The Sugar Quill
Author: ChildOfScorpio  Story: Destroying the Illusion  Chapter: Chapter 2: Part II
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Here I Am

Destroying the Illusion

 

Disclaimer: Let's see...[looks around]...am I a successful author? Nope. Do I have two kids, with a third on the way, and a great husband? Nope. Am I the creator of a series of books that have captivated the whole world? Nope. Therefore, none of this belongs to me. Got it? Great. Keep going.

Summary: How is it that two people can be so blind to reality? And who is it that is about to get a rude awakening: Lily, James…or both?

 

This entire fic is dedicated to Annum, for being one of the most amazing people I have known for a long time, who I’ve had so many hilarious conversations with (three letters – H.S.D. – see me for a translation!) and who’s listened to me babble whenever I have problems. She’s always been there for me (and somehow knows when something’s wrong even when I don’t mention it – are you psychic?!?).  Hope you enjoy this Annum, because I wrote it for you!

-&-

 

Oddly enough (and in complete contrast to most of the romantic novels Lily had dipped into), James did not choose to ignore her very existence after the little incident they had had, as being the only balm he could use to sooth his wounded heart. However, he didn’t actually revert to his normal talkative manner either –at least, not with her. Instead, he treated her normally – that is to say, as a general “acquaintance”. He did not once ask her out, joke about or insult her, or behave in any way that could have caused offence. His speech, when he had occasion to talk to her at Prefect meetings, was quiet and courteous, if a little restrained. All of Lily’s friends, although in the dark about what exactly had happened, were convinced that this change of manner would finally make Lily stop complaining about him. It was something she had done for the last seven years almost unceasingly, and they welcomed the imminent relief.

 

And to all appearances, Lily did stop. James’ name barely passed her lips, and she was apparently buried in her other interests, clearly enjoying herself. Most of her friends suspected that her buoyant mood was because she loved not having to exchange insults with James any more.

 

But inwardly, Lily was irritated to the point of desperation. She had expected, like her friends, that not having James constantly at her side, purposing making provocative comments, would leave her with a kind of peace that she had not known for a long time, and instead, she found herself becoming frustrated anyway because he didn’t. His polite tones infuriated her beyond belief, simply because they were so restrained. She would almost have preferred James as his normal self, which he still was – around other people. A couple of times, she had even made comments that were purposely intended to aggravate him. Despite failing to elicit any kind of reaction, a certain look in the eyes of Sirius, Remus and Peter told her that they were by no means blind to her real intentions.

 

It was after one such encounter that she wandered back to the common room, fuming. Flinging herself into a chair, she stared moodily at the wall opposite. What was wrong with him? she asked herself. When someone totally insults someone else and you have a fight, either you ignore them completely or you forgive and forget and go back to normal. You do not go half and half! She knew that he was perfectly capable of acting normally – he was certainly not playing the part of a woebegone puppy to gain attention. Whenever she noticed him in lessons or corridors or meals, he seemed perfectly happy, joking and laughing with his friends, with people he walked into – with anyone who was not her.

 

“Argh!” Screwing up a piece of parchment, she lobbed it into the fire to relieve her frustrations. It did not help at all.

 

It was a few minutes later that two figures came up to her. When she didn’t respond to their presence, keeping her eyes squeezed tightly shut, they sighed in unison and pulled up two chairs – one sitting down normally, and the other turning the chair back-to-front and straddling it, leaning forward.

 

“Lily!”

 

Deciding it would be fruitless to ignored them any longer, as it was blatantly obvious that she was not actually asleep, Lily opened her eyes unwillingly. Sirius Black and Remus Lupin were both staring at her.

 

“What?” she asked ungraciously. She saw the two boys exchange a look that said quite plainly that they had expected this.

 

“Look,” Sirius began awkwardly, without beating around the bush. “James, Remus and I have been friends for a long time -”

 

“How sweet,” Lily said sarcastically.

 

“- and normally we don’t poke our heads into each other’s love lives -”

 

“So why are you talking to me?” Lily interjected. “I have nothing to do with any of your lives, thank goodness, love or otherwise.”

 

“On the contrary,” Remus contradicted gently, “you have a lot to do with one of ours. Namely, James’.”

 

Lily rolled her eyes. “If this is some pathetic attempt to get me to go out on a mercy date -”

 

“Lily, just shut up and listen for a minute, will you?” Sirius snapped, exasperated. Lily closed her mouth and gave him a murderous stare. He groaned. “See, I told you this wouldn’t be easy,” he muttered to Remus. “Can’t we just go?”

 

“No,” Remus said firmly. “We’re staying.” He turned to Lily. “Look Lily, what we’re trying to say is that whether you like it or not, you’re tied up very tightly in James’ life.” Lily avoided his gaze, staring at the floor. “We obviously don’t know what happened – James is too much of a dark horse to open his mouth – but it’s clearly some sort of a disagreement between the two of you, and it’s upset both of you.”

 

“Oh really?” Lily laughed sardonically. “I don’t see him looking that upset.”

 

Sirius broke in impatiently. “Lily, do you spend twenty hours of the day with the boy?”

 

Lily could only shake her head.

 

“Good, so my point’s made. You don’t. We do. We know how he feels.”

 

“Anyway,” Remus continued, “he’s annoyed about it. Well – annoyed, depressed, some sort of a combination of the two. And considering the way he acts around you, and the things we’ve heard you saying to him, we’re guessing that you’re the cause.”

 

“I did nothing wrong!” Lily said hotly, before clamping her mouth shut abruptly – or had she?

 

Remus held up a hand to placate her. “We’re not saying either of you is to blame,” he said hurriedly. “Just…do something about it. Talk to him. Sort it out. He’s too stubborn to do anything, but if you make the first move, this’ll be over in a matter of seconds.”

 

“Why me?”

 

“We thought you were the more adult of the two.”

 

Lily bit her lip. The words had stirred an unpleasant memory…thought you were more grown-up…

 

Sirius and Remus got up to go. “It’s your call,” Sirius advised her. “Think about it. It’ll do you both the world of good.”

 

“Stupid thick-headed boys,” Lily muttered as they turned. “How do they know what’s good for me?”

 

A loud chuckle came to her ears. “We may be stupid, thick-headed boys,” Remus called back, “but we’re seventeen-year-old stupid, thick-headed boys. As opposed to twelve-year-old stupid, thick-headed boys. And more importantly, we’re not blind.”

 

 

-&-&-&-

 

 

A few days later, however, Lily was at her wits’ end. As crazy as it sounded, she thought she might just go mad if she didn’t have to defend her opinions to anyone, and so, disagreeably, she resolved to take up Sirius and Remus’ advice.

 

She chose a school day, just after a Charms class. The smell of the last roses was wafting in through the open window, for weak sunshine was still illuminating and warming the room.  Outside in the corridor, chattering students passed by, heading down to the Great Hall, and their echoing footsteps resounded through the corridors. As the class was dismissed, Lily whispered a few well-chosen words under her breath, taking careful aim with her wand, and sure enough, the buckle on James’ bag fell apart. James cursed quietly.

 

“Go on, I’ll meet you later,” he said, fiddling with his strap. Reluctantly, Peter, Sirius and Remus left the room. The look Remus gave her as he walked out told her that she had been noticed, but still she stood behind James, waiting for the door to swing shut and for him to straighten. When he did heave his bag to his shoulders and turn towards the door, Lily stepped out in front of him.

 

“Wait,” she said. “We need to talk.”

 

James looked at her, and almost immediately she saw the cool, courteous mask slide on. “I would, but I really need to go to lunch.”

 

“This’ll only take a few minutes. Please?” Lily tried to sound persuasive.

 

James let out a short breath. “Okay. How can I help you?”

 

“It’s – we need to – about that evening -” Now that she finally had his attention, she was struggling for words.

 

“What evening?” James asked smoothly. That snapped Lily out of her tongue-tied manner.

 

“You know perfectly well what evening!” she said sharply. “Don’t play games.”

 

James bowed his head in acquiescence, and Lily continued, “Look, it’s been really awkward since then, what with you not talking to me -”

 

“I’m talking to you right now.”

 

“- all right, not talking properly to me, and it’s really bugging me. And about all that stuff that night – I can’t really excuse my – well, my, uhm, hormones – you are good-looking… “ Lily was blushing violently as she said this, “ – so please, can’t we just be fr – can’t we just be normal again?” She had realised in the nick of time that perhaps ‘friends’ wasn’t the most accurate word to describe the two of them.

 

James looked up and down at her searchingly. “That’s why you want to sort things out?” he asked finally. “So everything can go back to normal?”

 

“Well…yeah.” Lily shifted uncertainly. The next moment, she knew she had said something very wrong, as James’ eyes flared.

 

“You haven’t heard a word I’ve said, have you?” It was not a question. “Everything I’ve – why do I even bother?” Spots of red appeared on his cheeks, but his eyes did not diminish in intensity. “Look, you can’t stand me. The way I walk, the way I talk, the friends I have, the way I work, the way I think – you can’t stand anything. And yes, I’m an arrogant, big-headed, self-obsessed, conceited, over-ambitious prankster with no regard for rules or for other people, and with less general potential than the Giant Squid.” James’ face twisted slightly. “In case you haven’t realised, yes, I have heard everything you’ve ever said about me – I just preferred to think you didn’t mean it. Well maybe I am all those things to you. Anything to keep you in your own cosy world, right? Let’s just leave it there.”

 

Lily opened her mouth in shock to protest, but, for the second time that week, James had already left.

 

-&-&-&-

 

October 13th, 19—

 

Well, would you look at that? Unlucky number thirteen. And this time, that phrase couldn’t be truer. It’s been three weeks so far, and I know I haven’t written in here for ages (blame the homework), so I’ll summarise the last events by saying that after our last little “chat” James has resorted to ignoring me. In a way, it’s easier, because I know where I stand, but it’s also painful, because I don’t – I still don’t follow why he’s doing this.

 

That’s a lie. I get that I’ve disappointed him somehow, but it’s all so hazy – it’s infuriating, because if there’s nothing definite I’ve done, there’s nothing definite I can apologise for. I suppose that, as much as I hate to admit it,w hen I tried to sort things out, I was basically doing it as a way of making life easier, but he didn’t have to be so harsh about it! Even though it wasn’t really an admission of a fault, so didn’t mean anything. But what am I apologising for?

 

This is really bugging me.

 

Ugh. He is so ANNOYING – why does he have to mess with me like this? I can’t work out what’s going on, him being so obscure does NOT help, and I can’t ask for help, because Savita doesn’t know what’s going on – I haven’t told her the whole story of what’s happening.

 

You know, he’s being really inconsiderate by doing this. He –

 

That’s another lie. He’s been far more…well, something, than I expected him to be. The other day, I was moaning to Savita that I didn’t know how to collate the month’s detentions and points record, because I didn’t know how to get James’ work, and when I went up to bed that night, there were these rolls of parchment lying on my table. All his half of the accounting. Heaven knows how he got them up there. Spooky, right?

 

And I will say that him ignoring me has been just that – him ignoring me. No malicious comments, no blatant insults, nothing that would make it really obvious to anyone else – to his credit, it’s just that he doesn’t acknowledge me. In a way, it would be easier if it was public, because I’d have other people to fight for me, but that would entail a schoolful of gossip too, so I shouldn’t really complain, should I? Every prefects’ meeting, I keep hoping that he’ll have to say something to me, and then this’ll all be over. But it never happens. Either he’s far enough away to pass a message through someone, or he sort of addresses the room in general. I can’t blame him, though…

 

I don’t believe this! Half of this entry has been me actually defending him! I must be going crazy…

 

And when did I start calling him ‘James’?

 

Lily snapped the diary shut and sat on it. She was curled up on the window seat of the common room, having retreated from the too-warm fire at the other end. Staring into the cool darkness outside, she was ensconced in the shadows, deep in her own thoughts, which seemed to grow more and more miserable as time ticked on. Thankfully no one had noticed her here.

 

Until now. A dark-haired girl with deep-brown, almost black eyes, had come over to sit down.

 

“Hi, Savita,” Lily said tiredly, not bothering to look up.

 

Savita nodded in acknowledgement. “How’s it going?”

 

Lily shrugged. There was a short pause.

 

“You know, you’ve seemed a little down for a while now,” Savita said offhandedly. “Want to talk about it?”

 

Nothing.

 

“Well, I wouldn’t really blame you if you were a little depressed,” she continued. “I mean, no one’s in the best of moods, and you’ve got more to deal with than most, what with school, and homework, and your Head Girl responsibilities, and dealing with James Potter - ”

 

“It’s got nothing to do with any of them!” Lily said defensively.

 

“I never said it did,” Savita said calmly. She remained as she was, staring into the window just as Lily was doing.

 

“Well,” Lily said, at long last, “maybe it’s got something to do with one of those. But I’m not saying which!”

 

Savita was still. “What if we go down to the library later? I was thinking that maybe you could help me with some Charms? And I can help you with Transfiguration too? Although, do you have Head stuff as well?” Her gaze was still fixed on the window. “I suppose even if James was doing part of it -”

 

“Well I wouldn’t know anyway, would I, seeing as he’s not talking to me,” Lily interrupted bitterly.

 

Savita raised her head. “That’s what’s bothering you, isn’t it?”

 

Lily nodded, keeping her eyes fixed on Savita’s reflection. Then she realised what had just happened. “Damn you and your psychological tricks.”

 

Savita smiled. “Hey, don’t dismiss them – they work.” Her tone softened. “So, now that you’ve divulged this much, feel like telling me the rest?”

 

“It sounds really stupid,” Lily mumbled.

 

“Try me.”

 

So, slowly, Lily related the whole story, right from the sordid conversation that had driven her to the library in the first place, to the last disastrous conversation with James. Savita listened intently, her dark eyes fixed on Lily’s averted face.

 

“Well,” she said, when Lily finally finished. “I knew it was something to do with him, but I didn’t realise it was like this.”

 

“And I would be able to get past all of it, if it wasn’t for the fact that I don’t even know what I’ve done wrong in the first place, because he’s so vague about it!”

 

Savita looked thoughtful. “Tell me what he said the first time – when you actually fought.”

 

“Uhm…you mean, how I wasn’t as grown up as he -”

 

“No, no. Before that.”

 

Lily thought hard. “That…is this what it is?…I have to justify things with every reason under the sun except the truth…then the growing-up stuff.” She screwed up her nose. “Why does he have to talk so cryptically?”

 

Savita stared at her so unreadably that Lily wondered if she’d heard her at all. A few seconds later, she widened her eyes.

 

“I knew that line was bugging me,” she said. “That’s it, Lil. There’s your reason.”

 

“Huh?”

 

Savita rolled her eyes. “Lily, do I need to spell it out to you?”

 

“No, O Great One, I’m already enlightened,” Lily said sarcastically. “Yes, you do, if you’d be so kind.”

 

“James likes you,” Savita said patiently.

 

Lily grimaced. “We established that.”

 

“And you like him.”

 

What?

 

“And he knows that you like him.”

 

WHAT?”

 

“You like him and he knows it,” Savita repeated matter-of-factly.

 

“No – no I don’t! How could I?”

 

Savita sighed. “It all makes sense, Lily. You’ve always been so vehemently anti-James-Potter, but now look at you. You’re purposely trying to get him back to what you’re used to him doing.”

 

“That’s just because I don’t like having people angry with me!” Lily protested.

 

“Mmmhmm.” The look on Savita’s face soon broke Lily’s remaining resistance.

 

“You’re right, aren’t you?” She heaved a sigh. “Damn you Savita, you’re too logical. Maybe I do…do like him.” She buried her face in her hands. “There, I said it. I never imagined it would come to this.”

 

“Good,” Savita said calmly. “So, now that you’ve admitted it, all that remains is for you to do something about it.”

 

Lily stared at the window. “Like what?”

 

“Like talk to him.”

 

“No, I can’t.” Lily shook her head. “I tried that last time, remember? He won’t talk to me anyway.”

 

Savita raised her eyebrows. “Coward.”

 

Lily shook her head again. “Trust me, I don’t need to dig a bigger hole for myself than I have already.” Her expression was so adamant that it was Savita’s turn to heave a sigh as she got up.

 

“It’s up to you, Lily.”

 

-&-

 

Another two weeks passed by, and still there was no change in the situation. The last lingering hints of autumn had left the air, and winter was moving in to take its place, complete with sharp winds and cold frosts every morning. The crisp air snapped at Lily’s face every time she ventured outside, and more often than not, she retreated hastily indoors after a few minutes. Savita’s words had not left her mind, but she preferred to remain as she was. It seemed somehow safer than sorting things out with James, only to expose things that she had ignored for so long. A rut it was, but it was a comfortable one, and Lily had no intention of stirring from it for a long while.

 

However, it seemed that she was not supposed to pick and choose where and when anything would happen. She was walking up to the Gryffindor Tower one day, when her feet suddenly locked to the floor. For a moment, she kept going, not understanding what was going on, and promptly overbalanced. When she had pulled herself back up again, Sirius was standing in front of her.

 

Accio wand,” he said, and before she had time to think, her wand had flown out of her pocket and straight into Sirius’ hand.

 

“Sirius,” she said angrily, trying to pull her feet away. “What the hell is going on?”

 

“Nothing,” Sirius said cheerfully. “Just stay right there.” Her smirked. “Oh wait…you don’t really have a choice, do you?”

 

Lily glared at him as he walked off. She looked up and then down the corridor, hoping that perhaps someone would come and help her, but only bare expanses of dull grey stone met her eyes. A few shafts of cold winter daylight lit up the passage here and there, for it was not yet dark enough for the torches to ignite, but as she was standing in the shadows anyway, it didn’t make much difference. There was almost complete silence, and the smell of must was pervading her nostrils.

 

Finally, after what seemed like an age, two sets of footsteps could be heard, and Lily looked up to see a triumphant-faced Sirius walking back up towards her. The figure behind him was hidden, but looked vaguely familiar.

 

Oh God, Lily prayed. Please, please don’t let it be –

 

And then Sirius stepped aside, and Lily looked straight at the boy behind, whose eyes widened as he saw her.

 

“What the hell is going on, Sirius?” he said furiously. “I’m going.” He turned, but before he could take more than a few paces, Sirius had deftly frozen him in place and captured his wand.

 

“Sirius…” Two voices echoed warningly. Sirius merely looked smug.

 

“Now, let’s see,” he said musingly, as if to himself. “Turned around, for a start, I think.” He flicked his wand, and James revolved on the spot until he was facing Lily, whose eyes were firmly fixed on Sirius.

 

“Perhaps a little closer? Yes, I think so.” He flicked again, and James slid uncontrollably forward, until he was no more than a few inches away from Lily; so close than his breath ruffled her hair. Still he gazed steadfastly upwards, over the top of her head.

 

“Now,” Sirius said, in a tone so insufferably self-satisfied that Lily’s one dying ambition, at that moment, was to hit him. Hard. By the mutinous expression she could just about make out above her, James’ mind wasn’t running along a very different track. “You two are going to stand there. Until you’ve sorted things out. For as long as it takes. Do I make myself clear?” He eyed them both. “I don’t care if I hear shouting, yelling, arguing, crying, or even walls being punched. You won’t be free until your differences are settled. Understood?”

 

Without waiting for a response, he sauntered off, both their wands sticking mockingly out of his back pocket.

 

Like Lily before him, James immediately tried to pull his feet off the ground manually.

 

“Don’t,” Lily said dully. “I tried it. It doesn’t work.”

 

At her words, he gave his right thigh one last tug, and then stopped, but resumed his gaze over her head. Lily opened her mouth, but nothing came out. What was she supposed to say anyway? ‘I’m sorry’ clearly hadn’t worked out the last time. She looked discreetly up at him, towering above her.

 

So this is who my stupid brain chooses to like, she thought frustratedly. Someone who hasn’t managed to grasp the concept of combing his hair, or of buttoning his shirt all the way to the top. He is not suave. Not sexy. Not in the least. Not to mention he fails the basic requirement of actually talking to me! In all respects, the future did indeed look rather bleak.

 

A short while later, Sirius returned, only to find them still in the same position. He sighed irritably.

 

“I take it neither of you wanted to be the mature one?”

 

“As if you are!” James retorted indignantly. “Sirius, unfreeze my feet so I can come and hex you into next year.”

 

“And me!” Lily added angrily. Despite the fact that she wanted to make up with James, having to stand in such close proximity to him while she did it was nothing if not embarrassing. “You won’t be able to walk by the time I’ve finished with you!”

 

Sirius tutted. “Such tempers.” He walked up and pulled out a hand from each of them. “Look, just shake hands, that’ll be something. That way you can at least talk to each other and we’ll work on the friends thing.”

 

James wrenched his hand away. “I don’t want to be friends,” he said flatly.

 

Something snapped in Lily, and she too pulled her hand out of Sirius’. “But I do,” she said softly.

 

There was a pause. Sirius, looking once again smug, was watching them as he took a few steps backward. “That’s more like it. Did I really need to spell it out to you?”

 

The words rang a bell, and Lily suddenly looked hard at him. “Sirius, did Savita put you up to this?”

 

“Savita? Who’s Savita? What’s she got to do with anything?” Sirius looked genuinely baffled.

 

“Never mind,” Lily said, rolling her eyes. She watched him stroll away again, looking supremely unconcerned about the death glare she was giving him.

 

 

-&-

 

 

The carefree walk lasted until he rounded the corner, at which point he crashed into another person who grabbed him by the collar and thrust him into the deeper shadows where they were standing.

 

“That was brilliant!” Savita whispered excitedly. “Who’s Savita? A stroke of genius!”

 

Sirius grinned. “Thank you.” He massaged his neck. “Although you’ve clearly got a flair for dramatics too, judging by the way you dragged me here.”

 

Savita shrugged. “What can I say? I just have violent tendencies.”

 

“Well anyway, it does look a little more promising now. Lily opened her mouth, at least.”

 

Savita’s dark eyes twinkled mischievously. “Finally. All this waiting might pay off.”

 

-&-

 

Meanwhile, Lily had turned from watching Sirius go to find James staring at her. The full intensity of his hazel eyes was rather unnerving, even from behind glasses, at this distance.

 

She swallowed. “What?” she asked, her voice unnaturally high.

 

“What did you just say?” James asked, quietly.

 

Lily screwed up her face for a moment. “That…that I want to be friends,” she said faintly, trying to hold his gaze.

 

“Really?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Because – because -” Lily struggled for words. “Because I -” She drooped. “Just because.”

 

“Go on.”

 

“I – I, uhm…” Lily looked away from his face, hoping it would be easier to talk if she didn’t look at his cool expression. “Look…J – James…this is really hard, okay? I never knew…what I know now, honestly, and Savita had to tell me bluntly before I could understand for myself. And I’ll admit that they weren’t exactly welcome, but now I know that I can’t function – I can’t be myself without them. I mean…without my feelings. For you.”

 

She kept her head down. “And – and I tried hard, really hard to fight what I felt – I’ll regret saying this later, but I’m so sick of deceiving myself that you may as well know it too. The fact…the fact of the matter is…I was under this delusion that you were exactly the same person you were in first year – I believed in this illusion of you, just because I was – was so used to it that it made life easier to go along with it – to have you as this bad person that I could vent my annoyances on, because you were like a sitting duck. So I never gave you the chance to show me who you really were either.” She fell silent, hoping that her outburst had bridged the gap between them a little more. It certainly could not lower her any more than she already was in his eyes.

 

“Lily.” A finger under her chin gently forced her to meet his eyes for a few split seconds. “Are you saying that you…like me?”

 

“Yes,” Lily half-whispered.

 

The finger disappeared, and Lily immediately redirected her gaze onto the floor, feeling it was safer, given that her cheeks were currently turning neon red.

 

“Is this – do you – are you fighting it?”

 

Despite the odd phrasing, Lily heard the uncertainty in his tone, the worry that even if what she said were true, he would still be rejected.

 

“If you had asked me a while ago,” she said quietly. “I would have said yes. But…I would have been lying. To you, and probably to myself too.” She gave a tired laugh. “You see, as much I proclaimed my dislike of you and hung it on banners for everyone to see, and argued and fought…I needed you, in my own odd way. So now…no, I’m not trying to fight it.”

 

There was quiet. Then James sighed. “Look…Lily…as much as you want me to, I don’t want to be your friend. I can’t be your friend.”

 

A lump rose to Lily’s throat and she swallowed hard. “But why?” she burst out. “I know I’ve made mistakes, but now…friendship would be enough anyway, whatever else happens. I swear I won’t be judgemental -” 

 

“Lily.” The word brought her back, and she blushed even more violently as she thought of all the things she had just admitted to. Of course, there was also that little niggling voice in her head that was rolling on the floor in fits of laughter at the fact that she was begging for the friendship of a boy she had ‘despised’ at the beginning of the term.

 

James’ voice was restrained. “Lily, I can’t be friends with you…because I – I want to be much more than that.”

 

It took a moment for the full meaning of his words to sink in, but when it did, something swelled, and Lily found herself meeting his eyes fully for the first time. James’ gaze was still unreadable, but it certainly wasn’t angry.

 

“Really?” she whispered, her voice catching.

 

James half-smiled, and she shivered as she felt his hands settle lightly on her waist. “As clichéd and sappy as it sounds to say this, Lily, it’s always been you. I realised that a long time ago. All that was left was to wait. For you.”

 

His voice struck an unpleasant, remorseful chord, and Lily stiffened. “And all that time I was so awful to you.” She bit her lip. “James, maybe you’re wrong.” Something inside her wrenched painfully as she said the next few words. “You – you deserve a girl who doesn’t keep running away from you.”

 

James’ hazel eyes focused intently on her face. “So stop running,” he whispered. Relief flooded Lily, and she lifted her face fully as James leaned in. After a long, hesitant moment, their lips brushed.

 

A jolt shot through Lily as he made contact with her, and strangely enough, as if to correspond, something flashed in the corner of her eye. All of a sudden, she staggered into James, effectively breaking the kiss, and both swayed unsteadily as they simultaneously discovered that their feet had been released.

 

“Well,” Lily said. “I don’t know whether to kill Sirius…or kiss him.”

 

“I opt for the former, personally.” James gave her another half-grin and shifted awkwardly. “Is this when we find out if we were just feeding each other lines to get freed?”

 

“I don’t know about you, but -” Lily disengaged herself and strode off.

 

James was left staring at the spot where she had been standing. He looked as if a leaden block had just plummeted through his stomach, as, in a moment of stark clarity, he had realised that he should have known it was too good to be true. Slowly, he began to walk back.

 

The feeling appeared to last, however, only until he turned the corner. A familiar redhead was leaning against the wall, bright emerald eyes challenging him.

 

“You didn’t think I was serious, did you?” she questioned, walking up to him, her head cocked innocently to one side.

 

“Wha – no, no, of course not,” James stammered, looking very wrong-footed. Was this the same Lily Evans, or had she accidentally traded personalities with Sirius?

 

“Good.” Lily twisted her arms shyly around his neck. “Just trying to speak the language of a Marauder.” She stood on tiptoe, and James had no choice but to chuckle as he met her lips again. And this time, they did not part.

 

 

-&-

 

 

In a corridor further on, Savita and Sirius silently high-fived each other, grinning.

 

“Operation Love a success,” Savita whispered, her eyes twinkling. Sirius’ cool grey eyes twinkled too, as they rested on her face.

 

“What an original name,” he muttered, amusement evident in his voice.

 

Savita rolled her eyes. “Forget the name – do you think it’s too early for us to start sending out the wedding invites?”

 

-&-&-&-

 

A/N: The end! A fluffy, plotless something that is now complete in all its pink cotton-candy-ness! Thanks go as usual to my brilliant and incredibly patient and sympathetic beta-reader – NightZephyr! Thank you!

//
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