Chapter 14 : Fourteen
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It was a special smile, one that James had never seen before. He liked it. It was a smile saved away, one that Lily never used. But she gave that special smile to James now, and he knew it was just for him.
She joined him at the doorway and they slipped into the corridor. They hurried up the stairs and made their way to the portrait of the Fat Lady. The got to the portrait and looked to each other one more time before saying the password. James reached for her necklace and rotated the chain, as the clasp had made its way to the front. His fingers momentarily stopped at the gemstone, which winked up at him, glowing hazel like his eyes in the torchlight.
They climbed through to the Gryffindor tower, arriving in the midst of a wonderful party. Everyone had Butterbeers and refreshments; everyone was cheering and laughing.
Sirius caught James’ eye from across the room and held up his Butterbeer bottle as if to propose a toast to James. Obviously, Sirius had a good idea as to where James has been. He took a swig then started over towards James.
“Out celebrating, Prongs?” Sirius asked as he watched Lily meet her girlfriends in the sitting area.
James rumpled his hair. “Yeah.”
“So? What happened, mate?”
James closed his eyes and put a dramatic hand over his heart. “Oh, Padfoot, my friend. Even if I wanted to tell you, I couldn’t.”
James left Sirius standing there dumfounded, to grab a Butterbeer. As soon as he made his way across the room, he was bombarded with cheers and compliments.
Sirius pushed his way to James’ side, not caring that the whole of the Gryffindor student body stood in his path.
“I’m your best mate, Prongs! We tell each other everything!”
“Sirius!” James hissed. “Drop it.”
Sirius frowned, but he let it drop and made his way across the common room to visit with Moony.
James watched his two best friends clink their drinks together as they met. He watched as Sirius leaned in towards Remus and soon found both their sets of eyes upon him. So, they were talking about him. James stared back for a moment until Sirius and Remus both smiled cheekily and raised their Butterbeers in his honor…
The party went on late into the night. Lily and her friends had long since gone up to bed, but a few people still stayed in the common room, chatting on about the victorious Quidditch game. Of course, the Marauders were all there. So were Frank Longbottom and the rest of the Gryffindor teammates.
James decided to head up to the dormitory and Sirius sprang up out of his chair. They went up to their circular dorm room and began changing into their nightclothes.
“Well?” asked Sirius.
James rolled his eyes.
“OK. Look.” James explained. “You know how I’ve always felt about Lily, right?”
“Well, she’s more amazing than I could ever have dreamed, mate.” He paused. “It’s—special. And I don’t want to prate on about her or anything.”
Sirius thought on this for a moment. “So, are you two, ya know, together then?”
James scratched his head. “I don’t know. That’s a good question.”
Remus and Peter entered the room just as James hastily put his bruised arm through the sleeve of his nightshirt. They were both yawning profusely and he didn’t think they saw the injury.
“So, what happened to you and Lily after the game?” asked Remus casually.
“Don’t even try, Moony. He won’t tell.”
“But ya know, Prongs,” continued Sirius, thinking he’d try a new approach. “She’s probably recounted everything to her friends a million times by now. Girls always tell each other everything.”
“Everything?” squeaked Peter.
“Mmhmm. Everything,” Sirius replied slyly.
“Fine! You stubborn bloke! I kissed her. That’s all I’m telling you!”
Sirius sank down onto his bed with disappointment. Silence, except for Remus and Peter shuffling about, getting ready for bed.
“But there was this one thing,” James breathed after a moment as he fell back onto his bed. “She smiled.”
“She smiled, Prongs?” came Sirius’ sarcastic voice.
“Yeah. It was—it was the best part of it all. This, special smile she gave me.”
“Well hmm, how long as it been since she’s gotten some action?” asked Sirius.
“Holy Hell, Sirius!” James yelled, and he pulled the hangings closed around his four poster.
"Sorry, sorry,” yelped Sirius. “Didn’t mean it.”
* * *
The next morning, James’ arm was absolutely stiff. It woke him up early, which he figured would give him the opportunity to prepare for the day in privacy.He grabbed his robes and headed to the lavatory to take a shower. Once he was cleaned up, he headed straight downstairs to the common room. And there she was.
Lily was sitting at a table working a mortar and pestle. She looked up with a start, but relaxed when she saw it was James. He came over and sat across from her.
“What’s all this?” James asked as he looked at a pile of herbs and other ingredients.
“I’m making you something for that bruise of yours,” she smiled. “You want to help?”
“It never hurts to help!” James replied.
“All we need to do now is add the Arnica and Witch Hazel. It has to be brought to a paste.”
She handed James the pestle and added the last two ingredients into the mortar. She used her wand to tidy the table as James mash the contents, using his left hand.
“That should be about right,” said Lily reaching over and rolling up the sleeve of James’ robes. “Now, we should get it on your arm before anyone else wakes up.”
“I’m awake,” came Remus’ voice from the entryway to the boy’s dorms.
Lily and James jumped with surprise as Remus stepped towards them. He saw James’ arm and shook his head.
“I knew something was wrong,” he said, taking the chair next to Lily.
“Don’t you let this slip,” warned James.
Remus winked, “I’ve kept worse secrets.”
Remus helped Lily apply the paste to James’ arm and then they wrapped it with a lightweight scarf.
“Thanks, you guys,” James breathed as he leaned back, the two front legs of the chair coming off the floor. “You have no idea. It feels so much better already.”
“But you’ll need to apply it again tonight,” said Lily, looking down into the Healer’s manual she had set out. “It should be back to normal by class in the morning.”
The three of them cleared off the rest of the ingredients just before the bulk of the students made their way down into the common room to visit before breakfast. Everyone looked quite sleepy from all the celebrating.
Just as James, Remus, and Lily stood to head off for the Great Hall, Sirius joined them and pulled James aside.
“Are you gonna talk to her?”
Sirius rolled his eyes, “About you two! Ya know, being together.”
"Shh,” warned James, as Lily and Remus turned to wait for them just outside the portrait hole. “Yeah, I will.”
* * *
The four of them took their seats at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall and began to fill their plates. Lily and Remus sat across from James and Sirius, who seemed to be arguing.
“What’s going on?” asked Remus as Sirius again prodded James in the ribs. “What are you two bickering about?”
James’ face flushed and it was all he could do to keep his eyes from glancing at Lily. “Nothing. Just, uh, Quidditch stuff,” mumbled James.
They were just finishing up their meals when Peter Pettigrew came up, quite out of breath.
“Why didn’t you guys wake me?” he huffed as he took a seat next to Remus.
The boys shrugged and everyone began to get up to leave. Peter sighed and grabbed a muffin in one hand and toast in the other as he followed them out of the Great Hall.
“Remus, Peter, and I were going to go, er, go to the library to work on that essay for Professor Aegis,” said Sirius, separating them from James and Lily. “We’ll catch you later, mate.”
Sirius poked a confused Remus and Peter along up the marble staircase and they disappeared.
Lily suspiciously watched them go, then turned to James. They stood looking at each other, when James realized this was the exact same spot where he first hugged Lily. He opened his mouth to speak, when three voices echoed down to them.
“There you are, Lily!” called Alice, Lily’s best friend. “You’re up bright and early.”
Lily was about to turn to greet her, but James fidget nervously, looking around with a flushed face.
“Oh,” breathed Alice. “Er, you’ve already eaten? Well, we’ll catch up to you later, then.” Alice quickly ushered Marlene and Abby into the Great Hall.
Lily turned back to James. “Why is everyone doing that?”
James’ hand jumped to his hair. “Doing what?”
“Running off like that.”
James shrugged his shoulders. “But, uh, since we’re alone, could I have a word with you?”
Lily curiously looked up to his twinkling eyes. They turned and began wandering around the castle, looking for the right words to say.
Lily looked to her feet as they walked in silence. “Is this about us, James?” she blurted after a moment.
He stopped and leaned onto the stone wall. She came to stand in front of him. “Yeah,” he said carefully.
Lily looked around nervously.
“I, um, well. Last night, in the Prefect’s bathroom,” James began, searching desperately for the words that just wouldn’t come. “It was, amazing. And I was just wondering, ya know, what you, no, how you feel about me.”
Lily studied the cracks between the stones of the wall.
She turned to him. “James, I don’t know.”
“I guess I, well, James,” she said after a moment. “I’m just confused. I don’t know.”
James’ stomach twisted in a knot. “Confused about what?”
She looked to her fingernails, “I guess I’m struggling to find out who you really are.”
Lily couldn’t help the weak smile that came to her lips. “James, it’s like this,” she began, getting a little more confidence. “Every year I’ve known you, you were always so arrogant and proud. Now, you’re not—well, you’re not to me, anyway,” she laughed. “Which is the real you, James?”
His hand shot up to his hair.
“Well,” James started. “I know that I was always in your face and everything—ya know, asking you out and being such a prick and all. But that was just how I acted—well, because I was a dumb boy who had a crush on a beautiful girl. But now, I find you so much more than just the prettiest girl at Hogwarts. I mean, before, I didn’t really know who you were, but now that we’ve spent some time together, I kind of have a clue. Now I want to know everything about you. It keeps me up at night and dreaming in the day. I don’t know. Does that sound as corny to you as it does to me?”
James paused to clear his racing mind. Lily looked to his radiant eyes and bit her lip.
“Well, it’s true, Lily. And I’ve grown up quite a bit too,” he continued after she didn’t say anything. “So, this is, who I am now.”
Lily smiled and so did James. She was hoping he’d say something like that—a confession, if you will. And James knew he’d come clean. It felt wonderful to get it all out—to put everything out on his sleeve for Lily. And his heart sprang into overtime, as she smiled that special smile just then.
"So,” James said. “How do you feel? What are you thinking?”
Lily reached down and took hold of both of his hands. “James, I know you’ve always thought that I was cold towards you, but really, I never, ever hated you. It’s just that no one else stood up to you or tried to put you in your place, so I well—”
James squeezed her hand. “Lily, that’s in the past. I just want to know how you feel about me now.”
She smiled. “I didn’t want that time we had in the Prefect’s bathroom to end,” she explained, taking a step closer. “Nor the time with you at the Halloween Ball.”
James’ heart raced even faster. He couldn’t believe what she was saying. Was Lily Evans, confessing that she actually liked him—James Potter?
“So, what are you saying? That you’d like to give it a shot and go out with me?”
She looked up into his eyes. “Yeah. I think that’s what I’m saying.”
James closed his eyes. He felt like he was melting. He slowly slid down the wall until he was on the floor. Lily, still holding his hands, smiled and sank down next to him.
He turned to her. To look into her green eyes like that, every day, was more than a dream come true. James suddenly felt unworthy of her granting words, and couldn’t imagine that he really was awake. It had to be a dream. Maybe he was in a coma at St. Mungo’s. Maybe he’d died and this was Heaven. But no, there he was sitting next to Lily Evans, who had finally said yes.
“Yeah?” he asked.
“Let’s head back to the common room.”
He looked around and realized for the first time that they were sitting on the cold stone floor of some corridor in the castle's lower levels. He sprang to his feet and gave Lily a hand up. He didn’t let go of it as they headed up to the main levels of the school.
Little did they know that Bellatrix and Regulus Black heard everything from their hiding place behind the statue of Lofty Laurinda.
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