Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all affiliated works do not belong to me.
A/N: Er. Okay. Read this author's note, because it is veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery important. I will not be putting one at the end. Mostly because I like the story to just…stand, without having an author's note to ruin the end.
Okay. So…guys, this is THE END. This is the last chapter. It's final and it's done and there won't be any more. I…I'm at loss. This is really sad. I started this when I was twelve-ish. And now I'm fourteen. And since I was twelve, it's always been a part of me…however small and however insignificant, it was indeed a part of me. I…I don't know, I became attached to my OCs, and the actual characters. I've enjoyed creating a plot and working with it and all the little intricacies that come with writing. It's been wonderful, truly it has.
But…well. Most of all, really, I'd like to thank my reviewers (and readers). You guys are SO wonderful. You've put up with me in long absences, always there to encourage me. It was always so great to find reviews in my inbox after a trying day. I love seeing what people think of my writing. It wouldn't have been nearly as fun without you guys. You've been amazing, and I thank you so much for it.
So this is the end. There may or may not be an epilogue. But…for the most part, this is the end. Twenty chapters and over a year it's taken me. It's been fun while it lasted, and I know it couldn't have lasted forever, because nothing does and nothing will. Um.
I'd like if … I don't know … just … this is the last chapter, and … all you lurkers … just … I'd like to thank each and every one of you for reading this. Because it means so much to me. So if you could all review, I'd appreciate it a lot. I…well. Whatever. I'll thank reviewers for this chapter and the previous one in the possible epilogue. Or something.
So…it's been great, guys. And I hope you enjoy the chapter.
Love is a Funny Thing, Chapter 20
"It's…well. Er." Lily said, while her eyes swept over The Broomstick's party room, reserved for Michelle's party.
All of them had to pitch in a galleon (for some this was easier than others, though James had gallantly offered to pay for the whole room himself) to rent the room, and still…well. It wasn't exactly the most desirable place for a party, per se. The walls were a gloomy, dirt-speckled yellow, and there was a large, door-sized collapsed passageway running through the wall. The place also smelled rather badly; a mixture of indefinable mold and old, dirty socks accosted their noses. There were a few boxes collecting dust in the corner of the room, presumably empty drink-ingredient boxes, and while the room was fairly spacious, it did not look very inviting at the moment.
Perhaps the unfortunate state of the room was what was causing the group to talk in terribly fragmented sentences. It was rather depressing to see their efforts of collecting money come to … well, this.
"Um…it has…potential?" said James, inspecting a corner and finding a spider scurrying up it. He promptly squished it with his foot, and Lily let out a little whimper from the opposite side of the room.
James gave her a look of incredulity and turned his eyes back to inspecting the room.
"…so!" Peter said, trying to be lively, whilst clapping his hands together once. "…where do we start?"
The lead silence once more filled the room, only to be broken by James squashing another spider, rather violently at that, with his foot.
Lily winced again.
Michelle was sitting on her bed, looking out to the gloomily grey sky, with a pout firmly etched into her features and in a decidedly annoyed mood.
Lily and Hazel were off studying for some Ancient Runes test—getting help from the teacher, maybe?—Michelle tried to recall their exact words, for she hadn't been paying full attention when they'd told her their whereabouts. Sirius was off too, with James, Peter and Remus, presumably being silly boys or planning yet another prank.
They'd all abandoned her, while maybe unintentionally, and now she had nothing to do.
Her thoughts strayed to Amanda, but quickly redirected them. This topic of thinking was off-limits.
It was some cruel trick of memory, but everything in the dormitory triggered fleeting flashes of memories, snapshots, really, of Amanda—of the four of them. Amanda singing (badly; her voice was comparative to Michelle's, which wasn't saying much) in the shower; Amanda drying her hair while carrying on a conversation; Amanda jumping relentlessly on the edge of Lily' bed cheerfully till Lily woke.
It simply wasn't the same without her. The world was too plain a canvas without the bright pink splash that was Amanda.
Making a sound of annoyance, Michelle hopped off her bed restlessly. The dormitory seemed too confined, thought it was a good-sized room.
Not able to take the stifling stillness any longer, Michelle wandered out of the dormitory listlessly.
The corridors twisted and turned, and she didn't bother setting out a route for herself. Her feet mechanically moved, ascending staircases, walking down long hallways, not stopping to say hello to anybody.
Something had been bothering her.
It was the end of the year.
Her brain had been plagued with questions about what would happen to her relationship with Sirius over the summer.
She had an uneasy feeling in the bottom of her stomach, and she couldn't help it. Sirius—well. He was an amazing boyfriend, surely, an amazing snogger, surely and he was just generally amazing, but… did … would he cheat on her?
I can already picture the blonde that'll come visit, probably from France or somewhere all delicate and charming and ever-graceful and stuff, Michelle thought, bitterly hating the perfect French girl already, and she'll have perfect curves and wonderful hair and will flirt with Sirius.
Perhaps he'll flirt with her first, Michelle thought, and the idea sickened her so much that for a moment she thought she might vomit on Bartemius the Barmy's nearby statue.
Entertaining her grim fantasies, Michelle's thoughts heedlessly sped forward, leaving the girl in the dust, walking like a robot through Hogwarts's hallways.
She'll be wearing a gorgeous pink spaghetti strap dress—yes, one that will look absolutely amazing on her, not like on me. And Sirius will chat her up, and she will be all charming and better than flirting than me. And then, the next day when James isn't around, maybe he'll take her in his arms like he did with me and kiss her, maybe on James's garden swing, and…
Michelle stopped with a small shriek in the middle of the hallway.
Her black eyes reflected fright, and her face was lined with consternation. Could that really happen?
The walls were holding an empty silence, dead and leadened with all the suppressed voices that it should have held.
The air was charged with energy held back.
She was scared, of her boyfriend and possible blonde model-like French girls, and because of her friend in the hospital wing, and the fact that she was alone in a dusty empty hallway stretching before her, and it would just lead to another, and another, and…
And so Michelle did what she normally did in long hallways.
Without thinking about it, really, that she was dressed in robes most uncomfortable for running, she sprinted, and…
Round off, back tuck, back handspring, bac—
"No gymnastic activity in the hallways!"
Wild-eyed and slightly in her shock from her recent passage through air, Michelle looked up at the musty, greasy caretaker shaking a finger at her.
"There—well, almost…" Sirius said, surveying the thoroughly decorated room before him.
It had been a time-consuming process, but it had been done.
The stains on the walls had been vanished by Lily, till they turned the softest shade of silver. James and Sirius had killed all the bugs (Lily ran away shrieking whenever this was done) in the vicinity, and Hazel had moved the boxes into a little storing room. The room was plain, granted, but it had possibilities.
And, after about four hours, after blood, sweat and tears (although perhaps this was a phrase a tad bit dramatic for the activity of room decorating)…it was done.
Spangled silver stars hung from the ceiling, their thin ropes invisible, so it looked like a galaxy over their heads. Ribbons, silky and wide, all in the deepest shade of purpley-blue, were bunched along the walls, held in place by glimmering silver stars that matched the strings that hung above their heads.
The flowy, textured crepe paper was hung from the ceiling as well, billowing in certain artistic cris-crossing patterns (Hazel had done it). Overall it gave the room a certain air to itself.
Lily and James had gone up to the small passageway to store the ample supplies—much of the unneeded ribbon still remained, as did the gold stars that they'd decided not to use.
Peter was currently on the top of a (rather wobbly) ladder James had conjured a while ago. His short frame wobbled dangerously as he attempted to fasten a large, glowing star to pin the last of the crepe paper up.
Remus was standing below him, looking rather worried, as Peter wobbled and reached for the desired spot on the ceiling. Peter seemed to be sweating rather profusely; his brown hair stuck to his forehead as, with determination, he stood on his tip-toes.
"Just a bit to the right, there, you've almost got it…"
The ladder wobbled again, so much that it almost looked as if it were going to tip poor Peter over; he jumped slightly, and stuck the star determinedly onto the thin purple fabric.
"Yes! Did you see that talent?" he asked Sirius.
"Shut up a minute, Wormtail, I'm trying to finish this enchantment."
Remus turned his attention to the silky purple ribbon that lined the walls decoratively. Something silver seemed to be flashing on it periodically.
"Hoppy Bathday, Mitchell?" Remus asked quizzically, squinting to see if he'd read incorrectly.
Sirius turned to his friend menacingly, his face screwed up into a frown in concentration. "It's not an easy enchantment, okay?"
Remus snorted into his palm, and Peter let out a chuckle, shaking the ladder.
Remus silently laughed over Sirius's shoulder as the black-haired boy attempted to correct the enchantment, only succeeding in adding a semicolon in between the words 'Hoppy' and 'Bathday'.
Peter made his way slowly down the ladder, all the time chuckling at Sirius's efforts along with Remus.
One step, two, three and he only had four left, so he jumped…
The ladder had fallen over, Peter on his side. The deafening sound had startled Remus, who now looked wildly over at Peter, and—
Lily and James fell, tumbling out of the little passageway embedded into the wall, a tangle as they moved through the air.
Right, they went up to store the ribbon there, before, and…
Lily's shirt was pulled slightly up, messily; baring a sliver of her pale stomach. She hastily pulled it down. James looked as if he had been electrified; his hair was shocked up in all possible directions, making him look quite comical.
…snogged the hell out of the four-foot-high passageway, apparently.
Both faces were red as tomatoes, and intense silence settled over—Peter getting up, the ladder on its side, Sirius turned around in the middle of a frustrating attempt to get rid of the semicolon between the 'Hoppy' and 'Bathday', Remus looking, in relative shock, towards his two friends, and Hazel simply gazing at the two.
Utter, complete silence ensued.
Hazel could almost feel the heat radiating from her friend's face. It was as if somebody had turned off the sound switch on a television. If a person had randomly walked into the room, it must have looked quite comical—a ladder on its side, a fully decorated room complete with an abundance of ribbon flashing, 'Hoppy; Bathday Mitchell!', and four teenagers looking over at the other two, who were bright red and looked as if they had been snogging fiercely just seconds ago.
And had just fallen out of a secret passageway attempting to do so.
Which made it, on the whole, quite hilarious.
"We…er, well you see—" said James, reddening even more—if that was possible.
"…yes," Lily continued, 'we were just, um, well—"
"…sure you were," replied Sirius.
All was silent again. James looked as if he should say something but had no clue what.
And suddenly, a small giggle was heard.
All heads turned over to Peter. His face was red with the effort to hold his laughter in, and a hand was held over his mouth to stifle the sound.
Apparently being able to take it no longer, he burst out into peals of laughter, which echoed off the walls in a rather lonely matter.
Sirius and Remus looked at one another slowly. A grin appeared on Remus's face, and he, looking at Lily and James (both undeniably ridiculous-looking), began laughing as well, his loud laughs bursting out in a jarring, uncordant symphony with Peter's.
Then Sirius, then Hazel, then, finally Lily and James, who looked at one another, shrugging, and began to laugh.
The room was filled with different tones and melodies, but you knew they were all the same, yet all different. And it was beautiful, it was copper telephone wires and silver stems and vibrating thin gold laughs. Discordant, but beautiful in that.
Sirius was currently lying on his side, banging his fist on the floor. Remus had tears of laughter welling up in his eyes, but seemed unable to stop. Peter was rolling around on the floor in a circle.
It was a moment, and they all knew it, and they all laughed their loudest, only not on purpose. Not planned or plotted or fake, it was just them and them and them ten times over.
It continued for a good while, and then all of them lay on their backs, staring at the stars strung down, and the purple, and the ribbon flashing.
Eventually, the laughter stuttered and died.
"My stomach…really hurts," James complained, clutching his stomach in pain.
"Your stomach," Sirius whined, "you didn't see your face as you came tumbling down!"
Hazel let out a quiet giggle from where she was lying near Remus.
"Priceless," Remus agreed, shaking his head. "What was your excuse, James, again?"
"Wasn't it…wasn't it…" Peter said, wiping a tear of laughter from the corner of his eye, 'oh…er, well, we were just…'"
And that set them off again.
On the last of her laughter, Lily pointed up to the silver writing that was flashing on the purple ribbon.
"'Why does it say, 'Hippie Booty, Mitchell?"
James and Lily sat contentedly in the common room one night, like so many others, savoring the time that would be no more. Tomorrow was Michelle's party, and the last day of school, really. Well, the last full day of school.
Lily's trunks were beginning to be packed, as her nature suggested. The notion of packing, of course, hadn't crossed James's mind yet. That was also typical James, and the thought made Lily smile quietly to herself.
The grades were in, and it would be completely done, with the 'last-day' feeling both dreaded and loved. Maybe the summer sun would wink upon them, but it might not, and Lily was partially afraid of that.
Maybe everybody was, Lily thought.
Lily started as a loud noise punctured the peaceful silence, and an enraged Sirius came bursting in through the portrait hole, clearly fuming about something.
"Sirius?" James asked hesitantly as Sirius was halfway up the stairs. "…need anything?"
The couple heard the loud, angry rejection of the door slamming shut.
"I'd better go," he said, gingerly making his way out from under her warm frame (he looked rather regretful).
"Bye," Lily said, and went back to dreading nothing and absolutely everything, watching her boyfriend make his way up the steps leading to the boys' dormitory.
After a moment, another noise startled her out of her reverie. A black-haired blur entered quickly through the portrait hole, hiding her face behind a curtain of sleek hair.
Lily caught a glimpse of a red face, and leapt up.
The blur stopped.
It looked as if Michelle was close to tears. Lily could only remember once when she'd seen her friend like this.
"What happened?" Lily asked rather concernedly.
"Oh, I don't know," said Michelle, and her voice sounded funny.
"Sirius?" Lily asked.
Michelle nodded mutely.
"…well, are you…"
"We're still together, yeah." Michelle said, blinking furiously, denying the tears access out of her eyes.
"I…don't know, I don't want to talk about it," Michelle said, "sorry, Lily."
And with that, she rushed up the stairs to the girls' dormitory, and Lily thought she saw a sparkle of a tear travel through the air.
"Here, want a drink?" Lily whipped her head around, and her curled locks arced with it.
James was standing before her, grinning and holding two small wineglasses in his hands.
"Or can you take the intensity of a sip of lime champagne?"
Lily stuck her tongue out at him and took the drink from his hand, clasping her fingers around the glass.
The music was loud; the food was good; and everything was, in a sense, perfect. The loud chatter filled up Lily's ears; people of all houses mingled, laughed, and danced with drinks in their hands.
Michelle had entered the party, utterly stunned, tricked into believing it to be a simple date with Sirius. It had been good to see her friend grin like that, Lily thought.
It was good to feel simply like a teenager. To simply enjoy herself, dance a little, and maybe drink some lime champagne.
"Here, come on," Lily said to James, looping her arm through his, and dragging him towards a group dancing in a circle—Remus, Sirius, Hazel, Michelle, Peter, a pretty, fourth-year Hufflepuff that was standing adoringly beside him (Lily smiled at that), Dominic Hall, who was dancing shyly as though he didn't quite know what he was doing; and about three rather pretty girls that were attempting to sidle up to him.
Dominic looked rather frightened at this turn of events.
"Hey, guys!" Michelle said. Her cheeks were flushed pink and she looked pretty as she danced beside Sirius.
(They had been gone for a rather long session through the beginning of the party—Lily suspected they had made use of the secret passageway that she and James had snogged in—Michelle and Sirius had both been beaming when they had returned.)
The circle opened to let Lily and James in, and Lily let herself move her body to the beat as naturally as it would come. It was fairly dark in the loud, crowded room, and a catchy beat pervaded the walls. The strung stars shone above their heads, and the silk ribbons, with some work, now flashed what they were supposed to say—"Happy Birthday, Michelle!"
The crepe paper also flowed from the ceiling nicely.
James looked rather awkward dancing, though he did well enough; Sirius, of course, was a perfect dancer, though Remus seemed to have dancing skills more equal to James.
Lily grinned inwardly.
"Anybody want some strawberry champagne?" Sirius shouted to the crowd of dancing teenagers, and several shouted replies. He wove off, completely confident and Sirius-like, through the crowd, to the drink stand.
Sirius returned after a minute, and with renewed heartiness did the group dance to a new, provocative beat. It seems a bit of an organized partner dance. Peter had his arms rather awkwardly around his maybe-girlfriend's waist, and the two were moving quickly to the beat; Michelle and Sirius, of course, were dancing extremely close to one another in a perfectly coordinated, fast-moving manner, and both looked extremely happy; Hazel and Remus were dancing surprisingly close as well (maybe it was the champagne); and Dominic, looking thoroughly bewildered, had three eager girls pressed up against him, all seemingly competing for his attention.
Lily simply pulled James a bit closer so their stomachs were an inch or so apart.
James grinned down to her. "Oooh, lovely dancing Lily, very sexy," he said, winking.
Lily laughed at his ridiculous look but merely grinned and said, "Nice dancing yourself, Potter."
"I hope we aren't back to the surname days," James said earnestly, a warm arm around her back as they danced.
"I don't know, it was quite fun," Lily said.
"Yeah, except for the parts where you hexed me nearly to death." Said James.
"Well, yeah, that, too." Lily replied.
The song changed to a different beat. The previous dancing circle was about to be formed again, when a girl's loud shriek was heard above the music, coming from the entrance of the room.
James craned his head above the dancing, laughing masses, and, through the dim sparkling quality of the air and room, tried to discern what the commotion was caused by.
The crowd seemed to parting slightly, people were jostled and pushed as somebody moved through the crowd rather rushedly—Lily saw a glimpse of cornflower silk hair, and—
Her heart sped up as she ran to check if it was—
"AMANDA!" Lily shrieked, running towards her friend madly, tackling her into a hug.
"LILY!" Amanda shrieked as loud as Lily—if not louder.
Lily hugged her friend tighter than she would have normally, feeling an enormous wave of happiness and just—this was how everything was supposed to be.
Amanda's hair was curled in perfect ringlets, which, of course, looked wonderful on her; her eyes were made up slightly, and she wore a pretty blue dress.
"Are you—wow, goodness, I can't even begin with everyth—"
But Lily was cut off by a wildly sprinting Michelle, who charged towards Amanda, slipping on the floor, and nearly making the poor blonde fall over. Hazel followed soon, joining the hug.
"AMANDA!" Michelle yelled, wrapping her arms around her friend.
James, Sirius, and Remus, looking a bit startled from all of the racket, looked over.
"Hey, Amanda, better, are you?" Remus asked.
"Yeah, I am," Amanda said breathlessly, eyes shining with evident excitement. "I wasn't really supposed to come—against Pomfrey's orders—but I sneaked out." She said, shrugging her shoulders and grinning.
Lily grinned in spite of herself; this was such a typical Amanda action.
"Well—it's a party!" Amanda said, beaming. "Let's dance!"
And so, Lily, with James on her right and Amanda on her left (Dominic was also situated next to the blonde, who was watching her happy face with a sort of wonderous fascination), with her friends all around her, all beaming, and dancing, and being the sixteen year olds they were meant to be. With a glass of lime champagne in her hand and a funny, happy-sad taste in her mouth, did she feel, for the first time in awhile, truly and completely alive.
The night was quiet, and they were all in the common room. The silence was there, but it wasn't really quiet at all, just a sort of eloquence. The party had left them all worn out. Michelle and Sirius had both fallen asleep on the same Gryffindor-red couch, Michelle's head on Sirius's chest, Sirius with his arms wrapped loosely around her waist.
Remus and Hazel were in a likewise position, and Peter was off with his Hufflepuff girlfriend. Lily and James stared into the fire, Lily resting her head on James's shoulder as she watched the flames spit up sparks and die and be reborn, again and again, and it reminded her of something that she couldn't quite place.
Amanda seemed to be off , flirting loudly with Dominic Hall, because promptly the faint sound of Amanda making a loud, indignant (but still decidedly flirtatious) noise traveled up to Lily's ears.
Lily's eyes focused on the fire once more.
"Hey," James said suddenly, and it slightly startled Lily out of her contemplation of the flames, "d'you want to go outside?"
"It's almost four in the morning, James." She said rather tiredly, a yawn escaping her mouth, as if to prove a point.
"So?" he said, shrugging.
Lily smiled, spontaneity was just so right for the last real night of school, just so James.
"Sure." Lily replied, making to get off his lap.
She did and stretched, cat-like, James got up as well. Feeling slightly reckless, but in a good way, Lily set off with James, (holding hands) out the portrait hole, and into the dark hallway.
They traveled for a bit like this, James leading, as the resident expert of Hogwarts' nighttime navigation. He was the expert, and he was her protector, as cliché as it sounded. It was, and it was a cliché of love that never got old.
"Here we are," James said unnecessarily, as the enormous Hogwarts castle doors came into view. Pushing one open for her, Lily felt the warmth of air on her skin; it felt fresh but also warm. It was the smell of summer than invaded her nose, and that made her feeling so indescribable that she didn't bother to begin with them.
They sat down by the lake, Lily's back to the oak tree, James in front of her, still holding hands.
It was still, all was still and quiet, and Lily felt both calm and reckless, happy and sad, giddy and peaceful. The lake shone, like a huge silver mirror, to her left, undisturbed and perfect. It looked as if one could skate over it.
Their entwined hands glinted palely in the faint glint of the moonlight, and Lily smiled at that.
"D'you remember—the bet?" Lily asked softly, startling James out of their silence.
"How could I forget?" James asked, grinning softly.
"Yes—and you were so sure you were going to win, weren't you," Lily said, grinning a little at him.
James accepted defeat warmly.
"I was, and I would have too, if it hadn't been for that little Snivellus." He said.
Okay, so maybe warmly wasn't the word.
Lily laughed, the sound eerily beautiful in the frozen-still land, teeming with them, and it was just her and James.
"I…well. I'll miss you." Lily said reluctantly.
There was a pause, and for a moment, Lily felt rather foolish in admitting her feelings in such a seemingly sappy way.
"Listen to me, Lily," James said fiercely, and his eyes held something nameless, something Lily couldn't quite identify.
Lily nodded imperceptibly, shadows thrown over her face, skin like moonlight, looking up at James, who looked as impassioned as he had ever seen him.
"It's—well, just, if anything goes awry, and I mean anything, you've got to call me. I don't bloody care if Petunia will run away screaming if I apparate in the living room, I'll do it anyway, and just…"
Tears were welling up in Lily's eyes, and the oak tree she was nestled against dug into her back, but she was numb to the thick texture.
"I don't want anything happening to you, and if—well, you've just got to call me, Lily, and…"
"I'll be fine, James," Lily said, and her voice sounded strange and choked and full of strange emotion, "it's only for a summer, and—"
"…well, I…you know, I…" James muttered something else that escaped into the world, a lost whisper into the fathomless velvety sky.
"What?" Lily whispered, and he held her hand so hard that she knew he was afraid of letting her go, so hard it was painful, but she would have rather he broke all her bones than let her go…
"It's just, I, well. I can't deal with bad thing happening, you know, to people, I, erm, love."
Lily squeezed his hand even harder, if that was possible. His face, here, in the moonlight, the hazel earnestly looking at her, him, just James, that was the most wonderful thing she could have imagined, in her life, for ever and ever and ever and…
Lily quickly whispered something in James's ear. He frowned, wrinkling his eyebrows, he turned back to her. "What was that?"
The words were what it all tied together.
"You'll never need a booth to kiss me again."