Lily spent the next few days expecting to be the subject of stares and nasty whispers. She’d regretted telling Severus so much about her relationship with James almost immediately, but there was nothing to be done about it now.
To her surprise, however, there didn’t seem to be any new rumours on the subject at all.
If there had been, she was fairly sure she would have heard about it; Severus’s prospective Death Eater friends had never been exactly subtle, especially when it came to mocking muggleborns. That she hadn’t meant that they almost certainly hadn’t heard anything, but she couldn’t understand why Severus would keep his mouth shut now.
She’d hesitated to mention it to James. She didn’t think that he’d be mad at her - he was too proud of himself for being with her to get annoyed about the whole school knowing more details than she really wanted them to - but she could see him picking a fight about it if he thought that someone was infringing on her honour.
Which was all very sweet, but it almost always made things worse, especially since James had a tendency to go overboard. That was particularly problematic since he was Head Boy, and therefore needed to maintain at least a modicum of control.
When Lily had expressed her concerns to Jane later that night, however, Jane had quite sensibly pointed out that if nasty rumours started, there was no way James was not going to hear them.
So she’d told him, and to her surprise, he’d almost seemed pleased, especially regarding Severus’s reaction. While Lily was pleased to see the slight upswing in his mood, it made her reconsider the entire encounter in a way that she found so unsettling that she almost immediately tried to block it out.
As the days passed, however, Lily found herself genuinely too busy to expend much energy thinking about it. Gryffindor’s second Quidditch match was coming up, and that meant a lot of late nights spent cajoling James into finishing his assignments.
“Lily, it’s fine,” he said one night. His voice was a little snappish, but she ignored the tone. “I’ll figure it out. Just go to sleep.”
It was well after midnight, and they were the only two people left in the Common Room since the last holdouts - Remus and Peter - had called it a night almost an hour ago. The fire was down to its dying embers, and the room was beginning to get chilly.
That did not improve his mood, and it didn’t help hers, either. However, she knew full well that he wouldn’t “figure it out” without her help - he was working on a Potions assignment, and while he was currently managing an A, it wasn’t by much.
“No,” she said stubbornly. A lock of red hair fell across her vision, and she tucked it behind her ear. “I know you don’t understand, and I’m not going to bed until you do.”
His jaw was set, which was always a clear sign that he was getting very frustrated. “I said-” he started, but she cut him off.
She cut him off before he’d finished. “Yes, I heard you.” She reached over to pull his Potions book toward her.
He snatched it back. “It’s fine,” he repeated. “Stop trying to take care of me. I don’t need your pity.”
James didn’t look up from the page that he appeared to be skimming. “I said, I don’t need your pity.”
Lily felt her fists clench. “I wasn’t trying to pity you,” she said irritably. “I was trying to be a good girlfriend.” He already looked like he was regretting what he’d said, and when she pushed back her chair, his expression changed to being downright alarmed.
“Lily,” he said quickly, reaching a hand out. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean-”
She ignored him. “But it’s fine, right? So I’ll just leave you to it.” She stalked toward the stairs before he could react and ascended them quickly.
As soon as she closed the door to her dormitory behind her, she knew that she’d overreacted. Granted, so had he - neither of them had been getting enough sleep lately, and they’d both been under a lot of stress in general.
“Still,” she muttered to herself, fuming, as she crawled into bed.
However, whether it was just her continued irritation at James or a good dose of guilt, she found that sleep did not come quickly. After about twenty minutes of tossing and turning in the dark room, she sighed and fumbled for her dressing gown.
She padded down the stairs softly and found James still at the table. He was slouched in his seat, and as she hesitated on the last step, he threw his head back and looked up at the ceiling.
“Hey,” she said softly.
He spun around so quickly that his chair fell over - thankfully, onto the rug. The lion cub that had been curled up sleeping on the edge of it did not appreciate the intrusion, but the last thing they needed was to wake up half the House.
“Hey,” he replied, looking a little surprised. “What are you doing back down here?”
Lily made her way across the Common Room as he picked up the chair, and once he’d slumped back into it, she brushed his hair out of his eyes. “I’m sorry,” she told him.
“Me too.” James’s voice was barely above a whisper. “I know you’re just trying to help.”
“Trying?” she asked, and he bit his lip in a failed attempt to hide the grin that was sneaking across his face.
“Just helping, then.” He reached out hesitantly, and when she didn’t resist, he pulled her into his lap. “I didn’t mean to snap,” he said, resting his head on her chest.
“I know.” She ran a hand through his hair, and he closed his eyes. “Feel good?”
“Mm.” James began to slide a hand inside her dressing gown. “You know what would make me feel even better?”
She smacked him lightly, and he pulled back and grinned.
“You’re making me regret my apology,” she warned him, and he laughed.
“No I’m not.” He wrapped his arms around her again and pulled her closer to him. “I love you,” he said, and just as she did every time he spoke those words, Lily felt herself melting.
The day of James’s second Quidditch match could not come fast enough.
Lily was rather dreading the match itself. It had been so cold lately that no amount of affection could have gotten either her or Sirius to sit and watch practice, and James didn’t even crack a joke about it. He knew that they were both braving the cold twice a week as it was for Care of Magical Creatures lessons.
Thankfully, however, the match itself came on a sunny day that, if not exactly warm, was at least not absolutely frigid.
“Hope they win,” Sirius said offhandedly as a group of the Gryffindor seventh years made their way down to the pitch. He was dressed for both the weather and the occasion; his hat, scarf, and gloves were all bright red.
“As well you should,” Remus commented mildly as he adjusted his scarf.
Sirius grinned. “No, I mean, I bet Emily - the Ravenclaw prefect - fifteen galleons that he would.”
Peter choked. “Sirius, why in Merlin’s name would you do that?”
Sirius shrugged and stuffed his hand further in his pockets. “I was with James when she started going on about Ravenclaw winning, and it seemed like a good idea to give him the vote of confidence.”
“Does he need a vote of confidence?” Sarah asked curiously. “I dunno, he’s always seemed plenty confident to me.”
Lily wanted to cut in and deflect the attention off of James, and judging by the look on his face, Remus was struggling with the same inclination. However, she knew that Sirius could handle it just fine.
And he did.
“That’s just because he’s always had me giving him all these little votes of confidence,” Sirius told her. He blew on a stray piece of hair that had fallen across his face. “Without me, he’d be as worthless as Emily.” Sarah looked doubtful, and Sirius smiled. “What, you don’t think I’m trustworthy?”
“Who does?” chorused Peter and Jane together, and Sirius threw his head back and laughed.
They found seats, and as soon as they’d sat down, Jane surprised them with a large container that turned out to contain hot cocoa.
“I wondered what you were hiding in that bag,” Sarah said after she’d conjured up some mugs.
Jane smiled as she poured them each a cup. “Well, it’s cold.” She glanced toward the pitch. “Gryffindor had better win.”
Thankfully, Gryffindor did win, though the victory was narrow enough that at one point Lily had to elbow Sirius to point out that if he bit his lip any harder it was going to start bleeding.
James had played quite well, and the win kept them in the running for the Quidditch Cup. As a result, everyone was in very good spirits as they headed back to the Gryffindor Common Room. Peter offered to go and retrieve some snacks from the kitchens, and to nearly everyone’s surprise, Lily volunteered to go with him.
“Well, it’s not technically against the rules,” she said defensively as she handed her coat, gloves, and scarf to Jane.
“Tell that to McGonagall,” someone muttered, and she laughed.
“Come on, Peter,” she said, and he followed her down the hall as everyone else climbed through the portrait hole.
“Have you ever gone to the kitchens before?” he asked curiously as she let him take the lead.
“Once,” she said. “A few months ago. But I don’t remember the way.”
Peter grinned. He was clearly pleased to be the one in charge for once. “I’ll just duck in,” he said as they approached the portrait. “Keep watch out here.”
She was about to ask what exactly she should do if someone came along when he tickled the painting and stepped into the darkness beyond as soon as it swung open.
“Oh well.” She leaned against the wall. She’d just have to come down with a hacking fit or something if a teacher happened by.
As she waited, she heard footsteps to her left, and before she could turn around, a familiar voice floated down the corridor toward her. “Tell your boyfriend I said congratulations,” Severus said with a curl of his lip. “It takes real talent to almost lose to Ravenclaw.”
It was true enough that Ravenclaw had been a pretty rubbish team for most of their time at Hogwarts, but this year’s team was actually quite good. They’d hammered Hufflepuff the first match of the season, and they’d been second in the Cup race the year before.
“Thanks,” she said. “I’m sure he’ll be really pleased to hear it from you.”
Severus wrinkled his nose and began to walk away.
Something occurred to Lily. “Wait,” she said quickly, and he glanced back. “You didn’t - er -”
“Start a nasty rumour about you and Potter?” he supplied, and she nodded. “No. Would you like me to?”
He raised his eyebrows as if to say, “Then why bring it up?”
“Why?” she asked after a moment, and he sighed and turned around.
“Because, Evans, I have better things to do with my time than interfere with two people who clearly deserve each other.” Lily felt her face harden, and he sighed again. “Look,” he said, his tone suddenly more earnest. “If Potter is really who you want to be with - and it seems like he is, for reasons I cannot possibly fathom - I’ll respect our former friendship enough to try not to get in the way.”
“Oh.” She processed that. “I - thank you.”
He nodded curtly and walked off down the hall, leaving her feeling more than a little surprised, and exceedingly relieved.
“What’s wrong?” Peter asked from behind her. She spun around.
“What?” He repeated the question, and she smiled. “Nothing. Come on,” she said, reaching out to relieve him of part of his burden. “Let’s get back to the Common Room.”
There was what promised to be an memorable afternoon ahead.
A/N: Hey, all! :) I'm sorry for the brief disappearance - I was on holiday, and didn't really have a computer. I did, however, do quite a lot of writing in a notebook, so if you like any of my other stories, check back for updates on those as well in the next week - I wrote a new chapter for pretty much all of them.
In Lily/James related news:
I wrote a one-shot prologue to this called "A Light in the Dark," which takes place during their sixth year. I'm hoping that if you check it out, you'll like it. :)
As always, I would appreciate it if you'd take a moment to tell me your thoughts on the chapter, and most importantly, I really hope you enjoyed it.
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