Hello and thanks to ARE newcomers: Jennywren13, jane29jeng, AngelofLight95, TheMockTurtle, ihearttheo.c, iluv2bcrazee, fergie218, ohprongs, LRobinson95, Tinfoil2010, piahutch, live4dance, Aoife mc, starlight564, AineRose, vasymollo, .916, EmilyRae92, SnapsB, Lover or Hater, she was the book thief, MyMessyLittleRaindrops, and MaDDii-LeiGh316!

More hellos and thanks to those who enjoyed my one-shots ("It Happened In a Broom Cupboard" and "Why Don't You Make Me?"); in the event that you ever stumble your way through ARE, I want you to see this and know that I love and appreciate you: apla-xamogelase, camweasley, fitzwilliamherondale, obliviate-dreams, dancechik15, resurrectedhippo, Shann-x-x, BatKate, avelasco10, xheyitslilyevans, KisstheRain14, thewitchisdead, SweetLittleAngel09, starrdreamlove, petrichors, theuniqueartistictype, Queen Grapefruit, Nynette Vafareil, FREEZEiceFREEZE, and siriustwilighter!

Further thanks, props, thumbs-up and high-fives to BeccaxoRupert for sending me prompts so I could finish this damnable chapter!

The Last Day

James straddled the bench next to Lily at breakfast. "Evans."

Lily kept her eyes on her eggs and tried not to smile. "Potter."

James ran his hand back and forth over her thigh. "Go out with me."

Lily raised her eyebrows at her plate. "Hate to break it to you, Potter, but I'm already going out with you."

James pinched her. "I mean out-out."

Lily smacked his pinching hand and his fingers latched over hers. "Where do you propose we go on this out-out?"

James pushed her hair back and kissed the still-visible scar on her neck. "Nowhere special, but I won't see you for awhile and I'd like to spend some time alone with you before we leave tomorrow."

Lily squirmed a bit in her seat as James's breath tickled her skin. It was true that they hadn't been able to spend too much time together lately; between their friends, exams, Lily's prefect duties, and James's end-of-the-year Quidditch mania, there hadn't been many hours left in the day for them to be alone. And it would be weeks until James came to visit her during the holidays, and Lily wasn't looking forward to those empty weeks too much. She was looking forward to being with her family again, of course, but… this was James she was thinking about here, and that made a difference.

"Okay." Lily turned her head to meet James's smile. "What time?"

"Eight o'clock." James trailed his lips over her cheek. "Now kiss me so I can go pack."

"You haven't packed yet?" Lily sighed heavily.

"I've been busy."

"With what?"

"Well, right now, trying to get you to shut up and kiss me…"

Lily rolled her eyes, leaned in, mumbled something about him being a tosser, and began to give him a chaste peck on the lips, but of course a chaste peck on the lips was never what James Potter meant when he talked about kissing her. It didn't matter that they were in the middle of breakfast in the Great Hall; if anything, that only seemed to spur the intensity of his mouth on hers. One of his hands gripped the back of her neck while the other inched further up her leg, fingertips tracing circles along her thigh. Lily's hand was caught in the hair at the nape of his neck, holding him in place so she could continue kissing him back just as thoroughly, because after all a chaste peck on the lips was never what she meant when she talked about kissing him, either.

They were, however, interrupted as an arm swung around each of their shoulders and Sirius Black shoved his meddlesome head between their faces.

"Morning, kids," he said with a grin as he noticed James's flushed face and Lily's over-bright eyes. "I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"

"Shove off, Padfoot," James growled, pushing his friend away and grabbing Lily's face to continue, relieved when she happily reciprocated.

"Oh, come on!" Sirius exclaimed, half-exasperated, half-amused. "Moony made me come down here so I could drag you upstairs. Your shit's all over the place, my shit's all over the place, and he can't find any of his shit because of all our aforementioned shit. So would you please detach your face from Evans's before Moony comes down here and curses it off?"

James whimpered a little into Lily's mouth and pulled away a second later. "Fine," he sighed at Sirius and swung his legs over the bench. He looked at Lily again. "I'll see you at eight."

She nodded, a bit too winded from the force of the kiss to speak just yet. James grinned and leaned down to press his lips against her temple and whisper so suggestively into her ear that Lily was sure she wouldn't find her voice for the rest of the day. She noted his triumphant look as he left the hall with Sirius, then shook her head and went back to her cold eggs.

Stupid prat, she thought, but she couldn't stop her smile anymore.

Upstairs in the boys' dormitory, Sirius folded a shirt and looked at James. "You and Evans are pretty hot and heavy, aren't you?" he observed loftily, a wicked gleam in his dark eyes.

James threw a shoe at him. "Said the bloke who's been crazy-shagging McKinnon for the past four months."

"Yeah, but I don't shag her where everybody can see –"

"Not that you've got a problem with everybody hearing, though," Remus pointed out, and the shoe was thrown at him next.

Peter and James laughed, and the latter said, "Moony's got a point. Besides, I'm not shagging her, right? Just snogging. In front of everyone. Because I can."

Sirius rolled his eyes. "Whatever you say, mate, but you were practically undressing her at breakfast."

"What?" Peter gawked at James.

"I was not!" James protested, and he crawled under his bed to rummage for forgotten belongings. "I'm not that basic, you know. Besides, you really think I'd do anything that let a bunch of wankers get a good look at my girlfriend in any state of undress? As if."

"Bet you don't want to get hit with a Lily Evans hex, either," Remus said.

"Right. That, too." James nodded vehemently as he surfaced with a sock and a few spare quills. "She's always smacking me whenever I get too handsy in public. Could you imagine what she'd do to me if I tried to take off her shirt?"

"Let you, is what I imagine," Sirius remarked with a raised eyebrow. "I'm just a third-party observer, Prongs, but it seems to me like Evans's got to hold herself back from taking your shirt off, too."

James couldn't help the blush that was steadily reddening his face, but he tried to hide it by busying himself with his trunk. "You're off it."

Sirius barked out a laugh. "What's the matter?" he asked, noticing his friend's discomfort. "Embarrassed by your lack of conquest, are you?"

That made James look up. "Shut up," he said, lobbing a book at Sirius's head, satisfied when he heard the thud that meant he'd made contact. "Lily's not a conquest, she's my girlfriend, so keep that shit to yourself."

"No need to get so sensitive," Sirius mumbled, rubbing his head. He tossed the book onto James's mattress. "I didn't mean it like that."

"I'm not going to shag her just because you think she wants me to."

"Hey, you're the one who wants to spend all this alone time with her tonight, so –"

"Have you got a problem with that?" James rounded on Sirius, his face pink with annoyance rather than embarrassment now. "Is it such a big deal that I want to spend time with her before I don't get to see her for weeks?"

"No," Sirius said, and he meant it. "I don't have a problem with that and it's not a big deal. I mean, don't be stupid, you know I'm crazy about Evans. I just meant that, well, I thought that maybe that's what you were going to try with her, seeing as how you're both so… affectionate."

"Because I like her," James said, his annoyance dissipating as Sirius explained himself. "You all know I'm mad about her – everybody knows. It's like… every day I wake up and I remember that she said yes, and it's still so unbelievable that she lets me touch her and kiss her, and that she wants me to. You know?"

James ran a hand through his hair, feeling a bit stupid as he walked his friends through how he felt about Lily Evans. He was sure they knew; they'd had two years' experience with this sort of thing, but there was something different about it because now it was happening, it was real, and what they were talking about was an actual possibility. Touching and kissing and shagging weren't just fantasies anymore, but James wasn't sure that he wanted to talk about that last one with the boys. That was between him and Lily, and while he was sure he'd jump up and down on his bed just like Sirius had after his first night with Marlene, right now James and Lily hadn't even talked about it. It didn't feel right to have this conversation with his friends before he had it with her.

Naturally, Remus was the one to catch onto this. "You don't have to explain it to us," he told James. "We know how you feel, and I'd bet anything that Lily would curse Padfoot black-and-blue if she could hear him right now."

"Good point as always, Moony," Sirius agreed. "Anyway, Prongs, you know I didn't mean anything bad by what I said, yeah? I just…" He rubbed the back of his neck, feeling equally as self-conscious as James. "You're my best mate. Just wanted to know what was going on with you."

James looked up at his friend. Sirius looked about as flustered as James felt, and he didn't wonder why. Being friends went uncommented on for the most part; they didn't talk about talking, they just did it, but now they were talking about it and it was a struggle because they weren't used to it.

"Yeah." James nodded. "I know. I just, you know, I don't want to cheapen it, I guess. Because I haven't talked to her about it yet. I mean, we'll be snogging and all and eventually we… Well, I dunno, we have to stop because…" Bugger, this was impossible. James pretended to search for more things under his bed. "You know what I'm getting at."

"Sure." Sirius did know, although he hadn't had to wait so long with McKinnon. By the six or seventh time they'd snogged and were about to stop, well, they'd just found an empty broom cupboard instead. But things with James and Lily had always been more complicated than an empty broom cupboard. Mostly because they were a couple of insane idiots in love, but Sirius decided not to say that out loud.

"So," Peter said to break the ensuing silence, "are you going to – er – talk to her about it, then?"

"I dunno." James crawled out from under his bed and tossed the book he'd thrown at Sirius into his trunk. "Eventually, I guess, but I don't think tonight's a good time."

Sirius shrugged. "As good as ever," he said, then looked at Remus. "Moony, you're good at this stuff, so what d'you reckon?"

Remus dropped a folded pile of trousers into his trunk and said, "I don't know why you always think I'm the one to ask. Not like I've gone out with anyone."

"Yeah, but you know," Peter agreed with Sirius. "You get it. Girls, I mean."

"It's not like it's hard," Remus scoffed. "Talking to your girlfriend about something is just like talking to your mates about it. She's a person too, you know."

"'Course she is," James said. "Not like I'd want to shag a lamp or something."

"Ah-ha!" Sirius pointed a triumphant finger at James while the others sniggered. "So you admit it, then! You want to shag her!"

James gave him an odd look. "Obviously," he said. "I mean, has the fact that my girlfriend is bloody gorgeous completely escaped your notice?"

"Somewhat, yeah," Sirius admitted. "But it's mostly because I'm not likely to comment on it, since I know you and what's good for my well-being."

Remus laughed and said, "Right, same goes for nearly everyone else. We're all rather fond of keeping our appendages intact."

"Yeah, yeah, I'm a great jealous blighter," James said over the sounds of his friends' chuckling. "I get it. Can we get on with packing, then?"

"Sure thing, mate," Sirius said, collecting himself. "Don't want to make you miss your big date. Or is this one a not-a-date, too?"

James grinned broadly at the memory. "Nope," he said, and he felt his heart expand with the pure, unadulterated euphoria of it all. "This one's for real."

It was still a bit unbelievable to him, James thought as he rummaged through his drawers and tossed things into his trunk. It probably always would be. In its own way, Lily Evans saying yes was harder to get over than Lily Evans saying no. But that, James thought with another smile, was definitely something he could live with.

"So," Marlene said from her lounging position on her bed, "you gonna shag your boyfriend tonight or what?"

"What?" Lily said, half-laughing, looking up from her book to stare at her friend. "What are you on about?"

Marlene shrugged. "Just wondering if you were going to follow in my footsteps, is all," she said. Her eyes shifted to Alice, who was rearranging her trunk so she could fit everything in it. "Alice's, too, come to think of it…"

"What?" Lily said again, her head whipping around in the other direction. "Alice! Did you –"

"Umm…" Alice's face was a fantastic shade of red as she avoided looking at either of her friends. "Well, yes, I did. But I didn't tell anyone," she was quick to add, and she looked at Marlene despite her slight mortification. "How did you know?"

Marlene snorted. "Please. I can tell the difference between just-snogged and just-shagged hair, and you were all about the latter a week ago."

"Oh." If it were possible, Alice's blush deepened, but she looked rather pleased with herself, too. "Well. You know, I just… Well. It's – we're not going to see each other so much soon, because I'll still be in school and even this summer, you know, he'll be working for Dumbledore, and –"

"Alice," Marlene interrupted her friend's struggling, "you don't have to have a reason to shag your fiancé. It's a perfectly acceptable thing to do."

"Right," Lily agreed. "Might as well do what you want. You're going to marry him, after all, and I hear that shagging is something married people tend to do."

Marlene giggled. "Quite."

Alice gave up on her trunk and collapsed onto Lily's mattress. "Don't laugh at me, you little broom cupboard tart," she said, unable to silence her own laugh as she looked at Marlene.

"Ha!" Marlene got a kick out of that. "Hey, here's the thing… Black's good-looking. I'm good-looking. Might as well, right?"

"Plus you fancy each other," Lily reminded her. "It's a bit cute, really, how the pair of you pretend like it's all hot, carnal physicality when half the time you're snuggling up in the common room, talking about your feelings."

Marlene threw a pillow at her. "Look who's talking!" she said, although she wasn't nearly as incredulous as she was pretending to be. "You and James are sick, you know that? Positively vomit-inducing, and not the fantastic glitter sort that I so unfortunately missed back in December. No, the pair of you – don't even get me started."

"What?" Lily said for the third time, and she was beginning to feel like she was terribly clueless about her own relationship. "What's to get started on?"

Marlene stared at her. "You can't be serious," she said flatly.

"I am!"

Lily's friends exchanged smirks. "All right," Marlene said, "I'll tell you. I've said a lot of it before, Lil, but the two of you – Merlin, the way you look at each other is enough to make anybody gag. You're always touching. It's like you're the only two in the room –"

"So?" Lily wasn't sure if she agreed with what Marlene said, but in any case she certainly didn't see anything wrong with it. "What's so bad about that?"

"Nothing," Alice answered. "Mar's just saying, I think, that you and James are just as intimate as anybody else."

"Well, yeah," Lily said. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat and fidgeted with a page in her book. "I mean, it's been a long time coming, that's what everybody says. I care – well, all right, maybe I'm a little over-the-moon about him, and it's just nice to be able to act on that now I've quit being such a tosser about it."

Marlene laughed a little more. "Definitely," she concurred with a firm nod of her head. "It's obvious that the two of you are on the same I-want-to-suck-your-face-off-because-I-love-your-stupid-guts page. That's why I was wondering if you're going to shag him or not."

"Right." Lily felt the blush creeping up on her. "Well, it's – it's not something we've talked about. We could, I suppose, talk about it, I mean, since we've always got to quit snogging by the time he's got my shirt off, and –" She wasn't sure how to continue, but she figured her friends would get it.

"I know what you mean," Alice said, confirming that Lily needn't go on. "But… So is that all the two of you do, then? You snog and –"

"That's not all," Lily said. The page she was fiddling with was becoming very wrinkled at this point. "There's… other stuff…"

It wasn't that she didn't want to talk to them about this, just that they hadn't, not really, and Lily thought the whole thing was rather private. But now that they'd touched on the shagging bit of it all, well, perhaps it was time to lay all the details on the table. She'd told them about the snogging and that time in the library and the Amortentia, and all those similar instances since she and James had gone public, but she'd been rather vague. Alice and Marlene had caught on well enough that snogging wasn't the end-all, be-all, so Lily hadn't felt the need to be terribly specific. But sod it all now, she thought, and she went through all of it, bit-by-bit, and her friends were silent and attentive until she was finished.

"Well," Marlene said after a couple of minutes of Lily's monologue, "it certainly doesn't sound like he's wanting for much. And if he hasn't been pestering you about going further, he must be pretty okay with what he's getting now."

"Yeah?" Lily hadn't realized how worried she'd been that James was getting bored until she'd said everything out loud. "You don't think he's getting tired of it, then?"

Alice chuckled at that. "As if James Potter would get tired of you, Lil," she said, shaking her head. "Trust me and everybody else who says that. But if you're worried, just ask him; you're supposed to be able to talk about this sort of thing with each other."

"Yeah…" Lily wondered if she'd ever be able to say anything apart from these monosyllabic affirmations. She rubbed the corner of that terribly wrinkled page between her middle finger and thumb. "Maybe we'll talk about it tonight, then."

Marlene shot her a grin. "And then you'll shag him, yeah?"

Lily laughed and threw the book at her. "Oh, shove it, Marlene."

8:23 P.M.

Lily sat across from James in the Three Broomsticks, shaking her head. In fact, she'd been shaking her head at him for about the last half an hour, and James found the whole thing rather fantastically funny.

"You're such a nuisance," she said for the dozenth time. "You and that Cloak and that map… It's no wonder you don't get in trouble more often; I always wondered how you managed to get off with only thirty or so detentions every year, and now I know."

James took a swig of butterbeer. "And you can call me a nuisance all you like, but I'm very glad that you know."

"Oh, yeah?" Lily quirked an eyebrow at him.

"Oh, yeah." James leaned across the table towards her.

Lily felt her heart do that little but insistent flutter when she registered the look in James's eye, and it really was very distracting, especially after the conversation she'd had with her friends earlier. So to avoid the nerves, she made herself laugh and pushed his face and told him that he was ridiculous.

"I know it, love." James grinned and spun his butterbeer cork around the table. He felt especially fidgety this evening, all thanks to his stupid bloody friends and their jokes and their advice… "I just can't help it."

"I've noticed." Lily took a long draw from her own butterbeer to have something to do with her hands and her mouth that didn't involve pouncing on her deliciously handsome, sweet, funny, perfect boyfriend. Pull yourself together, Evans. She needed a distraction and she needed it now, because James's fingers were spinning that cork and he kept licking his lips and Lily thought that last bit was especially unfair and she had to stop staring at him like that if she wanted to retain her self-respect.

"I have to talk to you about something," she blurted, and was relieved that the confession sounded much more composed than she felt.

"Oh?" James looked away from the cork and up at her. "Sounds important. You're not breaking up with me, are you?"

Lily could have laughed, but he still had that look in his eye and that wasn't funny at all. "Never," she told him, and James liked the sound of that. "It's – well, you know my sister's getting married this summer."

James nodded. "To Vernon Dursley."

"Right." Lily didn't bother suppressing her eye-roll. "Anyway, I expect Dad will be too busy trying to appease Mum's wishes and cut his laughing down to a minimum, which is going to be bollocks for me, so I thought – and this should be obvious, really, but… d'you want to come? To the wedding."

Lily didn't know why she was blushing so much, but she could feel the heat rising in her face like she'd had the hair dryer on her for too long or something. She'd been with James for months, whether you counted it from December or March, and they were steady and good and everything, so what was she so sheepish about?

"Duh," James said in answer to her question. He covered her twisting fingers with his own fidgety hands. "I expect to see you as much as I can this summer, anyway. Plus your parents adore me. Naturally."

Lily really did laugh this time as he shot her a cheeky grin. "If only I could argue that," she said, thinking of her mother's thrilled response when Lily had written to her to say that James really was her boyfriend now. "As it is, though, I'm going to keep the details to myself so your head doesn't get any bigger than it already is. I don't want you floating away with all that hot air."

"Ouch." James pretended to flinch and started spinning the cork again. "I might have to skip visiting you this month if you're only going to break my heart, you know."

"That's not funny, you git." Lily threw her own cork at him and did not expect to hit him in the face with it. She covered her mouth with her hands. "Oh, Merlin, I'm sorry –"

"Again with the ouch!" James rubbed the spot just above his right eyebrow. "Take your girlfriend out, try to make her laugh, and let the physical assault rain down, eh, is that it?"

"I'm sorry!"

"Nuh-uh." James slid his hands off the tabletop when she reached for them. "You're not getting off that easy," he went on as he stood from his seat and relocated to the empty bench space next to her. He caught her earlobe between his teeth and sucked it for about half a second; Lily could already feel herself melting when he said, "Now kiss me or I'll never forgive you."

Lily laughed but it came out shaky as the butterflies erupted in her stomach and traveled up her throat. One of James's hands was running along her lower back and the other moved against her bare thigh. "You're ridiculous," she told him again.

"Oh, that's been established." James lips were moving slowly but purposefully across her face. "You've still got to kiss me."

"That sounds vaguely threatening," Lily noted.

"It should," James said, and his hand moved farther up her thigh. He hoped she didn't notice the way he was shaking.

"Well, that certainly doesn't make me want to kiss you," Lily said. Merlin, it was hot in there…

"I can fix that," James said, his breath warm as it fluttered against her skin and she trembled a bit. His fingers disappeared beneath her skirt.

There was a sharp intake of breath and Lily bit her lip as James's fingertips massaged the skin of her thigh, his lips working at her neck. Oh god oh shite oh Merlin what what what… Normally she wouldn't be this out-of-her-mind, but after what Alice and Marlene had said and now that the whole shagging business was on the table and she wasn't going to see James for weeks… Oh, sod it, Lily thought and she turned her head to halt his wandering mouth with hers.

Bloody hell. That was all James could think as Lily's lips assaulted his. His heart picked up pace at an alarming rate and he pushed her against the wall of the booth and he moved his fingers teasingly, insistently against the flesh of her thigh and she moaned – Merlin, the sounds she makes – and her hands were already rubbing the tops of his jeans. Her tongue and her fingers were going fiercely at him, much faster than usual; it didn't seem like she needed to warm up this time and that was just fine with James, as he felt like he'd been warming up all day.

His stupid friends and their stupid jokes and their stupid advice, it was all ringing in his head and he tired to drown it out. His mouth widened over Lily's and he pushed himself closer to her so that she was caught firmly between him and the wall and his hands and his tongue and the heat that was crackling between them. He almost didn't care what his stupid friends had said or what he had said or any of it, because now he wanted her and it was beginning to ache a little bit, he wanted her so much.

He tore his mouth from hers but kept it just a breath away. Her half-open eyes were bright and her slightly parted lips were swollen and the breath that was shuddering between them was sweet and ragged and he wanted it dancing over his tongue again.

"Let's get out of here, yeah?" James suggested, voice hushed and hoarse and it sent a thrill up Lily's spine to hear those words in that voice. His fingers were still pushing over her thighs and that look in his eye was even more pronounced, more fierce and blazing, than it had been earlier. Between that and the nerves and the memory of what James had whispered in her ear at breakfast, Lily could only bring herself to nod.

James dropped a few coins on the table and took Lily's hand, pulling her up from her seat and covering them both with the Invisibility Cloak. They left the bar and started along the deserted road outside, making their way to the gates that would lead them back to the castle. Lily's hand stayed encased in James's and they didn't talk much on the way back. There was just the sound of their harsh breathing and heavy footsteps as they hurried down the street, and they felt nothing but the tingles and the nerves and the heat and it was enough to drive them both dizzy with insanity.

When they'd slipped back through the front doors of Hogwarts, James had had enough of the waiting and his pounding heartbeat and shattered nerves; he wasn't going to make it back to Gryffindor tower in this state, that was for sure. So he skirted around the marble staircase and dragged Lily into the nearest broom cupboard. He slammed the door shut a little harder than was necessary and he pushed Lily up against it and let the Cloak fall and pool around their feet.

They were kissing again and neither of them was sure who'd started it this time, but once again there was no preamble. Their lips were parted, their tongues wrestling, their hands groping, swallowing moans and undoing buttons and mussing up hair and they were stepping on each other's toes in their efforts to get closer, to feel more, to satiate their demanding and uncontrollable lust, desire, love, whatever it was, it didn't matter. All they wanted to do was touch and be touched and they were fulfilling that brilliantly.

We're supposed to talk about this, they both kept thinking as they tore at buttons and zippers and bare skin. But every time the thought crossed one of their minds, the other would touch them in just the right spot in just the right way and they'd think, No, bloody hell, this is good, it's right, we should just keep doing this.

James's trousers were undone and Lily's skirt was hoisted up and they were kissing so hard and he thrust into her – once, twice, and his mouth moved to her neck, three times and they both silently cursed the thin layers of material separating them, and his hands held her hips, four, five times, and Lily's fingernails were digging into his sides and her moan was long and lingering when he thrust a sixth time and she was sure that if that blasted material weren't in the way, it would have been just the right spot. James bit her neck to quiet the gut-wrenching groan that tore through him when he thrust seven, eight times and she moved her hips to meet his, and they knew they were going too fast, knew they had to talk about this, but it was so damn hard to think about anything else but skin and fingertips and pressure and lips and their heartbeats that were thundering and echoing and bouncing off the claustrophobic space of the broom cupboard…

"Shit." James quit moving and he loosened his hold a little on Lily's hips. His breathing was short and ragged and he could tell hers was, too. "Shit. Lily –"

"We've got to talk about this, don't we?" she guessed. It wasn't a difficult thing to guess, since the same thought had been running wildly through her mind whenever she had a momentary flash of sense during that less-than-sensible-but-definitely-holy-Merlin-that-was-good snogging session.

James leaned his forehead against hers and nodded. "Right," he said. "Right. I just – Lily, I want to, I want to right now, but I can't do this with you in a broom closet."

"Right," Lily echoed. "You're right. Not exactly how I pictured it, either."

"Okay." James was glad they were on the same page there. "So then – wait, so you do picture it, then? You – you want to, too?"

Lily glanced pointedly down at her unbuttoned shirt and rumpled skirt. "Well, er… yeah," she said. "Pretty vividly most of the time, if you want the truth."

"Oh, bloody, fucking hell…" James buried his face in her shoulder and tried to steady his breathing, his heart rate, his hands, his whole entire shuddering body. "You can't say things like that when I'm this close to sodding off romance and deciding that the broom closet is good enough."

A nervous giggle escaped from between Lily's chapped lips. "I'm sorry, love; I was only trying to be honest. Besides…" She took a breath, wanting to say it because she was supposed to talk to him, wasn't she? "I just, I want you to know that I want to, too, and I don't want you getting bored with me, and –"

"What?" James lifted his head from the sweet smell of her hair to look, completely befuddled, down at her. "Are you touched in the head?"

"No," Lily said, a little affronted and it was enough to make her stomp on his foot. "Come on, James, you can't seriously tell me that you're just fine with not – well, with not – you know, and – will you stop laughing at me?"

"I'm not laughing!" James lied. He didn't mean to laugh, in any case, so he figured that was close enough. "It's just that, for one thing, you really are daft if you think I'd ever get bored with you. You could look at me and I'd be completely satisfied – how d'you think I got through the last couple of years?"

Lily wrinkled her nose a bit. "If you'd said that to me a year ago, you'd have tentacles growing out of every orifice of your body, you know that, yeah?"

"Oh, I know." James whistled one long, slightly ominous note. "Merlin, do I know. Lucky for me that I kept my mouth shut about it 'til now, or we probably wouldn't be having this conversation at all."

"Hmmm." Lily pressed her lips together and for some reason the motion made James's stomach muscles clench. "I'm not sure I'd go that far. I mean, if you'd physically accosted me before December, I can't say for sure that I wouldn't have reciprocated."

James laughed to quench his resurfaced nerves. He couldn't tell if she was joking or not, but after all the talking and the kissing and the touching and the blood boiling, he'd realized that he was still pressed against her, half-dressed, and they were alone in a broom cupboard and he wouldn't see her for weeks and who knew how often they'd get to be alone then? Even if they did get a few opportunities, the fact that Lily's father would be in the next room was something of a buzzkill.

"So then," he said, and he leaned closer to kiss her again, "as it turns out, you're the ridiculous one, and I think now would be an all right time for you to reciprocate."

Lily's pulse skipped a few rounds and she was sure that couldn't be healthy. "I thought we were supposed to talk –"

"We did talk." James ran his tongue over the line of her throat. "I told you, I'm not about to shag you in a closet. That doesn't mean I'm not going to do other things to you."

"Oh." Lily swallowed, hard, and James grinned as he felt the movement of her throat against his lips. "James –"

"No." James pressed his lips to hers again. "No talking. I'll write you a hundred letters between visits this summer, but I can't do things to you in letters, so right now that sort of takes precedence, don't you think?"

"Well, all right, but –" Lily began, but she stopped when James dropped to his knees and dipped his head beneath her skirt. It was rather difficult to prolong the matter further when his tongue and his fingers were doing whatever it was that made her muscles clench and her heart race and her lungs stop functioning properly and those little stars erupt in front of her eyes, whether or not she managed to keep them open. She didn't quite know what he did, not specifically. All she knew was that it might have made her a little bit crazy and she pulled his hair a lot while it was happening, but he didn't seem to mind; in fact, that seemed to intensity his ministrations, and Lily certainly didn't mind that, either.

It never took her very long to get to where James was always leading her, and Lily clamped down on her bottom lip to keep from being too loud because they were in a broom cupboard, for cripes sakes, it wasn't that private… But then James paused and Lily whimpered and he shook his head out of her skirt to look up at her and he said, "Open your mouth."

Lily's teeth released her lip as she said, "What?"

He grinned. "That's better. Now keep it that way, right?"

"James, what –"

"I just like to hear you, that's all," he told her, and went back to what he'd been doing. Lily felt the flame flare in the pits of her stomach again and she thought that had to be one of the most… well, it certainly made the list of Top 10 Sexiest Things James Potter Has Ever Said.

So about a minute later, lack of privacy be damned, Lily kept her mouth open and all James could think about was those brilliant sounds she made. And by the time he'd straightened her skirt out and stood up, she'd pushed him up against the opposite wall of the broom cupboard and her mouth was on his and her hands were tugging at his trousers until they were around his ankles and then she was on her knees. It didn't matter how many times this had happened before, because it still shocked James in the best possible way and he couldn't believe that she thought he'd get bored with her. Oh, bloody hell no, he was never getting tired of her, he thought when he felt her tongue make contact with his skin, when he felt the pull of her mouth and her hands, when the hum from her throat reverberated around him. He ran his fingers through her hair and shut his eyes against the swirling blackness of utter and complete ecstasy that was blinding him and he moaned and he said her name over and over again, and Lily understood what he meant when he said he liked to hear her because Merlin, she liked to hear him, too.

It never took James long, either, and as he was winding down from that ecstasy, he thought that perhaps it was a good thing that they'd stopped and talked about how they shouldn't shag in that broom cupboard. It was a little bit of foolish pride, he knew, but he wanted their first time to last longer than, oh, thirty seconds. He had no idea how to make that happen, and he resolved to figure it out before he attempted to get his girlfriend out of her clothes.

"Oh, bugger…" Lily said, and James looked down to see that she was still on her knees, playing with the zipper of his trousers. "I… might have broken this in my enthusiasm."

"I can't seem to muster up the energy to be annoyed, somehow," James remarked dryly, and Lily rolled her eyes.

"You can, however, muster up the energy to be a sarcastic little berk," she observed. "See if I let you walk away with any of your trousers intact now."

"Somehow can't manage to get annoyed about that, either."

"I bet."

James sighed heavily. "Would you quit being so cheeky and stand up straight? I can't keep talking to you like this; my needs are getting unmanageable again."

"You know," Lily said as she rose, dusting off her skirt as she went, "for someone who's so keen on remarking on my cheek, you're really one to talk."

James bent down to pull his trousers up, taking care to run his tongue over Lily's knee as he did so. "Shut up, Evans."

Lily shot him an incredulous look as she pulled her hair up. "You shut up."

James was adjusting his shirt and noticed that a few of the buttons had gone missing. "You shut up."

"Listen, we keep doing this, eventually one of us is going to say 'Make me,' and then we'll be in a load of trouble," Lily warned. "I swear, that's the most sexually charged thing anyone has ever said."

James thought about that for a moment, then told her to shut up again. Lily stared at him and asked if he thought she was stupid. He said no and kissed the spot between her eyebrows. He picked up the Invisibility Cloak and covered them both in it; it was still early enough that they wouldn't get told off for wandering around the castle, but they'd both lost quite a few buttons in their initial eagerness, so they thought the Cloak would be for the best.

They made their way back to Gryffindor tower, hair a mess and skin flushed and fingers twisted together. James thought about telling her what he'd realized with a gut-wrenching certainty at New Year's, and Lily thought about telling him what she'd written with a heart-crushing pang on that piece of parchment that she still carried around. They stole glances at each other beneath the Cloak, wondering if now was the right time, wondering if any time would be the right time, but it was all too brilliant and confusing and somehow still too new to figure out.

In the end, when they returned to Gryffindor tower, James pulled off the Cloak and they clambered through the portrait hole. They walked to the girls' staircase and James held her and Lily held him back, both soaking up the feeling because they had to go to bed if they wanted to be up in time for the train the next morning. James kissed her hair and Lily kissed his heartbeat and they both decided that now just wasn't the time for anything more than that.

9:17 A.M.

The train compartment was rather cramped. Peter said they weren't really built for ten people, and Sirius told him to shove off because he quite liked having McKinnon on his lap for hours on end. Remus told Sirius to keep it in his pants and Fabian and Gideon were sure to repeat that sentiment to Frank ("I don't care if you're engaged," Fabian said, "that doesn't mean you've got to touch each other"). James grinned and wrapped his arms more securely around Lily's waist and kissed the back of her neck.

"Ugh!" Sirius threw the pair of them a disgusted look. "Knock it off over there, will you? You don't see me and McKinnon going at it."

"Didn't we talk about this yesterday?" Remus reminded him.

Marlene twisted around in Sirius's lap to give him a reprimanding glare. "Talk about what, exactly?" she wanted to know.

"Nothing, nothing…" Sirius grinned at her and rubbed her thigh.

"Hey! HEY." James pointed a finger at his mate's offending hand. "You're going at it right now!"

"Oh, please." Sirius snorted. "I could do much worse, Prongs, like suck her face off right in front of you, for instance, see how much you like it."

"You're all disgusting," Gideon piped up. "Now let's talk about something a little more interesting, eh? Like who in the hell Potter's going to recruit for Quidditch next year. Any thoughts?"

James shook his head. "We'll do tryouts 'round the second week of term, I think," he said. "Two Chasers and a Keeper. Most likely scenario is that I'll tear my hair out because everybody sucks so bad. Unless you turn out to be some sort of secret golden boy, Phillip," James added, winking at Peter.

"Wonder if the next commentator will bother to actually remark on the match," Peter said. "Any idea who it'll be?"

"No, but it doesn't really matter, does it?" Lily said. "At least Jorkins'll be gone. JUSTICE."

"It's not quite justice, is it?" James said thoughtfully. "I mean, it's not like she got kicked out or anything, she's just done with school."

"Do you mind," Lily said rather loudly, "not ruining this for me?"

James dropped his lips to her shoulder, Sirius's smart remarks be damned. "Sorry, darling."

"Bellatrix's out, too," Sirius added gleefully. "And Lestrange. I'm definitely feeling the justice, too, if I do say so myself."

"Right," Remus said, "never mind Avery, Mulciber, Snape, your other cousin…" He trailed off, not wanting to mention Regulus because he thought that would be taking it that one step too far.

"Yeah, point taken." Sirius released a long breath; he didn't need Remus to mention his brother for it to be at the forefront of his mind, because it was always there, no matter what. "But I'll take what I can get. The less Muggle-haters, the better, right?"

Everyone either nodded or mumbled their assent. Lily didn't say anything and James was sure she was thinking about Jenny Jenkins again; they hadn't discussed it much since it happened, but of course it had to be on her mind. James squeezed her a little tighter. After Jenny and the attack on London in January, he hated knowing that he'd be leaving Lily alone for long stretches of time. He knew he couldn't throw himself in front of every hex, every curse, every danger, but he'd feel better if he was at least around to try. No matter how stupid his knight-in-shining-armor antics were, they still put him at ease, and it would be difficult to be at ease when he wasn't close enough to Lily to pull the white horse schtick.

"Okay?" James murmured in her ear, and Lily nodded. She didn't want to talk about it; there wasn't much to say, and she'd much rather start her summer holidays on a cheerier foot than to spill her worries. That could wait, she thought. Right now she wanted everything to be just as okay as she tried to assure James it was; maybe then she could believe it herself, at least a little bit.

"Speaking of that bullshit…" Sirius looked around at Frank and the Prewett brothers. "What are you lot up to now that school's out?"

"Expect Dumbledore will let you know soon enough," Frank replied. He covered Alice's hand reassuringly with one of his own. "We'll still come 'round Hogwarts, though, so don't think you're getting rid of us that easily."

"Not to mention Christmas," Alice added. "At least then we'll have a wedding, a little normalcy for us, which will be a nice change of pace."

"Hear, hear," everyone chanted.

They ended their conversation about the war then. It was too heavy for a day that was supposed to be as light as this – the train ride home for the holidays was no time to fret over danger and prejudice and everything else they spent so much time fretting over. It was too personal now, what with Sirius's brother and Marlene's parents, Lily's blood status, Frank and Fabian and Gideon's involvement in the fight, and everyone else's looming initiation into that same fight. It was an unspoken agreement that they would have plenty of time to worry about all that another day – a dozen days, a hundred, a thousand – so they'd take easy, they'd take happy, for as long as they could. The little happy things made everything else easier to deal with, and they all knew that dealing was something they would get well-acquainted with soon enough.

So they stopped talking about it. Instead, they reminisced about Bertha Jorkins's Quidditch commentary, about that time the Slytherins vomited glitter and that other time Marlene tried to drown Amos Diggory in his scrambled eggs. James spent a happy minute rejoicing in the fact that Diggory wouldn't be around next year, either. They recounted the night that Sirius and Marlene had their first shag and were completely unbearable about it. They talked about that positively brill snowball fight in December. They discussed plans for Frank and Alice's wedding, and Alice put the kibosh on her brothers' hinted-at plot to kidnap Frank and render him impotent. Alice's protests were taken seriously as everyone recalled the time she set Bellatrix's hair on fire, and they had a good laugh about that, too.

By the time the train pulled into Platform 9 ¾ at King's Cross, the mood in that overcrowded compartment wasn't distressed or subdued, but rather bursting with life and overflowing with energy. There were no tears or worries as they dragged their trunks through the train and wheeled them through the barrier into the Muggle world. They hugged and kissed and said good-bye, see you soon. Peter waved as he left the station with his mother; Alice and Frank hurried away for a proper good-bye before Fabian and Gideon could stop them; Remus hugged everyone and promised to write; Sirius and Marlene busied themselves behind a pillar to satiate whatever lust they couldn't contain before they got to the Potters' house; James caught sight of his parents first, and he grabbed Lily's hand and dragged her along to greet them.

"Oh, thank Merlin," Dorea muttered to her husband. She nodded towards their son, who was walking towards them, hand-in-hand with Lily Evans, pulling her along after him. They both had the most ridiculous grins on their faces, and Dorea was quite sure that neither of them even knew they were smiling like that.

"Wonderful," Charlus agreed with a smile as he watched Lily Evans quicken her step to catch up with James. "You know, I thought that perhaps James was delusional when he wrote to tell us that they were actually dating this time…"

Lily caught her foot purposely around James's ankle and he looked at her reproachfully when he nearly tripped, and the older Potters heard Lily say, "Well, if you'd slow down, I wouldn't have to do that."

"You tell him, dear," Dorea said warmly as the two reached them. She enveloped Lily in a hug. "Lovely to see you again. I trust you'll be visiting us this summer?"

"Of course," Lily said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world (which she thought it was, really). "In any case, I'm sure James would drag me over if I were to refuse."

James shrugged as he exchanged a one-armed hug with his father. "You walk too slow."

"You walk too fast."

"Can't help it, Evans; I'm always a man on a mission."

Lily rolled her eyes and James kissed her cheek.

"Well, well, looks like my dear cousin wasn't kidding around…" a new voice said, and the four turned to see Andromeda and Ted Tonks, walking towards them and grinning widely. Andromeda's stomach was considerably larger than it had been when she'd seen Sirius in January, and Ted looked as though there wasn't anything in the world he'd rather be doing than holding his wife's hand.

"Hey, 'Dromeda!" James said, throwing his arms around her in a tight hug. "What wasn't Sirius kidding about? You're huge, by the way, did you know?"

"You know, I did notice that my clothes were becoming a bit snug," Andromeda said seriously. "Oh, and Sirius told me about you two," she added, looking fondly from James to Lily. "He seemed a bit confused at the time, but then he's always been rather slow."

"I heard that!" Sirius roared as he came into view. His face was rather flushed and Marlene's hair was a wreck, but no one bothered commenting because at this point it was just too easy. "And I'll have you know that I'm top of the class with this idiot," he went on, jerking his thumb in James's direction, "so I dunno who you're calling slow."

The group spent a few minutes engaged in affectionate bickering, Sirius and James exchanging smirks every time Andromeda insisted that she'd name her daughter Nymphadora, Marlene and Lily jabbing them in the ribs and hissing at them to quit being such berks.

About five minutes into it, though, Lily happened to catch a glimpse of two people she knew, two people who she hadn't expected to see, hovering around at the next platform. Her heart sank a little and dread took its place.

"Oh, hell," she muttered, only so James could hear.

"What is it?" He followed her gaze and his landed on the blonde girl he'd seen with Lily's mother before the Christmas holidays – her sister, Petunia, and some rather short, round bloke with dark hair and a haughty expression on his mustached face. "Oh, good god. That Vernon Dursley?"

"Yes," Lily groaned and turned to James with a pleading look in her eyes. "Can I come live with you?"

James grinned at her. "Twist my arm, why don't you?" he teased. "You know I can't say no to you, especially when you're looking at me like that."

Lily sighed and wished she could disappear with him, but she supposed that wouldn't be very thoughtful of her, considering that she was sure her parents still loved her, despite the fact that they'd sent Petunia and Vernon to fetch her from the station. Not that she was going to let this go that easily or anything, but she couldn't very well skip out of home at the drop of a hat; all of her things were there.

"S'pose I should head over there," she said. "Petunia looks a bit put-off already, and I haven't even spoken to her yet…"

Lily bid farewell to the group, administering hugs all around, congratulating Andromeda and Ted, promising the Potters and Marlene that she'd visit soon, and muttering to Sirius that he'd better take good care of her friend when she wasn't around. Sirius linked his pinky with hers and shot her a wink, and that was enough to put Lily's mind at ease until she could see Marlene again herself.

James accompanied her on her way across the station; Lily insisted that he needn't bother, and he insisted just as strongly that it was no trouble at all and he very much wanted to meet Vernon Dursley. Lily chewed on the inside of her cheek to keep herself from making some unpleasant noise or other.

"Hey, Tuney," Lily said, giving her sister a perfunctory hug. "Mum and Dad busy today?"

"Not quite," Petunia said, "but as Vernon and I were coming to London today, anyway, it seemed pointless for them to make the trip as well."

"Ah. Well then." Lily smacked her lips together a bit and decided that perhaps her parents didn't love her so much, after all. "Hello, Vernon. How're you?"

"Fine, fine…" Vernon's mustache blew around a bit and Lily couldn't fathom how her sister put up with it. Scruff was one thing – Lily couldn't deny that, as she quite liked James's scruff and sometimes she even smacked him upside the head when he shaved it off – but that thing hanging over Vernon's mouth was just absurd.

Lily looked away from it to place a hand on James's arm. "Petunia, you remember James?" she said, although she knew her sister had forgotten his name two weeks after she'd met him the first time. "James, this is my sister's fiancé, Vernon Dursley. Vernon, James."

"How d'you do?" James said, and it was obvious to Lily that he was trying not to laugh as he shook the older man's beefy hand. "Heard a lot about you."

"That so?" Vernon was too busy being impressed with himself to notice the way Lily stomped on the scruffy boy's foot. "Think Petunia mentioned you once or twice as well."

"Brilliant." James felt like one of his ribs was about to crack. "Really fantastic. You know, I can't hang 'round long right now, but I'll be coming by in a few weeks to visit. Fancy going out to dinner, the four of us?"

Petunia and Lily looked a bit put-off about the idea, but Vernon Dursley had never been one to skip an opportunity to exert his superiority over someone else, no matter how little they were acquainted. So he agreed, James was thrilled at the opportunity for a good laugh, and the Evans sisters stewed in their own separate trepidation.

Lily managed to shake the engaged couple off after another minute, telling them she'd catch up and meet them at the car in just a bit. When they were out of earshot, she rounded on James. "Do you want me to be cross with you right before I leave?" she demanded.

"Aww." James gave her his most charming smile and wasted no time in slipping his arms around her waist, pulling her close so he could soak up her scent and her feel before he had to let her go for a little while. "Don't be mad. It'll be easier for me to laugh at him during the wedding if I get to know him a bit better first."

Lily wasn't buying it, but it was hard to care when James had his hands on her. "You're such a – a – hmm…" Lily had to think about it, and that only made James's smile widen.

"Can't think of anything, can you?" he said smugly. "Knew you'd run out of clever names to call me one of these days."

"I'll think of something." Lily narrowed her eyes threateningly at him. "Just you wait. I'll think of it and I'll send it in a letter and it'll hurt more than that butterbeer cork I hit you with last night."

"Oh, really?" James quirked an eyebrow at her. "Guess that means we'll just have to find another broom cupboard so you can make it up to me…"

Lily blushed furiously at that particular mention of last night. "You think you've won this one, don't you?" she guessed.

James nodded, smug little grin still plastered on his face. Lily thought he could do with being taken down a peg, so she said, "Don't be so sure." She stood on her toes and grazed her lips over his ear as she whispered into it, giving his suggestive remark from yesterday morning quite the run for its money. She heard James's sharp intake of breath, felt the quickening of his heartbeat and the tightened fingers on her waist, and she was satisfied enough with the effects of her revenge to kiss him good-bye.

"You're such a tease, Evans," he murmured against her lips, sighing deeply as he changed the angle of the kiss. "You can't do that to me."

"Hmm?" Lily slid her hands up and down his chest. "I was under the impression I could do whatever I like to you."


She smiled against his lips and he thought his heart would burst from just the feel of that upward curve. She was smiling at him, on him, against him, and it was the most brilliant wonderful fantastic thing, and he didn't want to let her go. He remembered the last time he'd let her go and how much it had hurt; granted, this wasn't the same, not at all, but he'd still have to watch her walk away and it was dead awful watching her walk away.

Lily felt the sudden desperation in the kiss, in his touch, and her arms tightened around his neck. "Don't, James," she whispered as their lips broke apart but their bodies stayed together.

"Don't what?" he said, his voice low and gloomy, his eyes heavy as they looked into her own borderline miserable ones.

"Don't worry," she elucidated. "I'll see you in a few weeks. I'm only walking away for a little while, and I'll run right back into your arms as soon as you step out of my fireplace, all right?"

James smiled and his heart skipped a little at her words. "Have you been practicing Legilimency in your spare time?" he joked.

"Nah." She rumpled his hair up and knew that it wouldn't be enough to tie her over until she got to do it again, but she'd have to make do. "Just practicing my James Potter. How'd I do?"

"Marvelously, as always," he assured her. He pressed a long, firm kiss against her forehead. "You perfect, perfect girl; you're always marvelous."

"Oh, shut it." The parchment that was neatly folded in Lily's jeans pocket felt suddenly very heavy and she wasn't sure what to do about it. Surely now wasn't the right time. She had to leave in about thirty seconds; there wasn't enough time to do it at all, so surely it wasn't the right time.

James held her, knowing he didn't have much time left before she had to walk away for a little while. He had to be okay, he knew that, now that she was his and he was hers and that, at least, was something that he didn't have to let go of, ever, not even for a little while. He was sure that was the only thing that would keep him sane for the next few weeks. And he wanted to tell her – wanted to tell her everything – right then and there, but there wasn't time. The car was waiting for her outside, and there just wasn't time. Later, James thought; they'd always have later.

Lily kissed him one last time, lingering over it for as long as she could afford. She felt silly, getting so torn-up about not seeing him for a little while, but she couldn't help it when his lips and his hands clung and he was looking at her with those swirling gold-and-green eyes, imploring her to stay even though they knew she really had to go so her sister wouldn't get annoyed with her. So James told her she was perfect and that he'd see her soon, and Lily told him that he was mad but she'd miss him, anyway. And then he kissed the inside of her wrist and she gave him that look, that smile he'd been waiting so long for. And then he had to watch her walk away, but this time it didn't hurt, not so much, because this time she wasn't really going anywhere; and it didn't pain her so much, either, because this time she knew that soon enough she could turn around and they could pick up right where they left off, no harm, no foul. That was enough.

James slid his hands into his pockets and sighed as he watched her leave the station. He felt an arm drape around his shoulders and he turned his head to see Sirius grinning at him.

"You gonna make it, Prongs?" he asked jokingly.

James laughed a little bit. "Reckon I will," he said. "My unfaltering optimism hasn't failed me yet, has it?"

"Sure hasn't." Sirius shook his head. "If you can get through an estimated total of eighty-seven 'Sod off, Potter's, I think you can make it through a couple of weeks after a good macking session. Which your parents saw, by the way."

"Whoops." James whistled but he didn't look sorry at all. "Five Galleons says Dad tries to give us both The Talk by the end of the week."

"With McKinnon and me living under the same roof?" Sirius shook his head some more. "I give it to the end of the day."

James grinned as he and Sirius exchanged a high-five. "You're on, mate."


Together, Sirius and James turned away from the entrance of King's Cross to rejoin their family, both thinking that perhaps everything would turn out all right, in the end. Perhaps things would retain these glorious little things that they called normal – kissing and joking and taking bets and laughing – and if they did, then maybe they'd get through all the other bullshit alive, whole, happy… Maybe they'd get through it because they wanted to, they had to, and they weren't going to give that up without a fight. They had too much to lose and no intention of letting any of it go so easily and that, they knew, would be enough to keep them going.

Late that night, miles away, in a dark little basement of a dark little house, dark little marks were burned into the dark little flesh of dark little people. Too young, too naïve, too jaded by their own personal tragedies, the expectations that were too heavy for their shoulders to carry without collapsing beneath their weight. They needed this, lusted after it, they'd live and they'd die for it, because it was the only thing they had, the only semblance of belonging and purpose.

So in that dark little basement of that dark little house, dark little hearts handed themselves over to be ruled by dark little deeds, deeds that they weren't ready for, deeds that they craved with an unnatural and uncontestable fervor. They fed off the darkness, thrived off the opportunity, and their dark little hearts shriveled up and died, in a dark little basement in a dark little house.

Their arms burned and their hearts shriveled and their souls cracked into dark little pieces. They were just dark little people in a twisted little world, and suddenly everything was a little more dark and a little more dangerous. The only visible thing looming at them from that darkness was a pair of bright red eyes, bright red eyes against a pale white face, and everything was a lot more dark and a lot more dangerous.

But that, in the end, was what these dark little people had craved for all along.


This is the last chapter of ARE. I will not be updating this fic again; I will be starting the sequel in an entirely new document, so if you want to know immediately when the first chapter is up, you might want to follow me on here. I'll post the link on Tumblr as soon as it's up, so you can keep watch there, too – cokebottleglassesarecool.

Now that's all said and done, I just want to thank everybody again for your follows, favorites, reviews, support, and enthusiasm for this fic. You've really helped to get my creative confidence back on track, and I'm like eternally grateful and indebted to you. In that vein, I will continue to keep updates as regular as possible because it's the least I can do because I LOVE YOU.

I'm really stoked to get the sequel going, so expect it soon! I've got a lot of plans for it, but if there's anything in particular you'd like to see, shoot me a message on Tumblr and we'll see if I can make it happen!

Love & other things… –K.