Chapter 7: Our lives.
The forest clearing was dead quiet. Remus and Jane stood frozen in their positions, not moving a limb.
James was equally quiet on the ground next to them. It was as if he was afraid of breaking a spell – as if his laying completely quiet would keep it all from being true. However, the snow seeping through his trousers and sweater was getting pretty hard to ignore, and he eventually conceded to getting up. As he did, he nearly stepped on something on the ground.
Oh merlin. Not only did she hate him now, but she was running around all alone in the pitch-black forest without her wand! What if something happened to her? It would be all his fault!
And Sirius'. And Jane's. He suddenly remembered he wasn't alone, and turned towards his classmates.
Remus and Jane stood as still as ever, still shocked.
Remus wanted to thump his head on a tree. Could this possibly had gone any worse? Why did he always agree to other people's stupid plans?! And now Lily was gone(without her wand too), and James was standing there looking like a puppy trying to understand why he'd been kicked – and Jane looked like the regretful accidental puppy-kicker. So who was there left to fix the mess?
Well, if it really was up to him, then he would do it his way. Because if there was something Remus Lupin valued then it was knowledge, and there was a lot of not knowing going on here.
It was a bit like when their pranks went wrong because of some secret last-minute addition by Prongs or Padfoot. Remus didn't so much mind the breaking of the rules or the detention – but he detested not knowing what was going on. Because if you didn't know all the facts, how could you ever get anything right?
Puppy-eyes turned Remus' way with a vague glimmer of hope.
The werewolf took a deep breath, and forced himself to continue.
"Look, there's something Jane and I.." he shot the embarrassed blonde a look, "should probably tell you about what happened just now…."
And as the explanation uncurled, occasionally disrupted by the odd exclamation, oath or death threat, the sun continued its descent behind the hills leaving the forest in twilight.
Meanwhile, in an hitherto unexplored place in the forest, a fiery redhead discovered that neither ginger hair nor righteous anger were particularly useful in lighting up the ground around you, should you have lost your wand.
Or thrown it at someone. With a vengeance.
The darkness seemed to be murkier now that she was alone. Alone, lonely, lonesome…Lily the Ludicrous Loner….
No! She would not start simpering to herself like a useless damsel in distress!
She was Lily Evans, witch - independent, strong-willed and in no way the kind of girl who needed a boy. For anything!
And yet…think in italics she might, but she couldn't lie to herself. Why would he…do that?
Why would he be so nice to her, look out for her, say such nice things, be so charming and sweet and funny, talk with her so easily, fit so perfectly in her hands…if he didn't really mean it?
Why did boys always lie?
Despite herself, she felt her anger dissipating, crumbling to nothing. She didn't feel angry anymore. She hardly even felt sad, she just felt…empty. Disappointed.
Some part of her had always warned her James was like this, but somehow she hadn't really believed it. Hid behind it, sure, but that was just natural precaution. Deep down she'd always known he was different.
Well, so much for knowing. It had just been hope after all – silly, girlish, romantic, sticky hope. She sighed to herself.
She'd been wrong, and embarrassing as it was, at least he didn't know. He didn't know. So all she really had to do was go back to how things were before, right? Ignore him, and hope he was too busy with that blonde tart to bother Lily anymore. And never let him know she'd been angry. Or sad.
She could do that.
And just as she took a deep breath and got ready to find her way back, she heard shuffling in the dark behind her. She instantly froze.
Was there something in the forest?
Honestly, this was England. What could it be, a crow? A badger, at worst? Seriously.
Clearing her throat, she fervently wished she hadn't thrown away her wand. She'd heard badgers could be quite dangerous if scared.
"Um…Is somebody there?" she ventured, keeping her voice steady.
The shuffling abruptly stopped.
"Lily? LILY? Is that you?" James voice carried loudly through the trees.
Lily straightened her shoulders. Okay, time to act normal. And come up with a bloody good excuse for throwing her wand at him and bolting.
"Lily? Where are….oh!" James jogged out from behind a thicket and found himself face to face with his redhaired beauty.
"Oh, here you are, I thought you'd, well….Er, good", he finished lamely.
"Right", said Lily in an indifferent voice, "sorry if I surprised you, but I thought I saw something among the trees and figured it could be the...people who hexed us. But I didn't find anything. So, shall we be getting back?" she asked, already turning toward the direction James came for and avoiding his eyes.
James licked his lips. If Remus was right, and he usually was, Lily actually liked him. Even though she seemed indifferent now, she…Enough thinking! She was starting to walk back towards the others, and if he didn't say anything now, how would he ever fix things?
And so he took himself by the scruff of the neck and jumped into it.
"Lily! I, I like you. Like, a lot. Really."
It wasn't the most suave of his declarations, but there it was. He'd said it, no jokes or winks or outrageous gestures.
Lily had turned away from him to leave, and she didn't turn around again. But at least she stopped.
"Look", James tried again, "I know I'm an arse sometimes, or all the time I guess, but I really mean it. I wouldn't have…Well, I haven't dated anyone else these past years have I?"
At that, Lily turned, face still indifferent. "I'm sure I don't care who you date, Potter."
"Oh come on, Lily!" James was getting frustrated. Here he was, pouring his heart out, and she still pretended not to care? But Remus had said…
"You ran out, Lils! You ran out and bloody threw our wand at me! And Remus told me about the hexing, so don't pretend you saw something! Admit it, you got mad at me for.."
Lily's cheeks grew deep red. Remus, what the hell! "Look, Potter" she cut him off, "I don't care what you think! You can snog as many tarts as you want, see how much I care! You're nothing to me, okay? NOTHING!"
Lily realized she was screaming now, and panting, and doing a horrible job of acting normally. But as the tears welled up in her eyes, she couldn't make herself stop them.
"I HATE you, you know that? I hate the way you're always so arrogant, always thinking you can have anything you want….And you just play with people, make them all like you and then you move on to the next one, and you think you're so outstanding with your quidditch, and your looks, and your grades, and your stupid friends, and I just…."
And then she sobbed.
And in a flash he was there, gathering her up in his arms, stroking her back as she hid her face in his chest and let her tears stain the front of his cloak.
"I'm sorry" James mumbled into her hair, so low he wasn't sure he heard her. "I don't know what I was thinking, I just needed to know if you…cared at all, I guess", he whispered. "You just never…not that I expect you to, I know I'm an idiot next to you. But..I don't care about anyone else, you know. I promise I won't hurt you, ever again, if you just…give me chance." Lily's small sobs had subsided now, and her breath was steadying against his chest.
James carefully stroked the flame-red hair over one of her shoulders. "I'm certainly never taking Sirius' advice again" he mumbled.
Lily chuckled wetly. She drew a breath, and moved a couple of inches back so she could look up at him. "I'm glad" she half-smiled. "and I'm sorry too you know. You're not an idiot next to me. Or anyone."
And as she tipped her face up towards him, he seemed to disappear into those emerald orbs…
"HEY GUYS! Where are you?! Prongs! Evans? Oi, Prongsieboy!"
The nearly touching lips jerked away from each other, as a certain blach haired mutt bounced toward them, followed by five other youths.
"Sirius, dude, whatcha doing here? Er.." said James, running his suddenly Lily-less hands through his hair.
"Ella and I ran into Alice, Frank, Remus and Jane over there, they said you and Evans here had disappeared into the forest or something….so…?" He trailed off suggestively, cocking an eyebrow at his mate.
James cleared his throat. No way Sirius was going to ruin things for him again. "Right", he ventured, "we thought we saw the last post. But then we realized, ofcourse" he laughed awkwardly, "the one you guys were at was the last one. So…how about we all head back to the house together? Night's still young, eh mate?"
Sirius grinned at him. "Right you are! It's our last night, and I still haven't taken the opportunity to sneak into the girl's dormitory now that there are no stairs..Let's go!"
And with an arm around his partner Ella's shoulders, Sirius led them back toward the house to deliver their results from the hunt to the teachers.
James and Lily exchanged quick, furtive smiles before they joined the gang chatting their way back home.
Clang. Clang-clang. Clang.
Lily awoke to the sound of pattering on the window. She got up, carefully feeling her way in the darkness among sleeping girls, and reached the window. Outside a wand lit up the snow with a soft, yellow-ish light. But what drew her eyes was the messy-haired boy grinning up at her with a handful of pebbles in his hand.
Lily grinned back, and opened the window. "What are you doing?" she whispered, laughing. "You could just as easily have woken up McGonagall!"
"Nah" he whispered back with his signature air of self-assuredness. "Don't worry, I know what I'm doing. Can you get down on your own, or do you want a hand?"
Lily smiled. "I've got it" she whispered, before clambering out the window and, her fingers holding on to the ledge, lowering herself to the ground. With a swish of her wand, the window closed itself soundlessly.
James nodded in appreciation. "Soundless spells, nice. And the wiew of that climb wasn't bad either…" He laughed silently, and jumped out of the way as Lily playfully smacked her wand at him. "Come on, I wanna show you something. Will you take a walk in the snow with me?" He flashed her his widest grin.
He took her by the hand, and they half walked half stumbled through the snow toward the nearest trees, Lily still in her slippers. "Oh, you want to show me…the trees?" she lifted her eyebrows at him. "Gee mr. Potter, you're such a…man of the world!"
"Shut up! This happens to be a perfect spot!" he answered reproachfully, a crooked smile playing at the corner of him mouth.
They half ran the last couple of metres, him tugging her along and then stopping abruptly behind the first tree, pulling her close.
"A perfect spot?" Lily breathed, looking up at him, still mildly laughing. "What ever for?" she mumbled, as his arms snaked around her waist.
"For you, of course" he smiled, "though I suppose any spot would be perfect if you're there."
Lily laughed again. "That's such a cliché!" She reached up and lightly put her hand on his shoulder. "But that's okay. We make a good cliché."
"We do, don't we" said James.
Or at least he meant to.
Only his lips were suddenly busy elsewhere.
Back at the house, a couple of shadows behind the main door stairs suddenly turned into a boy and a girl, arms around each other.
"I told you they're perfect for each other. I just…I can really see them growing old together, you know?" Alice smiled dreamily at the spot where her best friend and James had disappeared among the trees.
"I know" Frank smiled down at her.
"Maybe our kids will be friends when they grow up. Don't you think?"
"Come on, Alice" her boyfriend laughed. "There's no rush. Let's just enjoy things the way they are, eh?"
"Sure, sure". Alice snuggled closer.
"We have our lives in front of us."