beautiful chapter image by enycha22 at TDA
23. James Potter didn’t let me down.
I felt James freeze beneath my touch. And carefully, curiously, I kissed him.
I had a prolonged second to wonder how the last time we’d kissed, our roles had been reversed. I’d been the unknowing end, rendered motionless by unexpected contact. A lot had changed since then.
After a few moments (or possibly several sunlit days), I lifted my lips from his. My eyes immediately met two hazel orbs; they were identically confused and amazed. I slowly became aware that around us the Great Hall had been stunned into silence.
No sooner than the thought had crossed my mind, nervous conversion began to ripple through the crowd of students. But I paid little mind, focusing instead on my irregular heartbeat and the eyes locked in my own.
“There.” I whispered. “I showed you.”
Seconds stretched by. James’ lack of comment worried me momentarily; what if it had been too late? Or what if my gesture had been unbelieving? Panic automatically replaced the even silence in my mind.
But I didn’t have to worry long. “Does this mean…” he started, and then began again. “Does this mean you’ll go to the Ball with me?”
Perhaps he’d forgotten where we were. “Well,” I said. “We’re sort of already here.”
He considered. My hands were still on his shoulders, his resting gently on my waist. Feather soft. “Then does this mean you’ll date me?”
My ‘running-away-from-commitment-because-it’s-scary’ alert instantaneously kicked in, but I shoved it away with every ounce of my will. I’d let the chance go too many times to refuse again.
“Yes.” I smiled, because I truly meant it. Truly wanted it.
The expression on James’ face practically collapsed with relief, and before I knew it he’d crushed me against his chest, arms wound securely around my back. Recovering quickly from the initial shock, I rested my cheek gently against his shoulder, smile still in place, arms tightening around his neck. Despite the fact that hundreds of people were probably still watching us, like we were some sort of daytime soap opera, I was unconditionally overjoyed and had the heartbeat to prove it.
“I’ve been waiting for that answer for seven years.” James told me, his voice muffled against my neck.
The inside my head wallowed on just how perfect
he was, how he always had the perfect words for every occasion. And then it wallowed on how uncoordinated I
was with words, how I even managed to stumble awkwardly through my own thoughts. How maybe the two of us, together, were a little compatible in that sense.
The thought brought peace to my mind. James was no doubt the better person, more articulated then I’d ever be, and was a gift to the world in general. Perhaps his perfection would counter my own deficiency exactly.
Though my mind was racing a million miles a minute, I couldn’t disregard the slight awkwardness of our situation any longer. “Um, James,” I said, pulling back from his embrace. “Maybe we should get off the floor…” My eyes took quick inventory over his shoulder, confirming my belief. “…everyone is staring at us.”
James laughed, and the sound of it made my ears happy as he grabbed my hand and led us from our center position on the dance floor. The crowd at the edge parted as he practically plowed through them, completely disregarding common curtsey. I apologized to my classmates as we weaved through the parted mass. Some of them looked ready to burst out laughing, others frozen with shock. A handful beamed widely, and a few (Slytherins, namely) looked close to vomiting.
Their conflict of emotions matched my insides exactly; not sure whether to laugh at the oddity of it, be frozen at the craziness of it, or smile at the rightness of it. However, it didn’t seem as though vomiting was on my list of possible reactions.
Which, as you should understand, might have been a first for me.
I wasn’t exactly sure where James was leading me, but before he had a chance to reach his destination, someone was blocking our path.
“Well, well, well,” Sirius sauntered in front of James and I, an obscenely large smile on his face, grey eyes positively sparkling. “What do we have here?”
I rolled my eyes. James did the same, squeezing my hand. “Sirius, if you’d be so kind to save the ridiculing for later, I’d really appreciate it.”
Sirius laughed, reaching out to clap James on the back. “You know I’ve got a helluva a lot of it stored away, Prongs.” He pointed knowingly to his head.
James nodded, sighing. “I know.”
Releasing James’ shoulder, Sirius looked to me. His eyes fell to my hand, entwined with James’ fingers. He smiled slightly, and our conversation in the Owlery rushed back into my mind. I remember how insistent he’d been of James’ feelings, how defensive he was of his friend’s intentions. I realized he had been a defining reason why I’d finally believed the sentiment. And for that, I owed him more than I could say.
But just because I wasn’t good with words didn’t mean I couldn’t show him my gratitude.
I let go of James’ hand in order to reach out and hug Sirius. His arms engulfed me quite fully, since he was at least a head taller. “Thank you.” I whispered in his ear, certain he’d know exactly what I was appreciative for.
Confirming my thought, I felt him nod, and as I pulled back and let go of him, I recognized his own thankfulness in his face. Thankfulness that I’d finally
come to my senses.
24. James Potter is my boyfriend.
Okay, whoa. Did I seriously just write that? I never
thought I’d see those words, basking in their own truth, in this diary. My mind...is thoroughly blown.
And I know you’re incredibly curious- what happened for the rest of the Decennium Ball? Well, a whole lot of magic. No pun intended.
James and I talked. Well, more like I
talked. A lot. In fact, I probably talked to James Potter more last night then I’d talked to him in my entire life.
Although I concealed many of the embarrassing details hidden within this journal- which I may be prepared to share with him some day- I told James about how I felt. About how I wasn’t completely sure exactly what my feelings were, or what they’d turn into, but that I was happy he’d granted me the chance to explore them.
In turn, since I sort of already knew how he felt, James just listened and laughed and smiled at me, interjecting only when he had a question. Though I had little desire to be interrupted and possibly scare myself into holding back truth, Charlotte came over once or twice and convinced us to get up and dance.
When the night was over, I was exhausted physically and mentally, but impossibly happy. And though he wouldn’t have had a choice either way, James escorted me to my bedroom door like a perfect gentlemen.
I was sweaty beyond belief, with pieces of my hair were falling out and no makeup left to speak of, but the way James looked at me when he said goodnight made me feel like the prettiest girl in the world. I wallowed in the amazing fact that he was mine.
That I was his.
When he leaned down to kiss me goodnight, I only hyperventilated a little bit. I even kissed him back, trying to make him feel how I felt; like I was ten feet off the ground, a ballerina twirling across a wiry tightrope.
I didn’t ever want to come down.
This morning, I awoke to a blinding but heatless February sun piercing in through the window. A dream, delicious and fuzzy and romantic, stuck in my mind. A dream of James and I dancing, then kissing, then dating, then hugging. Then talking, then dancing, then kissing again.
It was a gem of a dream, and I hated that I’d woken up.
Groggily, I got up and dressed in my favorite green jumper, pinning my curls back with a barrette. I stretched and yawned, wondering why the dream didn’t seem to want to leave my mind. Stubborn dream.
I left my room to go to breakfast, treading down the stairs. My stomach growled as I walked through the Heads common room.
“Hungry?” A voice from the couch asked.
I whirled around to find James sitting on the couch, an amused smile on his face, trim torso enclosed in a dark blue sweater. In the split second that my eyes met his, I remembered. It was
James stood up, and my heart began to pound obediently. Whatever confidence or gusto I’d felt the previous evening completely evaporated and my body absolutely melted; knee-shaking, pulse-racing and breath-accelerating included.
See, even as his girlfriend
I act stupid.
“Morning,” James said, smiling as he took my hands in his. I looked down at the touching fingers, more than a little panicky.
Oh Merlin oh Merlin oh Merlin,
I thought. What do I do now? Am I supposed to kiss him? Or hug him? Or just say good morning back? What if I do this wrong? What if he hates when I do it wrong? What if he breaks up with me? What if we’re not even dating? What if he forgot, too? What if-
The rational part of mind, surprisingly making an interjection just in time, urged me to calm down.
“Something the matter?” James eyebrows knitted themselves together, obviously concerned as to why I suddenly looked like a frozen imbecile.
I swallowed a little, and composed my voice. “No, no. I’m just…” I steeled myself against the urge to hold back my true concern. “Not sure what to do.”
James laughed at my blatant honesty, and for a moment I was extremely embarrassed. But then he leaned forward, and touched his lips to my forehead. The contact created a fever beneath the surface. “Oh, Lily.” He tilted back again, regarding me wonderingly. “Don’t ever change.”
Confusedly, I wanted to assure him that change is exactly
what I had to do in order to know what to do, but he was still laughing for some reason, tugging at my hand, telling me we had to go to breakfast because he knew I was hungry.
“I meant it, you know,” I insisted, a little annoyed that he’d ignored my stupidity. As we walked through the hallways towards the Great Hall, he was still chuckling to himself. “I have absolutely no idea how to handle a relationship.”
“No idea?” James asked, amusedly confused. “Lily, you’ve dated before.”
“Well, yes,” I said. That is, if Jefferson Cornwall, my only previous boyfriend, counted at all. I’d dated him for a month during sixth year, kissed him a grand total of twice, gotten in more than a handful of vicious rows with him and eventually been broken up with simply because I’d refused to participate in a particularly vulgar activity. All in all, he hadn’t exactly been the ideal first boyfriend. That being said, it was true. I had no idea how to be in a relationship.
And there was another thing.
“Well yes, but James,” I persisted, more than a little ashamed of the fact before it had even come out of my mouth. “You, uh, were my first kiss.”
He stopped in his tracks and looked over at me. “What?”
I felt my face immediately redden. I looked down. “Well, you, uh, were…my first kiss.”
“I heard that part,” James laughed, turning towards me and taking both of my hands once more. “I just don’t understand. How is that possible?”
Before I could answer, a group of Ravenclaw girls walked past us. One of them pointed, wide-eyed, and whispered something to the others. They burst out in giggles before skittering giddily away. I rolled my eyes.
Face still burning, I pulled James out of the middle of the hallway and into a dimly lit corner. I’d spent too much of the first hours of our relationship in the public eye.
“I didn’t tell you this part last night?” I asked, twisting my hands together nervously.
James, ignoring my sorry state as usual, brushed a strand of my hair behind my shoulder, stepping closer. “Not exactly. Do explain.”
I considered telling him I found it hard to concentrate with him standing so close to me, but decided against it. I sighed. “You do…remember, don’t you? That, er, kiss last year?”
“How could I forget?” He smiled reminiscently. “I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.”
Blush deepening, I went on. “Well, that was before I, um, dated Jefferson. And up till that point…I’d never been kissed.” I nervously pushed another curl over my shoulder. “So you were my first.”
James regarded me curiously. “Is that so?”
“It is,” I said, beyond humiliated.
“And tell me,” James said, reaching out to curve his fingers around the base of my neck. My nerve endings practically electrocuted themselves. “Am I a better kisser than Jefferson?”
I looked into his eyes, darkened by the seclusion of the corner we stood in. My breath caught in my throat, and I was absolutely unable to reply.
James’ eyes twinkled. “Because you’re certainly a better kisser than Sophia Miles.”
I snapped out of my trance immediately and stepped back, eyebrows crinkling hardly. “Sophia Miles?” I was only half aware of how annoyed I sounded. “You’ve kissed Sophia Miles?”
A beat passed before James exploded with laughter. He collapsed against the wall, his body practically vibrating. I crossed my arms, neglecting to find the humor in the situation. “What’s so funny?”
James sobered straight away, looking at me with amusement. “Ah. Now there
’s the Lily I know.”
“Well?” I demanded.
“No,” James smiled again. “I have not kissed Sophia Miles. I just said that to see if it would make you tick.”
He came closer to me once more. “In my life, I’ve only ever kissed four people, I promise. There was Annalynn Watkins fourth year, because I thought her strawberry hair was a bit reminiscent of yours. And then there was Bella Dangerfield fifth year, because her eyes were almost green and she convinced me that every normal fifth-year boy was off making out in closets. And of course my mum, because, well, she’s my mum.” He looked at me. “And then you. Because you’re the only one I should
be kissing. The only one I want
I gulped. “Oh.”
Once again, James was chuckling, but then he stopped himself. “Oh Merlin,” he said, scratching the back of his neck. “I’m not being a very good boyfriend, am I? You’re hungry! Let’s go.”
He took my hand once more, and it was my turn to laugh. In the place of my original hunger, butterflies fluttered through my stomach at the contact.
As we walked towards the Great Hall for breakfast, I thought about how although I had little experience with dating and was still frightfully afraid of messing up, James’ quiet assurance and easy attitude toward the whole thing had somehow made me feel a million times better.
Thusly, I am now decidedly alright with being his girlfriend.
25. James Potter is surprising.
That same afternoon, James convinced me Arithmancy homework could wait and an outing to Hogsmeade would be a wonderful way to become better acquainted with ‘us’.
So we donned coats and exited towards the village through the same courtyard in which I’d once abandoned him. Though I said nothing of the topic, James looked over at me and smiled, remembering, and took my hand as if he understand my thoughts perfectly.
Which, for some reason, I’m completely sure he did.
Winter was slowly taking hold of the outside world. Decrepit tree limbs stood naked in a cool breeze, the last of the crinkled, colorless leaves rustling across frost-bitten grass. The Black Lake had turned into a crystalline surface of glass, reflecting the grey sky overhead. The promise of snow shimmered in the frozen air; every breath exhaled revealed the wintery anticipation.
Though the cold nipped at my nose and the back of my neck, my fingers felt warm in James’. We said little on the path to Hogsmeade, but as I’d discovered early this year, silence with him wasn’t awkward. It was comfortable.
James led us around the outskirts of Hogsmeade, surprising me. He took to a narrow pathway, the hardened mud beneath our feet revealed a faint but traveled trail. The course wove around the edge of the shops and pubs and past several small cottages and shacks. Ahead of us lay a tall forest, the trees surrounding the small town meeting to host a woods significantly less foreboding than the Forbidden Forest.
“Where are we going?” I asked, curious as to why we weren’t visiting a shop or pub.
James looked over at me. “You’ll see.” His smile was the essence of the secret he withheld.
Once we were fully immersed in the forest, James zigzagged around tree trunks with t as much expertise as he flew across the Quidditch pitch. He was obviously familiar with the path. After a minute or so the dense foliage seemed to thin, and the steady, lopsidedly symmetrical pattern of trees broke away into a clearing. James stepped out into it, and turned to me. “Here we are.”
I looked across the clearing, instantaneously knowing why James preferred a nature expedition to a butterbeer in The Three Broomsticks.
The lack of sunlight did the clearing no justice, but even the absence of proper lighting could detract from the wonder. The forest floor was saturated with beautiful, frost resistant flowers, overflowing atop one another, their colors only a little dulled by the late-fall weather. The pinks had turned deep magenta, the purples stately and royal, the blues reminiscent of dark ocean waves. Only the white flowers had remained pure as the snow that would soon cover the field. But the surplus of perseverant blooms was not the main attraction; it was the small handful of butterflies that fluttered delicately through the clearing.
They rode cross the air on painted wings, dark patterns of blue and black gracing the tips. They would periodically pause briefly atop a flower, as if deciding which was best suited for them to take rest. I followed one with my eyes, positively transfixed, wondering how on earth the creatures hadn’t died off in the almost-winter cold.
“This-this is amazing.” I said, meaning it deeply. It was as though a little pocket of spring, a little place reminiscent of warm weather and sunny skies, had hidden itself away in the forest and successfully kept itself out of winter’s watchful eye. The wonder of nature, I realized, was eternal. “How did you know this was here?”
“It’s a long story, actually,” James told me, his eyes on the butterflies. “Do you want to hear it?”
I nodded earnestly.
James smiled, and began to tell. “When I was a little boy, my parents would come to Hogsmeade every Sunday to have brunch with my mother’s parents, who lived nearby.”
“My grandfather, whom I was named after, was a man of incredible stature, and I looked up to him tremendously. He was tall and imposing, but gentler than I could explain. He had a particular affection for nature and its wonder, a fondness he neglected to pass on to my father but succeeded greatly in giving to me.” He looked over at me, eyes twinkling. “Sirius believes it to be rather strange, but I didn’t think you’d mind.”
“One Sunday just before winter when I was six or seven, my grandfather led me though this same forest, to this exact spot and told me a story. He explained that the dark butterflies, called Black Swallowtails, held a grave history with Mother Nature. In the olden times, he told me, Mother Nature created butterflies, delicate things with colorless wings, to pollinate the plants during spring and summertime. But she was soon angered by a particular butterfly that refused to do her bidding, instead choosing to idly fly about during the warm months and pollinate when the season approached winter. In her anger, she poisoned the butterfly’s wings, painting them black and blue. For further punishment she bestowed the remaining, obedient creatures with beautifully bright wings, gracefully adorned with thousands of different patterns.”
I was enveloped in James voice, caught up in the beauty of his story. He seemed to be enraptured as well. “He told me that the butterfly was so ashamed of his silly disobedience that he secluded himself to hidden places in the forest, attempting to pollinate a lonely patch of flowers with little success. One day, a brightly colored female took pity on his misfortune, and mated with him. Mother Nature recognized the female butterfly’s amazing act of compassion, and in turn gave life to the flowers which the poisoned butterfly had so diligently tried to pollinate.”
“And here they are, today, my grandfather said to me.” James went on. “Their own species, quietly doing their job, tucked away in the forest and hidden from winter. James, son, he said, let this be a reminder to you that from a careless mistake can bloom change and life, beauty and love. Always remember.”
James’ eyes remained transfixed on the butterflies. “And to this day, I try to come here once in a while, usually on Sunday’s.” He half-smiled. “My grandfather’s long gone, of course, but his story has never left me. I think he’s the one who taught me to believe in love.”
A moment passed. I studied his profile, a stark outline of dark hair and round-rimmed glasses against the naked trees surrounding the clearing. My heart pounded with admiration. “James, that’s beautiful.”
I must have sounded emotional, because he looked away from the butterflies and placed his eyes on my face. I felt
emotional; profoundly affected that he’d chosen to share his special place with me, his special memory, his special story.
Affected by how he’d shared a part of himself. “I-you…it’s just, you...” I sighed. “Thank you.”
James cocked his head. “Whatever for?”
“For this,” I motioned to the flowers, the butterflies. I scooted closer to his side, resting my head tentatively on his shoulder, feeling close to tears. “For sharing.”
I felt his hand tighten on my mine, and I marveled at the warmth emanating from my fingers and spreading through my entire body.
We stood for a while, surrounded by a quiet forest, a bleak sky and cold air, staring at the black and blue butterflies.