Chapter 36 : If You Don't Wanna Love Me Anymore
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When I said that our kiss didn’t matter, I didn’t mean it. I was
overwhelmed with everything with those books and I just couldn’t de---
About the night of the ball… that kiss did mean something to me. It
meant everything. I’ve wanted this for so long. I’m so sorry that I---
I know you must hate me for everything that happened with holly
and the confessionals. You deserve so much better than me but---
Please come back.
I threw my quill down onto the table and crumpled the piece of parchment in my hands, tossing it into the unlit fireplace where it joined five other crumpled pieces of parchment. I hadn’t bothered to light the fire properly since James had left. What was the point? Every so often I would light my crumpled letters on fire, making sure they were reduced to ashes before I left.
There would be no Christmas this year. Not for me, at least. The common room was completely bare. I hadn’t put up any decorations even though there were boxes of them sitting in the corner from the Snow Angel Ball.
It was my own fault. My parents were unbelievably disappointed that I wasn’t coming home for Christmas, although I didn’t tell them the whole story. I said that since I was Head Girl I had to stay on duty during the holiday for the students who couldn’t go home.
It was Christmas Eve. My mum was probably just starting to cook Christmas Eve dinner while my dad attempted to help by unsuccessfully smashing potatoes. My sister would most likely have her ear glued to the phone talking to her fiancé. And as annoying as that was, I almost missed it as I walked down the completely empty halls of Hogwarts. I had finished Binn’s room a few days ago and I had moved onto the library where Madam Pince wanted me to take all the books off the shelves and give them a good dusting. Joy.
I sighed as I started pulling books off the shelf where I had stopped last night. Since James had left, it was like nothing mattered anymore. I went through all the motions during the day and at night my dreams always painfully revolved around him. There was no escape.
It had been a week since everyone left. I had kept in touch with the Clique since we had patched things up. Pippa had barely made it home before I received an owl from her nearly bursting from happiness as she wrote about how Sirius had (very nervously) asked to go out when they got back from break. Well, at least one relationship would have a happy ending.
Don’t get me wrong, I was very happy for Pippa and Sirius… but it was just so hard to be happy for them when my own little demented love story seemed to be at an end.
With every passing day my heart seemed to ache even more than the day before. I had tried several times to write to him, with the only result being a crumpled piece of parchment tossed into the fireplace. I just couldn’t seem to find the right words to say…. How was I supposed to tell him how I felt in a letter? I barely could say the words out loud, let alone write them on a stupid piece of paper.
I moved through the rows of books, not paying attention at all to what I was doing. My mind was so distracted that I couldn’t focus. It was just another day to get through.
I went through eight hours of cleaning books. I had made it through almost half of the library so far. But it was almost time for me to be on duty.
Normally I would be complaining and tired by now, but I was glad to have the distractions. I dreaded every night that I got off duty because then I would have nothing to occupy my time and I would be left with my thoughts and that was potentially dangerous. It was completely my fault for driving James away, for losing the only guy that I’ve ever really cared for.
I wandered around the castle for an hour, trying to keep my thoughts away from James, but I was unsuccessful. It seemed impossible not to think about him. No matter what I tried to distract my thoughts with, they somehow always found their way back to him in a matter of minutes. It was becoming extremely exhausting to think about.
I walked back through the deserted halls to my dorm. There were no students out tonight. I wondered idly why a student would even want to be out around the castle on Christmas Eve. It was well after midnight, everyone was probably asleep.
Exhaustion swept over me as I approached the portrait of the centaur-filled forest. I yawned as the portrait swung open and I entered the common room.
I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw a small Christmas tree in the corner of the room, several small boxes tucked underneath the lowest bows and decorated with sparkling silver snowflakes. The little pine tree was illuminated by a delicate string of Christmas lights and a gentle orange glow from the fireplace.
I spun around, my breath catching as I caught sight of James standing next to the fireplace, his hands shoved deep in his pockets. I must be dreaming. He can’t seriously be here. I have to be dreaming!
James lifted his hazel eyes to me, locking onto mine and making my stomach flip uncontrollably. I opened my mouth to speak, but no sounds came out.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to just…show up here. I just— I needed to see you,” James stuttered, his eyes flitting to the Christmas tree in the corner.
“I tried to write you,” I blurted, finding my voice, moving towards him in front of the fire. The warmth of the flames was extremely welcoming after walking the cold halls of the castle. I found that I was shivering, even standing right in front of the fire. “I just… I didn’t know what to say.”
“It doesn’t matter,” James sighed, his smoldering eyes finding mine again. The familiarity of his words stung, but there was no venom in his voice. His hands were shaking; he was nervous.
“Look,” he said slowly, taking a deep breath. “I know that this thing between us hasn’t been easy, with Chris and Holly and everything else working against it. I talked to Holly… she told me everything that happened. About the books and how she stole yours because I broke up with her. If I had known… it makes so much sense now, why you were so distant. And then the night of the ball…”
My breath seemed to be stuck in my throat. I was afraid I would pass out if I didn’t exhale soon, but I was still waiting for the part where James would tell me he didn’t love me anymore.
“She was right, though,” James said, furrowing his brow slightly. “Not for stealing your book, but everything she said about me was true. All that time I was with her, I was never really with her. I was using her and I promised myself I would never use someone like that… but I was just waiting for you. And she told me that she thought you were into me, I really didn’t want to believe her… But I was curious and I may have read that book she stole from you.”
I cringed, remembering the way the book was creased to a certain page.
“You said you loved me,” James said, a kind of desperate plea creeping into his voice. “At one point, you loved me. And I know you said it was too hard, this thing between us. I understand that… and I know I’m not an easy person to love, so if you don’t want to love me anymore then I’d…understand.” His voice broke off, choked with emotion as he took a step towards me.
“But you should know that that I’ll keep waiting for you for as long as it takes for you to realize that we’re meant for each other, in every way,” James said, his hazel eyes reflecting the soft orange glow from the fire. “I’ll wait forever if that’s what it takes, and I’ll keep fighting for you, no matter what gets in my way. You’re the girl I’ve been waiting for, for years; you’re who I’m meant to be with. And I know I’m not wrong, this can’t have all been for nothing. And I won’t give up until you realize that I’m meant for you, too.”
I stared at him, completely stunned as he said all this. My head was practically exploding with everything he was saying and I couldn’t make sense of any of it.
“I love you, Lily,” James said, reaching a shaking hand out to brush a loose strand of hair behind my ear. “I always have, and I always will. And nothing you or anyone else says or does could convince me otherwise.”
He let his hand fall back to his side, waiting for my response but I couldn’t even form coherent thoughts, let alone a sentence. I saw worry creep into his face as I continued to not speak. I had gone over this moment a million times in my head and now when it was actually happening, I couldn’t think of a single thing to say. What the hell was wrong with me?
“Lily, please say something,” James said, his voice breaking as he lowered his eyes to the floor.
I took a step towards James, closing the distance between us, lifting my head to meet his nervous gaze.
“For so long,” I started, my voice trembling slightly as I watched the golden flames of the fire reflecting in James’s eyes, “I was… afraid that if I gave you even the slightest chance, opened myself up even just a little, then I’d fall for you. And how could I fall for the boy that I’d sworn to hate for eternity?”
James let out a short nervous laugh, but his eyes were still searching mine for the answer he was waiting for.
“And then…. You kissed me,” I sighed, my stomach flipping at just the thought. “And everything changed.”
James’s eyes never left mine. I could feel the tension emanating from his body as he waited for me to say those three little words. I glanced down, lacing my fingers between his, feeling once again the electric twist that his touch sent through my body.
“I love you, James,” I breathed, surprised by how easy it was to say. I looked back up at him to see that his lips were curling into a smile as his hands squeezed mine.
“Who’d have known,” I laughed softly, pulling myself even closer to him, “that after all these years I would end up falling head over heels in love with you.”
“You’ve no idea how long I’ve waited to hear you say that,” James said quietly, resting his forehead gently to mine. My body felt like there were a thousand tiny electric shocks coursing through me, feeling more alive than I ever had.
“And how does it feel?” I smirked, looking up at him to see a smile fixed on his face. “Now that you finally have me?”
“It feels like I’m the luckiest guy in the entire world,” James said, running his fingers softly down my cheek before lifting my chin slightly, our lips meeting.
It was like my entire body had burst into flames. There was nothing holding me back anymore. James was mine. Finally and completely mine. I wasn’t worrying about Chris or Holly or those stupid books anymore.
It was like the world around us had dissolved away and all that was left was us. All that was left was the way James’s lips were perfectly in sync with mine, the way his hands wound around my back pulling me closer, the mad desire in the pit of my stomach to keep going, to never let it stop…
* * * *
The fire was still smoldering softly when my eyes fluttered open. I was confused for a second as to why I was laying on sofa cushions in front of the fire, but I quickly remembered (with some embarrassment) that the floor was where James and I had…ended up. I guess we had been too caught up in the moment to bother moving to one of our bedrooms. And anyways, it was nicer out there with the fire and the Christmas tree. It was the perfect way to wake up.
James’s arm was draped gently over me, and I rolled over carefully to face him. He was still sleeping, his glasses lying on the floor next to the cushions.
I watched him as he continued sleeping, a pleasant tingling sensation building inside me as I thought of last night. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched his chest rise and fall while he breathed, his messy black hair falling over his closed eyes.
I reached out a hand to brush away the hair from his face and I saw his lips turn up into a lopsided smile as his eyes opened slowly.
“Merry Christmas,” James slurred sleepily, his arm tightening around me, pulling me closer into him.
“I didn’t mean to wake you,” I said quietly.
“It’s ok, I probably have to go soon anyways,” James said, reaching over the side of the cushions for his glasses.
“You have to leave?” I said, disappointment obvious in my voice.
“I kind of snuck out,” James said, flashing me a guilty smile. “Sirius is covering for me now, but my parents will probably be up soon and expecting both of us for breakfast…”
“Sirius is at your house?” I asked, rolling onto my stomach and propping myself up on my elbows.
“Yeah, his parents kicked him out ages ago, hasn’t he told you that?” James said, sitting up and running a hand through his hair attempting to smooth it down. “He’s been staying with me since then.”
“Oh,” was all I could say. How had I never known that?
I watched James as he put his black framed glasses back on, attempting to smooth down his hair as well as he lay back down on his side so that he was facing me.
“What are you thinking about?” James asked, pushing my auburn hair away from my face.
“I dunno,” I sighed. “Everything seems to perfect right now… It’s kind of sad, you know? Because I just can’t see how life could ever be this absolutely perfect again.”
“That’s what you think,” James smirked, pushing himself back off the “bed” and disappearing behind the cushion-less couch to where the Christmas tree was. He reappeared with several small boxes in his hands and sat down next to me on the floor. I sat up, crossing my legs underneath me and facing him as he held out a small box wrapped in shiny red paper.
“You got me presents?” I asked hesitantly, taking the small box from him.
“Of course I did, it’s Christmas!” James said, his face shining with excitement.
“I can’t accept any of these, I didn’t get you anything,” I said holding the box back out to him.
“You’ve already given me everything I’ve ever wanted,” James said pushing the box back towards me. “Don’t make me open these for you.”
“Fine, fine, I’ll open them myself,” I said reluctantly tearing a corner of the paper revealing a dark green velvet box. I flipped open the lid and gasped when I saw a pair of earrings with the same elegant snowflakes on the necklace he had given me for the Ball.
“I thought you might like them,” James said, watching me as I ran my fingers over the elegant gems. “I see you’re still wearing the necklace.”
“I haven’t taken it off since the Ball,” I said, as I put the earrings in my ears. “How do they look?” I pulled back my hair, putting on my best model face as James inspected his gift.
“Apparently I have good taste,” James said, holding out another box, also wrapped in shiny red paper. I tore open the paper to reveal another green velvet box, this one longer and thinner than the other.
I opened it, and once again my breath was taken away as I beheld a delicate silver chain bracelet, a small snowflake charm dangling from the clasp.
“I figured you might like a complete set,” James smiled, seeing my reaction to the bracelet.
“James this must have cost you a fortune,” I breathed, lifting the bracelet out of the box and wrapping it around my wrist.
“I told you, my uncle made this stuff, I didn’t even have to pay for it,” James said, reaching over to help me clasp the bracelet.
“You shouldn’t have done this,” I said, shaking my head at him.
“Yes I should have,” James contradicted me, placing yet another small box in my hand. “Here, last one, I promise.”
I ripped off the paper, glaring at James as I did. As if we wasn’t perfect enough already, he just had to get me all the right presents on Christmas.
“More jewelry? Come on, James, your poor uncle will go out of business if you keep giving away his stuff,” I said, shaking the little black velvet box at him.
“I didn’t get this one from my uncle,” James said, his eyes fixed on the box.
I rolled my eyes at him and flipped open the lid casually glancing down, expecting another necklace or earrings.
I stopped when I saw what was in the box. Looking up at James I turned the box around so he could see the contents of the box.
“What the hell is this?” I asked him, my breath becoming increasingly shallow.
James’s eyes met mine briefly, just long enough for me to see worry there, before he took the box from me. His hands shook slightly as he took the delicate silver ring from the box, propping himself up on one knee, his eyes hesitantly meeting mine.
“Marry me, Lily,” James breathed, holding out the ring to me.
I think it was about this point when I forgot how to breathe properly. All I could hear was my heart thudding irregularly in my chest, my fingers and toes felt numb, like the slightest breeze could knock me over.
My heart was screaming “Yes! Yes! Yes!” but my mouth wasn’t opening. I wanted to say yes. From the moment he told me he loved me I wanted to say yes. And yet… I couldn’t silence that nagging voice that was reminding me we’d barely even started dating. How could I say yes? It was crazy, right? I mean, I was only seventeen years old and to be engaged? Before I even graduated?
James shifted uncomfortably when after a minute I hadn’t answered yet. I hadn’t even taken my eyes off the ring. It was only a simple silver band and yet it was loaded with such a heavy meaning. Tying myself to him eternally… it was all I wanted, so why couldn’t I say yes? What was holding me back? That everyone would gossip about those seventeen-year-olds who got engaged before they were even graduated? I shouldn’t care what anyone else thinks, right?
“I was going to wait,” James said, his voice trembling slightly, but he remained steadily down on one knee. “You know, until we graduated. I mean after all, I’d waited six years to be with you, what’s another couple of months?”
My eyes moved from the ring to his face, seeing that he seemed to concentrating completely on not passing out from nerves. I almost laughed before I remembered the gravity of the situation.
“But you know what I realized?” James said, his eyes meeting mine. “I don’t want to wait anymore. I already know that I want to spend the rest of my life with you, so why wait? Let’s start spending the rest of our lives together now.”
I tore my eyes away from James and looked out the window to buy myself some thinking time. It was still mostly dark out, it couldn’t be later than six in the morning, but the sky was lightened enough for me to see fragile white snowflakes falling gently past the window, swirling as the wind picked up.
I looked back to James, his bright hazel eyes shining with anticipation and nerves, waiting for me to answer him. His messy dark hair was all over the place, falling into his face. I looked at him, kneeling in front of me pledging the rest of his life to me, and the answer was suddenly clear to me. All this time, all of the awfulness we had been through to get to this point, and we were finally there, and he was here, asking me to marry him.
“Yes,” I said without giving it another thought.
“What?” James asked, looking taken aback by my answer.
“I said yes,” I said, a smile pulling at the corners of my mouth.
“Are you sure?” He asked, furrowing his brow.
“Are you really questioning my answer?” I let out a laugh and James flashed me a dazzling smile as I held out my left hand.
“Mon cœur est a vous,” James said, slipping the tiny silver ring onto my finger.
“What’s that?” I asked, admiring the plain silver band that would now be a permanent fixture on my hand.
“It’s French,” James said, entwining his fingers in mine. “It means ‘my heart is yours’. It’s engraved on the inside of the ring.”
“James…” I said pulling the band off to see the elegant script engraved around the inside. It was faded slightly, barely visible as it if had been worn off.
“It was the ring my father gave to my mother when he proposed,” James said taking the ring and putting it back on my finger. “I figured it might be lucky for us, too.”
“It’s beautiful,” I said quietly, spinning the band around my finger. “It’s perfect.”
“Just like you,” James said, pulling me closer to him. He rested his forehead briefly on mine before whispering “mon cœur est a vous” in my ear, sending shivers through me at his closeness.
He rested his hands on either side of my face, gently wiping away a happy tear that had escaped my eye.
“My heart is yours, Lily Evans,” James said, his hazels eyes boring into mine, burning with desire and happiness. “It always has been, and it always will be.”
I felt another tear roll down my cheek and before James could wipe it away I pressed my lips to his, winding my hands around his neck. He pulled me tightly to him and I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with happiness at the thought that I would never have to let him go again… ever.
A/N: Gah! so I know it's been forever! And I'm so sorry! I've been working 12 hour days and then I got sick but I'm better now! And here's another chapter! It took me ages to get this chapter exactly the way I wanted it so I hope you all liked it!!! Let me know what you thought! More soon (for real, this time!). lovelovelove.
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