No Headlights in Paradise
Chapter 9 – It Pointed Towards Lily
Song choice: Style by Taylor Swift
It had been exactly seven weeks since Operation Protective Green started, and Lily felt as if the heat of the summer was turning her mad. Paranoia hit its ultimate high, and it didn't help that on this particular day, Lily decided to wear a grey shirt. She could feel the sweat licking her tailbone, and she groaned as she made her way out of volunteering, hoping no one noticed the humiliating stains. They definitely had.
As she walked out, waving to a few administrators, Lily noticed that today, similar to the previous week, they received fewer injuries. The operation most definitely reached its peak two weeks ago… two weeks ago when she received her letter from James Potter. The letter that remained unanswered on her bedroom table. She shook off the thought because she just didn't want to think about it anymore. It was unfair of him to always enter her thoughts in the middle of the night without having any intentions of staying!
Or at least that's what she told herself each night when he did just that.
She huffed in frustration, as she started walking towards the Apparition point. It seemed sunnier, as if the clouds were opening up and the blue sky was seeping through. It took Lily a moment to realize why the sight had become so unfamiliar. Even though it had been grueling hot outside, it had been a very cloudy summer. Maybe the blue sky opening up was in honor of the seventy-two hour ceasefire established? The ceasefire the Ministry was hoping to evolve to a long-term one. But Lily didn't have her hopes up yet considering there'd been several ceasefires throughout the operation. All of which had been violated.
With every ceasefire, the entire situation became more maddening for Lily. Everything about this campaign lasted much longer then originally expected, longer then any previous operation. Overall, Lily there was something impressive in the way the Wizarding community met the protracted challenge; nonetheless, the extended nature of the operation, its complexity, and the fluctuations on the Auror front created new challenges for the Wizarding community this generation never faced before. The ceasefires only seemed to make it worse, and Lily wondered what on Earth the Ministry thought to itself each time they declared one. The Death Eater's always violated them, and it would be expected that the several lulls would ease the pressure and re-muster energy. In fact, it seemed to do the opposite, as it only created a sense of uncertainty, frustration, and helplessness that twisted the public's opinion that the Ministry's pursuit was too restrained of an approach to the dark rebellion.
It didn't help, that so far, a total of thirteen Aurors had been killed with over thirty-five being injured, an amount that hadn't been seen since the times of Grindelwald. Seven Death Eater were confirmed dead, although the number remained elusive considering no one really knew what to believe from their camp. Yet, as less Aurors came through the clinic Lily volunteered in, she started treating more civilians for shock or injuries ranging from getting in the crosshairs of spells to fallen debris to violence in the cities.
Lily Apparated back to the Potter's, choking on the heat, reminding her again how as the heat intensified the Auror's were still outside battling. If she was hot, what were they? In all her listening to the radio and reading articles, she stumbled upon that any operation the Ministry carried out they tried to do in the summer. Lily comprehended that winter was coldbut this summer had just been stifling, but then again, maybe sleeping outside in the heat was better then sleeping outside in the cold.
She walked the now familiar garden, crossing the threshold to the front door that recognized her as it swung open without question. The house was quiet as expected, though she heard Swifty muffling around in the kitchen. The Potter's were off, helping, Lily was sure, and she couldn't help the smile spreading across her face just thinking about them. Though both retired, it seemed their mission in life had become spreading good well, helping in whatever way possible their supposed superior blood-status could provide.
She set her bag aside, staring in disgust at the multiple sweat mark left on her grey shirt when she noticed a letter on the entranceway with her name. She immediately recognized Smetty's handwriting and tore it open.
I'm hearing the operation is going to end soon, and I am sure by the time you have received this letter the long-term ceasefire will have already gone into effect. Please meet me as soon as you can at my flat in Cornwall? I've missed you.
Lily crushed the letter to her chest as she took deep, long breaths. She rushed over to the radio in the sitting room and turned the dial just in time to hear the Minister of Magic declare the dark rebellion entered into a ceasefire with no gains or accomplishments and that the operation had come to a halt. Lily squealed as she happily jumped around the carpet, utter joy racing through her knowing it was finally over. It was over, for now anyways, and she would take this temporary happiness for what it was and spend it wisely, not listening to the radio for at least a month.
She hurried up the stairs, stomping on each step as she zoomed into her room, and flicked her wand to open the closet as her trunk flew onto her bed and lay open. She removed her horrible grey shirt and replaced it with a white, loose t-shirt. She considered removed her black skirt but decided it was glued onto her body anyways. She started packing in hazard, throwing anything she could find into her suitcase, unsure of what to bring or leave or… would she be coming back to the Potter's? The question made her pause.
What exactly was her plan?
She wanted to come back, that she knew with a validity of something she'd already decided. But if she would return to Cornwall, to Smetty, what did that entail? Somewhere in the heat of the summer, she'd finally admitted to herself maybe she didn't want to rush back to Smetty. The idea of it felt flawed and silly… but her being with him was flawed. And she couldn't imagine Smetty being to pleased in her returning to the Potter's considering now that the operation was over James would most certainly be returning home…
James would be home soon.
Her heart hammered loudly in her chest, and she tried those exhaling techniques the Healer in the clinic recommend she do but they weren't working. James would be coming home any minute now, she could feel it, she knew it and the stag against her chest was confirming it.
He could be home right now.
The panic fluttering through her heart did nothing but speed up as she stepped out of her room and peaked at his door. It was shut closed like it had been most of the summer. She walked down the hallway, purposefully stepping on the creak in the middle waiting to see if the door would open. After she stood stupidly for a solid minute she gave a sigh of relief. Until she looked up, giving a startled breath as James's door opened.
He looked dreadful. He had patched, overgrown scuffle along his face, dirt in his nails and cracked bruises lining his arms that desperately needed dittany. Lily was quite certain too he was wearing a dark brown shirt once had been white, and his slacks had holes in them that hadn't originally been there. She stood staring at him for a moment when her eyes finally met his and she couldn't look away. For whatever it was, James was home, and he was alive and that was basically all Lily asked for through this entire blasted thing.
So before she could put another two thoughts together, she raced towards him. He met her in the middle, catching her between his arms, holding onto her much too tightly but Lily didn't care. She clutched his chest to her own and inhaled the scent of him as she felt his arms creep up her back and his nose pressed against her hair. She stepped on her tiptoes to reach more of him, wrapping her arms around his neck and just holding him because he was alive. He had survived.
"Lily," he said into her hair, and his voice hoarse.
She briefly pulled back, cupping his cheek and he nuzzled into it. The feel of his beard against her hand so unfamiliar, so unlike James.
"Hi," she whispered. "When did you get home?"
"A few hours ago," he murmured and he seemed to have had enough conversation, pulling her back into his arms, the prickle of his beard against her neck making her shiver.
And they stood there, beats passing in prolonged seconds, and time seeped into each other because they never had enough time but when together it stopped. At some point, in the middle, she understood that he needed this time more than her. So she let him hold her and take comfort in her body and tried to ignore her own swell of emotions at seeing him in this state.
She caressed his back and she felt him shudder against her as he reluctantly pulled back. She tried ignoring the tingling in her lower body as his hands skimmed her waist and she felt his eyes take her in. Or how his arms felt stronger, steadier as they held her. She swallowed, her body reacting so acutely to James that she took a step back even though she felt a jab of pain at his release.
"I'm glad to see you," she said now into the awkward space.
He looked at her with reserve. "Are you?"
"Can't you tell?" She had practically flung herself at him, only letting go when she no longer could control her basic impulse. How daft could he be? But then again, he had essentially been in a war zone for seven weeks. Lily had the right of mind to give him the benefit of the doubt.
"You never answered my post," he finally said.
She bit her lip, annoyed but tried not to be because his eyes were intense and lost and tired. He was physically there but Lily right away saw that he hadn't fully returned home. And for the first time, Lily considered how selfish it was not to respond, even politely. It wasn't like in the middle of the operation he had plentiful amounts of time to think about reasons why Lily wouldn't answer or still be angry with him. He was after all fighting and when he wasn't fighting, people who were fighting surrounded him.
So she came forward and took his hand because it was the least she could do and looked up into his far too mature eyes. "Let's talk about it later, yeah?"
"Why?" he demanded but squeezed her hands and pulled them both to their sides.
"Because you're obviously grouchy, and you should probably eat something."
James considered her for a brief moment and gave her a small smile as he shrugged.
Lily smiled, a small smile that didn't reach her eyes because she just didn't know what to do, what she could give him that would make him feel better, and ensure she wouldn't come out doomed. Again.
She released his hands and swallowed. "Have you eaten yet?"
He shook his head. Lily took his hand gently, leading him down the stairs when she noticed his severe limp.
"James, what-" she started rattled as she gripped his hips.
"I'm fine," he said too quickly, unable to avoid his cringe as he took another step. "I'm just extremely sore… in our last post they had us climbing rocks."
Lily could almost hear the trace of a good-hearted complaint, soothing her even as she held onto him. She assisted him towards the stairs but it seemed once James started walking, he was fine even though he flinched at every step.
She sat him down in the kitchen table and he looked at her as she made her way around the kitchen, opening and closing cabinets. She felt his gaze on her but tried to ignore it but ignoring James Potter had always been difficult for Lily Evans. She turned to him, ready to let out a teasing remark when she again looked into his lost eyes.
"You've made yourself at home here," he said softly.
Lily, unsure of how to respond, bit her lip. "I… I know, well at first, I just… I mean, I wanted to- but your mom did and I just… it was hard, I mean its still hard for me so- but they've been so kind to me and I couldn't stop."
Lily finished her useless and lame babble as she looked back at James who was chuckling, and seeing him finally smile warmed her heart even though she knew it shouldn't.
"I'm glad, Lily. Really." He stood unexpectedly, causing Lily to take a step backwards but she forced herself to stand still as he moved forward and stood over her. "At night, when I couldn't sleep, which was most of them, I would think about you here and it was comforting. Almost as if… you were mine."
"I could have been," she said before she could think too much about the fact. "I could have been yours if you had let me."
Lily's head was pushed backwards now as she stared into his dark eyes, eyes that didn't look like the James she knew but when his hands moved to cup her cheeks it felt like him.
"I never wanted to hurt you."
She nuzzled into his calloused hand, as the other moved down to her hips and she closed her eyes.
"I know," his voice a velvet revolver as his thumb brushed over her lips. "I thought about you every day."
Her eyes snapped back to his intense ones, and her heartbeat glazed as he looked down at her talking as if he meant it, and her body remained stormy in his grasp.
"Lily, you had to have known," he whispered as he lowered his head but in a moment of clarity, Lily pushed him back because she had known. He stumbled from the sheer surprise as he stared at her.
"I have a boyfriend," she panted as if it mattered.
James didn't move and Lily didn't move because what were they supposed to do? It was unnerving standing in a room with someone she was supposed to be with. Because Lily had always known that as long as James was alive she was supposed to be with him. But they couldn't be. And for what? They crashed and burned and came together again but Lily didn't want to crash and burn anymore.
So they stood their staring at each other, not knowing what to do with the love of their lives so close but so out of reach.
Thankfully, they were interrupted.
"Master James!" Swifty squeaked, running into the room and grabbing his hand ignoring his injuries and seemingly unaware of the strain shadowing the room. "I've cooked up all your favorite meals! Come and see!"
James was dragged out of the room, and Lily looked on humorlessly until she saw the dining room table and her eyes popped. Swifty had not exaggerated in the slightest as Lily saw a range from mashed sweet potatoes to roasted chicken to pasta with cream sauce.
"Thank you, Swifty," James said kindly to her beaming smile. "Evans might have moved in but I'm still your favorite, aren't I?" James asked teasingly as she flushed in embarrassment.
"Master Potter!" Swifty said in a hushed tone as if Lily couldn't hear her squeal and glanced over at Lily worryingly. "I- I- now Master Potter you are being mischievous."
"Don't worry, Swifty," Lily said gently. "James is just a tease."
Her eyes flashed to his and his back to her, and her heart skipped a beat.
The slam of the front door tore them apart as James's parents rushed in. They looked at James for one moment before he was enveloped in a double hug without thought. Lily watched from afar at the love glowing between parents and son; Fleamont choking up at hugging his son and Euphemia holding on as if letting him go off when he was five years old had been a horrible, no good idea…
"We came as soon as we heard," Fleamont said releasing him as he took a better look.
"Took you guys long enough, I've been stuck here for hours with only Evans for company," James muttered and his dad had no qualms smacking his head even when so obviously injured. "Ouch."
"You should be lucky that Lily even tolerates you, god knows I wouldn't," Fleamont said, shaking his head at a grumbling James.
"Fleamont," Euphemia said with stern eyes, and her husband shut up immediately. "Where's Sirius?" she said turning back to her son.
"Uh fine, he just went back to the Order of Phoenix base. Finish something or other I didn't really hear him through being tired and all," James mumbled.
After a few more seconds, James realized his parents had no intention of letting him go, and attempted to move away unsuccessfully. "You lot are embarrassing me."
"From who?" Fleamont said, the two finally releasing him. "From Lily? She's practically family already."
Lily blushed at the compliment. "That's kind of you."
"The truth," he stated as he took a seat at the end of the table. "Part of the family despite James's constant mess ups."
The two of them flushed immediately, and Euphemia out right glowered at her husband. "Fleamont," she said warningly.
Getting the message, he clapped his hands as he looked around the table. "I see Swifty hasn't wasted any time."
James and his mother took a seat, and Lily stood still unsure. All three of them looking at her expectantly.
"Maybe I should all let you be, family time…"
"No," she heard the three of them say at once and Lily couldn't help the grin that emerged.
"As I've told you time and again," Euphemia voiced. "You are family, now please take a seat so we can have dinner."
Lily looked over at James. "Please, Lily."
She swallowed as she took a seat across from him, her eyes never leaving his. She wanted to be there for him, and she wondered what he was feeling. It all felt so jumbled in her mind, as if what she knew she should do felt very far from her grasp. And each time she tried reaching for it, she was reminded of how much she didn't want what she was reaching for.
"Let's just enjoy this moment, yeah?" James said as his parents became distracted by something.
"You want me here?" she asked in a hushed tone.
James gave her such a familiar smirk that instantly loosened her squirming insides. "Don't be such a prat, Evans. Of course I do."
She gave him a small smile and nodded. They dug in and James feasted as if he hadn't eaten in weeks, which he probably hadn't. And Lily couldn't take her eyes off him. She wanted to touch his hair, and wipe the dirt off his forehead. She wanted to feel his arms around her again.
Her heart gave an uncomfortable lurch as guilt coursed through her because she knew her thoughts were unfair, wrong even. Because she did have a boyfriend. One who was waiting for her while she was eating dinner with her ex-… And there it was! She couldn't even categorize James considering they had never been together! She was acting foolish for hadn't she made a decision when she decided not to respond to his letter?
"How are you feeling, James?" Euphemia asked, looking him over critically.
"Been better," he said giving her a pointed look.
His mother sighed loudly, "Well, you need to put dittany on those cuts maybe even some scar herbals. I'll ask Swifty to leave some in your room."
"Yes, mum," James said through his food and he looked so adorable right then that Lily knew her eyes were shining at him. When he lifted his head and looked at her, she saw the surprise register on his face.
They ate together, discussing casually events, catching James up on cultural situations he had missed, and in general laughing; and Lily felt a deep longing for a permanency, here with them, with James. If only. It was so… so easy, and she wished it were actually hers. As they wrapped up eating, Lily swallowed the longing in her lungs, knowing it was almost over.
"James, you need a shower," his mother said at which Lily giggled.
He glowered at his mother and then gave a quick glance to Lily. "I just got home and I was hungry."
"Wouldn't that entail being the first thing you do?" Euphemia asked with eyebrows raised.
"And you're stinking up the house," his dad pointed out, and James crossed his arms, huffing.
"You go out and fight a war, and then come home to be a child again."
"Exactly," his dad said in a mock proud voice. "Now, chop chop before your mother has to say it again."
James rolled his eyes, glancing at Lily again before climbing the stairs mumbling something about parents and rules.
Lily's eyes followed him, her nails digging into her palms. It was all so frustrating. And confusing. And unfair. She wanted this life so badly. All her conclusions and decisions and thoughts that she believed so precisely only yesterday started crumbling, floating away. She was stumbling into a path she had already travelled, one in which only resulted in her tears. But there couldn't be any more tears, could there?
"Lily," Euphemia said and Lily looked up from her reverie.
"I'm sorry, I must have… spaced out."
"It's quite alright, I just asked if you received the letter that came for you today. I left it on the entranceway table."
Lily nodded, shrinking. "Yes… it was from Smetty."
Euphemia didn't respond but waited patiently and Lily was only reminded again how incredible she was. For here Euphemia sat, in her house, with her son upstairs, knowing how he felt about her, and willing to talk to Lily about her boyfriend.
"He asked me to come to him as soon as possible. I was packing when I ran into James." Euphemia didn't respond and Lily knew there wasn't really anything to say. "I was just so relieved to see him."
"I can imagine."
"I should better finish packing and go," Lily said reluctantly. "He's probably waiting for me."
"Will you be returning?" Euphemia said, looking over at Fleamont who was pretending to read the Prophet.
Lily glanced at the stairway achingly and then back. "I just don't think it's a good idea right now."
Euphemia stood then, and hugged Lily who hugged her back, trying to memorize the feel of her arms around her. She let go and looked at Lily's face. "You are always welcomed back here, do you understand me?"
Lily nodded but she looked away because it was so ridiculous. Why couldn't this actually be hers? It was supposed to be!
She hugged Fleamont too, and she bit her lip to stop from sobbing helplessly into his arms but it was becoming very hard to breath. "Lily, my dear, there is something to be said about two people who keep stumbling into each other."
Tears fell from her face at his words and she tried to control it but couldn't. "I'm sorry," she said desperately trying not to cry in his parent's arms when he was upstairs.
"Don't be," Euphemia said in a flurry as she put a comforting arm on her shoulder. Meanwhile, she scowled at her husband.
"Euphemia, don't look at me like that," Fleamont said. "I could have cut the tension with a knife between these two. I'm trying to provide some elderly insight."
Lily sniggered through her tears but it only caused more to flow down and Fleamont hugged her again before bucking her chin. She looked into his oh so familiar eyes, and gave him a watery smile.
"It's a terrible feeling to waste time, Lily, especially in today's climate. You'll never be ready so create the right timing."
Lily trudged herself up the stairs, her emotions in haywire. She knew what she had to do but she didn't want that at all. The realization made her faint, gripping the rail as she swallowed the little bit of vomit that rose in her throat. None of this was happening the way it was supposed too! But then again, what had she expected? She was living at the Potter's. Somewhere in the back of her mind she had known exactly this would happen, and she had chosen this scenario. Smetty had been right, there were other options but she wanted this one.
She dragged herself into her darkened room, the room that was always supposed to be temporary. Her heart sunk at the thought as she muttered "Lumos". Maybe it all hurt so badly because she was just going to miss the Potter's terribly but even as the thought filtered through her mind she couldn't lie to herself.
The lights spread across the space, and she thought about James and his letter and there almost kiss. If she considered them all together, what did it all mean? Because of course it meant something. It meant he was thinking about her but what did it mean outside of that. She was pretty suspect that James had changed his mind suddenly and wanted to be there with her. Most likely, he was lonely and did miss her so he wrote her. But that was all short term, and what did it mean long term?
She rolled her shoulders as she gave up packing and waved her wand, watching as her clothes packed themselves and Lily lay unsuccessfully on her bed. What had she become?
She jumped off her bed, her clothes literally pausing in midair as she watched James enter her room, his hand on the door pretending as if he knocked. "I'm sorry if I was interrupting… where are you going?"
She gulped as she smoothed down her shirt, the degrees seemingly increasingly when James closed the door.
"You're, you're not interrupting," she said quickly as she whisked her wand causing her clothes to move at extreme speed, her packing now completed in a second and she shoved the trunk to her side.
She took a second look at him and swallowed. Now that he had showered and shaven, and put healing oil on his skin, she couldn't help admiring him. His face looked lighter without his scuffle and even though he had lost weight being outside had brought him a nice tan. Lily couldn't help her attraction to him as she pulled her hair behind her ears.
"Where are you going?" he repeated, walking further into the room, his hand playing with his hair nervously.
She didn't say anything at first and looked at his shoulder instead. "My uh… uh…"
"Your boyfriend?" James offered, his arm falling flat against his side and Lily swallowed distressed, so not wanting to have this conversation with James, ever.
So she nodded instead, twisting her arms around her body.
"Listen, Lily… I uh I came to apologize. I shouldn't have tried kissing you like that. It was uncalled for and I'm sorry."
Lightly taken aback, Lily flicked towards his sincere eyes. "Okay."
"I mean," and he shoved his hand once more into his hair. "I knew about your boyfriend and you never answered my post so, I should have respected that."
He looked at her then. "It's just I always knew there was a better chance of you not answering then answering so…"
But she didn't respond this time, unclear were this conversation was going or what was trying to be achieved.
"Why didn't you answer, Lily?"
His voice, his eyes, so broken that Lily wanted to comfort him because after all it was James and she had empathy in her heart but she didn't know how. She was so petrified of him, of herself. They weren't healthy together.
"What did you want me to say?"
"Anything, Lily. I just," and he came forward and tried taking her hands but she backed away. "I just wanted to hear from you."
"The last time I saw you, I didn't. You left me."
James grew distressed at her words, frustration slowly brewing in him as he walked away and then back towards her. "You have to know… I was only thinking about you, I've only thought about you for the last five years! And I know it was wrong but I don't know how to handle this- the war, you. Nothing I do is working and everything keeps getting worse. And it was wrong to leave that morning but I didn't know what else to do because I already knew if you looked at me one more time I wasn't ever going to leave."
His words should have been a soothing balm but it festered, and her voice came out harsher than expected. "It doesn't work that way, James."
"You can't just come here," Lily started, glaring at him now. "And start throwing around all these claims like its okay."
"I never said it was okay!" he started but she turned away from him as her breaths started becoming erratic and her anger boiled. He touched her back and she flinched away from him but twisted around.
She pointed her finger now and shot him darts. "No! You can't do that. It doesn't work that way."
"Then tell me how it works, please, Lily, I'm desperate to make it right. You're all-"
"No! Exactly that," she finally yelled, her hands flying up. She took a deep breath, trying to compose herself but it wasn't working very well. "You think because you say all the right things and do all the right moves that I can just forget! It does work that way because everything you did, you did it to me! And I can't just forget because you suddenly woke up one day in the middle of war and felt bad! I wish I could forget!"
She wept then, brushing her arms against her eyes as more tears splashed and the pain and worry and concern and everything poured out.
"No, and I'm not going to forgive you for what you did! I tried, so many nights, I tried laying in my bed and forgive you but I can't," she cried now hysterically, holding up her arms as he moved towards her. "How could you leave me like that?"
When he came to her again, she tried pushing against his shoulders but he didn't budge and finally she just let him hug her. "I hate you, I hate you so much," she sobbed hopelessly into his shirt because she couldn't help it anymore. So he held her as she cried about him and the war and him being in the war and the fact she was an awful girlfriend.
As she started gathering herself, she took deep, non-calming gulps and then finally looked up at him weakly. "Please don't kiss me."
He wiped her eyes and instead kissed her forehead. "I won't."
He picked her up then, fireman style, and lifted her onto her bed gently, laying down behind her and pulling her close. She closed her eyes, humming at the feel of him and inhaling it while she had it. It wasn't even temptation anymore.
She traced the cracks on his fingers, sighing as she felt his breaths against her neck, his hand lightly stroking lines on her stomach and she leaned back into him. "I'll never be able to give you up, will I?"
It was more rhetorical than anything but he still didn't answer. What could he possibly say? It wasn't as if he was making it easier for her. He was present in her life and he refused to fully disappear.
"You aren't going to stay either, are you?"
Even though she already knew the answer, his silent confirmation broke her. What were they doing? What was this? More tears slipped from her eyes, landing on his cracks, bringing the dehydrated and dry hands much needed hydration.
"I don't actually hate you."
"I know," he finally responded and tugged her closer, kissing her shoulder.
"I have to go soon," her voice coarse from overuse, and she felt him nod against her head but he didn't move and neither did she. As silence engulfed them, she felt herself crashing and she didn't even try to stop it now.
"What changed this time?"
He paused, and she felt his hand still against her stomach and then tenderly resume. "The operation happened and… you start realizing things when death is so prominent."
"Tell me about… the operation," she whispered.
He turned her over then, and her eyes loomed below his and his hands sketched her body and she wrapped a loose arm around his neck. He looked small, afraid. "It's nothing you've ever seen because everything is… it smells like death everywhere. Just broken bodies and people… You would think with the Avada Kedavra curse it would be simple but the death it was, disgusting. I had to clean up my friends' brains and mop their blood. You never know what's behind you or in front of you, and when you sleep you just don't."
He shut his eyes, and Lily touched his cheek and he opened them again but he couldn't look at her. "It was horrible. And I never want to do it again but I do. Soon Moody or Bones will call and I'll have to see it all over again. Somewhere I know this is what I want to do but most of the time I don't. Most of the time I just wanted to come home to my mum."
He stopped and heaved, his hands shaking as Lily took him into her arms and she felt him sob silently. So she hugged him soundly just like he did for her because that was all they had. A broken down fairytale.
When he collected himself, he looked at her and she wished for another life.
"I'm so sorry, Lils," he shuddered.
"I wish I could take it back, there were so many nights I wish I could have taken it back."
"But you didn't."
It was the blank truth and they both knew it so they laid in the solace of each other's arms just a little longer then was allowed. Eventually, surprisingly, James let go, pushing a wet strand away from her face and Lily only realized then they both had been crying. "You should go."
She looked up at him, and got up slowly. He picked up her discarded trunk as she looked at herself in the mirror trying to ignore her red-rimmed eyes and James's matching ones. She looked at him through the mirror, and he looked like everything she ever wanted.
"What would you do?" she asked.
He faced her in the mirror, and she exhaled at his stare. "What would I do what?"
"If I didn't have a boyfriend."
It was the sort of question that shouldn't be asked but Lily couldn't help herself.
But James looked her over slowly, and Lily felt herself flush at his lingering gaze.
"I would tell you that I love you," he started, coming forward as her breath hitched. "And that I want you back. You would tell me that it was too late and but somehow I win you over anyway. And then…"
But the truth in his statement was left hanging in the air because Lily knew precisely what would happen next. He was close to her now and she could feel his breaths on her neck and her pulse heightened as he lifted his hand to her shoulder.
But at his touch, she pulled away, her heart hammering wildly. His hand halted in midair and then dropped.
He gave her a stoic stare. "Well, you do have a boyfriend so it doesn't matter."
At his blank voice, her defense picked up and she turned around to meet his gaze as she crossed her arms in protection. "You would disappear anyways so what does it matter."
"I'll always come for you."
"What?" she asked brokenly but she knew exactly what he said. So she moved away from him then, giving her space to breath as his words penetrated the darkest pits of her soul. Growing up, dreamt of a soulmate, and now that she had one it was too painful to bear.
"Please don't touch me," she said as he came up behind her. "I want to go."
"I'll walk you out."
But Lily ignored him as she walked down the stairs, and out the door. She tried to pay less attention to the beautiful gardens and the house she would miss so much. She choked back further tears. So many tears.
When they crossed the gate, safe to Apparate, she turned around, glaring at him. "It's unfair, James. What you said."
"It's the truth."
"So what! It's a selfish truth is what it is. Because that means you'll never let me live, or move on. You're… it's always going to be you but if you won't stay with me then you can't say things like that."
"Smetty is a good man. And he cares about me even though I am a garbage girlfriend! Instead of going to him, I spent the day miserable with you. I chose literal misery over him! And you know how horrible it is," she said, tears once more pouring down her face and Lily was so frustrated with herself. Why couldn't she be stronger? "To not think about your boyfriend when he's at war and think of someone else! I thought about you everyday, I was so terrified for you and you wrote me once! Smetty wrote me all the time.
"I wish I hated you but I can't. I don't."
She shoved past him then but he grabbed her, forcing her to look at him and only released her when her despondent stare met his. "Lily, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I thought about you everyday but I don't know what else to tell you."
"I believe you," she cried. "But that doesn't change anything does it."
"It can be different."
"Different? Different how? You'll disappear less?" she felt completely crazy and she wanted to escape this conversation but she dragged herself forward as if she explained it to him one more time he would finally agree but she knew he wouldn't. He had his own logic and she hers, and they weren't converging in the middle. So she pointed at him like a madwoman with tears flowing down her cheeks in the darkness. "Smetty makes me happy. He writes when he says he will and I never have to guess what he is thinking, and he's never disappeared, not once!"
"So go be with him!" he said angrily.
"I will!" she shouted.
But they both stood their huffing at each other instead because they would rather be miserable than apart and where's the logic in that?
"It doesn't matter anymore, Lily."
"What doesn't matter?" she demanded at his hardened eyes.
"You're right. I never had any intention of staying."
She gaped at him, the pure obscenity of it was crawling up her back as she shook her head, madden. "You're awful."
"Yeah? Well go off and be with your boyfriend then," he scowled at her.
She looked to the side, as her dried tears shifted uneasily on her cheeks. "I promised myself if I ever chose you again then I deserved to get hurt."
She looked at him then and he at her and what more could they say?
"I'm going to go," she finally spoke. It was the most certain thing she could do for herself.
"Alright then," he said, hands in his pockets. She picked up her trunk and looked back at him standing there. When he didn't say anything she shrugged and went to Apparate but he called out her name quietly.
"I've only ever wanted you happy," he said. "And if this Smetty bloke makes you happy… I'll stay out of the way."
"You make me happy," she blurted.
He seemed to bite his tongue painfully as he looked away from her and into the night. "I can't give you what you want."
And she had wanted anything but that. "Right. I'm going to Apparate now."
He nodded and walked backwards for a brief moment before turning around completely. He crossed the gate and into the garden. She continued staring at him and for a moment he paused but walked into the house and then he was gone.
As the door closed, she was already sprinting towards it. She already made her decision when she had first seen him that afternoon, so she came to an abrupt halt when the door was flung open again and James appeared before it. He skidlid to a freeze, seeing her there, and they stared at each other, breathing heavily.
"I thought you would have Apparated already," he said breathing heavily.
And before there was too much time to interfere they raced into each other's arms in the middle and he caught her around his waist as she wrapped her legs around him. Lily gave him one brief glimpse before lowering her mouth to his and kissing him, doing what she'd been wanting to do for months. All the guilt, and frustration and hurt and hate, was drowned out by the pounding of her own blood against her eardrums because this was always where she always supposed to be. If it were for a few seconds, or minutes or hours, it would be worth it because James was alive, and here, and that was all she'd prayed for.
James held on securely, maneuvering them to the doorway, slamming shut the door as he held her onto her without ever releasing their kiss. She melted against him, as he started moving up the stairs slowly and in the dark, for he'd long ago memorized those steps. She clung to him, never breaking. When they reached the top landing, Lily let go and they both panted heavily in his embrace.
"Take me to bed," she murmured. He didn't question her, and pressed against her lips once more, as if amazed he could. Lily pressed tighter against him, squeezing his waist as they made their way into his room. He shut the door firmly, and released her for a split second as he pulled out his wand and cast the Silencing Charm.
He stood in the middle of the room with her wrapped in his arms, kissing madly. There was no resistance, and Lily curled her hand through his messy hair and his hands moved down her back, cupping her bottom, pulling her tight against his groin, and a chill went down her spin. She'd missed him so much. This lust and need, she'd yearned for it devastatingly. She released his lips as a dazed smile curved her own and her heart shuddered as he moved them towards his bed and gently laid her there. Her eyes fluttered up at him in complete trust.
He bent down to kiss her, his body leaning against hers and her hands roamed his chest, shoulders, unbelieving. She felt his hardness against her and moved her hand down slowly to feel his firmness, and he paused his own exploring, looking down at her.
"Are you sure?" he said, his voice husky as he cupped her cheeks, looking at her so earnestly that her heart jumped from her chest and her insides squelched.
It was the hundred-galleon question, wasn't it? In every rational sense, Lily knewbetter. He would leave and her heart would be broken again but as his eyes loomed over her she couldn't deny she didn't want anything quite as badly as she wanted to feel James in that moment.
It was a mistake, her mind whispered.
Hush, her heart replied.
"I've never been more sure in my life. I'm choosing this."
"I love you, Lily," he murmured into the darkness. "Don't forget that."
"I couldn't if I tried."
He kissed her then, moving down her neck as his fingers moved over her body, his hands moving lightly over her hips and circling back to cup her breasts. She gave a moan as she arched into him, and he released her momentarily to help lift her shirt. He threw it behind him as she unsnapped her bra, and she gave a slight shudder as he immediately knelt down and pushed one of her nipples into his mouth. He sucked fiercely, rolling the tip around with his tongue, taking pleasure in the noises she was making.
He started sliding down her body, leaving soft kisses along her stomach and hips. He pulled at her skirt, slowly unzipping them and taking them off, tracing the lines of her knickers before removing those too and she gave a loud breath that had him smirking from his position on his knees.
He stood suddenly, between her legs and ripped off his own shirt, giving her a fervent kiss and Lily loved the feeling of their chests smashed together so she wrapped her arms around his neck. He leaned back and started moving down, and when his tongue dragged slowly against her slit she moaned. She opened her legs wider, trying not to blush in embarrassment at how wet she already was but James didn't seem to mind, groaning in satisfaction as his arms gripped her hips as they rose off the bed when he his mouth closed around her clit and sucked gently.
She moaned softly, desperate for more of his touch and she started to tremble when his fingers gently slid inside her and his tongue lashed at her hardening nub. Her cries grew louder and louder completely lost in the sensation of his mouth, and his fingers and when she climaxed with his tongue against her clit and his fingers deep inside her, she came wildly, grinding hard on his face, her hips moving back and forth.
She lay on his childhood bed; her face flushed pink as she pulled James up and kissed him enthusiastically. He responded as such, kissing her until she felt the deep tent in his trousers. He shed them quickly with his briefs, and resumed kissing her, this time more lazily as if they had all the time in the world. Time… a voice whispered in Lily's head.
When his full naked body pressed against her own, she inhaled loudly. He felt rougher, harder than previously and when her hands explored his naked chest, she noticed scars and bruises that hadn't been there before. The concern filtered through but before she could voice anything, James pulled her on top of him and kissed her shut. His hand moved to her bum, cupping it and she gave a slight moan.
Her hand moved down to circle his already pulsing dick, and James rolled them over, kissing her slow and deep. Lily sighed into his mouth and wrapped her legs around his hips, and James instinctively slid inside her, groaning her name as he felt her wet heat surrounding him.
He rocked slowly but never stopped kissing her. They moved against each other and it had never felt so damn good. She arched into him as her legs slid around his calves and released his mouth as she panted breathlessly into the dark room. She gripped his back as she pushed him to thrust harder, move faster because she didn't want gentle, not now, not in this moment.
She moaned as he did as she pleased, crying out again, and again, her moans becoming unintelligible chants as James breathed heavily, lifting her legs up and continued thrusting powerfully. She contracted around him, her body pulsing at the feel of him inside her.
"You feel so fucking good, Lily," James groaned and Lily held onto his biceps as James moved faster, derived by his physical need. And Lily met him match for match as she moaned his name uncontrollably.
"Yes, James, yes!"
Her body was shaking with the power of his thrusts, and she yelped and then moaned when he bent down and took a hard nipple in his mouth. Her hips were moving frantically to meet his pace, and she pushed her hands against the headboard as he took her deeper and harder.
"Fuck, Lily," James groaned as he pulled out completely only to turn her around. He took her hips firmly in his hands as he plunged deep without warning. Pulling her hips back with every thrust, she lowered herself onto her elbows and held onto the pillow as she groaned loudly into it.
She felt James bend over, collecting her hair as he kissed her neck roughly and she twisted her arm around his neck, grabbing onto his hair to keep him in place as her sharp cries filled the room. James didn't let up for a second as he hit her cervix with every deep, relentless drive.
He reached under her to find her swollen clit, his fingers sliding over her wet flesh, flicking and pinching at her nub until she let loose a scream she was sure would have woken his parents if he hadn't set the Silencing Charm. James drew his own release as he pushed hard, flattening her on the bed as he came surging. He gave a few lame thrusts before he collapsed beside her.
For a long moment, neither moved, to reluctant to face the consequences of their actions so Lily laid there puffing into the pillow with James on top of her breathing into her hair. She sighed when James rolled over, curling her limp body against his.
"That… was different," he said slowly.
She nodded, unsure how to proceed but ignored the aching guilt that was slowly crawling out. She would deal with it later. For now… She'd never felt like that; so wanton and desperate for his touch. It had been completely unrestrained.
"It was perfect."
He played with her hair, content with her answer. She wanted to memorize this moment so she would always have it locked up, stored for when she needed to remember his love. They always came back to each other, she thought helplessly.
She felt him shift, and she looked up as he pulled the blanket over them and moved to lean on his elbow to look down at her. He was so handsome, so cheeky with his smug, satisfied smirk. She felt warm and vibrant. He stroked her body and she lifted her hand to move through his hair.
He didn't say anything, just continued stroking her and she was grateful for it. She didn't want to think in this moment for they had so much time together. One day it would happen, she assured herself as he leaned down to kiss her softly. Just not today.
Lily woke up to a torch of sunlight flashing against her face, and painful yellow circles appeared behind her eyelids as she shut them in protest. She squinted as she gradually opened her eyes stared at the sun beaming down at her from the entirely too large window, knowing exactly where she was and what happened. She shut her eyes trying to ignore the empty bed besides her. It was the morning, rise and shine.
She sank further into the sheets, holding the covers tighter around her and considered her next step. James could easily be in the bathroom or downstairs. She could still smell him and if she turned over and breathed in his pillow, it was as if he was still in the bed. But Lily knew; she already knew when it started he wouldn't be there in the morning.
And now? The emotional consequences of what she'd done were lingering in the background but she shoved them aside for later. Always later.
She slipped on her clothes that were strewn around the room, pulling them on slowly, uncomfortably. She examined herself in the mirror, gazing at herself studiously. Her lips were swollen, and she had patches of red across her neck. Her hair was everywhere and she tried running a finger through it with no success. She wanted to go to her own room to change but remembered she'd packed everything, and her trunk was probably still outside on the sidewalk, she thought horrified.
It was a merry-go-ride, she concluded. And she, an active participant. For years, James chased her and she'd let him. And now she was dizzy, close to vomiting but she never got off. It was worse than addiction because addiction she could fight, this… this was a never-ending merry-go-ride and no matter how long she waited for it to end, it wasn't going too. She didn't want it too.
She looked down the stairs, preparing herself for her morning walk-of-shame, with his parents no less. She tried not blushing when she saw them reading the morning Prophet. They looked up as she entered, red-faced but Euphemia gave her an encouraging smile and Fleamont looked at her utterly delighted.
"Lily, good morning," Fleamont said with a twinkle in his eye.
"Good morning," she swallowed.
"I'm glad you decided to stay the night," Euphemia started. "You're trunk is in the hallway. And…"
Lily gulped, and shook her head as Swifty appeared with a fresh cup of coffee that she took into her hands desperately. "It's okay."
"Well, James left early this morning. He was called unexpectedly for duty."
But Lily ignored the sinking of her heart or that voice telling her she deserved it. She had chosen this. Lily knew exactly what she was getting into and she never, not for one moment, actually believed he would be there when she woke up. Duty or no duty.
"He did want me to give you this," his mother said holding out a neatly folded note. Lily looked at her face, baffled. Euphemia pushed the note gently into her pocket and kissed her cheek. "Why don't you go upstairs and freshen up, and I'll let Swifty know to leave some food out for you?"
Lily nodded dumbly.
"Lily," Fleamont jumped, and Lily missed Euphemia's fierce glare, as her eyes remained unfocused as she clutched the note in her pocket. "It's not my place and I would never want to interfere but for the sake of love, James was tortured at the idea of leaving you this morning. I thought he would go mad with it, honestly."
Lily didn't have anything else to say. Nothing Fleamont said changed anything because what he said, she knew already. So instead she walked blindly back to her room, shutting the door and sitting on her untouched bed.
She had to get out of there, she had to get back to school, back to Smetty and somehow explain. Knowing the trouble that was ahead for her, Lily lay onto her bed and pulled out the note.
Her name was written neatly, and she wondered what answers James left inside. She opened it slowly, her heart racing. But there were no answers, just one line that read:
Whatever you decide, just know we end up together.
AN: So this is the "scene" that created this entire story, it was the first image that brought everything to life for me, and Style (the song choice) is really the song that represents everything about this story and where it's headed. So that's a little tidbit I wanted to share with everyone. And because this chapter is so important to this story and me, I would love to hear what everyone thought.
Also, just a small side note – it's a little shorter then usual but that's because this entire section was supposed to be part of the last chapter but I decided to split it into two when I realized it needed its own moving room. So I'll see everyone next chapter and hope you guys enjoyed!