A/N: Hope you like the conclusion of this lovely one-shot. Thanks again to my beta, Daily Prophet Reporting, for all his hard work on my stories despite things like Real Life, sickness, etc. You rock!
The rest of the week Lily was in a heightened state of irritability. Her mood always seemed to be foul. Her friends knew not to ask her what was the matter when she was in these moods; she would confess her problems sooner or later, and if they pried, they would never get anything out of her. They assumed, in this case, that it had to do with Jantzen McTavish and their huge breakup. Lily didn’t want to correct them – she would rather have died than tell them the real reason she was upset was something to do with James Potter.
Friday night, the night before the Hogsmeade visit, as she and her four roommates were preparing for bed, Lucie Kriglione informed the group that Peter Pettigrew had asked a fifth-year Ravenclaw, Kelsey Whitehall, to go with him to Hogsmeade and that she had accepted.
“Oh, isn’t that precious!” Darla Wandesmith said, beaming. “Peter finally got a girl. And she’s so pretty, too!”
“I wonder if Sirius is taking that girl Louise,” Portia Brothmyr, who had been seeing Sirius on again and off again for four years, asked them as she fluffed her pillows.
“He is,” Cassie said from her bed at the far end of the room. “She’s been practically over the moon about it all week. Tells almost everyone she sees.”
Portia, with her long black hair and enchanting blue eyes, was considered one of the prettiest girls in school. She snorted as she slid under the covers. Lily, who slept between her and Darla, glanced over at her. Portia caught Lily’s eye and gave her an exasperated look. “It’ll be over by Sunday,” she said disdainfully.
Darla, a blonde girl with constantly flushed cheeks and a merry smile, said, “Now, Portia, don’t be so cruel.”
“I’m not being cruel,” Portia argued, examining one of her long, dark red nails. “I’m simply stating a fact.”
Lucie, a nosy brunette who always loved to be in the thick of the gossip, put in her own thoughts on the subject as she pulled her pajama top over her head: “He goes through those poor girls in seconds, it seems.”
“He has a little bit of a problem with commitment,” Portia said scathingly.
“Oooh, guess what I heard?” Darla exclaimed as she bounced into her bed on Lily’s left. “James Potter is going with Alisha Miller tomorrow!”
Lily’s ears perked at the news, but she kept her head down as she climbed under her covers.
“Alisha Miller?” Lucie said in wonder, her brown eyes wide. “But she’s going out with Lawton Burke, isn’t she?”
“They broke up on Tuesday, right before Lily-” Darla stopped short, clapping a pudgy hand over her mouth, her eyes darting towards Lily.
Lily sighed. “It’s all right, Darla. Right before I broke up with Jantzen, you can say it.”
“Oh, Lily, I’m ever so sorry,” Darla said anxiously.
Lily shrugged. “It’s fine. I don’t care, it doesn’t bother me anymore.” She glimpsed Portia and Cassie exchanging skeptical glances out of the corner of her eye. “So, what were you saying?” she asked Darla, making an effort to smile.
“Alisha and Lawton broke it off,” Darla said slowly, looking uncomfortable. “And apparently she went running back to James. I can’t even remember – how long were James and Alisha together last year?”
“Four months,” Lucie said promptly. “His longest relationship.”
Lily kept her head down. Something was burning inside her – something that felt horribly like jealously. She felt like hitting someone and bursting into tears at the same time. Small things seemed to be wriggling around in her stomach.
Portia, who was watching Lily, frowned. “Lils, are you all right?”
Lily cleared her throat. “I’m fine. Just – you know, tired. I don’t know if I’ll go tomorrow.”
A cry rose up from her four friends. “Lily, come on, you promised you’d go!” Darla, who was still feeling guilty about her slip, exclaimed. “Remember, you said you’d buy me that butterbeer you owe me.”
“And you told me you wanted to buy some chocolate frogs for your dad – for his birthday, right?”
“And we have to go try on those new robes at Gladrags!”
Lily was caught. She smiled in spite of herself. “All right, all right, you win.”
“Excellent,” Darla said happily. “We’ll have such a good time, just you wait!”
They blew out their candles one by one. Lily lay awake, her mind whirling. James was going with his old flame? Theirs had been the longest relationship he had ever been in – and wasn’t she the one that broke it off? Could he still have feelings for her? She searched her memory frantically for those months that they had been together, but she couldn’t remember anything except her relief that he had a girlfriend. He couldn’t harass her as outwardly as usual when he had a girlfriend, especially one from Gryffindor.
Before Lily could reflect longer her curtains parted and Portia, her wand lit, jumped onto Lily’s bed. “All right, Evans,” she whispered, after casting a quick Silencing Spell, “tell me what’s the matter.”
Portia, who along with Cassie was Lily’s closest friend, picked up on everything. Lily stared at her beautiful, determined face for a long moment before deciding to take the easy way out (if Portia would let her). “Well, I’m still pretty low after the Jantzen thing.”
“Okay, let’s try this again, but without lying this time: what’s the matter?”
Lily rolled her eyes, grinning. “Nothing,” she said. “Really, nothing. I’m fine. I just – I’ve been out of sorts this week. I think I just need some rest.”
Portia looked at her shrewdly. “I’ll let you off the hook for now, Evans,” she said, waving her lit wand threateningly under Lily’s nose, “but I will find out what’s really going on. Just you wait.”
The next day dawned clear and cold. Lily and her friends made the walk to Hogsmeade together, talking merrily as they did so, and were highly successful in their shopping endeavors. Lily went into Gladrags with Portia and found a new scarf that matched her eyes remarkably well. She and Portia then decided to head towards Zonkos as they still had a little while before they had agreed to meet Cassie, Lucie, and Darla at the Three Broomsticks. On their way they were waylaid by Jantzen.
“Lily, can we talk?”
Lily spared him a glance before shifting her focus somewhere over her shoulder. Her arm was linked with Portia’s and she tugged on it. “Look, Portia, there’s Darla. I want to show her my scarf.”
“Lily, wait, please,” Jantzen said, his voice desperate. “Just a minute is all I want.”
“I’m afraid she can’t spare even a second on you, McTavish,” Portia said, ignoring Lily’s attempts to get away, her feet planted determinedly. “You’re not worth it,” she declared, looking at Jantzen as though he were a bug she dearly desired to smash.
“I know, I know,” he said, and his voice was so full of regret that Lily looked at him. “I’m the worst person to ever walk the planet, I know.”
Lily rolled her eyes. “Stop exaggerating, Jantzen. What do you want?”
“Just a minute of your time,” he said. “Please, I’m begging you.”
Lily sighed after pondering for a minute. “Fine. Go get a seat at the Three Broomstick, Portia – I’ll be there in a minute.”
Portia walked away from them reluctantly. Jantzen said, “Thank you, Lily.”
She waved him off. “Right, where are we going?”
“I dunno – maybe the Shrieking Shack?”
Lily acquiesced and together they walked out of the village and towards the Shack. Once they arrived at the deserted spot, Jantzen stopped and looked at her. “Lily, listen. I owe you a big apology,” he began.
“Yep,” she said coolly, crossing her arms in front of her.
“I was stupid to do that to you. I never realized how perfect you were until I didn’t have you anymore,” he said, his handsome face pained. “I want you to know that Stella – she meant nothing to me. She kissed me that day on the pitch after I had been practicing for a while, and then Potter came and saw it. That’s all it was – just that one time.”
Lily laughed humorlessly. “Why don’t you stop lying to me, Jantzen, for a start? I know it happened more than once.”
Jantzen’s jaw clenched as he flushed in anger. “Potter lied to you, then, because it didn’t.”
“Potter didn’t tell me anything!” Lily said hotly. “Stella told me that!”
“She lied, Lily! She’s got some insane thing for me – been stalking me ever since she got here-”
Lily let out a noise of frustration. He was lying to her, she knew it. “I don’t believe you for a second, you lying, cheating-”
“Don’t you dare call me that!”
Lily looked at him in disbelief. “And why not? It’s bloody true, isn’t it?”
He was standing two inches from her, his face flushed, looking beyond angry. “I didn’t cheat on you, Lily!”
Lily shook her head. “I don’t want to hear your lies, Jantzen! Do me a favor and never talk to me again!”
She whirled around furiously and stomped away from him. She had scarcely gone three feet when a wave of cold swept through her body, making her feel nauseous and stopping her in her tracks.
“What’s going on?” she murmured. Everything seemed suddenly muffled. She turned and looked at Jantzen; he was pale and confused and motioned for her to stay where she was. She turned back around and scanned the horizon. The village looked fine; everything was normal. She shrugged and was about to call out to Janzten that everything seemed fine when another wave of cold hit her, this one much more powerful than the one before.
She turned and cried out in alarm. Three tall, thin, and hooded dementors were coming out of the Forbidden Forest beside the Shrieking Shack and heading right towards her.
Lily tried to command her legs to move but they wouldn’t obey her. She was cold – so cold – and the incantation to conjure a Patronus seemed to be floating just out of her reach. Something Patronum….Ex – extend, extinct… Her wand was pointing at the dementor coming straight towards her. The other two had broken off and were floating towards Jantzen, but the one kept getting closer to her. Damn, what was the incantation? The only things that seemed to be registering in her mind were how cold she felt and how slow everything was moving.
“Expecto Patronum,” Jantzen said weakly. Fog was swirling around inside Lily’s head; the dementor was two feet from her now.
“Expecto…” The feeling of a cold, clammy, bony hand on her wrist helped the fog to clear momentarily, and Lily screamed as loudly as she could. Happy thoughts – happy thoughts! Butterbeer, Portia…
James Potter’s grinning face popped into her head. “Expecto Patronum!” A huge, silver panther shot out of her wand and pushed the dementor back. The hand on her wrist released her; her legs were shaking and collapsed beneath her. She frantically turned to look at Jantzen. He had collapsed only a few feet away from her and looked lifeless. Terror seized Lily’s heart and her Patronus faded. The dementors returned, this time all three converging on her.
The dementor flung back its hood and hovered above her. The clammy hands seized her neck. She felt the air around her being sucked away as the dementor lowered its head closer to her.
She heard footsteps and shouts right before her eyes rolled back in her head and she fainted.
“Absolutely shocking business. Shocking. Never in all my years here have I experienced anything so dreadful.”
Lily meandered back into consciousness to a whispered conversation between Madam Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall. Once she was fully awake, she wished she wasn’t; her head hurt so badly she could barely stand it.
“Rest assured, Poppy,” Professor McGonagall said, deep disapproval laced through her tone, “the monsters have been dealt with.”
Lily lay there with her eyes closed, feeling strangely like she was floating, and listened to the conversation.
“All I can say is, thank goodness Mr. Potter was there for Miss Evans. Or else…heaven only knows-”
“Let us not speak of it, Poppy,” Professor McGonagall said in hushed tones. “Only be grateful that he was indeed there-”
“Miss Evans! Awake at last, I see,” Madam Pomfrey said, cutting Professor McGonagall off as she spotted her patient’s eyes fluttering. Concern for Lily was evident in her face; Lily had never seen her look as sympathetic.
“Madam Pomfrey,” she croaked as the events before she passed out came back to her in a rush, “Jantzen – is he all right?”
Madam Pomfrey’s mouth tightened. “Thank heavens, yes, he is. He was a bit better off than you, though – for some reason those horrible creatures left him alone and went straight for you. Didn’t even try to kiss him. He’s up and walking.”
Madam Pomfrey gently touched the bandage wrapped around Lily’s head. “You’ve got a nasty gash, my dear,” she said. “I healed it right up, of course, but I daresay your head hurts something dreadful.”
Lily reached back and touched the tender spot on the back of her head. She must have hit it when she fell. She made a face when she felt her hair – tangled and sticky with dried blood – as she gently touched the area. It was healed, but still sensitive. And her head was throbbing.
She looked outside; it was nighttime, the torches burning brightly in their sconces on the walls. “How long have I been asleep?” she croaked as Madam Pomfrey went behind the dividing curtain, leaving her alone with a concerned Professor McGonagall.
“Since eleven o’clock this morning, Miss Evans,” she said, her brow furrowed. “It is now past ten o’clock.”
Lily was feeling quite confused and disoriented. “Who brought me here?” she asked.
“Mr. Potter,” Madam Pomfrey said matter-of-factly, coming back into the partition, holding an enormous block of what looked like chocolate. “He only just left, actually. Been here all day.” She took the chocolate to Lily’s bedside table and commenced breaking it apart with a small hammer. She gave Lily a large piece.
“Was James the one who got rid of the dementors?” she asked, ignoring the chocolate.
“Indeed he was,” Professor McGonagall said, her lips pursed tightly.
Lily felt close to tears. James had rushed to her aid yet again; she was somehow unsurprised. “Here now, Miss Evans. Eat up all that chocolate and then I want you to drink this – it will put you to sleep, and hopefully also help to get rid of that headache of yours.”
Lily, still feeling rather dazed, ate the chocolate and drank the potion automatically. It slid down her throat thickly, making her gag, but almost instantly she began to feel drowsy. The pain in her head dulled, and she fell asleep. As she drifted off she heard Madam Pomfrey say, “I shall have to lock that door to keep Mr. Potter away, Minerva. I had to practically levitate him out to get him to leave….”
Lily’s body was flooded with happiness at these words, and then she lost consciousness.
When Lily woke again the sun was shining brightly through the windows of the hospital wing. She woke up faster than she had the night before and felt much better.
Cassie, Lucie, Darla, and Portia were clustered around her bed. Lily noticed her night table was overflowing with brightly wrapped gifts, flowers, and cards, and her friends were sharing a box of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. Portia, who was slightly removed from the group but closest to Lily, promptly burst into tears.
Lily was shocked. She could count on one hand the number of times she had seen Portia cry and this was nothing compared to each of them.
“Oh, Li-i-ily!” Portia gasped, putting her head forward onto her folded arms on Lily’s bed, “it’s all my f-fault!”
Lily looked at the other three. Cassie was gently rubbing Porita’s back and all were exchanging sympathetic glances.
“Porsh, what are you on about?” Lily demanded after throwing a clueless look at her friends.
Portia raised her tearstained face towards her friend. “You know, Lily – you must know!” she wailed. “If I hadn’t let you go off with him, none of this would have happened!”
“She blames herself for what happened,” Cassie said, shaking her head. “She was up crying all night.”
“Portia, stop it,” Lily commanded. “You’re being silly. No one could have stopped what happened. Do they know why the dementors were there in the first place?”
Lucie shook her head. “Another random attack,” she said quietly.
Portia gradually calmed herself, and after blowing her nose with Darla’s handkerchief, sat hiccoughing in her chair as the other three filled Lily in on everything she had missed.
“We gathered that James heard you screaming,” Cassie said, looking horribly disturbed as she said those words, “and then found you and Jantzen, fired off one hell of a Patronus Charm that got rid of all three dementors, and carried you back to the castle. But he won’t talk about it-”
“Yeah,” Lucie interrupted. “He won’t speak to anyone, really. He’s hardly left you this whole time. I think he even snuck in here last night. But anyway, we told him to clear out for at least an hour so we could have some time with you.”
“It’s all so romantic,” Darla said mistily.
“Shut it, Darla, there’s nothing romantic about what happened,” Portia snapped.
“I didn’t mean that part of it-”
“Anyway,” Cassie continued, interrupting her two friends, “we’ve been here a while now. We were so worried about you, Lils.”
“I saw him carrying you up to school,” Portia said in a hollow sort of voice. “Your blood was all over him – oh, Lily, I thought you were-”
“Portia,” Lily said soothingly, opening her arms to her friend. Portia fell into them gratefully, burying her face in Lily’s shoulder.
“I mean, you never know in these days,” Portia said thickly. “What with those Death Eaters running around – I didn’t know what had happened.”
The five friends formed a pod around each other and held on until Madam Pomfrey came in. She forced Lily to drink soup and eat more chocolate before she administered another dose of medicine, a weaker version this time, saying that Lily would be ready to go after one more night. Lily bade goodbye to her friends before falling into another deep slumber.
When she woke again it was pitch dark in the infirmary. Her head was clear, however, and there was no sign of her injury except a faint pang every once in a while. She felt wide awake. She decided she might as well be up properly, turned towards her bedside table to get her wand – and gasped in surprise. James Potter, invisible from the shoulders down, was snoring gently in the chair beside her bed, his head leaning forward onto his chest. When she gasped he started slightly, sat up, and looked at her. “Lily?” he whispered hoarsely.
She was glad it was dark so he couldn’t see her blush. “Yeah?”
“You’re awake,” he stated unnecessarily, and reached for his wand. “Lumos,” he whispered. The tip flared with light, illuminating his tired face. “How do you feel?” he asked quietly. Whatever was making him invisible slid down so it was only covering his lap – it looked like a blanket, or – Lily’s mind clicked.
“You’ve an Invisibility Cloak,” she said, still staring at his lap.
He looked confused for a moment before looking down. He pulled the cloak off his lap and held it out to her. “Yeah, I do. Family heirloom,” he explained. Lily touched it; it felt like thin spider webs and her fingertips vanished right before her eyes. “How do you feel?” he repeated.
Lily took her hand away from the cloak and watched as he dropped it on the floor beside his chair. “All right,” she answered. “A little embarrassed.”
A small smile curved his lips. “Why?”
She was silent for a while, thinking about how best to answer him. “Because of the situation I put myself in, yes, but more because…because of the way I’ve treated you.”
He looked down. “Lily-”
“No, James, wait, please. I need to tell you this,” she said determinedly. “I’ve treated you horribly and then – and then you go and save my life.” She paused, and a tear or two (or six or seven) fell out of her eyes. She pushed them away impatiently. “You make it really hard for a girl to hate you, Potter.”
He smiled at her with such tenderness that even more tears fell out of her eyes. “I do my best, Evans.” He reached up and, in a gesture that stole her breath, gently wiped her tears away with his thumbs.
They stared at each other wordlessly for a long minute. Lily’s heart was too full to bear as she stared at him, at each of the well-cut, familiar features of his face. She spoke before she really knew what she was asking. “Why?”
“Why, after all this time, are you still here with me? Why have you never given up?”
“Because Potters don’t give up when they want something badly enough,” James said simply. “And I’ve wanted you forever.”
The depth of her feelings overwhelmed her. With shaking hands, but no doubts whatsoever, she reached up and slowly slid his glasses off his nose and placed them on the bedside table.
“I want you too, James,” she said quietly when she returned to her former position. She could see her soul in his brown eyes right before she leaned forward and pressed her lips to his. He exhaled as they connected, tilted his head, and scooted closer to her, wrapping his strong arms around her body. She was assaulted by his distinctive, wonderful smell as she lifted her arms and placed them on his shoulders, pulling him to her.
Lily had never been kissed with such passion, with such abandon before. She had never felt as safe as she did with James, and the strength and depth of her emotions for him reached far beyond those of anyone else she had been with before. She practically pulled him onto the bed with her; she ran her hands over his back and his chest, delighting in the muscles that rippled under his skin at her touch. After exploring her mouth James explored the rest of her face, and then her neck, and then her collarbone and shoulders. James had the presence of mind to stop, but Lily could have gone on for days.
“Wow,” she said, breathing rather heavily, as she stared up into his dark eyes.
“Wow,” he agreed, before kissing her again.
Lily wasn’t sure about much, but she knew one thing for certain: This was the beginning of something wonderful.