Chapter Nineteen: October 20th: More or Less Mates with Potential (Part 2)

Tuesday, October 21st, 7th Year Girls' Dormitory
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 230

From the Mad Mind of Lily Evans: A Dream

I'm standing on the beach, wearing a fur coat, watching the ocean waves crash at my feet. I want to go in the water, but then I'd ruin my coat, and that would be unacceptable. I am on the verge of tears, conflicted between the water and my coat. Suddenly, James appears. He's on his broomstick. He tells me to come play Quidditch with him. I say no, maybe another time, I have to go make my bed. He says, no, no, he made my bed. I ask him what he was doing in my bed. He says come on, let's play Quidditch. I say no, what about my bed? He says no, not in the bed, you can't play Quidditch in a bed. Frustrated, I stomp away, straight into the ocean. I don't care about my coat anymore. James flies over and says fine, he's going to go play with Julie Little, but instead of Julie, Dumbledore is sitting behind him on the broomstick. Dumbledore nods and waves as I float in the water below. James and Dumbledore fly off. I suddenly care about my coat again. I get out of the water. I then proceed to paint my toenails a vomit-worthy shade of brown. It matches my coat.

Observation #230) Stress is clearly very, very unhealthy.

Later, Still 7th Year Girls' Dormitory
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 230

Things to Do Today

1. Talk to Amos
2. Talk to Julie (after talking to Amos)
3. Talk to Mac (before or after Amos and Julie, though probably not best in between. Too confusing)
4. Talk to James (ONLY after Amos/Julie, because it's necessary. I am otherwise NOT speaking to him. Two can play the emotional milk game)
5. Rest after all this talking.
6. Study for Transfiguration
7. Eat.
8. Sleep.
9. Breathe.
10. Survive.

Still Later, Breakfast in the Great Hall
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 230

"So, are we still at odds?"

This was the inquiry with which James heralded his arrival to the Gryffindor table, sliding into the seat next to me and dropping his rucksack down on the floor behind him without a care in the world. Glancing up from my waffles, I watched as he gave Marley a goofy grin hello, then turned to me with a quirked eyebrow that was decidedly more amused than it was inquisitive. Giving him my best dismissive scowl, I forked a piece of waffle with some deliberately loud plate-fork clanking. The boy was entirely too smug for my liking—especially for someone who had last been seen flying off into the sunset with Dumbledore pressed up against his back.

I mean, not that he knew about that.

But whatever. He should have felt the difference.

"I don't know," I finally answered, giving him my best narrow-eyed gaze. "Are you still a secretive, conniving, very low person?"

"I don't know," was James's quick reply. "Do you still fancy me anyway?"

Grace Reynolds's is the bane of my existence.

Truly. The bane.

"She wasn't supposed to tell you that part," I muttered crossly, shoving another piece of waffle in my mouth. James grinned triumphantly, not hiding his oh-yes-beat-that morale in the least, as he let out a quiet snort.

"She's Grace," he said dryly. "Of course she told me that part."

"I know. But now I may have to kill her."

"I was told you're moving to Guam. Will such things matter in Guam?"

Oh, for Merlin's sake.

(Though that's actually a rather good question.)

Sighing very heavily and dramatically, I chose to ignore James and his sudden bursts of hilarity and turned to Marley instead with a shared look of exasperation. "Do you see what I have to deal with?" I asked her. "Really, is it no wonder I want to move to a remote island? Do you blame me?"

"I'll help you pack if you'd like," Marley replied helpfully. "What's the weather like in Guam?"

This is why I'd take Marley with me, while the rest of them can rot in Hell.


Later, Still in the Great Hall
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 231

Some people just don't understand the meaning of the phrase, "I'm not talking to you."

Truly, they just don't. Because if they did have any inclination as to the purpose and intent of the phrase, they would not be blabbing off my ears with mindless chatter about only Merlin knows what. Instead, they would understand when I say, "Pardon me, but I am not talking to you," and stop their endless blubbering… unless of course they chose to speak about things that I want to hear—which would cancel out the previous "I don't want to talk to you" statements, of course— like, say, certain things they meant to say to me previously but have presently opted not to as a form of emotional milk torture.

But until that time and place when the emotional milk torture ceases, all I'm asking is that they kindly shut up. For Merlin's sake, I am trying to study here! Transfiguration is quite obviously my life and others should just respect that and not reply with asinine little quips like, "Your life? That's new. I've heard that it's the end of your life before, but never just life," or "Well, then, I guess it's a damned good thing I'm your tutor then, eh?"

If I decide to off myself, don't look too hard for the reason.

Later Later, Before Potions
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 231

And just because I don't directly say, "I don't want to talk to you," that doesn't mean that I still don't expect you to understand the sentiment. In fact, there are many ways to express "I don't want to talk to you," some of which are utilized when a person is trying to be polite and doesn't want to outright scream that they want nothing to do with you.

Running away from you time after time after time after time?

Yeah, that's one of them.

Way to catch on, Julie.


Later Later, Still Before Potions
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 231

To Grace Reynolds
Re: The End of our Friendship

Dear Miss Reynolds,

This note is to inform you that our previously strong and flourishing friendship is now being placed on permanent hiatus due to several instances of rudeness and betrayal. I would outline them directly, but the pain is too prominent and debilitating to recount. Instead, I will simply leave you with the words, 'At odds' and 'Laughing while Lily is running from Julie' and hope that you understand my meaning. It has been a lovely seven years and I'm sorry it has to end this way.

Lily Christine Evans


Even Later, Potions
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 231

Stop it. He's not talking to you, Lily. –JP

Excuse me, but please don't speak of things you know nothing about. In fact, please don't speak at all, as I've asked you several times. –LE

Quit throwing parchment at the poor sod. Abbott is going to catch you and Fulton's not even going to read your notes.

He'll have to listen eventually.




You can't tell me what to do.

Mates with potential have that power actually.

I suppose it's too bad that we're presently more mate and less potential then, hm?

You wish. You know, I think I like having this power over you.

Ha! Power, my arse. You can take your bloody milk and shove off. I couldn't be less interested in your snogs or your stupid things you meant to tell me. Both are decidedly subpar.

Careful, Infallible. Bitterness stains.

We are so just mates.

Even Later, Defense
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 231

Things To Do, #3 [Talk to Mac] : Check.

Not simply to prove James wrong (though I have to admit that I wasn't too disappointed about that particular side effect), I enlisted Gracie to do some long-term Emma distracting as Potions ended in order to give me the opportunity to catch up with Mac so that we could have a little heart-to-heart. I'm not quite sure how she did it, but Gracie somehow managed to detain and misdirect Emma's attention long enough so that I could slip out of the classroom alone, my eyes locked on Mac's quickly moving form striding off down the corridor. Refusing to let him get away, I all but ran to catch up with him, not making a sound until I was striding right along next to him, my shorter legs miraculously keeping up with his.

"It's terribly rude to ignore someone," I announced haughtily, satisfied when Mac gave a little jump, his head swinging over to look at me, obviously quite surprised to find me right there beside him. My sneaking skills are quite legendary. "Especially when one is choosing to waste precious parchment on you. Why were you ignoring my notes, Mac?"

"Hullo, Lily," was Mac's response, and I don't think he could have sounded more exasperated if he'd tried. Really, how rude.

"Yes, yes, hullo back," I muttered quickly, waving his greeting—and quite negative attitude—off away with my hand. "Please focus. I am trying to help you, but you make it quite difficult."

"I've told you before, I don't need your help." Mac was so clearly misinformed. "This is for me and Emmeline to sort out—if she wants to."

"She does!" I cried instantly, nodding vigorously. "Really, Mac, she does. She's just being a complete hen about it. You know Emma—she has to think everything to death, then bury it, then unbury it, then think it to death again."

For the first time all morning, I saw Mac crack the smallest of smiles. "She does do that, doesn't she?" he muttered wirily, but there was such affection in his voice, I was instantly perked up. There was hope for these two!

"Yes, she does," I said with a firm nod, drawing Mac's attention away from his dreamy-Emma-place and back towards me. I gave him an encouraging grin. "But with my help, we can have you unburied and on your way in no time! I mean, I was right about the letter, wasn't I? You took my advice then!"

Mac's expression quickly turned incredulous at the reminder of the letter.

"Yes, and look where it got me!" he muttered, throwing me a look. "It's been weeks and she still refuses to speak to me unless Grace Reynolds is shoving her straight at me—and even then all she does is apologise and run off! Some help that was."

"Hey!" I cried, utterly offended. "Do not insult the letter. The letter worked. For your information, she only read it Saturday, otherwise I'm sure she would have spoken to you sooner—though please forgive me if the girl needed a bit of time to figure out whether or not you're lying through your teeth!"

I hadn't really meant to say that—I didn't know whether or not Mac would be upset that Emma had confided the particulars of their fight to me—and I got a bit anxious when Mac instantly turned a rather telling shade of red, but I soon discovered that the red was from embarrassment rather than anger. That was a relief, for more than one reason. If Mac was feeling embarrassed, it was less likely that there was guilt. He would have gotten defensive or cross if he'd truly been up to something dark, right?

"I'm not," he said earnestly, shaking his head with such urgency that his dark mass of hair whipped along, as well. He let out a sigh, slowing down and drawing to a stop for the first time. I stopped along with him, looking up with a questioning stare. His expression was utterly serious. "Look," he said quietly. "I know you must have more reason than most to despise people like Rosier and Avery—I know they're not entirely good sorts, but this wasn't like that! Jack Avery's dad works with mine. They need the potion for some private research and the department won't spare the time or the ingredients, so my father asked me to work with Jack to get it done. It's not dark. It's work. It's family. But Emmeline was so upset about fighting with you that she didn't give me the chance to explain. But I'm not like that. I would never get mixed up in any of that rubbish. I swear it."

It was the same story he'd told Emma in her letter, so he was consistent if nothing else. Still, I didn't think that was it. I thought he was innocent. I believed what he was saying. The boy looked entirely too earnest and pleading to be making it all up. Plus, even if Emma didn't trust herself, I trusted her people instincts. She loves Mac. She never would have let herself reach this point if he was anything but exemplary. Mac was probably right—she'd been so distraught about her and me that she let it get to her. Mac had lied to her and that was wrong, but he was clearly sorry. Maybe I was being naïve, but I really did believe him. And I think Emma did, too.

"You shouldn't have lied to her," I finally said, because even though I believed him, he still deserved a bit of a scolding for his actions. He had been acting rather underhanded, and I can't stand stupid, underhanded blokes. Really. At all. "If you'd just told her from the beginning what was going on, she would have understood. She wouldn't have started dating you if she thought you were like that. She would have believed you when you said what was going on was innocent."

"I know that," Mac replied, sighing heavily. He shook his head. "But at the time... I don't know. I thought I was protecting her. I might not have been doing anything wrong, but those guys are hardly innocent. I didn't want her anywhere near them. I didn't want her involved. That's where I went wrong."

He was looking so forlorn now, his head hanging in complete defeat, that my heart went out to him. Poor boy. He was only trying to protect the woman he loves. Is that so wrong, really? I mean, there are worse things. He could be, I don't know, physically and emotionally blockading her. He could be doing that. Which is about a million times more ghastly when you really stop to think about it.


"Just give her a bit more time," I told him quietly, putting a comforting hand on his shoulder. "She cares about you a lot, Mac—a lot, a lot. She's just a bit wary. But she'll come around."

I suppose I should have been happy that Mac slowly lost his look of utter devastation, but that was rather hard when he replaced it with a look of absolute skepticism.

Really, what is it with blokes? They are entirely worthless. Honestly.

"That's it?" he asked me, his voice dry. "'Give her time'? That's all the advice you've got?"

"It's good advice!" I defended stubbornly, crossing my arms over my chest. "In fact, it's perfect advice. You just watch. I've gotten you to do what I needed you to already—now I just need to work on Emma."

Mac let out a snort. "You know, hearing it from you like that, it's rather as if we're all simply little pawns on your very large chess table. I don't know how I feel about that."

"Feel grateful," I said, throwing him a look. "If you didn't have me to move you all around, you'd be going nowhere."

And with that closing remark, the chess master walked away from her little pawn to flounce off to Defense where she quite happily rules from her desk.


Still Later, Still in Defense
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 232

To Grace Reynolds
Re: Our Friendship and Other Assorted Machinations

Dear Miss Reynolds,

Due to your positively astounding and awe-inspiring distraction skills, the mission known as 'Reattach Mac to Em' has reached yet another level of success and is quickly making its way to a full victory. I had a lovely conversation with our mate M and he seemed properly contrite AND innocent, both of which are entirely necessary to the aforementioned plot. The next stage, I believe, consists of persuasively convincing our mate E to quit dragging her feet and forgive the love of her life, after which they can chat/walk/snog/procreate in harmony. I have high hopes for this next stage. Let's be as subtly persuasive as possible, starting immediately.

And even though our friendship is still on rocky pastures...well, I am clearly the bigger person and will grant you temporary amnesty. You're very lucky that you're pretty.

Much Hope and Temporary Friendship,
Lily Evans


Later, Still Still in Defense
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 232

I don't know what Professor Crandy's so peevish about. I'm the one who fell off the chair. I'm the one whose bum is aching. Honestly, I didn't even disrupt the class—everyone was far too busy staring at Tim and his attempts to uncurse himself. Just because I thought the whole thing was a bit more hilarious than everyone else...well, it's not my fault everyone clearly has a far more inferior sense of humour than I. And besides, it was Grace who practically shoved me off the chair in her own fits of hilarity. Clearly her fault more than mine. Even if I was convulsing enough for her shove to topple me. That's not the point.

Some people are just so testy.

Later Later, Lunch in the Great Hall
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 233

I really shouldn't be surprised that Amos has somehow mysteriously disappeared from lunch again today, but somehow, I still am. I suppose that's what comes from thinking the boy was the light of the world for so long—I still have some ideals left about him. Oh, well. They won't be around for long. My leftover ideals, I mean. Really, they're being crushed by the second.

The only person more agitated over Amos's absence than me is, of course, James, who muttered something along the lines of, "Fucking imbecile coward" (which I know merely from innocent, accidental overhearing, seeing as I'm still not talking to him) along with some other choice phrases I really didn't understand much less care to repeat. He seemed quite upset for a while, but now I suppose he's gotten over it because he's moved onto bothering Sirius about some sort of map, which—from my innocent, accidental overhearing, of course—I gather Sirius has and James wants but Sirius won't give up. I would be miffed that he so quickly got over the absence of one of the very people who is keeping our relationship from happening (along with...well, me), but I'm just rather glad that he's speaking to Sirius, however tensely. That's a step in the right direction, isn't it?

At least Julie's not here, either. That makes life much easier. For all I know, the pair of them are off snogging at this very moment. I really wouldn't care, but I'd just like to get my piece said sooner rather than later. The least they could do is come up for air for a moment to just let me. It's really the only polite thing. I would do it for them.

Ugh. I simply should not have to deal with all of this. I'm only on page 12 of that bloody Transfiguration tome. Can't the fates of the world give me a break even to study?


I don't think so, either.

Later, Herbology
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 233

This is just getting ridiculous now. I mean, seriously out of control.

Isn't this considered stalking—or at least borderline stalking? Is there some sort of temporary restraining order that can keep her away from me? I don't need much. A five-meter radius or so would suffice. Or maybe there's some sort of shield charm that'll work the same way. You know, a This-Girl-Won't-Leave-Me-Alone-HELP hex or something. Some desperate male had to have created one at some point or another throughout the history of the world. All I'm asking is to reap the benefits of their desperation. Is that really so bad?

Emma says I should just talk to her, but Merlin, I don't want to. Not until I talk to Amos, anyway. But Julie is to present as Amos is to absent these days, so it looks like that won't be happening any time soon. Which is really just completely inconsiderate if you ask me. I mean, we were semi-dating. We had a real connection for a few… days. Or something. Doesn't that give me any sort of leverage? Shouldn't that at least give me the opportunity to spot him occasionally at a distance, just in case I wanted to be all, "Oh, look. There's Amos. I once considered becoming his wife and bringing a new generation of Diggorys into the world. Maybe I should wave hello?"

I really think it should.

I mean, I'm a waver. I like to wave. I should be allowed to wave if I want to wave.

Not that I want to wave now, of course—I mean, I could start off by waving if that was required, but I'd really like to chat. You know, so that I can end our relationship. While preferably keeping the wave-at-a-distance bridge open. But at this point, I'll take anything.


How is a girl supposed to concentrate on plants when she has all these problems?

I wish I could wave goodbye to Herbology.

Later, Transfiguration
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 233

I thought McGonagall would be greatly impressed when I walked in with my large, intimidating, highly informative, ancient tome of all things Transfiguration, seeing as no one else seems to give a damn about the exam she's scheduled a mere two weeks out and I—a girl who previously would have learned about this exam and then promptly repressed it until the night before when I would have had an unsuccessful cram session that would have ultimately led to my failure—am clearly on top of my education and attempting to trump the untrumpable Transfiguration, but that just wasn't the case. Instead, she glanced down briefly at it as she passed by my desk, said, "There's very little on animal and household transfiguration in there, Miss Evans," then strode off.


Just great.

I read seventeen pages of that worthless rubbish.

Today is just not my day.

Later, Transfiguration
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 233


Absolutely nothing. I was too depressed.

T-minus 14 days and counting until EXAM.

Later, Divination
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 234


Absolutely nothing. I was still too depressed.

…Though was assuaged slightly when I realised that I never learn anything in Divination, so not much had changed.

Even Later, Gryffindor Common Room
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 237

Observation #235) When your life has reached such a pathetic point that the only thing you want to do is collapse somewhere and wallow, you know you should probably just go hop out the nearest window.

Observation #236) When your life has reached such a pathetic point that the only thing you want to do is collapse somewhere and wallow, but you can't even make it up the stairs to your bed to do so because you are so devoid of all strength and effort, you really know you should probably just go hop out the nearest window.

Observation #237) When your life has reached such a pathetic point that the only thing you want to do is collapse somewhere and wallow, but you can't even make it up the stairs to your bed to do so because you are so devoid of all strength and effort and the couch in the common room that you do manage to collapse upon is quickly swarmed by a group of third years having a loud discussion about—oh, Merlin—Quidditch, you should absolutely stop dallying and go hop out the nearest window. Now. Go.

I think I need a nap.

Even Even Later, Still Gryffindor Common Room
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 237






Later, Still Gryffindor Common Room
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 237

Ignoring the fact that there are about a million things I should be doing right now (not to mention the fact that I presently have a significant amount of sticky spellotape residue residing on my forehead), I am going to defy convention and all responsibility by heading down to dinner with Emma for a leisurely meal. I deserve a leisurely meal. I deserved a leisurely nap, as well, but that was obviously interrupted by two bumbling idiots who really shouldn't even be near spellotape, much less wielding it. But no one ever consults me on these things.

If the fates of the world are kind, there will be rice.

Later, Dinner in the Great Hall
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 238


This can't be good. This can't be good at all.

There are three different types of rice sitting in front of me right now. Yes, you heard right—three. And while I'm sure everyone who hears this would be all, "Um, so what? Don't you love rice? Isn't this rather like your own personal nirvana?" I am anything but in eternal bliss right now. Because this rarely happens. Three different types of rice in one night, I mean. One, yes. Two, pretty frequently. But three? That only happens on rare, special occasions. And not on a random Tuesday. It just doesn't.

And while I normally would be jumping for joy at such an occurrence, thinking that it was just my lucky day or something...I know better. I really do. So now I'm thinking I should be feeling significantly wary instead. I can't pinpoint the exact source of my skepticism, but for one reason or another, I have a feeling that this is the calm before the storm. Someone up in the High, Powerful, Authorities of Life building is compensating for something. They're gazing down at me with a wince, turning to their fellow comrades and going, "Come on, guys. Is this really fair? Let's just throw the girl a bone. We can laugh later."

So now I'm wondering what exactly they'll have to laugh at.

And if this "bone" is going to make up for even a smidge of it.

Somehow, I doubt it.

Damn it.

A Bit Later, Gryffindor Common Room
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 238

Emma says I'm being silly. She says that just because the House Elves decided to make a bit more rice than they did potatoes, it doesn't mean the world is preparing me for some sort of impending doom. I disagree. Vehemently. Em just keeps rolling her eyes.

She doesn't understand. She doesn't get it. I know what I know and I know something's coming. I can feel it in my bones. She can roll her eyes as many times as she likes, but when I end up dead or maimed or emotionally/spiritually/psychologically broken, she's going to be sorry. They're all going to be sorry. They'll say, "Oh, woe to Lily! Why didn't we believe her when she said trouble was coming? Why didn't we do something?"

But do you know what I'm going to say (assuming that I'm still around to say it) in response to that?

"I told you so."


Because I did.

I so did.

And they'll be sorry.

Even Later, Library
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 239

Because I couldn't stand any more eye rolling (especially when it was going to be extremely regretted in any eventual amount of time), I decided that I might as well head to the library to return the useless tome of Transfiguration in order to get something that might actually aid me in my attempts to pass the class. So even though Madam Pince gave me a less-than-friendly look as I returned the ghastly looking thing to her (she was probably equally as put off at the idea of carting the thing around as I was), I did happen to find two rather useful looking texts, About the House and Finer Points of Animal Transfiguration.

Here's hoping that I can conquer the home and that the finer points aren't...well, too fine.

Merlin, it's crowded in here. And loud. How is a girl supposed to define the finer points with so much going on? I mean, do those fifth-years really need to be waving their wands about with such...ah. Apparently not. Or they won't any longer after Pince is done with them.

I truly love that woman.

But I'm still not concentrating. Now I'm just watching for who Pince goes after next. And how red her face is getting (on a scale of one to ten...six. Impressive). But where else can I go? The Common Room is ten times more rowdy and I'm entirely sick of stashing myself away in my room. Maybe if I—

Oh! I know!

What better place to study Transfiguration than a Transfiguration classroom? There are bunches of old ones that no one uses on the third floor. I can just head over there! Though if I'm really going to seclude myself off like that, I might as well make a night of serious studying out of it and go collect my notes and such from Gryffindor Tower. It won't take me but ten minutes to gather my things together and go. Yes, I think that's just the ticket. A night of studying is sure to take my mind off everything else that is so entirely blotched up in my life. Plus...

I mean, what can possibly go wrong whilst studying in an abandoned classroom?

At the very least, my shame will be witnessed only by myself.


I think I'll take it.

Later Later, Old Transfiguration Classroom
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 240

Walking back to Gryffindor Tower, I have to say that—considering all that awaited me—I was in a relatively content mood, satisfied with my plan to thwart the inevitable torture that the fates of the world were determined to wreak upon me by the brilliant fighting tactic of seclusion. Plus, I'd gotten out of the library, which was quite a relief in itself. I wasn't mad enough to believe that I would survive this night without any war wounds, but I was at least certain that my plan had managed to lessen the blows a bit. And when you think about it, what more can a bad-karma-ed girl ask for?

Not much, which is exactly my point.

Therefore, it was with some pleasant thoughts that I walked along the seventh floor, trying to remember where I'd last put my Transfiguration notes (Herbology textbook? Divination notes? Bottom of my bag?). I still hadn't quite figured it out (though I was leaning towards the Herbology textbook) when I reached the Fat Lady and gave her the password. I must have been more consumed with my mental search than I realised, though, because I didn't notice Emma standing right inside the portrait hole until I'd all but barged into her, causing both of us to reel a bit.


"Sorry!" I cried, steadying myself and then Emma with a firm hand on her arm. Emma shot me a questioning look as she regained her footing. I shrugged. "Lost in my head," I explained, and I suppose it says something entirely pathetic about me that Emma took that as a valid, almost expected explanation. Oh, bother. "What are you doing hanging about the portrait hole, anyway? A bit of a danger zone, don't you think?"

"Not usually," Emma said with a little grin, not even having to add the "unless you're involved," because her face said it all. I didn't respond with a "Kindly shove off," but let Em read that in my face. Psh. Emma laughed. "You're very testy tonight," she said, still grinning. "And I told you earlier—we have an Arithmancy study session. Frightfully huge exam tomorrow. We're waiting for everyone to get down here so we can leave."

It wasn't until Emma had suddenly referenced herself in the plural (and I figured that she hadn't suddenly sprouted up a couple of new personalities or imaginary mates) that I realised that there were other people standing with her. Looking about, I took in the familiar faces of Grace, Remus and—of course—with a smirk on his face that screamed obnoxiousness, James.

Lovely. Just lovely.

With a very deliberate scoffing noise and a hair flip and turn that left my back to him, I ignored James and his stupid goofy grin that was directed straight at me and gave my attention instead to Gracie, who happened to be grinning at me, as well.

"When did you decide to take up Arithmancy?" I asked flatly, well aware that Gracie had not—and probably would never—taken an Arithmancy class in her life. Grace's grin only widened at my inquiry.

"I'm not with these gits," she said, waving her hand towards the surrounding Arithmancy crew with obvious disdain for their chosen nightly activity. "I'm waiting for Lynch. We've got an appointment with the Astronomy Tower."

Of course they did.

"Right then. Have fun."

"I intend to."

Rolling my eyes at Grace's quite satisfied expression, I was turning around to inform Emma that one of us should perhaps be giving Grace a certain sort of talk—again—soon, when I was quite suddenly barged into from behind. However, instead of teetering all drunkenly because of the sudden impact like before, I found myself quite steady on my feet...due undoubtedly to the rather firm grip a pair of arms had somehow gotten on my waist.

Oh, for Merlin's sake.

"'Scuse me, pardon me," James murmured laughingly at my ear. "Lost in my head."

"'Scuse me, pardon me," I shot back over my shoulder. "You're touching my person."

"Really?" James asked, as if such a thing had never occurred to him. I threw him my dirtiest look.

"Really," I said, then covered his hands with my own, attempting to shake off his positively steel-like grip, for which my paltry attempts only got another deep chuckle. Letting out a short huff of breath, I moved one of my hands away in order to achieve the proper angle for a rather vicious elbow to the stomach, but instead of dislodging the manacle-of-arms, James only leaned over a bit, letting out a small, amused groan as he buried his face in my neck. I could feel him laughing against me.

"Watch it, Infallible," he said. "I need some of those internal bits."

"Let go of me and I'll let you keep them, then."

James lifted his head and looked at Grace from over my shoulder. "I think she's still cross."

"Figured that one out all on your own, did you?" I asked, ignoring Grace's indelicate snort. I shot her a look before turning back to James. "And I didn't even have to spellotape a note to your head."

"Hey, that was her!" James cried, lifting his hand to point at Grace. Though I hadn't exactly planned it, it was the opening I was waiting for. With only one steal-grip to deal with, I quickly shimmied out of James's grip, hopping away with a triumphant, "Ha!" that was perhaps not the most mature of reactions, but one that was really quite necessary when you think about it.

Quickly, I mean. When you think about it quickly. When you think about it longer than that…well, then it becomes quite stupid again. But that's not the point.

I was the one grinning goofily now, dashing over to Emma (she was the one least likely to toss me back at James) and crossing my arms over my chest, ducking as James swiped an arm, muttering something about "sneaky, stubborn birds." I'd be lying if I said I wasn't feeling a mighty touch pleased with myself just then.

"You know," Remus suddenly said dryly, shaking his head as if mystified, "I really can't tell if they're actually fighting, or just playing at it."

"They don't fight," Grace explained. "They flight."



"Excuse me?" I said, raising an eyebrow. "We what?"

"Flight," Grace said again, nodding all knowledgably. "Flirt fight." She turned to Remus. "It's their own personal form of foreplay."

James started cracking up at this, practically slapping his knee in his burst of hilarity, but I can't say I was as amused.

We don't…I mean, we do, but…I don't…

Oh, hell.

Even if there might have been a modicum of truth to this 'flight' business—which, when you think about it, isn't really my fault because James is always the one starting it, anyway—I wasn't about to admit it then to any of them. So I let out a noise that said I was none approving of that little assessment and placed my hands on my hips as I stared them all down.

"That," I said, "is just not true."

"A little true," James said, and grinned at me. I glared at him as the rest of them laughed.

"You're all incorrigible," was the only thing I could think to mutter, mostly because I was suddenly trying to battle a tiny smile myself (seeing as it's entirely difficult to remain grim and grumpy while in the midst of overwhelming laughter and cheer). Clearly sensing this, Grace poked me continuously in the side until I sputtered out a laughing, "Quit it!"

Really, how do I survive with these neanderthals?

"Where are these girls?" Remus groaned suddenly, still laughing a little as he looked up towards the girls' staircase, as if to will the aforementioned 'girls' into presence with his eyes. He glanced back at us, then down at his watch. "It's already half past. We're not going to get much studying done if we have to be back here by curfew."

"You're not going to get much studying done, anyway," I told him, shaking my head. "Not if you're going to the library."

"Why would you say that?" Emma asked.

"I just came from there," I explained, lifting up About the House and Finer Points of Animal Transfiguration as evidence. "It's an absolute madhouse. Pince was stomping about, yelling and screaming. I'm surprised she hasn't taken to her office to drink it all away yet."

"Oh, fuck it," James said with a wave of his hand as Emma glanced at him worriedly and Remus let out a tired expletive, as well. "That just means we can talk above a whisper, thank Merlin. If Pince gets bitter with us, I'll talk to her. That woman loves me."

"You always say that," Remus put in dryly, "but I've yet to see any evidence to back it up."

James gasped as if offended. "Moony, you cad. Lies abound! The lovely Pince and I share heritage. We are both—"

"Fluent in French swearing and insults?"

"It's a very connective talent."

"Right, Prongs. Whatever you say."

"Truly, Moony, you wound me—"

As James and Remus continued jabbering on with their silly bickering (which somehow quickly transitioned from arguing about the uniting quality of French to insulting each other's manhood), Grace turned to me and asked, "So where are you off to, then?"

I held up my books again, happy to flaunt them about whenever possible. "Studying," I answered with a little smile. I nodded towards the girls' staircase. "I just have to run up and get my notes, then I'm off to make a night of it. While you get cozy with Chris Lynch, I'm going to get cozy with morphing animals and wand rotations."

"Oh, now there's something to be jealous of," Grace snorted. I stuck my tongue out at her. She retorted in kind.

"Where are you going, if not the library?" Emma asked, interrupting Grace and me with an eye roll (though as Remus and James were still going at it, we were practically the adults of the group).

"I'm not certain," I replied, ignoring Grace making stupid faces at me from behind Emma's shoulder. Honestly, what a child. "I was thinking of heading to the third floor—one of the old Transfiguration classrooms. No one uses them and they'll be—"

Grace dropped her latest unattractively stupid expression with a loud laugh, causing Emma and me to both glance over at her with questioning looks. Her face was flushed with hilarity. "You're taking the mickey, right?" she asked me, shaking her head. "Please tell me that was a joke."

"What was a joke?" I asked, my eyes narrowing. "What are you on about?"

My questions only served to provoke further amusement in Grace, who let out a hoot of laughter as she said, "Lil, you can't go studying on Snog Row."


Snog what?

Seeing my (and Emma's) blank expressions, Grace looked up towards the ceiling as if to ask the world what she had done to deserve mates like us, then put her hands on her hips and stared the pair of us down. "Snog Row," was what she said, very slowly. "Come on, you gits. It's Snog Row."

"She keeps saying that as if it's supposed to spark some sort of memory," Emma muttered to me, and I let out a small laugh, shrugging at Em. Grace threw her hands in the air in frustration.

"Oh, come on!" she cried, looking at us with much accusation. She stuck the aggravated look on me. "You of all people should be mighty familiar with it, seeing how much time you and Michael Davies spent in the Trophy Room!"

I was about to laugh and inquire just what the Trophy Room had to do with the classrooms on the complete opposite side of the third floor, but was interrupted by a rather terse, "Excuse me?" that was bit off from behind me.

Because naturally James and Remus would finally reach their stalemate just as Grace blurted out her pronouncement on my past romantic affairs.


Just great.

Glancing slowly over my shoulder, I took in James's brooding sort of look that said he was none-too-pleased about this little tidbit of information, even though it was about a million years ago and didn't mean a thing and, when you think on it, was rather expected considering we were dating for the better part of my fourth-year.

I had nothing to be ashamed of.

I could snog whomever I wanted, whenever I wanted.


"Thanks, traitor," I hissed quickly at Grace, before turning back to James and declaring primly, "Quit looking at me like that. Just because some people never had any qualms about snogging me doesn't mean you can get all fussy about it."

"Some people didn't have to secure world peace before dating you—"

"Oh, sob it up, you baby—"

Grace let out an unnaturally loud sigh, drawing all the attention back to her. Grace, for her part, was staring at Remus. "See?" she said, waving a hand at James and me. "Flighting. They can't help it."

Oh, for Merlin's sake.

"Grace," I stated, giving her a look. "There are many, many stairs in this castle. You could fall down some. It could look like an accident."

"For someone looking to spend the night on Snog Row," Grace said, "you sure are crotchety."


"Why exactly is she spending the night on Snog Row?" James asked, sounding quite crotchety himself. He sent me a quelling look. "Choose your words carefully."

And then he wonders why I won't date him.

Psh. Honestly.

"I'm studying," I said with a look that screamed, "But if I wasn't, you just try to do something about it!" even though…well, I suppose that technically he could do something about it, seeing as I agreed not to be consorting with any other blokes and such. But whatever. As if he'd call my bluff. "And even though I've never heard of this Snog Row codswallop, if some sad souls do come along, I'll simply exert my Head Girl authority and shoo them away. Is everyone satisfied with that plan?"

"Lovely, Lil," Emma said.

"It's your night," Grace muttered.

"Maybe I'll go study with Lily…" James started.

"No, you won't," Remus interrupted, before I could say the exact same thing. He looked at James with the proper amount of exasperation, as well. "We need you, you ponce—or we will, once these two actually get around to coming down—"

"Here they come," Emma said, a note of annoyed relief in her voice as she waved towards the girls' staircase. "Finally."

I don't know who exactly I was expecting to come waltzing down the staircase—though if I'd bothered to think about it for even a moment, I'm sure the inevitable answer was obvious—but regardless, I was still jolted a bit when I turned to find Elisabeth Saunders and Carrie Lloyd traipsing down the stairs, their giggling heads close together as they made their way towards us.

And even though I know it was stupid and hypocritical and all these other sad, pathetic things…well, I suppose I'm just a stupid, hypocritical, sad, pathetic girl, because the knowledge of what I was doing didn't stop me from taking a few small—but important—steps towards James.

Because maybe we were only mates with potential, but that damned well didn't mean I couldn't stake my claim.

So I staked.


Whether anyone noticed my sliding up to James or not, I couldn't be sure, but no one mentioned the slightly abrupt movement, so I suppose it mostly went overlooked. James, on his part, moved his hand to brush lightly against the small of my back, but I took that as more of an instinctive move than any sort of reassurance or support.

Still, I'd take it.

He wasn't brushing Lizzie's back, after all.


"Do either of you tell time?" Grace demanded, as if she herself had been the one waiting for them, even though she actually had very little (if anything) to do with it. "Curfew's nine, you know."

Saunders gave Grace a particularly disdainful look as Carrie scoffed, "Yeah, we know."

"Come on," Emma interceded before Grace could blab out any further insults (which I would have been fine with, actually). She nodded towards the portrait hole. "Kate and Phil are probably already down there waiting for us. Let's go."

"Good plan," Remus said, slapping his hands together and leading the way as he trudged out the portrait hole. "See you Grace, Lily."

"Bye," I muttered, and Grace gave a wave as Emma trooped out after him, then Carrie. Saunders was following along until she realised that James hadn't moved. She stopped with one foot out in the corridor and looked over her shoulder at the pair of us.

"James," she said. "Aren't you coming?"

"I'll catch up in a minute," James answered, waving her on. "Go ahead."

Saunders looked at James, then looked at me, then looked back at James again. Her disapproval and disgust couldn't have been more obvious if she had just out and out shouted, "I am disapprovingly disgusted!"

Which, if you ask me, she didn't look far from doing.

Stupid, slaggy slag.

"Seriously?" she asked, her voice utterly flat.

"Liz," James said, and looked at her with quiet irritation. They shared some sort of wordless barbs, which ended in Saunders shooting him a dirty look, then shooting me an even dirtier look, before stomping out into the corridor and disappearing from view. James turned to me with an exasperated sigh.

"You should probably go," I said, staring at the spot from which Elisabeth had just disappeared and suddenly feeling a bit down. "They're waiting for you."

"They can wait," James said, and his hand—still at my back—exerted some pressure until I turned to look at him. He was staring at me with a knowing sort of narrowed gaze. "Stop it," he said.

"Stop what?"

"Questioning me. Questioning you. Questioning us."

"That's a lot of questioning."

"You multitask."

I couldn't help but smile, even though I would have rather scowled at him until he cowered. James smiled back, then leaned in close and said, "You know, I could come with you to Snog Row."

"Oh, really?" I asked, crossing my arms over my chest. "To study?"

James hummed.

Oh, brother.

"You know," I said, jabbing him in the chest, grinning as he stumbled back a bit. "I may be mistaken, but I think that what you're implying could be considered milk."

"What I'm implying," James replied impishly, "could be considered cream."



"And that's…"

"Better than milk," James informed me, grinning lecherously. "So much better than milk. In fact—"

"Wait a second," I interrupted, holding up a hand and pushing against James's rapidly lowering face. Psh. As if that one was going to work. "Let me get this straight," I said flatly. "I can't have milk, but I can have cream?"

"Er." James stopped to think about that one. He scratched absently at the back of his head for a moment, then seemed to come to the rather obvious conclusion and sighed all miserably. "I suppose not," he muttered.

Honestly, he's so easy.

"You know," I said, wincing in a half-laughing, half-sympathetic sort of way, even though I was decidedly more amused than I was sympathetic, "you really need to work on this whole Lysistrata plan. You're not very good at it."

James shot me a look that said he was less than pleased with that assessment (which undoubtedly meant that he knew it was true), and ran a quick hand through his hair. "Maybe this is all part of the plan," he tried to play off. "A sort of reverse psychology, if you will."

"Or maybe it's just you," I teased, "being utterly enamored with me."

"Well, aren't you just—"

"Ooh!" came the sudden exclamation of delight from beside us, cutting off whatever James had meant to say. We both turned to see Grace beaming in our direction with absolute glee. I felt my face heat up, even though it was just Grace. I had—pathetically—entirely forgotten that she was standing there. "This is new," is what she said, practically bursting with excitement. "This is actual flirting—like, Wands of a Kind actual flirting. Quick, Lil! Call him Marcus and swoon a bit. Bring the fantasy to life!"

"Marcus?" James asked, though I turned to find that he was grinning now, too.

"Please don't ask," I muttered, shooting Grace a quick look. "She'll only elaborate. And the story doesn't have much of a plot, if you know what I mean."

James laughed. "Grace Reynolds, are you reading dirty books?"

"Every chance I get," Grace replied jauntily, grinning. Then her smile dropped and she looked a bit put out. "Of course, I wouldn't have to read about it if your stupid Keeper would ever get here."

"He'll get here," I said encouragingly, though if you ask me, it wouldn't be quite unlike Chris Lynch to forget entirely about the plans he made with Grace. Or his pants. Or pretty much everything else. "Perhaps he's studying. Like me. And like James. Which, speaking of"— I turned to James and gave him a decisive nod towards the portrait hole—"get out of here. I'm done questioning. You can go."

"Are you sure?" James asked, though I think it was more out of his own desire to indulge in some cream than in any actual concern for me. I cocked an eyebrow at him, letting him know I was on to his game.

"Yes, I'm sure," I replied, and nudged him in the back. James moved about an inch. I nudged him harder. Two inches. "James."

"I'm going," he chuckled, and moved the catastrophically astronomical length of three inches. Oh, brother. "I'll see you later, right?" he asked over his shoulder.

"No," I replied, giving him a stern look. "I'm going to be studying, just like you're studying. And besides, I'm still cross with you."

"Oh, bollocks, Lily, you're—"


As I shoved a still protesting James ("You know, staying cross with me isn't going to make me tell you or snog you any faster!") out the portrait hole, Grace started cracking up, her spirits apparently lifted at the sight of James's dragging feet and simpering complaints. When he was firmly outside in the corridor, I walked back into the Common Room and closed the portrait hole behind me, sure that James would remain where he was put, if only because he had an obligation to the group downstairs. I brushed my hands together in a very "finished with that" sort of way, then turned, arms akimbo, towards Grace.

"That's the way!" she laughed. "Rule with an iron fist, Lil."

"Much thanks," I replied with an eye roll. "I'll keep that in mind."

And even though there was still much that could have been said to Grace ("Never, ever mention Michael Davies and what we may or may not have done in any Trophy Room ever again" being at the very top of the list), I decided that I had already wasted much too much time with all this nonsense and instead sent her a pointed look and a wave as I made my way upstairs to collect my notes. And even though I wasn't up there long—my notes were, as was mostly expected, in my Herbology textbook—it must have been long enough for Chris Lynch to finally come along and whisk Grace off, because she wasn't waiting by the portrait hole anymore when I came back down. So with no one to give me mouth about studying or not studying and Snog Row or no Snog Row, I made my way peacefully to the third floor.

And so, here I am.



And the thing is, I really don't know what Grace was talking about. This classroom looks like it hasn't been inhabited since the days of the Founders, much less snogged in on a regular basis. If you ask me, I couldn't have picked a better place to guarantee myself some seclusion. I mean, there are cobwebs on some of the chairs. Does that sound like the sort of thing to be present in a cavern of torrid love affairs?


I don't think so, either.

So while Grace is off creating her own Snog Row wherever she is, and Emma and James are off putting up with the likes of Carrie Lloyd and Elisabeth Saunders for two hours, I am going to study until my eyes fall out.

Which, now that I'm thinking about it, might actually happen.

Who knows? Maybe the Fates are suddenly into gore.

A Bit Later, Still in the Old Transfiguration Classroom
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 241

All right…so maybe I might have spoken a bit too soon.

Or maybe those two fifth years were just sneaking in here to study, as well?


Yeah, maybe.

Fifteen minutes later, Still in the Old Transfiguration Classroom
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 241

And Christa Forrester and Jervis Rennet, as well.

Clearly this is a popular study spot for blushing, stammering, and—in Christa and Jervis's case—only partially clothed, boy-girl pairings.


I hate it when Grace is right.

Later, Still in the Old Transfiguration Classroom
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 242

Okay, seriously?

I didn't even know John Abbott and Clare Carslie were involved! And isn't he a bit young for her?

People should really learn to control their baser instincts.

Or if they can't, keep them away from this room.


Too Few Minutes Later, Still in the Old Transfiguration Classroom
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 242

That's it. I swear to Merlin, if one more person—or pair—opens that door, I'm taking a piece of parchment, writing OCCUPIED on it, and sticking it on the door. I don't care what it implies. I don't care that it probably won't help a bit because the people stumbling in here usually aren't paying much attention to the doors they're fumbling open. I don't care. I am sick of this. I'm just trying to studying in solitude—is that so wrong? Is that—

Oh, hell. Not again


Oh, shit.


A Long While Later, 7th Year Girls' Dormitory
Observant Lily: Day 36
Total Observations: 243


I suppose, when I'm right, I'm right.

Pity that no one listens when I tell them things.

I mean, I tried to warn them. Really, I did. And while I do understand that I sometimes exaggerate a few things, occasionally needlessly stressing out over occurrences that perhaps don't need to be so traumatic—making a few mountains out of a few molehills, if you will, dear ex-mother—I really do think that others should remember that there are the periodic time when my panic is well-founded. You know, when I'm not mad? It has to happen from time to time. I mean, you don't just get as paranoid as I am without some help in the Things Go Wrong department. Believe it or not, things do occasionally go wrong…really, ridiculously, traumatically wrong, even.

Which I suppose brings us to tonight's unveiled devastations, doesn't it?


Bugger, bugger.

I've never so despised being right. What a bloody hindrance.

And the thing is—


No, I won't get into it now. I'll just get the story out first. That's a good idea. Just get the story out.


I could probably go into avid detail about the sorts of nefarious schemes that were running through my head when I first heard the classroom door begin squeaking open again, but I'd rather save my best fantastically frustrated adjectives for later and will instead simply state that I had every intention of letting the incoming couple know about my very serious displeasure over their present activities and decided location. Things were going to get ugly, but I couldn't even muster up enough rationality to care.

I mean, for Merlin's sake, this wasn't a bloody motel. Didn't they know the bleeding difference?

So there I was, poised in my chair, ready to pounce, feeling all the agitation and strain of studying, impending doom and stupid, manipulative Quidditch players bearing down on me, hoping against all hope that the pair that stumbled through that door were the sort of people that I wouldn't have too many moral conflicts about hexing, when the door finally swung open.

But it wasn't the sort of people I could morally hex.

In fact, it wasn't 'people' at all—rather, it was 'person.'

And guess—just you bloody guess—who that singular soul turned out to be?

"Oh—oh! Lily! W-what… Hello."

Julie Little.

Julie sodding Little, the stalkersation, who apparently couldn't cut me a single, solitary break.


"Julie," I said flatly, my tone as enthusiastic as Julie's expression (meaning not at all). Actually, to be perfectly honest, Julie looked rather astonished to find me sitting right there before her, which, though probably not exactly normal for a stalker, was probably just an act. Really, I wouldn't put it past her. "How did you find me?" I asked.

Julie's brown eyes blinked owlishly at me. "Find you?" she questioned, fidgeting restlessly in the doorway. She was still holding the door handle. "I didn't…I came here…"

"For what?" I asked, put out now with all the pretenses. Why wouldn't the girl just admit to her stalking and get on with it? For Merlin's sake, who had time for this? I let out a long sigh and moved slowly to my feet. Whatever. I was so over this. It was clearly time to leave. "Look, Julie, I really have to go, anyway, so—"


The sudden urgency of Julie's denial had my head snapping back towards her, my hands stopping mid-motion over my books, my entire body frozen. I cocked an eyebrow, wondering just how she thought that she was actually going to prevent me from barging through that door and running for the nearest sanctuary, not to mention what the bloody hell had her in such a tizzy. But not quite unlike the happy, white cloud that in a moment's time can turn into a furious gray lightning-carrier, little, mousy, stalking Julie Little suddenly turned… well, quite her own sort of furious gray.

My eyebrow cocked higher.

Julie stepped into the classroom and slammed the door.


Oh, gee.

So that's how it's going to be, is it?

"Julie," I said slowly, watching with slightly growing trepidation as the angry cloud-thing stalked towards me. "What are you doing?"

"What I should have done days ago—weeks ago!" was Julie's thunderous reply, her arms fisted, straight and tight against her hips. She lifted one of those hands suddenly, jabbing its pointed finger at my face. "And you can't run away any longer! I won't have it! I'm sick of it! We're going to get this out—get this out right now!"



Hey, she's actually a bit frightening, isn't she?

Dazed by the realization that a girl I'd previously believed physically incapable of raising her voice louder than a five on the ten scale was suddenly reaching a good eight and looking quite the daunting harridan, all I could do was simply stand there and stare at her. Then—because my disbelief was that great, I really couldn't help it—from my mouth came a disbelieving, "Are you serious?"

Because, honestly, I thought it was some sort of joke.

Seriously. Someone was going to come along and shout, "Boo!" at any second now, right?

But the "Boo!" never came.

Or at least, not quite in the sense I'd meant.

One second, I was staring blankly at Julie, waiting for her to either laugh and grin and confess the joke, or explode into a million angry pieces, both of which seemed entirely plausible at that point…and in the next, the girl had exploded into tears.


I know.

Um, what?

With an ungodly sort of hacking sound, Julie's entire fierce demeanor cracked, her eyes glossing over and her face scrunching up unattractively before she buried her head in her hands, her blonde hair falling to hang around her face. I stared in absolute shock, wondering what in the bloody hell had just happened and whether or not Julie Little should be on some sort of serious medication. The sudden sounds of Julie's sporadic sobs stopped me from following any further down that train of thought, however.

Oh, hell.

What have I gotten myself into?

"Julie?" I asked tentatively, taking a cautious step forward. "Julie, what are you—"

"Holy Helga, I told him you knew!" Julie sobbed, her now slightly wet and anguished face snapping up. I stared at her with what I hoped wasn't an entirely panicked expression, but I highly doubt she was even paying attention. She seemed to be ranting to herself, staring straight through me. "You're not stupid—I told him you weren't stupid and that he shouldn't be dragging you in the middle and that it wasn't fair! But he didn't listen! And then I…I…"

She couldn't go on any further, too consumed by her own agitation that all that came out afterwards was a series of awkward, watery breaths.

I couldn't say I was too far from joining her in that department.

As Julie tried—rather unsuccessfully—to reclaim some normal breathing patterns, I stood a few meters away, shifting back and forth on my feet and wondering what the bloody hell I was supposed to be doing. I mean, Julie was right about one thing—I wasn't stupid. Obviously the girl was having one serious case of guilt over whatever budding relationship was spouting between her and Amos—one that I'm assuming she thought would devastate me because I had previously been so in love with him. But what Julie didn't know was that I could honestly care less about what she and Amos wanted to do. Did they want to date? Did they want to get married? Did they want to run off together and have the standard 2.5 children? Well, huzzah! Good for them! I wish them all the joy in the world! I mean, I wasn't happy that Amos had taken advantage of our relationship yesterday when he kissed me to get a rise out of Julie or whatever, but if that's what it takes to officially end this relationship entirely…well, then I'd take it. It was a bit shitty of him, but it's not exactly as if I'm an entirely innocent party here, either. I mean, I've been lusting after James for weeks, even if I never cared to admit it. So, really, we're sort of even. And if Amos wasn't available to give the 'Have Her, Leave Me' talk, then I suppose Julie would have to do.

You know, once she managed to regain some much-needed composure.

Which should be about…


Yeah, okay. Maybe I should just start talking.

"Look, Julie," I started slowly, my only true concern at that point being not to make her breakdown any worse (if that was even possible). "I'm not really sure…I mean, you really don't have to beat yourself up over this, all right? Yes, I did fancy Amos at one point, but the last few weeks and then our date…well, it obviously wasn't what either Amos or I expected. We are much better off as just mates. So if the pair of you are interested in each other, that's perfectly fine. I hope you're happy. But I would just sincerely like to be left out of it, all right? I mean, I'm sure you're aware that that kiss yesterday was more for your benefit than mine, and I'd like to keep that incident from happening again. No one appreciates being used, even if they don't have feelings involved anymore. So you can stop crying. Seriously. It's fine."

I thought my speech came out quite nicely—a bit rushed, maybe, but I said what I needed to say without sounding too bitter or too harsh and Julie should've been quite glad that I was so willing to alleviate her from her guilt. But should've, could've, would've, I suppose, because instead of instantly breaking out into a relieved sigh and telling me how grateful she was to hear about my convenient indifference, Julie's still-wet face stared at me with an expression that seemed the perfect bizarre mixture of shock and horror.

"Oh, Merlin," she whispered, lifting a shaky hand to her mouth. "Oh, Merlin, you don't know. And you… you didn't… oh, no."

For the first time since Julie's eventful entrance, my stomach clenched with something that wasn't dread of tears, but a feeling that was decidedly more uncomfortable.

Don't know? What didn't I know?

"I don't…" I tried to keep the alarm out of my face, out of my voice, pausing to consider the words before they left my mouth. "You…don't want to date Amos?" I asked hopefully.

Julie instantly shook her head.

"No, no," she answered quickly, her hand falling back down to her side, an entirely tormented expression crossing over her face. "I mean, yes, but no. I mean…oh, Merlin, Lily, I'm so sorry."

The knot in my stomach clenched tighter.

Oh, god.

"Sorry about what?" I asked softly, trying to stay calm. "What are you sorry about, Julie?"

"This wasn't supposed to happen!" she cried, the tears starting to well up in her eyes again. "It just got completely out of control and I don't know how…but he—I—seriously thought…" Julie stopped, then suddenly shook her head and grabbed hold of herself. "James Potter," she blurted out, and my heart banged hard in my chest, as if struck. "Aren't you with James Potter?"

My head was spinning so fast that the abrupt mention of James only managed to send me reeling even further, causing me to grab onto the desk next to me for support. I wondered just what this hasty change in subject had to do with the steadily growing pit of unease that was contracting in my stomach. Suddenly, I wanted James—wanted him right here, with me, if only for his presence. I should have asked him to come. I shouldn't have been such a brat to him. I should have told him the truth—that of course I wanted him with me, away from Elisabeth, away with me. But most of all, I shouldn't have been alone. Turns out solitude isn't the way to fight the fates. It only makes it worse.


I was so disoriented, there was nothing to say but the slightly stammered truth. That's what came out, anyway.

"W-with James? You mean, now?" I shook my head, pulling anxiously at the ends of my hair, twisting and twirling stands between my fingers. "No, not… I mean, maybe. But not really. Not right now. We're talking about it. Maybe soon. I don't know. But what—"

"But you were, right?" Julie demanded, cutting me off. "You were together, weren't you? At the beginning of the year?"

My head snapped back, the clench in my stomach taking a large dip, a biting pull.

"Beginning of the year?" I repeated blankly. "Julie, what are you talking about? No, of course, I wasn't—I was with Amos the beginning of the year. You know that. What…"

But I couldn't finish my question. I couldn't ask what she was talking about or why she was acting like the information was new to her when the whole bloody school knew I'd fancied Amos and that he'd asked me out in early October. I couldn't do anything because, right then, I knew it wouldn't matter. My body was already numbing itself up, preparing for the blow Julie was undoubtedly going to bring, even if I wasn't exactly sure how much that blow would entail, how deep it would go. Here it was; the fates at work. Even without the rice, this moment screamed of dastardly interference.

I stared at Julie, watching as she closed her eyes as if in pain, her quivering hand coming up to cover her mouth again. It steadied only when it met the firm contact of her skin. I stared and watched and waited as those eyes lifted open, big and wet, and her hand fell once more to her side, moving slightly to cross with its mate and wrap around her waist. As Julie shook and embraced herself, I watched and waited.

And then she said it.

"So was I."



The words hit like a battering ram straight to the middle, the kind of force that no amount of numbing could prevent or protect against. I heard the words—so was I—over and over inside of my head, playing like a broken record that you couldn't flick off. So was I. So was I. Three words, but a million empty lies. Almost immediately, the defense set in, the part inside of me that wanted to think that I'd misunderstood, that I was confused or had misheard or was making the wrong assumptions. That Julie didn't know what she was saying. That it wasn't what I had perhaps known all along.

There had never been an Amos and Lily.

There had only been an Amos using Lily.

It had all been a lie.

He had been with Julie. The whole time.

"I don't understand," I heard myself say, though the words reached my ears as if from a far distance, like an echo. "I don't...why..."

"I'm so sorry," Julie whispered, anguished. "It was never supposed to get this far. Amos and I were together all summer—"

"Summer? You've been together since summer?"

"We broke up!" Julie cried quickly, as if that bit of information even mattered. "I broke it off with him in August, I swear I did! I wanted to start school without any attachments, you know? I didn't want a boyfriend. I thought Amos understood that, but…" Julie shook her head regretfully. "When we got back here, Amos wouldn't let go. He dragged everyone into it—he had all our mates hounding me to take him back, as well! He kept saying that I was just being stubborn and that…" Julie's face scrunched with guilt. She looked straight at me. "That I'd only want it when I couldn't have it."

I was going to vomit.

"Insert me," I muttered flatly. Julie nodded.

"Yes," she said, her voice soft and tormented, as if she thought I'd feel bad for her. "And that's my fault—all my fault. I can't tell you how sorry I am for it."

Even in my complete haze of confusion and devastation, something about what Julie had just said rang false. All her fault. Why the bloody hell should it be all her fault? Even dazed, I knew that the villain sticker belonged just as prominently on Amos's chest as it did on Julie's—more so, because he was the one to drag me into this, who wanted to prove his 'want it when you can't have it' rubbish. He's the one who'd picked me out, drew me in, asked me out, and forced me to become part of their sick, little game, whatever it was. Julie was culpable, but not entirely. Not as much as Amos. And I suppose it says something entirely pathetic about me that I wanted to ease her guilt that little bit.

Or at least, I did then.

"Stop," I said, holding my hand up and feeling my first true emotion—annoyance—since just before Julie had dropped her bomb. I narrowed my eyes at her. "Stop it. You were wrong—so wrong—but it wasn't just you. It was Amos. You didn't tell him to come after me. You didn't tell him to ask me out. You didn't—"

"But I did!" Julie suddenly cried, and now the welled up tears in her eyes began to course down her face, fast and furious. "I did, Lily—not on purpose, but it was me who gave him the idea! I didn't mean it, but I was just so angry with him for being such a wanker but making me want him anyway that I…" She cut off, becoming too distraught for words. She got them out somehow, though, tears be damned. Lucky me. "It was just after the pair of you were made partners," she explained, biting at her lower lip. "I knew that...I mean, everyone whispered that you had this little thing for him, you know? Or that you had at one point, anyway. Amos kept tossing it in my face, as if to prove that he had better options. I hated caring, but I was so bitter and he wouldn't let up and he just got me so riled that one day after class I blurted out that he should just go ask you out and see exactly what his 'want it when I couldn't have it' theory amounted to and if nothing else, he'd at least manage to piss James Potter off, so it was a win-win. I was just kidding but then he went and actually did it!"

Julie was panting by the time she'd finished with her confession, rapidly inhaling and exhaling while the tears continued to fill her eyes and quickly fall down. But I really couldn't even think about Julie's overzealous emotions right then. I couldn't even think about Julie at all.

Except for her words.

and if nothing else, he'd at least manage to piss James Potter off…

Lovely. So now I was bait for Julie and for James. I was the one stone that killed two birds. I was the baggage that came along with getting what Amos wanted. I was…

I was nothing to him.

A means to an end.

It hurt.

It hurt so damned much.

"It was foolish—terrible—of me to start up with him again," Julie went on, completely oblivious to the shattering of every single one of my preconceived notions that was going on inside of my head. I felt nauseated, sick to my stomach. But Julie wouldn't stop talking. "He was right," she told me, giving a helpless shrug. "He was so right. Once he was with you—even if I knew it was mostly farce—it killed me. I can't even explain it. I've tried ending it so many times—like before your date. I told Amos that we were through until he was officially done with you, but he just took that as a sort of challenge. It wasn't even past ten on Saturday before I had a million of my mates coming up to me and telling me about chatting with you and Amos in the courtyard. They said he looked thrilled. They said he was showing you off, bursting with pride. It killed me to hear it."

Oh, Merlin.

Oh, shit.

If it was possible, I suddenly felt even sicker.

So I wasn't mad. There was something off about that first part of our date. That's what the stupid two hours of useless conversation was for—Julie. He was showing me off to get to her. He was talking to these people—Julie's mates, I realised then. Vance Dunnings, Kiki Molter, Penny O'Jene, Shirley Shorn—in order to ensure that Julie heard about the 'bloody brilliant' time he was having with his 'date, Lily Evans.' He told everyone he should have told and then he told some more, just because he could. Because I let him. Because I was too much of a coward to find out why.

Because I was his pawn, and a damned good one at that.

I'd never felt more stupid in my entire life.

"Please say something," Julie whispered, breaking in on my thoughts and the heavy cloud of self-pity that was quickly coming over me. All I kept thinking was: he never wanted me. It was never about me. All a lie—all a lie. "Please," Julie begged again, and even in my haze, I somehow managed to look at her. She was staring at me pleadingly, looking desperate and guilty. But not guilty enough, in my opinion. "I'm not asking…I know what I've done is unforgivable. I should have told you weeks ago what Amos and I were about. I should have—"

"You shouldn't have touched him," I snapped, the words coming out before I could think too much about them. But the anger was there—red hot and boiling—and I didn't have much control. My words came out in a yell. "You shouldn't have even been near him! I don't give a bloody damn if it wasn't real for you or Amos—it was real to me! Every goddamned second was real to me! And now you come along and just…just…"

"You're right," Julie said instantly, her head bobbing up and down frantically. "You're absolutely right. I shouldn't have even been near him after he asked you out. But I tried, Lily. I really tried to stay away. And I only slept with him twice—"

Oh my god.

Oh my god.

"Slept with him?" The words came out in a shrill cry, my head spinning. "You slept with him?"

Julie blushed to the very roots of her hair, turning a vibrant shade of red from neck to forehead, but somehow managed to nod curtly. If I wasn't so shocked and disgusted, I might have taken a moment to feel relieved over the fact that Julie was now looking determined rather than weepy.

"Yes," she bit out, the word crisp and cool. "Yes, I slept with him. I told you we were together. And I'm not some sort of slag—I love him and he loves me."

"I'm really not sure that matters when he's dating someone else!"

"I told you I was sorry!" Julie snapped back, some of the old fire coming back into her now. But it was too late for that. She was too obviously wrong. "I'm telling you now what I should have told you before and I'm sorry that I didn't say it sooner! But by the time I'd given in, I was sure you were off shagging James Potter, anyway! I thought it wouldn't matter!"

"Well, it did!" I shouted, second by second moving away from the numbness and closer to some new emotions—anger, righteous indignation. "I did care and I wasn't shagging James, but even if I was that doesn't make what you did right!"

"I know that!" Julie cried, wiping furiously at what remained of her tears. The transition from pleading mode to defensive mode was clearly complete. She was looking furious now, though not nearly as furious as I was. "But rumours don't lie, Lily! There's always a shred of truth! And with the number of stories going around about you and James for the past couple of months, I know you can't be all innocent! So don't you stand there and judge me for doing exactly what you would have done if this were you and James! Don't you dare!"

I stood there, dumbstruck.

My god.

I couldn't believe her audacity. Honestly, I couldn't even conceive it.

Was she serious?

"You listen to me, Julie Little," I growled, scowling harder and darker than I think I've ever done in my life. "Not for a second," I said, "do you get to dictate to me. Not for a second do you get to come out of this feeling justified. Because no matter what you say or what you believed, the fact—the truth—remains that I cared for Amos. For him, not for who I could make jealous by being with him, not for who I could piss off! And whether I cared for James as well in the meantime, that still doesn't change the fact that I went into our relationship wanting Amos, and he went in wanting you. And you let him—and let me. You can't change that. And you make me sick for it."

Julie flinched as if I'd slapped her, reeling back and frowning deeply as my words hit their desired mark. And while some might have gained satisfaction from that reaction, I only felt like I'd been slapped myself. I suppose that's what happens when all the shock and anger start to wear off and you're suddenly left with only the raw and empty bits that were undoubtedly lying dormant beneath all the while.

I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe this was happening.

How could I not have seen it? How could I not have known? For Merlin's sake, the stupid bastard has never once in two years given me more attention than the sporadic request for a spare quill, and suddenly he's attracted? Suddenly I'm appealing? An idiot would have seen that something was off, but I was so determined for my perfect love story to come to life that I ignored all the warning signs—the clearly conflicting personalities, the obvious run-ins with Julie, the equally obvious moments with James—that were all there. Of course, there was a reason for all of it. Of course, it was all a scam.

Of course.

I didn't know what to feel anymore. A part of me was still angry—furious—with Amos and Julie and everything they'd done. But an equal part of me was just…defeated. Distraught. Worthless. And unfortunately, that side seemed to be quickly taking over.

Because maybe I didn't give a damn about Amos anymore. Maybe I'd just wanted it to be over. But that didn't make this hurt any less. Because I had given a damn at one point. I hadn't wanted it to be over then.

What would have happened if I still didn't?

The thought made me livid and disgusted all at the same time.

I don't know what I would have done or said after that, so consumed by the overwhelming gloom that was quickly closing around me. My head hurt, my eyes felt prickly, and the whys and what-ifs were sending me further away from composure. I reminded myself to breathe and tried to remember that I didn't care about Amos and that the relationship was over anyway, but it wasn't even about that. I couldn't bear to stop and think about what it was about.

We probably would have just stood there in silence, Julie and I, staring at each other blankly and waiting for the other to do something. I couldn't say what Julie was thinking at that point, but I was just trying not to burst out into my own set of uncomfortable tears. With deep breaths and a determined stare at Julie's stony face, I opened my mouth to say something—anything—that would get me out of that room. I didn't care what it was. I just needed to get out of there.

It was on the tip of my tongue to spout off some half-sobbed excuse about rounds and run for the door, damn it all, when the words were suddenly cut in my throat by the ever-familiar sound of the classroom door creaking open.

Oh, for Merlin's sake, this was not the time for hormones!

I whipped around to the door, ready to give my most scathing of scoldings, not even caring who it was or how aroused they were or any single thing because I needed to yell at something and I needed to do it now.

But I didn't get to yell.

Not then, anyway.

Because when the person—yes, a singular soul, yet again—walked through that door, my entire mind just shut off. I froze, stunned. My brain went from grrr to errr in a matter of moments, completely on its own, and there was nothing I could do to change it.

Because it was him.

Of course, it was him.

My breath stopped in my throat.

"Holy Helga," Julie breathed, burying her head in her hands, her shock matching mine. She shook her head back and forth as she continued to cover her face. "You would come now."

As Julie continued to hide her anguish in her hands, I remained frozen, just staring at the boy standing there inside the doorway. I was stunned, immobile. I'd never felt so trapped in a moment in my entire life. However, even through my shock, one thought was able to surface. Rather clearly, actually.

What the hell had I ever seen in this bastard?

Amos's slightly perturbed gaze was flickering from Julie, to me, then back to Julie again, the only evidence of any unease with the scene before him his lightly furrowed brow and rather narrowed gaze. Looking at him more closely, however, I realised that what I'd first perceived as perturbation could actually quite easily be crossness—was crossness. Amos was actually angry over finding Julie and me there.

Well, join the bloody club, arsehole.

"What is this, Julie?" was the first thing Amos said, and the terse tone of his voice and the withering glance he shot at Julie's still hidden face was all the further evidence I needed to discern his anger. He glared. "What have you done?"

Julie's head shot up, her eyes instantly slitting as she took in Amos's accusatory tone. "I didn't plan this," she snapped, her scowl fierce. "She was here when I came in. I wouldn't ambush you like this. You know that."

Amos looked less than believing of that assessment, though he quit glaring so fiercely, so I suppose something must have appeased him. Quickly, only for a second, his eyes flickered to me. I still stood there frozen, unable to move.

"I didn't plan this," Julie repeated suddenly, defiantly, "but I've told her everything, Amos. She knows."

She knows. She said the words like a taunt, like this was just another round in their manipulative, little game, and she was expected to get a point for it. The fact that 'She' was standing right there and that 'She' had actual feelings and that 'She' was on the very border of exploding with emotion—though whether in tears or rage, I honestly could not tell you at that point—didn't seem to dawn upon either of them.

And then, simultaneously, two things occurred.

The first, you see, was a thought, something that suddenly popped up into my head whilst I was still immersed in my silent battle to see which overwhelming emotion was going to win the duel for dominance and probably make a spectacle out of me either way. It was almost to the point where Tears was getting ready to plunge its watery knife (if you will) into Rage's vulnerable, boiling heart (likewise), that something Julie had just said struck a nerve in me.

I wouldn't ambush you like this.


Amos had thought he was being ambushed.

But in order to be ambushed, there had to be some sort of set meeting, didn't there? There had to be a location, a destination, a reason to lure the ambushee to the ambusher.

Why had Julie walked into this classroom in the first place, if not to ambush me (which she couldn't have done, because there was no way for her to know I was in here)?

Why had Amos followed fifteen minutes later?

Why were they both there, at the same time, in the same abandoned classroom, with, I really do think, the distinct expectation of seeing the other...but not me?

Oh. My. God.

Number three.

They were going to go for Shag Number Three.

In my bloody abandoned Transfiguration classroom!!

Quite suddenly, Rage pulled out some fancy duel work of its own, toppling Tears over in a fit of...well, rage, and quickly gaining the upper hand. But victory was still in anyone's reach. The tides could be turned at any moment, by anything.

That is, until the second thing occurred.

Because just as this realisation about Julie and Amos's true intentions revealed itself (they were meeting to shag! Behind my back! AGAIN), a shift of something by the door had my gaze snapping back over towards Amos.

It was my first decent look at him since the fool had quit glaring. And despite the fact that I was certain I'd feel numb when I regarded his familiar face, that wasn't what happened at all. It might have happened, of course, if not for the fact that Amos wasn't looking the least bit as mystified or expressionless as the rest of us.

I swear, the explosion nearly erupted right then. It was this close.

Because he was smiling.

The bastard was actually smiling at me.


"Well," he said suddenly, looking appeased and chipper, putting his hands on his hips. "Brill. Just brill. Glad that's over with. All right, Lily?"

It was the last straw.

The last bloody fucking straw.

I don't remember much of what happened after that. Honestly, I still can't exactly recall what I'd yelled, what hexes I'd thrown, what curses flew out of my mouth—even how my wand had gotten in my hand, though it somehow was. There were several spells thrown, I knew that, and a few of them might have been made up—in fact, I'm pretty certain a few of them were—but whatever they were, they worked. One second, Amos was standing there smiling his perfect smile, saying his little "All right, Lily?"s, and the next, he was on the floor, rolling about in what I hoped was severe pain, with a decidedly greenish tint to him. Julie yelled—"Amos!"—and instantly rushed to drop to her knees beside him, but I didn't even wait around to assess the damage or hear the scolds or even to collect my things, all of which I just left there. Instead, I just strode right over Amos (maybe accidently-on-purpose crushing a few of his fingers beneath my shoes in the process) and out the door, stomping hard and heavy and as fast as I could as I left the classroom—and Amos and Julie—far behind.


Holy hell.

Holy, buggering hell.

I was panting. I was panting and stomping and seething and on the very brink of some sort of breakdown when I finally gained enough consciousness to gauge my temper and my surroundings (very precarious; somewhere on the third floor). I paced about restlessly, grateful that it was so close to curfew that few people were wandering around the corridors and therefore around to witness my complete mentalness. Frantic and disoriented, I only spared a moment's thought for the scene I had left behind me, and that was only to wish that whatever I had done to Amos was enough to land him in the Hospital Wing. It was petty, sure, but it was one thing I seriously wanted right then and there in that moment.

But not, I suddenly realised, stopping short, as much as I wanted something else.

I pivoted on my heels, and ran for the nearest staircase.

The distance was short, but it still seemed to take hours to reach the staircase and go up the single flight of steps it took to reach the fourth floor. There were more people about here, but I contented myself with the fact that I was undoubtedly speeding by too fast for them to get a good look at my face. Rumours about seeing the Head Girl running around the fourth floor I could deal with—rumours about seeing a clearly-on-the-verge-of-hysteria Head Girl running around the fourth floor would be an entirely different story. I might have taken a moment to fix my features into an expressionless look if I hadn't been so desperate to reach the familiar, worn double doors at the end of the corridor. But I was, and there they were, so all of that was left by the wayside as I all but sprinted forward.

I pushed through the doors of the library with a breath of relief.

The place was still rather crowded, though decidedly less so than earlier, undoubtedly due to the late hour. Still, there were enough people and I had drawn enough attention to myself barging though the doors like I'd done (which was rather obvious by the eagle-eyed look I was getting from Pince) that I knew it was time to at least attempt to school my features into a calmer demeanor, even if I was only partially successful. I knew I'd mostly accomplished my task when most people soon glanced away from me and back to their work.

None of these people, however, was the one I was looking for.

Moving slowly into the library, I clasped my hands anxiously in front of me as I glanced around at each of the initially visible tables, most of which were empty, but none housing who I sought. Somewhere in my jumbled brain I thought Arithmancy, but I'd be damned if I had any idea where the Arithmancy section was, seeing as I'd never had a single use for it. Still, I couldn't just stand there. Moving quickly through the selves, I began by the Charms section and started moving right, hoping against all hope that I'd be able to spot them, that they'd still be there. I walked and scanned sections. Charms, Potions, Divination, History—Merlin, where was it?—Biography, Mythical Creatures, Herbology—

Then I heard it.

"—makes no sense! This chart is utter rubbish! None of the numbers even—"

I moved towards the sound, my feet moving faster and faster, the voice echoing in my head. They were there—right there. My heart pounded furiously inside of my chest. Carrie was still complaining when I finally rounded the corner.

"—add up! Someone fix this one. James, can you—"


I said his name quickly, breathlessly, the word leaving my mouth on a sort of sigh of relief. They were all sitting packed at one table—James, Remus and Elisabeth on one side, Emma, Carrie and Phil Rook on the other, their backs towards me, with Kate Frost tacked on at one end—but the second I said his name, James lifted his head from where it was bent across the table looking at Carrie's chart, an instant smile on his face. But I suppose my passably calm expression had faded, or perhaps James was just that much more perceptive, because the second he actually got a good look at me, his smile faded and he had jumped to his feet all in one movement, already striding around the table and towards me with a blazing sort of look in his eyes. He'd reached me before I'd even had to ask, close enough that our heads nearly touched.

"Hey," he whispered, lifting a hand to cup my cheek, keeping my eyes on his. "What's the matter?'

"I have to talk to you," I blurted out, in what I hoped was a controlled voice, though I'm not sure how successful that was. Letting my eyes flicker past James for a moment, I saw all of them at the table staring, their looks ranging from extreme concern to royally brassed off. "I'm sorry," I said quickly. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean...I'll have him back quick. I just—"

"Is everything all right, Lily?" Emma asked worriedly. I nodded instantly.

"Fine," I said, though I knew Emma didn't believe that. My gaze skipped back to James and I knew he wasn't falling for it either. He grabbed my hand and I was thankful, but it was an action that brought me that much closer to cracking completely and I knew that I had to get James—and myself—away quickly before everything fell apart. Whether James realised this or whether he was just too curious about what I had come to say to him, I don't know, but he did my job for me when he turned back briefly to the speak to the others at the table.

"I'll be right back," he told them, and squeezed my hand. I didn't wait for another opening after that. Rude or not, I turned instantly, keeping my hand in James's and dragging him along behind me and into the farthest recesses of the library.

Bookcases flew blindly past the pair of us as I walked quickly to what I hoped was an entirely isolated part of the giant room. The late hour provided no light save a bit of moon through the library windows, and candles and light fixtures were scarce this far back in the room, but I was grateful for the dim light and kept walking. Still gripping James's hand tightly, I weaved through a few more shelves until we'd reached a sort of small clearing, square shaped with bookshelves surrounding us on three sides. I stopped abruptly and spun around, dropping James's hand in the process. Gazing up at him, I saw that he looked startled and worried.

"Lily," he said softly, "what's this all—"

I launched myself at him.

Really, that's the politest way to put it. Launched.

With a strangled sort of sound that I hadn't even been aware I'd been holding in, I ran at him, barreling myself into his chest and instantly clasping my arms around him, burying my face in his neck. James let out a soft, "Oomph!" at the initial impact, but otherwise reacted rather quickly, one arm sliding strong and steady around my back, the other slipping into my hair, stroking gently. It felt so good to have him there, to feel him hold me, that I didn't even realise that I'd started to cry until the tears had wet the patch of skin along his collarbone that I was so determinedly burrowing myself into. That's when James noticed, as well.

"Lily," he said again, startled, and tried to guide my head back to get me to look at him. I remained firmly locked in place, however, refusing to move. "What's... hey, come on, don't... what happened..."

But I could only shake my head and grip him tighter, hoping that he got the message that I didn't want to be hammered with questions just then, all I wanted was to be held. James might have realised that—or he might have simply realised that I wasn't lifting my head or loosening my grip any time soon—but whatever the case, he quit trying to force my head up and instead simply tightened his hold, pulling me more firmly against him as he started whispering all sorts of comforting words and sounds into my ear.

I had never been more grateful for him. Ever.

I don't know for how long the pair of us stood there all wrapped together. James held me tightly, smoothing my hair as he talked. I listened to his babble desperately, like a sort of lifeline, trying to regain some control. I was thankful at least that my sobs weren't loud or gaudy ones, just a rather endless stream of almost silent sounds and tears that wouldn't stop. I knew that I'd been holding them back, but I didn't know it had been this bad until the dam had broken and the waterworks wouldn't turn off. But they did, thankfully, eventually subside, leaving me shivering slightly and suddenly entirely embarrassed over the mess I had made of myself—literally—all over James.

Merlin, the rubbish this poor bloke has to put up with.

Why hasn't he tossed me over yet?

Feeling stupid and foolish and needy, none of which made me feel better about myself at a time when I was already feeling rather rotten, I finally detached myself from James's embrace a seemingly endless amount of time later, wiping furiously at my still wet cheeks and suddenly feeling like I had to get away from there. Fast.

"Thank you," I said quickly, already stepping away, moving backwards slowly and not quite meeting James's eyes. "I'm fine now. Good to go. Thank you. I'll see you—"

"Not so fast, Lily Evans!" James snapped, and did some launching of his own as he lunged to grab my hand and swung me around to face him, all in one rather impressive movement. Behind his glasses, his eyes darkened and narrowed as he stared down at me. I don't think he was particularly pleased. "Thank you?" he hissed, enraged. "Thank you? Are you mad? You run in here looking like the world's come crashing down then sob in my arms for ten minutes and all I get is thank you?"

"Was it ten?" I asked stupidly, blushing to the very tips of my hair. "Oh. Sorry. I really didn't mean to keep you so—"


"I'm sorry!" I cried, feeling like I might want to sob in his arms for another ten minutes. Or twenty. Or thirty. "I'm sorry," I said again, feeling tired. "I never should have...I shouldn't have come here. I just...I wanted you and I didn't think—"

"Don't apologise for that," James cut in, still angry. "Quit being stupid. You know that any time you need me...but that's not even what this is about!" He tugged on my hand suddenly, pulling me back up against him. At any other moment, I might have been happy to be so close to him again, but not when he was looking down at me so menacingly. I suppose he was still a bit upset over my strange actions. "Lily," he bit off tersely. "What. Happened?"

Oh, dear.

Perhaps a bit more than a bit upset, then.


There were so many things I could have done then, so many things that flashed through my mind in the few seconds that James and I stood there, staring at one another, silent. I could have lied, made up some story about the woes of Transfiguration and how it was affecting my mental stability. I could have leaned up the bit of distance between us and 'milked' the situation for all it was worth, snogging James to distraction. I could have done any number of things without actually answering his demands truthfully, but I suppose I knew then that no matter what I'd said or thought before, I hadn't come here simply to accost James and let him hold me until I felt better. Even as slaggish as I am, I know that's not the way these things work. I wanted something more than that. That's why I'd come to him. I wanted someone to lean on. I wanted someone to tell the entire sordid affair to. I wanted it out of me.

So instead of lying, I just lifted my wand, casted the strongest Silencing Charm I knew, and started talking.

I told him everything.

And Merlin, it felt good.

I don't know how I expected James to act when I told him. I didn't really know how much he knew—he'd mentioned them before, hadn't he? Julie and Amos? In the Room of Requirement?—but I was certain that if he'd had any idea that the pair of them were actually together this entire time, he'd have told me. And he'd remained perfectly calm and attentive all throughout the beginning of the story, when all that my tale seemed to be was Julie Little throwing a gasket over my ignoring her. He even cracked a bit of a smile when I told him that Julie had demanded to know about him and what there was between us.

But the smile didn't last long.

In fact, a few seconds later, when I'd gotten to the 'So was I' part, James wasn't smiling at all.

He went ballistic.

"Fucking wanker!" he swore furiously, the first interruption he'd made since I'd started my retelling, his face contorted with rage. "That conniving, little—" He let off any number of dirty insults after that, most of them too outrageous or too furiously muttered for me to follow, but his meaning was nonetheless understood.

James was very, very angry with Amos.

Which was far better than being angry with me, I suppose, but was rather daunting nonetheless.

"I know," I said, reaching out a hand, trying to soothe James's pleasantly protective—if a fair bit overzealous—reaction with a gentle touch. "It's completely... James? Wait, what are you doing?"

"I'm going to kill him," James seethed, striding past me in furious haste. "I'm going to take him and rip him apart limb by bloody limb. I'm going to—"

"What? No. No! James, get your bloody arse back here!"

Huffing angrily, I lunged for him, first grabbing a fist-full of shirt, then catching hold of an arm when the caught fabric hindered any further stomping off. James whirled around, glaring fiercely, but my scowl was fiercer.


"Let go," James growled. "I'm going to kill him."

"No, you're bloody well not," I snapped back, giving him a stern look. "That's not your job, James."

The boy had the audacity to look stunned at this.

"Not my... bloody hell, woman, are you cracked? He—not my job?"

"It's not!" I insisted again, crossing my arms over my chest. "I didn't tell you all of this so that you could turn into some giant hothead and go off and commit murder! I can take care of Amos myself—I did take care of Amos myself, as you would know if you had bothered to quit storming off and just listened!"

Abruptly, James quit his glaring. He blinked.

"You've already seen the bastard?" he asked. Then, eagerly, "Did you kill him?"

Oh, for Merlin's sake.

"Dunno," I answered honestly, rolling my eyes. "I fled the scene of the crime."

James almost smiled. "Quick thinking."

"Not thinking," I corrected. "Rage is rather blinding."

I shot him a pointed look with that, one that deliberately said, "Uh, yeah. That means you," with not the least bit of subtleness. James gave off a slightly sheepish, though mostly disgruntled sigh at that, with a jerk of a shrug that didn't mean much.

Really, he was the least contrite person on earth.

"Fine," he finally muttered, stepping back in the alcove, but not looking particularly happy about it. "I won't kill him...yet. Finish. I want to hear the rest."

I nodded, but suddenly felt uneasy about continuing the story. I was happy about stopping him from killing Amos, of course, but I was not really sure that I was satisfied with James staying put to hear the rest of the night's events. I mean, it all rather goes downhill from here, doesn't it? What with Julie sharing all the lovely details of their affair and Amos showing up? And it wasn't that I was unappreciative of James's reaction—I knew it was (at least for the most part) in defense of me—but if I'd wanted a hitman, I would have gone and found one. Clearly that was not why I'd come barging into the library, making a complete and utter fool of myself, in order to track him down.

I mean, not that I don't make a fool of myself all the time, anyway, but this time it was quite knowledgeably done.

But even though I wasn't sure about much and I was still feeling uneasy and the more I recounted the story to James, the more I remembered it—and subsequently relived the utter humiliation. I knew there was no running off now. Even if James would let me, I wouldn't have wanted to. And I suppose that says something utterly pathetic about me and my neediness that I was so desperate to tell James all about the horrific night, damn the consequences.

But I never said I wasn't pathetic. Or needy. Hell, I'm probably worse.

I finished the rest of the story quickly, not so much because I'd wanted to get it over and done with, but because the whole end of it got me all upset/furious/sickened again and so my mouth was moving quite on its own while the rest of me was busy trying to hold it together. I was grateful when James didn't interrupt again, though he didn't look too pleased when I recounted all the details for him, especially when Amos came along and made an arse of himself. I think he might have been proud of my I'm-not-really-sure-what-I-did-but-I'm-relatively-certain-it-was-significantly-damaging-enough exit, but by that point in the story I'd gotten to be such a mess again that James was too busy pulling me back into his arms and trying to calm me down to really show any immediate pride or elation.

Which did have its advantages, of course.

I mean, from an entirely Slaggy Sue point of view.

"I'm sorry," James whispered, kissing my temple, running his hand up and down my back, after I had finally finished. "Christ, Lil, I'm sorry."

"S'okay," I murmured, trying to shrug it off, but mostly just snuggling closer, because that's what makes a slag like me feel better. "Not your fault."

"I didn't say it was my fault," James answered, "I just said I was sorry."

I sighed at that, mostly because it made very little sense, but made me feel better anyway. I suppose I'm just rather convoluted like that.

"Yeah, well, I'm sorry, as well," I grumbled back, pulling away slightly from James and scowling bitterly towards his shoulder. "Sorry I ever bothered with that stupid arsehole."

"Are you?"

My head snapped up.

"What?" I asked.

It wasn't so much his words as his tone that had me so startled. He sounded... James shifted a bit, looking decidedly uncomfortable and unsure, and I suppose that said it all. He sounded uncomfortable and unsure. That was such a change from the James I knew that I would have been startled no matter what, even disregarding the fact that he'd just asked me if I was sure I was sorry I'd ever bothered with Amos-the-manipulative-ponce.

Am I?

Am I?

Was he serious?

"Why would you ask me that?" I questioned, watching him not watch me, his eyes focusing on some point to his left, leaving me gazing at his profile. "James? What sort of question is that?"

"An honest one," James answered, finally turning back to me. He was looking less uncomfortable and more closed off by the second. I couldn't decide which was worse. "Look," he sighed, lifting a hand to run it agitatedly through his hair, "I'm not...Diggory's a right tosser. I know it, and you know it—now. But you didn't think so for a long time, you know? And I understand that. I get it. I know..." James paused, a slight cringe crossing over his face. He said the next bit very quickly. "I know I'm a new bit in your life and that's all right and it's perfectly natural for you to be this upset over Amos because cared about him for a long while and even now there's probably still some feelings and you're allowed to be hurt, but you should really be honest about it so that you can...move past...or something."

Oh, god.

Oh, my god.

He thinks...


"James." I looked at him. Hard. "Are you telling me that you think I was so upset because I still have feelings for Amos?"

James's jaw tensed. He gave a jerky shrug and a curt nod.

Bloody hell.

Bloody flistering hell.

I wanted to hit him. Four minutes ago, I wanted to snog him and now I wanted to beat him to a bloody pulp.

How could he think that? How? I mean, I told him! Sunday night, I told him that there was absolutely nothing left between Amos and me. I told him and he said "Good," and then attacked me and you'd think that that would mean something to some people, but I suppose these things just don't mean as much as they used to in the old days, now do they?


But even as I wanted to conk him hard and heavy over the head and hope that he went tumbling down with a decidedly large bump on his head...well, I suppose he had some reason to believe what he did. I mean, what else could he really think? He was right—this thing between the pair of us was new and I had been mad over Amos for a long time. But not as long as James thought. He didn't know how much I'd been oscillating about Amos for all these weeks. He didn't know how firmly he'd gotten under my skin. As far as he was aware, I'd gone to that date on Saturday torn between the pair of them, even if I'd told him in the Room of Requirement that I didn't want to go. So it wasn't stupidity as much as it was ignorance, which perhaps was a bit better.

I suppose I'd be all right if he'd acquire a decidedly small bump on his head, then.


I opened my mouth in order to explain to James that he was absolutely daft and that he was lucky I fancied him so much or else this might significantly hinder our budding relationship, wasn't he aware? And furthermore, let him know that I did not under any circumstances care a single whit about Amos Diggory any longer and that the real reason I was upset was obviously...clearly...



My mouth closed shut.


Why was I so upset?

The question hit me hard, baffled me completely. Merlin, I honestly hadn't even thought about it! I mean, I knew it wasn't because I fancied Amos—there wasn't a single romantic feeling left in my body for that boy, even before today—but in all the madness, I hadn't actually stopped to pause for a moment and consider why the whole thing was so devastating. It's not really the thing, after all, to pause mid-fight, hold up a hand to Julie as she's sobbing and say, "Scuse me, Jules, would you mind capping the waterworks for a moment there? I'd like to consider this situation and why it's making me so sickened. Yes, very good, much thanks."

Yeah, I'm thinking that wouldn't have been particularly appropriate then.

But it was now. I could pause and think now. So I did.

Why? Why did it shatter me so much? Yes, it's never pleasant to find out you've been cheated on—but is that even what this really was? I mean, Amos and I certainly had a well-known attachment, but it wasn't as if we'd been seriously dating for months and months or anything like that. And the fact still remained that I didn't care about Amos. The worst part about being cheated on is knowing that the relationship is over and that the cheater clearly doesn't care about you anymore, isn't it? But that was all irrelevant to me. I wanted the relationship to be over. I didn't care about Amos anymore. So neither of those things really apply to me, do they? No. No, they don't. The only things that apply to me are the what-ifs. What if I still did care? What if I hadn't wanted the relationship to end? What if there was no James and all Amos and I was that same pathetic girl of September 1st, panting after the stupid prat? But was I seriously foolish enough to be this upset over a bunch of hypothetical situations? Was I honestly that immersed in my own mad imaginary world that such things mattered?

I'm many things, but I didn't think I was that deluded.

So what, then?

What had me such a mess?

I thought about it. I stood there and I thought back and tried to pinpoint the reason for my devastation. I knew it wasn't romantic, but the thought of what Amos and Julie had done still made me a mass of rage and desolation...but not, I suddenly realised, because I was jealous or living in the past or any such nonsense.

I felt belittled.

The moment I thought of the word, I knew I'd gotten it. That's what hurt so much—my complete and utter insignificance to either Julie or Amos throughout the entire thing.

Unlike so many others, the worst part about the cheating—or whatever variant of cheating this situation was—for me wasn't the fact that the love was gone, but that the respect was. In fact, it wasn't just gone, it had never even been there in the first place! From the very start, I was nothing but a shiny object to be flaunted and used, then promptly tossed aside and ignored when it was convenient. I had acknowledged this fact before, but I hadn't realised that it was the entire source of my agony over the situation until now. I hadn't realised how much it hurt to be regarded that lowly, how much that sort of disrespect affected me. I mean, it made sense that I was so upset about such a thing—who wouldn't be?—but I suppose most people would have some other issues with this sort of thing. However, I really don't think that I do. While James is looking towards the logical reasons and making sensible—if entirely presumptuous and rather belittling of our connection, new or not—assumptions about my feelings, I'm simply cowering under a mass of self-conscious, debasing humiliation.

Which is no simple cup of tea, of course, but probably not as devastating—or obvious—as the old she-still-has-feelings-for-him rubbish.

But how do I get James to understand that?

It was a fine dilemma, indeed.

"I'm going to tell you some things," I finally said to James, the skeleton of a plan forming in my head, a series of sentences and words already coming together and hoping to help out. I glanced up at him, wondering how long we'd been standing there in silence, wondering what he'd been thinking about as we did. He was still looking deceptively impassive, which certainly meant that he was still doubting me. I gave him a good scowl for that, and decided it needed some addressing. "You're a right ponce. And you're going to feel very stupid and foolish after this chat, but I'm really not going to be too sympathetic about it because that's your punishment for being such a dunderhead. So listen well."

James regarded me critically after that, probably half-offended and half-curious, but attentive nonetheless. I mostly ignored him and forced myself to continue on. I had things to say, and damn all, I was going to say them!

"Almost from the start, there was something wrong with me and Amos—no, don't argue," I cut in, when James opened his mouth to protest. "I'm serious. Or do you not recall my proclaiming to a room full of gossips that I was dating you the very day after Amos asked me out? Does that sound like a girl in a content relationship to you?"

"I understand that," James said, "but—"

"No," I insisted, "you don't understand. You don't understand because I've never told you. You have no idea about the sorts of things that have gone through my head in the past few weeks. You have no idea how much I tried to pretend I was happy with Amos, only to be proven wrong time and time again." I paused here briefly, feeling myself heat up, knowing I was soon going to be revealing some pretty embarrassing things, all for the sake of clarity. Honestly, the things I do for this boy. "You have been like a damn niffler in my head since that very first day on the platform," I told him ruefully, watching with a bit of relief as his eyes slowly began to lose their sharp edge. I shook my head and kept going. "You get under a poor girl's skin like you wouldn't believe. You have no idea how long I've been trying to keep from feeling things for you, so don't bluster out all this rubbish about you being a 'new' bit. You're not new. You're old and annoying."

James's lip quirked up a bit at this, an eyebrow following not long behind. But even though he wasn't looking impassive anymore, I knew he wasn't quite believing me entirely yet. The stupid ponce wasn't making this easy. So I kept talking.

"Do you have any idea," I asked, "what going on that date Saturday was like for me? Do you have a single clue?"

"You said you had to go," James put in, and I finally allowed him to speak. He was looking a bit stony again, as if this was unpleasant to recall. "You said you had to figure things out. That your changing feelings might have very little to do with Diggory. That's what you said."

"I was an idiot," I interjected, and now I was sure I was blushing. Bloody useless genes. "Things were moving fast and I was scared and so I held onto the idea that things might be the same with Amos just for my own sanity's sake, but the entire thing was utter rubbish. Didn't you see that?"

James shrugged, but was suddenly looking contemplative, as if analyzing my words that probably should have been obvious to him all along. I mean, he'd been the one to call me out on my fear of change. Was all this really so new to him?

I suppose it was, because he did look rather consumed by it.

Well, wait until he heard this bit.

"It was horrible," I blurted out, without preamble. "The entire date was absolutely catastrophic. From the very start, I knew I didn't have any feelings left for Amos, and then the idiot made it even worse by going round to every single bloody person he knew and announcing that I was his date—for Julie's benefit, I know now," I put in. "But I survived it. The whole day. And do you know how?"

James shook his head.

If I wasn't so embarrassed, I might have laughed.

"It was you," I admitted, positively scarlet. "The entire time, I had a little James-inside-my-head making all these witty comments and telling Amos he was a tosser and making me laugh and feel better. It was you, the entire time."

James looked stunned.

Oh, bugger.

Was it too soon for this?

"Excuse me?" he sputtered, blinking rapidly. "A James-inside-your-what?"

"Head!" I all but shouted, feeling like a prize idiot. I dropped my face into my hands, feeling my entire being burn in humiliation. "A James-inside-my-head! Oh, god, why I am I even telling you this? I'm such an arse. I know it was completely daft, but I just—"

"Shut up," James interrupted, and...oh, dear Merlin, was he laughing? "Shut the bloody fuck up and look at me."

If he hadn't suddenly been laughing, I might not have mustered up the gumption to lift my head, but I somehow did, if only to be able to see why he was suddenly in the midst of hilarity. I didn't get to contemplate the abrupt mood change for long, though, because nearly the second after I had somehow forced my head up, James had bent his and dropped his lips upon mine.




I was laughing, too, suddenly, pulling my mouth away only long enough to get the words, "Ah! Milk! I'm not supposed to have milk!" out, before James was already pulling my head back towards his.

"Shut up," he said again, in between snogs. "My milk, my rules. I can dish it out whenever the hell I'd like."

Right-o. Not going to argue with that one.

Swallowing my giggles with his mouth again, James's hands dipped down to my waist, pulling me closer against him as my arms rose to wrap around his neck, lifting myself onto my toes and pushing harder into the kiss, reveling in it.

Merlin, I'd missed this. It'd only been two damn days—not even, really, if you were to count the mouthwash incident yesterday, which was pretty hard to ignore—but it felt like years. I suppose that means that I'm probably some sort of slaggy snog-addict, but if that means that I get to snog James like this any time I'd like, then hello, my name is Lily Evans and I'm addicted to snogs ("Hello, Lily. Welcome.")

Whatever. I have worse flaws.

I could feel James's hands gripping tighter as I arched back, pushing my front more snugly into his. I let my fingers drift into the hair at the nape of his neck, remembering again why the boy was probably always running his fingers through it—if you had hair like his, you'd want to touch it all the time, as well. His mouth was hot and sweet and so utterly lovely that I probably swooned about a million times, all in the course of a few pitiful minutes. My head was swimming as I kissed him back, not letting his mouth drift anywhere but my lips despite the fact that I'm relatively certain that James would have preferred exploring a bit. I was too impatient for that, though, and nibbled scoldingly on his bottom lip when he tried to move. James chuckled into my mouth at that, but complied.

I could have snogged him for hours—would have, probably, if left to my own devices—but sometime between the moment when James had first swooped on in and the point where our tongues were probably far better acquainted with the other's mouth than our own, we had shifted until my back was almost touching one of the surrounding bookcases. Soon enough, James's body gave mine an impatient nudge backwards until my entire backside fell against the shelves. Almost instantly, there was a sharp poke in the middle of my back.

"Ow!" I jumped, breaking my mouth abruptly away from James's, swiveling my head around to look at the offending object behind me. A book with a sharp metal clasp protruded proud from out of the bookcase. I glared at it for a moment, then realised how absolutely moronic that was and started to laugh, just because. One of my hands dropped from around James's neck and rubbed at my back, just above where James's own hands rested. "Bugger, that hurt."

James laughed, as well, leaning down to kiss me again, quick but hard.

"Suppose it's not the voyeuristic sort," he said, grinning devilishly. "Was getting all hot and bothered."

"It was getting all hot and bothered?" I muttered, and James laughed again.

I think the boy had every intention of moving me over to the nearest flat-surfaced bookshelf and continuing where we'd just left off, but I knew that if I let him do that, we'd never leave the bloody library. And considering I had every intention of sleeping in my own dormitory tonight, I knew I had to put a stop to it because James certainly wasn't going to.

"Uh-uh," I said, putting my hand over his quickly lowering mouth and pushing firmly. "Keep that to yourself. You never let me bloody finish talking."

"You've always got too much to say," James countered. I threw him a look.

"Well, this bit's important!" I let my other hand drop away from his shoulder, though James still kept a firm grip around my waist, not letting go. Bloody randy prat. "Or do you honestly want me to keep letting you think that I spent the night crying over my stupid crushed feelings for Amos Diggory?" I asked.

"It doesn't matter, Lily," James tried to say, shaking his head. "I don't care. It's not—"

"It does matter," I cut in, adamant. "It matters to me. I want to explain."

James looked ready to argue with that, but I suppose he thought better of it looking at my determined scowl, because he eventually let out this giant, exasperated sigh and nodded his head, then tilting it back and to the side in an "All right, madwoman, I'm paying attention. Go," sort of way.

Honestly, as if it wasn't for his benefit.

"I don't care a whit about Amos," I said, for what felt like the millionth time. "I really couldn't give a fig about what happens to him after tonight. And I bloody well hope you believe that."

James sighed again. "Lily, it doesn't mat—"

"It does!" I shouted again, ready to throttle him. "It does matter because I didn't matter and that's what this whole damn emotional breakdown was all about—not my bloody feelings for Amos Diggory!"

Merlin, how thick can you get?

James blinked owlishly at me, as if I'd just spouted a few dozen new heads.

"Didn't matter?" James repeated, eyes narrowing. "What do you mean 'because I didn't matter'?"

"To Amos," I explained, suddenly deflated, feeling quite small and worthless all out of nowhere. "I didn't matter to Amos and I didn't matter to Julie—not romantically," I was quick to clarify, when James looked at me pointedly. "I mean as a person—as a fellow human being, even! All I was to either of them was this stupid, worthless object that they could use and toss in each other's faces without a care in the world. How do you think that feels, to know that people have so much disregard for you and your feelings that they can just use you as a pawn in their nasty little games and not give a damn?"


"I've never felt so insignificant," I whispered, my gaze falling down to my feet, my face heating up yet again. "I've never felt like such a tiny, worthless speck of a girl. That's why I was so upset, all right?"

I had sorted this all out in my head ten minutes ago, but somehow saying it aloud made it even worse. I didn't know if it was because admitting it out loud made it more real, or simply because it was positively humiliating and James was hearing it all, but I suddenly felt like I wouldn't mind too much sobbing like a pathetic little baby once more. It was an entirely plausible option.

I couldn't bear to look at James, swallowing hard against my vat full of quickly-consuming wretched feelings, hoping that all this misery would disappear soon. I tried to think of something to say, a quip or a joke or even a bloody sound, but nothing would come out. I was still trying to figure that out when James's finger suddenly tucked under my chin, prodding my face up and then keeping it there as he let that same hand gently cup my cheek. Slowly, he dropped his forehead down upon mine, his eyes blazing.

"You," he whispered gruffly, "are possibly the most significant thing in my entire life. You know that, don't you?"

My heart slammed against my chest, my breath catching and my pulse racing as I closed my eyes and let James's words sink in.

The most significant thing.

He said I was the most significant thing.

I mean, possibly. But I'd take possibly.

Suddenly, I wanted to cry again, but for an entirely different reason.

"Yes," I finally answered, my voice coming out scratchy, my hand lifting to cover the hand that still rested on my cheek. I looked up at James and smiled, feeling light and airy. "But I've got an inferiority complex, you see. Sometimes I need reminding."

James laughed and then leaned down to kiss me; once softly, a second time hard, both equally as mind numbing.

There were about a million things I wanted to say then, all ranging from the absolutely mundane to the horrifyingly giddy and inappropriate. There were a million things to say, but only one thing I really should have said—wanted to say—but somehow couldn't. Because when a bloke who has turned possibly one of the most horrific nights of your existence into a night that you might possibly want to keep with you always, says something like, "You are possibly the most significant thing in my entire life," you've got to be damned moronic not to say something equally as wonderful and telling back to him, because good god you feel it. But—really, how shocking—I suppose that I'm truly damned moronic, because instead of saying what I should have (wanted to!) say, as James pulled away from that second kiss, looking down at me with more bloody emotion than I deserved, all I could do was laugh like a dunce and mutter, "We are the worst mates with potential in all of existence."


I know.

I should be shoved off the nearest cliff. Simply on principle.

But if James was expecting the sort of reply that I should have (WANTED TO) give, he didn't show it. Instead, he just laughed right back, sighed all dramatically and said, "I tried to tell you, but did you listen? 'Course not."

Which is just another example of why I really don't deserve to kiss the ground the boy walks on.


I gave off a sigh myself, more out of pure frustration at myself than anything. And even though it was nothing close to half the things I should have said, I did manage to muster out a semi-telling, "Well, I suppose we'll just have to be more potential and less mate for today."

"Or," James replied, "we can just say that we are indefinitely more or less mates with potential, and leave the percentages for another day. Perhaps when it's raining."

"This is England. It's always raining."

"Not today."


Not today.

More or less, mates with potential.

Yes, I liked that.

I suppose I felt better after that, even though I still couldn't say what I wanted, though the fact that I couldn't force it out is really just another sign that James and I are presently much better off as more-or-less-mates-with-potential than another more permanent title. I mean, it was already far too much of an emotional night. This was obviously not the time to be making very important decisions. Even if you might feel like those decisions would be right. Because if they're right today, they'll be right tomorrow. Even if it's raining.

Which is exactly my point. I think.

We were still standing there—James all grinning, me all contemplative—when I realised just how bloody long we'd been still standing there, and looked up at James with a guilty sort of expression.

Er...we got lost?


"They probably think I've killed you or something," I muttered, waving my hand towards the bookshelves that led back to the main part of the library. I sighed heavily, shaking my head. "There goes my stellar reputation."

"Please," James scoffed, clicking his tongue mockingly. "That was trashed ages ago. Besides, I'll just tell them all that you dragged me back here to molest—that's much better than murder. And not even untrue!"

"Excuse me, but I believe you molested me."

"Wrong. You're very emotional right now. Not thinking clearly. It'll pass."

I shoved an elbow into James's ribs as he finally dropped his hold on me, though he didn't step very far away. The elbow didn't do much damage other than a slight stomach bend, but I suppose I would have to be satisfied with that, seeing as it was more than I usually got. I wasn't the least bit surprised when James started to laugh. "Want me to walk back with you?" he asked.

I thought about this, and then shook my head. "No, go back to your group. They're probably floundering without you. They probably want to murder me for stealing you away for so long."

"They'll survive," he said, shrugging. "If you're really that worried about it, come with. Library closes in fifteen minutes, anyway. You can learn some Arithmancy and walk back to the Tower with Emma and me. Win-win."

The offer was tempting—I had the unreasonable fear that stepping out of this library, away from James, might somehow make the entire night terrible again—but I knew that that was stupid and cowardly and that if I ever wanted to have any respect for myself after this, I had to accept that James had already done more than his part and now it was my turn. I had to finish coping with the situation on my own. Even if my worries weren't for nothing and the night did fall apart again outside of these book-lined walls, it was for me to deal with. For Merlin's sake, I was seventeen, not four. It was about damn time I took care of myself. I shouldn't have to go running off to my more-or-less-mate-with-potential every time I scuff some skin. What sort of witch is that? No witch I want to be, that's for sure.

So even though James's plan was plausible and practical and could have worked, I shook my head again when he asked because that was the proper and mature thing to do. And I like to pretend I'm those sorts of things sometimes.

"Don't worry about me," I said, waving him off. "I can handle myself. Besides, I have to run down and get all of my things out of the Transfiguration classroom—I abandoned them all there when I stormed off. Someone's going to nick them otherwise."

"You shouldn't have to go back in there," James replied, eyes narrowing a bit. "Not tonight. I'll go by afterwards and get them. Or I'll tell Emma and she'll bring them straight up to your dorm. Or—"

"James. Please. I'm all right, okay? I can walk into a bloody classroom and pick up my books. Done it millions of times before, promise."

James threw me a look that said he didn't appreciate my sarcasm, but it was the only way I knew that would get through to him to prove that I really was all right. And even though plenty of things had happened tonight, most of which were enough to blow even a sturdy girl down, I realised that I actually was all right. Not perfect, of course, but all right. I could handle this on my own. When I stop being such a pansy, I actually do have quite a bit of gumption. I'd just have to tap into it. Which I could do. Alone.

I really do think I'm maturing.


Slipping my arm around James's waist, leaning my head against his shoulder as his arm came around mine, I sighed gently as we began to walk away from the alcove, already feeling a bit anxious, but mostly okay.

"I have an idea," I said suddenly, twisting my head to look up at James. "How about next time, you go all dotty and sobbing, and I'll pat your head and wear comfortable shirts and snog it all better, all right?"

"Deal," James said, nodding definitively.

"I figure you have some catching up to do," I added. "I mean, seeing as I've done this...oh, what's it now? Seven or eight billion times?"

"Twelve. But who's counting?"

We bantered back and forth like this until we arrived back at the table with the study group, who mostly didn't mention the fact that I had promised to have James back quickly and instead returned with him a half-hour later. Mostly, they all just shot me little smiles, ones that ranged from All-right-I'm-smiling-now-and-your-smiling-now-but-we-are-going-to-discuss-this-all-later-right? (Emma) smiles, to Hm-isn't-this-interesting-what-were-you-doing-back-there-so-long-and-returning-with-arms-all-embracing?! (Kate Frost). Elisabeth wasn't smiling at all, but then I wasn't expecting her to. James sent me one last smile of his own (of the are-you-sure-you're-okay-because-I-can-come-right-now-and-make-things-better-let's-go-take-a-walk-or-something variety) before I shook my head at him and shoved him towards his seat, giving him a deliberate wave and look. I waved at the rest of them, as well, just before I headed off, and they all muttered their "Goodbye"s and "Good night"s accordingly.

And just like that, I was on my own again.

And happy to report that I survived it.


I suppose the whole on-my-own thing was made easier by the fact that I didn't meet up with anyone on my way to the Transfiguration classroom, in the Transfiguration classroom, or on my way to Gryffindor Tower, which I suppose was another rice incident, some fluke that one Fate of the World or another pulled out when he turned to his/her comrades and said, "Honestly, mates, look what we did to the poor girl. If we're not going to toss her down the stairs and end it all, at least give her a bit of calm-after-the-storm, yeah?"

Which I was grateful for, I suppose, in that twisted sort of I'd-rather-not-be-interfered-with-at-all-thanks-graciously kind of way.

But whatever. We get what we get and we don't get upset.

I got a belittling the size of Hogwarts, but I also got James.

Fair trade, I think.

Grace was puttering around on her bed when I finally made my way back into the dormitory, probably all high and happy from her slaggish night of naughty nonsense, but this was not the sort of story that a girl felt like telling a billion times in one night, so before she could say anything, I held up my hand, said, "Very, very eventful night. Emma will back soon. Then we'll conference," and promptly holed myself up in my bed with the curtains drawn and James's scarf to keep me company.

And so here I am, recounting number two over and done with.

Shockingly, I don't feel like I want to jump out the nearest window.

I mean, I might fancy a small trip down a few stairs, a sprained ankle, and a day or two spent with my mate Pomfrey, but nothing permanent, which I think is very encouraging.

Emma scurried into the dorm a decent fifteen minutes ago, but I sent her and Grace away with a quick wave of my hand in order to finish in here. They're over in Grace's bed now, swapping information and theories. None that I've overheard have been correct, but I suppose that would be a tough one—I did manage to cram quite a bit into one sensational night. But that's just my way, I suppose. Never do anything halfway, do I? No, of course not.


I'll call the pair of them over in a few minutes. Then they'll stop prattling on about pregnancy scares (Really, Grace?) and Transfiguration breakdowns (highly possible. Very good, Em) and actually talk about something with truth and sustenance.

But in the meantime, I think I'll just lie here and snuggle with the scarf.

Which I suppose, really, I can call more or less mine.


Who cares about tomorrow? Guam is still available. And I'll take the scarf with me.