A Tricky Thing
Now's my time
Lost the words, lost the nerve, lost the girl
I would wish upon a star but that star, it doesn't shine
So read my book with a boring ending
A short story of a lonely guy
…She makes me feel like it's raining outside
And when the storm's gone, I'm all torn up inside
~Blink-182, "Story of a Lonely Guy"
Sometimes I wonder if I could've handled things differently with Lily. Sometimes I wonder if things would've turned out the way they did if I hadn't done...that. She didn't always hate me, of course. And I didn't always love her.
Unrequited love is a tricky thing to deal with. But when the object of your affections is dating your best friend, you kind of have to. Deal with it, that is.
Lily is looking over at me now from where she sits with James's arm around her, four seats down and across from me. She doesn't smile, she doesn't frown, she doesn't even show any signs of recognition as her eyes bore into mine. I can't really move, I can only fight to keep her gaze on me determinedly.
James says something to her and she smiles, turns her head back to him, and replies, that same smile on her face. Lily's eyes aren't cold when she looks at James. When Lily looks at James, her eyes sparkle like they never sparkled at me.
I look away too, eyes fixed on my breakfast plate, even if I'm not really hungry. I ate most of it anyway, before Lily stared at me and caused me to lose any feeling anywhere.
I heard from someone once that the best way to deal with your problems is to write them down. I've tried every other method of dealing with this, getting rid of it, so one more can't hurt.
Can't hurt more than this, anyway.
I guess it started in fourth year. Lily Evans and I were always friendly, but I didn't really know her that well. She had her friends, and I had mine, and they rarely meshed.
Lily and I were paired to do a research project together in History of Magic (the teachers always went by alphabetical order by way of last name when the rare pairing occurred, and Black and Evans were the first two on the Gryffindor list--Lily and I were almost always paired together). I wasn't displeased about being put with Lily, because, as I said before, it happened often, and we had always gotten on well, mostly because she let me make her do most of the written work and didn't ask why. I guess she just assumed that I was another lazy teenage boy and she just didn't want to fight with me. But if she had asked me to do some of the work, I would have. She just never asked.
The project was on Binns's favorite topic, the goblin rebellions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Lily and I were assigned a timeline of the major battles and truces in said rebellions, an easy but lengthy topic that should have taken at least more than two weeks to complete, if we were to work for an hour every night.
"Okay, Sirius," Lily said in a very business-like tone when I slid into the seat next to her to discuss the details of this project, "I have some guidelines for you if this is going to work."
"Fire away," I replied, taking a package of Drooble's Best Blowing Gum out of my pocket. "Gum?"
"Sure," Lily said, taking the piece I offered her. She didn't unwrap it, however, but placed it on the desk in front of her. "Guideline number one: you will do some work this time. This project is considerably bigger than the other ones we've done and I can't do it alone."
I blew a bubble, and Lily scowled at me, clearly peeved that I wasn't paying rapt attention to her lecture. She picked up her quill and popped my bubble with the sharpened end of it, causing hundreds of little blue bubbles to spout from it and take flight around the room. Binns didn't appear to notice, which was probably why Lily did it in the first place.
"Okay, I'll work," I agreed. "Anything else?"
She thought about it. "Actually, no."
I grinned at her, and she allowed a small smile back.
The bell rang then, and as I scrambled for my bag, Lily said, "Meet me in the library tonight after dinner, and we'll start."
I was a little miffed that Lily wanted to start so quickly, but didn't comment on it, as James had joined us. Really, he didn't so much join us as I ran into him when I turned around to leave. He had been standing behind me, listening to our conversation, waiting for me, and smiling pleasantly at Lily, who smiled shyly back at him.
Now, most people would immediately categorize this as "Early Signs That James Likes Lily", but those people would be stupid, because James smiled at all girls like that. Hell, sometimes James smiled at teachers like that when he was avoiding trouble or acting like a smart ass. So, I didn't think anything of it. And even if I had, I wouldn't've cared--then.
James, having finished flashing his pearly whites at Lily, turned to me and said, "Wanna go to lunch?"
"No, let's go find a broom closet so we can make out," I said sarcastically, slinging my bag over my shoulder and starting to walk out.
"We could do that," James replied, following me out and grinning.
"I'd much rather eat than make out with you," I told him.
"Oh, Padfoot, you flatter me," he responded, still grinning.
I chose not to reply, and I don't think he expected me to, because he didn't say anything either.
I changed the subject. "Where's Moony and Wormtail?" I asked, referring to our other best friends.
"My guess is that they're at lunch," James said, sighing a little.
I turned to him curiously. "What was that for?"
"What was what for?"
I imitated his sigh.
James shrugged and walked into the Great Hall, and walked over to where Moony and Wormtail were sitting.
Now, as I write this, I'm in History of Magic, coincidentally. James has just poked me in the side with the tip of his Sugar Quill. " I know you're not taking notes," he says quietly, a smile playing at the edges of his mouth. "What're you writing?"
"Nothing," I tell him. I can't very well say, 'Well, I'm just writing about how I fell in love with your girlfriend. Care to offer any insight on that topic?'
James makes a face, but shoves the end of his Sugar Quill into his mouth and turns back to Binns.
I finished dinner thirty minutes after I started it. Lily, I noticed, had left at least ten minutes before I finished my third and final helping of pumpkin tart.
I got up from the table, told my friends where I was going when they asked, and made my way to the library.
There, in a table in the back corner, was Lily, at least six books spread out before her. She was poring over one, one hand winding a strand of her red hair nervously around her index finger, the other holding the book down. She was wearing the thin, wire-rimmed glasses that she often wore during class.
I approached her and pulled out the chair next to her. Lily looked up from the book and smiled at me. "Have a good dinner?" she asked me politely.
I shrugged. "It was pretty normal," I told her.
"That's good. Okay, I want you to look up all the battles and stuff for the years 1510 to 1600. I'll do 1600 to 1700. Is that all right with you, or do you want to do 1600 to 1700?"
"No," I said, doing the math in my head and realizing that Lily had given me ten years less than she had assigned herself, which meant at least twenty minutes less work for me. "No, that's fine."
"All right," Lily said happily, pushing a small stack of books in my direction. "Here, you'll need these."
For at least thirty minutes, we worked in silence. When I would look up at Lily to see how much work she had done, she would be playing with her hair: braiding it, twisting it, or just continually tucking it behind her ears.
"Is that a habit?" I asked her abruptly.
Lily looked up at me, confused. "What?"
"Playing with your hair," I clarified, touching one of the small braids she'd made towards the front of her head.
She blushed. "Oh, yeah," she mumbled, hurriedly undoing the braid I'd fingered. "I have to do something with my hands while I read," she explained. "Or else I get distracted."
I didn't comment on this, but nodded and returned to my work. Lily was still furiously red as she went back to hers.
It was nine thirty by now, and already Lily was starting to yawn and blink furiously to keep herself awake.
"Are you tired?" I asked her incredulously.
She gave a sheepish smile. "I go to bed very early," she said.
I never did. I usually went to bed at about midnight on a school night.
"I'm tired of doing this anyway," I told her, throwing my quill on top of the work I'd done and rubbing my eyes.
"We'll go, then," Lily said, standing up and stacking her papers neatly. "Do you want me to keep yours?"
"Sure," I replied, tossing them in the direction of her parchments. Lily stacked them too, and placed them inside one of her books.
"That'll ruin the binding, you know," I said, smirking.
Lily smiled. "You don't honestly expect me to believe that you care whether or not I damage school property, do you?"
"Well, not really." I stood up too, and grabbed my bag from where I'd dropped it on the floor. I leaned over, and Lily leaned back a little bit. I think she was afraid that I was going to kiss her or something, which was not my intention. I tugged on a lock of her hair. "Have a good night," I told her, and left the library.
Lily's twisting her hair around her finger right now. She's sitting in front of James, who's sitting next to me, so I have a pretty good view of her. Lily's writing something; notes, I guess, because Lily actually pays attention in class. That's how she gets good marks. James and I get good marks because we're lucky and extremely good at cramming.
Sometimes I wonder if Lily thinks about those nights in the library. On the off chance that she does, I wonder if she likes the memories.
The very next night, I met Lily in the library again. She had everything laid out in front of her again, and was sticking two quills into her hair to keep it up. I wondered what she was going to do with her hands while she was reading if her hair was up
I loosened my tie as I sat down. She greeted me with a smile. "Hello," she said pleasantly. She handed me my papers and my book, and we started to work.
Not fifteen minutes later, my best friend came in and sat down right next to me. "Hallo, Sirius!" he said jauntily. "Lily," he added, nodding to her.
"What are you doing here?" I asked him.
"I had to come down here to work on my project," James replied.
"Where's Peter, then?" I inquired, naming James's partner (Pettigrew, Potter--they always got paired together, which is how we became friends with Peter in the first place).
James shrugged. "We're doing separate parts, and then we're going to put it together," he explained. "I'm doing my part tonight."
James and Peter's assignment was to write a 6,000 word essay on how the goblin rebellions were finally stopped by the Ministry of Magic. James often complained that he and Peter got the most boring assignment, and he was right.
"Oh," I said. "All right. Lily's got some books we're not using, so you can borrow those."
Lily handed him some of her books, turning a little red as she did so, and he thanked her. The three of us worked in silence, and I glanced up at Lily to see how much she had written. She was on 1640, whereas I was only on 1528. I sighed a little, but neither James nor Lily looked up at me. Such diligent little workers, they were.
The next night, James followed us in again. We actually had a very good time that night, and got very little done.
I think that that was the night I realized that Lily was very pretty. Lily has really red hair. It actually looks red, like the color of red roses. Her eyes are very green, like the stems of those red roses. She has freckles, and her skin is pale. Not deathly pale, but I've-been-inside-all-winter pale, and her cheeks are always red. I don't know if that's from wearing makeup or if she's got a skin condition or something. That night she was wearing her hair down, and she'd done something to it--it looked sort of curly, even though Lily normally has stick-straight hair.
But I didn't think that just because I thought Lily to be pretty I liked her. I thought lots of people were pretty (I thought half the school's female population was pretty) but that didn't mean that I chased after all of them.
The next night, James told me that he was going to help Peter with his part of their essay, so he couldn't come and hang out with me and Lily. I felt strangely pleased about that, but even then I didn't make the connection.
I actually got there before Lily arrived that night. In fact, I waited fifteen minutes before she finally showed up. And I was quite surprised when she did.
Lily kind of stumbled over to the table, and I stood up to help her, because for some reason, I thought she was drunk. But she wasn't drunk. She was wearing high heels. Not only was she wearing high heels, she was also wearing a considerable increase in makeup. Lily usually wore a little bit of shimmery white stuff on her eyelids, and she wouldn't be caught dead without her pink lip gloss. But now, her eyelids were covered in dark blue glitter, her freckles covered up, and her lips covered in…well, her pink lip gloss--I guess some things never change. Her hair was curled again, this time in tight ringlets that she certainly hadn't sported in class today.
She waved my arm away when I went to help her walk. She looked up from her feet, which she had been following closely. "Where's James?" she asked.
"Oh, he's not coming. Peter's having problems," I explained.
Lily gave a short nod. "Oh," she said softly.
"You--you look nice," I volunteered.
She looked up at me and gave a small smile. "Thank you," she said. "I guess it's stupid of me to--to dress up for the library." Here, she gave a short, derisive laugh. "Let's get started, shall we?"
The bell rings. There is a roar as the class gets up and hurries to lunch. I hang back and wait for James, who is waiting for Lily to finish scribbling the last of her notes. She finishes and stands, immediately taking James's hand and shoving her notes into her bag one handed.
I walk next to them, saying nothing as the happy couple chatter on about her birthday, which is coming up next week. James is insisting on a party. Lily says she wants no such thing.
"Sirius, what do you think?" James asks me.
He's referring to the party, of course. What do I think about a party?
"I think a party would be brilliant," I tell him, putting on my wide, toothy, trademark smile. "We could have seventeen different birthday cakes, one for each of the years you've been alive."
I'm talking to Lily, but I don't think she's listening. "I suppose a party would be all right," she says slowly, "as long as you keep it small."
James won't keep it small. James doesn't do anything halfway. Lily should know: he got her, after all.
The project was due in a week, and I was still on 1545. Lily had gotten a little more done than me, but she was still twenty-five years from 1700, where the timeline ended. James had stopped popping into the library as often, coming in only twice more after the day Lily had made herself up. He confided to me that he still had 2,000 words left to do on his part of the essay, and Peter had 2,500.
One Wednesday night, when Lily was starting to get a little frazzled and a little impatient with me, she abruptly stopped working and said, "Sirius, do you think I'm pretty?"
The question surprised me, and much to my chagrin, I flushed a little. "Sure I do," I replied.
Lily bit her lip, getting lip gloss on the bottom of her teeth. "Do--do you think….James thinks I'm…pretty?"
I'm afraid that it was only then that it hit me. Actually, several things hit me with this query.
First, there was the first dawning of understanding: Lily likes James. That's why she made herself up--because she thought he was going to be there and she wanted to impress him. Lily likes James. That's why she blushed when she handed him those books. Lily likes James. That's why she smiled so shyly at him when he grinned at her in History of Magic.
Second, there was an intense wave of jealousy: Bloody hell, Lily likes James. Why?
Third, there was second dawning of understanding: Wait--Lily can't like James…she's supposed to like me…This isn't happening…I am not fighting my best friend for a girl...
Fourth, there was the Chocolate Frog James threw at my head as he sat down and saw the closed expression on my face. "What's wrong, Padfoot? You're spacing out."
I shook my head, then looked straight at Lily, straight at those green eyes. They were begging me not to mention what she had asked me before James arrived.
"Nothing," I told James, still not taking my eyes off of Lily's relieved ones. "Absolutely nothing."
James is getting worried. He has nothing for Lily's birthday present--not even an idea. He's desperate--he's even asking me for suggestions.
"Please, Padfoot," he says, practically begging. "What can I possibly get her?"
"Jewelry?" I suggest.
James makes a face. "Where would I get jewelry? Besides, I don't think we've been together long enough for jewelry…."
"You don't have to get her a bleeding diamond ring, James," I tell him tiredly. "You could get her a necklace or a bracelet or something."
James considers it. He's still thinking about it, actually.
Meanwhile, I have just had an idea as to what I can give her.
The project was due the very next day, and I was still on 1558. Lily was close to finishing, but she was still very harried when she came flying into the library--late again. She looked different, but I couldn't put my finger on the reason why.
She joined me at the table, gave me a small smile, and said, "Tell me you're at least on 1575."
I bit my lip. "I'm at least on 1575."
Lily groaned and put her head on the table. "Sirius, you promised me you'd work this time!" she said, her voice muffled by the wood of the table.
"Hey, I've been working," I told her, a bit miffed by the insinuation. "I've done forty-eight years."
Lily sighed and lifted her head from the table. "I've told James not to come tonight," she said. Her cheeks tinged pink at the mention of his name, and I wanted to shoot a Memory Charm at her, erase all memory of him from her mind. I resisted the urge by reminding myself that James was my best friend and listening to her as she continued, "And I already finished mine." She held up a two foot scroll with a line running horizontally down it, dates etched periodically on the line in Lily's neat handwriting. Starting from 1600, notes were written, along with color coded flags on the opposite side of the line signifying a goblin win, truce, loss, or treaty signing. It made my head hurt just looking at it. "So I can help you finish yours."
She handed me my papers and familiar books, and we began to work, not talking for a long time. Finally, three hours later, Lily finished the twenty years she'd assigned herself and took it upon herself to transfer my completed notes onto the timeline, correcting some of them with a sigh or a tutting sound at my ignorance.
It was nearly midnight when I finished with my notes. Lily was yawning, and I felt bad for keeping her awake this long. She goes to bed early, I reminded myself.
"Lily, why don't you go to sleep?" I said. "I can finish this myself."
Lily shook her head and rubbed her eyes behind her glasses. "No," she said. "It's all right, this is my project too, and it's partly my fault for putting this off…."
It wasn't her fault, and she knew it wasn't. I didn't bother to say this, though: I enjoyed her company.
Forty-five minutes later, we finally finished. Lily sighed happily as she packed up her things.
"Are you pleased with it?" I asked her as we made our way cautiously to Gryffindor Tower. Filch would skin us alive if he caught us out of bed this late.
"Very," Lily whispered back, smiling satisfactorily. "You're not such a bad partner, Mr. Black."
We had reached the Fat Lady's portrait. We stopped in front of it, waiting for the sleeping Fat Lady to wake up, as she would once she realized people were standing in front of her.
I inched closer to Lily. "You're not so bad yourself, Miss Evans," I told her, and in a sudden, swift moment that I would regret for the rest of my life, I put a hand on her shoulder, leaned down, and pressed my lips to hers.
I thought my advance had succeeded: she didn't kiss back, but she didn't pull away either. She seemed to be in shock.
"James, have you seen my--" Lily calls, opening the door to our dormitory without knocking. James is in the shower, and it's just me in here. I'm sitting on my stomach, writing this.
"He's in the shower," I tell her. "You're lucky I'm not in my boxers."
Lily doesn't quite know what to say. "Lucky," she repeats dimly.
"What are you looking for?" I ask, sitting up and pushing this paper under my pillow in a quick, fluid movement that I can't be sure she didn't notice.
She blushes furiously. "Nothing," she says. "Nothing. Tell--tell James to come get me when he gets out of the shower."
"Would you like him to get dressed first, or do you just want him to come downstairs naked?" I inquire.
That cracks a smile. "Whichever he prefers," she says, still smiling. "I'll be in my dormitory."
She turns to go, but I call after her. "Lily!"
Lily faces me, one hand still on the doorframe. She waits for me to continue.
"Happy birthday," I say.
She smiles again, nods, and leaves.
Lily came to her senses very suddenly. She put both of her hands on my shoulders and pushed me back. "What are you doing?" she demanded in a loud whisper.
"Well, I'm not doing anything anymore," I replied, smirking a little.
She looked stricken. "Did I forget to tell you?" she whispered, clapping a hand to her mouth. "I can't believe I forgot--I guess I assumed--"
A very cold feeling appeared in the pit of my stomach as I realized. "James asked you out."
Lily bit her lip--obviously to fight a smile--and slowly nodded. "I'm so sorry, Sirius. It's my fault…I just assumed James had told you."
I tried to smile back but failed. "Do me a favor, will you?" I said.
"Anything," she replied desperately.
I realize that I probably could've taken advantage of that, but I'm not that heartless. "Don't tell James about this."
"I wouldn't dream of telling him," Lily responded soberly.
"And another thing."
"Stop apologizing. It's my fault."
The Fat Lady had awakened (she probably had been awake for quite awhile. The woman loves gossip), and said softly, "Password, dear?"
I gave it to her and went up to my room, leaving Lily standing silently by the portrait hole.
I guess I have to reflect now.
I don't hate James. James is a very likeable person, and he is my best friend. James is funny, bright, a hell of a Quidditch player, and he's already appointed me best man at his wedding, no matter who he marries. Clearly, he trusts me far more than I deserve.
I don't hate Lily, and I don't really think she hates me (I'm afraid I can be a little melodramatic at times). I just think that she's having a problem accepting the fact that she very nearly cheated on her boyfriend with his best friend. I am irresistible, after all.
All joking aside, however, I really have to get over this.
Which is why these writings are what I'm giving Lily for her birthday. After I give them to her, I will never think about it again.
Lily's party is in full swing. As I predicted, James went all out for his girlfriend. The Gryffindor Common Room is decorated with crepe paper and lilies bewitched to be her favorite colors--blue and yellow. There are stacks of cards and presents and food all piled on the same table. Lily is wearing a tiara that James got for her. It's not his present for her--he got her a locket with their picture in it--but she adores it as if it were.
She's blushing because she's opening presents, and James is announcing the contents of each package to the room. The crowd cheers him on, and Lily tells him to stop, he's embarrassing her, but James kisses her and tells her to enjoy her last birthday at school while it lasts. She desists the lectures, apparently heeding him.
I didn't give her the writings yet. I also gave her a book on weighing one's priorities, which she laughed at. I'll give her this after the party's over, or when I can get her alone, whichever happens first.
Lily has just unwrapped James's locket. She makes a big fuss over it, and you can tell she loves it, and he's about to burst, he's so pleased. He puts it on for her, and she kisses him quickly and says something in his ear that makes him blush and the crowd explodes with laughter, cheers, and whistles.
The party's winding down. It's after midnight. People are gradually filing upstairs, carrying bottles of butterbeer up with them to store away "for later".
Eventually, it's just me, James, and Lily in the Common Room, faced with the task of cleaning up after everyone. We Banish everything to the center of the room and Lily, the token ace at Charms, Summons the lot of it into a magically enlarged trash bag: it never gets full, so we could put the furniture in it if we wanted.
James puts the bag in a corner to put away later, and we seat ourselves on sofas and armchairs. "Did you have a good birthday?" I ask Lily, who is sitting in a chair with her eyes closed, but she's not asleep.
She smiles. "One of the best," she declares, taking off her tiara and placing it on the ottoman in front of her. Lily rubs her eyes, yawns, and looks over at James. She grins.
"He's asleep," she whispers. Indeed, he is, stretched out on the sofa, one arm pillowing his head, the other clutching a throw pillow.
Lily stands up, tiptoes over to him, and gently detaches his glasses from his face. She sets them on a table next to him and kisses his head softly. Lily Summons a blanket from her room and places it over him.
I stand up as well, feeling anxious about giving Lily the book. She walks over to me and pulls me into a hug. "Thank you for the birthday party, and my present," she says, pulling away. She starts to go up the stairs to her room, but I clear my throat and reach into my pocket for the parchments.
"Er, Lily," I say quietly, so as not to wake up her sleeping boyfriend.
She turns around on the stairs. "Yes?"
I'm debating it in my mind, quickly trying to weigh the pros and cons of giving it to her. She's still waiting, probably getting impatient, though a polite smile is still on her face.
I smile back at her and shake my head a little. "Happy birthday," I tell her, and stick the papers back into my pocket.
She grins back. "Good night."
I return it, and watch as she goes up to her room. I wait until I hear her close the door behind her. I go to the slowly dying fire and gently place the parchments inside of the fireplace.
I sit in Lily's armchair and watch it burn.
That ought to do it, don't you think?
Disclaimer: All characters belong to J.K.R. Five days, my friends! Hang on!