Chapter 3 : A Conversation of Sorts
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Lily groaned and shielded her face from the bright light seeping through the windows. The curtains were annoyingly pushed aside and the sunlight was taking full advantage of the situation. She flipped over, intent on getting a few more minutes of sleep.
Her eyes suddenly flew open.
Where exactly was she again?
Lily turned around and stared at the ceiling, attempting to recall any memory of…was it the night before? She deduced that she had to have slept for at least a few hours, considering the early morning sun. She glanced around the room, noticing a table in the corner along with a chair. There was a bookshelf across the room from the table, and then a dresser complete with a mirror.
This was not the same room she had slept in when she had been training with Alice.
Had she been kidnapped?
And then…James Potter.
She groaned again and rubbed her eyes. And she had thought she had finally figured him out, that he had turned against the Aurors and had started working for Voldemort. She had already worked herself into a huge fit and was on the verge of completely ending all connections with him when it turned out that he was just acting.
Needless to say, she was embarrassed, but also quite angry. Even if he had been simulating an actual event, he didn’t have to use an Unforgivable. Lily glared at the ceiling. James had looked so happy and devilish when he had performed that curse.
She punched her pillow. “Of all the miserable, stinking luck in the world, it had to be…”
Lily was cut off mid-rant by the knocking on her door.
“Lily?” Alice’s voice seeped through the door. “Are you awake?”
“Yeah, come in.”
Alice poked her head in tentatively, and upon noticing Lily fully awake, her lips tilted up into a wide smile and she bounded over and practically jumped onto the bed. Lily was thankful that she had managed to narrowly escape what would’ve been a painful attack.
“I’m so relieved that you’re all right,” Alice said, sounding truly worried. “I had been so nervous that something had happened to you during that exam. Maybe a spell hit you in the wrong place or…”
“I’m fine,” Lily interrupted, waving a hand to show proof. She gestured out the window. “What time is it right now?”
“Nine in the morning.” Alice ignored Lily’s bug-eyed look. “Breakfast has already been served, but there are still quite a few people in the mess hall. I’m assuming that most here are late-risers. Either that or there haven’t been too many attacks that need special attention.”
Lily digested all the information carefully. From what Alice had said, she assumed they were in one of the Aurors’ many safe houses that were scattered throughout the country.
“So are you feeling up for breakfast?” Alice asked, rubbing her stomach. “I’m starving, but I’d feel bad if I ate first so I decided to wake you up.” She let out a huge sigh, as if she were about to perform a huge chore. “I’m such a good friend, aren’t I?”
Lily only snorted.
Ten minutes later found the two of them walking down the stairs. Lily was in awe of the safe house that they were stationed in. There were ten different stations in the area, and each held around fifteen Aurors. Most, like the one they were living in now, held only ten. After a year or two as an Auror, they were allowed to stay with their families until called for duty. By that time, the stations became temporary hotels until the Aurors’ duties were over.
The safe house was much larger than a typical house. If Lily were to guess, she’d say that it was at least six thousand square feet, but from the outside, it only appeared as two thousand.
The mess hall was noisy when they walked in. Lily’s jaw dropped at the sight before her. While she had seen a hoard of people congregated together back at Hogwarts, she hadn’t expected to see a dozen Aurors gathered in one dining area. And yet here the people were, some she knew, some she didn’t, chatting and eating as if they were young teenagers back at school.
“Feels like you’re back at Hogwarts, doesn’t it?” Alice said, her eyes sweeping the room. She suddenly grinned and pointed towards a long table. “Except for that food line.”
Lily smiled. “It reminds me of a buffet.”
“Buffet?” Alice’s eyebrows lifted. “What’s that?”
“Oh nothing much.” Lily shoved her friendly playfully. “It’s just a more eloquent and advanced term for your food line.”
“Well thanks,” Alice muttered, making a face.
Lily took a few slices of bacon, an omelet, some scrambled eggs, and three sausages. She opted for a box of cereal that she decided to save for an afternoon snack. From what it looked like, the goblets at the tables were charmed to fill and refill, so she headed off with Alice to find a table. They found an empty one near the corner of the room.
“You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for this,” Alice said. She picked up her fork, and five seconds later, three-fourths of the food had disappeared. Lily watched, wide-eyed, as her friend consumed every parcel of food on the dish. Lily herself had only gone through one slice of bacon and a fourth of her omelet.
Alice took a drink of her pumpkin juice. “When do you think the initiation ceremony will begin? I heard they’re forming new groups.”
“You’re going to have to ask Moody or one of the other leading Aurors. I wouldn’t know.”
“Still, I heard we don’t have any choice over the groups. It’s a little annoying.” The brunette frowned at her fork. “If we’re separated, there’s little chance that we’ll see each other.”
Lily looked up at that. “I’m sure we will.” She gestured around. “Unless there’s some earth-shattering mission, I’m sure we’ll be together quite often.”
Alice still looked unconvinced. “Yeah.”
“But look on the bright side,” Lily said, well aware of her friend’s mood. “We were partners before and we worked well together. They’ll surely take that into account.”
“Mm.” Alice’s eyes trailed across the mess hall, taking in the people seated at the various tables. Lily was about to take a bite out of her second sausage when Alice suddenly let out a loud gasp, causing Lily to choke and hurriedly take a drink of milk. She glared at her friend, but Alice paid her no heed. Instead, her gaze was focused on the entrance.
“Oh Lily, look!”
Lily merely raised an eyebrow, but Alice ignored her expression. Her eyes were sparkling. “Guess who it is.”
Lily went back to her food. “Roger?”
“You don’t know him? What a coincidence. I don’t either.”
Alice sounded exasperated. “Seriously, Lily. You’ll regret it if you don’t look up right now.”
And since she wasn’t very interested in getting Alice upset and angry in the morning, she sighed and glanced towards the double doors…
…and quickly closed her mouth so her half-chewed food wouldn’t fall out. Lily had always been in control of her bodily functions, but at the current time and current moment, she had temporarily forgotten that fingers were supposed to grasp onto objects. The fork clattered onto her plate.
Thankfully, her heart hadn’t jumped out of her throat yet.
James stood in the doorway, chatting with a few people from the table nearest to him. He had gotten rid of his Death Eater garb and was wearing a white button-up shirt with his sleeves rolled to his elbows. Dark trousers matched the shirt nicely. The outfit would’ve looked too formal on anyone else, but he managed to pull it off.
But that wasn’t what had attracted Lily’s attention. It was the girl standing next to him. And Lily had to admit, that girl was gorgeous, a picture-perfect model. With her tall figure and slim waist, she was the epitome of beauty.
It took Lily a second to figure out who she was and she didn’t like the answer.
Who else would James hang out with? Who else would be so fitting for him? And who else would be so perfect?
Alice, who had apparently lost all her tact in a moment of excitement, lifted her arm in a friendly wave and shouted, “Hey Potter! Over here!”
Lily nearly crawled under the table to avoid being noticed. Unfortunately, that didn’t bode well. First of all, an Auror cowering under a table was simply not acceptable. Secondly, James and Aileen had already glanced in Alice’s direction and had noticed her already.
And of course, they saw Lily as well.
James’ eyes widened and a bright smile lit his face. He gave a parting gesture towards the friends he had been talking to and pulled Aileen away from her conversation as well. Before Lily had time to think of another escape plan, James and his unknown-status friend had already appeared in front of them.
“Why if it isn’t Longbottom,” he greeted warmly. “So why wasn’t I invited to the wedding?”
“Because there hasn’t been one, Potter,” Alice retorted, playfully punching him on the arm. “I never thought I’d be saying this, but it’s good to see you again. And don’t get my surname wrong next time.”
James faked surprise. “And I had thought Frank would be entirely too pleased to have you in his hands.”
Lily focused on the half-eaten omelet. If they kept talking, they probably wouldn’t notice her, and then she wouldn’t have to deal with the whole meet-and-greet protocol just yet. She had a score to settle with James, but she certainly wouldn’t do so in front of his unknown-status girl friend…or was it girlfriend?
But of course, life just had to be difficult.
He had given his undivided attention to her. “Hello Lily.”
She looked up and saw James smiling hesitantly at her. He had a hopeful look in his eyes that she didn’t feel like shooting down at the moment. And because they were in public, she mustered up all the happiness she had in her and gave him a smile that she hoped could fool him.
“Hello James. How are you doing?”
His smile faltered, but only slightly. Apparently, he had caught onto her unhappy mood. She could only congratulate him for taking everything in stride.
“I’m pretty good,” he admitted, and then pushed Aileen forward. His smile grew wider. “Lily, Alice, this is…”
Aileen cut him off before he could further introduce her. “I keep on telling him I can introduce myself. He still doesn’t believe me.” She made a face at James, who rolled his eyes good-naturedly. Lily felt a stab of envy. Aileen stuck out her hand. “I’m Aileen Hollister, James’ childhood friend.”
Lily awkwardly shook the blonde’s hand. Now that she was closer, she could see that Aileen’s eyes were a lovely mixture of blue and violet. Lily diverted her gaze back to her omelet. How could she even compare with that girl?
“It’s nice to meet you too,” she muttered. “I’m…”
“Lily?” Aileen smiled warmly. “I know you better than you think.” At Lily’s surprised look, she nodded towards James. “He’s told me all there is to know about you, and then some.” Her words were light, her demeanor friendly.
Lily turned away from Aileen and looked at James with a barely raised eyebrow. Alice caught onto the look, laughed, and nudged her. “Oh look at you. You’re all speechless.” She held out her hand. “I’m Alice, Lily’s friend and her partner in crime. It’s nice to meet you.”
James tugged Aileen back and grinned affectionately at her. “I think you’re scaring them. You’re a little too friendly at times.”
“You’re just jealous,” she retorted. “It’s not my fault I don’t want to be stuck with you. My goal in life is to make as many new friends as possible and get away from you.”
“Yeah, yeah.” He snorted and seated himself at the table across from Alice.
Aileen took the spare seat next to him, which was consequently, across from Lily. Lily smiled, but it turned out as more of a grimace than a grin. Aileen, however, didn’t seem to mind. Her own mega-watt smile was sufficient enough for both of them.
“You are as beautiful as he says you are,” she commented, and took Lily’s hand in hers. “I’m not surprised that you and James had such a wonderful relationship.”
Lily eyed her, unsure of how to react. She and James had such a wonderful relationship? So what were they now? Friends? Or perhaps not even friends…only acquaintances. Time was supposedly able to cure everything. In their case, it only served to make things worse.
James was talking rather animatedly with Alice, but from time to time, Lily could detect his gaze settle on her for a few seconds. She adamantly ignored him, simply because she didn’t know what to say to him. The entire situation was awkward enough as it was.
“Hey Aileen?” Aileen stopped halfway through her story regarding one of the missions that she and James had gone on. “I just remembered that I have to get something from my room.” It was the classic excuse, and Lily was pretty sure that Aileen saw through it.
“I’ll go with you,” she offered.
“No!” Lily shouted, and then hastily corrected herself. “I mean, no it’s okay. I’m going to be back in a few minutes.”
“All right.” Aileen smiled. “If you say so.”
Lily headed out the door, only pausing to give Alice a reassuring nod. She headed down the hallway, grinning once in a while at those who acknowledged her presence. She didn’t know who they were, but meeting new people certainly didn’t hurt.
She made it to her room and closed the door behind her. She would’ve been lying if she said she was taking everything in stride. Lily felt as if she was about to burst with all the information and emotions that she had gathered throughout the half an hour that she was in the mess hall.
Peter really hadn’t been kidding when he had told her that Aileen Hollister was pretty. Lily covered her face and groaned. How could she compare to a model? Honestly, how could she? She wasn’t as tall or as skinny as the blonde. She wasn’t as friendly, as cheerful, or as carefree. No wonder James liked her…no wonder they were always so close.
Lily sighed and flipped over so that she was lying facedown into the pillow. What was she supposed to say to James? Congratulate him on rescuing his soul mate? Pat him on the back for finding such a wonderful girlfriend? She tugged on the corner of the pillow. Then what she? Some ex-girlfriend that hadn’t formally been dumped yet?
The thought was not pleasing.
There was a light knock on the door. Lily muffled the pillow over her ears in her attempt to block out the sound. If she ignored him, the caller would eventually go away.
“Lily?” She slowly lifted her head. “Lily, are you in there?”
Was it James?
“It’s James. Can I come in?”
Lily sighed and pulled the duvet over her head. She didn’t want to see him now. It would only make her remember Aileen, and then she’d inevitably blow up. And blowing up on the first morning that she was here did not pose for a good first impression for others. People might think she had temper tantrums or something.
She had hoped that he would give up after a few more tries, but she had forgotten that James Potter never gave up on anything he was after. She heard the lock click open and he entered the room. Lily held her breath. Maybe he hadn’t seen her? She was under the covers after all.
Her hopes were dashed when he softly closed the door. She could practically feel him walking closer to her. Closer…closer…
Don’t talk to me, Lily chanted. Don’t talk to me, don’t talk to me, don’t talk to me…
“Lily?” His voice was so soft that she could barely hear him. Then again, it could’ve been because the duvet was blocking the noise. “Are you all right?”
She stayed motionless. Perhaps if she didn’t respond, he’d think she was asleep and leave her alone…
James shifted. “I know you aren’t asleep,” he said quietly, though Lily thought she heard a tinge of amusement. “Talk to me. Please?”
Lily bit her lip to keep from retorting.
He blew out a sigh. She thought he was going to sit on the edge of the bed, but instead, he opted for the floor and kneeled down so that he was at her level. “I know you’re probably upset and frustrated.” James took a breath. “You’ve never been one to keep everything bottled up within you. Just tell me, Lily. Tell me what’s upsetting you.”
Lily had to restrain herself from launching at him.
“It’s been two years already.” He sighed and changed positions so that he was now sitting on the wooden floor, leaning against the nightstand. “You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to see you again…to talk to you. I was so unbelievably happy when I saw you yesterday. I honestly wanted to rush forward and kiss you senseless.”
She couldn’t hold it in anymore. She whipped off the covers in a flurry and sat up, her red hair wild and green eyes sharp. “So that was why you decided to use an Unforgivable on me?”
James’ eyes widened and he scrambled up from his seated position. His smile was disarmingly charming. “Lily! You’re talking to me!”
“So I am,” she said wryly. “And you still haven’t answered my question.”
He blinked. “What was your question again? Sorry, I…” And then it hit him. “Oh.”
“Yeah.” Lily nodded sarcastically. “I suppose ‘oh’ sums that up quite well.”
James raked a hand through his hair. He looked both nervous and anxious. It was rather uncharacteristic of him to be so nervous, but ever since he entered the room, he had seemed hesitant. Did she make him anxious? And for that matter, was there even a reason for him to be so uncertain? Unless, of course, he had cheated on her?
“Lily, you have to understand…”
“I don’t have to understand anything, James.”
He sighed. “I mean…well, I hope you understand. It was a simulation. And I was already acting a bit out of character. I was scared that you’d figure something out, and then you’d have to wait longer to take your exam.”
She crossed her arms, unimpressed. “So everything was all for me, right? It was to my benefit that…”
“No, of course not,” he cut in hurriedly. “Mad-Eye told us to make it as accurate as possible. If you had been captured by a real Death Eater, I’m certain that he wouldn’t have hesitated to use an Unforgivable on you.”
Lily snorted sardonically. “And that makes everything okay because you had reason to do what you did.”
James blew out a breath of air and shook his head slowly. “I know it doesn’t, but I just wanted you to know that the situation wasn’t entirely under my control. For what it’s worth…I’m sorry.”
She wanted to plummet him with her pillow. He was sorry? How was one word supposed to make everything okay? He used an Unforgivable on her. It was utterly…well, unforgivable. And now he thought that an apology would do? When would he ever learn that things didn’t work that way?
“Are you going to get in trouble for it?” she said instead, her eyes narrowed.
James shook his head. “It was part of the exam, so no. The Ministry isn’t going to do anything about it.”
“So if you accidentally killed me, then it would still be all right?” Lily raised incredulous eyebrows. “Somehow, I don’t think the Ministry was very smart about this whole process.”
“No, no, they were,” he reassured her. He shifted again, and from the way he grimaced, Lily could tell that he wasn’t in a particularly comfortable position.
“Why are you still on the floor?” she said flatly, and gestured towards the bed. “There’s plenty of space for both of us.”
He appeared shocked, to Lily’s amusement. “You…you don’t mind?”
“Why would I mind?” She surveyed him. “If you don’t pull anything funny, we’re both good to go. But if you try anything at all, then I won’t be held responsible for my wand’s actions.”
“Thanks.” James seated himself on the edge of the bed, a good distance away from Lily, but not too far to suggest that they had reached a point of hostility in their argument. “As I was saying, the Ministry made us take a few drops of Veritaserum to ensure that we held no ill will towards the Aurors-to-be.”
Lily sighed and her shoulders slumped. “I suppose that makes sense.”
“Yeah.” There was a pause, and then James asked, “So…am I forgiven?”
She threw him a sharp glance. “Forgiven? I think not.”
“Lily,” he said pleadingly. “I know what I did was wrong. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for using an Unforgivable on you. I’m sorry for causing you unnecessary pain. You can get back at me if you wish.” He glanced down at the mattress. “Just know that I really am sorry. I regret doing what I did.”
Any resentment that Lily still held towards him was wiped away in that instant. It wasn’t some heart-wrenching speech of hearts and stars, but it was enough for her. She hadn’t truly hated him…she was just upset. And now that he had apologized so profusely and meaningfully…
James looked up at her, his hazel eyes wide and rather innocent looking. Lily had to hide her smile. Since when had James been even remotely innocent?
“Fine. I suppose I can…”
Before Lily even got the chance to finish her sentence, James suddenly let out a loud whoop and tackled her. He grinned, eyes sparkling. “I can finally kiss you again.”
And then he leaned down and promptly captured her lips with his. Lily’s eyes widened in surprise, but she allowed herself to reciprocate it. His mouth was delightfully warm and the sensation was overpowering. He trailed feather-light kisses down her neck and rested his mouth against her hammering pulse.
“Merlin Lily,” James murmured, “you taste so sweet…sweeter than anyone else.”
Sweeter than anyone else.
The words brought Lily back to reality, and a sudden vision of a golden-haired, azure-eyed model came into her head. She abruptly pushed James away and sat up. How could she have forgotten Aileen Hollister? She mentally scolded herself for her stupidity and attempted to calm her breathing. The fact that James’ breathing was uneven as well didn’t really consol her.
He was confused. “What’s wrong?”
“What?” James’ brows furrowed. “I think she’s still in the mess hall. Why do you ask?”
Lily got off the bed and ran a hand through her disheveled hair, attempting to straighten it out. She smoothed out the wrinkles in her shirt and crossed her arms. “Well then I suggest you go and find her. What are you doing up here with me?”
James was shocked, his eyes wide and posture rigid. He remained motionless, still seated on the bed.
“And why did you kiss me just now?”
“Why should I go find Aileen?” he asked slowly, carefully. “And why shouldn’t I be here with you?”
Lily rolled her eyes. “Oh please, James. I heard what Aileen said down there and I saw you two together. The perfect couple, really. But I you should’ve at least had the decency to tell me that I’m no longer your girlfriend before you go off with some other girl.”
His mouth fell open. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m not daft,” she snapped. “If you don’t like me anymore you could’ve just said so. I won’t latch onto you like some bloody leech, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
James stood up and swiftly crossed over to her. He grabbed her shoulders. “Listen, Lily. I don’t know where you got the idea that I don’t like you anymore, but it’s not true.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Right.”
“Did you not hear what Aileen introduced herself as? My childhood friend. Not my girlfriend. You’re my girlfriend and nothing will ever change that.” He looked at her earnestly. “You got that?”
Lily shrugged out of his hold. “I’m not blind, James. I saw the look you gave her and I saw the look she gave you. You two were…you two were so perfect together!” She threw her hands up into the air. “Aileen is perfect. The way the two of you were holding hands when you came over to our table.”
James’ temper was rising, as evident in his quickened breathing. “What look? Just what look did I give her that’s made you so insecure about our relationship?” He glared at her. “And we weren’t holding hands. I was dragging her to your table.”
“Oh right, use that excuse.”
James closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “She’s my friend, Lily. You know about everything that’s happened. My dad and I managed to find her after she was captured by Death Eaters and we’ve managed to rekindle our friendship. That’s it.”
“You aren’t just friends,” she muttered. “You’re close friends.”
He looked at her exasperatedly. “All right, I’m not going to deny that. But she’s nothing compared to you.” He lowered his voice. “I thought we went over this two years ago. I thought you understood…”
Lily tilted her chin up. “Yes, we did. But things have changed since then.”
“What has?” he asked sardonically, his smile mocking. “Tell me, Lily. What has changed, other than the fact that we’re Aurors now and Aileen just happens to be alive and well?”
Her mouth fell open. “Are you implying that I want Aileen to be dead?”
“No,” he snapped. “You just have a habit of putting words into my mouth.”
“Funny how you’re trying to accuse me when you know perfectly well that…”
James suddenly pressed his mouth to her hers, successfully cutting her off. He looked at her earnestly for a few seconds before pulling away. When he spoke again, his voice was quiet. “I love you, Lily. I love you and only you. Why can’t you just accept that?”
“Because…” Lily had a hard time making her brain function properly when he was so close to her. “Because she’s so wonderful and you guys would be so perfect together.”
He shook his head. “We would be far from perfect. You and I are perfect together.”
She had nothing more to say.
James blew out a soft sigh and rested his forehead against hers. “Believe me when I say that nothing has changed, all right? You’re still my girlfriend, and if I have my way, you’ll be my girlfriend forever.”
Lily tilted her head back slightly to regard him. “Really?”
“Really.” And then he kissed her again.
She sighed and smiled against his lips. “Okay,” she said softly. “I believe you.”
“Thank you,” he murmured.
Author's Note: Hope there was enough drama for you guys in this chapter :) The length makes up for the last two shorter chapters! Next chapter will go more in depth with what exactly happened these last two years, and there will be more explanations regarding everything. Stay tuned!
And thank you all for supporting me :) Until next time!
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