James was running at full speed from the Quidditch pitch. His footsteps thundered on the ground, crushing the blades of grass beneath his trainers. The trees blurred passed him and the sun behind him was beginning to set. If he had time he might have paused a moment to admire the spectacular reddish yellow glow the sun was emanating on the blue and gray sky. It was important and not an accident James felt that Godric Gryffindor had chosen these colors, the colors of the sun – intense, powerful, and vital for all living things, to represent Gryffindor. And it was a clear sign to James that Gryffindor clad in red and yellow would win the next Quidditch match against the blue and grey Ravenclaws.
Where had the bloody time gone?
He was late and not just by seconds…minutes for sure.
James couldn’t remember how long ago he had dismissed his team from practice. It hadn’t gone well; Chasers had acted as if their fingers were butter-coated, dropping simple passes; Beaters performed as if some other force had control of their aim; the Keeper couldn’t concentrate, and their Seeker was in the hospital wing, sick with the flu.
There had been around forty minutes until the Prefect meeting last time James had checked. James had walked half-way back with his teammates and the Professor watching over their practice, and then had pretended to have left a textbook in the team locker room. As Quidditch Captain and Head Boy the Professor had mistakenly believed that meant he was responsible and would return to the castle straight away. James hadn’t. He’d grabbed the precious time to soar through the sky alone and unchained. The rate of time always passed differently for James up in the sky, and unfortunately today it had passed very quickly without his notice.
Reaching the entrance into the castle through the courtyard, James jostled and rattled the bay doors with frustration. He almost took out his wand to blast it open when he realized in his haste that he’d tried to open the left section of the door, which was always kept locked instead of the right. Feeling incredibly foolish even though no one had been around to witness it, James hurried inside. The meeting was on the fourth floor and James took off in a run again.
“Potter!” the voice screeched through the hallway.
It was Professor Haldon, who had the same haughty, smug look that James associated with Sirius’s family. He was the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and he hadn’t taken to James. Really Professor Haldon hadn’t taken to any student as far as James could tell. He held each and every one of them in contempt, as if it was their fault he hadn’t made it into Auror training and had to settle for teaching (or so the rumors said).
Professor Haldon surveyed him silently with superiority as James tried to bring his breathing under control.
“Why are you running?”
“I’m late, sir.” His words came out forcefully. He hadn’t quite caught his breath and it was not easy for James to bring his heart rate down with Haldon staring him down irately.
“Yes, sir,” he answered politely, hoping it would win him a favor for once in this irrational teacher’s eyes.
“And that is why you were running?”
“Generally running gets you places faster,” James answered smartly and regretted his choice of words the moment he heard them.
“Perhaps if you managed your time better you wouldn’t be late and wouldn’t be in the position to have to run in the hallways, a clear offense. As Head Boy, you should be quite aware of this rule and you should be setting an example.”
“I know, sir, it’s just-”
“I will not have you bending the rules. Where are you off to in such a hurry?”
“Prefects meeting, sir, and I really am late. I really do need to be there, sir.”
“Ah, perfect! You can tell your fellow Head Girl and Prefects to add this to their tally of Gryffindor’s transgressions.”
“What?” James asked confused.
“Detention with me, Potter, tomorrow night.”
“But – sir, for only running-”
“And five points from Gryffindor.” James fumed, opening his mouth once again when Haldon spoke firmly, “I can continue to take points off, or you can at least appear sorry and ashamed for your misbehavior.”
James curled his fist, but with strained politeness muttered, “Sorry, sir.”
“Good. Now off you go. Walk. As now you are very late, a few more seconds will not make the difference, Mr. Potter.”
James didn’t bother answering. He turned the corner away from the direction Professor Haldon was walking and increased his pace to a speed walk. He did not need another Professor telling him off for running.
He found the room where the meeting was being held on the fourth floor. James paused in front of the door, placing his ear on it, trying to listen to where in the meeting they were. He couldn’t hear any conversation.
Turning the knob, James entered the room. Two large tables had been pushed together and all the seats were taken except one. James grinned apologetically as all eyes turned on his entrance- he could feel a particular green set of eyes on him. By the annoyed glares cast his way, James realized the meeting had not begun and all this time they had all sat waiting for him. James took the seat next to Lily and next to Webb, a Gryffindor Prefect. Webb took in James’s disheveled appearance with a devilish grin. “Got distracted with Jocelyn, eh?”
“Er – no – not exactly-”
Moony was seated next to Webb. He was looking at James in thought; giving James the impression he was trying to read his mind.
Lily glanced at him long enough for everyone in the room to notice she had. It had been only two, or was it three, days since she had approached him in Three Broomsticks. Lily looked tired and worn; her brilliantly green eyes were dull and blood-shot. Everyone in the room knew by now what had transpired in the pub, some of them had even witnessed it, and perhaps they were eager for a continuation.
Lily cleared her throat. James braced himself for a tirade about responsibility, being on time for meetings, the usual. It never came.
“We can start now. I’ve already taken attendance, Potter.” Lily took out of the bag a full stack of papers and it was passed down to everyone. “We need you to fill this out. Professor Dumbledore has requested that we begin patrolling an hour earlier each night and double the amount of Prefects on patrol.”
Various students groaned and muttered mutinously around the table.
“Potter and I will be making the schedule. Please fill out this sheet with your schedule and available nights by the end of the week and hand it in to either Potter or me. We will try to take everyone into consideration. However as Prefects, the safety of the students here is our first importance, which means all the other clubs you are involved with will have to come second. ”
“Even Quidditch?” a Slytherin said snidely down the table, his eyes on James.
James did not react. He was still in shock. Lily had never, ever not taken an opportunity to tell him off. Sure, it annoyed him and he wanted her to stop it, hadn’t that been the reason he’d broken things off with her? Still it seemed so unnatural and odd. He was worried about this sudden change in Lily.
“Yes, even Quidditch.”
“And even the Head Boy must abide by these rules?” the Slytherin continued; the sentence was loaded with contempt. This time James was listening. “I find that hard to believe. He was late for this meeting. Twenty minutes late because of Quidditch. If he doesn’t put his duties before Quidditch I don’t see why any of us have to.”
“Because these aren’t my rules, but the Headmaster’s,” James answered evenly. “By all means, go to Professor Dumbledore and complain about my tardiness, but it will not excuse you when you are late for your patrol.”
Lily, who had seemed on the verge of speech before James had spoken, looked a bit taken aback. She evidently agreed with his response. “Right. There will be no complaining. There is enough we have to deal with. We all have loaded schedules. You were all aware about these duties and a possibility of increased duties when you accepted the position.”
The Slytherin did not respond, just crossed his arms and looked at them both with disdain.
“Now, Travers, you wanted to speak about setting up a charity drive for orphaned witches and wizards?”
The Hufflepuff Prefect nodded and stood up and began explaining his idea rather pompously. James tuned his words out. The idea really was clever. Travers just generally thought too highly of himself and James could not stand hearing him go on and on about it.
After Travers, a few other Prefects with different ideas for student activities stood up to speak. When the meeting ended, the Prefects exited the room rapidly as if the room contained some sort of plague; Remus mumbled something about needing to find Professor McGonagall, and suddenly James found himself alone with Lily.
She was gathering up her possessions and taking care not to bump into him, as they were seated closely, or look at him.
“Yes, Potter,” she said curtly. The tone reminded James vividly of Professor McGonagall.
He met her eyes and she looked almost hopeful. His stomach sank. He knew she was expecting some sort of explanation for his actions or more precisely lack of actions after she had expressed her feelings in the Three Broomsticks. He wasn’t prepared for such a conversation. He hadn’t anticipated being in a situation where he could even speak to her privately so soon. And anyway he couldn’t say anything that would make her feel better. He was still with Jocelyn. He found dating Jocelyn was much simpler. Everything about his connection with Lily was complicated.
“Professor Haldon caught me running on my way here. I was late – and well he assigned me a detention and five points off Gryffindor.”
“Ok,” she said dully.
“I just wanted to tell you, so you’d add it to the record.”
“I swear I didn’t mean to be late.”
She made a noncommittal sound.
“Aren’t you angry?”
“No, Potter, what you decide to do in your free time is completely your business. If you feel your free time is best served in detention, then go right ahead. Keep breaking the rules. I don’t care anymore.”
Lily stood up, her bag packed. She turned away from him without another word. She left him with only his thoughts and her words floating around in his head.
Lily had always cared. She took rule-breaking as a personal insult. Even when she hated him not so long ago, she cared about his detention record and if he caused numerous amounts of points to be docked off their house. James stood up, kicking the chair nearest to him, the one Lily had been in, in frustration and despair. The resultant throbbing toe did not lessen the hurricane of feelings inside of him.
It was impossible not to think about him. James Potter flitted in and out of her thoughts like a Snitch during a Quidditch match. With the hundreds of directions her thoughts were going – memorization of spells and potion steps, writing essays, Head patrolling, overseeing all the Prefects - it was a wonder there was room for Potter; particularly when she didn’t want him inside her head. She seriously doubted she was in his when he had the gorgeous and captivating Jocelyn to distract him.
Lily attempted for the tenth time that day to banish the bespectacled boy from her mind as she walked steadily through the halls toward the Great Hall. Was filling her thoughts about not thinking about Potter as bad as thinking about him in the first place? Her stomach grumbled in protest as she adjusted the strap of the bulging bag full of school books. She had been awake already for two hours catching up on studying, and now she was starving.
Lily rounded the corner of the corridor shivering, as the weather was just starting to get colder and Lily hadn’t remembered to bring a cloak. Opening the doors to the Great Hall, Lily spotted her friends, relieved that the ‘marauders’ were nowhere in sight, as her eyes had already roamed across Gryffindor table.
Stop thinking about him, she chided silently.
Lily slipped into the seat next to Tallie. Her friends fell silent casting guilty expressions, but Lily pretended she wasn’t aware that they’d been speaking about her only seconds before.
“Good morning.” Lily poured herself a cup of tea and grabbed a piece of toast. Her roommates watched her, assessing her mood, but Lily couldn’t really complain. Her friends had been wonderful; rallying around her in support and calling James Potter every name they could think of, and then inventing a few of their own.
Her whole relationship with James was embarrassing. It was irritating being the topic of so many conversations, but it had been her fault for conducting the conversation in public. Now everyone – even the Professors - knew she ‘fancied’ Potter and that he had refused what he’d been after for years.
Then there was the way James had acted during the Prefect meeting, almost as if nothing had happened between them, not to mention arriving at the meeting late. Why had she waited for Potter in the first place? She couldn’t remember. She could have easily handled it herself and the meeting would have been practically over by the time James would have showed, which would have been much easier. She could have at least avoided that embarrassment. Lily could still recall how all the Prefects had examined the way she reacted to James, noting how she wouldn’t allow their arms to brush or how she went from the extreme of refusing to meet his eyes to staring at him for longer periods of time than was socially acceptable.
There were a lot of theories as to why Potter had rebuked her affections and not one of them made her feel better. She found it strange that very few criticized her actions – even though most of the school, unlike Lily, had known James and Jocelyn were officially together. Instead most girls thought what she’d done was romantic and had taken to throwing dirty, disdainful looks at James in the corridor, a contrast from the usual looks of admiration, which Lily was sure Potter was not accustomed to.
One thing she found annoying was how overprotective her friends had become of her. They felt in her so-called fragile state she couldn’t handle seeing James and Jocelyn within a few feet of each other. She might have cried herself to sleep the night it had happened, and even the next night, but she couldn’t hide away forever.
Just half a week ago on their way to Charms class, Carlie, who had been walking ahead of Lily and Tallie, turned the corner first and did an about-face, announcing she thought it was better if they took the longer, endless route to class. Tallie had started to argue, but a meaningful look that Lily did not miss passed from Carlie, and Tallie also expressed her sudden desire to change direction.
Lily sighed. “Oh, really.” She swung around the corner to prove she wasn’t as fragile as they perceived her, bracing herself to catch Potter and Jocelyn in a full-out snog. Rather than that, the couple was standing hand-in-hand off to the side, talking softly so Lily could not make out the words. Her heart skipped a beat; witnessing this tender moment instead of a release of hormonal urges had reawakened a lot of the pain Lily had hoped she had suppressed. Tallie and Carlie were by her side, pulling her along the hall. James and Jocelyn could hardly fail to notice three additional people ambling swiftly by them. Lily couldn’t bear to look at the couple; she kept her eyes straight ahead, her focus on the empty air in front of her. So she didn’t notice that James indeed watched her progression along the hall, with a look of longing and thoughtfulness, and that Jocelyn was staring at Potter with a worry that had never crossed her mind before.
Chewing on her toast, Lily noticed her friends were now looking at her, though in a different manner, as if expecting something. Was it someone’s birthday? Had she forgotten? She racked her brain for the day and date.
“Finally done studying?” Tallie asked.
“No, but it will do,” Lily answered.
“Mail already came, Lily,” Carlie said pushing the Daily Prophet toward Lily. “I paid the owl for you.”
“Thanks,” Lily said. She was already apprehensively scanning the headline. It was some rumor about Dumbledore retiring his post as Headmaster to become the Minister of Magic.
Marissa Berksa looked ready to burst about something. “You haven’t heard; have you?” she demanded.
“Heard what?” Lily asked. She wasn’t at all eager to hear the latest piece of school gossip, but she indulged her friend.
“Potter is single again.”
Lily had only been half-listening, so the information took some time to sink in.
“Didn’t you hear me? James and Jocelyn broke it off,” Marissa added for clarification. She looked troubled by Lily’s reaction as if Lily had only been told the weather. All Lily could think about was the intimate moment between the two she had glimpsed and how that above everything else had convinced her James had genuine feelings for another girl.
Tallie cleared her throat. “It happened last night in the common room, while you were in the library. You didn’t return until late, otherwise we would have told you then.”
Lily remembered entering what she had anticipated to be a deserted common room, finding Sirius Black and Remus Lupin engaged in a game of chess; on the floor beside them were two opened books and half-written essays.
“‘Ello, Evans,” Black had greeted her, his tone vaguely warm. She nodded in return, noticing, but not understanding until now the slight smirk Sirius had been unable to hide.
“Late night?” Remus had questioned conversationally.
“Shame you missed all the raucous,” Black added.
At the time Lily had suspected Black was alluding to the usual commotion he caused with Potter. It was rare to find a quiet moment if the duo was in the same room, which was why she usually did her studying in the library.
Lily continued to eat her breakfast as if she’d heard nothing at all important or potentially life-altering. Her friends were staring at her again.
“For Jocelyn?” Marissa stated loudly. She did not add that she felt Lily was thinking crazily; she didn’t need to, it was written plainly on her face. Lily did not feel any excitement about the news. She felt slightly detached as if she was hearing about some other poor girl’s love life.
“Lily, are you sure you heard us right?” Carlie asked.
“I heard you. It doesn’t matter…”
“Doesn’t matter? Listen Jocelyn was brutally honest with James-”
“So Jocelyn initiated it then?”
“The fight perhaps, but it was a mutual ending of the relationship. She first accused him of not being a proper boyfriend. Something about spending more time with his broomstick and his mates than her-”
“Which I don’t understand. I saw those two everywhere together,” Tallie interjected.
“So you just think because Potter isn’t with Jocelyn, we’re going to magically get back together?” She lifted her eyes to meet each of her friends’ eyes one at a time. Didn’t they understand how getting her hope up was futile, when in all likelihood, James would be back with Jocelyn in a few days? “We had our chance.”
“You didn’t let me finish,” Carlie said quickly, almost desperately. “Jocelyn also said that Potter’s heart belonged to someone else. It must be you, Lily. Potter’s still in love with you.”
“My life isn’t one of your romance novels. Potter’s not in love with me anymore. He’s confused, going into another relationship so quickly, after our…well it was only a matter of time that he’d break it off with her as well.”
“Can’t you give James a second chance?” Tallie asked. “We all agree Potter was a git to not run after you at the Three Broomsticks, but he was on a date and Potter’s turned into a decent fellow this past year…and-”
Tallie paused as a group of boys filtered into the room. And not just any group of boys. Sirius Black led the pack; he had his usual haughty look about him, though handsome as ever. Remus and Peter walked behind him both looking tired, though Remus with his pale pallor looked worse off. Strolling behind them was James, hands stuffed into his rumpled black school robes, his hair was wet – he looked very much the part of ex-beau. The boys had to pass them on the way to their usual seats. Sirius threw them a wink while Remus and Peter merely nodded in greeting. James shuffled by without a word. Lily couldn’t stop herself from watching him, he looked so sad and she didn’t know what to make of the slight blush that crept up on his cheeks.
“See!” Tallie began once the boys were out of hearing range. “If that’s not proof…”
“Proof of what? He didn’t even look at me.”
“Potter was blushing!” So Lily hadn’t been the only one to notice.
“I can’t. And in the end it will be better for both of us.”
She supposed he could still be physically attracted to her, but she did not believe he would chase after her any longer. Lily’s friends did not give up; convinced if she’d only she’d smile at him, if she only spent more time on her hair, if only she’d give Potter the opportunity, if only…
If only, what? she had wanted to scream back at her friends’ insistence. The castle wasn’t that large. Potter had the opportunity. He hadn’t taken it.
When an additional seven days passed and then ten, even her friends could not blame her any longer. They even grew tired of the ‘Potter’ topic, turning to other things. She wished her friends had been right; she wished she’d been wrong about James. And still Potter occupied her mind, she still dreamed about his kisses. No one knew this, she had been too embarrassed to mention it to anyone, convinced that as time passed, so would her feelings about James.
James winced as the nurse briskly wrapped his sprained and swollen hand.
“You should have come as soon as you were injured,” she muttered crossly. James nodded in agreement to appease the nurse. She clearly didn’t understand Quidditch. James had sustained the injury halfway through the game. At that point he couldn’t just sit out – it may have taken all his strength to continue playing in the same caliber as he would have without injury – but Gryffindor had won their first game (second game of the year – first had been Slytherin vs. Hufflepuff) against Ravenclaw and it had been worth it.
“You’re mad,” Peter said simply as he walked beside James. Peter had waited patiently outside the Hospital Wing, since the nurse was known to treat non-patients most unkindly. “Only you would continue playing after breaking your wrist. Only you would find Quidditch more important than your health.”
“It’s not broken,” James responded. He wanted to add that any serious Quidditch player would have done the same thing, but he could already detect an envious edge to Peter’s voice.
“I’d be out of action if I broke something…that is if I didn’t faint from the pain…”
“It didn’t hurt much when it happened. Now it hurts like mad.”
“Which is why you should have had the injury taken care of immediately. Didn’t the nurse say she could have healed it completely if you had gone earlier? Instead it now has to heal on its own.”
“Are Padfoot and Moony getting supplies?” James asked in hope to steer the conversation away from his injury, which was throbbing.
“Yes.” Peter looked at him. “The girls around us thought you were really brave. Were you just trying to show-off?”
James gave Peter an exasperated look. “I was trying to win! Sitting out is exactly what Ravenclaw would have wanted! And when has Quidditch ever been a non-violent game?”
“Did you notice Ravenclaw was playing dirtier than usual?”
“Yea, looks like they’ve taken a page out of Slytherin’s book.”
He already suspected Ravenclaw had been aiming to injure him. It would have certainly demoralized the Gryffindor team if the Captain and highest scorer could no longer play.
“I overheard some Hufflepuffs talking. They were actively supporting Ravenclaw and they said they were tired of Gryffindor’s winning streak.”
“They’ll have to deal with it for one more year; I intend to win this year as well.”
Ever since James had joined the team in his second year, Gryffindor had won the Quidditch Cup consecutively. Before that Slytherin House had a monopoly on the Cup, and James had always been under the impression that Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff (whose teams had been on the weak side the past six years) would rather have Gryffindor win if it at least stopped Slytherin from winning. He felt it was the most important year to win it, with the majority of the Slytherins if not out right siding with Voldemort, at least sympathizing with the pure-blood extremists.
James tried to remember exactly how it had happened. He’d been barreling down the path toward the opposing goal when he’d passed the Quaffle to a fellow Chaser. His path had been blocked by a Ravenclaw player, and James had to violently swerve to the right to avoid collision. The only problem was he’d swerved straight into two Bludgers, both finding their mark on his left arm. He was lucky neither had slammed into his skull or he’d still be unconscious.
Worry about Ravenclaw’s strategy abated the moment Peter and James entered the common room. The celebration was in full swing and all the Gryffindors erupted into cheers at the sight of their valiant captain. James weaved his way through the room, stopping here and there to accept compliments or discussion of the game. Some Gryffindors were already planning on getting Ravenclaw back, and when three or four people began speaking about sabotaging Ravenclaw’s broomsticks, James felt it might get out of hand. He told them in serious voice, “Best way to get revenge is win the cup.” He was surprised how quickly they all agreed. James had expected them to laugh at him, but he was slowly gaining respect from the student body as worthy of Head Boy.
Peter, hungry as usual, headed straight to the table piled with food nicked from the kitchen. James walked to the edge of the room, leaning against a wall near a window, so he could look outside. He already wished to be back on his broom away from responsibility. For once he didn’t want to deal with a room of admirers; he didn’t want to be in the thick of the party. He wanted to be released from the physical bounds of the earth. It was a shame he couldn’t live in the air. The closest feeling he got to flying was romping through the woods as a stag with his mates, and perhaps dancing with Lily – but he wasn’t supposed to be thinking about her. If he was thinking of any girl it ought to be Jocelyn. He’d been upset initially about their breakup, but it hadn’t lasted long. In the corner of his eye, he noticed Alex Carter’s furtive glances at him, for Jocelyn was openly flirting with the bloke, and Alex didn’t look keen on the idea. After all James was known to hex guys who went after his former girlfriends or even girls he was interested in, but James couldn’t find the energy to even fully look over at them.
“Ah, there’s the Captain.” Rose Jollen, a fellow Chaser, sidled up next to him. “Feeling introspective tonight?”
James laughed. “A bit.”
Glancing down at his bandaged wrist and arm she said, “So you were injured. I knew it.”
“This? It’s only a scratch. You flew excellently today.”
“Oi, mate! There you are!” Sirius was approaching them carrying two bottles of butterbeer; he handed the unopened one to James. “Jollen, you’re looking quite lovely tonight…those mud spots on your robe are so artistically splattered.” The whole team was still in their Quidditch robes as customary in an after match celebration.
“I hope that’s not your best attempt at flattery, Black.”
Sirius and Rose continued to speak, but James’s mind was not following their conversation. His roaming eyes had spotted Lily. She was seated with her back leaning on the armrest of one of the red couches, her knees bent, speaking enthusiastically to Tallie, who was seated cross-legged beside her. Lily’s cheeks were still flushed from the cold air outside or perhaps from the fireplace she was seated near. If things had turned out differently he could be the one next to her instead of Tallie. He could be the one making her laugh.
“You agree with me don’t you, Potter?” Rose asked, breaking through James’s thoughts.
“I – er- what?”
“Never mind.” Rose was shaking her head sadly as if she found him to be a lost cause. “I’ll see you boys later.”
Rose walked toward her own friends pausing for a second to look back at Padfoot. Was Rose interested in Sirius? Did Padfoot fancy her back? James didn’t mind, but he hoped Sirius wasn’t planning on pursuing her tonight. Tonight he needed some good ol’ male bonding.
“You nicked a lot of food,” James stated with a grin.
Sirius let out his bark-like laugh. “Nicked? You know how those house-elves are – more food they can give you, the happier they are. We did have to use our last supply of butterbeer from Hogsmeade.”
“Are you up to charming Rosmerta for some more?”
“I could do it in my sleep,” Sirius replied smugly. There was a distinct pause. “Why don’t you just talk to her?”
“Who?” James asked with feigned innocence.
“Evans. You’ve only been staring at her for the past ten minutes.”
“I haven’t. I didn’t even know she was in the room.”
“Rubbish. Have you even spoken to her since your conversation in the Three Broomsticks?”
“Yes. We have to speak to each other as Heads.”
“I’ve heard the conversations you’ve had with Lily.” Ordinarily James would have been very pleased for Moony to join them, but he had a feeling he was going to be lectured at. Sure enough:
“I’ll tell you, Padfoot, I’ve had more stimulating conversations with a doormat.”
James cast Moony an annoyed look. As Prefect, Remus was the only Marauder privy to their stilted and overly polite conversations.
“Are you interested in Rose, Padfoot?”
“Jollen? Perhaps,” Sirius said with a smirk. “Bless him, Moony, dear Prongs is attempting to change the topic.”
“Change what topic?” Peter asked, his mouth half full with a piece of tart. He’d joined them now too.
“What do you think?” Sirius said enjoying James’s discomfort.
“Ding! Ding!” Sirius said and he looked back at James. “Go talk to her.”
“You can’t expect us to be bosom buddies after…I almost wish things were back to the way they were before; when she couldn’t stand the sight of me,” James stated, attempting to explain his position.
“From what you told us,” Remus began, “at the Three Broomsticks, it sounds like Lily really has grown to care for you.”
“That was weeks ago!”
“You owe her at least a better explanation than just-”
“Just dismissing her feelings,” Sirius added.
“How could I run after her? I was on a date with Jocelyn.”
“Which was your first mistake. You should have never gotten back with Jocelyn.”
“Why not? I liked Jocelyn!” He had thought his friends had been relieved he’d gotten back with her. Apparently they’d seen through his farce – Evans had never been far from his mind.
“No, you enjoyed snogging Jocelyn,” Remus remarked.
“What’s wrong with that?” He figured it wasn’t the best time to mention he’d enjoyed kissing Lily even more even though she’d been less experienced.
“Normally nothing,” Sirius replied, “great snogging is the perfect stress reliever. Only at the time we all knew you had real deep feelings for another girl. Jocelyn saw it too, let me remind you.”
“You don’t even like Evans,” James accused Sirius.
“She’s growing on me. She must have mellowed out to give an arrogant berk like yourself chance.”
“Thanks a lot, Padfoot,” James said dryly.
“I mean that in the most sincere way.”
“So you’ll speak to her?” Remus asked.
“Now?” James looked at Lily again. Lily wasn’t just surrounded by her roommates; it seemed like there were several layers of girls from other years around her. He thought of the scene his approaching Lily would likely cause.
“No time like the present,” chirped Peter.
Lily was laughing now…the jovial sound floated from where she sat to James. He remembered how he used to be able to make her smile and laugh, yet at the same time how many instances had he angered and disgusted her with his antics. He had foolishly thought those type of things would impress Lily, like so many other girls. He hadn’t seen Lily looking so carefree in awhile and he knew if he spoke to her now, he’d wipe that smile away and take that light out of her eye.
“She looks happy…I’d only upset her. I’ve upset her enough.”
“Upset her? James you’ve already upset her by ignoring her.” James could tell from his tone Remus was getting rather impatient with him. “We could all understand how frustrated you were when she wanted to keep your relationships secret and your anger with her when she yelled at you in front of Snape, even if what you were doing was against the rules-”
“Remus…” James said warningly.
“I know. I know. You were defending me,” Remus muttered with a wave of his hand. “Just remember the same girl that was so afraid of showing the public her affection for you, then went and poured out all her feelings for you in front of half the school, which became the whole school after word spread.”
“I can’t,” James said shortly.
“No, you won’t,” responded Sirius. “Doesn’t Lily deserve a second chance? For Merlin’s sake, we’ve been trying to get you to forget about Lily for ages and now when the chance is there, you won’t bloody well take it!” Sirius turned to look at Peter waiting for him to say something in relation to the topic, preferably for his side of the argument. Peter looked away apprehensively, not wanting to get further involved.
“I can’t. Can’t you understand that?” James slid a hand through his ruffled hair. “I want to enjoy tonight’s celebration without-”
“Potter! Get your arse over here, we’re doing a team toast,” Herlon, Gryffindor’s Keeper, called out.
“Be right there,” James shouted back. He shrugged at his friends not bothering to continue his sentence; he had a feeling they already knew how he would have finished it. He wanted Lily out of his mind.
Remus and Sirius were frowning.
Peter seemed eager for the topic to be dropped. “I’ll come.”
“You aren’t on the team,” Sirius said condescendingly. Peter turned red. Was Padfoot not aware that Peter had a crush on Gryffindor’s Seeker?
“It’s just a toast, not some kind of secret meeting,” James said. When neither Padfoot nor Moony made another comment he half-smiled at Peter and stated, “Right let’s go, then.”
As he walked toward his teammates, he could hear Sirius mumbling something to Remus. He glanced back, and from the look the two exchanged James knew they had discussed this whole matter before and he had reacted in the exact way they’d thought he would.
Taking a glass from Herlon (“Here’s something a bit stronger than butterbeer.”), he ignored the guilt he was feeling.
“To another year of Quidditch cup winning!”
James lifted his glass in salute and drained it. The liquid burned down his throat slightly. His teammates launched into a discussion of the match, which Peter joined, but James only followed half-heartedly.
If he didn’t want a second chance with Lily, then why did she still linger in his mind? Why couldn’t he forget her as easily as all the other girls he had dated?
James finished the last touches of the new Prefect patrolling schedule. His eyes fell on Lily’s silhouette two tables from where he was sitting in the library. He remembered his late grandfather once telling him that he loved nothing more than watching James’s grandmother sleep. At the time James was only ten and found that notion very silly. Now he could suddenly understand it.
Lily had fallen asleep on top of her books. Her silky auburn hair splayed over her back, her porcelain skin glowed in the warm light in the room; it was all very distracting. He still found Lily as captivating as ever. Their argument had never dispelled his feelings; it was only in his mind, through his thoughts, that he had convinced himself otherwise; his heart knew the truth.
She and James were supposed to be working on the schedule together. James had arrived at the library to find Lily fast asleep and instead of waking her had decided he was more than capable of putting the schedule together on his own.
He could hear the librarian announcing in an amplified voice that the library was closing shortly. Lily still did not stir.
Sighing and gathering all his courage, he silently walked over to her table. He was suddenly afraid to touch her. He was remembering how his hands had traveled along the contours of her body in the secluded corners of the castles corridor. Gently, so his fingers barely touched the fabric of her robe, James shook her slightly. “Evans?” There was no response. “Evans!”
Lily woke up with a start, looking around disoriented. “What’s going – Potter?”
James stepped back guiltily.
“What time is it?”
“The library’s about to close so-”
“What? It’s that late already! I’ve got loads of work to do! Oh! And the Prefect schedule! Where have you been?” she demanded more crossly than the situation required.
“I’ve been here since I was supposed to. You were the one sleeping,” James reminded her. “Never mind though… the schedule is done.”
“Done, did you say? All on your own?” There was a skeptical note to her voice that riled James.
“I am capable putting a simple schedule together!” James retorted, and in the quiet setting the decibel of his voice was amplified more than he’d intended. Regaining his composure he continued, “I didn’t want to wake you. I figured if you had fallen asleep in the library, you must be really tired…”
“I was,” she said softly, her cheeks which had been rosy from sleep reddened even more. “I know you are capable.”
“You just need to sign the bottom of the sheet and then I’ll give it to Professor Dumbledore.”
Lily tilted her head slightly, her expression inquisitive. She was obviously trying to read the intentions of his actions. James placed the schedule she needed to sign on the table. Lily fished for a quill out of her bag and signed the bottom with a flourish.
“I’ll go then-”
“Wait, you said the library was closing?” Lily asked.
“Are you going back to the Tower?” Lily said, trying to make the question sound nonchalant.
“I was,” James answered giving her a look of bewilderment before catching onto her meaning. “It’s probably not safe for you to walk the hallways alone this late. I could wait for you.”
“Thanks,” Lily said appreciatively.
Smiling slightly she turned her full attention on packing up her books and papers scattered on the table. When Lily looked up again, James had moved two tables down from hers to pick his stuff up, and Sirius had popped out of nowhere.
“Prongs, there’s a problem with-” Sirius stopped, noticing Lily for the first time. He gave Lily an odd look.
“What’s the problem, Sirius?” James asked, ignoring Lily and Sirius’s silent questioning look about Lily.
“Peter can’t figure out that potion,” Sirius said, stressing the word potion.
James knew immediately what Sirius was talking about. Though Peter was not adept at Potions, he had found a rather simple perfume potion. Peter was brewing it as a surprise present for his mother’s birthday. James had a feeling if it was successful, Peter would also send it to the girl (Gryffindor’s Seeker) he fancied in order to get in her good graces.
“Well I’m off,” Lily said.
“You don’t want me to walk you back?” James asked keeping his voice neutral.
“I’m fine.” Her tone was slightly chilly. “Pettigrew obviously needs you more than me.”
James watched her leave speechless. The pleasant feeling that had been forming inside of him, the feeling he associated with Lily, vanished.
“What? You were going to walk back with Lily?” Sirius demanded the moment Lily had walked away.
“Go on! Catch up with her! Walk her back! Wormy can wait a few more minutes!” Sirius was pushing him in the direction Lily had gone.
“You’re reading into something that wasn’t there, Padfoot. I was just being – er - chivalrous.”
“Chivalrous?” Sirius asked with amusement.
“Yes, polite, gracious, charming…”
“I know what it means. I just thought…”
“You thought wrong,” James said firmly ending the discussion. “Why couldn’t Wormtail just buy perfume like a normal person? I hope it’s not too late to counteract the effects, you know how every second counts when it comes to that sort of thing. Where is he?”
“In the roomy secret passage behind that hideous tapestry…”
James had a sudden feeling as he walked beside Sirius out of the library that he had blown an opportunity to set things right with Lily. Why did opportunities like this always arrive when he least expected it? If he had walked Lily back to the Tower would anything had happened? Would anything between them have changed? Should things change between them? Why couldn’t mind-reading be taught at Hogwarts? A skill like that had its uses. Then he could have read Lily’s thoughts…perhaps figured out what she had wanted… if there was any chance to rekindle what they had once had. Though how much that would have helped he wasn’t sure, because he didn’t even know what he truly desired.
It didn’t matter now anyway; the time had come and gone.
Author's notes: Thanks to all my readers and reviewers! Only one more chapter left , so let me know what you think!