A/N: This is really it this time. It's been amazing guys, thank you so much for your continued support with this story. It... aches a little to be finished. In the paraphrased words of Winnie the Pooh, how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. Onward!
Unto the Breach
This time Lily landed right where she meant to. It was her first time in Godric's Hollow and it was… perfect. There was a lovely white church on the other side of the street, and beyond that a neat row of houses with overflowing flower boxes. A silver-haired witch looked up from watering her garden when Lily appeared in the street, and she waved kindly before turning back to her levitating water can.
She wondered if P lived here, or if he'd chosen the village for its charm.
And speaking of P…
Lily turned around and saw the entrance to the public garden. It was a riot of color, an artist's scape of petals dancing around in the breeze. The area was fronted by a wrought iron gate topped with a sculpted hippogriff.
And on top of the hippogriff perched a familiar figure.
"Whoo!" Archie answered cheerfully, before springing up and fluttering over to settle on her shoulder. Lily pulled a gingersnap from her pocket and offered it to him. He took it gratefully before nuzzling his feathery cheek against Lily's.
"I'm so glad to see you, friend. Would you… stay with me?"
Lily smiled at him. "Unto the breach, then." She opened the gate and stepped through, her feet heavy. She kept walking, Archie's weight on her shoulder a comforting balm until, with a last reassuring squeeze on her shoulder, he hopped up and glided just ahead of her to lead the way.
Any other day, Lily would have gazed in awe at the scenery around her, but today she simply couldn't. She could hardly even hear the crunch of gravel under her shoes over the deafening rush of her own heartbeat as she moved through the garden.
She didn't see anyone else yet, but the path curved ahead and everything beyond was hidden by a great wall of sunflowers. Twenty more paces and she was beyond them, and on the other side was…
Lily's breath caught in her throat as she beheld an endless vista of white daisies. Now she knew exactly why P had chosen this place. It enchanted her; it made her feel like… the first time she'd seen magic. The rolling waves of snowy petals were so miraculous that they were all that registered in her mind for several stunned seconds… even before the lanky figure standing at the end of the path.
The figure that Archie had sped towards and was now circling above.
Lily paused, looking at him in bewilderment. What on earth was he doing here? Had he followed her here to… to apologize or… continue their talk or…
Did it matter? She needed him to leave. Hadn't she just said that she couldn't deal with this right now? And P would be here any minute.
Lily took a few more apprehensive steps toward James. He didn't wave or smile; he didn't say hello. He just watched her advance in silence, his eyes intent on her face as though he were waiting for something.
Lily didn't know why, but her heart had stopped its pounding and seemed to be thrumming like hummingbird wings now, and she found her mouth inexplicably dry when she asked, "what's going on?"
"Hey, Evans," he said, and his voice had a rough, unsteady quality to it.
Lily had that feeling she often got around James—the one where he'd left her anticipating the punchline of a joke. She gave him a puzzled smile.
But he didn't look impish. He looked guilty. And nervous.
It took a long moment for the realization to form. Part of her knew—she felt a subconscious and senseless panic, as though she were watching a porcelain teacup fall in slow motion, about to shatter.
Then Archie settled upon James's shoulder, and the truth settled upon Lily.
It settled, and all at once the air seemed sucked out of the garden. Lily found herself gasping for it, but it wasn't there. Oh no, she thought, as her heart began a frenetic race. No no no no…
She didn't understand. How could P be... James Potter?
He'd hated her, and she'd hated him. Maybe not now, certainly not now, but at the beginning, surely. Lily found her mind scrambling to reconcile the arrogant, insufferable boy she'd known at school with the man on the little scraps of parchment who'd held her heart so completely.
They couldn't, wouldn't mesh together. P was her soulmate, and James was…
Lily felt a lurch in her stomach like she'd taken a false step over a ledge.
James was a troublemaker and a prankster. Wouldn't it be just like him to set up some elaborate joke—
James's eyes widened, and Lily thought she might have shouted that last word aloud. He opened his mouth, made a little choking sound that might have been her name, but Lily held up a finger to silence him.
Lily eyed him with suspicion, suddenly quite angry. She read his face, really studied it, for any sign that he'd betrayed her. But the boy staring back was anxious, his hands in his pockets and his shoulders shrugged defensively despite the apology in his eyes.
There was no haha, gotcha expression. No cruelty. At least she hadn't misjudged him so severely. She'd been a fool, but not that much of one.
Lily was embarrassed to feel tears burning her eyes.
James finally broke the silence. "Don't cry, E," he said, his voice begging. She never thought she'd hear Potter plead with anyone, but there it was, and the sound of her cherished single-letter moniker falling from his lips pushed her over the edge.
She put her head in her hands and, oh Merlin, there were teardrops there, how humiliating. She brushed them away angrily.
James couldn't take it any more—he closed the distance left between them in a step and cupped her face in his hands, running a callused thumb across her cheek to catch the tears she missed. Lily's own hands rose up involuntarily to rest on his chest—a reaction, to hold him or push him away, she didn't yet know.
He was whispering something quietly, she realized, over and over— I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry.
She felt his eyes searching her face so she looked up to meet them and found them wild and worried. Worried for her.
Of course he was worried. He was P—her best friend in all the world. The boy who held her cares and talked her through every crisis would be on high alert now, when she thought her world might be disintegrating.
He was P and… and P was…
Lily felt the world shift in an attempt to right itself.
Because P was James. Of course he was.
He had to be.
The world shifted again, and all the pieces began to tumble into place—the two halves of this boy finally melding together comprehensively.
She'd been certain for some time now, resolute, that P was her soulmate. But he never could have been— not without the laughing hazel eyes and knobby knees and heart-melting smile that she'd been pretending not to fall for since he'd handed her daisies and said he wanted the impossible.
And now she knew why he'd bothered—to show her who he was, to try to be her friend. He'd needed her to be in love with him… all of him. He needed her too much to risk losing her. It was stupid and reckless and… a bit sweet. Just like him.
Of course she'd fallen in love with him. He was James.
And… they'd wasted so much time already.
With that realization, all the air and color that had been briefly leached from world seemed to return to Lily, along with her normal heart-rate and ability to breath. The world began to steady and slow and… all was well.
All was well for her, anyway, but James was still waiting in an agonized stillness. He still held her face, though he'd finally stopped apologizing, quelled to silence by her anger and sadness.
She couldn't have that. He—he was her soulmate, after all.
Lily closed her eyes and pressed her cheek into the warmth of his touch, breathing in the smell of warm butterscotch and sunshine-on-skin that was so perfectly him, and she smiled.
"Lily?" he asked.
"I wanted it to be you," she whispered.
She felt him shudder beneath her palms, heard a breath whoosh out of him—relieved and joyful, and he leaned down to rest his forehead gently on hers.
"I wanted it to be you so badly."
For a moment they just stood, and Lily basked in the glow of the sun on her shoulders, the smell of roses and peonies blooming nearby, and the warmth of James's breath on the tip of her nose. It was instinct now, after all their training together, to count the beats of his heart as they thundered away under her hands, and to study the uneven quality of his breathing.
She breathed a laugh, wondering at the sensation of knowing at last how it felt to hold him.
He pulled back a bit to look at her, and his expression broke her heart. She could read all the questions in his eyes—is this real, will you stay, do you want me, may I keep you—he was unwilling to give himself completely over to hope. Even as he waited for her decision, his hands skimmed lightly down her arms, unable to stop touching her.
The only question he voiced aloud was "Are you mad?"
"Angry mad or crazy mad?"
"Both. You ninny."
Lily shook her head, but… honestly, she knew what she wanted. After all, they'd wasted so much time. She looked up at him from under her lashes, her bright eyes meeting his. "James… would you kiss me?"
She heard his breath hitch. "I…" he swallowed and exhaled shakily. "I'm afraid I won't be able to stop."
She nodded slowly, deliberately. "Even still."
Half a heartbeat and he was kissing her, his lips firm and desperate as they covered her own, his thumb slowly tracing the curve of her hip. Lily's hands clutched at the front of his shirt as she arched back, trying to accommodate for how very tall he was. He seemed to realize this problem, too, and wrapped both arms around her waist until Lily felt herself being lifted right off the ground.
He edged her back towards the low wall that lined the path, stumbling once over the laces of his trainers. Lily very nearly laughed, but the brush of his fingers against her lower back stole away the air she needed to manage it.
He set her down on the stone wall so she was exactly level with him, unwilling to stop kissing her for even the moment it took him to do so. She hummed her approval of that decision and brought her fingers up finally, finally tangle in that fantastic mess of black hair she'd been dying to touch.
He seemed to like that very much.
"Do you know," he murmured against her lips. "I've wondered what it would be like to kiss you, for as long as I've known you?"
Lily pulled back and looked at him expectantly. "And?"
He gave her half of a smile, his eyes roving over her face, taking in every detail of what she looked like when he'd been kissing her—the pink-flushed cheeks, the bright eyes, the mussed hair. And he couldn't do anything but kiss her again, muffling the surprised sound that escaped her mouth by taking her bottom lip in between his.
He couldn't even breathe; it just wasn't important. Other things were important now, like the shape of her waist and the way she sighed in his arms.
After a few long moments, Lily pulled back for some air, but she didn't pull back far. She stayed right there with James, to his absolute delight. "This is going to sound strange," she told him, "but I feel like I have to rush home and send an owl to… well, to you, and tell you how it all turned out."
He gave her an adorable grin, all enchanted and sideways. "Oh, I don't mind at all. Can I come with you?"
Her answer was an inelegant snort. "What, to help me write it?"
His eyes lit up with mischief. "Dear Prongs—"
"Oh, is that what P stood for? Here I was thinking it was Pain-in-the-Bum."
"Merlin, is this my life now?"
"—snogged a boy today; he was very good at it, plan to do some more of that later…"
"You know, I really am." He wrapped his arms tightly around her, drawing her in closer to him, and gave her that look that she loved.
"What would your letter to me say?" she asked, taking advantage of his closeness to really check out how great his eyelashes are. They were even longer than hers, she noted with a bit of resentment.
"Actually," he said. He reluctantly removed one of his hands from its place on her hip and dug into his back pocket, coming out a second later with a folded bit of parchment.
Lily stared at it, a bit stunned, but accepted it (careful to brush her fingers coyly over his as she took it, because she was learning that it was fun to watch him turn all sorts of colors like a mood ring). She unfolded it and read,
I know there's a chance I'll have to beg you to read this as you run away from me. I hope not, and maybe you've stuck around for an explanation. I haven't got one, sorry. You're the one who's always been in charge of making things make sense so—
Here is what I do know. In case it isn't clear to you, I'm madly in love with you. I have been for ages, and I thought you ought to know.
Please consider loving me back, and let me know what you decide.
Yours either way,
James Fleamont Potter
P.S. The full name is just for clarification, please only call me P, James, or Prongs and never tell Sirius about my middle name.
Lily stared at the lines of messy scrawl, wanting to laugh a little and wanting to cry a little. She traced her fingers over his salutation. "Shouldn't you have put a little 'check yes or no' box at the bottom? How will you know what I've decided, otherwise?"
When he didn't answer she looked up to find his eyes positively burning into hers. "Check yes," he said softly.
"Okay," she smiled.
His eyes lit up and he leaned down to give her another kiss—quickly this time, but with enough heat to leave her unsteady.
"Hmm," she sighed, and then an idea dawned on her. "Does… does this mean you'll be my date to my sister's wedding? And Alice and Franks?"
James nodded without hesitation. "Evans, now that I know how you kiss, I might ask to be your date to our wedding."
Lily threw her head back and laughed, and James thought it was a very good sign that she hadn't gotten nervous or backtracked… although she might have, if she'd taken him as seriously as he'd meant it.
To be sure, there was a giant emerald ring in the Potter family vault that would go perfectly with her eyes.
It was very probably already engraved with her name.
But, James thought, unable to believe his luck as he tucked an errant bit of Lily's hair behind her ear, and she didn't push him away or anything.
She knew who he was. She hadn't run. She'd kissed him.
She'd checked yes.
He was going to go out and save the world, and then she was going to heal it—definitely a solid plan.
And wasn't that was more than enough to be getting on with for one day?
the very end.
A/N: I hope that was everything you hoped for, you guys. All you need is love! Leave me some