No Headlights in Paradise
Chapter One – Timing Wasn't Right
Song Choice: One Last Night by Vaults
The final lesson of Seventh Year seemed to drag as Professor Flitwick repeated what Professor Slughorn, McGonagall, Kendall and Sprout has said before him: NEWTs were here, they were now and everyone should being studying extra hard and diligently because they were hard. That's why Lily couldn't explain to herself why she was staring at the back of James Potter's head, drooling a bit on her side.
"Can you stop staring at James for a second?" Marlene quipped as Lily whipped around, staring at her roommate with feigned denial.
"I wasn't!" And if she was honest with herself, she hadn't been staring so much as trying to get a whiff of his hair…
Marlene rolled her eyes, pitying Lily for denying herself something she so fundamentally wanted. The way she hung around James (and no doubt how James hung around her) it was like she was a dog in heat hanging onto every syllable coming out of his mouth wonderstruck.
"You should ask him out before NEWTs so you don't combust," Marlene suggested, hiding her grin as Lily shot her daggers.
"First of all, I'm not asking James Potter out! I don't have time for that. Haven't you been paying attention?" Lily said knocking her friend lightly on the head. "NEWTs are here and they aren't slowing down. And second, be quiet," Lily said in hushed undertones as she observed her empty scroll while ignoring the back of James' head that smelled like a woodshed remains from his Quidditch practice this morning.
Marlene shook her head and might have agreed that taking NEWTs were more important than focusing on Lily's none existent love life. But the fact of the matter remained that NEWTs were two and a half weeks away, and anyways anyone who was anyone were really focused on the Quidditch house cup tomorrow morning: Gryffindor vs. Ravenclaw. The excitement was palpable as banners hung in the hallways depicting the soaring eagle or roaring lion, spirit days taking hold of the castle as people wore House colors and good-natured pranking occurred from both sides that included rocket launchers in rival houses, or sending stink bombs into their common rooms.
It was all in good fun really, much more manageable than Gryffindor vs. Slytherin that was the game beforehand. In not so many words, that had been a death trap with hexes and jinxes flying everywhere, people ending up in the hospital wing missing all their teeth, laying in a daze in the middle of the Grounds naked. The teachers had been quite happy when that fuss had concluded.
"Did you catch that, Lil-" but Marlene exhaled as she saw Lily staring again at the back of Potter's head. It wasn't so much a shock as she had been doing it constantly the entire school year. It had begun with what Marlene dubbed 'the Snape episode' that found Lily and James screeching at each other on the last day of Fifth Year.
The fight had been supremely uncomfortable to witness as it had occurred in the middle of the common room entailing every single Gryffindor watched (and would later share all the dirty tidbits to the other houses). James, at the time, had just hexed a third year for sitting in his "seat." Lily stormed over, wand pointing at James and uttered Levicorpus. The crowd gasped and erupted into laughter as James hung upside down, his face turning into a tomato.
"EVANS, let me down!" he roared as Sirius made to release him but Lily had shot an Expelliarmus, catching his wand in the air before turning to face James again.
"How do you that like?" Lily challenged. "Being hung up for no other good reason than because I felt like it?"
"Evans, let me down or else!" James roared again in frustration, struggling against the invisible restraints as a few Third Year girls giggled in a comer.
"Or else what? You'll hex me like every other innocent person? Listen here, Potter," Lily said as she flicked her wand causing James to face plant with a thud onto the floor face. "You are good for nothing, arrogant bully that goes around demanding attention for no valid reason expect because you think you are good looking and smart."
James slowly got up and glared at her fiercely. "At least I'm not a stuck up priss that demands attention by fluffing her hair, being a tease in order to get what she wants and be a goddamn know it all. And you know what? At least I am good looking and smart."
Lily's eyes had gone impossibly wide before she jinxed him. Boils sprouted onto James' chin as he yelped before pointing his wand in turn causing Lily's hair to stand up straight like a cone and turn into a shade of magenta.
The common room, meanwhile, stared scandalized as the two, well liked, fun and kind Gryffindor's threw juvenile curse after juvenile curse at each other that left the room looking like an array of fireworks had exploded.
Sirius, after Remus shoved him forward, caught James in a tight grip. "Lay off, yeah," Sirius muttered to a heaving James. James tried to shove him off but Sirius kept a firm grip.
Lily's wand hand was shaking as she continued pointing it at snarling James. The two looked as if they had emerged from an underground, dirty tunnel and were spray painted with the colors of the rainbow. It might have been amusing if Lily's eyes weren't wet and James wasn't shaking uncontrollably.
"You are the worst scum, Potter," Lily whispered.
"At least I'll never wake up and have to be you," James snapped, finally pulling away from Sirius and moving forward to stand right in front of her. "All I ever did was fancy you. And now you stand there like you are the victim. Go to hell, Evans."
"Fancy me? You never fancied me, you just saw me as another challenge to brag to your groupies. Making spectacles just to get attention like always."
"You're delusional," James barked.
"You only paid attention to me because of Severus," Lily expressed as she stepped forward, her wand pushing into James shirt causing a small burn to form. "You hated him and couldn't wrap you're small witted brain how a Gryffindor and Slytherin could be friends so you chased me to make me feel stupid and make him angry. You never fancied me! But, alas, you got your wish, are you happy? Me and Severus aren't friends anymore, mission accomplished!"
The outburst was unexpected as everyone watched James take a step back. "Whatever, Evans. You win, is that what you want to here?"
"It's not a competition for me, Potter. But with you I'm always right."
James scoffed and gave a heartless laugh. "At least I can never say I was willingly 'best friend's' with a Death Eater. So yeah, whatever, at least I can brag about not being a total idiot."
The tears that had previously threatened to spill fell, and when they did James looked above her. "You're are the worst, James."
James eyes snapped back to hers. Her eyes bleak as comprehended that Lily had uttered 'James' for the very first time since First Year. This is how she saw him, and she could say whatever she wanted but he did, in fact, fancy her. And this was how he treated her? Her wand was quivering in her hand and he was staring at her appalled, engulfed in his own self-loathing as James rolled over their very public spat.
He twisted his hand through his hair and sighed heavily. But even though he felt the entire room ogling at them, it felt like it was only the two of them. He heaved in relief as she lowered her wand and stared brokenly back at him. He turned away, ignoring her as he climbed the stairs to his dormitory.
The train ride home had been a wreck. Lily had accidentally slammed into James on the way to the restroom. The words seemed to be stuck in her throat as their eyes locked eyes with uncertainty and regret etched into their movements. It seemed, they silently and mutually agreed, ignoring each other was the best solution.
With the start of Sixth Year, Lily and James had kept up with their silent agreement and barely vocalized two words to each other. Lily had come to deeply regret the fight that had occurred. She been extremely embarrassed from her actions, and found it was simpler to study in her dormitory because being surrounded by the tangible tension in the common room when James or his friends were there was constraining.
James had become solemnly quiet. He focused on studying for NEWTs to gain acceptance into the Auror Academy and preparing his Quidditch team. The fight had been an extremely low point considering he viewed himself as a generally 'good guy'. The words he had thrown at Lily plus their fight after the Defense OWL and that night caused him to reevaluate.
Marlene hadn't been paying much attention but one day she had been studying in the far corner of the library when she had stumbled upon Lily and James sharing a table. They weren't speaking, in fact it seemed as if they weren't even acknowledging each other as both their noses were buried deep into their respective books. But every day when Marlene passed the library she would see Lily and James sitting at the same table, studying or even occasionally sharing a book with no talking, no acknowledgment. And surely enough, one day James asked for Quill, Lily asked for the time.
It appeared the anger mended, a silent apology, and Lily and James became inseparable in their silence. They would walk to class silently, eat breakfast silently, while sharing the Post silently. To anyone who saw Lily and James walking in between classes it appeared they had gone from adversaries to being the closest of friends. But it had been silent, gradual struggles for the two too reach the amicable silence they had achieved.
For Lily, it was facing James several months after their fight in the Potions section of the library. Potions had once been the subject she most looked forward to because of Severus. She had felt trigger happy and popular from the constant compliantly remarks from Professor Slughorn through Severus' assistance. Her and Severus would also talk non-stop during class about newest spells, shortcuts in Potions and other lessons. Therefore, facing James Potter in the Potions stack that housed her happiest memories from that friendship forced her to acknowledge that the only person who uprooted her happy memories with Severus was Severus. Blaming James was rudely unfair.
Because if Lily thought about it honestly she had always known that James and his friends were only out for a laugh. Severus, and his Dark Magic, was aimed to hurt people of her own heritage. The Marauders couldn't ruin something that Severus had shattered himself when he had called her a Mudblood.
So, in a quiet peace offering, Lily smiled a bit awkwardly as she handed him him the book she had been sure he was sought. When he took the book from her hand, his stare very confused, she shrugged her shoulders to downplay their obvious discomfort and followed him back to his table so they could read the book together.
But James had been extremely baffled at this change of demeanor but decided to run with it because angry Lily, mean Lily, calm Lily it all meant that Lily was acknowledging his presence. Anyways, for James, his epiphany occurred midway through summer holiday. Thinking of the manner in which he treated Lily, a girl he claimed to fancy, haunted him. After countless broods on his tire swing, and after an extended dizzying period, he figured that his bullying actions didn't make him any less different than Snape calling Lily a Mudblood. It was only through this that he could change, because change, as his father steadily put, only came when the person effectively acted upon it. And he couldn't be better for his parents, his friends, or Lily: only for himself.
With Lily's realization and James's epiphany, Seventh Year brought the Marauders and the Gryffindor girls merged into one trendy clique. As the year progressed, James and Lily found themselves spending an unprecedented amount of time together through their duties of Head Boy and Girl. The atmosphere between the two seemed heightened with nervous energy, especially for those who spent more than five minutes with them.
"Kiss already!" Marlene exclaimed as she shook Lily's shoulders who just laughed wearily.
With true motive to spend time with each other, the two became intense friends. It became a Monday and Friday reoccurrence for them to share patrols in the evening hours. Everyday before dinner the two would sit in the library studying and assisting each other through difficult subjects as they were taking 7 NEWTs. It was youthful and giddy excitement, as they would sit shoulders touching in the common room playing Exploding Snap.
It was obvious to everyone around James that even though he had found Lily attractive before, as he spent more time in her presence his crush turned into enchantment. Walking down the halls he would grasp every word she said, listen intensely as she explained her opinions to him, smile dazedly at her in class. And everyday it only increased to the point that just touching her hand gave him electric currents.
Lily, who hadn't been as enamored with James for as long, was treading on a deep uncertainty. There was no denying she felt more than friendship for James. But the feeling was confusing considering she had never had a boyfriend, kissed a boy or even had a real crush on someone who wasn't a celebrity. And whenever he was around, she found herself drowning in his hazel eyes, watching his lips move and daydreaming what it would feel like to have them all over her body. It would be at this point where Lily would mentally shake her head and remind herself that James probably didn't want to go out with an inexperienced prat. But that didn't stop her from spending each day with him. Maybe her fear was just an old record on repeat because she was certain that he stared at her the same way she found herself staring at him most days.
Lily snapped out of her daze when Marlene pushed her, registering that class was over and she hadn't taken down one note. She groaned before Marlene knowingly passed over her own.
"Thanks. I'll uh see you later," Lily uttered as she un-hurryingly put her notes into her book bag and picked up her books and glanced over at James who was repeating her slow tactics. But Marlene hadn't even bothered waiting because Lily and James always lingered at the end of classes waiting for each other pretending they weren't.
Lily smiled shyly at James as he strolled over, his book bag slung casually over his shoulder.
"Hey, Evans," James grinned as he flicked her nose.
Lily stuck out her tongue causing James to smirk smoothly down at her that caused her stomach to rupture with excitement.
"Hey, Potter," Lily said playfully.
"Carry your books?" he offered, taking them without preamble. Lily had to swallow as she felt his fingertips graze against hers.
She followed him out of the empty classroom, grinning when she felt him put an arm around her shoulders. They walked slowly towards the common room, Lily's favorite walk because it was the longest one.
"So, Quidditch game tomorrow," she asked conversationally. "Am I going to be strolling with a champion tomorrow?"
"Well, considering we are going to slaughter them tomorrow… I'm thinking yes."
"Humble," Lily said dryly as James laughed.
"What can I say, when you've got the skills I've got…"
Lily chuckled as she wrapped an arm around his waist, squeezing his hip that caused James to bring her body closer to his warm, solid one. She swallowed again.
"Do you have practice again?"
"Nah, figured I would give the guys a rest before tomorrow… Which you'll be front and center for?" James inquired offhandedly.
Lily stopped, turning to face him completely causing their eyes to meet and both her hands touching his waist. She shuddered as his hands traced down her hips to wrap around her waist.
"Of course I'll be there, James. Why wouldn't I be?" she said quietly, a warm sensation heating through her body.
"You haven't always gone to Quidditch games," and Lily saw the ounce of insecurity trying to hide behind casualness.
"Haven't missed a game this year, have I?" she murmured, tracing the lines of his robes as she moved them up and down, settling once more against his waist.
"You haven't. What changed?" as he paralleled her movements as his body moved closer to hers, his lips inches from hers, as his hands moved further up her waist as his thumbs stroked at her ribs. Her heart bellowed as their foreheads touched and the warm sensation circled to her lower stomach.
"You're my best friend, how could I miss them."
James hands stilled immediately, gripping her firmly as his eyes darkened. "Best friend? That it?"
The response dried in her throat, because yeah, James was her best friend. Wasn't he exactly the definition of a best friend? The first person she sought when she had to share something with or seek comfort from?
It was as if a cold bucket of water dropped over her as James removed his hands and took a notable step backwards as his eyes moved to the wall behind her; a move she learned he did when he was unreasonably upset and couldn't formulate a fair response.
"Right," he said, her heart ramming faster than before as she tried to meet his gaze but he broadened his shoulders making him taller. "Right. Well, I uh, I uh told the boys I would meet them in the common room before dinner so I better go, meet them."
"James," but he already turned away. He stopped briefly though at her cry but when she didn't say anything else so he kept moving.
His sudden departure left her standing there not clearly grasping were their moment had gone so completely wrong. Obviously the word "friend" bothered him. But they had become friends; not withstanding if he had bothered to make a move she probably would have reciprocated. It wasn't like she cuddled up like that with Sirius or Marlene! How could he just walk away so passive aggressively? Hadn't she been accusing him of being too aggressive for years now?
"Bad luck, sister," the painting with four nuns exclaimed.
Lily marched back to the common room, raving in her head. It was so undeniably rude and arrogant and immature of him to just walk off like that! To assume without even letting her explain and than storming away from her as if she was some perpetrator! She had practically thrown herself at him, giving him the neon yes sign. It wasn't her fault that he was too insecure to see! Heat exploded through her body as she climbed into Gryffindor Tower sweeping the room to give James a piece of her mind.
Maybe she wouldn't go to his Quidditch match tomorrow. It wasn't like he considered her a friend or anything. And it would serve him right.
"Where's James?" she demanded when she found his friends instead.
"Last I saw he was drooling over you in Charms," Sirius said not even raising his head from his chess match with up Peter.
"He said he was meeting you guys," Lily retorted as Sirius finally looked up into her blazing stare.
"Now, Evans, don't look at me like that. It doesn't make me know where he is anymore than I already do."
Lily huffed as she fell back against the open seat. "Well if you see him tell him I'm looking for him."
"Eye Eye captain," Sirius snorted. "Now, why don't you tell us what happened?"
The question deflated her anger a bit as she looked at Sirius a bit helplessly. "I don't really know honestly. One moment I think he was going to kiss me and then the next he is storming away because I called him my best friend."
"Ahh," Sirius said as he looked pointedly at Remus who sighed. "You can deal with this as you speak girl."
"I don't speak girl, I just treat them like human beings," Remus snorted before facing Lily's glare.
"Lily," Remus said softly that instantly calmed her. "I'm not exactly sure what your feelings are but you know James harbors more than a small crush on you. I'm sure he just felt a bit put off that you called him a friend."
Remus' words confirmed exactly what she had been thinking but hearing it out loud caused her to feel a squirmy un-comfortableness in her stomach.
"But he is my friend! But that doesn't mean, I mean that well… you know, that I don't think of him that way," Lily spoke blushing profusely at her admission that she hadn't even shared with her roommates.
The three boys gapped at her and she shrugged her shoulders.
"I'm going to go upstairs," Lily said pointing her thumb to the stairs.
Maybe, she considered as she fell upon her fluffy bed and looked at the ceiling, it was a good thing her and James hadn't move forward tonight. School was about to finish, and if all went well, she would be off to Cornwall for another year of schooling to become a Healer. And James talked at extensive length on his plan to attend the Auror Academy after Hogwarts concluded. Everyone knew that the classified training, though not focused in one location, was based in London. Granted Apparition existed but it still felt far. It wasn't like they would be living together that already enabled them to spend less time if together. And they would be busy with studies and training as she imagined the extensive practice she had heard about Healer practice. From the rumors, she assumed Auror training wasn't any easier.
She growled into her pillow, sincerely regretting not thinking about this earlier. Maybe if they had started dating earlier in the year they could have figured out something. But now the year was ending, and would be staring a new relationship be a wise decision? She knew she wasn't a Muggle but wasn't this always the period her father had expressed as the years of growth and learning by meeting new people? She did like James but maybe it would save the two of them a lot of heartache if nothing came to be instead of something that would eventually end with broken hearts. What did her mother always say? It wasn't about what she wanted it was what she needed. Did she need James?
With that alarming thought coursing through her veins, the door to the dormitory burst open and Marlene and Mary walked in, arm in arm surprised to see her pouting in her bed.
"I thought you were off with James," Mary asserted plopping onto her own bed.
Lily shrugged noncommittally.
"Something happen?" Marlene incurred but Lily didn't answer but instead buried her face into her pillow.
She knew Marlene and Mary were looking at her expectantly but she just didn't feel like dealing with their silent stares or curiosity. She just wasn't up to explaining her feelings or that the fact that even though she liked James the timing wasn't right. Maybe later, in the future, pointedly ignoring the flaw in her plan that explicitly forgot the war outside the castle that could potentially keep the two of them separated for years to come. And than she would never experience James…
"Ugh, fine don't tell us!" Mary said exasperated. "The two of you are exhausting. I'm not even invested anymore honestly."
"You know, Lily," Marlene said ignoring Mary's outburst. "It's customary for the Quidditch captain to give the Snitch to his real 'snitch' if he wins."
"I've never heard that before," Lily scoffed.
"What? Why would she make that up! Of course its true," Mary said offended for Marlene.
"Then why have I never witnessed this?" Lily said with raised eyebrows.
"That's because the captain only does it his Seventh Year as like a last grace, you know? Anyways, last year James couldn't give you the Snitch because he wasn't a Seventh Year, yeah. And the years before that I'm sure you just weren't paying attention," Marlene explained. "The only ones who really pay attention are the desperate girls, really."
"What happens if the girl rejects it?" Lily allured by the tradition.
Mary scoffed. "Of course you would ask that."
"It's like an acceptance thing of 'beloved adventure' or something like that. It's an old fairytale actually, The Seeker and the Snitch. So the girl either accepts the proposal and takes the Snitch and it usually means that the couple will forever in ever happiness. And if she rejects him, the girl will let the Snitch into the air to keep searching for the right adventure."
"I don't know if I believe this…" Lily said rolling onto her side to look at them. Marlene and Mary were facing each other as they played a game.
"Lily, no offense, but you're Muggle-born. There will be some things we will always just need to educate you in, like that time we had to explain that you didn't need to use that Muggle machine to dry your hair," Mary commented without looking up from her game.
Lily crossed her arms. "You guys can be the worst, you know."
"But what would you without are wisdom," Mary conceded. "Anyways, do you think James will give you the Snitch when we win tomorrow?"
"What?" Lily sputtered, not considering that possibility. What if he did give her the Snitch?
"Obviously he is going to give it to Lily," Marlene intervened.
"Yeah, will Lily accept it though is the big question at hand?"
"Excuse me, I'm right here," Lily said unamused.
"Sure," Marlene said waving her hand lazily in her direction.
"I highly doubt that James will be giving me the Snitch, if what you guys are talking about is even real," Lily frowned.
The two girls paused their games as they turned simultaneously to stare at the redhead.
"I'm sure even Professor Binns knows James is going to be giving you the Snitch," Marlene stated. "So explain to me why you think he won't? I mean, Lily, even after all this time don't tell me your still denying the fact that he fancies you?"
"And that you fancy him right back," Mary added.
Lily scowled but sobered at the reality was that if she didn't have a word in with James before the game, even if she wanted him to give her the Snitch he probably wouldn't. She bit her lip sadly as she remembered him walking away. "I'm not denying it… both ways," Lily said slowly and hushed Mary when raised her hands in triumph. "But we kind of got into a, well I'm not really sure what it was but James is mad at me."
"Lily!" Mary said, getting up and jumping on her bed from excitement. "One fight can't change the fact that James has liked you for five years."
Lily overlooked Mary's words and kept going. "And that doesn't change the fact that the year is ending and me and James are both off to separate places. This might just not be the best time to start a new relationship."
At her words, both Marlene and Mary gapped at her similar to how the Marauders did downstairs. "Really, Evans. Sometimes you are just something else."
"It's just timing, is all and that's just… sometimes you have to deny yourself what you want because you just don't need it," Lily faltered as a pillow was hit straight into her face.
"How can you know you don't need it if you never had it!" Mary all but yelled before dropping back onto her bed. "I can't deal with you sometimes. You think way to much."
"I'm trying not to be offended by your comment," Lily said angrily.
"Well if your angry at least you are showing emotions," Mary intoned.
"I have emotions!" Lily growled becoming really cross now.
"We know you do," Marlene said raising a hand to quiet Mary. "It's just a shame to deny yourself something you so obviously want."
"You don't see me pressuring you to go back to Sirius after he is so obviously sorry!" Lily informed sick of the two of them. Sick of being told what to feel and then told she didn't feel. She did feel! She felt so much that it was overwhelming. Just because she wasn't as close to them as they were with each other didn't mean that they could just so casually discount their words towards her.
"Hey!" Marlene said displeased. "That's different."
"It doesn't feel different when someone is trying to tell you what to do and how to act."
"Me and Sirius were in a relationship, you know that. But you aren't even letting James get close to you. That's all you both want."
Lily didn't respond because everyone was so sure they knew exactly what she wanted without asking first. She wasn't dumb and she could make decisions for herself. If it was the wrong decision than she would learn from it but people couldn't enforce something upon her.
Lily got up, about to take her books when she realized that James still had them. Perfect. "I'm going to the library, don't wait up."
And without turning around she left; she ignored the feeling that James had done something similar to her but Lily had just about enough of people for today.
Lily sat dispassionately in the Transfiguration section pretending she wasn't hoping to run into James in his favorite subject's library section. And then she reminded herself that it was very doubtful James would be wondering around the library the night before the final game.
"What, not with Potter before his big match?" a voice sneered and Lily's head snapped up from the book she had been scanning to face Severus.
She reminded herself that he was jealous and she couldn't give into that. They may not be friends and he might have turned completely to Dark Arts but she still had a warm spot for him in her heart.
"Can I help you with something?" Lily asked patiently.
"Just wondering why you are hanging out in the library on a Friday afternoon is all," he said, and Lily's patience was waning at the spiteful tone. "Thought you would be off with Potter."
"Severus," she started and than realized she didn't know what to say. He had broken her; he had lied, made her believe that she was special, promising he would always be there. And maybe he had believed them when he proclaimed them but the way he so callously tossed her aside depicted to her exactly the kind of person he was. That was something she couldn't ignore.
Before she could work out something though a shadow appeared at the end of shelves, and Lily twisted around to see James, his stance hard as he looked at the two of them.
"James!" Lily said ignoring Severus completely as she moved towards him, putting a hand on his crossed one. "Can we talk?"
James looked at Severus and than down at her and nodded. He took her hand a bit possessively and glared at Snape. "Snivellus."
Snape had the mind not to answer and turned away as Lily glared at James. "That was uncalled for."
"Why do you even defend him?"
"It's not about defending its about the fact that it was unprovoked," Lily reiterated.
"You wanted to talk?" James said ignoring her statement.
Lily wondered if they would get anywhere with James childish mood but decided it was worth the try. "I wanted to make sure we were good."
James seemed to humble at her words and take both her hands lightly in his. "I was going to apologize for walking away like that earlier."
"Yeah, but we're good?" she said standing on her toes and smiling up at him with her luminous eyes.
"Water under the bridge, Lils," James said smiling warmly at her.
"Good," Lily exclaimed as she set back on her feet still holding his hands. "Secret?"
"What?" James said looking down at her with an amused smirk.
"I was waiting in the stacks to see if you would come by," she giggled as he wrapped both his hands around her and hugged her tightly.
They started walking to dinner together, and though it appeared 'water was under the bridge' a tight tension seemed to fill them even as they sat with their friends. They hadn't really discussed what had bothered James and that might have been better with the game tomorrow. But Lily couldn't help but feel apprehension surface as she fell asleep that night that James ignoring her seeped much deeper than Severus' betrayal.
Lily shuffled around her rowdy common room as the colors gold and red poured around her. An uncomfortable feeling squirmed in the pits of her stomach watching the various 'Potter' stickers being passed around. She was sitting near Fifth Year Eloise Moore, a prefect Lily had taken under her wing, as she painted small Snitches onto girls cheeks.
"Want me to write 'Potter'?" Eloise asked sweetly as she flicked her wand to refill the sparkling colors.
Lily gave her a tense smile. "A Snitch is fine." Marlene and Mary rolled their eyes as two Fifth Year girls painted blazing lions on their cheeks.
Lily bit the inside of her cheek watching people surrounding the Quidditch team. James was getting hugs and claps on his back from various friends and girls… At breakfast, the crowd seemed to multiply as admirers from Hufflepuff came over to wish the team good luck. Even if Lily hadn't felt awkward from their tiff yesterday she was pretty sure, she deduced pitifully, she wouldn't have been able to get a peep of him anyways. Watching at how easily Marlene and Mary entered the heart of excitement, she felt an isolation she reprehended herself for feeling as she chose not to follow her friends but sit at the lower end of the table towards the teachers. Lily poked her eggs moodily as she watched Bryony Rose from Hufflepuff flirt shamelessly with James. She tried to keep her eyes off him but James was exactly where he needed to be: center of attention, his easy smile flying high, his flamboyant posture and camaraderie taking over. All this reminding Lily that maybe she wasn't what James needed. Or maybe, a small voice rustled in the back of her mind, she would be sitting there with him if she only allowed herself so.
As the team started moving to leave the locker room, Lily felt her heart sputter knowing this may be her only chance to wish James luck. She stood without thought, and briskly walked towards her best friend. Lily grabbed his hand before he reached the main door. The second their hands touched a blissful silence encircled her providing a confidence she had previously lacked.
"Good luck," she murmured.
He swallowed, and Lily hoped the blissful silence had encompassed him as well. He moved to twine their fingers, heartbeat in adagio as their palms met.
"Thank you," he said. "I'll be watching the stands for you."
"Score a goal for me?" as she brought her free hand to his bicep.
His free hand twisted around her waist, bringing her closer to him and leaned down, whispering into her ear that allowed only her to hear his hushed tone. "All the goals are for you, when will you see that?"
The noise returned instantly as his teammates dragged him away, laughing at James to quit his seducing until after the game. Lily was left standing there in the middle of the Great Hall watching the bouncing forms of people moving in and out, her eyes lingering at the retreating form of James as she tried to calm down her now hammering heart. It wasn't working.
She felt someone wrap their hand around her neck, and felt Sirius pull her out of the room as their friends started walking to the match.
"C'mon, gotta find a decent spot for James to kiss you when he wins the match," Sirius claimed, dragging her out in a headlock that caused Lily to step onto his foot. Behind them, Remus and Peter sniggered and Marlene and Mary giggled excitedly.
"Poor, Sirius, are you hurt?" Marlene fake sympathized as she moved her hand scandalously down his arm.
He glared at Marlene than at Lily who shrugged innocently as she skipped ahead to swing her arms with Remus.
As they reached the Quidditch pitch, they climbed the steps further up the stadium as the thrill of the match began cheering Lily up from her previous state of mind, or maybe it had been James' attention…
They found a Sirius approved spot in the middle of the front row, and Lily leaned against the railings as she narrowed her eyes at the two teams way below her, her eyes spotting James whose back was behind her giving last minute instructions. Lily felt like one of his admirers as she acknowledged his rigid stance in his Quidditch robes, the way he moved his arms against the tight material and the curve of his windswept hair against the backdrop of the blue day. She pointedly ignored her friends mocking her.
"And it's finally here!" Jaxson Grant of Gryffindor said into the enchanted microphone that caused Lily to jump from her staring as she saw the purple vs. red face each other. "Gryffindor vs. Ravenclaw. And in my 100% unbiased opinion, with absolute no care in the results there is no doubt that roaring lions far outmatch the eagles here."
"Grant," the harsh tone of Professor McGonagall was heard in the background and Lily smiled up at the Fourth Year as he tried reassuring McGonagall that his House had nothing to do with his opinions.
"And captains Potter and Hicks line up for the customary shake off. There is no doubt the undefeated Gryffindor team is at its prime with Potter as captain these last three years. After two championships under his rein, Potter is now going for that undefeated season. Keeps challenging himself that Potter."
They watched as James and the Ravenclaw captain Joshua Hicks shook hands before the whistle pierced the air and two teams plus the balls zoomed up into the arena like splash against the atmosphere.
"And the teams take off, and already Potter has the Quaffle! He's headed towards the goal post, there he goes past Jefferson for the defense. You've got this Potter! Go Gryffindor!" Grant shouted before adding so McGonagall wouldn't admonish him. "In my total, 100% unbiased opinion."
James swept passed a Bludger, passed between two Ravenclaw members sideways, and Lily bit her lip at the pure exhilaration on his face watching as, his palm raised with the ball firmly in it, and he aimed perfectly into the middle goal line.
"And Potter scores! 10-0, Gryffindor," Grant burst through the microphone as the crowd erupted round him and Lily jumped up and down happily as her and Sirius hugged each other like little school girls.
"That's my boy!" Sirius said.
Lily removed herself from Sirius' embrace and watched as James made a loop, his eyes scanning the bleachers, landing in the middle of the field as his gaze settled on her. Her heart skipped a beat. He pointed his hand at her and mouthed for everyone to see: "For you,"before resuming the game.
Lily turned bright red as people's head swished to face her, people barely registering that Gryffindor had scored again. She tried to control her flushing emotion but it was deemed impossible as she found herself solely watching James on his broom.
"And Ravenclaw has the ball, it's passed to Ainsley Dixon who passes it to Donald Drake. C'mon Marlowe, block that ball!" Grant demanded of the Gryffindor Keeper but it was no use as the Gryffindor crowd groaned as Drake swept left, the ball passing Marlowe and into the goal post. "And it's 20-10, Gryffindor.
"And Potter has the Quaffle, he passes it to Collins, who is blocked by Quincy. Quincy has the Quaffle now, passes it to Hicks who is intercepted by Potter!"
Lily watched as James rushed forward ready to strike before passing it to Nathaniel Troy who with no defense easily scored.
"And Collins of Gryffindor has the ball, looks like she is going to score again. Hear that Ravenclaw, better up that defense! As we all know, Potter is playing his final game at Hogwarts. Leaving the team in the capable hands of Marlowe, Troy, and Collins we hope…"
Lily laughed as Marlowe blocked another goal from the weak Ravenclaw offense, and then glared at Grant before point to the Gryffindor Beater to direct the next Bludger to the speaker box. Grant raised his hands in blamelessness and continued commenting on the match. The game continued and Lily watched fascinated as James scored another two goals, his fellow Chaser Zara Collins scoring too bringing the score to 60-10.
"And Potter headed to score his forth goal zooming past Hicks and-"
But before Potter could score, he was hit with Bludger to his back that caused the ball to fall out of his hands and Grant to jump screaming: "FOUL!"
But the game continued onwards, and Ravenclaw scored again bringing the game to 60-20 Gryffindor. Lily focused on James throughout the game as he moved easily between his fellow teammates, yelling out instructions and encouragement so when the Bludger hit him her heart tanked and she screamed his name inadvertently and loudly. Normally, James would have recovered but hearing her utter his name he turned his head in her direction.
She opened her mouth in surprise as he faced her and James stared at her round-eyed.
"James! Get your head back in the game," Collins yelled as she pushed him than glared at Lily. "Oi! Keep the flirting for after the game, yeah?"
The people around her laughed but Lily blushed again and felt herself burying herself further into her seat as she covered her face with her hands. She missed Ravenclaw scoring again bringing the score to 60-30, Gryffindor.
"And its Potter with the Quaffle. No denying that when Potter has the Quaffle its very likely he will score! And he does! 70-30, Gryffindor."
Lily kept her mouth shut as the game furthered and she watched the Gryffindor team move in tandem, amazed to think James brought this all together. He, after all, was an impressive Head Boy so of course that would also reflect on the Quidditch pitch. The sync in which the team moved was exciting as the ball moved from one player to the next.
Lily hadn't been a big fan of Quidditch in her earlier years, attending a game here and there. Mainly, she just didn't understand because no one bothered to explain to her the roots or various formations or balls. She began attending them regularly in Sixth Year for a lack of activity and one time during a Ravenclaw vs. Slytherin game she sat in the upper corner with James when their relationship had still been diplomatic silence.
"I don't think I understand," she finally said as she watched a player get hit with a Bludger.
"What's not to get?" James asked distracted as he took written notes of the various plays the two teams were doing.
"Well… all of it," she finally admitted that caused him to pause and gap at her. "I mean, its just no one really took the time to explain it to me and well I've never really been into sports before but… well flying. Should be pretty cool, right?"
She was embarrassed and looked down when James laughed. Sometimes being Muggle-born was so hard but James brought his hand to her chin and she looked up at him, it had been the first time they touched. Really, it was one of their first conversations too.
And then James in an excitement that excited her detailed the game explaining everything to her in a simplicity no one had bothered with before. By the end of the year, she was an avid Quidditch fan, waving a flag at the championship game of Gryffindor vs. Slytherin. All because of James… And watching James, the amazingness that he could collect in himself, she wondered what he even saw in her.
"And it's late into the game 100-40 Gryffindor. And Collins is headed towards the is that the Snitch?!"
Immediately, hundreds of eyes narrowed on the two Seekers who were pressed low against their brooms as they zoomed upwards to a distinct flash of light in the background. Lily jumped against the railing as she yelled in pressure at the Forth Year Gryffindor Seeker Harper Clyde who reached forward, swatting the Ravenclaw Seeker's hand away out of the way, and wrapped her hand around the Snitch.
"GRYFFINDOR WINS!" Grant was screaming into the microphone. "That amazing catch by Clyde! She is an amazing catch! GRYFFINDOR WINS, GRYFFINDOR WINS! GRYFFINDOR HAS NOW WON FOR THE THRID YEAR IN A ROW!"
The crowd went absolutely wild as Sirius roared pumping his first into the air, Marlene and Mary hugging each other giddily, Remus and Peter jumping up and down, and people running wildly into the pitch in celebration.
The team was hugging high into the air, wrapping their arms around Harper than James than each other. Lily was left in the stands smiling mildly as she watched the elation below her, trying to suppress her questionable angst as she fiddled with her fingers. It took her a moment to notice James was left in the air too and was flying towards her. Lily's breath hitched as he moved closer.
"Need a ride?" he offered, swooping in front of her that would allow her to jump on.
She bit her lip as she climbed behind him, wrapping her hands around his sweaty body but leaning her head against his anyways as he made another victory lap, twirling them in the air backwards that caused Lily to giggle loudly into his ear.
"Faster," he pretended to hear as he zoomed in another circle before aiming to the ground causing her to squeal as she gripped him closer, her quick remark lost on her throat as the grass grew closer, the wind more vigorous against their bodies. Before they smashed, James easily swooped down, setting his feet firmly onto the ground, presenting his hand to assist her in getting off.
"Now you've got hair like me," he joked touching it lightly.
Before she could respond James was bombarded with hugs and cheers. Lily tried moving away to allow him his freedom but he pulled her closer to him that forced anyone to hug him acknowledge her too. As if she was his girlfriend… Lily warned herself. But Lily couldn't help but smile gleefully as Bryony Rose sulked away when she had tried to get James alone.
"Way to go!"
"Party in the common room!" Peter informed.
Lily felt content in the crook of James' neck, kissing his neck lightly as she looked up at him. His hand squeezed her hips and he whispered into her ear before kissing her neck softly. "I want you alone."
The warm sensation returned to her lower stomach as she swallowed harshly. She tried authoritatively to remind herself of the decision she had made yesterday. It felt useless as she was wrapped in James so securely, his hands causing her body to feel flushed against him as he moved his hands to kiss her neck before being called up to the podium where Dumbledore held the Quidditch cup. She wasn't his girlfriend. She wasn't his girlfriend. She wasn't his girlfriend.
The Quidditch cup was awarded to the team and they passed it around, touching it with overwhelming glee. But Lily watched in panic as Harper passed James the Snitch, James catching it swiftly between his fingers, throwing it and catching it with an easy confidence that Lily lacked. Her mind asked her politely to move away and disappear into the crowd but she remained bolted into her spot as James effortlessly jumped from the podium and moved to her, presenting the Snitch in his hand.
"A Snitch for a Snitch," he said, holding out the fluttering ball in his hand. His eyes were amused as she hesitated. "Catch it and don't let it go," James warned as she reached for it nervously as she watched the white wings flutter desperately to escape.
She heard the jealous sounds of girls behind her, the jibbing from the males but she only had eyes for James as he finally released his hand of the Snitch. But she hadn't been quick enough.
The Snitch flew into the air, vanishing into the cloudless sky. The crowd watched in an anxious silence. Lily's heart ached urgently as she suddenly, without doubt, deeply regretted what had just happened. Watching the Snitch fly away she just knew that James was all she wanted, need or no need. She looked up at him as she made to grab his hand but he flinched. He seemed to deflate even as Marlowe jumped back onto his broom and offered to look for it.
"I'm sorry," Lily said pushing through the crowd that seemed to confine them but James moved away from her, allowing the crowd to carry him up in their arms and move him away from the cause of his sorrow.
The party was overwhelming for Lily as she hid close to the fireplace. The celebrations entered into the early hours of the morning with people dancing on the make shift dance floor, drinks in hands while they chatted lightly about the excitement of the game. Other students milled around the food table eating Honeydukes candy and chocolate while a few older students played drinking games in the corner. Peter and Remus had lit up a banner that roared with sparkling lights glowing against the room.
Lily removed from the celebrations but unable to escape them, watched James dance with a blonde Sixth Year she had never really spoken too. That girl hadn't made a fool of him in front of the whole school by releasing the Snitch into the abyss. So Lily curled into the couch talking with Fifth Year girls who hadn't realized she had completely ruined everything. She smiled tightly at them but her eyes kept focusing on James who seemed determined not to look at her.
She got up than from sheer frustration, removing herself from the conversation politely. She was about to leave when a split decision after she glanced at James, decided right there that James was her best friend, she might have accidentally let go of the Snitch but she could still dance and celebrate with him.
So with a backbone that Godric Gryffindor would have been proud of she moved through the crowd and tapped James' dancing partner aside as she stepped in front of him, paying no heed to the huff of indignation from the girl.
"Can I cut in?" she asked to no one as she wrapped her arms around his neck, disregarding his shock or the gossiping stares.
When he wouldn't move, she wrapped his hands around her back and moved her body to the beat of the music.
"What are you doing?" he finally asked as he stopped her movements by gripping her hips.
"I'm dancing," she informed him and continued.
"Lily," he said sternly but when she didn't react he grabbed her forcefully. "Lily stop."
"Why?" she demanded as she pushed his hard hands off her refusing to assume these hard hands had replaced his gentle touch.
"You're embarrassing yourself." His words echoed around the room as Lily's eyes redden and the courage evaporated as James looked above her. "I'm sorry, but I can't pretend anymore."
Her misery was filling her. "You don't know what you're saying," she said quietly but it didn't matter. Everyone was listening.
"Want to do this here? Again?" His arms outstretched moving around the room as his eyes snapped back to hers.
"James," she said hastily because she didn't want to do this here, she didn't want to do this again in front of everyone, again.
"Stop, what? Stop us? You're the one who keeps leading me, allowing me to wrap my arms around you, helping me with lessons, staying up with me all night just to keep me company! And then you shuffle off like I haven't thrown myself at you for the last five years! How about you stop?" His anger growing as steadily as his voice.
"James, I don't want to do this here," she said faintly but he didn't hear her.
"You can't just decide how I should act or be or do or feel! You're so stubborn you won't even let yourself be happy. I mean, you and me, we could be so happy together but you push everyone around you away that you're left standing alone all the time. I can't keep following you around hoping today will be the day you'll finally let me in. I've had enough… I can't pretend to be your 'best friend', I don't want to be your 'best friend' and me and you and everyone in this bloody room knows it! You don't have a right to stand there and pretend you care when you don't! I mean, goddammit Lily, you know I fancy you!" He said harshly.
"James-" but even if he hadn't interrupted her she didn't believe she knew what to say. How could she explain when he was calling her out in front of everyone?
"Stop with the 'James', just stop," his hands shoving into his hair as he looked away from her and around the common room as déjà vu entered her and she could feel his dejection at the pits of her body.
Each word felt like a whiplash against her skin, and flash of annoyance burst through her body as she looked at James who was standing there as if he had all the answers without learning them.
"You're being unfair."
"I'm unfair?" he snarled. "You're-"
"You're standing there as if I can read your mind! I'm not a Legilimens!" Snapping as her temper flared and she lashed out. "You didn't ask me out! Besides holding me and helping me with lessons and rumors from Fifth Year you never gave me any indignation until recently that you were even interested! I didn't know because you didn't tell me once during those late nights, while I was helping you study. And now it's the end of the year and its too late. You're leaving and I'm leaving and we aren't going in the same direction so why would I want to start something that will end anyways!"
The silence was pregnant as James stared wide-eyed. "You, you like…" but the words couldn't escape his mouth.
"Of course I do! How can you stand there and think I have no feelings after everything we have shared this year and last? I have so many feelings, James," she sobbed as the tears slid down her. "And now it's too late. That's on you."
She turned around because she couldn't face the rejection, the whispers or the heartache anymore. Best friends, why did she bother if they always left? So she twisted around and glared at James furiously because fool me once shame on them, fool me twice shame on her. "I thought you were my real best friend, and I think I fell in love with that."
James moved to grab her arm and she let him. And it was the same like Fifth Year because she already regretted her outburst but this time OWLs weren't ahead of them but after them. NEWTs were two weeks away and she had to focus and then she would be off to Cornwall. And James would be off to London.
It felt like they would continue repeating this cycle repetitively as if they were destined to constantly come close but miss each other. So he removed his hand and she moved silently up to her room.
Hope everyone enjoyed! The next part should be up sometime next week (fingers crossed:)