"I guess it's because…death can be sort of beautiful, too, right? I mean, I know it's sad and everything, but at least the person is moving on to a more peaceful place."-Lily
Chapter 17: Getting to Know You…Differently
Twenty minutes later found Lily and James in the kitchen as they enjoyed the various pancakes that James had promised. The House Elves bustled around them, pausing every few seconds to generously refill their plates with sausage, eggs, and pancakes of all flavors. Lily was surprised that she had taken quite the liking to the peppermint ones.
"I can't believe this," Lily muttered thickly as she took hearty bite. "I can't believe I'm sitting here, eating pancakes while we have class." She reached for a small pitcher and added more syrup to her plate. "And during Transfiguration of all classes! Surely, McGonagall will have my head."
"Oh, stop," James said amusedly, lounging back into his chair. "The worst she'll do is give us a detention, maybe two; nothing you haven't dealt with before."
Lily grinned wickedly. "The funny thing is, I find that I don't care all that much. After all, it's not like it'll change my life, right?"
James's eyebrows shot up. "Well, now, that's quite a different attitude, isn't it? I knew I'd have an effect on you, sooner or later."
Lily's smile faded slightly and she lowered her fork. "Then again, ask me how I feel an hour from now, and I'll probably be panicking about what McGonagall must think of me." James shook his head and raised his eyes heavenward, but before he could say anything, Lily spoke again. "But you know what? Screw McGonagall," she proclaimed resolutely, squaring back her shoulders and holding her head high. "I've had a crap morning, and I deserve a little relaxation after having my name slandered."
James playfully held up his glass to her in a toast. "Hear, hear! But let's talk about something more cheerful, hm? What do you say to getting to know each other, Lily?"
Lily couldn't help but start when James said her name; it still sounded so unfamiliar to hear him say her first name instead of her last. "What do you have in mind?" she asked curiously.
"Well, I'll ask you a question and you answer it honestly, and then you do the same to me. I think it would be rather interesting, don't you?"
Lily paused, contemplating his suggestion, and then said, "Alright, that should be fun. But," she added dangerously, giving James a warning glare. "The moment you cross into perverted territory, we're done."
"I would never!" he exclaimed, looking scandalized. "Merlin, Lily, where's the trust?"
"I trust that if you don't get on with the question, I'll change my mind and go to class," she deadpanned.
James laughed as he tipped his chair and balanced it on the two back lags. "Alright, alright, fine. We'll start with something simple. What's your favorite color?"
"Oh, that's original."
Lily folded her arms and said, "Look, you asked, I'm just giving you an honest answer. If you want more detail, I prefer a rich, dark shade of navy blue to the other kinds. Okay, so my turn, right? Well, I'm not going to ask yours, you'll just say maroon, for Gryffindor. Talk about original." James made a face at her, but didn't deny her assumption. "Alright, um…what's your favorite animal?"
James stroked his chin thoughtfully. "Magical ones included?" Lily nodded. "I'd say a phoenix."
"Why a phoenix?"
"Because to me, it's the ultimate symbol of intelligence and loyalty, and in my opinion, those qualities are two of the most important attributes a person can have; also, a phoenix never dies, it's reborn. So, it's like the phoenix is always…transforming, you know? And, I guess that's how I think one should live life; his mind should be constantly changing and maturing as he goes through different experience, just like a phoenix does."
Lily blinked and her mouth fell open slightly, unprepared for such a profound explanation. There he goes again, she thought, working James's words in his head. Just when I least expect it, he says something that completely contradicts what I thought him to be.
"Er…Lily?" James prompted uncertainly.
She jolted out of her reverie and quickly closed her mouth. "Oh, um…right, then. Go ahead."
"Okay…what's your favorite book?" he asked.
"Okay," Lily began, grinning sheepishly. "I know it sounds kind of childish, but I have this beautiful book about faeries, called, The Sorcerer's Companion to Faerieology. I bought it at Flourish and Blotts back in third year when I was school shopping. It's made of this magnificent shade of brown leather, with gold folio curled along the borders, and there's a picture of a faerie etched and dyed into the leather, plus a light blue gem embedded at the center—well, I'll just have to show you sometime. But everything about faeries is in that book; different races, their history, their customs…it's fascinating."
"I can tell," James replied, the side of his mouth quirked into a grin. "Although, you do seem more taken with the cover than you are with the contents."
"Well, I've always noticed a book's cover first, and sometimes I've even bought a book simply because it had a magnificent cover."
"Well, so much for not judging a book by its cover, hm?" he teased.
"Of course, once I actually looked inside Faerieology, I couldn't put the book down, and I've read it several times now. Plus, I've kind of developed a fascination with faeries since then. But enough about that, it's my turn. What's one of your favorite hobbies, besides Quidditch?"
"Drawing," James answered immediately. "I find it very relaxing and somewhat therapeutic."
"Yeah, you're really good at that," Lily jumped in. "I know I've already said this, but I had no idea you could draw so well."
"It's not something I broadcast, really."
"How long have you been doing it?"
"Ever since I was little." James hesitated and looked at his plate, running the tip of his finger along the edge. "I…wasn't really used to being around other kids," he said haltingly, being careful about how much he told her. "I spent most of my time alone, with the exception of my parents and grandfather, of course. So, I learned how to entertain myself, and the main method just happened to be drawing. I keep a sketchbook, and I've got several others in my room at home."
Lily leaned forward and rested her elbow on the table, placing her chin in her hand, and stabbed a sausage onto a fork. "Do you spell all of them into motion?" she asked with a full mouth.
"I used to," James replied with a shrug. "But ever since I found out that Muggle pictures don't move, I prefer to leave many of mine in the still format. If I draw a portrait of someone, the whole point is to capture the way they look in that one moment. That purpose would be gone if I made them move, right?"
"I suppose so," Lily agreed.
"Okay, so next question," he continued. "What is it with you women and shopping?"
"What do you mean?"
James took a swig of his coffee and gestured kindly to a house elf for a refill. "It just seems that everywhere I look, girls are shopping for clothes. Hell, when I think of all those bloody clothes you brought out last Friday it makes my feet hurt just thinking of how many hours you spent looking for them!"
"How's that different from how much time you and the others spend shopping for pranks?" Lily shot back.
James opened and closed his mouth several times before scowling and admitting grudgingly, "Aright, fine. You've got me there."
"I'm glad we agree. Now, my turn; why are boys so damn immature?"
James snorted. "Don't be such a prude. Sometimes we just like being immature. There doesn't always have to be a method to our madness; sometimes, it's just simply madness. It's more fun that way. You girls should try it instead of trying to find a reason for everything; I'm sure it would lessen your blood pressure considerably."
"I can see that I'm getting no where with this, so I'm just going to drop it. Take your turn." She sighed impatiently and took a sip of her pumpkin juice.
Biting down gently on the tip of his index finger, James thought a moment before asking, "How do girls put on pantyhose?"
Surprised by this random inquiry, Lily inhaled suddenly and was hit with a violent coughing fit as the pumpkin juice went down the wrong windpipe. Slamming down her glass, she bent over and covered her mouth as she tried to clear her throat. The house elves glanced over concernedly.
"Er…" James reached over and awkwardly thumped on her back. "Are you okay?"
Lily's hacking cough turned into a harsh gasps as she took several deep breaths. A moment later, they turned into a loud laughter that shook her shoulders. "Are—are you—you can't be serious—ha-ha-ha!—pantyhose!"
James frowned at her reaction. "What's so funny?" he asked defensively.
Lily clutched her stomach and doubled over even further as more laughter racked her body. "Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! 'What's so funny?' 'What's—so—funny!' Y-you ask me…you ask me how…ha-ha-ha!—p-p-pantyhose!—and you expect me not—hee-hee-hee!—not to laugh!"
"It's just a question!" Lily just shook her head; her eyes were squeezed shut, and she was giggling too hard answer his remark. James exhaled impatiently and folded his arms. "Well, I think it's a reasonable question," he muttered. "I mean, seriously, they don't exactly look…simple."
Lily leaned an elbow onto the table and covered her face with her hand as her laughter finally began to cease. "Oh, my God," she gasped, a hiccup escaping her mouth. "That was one of the funniest things I have ever heard…also one of the stupidest."
A small frown crossed James's face. "Don't judge me," he told her peevishly. This comment just provoked another giggle from his companion. "Come on, Ev—Lily, seriously; how do you put them on?"
Lily sighed one more time before glancing at James amusedly. "I suppose the same way you put on socks," she answered simply.
"No way!" James protested indignantly. "If that were true, I could've answered the question myself."
"Well," Lily relented. "I suppose it is a little different. You just…well." Lily twisted to the side and lifted one of her legs to pantomime her explanation. "You bunch up the leg of the stocking, and then you slip it over your foot and very carefully slide it over your leg." When James just looked at her dubiously Lily made a noise of impatience, and returned to original position. "Look, if you're still confused later on, why don't you just try it?"
"Yeah, right," he snorted. "I have a better idea." A wolfish grin crossed James's face. "How about you show me when we switch back?"
Picking up her fork and gesturing with it menacingly, Lily warned, "What did I say about crossing into perverted territory?"
"It was just a joke!" James exclaimed, holding up his hands defensively. Lily just glared at him. "Fine, just forget it. Bloody hell, you have no sense of humor at all, do you?"
"It's my turn to ask a question," Lily announced, ignoring his comment as she poked her food. "Hmm…what's one thing you want to do before you die?"
James blinked in surprise. "Merlin's beard, Lily, could you be anymore morbid?"
Lily shrugged. "I'm just curious."
James sighed and picked up a piece of toast, studying it intently as he thought of what to say. "I don't know," he murmured thoughtfully. "I guess leave an impact in some way or another…influence someone or something. It'd be nice if I left some sort of interesting part or memory of me behind. It'd be useless to live life and not leave an impression, in my opinion. How boring would a person have to be if he didn't?" Lily nodded in response. "But enough of that," James said, grinning wryly. "How about we talk about something a little…happier?"
"Okay, ask away."
James took a sip of his coffee and looked at Lily over the brim, his eyes twinkling mischievously. Recognizing that look immediately, Lily stilled herself for a most likely random, possibly perverted, and most definitely embarrassing conversation.
Grinning smugly, James set his coffee mug down and leaned back into his chair, placing his hands on the back of his head in a relaxed manner. "So…Lils," he started.
Lily started suddenly at the nickname. "What'd you just call me?" she asked in surprise.
A confused expression crossed James's face. "What…?" he returned, completely clueless.
Lily pointed to him, still looking baffled. "'Lils,'" she told him. "You just called me 'Lils.'"
James blinked rapidly as though still in a daze. "Oh…um," he stammered. "I guess I hadn't noticed. I must've picked it up from Parker and Kate. That's what they call you, right?"
"Well, yeah, but…It's just that we've just started referring to each other by first names and already you're using my nickname. Moving rather fast, don't you think?"
A smile quirked on James's mouth. "Merlin, Lily, it's just a name; you sound like you're on a date trying to prevent a guy from hitting on you, or something," he teased. Lily threw him a look of annoyance, but said nothing. A short silence followed as James looked down somewhat shyly, toying with the hem of his shirt. "Well, whatever," he murmured. "I won't call you that if it bothers—"
"No, no," Lily interrupted. She waved her hand and laughed nervously. "I…its fine, I don't mind; I was just caught off guard, that's all."
James glanced up and grinned at her. "Okay, then," he said quietly. "Lils it is." Lily smiled uncertainly in return, and a moment lingered briefly until James forced himself to continue the conversation. He took a deep breath. "So, um…yeah. It was my turn, right?"
She nodded in agreement. "Right."
"Okay, um…damn, what was I going to ask?" James muttered to himself. He bit down on the tip of his thumb gently, attempting to gather his thoughts. When he finally remembered, James sat up straight excitedly. "Oh, right, I know, now!" His eyes took on that familiar mischievous glint as he looked at Lily. "So, Lily, how long did you like Remus, and why?"
Her mouth dropped open indignantly. "Hey, that's not fair!" she exclaimed. "That isn't a 'get-to-know-you' question; that's a 'none-of-your-business' question!"
"So what? You never ruled it out; you only said that the questions couldn't be perverted. It still fair, and you have to answer it."
"This isn't truth-or-dare, Potter! Ugh, fine, James," she added scathingly when he gave her a look. "Why do you want to know, anyway?"
"Why the hell not?"
"Because it's none of your business, that's why!"
James laughed loudly, letting his head tip back. "Look, it's something that I've always wanted to know, alright? I'm just curious about what you saw in him. Don't worry, it'll be our secret." He held his right hand up in an oath. "Marauder's honor."
Lily sighed and drummed her fingers on the table. "Fine, whatever," she lamented. "Well, I guess I liked him because…he was just really nice, you know?" As James nodded, a small voice popped unconsciously into his head. I'm nice…usually. "And," Lily continued. "His good looks didn't hurt either. I liked him for quite a while; almost the whole year. But then I decided that he felt more like a brother or cousin, so that was the end of that."
James nodded again, twirling his finger in the lukewarm coffee. "I guess I could understand that," he admitted, shrugging lightly. "Remus is a very likeable person."
"And what about you?"
"What about me?"
"Have you liked anyone before in our inner circle?" Lily ventured. "Parker, or Kate…?"
James's hand jerked suddenly at Lily's question, causing him to nearly spill his coffee out on the table. "Uh, no," he said quickly, laughing nervously as he righted the mug. "No, I haven't." Eager to get away from the subject, James added loudly, "My turn again."
"Alright, fine, but this is the last one; we should probably leave soon."
"Okay, I'd better make this a good one, then." James tapped his fingers on the tabletop as he racked his brain for a question. "Okay, I've got it," he said, sitting up straight. "This is something that every male has always wondered since the beginning of time. Why do you girls always go to the bathroom together?"
Lily snorted and answered, "Well, Why do you guys always watch sports together?"
James just blinked. "To watch sports…" he answered uncertainly, fixing her with a confused expression. "But what does that have anything to do with why you go to the bathroom in groups?"
"No, James," Lily said exasperatedly, rolling her eyes and tossing her napkin onto her plate. "I mean, why do you guys always do it together?"
James's mouth fell open, his slight confusion giving way to complete perplexity. "To watch sports together," he repeated slowly, gesturing with his hand.
"You mean you don't do it to…you know, bond or something?" Lily asked.
"What are you talking about?"
"Well…I mean, it's not something you do for male companionship or whatever?"
James groaned and dropped his head onto the back of the chair, covering his face with his hands. "Yes, Lily," he remarked dryly. "You have managed to uncover the hidden sensitive side of us men. We like to turn to each other between Quidditch plays and ask, 'So, that Top Caper Combo you just saw—how did it make you feel?" He emphasized the scenario by squeezing his eyes closed and earnestly clenching his fists, and taking on a tearful expression on his face.
Lily made a face at him and drawled, "I can see that my original point is completely lost on you. Alright, fine; a different analogy, then—"
"Lily, why can't you just answer the question instead of making up all these 'what ifs'?" James interrupted, slouching deeper into his chair. He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Now I know what my next question will be: why do you girls always insist on making things sound more complex than they really are?"
Lily narrowed her eyes and retorted, "I think the real mystery here is why you boys always insist on minimizing a situation that is much more complex than you make it sound, and then blaming us for overreacting when it turns out to really be much worse than you originally thought."
James's mouth fell open for a second time and he cocked his head to the side, staring into space out of the corner of his eyes as he tried to process what Lily had just told him. After a few moments of attempting to come up with an adequate response, he settled just on a bewildered, "What!"
Lily sighed and shook her head. "Never mind," she relented, rolling her eyes heavenward. "I'm sure a few years from now you'll think back on this conversation and suddenly be enlightened on what I meant."
James leaned back put his hands on the back of his head. "I doubt it," he said casually. "Seeing as I've already forgotten what you said."
Anyway," Lily said loudly, glaring at her companion. "Back to the original question; why we girls go to the bathroom together." James raised his eyebrows curiously. "It's like a bonding time," Lily explained.
"Bonding time," James repeated incredulously. "In the loo."
Lily shifted uncomfortably, suddenly feeling awkward; it really sounded a lot more ridiculous when James put it like that. "Well, yeah," she told him. "I mean, think about it. We go there all the time to fix our make up and stuff, so we end up meeting and checking up with what's been happening with each of us…and what's 'been happening' usually involves boys, arch enemies, mean teachers, etc. It's no more than catching up with each other."
"Still sounds like complete bullocks to me," James snorted. "I mean, think about it, Lily; you get together and talk about stuff that you could talk about anywhere else. What the hell is so special about a bloody bathroom?"
"What's so special about your bloody locker room?" Lily fired back.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that after Quidditch you and the other guys talk about the exact same things we girls do. Everyone knows that guys do their whole 'male talk' thing in the locker rooms when you're changing. We do our 'girl talk' in the bathroom. Why is that any different?"
"Because, Lily," James explained. "Girls go the loo planning to talk, and then end up using the toilet only if they have to. We boys, on the other hand, go to the locker rooms because we have to, and then, by chance, we end up talking. We don't go to the locker room planning to bond; c'mon, Lily, that'd be stupid! How weird would it be if I went up to Sirius and said, "Hey, Padfoot, I just asked that girl out; come with me to the locker room so I can tell you all about it'?" he mocked, gesturing derisively with his hands.
"Whatever," Lily muttered. "I still don't see the major difference in it the whole thing. Either way, you end up bonding."
"So you're saying bonding is bonding, no matter what the location?"
"Well, I think the amount of bonding is helped by the location."
"Now that really is a load of bull. So, what, does the bathroom channel 'special feelings of companionship' for girls, or something?"
Lily frowned slightly, once again struck by the ridiculousness in James's statement. "Well…I guess…"
"So…then the kitchen could be a place of bonding."
"Well, we just bonded and we've never bonded in any other place, before. The bathroom may sometimes channel 'special feelings of companionship' and whatnot for you girls, but we didn't bond when we were in the prefect's bathroom together."
"Yes, we did," Lily countered. "Do you not recall the civil and almost-pleasant conversation that took place last weekend? What was that, if not bonding?"
James lifted his chin and said loftily, "I have no idea what you're talking about."
Lily laughed and shook her head as she refilled her glass. "Right…whatever you say, James."
He raised his cup of coffee in a mock salute. "I'm glad we agree on something."
Laughing once more, Lily drained the rest of her juice and set the glass down onto the table with a loud thump. "Alright, seriously; one more question for each of us, and then we should go. Let's make these good ones, shall we?"
"What do you have in mind?" James asked curiously.
Lily paused in thought before saying, "How about we each share a secret? You know, to…formalize our new frenemyship."
At the word "secret" James instantly tensed. "What kind of secret?" he ventured, attempting to keep his voice neutral as he tightened his grip on his coffee mug.
"Oh, you know…" Lily shrugged nonchalantly, taking no notice of the change in James's demeanor. "I'm mean, it doesn't have to be something like an ultra, deep-dark, 'I'd have to kill you' sort of thing; just something that most people don't know about you." When James remained quiet, Lily said, "Alright, I'll go first." She drummed her fingers on the table, trying to think of what to say. "Okay," she told him, a grin spreading on her face. "You're going to think I'm completely insane, but you know the carriages that bring us to the castle after we get off the train?"
James nodded mutely.
"Well," Lily continued. "Everyone thinks they're drawn invisibly, and so did I, right? But in my third year, that all changed when I saw these horse-like creatures pulling them instead! I asked Parker where they got the new animals, but she just looked at me with a funny face and—"
"Wait a minute," James interrupted suddenly, sitting up straight in his chair. "Are you talking about the black skeletal-lookin' things with—"
"—the bat-like wings and the dragon-like heads! Then you can see them, too?" James nodded silently, averting his gaze from Lily. "I did some research and found out they're called Thestrals, and the way one can see them is—well," Lily waved her hand. "I'm sure you know already. Aren't they gorgeous?" she gushed.
At the same time James spat, "They're bloody revolting, aren't they?" But when he heard Lily's he snapped his head up and fixed her with a piercing stare. "What do you mean, 'gorgeous'?" he said incredulously. "Lily, those things look like they came out from the underworld! That black fleshy-hairy whatever-it-is sticking to their bod—actually, they don't even have bodies! Just frames! And don't even get met started on that milky stuff that that replaces their eyes—"
"Oh, I don't know," Lily murmured thoughtfully, gazing down at her plate with a wistful smile on her face. "I always thought their eyes looked like pearls. And those wings are magnificent! The way they shimmer and everything. Plus…I kind of like being one of the few people able to see them. It's almost like a secret to keep to myself."
James stared at her blankly, oblivious to the steaming cup of coffee that one of the House Elves had replaced for his lukewarm one. "Lily," he intoned quietly. "The only reason you can see those things is because of someone's death; how the hell can you think of them as beautiful?"
Lily sighed and bit down on her lip, deep in thought as she tried to answer his question. "Well," she said slowly. "I guess it's because…death can be sort of beautiful, too, right? I mean, I know it's sad and everything, but at least the person is moving on to a more peaceful place." After an awkward pause, she added with a small laugh, "I've even named some them, the Thestrals. There's Balthazar, Angelo, Kaiser, and Solomon. I have yet to name a couple others, though."
James seemed to have visibly relaxed since his outburst. He glanced at Lily and cleared his throat. "Erm, how…I mean, what happened that made you see them? That is, if you don't mind me asking, of course," he said quickly.
"No, I don't mind. It's not that big a deal, really. I just happened to be the only one in the room at moment my great-aunt passed away, when I was about twelve. I didn't know her very well, but from the brief time I had with her, she seemed really nice. What about you?" she asked after a moment's hesitation.
James stared defiantly at the tabletop, swallowing thickly. "My grandfather," he told her hoarsely. "He died when I was 10, just before I came to Hogwarts. He and I were flying outside on our brooms when he had a heart attack. He fell about thirty feet, and would have hit the ground if my dad hadn't reacted so quickly; he saw my grandfather fall and…levitated him the rest of the way to the ground. I was next to him when he died. We were really close."
"I'm so sorry," Lily whispered.
He nodded gratefully, and looked up at her again. "He's the one who taught me to fly in the first place," he told her, a wry grin on his face. "It's one of the reasons Quidditch is so important to me. Can you imagine an eighty-six year old man zooming around in the air?"
Lily laughed as she pushed her chair back. "Only barely," she replied, standing and stretching her limbs. "Well, I think we should head off now, don't you?"
"Yeah," James agreed. He stood to his feet and walked to the kitchen door, holding it open for Lily to precede him into the hall. "So, any ideas about how we should explain our absences to the professor?"
Until next time,