"Human nature is so well disposed towards those who are in interesting situations, that a young person, who either marries or dies, is sure of being kindly spoken of."
She strode along forcefully, the cold early winter winds whipping at her long tendrils and construing them about her face in an unruly manner. In the distance, the Hogwarts Express let off a steaming noise that just about drowned out Alice's annoying prattling but did nothing to distil the thumping resolution in Lily's heart.
"But won't you be lonely?" the small, pretty blonde probed continuously, jogging to keep up an even pace with her best friend.
"Lonely?" Lily all but spat, folding her arms about herself in a fruitless attempt to stave off the ensuing drop in temperatures. "Alice, I can honestly tell you that I am so sick and just...done with men in general that if I never see another one of them again, it will be too soon."
Ignoring Alice's look of incredulity, Lily continued on her path towards the train pushing back the painful memories of the past two years and three men who she had both lost and loved in her own, secret way.
And all because of one boy.
One stupid, juvenile idiot who just couldn't stay out of her own...
"Lily?" came Alice's sharp voice cutting through her angry reverie.
"Sorry," the red head mumbled, "got caught in my thoughts there."
"You're blushing," her friend pointed out, as Lily patted her cheeks in a dull attempt to get rid of the flush, not bothering to inform Alice that it was, in fact, an angry roar that covered her face and not a pleasant one.
Shrugging, Lily continued to pull her trunk, wondering why- even though she had managed to shake off the rejections of Sirius and Remus- and to a lesser extent, Severus's- she still felt her blood boil at the very thought of James Potter.
"You're not going to be able to avoid him the whole year, you know," Alice continued conversationally, still trotting along beside Lily like an annoying little conscience.
"I have no idea what you mean, Alice..."
"I can always tell when you're thinking about him, Lily," the girl went on, hammering brutal nail after nail into Lily's internal monologue. "You clench your fists, flush uncontrollably and start to grind your teeth."
"That is beside the point," Lily interjected, sounding a bit shriller than she had intended. "All I'm saying is that this year, I'm done with guys. No dating, no flirting, no kissing and definitely no marauders."
Alice mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like 'why should this year be any different' but cut herself off as Lily eyed her angrily.
"I'm serious, Alice. Having been the idiot those three have played pass the parcel with for the past two years, I'm never going near another one of them again," Lily gritted forcefully, feeling her stomach churn just from the very resolve she was emitting. "I will be not only single but the best celibate Hogwarts has ever seen, and that's including McGonagall, alright?"
Smirking disbelievingly, Alice shrugged her coat around her shoulders and trotted on merrily.
"I don't know what you're looking so happy about, Miss Patterson," the girl added haughtily, regarding Alice through superior eyes. "Just because I am sworn off men does not mean that you are."
"Oh no, Lily," Alice replied quickly through a stutter, her gaze quickly diverting downwards. "After Matthew I..."
"After Matthew, nothing!" Lily hissed, poking Alice in the side harshly. "It's been at least eight months since that ingrate made the biggest mistake of his life and it's time for you to start realising how much better you deserve."
Alice's gaze did not lift from the floor as the duo continued to walk and it was at moments like these when Lily realised how deeply her friend's self-esteem had been cut by the actions of another ungrateful man.
"So," the unswerving Head Girl said coaxingly, looping her arm around the bashful girl's shoulders supportively, "I hereby make it my mission to find you, Alice Patterson, the perfect gentleman to accompany you on the horrible journey known as seventh year and hopefully for a little while after, deal?"
Smiling a little, Alice patted her friend's hand sparingly.
"Lily, you don't have to do that. You're going to be busy enough this year without..."
"Alice, it has come to my attention that you are incapable of picking good guys," Lily cut in with finality, now shaking her shoulders. "And even when you do fancy a guy, you never do anything about it! What you need is a matchmaker to ensure both your lasting happiness and his."
Sighing reluctantly when she realised that she was Lily's project for this year- the past two having been Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, with Severus Snape being marked down in the 'life-long project' folder, Alice nodded bleakly.
Lily needed a distraction.
Her love life would provide a decent one.
"Good," Lily said cheerfully, drawing a positive inference from Alice's silence. "You will have more suitors that you can shake a wand at by the end of the month."
"And you...?" Alice queried hopefully.
"And I shall happily have none," Lily went on firmly, pausing to stop and step onto the train. "No Remus Lupin," she gritted, heaving her trunk onto the carriage, "no Sirius Black," she bit out breathily, dragging the rattling trunk with great force towards the Head's compartment, "and definitely no James Potter," she finished with flourish and assurance as she slid the compartment door open.
Mother of Hell.
"Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken."
"Is there any particular reason you're twenty minutes late?" Lily asked quietly, knowing full well that the question would only illicit an excuse in response but unable to prevent herself from asking- it was a force of habit to question and critique any of his movements.
"I don't suppose you'll take Quidditch practise running late as a legitimate excuse?" James responded easily, throwing his extra gear over into the corner of the Heads Common Room and coming to seat himself beside her on the couch.
Raising her eyebrows lightly, Lily sighed before returning to the parchment in front of her.
"What are you reading?" the fellow Head student enquired delicately in an obvious attempt to ease the tension.
"Well, whilst waiting for you to attend our meeting, I was making a list," she answered in clipped tones, noting for once the distance James has put between them on the sofa. Two years ago he would have been practically sitting on top of her.
"Of guys in our year?" James furthered, leaning forward slightly to eye the parchment and Lily wondered if the wobble in his voice was from confusion or worry. Or why she cared.
"Mmm..." she murmured succinctly, inwardly counting through the list of names. "For Alice."
"Yeah, I'm finding her the perfect guy," Lily clarified gently, scratching off a couple of clearly unsuitable names for reasons of previous attachments.
"Oh," came the mildly surprised reply as Lily once more noticed that he hadn't suggested himself in some sort of corny joke. "Well I can tell you who you need right away, no list required," he went on, whilst Lily wondered if she had thought too soon.
"Oh, yes?" she asked, attempting to sound polite- she'd promised Marlene she'd make an effort.
"Yeah," James continued matter-of-factly, "Frank Longbottom."
The quill all but dropped out of Lily's hand as she leant forward, unable to stave off both the coughing fit and bought of laughter that chose to plague her simultaneously. Tears leaked from the corners of her eyes and bent double, she heaved in an attempt to right herself; bolting upright only when she felt James's hand patting her on the back.
"What?" he enquired somewhat defensively, withdrawing his hand hastily at her obviously lukewarm reaction.
"You're serious?" Lily pressed, wiping the excess water from her eyes.
"And you've seen Frank Longbottom, yes?" she questioned further, fully aware of the cattiness of her own voice but unable to help herself.
Rolling his eyes, James leant back against the edge of the sofa.
"We can't all be good-looking, Lily," he countered bluntly, eyeing her steadily and not making clear which one of them he was referring to.
Undeterred, Lily repositioned her quill and began sorting through the list in her head again.
"He's crazy about her," James said abruptly, now cracking his knuckles in a manner which made Lily want to hex him.
"It doesn't matter how many names you have on that list, you'll never find one who is as in love with Alice as Frank is," he proceeded determinedly, as Lily gave into his bait.
"And you would know this how?"
"Exactly," Lily cut in heartily, giving a small smile at her victory. "You don't. He hasn't said a thing. But if you had your way, I'd tell her to go for it, she'd make a fool of herself, two months later Frank's dating some bimbo from Hufflepuff and Alice is broken-hearted."
Regarding her sardonically, James exhaled deeply.
"It doesn't matter if he hasn't said anything," he mitigated calmly. "I can recognise the signs."
Swallowing at the bluntness of his statement, Lily met him eye to eye about to ask what these signs were.
"You don't have to tell her to go for it," James interrupted quickly, clearly unwilling to answer whatever questions she put. "Just tell him that it's ok to make a move on her. Frank's a shy guy- he needs a bit of encouragement."
Steering her mind back to the current issue, Lily waved his advice away.
"Listen, you've seen Frank, so you've definitely seen Alice," Lily began definitively, twirling her quill between her fingers. "Alice is beautiful..."
"She's pretty," James corrected delicately.
"And a bit ditzy at times..."
"And she laughs a lot..."
"And a nice person."
"James!" Lily snapped, sick of his barracking.
Sighing, James ran a hand through his hair although Lily got the impression it was more for stress relief than for its appearance.
"Look, all I'm saying is that Alice has her flaws like everybody else," he suggested, leaning his elbows forward onto his knees. "So don't go telling her that she's perfect and deserves somebody flawless, alright? Frank loves her regardless of her flaws. In fact he probably doesn't even think that they are flaws!"
"Because they aren't," Lily interjected resolutely.
Nodding in acceptance, the Head Boy continued.
"Apparently not. But not everyone sees it the way you do, Lily," James pressed practically. "Don't you think she'd be better off with someone who loves her just as she is rather than with someone who's going to try and change her?"
"People change all the time for the ones they love," Lily answered breezily, getting lost in a reverie of her favourite love novels. "Most of the time for the better."
"That's not real love," James rebutted quietly, leaning back once more. "Real love is when you love regardless of fault."
"Be that as it may," the red head continued, steering the conversation back into safer waters. "I'm not including Frank Longbottom on this list. Besides, Alice doesn't even fancy him. They're potions partners, that's all."
Shaking his head, James suddenly conjured up two Butterbeer bottles out of nowhere. Passing her one as Lily's mouth fell open in question, James took a swig airily.
"I'm surprised at you, Evans," he began humorously and the whole tone of the conversation changed. "I thought you'd be quite the idealist, what with all that mid 19th century romanticism you read."
Readying herself for a defence, Lily was just about to rebut when a question entered her head.
"How do you know what I read?" she asked curiously, a few pricks of doubt and guilt appearing in her stomach at the thoughts of Remus and Sirius.
"You leant Remus and Sirius books..." James explained, as Lily hoped she wasn't flinching visibly at their names spoken aloud.
"And you read them?" she enquired disbelievingly.
"That's what people generally do with books, Evans," the Head Boy said smartly as she swotted at his shoulders good-naturedly before taking a swig.
"Why, though?" the girl pushed, swinging her legs up underneath herself; all thoughts of drafting a prefects patrol schedule gone from her head.
"Why not?" James answered evasively, shrugging his shoulders. "They're good books, aren't they?"
"The best," Lily defended instantly, her head rising in defiance.
"So, there. A perfectly good reason for reading them," he said lackadaisically, a small smile decorating his features.
"So, you did like them?" Lily wondered, suddenly finding herself rapt with attention for his opinion.
Nodding slowly, James's brow furrowed.
"They were good," came the half-hearted answer. "I never understood the girls in them though," James went on as Lily realised that quite out of nowhere- she was having a conversation with James Potter. "They always went off with the wrong guys."
Mouth open slightly, Lily let out a small laugh at his diagnosis, unable to defend her previous loves quite as fervently as she'd hoped- a tiny part of her agreed. Past experience wouldn't let her heart do anything else.
"I think I'd like a book where the girl goes with the right guy," he continued conversationally, scratching the back of his head. "Where you just know he's the one for her; no disagreeing about it."
"You disagreed with Rochester and Brandon?" Lily asked as her mind began to whirl with books that might work.
"Rochester was just an asshole," James scoffed, folding his arms. "Brandon was boring."
Smiling lightly, Lily was just about to reply when her mind succeeded. Reaching down over the edge of the sofa, her arm sought out her satchel and reached within. Retrieving the tome, she presented it grandly.
"Here," she said happily, handing him the book.
"Emma," James echoed, his eyes scanning the title, fingers grasping item. "Jane Austen, isn't it?"
Impressed as the author wasn't printed, Lily nodded graciously.
"There's a mark in this," he stated, indicating Lily's small piece of decorated parchment. "Are you reading it?"
"Yeah, but I've read it before," Lily answered pleasantly, waving away his concern. "You'll like it, trust me. Within three pages you'll see who she's meant to be with."
Smiling down at the novel, James set it aside on the coffee table.
"I'll start it as soon as I can."
"You're reading something else?" she questioned, slightly peeved that he wasn't jumping on it straight away.
Nodding, James yawned tiredly, opening the buttons on the top of his collar.
"Wuthering Heights," he responded when Lily's eyes probed further. "But I'm nearly done."
At this, Lily's heart and stomach gave the strongest revulsion of all. Worse still, she felt tears rush to the front of her eyes and blinked rapidly in an attempt to quell them.
"And what do you think of it?" she asked quietly, hoping she sounded normal. "Should Cathy have ended up with Heathcliff?"
Crinkling his nose, James shook his head.
"Nah," he breathed in displeasure. "That moody git? She was way too good for him. Besides, I like Edgar."
Humour, irony and hurt flooded her all at once, and Lily forced a smile.
"Of course you do," Lily said cryptically, standing up before James could enquire further. "But read 'Emma' when you get the chance. You'll like it, I promise."
Smirking up at her, James nodded and his eyes followed her as she moved towards the dormitory.
"We'll see, Evans, we'll see."
"And have you never known the pleasure and triumph of a lucky guess? I pity you. I thought you cleverer; for depend upon it, a lucky guess is never merely luck. There is always some talent in it."
It was a bit difficult not to stare at him, Lily mused, as her eyes drifted over the beautiful sandy blonde hair that Amos Diggory possessed. Especially not when said hair was busy glinting in the early afternoon sunlight that was streaming in through the windows.
It was distracting her to an alarming degree...not that she fancied him or anything.
Her resolution to avoid men altogether remained steadfast...
It was just that when he was sitting like that- with his back to her- bent over some thousand page thick tomb, looking so studious...well she really couldn't help wanting him to look her way.
And besides...Amos Diggory was the thinking woman's alternative to any of the Marauders. For there were two types of girls in Hogwarts; the Black/Potter/Lupin bunch who loved the mischief and the limelight and all of the stupid ceremony that came along with it and then there were the Diggory girls. The ones who liked the quiet life that came along with having Amos call you his...the whispered tones that would follow you down the hallway because even though no one was certain he was in love with you- it was pretty much certain that he was from the way his hand slipped into yours while no one was looking.
And though her previous record would suggest that she was very much part of the former group, in her heart, Lily knew, she was and always had been the kind of girl that liked the kind of guy that Amos was.
He shifted in his chair and Lily was jolted back to the present.
Not that it mattered, because she was off boys. Even ones as spectacularly perfect as Amos Diggory.
With reluctance, Lily forced her eyes back to the list at hand. Now that she considered it thoroughly, she could really see only one option for Alice.
And it gave her great displeasure to admit it, because Fabian Prewett was without doubt, the greatest idiot that Hogwart's possessed.
But, she reminded herself; she had to consider all the things that Prewett was not as opposed to all the things he was.
He wasn't a womanizer, nor was he a lout. Sure, he was a bit of an exhibitionist- in the same way that Black or Potter was- but, unlike the aforementioned duo, Fabian knew when to stop.
And just because he wasn't Lily's type- at all- didn't mean that he couldn't be Alice's type. In fact, the more she thought about it, the more Lily was certain that...
"Are you finished with Ashhead's Potionry?" came a quiet voice out of nowhere as Lily jumped in her seat.
"Eh, yeah..." she breathed a little too bashfully, as her heart thumped a rapid beat in the knowledge of the fact that Amos Diggory was talking to her.
Pressing her fingers to the top of the thick leather-bound book, Lily slid the pages towards his figure, barely daring to look up in case he see the blush she could feel spreading about her cheeks.
"Thanks," was Amos's genuine response, as he picked the book up easily and placed it under his arm.
She smiled into her parchment- still unable to look up- and was waiting for the relief that would flood her when he finally went away; she was too damn demure for her own good.
"Fabian Prewett, eh?" Amos said, still quite obviously present as he stood upright beside her chair, peering over her list. "I didn't realise he was your type," he quipped and Lily jumped to remember that she'd circled the name with a big heart.
"Oh no!" Lily responded quickly, covering the name with her hand and forcing herself to look up at him even though her cheeks matched the colour of her hair. "It's not for me...I'm setting Alice up..."
"Ah," he nodded in understanding, smiling although he was seemingly studying the bookshelf to their right. "Well...thanks for the book, Lily. I'll see you around?"
His question was half-asked but it echoed clearly around Lily's ears- her head reeled and she saw in her head dates and Christmas and kissing…and it made her feel nauseous. She wanted to look up to answer him but she couldn't. All she could feel was her not yet healed heart hissing in pain as it beat against her chest and she kept her eyes firmly fixed on the page.
Not yet. There was just no way.
Lily was so busy pondering the implications of her inability to reply that she didn't even notice James wander up to the pair and was only alerted to his presence when Amos greeted him.
"Potter," Amos said informally, giving the boy a quick nod as James pulled out the chair opposite to Lily and sat down easily.
"How's the training going, Amos?" James queried politely, picking a book out of his satchel and setting it down in front of him.
"Well, actually," Amos replied with a small smile, leaning on the edge of the desk, his lower arm almost brushing the edge of Lily's hair. "We should be ready to meet you goal for goal on Saturday."
"Good," Potter responded briefly, pulling his chair further into the table, accidentally knocking his knee off of Lily's. "Hogwarts' has been needing a good game."
"That it has," was the pleasant reply, before Amos obviously decided that the conversation was over and moved away from the pair. "Bye Lily."
"Bye Amos," Lily replied although she was astounded anyone heard it, it came out so gently and shakily.
"So, you've picked Prewett, then?" James questioned out of nowhere, pulling Lily back to their table and her gaze away from Amos.
"Yes," she sighed, as she turned to face James- his eyes watching her with a sort of odd reluctance. "Best of a bad lot, to be honest. But he's the right sort of boy for Alice."
"Oh, yes?" was James's next comment, laced with derision. "And what sort of boy is that?"
"One who is too scared of me to mess her about," Lily replied with finality and a quick smirk. She revelled in her own success inwardly when James gave into his own grin.
"In that case you may as well just fix her up with Peter," he quipped.
She didn't even bother with the eye roll before returning her gaze to the books beneath her chin- she could already feel where this conversation was going; as Head Student's the pair of them had reached a sort of impasse- they never agreed on anything and so a quick game of persuasion would always result whereby one would try to convince the other that their path was correct. Usually, a sense of propriety would win out and the stubbornness of either one of them would cave before things went too far.
But, Lily reminded herself, this was not a case of Head Business; this was a matter of the heart. And if James wanted her to change her mind, he was going to have to make his case strongly- although she doubted he was up to that challenge. She was resolved on Fabian Prewett and in her mind; the matter was decided before the 'F' even rolled its way off of her partner's tongue.
"So, there's nothing I can do to change your mind then?" was the way he began as she looked up once more.
She shook her head with little effort.
"Sorry, Potter," Lily retorted bleakly on his behalf, "I know who you want me to fix Alice up with but..."
"You say that like I'm arguing this for my own personal benefit," James interrupted imploringly. "This isn't about me, Lily, this is about who would genuinely make Alice happy and I know that that person is Frank."
"Not for your own benefit?" she queried with amusement, leaning forward to rest her head on her perched hands. "I'm curious to know whose benefit it is for then. Don't tell me you actually care about Alice's love life?"
"It's hardly my favourite topic," he replied sardonically, regarding her with narrowed eyes, "but when I think you're doing the wrong thing..."
He broke off when she let out a satisfied sigh.
"Nothing...you just gave yourself away is all," Lily answered smartly. " 'When I think you're doing the wrong thing'...this is nothing to do with Alice, James, or Frank for that matter. You're only doing this because you want to prove me wrong."
"I'm not going to bother to lie and try and deny it," James responded lowly, with somewhat of an indecent smirk. "But I have other motivations, Lily- ones that are more noble- as do you..."
"And these motivations would be?"
"Well, I like to see true love succeed..."
Here she could not resist the rolling of her eyes.
"I never pegged you for a romantic, Potter," she stated matter-of-factly, crossing her arms. "Although, given my recent discoveries regarding your taste in literature...but besides all that it doesn't matter. Frank is not Alice's true love..."
"In your opinion," James cut in, leaning forward.
"Yes, but I am always right," came her repartee, complete with a swish of her hair.
"In your opinion," he repeated cockily.
Eyeing him in annoyance- when James decided to become a brick wall in the conversation she knew it was time to give up- years of him repeating the same date offer had taught her that.
"This is getting us nowhere," she conceded. "Nor is it likely to," she went on over him before he had the chance to reply. "I'm not going to change my mind, that's it."
With a blustery sigh, James leant back into his chair with a huff- no longer watching her but seemingly lost in thought.
"So, speaking of romance...," Lily started, hoping to tear him away from whatever thoughts he was having- most likely strands of a new tactic to employ against her, "...how have you been enjoying Emma?"
A small smile made its way across his face as he perked up again and in a strange way, Lily could almost feel the life come back into the room again.
"It's good," he answered briefly, his eyes meeting hers honestly. "Little bit less dramatic than the others I've read..."
"There is less... 'fuss'," Lily added in agreement, casting her mind back to the three other novels he had stated he'd read. "Everything is slightly simpler."
"I like it like that," James stated firmly, "I mean I'm all for a bit of standing in the rain on the top of a hill weeping because 'he left me' but I don't think I could cope with it on a long term basis," he joked as she laughed.
"And what of our intrepid heroine? Figured out who she's supposed to be with yet?
"Yes, but for some reason I've a feeling she's going to mess it up," James said thoughtfully with a tinge of bitterness. "I mean I know I said the book was simple but it could never be that simple. She'd never just confess to Knightley- there'll be tonnes of obstacles. I mean I already hate this guy Churchill..."
Letting out another bark of laughter as she hopped a little in her seat, Lily smirked at him.
"I knew it," James finished briefly, as though her response confirmed it all.
"Well, the course of true love never did run smooth," Lily said sagely as though to console him.
"Yeah, I know," was the silky reply. "There's always an issue- your own blindness..."
"Or, your idiotic friend who keeps trying to fix you up with the wrong guy," James added meaningfully, his eyes sparkling.
She chucked her wand at him.
"I think there is a little likeness between us. … If not in our dispositions, there is a likeness in our destiny; the destiny which bids fair to connect us with two characters so much superior to our own."
Late nights, dimly lit rooms kept aglow only by the flickering tongues of the fire that crackled in front of her and good looking boys had never done Lily any good.
She was having this thought as she sat by herself in the Heads' Common Room, late at night trying to complete the rest of her Potions homework. She had never had any trouble powering through her best subjects' work before but given the extra load she was always conflicted with by virtue of her new office, the red head found herself perpetually behind on everything and always attempting to keep up.
But as she sat contemplating the ethical implications of Amortensia her mind drifted into the past times she had sat by herself in such a setting and how it has always ended badly. Perhaps it was her eternal need for an arm around her shoulders whenever she sat gazing into the embers. Or it could have been the infernally good-looking young men who always seemed to wander into her presence when she was in such a vulnerable state.
Whatever it was, it no longer mattered. Because she was resigned to her own solitude. Resigned and happy about it.
And just as she had had that thought, the Head Boy came tripping down from his own bedroom, yawning and rubbing at his eyes.
"This is getting ridiculous, Evans," he said, coming to a still and eyeing her narrowly.
"It's one am," James continued firmly. "It's bedtime."
She smiled wearily and stretched her legs out along the sofa pleasantly, allowing the muscles in her legs to strain and relax.
"I've just got this one…"
"No way," Potter interrupted quickly. "You've been up at least this late every night these past two weeks, and so tonight I thought to myself 'I'll read until she goes to bed because she's got to be tired tonight and no way is she staying up later than midnight' but lo and behold, you are still awake," he finished sternly.
She opened her mouth to protest in a cheeky manner but again, he got there before her.
"Evans', we are going to bed now and if I have to carry you there myself, I will."
She raised her eyebrows.
"Mind in the gutter," he scoffed, folding his arms as she couldn't resist a full blown grin and audible laugh. "You see this is why I didn't do potions," James added, batting her legs out of the way as he threw himself down onto the sofa. "'The Morality and Ethical Implications of Coercive Potions'," he recited distastefully. "Who the hell cares?"
"I do," she hissed, snatching the parchment back off of him and glowering in his direction. "And you didn't do potions because it's a subject that requires effort, Potter."
"And suddenly we're in fifth year again. Joy," he droned not at all earnestly, as she sighed and relented.
"So what were you reading?" she queried, hoping he'd answer correctly.
"Emma, of course," he answered, as their eyes met and she looked away quickly, her earlier thoughts about romantic fireplaces and unoccupied common rooms returning to her head.
"How far are you?"
"'Bout halfway," James continued. "She's starting to annoy me," he confessed as Lily smiled again.
"Yes," James said through a pout, as their eyes met a second time and Lily didn't care because she loved the moment when people became addicted to books in the same way she was. Seeing it in their eyes was perhaps the best part. "As if Churchill is the one for her! And Harriet! Merlin, that girl would make you want to put a green light through your head."
Chuckling, Lily eyed him sentimentally.
"I knew this was the book for you," she said happily, perking up considerably.
"I all but hate everybody in it!"
"Ah but only because you care about them," Lily corrected blithely.
Glaring at her good-naturedly, James narrowed his eyes. "Knightley is the only worthy character in the whole damn thing."
"Well, Emma's not so bad. When she isn't meddling…"
"Which is never," the Head Girl suggested, throwing her head back and feeling her eyes close involuntarily.
"Stretch out," she heard James say quietly.
"Lie down, Evans. You've been running yourself ragged," he explained, sounding almost concerned she thought. "If you're not going to sleep until it's finished at least give yourself a little time to recuperate."
'Hmmm-ing' as she acquiesced and let her legs stretch out and fall onto James' lap, her head hit the armrest.
"This is what happens when you're busy trying to do your work, do your Head Girl duties and fix everybody's love life," he murmured, his hands falling on top of her shins.
"Well, the fixing is done thankfully," she said through a sleepy haze. "Alice and Fabian have been out on three dates all of which have gone swimmingly well and she is…"
"Bored stiff, no doubt."
Bringing her leg up and down so as to thump him slightly, Lily didn't bother opening her eyes.
"He'll ask her to this New Year's Eve Ball which has been causing me to work overtime ever since some idiot," she highlighted purposely, "suggested the idea to Dumbledore and I can go back to hearing no more about bloody Matthew Noble."
She could practically feel him rolling his eyes but restraining himself so as not to retaliate.
"Well since you're so good at this match-making nonsense, who should I bring?"
Swallowing thickly as she suddenly noticed that his fingers had been tracing the soles of her feet for quite some time, Lily shifted a little.
"Sirius keeps telling me Emmeline Vance but I think Mary McDonald perhaps," he carried on obliviously and she felt her stomach untie its' knots.
"Mary sounds like a good idea," she confirmed simply, relaxing into his touch again. "You're very good at this, Potter," she added quietly.
"I wish I could say it was because I've practised on lots of girls but mostly it's because of Quidditch injuries," he replied wryly.
Twilight hours, fire-lit rooms and good-looking boys are terrible things.
She could feel his question before he asked it.
"I know we fought a good bit in the past," she said awkwardly, glad she wasn't looking at him and feeling her cheeks beginning to burn. "But I've started to think that maybe the reason we were never friends…was because I wouldn't let us be."
The stillness this observation produced caused her to open her eyes and check to see if he was still there.
As their eyes connected, James nodded slightly.
"You know, that's the thing I like about Emma," he started, catching Lily off-guard. "No one is ever quite what they seem. And when their true personalities start to appear, it's usually the good that appears rather than the bad."
She smiled, unable to help herself.
"You seem to be fairly positive about the end of this book…"
Grinning, James yawned and allowed himself to stretch.
"Of course they'll end up together. As if they wouldn't."
Lily was about to reply when she jumped as she heard the portrait hole swing open. They both looked around only to come face to face with Sirius.
"Sorry," he said dryly as his eyes fell on the pair of them and Lily sat up quickly, no longer looking in the direction of the door. "You ready, Prongs?"
"Eh yeah," James replied hesitantly, jumping up quickly and running his hand through his hair. "I'll go get the cloak. Gimme a minute."
Seemingly unable to move, Lily sat there is a complete state of something like shock. This was the first time they'd been alone since that night in the tower. She'd purposely managed to avoid all contact with Sirius Black until it no longer became an effort; more like a reflex.
Her heart hammered in her chest and for a few moments the hairs on the back of her neck raised and she felt as though he was standing right beside her.
She heard him exhale raggedly and felt tears pool in her eyes involuntarily. Swallowing, she got her Gryffindor courage under control and turned around.
She ended up staring into empty space.
"Where's Sirius?" she heard James query a little breathlessly as he bounded down the stairs.
"Eh, he said he'd wait outside," she replied quietly, trying to seem normal but if she showed any signs of emotion, James showed no recognition.
"Right. See you later, Evans," he called as he ran out of the portrait hole and she collapsed into a pile on the sofa.
"How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation."
The commotion had happened all at once. One moment she had been standing idly by surveying the silver-clad Great Hall go sweeping by with a pleased feeling that all of her…their hard work had paid off and the next moment she was striding across the Hall in an attempt to split up a clearly determined Frank and an obviously awkward Alice, before she was gathered into someone's arms and twirled around easily as though she had been dancing the whole night.
"James!" she admonished as she finally managed to make out her interceptor and she hit him lightly on the chest of his dress robes. "What on earth are you doing?"
"Dancing with you, Evans," he answered with grace as it registered in her mind that he was a wonderful dancer and she had no idea how she was even managing to keep up with him. "Something wrong?"
"A number of things," she hissed shrilly, still glaring up at him as he smiled and surveyed the moving room. "Firstly, I already told you, neither of us should be dancing tonight- we have work to do. Secondly, if and I mean if you must dance then it should be with your date, Mary. And finally, don't think I don't know that the only reason you are dancing with me is because Frank Longbottom is about to make an arse of himself in front of my best friend!"
His expression hadn't changed a bit- if anything his smile grew wider.
"So tense, Evans," he murmured, peering over her shoulder and she knew he was looking at Alice and Frank. "You need to relax."
"James, she's here with Fabian!" Lily persisted, trying to meet his eyes. "This is wrong. If Frank has to do this, he can do it another time. Not when she's on a date. At a ball."
"To be honest from my vantage point, Alice looks perfectly happy talking to Frank."
Her stomach dropping and her eyebrows shooting up, Lily craned over her shoulder to see Alice smiling and laughing congenially with Frank.
"See," James gloated, pulling her back around to face him. "She's having a fine time."
A thousand thoughts running quickly through her head, Lily barely even noticed James was still talking as she tried to process them all.
"…and you look incredibly beautiful tonight, might I say."
She had just regained consciousness quickly enough to catch the end of a long-rambling sentence that James had expelled, clearly thinking that she wasn't listening to him although she couldn't tell if he had said it to test if she was listening or because…
As her eyes caught his, they widened and his hand went automatically from her waist to his hair as his cheeks reddened and they stopped dancing.
"Eh…sorry about that Evans," he stated a little bashfully. "Didn't mean anything by it…I-I-I…"
"It's okay," she interrupted hesitantly, "I didn't think that you…"
"…but the fact is, that dress does look rather nice on you."
Swallowing delicately, Lily felt the awkwardness float out of the space between them as she realised he meant it as a genuine compliment and not a pick-up line. They began to move again slowly.
"Thank you," she replied delicately, smiling at his chest instead of him. "You're a very good dancer, you know."
"Kind of comes with the territory," he answered pleasantly. "Pureblood," he said lowly, whenever she gave him a questioning look.
As they turned briskly around the dance floor, she could finally see Alice and Frank over James's shoulders and just as she had left them, they were chatting happily. She moved her eyes across the room and saw Mary eyeing the pair of them suspiciously.
"Your date is watching us," she informed him, feeling her cheeks redden although for what reason she couldn't tell.
"Mmmm…" James let out, not sounding entirely concerned as he continued to spin her, "I'd probably be saying the same for you, but you never told me who you brought."
"No one," Lily said curtly.
"You don't have to sound so surprised," she laughed, meeting his eye again. "I planned the whole thing; I barely had time to even ask anyone."
"Ignoring the fact that I helped you plan it," James responded dryly, "that's ridiculous! How long does it take to ask a guy- who is probably going to be there already- to have a few dances with you?"
Her eyes drifting across the floor to Amos- who was also watching them-, Lily managed to look away eventually.
"Irrelevant," she replied. She saw that he was continuing to look at her strangely so she continued on. "I'm not dating this year. At all."
More strange looks followed and she took a moment to remind herself that she was actually having this conversation with James Potter of all people.
"I'm focussing on work and Head Girl duties…and setting other people up, and that's it. I can't be bothered with any…silliness this year," Lily answered succinctly as James continued to look at her, although no longer perplexed.
"Okay," he said after a moment.
"That's it?" she asked him, surprised that her usually verbose interlocutor was choosing to maintain a silence on this subject of all things.
"Yup," James said with a smile and shrug. "Your life. Your decision."
"Okay," she mimicked, still confused but managing to wrench her mind away from past thoughts and forward towards that of Alice and Frank, who were still chatting congenially in the corner, although now standing somewhat closer she noticed.
"It's just that…"
She smiled as he finally let his true self show.
"It's just what?"
"Not all guys are the same, Lily."
The seriousness with which he said the above and the impact it had on her caused the pair of them to stop dancing again. It passed through her mind with a jolt that perhaps he might know her previous romantic history and she stared into his face trying to decipher what he had meant by his remark.
"You deserve…" he began again, but seemingly struggled here as he sighed and started again. "No one ever takes a break from dating unless they've been…hurt," he said carefully, watching her as though she might explode at any moment. "And…whatever happened, you should know that…not all guys are the same."
Not quite knowing how to reply, or how he had meant the above, Lily chose her words carefully.
"I know," was all she could stomach to say. "It would be nice for them all to behave differently," she joked a little with a wry smile, though James's expression didn't change, "but I'm not bitter and twisted quite yet. Just making sure the next guy's worth it, is all."
He nodded and gave her a small smile.
"Well no one can fault you for that."
"The fact is," she continued, not really inside her own head as she spoke, "you're the first guy this year that I've trusted…I feel like you're not going to…"
She didn't know what she didn't think he was going to do so she trailed off.
"I like that you trust me, Lily," he picked up where she left off. "I like that you feel you can talk to me."
Lily looked up at him and into his suddenly beautiful brown eyes- she felt her head go woozy. It was a feeling she'd felt before and it scared her. She didn't know if she imagined it, but Lily felt her body grow closer to James's chest. The heat of the Great Hall and the dizziness she was now feeling caused her head to sag towards his own.
"Are you okay?" he asked her gently, his lips beside her ear.
She felt her head shake.
His hand splayed along the bottom of her back and his voice echoed a little louder. "Why not?"
Her eyes met his again as she struggled to hold up the weight of her own head.
"Suddenly…I don't know why," she tried to tell him, "suddenly, I feel scared," she managed with a shaky laugh- the only reason her feet stayed firmly on the ground being James's hands holding her steady.
Another smile that made her feel dizzy was the response.
"It's okay, Evans…you're safe with me."
He was just about to begin speaking again whenever they turned again and Lily regained consciousness long enough to notice that Frank and Alice were no longer in their corner.
James tightened his grip on her.
"Would you stop that?!" Lily hissed, jerking her arm free and striding across the dance floor, although she could tell James was following her.
"Lily, can't you leave them alone? They deserve to be able to…"
"No!" she bit out, rounding on him. "I'm not going to let him screw her over! This is not happening to her again, okay? It just isn't!"
The vehemence with which she spoke clearly shocked James into submission and he stopped pursuing her.
"Badly done, Emma!"
She didn't know whether he had only started turning up early to their meetings at some point in the year, or whether, since they weren't speaking- or rather, he wasn't speaking to her- she had only started to notice it now.
Seating herself in the usual chair, Lily unpacked her book bag and waited quietly until James looked up from his own work.
"McGonagall has suggested that we start engaging some of the younger pupils in patrols occasionally," James began blankly, looking around but not managing to look at her. "She thinks it will encourage responsibility."
"Sounds reasonable," she replied, mimicking his tone and manner. "Do we pick the kids who seem like they're going to become prefects or those who need encouragement?"
James seemed to consider for a moment.
"A mixture," he said finally, "we can take two one night a week."
"Fine," Lily agreed, growing wearier every moment of his continually bad mood, "you can pick the first two this week."
Her opposite number nodded, made a ticking motion with his quill on a piece of parchment he was holding his lap and was about to move on when she interrupted him.
"I can't work like this, James," she said earnestly, doing her best not to sound emotional or annoyed.
"This is exactly how we worked for the first two months of the year," he rebutted flatly, once again not even bothering to look up.
She waited to see if he was going to respond further but when she was greeted with more silence she grew angrier. She didn't want to admit it to herself but the anger was laced with hurt; hurt that their conversation at New Year's had apparently meant so little to him.
"And you really want to go back to that?" she queried aggressively, trying to catch his eye.
She was again met with silence although she could tell from his furrowed brow that he was thinking. Despite this, his quiet continued long more than she was prepared to bear and Lily stood, not without a little theatricality, and made to leave the dorm.
She kept in mind their awful arguments of fourth year, before he had made his feelings known. She pushed them to the forefront of her mind because more often than not they had ended horribly, with her crying and him terrorising the school. Lily really did not want to go back to that, even if he was prepared to revert to their tense distance of sixth year. But halfway on her journey to the portrait hole, she felt an image of a happy Alice flash into her head and it overpowered the previous memories quite easily.
"I am terribly sorry if you have a problem with the way I behaved," she hurled sarcastically, rounding on him with energy, "and I'm even sorrier if you feel the need to let it affect the way we interact with each other. Apparently, I thought we were making progress in our friendship however if you, the eternal picture of morality, deem it necessary to return to the way we were, then I have no problem with it, Potter."
Lily was shocked as she felt his last name leave her lips with a nastiness she wasn't aware she possessed. But she was angry. She had no idea why she was this angry or why she was insisting on confronting James over his opinion of her, but the fire in her stomach wasn't cooling, no matter what she tried to do mentally.
"Alice is my friend. My best friend," she continued, losing the sarcasm but none of the heat. "Not Frank. Alice. You weren't there when she was run over with a battering ram by that bastard Matthew. I was," Lily went on, although she realised that as she talked she wasn't picturing the distraught Alice in her head, but rather, her own devastation of the past two years. "She should never have to go through that again and whilst I'm sure Frank is a lovely man, I know his dating history. He's not exactly up to your standards but…"
Lily stopped here because James had finally reacted to her words. A small, dry laugh escaped him and after a moment of her silence, he looked up to watch her.
The fire in the grate reflected off his glasses partially obscuring her vision of him but she could still see the intensity that burned in his eyes and set itself in his jaw.
"My standards?" he asked with a dangerous grin, and as he asked it, Lily felt a wave of nausea hit her stomach but she managed to overcome it, though now, much of her own previous temper had dampened.
"My standards?" James asked once more when she didn't reply, his voice rising as his wand, lying on the table shot red sparks horizontally causing her to jump.
He watched her with that same dangerous look, as though daring her to even answer, never mind challenge him.
"You really are wrapped up in your own little world, aren't you?" James continued, with a wry edge as Lily continued to watch him fearfully. "I haven't spent one night in the Gryffindor common room since January, not one trip to Hogsmeade and I've stopped eating in the Great Hall completely and you think that the reason is because you stopped Frank Longbottom from kissing Alice Patterson?"
Her heart began to pound because by now, there was no way he could be talking about anything else. She felt her eyes flood with tears and her face colour but James was unmoved, still tidying up the papers on the table with a violent briskness.
"I find it funny that you think that those people hold such sway over me," he breathed deeply, the papers now gathered although he didn't know what to do with them. Gesturing uselessly, he gripped them harder and the edges crinkled in his palm.
He still wasn't looking at her.
"James…I…I…" she tried weakly, feeling as though she was going to be ill right there before him.
"Don't, Lily, just don't," he half yelled, throwing the papers down on the table before cradling his head in his hand.
She didn't try again because she had nothing to say. What was she to say? How would she even begin to explain?
Lily looked at him for long, tense moments, waiting for him to explode at her. Every angle of his body suggested that he was going to do so- the hunched shoulders, drooped frame and clenched hands told her that he should yell. But the moment never came and she wondered why he was holding back.
"Please just yell," she mumbled pathetically, needing him to let it out so that she could have something to defend herself against.
James let out a staggered breath and she waited again.
"I'm not going to yell at you," he said eventually, his voice heavy and still filled with anger.
"Why?" she queried helplessly.
"Because for once, Lily, for once, this isn't about you," James explained, "and if I yelled at you, fun though it would be, it would make you think otherwise."
She continued to look at him stupidly as his tired eyes burned against hers and James began to shake his head.
"I haven't been avoiding you," he told her frankly. "This whole 'thing' has done nothing more than reveal who you really are to me," he continued and she could tell he was trying to hurt her although she was too scared by what was coming next to feel the barbs genuinely. "Stopped me from thinking that you were infallible- which I suppose is a good thing. It's important that you know that this has nothing to do with you, Lily."
Lily tried to grasp his meaning without angering him more.
"Why am I angry?" he finished for her and she nodded, marvelling at how well he was managing to communicate. He wasn't screaming, he wasn't punching anything. He wasn't the James Potter of fifth year.
"I know it may be hard for you to believe, but funnily enough-there is actually someone I care…cared more about than you," James replied and this time she felt the pain in his voice. "I don't get why he did it," he said quietly, now looking at the fire. "You I get…him I don't."
She didn't know whether to move. The way he sounded she wanted to comfort him- she almost forgot she was a perpetrator of the crime. She took a step forward, and then stayed where she was.
"I wish I could give you an answer."
"I always thought there was a line," James went on as though he hadn't heard her reply. "I knew Sirius did shit stuff a lot of the time…I thought I was the line."
She opened her mouth but could give no answer but it didn't matter for James was letting his thoughts spill out. Clearly the first time he had done so.
"Did you know about the lies he told me?" he queried aggressively, confronting her finally. "Did you know what he told me to…to hide what you were doing?"
"No…I never really…"
James shook his head.
"He told some great ones," James told her bitterly. "He made me think…all the things he said about Remus…I just don't understand how…"
He broke off here again, his head once more in his hands.
"I don't understand why."
She couldn't give him an answer. She couldn't because she didn't know herself.
He was still deeply stuck in thought, cheeks inflamed and it was at this point that she truly realised what they had done. She saw for once the love that James had for Sirius- she had never seen their bond as anything more than camaraderie formed around a general predilection towards mischief. Now she could see how hurt he was, she understood why Remus had ended it- why Sirius had too.
She saw now more than anything that it wasn't anger in him, but pain.
"I loved him," she said in almost a whisper, not wanting to tell him because it was painful for her too, but knowing that she had to. James said nothing but the clench in his jaw showed her he was listening, "…and I think he loved me too," Lily continued, as the tears returned and her voice went higher. "He said he did at the time, anyways."
She had to admire him for holding back as she spoke. For the control it must have taken to listen to her.
"But he ended it," Lily managed to go on, after sniffing thickly. "And I'm pretty sure it's because he thought you were going to find out. And he'd rather lose me than you."
She couldn't tell if her words had an impact on him, but they were true nonetheless.
"He told me," James spoke finally, catching Lily's attention. "There was a party, he was drunk and…"
The rest was self-explanatory.
"He loved you, Lily," was his next remark and for a moment she almost thought she'd fixed it. "If he did leave you because of me it wasn't easy for him, that much I could tell."
She was now crying fully, though she was trying hard to stop.
"Don't cry over him," James ordered her, and she was reminded that it wasn't fixed. Not even close. "However much you loved him, he didn't deserve one ounce of your affection."
She was about to protest when his eyes met hers for only the second time that evening.
"If he threw it away that easily, then he didn't deserve it," he stated bluntly and she knew he was right.
They sat there in silence whilst she tried to master her emotions and he seemed deep in thought.
"I'm sorry," she managed eventually, apologising to him for the second time that year.
"You did nothing wrong," he told her lowly. "You owed me no loyalty."
She tried in vain to stop her weeping for a long time as they sat there before the fire. Lily had nothing to say to him and any remarks he might have had for her were stalled whenever the portrait hole opened and her heart stopped for the second time that evening.
Lily and James, both faces aflame and eyes red looked at Sirius as his eyes drifted over the pair of them. On inspection, he looked as exhausted as they did.
He had under his arm what Lily could only assume was some alcohol with a large proof.
She felt more shaky and ill than she had done at first, waiting for either one of them to speak. Eventually, Sirius spoke.
"You ready?" he asked James groggily.
The Head Boy nodded and stood up slowly as Lily watched him leave.
"Where are you going?" she queried hurriedly, knowing that she really had no right to ask him.
"I'm going to move back into the Gryffindor Dorm," James replied, not looking at her. "Give things a chance to get…better again."
She didn't know why but she felt her eyes well up again as they both avoided her gaze. When she managed to look up again without tears streaming down her face, she saw fleetingly James's strained jaw when her eyes met Sirius's and she looked back to see her battered and bruised copy of Emma discarded upon the table, amongst all of his ripped parchment.
For a brief moment in time she felt that Sirius might say something to her- go to her even. A part of her felt that he should, but she was totally divided from both of them now. She looked at them standing side by side and realised that not only had Sirius chosen James. James had chosen Sirius as well.
She had lost all three of them in the space of three years.
And never before had any loss echoed so achingly around her heart.
"Where the wound had been given, there must the cure be found, if anywhere."
It had been a month.
She hadn't seen him in a month.
Well, she had seen him- she had seen him in class and around the halls. But never alone. They all cloistered around one another. Closed ranks and ignored her. Although it never felt like they were ignoring her. It felt like they didn't even notice her enough to ignore her.
Lily couldn't take much more of it. She had never realised how much of an impact any of them made on her day to day life. To hear James screech at her from across the hall, Sirius make some crude remark about a girl for which both her and Remus would reprimand him.
She missed them.
She felt so excluded from the club that Hogwarts had almost become a stranger to her.
Her main friends were all busy with their respective relationships. Alice and Fabian were blossoming as a couple so she didn't even have a project to focus on.
She was so lonely that she almost considered approaching Severus at one point. Although he too seemed to have his own group of friends- one which she could never be a part of.
So it was that on one extremely cold March night, she sat huddled in front of the Head's Dorm fire studying for next morning's class. And as the night got colder and she got more tired, she decided that she'd had enough.
It was nearly 11.30pm but Lily didn't care. She stormed up to the Gryffindor Dorm, determined the make it right.
Although half way there thoughts of what might go wrong- memories of what had happened- entered into her consciousness and she lost the fire in her belly. She stood there and danced in front of the Fat Lady, debating whether or not to wake her up. But eventually the cold got to her and she went in, thinking that she could debate in the common room where at least, she would be warm.
But as she went in, and rounded the corner onto all four of them sitting in front of the fire, laughing and joking and seemingly in the best mood she had seen them all year, Lily completely lost her courage.
She was just about to turn and leave when she heard Peter yell.
"Well, I guess you're here for me, Evans," he hollered from the furthest corner, causing all the rest of them to look around and Lily to blush to the colour of her hair. "Once you have the first three, you've gotta complete the set, eh?"
The joke landed with no one and Peter's grin faded away awkwardly, as Lily found she could meet none of them in the eye.
Sirius was the first to look away from her and as soon as he did James followed suit. Remus was the only one to still acknowledge her presence, offering her a weak smile as compensation.
She didn't know what to say or what to do. But now that they had seen her- if she didn't say something, it would have made it worse in the future.
"I've missed you," she said to all of them from her hideout near the doorway. "I didn't think I would, but I do."
"Which one of us are you talking to there, Evans?" Peter tried again, with another attempt at humour, though he silenced whenever James gave him a look.
She ignored him and continued.
"I'm sorry for what I did and…I never meant to hurt any of you. But you have to believe that I only did what…what my heart told me to. I know what it is to lose a best friend and I should have remembered that before forcing my way into any of your lives. I should have thought about someone else other than myself," she said bleakly, not having the courage to look up in case any of them should be readying an attack. "But…as it turns out…Hogwarts is quite a lonely place without the Marauders. I don't know what I can do to make it right or to change anything but…"
"I can think of something," Peter interjected sleazily for the last time as James finally spoke up.
"I'm warning you, Wormtail," he hissed dangerously, as the good feeling fell from Peter's face.
"…but I'm sorry," she tried again pathetically, knowing that that was her last shot. She was about to leave with what little dignity she had left when Sirius spoke up.
"Oh for Christ's sake," he breathed, swinging himself over the back of the sofa. Lily backed away, for some reason afraid he was about to lash out, until he moved more quickly than she could and enveloped her in his arms.
She was pressed against his chest and held there as Sirius rocked her gently and for the umpteenth time, Lily felt the tears return. She couldn't see but she heard Sirius speak over the top of her head.
"Look, I care about her," he said and Lily imagined he was speaking to Remus, "so you're just going to have to get over it. I hate ignoring her in the halls and I hate not being able to make fun of her when she makes some stupid comment in class," he went on as she sniffed against his chest. "And after the way I ended it, she doesn't deserve me sulking around as though she did something wrong. This was all me. We all know it. My fault. So you're just going to have to live with the fact that we're friends, okay?"
"What way did you end it?" Peter asked innocently as Sirius released her and she wiped at her eyes, managing to look up through the blur to see Remus still smiling the same weak smile and James not looking at any of them.
After Sirius had told Peter, somewhat shyly, of the demise of their relationship- that night in the tower-, Remus was staring at the ground and Peter looked shocked.
"I think I might have to hit you again," James said dryly, looking round to give Sirius a glare that went through them both.
"You hit him?" Lily exhaled, making contact with his brown eyes for the first time in a month.
James gave her a light smile as Sirius grinned down at her.
"Oh yeah," he told her, "three times. Twice in the stomach and once in the face. Got a great right hook does my best mate. No idea why he's a chaser. Beater is his true calling."
"Oh my God," Lily breathed, letting her head fall into her hands.
"Hey," James objected, lightly now and Lily was surprised to hear something of joviality in his tone. "You got to hex him. I deserved my go."
She managed a small, half-hearted laugh after another sniff. Sirius squeezed her shoulder and gave her another full-watt grin before sauntering back to his position on the couch.
Feeling that she might have gotten all she could for the moment, but grateful nonetheless, Lily turned to leave.
"Hey, wait!" she heard James call, and as hope exploded in her chest she turned to see him leap over the sofa as well and run to her. "I finished the book," he informed her, smiling at her again.
And it was too much.
Her emotions all over the place, she was about to fall to the floor with the weight of it all when she found arms enclosing her once more. Although this time, quite apart from the relief she felt with Sirius, tingles erupted from her toes to her fingers and Lily shuddered against his chest.
"Hey, hey," she heard him breath to her, rubbing a hand up and down her back. He shushed her gently as she continued to breathe unevenly. After a while he pulled back to hold her head in his hands and wipe away her tears with his thumbs. "You gotta stop all this crying," James said quietly, "I can't really function properly when you cry."
Lily swallowed gingerly, smiling shakily up at him as best she could.
His arm around her shoulder, he pulled her back to the warm fire and their circle in between the chairs. Setting her down on the sofa, James gave her hair an affectionate ruffle.
"Right," he said with authority, standing up and presiding over them all. "Cloak please, Moony," he called to Remus, who chucked him the material. "I'm heading down to the kitchens to get some snacks," he went on, as Sirius whooped. "You," he added authoritatively, pointing at Lily, "You dearest Evans, if you are still crying when I return…no muffins for you!"
"Don't worry, Prongs," Sirius returned for her, as Lily laughed involuntarily. "We'll take care of the lady, won't we lads?"
He pulled her in for another bear hug and kissed the top of her head as Remus smiled at her. She breathed in deeply and took in the calming scent of returning to their lives. Of knowing that they didn't despise her.
Of knowing that James had forgiven her.
"Potter!" she called after him, struggling out of Sirius's embrace and leaning over the back of the sofa. "The end of Emma- as you predicted?"
Peering out of the portrait hole, James beamed back at her, nodding.
"Oh yes," he confirmed happily. And with a wink; "I shall return with the baked goods, my sweetest and best of all creatures; faultless in spite of all your faults."
"You know what I am. You hear nothing but truth from me. I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it."
When Alice found her, she had been sitting by the old beech tree, a gentle smile gracing her face. Her head lolled against the tree as she reminisced over the past month and how much things had changed since the beginning of the year.
Not only were her and the Marauders friends again, but it felt at times as though the destruction and despair of the past few years had never occurred.
She thought over their many collective trips to Hogsmeade- the hours spent in the Three Broomsticks, getting ridiculous tipsy on firewhiskey and chasing each other home whilst trying not to fall over. Lily fell most of the time- or she would have, if James hadn't been there to catch her every time.
It was these pleasant thoughts that she was mulling over when Alice skipped towards her, an equally pleasant smile on her face.
"Lily!" she sang loudly, bounding up to her best friend. "I have news!"
"Yes! Amos Diggory is on his way down here to ask you out!" the blonde breathed excitedly, as Lily felt the smile drop from her face.
"What?" she asked, almost unable to comprehend what Alice had just said.
"Oh don't look so scared!" her friend warned, shaking her by the shoulders. "Haven't you been wanting this for months?! Well it seems that the idiot has finally realised that if he doesn't make a move now, he's not going to see you ever again, once we leave!"
"He isn't?" Lily responded, wondering why that was.
"Well of course not! That's what happens isn't it? You don't see each other every day, you fall out of touch."
Lily's face fell again.
"It's not going to happen to us," Alice comforted with a smile. "We're friends. But it'll happen with all our other acquaintances."
Out of the corner of her eye, Lily saw Amos making his way down from the castle.
"You ready?" Alice asked her, spying the same thing and grinning with glee.
Lily couldn't do anything. She couldn't quite understand what was going on. She'd barely said a word to Amos Diggory since November. And now he was asking her out? It just didn't make sense.
By the time she had gotten through thinking this, Alice had skipped off again, winking at her as she went, and Lily stood stock still, feeling like a prisoner awaiting execution.
Amos's smile was much different from Alice's- it was a sincere and gentle one he gave her as he approached. He walked casually but Lily was frozen where she was. So she smiled back- feeling it was strained.
"Hey," he opened, coming to stand before her.
She nodded and said a small 'hi' in response.
"So, I suppose I could talk about the nice day it is, but I saw Alice talking to you before I could," Amos proceeded, not totally easily. "She's probably given the game away."
The red head nodded again, wondering why the blood was draining away from her face. It wasn't cold and she wasn't ill. Shouldn't she be blushing? Shouldn't her stomach be twisting with butterflies?
"Lily…I know I probably haven't been the most obvious admirer," the boy said honestly, meeting her eye to eye. "I probably could have been more demonstrative at any rate…maybe told you that you looked nice from time to time. But I haven't ever really known how to do any of that…"
He was still talking.
But Lily had zoned out.
She was still listening to him talk- hearing all he was saying. He was asking her to think of whether she'd ever felt anything for him. Whether she'd ever felt anything between them.
She was such a fool. She'd been so busy trying to manage everyone else's heart that she had never listened to her own.
Amos was asking her to now.
But all Lily could think as she looked at those pretty blue eyes and heard those sweet, true words was that surely if anyone should be saying them to her, it should be…
"James Potter," she breathed, interrupting him unintentionally.
Amos stopped mid-stream and looked at her oddly.
"I have to go," she told him, feeling unbelievably awful but not able to do anything else. Her heart was back in the driver's seat and now that was the case, she couldn't sit still. "I'm sorry," she called back, bolting towards the castle.
She had almost made it to the Heads Common room, running as fast as she could- turning corners and looking behind her every so often in case she might see a mop of black hair and glasses there- that she ran smack into a wall and nearly fell over.
Or she would have, had the wall not caught her.
Lily was so relieved not to find herself on the floor that only moments later did it register that James was the one who had her in his arms.
Seemingly in the same situation as her, the pair of them leapt away from each other, as if hit by an electric shock.
As she struggled to catch her breath, it occurred to Lily that James was attempting to do the same thing; his face red and one hand held against the wall to help him to stand.
"Hi," he said, his breathing still heavy- his gaze concentrated on her.
"Hi," she mimicked.
They stood there, each looking at the other.
"Were you going somewhere?" Lily asked him, finally thinking of something to say and glad she had said 'going' instead of 'running'.
James considered her question.
"I bumped into Alice."
"Mmmm," James added uncertainly, still not breathing properly either. "Yeah…so, Amos, eh?" he went on, another weak smile. "That's great then…what you've always wanted…right?"
She stared up at him, blinking dumbly and shook her head. Unable to even think of how to tell him what she was sure her whole face must convey.
"No," she settled on, said as almost a whisper towards his unreadable expression.
James's head fell as he struggled to get his breathing under control. She watched him nervously, waiting for his reaction; wondering if she should say anything more. She was about to move towards him when he did the same.
"Lily…" James responded, letting his hand run down her arm before grasping it in his own, staring directly into her eyes. She was so convinced that he would kiss her then that when he pulled her back towards the Heads Dorm, she balked.
Suddenly, she was walking quickly, almost running again and tripping over her feet before finally, she was allowed to rest, as they fell into the Head's common room and James sat her down on the couch, stood before her, his hands on his hips.
He stalked in front of her oddly for a few moments, in which she entertained the terrifying thought that maybe he was figuring out the best way to tell her that he didn't have those feelings for her anymore.
"This isn't fair!" he snapped eventually, looking as though he might stomp his foot as well and breaking Lily out of her nausea inducing reverie.
"What isn't?" she asked hesitantly.
"This!" James replied unhelpfully. "He's said it all, hasn't he?"
"Amos! He…he told you how he felt. He said it all…everything. Now anything I'll say will just seem…"
He trailed off, looking into the distance. Lily was about to reassure him when he looked back to her.
"And Sirius!" he thundered, causing her to jump. "He probably gave Shakespeare a run for his money, knowing him. Remus probably wrote you books on how he felt too…"
"James…" she interjected with a laugh.
"…and it's not fair," he carried on over her. "How am I supposed to follow that? How am I supposed to…?"
In his frustration, he sank onto the table in front of her and gazed at her intensely.
"It's not fair," James managed after a moment, his voice wavering, "because none of them could even come close to feeling what I feel for you Lily."
She let the words sink in around her and a blissful, shivery feeling slid up her neck- so distracting that she jumped once more when his hand made its way to her face, along with his forehead pressed to hers.
"If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more," he quoted wryly, causing her to smile, "but between all of my earlier declarations and everyone else's, I'm not…I don't know how to…"
"I thought," she began, letting her nose nudge against his, "I thought that…" she stuttered again here, although James's hand on hers encouraged her to continue. "You said it wasn't about me."
His eyes dropped to the floor, only returning to hers when he seemed to have an answer.
"I lied," he answered faintly, his shoulders shrugged and she flinched to see the pain of the last few months return to those eyes that she now couldn't stop thinking about. "What was I supposed to say? That I was driven mad with jealousy and pummelled my best friend because the girl I loved loved him and not me?"
She shuddered again.
"It's always been about you, Lily," James said, "from every moment spent hating Severus Snape to not speaking to Sirius for a month and a half. I guess I didn't mature as much this year as we thought I had."
"James…" she said, her voice rising higher, forehead still pressed to his as she sought out his eyes. "Sirius was so…if I'd known how things would change, I would have never…"
"I don't want to talk about Sirius now. Or Amos…or Remus for that matter," James interrupted, fingers now intertwining with her own. "I want to talk about us…"
"I know," she pressed on, still feeling the hurt radiating from his chest- travelling straight through to hers, "but I need you to hear this. I never knew that this would happen. I was so caught up in everyone leaving me that I never paid attention to the one person who was always here for me. Amos was asking me to think about how I felt for him. It had been so long since I'd thought about what was in my heart- since I'd examined who was in it. So I looked…and there you were."
He gave a small smile which lifted her soul.
"Never, I fear, to be removed," she finished quietly, finally dusting his lips with her own.
They sat in silence for a few moments, letting the magnitude of what they'd just decided wash over them before James finally vocalised what they were both feeling.
"This is big, Evans," he whispered jovially, giving her nose a slight nudge with his.
"Indeed it is Potter," she returned, equally lifted. "Indeed, it is."
"Does it bother you?"
"Seeing them together?"
"…No, not really."
"Yeah…how could you be bothered by the sight of something so perfect?"
"Everything was to take its natural course…neither impelled nor assisted."
A/N: Here I am! I told you I wasn't giving up! As you can see from the length of this piece, it took FOREVER to write!
Nobody guessed Emma but I guess it's because it's not the natural choice for James & Lily but I remember when I read it, thinking of the man who waited patiently and past all of her other loves for the heroine to fall for him that Knightley and Emma suited my own as well as JK's story of James/Lily.
To be dealt with in the next chapter:
Lily and Sirius's first night together
I was going to deal with all of those in this chapter but it was long enough already and can be easily subsumed into Snape's story.
And yes, well done everybody, it's Wuthering Heights :)
I really hope you enjoyed this chapter- would be very appreciative if you would let me know! ;)
P.s. Top Dog has not gone away either for those of you reading it also!