Chapter 19 : The Resolution.
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“He tells me about his night
I count the colours in his eyes
Don't ever fall in love
He swears, as he runs his fingers through his hair
I'm laughing 'cause I hope he's wrong
And I don't think it ever crossed his mind,
He tells a joke, I fake a smile
But I know all his favorite songs
And I could tell you
His favorite colour's green
He loves to argue
Born on the seventeenth
His sister's beautiful
He has his father's eyes
And if you ask me if I love him…
Over the next few days Lily managed to control her grief. She knew James didn’t need her, but it was comforting to know that he knew she was there if he ever did. However, the contentment that had carried her through the days after the note gradually seeped away and was replaced by jealously, dejection, and depression.
Lily began to notice things about James and Becky’s relationship. Things that convinced her they were serious. She began to notice the secret smiles they shared across the breakfast table when the girls and the boys were sat separately and he caught Becky’s eye over the cereal. Something he used to try and do with Lily. She noticed the way they looked at each other, and how they radiated happiness. Their happiness replaced James’s sorrow for his father. She lifted his spirits. He was able to let his father go.
Lily noticed the way they would laugh just because they’d caught each other’s eye; they didn’t need to say anything. But what really got her, what hurt like tiny papercuts, were the constant, little touches. The pair would be stood next to each other in the group, and James would place a single finger on the soft under part of Becky’s wrist. Lily got chills remembering what it felt like to have him do that to her. They would be sat next to each other in a class, and Becky would play with his hands, tangling her fingers in his. They sat in the common room in front of the fire, James leaning on her knees, and he’d touch her ankle. It was constant, discreet, and electric. And Lily hated it.
Gradually, over the space of a few days, Lily became more and more miserable. She spoke less, became quiet, withdrawn, immersed in her grief. Becky had begun sleeping in James’s room overnight, and Lily couldn’t stand being in the same space as them, even if they were only talking. She started sleeping on the sofa in the Gryffindor common room. It wasn’t comfortable, but it was a small price to pay not to have to listen to their chatting away into the early hours of the morning through the walls.
Finally, after three nights of sleeping where she shouldn’t, Lily was found out. She was spreading a blanket over the heavy cushions of her makeshift bed for another night of dreams filled with faceless characters, when Darcy cleared her throat from the bottom of the girl’s staircase. In the flickering light of the fire, her plaid pyjama bottoms and clashing bed-socks would have appeared comical, if not for the look on her face. Lily couldn’t have been further away from laughing. She looked like a deer caught in the headlights.
Darcy sighed exasperatedly and took a few steps forwards, into the light. “Look, Lils. I know what’s wrong; you don’t have to hide it from me. I feel it, too. With Remus.” She said, sharing the thoughts that had plagued her for weeks. Her own unrequited love. But Lily wouldn’t have it. Darcy’s words had only put her on edge; first she’d been found out and then accused of being unloved. She was on the defensive immediately.
Darcy, calm as ever, replied, “Lily, I didn’t mean it like that.” But her peacefulness was wasted on Lily. She was looking for an argument.
“Then how did you mean it? Come on; tell me what’s so terribly wrong? Because I can’t see it!” She said, the volume of her voice quickly rising despite the late hour. It was becoming a pattern; Lily’s life was rapidly becoming controlled by conflicts, she was pushing people away, becoming introverted.
“Exactly.” Darcy replied. She couldn’t see it. That was the problem. But Darcy, Darcy could see it, and she was going to help.
“Exactly WHAT!?” Lily raged, shouting now. Darcy hoped silently that no-one had woken up, or there’d be hell to pay. She decided to continue the conversation in the morning, maybe Lily would be more reasonable then.
“Look, I don’t want to argue. Just forget it.” She said, trying to calm her tormented friend. But Lily was adamant now.
“No. I want to know.” She said stubbornly, pushing just a little bit too far. She was being deliberately rude, hoping to get a rise out of Darcy. It worked.
Darcy had had it with everyone at the moment. Everyone was being shitty with everyone else, and she was done with being the conflict-diverter. It was her turn.
“Fine.” She said shortly, dropping her usually controlled voice and replacing it with one saturated with emotion. It was a voice that contained everything she’d hidden away. “You look tired. You’re not eating. You’re putting on a front, trying to fool everyone into believing that you’re happier than you are.” She said, unsure if she was analysing Lily or herself.
Behind her, Remus walked slowly down the stairs, having heard the shouting. Neither girl noticed his presence, and Darcy continued talking. His eyes widened as he realised what they were talking about, and he thought he should leave, but instead he found himself drawn into her words.
“For the first time in your life, you’re failing. And you don’t know what to do about it.” She paused, looking for the right words. “Everywhere you go reminds you of him, every song, every phrase, every hallway. And slowly, you’re convincing yourself that nothing’s changed, that you’re just as whole as you’ve always been. You might even believe yourself, one day. But there’s still some gaping expanse inside of you, some emptiness, some coldness that you won’t be able to lie about, or fill by dating boys you don’t love or taking late night walks around the castle.” She said in a hollow voice, with a knowing look.
Still staring an immobile Lily straight in the eyes, she continued. “You’re trying to forget that the one time you let yourself fall in love was the only time you’ve ever felt this broken. And your brain is telling you that it’s never going to let it happen again, because this is what love’s like. But your heart feels like it’s only beating for one person.” Darcy didn’t know where the words were coming from. They were just pouring out of her; it was like they’d been waiting for an opportunity to emerge. She felt herself getting lighter with every syllable, because, in all honesty, these were her secrets as much as they were Lily’s.
“And, as miserable as you are, part of you doesn’t want to stop feeling like this, because as soon as you accept that it’s over, you have to stop thinking that every glance means something. That little flicker of hope will be gone.” She took a deep breath. “Am I right?”
There was a dead silence between the two girls as they both realised they had tears in their eyes. Darcy’s words were true. Down to every last letter. On the stairs Remus was trembling. Lily noticed the tears first and bushed them away with the back her hand, recovering quickly.
“That was lovely. Thank you for analysing me, but really, I’m fine.” She said. Darcy was still welling up, looking at her friend with large, teary eyes.
“Why are you here, then?” Said Remus, surprising even himself. Both girls jumped, and Darcy quickly wiped away her tears, praying to every deity in existence that he hadn’t heard what she’d just said. Remus found his eyes meeting Lily’s. He couldn’t look at Darcy. He couldn’t acknowledge it. Not yet, not now.
“Oh. Remus, hey.” Lily said, getting over her fright and putting on a conversational tone, pretending the last few minutes hadn’t happened. Remus wasn’t fooled.
“Why are you here, Lily?” He asked again. She faltered, and then opted for the truth.
“I…I just can’t listen to them in the Heads’ dorm for another night, so I’m going to kip here. You don’t have to worry about me, Remus. Honestly.” She said confidently, glossing over the part where she felt immeasurable angst and had a shouting match with her loved-up best friend.
“This is the…fourth night you’ve slept here. Come on Lily, can’t you see?” Remus said, adding up the signs and coming to a sound conclusion quickly. Darcy caught on, but Lily remained confused.
“See what?” She said, bewilderment evident on her face. There was a pause, in which it seemed no-one was going to speak. Remus tried to say it, but he couldn’t.
“You love him.” Darcy said, looking at Remus. He flinched at the word ‘love’, and continued looking at Lily, whose eyes had become unimaginably wide. It was barely noticeable, but Darcy had seen it; the briefly closed eyes, the flicker of fear on his face.
“That…that’s not true. I…no. No, I don’t.” Lily stammered.
There was a long pause.
“Eh… Alright, I might have done but I don’t anymore. I can’t.” She said, more to herself than anyone else. “Besides, he’s with Becky now.” She concluded lamely. Remus almost choked on his disbelief.
“You think she means anything to him? Do you actually believe that he’s with her because he loves her and not you? You’ve been fooled, Lily.” He said forcefully. If anyone knew, it was him. He’d sat for years listening to James moan about how he loved her. He knew that what James felt for Becky didn’t even come close to what he felt for Lily, but she was already dismissing it, shaking her head.
“There’s nothing I can do about it, Remus.” She mumbled, looking at the floor. Remus rushed forwards, the firelight playing across his tired face, and grabbed both of her hands in his. Darcy felt a pang of unreasonable jealousy.
“There is everything to do. There is nothing about this situation that is hopeless. What are you waiting for? Tell him. Get your heart back.” He said, quietly but urgently.
There was a long, pregnant pause, in which Lily thought about Remus’s words. He dropped her hands and moved away, hoping with every fibre of his being that his words had gone in. Slowly, she nodded. She was instantly terrified by the prospect of telling him, but all of a sudden she felt a clarity she hadn’t had in weeks. She loved him. She felt lighter. More whole. She loved him. Love. That’s what it was. Love.
She found Remus’s eyes and whispered, “Okay.” Then, gathering up her blanket, she took one last look at Darcy and rushed out of the common room to find him.
It was time to get her heart back.
Back in the common room, there was an awkward silence as Darcy and Remus avoided each other’s eyes. She played with the sleeve of her pyjama top, and Remus shuffled uncomfortably. Eventually, someone had to speak.
“How much did you hear?” She asked quietly. He looked at her with sad eyes.
“Enough.” He answered simply. She looked up hopefully, searching for something in his face, but said nothing. He bravely continued, resignation in his voice. “If I let myself, I could love you, Darcy.”
Her eyes widened in hope, but he wasn’t finished.
“…But its not enough. It’s never going to be enough.” He said loudly, strongly. Her brow creased in confusion as she comprehended his words. He looked away.
“Why not?” She asked, traces of irritation and indignation lining her words. He stared straight at her, eyes flashing.
“Because I’m a monster!” He roared. He put his head in his hands, and after a moment looked up at her. She’d taken a few steps away, backing into a table and gripping it with white knuckles. He’d scared her.
Softening his voice, concealing his frustration with himself, he spoke again. “I can’t burden you like that.” He was pained. “I won’t.” Every syllable was a physical effort. He didn’t want to be saying those words. He desperately wanted to tell her that he loved her and take her in his arms, but he couldn’t. He wouldn’t allow himself to. It was taking all his determination to resist.
“What if I want you to?” She said tentatively. He shook his head sadly.
“It’s not your choice. This,” He motioned to them both, “This can never happen. We, can never happen. It’s too dangerous. Forget me.” He whispered, pleading. She didn’t say a word, just stared at him.
“I cannot let you loathe me the way I loathe myself.” He finished, looking at his feet in shame. “I’m sor-” He began but she moved forward and put a finger to his lips.
“Don’t you dare apologise for loving me, Remus Lupin.” She said simply. There was a long moment where they both savoured the contact, small as it may have been. Then, she removed her fingertip from his lips, and without looking back, walked up the girls’ staircase, leaving him dazed in the room below.
Lily meanwhile was standing outside the Heads’ dorm. She was pacing, running an anxious hand through her hair, wrapped up in her blanket. Her bare feet were numb on the cold stones and her too-short pyjama bottoms were letting the draft play around her ankles. She was goosepimply and terrified.
“Are you going in?” Asked the portrait. Lily stared blankly.
“Going in. Going in. Yes. Yes, I’m going in.” She repeated, wide-eyed.
The portrait swung forwards, and Lily untangled herself from the blanket, depositing it on the floor. She climbed through, running a finger under each of her eyes to check for smudged makeup and smoothing her eyebrows. Emerging from the other side of the hole though, she stopped dead.
There, on the sofa in front of the fire, were James and Becky, kissing fiercely. He had a hand to the back of her neck and one in her hair, and she rested both of hers on his chest. They had their eyes closed. They belonged in that position.
Lily stared. She felt the bottom drop out of her stomach and was vaguely aware of her heart falling through onto the floor. They hadn’t noticed her. She stood, stunned, unable to move. Her heart, on the floor, exploded into a thousand tiny pieces. Then, she ran.
She was getting mighty good at this ‘running away’ malarkey, she thought, hopping out of the portrait hole and grabbing her blanket before sprinting back to the Gryffindor common room, trembling and distraught. Her eyes were wide and weepy, her hair was all over the place, she was shaking and cold in her ankle-swingers and tank top. She rushed up into the girls’ dorm and ripped open Darcy’s drapes, not taking in the fact that her friend wasn’t asleep or what it meant. She motioned silently to the door and then proceeded to do the same to April.
Once they were all settled in front of the fire and Darcy had asked a million questions, Lily explained.
“Well, I walked in, they were kissing and then the world ended.” She said sarcastically, before letting out a sound like a wounded animal and putting her head in her hands.
“Why me? I finally realise I love him and he’s got someone else. It’s too ironic for words. I hate everything.” She mumbled.
April stifled a laugh. “Don’t you think you’re being a little bit…dramatic, Lils?” She asked. Lily looked up sourly.
“No. No I am not.” She said simply. Darcy sighed.
“Look, why don’t you just come up to the dorm and go to bed? You can still tell him, just tomorrow.” She said logically.
“Oh, no no no no no. No, I’m not telling him now. That’s it, I am done.” She stated, crossing her arms.
“Because you tried so hard already?” April said, sardonically. “Come on, Lily. You can’t give up after not even trying. At least give it a proper go.”
She narrowed her eyes. “I’ll think about it.” Lily replied stubbornly, before traipsing upstairs to bed.
The next day, Lily tried to find time to talk to James, but he was always with her. She was sighing exasperatedly at the dinner table when Sirius plopped down next to her and began helping himself to her untouched dinner.
“S’up Lily-O?” He asked with his mouth full. She gave him a withering look that he ignored, and decided she could tell him.
“I need to talk to James, without Becky. I…need to tell him something.” She said quietly. “But I can’t seem to find a minute when they aren’t together.” He stopped, mid-chew.
“If you’re going to try and break them up Lily, I’m going to have to ask you not to. This is the happiest James has been in a long time, I don’t want you to ruin it.” He said swallowing quickly.
“I’m not going to break them up. I need to tell him…I wanted to tell him that, that I…” She trailed off.
“That you love him.” Sirius finished softly, looking at her sympathetically.
“Well, yes.” She said, looking away. “I hate that he’s with her. He doesn’t love her! And he’s still with her. What am I going to do, Sirius?”
There was a long pause.
“Look, sometimes there’s a difference between who we love, who we settle for and who we’re meant for. There’s nothing you can do. Deal with it, Lily. You turned him down. He settled. Case. Closed. If it helps, I wanted you two to get together as much as you did.” Sirius responded, somewhat harshly. Lily supposed he was only telling the truth. He placed a large hand over one of her small ones on the table, comforting her.
She shook her head, after a few moments of contemplating his words.
“I’m sorry. I have to tell him. Even if it doesn’t work, he has to know.” She said resolutely, withdrawing her hand.
“Ok, but don’t expect him to give her up for you.” Sirius said honestly. “I don’t want you to get your hopes up.” Lily looked at him incredulously.
“You don’t believe I love him, do you?” She said flatly.
There was a long moment, as Sirius searched her face.
“No. Sorry, Lily, but I don’t. Prove it to him and you’ll prove it to me. Until then, I’m sceptical.” He said, sadly.
She shook her head. “I’m going to prove you wrong Sirius Black. Just you watch.” She said, slamming down her fork and getting up. “Just you watch.” She murmured again, before marching out of the Hall.
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