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Chapter 3 : Here's Where We Begin
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I snuck another peek at James. We were studying together in a quiet corner of the library but I couldn’t get myself to concentrate. I stared down at my notes, my eyes barely taking in the blurry words in front of me. For the past two weeks I’d been trying to work up the courage to tell James how I felt about him. Every day I woke up thinking to myself, today. I’ll tell him today. But whenever I finally thought I could do it—sweaty palms, heart palpitating wildly and all—I’d change my mind at the last minute, too scared to go through with it after all.
“Lily…are you okay?”
I glanced up, realizing I’d been taping my quill against the desk at a rather frantic pace.
“Fine!” I replied quickly, my voice slightly strangled. “Just can’t figure out this Runes problem,” I muttered.
I caught the amused smile that flashed across his face, his eyes crinkling in that endearing way that I’d come to love seeing, before he turned back to his book.
My cheeks flamed. Enough was enough, I told myself firmly. Are you a Gryffindor or not?
So before I could convince myself otherwise, I spoke up. “Actually, James. There is something.”
“Oh, it wasn’t the Runes problem after all?” James teased. But his smile faded when I didn’t laugh. “What is it?”
“So. Um." I cleared my throat. "There’s something that’s been on my mind lately. But I—I’m not sure how—," I paused. "How to bring it up." I rubbed my nose in embarrassment. It would be now, when I had finally plucked up the courage to tell him, that I'd completely forgotten how to talk, put words together.
James leaned closer, a small frown on his face. “Lily, you can talk to me about anything. You know that.”
His hazel eyes were so full of concern that I found myself just blurting out, no thought put into the words leaving my mouth, “Remember how I’d always say no whenever you asked me out?”
I groaned inwardly. Really eloquent, Lily. Really. But on the other hand, I was too nervous to care. I twisted my hands in my lap, feeling more and more anxious by the minute.
James hadn’t spoken yet. He stared at me, a guarded look on his face. “What about it?” He asked carefully.
“I think I might have a different answer if you asked me again,” I mumbled as I fidgeted with a loose string on my shirt.
His eyes widened. “What?”
“I like you, James,” I said softly, finally meeting his gaze firmly. “A lot. I have for awhile now.”
James still didn’t say anything. The seconds ticked by slowly, and painfully. The longer he stared at me, that shocked expression on his face, the more my heart sank.
He didn’t feel the same way about me. But…I’d been almost certain that my feelings were reciprocated.
“Oh. Okay. It’s fine. Really,” I heard myself say. “You know, I just remembered that I have a meeting. With Flitwick!” I managed, my voice rushed. I gave him a strained smile and then left as quickly as I could, a small part of me hoping that James would react—call after me, pull me back and tell me something, anything.
But he didn’t. He watched me rush out, that same stricken look on his face.
I walked through the hallways with no direction, my eyes glazed, hands shaking violently. My cheeks burned, my face hot with embarrassment. Was this how James had felt all those times I’d said no? Angry tears filled my eyes. I couldn’t believe it had taken me this long to realize how much James had cared for me. And it was too late now. He had moved on and I was trapped, finally realizing how deep the pain of rejection ran. I winced as an overwhelming pang of misery rushed through me.
Misery quickly turned into confusion when I felt an arm wrap around my waist, turning me around. And then my heart leapt. There was only one reason why James would be standing in front me.
His chest heaved with short, rapid breaths. “Bloody hell. You walk too fast. I had to double back because Peeves started throwing ink pellets at me. I was apparently disturbing the peace by running after you.” He gazed down at me, a hint of a smile playing on his lips.
I jumped at the opportunity, anxious to hear what he had to say. “Why were you running after me, James?” I asked. My heart pounded in anticipation.
“Because I’m an idiot.” A shadow of uncertainty filled his eyes for a moment. “Call me crazy, Lily but I couldn’t believe you. After all this time of waiting. I swear to Merlin I thought you were….I don’t know. Trying to play a joke on me.” He shook his head.
“You are an idiot,” I told him gently.
His face flickered in amusement. He glanced around before grabbing my hand to pull me into an empty classroom down the corridor.
James ran a hand through his hair absentmindedly as he turned around to face me. I smiled. He was nervous.
He gazed at me for a moment, his eyes unreadable. “Did you mean it?” James finally questioned softly. I nodded. He stepped closer to me, a vulnerable look on his face. “And…what--what changed your mind?”
I blinked in surprise. Didn’t’ he know? I felt like it was the simplest answer in the world.
“You did,” I replied.
I watched as a jumble of emotions flashed through his face—surprise, delight and then, a glint of mischief appeared in his eyes. James took another step forward. He was so close to me now. A lock of black hair fell on his forehead and my hands itched in anticipation, longing to reach out and push it back, to wrap my arms around him and how much exactly how serious I was. But I waited, watching him with bated breath as he took another step forward.
“Evans.": His lips twitched. "Go on, go out with me.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Is that a question or a command?” I asked, struggling to keep a straight face.
James grinned. “Is that a yes?” He countered.
His arms were finally around me, holding me close to him as if he’d never let me go. His eyes drifted down to my lips and as I gazed up at him, I felt a rush of affection when I realized he was still waiting for me to make the first move.
“Yes,” I whispered as I pulled his head down. A smile flashed through his face just before his lips met mine and I couldn’t help but smile back into his kiss.
I followed James into the Great Hall, my hand clasped tightly in his.
“Oh, Merlin,” I muttered under my breath when I spotted Sirius and the wide smirk on his face. He was already nudging Remus and Peter, who stopped eating to watch us walk up to them, looks of surprise and disbelief on their faces. But they both grinned at us when we finally reached them. James squeezed my hand reassuringly.
“Well, well, well.” Sirius commented. “What do we have here?” He questioned, his eyes glinting.
James glanced down at me, quirking his lips into a small smile. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Sirius. We’re just eating dinner, aren’t we?” He gave me a small wink as he gestured for me to sit before sliding into the seat next to me.
I smiled gratefully at him. Sirius watched us as we filled our plates before turning to Peter and Remus, looking as if Christmas had come early. “Alright, pay up. I knew it would happen before break.”
My head shot up. I fixed Sirius with a stern look. “You bet on us?”
Remus shook his head. “He’s just joking, Lily,” he assured me. “Sirius, it was never a real bet.”
Sirius shot him an offended look. “It was very real. Not my fault you weren’t listening to my terms. That’ll be five galleons each, thank you,” he informed them.
I groaned. James’s arm slid over my shoulder and I turned to bury my head in his chest. He was shaking; I could tell he was trying not to laugh. I lifted my head slightly to scowl at him. James released me to raise his hands in surrender.
“I had nothing to do with this,” he told me. But he raised his eyebrows at Sirius. “I will hex you.”
“I’m so scared,” Sirius replied loftily with a roll of his eyes. But his face turned serious then. “I really am joking, Lily. I’m glad you two are finally together,” he said quietly. Remus and Peter chimed in their agreement.
I nodded, giving them a relieved smile. My cheeks colored when James’s hand found mine under the table. He intertwined our fingers together, his touch warm.
I squeezed his hand, trying to listen quietly as James retold his run-in with Peeves. But my mind was hazy, concentrating instead on the way James kept brushing his thumb across my hand, tracing different designs on my skin over and over again.
“Nice, Potter!” A sixth-year prefect raised his hand to high-five James, who returned it with a bemused look on his face. “You finally got Evans to go out with you. Good going, mate!” He shot me a grin before leaving the room with his partner.
I stared after him, feeling shocked. “Ah,” James said. He shot me an apologetic look. “That was…completely uncalled for,” he commented.
I shook my head. “Let’s just get this over with.”
James followed me quietly. I could feel his gaze on me but I said nothing. I felt another sharp rush of irritation as we walked by a pair of two girls on the way to the staircase. They were both whispering and pointing at the both of us in a not-so-subtle way.
We patrolled the third-floor in silence, talking only if we heard something suspicious. I knew James could tell something was wrong but he didn’t say anything, and neither did I. The silence grew louder, filling the space between us until I could almost feel his frustration. But I still remained silent.
We were almost back to the common room when James finally stopped in his tracks. He looked at me for a moment, his hazel eyes searching my face.
“We have to talk, Lily.”
He sat down in the corridor and leaned against the wall. He watched with unreadable eyes as I sat down slowly by the opposite wall, facing him.
“Are you…,” he hesitated as he tried to find the right words. “Are you embarrassed by me? To be my girlfriend?” James asked bluntly.
I shook my head. “No! That’s not it at all, James.”
James sighed. “Is it because people are making it as if you were a conquest? That after all this time, I completed my goal.” He paused. “I finally won you over.” His voice was wry.
I exhaled sharply, playing for time. I couldn’t get my thoughts together. “No,” I finally said slowly. “I don’t know. Maybe.”
We were both quiet for a moment. I placed my head in my arms, unable to shake the feeling of frustration towards myself. Why was I making this such a big deal? “Maybe it’s just the attention. I mean, I expected it from our friends. But then, the whole Quidditch team? All the prefects, even people who aren’t even in our year?” I peeked up at him.
“I don’t know what you want me to say, Lily.” He sighed again as he ran a hand down his face. “It’s just gossip. It’ll die down soon.”
“I know.” My eyes traced his face, taking in the bleak look in his eyes, his lips pursed into a frown. And then I realized something. “I don’t care, James,” I said out loud. James lifted his head in surprise.
A small smile filled my lips. “I mean, you did win me over, in the end,” I told him, my voice gentle. I got up and reached my hand out to him. “And I don’t care who knows.”
His fingers tangled with mine as I pulled him up. He cupped my face with his free hand, his face filled with relief.
“I’m sorry,” I said softly. “I guess I was just a little thrown. I'm not used to being the source of all the gossip.” I admitted with a small laugh.
“It’s okay,” he murmured as his lips gently brushed against mine. “You can make it up to me,” he teased, his eyes warm.
I raised my eyebrows. “Is that right?”
He grinned as he pulled me closer. And then his lips were on mine as he kissed me softly. I reached up on my tiptoes to wrap my hands around his neck, pouring all my emotions into our kiss, glad that I had realized there was no other person I would rather be with.
A/N: So I'd actually had this chapter written for awhile now--I just wanted to make it perfect because it was finally the BIG moment! YAYYYY. But anyway, it's just the usual: I love Lily and James, they're my otp blah blah blah, and please leave me a reivew to let me know what you thought of the chapter!
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