…and I'm ALIVE! I'm so sorry you guys (whoever is still reading this)! I graduated university, finally, and survived my internship at a huge media company. I have not had any motivation to get to this in a looong time. But as I promised, I will somehow finish this story. Nothing like writing mushy fanfiction to get your writing mojo back in gear, right? This is mostly filler, by the way, which is why a lot of them are short scenes. The plot will move again next chapter, I hope. I don't like writing fillers, but I felt it was necessary here. P.S: OHMYGOSH it's been two years?
The time I spent
Waiting for something that is heaven-sent
When you find it don't let it go
-"Have You Ever Been In Love" by Celine Dion
When he agreed to have dinner with his wife, her sister and her brother-in-law, James Potter never quite thought it would end with a shouting match and slamming doors.
Mr and Mrs Evans thought (or rather, hoped) that having their grown-up daughters together for dinner with their husbands would help patch things up between them. It was a sweet gesture, but unfortunately they forgot to count on Petunia's unwavering resentment, Vernon's lingering prejudice, Lily's emotional sensitivity, and James' temper. Within mere minutes after the arrival of their appetizers, Petunia started expressing thinly-veiled insults towards Lily, her arranged marriage, and James himself. Lily tried to stay silent but, despite her trying to be a nice person most of the time, she happened to have quite a temper as well. What began as a passive-aggressive exchange of words became a full-blown row that caused half the restaurant to look on in polite interest. Most watched the sisters quietly, but some of the patrons clicked their tongues and shook their heads in annoyance. Both sisters were on their feet. Loose strands were coming off Petunia's immaculate chignon and Lily's face matched her hair in color, but they were still exchanging verbal blows. When one of the waiters approached their table to request that they please, please lower their volumes as it was beginning to bother the other diners, Petunia waved him off impatiently and slammed her hands on the table.
"I have had enough!" she spat venomously, her blue eyes staring straight into her sister's green ones. "Don't bother keeping in touch, Lily. I don't want you, or your freakish lot anywhere near me and my family!"
"I'm your family!" Lily retorted. "I'm your sister!"
"By 'family', I meant myself, Vernon, and any children we might have," Petunia clarified, grabbing her clutch from the table roughly. "I don't want my children anywhere near you or yours!"
With that final statement lingering in the air, Petunia stalked away. Lily paused, a horrified expression on her face. She sank back to her seat, her hand rising to cover her mouth in shock at her sister's stinging words and looking like she had just been slapped in the face.
Vernon got to his feet as well and made to follow her out, looking utterly disgusted. He lingered long enough, however, to spare his still-shocked sister-in-law a scathing look and a "Well I hope this is the last time we meet each other".
James knew that the Evans sisters were on extremely bad terms with each other – Lily had told him of Petunia's obvious disdain for anything even remotely related to the magical world – but he did not think her anger would be so focused on her sister. He would later feel sorry for losing his temper and menacingly threatening to turn Vernon into a manatee, but the look of hurt on Lily's face was something he never wanted to see, let alone be the cause of. He gently took her by the arm and led her away after settling the bill and apologizing to the other patrons. She simply allowed herself to be dragged away, her eyes downcast.
At the end of the night, he sat at the edge of their bed and watched her cry her eyes out on the coverlet.
"I'm sorry, Lily," he said, his hand hovering over her back but not daring to move closer. "I shouldn't have done it. But I couldn't stand him talking to you that way, especially after what happened between you and Petunia."
She said nothing, but her sobs softened. Finally, after what felt like hours, she raised her face from the covers and sniffed. "I know you're sorry, and I understand why you did it," she began. Her green eyes were rimmed with red, her voice shaking with emotion. "I just – I just don't understand why Petunia hates me so much. You saw the way she looked at me – like I was the cause of every bloody misfortune in her life."
James, finally deciding it was safe to approach her, took her into his arms and stroked her hair. "It isn't your fault, Lily," he told her. "You may not want to hear this, but your sister is being petty."
"So was I," she wiped the tears from her eyes. "I was being petty too, but I couldn't help being angry. I don't want to be, but I just… I can't! I couldn't stand the way she was talking about you, and I'm very sorry, James, you didn't deserve to have those things said to you."
"It doesn't matter," he muttered.
"It does! You're my husband, and she doesn't have to drag you into our argument! It was ours, you have no part in it, but Petunia!" she got to her feet and started pacing. "Petunia didn't have to take it that far! I never said a word against her husband, but there she went, insulting mine like she knew who you were!" She turns to look at James apologetically. "I'm really sorry."
James was starting to get confused. One moment she was miserable, the next, angry, and then apologetic.
"If I could somehow transfer the magic to her, I would!" she cried. "I never wanted her to lose out on anything, so I never used magic at home if I can help it. I know it isn't my fault I was born a witch, but she makes me feel like I ought to be sorry I was. I'd switch places with her in a heartbeat if I could, if it means that she'd stop blaming me!"
"Lily, you didn't ask for it," he said. "Maybe this isn't the right time to be worrying about that."
"I want to reconcile with her, I really do," her voice softened as she tucked her knees close to her chest. "I would do anything to go back to how we were as kids. I really would. I'd like nothing more than have my sister again, to be her friend again. But I don't know how."
James said nothing. He did not know
"I'm sorry," she said, rubbing her eyes. "You must think I'm a crazy woman. I sound really silly."
"No, I don't," he said quickly, sincerely. He did not mind seeing her vulnerable side, he only wished it was regarding something that did not bring her so much pain.
"I don't have siblings so I can't tell you that I understand, but I just have to tell you. You are not a bad person, Lily," he said, as sincerely as he possibly could. "You couldn't be. You're mean at times, but you're not."
She looked at him and cracked a watery smile. "Thank you," she said gratefully. "Really. Thank you very much."
"I heard you had trouble with Tuney the other day."
Robert Evans found his daughter seated at the piano stool, her head propped up by her hand. She made it a point to visit at least once a week, sometimes with James.
Lily sighed and crossed her arms stubbornly. "What else did you expect, Daddy? Did you really think that just because we're both settled down and somehow happy we're going to be the best of friends again?"
"I know you did."
Lily scowled at her father, annoyed that he saw through her so quickly. "Yes, well, now we know how very wrong and foolish I was."
"Give it time, Lily," her father told her. "At the end of the day, you are still sisters. It'll be the two of you who will be helping each other when your mother and I are gone. You can't stay angry at each other forever."
"I bet you Petunia can," she murmured darkly. She looked around, as if expecting her older sister to appear. "Where is she anyway?"
"They're staying over at Vernon's parent's house. She was rather upset when I talked to her as well," he said as he eyed the piano.
"Oh, I bet she is."
"Why don't you just play something?" he lifted the cover. "How about Elgar (1)?"
"How about Pathetique? (2) I sure feel like it," she replied, pouting childishly.
"No you don't," Robert smiled. "And you are not."
She sighed and shifted her position a little. Her fingers began moving deftly across the keys, playing the melody she knew by heart. She made a few mistakes here and there, but it helped. It felt like her childhood somehow, just the sound of the piano and her father's gentle encouragement.
She finished with a flourish, the last note played tenderly. She heard applause from the doorway and turned to see James there.
"That was beautiful, Lily," he said. "I didn't know you play. What was it called?"
"Nocturne no. 2, by Chopin," she answered as she cracked her knuckles, looking a little flustered. "I'm actually rather out of practice."
He ran a hand through his hair. "I'm afraid I know very little about classical music so I can't really tell."
"It doesn't matter," she chuckled. "Music isn't limited to those who know a lot about it."
He continued to ruffle his hair, prompting Lily to raise a hand to stop him. "Really, James, any messier and we can make nests with your hair," she chided gently. She patted his cheek lightly, chuckling.
"Nervous habit," he explained.
A look of understanding crossed her face. "Oh, then to each their own," she shrugged. "What are you nervous about anyway?"
"I feel like I was intruding on you," he replied. "But your mother said you were in here and I was wondering if you're ready to go."
"Oh," she said, looking at the clock. She closed the lid of the piano tenderly, resting her hand on top for a moment. "You're right, it's getting late. We have to go, Daddy," she added to her father.
"Alright," he replied. "Come visit again soon, won't you, Lils? The house is rather lonely without you and Petunia."
"Regretting marrying us off now, are you?" Lily said cheekily.
Her father let out a hearty laugh. "Yes, a little. But it's worth it to know that my two princesses are being taken care of," he said, kissing the top of her head. She embraced him in return, soaking in the comforting smell of her father's aftershave and the feel of his arms around her.
"I'll see you soon, Daddy," she promised before letting go and taking James' hand. He nodded briefly at her father before letting her drag him away.
"Take care of her, James," he told his son-in-law, smiling at the sight of them holding hands.
"Of course, Mr Evans," James nodded. "We'll visit soon."
Robert watched his little girl walk off, noting the look of adoration she wore when she saw James at the doorway. He could be wrong, but it seems like his headstrong Lily could fall in love with her husband after all.
"I don't feel right lying to my parents," Lily sighed when they arrived at their cottage. "But what can you do?"
"You get used to it," James promised her, hanging his coat on the rack. "The lying almost killed me with guilt when I started, but the less they know, the less danger they're in, right?"
"Not to mention the less they'll nag me about it," murmured Lily, unwrapping her scarf and tossing it on their bed. "Not that I want to make fools of my parents, but they won't understand. All they're going to see is the danger, not the necessity."
"I know you're feeling guilty," he said. "I know you're not used to lying and I know you're worried. I won't tell you it gets easier, because it doesn't."
"I am all that and more," Lily blurted out. "I'm terrified."
"We leave for our first assignment the day after tomorrow. Are you sure you've thought this through, Lily?"
He looked worried still.
"I already told you I am," she insisted. "I'm not sure why you think I'm incapable, James –"
"Who said anything about incapable?" James interrupted, crossing his arms. "I was simply asking."
"It sure sounds like you're hoping I'd change my mind," Lily stared him down and arched an eyebrow. "Which is strange, because you gave me such a funny look when I turned it down in the first place."
"I did not."
"You most certainly did," she insisted.
James looked at her seriously. "I don't think you're incapable, Lily," he began, trying to diffuse the tension, his arms raised in a gesture of surrender. "Far from it. I know you can hold your own in a fight, but I can't help but worry. You were right about it being risky. I promised your parents that you'd be safe. I… I don't want you to get hurt," he finished hesitantly, as if the admission was too much to say. He did not want Lily to think he was belittling her, but he was doubtful whether the decision to join the order would benefit her. She gave him a look, the sort she adopts whenever he says something particularly exasperating for her.
"Isn't this a little too late for this? You looked like you wanted me to join when you said yes to Dumbledore."
"At the time, maybe I did," he confessed. "But it's different now, Lily, I don't want you anywhere near them. I don't want you to lie to your parents. I don't want you in the way of danger."
"James, we're all in danger anyway," she countered stubbornly, her voice getting a tad higher. "If the rumors are even half-true, being alone here at home while you're on Order business is more dangerous than going with you! Your involvement could be exposed any day soon, and they're bound to come after me. After your parents, and mine! I want to help put a stop to this ridiculous business once and for all."
He opened his mouth to argue some more, to say that the Fidelius Charm protecting their home should be enough keep enemies at bay, but she held up a finger to silence him with a sharp look in her eyes that made it clear that the argument was over.
"I'm going with you," she told him a little harshly, with an air of finality. "I'm going with you," she repeated with a softer voice. Her face looked apologetic.
"I'm sorry. I didn't meant to snap at you," she mumbled.
"S'okay," he replied, a little taken aback by her sudden change of mood. "I'm just… I'm afraid for you, Lily."
"I know," she walked closer to him. "And I am for you, which is why I want to go too."
The sudden confession startled him. "What was that?" he asked, smirking slightly.
Her face turned red.
"Did you say something about worrying for me?" he teased, a big grin on his face.
"Bugger off," she turned away. He could tell she was flustered though, he just knew she hated not being in control of her own reactions. Lily was the type of person who responded with anger when she is embarrassed or scared, James learned in the duration of their marriage.
That, and several other things, he thought.
"You're worried for me, Lils?" he asked again. He knew she did not like being teased, but he could sense the heaviness in the air and wanted to make the conversation casual again.
"I'm your wife, shouldn't I be?" she answered, still refusing to meet his eyes. She shifted her gaze towards the open window, her arms wrapped around herself.
He wrapped his arms around her. "Thank you."
She patted his back tenderly. "Don't go all sentimental on me, Potter," she smirked. "I don't need that right now."
He grinned, the kind she loved so much but would never admit to him. She loved the way he looked like a mischievous school boy, ready to face anything with wild abandon.
"And you don't get too paranoid, Mrs Potter," he replied cheekily, earning a swat on the arm from his wife. "It'll be fine. And if we come across Death Eaters, just remember one thing."
She cocked her head to one side, eyebrow raised.
Fortunately, their mission was not as exciting as he feared it would be. Lily did very well, considering it was her first– she did as she was told, remembered details easily, and got along with Mad-Eye Moody, who was leading the two of them on their little espionage. In fact, it surprised James how quickly she took to the gruff, hardened old Auror. She had him chuckling with her unusual observations and witty retorts after they finished gathering information from the site of a recent Death Eater attack.
"What I don't understand is," Lily spoke to Mad-Eye as they sat down for a drink at the Three Broomsticks. She nursed a tankard of butterbeer in her hands. Mad-Eye had scared the poor waitress when asked her for mead, earning a glowering look from the redhead. "What do these people stand to gain when they follow You-Know-Who? I mean, it's real dangerous work, and you risk a sentence in Azkaban. If that's not a terrifying prospect, I don't know what is."
Mad-Eye looked at her and snorted. "Distorted beliefs, for one," he answered in his gravelly voice. "Many of those idiots are just pawns, they just don't know it. War does a great deal to a person, girl," he eyed her critically over the rim of his tankard. "Best you should remember that."
"Just for the possibility of glory? That's ridiculous," said Lily, taking a swig of butterbeer. She loved the stuff, not being much of a drinker herself. James settled himself next to her, wrapping his arm around her shoulder protectively. Months of marriage brought them closer, much to James' delight. Lily is now comfortable enough with him to allow him displays of affection, and he often wondered if she ever thought she could be in love with him. She rolled her eyes at him before shifting her focus back to Mad-Eye.
"Men would do many things for glory, girl. You're young, you haven't seen much of the world. You don't know what people can be capable of when they are faced with the prospect of power and glory. Many lose their humanity in exchange for it."
There was silence before Lily broke it again.
The aforementioned grunted in response and she took it as a sign to continue.
"Pardon the blunt question, but have you ever killed anyone on assignment?" she asked, her eyes cast downwards. She was expecting Mad-Eye to snap at her and tell her to bugger off, to mind her own business. He did not. James waited for the answer as well.
"I have," he told her.
"How many would you say?"
"Can't be bothered to remember."
"Was it- was it hard?" She looked hesitant to ask.
"The killing? Nah," he replied rather nonchalantly. "I'm used to it."
Thoughtful silence descended on them. James was listening to the entire exchange, also interested in what Mad-Eye had to say. He probably would not say it out loud, but he admired the seasoned Auror. Not many wizards can boast accomplishing the achievements Mad-Eye Moody had in his years fighting outlaws and criminals. For a long time, James had wanted to be an Auror just like him, but the outbreak of war and his marriage to Lily put a halt to those plans. Watching Mad-Eye made James understand that despite the grandiose image of Aurors, a life chasing after dark wizards came with a price – and his missing eye was only a small part of it. Mad-Eye Moody, with all the enemies he made because of all the people he sent to Azkaban, lived his days in paranoia. He was always under the impression that a plot or another is in place to get rid of him permanently. That was the price, James mused. Peace.
Lily did not know that, but James knew it was only a matter of time before she did. She turned to him and smiled, offering him one of the cookies on the plate next to her. He obliged, making her smile. She took one for herself as well, smiling contentedly as she bit into it. James chuckled at the way doing so made her look younger, more innocent almost. She looked at him indignantly for laughing at her, but it soon melted into a warm smile.
"Well, I'll be."
The three sitting at the table were all startled to see a grinning Madam Rosmerta behind them. She walked closer and put her hand on her hip, looking down at James. "You finally brought the missus," she commented, smiling good-naturedly at Lily. "I'm Madam Rosmerta," she told the girl.
"Lily Ev-" Lily stopped herself. "Potter. Lily Potter."
"Aren't you a pretty one?" Madam Rosmerta said approvingly. "James sure is lucky. Is he treating you right? He can be mischievous, but he's a good lad."
Lily cracked a smile. "Yes," she replied. "He treats me very well."
"Good," she nodded before turning her attention back to James. "Now, don't let me hear you treating her badly, or you'll never be allowed back here, you understand?"
James snorted disbelievingly. "I could never," he said, feigning offense. "She's the one who's always making me sleep on the couch when she's angry at me!"
"I should think so!" Madam Rosmerta laughed. "I never thought I'd see the day I'll see James Potter and his wife in my pub!"
"You act like it's such big news, Madam Rosmerta," James shook his head, embarrassed. "Is it that hard to believe? If you must know, I am a very eligible bachelor before I married this lovely lady."
"Oh, you know I'm just joking with you," the older woman grinned. "I'm very happy for you, lad."
"Yes, we all are," Mad-Eye commented sarcastically as Lily giggled. "No one even expected this little lady to be the one to finally house-train Potter."
"House-train?" James repeated, his eyes comically bulging out. "What do you mean – I'm a perfectly functioning member of society, thank you very much, Mad-Eye."
"Oh, I beg to differ," Madam Rosmerta interrupted. "I remember you and Sirius Black running around like couple of hooligans instead of the young lords you are, right here in my pub."
"Really?" Lily leaned closer, suddenly more interested.
"Oh, I have so many stories!" Madam Rosmerta's eyes practically sparkled in excitement. "I have to tell you this time he –"
"You don't know what I'm about to say yet!"
"It doesn't matter, you're going to ruin my reputation in front of my wife!"
"Oh, don't be silly, James, I'm sure she'll be fine."
"Please, do tell," Lily smirked at James, a mischievous glint appearing in her green eyes. "I'd love to hear something. It's not like I haven't heard much about you from Sirius and Remus. I'd say you don't have much of a reputation with me at the moment. What were you expecting?" She nodded at the barmaid, who looked only too happy to comply.
"Well, it was when they were fifth years," Madam Rosmerta began excitedly, looking more like a gossiping teenager than a woman older than Lily. "Sirius was making a fool of himself trying to woo -" she paused, looking at James. "What was the name of that pretty Ravenclaw brunette? Marlene McKinnon? Amore Lewis?"
"It was Caroline Lane," he mumbled, his ears going red. Lily watched him with a bemused expression before pointedly grabbing one of the cookies on the plate.
"Please go on," she said as she took a bite, giving James a teasing smile.
"Alright, we're going," James said, taking Lily by the arm and dragging her away. She laughed as she waved to Madam Rosmerta and Mad-Eye, the latter of whom simply raised his tankard in acknowledgement.
They Disapparated just outside the pub. Lily was still laughing when they reach the safe confines of their cottage, making James turn a deep shade of red.
"I want to know what happened!" she said, her eyes crinkling in amusement.
"It's not worth listening to," he murmured.
"Really?" she arched her eyebrows. "Then why are you so flustered about it?"
She laughs again. "Alright," she conceded. "I won't ask anymore."
He looked surprised at how easy she gave up.
"What? I know when to stop prying," she took off her coat and scarf. "I'm not always a busybody, you know."
He laughed. "I know you're not."
She smiled and held out her hand. He gives her his coat and she hung it with hers on the rack. James was struck with how they have adjusted to their living situation, how they are completely integrated with each other's presence and habits.
We're really a married couple now, huh.
A little lost in his thoughts, he neglected to notice that Lily had already disappeared into their bedroom. He thought of the many things they fought about in the beginning of their marriage, how they compromised, and what he had learned about her in the process.
Lily is not a morning person. James is, being used to morning Quidditch practices for many years, so breakfast is his task. She, however, is a fairly decent cook (better than James is, at least) and is in charge of making lunch and dinner.
He learned that she had been deathly afraid of fire since she was a little girl, but eventually overcame it enough to learn how to cook when they married. She would only use small flames when she cooks, and James would sometimes take over when they need to use a bigger one.
He learned that she hates coffee. She prefers tea and chocolate.
He learned that she likes sleeping on the left side of the bed, and always has to have two pillows on her head.
He learned that she sings in the shower sometimes, and plays the piano well. She practices on the rickety old piano his mother sent over a week after their wedding, and sometimes would take requests from James if she was in a good mood.
He learned that she can tell a dirty joke despite looking like a complete angel most of the time.
Most of all, he learned that she is very easy – surprisingly easy, in fact – to love. He knew he liked her when they married, but the Lily he got to know since then was a different woman than he thought. She was passionate and sweet, but she also has a temper and can be driven to tears rather easily. He liked her before, but he loved her now.
He was surprised at how easy it was to admit.
As he listened to his wife move around the house, he closed his eyes and thanked whatever deity it was that sent her to him, silently promising to spend the rest of their life proving that he deserves to be with someone like her.
Some footnotes! I was listening to classical music when I started writing this, so I'm sorry for the random.
Edward Elgar is a British composer. He composed Salut D'Amour, the piece she mentioned was her favorite previously. Fun Fact: Salut D'Amour (lit. Love's Greeting) was composed as an engagement present to his would-be wife, the poet Caroline Alice Roberts.
Pathetique is a common title given to Beethoven's Piano Sonata No.8. Of course this is just word play. Really bad word play. I'm sorry. So, so sorry *sheepish smile*.
Nocturne is one of my favorite piano pieces. I wasn't always too fond of piano music, I tend to listen to violin pieces more (since I used to play it), but Chopin's music is just lovely. You'll probably see other pieces mentioned later on, should there be a chance to feature them again.
Again, please review if you liked it – it would be great motivation and probably make the next chapter come faster! Thanks very much again for reading, and for sticking with this story from the beginning!