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Once Defied by pennyardelle

Format: Novel
Chapters: 33
Word Count: 161,202
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Romance, Young Adult
Characters: Lupin, Snape, Sirius, Lily, James, Pettigrew, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: James/Lily, Other Pairing

First Published: 06/01/2009
Last Chapter: 04/28/2010
Last Updated: 06/10/2014

Summary:
banner by Alora at The Dark Arts

At the beginning of their seventh and final year at Hogwarts, Lily Evans and James Potter find themselves closer to one another than ever before. With darkness taking over the world around them, they discover that love—the mix of fluttering heartbeats, stolen glances, shared smiles, and squirming stomachs—is the most powerful magic of all.

:: 2012 Dobby Awards Winner for Best Canon ::


Chapter 11: Behind the Tapestry



Chapter Eleven
Behind the Tapestry




James was filled with a distinct feeling of dread as he put on his dress robes. He wasn’t sure if it was the memory of Slughorn’s last party, left-over feelings from a week of hectic exams, or all the pressure that his friends were putting on him when it came to Ursula, but he was not looking forward to this Christmas Party at all.

“Lose the bowtie,” Sirius said. “It makes you look stuffy.”

“Since when did you start giving fashion advice?” James asked, but he pulled the bowtie off his neck.

The door of their dormitory opened and Peter and Remus walked in.

“Where have you two been?” Sirius asked.

“Saying a Happy Christmas to Filch,” Remus said.

“He looked so thrilled about giving us detention I thought he might wet himself, actually,” Peter said. “At least he can’t say we never gave him anything, right?

James noticed that Peter was holding a large teacup in one of his hands.

“What’s that?” he asked, his voice sounding oddly squeaky. He cleared his throat.

“It’s from Filch’s office,” Peter said, holding it up. It had pictures of moving cats gambolling around it. “I saw it on his desk when he was writing us up, so I just reached over and nicked it.”

“Wormtail, why would you willingly touch something that’s had Filch’s mouth on it?” Sirius asked.

“I thought it would be a laugh,” Peter said defensively.

“It’s disgusting, is what it is,” Sirius replied.

“Sod off, Padfoot, or I’ll have to throw this at your head.”

“Are you all right?” Remus asked James, who was starting to feel like he might actually be sick, not just unhappy.

“Yeah,” James said, nodding wildly.

“We saw Ursula waiting in the common room,” Peter said.

“Yeah, Prongs, get out of here,” Sirius teased. “Go find your girlfriend.”

James trudged down the spiral staircase, hoping that the sight of Ursula would miraculously make him feel better. He reached the bottom of the stairs and almost ran into Lily and Anna, who both headed toward the portrait hole without looking at him. The smell of her perfume stayed behind as he watched Lily laughing at something Anna had said. He would have thought that turquoise would clash with her hair, but the robes she was wearing made her look brighter and livelier. They seemed not to have noticed him at all.

“Hi!” James started as Ursula’s voice pierced his concentration. She looked like she had spent hours getting ready for the party, which made James feel even worse. Why was everybody else making this evening such a big deal?

“Hey,” he replied. “Ready to go?”

“Sure,” she said. “You look really good.”

“Thanks,” James said.

He and Ursula walked down to the dungeons. She managed to keep up a constant stream of conversation, no thanks to James, who could not think of a single thing to say. Maybe he really was getting sick.

They entered Slughorn’s magically-enlarged office, which had been fully decorated for the occasion. The entire ceiling had been hung with holly and adorned with small, tinkling lights that bathed the room in a golden glow. House-elves were moving among the guests (of which there were many) with platters of food, and red and green punch (which magically stayed separated even when it fell into the bowl) flowed from an elaborate, seven-tier crystal fountain. The music was coming from a small stage, upon which an olive-skinned, blue-haired woman was singing.

“How did he get Melody Moonstone to perform?” Ursula exclaimed.

“Erm...no clue,” James said. He wasn't even sure who Melody Moonstone was, and from the sounds of it, he didn't want to.

“James!” Slughorn boomed when he saw them. “Excellent to see you, excellent. I was just introducing Dirk here to Fergus Mullod, former student of mine, now working at the Goblin Liaison Office. Fergus, this is James Potter, this year’s Head Boy.”

James said a polite hello to Fergus Mullod and Dirk and stood awkwardly as the two of them and Slughorn were saying something about goblins. He supposed he was supposed to be included in the conversation, but he still felt a bit clammy.

“Want to get some food?” Ursula asked. James shook his head—he didn’t think he could eat anything right now. “Do you want to go for a walk?”

“Erm...no,” James replied. “I don’t think we’re supposed to be wandering around the halls at night.”

“But you’re the Head Boy,” Ursula said. “I’m sure you could think up a reason for it.”

“It’s actually kind of a—er—a symbolic position,” James said. “You can’t actually do that much.”

“Okay,” Ursula said, sighing. “What would you like to do?”

They ended up sitting on a bench at the edge of the room, talking about the Quidditch Cup. Ravenclaw was shaping up to be their biggest opponent; they had won their match against Hufflepuff in November and even James was worried when he saw the team that their captain, Germaine Aucher, had fielded.

“Oh, come on, with the two of us on the same team, how could we possibly lose?” she asked. “We’ve got an unbeatable combination of athleticism and attractiveness.”

“What’s attractiveness got to do with it?” James asked, grinning.

“It’s to distract the other team,” Ursula said, “and it means that we win even when we lose.”

He laughed; talking about Quidditch was always bound to make him feel better.

Their conversation was interrupted as Slughorn took the stage, his voice filling the room.

“Welcome, everyone, and a happy holiday to you all!” Slughorn said, sloshing a bit of wine of out his goblet by accident. He didn’t notice, and continued, “Thank you all for coming, and an extra-special thanks to Miss Melody Moonstone, our entertainment for the evening, who made a very generous allowance for an old teacher in her busy schedule. Let’s have a round of applause for Melody, who, as it happens, is nominated for five Siren Awards this year!”

James clapped politely along with everyone else while Melody Moonstone waved glamorously at the crowd in thanks. Slughorn’s applauding seemed to have emptied his goblet entirely; he turned the stage back to Melody Moonstone, who struck up a song called “Charmed Him Down the Chimney”.

“She’s a fantastic singer,” Ursula said. “I’ve listened to her every Christmas I can remember. My mum’s mad for her and Celestina Warbeck.”

James looked up to see Professors Dearborn and Slughorn approaching them.

“Happy Christmas, Potter,” Professor Dearborn said. “Slughorn here has just been telling me you don’t have the constitution for Potions.”

Slughorn chuckled, but did not disguise his annoyance. “I said no such thing, my good man!”

James waved a hand in the air. “It’s all right, Professor. Even I know it.”

“Oh, James, no need for humility,” Slughorn said. “Your essay on Polyjuice Potion was quite illuminating.”

“Well, what would you expect? From what I’ve hear, Potter’s main skill is evading capture,” Dearborn said.

“No, no, it’s much more than that,” Slughorn said. “He and Lily both, they’re remarkably talented potioneers.”

“You might want to check to make sure Potter hasn’t been sneaking looks at her cauldron, Horace,” Dearborn said, grinning. Slughorn looked like he had reached the end of his patience.

“Well, it’s been nice chatting with you, Caradoc,” he said, devoid of sincerity. “I should go say hello to Lily, speaking of her.”

Ursula excused herself to go get some punch, leaving Dearborn and James to make conversation.

“Never liked Slughorn when I was at Hogwarts,” Dearborn said. “He was only here for my fourth year on, at least. ‘Course, it could be because he never really liked me, either.”

“Don’t worry, professor, I’m sure even if he had, you still wouldn’t have liked him,” James said. Since their Hogsmeade weekend, James had learned that it was perfectly safe to insult other teachers around Dearborn. He actually seemed to like students better when they did so.

“You’re probably right,” Dearborn said, guffawing. “Well, I’m off to spike the punch bowl.”

It was James’ turn to laugh.

“As your teacher, I should say that was a joke,” Dearborn said, “and that I don’t encourage that sort of behaviour.”

“Advice taken,” James said.

“Say hello to your parents for me,” Dearborn said, waving as he walked back into the crowd.

“How do you...?” James started to ask, but Dearborn was already out of earshot, and Ursula had returned.

“Do you think Slughorn would introduce us to Melody Moonstone?” Ursula asked. “My mum would die if I got her autograph.”

A blur of turquoise and red filled James’ eyes as someone bumped into Ursula.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Lily said, her eyes travelling from Ursula to James. “Oh—er—”

She seemed to consider walking away, but must have thought better of it.

“I don’t think we’ve met before,” she said, holding out her hand to Ursula, “I’m Lily.”

“Oh, yes, I know,” Ursula said, glancing at James. She shook Lily’s hand with the air of handing Bubotuber pus. “I’m Ursula.”

“Are you both...er...enjoying the party?” Lily asked.

“Yeah,” James said, “there’s loads of people here, aren’t there?”

“Anna was here somewhere,” Lily said distractedly.

“James, I think I’m going to go get some more punch,” Ursula said abruptly. “Would you like to come?”

James was not exactly sure what Ursula had just said—something about getting punch. “No, I’m fine, you go ahead,” he said. Ursula hesitated a fraction of a second before she left.

“So, how did exams go for you?” Lily asked. James had to force aside his shock at her talking to him again; it was the only way that he could form intelligible speech.

“I’m sure you did better than me,” he said. “The whole week was pretty much a disaster, wasn’t it?”

Lily sighed heavily, but she did look slightly mollified. “Yes, I suppose you’re right. Which was your worst?”

“Er—hard to say,” James said. “Yours?”

“As if you need to ask,” Lily replied, “Transfiguration.”

“Well, no shame there. Even I didn’t ace it,” James said.

“I blame the difficulty of the exam all on you and Black,” Lily said. “McGonagall obviously wanted to take you two down a peg.”

“I’ll have to remember to congratulate her on her success, then,” James said.

The two of them laughed uncomfortably as momentary silence fell. James glanced around the room.

“I think I’m going to try and find Anna and go, while I still can,” Lily said. Usually, James would have tried to make her stay, but he was so surprised that she was talking to him again that he could not think of anything else to say. “Anyway, have a Happy Christmas.”

“Yeah, you too,” James said, smiling.

Ursula returned a few moments later.

“I’m going to go, if you don’t mind,” she said, her arms crossed. She looked irritated for some reason.

“You don’t want to stay?” James asked.

“No, if it doesn’t matter to you,” Ursula responded crossly. James was perplexed at the sudden turn in her mood, but she certainly seemed anxious to leave. He didn’t want to force her to stay if she was not enjoying herself.

“Of course you can go,” James said. “Have a great holiday in Germany.”

“Yes, you too,” Ursula said, and walked away without another word.



.........




Lily walked up towards Gryffindor Tower, practically skipping the entire way. Something about having a completely normal, friendly conversation with James had made her feel much happier. She had not let herself fully admit how much she had missed being friends with him, and it suddenly felt like there was no reason they could not go back to the way things had been. Forget apologies and ulterior motives. She pushed aside the tapestry that concealed the shortcut to Gryffindor Tower and thought that she might even find James the next morning and say goodbye. After all, that would be a friendly thing to do, wouldn’t it?

She was so distracted that all of a sudden, the floor fell out from under her. She had forgotten to skip the false stair, and her left leg had sunk right down through the floor.

“Ouch,” she whined. She had seen this happen to others before, but had never realized how painful it was.

She tried to push herself out, but it was no use. What was she going to do? Would she have to stay here the rest of the night?

Perhaps James would be leaving soon...he would come this way, wouldn’t he? It was all she could hope for, the irony of which she was able to fully appreciate as she sat (or was she standing, technically?) stuck in the staircase. She waited for five minutes...her leg had fallen asleep. Ten minutes...wouldn’t James hurry up? Fifteen...oh no, what if he brought that Chaser girl with him?

Her positioning became more and more painful as the minutes passed by, until finally, mercifully, the tapestry was pushed aside and James stood there, alone.

“Shut up, and don’t laugh,” Lily said immediately. To his credit, James followed her request. “Just help me up and don’t say a word.”

James walked silently up the stairs until he reached her.

“How exactly do you want me to help you?” He asked.

“Lift me out!” Lily said. Her left leg was starting to go completely numb.

“Yes—er—what I mean is, where should I lift from?” James asked. Lily rolled her eyes.

“I’m in quite a bit of pain right now,” she said through gritted teeth, “and I will kill you if you make a big deal about the fact that you get to touch me. Just get—me—out.”

James did not look at all convinced, but he leaned down and gingerly placed his hands under Lily’s arms. Lily was quite sure that he could not have picked a much more embarrassing place to grab hold. She felt like a toddler about to be heaved up into someone’s arms.

“Just—just don’t move, all right? It’s hard to get a good balance here,” James said.

“Fine.”

James pulled her up out of the stair, but Lily, feeling highly uncomfortable, tried to regain her own footing as soon as was physically possible.

“Lily, stop—”

James’ warning came too late. Her attempt to push up on her own using her freed leg had made him lose whatever balance he had, and he started to trip backwards. Lily, who felt her other leg sinking back into the stair, overcompensated, and started to fall forward down the stairs. After a few screams (on Lily’s part) and curses (on James’ part), they landed next to each other at the bottom of the stairwell.

Lily expected to be furious, but she found that she was not upset at all. In fact, she started laughing.

What is so funny?” James groaned. “I told you not to move! I told you I didn’t have my balance very well.”

Lily sat up. “We probably looked ri-ridiculous,” she said, still laughing.

“If Sirius were here, it would have made his Christmas, I’m sure,” James said miserably. “I think my entire body’s broken.” He managed to sit up a few moments later, however.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

“I think so, yes,” Lily said. Her left knee was a bit sore, but it didn’t seem to be anything serious. “You?”

“Mostly,” James said, scooting up against the wall opposite her.

“I’m sorry,” Lily said.

“You know, you’re even more bloody confusing than I thought,” James said. “One minute we’re friends, next you don’t speak to me for months, and then you’re apologizing to me. You’re an absolute headcase, you know that?”

Lily could not help shooting him a seething look, but James only grinned. “Well, lucky it was me who found you first,” James continued. “I’ve embarrassed myself in front of you so many times that this hardly counts.”

“True,” Lily said. She wondered why Ursula hadn’t been with him, but decided not to ask.

“Since I’m already injured, I can ask this without fear of further bodily harm: are we back to being maybe-friends?” James asked.

Lily looked at him thoughtfully and sighed. The long silence that had fallen between them in the past months seemed to have made conversation with him much easier.

“Depends,” she said.

“On?”

“On whether you’ve gained some tact in the past few months!” Lily said, but not nearly as angrily as she would have two months ago. James grimaced.

“I can try, but I tend to say really stupid things around you,” James said.

Maybe it was a little bit too easy to talk to each other. Lily was determinedly avoiding eye contact with James when someone else pushed aside the tapestry.

Lily could hardly believe what she was seeing: Snape was standing on the threshold. He registered the sight of the two of them sitting there and his face twisted unhappily.

“Going somewhere, Snivellus?” James asked, getting to his feet quickly.

“What are you doing?” Snape asked, looking at Lily.

“I’m talking to my friend,” Lily said defensively, also standing up. “What does it look like?”

Lily knew that this was probably the wrong question to ask, as she was sure that it would have looked like much more than just a friendly conversation to anyone who had walked in on her and James. And had it been?

“This idiot is your friend now?” he asked, looking furious.

“You know, I don’t think I like your tone, Snivellus,” James said silkily. “And—would you look at that!—it’s after hours. I think a good twenty points from Slytherin will teach you a les—”

Sectumsempra!”

Protego!”

James had managed to deflect most of Snape’s curse, but Lily saw a large gash appear in his left arm. He swore under his breath and raised his wand again, and to Lily’s shock, Snape reached out and grabbed her arm, dragging her out into the hallway beyond the tapestry.

“What are you doing?” she shrieked.

“I need to talk to you,” Snape hissed. James emerged from behind the tapestry a second later.

“Let her go, Snape!”

“Leave us alone, Potter,” Snape said.

“If you don’t let her go—”

“What? You’ll curse me?” Snape said, laughing wildly. “I’d like to see you try and make me suffer more than she has!”

Expelliarmus!” James yelled, and Snape’s wand flew out of his unprepared hand. James pushed Lily aside, she heard a muffled shout of pain, and when she turned around, Snape was sprawled on the ground, clutching the side of his face. He seemed to have been shocked out of his momentary lunacy.

“If I ever hear that you’ve come within twenty feet of her again, Snape,” James threatened, “you’ll come to a new understanding of the word suffering.”

Snape said nothing, and only looked up at Lily. She stared down at him and felt only the smallest pang of pity.

“Stay away from me,” she said.

She did not look at him as he stood up from the ground and picked up his wand. His footsteps got further and further away until they disappeared entirely, and only then did she allow her gaze to move.

“What did you do to him?” she asked James quietly. “I didn’t see.”

“Oh,” James said, looking surprised, “I...er...well, I hit him.”

Lily decided this was probably a fair course of action, except for the fact that it made him seem so endearing when she really should have been irritated with him still. He still hadn’t even apologized!

Her eyes fell on James’ cut again, and she sighed. He hadn’t apologized, but he had gotten cursed for her.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

“Oh, yeah, it’s not the first time he’s gotten me with it,” James said casually, inspecting his arm. “Are you okay?”

“Of course,” Lily said, but James raised his eyebrows at her.

“He do this often?” James grunted. Lily shook her head, and James spent an extended period of time pocketing his wand. He looked up at her. “He’s a git.”

Lily could not believe they were back to this again. Couldn’t James just let this subject lie? Why did he always feel the need to chastise her for being friends with Snape? She was about to voice her disagreement when a small voice in her head said, Be nice.

Be nice? Why should she?

Well, she did miss being friends with him. Besides, it was true, Snape was a git. In fact, Lily probably would have said this herself, so there was no reason to disagree with James about it. She could swallow her pride, just this once.

“Yes,” she said.

The three-letter word hung heavily in the air. Lily could see James relax slightly. Desperate to break the silence, she gestured to the gash Snape had left in his arm.

“That looks pretty bad,” she said. James lifted his arm and inspected it.

“Could have been worse. The Shield Charm blocked most of it,” he said. He placed his wand right on the cut and Lily winced, thinking that it must hurt to poke a wound like that, but James muttered something and it started healing.

“Are you sure you don’t need to go to the Hospital Wing?” Lily asked, more to avoid silence than anything else.

“Oh, yeah, I’ll be fine,” James said, pocketing his wand. “You never answered my question, though.”

“What question?”

“Are we friends again?”

Trust James to become a human Remembrall, Lily thought.

“Erm...I guess so,” she said. She didn’t want to seem too eager.

“Because last time we were friends, I think we both went into it thinking that we’d apologized to each other,” James continued, obviously foregoing dancing around the subject any longer. Lily nodded, but did not say anything. “And there was a lot of negative stuff still there.”

“Well, I think it’s all out in the open now,” Lily said. James exhaled heavily and put his hand to his hair distractedly. Lily had to stifle the urge to grab his arm and pull it away from his head.

“I think we should hug,” he said. Lily laughed out loud; this was definitely the last thing she would have expected him to say.

“I don’t think that’s necessary.”

“Come on. We have to get rid of the negative stuff. What better way to do it?”

“Please. There’s no negative stuff,” Lily said. There was something that made her feel very uncomfortable about the idea of getting that close to James.

“Didn’t your mum ever tell you when you were a kid that hugging makes everything better?”

“Well, yes,” Lily said, “but that’s...that’s for when you’re arguing with your sibling and you end up punching them in the eye, and then when you hug, you’re still mad anyway.”

“So?”

Rational thought seemed to have left her completely. “James, you’re not my brother.”

“Thank Merlin for that, or else I’d have some serious mental trauma to deal with. And who punches their sibling in the eye, anyway?”

“What does this have to do with anything?” Lily asked, side-stepping the confession that she may have used some undue force when Petunia had ripped the head off her favourite doll. Hugging had not fixed that, and it would not fix this—and since when had James adopted some sort of cheesy “love will heal the world” philosophy, anyway?

“Are you afraid to hug me?” James asked, grinning.

“No.”

“I think you are.”

“I am not!”

“I promise that I bathe regularly."

“That has nothing to do with it!” Lily said, laughing again.

“So you’re scared of nothing, then?”

Lily knew he was trying to goad her. The worst part was that it was actually working.

“I’m not afraid, I just don’t want to,” she said.

“I never knew you were such a baby,” James said.

“All right, fine,” Lily said. “This is completely pointless, but I’m not going to let you walk around calling me a baby.”

It was possibly the most awkward thing Lily had ever experienced before. Hugging someone while trying to keep your body as far from them as humanly possible was no easy feat. She gave him a sort of half-hug that clashed horribly with the full one he was giving her, and it felt like James’ arms wrapping around her shoulders might suffocate her. His nose brushed against her head just past her hairline and shot panic through her entire body. She pulled away quickly and folded her arms across her chest.

“Right, well, I feel much better now,” she lied. The truth was, she felt like she’d just been hit with an Electrocution Hex.

“Me too,” James replied. He sounded like he actually meant it, which, Lily realized, he probably did. Especially since he’d been smelling her hair or kissing her head or something like that. She shuddered at the thought of it.

“We should do that more often,” James continued, apparently on the verge of laughter. “It really clears the air.”

“I’m going to bed,” Lily said. If she had anything to say about it, there wasn’t going to be any further hugging. Ever.



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