Lily seemed almost weightless as she ran through the corridors, attempting to chase after the only friend she’d ever had. She didn’t seem to care that it was well past curfew and that if she was found, Filch would surely crush her hopes of catching up to James. She didn’t care that detention was an extremely likely possibility should she stumble into a professor or even Peeves, who would take no hesitancy in ratting her out. She didn’t seem to hear her shoes pounding against the floor or the rustle of her shirt as she sped towards Gryffindor Tower. All that she could seem to recognize was the pounding in her ears and the heavy thump of her heart against her chest. While she knew she was running as fast as her short legs could possibly take her, she couldn’t seem to get there fast enough. James Potter’s long limbs would have surely carried him past the portrait hole before she even reached the corridor leading to the Fat Lady. Somehow, she knew he hadn’t gone to his dormitory. Somehow, she could sense that he was waiting for her. It was as if she knew that he could feel her coming. He’d caught her eye in that last, minuscule moment. They’d made contact and it had been in that split-second that Lily had realized that something was not right. She had hurt James and that was the very last thing she wanted to do.
Reaching her destination didn’t make things any easier. Lily knew that once she entered that common room, there was no turning back. While she was rather clueless as to where James fit into her rekindling romance with Michael Crouch, she also knew that something was seriously wrong. Instinctively, she knew she had broken a heart tonight and it hadn’t simply been her own. Her relapse into a previously failed relationship hadn’t been a mere masochistic move. She had inflicted pain upon the one person who had been helping her mend for the past few months. It had been James who had seen her through all the pain and the loneliness. He had kept her sane. And, here she was repaying him by going back to the source of the problem. In that small moment they’d shared back in the Astronomy Tower, Lily had seen complete and utter failed etched upon his face, something she was not quite used to seeing expressed by the ever-confident James Potter. She needed him to know that he hadn’t failed her. If anyone had failed, it had been her. She wanted him to understand that she was the weak one, that she was the one with the problem.
With only a slight hesitation, Lily offered the Fat Lady the password before hurrying into the common room, her hair disheveled and her face hot and red. She was a mess, but that was the very last thing on her mind as she saw a clearly angry James Potter pacing the common room, his fists clenched and his hazel eyes most presumably seeing red. Upon hearing her entrance, he glared up at her, the hurt still lingering upon his face, even through all of the anger.
“James, let me explain!” she insisted, her voice completely and utterly exasperated. She was out of breath and out of mind and simply exhausted. She allowed her hand to touch his arm for only a second’s time before he swiped it away out of pure disgust with her.
“Don’t touch me!” he roared back at her, his tone so unlike the caring, thoughtful one she had grown accustomed to hearing. He seemed at a loss for words. He had been waiting for her. Waiting to simply blow up at her. But, now, he was simply lost as to where he should begin. She could see the emotions literally trailing through him. He’d never been able to truly conceal how he felt. His eyes were far too betraying. “How could you, Lily? After all he’s done to you? Everyone knows he hit you. Everyone! The whole tower. Why do you think everyone walks on eggshells around you? No one wants to cause you anymore pain than that bastard’s already done. Have you forgotten what you used to be like when you were with him? Have you?”
Everything he said, well, it wasn’t a shock to her. She had known that the careful, almost mindful eyes of others had been upon her since her fourth year, when she’d first engaged in a relationship with Michael Crouch. She’d done her best to conceal the bruises throughout the years, to act as if the shouting never bothered her, but obviously, she hadn’t been good enough. James had always watched her. It’d used to make her uneasy, but now she knew she was simply just some source of immense pity for him. As he made mention of the life she’d led for two years, the empty shell of a person she’d been under his controlling hand, Lily couldn’t help but remember the several times she’d attempted to convince him that maybe acquiring a friend or two wouldn’t do her too much harm. She remembered the many nights she’d cry herself to sleep, having walked away from a conversation initiated by a fellow housemate. She’d been unreachable for so long. Until this year, that is. Until James had brought her out of her cage. “Yes,” she said meekly, her eyes failing to meet his. “I remember.”
“Of course you remember!” he shouted, his question having obviously been a rhetorical one. “How could you not? You’re so witty and so charming and so damn intelligent, Lily. You’re too good for him and you just don’t see it. He’s got you wrapped around his little finger, having you come-and-go as he pleases. I’m sure it’s his conscience acting up every now and again. When he’s sick of cheating on you behind your back, he just cuts you loose, only to lure you in again. You’re just so damn oblivious, Lily. To everything! To his faults. To his lies. To what’s standing right in front of you!”
His words hit her hard. Especially those last few. ‘To what’s standing right in front of you.’ She looked up at him, his eyes glaring intensely into hers, waiting for something, anything, from her. While Lily had certainly seen James Potter become frustrated, perhaps even annoyed, she had never seen this side of him. He was livid. However, she wasn’t scared. Even as he raised his voice at her, she wasn’t afraid. All Michael had to really do was get a certain look in those cerulean eyes of his and she was shaking. She never felt that way with James, even as he grew more furious than she’d ever seen him before in her life. Even through this all, she felt safe. No goosebumps, no tremors, no paling – nothing. Only disappointment in herself. She’d let him down, that much was certain. “You’re right in front of me,” Lily said softly, hoping that maybe, just maybe, she could get him to understand that she knew she’d made a mistake. Even as her lips had met with Michael’s, she’d known that it was all wrong. It’d tasted so good and she’d longed for him so much, she’d wanted the cure to her loneliness, but deep down, she’d understood how terribly bad for her Michael Crouch was. He was a drug she couldn’t seem to refuse. It was an addiction. And James had been her refuge for so long.
“It may have been me who was in front of you before, Lily,” he said quietly, his eyes deeply saddened by the sight before him. “But not anymore. I’ve done more for you in these past few months – hell, these past few weeks, than he’s done for you in two years. Doesn’t that mean anything at all to you, Lily?”
“Of course it does, James,” she insisted, hoping to God he realized how completely sincere she was in saying such a thing. “You’re one of my best friends.”
“Fuck you, Lily. Fuck you. I don’t deserve this. You just don’t get it. And, maybe, you never will. He’s a prick. And you’re still as blind as ever. As for me, I’m going to bed. Hope you enjoy the rest of your evening.”
With that, he was gone. She could have sworn she saw his hazel eyes clouding over, growing watery, but perhaps it had been the anger. Something inside of her longed for him to come back down those stairs and realize that she hadn’t been lying. He was probably the best friend she’d ever had. The only friend, really. As good as she had felt earlier that night, she’d never felt so truly empty in her entire life. She’d thought losing Michael had been devastating, but somehow, it couldn’t even amount to how truly detrimental the loss of James Potter was upon her. As the saying goes, ‘You never truly know what you have until it’s gone.’ And, deep down, Lily knew that James was, indeed, gone. He was done with her. That much had been made apparent. And, honestly, she couldn’t blame him. He did deserve better. So much better.
Despite the fact that before meeting Michael, Lily had never been one for tears, she found the flow to come easily to her now. Having felt quite literally drained of all the energy within her body, Lily had settled upon the couch before the fire and had fallen asleep, hoping that maybe, just maybe, James would come down. She needed him to understand. She needed him to know how truly sorry she was, for whatever damage she’d inflicted upon him. It’d seemed as if she hadn’t even gotten much of a word in edgewise, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered. He’d seen enough to have his mind made up about her.
However, she did not see James that night, nor did she see him the next morning. She did, however, feel someone shaking her awake, her eyes peeling open ever so slightly to see the rather displeased face of Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew standing behind him. While Lily had certainly had her fair share of run-ins with the Marauders, the only one she’d ever bothered to get to know was James and that was only recently. Michael had always scrutinized their behavior, making jest at their childish ways and scorning the fact that Sirius was the biggest blood-traitor to have walked the planet. So, obviously, she knew of them, but never before had she really had a conversation with them. Lily had never really been allowed to socialize and she very much doubted that any of the Marauders would welcome the chance to chat up Michael Crouch’s girlfriend.
“Hope you’re wide awake, Evans,” Sirius said disdainfully, obviously not caring too much that she’d never received a more rough awakening in her life. “Because we’ve got to talk.”
Sitting up and rubbing her eyes, Lily inquired quietly, “What about?” although she already knew the answer to that question.
“Don’t play dumb with us, Evans,” Peter hissed, his watery eyes glaring down at her. She’d never really ever heard him speak outside of class, which made this blatant harassment on his end seem rather unexpected.
“Now, Wormtail, don’t forget your manners,” Remus said under his breath, even though he didn’t seem too fussed at the tone in which Peter had addressed her. She and Lupin had patrolled together for the past two years, side-by-side, but she still, to this day, didn’t know a damn thing about him. They had never developed a sense of closeness in all that time. He, obviously, had sided with his friends in believing her relationship with Michael to be a betrayal to the ideals of Gryffindor house.
“Screw manners, Moony. She ought to know what she’s done,” Sirius said darkly, his handsome face looking rather menacing, so unlike the carefree, cool manner he seemed to carry around with him hour after hour.
It was really the first thing she could think to ask them. It was the only thing she cared about knowing, really. She needed to speak with him. Perhaps the daylight had softened his temper. Perhaps he would listen to what she had to say. He needed to hear the true remorse in her tone and acknowledge the fact that she was so very, very sorry.
“Funny you should ask that,” Sirius answered, seemingly taking it upon himself to speak for the group. He didn’t seem to have a problem with addressing her coldly, while both Peter and Remus opted to simply glare down at her from their standing positions. “Prongs left hours ago. Didn’t even flinch when he noticed you sprawled out on this couch here. Just trounced on out. All the better, really, since it’s about time he was done with the likes of you.”
“Black, please, you don’t know the full story - ”
“We know,” he spat darkly, looking squarely into her eyes as he said it. “We know it all. And, you know what, we probably know more than you do. From the way Prongs tells it, you don’t seem to have a damn clue. You’re so wrapped up in yourself, Evans, that you don’t seem to notice that what you do affects those around you. I know you don’t have a lot of friends and, wow, it’s a wonder, considering who you’ve called your significant other for the past two years, but that doesn’t mean that no one cares about you in this castle. Don’t get me wrong, Evans. I could care less about you and whether or not you’re screwing Crouch in the sodding Astronomy Tower. But, James cares. And when you hurt my best friend, you hurt me. You offend one Marauder, you offend us all.”
“I didn’t mean to hurt him,” Lily insisted quickly, knowing that she could very well be cut-off at any moment should she not spit the words out as quickly as humanly possible. “I care about James, too. More than you guys could understand.”
“Are you in love with him, Evans?” Lupin asked softly, eyeing her closely. It was obvious that the three boys standing before her obviously had reason to be so overprotective of James. “Because, I highly doubt you are if you’re off snogging Crouch. Sirius was right. We understand more than you do. He’s in love with you. Madly, hopelessly, deeply. And you’re too blind to even notice that every word, every gesture, was done out of true affection for you. He’s always cared about you, Lily. He used to rant over how cruel Crouch was to you. But, now that he’s been given the chance to get you know you, he’s completely gone. He was so patient with you, more than he’s ever been. For months, all he’s been talking about is helping you discover who you really are. He’s been trying to get you to realize how incredibly loveable you are and that you deserve better than Crouch. And even if some of us can’t really agree with him, we do understand that his feelings are real.”
“Honestly, Moony, why don’t you just confide everything in her, why don’t you?” Sirius shot out, throwing Lupin a glare that fully said, ‘This isn’t why we’re here.’
“I’m trying to help her understand what she’s done, Padfoot,” Remus insisted calmly, obviously used to Black’s short temper. “She doesn’t know the whole story.”
“And it’s not our job to fill her in,” Sirius reminded his friend. “We’re here to warn you, Evans. Stay the fuck away from our friend. We mean it. He doesn’t need to be hurt by you anymore than he already has been.”
With that, Sirius stood from where he’d sat on the couch and strode out of the common room, Lupin and Pettigrew following him, most likely to find Potter and console him. As if she hadn’t felt like complete shit before, she quite possibly felt even worst.
Lily knew what she had to do, but actually doing it scared the living hell out of her. She’d never really been able to stand up to Michael Crouch. He’d always had a sort of power over her. One glare and she was a wreck. He had her at his fingertips. Breaking away from that now seemed impossible. He’d lured her back in, so strongly, and now she had to sever ties with him once more. The entire morning, James Potter had ignored her very existence. He hadn’t looked at her, he hadn’t talked to her, he hadn’t smiled at her. She never really knew how much she relied upon him to keep her day bright and occupied until he was gone. The Marauders took every opportunity available to shoot dirty looks at her, primarily Sirius. She could fully understand why they were mad at her.
James Potter loved her. That was something. Mind-blowingly shocking to her. Everything he’d said, everything he’d ever said, made perfect sense to her. He’d been the one to come to her defense when he’d seen Michael blatantly manhandling her. He’d been the one to shoot off green fireworks off for her at Halloween, despite the fact that they were traditionally orange, gold, and red. He’d been the one to help her understand where it was Michael was coming from and why he’d been acting so strangely. He’d been the one dragging her down into a snow bank, making snow angels with her even when he’d declared that snow angels were a threat to his masculinity. He’d been the one to listen to her endless rants against Michael and as she’d voiced her insecurities and thoughts and feelings. He’d been the one to sit with her by the lake and reminisce over where life had taken them since the year before. He’d been the one to show her his secret spot in the Forbidden Forest and climb a tree like a careless seven year-old child alongside her. He’d been the one to change, the one who had demonstrated the utmost patience in her. He’d been the one to save her. And, in a matter of moments, she’d let it all come crashing down before her.
He really did love her. And, now, she understood it. She hadn’t seen it before. Sirius had been right. She’d been too selfish and too afraid and just too damn oblivious. Now, it was her turn to give back a little. Even if she knew he wouldn’t give her the time of day. Not this year, maybe not even the next.
During dinner, Lily had walked slowly over to the Slytherin table, where several sets of eyes were glued upon her. Sitting down beside Michael, she whispered in his ear, “We need to talk,” and took his hand, leading him out of the Great Hall. Smirking, he cast a knowing glance to his fellow housemates, a smug look about him, as if he were about to get lucky. Whether he truly believed such to be true or he was just putting on an act before the others, Lily couldn’t say. But, he couldn’t have been anymore wrong.
Lily could have easily led him to some secluded area where they could privately discuss the matter, but she didn’t have the courage to do such a thing so far away from help. She knew that this wasn’t going to end well for her. His temperament had never been able to handle the word, ‘No.’ Almost immediately upon striding out of the Great Hall, she felt her back being pressed against a cold wall and his lips were on her neck, his hands traveling everywhere and anywhere they could.
“I knew you’d want to finished what we’d started last night,” he moaned, his fingers having found her buttons once more.
However, this time, she wasn’t going to give in. She was going to stay strong. For James and, more importantly, for herself. “No. That’s not why I brought you out here,” she insisted, shoving him off of her with all of her might. It worked.
“What the fuck, Lily?” Michael growled, honestly confused by the situation. He obviously hadn’t seen who she’d been chasing after last night. He had just thought she’d bailed. And her eagerness to ‘speak’ with him had been completely misconstrued.
“This, whatever you think we have left between us, is over. End of story. No more owls my way, no more secret rendezvous in the Astronomy Tower. Nothing. From this point on, we’re finished. You ended it before and, you know what? I think you had the right idea. I’m done with being your little rag doll. You’ve had too much power over me for so long, Michael, that it’s gotten to the point where I don’t know who I am anymore.”
“This is about him, isn’t it? This is about Potter. You’re screwing him, aren’t you? Aren’t you, you little whore?”
And, before she could respond, having only said, “No, it’s about you,” she felt it. She felt the blow of his fist to her skin, the feeling of cold blood rushing down the corner of her eye, which he’d split with that one single blow. Attempting to get away, but stumbling as her vision was blackening ever so slightly, she felt his hands on her arms, gripping into them, bruising them with that first touch.
“You think you can pull something like this over on me, you filthy, dirty mudblood? No one, and I mean, no one cheats on me and gets away with it. I hope Potter likes them dead because that’s all you’ll be once I’m through with you.”
And, once more, she was weak. She was powerless. She was incapable. She was going to die at the hands of her boyfriend, just as she was beginning to feel so strong once more. Just as that part of her James had brought out was emerging through, she was back to being that same helpless girl she’d been for the past two years. But, so suddenly, his grip softened and she was released. As Michael fell to the ground, Lily looked up and saw James Potter, his wand outstretched, Professor McGonagall following shortly behind him.
Not particularly caring about what situation she’d just been in, Lily said softly, “James.” He’d saved her again. And she didn’t deserve it. However, he didn’t return the words with any sort of endearing response. He simply stood there, looking down at Michael Crouch with immense disgust plastered upon his face, as blatant as the light of day.
“Potter, take her to Pomfrey to get cleaned up. Assure her that this will be dealt with immediately and that an expulsion is most likely in this young man’s cards. He won’t be harming her anymore. You got that, Potter?” McGonagall asked, levitating Crouch, her eyes narrowed as Professor Slughorn and Professor Dumbledore emerged from the Great Hall, all off to the Headmaster’s office to finalize the arrangements to be made.
Walking towards her silently, James put his arm around her shoulders and led her to the Hospital Wing. No words were passed between them. The only sound that could be heard was the sniffling of her nose as the tears flowed heavily. She couldn’t think of anything she could say that would fully express how truly thankful she was to have someone like him in her life. However, when they reached Poppy, he left almost immediately, leaving her to explain how she’d received the cuts and bruises.
Just as before, he was gone. He may have saved her, but some things hadn’t quite changed.
Madam Pomfrey had insisted that Lily spend the evening in the Hospital Wing, but Lily had refused. She’d snuck out of her bed that evening and headed towards Gryffindor Tower. It was extremely late, but she knew one person who would still be awake. She knew that someone would be waiting up, wondering if she’d return. It was that one person who she wanted to speak with more than ever before. Despite the warnings the Marauders had set against her, despite all that she’d been through, all that she could fully focus on was James Potter.
And, surely enough, as she entered the common room, there he was, sitting by the window and gazing out of it. He’d known she’d come back. He’d known they’d have to meet one another face-to-face for the second time that evening. It’d only been twenty-four hours, but Lily felt as if she’d been separated from him for days. However, as she walked over to him, all that she’d been planning on saying to him, all that she’d wanted to share with him, rushed out of her.
She didn’t deserve to have her piece with him. She didn’t deserve to try and justify her behavior. She didn’t deserve to have him back as her friend, maybe even more someday. She’d treated him awfully and that was all there was to it. She couldn’t just expect him to forgive and forget. It wasn’t right. Even after he’d saved her, even after everything, she couldn’t just expect anything from him. It wasn’t fair. He’d wasted so much of his time and energy on her before that she knew that to ask him for more was cruel. For the first time, Lily was thinking selflessly. She didn’t want to cause him any more pain than he was already in. She may have been the battered and bruised one, but James Potter was carrying around the same wounds. Every blow Michael dealt, he suffered. Every tear that fell from her cheek, he suffered. She’d inflicted pure agony upon the poor guy and, still, somehow, he’d still found it in his heart to save her life.
He’d tried so hard to ignore her presence, to pretend as if she wasn’t there, but when she was within inches of him, he turned, a sad look in his eyes, and met her gaze. Without putting much thought into it at all, Lily leaned in and kissed the corner of his mouth, knowing that only days ago, he’d have probably readily returned such a gesture. Now, however, she’d missed her chance. He loved her. He still loved her. But, he didn’t trust her. She understood this without any sort of words escaping his lips. “How can you love me, James Potter? How? After everything I’ve put you through? How can you find it in your heart to keep on caring?”
And, to her immense surprise, he spoke. “Unlike you, Lily, I can’t just force myself to fall in and out of love with someone. It doesn’t work that way.” Shaking his head of unruly hair, he walked past her, heading up to his dormitory and leaving her, for the second consecutive night, cold and alone.
Author's Note - I am so, so, so sorry. It’s been ages. I have not given up completely. I do want to finish this story. It’s my baby. I hope I sort of redeemed myself. This chapter just came to me. It’s 4 AM and I haven’t checked it, so I’m sorry for any grammatical errors or typos on my part. I hope you enjoy!