Chapter 2 : Frozen
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Hi again. It's still me, James. I'd like to tell you why I like Sirius Black.
He's the kind of guy that people love to stereotype. He's Black, the notorious womanizer, the Gryffindor heartthrob, the untouchable god, the guy every guy wishes he was. Somebody once told me – told me, his best friend – that he'd slept with every willing girl in Ravenclaw. Honestly, as if they'd know him since he was eight years old.
You see, the thing about the rumors and nicknames is that a lot of them aren't half wrong. (I mean, it wasn't all the willing girls....but I won't lie, it was probably a good majority.)When it comes to girls, Sirius is the shallowest bastard I've ever met. I don't approve of his methods or his madness in any way, shape or form. You have to trust me on that one.
But it terms of friendship, he does loyalty like it's an occupation. He's painfully dependable – almost grossly reliable. You get the picture. It's always been like this between us, ever since we met.
So I knew I could depend on him to help me. I knew that if I handed him my life in a billion broken pieces, he'd have the right glue to put it all back together. Sirius has always been like that – steady in the face of trouble. When I went to him last night, I didn't have to say a lot. He understood almost immediately, just like I knew he would. When I'd finished explaining what had happened, he looked at me steadily and put a hand on my shoulder. "It's okay, Prongs. We'll fix this."
His words created a small strain of ease in my anesthetized mind, just as I knew they would. "We'll all talk, the four of us, we'll get together and talk tonight, alright? Can you survive that long? You know Moony won't be in better shape until tonight." We agreed to meet in the library with Remus and Peter later that day.
Before I left the dormitory, Sirius grabbed my arm and said, "I won't let you lose her." That's all I needed to hear.
Over and out.
"Well, we clearly only have one option," Remus said, looking around at Sirius and Peter and I. We were sitting in our usual, dimly-lit corner of the library, far from the ears of any curious listeners. "We have to tell her." He looked at me. "It's your alibi, after all."
I nodded once. "She'll have to know everything." I told him, hesitantly. "Everything."
Remus smiled weakly. Though the full moon cycle had passed, I knew he was still physically exhausted from the side effects. "I know, James. We all know that." He looked at Sirius and Peter, who both moved their heads up and down in accord. "We've been talking about this for nearly an hour."
Stretching his arms above his head and yawning widely, Peter nodded repetitively. "Yeah, don't you remember forty-five minutes ago when we decided she'd have to know eventually so there'd be no harm in telling her now?" His tone was as sarcastic as a Peter tone could get, which came off almost as solemn.
"Yes, yes, I remember," I grumbled, rubbing my face with my hands.
We were all quiet for a moment. "Well, why don't I talk to her first?" Remus asked, breaking the silence. "It might seem more true coming from my end, at least the first time."
"That's a good idea," Sirius approved from his perch on the desk protruding from the bookshelf. His ruffled a hand through is ebony hair. "She'll have no choice but to believe goody-shoes Lupin here," he motioned towards Remus and rolled his eyes. "Seeing as he's never told a lie in his entire life."
"Okay," I rubbed my lips together. "Okay." Though I wasn't completely convinced that Remus talking to her first would be the best course of action, it was something. Right then, I would have taken anything. Just to have something. "When?"
Remus shrugged. "I don't know. How about right now?"
"Now?" I asked, a bit alarmed all of a sudden. "Why, is she standing right behind me or something?"
Sirius laughed. "Get a hold of yourself, Prongs." He slapped me on the shoulder endearingly. "Pete saw her go into Charlotte's dormitory this morning and hasn't come out since. So we know where to find her, that's all."
"Blimey," I whispered, staring at the ground, trying to figure out how I could have messed things up so badly. In the process I seemed to have messed myself up pretty badly.
"But hey," Remus' voice sounded determined, so I looked up at him. "She'll understand, you know, once she hears the truth. You know her better than any of us, so you of all people should know that." His light blue eyes held the sort of defiance that I'd come to rely on in my friends.
I closed my own eyes, knowing he was right. But the truth of it didn't stop my rampant mind from screaming doubts. "I hope."
The three of them decided to head to the Gryffindor Common room. It was getting late, and Remus wanted to catch Lily before she went to sleep, assuming she didn't return to the Heads dormitory. My head still pounded from lack of sleep.
"Okay, good luck," I told them before they headed off. To Remus, I said, half-jokingly, "It's not really a big deal, but you sort of hold my life in your hands."
Remus was completely serious as looked me straight in the eye. "I know, Prongs. I know she's the girl of your dreams."
I half-smiled at him. "But she's better than the girl of my dreams." I shrugged. "She's real."
I vowed that I would stay up all night waiting to hear from Remus. I sat on the edge of my bed for what seemed like hours, tapping my foot impatiently against the frame of my bed and thinking of the things that could have gone wrong. Outside, it was raining. It fell in sheets against the window, an uneven pitter-pat pulse against the roof. The sound of it made my already shaky nerves practically expendable.
When I finally heard a light tap on my door I leaped to my feet, but paused, realizing quite suddenly that I was scared out of my mind. It seemed as though my fate itself stood on the other side of the door.
Accordingly, my heart rate decided it would be funny to increase a couple hundred notches. I rubbed my suddenly sweaty hands against my shirt. Then I opened the door.
"Did she-" I stopped the moment the door was fully open, my mouth clamping shut like a mouse trap. It wasn't Remus. It was Lily.
It's comical, almost, how I reacted. Not externally. But internally, I may as well have blown up. Like someone lit a firecracker and shoved it down my esophagus.
It was hard to ignore that a mere 24 hours earlier I'd broken her heart for all the wrong reasons. I tried hard not to forget that I couldn't reach out to her, hold her, tell her how I felt. It wasn't easy. I rooted myself in the doorway and stared, finding it a grueling but solitary alternative.
She looked just like she had, which was normal, I suppose, considering it had only been a day since I'd last laid eyes on her. I barely noticed how she was wearing the purple shirt I'd always particularly liked, or how her hair fell in beautiful disarray across her shoulders. It was her eyes that held me captive, the glowing green that would never cease to make me lose focus.
But I was having trouble reading them, and it scared me that after few silent moments she still hadn't said anything. I tried to block out the memory of her tearful expression as she synthesized the wrong she thought I'd committed a day before. I could barely stand it. So I took a short breath and started to talk, just to get rid of the suffocating quiet. "I'm-"
"Don't be." Lily cut me off. It may have only been a day, but that many hours without her voice had made me forget just how wonderful it sounded. "Don't be." She repeated.
Regardless of what she thought I'd been about to say, I closed my mouth.
"Can I come in?" She asked, peering around me.
I had a mild panic attack, because my room was a complete mess. But then I slapped myself mentally. James you lunatic, I thought. Who bloody cares what your room looks like when she's here and wants to talk?
I nodded and stepped aside, allowing her in. I still hadn't overcome the initial shock of finding her at my door, but the feeling was slowly being replaced with a anxious urge to know what Remus had said, and how she'd reacted.
She looked around my room for a second, then proceeded towards the window. She leaned against the windowpane and looked out at rain falling against it. "Why didn't you tell me about Remus?"
I considered her question carefully, weighing out my answer. I knew any wrong move I made would snap whatever delicate relationship she'd established by seeking me out. "I couldn't tell you." I looked at her steadily. Her eyes followed the waterfall flowing down the glass. "It wasn't my secret to tell."
She nodded at the rain. "Fair enough."
Fair enough? Had I said something right? I allowed myself no excitement.
Lily looked down at her hands. "I want to apologize."
Unconsciously, I stepped forward. "No, you don't have-"
She held up a hand before I could finish my protest. "Just let me say it, okay?"
I stepped back. C'mon, James, don't be a dolt. I slapped myself mentally again. You've been enough of one already.
Swallowing, Lily continued, talking to her hands. "I overreacted, obviously." She smiled. "Certainly wasn't the first time I've done something so outrageous." Her smile fell away with shake of her head. "But my accusation was unjustified and completely unsupported. I'm more sorry than you could know that I said that and even thought that of you."
Her eyes remained trained on her fingers. Her voice became quieter. "Remus told me everything. About you and Peter and Sirius, about his condition." She shook her head again and looked back out into the rainy night. "It's amazing- it's incredible that you do that for him. It's amazing that you didn't abandon him but help him. I can't even fathom how hard that must be, how brave you all must be." She shrugged to herself. "I can't even believe how stupid I was to jump to such a horrible conclusion when you were doing something so damn noble.”
Finally, she looked at me. "James, I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. I understand now. I...I hate myself, hate how I did that to you."
"Don't hate yourself." I couldn't hold in my objection any longer. There a jarring pain stabbing at my chest. I walked over to her. "Don't do that."
She looked at me with a pained expression. "I was so stupid."
"No, you weren't," I pressed. "You had every right to be angry. You still do." I pointed at myself. "I was keeping a secret, a huge secret, and I should have been more honest. You let me in to your heart with nothing but honesty, and I betrayed that."
Lily shook her head and laughed almost spitefully. "I can't let you stand there and tell me that! That's not true at all." She looked at me as if I was a fool just to believe it. "You didn't lie and you certainly didn't betray me. You did the right thing."
She glanced back out at the rain. It formed a miniature network of streams and rivers down the window. "I don't know where on earth I got the ridiculous notion that you'd ever be unfaithful. I should have known better."
"Lily, you don't have to say anything else." I told her. I hardly recognized my voice. It held the quiet desperation I was trying to hold in. I couldn't let her continue to apologize for something she didn't do. "We can put this behind us."
She turned her face to mine once more. The space between us felt like an overpowering static. "Can you forgive me?"
"Can you forgive me?"
There was a beat of silence. I was barely prepared when she reached out and took a hold of my fingers. "Looks like there's a mutual need for forgiveness."
I laced out fingers together more securely. "I'll take yours if you take mine."
She regarded me for a moment. "Deal." Her voice was so soft I could barely hear it, and there was a look in her eyes that was potently familiar. I felt very strongly as though I'd seen it before.
Her fingers wrapped closer around mine, if that was possible. I remembered.
It was a Thursday night in October, and Lily and I were patrolling our usual after-dinner route. We'd finished our lower-level classroom circuit already, making sure students were off studying in their Common Rooms or the library instead of causing mischief elsewhere. We were completing our final sweep of the fifth floor, making sure the Ravenclaw Tower bound students were in line. Not that being 'out of line' was usually a problem for people in Ravenclaw.
Whatever comfortable conversation Lily and I had been carrying on had fallen into an equally relaxed lull. If there was one huge difference in Lily's demeanor towards me Seventh year, it was her willingness to talk to me – and to talk to me intelligently. Sometimes it still caught me off guard.
"You know, I feel like I forgot to the astronomy homework," Lily ventured suddenly. "Did we even have any astronomy homework?"
I opened my mouth to answer her question, but before I had the chance, I saw someone round the corner straight ahead of us. I froze in my steps and whipped my head around where I stood, looking instinctively for a hiding place. Confused, Lily stopped too, looking at me strangely. I noticed a broom closet in conveniently close proximity to where Lily stood.
"Uh, James, what–?" She started to say, but I grabbed her arm before she could finish, flinging the door to the broom closet open. As gently as I could, I shoved her inside.
"James!" Lily shrieked, and then let out a "oomph!" as she backed right up against the back wall of the dark closet. I heard a broom clattered to the ground.
I shut the door as quickly as I could, causing the closet to be shrouded completely in darkness. From wherever she was, Lily was still obviously frustrated that I'd shoved her in the closet without any sort of explanation. "James Potter, what in your right mind do you think you're do–"
For the second time, I cut her off. Though it pained me to do, I reached out and covered her mouth with my hand. She grumbled against the obstruction in protest. "Shh, shh!" I whispered forcefully. I strained my ear to hear outside the door.
I heard footsteps walk by the broom closet. To my dismay, they stopped nearby and I heard muffled voices talking animatedly. I sighed in agitation. Only then did I notice what sort of compromising position I'd put myself in. Not only was my hand covering Lily's mouth, but I'd practically backed her against the wall with my body. I wasn't entirely sure how close we were because of the lack of light, but I felt her struggled breathing directly on my face.
You imbecile, I thought angrily. She probably thinks you're going to ravish her right here and now.
Gently, I removed my hand from her mouth. Unsurprisingly, she questioned me immediately. "For Merlin's sake James, what do you think you're doing?"
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" I whispered. "It's just that I saw Bella coming down the hallway and I had to run for cover."
Unfortunately for me, I couldn't see Lily's facial reaction to the explanation. She was silent for a moment. "Bella Dangerfield?"
I paused, thanking Merlin she couldn't see the embarrassment on my face. "Yeah."
Although I still couldn't see it, I practically felt the smirk. "I see."
I groaned as quietly as I could. "Oh, don't make fun of me. She's awful, and you know it. If you were in my position, you'd be doing the exact same thing."
Lily laughed out loud. I said "Shh!" quickly, reaching out to try and find her mouth again to cover it once more. I found her eyes instead and she laughed again, louder this time.
"James, stop it!" She pushed my hand away playfully.
"Then stop laughing!" I said as quietly as I could. Thought I couldn't deny that her laughter amused me just as much. "She's right outside the door."
"Oh, sorry!" Lily responded, whispering as loudly as she could. "But it's your own fault for dating her in the first place."
"Yeah, well I would be lying if I said I don't regret it now," I rolled my eyes.
There was a beat of silence. I felt Lily shift, and heard her fingers fumbling for something along the wall. "There's got to be a...aha!" There was a quiet click, and then a terrible sizzling sound, followed by a low droning. The monotone lasted for a few seconds, and then a comical 'ding' clicked on a soft light on above us.
As my eyes adjusted to the faint light, I realized how close we were. As inconspicuously as I could, I took a small step backwards. At least as far as I could in such a tiny closet.
Lily regarded me laughingly. I strained my ears, and heard footsteps retreating, followed by a dreadful moment of Bella's shrill laughter.
Though I knew it was okay for us to leave, I didn't want to quite yet. There was something about being in a broom closet with Lily Evans, doing nothing more innocent than standing a good foot apart. I couldn't deny that I'd had many a dream about spending time much closer to her in such a place, but I tried not to think about it. Unluckily for me, the way she looked under the dim lighting wasn't helping the thoughts stay away.
"I'm sorry I pushed you in here. I didn't really think." I shrugged, shaking my head. "As, usual, I just acted."
"It's okay," Lily smiled. "Anything to help a fellow Head."
I laughed graciously. "Well, we can get out of here, I think she's gone."
I turned to open the door, but Lily stopped me with a hand on my shoulder. "Wait." She said. "There's dust all over you. You must have walked through a spider web or something."
Before I could think about it she was dusting me off, her hands grazing across my shoulders. I barely had time to process the fact that she was touching me. And though she was brushing the dust off for less than a minute, something happened.
For one millisecond – just really a split second – before she took her hands off my shoulders, the touch lingered. It happened near my neck, right above my left collarbone. Her fingers brushed where my collared shirt parted and the bare skin of my neck was exposed. The fingertip swept the place only instantly, just for a single heartbeat. But it was enough to ignite a fire right beneath the surface, a heat I felt like she noticed instantly. I knew this because she paused her dusting momentarily and inhaled just a little bit quicker than she had been. Just enough so that I noticed it.
What I was 100% sure of was that my heartbeat skyrocketed.
But it the millisecond was over as quickly as it had started, and then Lily finished clearing the dust from my sweater. She removed her hands, and I missed her touch the instant it was gone.
"There." She said contentedly. "Done."
She looked up at me, noticing how uncomfortably low my voice had become. I cleared my throat self-consciously.
There was a look in her eyes that I'd absolutely never noticed in them before. I caught it only instantaneously, because she looked away almost immediately. I shook off the feeling of peculiarity and turned to open the door. I peeked my head out to make sure the coast was really clear, and then motioned to her that it was safe. She turned off the light and closed the door behind us.
We continued our patrol as normal, talking as if nothing weirdly electrical had occurred in the broom closet, even if it had been particularly miniscule. But it was all I could think about for the rest of the night.
The look she'd given me stayed with me every second of the following day as well, and the following week. It imprinted itself in my mind, wondering if it would ever come in handy in the future.
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