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Chapter 28: Decisions
For a minute or two after James left the room, Lily found herself standing in the same spot, smiling to herself. She liked it when James was like that, teasing and light-hearted. There was something very warm about him, a quality that she had somehow always blocked out before – or maybe it hadn’t been there. The potential had been there, she argued with herself, but he had been too big an idiot for it to be fully realised. He had said he called her Evans for self-preservation – preserving what? His reputation as a joker? A sense of their old, love-hate banter? Or (her breath became ragged at the thought) his heart?
A curt voice cut into her meditations.
“Do you have to flirt so much?” Sirius stood with his back against the entrance to the boys’staircase, a pained expression on his face.
Lily moved towards him.
“Are you okay Sirius? I know you were angry about earlier, but you – you understand why I couldn’t give Severus up? Sometimes you’ve just... you know Severus has always had my back.”
Sirius looked at her, his eyes stormy.
“You’re very loyal,” he said. “ - to him.”
“Well seriously Lily, you can’t expect me not to be angry. Sometimes I just don’t understand your logic. You always gave me and prongs all this crap about not picking on Snape, and turning the other cheek when he was going out of his way to hex us, and Snape joins the death eaters, lets them into the school, puts Moony’s life in danger, and what do you do? You let him get away with it!”
Lily’s eyes scanned the common room anxiously.
“Shhh,” she whispered. “Do you want to go and talk somewhere a bit more private?”
Sirius rolled his eyes, but assented, grabbing Lily by the hand, and steering her out of the portrait hole, along the corridor and into an empty classroom. She leant against a desk, while he stood in front of her, still silent, his arms folded. Lily cast a quick muffliato spell, to ensure they weren’t overheard.
“Sirius, I don’t know what to say. Severus was my best friend once – I can’t just send him to the dementors.”
“Not even to protect other people, who’ve not made the mistakes he has?”
“Not this time. Maybe he’s learnt from this mistake – maybe he’ll change.”
Sirius shook his head incredulously.
“I just don’t understand you, Lily.”
Lily smiled sadly, reaching out a hand to him.
“This once,” she said. “Let it go.”
Sirius grabbed at her hand, and squeezed it tight in his own.
“You’re too nice to people Lily,” Sirius said, and his eyes blazed. “That’s the problem. Too nice to everyone, I can never tell what’s just niceness, and what’s real feeling. You treat me the same way you treat the rest of them, and it’s driving me insane.”
The conversation had switched so suddenly, that Lily couldn’t get her head around it. Sirius had her by both hands now, and as she looked away in confusion, he shook her, making her look up into his face, his eyes fixed fiercely on her own.
“When I see you talking to people that way – all big eyes, and laughing like you understand them, touching them all casually...”
“You and Snivellus is bad enough, but you’re like it with James, and you can’t use the best friends excuse there. I swear, sometimes I get so jealous I could just... And even with Moony now and then - ”
“Sirius don’t be like this. You know you’re the one I...”
“What, the one you chose? But that was before.”
“Before,” said Sirius, “You fell for James.”
Sirius laughed harshly.
“Don’t pretend Lily, you know exactly what I mean. Or, you should have been able to work it out by now. You two are a ticking bloody time-bomb and I’m going to be the one to get blasted aren’t I? When you finally click on to the fact that he is fucking besotted with you, and you like him back.”
There was a silence, punctured only by Sirius’s ragged breathing. Lily was furious. Why was he telling her what she thought, and how she felt? She had chosen Sirius hadn’t she? She had always made it plain that James was not the one for her, despite how he might feel. She didn’t want to think about the way seeing James’s smile always cheered her up, or how she still remembered that tiny brush of the lips during truth or dare, more vividly than any of Sirius’s kisses. She couldn’t think about how happy she had been in James’s arms, dancing on May Day. Everything was so messed up now, and the ball of tension in her chest began to snowball into a feeling that made her so confused she wanted to curl up and sob, until that feeling eased. Sirius shook her again.
“Don’t cry.” He snapped, and she realised her eyes were wet. She wiped them hastily.
“Sirius, don’t tell me what I think. We have to talk about this.”
“Yeah, we do.” He muttered. “And there’s something I’ve finally decided, I have to tell you.”
Her eyes grew wide, and he pulled her into his arms, her head on his shoulder. His lips murmured into her ear.
“I can’t do this any more Lily. Not to James, and not to myself.”
And now the tears flowed freely down Sirius’s back, but Lily didn’t make a sound. She wanted to shout at him to not be so stupid, but something told her this would be wrong. She had to let it end this way.
“I’m sorry Lily.”
She wiped away furious tears, then pulled herself from his grasp, facing him.
“I’m sorry too.” She told him. “Sorry I’ve made you feel jealous, and sorry that I let us keep this a secret. It shouldn’t have been.”
“No. Because that’s what made you feel guilty, and jealous and all the rest of it. Don’t feel bad about James, you’re a good friend. The best. And I really, really care about you. So much. You need to know that, if you don’t already.”
Sirius gave a bark of laughter.
“You know, I’ve never had a girl talk to me like that. That’s what I thought, that night in the common room, when I’d run away from home. You told it to me straight.”
“Yeah, I did. I reminded you about James, didn’t I?”
“Yep. That’s what you should’ve done in this situation, too, come to think of it. Reminded me that James always had my back – it might have made me do things differently.”
Lily suppressed a sob.
Sirius reached up, and brushed a hand through her hair.
“So this is it then?” he said, his voice gruff. “You know, this wasn’t what I had in mind when I dragged you in here. I was just going to yell at you about Snape. Don’t know what happened, really.”
“If you didn’t say it now, you would have said it sooner or later. I knew that it would be too much in the end. You and James are more important than you and me – that’s how it should be.”
“Bros before hos?” Sirius grinned at her, and Lily slapped his arm, playfully.
“Who’re you calling a ho?”
“I’m sorry.” He said. “I should’ve said, the guy I love, before the girl...”
He trailed off, as Lily’s eyes widened in shock. He realised he’d never told her, and by the expression on her face, she had never suspected either.
“Let me say good-bye, properly.” He said, and, half to distract her thoughts, half because he really wanted to, he pulled her towards him and pressed his lips to hers. As they kissed, a million thoughts and images flashed through Lily’s mind, but none lasted long, as Sirius’s mouth, hot and sensual against her own, quickly drove all other thoughts away. They clung to each other as if letting go would mean the end of their existence, and for a time that could have been minutes, or hours to Lily’s mind , they were all each other knew.
When they finally broke apart the room felt colder. Not only because they would now go their separate ways, but because the classroom door was open, and standing there, ushering in the draft, was James Potter.