She's been living in her uptown world
I bet she never had a back street guy
I bet her mama never told her why….
People were surprised when Crysta Phillips began talking to me. They were shocked when we started dating. Six months later, when we announced our engagement, they were downright flabbergasted.
Now, the casual observer might think there was something a little odd about that. I'm from an old, pureblood, Wizarding family just like hers, I am pretty intelligent, and have a steady job as an intern at the Auror office. Even the short amount of time we were dating before our engagement was normal; with all the killings recently, people seemed to be rushing into everything. So why, you ask, wouldn't everybody encourage our relationship?
Well, I forgot to mention that our lovely casual observer is legally blind. While I'm at the top of the food chain of society, I don't like to dress or act accordingly. In fact, I've been told that I frequently look like I had a fight with something higher up on the food chain and lost. (This of course is a lie; James Potter never loses fights.) I have also probably had more detentions than anyone else in Hogwarts history, except Sirius Black, who just so happens to be my best mate.
Conversely, Crysta is practically a saint. She was a year behind me in school, and became the Head Girl in her seventh year. I'm not sure if she's ever gotten reprimanded by a teacher, much less a detention. She has confided to me, though, that she laughed just as much at my pranks as anyone else. I find myself quoting Mary Poppins when I think of her: "Practically perfect in every way." Sirius says she's an android, and quotes Star Wars when I talk about her: "These are not the droids you're looking for…."
We had faced down criticism every step of the way. People had told us that we were no good for each other many, many times, and now, a week away from my wedding day….I was starting to believe them. Maybe she really was wrong for me, and I for her.
I'm not usually easy to scare, but that thought was terrifying the piss out of me. I didn't want to go through with the wedding if I knew it wasn't going to work, but I didn't want to break it off if it would have worked. Basically, I had no idea what to do. So, I did what pretty much every bachelor does—I went to see my mum.
I surprised her in the act of making cookies—for my reception, no doubt. I cringed. My mum dusted the flour off her hands to usher me into her house.
"James, you're just in time," she said, pushing a bit of flyaway grey hair out of her face and looking harried. "Harold hasn't been home at all, and I need to get four more batches in the oven today. I meant to ask you, would you prefer eight of each peanut butter and chocolate chip, or—"
"Mum," I cut her off. We were in the kitchen already, and she had pressed a mixing bowl into my hands and was beating eggs as if she hated them. I gently set the bowl on the counter. "Actually, I was hoping I could talk to you…."
No sense in having sixteen batches of cookies and no wedding to eat them at.
Something in my expression or my tone had gotten through to her. She put down the whisk, pulled out chairs for each of us, and gave me her full attention.
"It's about the wedding," I said as I sat down. "I'm not sure if I should go through with it."
"Why?" my mum asked immediately. "Is there another woman? Or is she cheating on you?"
"No, it's nothing like that." I wondered if I could get through this explanation without my mum voicing about fifty theories. "I just don't know if we're….right."
This was hard. I hated expressing my emotions.
"She's amazing and everything, and nothing I feel for her has changed, but it just seems like I hardly know her." No, that wasn't right. I'd known her for years. "Well, I know her, but….I don't know."
Strangely, my mum had a look of understanding on her face—a good thing, because even I didn't understand what I'd just said.
"I have an idea for you," she said. "Harold and I did this before our wedding. Tomorrow it'll be five days until the wedding. Meet her every day somewhere, and exchange facts about yourselves. Then, you take her to the movies, or the beach, or something like that. It'll be just like you're dating again!"
"Mum, we are dating. We didn't stop just because we got engaged."
"Oh, well, you know what I mean."
We paused for a moment or two, and I considered her idea. It was simple, fun, and sounded like it might work. I clung to it like a dying man to a life raft.
I stood up and kissed my mother. "Thanks for the idea, and the cookies smell great. I'm sorry I can't stay, I have to go pick out my tux in half an hour."
They had said to come "whenever", but I didn't want to spend the rest of the day as a raven-haired Pillsbury Doughboy.
Not entirely sure what the place (I refused to call it a "boutique") was, I checked the business card. The place was called Vincent Carson's Tuxedo and Dress Robe Boutique, and it was on Newt Lane. That wasn't far. I decided to walk.
On the way, I went over some details in my mind. We'd meet at the Parkway Diner to do our little fact exchange. It was about halfway in between our apartments, and neatly situated near a movie theater and other such attractions. The first day, I decided, we would go see Grease; it sounded torturous for me, but she would probably enjoy it.
By the time I had ironed out at least the next day's details, I had arrived at the shop. A bell tinkled gently as I opened the door. As soon as I entered, I was enveloped in plush surroundings, and almost gagged on the scent of a probably very expensive perfume that appeared to have been applied to absolutely everything in the vicinity.
I couldn't see any employees wandering around and there wasn't anyone at the desk, so I started to look around at the tux section on the right. As soon as I touched a hanger of an outfit I liked, I heard a female voice behind me.
"Can I help you, sir?" I whipped around. That wasn't just any female voice—that was….
Lily Evans stood behind me. As soon as she saw my face she gasped and dropped the set of dress robes she'd been putting away. I bent down to help her pick them up and saw that she was blushing deeply and looked more uncomfortable than I had ever seen her.
You see, Lily was my ex-girlfriend. I had spent most of my Hogwarts career pursuing her and she had finally gone out with me in our seventh year, but we broke up soon after school. It had been a stupid argument, I didn't even remember what it was about, but she had yelled that she never wanted to see me again, and I had complied. We hadn't met since. Until now.
We both straightened up and stood in awkward silence for at least a lifetime.
"Wow….hi," I said feebly. "It's been a while. How are you?"
"I'm, uh, pretty good," she replied. "So, what's the occasion?"
Bugger, I thought. I was hoping this wouldn't come up so soon, or at all for that matter. "I'm….getting married."
"Oh." Her smile became plastered. She looked at the tux I had been checking out. "In that case, that tux is all wrong."
"What's wrong with it?" I wanted to get the subject off my approaching nuptials, but I also sincerely wanted to know. The tux I'd picked out was the only one I had seen that wasn't pink anywhere, had minimal frills, and looked like something I could wear without being ridiculed every time anyone looked at my wedding pictures.
"It's all black, James. Usually, people buy these to put on their dead relatives when they're going in the casket," Lily explained. Her mouth twitched, but she seemed to be determined to avoid my eyes. "This one over here is our most popular wedding tux."
She hid it well, but I noticed the small catch in her voice when she said "wedding". I examined the tux. It wasn't too bad, but the handkerchief was uncompromisingly pink.
"Uh, do you have any other color of hankies?" I asked hopefully.
"I'll see what we have in the back," she replied, and almost ran to the storage room. Something inside me wrenched when it occurred to me that at least one of those hankies was probably being put to a different use than decoration.
In a few minutes, Lily returned, bearing a much better, white handkerchief. It had some lace on the edges, but that could be dealt with. Her nose was slightly red and her eyes were bright, which made me sure that my assumption had been correct.
"Thank you," I said wholeheartedly. I tried to think of something witty to say that would cheer her up. "So you think this tux will make me look less ugly?"
"You know you're not ugly, James," Lily said, fussing with the hankie for a full minute longer than was necessary. She was still avoiding my gaze.
"Then why won't you look at me?"
She met my eyes for a split second, then shook her head. "I'm going off duty in a couple of minutes. I'm bring Eddie over. I hope you find what you're looking for, and good luck in your new life."
"Wait!" I said. She turned around again, and the plastered smile returned to her face. "You're still working now, and I want to talk to you."
I felt guilty for playing the employee-customer card, but I had to do something. I couldn't just let her go off like that.
"Does it involve tuxedoes, or anything else we offer here?" she asked.
"Then I don't have to talk to you about it." Her face softened. "You have a fiancée. Spend time with her, because you're not going to get anywhere with me."
I watched, stunned, as she walked up to the counter and told Eddie that he should come help me out. There was no need. I followed her out the door. After reaching the sidewalk, I Disapparated. She'd told me to go and see Crysta, and I would. Crysta was just what I needed right now. She wasn't confusing or taciturn or rude, and I was an incredibly lucky man to be marrying her.
One minute after I Apparated, I had succeeded in my goal to forget all about Lily Evans.