The next day turned out to be a dismal one, perfect for studying, or pretending to study. Rain beat against the windows of the Head common room, causing the landscape below to blur, and the colors to blend into murky shades of gray and brown. Lily was sitting alone at her desk, staring out the window, failing to study Potions. She drummed her fingernails on the table, and rested her chin in her other hand. She was waiting for James to come back from the infirmary. She needed to talk to him about last night. Not just about the kiss, but about everything. But mostly about the kiss. Lily still couldn't get it out of her head. The way James felt, the way he smelled, the way he looked, all seemed to cling to her memory. The images seemed to swim in a lazy rotation in her head. She smiled to herself. It definitely wasn't a mistake, she thought. Just then, the portrait hole swung open, and a very angry, very wet James entered. He was scowling, and muttering to himself.
"Stupid Sirius, 'It'll be fun to fly in the rain!'. Yeah, right. Fun for who?" he muttered, throwing his sopping sweatshirt on the ground. It was then that he noticed Lily watching him.
"Hi," he said irritably.
"Hello,” she said, fighting to suppress a smirk. “Went swimming, then?”
"Ha Ha, but no. It was that loony I call my best friend. Sirius has gone mad, I tell you." grumbled James, shaking his head like a dog. Lily patiently wiped the water off her face, and went to go retrieve James sweatshirt, which was creating a puddle on the carpet.
"After we went to Madame Pomfrey, he decided we needed to go for a quick fly around the grounds. It wasn't raining then, so I said yes." he continued, stripping off his shirt and tossing it on to the table. "After about five minutes, it started to pour. I tried to make him come in, but he wouldn't. I couldn't leave him out there, so we both stayed out in the rain for about half an hour. We got soaked."
"I'm well aware," said Lily, picking up the dripping shirt. She followed James into his room, and deposited his wet clothes on his bed. James turned around to see what she was doing, and grinned sheepishly.
"Sorry, I'm a bit of a slob." said James, grabbing his clothes. Lily just shrugged, and headed out of his room. She sat on the couch, and re-started the fire with her wand. James came out of his room, dressed in dry clothes. He sat on the chair across from Lily.
"So, how was Sirius this morning?" asked Lily, concerned.
"Oh, he's fine. A bit hung-over, but he'll live." said James, smiling.
"What about his arm?" asked Lily.
"Madame Pomfrey removed the scar." said James quietly.
"What did she say about it?" asked Lily trying to be casual, but inwardly shaking.
"We just told her that Sirius got into a fight with some Slytherins. She tried to make Sirius give her names, but he refused." replied James, a hint of anger flashing in his eyes.
Lily nodded, hugging her knees to her chest. "Where is he now?"
"Gryffindor tower." answered James, leaning his head back to stare at the ceiling. Suddenly he looked up, grinning fiendishly.
"So Lily," he said pleasantly.
"James," replied Lily cautiously. She didn't like James tone and his change in mood was startling.
"About last night," he began, dragging his fingers through his hair.
"What about last night?" asked Lily, knowing perfectly well just what ‘about last night’.
"You know," he said, shifting uncomfortably.
"I'm afraid I don't," said Lily airily, brushing her hair out of her face.
"You do remember you kissed me last night, don't you?" asked James, his eyebrows raised.
"Oh, that. Of course I remember," said Lily.
"Good. Well, erm- we should talk about it." said James, nodding.
Lily grinned. "What do you want to know?" she asked.
"Hmm, let's see," said James, pretending to think about it. "How about we start with: why did you do it? Because last time I checked, you hated me."
Lily's breath caught in her throat. Now was her chance to admit to James that she maybe did like him, sort of, a little bit. "Well, I- I-," Lily stopped and sighed. She just couldn't do it. "Well, it seemed you needed cheering up, so I thought a kiss from a friend would, you know, cheer you up..."
Lily trailed off, unable to continue. The look in James eyes was one of true disappointment. He looked at his lap, biting his lip. Lily closed her eyes, secretly wanting to tear her eyes out for being so heartless. She opened her eyes again, and seeing James sitting there across from her, pretending like it hadn't hurt him, hurt Lily even more. She started to feel suffocated, she needed to get out. She stood up, casting around wildly for an excuse to leave the common room.
"I- er, I have to go send a letter," she invented quickly, trying to not let her panic get the better of her. She practically ran to the portrait hole, ignoring the bewildered look on James face, and flung it open, stumbling into the deserted corridor. She leaned against the cold stone wall, taking deep breaths, comforted by the echoing silence and flickering torchlight. She felt intense anger and frustration welling up inside her, pushing for a release. She paced up and down the corridor, wringing her hands in anxiety. She felt like she needed to run a hundred miles, but didn't feel like she had the energy to take two steps. Eventually she gave in and sank to the floor, exhausted, hugging her knees. Small tears of anger welled up in her eyes, and rolled down her cheek
Why do I have to be so stubborn? she thought. All I ever manage to do is hurt myself or someone else. Or both...
"Arghh!" she cried in frustration, slamming her hand down on the stone floor. This didn't help. But then something happened that did.
Jules came around the corner, and jumped when she saw Lily.
"Lil, what're you doing out here?" she asked, surprised.
Lily looked up. "Oh, I'm- er resting," she said, quickly wiping her eyes.
Jules just nodded and sat down next to Lily. She stared at the opposite wall, deep in thought.
"What happened?" asked Jules, after some minutes. Her light-brown eyes were sympathetic, yet poised for trouble.
"Nothing, nothing." lied Lily, sniffing.
"Don't lie, Lily." said Jules patiently.
Lily stared at her lap for a moment. She turned and looked Jules in the face. "I kissed James," she whispered.
Jules nodded again. At that moment, Lily loved her more than ever for responding calmly. Devon would have flipped.
"But it wasn't a kiss-kiss, it was a cheek kiss," said Lily, concentrating hard on the opposite wall.
"When?" asked Jules, twisting a lock of her chestnut hair around her finger.
"Last night, after we fetched Sirius, he came back to the common room. Sirius was already asleep on the couch, and we were just about to go to sleep. I was standing in my doorway, about to close the door, when I caught this glimpse of James' face. Jules, he looked so sad and helpless, I didn't know what to do. So I decided to go hug him. And as I pulled away, I just sort of… did it."
"What did he say?" asked Jules, looking more relaxed.
"He-er said that it was quite alright, and that he didn't mind." said Lily, cracking a smile.
Jules laughed. "I should have known,"
"But Jules, then, as I was walking into my room, I realized I didn't mind either. In fact, it was quite nice." said Lily, blushing.
Jules laughed again. "Lily, that's alright. You're allowed to like kissing." she said gently.
"Yeah, I know. It's just, if I like kissing James, even on the cheek, maybe that means I like him." said Lily slowly.
"Maybe you do," said Jules wisely.
"But I can’t like him," cried Lily, frustrated.
"Why not?" demanded Jules angrily. "What are you scared of?"
"What am I scared of? Nothing!" retorted Lily indignantly.
"Don't lie to me Lily." said Jules, her eyes flashing.
"What am I scared of?" repeated Lily weakly. "Jules, what if I don't even like him? What if he's moved on? What if we start to go out, and he realizes he actually thinks I'm repulsive?"
"What if, what if, what if, Lily. Let me answer those questions for you. First of all, you do like him, I can tell. Second of all, James won't move on until you're married. And lastly, you aren't repulsive in any way, so nobody would think that." said Jules, smiling kindly.
Lily gave Jules a small smile. But then she remembered her little lie in the common room a few minutes earlier, and stopped smiling. "Jules, I messed everything up, just now. I ruined it." she said quietly.
"How?" asked Jules, her face turning serious.
"James asked me why I kissed him, and I said it was because he needed a kiss from a friend." murmured Lily.
"Why did you lie?" asked Jules.
"Because, I'm not even sure it was a lie! I don't even know if I like him. I feel like I do sometimes, and then other times, I just don't. I don't know any other way to explain it. Last night, I wanted to kiss him, and I want to do it again, but I'm not sure I want to tell him. I'm so confused." groaned Lily.
"Lily, you just need to wait it out. Spend more time with him, outside of Head duties and classes. Get to know him. You'll find out more about him that way, and more about how you feel about him." said Jules, squeezing Lily's hand reassuringly.
"I know, it's just awkward. I've been so nasty and horrible to him all these years, and all the sudden, I'm not sure I hate him anymore." said Lily, sighing.
Jules grinned. "Lily, I know you don't hate him anymore."
Lily smiled back, looking at her lap.
"Well, do you want to come back to Gryffindor tower? Me and Dev miss having you in the dorm." said Jules, standing up.
"I have to finish some homework." said Lily, unconvincingly.
Jules rolled her eyes. "No you don't." she said, grabbing Lily by the arm, hauling her to her feet.
"Well, if you insist." said Lily jokingly, following Jules down the hall.
Lily spent the rest of the day lounging around the tower, talking and laughing with Jules and Devon. Peter and Remus showed up in late afternoon bearing gifts. Two trays piled high with all the best foods from the kitchen accompanied them to the common room.
"Thanks so much!" cried Jules, hugging Remus and Peter. They both blushed furiously.
"Yeah, thanks guys," said Devon, in a more subdued tone. She'd been up all night, and was exhausted.
Suddenly, Sirius flew down the stairs, out of the boy’s dormitory.
"Hello all!" he said happily, taking the seat next to Devon. Suddenly he caught sight of the food.
"Food! I'm starving!" he cried as he lunged for the tray. The rest of the group sat down around the tray and began helping themselves to the food, though none so eagerly as Sirius. James walked in a few minutes later and joined their gathering. There was a bit of an awkward pause in the conversation as far as Lily and James were concerned, but no one seemed to notice, except Julia. She kept her thoughts to herself, however, for which Lily was glad. Soon, the conversation became normal and full of laughter. Lily felt as if she never laughed as much as she did when their group was all together. Remus was the sarcastic one, always making clever comments under his breath. Sirius was just... Sirius, always loud and ridiculous, always ready for a laugh. Peter was surprising at times. He was nomally quiet but then, out of nowhere, he would make a hilarious comment or joke. And then there was James, who embodied a bit of each of his friends' senses of humor. At time he was loud, at other times witty and always surprising. By the end of the evening, Lily's sides hurt from laughing so much, and she groaned as she climbed the steps to the head tower.
"Are you alright?" asked James, who was following up the stairs.
"My sides hurt, Sirius needs to stop being so funny." she moaned, half-laughing. She heard James chuckle as she threw herself down on one of the arm chairs. James stooped to start a fire, and then took the seat opposite Lily.
Lily tiredly kicked off her shoes and tucked her legs up underneath her. She sighed contentedly, remembering the enjoyable evening.
"So what are your plans for the Christmas holiday?" asked James, who was also removing his shoes.
"I'm going to my parent's house for a bit, then I'm heading to Jules' house." said Lily, not wanting to think about having to spend an entire week with her parents and Petunia. "What about you?" she asked.
"I'm going home," he said, stretching lazily. Lily noticed how he called his house 'home', while she called her house 'my parent's house'. It was the castle that really felt like home to her.
Lily nodded, feeling the weight of her earlier lie begin to settle in. She felt that it was now or never, and the longer she waited to tell James, the worse it would be. "Er, James? Remember earlier this afternoon when we talked about what happened last night?" she asked, feeling that her choice of wording was a bit ridiculous. She could not bring herself to say that she kissed James, outloud.
James looked bemused for a moment, then he nodded. "Yeah, what about it?" he asked guardedly.
"Well," Lily took a deep breath. "I lied when I told you it was just a kiss from a friend." She paused. "Because it wasn't."
James nodded, looking even more confused. He waited for Lily to continue. She didn't, so he asked "Well, then what was it?"
Lily bit her lip. "The thing is, I'm not actually sure..." she said quietly.
James frowned. "Right. Well, when you figure it out, can you tell me?" he asked.
Lily nodded, slowly beginning to smile. James smiled back.
The weeks passed, and the weather grew fierce. The wind blew through every available crack in the castle, creating frosty corridors and frigid classrooms. Every fireplace in the castle was blazing night and day, and it wasn't uncommon to see students wearing mittens and hats at meals. Soon, Christmas had arrived, bringing with it a sense of cheer, and a bit of sadness. This was to be James's last year at Hogwarts, the last time he would ever see the Great Hall decorated, and the last time teachers would ever relax their homework load. It made him a bit sad.
The morning the Hogwarts Express arrived to take them all away for the holidays, was a snowy one. James had packed early and brought his trunks down to the Great Hall. He headed back up to Gryffindor tower, to help Sirius pack. Sirius was not very good at packing, if James didn't help him, all he would have brought was his broomstick and the clothes he was wearing. He was walking through the common room, and was just about to head up the stairs when he saw Jules and Devon dragging their things down from the girls dormitory.
"Do you ladies need a hand?" he asked, walking over to them.
"I think we'll be alright," said Devon. Jules nodded, but didn't look up from the clasp she was locking.
"Did either of you see Sirius yet this morning?" asked James, pulling out his wand. He tapped the clasp Julia was struggling with, and it instantly snapped shut.
"Thank you, and no, we haven't seen him, but we haven’t been looking," said Jules, standing up.
James nodded. "He's probably still asleep." he said, grinning. He turned around to head up the stairs.
"Wait, is Lily up in your rooms?" asked Devon.
"Last time I saw, she was cursing her trunk for not closing," said James. "After that, I decided not to interfere." He winked and turned to head up the stairs. He heard the girls laughing behind him.
Later that afternoon, as they were getting off the train, James noticed Lily was sad. The whole train ride, she'd been quiet, and had stayed out of the conversation about Christmas. Once on the platform, James grabbed her arm. She turned around, her eyes full of weariness.
"Hey, Lil, are you alright? You didn't seem like you're lovely self on the train," asked James, smiling gently.
Lily smiled back. "I'm fine, I'm just not looking forward to going home," she said, pulling her long black coat tighter around her slim frame.
James nodded. "Well, if you ever need anything, just take Floo over to my house," he said, smiling. He put his hands in his pockets.
"Thanks James," said Lily quietly. "Merry Christmas,"
"Merry Christmas to you too, Lily," he said. He watched as she grabbed her trunk and walked away. He sighed, loving everything about her. The way she moved, the way she talked, the way she smiled. He was going to miss her in these next two weeks. He hoped she would miss him back.
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