Chapter 13 : The Missing Half
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Okay, guys, so before I freak you out – be prepared, because this is going to be one VERY long chapter (21 word pages!). I didn’t want to split it, cause then it would just feel…icky. I don’t know. This is the last chapter of the story, and I’m really really hoping you’ll enjoy reading it. I hope it rises up to your expectations, whichever those are, and thank you all so much for sticking with me and the story until the very end.
Just a small note, so that no one gets confused. So far, older Lily’s POV was written in italics, while 16 year old Lily’s POV was written in normal font. I’ve changed it here, so everything written in normal font is the present Lily’s POV (20 year old Lily, that is) and everything written in italics is a flashback/memory of 4 years before. I hope it’s not confusing anyone – I just thought it was the best option.
PS: Gwendolyn (Jones) and Glynnis (Gryffiths) are two Holyhead Harpies players. The Holyhead Harpies are a Quidditch team, in case you didn’t know.
Vanessa’s appearance was shocking to Lily at first. Throughout their last four years at Hogwarts, Lily had always had the impression that Vanessa looked less like a teenager than anyone else – maybe because she’d always been quiet or pensive, or simply because her features made her look older. In every memory she’d had of her, the brunette always had an air of cold sobriety around her, a somberness and seriousness that didn’t fit her age.
So Lily couldn’t help feeling surprised as her eyes met their identical pair. Vanessa’s face glowed with youth and liveliness, and she wore a bright wide smile – so different than the weak curve of the lips Lily remembered all too well. They hadn’t seen each other in almost two years, and the other girl had changed so much, she was unrecognizable. Or maybe she just hadn’t looked carefully enough before. Quite amazing, Lily mused, how personal feelings could distort one’s view on things.
“Hi,” Lily said quite unceremoniously.
She couldn’t say she still disliked Vanessa, but a part of her still felt uncomfortable toward the brunette girl. Her presence brought back many memories, and none of them were either pleasant or friendly. To her shock though, Vanessa greeted her with warm enthusiasm, and even gave her a small hug. The years had changed Vanessa, there was no doubt left. She was nothing like the person Lily had known back in school.
“Well, look at you,” Sirius said appreciatively as he entered the hall, his eyes wondering to places that would make any girl blush.
Vanessa simply laughed, acknowledging the silent compliment.
“Happy to see you haven’t changed a bit,” she grinned. “And Lily, you look absolutely fantastic!”
Lily smiled at the first compliment she’d ever gotten from Vanessa Kaysen.
“Vanessa?” James’s voice boomed from across the living room. “Merlin, you look amazing! Are you still single?” he laughed.
“Single?” Vanessa raised her eyebrows. “A girl like me doesn’t stay single for long, you know. Well, not longer than five years, anyway,” she added with a laugh.
“You have a boyfriend?” Sirius asked with surprise.
Vanessa grinned as she raised her left hand, producing a collective gasp. On her finger, shining in the dim light of the room was a simple gold band; and it wasn’t an engagement ring.
“You’re married?” both James and Lily looked at her in shock. “To who?”
The thought of Vanessa being married had never even crossed the girl’s head. Somehow, the last thing she could envision was the image of Vanessa, cooking dinner for her husband and tucking the children into bed. The thought almost made her laugh.
“To Alex,” she replied simply, but nobody missed the somewhat arrogant smile that bloomed at the corners of her lips as she said it.
“Alex Haylin? Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team?” Lily asked in bewilderment.
“Mhm. Actually, he’s Captain of the Falcons now.”
“I know!” James said with excitement. “I went to the game and even congratulated him at the end, but he said nothing about marrying you. That bastard – I knew he was hiding something. Didn’t I say he was hiding something?” he turned to his wife for support.
“Hardly,” Vanessa laughed. “We just married this fall.”
“So you’re Vanessa Haylin now?”
“Yes, I am,” she smiled.
“I bet you enjoy the publicity of it, too,” Sirius teased her. “I almost fought the temptation of asking you for an autograph,” he added with a grin.
“Do shut up.”
Sirius laughed and put his arm around her waist, leading her to the dining room. Lily glanced at James, and they both smiled and shook their heads. Some things never changed.
They sat at the table, and a house elf brought them coffee and biscuits.
“So, I hear you guys are expecting the stork in a few months,” Vanessa smiled.
“We are,” James said proudly, and Lily laughed at the childish excitement in his eyes.
Indeed, some things never changed. Sirius rolled his eyes.
“If it’s a girl, James wants to call her Gwendolyn Glynnis Potter. If it’s a boy, Lily gets to pick.”
“I like Harry,” Lily said. “Short and simple.”
“Let’s hope for a boy then,” Vanessa laughed.
“Hey! Gwendolyn is a lovely name, I’ll have you know!”
“Of course, James. Of course it is.”
As they ate dinner, thoughts raced inside Lily’s mind. A part of her wanted to go through and finish what she’d started; the other part screamed that it was better to bury the past and move on. But she had to know – she had to understand everything in order to be able to truly move on.
“I’m really glad you accepted our invitation, Vanessa,” she said pleasantly. “It’s really great – seeing you after all these years, I mean.”
Vanessa and Sirius exchanged a glance, and they both smiled to her.
“I’m not stupid, Lily,” Vanessa said. “I know what you’re really after.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, it wasn’t as if we didn’t know this moment would come sooner or later,” Sirius said. “We’re actually surprised it came so late.”
Lily smiled and for some unknown reason, her cheeks turned slightly pink.
“Look, you don’t have to…”
“No, it’s okay. You deserve an explanation.”
“Why do I have to go through this?” James threw out his arms in frustration “I could have any girl – any girl in this bloody school!”
“Lily isn’t just any girl,” Sirius mumbled as he was writing his Transfiguration essay.
“What’s so damn special about her anyway? What gives her the right to…to…”
“Perhaps if you did not stalk her like a lovesick puppy all the time, she’d give you some attention,” Sirius muttered with annoyance, but James wasn’t listening as he was busy ranting to himself.
It was the second time that week they were having this conversation, and it was driving him insane. He could no longer stand to hear the name of Lily Evans; but of course, he couldn’t tell James that. He’d tried to explain the problem countless times, and it had never worked. James had continued acting like a…well, like he usually did.
Sirius sighed. For all the annoyance he felt whenever he listened to James’s rants, he was his best friend, and it hurt to see him suffer; and for a girl, nevertheless. Funny, how James had chosen to fall for Lily Evans of all people. Lily Evans, who thought herself above them and their ‘silly, immature views’, who hated them for everything she wasn’t even aware she hated in herself.
“…and then she tells me I’m a pig-headed, arrogant bully! Talk about doing someone a favor!”
“No, I mean it! I’m done with Lily Evans. For good.”
If only that were true, but Sirius had heard that line one too many times to believe it. In fact, he hadn’t believed it the first time he’d heard it. James would continue suffering for this silly girl, completely oblivious to the way she felt; because it was so god damn obvious that she was just as crazy about him. Not only was he oblivious to that, but so was she. Sirius shook his head.
“That’s great, Prongs,” he said without enthusiasm.
He felt her open her eyes in the darkness, and reach for her wand almost instantly. He grabbed her shoulder gently, and motioned for her to come with him. Her grip on the wand loosened, and she carefully stood up and tip-toed across the girls’ dormitory, as Sirius turned into a big, black dog. They walked the empty halls without making a sound, until they reached an empty classroom. The door shut behind them, and Sirius transformed into himself again.
“What happened?” Vanessa whispered worriedly.
“Nothing’s wrong, don’t worry.”
“Sirius, you woke me up in the middle of the night and dragged me to an empty classroom, and you’re telling me not to worry?”
“I thought you liked it when I do that,” he grinned.
She let out a small laugh, and playfully grabbed the red tie of his uniform.
“Well, if you put it that way…”
He kissed her softly, his hands no longer bothering to rest in decent places.
“Actually, there is something I’d like to talk to you about,” he whispered as he kissed her neck.
“Of course there is. This could’ve waited until morning.”
“There’s something I need to ask of you.”
“Don’t say that.”
A small frown appeared on her face.
“I’m guessing I won’t like it much.”
“No, you won’t. It’s about Evans.”
He watched the last remains of her smile completely vanish off her face, replaced by a blank expression. Her eyes darkened, and she looked away.
“Unless you want me to hex her in an empty hallway, the answer is no,” she said coldly.
Sirius sighed. He knew it wouldn’t be easy to talk her into this.
“I can’t do it alone, Kay.”
“Oh, James!” she repeated ironically, annoyance obvious in the volumes of her voice. “Of course, I should’ve realized it. What are we doing now, Sirius, playing matchmakers?”
“Well, she’s not going to notice him if…”
“Well, that’s funny, because I was under the impression that the problem was with the fact that she did notice him. Let’s see, there was this one time when she called him a foul, arrogant jerk, and this other time…”
“You know what I mean,” he cut her softly.
“I’m not going to be a part of whatever sick plan you’ve come up with, Sirius.”
“It’s not really as bad as it sounds. If you’d just let me tell you…”
“I know what you’re going to do and personally, I find it revolting.”
“It is revolting, but it’s necessary. If I don’t do this, James is going to spend the next Merlin-knows-how-many years moping over a girl who’s liked him from the very beginning. You know James – when he’s got his eyes set on something, there’s no stopping him. I need to make her see the way she feels. I need to make her see that James isn’t the way she thinks he is.”
“And why do you need my help for that?”
Sirius hesitated, and couldn’t find the strength to look her in the eyes.
“I can’t afford to risk our friendship.”
Vanessa’s eyes widened with horror and anger.
“Fuck you,” she snapped, and pushed him away, turning around to leave the room.
“Of all the things you could’ve asked of me, this is the lowest, most disgusting…”
“I know. Really, I do, and I wouldn’t ask you this if I had any other choice.”
“So what’s the plan, then?” she asked coldly. “I’m supposed to seduce James and trick him into giving up on the girl he loves to be with me, is that it?”
“I wouldn’t exactly put it that way, but...”
“And in the meantime, you’re going to screw her and then break her heart?”
Sirius fell silent. He hated himself for what he was doing, and for what he was asking her to do. He’d tried and failed, and couldn’t even blame her for refusing. He’d half-hoped she would anyway. Of all the hard times in his life, he was having trouble remembering one when he’d felt as rotten as he did at the moment. Vanessa was right – it was low and disgusting. Suddenly, he saw all the flaws in his plan, all the things that could go wrong, and all the things he’d lose either way. It had been stupid to even think of it.
“I’m sorry, Kay,” he whispered.
The girl’s hand was still gripping the handle, her back turned to him.
“I’ll do it,” she said in a strangled voice.
“You don’t have to.”
“I said I’ll do it.”
“I trust you, you know,” she said softly, melancholically. “I’ve always trusted you. If you think this is going to work, I’ll believe you.”
“I never said it’s going to work.”
“But it’s the best we’ve got, isn’t it?” she turned and smiled sadly.
“It’s the only thing we’ve got.”
“It’s settled, then. Just tell me what I have to do – tomorrow. Right now, I’m going back to sleep.”
He put his arms around her, but she pushed him away gently.
“Don’t do this; not now.”
“I know you’re mad at me, and I don’t blame you.”
“Today I am. But I’ll forgive you tomorrow,” she smiled sadly, and left the room, leaving Sirius all alone to deal with his guilt and self-disgust.
He could almost laugh at the irony of the situation. He was sending his girlfriend - if that's what she was - straight into the arms of the only guy she’d ever cared for. He was asking her to sacrifice her pride for him, and relive third year all over again, while he’d be off sweet-talking the girl she hated more than anyone else. However strong she may have wanted to appear, he knew Vanessa better than that. He knew just how much he was hurting her - he knew how hard it had been to say 'yes'. He hated himself for what he was doing, for what he was asking her to do. He knew that when all this would be over, even if everything worked out, Lily's heart wouldn't be the only one he'll be breaking. He had no right to do this to Vanessa. He was the reason she was alone, the reason everyone looked at her the way they did, the reason behind all the gossip, the mean rumors and the lies. She'd given everything to him, and yet he always somehow managed to come back and ask for more; to ask for more than she could give him. She had nobody else but him now, but it was his fault to begin with. Her life would've been a million times better if only he'd stayed out of it. And yet he couldn't; he couldn't stay away from her, because it was so goddamn easy to lean on her, to ask for her support. She made him feel like maybe, just maybe, he wasn't all that damaged. She made him feel like he was human, and all he could do was prove it wrong. What he was doing was beyond revolting, but he didn't really have a choice. He knew, just like Vanessa did, that he'd go to the end of the world and back just to make James happy. Because James was worth it, and Vanessa would forgive him in the end. All the guilt and self-disgust he was feeling...it was a small price, in the end; a small price to pay for his best friend's happiness.
It wasn’t surprise that Lily felt – in a way, she’d expected it all along. She’d seen it coming – but that didn’t make things much easier. Knowing – or rather, acknowledging – that she had, after all, been pushed to choose a different path than she wanted wasn’t an easy truth to swallow. As much as it had helped, it was still a lie. She’d still been lied and cheated to, and it wasn’t something pleasant. Vanessa had told her, a long time ago, that knowing something and accepting it were two very different things. She remembered that day all too well…
He was supposed to meet with Lily at the greenhouses at 4.15. He glanced at his watch – 3.50; there was time for another game.
“Going on a date, Sirius?” James smiled from across the table.
“It can wait,” he grinned.
The boys laughed – Sirius because he knew how frustrated Lily would get, and James because he knew his friend all too well – or so he thought.
“Let’s play again.”
“It’s pointless mate, I’ll still be winning,” James said cockily.
“Blind luck, tis all. But this game’s all mine.”
“Pawn to D6.”
The little marble pawn moved to its new location.
“Sirius, I need a word with you,” a voice behind cut him.
Sirius looked up into the eyes of a very worried-looking Remus.
“Sure. Just wait a second for me to…”
“It’s really important.”
Sirius stared at his friend for a few seconds, a puzzled frown on his face. Then he shrugged, abandoned the game of chess and left the table, exchanging a confused look with James.
Once he and Remus reached the lakeshore, Remus turned around to look at him. His expression was grave and serious, much like the one he wore whenever Sirius and James did something stupid he disapproved of. Somewhere deep inside, Sirius knew Remus didn’t have the courage to say it straight to their faces, and he shamefully took advantage of that.
“Well, what is it? Did someone die or something? You look as if you’ve just swallowed a puke-flavored Bertie bean.”
“I wanted to talk to you about Lily Evans.”
A small silence settled between them, as they looked each other in the eye. In that short time when none of them spoke, a million things happened. Remus looked at his friend, his eyes filled with worry. He knew what was happening, though he wasn’t aware of Sirius’s interest in all this. He couldn’t understand what he was playing at, but he knew; and he disapproved. He wanted Sirius to stop fooling around. He wanted to know the truth.
Sirius glanced back, a defiant expression on his face. He was aware that Remus knew and disapproved – he had no idea how he had found out about it, though. In Remus’s opinion, he should stop whatever silly thing he was doing, or James would get hurt. Lily would get hurt. And in the end, so would everyone else. Remus thought all these things – Sirius could read it in his eyes – but he didn’t dare push him. He may say it, but he’ll never ask him to stop. He thought he didn’t have the right to. He was wrong, but Sirius didn’t feel like letting him know that.
They’d been friends since longer than they could remember. Talking was just a formality – they understood each other all too well just by glancing back and forth. They both knew the truth, yet none of them knew the whole truth; and they both felt they didn’t even need to. Remus was waiting for an explanation, if there was any. Sirius knew the ball was in his court. He could say whatever he wanted to say. He could tell Remus the truth, or he could lie to him – he knew the other would pretend to believe him anyway. He left him with no other choice, much like he always did.
“You want to talk about Lily,” Sirius repeated, a look of confusion on his face.
It was a fake confusion. Remus knew it, Sirius knew he knew it, and Remus could even guess Sirius had the information.
“I saw you with her the other day.”
Of course he hadn’t. He couldn’t have – Sirius hadn’t been with her any day. They’d only seen each other at night, when Remus was sleeping. And if Remus hadn’t been sleeping, it wouldn’t have mattered either way. If he had left the dorm without asking his friends to come along, they wouldn’t come no matter what. Once again, they both knew the truth. And they continued lying.
“Is that a crime now? Being seen with Lily Evans, I mean.”
“Well, no. Of course not. I was just wondering when you two had become such good friends.”
“Recently,” Sirius replied dryly.
“So it seems.”
“Is that all?” Sirius asked.
“No, not really. I was wondering if…”
Remus was hesitating. He didn’t want to say it – no matter how he would say it, it would still be an accusation. There was nothing harder for him than confronting his friends. Sirius knew that – he knew it, and he was taking advantage of it. He knew Remus could figure it out – he only hoped the other wouldn’t see how guilty he felt about it.
“Wondering if what?” he pushed.
“If you know what you’re doing.”
“You seem to know what I’m doing a lot better than me, so why don’t you tell me?”
“She likes you, Sirius. She really likes you.”
He’d said it. Sirius’s eyes narrowed almost unnoticeably. He hadn’t been expecting it. But then again, Remus’s mind had always functioned based on a set of simple principles, and that made him awfully predictable. If James’s welfare was in danger, Remus would much rather confront Sirius about it – and Sirius felt somewhat insulted at the thought that Remus could ever imagine he’d trade his best friend for a girl – than have James pay for his friend’s stupidity. Sirius should’ve seen it coming.
“What makes you say that?”
“It’s the way she looks at you. I hope you know what you’re playing with. And how high the stakes are.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
He was such a hypocrite. He knew it, Remus knew it – but after all, it was a charade; all of it. No matter what Remus knew, as long as Sirius didn’t admit it, the other would be unable to prove it. And so long as he couldn’t prove it, he couldn’t accuse Sirius of anything. He couldn’t interfere, because by refusing to admit it, Sirius had forbidden him to. Funny, how they still lived by the same rules, behind the same walls they had built around themselves. They were best friends – the closest they could ever get to each other – but they were never honest people. Honesty was foolish, and none of them were fools.
“I’ll trust you,” Remus said suddenly. “Whatever it is you’re doing, I’ll trust you. If you look me in the eye and tell me everything is fine, that you’re not doing anything stupid, I’ll believe you.”
Sirius sighed, and took a few seconds to throw a rock in the lake before replying.
“I can’t tell you everything is fine, because it isn’t; and I can’t promise you I’m not doing anything stupid, because I can’t be sure it’s ever going to work. But I can assure you that my intentions are good.”
“Are you going to hurt her?” Remus asked, breaking eye contact.
“Is she going to be alright?”
Sirius didn’t have to reply to his friend’s question. The look on his face explained quite enough. Remus shot him a worry-filled glance and sighed.
“What if it doesn’t work?” he said.
“At least I’ll know I tried.”
Silence fell between them again. A minute passed. Then another minute, and another. Sirius could anticipate the next question – he could even see how much Remus dreaded to say it. He waited patiently, and eventually it came.
“What about Vanessa?”
Sirius had wanted to believe he’d be able to help it. But his words were quicker.
“What do you care?” he spat.
“Vanessa will be perfectly fine, Remus. She’s the last person you’d worry about anyway.”
“Don’t say that.”
“Why not? It’s the truth, isn’t it?”
“You were never fond of telling the truth, Sirius.”
The two friends laughed – in the end, it wasn’t the first time they were going through this. They were long past the time when it would come out as an insult.
“She is my friend,” Remus muttered.
“She was your friend,” Sirius emphasized. “You never forgave her.”
“She didn’t ask for forgiveness. And…what she did shouldn’t be forgiven. Still, that doesn’t change the way she acted around us. It doesn’t change what she’s done for me. I wouldn’t want to see her hurt again. I don’t think she’d be able to take it. Not from you, I mean. You, of all people, should know…”
“You give her less credit than she deserves,” Sirius cut him. “And you make me sound more important than I really am.”
“You’re everything she has left. If you…”
“I won’t.” Sirius cut him sharply. “Besides, she already knows.”
“She helped me do this in the first place.”
Remus’s eyes widened in surprise for a moment, and then he shook his head slowly.
“I see,” he snorted.
No matter how hard he tried, Remus couldn’t hide the jealousy in his voice. It hurt him not to know. Secrets had always hurt him; and Sirius knew his weaknesses all too well.
“She…well, she’s not like you.”
The statement threw another silence over them – a much darker one, this time. Sirius had wanted to end the conversation, and the conversation had ended. He had finally told the truth, and the truth was much more than his friend could bear. Remus was left with only two choices – strike back or walk away. Sirius had just said it moments ago, and Remus had always known it; he knew that in the end, he only had one choice – the other was, and had always been, unacceptable.
“I hope you know what you’re doing.”
As Remus stood up and left his friend alone on the lakeshore, Sirius couldn’t wash away the mixture of bitter feelings that invaded him. The doubt, the guilt, the fear…the self-loathing; they were undeniable. He dreaded what he knew would happen, for he realized the time had come for him to come out in the open. The next phase of the plan was ready – tomorrow, the world would know the truth; or, at the very least, whatever appeared to be the truth.
Sirius had known what he was doing. Sirius was always right – it’s what he was famous for, after all. He’d known her better than she’d known herself, and he’d exploited every inch of his charm and manipulating skills in order to guide her, like a simple puppet. Remus had seen it earlier than anyone, and now it all made sense to Lily. His reserved attitude and apprehensiveness, his reproachful glances and his attempts at talking to her…
She’d been blind, and she’d refused to listen. He’d told her that the world didn’t matter, and that she didn’t have to worry. That everything would turn out to be okay, and that everyone would understand, eventually. That James would understand…she’d always wondered how it was that James understood, really…
“My best friend!”
“Prongs, I’m sure there’s a…”
“A what, Moony? An explanation, yes?”
“Well, Sirius did…”
“There is no explanation – he just…he just…”
“He just assumed, like all of us did, that you were over Lily,” Remus cut him softly.
“What would posses Padfoot to assume that?”
“I don’t know, Prongs, maybe the fact that you said you were over her, or the fact that you and Vanessa mysteriously ‘disappeared’ the night his father died?” Peter interjected.
“How was I supposed to know his father would die at that specific time?”
“This isn’t about his father’s death, Prongs, this is about…”
Peter fell silent, his eyes locked on the doorframe of the dormitory. James and Remus simultaneously turned as a smooth voice came from the hallway.
“Vanessa,” Remus greeted her, but his mind seemed to be somewhere else as he spoke her name.
He looked as if he’d just realized something and, by the looks of it, it wasn’t a pleasant ‘something’. She smiled at them and entered the dormitory without bothering to check if there was anyone else in there.
“How’s the Potions homework going, Pete?”
“I’ve finished it. Thank you for the help.”
She gave him a smile and waved her hand dismissively.
“Can I talk to you?” she asked James. “In private, I mean.”
Her clothes weren’t very suggestive, except for the low cut of her shirt, which emphasized her generous chest curves. Remus looked at her with a questioning frown, but she just shook her head slightly.
“Sure,” James said with confusion.
Once Remus and Peter left the room, Remus perhaps a bit too reluctantly, James slouched himself on his bed and sighed, gazing out the window. She sat next to him and put her hand through his hair absently in a very intimate and familial sort of way, a way that reminded him of a time long gone.
“You look very grouchy today,” she said neutrally. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” he said almost defensively.
“Nothing as in ‘I’m okay’ or nothing as in ‘I don’t want to talk about it’?”
James was the rather explosive type when it came to problems. Unlike Sirius, he didn’t like to hold it all inside – perhaps it was because unlike Sirius, he knew he would crack at some point. Perhaps it was because he hated keeping secrets – either way, Vanessa wasn’t surprised when the confession came, preceded by the trademark sigh.
“I suppose you’ve heard about Sirius and Lily.”
“Who hasn’t? Is that why you’re upset?”
“Yes…well, no. I mean, I’m not upset, but I just…”
“You do know that Sirius would never do such a thing if he didn’t think you were over her, right?”
“I…why would he think…I mean I don’t…”
“Maybe you are over her. Everyone knows she doesn’t deserve you, James.”
“Perhaps he did it because he wanted you to realize you’re long over her as well.”
“Well, you seem to know what he’s doing a lot better than I do,” he snapped.
“Don’t snap at me – he hasn’t told me anything,” she said in an even voice. “You don’t actually think he talks to me about Evans, do you?”
A wave of regret followed her voice as it trailed off, and James looked at her.
“I’m sorry, Vanessa, I didn’t realize…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that.”
He put his hand around her waist, the familiarity of her touch stunning him. He’d distanced himself from her a long time ago, and yet years later, the gap could close between them as his fingers trailed the same soft, warm skin, and his lips kissed the same lips they’d kissed three years before. Things had changed, but it felt like time had stopped, waiting for him to make that move again.
“I always thought you two were…”
“Me and Sirius? We’re just good friends. He talks about you all the time.”
“Yeah. But I wish you’d do the talking instead. I haven’t talked to you in ages – not the way we used to talk, I mean.”
“Well, you haven’t exactly tried, Vanessa,” he said reproachfully.
“And you haven’t exactly forgiven what I’ve done.”
“I don’t want to talk about that,” he said and, despite his efforts, his voice still sounded a little cold.
She kissed him again, and he surprisingly found himself enjoying it. Maybe it was the fact that he hadn’t been close to a girl in a very long time, or maybe it was her stunning bright green eyes, so similar to…
“Promise me you won’t get mad at Sirius. He means no harm, you know that. If you’re not comfortable with him and Evans going out, just tell him.”
Perhaps she’d meant to sound indifferent, but her voice still carried the hint of sadness he’d heard earlier. He wondered if it was the thought of Sirius and Lily that was hurting her, or something else.
“No girl is worth losing your friends,” she smiled, and James could clearly see she swallowed the last part of her remark.
“You’ve always said that.”
“I stand by it. Think of your friendship with Sirius then think about her and whether she’s worth throwing everything away.”
“It’s not – but that doesn’t change what he’s…”
“He’s probably liked her for longer than you’ve ever imagined, and now that he thought you were over her…”
“Probably?” James cut her, and his voice sounded harsh. “He’s told you all this, hasn’t he?”
“No, James, I told you he wouldn’t talk to me about Evans. I just know him well.”
“So do I, but I never got the impression…”
“He probably hoped you wouldn’t, too.”
“So if he’s liked her for a while…and I kept telling him…he…”
James stood up and started pacing the room, thoughts swirling in his head, putting piece by piece together to come to a conclusion he didn’t want to reach. Vanessa patiently watched him as he crossed the room several times, before he suddenly stopped and looked at her intently.
“Well, it’s a good thing they’re together now,” he said abruptly.
“Why?” she said with a small laugh. “Minutes ago, you were just…”
He didn’t let her finish her sentence, because his lips slid across hers, telling her everything she needed to know. She kissed him back, and it was no longer an affectionate kiss – it was a kiss that meant something. He closed the file labeled ‘Lily’ and finally opened himself to other perspectives. Vanessa couldn’t help feeling guilty as she kissed him, and perhaps only a little bit regretful. She wished he’d done that years before. Now it was too late, and all she had was the hope that she wouldn’t have to be the one to break his heart.
“I feel so stupid asking this, but…”
“Yes, I’m sure,” he cut her softly, and she smiled.
“You must be starving. You go ahead to dinner, I’ll meet you in the Great Hall. I’ve got to change out of these clothes.”
“Don’t. I like that shirt.”
“Fine, but at least let me take a shower.”
“Can I come?” he asked mischievously.
“Of course…if you can make it past the staircase,” she grinned.
James kissed her one more time before leaving the dormitory and heading toward the Great Hall. Once he was gone, Vanessa grabbed a piece of parchment from the nearest end table and started scribbling in a hurry. The message was short, containing only the necessary information, but she smiled knowing the receiver would smile as well when he got the message. She shook her head with amusement – she hadn’t expected it all to work that well.
Once in the girls’ dormitory, which was fortunately empty, she sent the letter away with her owl, and proceeded to the shower. As the cold water ran down her body, she thought about Sirius, and what he must’ve been doing at that moment. Everything was almost over – she just had to hang in there for a few more days, and it would be fine.
Smiling to herself, Vanessa descended down the stairs, only to stumble into the middle of an interesting conversation.
“He told you that, didn’t he?” a familiar voice asked with a sort of malicious pleasure. “Of course he did. He tells that to every single girl he meets. He told me that too, right before…”
Memories of Gracie came back to Lily as she sat and listened. She’d forgotten all about her as time had passed. Soon, she had a new life and different friends. She’d chosen to shut away any thoughts of Grace, because thinking of her filled Lily with pity. She didn’t want to feel pity towards someone she’d once considered a friend, but the truth was that Gracie needed and deserved pity.
Silently, she hoped the blond girl had found what she was looking for. That she was happy and peaceful now. That she’d finally accepted herself for who she was, and allowed others to accept her as well. And even though she’d lied, Lily recalled that there had been some truth to it. Lily remembered how Gracie always said that Sirius would eventually leave her; that he’d eventually break her heart. That he was emotionally incapable of caring for a girl in any other way. That hadn’t been entirely true – she just didn’t happen to be that girl.
“Wow, you look sore,” Sirius told Vanessa as he poured himself a glass of Firewhisky, a tired smile plastered on his face.
“Yeah, well, jealousy scenes aren’t exactly my thing.”
“So I take it everything went as planned?”
“Pretty much. I thought Grace Simmons might come in handy for this. After a long and boring talk with the fat dolt, she ran off to play the victim. Of course, Evans came to James to ask for help, just like you told her to. She barged in. Didn’t even bother to apologize,” she articulated bitterly.
Sirius looked at her contemplatively. He rolled his eyes, and shook his head with slight disapproval.
“You made it easy for him, didn’t you?”
“I’m sorry,” she sighed. “But what was I supposed to do? Watch?”
He opened his mouth to say something, but then closed it and put an arm on Vanessa’s shoulder.
“You’re right. I shouldn’t have asked that of you in the first place. Whatever you did, I know you did the right thing. It’s going to work.”
“Yeah, it is,” she said absently.
“I’m glad you did it.”
His casual tone might’ve misled anyone who hadn’t stayed around him for long, but Vanessa knew what he was really saying. She turned to look at him with a strange mixture of shock, satisfaction, sadness and relief. Unsure of what to do, she settled for a smile.
“So what now?” she asked passively.
“Now we wait.”
They sat in silence, sipping Firewhisky, both thinking of the same thing that plagued their conscience. The waiting was terrifying, and they knew all too well how much they had to lose if things didn’t work out the way they were supposed to.
“Lily is quite persuasive when she tries,” Vanessa remarked with slight amusement.
“Lily?” he raised his eyebrows in an expression of fake shock.
“Evans,” she corrected quickly.
He laughed, and put his arms around her waist, kissing her neck in a playful manner.
“I really appreciate your help. I know you hate doing this.”
Vanessa rolled her eyes, knowing all too well he was still feeling guilty, but couldn’t help smiling.
“So now she thinks James broke up with you to help her,” he reflected.
“He did break up with me to help her, Sirius,” she laughed.
“Yes, but the point is she feels guilty about it. And, of course, she’s starting to appreciate James’s heroism and self-sacrifice,” he added with sarcastic amusement.
“So, everything went as planned,” Sirius concluded with obvious satisfaction.
He took another sip of Firewhisky, and then looked at her contemplatively once more.
“Did you cry?” he grinned mischievously.
With an expression of mock indignation, she shoved her elbow in his stomach.
“No, I didn’t!” she exclaimed. “I wouldn’t sink that low. It’s bad enough as it was.”
“If it’s any comfort to you, I’m not feeling any better, either.”
“Oh please,” she mocked him. “You got to screw Lily Evans while all I got was a corny, dramatic break-up and you’re still not happy.”
“Do you think I liked doing what I did?”
“Was she that bad?” Vanessa grinned.
“I didn’t mean that, I just…will you stop laughing already?”
He dragged her by the waist and threw her on the bed. Their lips collided, their hands easily finding their way across each other’s body, for they already knew by heart every single inch of skin hidden beneath the clothes. With her, he felt safe; he knew that he could rest. He didn’t have to pretend, and he didn’t have to be honest, either. He didn’t have to do absolutely anything – she accepted him either way. She always used to say there comes a time in one’s life when one has to accept the explanation they’re offered – not because it’s the truth, but because they won’t get a better one.
He’d lied to her for years in a row, he’d told her truths he’d only shared with his best friends before. He’d hurt her countless times. He was far too conscious of the fact that hours of happiness with him had cost her days of suffering, and every single time, she’d stayed. He never knew why, and never questioned it. He was happy to have someone to run to when things got too hard to face them alone. In the dark, he felt Vanessa’s fingers caressing his arm softly and he smiled.
“Relax, Sirius,” she whispered. “There’s a big day ahead of you. You should get some rest.”
“Don’t remind me, please,” he said darkly.
“You have nothing to worry about. The hardest part is over.”
“I’m dreading the thought of…”
“Stop. Stop it. If anyone can pull this off, it’s you – you’re the best liar I’ve ever known.”
“You know, I’m not sure that was even a compliment,” he laughed.
“It was. Coming from me, it was. You got this far. And you did your best.”
Silence fell between them. Then, Sirius couldn’t help but voice the thought that had been eating at him for almost a month.
“What if I’m wrong?” he whispered, and a thin wave of fear echoed in the volumes of his voice.
“You’re right,” she said reassuringly. “You always are.”
He smiled bitterly and closed his eyes, trying not to think that, in less than 5 hours, he would have to go back to Lily’s bedroom and break her heart in the cruelest way he’d ever broken anyone’s heart before.
Silence fell into the room – a heavy silence, as it always was after the truth came out. And such a truth demanded such a silence, for there was nothing more difficult than learning you were part of a play, and you were just a puppet behind the leading role. Still, Lily looked beyond it, and assumed the responsibility of her actions – after all, if she’d been so utterly stupid and blind, she’d truly needed someone to guide her; and she was lucky that someone was there.
As they gave Lily the missing half of the story, she couldn’t suppress the feeling of gratitude that washed over her. Of course she was still a little bitter, but she knew that they’d meant well. And to understand that they sacrificed so much for a best friend and a girl they barely even knew…it showed Lily what kind of people they truly were inside – kind and loyal, caring friends; and in the end, it was all that mattered.
“Thank you,” she whispered silently.
“So…everything you said to me – the night I went out with Lily to search for Grace, I mean – none of it was true?”
“Not really, no,” Vanessa replied, making a face.
“Except for the part where she cried her eyes out over you in third year – that part was true,” Sirius added with a grin.
“Oh my God, Sirius, you are SUCH a jerk!”
Laughter echoed in the living room of the Potters as everyone started bickering in the usual fashion. It felt pleasant – it made them forget that they were no longer kids and students; that they were facing a war, and that this night could be the last night they would ever laugh like that. But for now, Lily was feeling positive about the future.
“It’s late,” Vanessa said, glancing at her wristwatch.
“Ooh, is Mr. Haylin anxiously waiting for you?” Sirius mocked her.
“As a matter of fact, he is.”
“How anxiously?” he asked and, for the first time in months, Lily recognized the seductive Sirius she once thought she’d fallen for; the charming boy who always got what he wanted.
Vanessa smiled at him, and her smiled gave him the reply he was waiting for. He still got what he wanted, Lily thought fondly. She liked seeing them together now – in a way, it felt as if they’d earned each other. Vanessa because of the sacrifices she’d made, and Sirius because he’d given a little piece of himself to her. And for anyone who knew Sirius Black the way Lily did, that meant a lot.
“You can walk me to the door if you’d like,” Vanessa said softly.
He smiled and stood up, putting his arm around her waist, and along with Lily and James, they headed for the door. They waved and said their goodbyes, hoping to see each other again. The war had changed many things, and people had learned to take advantage of every single moment they had. In a way, bad things had always brought out bright things as well – no one knew that better than Lily. And even something as horrible as a war had brought a little joy to the world. They’d learned to live and cherish every moment as if it was the last – and in a way, that meant more than an entire life of wasted moments and missed goodbyes.
Just before he walked out the door, Sirius turned around.
“Lily…” he whispered.
His eyes were warm – soft and gentle, both proud and regretful. In that one second, he froze the time once more for her, just to allow her to look into his eyes, and lose herself again; to see everything – the pitch black darkness and the bright white light, colliding inside him and fighting as always. And suddenly the room was gone; everything was gone, and only they were left. The world stood suspended in that one, magical second, and 4 years of lies and secrets melted in its spell. Lily gazed into the eyes of the 16-year old boy who’d still remained a mystery – a stranger, and yet familiar to her. It was the last moment she would ever long for him again, the way she used to back when they were younger.
“Forgive me,” he whispered, pressing his lips against her ear.
The spell was broken as he turned around, and before Lily could reply – before she could so much as pull out of her reverie, he and Vanessa were both gone.
I’ve forgiven Sirius a long time ago. He shaped me into someone I’d one day be proud of, and I can only be thankful for that. He opened my eyes to so many things, he showed me what the world is really like. Both good and bad, sometimes dark and sometimes bright - the magic of the night, as well as the light of day. I still feel somewhat bound to him, like a child to the parent that taught them to make their very first step. For without Sirius, where would I be today?
A silly girl in a hostile world, doomed to fall at the first blow of fate. I would have nothing and I would know nothing. Sometimes, I long to be that child again, and I foolishly wish I’d have never met Sirius. But the truth is different – such a child cannot survive, not in this world or any other. He gave me a new life, probably the best I could ever get. For that, he deserves my forgiveness.
I had to forgive him – God knows Sirius needs it more than anything else. He’s bound to the guilt of his ancestry, as well as the guilt of his noble acts. All noble acts require sacrifices, and even though he’s well aware of that, he never forgives himself for sacrificing. He always thinks there was a better way. He’ll always think he could’ve mended me without breaking me in the first place.
I’m grateful for every single moment I spent with him, and I’d relive those moments over and over again. Not because I loved him – I never really did. I loved James from the first time I saw him, even though I needed Sirius to open my eyes to that as well. However, it somehow hurts to know that I’ll never shine so bright again. He made me glow with that blissful happiness only he could offer, with the illusion that the world is nothing more and nothing less than what I’ve always wanted it to be. Illusions were what Sirius knew best.
He was a magician, and I was his audience, and every time he worked his magic on me, I fell for it. And truth be told, I wanted to be fooled, for there can be nothing more sublime, more blissful, than that one moment in time when you open your eyes, and find the world to be exactly as you dreamt it. My only regret is not having had the time to believe that I was more to him. But it’s a comfort to know that I can always go back, and ask him to fool me one more time.
He let me borrow a piece of his light, a piece of his enchanting magic. I was born to be an ordinary girl, as happy as anyone else – maybe a little happier than most. I wasn’t granted with the knowledge to become more. Most people live their lives believing in nothing more than a small world around them. They fail to acknowledge the greater world beyond themselves. They fail to see that they are part of something so much greater than that. Yet there are moments, if you’re lucky, moments so blissful that you lose yourself. It is in moments like those when you truly feel you’re a piece of a whole. It’s in those moments that you know you have a part in all of it – that you can change a life; that you can change the world. A single touch can make the world explode; a single, small, incandescent spark. It was enough to change me, anyway.
James and Lily sat on the couch in each other’s arms, happier than ever. Happy because they loved and had each other, and happy to have the best friends in the entire world. Love is far more difficult to find than the world would let you believe – true love, and loyalty and friendship are rare luxuries not everyone can afford. And once you’ve found them, the only thing you can do is be grateful.
“I love you.”
He kissed her forehead affectionately and squeezed her in his arms.
“I love you, too.”
A/N: So, this is it. What did you think? Feel free to share any opinions you had on the story overall, or only this chapter. I appreciate both praise and criticism just as much. I tried to tie every flashback to a certain scene in a certain chapter, but I’m not sure it’s all clear. If anyone has any confusion regarding the timeline of the flashbacks, I’ll just write down a chronology by chapters.
-1st flashback: before the actual story; 2nd flashback: in chapter 6, “Red and Black”, when Lily is supposed to meet Sirius by the greenhouse; 3rd flashback: in chapter 7, “Truth about Lies”, after the first scene (Sirius makes their relationship public and James finds out about it); 4th flashback: in chapter 9, “Incandescence”, at the end (after Lily sleeps with Sirius, Sirius leaves the room and goes to meet Vanessa). The ending scene is not a flashback, it’s in italics because it’s very symbolic, as Lily’s last reflection. Sort of a way to wrap the story up.
So, now that I’ve written my huge explanation concerning the chronological order of the events, I’m gonna be a little mushy and thank everyone who’s stuck with me and the story:
1. Violet Gryfindor, for the awesome graphics – I’ll be forever grateful ^_^
2. My wonderful reviewers: marauder_lady, Jacqueline Noir, joojoo, shadowycorner, GoCalgaryFlamesGo, Kriztal, ChoS_sista_gurl, katlynncore, Aine, sweetnothings, obviously394, Twilight Princess, KaraBlack, ScarletGriffin, Siriius, burnt august, rozen_maiden, Kahini and everyone else. You guys are the best reviewers in the entire world, and I loff you very very much ^_^ *dramatic sniffle* :P
3. Everyone who read and enjoyed the story
Thank you all so much – the story would be nothing without you guys *supergianthuggletackleglomp*
As a last note (and be warned, for this is going to be some shameless self-promotion :P), before I started “Incandescence”, I decided I want to write a series of 3 stories, with Lily as the main character. I wanted 3 different ships, so I settled for Lily/Sirius, Lily/James and Lily/Snape. The point was to write these ships in an original way (not entirely sure it worked though). Since this one is over, I’m going to start “Kaleidoscope” very soon. “Kaleidoscope” might resemble “Incandescence” a bit, though it won’t be related in any way to the events here. It’s much more humorous, whereas the last story, “Untouchable” (the Snape/Lily) will be sad and somewhat more angsty. “Kaleidoscope” is simply aiming to be a different take on the oh-so-cliched James/Lily ship. Stop by to read, if you have some time. And thank you once again for everything. ^_^