Disclaimer: It's a good thing that I'm not JK Rowling, because my publisher would be extremely mad at me right now for disappearing off the face of the earth for four months without so much as a postcard. And this is why I shall never be a published author.
A/N: I'm a rude, inconsiderate author, so it's a good thing the world has people as awesome as you to balance horrible people like me out. Thanks to: Jasper winked, softballer1990, AsItThunders, IheartZacharyGoode, BACswimma, plzkthx101, pea blue, LyLMystikeLf, FollowThisRhythm, luunasonshine, CluainnFhada, Percabeth95, SicilyRoyalty, twinklewind, loyalreader, tanktutu, Mellanie Black, Artfull Dodger, HorribleHolly, WalkingOnSonshine, LazyLibra, sunstone-dono, Avidreadr, -Lost In The Stars-, , Moogley, A Morning Star, milly, Anon, aragorn is mine, A-Lady, phantasmagoria .x., Butterfly1989, Demitria 837, Alex507, wolfgirl111, jasmineflower27, Magical Singer Gal, XxX-SparklingEyes-XxX, sophiascribbles, Katie, Coloring the Sky, Shino Kouba, Pyromaniac-Girl, MissDreamy, stormysky, Amehh, Tyem Marodyor, RainingRain, moony391, Jessiquie, DanceDiva, Kiley 1 09, Greenwich Girl, Zaziness, Adosia, blah248, bookworm2butterfly, CC Chels, angelofmynightmare, ElvendorkLuVer, Justine, alesiiiiiitaaa, SparklyVamp, Lucykevinfan, Kiara Avalon, EdwardsLily, muddy worm, cannotstopwriting, princess sana, pippiboo, FallingForFootie, coffee dessert, bealen, x-Nimue-x, theXblueXcray0n, Ali Keys, CL7, ellesra, ..Wannabe., zozotheterrible, ProngsLover, Whisperheart, HerGoldenWings, clap your hands say Claire, Vampires and Penguins, Amethyst-Heart, The Travelling Pants, N7 Space Marine, Randomisation,and last but certainly not least, SoManyObsessions. You guys are amazing, and if it weren't for your threats/reviews, this chapter most definitely would never have been completed. So, applaud yourselves and thank each other. You are the reason this story was completed.
I don't have an excuse as to why I was MIA for so long. I'm going to school overseas this year, but I can't even blame the time change. Sadly, I had extreme writer's block; ideas wouldn't come, and anything I tried to force was just plain aweful. I probably have about five different copies of this chapter, every one of them different. I spent an incredible amount of time on this chapter, and I hope it shows...with that sad, I hate writing endings. I'm not good at them. I just can't find a way to make it all feel complete. So, in all honesty, I was dreading writing this chapter, which probably help explains why it took so long to be posted. Isn't it funny how people say they don't have an excuse but then proceed to list off about four of them. Oh, my life...
And, yes, this is the last chapter of Penmanship Smitten. I'm so thrilled to finally be done with this story; I've worked for over a year on this thing, and I'm proud that I've finally finished it. Thanks for sticking with me on this incredibly, inconsistent, and bumpy journey. Stick around after the chapter to read further bamblings from me. You know you want to. ;)
Here's a quick recap since it's been so long: In chapter 13, Lily finally figured out the truth about Prongs by consulting her letters and pounding Emmeline with questions until she finally cracked. Lily also found out about Remus's "Moony" condition and confronted him about it, thus ending up giving Remus a letter from her to give to James. This letter said, quite simply, "Come to me." However, James failed to act for the entire weekend, causing Lily to go into a state of extreme panic. Come Monday afternoon, she wasn't expecting anything, but that's when James went and surprised her again. He produced his Patronus and Lily nearly fainted with wonder. And, there ya go. That's where this chapter will pick up.
Chapter 14: Story of the Doe and the Stag
Then you come crashing in
Like the realest thing
Trying my best to understand
All that your love can bring
Oh, half of my heart's got a grip on the situation
Half of my heart takes time
Oh, I've never been so wrapped up, honey
I like the way you're everything I ever wanted
I had time to think it all over
And all I can say is come closer,
Take a deep breath and jump
Then fall into me
--John Mayer, Half of My Heart; Taylor Swift, Jump Then Fall
It was funny to think about how, an hour earlier, I'd been so afraid of him ditching me; yet, here I was, ditching him.
For some explanation that not even I could come up with, I found myself standing in the middle of some deserted classroom on the seventh floor alone, breathing hard. After all, I wasn't in any kind of athletic shape and I had just bolted from the Defense lesson, wanting to beat the mad rush of students before the bell rang. To be honest, I actually did have a perfectly good explanation as to why I'd broken my yearly jogging schedule to run throughout the halls of Hogwarts; I had wanted—no, needed—to get away from James Potter and his ability to pull my heart strings in order to just recollect myself, and it frustrated me. I had originally believed that I had thought enough about this, had taken enough time to pull my thoughts about James being Prongs together into a comprehensive plan for action.
But after seeing him with Prongs—I felt like I'd been torn into two. The new Lily who wanted a boy, and the old Lily who was still afraid of letting go.
I'd never felt this way about anyone before—any man—in my life. The two of them together—the two boys who had accomplished what no other could—had blown me away. They had been so…perfect together. So perfect, in fact, that the emotions it had built inside of me had frightened me enough that I had scampered away from him.
I'd wanted him.
And it had scared me.
Yet I hadn't expected to run away. But I'd gotten used to realizing that I usually acted differently than what I had expected when it came to James Potter and Prongs. So, I suppose this idea of mine to hide away in a deserted classroom shouldn't have surprised me. And what if he thought he'd made a mistake by showing me? Perhaps he'd figured out that I wasn't what he wanted after all, which was a pity, really, seeing as I was emotionally ready to want him; at least that hadn't changed—my fondness towards him—because if there had been one worry that I hadn't wanted to admit even to myself, it was that I was afraid that finding out James was Prongs would ruin everything. The worry I'd never thought about was how his feelings might have changed towards me after showing me Prongs.
I also never thought about how hard it was going to be for me to tell him that I wanted him.
My eyes wandered helplessly around the dimly-lit room; there were a few desks shoved up against the walls, a bookcase, and a quiet so silent that I could hear my own ridiculously loud breaths. Since I had nothing better to do than think about things that would depress me—like James changing his mind which left me oddly breathless—I walked over to the bookcase and looked at the selection. They were all thick volumes that seemed to deal with some lesson of Defense Against the Dark Arts, and ironically enough, the Patronus charm. Oh, James. Merlin, what were the odds that I would choose this classroom? Angrily, I chucked one of the books into the corner where it landed with a thud and fell open. As I stared at, I began to feel guilty about damaging the innocent book and embarrassed that I was reacting this way because of a boy. What had come over me? Stupid, beautiful James Potter always screwed up my personality disorders.
The book had fallen open to a page that was entitled, "What's Your Patronus?"
I laughed darkly; I couldn't bloody well create a Patronus, so how I was I supposed to know?
It took a split second for me to pull out my wand from my pocket as I desperately searched my mind for a happy memory. Family, friends, Hogwarts. Nothing seemed to work, and I quickly became frustrated with myself as the only result I obtained from my stress was that stupid spray of white smoke. And I wasn't even practicing with a threat at hand, as a Dementor sucked the happiness from me. What would become of me then when I couldn't even do it in an empty classroom where I was as safe as could be? I was smart. I should be able to do this.
I mumbled an obscenity under by breath as a puff of white fog floated from my wand. Sweat began to gather on my palms, causing my wand to become slippery. So concentrated was I that I didn't even hear the door open, so when a voice called out my name, I jumped, tripping over the book that I'd thrown on the floor and landing on my buttocks rather painfully. My wand clattered to my feet.
That's karma, my friends.
"Lily?" James asked again in a shocked manner upon seeing me on the ground as he walked into the room. I silently cursed myself, scrambling to my feet and brushing off my hands in the most dignified manner I could manage. Blimey, I wouldn't blame him for not wanting me. I watched him as his eyes switched from my disarray state to the door, his eyebrows scrunched in confusion. I wanted to slap him across the face for looking so adorable.
He swung his face back towards me, stuffing a brown piece of parchment into his robes. "But—" he paused. "I didn't see you…"
Like I had a clue what he was talking about. Did I ever? So, I said nothing, turning my back on him and picking up the book that I'd fallen over. I could feel his gaze on my back, and it seemed to burn me, sending a warmth through my blood that caused me to shiver. Merlin, did the imbecile not know that I wished to be alone? I wouldn't blame him if he didn't, actually, because I didn't even know exactly why I wanted to be. Any normal girl would have prayed to Merlin to be in my position—the guy that she liked chasing after her—but, I'd already accepted that I wasn't a normal girl.
For some reason, his presence irritated me to no end. Perhaps it had something to do with the way my body seemed to want to run at him while my mind wanted to think things over before making a move.
"What are you doing?" he asked curiously, and my heart jumped at how close he was. What a betrayal. Curse you, heart of mine.
"Practicing," I answered rather boldly, considering I felt like touching his chest and kicking him in the shins all at the same time.
He maneuvered himself around me so that he was facing me again, and he pulled the book from my grasp before I could prevent it. "Expecto Patronum?" The corners of his lips twitched slightly, as if his mouth was about to explode into a smirk. He stared at me as if he'd just realized he'd gotten an Outstanding when he'd though he'd failed. It made me feel uneasy.
"Yes, now give it back."
I snatched the book back.
His hazel orbs were examining me teasingly, as if he knew I had some hidden words that I wanted to throw at him. Oh, if only he knew. And maybe he did. It was him, after all. "So…" James said expectantly, taking a loud step forward.
In response to his advancement, I stumbled backwards, my wand out. "Your voice is breaking my concentration," I told him distractedly, trying to remember the happy memory I'd been working with earlier. But it was hard. His breaths seemed to match the pattern of my heart.
His footsteps echoed off of the stone walls of the circular room as he approached me, causing a lump to jump to my throat with each beat. "Really?" he asked in mock curiosity, "I thought it would help," he finished seriously. He stopped half a foot in front of my face, and that anxiety lump finally lodged itself in my esophagus, cutting off my breath. "You need a happy memory," he continued.
I struggled to find my vocal chords. "What does that have to do with—?"
"Lily," he began with a laugh even though his eyes were intent on mine, "do you still like me?"
My heart thudded once, stopped, and then began to sprint across my chest. I could only gape at him wordlessly as I attempted to quell the heat that had instantly flashed up my neck to my cheeks at his inquisition. His eyes were darker than normal, I noticed, as if they'd retreated into his brain, and every time he blinked his dark lashes cast shadows across his cheekbones. And then somehow my hand had found his, had wrapped themselves around his fingers as if on its own accord. I stared at our hands in embarrassing horror, then to his face, and then to the ground once I saw the grin there. For a split second, as I examined the pattern that the floor made and felt James' fingers knead gently into my hand, things felt right. The touch of him was just as naturally comforting as it had been in Hogsmeade.
I quickly dropped his hand, suddenly feeling self-conscious and—just as quickly—a surge of unexplainable displeasure crashed over me. I felt like flinging myself at him again. We stared at each other, and a thought occurred to me then. I needed him. I just wasn't quite sure on how to go about telling him that, because it sounded lame even inside of my own head; it made me feel a vulnerability that I'd never experienced before.
"You told me you couldn't produce a Patronus?" I accused instead.
"You told me you didn't want to know who Prongs was," he reminded me.
My eyes narrowed as I glanced up from the floor to peer at him anxiously. "You're Prongs?" I clarified, though it came out sounding like a question. He nodded, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, as if he'd thought about moving closer but had stopped himself. "Huh," I found myself saying before I reached out to touch his wrist lightly, trailing my index finger across his palm as if it'd been pulled there by some divine Accio charm. And though I felt like berating my hand again for betraying me, when I looked at him, something clicked; Prongs was real, standing here with me, and I was fighting it. Why?
Our eyes locked. "You don't want me to be," he wondered.
No, I mean yes—I mean, I want you to be, I felt like saying, as if we were in some predictable Muggle, teenage romance film. I tried to find the right words inside of my brain, tried to rearrange them so they would make sense, but my blush kept them securely away from my mouth. I felt too insecure to unleash my feelings I was having to him. I'd never wanted to be the corny girl: the one who made pathetic exclamations of affection just to try to get a date in order to feel needed. "Well," I began slowly, giving myself time to think about my response. "You're better than Sirius."
His eyes lightened as if he were a child who'd just bought his wand for the first time. And perhaps he didn't need the typical words for declarations; he just needed the right ones.
"I'll take that as a compliment," he responded, chuckling. His eyes glanced to my lips, which caused my head to feel as if it were on runaway broomstick—scared and queasy—and I wondered if he was thinking about our almost-kiss, just like I was. As I watched his features anxiously, I suddenly had a strong desire to run and glue my feet to the floor at the same time. He picked up my wand-hand, then, so that both of us had a hold on it.
"So, what was your memory?" he asked out of the blue. It was so random, that it took me a moment to figure out what he was talking about. I mean, I was grateful for the change of subject from my affection towards him to a Patronus, and once again I was struck with how well James seemed to know all of my odd quirks. But, it left me dissatisfied that he hadn't done anything, hadn't told me that he wanted me too.
Godric, I didn't even know what I wanted.
I had to scramble my thoughts back up from my scattered brain to remember it. Thinking about Hogsmeade and his lips, and his breath on my lips, left me wonderfully shaken. "The Christmas before Hogwarts, when my entire family was together," I nearly stuttered.
He dropped my hand and my wand. "That's an event, right?"
I nodded absent-mindedly, frowning at his hand that was no longer covering mine.
"I find it easier," he began, as he walked around me, stopping at my back so that I could feel his breath on my neck; I couldn't stop the goosebumps from erupting down my spine, "if my memory is an emotion that made me happy, not just an event." And he immediately wrapped his arm around the right side of my body, trapping my wand arm to my side, and placed his palm lightly against my chest so that it was just a flutter of a touch. "An emotion that changed me here."
My heart began to pump ecstatically and rather embarrassingly against his hand as he pressed into it, as if it were trying to jump out to greet him too. With each beat, a different memory came to me—the excitement of finding a boy that I actually wanted to be close with, the comfort of his hand in mine in Hogsmeade, how my heart had expanded and yearned to be with him at the sight of him and Prongs, the peace I had with James even when he was crossing the boundaries I'd drawn up around myself.
"James," I breathed, feeling his hand rise and fall with each inhale and exhale, "get away from me."
I felt his hand stiffen, felt the absence of his warm breath against my neck as he sucked in a hiss of air. "Now," I emphasized.
As soon as his arm unwound from me, I raised my wand into the air with a flick before this feeling within me could fade. "Expecto Patronum," I practically bellowed.
Something beautiful and white exploded from the tip of my wand and floated to the ground a good distance from me. One of its four slender, yet powerful, legs rose about to take a step forward, and it's short tail twitched as its two ears flickered and pointed upwards, sensing us. Just as the brightness faded, and I could make out the animal, its shape began to waver. As if by instinct, I reached my arms towards it, trying to catch it before it disappeared. Less than a second later, she faded in a puff of white mist.
It had been a doe.
My heart swelled.
James and I were a match.
Holding hands with James Potter was something that I would never get used to; though, of course, I hoped I would get used to it eventually, because that would mean it would have happened more than enough. Then again, it did make me feel slightly out of balance, like someone had transformed my legs into jelly, but—
Oh, what was I doing?
Here I was, finally walking alongside James Potter—well, actually, it was more like he was dragging along a useless lump because I was still too busy marveling over the fact that my Patronus had taken the shape of a female deer—and I was contemplating how many times I would be able to touch his bloody fingers before my old-non girlie self resurfaced. This was so not like me. Then again, James did have the tendency to turn my preconceived notions about myself upside down. While Prongs had altered me emotionally, James had changed me physically; he had made me begin to develop certain urges, a need to touch him and feel the electric bolt that jolted through my veins, feelings that I had never had before.
And now James and his alter ego were one.
I was irreversibly different.
I could actually confirm that I was a girl now.
But right now, with him, I wasn't worried that Emmeline and Mary would mirthlessly tease me to no end. Everything felt balanced, in its place, like I was meant to be here with him. Nevertheless, my heart was still pumping like the wings of a Hippogriff after my Patronus experience and I was having trouble regaining basic functions, like moving my feet. And for the love of Merlin, this fire that seemed to be raging throughout my limbs was driving me absolutely insane. The tiny hairs on my arms stood up, almost as if they were reaching out to him, as he sat us down by the lake outside in the school grounds. Well, at least there was water nearby if I happened to just randomly combust into flames.
Our knees brushed against each other as we sat cross-legged on the grass; his hands played with my fingers, leaving them pleasantly tingling. "So," he said, watching me with a hint of a smug smile, "your Patronus is a female counterpart to mine."
"Shut up," I retorted, pinching him in the thumb. "It had nothing to do with you whatsoever."
I wasn't convinced that James had personally had a hand in forming the shape my Patronus took—after all, I refused to believe that a boy could have changed me that significantly—yet, I knew he'd had a part in helping me produce it. Seeing that the two were pairs, my doe and his stag, had given me renewed confidence. Prongs and I had fit together intellectually; James and I had been physically compatible. And now our protectors, our inner-beings, belonged together. Seeing the two together had finally made up my bipolar mind.
I'd never given much thought into fate, but it felt like James had always been meant for me. It had just taken me six years of time to realize it.
James shook his head, the wind mussing up his hair even more that it already naturally was, his eyes bright. "Think what you want, Lily."
But just because my body and my mind were combined in their goal to get my words to admit my feelings to James didn't mean I'd overcome my fear of taking that step. My brain fumbled over his innocent statement, reading too much into it. What did I want? I wanted him; I knew that. But telling him—it was hard to go against the person I thought I'd been for seventeen years. I watched him as he turned his head to look out across the lake, observing the strong line of his jaw and wondering why I found it so hard to tell him how I felt. "You know," he began, "I'm surprised you took the Prongs revelation so easily."
Because it made sense, I thought to myself, I liked you both. "Well, I do have some questions," I replied instead, observing the grass beneath us.
Unaware of my inner coward-complex, he just smiled. "Naturally."
I took that as an invitation to begin. "Why were you so awful to me last year?"
It took him a few seconds to think it over; I could see it on his face. The way his jaw clenched and his eyebrows furrowed together. "Well, to be honest, when I started this I didn't even think about what would happen when you figured it out—" He paused. "I don't think I really planned on using Prongs to get to you." He must have seen the dubious, doubtful look on my face. "I really didn't intend for it to get so out of hand," James explained, "it's just that when you wrote me back, and you had even seemed flirty—"
My back stiffened on instinct of the assumption. "—I had not!"
"—there seemed to be a girl in you yet," he said, ignoring me by giving my hand a squeeze. "At least you could open up to Prongs."
I was a bit miffed about his flirtatious comment, because I hadn't been, and I didn't like the thought of me being flirty. It seemed too frilly for my liking, and it made me angry that I couldn't get past that. "You haven't answered my question."
He sighed deeply. "Sometimes, guys are just idiots, Lily. I was upset that you liked Prongs more than me, even though we were the same person. And I figured that if you would take a guy you never met over me, I had no chance. I guess I also hoped that if I backed off, you'd come to me."
"Well, that was stupid," I muttered, even though I knew his plan had worked. I had been extremely confused by his attitude, even hurt. I'd taken any opportunity last year to cross paths with him to see if he reacted in that same detached, rude way. I glanced at his face, and I swear James smiled like he had just heard everything I'd thought inside of my head. "I have another one," I said, switching the focus. "Your friends didn't want me to know," I stated.
His hands froze momentarily on top of mine. "No, not really."
It was silent for a second, except for our breaths and the chilly wind, as James stared at me pensively. "We made up the Marauders as a secret between us," he answered, and I could tell by how slowly he chose his words that he was choosing his answer very carefully. My curiosity sparked as James' expression became more at ease and his words flowed more smoothly; I felt like I was missing something important. "We didn't want the school to know," he continued with more gusto, "we thought the mystery of it would take people's minds off of the evil happening outside the castle, although Sirius claims it was to keep McGonagall off our backs," he said, grinning fondly. "They especially didn't want you to find out, because you were a Prefect and so intent on doing a good job; they thought for sure you'd turn us in."
I tried to ignore my suspicion; I was probably throwing things majorly out of proportion, again, and it would only drive me away from him. "Well, I'm glad they think so highly of me," I stated sarcastically. "What are their code names anyways, Prongs?" I asked, not able to stop the smile as I finally addressed him.
"Sirius is Padfoot, Peter is Wormtail, and Remus is Moony," James answered, as if those names had been a part of him since birth.
I thought about that for a while, thinking over everything he'd told me, everything I'd deduced from the letters, all the truths I'd learned since then. The dog print must be Padfoot and Wormtail's the rat. Ha. A rat Patronus; for some reason, that was really amusing to me. And then something hit me. "How did you four learn the Patronus charm when you were fifteen?" I asked incredulously.
James paused instantly, the space between his eyebrows crinkling in confusion. "What?"
There was too much confusion in his tone of voice. "The names and the animal footprints—that Stag is clearly yours, seeing as it's your Patronus…" I trailed off as I saw the befuddlement continuing to take place on his face, and I instantly knew what had been bugging me since he'd brought up his friends. My expression fell doubtful. "I thought they were Patronuses."
His eyes flickered from my face, to the lake, to our intertwined hands. "Oh. Patronus," he nodded, "yeah, that's it."
My eyes narrowed at his obvious fib. It was too easy to read that look of his; I'd been doing it for years. Knowing when he'd done something wrong was an area I excelled in. "You're lying to me."
He held his breath as he looked at me. "I can't tell you, Lily," he exhaled, one of his hands grabbing mine a little bit too hard, squashing my fingers together.
"Would Prongs tell me?" I retorted.
"No. He wouldn't."
If he thought I was going to give this up—"Remus' is a werewolf print, because he is one—"
My hand instantly grew cold from the frosty air as his hands dropped mine and went to his forehead curled up into fists. "But that's hardly illegal, Lily."
I choked on the gulp of air that got stuck in my throat. Everything seemed to shut down. My brain functions, my blood flow, even my ears were ringing. "Illegal?" I questioned slowly. My mouth felt uncomfortably parched, like sand paper. I desperately wanted to laugh it off, because I knew he couldn't be serious, but then I saw him. His mouth popped open slightly, and he shut his eyes tightly, cursing himself underneath his breath.
Illegal! Trust my brain to fail me when I most needed it; I tried to gear it into action, but it was like trying to force a snapped wand to use Alohomora on a locked door. Animal footprints…not a Patronus...Moony's print was something he turned into…so, what was the answer? Something illegal. Think. There must have been something in the way I'd thought that through, because suddenly my brain fired a memory at me; not really a memory, but a picture, a picture of a letter.I could even hear it inside of my head, resounding off of my skull painfully. She's extremely intelligent—and being an Animagus gives her bonus points.
"Animagus?" I gasped from the top of my head, not thinking about what I was accusing him of and not really believing that my guess had any substance.
The word hung between us heavily. Slowly, his eyes reopened. "For the record, I didn't tell you a thing."
"I'm right?" I nearly shouted. His features were weary, so I attempted to lower my voice, knowing the consequence if the wrong person overheard. An unregistered Animagus meant time in Azkaban, and they must be unregistered because the ministry would never give teenagers the license to do it. "Merlin! And I thought producing a Patronus as a fifth year was impressive."
He was watching me closely, so I tried to arrange my face into a not-so-alarming expression. "It took us years to do it," he explained.
"I bet," I muttered distractedly.
I didn't know much about Wizard law. The only thing I knew about Azkaban was that it was a terrifying place to go, with Dementors and captured Death Eaters infesting the place. I didn't know anything about the procedures, or the trials, or the punishments—though just setting foot in the prison seemed like punishment enough. And what I knew of an Animagus I had learned in third year in McGonagall's class when she did her infamous cat trick. I knew an unregistered one had to spend time in Azkaban, but I didn't know how much time.
Some emotion began to creep into my system that sent my stomach into tumbling loops and caused my brain to pound against my skull.
"How dangerous is it?" I asked worriedly.
"Well the likelihood of getting caught is slim; we don't flaunt it. Severus might know—"
"—he told me about Moony. He tried to tell me about Remus for years," I clarified.
James smiled but his eyes darkened. "Yeah, he knows about Remus, but Dumbledore has Snape under lock and key," he said, "and I'm pretty sure that Dumbledore knows about Moony's companions as well, which speaks to the whole dangerous thing; Dumbledore hasn't stopped us yet."
"Companions?" I questioned quickly. A horrifying realization was bubbling up inside of me, taking a more solid form, forcing itself into my brain for analysis despite my stubbornness.
He reached for my hand again. "We didn't just do this for fun, trust me. The process is painful, that's why the Ministry must oversee it; there are so many things that can go wrong—" he broke off then, and I shivered; I was almost positive he did as well. "But we knew what Remus went through once a month, and bites don't affect other animals…well, it's damn painful, but they can be healed in a matter of hours if you know the right healing charms."
This idea, this story, was so foreign to me. It seemed more like a fairytale filled with woodland creatures rather than my own strange half-man, half-monster reality. My brain was trying to wrap around it, so the emotions I should have been feeling were being delayed from showing, which probably saved James from a severe telling off or a hex to the face. "You three go with him?" I asked, my voice rising dramatically with the last word.
"It's not nearly as dangerous as you're thinking," he promised as his hand took a more desperate hold around mine, as if he were trying to tug me out of the spiral of nightmares racing around my head.
"Yeah," I agreed crazily, "it sounds like a regular tea party with the queen."
"Not quite as boring, though," James said with a tight grin. "Lily, you should see how it's changed him. Having us there, it's like Remus is still in there as well." I felt his gaze on my cheeks. "Breathe, Evans," he reminded me.
I tried; I attempted to match by breaths to his, to calm down my racing heart. I stared at him, and it helped. "I wish it weren't you," I blurted out quietly.
His eyes watched me steadily. "I wish it weren't Remus."
For a few seconds, nothing was said. "You were never this selfless," I mumbled, trying to crack a joke in order to clear the uneasiness I felt towards James running around with a werewolf from my thoughts, "what happened?"
He just laughed, not taking me seriously, which was probably a good idea since I was just saying the first things that came to my head. "So, are we good then?" he asked.
When I looked at him, I caught the soft look to his eyes, how he was staring at me unashamedly—determined, yet pleading with me to understand. I nodded subtly, even though my mind was still processing the sight of a stag bursting from James' slim body. It just didn't make sense to me, and I realized I admired him for it. I bit my lip. Was I becoming a bad person? I mean, admiring an outlaw hardly seemed moral. "I suppose," I answered slowly, "although I'm running a bit sluggishly at the moment, so in a few hours my answer may be different."
"I'll take it," he declared enthusiastically.
"Is that it, then?" I continued, mentally shaking myself, "I mean, you're not going to tell me you're also an Auror by night, are you?"
He laughed at that, placing his hand comfortably on my knee. As if my brain wasn't running slowly enough, thank you. But his touch oddly cleared my mind as opposed to muddling it; the only thing that suddenly mattered was…him. Blast his effect on me. "No," he answered with a grin, "just Prongs and James."
"I suppose I should have known," I stated, a bit distracted by the heat his palm was radiating on my kneecap. "I mean, what were the odds that I would have found two different guys that I liked?"
For a fraction of a second, his fingers stopped tapping on my leg, and I only caught it because I had become strangely accustomed to the tickling sensation there. His head perked up. "Do you like Prongs more?"
Well, crap. I blamed him for distracting me with his Animagus story for letting that slip when I hadn't even planned it through yet. This was the question I'd avoided so cleverly back in that empty classroom and the whole time we'd been out here, and I had a feeling he wouldn't let me get away with that again. His eyes were burning too intently.
I needed more time—I needed to be logical, to plan out my response, to think about the consequences—the wind changed directions, and I caught his woody scent. Merlin, I wasn't cut out for this! My forehead was starting to spring a leak, and sweat was gathering up underneath my hairline. I wasn't cut out to be a girl. I swallowed noisily; Merlin, even my mouth was dry. Was this normal? That question shouldn't put this much stress on my body. "Is that what you were afraid of?" I half-stuttered thickly.
"Lily," he said, and my brain went into lock-down when his hand rested on my left cheek. "You didn't answer my question."
My mind was scrambled like eggs. "Well…" It was hard to think with him so close, and I had too much to think about. I was going to have an awful headache tonight. "You didn't answer mine."
He laughed, and his hot breath swept across my face. "I asked first, and I believe I've asked twice now."
Perhaps, if I closed my eyes, it would help me to think more clearly. Nope. All that did was cause my imagination to begin to think up of other things that we could be doing besides talking when we were this close—why were we wasting time with such informalities? At that thought, I instantly felt like hexing my lips shut. But when I opened my eyes again, his face was inches from mine as he leaned towards me on his knees, and I couldn't even remember my last name. And I couldn't look away because his bloody wonderful hand still had a hold on my cheek. Was it hot out here, or was that just me?
Maybe he was causing me to develop a fever.
"Can't you guess?" I retorted shakily.
"I just want to hear you say it."
Oh, for the love of everything magical…I sucked in a gulp of frosty air. "Prick," I found myself muttering.
He just grinned as if he understood the internal battle raging inside of me—as if he knew this one request would be the most difficult for me to deliver on—and that smirk sent me over the edge as if it had pushed me from the ledge I'd been balancing on. The ledge that had separated me from all of my prior personal boundaries that I'd built up to keep contact with boys out, where beyond that ledge lived the world of the unknown. But now I was falling, and maybe I jumped a little too willingly. As if it knew what it was doing—which it didn't—my hand snapped to the back of James' neck and pulled him towards me clumsily. And then his lips were moving against mine, and I had no idea what I was doing because I'd never done anything like this before, but I liked it.
"Lily," he muttered as our lips fumbled against each other. His hand moved up my arm to my shoulder and pushed me gently. I felt myself fall backwards onto my bum, and I realized that I must have risen up to my knees at some point. "Say it."
My mind reeled as his request brought me slamming back down to Earth, leaving me breathless. His cheeks were invitingly flushed. "James…" I said, though it sounded a lot like whining and it embarrassed me as soon as the sound left my mouth.
"It will be good for you," he said, smiling while brushing a strand piece of my hair away from my eyes. I felt myself gasping for air as my heart beat unnaturally fast inside of my chest. This was ridiculous, this stubbornness of mine, and I knew it. I pictured myself saying it, picking the right words, looking into his eyes like some mushy romance novel that Mary liked to read; the problem was that I couldn't picture me in that scenario.
James sat there, watching all of my thoughts playing out across my face, and his grin only widened as the seconds passed silently. It was a miracle he wasn't losing his patience, because even I was about to strangle myself. "So, it was easier to snog me with McGonagall watching from her office window," he finally accused amusedly.
A blush so furious that it caused me to enter into a heat flash rose to my cheeks as my gaze automatically jumped to the castle behind James. I flinched at the idea, wondering why our Professor wasn't in class and how in the name of Merlin James knew she was there. James was silent as I scanned the school windows in horror. Which office was hers? How did she—my eyes narrowed. McGonagall's office was on the opposite side of the castle. My glare turned back to James. "God," I cried, wanting to shove him with all of my strength for scaring me like that, "I don't even know why I like an idiot like you!"
His smile was so broad now that I wondered if it would soon eat up his entire face. "That will do, Evans," he answered calmly, taking my hand and swiftly kissing the top of it with his smirking mouth.
What had just happened? I struggled to come up with an idea to what he meant by that. He watched me patiently as I replayed our conversation in my head, McGonagall, me saying—I gaped at him. "That was a dirty trick, and you know it," I half-stuttered, too stunned to realize that half of me was thankful for the way the whole thing had played out.
He threw his arms open wide. "I'm a prankster," he replied, before his arms came down upon me, around me, pulling me closer. "For the record," he whispered into my ear, "I like you too."
Later that night, after I'd begrudging told Mary and Emmeline what had happened that afternoon, the three of us sat on my bed in our dormitory. Emmeline was polishing her broomstick, I was pretending to finish my Potions homework while my mind was really going through the day's events, rewinding most often to the part were James and I were kissing…and Mary was scribbling away on a spare piece of parchment, her arm thrown over it protectively.
"There," Mary exclaimed after nearly twenty minutes of this, tossing her quill to the side and splattering black ink onto my duvet. "It's done."
I had to shake my head slightly before I answered her; a small blush still remained across my cheekbones. "What's done?"
"A masterpiece," Mary cooed, waving the parchment around her head.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Emmeline asked a little absent-mindedly. She was still examining herself in her broom handle in order to see if the reflection was clear enough. Apparently, she had deemed her work as still unacceptable and continued scrubbing away.
Mary's eyes were shining brilliantly, which was almost always a bad sign. "Lily has inspired me," she answered now clutching the paper to her chest.
I had a bad feeling about this.
"Please tell me you're not about to start an owl relationship too," Emmeline said wearily.
"If only Will was that romantic," Mary answered. "No, I've come up with a novel idea."
She thrust the parchment into my hands. I looked at her grinning face anxiously, worrying about what I was about to read. It had to be something scary if I had inspired it, of all people. Sprawled across the top in Mary's neat, loopy scrawl was what appeared to be the title. I felt like laughing and tearing up the paper at the same time.
"Please, no," I half-giggled, passing the outline to Em.
"It's good, yeah?" Mary asked.
Emmeline snorted. "The Doe and Stag: A Love Story by Mary Macdonald." She gave it back to Mary, whose tiny face was still glowing with excitement. "I think it's brilliant," Emmeline said then, going back to her broom, but not before she'd thrown a wicked grin in my direction.
"What?" Mary and I both yelped in surprise. My voice may have been a decibel higher.
She just continued to smirk into her broomstick. No doubt, this was her own way of getting back at me for the months of Prongs torture I'd forced her to endure. I pressed my thumb into the end of her Cleansweep, creating a smudge there. "You missed a spot," I pointed out to her rather vindictively.
Before she could retaliate—probably by suggesting to Mary that she could even dedicate the first chapter to me—a soft pecking sound came from over by our window. I glanced over only to see a dark shape bobbing up and down in the wind. It looked like a fuzzy Snitch…Was that—?
"Mail's here," Mary sang as I clambered off of my bed and over to the window. Lifting the latch, I threw it open and in flopped the little fluff ball. What was James playing at?
I couldn't help but smile as I stroked the bird before untying the letter from Harold's leg. Everything was just as it normally was—the emblem was there, holding the letter closed, and my name was written on the opposite side in the same messy penmanship that I now knew James had invented for this very purpose. My heart pounded with excitement as I slid my index finger underneath the flap, allowing the note to fall open on my bedside desk. Mary was scribbling on her novel notes again.
"You better not be writing this down," I accused half-heartedly, distracted by the open letter.
"Oh, just read the note," Mary responded.
I felt like dancing the mambo, there was so much excitement built up within me.
You may be wondering why you're receiving this letter when there was no prank to speak of today—
Lily, this is Padfoot speaking. If you take down the Marauders, I'll take you down with me…Merlin, don't freak out, Evans. Learn to take a joke—
Prongs again, sorry about my moronic friend; Moony's thinking about sending him to a "Muggle dog kennel", and even though I don't know what that is, I doubt this kennel place would even take him. With that said, now that you know what I have to deal with, please agree to accompany me tomorrow evening on an all exclusive outing with the most well behaved Stag in magical history. Don't worry, Lily; no rules will be broken, because I know for a fact that there is no strictly written rule that says students aren't allowed to go into the kitchens. Well, Dumbledore's never mentioned one, anyways. Prankster's honor.
Hoping you'll save me from being stuck in this pound of misfits tomorrow night,
PS—And, Lily, don't stress. It won't be extraordinarily romantic, cliché', or disgustingly gushy. You're an odd one, Evans. But that's why I chose to write to you.
Oh, I hope you all enjoyed it. I know it probably wasn't one of my best, which is ironic seeing as I spent the most amount of time on this chapter, but I hope it brought all of you wonderful readers some sense of enjoyment.
Some of you have asked me if I am going to write a sequel (because, I know I mentioned it before) or if I'm going to write another Lily and James story. For right now, I'm going to have to answer no, to both accounts. This chapter was so difficult for me to write, I think I need to take a break for a while, until inspiration hits me. I've realized that I can't force myself to write something, because it takes all of the fun out of it and then I no longer enjoy it. I need to get over this writer's-stump of mine. Also, I've been trying to work on my own story, but I've hit a dead end with that as well. I'm beginning to think I'm losing my touch. A break is probably something I need. However, if a muse hits me and I suddenly go into a writing frenzy for a new story, you all will be the first to know.
So, with that said, goodbye for now! I hope you've enjoyed this story as much as I've enjoyed writing it (even when it was frustrating, at times). All of you who took time out of your days to read this are awesome, and I thank you so much!
Have a fantastic year! 2010 will be what you make it, so make it a good one!