When dancing from withing and forgetting about the audience,
you let go of everything... your soul is so free, so naked it's beyond presentation. It's just dancing.
- Astrid Elisabeth
The exam week went brilliant, and we received letters from Dumbledore confirming we had joined the Order. The rush of exams really made me swallow all the messy feelings I had for James, and I felt I somewhat had them under control. Dancing lessons with Lindsay went amazing, as the others had officially finished their lessons.
It was a warm evening, and I strangely enough decided to take a walk. I had used the past week to get the news about James and Elizabeth for real into my head, but it hadn’t really been a shock. Why would James stick around for me after all I had accused him of? Of course he must have thought me absolutely mad.
I had been a silly girl, really just jumping to the conclusion that now that I could clear James of all charges, he would love me again. By doing that, I had kind of dishonoured the principle about becoming a better and more sensible, strong person than I had been before the time I had spent as James’s girl. I was of the opinion that I had changed.
I couldn’t really put my finger on how, but I had become a better person. It made me handle things better… I should be thankful, really, for having had an incredible person like James love me for a short while. Why make it faint and forgotten by being regretful, jealous and stupid?
I had walked around the great grounds for a while, feeling the unnaturally warm breeze chase the cold out of me. By some reason, I reached the lake. It looked very attractive, shining and warm.
‘Yeah, why not, really? I thought as I moved to the edge.
I pulled my shoes and socks off, rolling my baggy trousers up to my knees. I slipped them into the water, which was a tad bit cooler than I had imagined. It made me remember that sunny day so many months ago when Sirius found me chilling by the lake, and how I had freaked out as he hit on me. I giggled softly by the thought of his caressing breath… But it was nothing compared to how I had felt when James’s breath had ticked my skin all those times.
I had a strange, but satisfied feeling of peace there I sat. I was back in the world of dancing, I had great friends, I did well in school, and I had revealed the impostor who had turned my world upside down. The fact that I didn’t have James holding my hand anymore was something I didn’t pout over at that moment. I wouldn’t have minded, quite on the contrary, it would have been the last piece of the puzzle, the signature of a great painting. But I was still kind of happy. Elizabeth wasn’t that bad for James.
The sky was darkening slightly, and I realised I was quite far away from the castle, there I sat dipping my feet in the lake. The water surrounding them felt pleasant, comfortable. It was like the rest of my body wanted to join. Should I? Could I? Nobody used to be around the lake at these times anyway, and I needed to try something new. I didn’t usually take a swim, at least not this early of the year. But it was as if the lake called out my name.
Before I knew what I was doing, I had undressed. I flicked my wand at my underwear, turning it into a pink, fluffy towel. I wouldn’t die if I dropped the underwear on my way back to the castle later. I found some hair-pins form ballet earlier in my pocket, pinning my hair up so it wouldn’t get wet. I slipped myself down into the element floating under me. At first I opened my mouth because it was so cold, but after a minute my body got used to the new temperature. The feeling of swimming with no clothes on was smooth, refreshing and no short of lovely. Why didn’t I think of this before?
My head emptied itself automatically as I had my little evening swim. I was careful not to swim too far out, disturbing whatever creatures resting in the depth of the lake. Then I heard footsteps nearby… The grass was swishing under the feet of that somebody.
‘Shit.. What do I do now?’ I thought desperately. ‘They might come and see me before I can cover myself.. I’d better just stay here.’
It had been easier if anybody but James had been the one to show up. But he did. He stopped by the clothes lying by the edge, and I kept completely still as a puzzled look appeared on his face. He was holding up my trousers, probably trying to figure out who wore that size. Then he picked up the red sweater, holding it up to his nose. His eyes widened, and he looked around as he dropped it.
“Lily? Where are you?” he shouted.
He sounded frightened. No wonder, I would have been scared too if I found clothes by the edge of the lake, and no person was in sight. He looked briefly at the towel, then his eyes was turned to the lake, where I raised my head so he could see me.
“L-Lily?” he said nervously before smiling. “I thought you were gone. Having a little swim by yourself, are you?”
I swam closer to him, so I felt my feet touch the bottom. I was careful to make sure the dark water covered me from the neck and down.
“Yeah, don’t know why, but I fancied a swim,” I said, laughing a little. “What are you doing here?”
James looked suddenly distracting, as if he was afraid what I’d say when he answered.
“I was.. taking a walk. I’ve been walking a lot lately,” he said.
I had the feeling he wanted to add something. His face told me he was holding something back. “I’ve walked a lot since.. you broke up with me.”
I thought about that for a few seconds before rising a new question that triggered me.
James shrugged, but didn’t shout back a reply at first.
“Can’t you come up? It’s hard to have a decent conversation when you’re fifteen feet away from me..”
I raised my eyebrows.
“Unless you noticed, my clothes are by your feet,” I said loudly.
James didn’t seem to understand the problem. “So?”
I looked nervously around, meeting his eyes again after a while.
“I-I’m not wearing any clothes. I’m naked.”
I saw James blush slightly from where I was positioned in the water. It must have been much stronger than it looked like from my point of view, seeing I was quite far away from him. Then James gave me an amused smile.
“I could turn away while you get up and dress…”
I returned his smile, but was very sceptic to his suggestion. I rolled my eyes.
“Do you really think I trust you that much?” I said.
“You should..” James replied from the edge of the lake.
“I don’t think I do,” I said warily.
“Then you’ll be stuck there as long as I’m here,” James pointed out.
“I’m tired of talking loudly, why don’t you come up?” he asked again.
“No, I don’t think so,” I said resolutely.
“Then I’ll come out to you,” James smiled mysteriously.
“You see.. I trust you, Lily. And I don’t want to stand here having a very exhausting talk with you, when I could have a normal, shout-free one.”
I was feeling numb. And cold.
Then James looked at me for a long time, as if he was waiting for something.
“What are you waiting for?” James questioned. “You don’t think I’ll strip down naked while you’re watching? Maybe I do in your dreams, but…” he smirked.
“How dare you! You don’t know nothing about my dreams!” I screamed back, mouth open.
“Stop fussing and turn around!” James laughed.
I blushed, doing as I was told. I turned around in a graceful movement. I could hear him drag his clothes off… A great part of me wanted to spin around slightly and peek at him… Just a little glimpse… I heard the water stir as he lowered himself into it, and he had a short intake of breath just like I had when the water covered his warm body.
I startled as I felt his cold hand on my shoulder, and I spun around, making the water reach all up to my chin. I covered my chest with my hands.
“It’s quite pleasant,” James smiled happily.
“Wh-what’s pleasant?” I stuttered.
“The water,” he said matter-of-factly.
We were quiet for a while, and I couldn’t help but feeling small. I had to keep down to cover myself, while James could stand up right. The water reached up to the middle of his upper body. I couldn’t help but think he was just as attractive as I remembered him.
“So.. Elizabeth doesn’t know you’re here?” I broke the silence.
“No,” James got back to being serious. “I never told her.”
“Why not?” I said almost too quickly.
James shrugged his broad shoulders.
“She doesn’t have to know everything I do, does she?”
“I guess not…” I concluded.
James nodded shortly, starting to swim around me in circles, like a shark aiming at it’s prey. I could faintly see his backside reflect through the water. It made me nervous.
“Know what I do on those walks, Lily?” James asked. “I think and reflect. And you know what the conclusion is?”
I started shivering because I had been in the water so long.
“No, tell me,” I said shakily. I just hoped he didn’t think I was nervous or anything, that he understood that it was because of the cold my voice didn’t sound normal.
‘But you are nervous…’ a little voice in my head said.
The voice died away as James replaced it.
“I have come to the conclusion that being with you…” he started, stopping up in front of me again. “has made me a different person.”
I managed a weak smile. I couldn’t make out if he meant that as positive or negative, he said it quite naturally and normally.
“It’s over, Lily,” he finished.
I wasn’t really thinking straight, so I weighted my alternatives. I was standing in the cold lake, naked, in front of James. He was saying it was over. Was he going to kill me? Drown me? I shook my head, swearing at myself in my head. That was a silly thought!
“What’s over?” I said carefully.
“Elizabeth and I are over,” James said shortly.
“Oh… I-I’m sorry,” I said, and noticed I was getting colder every minute.
“Don’t be. Or – well, maybe you should. It was kind of your fault.”
I creased my eyebrows. James had never accused me of anything so severe… But it was about time. I had accused him of a number of things, things he didn’t even do.
James took a step further towards me.
“Last night, Elizabeth told me I wasn’t who I used to be. She told me I was more… well, decent.”
I looked at James, confused.
“Ok, it’s complicated. But the short version is that I don’t manage to be the same amusing, flirty and interesting bloke with her like I was around you.”
I raised my eyebrows, looking up at him. I raised my head slightly too, a rush of coldness coming over me as my shoulders came up from the water. I covered my chest more carefully.
“Why are you telling me this?” I said, and I was surprised by the firmness I managed to put into those words.
James didn’t listen to my question, and kept chatting.
“I told her that could be, because for God’s sake, We’ve not been dating for that long… And relationships don’t always fix up that early. She kept arguing, and I stopped protesting. I realised things were just awkward, that I’d known you in a very different way.”
I looked at him in disbelieve.
“Really?” I said sceptically.
“She also started pointing out all the times in sixth year I shagged girls after one night, and that wasn’t exactly nice. It made me feel a little ashamed, as a matter of fact. And that surprised both of us.”
“I didn’t want to hear that,” I cut in with a little snigger.
“Be patient, Lily! I’m getting somewhere, I promise!” James exclaimed. “And she said, how come I hadn’t jumped all over her, I probably shagged the Evans-girl three times a day…”
‘Nasty pictures entering my head…’ I thought, feeling a teeny weenie bit of cold leave me.
“And when I said I never shagged you, Elizabeth went all quiet.”
So did James. He stopped right there.
“A-and?” I forced out.
James held onto my gaze.
“I was looking for a little romance, some fun, Elizabeth said. But I see you’ve grown up, that you’re too boring for doing that any more,” James quoted.
Some more quietness.
“So.. she broke it off?” I said shakily.
James nodded again.
I felt my lower lip tremble with cold, it was probably blue by now.
“Freezing? Your lip cold?” James said softly, talking another step closer. “Let me warm it…”
He placed his lips over my quivering lower lip, dragging the warm tip of his tongue across. My heart skipped a beat in surprise, and my eyes were wide and clear.
I let my hands rest at his shoulders as he continued to warm me in the same way, forgetting all about covering my more intimate body-parts.
“But.. you didn’t want me anymore,” I whispered.
“I was stupid. It wasn’t your fault… To be honest, it’s been torture just being in the same room as you the last months. It always made me doubt everything but the fact that I longed for you.”
I grinned, still shaking with cold. I felt a warm blush cross over my cheeks.
“This is so unreal,” I whispered. “But now please turn around so I can get up before I turn into an ice-statue.”
James laughed, devouring my lips once more before turning his back on me as I got out of the lake to fetch my towel.
I should have been cold as I walked back to the tower, just like I had that full moon evening when I had left the others at the Womping Willow to join Remus. But I wasn’t. I had James’s arm slipped around my waist, and my heart continued to beat happily.. My mind hadn’t had time to let it sink in yet, that I he had kissed me and told me that he’d missed me…
‘Oh… how I longed for that to happen,’ I thought.
“Lily?” James asked as we reached the portrait hole fifteen minutes later.
“Yeah?” I smiled up at him.
“Maybe we shouldn’t… tell anybody yet,” James said thoughtfully.
I narrowed my eyes, not understanding.
“Why? We’re back together, right?”
“Well… are you sure it’s a good idea?” James said carefully. “I mean… after all this? Will we be able to get back what we had?”
I saw what he meant. I had thought the same thing myself.
“I understand… so what are you suggesting?” I said with a slight quiver in my voice.
“Maybe we should just take it easy? Kind of, figure out what’s best.”
Somehow, it felt like he was rejecting me.
“Why? There isn’t … anybody else, is there?” I asked.
“No, of course not. It’s just.. I don’t want to do anything wrong this time. No rash decisions. Don’t you agree?” he explained.
“Yeah, I get it,” I replied, looking at my feet.
“Don’t misunderstand this, Lily,” James said, cupping my face in his hand. “There is nothing I want more than getting back together. It’s just that I want to calm down a bit first. So much has happened.”
I gave him a vague smile, looking up in his hazel eyes.
He let go of my hand as we asked the Fat Lady for the password. My heart was about to explode with joy, but at the same time, I had a bitter-sweet taste in my mouth.
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