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Before They Fall by Jchrissy
Chapter 31 : How To Love You
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 18

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Amazing CI by heartfelt.@TDA
Chapter 31 - How To Love You

“Everyone take out the lists we made last week,” James said, and Lily waited while the twenty-two prefects shuffled about, the sound of crinkling parchment filling the otherwise quiet library.

“Brilliant,” Lily said once they all had their list. “Friday morning we’ll be getting everyone into the carriages and prepared to board the Hogwarts Express. I need you, Eleanor, and you Briscoe, to help me with organizing the students by year. Also, Dumbledore informed me that there’s a second year Hufflepuff, Ernest Horette, who seems to want to stay at Hogwarts. The problem is, his parents expect him to come home. So we need to make sure he gets in a carriage and on the Express.”

“Lily,” Briscoe began from his spot at one of the center tables. “You and James both did everything at Christmas. If you just want to go ahead with your friends, we can handle it.”

Lily smiled at the Slytherin. He was always offering to do more, ready to help. In fact, his attitude was one of the main reasons Lily mentioned to Professor Slughorn that she couldn’t think of a better Head Boy for next year.

“Thanks for the offer, Briscoe. James and I are actually staying at the castle, and your and Eleanor’s help will be more than enough.”

“Nice offer though, thanks for that,” James said, nodding at him before continuing. “Alright, we need to make sure we have an accurate count by Thursday morning of any students staying behind. I would like the fifth year prefects,” he paused and glanced at the table to his and Lily’s far left, “to get a list of all the first years and fifth years in your House who aren’t leaving the castle. Then I want the sixth year prefects,” he paused again, moving his body to face the group to his right, “to get the names of all the second years and sixth years. And I want the seventh years to do the same for their own year and third years. Lily and I will handle the fourth years.” Nods and murmurs of confirmation went through the room.

Lily was about to take over and move to the next thing on their agenda when Abigail’s voice slipped through the room. “Excuse me, I do have class work, you know. I can’t spend every free hour of my day on prefect duties,” she said, glaring up at them. Lily felt a thin string of patience snap inside of her. She was sick to death of snotty girls, and even sicker of Abigail’s constant attitude.

“Well, Abigail,” she began, her voice harsher than she’d intended, “if I remember correctly - and I have a very good memory - you’re taking half the number of classes James and I are. I can promise you that we do triple the work we’ve ever asked of you, and if you’re unable to do something as simple as get a count of students, you have no place being here and we’d like you to leave.”

The girl’s face paled. Embarrassment or rage, or a combination of both, Lily wasn’t sure.

“The only reason you’re Head Girl,” she hissed, “is because you suck up to every bloody teacher in this school. If I spent as much time kissing arse as you do, I’d probably be-”

“Out,” James barked, pointing a finger at the door. Lily could see a cold gloss form over his eyes, a controlled anger vibrating through him. “Get the hell out of here this second. We’ll be speaking with Slughorn first thing in the morning, but you may as well plan on handing over your badge tomorrow.”

Anger rippled through the girl, her eyes glaring between Lily and James. “Good riddance,” she finally spat, making her way closer to the exit. She was a few yards away when she turned around and hissed, “I never wanted to work with a blood traitor and a Mudblood anyway.” Abigail then proceeded to stomp the remaining distance to the doors and slammed them on her way out.

Silence drug through the room, neither Lily nor James looking away from the place where she’d just left. After a moment, Lily cleared her throat and turned back to the prefects. “That was delightful,” she mumbled.

“We can go talk to Slughorn with you, Lily,” Bridget offered, her light eyes filled with the sort of caring compassion only a Hufflepuff was capable of.

Lily smiled as the rest of the prefects agreed, touched by their concern. “Thanks, guys. He may end up wanting to speak to some of you anyway to be sure he has a clear picture of what happened, but James and I can handle it tomorrow morning. Let’s just get back to business, shall we?”

They continued with the meeting, going through the plans for Friday morning as well as figuring out who would be on patrol the following month. Lily filled out the schedules then waved her wand and duplicated the parchment, making copies for every prefect.

As dinner time drew near, they managed to get everything dealt with and said their goodbyes. Lily was just packing her things back into her rucksack when she heard an, “Excuse me,” from behind her. She turned around, the nervous face of Mary glancing at her.

“Hi,” Lily said, trying to hide her exhaustion. She didn’t want the prefect to think that it wasn’t a good time to speak with her.

“Hi, Lily. I’m hoping you have a minute...” The glance Mary sent toward James made it clear that she wanted Lily alone. A nervous ache formed in the pit of her stomach, part of her thinking maybe the sixth year knew she’d spied on Violet and her friends a few days back.

“Yes, of course,” she said, pleased with her ability to sound confident despite the fact that she wanted to go crawl into a hole. How would she explain it if the girl had seen her and Belle spying?

If Belle and Alice were here they’d tell Lily there was no reason to explain, that she hadn’t done anything wrong. Well, Belle would say she hadn’t done anything wrong; Alice would say that it’d been unkind to listen in on the conversation but that her motives were understandable. Then she’d order Lily to tell Violet off herself.

“James, I have something to give you for your birthday. Would you meet me in the Heads’ Quarters in a few minutes?” Lily asked, glancing at the boy a few feet from her. His smile, the way he nodded at her and gave her a soft peck on the lips before saying goodbye to Mary and leaving the library, caused a flutter in Lily’s heart. That’s why she’d listened in to Violet’s conversation, and that’s why she didn’t feel guilty about it. Because that incredibly sweet, handsome man was hers.

“This is difficult for me to say...” Mary began, and Lily gestured for the girl to sit down at the chair beside her. She kept her face even, trying not to seem prepared for what would come next.

“Well, as you’ve probably noticed, Violet has... feelings for James.” Mary’s eyes remained on the table as she spoke. “Violet can be a sweet girl, she really can. And when you’re her friend, she’s usually a good one. But she can also be very... cold.”

“Mhm...” Lily said, getting more and more curious as to where this was actually going. “I’m not questioning your taste in friends, Mary,” she added, placing her hand on the girl’s. “We all see people in different ways.” As she said the sentence, she thought of Sev and how many different times she’d had to explain to people that he wasn’t the way he seemed.

“Yes, I suppose that’s true. She’s going to be so angry at me for coming to you with this... but....” The girl’s fingers twisted together. “She has a plan to get James alone with her so she can, um, so she can...”

“Change his mind about his choice in girlfriends?” Lily supplied.

“Yes, yes, exactly. And we tried to tell her how foolish she was being, but when she gets an idea in her head it’s impossible to talk her out of it. And it’s not that I think James would do that or anything, I just thought you deserved to know.”

Lily smiled at Mary, giving the soft hand a squeeze. “I appreciate it, Mary. I really do. And I’ll keep this conversation between us, okay?” Mary nodded, her relief visible, and said a hasty goodbye to Lily before grabbing her rucksack and heading out of the library.

Lily was left feeling both grateful that the girl had the strength to talk to her, and somewhat curious as to what different side of Violet there possibly could be.

She didn’t want to admit it, but Violet’s words had continued to haunt her, hurt her. Which was why she’d made the decision that today was the perfect day to make sure nothing Violet said was true. It was James’s birthday, after all.

She took a deep breath to steady her nerves and glanced around the library, knowing once she left the sanctuary and arrived at the Heads’ Quarters it would be too late to change her mind. She wouldn’t allow it.

Violet paced back and forth in the Gryffindor common room, her eyes glancing at the banners and decorations Sirius Black and Isabelle the Bitch were putting up. She wouldn’t let them ruin James’s birthday for her. It had been the Quidditch team’s idea to have the surprise party for him, anyway. And she was part of that. And a Gryffindor. She had every right to be there. Though she was relatively irritated that, for once, it seemed like the group of troublemakers were going to adhere to the school rules. They’d even invited Professor Mcgonagall to the celebration, which meant Violet would have no chance at getting James alone for a minute or two. Not in the way she wanted, at least.

“Peter,” Violet heard Sirius call, watching from the corner of her eyes. “Can you go tell the house-elves that we’d appreciate if they’d bring up what they could from the kitchens in an hour or so?”

“Oh!” said the annoying French accent from beside Sirius. “And if zere’s any way you could bring up just ze smallest piece of Breton Butter cake...?” Good, Violet thought. Hopefully you eat so much of it your arse gets too fat to fit in your robes.

“Sure, s’not a problem. If I run into any of the Gryffindors, I’ll remind them that James will be here by eight.”

Violet watched as Sirius nodded at him before turning back to the spells he was using to charm and transfigure decorations. She glanced back over at Belle, and remembered that she’d probably be forced to associate with the girl once her and James became an item. She didn’t mind the rest of his friends. Remus was a bit of a know-it-all, but he was nice enough. Rather cute. Speaking of... she glanced around, surprised he wasn’t there. Usually they traveled in a pack.

Well, she could put up with him. She wasn’t looking forward to having to be friendly with either the French girl or Alice, but it was well worth the trade of being James’s girlfriend. And after this year, they’d all be gone and the school would finally be hers. She would get letters from James and all of her friends would be green with envy as she read his words aloud during breakfast.

She held onto that thought, letting her mind create the perfect image of how it could be. If only she could show James what dating her would be like, then he’d have to forget about Evans. Wouldn’t he? Violet refused to allow the small feeling of doubt creep into her mind. She wouldn’t consider the possibility of James not realizing that they were meant to be together. There was no reason for him to like Lily more than her. He just had to give her a chance to show him that...

The sound of the portrait swinging open grabbed her attention, and she cheered up a bit at seeing Mary enter. Perfect. She needed to get the hell out of the common room for now, anyway. She was sick of being surrounded by French accent.

“Hey, let’s go get dinner,” Violet ordered, taking Mary’s arm and steering her back out of the common room. As they descended the stairs, Violet still stuck on the doubt that had invaded her mind, Mary stopped dead in her tracks.

“What, am I supposed to carry you or something?” Violet asked, crossing her arms. The delicious smells of the Great Hall was wafting down the corridor and Violet realized just how hungry she was.

“No,” Mary countered, and Violet realized that something about the look on her friend’s face was off. “Nothing, let’s go.” Violet snaked her arm out and grabbed Mary’s. Whatever she was hiding, they would get to the bottom of it.

“You obviously have something to tell me. Out with it.”

“There’s nothing,” Mary answered, and again tried to continue forward.

“I”m not an idiot, Mary. Now tell me or I’m going to tell Pettigrew that you like him.” Mary’s cheeks turned red, and Violet was pleased that her bluff worked. She hadn’t even been entirely sure if Mary liked the boy, but did catch her staring at him a bit more than normal.

“I’ll tell you, but not because you blackmailed me. Because you need to hear it, anyway.” Violet watched, impatient for Mary to tie her words together and get on with it. “I spoke to Lily after the prefect meeting. I told her your plan.”

To Mary’s credit, she kept her eyes steady on her friend’s as she spoke, not once looking away. Not even when Violet’s grew hot with rage.

“You... you backstabbing bitch! You told her I was going after James? Why not just tell James himself! You bloody idiot!” She felt her hands begin to shake, both anger and frustration burning through her. Before Mary could get in another word, Violet turned around to the staircase, fury rushing through her as she stomped up them.

“Violet!” came Mary’s voice shouting after her. But continued up the stairs and ignored it, wanting nothing more than to get as far away from her as possible.

But where to? Back to the common room and have to look at the blonde’s face? With her luck, they’d probably be holding a, ‘we love Lily,’ meeting and Violet would have to sit there and listen to how brilliant Lily was and all the things that made her so perfect. Like there even were any. Evans was a goody-two-shoes who only cared about herself. Had she ever tried to be nice to Violet? No. All she’d ever done was hang out with her group of friends and act like the school was beneath her.

It wasn’t Violet’s fault if she was the only one in Hogwarts who seemed to realize how fake Lily was. And of course Violet couldn’t tell most people that, because they’d just run and tell precious Evans herself. Fuck them. Fuck all of them!

“Excuse me?” Violet nearly jumped at the voice, and turned around to see Alrek just a few feet from her. Great. Another person who probably adored Lily-Fucking-Evans.

“I am being apologetic for overhearing your conversation with your friend,” the Ravenclaw began, and Violet forced herself to take a deep breath. It wouldn’t do any good to go off on him like some nutter. And she thought he was rather friendly with James... so if that got back to James he would think she was a total bitch.

“Oh, no, that was nothing...” she started, then wondered how much he’d actually heard. Had Violet said anything to make it clear what she was trying to do? Was he coming over to tell her off?

“Vell, it was certainly seeming like something,” Alrek said. “And I think I am having a vay to help you vith your situation.” Violet grew curious at this... maybe he wasn’t a Lily lover. “Let’s go up a floor vhere ve von’t be running into anyone,” he continued, and she followed him up the rest of the staircase and into a secluded corner behind one of the billions of statues.

“So, what do you think you’ll be able to help with my...situation?” Violet asked, a little snottier than intended. She felt uneasy with the way his eyes bore into hers. Something about him made her uncomfortable. But she supposed it was the nature of the conversation, and who she was having it with, that had her feeling a bit off.

“I have yet to be confiding this to anyone,” he began slowly. “But you see, ever since I have been of attendance at Hogwarts I find myself rather smitten with Lily Evans.”

Of course, Violet thought. She should have known. “Listen, I’m sick to death of hearing about Lily Evans,” she snapped.

“Ah, but I am thinking hearing this vill be vorth your time.”

Violet crossed her arms, pretty certain that listening to someone go on about the annoying redhead was far from worth her time.

“I highly doubt that,” she began, and started to step away.

“You want to get James alone, correct?” Alrek asked, and Violet froze, then turned back to the seventh year.

“I vant the same thing with Lily. But it has been being rather impossible to get even more than a few minutes... between her friends constantly being around and Potter always being a step away.” That, Violet could understand. How many times had she thought that if she could just get an hour or so alone with James, no other distractions, that he’d realize how perfect they were for each other?

“I vas being certain that you vere speaking of James Potter vhen you vere shouting vith your friend,” the exchange student continued. “And it seems to me that ve are both having feelings for two poeple who ve’re unable to get a chance alone vith to express these.”

“Okay...” Violet said, getting impatient to figure out just what he wanted.

“I’m unsure of your plans for the holiday, but I vill be staying here. And I’m being nearly certain Potter and Lily are as well. Maybe ve, you and I, could each figure out a vay to get the attention of Lily and James. Ve vouldn’t have to be vorried about one of them interrupting us, because ve’ll both be with them separately and vould finally get a vhile alone.”

“So,” Violet started, perking with interest. “If we can just figure out a way to get each of them alone, then we won’t risk one of them finding the other! That’s brilliant. We’ll have to beware of their friends if they’re staying behind as well... but that shouldn’t be so difficult. And you think we can get them alone in the first place?”

“Oh yes,” he said a bit too enthusiastically. “I have a few different ideas I can share vith you, any of vhich vould work excellently. You see, I’ve been wanting to get Lily Evans alone for some time.”

Violet felt the same uneasy cringe at the way his eyes, the look in them, didn’t seem all there. But she pushed it back down. She was finally getting the chance to do what she wanted more than anything, and she wouldn’t let that get ruined.

“Let’s be meeting again, in the library preferably, after dinner on Vednesday and ve vill discuss more details.”

Violet felt herself nodding, dazed as Alrek instructed her to wait a few minutes after he left before leaving as well. She did just that, and took a few precious minutes to daydream what her life would be like after James was hers.

There’s no reason to be nervous, Lily told herself as she entered the Heads’ Quarters.

It’s just James. They spent nearly every day together for the past eight months... so what was about to happen wasn’t really a surprise. And she knew what she was doing. Or she would at least pretend to. And it was James. She never needed to be nervous around him.

She suddenly wished she’d talked to Alice or Belle about her plans. But for some reason she’d kept them to herself, maybe afraid that saying them out loud would make her too nervous. Or afraid that they’d tell her she was doing it for the wrong reasons.

They weren’t the wrong reasons, though. She loved James. Maybe she’d eventually get around to telling him just that. And she was ready for this. She’d taken extra care that morning when dressing, wearing a lacy pair of knickers that Belle had forced her to buy over Christmas. The potion that she’d written to the Apothecary in Hogsmeade about two days ago had been delivered, discreetly of course, yesterday morning. She’d read the instructions a million, knew that she had up to fifteen days of protection before her next dose.

“Hey,” James said, surprising Lily as he bounding down the staircase from his dormitory. Lily smiled, or tried to, and folded her body up on the sofa.

“Um,” she mumbled, knowing she sounded nearly as dumb as she felt. Her teeth began gnawing at the skin on her lip; the nervous habit she’d never been able to break.

How was she even supposed to start?

She watched as his eyes - more golden than green today - flicked over her. He had his Quidditch notes in his hands, a sign that he’d been preparing for a practice. One with Violet, of course.

She shook her head, not wanting to think about any of that right now. All she wanted to think about was James.

“Come sit down,” she said, trying to force out a confident smile. It didn’t feel very confident. She could tell he knew something was off, his eyebrow raised, but he didn’t say anything and instead made his way over to her.

“Have I told you Happy Birthday yet?” she asked nervously.

“Only about a hundred times,” he teased.

“Oh,” she said for lack of better words.

“Lily, what’s going-”

Before he could finish, she was leaning forward and nestling her lips against his. She heard his breath catch in surprise but it only took a moment for him to recover, and she relaxed as his lips responded to hers.

They were just kissing, she reminded herself as the nerves started spinning through her. They’d done it a million times before... well, maybe not a million.

“Lily,” he said, pulling away from her just as she started molding into him. “What happened to the ‘no kissing in the Heads’ Quarters’ rule?”

She just shrugged, not knowing how to explain why this was different. It didn’t exactly feel right to be using a place they’d been given as a privilege for doing something that was definitely not permitted, but she wouldn’t think about that just now.

Instead of answering, she moved into him again, pulling him back into the kiss. His arms circled her waist and held her tight, forcing away the nerves running through her. She felt him shift as he inched her body on top of him, allowing his hands the freedom to run down her back and twist through her hair.

A rush of warmth poured into Lily; the feeling of his arms holding her was something she loved more than she ever thought possible. As the kiss deepened, her thoughts lost their ability to form anything that made sense. Just feeling. That’s what she wanted, needed, especially if she was going to do what she planned.

The reality of where the situation would end up going, or where she meant it to, invaded the foggy pleasure in her mind and forced her nerves back up again. She liked kissing James, liked being touched by him; there was no reason to feel like what would happen next would be any different.

But it was, she heard a little voice in her head whisper. It was so different. She tried to ignore that voice and let her mind become prisoner to the kiss again, but even the heat radiating off of James’s lips couldn’t fully distract her.

It was different. Kissing, exploring one another with their hands and lips, was one thing. But this, what was going to happen next, was so much more. Would it change them? Would he care about her more after, or would it not be anything like he expected and he’d care about her less?

“Hey,” James whispered, moving away from her and reaching up to his shoulders, grabbing her hands that had been resting on them. “Lily, what’s wrong? You’re shaking.”

She was? She glanced down, her small fingers now intertwined with his.

“Nothing,” she said, trying to smile, but even she could hear the hitch in her voice. It could happen, she thought. She could kiss him again, lose herself in the feeling of his calloused hands running over her back, under her robes... and this time they just wouldn’t stop. They had no interruptions. No Quidditch practice starting. No professors looming around. They were in there all by themselves, with hours to waste until they needed to be in the Gryffindor common room for James’s surprise party.

And then what? What happen after they were together, after they did everything together? Would she feel different? Would she stop worrying about Violet, about losing James to a girl who would give him more than she was ready to? No, more than she had been ready to. Not anymore. Now she was ready, and she would.

“You’re a terrible liar,” James said, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. “Talk to me, Lily.”

She stared into his eyes and heard herself asking the question that was scaring her the most. “If we... if we did more than kissing,” she began, trying not to meet his eyes. “And more than anything we’ve ever done before, would we still feel the same after?”

“Erm,” he began, clearly thrown by her questions. “Well, I think so. I mean, we’d feel... different I think, but not, um, bad different.”

He would still care about her, Lily thought. She knew he would. And with that realization firmly in place, she looked up at him and said in a whisper, “Should I, um, take my clothes off?”

She wasn’t sure she’d ever seen the same kind of look on James’s face before. Shock wouldn’t even begin to describe it.

“God, Lily. I didn’t mean right now. I just meant eventually... when it happens!”

This wasn’t going how she meant it too, Lily thought. They were supposed to be kissing so she wouldn’t be able to think. Not talking about it.

“Well, I thought now would be a good time for it to happen,” she reasoned, ignoring the red washing through her cheeks.

James stayed silent, his eyes never leaving hers. After what felt like an impossibly long few seconds, he rolled his eyes and let out a sigh. “This is a birthday joke, isn’t it? Sirius put you up to this. Any second everyone is going to come barging in here saying they tricked me, right?”

Lily didn’t speak, just shook her head with her eyes large, staring into his.

“You’re being serious?” James asked, his voice low. “You want...”

She did. Or at least she was pretty sure she did. There was no reason not to, right? Alice and Frank still cared about each other even after they took that last step, even more so, probably. Maybe if they did this she could finally tell James how she felt. Maybe they both could.

Lily nodded, trying to push the nerves down. What would Alice and Belle have said if she told them? Would they say it was stupid that the reason Lily started thinking about being with James was because of Violet? But this way, if the girl did try and make a move on him, he would realize that Violet wasn’t the only one who liked him enough to do this.

Before Lily’s thoughts could take a firmer hold and continue twisting her into knots, James’s hands were brushing through her hair and rested on her face as he eased her into him. The kiss resumed, only now she could feel the difference in James. The energy vibrating through him. Her heart sped through her chest as his lips grazed down her jaw and over her neck, running gently along the skin that felt as if it was on fire. Each place he kissed, it was like she could feel the imprint of his lips left over, tingling and burning even after he moved on to a new part of her.

See, this is how it could be. She could get lost in how perfect it felt to be touched by him, held by him. She would remember this part, and make herself forget the reason she’d decided to take this step in the first place.

“Lily,” James whispered, his voice husky. “What’s wrong?”

She realized her hands were shaking once again as he pulled their kiss apart.

“If you’re scared or if you’re not sure, we should stop,” he added, leaning forward and kissing her forehead.

“No, it’s not that,” she lied. She’d gone this far. She wouldn’t turn back now.

James’s fingers moved under her chin, tipping her head back so that her eyes met his.

“Lily, tell me what’s going on,” he pressed, stroking his fingers over her neck. “I can practically see the wheels turning in your head.”

She sighed, almost relieved that he’d noticed something was wrong.

“What would happen...” she started, rubbing her hands nervously over his. “What would happen if we didn’t do this? And there was someone else that wanted to do it with you?”

James stared at her for a moment, then his lips curved into a half smile. “Well, Lily, I think there probably is someone else out there that wants to do it with me. Loads of girls I bet, if my charming smile is any indication.”

She knew he meant it as a joke; he was always joking. But Lily couldn’t hide the quick passing of fear that flew across her face.

“Hey,” he said, “I’m only kidding. Actually I bet there are girls that want to, but that doesn’t mean any of them are you.”

“So if they came on to you and... tried to get you to do this with them?”

Lily watched a dark shadow spread over James’s eyes as he moved over, adjusting their position.

“You really think I would do that to you, Lily? That the last eight months have been for show or something?” She heard a small bit of anger build up in his voice and knew she wasn’t going about this the right way.

“No, no! I know you wouldn’t. But I also know that most girls probably would have slept with you by now.”

He stayed silent for a moment and she was unable to read his expression. He seemed calmer when he spoke again, though. “And I don’t want to be with most girls. I want to be with you. I thought I made it clear in the hotel that waiting until the time is right isn’t something that upsets me.”

“But that was before I realized Violet was going to throw herself at you!” Lily said, the words slipping out before she could stop them.

“Explain,” James ordered, raising his eyebrows at her.

“It’s nothing. I shouldn’t have said anything. Let’s just forget about it.” She started getting up but James was faster and pulled her back into his lap.

“Try the truth this time.”

Of course, he had to throw in the T word. She knew there was no way around it, and let out a long sigh. “I overheard Violet talking about how she was going to find a way to be with alone with you, and how... well, the details aren’t important. But it was clear that she realized we hadn’t been together and thought she’d have a better offer for you.”

“God dammit, Lily,” James said, rubbing his hands over his face. “For someone so smart, you can really be thick sometimes, you know.”

“James Potter!” Lily said, though she couldn’t put much annoyance behind the words.

“So let me get this straight,” he continued, frustration simmering at his surface. “You came in here tonight, wanting to do this... to be with me, all because you thought there was some unwritten rule that if we weren’t doing that, I might go jump for the first girl that wants to shag?”

“No!” Lily argued, though when he put it like that it did sound perfectly terrible. “It wasn’t that I thought you would want to be with Violet or anything. I was more afraid that you’d just realize maybe you didn’t want to be with me. Maybe you were sick of waiting and tired at how new I am to all this.” The words struggled to fight themselves out of her, harder to say than she’d imagined. She wasn’t this person, wasn’t a self-conscience girl. But she’d also never cared so much about someone before, or imaged what it’d be like to have that person taken away from her.

She watched James’s face as he took in her words, his fingers running through the dark mop of hair.

“I want to be angry at you, you know,” he said, standing up and pacing the room. “Because I thought we’d gone way past that. Past you thinking there’s part of me just waiting to jump the first girl that comes my way. Have I ever done anything to make you feel like I’m not happy with things the way they are, Lily?”

“No,” she mumbled, feeling like a child getting a lecture.

“Then why would you let that stupid slag get into your head this way? Why didn’t you just come talk to me? I’d have taken care of it, kicked her off the team and made sure she realized that it isn’t okay to try and fuck with my relationship.”

“I didn’t want that!” Lily said, nearly shouting as she stood from the sofa. “I don’t need you to handle things, and I certainly didn’t want her getting kicked off the team and you losing the chance at winning the cup.”

They stood on opposite sides of the table for a moment, gauging each other, Lily trying to figure out what on earth she even felt.

James was the first to break the stance, letting out a long breath and flopping back down on the sofa.

“You’re exhausting, you know,” he said, giving her a small smile. “And I don’t know if I should be more flattered or annoyed that you came up here to, well, you know.”

Lily uncrossed her arms, letting a bit of her guard down.

“What Violet said wasn’t the only reason I came up here wanting to be with you,” she said, laying a hand on his arm. “It was the reason I started thinking that maybe it was the right time, but not the reason I didn’t want to stop when we were kissing.”

James exhaled, letting his head fall back against the cushion. “You’re going to kill me one of these days. I don’t know how someone can make a bloke feel so many things in less than an hour. We’re not supposed to be able to feel this much, us guys. Not made for it.”

Lily laughed, her nerves finally winding down. She sat up on her knees and leaned over, kissing James as another laugh slipped from her lips.

“Hey!” she shouted as his arms snaked back around her, flipping her over so that she was laying on her back, the cushions under her. Her laughter came out in piles and she tried to reach forward to pull James down with her. Somehow they got all tangled up, and before Lily realized what was going on they were both tumbling from the sofa and landing on the rug.

“You’re a handful, Lily Evans,” James said as nestled his head into the curve of her neck, pushing the table over so he could lay down next to her.

“Isn’t that odd, I was just thinking the same about you,” she retorted, grabbing a pillow and aiming it at him. His quick reflexes caught it, then tossed it to the side.

“But you still love me anyway,” James said, a cocky grin on his face. She felt herself freeze up at the words, and he must’ve realized what he said because his face fell instantly.

Lily tried to smile, giving him what she hoped was a teasing one. “Whatever you say, James Potter.”

She didn’t know if either of them were ready to say it yet. She knew they felt that way, or at least she did. But she was almost certain he did, too. That didn’t mean they had to say it just yet, though.

“Come on, gorgeous,” he said, standing up and pulling her with him. “Let’s go celebrate the birthday party that’s supposed to be a surprise.”

Lily’s mouth fell open. She was about to ask how he possibly knew, but with James nothing really surprised her. She ran her hands over her hair to smooth it, feeling so much better than she had an hour ago.

“Alright, birthday boy. But do try and act surprised, will you?”

“Course,” he agreed as they stepped through the portrait. He pulled Lily into him and gave her one more kiss before they started the walk to the Gryffindor tower.

Both were too wrapped up in one another, in the feelings capturing their attention and blocking out the rest of the world, that they never noticed a pair of green eyes watching them.

First of all, did you guys really think I was going to use the Heads' Quarters to do that? Mwhaha.

Thank you, as always, to CambAngst for beta-ing. This poor guy doesn't get Friday nights anymore. They're spent on Google Docs going through the chapter with me while we both attempt to stay focused. He's a saint, and if you haven't checked out his stories, you don't know what you're missing!

Also, I try to avoid doing this, but I'm feeling so grateful for the awesome readers that I have. I'm going to get a bit mushy for a moment; I hope no one minds. You guys really make writing this worth it. I know I should say that I would write this story anyway because I love it, and that's true. I love it very, very much and these characters mean more to me than I ever thought possible. But hearing your opinions, getting amazing people like you all who make me want to update, make me excited about what happens next... I am just very, very grateful. Regardless of who was reading it, I would still be writing this story. But you guys are the reason that I make sure to update weekly and that, when I get annoyed and nothing is working, I make myself pull it together. THANK YOU.

I hope you like this chapter :)!

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