"If you heard someone about to attack you, what would you do?" Professor Lawrence asked her N.E.W.T. Defense Against the Dark Arts class.
"Use a defense charm!"
"Try to find a way to escape."
"Hex them to oblivion before they could even raise their wand!" Sirius called out from the back of the room.
The class erupted into appreciative laughter, and Professor Lawrence smiled amusedly at him.
"Yes, Mr. Black," she replied with a chuckle. "I'm sure that would be your reaction, and it's not a bad one to have. Sometimes, bravery and impulsiveness will save your life. Merlin forbid, if any of you were put in a life-or-death situation, I would hope that you would use all of your cunning to survive unscathed. Thus, it is sometimes necessary to feel your way through situations and just react."
She paused, and once again Lily felt the familiar sensation the Professor Lawrence had experienced something quite horrific in her lifetime. The thought made Lily's stomach turn. She had become Lily's favorite professor over the course of the term. Everything Professor Lawrence said seemed to be so insightful and real, as though she had lived Defense Against the Dark Arts rather than just studied it.
"Yes," Professor Lawrence continued. "If you are surrounded by unsavory wizards who seem likely to use an Unforgivable, I strongly advise you to bring Mr. Black and his advice along." She winked at Sirius, whose ears, Lily was delighted to note, turned just the slightest shade of pink. It seemed Lily was not the only one who had developed a crush. It was understandable. With her long blonde hair and enchanting smile, it was hard not to become completely enamored by Professor Grace Lawrence. Still, Lily contained her laughter. It was so rare that Sirius ever got embarrassed that she did not want to ruin the memory. She focused her attention back onto the lecture.
"Yet, even in times of panic or distress, sometimes you must keep your head. You can't always be going around attacking everyone when you feel threatened. Can anyone think of a situation in which blindly cursing your enemy would be unadvisable?"
Lily raised her hand.
"Yes, Miss Evans," she called.
"Well," began Lily, thinking intently. "What if your attacker is not an enemy at all? What if it's someone on your side, and you didn't notice because you were too quick to attack yourself?"
"Precisely, Miss Evans," replied Professor Lawrence, smiling warmly at her. "How do you know if the person creeping behind you is friend or foe? Moreover, how do you know if that person is a good person who's merely under the influence of the Imperius Curse or Polyjuice Potion? Appearances are so often deceiving with magic."
"Then what do you do? In times of battle you don't have time to find out if they are who they seem to be. How do you decide?" Remus asked.
"Good question, Mr. Lupin," she complemented him. She sighed before answering his question. "Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Sometimes, you might get it right and the villain really will be the villain. Sometimes, you won't be so lucky. In the seconds you have to decide what action to take, I would advise you all to get a good look at your attacker and then decide from there. Trust your instincts. However, if you have more time, if you are planning the attack, don't leave things to chance. You have to make sure that you won't regret your actions. In the heat of passion you can do something terrible, and you might never get the chance to take it back."
"So basically we need to be careful who we hex," Sirius stated.
"Yes, Mr. Black. In an extremely rough form, that's my point."
"Okay," replied Sirius, smirking. "James, next time I attack you, make sure you really think about whether or not you want to hex me back."
James rolled his eyes, but his lips curled into a smile.
"On the contrary, Mr. Black, I give Mr. Potter my special permission to hex you whenever he likes. I'm sure that if he feels the desire to, it would be perfectly warranted. Just nothing too violent, Mr. Potter," Professor Lawrence announced to the boys.
"Thanks, Professor," replied James, chortling at the look of shock on Sirius's face.
The bell rang, and Professor Lawrence looked down at her watch in surprise.
"Oh, Merlin, how time flies!" she exclaimed. "Kindly please write a short essay on your view on what we discussed today. I would like you to explain when you feel retaliation is necessary. It only needs to be about six inches or so, don't strain yourselves! See you all next class."
Lily collected her books and placed them into her bag as her mind roamed over ideas for her essay.
"Hey, Lily," Peter greeted her as the Marauders came up to her desk.
"Hey, guys," she replied as they left the classroom and started walking towards the Great Hall.
"We're going to go hang out by the lake until dinner. Would you like to come?" Remus asked with a smile.
Lily pretended to think about it. "Hmm," she murmured. "Spend my time in the stuffy castle doing schoolwork or hang out with my friends outside on the first warm day we've had in weeks."
"It seems pretty obvious to me," James said.
Lily laughed. "Yes, but inside I don't have to deal with Sirius."
"Lily!" Sirius exclaimed. "How dare you speak such lies? I'm your favorite!"
"Sure," agreed Lily, winking at James secretly. "Of course you are."
"Then it's settled then," Peter established. "We are bringing the lady with us to the lake."
"Last one there has to smell Peter's toes!" Sirius shouted before racing through the hallways.
The rest of the boys followed, and Lily had to sprint as fast as she could just to fall in behind them. As they rounded the corner, Professor Flitwick found them and shouted for them to slow down.
"Ignore it, Professor!" Sirius called over his shoulder. "It's not the right time to fight! Think first!"
"What are you saying, son?" asked Flitwick, confused, but they were too far away to hear him.
Finally, panting, they were at the lake.
"Looks like you lost Lily," Sirius said as he placed his head between his knees.
"We won't make you smell Pete's feet," assured Remus, who was gasping for air.
"No," James chimed in as he swung his arm around her shoulders. His voice sounded a little forced but not nearly as strained as those of his friends. "That is torture we would never submit you to."
"My feet don't smell that bad!" Peter huffed.
"Yeah, they do, mate," Remus corrected him.
"The house-elves need to wear masks over their noses every time they do your laundry," Sirius joked. "Poor little guys. They don't deserve such torture."
"Oh, shut up, Sirius," said Lily, rolling her eyes.
"Thanks, Lily," Peter replied.
"Sure thing, Pete."
"Aww, come on, Lily. It was only a little bit of fun," Sirius complained childishly.
"Yes, and you're only a little bit of stupid," she retorted.
"She's got you there, Sirius," commented Remus wryly as he threw Lily a smile.
"Not fair! James, you're my best mate. Say something nice about me!" pleaded Sirius with huge puppy-dog eyes.
"Umm…" James began as his right hand wandered up to twist his air as he struggled to find one good thing about Sirius. "Oh!" he said finally. "You always remember to close your ink bottles."
"See, I---" Sirius preened. "Wait," he stopped suddenly. "Ink bottles! I'm your best mate and all you can think of are bloody ink bottles?"
James shrugged with a grin. "It was the only thing I could think of."
"Thanks, James," huffed Sirius melodramatically. "I'm glad to know how much I mean to you. Ink bottles. Honestly!"
"I'm sure James was just having trouble thinking up just one thing to love about you, Sirius. There's so many that it's hard to restrict yourself," Lily voiced soothingly.
Sirius stopped pouting immediately, and his eyes turned light with happiness. "Really?"
"'Course," James said with a huge nod of his head. "Would I lie to you?"
Lily stared in wonder. It sounded so simple on Sirius's lips, yet she knew there was such a trust and love behind their alpha facades. Boys.
As Sirius turned to gloat to Remus and Peter, James turned to Lily. "Thanks," he mouthed to her discreetly.
Lily smiled at him widely. "Welcome," she mouthed back.
Time passed, and eventually Lily was being forced by four teenage boys to go into the water.
"No!" she shrieked as Sirius and Peter kept grabbing her flailing limbs. "It's like thirty degrees in there!"
"Aww, come on, Lily! It's not that cold!" Peter said as he ducked to avoid her arm.
"No way! No chance in hell!" she exclaimed shrilly.
"Let's get her, boys," James said as he grabbed Lily in his arms and carried her.
Surprised, Lily forgot to protest and froze in his arms. She got lost in the way he smelled and how close his body was to her own. She could feel the warmth of his beating heart through his white uniform shirt. Her breathing hitched and she wrapped her arms around his neck for balance. He emitted a slight groan that Lily would not have heard if she was not in such close proximity to him.
"James Potter, if you drop me into this water, even Merlin will not be able to put you back together."
"Is that a threat, Lily?"
"You bet your ass that's a threat!"
"Well, in that case," he replied amusedly as he carefully let go of her.
"James!" Lily exclaimed as she shut her eyes and prepared herself for the cold water to hit her body. She waited a few seconds for the cold to rush in, but it didn't. Cautiously, she opened her eyes and looked down. She was still two feet away from the edge of the lake. Lily sighed as her heart started to regain its normal rhythm. She heard the sound of a hippogriff choking and looked up to see James fighting back tears as he laughed so hard his face was turning puce.
"You should have seen your face!" he forced out between laughs.
"James Potter!" screeched Lily as she swatted him with her hands. "That was not very nice."
James rolled his eyes. "Like I was going to drop you in the water. C'mon, Lils, you know I'd never hurt you."
"Yeah, yeah," Lily grumbled embarrassedly.
"Doesn't mean we won't!" Sirius yelled as he and Remus snuck up behind them and pushed them down into the water.
"Ahh!" Lily screamed as she broke through the icy water. She resurfaced as soon as she could, and spun around to look for Sirius. Either immune or oblivious to the cold, he was swimming leisurely away from her. Remus was grinning sheepishly at her as James glared murderously at his friends. Lily's heart warmed in her chest as she noticed how unthreatening he truly looked. His chattering teeth surrounded by lips that were turning bluer by the second just made him look adorable. However, it was all ruined when Peter decided to follow them into the lake and splashed water into Lily's face. She growled as she, weighted down by her heavy robe, trudged out of the water. Once back on the shore, Lily hastily grabbed her wand and dried herself off with it.
"You're all bloody jerks!" Lily called out to them. "Insolent, conniving, horrible, bloody wankers, the lot of you!"
"Oh, Lily," Remus said sadly as he, too, came out of the water. His voice was layered with silk to make it nearly irresistible. "Surely, you don't mean that."
"Yes, I do," Lily replied stubbornly. "I'm cold, and you got me all wet."
Peter came out of the water next and offered Lily his robe that he heated with his wand. Lily shrugged it around her shoulders thankfully.
"Now do you take it back?" Peter asked.
"No, you still got me wet."
"Don't fight it, Evans! No matter what we do, we are just too good looking not to love," said Sirius impishly as he and James made their soggy way onto the grass.
"No," replied Lily, shaking her head. "Not anymore." She folded her arms across her chest obstinately to emphasize her point.
"C'mon, Lily," James urged her lightheartedly. "We're decent enough guys. All we really need is someone to love us."
Lily's eyes locked onto his, and she knew she couldn't resist any longer.
"Fine, I love you," she huffed angrily.
"Yay!" Sirius cheered as he ran towards Lily. She backed out of the way quickly to avoid him.
"No you don't," she warned him. "You're soaking wet. I'm not letting you anywhere near me."
Sirius sighed before shaking his head around like a wet dog.
Snickering, Remus performed a drying spell on him before also doing it to Peter, James, and himself.
"Thanks, Remus," Lily said.
"No problem," he replied as he pulled Lily in with his arm for a quick hug.
"Lily sandwich!" Sirius announced loudly before bombarding into them with a huge embrace.
Lily squeaked as both boys squeezed the air out of her. With Sirius's face resting in her hair and Remus's arms wrapped brotherly around her waist, Lily really did feel like a sandwich. She almost laughed when she thought about how many girls would kill to be in her position, but she couldn't breathe to form the sound.
"Guys!" James called anxiously. "Let her go! You're squishing her!"
"Oh, damn, sorry, Lils," Remus said apologetically as he and Sirius both loosened their grips on her sides without truly letting go of her.
Lily heaved a huge sigh as she took in some much needed oxygen. "It's okay," she choked out. "Just another round of let's kill Lily today with our bloody boyish bodies."
"I like that game!" Sirius commented with a pout.
"Yeah," Remus agreed. "It's pretty much the best game ever."
"Except for Wizards' Chess," Peter corrected him.
"Right," Remus amended. "Except for Wizards' Chess."
"Really, you guys?" asked James, quirking an eyebrow dubiously as he scoffed in their direction. "Wizards' Chess?" He looked appreciatively at Lily, who turned tomato red at the spot. His eyes seemed to tell her exactly what he was thinking. She sucked in a breath as he turned to face Peter before asking, "What about Exploding Snap?"
"James!" Lily shouted angrily.
"What?" he asked. His tone was innocent, but his eyes were full of mischief.
"I thought you meant---" Lily's accusatory tone trailed off as she grew more and more frustrated with his roguish features. "Oh, never mind," she sighed with a defeated air.
Peter looked up at the sky, which had turned to a dusky rosy purple as the sun started to hide behind the clouds, and then down at his watch. "We should probably head back to the castle now," he recommended. "It's nearly seven. We don't want to miss dinner."
Sirius's stomach chose to gurgle loudly at the thought. He clutched his middle as he complained of hunger loudly.
"I guess we should be heading back," Remus said as his gaze swept over the lake wistfully. "It'll be getting cold soon."
"Finally! I'm bloody starving!"
"We know, Sirius," commented Lily, as she rolled her eyes playfully. "You guys should go on ahead. I need to head down to the library. I have some books that I need to return before it closes early tonight."
"Lily, we'll wait for you," Remus offered.
"No!" replied Lily, shaking her head in protest. "It's late, and I'm sure you all must be hungry. You know that if Sirius doesn't eat every four hours he gets testy. I'll just do this quick errand and see you guys later."
"Okay," Peter said uneasily. "At least let us escort you back to the castle."
Lily shook her head at their silliness. Stupid, overprotective boys. Lily dwelled on how bizarre their behavior was as they walked back up to the castle together. Last year, they had barely said a word to her. Now, she was practically their princess. All she needed now was….
"Are you sure you'll be okay, Lily?" James asked her sincerely. There was worry in his eyes. It made Lily's heart melt a little inside.
She laughed at his concern. "I will be fine," she told him confidently. "Go to the Great Hall before all the good food gets gobbled up."
"We'll see you later, Lily," Peter assured her.
"Bye, Lily," Remus said.
"Farewell, my dear," Sirius voiced in a chivalrous tone that made Lily laugh.
"Go on already!" She shooed them away with her hands. As they walked, James turned around to check on her. Lily commanded him to turn around silently with her eyes, and he obeyed. Pleased with herself, Lily walked away towards the library.
Receiving only a slight amount of sass from Madame Pince about leaving things to the last minute, Lily returned her almost overdue books. She was about to leave quickly when she heard a voice call her name. She turned around.
"Severus," Lily said quietly as she saw who it was. Her voice was neither pained nor excited. Although she had not forgotten their clandestine friendship, there was too much baggage between them to really reform old bonds and mend infected wounds.
He stared at her for a long time, and Lily began to squirm under his gaze. She didn't like the way his eyes were piercing into her own. It was like he was searching for something but couldn't find it. "What do you want?" she asked finally with a sigh.
"Nothing," he answered back quickly.
She stood there staring at him, willing him to elaborate, to say something to make things better between them. She was met only with silence. "Well, then, I should go," Lily said as she began to turn around. She waited for him to stop her, but he just let her leave. With a heavy heart, Lily chose to go to the Heads' Dorm rather than the Great Hall. She wanted to be alone, and she had a stash of chocolate frogs hidden in her trunk that James didn't know about.
Hours passed as Lily, snuggled on top of a couch in her Common Room, got lost in her latest book. She flipped page after page as she eagerly read the story. She had always enjoyed tragic romances.
As she was about to start a new chapter, she heard the Portrait Hole open. Lily place a ribbon in the book to keep her place and looked up to see James walk into the room.
"Hey," she greeted him casually.
"Lily! There you are!" he replied with relief. "I just checked the library for you, but I forgot it was closed. You never came down for dinner."
"I know," she said. "I got distracted."
"Doing what?" he asked as he plopped down on the couch next to her. His hand reached out to grab hers for reassurance that she was really there.
"Just, you know, lost in my thoughts." She let her thumb trace soothing circles along the back of his hand.
"Well, the next time you decide to think, can you please use a pensive?" he asked with a warm smile before his voice turned more tender. "I was worried about you."
"You didn't need to be," she assured James. "I was fine."
"I can see that now," replied James, reaching up with his unoccupied hand to move some hair out of her eyes. "I didn't like the feeling of not knowing if you were okay." His fingers hesitated on her hair until they skimmed down her face to caress her cheek.
Lily's face felt warm beneath his touch. Everything his hand came into contact with tingled. Lily's mind turned fuzzy as she tried to remember what she wanted to say. When he reached the weak spot on the back of her neck, Lily propelled herself off of the couch. This was wrong. She couldn't keep feeling this way if he didn't know the truth.
James stood up suddenly in response. His eyes formed the question that his lips did not.
Lily fidgeted with her hands nervously. "James," she said quietly. "There's something I need to tell you."
"Okay," he urged her. "Go ahead."
"It's just I've been thinking so much lately about you and me. It's never been easy between us. We've had to overcome so many obstacles. I realize now that the majority of those have been my fault."
"Lily---" James interrupted her.
Lily held up a hand to silence him. "No, let me finish. Before, I thought that you were conceited and uncaring. I told myself that you were a horrible person who only cared about his own amusement. When you asked me out at the lake in Fifth Year just after tormenting a person whom I had considered a friend, at least, I had then, I was furious with you. In your own chivalrous, moronic, lovely way, you were just trying to protect my dignity. I can see that now. I missed it then. Back then, I would have gladly bitten your head off."
"I remember," James said hollowly. The guilt and pain in his voice made it obvious he was not lying.
Lily cleared her throat before continuing. "I decided then and there that I would need to get you back somehow. I planned out this whole ridiculous revenge scenario. It took me a whole summer to perfect. I even made Alice get involved. She tried to tell me it was a bad idea, but I just wouldn't listen." She shivered at the thought.
"So when the new term began, so did my plan. I knew that for some twisted reason you had developed a fondness for me. At the time, I had assumed it was just for the way my legs looked in our uniform skirts." She paused briefly as she watched the corners of James's lips twitch. He did not say anything as he continued to watch her with the deepest intensity.
"I decided I would try to seduce you," continued Lily miserably as she recalled the night she had long tried to forget, the night that she often had nightmares about. "It didn't seem to be too difficult. You were very willing." She gave him a sad smile.
"After---after it happened, after I did what I planned to do, I was shocked. I messed up, you see. You were the only one who was supposed to be broken, but I shattered myself in the process. That kiss, the look in your eyes, the smell of your skin, the glorious happiness on your face, it all killed me. I realized then that you had really cared for me. I never knew the true extent of your feelings until that night, and by then, I had ruined it all. The hurt look in your eyes is an image I will never be able to erase from my memory as long as I live." Lily paused as she attempted to will the water brimming in her eyes to stay put. It was impossible, however, and she felt the tears start to fall. When she began to speak again, her voice sounded too scratchy to be hers.
"My guilt was intensified as I realized something else that night. You were not the only one with romantic feelings. Although I had masked them with retorts and insults, I had wanted you too. Deep down, I think I knew that there was something about you. I would rather have fought with you than carry on a normal, pleasant conversation with anyone else at school, excluding Alice, of course. I should have realized it sooner. It's not normal for one person to monopolize so much of your thoughts without there being some sort of emotion behind it. But I was in denial, and when I realized how I felt, it was too late."
Lily wanted to look at him and see what his eyes were saying, but she couldn't bring herself to see the sadness. She kept her head down as she took another deep breath to carry on with her story.
"I was ashamed. I was angry. I was hurt. I was disgusted. I was confused. I ran away. I left you there. You were all alone in the Common Room, and you were covered in---" She twisted her fingers around as she tried to stop the unpleasant images from filling her brain. "I left you alone then. I figured I had done enough damage to us both. Sirius and Remus confronted me. They demanded an explanation that I was not ready to give. They wanted so badly to protect you. You have wonderful friends, James. They would do anything for you." She looked up briefly at him but did not make eye-contact.
"A year passed. I thought about you every day. I would wake up and see your face and go to bed with thoughts of you plaguing me through restless nights. I was always on alert for someone to mention your name. I eavesdropped on so many conversations, but I could never bring myself to watch you. It's still hard to look you in the eye sometimes. Obviously," she added with a hasty laugh.
"Then, at the beginning of this year, we were forced to be together nearly all the time. We live together and go to the same classes and go on patrols together. I thought it would be awful. It was terribly awkward in the beginning. There were these silences between us when I was torn between the desire to just hold you or talk to you. I refrained. I kept my distance. But then, Sirius invited me to be with you. He asked me to sit with you guys. I became your friend. I've never had such good friends before. It was always been just me and Alice. I found that I loved spending time with the Marauders and that I loved spending time with you. You've managed to surround yourself with some truly extraordinary people."
Lily closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Her heart was pounding so loud that she had to wonder if James could hear it. Knowing she could not lose her nerve now, she opened her mouth to begin again.
"Throughout this year, I think I've had the chance to meet the real you, not the person I thought you were. I could not have been more wrong about you two years ago. You are the kindest, most genuine person I have ever known. You offer up all of your love and hold it out for anyone to take. You even tried to befriend me, the girl who tried her hardest to destroy you. With that kind of compassion, it's impossible not to love you. I couldn't help it. Even after all the terrible things I've done to never deserve anything in return, I love you."
Lily sucked in a breath to hold back the impending sobs. James walked towards her as he reached up to wipe away a tear underneath her right eye.
"I'm so in love with you, James."
"I'm sorry," she cut him off. The tears were now impairing her vision completely. "For everything I've done. James, I wish there was something I could do to take it all back. James, I'm so sorry." Her arms flung around his neck as he enveloped her in a tight embrace.
James rubbed soothing circles on her back. "Shh," James whispered comfortingly. He took out a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped away her tears. "Don't cry, Lily," he pleaded with her. His voice sounded pained.
"But, James, I'm a monster. I've done such horrible things to you. How can you be trying to give me solace?"
James took a deep breath that fluttered against Lily's face. "Lily, it's easy to forgive someone you love."
Lily looked up at him. She didn't trust her ears. They had to be malfunctioning. She searched his eyes finally. The moment the hazel met her green, she knew he was telling the truth.
"You love me?" she asked weakly.
He cupped her face in his hand and pressed his sweet lips onto her own. His other arm slid down to her waist as she reached for his hair. He tasted the exact same way she remembered.
It's hard to describe a perfect moment. You hear people talk about it, but you can't really know what it feels like until you experience it yourself. I've learned that happiness does not stem from spite or revenge. It comes from love. And Alice, I'm in love with James Potter.
And he loves me back.
A/N: well, that's the end. i'm actually pretty pleased with this ending. essentially, this story is not about romance or sirius jokes or funny redhead tempers. it's about forgiveness. so i hope you enjoyed it. i know it was a very interesting experience for me to write. i learned a lot. i explored a lot of different emotions. i'm looking forward to beginning my next story, "boyfriend," which will be much lighter. however, i will write a few one-shots before then so please find the heart to read them. i sincerely hope you felt something reading this story. i forever thank you for reading "Revenge."