Note: Goodness gracious me! I had no idea it had been so long since my last update! I thought it had only been 2 weeks, until I checked and saw it was over a month. Gah! I'm so sorry, but this chapter was really, really difficult. Give me blood and gore over romance any day :-P. Anyway, once this story is done, I hope you'll invest some interest in my future endeavors. If not, my little self-plug was pointless, but I still love you.
History: After 26 chapters, 25 disclaimers. I refuse to restate the obvious :-P
Recap: Lily and James escape their desperate situation. That's pretty much the sole prerequisite for reading this chap.
Cookie Handouts: I'm gonna get this done with now. Logged-In Peoples have their responses; love to CookieCwen105 (I fear thy wrath. I hope this works out for you :-P. Thank you so much for reviewing, and help yourself to virtual cookies!), Annie S (why, thank you! Glad you liked Dumbledore—he's hard to write! Love and cookies and I hope you enjoy this chapter!), a.j. (yes?), s w e e tJOY (thank-you a thousand times over for the review! I'm so glad you've enjoyed the story!),and of course Karen (girl, I love you. Do you have any idea how much influence you have over me? Here I am, writing this fun little story that I'm enjoying oh-so-much, and I check my e-mail, only to find this pitiful little review begging for me to update ITISNS. And then I'm so guilt-tripped that I just have to suck it up and finish the last damn chapter. Love and cookie, anyway:-P).
Dedicated to every single person who has left me reviews throughout the story!
Chapter 26- "Eleven and Everything"
"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." (You only think it's from "Closing Time") –Seneca
Everything isn't ever okay," Mr. Evans always said. "You can only hope that some things are okay some of the time."
For as long as Lily could remember, that had been her father's response to the question that inevitably frequented the house when he stayed up late, usually staring at his typewriter and thinking. The phrase had become so ingrained in Lily's brain that she had never really thought about what it meant before. It was just the automatic reply that—though Lily herself never used it—played in her head whenever anyone asked: "Is everything okay?"
No, everything wasn't okay.
Some things were okay, but not everything.
This was a fact of which Lily was acutely aware as she walked to the Hospital Wing late Monday morning. She was not in her school uniform, and she honestly she thought it quite likely she would not make it to classes today. Her shoulder was hurting again, and if the pain was not quite so bad as it had been before Beatrice's treatment, it certainly still felt slept-on.
In addition, the fingernail on her left ring finger had broken much too close to the skin, a cut on her forehead had scabbed over and itched something terrible, her brain was positively throbbing, she was exhausted, and Redival Shelley had sent her a funny look when they had passed in the Common Room a few minutes earlier. Lily was not one to complain, but really: enough was enough.
It was not so much that Lily actually cared that Redival Shelley had sent her a funny look or what Redival Shelley thought at all, but rather that the Head Girl could not for the life of her figure out what the look meant, and that did not help her headache.
In the time it took Lily to walk from the Fat Lady's portrait to the prefect's bathroom on the fifth floor, she entertained the idea that Redival might be jealous of the apparent "connection" Lily held with Redival's boyfriend through the occurrences of the night before. By the time Lily reached the statue of the Boris the Bewildered, she had dismissed this idea as sheer idiocy. As she walked passed the Library, it occurred to Lily that perhaps Redival's funny look had meant to be one of inquiry, and in the space between Madame Pince's suspicious gaze and the fourth floor bathroom (some five steps away) Lily felt guilty for not having responded to the look. Between the bathroom and the large wooden door of the armor gallery, it was speculated that Redival had not actually intended to send her a funny look at all; perhaps she had merely been about to sneeze. As Lily reached the doubled doors of the infirmary, she was certain that this was not the case. There was definitely a funny look. It had been a full-fledged, indisputable, one-hundred percent intentional funny look. No debate.
Lily pulled open one of the intimidating doors and entered the Hospital Wing. Madam Pomfrey was attending to someone in one of the beds in the far corner, so Lily stepped off to the side to wait her turn. The nurse glanced over her shoulder and straightened up, as if intentionally trying to obscure her patient from view, though this was entirely unnecessary as it was already accomplished.
"You needn't bother," said the mystery patient. "She already knows."
Lily recognized the voice almost immediately, but it was not until Madam Pomfrey somewhat reluctantly stepped away a moment later to reveal Remus Lupin that she matched the voice with a name.
"Drink the rest of that potion," Madam Pomfrey directed to Remus. "If you'll wait here, Miss Evans, I will be back in a moment." She hurried across the room into her office, and Lily began to meander in the general direction of Remus's cot. He looked terrible.
"How are you?" she asked earnestly.
"Been worse. Been better, but I've been worse."
Lily nodded. "So... do... do you remember everything from last night?"
Remus smiled mirthlessly, pushing his disorderly brown hair out of his face. Lily was immediately reminded of James. "No," he admitted with a sigh. "Not everything. A lot of it's kind of lost in a blur, but James was here earlier with Sirius and Peter... he told me mostly everything."
Strangely enough, Lily found that the fact that James had told the other Marauders about what had happened did not bother her as much as she might have expected. The hint that James had told Sirius about the first forest escapade had made her furious at the beginning of the year.
She reached the bed and looked carefully down at the Marauder. "How are you?" she asked earnestly.
Remus shrugged. "As well as can be expected, I guess. How are you?"
"Good." There was a brief silence before he continued. "Listen, Lily, I understand... I mean, I understand if this changes something between us. If you don't want to... talk to me or whatever anymore then... it's not like I'm gonna be really offended. Or at least, I won't be surprised. But, um... the point is, I want to apologize. I'm really sorry this happened." He waved a hand about vaguely.
Lily raised her eyebrows. "You're serious?"
"I mean, do I really give off the impression of being someone who is going to give up one of my closest friends because he's got a little... problem?"
"Well, I know, but..."
"Don't interrupt, Lupin. I'm not even entirely sure what you're apologizing for. If it's for the almost-killing-me thing... well... alright, I forgive you. If it's for the lycanthropy situation, I really don't see how apologizing is going to make any difference whatsoever. So, before you go into anymore beautiful, pitiful, sorrowful speeches, please keep in mind that this is me you're talking to, and you supposedly know me, so there are some things that simply don't need to be said at all."
Lily finished and put her hands on her hips, shifting her weight. Remus's face, meanwhile, broke into a small, ironic sort of smile.
"In that case, I'm sorry again."
Madam Pomfrey now returned from her office, carrying a silver tray with several potion vials. She ordered for Lily to sit down on a cot. The Head Girl waited patiently (she did not have anything better to do, after all) while the nurse set each vial out in a deliberate order along the bedside table.
"Right to left," she instructed simply; "then after you've had a healthy drink of each of them, one more from the first."
"Thank-you," muttered Lily quietly, taking the first vial, which was about half-filled with a translucent purple liquid. She raised it to her lips and, with a slight nod to Remus, said yet again: "Cheers."
Remus grinned as Lily gulped each of the five potions in succession.
"Mr. Lupin," said Madam Pomfrey sternly; "you should be resting."
"I am very rested," Remus lied cheerfully. "I've been sleeping like a baby for the last... three hours."
"Two and half," corrected the nurse. "Now go to sleep."
Remus rolled his eyes. "Goodnight, Remus," Lily said with a smirk, as Madam Pomfrey pulled the curtains shut around his cot.
"Now," she said, her voice still as stern as ever as she looked down at Lily. "What about those bruises?"
"They've already been tended to," Lily insisted at once. "Last night... everything's fine. No big deal."
"Treated?" the older witch scoffed. "Only just. One minute; I'll be back with some things that will vanish those in about a minute."
Lily nodded in defeat; she knew Madam Pomfrey far too well to think she could talk her way out of further treatment. She was left alone again with Remus and was about to strike up another conversation with him, when the sound of the door opening distracted her. Lily looked over her shoulder curiously and saw James entering with Redival in tow.
"Oh," said the Head Girl in surprise. "It's you."
"Mhm." It was not James who replied, but Redival.
"Rem...er... I was told you'd already been by today," Lily added as if she had not heard, careful to keep her eyes locked on the Head Boy. Irritating Redival was just the sort of thing that would brighten this terrible morning.
"I was," James said with a nod, earning him a curious look from his girlfriend. "But Madam Pomfrey wasn't up yet, so I had to come back for my treatment or whatever."
"You didn't tell me you'd already been by," Redival muttered to James. She was apparently trying to prevent Lily from hearing.
"Sorry, it... it didn't occur to me." James seemed entirely bewildered by this line of enquiry. He was rescued (or perhaps it was Redival who was saved) from any further dialogue by the reentrance of Madam Pomfrey.
"My God, boy. You should have been by last night. I can't imagine what Professor Dumbledore was... well... never mind." She brought a small container over to Lily and placed it on table, beside the potion vials. "And you, Miss Shelley? What can I do for you?"
"Oh, nothing, I just came for James."
"You do not have class?"
"I got permission from Professor Slughorn to miss the first half hour."
"Well... alright, I suppose. Just apply that around the bruise on your forehead, Miss Evans. Yes, like that. Leave it on—I'll tell you when you can clean it off again. Now, Mr. Potter..." She turned to James and began to list off things the matter with the Head Boy, only half of which Lily noticed. Redival, meanwhile, came over and took a seat on the cot next to the Head Girl.
"Good morning, Lily," she said sweetly.
"Good morning, Redival," Lily replied, and she was reminded of their encounter the night before.
"How are you?" The sixth year seemed genuinely interested; Lily wondered how much she knew of the night before.
"I'm okay, I guess. How are you?"
"Oh, I'm fine. But... um... the thing is, I'm kind of... curious."
"Curious? About what?"
"Well, um... last night. I mean, people have only been up for maybe two hours and I've already heard a thousand different rumors."
"Yeah. So... what did happen last night?"
"Er... didn't... didn't James tell you yet?"
"Well, that's the thing, isn't it?" sighed Redival in an undertone. "I mean, he's being such a... a bloke, you know? Completely unhelpful. You know what they're like."
"Oh, I don't know," Lily said at once, in the coyest voice she could muster. "I haven't had a boyfriend in... five months. A girl forgets the trials and tribulations of a boyfriend after five months."
"A gift and a curse, I'm sure."
"But mostly a gift."
"I suppose so, but... do you think you could help me out? As a fellow sufferer of the male sex?"
"Well," Lily began hesitantly (thoroughly, inexplicably, vindictively enjoying herself), "I really think that's something James should tell you. I mean, I don't have any objections to telling you myself, but I really think he should be the one who... explains it to you. Y'know?"
"Uh, yeah, I guess," Redival muttered, sounding thoroughly dissatisfied with the answer. "But do you think...?"
"Hey, Redival," James interrupted suddenly from across the room. "It's nine thirty-five, so you should probably get..."
"Oh, shoot," sighed the blonde. "Alright... I should go." She crossed the room to where James stood by the door and, standing on her toes, kissed him gently (though rather passionately) on the lips. He reciprocated appropriately (Lily looked away), and then—with a final, reluctant glance about the room—Redival departed.
"Your potions, Potter," Madam Pomfrey reminded the Head Boy pointedly. James took a long drink of his medicine, then set the bottles back onto the tray the nurse was holding. "And you may wipe off that paste now, Miss Evans." She tossed a towel to Lily, who caught it and cleaned off the bruises on her face. They began to diminish even as she did so.
"Is Remus awake?" James asked, as Madam Pomfrey returned to her office with the empty bottles. Lily nodded, and Remus—from his spot behind the curtains—replied loudly: "Yes!"
With a small smile, James made his way towards his friend's bed, and Lily followed at a short distance. The Head Boy pulled aside the curtains to be met by Remus's bored expression.
"Feeling any better?" James asked.
Remus shrugged. "I guess."
"Liar. And a bad one."
"Sod off. I'm a good liar when I want to be. You didn't even know I was... what I am... for two years."
"A year and a half."
"But I did fool Lily for nearly seven years."
"Well that's no great feat. Peter could have done that."
Lily stuck out her tongue at James. "You're a prat."
"You're a pest."
"You're a prick."
"You're a prude."
"You're a priss."
"You're a slag."
"When you two are done," Remus interrupted, eyebrows raised knowingly.
"We're done," said Lily sophisticatedly.
"Not even anywhere in the neighborhood of incomplete."
"Do you always have to have the last word, Red?"
Madam Pomfrey reentered the room once again. "Alright, you two may leave." She nodded to Lily and James. "I'll need you, Mr. Potter, to return every morning until I tell you the treatment is over. And you, Miss Evans, will have to return at your lunch break and in the evenings as well."
The Head Students nodded and, gathering that it was intended they do so from the look Madam Pomfrey sent them, crossed to the door. Lily added a thank-you over her shoulder, and James imitated her. They started towards the common room.
"So," began James at length, his voice now more serious than it had been in the infirmary; "I guess you talked to Remus about everything."
"Not really," Lily shrugged. "Just about his... issue."
James grinned a little. "His furry little problem."
"Yeah. How... how long have you known, then?"
"Since second year. Sirius and I figured it out."
They took a few steps without speaking before Lily resurrected the conversation. "Listen... James... there's... it seems like we should say something... like there should be something we need to say about last night and... wow, that sounded really racy, but... you know what I mean. Right?"
"Um..." He looked as if he was thinking very hard for something to justify what she was trying to communicate. "Not really, no."
Lily grinned and rolled her eyes slightly. "All I mean is... I feel like I should thank you or apologize or explain or..." They reached the Common Room.
"Hey, Red," James interrupted.
"I'm gonna go get some breakfast from the kitchens. Wanna come?"
For some period of time—between two seconds and twenty-years—Lily did not breath. James noticed her change of expression (she suddenly seemed very surprised) and quirked an eyebrow. "What's the matter?"
"The matt... nothing. Nothing's the matter, I... I just... um... no. Thanks, but no thanks. I'm just... tired. I'm gonna..." she exhaled heavily. "I'm gonna go up to bed."
James nodded slowly. He might have appeared disappointed, but he seemed even more confused. "You sure?"
Lily nodded unsteadily.
"Alright. Well... alright. I'll... I'll see you around." He turned and disappeared down the corridor. Lily did not enter the common room. Instead, she leaned against the wall and slid down into a sitting position. She shut her eyes and, with one hand, massaged her head.
Eleven words... eleven utterly unromantic words... and suddenly...
She liked James
Thursdays had always been good days for James. They came right before Friday and hailed the coming of the weekend. There was something so satisfying about them, as far as weekdays went. If you made it to Thursday, you would certainly make it to the weekend. Today was Thursday, and James was somewhat certain that it was a good day. He had mixed feelings, though.
It really shouldn't have been good. It should have been dreadful. He should have, by right, felt terrible right now. If nothing else, he should have felt overwhelmingly guilty. He did feel a little guilty, admittedly, but what guilt he did feel really did not seem proportionate to his crime, if it could be called that at all. He smirked a little at the thought of his crime. He should not really laugh. It was rude. But, still...
"Are you okay, Prongs?" Sirius asked of his best friend, raising an eyebrow suspiciously. "You just seem a little too... okay."
"God forbid," the Head Boy replied sardonically. "I don't see what the big deal is. This has happened to you about a thousand times."
"Right, but I'm Sirius. You're James."
"And he's Remus, and he's Peter. Do you have a point?"
Sirius shrugged. "I guess I just think it's weird that you're handling this so well."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Pads." They reached the Charms classroom and entered, taking seats towards the back. Professor Flitwick had not yet arrived.
Rachel Brossle took the seat next to Sirius that was not occupied by a Marauder. She looked superciliously around her boyfriend at the Head Boy. "James," she said coldly.
James winced, knowing what was coming. "Hullo, Rach."
"Did you break up with Redival?"
On second thought, he had not known what was coming. "No!" he said defensively. "Is that what she told you? She broke up with me!"
"Well, yes, but you drove her to it!"
"Well no one forced her hand! Er... mouth. Whatever."
"And," continued Rachel, "you didn't protest at all!"
"I did too protest! Sweetheart, if Redival's your source, she's lying. I protested for five whole minutes!"
"Five minutes?" scoffed the other. "Five minutes of protest is as good as not protesting at all! Merlin, you're heartless." She leaned back in her seat and glared angrily ahead. Flitwick entered the classroom, and Sirius sent James a "Sorry, Mate" look. James rolled his eyes and turned to Remus.
"It's what I deserve, I suppose," he whispered irritably. "For dating a girl, I mean."
"Fancy dating chaps, Prongs?"
"No, but you know what I mean. 'Dating an irrational, normal type girl."
"Ah, and an example of a rational, abnormal type girl is...?"
"Well, I don't know," James muttered, looking about the room for a suggestion. There was one very obvious one that stuck in his head, but he could not admit this to Remus, or his friend would gloat to no end. "Eden."
"Well, Eden's abnormal. I'll give you that."
"But with a girlfriend, you're supposed to enjoy hanging out with them, right? It shouldn't be a chore!"
"I'm with you there, Prongs," Remus agreed quietly, "But most blokes would hardly find it a chore finding something to do with Redival Shelley."
"You sounded like Sirius."
"For which I'm eternally sorry. But, seriously, was it that bad? Being subjected to Redival?"
"It wasn't at first," James replied thoughtfully. "But it began to drag after a while. She's awfully... girly."
"Most birds are."
"Right, but there are some that aren't so bad, right? The ones that actually care about something beyond clothes and make up and all that rubbish? That you can hang out with for long periods of time without ending up wanting to slit your wrists?"
"Sure," Remus said with a shrug. "About five."
"In our year?"
"On the planet."
"I'm the honest one. If you want lies, talk to Sirius." Both glanced over at Sirius, who seemed thoroughly occupied with Rachel. James rolled his eyes again. "But, by some great coincidence, Prongs, one of those five birds is sitting in this room right now," Remus added.
"Yeah, but I don't much fancy dating Lexi. Anyway, she's with Montreal."
"You know I wasn't talking about Lexi." He gave the Head Boy a significant look. James threw a quill at him.
"You're such a girl, Lupin."
Even still, once Remus had begun to take notes, James allowed himself a glance in the general direction of several Gryffindor girls. Lily was exchanging a quick whisper with Eden, and whatever was being said, it caused the Head Girl to smile widely. James would have grinned himself, but he thought that Remus might notice.
Charms dragged on, and it seemed an eternity before the bell echoed through the halls, announcing the seventh years' freedom. The Marauders were the first ones to rush out of the classroom; they had their lunch hour next.
The Great Hall was noisy, as was usual during the lunch period. The Marauders took seats by themselves towards the end of the table closest to the Entrance Hall; Rachel had gone to join Redival in the girls' dormitory. Sirius, meanwhile, was surprisingly lacking an appetite. His lunch consisted only of two sandwiches and an apple.
"Do you realize," he began thoughtfully; "that we'll be finished with school a month from today." He took a drink of pumpkin juice. "That's weird."
"Bizarre," agreed Peter, who was not so peck-ish as his friend.
"We'll be adults," Remus added, with a shutter.
Sirius scoffed. "Speak for yourself. I'm eighteen. That's not adult."
"You can drink and you can apparate," Remus protested; "That counts."
"Sirius will never grow up," smirked James into his goblet of water. "It'd be too weird. Can you imagine him acting mature? Having kids?"
Remus laughed at the thought, and even Sirius grinned. "Not you, though, Prongs," Padfoot continued. "You'll be Minister of Magic by the time your thirty."
"If he doesn't get killed playing Quidditch first," Peter added.
"True enough. Here, pass that bowl this way." Remus handed a bowl to Sirius.
"Well, we don't know we'll pass," Moony reminded them. "We might all fail N.E.W.T.s."
"Thanks, Moons," James replied, rolling his eyes. "Peter looks as if he'll wet himself now. Don't worry, Worms. You'll pass. Just make sure you sit next to Padfoot or me." He grinned and finished his pumpkin juice.
"Yeah," said Sirius heartily. "I bet there aren't really anti-cheating spells on the quills. They just tell you that to scare you into being honest."
"Seriously?" Peter gawked.
"Seriously," said Sirius, and Wormtail missed the wink he sent James.
Grinning, James shook his head. "You're such a bastard, Padfoot."
Sirius laughed, and Peter looked confused. James did not hear his enquiries about the meaning of the leading Marauders' exchange, however, because someone across the hall had caught his eye. Snape was getting up from the Slytherin Table. He slipped almost unnoticed out into the Entrance Hall. James stood from his own table very suddenly.
"What's up, Prongs?" Sirius asked curiously.
"I... uh just remembered something. I'll be right back." He disengaged himself from the bench and moved quickly out of the Hall. The Entrance Hall appeared empty at first, but after a moment, James spotted a slightly hunched figure hurrying up the marble staircase. "Snape!" he called at once.
The figure, now at the top of the stair, turned. He was, in fact, Snape. James hurried up to him, skipping steps. When they were on level ground (James was a good three inches taller), Snape spat: "Yes, Potter?"
"Why didn't you do what she asked?" James asked coldly.
"I don't know what..."
"Don't," the Head Boy interrupted. "Don't try to bull shit your way out of this one. Maybe that worked with the teachers; maybe it worked on Lily; it's not going to work on me. Why didn't you do what Lily asked in the forest last Sunday?"
"You don't know what you're talking about, Potter."
James did not seem to hear him at all. "She could have died, alright? You hate me? Fine. You don't care what happens to me? Whatever. It's not like I would expect you to. But Lily, Snape. How could you let her die?" He was not shouting. He was simply asking, his tone stingingly cold. Snape did not cower.
"Why should I care any more about her than I do you?"
James just shook his head, smirking mirthlessly. "Please. I've seen the way you look for ways to taunt her... at least that way you have an opportunity to talk to her, yeah? That's the only way she'll talk back to you. You wait in the library to see if she'll turn up and you can call her 'Mudblood' because that makes you feel better."
"Shut up. Shut up."
"Why didn't you warn McGonagall about Lily?"
"I don't have to answer to you."
"No, I guess you don't. I was just hoping there was something... some excuse you could give. 'Doesn't matter, I suppose. The way Lily sees it, you were willing to just let her die..."
In an instant, Snape had drawn his wand. "You so much as twitch towards your wand, Potter," he snapped, smiling coldly; "and you'll be taking a shortcut to the Whomping Willow. You think you're so smart. 'Think you know everything because I didn't tell McGonagall. Well get this straight, Potter, if you can't remember anything else. I don't care one bit about Evans. I don't. She may hate me because no one came to the rescue..." His voice was less steady and more spiteful here; "But she hates you as well. The difference between us is that I don't care, and you do." The Head Boy simply glared. "But take heart, Potter," Snape continued coolly a moment later; "She's just another mudblood."
James did not bother
with a wand. Before Snape could so much as think an incantation, his
fist had made contact with the Slytherin's jaw. Snape hit the
banister of the stair and his wand slid through his fingers, rolling
down the marble steps. Very calmly, James followed the path to the
bottom landing. He reentered the Great Hall
Friday had finally come. The last week had seemed to last several months, rather than seven days, but it was Friday now, and for that, Lily was grateful. She noted this aloud, as she walked with Eden to Transfiguration early Friday afternoon.
"It has been a long week," the blonde agree thoughtfully. "I mean, it was only a week ago that... well, I dunno. It just seems like everything's changing."
Lily knew this was certainly true for herself, but could not imagine how it was the case for her friend. "What's changed?" she asked, smiling a bit.
Eden hesitated before saying, in a surprisingly steady voice: "I broke up with Rian last night."
Lily stared. "Oh my Merlin! Are you serious?" Eden nodded. "Are you okay? What happened?"
"Well," said the other slowly; "I ended it. I didn't mean to, I just... he walked up to me and kissed me on the cheek like he always does, and it seemed like the right thing to do. It's no big deal—we haven't been the same since... the Quidditch Final."
"Right, but... it's not wrong to... you can still be upset about it, E.
Eden shrugged. "I'm not." She sounded a little surprised herself. They were about halfway to the Transfiguration department before either girl spoke again. "This has been a bad week for romance," Eden pointed out, as if she had been considering it all along. "First there was Lucy White and Gavin Sherlock on Monday..."
"Merlin... he's not going to put up 'Missing' signs for his heart again, is he?" groaned Lily.
"We can only hope not. Anyway, then there was James and Redival yesterday morning, Rian and me last night..."
"Alice Prewett and Leander Vireo after lunch on Friday," offered a voice from behind them. Both girls turned quickly, to see Alice catching up with them. She fell into pace, walking next to Lily. Redhead and blonde stared in amazement at her.
"You and Leander broke up?" Eden asked. It was not so much the shock of that idea, except that Alice sounded so off-handed about the whole thing.
"No," said Alice simply. "I broke up with him."
"You dumped him?" Lily gasped.
"Gorgeous," Eden stated; "I love you." She sidestepped Lily and gave her friend a quick hug. Alice laughed, and when Eden has resumed her place in the march, Lily slung an arm around the brunette's shoulders.
"Look at us," began the Head Girl. "All single at the same time for the first time since... when do you reckon?"
"It's been a while," Eden agreed. "Last year?"
"No," said Alice. "Lily was with Elijah straight last year when we were on our breaks with our blokes."
"Good job, Lily. Way to break the trend."
"Yeah, well, I was first to break up with my boyfriend this year, so I made up for it. It was you, Eden Dearborn, that was screwing things up this year by not going on any breaks with Rian."
"Sorry," Eden apologized. "I'll do better next time."
"Well I'm just as happy to be without a boyfriend," said Alice. "Who needs them, right? They cause trouble, get on your nerves, are completely untrustworthy... what, I ask you, is the point?"
"Exactly," agreed Eden. "I agree one hundred percent, but you know I'll have another one in two weeks. That's how I am. It's rotten luck."
"Poor you," Lily threw in sardonically. "In the mean time, we should form a club."
"We don't need a boyfriend to feel complete," Alice said, firmly. "That can be our club name."
"Yeah," pressed the Head Girl. "Besides, what's the point in dating during school? It's not as if you're going to get married."
"Precisely," said Eden. "It's purely damage control."
"Someone to complain to," sighed Alice.
"You never complained to Leander," the blonde pointed out.
"No, but theoretically, that's what boyfriends are for."
"If only they were as good in practice as they are in theory," Lily noted.
Lexi joined them. "What about practice and theory?"
"You can't speak to us," said Eden calmly. "You're not part of the club."
"Why not? What club? Why can't we join?"
"You can't join because you have a boyfriend," said Lily. "And we're the 'We Don't Need a Boyfriend to Feel Complete' Club."
"Sounds like a load of rubbish to me."
"Sod off. It's a lovely club."
"If you say so."
"Alright. I say, what do you look so cheerful about, Alice?"
Eden began explaining the tragic romances of the week, but Lily did not pay this much attention. Gavin Sherlock—recently left with a broken heart by one Lucy White—was looking dismal as he walked with a group of significantly merrier group of friends. Lily was suddenly struck with inspiration. She excused herself from her own friends, then hurried up to the party of Hufflepuffs.
"Excuse me," she said boldly, tapping Gavin on the shoulder. He looked at her, confused. "Hi, Gavin."
"Er... hi, Lily." They knew each other's names, but not much else.
"Listen, Gavin, I don't mean to pry, but I know you and you're girlfriend just broke up, and I had a thought." He arched an eyebrow. "See I've got this friend..."
Lily slid into the seat next to Remus. It was breakfast on Saturday, and a whole day of absolute, blissful nothing was planned. Lily refused to start her homework until Sunday. "'Morning, Remus," the Head Girl said cheerfully to the Marauder. Sirius was sitting next to him, and Peter across, but James was nowhere to be found."
"Hey, do you know where the elusive Head Boy is? There was a head meeting but he was a no-show."
"He's in detention," Sirius replied, spreading jam over a crumpet. "Knocked Snape one a couple of days ago. The git got sore, I s'pose and told."
"He socked Snape one? What for?"
"Does he need a reason?" Peter snorted.
"That doesn't help, Worms," Remus said sharply. "I don't know what it was," he continued to Lily, "But he was in a rotten mood for the rest of the day. He's copying lines with McGonagall now."
Lily nodded. "Well that would explain why neither of them showed. When does he get done?"
"He didn't know definitively," said Remus. "But probably around ten... depending on how quickly he writes."
"And on what sort of mood McGonagall is in," Sirius added. "Speaking of which, dearest Head Girl, we were sort of hoping you could help us out with the darling deputy headmistress."
Lily raised an eyebrow as she poured some pumpkin juice in an unused goblet. "What sort of help?"
"The Head Girlish type."
"The Letting-The-Seventh-Years-Into-Hogsmeade-Tonight type."
Lily grinned. "Since when have any of you lot been bashful about sneaking into Hogsmeade?"
"Well, never," Sirius admitted. "But there's some sort of celebration going on in the Leaky Cauldron tonight, and, while if worse comes to worst and McGonagall won't let us go, we Marauders won't object to a bit of sneaking about, the whole riot would be much more fun if some of the others from our year were about."
"So you want me to implore on your behalf to McGonagall..."
"And Dumbledore, if it comes to it."
"...And Dumbledore if it comes to it, so that the seventh years can go down to Hogsmeade tonight for a party in the Leaky Cauldron."
"Yeah, that's the gist," said Sirius cheerfully. "Though it might be better if you phrase it as a 'social gathering' or 'little get together.' 'Party' has a bad connotation."
"One of drunkenness and loose behavior, you mean."
"I'll see what I can do," Lily told him. "But you'll have to promise me none of you three will get intoxicated."
Sirius looked mortally offended, and Remus raised an eyebrow. "You think Sirius won't get intoxicated?"
"Seriously!" Padfoot exclaimed. "That's completely unfair!"
Lily shrugged again. "Those are the terms."
"When did you become such a grown up?"
The Head Girl ignored this and said, smilingly: "Do you accept or reject?"
"Accept," muttered Sirius rebelliously.
"Accept," agreed Remus.
"Accept," said Peter.
"Alright then." She finished her pumpkin juice. "I'll go right after breakf..."
"Lily! Lily! Lily!"
Lily looked over her shoulder hastily. "What? What? What?" she asked. Eden pushed a sixth year girl out of the way and took the seat on Lily's other side.
"Lily, the funniest thing just happened!"
"What?" Lily asked, uncertainly. Knowing Eden, 'the funniest thing' could be anything.
"Lexi—our rational, sober, level-headed Lexi—just walked in on the absolute strangest couple, snogging each other senseless in an empty classroom."
The three Marauders groaned. "I hate gossip," said Sirius.
"I hate girls," said Peter.
After breakfast, Lily, true to her word, made her way up in the general direction of the Transfiguration department and Professor McGonagall's office. The Deputy Headmistress was not, however, in her office, nor in the Transfiguration classroom itself. Lily was not extremely disheartened by this, as it would be simple enough to speak with McGonagall before lunch hour. She did not take the route she had ascended in on her trek back downstairs, but lengthier one, with the vague idea of going for a walk.
The sixth floor corridor was one of Lily's favorite in the castle, because it was long and winding. She set off down it, having no particular destination in mind. About halfway through, however, a grey figure appeared not far down. The figure was stationary, sitting on the floor and leaning against the wall, and after a moment it became evident that the figure was none other than the formerly misplaced Head Boy.
He was just sitting there—elbows propped up against his knees, staring thoughtfully ahead. There was something strangely endearing about the sight, so, instead of continuing down the corridor, Lily walked up to him and folded her arms.
"And here they told me you were in detention."
James looked up quickly, evidently startled. "Lily!"
"I didn't see you coming."
"Mesmerized by the stone wall, right?"
"Something like that."
Lily nodded. "What happened to your detention? Don't tell me you're skiving off?"
"Nah, McGonagall had to go deal with something. She let me out ten minutes ago."
"I see. I was wondering why you weren't at the head meeting this morning."
James's eyes widened. "Oh, shit! I completely forgot!"
"It's okay. There wasn't anything interesting about it anyway." She stood there for a moment. "What are you doing here, anyway?"
"Just thinking," he replied with a shrug. "Seemed like a good place for it. You?"
"Looking for McGonagall."
"Or else you're stalking me."
"In which case, you'll be happy to know that if you take about three steps forward, I'll be able to see straight up your skirt."
Lily rolled her eyes. "James, you're an ass."
"You're welcome." Careful to keep her skirt close, Lily took a seat on the floor next to the Head Boy. "I heard you socked Snape." Her tone was not accusatory; she was simply stating fact.
James smirked ironically. "Yeah, I did. I know, I know. I'm the evilest git to ever walk the face of the earth and 'what did he ever do to me' and all that."
"No," said Lily, shaking her head. "No, you had a reason to knock him down this time. At least, I think you did."
"What do you mean 'you think I did?' You know I did. You know he didn't give McGonagall your message. It's as good as signing your death warrant!"
"Filch caught him. It's possible he was forced to go back to his Common Room and..." She broke off, noticing that James rolled his eyes. "I don't want to argue about this right now."
"Yeah, me either." He did not sound nearly as congenial as he had before.
Lily sighed. "Are you angry with me now?"
"I'm not lying."
"I know." There was a brief silence, then Lily added: "Are you angry now?"
"How about now?"
"No, I guess not."
"I'm glad. I don't want you to be mad at me. And I don't want to be mad at you either, even though I usually am, and if I'm not, you're almost certainly mad at me. We're like a whole anger-fest of..."
James nodded. "What were you looking for McGonagall for anyway?"
"Your friends wanted me to ask her to let the seventh years go to the village tonight."
"You got sucked into that scheme, did you?"
"Sorry about that."
"Not at all. It's my own fault really. I came around looking for you and they just pulled me into their plots."
"Why were you looking for me?"
"You didn't show for the Head meeting, remember?"
"Oh..." James nodded.
"So, I... um... heard about Redival."
"You wanna talk about it?"
"Not really, no."
"Good. Me either."
James grinned and breathed heavily. "How's your shoulder? Better much?"
"I'm still on Potions, but only for another week. What about you? 'Haven't seen you around the infirmary much lately."
"I'm okay. Everything's healed by now."
"Good. I'm glad."
"You're glad? You've got nothing on me."
"You're so childish."
"And an ass."
"And a chauvinist."
"And a secretive liar—just ask Redival. See, I've heard them all, Red. Don't challenge my knowledge on my own faults."
"I'm pretty sure I'd win, Egotistical Snot."
"Bullying toe rag."
Lily groaned. "That was mine. 'Should've thought of it."
"You did," James reminded her. "As you doubtless remember."
"Doubtless," agreed the other, biting her lip; then she added: "Sorry."
James shrugged. "It's okay. I deserved it, I guess. 'Probably deserved all the names."
"Please," scoffed Lily. "Self-deprecation is highly unattractive in you, James."
"Then my cockiness is attractive?"
"I never said that."
"It was implied."
"I never implied it. I simply said that your self-deprecation was unattractive. That doesn't say anything about the rest of your attitude traits."
"But you obviously find the self-deprecation unattractive by comparison to some other trait. Just face it, love: you think I'm attractive. It's okay. I think I'm attractive, too. If I were a girl at this school, as a matter of fact, I would have a hell of a time keeping my hands off me."
"Thanks for the life-scarring image there, James."
"Any time. And for whatever it's worth, if I liked redheads, I would probably find you attractive."
Lily raised her eyebrows. "You find me attractive, Potter. You were just trying to look up my skirt, remember?"
"I try to look a lot of girls' skirts."
"Only the ones you find attractive."
Lily made a face. "Stop dancing around the subject. I'm attractive. Fine. End of story. It's not like you're the first bloke to think it."
"I know that if I did, in fact, think it, I wouldn't be the first, but I don't think it, and therefore am not the first, second, twenty-third, or last."
"Oh. Right. Wait... no, I'm not."
"Am not. And you know, cockiness is not attractive in you."
"And yet," said Lily with a victorious smirk, "You still think I'm attractive. Very attractive even."
"And how do you know this?"
"I can tell."
"Oh, okay. Yeah. Definitely."
"Something is seriously screwed up with your inner eye then, Lily, 'cause I am not attracted to you."
"Are you saying I'm fat?"
James glared. "Don't go all Redival on me, now, Red."
"Only kidding," said Lily cheerfully.
"You don't have to kid."
"I thought I might. You looked despondent."
"I wasn't despondent. I was mildly dissatisfied."
"A thousand things."
They sat for several minutes, basking in the silence and staring at the stone wall across from them. It was a rather unique wall, Lily reflected, for it looked as if Hagrid had become angry with it and beaten it repeatedly. One stone stuck out a little. It reminded the Head Girl rather of crooked teeth.
"Thank you," said the Head Boy at length.
"You're welcome," Lily replied. "Why?" she added, as an afterthought.
"I was in a bad mood when I was sitting here by myself."
"Whatever I can do," said Lily, then she went on: "Why were you in a bad mood? If it's not prying to ask..."
"I don't know," shrugged James. "Everything just seemed wrong."
"Lots of stuff is wrong," Lily responded knowingly. "You've just got to fix what you can and put up with the rest."
James did not say anything for almost a full minute, but when he did speak, his voice was determined. "You're right," he said. "I should fix it."
"You should? I mean... yes. You should. Definitely."
"I should," agreed James. "So I'm... um... I'm going to go see Redival right now." He began to get up. This was not what Lily had in mind.
"Wait, James..." She did not exactly have a plan after that, and so the next bit of dialogue was purely adlibbed. "Are you sure you want do fix that? I mean, won't it seem kind of desperate?"
"I don't care. Isn't there some sort of poem about loving knowing no shame?"
"You're saying you 'love' Redival?"
"I dunno." He began to rise again.
"Do you think she's still interested?" The Head Girl pressed hastily.
James paused for a moment to think, then said: "I don't know, but I've got to try, don't I?"
Once more, he started to push himself upward, but once more Lily stopped him. "James..." she said quickly, again without a clear idea of what would come next. He looked innocently over at her. Lily thought about smacking him—it would be highly satisfying—but sided against this in favor of the next best thing. She reached out, pulled his head down to hers, and kissed him.
It was not like his rather sad excuse for a kiss in the Ministry of Magic. It was full-fledged and entirely unchaste, which was perhaps why it took him less than a second to reciprocate.
Beyond that, little description is necessary.
Several years later, they broke apart.
They sat in that position for a moment longer, then James withdrew his hand from her neck where it had somehow found itself, and Lily also pulled back, fiddling awkwardly with her hair. They did not look at each other (at least, they pretended not to), but once again at the stone all across from them.
Then James spoke. "Want to hear a funny story?"
Lily nodded, exhaling. "Yeah. Please."
"Well," James went on, "at this moment, Redival Shelley is snogging the brains out of a Hufflepuff bloke, whose name escapes me at the moment, in the broom closet on the fourth floor."
It took the silence inside nearly a minute before the meaning of the words sunk in. Lily stared at him. "Then you never..."
"So you knew..."
There was another pause, then: "I hate you."
James grinned. "Uh-huh."
They sat in the quiet for a few more seconds. Lily spoke first this time. "Gavin Sherlock," she said simply.
James quirked an eyebrow at the Head Girl. "What?
"Gavin Sherlock," she repeated.
"Gavin Sherlock is the bloke Redival is snogging in the broom closet on the fourth floor at this moment."
It was James's turn to stare.
One day earlier
Lily excused herself from her own group of friends and hurried up to the party of Hufflepuffs. "Excuse me," she said boldly, tapping Gavin Sherlock on the shoulder. He looked at her, confused. "Hi, Gavin."
"Er... hi, Lily."
"Listen, Gavin, I don't mean to pry, but I know you and your girlfriend just broke up and I had a thought." He raised an eyebrow. "See, I've got this friend. You know Redival Shelley, don't you?"
"Well, she would hate for me to be telling you this, of course, she's had this thing for you for ages, see, and now that she and Potter have finally broken up..."
One hour earlier
Eden slid into the seat next to the Head Girl. "Lily, the funniest thing just happened!"
"Lexi—our rational, sober, level-headed Lexi—just walked in on the absolute strangest couple, snogging each other senseless in an empty classroom."
The three Marauders groaned. "I hate gossip," said Sirius.
"I hate girls," said Peter.
"Oh shut up, you two," snapped Eden. "We already know you both swing the other way... no need to flaunt."
"Anyway," pressed the blonde. "As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted: Lexi."
"Yes, Lexi," agreed the Head Girl. "She walked in on someone..."
"Right. Okay, brace yourself: Redival Shelley and Gavin Sherlock."
Three forks—those of the present Marauders—hit three plates—belonging to the same—with a loud clatter. Lily did her best to appear surprised as well.
"I didn't know they even knew each other," Remus gaped.
"They don't," said Sirius. "That's the fastest rebound I've ever seen."
"Wait till James finds out," said Peter, taking a bite of crumpet.
"Oh, like he'll care," Padfoot snorted. "If anything, he'll be relieved. At least she won't be stalking him."
"What did Lexi do when she walked in on them?" Remus wanted to know.
Eden grinned. "She told them to get a closet."
James continued to stare. "So... you knew... you knew that...? Did you?"
Lily was unable to restrain a small (an infinitesimally small) smile. "Did I know that Redival and Gavin had gotten together? Yes. Did I know you knew? I had a hunch."
James took a moment to contemplate this. At length, he stated: "You're worse than I am."
"Hate the game, not the player."
"But I feel so used!"
"You were trying to con me as well," Lily reminded him. "Is it my fault I'm better at this than you are?"
"You're not better."
"I am way better."
"You had more recourses and more time."
"And I'm better."
"You cower in the supreme glory that is my better-hood."
"I detected a note of sarcasm."
"What do you want? A blue ribbon?"
They were all of an inch apart again, and James grinned. He got to his feet, and then began to make his way down the corridor. Lily watched him go, a bemused smile playing on her lips. "Where are you going?" she called after him.
"Kitchens. I'm starving."
Lily was, for a moment, left to debate what was intended by this action. James continued on, and when there was a short distance between the pair, the Head Boy turned halfway and looked at the Head Girl, still sitting on the stone floor.
"I didn't know if I was invited."
James's signature, crooked grin was visible, even at a distance. "Yeah. If you want."
Smiling, Lily pushed herself up, straightened her uniform, and (at a rather lackadaisical pace) caught up with James. "So I guess there's a conversation we should probably have."
James nodded. They began to progress down the corridor. "Hey, Evans."
"Wanna go out with me?"
Lily nodded. "Sure."
He draped a lazy arm over her shoulders, and she slipped her arm around his waist. Because really, not much more conversation was needed.
"...And yeah right you're not attracted to me."
And in all honesty, everything wasn't okay.
But it felt like it was.
And with that, dear readers, I bow out.