Chapter 11 : Distraction
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“I’m very intrigued by you.”
“That’s just because there are two men watching us like hawks,” Lily replied with a stern look up at Jack’s face.
He didn’t deny it. A very charming smile took over his face and there was something mischievous in his eyes. Maybe ‘charm’ wasn’t the exact right word; it didn’t seem enough.
“Actually, we’ve got three pairs of those distrusting ‘if your hands wander any lower I’ll hex you’-eyes on us,” Jack said with a mocking, low voice, clearly not scared by those kind of eyes.
Lily resisted the urge to turn around and look at James. She cursed herself for hoping this would make him jealous. She had already seen the protective look on Sirius’ face and the anxious one on Eli’s.
A very big part of her was afraid to search James’ eyes but another part longed to know what she would see in them. She continued to look up at Jack’s face so she wouldn’t be tempted to seek James’ but when Jack stared back at her with so much confidence and... panache – was that the word she had been looking for? – Lily blushed and looked away.
Before she could even remember why she had kept her eyes on Jack and had not let them wander around the room, she momentarily found James looking right at her. He was angry, that was clear, but there was something else she had caught in that short second of eye-contact before James had turned his back to her. He was hurt.
Good, she thought. You hurt me first. But she immediately knew how petty that sounded.
James didn’t turn back around and was ordering something at the bar. Lily’s entire body inched toward him but Jack only held her tighter. She liked that.
“Lily?” She looked up and was once again surprised by Jack’s handsome face, as if she had already forgotten what he looked like, or at least had forgotten how she still couldn’t find the right word to describe him. “I’m not stepping into some great, powerful love story where I’m just a distraction and can never be good enough for the girl because I’m not ‘him’, right?”
He never saw the flicker of bewilderment on her face because at that precise moment his eyes glanced at something over her head. They seemed a bit colder suddenly, but when he looked back down at Lily, it was with the same soft look from before and Lily had managed to plaster a playful smile on her face.
“Do I look like one of those girls who think it’s all ‘meant to be’?” She asked him defiantly. The only problem was that she was that girl. She had thought that way about her and James from the moment she decided to give them a chance. That was why the engagement and the baby had been so hard on her, because they were things that could not be repaired, things that would separate her from James forever, irreversible. No matter how long they had pretended they were out of each other’s life, from the moment James had entered hers again it was as if he’d never left. Or at least that was how it felt to her; no matter how much she buried herself into her work, she could only be distracted from her desire to have James all to herself.
How pathetic that was.
“I guess there was something recently... or, up to five minutes ago. I don’t know... but it’s definitely over,” Lily tried to explain it as truthfully as possible. Although Jack clearly didn’t believe she truly meant it, this didn’t seem to make him any less confident. As the song ended, he kissed her cheek and lingered near her ear as he whispered:
“Come find me when you’ve made up your mind.”
For a moment Lily was stunned into silence as Jack backed away from her.
“I have!” She yelled after him eventually, feeling like a little girl because of what he had said.
“Well, then come find me,” Jack replied, still looking at Lily while he weaved his way through the people that had occupied the dance floor by now. “Or not.”
As if on cue, his shoulder bumped into another man’s shoulder and Jack had to look away from Lily. It was James and although Jack apologised sincerely, James didn’t grant him even a fraction of a smile and walked away.
Lily frowned. Jack had her figured out so completely after just one dance that it was almost embarrassing. Leave everything behind and go find Jack... or not, and keep holding on to James.
So, did it come down to that? Jack or James?
It should’ve been a simple choice for a girl who had her mind made up, but at that moment Lily didn’t feel like picking either. Although she had a feeling that not deciding, meant almost as much as picking James. It meant keeping her life the way it was, not moving on.
The question really was: Jack or not.
The problem was that she really didn’t know. Jack seemed... perfect, right? Then why wasn’t she more interested. He was fun, handsome, colleague of Alice and Frank and he was a perfect distraction from the whole James-drama.
“...some great, powerful love story where I’m just a distraction and can never be good enough for the girl...”
She knew it wouldn’t be fair to him. She knew it and he knew it, yet that didn’t stop him. He still gave her the choice, the opportunity to choose him.
Then why wasn’t she choosing him immediately? Why wasn’t she grabbing this opportunity with both hands?
Because she didn’t really want to let go of James. She didn’t want to forgive him either, but forget him? Cut him out of her life?
It didn’t matter whether she thought it was meant to be or not, she just didn’t want it to end entirely between her and James, not this way. Not like this, again.
Lily had moved away from the dance floor and had gone to the back of the room where she stood alone and watched James while she thought this all over. He was leaning against the bar, standing next to Sirius and Amelia but clearly not interested in the conversation that was going on between them. Instead, he was staring at his glass of wine as he made the red liquid in it swirl around.
Lily stood there and stared at the same glass in James’ hand for a long time. She felt angry and frustrated... and stuck. She had felt that way ever since she found out about Cindy’s pregnancy, but now she knew why. It was her fault that she still felt this way. Yes, the situation James had put in was shitty but it should’ve helped her move on from James. Yet, she hadn’t and that was all on her.
Lily needed to make some choices so she could move forward, but she was afraid to make the wrong ones.
Choosing Jack seemed right... right? Lily knew she would wonder: what if she fought for him? Would he leave Cindy? Would he find a way to be with Lily? Would he ever be able to stop hurting her? Did he ever truly love her?
Lily stopped herself there; that were stupid questions and she knew it, yet they had haunted her before. They would keep haunting her because she could not answer them herself. Maybe she needed some answers before she could make a choice, the right choice.
It was Eli. He looked so sweet and innocent as he held out a glass of white wine for her. She hadn’t asked for anything to drink, yet Eli had been so friendly to bring her something as she stood there all alone.
While Lily watched her colleague’s young face, she realised she really should make up her mind. She didn’t really want to but she knew she had to. Her behaviour toward him hadn’t been fair and, honestly, selfish, as it would be to Jack if she didn’t properly make up her mind. If she wanted to start something with him, she shouldn’t be dragging those questions with her.
Lily looked down at the glass of white wine in Eli’s extended hand. Maybe she had been too nice to him before, led him on to believe she still cared for him, or maybe he just needed cold, hard rejection to understand that sleeping with him was one of Lily’s biggest mistakes.
“I prefer red,” Lily said coldly without looking up at his face. She pushed his hand aside and walked away, walking around the dancing couples in the middle until she reached the corridor leading to the restrooms.
He was there, about to enter the men’s stall. Four girls were lined up next to the girl’s stall further down the hall. As James opened the door to the men’s toilet, Lily rushed toward him and followed him in.
James made a startled noise when he noticed the redhead locking the door behind her but he seemed too stunned to utter a word.
This is it. Ask him
Ask him what?
Everything, I don’t know.
The silence seemed to last forever while Lily stared at him, pleading with herself to say something.
She wanted to know. She needed to know. James was looking at her like he wanted her to say something too.
She didn’t. She did the only thing she could do to embarrass herself even more. She pushed him against the opposite wall and kissed him.
The moment of doubt and regret that had flashed through her mind right before she pressed her lips against his, disappeared like snow under the sun. And when she felt his hands sneak around her waist and his lips move against hers, a surge of satisfaction ran through her.
He’s still mine.
Her fingers tangled themselves up in his hair and the satisfaction grew. This was the answer she really had been looking for. It was pathetic and silly and it didn’t solve any of their problems, but it felt good. It made her feel wanted.
This kiss was significant, one that could change thing. And as she realised this, she knew that if this kiss would change anything, would signify anything, it wouldn’t be in a good way. If this meant anything, it was goodbye. A last kiss.
Last, because she shouldn’t be kissing him. He wasn’t hers to kiss.
Then why’s he kissing me back?
Lily’s hands slid from James’ hair to his shoulders and pushed him back.
“No, don’t stop,” James muttered when their lips parted. James’ mouth, and the rest of his body, followed Lily as she backed away from him.
Before she could say anything, Lily’s back hit the wooden door with a loud thud and James pushed his body against hers. With one hand in her neck, he guided Lily’s mouth back to his and continued what they had been doing. Maybe the fact that she wasn’t allowed to kiss him, made all this feel so much better.
Outside, the girls waiting in line had heard the noise and their heels were now clicking James and Lily’s way. Their whispered voices were loud enough for Lily to hear, and so she pulled her wand out of her pocket and silently cast the Muffliato charm on the door.
Lily could feel James smile against her lips.
Get your mind out of the gutter, Potter, Lily thought. Not gonna happen.
James eagerly put his hands on her hips again, one slipping under the hem of her blouse while his lips moved to her neck. This gave Lily a moment to open her eyes and clear her head, although when he came near that one spot at the base of her neck...
“No,” Lily barely whispered. James ignored her. “Stop, James.”
James’ lips stopped moving and Lily could feel his ragged breath on her neck.
“I won’t let you fool me around again,” Lily said a little more forcefully now.
James pushed himself off and looked Lily in the eye. He was angry.
“You’re the one who locked us in here and attacked me!” James retorted. Lily raised her eyebrows sceptically at the word ‘attacked’, but she was too embarrassed to respond.
James ran his hand through his hair and looked away, clearly frustrated.
“What do you want from me, Lily?” James sighed. He looked back into Lily’s eyes and she was stunned for a moment by the sincerity and desperation in those beautiful hazel orbs, which were usually always so playful and light.
Lily had come to ask for, no demand, some answers, solutions to the problems that made her life so miserable. But she couldn’t demand them of him now, not when he clearly didn’t have anything to offer her apart from the same solution-less problems that were troubling Lily. The ones that were making both their lives miserable.
“You want this? Fooling around in toilet stalls? Sneaking behind Cindy’s back while she’s pregnant with my child? You really want to be that ‘other woman’?” James said a bit sarcastically. Lily felt even more embarrassed. It felt like he was mocking her.
“Then what?” James almost yelled. Lily stayed silent. “You want me to leave Cindy? Pretend that I’m not a father? Run off into the sunset with you? ‘Cause I would love to do that, but you know I can't. Every day I wish there was a way for it all to disappear, but it doesn’t change a thing. There is no ideal solution which will let everyone live happily ever after, and thinking about it only makes me even more frustrated, and miserable.”
Lily’s cheeks were bright red by now. This was exactly what she had wanted to demand of James. This fairytale, where he could just swish his wand and the entire Cindy & baby dilemma would just disappear, or at least not ruin Lily’s happiness.
And yet again, Lily was confronted with the fact that she was one of those girls that kept believing that their life was meant to be perfect, and that when it wasn’t, she’d just have to try hard enough to make it perfect again.
But there was nothing she could do to make this right again, nor could James. All of the alternatives he had mentioned before were wrong, and weren’t things James would do, not the James Lily knew, not her perfect James.
And so she was right back to feeling stuck. Tears welled up in her eyes out of frustration as she finally –and truly– realised she had lost James and there was nothing she could change about it.
“Lily,” James whispered, noticing her tears. She angrily pushed his hand away from her face as he stepped forward. “You don’t understand. Cindy’s parents are pretty conservative –as were mine, actually– and I... I had to. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I hadn’t done the right thing, for the baby and for you, for that matter.”
“Oh, right!” Lily snapped, welcoming the anger gladly after feeling so vulnerable before. “We’re back to that? You deciding what’s best for me? How did work out for you the last time?”
Lily paused for a second, and although James seemed to want to say something, he didn’t.
“You know what, James, maybe you’re right. Maybe I should’ve listened to you the first time,” Lily explained calmly, and James’ face relaxed a little as if he, for a moment, thought that Lily would understand. “Maybe I do deserve better, better than this, and better than you.”
Lily dramatically burst out of the stall, making the women, still trying to listen at the door, jump up in surprise.
Her head was spinning. She had gone into that stall, expecting James to have the answers to her questions. Granted, she didn’t even stay long enough to ask them, but James had somehow managed to do the exact opposite of what Lily had wanted him to.
Her last words must have hurt him, and they were intended to do so, since nowadays she only seemed to want to either hurt him or kiss him. She didn’t think that was particularly healthy.
Lily headed straight outside, so she didn’t have to face any of her friends, certainly not Sirius, who would immediately notice the tears in her eyes. She wiped them away as the cold night air hit her face. She took a deep, calming breath and a shiver ran up her spine.
Lily promised herself not to think of James again, not tonight. She would worry about everything tomorrow in private, so she could cry her eyes out if she felt like it.
And there he was, smoking a cigarette by himself and forming the perfect distraction.
He looked over his shoulder and his face lit up, making it impossible for Lily not to smile back. He tossed his cigarette away and rubbed his hands together to warm them as he walked toward Lily.
“Don’t you know that smoking is bad for you?” Lily asked teasingly.
“Well, as an auror these days, the chances of me getting killed by someone on You-Know-Who’s side are probably higher than dying of lung-cancer,” Jack replied, chuckling to himself.
Lily was shocked by how easily Jack said this, as if he wasn’t talking about the fact that he could be killed any day because of his dangerous job. Yet Jack just kept smiling with that same enigmatic smile that intrigued Lily so.
“Now, Lily,” Jack began and the tone of his voice turned a bit heavier, yet not any less playful. “You seemed rather surprised to find me here outside, so I assume that, unfortunately, you weren’t exactly looking for me, but you’re here now, so I can assume that you’re not with... someone else.”
“You can,” Lily said, a frown on her forehead yet also a small smile on her lips. He knew there was a someone else, but it didn’t stop him from moving closer and looking Lily intently in the eye.
Lily noticed that she didn’t really mind Jack’s flirting, not that she had minded before but then she had known beforehand that she wouldn’t let herself be swept away, as if she was reserving herself for someone. That someone had made very clear, once again, that there was no future for them. So why could she not enjoy Jack’s interest in her, even reciprocate it?
Jack played with her fingers and Lily noticed how cold his hands were. James’ were always so warm, and although she had sworn not to think about him again, this difference drew her in; Jack was not James, and that was good. It was exactly what she needed.
She took Jack’s cold hand between hers and brought it to her mouth to blow her warm, damp breath across his fingers. As she looked back up at Jack face, it was considerably closer than before and there was an excited twinkle in his eyes.
His head moved even closer, and Lily concentrated very hard on this one eyelash of Jack’s that was about to fall off, so she wouldn’t think, because she knew that from the moment her brain started working and started figuring out what was happening, it would think of all the wrong things, of all the things that would stop her from giving in to Jack. Her brain would immediately go back to James Potter.
Right when the eyelash became blurry and her head started to ache from looking cross-eyed, she heard and felt Jack whisper against her lips:
“I can be a distraction.”
And then he kissed her.
Lily didn’t know if she liked it. There was nothing unlikable about it, yet she couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t right, too soon, too greedy, as if Jack had been just a bit too eager. He shouldn’t have kissed her... but he had and Lily didn’t stop him.
She concentrated again on the mental picture she had of the eyelash, so she wouldn’t think, wouldn’t compare. She just let Jack distract her from every thought she had.
A/N: It seems a bit short. Doesn't it seem short? I don't know. It was originally supposed to be one chapter together with the previous one but I split them because I thought the argument between Lily and James was going to be a lot lengthier... and then it wasn't. But well, here it is, FINALLY right?
I'm sorry you had to wait so long... the previous chapter has 666 reads at the moment so I'm pretty sure the devil is behind this small writer's block of mine. (Mr. Devil, if you're there? I'm sorry to say that I cannot in any way sell you my soul. I'm a ginger...).
Anyway, enough rambling. Review? :) (And of course, already a BIG thank you to everyone who has reviewed any of the previous chapters, or my other stories, or in general, any story... Reviewers are the best! )