The day Lily arrives in Godric’s Hollow is a strange one. After a stinky, uncomfortable three-hour bus ride from London, all she really wanted was to get to Lisa’s house—her home for the foreseeable future—but alas, fate has other plans for her.
As soon as she arrives, she’s picked up on a beaten-up truck by someone named Caesar. The man is thin, his skin dark and his hair even darker. He looks nice, and so Lily is rude to him immediately. It’s not like she enjoys carrying the perpetual chip on her shoulder, and she definitely wouldn’t have preferred to stay with Petunia, but being shipped off by own her sister to live somewhere else without being given any say in the matter has left a sour taste in her mouth. And the fact that this supposedly wonderful aunt couldn’t even be bothered to pick Lily up herself wasn’t doing her any favours.
In just under five minutes, they arrive at a sunny, corner-building diner with a "Lisa’s” plaque screwed above the front door. The drive was so short that feeling awkward wasn’t even a possibility, and to be honest, Lily’s not really surprised they got to the diner so quickly; it’s a small town and everything seems to be within walking distance. Just from looking out the window, Lily can easily spot a market, the high school and what seems to be a — a gazebo? Had Petunia actually sent her back to the eighteenth century?
She hops out of the truck, slamming the door shut behind her. Slinging her duffle bag over her shoulder, she heads inside. There’s a woman at the counter and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out who it is.
“Oh, Lily, there you are! I haven’t seen you in so long, you’re taller than me now—” And so it goes.
“Aren’t we excited,” Lily says, her tone drier than the Sahara desert. There was no AC on the bus, or in Caesar’s truck, and Lily’s hair is starting to stick to her forehead.
“Well,” Lisa replies, pushing a strand of blonde hair behind her ear. She takes a deep breath, and then proceeds, “this is my diner. I live just upstairs, and it’s a little cramped, but you’ve got a whole room to yourself.”
“Thanks,” Lily replies, looking at her shoes, a pair of black pleather boots that have definitely seen better days.
She knows the townspeople are staring at her, wondering, and for the first time, Lily tries to make herself appear small and non-threatening. Lisa sighs and crosses her arms across her chest, trying to do the same thing.
“Do you need my help with anything?” Lisa asks as the two of them climb up to the flat upstairs.
“Okay, then. I’m closing up at nine today, so if you want—”
“See you at nine.” She drops the duffle on the floor and then, just as soon as she arrived, Lily leaves, letting the door close behind her.
She walks for a few minutes in silence, but she can’t help hearing Elvis Costello’s This Is Hell all the way through the town square. She passes Reed’s Market and Minerva’s Antiques and then makes a sharp left through Radish Street. Before long, Lily finds herself standing in the middle of a bridge. It doesn’t seem to be connecting anything, it just looks like a random boardwalk, but there’s a little pond to the side. Gee , did everything in this town have to be so goddamn quaint?
Glad to have found some peace and quiet, Lily sits down on the little bridge, her feet dangling over the edge, and pulls a book out of her jeans’ back pocket. Today, it’s the infamous Pride and Prejudice, an old, well-loved favourite of hers. The spine’s cracked, and most pages are either dog-eared or scribbled with notes. Lily doesn’t think even the rattiest charity shops would take it, and yet she wouldn’t trade her copy for the world.
Soon, she finds herself lost in the book, and she turns the pages quickly, anxiously waiting for Elizabeth to read Darcy’s letter. She only notices the time passing because the sun is starting to hide and it’s getting harder for her to make out the words on the pages.
“Nice book you’ve got there.” Lily’s head snaps upwards, only to find a freakishly tall guy grinning at her.
“Thanks,” she replies, turning her gaze back to the book. “You read?”
“Not much,” he shrugs noncommittally. There’s a stretch of silence, but then he continues, “you’re Lisa’s niece, aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” Lily says, eyes fixed on her lap, hoping that Beanpole will get the hint and leave her alone. She didn’t leave London in the nicest of terms and she knows her reputation precedes her. Lily doesn’t need to have yet another moron judging her for something he doesn’t know shit about.
“Well, she and my mum are really close friends so we’re hosting dinner at our house tonight. It’ll be fun, trust me.”
Lily raises one eyebrow and replies, finally looking back up, “I don’t even know you.”
This earns her a laugh and wiggling his eyebrows, he asks “Well, don’t I look trustworthy?”
“Not in the slightest.”
His eyebrows are still twitching. Lily thinks he looks a bit insane.
“I know, that makes it more fun. Come on!”
“Actually,” Lily starts, standing up, “I should probably go and get changed or whatever.”
“Oh, okay,” he says, and if Lily isn’t wrong, which she rarely is, he seems to almost… deflate. “I’ll see you later, I guess.”
Lily nods, and places the book back inside her pocket. “Whatever.”
Just as she’s turning away, he asks “What’s your name?”
She doesn’t reply.
Two hours later, Lily’s standing in front of the Potter residence freshly showered and dressed. Lisa promised her that if she behaved, she’d be allowed to leave soon, and that was a win in Lily’s book. If only her new spot in town hadn’t already been spoiled by a four-eyed git, she’d make a run for it as soon as possible..
The wind chills her to the bone, even though it’s warm for September. Lily isn't sure whether it's the creamy white paint on the walls, or the small balcony on the first floor, but something about their house makes her want to crawl under her own skin. Between the elaborate mantelpiece decorations and the fancy china, she’s reminded of her life with Petunia. It cuts into her in a way she hadn’t expected.
Of course, that isn’t to say their house looks like a museum. The Potters are well off, that much is obvious, but there is a level of disarray which Petunia never would have allowed in her own home. The radiators on the walls are covered in what looks like sports jerseys, and though white and probably linen-scented, all the candles are unevenly burned. It makes up for some of the discomfort, that’s for sure. But it doesn’t mean that Lily is happy about it.
Over some pot roast and carrots, Lily learns that Euphemia Potter owns the Victoria Inn just outside of Godric’s Hollow and that Potter’s dad, Fleamont, had passed away a few years ago. It’s weird, but for some reason Lily finds herself cataloguing these little pieces of information in her brain, so that she can pick them apart later.
After dinner, Potter invites her up to his room, and though Euphemia and Lisa have been perfectly polite, she is happy to be able to loosen up a bit. No matter how nice they are, Lily’s never felt comfortable around adults, and despite the cold façade she puts on, it shows.
When he opens the door, Lily is met with the largest built-in bookcases she has ever seen in her whole life and it takes her more effort than she’d like to admit to keep her jaw from dropping.
“I thought you said you didn’t read that much.”
“Well, what is much?”
They fall into a comfortable silence but it lasts all of five minutes because apparently Potter is incapable of staying quiet for longer. Lily sits down at his desk chair and Potter sits on his bed, leg jumping up and down from either nerves or pent-up energy.
“So, what are you reading right now?” Lily asks. “I mean, you know I’m reading Pride and Prejudice, it’s only fair that you repay the favour, you know.”
It takes him a while to reply, and Lily scoffs when the only thing out of his mouth is the word “interesting.”
Thankfully, he carries on.
“You were less talkative earlier,” Potter says. “At the bridge?” he adds upon noticing Lily’s furrowed brow. “What changed?”
Lily ponders it for a moment, but then replies, “Not a lot. Lisa said I could go back to the diner soon if I was decently polite, so... But actually, this isn’t so bad.”
James beams at her, and Lily clears her throat, looking away. “So, what are you reading?”
“Are you serious?”
“It’s actually my second read-through.”
“So you’re telling me you enjoyed that piece of crap enough to actually reread the damn thing? I’ve yet to completely make it through it.”
Potter’s eyes are so wide, Lily is scared they’ll actually fall off of their sockets. “Really? You need to give it another shot! The Fountainhead is a classic.”
“Sure, but Ayn Rand is a political nut.”
“I mean, that’s fair, but no one can write a forty-page monologue like she can.”
He does have a point. Lily’s about to concede when he speaks up again.
“Oh, and you should call me James. None of that Potter business.”
Lily gives him a small smile and nods in agreement. It’s fun, bantering back and forth like this. For a second, it makes Lily think that maybe staying in Godric’s Hollow won’t be so bad. At the very least, she’s found one person with a little intelligence, terrible taste in literature notwithstanding. She still can’t believe Potter— James — isn’t a fan of Virginia Woolf.
Eventually, the conversation topic moves on from books and onto their lives. She learns that James’ favourite food in the entire world is pepperoni pizza, and that he spends his weekends either at his friend Remus’ house in Bridgwater or doing epic movie marathons with his mum.
In turn, he’s eager to know more about her life in London, and while Lily isn’t ready to say much on that subject, she does tell him about her habit of hiding away at the Italian Gardens in Hyde Park. Sensing her discomfort, James steers the conversation into safer ground. The urge to bail subsides, and Lily’s cheeks hurt from laughing at James’ terrible impression of their prime minister.
Later that night, as they leave the Potter’s house, Lily sees the recognizable glint of hope in Lisa’s eyes. She doesn’t like it, and so she does what she she does best; folds her arms over herself, looks down at the ground, and picks up the pace.
It doesn’t take long for the town to start hating her, and with good reason.
Lily’s lived her whole life in London, and so it’s not that surprising that she feels so stifled and trapped in a town with a population count of seven hundred. Everyone is perfectly nice, yes, but they’re also incredibly nosy, always probing for information and taking a piece of Lily’s soul with every question they ask. They take and take and take, and Lily’s never been one for giving.
Her mother’s never been the most reliable, and her dad died when she was too young to actually miss him. She supposes that wouldn’t so bad, because at least she had her sister, but the truth of the matter is that instead of sticking with her, Petunia always shut her out. So, it’s been Lily against the world for as long as she can remember, and it’s hardened her in a way she can’t always explain, and that she doesn’t often want to.
She hides away at the bookstore whenever she’s not in school or working at the diner, and she finds herself doing these stupid, ridiculous things just to get everyone off her back. Just last week, Miss Rita from the ballet school smiled at her in passing and in return, Lily stole her cat. Yeah, she gave it back after a couple of hours, but the message had been clear.
Of course, Lisa’s actually not that bad, and Euphemia is pretty cool too, but there’s only one person in the entire town who makes her want to really try to be the kind of person someone could respect.
Ever since that first night, Lily feels like there’s something brewing between her and James, and it doesn’t take long for the two of them to stumble into a slightly unorthodox friendship. She gives him coffee, he gives her books. It’s a pretty symbiotic arrangement.
Lily would never admit it, but she particularly likes the days when it’s her turn to close up the diner because it means she can talk to James on the phone without having to worry about Lisa eavesdropping on the conversation. As the weeks go by, it becomes routine, but it is always he who calls, never her.
“Why did you come to Godric’s Hollow?” he asks her one day.
For some reason, she actually gives him a straight answer, “If you were to ask my sister, she’d tell you all about my ‘behavioural issues and erratic demeanour’.”
“And if I were to ask you?”
She takes a deep breath. “Well, then I’d tell you that she was just embarrassed to have her friend Yvonne walk in on Dorcas and I making out inside one of her wardrobes.”
There’s a pause, and for a second, Lily is actually nervous. She’s never pegged James for prejudiced, but she guesses that sometimes you just can’t shake the small town out of a guy.
“Why was Yvonne going through your sister’s wardrobe?”
“The day I pretend to understand the mind of Petunia’s society friends is the day hell freezes over.”
One day, Lily takes the bus to Bridgwater, gets off at the stop for Hogwarts Academy, and surprises James just as he’s coming out of English Lit. Three good-looking guys come out right after him, and it’s one of them—tall, pale, and unfairly gorgeous — who first notices her. When James sees her, his face splits open in a contagious grin, the kind he reserves just for her, like a secret handshake.
It suddenly dawns on Lily that for all the time they spend together, Lily’s actually never seen James wearing his Hogwarts uniform. She’s not surprised to see the top button of his shirt unbuttoned, or the red and gold tie hanging loose around his neck. Even his glasses are askew, and his hair is absolutely wild , and Lily wonders how she ever thought this thing between the two of them was purely platonic.
It’s especially annoying considering he’s part of the whole high-class, society thing she’d so desperately distanced herself from back when she still lived with Petunia, but there’s something about the manic glint in his eyes that always overshadows Lily’s deepest insecurities.
It’s no wonder, considering he’s pretty much the only thing about this goddamn town she actually likes. She hates her school, hates everyone there and most of all, hates the way the teachers feed her the same pre-constructed ways of thinking over and over again. Lily supposes in that sense, James is lucky, going to a much fancier school forty minutes away from their little town. Sadly, she has an inkling that the brainwashing is exactly the same at Hogwarts Academy as it is at Godric’s Hollow Comprehensive, only better disguised.
She doesn’t think she would enjoy going to Hogwarts. The teachers at Godric’s Hollow may be mediocre, but at least they don’t expect anything from her.
James is constantly on her case about it, telling her she could do better, but if she’s being perfectly honest, Lily doesn’t really want to. He doesn’t seem to understand that school isn’t for everyone. She’s already smarter than most of the people at her school, and what it takes the others hours to learn, she can understand in minutes. Being force-fed the same run-of-the-mill responses for every single subject doesn’t exactly help their case, and Lily’s well-shot of it.
James isn’t, though, and sometimes when it’s just the two of them, Lily lets herself believe that maybe, she could do better, and it scares her. The more you care about, the more you have to lose, and Lily’s already lost so much.
She does her best to squash her feelings down, and takes James and his friends out for coffee at this little place she passed on her bus. There’s a used bookstore just around the corner that she really wants to show James.
It’s fun, finally meeting his friends after only hearing about them in anecdotes. Even without introductions she can match up their names to their faces pretty much immediately. James has always had a knack for storytelling, and even though this is her first time seeing them, Lily feels like she already knows James’ friends like the back of her hand.
They get along even better than Lily ever imagined, and it’s a relief that she can fit so well into James’ other life. She doesn’t really dwell on why because she knows, and doesn’t really want to think about it.
There’s some function at the Inn that James is supposed to attend and, apparently, he wants Lily to go with him. However, the second the question flies out of his mouth her eyes are bulging wide open and she turns away so quickly it almost gives her whiplash.
“I… I have to go.”
She all but runs away from him, nearly tripping over her shoelaces.
“You’ll call me?” James calls after her.
“Yeah,” Lily breathes. “Yeah, I’ll call you.”
She never calls. It’s just not the kind of person she is, and she hates that James seems to think differently. In the end, she just wasn’t what he deserved, and she’s sorry to have let this whole pretending thing go on for so long.
The next day Lily wakes up and packs her life in a Jack Wills backpack. It’s not big enough for her to take everything, obviously , but she figures that in about a couple of weeks or so, when James goes to Bath with his mother, she can come back and pick up the rest of her stuff. Right now, though, she just needs to go, to be somewhere, anywhere that isn’t here.
She hates that she even cares when he’s going to be in town, but Lily knows that the minute she sees him, she’s bound to stay back, and so she opts for leaving early in the morning, when he’s still asleep. Lisa drives her to Langport and she catches a bus back to London. The journey out is even worse than the one into Godric’s Hollow, when she first moved to this little piece of hell. Even though she’s got Catch 22 in the front pocket of her backpack, Lily doesn’t let herself read or take any sort of pleasure in finally leaving. Lily knows full well she’s running, and even though she’s doing it, it doesn’t mean she condones it.
There’s just no way that she can handle going back into the high society life she had always been so adamant about escaping. Even if Petunia hadn’t kicked her out, there’s no way Lily would have assimilated into that kind of lifestyle. She’s bled sweat and tears to avoid it, and sure, it left her with some pretty fucked up coping mechanisms, but at the very least it got her out .
If there is one thing about herself that Lily is actually proud of, it’s the way she’s always managed to do her own thing, even if sometimes it meant pulling all-nighters in Tube stations or going a couple of days without food. No guy, even one as great as James, will change that.
She gets to London just before lunchtime, and grabs half a pizza for two pounds at the Tesco Metro near Piccadilly Circus, and nibbles on it as she walks to St. James’ square. The irony of it isn’t lost on her. Lily sits under one of the lime trees and finishes the rest of her food. Looking around, she’s glad to find the place is mostly rid of tourists. Lily closes her eyes and listens to the noisy silence. She doesn’t have anything to come back to, but she’ll make do. All nighters. Friend’s couches. She might bunk with Dorcas for a couple of days. She’ll figure it out.
When James and Euphemia go to Lisa’s for breakfast and he learns Lily’s gone, he pretends not to care. His mum knows there’s more to it than meets the eye, and that there’s something he’s definitely not telling her, but for the time being leaves him alone. She’ll pry the answers out of him later, over some of his favourite takeaway.
He asks Lisa if he can go upstairs and is surprised to see the place doesn’t even smell like Lily anymore. If he didn’t know any better, it’d be like she was never even there. Tentatively, he walks over to her bedroom door, and has to stop himself from knocking. The silence is freaking him out, the lack of rock music blasting from the stereo throwing him off. All her things are still inside, but the room is a lot tidier than he’s used to.
In the end, James comes back downstairs to the diner, pretending not to have noticed the abandoned copy of Kerouac’s On The Road on Lily’s bed. And if he goes back there later that day to pick it up, well, that’s nobody’s business.
The days go by but James is still not used to the idea that Lily is gone. It’s stupid, especially when James takes into account the fact that he’s only known her for a few months. Yet, he can’t seem to remember a time before she came to Godric’s Hollow and brought a little colour to the monotony of small town life.
If he’s being honest, not having her around is weirder than James could ever have anticipated. He still goes to school, still goes on at least three coffee runs to Lisa’s every single day and still spends a ridiculous amount of time at the bridge. But even though the motions are the same, James doesn’t feel like he’s really enjoying any of it, and just rather going through them.
It’s strange, because at school he can tell his friends are starting to get worried, but it’s not like he can talk to them about the situation. Talking about it makes it real, and James doesn’t want to handle it right now. Can’t handle it right now.
Besides all the hiding and the wondering, James has been getting random calls at odd hours of the day, and whenever he actually picks up the phone they always hang up without saying a word. He doesn’t want to assume things, at the risk of sounding like a pompous arsehole, but he’s pretty sure it’s Lily. He can just imagine her, roaming the streets of wherever she is, debating whether or not to call, and when she finally does, berating herself for having spent another ten pence.
It chips away at him, and everytime the phone rings, James’ heart breaks a little more.
She didn’t even say goodbye .
One particular Friday, before school, James goes into the diner and asks if he can go upstairs. He thinks that maybe Lisa notices the way his shoulders slump forward despite all of his Euphemia-enforced posture lessons, and motions for him to go ahead.
He climbs up the stairs slowly, one step at a time, because not only doesn’t he know what the hell he’s doing, he also doesn’t know what to expect. Not anymore.
The flat looks roughly the same as always, but there’s an air of emptiness that wasn’t there before. When he first found out Lily left he’d let himself believe it was all one of her pranks, and that she was coming back, but it’s been over two weeks and she’s nowhere to be seen.
He can’t help but drag himself over to Lily’s bedroom, and is shocked to see that most of the room is packed up in boxes. Seeing it makes it impossible for him to deny that Lily really is gone, and that he doubts he’ll ever see her again.
Even if he does, James knows it won’t be the same. There will be no more late night ice cream runs or after-school stolls through the infamous Beetroot Square. The thing he’ll miss most, though, are the lazy Sunday mornings spent at the bridge. On those occasions, the two of them rarely ever talked, but there was something about sitting in silence and just reading for a couple of hours that always made James feel even more at home.
It strikes him that he doesn’t even know where Lily left to , and so he decides to ask Lisa. After all, for all he knows, she’s buggered off to bloody France or something. Just bought herself a one way ticket on the Eurostar and didn’t even look back.
Imagine the shock, so obviously displayed on James’ face, when Lisa tells him she’s back in London, only a measly three hours away.
He thanks her, buys himself a cup of coffee to go, and makes his way to Hogwarts.
Just as he’s reaching the intersection outside of Godric’s Hollow, something inside James snaps, and instead of making a left to school, he swerves the car and drives the opposite way. He doesn’t let himself think too much about it, and cranks up The Clash all the way to London. After what feels like hours of searching, James finally finds a parking spot right at the end of Serpentine Bridge. There, in the privacy of his Corolla, he lets himself have a little meltdown. Coming here was such a mistake.
There’s a knock on his window, and for a second there James gets his hopes up. Unfortunately, they’re soundly crushed once he realises it’s only the car park security, probably checking whether or not he’s doing any sort of drugs.
In a leap of faith, James makes his way to the Italian Gardens and when he sees Lily sitting at a bench, he gets the wind knocked out of him. He already knew he was in love, but it’s never presented itself in such an obvious way. It annoys James to no end, and all his plans go swiftly out the window as he realises there is no way in hell he can actually walk up to her in the nonchalant way he’d convinced himself he was capable of during the drive into London.
He’s here, and she’s here, and she’s beautiful with her red hair pulled back in a messy bun. She doesn’t notice him, too engrossed in a book to even look around, and James’ stomach does somersaults once he realises she’s reading The Fountainhead .
He watches her for a few minutes, trying to psych himself up for what he’s about to do. Carefully, James walks over and when Lily finally glances up, she doesn’t look surprised. In fact, she’s looking at him like she always has, like they’re back in Godric’s Hollow and it’s an ordinary day of their lives and he’s just been to Lisa’s to pick up some coffee. She’s looking at him like nothing’s happened, and it makes his blood boil, but he tries to calm down. He doesn’t want to scare Lily, and attacking her on sight probably won’t help him any.
“Hey,” he says back, looking anywhere but her, smiling because despite everything, James is putty in her hands, and he doesn’t even mind. He wants to hold her and touch her hair and kiss her, and he’s pretty sure that if his eyes meet hers he won’t be able to contain himself.
There’s a beat of silence, but then it breaks because Lily is tugging his sleeve and asking, “Hey, you hungry?”
“That’s a first,” Lily snorts. “Come on, it’s almost twelve. I know a place.”
They walk to a hotdog stand near the Bayswater Tube station, and it’s a little awkward, but not as bad as it could have been. He tries to pay for the food but Lily cuts him off and says that it’s to make up for the petrol money he spent to get to London. Instead of returning to Hyde Park, Lily directs them to Leinster Square and the two of them sit on the steps to Number 12.
For a few minutes, it’s uncomfortable. Sitting there, next to Lily, eating junk food and looking everywhere but each other, it makes him remember all the times they did the exact same thing, but with way less baggage. There’s no way she doesn’t know why he’s here, and yet she refuses to say anything about it.
It makes it all the more difficult.
Apparently, Lily is thinking the same thing, because not ten seconds go by before she asks, staring at her shoes “Why did you come here? I mean, you cut school and everything.”
James just gives her a pointed look.
“Obviously there was something more important, and it sure as hell wasn’t my essay on the Marshall Plan.”
He’s coming off way more abrasive than he was shooting for, and yet he can’t find it in him to be sorry about it. Because the truth is, James is upset. He’s spent the last god knows how many days, weeks , trying to figure out what happened, what he did to make her leave. It hasn’t been fun, and he wants to make that clear.
James scoffs. “Well, of course I’m angry! What did you expect?”
Lily just shrugs, and keeps looking at her shoes. Why can’t she look at him, for a change? She never had any problems with it before. Before. It’s so weird to him, that ever since she got to town, James’ world has been completely split into Life-Before-Lily and Life-After-Lily. And now it’s been split again. Sometimes he feels like he’s going to separate into a thousand little pieces and disappear into thin air.
“I thought you’d be disappointed. Relieved. I don’t know. Something else.”
“Oh, don’t worry, I’m definitely all of those too.” James sighs, and he can’t believe he’s doing it, but he gets up and turns away. Lily has always been way too stubborn for her own good. He doesn’t deserve this. As much as he wants to forgive and forget, James finds he can’t , not when she won’t talk, won’t argue, won’t do anything, not even fucking look at him.
He’s about to leave when he hears her speak, voice thin and quiet, like she’s afraid he’ll pounce.
“So why did you?”
James turns around.
“You left, Lily! You didn’t even say goodbye. Who does that?”
She’s standing up now, and she’s starting to look mad herself, and it makes James feel a little better. Maybe the crushing pressure on his chest isn’t as one-sided as he thought.
“I thought it would be easier. You know there’s no way I would have been able to leave otherwise.”
She says it like it’s obvious, and maybe it is, but James hadn’t let himself hope. She still left. No word, no note, no call, nothing . And yet, he still wants her back.
“Well, I don’t care. I ditched my classes, and I drove over the speed limit for two hours on the sodding M4 and I look like a prize idiot but I. Don’t. Care.” James takes a deep breath, shoves his hands through his hair, and says, “You have to come back.”
Of course, it’s not like Lily could ever make it easy for him, and so instead of agreeing and getting in his car, she’s shaking her head, red hair flying out of the bun, flying everywhere , and she’s saying, “I can’t.”
“Can’t or won’t?” James asks, staring intently at her.
It takes a while for Lily to reply.
“Can’t-won’t-I don’t know. I just…” She’s pacing up and down the sidewalk, muttering to herself. “It’s complicated.”
“No it’s not! It’s not complicated—.”
“You don’t know that!”
“Of course I do!”
“I know you, Lily.”
“You don’t know me!”
She’s quick to interrupt him, but James just scoffs and presses on. “Come on, I know you better than anyone! This isn’t you! You, running away, not saying goodbye, bolting at the first available opportunity.”
“Oh, haven’t you heard? This is exactly who I am, just ask Miss Rita or my sister, or, I don’t know, I’m sure even my aunt would be able to come up with something-”
“It’s not! You know it isn’t. What’s going on?”
Lily stops in her tracks and her face falls. For a second, James thinks she might start crying, but the idea is quick to leave his mind because he knows Lily hates being vulnerable, especially in public.
“I can’t go back to Petunia’s life,” she says, and it’s so quiet she may as well have whispered it.
Now that the reason for Lily’s departure is finally out there , James finally understands. He can’t believe he hadn’t thought of it. If only she wasn’t so… headstrong. Then maybe he’d have a shot at convincing her that’s not what he was trying to do when he asked her to be his date to that stupid dinner. Of course, if Lily wasn’t so headstrong, he wouldn’t love her nearly as much. Still, he had to try.
“But that’s not what this is! Come on, Lily! You know I don’t care about any of that!” he argues, gesturing around like an absolute madman.
“And your mum?” she asks, and James doesn’t think he’s ever seen her look so small .
“Have you met my mum? She may pull a Miss Manners every once in a while but even you should know better than to think she’d ever force you into, I don’t know, a cotillion gown or something like that.”
James can tell Lily’s resolve is starting to weaken. He’s never been able to resist this… this energy, this pull between them, and he knows Lily isn’t immune to it either. Being with her, arguing with her, be it about films or books or music, it always fills him with this energy, and he’s addicted to it.
James is aware that he looks like a goddamn fool, but he can’t bring himself to care. There’s no way he’s going back to Godric’s Hollow without Lily. Not unless she really doesn’t want to leave with him. But he knows she’s scared and that she won’t cave unless he keeps pressing.
“Come back with me, Lily.”
Asking her to not just come back, but to come back with him has Lily pacing once again, pulling at her hair. He thinks that if this goes on a lot longer, she’s going to end up completely bald. She’s just walking in circles, repeating the same word over and over again.
“No! No, no, no, no!”
It sounds like she’s arguing with herself and it makes James feel a little invisible, but he’s not backing down from this.
“Don’t say no just because you’re scared and you want to make me stop or to make me go away. Only say no if you really don’t want to come back with me.”
Lily halts to a stop and looks at him, pupils blown wide. James can almost see the word forming on her lips, but for some reason she doesn’t say anything. He imagines the cogs turning in her head, writing up a million pro-con lists in the span of seconds. For all of Lily’s impulsive nature, he knows a lot of it is just a façade and that in reality, she spends way too much time overthinking things.
James’ words hang in the air for a while, and he sits back down, tired.
Lily sits down too.
It feels like hours before either of them moves again, but James knows it has only been minutes. If they weren’t in London and there wasn’t so much noise, James would argue he’d be able to hear a pin drop. He thinks that maybe he should just go, but Lily hasn’t given him a reply yet, and so James is rooted to the spot.
For the first time, he lets himself wonder about what things would be like if she really did say yes. They’d go back to the discussions that always leave him wanting more, to hanging out at the bookstore, at the bridge, at Lisa’s. James can just imagine, the two of them just spending time together in Bridgwater, like that day she went to visit him at school, exploring the city and its many record stores, leaving no vinyl unturned. Maybe one day he’ll get her that Bananarama album Lily would never admit to wanting.
Eventually, Lily clears her throat, and scratching her head, agrees. “Okay. Okay, yes, I’ll go with you. Yes.”
James’ head snaps up and he’s beaming. It’s ridiculous but even if he hoped she would, James never actually anticipated Lily to concede. Ever since he got in the car—okay, maybe not right that moment, but ever since somewhere between Kenn and Portbury—he thought he was bound to get to London and then either chicken out or try to convince himself that maybe, Lily leaving was for the best. He never expected to actually succeed.
“Okay. Okay, good.”