In the end, I knew how it would end. On the surface, James had won my heart long before, possibly before either of us realised it. So, dear reader, listen as I tell you how I knew I loved James. After that, I will tell you how I knew I loved Severus. Then I shall head to the meeting that will decide my fate. Yes, I sit on the precipice and even though I know what my decision will be, the anticipation of seeing Severus one last time, not to mention the inevitable hopeful look on his face when he sees me again, excites me more than I feel is decent.
I did not fully realise my feelings for James until our seventh year. I had spent sixth essentially alone. I was surrounded by people, friends even, but I felt utterly alone. Severus had been my confidante, my best friend. Without him, I realized I had shunned so many other friendships in favor of his and it was too late to create one even close to what Severus and I had. It was disheartening. By seventh year, I was filled to overflowing with a need to talk.
James was the last person I expected to be my listener. We met accidentally walking through the grounds and he fell into step beside me. I was too tired and tense to shoo him away properly, so I didn't say a word.
"Evans...I know something is bothering you. You have no reason to trust me, but if you want to talk, I will listen and I won't judge or tell anyone anything you said. I want you to trust me." He sounded so confidant and normally, that made me want to hex him, but just then, it was exactly what I needed to hear.
In hindsight, I have to wonder: how many marriages are built on relationships that begin with one person on the rebound? My guard was down when I realized James was not who I thought he was. Had Severus never broken my heart, it might never have happened.
I found myself confessing to James then as we walked the grounds.
"I haven't had an easy year. I lost a bit of my youth, I guess and I am disappointed with myself and the world. Does that make sense?" I was nervous, but ready to talk.
He only nodded and kept pace with me.
"James, I know you don't like Severus, but he and I were very close friends for quite some time," I said, not mentioning the night before the "incident." James wasn't ready to hear about that. "Losing his friendship made me realise I don't have many other close friends." I stopped walking, a tear forming in my eye. I wiped it before it fell.
James put his arms around me tentatively, but I leaned into him and he hugged me tightly. He felt surprisingly comforting. His robes smelled like grass and fresh air. I was suddenly aware of how very, very different he was from Severus.
With James' arms around me, I could lay my head on his shoulder. With Severus, I had only been able to rest my head on his chest. James hands were large and thick, but so gently pressed against my lower back. Severus had long, thin fingers and always pressed me against him so tightly, like he thought I might run. I choked back a sob, but the tears came anyway and I let them silently fall down my face onto his robes.
James didn't let go of me and he started whispering to me. I caught some of it. "It'll be all right," and "it's okay, Lily..." My first name from his lips sounded so sweet. Like something to be admired. It frightened me a little, but I could not deny the affection in his voice either.
"James..." I whispered back to him and his hands delicately went around my head and neck, holding me securely in front of his face.
"Lily," he said, his eyes falling to small slits. "I can't replace him, but I want to be your friend. We can be closer than friends." And he kissed me. His lips were full and soft, gentle and tender. The tears did not stop as we kissed, but I relaxed and tried to reconcile the Potter I hated and the James I found myself snogging.
I could not help but compare him to Severus, especially with the way things had been left between us. His lips were fuller than Severus', but he was far less aggressive. His tongue felt different rubbing against my own, but my curiousity outweighed my shock and I did my best to enjoy him.
He pulled back, breathless, his eyes wide. "I...I always wanted to do that." I smiled at him, not sure how to respond to that. "You're a good kisser."
"Thanks," I said softly, my smile feeling a bit more wicked. "You're not bad yourself."
"Really? That was my first time." I started at that admission. I was impressed with his courage, taking the initiative to kiss me when he had never done it before.
"Lily, I will do what it takes to earn your trust." There in his eyes, I saw his honesty and the goodness he had inside. It warmed my heart to think I might be worthy of it.
I threw my arms around him and brought my face right to his. "Let's see if you can stay quiet about this," and this time I kissed him, threading my fingers through his hair.
To my surprise, James kept his promise. He did not tell anyone about kissing me. As far as I could tell, even Sirius, Peter and Remus did not know. They suspected something was up, as James and I were courteous to each other instead of bickering. Plus, James seemed to be spending a surprising amount of time by himself. In fact, he was with me.
The day I realised I loved James, we were sitting by the lake studying Transfiguration, the only area he could help me with. I was reading the textbook when I felt a presence on my shoulder. An owl had landed there and when I snatched the parchment, it immediately flew away. I looked after it questioningly before turning to the parchment.
Unrolling it slowly, I held my breath.
I must speak to you. Meet me at our tree an hour after dinner.
I read it over and over, just staring at it. How dare he? What made him think I wanted to see him, to talk to him? I could feel my face getting hot with anger and frustration. James was peering at me over his book.
"What is it?" he asked.
I swallowed. "Do you really want to know?"
"You can trust me."
I nodded. "Severus wants to meet me today to speak to me." I met his eyes to see his reaction. I saw anger there...and disappointment, but he nodded.
"Is that okay?" I asked him softly, placing my hand over his.
Without hesitation, he nodded. "I trust you." He shrugged. He looked sad, his lips pulled into a frown and shoulders hunched.
It was then it hit me and slipped from my lips without warning. "I love you James." Once it was out, I couldn't take it back and for a few long moments, I wished desperately that I could. It took him that long to respond.
When he did, I was suddenly in a full body hug there on the grass, his lips all over my face, my arms around his neck. "Oh, Lily, I love you too," he whispered over and over.
It had been his trust in me that did it. Over the last month or so, we had become close and he was genuinely a good guy. He was not the person I had thought. Potter hexed people and was cruel for no reason. James was a responsible head boy who helped first years of any house find their classrooms. He was dangerously loyal to his friends (and now to me). And he looked at me like he was the luckiest man in the world.
"Thank you, James," I whispered, brushing his lips with my own.
He gave me a serious look. "Just be careful, Lily. I wouldn't want to hurt your friend."
I smiled nervously and he kissed me. I tried to pay attention, but my mind kept wandering back to Severus. Would James be so trusting if he knew about that night before Severus and I stopped being friends? Was it really any of his business?
I almost groaned when I realised it was his business. He deserved to know.
"James," I said and he pulled back to look at me. "You realise Severus has feelings for me, right?"
He didn't flinch. "Of course."
I was surprised. "Really?"
He smiled. "Come on, Lily, the guy has been in love with you for as long as I've known you...and him." He smile faltered a bit. "You're my girlfriend now, aren't you?"
A warm feeling washed over me and I wiggled beneath him, savoring it. "Yes."
He grinned with relief and kissed me. "Good."
I pushed my doubts and concerns deep inside and surrendered to the boy above me, so full of life and energy and love.
!! !! !! !! !!
James walked back to the common room with me, squeezing my hand before I dashed up the hallway to my dormitory. I needed some time before seeing Severus again. I was full of conflicting feelings and none seemed to be right.
Severus was my best friend for so long. Didn't he deserve another chance? But he would do it again. That name would escape his lips at some point and then I would be truly broken. No, it was too late. He had chosen his path and to my chagrin, I was not a part of it. That disappointed me, but the thought of James lessened the pain that was aching in my chest. It amplified my nerves though.