Chapter 20 : Little Red Lies
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LITTLE RED LIES
abyss @ tda
Of all the people whom Lily thought would appear on their doorstep, Petrova Pettigrew was not one of them.
“Petrova,” she greeted flatly. “What a pleasant surprise.” And by pleasant she meant, well, not pleasant at all. She had a day off from work, and had been planning on having a delightfully lazy day in, ordering takeout and watching movies. A visit from Petrova? Not on the plans. Lily was utterly baffled as to why the witch had showed up on her doorstep. They had never gotten along, and she could not even pretend they were friends. And the one person who lived there whom she was remotely friends with and who might have received her warmly, Dorcas, was neither present nor confident in the existence their friendship. In short, Petrova Pettigrew was by no means welcome in the Evans-Meadowes-McKinnon flat.
That didn’t stop her from barging in like she owned the place, though. No sooner had Lily opened the door wider than a crack did the blonde witch push through. “Won’t you come on in,” Lily added sarcastically, closing the door.
“I know the kind of person you are, Lily Evans,” the other witch huffed angrily, taking a seat on the sofa. “Sit down. We need to talk.”
“And you know this from the, what, three and a half conversations we’ve had?” Quirking an eyebrow, Lily wondered if Petrova remembered that she was the one visiting, here. Whose flat did she think it was? Nevertheless, the redhead humored her. It didn’t look like the other was planning on leaving until they had this discussion, whatever it was, and she figured if she went along with it then the visit might be over more quickly.
Petrova decided that she would ignore Lily’s quips, merely continuing on with the rant she was gearing up for. “A gold digger, that’s what you are. You lured James in and put him under your spell so you could marry him and get all his money!”
“I--what?” She would have gotten angry if the statements weren’t so ludicrous. “No one’s getting married. I’ve barely even started my career.”
“Exactly! You just started your career; you don’t want to work for your money so you thought, well, might as well marry a rich bachelor. You’re a gold digger, sleeping with people to get what you want! Like you slept with your department head to get your position!”
She almost wanted to laugh--so Petrova really had believed that throwaway comment from the dinner conversation they had had.
“You’re completely right. I have no talents other than luring men into my web of lies so they will give me what I want,” she deadpanned. “And if you must know, with James? I did it using love potion.”
She really ought to have said that there was nothing that the blonde witch needed to worry about. Lily wasn’t any more competition for her than, well, that potted plant next to the door. She hadn’t spoken to James since she had left Pemberley and the whole Marlene scenario had been resolved. Quite frankly, she was certain that he had lost interest in her altogether, or maybe had decided that whatever interest he had in her was not worth the trouble. But she didn’t want to give Petrova that satisfaction. Besides, she was getting a kick out of playacting the image that Petrova had constructed of her.
To her surprise (though really she shouldn’t be surprised at this point), Petrova didn’t even bat an eye. “How did it work for you? I tried that in sixth year for Valentine’s Day but it failed!” The girl wailed.
Petrova really was nuts. Did the girl honestly think that James Potter, the bloke whom she apparently idolized so much, was thick enough to fall for the love potion trick? He was an Auror, for Merlin’s sake. The scenario was messed up in so many different ways, but Lily decided that she would have some fun with it. “Well, you see, he’s also under my imperio,” she shrugged. “Originally, the plan was that I’d just marry him and then divorce him so I could make off with half his estate--didn’t think I could stand being married to the guy, you know? But now that I realize how amazing he is, I just want to make him mine forever.”
“Well, what you need to understand is that he isn’t yours. He’s mine. He loves me. And true love will triumph over your stupid spell.”
Lily wondered just how delusional a witch could be. “Good luck with that,” she smirked, crossing her arms and lying back on the armchair, adopting a look of smug satisfaction. “But I’m not giving up James Potter so easily. Rich, handsome, funny, and sweet--he’s quite the catch, isn’t he?” And this was where the facade stirred a little too close to home for her liking. Get over it, Evans--you had your chance with him, and you screwed it up.
If she wasn’t going to get James Potter--well, she got comfort from the fact that at least Petrova Pettigrew never would, either. It might have been petty, but she had the right to say that, now that Petrova was no longer even subtle about her insults. “I hate you,” the witch spat, with much more venom than the situation warranted. “James doesn’t deserve someone like you. I’m going to rescue him from your evil clutches.”
The tragedy of it all, Lily thought, was that Petrova wasn’t awful looking, and at least in her childhood she probably had a likeable personality, if the others had so easily hung out with her. Perhaps if she hadn’t started a craze and went after James, they naturally would have started dating when they got older. But now, well, the witch was too far gone. Ah, well, you live and you learn. “Have fun with that. You can see yourself out, I hope.”
Petrova stormed out and the door slammed shut. Oh, how she loved being a bitch to people who deserved it. It was probably going to come back to bite her in the arse later, but for now, it tasted sweet.
Petrova had stormed straight out of Netherfield Flats and straight into James Potter’s office at the Ministry, it seemed.
“I know the truth about Lily Evans,” she sang as she waltzed in without announcement.
“Pete,” he greeted her warily. “What did I say about bothering me at work?” But she had mentioned the words Lily Evans, and his interest was piqued in spite of himself.
She arched an eyebrow and tapped the timetables taped to the door. “You’re on your lunch break, aren’t you?”
“Well, yes.” A sigh. “All right, you got me. What nasty rumor about Lily Evans did you hear this time?”
“It’s not just a rumor.” She shook her head. “I got it straight from the horse’s mouth. Confirmed by Lily Evans herself.”
If she had piqued his attention before--well, she had his full attention now. “What?” He sat up. “You saw her, then? When?” Careful, Potter, your eager is showing, he scolded himself.
“Just now.” Petrova, luckily, didn’t notice. On the contrary--she was delighted that she had James Potter’s full attention. “I confronted her about the two of you dating.”
He choked. “You did what?” Dear sweet Merlin, he could imagine how that conversation went down. “But we’re not dating.” In fact, Lily hadn’t said anything to him since she left Pemberley, and he assumed that whatever connection they had had then had been lost.
“You don’t have to lie to me, James,” she cooed. “Evans didn’t deny it.”
“She didn’t?” He stood up, almost knocking over a couple of things on his desk. Lily Evans was--receptive to the idea of them dating?
“No.” Petrova looked downright giddy, as if she were just about to get to the good stuff. “In fact, she told me all about her conniving schemes.”
“What conniving schemes?” he questioned, knowing that Petrova wouldn’t continue unless that he expressed interest. Not that that was hard; he was extremely intrigued by where this conversation was going. Its contents already baffled him, and clearly she wasn’t done.
“She told me it all: how she slipped you a love potion and put you under her imperius curse. She said that originally, she just wanted to elope with you for your money, and then divorce you after. But then she realized how good of a catch you were and said she didn’t want to let you go.” Ever the rat, Petrova Pettigrew was always eager to relay juicy information for her own gain. Smearing that bitch Lily Evans’s name gave her the greatest of joys.
Lily Evans was quite good at spinning stories, it seemed. And Petrova had lapped up every bit of it. James was about to make an amused remark when the last thing she said caught his ears. “How good of a catch I am?” he repeated weakly. “She said that?” He really did have a one-track mind when it came to a certain redhead, something that Sirius would continue to give him shit for, but he didn’t care. Lily thought he was a good catch? And she didn’t want to let him go? Could it be that the redhead was trying to convey a message to him through Petrova? He didn’t dare hope.
Petrova took this to mean she was believing him, and nodded emphatically. “She said she wouldn’t give you up easily at all.” The blonde misinterpreted his stock still stance as one of dawning horror, and took his hand in hers. “But don’t worry, love. I’ll figure out some way to rescue you and break the spell. I promise.” And just as quickly as she had come, she left, leaving a confused (but hopeful) Auror in her wake.
“Your cousin is absolute bonkers.”
Remus didn’t even glance up from his papers. “What did she do this time?”
“She met with Lily, apparently. Accused her of luring me into her clutches with love potion or something.”
The ends of Remus’s lips twitched upwards. “And what did Lily say?”
“I’m not entirely sure.” The Auror ran a hand through his hair. “She didn’t deny it, apparently. And she said she used the Imperius curse on top of that.”
This was interesting enough to set the newspaper down for now. “The Imperius curse?” The werewolf faked a gasp. “Merlin, that’s a serious allegation, Prongs! Do you think we should contact the MLE?”
“I don’t know, the bloke in charge of intelligence seems particularly unhelpful,” James quipped wryly. “Case might not get anywhere at all.”
An eye roll. “Hmm, well, if the bloke were feeling helpful at the moment, perhaps he would say that you should follow up on the case and interview the prime suspect.” His eyes twinkled. “Perhaps there was a reason she said those things. You know your gut is thinking it.”
James sighed. “What do I know about reading witches’ intentions? Didn’t do so well with the other inhabitants of Netherfield,” he frowned. He really was sorry, in hindsight, about his role in tearing apart Remus and Dorcas the first time, especially now that he saw they were so good together.
Remus brushed it off. “Yeah, well, we’re all right now, and that’s what matters.” He gave his friend an encouraging smile. “Seriously, though, if you’re asking my advice on whether to see Lily--yes, you should. From what you told me of your time at Pemberley, she seems to be warming up to you. Maybe it can go further than just friends.”
“But I’m not even sure if we’re even friendly, Moony,” he lamented. “We haven’t spoken since then.”
“Then you really ought to start now. What’s the worse that could happen? She already rejected you pretty badly. It can only be better this time.”
“I thought you were supposed to be the supportive one,” James frowned. “Padfoot’s already been giving me enough shit about that.”
Remus chuckled, and gestured towards the clock on the wall. “C’mon, James. What are you waiting for? Time’s running out.” Whether he meant the break time specifically, or something more general, he didn’t say.
Either way, it seemed to help James make up his mind. “All right, fine. Tell Padfoot to cover for me if I run late.”
“Will do.” He smirked, turning back to his newspaper. “Go get her, Prongs.”
This better not be Petrova again, Lily grumbled to herself as, for the second time that day, a knock resounded on the door.
“Coming,” she called. She opened the door to reveal James Potter, clad in what she recognized as Ministry robes. She hadn’t seen him in them before--he’d been careful about taking them off before he arrived back in Muggle neighborhoods--and she had to admit, they suited him well. “Oh. James.”
“Lily.” He seemed to be taking in the sight of her. Suddenly she wished she had dressed up more for the day, worn the dress that flattered her figure or something. In shorts and an oversized flannel, the witch hadn’t cared that she’d looked underdressed compared to Petrova. But compared to James Potter? That was another matter entirely. “May I come in?”
“Yeah. Of course.” She stepped aside and allowed him to take a seat. She noted the irony in the fact that he had chosen the same seat Petrova had earlier. Closing the door and leaning against the frame to steady herself, she inhaled. She hadn’t expected to see him ever again. “What brings you here?”
“Petrova, actually.” He tilted his head at her, amused. “Are you going to sit down, Lily? You standing there like that makes me nervous.”
You just being here makes me nervous, she wanted to quip back. “Right.” She walked over and dropped into the seat across from him. “What do you mean, Petrova--” She paused, her eyes widening. Shit. The blonde had told him about their conversation. Of course she had told him about their conversation. Cheeks flamed as she remembered the things she said. “Merlin, I’m so sorry. I really should have corrected her when she implied that we were dating, but I just got carried away.” She didn’t dare meet his eye. “It was fun winding her up.”
“No, it’s all right.” He seemed more amused than angry, which she was thankful for. “I’m sorry that she came at you like that. Petrova can get a little out of hand, sometimes.”
“A little out of hand?” she scoffed, indignant. “She called me an evil gold digger.”
He arched an eyebrow. “You did tell her that I was under the influence of both love potion and an Imperius curse,” he pointed out. “Quite the mastermind, aren’t you Lily?”
At least he was amused by the whole affair. She, on the other hand, was embarrassed. Did he suspect how she felt about him? It was clear that he didn’t feel the same. In fact, he hadn’t even wanted to be friends still, for if he had, he’d have responded to her letter. “Look, I know you don’t want to have anything to do with me anymore, and I’m sorry that I dragged you back into my life again with this. She was trying to get a reaction out of me, and I shouldn’t have played into it.” She finally made herself look him in the eye this time. “It won’t happen again, don’t worry.”
“Hold on, hold on.” He swallowed. “What gave you the impression that I don’t want to have anything to do with you?”
She looked at him in disbelief. “After Pemberley, and what happened with Marlene, I sent you a letter. You never responded. A girl can take a hint, James.”
He furrowed his eyebrows. “What letter? I never got a letter from you. I swear, Lily, I would have answered it.”
A beat, then they both said at the same time: “Petrova.”
“She saw the letter first and read it, then decided not to give it to you,” Lily said with dawning realization. “That’s why she came to me. That makes so much sense now.”
He was studying her intently. “And what was in the letter, may I ask?”
“Oh.” All of a sudden, it was hard to meet his eye again. She averted her gaze. “It doesn’t really matter now.”
“Oh, come on Lily. I deserve to know: my mail was taken away from me before I could read it!”
“All right, fine, you don’t need to be so dramatic,” she retorted. “It was just, er, me thanking you for helping save Marlene--and really, I’m very grateful for that.” She gave him a sincere look. “You didn’t have to do that, and honestly, I don’t know how I can repay you.”
He shook his head. “That’s my fault; I should have gotten Snape locked up earlier, knowing the kind of person he could be. I was just doing my job.”
“Right. Well, thank you all the same.” She fiddled with her hair.
He ran a hand through his. “Is that--was there anything else in the letter?”
“I also thanked you for my stay at Pemberley. I really enjoyed myself. And, er, asked if you wanted to get coffee together or drop by sometime or something.”
“You asked if I wanted to get coffee together?” His voice was an octave higher, but her heart was beating too quickly to notice.
“Yeah. I wanted to be friends with you still.” She was imagining that he looked more crestfallen, right? That had to be her imagination running away with itself again.
“Friends,” James repeated. Of course. Of course she wouldn’t--he shouldn’t have let himself hope. He forced a smile. “Yeah. Of course. You’re a great person, Lily Evans. Of course I want to stay friends with you.” Look at him, sounding like an idiot in front of her again.
“Brilliant!” Her voice sounded too cheerily fake even to her own ears. “It was nice having this chat with you, friend. Glad we cleared things up.”
He nodded. “Right. I, er, have to go now.” He stood up. “My break is ending soon.”
She stood up as well. He’d come to see her in the middle of his work day? She had thought it was strange, him showing up in his work clothes, but she had brushed it aside. “Right, of course! You need to get back to work, and I’m letting you, because work is important, you know! That’s what friends are for.” Shut up, shut up, shut up Lily.
“Yeah. You’re a great friend, Lily.” He turned to leave, smiling sadly.
She shouldn’t be reading too much in his smile. But she was, and the fact that he had come all this way to see her. What was she doing? Marlene and Dorcas would be ashamed of how she had been acting. She really liked this bloke. And, well, this was now or never to just ask if he felt the same, instead of just assuming. There was a small chance, and she should take it. “Wait. James.”
He turned around immediately. “Yeah?”
“You came here in the middle of your break to see me. You could have waited until you were done with work, or owled me or something. But you didn’t. Why?”
“I didn’t think I could wait,” he answered truthfully. “I thought this was too important.”
She swallowed. “James, I lied. I don’t want to be friends.”
His eyes scanned her face. “Right. I understand--our past is too complicated. It would have been difficult.”
She shook her head. “No, that’s not what I meant.” She bit her lip. Oh, what the hell. What did she have to lose? They were friends now, right? He had been brave enough to confess to her in rockier times. “I--I fancy you, James Potter.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I fancy you.” She said it more confidently this time. “Do you or do you not fancy me too?”
The grin that spread across his face was unlike anything she had seen on him before. “My feelings have never changed. If anything, they’ve gotten stronger.” And with that, he closed the distance between them, kissing her tenderly. His lips were soft and warm against hers. While their first kiss had been electrifying, full of pent-up frustrations, this one sent soft tingles all throughout her body. When he pulled back, his eyes were bright. “I’d wanted to do that for so long.”
“Me too,” she grinned, eyes sparkling. He was her black espresso shot, and she was eager for her thirst for caffeine to be quenched. “I’d, er, wanted to do something else for quite some time, too.” This time she was the one who closed the distance, kissing him more passionately, running one hand through his damned sexy black hair. Her other hand slipped down and easily unfastened his robes, then slid underneath his shirt, skimming across his toned body. He was quick to reciprocate, his hands began to unbutton her shirt, then slipping around to undo the clasp on her bra--
“Hold on.” She pulled back, breathless, grinning like a lunatic. “Don’t you have to go back to work?”
“Fuck it. Sirius owes me--he’ll cover this time.” With that, he swooped her up in his arms and carried her to her bedroom. The door locked with a click.
When Marlene and Dorcas arrived home to find discarded Ministry robes, a shirt, and a bra lying on the ground, they didn’t say anything (yet). But Lily wouldn’t hear the end of it for weeks to come.
A/N: Aaaand there's the smut. :') Now all there's left is the epilogue. Wow, what a journey. :')
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