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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 18: The Right Moment



Chapter Eighteen
The Right Moment




If there was ever a moment to say the exact right thing, this was it. Typically, the only sentences that were coming to James’ mind were very vulgar insults about the Slytherins. So he settled for carefully folding up the Invisibility Cloak, something he had never bothered with before.

The silence continued for long enough to become painful, and James could only continue to fold the Cloak if he wanted to try his hand at origami. Lily looked slightly sick, and James couldn’t hold his insults back any longer.

“Those slimy bastards,” he said. Saying it made him feel even more livid than he already did. It had taken every bit of restraint he had to not walk into that room and confront them—even he knew it wouldn’t be smart to go up against an entire gang on his own.

“James,” Lily said to him, her tone one of light remonstrance.

“They are! In fact, why don’t I go back and give them a good round hexing?”

Lily grabbed on to his wrist. “James, please. Let’s—shall we sit down?”

They were near the foot of the main staircase, and they sat down on the bottom step, close enough so that their shoulders were brushing against each other. James didn’t mind the contact at all, although he was surprised that Lily hadn’t moved away. He almost put his arm around her shoulder to comfort her, but thought it might be pushing his luck. Instead, he thought he might as well try an approach that included less swearing and talk about Death Eaters.

“I—I’m really sorry that you had to hear that. We shouldn’t have followed them,” he said quietly. Lily shook her head slightly.

“Don’t apologize,” she said. “I was the one who suggested it.”

“Well...” James began, but he could find no argument. He was having a difficult time finding any words at all. He sighed and rubbed his right eye behind his glasses. “You can’t listen to them, Lily.”

“It’s a bit hard not to,” she said, laughing mirthlessly.

“They’re scum, Lily. It’s that simple.”

“It is that simple, isn’t it? Everyone just calls each other scum and then we all feel like we’re on the right side.”

James knew she was not trying to insult him, but he was even more lost for words now.

“It’s not—I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to...equate you with them, or anything,” she mumbled. “That’s not what I was trying to say.”

“I know,” James said. He still couldn’t really think of a way to address her statement, so he opted for changing the subject. “At least we found out what we wanted to know, right?” Lily shook her head and sighed.

“I guess that’s why they say to be careful what you wish for,” she said. “You know, if there are people like that in Hogwarts—people like that who are our age—”

She didn’t finish her sentence, but James understood what she was trying to say. “Lily, they’re just trying to one-up each other. Half of the stuff they’re saying is pure bravado. Believe me. I do it with Sirius all the time. Although it’s usually to do with detentions or girls and not the Dark Arts...”

Nice one, you prat, James told himself.

“Well, I hope you’re right,” Lily said, her voice brisker than before.

For the first time, James realized that Lily was Muggle-born. Of course he had always known it as a fact, but he had never really thought about what it meant. Lily was a potential victim, even though her preternatural strength often overshadowed that reality. She was someone that they wanted to go after. And the horrible thought of Lily no longer existing, of her no longer being a part of the same world as him, entered his mind. He tried to push it away, as if not thinking it would stop it from ever happening. But it was such an awful thing that it still affected him: his fists clenched tightly, and he was seized by a sudden urge to hold Lily next to him until the danger was gone.

“It won’t be like that,” he told her. “This whole mess will be sorted out before you know it. The Ministry’ll catch up with Voldemort before long, and he’ll be shut up in Azkaban. Everything will go back to normal, and you won’t have to worry about anything happening to—to you.”

“I’m not worried about myself,” Lily said.

James found this hard to believe, and he didn’t want her to think that she couldn’t be honest around him. As much as he wanted a different sort of relationship with her, he also wanted to be her friend. He would be her friend.

“I know this might sound tactless,” he said, “but how could you not be? I’m afraid of Voldemort and I’m not even...”

Lily smiled at him in understanding. “I suppose I should be. And of course I am, sometimes. I just hate thinking about other people suffering. After all, I’m just one person...and I think of kids losing their parents, and that sort of thing, and I just can’t stand it.”

“Don’t say that,” James replied. Her bravery was making him feel sick; whether out of worry or admiration, he couldn’t say.

“Don’t say what?”

“That you’re just one person—like no one cares about what happens to you.”

He couldn’t bring himself to say anything more, but he looked straight into her eyes and hoped that she would understand. The green was always slightly disorienting, but she was looking at him like she never had before. She almost looked like she was waiting for something, and James had a fleeting image of leaning in and kissing her...but then he remembered what they were talking about, and what had just happened, and it didn’t seem right. He knew it sounded pathetic, but after waiting so long, he wanted the moment to be right—and this moment was not the right one.

He pulled his gaze away and cleared his throat. Lily exhaled heavily from beside him.

“You said the name,” she remarked.

“Did I?” he asked, shrugging. “It comes and goes. I’ve usually got enough brains not to say it in big crowds. It gets people a little anxious.” Lily laughed and nodded. “But I think I say it often enough at home, and around Sirius, Remus, and Pete.”

“And me,” Lily added. James grinned at her, glad that her mood seemed to be brightening.

“And you.”

Lily sighed again. She pulled all her hair over one shoulder and let her hands fall back into her lap, looking thoughtful.

“Do you really believe everything will work out?” she asked.

“One day,” James said, squeezing Lily’s hand reassuringly. “Even if I have to round up every Death Eater by myself.”

Lily broke into another smile. “You’re not going to leave any for me?”

“Well, I suppose I could,” James said, in mock-reluctance, “but you’ll have to take the toughest ones.”

Lily laughed. “Fine by me.”

The tension broken, James was reminded that he was still holding her hand. He quickly took it away, before she could ask him to or glare at him.

“What do you say we go tell Dumbledore about what we heard?” he asked her, feeling that their heartfelt discussion had come to a close.

“Isn’t it too late?” Lily asked. James had accidentally left his watch in his dormitory when he had changed after Quidditch, but he was fairly certain that it couldn’t be any later than nine o’clock. He had finished practice just before eight, and his and Lily’s trek around the dungeons could hardly have taken more than an hour.

“Nah,” James said, standing up. “He’s always up late, pacing around in his office.”

“Is he?” Lily asked. “And how do you know that?”

“I’ve been to visit him a few times before,” James replied. While this was technically true, he actually knew more about Dumbledore’s habits from the Marauders’ Map than any incident of misbehaviour.

“He must be missing you this year,” Lily teased as they started up the stairs.

“Very funny...”

James was feeling a bit of an adrenaline rush with the prospect of finally taking the Slytherins down. Mulciber and his lackeys had gotten lucky in past years, but now they had been overheard discussing their intentions to poison other students. James was sincerely looking forward to seeing them expelled.

When they finally arrived at Dumbledore’s office, James really did hope that the Headmaster was still awake, not least because Lily would probably be mortified and blame it on him if they were to wake Dumbledore up. He needn’t have worried, however: the oak door opened promptly after they had knocked, and Dumbledore invited them into his office as casually as if he had requested the meeting himself.

“I was wondering when you might come to visit me,” he said as they all took seats. All of the trinkets in his office seemed to make the room glow when lit by candlelight, and contrasted sharply with the inky night sky. “Usually the Head Boy and Girl can’t go a week without having me settle some disagreement or another. You two seem to be much more diplomatic.”

There was something like a smirk on his lined face.

“So, what is it you would like to discuss?”

James looked over at Lily, who leaned forward slightly as she began to speak.

“The poisonings, Professor,” she said. “We think—we know who was behind them.”

Dumbledore clasped his hands together just in front of his chin.

“Do you?”

“Yes,” James interjected. “It was the Slytherins.”

“Every member of Slytherin house? Good heavens.”

“A certain group of them,” Lily corrected.

“Do you have names?” Dumbledore asked.

“Snape,” James said, jumping in before Lily could list them off and conveniently leave him out.

“Not just him,” Lily said. “Mulciber, Avery, and Wilkes, and Regulus Black and Barty Crouch, as well.”

Dumbledore seemed to be absorbing this information; the room was silent for several moments.

“How do you know they are the ones behind this?” he asked.

“We—we heard them,” Lily said, “talking in between classes.”

“And do you have any sort of proof, beyond what you have heard?”

James felt indignation rising in his chest. It almost sounded like Dumbledore was defending them.

“They said they’d done it,” James stated.

“The school governors have already questioned those students, and have declared them innocent. To convince them otherwise will take compelling evidence,” Dumbledore explained.

“So we’ll tell them what we heard,” James said.

“Unfortunately, I think they are unlikely to take the word of two teenagers as fact, even if they are the words of the Head Boy and Girl.”

“Oh, well, that’s brilliant,” James said. “They dragged us out of class and interrogate us, but they don’t really want to take our word on anything.”

Lily shot him a glare. “Professor, do you think that if we told them what we had heard, the governors might question them again?”

“Perhaps,” Dumbledore said, but it was with such a tone of doubt that he might as well have just said “No”.

“Well, you’re the headmaster,” James pointed out. “Can’t you call them up here and deal with them yourself?”

“Yes,” Dumbledore said calmly, “and rest assured that I will.”

Silence fell again. James could hardly believe that Dumbledore was reacting this way. He had always found his tolerance of the Dark Arts subculture at Hogwarts to be irresponsible and short-sighted, but there really hadn’t been proof in the past. While everyone had known that the Slytherins were behind those suspicious incidents, it had been impossible to link them back to it. Now here Dumbledore was, being handed the chance to stamp out the problems, and he seemed like he hardly cared at all.

“Please try to understand the position I am in,” Dumbledore said, looking at James in particular. “And know that I truly appreciate your efforts and your honesty.”

Apparently their meeting was over, and James was not unhappy to be leaving. He stood up from his chair and was already halfway to the door when he heard Lily thanking Dumbledore quietly.

“James,” Dumbledore said, just as James had put his hand on the doorknob. He turned around. “You will let me deal with Mr Mulciber and his friends.”

When they had reached the bottom of the spiral staircase, Lily was still glaring at him.

“That went well,” she said.

“Can you believe him?” James asked.

“About as much as I can believe you and your uncontrolled outbursts,” Lily replied.

“You think he’s right, then?”

James stopped and faced Lily in the middle of the corridor, ignoring the obnoxious squeaking noises coming from a suit-of-armour a few yards away.

“I think...that you should try to understand the position he’s in,” Lily suggested. James rolled his eyes.

Without thinking, he replied, “Right. And besides, if he did punish them properly, your old pal would probably get expelled. Wouldn’t want that.”

Lily’s eyes hardened and James almost flinched from the look she was giving him. It had probably not been the smartest thing to say, now that he thought it through.

“If you actually thought about what we’d heard in the dungeons, you might have realized that Snape probably wouldn’t get a potion wrong by accident,” she said. “If he’d wanted to poison those people—”

“And here you go again, defending him,” James interrupted. Lily shook her head in disbelief.

“Well, you’re obviously in an awful mood, so I’m going to go,” she said, starting to walk away. James exhaled in frustration and walked after her.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t have said that.”

Lily slowed her pace and James fell into step beside her again. She still looked a little angry, but his apology seemed to have worked.

“What I meant before was that Dumbledore can’t just walk around expelling whomever he likes. You heard them talking in the dungeons, asking Barty Crouch to use his dad’s influence to get them out of trouble,” she said.

“But if we can prove they did it—”

“But we can’t, James, that’s just it! All we have is a conversation that we eavesdropped on underneath an Invisibility Cloak! How would we even explain that to someone?”

James knew she was making sense, and it was infuriating. Even more infuriating was her constant graciousness to people who didn’t deserve it. He had wanted to see the Slytherins get what they deserved, but instead they were going to go on without punishment yet again.

“I understand why you’re upset,” Lily said. “I am too. But we tried.”

They walked for a little while without speaking. James felt his anger ebbing away for the moment, although he knew it would only return when he relayed the story to his friends. He made a mental note to leave any mention of Regulus out of it. Sirius could be a little strange when it came to his brother.

They had nearly reached Gryffindor Tower.

“I really shouldn’t have said that thing before, Lily,” James reiterated.

“It’s all right,” she said. “You were angry. I know you didn’t mean it.”

James decided not to tell her that, actually, he had meant it a little bit. Discussing Snape with Lily always seemed to lead to an argument, and he really preferred getting along with her.

He was about to say the password to the Fat Lady when Lily reached out and put a hand on his arm.

“James?”

She had a very strange look on her face—slightly embarrassed and reluctant, somewhat like the one she had worn when they had spoken after the Quidditch match. James was becoming more and more convinced that she had something important to tell him, and given the events of the night, he thought it might have to do with Snape. Perhaps he was still bothering Lily from time to time, and she wanted James to put him off of it.

“Yes?” he replied, but it was like she had been hit with a Silencing Charm. Other possibilities came into James’ mind—perhaps she had more information about the Slytherins? Had they done something else that she knew about?

“Are you going to stand out here with your mouths hanging open for the entire night?” the Fat Lady asked.

Bowtruckle,” James said, and they climbed through the portrait hole. “Sorry, what were you going to say?”

“Oh,” Lily said, waving her hand through the air, “I completely forgot what it was.”



..........




After the thrilling evening they had spent spying on Slytherins, there was no trace of doubt in Lily’s mind: she really did fancy James, and quite a lot, as well. Of course, it was just typical that as soon as she started to like him, he would become completely unreadable. There had been more than one opportunity the other night that she had been sure James would have seized upon, yet he had deliberately avoided all of them. She had almost told him when they returned to Gryffindor Tower, but uncertainty had held her back.

Frankly, Lily had no idea what she was supposed to do, or what she wanted to do, so she decided to start spending a little less time around James and more with Mary and Anna, just to clear her head. Surely if she took some time to think, it would all sort itself out.

Exams were still far enough away that the three girls spent less time talking about and doing homework than they did less mundane things. They spent an entire Wednesday evening, for example, giggling over a copy of Witch Weekly that Lily had confiscated from some younger boys because they had been adding some inappropriate commentary in the margins.

There was a quiz in the back about which career matched you best, and even as she realized that it was pointless, Lily had a fleeting hope that it might give her the answers to all her problems. (The nice thing about these quizzes in witches’ magazines, as opposed to Muggle ones, is that there was a seemingly endless supply of results, depending on how you answered the questions.) Apparently she was most suited to become a trainer of magical creatures, which was completely ludicrous. She had never taken Care of Magical Creatures and barely knew what anyone was talking about when they referred to Krups or Nifflers. Anna was pegged as best fit to become a nurse, which was the funniest thing Lily had heard in a long time, closely followed by Mary taking the quiz and her results turning up the career of Auror.

“Oh, really—that’s not nearly as laughable as Anna’s,” Mary said in response to her friends’ jibes. Anna snorted again.

“I’m sorry, Mary, but I can picture myself as a patient, doting nurse before I can picture you as an Auror,” she said.

“Well, I don’t think it’s that ridiculous,” Mary replied. Lily realized before Anna did that Mary was looking a little put off.

“Mary, you dropped Potions because you couldn’t stand to be in the same room as the Slytherins,” said Anna, still oblivious.

“That was two years ago,” Mary said. Lily could see an impending collision, but she did not want to jump into the crossfire.

Anna raised her eyebrows. “Not much has changed since then.”

Lily had never seen Mary’s face become so sour before. “Let’s not get so worked up, shall we? It was only a silly quiz, after all,” Lily said.

“Right. And I’m just a silly little girl,” Mary snapped. Lily was a bit bewildered; Mary was never this argumentative. She heard Anna sigh.

“Oh, don’t get your robes in a twist,” Anna said dismissively. “Lily’s right.”

Mary got up from her bed and walked over to the door.

“Mary, don’t go,” Lily said. She sincerely felt bad about teasing her now. Mary turned back to face them with an air of deep disapproval.

“You know, I’m not nearly as big of a joke as you both think I am.” She left the room and Anna immediately rolled her eyes.

“Talk about over-sensitive,” she muttered.

Lily nodded and tried to look unbothered, mostly because she didn’t want to tack on another argument to the evening. Things were still not entirely comfortable between her and Anna, and she hardly wanted to take the chance of releasing all of that pent-up resentment. Anna could be more intimidating than Professor McGonagall when she wanted to.

Lily had not felt particularly close to Anna or Mary since they had returned from holidays. The slow growth apart was something Lily had expected, but seeing Mary so unlike herself made it more immediate. They were not just growing apart, Lily realized, but growing into very different people than they had been all these years.

It frightened her a little, as did the fact that Mary had not returned a half-hour later. Ever since she had overheard Mulciber talking about his plans, Lily had been very worried that he might actually act on them and go after Mary. She decided to go looking for her while Anna was busy writing a conclusion for her Charms essay, and she left the dormitory with her wand stowed in her pocket.

She needn’t have worried, for Mary was sitting in a chair in the common room, looking very sulky. Lily pulled over an empty chair and sat next to her.

“Took you long enough,” Mary said.

“Have you been waiting here this whole time for us to come after you?” Lily asked. Mary shrugged, which Lily took as a yes. “Mary, really, it’s a dumb quiz in Witch Weekly. It said that I should take care of magical creatures. I don’t even know the difference between a knarl and a regular cat. I used to think a porlock was an evil wizard without much money.”

Mary smiled weakly. “It’s not about the quiz,” she said. “That’s part of it, but...I just don’t understand what’s so ridiculous about the idea of me being an Auror. I’m not just this pathetic girl who moons around after boys all the time.”

“No—I know you’re not, Mary,” Lily said, although she had to admit that this year’s evidence certainly contradicted that statement. “I mean, if you just think about it in a logical way, it’s funny that the magazine would say that, since you’re not taking Potions. So technically it can’t be right, no matter what.”

It was a very lame excuse for having laughed at her, but Mary seemed a little distracted. Her eyebrows contracted slightly. “I suppose you’re right. I never thought about that.”

“We were just having fun,” Lily continued. Mary nodded, and their conversation stopped as the portrait hole opened and someone came flying into the common room on a broom. Lily looked up and saw that it was Sirius, followed by James, Peter, and Remus, who were all on foot. James was evidently returning from practice and had had his broom hijacked.

“Evening, everyone,” Sirius said, waving to those sitting around the common room. James had handed a Quaffle off to Peter, who Lily suspected had gotten a moment of lucky aim when he threw it and hit Sirius squarely in the back. Indignant, Sirius swooped down and nearly impaled Peter with the broomstick. The spectacle had distracted everyone in the room, as was their aim, of course. James walked across the common room, chatting with Remus, and he looked over at Lily to give her a devastating smile. She felt herself blush and involuntarily returned a sheepish grin of her own. The four of them disappeared up the spiral staircase, their voices audible until they slammed their dormitory door behind them.

Mary sighed. “Merlin, Lily, you’re so lucky.”

“What?”

“It’s not fair that you’ve got a bloke who just likes you, plain and simple,” Mary said. Lily laughed.

“Oh, Mary, there is nothing plain or simple about it,” she said. Mary turned her brown eyes on Lily with interest.

“What do you mean?”

It was strange to suddenly be thrust into talking about the very confusing state of affairs between herself and James, but she thought it might cheer Mary up to be in on the intrigue.

“I’m not sure if he likes me anymore,” Lily said. Mary gave her a puzzled look.

“What are you talking about? He’s obviously in love with you,” Mary said.

“Let’s not over-exaggerate,” Lily said. “And I’m not kidding, Mary. He hasn’t even tried to ask me out since...October.”

Mary’s jaw dropped open. “I assumed that you two were dating!”

“Where did you get that idea?” Lily asked.

“It just seems like you are,” Mary said. She paused. “You’re really not dating?”

“No,” Lily said firmly.

“But...” Mary’s mouth hung open in confusion. “It doesn’t make sense. If you both like each other...”

“I think we’re just happy with the way things are,” Lily said, although it wasn’t entirely the truth. She was happy being his friend, but there was a little bit of longing for more. “Comfortable is a better word for it, maybe.”

“Do you like him?”

Lily hesitated. “I don’t know.”

“Well, if you like him, then you should go out with him,” Mary said. “It’s not fair to him if you don’t.”

“I just—” Lily sighed. She was failing to see how some sense of justice and fairness had invaded the conversation. “I don’t even know how to ask a boy out.”

“Do you want me to ask him for you?” Mary said.

“No,” Lily said, shaking her head.

“Are you sure?”

“Positive.”

Mary deflated slightly, but she still looked much more cheerful than she had before.

“Well,” she began, “if you don’t want to ask him, then you’ll just have to drop hints so he knows that you fancy him. Then he’ll ask you out, you can say yes, and that’s that.”

“But I don’t know if I do want to go out with him,” Lily said, running her hands over her face.

“You do,” Mary said, “believe me. Now, as for dropping hints, you can always just try flirting with him loads. But if that doesn’t work, you can also...”

Lily lost track of what Mary was saying as she contemplated how much of what her friend was advising was based on Lily’s situation or her own with Remus. Considering how badly that had worked out, Lily was not entirely sure that Mary was a good person to get advice from. She also wondered whether Mary was the only person who had come up with this wild assumption that Lily and James were dating. Did they really act like they were? And how had it come to a point where Mary and Lily were so out-of-touch with one another that Mary had thought Lily was dating James and had not even bothered to ask her about it?

“Lily?”

“Oh—yeah, you’re right,” Lily said. “I’ll think about it. Just don’t tell anyone about this, okay?”

She got the impression that Mary knew she had not been listening very well, but luckily Anna came to join them at that particular moment. At least Mary was kind enough to not repeat Lily’s dilemma to Anna, whose input would have been decidedly more caustic.

They ended up having a perfectly pleasant conversation, dreaming up plans for their upcoming summer, and it was almost like everything was back to the way it should have been.




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