It was a fact of being a Hogwarts student: anybody who’s anybody knows Hubert Goosrey, and anybody who’s anybody knows that Goose throws the best parties over summer break because his parents were too rich to care about anything more than their bank accounts, let alone their son’s general well-being.
That’s why Lily Evans finds herself Apparating to a different Pureblood manor this evening— least, the Goosrey’s claimed they were Pureblood even though Goose told Lily back in first year he was a halfblood. That was back when she was learning this strange new society with its strange distinctions; that was back when some people were curious about what being a Muggleborn was like as opposed to just being hostile or scared. That was back before she got called a Mudblood one too many times from one too many close friends.
Goose handed out flyers with his house address and everything at the end of term, and Mary practically begged her via owl to go, because Everyone’s going to be there, and I missed Goose’s last party, and there was a Veela there! I just got back from Scotland and I’m Muggled out , Lily, I am. I’ll go bonkers if I can’t get a good spiked Butterbeer soon.
She has several places (one) she’d rather be, but Mary made a compelling argument (she’d be there), so here Lily is, walking down a Hogsmeade road away from town and into the village proper, towards a beautiful brick house that is deceptively calm. The slight buzzing in her ear gives away the silencing charms placed at the home’s perimeter, and when Lily follows the path down to the backyard, she sees its respectable exterior being actively besmirched by the scene before her: Muggle music blasting, sixth and seventh years holding Butterbeers and Gillywater and other fizzing drinks, sparklers lighting the air, and everything else she knew to credit to a bunch of unsupervised teenagers.
Unsupervised teenagers that include Mary, who Lily finds egging on a group of boys who Lily knows too well, and she’s an absolute moron for not preparing herself for this eventuality.
“Lily!” Mary exclaims, smiling a smile fitting for her obvious buzz. She gives her a big hug, not noticing her quiet panic, as she tells her, “Perfect timing. The Gryffindor’s need a fourth, we’re getting creamed by Ravenclaw. Sirius won’t let me play because he knows I’m shite at Butterbeer Bludger.”
“Evans!” Goose calls, tipping his bottle at her. “Just in time to see the end of Gryffindor’s glory days.”
“Fuck off, Hubert,” Sirius bites, smashing out a cigarette with his toe. In Goose’s defense, the Gryffindor boys did look exceedingly pathetic. Only half their bottles were still on the table while they’d barely gotten two off the Ravenclaw’s end.
“Oi, personal foul, Black!” Goose called, easily knocking off another of Gryffindor’s bottles down to the grass with his wand. “House rules. No Hubert’s.”
“Fuck off,” Sirius repeats, but knows enough to not get another of their precious few bottles knocked away. Peter stares disparagingly at the recent addition to their pile while Remus checks his watch.
“James really isn’t coming?”
“No,” Sirius tells him, shaking his head. “Wanker said he was busy." Does he glare at her? Lily can’t tell. She feels it, anyway.
“Sirius,” Remus says politely. “Have you spoken to him recently? Personally?”
Sirius pulls out another cigarette, gaze jumping from Remus and Peter to Goose then Lily and Mary. He puts away his lighter, taking a drag.
“Pause the game, boys,” Sirius says, walking away, hand digging back into his leather jacket. “Gotta piss.”
Once he’d sufficiently walked out of earshot, Lily mutters to Mary, “Potter isn’t here?”
“No, and he’s our best player, obviously,” she shakes her head in disappointment, then let a teasing smile take over her lips. “Took the tourney last year while you were hooking up with Lake upstairs.”
“Thanks for the reminder,” Lily grimaces, taking another sip of whatever Mary had handed her when she walked up. Despite the tease, Lily feels relief move through her chest. She won’t run into James out here in public, something they never discussed. She just gets to sit with Mary, who catches her up on her time in Scotland and what Lily’s missed upon her late arrival (not an intentionally late arrival. Petunia and her only just left the hospital).
When Lily stands to grab drink refills, she runs into Michael Abbott, who seemed to be fighting with Pamela Prewitt again, most likely because he cheated on her with Gretchen Nast at the end of term. In the sitting room she talks to Marilla Strings and Betty Fee and Robbie Folks, then finally makes it into the kitchen to get whatever drink number this one would be. It’s another crowded mess to navigate, and she’s disappointed to see Mulciber and Avery in the kitchen corner, but there’s enough people between them and the large cauldron with drink for her to dip a mug into for Lily to not be too concerned.
There’s enough people to not notice who it was standing precisely next to the cauldron, but not enough people to disappear into when he turns from his own conversation to fill his own mug the same moment she dips hers.
“Lily!” He blinks owlishly at her while she just stares, frozen. “I, er, didn’t think you’d be here.”
“Thomas!” She recovers enough to form words, despite her pounding heart and the red in her cheeks which can no longer claim to be just from the fun she was actually having before now.
He looks good. His skin has a healthy glow, freckles littering his cheeks to show how much time in the sun he’s had. His brown curly hair looks more golden than it used to be. Lily wonders if Thomas notices how much make up she caked under her eyes to hide the evidence of her exhaustion.
“What are you doing here?” Lily asks, trying her best to sound casual and like she isn’t also a little buzzed, like it didn’t bother her that Thomas seemed to be doing so much better than she was. “I thought you were off studying herbology in Sweden”
“I was. I am, ” Thomas says politely, thin smile curling on his lips. She remembers what attracted her to him in the first place. ”But Goose would kill me for missing his birthday, so, here we are.”
“Admirable,” Lily tells him, meaning it, leaning against the countertop. Maybe he got taller. Maybe she got smaller. “Do you like it? The trees?”
“I do,” he takes a sip of his drink, eyes sort of lighting up. “The wandwoods are amazing there, different than anything Sprout was able to grow or show. Look,” he holds out his hand, the one that used to hold hers. “I’ve been mauled by so many bowtruckles, you’d think I’d learn to recognize them by now.”
“You never did like Care of Magical Creatures,” She didn’t notice that they’d left the kitchen and that they were both leaning against the door frame. Easy.
“How are you?” Thomas asks, cordial as ever. That’s what Lily liked about Thomas. He was always thoughtful. It’s what she grew to dislike about Thomas, he was always too mild. But his lips tug up in some amusement. “Forgive me if it’s rude to ask. I’ve never been in this position before.”
Lily smiles at him. With people around, with a drink in her hand, it’s easy to forget how bad their last fight was. With a different boy on her mind, it’s almost easy to be nostalgic about the one in front of her.
“Not rude,” Lily shakes her head. “I’m good,” she half-lies. “A quiet summer and all.”
Thomas nods. “Good. That’s good. And your mum?”
“Been better,” Lily admits, no longer able to hold her smile or his gaze, stirring the contents of her glass around.
Thomas grimaces. “That bad, huh?”
Lily nods. She speaks the words into her cup, the first time she’s talked about it with anyone besides Petunia or a doctor. “It spread. Worse than what we thought.”
Thomas shakes his head, in pity or in sympathy, she can’t tell. “Muggles don’t know anything. Take her to Mungo’s.”
Lily clenches her drink with white-knuckled frustration. As if she hadn’t thought of that.
“She doesn’t have dragon pox, she’s got cancer,” Lily says bitterly. Thomas doesn’t look as beautiful to her any longer, his thinly veiled criticisms of Muggles rubbing her completely wrong, considering his father is a Muggle dentist. Besides that, there’s too many people here, too many people who might overhear her own business. Lily looks up at him from the other side of her drink. “That’s not a magical ailment.”
“Well, even so,” Thomas waved off her point dismissively, “I expect there’s something Healers could do differently than those doctors.”
She’s saved her retort by Goose bursting back into the house, making his way directly to her and Thomas and slapping him on the back.
“You’re up, Lake,” Goose announces, Ravenclaw tie wrapped around his head. “Macmillan’s out and we’re fucked.”
Thomas raises an eyebrow. “How’d you blow a ten bottle lead, Goose?”
Goose shrugs, grinning. “Who am I to explain the changing of the tides? Fate is a demanding mistress, Lake, and now she calls for you.”
Following Thomas and Goose back out reveals just how flighty fate can be. Going out into the garden reminds her of another one, because Lily and Thomas both learn what changed the tides of Butterbeer Bludger, both with possibly equal dread.
James Potter’s head is tipped back in mirth and merriment, high-fiving Peter while Eddie Shafiq shakes his head at the most recent Ravenclaw bottle chugged and fallen onto the ground. Remus is cheering appropriately as well, but Sirius is just watching her walk up with Thomas, no mirth or merriment in his expression. Lily feels shame in a way she isn’t sure she should, since she isn’t guilty of anything.
“That’s a tied game, boys!” James exclaims, grabbing the small ball needed to play. “Drink up!”
Sirius nudges James, who turns and sees her , standing next to Thomas, who hasn’t left her side even though he needs to take Macmillan’s place with the Ravenclaw’s. She can practically feel how stiff Thomas is standing.
“Lake!” James greets jauntily, walking out from the table with long legs, long arms, reaching out his hand to shake Thomas’ hand. “Good show, man, good show. Missed you at last year’s tourney, didn’t we?”
Lily nearly chokes on her drink.
“Almost missed you this year, I heard,” Thomas says mildly, patting her on the back while she tries to cough discreetly. Lily knows Thomas enough to know what he really means and why. James doesn’t, or does, and passes over the insult smoothly.
Standing right in front of her but seemingly speaking to Thomas, James says with equal casualness, “Unexpected change of plans, but I’ve a feeling it’s all going to work out in the end. Gives me a chance to defend my honor and all that.”
Then, as if she were an afterthought, he looked over at Lily, big bold smile revealing big white teeth. Something flares in her chest, makes her want to pull out her old Divination book to search for beauty as a bad omen. He doesn’t acknowledge her glare, or the fist that is clenched by her side.
“Evans!” James grins jovially. “Long time no see. Wonderful, marvelous timing. Superb.”
“Potter,” she hisses below her breath, “ What are you doing?”
“Nothing at all,” he lies, grin pulling his lips, cheekbones high and sharp. “Just helping secure a Gryffindor victory. And seeing if you could help me find something I’ve lost.”
James holds out his hands, big palms up, the small game ball missing from his possession even though he did just have it. But in the next moment, his hand is no longer open and on display but in her hair reaching behind her ear.
“Found it,” James smirks, pulling his hand away to reveal the game ball in his hand, wiggling it between his fingers to show off.
“Congratulations,” Thomas deadpans, not looking amused in the least. “You’ve accomplished amateur magician status.”
“Oh, I think I’ve accomplished more than that,” he says mildly. “Let’s play, yeah?”
James tosses the ball to Sirius, who is up against Goose, before he calls out, “Evans, one more trick. Check behind the other ear.”
He’s wearing his favorite shit-eating grin and she can practically feel Thomas’ eyes watch her reaction to him, can feel Sirius watch her as well. She doesn’t want to give James the satisfaction of her reaction after he put her on the spot like that. Lily just gives him one last withering glare before turning on her heel, throwing a simple “Fuck off, Potter,” that she deeply means over her shoulder before joining Mary on the sidelines.
Soon as she’s turned around, her hand jumps to her ear, pulling down a rolled piece of parchment that she pretends to crumple in her hand for Mary’s sake, who’s staring at her with open curiosity.
“What was that about?” Mary asks, pointing at James.
“Don’t ask me to explain Potter,” Lily shakes her head, taking a large sip of her drink.
“What was it?” She prods. “Behind your ear?”
“Nothing,” Lily lies, praying Mary will let her off easy as she grumbles, “Muggle magic tricks. Of all the pointless things.”
“I don’t know,” Mary smirks. “Maybe if Quidditch doesn’t work out for him, James could do kids’ birthday parties. I think he’d look fit in a clown suit, even.”
Lily doesn’t want to smile at that image, because she’s upset, and she doesn’t know at who— James, for being a prat. Thomas, for being a prat. James, for being himself. Thomas, for being right all those months ago, all those fights ago, and for being on the verge of discovering just how right he was. Maybe Lily’s just mad at herself for getting into this mess.
The note’s heavy in her pocket. She pulls it out when Mary’s distracted by warning Pamila that Michael’s inside and she isn’t sure if Gretchen’s coming to the party.
She crumples it back in her pocket, cheeks burning.
Even still, she’s a Gryffindor and has a healthy sense of house pride, so another drink and more bottles down for Ravenclaw do lift her mood a bit. Goose takes out both Sirius and Remus in one round, who join Lily and Mary in the sea of students who filed out the house to egg on Peter and James against Thomas and Goose. Peter, red-cheeked and grinning, gets knocked by Goose, who is promptly left chugging when James gets a clean hit, so then it’s just James and Thomas, with one bottle left standing on either side end, until—
“ Yes!” James yells as the miniature bludger strikes true, spinning wildly as it knocks out Ravenclaw’s last bottle. Thomas swears, chugging his drink bitterly in defeat. James chugs his own in victory, finishing it off with a wide, glaring smile as the both of them wander back into the crowd to various cheers. Well, James joins the crowd, and Thomas skulks away inside the house. Lily sees the next crop of students set up bottles. Pamila Prewitt decided to hug James in victory, which Lily obviously doesn’t care about, and she bitterly and deliberately only talks to Mary and Remus for as long as possible, ignoring James, who she feels behind him like she could sense his every movement.
They’re good at this dance, though. Public disputes between the two of them aren’t unusual, aren’t a change, so Lily isn’t wholly bothered when she does find herself off to the side with him, trying her best not to look directly at him.
“You’re an arsehole, you know that?” Lily says quietly to James, who is standing way too close to her, who is looking way too pleased with himself. “You didn’t need to do any of that.”
“Do what?” James asks innocently, raising his eyebrows.
“Goad Thomas on,” she crosses her arms across her chest. “Flirt with me in front of everyone. Someone’s going to notice. Thomas certainly did.”
James scoffs, rolling his eyes, demeanor quickly changing. “That’s really what you’re miffed about? So what?”
“So what?” Lily repeats indignantly, eyes wide. “So what? So I don’t want anyone to know is what.”
“Well, why not?” James cuts back. The alcohol’s making him bolder, making him voice one of the many questions which had been plaguing his mind all summer with Lily Evans. “We never said this was a secret. That was never part of the original deal.”
“Well, it’s part of the deal now,” Lily bites stubbornly. “I just don’t want other people involved, okay?”
“That’s a bullshit answer, Evans, and you know it,” he says, taking a step towards her. She takes one back, danger in her eyes. Too close. Too public. Too much like they know each other.
“Don’t push me on this, James,” Lily warns, adding another step of distance between them. “I’m serious.”
“So am I—“ But James is cut off by Goose, who has saved her multiple times this evening. Good man, Goose. She’ll have to send him a box of chocolate frogs when she can.
“I call rematch,” Goose says, slinging his arm across James’ shoulders. “Macmillan rallied and he agrees.” He looks at Lily, lopsided grin on his face, Firewhiskey on his breath. “Pretty boy here arrived late. Sober advantage.”
“Ah, come on, Goose,” James shakes his head in good humor, the transition from their fight into a public face so smooth. He’s still on her side. He doesn’t agree with her and he certainly doesn’t understand her, but he’s not going to betray her. “No such thing as sober advantage in Butterbeer Bludger. If anything, that’s a disadvantage.”
Goose shrugs, still grinning. “I still call it suspicious, but I’ll find it in me to forgive you if you and Pettigrew join the seventh year team soon. Fifth and sixth years are going now.”
“In a little,” James agrees, holding up his empty cup. “Refill time.”
But the look he gives Lily that Goose can’t see, the slightest holding of her gaze, the slightest raise of his brow, says he’s got more on his mind than another drink. An invitation to her, a challenge to her, if they want to finish what they started. The note is burning a hole in her pocket. There’s so many people here, so many ways in which following him inside will be an incredibly foolish move to make, risking their secret for next to nothing, and he knows that. He goaded Thomas on earlier just because he could, and now he’s flexing his pride with her. Testing to see how far he can push her, how far she’ll go to keep whatever they’ve got. It’s a game she doesn’t know she wants to play but one she knows she’s going to play anyway.
The happenings of the upstairs of the Goosrey house is talk for the whole school year when couples get caught. She’s pissed at James for whatever stunt he was pulling with Thomas. She’s pissed that it worked on her, that she felt special in his attention, felt excited at this new challenge in whatever game they’re playing. More than that, she wants to be upstairs with him, because she wants him, wants this arrogant prick whose come to mean something more than he should to her.
Mary’s still telling anyone who will listen about the selkie she met, so it’s actually not hard to slip into the house unnoticed, music still blaring, respected classmates still drinking and throwing things and lighting sparklers inside the house for no reason. She’s gotten so used to sneaking around this summer that this feels no different.
She makes her way up the stairs and James is waiting right around the corner for her, like she used to for him at the start of the summer.
“I actually have no idea where to go,” James confesses, which Lily would smile at if she weren’t immediately focused on remembering which one is the guest room, grabbing his hand, pushing him into the bedroom at the far right of the elaborate hallway.
“How did you—?”
“Don’t ask,” she mutters, closing the door behind them, shoving him towards the bed. “Take your shirt off.”
By the time she turned around from locking the door, he’d done just that. By the time she joins him on the bed, she’s done so as well. His mouth is on hers faster and fiercer than they’d been in a while, different, secret, new and familiar at once. This game has stakes. Their kiss is messy, desperate, burning. Her hands are tangled in his hair, his are unclasping her bra, hers are unbuckling his pants.
“I still think you’re a prat,” she says into his mouth, out of breath, desperate, bitter, delirious, desirous.
“I still think you’re hiding something,” he counters, looking up at her with bright, bright eyes. His grip on his hips intensifies. He needs to know she’s real, she here with him. When she could be anywhere, she chose to be here. It soothes the angry flame of jealousy hiding his fears. What a fragile thing, their secret, for him to have goaded, to have risked exposing, but he can’t shake the nagging insecurity he felt seeing Lake with her again. All they have is an agreement to be nothing. All he can do is hold onto for her for just a bit longer, and it makes no sense. None of this makes any fucking sense.
He’s flipped them, pinning her beneath him, “I think you’re being obstinate for no other reason than to be difficult.”
She squirms a bit, biting down on her lip, as his mouth decides to continue its work, moving lower from mouth to neck to breast, until he’s pushing her skirt up, hands delightfully ghosting over her inner thigh.
“Arrogant,” she tells him as he takes his time to pull down her knickers, purposefully teasing her after such frenzied and gruff snogging. “Entitled.”
“Critical. Judgmental. Secretive.” He looks up at her, almost deadpan. “We can trade jibes all night if that’s what you’d prefer.”
“Fuck you,” she says, fingers curled into the sheets, damn near mad, until suddenly they aren’t alone. Suddenly there’s a voice, familiar, calling into the room.
“Emergency patch, Prongs, pick up. Prongs .”
Lily’s entire body seizes up for a moment of pure panic before she scrambles to sit up, grabbing the nearest article of clothing she could (James’ shirt), and squeaking out eloquently, “What the fuck?”
“Fucking blistering fuck,” James says, but he isn’t startled and confused like she is, he’s just reaching for the jeans she pulled off him. “ Fuck.”
She’s jumped to get dressed, not waiting for an explanation, because she doesn’t get one. James pulled out a mirror of all things from his pocket, holding it up to his face.
“Sirius,” James all but grunts through gritted teeth, ignoring her question. “This better be an emergency. Someone better be dying or dead.”
“James?” Lily repeats, feeling shell-shocked. “The mirror? Talks?”
He waves her off with a dismissive arm gesture as she hears Sirius say, “It— oh my god, are you shitting me right now?”
“No, really, you’ve got to be shitting me. I’ve been covering for you because I didn’t think it possible you two would be stupid enough to go upstairs at the biggest party of the year, and here I am, my innocence being stripped before me, seeing my best friend naked—”
“I’m just not wearing a shirt, man—“
“All while being properly abandoned outside, no attention from said best mate, if we could even call him that—“
“Sirius. The point. Get to it.”
“ Not that it’s any of my business,” Sirius says. “And not that either of you two idiots deserve my help, but people are looking for you. Prongs, you’re up for the game. McDonald’s looking for Evans. So’s Lake.”
“Lake?” James asks, first to the mirror, then to Lily, who threw him his shirt and put her own back on. “Why’s Lake looking for Lily?”
“Fuck if I know,” she hears Sirius say. She can imagine the shrug he paired with it, the one where he rolls his shoulders. “If you don’t come down to beat the sixth years in two seconds, I’m telling everyone in the house where you are.”
“Alright, alright,” James says, and the light on his face glowing from the mirror fades. He looks at Lily, throwing his shirt on, buckling his pants. “Got an escape plan?”
“You go first,” she says, brushing her hair out with her fingers in the mirror (regular, not magical, not a communication device she’s never heard of before) above a dresser in the room. “More people are waiting for you.”
“Right,” James is fully clothed now, making no moves to leave. “Right. Okay. I’m going.”
“Right,” Lily would be amused if they weren’t at such risk if he doesn’t go. He’s just standing there, gripping the bridge of his nose. She understands the frustration.
“This was a mistake,” he said, hand on his hip, one eye on her from the corner of his eye. “One more word for you, Evans. Dangerous.”
“Right,” she nearly laughs, but he’s finally about to pull open the door before she remembers to find her wand somewhere on the ground. “Wait. Let me disillusionment you.”
“Don’t worry about it,” she hears, then stands and turns to cast the charm, ready to say that they should be worried, only to find that he was gone.
Prat, she thinks, equal parts affectionate and frustrated. She takes her moment of solitude in the guest room to just breathe, to prepare to re-enter the party herself. She’ll still have to cast a disillusionment charm, and puts her wand tip to the top of her head, preparing herself for the cold chill of the spell.
“You usually could charm your way out of most situations,” a voice says in the doorway. Her heart stops. She’s about to pay for every stupid decision she’s made. “Literally and metaphorically.”
Lily drops the arm holding up her wand.
“Thomas,” she says, surprised for the second time this evening. “What are you doing?”
“Nothing,” he shrugs, hands in his pockets. “Just being proven right."
She doesn’t indulge him in asking what he means. She just stares at him with a stoic expression, crossing her arms over her chest. He raises an eyebrow at her.
“You aren’t even going to defend yourself?”
“Defend myself?” Lily repeats ominously. “I haven’t done anything wrong.” When he just stared at her, one eyebrow raised, she implores, quietly, “Don’t do this, Thomas. Don’t be this.”
He shakes his head, still standing in the doorway. “I wasn’t going to say anything. Not earlier, when I thought he was just being a prick, but then you—“ he sighs, runs a hand through his hair. She doesn’t like it when he does that. “God, Lily, what do you even see in him?”
He glares at her like he used to when they fought at the end of the school year. “Come on, now’s not really the time to be coy.”
“No, I’m serious,” Lily walks up to him, toe to toe, staring up at him. “Who’d you see going down the stairs? Who’d you run into on your way up here to stalk me?”
Thomas hesitates and that’s Lily’s answer, that James had done his duty to not be caught. “I wasn’t— I’m not stalking you,” he defends himself, having the decency to look slightly abashed. “Mary couldn’t find you and she was worried. I was helping her out, because she was worried, and because it’s not like you to leave her with no explanation. It’s not like you to sneak around or keep secrets from her.”
Lily doesn’t respond. Maybe Thomas didn’t expect her to, because he just shakes his head again, looking disappointed in her, like she’d done something wrong, when she knows she hasn’t.
“We could have been something, Lily. We could have been something great.”
“No, we couldn’t have,” she says honestly, one of the first time she’s been honest in a while.
“Yes, we could have!” He counters, moving into the room. “We could have, if it weren’t for him!”
“James had nothing to do with us,” Lily doesn’t know the truth of that admission, whether it’s honesty or another lie is irrelevant to her. She may as well acknowledge
“He had everything to do with us,” Thomas contradicts, voice harsh. “Maybe not at first, but he sure as hell did later. You were halfway out of the relationship before things ended.”
“Thomas,” Lily starts, startled, taking a step back, ignoring again some of the truth of what he was saying. “ You broke up with me. What I do now is absolutely none of your concern!”
“Just tell me this,” Thomas’ eyes flash at her. “Were you already sleeping with him before we broke up?”
“Was I— are you asking if I was cheating on you?” Lily stutters, feeling like she’d just been slapped in the face. “You’re— you know what? Go to hell, Thomas. Absolutely fucking go to hell,” she moves to walk past him, to storm out, but he reaches an arm out to stop her, forcing her to look back at him.
“I loved you,” he says, eyes roving her face for an answer she could never give him. “Hell, I still love you. Isn’t that something? Does that mean anything to you?”
They’re standing so close. She watches his eyes dart down to her lips, the back to her eyes. She feels him shift forward at the same time she takes a step back.
“Go, Thomas,” she says. “Leave before I lose anymore respect for you than I already have tonight.”
His face falls. He takes a step back too, seeming to have realized what he’s done, what he’s said. He rips away his hand from her arm, looking startled.
“I’m. Shit. I’m sorry, Lily,” Thomas tells her. She doesn’t bother to wipe away at the tear rolling down her cheek. “I shouldn’t have— I didn’t mean to—”
“I loved you, too,” she interrupts his apology, but the words taste bitter in her mouth. This is the truth, this is her fault and shame coming out in the open, old wounds she’d tried to cover with this summer’s decisions, rehashed and revisited. “I loved you as best I could. I’m sorry it wasn’t enough.”
She doesn’t wait for him to leave. Lily Evans cuts past him, ignoring Thomas calling her name one last time, before she barrels down the stairs, no longer caring for secrecy or stealth. Michael Abott and Pamila Prewitt are snogging right there at the foot of the stairs and she bursts through them without apology.
Outside, Lily’s eyes frantically search for Mary, who is sitting on a lawn chair next to Peter Pettigrew, watching James and Sirius prop Filibuster’s together like how Goose and Macmillan have on the opposite end of the lawn. Apparently the competition moved away from drinking games and into shooting fireworks at one another.
“Lily!” Mary exclaims, “I figured you’d left, I couldn’t— Lily?”
Mary stands, noticing how red Lily’s cheeks are, how red her eyes are. She looks more than concerned, asking “Lily, are you alright? What’s wrong?”
“Can you take me home?” Lily asks, quietly, even though she’s abandoned any sort of goal of remaining discreet.
“Yes,” Mary agrees, good friend that she is. “Of course. Has something happened?”
But it was too late to leave completely unnoticed. She didn’t see Peter signal James, but he must have, because he’s suddenly there, too close, too telling.
“Woah, Lily,” James says, treacherously and tellingly placing a hand on her forearm. “What’s—?”
“Don’t touch me,” Lily hisses, ripping her arm from James. She tries not to crumble at his shocked expression as he pulls up his hand, like she’d burnt him. But she can’t stand to look at him, can’t stand to be touched by him right now, can’t stand to let him see her break down. Can’t stand to know he’s exactly who she wants comforting her right now and she can’t because of rules she invented and rules she won’t let them break. She’s exhausted. She spent all day watching her mother be sick throughout her entire treatment, spent all day feeling so alone despite Petunia sitting primly next to her, spent all evening trying to maintain some sort of face to Thomas and to James and to the rest of the student body, and she’s exhausted. Lily just turns back to Mary, nearly begging, “Please. Now?”
“Lily—” she hears behind her while Mary takes her arm and walk them out the backyard and back to the village, but James doesn’t follow them. She has Sirius Black to thank for that.
“Leave it, James. Let her go.”
“Evans doesn’t want to talk to you,” Sirius tells him, emphasis on her surname. James remembers himself. Remembers he doesn’t know Lily Evans, not like that, not in public. “Come on. Let’s just shoot these fireworks and call it a night, all right?”
Down the lane, Mary asks, “Do you want to talk about it?”
“I’m just tired,” Lily says, a half-truth.
Mary doesn’t seem placated, though. “You’ve been acting funny all summer. Are you sure there isn’t anything you want to tell me?”
“I promise,” Lily shakes her head, which is a truthful statement, considering telling her about James is one of the last things she wants to do. “You know how it is. Petunia. Mum.”
“Right,” Mary agrees, squeezing her hand. “I understand.”
She doesn’t, but Lily knows she would if she’d just give Mary the chance. She just doesn’t want to drag Mary into this mess, knowing it’s on its way to imploding on itself. Instead, Lily squeezes Mary’s hand back, saying and fully meaning it, “Thank you.”
Mary just smiles. Then, because she’s a good friend, distracts Lily with the rest of the gossip from the evening, explaining just how Michael managed to get Pamila to forgive him and how Gretchen’s moved on to trying to nail Goose, even though everyone knows Goose would rather sleep with Macmillan or Sirius before any girl would catch his attention, despite how cute Gretchen really is.
“Overall, an eventful night, wouldn’t you say?” Mary asks when they land after side-arm Apparating to Lily’s house.
Lily couldn’t agree more.