Life had suddenly become complicated, he realised. Of course not what-to-do-with-my-life?-complicated, but more like which-rum-to-choose?-complicated.
When realising just how many brands of golden rum that existed, James had not been able to contain himself and had bought one of most of the kinds in the store. When he had gotten home, he’d lined them all up on the table and now his job was to decide which one to choose. There were round bottles, square bottles, tall bottles, low bottles and bottles with different stickers on the front. As said, complicated.
He had tilted his chair and with a frown and arms crossed in front of him, he was thinking. After a few more minutes, he grabbed for a bottle near the middle and twisted off the lid. The first mouthful burned down his throat, but as the warm sensation washed through him, he welcomed the feeling and took another swig of the bottle, closing his eyes. He put his feet onto another chair and relaxed fully.
Even though it was two days since he somehow had awakened in Lily Evans’ apartment, he could still remember every detail of that morning (which was rare, remembering what exactly had happened two days prior). He could remember what her living room looked like, the words they had spoken and, with a certain amount of dread and self-pity, the kiss. He hadn’t drunk anything that day, but the next day, he’d been back in the bar again, full force. And now, he was sitting at home, tasting rum, while waiting for time to pass.
The doorbell suddenly echoed through the house, surprising James. No one he talked to used the doorbell. Those few who actually came here anymore just walked inside. With a groan, he got up, still holding the bottle in his hand, and walked to the door.
He barely had it open before regretting it. Lily Evans in person was looking at him, a frown on her forehead. She had her arms crossed and didn’t look very pleased, but not mad either.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
She didn’t answer his question, but stepped inside. “You are very hard to find, James,” she said, then looked at him.
“Yeah?” he said, taking another pull from the bottle. “How come?”
She closed the door and then snatched the bottle from his hand.
“You,” – She pointed at him, – “are in for a shower, and that’s now!”
It was too early for James to understand what really was going on, but one thing he knew was that he didn’t fancy being commanded around this early in the morning. Not even by Lily Evans.
“No,” he answered. “And give me back my rum.”
She hid it behind her back. “You’re showering now, James. We’ll take everything from then on.”
“But why?” he groaned.
“You stink of bar, rum, sweat and... whores!” She crossed her arms.
“Oh,” he muttered, “that might be because-”
“James?” a feminine voice called from the kitchen.
Lily looked at him, her eyes nearly falling out. Then they narrowed. “You didn’t, James Potter!”
“In fact I didn’t.” He crossed his arms. “She’s a friend I met.”
“Uhuh.” She smirked, mockingly. “What’s her name?”
He searched his mind. Last night had been rather slurred, and he only remembered he had met her a little before he went home. It was something with B... He rubbed his head.
The woman stepped into the hall, stopping. She had one of James’ too large t-shirts on, her feet were bare and her brown hair was messy and tangled. She was easily three years older than James, but he hadn’t been able to see that last night. Her mouth formed a silent ‘o’ and she stopped.
James looked from Lily to the woman and back again a few times. He had absolutely no idea what to do, but Lily clearly had. She crossed her arms and turned to the woman.
“I don’t know who you are, and I can’t say I care, but you have exactly two minutes to get the hell out of here or I’ll kick you out!” she said coldly.
The woman looked at James who simply shrugged, not really knowing what else to do. Then she spun around and ran back through the kitchen and into the bedroom. Lily turned to James, now clearly angry.
“You’re getting in that shower now, James,” she said calmly, “or only Merlin knows what I’ll do to you.”
James didn’t let her say that twice. Forgetting all about the woman and his bottle of rum, he turned and walked straight into the bathroom, slamming the door after him. He quickly turned on the hot water and stripped off his clothes.
The shower lasted longer than he had intended it to. When first standing under the water, he realised just how dirty he really was. It was probably four days since his last showered and he had been lying in a heap of garbage in those four days. And somehow, it felt good to wash all of it off him. Plus, he didn’t want to face Lily right away. She took a long time in calming down and she was not happy today.
Stepping out of the shower, he looked for some clean clothes, but the shorts and t-shirts scattered on the floor were all dirty and even he could smell them. He wrapped the towel around his waist and slowly opened the door. Lily wasn’t in the hall so he slowly stepped outside. Opening the door into the kitchen, a smell of lemon overcame him and he nearly coughed. Lily’s jacket had been thrown on a – now – clean table. Clean and empty! His bottles of rum were gone and Lily was nowhere to be found. Halfway through the kitchen he realised where she was though.
“No, no, no, Evans!” he yelled, running to the sink where Lily was pouring bottle after bottle of rum into the sink. “What are you doing?”
He tried to take the bottle out of her hands, but she pushed him away. “You’ve been drinking your last bottle, James,” she said, glaring at him.
He grabbed for a bottle but Lily pushed it out of the way and smacked him on the side of his head. “Forget it, Potter!” she hissed. She raised an empty bottle towards him. “Now get dressed, or I’ll have to hit you with this.”
Growling soundlessly he turned and rushed towards his bedroom. “What’s that stench anyways?” he called, searching for something clean to wear.
“It’s the smell of a clean home,” she said easily.
He shook his head in confusion. But why was she cleaning his home? And why was she taking away his rum? Lily Evans had, of course, always had a thing for helping people, but he didn’t need help. He liked his house the way it was, and there was no need for her to change it.
He eyed a half empty bottle on the floor and grinned. Making sure she wasn’t right behind him, he grabbed for the bottle and took a long pull of it, feeling the burning sensation through him once again. He hid the bottle under his blankets and then quickly dressed.
When he returned back to the kitchen, Lily was waving with her wand, cleaning. She didn’t notice James before he spoke up.
“Why are you doing this?”
A bottle flew into the wall when she jumped up at the sound of his voice. With a sigh, she pointed her wand at the bottle, muttering, “Reparo.” She turned to James. “Because you’re living like a pig, James, and I want to help you get back up.”
He sighed. “I don’t need your help, Evans. Go back home to your boyfriend,” he said bitterly.
She glared at him, but ignored his comment. “Go gather your dirty clothes and we’ll wash them. I’m sure it’s needed.”
He slumped down on a chair. “Please go home, Evans.” She suddenly smiled. “What?” he asked with a sigh.
She shrugged. “It’s just the way you say Evans. It reminds me of Hogwarts.”
“Yeah...” He ran his hand through his hair. “Bet it does.”
She dragged a chair across the floor and sat down on it, in front of James. “Look, I know you don’t want my help. But I’d hate to see you die, and I’m here as a friend. I’ll help you get back.”
“I don’t need your help,” he sighed. “Really.”
“Well, you’re getting it anyways.” She crossed her arms. “And you’ll go clean your room right now.”
“Fine!” He got up without looking at her. He slammed the door behind him into the bedroom.
With an angry movement, he threw the blankets aside and took a long pull of the bottle.
He spun around, finding Lily standing in the doorway. She was angry again. She marched over and grabbed the bottle.
“No!” he exclaimed and grabbed for the bottle, but she kept it out of her reach. “Give it back!”
“Clean your room!” she hissed.
James wasn’t sure what overcame him, but before he had sensed it, he had jumped forward, pushed Lily away and grabbed the bottle in the same movement. She hit the wall with a cry of pain and fell onto the floor. He watched in horror as Lily curled up, fighting tears. She rubbed the back of her head and after several long seconds, looked up at him.
Her eyes were slightly teary, and she was looking at him with an expression he had never seen her wear before. She was scared of him, he realised. Lily Evans was scared of him. She was scared, and it was because of him. He couldn’t believe it.
It seemed for a few seconds that they were both dumbstruck, but James was the first to move. Not able to bear her gaze and the wave of shame, horror and guilt that washed over him, he ran out of the room. He wanted to vomit. His own actions made him sick. Out in the kitchen, he got a look at the bottle, and with anger pulsing through his veins, he threw it against the wall.
The bottle shattered and the golden liquor left a large spot and trail down the white wall. He continued throughout the kitchen and grabbed a coat in the hall on the way, slamming the door after him. When outside, he had no idea where to go, but his feet carried him down the road, and it wasn’t long before he found himself several streets away from the house and Lily. He slumped down on a bench in a deserted area.
He wanted to turn back time and do as Lily said. He wanted to see her smile, not looking at him with fright in her eyes. She shouldn’t have to be afraid. And not afraid of him! She should be happy and smiling, and no one should cause her pain; she didn’t deserve it. She deserved people trying to stop people like him from hurting her.
With a loud groan, he leaned forward, burying his face in his hands. This wasn’t the way it should be. Life shouldn’t be this way. Life should be more like...
He looked up at the sound of laughter. Across the street, a family walked. Two children, no more than six and four years, were laughing; running around the parents who were walking side by side, holding hands. They too were smiling.
That. That’s how life should be; carefree and filled with laughter. One shouldn’t have to worry about hurting people and what drink to buy next time. That could have been him and Lily. Had they not had that little fall out, that would have been them; in love and maybe with a child on the way.
He wouldn’t have been who he was. He would have overcome that accident, maybe it wouldn’t even have happened because he had taken some time off to be with Lily or their little girl, Erica. He wouldn’t have been buried in self-pity because then Lily had been able to help him. And he would have accepted that help, because he knew Lily only did it because she loved him.
He closed his eyes, realising that very second, that all of that was still what he wanted. He wanted to be with Lily, see her happy.
But she wasn’t happy and he had hurt her badly. He knew that. He couldn’t possible make her happy in this state. He had to get out of all of this. He had to move along and forget about these past months. No, not forget them, but learn from them. But he couldn’t do it alone, and there was no way he was going to look at Lily again. Not now.
He leaned sideways on the bench, wanting to disappear from the earth. He wanted to be invisible, the person who could never hurt another human being. He didn’t want to breathe in the fresh air that burned in his lungs, because the fresh taste reminded him of every morning he had awakened, smelling his own horrible breath. Rum, beer, vodka. Everything.
But he wanted himself to want the fresh air. He wanted to breathe it in with a smile on his face, feeling that everything was all right. Feeling alive and happy. And that’s when he realised it.
He wanted to change. But he did need help, he knew. Just not from Lily. Not now.
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