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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 22: Sitting in the Trees



Chapter Twenty-Two
Sitting in the Trees



It took James a couple days to figure out what he was going to do when it came to his first date with Lily. He was determined that it go as well as possible, and “well” in this case meant a little more than it simply being pleasant. He wanted it to be special, memorable, and the kind of date that would ensure many more to come. Never before had he felt so excited and anxious about going out with a girl. It was the same sort of feeling that he got when he was preparing for a particularly important Quidditch match.

After some thought, he hit on an idea that had the potential of being both special and memorable. He couldn’t be certain that Lily was going to find the place as interesting as he did, but it was at least worth a try, and it made him feel better that it was more imaginative than taking her somewhere for a meal or coffee.

He wrote to her, remaining cryptic about his plans but asking if she was available the following Thursday afternoon. Her reply, which said that, yes, she was available, and that she was looking forward to seeing him, was enough to put a spring in his step for the better part of a day. At this rate, actually going out with her was going to turn him into a slobbering troll—but a happy one, at least.

Peter, Sirius, and Remus all showed up at his house the day before his date, which James found very difficult to believe was a coincidence, despite their casual attitudes. He was glad to have them around, in any case, because it gave him a distraction from all of the nervous thoughts floating around in his head. They spent a couple hours sitting out on the lawn, as it was a mild day out, tossing a Quaffle around and talking about nothing in particular. Eventually, though, the conversation fell on the events of the next day.

“So, where are you taking her?” Sirius asked from where he was sprawled out in a white lawn chair.

James hesitated for just a fraction of a second. “You know that place in Somerset, where they have all those Snidgets?” As he had expected, he was met with bursts of laughter. “Oh, shut it. It’s the type of place a girl would like.”

“Prongs, just because you like it doesn’t mean other girls will too,” Sirius said, sniggering. James aimed a kick at his chair.

“Doesn’t Lily hate animals?” Remus asked. “I remember her saying she couldn’t wait to get out of Care of Magical Creatures when we were in fifth year.”

“She didn’t even really like the unicorns Professor Kettleburn showed us, and all the other girls were swooning over them,” Peter added.

This problem had occurred to James. “I know, but Snidgets are cute little birds. She can’t hate them.”

“Have you ever considered that you might think it’s a great place because it’s related to Quidditch, which Lily also isn’t that interested in?” Sirius asked.

“Well, it’s too late to change plans now,” James said, feeling a little irritated. He still thought it was a good idea, even if no one else did.

“I suppose it doesn’t matter so much where you are as it does what you’re doing there,” Sirius said suggestively. Peter and Remus laughed again. “Better hope there’s lots of private corners.”

James laughed along with his friends, but it really wasn’t much of a joke, in his mind—he had wanted to kiss Lily for a very long time, and he was certainly hoping that he might get his chance the next day.

He woke up after getting very little sleep and spent more time than usual deciding what he was going to wear. The hours seemed to pass by very slowly, so much so that he was in the sitting room watching for Lily to arrive (it had seemed easier for her to come here, since he had never been to her home) at least a half hour before she was supposed to. He caught a glimpse of his hair in the glass of the grandfather clock and spent a few minutes trying to make it look both tame but carelessly windswept. It didn’t work, unsurprisingly.

There was a knock on the door and James jumped up off the couch. When he opened the door, it was not Lily he found looking back at him as he had expected, but a portly man with wiry brown hair and a black leather bag.

“Good day,” the man said, “I’m Healer Spleen from St. Mungo’s Hospital.”

“Er...hello,” James said, shaking the man’s proffered hand. He waited for the man to explain why he had shown up on their doorstep, but it was as if he expected James to already know. The strange silence was broken by Mrs Potter, who had come to the front door.

“Hello, Helbert,” she said to the man. “I’m so sorry. This is my son, James, who seems to have forgotten his manners. Please come in.”

“No trouble at all,” the man said, as James and his mother moved aside to accommodate him in the front hall. “Edgar is upstairs, then?”

“Yes, he is,” James’ mother replied. “You go ahead, and I’ll join you in a few moments.”

“Good to meet you,” the Healer said to James, before heading up the stairs, leather bag in hand.

“Are you going somewhere, dear?” his mother asked. James was still trying to comprehend what had just happened. When he did speak, he ignored her question altogether.

“Why is there a Healer coming to see Dad?”

“He was feeling a tad under the weather,” his mother said lightly. “St. Mungo’s is so solicitous that they were willing to send someone, even though it’s really nothing of concern.”

“And you’re on first-name terms with the Healer they just happened to send over?” James asked, knowing he was being rude even before his mother’s eyebrows arched harshly.

“Everything is fine, dear,” she said. “Now, where is it that you’re going?”

James hated this. There was obviously something wrong—his father had seemed almost like usual at the beginning of the holidays, but after Easter Sunday he had started to get a “cold” again, as his mother said. He wondered how many times the Healer had been there already, knowing that he would never get the answer to that question. Well, if his parents were going to keep things from him, he certainly wasn’t going to waste his time worrying. Why should he, if everything was fine?

“I’m going to see Sirius,” he lied—he didn’t know why he did, except that it felt a little gratifying to have his own secret.

“And when will you be back?”

“Late, probably,” James said. His mother sighed.

“I do wish you wouldn’t make a habit of travelling from London after dark, James,” she said. “It really isn’t very safe.”

“Don’t worry, Mum, everything will be fine,” James said. “I should go, or I’ll be late.”

“Be careful, dear,” his mother said.

He stepped out the front door and started walking out to the gate, not exactly sure what he was going to do now, since he couldn’t leave until Lily arrived. He kicked a pebble out to the road and decided to just wait around the trees where he had told Lily to Apparate, ignoring the fact that it was going to make him look a bit more pathetic than his original plan of waiting for her inside his house. As he sat against a tree, he tried to push away the terrible sinking feeling he got every time he thought about a Healer coming to his house, and what it might mean. He had other things to focus on right now, like making sure he wasn’t grumpy or despondent by the time Lily showed up. There was nothing he could do about his parents; it was useless getting worked up.

He spent about ten minutes thinking about Quidditch plays and when he needed to start studying for his N.E.W.T.s before he heard a crack behind him. Lily looked surprised to see him there, but not at all displeased.

“Hi,” she said, smiling widely. “What are you doing here?”

“I thought I’d come wait for you,” he said. “It was the least I could do, seeing as I didn’t come to pick you up from your house.”

“Well, that’s very nice of you,” Lily said. She looked so pretty, and James felt his mood lifting now that she was there. “So, you have to tell me where we’re going now. You were very secretive in your letters.”

“I wanted it to be a surprise,” James said. “You’ll see when we get there.” He held out his arm, which she looked at a little reluctantly.

“You promise you’re not going to take me anywhere awful?” she asked.

“Does that include Madam Puddifoot’s?” he asked, grinning. “I’m only kidding. I promise.”

Lily seemed to accept his assurances and linked her arm through his. After taking a moment to enjoy the feeling of standing with her like that, he turned, set his mind on the place he needed to go, and felt the crushing pressure of Apparating. Perhaps he was used to brooms, but he had never understood what exactly all the fuss about Apparition was. He thought it was terrible, and he had never been very good at it either—in fact, it he’d had to practice Apparating to Somerset a couple times until he was sure that he would make it to the right place when Lily was with him. He was very relieved when he opened his eyes and saw the caretaker’s cottage standing at the edge of the trees, with the gilded signpost that read “The Modesty Rabnott Golden Snidget Reservation” in dignified-looking letters.

He looked at Lily, who was surveying the surroundings with an expression of confusion on her face. Just as he was about to explain, her eyes fell on the sign.

“Snidgets...those are the birds they used in Quidditch, right?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he said. He had not expected her to know something so specific about Quidditch, and was impressed.

“So we’re here to see birds,” she said, still sounding like she didn’t quite understand what was going on.

“Well—yes, but you have to see it to understand,” James said. “It’s not just birds.”

“You’ve been here before?”

James nodded. “My parents took me when I was a kid.”

“Well, let’s go see it,” Lily said. James could tell that her smile was a little artificial, and that she wasn’t exactly thrilled, but he was sure that would change.

They walked up to the cottage. Lily unwound her arm from his and let it fall at her side; when it brushed against his, he thought he might as well take the opportunity and hold her hand. He liked being in contact with her, and though she acted very casual, he could see a small smile on her lips and felt her squeeze his hand just a little. He found himself knocking on the cottage door very confidently.

He paid the caretaker the five Sickles each for admission, rebuffing Lily’s offer to pay for herself, and they received a couple glossy blue brochures in return with information about Snidgets and the reserve. Lily was still looking a little apprehensive as they followed the caretaker’s instructions to head back into the trees until they saw the ones with little carvings of Snidgets on them, which marked the border of the protected area. It was a little difficult walking through trees while holding hands with someone, but neither of them seemed to want to let go.

“Oh, there’s one of the trees,” Lily said, pointing to one a few feet away with a stout little bird carved into its bark. “I don’t see anything, though...”

“You have to go in a little further,” James said, leading her along.

“How did your birthday turn out, by the way?” she asked. “Did you get to try Sirius’ motorcycle?”

James grinned to himself, debating whether she would find that story funny or appalling. He did like telling her things, though, and he had learned that Lily usually had a good sense of humour.

“What was it that you called those Muggles who drive around and arrest people in those cars with flashing lights?” he asked.

“Policemen,” she replied. “Please don’t tell me you got arrested.”

“No,” James said, looking back at her and grinning. “Close to it, though.”

“Why?”

“Well, we may have been going a bit fast,” James said, and Lily laughed. “That was only because these Quidditch fans who wanted to rough us up were chasing us on broomsticks, though.”

“All right, start from the beginning,” Lily said, and her tone reassured James that she was not about to start scolding him. She laughed through most of the story as he told her it. “The three of you are mad,” she said when he had finished. “I’m glad you took my request to keep yourself from getting killed to heart.”

“I made it to today in one piece, didn’t it?” James said. He could see the clearing up ahead.

“I think I saw a couple little golden things in the trees back there, you know,” Lily said. He was a little heartened by the fact that she sounded somewhat enthusiastic now.

“Don’t worry, we’ll see lots of them just up there,” James told her. As he said it, he privately hoped that the Snidgets had not all decided to migrate somewhere else in the forest—after all, the brochure said that the reserve spanned over several acres, and he was basing his knowledge on a trip made about ten years previous. He was going to look a bit stupid if the clearing turned out to be completely empty. Maybe he should make some sort of disclaimer before they got there, just in case.

He turned his head to do just that and a gold flash almost collided with his ear. He looked up and saw one of the round birds darting around them.

Lily giggled. “It really does look a lot like a Snitch, you know.”

“It does,” James said, nodding. The bird darted off towards the clearing.

“Apart from the beak, of course,” Lily added, “but that might be a bit dangerous in a game, anyway.”

“Definitely,” James said. “Come on, let’s go sit down.”

The clearing was as busy as James remembered. They sat at the edge of the trees and saw dozens of birds darting from branch to branch, sometimes flying down to get a closer look at the strange intruders on the ground. A few times they tried to reach out and touch one, but the birds were much too fast, even for James, who had spent months practicing with a Snitch in his free time. He thought he probably could have caught one, but they seemed so small and fragile that he thought he might crush it with the lightest touch.

“How did people manage to catch these?” Lily asked, as another one flew at least ten feet away in a half-second.

“No idea,” James said. “Not very carefully, I suppose, since most of them died.”

“That’s terrible,” Lily said. “They’re such harmless little things. And they’re beautiful, too.”

James had to agree with her there—looking up at the trees was like watching a group of gold orbs in some erratic dance with one another, and when one of the birds got close enough, their lustrous feathers and ruby-like eyes become more apparent. James, however, found himself staring at Lily more than anything else around him.

“Well, thank goodness for Bowman Wright,” she said, looking at him happily.

“How is it that you know all this Quidditch stuff?” James asked.

“I paid attention in History of Magic once in a while, for one thing,” she said, smiling wryly. “But I did read Quidditch Through The Ages, too.”

“You did?”

“In second or third year,” she said, nodding.

“Oh, I see,” James said, smirking. “When I made the Quidditch team, you must have wanted to find out everything you could about the sport.”

Lily laughed and rolled her eyes. “Actually, I think it was because you never stopped talking about it, and I needed some good comebacks for when you were being really annoying.”

“Did you think of any?”

“Well,” Lily said, pausing for a moment, “they seemed good at the time, but most of them were stupid, really. I think the one about your head being too big for a broomstick to hold it up was the only one I ever used.”

“Oh, do you mean the one about my ‘fat head’?” James asked, and Lily looked at him with a guilty grin.

“I said that? I don’t know what came over me,” she said.

“Well, I deserved it anyway,” James replied. There was a momentary pause filled with chirping, and he picked at some blades of grass on the ground. “Thanks for going out with me.”

“You don’t have to thank me.”

“No, I think I do,” James said. It was strange, how all of a sudden he had started to feel bad again about the way he had acted in the past. “Considering what and idiot I was.”

“Oh, stop,” Lily said, waving her hand impatiently. “I’ve wanted to go out with you for months, so I should really be the one thanking you for asking me.”

James was stunned into silence for a moment. “Did—did you just say that you’ve liked me for months?” She nodded, looking up at the trees again. “It never occurred to you to mention it to me?”

“I thought about it, sometimes,” she said, blushing. “I got too nervous every time I tried.”

He nodded, taking in the fact that he could have been going out with her for months if he hadn’t tried to be so patient. What an idiotic idea that had turned out to be.

“Well, we’re here now,” he said, more to himself than her. “None of that really matters.”

She smiled at him. “You’re right.”

There was one question that he wanted answered, though. “What was it that made you start liking me?”

She was quiet for a moment in contemplation. “It wasn’t any one thing, really. It just happened. There were always likable things about you, and I suppose I just found out more of them this year.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know,” she said, with a small smile on her face. “I just like being around you.”

They sat there for a little longer, sometimes talking, sometimes falling into a comfortable silence. At one point Lily moved closer to him and put her head on his shoulder, and he put his arm around her like it was second nature. He had always expected that this sort of thing would be nerve-wracking with Lily, since he had liked her for so long, but it was actually quite easy. It felt very nice to sit there, feeling her warmth next to him, breathing in the scent of her hair, which was something like flowers and cinnamon. Sometimes when she was speaking, she would tilt her head a little and he would be able to feel the soft, cool skin of her forehead against his jawbone.

When the sun had started to set, James reluctantly suggested that they head home while they could still see their way out of the trees. They weaved their way out, holding hands again (somehow it just didn’t feel right to not hold hands now, he found), and when they reached the cottage, he insisted on seeing her home. He wanted to be a gentleman, of course, but he also liked the idea of staying with her for a little longer, even if it meant that he had to rely on his poor Apparating skills to get himself home.



..........




The sunlight was almost completely gone when Lily and James landed in some trees in the park at the end of her street. It was a good place to Apparate to, since many of the neighbourhood children had abandoned it for nicer and newer playgrounds. Lily was just glad that she had made it to the right place, since being around James had made her feel a little weak-kneed. It probably wouldn’t have been the best end to their date to have Splinched him in half.

“What are we doing here?” James asked her.

“My house is right at the end of the street,” Lily said, “and this is a much less conspicuous place to Apparate to.”

“Right,” James replied. She was, of course, attached to the park simply because she had played there as a child, and she felt compelled to explain that.

“I used to come here when I was younger,” she said. “My sister and I would spend hours here together. I could do this thing—she never could—I’d jump off the swings and I could make myself fly. Well, it wasn’t flying, really, more like levitating, I suppose. I never knew that it was magic, of course, but Petunia would be furious because she could never jump as far as I could.”

Somehow, it didn’t make sense, the way she was explaining it. Then again, the whole Snidget thing hadn’t really made that much sense to her, beyond the fact that she knew it meant something to him. It had turned out to be very nice, though, even though it had seemed like something was preoccupying him at different points. It had certainly been much better than the few dates she had been on in the past, which had been uninspired meetings in Hogsmeade—although she thought that probably had something to do with who she was with, as well.

“Can you still do it?” James asked, with a note of mischief in his voice. “Jump really far, I mean.”

“I have no idea,” Lily said, shrugging. “I haven’t tried it in years.”

“Well,” James said, “no time like the present.” She laughed and gave him a look of disbelief.

“Are you joking?”

“Not at all,” James sad, walking over to the swing set. “I want to see this for myself.”

“Don’t you think I’m a bit old for this?” Lily asked.

“For what?” James asked. “Tell you what, I’ll do it first. Then you can see if you can jump further than me.”

Lily folded her arms across her chest. She really wanted to just ignore him, but it had never been easy to do that when he challenged her, ever since they were first years.

“Oh, come on,” James said. “The only person who’s going to see you is me, if you’re worried about that.”

“Fine, I’ll do it,” Lily said. “You first.”

She laughed as James sat down and tried to gain some altitude and speed on a swing that was much too close to the ground for his long legs. He managed it, but not without some difficulty.

“You won’t be laughing when I set a new world record,” James said as he flew back-and-forth. A few seconds later he made his jump, landing very spryly and solidly.

“Your turn,” James called over to her. Lily sighed and sat down, wrapping her hands around the cold metal of the chains. Her legs were also too long, but shorter than James’, making it easier to swing. She felt very silly, but James kept mocking her and soon she was laughing enough that she was no longer self-conscious. He seemed to have an uncanny ability to make everything fun, and never failed to get her smiling.

“Are you going to jump sometime this year, then?” he called.

“I just want to make sure,” Lily said, taking one last strong swing.

“Of what?”

She threw all of her momentum off the swing, and it seemed that her years of practice had not disappeared.  She surpassed him by nearly a foot, and even managed to land without falling.

“I wanted to make sure that I beat you,” she teased, turning around to face him.

“I was at a clear disadvantage because I’m taller, you know,” he said.

“Only by about four inches,” Lily said in mock outrage. “I beat you fair and square.”

“You did,” James said, smiling at her. “But you know, four inches is quite a lot.”

She giggled, feeling her face get very warm because James had stepped much closer to her, so there was hardly any room between them.

“It means that if I try to kiss you, I just end up here,” he said, pressing his lips against her forehead. She felt the scratch of stubble from his chin. Lily closed her eyes and noticed how loud her heart was beating.

“Well...that’s a real problem,” she said, her voice sounding squeaky. “How are you ever supposed to kiss me properly?”

“I think we can find a way,” he said.

And he did.

It was not her first kiss, but she could say from the moment it began that it was the best. It was fairly chaste, as far as kisses went, but still buzzing with excitement. She could sense that he was holding himself back with some effort, a realization which both thrilled and intimidated her. His arms were tense, like he wanted to pull her against him much more firmly but knew he could not, or should not. She was experiencing the same feeling; some voice in the back of her mind was telling her that it might not make the right impression on their first date.

As soon as they broke apart, though, she realized that she would much rather kiss him for longer, and that the voice telling her not to was probably being just a tad prudish. It wasn’t as if she was living in her mother’s generation, after all. So she pulled him back and kissed him with a little more abandon, and it was a minute or two before either of them brought it to an end. She smiled up at him nervously while her brain tried to catch up.

“I have to go home,” she said finally, without much conviction. James was staring at her with an unfocused look in his eyes. “James?”

“Sorry,” he said, shaking his head. “What did you say?”

“I should go,” she said. “I had a really nice time.”

“I knew you would,” James said. Lily laughed.

“Once a bighead, always a bighead,” she said affectionately, and James smiled and kissed her quickly.

“I’ll walk to you to your door,” he said.

Her face started to hurt from smiling as she walked down the street with James’ arm around her shoulders. They lingered outside her door, repeating their goodbyes, reluctant to end their time together.

She was about to open the door when James said, “Lily? Would you mind if—if I called you my girlfriend?”

She had not thought it was possible for anything else to make her happier than she already was, but he had proven her wrong.

“Well,” she said, “I would prefer it if you’d keep calling me ‘Lily’, of course. ‘My girlfriend’ seems a little impersonal.”

James laughed. “I see what you mean. What about ‘Lily, my girlfriend’?”

“I think I could live with that,” she said. “Only if I can call you ‘James, my boyfriend’, of course.”

He brushed her cheek with his thumb and kissed her very lightly.

“That sounds right to me,” he said.

She could hear the noise of the TV from the living room when she stepped inside, but went straight upstairs. She knew that if she even said hello to her parents, her mother would not be able to resist asking her questions about her date, since she had been thrilled when Lily had told her about it. She had even asked Lily to introduce James to them—her father had as well, although she thought it might be for slightly different reasons—a request which Lily had refused, as it was only their first date and didn’t need the added pressure. Her mother could interrogate her later, preferably when she was able to think a little straighter. She had almost reached her bedroom door when the landing was flooded with light and Petunia’s shadow.

“Hi,” Lily said, glancing at her sister, who stood there staring at her with narrowed eyes.

“Who was that boy?” Petunia said, before Lily could escape.

“I knew you’d be spying,” Lily muttered. She had not mentioned her date to Petunia—she rarely mentioned anything to her, really. “It’s really rude to do that, you know.”

Petunia’s face turned sour. “Sue me for asking a simple question.” She started to close her door. Lily sighed—she hated that her sister still had the power to make her feel guilty at times.

“He’s someone from school,” she explained, and Petunia’s door stopped closing.

“Oh,” Petunia said with asperity. “Is he your boyfriend?”

“Erm—yes, actually, he is,” Lily said. She didn’t know if she would ever get used to saying that.

“That’s not the same boy from years ago, is it?” Petunia asked.

“No,” Lily said quickly, shaking her head.

“I didn’t think so. He looked cleaner,” Petunia said, “and his clothes matched.” Lily could practically hear her sister thinking, But he’s still a freak, and she smiled a little. If this was the best response she was going to get from her sister, though, she’d certainly take it. Had they been sisters who got along, maybe Petunia would have dragged Lily into her room and asked for a detailed description of everything that had happened, but she knew that was not going to happen.

“Anyway,” Petunia continued, crossing her arms, “you really shouldn’t be snogging him in places where anyone could see you. It’s really quite tacky.”

“Right,” Lily said, “I’ll keep that in mind.”

Lily went into her room and sat down on her bed. She felt like she was bursting at the seams, and she wished she had someone to tell about her date, besides her mother. Nothing really seemed to make sense as she explained it in her head: James and I just went on a date. He kissed me. I kissed him. He’s my boyfriend. But then, she supposed that some things were never really meant to be explained, just enjoyed. She had a feeling that, as James’ girlfriend, she had a lot of those things coming.




Author’s Note: I'd really appreciate any and all feedback on this chapter. It's a rather important one!

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