A/N: I've wanted to try something like this for a long time and now it's finally happened! Oh dear...
Beta-ed by the ever-fantastic Rissa (hpobsessedrissa), who deserves to have her praises sung from rooftops in the early morning. Also looked over by my amazingly amazing friends Liz (XxIcexX) and Mina (wilhelmina willoughby) because Zay tends to get insecure when she writes about sex. Rawr.
This was vaguely inspired by Chase/Cameron on House M.D. and Rissa's own gritty, awesome one-shot Heroin. And, sad as I am to say it, A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (my current read for English class) has had an influence in some of the musings/stylistic choices that I made. My audio crutches were "Love Letters" and "Denouement" on repeat from the Atonement movie soundtrack.
I would love you forever if you reviewed me.
She never thought it would happen again.
Truly, she didn't.
She told herself the last time, and pretty much every time before, that she would have to control herself – this wasn't allowed.
And then she'd do it again anyway.
She hates it. She does. The feeling of unraveling more than she intended, of going too far too fast, of not being in control.
She's always in control. She's famous for it.
But when he's around, she might as well be someone else.
She turns towards him now, her hair a tangled red mess atop her head, the cool sheets comforting to her flushed skin, and she takes in his face.
His eyes are open, a muted hazel. He's awake, and he takes her right back in. She feels like she's being pulled in by an invisible leash that only he can command. It's not right; she has to break free from this.
But for now, she can't and she doesn't, as he reins her in with his gaze; she leans in and she kisses him, their lips soft as they reacquaint.
It starts off gentle, but quickly intensifies, and she finds him pulling their kiss into something that cannot even be named. His previously limp hands clasp the curve of her waist and pull her on top of him, the events of the night before unfolding again.
The urgency of the atmosphere is escalating. She can feel herself wanting more, more, more…she is powerless, a pebble in a waterfall. She wants him and she hangs on to any kind of sanity by the skin of her teeth.
For a moment, she manages to wrench her mouth away just slightly, and she whispers into his, "This is so wrong."
He just kisses her again and shifts her so that she is under him, the sheet looping uncomfortably around them, and his weight settles onto her. His eyes are dead serious as he stops for air, and then he kisses her once more while saying into her lips two words:
There is something about the way this odd acquaintanceship works that truly excites her, Lily muses during study hall one afternoon.
During the school day, they barely communicate. They act like strangers. They are two very different people living two very different lives with two very distinct groups of friends. In class, Lily takes notes and exchanges looks with people across the room, giggling and talking about various boys. James doodles and loudly goofs around with his Marauders.
Lily stays clear of James and James leaves Lily alone, unless he has to ask her something about Head duties. They are not friends and people at Hogwarts know better than to assume anything otherwise.
It's the perfect cover for what goes on behind carefully closed doors.
It's not like she wants to go out with him, wants to have a relationship with him, wants to go to bed with the Head Boy when the fancy strikes her. She doesn't want any of it. It's just that he happens to be the only one who can play witness to the rush and whirl of her life.
He knows what she deals with. He's the only one who can understand her haphazard, ludicrous explanations without question.
To be quite honest, she has absolutely no recollection on where the idea for this whole rendezvous started in the first place. She knows it was some time in October, when the workload really began to pile up in a neglected heap atop her desk. Beyond that, she hadn't the foggiest idea. Before this year, they had not spoken to each other in many months.
They hugged. Maybe they kissed. Talked. She doesn't know. She will never know. All she remembers is that that hug, that kiss, maybe another catalyst of a word, set off a series of hugs, kisses, a few more words. And those set off sex. Sex like she couldn't believe.
He had blown her away that first night. He was passionate, gritty, restless, painfully mesmerizing. Everything she wanted in a lover. He made it easy for her to throw herself into what they were doing, to drown in the wicked decadence of their secret. For a few blissful hours, nothing else mattered.
It was a blissfully sweet release of everything that made her think too hard – including him. She found her way into heaven when she was with him, lost in kisses that made her blood boil; but it was a strange, perverse, almost wrong kind of heaven.
It was a heaven found in the harmony of a disordered, blazing hell; a heaven for the worst of sinners. It was a paradoxical heaven, but still a heaven nonetheless, she figured – and as she was at ease in the disorderly chaos of this heaven, she would take full advantage of it.
He was what her shaken, pressured life required. They fit into place and indulged willingly, magnificently; not just the first time, but every time.
They didn't do it out of love. They were not in love, nor did they want to be. They barely knew each other. None of this was romantic, not even close.
What they had together was purely business.
Some people have hard-core hobbies to get them through the day. Some people have books. Some people have work. Some people have the luxury of watching the world go by without a single care to consider.
She has him.
And, as she neatly finishes the last line of the essay she has been pondering, life goes on.
"Hey." Lily looks up from the book she's reading late Monday night, her emerald eyes outlined with dark, weary circles. "What are you doing up?"
"I could ask you the same question." James cruises past her in the common room and turns back to take the seat across from her at the table. "It's a bit late."
She sighs. "I know. I just have a couple more pages to read."
"Patrolling is a real bugger," he remarks. "You could've been done by now if we hadn't had to do that."
"Yes, well, there's really nothing I can do about it after the matter," she replies shortly, blowing a few stray strands of her red hair out of her face.
"Yeah…but I'm just saying," he says.
Lily doesn't say anything, continuing to scan the page. James watches her, similarly wordless, until she has finished and closes the book with a loud snap. Her eyes are right back on him and they are calculating. A corner of James's mouth tugs upward in a smirk.
"Tired?" he asks.
"Me too." He stretches his long, muscular arms out and yawns richly. "I think we ought to get ready for bed. Another long day tomorrow."
"You've got Quidditch, so I'm patrolling again," Lily mumbles. "Damn."
"I'm sorry," he says.
"I'm sure you are."
"I am," he answers a little too quickly. "It's been a particularly horrible week."
"I don't need reminding."
They remain quiet a moment and then James rises from his seat. Her eyes follow him up. The look on his face is indecipherable, but in a way she's come to recognize. She thinks she knows what he wants and this knowledge passes between them effortlessly.
"You want to go to my dormitory?" he asks, tone smooth, even, scrubbed clean of any giveaway inflections.
She knows this voice. She knows where this is going; and she's been past the point of caring for a long time.
Closing her eyes briefly and then opening them, rising to her full height, she simply nods and says, "Please."
As the two of them lie strewn atop each other across his mattress, entwined together and perspiring freely at some unnamed, godforsaken hour of the early morning, her mind is racing. Her heart is racing. Everything about her is racing. She can barely believe she's here.
The atmosphere is strange. Tense, but buzzing, almost. The sky seems to glow in the overall darkness, unreal in its vividness, suggesting dawn is fast approaching. The sheets are rumpled loosely around them both, and their mingled hair is erratically obvious against the radiant white of the pillow.
Her breathing is erratic. The atmosphere is raw, sticky, and haphazardly beautiful for it.
She loves it.
Lily dips down, descending upon him, and peppers her poisonous kisses along his cheek, his jaw, his neck. He accepts it with no trouble. She likes it best around now, when the edge has been taken off their thirst and leaves them here, suspended out of time together. It means everything right now, but she's sure it'll feel like a hazy dream when the day really takes hold. She wants to delay reality as long as possible.
His hand holds her firmly on the small of her back and his weight keeps her from floating off into the clouds. She exhales blissfully into his skin and settles into the hollow of his shoulder, unsure if she's tired or exhilarated or a strange combination of the two.
They say nothing. They are really not doing much. All night, they did things between spells of sweet sleep nestled in the arms of the other, but now they don't need to.
Now, the real intimacy of what they did has begun to unfold, the vast scope of emotion allowing tiny glimpses to overwhelm their minds. It's a glimpse of true enlightenment, found accidentally in what was supposed to be a careless dose of a fuck.
She does not kiss him. She wants to, she knows she does, when his mouth is so slack and open and childlike, but she doesn't. Instead, she watches him, soaks in everything about him, from the chaos of his hair to the almost preternatural intensity of his hazel irises.
He stares right back at her, wordless and perfectly poised for her scrutiny, and she is almost overwhelmed by the intangible electricity passing between them. There's something painful, wrenching, desperate about how he is looking at her; something restricted, as if he's taut with constant restrain. It touches her inexplicably to see it displayed so unflinchingly before her.
She swallows carefully, unwilling to shatter the fragility of their dreamlike magnetism, and only watches as he pulls her close and murmurs against her heated skin, "It's six AM, Evans. We ought to get ready for school."
So much for preserving the dreamlike magnetism.
She feels herself nod slightly, her brain transitioning to its more practical state. Reality rears its ugly head and her throat has suddenly become mysteriously very thick and dry. She blinks a few times to bridge the awkward gap. His expression never changes, still containing the mystery that held her only seconds ago, but somehow, she is sure something has happened.
The intimacy is gone. A rift has formed – a rift she knows well. It's the one they maintain during all other hours. He is not hers any longer, and therefore, she cannot be his.
She swallows and nods properly.
"Yeah, I'm sorry," she says. "I'll…go now."
Self-conscious now, as if they had not spent the night together, she clears her throat and sits up properly, turning so he can just see her back as she searches on the ground for her discarded clothes. She pulls on her panties and skirt, and is fumbling to hook her bra, when she feels James move forward so he can hook it up for her. He's gotten the knack of hooking and unhooking it by now.
She glances back at him, her lips parted to thank him, but he just nods solemnly, cutting her off without a sound. She exhales and pulls on her shirt as well, adjusting the fit and running a hand through her hair to see how greasy it might be.
She is about to leave without looking back, but she lingers very slightly at his doorway on her way out. Her hesitancy and the reason behind it are obvious. She considers saying something – anything – but she almost immediately decides against it.
She doesn't linger any longer than a few seconds and leaves the room without a word.
"So…how are you, Evans?"
Wednesday afternoon, James slips the question to the girl in question in the corridor on his way to Charms, effortlessly matching the pace of her quickly moving feet and appearing almost out of nowhere.
The redhead starts at his abrupt arrival, since this is most certainly unexpected, but she manages to retain most of her composure.
"Erm…just fine, Potter, thanks for asking," Lily responds smoothly. "Just going to Charms."
"I know," he says.
"Is there a reason why you're asking me that?"
He considers. "Sort of – I had to tell you that I've scheduled Quidditch practice for the rest of the week in preparation for the game against Ravenclaw on Saturday. And, because I have to patrol at some point during the evening – as well as keep up on my sleep – I don't think we're going to be able to see each other at all."
She blinks a few times as she registers the new information. Even now, it still surprises her that the young man she spends a considerable portion of her nights with is a real person who can, in fact, approach her during school hours for a casual chat.
However, she does get over it and says, "Oh. Erm, okay. That's…well, that's perfectly fine."
He nods slowly, kind of thoughtfully. "I figured as much, but still, I thought you ought to know beforehand."
"I appreciate your concern," she says.
They turn the corner together and approach the Charms room. James awkwardly holds the door open for her and Lily awkwardly thanks him for it, the two of them ducking into the room together. Most of the class is not there yet.
She drops her book-bag off at her seat and as he's doing the same, she asks him, "So you are patrolling with me tonight, right?"
"Yes, I am," he says. "But for whatever other days we're doing it, we'll need to work out shifts."
"Okay." She gives him a weak smile. "Sounds good to me."
James doesn't respond and Lily doesn't need him to. She sits in her seat and picks at a hangnail she has on her thumb. It's bothering her. She gives it all her attention until Alice Prewitt saunters into the classroom, cheery and bouncy as ever.
"Hey, Lils!" she chirps, plopping down in her seat beside her best friend. "How goes it?"
Lily exhales, allowing her present moodiness to flow out with her breath. She smiles as sweetly and naturally as she can.
"I'm fine," she says. "And how are you, darling?"
Her voice is muffled, on account of her body being snugly sandwiched between the stone wall and the body of James Potter. Her eyes twinkle with certain mischief as his fingers loiter about around her pelvic bone.
"You know, I've always wondered," he says, quite conversationally, nipping at her lips as if he really can't ever have enough of her, "why we still use each other's last names."
This question sounds complicated. Her stomach twisting uncomfortably, she neatly captures his lips and kisses him greedily, her arms wrapping around his neck and pulling him into her as closely as possible. He kisses her back with a desire-drenched fervor, his hands squeezing the valley of her thin waist, but he does break the kiss the best he can to observe her carefully.
He wants an answer. He's not going to let her wriggle out of this one and she's aware of it. She takes a breath and does her best.
"Erm…I'm really not sure," she answers truthfully, slowly. "It's not something we planned or anything…that's just how we've always referred to each other."
"I don't like it," he says into her lips, his forehead resting against hers. She can feel him breathing when he's this close. It's absolutely lovely.
She kisses him once more.
"We can change that," she suggests quickly so that she can kiss him again, full and savory, her exploratory tongue happy in the haven of his open mouth. "I mean…if you really want to."
"I do," he assures her, hands snaking up her back and fingers knotting into her hair.
"It's a deal." She runs her tongue along the roof of his mouth. "Call me Lily."
"Cool. Call me James." Their tongues collide playfully and she can't help but smile a little bit.
To be honest, she couldn't care less about this conversation.
Sure, okay, he didn't like last names. That's not so unexpected. In a funny sort of way, they are a bit like secret lovers – and secret lovers who know each other so personally shouldn't have to confine themselves to using last names. First names are fine. He can make up nicknames if he's on a roll. Whatever. She's got nothing she wants to say about it.
James mercifully doesn't say anything else as they kiss with ludicrous extravagance in the middle of the corridor when they ought to be wrapping up their patrol. Lily can usually tell when she's going to need her nighttime fix of him and since this is the only night she's got with him, she wants to seize as much as she can to carry herself through until the weekend.
Unashamed, she takes as much he can give her, the strange declaration of neediness hidden in the shadows of a side alcove. She feels like she can never have enough of him. She feels invincible, in a sense. Deep, lovely kisses like these do that to a person – makes them feel wanted, admired, maybe cared for.
She doesn't like missing him when she can't have him. In the beginning, that used to be an issue for her – because she's only supposed to miss people she has a meaningful connection with. She shares no such connection with James. Besides the sex, they share absolutely nothing. Missing him shouldn't be an option.
She's gotten better about that now. She doesn't miss him as much anymore. But still, she kisses him with all she's got because that will be her ticket out of here, the thing she keeps to tide her over until the next time they'll be together.
Because that's all their relationship is made of: stolen kisses in the depths of night, when nobody is there to watch her make her perversely satisfying mistakes not once, but again and again.
It's Friday night.
Friday. The end of the week.
Friday. The day before the big game.
Friday. The day James scheduled an enormous practice to run through important Quidditch-related matters.
Yet, despite it being Friday night, James and Lily are back in Lily's bed.
It's wrong. She registers this, somewhere in the frozen wasteland of unused gray area her brain has become. And yet, like all the other times before this, she does absolutely nothing to fix the situation. It's wrong, but there's always justification for it.
Tonight, it was James's fault. All him. She had been sitting, ever so innocently, in the common room. Alice had been with her. She had been answering some questions for Transfiguration. He had been the one who arrived in the common room beside her and informed her that practice ended early. Seeker called in for a detention. Couldn't go on.
Alice apologized openly. She was genuine about it. She's just like that.
"Oh", she had said. "Sorry". And that was it. She couldn't think of anything else to say; because really, she was not sorry in the least.
Because he didn't have to be facilitating Quidditch, he could be upstairs with her. He sat and talked with her and Alice, but mostly Alice, until he told Lily he needed to talk to her about patrolling shifts.
Head talks bored Alice and both of them knew it well. She got up and left, telling Lily she wanted to find her boyfriend, Frank. The two of them were alone and it was no surprise where they went or what they began to do. Every time they began to talk, the conversation ended in someone's bed. A sad fact, but alas, a true one.
Now, undressed and pinned on her stomach beneath James's body, accepting James's kisses on the small of her back, Lily can't help but ask, "So…I thought you couldn't see me until after the big game."
"I thought I couldn't too." He begins smoothly kissing his way up her spine, leaving her muscles strangely chilled but her skin heated, flushed. "But plans changed."
"We do this a lot," Lily notes as he makes it to the nape of her neck, burying his face under her hair. "This plan never changes."
"Do you want it to change?" His voice is muffled. He has not bothered to withdraw from beneath her sheet of red hair. She chuckles.
"Not really, no, but it's an observation."
"You notice patterns well," he answers, nibbling on her ear and making her giggle again.
"That feels good," she admits.
"I figured. You usually freeze up when I do something you don't like."
"Yes, you do." She feels him smile into her ear. "The compliment about noticing patterns came a little too soon, I suppose."
"I suppose…" She leaves the sentence hanging as he shifts the two of them so that they are lying together on their sides, covers discarded. His eyes are not as intense as they usually are; tonight, they glitter with playfulness. It's different, but it's nice. Normally, they are in some kind of a flurried rush. She feels a smirk playing on her lips.
"So, if we win, are we going to meet again tomorrow night?" she questions, tone coy.
He grins. "Maybe. It depends on how much you cheer me on."
"That's usually Alice's job."
"Then you'll have to figure something out." He kisses her softly, but briefly, on her lips. "But Lily…"
James takes a breath, some of the glitter beginning to wear off some as he ponders the best way to phrase this. Lily waits, but the wait is short-lived.
The glitter – and his smile – return like nothing happened. The moment has passed.
"Never mind," he says. "It was nothing."
"Are you sure?" Somehow, she doesn't believe him.
"Yes, I'm sure." He wills her to believe him anyway.
She sighs. "It's Friday, James. You ought to get some sleep."
"I know." He tilts her chin so that the jade of her eyes catches the light of the almost-full moon outside. "I was hoping you could join me with that one."
Lily smiles, some of James's glitter beginning to seep through her, too. "Okay," she says lightly, her hand going to the back of his head to pull him in for another kiss, this one much headier.
"Deal," she whispers into his lips.
And they speak no more.
Saturday dawns, bright and sunny, with perfect conditions for flying. Not a cloud in the sky shows its face today, leaving the vast canvas of blue sky clear above the emerald Quidditch field. The cool spring breeze is wonderfully refreshing as students one and all spill onto the pitch, taking seats and wearing supportive colors. The atmosphere buzzes with animated talk.
Lily and Alice make their way up to the stands as well, excited and giggling like the people around them. Alice is holding a sign she had made in the morning with a few other Gryffindors and, being far more knowledgeable than Lily on the subject of sports, she joyously explains how the Gryffindor team is far superior to the Ravenclaw team.
Although no one else in the stands is really wearing anything warm, Lily is wearing her red and gold scarf with the Gryffindor lion on it. The other night, James had left a significant amount of hickeys on her neck that she doesn't care to explain to curious passersby; in a school as gossipy as Hogwarts, where everyone knows who everyone is dating, people are bound to say something.
The girls settle in at the top of the stands, Alice going on with her lecture on mutual cooperation, and Lily now begins to tune out. She, like everyone else, is waiting for the players to emerge and the game to start, and her patience is duly rewarded.
Much to the tumultuous cheers and applause of the crowd, the two teams step outside and mount their brooms, arranging themselves in the center of the pitch. The balls are released and the competitors – charged-up and full of adrenaline – shoot off after them.
The game has officially commenced.
It's an exhilarating, tense game, if Lily is frank with herself. She watches Quidditch with mild interest, perhaps not knowing all the rules/fouls, but knowing most of them, enjoying the wild nature of the sport. Alice hollers loudly in her friend's ear, but Lily is mostly focused on the mad chain of events unfolding before her eyes.
Or, really, she is mostly focused on James.
This is his favorite thing in the world, Quidditch. She's watched him play for years and she knows he loves it, loves it with everything he's got. He was the right pick for Quidditch Captain, because this is what he does.
He leads. He charms. He gets things done. He throws himself into the whirl of life and lives it up.
She isn't particularly fond of heights, but he adores them. He's flying as if he was born to have wings and be up there. He scores and assists the scoring of points. He cheers and flips and goofs off, but he's fully invested in what's going on around him. The kind of magic he makes out here cannot be made with wands and words.
He's so happy that she's happy. Lately, she's only known him in bed, when the two of them are fully invested in each other.
Here, seeing his uninhibited passion in front of everyone else, it touches her. He feels realer to her. Something too big for her brain to handle is closer within her view.
The game isn't very long, ending with a spectacular capture of the Snitch on Gryffindor's end. Gryffindors spill out on the field, enthralled and purely ecstatic, to greet the seven people that brought them glory. Alice, for one, has practically lost her voice shrieking her vocal cords out. She drags Lily out to the pitch with the rest of the crowd, waving her sign like a maniac. She is an active citizen in this world of victory, while Lily seems to have rented a condo just outside of city limits.
She can register that this win gives her a sense of triumph, but she doesn't feel it. Mainly, she is looking for James. She peers over the sea of heads in front of her, but she can't see his messy mop of black hair. She takes Alice further and Alice goes along, simply for the sake of going along.
"It was brilliant, did you see that last bit at the end there?" Alice wants to know, shaking with exhilaration. "Just fantastic! What a victory!"
"It was quite good," Lily agrees vacantly, continuing to crane her long, slender neck.
"Quite good?" Alice could spit with horror. "It was a move of bloody genius – not just quite good!"
"Sorry, sorry, it was a move of bloody genius." Lily's tone is considerably snappier. She has still not located James.
"Just…wow," Alice breathes, her smile so big it must make her cheekbones hurt. "What a match! I really thought Ravenclaw was going to steamroll us, but we held our own, got some points. Potter got some really fine shots in. But when Andrews got the Snitch…someone ought to throw him a party or something, because I don't think I've seen anything that impressive since the World Cup a few years ago…"
Alice continues to sing Andrews' praises, using dramatic sweeps of her arms to emphasize her points, but Lily stops paying her friend any attention altogether. Finally, she can see James in the midst of a team pile-up and her pace slows as she focuses on the sight of him.
He's radiant. He's laughing, his mouth fully open, his hazel eyes almost ridiculously bright. Sirius Black is hugging him tightly from behind, laughing along with him, the other two Marauders by his sides, just as thrilled.
They are such a sight. She does not usually see happiness this complete. She had wanted to perhaps say a word or two to James, congratulate him for his performance, but now she is reluctant. She doesn't want to tarnish this sweet, sweet victory. She knows how hard James worked to get here.
She is standing here in the crowd alone now, Alice having found Frank Longbottom and needing a proper conversation in which both persons involved are contributing opinions. She is hesitant about catching James's too-bright eyes. She doesn't feel right. She ought to rejoin Alice. She ought to be anywhere but here.
She is about to walk away when, all of a sudden, he does catch her eye, so determinedly that she's is astonished. However, he's so over-the-moon about this new success that he doesn't look at her nearly as intensely as he sometimes does. He beckons her to come closer, join in the fun, give him a hug, grin uncontrollably as they go in together talking about the highlights of the match.
He's inviting her into his world. He wants her to be a part of his life. He wants her to take part in the celebration, be with him, get to know a side of him that doesn't steal away in the dead of night to bang her for a few hours.
He just wants to be with her. It's pure and almost painfully obvious in the way he's looking at her. But she knows it's not to be.
She ought to be anywhere but here. She doesn't belong here. This is his world and she is not going to get mixed up in it. She won't share it with him. She can't. It isn't hers to share.
Managing a shy, apologetic smile, she mouths, "Great job," so she doesn't have to yell over the rambunctious crowd. She says it again so she knows he got the message.
Then she turns around and walks back to Alice. This is where she belongs – with Alice and Frank, making plans to sneak out for a few bottles of butterbeer, giggling and poking fun at each other.
People have places in each other's lives. There are places where they are supposed to be and places they should never trespass in.
She knows where they stand and she is not going to make the mistake of blurring lines that deserve to stay marked in stone forevermore. She won't.
Later that night, while the party goes on in full swing downstairs, James meets Lily in the back corridor of the seventh floor, as planned. She is already waiting for him when he turns the corner and arrives. This amuses him – he grins at her.
"Hey," says James.
"Good evening." She can tell he's in the mood for some small talk, but she isn't and she won't humor him. She steps forward and immediately presses her lips to his as her greeting, the general loveliness that comes from kissing him flooding through her like a splash of cool water. She needed that.
He kisses her back with no complaint, applying his own pressure back to her and deepening the kiss from its initial lightness. He pulls her in from her waist and she jostles his shirt trying to get a better hold on him, settling around his neck and re-acquainting with the feel of him.
They kiss in silence for several minutes, each kiss melting gracefully into the next with no sign of relenting, the two of them happy to just kiss, no pressure or overwhelming need.
These kisses are certainly heavy, but there is a certain blitheness to them, something pure and beautiful and barely tapped before tonight. She can't get enough of them.
It is with great difficulty that she stops the natural, easy motion of their lips to murmur, "Let's go to my dormitory this time."
"Fine by me." His tone is breathy, a bit scratchy, which means he wants more. He's not ready to stop.
She can't help but smile, because she completely agrees with the sentiment.
She kisses him one more time, just because she can, and then she leads him to her dormitory, the path barely a blur as she lets her feet guide them both. They arrive at her bed and at once, they are kissing again; big, lusty kisses that can make her blood run boiling hot. She tugs at the zipper of his jeans, fumbling in the dark to get them to open, clumsy with want. He drives her senseless when they kiss like this.
His kisses are resonant and rich, rather soulful tonight. Her blood is not running boiling hot. Instead, it's running at just over its normal temperature. She is not craving more of him, but rather, savoring what he's giving her. He is firm and in-control. The urgency is gone. He kisses her like he has eternity in here with her.
The current is different tonight. She doesn't know why, she doesn't know how she knows. She just does and it just is. So far, though, she's not sure if she likes it.
She gets him out of his pants and his casual shirt – interestingly, a t-shirt, so that she doesn't have to worry about the buttons on most of his other shirts – but he is not as quick as she. He takes his time, peeling her skirt off her skin and lowering it so she can kick it away impatiently, peeling her shirt off with the same care.
She is noticeably faster in taking his advances than he is in giving them, causing an imbalance between them. It makes her uncomfortable, despite his blissful kisses, because what made this so torturously easy in the past was that they were both on the same page.
Something is up.
She interrupts their kiss for a moment, her lips lingering in close proximity to his for just a moment before pulling farther away. The motion is gentle, careful, like the final whisper-thin note of a symphony.
Her eyes, lovely and green, open and bore into his, the question visible there before it escapes her lips:
"James, is there something wrong?"
"No, no, nothing's wrong," he assures her, stroking her hair.
"Then…why does it feel like something is?" Lily asks.
James exhales little by little, demure and innocent under the limited light. "Well, I suppose I ought to be honest with you…"
"Please do," she says at once.
He acts like she hasn't pounced on him with her answer. He considers for several moments, allowing them to tick by with aching slowness, making her wait until he finally looks her in the eye, blazing and utterly sincere.
"Lily, I love you," he informs her.
All the impatient yearning she harbored within her for the past minutes evaporates on the spot, so astonished is she by this startling confession. Her green eyes widen with surprise, but she says nothing. She doesn't have anything to say yet and he knows that.
He takes another breath. "Yes, I do. I love you," he says, "and I…I dunno. I think you ought to know."
"Well, t-thank you for informing me," she stammers.
All the magic, the anticipation, has escaped her. She isn't in bliss anymore. The current is far too different. She never expected this, not ever.
This is not what she had in mind.
He can tell by looking at her that he's alienated her. It must be news to her, that he loves her. She never believed him when he told her as kids. He never tried to tell her before on their nightly escapades.
But he doesn't regret it. She has to know, know how he feels. When things are so strange, when all logic has been discarded for this madness, when he has to live his days thinking about what he's going to do in his nights, something has to give – so he did. He gave. For her.
"I know, I know, it must sound odd to you," James says, half-apologetic but the other half a little bolder. "But it's true. I love you. I don't just want sex tonight."
"Then what do you want?" Lily asks. Her voice is muted, cautious, wary of the answer she might receive.
"I want…I want all of you," he admits. "I don't just want to screw you one night and be done, never to really see you again until the next time you want to screw me. I want more than this."
"What more could you want?" The disbelief has not yet left Lily's tone. The scene remains the same – she is sprawled across his front, her hair rumpled and her well-kissed lips parted in readiness for her next response – but she is acutely aware that nothing else is the same. Not at all.
A twinge of pain taints James's eyes as he caresses her face carefully with his hand. "Merlin, Lily," he whispers, tilting his head so he can kiss her frozen mouth once more – desperate, head-on, frankly amorous. "Lily, Lily, Lily…"
"What, what is it?" she asks into his mouth, muddled but kissing him back because this is what she knows.
"I saw you at the Quidditch game," he tells her between kisses. "You left. You couldn't talk to me in front of our friends. You never do." He kisses her hard, astonishing her one more time yet with his determinedness.
"I don't want to screw you," he says. "I want to make love to you. I want to get to know you and take you out and hold your hand and be something real, even when people are watching. This…sneaking around at night, kissing in the dark…this isn't what I want. You can't want this, Lily – not for either of us."
He rests his first two fingers rest beneath her chin, something wholesome in his face that she can't decipher. He says nothing; the spotlight of his gaze is focused in on only her.
She can't beat around the bush anymore. He doesn't need that. He needs her to talk to him. He needs her to feel. He needs all of her.
Uncertainty wells up inside of her. She's felt this before, almost every time they get together and he looks at her as though he can see right through her.
She stares at him frantically, scrambling for something, anything, in him that will help her. But there's nowhere to look, because he's already laid himself out for her and he's all she can see. He fills up the entirety of her vision, holding her not as a lover, but as a man invested wholeheartedly in the woman he cares for.
This is why the current was different tonight. This is why she couldn't settle into his cadence, the delicacy with which he handled her. This was not going to be the casual dose of a fuck she knew. Beneath the layers of need, relief, familiarity, and physical intrigue, love – pure and simple and fathomless and so absolutely bizarre – bloomed.
She needed him before because he understood her. She needs him now because it's impossible to feel nothing when he knows her so well. She came back to him, every single time, because he's it.
He's everything to her.
For some reason she'll never know, she feels tears in her eyes, the truest tears she has ever felt. They line her eyelids and she feels light enough to float away with the air they breathe.
She looks at him, hanging onto everything she holds dear by the faintest thread, and she lets him look back at her.
The world stops. Time itself stops.
The moment goes on forever, untouched for its incomprehensible beauty. Her senses are sharpened; her breaths comes out shallow, scarce. She wants to speak – both of them know she does – but she can't. Words fail her here.
So, because he wants her answer, she leans down and she kisses him.
He kisses her back, surrender and awareness and love in his wordless response. He pulls her in as close as humanly possible, hands on her bare skin, their legs wrapping together and their tongues speaking the skittering language both are learning to become fluent in.
The events of the evening do not escalate like normal this time. Urgency returns, but it's a changed need – it's natural, beautiful in the simplest ways, swelling and arriving with complete naturalness to a gentle, gorgeous denouement.
Events unfold with sweetness that shrinks the universe down to the two of them – every movement, every sound.
Tonight, they honor his wish and they make love.
They don't need to. Nothing and no one say they have to. But they do.
And tomorrow, a Hogsmeade visit, they are going to get coffee together. They will sit at the same table, playing silly foot-games and fighting over who gets to take the bill. People will ask questions and they will be answered with furtive smiles and limited words. Alice is sure to scream and interrogate her best friend.
But that is what is meant to be. Lines have blurred. Two people have changed. Their lives must change with them.
They love each other.
And, somehow, she thinks they always have.