My brain was stuck – I felt frozen in shock. Marlene lay sprawled on the grass before me, the horror on her face probably mirroring mine. I couldn't speak. I couldn't think. Three words ran consistently like a stuck tape over and over in my mind – Marlene and Sirius…Marlene and Sirius…MARLENE and SIRIUS?
Marlene swore and muttered something under her breath as she stood up, then reached out for me, the expression on her face imploring.
"Lily - "
I flinched violently away from her touch. My eyes fell on Black, who was propped on his elbows and staring up at me, his face wreathed in shadows. Marlene grabbed my upper arm as I felt my face drain white. "Lily – stop – it's not what you think!" Her voice rose to a panicky pitch as I stepped forward, my eyes glued to the darkness of Black's face.
"You bastard," I said quietly, and my wand was in my hand before I barely had time to think about it. "You total – you complete - "
He was on his feet so fast I barely had time to react, and in the same instant I felt an iron grip on my wrist, wrenching my wand away from him. I whipped my head around. Marlene was standing before me with her jaw set.
"Lily, listen to me, you don't understand - "
"Damn right I don't understand!" I shouted before I could stop myself. "What the hell is going on here, Mar? First Potter tells me - " I stopped abruptly as Black started violently at my words, whipping his head around to stare back at the castle. I frowned at him, trying to scrutinise his face through the pressing gloom, but it was impossible.
"What? What's Potter been saying?" Marlene's voice was getting more and more shrill, her fingers tightened to an almost painful grip on my wrist. "Sirius, what have you told him?"
"I haven't told him anything," muttered Black, speaking for the first time since I arrived, his voice a deep, melodious echo in the cold night air. I started to shiver, partly through rage, and partly because it was bloody freezing. Inside, however, my thoughts were a maelstrom of confusion. Through my anger, a new voice had started up, a tiny voice, but it was there all the same.
Maybe you should listen to Marlene, the voice was whispering to me.
I don't want to listen to anything! The rest of me raged back, the part that was still itching to pin Black by his robes to a wall and beat him to a bloody pulp. I want to hurt something NOW!
But hurting something won't solve anything, will it?
"It'll make me feel better!" I hissed, then blinked as Marlene and Black both stared at me. Damn it, did I just say that out loud?
"Come with me," Marlene said quietly, and she pushed me before her with one hand on my back, leading me away from Black. I spun around, out raged, but before I had a chance to start yelling again, she came right up close to me. Her eyes had turned to ice.
"Lily, for God's sake, for once in your life just listen to me!"
My jaw closed with a snap. Black had begun striding away across the grounds, his feet barely audible thumps on the dewy grass. I followed him with my eyes, fingering my wand absently. The wind blew again, harsh and cold. Goosebumps rose and trailed slowly down my skin in a silvery shower. My head thumped. I was so confused, I wanted to throw up.
"Come," Marlene muttered, and she took hold of my arm, guiding me toward the lake. I complied without a word.
She sat down with her feet near the water, wrapping her arms tightly around her knees. She turned her head and looked up at me as I continued to stand, gazing out at the expanse of water with wide eyes.
"Sit." She thumped the grass beside her. "Please?" she added, when I merely stiffened my shoulders and didn't react. She sighed slightly, and from the corner of my eye I saw her bury her head in her hands.
"Lily, please. Just sit with me, OK? I know you're angry…"
"I'm more than angry," I replied softly, without taking my eyes off of the lake. "I wouldn't mind so much if I was just angry." I paused, trying in vain to gather the vicious tangle of thoughts in my head, trying to think of the best way to put all my feelings into a sentence, but all that spat out was: "What is going on, Marlene!"
Marlene, her hands still clamped around her face, replied in the voice of someone who had given up trying to reason with a mad woman. "I'm going out with Sirius."
Yes, that much I knew already. But hearing the words come from her mouth, utterly devoid of any shame or regret actually stung harder than when I'd seen them kissing. "Why, for crying out loud?" I found myself shrieking. I stared down at Marlene, at her huddled figure gazing with large dark eyes at the horizon. "Marlene, you know what he's like! Have you forgotten what he's done to you before?"
"But he's changed!" I flinched as her words rose to a shout, echoing out across the calm surface of the lake. She groaned loudly, clenching at her hair, her white knuckles peeking out in stark contrast to her dark mop. "I know you'll never understand, but he has changed, Lily! He's kind, and sincere, and he's promised me…that he regrets what he did." Her voice shook dangerously, and I could hear a sob threatening to break out at the back of her throat. "He told me that he hasn't been able to stop thinking about me since that day…"
"And you believed him?" I cut over her, not bothering to disguise the incredulity in my voice. "You actually believed him." I stated flatly.
"Yes, I did," Marlene replied quietly, defiance in her words. "And I still do."
"So why," I asked, feeling tears begin to prick at my own eyes, "Didn't you tell me what was going on?"
Silence. The wind picked up as the last drop of sunlight slid down the sill of the world, and the darkness was complete. The forest moaned at our backs, and the chatter of some creature rang out eerily in the depths of the trees. Marlene shifted slightly, then turned her head away so I couldn't see her face.
"Because I knew you'd never understand," she replied at last. Her voice quavered slightly, but she didn't start crying. "Because I knew you'd react like this."
I gazed at the back of her head, as the silence raged around us. "Well," I said harshly, "If you know me so bloody well, then you'll know what I'm going to do now, don't you?"
She didn't reply, didn't even look around as I turned on my heel and started making my way back up to the castle. She didn't try to stop me, or call after me. Not that I would have stopped even if she had. My eyes were burning and I had to physically hold my hand to my mouth to stop the sobs. At the steps, I turned and looked back. The darkness was now so immense that I couldn't even pick her out from the shadows that had consumed her.
I wanted to scream. It was there, clawing at my throat, demanding to be let out, but in the end I said nothing at all. I sucked in a deep breath and turned away, striding back into the warmth of the castle.
Potter was still in the common room when I came in through the portrait hole. He was stretched out on the sofa before the dying fire, eyes closed and mouth slightly open. I thought at first he might have been asleep, and crept softly across the room with the intention of tip-toeing past, so as not to wake him. However, when I came within a closer proximity to him, I found I couldn't resist stopping to look at him. It hit me that I had never really looked at Potter's face before – at least, not without some strong negative vibes blocking my vision somewhat. Despite everything, I couldn't help but smile – lying there, with his shields down for once, he did look sort of cute. Long, sensuous eyelashes, dim light from the fire illuminating him softly on one side as his head lolled back on his cushion. Almost attractive.
His eyes flew open. I jumped out of my skin.
"Tut tut, Evans. Didn't you know it's rude to stare at people when they're sleeping?"
"Merlin, Potter, you made me jump," I said crossly, backing up at once. He smiled and shrugged, sitting up and looking at me with unnervingly knowing eyes.
"Want to sit down?" he said casually, inclining his head to the empty place beside him where his legs had previously been. I hesitated for a moment. I had been planning on going to bed – but what was the point in that? I'd probably cry into my pillow for a while, feign sleep when Marlene returned, then lie awake for hours on end with nothing but the canopy above me and my thoughts for company. Thoughts I really didn't want to examine too closely at the moment.
I sat down next to him. He slumped back on his cushions and regarded me in silence for a moment.
"What are you staring at?" I asked him, suddenly feeling incredibly weary. I didn't want to discuss Marlene and her love life. I wanted to forget she even existed, that I even cared if she existed. Just for a while.
"You," he replied flippantly. I glanced around at him, and he stared back, his gaze unflinching. "It's been a bit of a crap night, hasn't it?" he asked rhetorically. I snorted in agreement. He chuckled humourlessly under his breath.
"I take it you don't want to talk about it?" He sounded, bloody hell, almost understanding. I smiled in spite of myself.
"Talk about what?" I asked airily.
"I have no idea," he replied gravely, without missing a beat. "Just rambling nonsense of no meaning."
"No difference to the usual, then," I said half-jokingly, and he laughed. It was nice to hear someone laugh, I thought blearily to myself. He had a pleasant, easy laugh that made the world seem so much friendlier. I hadn't laughed like that in a while.
"I suppose you're going to just pretend you weren't ever involved now, aren't you?" The words fell out of my mouth before I even thought about them. The atmosphere stiffened instantly, and I regretted saying it at once. My voice sounded hard and accusing – but I couldn't take it back. Instead, I went on, and my throat contracted painfully as all the thoughts about Marlene returned in a heavy rush. "You're just going to tell me it's my business now, aren't you? That it's got nothing to do with you?" Tears prickled at my eyes, because I knew it was true. Desperation and panic welled up inside me – I was meant to deal with this on my own. I couldn't cope.
"You have such a low opinion of me, don't you?"
Potter's voice broke through the thick bank of thoughts. Turning, surprised, I saw he looked almost resentful at my words. I paused, frowning.
"Why, isn't it true?"
"No," he replied, sounding offended I'd even suggested the idea. "I'm involved now. Merlin, did you think I'd just tell you and then say 'Ok – you're on your own, now!' and ignore you until everything is peachy again?"
I stared at him, thunderstruck. "Well…yeah."
His face darkened. "Well, you thought wrong."
There was silence for a few moments, which was filled mostly with me biting awkwardly at my nail and him staring broodingly into the fire.
"So…what are you going to do?" he said eventually. I stood up abruptly.
"I don't want to talk about it," I snapped. He raised his hands in mock defence and looked away.
"Sorry," he said, somewhat scathingly. "But you'll have to talk about it at some point. Trust me, hiding from your own thoughts doesn't work."
I stared at him, shocked. How the hell did he know that that was exactly what I had been planning upon doing? He looked up, a shade of his familiar madcap grin on his face and a gotcha! glint in his eye.
"I'm going to bed," I said stiffly, trying to stop myself looking away from his knowing eyes, eyes that seemed to be reading every thing in my mind. "Good night."
He smiled. "'Night, Lily."
I nodded mechanically and turned to go. I reached the stairs and had one foot resting on the bottom step when I hesitated. I looked back and saw Potter watching me from the couch, now only a silhouette in the gloom.
"Potter?" I said softly.
His voice came through the darkness at once. "Yeah?"
I closed my eyes. "Thanks."
There was silence for a moment. "No problem," he replied, but I was already on my way again, cheeks burning, though for the life of me I didn't know why. Maybe it was just the heat.
Contrary to what I had originally predicted, sleep found me pretty quickly that night, though it was by no means pleasant. From the moment I dropped my head onto my pillow I fell into a heavy, intense sleep, filled with vivid dreams and visions that had me waking up at random points during the night, gasping for breath. I believe I yelled out Marlene's name at one point, which must have been pretty loud because I woke myself up.
"What?" she'd grunted sleepily from the bed beside me, and for a moment it felt like everything was back to normal between us. Then I woke up properly and remembered, and rolled over without saying anything.
It was only after I'd woken up for the third time after a particularly confused dream that I decided I couldn't go back to sleep again. I lay awake for some time, gazing up at the canopy and listening to the sounds of sleep around me.
One thought started bugging at me almost straight away. At first, my sleep glazed brain couldn't make sense of it, but the longer I lay there the more insistent it became, until it was pounding at my brain.
Potter told me that Zea was going out with Sirius.
He hadn't told me anything about Marlene.
What did that mean?
Did that mean that Black was two timing Marlene and Zea?
No. I sat bolt upright in my bed, gazing with wide eyes at the drapes without seeing them at all. That couldn't be right. Surely – not even Black…
I couldn't believe myself for not seeing it before. I had been so caught up in the confusion and hurt with Marlene that I had forgotten entirely what Potter had originally told me. My hands went automatically to my head, and I gripped at my hair as I stared blankly down at my duvet. Had he been lying? Had he made a mistake? Had he seen Marlene and actually mistaken her for Zea?
I ripped my drapery aside and groped through the dark for my watch. The luminous hands informed me that it was quarter past three. I dropped it back onto the bedside table, then sat there with my head in my hands, thinking.
The way I saw it, I had three options. I could attempt sleep again, and forget about it until the morning. I could wake up Zea and ask her if she was secretly dating Black. Or I could go and wake up Potter and ask him.
Now, the sensible choice would be to go back to sleep. But I took one glance at my pillow and knew without a doubt sleep would not find me again that night. As for waking up Zea, well, that was just plain ridiculous. No. Out of the question.
That left one option. The craziest one of the lot.
I closed my eyes, paused for a moment to question my sanity, then decided to get on with it and slithered out of bed.
The common room was a solid wall of black as I came down the stairs, clutching the folds of my dressing gown tightly about myself. Though stumps of candles lit the spiral staircase with a warm, flickering glow, the fire in the common room had long died out. I stopped abruptly as I descended the last steps, and stood there, my eyes struggling to penetrate the gloom. Wind howled around the castle, and I shivered, stepping forward with my hand outstretched, groping blindly for a sofa, or a chair, or anything to guide my way toward the boys staircase. My eyes picked out the soft candle light from the mouth of their stairs at once, but I still had a whole roomful of sofas and chairs to navigate my way around. In the dark.
I've never really told anyone about my fear of the dark. It's not a phobia – not really. I've just never liked being alone in the dark, even in a place I've known for years. I always think that I'm seeing things that can't possibly be there, and before I know it my imagination catches up with my senses, and that's when I start to panic.
I could feel myself starting to panic then. All my instincts, born of a muggle childhood, were screaming at me to feel around for a light switch to get rid of the asphyxiating darkness at once. I was desperately trying to ignore them. Just get to the staircase…just get to the staircase…
I tripped and almost fell several times. My breathing started to get faster as the need to get back into the light became more urgent…I started a half run, letting my feet guide the way…and suddenly I was there. On the stairs.
I froze, my heart still beating very hard against my chest. I was here.
As I gazed up the spiral steps, tiny threads of doubt starting worming into my mind. Seriously, now, I asked myself. Was I really going to do this?
I frowned and leaned on the wall, contemplating. Was I really just going to go marching up these stairs and wake up one of the people I hated most in the world, all for a question I couldn't get out of my head?
But I couldn't just go back to bed. One glance at the pitch black common room assured me of that.
I moaned in aggravation, clutching my hair. Why did this sort of thing always have to happen to me, for crying out loud? What did I ever do?
I looked up at the stairs one more time. Then I turned and regarded the sinisterly dark common room.
"Oh, for crying out loud," I muttered, then turned and stomped up the stairs as fast as I could, before I had time to change my mind.
Da – daaa! A brand new chapter for your enjoyment. Take it as a 'sorry' gift for my appalling lack up updating, I know, I know it's been a long time. But I have been very, very busy, so do try to forgive me.
Anyway, my GCSE results came out on the 24th of August, as you all know. If you would like to know what grades I got, visit my profile! I was ever so happy with them, and I would like to thank everyone who wished me luck. You guys made all that revision easier to get through!
Must dash. Love to you all, and as always, please review!