Thanks to Siriustwilighter and Guest for reviewing! I'm definitely continuing and I have some plans for what's to come.
Anyway, this chapter's not too long, but I felt like you all deserved something so here it goes!
They gorge themselves on a warm feast, taking almost too much pleasure in the crackle of the batter from the fish as they bite down and the slurping noises from their bowls of chowder.
"My god, James," Emmeline laughs, "can you eat that any louder?" The boy grins at her, making an effort to make as much noise chewing as humanly possible. "Wanker," she mutters, shoving him a little bit. He laughs and the girls turn away in mock horror at the sight of partially masticated food.
"Ew!" Emmeline declares primly, prompting a chuckle from Sirius. "Find something funny, Black?" she asks with narrowed eyes. Sirius blows her a kiss and the table shakes with laughter at the blush that spreads up her cheeks.
"Embarrassed, Vance?" he asks, prompting the girl to blush even brighter.
"So what's the schedule for the rest of the day?" Lily interrupts her friend's humiliation to ask.
Five pairs of eyes fix her with bemused stares. Peter's eyes, of course, were practically glued to the cake that sat a mere meter and a half from his seat, which was exactly a half a meter too far for him to reach.
"Schedule?" Sirius finally chokes out. "We're on holiday and you want the schedule?"
"Lily, love," Remus says kindly, "the schedule is do whatever-"
"Whatever the bloody hell you want!" Sirius completes a more profane sentence than his friend ever would have. The group laughs at her blank expression. James' chuckle is low and rumbling and she finds herself entranced by the sound, but quickly shakes away that notion and focuses on the task at hand.
She considers his answer for a moment, "well, then, what are we doing next?"
He gives her a look that makes her feel incredibly stupid. "Whatever. The. Bloody. Hell. You. Want."
Emmeline falls off the bench, laughing so hard tears come to her eyes. Lily mutters, "some friend you are," before shoving Black off the bench and on the ground next to Emmeline.
"If I get to choose," Lily says, smirking a little, "and I do because that's how your definition of this whole "holiday" thing works, I want to-"
"Why does she get to choose?" Peter whines, "I want to decide."
"I want to study!" Lily announces, offering her tablemates a cheery grin.
They stare at her for a long moment, eyebrows raised. "Pete picks," Sirius finally announces.
Lily rises, gathering her belongings. Stowing the soaking wet hat under her arm and balling the dripping scarf up she says, "we have only a few more months until N.E.W.T.s, I think it's worth the time we'll spend now to avoid cramming later."
Remus nods, getting up as well. "I actually agree with that logic."
"Great!" Lily smiles. "See you procrastinators later." She loops her arm through Remus', eliciting a slight blush from the boy, and the two walk away, chattering about Slughorn's essay assignment and how best to call forth a patronus.
"Swots," the group calls after the pair, heckling the organization and self-control they're exhibiting.
"Wish I could be like those two," Emmeline mutters.
Alice gives her friend a raised eyebrow. "You know they're going to be insufferable come time for N.E.W.T.s."
"All the more reason to hate them now!" Sirius cheerily announces, prompting a laugh from the girls.
James stays silent, lost in the thought of his arms wrapped around Lily and the look of delighted surprise on her face. She was glad they were friends, that much was clear. Gone were the days where she greeted him with revulsion, though she still wouldn't even consider the notion of the two of them. He had never doubted his future, as sure as the fact that the sun would rise and there'd be bitter coffee with breakfast, was the fact that he'd end up with Lily Evans. She had never seen eye to eye with him on this, which Sirius insisted posed a trouble as marriage, according to his best mate, had to be consensual. James never stopped insisting that she'd agree one day, she'd love him one day, until the day she made all that abundantly clear and he felt a stone in his stomach that seemed a little like hopelessness and a little like growing up. There was no denial this time, no room for declaring that she was just kidding or she misspoke. There was nothing to do but accept that Lily Evans believed she would never, ever love him.
There was nothing James Potter could do but try to change her mind. She had put him through hell and he could never hate her. Try as she might to shake him off her tail, he'd just hold on tighter and pray it was all a trial for the future.
In the meantime, the girl in question is spreading out her parchment, laying down her quills and ink pots, and arranging all the books she'll be needing for her work on the table in front of the plush chair where she's currently stationed.
Remus pulls out a quill, dips it in the ink, and starts writing, his brow furrowed in concentration. Neither speaks, the silence leaving the dust particles in the air undisturbed and floating about freely. There are a few types of silence, Lily reasons in a spare moment. There's the silences that are heavy and oppressive, used as a shield and stinging like a sword; then there's the silences that are because there's nothing left to say, those are hopelessly sad and seem to be the end of something, though she's never sure what; lastly comes the silences because there's nothing that needs to be said, those friendly silences like the one she is currently living, that allow communication beyond words or even bear no communication whatsoever.
"Does he hate me?" She asks before she can help herself. Remus serenely looks up, not seeming bothered for the distraction.
"I don't think he could ever hate you," he tells her, "though I think he hates what you do to him."
She lays a hand on Remus' arm, "I'm so sorry. You have to tell him that, make sure he knows I'm sorry. God, I'm so sorry. I just, I mean, I'm not like him. I can't just love someone and after what he did to Sev, I don't think I could ever even learn to love him and not saying that felt like lying and he wouldn't stop talking about our future and I-"
"It's okay, Lily," Remus says, giving her a small smile, "he's a little much sometimes and it's okay that that's overwhelming for you."
She swallows thickly, eyelashes brushing her pale cheeks as she blinks back tears at the memory of his melancholic face. "It's not that he's overwhelming, it's that he's expecting the impossible. He'd do anything for me, but I just don't feel like that for him. I almost wish I did, maybe it'd be easier if I did, but I can't. I just can't. I can't see us getting old together. God, we can't make it through ten minutes of talking without yelling at each other and he's so arrogant and-"
"It's okay, Lily," Remus says again and she's so grateful he stopped her rambling.
A tear falls, she wipes it away with an impatient hand. "I don't think I even believe in love, to be honest," she chokes a laugh. He gives her a moment of silence because there's nothing else to say, the last kind of silence, the silence of friends. It's a nice quiet, allowing her to hear the humming of the lamps around them and the whistling of the wind through the window. "Just tell him I'm sorry," she says and it comes out more like a strangled whisper.
"I will," Remus promises, but he knows he could never get James to understand the panic in her eyes, the gleam of terror at being told to do something she can't even understand. She's afraid, he realizes, scared of falling or failing or something like that. She's afraid and James is brave and maybe she hates him for that a little bit just like he hates her a little bit, though he'd never admit it. Maybe they each hate each other because that's just easier. Or maybe, he thinks with a sad smile, they just hate each other a little bit because that's how they are and it really doesn't mean anything at all. Either way, he'll tell the other boy but he knows it'll make no difference at all. James would still have a broken heart and Lily would still have the broken look of guilt in her eyes because in loving or hating each other, whichever they were capable of more fully doing, they were breaking.
The two return to working, each calming the whirling of their minds with the gentle lull of easy schoolwork and the sunlight of the mid-afternoon.
The light dims and Remus becomes aware of the lateness of the hour. "Lily?" he says, getting her attention slowly as the drunkenness of a studied stupor falls off of her consciousness, "I think it's time to meet the others for dinner." She nods and they pack up, each still lost in the residual thoughts from their conversation and from the hours of work.
They clatter down the stairs, the loud noise at once jarring and joyful to their ears, so accustomed to the silence of the library. In the Great Hall, they meet the up with the rest, falling into the rowdy stories with small smiles and faraway thoughts. And so dinner passes, the time gone in laughter and Sirius' quips to Peter's utterances, clever remarks that cause the latter boy to flush with humiliation.
Soon their dishes are empty and they troop up the stairs to the tower where the girls provide Lily with the tales of their adventures and the boys punch Remus for being no fun at all.
She ends the evening in the kitchens, sliding into the comfortable routine like an old pair of jeans. The house elves bustle around, fetching her the usual and she notices with a small smile that the rickety wooden chair by the fire's been replaced by a plusher model. "For you, Ms. Evans," one elf squeaks and she thanks the small creature profusely.
James enters the room thirty minutes after midnight. They lock eyes but it's a comfortable stare, not a mournful one, and he breaks it with a smile before grabbing his mug of cider. She watches with a flutter of nerves as he turns and walks towards her, disregarding the previously used stool across the room.
"Chilly, isn't it?" He says and rubs his hands over the fire. She understands his words and what they mean and nods slowly.
"Getting warmer, though, I think," she replies.
He gives her an appraising eye, "winter's just beginning, Evans. It's going to get a hell of a lot colder before springtime." She swallows.
"Is it-" she says but stops herself to take a deep breath. Her eyes prickle and she swears over and over again that she's not going to cry in front of him. Not again.
He leans forward a little and tips his head to the side with curiosity. "Spit it out," he commands, his eyes sparkling a little and taking the edge off the rather harsh words.
She takes a long moment, pausing to sip her cocoa in a desperate attempt to drown her fearful hesitation. All she can think of is how little he's spoken to her in the past month, his mouth a grim line and eyes so sad. "Is it always going to be like this?"
"Do we know any other way to be?" He shoots back. When she doesn't respond he puts a warm hand on her arm, "Evans, winter doesn't last forever."
"I'm not talking about winter," she whispers, hardly daring to meet his eyes, "and you're not either, so cut the shite."
His hand stays on her arm, feeling like an anchor or a push off some precarious precipice. "Swearing. That's new for you."
She sighs. "That didn't answer my question,"
"You didn't ask a question," he retorts.
She reddens slightly. "This is why we can't talk, because when we do you pull this shite and then I get angry and I'm so tired of being angry,"
"I'm tired too," he murmurs, staring at the fire.
Her throat catches and her voice feels thick, "what do you want from me?"
A thousand possible answers race through his head and he doesn't say any of them because he knows they'd earn him a slap or a glare or maybe even worse. Most of all, he wants her to fall in love with him, to realize that he, James Potter, has been right the whole time and they are soul mates after all. And maybe if things were different, he'd say that. He'd tell her with a grin or with a small smile and maybe she'd laugh it off or maybe she'd agree but the way things were, he just hesitated.
"What do you want from me?" She repeats her question, eyes filled with tears that threaten to spill over.
"I don't-," he rests his head in his hands and the familiarity of the position hits her. He's still beautiful, face glowing and eyes sparkling in the light of the fire. Art is in the pain, she thinks, and beauty in the tragedy. "I don't know," he whispers.
"Why do we always do this?" She asks, still staring at him.
He takes his hand off her arm and she immediately yearns for the comforting pressure to return. "Why do you get to ask all the hard questions?" She laughs drily and waits for him to actually answer. He waits almost a full minute, the silence tearing into both of them. "Fuck, Evans, I don't know. Because we're us? Is that an answer? Because we're Lily Evans and James Potter and I suppose you're not too good at discussing your feelings and I'm not too good at being serious,"
"Of course you're not, you're James," she mutters to herself, smirking.
He looks at her. "Never heard that one before," and the two laugh just a little.
"And even with us being us you still have faith in us?" she asks.
"That made literally no sense." His eyebrows raise a little.
She takes a deep breath. "Even with the way we are, you still think we'll ride off into the sunset, till death do us part and all that?"
His face changes and she swears he's back to being an impish eleven year old who's actually terrified of the big, drafty castle and its unfamiliar occupants. He looks like a child- fragile. "That'll happen because we're us," he says as if it's the most obvious thing in the world, a truth that had been evident to the hazel-eyed boy for seven years. "Lily, we always figure it out. We can't stay apart. You might scream now and I might not take you seriously enough, but we always make it through. And later you'll nag and I'll not appreciate you enough but we'll make it through because that's what we do." He looks at her, taking in the wide eyes of his companion. "That's just the way I figure it, I suppose," he finishes lamely.
They sit in silence until the clock tolls once and they realize that morning's approaching and he stands up to leave, before her just as routine. "Thanks for," she pauses, wondering how she could thank him and what she should be doing it for. The word 'everything' comes to mind but its gravity isn't enough so she disregards that thought, "being so honest, tonight I mean,"
"I've never lied to you, Evans," he says with a smile that lets her know that he understands what she means.
"Doesn't mean I agree with your prediction!" She says but her lips pull upwards and it comes out without any impact.
If things were different, he'd let her know that she'd change her mind yet, that she'd fall in love with him one day. Things have been changing and he barely bites back the words. "I suppose we'll see," is all he manages.
He's right before the portrait hole, ducking to fit through when she calls out one last time, "James!" he turns and looks back at her, "we're okay, right? We're still friends?"
He smiles, "yeah, Lily, we're alright."
Aww. Sappy ending much? Gotta love references back to the title.
Anyway, I wrote all this for you all, but I don't just aim to write for nobody at all, so please review!