A/N- Hello, my lovelies! I've been a horrible person to you this past month! An entire month without updating! I should be tortured in the worst ways- bamboo skewers underneath my fingernails, tickle torture- maybe even *GASP* never reading Harry Potter again! NOOOOO!
Anyway, this is going to be the last chapter. There will be NO epilogue, because all the fluffy stuff is in here. I hope you all enjoy it. I'm sorry if it isn't what you wanted, but I tried. There'll be an insanely long author's note at the bottom, so keep an eye out for that.
Disclaimer- absolutely none of this is mine.
Without further adieu. . .
Summer was finally here. The air was thick and heavy and full with the buzzing of mosquitoes, and the sky was a brilliant, perfect blue. N.E. were over at last, and after spending more than a week worrying about my grades and obsessively studying, I could relax underneath the large tree by the lake and watch the squid reaching out a languid tentacle to splash at swimmers. James was getting better. Madame Pomfrey had finally allowed him to pack up his things and move back to the dormitory, which of course meant a night of celebration for all of us. Things were different between the two of us now. There was a feeling in the air, as though something ripe and wonderful was hanging between the two of us, and all that had to be done was for us to reach out and take it.
The night of the ball came at last, on the final week of school. Aria, Sara, Olivia, Raye and I were lounging on the couches in the Common Room, waiting for our dates to meet us in an ironic twist of events, probably due to the fact that we had gone up to our dormitories to get dressed three hours early.
And I was a complete wreck. Tonight was it. THE night. The only time I had to tell James how I felt about him, before the rush of graduation started. It wasn't that I was afraid he would turn me down. Well, a bit of that, but he was James, and even if he had moved on, he would let me down nicely. It was just the actual act of telling him that was making my palms sweat and my stomach tie in knots. I'd never had to do anything like that before. Now I was much more appreciative of how James must have felt when he asked me out every single day for three years.
"Lily." I looked over at Aria, who was lounging against the chair. Her dress was a deep royal blue that perfectly matched the color of her eyes, and her hair spilled over her shoulders- not curled, not straightened, but in its natural state. She wasn't wearing any makeup- just a light wash of shimmery eyeshadow and a dusting of rosy blush. She grinned, and looked more lovely than I'd ever seen. "Calm down. It's only James. If he's near you, he's perfectly happy."
"You don't know that." My voice sounded slightly hysterical. She smiled. "Honey. It's your first date. I think I would know that."
"It's not a date."
She raised her eyebrows at me, and I blushed. "All right. Well, maybe I want it to be. But it's not." She looked away, shaking her head, and I thought I heard her mutter something like, 'that's what you think'.
I got to my feet, unable to sit in silence anymore, and started pacing, smoothing out my skirt as I went. I'd bought a simple white dress from Hogsmeade the weekend after I returned to the school, a thin strapless gown with a green sash that hugged me around the waist and flared out, almost like a flower over my knees, and a pair of small heels. Aria had french-braided my hair up into a wreath-like crown, with side bangs gently framing the curve of my cheek. All of the flaws on my face were erased, and my cheeks were rosy, my eyelashes twice as long as normal. As many times as Aria had done my hair and makeup this year, the difference it made was still unbelievable.
Raye looked almost as nervous as me. She was going with Remus, and I wouldn't be surprised if something happened between them tonight as well. Her dress was the color of buttery yellow sunshine, and her hair curled around her shoulders. Her fingernails drummed against the chair she was sitting on.
There were footsteps on the stairway to the boy's dormitory, and Remus came downstairs, followed closely by Peter and Sirius. The former grinned at Raye, who's cheeks were suddenly a pretty pink. "Ready to go?"
"Sure." She got up and grabbed his hand. He squeezed her fingers. I smiled. They were so adorable when they were with each other that they were bound to be together at some point. "See you there, Lily. Aria." She waved her free hand at us, and they disappeared out the portrait hole, leaving us alone with Sirius and Peter.
It was possibly the most awkward situation I had ever been in. Sirius was openly staring at Aria, who was trying to look as though she didn't care, but I could see her hands clenched together so hard that her nails were carving marks out of her skin.
"So," I drew out the word in an attempt to ease the tension. It didn't work. "Who're you going with?"
"Mary McDonald," Peter said shyly, and I smiled. She was a quiet Hufflepuff with pale blond hair and a round face- she would probably suit Peter. Sirius didn't look away from Aria. "I'm going stag," he said, and the implications made her blush. "What about you?"
She cleared her throat and tossed her head so that her neck was exposed, making her look more vulnerable. "Nobody. Well, Sara and Liv. They don't have dates either." She looked over at where the two girls were sitting and smiled. Sara got to her feet. "We should probably go," she said, running a hand through her hair and teetering slightly on the absurdly high heeled shoes. "Don't want to be late, you know."
"Right." Aria swivelled her eyes back to look at Sirius. "Where's James?"
Sirius smirked and threw a glance over his shoulder towards me. "Still in the dormitories, fussing over his hair. I swear, he's a girl at heart. He's terrified that you'll dump him if his hair is out of place." He rolled his eyes. I grinned. There was a warm feeling building in my chest, almost like the kind you get when you drink hot butterbeer. "Then you guys should go. I'll wait here for him."
"See you there," Aria got to her feet and immediately stepped as far away from Sirius as possible. "Have fun." She winked at me, and made her way towards the Portrait Hole, followed closely by the two boys. I sighed, and sat back down on the couch to wait.
. . . . . . . . . .
It had been almost fifteen minutes, and I had been in a half slumber, repeatedly dozing off before catching myself. I started, my purse clutched in my hands, and turned. My heartbeat seemed to slow. James was standing in front of the doorway, his hands shoved into his pockets. He was wearing a black suit and pants, with a pale green shirt and tie, and his hair actually looked tame, for once. He smiled at me, and there was a fluttering in my heart. "Hi," I said breathlessly.
"Hi." He walked towards me and produced a tiny corsage out of nowhere. "For you." His hands were warm around my wrist, tying on the green-and-white flowers. He didn't let go of my hand when he was finished, but folded it into his own. His eyes were soft when he looked at me.
"Thank you," I said, ducking my head as he continued to stare.
I grimaced up at him. "Only because Aria fixed me up."
"No." His fingers came up under my chin and tipped it up so that I could see his face. "You are beautiful, Lily. And not because of the makeup." I edged closer to him, until his arm was forced to go around my shoulders, and my cheek was pressed against his chest. "You're very sweet," I murmured. "Thank you."
"Any time." I could practically feel his grin, even if I couldn't see it. We started out of the Common Room, through the hallway, down the marble stairs and towards the Great Hall, still with our arms around each other. "Sirius said you were fussing over your hair," I said conversationally. "Something about me not liking you if it wasn't perfect?"
He blushed. I grinned. "It's okay," I breathed, and reached up with my hands to tousle it softly, until it was exactly the way it should be. "I like it more messy, anyway."
My hand refused to come back to my side. His eyes met mine, and the silence once again was filled with something more, as it was bound to do when we were alone. I didn't back away, this time. "James." I had meant my voice to sound a bit determined, but instead it was high and tremulous.
His hand reached up, closed around my wrist, and slid it down from his hair until it was resting on his cheek. His eyes were fixed upon my expression, watching me cautiously, as though I were a deer he might frighten away, and although that left me time to snatch my hand away and turn and flee, I didn't. I stepped closer, and watched his eyelashes flutter shut behind his glasses. "Lily. . . we need to talk."
"About what?" His voice had a husky timber to it that sent shivers chasing each other down the back of my neck.
I swallowed. "Can't. . . can't it wait?" I didn't want to hear him say it, the dreaded line- 'I think we should be just friends'. "We do have a ball to get to." I made to move my hand away, but his fingers turned vice-like and his eyes cold. "No. No, Lily, it can't wait. All I ever do is wait, or watch you run away. Not again."
I sighed, and he let go of my hand so that it fell limply. "Running away. . . I don't think I can. . . No, you're right. I need to tell you something." I tilted my chin up, so that I was looking directly into his face. "You said you loved me, four months ago. And I hated you for it. . . I'm sorry."
His eyes were unreadable, as though he had pulled the shutters down.
I went on. "I thought I could ignore you, or somehow convince myself that you didn't mean anything to me. That you were just a friend. And I had no idea how much I would hurt you, in the process." I winced at the memory, and bowed my head so I wouldn't have to meet his expression. "I was stupid, so stupid to push you away, again and again, and expect you to be there for me every time, to not care about your needs and make you think that I. . . that you weren't anything to me."
"But you know what? I never could ignore you. Even. . . even when I was eleven, and you were the annoying boy always tugging on my braids, and I told you I hated you. . . All that emotion had to go somewhere, see?"
He was looking at me as though I was on the verge of losing it, and opened his mouth. I shook my head at him. "Let me finish. . . I need to. I know that I took you for granted. And I can understand if you just want to forget about me as soon as the year is over. But I could never forget about you. You're the reason why I'm here right now. You've saved me, more than once, from the Death Eaters. . . but also from myself. . . Oh my God, I sound like a Valentine's Day commercial."
He grinned. I swallowed, and attempted to finish. "Anyway. I just wanted you to know that. . . that I think I might be in love with you."
I ducked my head hastily so that I wouldn't have to see his expression and began rambling. "If you don't feel the same way, it's fine, I mean, I completely understand, you don't have to-"
I was quite abruptly silenced by a finger tilting my head upwards, and a pair of warm lips pressing themselves over mine. I froze, unwilling to believe it, and shoved at James' chest until I could see the expression on his face. He was grinning.
"Wait. . . did you just kiss me?" My realization was catching up with me. His hands slid from underneath my chin to down my back, where they looped around my waist.
"I believe that's what it's called."
"But. . . but. . ."
He sighed with impatience. "You honestly don't get it? Okay. . . how could you even believe, for one moment, that I could have stopped loving you?"
The expression in his eyes. . . Merlin, it was near enough to make me melt. "Oh," I said faintly, and that was all I could get out before he brought his lips back down to mine. I kissed him back with enthusiasm, grasping his face between my hands as though it were my lifeline. He tasted fantastic, like cinnamon and sweets and a certain flavor that could only be described as James.
"Finally!" A voice said from nearby, and I broke apart from James to see Aria peering out from around the door, her face full of delight. "I can't believe it! Raye! Olivia! They're together!"
I groaned and buried my head into James' shoulder as two more sets of footsteps came skidding to a halt and there were identical excited shrieks. James laughed, his breath tickling the hairs on top of my head, and his hands tightened around my waist. "Do you think I could leave us alone?"
All though I agreed with this idea- very, very much, in fact- I heard Aria chuckle, and then there were hands pulling me away from him. "Sorry, James," she said regretfully. "It's our last dance at Hogwarts! You can't have Lily the whole time. We're kidnapping her."
"But-" I started to protest, but James grinned and held out his hands for me. "Have fun," he told me, as I managed to slip away from them and hug him back. He seemed to mold around me as though it were natural. "But I do expect to dance with her at least once," he warned the others in mock-seriousness.
"Of course," Aria said, an evil grin plastered across her face.
". . . don't let me go," I pleaded, but he kissed the top of my head, and then tilted my chin up so that our lips could fit together one more time. "See you in a bit."
I was near enough to him that I could feel his breathing stutter. He moved his hand from the small of my back to my neck where he toyed with a few stray hairs that had escaped from the careful twist. "I love you more."
I pressed my face into his side so that he couldn't see the broad smile that burst out as he said those words, nor the warm, giddy feeling that was now bubbling inside my stomach. This was exactly how it was meant to be, and the only real shame was that I hadn't told him until now. He kissed me again, before letting me go and looking at the girls. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
"Which leaves everything," I retorted. He grinned at me and raised his eyebrows up and down, before turning the corner into the ball and disappearing.
"I really hate you right now," I told Aria, as she linked her arm through mine and moved with me into the Great Hall.
"Sorry. But it's for your own good, you know. You have your entire life to be with James. We'll only be allowed to have fun for the next five days."
"You think?" I smiled, at that thought. Going out on dates with James. Cuddling up on couches with him. Taking long walks in parks. Having snowball fights. Moving in together. Baking cookies and spoiling the dough because we weren't watching when we put in the salt. Starting a family. "Well, I guess when you put it that way. . ."
So I held out my hands with a sigh and allowed them to drag me in, laughing, into the dance-floor.
"What's going to happen now?"
James looked down at me as though I had lost my mind. We were on the dance-floor, a loud, pulsating beat causing the ground to quiver, but my arms were wrapped around his neck and we were revolving in time to a much slower tune. I'd been danced out, and had taken off my shoes, now strewn in a corner, but I wasn't too worried about them, and my feet were now on top of James' as he stepped from side to side.
"Well. . . we'll dance some more, get something to eat, and then probably leave."
I grinned. "No. . . I mean, once Hogwarts is over. We only have five more days before graduation, you know."
"Lily." The look in his eyes was so intense that I suddenly found it quite difficult to breathe. "I don't know what I'm going to do in five years from now. Hell, I don't even know what I'm going to do five hours from now. All I do know is that I love you, and I want to be with you. You worry too much. We don't have to plan out our whole lives right here."
"But what if we get lost, out there? In the real world?"
"Then we can be lost together." His hand caressed the back of my neck, warm and supportive. "And I'll be there for you, okay? No matter what. Even if you don't want me to be. I'll be stealthy."
I laughed. "All right. But I'll always want you. That won't change." I pressed my head up against his collarbone, and when I exhaled, my breath left goosebumps on his skin. He didn't say anything, just leaned his head against mine. To my left, Raye and Remus were dancing, their bodies far too close for 'just-friends'. Aria was dancing, her hair swinging behind her, her arm joined together with Olivia's. As I watched, Sirius approached her, put his hand on her back and whispered in her ear. She stopped, her face tilting towards him without thought, and then nodded slowly. He offered her his hand. There was a moment of hesitation, but she took it, and then they were dancing, staring at each other as though looking away could cause blindness. I smiled. Maybe it was the time for new beginnings. They certainly deserved it.
We deserved it too. I turned my head back, saw the scars on James' neck, the reminders of what we had been through, of what there was still to come. Voldemort was still out there, somewhere, and my thin bubble of happiness could not protect me if I were in his way. But if the time did come, James and I would get through it together.
A/N- So that's it, folks! The very end. I'm quite sad. You guys and this story have been my life, all through my eighth grade and into my freshman years. (Yes, that's how old I am. Don't judge me!) Thank you so much for supporting me, and sending me all the lovely, lovely reviews and messages and alerts that really do make my day a lot better.
I'm going to try to respond to every review given this time. . . . if you guys want to hear from me, then tell me your favorite part/your least favorite part. Tell me which parts you wish I'd written a bit better. Which leads me to. . .
THE UPDATES: (stick around if you're interested in what I write)
1) I'm going to do a renovation of this story, as it was started almost a year ago, and my writing is blah when I read it now. I'm probably going to rewrite most of the chapters, and perhaps change the content of them.
SO, IF YOU GET UPDATE EMAILS, IT WON'T BE BECAUSE I'VE ADDED ANOTHER CHAPTER- IT'LL BE BECAUSE AN OLD CHAPTER HAS BECOME BETTER.
If you want to read the better chapters, feel free, but really, it's not necessary. I'm also going to change the title, most likely, because this one kind of sucks.
2) I may or may not get around to finishing My Angel (gag). A lot of people have been requesting a finish, but I'm just not feeling. Would you be too upset if I deleted it?
3) I have a ton of oneshots planned, and already written. I love oneshots! That's one thing I'll never stop doing. One that I'm currently working on has to do with Lily and James and what happens after they leave Hogwarts, until the day that they die, only it'll be vaguely more interesting than that, because that sounds very dry.
If you have an idea, and you want me to write it, TELL ME! I will! I swear! I'll PM you back and thank you and tell you that I'm absolutely going to do it. Even if it's something absurd, like Lily and James in a spaceship to Mars. Or a love story between Dobby and Winky. Wait. . . that might be fun. . .
Anyway, TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT!
I love to hear from you guys!
I can't believe it's over.