The flames were slowly dying. I watched as they flickered, creating more and more shadows in the empty common room. Ignoring the Potions essay in my lap, my mind lazily went over the list of things I had to do tomorrow.
My eyes were just drifting shut when the sound of the door swinging open jolted me awake. I stayed still but opened my eyes to see James. His hair was tousled, his cheeks flushed and I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d spent his time after rounds with Lucy. She’d been eyeing him all week.
I’m not jealous, I told the voice in my head immediately. Don’t be ridiculous.
But then, I couldn’t explain the sense of relief that filled me when I noticed the broom in his hand. I groaned inwardly. Of course. Late night flying around the Quidditch pitch was something I’d noticed James liked to do often.
Not having noticed me, he dropped into the chair on the opposite side of the fireplace, mirroring my position just moments ago.
I should say something, I thought. But I stayed quiet. My eyes slowly traced over his profile. It wasn’t often that I got to see James so….completely himself, without his almost arrogant confidence, his mischievous smirk—all characteristics amplified by the presence of Sirius. His eyes were closed. A small smile played on his lips and I felt another spark of curiosity. I gulped as an emotion I wasn’t ready to admit I was feeling rushed through me.
My stomach jolted when his face turned and his hazel eyes widened as they met mine.
James shifted in his chair. His hand rose to run hurriedly through his hair. “You scared the hell out of me, Lily.”
A small shiver ran down my back. I would never admit it to anyone but there was something about the way he said my name that I’d started to love. It was different when he said it. I’d always thought it was such an ordinary name but when it rolled off his tongue, it was the sweetest note of a familiar melody.
You’re probably just not used to hearing him say your first name, I chided myself.
“Sorry,” I muttered, suddenly embarrassed. I started to gather my things, stuffing my Potions notes into my bag quickly.
“You don’t have to leave on account of me,” James said, amusement playing on his face. But then his voice turned serious. “I thought we agreed to be friends this year, Lily. It won’t work if you run from me each time.”
My cheeks flushed. I could feel him watching me as I closed several of the books on the table in front of me. “It’s getting late anyway. I should go to sleep,” I said, trying to keep my voice steady.
I paused with my bag in my lap as my eyes met his. He jumped at the opportunity. “What were you doing up so late?”
His gaze was warm, concern so clear on his face that I couldn’t help but sag back into my seat, all the tension I was feeling leaving me. “I’ve just been thinking,” I started hesitantly.
My eyes drifted back to the fireplace. It was still alive, but barely. The common room was almost pitch black but James had moved close enough that if I glanced up, I would be able to see every freckle on his face and that look in his eyes that thrilled me as much as it frightened me.
James waited patiently as I struggled to find the right words. “It’s just—I’ve waited so long for it to be seventh year and to be Head Girl and…you can’t laugh,” I added, throwing him a scowl. He raised his hands up in surrender with a grin. “I’m scared to leave Hogwarts.” I closed my eyes before letting out a sigh. The room fell silent. I waited anxiously for his loud laugh.
He hadn’t said anything yet so I peeked at him nervously to see a small smile on his face. “Would you believe me if I told you I felt the same way?” James asked.
His attention was fixed intently on me. I felt bare, vulnerable in front of it but I couldn’t bring myself to break our gaze as I listened to his deep voice, suddenly hopeful that he could take away my fears.
“I’ve had the best years here. All the things I’ve done with Sirius, Remus, Peter, all the Quidditch games…,” he trailed off, suddenly staring down at his lap as he shifted in his seat. “I met you here.” His cheeks reddened slightly.
My stomach jolted at the pure honesty in his voice.
James cleared his throat. “Anyway. My dad just told me it was part of growing up. Big help that was.” He laughed, the sound breaking the sudden tension between us. “But he’s right, I guess.” He paused again. “At the very least...we'll have all these amazing memories?”
I raised my eyebrows at him. “Really? That’s what you come up with?”
“I know. It was a little too cheesy, I admit," James grinned.
My smile faded as I remembered my previous thoughts, the ones that had kept me up since term had started and were still keeping me up, haunting my dreams every night. “But what about the future?” I stopped abruptly, too scared to say anything more than that.
His face darkened and I could tell he knew what I was talking about. All those rumors flying around Hogwarts, talked about in hushed tones as we walked to class or during dinner, all of them mentioning missing people--missing Muggles. Some were even predicted that a war might happen. I frowned down at my hands, willing them not to shake.
His voice was gentle. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, Lily. But I know that your friends and their families…they’ll all be there for you. They won’t let anything happen to you.
The helplessness I was feeling must have been evident because the look on his face changed then. He bit his lip before reaching out to grasp my hand tightly in his for a moment.
“I won’t let anything happen to you either,” James said quietly.
His gaze burned with sincerity as he looked at me. A shot of warmth coursed through my body. I glanced back down, still feeling anxious but for an entirely different reason now. There were butterflies swirling in my stomach. Why were they swirling? I thought frantically.
It had been easier when he used to constantly ask me out, when he would proclaim his love for me in front of everyone because it was easy to say no, to reject him because I knew—well, at least then, I was certain—that he didn’t really like me. Now that we were friends, I was starting to realize that maybe his feelings for me had been genuine, more genuine than I had noticed.
It scared me, because it was becoming easier and easier to be myself around him. I’d started to notice too many things about him, like how contagious his laugh was, his endless cheerfulness, the way catching his wide smile from across the room could brighten my day.
“Thanks, James. That…means a lot. Really.” My voice was slightly husky and I ducked my head, avoiding his soft eyes as I picked up my bag and stood up. “I really should sleep now. Early class tomorrow,” I muttered.
“Anytime, Lily.” He let out a sigh as I walked towards the stairs. He sounded disappointed. I frowned. What had he expected me to say?
My pace quickened in my determination to escape his observant gaze. But I couldn’t avoid it in my dreams that night, which were filled with his hazel eyes and his calm voice, repeating my name over and over again.
My voice was quiet but I knew he heard me. Sev continued to stare down at his book. I shifted nervously in front of him, my heart pounding loudly. I didn’t know what I was doing. I couldn’t remember what in the world had possessed me to attempt to talk to him after all this time but I just needed—
“What do you want?” Severus snapped.
“I—I wanted to,” I swallowed. “Sev, I’ve just wanted to ask you—.” The words were so hard to say out loud. “I’ve been really worried lately.” I paused again.
The look in his eyes changed. He glanced back down at his book, glaring at it before looking back up, the lines on his face harsh. “I don’t have time for your Mudblood problems.” He stood abruptly. “I don’t care either.” He never met my gaze. Instead, he stared at a spot just past my shoulder.
I flinched as his words crashed through me, bringing me back to reality. My cheeks flushed with hurt and anger. What had I been thinking?
I stood wordlessly as he walked past me without another glance to catch up with Malfoy. The moment I saw him, I knew he had been watching us the whole time.
Oh, Sev. A sob caught in my throat as I remained at the table, my heart still pounding fast, that sinking feeling still in my stomach.
I looked up with glazed eyes to see James in front of me, a mix of emotions on his face.
“Are you okay?” He stepped towards me warily.
“How much did you hear?” I whispered. He looked at me bleakly. “Dammit, James!” I turned around, suddenly desperate to escape that look in his eyes. Because I knew that he finally understood that no matter how many times someone called me that, it would never hurt as much as it did when it was said by Sev.
“Lily. Lily, wait--”
I ignored him, walking as fast as I could to my next class. I hurried to a seat in the front of the class. Not a second later, James entered with Sirius close behind him. Sirius headed to the back but James hesitated, his eyes searching until he found me sitting between two Hufflepuffs.
I ducked my head. Glancing out of the corner of my eye, I watched as he shook his head and followed Sirius, but not before throwing me another look.
I glared down at my desk. Why did he care anyway? I thought angrily. This had nothing to do with him. That prickling feeling rose in my throat again. I swallowed hard. I’m not going to cry, I’m not going to cry, I repeated over and over to myself as I went to my next class.
I was finally heading back to the common room when I spotted James walking towards me, his face determined. I panicked and headed towards my only escape: the girl’s bathroom.
Grateful that it was empty, I sank to the floor.
“Bloody hell, Lily.” James pounded on the door. “What are you going to do, hide in there all day?”
I buried my head in my arms, trying desperately to drown out his knocks and the snide voice in my head, which kept repeating that word over and over in my head. Tears slowly leaked out of my eyes as I pictured the sneer on Sev’s face, how bitterly he spat out the word. He couldn’t even look at me.
I couldn’t tell how long I sat there. The knocks eventually stopped. He’s gone by now, I told myself. But I stayed where I was as embarrassment rushed through my body. How could I have let myself breakdown like that?
“…stop forcing it. She just needs space.”
My head shot up. James was still outside?
“I’m not just going to—for fucks sake, how can I not do anything when she’s like this?”
I swallowed. That was definitely James’s voice, deep and rough, filled with frustration.
“Prongs, I don’t think cornering her in the girl’s bathroom is going to help much.” Sirius sighed.
“I’ve been trying so hard this year. But sometimes, I feel like no matter what I do she’ll never let me in.” James paused. “I don’t even know what I’m doing….just wasting time. What if she never—” he stopped abruptly.
My stomach sank. This was why I’d been so scared of falling for James, why I wouldn't let myself like him that way. Because it meant that I’d have even more power to hurt him, like I was already doing.
I opened the door. James and Sirius immediately looked up in surprise from their places on the floor. James stood up, his unreadable expression taking in my red eyes, my disheveled hair.
I shook my head. “Just leave me alone, James,” I managed with a sigh as I walked away.
This time, he didn’t call after me.
It was almost dark. I’d been sitting in the Quidditch stands for about an hour. It was cold; I could barely feel my fingers.
I stared up at the sky, squinting when a figure appeared in the air, flying on a broomstick towards me.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I muttered to myself. I watched with narrowed eyes as James reached the stands and swung off the broom.
“What are you doing here?” I asked bluntly when he got close enough.
To my surprise, James smiled. “You haven’t figured it out by now, have you? Lily, no matter what you say or do to me, no matter how frustrated I become…you can’t push me away.” I stared at him wordlessly. “And plus, I have a blanket,” he finished with a wink. He pulled it out from behind his back with a flourish, throwing it on the both of us as he settled next to me.
“Merlin. Honestly, I would have thought you’d be going after Snape not me,” I started. But then I couldn’t get any more words out because James reached over and unceremoniously placed his hand firmly over my mouth. “Wkhkljat,” I sputtered angrily, my words muffled.
His lips twitched. “You’re the brightest witch I’ve ever met. But you just can’t seem to understand one thing.” His hazel eyes scanned my face. “And first of, trying to hex Snape would have upset you even more, and that’s not what I want to do.”
His mouth tilted up again in amusement before he sighed. “You need to understand that no matter what, I’m your friend and I care about you. We all do. Don’t you know how much it hurts Alice, Marlene, Remus and even Sirius to see you like this? We’re not blind. We know when something’s wrong. ”
My breath caught. I swallowed hard before forcing myself to meet his steady gaze. “I don’t want to be weak,” I finally managed, my voice barely a whisper.
I felt a gentle touch on my hand. And then his fingers slowly wrapped around mine, holding them tight. “Showing your emotions, Merlin—even talking about them…that doesn’t make anyone weak, Lily.”
James gazed down at me for a moment, his eyes soft. “Just please, please don’t forget that we’re all here for you.” His hold around my hand tightened even more. His thumb slowly stroked my palm and suddenly I wasn’t cold anymore. I flushed as I became aware of how close I was to him.
And then, I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. The next thing I knew, I was in James’s arms, closer to him than I had been a moment ago, his arms tight around me as he held me to his chest, letting me cry myself out without saying a word.
After awhile, I pulled away slightly. “Why did you come out here, James?” I asked with a sigh, not really looking for any answer.
He reached his hand out hesitantly to wipe my tears away. “Maybe I’ll explain it to you, someday.” His fingers gently trailed down my cheek.
When I glanced at him questioningly, he shook his head with a small smile.
“Nevermind. Come on. You must be starving. Let’s go get some food.” And that was the end of that. He took me to the kitchens and with a warm cup of hot chocolate and his company, I almost forgot about what a horrible day it had been.
A/N: Hello there! This is going to be a series of oneshots about Lily and James and their relationship, inspired by the Joshua Radin (who I'm currently obsessed with) song, Today. I've been wanting to write this for awhile now because James and Liliy are quickly becoming one of my favorite couples so here this is! I'm not sure yet how many chapters there'll be...we shall see. Anyway, I hope you'll like it. Thank you for reading and please leave a review, let me know what you think!