Chapter 16 : Seventh Year, The End
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"Potter." He leers as he comes around to face him.
James does not waste time. He draws his wand and with a flash, sends Snape flying down the corridor. "Snivellus!" he yells, with mock pleasantry. "So good to see you! Haven't changed a bit, have you?" James walks toward him as he is clamoring toward his wand, "Same greasy hair, same mediocre dueling strategies." Snape reaches his wand and makes to curse him, but James is quicker, "Impedimenta!" This too knocks Snape back, but he continues moving, as if through a think syrup toward James, "Tell me, is this how they teach you to duel in the Death Eaters?"
He recovers more quickly than James expects. An invisible force pins him against the wall. "Is this how your daddy taught you to duel?" Snape taunts, "No, no, that's not right. He told you to never attack unless it's four on one. What a cowardly rule for someone who sets so much store by bravery."
"At least I never need to attack from behind." James grunts.
Snapes face reddens in rage. He storms up to James, his wanted pointed directly at his chest. The curse upon James lifts at the same time, and he is able to shove Snape away from him. Snape recovers quickly and lifts his wand. James sends a stinging jinx at him, and just as he hopes, Snape guards his face with his hands. The jinx hits his wand hand, and begins to swell. James never misses.
Snape drops his wand, and James pounces on the opportunity to strike again. Snapes legs begin to dance against his will. James laughs.
The momentary lapse allows Snape enough time to find his wand and wield it with his other hand. James is knocked back, and his tongue affixes to the roof of his mouth.
When he regains himself, he aims fires at exactly the same time Snape yells "Sectum-" and a new voice yells "PROTEGO!" The shield knocks both of them backward, and their jinxes hit the walls.
Lily stares at both of them, James has never seen her more disappointed. Snape looks regretfully at her, and scurries off. James tries to speak, but his tongue is still stuck to the roof of his mouth, and no words can come out. Lily stares at him, right through him he is certain, shakes her head, and walks away.
"Lily," He pleads. He finds her sitting in the library after a trip to the Infirmary and much searching on the map.
Surprisingly, she does not ignore him. "How could you?" She spits.
"How could I? How could I?" She does not back down, "I was defending myself!" Lily gets up and leaves the library. James follows her. "Lily!"
She turns to face him immediately after they exit. "I don't care!" She is shouting now, and it's obvious that she left not to avoid him, but to avoid being kicked out the library again.
"You don't care that I was attacked?"
"You didn't have to start dueling him because of it!"
Students that had overheard the beginning of their conversation are exiting to watch them. Others passing by stop. Lily and James are creating a show like they haven't in years.
"What do you expect me to do?" his arms are flailing, he hardly notices. "Just walk away?"
"Yes!" She cries.
"He attacked me from behind! And you expect me to turn and let him have another free shot at me?"
"No. No I would never expect you to put yourself at risk." Her voice is calmer, "But you certainly have the ability to do end it." Her calm façade fades quickly "You could've stunned him or put him in a body bind and left! You didn't have to fight!"
"You don't want me to fight?" His anger is white hot, his voice drops to barely a whisper. "What about when we leave Hogwarts? Would you expect me to just walk away then?"
"No." Her anger dissolves quickly. "No, of course I wouldn't." She is still frantic, but it is with worry now, "But we're not out there yet. We are in Hogwarts. It's not necessary now. You don't have to fight yet!"
"If I'm going to fight then, why not start now?" He counters.
"Because it's not safe!" She's yelling again.
"We're in Hogwarts!"
"That doesn't matter to him, James! You don't understand!"
They've somehow moved closer. James can see the flush in her face, and the desperation in her eyes. In another world, another life, another time, he would kiss her. She would storm off and he would follow her. They would kiss passionately. Maybe they would go farther. If this were only a few months before. But it's not. He's not there. He's here and now, and he is more aware of it now than ever. So he doesn't kiss her. She turns to leave, but he grabs her hand. She turns back.
"You're right." He says. "I'm sorry."
The group surrounding them gasps.
Lily stares at him in disbelief for a moment before realizing that he is serious. "Me too." She wraps her arms around him in a hug. He tentatively returns the gesture.
"Thank you." She whispers in his ear.
Lily wonders when exactly James Potter developed the ability to make her nervous.
He hadn't always had it, to be certain. There was a time where she could stand near him, argue with him, even snog him, without feeling anything.
But now, she can hardly look at him.
She blushes when he smiles at her; butterflies run rampant in her stomach when they touch. It is altogether strange and wonderful. It was uncomfortable at first, but it's so pleasant, it could never stop and she would not complain.
She loves the butterflies he gives her and the blush he puts in her face. She, though she would never admit it, loves the fact that he makes her nervous.
Whenever it was that he developed this ability, Lily is very glad he did.
Lily looks at James.
James looks at Lily.
They do not make eye contact.
They are sitting in the library, some distance apart. It is dangerous for them to sit together; they almost always get kicked out. Aside from that, they are doing very different things, and would only serve to distract one another. James is tutoring a second year, and Lily is attempting to write an essay for Charms.
Neither is doing their job very well.
Lily is quite fond of the expression James wears when the young boy accomplishes something significant. James is intrigued by Lily deep in thought, searching for the right combination of words. It draws their attention to each other. They take turns, their gaze drifting over, taking in the sight, then as soon as it is noticed, looking away, embarrassed to have been caught. It's never enough to keep them from looking again.
Lily looks at James.
His expression is an odd one, born from boredom, and it makes Lily laugh.
James looks at Lily.
She is biting her lip in thought, and it reminds James of when he used to bite her lips…
The boy James is tutoring somehow misses his target (two rabbits) and hits James' hand, which quickly begins to spurt fur. James shouts, the boy gasps and apologizes. Lily's attention returns to James with the commotion. She laughs again at his furry hand. After the initial shock, James manages to fix it; both the boy and James agree that it is time to call it a night. James helps him pack his things.
James looks at Lily. She is still looking at him. He shakes his head in frustration at her laughter. She continues to laugh. James sticks his tongue out. Lily does it back. They both laugh, and turn their heads away, trying to regain composure.
Lily looks back at James.
James looks back at Lily.
They make eye contact.
Both of them blush.
Lily is in quite the conundrum. The next, and last, Hogsmeade visit is rapidly approaching, and Lily has absolutely no one to go with her. All of her friends have either a date or detention. She probably should have invested more of her time here making friends.
She could ask James, she supposes. Mates could do that, right? It's not as if it would be a date… though he probably already had plans with his friends. Maybe she could tag along? All of them do seem to like her. It wouldn't be much of an inconvenience, she thinks. She should ask. It never hurts to ask (although sometimes, she remembers all too clearly, it hurts to hear the answers).
She finds him at lunch, surrounded as usual, with his mates. She has hoped he would be alone, but it's probably for the best this way. If she wanted to go with all of them, she should ask all of them. It is only fair.
"Hello, guys." She sits down next to them. They greet her cordially and she initiates banter about their day. She hasn't had classes with them yet today, and it amazes her that their days could always be interesting. Of course, based on the time she spends with them, they are always doing something fun.
A gap appears in the conversation, and Lily jumps at it. "So, you guys have any plans for the Hogsmeade trip?"
"I've got detention," Sirius laments.
"Me too." Peter announces.
"I'll be visiting my Mum…" Remus whispers so quietly that Lily almost doesn't catch it.
"Therefore," says James with mock joviality, "I'm staying at the castle."
Lily laughs, "You should come with me! I haven't got anyone to go with either."
"Really? Excellent. It's a da-plan." She can't help but smile a little at his almost slip. It isn't a date.
Their hands are hitting each other again. He isn't sure this time whether she's doing it on purpose or not. He doesn't think she is.
It's curious though, to think that they've done this very same patrol nearly a hundred times, and their hands have never bumped as much as they are now. Maybe he just hasn't noticed it.
He would be daft to think that, of course. He definitely would have noticed if it were like this before. Perhaps they're just walking closer now. It seems that they're always slightly closer than they were before.
He is losing his resolve. Every little bit he has mustered up and held onto so steadfastly is slowly but surely draining. It does not surprise him. He knew when he agreed to be friends that eventually it would lead them back. He had no idea it would be this quickly. However, when he really thinks about, it's quite amazing he's made it this far. A few months ago would've had them together as soon as she would have him.
It is really quite a feat for him to have lasted this long.
Yet he wonders if this is what should be happening. If this is what's best for both of them. Maybe if he holds out a bit longer, it could be even better. He isn't sure he can. What's more, he isn't sure he wants to. Sure, waiting could be for the best, but waiting too long could drive her away. He can't lose her again. And really, when he notices his resolve leaving, he never seems to miss it. He doesn't mind when they're closer than what's really appropriate. He never thinks that something would be better or more fun if Lily weren't there. Usually it's the opposite. He is losing his resolve. He isn't sorry to see it go.
Her hand bumps his again. He grabs it, and threads his fingers through hers.
He doesn't miss the smile playing on her lips.
The Hogsmeade visit comes quickly. Before either of them really expects it, the morning has come, and brought with it a thick layering of clouds. It is a horrendously ugly day, chilly, damp, dark, certainly not amenable to meandering around the village. Miraculously, it does not rain.
Lily and James hardly seem to notice. They are enraptured by each other. Their conversations are stimulating; their silences are comfortable. They needn't have been anywhere except for with each other.
Their fingers are threaded together as they stroll. Most students are put off by the weather and have remained at the castle, or else in shops. There are few strange looks as they walk by. Lily wonders, though, if there would be any anyway. She is sure most people saw it coming.
They make all the usual stops. Honeydukes, Zonko's, Dervish and Banges, Scriveshafts, The Shrieking Shack. Lily is fulfilling a need to say goodbye to this town. James is only happy to oblige her. They come to the Three Broomsticks when they have gone everywhere else, and Lily starts off an extremely nostalgic conversation. James joins, and the two are soon laughing over memories and butterbeer.
It is sad when the must leave, and for James, even more disappointing to find that rain has started to fall. Apparently, Lily disagrees with him. As they come to the door, she looks at him and grins wickedly.
She scurries out the door, stops in the middle of the road. She spreads her arms, and tilts her head, allowing every bit of herself to feel the rain. After a moment, she begins to spin. She twirls and jumps and laughs and does not stop smiling the entire time.
James watches her from a safe distance under the canopy outside the Three Broomsticks. He is in awe of her childlike wonder at the rain. It's nearly as if she has never seen it before. He loves it. Her face is aglow with happiness and excitement. It's contagious. He jogs out to join her.
She stops when she sees him, but never stops grinning. James meets her in the middle of the street and, because he just can't help it anymore, he kisses her.
Without a shadow of a doubt, it is the best one yet.
James is sleeping. His breathing is deep and even, his face is tilted toward her. Lily worries that the glasses remaining on his face will be damaged because of it. His mouth is slightly ajar. He looks peaceful.
She can't help but smile at him. It astonishes her that even in his completely vulnerable position: nude, asleep, arms wrapped around her, he still manages to be everything. As soon as the thought crosses her mind, she dismisses it. It shouldn't surprise her anymore. James as always managed to be exactly what she needs. Her lover, her friend, her enemy, her rescuer, her- her everything.
He makes her happy. He makes her laugh. He fights with her, and then makes up with her. He routinely saves her, usually from herself. He makes her feel safe. Even now, when should anything remotely dangerous happen, he would be completely useless, his arms wrapped around her waist somehow imply that he will protect her.
She wonders why he does that. He has, every single time since they've been back together. She wouldn't put knowing how it makes her feel past him; he always seems to know one way or another. Perhaps, a more apprehensive part of her brain interjects, it's because he's afraid. Not that anything will happen, because it would be silly to think that he would ever fear an attack. No, it would be a fear leftover from before. Perhaps he's holding onto her like this because he's afraid that she'll leave again.
She won't, of course. She would not go if her life depended on it. She is more than completely certain. But she doesn't know if he is. She hasn't yet given him any reason to think she might. She hasn't yet given him any reason to know she won't.
She has to tell him. The need is urgent and demanding and completely ignoring the knowledge that she could easily wait until the morning. She really can't wait until the morning.
"James!" she hisses. He stirs but does not respond. She shakes him gently, "James! James, please wake up." Her voice is urgent, but not fearful.
"Yes?" He groans.
"Wake up. I have to tell you something." She is sitting now, trying to pull him up. It is to no avail.
"It can wait." He makes no effort to stop her from pulling on his arms. He just does not open his eyes.
"No, it can't. James wake up, right now!"
He groans again, but sits up, takes off his glasses to rub his eyes, puts them back on. "Okay, what is so important that you had to wake me?" He wants to sound upset, but he'll never pass on an opportunity to talk to Lily. No matter his state of consciousness.
She smiles, shyly. Butterflies are going crazy in her stomach. She takes a deep breath, and says quickly, "I love you."
He blinks. Once. Twice. Threefourfivesixseveneight times. All he can respond with is "What?"
Lily blushes; obviously this is a bad idea. She should've waited until morning. "It's nothing. Go back to sleep. It can wait. I'm sorry."
"No." she says sharply, "No, tell me again." He grabs her hands.
She stares straight into his eyes. "I love you." He closes his eyes, letting the words sink into him. Then he smiles. "I'm really sorry for waking you."
"No," He kisses her. "No, you were right." He embraces her tightly, and kisses her again, "It couldn't wait. It should never wait. And Lily,"
Her heart is going crazy, and nothing in the world is more important than the next words he says.
"I love you too."
AN: And that's it. The end. :( I don't know how I feel about it. It just seems... lacking. I don't know. There's still the Epilogue to come, so if you feel like you need one last fix, no worries. I'll do this more properly for the next chapter, but I just really want to thank you all for the reviews and encouragement. It definitely would not have come this far without you. You are all wonderful! :)
I love you all so, so much,
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