It's not mine; it's J.K. Rowling's.
Chapter 3: Revealed Love
Cici spent the rest of break cleaning and then moping, doing homework and then moping some more, cleaning some more and then moping some more again. She sat down in front of her notebook Sunday night, right before the end of break, and opened it up. She hadn't opened it up since the ball, half-afraid and half-hoping James would have his open too. Her heart leapt and then plummeted. He had his open.
NightRider: Cinders! I've been waiting for you to open your notebook all break.
NightRider: Talk to me, Cinders!
NightRider: Please, I'm begging you
NightRider: You have to talk to me, I have your other shoe
NightRider: I'll do anything. Please, talk to me
Cinders01: What sort of anything?
NightRider: You're talking to me!
Cinders01: You're a smart one, Sherlock.
NightRider: I'm just so happy I couldn't contain myself. I want to tell you how sorry I am about the ball. I shouldn't have said all that. I keep replaying what I said in my nightmares. I sounded so stupid. I'm so in love with you and I had you in my arms and I told you that I didn't want to date you. How stupid can I get? I feel like such a git.
Cinders01: Maybe that's because you are a git.
NightRider: I know I deserved that and I know there's really no point in asking, but will you meet me again?
NightRider: Please? I could bring your shoe and give it back to you.
Cinders01: When and where?
NightRider: Next Hogsmeade weekend at the Three Broomsticks.
Cinders01: I won't stay long.
NightRider: I won't force you to do anything you don't want.
Cinders01: Next Saturday then.
Cinders01 has signed off
Even though her notebook was turned off Cici scrawled one last message: I lied, James, I'm not coming. I can't come because then you'll know who I am.
Cici boarded the Night Bus to return to Hogwarts in the wee hours of Monday morning. Most of Hogwart's other students had returned on Saturday aboard the Hogwart's Express, but Francis had refused to drive her to the station and insisted that Cici desperately needed to finish cleaning the entire ground floor, again, before she returned to Hogwarts (or she wouldn't return at all). Cici hated it that Francis had so much power over her.
Sometimes she just wanted to shout, "NO! I won't be your slave anymore." But then she'd remember that if she did that, she would have no place to live. Why couldn't she have become friends with someone who had a bigger house?
Cici knocked her head on the bed post as the bus violently jerked forward. She probably deserved that for thinking such uncharitable thoughts about Devin. It wasn't Devin's fault her family lived in a house so small it could pass for a doll's house. Cici sighed, Devin wouldn't say no if she asked to move in, but she'd have to sleep outside.
One day, though ... one day, she'd stop caring ... one day, she'd decide she was leaving, even if it meant she'd have to sleep on park benches and in doorsteps ... one day.
Once again back at Hogwarts, Cici sat in Professor Heubert's class still valiantly resisting the urge to cast a silencing charm on him.
"Split up into partners, please," he said, and Cici curled her hand around her wand. Oh, how she wished she'd never have to hear his annoying voice again.
Cici fought the urge to flinch when James asked her to be his partner. Why did he have to ask her? She didn't want to work with him. She didn't even want to look at him. But, of course, he didn't know that and she planned to keep it that way. So she smiled and nodded and they were partners. They worked with just as much efficiency as last time except she didn't steal any glances his way, and he seemed much more distracted.
"You didn't save me a dance at the ball," he said when they finished.
"I didn't go."
"That's too bad; you could have shown down all of the girls there." Cici looked at him fighting temptation, but she couldn't help herself, she had to mention it.
"I heard from Devin that you met some girl who ran out on you." Oh god, she was evil, the look of pain on James' face confirmed that. He didn't reply, instead he got up out of his seat and walked up to Professor Heubert. He came back a minute later.
"Come on," he said, grabbing her arm and pulling her out of her seat. She was so surprised, she let him drag her into the hallway before she tugged her arm away.
"What are you doing?" She hissed at him.
"I told Professor Heubert we needed to go to the library to finish the assignment."
"We're already done with the assignment."
"I know, but I need to talk to you without everyone listening in." What was he talking about?
"That girl at the ball, the one who ran out; I love her."
"Why are you telling me this?" Cici asked, backing up to the wall, trying to put as much space between them as possible.
"The reason she ran out," he continued, ignoring her question, "Was that I told her I had a crush on someone else."
"Well, I would have run out on you then, too," Cici said, desperately ignoring the pangs her heart was giving off.
"That crush is on you Cici. I don't understand it. I hardly know you, but I find you irresistible. It's like you're Cinders, but human. You aren't perfect, I see your flaws and I like them. I've never seen Cinders' flaws," he let out a dry laugh, "except her lack of sewing expertise. I don't even know why I'm telling you this. I don't want to go out with you, obviously, because I'm in love with Cinders, but I can't go out with her either because I have a crush on you. You're just so similar, it's like where one of you is incomplete, the other fills the gap. I just don't know what to do..."
He had a crush on her and he was in love with her. She felt like jumping for joy. She was so happy it didn't even occur to her to pretend she didn't know who Cinders was. How much simpler all of this would have been if she'd just told him who she was last night. She'd been silly, but she could fix it. She could fix her mistake.
"James ..." she was cut off by the bell. James straightened and she watched as all of the pain and emotion he'd let play on his face was wiped away by the haughty look you came to expect from the most popular guy at school.
"I'll see you next class, Cici," he said, walking back into the classroom to get his books. Cici just stood there while the whole class filed by. She let herself be mesmerized by the waves of color the different styles and talk that fueled the cacophony around her. She would meet James tomorrow at the Three Broomsticks and tell him the truth, tell him that he did know what to do ... ask her out.
Now I know something's up.
Leave me alone Devin, I'm trying to take notes.
Take notes later.
Unlike some people, I want to pass this class.
I didn't say I didn't want to pass, Lily.
Don't call me that!
Whatever you say, Lily.
Only if you tell me what's up, Lily.
Argh, I'm going to tell James to ask me out when I meet him tomorrow.
What about Miss Crush?
I'm Miss Crush.
He has a crush on me, Cici, and is in love with Cinders, also me; what more can a girl ask for?
Yeah, I'm working on that. Now let me take notes.
Cici hesitated outside of the Three Broomsticks; she was supposed to be going home this Saturday, so she could go with Francis and push the cart for her at the grocery. Honestly, what a lazy bum, she couldn't even push her own cart at the grocery. Cici grimaced in disgust just thinking about Francis. It was pitiful that she forced Dumbledore to give Cici permission to come home on weekends so she could do chores.
Cici looked through the window at James, who was sitting forlornly with her shoe resting on the table beside him. He'd been waiting for a good half hour already. Taking a deep breath she tugged the door open and walked over to James.
"Cici," he said, looking surprised.
"Is this seat taken?" She asked.
"Actually, I'm waiting for someone."
"I'll move when they get here," she said, sitting down. He looked at her questioningly. She took another deep breath and pulled the other shoe out of her bag, setting it by the one on the table. He looked from it to her and then back again.
"I don't understand," he said.
"You're the same person."
"So, I'm not going crazy."
"No," she agreed, grinning as a gorgeous smile slowly spread over his face.
"Will you..." he trailed off, looking nervous.
"... Go out with you?" She finished for him.
"Yes, will you go out with me?" He looked at her hopefully.
"Yes," she said, "I will." His face lit up and he leapt from his seat pulling her up into a hug.
"You've just made me the happiest person in the world!"
"Really?" She said, laughing.
"Yes! And I'm taking you home right now and introducing you to my parents since you're going to come over all of the time. I'm going to tell them they might as well adopt you and I can teach you to play quidditch."
"Quidditch?" Cici said; that wasn't what she'd heard boyfriends and girlfriends did in their spare time.
"Yeah, I love quidditch and I can teach you and you can love it too and when we finish, we can go lay in the hammock and I can hold your hand and we can hang out with Sirius and Remus and play 2 on 2 and..." James continued on and on about watching clouds and things like that. Cici found it hard to believe that this was the most sought after boy in school. What would his fan club say if they found out he wanted to spend time holding hands and playing quidditch with his girlfriend? She didn't know about them, but she kind of liked it. She tuned back in to his words right as he said, "The only time you don't want to be at my house would be cleaning day, which is one Saturday a month, but I can warn you in advance. I just know my mom would draft you into some awful cleaning job." Cici blanched.
"I have to go!"
"But you just got here."
"I know, James, but I have to get home, my step-mom's going to be furious at me as it is since I'm late."
"Well, I'll go with you and explain that it's my fault. I'm sure she won't be too mad."
"You don't understand my step-mom, James, she's evil."
"I'm good with evil, come on." He grabbed her shoes and walked out the door, leaving her trailing behind.
"Do you even know where my house is?" she called after him. He turned and looked at her then looked at Devin who, as luck would have it, was standing right next to Zonkos with Sirius, where James had stopped.
"I bet you know where she lives."
"I do," Devin said, the traitor. Cici had managed to catch up.
"Don't tell him," Cici said; Devin ignored her.
"She lives at 12 Everafter Lane."
"Thanks!" James said, giving Devin a stunning grin. He then stuck out his wand and the night bus appeared.
"James," Cici pleaded, "Don't." But he was already on the bus. The bus let them off right in front of the house. Francis hated it when the bus stopped in front of the house, she always made Cici get off around the corner.
He politely rang the doorbell as Cici continued to ask him to stop. Then Francis answered the door.
"There you are, you stupid girl. You're late and now I'm late for my nail appointment." Francis grabbed Cici by the neck and yanked her forward, "You're grounded for this, you ungrateful brat and next time, I'll pull you out of your precious school as well. What's the point when you're just going to spend your life as a maid, Cinderella?" Cici felt tears spring to her eyes; she didn't want Francis to hate her; Cici didn't even know why she did. It just felt like she could never be good enough.
"Shut-up!" Cici screamed. She felt power flow into her as Francis froze because Cici had just realized something: that "one-day" she'd been dreaming about for years ... that day was today.
"Why didn't you just push your own darn cart at the grocery; I'm not your slave. Or better yet, make one of your whore daughters do it. And you know what, I give up. I give up trying to please you. I'm moving out. I never want to see you again." Cici stormed past Francis, dragging James with her.
"I'm so sorry, James," she said when they reached her room, "I didn't want you to see that."
"No, I'm sorry, I had no clue your step-mom was like that, if I'd known I would have talked to my parents about letting you move in ages ago. As it is now, it'll take some convincing, but I think the bruises on your neck ought to do it." Cici looked at him in surprise.
"I'm not moving in with you. What would people say?" James looked at her confused.
"Oh, you mean propriety. Well, you would have your own room and stuff. My parents are actually kind of used to me moving my friends in when their parents are abusing them."
"Are you sure, James? I could probably find ... somewhere ..."
Cici grinned as she pulled out her spare trunk and laughed a little at herself. And she'd thought she'd be sleeping on doorsteps. She had to be the luckiest girl in the world to have a boyfriend like James.
Cici packed what little she owned into her trunk and headed out of her tiny room for the last time, not feeling one bit of regret. James' parents were surprised to see her and James on their doorstep, but welcomed her with open arms and set her up in the very elegant guest room. Afterward, James took Cici for a walk to show her around the Potter estate.
"This is the best day of my life," Cici told James confidently.
"Me too," he agreed, stopping their slow amble to give her a hug.
"There's only one small difficulty."
"Oh, what's that?" Cici said, wondering what in the world he could possibly find wrong with this amazing day. And what a day it was, getting an amazing kind boyfriend and finally gathering the courage to break away from her step-family.
"I don't know what to call you."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, should I call you Cici, or Cinders, or something else?"
Cici thought for a second. "If you want, you can call me Lily."
Lily, the girl who had died all those years ago with her father. But that didn't matter because it was time for Lily to crawl out of her hiding space and show the world she'd never really died; she'd just disappeared and now she was back.
"Yeah, it's what me dad used to call me. If you don't want to that's fine, but..."
"I'd love to call you Lily," he said cutting off her rambling.
"It's short for Lillian."
"It's pretty." They reached a secluded garden and James pulled her over to sit on a bench next to a huge oak tree.
"I was wondering, Lily, do you think we'll live happily ever after?" James asked, lacing his fingers with hers.
"I think it all depends on what your happily ever after is."
"For instance, if your happily ever after is to have a girlfriend with an evil step-family who's living out of your guest room and is madly in love with you, I think you're set." James looked at her, his eyes filled with love.
"That sounds pretty darn good to me," he said with fervor and then kissed her right on the lips in the middle of the garden.
Happily ever after indeed.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed. If you want to review that would be absolutely beyond (or so my friend who had a zen like breakthrough on Monday would say). Sorry it took so long for me to post this chapter. If you're interested I have a new L/J story in the works that I really like (although, that might not be the most unbiased judgment). I believe it will be posted sometime after the lovely little AP exams I must take (so middle/end of May).
Daystar: Thank you for betaing this story (even if you point out my errors that I'm too lazy to fix in your reviews cough aritmancy cough. On the better news front, the next story is way better than this one, so you have lots to look forward to.
Aelotia: I have to admit I have no clue where Lily's shoes came from. I'm just inclined to think they fell out of the luggage of an all powerful magical cricket.
sunlitmist: A little of both. Daystar asked me to write a cinderella story for her senior exit and I went a wee bit overboard and the story ended up longer than her paper, but that's a trivial little detail ... I really just wanted to do something modern and I'd see Cinderella Story a few months back so ...