This is one of my longer stories, but it's also my favorite one yet, so please take the time to read and review! It's much appreciated!!***
"Hey, Lily, look!"
Morgana points straight up in the sky so her arm stands really awkwardly away from her body. We're lying on our backs by the lake, looking up at the stars and just relishing the time away from our classmates. McGonnagall gave us the key to the front door to the castle (after telling her we had "NEWT Astronomy homework") and we're taking full advantage.
As she points, I see a streak of gold flash across the sky. A falling star. "Quick, make a wish!" I say, nudging her.
Morgana doesn't say anything, but flips sideways and props her head up on her hand. "No way, we're splitting it," she says, grinning. "It's bad luck to wish in odd numbers."
I crook an eyebrow at her. "Since when?"
"My grammy told me, and it's worked since then. I always split wishes. And besides, if it works for a decrepit old skank, it should work for us, right?"
I laugh out loud at that and turn onto my side to face her. "You first," I say, raking my hands thru my hair.
"Okay..." She lies back down and thinks, her hands behind her head. I smile: her curls have twigs in them. She sighs dramatically.
"I don't know... I wish..." She taps her lips carefully before smiling. "I wish that... I wish that I pass my Charms practical in two days."
I roll my eyes. "Good luck with that one," I snort, lying down and facing the sky. "You suck –"
"Yes, I know I suck at charms, little miss 'I'm-So-Perfect-I-Don't-Even-Have-Big-Feet'."
"Morgana, shut up." She's sensitive about her feet. I dunno why. At least she's not afraid of going barefoot, and yes, she does constantly remind me that I am.
"Make your wish," Morgana says, closing her eyes. I press my lips together. What to wish for, what to wish for...
"I wish that James didn't love me anymore."
The words are out of my mouth before I can control them. Ooh. It's a good thing James wasn't here. He could take that the complete wrong way.
Morgana punches me in the arm and rolls onto her stomach. "What the fug?" she says. (I admit, I'm proud of her. She hasn't sworn once since last New Year's, when she made the resolution.) "Why in the name of Merlin's bushy left eyebrow would you wish that?"
I smile. "Why are you quoting Merlin's eyebrows?" She punches me again, even though she knows I bruise easily. I grunt. "Enough!"
"Answer me, you little bee-with-an-itch!"
"No!" I roll away, laughing, as she tries to punch me again. Abusive little demon, she is. She catches me soon enough, and sits on my stomach, holding my arms above my head and tickling my face with her curls.
"Tell me! I thought you two were friends!" Morgana shrieks.
"Fine! Fine!" I say, struggling. "I am friends with him! I am! That's why! I don't want him to hurt anymore! I don't think –" I pause, looking at her. "I don't think I'll ever love him like he loves me. It's unfair to him."
Morgana doesn't move for a second, then slowly gets up off me and stands, helping me up. "Lily, I've never made a wish on a star that didn't come true," she says. I can't believe how serious she sounds. "Never. Not once. But I'm hoping to God that you and I don't get our wishes, because it's all or nothing with an even wish, chickie."
I nod, but I can't look her in the eye because I'm extremely distracted at the moment.
"Lily?" She waves a hand in front of my face. "Earth to Lily-girl! Hell-ooh, come in, are you there?"
"Shut it, Morgana!" I hiss, grabbing her shoulders and whipping her around. "Look!"
Standing there, at the edge of the forbidden forest, is the most beautiful stag I have ever seen. He's... glowing, and he has magnificent antlers that spread wide above his head.
"Oh," Morgana breathes, frozen. We stare. The three of us stay that way for only a second, then the beautiful creature turns tail and runs, bounding into the trees. I hear barking.
"Come on," I whisper, turning away. "Hurry. That dog sounds angry."
"The way that stag was looking at you, I don't think the dog would be the problem," Morgana says. I pretend I don't hear her.
I turn around, expecting James, but – oh. It's Remus, with Sirius behind him. I smile and tell Alice and Morgana to keep going before asking, "Hallo, Rem. Siri. What's up?"
They slow to a stroll next to me, Siri throwing an arm around my shoulders playfully, and we head towards the Arithmancy hallway. "James just wants you to know that he has the papers for the Heads meeting tonight, and he'll see you there," Remus says.
I admit it: I was taken aback. "What? Really? He's not walking me, or – or going to track me down or anything? No sitting by me at lunch?"
Sirius looks at me like I amuse him. Bugger.
"No, he said he had to practice Transfiguration in lunch today, and he's studying all until the meeting tonight," Rem tells me.
I wrinkle up my eyebrows. "Ehm... okay... thank you, Remus," I say awkwardly, and head into Arithmancy with Sirius.
What a load of bull. I don't believe it. James? Practicing Transfiguration? His wand is practically made for Transfiguration. There's no way he's skipping his favorite time of the day – food time – to study his best subject.
"Lil?" Siri says. I can hear him trying not to laugh.
I look over at Alice, whose face is red and blotchy. "What happened, Al?" I ask. She really looks upset, like she's about to cry.
"You just stacked your books on my finger."
I wince. "Ehm... sorry...?" I say meekly. Her eyes shoot daggers at me. Siri chuckles. Ouch.
"Hallo, everybody, are we ready –"
I stop short when I catch sight of James, already in the meeting room and sitting without so much as a single spot on his shirt. "'Lo, Lily," he says. He doesn't smile.
"You— you're early..."
He takes a glance at his watch. "No... no, I'm sure I'm on time. You, I believe, are late." He looks at me solemnly.
"When did that matter before?" I ask.
"Well, it's unprofessional."
I let out a breath of disbelief, then ignore him and turn to the prefects. "Since I am just so unprofessional, why don't we have the Head Boy lead the meeting tonight, shall we?" I say, and sit down smirking.
James shrugs and stands up with his papers.
I can't believe it.
Not one little smile to me throughout the entire performance. Not a glance at my direction. No sign language behind his back to make me laugh. Not a single inside joke that no one else would understand.
Something is very wrong here.
"I passed! I passed, Lily!"
Morgana comes running up to me at lunch the following day waving a roll of parchment like a flag. She's wearing a grin so big that her face appears split in half.
"I passed my charms exam! The one I – you know –" she smiles, "–wished for!" She smacks it on the table and downs my entire glass of pumpkin juice.
Oh my Lord.
"Ana, this can't be happening," I say, pulling her down to sit next to me. "Those wishes don't work. No way!"
"Sure they do!" Morgana says, taking a bite of my roll. "I passed, eh?"
"No, you little fox, listen!" I grab her collar. "Look on my other side. Who do you see?"
She peers around me. "Um... no one."
"Exactly! I was here, and James didn't even sit by me. Not so much as a brush of the hand! Nothing!" I move my face in closer, dropping my voice. "What if that wish came true?" I whisper.
She frowns and thinks for a mo. "Thought that was what you wanted," she said after a second.
"I don't know what I want, you would think God would know that by now!" I say, looking at the ceiling. "D'you hear me, God? I don't know!"
Morgana tears herself away from me. "Give it a rest, Lily. You know there's a way to test this."
"What's the one way to know that James doesn't love you anymore?" she asks quietly. "Come on, Lily, you know this."
And then it clicks.
Damn, what a feisty best friend I have.
"Ana, I feel like an idiot."
"You look like one hot little minx," Morgana says, primping my hair one last time. "Absolutely smoking. You're a total heartbreaker."
I take a look in the mirror again. My skirt is at least four inches shorter than I usually wear it, with a hole at the hem on the left side. My usually smoothly-curled hair is straight and flows down my back. My blouse is much too low, my tie is undone, and why the hell am I wearing heels? I'm completely uncoordinated.
"I dunno. I'm going to fall."
"No you won't. Those are BadBalance heels. No matter how talented you are at finding things to trip on on a flat, stable surface –" she ducks, and my fist swings over her head, "they won't let you fall. I swear."
I stand up and pull down my skirt just an inch, then grab my bag. "God, please make all men blind. Just for today. I'm begging you. You sort of owe us for the whole era of leaf-fashion you started mankind with," I say, starting down the stairs.
"Actually, that minimalist look was what inspired me here," Morgana calls, coming down after me.
I feel like an exhibit.
Everywhere I've gone today, people have gawked at me. Errik Lorn's eyes nearly popped out of his head. I punched him.
And even now, while I'm leaning over to pull out a book from my bag, and I can't help but show maximum cleavage, James isn't looking at me. He didn't comment this morning. He didn't smack Sirius when he stared at me. He even moved when I sat down next to him.
I feel my heart race as I turn to him. He's looking at me expectantly. "Yeah?" I say, real nonchalantly. Nice and smooth. That's how I do it. Evans: 1, Awkwardness:0.
"Pass the mice."
I look at him, openmouthed, for a second, before blushing and handing him the mice we're transforming into armchairs. Of course.
Evans: 0, Awkwardness: 1.
The air is very cool tonight. I notice this as I'm already sitting beneath a beech tree by the lake shore, and I'm shivering.
Oh. Duh. Witch.
Thirty seconds later I'm at least a little warmer, but I can't light a fire any bigger than the fist-sized flames hovering before me. McGonnagall would see and have a fit.
So I sit and shiver, watching the sky. I couldn't stand another minute with Alice and Morgana asking me why I care so much about James ignoring me. They irritated me.
I much prefer cold secludedness over warm irritation.
A stick cracks in the forest. I tense, looking around – maybe one of Hagrid's thestrals is coming to eat me – no. Nevermind.
A rather large dog comes tumbling out of the trees, falling over its own paws and barking loudly, almost sounding like he's laughing. He turns to face the dark again, and the stag comes bounding after him.
The dog crouches and shakes his tail in the air, wiggling his butt wildly. The stag rolls his head around, but before he can start running again the dog sits and itches his tail with his teeth.
The stag almost looks dumbfounded. Then he parts his lips in an obvious grin and sits, twisting his head.
I don't believe it.
This stag, this beautiful creature, is itching his butt.
With. His. Antlers.
I want to laugh, but somehow the sound gets caught in my throat and I can't. It comes out as a choking cry.
The stag doesn't hear. He has already bounded away into the forest, obviously thinking the dog is following, but the dog heard the cry and is looking at me. He whimpers.
"Go on," I say hastily, waving. "Go on, go with your friend."
The dog huffs and approaches me a bit slowly, until he's right beside me. He's very big. The beast sits down and curls around me, so that I'm leaning on his side. "Thanks, puppy," I say quietly, rubbing his fur. Very clean. For a second I'm possessed with the idea that this animal must use conditioner. I don't know why I'm not afraid -- I ought to be -- but I can't be. It's strange.
"You aren't going to hurt me, are you?" I ask.
The dog looks at me, then raises his head and puts it on my lap. I pet his ears. He grunts very happily in his chest, closing his eyes.
"What would you do, I wonder, puppy?"
I look around before realizing that I must have said that. My lips move without my permission.
The dog rolls over so that his back is up and his eyes are looking at me. His tongue lolls out.
"What would you do, puppy, if you made a wish like I did?"
I stroke his ears still, and he grunts. He sounds confused.
"A wish that you want to take back. A wish that made your best friend – the one that loved you – never love you again."
His lips stretch into the widest grin I've ever seen, and he barks very softly, like a laugh. Then, before I can react, he's flipping over and on his feet. He nudges me with his cold, wet nose – I laugh half-heartedly – and he runs away. Funny. He still runs like a puppy, even though he looks like a small pony.
I tuck my knees to my chin and look out over the lake. Alone. How ironic.
I sigh and rub my nose. That's it, then. He doesn't love me. I'm too late, I was too stupid, I wasn't fast enough. At least maybe he'll be happy with someone who will love him like I didn't when the time was right for it.
I gasp before I can help it.
The stag emerges very slowly from the woods, gleaming. He has a pure white coat that reflects the starlight.
"Hallo, pretty," I say quietly, not moving. "Are you going to run away too?"
He shakes his head. Odd.
The creature's hooves click on river rocks as he makes his way to me. He stops a few feet away and bows, his head brushing the ground. He is magnificent.
"You are very handsome," I whisper. He tosses his head about, then clip-clops over to me and lies down, his head flat on the ground. I tentatively reach out a hand and pet his fur very lightly.
This creature reminds me of him, a bit. Very proud-looking. Very calm. And, as that little itching-incident proved, very funny when he wants to be.
"You are like him, aren't you? You are like James," I tell him. The stag snorts, looks at me, and one lip curves up in a half-smile. "Except you aren't leaving for a little while, are you?"
He looks at me. Those lips are definitely smiling. How sweet.
The sky is calm and peaceful.. He raises his head and looks at it, then looks at me, then it again.
Professor Alamo didn't tell us there was a meteor shower tonight, but there must be. The entire sky is lighting up with beautiful falling stars, so bright that my face is bathed in white light. I say it before I have time to think it.
"Listen, handsome, you have to wish with me," I say hurriedly, looking the stag in the eye. "Please. Wishes only work in pairs."
The stag looks at me, then nods. The beast nods. There's something strange going on here, but I don't bother thinking about it right now.
"I wish he loved me again!" I say. The stag looks at the sky, closes his eyes, then turns to me again. He's really wishing.
"I wish my friend loved me again!"
The stag bares his teeth in a smile.
"I wish James Potter loved me again!"
My hand clenches in his fur as I say it, and I – I'm crying. I haven't cried in ages. But there are hot, wet tears running down my face, and my body is shaking with sobs.
The stag whimpers. I didn't know stags do that. Then, before I can stop him, he stands, and I topple sideways onto the grass where he was sitting. He touches my forehead with his nose.
"Please don't go!" I say wildly. I can tell I'm getting hysterical, but I can't stop. "Please!"
He puts his nose to my forehead again, and that's when I realize something odd. He's turning... lighter. There is beautiful light surrounding him, and soon it's so bright that I can't even see his shape anymore. I hunch over: my cries are quiet, but my head hurts from the force of it all.
The light fades very quickly. I look up to see a distinctly male silhouette standing there. An Animagus. Wow.
I'm crying softer now, so that I can barely even hear it anymore. The man walks over and puts his arms around me, takes me into his lap, and starts to rub my back with one hand. I don't care that I don't know who he is. I just sit here until my sobs have stopped, and I wipe my eyes, and lean against his chest.
"I never stopped, you know."
I can feel my body go rigid. No way. There is no way that the stag is –
I look up. Yes. He is.
James brushes my hair out of my face very gently and says, "I never stopped loving you. Never."
"Then why –?"
"You noticed, didn't you? You missed it. You love me now, and I know it."
I lean against him again. "You heard my wishes? Both times?"
I nuzzle into his neck and sob dryly. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
We stay that way for a few moments, watching the sky. The meteor shower has stopped. After a little while, I say, "I love you."
I stop breathing. Uh-oh. My heart races. What if he says that it's too late? What if –
"I love you too, flower. Always have, always will."
Sirius sits back and looks at Morgana. "We did it, chickie. Me with the plan, you with the magic. Good team, eh?"
Morgana grins and bumps her fist with his. "Long odds are my favorite kind, Black. Remus owes me ten Galleons."
"Ten Galleons? He owes me three Sickles! What the fuck?"
James and I are crouching behind a bush, where they can't see us. They think we went up to the castle together. Sirius's voice drifts over to us again.
"I wonder if they would have been able to do it themselves?"
James looks at me. I smile. He holds up three fingers – two – one –
I fling myself in the direction that Morgana's voice was coming from, shrieking. She doesn't have any time to react before we're rolling along into the forest, me laughing, she swearing at the top of her lungs.
"What the fuck is going on? What the hell, you son of a bitch! Get the fuck off me!"
We stop. I hear James and Sirius laughing behind us. Sirius was the mastermind behind the whole plan, which James and I hadn't known until he and Morgana started congratulating themselves, but Morgana was the one that actually instituted everything. The creation of the first star. The meteor shower. Everything.
I sit on her stomach, holding her hands above her head, my still-straight hair tickling her face. "Thank you," I say quietly. "Thank you so much."
Her face relaxes into a smile. "You owe me, you little bitch. You made me break my no-swear streak."
James is calling my name, so I plant a platonic kiss on her forehead, say thanks one more time, and run to find him.
He's standing there, tall and proud, and I can still see the essence of the Stag around him. He's as handsome and proud and strong, and as he takes my hand and whispers, "I love you," I am wonderfully happy for the little star that Morgana sent my way.
Thanks for taking the time to read. If you could take another three seconds to write a review, I'll love you forever!!
...You know, in that non-creepy, platonic way. ***