Well, howdy! Obviously this update took quite a bit longer than I originally stated. That's typically what seems to happen when I overestimate my abilities. Lol.
So, before the start of this chapter, I just have a couple things from some of the reviews that I want to address.
1. I'm sincerely sorry if the storyline has grown a bit "stagnant" (too much buildup, etc.). But I think one of the main reasons for that is mainly the sheer amount of time that's been spent on this story to get it up to this point. It's been well over a year since I first started this fic, and they're STILL NOT TOGETHER. I know. It's frustrating for me, as well, though I feel especially bad for my readers who've stuck with me since the very beginning. I'd like to propose that the reason the story may seem stagnant is because it's just taken such a long time for me to get these chapters up- which I take full responsibility for. However, if you're of the opinion that the story's stagnant just because, well, it's stagnant, then... I don't quite know what to tell you. I'm sorry? This is, however, my story and I have to do things the way I see fit and when I see fit. You are most free to stop reading if you feel so inclined (though I'd love it if you stayed- especially for this chapter).
2. Just to really clear something up right now: Lily thinks that James and Amy are broken up. Period. I know it hasn't been made explicitly clear that that's how she sees their "taking a break" status, but let me assure you, it is. She wouldn't be doing all these things with James if she knew that he still saw them as being in a relationship. Or at least, she wouldn't get upset with him for backing off. In her mind, "taking a break" is just Amy's way of breaking up with James in a nice-ish way. Not that it's good or okay for her to assume that, by any means. It's just, the way I see Lily is that she can sometimes have a hard time seeing past her own thoughts and reasons to how others might justify their actions. She's considerate and empathetic, but sometimes it just takes someone explaining their reasons outright for her to understand. Hopefully, that makes at least a little sense. The main point here is, don't hate Lily; she doesn't know what the hell is going on.
With all that said, on with the show!
Recap: The boys shanghai Lily off to Hogsmeade while Remus is in the hospital wing dealing with his furry little problem. On the way, James opens up to Lily and gives her a small look at the relationship he had with his father while he was still alive, making her feel closer to him than ever. When they do make it down to the village, not a whole lot happens because it was a filler chapter (whoops). But the group has a nice visit to The Three Broomsticks and the Shrieking Shack (with a small cameo at the joke shop). James and Lily can't help but be just a bit lovey-dovey the entire time, making it Sirius and Peter's job to bring them back to reality every now and then. When they get back to their dorm, it looks as though Lily is about to kiss James, but he pulls away at the last minute, making her feel hurt, angry, and confused.
James stood outside the door to Lily's bedroom, not quite sure what he was doing there. He hadn't seen her all morning; in fact, he hadn't spoken to her at all since the night before when she'd angrily left him in the common room. He hadn't even known she was in her room until he'd come up after lunch and heard her moving around inside.
He wasn't sure what he was going to say to her. Whatever had happened last night, he knew that it was probably his fault. James wasn't completely sure what he'd done, but he had a feeling that it was because he'd almost kissed her.
But it didn't make sense to him. Lily didn't make sense to him. When he didn't kiss her, she got angry. But then when he did kiss her, she'd stop talking to him altogether. He didn't know which was worse.
With the New Year's party coming up that night, he found himself thinking more and more about his and Lily's first kiss. It had happened at one of Slughorn's parties, too, and he couldn't help but wish that it could somehow happen again. James remembered the way she'd run her fingers through his hair, sending shivers down his spine. He groaned at the thought before roughly shaking off the sensation. Before he could get carried away, he raised a fist and knocked on her bedroom door.
When Lily appeared on the other side, James was surprised to see that her hair was wet, as though she'd just stepped out of the shower. She held a towel in her hands and began to dry the deep auburn strands as she greeted him: "Hey."
For reasons he couldn't fathom, the sight of Lily and her wet hair sent his body into a frenzy. He thought back to the beginning of the year when she'd come out of the bathroom in nothing but a towel, and almost moaned, his pulse picking up.
"James?" she asked, pausing in her ministrations to give him a curious look.
"Yeah?" he replied quickly, snapping himself back into the present.
She paused and raised her eyebrows at him. "Is there something you wanted?"
"Oh! Right!" James rubbed hard at his neck and gave an embarrassed laugh. He was acting like a knob. "I just wanted to see how you were doing."
"I'm fine," she told him easily, but for whatever reason, he wasn't entirely convinced.
"Are you sure?" he asked, taking a step closer and leaning a shoulder against the door frame. She didn't back away. "Because, after last night... well, I haven't seen you, and I don't know, I just wondered-"
"James, look at me," Lily said, interrupting him with a hand to his wrist. He hadn't realized he'd been avoiding making eye contact until he finally looked at her. "I'm fine," she told him, more firmly this time. "Really. I just have a couple more small assignments that I want to get done before we leave for Slughorn's tonight."
Looking down at her, he could see that she was telling the truth. He couldn't make out any traces of anger lingering in her eyes, and it made him wonder if he hadn't simply misinterpreted her reaction the night before.
James almost groaned in frustration. He hated not knowing what Lily was thinking or what she wanted. One moment, it seemed as if she wanted him to do something, and the next it was as if she couldn't care less. The uncertainty was really starting to get to him, and it made him feel weak, almost helpless. He hated it, but he didn't know how to change things.
"Okay," he finally replied. "Well, I'm going to go down to the hospital wing for a bit, if you need me."
"How's he doing?" Lily asked with a look of concern, setting the towel in her hands aside. He couldn't help but smile at the fact that she automatically knew he'd been referring to Remus.
He paused a moment before replying. "He's alright, from what I've heard. Poor guy, gets sick so often he's pretty much used to it by now." Over the years, lying about his friend's condition had become such an automatic thing, he almost believed, himself, that he was just particularly susceptible to colds.
Lily gave a small smile, and for a moment James almost thought she somehow knew he wasn't telling the whole truth. Before he could think too much of it, she said, "Well, tell him that I hope he gets better soon. I actually keep thinking maybe I should go down and see him, but I don't know."
"I'm sure he'd like seeing you," he told her sincerely. She'd always been closer to Remus than she was to any of the rest of them. James had always been just a little bit jealous of his friend for that, though he never let it show and tried not to let it get to him. "Do you want to come with me?"
"Oh," she replied, blushing slightly. "That's fine. I mean, I wouldn't want to interrupt or-"
"Lily," he said firmly, leaning toward her. "Stop saying that. I told you last night, and I'm telling you now- you're not bothering any of us by hanging out; especially not me or Lupin."
Her cheeks turned an even deeper shade of red, and he felt a sudden itch to reach out and touch her. He restrained himself, though, remembering the way her eyes had hardened toward him last night.
"Well... alright," she said. "Just give me a minute, yeah?"
"Okay," he said, and Lily gave him a small smile before closing the door.
When they got to the hospital wing, Remus was asleep.
"He's been having a rough time," Madame Pomfrey told them, looking back toward his cot. "Perhaps you two should come back another time."
Just as she said the words, however, Lupin stirred under his covers and looked over at the three of them groggily. "Hey," he said, and James felt a strange tug in his chest when he heard the way his voice cracked.
As Madame Pomfrey moved reluctantly aside, James walked forward, Lily following behind. "Hey, Moony," he said, forgetting that he wasn't supposed to use their nicknames- and especially not Lupin's- in front of other people. Lily hadn't seemed to notice, though, thankfully.
"How are you feeling?" she asked, moving to sit beside him on the cot.
"Oh, brilliant," Remus replied, managing half a smile. His face was pale, throwing the few scars there into relief.
"You look horrible, mate," James told him, smirking. Lily threw a glare his way, but he ignored it. She didn't understand that this was just how he and his friends were together.
"No worse than you look on your best day, mate," he replied cheekily. James laughed.
"Well, it's nice to see you've acquired a rude sense of humor, at least," Lily scolded, though her mouth twitched slightly, as if to hide a smile.
"I'm sick," Lupin said simply. "I can say what I like."
"It's true," James told her. "You know that every other day, he's practically a saint. But he gets a little feisty every time he comes down ill."
Remus looked at him in weary annoyance. "I resent your use of the term 'feisty' as if I'm just some small, angry kitten."
"Well no, I don't think a kitten really quite fits what you are, does it?" James replied with a wink, unable to help himself.
Remus's eyes widened briefly before he let out a laugh; James joined in.
"You two are mad," Lily said, looking at them askance. But the smile that she'd tried to hide before was beginning to show.
Suddenly, Remus's laugh transformed into a sudden hiss of pain, making him clutch at his side; the smile slipped from James's mouth, and Lily reached her hand out to Lupin, resting it on his forearm. When the fit subsided, he gave them both a weak smile.
"I heard Slughorn's having another party tonight," he said, breaking the uncomfortable silence which had followed his outburst.
Lily scooted closer to him on the cot. If she was trying to hide the worry in her eyes, she was doing a poor job of it, James reflected as she said, "Yeah. I wish you could come with us."
"Why?" he asked wryly. "I don't."
James allowed himself a small smile as he stepped closer to the two of them, though he couldn't totally ignore the sinking weight of concern in his stomach. Even after all these years, all the countless times he'd seen his friend in a similar state, it still didn't sit well with him. "Yeah," he said, reminding himself to keep things light, "I have to admit, I'm almost jealous that you have an excuse not to go."
"'Almost' being the key word, there," Moony replied with a smirk. "Trust me, you don't want what I have."
Not sure what he could say to that without giving anything away, James merely shrugged.
"Wait," Lily said, pointedly turning to face him from where she sat. "Why don't you want to go to the party?"
She sounded put out, and he quickly realized his mistake. Reaching a hand up to nervously muss his hair, he tried to explain: "It's just... I mean, I wouldn't even be invited to those parties in the first place if it weren't for you. And Slughorn- well, it's all just a bit pretentious, isn't it?"
"Maybe," she conceded, after a moment. "I'll admit that it bothers me some, too. But even so," she added, looking at him with more meaning, "I've always managed to enjoy myself."
His mind instantly went to the night of the Halloween party and everything that had happened between them. As he looked at her, he wondered if she were somehow thinking the same thing, for a slight blush had crept up her chest and into her cheeks. The thought that she might be remembering their kiss just as he was made him breathe a little quicker.
James quickly snapped back to the present situation, and saw that Remus was watching them curiously. Things suddenly became awkward between the three of them and, clearly unsure what to say, Remus offered to Lily, "Well, that's good, I guess."
"Right," James was quick to agree. "You're right. I'm sure we'll all have a good time."
Lily looked away for a moment, seeming embarrassed. "Right. Well, I guess I'll leave you two. I didn't mean to intrude-"
"Lily," James said quickly, but she interrupted him.
"It's fine," she assured him. "I need to go post some letters, anyway." She stood up and gave him a small smile. "Try and get better soon, okay?" she told Remus. Then, she quickly leaned down and gave him a kiss on the cheek. James knew it was stupid and ridiculous, but he found himself having to tamp down a sudden surge of jealousy as he watched Remus's eyes widen in mild surprise. Then she was gone.
"Well," Remus said with amusement as they watched Lily disappear through the Hospital Wing doors, "maybe she should come visit me here more often."
Remus looked at him with a smug, teasing grin. A moment later, he yelped in pain as James punched him none-too-gently in the shoulder. "Ouch! You're not supposed to hit me; I'm sick!"
"Yeah, but you're still an arse."
Lily stood in front of the mirror in her room, staring at herself. The dress she wore was simple, unlike the one she'd used for the Halloween party. The deep blue of the fabric somehow made her hair look even more red than usual; she wasn't sure how she felt about that. She stared for a minute longer. She thought she looked different, somehow, not quite like herself- not necessarily in a bad way, but it was strange, all the same. Finally satisfied that there was nothing else she could or would do to improve her appearance, she grabbed the purse where she'd stashed her wand earlier and made her way out of Gryffindor Tower.
The corridor outside was cold and dim, the flaming torches on the walls doing little to alleviate either discomfort. Half an hour before, she'd told James that she'd meet him and the rest of the group down at the party. Regardless of whether or not she now actually enjoyed his company, it was nice to take advantage of McGonagall's slackening of the partner rules over holiday. But as she made the long trek down to the unused classroom where the party was being held, she couldn't help but think perhaps she should have gone with James and the others, after all.
It was some time before Lily finally began to hear the sounds of a record playing and people talking and laughing, the occasional clink of glasses coming together filling the night air. A few students were still milling around outside, and to her distaste, she saw that Mulciber and Avery were two of them. They were the one drawback to Professor Slughorn's generosity, as far as she could tell; if it weren't for his rare, open invitation, the two creeps wouldn't even be here. She really didn't feel like dealing with them, at the moment, but as they were situated right near the door to the party, she saw no way around it. With a sigh, she walked toward them.
"Well, look what we have here," Mulciber leered when he looked up and saw her coming their way. "Ickle Evans has come to join the party."
Avery scowled at her from beside him. "Slughorn must be off his head, letting filth like this in."
Lily clenched her teeth in annoyance. "I completely agree. He has started letting filth into his parties- otherwise you two would be back in your common room."
Avery's eyes hardened into steel, and Mulciber took a step closer to her. Her hand itched for her wand. "Who asked you to speak, mudblood?"
"I wasn't aware I needed permission from peons like you," she spat. Then she reminded them: "You do remember I'm Head Girl, right? Or are your brain cells so few that you've already forgotten?"
She saw Mulciber's fingers curl into fists, and he glowered at her. "No one wants you here."
Lily was seriously beginning to consider reaching for her wand and hexing his bollocks off when a small voice interrupted them. "I-I do."
The three of them looked over to where the voice had come from, only to see Peter standing nearby. He looked to be trembling slightly, and it was clear that he didn't want to get too close. "What?" Mulciber asked, clearly confused by Peter's presence.
"I... I said, I want her here."
"Get lost, rat-face, no one's talking to you."
"Well, I'm t-talking to you," he blurted, looking terrified. Lily stared at him in unveiled shock. She'd never seen him do anything even close to this before.
"What did you say?" Avery asked menacingly.
The young Gryffindor swallowed hard in fear, and Lily tried stepping in. "Peter-"
"You l-leave her alone," he suddenly told them, balling up his fists- though the gesture seemed more anxious than intimidating.
"And if we don't?" Mulciber sneered. "What's your fat arse going to do about it?" Avery laughed cruelly, and she saw Peter's face grow pale.
Regardless, he stood a little taller and said, "You know exactly what I'll do about it."
For some reason, that seemed to bring the two Slytherins up short, and Lily stared at them in confusion. What was Peter talking about? Before she could ask, Mulciber gave her a sickly sweet grin. "See you around, Evans." Then he stepped away from them and began walking away down the corridor. Before following after, Avery took a lock of her hair between his fingers. She slapped his hand away in disgust, but he merely smirked at her. "Have a swell evening," he told her, his voice threatening. And then the two of them rounded a corner and disappeared.
When the adrenaline was finally pumping less insistently through her veins, Lily suddenly remembered everything that had just happened. There was a long moment of astonished silence on her part before she turned back to Peter. "Thanks," she told him quickly, not understanding any part of what had occurred, but impressed all the same.
The color came rushing back to his face all at once, and he said sheepishly, "No problem." Through the door ahead of them waited the party and all its guests, but at the moment she couldn't care less.
"What was all of that?" she asked him. "How'd you get them to just... leave like that?"
Peter flushed an even deeper shade of pink. "Er, well... that wasn't the first time that's happened."
"What do you mean?" she asked, confused.
"Just... well, if I'd tried to threaten those jerks, they would've just laughed in my face. I'm not too great with spells, or anything-" he stared at the ground as he said it- "but James and the other guys are, and Mulciber and Avery know that. And when it comes to you, they..."
"They what?" Lily pressed when he didn't continue.
"They know not to mess with you."
She frowned at that. If one of them had threatened the Slytherins to keep them away from her, they could get into a decent amount of trouble. Not to mention the fact that it was completely unnecessary; she could take care of herself.
Looking over at Peter, though, Lily didn't let herself say any of that. For now, she chose to simply be grateful. The less she had to deal with the likes of Mulciber and Avery, the happier she'd be. So, instead of scolding him, or defending her own abilities, she took a step closer and repeated: "Well, thanks all the same. That was really brave and sweet of you." She smiled at the look of embarrassment on his features and leaned in to give him a kiss on the cheek. She'd never seen his face turn so red.
"Oh, er... y-yeah, okay," he stammered clumsily, with a nervous laugh. He rubbed at his cheek uncertainly.
Turning her gaze to the doorway in front of them and the party waiting within, Lily finally felt her nerves calm for what seemed the first time that night. "Should we go in?" she asked, turning to smile over at Peter. He was staring down at the stone floor as if waiting for- and perhaps even wanting- it to swallow him whole.
"Yeah, alright," he said, not meeting her gaze. She wondered how long it'd take him to finally look at her again- she could feel herself about to laugh at the prospect but quickly quelled the urge, for his sake.
She had barely taken two steps into the room when she felt someone grab her from behind and twirl her around. "Wha-?" she began, as her hair whipped rather ungracefully into her face.
"Blimey, Evans, what took you so long? I've been saving you a dance this whole time- which, I might add, seems to have deeply upset some of the other girls." She barely had time to get a word in edgewise before Sirius dramatically whirled her to the dance floor.
"Sirius, what are you talking about?" She looked around quickly and flushed in embarrassment. "There's only one other couple dancing, you prat. And I'm sure all the other girls will manage just fine without you." Though, to be truthful, she wasn't entirely sure of that last statement. She couldn't say for sure- the way Sirius was dancing with her turned everyone's face into somewhat of a blur- but quite a few of the girls in question did seem to be put out that she was dancing with him.
"Don't act like you're not impressed," he told her, twirling her away from him in a manner she could only describe as violent.
"Ouch!" she exclaimed when he brought her crashing back to him, their foreheads almost smacking together. "Trust me," she assured him, "acting unimpressed isn't much of a stretch." He might've been a good enough dancer, if only he weren't so bloody... enthusiastic all the time. "Just... calm down." She knew that Sirius's liveliness was one of the main things that drew girls to him. If he were dancing with any of them right now, she had no doubt the girl would be giggling and batting her eyelashes at the handsome Gryffindor. But for Lily, Sirius had always just reminded her of an overeager puppy- cute enough, but better when taken in small doses.
"Alright, alright," he conceded, slowing down a bit. "You don't need to remind me, though. Being around you too long has a sluggish effect on me anyw- Ow!" Lily grinned, having given him a satisfying pinch to the arm. "So, this is the thanks I get for saving you a dance!"
"Like it's some great favor," she cheeked in reply, making a rather unladylike face at him.
"You know what?" Sirius said, abruptly halting in the middle of a dance step. She suddenly felt a little dizzy, and quickly realized that he'd basically just been spinning them around in circles. "I don't even know why I'm still dancing with you."
"Oh, come on," she said, reaching out to him with a laugh as he began to back away.
"No, no. I need to go find some ice for my wounds."
She rolled her eyes. "What do you mean, 'wounds'? Sirius, I only pinched you. And just the one time."
"You don't know pain, Evans," he told her simply, before looking off to the side nearby. "She's all yours," he said irritably to someone before disappearing somewhere into the crowd with a comical scowl on his face.
"Don't mind him," she heard someone say from beside her. Turning toward the voice, she saw that her suspicions were confirmed. Her entire body seemed to warm over at the sight of him, as it always did now. James looked off toward his friend in amusement. "I think the sparkling cider affects him more than he'd like to admit." When he finally looked down at her, Lily saw that his eyes were filled with unvoiced laughter.
She had to take a quick moment to try and adjust to the transition from Sirius to James. While the former was something close to what she imagined a brother would feel like, James himself was something else entirely.
"No problem," she replied, with a smile. "I never take anything he says or does seriously."
He laughed at that. "Good."
The two of them stood together in a somewhat awkward silence for a few moments, watching as more and more couples around them made their way to the dance floor as the music took a slow turn. She was trying to work up the courage to take his hand and lead him onto the floor when he beat her to it.
"You wouldn't want to dance, would you?" he asked, looking at her a little uncertainly.
It suddenly struck her that, up until this year, she would never have thought to see that look on James Potter's face. Ever since she'd first met him, he had been all about displays of skill and overbearing self-assurance. But over the past months, it was obvious that something had changed. Not that he wasn't prone to his old arrogance every now and then, but the added moments of unexpected vulnerability were what drew her in the most.
"I'd love to," she told him sincerely, hoping her expression didn't give away the fact that her stomach had begun to feel nervous and fluttery.
Smiling and taking her waist in his hands, James drew her body close to his and began to lead her in a soft, swaying dance. She tried to resist the urge to bury her face in his chest and forget about all the people surrounding them. She just felt so safe in his arms; it made it hard for her to remember how she'd ever felt comfortable without him near.
"I haven't gotten a chance to tell you," he said, leaning a little closer so as to be heard, "but you really look very beautiful."
Lily heard her own breathing hitch and felt her entire body burn at his softly spoken words; he was so close. Turning her eyes up to his, she felt a heavy wave of yearning break over her. "Thanks," she breathed, unable to take her eyes from his. "So do you."
He gave her a quick look of surprise before laughing in embarrassment, momentarily breaking her out of whatever spell she was currently under. "Well, I don't know about 'beautiful,' exactly."
She laughed, feeling herself relax a bit. "There's nothing wrong with being beautiful, James," she teased. "But if you'd prefer, I can call you 'handsome,' instead."
"That'll do nicely," he replied with a smirk. "Honestly, though, getting a compliment of any kind from you is hard enough, so I'll take what I can get."
"Oh, come on," she retorted with a swat to his arm. "I'm not that bad." He gave a dubious look before she finally cracked a small smile. "Well, alright, maybe I am. I'm working on it."
James laughed and pulled her closer. "Don't worry, I don't mind. It gives me something to work for."
For whatever reason, his words suddenly made Lily aware of just how close they were. Their bodies were practically flush against one another, and at some point during their dance, his hands had moved from her waist down to her hips, fingers unconsciously tightening every now and then to squeeze at them. The realization made her feel a little lightheaded, and she sagged slightly into his arms.
"Are you alright?" he asked in concern, completely unaware of the effect he was having on her. She didn't know why it was suddenly so strong, why she was reacting this way. Things had been building between them for so long now that she guessed her defenses were simply weakening.
"Yes," she told him, forcing herself to stand up straight and get a hold of herself. But it was pointless. Their faces were only inches away and her hands were on his shoulders and his hands were gripping her hips so deliciously. Despite her better judgment, her eyes began to drift shut and she leaned forward.
And just as he'd done the night before, James pulled away at the last moment.
Her eyes shot open as he cleared his throat. "The, er, song's about done," he told her, letting go of her and shoving his hands into his pockets.
"What?" Lily asked, feeling that unique yet familiar feeling beginning to rise up inside of her- that unpleasant mixture of embarrassment, anger, and worst of all, rejection.
"The song," he repeated, not looking at her. "It's over."
For what felt like the longest time, she could do nothing but stare at him. She didn't understand what he was doing; why he had to be like this. She knew she hadn't imagined the way he'd been smiling and flirting with her ever since he and Amy had broken up. For Merlin's sake, they'd almost had a full-on snog session out by the lake not even a week before. And yet he kept pushing her away. She had no idea what he was trying to do, but it was starting to feel a lot like he was just toying with her. The thought made her so angry that she couldn't speak. Finally, she turned away from him and, before he could even try to stop her, she made her way out of the room, intent on getting as far away from the party as she possibly could.
Oh, buggering hell.
James stood frozen for a moment as he watched Lily practically run from the room, wrestling with whether he should follow after her or not. It only took a moment. He couldn't let the night end like this, before it had even begun. She couldn't just leave every time he upset her in some way, and he couldn't go on pretending that he was fine with everything the way it was. Something had to change.
"Lily!" he called when he finally caught up to her two floors above where the party was still taking place. She didn't stop when she heard him- if anything, her pace quickened. It wasn't until he caught her wrist in his fingers that she finally turned to face him. He felt as if he'd taken a blow straight to the chest when he saw that there were tears in her eyes.
"Let go of me," she told him angrily, yanking her arm free.
"Lily," he said, thrown off by the sight of her unshed tears and feeling like a complete arse. "What's going on? What'd I do?" He genuinely wanted to know; he never wanted to be the one responsible for her tears again.
"Oh, don't give me that rubbish," she spat, hastily wiping away a stray tear from her cheek.
"What rubbish?" he insisted, taking a step closer. "What are you talking about?"
Lily simply stared at him for a long moment, looking even more hurt and angry than before. "Just leave me alone, James," she told him before turning to leave again.
But before she could take two steps, he cut in front of her. "No," he said, feeling his own anger begin to rise in his chest. "Stop that. You don't get to just walk away this time."
"No," he repeated more forcefully, speaking over her. "Obviously, you have a problem with me, so why don't you do the decent thing and just tell me for once."
"'The decent thing'?" she scoffed, in apparent disbelief. "You're going to lecture me about the 'decent' thing to do?"
James was surprised at how much the comment stung. "As if you're some saint." She looked like she was about to retort, but he quickly cut her off. "And yes, I'm going to lecture you about the decent thing to do until you damn well do it."
Lily narrowed her eyes at him before running an agitated hand through her hair. "I don't know what you mean."
"Oh, now you don't know," he said sarcastically, his anger at its peak. "How bloody convenient. Well, since I'm apparently the only one who can be straight-forward, I'll tell you." He quickly looked around the corridor to find that they were still alone before he continued: "I'm talking about the fact that you don't know what you want."
Her eyes flashed. "Excuse me? What's that supposed to mean?"
"Exactly what it sounds like," he snapped, pulling at his hair in frustration. He steeled himself for what he was going to say next: "It's all good fun for us to try and get closer, but when it actually starts to happen, you go barmy and storm off."
Lily's eyes widened and her face flushed a deep red. But when she spoke, she was even angrier than before. "What?! I'm the one who turns barmy?"
"Yes!" he replied, not sure he could believe that they were actually talking about this. "Whenever we get close to something more than just friendship, you get angry or upset and just leave me there wondering what the fuck just happened."
She gave a sharp laugh of disbelief. "You can't be serious! You're the one who stops right in the middle of whatever's going on and says stuff like 'We're gonna be late for dinner,' or 'The song is over.' So, don't even try to put that on me, James, because you're the one who doesn't want to get close."
"Because I don't know what you want!" he exclaimed, in a mixture of frustration and nervousness. The two of them hadn't actually talked about any of this all year. And now that they were, he couldn't believe what he was hearing. How could they have misunderstood each other so completely? He took another step closer to Lily and lowered his voice. He sounded almost pleading as he said, "We kissed, Lily. We kissed on Halloween, and you would barely speak to me afterward. So, I've tried not to do it again. And you..." He swallowed hard as her eyes began to widen at his words. "You don't know how hard it is for me not to kiss you sometimes. All the time. But then, when I'm trying not to do it- saying we should head to dinner, or whatever else- you get angry anyway."
He looked to find her staring. Her eyes were still wide, but the tears were gone. His heart was pounding in his chest at his confession, and he could see her chest rising and falling rapidly with her shallow breathing. Without thinking, he leaned his forehead against hers and closed his eyes tight, taking in the light, subtle smell of her. He heard her breath hitch in surprise at their sudden proximity, and he was almost shaking with need when he said, "Just... tell me what you want, Lily. I want to give you what you want, but I just don't know. Please, just tell me."
James waited in almost painful apprehension. He'd never felt more vulnerable in his entire life; it terrified him. He closed his eyes tighter, bracing himself for her anger, her mocking, her rejection.
Instead, he heard her say in a small voice: "I want you."
He took in a sharp breath.
He felt as though he'd waited his whole life just to hear those words come out of her mouth. And now that she'd finally said them, he felt frozen. His heart was pumping erratically inside his chest, he could hardly breathe. He was almost afraid to open his eyes just to find that none of this had actually happened, and that he was still lying in his bed dreaming for something more, more, more.
Then he heard her speak again. "James, please," she breathed, placing her hands on his neck and urging him closer. "I-I want you so much."
And then he lost all control.
With a shuddering breath and a groan, James took her waist roughly in his hands and hauled her body as close to his as he could get it. He licked his lips in hungry anticipation before finally- finally- bringing them down over hers.
Lily whimpered, immediately opening her mouth to him, and he eagerly explored her with his tongue. Everything was even better than he remembered. She tasted sweeter, her skin felt softer, warmer, her hair felt silkier.
Their fingers traced each other's faces, as if trying to memorize every line and plane, every perfection and every flaw. James couldn't comprehend how he'd waited this long to kiss her again. He'd often relived the night of their first kiss, and how it had felt to finally have his lips on hers. And as amazing as that had been, he knew that this was so much better. The physical need between them was no less urgent or commanding, but now there was an added element of understanding, patience. There was no rush.
They kissed slowly for what felt like hours. Lily nibbled at his lower lip and began sucking lightly on his tongue, making him groan and kiss her harder as more blood flowed to his groin. She gave a low moan in return, making him wish nothing more than to carry her up to his bed.
She was the first to pull away. "James..." she began, then trailed off, smiling up at him more beautifully than he'd ever seen.
He found himself in a similar state. There were so many things he wanted to tell her, but he just couldn't find the words. He wanted to tell her how much he loved her, how he would do anything for her. He wanted to tell her that she was the most beautiful, kind, irritating... insufferable person he'd ever met, and how he never wanted her to change. But before he could fathom any of his thoughts into actual words and sentences, she spoke.
"So... should we go back to the party?"
He looked at her skeptically. "Do you want to?"
"No," she grinned.
They headed back up to Gryffindor Tower hand-in-hand. Holding Lily's hand like this was a new experience for James, and he was surprised at how much he enjoyed it. However, by the time they made it to their common room, he'd come down from his high enough to realize that there was something he needed to tell her.
"Lily, I-" He stopped, unsure how to put it. "You should know that I wasn't exactly completely honest earlier."
She turned to him, and the smile she'd been wearing since their kiss faded slightly. "What do you mean?"
He took a deep breath and cursed himself. "When I told you before that the reason I pulled away all those times was because I didn't know what you wanted... Well, that wasn't the only reason."
Lily said nothing.
"The other part of it..." He forced himself to say it. "Well, it's Amy."
James saw the flash of anger in her eyes even before she spoke. "Amy?"
"It's not what you think!" he rushed to explain, taking her hand in his. "It's just... well, we're still sort of together-"
The color suddenly drained from Lily's face, and she breathed, "What?"
Realizing his stupidity, James swore. "Oh. Fucking hell. Not like that. I just mean we're not officially broken up yet."
"I don't understand," she said, taking her hand away. "You told me she broke up with you."
"Well," he clarified, "she said she thought we should take a break."
She narrowed her eyes at him in confusion. "Is there a difference?"
He paused, not quite expecting that reaction. "I don't know," he told her truthfully. "But I think maybe we should... hold off until I can find out for sure." She sank down onto the couch behind them, and he sat next to her, feeling like he'd well and truly fucked everything up now. "I'm so sorry, Lily. I-I understand if you don't want to... well..." If you don't want to be with me. James couldn't bring himself to say it.
They sat quietly together for what felt, to him, like an eternity. He was just about to leave to his room, deciding that she probably didn't want him around, when she finally spoke.
"I'm sorry, James."
He stared at her for a long moment, dumbfounded. "What?"
She finally looked at him. "I'm sorry."
He couldn't see any hint of anger or sarcasm in her expression, but he couldn't imagine why else she'd say such a thing. "You don't have anything to be sorry for," he told her simply.
"No," she insisted. "I think I do. I had no idea you've been dealing with this since the start of holiday. I should've asked how things were between you two after you told me she'd... well, I thought she'd just tried to be nice about it. But I didn't want to make things hard or uncomfortable between us, when it was so nice to finally be getting along." She turned more fully toward him. "James, I never would have gotten angry with you if I'd known... I thought you were toying with me or something because you were bored with Amy gone."
Indignation suddenly sparked within him. "What? You actually thought I would do something like that?"
"I'm sorry, James," she pleaded, placing a hand on his knee. "It was stupid for me to think that, but... I just had no idea what was going on."
His anger faded as quickly as it had come. "Well, that's my own fault," he told her, rubbing roughly at his eyes. "If I'd just been honest from the start, none of this rubbish would have happened in the first place."
Lily gave him a look that he couldn't quite define. "It doesn't matter now," she said firmly. "I... I like you a lot, James. More than makes sense to me." His heart lifted almost immediately at the sincerity in her voice. "You waited for me for seven years. The least I can do is wait a few more days for you."
He couldn't believe how understanding she was being. He couldn't help but grin over at her, feeling his chest ache with the depth of his emotion. "You're amazing, you are."
She smiled back at him and he automatically felt reassured. "I know," she told him simply.
They spent the rest of that night staring at each other, then giggling like little kids when they got caught. They talked about school, home, friends, and what seemed like everything else. James found that he couldn't bring himself to not touch her in some way, so he kept his hand in hers the entire night. When they finally tired themselves out, he walked with Lily to the door of her bedroom, right next to his own. Being able to hold her hand and trace the lines on her palms had been incredible, but he knew that if he didn't get something a bit more substantial to hold him over, he'd implode.
"So, I'm guessing a goodnight kiss is entirely out of the question," he casually teased, leaning in close to her.
"Entirely," she assured him, the corner of her mouth twitching to hold back what he instinctively knew was a smile.
"Yeah, I suppose you're right," he said, nodding gravely.
Lily gave him a skeptical look, but when his expression remained serious, she said, "Well... good night." She turned slightly and began to open the door to her room.
The kiss caught her by surprise and only lasted a moment. But it was enough to get his heart pumping faster and make her blush a deep crimson. "James!" she scolded.
"Good night," he told her cheerfully, before heading into his own room.
James lay on his bed unable to sleep and reflected that, for the first time in years, he was happy to wait. He'd wait the rest of his life for Lily Evans if he had to- thankfully, he only had a few more days to go. What was different now was that he'd finally experienced the pay-off first-hand. And he knew without a doubt that, however long, the wait would be worth it.
A/N: chnkjvzhJEHGVUHRBUIFBjkzbhud ht
Okay, so I'm basically going to be totally incomprehensible for this entire A/N because I'm flailing with feelings. FINALLY. I told you it would happen, and now it has, so celebrate! Granted, everything's not completely peachy just yet, but I feel like I definitely went above and beyond on my personal fluff quota for this chapter.
(I'm not even going to mention what tomorrow is in the Jily fandom, but I hope that you all can read this and be happy.)
So, yeah, not really any notes, because of reasons. I must say, I particularly liked the bit between Peter/Mulciber/Avery. I feel like too often, fic writers let their hatred of Adult!Peter cloud their judgement when it comes to writing Teenage!Peter. I include myself in this, but I must say I found it really refreshing to write him in a different light. :)
Also, laughing to myself at the fact that poor Sirius is the only one who didn't get a kiss from lovely Lily in this chapter (or at all... yet).
Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter! Actually, my biggest hope is that ~The Moment~ wasn't a disappointment for anyone- or if it was, that you'll stick with me for what's to come. Because yes, I have a lot of lemony Jily goodies that I've been keeping to myself up till now that I can't wait to share with you guys. ;)
So, keep reading and REVIEW, and know that every single bit of feedback I get only fuels me to write more. :)
Reviews are Jily love, pure and simple.