting to sink in now? Do you finally realize what a huge mistake you're making now that I've spelled it out for you? Have-"
Lily gently pressed a finger against his lips as she said softly, "Is that what you've been thinking all this time? That I was dating Harry?"
James' eyes widened in disbelief and confusion. Did he dare to hope that he was wrong? "Are you?" He silently pleaded with her to say no.
"Of course not, you prat." The insult, however, was spoken with a tone that made it seem almost endearing.
He breathed an immense sigh of relief. He had never been so glad to be wrong. "You're not." The statement came out partially as a question for her to affirm this and partially as a way to convince himself of a fact that he was still processing.
"James, look at me." He did so. It was Lily's turn to take him by the shoulders as she gazed steadily into his eyes. "I promised that there is absolutely nothing romantic going on between me and Harry. Never was, never will be. Do you understand?"
He nodded slowly at her words. The determined gleam in her eyes caused him to believe her without a doubt. "Wait, so then what were we arguing about all this time? I mean, you were getting awfully defensive."
Lily took her hands off of his shoulders as she groped desperately for a reply. Since she now knew that he hadn't figured out the truth, it was hardly appropriate to tell him of his future. Things between them were already awkward enough. She had found out by accident, but he didn't have to know.
"I thought that you were getting jealous because I was spending so much time with your son." Our son, she amended to herself. It amazed her that she actually wanted to proclaim that she was also responsible for Harry's existence. With a deep breath, she lied, "I was mad because I thought you didn't want it that way. I mean, knowing that your future son is becoming close friends with someone you hate can't be the best feeling in the world."
Slowly, James' arms came up to wrap around Lily in a comforting embrace. Is that what she had been thinking? That he despised her that much? "I don't hate you," he murmured reassuringly.
Her soft smile rendered further words unnecessary. Silence again pervaded the room, but this time, the hush was welcome. Lily and James remained in each other's arms, both lost in their own thoughts.
Looking back on their previous argument that night, Lily recalled how hurt James had seemed. At first, she had attributed it to resentment that she was spending more time with Harry than he was. But now that she knew there had been much more to it than mere envy, Lily was stunned to find out that she cared. She cared that her actions had given him pain. She cared about James. She cared a lot.
James was the one to interrupt the quiet as an odd question popped into his mind. "Uh, Lily? There's something that I still don't quite understand."
"Hmm? And what's that?" She awaited the question with a small amount of trepidation, hoping he hadn't already noticed one of the numerous holes in her clumsy explanation.
"What's a hyena?"