Author's Note: Thanks go to everyone who has waited for this. You guys are amazing and I could wax lyrical about it forever, but then we'd be here two more years. Double (triple/quadruple/forever) thanks go to Clara and Olivia, fearless betas and all around astounding people. I don't know why you guys put up with me, but thanks for doing it.
Also, I apologize in advance. Please don't kill me.
Brief Recap: After a fabulous—though at times, slightly curious—date, James and Lily are left a bit in limbo after Lily overhears James and Elisabeth Saunders talking in the Owlery. It is clear that Liz is privy to the secrets that James still refuses to tell Lily, not to mention the fact that Liz does not mince words when confronting James about his seemingly tenuous and perhaps unhealthy relationship with Lily. Matters are made worse when Lily falls asleep before her tutoring with MJ, and instead of waking her, James goes to talk to MJ himself. Lily still doesn't know what's really going on there, just like she doesn't know what's going on with MJ's brother, Evan, and his band of mysterious potion makers. Also, Lily's sort of sick all the time. It's rubbish.
"I bet a funny thing about driving a car off a cliff is, while you're in midair, you still hit those brakes. Hey, better try the emergency brake!"
- Jack Handey
Thursday, October 30th, 7th Year Girls' Dormitory
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 304
I have fifteen minutes.
Because in fifteen minutes, Grace's obnoxiously awful alarm clock rings and she moans and groans and slams the thing to the floor in an act of angered fatigue. A few minutes later, the clock howls again, but now she has to get up because her sorry treatment of said clock has sent the poor thing farther away on the floor than her arm can feasibly reach, so unless she wants the rest of the dorm howling at her as well, rising to silence the noise-maker is required. She does so loudly, with much flair and grouchy dramatics, but is nonetheless up and about for good. This happens like clockwork, a permanent fifteen minute fixture on select days each week, never altered or otherwise modified from the previously solidified precedent.
Which means that I have fifteen minutes.
Fifteen minutes in which to decide whether or not I'm going to Quidditch practice. Because after fifteen minutes, I reckon it's safe to say that I will not have the luxury of a choice.
So that's fifteen minutes in which to discern:
1) If I am spiritually/emotionally/psychologically/etc ready to endure Quidditch practice.
2) If any spiritual/emotional/psychological/etc damage I will inevitably incur as a result of said Quidditch practice is worth it.
3) If I am still cross with the single person who would make aforementioned spiritual/emotional/psychological/etc damages I incur from aforementioned Quidditch practice worth it.
4) If I am not cross with said person, why is that?
5) If I am cross with said person, why also is that?
6) If I am physically able to get out of bed.
Which is quite a lot to figure out in only fifteen minutes.
Shit, shit, shit.
And all this when I feel like...well, a bit as if my insides are preparing to eat themselves, actually. And not even politely. There are no forks and knives at this festive dinner. This is cannibalism, pure and simple. Lots of blood and gore and inhumane gorging on my person.
Then again, perhaps that's just the prospect of Quidditch.
Twelve minutes. Fucking hell.
Three minutes later, 7th Year Girls' Dormitory
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 304
Wait a second.
Did she just...
Six minutes later, Owlery
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 305
Ten Reasons Why One Might Find Oneself in the Owlery at an Undisclosed Early Morning Hour
A List Compiled by Lily C. Evans
1) To post a letter. As social beings, we humans occasionally enjoy interacting via written word and owl messenger. And what better way to ensure a quick reciprocity concerning the aforementioned written word than to send it off at the earliest of hours?
2) For a visit. One should never neglect one's pet, after all—er, even if one's pet is not exactly in the Owlery at the moment, but presumably still in Surrey where you sent her off yesterday. But that hardly signifies. It's the thought that counts.
3) To rescue a friend. Specifically, a friend in book form. Chances are, you won't be too late in this rescuing endeavour, even if you've abandoned your book friend there all night. Book friends are apparently highly resilient. I mean, there might be a bit of a smudge of something towards the bottom of the spine, but that's nothing a good Scourgify can't fix. Mr. Abbott is sure to forgive you, considering the circumstances. (Madam Pince could be a different story.)
4) To avoid a friend. Specifically, a friend whose bloody internal clock has never chosen a worse time to suffer a deviation. Because she was stirring. I've had to suffer through the process of Grace Reynolds waking up enough times to know the signs. There were most definitely mumbles and tossing and turning. So what choice did I have? To stay would have meant I had no choice, and I couldn't have that. All I wanted was my bloody fifteen minutes. And I will get them, even if that means fleeing. I refuse to call that the coward's way out.
5) Because you really like towers.
6) Alternatively, because you're frightened of towers, and what better time to conquer a fear?
7) Because you really like the smell of owl droppings in the morning.
8) Because you really like the fact that hay floors can cover up the evidence of any unfortunate upchuck accidents that may come with an early morning rubbish disposition and the smell of owl droppings in the morning.
9) Because you're a masochist. Because when push comes to shove, you find yourself with two options: going forward or staying back. And for some asinine reason, it just seems wrong to move forward this morning. So you go back. Back to a point where misery was at its most paramount. And if that isn't the most masochistic thing ever conceived, I don't know what is.
10) Because even though you're masochistic, you're also contemplative. And somehow, it seems vital that you be contemplative in the very place that seems to embody your present contemplations. Because even though it seems somehow wrong to move forward, it doesn't necessarily seem right to be staying back, either. And maybe that's because you haven't the faintest idea what exactly—or who exactly—is the problem, or maybe it's because you know at the end of the day, you're as much of the problem as anyone else could ever rightly be, so what's the point of being cross with anyone else? But yet here you are, tucked away in the Owlery like a right bitter hermit, when part of you—maybe even a large part of you—knows you should be elsewhere. And maybe if you'd had time to sort this all through fifteen minutes ago, decisions would've been different. But you didn't, so they're not, and here we are.
The Reason One, Lily C. Evans, Finds Herself in the Owlery at an Undisclosed Early Morning Hour?:
Definitely #5. Convenient for jumping.
A Bit Later, Still in the Owlery
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 305
It's early yet. I mean, hypothetically, I could still...
More Bits, Still in the Owlery
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 305
If I go now, I'm practically telling him that he can do whatever he pleases and still be rewarded for it. You know: "Oh, no worries, Potter. Yes, please, do go on and disregard my every wish and request and do as your damaged heart/impossibly hard head tells you. Never mind me. Not all that important anyway, my wants/needs/thoughts/hopes/dreams. Please watch me as I disregard all my better judgments and wiser inclinations and cheer you on as you fly about doing something that I don't quite understand, but which I'm told I should swoon over."
Is that the kind of message I really want to be sending, here on the brink of official relationshiphood?
Even More Bits, Still in the Owlery
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 305
Then again...perhaps I'd be telling him that no matter what asinine things he does, I'm not going to scare off so easily? You know: "Oh, no worries, James. Yes, you've done foolish things. You're utterly irrational about your poor, innocent cousin who just so happens to be a protégé of mine. You have conversations with your ex-paramour that make me want to curl into a fetal position and sob a bit (a lot). But here I am anyway, disregarding my better judgments and wiser inclinations and cheering you on as you fly about doing something that I don't quite understand, but which I'm told I should swoon over."
Is that really the kind of message I want to be sending, here on the brink of official relationshiphood?
Well, yeah, actually. It rather is.
Quite a Lot of Bits, Still in the Owlery
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 305
Addendum #1 to Aforementioned List re: One's Presence in the Owlery) For the spacious and spectacular view. The Owlery's open windows provide brilliant panoramic views of the Hogwarts grounds, you know—and I mean all of the Hogwarts grounds. Some examples, you ask? Oh, you know. The Forbidden Forest. The greenhouses. The road to Hogsmeade. Oh. And did I happen to mention the Quidditch pitch?
Well, this is certainly an interesting development.
How difficult do you think it is to transfigure binoculars?
Much Later, Still in the Owlery
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 312
Observation #306) As it turns out, binoculars are apparently one of the few items that aren't impossible to transfigure. I mean, sure, they may not be the most technologically advanced or stunningly beautiful binoculars ever to grace the world, but they work. Functionality over presentation, etc etc.
Observation #307) With the aforementioned binoculars, the miniscule specks that previously seemed to be hovering about the Quidditch pitch like gnats about a left out picnic suddenly seem to have taken proper shape. They are now tiny toy sportsmen (and women) zooming about the stands.
Observation #308) Some of these tiny toy sportsmen (and women) appear fitter than others. Quite, quite fit.
Observation #309) I am suddenly starting to understand the Quidditch gear fetish.
Observation #310) Quidditch practice entails quite a bit of flying about in linear and looping patterns. One would think that the tiny toy sports(wo)men would get quite dizzy, but apparently they do not. Or at least, no one has yet plunged off their broom to a most certain grizzly death in a fit of befuddled spinning dazedness.
Observation #311) Even though Quidditch practice is rather exactly what you thought it would be—repetitive, boring, tedious, confusing, etc—there is nonetheless a certain...contentment, in watching. Because it isn't repetitive/boring/tedious/confusing/etc to other people. And even if you're still not quite certain whether you're cross with these other people, or whether you even have a right to be cross with these other people...there is still a rightness in at least conceding to this middle ground. Because you're there, but also not there. And that ambiguity provides much comfort to a torn and conflicted soul.
Observation #312) I wish I had some waffles.
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 312
It's maddening to think it now, but I actually departed the Owlery under the impression that today might not turn out to be yet another tribute to my miserable life. I mean, all things considered, I hadn't done too terribly thus far: I'd successfully rescued Mr. Abbott from his Hell of Owl Droppings; I'd miraculously managed to evade all kinds of people who may have made my life a bit more miserable; I'd creatively discovered a way to attend Quidditch practice without actually attending Quidditch practice; I was feeling less like I was about to vomit up a few dozen organs at any given moment—and all of this without even having my morning waffles! So is it really so mental that I might have, despite all odds, been feeling rather well? Yes, there were still things out there just waiting to rip my momentary contentment to tattered shreds, but for the first time in quite some time, I didn't feel as if all hope was lost.
But what did I get for all my optimistic pains?
Fifteen bloody minutes of grand, peaceful delusion.
(Popular interval, isn't it?)
I was still floating delusionally on the cusp of minute number fourteen when I reached the Charms corridor just after breakfast ended, unwisely believing that I might actually get to enjoy my daily dose of Fil without the agonies of karma getting in the way. Most of Year 7 was dawdling outside the classroom, presumably trying to avoid lessons for as long as possible. With no such reservations, I was just about to turn into the room when I spotted Emma and Gracie rounding the far corner of the corridor.
And even from that distance, I could immediately tell something was off.
They were walking slowly, their heads huddled together. Grace seemed to be situated permanently at Emma's ear, her mouth moving at an alarmingly rapid rate. Emma was nodding along in that way Emma does when she's listening but not really listening to the often exceptionally dim things we have to say. I was about to call out and inquire just what dim thing it was this time when Emma suddenly lifted her head and her gaze caught mine.
Her sudden grimace could've soured milk.
"What's going on?" I asked, concerned, but not yet panicked. I met them halfway down the corridor, still fixated on Emma's pained expression. I glanced towards Gracie for answers, but she only shoved a bony elbow into Emma's midsection and immediately looked away.
"Tell her," she hissed.
Shit, shit, shit.
"Tell me what?"
Emma sighed wearily. I might have been glad to see the grim expression fade if she hadn't then pushed her shoulders back, stuck me with a decidedly put off stare, and went, "Grace is not speaking with you."
Oh, good god.
"I'm sorry? She's what?"
"Not speaking with you," Emma repeated, sounding nearly as enthused the second time as she had the first (read: not). Her mouth opened to continue, but Grace gave another forceful yank on her arm and the furious whispering began again. Sighing, Emma dutifully began to relay: "Lily Evans, you are an awful slag and a poor excuse of a human being with pasty skin and manky hair and no sense of loyalty. You are...oh, for Merlin's sake, Grace Reynolds, I'm not saying that!"
Grace shot Emma a look of pure disgust, but she must have reckoned her point was made even allowing for Emma's censoring because she deigned to flick her mutinous gaze over to me for a second, stuck her nose in the air, then stomped off towards the classroom. She didn't even have the decency to ask people to shift aside as she went, and victims of her warpath cried their outrage. Grace just kept stomping until she disappeared through the door.
It's too early for this.
Really, just too sodding early.
"Should I even ask?" I muttered.
Emma shook her head. "I honestly don't know what they are all in such a huff about. I heard you say at least thirty times that you weren't going to practice today. You'd think it was some kind of mind-blowing surprise."
"Practice?" I parroted. "'They?'"
"Grace mostly," Emma said, but by the way she began fiddling with her shirt and suddenly couldn't meet my eyes, I knew there was decidedly more to the story. I let my expectant silence serve as a prompting retort, and after a moment, she continued reluctantly, "Well, I suppose Marley wasn't too pleased, either. Apparently Sophie Cleese's boyfriend isn't the brightest with Timing Charms and he made a mess of the trials. Something about counting in Finnish, I don't really know—"
I could give fuck-all about Sophie Cleese's stupid Finnish boyfriend and were we honestly talking about this?
"Emma," I said.
"He really didn't seem that angry, Lil," she finally confessed, the placeholding pronoun needing no further explanation. "Honestly, he didn't. He was just sort of...quiet."
"He had a lot of papers with him," she went on, a desperate attempt at comfort, I knew, because I imagine my face was suddenly looking rather grim now. "The trial results, I think. Maybe he was just distracted? Quiet with Quidditch contemplations? That's possible, isn't it?"
I wanted to believe her. Truly, I did. I saw the logic in it—the possibilities, just as she said—and wished I didn't know James well enough to understand that there was no way in hell he'd been quiet with anything other than angst. A Quiet James was not a Contemplative James. A Quiet James meant a Brooding James, and if James was brooding, I highly doubt it was because Sophie Cleese's Finnish boyfriend hadn't properly swotted up on his Timing Charms.
But even knowing this—that James was brooding and that not going to practice hadn't always felt entirely right and that my whole day was slowly but surely hopping on the morning express to Mess-upon-Disaster...
I couldn't regret it.
I didn't regret it.
I didn't have to have gone to practice. I truly, honestly didn't.
Emma was right. I had said thousands upon thousands of times that I wasn't going. And even though I was glad to not have left last night on an entirely awful note, if James had taken that as some kind of awardable encounter instead of a desperate attempt on my part to not let everything we've somehow built fall into a state of utter ruin simply because he couldn't control his misguided prejudices or the angry half-truths his spiteful ex-girlfriend cared to spout out...well, then I was not the only one basking in delusions.
I was not wrong.
I may have not been entirely right, but I was not wrong.
And that's the truth of it.
But the truth didn't seem to change anything about my present realities. Emma was still watching me warily, perhaps waiting to see if I was going to plunge off into my usual pits of despair. Then I wondered if she thought I ought have done.
"Do you think I should have gone?" I asked.
Her lips pursed. "You obviously felt like you shouldn't have done."
"That's not what I asked."
She pulled a face, the sort that was equal parts exasperation and sympathy. "Honestly, Lil? I haven't the foggiest. You keep so much of this to yourself. I never know half of what's going on with the pair of you. And that's fine—you know how I am about privacy—but you were the one who kept telling me I had to talk to Mac or things were going to fall apart, weren't you? So maybe it's time you listen to your own advice?"
There is nothing more grating than having your own words thrown back in your face. It is bothersome and awful and possibly evil, depending on the scale you're using. But much as I firmly believed that, I couldn't quite deny that Emma had a point. Yes, James and I had sort of reached a not-so-volatile peace accord in paltry notes last night. Yes, I thought that was an excellent step. But I never...I mean, I tell him things, but I don't...
Oh, for Merlin's sake. If I can't even form proper thoughts in here, how am I supposed to express any of them to him?
The realisation was rather distressing.
I wanted to bash my head against the nearest hard surface. Also, to sulk. "It's not actually that simple, is it?" I sighed.
Emma threaded her arm through mine and gave my hand an affectionate pat. "Of course not. But none of your plans are ever actually that simple, so you're used to such things by now, yeah?"
Also true, but mostly rude.
"I'll talk to him," I decided, though—all right, fine—perhaps slightly in an attempt to save face in the aftermath of the not-so-stunning realisation that I'm utter shite at formulating anything productive and everyone knows it. But Emma didn't need to hear that. "It'll be fine. We'll have a nice, long chat, him and I. Perhaps I'll remind him that I never said I was going to practice and that he doesn't own me and can't expect me to cater to his every whim, especially when he's been a bit of a ponce lately. And that will be that."
"You'll say that to him?" Emma asked.
"Of course I'm certain!"
"Well here's your chance, then. He's just turned down the corridor."
And, I admit—there were probably more dignified responses I could've had just then than to have swiveled about like a flailing maniac, forcing Emma to swivel along with me because our arms were still linked and where I went, she went, and so the whole thing turned into quite the group production. In fact, there were definitely more dignified responses. But I was caught rather off guard and the swivel thing seemed necessary and Emma got over it after her initial fright, so really, what's the fuss about? No harm, no foul.
Because, of course, there he was. Lingering down the other end of the corridor with Peter, their two heads bent together, diligently consulting a few sheets of parchment.
My heart began to pound.
"What was that you said about all my plans being complete rubbish?" I asked faintly.
Emma had the gall to laugh.
"Not complete rubbish. Just generally slightly distorted from their original intent." She gave my arm another brief pat before snaking out of my death grip. "Go on, then. Though before you go"—she reached down into her rucksack and pulled out an envelope, which she promptly offered to me—"here. Winnie came to breakfast with this. Grace snatched it before she could fly off again, but I was able to snatch it from her before she could place it on a platter of waffles and set the entire thing aflame—even though she knows we banned ritualistic sacrifices after that whole Bobby Hines affair." Here, Emma's eyes lifted to the ceiling and she let out a sigh. "Honestly. You'd think that girl would learn."
I nodded sympathetically, taking Mum's note—or I presumed it was Mum's note. Who else bothers to send me post?—and decided it probably wasn't best to mention that Gracie and I had secretly unbanned ritualistic sacrifices after deciding that the whole Bobby Hines affair was actually loads more hilarious than it ever was damaging.
I mean, he got another broom. I don't know what he was so cross about.
"Many thanks," I told Emma, sticking the note in my bag. I cautiously darted another look over at James, who was moving closer, but was still rather immersed in his conversation with Peter. "Wish me luck."
Emma disappeared into the classroom. I turned in the opposite direction, setting my shoulders back and refusing to give myself any amount of time to think up an excuse not to do what I knew I ought to. Before my more flakish tendencies could get a proper word in, I forced my feet to cross the needed distance down the corridor.
It didn't take him very long to notice me.
"Hullo," I said, smiling brightly. James's head lifted, but all he did was blink. I turned to Peter and gave him a friendly greeting, as well. "Hullo, Peter. You look chipper this morning."
"Morning, yes. Thanks." His voice was overly loud. He was also a bit flushed despite the nip in the corridor and seemed utterly determined not to meet my eyes. Pushing down the beginning threads of dread pooling in my stomach, I can't say I was particularly surprised when he began muttering something about Charms, gave a strange sort of gesture towards the classroom, then hurried off.
All in all, I'd give him a two for execution.
You know, for effort.
"Subtle," I muttered, watching him go.
"You're talking to me," James said.
I turned to him, confused. "Sorry?"
His mouth had a decidedly dour look about it. His eyes kept darting between me and the sheets of parchment, distracted or disinterested or simply playing at it, I couldn't tell. His specs kept slipping down his nose. "I didn't think you were speaking with me," he said.
"Why wouldn't I be speaking with you?"
"You're angry." He said it as a statement, not a question. His eyes focused on the parchment once more and I grabbed the hand holding the slips of paper and forced it down, waiting for his gaze to dart back up to mine. It did, though sluggishly, reluctantly. It wasn't quite a slap in the face, but it almost felt like one.
"I'm not angry with you," I said, punctuating each word. "I told you that last night."
"You said you thought that maybe you might not be cross," he corrected. "Then you said we're a mess."
"Yes, us. You and I, separate entities. Not you and I, a pair."
"How is that better?"
Even if I'd had a proper answer—which, damn him, I didn't. Or at least, not one that would make any bit of sense without divulging a whole slew of things I couldn't possibly divulge—I knew the entire endeavor was futile. He wasn't listening to me, had already made up his mind. And while I recognised the out he was attempting to hand to me, realised this was his way of making sense of things, making it all right that I hadn't gone to practice, had called us a mess, had done whatever else it was he thought I did...I didn't want an out. He'd got it all bloody wrong. And I wasn't sure he even cared enough to be corrected.
Emma had been right.
"You're angry," I said, no more a question than his had been.
Something flashed in his eyes. "Why would I be angry?"
"Why?" I saw the challenge there, the crack in the armour. He was waiting for me to answer, to try to defend myself, and truly, I don't know why the bloody hell my temper had to go and choose that particular moment to get its dander up, to feel all piqued and affronted and incensed with the audacity of it all. Because what I ought to have done then was just tell him that I was sorry for not going to his stupid practice this morning and all about the dodgy binoculars and my newfound appreciation for Quidditch kits and give my devoted promise to teach the Finnish proper English numbers and everything would've been...well, if not all right, then at least better.
But, no. My traitor-of-a-mouth, defying its usual penchant for the slaggish and milk-driven, came out with this instead:
"Honestly? I haven't the faintest. In fact, I can't think of anyone less entitled to be angry right now than you. So I'm certain that means you aren't."
It would've taken a real dunce not to notice the way James twisted his hand out of mine then.
"Brilliant," he said. "So no one's angry. Glad we cleared that up."
"I'm glad, too," I lied, still not bright enough to see beyond my own wounded pride and stubborn temper to take control of my bloody mouth and realise how utterly crap this was ending. Because ending it was, rather abruptly too, and it wasn't until James brought up his parchment again and bit off a clipped excuse about looking them over before lessons that it finally began to dawn on me that I had just run out of time to fix this. He was leaving and the time to speak was through. By then, he had already strode past me, his face an impassive mask of latent fury and other emotions I couldn't even bring myself to consider. Worse, I was still too temper-filled to care.
Barely nine o'clock and I've already made a grand mess of things.
Is that a record?
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 313
But really, what's he got to be cross about, anyway?
I mean, if we're making a bulleted list, I've got my fair share of grievances and they're nothing too shabby compared to his. I could be angry for weeks and weeks and years and weeks if I were so inclined. So what if I didn't go to his stupid bloody practice? He lied to me. He lied to me about the Carringtons, he lied to me about Saunders, and then he went and told me he was going to wake me up, didn't, then went off to mercilessly confront poor MJ and obviously gave him such a fright that even my little protégée felt the need to lie to me and say that James had just been telling him I was too sick to tutor! And it doesn't even matter that I was too sick to tutor. That is decidedly not the point. The point is all the lies, lies, lies.
So what is he in a tiff about? He's got no right. No right at all.
Still Later, Transfiguration
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 313
I mean...okay, I do lie to him sometimes, technically. But not in the way he lies to me. He's never point-blank asked, "Hey, Lil, did you happen to overhear my conversation with Liz the Slag in the Owlery yesterday?" or "By chance has Sirius ever divulged many of the secrets I am so painstakingly keeping to myself so that I may tell you in my own time, bringing us closer on a spiritual and emotional level, protecting my delicate heart from the fear of shame and rejection in the meantime?" If he did and I feigned utter and complete ignorance, then that would be lying. But he hasn't. So I didn't. I'm in the clear.
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 314
Merlin, I feel sick.
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 314
But you know what? Now that I'm really considering this, a temporary temper-filled break from certain potentially-considering-boyfriends probably isn't such a poor idea right now anyway. I mean, have we all forgotten that a particularly vile Transfiguration exam is set to commence in t-minus four days? Four! And what exactly have I done to prepare? Oh, yes, that would be, hm, right, nothing. Such a fine scholar, I am.
And I know one might think that a certain stubborn someone might play a vital role in this aforementioned revising, being my tutor and all, but one would be wrong. So very, very wrong. Because I don't need him. Not even remotely. I will doubtless get even more revision done now that the very source of my constant dramatics and distractions has been eliminated from the equation. I'm perfectly capable of preparing for this exam on my own, thank you very much. And I will.
In fact, I'll start right now, by listening raptly to McGonagall's lecture.
A Bit Later, Still in Transfiguration
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 314
I'm sorry…is she even speaking English?
A Bit More Later, Still Transfiguration
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 314
Dearest Professor McGonagall,
I feel like it's far past time the pair of us had a nice chat. You know, witch to witch. Gryffindor to Gryffindor. Because here's the thing, Min—you don't mind if I call you Min, do you?—while I am truly and eternally grateful that you were kind enough (reckless enough?) to keep me in your class this year…we obviously still have a few issues to work out. Like the fact that you've chosen to lecture today in Gobbledegook. I don't speak Gobbledegook, Min. I've tried—Grace and I actually had this stint in 3rd-year after Abbott caught us passing notes during class and then proceeded to proclaim Grace's adoration for Simon Langley to all of Year 3 after which we attempted to learn Gobbledegook in hopes that the linguistic barrier would prevent any such happenings in the future...but it didn't really work out too well. Turns out, Gobbledegook is quite a difficult language to learn. And while it may seem like everyone else in this classroom is comprehending your new dialect just fine, I think perhaps they are just very, very talented actors. So if you wouldn't mind very much, would it be such a hassle to revert back to our native tongue? Jolly good old English, the hearty and the strong? It's our heritage. Embrace it!
Also, if it wouldn't prove too difficult for you, could you also please quit calling on James Potter for answers to your Gobbledegook questions? I understand that the boy has an ear for languages and clearly is not having the same difficulties translating as the rest of us, but hearing his voice is hurting my head and making my eyes stray over to him and that is just not acceptable right now.
So glad we had this chat, Min. Let's do it again sometime, shall we?
Many thanks and hugs,
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 315
Since McGonagall proved unswayable in the case of lecturing in English and I am remaining rightfully resolute on the issue of certain Gobbledegook-proficient arses, I decided to attempt to sort out at least one unresolved issue in my present life.
Which meant quite a bit of groveling.
"Gracie, come on." I used my best wheedling voice, cornering her on her way down to lunch so as to strategically attack when she was hungry and thus more vulnerable. Gracie continued to stomp down the staircase, attempting to ignore my very sincere needling and constant dogging of her every step. But I was quite relentless. "If you refuse to talk to me, how am I supposed to know how outraged and displeased you are? Emma quit relaying your messages ages ago!"
"And rightfully so!" Emma sniffed from behind us, shooting the back of Grace's head a stern look. "I'm not a Floo."
"Emma, will you kindly inform Lily that no amount of paltry apologies will ever impress upon me to speak to her again?" Grace asked.
"Not a Floo! Not!"
"You're making a grave mistake, Gracie," I said.
"She's driving me mad, is what she's doing," Emma grumbled.
"Emma, will you kindly—"
"Oh, for Merlin's sake—"
"Think about it, Grace!" I stepped dutifully between her and Emma, successfully preventing the carnage I'm rather certain Emma had been about to shed. Clean corridors are happy corridors. "If you're not speaking with me, you're going to have absolutely no say in the way I decide to sort things right with James when I inevitably choose to forgive him later on tonight for being such a monumental prat. But if you want no part in such things..."
I left the words to linger, and Grace stopped walking. She turned on me, an eagle-eyed look and a grim frown darting my way.
Honestly, she's so easy.
"You can't handle that on your own."
I lifted my hands into a helpless shrug. "Seems I'll have to. Emma will help."
"Emma? That Emma?" An incredulous finger pointed in our darling mate's direction. "The one we had to practically blackmail into speaking to her boyfriend? The one who considers revising a type of foreplay? That Emma?"
That Emma scowled. "I'm standing right here."
"Yes, that Emma," I confirmed sadly, placing a sympathetic hand on Emma's shoulder. She was shooting me bitter looks now, but I could deal with that later. She's a much easier egg to crack. "The one currently attached to a bloke who doesn't like bread. The one who doesn't believe in ritualistic sacrifices. The one who never even attempted to learn Gobbledegook with you!"
Grace's scowl faded slightly. "I'd forgotten about that," she said.
"You took one book out from the library and then gave up a half-hour later!" Emma cried, looking particularly fed up with the lot of us. When neither of us seemed particularly swayed by this logic, she threw her hands up and gave a good glower. "I'm going to find Mac. Good riddance, the both of you!"
Then she stomped off in a manner akin to Grace's best attempts.
Casualties of peace negotiations.
Once she was gone, Grace turned to me and snorted. "Honestly. And that's who you want to plan your big reconciliation with? Have I taught you nothing?"
"Does this mean you're speaking to me again?" I asked.
Grace grunted noncommittally, but when she began walking again, her nose was no longer attempting to lay parallel with the ceiling and her pace was decidedly more tame.
"I still cannot believe you skived practice," she still fumed, unable to resist getting in one last shot. "But in the name of the greater good, I suppose I will have to swallow my outrage and move forward. You clearly cannot do a thing without me."
"Plus, I am strongly considering ritualistically sacrificing Sophie Cleese's boyfriend. Never did like Finland much."
"Yes, well, it's a truly terrible country."
Grace smirked, the telltale sign that my groveling and manipulations had been a success and that all was forgiven. Everything else might have still been going to hell in an handbasket, but at least Grace wasn't going to be grinning as she shoved me towards Satan and gleefully waved goodbye.
I mean, for now.
"So I suppose this means we're going to be sitting down by the fourth-years again," she said with a sigh, just as we reached the Entrance Hall. "Unless of course you just want to tell me what the pair of you are quibbling over this time so I can patch things up right now and have you snogging again before the House Elves manage to get the pumpkin juice on the table?"
"I'm rather certain the House Elves already have the pumpkin juice on the table," I said, which wasn't an answer, but probably didn't need to be. Tempting as the offer was, I was still too resolute in my decision to be properly cross to acquiesce to the proposal. And if that meant an hour spent listening to Davey Thompson chat with his utensils as he ate his meal, then so be it.
"No reconciliations yet," I said, firm in my choice. "These things are all about timing."
"These things are all about stupidity," Grace replied, sighing testily. "You make everything infinitely more complicated than it needs to be."
"Everything is already infinitely complicated," I replied. "And much as I know you're a strong believer in the 'snogging can cure anything' theory, I really don't think it applies here."
"Perhaps you're just not doing it right."
"Trust me. That's not the issue."
Grace grinned. "Course it's not, Slaggy."
But as we made our way into the Great Hall—stopping only briefly by the Ravenclaw table to suffocate Emma with apologies and kisses and our devoted promise never to slight her in any way, shape or form again—I started thinking...was I making this all infinitely more complicated than it needed to be? Was it perhaps just simply "complicated," and then I had to go and tack on the "infinitely" bit? I had a right to be cross. I knew I did. But was it even worth it? Did I truly want to be? Because at the end of the day, all being cross really gets you is more frown lines, less milk, and an hour spent listening to Davey Thompson consult with his fork whether they should delve into their chicken pot pie or their vegetable helping first.
Which is really just sad, because everyone knows it's obviously the vegetables.
Hm, hm, hm, hm.
Later Later, History of Magic
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 315
Lily Evans's To Do List for the Afternoon/Evening of 30/10/77
1) Attend lessons
2) Pay attention in lessons (ish)
3) Go to library
4) Revise, revise, revise!
5) Secretly attempt to discover whether Madam Pince is likely to contemplate homicide at the sight of slight smudge of something on Mr. Abbott's spine
6) Revise, revise, REVISE!
7) Prepare for Prefect's meeting this evening
8) REVISE, REVISE, REVISE!
9) During slight breaks in VERY IMPORTANT #4/#6/#8...perhaps contemplate crossness
10) Eat/Sleep/Breathe/Don't Throw Up (See Pomfrey?)
Even Later, Library
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 316
I am now entering Revise Mode. I have my notes, my books, extra parchment and quills, a few practice questions I needled Emma into compiling for me during History, a study table all to myself, and an unwavering determination to revise, revise, revise.
I will annihilate this exam. Annihilate.
Bit Later, Library
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 317
It sort of smells in here, doesn't it?
I mean, not badly. It just sort of...smells. Like its own distinct library scent.
Bit Bit Later, Library
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 317
They shouldn't even allow second years in the library, though. There should be a strict 'No Year 2' sign just as you walk in.. I mean, just look at them over there—could they make it any more obvious that they are completely ignoring their Herbology books and are instead doing quizzes out of Witch Weekly? For Merlin's sake, they're not even bothering to hide the magazines behind their books!
Besides, that "What's Your Aura Colour?" quiz was complete codswallop. As if I could ever be an orange. I am so clearly a purple.
Some people are just not mature enough to handle all that the library means and stands for.
Bit Bit Bit Later, Library
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 317
I've completely forgotten about Mum's letter!
Must take study break to read it. I mean, I can't just ignore it. This is my mother. She birthed me. Raised me. Reared me into the woman I am today. And truth be told, she has so little else in her life.
Ah-ha! Found it!
Later Later, Still in Library
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 317
I am always so delighted to receive your notes. I apologise for being generally unhelpful. However, being married to your father for far more years than I care to recount has given me an interesting assortment of medical knowledge. I may not be an expert, but I do know a thing or two. So perhaps just consider it, hm?
Normally I would love to hear more about your lunch with James and tell you all about a girl called Carin who didn't know when to leave well enough alone...but I really think we need to discuss Petunia, my darling. In fact, I was a little surprised you didn't bring it up in your last note. I know you and your sister haven't got on as well since you went off to school. And I know that Vernon has never been your favourite person...but he makes your sister happy, Lily. When she told me she'd written you about the engagement and you'd said you'd be staying at a friend's house over winter holidays...I know you must be upset, but this is important to Petunia. We set the engagement party specifically during the holidays so that you could attend! And I hadn't even known you were planning on visiting friends during your holiday. We get to see you so rarely, and I miss you so terribly when you're gone. I just wish you'd reconsider. Invite Grace and Emma to come along if you'd like. Or perhaps James? I can buy some clotted cream from Harrod's. If Vernon's family is anything like him, they'd certainly appreciate it. (Though we may have to hide a tin or two.)
I love you very much, Lily, and I hope we can get this all sorted.
Later Etc, Library Etc
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 317
Later Etc, Library Etc
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 317
What do I even—how can I...
I can't do this right now. I can't.
I have to study. Focus on studying. It's fine. Everything's fine.
Later Etc, Library Etc
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 317
1. Name two of the three spells used to transfigure furniture (inanimate object to inanimate object) and compare the methods of casting.
I don't know.
2. What is "ethste sona" used for and name the one common wandwork mistake related to it.
I don't know.
3. Name the best mate in the entire world who would create a practice test for you when she should be paying attention to Professor Binns.
I DON'T KNOW.
Later Etc, Library Etc
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 317
I think I'm going to be sick.
Much Later, 7th Year Girls' Dormitory
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 318
I tried to concentrate. Honestly, I did. I knew what I'd gone to the library to do, knew it was imperative that I do it, and also knew that if I stopped even for a moment, for even the slimmest of seconds, everything was going to fall apart. I had my books, I had my notes, I had Emmeline's practice test, and I had every reason in the world to lose myself in them. There was so much to focus on and so much to absorb and I stared and I tried and I just kept trying...but it was hopeless. It was so utterly hopeless, and I think I knew that even before I began.
Because every time I looked at the words on the page—any kind of words at all—an unholy sickening feeling rolled through my stomach and an entirely different batch of words began to swim before my eyes instead.
... When she told me she'd written you about the engagement and you'd said you'd be staying at a friend's house over winter holidays...
Petunia had written me.
Or at least, that's what she'd told Mum. Not only that, but I'd apparently responded, and promptly declined the invitation to her engagement party.
My sister had uninvited me to her engagement party through our mother.
An engagement I hadn't even known existed.
I don't even know what to say. I don't know what to do. Should I tell Mum that no such letter exchange existed? That I hadn't even known Petunia was engaged, much less that she was planning an engagement party for winter hols and that I apparently couldn't attend? But what would be the point? Petunia obviously knew what she was doing when she'd told Mum all that. She knew Mum would write to me about it. She knew the message would get across: I was to find somewhere else to go over winter holiday. I wasn't wanted at her engagement party. She didn't want me there.
She doesn't want me there.
And I...I mean, I know Petunia doesn't...that my being a witch has always been an issue with her. When I told James that night in the Trophy Room that she hated me, I wasn't being overdramatic. If perhaps not hate, it's an emotion terribly close to it. We just...I don't fit into her polite boxes and I don't think she's ever forgiven me for that. Perhaps it started as jealousy—I'd been so excited to go to Hogwarts, and my parents were so fascinated by the whole thing—but over time, whatever envious emotion it once had been had more than thoroughly transformed into a heady resentment. She had never bothered to hide that.
But this? Not inviting me to her own engagement party? People would wonder where I was. They'd ask. Petunia would despise that. She hated drawing attention to that kind of thing more than possibly anything else. But her hatred of me obviously exceeded even her supreme distaste for any imperfection in her life because she was willing to endure the questions if it meant I wasn't there.
Bloody double fucking hell.
I don't even know. Just...how could she? How?
I sat there in the library, staring blindly down at Emma's practice test, the unanswered questions playing on a constant reel inside my head. And despite the fact that I hated myself for doing it, that I thought I'd grown past the point where these things affected me so much...I felt the telltale prickling at the back of my eyes, saw the words wavering in a decidedly different fashion on the page, and knew I wouldn't be able to hold anything back for long. I wiped blindly at my eyes and sucked in a breath, but only managed to grab a few books (with the dreaded post shoved between one's pages) before the pieces started to crack. Abandoning the rest of my things on the study table, I bolted from the library with all the finesse of a one-legged abraxan.
Because, damn it, it hurt.
I hated it, I wished it didn't—told myself it shouldn't, that there was no point in it—but it hurt and I didn't know how to stop it.
Did she think it wouldn't? Did she even care? And what did this mean? A year from now, was I supposed to conveniently disappear for the wedding, as well? Would I get another letter from Mum: "Really, Lily, this is the most important day of your sister's life. Can't you move your business trip to Australia back a week or so?"
I don't know.
I honestly don't know.
All I know is that it hurt in the worst possible way.
I wish I could say that I left the library and miraculously managed to regain some desperately needed composure. It would have been nice. I think I deserved a bit of nice then, yeah? But even outside the claustrophobic walls of the library, my wayward emotions were still getting the better of me. The corridor was not the breath of fresh air I was hoping for, nor was it a particularly good refuge to hide in. I needed somewhere closed, a space where I wasn't at the mercy of running into every Jane, Jack or Larry who had a hankering to visit Madam Pince. But it was hard to focus on finding such a place when every fibre of my being was still focused on simply keeping it together. So I just began to walk. Blindly, without direction. I let my feet do the work.
Which was probably why, about halfway down the corridor, not fifteen seconds later, I promptly slammed into someone walking innocently in the opposite direction.
It was the last straw.
The last. Bloody. Straw.
"Shit." I fell instantly to my knees, the swear dropping from lips in a heated hiss. I began scraping blindly at my fallen belongings, my eyes watering and the litany of swear words raging on. "Shit. Fuck. Shit. Buggering, sodding, fucking—"
An impatient hand swiped at my own.
"Unless you've suddenly decided to take up Muggle Studies," Sirius said flatly, "then I reckon that one's mine."
I froze, my gaze darting up to see him—oh god—standing there in front of me before immediately snapping back down to the Muggle Studies textbook that—yes, he was quite right—was in my hand and yet decidedly not my own. Bloody hell. I couldn't even begin to contemplate the fright I probably looked. I tucked my chin fast against my chest as he crouched down to the floor in along with me, hoping my quick ducking manoeuvre would be enough to hide my undoubtedly blotchy-faced, soggy-eyed veneer. I evened my breathing and shoved the textbook at him, gathering together the rest of my things with alarming speed. I just needed him to leave. I needed to leave.
"I think the rest is mine, so you can really—"
He sucked in a harsh breath.
"Oh, fucking hell, Evans," he groaned. "Not again."
"Not now, Sirius," I sniffed, seeing no real point in attempting to hide my distress now that he'd clearly already caught on. Lifting my gaggle of belongings, I rose quickly. "I'm not—"
"What's it now?" he asked, following me to my feet. A flash of hesitation flickered across his face. "It's not...no one...the last time—"
"It's fine. Nothing like last time." This much, at least, was true. I felt like I'd just taken a Bludger to the chest, but Evan Rosier and his awful mates had nothing to do with it. "I'm fine. Just leave off, all right?"
"I said leave off."
Merlin, I had to get out of there. I may not have been able to avoid this disastrous run-in, but no one said I had to stick around to see it to its mortifying end. Wiping sharply at my ever-leaking eyes, I strode past Sirius and made my escape with all the dignity I could muster.
Except that it's not much of an escape when the disaster follows.
"Look, if this is about James...he's not even really that cross, all right? Git's been in a mood since early yesterday. If you'd just—"
"Not everything is about your stupid mate!" I snapped, foolishly attempting to outmatch his decidedly longer strides with my decidedly shorter ones. "Not that he's making things easier, mind you, but if he wants to go sulk in his temper, he can just have right at it! I don't even bloody care anymore. Now leave me alone."
For a few seconds, I actually thought he might listen. I had a moment's reprieve, just a few precious seconds wherein I got to imagine that I might actually get to go off and have that frightfully long cry my body so desperately wanted, before the karmic backlash inevitably hit. I heard the exasperated sigh and the stubborn footsteps quickly followed.
"I really wish I could, Evans," Sirius said tiredly. "Honestly. I truly wish I could."
I stopped walking, not out of any particular desire to have him catch up with me, but simply because his mutterings were so utterly ludicrous, how could I not stop?
"What are you on about?" I asked. "If you want to leave, leave. You'll find no objections here!"
"I can't," Sirius informed me glumly. "He'll know."
"James." He lifted his hands into a defeated shrug, as if he too couldn't quite believe the codswallop that was coming out of his mouth. "I don't know how, I don't know why, but I leave you here looking like you've just heard your owl met the wrong end of a broomstick collision, and James'll know about it. And then I'm going to have to hear about it. And if it's all the same to you, I'd rather not have to hear about it."
The pure stupidity of his whole spiel had me momentarily forgetting that I was on the verge of a breakdown and found me almost giving in to the equally absurd impulse to laugh in his face. "That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard."
Sirius shrugged. "Doesn't make it any less true."
"So what am I supposed to do? Have a cry on your shoulder?"
He turned to me, looking positively horrified. "Fucking hell, I hope not."
That was enough to make me laugh, even if it did come out a wee bit wet and gaspy. I gave my eyes another absent swipe, then shook my head.
"You can calm your manly nerves, all right? That scenario would be just as horrific for me as it would for you. And besides, you're in the clear." I gave a jerky kind of shrug as we began to walk again. "Even if by some chance James did have this superpower you claim, I highly doubt he'd care much now. We're not exactly on good terms right now."
Sirius shook his head.
"And then you wonder why he gets cross," he muttered, clearly disgruntled. Before I could properly retort, he'd already changed the subject. "So let's just get on with it, then. What's all this? Get an E on an exam? Forgot to answer a homework question? Heard Flitwick's got a bit of a sniffle?"
"Is that all you really think affects my life? Your arsehole mate and lessons?"
"On your good days."
"Lovely. Really flattering, that. You know—"
"At least you've quit blubbering now."
I don't know what it was. Perhaps I'd finally cracked and just wanted to wipe that smug smile off his face. Perhaps I had noticed that Fil sounded a bit stuffy in class this morning and resented the fact that some would poke fun for it. Or maybe it was simply because I'd been driving myself barmy with the maddening implications of Mum's note for the past hour and I just needed it off—out and away from me and on to someone else. But whatever the reason, I somehow found myself plunging a hand amidst my pile of books, grabbing Mum's note from between the closed textbook pages, and waving it about like a bloody surrendering flag in Sirius's face.
"Here!" I cried, shoving the note at him. "You really want to know what's wrong? Do you? Fine! Here! Have bloody at it!"
Sirius took the note with a nonchalance that proved even more infuriating than his goading quips had done, leaving me fuming and panting as he casually unfolded the bit of paper and began to read. As his eyes quickly scanned the page, I was too mortified to watch him, turning and walking towards the nearest window where I dropped my random collection of books upon the ledge. Reprieved of their weight, I crossed my arms over my chest and stared defiantly outside at the grounds, willing my cheeks to quit flushing and my heart to cease slamming so frantically.
"So what?" came his voice from behind me, few seconds later. "You don't like the sod your sister's marrying? That's what all the hysterics are about?"
"I didn't know my sister was getting married," I corrected.
"But your Mum said—"
"I know what my Mum said."
Sirius got quiet then, the loudest silence in the empty corridor. I turned to find him mulling that one over, watched as the pieces of the puzzle slowly began to fit together. When he finally had the whole picture, he gave a low whistle.
"A class act, your sister," is what he said, handing the letter back. "Probably'll be a dead boring affair, anyway."
"Probably," I agreed, but we both knew that was hardly the point. The corridor went quiet again, and I felt myself begin to blush.
I shouldn't have shown him—why did I show him? He didn't care, we weren't really mates, and the only person who did connect us currently wasn't speaking with me, which meant he probably cared even less. I am just a foolish, emotionally unstable cow who goes about unloading herself on any poor soul with the unfortunate luck to cross my path. Or get barreled into on it. No wonder my sister doesn't want me at her wedding. No wonder my potentially-considering-boyfriend doesn't trust me. No wonder—
"You're stupid for letting her get to you, you know."
The comment was so quiet, I almost didn't hear it. I turned, the words somehow breaking through the blasting sound of my own internal angst, and I lifted my head in surprise. "Sorry?"
"You shouldn't let her get to you," Sirius said again, louder this time. "It doesn't matter."
"She's my sister. How can you say it doesn't matter?"
"Because it only matters if you let it." He said it as if that made a difference, and shot me a pointed look as he crossed over to the window and hoisted himself up on the ledge next to my books. He began digging in his trouser pocket and came back out with a cigarette. "She clearly doesn't give fuck all, so why should you?"
"It doesn't work like that," I argued. "You don't understand."
Sirius gave a short bark of laughter. "Me? Not understand? Oh, Evans. Haven't you heard? I practically wrote this sob story."
He looked away as he lit the cigarette, cupping his hand around small stick and bringing his wand to the waiting tip. I watched him silently, not knowing what to say, but perhaps wasn't meant to. A few moments later, he looked at me again. This time, his expression was nothing short of mocking.
"My mother's got this family tree, right? Huge, extravagant thing. Every Black who's ever fucked another and somehow come out with a spawn is up there. Thing's got a whole bloody room to itself." He took a long drag from the cig here, let the smoke slowly stream out. "The night I left—was practically kicked out, mind you—I got a note from my brother. One line, seven words: 'Mother's burned your name off the tree.' He even sent along a photo." His head turned sharply, his expression hard as granite. "So don't tell me I don't understand, Evans. If I had a cry every time my family treated me like shit, there wouldn't be enough time in the day to sleep."
My stomach sank unpleasantly, the bitter words hanging in the air like a heady perfume. It wasn't the first time I'd realised that Sirius and I had more in common than I'd previously imagined, but it was the first time I'd had it shoved so forcefully in my face. I wished that we could've had something other than rotten and broken families to bond us—something like a fine appreciation for a nice quill, or a healthy competitive streak when it came to Gobstones—but it seems that's what this came down to.
And even though it was hardly something to revel in—the fact that I'd gone and actually found someone with a greater understanding of the pure dysfunction of sibling relationships than even me—I have to admit, I felt almost...relieved. Because he did understand. More than understand, even. He lived it as I lived it, and that was comforting in some strange way.
I stared at him with new interest, wondering at this new phenomenon.
"How do you do it?" I asked, genuinely curious. "How do you make it not matter? How can you tell me all that and not want to scream? How can you hold a wand at your brother's neck and not even have your hand waver?"
"Perspective," Sirius answered succinctly. "There's rubbish you can change, and there's rubbish you can't. Why keep fighting a lost battle?"
"But you were close once, weren't you? With Regulus, I mean?" When this garnered no answer, I plodded on myself. "Petunia and I were, when we were younger. Maybe it's different being the younger sibling, but I worshiped her. Everything she did, I wanted to do. Everything she was, I wanted to be. And then I got my Hogwarts letter...and everything just went to shambles. She doesn't like magic," I tried to explain. "I think she might have been jealous at first, but then she just..." I trailed off, swallowing hard. I left the rest to a shrug, not wanting to go on. "Don't you ever think you might...that things could get better, though? Maybe not the way they were, but better?"
"Perspective," Sirius said again, this time more forcefully. "Reg and I have two very different ones. Sounds like it's the same for you and your sister. You choose different paths, and no one's willing to bend."
"I am," I said. "I'm willing to bend."
"So was I," Sirius admitted, and there was enough grimness in his tone to recognise that that was an inclination decidedly in the past tense. More surprising was that he didn't look sad by it. Just...subjected. "You can't change who you are," he told me. "Sometimes better isn't worth it."
They were fighting words, that. Better isn't worth it. Quite the statement, certainly. My first impulse was to argue, to insist that of course better was worth it—how could better possibly not be worth it? But the argument died on my lips as the harsh logic seeped in.
Because he was right. You can't change who you are, and I don't think anything less than me returning to life as a Muggle would be enough to satisfy Petunia. And even that might not do it. The truth is, I don't know what she wants or expects from me. And much as I claim I'm willing to bend, some things you just can't bend, and others are just too much to ask.
But where does that leave me then, hm? Less one sister? She's the only one I've got. I haven't much family to begin with—just Mum, Dad, Tunie, Aunt Mae and Uncle Davy. I really can't afford to be losing any of them. But it doesn't seem I have much of a choice—at least, not the way that Sirius tells it. And while I know our situations are different, that in many ways he has it so much worse than I ever could, I had a feeling he wasn't so far off from the truth. This wasn't about the differences in our situations. It was about the similarities.
"We planned her wedding once, you know," I said, biting down hard on my lip. "When we were younger. We were just playing—the guests were being served beans on toast, if I recall, and I think the Beatles were playing the reception—but we did plan it. Funny how that works, isn't it?"
Sirius shook his head. "Why torture yourself?"
"It still hurts," I said softly, sighing lightly, not all that surprised to find that the prickling had turned into actual tears and I was bordering on a mess again. "Even accepting all that...doesn't it still hurt?"
"It's not fun," Sirius admitted, lifting the cig to his mouth again. "But so few things are these days."
That cracked the smallest of smiles. It felt nice, even if I knew it was only a momentary thing. I let out a long breath. "So what am I supposed to do, then? About the engagement party, I mean. Not go?"
At this, Sirius nearly choked.
"Not go? Not...Evans, are you mental? Of course you go! You go, you wear white, you get tipsy, you hit on the groom and say all sorts of bloody inappropriate things, and you make her damned justified in the fact that she didn't want you there—but you do it on your own terms." He leaned back and took a drag from the cigarette, snorting out a stream of smoke. "Honestly, Evans. Not go."
I gave a watery chuckle, swiping at the last of my tears and chuckling harder at the mere thought of such a scene, how utterly mortified Petunia would be. It might've served her right, but I only wish I had such spite.
"Or I could just write the truth to my mother, let it all fall back on Petunia's head," I suggested, giving a guilty little shrug. "That's about as far as my retribution impulse goes, I fear."
Sirius shook his head in mock disapproval, crushing out the end of his now stubby cigarette. "Really, Evans. And I thought I'd already properly corrupted you."
"Not quite," I laughed, though I reckon he gets points for making formative cracks. I hugged my arms around my chest and sent him a small smile. "Thanks."
"For letting me have a cry on your shoulder. Metaphorically."
Sirius snorted, jumping down from the window ledge and sticking me with a look. "Didn't have much of a choice, did I? I told you. He'd know."
"And I told you, he won't care. You didn't see him this morning. He was like ice."
"I'm not the one who ought to apologise! He's got just as much to be sorry for!"
"But he's in a mood. And when he's in a mood, he's not in any frame of mind to be sorry about anything. Besides, you don't actually have to apologise. Not in words."
I cocked an eyebrow. "Not in words?"
The look he sent me then was nothing less than contemptuous.
"If I really have to explain it to you, Evans," he muttered flatly, "then you have less imagination than I gave you credit for."
Oh, bloody hell. I blushed furiously, but tried to play it off as if I were utterly unaffected. "Oh, that's lovely. He's being an arse, and I'm supposed to snog him for it? Only a bloke would find that logical."
"At least this way, you get something out of it, too." Sirius grabbed his textbook off the pile of mine. "If you're doing it properly, anyway."
"Are you questioning my snogging abilities?"
"Trust me, Evans. I live with James. I know more about your snogging abilities than any innocent bloke really ought to."
I gasped, grabbing my things off the ledge and scurrying along after him.
"He does not tell you that sort of thing!" I hissed.
"I will kill him."
"It's only embarrassing if you're rubbish at it. Though granted, James's a bit of a biased opinion."
He was outright laughing at me now, and I really hadn't the gumption not to flush like a silly third year, so I was predictably red as anything. But I wasn't going down without a fight. He wanted to play this game? Fine. He wasn't the only one with dirty ammunition.
"Well, fair is fair, I suppose. I mean, if Laura Darthern is to be believed, you have enough imagination for the both of us. Mixing business with pleasure, Mr. Barrister? Apparently she was unaware that your—ahem—depositions were meant to remain confidential."
For a moment, Sirius looked a bit stunned, as if I'd just jabbed him with a left hook when he'd been expecting it from the right. But his surprise quickly faded to bemusement, then amusement, and then—huzzah!—grudging admiration.
"Touché," he said, nodding with approval. "I have to quit underestimating you."
I hummed a haughty agreement. "Too true."
We continued walking then, which was when I realised that we were heading back in the direction of the library. True, I was no longer in a state where I needed to be alone in a dark, dreary room, but it was still a bit awkward to be returning to the place I had so recently run from as if the fires of hell were biting at my heels. I looked over at Sirius, a plan formulating.
There was comfort in numbers, after all.
"Where are you heading?" I asked.
"Library. Had an essay due last week. Reckon I should probably get around to it."
"Muggle Studies?" At his nod, I grinned. "Excellent. I'll write it for you."
Sirius snorted. "Yeah, all right."
"No, really, I will. You'll have to help me with Transfiguration first, but I'll do it after. A fair trade."
Sirius looked suspicious. "Last time I tutored you, you tried to shove your wand up my nostril."
"Yes, but I learned not to twist left, didn't I?"
Sirius muttered dubiously, but it was only a matter of time before I cowed him into submission and we both knew it. Besides, who could give up the chance at a free Muggle Studies essay? Especially when I discovered it was on Muggle cinema, and that Sirius had decided to write his essay on—really, how shocking—Alfred Hitchcock. I may not have been a fan of The Birds, but I've seen Rear Window more times than I can count, and his version of Rebecca wasn't too shabby, either. With a little bit of help from the Hitchcock biography we finagled from Pince (really, who knew the Hogwarts library had such things?), I was practically an expert. And though Sirius was ever the surly tutor, he and his grumpy ways did seem to get inside my head the way McGonagall's lessons never seemed to manage.
And—wouldn't you know it? I now know how to properly transfigure a chair into properly working toaster!
I mean, mostly. There was that one casualty, but we hid the mangled chair way back in the Care for Magical Creatures section where I doubt anyone will find it.
And while I don't feel exactly all right with this engagement party business...well, I think I'm still okay. Because there are some things you just can't change and I can always take comfort in the fact that while I may not have the nerve to hit on Vernon or drunkenly shout inappropriate things throughout the party...well, there's always Uncle Davy.
And now I think I deserve a nice nap before I have to get up and face both James and the Prefects at our meeting. Truth be told, after all of today's drama, I think I deserve it. Just a nice, short, quick kip should do the trick...
Later, 7th Year Girls' Dormitory
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 319
SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SO LATE SO LATE SO LATE
WHY DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING?
Latest, 7th Year Girls' Dormitory
Observant Lily: Day 45
Total Observations: 319
All right, so I wasn't that late. Not for the meeting, anyway.
But James and I had agreed to meet a half-hour beforehand to formulate some kind of meeting strategy and not have to, you know, make it up as we went along, proving us the fraudulent Head Students that we actually are, and I was most certainly late for that. So when I finally woke up from my rather pleasant nap—still tired and groggy and a little nauseated honestly, really only wanting to snuggle back under my blankets and never come out again—the fact that I was ten minutes late meeting James seemed like a lot more of a situation. I didn't think. I just panicked and ran, not even bothering to fix my hair or straighten my clothes or even properly put on my shoes (now they're all creased in the heels from where I stepped into them and I hate that). In the end, the whole thing got perhaps loads more dramatic than it really ought to have done.
But honestly, this is me. What more can you expect?
I made incredible time, all things considered. We were holding the meeting in the old History classroom on the 2nd floor, and it's no easy feat to get down there from Gryffindor Tower, let me tell you. Especially when your hair is sort of in your face and obstructing your vision and your shoes are clopping all over the place because they're not properly on and breathing's become a smidge more difficult considering you're full-out sprinting for glory and gold and such. But I did it, somewhat miraculously, because I am apparently quite superhuman when only partially awake and vaguely ill. With little to no warning, I came barging into the History classroom like the tornado came at Kansas.
"I don't want to hear it!" was the breathy battle cry I let loose as I first rushed in, stomping into the room like a rampaging hippogriff. The general plan was start yelling before he could start yelling, even as he stood by the professor's desk at the front of the room looking quite bemused by the frightful ruckus I was making. I might have realised that a bit sooner—that he was looking far more bewildered than belligerent, I mean—if I hadn't been so busy acting the mad harridan. "I know I'm late and I know you're angry but I'm here and I'm whole and I don't want to hear it, all right? I'm here."
(I'm rather certain he was already aware I was there.)
His eyes narrowed. "Lily, what—"
"Quiet," I snapped, finally managing to march myself right up next to him. I ignored the strange look he was giving me, decided instead to continue screaming and hollering my guilt away. "I was sleeping, all right? It's been a long day and I feel like rubbish and it was just supposed to be a sodding nap, see, but it wasn't, because it's me, and this oversleeping thing is becoming rather routine with me—and I know you're cross. You're cross because of the mess thing and because of the practice thing and because of whatever else thing you've managed to come up with in the last twelve hours, I don't really know, but I—I—"
My voice trailed away. Slowly—finally—I took a moment out of my busy screeching schedule to actually look at James as I hollered. And more importantly, to listen to him.
Wait a second.
"Are you...are you laughing at me?
James didn't answer—didn't have to, really, as the answer was more than obvious. He was laughing—happily so, even. That was so far from the reaction I was expecting, so immensely removed from the utter chilly silence or biting jibes I had been preparing myself to receive, that I can't imagine it's so hard to understand why I was left reeling slightly.
And that was before he lifted his hand and gently swiped his fingers across my cheek.
"You've still got pillow creases," he said, chuckling.
He's finally cracked.
"I...er, yeah. Yes. That's...sleeping. Was sleeping. Me."
It wasn't even proper English. It wasn't proper anything. But try as I might, I couldn't muster anything more coherent. The boy was laughing. He was laughing when he ought have been yelling. Why the bloody hell wasn't he yelling?
"You're supposed to be angry," I murmured, baffled. "You were so angry. Why aren't you angry?"
"Do you want me to be angry?" he asked.
I stuck him with a look. "Of course not. But that doesn't change the fact that you were." I stared expectantly, waiting for him to recall this, but all I got in return was a thin, little smile, as if I were telling a mildly amusing anecdote. "This morning? In the corridor? Remember?"
"You were angry, as well."
"Only after you provoked me!" I truly wanted to pummel him. "And even then, I'd more or less talked myself out of it by lunch. You could hardly stand to look at me."
"Well now, that's just decidedly untrue." He grinned again. His fingers lifted once more, this time to tug at a bit of hair still hanging in my face. "The rumpled look suits you, by the way."
I slapped his hand away, but my fingers inevitably found their way back up to my hair, feeling the knots and tangles and the bits of mess springing out at every conceivable angle. I let out a muffled swear, scraping quickly at the remnants of my once-proper plait. I began replaiting with furious yanks.
"I don't understand you. You're a bloody ponce this morning, angry for a thousand barmy reasons that don't make any sense at all, but now when you've actually got reason to be cross, you're laughing! Actually laughing. You're completely and utterly mental, do you know that? I'd planned this whole apology—"
"You were going to apologise?" James asked, surprised.
I tied off the end of my plait, crossing my arms over my chest in a huff. "Well, not in words."
James's eyebrows lifted, but I was in no mood to explain the finer points of Sirius's slaggy suggestion. Part of me acknowledged that I should probably be glad about how things had turned out. I mean, James wasn't cross. He wasn't even cross that I had been cross because I had shown up late. He'd totally just let me yell at him. He'd laughed about it. Isn't that exactly what I'd wanted? Peace and harmony, etc? But despite how it sounded, I couldn't shake the feeling that this was all wrong. I didn't trust things that came so easily. James had been cross this morning—really cross. Properly cross. And it wasn't like him to talk himself out of such a temper. Not without assistance, in any case. We ought to be talking this out—yelling it out—but what was I supposed to do? Pick a row? Begin screeching again? How dim was that?
No matter what I did, I couldn't win.
The whole thing was rather exhausting.
"Today," I started tiredly, placing my hands on the professor's desk behind me and hoisting myself up, "has been by far one of the most exhausting days of my life. So while I could keep arguing with you, I'm not going to. You're clearly not cooperating and I'm too bloody knackered to put the proper effort into it. So there. You win."
James shifted until he standing just in front of me, neatly there against my knees. Merlin, I hadn't been this close to him in what felt like ages. I wanted to sift my fingers through his hair and squeeze.
"Most people would be at least slightly more rested after a long nap," he said.
I shook my head sadly. "I told you, Pomfrey says I'm exhausting my body. And is it any wonder, with the likes of you driving me spare?"
James just hummed an absent agreement, even though this was really his moment to drop down to his knees and beg forgiveness for all the unnecessary tension and stress he brought to my everyday life. Instead, he busied himself with unfurling my disorderly shirt collar and then dutifully setting it right again.
I covered his hands with mine, waiting for his gaze to lift. "So we're really all right?" I asked.
"We're fine. Or I'm fine, at least." He pressed a finger against the corner of my lips. "What else has you frowning?"
You, I wanted to say, because despite his reassurances, I still didn't believe him. But I couldn't say that without starting something up again and I'd already decided that that was an entirely fruitless endeavour. So I took my mouth in hand and stayed silent, trying to right my grimace. It wasn't particular amenable to my attempts at perkiness, however, clinging proudly to its pout, but I thought that rather understandable considering all it was up against. I mean, my body was giving out on me, my potentially-considering-boyfriend was driving me to drink, I had a huge exam four days from now that I was probably going to fail, and my sister had more or less disowned me through a note from our mother. Was it any wonder why I couldn't stop frowning? Guam couldn't have been shouting my name any louder.
For a second, my mind lingered over that last life disaster, toying with the idea of bringing up Mum's letter, telling James about Petunia and her apparent engagement. It wasn't long before I set that idea aside, however, fidgeting uncomfortably at the mere thought. For one thing, there was a time and place for such conversations, and fifteen minutes before we were supposed to be laying down the law for a room full of Prefects was not ideal for either. For another...well, I wasn't by any means all right with what Petunia had done, but talking with Sirius had somehow given me a bit of peace—one that I was unsurprisingly unwilling to give up. It seemed mad at first, having Sirius play the role of comfort and confidant, but mulling it over, I reckon it actually did make the most sense. And it isn't that I thought James wouldn't be properly sympathetic...but he was an only child. I'm not certain he'd be able to fully grasp the complexity of it all.
But mostly...well, it was like I'd said that night in the Trophy Room. Petunia was a Big Thing. She was my Big Thing and even though I really was working on the trust issues, the last thing James and I needed now were more problems. We stirred up enough of that on our own, thanks muchly.
"I had Sirius tutoring me in Transfiguration again today," I told him instead, thinking that reason enough to explain my sorry facial expression. "His teaching methods aren't all that friendly, but I reckon they work. I can do that chair spell now. Er, sort of."
"How'd you manage that?" James asked, impressed. "The tutoring, I mean. Not the chair spell."
"I ran into him outside the library." I omitted the fact that it had been quite a literal run-in, and that I had been on the verge of hysterics at the time. "I had to write his Muggle Studies essay in exchange, but that wasn't so terrible."
"So that's what has you so on edge? Transfiguration?"
"And Alfred Hitchcock." I shook my head in mock disapproval. "We've really got to get you and Sirius back inside a cinema. This obsession with The Birds can't be healthy."
James smiled at that, but it was really more of a lip twitch than a fitting grin and this strange flash of something skidded over his face a moment before he covered it up again. I wondered at that, but it really wasn't so difficult to discern why. I mean, it had to be odd for him, learning that Sirius and I were doing things without him. Even dull academic things. He really was our main thread of connection. But odd as it was, it wasn't really a bad thing, and I reckon James must have decided much the same because the look was gone as fast as it'd come and then he was back to his normal self.
Quite his normal self, actually.
"So." His body seemed to shift closer, if that was even possible. "What was this about an apology without words?"
Oh, for Merlin's sake. "That wasn't—"
But really, I don't know why I even bothered protesting. When a cow needs milking, there is just no stopping it.
And who am I to mess with nature, hm?
No one, clearly, but I unfortunately can't say the same for Chris Lynch, who conveniently decided to arrive to the meeting a few calcium-filled minutes later—Remus, Carrie Lloyd, and a few other Gryffindor Prefects trailing along behind him. His loud, guffawing laugh heralded their entrance.
"Oh, cracking guidance, faithful leaders! Quick, where's the book? Or a camera? Who has the book or a camera?"
It took some hemming and hawing, but Remus did eventually hand over What Not to Do When Dealing With Prefects as I hopped off the desk, blushing furiously and sputtering out garbled explanations. James just sort of laughed along with the rest of them, the sodding unflappable bastard. We'd thankfully managed to get Chris to shut up about the whole thing by the time the other Prefects began to arrive, but the damn cocky Keeper had his snarky leering grin on the entire meeting and only a blind man would've missed it. And he wasn't the only one, either. Remus had looked decidedly amused as he'd handed the book over to Chris and refused to tell us what had been written (though I imagine it was something along the lines of "Head Students might find it useful to keep practical demonstrations of what to look out for during patrols to themselves."). Carrie Lloyd couldn't quite meet my gaze and Mary MacDonald couldn't look away, as if James and I snogging was the most shocking thing she'd seen in decades.
To say I spent most of the meeting on the verge of flustered beyond reason would be a slight understatement.
But that was nothing compared to what happened after the meeting.
For all my blatant embarrassment and the complete and utter lack of planning that went into it, the actual meeting bit really didn't go too poorly. With the exception of Gil McCoy and Juliette Hoyt, two of the swottiest 5th year Prefects I've ever seen, no one much paid attention to our lectures on rounds, house points and the desperate plea to keep an eye out for the 2nd years' latest game—something they called Dragons and which thus far had resulted in the brutal destruction of no less than five suits of armour and a very distressed portrait of Silus Sillington—but that was hardly unusual. By the time the meeting ended and James and I had wisely stepped aside as the Prefects-turned-ravaging-cannibals fought each other in their desperate attempts to secure decent round dates for next month, I even thought it acceptable to give ourselves a congratulatory pat on the back.
"Well, that didn't go off too horribly, considering the scant effort we put into its planning," I muttered to James as we watched the madness unfold, grinning.
"Scant effort?" He gave a gasp of mock offense. "Speak for yourself, Infallible. I had that Dragons speech planned for weeks. Fine-tuned it and everything."
"'The game must end'? That took you weeks?"
James nodded solemnly. "And so it must."
I rolled my eyes as he laughed, would've told him that his weeks of planning left a little something to be desired if Gil hadn't chosen that exact moment to corner us with his burning need to expunge upon every little detail he'd ever managed to acquire about the issue known as Dragons and how he singlehandedly intended to take it down. By the end of his tirade (which, one must admit, was very thorough, if slightly disturbing), I was a bit bleary-eyed. I'm not certain whether James was merely amused or faintly sickened.
"They're second years, McCoy, not an armed battalion of rebel rousers," he said.
Gil sniffed haughtily, his stubby nose raised at what seemed to be a rather permanent angle. "That's just how it starts. Today it's a few suits of armour, a frightened portrait—but what of tomorrow? They must be stopped!"
I cleared my throat, aiming for diplomacy. "I agree. But you have to admit, your methods sound a bit...er, drastic."
Gil stared incredulously. "Potter said it best, Lily. The game must end."
I glanced over at James. He was trying very hard not to laugh.
Merlin's beard. Was I ever this bad?
"We'll consider your suggestions," I said instead, because the madman was obviously expecting some kind of response and James was in no position to give one (not without snorting in Gil's face, at least). Left to my own devices, I went for the encouraging approach. I dropped a supportive hand upon Gil's shoulder and gave a few hearty pats. "It's just like my mother always says: when you've got a view from the ground, there's no place to go but up! We'll go up from here, Gil. We really will."
Gil nodded contentedly, seeming to take Mum's wise words as comforting confirmation to the genius of his plans (which included locking up all second years for an hours-long interrogation, just for a snippet). That didn't stop him from getting in one last condescending sniff before he walked off, but I reckon that was about as good as things got with Gil McCoy. I tried desperately not to chuckle or scream, intent upon turning to James and unleashing a bushel load of jeering comments I'd been holding back, but I never quite got the chance. Before I could even mutter a "Merlin help us all," I was distracted by the expression I caught frozen upon James's face.
He looked supremely odd, and more than a bit staggered. He gaped as if someone had just kicked him—worse, had kicked him when he'd been expecting a hug. With his eyes glued on mine, my amusement immediately faded.
"What is it?" I asked.
He hesitated. "I...I've heard that before."
"Heard what? Placating lies?"
"No, the saying."
"The—Oh. Mum's, you mean?" I laughed, because he was looking so serious and it really wasn't anything serious at all. "Have you, then? Hmph. I thought that was a patented Caro Evans original. Apparently she filched it from somewhere else."
James shook his head. "No, I heard it from you."
"From me?" That wasn't so hard to believe. Live with Caroline Evans for seventeen years, and you inevitably ended up sounding exactly like her. I had a dozen more sayings just like that one in my arsenal, and they were undoubtedly let loose quite frequently. But James was staring at me as if he was expecting some big "Ah-ha!" moment from this, as if his scant smattering of words and supremely significant looks were enough for me to discern whatever it was he was trying to get across. But he might as well have been speaking in code—was speaking in code, really—because I hadn't the faintest what was going on.
"That's...brilliant?" I tried, seeing if that made a difference. It didn't. "I don't really...why are you staring at me like that? What is it?"
James didn't answer, speech apparently seeming to fail him—a decidedly unusual occurrence for the normally quite glib bloke. I stood silently, waiting for the explanation to come, but it never really did. After a few seconds, James simply shook his head and seemed to shake off the strange conversation, as well. His face cleared and his shoulders jerked into a jaunty shrug.
He chuckled haplessly. "Sorry. Can't really remember, either. No matter."
My arse, no matter.
"James, what are you—"
But I never got to finish my questioning. Before I could even begin to badger him on it, Carrie Lloyd chose that opportune moment to step on up and interrupt us.
"Eh-hm." Her decidedly unsubtle throat clearing cut over my words. Both James and I turned towards her.
"What is it, Carrie?" I snapped, not feeling particularly friendly.
"Here," she said, thrusting a piece of folded parchment at us. "This is for you."
For me? My eyebrows shot instantly up to my hairline, eyeing the proffered bit of parchment with a healthy dose of wariness. I couldn't for the life of me guess what a folded bit of parchment from Carrie Lloyd might contain, but I didn't imagine it could be anything good.
But just as I reached to take it, Carrie instantly snatched her hand back.
"Not for you," she said, looking at me in disgust. Her head jerked towards James. "For him."
My head swiveled round to James, perhaps more surprised than I really ought have been to hear that. But of course the note was for him. He and Carrie at least associated on occasion, whereas our relationship existed solely in the tights-filching, awkward-loo-sharing territory. Still, it was certainly curious, which is why I was expecting James to be as intrigued about it as I was, arm extended in preparation to appease said intrigue, more than willing to share it with others (me) to ease their curiosity too. Instead, I found him standing almost frozen, his lips thinning grimly as he eyed Carrie's offering with obvious suspicion.
"What is it?" he asked.
Carrie began to twirl her hair. "Erm, you know...like...ah...hm..."
James's expression darkened.
"I don't know what it is!" she cried, the confession bursting out of her in breathy spurt. She dithered about, her words jumbled. "She just said to give it to you, all right? But she's like, really sorry and everything, James. You haven't any idea. She's in such a state. So if you'd just—"
"No." The word came so clipped, so fast, I almost missed it. But James's voice was loud enough and hard as granite when he spoke again. There was no missing that. "Take it back," he said. "I don't care."
Carrie looked shocked, at a complete and utter loss as to what to do, but I could hardly blame her considering I was staring at James in much the same way. I stood there silently, watching the James I'd met this morning make his first eveningtime appearance, arriving in full, furious force. As Carrie squeaked and sputtered, his expression remained firm and icy, utterly unrelenting.
And even though I knew who they were talking about—what other 'she' could they possibly be talking about?—I somehow found myself feeling slightly...worried. And not just for him, either. For her, too.
Merlin help me, maybe I should have stayed in the Owlery longer.
"What am I supposed to tell her?" Carrie finally asked, her face a furrowing mass of nerves and desperation.
"Don't tell her anything," James replied, not wavering an inch. "She shouldn't have involved you in the first place."
"But if you just read it—"
James's glare became nothing less than chilling, and Carrie withered under its vehemence. Even the bravest of Gryffindors would have had difficulty standing up to it, but Carrie didn't even try. With one last pleading look, she slunk off out of the classroom, undelivered missive still in hand.
For a few moments, James and I just stood there.
"That was...interesting," I finally offered, deliberately keeping my voice light and airy. I glanced up at him again, surprised to find that his glasses hadn't fogged over in the cold. He wouldn't even look at me. "Are you going to—"
"Leave it," he bit off curtly. "It doesn't matter."
"Oh, no?" The statement was such a mockery, I wanted to laugh. "Seems quite the opposite to me. What's happened?"
"Nothing happened. Just—"
"You're fighting with Elisabeth," I said, seeing little point in beating round the bush. I ignored how hard my heart was pounding, how clammy my palms were getting. "Since when? Yesterday?"
James's hand lifted to his hair. He began to swipe and pull. "Maybe."
I caught his hand with mine, ceasing the nervous ruffling. "Seemed rather definite to me."
His expression turned pained, almost annoyed, but if he thought I was letting this one go, he had another think coming. I needed answers. Needed them. Because I was starting to get a bad feeling about this.
It seems so stupid now, but I hadn't even thought about the repercussions for James and Saunders after yesterday's Owlery debacle. I'd been so wrapped up in the repercussions for me, me, me, wallowing in my pit of uncertainty and unwanted realities, that I hadn't even stopped to realise that the last thing I'd heard James say was that he was leaving, and how deadly furious he'd sounded. But even I couldn't deny that some of the things Elisabeth had said after that had had rings of truth to them. I'd just assumed James had felt the same and the conversation had continued, with James's temper tapered by Saunders's reasoning.
But what if it hadn't?
Or if it had, what if things hadn't improved?
Clearly I'd missed something.
Something rather significant.
The room was clearing out and the only Prefects left were a few fifth-years grumbling about their shabby round slots and Remus, who was lingering by the door waiting for us. I suppose James and I must have been radiating some kind of tension though, because Remus lifted an ever-perceptive eyebrow in question. I gave my head a subtle jerk towards the corridor and Remus nodded in understanding. A moment later, he'd disappeared out of the classroom. Then it was just James and me.
I turned back to him, determined.
"Just tell me one thing. Is the row about me?"
"It's about Liz and me," James said, but he'd hesitated a second too long before answering. "She crossed a line. That's it."
"That's not it," I snapped, angry at the obvious dishonesty. "Quit trying to shrug me off! You're clearly lying. If it had nothing to do with me, you wouldn't be acting like this. And I—"
The words were on the tip of my tongue: And I know, because I heard you rowing yesterday. They were there, but I swallowed them down before my traitor-of-a-mouth could betray me yet again. Because even though I'd get the upper hand in terms of proving he was spouting false, in the long run, it would hardly be worth it. I didn't know how James would react, knowing I'd been eavesdropping, but I knew it wouldn't be good. If the positions had been reversed, I'd have been perfectly livid. What I'd overheard had been telling enough, and I had no way of knowing what else had come after it, or even before it. I wouldn't blame him for not believing me if I told him I'd left when I had, or arrived when I did. None of that conversation was mine to know, and even though there were so many things I wished I could say to him about it, I have the uneasy feeling that this would be one secret I'd be taking to the grave.
But for now, I needed to say something. James wouldn't have it otherwise.
"And you what?" he asked, when I didn't finish.
I swallowed hard. "And I know you're lying because of the way she's acting. You should've seen her this afternoon. If looks could kill."
"She always looks at you that way."
I glared. "Actually, she doesn't. But thanks."
James let out an exasperated sigh, but I wasn't about to ease his frustration. I crossed my arms over my chest and continued to glower. He wasn't getting out of this one. Not a chance.
"Why do you even care?" he finally asked, giving me a bit of a glower himself. "You should be happy. You've no love lost for Liz. For weeks you've been telling me to lay off her. So now I am!"
"I care because I care about you, idiot!" Though Merlin help me, sometimes I didn't even know why. "Look, if this is actually just about the two of you...fine. Go be as cross as you like. Who am I to tell you otherwise? But if this is...if this is about me, if you're angry with her—this angry with her—out of some bothersome strand of loyalty to me, then it needs to stop, all right? And I can't believe I'm saying that either, but as much as I hate it and I don't completely understand it, she's important to you. You're friends. And I don't want you losing friends on my account. So unless she tied you to a chair and tried to force herself on you..."
I paused expectantly, and James's lips twitched.
"Not recently," he said.
"Well, saving that, I think you should talk to her. And that doesn't have to be through Messenger Carrie Lloyd and her ill-timed note deliveries, but it should be sooner rather than later and probably after you've talked yourself out of your temper because I've come to realise that there really is no talking logic to you when you're in a temper. No offense."
James snorted, but I noticed he didn't claim it wasn't true. I myself was left a bit contemplative after that whole spiel, not having known that that was what I was going to say until I'd already gone and said it. But I found that I didn't regret the impulse. As much I hated Elisabeth Saunders—hated her. With the fiery passion of a thousand suns—if yesterday had taught me anything, it was that she knew James in a way that few others did. She's honest with him in a way I don't think many others are. Even Sirius still babies him slightly, as if the wrong push will send him spiraling back to whatever he had been. And just because I'm not particularly keen on what Saunders has to say doesn't mean James doesn't need to hear it. For better or worse, maybe he does. And for better or worse, I think I do, as well. Because the things she said...well, as murky as they made some things, they also helped make others much clearer.
Which sort of brought me to my next rather stunning thought.
And really, it's funny the way these things happen sometimes, because I'm not certain there is any logical progression to explain the sudden realisation that occurred to me next. There we were, just standing there in that History classroom, James sighing and seeming to mull over my words, me watching him contemplatively and attempting to figure out where I went from here...and yet, suddenly, there it was. This idea. This fact. This abrupt, overwhelming rightness that just seemed to radiate through me in the midst of all the other utter mess of wrong, as clear and undeniable as the sky is blue. And maybe it was a little terrifying, and a little mental, and Merlin knows that recalling it now is still enough to get my heart hammering...but right then in that moment, I stopped thinking so hard about everything. And maybe that's just how the important things are done—as quick and as instantaneously as that. And while that's certainly not like me—at all—apparently it can be, because as simply and as easily as that, the truth of it seemed almost out of my hands.
Because dear Merlin, it was really time to get rid of the potentially-considering bit, wasn't it?
James Potter ought to be my boyfriend.
He really, really should.
"You're right," he said, having no idea what he'd just interrupted, Merlin help us both. "In some ways, you're right. But you're not right about all of it."
Oh ruddy hell, were we still on this? My words died in my throat, the heavy sense of disappointment settling in when I swiftly realised (even through my daze of triumph and rightness) that while I may have just jumped into the throes of random romantic epiphanies, I was sufficiently alone in that particular mindset. And who could blame him? It had come from bloody nowhere, the inner workings of my mind a true wonder to behold. My pronouncement—which, all right, hadn't exactly been particularly grandly planned or anything anyway. "James, be my boyfriend?" was rather the general gist of it—was abruptly put on hold. I hesitated, not because I no longer wanted to make it, but because James's attention was so clearly still on other things and was I really meant to do this when—I blanched—all he was thinking about was clearly Saunders? The notion was more than enough to compromise my declaration.
"What do you mean?" I asked instead, a bit choked.
"Maybe...it might have been a bit about you," he finally confessed, though who really needed it? "Lizzie and I...it's a lot more complicated than that. And I'm not just saying that because I'm in a temper. You know how difficult she can be."
Was he actually insulting her? Right moment or not, I couldn't possibly distract from that. "Yes, but difficult with me. Not with you."
"What makes you think it's exclusive to you?" James asked, shaking his head. "She's...she's got a strong head. But sometimes her head's in the wrong place, you know? And she can't see the forest from the trees."
He was preaching to the choir. "Okay."
"And this is about me," he felt it necessary to add, with a pointed look and a determined stare. "Me and her. Just because you might have been a catalyst doesn't mean you're the issue."
I reckon I could be both, but it didn't seem the time to argue. "All right."
"And just so we're clear"—he got a bit glare-ish here—"I am allowed to get cross on your account. Keep saying rubbish like that, and I'll be in a temper with you, too."
He could get in a temper all he wanted. I'm sure he'd get over it once I told him he was my boyfriend.
"You can get cross on my account up to a point," I conceded, stepping closer, "but you don't seem to do things in half-measure."
Instead of taking that as a criticism, James seemed to take it as a compliment. He grunted smugly.
But when he got quiet then, it became apparent to me that I wasn't going to be getting much more out of him, that whatever was going on between him and Saunders clearly involved one of James's thousands of secrets, none of which he was willing to divulge, and he was far too distracted by them to properly segue into more insight or even any kind of romantic pronouncement, even one he's been waiting eagerly for. But instead of getting weepy or annoyed about this, I simply chalked it up to a time issue and was thankful I'd at least got something out of the conversation (which again, stunning. What have they been putting in our drinking water?). But seeing as the conversation still needed some kind of a conclusion (and since he was quite lucky I was being so generous as is), I reckoned I deserved a bit more for my trouble.
"So you'll talk to her?" I asked.
After a moment, James shrugged. "Maybe. Eventually. Not now."
I nodded, thinking that was as good an answer as any. Besides, if James wanted to take his time forgiving Saunders for being a vile hag, I certainly wasn't going to have a cry about it.
And hey, maybe we could get around to—
"Ah, bugger." He cut me off as he glanced down at his watch, squinting at the small clock face. "I'm late for detention. Again. This was supposed to be my last night. Bloody not likely anymore."
My heart sank in my chest. "Oh. Right."
He grinned at my crestfallen expression, chucking me under the chin with his finger. "Don't fret, Infallible. I still get to spend my Halloween with you—though I can't say rounds are my idea of a perfect evening."
"The Heads always take Halloween," I informed him glumly. "Besides, it can be sort of fun. At the very least, you get to catch everyone sneaking off to the Ravenclaw Halloween party and only send on the people you like."
James laughed at that, but he was the only one willing to revel in the amusement. If I asked him to put off detention, he probably would—in fact, he'd undoubtedly applaud such a suggestion, thinking he'd finally achieved the impossible and turned me troublemaker—but is that really how I wanted this to go? Me blurting out that I'd really like to call him my significant other, with the threat of an angry McGonagall looming over our heads? I couldn't think of anything less romantic. And not that this needed to be A Big Romantic Moment or anything, but it at least deserved to be A Moment. One not tainted by the sorry cloud of detention and destruction hanging over it.
And besides, I probably ought to prepare something a little more eloquent than, "You? Me? No hyphenations?" James deserved as much, putting up with my antics for as long as he has. So perhaps this detention interruption was a good thing. All it had done was bought me a bit more time to prepare. That wasn't so horrible, was it?
No, I really don't think it was.
"Fine. Off with you, then." I waved him towards the door, slightly less disgruntled than I had been before. "Have your detention. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Yeah?" He still looked far too pleased with my dejection than was really necessary, but I suppose I couldn't blame him. The boy needed to get his joys where he could find them. "Sure you won't miss me too much?"
"I'll survive," I muttered, but damn well probably would miss him and that was the point. "But you know who I'm sure is really missing you? McGonagall."
James grinned. "I am one of her favourite people. But it wouldn't do to seem too eager. I can keep her waiting a few more minutes. Besides, everyone knows warm milk is just the ticket for a good night's sleep..."
I rolled my eyes and shoved his face away as he tried to lower it, but James just laughed and remained relentless. I finally let him get a few, tiny bursts of calcium in just to shut him up, but really, he didn't deserve a single one.
"Now you're really late," I scolded when he attempted to go back for seconds, always the glutton. "McGonagall is going to kill you. And I look really sallow in black, so I won't bother. Not even at your graveside."
"Liar," he said, stealing one last kiss. "You'd hold vigil there. Candles and everything. And wear black for decades."
"Think awfully highly of yourself, don't you?" I detangled my limbs from his. "It's quite sad."
Then he went on and on about how if he wouldn't think highly of himself, who would? It's not like anyone cared a whit about him—except, oh wait, hadn't I just said I cared quite a bit about him, just a few minutes before? I had, hadn't I? Well, what did I think of that?
My boyfriend is going to be an arse.
"Go!" I ordered, before he could wax lyrical about anything else. I was already blushing to the very tips of my hair. What more did the blighter want? "Get out of my sight."
"Really, Infallible, you're such an easy mark." He was grinning from ear to ear now, but I had finally prodded him out into the corridor, so he could grin all he wanted. I grabbed the rounds calendar off the desk and then followed him out, closing the classroom door behind me.
"Go." I turned deliberately in the opposite direction, just so I wouldn't have to walk with him. "Your chance of life is getting slimmer and slimmer the longer you dally."
"Candles and everything!" he shouted down the hall as we parted ways. "And a heartwrenching eulogy!"
I flipped him a not-so-polite gesture over my shoulder, but the prat just laughed.
Eventually I got up here, where I had to hear Grace rant and rave about what a traitorous cow I am for sorting things out with James without her intervention, but she doesn't realise I tuned her out about ten minutes ago and have been writing diligently in here instead.
Besides, I think she'll calm down once she realises that she'll soon have a much bigger deal on her hands.
Because starting tomorrow, Plan: Ask James to Be My Boyfriend commences.
Merlin help me.
Friday, October 31st (Halloween!), 7th Year Girls' Dormitory
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 319
Lily Evans's Four Steps to Acquiring Oneself a Boyfriend
STEP #1) Find an Appropriate Candidate
Some may believe that this first step is quite redundant in the planning of such an endeavour, but such people are obviously highly underestimating the supreme difficulty of such a task. I mean, let's face it—there are quite a few seemingly perfect duds out there. For example, one may spend many-a-month lusting after a certain dashing Hufflepuff, only to learn that said potential target is, in fact, the biggest, vilest pile of hippogriff droppings this world has ever seen. So one must be very careful with this step. But never fear, darling friends! You too will one day find your Appropriate Candidate, no matter how much hippogriff dung you have to trudge through first. Just slap on your wellies and keep stepping high. There is light at the end of the dung tunnel!
STEP #2) Gauge Appropriate Candidate's Amenability to Such a Position
After the daunting task that is Step #1, your next initiative concerns itself with determining your Appropriate Candidate's willingness to cooperate in regards to a promotion (specifically, changing their candidacy to a more permanent position). Sometimes this may be very easy to discern. Other times, it may take a bit more effort. I have personally found that a hyphenation system (©) is a brilliant way to gauge this amenability. That way, one is not haphazardly catapulting from one extreme to another. There is a progression, see? And if at any time an Appropriate Candidate does not feel comfortable with said progression, there is plenty of warning before one finds oneself in the sad state of having utterly failed in Acquiring Oneself a Boyfriend and all the misery, shame, chocolate and/or rice eating that comes along with it.
STEP #3) Determine an Opportune Time and Place (an Opportune Moment)
One might imagine that after successfully completing Steps #1 and #2, the next appropriate action would be to immediately attack the Plan head-on and Acquire Oneself a Boyfriend...but one would be wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. Because above all things, Acquiring Oneself a Boyfriend is about timing and opportunity. One cannot simply lunge into this. There is a proper time and place for Acquiring Oneself a Boyfriend and if one is not careful, the inability to recognise a particular moment as such can result in only failure (See: Step #2, re: misery, shame, etc). So before embarking on the actual Acquiring, ask yourself these two important questions:
1) Does this seem like a good time to Acquire Oneself a Boyfriend?
2) Does this seem like a good place to Acquire Oneself a Boyfriend?
If your answers to both these questions are yes, please proceed to Step #4. You have found an Opportune Moment! If either answer is no, I advise you to consider waiting. In the long run, you will be grateful.
(Addendum: If one finds one has poorly misjudged a moment as both a good time/place to Acquire Oneself a Boyfriend when it was, in fact, decidedly not, moving to Guam is always an option.)
STEP #4) Acquire Yourself a Boyfriend!
Congratulations! You have found yourself an Appropriate Candidate, determined his amenability, and positioned yourself at an Opportune Moment! It is now time to Acquire Yourself a Boyfriend! However, how you go about doing this is entirely dependent upon your unique Appropriate Candidate and circumstances. Are you the sort to find your Opportune Moment in a quiet spot and a private conversation? Is standing atop a table and shouting your intentions across a crowded hall more your style? Alternatively, are you simply content to snog your Appropriate Candidate into submission and have your ardent attentions speak for themselves? Whatever the case may be, state yourself clearly and with all possible earnestness. This is your time to shine. Embrace it.
A Bit Later, Still 7th Year Girls' Dormitory
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 319
Acquiring Oneself a Boyfriend Checklist:
Step #1) Check.
Step #2) Check.
Step #3) In-Progress.
Later, Great Hall
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 319
Breakfast in the Great Hall is so not the Opportune Time and Place to Acquire Oneself a Boyfriend.
"I'm telling you, Ravenclaw has the edge! Parsons—"
"What bloody good is Parsons if Slytherin already has three hundred points on the board? Ravenclaw's Chasers are useless—"
What exactly am I supposed to do? Loudly clear my throat and interject with a polite, "Pardon me—could the pair of you please quit discussing the Ravenclaw-Slytherin match because, firstly, I don't care, and secondly, I've something rather important to discuss with James? Oh, and by the by, Marls, could you also leave so we can discuss said something privately? Many thanks."
Yeah, I don't think so.
At least, not the second bit. The first bit I think I might actually have a go at because I really don't care about the match tomorrow and if they don't stop talking about it I am going to fall asleep in my breakfast and I won't even be sorry if they get sprayed with the excess strawberry and syrup fallout.
Later, Ancient Runes
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 320
There was, unsurprisingly, not a single opportune moment to be found throughout the entirety of breakfast. I had tricked myself into believing that once the Hall began to fill up, I might be able to whisk James away to gauge his opinion on his possible promotion from potentially-considering to actually-in-reality boyfriendage, but these were foolish hopes. Quidditch proved the champion of the morning, trumping even the unfortunate spillage of an entire bowl of porridge at the Slytherin table, as well as the usual excitement surrounding All Hallows' Eve. The arrival of most of the Gryffindor Quidditch team quickly spawned even more talk of the upcoming match, forcing the rest of us non-Quidditch lunatics to find our own amusements. So while the crazies hemmed and hawed over the blasphemous suggestion that Slytherin's Blythe Dalton might be a better Keeper than Ravenclaw's Cormack Cordon (a duel to defend Cormack's honor was even suggested), we more sturdy of mind got to listen to Nearly Headless Nick rehearse his Deathday song for the feast tonight.
Needless to say, it was a very long breakfast.
When it eventually ended—finally ended—I was shockingly no longer in the mood to Acquire Myself a Boyfriend. Still attempting to get Nick's rather off-key warbles out of my head, I let James traipse off to Arithmancy with Remus and Emma with nary a comment about our relationship status, and I took off towards Ancient Runes with Marley, who was heading in that direction to meet with Professor Crandy about some Defense assignment.
"Sorry about that," she said, nodding bashfully towards the Great Hall as we began to file out. "Everyone gets really mad about the first matches. Sets up the season, you know?"
"I hate Quidditch," I grumbled, because my head was still pounding and, really, what more was there to say? "Quidditch ruins everything."
"Oh, come now. It's not that bad," Marley laughed.
I grunted noncommittally, even though one could obviously beg to differ. Part of me was tempted to inform her just what Quidditch had successfully ruined, but pride aside, I reckon that if I'd decided not to tell Grace and Emma about the plan to Acquire Myself a Boyfriend (not trusting the former to keep her bloody mouth shut, and uncertain if I could tolerate the latter's significant looks screaming "Did you do it? Did you do it?" throughout the day), then it probably wouldn't be best to inform Marley either. So I kept it to myself, letting my grunt serve as my irritated response. Marley accepted the wordless reply with a grin.
"Poor Lily," she murmured. "No eggs and ketchup for breakfast this morning, hm?"
"Oh, shut it," I blustered, jabbing a pointed elbow in her direction. Marley just dodged and laughed, continuing to blather on about balanced breakfasts and poor dispositions as we climbed up the staircase towards the second floor. We'd just about reached our destination, turning out of the stairwell and off the second floor landing, when something up the next flight of stairs caught my attention.
My steps slowed to a stop.
"Lily, what are...oh."
Marley stopped as well, the pair of us lingering on the landing. We were probably blocking all kinds of traffic, but I couldn't bring myself to care. My eyes narrowed on the scene above.
Marley leaned into my side. "You tutor him, yeah?"
I nodded—or at least, I think I nodded. I meant to have done. My focus wasn't really on Marley, though. How could it be, when MJ was standing at the top of the next landing, looking more closed off and miserable than I think I've ever seen him, Evan towering over him and holding his arm in what appeared to be a decidedly painful grip? Evan seemed to be whispering furiously.
My feet had already begun to itch after spotting the curious tableau, but when Evan jerked MJ's arm particularly hard and the poor thing couldn't quite hold back the wince, I was instantly in movement.
"Lily, wait!" Marley grabbed my arm, jerking my steps to a halt with a surprisingly firm hand. I whirled on her, intending to demand if she honestly expected me to just stand there while Evan terrorized MJ, but she wasn't even looking at me. I followed her gaze farther up the next staircase, where a blond boy was quickly making his way down the steps, his target obviously the same as mine had been. He'd just reached the Rosiers and was talking quickly with Evan when I turned back to Marley.
"Who is that?" I asked.
"Paul," Marley answered, still staring up the steps. "That's Paul."
Paul? Paul who?
The third Rosier sibling.
"Do we like Paul?" I asked quickly, my eyes immediately returning to the scene up the stairs. Paul had just tugged MJ loose of Evan's grip, but he was still talking solely to Evan.
Marley made a strangled sound.
"I don't know," she said, almost exasperated. "He would actually have to speak to know that. Paul never speaks."
Paul was certainly speaking now, but I can't imagine pointing that out would have been the least bit productive. It seemed I was on my own in determining friend or foe. Unfortunately, there wasn't very much to go on. With his back to us and his words lost in the distance and noise, all I could discern about Paul Rosier was that he was tall, blond, and had just said something to his brother that caused Evan's gaze to snap up in surprise and then instantly whirl towards me.
Paul Rosier was a bloody snitch.
Marley tugged at my arm. "Come on. Let's just leave it. MJ is fine."
But I couldn't just leave it. There was no way. And especially not once I found myself in the midst of a glare battle with Evan. The pair of us glowered at one other with a ferocity unseen before, and I'd be damned if I was going to be the one to back down first. Fortunately, I didn't have to. A few seconds later, Evan pushed past his brother, successfully knocking Paul back a step, and started down the stairs towards me.
As our paths crossed, he shoved roughly into my shoulder.
"Nosy Mudblood bitch," he hissed.
He kept walking. I ignored the slight soreness in my arm and refused to turn or follow him, even though there were a good handful of hexes already on the tip of tongue and a wand hand itching to help the process. His clipped steps faded behind us and I forced my fists to unclench.
Marley tugged on my arm again. "Come on."
I let her lead me off this time, but not before I'd got a good eyeful of MJ, who looked equal parts stunned and embarrassed to find me standing there, and Paul Rosier, who'd dropped what seemed to be a much lighter hand upon his brother's shoulder before carefully steering him up the stairs.
Marley and I turned silently off the second floor landing.
"I don't know what that was about, but watch your step, Lily," she warned bleakly, her voice quiet. "The Rosiers are not a family to be tangled with."
I didn't say it then, or even as we parted ways a few minutes later, but in my head, the thought couldn't have been any louder:
Too late for that.
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 320
Who does bloody Evan Rosier think he is, anyway? Nosy, he says? I'll give him nosy. That arse thinks he can just say and do whatever he likes and everyone ought to just leave him at it because he's some ruddy pureblooded prick who can hide behind Daddy and Mummy? HA. I'll teach him. Him and his stupid not-so-silent brother, if it turns out Mr. Paul is not as innocent as he seems. He's involved in that whole sodding Potions business after all, isn't he? And if that whole thing is actually as innocuous as Mac claims, then I'm a bloody dancing flobberworm. Give me some tap shoes and watch me go.
How a sweet thing like MJ ended up in an awful family like that is beyond me. But I'll be damned if I'll just let Evan terrorize him. Not on my watch. I'm not afraid of him. Not a bloody chance.
Later, Still in Charms
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 320
But what? And how? It's all well and good not to give a fig about Evan and his sodding scare tactics, but where exactly am I to go from here? Is it even possible to go on the offensive with this? Am I resigned to merely waiting for him to act and then counteracting in any way I can? That seems a sorry plan. I don't like the idea of sitting on my bum, twiddling my thumbs until Evan decides it's time to move. That gives him all the power, and Merlin knows the blighter's already got enough of that. But what are my other options?
I don't know.
I really just don't know.
Later, Still Still in Charms
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 320
I have to find a weakness. Everyone's got a weakness. Even stuck-up, arsehole blighters like Evan Rosier. Mummy and Daddy may be many things, but even they needed a heel to hold on to as they dunked baby Evan into the River Styx. Shoot at his foot, and down goes the dandy. So once I find his Achilles' heel, concocting an offensive strategy should be simple.
But what the bloody hell is Evan Rosier's weakness? And how exactly is one meant to go about discovering it?
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 322
Observation #321) When a witch is capable of producing the best Shield Charm in class regardless of the fact that her mind is presently almost completely occupied with her various plans and machinations, she deserves every bit of the twenty points Professor Crandy sees fit to bestow upon her.
Observation #322) I can be pretty bloody brilliant sometimes, can't I?
Later, Lunch in the Great Hall
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 323
I could've easily spent the remainder of my morning brooding over the paradox that is Evan Rosier and his potential weaknesses, but still a bit smug over my recent Defense successes and unwilling to diminish those feelings with such sorry contemplations, I decided it really wasn't worth my while. Fussing over something that only time and a heavy dose of observation can resolve is an utterly futile endeavour and I refuse to participate. Sooner or later, Evan will falter and reveal his inner demons to me. Until that point, however, I can only watch and wait, hoping for the opening that will bring about his much needed demise.
In the meantime, it isn't as if I don't have certain other imperative plans to focus my attention upon. Truth be told, all this Evan business was distracting me from what my attention really ought to have been on—namely, the perilous task of Acquiring Myself a Boyfriend. With all of these other nefarious plans hatching, that particular venture was threatening to get lost in the shuffle. And while it was the rare person indeed who could make me as livid as Evan had done, I wasn't about to lose my potential boyfriend over it.
My path was clear: Quit seething about Evan, and start swooning over James.
All in all, not too shabby a trade, I think.
It's just plain unfortunate that the fates of the world did not seem to want to cooperate.
"Hi," is what I started the whole debacle with, sliding up next to James as we filed out of Defense, heading down for lunch. I briefly considered threading my arm through his, but there were about a thousand other people streaming into the corridor alongside us and I didn't want them thinking I'd gone and Acquired Myself a Boyfriend before I actually had done. So I settled for smiling quite brightly at him instead.
James grinned back.
"Hullo." Showing no such foresight, he tossed a carefree arm about my shoulders and tugged me against him. "Brill job back there," he added, nodding at the Defense classroom. "Where'd you pick up that Shield extension?"
"From a brilliantly wise fellow called George Abbott," I replied, slipping easily out of his grasp. I turned, beginning to walk backwards in front of him. "Recall Mr. George? The one you had quite a laugh teasing me over not so long ago? I hope you feel properly ashamed now."
"Positively," James affirmed, but he was eyeing my shimmy out of his hold and new walking maneuver with obvious skepticism. A moment later, looking almost reluctant to bring it up, he asked, "What are you doing?"
"Nothing." And that absolutely would have been the truth...you know, had I not actually been attempting to inconspicuously gauge his opinions on the topic of Actually-in-Reality-Boyfriends without yet actually-in-reality asking him to be my boyfriend. But telling him so would've contradicted the 'inconspicuous' bit ever so slightly, so the white lie was certainly excusable. Still, it didn't hurt to throw in a few more key, truthful words. "Walking. Talking to you."
"Backwards and cryptically," James amended, and shot me a pointed look. "Which generally means you're up to something."
Psh. What a suspicious Boyfriend I'm Acquiring Myself.
An oddly perceptive, generally correct, but ultimately very suspicious boyfriend.
"Your lack of faith in me is distinctly troubling," I said, continuing to backpedal. "We ought to have a discussion about it."
"Can we also have a discussion about your refusal to let me so much as touch you in public?" he asked, dutifully following along. "That's troubling to me."
Oh, bother. Is that what he thought this was about? Silly, silly boy. If only he knew how much I intend on touching him. It's a girlfriend's prerogative to thoroughly inspect the goods before she agrees to purchase, after all, and I am nothing if not a conscientious shopper.
"We can add your sorry delusions into the agenda of the larger discussion," I allowed, because I can't imagine the topic (ehm, and practice) of touching not coming up in some way during such a discussion. I stifled a grin. "In fact, I am rather shocked that—omph!"
Honestly? I am rather shocked that it took me so long to backpedal into another person.
I've been getting quite good at the barreling-into-people thing this week.
"Ow!" came Carrie Llyod's overly loud cry from behind us, and I felt her bony elbows scrambling for purchase behind me. "Bloody hell, Evans, watch where you're going!"
I winced, turning instantly to apologise as Carrie carried on with much enthusiasm. It was a pill to swallow, but seeing as the crash had been entirely my fault, I suppose Carrie was allowed to whinge as she saw fit.
I was already resigned to that sorry fate, preparing my poor ears for the screeching onslaught, but because this is my life and these things couldn't possibly ever be that simple, I turned about to find not only a scowling Carrie, but a decidedly wide-eyed Saunders standing just beside her.
Saunders, who was completely ignoring Carrie and me in lieu of staring intently at James. And who, in a matter of moments, and with an almost painful expression on her face, had already began to step towards us.
It was as far as she got. The name had hardly even slipped from her lips before James had clamped a none-too-gentle hand about my wrist and gave a firm yank. I squeaked in surprise, expecting just about anything except for that, but it was all I could manage before we were already fleeing down the corridor, escaping the scene with all the subtly of a hippogriff stampede.
Saunders called his name again—Merlin, she sounded so upset—but James didn't even pause. Before I quite knew how it had happened, I was stumbling after him halfway down the corridor, the errant bundle he'd absently grabbed on the go, Carrie and Saunders fading blips in the crowd behind us.
Well, I suppose that answered a few questions I hadn't yet thought to have.
But I was no one's errant bundle, thank you very much! I gritted my teeth and dug my feet into the stone floor.
"Don't, Lily." He lashed the words, sharp, snapped. "This isn't another one of your sorry cases to meddle in, all right? I'm not about to about to have it out with her in the middle of the sodding corridor—"
"Who bloody well said you had to?" I cried.
That drew him up short. I skidded into him from behind, but sloppy footing kept me on my feet and I immediately jerked back. James turned, finally dropping my arm. People brushed past us—staring, probably—but I refused to look away from James. His expression was a strange mix of bashfulness and skepticism, as if he didn't quite trust that I was telling the truth, but knew he ought to be contrite if I was. That was so far from the on-his-knees, eternally repentant, groveling apology he bloody well owed me that when he started to speak, I wouldn't let him.
So much for an Opportune Moment.
"Do whatever you like, all right?" I snapped, hugging my smarting wrist against my chest and glaring with everything I had. "But if you're so damn concerned with keeping me out of it, then just bloody well tell me so instead of dragging me from it. I'm not your damned satchel to be grabbed and yanked about!"
James instantly flushed.
"I hadn't meant..." The protest died on his lips. "Hell. I'm sorry, Lil. I didn't...I didn't hurt you, did I?"
He hadn't, really—not the way he meant, anyway—but he also wasn't really sorry, and that was the real problem. Still, I accepted the facsimile of an apology with a quick shake of my head and an uncomfortable silence. James's hand began to reach towards me, I think to check the welfare of my maligned wrist himself, but he must have thought better of it because a moment later, it lifted to his hair instead. I crossed my arms over my chest and fidgeted restlessly on my feet, shooting a brief glance back over my shoulder. I didn't know where Carrie and Saunders had scuttled off to, but they were no longer lingering behind us. It hardly mattered. They didn't need to be there in person to have their presence still screaming between us.
And even though I told myself to shut up, that they were gone and I ought to just leave it as it was before I made things unbearably worse, my traitor-of-a-mouth couldn't possibly. It had to say something. It was a matter of necessity.
"What was that?" it asked, mystified. "She hadn't even done anything. Why did you—"
"It was nothing," James replied quickly. "We rowed. I told you that last night."
I scowled. "No, actually. Carrie Lloyd told me that. You grudgingly confirmed it after flouncing off into a fit of temper you couldn't talk your way out of."
Quite like, oh yes, right now.
(I didn't say as much, but I thought it rather implied.)
His expression turned mulish, almost annoyed. I couldn't bring myself to care. I mean, even if he hadn't just gone and made a sodding spectacle of himself, dragging me forcefully down the corridor in his fit of utter madness, his reaction to Saunders was enough to warrant some serious scrutiny. Things had been bad enough when Carrie had tried to hand off her note last night, but now? This? Call me a fool, but I'd honestly thought he'd been better. After we'd talked...I mean, I know he wasn't all right with the whole thing, but I thought he was at least past the point where he'd lose his head so completely. For Merlin's sake, we were standing in a bloody public corridor. What exactly did he think she was going to do? What could she possibly say?
Probably no more than what she'd already said in the Owlery.
But if that was the case...did James not want to hear it because her vile claims about me were too ludicrous to even acknowledge, much less hear again...or because the threads of truth ringing in them were too true to dismiss a second time around?
Was that the problem? Did James think she was right?
I didn't want to dwell on it. My stomach was already churning.
But damn it all, with those thoughts in my head, I couldn't just leave it at that, either.
"I get it, all right?" is what I forced out before James could go ahead and say something foolish, or maybe even something perfect, because either way, it didn't matter, it would all come out, just damn near everything, because it was all already on the tip of my tongue and I sort of wanted to cry and vomit and snog him all at the same time, and I'm not entirely certain how that would work out, hygienically or semantically. "I understand. It's between the two of you. I won't get in the middle. I don't...well, yes, all right, perhaps I'd like to, but I'm not completely without restraint. Clearly meddling in this is just going to make things infinitely worse. So I'll leave it. I really will. But before we end this, can I just very quickly point out that that"—I hooked a thumb down the opposite end of the corridor—"was about the unhealthiest way of handling things I think I've ever seen? And mind you, this coming from a witch whose main method of confrontation is a nice kip up in her room for a weekend. So something to think on, yeah?"
That won a crack of a smile, and more points to him that James even seemed reluctant to do so at my expense. It was a gesture received not without some relief, but we of the feeble mind and traitorous mouth have long understood that a self-deprecating sense of humour is really the only ticket to mild sanity, so there was no offense to be taken. He could grin all he liked.
"No one quite understands the fine art of the elusive getaway as you do," he conceded, hand still playing at his hair. He gave a hapless shrug. "Perhaps I'm just a dodgy student."
I grabbed his hand, stopped the fidgeting.
"If that's the best you can do," I teased, determined to get a proper smile out of him, "then quite the dodgy student, I'd say."
That prompted a laugh, huzzah hurrah! And so what if it was still a bit strained? That's still eons better than what anyone could have predicted had they overheard our conversation only moments before. I kept his hand tight in mine, refusing to let go even if he'd wanted me to. Fortunately, he didn't seem so inclined.
And I'm not stupid, all right? I know that there was more to say. I know that it always seems to be three steps forward and two steps back with him and while I was hardly one to be casting rocks from my lovely glass house, that didn't absolve him of his part in all this either. Whatever Elisabeth Saunders was or wasn't, she was unarguably an issue between us. There was no discounting that. But there was also no discounting that this was not the time to confront James about it. The boy was clearly still too edgy about whatever he had going on with her to even begin discussing it rationally, and I was sick of finding myself on the wrong end of his misplaced temper. In a few days, he'd cool off and realise how much of a git he was being. I could speak to him then. But now...
Well, now was not the time.
It was an entirely different Inopportune Moment, but no less inappropriate.
Which meant I was now on the lookout for two Opportune Moments.
Brilliant. Because I wasn't already having enough difficulty finding one.
We made our way down to lunch then, the scene with Elisabeth accepted if not entirely forgotten. James kept shooting me all these clearly-not-as-stealthy-as-he-thought-they-were looks, seemingly uncertain of whether I was going to lunge at him in delayed fury, but, wise boy that he is, not about to risk exploding the simmering potion by actually bringing the subject up again. I was quite fine with that, but it wasn't without some relief that we finally made it to the Gryffindor table. For once, the chaos residing therein was wholly welcomed. As I slipped into my seat beside Gracie, listening as Remus and Peter argued rather passionately about—of all things—mushy peas, things seemed finally to be all right.
Until, of course, they weren't.
(Oh, dear. You didn't think this was over, did you? You poor, naive dears.)
"Vile! Blasphemy!" Peter was shouting, his face the very picture of outraged disgust. "Mushy peas are the dragon's dung of the lunch sides world. They should be banned. Outlawed."
"No one's forcing you to eat them," Remus put in, a phrase he'd repeated more than a few times since we'd sat down, but his docile tone worked strongly against the unmistakable way he grabbed the bowl of mushy peas and served himself another healthy portion, plopping the slush of green on the side of his plate closest to Peter.
Peter began to howl like a banshee.
"Your mates are very passionate about their peas," I muttered to James, who sat eating and conversing casually beside me, apparently quite used to such dramatics.
"You think this is bad?" His voice lowered to a whisper. "Bring up vinegar and chips. You'll really see some sparks fly then."
"I'm personally mostly impressed by how many mushy peas Remus has managed to eat in the past fifteen minutes," Marley commented from across the table. Janie Finch and Laura Darthern had apparently started up some new spectacular row and in her attempts to escape the headache, Marley had come to join us 7th year compatriots for lunch. I don't think she avoided the headache, but there was a certain level of entertainment in it, at least. "He's served himself at least three portions now."
"I don't think he's eating them," Emma speculated. "He's got his wand on the table. He's vanishing them."
We all glanced curiously down the end of the table, unbeknownst to both Remus and Peter who were still having at it, and it was quickly decided that Remus Lupin was clearly a sly genius and we were all in awe of his stealth, cunning, and talents. We were quietly debating whether or not we had a moral obligation to inform Peter of the crafty wandwork occurring down his end of the table when, quite out of nowhere, a raucous shout interrupted our furtive plottings.
"Well, it's official—Christmas holidays are ruined!"
Sirius stomped his way towards the Gryffindor table, his shout carrying across the short distance as he plodded on through the Great Hall. Agitation read clearly in his gait and a bit of parchment flapped wildly about in his waving hand. In a room filled to the brim with dreary decorations and glowing pumpkins—not to mention Sir Nicholas's lunchtime rehearsal of his Deathday song—Grace's next comment did not seem overly harsh.
"It's Halloween, arsehole."
Sirius sneered. "Yes, I'm aware, thanks. But I wasn't talking to you. Your hols are fine. It's ours"—he waved the parchment-laden hand between James and himself—"that's just gone to shit."
James lifted a questioning eyebrow at that, this information clearly new to him. In due time, Sirius presented him with the folded bit of parchment, which James took with equal parts exasperation and hesitation. But he hardly even managed to give the thing a glance before his hand dropped heavily down onto the table and his gaze shot back up to Sirius. His lips curled into a baleful scowl.
"Will you quit opening up my bloody post?" he shouted. "My parents already send you more letters as is!"
Sirius shrugged, unaffected. "My owl delivers it. It is, therefore, technically my post."
"That's not even remotely correct," said Remus.
"Possession is nine-tenths of the law," Peter put in helpfully.
"I don't think that's precisely right, either," Emma said.
As they continued to squabble amongst themselves, I glanced curiously over at James, who had bent his head to read the note. I didn't want to be such an obvious snoop, but I couldn't quite help myself from shooting a quick look at the letter, which was written in a firm, blocky hand.
Dear James, it said. Good to hear that things have—
It was as far as I got before James exploded.
"Is she mad?" There was an ugly scraping sound as he darted to his feet, eyes still fixated on the lines of the note. His face had turned a molten red. "Is she out of her fucking mind? She can't host!"
"Host, what?" I asked, my hand instantly lifting to his side.
But James was too busy seething to answer. Fortunately, Sirius had no such qualm. His eyes focused on James, staring as if he was somewhat taken aback by the fervency of his mate's reaction. "New Year's Eve," he said.
Bloody hell, another holiday?
"New Year's Eve?" From my other side, Grace leaned forward, her eyebrows furrowed. "The weekend? But the Meadowses are hosting this year, aren't they?"
"Until good ol' Meadows Senior had the audacity to keel over last Saturday," Sirius answered, all of it still foreign to me. "Mrs. Meadows has declared herself too distraught to continue. So now—"
"So now my bloody mother has taken it upon herself to stand in!" James raged, glaring down at the piece of parchment as if he could glower it into reason. "Fucking stubborn, insane woman."
"Calm down, mate," Sirius said, and now there was no mistaking how perturbed he was by the vehemence of James's response. Whatever he'd been expecting from this, it hadn't been James's fury. "She's been talking about hosting for years. Means our holiday's just gone sour, but your dad says she's right thrilled."
"You think she can handle this?" James snapped. "She'll bloody keel over herself in the attempt!"
"The trials at Mungo's—"
"I don't care about the fucking trials at Mungo's!"
He was shaking now. I could feel it through the gentle hand I still had placed on his side. The conversation was moving too quickly and there were too many blanks in the story for me to truly follow, but I did know that I don't think I've ever seen James as upset as he was just then. I grabbed his hand impulsively, tried to squeeze some comfort into the stone-like fist still clenching the parchment with a death grip, but it was as if he didn't even notice.
"Hey," I said, stroking my hand gently up his arm. "Breathe. Sit down. It'll be all right."
"I have to go," he said, barely even looking at me. His eyes were almost wild-like, darting about frantically. "I have to go."
And then, before I could even murmur so much as the slightest word of concern, James was already in movement, over the bench and striding away from the table with incredible speed. We all watched as he disappeared through the rows of tables and out into the Entrance Hall, escaping from sight with the contentious letter still clenched in his hand.
Silence settled over the table.
Then I suppose I might have lost it a bit.
"Are you out of your mind?" I whirled on Sirius, completely and utterly enraged. "Have you completely lost all sense and reason? That's how you choose to break this to him? Really?"
"I didn't know he'd lose it like that," Sirius muttered, still staring at the spot where James had disappeared. He raked a hand through his hair. "Bloody hell."
"What was it even about?" I asked, desperate for answers now. "Host what on New Year's Eve? Who are the Meadowses?"
"It's that stupid weekend party Mum drags us to every year," Grace explained, and though the details were still a bit foggy, the bit of information at least provided a few pieces of the puzzle. "You know the one—bunch of Old Wizarding families holing themselves up in someone's house for a few days to ring in another year of social dominance? Deadly dull, usually."
"Every year a different family hosts," Marley chimed in, apparently in on this, as well. "My great aunt goes occasionally. It's a big to-do."
"A load of shite, is what it is," Sirius said, finally sliding into one of the empty spots across the table. He grabbed a cig from his pocket and lit up despite the fact that he'd undoubtedly be spotted by a staff member and get detention for it. "Self-gratifying Purebloods getting together to pat themselves on the back and discuss all the dodgy shit they've achieved that year. It's enough to make you want to vomit, but there's easily accessible alcohol and enough of us are in it together that it can occasionally be tolerable."
"It's sort of a coup to be picked to host," Grace added. "A lot of stiff necks and politics involved."
"So now the party's at James's?" Peter asked. "Cripes."
"James's mum is older, and not so well," Remus told me quietly, leaning in close. "He doesn't really like to speak about it. It's why he's upset."
I knew there was a lot more to it than that, but if Remus knew Sirius had told me as much, he wouldn't have felt the need to explain, so I reckoned that secret was still a two-person intrigue. I shot a quick look at Sirius just in case, but the pointed stare he immediately blasted me back with was enough to let me know we were still keeping it as such.
Still, I had to do something. I couldn't just sit there.
"I'm going after him," I said, rising to my feet.
I stared aghast as all three Marauders gawked at me as if I'd just announced my intentions to climb atop the table and declare war on Dumbledore, their refusals—and Sirius's expected profanity—the very last thing I wanted to hear.
"Someone needs to go after him!"
"Not this again," Peter muttered.
"Has Hogwarts taught you nothing, Evans?" Sirius asked irritably as Remus merely shook his head. "If you don't go about tickling sleeping dragons, what makes you think you ought to be hounding an angry one?"
"James is a human being, Sirius!"
"A human being with the temperament of a touchy troll," Peter replied grimly. "You don't want to be trampled beneath."
It was only my experiences over the past hour that had me pausing at that, the evidence too strong to completely ignore. I knew what James's temper was like—hell, I'd just been lamenting finding myself on the wrong end of it a mere half-hour before! But what were my options, really? I either went after him and risked whatever came after, or listened to those who knew him best and let him simmer and rage on his own. I was torn, conflicted. I remembered the last time this had happened, the "again" Peter was so blithely referring to. Letting him alone had been all right then, hadn't it? Granted, he'd had the fact that I went and told a roomful of bints that we were dating a few hours later to distract him from his woes that time, but I had some tricks up my sleeve now, too. If there was one thing that could guarantee James's distraction, it was my pronouncement of his impending Acquisition of a Girlfriend. Yes, I was still looking for an Opportune Moment, but I'd just have to be sure to find one later on today. If worse came to worst, I'd con Sirius into handing over the Map, corner James into the nearest broom cupboard, and snog him until he agreed to the Acquisition. It wasn't the cleanest or classiest of plans, but it was a last resort. I was not above a Plan B.
But that all meant that I had to leave James alone now.
Which I can do—have been doing, thanks.
Which is totally the proper thing.
Observation #323) It has never been so imperative to find an Opportune Moment.
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 323
Wasn't expecting another one of these so soon, eh? Well, never fear, dear girl. This is not another desperate petition in regards to your clear issue with language barriers in the classroom (although...truly? This is meant to be a review, Min. Why, then, are you spewing out things I've never heard before? ) Rather, this is a desperate petition on behalf of one, James Potter.
I know that you know that he's missing from this lesson, Min. Bit hard not to notice, when he is practically the only person who bothers answering your nonsensical questions, yeah? (Except I suppose for Jervis Rennet, but I think we can both go ahead and acknowledge that Jervis is not exactly the brightest unicorn in the flock and seems strangely determined to answer "The Rothgar Transfigurum" to just about everything in the hopes that one day, one question, he will be correct. Keep Calm and Carry On, Jervis.)
But the thing is, Min...James is having himself a bit of a moment presently. He's all deadly cross with Liz Saunders because she's a vile cow and now he's all frantically worried over his mum who, as far as I can tell, is intending on throwing a party that James does not want her to throw and it's all bearing down quite heavily on him this afternoon. And I know you may expect that the devil-may-care roué that you've come to know would be able to handle all of this with his usual breezy aplomb, but it is a little known truth that James Potter is, in fact, quite a bit emotionally unstable. More than a bit, actually. He's a few sandwiches short a picnic, that one.
I'm not entirely certain of all the details and reasons behind this, but never worry, Min—as his soon-to-be Recently-Acquired-Girlfriend, I have taken it upon myself to see to all his physical/emotional/spiritual/psychological/etc needs. Which is why I'm writing you now. Also, because I intend to copy all of Emma's notes from this lesson anyway, so there is less of a point of me writing my own.
So have a care if you could, Min, m'dear. Please do not stick an already fragile boy with the perilous punishment of additional detentions because he is presently incapable of handling the issues of his life. Also, that would make various evenings of snogging and groping very difficult and that is not what a soon-to-be Recently-Acquired-Girlfriend wants to hear.
Thanks muchly, Min. I knew I could count on you.
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 324
Call me foolish, but I didn't find the idea of taking a slight, seven-floor detour down to the Muggle Studies classroom before Divination in the off chance that James had decided to return to afternoon lessons such an unbelievably mad scheme. In fact, I wouldn't call it a scheme at all—it was an endeavour at most, one sparked by a deep and unrelenting concern and care for my soon-to-be Acquired Boyfriend. And so what if everyone kept telling me I really ought to leave him be? So what if I'd be slightly late to my own class? There is no such thing as too big a sacrifice when it comes to matters of the heart. After weeks of telling me I was being all kinds of pansy-arsed and certifiable for running James a merry chase, you'd think everyone would be thrilled by my taking the initiative.
They were, to put it quite simply, not.
"There is a time and a place, my dear Slaggy Sue," is what Grace said, juvenilely grabbing me by the back of the collar as I turned towards the staircases after Transfiguration. Her subsequent yank fairly choked me. "Do we really have to leash you?"
"Shove off," I croaked, wriggling like a fish on a line. "I don't see why—"
"We have Divination," Emma said, and though she was decidedly less dramatic about it, her words were no more supportive than Strangling Stella's. "And you heard what the boys said at lunch. James wasn't in Transfiguration—"
"But that doesn't mean he absolutely won't turn up to Muggle Studies!" I cried, and threw a knobby elbow into Grace's gut. She let out a winded oomph and finally let me loose. Ahh, freedom! "You never know. He might be suddenly overcome with the desperate need to be distracted by foreign, Muggle things."
"Oh, yes," Grace grumbled, rubbing her stomach. "I see how that's entirely probable."
I chose not to answer, deciding a proper, menacing scowl would do just as well. Because, yes, perhaps that wasn't the most obvious course for James to take, but neither was it impossible. Stranger things have certainly happened.
I wanted to go then—could've done, now that I'd finally squirmed free of Gracie's evil clutches—but the pointed looks the pair of them were sticking me with had me reluctantly hesitating as my feet prepared to speed off.
It grated on my nerves and I certainly didn't appreciate her antics, but one had to admit that Grace Reynolds was the very last person who would ever attempt to foil a proper romantic ploy. And ever since her reunion with Mac, Emma wasn't particularly wary of grand gestures herself. Even as my fanciful heart yearned to be away, I had to grudgingly concede that if my plan had even the smallest amount of legitimacy, this probably wouldn't be the pair to discourage me from it
But I hated hanging about and not knowing anything. I hated that James's solution to these things was to up and disappear, even as I realised how hypocritical that was. Doing nothing seemed in every way utter codswallop and no amount of time or logical thinking had me feeling any better about it.
But it seems that sometimes a witch just has to let the potion brew the way it's going to brew, even if it eventually explodes in her face.
"It's a shot in the dark at best, anyway, Lil," is what Grace said then, annoyingly practical all of a sudden. "And don't you have rounds tonight? You'll see him then for certain—and alone to boot! Whatever Rook Whore plans you have brewing can keep till then, yeah?"
"I s'ppse," I murmured grudgingly, because she did have a point. But more importantly, in my head, Grace's words had caused something else to spark, tick, click.
I had rounds tonight alone with James.
Bloody hell, how could I not have seen it before?
Rounds! Tonight! Alone with James! All day long I'd been driving myself spare attempting to find an Opportune Moment, and there it'd been, sitting right there in front of my nose! For Merlin's sake, it practically screamed Opportune Moment! It was hours off, yes, but this afternoon's events had probably spoiled any chance of having an afternoon Moment, anyway. If I waited until tonight, James would surely have cooled his temper and I'll have had time to think up some spectacular Acquiring speech. That seemed in every way a better plan than simply winging it. It was practically kismet.
I would finally—finally!—get this drated Boyfriend business sorted out.
Step #3) Check.
I must have looked quite a sight then, abruptly grinning from ear to ear when just moments before I'd been sulking something fierce. That might have been a bit jarring for someone who wasn't so used to my mad larks, but Grace and Emma merely went along with it, distinctly unfazed. We proceeded on up to the North Tower, chatting amicably about how Grace was meant to avoid Chris Lynch and his unfortunate overwhelming need for her affections at the Ravenclaw Halloween party tonight. Though the romantic prospects of my evening seemed bright, that did not appear to be the case for everyone.
We reached the North Tower landing to find most of our classmates still lingering in the corridor. The ladder wasn't down, which meant Professor Freeman was probably still rearranging the aura of the classroom or pre-molding the tea leaves to represent grisly predictions. That wasn't terribly unusual, but what did catch my eye was a particularly pointed look I was receiving from a gentleman across the way.
"Be right back," I told Grace and Emma, a moment before I started towards my intended target and called out, "What's with the grim stare, mon frère?"
Rob's already stern frown deepened as I drew closer, a far cry from his usual merry grins. I would have been more concerned about this, but it didn't take very long to see the boy was clearly all bluster. The steep downturn of his lips was quite obviously counteracted by the poorly-hidden humour playing about his eyes. I knew a set-up when I saw one.
Ambling forward, I stared at him curiously as he slowly shook his head, all dramatic disappointment.
"Well, well. Look who's back from her recent skive." His eyebrows lifted. "Just like that, pussy cat?"
"I'm endlessly contrite, dear rhyming knight!" I dropped my rucksack to the ground as I stopped in front of him, all apologies and overzealous remorse. "Didn't Grace give you my note?"
The frown twitched. "There was a note, I confess. Rhymed to impress, even. Very witty, my pretty."
I gave a quick curtsey. "I learned from the best."
The twitches gave way to a real smile. It seems even Robbo-Rhymo is not immune to the universal male fallacy of flattery fixing everything, so once I elaborated a bit on his overwhelming cleverness and clear rhyming genius, all was quickly forgiven.
"Where'd you skive off to, anyway?" he asked, smiling broadly once more. "Fun in the afternoon sun?"
"Highly secret mission," I replied. "I'd tell you, but then I'd have to kill you, etcetera, etcetera."
"Sounds dangerous," Rob conceded. "I fancy my life, so you go on and keep mum, chum. But seems to me a lady of danger needs a night off every so oft, yeah? Coming to the Halloween bash tonight?"
I shook my head sadly, but considering my recent epiphany about rounds and Opportune Moments, I can't say I was really particularly sad about it. Still, it was important to keep up appearances.
"I have rounds," I told him, then sighed heavily. "A Head Girl's job is never done, my son."
"But you can come after, can't you? How long can rounds possibly last?"
I had tentative plans to be thoroughly acquainting myself with my new boyfriend come post-rounds (and, all right, mid-rounds, too. Possibly even pre-rounds), but since I couldn't exactly tell Rob that, I just lifted my hands in a helpless shrug and said, "And be the Prefect Killjoy? No thank you. I'm to bed afterwards."
"What about tomorrow? Going to the Quidditch match?"
This time, I didn't have to fake the wince. "Only if forcefully dragged."
Rob clicked his tongue in disapproval. "Not a fan of sport, then?"
"Not a fan of Quidditch," I corrected. "There are other sports in the world, I'll have you know."
Rob waved this off with typical, wizard-prompted, Quidditch-obsessed, no-logic-no-sense nonchalance. "Perhaps you've just never experienced Quidditch the proper way. It's all about your company, lovely."
And the things is...I suppose I should be less shocked by what happened next. Maybe should have expected it, even, because I am a bright girl and I know how these things work. I am no stranger to phenomena, after all, and there is perhaps no greater phenomenon in this finicky world of ours than the Wants What You Can't Have paradox; the one that establishes that the very moment—nay, the very nanosecond—a witch has declared herself to be Officially Spoken For (or nearly so), a toxic pheromone is released into the air around her. The chemical lingers about until all in her vicinity are affected, suddenly viewing said witch with a new kind of rose-coloured glamour. It is a sick and disturbing enchantment, one no more true than the shabbiest of counterfeit love potions, but there it is nonetheless. And with my recent decisions regarding Acquiring Boyfriends and even more recent realisation concerning Opportune Moments, I was unwittingly releasing pheromones by the bushel load. Poor Rob Harms didn't stand a chance.
Which, inevitably, is why he then said this:
"Let me show you how it's done, my lost one." He dropped a hand on my arm, giving me a coaxing grin. "We'll go cheer on the mighty blue with the hearty crew, then celebrate our win with some grins and gin! Party hardy, eh?"
I laughed, shaking my head. "Better than you have failed in converting me, my friend. I'm a lost cause."
If we hadn't already been standing so close, I might not have noticed the way he shifted even closer, a subtle but pointed movement. But we were, so I did, and when his voice lowered and he went, "Say yes, highness," it didn't take a genius to figure out what exactly he was trying to get at with all of this.
Bloody fucking pheromones.
"Oh." I stepped back, surprised, even though I shouldn't have been for all the reasons I've been over already. Rob was still grinning, but I could only sputter. "You mean...you and me...like...oh. Um. Er, Rob..."
To his favour, the pheromones did not turn Rob completely irrational. I may not have said much, but my face must have conveyed something about my feelings on the subject, because darling Rob suddenly dropped his hand from my arm, shot me a rueful grin and went, "Right. No matter. It was worth asking."
No matter, except now I felt horrible.
Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.
"It's just sort of complicated—"
"It's Potter, right?" It was not accusatory, more resigned. "I've seen you lot together. I suppose I should have known. And there are some rumours...but you know how those things are. No one's really certain, especially with you two. But reckoned it was worth a shot just to ask."
In retrospect, I should have just nodded and went along with that. It was the truth, after all, and how could you go wrong with the truth? But we all know that I'm a girl who has always been more of a 'the truth gets you in trouble' believer, and my mouth tends to agree, so all I could think then was that poor Rob had just been rejected and now I was about to make it even worse by rejecting him in favour of someone else, and he was so nice and clever and funny and I didn't want to send him barreling down the Sorry Straits of Bitterness and Self-Doubt, so I just sort of gestured vaguely and went:
"No, no, no. James and I...you know, er, not really...um...things are just sort of mad right now? And complicated? I have a million things on my plate...Head Girl business and, er, life looming, and... I just don't think...attending Quidditch matches is really a grand idea right now, so..."
Rob held up a hand, stopping me. "Say no more. I understand."
"But you're spectacular, Robbo, really you are." I dropped a hand on his arm now, patting absently. "Truly. I just...situations...people...life events..."
"Lily." He was laughing now, covering my hand with his. "It's fine. Really. No harm done, honeybun."
As if on cue, Professor Freeman chose that exact moment to lower the tower ladder, apparently through with summoning the lesson spirits to our realm. As everyone made towards the ladder, I sort of stood there helplessly, trying to think of something that would make things less awkward. But Rob Harms really is the loveliest of sorts, even when influenced by dreaded WWYCH pheromones, because he just sort of sighed really dramatically, lifted his hands in bemusement and went, "Well, since plans with you have gone afoul, seems Robbo-Rhymo's back on the prowl. What do you reckon? Are Penny O'Jene and Tim Ricks broken up again this week?"
"I saw them snogging in the Entrance Hall the other day," I put in hesitantly, pleased that Rob seemed all right enough to be making jokes. I glanced about, saw that someone had apparently very helpfully dragged my rucksack with them on their way to the ladder because it was a good three feet from where I'd dropped it at my feet, and went to fetch it. Over my shoulder, I called to Rob, "But that was Saturday. Days ago. I say you've got at least a seventy-five percent chance they're on the outs again by now."
"Saturday?" Rob groaned loudly. "That's nearly a week! They've probably broken up and gotten back together twice already. Rhyming and rotten timing, that's my lot in life. Tragic."
I laughed at his forlorn look, and as we climbed up the ladder and proceeded towards our table in class, I was inordinately relieved to find that there didn't seem to be much awkwardness between us. I even helped Rob compose a long list of possible party/Quidditch dates, starting with Penny (if available) and ending with Freeman (if that desperate). Then I took up writing in here while Rob attempts to furtively change our star charts to reflect great fame and fortune. So far, he is apparently having great success with mine. I just have to be born four months later and in the year 1453. No big task, really.
Actually, I should probably help him. Freeman keeps looking over here suspiciously. Perhaps she knows about her place on the list and is offended. Talk about tragic.
I'll just pull out my notes...no, not those. Or that. Oh! Abbott's brochure! I forgot about that. To Do: Read. Where are those...ah-ha! Success!
1453, here I come!
Later, Still in Divination
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 324
Hm hm hm hm.
I mean, I could...but how? And to her? Talk about a suicide mission. There is no way I could possibly—
Hm hm hm hm.
Later Later, Still in Divination
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 325
!VERY VERY IMPORTANT MESSAGE!
NEED TO SPEAK WITH YOU ASAP. VERY VERY IMPORTANT AND VERY VERY TOP SECRET. MENTION TO NO ONE. MEET ME AFTER DIVINATION BY THAT DUSTY ALCOVE NEAR SUPPLIES CUPBOARD. DO SO SURREPTITIOUSLY. I KNOW YOU'RE GOOD AT THAT.
Later Later, Dusty Alcove
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 325
Right, then. So let's just get this bit straight out of the way, shall we?
I am, quite obviously, a genius.
Now, I know what you're thinking. Lily Evans, a genius? Creator of the Chicken-Lizard? Chit who fancied herself in love with The Slime Formerly Known As Amos Diggory for more than a year? Gal who, even after 300+ Observations, is quite possibly even less observant than when she started? That Lily Evans?
Cruel but fair points, all. I am what they say. And truthfully, I had to do a bit of a double-take over it myself. But when one stops to consider that age-old adage about the untenable link between genius and madness, it does begin to make a slice of sense. In fact, put that way, it seems almost irresponsible for a lunatic of my caliber not to have given my own potential brilliance a moment's thought before.
But no more, I tell you. Never again will I disregard my genius side in lieu of a clever quip about Bedlam or an insightful comment about the upcoming trends in straitjacket fashion. And it's all thanks to this—the crème de la crème of my genius ideas—undeniable in its pure brilliance as it is in the complete and utter insanity that it just may work.
Not that I have any guarantee of that, of course. But those chances have already improved significantly over the past half-hour, when the whole thing seemed a lot more likely to spectacularly implode. Because like all genius plans, this one hinges rather crucially on the aid of a second party contributor—one who, I admit, may not have been the most dependable of choices.
But that was nothing one aptly-worded, sufficiently-urgent, hastily-scrawled note couldn't solve.
...or that's the hope I clung to, anyway, after deftly shaking Grace and Emma off my trail and heading for the alcove after Divination. One did not need to consult one's tea leaves to discern that there was a good 75% chance I'd be left kicking my heels all alone in that dratted alcove till kingdom come. But curiosity is a compelling foe, and I was banking on the fact that I'd supplied an adequate amount of it to lure my potential partner-in-crime into my trap. Once there, the real work would begin, but it was the first step that somehow seemed the most crucial. I just had to get him there. Everything else would fall into place—I'd make it fall into place—as long as I first got him there.
And call it luck, call it fate, call it some karmic monitor's job on the line because he clearly wasn't paying close enough attention to my daily goings-on, but somehow, someway...I did.
"I don't know where he is," is the first thing Sirius said upon entering the alcove, my note a crumpled ball in his hand. "And even if I did, I wouldn't tell you."
My head snapped up from where I'd be diligently picking at stray threads on my skirt, the feelings of triumph and elation over his arrival overwhelming any amount of proper annoyance over the way he'd gone about it. He'd come! I did it! Huzzah hurrah! A thousand points for Genius Lily! But I knew Sirius well enough to realise I'd be a fool to let him see how pleased I was. Immediately schooling my features into a mask of easy disinterest, I called on every suave particle in my occasionally-suave body and regarded him coolly.
"Well, that's a bit rude of you." I hopped down from the window ledge I'd perched myself upon earlier, crossing my arms over my chest. "Good thing this isn't about that, then."
Sirius shot me a dubious look. I would have rolled my eyes at that, but we had long since established that the arse was under the asinine impression that my entire life revolved solely around his best mate and our romantic goings-on, so it really wasn't worth the headache. I could fight that battle some other time.
You know, preferably on an occasion when I didn't desperately need his help.
"Sheathe your loyal claws," I said, strolling forward. "I mean it. This isn't about James. Actually, it's about you."
"Yes, you." I stuck him with my brightest grin. "Well, you and our budding but nonetheless supremely strong friendship. Have I mentioned yet how very grateful I am for our chat yesterday? I felt decidedly better afterwards."
"Well, that couldn't have been terribly difficult," Sirius muttered, looking decidedly uncomfortable. "You were one Quaffle-throw away from heaving yourself out the nearest window when I found you."
Ah, and there was that patented Black charm. I bit back a few nasty retorts—Quaffle-throw, my arse—and continued with an overeager smile, "Nonetheless. It's left me thinking...for our next bonding session—"
"—we really ought to do something you enjoy." And before he could get out another snorting reply to that: "So how would you feel about helping me break a few school rules?"
Sirius's eyebrows lifted so high, they disappeared behind the stray bits of hair falling into his face. After a moment, he only parroted the words back at me. Blankly. Incredulously. "A few school rules?"
I pursed my lips. "Actually, to be fair, I think they're technically laws."
"Er...breaking and entering and petty larceny?"
The alcove went silent. For a second, Sirius just stared, the muted disbelief playing discernibly about his face. It was a pleasant reprieve from his usual smug swagger to be sure, but not exactly the reaction I was hoping for just then. My pulse was thumping wildly. I didn't know what the bloody hell I was going to do if he said no. I had no Plan B. This was it. The Genius Plan, Step 1. Plan A, the sole and stalwart. He had to say yes. Had to.
Instead, he groaned.
"Merlin above, Evans." A tired hand ran down his face. "What the bloody hell are you up to now?"
My heart jumped in my chest. That wasn't a no. I mean, yes, all right, it wasn't technically a yes either, but it most definitely wasn't a no. A genius working with my kind of karma had to take what she could get. Whirling around, I lunged straight for the window ledge where I'd left my rucksack, fumbling in my excitement. I dug into the front pocket until I found the thin packet I'd stashed there earlier. I thrust it at him with little flourish.
"Auror Force: Potions Division?" Sirius read, his gaze flickering from the brochure title up to me. "Fucking hell, Evans. You want to steal from Aurors?"
Well, I suppose we can't all be geniuses.
"Yes, because that sounds completely feasible." I rolled my eyes, but when Sirius only continued to stare, I jabbed a pointed finger at the brochure. "Abbott gave that to me a few days ago. She thinks I should apply."
"And what? You want my career advice? You don't have to steal that, Evans."
How is it I always forget how much he makes me want to hit him? "Can we put the sarcasm aside for just a moment, please? This isn't even about the division. That's just...the excuse, I suppose."
"Excuse for what?"
"To get what I need." That was hardly a proper answer—Sirius's impatient look confirmed as much—but I'd gotten to the point of no return now, and I was working up the nerve to make the final plunge. There were certainly reasons to be cautious. I had no guarantee he'd agree to this—worse, I had no guarantee he wouldn't go off and spoil any chance of it happening at all when he didn't. I may have had a few trumps up my sleeve, but Sirius was nothing if not a wild card himself. There was no predicting what he might do. But what other choice did I have? I needed his help. I'd already waded too far in to try swimming for shore now. Besides, if I couldn't gather the gumption to go through with this bit, how the bloody hell was I expecting to manage the rest?
I couldn't. There was absolutely no chance.
So I took a deep breath, threw my chips on the table...and jumped.
"I want to steal a log book from Professor Abbott."
That wasn't so difficult, was it?
"You want to what?" Sirius asked.
"Abbott keeps a log book of all the potions classrooms she lets to students and the ingredients they use," I told him. "I need to get into her office and steal it."
"Are you mad?" (This seemed a rather redundant question. In my opinion, he didn't have to yell it.) "Are you absolutely barking mad? Fucking hell, Evans, you were better off stealing from the Aurors!"
Well, now that was just silly.
"It's important!" I cried, tracking him as he began to pace backwards. "She won't even know it's missing. I'm not really going to steal it. I'm just going to charm a copy of it. I won't really be breaking in either, for that matter. Abbott has afternoon office hours. I just need someone to get her out of her office for a moment while I'm still in there. You know, a diversion. I'll do the rest."
"That someone being me?" Sirius didn't even bother waiting for my nod before scoffing in disgust. "Live bait. Flattering."
"Oh, please. Like you haven't done things like this a million times before!" That he'd even try to pretend otherwise was laughable. I was a Prefect, for Merlin's sake. I literally wrote the reports. "It's not that difficult! Set off a few dung bombs. Lead Filch on a merry chase. Streak the halls naked, for all I care! You're the expert here! Think something up!"
"I don't want to think something up! And why the bloody hell don't you just go when she's not in her office?" He may have been glaring, but I decided to take it as a good sign that he was at least asking semi-relevant questions. "Go in the dead of night," he suggested. "Break in then. Maybe you'll get lucky and she won't catch you and kill you."
"I can't. I don't even know where she keeps the log. I could be looking for ages and never find it." Which was the truth, rubbish as that was. It also wasn't the only problem. "Besides, Abbott isn't stupid. She'll have all sorts of locking charms and alarms on her office at night. But if I go when she's already there, I won't have to worry about that. I'd just need her to leave for a few moments."
"Which is where the naked streaking comes in, I suppose?" Sirius grunted.
Seeing little reason in dissembling (though naturally he'd latch on to that suggestion), I nodded.
Sirius made one more noise of disgust before the alcove went silent again. And look—I know it was an entirely mental plan, all right? Understood and acknowledged. Abbott is possibly the scariest person in existence and the idea of stealing from or in any way compromising her was probably grounds enough to be committed. But that was all part of the paradox, yeah? You don't get genius without madness. I could only imagine the insane repercussions if it all went terribly wrong, but I also knew it'd be all kinds of brilliant if I could actually pull it off—not to mention all kinds of necessary if I was meant to get anywhere in solving even one of the endless mysteries that seems to be forever plaguing me.
Because regardless of the day's copious events, I hadn't forgotten about Evan Rosier's infuriating existence and his heavy-handed manhandling this morning. And even though I'd thought I'd have to wait ages to discover a weakness in him, all it'd taken was a reminding glance at an innocent brochure and a few moments' deep contemplation to realise that I already knew Evan's weakness. I'd always known it. It was the very thing that had set us so firmly at odds in the first place. What's more, I even had the makings of a plan—though I'd set it aside at the time after deeming it impossible. But it wasn't impossible. Not even nearly. Or not with a bit of help, at any rate.
Speaking of which, Sirius was still staring intently at me, not speaking a word. I didn't know whether that fixed stare meant he was considering agreeing, or merely mulling over ways to end the whole plot altogether. It was unsettling, the question of it, but there was nothing much I could do. I wasn't above manipulation, but I would rather not have to sink to it. I like to think I wouldn't have if Sirius hadn't started shaking his head.
"No," he said, his frown deepening. "It's a halfcocked plan at best. And whatever daft reason you've got for wanting to steal from a witch who could easily poison you in your sleep, it's not my problem. Find some other dolt to do your bidding. Ask James—"
"No." I almost choked out the word. "Not James. I can't ask James. He can't even know about this."
Really, suave particles? Really?
"What do you mean, James can't know?" Sirius's eyes narrowed. It didn't take a genius to see the wheels in his head had begun to turn. "What—"
"He can't help and he can't know," I repeated, resigned to blurting the truth now. I lifted my chin stubbornly. "And if you'll let me explain why not, I imagine you'll figure out why I want the log book, as well. And why you might reconsider helping me.".
Sirius was already shaking his head. "Lily, no—"
"Or don't you want to know exactly what your brother's got himself into with the Rosiers and their potionmaking?"
To his credit, Sirius's face betrayed nothing at my question. Once I left it hanging there, he only continued to stare at me, his expression no more heated or harshly critical than it had been moments before. And look, I'm not exactly proud of having done it, all right? It was devious and conniving and manipulative and using things against him that I would've killed him for using against me, but there was a truth in it as well, wasn't there? I'd picked Sirius to help me for more than the simple reason that he knew his way around a cunning plan and had scruples tenuous enough to go along with one. He was one of the only people I could think of who had an equal stake in the outcome of this thievery as I did. Because if our conversation yesterday had proven anything, it was that Sirius Black was even more conflicted over his sibling relationship than I was. And that was certainly saying something.
If it had been me, I'd have wanted to know. That didn't exactly make me feel better about it, but it was justification enough to have done it.
"Shite," Sirius finally muttered, and I had to fight off equal parts guilt and relief as his lips seemed to twitch faintly upwards. "Should've seen that coming. Devious one, aren't you?"
"Tell me you haven't thought about it since that day in the dungeons," I challenged, a bit desperately. "Pretend all you like, but you still care. Regulus is still your brother and he's probably in over his head. You can help—"
"Or I could make things worse," Sirius put in, not without a bit of pointed logic himself. He shook his head. "You have no idea what you're stumbling into, Evans. You think Reg's in over his head? Bollocks. You're practically drowning and you don't even know it."
"So toss me a line!" I cried, frustrated now. "I'm going to sink or swim either way, but I'd certainly rather have your help."
"If you're going to tell me to let this go, just save it, all right? I've heard it all before. I don't care. The lot of them are up to something and I'm not going to just stand by and leave them at it! Now the only question is...are you?"
It was meant as a challenge—a gauntlet thrown down on his much-revered honour—but I could only hope it pricked enough to make an impact. I was using every bit of ammunition in my arsenal—emotional manipulation, Gryffindor pride pinching, the haughtiest look I could muster—and perhaps I ought've been more cautious about that, but I wasn't. I couldn't be. Not when this was so important.
And whatever else he said, Sirius knew that. He was the one who'd gone and told Dumbledore about it that first day, wasn't he? There'd've been no reason at all to involve the headmaster unless Sirius thought the whole thing rather nefarious, as well. And what about Dumbledore himself? He'd agreed. Why else would he warn James and me about keeping our eyes and ears open? He wouldn't have done. Not without reason. So really, I'm just acting on Dumbledore's orders. Super secret spy missions and all that. Who could fault me?
No one, I decided firmly, even as I knew that there were perhaps a select few—one messy-haired, bespectacled sod in particular—who might disagree. But I wasn't going to worry about them—him—now. All that mattered at that moment was whether or not the bloke in front of me was of the same mind.
And honestly? Looking at him then, I truly had no idea.
"What time's Abbott got office hours until?" The question came out on a sigh, and Sirius's face took on a grim cast. He went digging in his pocket for a cig. "How long've we got to pull this off?"
He said 'we'!
"So you'll do it?" I couldn't quite contain a little victory hop, though I tried to keep myself in check until I had official confirmation. "You're going to help?"
"Haven't left me much choice, have you?" he muttered. "Be a bit like leaving a flobberworm alone in a dragon's lair."
I wanted to hug him. And punch him. Either would do. I gave a little celebratory clap instead. "I'd kick you in the shin for that, but I'm too excited! You won't be sorry, I promise! I've thought this all though."
"Yeah, we'll see," Sirius said, sounding nothing short of entirely dubious about that. He stuck the cig in his mouth and lit it. "Start from the beginning," he told me. "What exactly are you expecting to get from this book, anyway? Call me overcautious, but if I was cooking up some devil's brew for a Dark Lord, I don't reckon I'd doodle it down in my notebook for Abbott's enjoyment."
Sirius didn't strike me as any kind of doodler, actually, but I suppose that was neither here nor there. "No, but they have to write something. And Mac said—"
"Mac? Wait, Emma's bloke? What's he to do with any of this?"
Bugger. I'd forgotten he didn't know about that. Actually, he didn't know much of anything. There hadn't been any need to keep him in the loop after that first afternoon. He probably thought the whole thing started and ended there. There was too much to explain and too little time. I decided to give him the abridged version, conscious of the fact that it was already half past and I couldn't be certain Abbott would linger about her office on a Friday—and it being Halloween to boot. Sirius listened without much comment, though he did give a few eyebrow cocks at what Emma had seen and Mac's subsequent explanations, and some understanding dawned when I recounted my conversation with Abbott about the logbook. I decided to throw in the incident this afternoon as well, figuring Evan's blatant hostility toward me could only go to further prove my point that we had stumbled upon something real. Sirius seemed to be mulling it all over as I finished.
"So you want to see what they've been telling Abbott they've been doing," he said, drawing the proper conclusion. "Reckon they're foolish enough to leave a trail?"
"Mac was involved in the beginning," I reminded him. "I wouldn't trust the rest of them to pass me the salt at dinner, but Mac? I honestly don't think he was lying. Whatever they're actually brewing, they can do it while still letting him believe it's this Mungo's potion."
"Which tells us what?"
I shrugged. "Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. It could all be some kind of decoy, but Mac said something about needing to continue the brewing at Hogwarts because it gave them access to ingredients they couldn't get elsewhere. Stands to reason we ought to find out what exactly those ingredients are, yeah?"
For a second, I thought Sirius was going to tell me I was completely off. His eyes got this squinty-look to them and he tightened his lips into an almost sour expression. But what might on anyone else be a look of dour doubt was apparently Sirius Black's contemplative plotting face because a moment later, he gave me a rather decisive nod.
"It's a solid first lead, in any case," he said, taking one last drag on his stubby fag before dropping it to the floor. He put it out with a swift twist of his toe. "But why go through all this effort to steal the book? Why not just prod Mac for the intel?"
I grimaced. "I tried that. He clammed up faster than I could even say the word 'ingredients.'"
Sirius's brow lifted. "And you're sure he's not in on it?"
It was a fair question. And truthfully, I had no real way to know for certain that he wasn't. But my gut was saying he'd been telling me the truth that night outside of the portrait hole, and Emma was one of the most sensible people I knew. If she believed Mac, reason stood that he was probably being honest. But my gut wasn't exactly an irrefutable source, and some might claim being in love with the bloke had blinded Emma's reason just a tad. The facts could swing either way, really. Still, I was willing to give Mac the benefit of the doubt. At least for now.
I gave Sirius a shrug. "Even if he is, that doesn't change things. They still had to tell Abbott something in that book. Which means we need it."
Sirius grunted his consent. He lifted his arm to consult his watch—a rough, leather-banded one just like James's. He began to mutter to himself.
"...half-past...should be...go there..."
"Twenty minutes," he finally seemed to decide, dropping his arm back down. His gaze flickered up to mine. "Outside the portrait hole. Meet me there. Should be enough time."
"Enough time for what?"
The question—a foolish one to ask Sirius Black, perhaps—prompted his very first smile of the afternoon.
"To get things set," was all he'd say, even after I prodded for more answers. He gave a little wave as he made to exit the alcove, ignoring my questions. "See you in twenty, Evans."
But he was already gone, leaving me alone in this dratted alcove, feeling triumphant, nervous, and altogether a bit terrified at the prospect of what exactly is going to occur in approximately...t-minus three minutes.
Look out, Rosier.
I've got you in my sights now.
Much Later, 7th Year Girls' Dormitory
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 326
To say I was eager to begin would probably be a slight understatement. After the initial batch of nerves and terror had settled, I was really left with nothing but pumping adrenaline and a keen urgency for retribution—not exactly a cocktail for serenity. For a standard point of reference, it took me a mere matter of minutes to dash the not-particularly-unsubstantial trek from the Divination alcove over to Gryffindor Tower, so the evidence is really in the results. I managed to arrive just as Sirius was stepping out of the portrait hole, a fortuitous occurrence that I naturally decided to take as some kind of cosmically positive sign relating to the undeniable brilliance and predestined good-fortune of our forthcoming mission...until I realised that Sirius was holding the Map, and had thus probably just timed his exit with my dot's approach.
Oh, well. No bother, really. I'll take a bit of fixed luck, too. I'm really not picky that way.
"You've come prepared," I said, nodding towards the Map and the shiny fabric of James's invisibility cloak that he also had threaded through the crook of his arm. A troublemaker's ammo, he was ready and armed. I admit to slight skepticism. "Really reckon we'll need all that?"
Sirius only nodded, apparently seeing no need to explain further. Resigned to such things by now, I saw little reason to inform him that I thought him a tad overcautious, especially not after he'd gone and passed the Map over to me.
Ahh, my old friend. We meet again!
And this time, I really am up to no good.
"Abbott's still in her office," Sirius reported, his expression more staid and business-like than I think I've ever encountered. It might have been a bit unnerving, if it wasn't already overwhelmingly reassuring. "Make certain she keeps put until we get down there, yeah?"
I gave a responding salute, prompting only the slightest of eye rolls. Sirius turned and took off down the corridor, apparently ready to be on our way. I followed along obediently, glancing down at the Map to ascertain that Abbott was indeed still where she needed to be—'W. Abbott' present and accounted for!—but couldn't quite resist the urge to take another quick tally of the area around us. As these things are wont to happen, my thoughts strayed towards one particular dot bobbing somewhere about the parchment, and my eyes roamed the shifting ink until I found it resting stationary and solitary inside the boys' dormitory.
Hm. Is that where he'd been all afternoon?
"Did you see James?" I asked. "He's in your dormitory."
Sirius kept walking. "I know."
"Don't give me 'and what'. You know what. How was he?"
When I didn't get an immediate answer, I jerked a prodding elbow into his side, earning myself an annoyed glare. But Sirius must have known that he was playing a fool's game by trying to keep mum, because despite his reluctance, he did give an exasperated sigh and a proper answer.
"Still sulking," was the unwilling admission, followed rather quickly by a derisive scoff. "Bloody ponce. Didn't so much as glance my way when I grabbed the cloak from his headboard. Loves playing the martyred and outraged, that one."
"You shouldn't have done that at lunch," I said, calmer than when I'd told him much the same earlier this afternoon. "You should've known he'd react like that."
"How?" Sirius bristled defensively. "It's a sodding party, Evans. I thought it'd be a laugh, something to distract him from the bleeding funk you had already helped him into. The way he lost it, you'd have thought I told him his mum had decided to march singlehandedly into battle, not order about a few dozen house elves as they tidy up his room for company!"
"But James doesn't think that way. He's protective to a fault. You know that."
"This was different," Sirius insisted, shaking his head. "You and Saunders have him wound so tight, it was only a matter of time before it all unraveled. That I should've known." He shot me a pointed look. "And before you go off and do something daft, I don't reckon he's quite done working it all loose yet, either. So don't go charging in thinking you can just snog him to rights, hear? For everyone's sake, leave off."
Hmph. It might have been a mildly accurate assessment of my stellar mental prowess, but Sirius clearly didn't comprehend the dazzling power of my snogging abilities. Even so, his warning did give me pause. If he was even remotely correct, the evening I had planned for James was suddenly looking a bit less Opportune. I'd thought I'd found the perfect Moment, but I suppose it was a tacit requirement that both parties be in the proper romantic mind frame. But would James really be inclined to retain his sullen sulking in the face of Acquiring Himself a Girlfriend? Call it stirring my own cauldron, but I really couldn't imagine it. I finally felt good about this thing between the pair of us. Now was not the time to be getting lost in the throes of an alleged inferiority complex. I was not about to lose confidence now.
Or at least, not all my confidence. I admit, certain recent events might have shaken me slightly. And speaking of...
"What do you know about that, anyway? The Saunders thing, I mean." I tried to sound nonchalant, but I'm rather certain I failed miserably. Sirius's mocking brow quirk seemed to imply as much.
"What do you know about it?" he asked.
"That he's angry," I answered. "Possibly too angry. And I'm pretty certain the whole mess has something to do with me."
Eavesdropper much, I wanted to correct, but even if Sirius and I were blossomed into full-blown bestmateship, I couldn't possibly tell him about that. Instead, I just shrugged. "Doesn't make it any less true. Do you know what it's about?"
"No." The answer came quickly—too quickly—and I immediately thought he must be lying. But then he went and gave me a little more, a seemingly truthful boon, so maybe it wasn't entirely false. "Came back yesterday afternoon seething about something—reckoned he'd had it out with you, so I didn't ask. Then Liz comes by the dorm looking to pass off some note while James was in detention. Remus hands it over when he got back and James kicks up a fuss and chucks it in the bin."
"And you didn't fish it out?"
Sirius stared. "No, I didn't fish it out. Merlin, Evans. You really are spare, aren't you?"
Naturally. But better a crazy meddler with answers than a crazy failure without. "'Kicked up a fuss'. What does that mean? Was he angry?"
Sirius seemed to consider that.
"No, not angry," he finally decided. "More...defiant."
Defiant? Oh hell. More and more, it was starting to feel like whatever was going on between James and Saunders, James felt he had something to prove—and that something was probably me. Worse, if he didn't feel there was at least some validity to the opposing side, he wouldn't feel the need to defend it so stringently.
Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn.
I did not need this right now.
"Well, don't you worry." I gave my hair a jaunty flip and lifted my chin an extra notch, playing out a haughty confidence I certainly didn't feel. "I've got a plan. Come tomorrow, James will be just fine. You'll see."
"Did you not just hear me? No plans! Let him have the day to realise he's being a prat. You'll only make it worse." When this prompted no response, Sirius groaned again. "Lily."
"Oh, calm down, would you? It'll be fine." When Sirius only looked more dubious, I stuck him with a good scowl. "Don't look at me like that. My plans are brilliant! You're going along with one right now, aren't you?"
"Yeah. About that." By this point, we were rounding down the lower stairs to head into the dungeons, scooting by a couple of third-years who were hooting and hollering as they ran for the Entrance Hall. As they scurried past, Sirius pulled me off to the side of the corridor, his voice lowering. "Shockingly enough, your plan needed a little...help."
My eyes narrowed. "What do you mean, 'help?'"
"It was a fine effort to be sure," he assured me, going as far as to pat my arm in mock support. "But your amateur is showing. There were more holes in your plot than in one of Pete's old socks. You had a solid start, at least—you'll still be going into Abbott's office as planned. Only now, I'm going in with you."
"What?" I jerked away, startled. "What are you on about? You can't go in with me. You're the diversion!"
"The diversion is covered," Sirius said, rolling his eyes. "And for all intents and purposes, you will be going in alone. I'll be under this."
As he lifted the invisibly cloak, I could only continue to stare in confusion. "You're going to be invisible? I don't understand. What's the point?"
"Your plan only worked for one case scenario," Sirius explained, the indulgent teacher to the baffled student. "You can't pull a caper like that. If the distraction goes off as planned and if Abbott goes to investigate, who's to say she won't shuffle you out of her office along with her, locking the door behind you? You'll make yourself look like a suspicious ponce if you try to stay put. But if I'm still in there..."
"You can still get the book," I finished, the pieces of his revised plan slowly falling together. I couldn't help but smile. "You really are good at this."
"Not my first dragon ride," Sirius agreed, smirking. "You've got good instincts. With time, we'll make an expert of you yet."
"I think I'll stick with my slightly subpar law-breaking and keep my Prefect badge, thanks." As we started to walk again, I could feel the spike of adrenaline beginning to brew once more. I may be reluctant to completely part with my good citizen ways, but I couldn't pretend this wasn't just slightly thrilling. "What's the new diversion, anyway?"
"You'll see," was all Sirius would say, pushing on before I could argue. "I'll be watching the Map to make sure everything goes off properly. If anything's gone wrong and I have to leave the office, I'll tap your shoulder like this." He gave three decisive prods to my right shoulder. "Don't flinch."
"Ooh, a secret code? You know what that means, don't you?" I grinned. "Next step, super secret friendship handshake."
Sirius stared. "Don't make me regret this, Evans."
"You mean you haven't done already? Merlin, our friendship really is blossoming."
Sirius didn't respond, but I like to think that's because he was too busy taking time to marvel at the wonder that is our beautiful new bond.
We stopped walking just around the corner from Abbott's office, tucking ourselves behind the safety of the stone wall to regroup for mission commencing. Like a soldier preparing for battle, Sirius suddenly became supremely rigid and carefully alert. If I weren't feeling much the same, I might have laughed.
"Everything looks in place," he murmured, taking the Map and consulting it carefully. "Abbott's alone in her office. You'll need to keep her talking five minutes, I reckon. Think you can manage?"
"But what am I waiting for?" I asked. "You still haven't told me what the diversion is!"
Sirius grinned, the flash of his teeth suddenly very bright. He brandished the cloak from over his arm, deftly throwing it about his shoulders.
"You'll know it when you see it," his floating head said, a moment before that, too, disappeared.
Honestly. He was as bad as James.
I huffed in irritation, hoping that aptly relayed my feelings about the situation, before I too focused on the task ahead. Giving myself a good, quick talking to—don't fuck this up, Evans!—I got ready to march into the fray.
"Ready?" I hissed to the empty space beside me, hoping Sirius could hear.
"Happy thieving, Evans," came his voice from behind me, and a phantom arm nudged me forward none-too-gently.
I stumbled, shooting a glare over my shoulder. "Wanker."
And on that positive note, Operation Logbook was in effect.
And look...I won't pretend that my stomach didn't do a few nervous flip-flops, all right? Even as I tossed my shoulders back and determinedly rounded the corner towards Abbott's office, it was not without a healthy dose of trepidation. This was not my usual to-do. To pretend otherwise would be a sorry lie and probably laughable in its claim. This was foolishly reckless, plain and simple. I mean, this was Professor Abbott. If something somehow went terribly wrong, there was not a single doubt in my mind that she would end the pair of us in some catastrophic way—or rather, more likely just one of us, seeing as the other half of this nefarious duo would be happily invisible, and probably wouldn't change that fact in the face of danger.
And yet, even with those very real consequences brewing in my head, there was nonetheless an equally as undeniable thrill to the escapade. I was excited. I was eager. The blood was pumping through my veins and I was ready. This was (well, mostly) my plan. I had thought it out, and I was the one executing it. If it worked, I'd be one step closer to making Evan Rosier sorry he'd ever been born. None of those were accomplishments to scoff at, yeah?
So I would do this.
I would do it, I would do it well, and even more than that, I would do it successfully.
This was the mantra with which I approached Abbott's office, lingering in the doorway as the moment of truth finally arose. Raising my hand to her open door, I took one last deep breath (pleasedontfuckthisup pleasedontfuckthisup) and I gave the hard wood a gentle rap.
"Professor? Do you have a moment?"
Abbott's head lifted at the interruption, not so much surprised as suddenly aware of my abrupt presence in her doorway. I'd been in her office a few times over the years, and it hadn't changed much. One side of the room was filled with bookshelves, brimming with thick tomes and worn texts from floor to ceiling. The other held shelves laden with potions ingredients and brewing kits, the tools of a Potions Master's trade. Between the two sat Abbott behind her massive desk, a stack of parchment that I'm assuming was some poor class's assignments resting to her right. As I waited for her beckoning, she dropped her red-inked quill to the desk and gave me an expectant look.
"Evans. How can I help you?"
Actually, I was hoping you wouldn't mind my swiping your logbook, Professor.
Oh—and also? Please don't kill me.
"I was hoping you wouldn't mind talking a bit more about this." I held up the Potions Division brochure I'd grabbed from my rucksack's pocket for just this occasion, implementing my prop with what I believe was stunningly deft cunning and compelling skill. I shot Abbott a smile. "If you have time."
Abbott capped her inkwell and motioned to one of the chairs flanking her desk. "Sit."
Huzzah! I was in! I murmured my perfunctory thanks and scuttled into the office, hoping Sirius was following along behind me. As Abbott waited for me to settle, I gave her my best oh-I'm-such-a-trustworthy-Head-Girl grin and began to recite the planned spiel I'd formulated earlier this afternoon.
"Thank you again for giving this to me." I raised the brochure again. "I honestly hadn't given much thought to the Potions Division."
"It's always wise for a witch to consider all her options," Abbott replied. "Graduation is closer than you think."
I nodded. "Right. Well, anyway, I was skimming through it earlier...nothing particularly unexpected, of course, but the application process does seem a bit...intense."
"No more involved than the Charms application, I would think," Abbott said.
I nodded again. "Perhaps. But I feel decidedly more comfortable with my Charms than I do with my Potions." This, conveniently enough, was not even a lie. It still baffled me that Abbott could swallow this all without outright scoffing at the notion, that she actually thought me good enough to have this conversation without laughing in my face. I actually had skimmed the brochure, and gaining a spot in the Division was no easy feat. The slip of this real truth brought a genuine sincerity to my performance, I think. "It's all a bit overwhelming," I said.
At this, Abbott only lifted an eyebrow, clearly unimpressed. "The only way to grow more comfortable in your brewing is to continue with your experiments," she said. "You'll never take a place in the Division—or any division—if you're only brewing during lessons."
I had to stifle my triumphant grin, hardly believing my luck. Holy hell, could that've played out any better? A perfectly natural segue, right there for my taking! It was almost too much to imagine.
"That's actually what I came here to talk to you about," I replied quickly. "When we spoke before, you mentioned being able to use classrooms and ingredients after lessons...something about a logbook...?"
In my head, this was the point when Abbott gave a terse nod, reached into whatever drawer or pointed up to whichever shelf the logbook rested, and ta-dah! Mystery solved, mission practically accomplished, wham, bam, thank you, ma'am. I'd been basking in such good luck with all the rest of it that it almost didn't occur to me that it wouldn't happen exactly like that. But sure enough, Abbott didn't move a muscle and instead went, "What kind of brews are you considering?"
Shit. What kind of brews was I considering? What a bloody obvious question. Why hadn't I thought to come up with some kind of potion or poultice that I was interested in before? Wouldn't I naturally have considered as much if I were really interested in the Potions Division? It was such a novice move, I could practically see Sirius slapping a hand over his face in shame.
But there is a reason why I think a life of Auror crime-fighting and subterfuge is bright and ready in my future. No, I may not have planned this as well as I could've and that was a lesson to certainly learn, but when my suave genes kick in, I am more than a bit brilliant at thinking on my feet. In a matter of moments, I had come to some quick realizations: one, I needed to think of some kind of potions that I actually knew something about; two, I had to get to it quickly. Sirius had said we had five minutes, and we'd already wasted two. If Abbott continued to evade my grand plans, she might not even pull out the logbook before the diversion—whatever it was—came to lure her out of the office. If that happened, I'd have to hope a hasty Accio would be enough to summon the thing out of its hiding spot. That seemed a very poor plan considering I had no idea what the sodding book looked like or where I might be summoning it from, but it was the only Plan B I had. Hopefully, it wouldn't come to that.
And, truthfully? I've said it before and I'll say it again—Mr. George Abbott is the very heart and soul and light of my life. Because wouldn't you know it? I'd just come across some very interesting references to Potions in Keep Your Guard just the other day, and I was more than ready to pull them out.
One Abbott saving me from another. It was almost too perfect.
"I was considering looking into medical potions," I answered after—all right—maybe a tad bitof a prolonged pause. But it was nothing (I prayed) that couldn't be properly covered up with another overly-bright smile. "I suppose it runs in my family. My father's a doctor, see—er, a Muggle Healer, that is—and I was reading this book the other day that was talking about the kind of medical potions you'd need to use if you were hit with certain curses in the field...that'd fall under the Potions Division jurisdiction, wouldn't it?"
Abbott nodded. "I would imagine so, yes."
"He mentioned one in particular—the Halground Brew? It's used to slow down the effects of damaged organs. It's complicated, of course, but we did do a bit on medical potions in class already, so at least I have some foundation there—"
"As I recall," Abbott put in flatly, "you seemed to have some issues with the types of medical potions we went over in class."
Oh, hell. Idiot, idiot, idiot. The Scandalous Assignment. How the bloody hell had I forgotten about the Scandalous Assignment? What kind of moron would bring up medical potions and not consider that Abbott would probably always connect me and medical potions with the memory of my letter disparaging the uselessness of the Grentlis Potion and that awful (if slightly hilarious) bet with James? She'd been a sport about it then, but maybe in hindsight she'd realised what an utter pretentious prat I'd been. I stared, frozen, wondering whether I was supposed to laugh or cry or just give up everything now and leave. All three were real possibilities.
"Erm." I blushed something fierce, choking out a few useless sounds. "Well, you know...some do seem more useful than others...not that...er, I mean..."
At my obvious blundering, Abbott gave what I think is as close as she gets to a teasing smile.
"I think medical potions are a strong selection," she said. Then: "Breathe, Evans."
I did—noisily and with nothing short of utter relief, feeling like I'd just dodged a bullet. I couldn't quite bring myself to regret that whole letter fiasco—it's what really marked the start of James and me being mates, hadn't it?—but that didn't mean I couldn't bask in the pure stupidity and utter gall of it. Sitting before Abbott then, I got to relish in that full-force. Fortunately, there was the small matter of a devious plan and a logbook to steal to keep me from dwelling too completely. Otherwise, we might have been in trouble.
"So...how do I start, then?" I asked quickly, more than a bit eager to change topics and get the plan back on track. "I don't know exactly what ingredients I'd need—maybe I'd have to order some things, I'm not certain. My schedule can get a bit hectic, but I'm thinking a couple of afternoons working in one of the classrooms would probably be best. So that...?"
I left the prompting words hanging there, hoping Abbott would finally take up her cue and pull out the logbook from wherever she had it stashed. I didn't know exactly how much time had passed, but we couldn't be too far from Sirius's five minute marker. If she didn't get it now, I might very well have to resort to the Accio and Pray, hoping my sheer will would be enough to prompt the book out of hiding.
I was just starting to seriously sweat that predicament when Abbott—bless her heart, that glorious, glorious girl—did indeed grab her wand from off her desk, gave it a bit of a flick, and pop! open went her desk's side drawer, just to her left.
"Whatever you need," she said, "you jot down in here."
I watched with no feeling short of jubilation—Huzzah! Success! I'd done it I'd done it I'd done it!—as Abbott reached into the drawer and pulled out an innocent looking brown book. It was long and slightly aged, but at that moment, I'd never seen anything so beautiful in my life. My fingers clenched on the chair armrests, and I had to force myself not to grin like a lunatic or snatch the book straight out of her fingers before shouting and twirling about in victory.
Stay cool, Evans. Stay cool.
"That's the logbook you mentioned?" I asked innocently.
Abbott nodded. "Whenever you have an afternoon you'd like to let a classroom, come and see me. We record it in here along with any ingredients you used for the day. Make certain to keep a careful tally of that. We keep diligent stock of what supplies are used. Understood?"
She couldn't have any idea how happy I was to hear that. Diligent stock meant that Abbott had to know what kind of ingredients Evan & Co. were fooling about with. It was the best we could hope for in terms of clues.
"If something needs to be ordered"—Abbott flipped to the back of the logbook, where I could already see columns filled with a variety of different handwritings canvassing the page—"you write it here. Getting it will depend on what it is and how much of it you need, but we have strong relationships with various apothecaries nearby. You'll need a heavy amount of flounders fiber for Halground Brew. I'll talk with Mr. Gergheim in Hogsmeade to see if he has a supply."
All I could do was nod, actually a bit surprised by how quickly this was all progressing. By this rate, Abbott would have my Potions Division application filled out by the end of the meeting.
And that's when we heard it.
I suppose the only way to describe it is a crash.
A loud, metallic, awful sounding crash.
Double bloody fucking shit.
What did Sirius do?
Abbott was already halfway out of her seat. "What in Merlin's name—"
A second later, there was the distinctive clop of running footsteps along with the unmistakable sounds of boisterous yelling and delighted laughter. It wasn't long before no less than a dozen boys—younger, probably second or third years—came zooming past Abbott's office, their hooting and hollering echoing through the dungeon corridors.
Abbott and I stared, wholly unprepared for such an onslaught of obvious mischief, but that was absolutely nothing compared to what happened next, when the corridor was suddenly filled with yet another very distinctive sound.
"YOU GET BACK HERE, YOU MISERABLE FIENDS!"
There have been few times in my life when I can say that I was really and genuinely shocked, when I honestly couldn't have possibly predicted the outcome of a certain conundrum or situation. Generally, even bizarre possibilities are at least possibilities, and thus have been even vaguely considered. But I have to admit—seeing those boys scamper past Abbott's office like a pack of rabid beasts, then hearing the raucous battle cry of Gil McCoy booming down the corridor in their wake? I can honestly say that I was completely and utterly thrown. Without a doubt, entirely floored. As I slowly began to realise just what we were watching unfold, I had to force myself not to openly gape. It was that unbelievable.
I took it all back.
Sirius Black was a ruddy genius.
A brilliant, amazing, utterly nodcock of a madman genius.
"Dear Merlin," I muttered faintly, only moments before Gil McCoy came skidding to a halt in front of Professor Abbott's office, his normally neat hair windblown and sticking up in all directions. He leaned heavily against the doorframe, his breathing obviously laboured.
"Professor!" His eyes were wild and his voice cracked. "Don't you...worry! I've...got 'em!"
"What in Merlin's name is going on here, McCoy?" Abbott demanded. "What was that noise?"
Gil was wheezing so hard, I knew I was going to have to answer for him. I literally had to bite down on my tongue to keep from laughing. It was the most difficult thing I've ever done.
"Dragons," I somehow got out. "It's Dragons, Professor."
And despite the fact that he could barely breathe, was clearly out of sorts, and looked possibly on the verge of utter collapse, Gil's eyes suddenly darted straight to me, his face turning abruptly grim as he said, "The game must end."
Down the corridor, the mob of second years continued to scream their victory.
Gil's eyes went crazed again.
Professor Abbott let out a long, disgusted sigh.
"Lead on then, McCoy," she said. "Let's catch us some second years."
I'd never seen Gil look so delighted, and I don't think there would have been anything that could've kept me from laughing like a right loon just then as the idiot began literally bouncing from foot to foot in his eagerness to be off that it was almost a good thing that Abbott rose then and—oh good God, no no no no no—shoved the logbook back in her side drawer, slamming the thing closed before grimly taking off towards Gil.
Shit shit shit shit shit.
Worse, I suddenly realised that both of Sirius's pointed predications were about to come true, because there was absolutely no way I could get away with remaining in Abbott's office without looking like an utter ponce and completely giving myself away. Thankfully, Sirius had provided a safety net for that one, but I still had to find a way to extract myself from chasing after the second years with Gil and Abbott so that I could stay behind and get that drawer open.
Following as slowly behind as I could manage, my mind grappled for an excuse, anything that could convincingly get Gil and Abbott far enough away that I could sneak back to the office without the pair of them seeing.
And I'm not sure if it's just because I was having a particularly on day, or because the world felt a bit bad for the awful mess it was making of my recent life and felt the need to make up for it, or maybe because I was currently tagteaming it with a partner and Sirius's good fortune was somehow balancing out my bad, but once again...I had it.
Good god...is this what it felt like to have good karma?
Easing Abbott's office door shut behind me—but not, as I'm hoping no one noticed but me, completely clicking it closed—I watched as Abbott and Gil turned towards the right where the sounds of the Dragons game still echoed, and deliberately stepped towards the left.
"I'll go fetch Mr. Filch," I told them, keeping my voice light and airy. "He's the one who's been dealing with most of this Dragons business. And I'm sure there might be a slight...mishap to clean up afterward."
Gil nodded absently as Abbott shot me a look that I don't think I'd be wrong in saying implied a sort of outraged betrayal, but I'd left her little choice but to follow along behind the still practically vibrating Gil. As they took off down the corridor towards the continued noise, I turned in the other direction and ambled at a much slower pace towards the staircases, shooting quick looks over my shoulder to track their progress as I went.
I gave them thirty seconds to round the corner before speeding back towards Abbott's office.
I stuck my head inside. "Sirius?"
There was a faint rattling sound before Sirius abruptly appeared, shedding the cloak and continuing to uselessly shimmy the slim handle attached to the logbook's prison-drawer.
"Hope you know your unlocking spells, Evans," he reported grimly. "She's got this thing locked up tighter than Azkaban."
Hell. I quickly joined Sirius at the side of the desk, reaching for my wand and regarding the locked drawer with narrow-eyed determination. It was certainly foolish to hope it could be so easy, but I muttered a hasty Alohomora anyway, just to start.
"Already tried that," Sirius said, shooting me a look that seemed to say, 'Why are you wasting my time?' "And Patefacio. And Expositus Appreatus. All useless."
"Keep an eye on the Map," I ordered, kneeling down by the drawer, even though proximity meant absolutely nothing in terms of this kind of wandwork. Still, I felt better doing something. "Make sure Abbott and Gil stay where they need to. How the bloody hell did you manage to make that happen, anyway? Gil? The second years? It was nothing short of genius."
"People are easily manipulated," Sirius said, and though that actually explained very little, I reckon it was still explanation enough. When I glanced up at him, he was smirking. "I thought for sure you were going to give us away. Your face was so red, you looked ready to explode."
"I had to bite my tongue so hard I think I drew blood. I don't think I've ever wanted to laugh so much in my life."
"The game must end," Sirius mimicked, then snorted. "Prongs would have died."
"After he was through killing us," I muttered, attempting a couple of useless handle rattles myself. I stared at the drawer thoughtfully, trying to remember any and all unlocking spells that might even vaguely apply. I tried to remember the pattern of movement Abbott's hand had made when she'd opened it earlier, but I hadn't been paying proper attention and the spell was obviously non-verbal. "Shit."
"Think, Evans. Charms are your thing, aren't they?"
"Shockingly enough, I don't often find myself using Charms to break into locked drawers." I tried a simple revealing spell, but nothing happened. "This is more up your alley."
"Haven't I done enough?" Sirius asked. "This is your plan. I'm spent. You make it happen."
I grumbled something decidedly rude in his direction, but Sirius either didn't care or wasn't listening. It didn't matter much anyway, because I was already lost in scouring my mind again for any kind of spell that might help. Sirius was right. No one knew Charms better than me. I had a proper arsenal of them in my head. I just needed to think. Think, think, think, think.
I tried a few more simpler ones, not technically unlocking spells, but charms that might do the trick anyway. One of them seemed to shift some gears, but the lock snapped back in place in the end, and Sirius and I both groaned. I wished I had a hairpin to jimmy the thing the old-fashioned way, but somehow I thought Abbott would have accounted for that, too.
"Looks like McCoy and Abbott have captured a few of them," Sirius reported, his eyes trained on the Map. "The rest are scattering to the wind. Bright boys."
"Idiot boys," I corrected, trying the gear-shifting spell again. Different moment, same result. "Hell. If I don't get over there soon, they might start to get suspicious."
"You can say you were still looking for Filch. He's heading down there now himself, but from the back way. If you actually were looking for him, you wouldn't have gone round there. You're fine. Just concentrate."
"I'm trying." But I wasn't, not really. The panic had started to set in and I was getting sloppy. My mind skidded over various spells and I started trying things I knew wouldn't work, but desperation was getting the best of me. What happened if we couldn't get the drawer open? All of this would be for nothing. Evan would win the day and I'd be left right back where I'd started—knowing the lot of them were up to something awful, but having no way to prove it or do anything about it. Could I come back tonight like Sirius had originally suggested? I could look up some unlocking spells in the meantime, just pray that I could get through both the door and the drawer. It was a sorry plan, but I was starting to think it might be my only option. I didn't know what else to try. "Shit, shit, shit, shit."
"Calm down," Sirius said, crouching down next to me. "You're useless if you panic. That's rule number one of marauding."
"I'm not a Marauder!"
"You're dating one," Sirius replied calmly. "You're mates with others. Rubs off, I reckon. You know this, Evans. Just let it happen."
Just let it happen. Psh. What rubbish advice. If it was as simple as that, I would have sorted it all out the moment I crouched down. Instead, I'd searched my brain and come up with nothing. It was more than a bit disheartening to realise. But even as I let myself think that I'd reached the limit to my knowledge, another part of me rebelled.
No. I knew this. I know I knew this. An unlocking spell. Opening. Something that opens. Or engages. Or shifts. Or moves—
Oh my god.
Oh my god.
Sucking in a quick breath, I closed my eyes and called on the very fibers of my memory, trying desperately to recall what I'd read—Merlin, it was from some really bleak tome ages ago, for some Charms extra credit Flitwick had assigned. I don't think I even completed the assignment. Not so shockingly, I could only remember bits and pieces, but it'd been something like round left and flick, hadn't it? And I knew the words. That I could remember.
I gave my wand an experimental wave. "Agito."
There was a click, but not a successful one. I yanked the drawer handle and it still remained closed, but it had done something. I was close.
"Try that again," Sirius said, sensing it too. "I think that might've been it."
"I can't remember the exact wandwork," I confessed, trying another angle. There was another click, but still no open lock. I growled in frustration. "Come on."
It took three more times—three excruciatingly maddening, soul-crushing clicks—but finally—finally!—I gave a left swish angled up, a twisting flick, and bam. We were in.
"Oh, thank bloody Merlin!" I cried, yanking out the drawer with probably a bit more urgency than was really necessary, but I'd just spent the better part of ten minutes living with the grim realities of failure, so I think I was allowed to be a bit overenthusiastic.
"Nice work," Sirius said, sending me a grin that wasn't even a bit sarcastic, and I decided that that, even through all this, was surely the real victory of the day. He reached in quickly, taking the logbook out. "Please tell me you at least know the copying spell."
"Of course." I took the book from him, holding it slightly away and giving the cover a deliberate swish and slide of my wand. Almost instantly, there were two. I grinned up in pure smugness. "And you thought my plan wouldn't work."
"Your plan didn't work," Sirius said, taking the copy. "My plan did."
"Shut up," I said, sliding the real logbook back in the drawer, feeling almost wrong to be shutting it closed again, but closed it went once more. "And don't you dare think I didn't notice what you said earlier. 'You're mates with others'. You've confessed it, Sirius Black. There's no escaping me now. We are the very best mates and you can't take it back!"
"I didn't mean me," Sirius argued. "Remus and Peter—"
"Lies, lies, lies," I sang smugly. "You can't escape me now!"
Sirius muttered something under his breath, undoubtedly something very rude and off-colour lamenting his poor life and sorry present troublemaking companions, but I didn't hear and frankly didn't care because my plan had succeeded and I was basking, wallowing, floundering in the victory. We had done it! We had prevailed! Huzzah, hurrah, carpe diem! Whatever this book did or didn't reveal, I was finally on the proper track to be giving Evan Rosier exactly what he deserves and there was no victory as sweet as that.
"Come on," I said, taking the Map from a still-muttering Sirius. "The sooner we're gone, the better."
He nodded, trailing along behind me as we quickly made our way out of Abbott's office, taking care to close the door firmly behind us. I glanced down at the Map and saw Abbott, Gil, and Filch were still on the other side of the dungeons, two other dots—a 'L. Hoffman' and a 'P. Patel'—trapped precariously between them. Poor sods. I knew I'd have to join them soon, but as Sirius and I hurried away from Abbott's office, I reckoned I still had a few minutes to examine our loot. We headed towards the same corner we'd stashed ourselves behind earlier, a proper full-circle of success that I wasn't about to dismiss.
When we stopped, I whirled on him, all giddy eagerness and expectantly opened palm.
"Well, come on, then!" I said. "We've just risked life and limb. Might as well see if it was worth it."
For a moment, Sirius shifted slightly and I could practically feel the heavy weight of the logbook resting in my hand. What would we find inside? I wanted so badly for all this intrigue and plotting to turn out right in the end, though karmically speaking, it seemed almost too much to hope. Abbott's talk about keeping careful stock of ingredients had seemed encouraging, but I wasn't about to assume it'd be the breakthrough I needed. Still, whatever we found, it'd be something, and something was better than the nothing I'd had before. As far as I was concerned, things only went up from here.
But as I waited patiently for answers to questions I hadn't even properly formed yet, I was suddenly thrown by, not the hard weight of the thin logbook, but the significantly wispier feel of...silk?
I glanced down at James's invisibility cloak, which Sirius had just placed in my outstretched hand. My eyes darted up to his, confused yet still amused.
"Funny," I said, thrusting the material back at him. "Quit being a prat. We're going to look at it together, for Merlin's sake."
"We will look at it together," Sirius agreed. "After."
"After you give this back to James."
My amusement faded.
"What?" I clutched the cloak he'd just thrust back at me to my chest mechanically, bewildered. "What do you mean, 'after I give this back to James'? I can't give this back to James. Don't you think he might be a tad bit suspicious by how I came to have it?"
"Exactly," Sirius said, and I could only watch as he shrunk the logbook—my darling, glorious, saviour-of-a-breakthrough logbook—down to a compact size and tucked it neatly into his trouser pocket. "It's insurance."
"Insurance for what?"
"To make sure you tell him."
"Tell him what? About all this?" At Sirius's crisp nod, my mouth dropped open. "Are you mad? Are you absolutely barking mad? The whole bloody point was for James not to find out! I told you that! You knew that! I can't tell James! I'm not telling James!"
"Fine," Sirius replied, remarkably calm. "But if you don't tell him, I'm going to have to. And how do you reckon that's going to turn out?"
I could hardly believe what I was hearing. I wanted to hit him, kick him, punch him in that stupid perfect nose of his and watch as it bled. Tell James? He wanted me to tell James? I had never heard something so completely and utterly stupid in my entire life.
"Sirius," I said, hissing his name out through clenched teeth, trying to keep my cool. "Think about this. That wasn't the plan. James is going to go ballistic. He has absolutely no reason when it comes to the Rosiers. What's the point?"
"The point," Sirius said, "is that you and I already have enough we're keeping from him. Prongs and I, we don't do that. And clever as you are, you won't be able to keep any of this secret for long, anyway. So either you tell him or I tell him, but I'm telling you now—if I have to tell him, things are not going to turn out well for you."
"This is not fair!" I cried, the panic already setting in. "Sirius, he's going to kill me."
"Kill you?" Sirius snorted. "Hardly! Me, he's going to kill. You? He'll bluster a bit, maybe sulk for the night. Then he'll order you never to do anything like it again, you'll lie and agree, and off you'll go, snogging into the sunset until your next halfwit plan, in which case the whole thing will start over again. It's all sickeningly predictable."
If this were the first straw, I might not disagree too much with Sirius's assessment. Yes, James would rage and protest. He probably would go off and brood for a day or two, letting no moment waste where he could be shooting me moody and disapproving looks. But he'd get over it eventually. If I told him I'd let things alone, if I let him barge his way into assessing the logbook too and making sure I wasn't doing anything more, he'd move past it. But the trouble was, we already had done all that. We'd lived that same ugly pattern of events, multiple times, even. And though I'd never promised precisely not to pursue this, I think it's safe to say that James assumed I'd given in to his demands to leave things alone. Add that to the fact that we weren't exactly in the most prime of places right now anyway, and I'm not so certain James wouldn't be digging a second grave right there next to Sirius's. How was I supposed to fight against that?
But things being as they are, it didn't seem I have much of choice. I glanced at Sirius, scanning his impassively stubborn face for any sign of relenting on this, but there was no leeway there. He was serious about this. If I didn't tell James, he would. And Sirius couldn't be the one to tell him. If it came down to that, I could kiss Acquiring Myself a Boyfriend goodbye, say hullo to Acquiring Myself a Million Cats Forever and Ever.
Shit, shit, shit, shit.
"Well?" Sirius crossed his arms over his chest, regarding me expectantly. "What's it to be, Evans? You talking, or am I?"
"Why are you doing this?" I moaned, not above exploiting the heady dramatics if it meant getting him to relent. "Are you really that desperate to be rid of me? Am I truly that terrible?"
"I'm helping you," he said, the delusional little liar. He scoffed loudly. "The pair of you are one thicker than the next, you know that? He spends all his time protecting you and his sodding pansy-arsed ego from imaginary problems, while you go off catapulting yourself into mess after mess in some kind of sorry search for the wrong bloody answers. How about, I don't know, talk to one another? Beats your current method of leaving trails of wreckage behind you and snogging it all away until it feels better, doesn't it?"
Not really, actually.
But I'm thinking that probably was not his point.
"Thank you for that lovely relationship analysis, Dr. Black," I muttered crossly, "but seeing as I've already gone and catapulted myself into yet another mess—with your help, might I add—don't you think it'd be better if I just...snogged my way out of this one, then began fresh in the morning?"
"You heard my terms," Sirius replied stubbornly. "Snog on your own time."
"Merlin—fine!" Throwing my hands up in defeat, I crushed the cloak into a compact heap and then shoved the silky fabric unceremoniously into my rucksack. I cannot be held responsible for any possible collateral damage. "Fine, have it your bloody way. I'll tell him! But just so you know, you've just single-handedly completely spoiled my night. Possibly my entire life. So when I'm living alone with a million cats and nothing to do, I'm going to train them to kill and then I'm siccing them on you. Consider yourself warned."
"Oh dear," Sirius said. "Is this our first fight?"
I didn't see the need to respond to that, only snarled something ugly and turned on my heel as the stupid smirk stretched his face. I was too cross then to really think about what Sirius's ultimatum meant, couldn't possibly have seen the forest for the trees as I had to take off to play my proper Head Girl part with Abbott and Gil. I barely had enough sense to call something threatening over my shoulder about how Sirius had better not even bloody think of opening up that logbook without me or I'd skip the whole cat plan and butcher him myself before his amused chuckles sent me stomping round the corner and straight back into distraction. But now that Abbott and Gil have been taken care of (with a stunning performance by yours truly, as well as a promise to continue my conversation with Abbott once I sorted out my schedule, and a surprisingly serious suggestion to Gil that he head to Pomfrey for some calming draught before he wet himself with excitement)...well, I'm starting to get rather worried.
My perfect Opportune Moment is beginning to look like a train wreck waiting to happen.
I mean, I suppose I could put off telling James about the logbook until morning. Sirius didn't give any kind of timeframe on his stupid bloody ultimatum and I'll be delighted to remind him as much if he has the gall to say something about it tomorrow. By then, James will have had a good night's rest between him and his lunchtime dramas, will have likely Acquired Himself a (arguably) pretty fab Girlfriend in the meantime, and hey—it's even Quidditch tomorrow! James loves Quidditch! He'll probably be grinning from ear to ear!
But...well, then I'd have to go and spoil his good mood. And after hearing what I'd been up to the afternoon before and had (strategically) decided not to tell him until after I'd already got him in my clutches...well, something tells me he might start looking into the return policy on Recently Acquired Girlfriends. It wouldn't be the shortest relationship I'd ever had (1968, Charlie Munfrey. Kissed me in our back garden while our mums were having tea, then was caught doing much the same with Tuney an hour later. I was, as expected, inordinately devastated), but it certainly wouldn't be my finest effort. And I reckon I might have a tad bit more of an attachment to James than I did to Charlie Munfrey.
Which leaves me back at square one—figuring out how the bloody hell I'm supposed to tell James tonight without completely destroying any trust or affection he's ever had for me.
Ugh, ugh, ugh, ugh.
I hate Sirius Black.
Later, Dinner in the Great Hall
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 327
Ten Reasons Why I, Lily Christine Evans, Cannot Possibly Be Expected to be Enjoying This Halloween Feast (Despite the Presence of Three—Count Them, Three—Different Types of Rice Currently Adorning the Table)
1. I adore Sir Nicholas. Really, I do. Of all the ghosts freely haunting this place, he is the cream of the crop, the very best. But I swear, if I have to hear that bloody Deathday song one more time, he will not be merely nearly headless for much longer. Not to mention—
2. —all anyone can bloody talk about is Ravenclaw's stupid Halloween party, which I am obviously unable to attend due to rotten Head Girl obligations. I wasn't so cross about this before seeing as I had quite the Opportune evening planned, but now that those prospects have taken a potential turn for the significantly worse, I feel I am not willing to listen to everyone's snogging betting pools and predictions about whether anyone can top last year's shenanigans when Penny O'Jene found Hyena Boy wiggling suggestive eyebrows at Kiki Molter and promptly charmed every pumpkin in the room to begin attacking him (doubtful. It was pretty hilarious). So I confess, I may be sulking a bit. But that is nothing compared to—
3. —Chris Lynch, who has apparently decided to turn sulking into an art form. Grace finally put an official end to their mutual mauling this afternoon in order to free up other opportunities for herself in the betting pool tonight, and Chris is not taking it very well. His sulky sighs are growing louder than Sir Nicholas's singing. Which would matter, expect for—
4. —the yelling. Dear Merlin, the yelling. The tense situation between Laura Darthern and Janie Finch that had sent Marley running to our end of the table earlier this afternoon has apparently escalated into total mutinous warfare once again. I have not heard so much wailing since June Mackey called Moaning Myrtle a stupid cow last spring and she didn't shut up for days. It is almost too much for one's poor ears to bear. Worse, it looks like there is little end to the yelling in sight, especially as—
5. —both Laura and Janie's mediation counselors have apparently decided to skip dinner. Which is a real issue, seeing as—
6. —one of these counselors cannot possibly be expected to properly Acquire and/or Kill Himself A Girlfriend on an empty stomach. While—
7. —the other counselor had best have a proper explanation for why he's gone without his evening meal because I swear to Merlin if the bloody fool has gone back on his word and spilled everything to James before I could, Hogwarts had better go ahead and build itself a graveyard because the body count in this place is really about to start piling up. Or that would be the plan, anyway, if—
8. —murder sentences in Azkaban weren't so bloody long. So alternatively—
9. —suicide is now a pretty conceivable option. Especially as—
10. Rice can apparently not fix everything.
Observation #327) The world is a sad, sad place.
Some Later, 7th Year Girls' Dormitory
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 327
Cornered Gracie as she was consulting potential evening wardrobe choices from the dormitory closet:
"Gracie, in your opinion, which is better to receive first—hypothetically—good news or bad news?"
"Oh no," Grace moaned, glancing away from Emma's short, purple robes set only long enough to shoot me a pitying stare. "What've you done now, Slaggy?"
"Nothing!" I wisely chose to ignore the snort that immediately followed this response. "This is hypothetical, remember? A random poll for general knowledge. So which is it? Good news or bad news?"
"Well, do they know they're getting both?" she questioned, quite wisely actually. "Because then I reckon you're all right either way—they'll tell you which they want first, and then they have only themselves to blame if it all goes sour. That's the whole point of laying it out that way, isn't it? But if they don't know good news is coming, they might throw tantrums at the bad and never let you get round to the good."
"So the good news has to come first." I considered this. "Hm."
"Does it even really matter?" Grace asked, turning round to quirk a pointed eyebrow my way. "No matter what you decide, somehow, someway, it's all going to turn wrong, isn't it? That's the Lily Evans way."
A Bit Later, Still in 7th Year Girls' Dormitory
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 327
It's not going to go all wrong. It can't go all wrong. Grace is right—I'll give him the good news, be all, "Guess who's decided to officially take herself off the market, eh?" and he'll be so delighted and relieved and, yes, all right, fine, sufficiently snogged, that he won't even care that I rather sort of maybe went against his explicit wishes and catapulted myself into another Rosier-themed conundrum.
Etc, Etc Dormitory
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 328
Later , Etc Dormitory
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 328
Everyone's leaving for the party and I have to leave to meet James in ten minutes as well and I might've just vomited a bit in the loo and what kind of mates abandon a girl when she is in these kinds of sorry straits? What kind of friendship is that, hm?
Too Soon Later, Etc Dormitory
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 328
I can't just sit here anymore. I can't.
You know what? No big deal. I'll head down and wait outside the portrait hole a bit early. I'm helping absolutely no one by fretting up here, making myself sick with worry, delaying the inevitable. I'll just go downstairs and it's out of my hands.
This will be okay. It will all be okay.
Right. I'm off.
Later, Outside the Portrait Hole
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 328
He can't seriously be late right now.
I'm on the verge of a mental breakdown, seriously contemplating tossing myself out the nearest window in order to avoid the unbearable consequences of his irrational brain, and he's seriously going to be late right now?
Minutes Later, Still Outside the Portrait Hole
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 328
But...could he possibly have forgotten? Or just decided not to show up? Merlin knows he was in a vile enough mood for it, but that doesn't seem like James. He at least would have sent me a note if he was planning to skive. He's not the sort just to leave me waiting.
It's only been fifteen minutes. Maybe I'm overreacting. Perhaps he's just lost track of time. Or maybe he's sleeping! I'm always sleeping! Maybe James is finally sleeping, too! I'll just bribe a first year to go check his room. He's probably in there, anyway.
Yes, good plan, carry on.
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 328
Damn it. How is he not in his room? Where the bloody hell could he be if not in his room? I mean, he couldn't have possibly gone to the party, could he've? Not when we have rounds. Not when he was in such a state. But maybe I ought to just—
Oh, praise Merlin, finally.
Where the bloody hell is he coming from?
Late, 7th Floor Lavatory
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 328
What did I do?
Ohgodohgodohgod what did I just do?
Late, 7th Floor Lavatory
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 328
Shit, I'm going to be sick.
Very Late, 7th-Year Girls' Dormitory
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 329
I never did find out where he was coming from. I suppose that seems decidedly beside the point after all this, but I'm thinking that the only proper way to get this down is to just tell it exactly as it happened, start to finish, beginning to end, and that's where I'd left off—wondering where he'd been coming from. As he came walking down the corridor—his pace decidedly unhurried for a bloke who was nearly a half-hour past the time when he was meant to be meeting someone, I might add—that, naturally, was the first question to come to mind: where the bloody hell had he been?
And it wasn't even that I hadn't asked—I had done. In fact, it was the very first thing that I had asked, practically before he was even within earshot. But I was stressed and I was tired and I was still feeling at least 40% on my way to needing another quick kip in the loo to heave up a boot or an anchor or something, so I feel like a smidge of over-eagerness was wholly understandable given the circumstances, yeah?
"Merlin above, where have you been? I was starting to get worried!"
My question did not receive an answer. James simply continued to walk, his hands in his pockets and his robes billowing slightly behind him—had he been outside? I would've reached out to touch him, tried to find some answers in the chill of his skin, but he seemed so...closed off, that I didn't want to risk what it'd feel like if he actually flinched away. Looking at him then, such a reaction seemed a real possibility.
And the thing is—it's not like I hadn't known I could be in for something like this, all right? I did. Of course I did. I know how James works. I saw him this afternoon. His reaction had been extreme, even for him. And yes, all right, perhaps I didn't quite think he'd still be this bad after having the past few hours to process everything, but I can be a bit too optimistic with things like that. I was so used to the endless karmic trials of life tearing me down that I forgot people don't naturally have the same quick misery rebound rate that I've learned to acquire. And James more than most loves to lose himself in his brooding and melancholy. It'd probably been entirely foolish to really expect anything otherwise.
And call me mad, but even with him so completely shut down... I still didn't immediately think the night was completely unsalvageable. Blinded by 50% illness and 50% pure, unadulterated foolish hope, I was confident enough in whatever stood between us to think that I might be able to coax some semblance of peace back into him. Then I could start attempting to tackle my good news/bad news predicament.
But first things first.
"I really didn't think I was going to have to whip this out so early," I muttered, filling the empty silence by reaching into my rucksack (hoping he didn't notice the invisibility cloak I still had stashed at the bottom, Merlin help us all) and pulling out Mum's latest tin of fudge, "but it seems desperate times call for desperate measures."
I shook the tin enticingly, then held it out to him with a grin. After staring at it a moment, James shook his head.
"No, I'm all right," he said. "Thanks."
"Are you, though?" I asked, actually worried now. "All right, I mean? I know...I mean, this afternoon—"
"We don't have to do this," I told him, ignoring the twinge of disappointment that rolled through me at the thought, even with all the drama I knew was waiting ahead. "I can't pretend to understand exactly what's going on, but I know it's been a mad day. If you're not up for it, I can just do the rounds myself. I'll probably just find a corner and keep out the way, anyway, with everyone running about for the party—"
"No." His voice was soft, but sharp. My offer seemed to shake something out of him though, and he lifted his chin a notch as his face took on a determined set. "No, it's all right. I'm all right. Let's just go, yeah? Sorry I was late."
"S'fine," I said, though it wasn't. "But are you sure—"
"I said I'm fine."
But he wasn't. He absolutely, 100%, no-doubt-about-it was not fine. But what could I really do then, except just go along with it?
So that's what I did. I followed him as he took off towards the staircases, biting my tongue and resolving to try to do whatever I could to placate him while he was still obviously lost in the throes of whatever bad humor he couldn't shake himself out of. I wasn't pleased about it, but it seemed clear to me then that no kind of Opportune Moment was about to present itself, so Acquiring Myself a Boyfriend was promptly nicked from the evening's agenda. So, I grimly decided, was fulfilling Sirius's ultimatum. Kicking James while he was down seemed in every way possible a poor idea, and even a stubborn arse like Sirius had to see that. My new plan for the evening was simply not to make things any worse. If I played my cards right, maybe I could even coax a smile or two out of him.
Oh, the dreams of the young and the naive.
But I was resilient, and I was determined, so as we set off towards the first floor to begin our cursory sweeps—strategically avoiding the second floor, where we knew the Ravenclaw party was now undoubtedly in full swing—I threw on the charm full-force. With a little editing, I was able to relay (rather hilariously, if I do say so myself) the Dragon-themed events of this afternoon, sparing no quarter when it came to describing Gil McCoy in all his frightening glory and the sad persecution of poor L. Hoffman and a P. Patel (who had officially been identified as Liam Hoffman and Patir Patel, two unfortunate Ravenclaw second years who were forced to bear all the burden for their abandoning, troublemaking mates). When I got to the "game must end" bit, I was rewarded with a snort and a smile, but it was rather short-lived and I failed to garner a repeat performance. Still, the evening wasn't over yet and I had all the time in the world to fight for a comeback.
We'd been at it for about an hour, lazily strolling through the corridors and docking points and evening plans from anyone we stumbled across who was below fifth year (did they really think they'd make it into the party, anyway?) and all things considered, I'd say we weren't faring too poorly. James had remained mostly silent for the entirety of the evening, leaving me to fill the quiet with endless chatter, but that was all right. I could do endless chatter. I was even pretty brill at endless chatter. And even though I had yet to top the snort-and-smile, James had seemed to grow slightly less miserable as the minutes wore on. There was still something distinctly off about him—the only way I can think to describe it was that he was tense. Stoically, forcefully tense, as if he were girding himself for battle—but as was the plan, he didn't seem to get any worse. I chose to take that as a victory.
We'd quickly made it back up to the 6th floor and decided to take a bit of a break from our already half-arsed efforts. We headed towards the far side of the floor, dawdled by a little niche of windows where it was least likely anyone would come across the Head Boy and Girl skiving their duties. I hopped up on one of the windowsills and cracked open the tin of fudge again. This time, James took some when offered.
Things were quiet as we nibbled, and I was frankly rather glad to give my poor, rambling voice a break. I was about to delve into the tin again, prolonging my chatter respite for just a few more moments, when James broke into the silence himself.
"I have to talk to you," he said.
I stopped nibbling, swallowing hard the chocolaty glob already in my mouth. It went down roughly, but successfully, and I watched as James's shoulders lifted a bit, his back easing straighter. He looked impassive, but strangely determined.
"All right," I said slowly, confused but a bit relieved too. I'd about run out of things to say myself, and honestly, James's prolonged silence had really been starting to unnerve me. "What about?"
James opened his mouth, then closed it. His lips twitched agitatedly, and he didn't continue. I watched him with growing apprehension.
"I talked to Sirius," he said.
I talked to Sirius.
He'd talked to Sirius.
He'd talked to Sirius.
"What?" My voice came out harsher than expected. "What?"
"I talked to Sirius," James repeated. "And I—"
"That dirty, lying bastard!" I hopped down from the ledge, effectively cutting off whatever it was James was going to say. "I can't believe him! I can't bloody believe him! He told you! That little—I was going to tell you myself! Look—" I crouched down to the ground, rummaging through my rucksack where I promptly grabbed James's cloak from the bottom and immediately rose, shoving it at his chest. His fingers caught it reflexively. "Look! See? I was going to bloody well give it back and tell you myself but then you showed up and were already looking like someone had killed your favourite pet and I stupidly didn't want to make it any worse! Merlin, I knew when the pair of you didn't show up for dinner that he'd gone and done it. I knew it, but I didn't want to believe it. Stupid arse. Did he tell you I didn't steal the sodding thing alone, hm? It was both of us in the office, thank you very much! I wasn't in this by myself! Did he tell you that?"
At this point, I was all but panting, so lost in my dread and my rage and my oh god he was going to kill me that I could hardly see straight. I couldn't believe it. I bloody well couldn't believe it. Why the bloody fuck would Sirius have gone through all that codswallop about having me tell James if he was planning all along to immediately tell him himself? What was the point of that? He didn't even give me the chance. He didn't even leave open the possibility. I couldn't believe it.
And maybe if I weren't so blinded by my fury, if I hadn't been so consumed by my utter and complete panic, I would have realised sooner rather than later that I was not the only one utterly thrown by this conversation.
Turns out, James probably couldn't believe Sirius, either.
"Where did you get this?" he asked slowly, lifting the cloak and staring at it as if he didn't recognise it. "Where did you—what are you talking about?"
"What am I...what?" I froze, my stomach dropping clear straight to my toes. "What do you mean, what am I talking about? The...the logbook. This afternoon. You just said you talked to Sirius."
"Yeah. Yesterday. About your sister. He told me about your sister." James held up the cloak again and shook it. "Now what the bloody fuck is this?"
Oh my god.
Oh my god.
"My...he told you..." Oh hell, I was going to vomit. "He told you about my sister?"
"Lily," James gritted. "What. Is. This?"
I ignored him, turning away and running a panicked hand through my hair. Oh god, he knew. He knew about Petunia. Sirius had told him about Mum's letter and Petunia. The thought sickened me, horrified me, left me so completely betrayed and embarrassed and oh god he knew. He knew he knew he knew.
How could he?
"He had no right!" I cried, gasping for breath, feeling the pinching at my eyes but desperately trying not to cry. "He had no bloody right to tell you anything about it! That is none of your bloody business and if I wanted you to know, I would have bloody well told you myself!"
"Then why the fucking hell didn't you?" James shouted back, apparently forgetting about the cloak in lieu of raging himself. He look was fierce. "You'll run off and talk to Sirius about it—someone you don't even like, for fuck's sake—before even considering talking to me? Am I really that worthless to you? Are you really that determined to keep me out?"
"Oh good god, please don't tell me you're actually going to try to play the wounded one with this, right?" I laughed without humour. "Oh, that's bloody rich. That's really, sodding rich. James Potter, aghast because I won't talk to him about things. You're really twisted, do you know that? You have some kind of truly fucked up sense of entitlement to have the nerve to be cross about that."
"Maybe I would have, if it apparently wasn't the only thing you were keeping from me." At this, he lifted the cloak again. He drew closer, his face red with fury. "So I'm going to ask again—what. Is. This?"
"Your invisibility cloak," I answered peevishly, furious and annoyed and looking to incite him.
It worked. "Lily—"
"Sirius and I conned our way into Abbott's office this afternoon to steal her logbook," I snapped, too enraged to be any gentler about it, wanting to shock him, hurt him. I crossed my arms over my chest and glared defiantly. "That's why I was down there this afternoon before Gil. That's why I have your stupid cloak. Because we needed it to get the book."
"Why," he asked, strangely calm, "did you need to steal her logbook?"
Lily shut up Lily shut up don't do it don't do it oh god don't do it.
"Because everyone who works in a classroom after hours has to do it through her. Which means Evan did, too."
And quite like that, James was not so calm anymore.
"What?" he roared. "What?"
"Oh, come off it," I scoffed. "We stole a stupid logbook. It was completely harmless!"
"I told you—"
"Told me what, exactly?" I asked, throwing my hands up in aggravation. "Please, do go on! You told me what, exactly? That you don't like him? That I don't know what I'm getting myself into? Right. So a big, fat lot of nothing, is what you told me. You'll forgive me if I didn't feel particularly compelled to listen to your extremely hostile and completely unfounded dictates. I've been cursed with a mind of my own and a will to follow it!"
James was shaking now. "You don't understand a bloody thing—"
"You're right. I don't. But you have no one to blame for that but yourself!"
James didn't seem to know how to answer that, and truly, I didn't know if I expected him to. I was practically panting at this point, so supremely livid at him, at Sirius, at everything, that I didn't even know which way was up, much less what was meant to come next. How did we get here? In the space of minutes, everything had turned so ugly. The distance between my ideal Opportune Moment and the reality of this one was so comically opposite that I would have laughed if I'd had the breath to do it.
Merlin, this was bad. This was so, so very bad. I had never seen James like this, so entirely out of control and on the verge of...something. Even in his most furious moment, it didn't hold a candle to this. He was unhinged, broke open. He looked ripe and ready to explode.
And even as the thought terrified me...even as I knew there was no going back from this...another part of me...
Oh, fuck it. Another part of me was relieved. Glad, even.
He'd finally cracked. Good. Maybe now I could bloody get something out of him. Maybe now he'd let go of his ruddy unwavering control long enough for us to actually get somewhere. He thinks I shut him out? Bullshit. What complete and utter bullshit. I am not the only one with trust issues and if this is what it took to make him see that—then, fine. Fine, we'd do it his way.
He wanted to have it out? Jolly good fun. We'd have it out.
But you'd better duck, Potter. I've got a mean left hook.
"You have some nerve," I told him, happy to supply the words if he couldn't find them. "You really do, you know that? All of this—coming out here like I'm the one with all the secrets? You, who puts me up on your neat little life shelf and wouldn't dare let me see what's above or below? That—"
"At least you're on a shelf," James snapped, eyes flashing dangerously. "At least I bloody well include you in something. You've got me dangling on the edge, just as glad to see me crash to the ground as remain upright. Even bloody fucking Sirius—"
"Oh, dear Merlin, will you just shut up about Sirius? This has nothing to do with him!"
"Really? Because it seems the pair of you are getting awful close lately."
This time, I had to laugh.
I couldn't help it. I had to.
"Good lord." I covered my eyes, shaking my head. "Please do not tell me you are actually getting jealous of Siriusright now. Sirius, who I only bloody well started to tolerate to make you happy—"
"You told him about your sister," James retorted, as if this explained everything. "You told him and you didn't tell me—"
"He was there!" I cried, hardly believing this. "I sodding ran into him in the corridor, did he tell you that bit? It could've been anyone! But you know what? I'm not going to bloody apologise for it either because, I'm glad it was him. He understood. He's a bloody arsehole most of the time, but he understood. And I'm sorry that I didn't want to go shouting my problems to the world, but—"
"I wasn't asking you to shout it to the world," James said. "Just me. I thought you'd just bloody well tell me."
"I especially wouldn't tell you!"
I thought the reasons behind this were obvious. I mean, I'd explained as much to him that night in the Trophy Room, hadn't I? That Petunia was my Big Thing and that the very last thing I wanted him to be seeing me as was some sad girl whose own sister would go as far as to lie to their family just so I wouldn't turn up to her wedding and provide the complimentary freak show? Even now, the thought of him knowing all that makes me nauseated. It's so...more than humiliating. Awful. Shameful. He had to see that.
But apparently he didn't. He didn't see it at all. Because instead he said this:
"Right. Right, of course." His face went hard. "Because why would you tell me, yeah? I'm not anything important. You and I...we're not really...because things are sort of mad right now? And complicated? You've got a million things on your plate—Head Girl business and life. It's just not a grand idea..."
When first I heard this, I started to laugh again because—Head Girl business and life? What the bloody hell was he on about? Was he really that lost in his madness that he was seriously spouting such drivel? I'd never heard such rubbish in all my life.
But the way he was staring at me then—pointed and expectant, as if he'd just swung a winning punch and was waiting for me to realise it and fall down...the words...
Wait a second.
"What did you just say?" I played it over it my head, then recounted the afternoon much the same. Found a match. "That...but that's...how did you..." I froze. Oh my god. "My bag," I whispered, narrowing my eyes on him. "No one kicked it. You moved it. While I was talking to Rob. While you were—what? Spying on me?"
"I was coming to see if you wanted to walk or something," James answered, as if this was perfectly logical. "I'd had sort of a rubbish afternoon, if you might remember. You were a bit busy, though."
"Yes, a bit busy attending class and turning down other blokes." I stared incredulously at him. "And you're somehow cross about this? That I didn't know you'd decided to stalk me invisibly and that I went and rejected a perfectly nice boy?"
"Sure, reject him now," James sneered petulantly. "But considering I'm clearly not an issue, maybe once you uncomplicate things—"
"I was being nice," I cried, seriously baffled by how he'd somehow twisted this all round so that he was the one wronged. "I didn't want Rob feeling any more awkward, so I just blathered on some stupid excuses—though when you're acting like such a giant arse, I really start to wonder why I bother!"
I didn't really mean it—I was angry and I was indignant and I wanted to wipe that smug gleam from his eyes, but even James must have realised that I was just blustering. He couldn't honestly believe my feelings were that insignificant that one row—even one impossibly huge row—was enough to wipe everything between us like that. I mean, honestly. Even I could see the bigger picture here, and I was moments away from hexing him until he hurled.
But just goes to show what I know.
James crossed his arms over his chest, scoffing softly.
"And look at that," he said. "Right off the shelf."
Oh dear Merlin, the bloody tosser.
And the thing is, I could've left then. I could've shot him my most murderous look, abandoned him to drown in his own bloody fucking dim assumptions and insecurities, and marched right off then and there without so much as a glance back. I could've done that. Merlin knows part of me certainly wanted to. He would've deserved nothing less.
But that was part of the problem. He definitely would've deserved nothing less. In fact, he deserved so much less. I mean, there I'd been, perfectly content to spend my evening devoted to making him feel better, trying to find a way to let him know that I wanted to do this thing between us, that I was ready and happy and excited to stop blustering about it and throw ourselves into a relationship—and what had he been doing? Planning an attack. Boiling in his own awful preconceptions about me. Thinking the worst—believing the worst. And for that I was more than angry. I was hurt. I was disheartened. I was a bit devastated, really.
And though Merlin knew I was not blameless for any of this—if I hadn't been so wary of it all to begin with, if I weren't so determined to keep some things from him that I probably, in retrospect, should have considered more carefully—that still didn't change the reality of things.
He really had no faith in my feelings for him.
He honestly thought I was that easily swayed, that careless.
He actually thought that terribly of me.
And for that, I wanted to be the one to leave victorious. I wanted to make sure he felt stunned, felt slapped, felt the rug swept out from under him and the hard floor resting beneath.
And I knew just how to do it, too.
"And that's what this all comes down to, isn't it?" I said quietly, roughly. "That's honestly what you think—of this, of me. What was it now? Our relationship that's not evena relationship? That hangs so precariously on my puppet strings? Just waiting for my last straw, yeah?"
For a moment, James just stared. The words were out and I wasn't about to take them back and I knew—I'd always known, since practically the very moment I'd overheard it—that that stupid cow and the things she'd said was what half this was all about anyway and it was only a matter of time before he placed the words and figured it out, as well.
Because he wasn't the only one who could eavesdrop.
And foolishly, I didn't care if he knew it anymore.
"What did you say?" he asked, eyes widened. "That...did Liz tell you—"
"Does it matter?" I retorted, probably too pleased by how this seemed to unnerve him; pleased because the only other option was to feel a bit sickened, and I couldn't possibly feel any more of that without curling up in the nearest corner and never leaving again. It was easier to take satisfaction from his dark looks, to throw the words back in his face and watch the shambles fall. "She was right, wasn't she? That's what you think. That I'm actually that cavalier about this. That'd I'd really drop you in a blink of an eye. That I'm so flighty and my regards for you so bloody insignificant, that if you dare tell me anything about yourself that isn't some...some perfect mold, that I'll just wipe my hands of all of this and be done? That's the reality of it, isn't it?"
Every moment that he hesitated before answering then was like a swift kick to the gut.
Every. Single. Moment.
"Lily," he finally said. "I don't know what she told you—"
"She didn't need to tell me anything!" I shouted, not seeing the point in correcting his misconception, not seeing the point in much of anything anymore. "It doesn't even ruddy matter, because I've known practically all along that that's what was going on. That you can bullshit and bluster all you want, but I'm not the only one holding back! Merlin knows I may not be perfect, but I was never less than honest with you about my feelings. Never. You knew exactly what you were getting into with me. But you...I don't even know you, do I? You'll never let me."
"Not what? Not true?" I wanted to laugh, but couldn't. "I'm not an idiot, James. And I'm not blind, either. You play at this all so well, I don't think even you realise how automatic the lying is anymore. All the left out information. All the gaps you just talk or snog your way out of. For Merlin's sake, the number of times alone where you've played the whole 'I have to tell you something' and then just completely skipped that part—"
"Because of you!" James cried, and now he didn't look shocked anymore—he looked angry again, indignantly so, as if I was audacious beyond all exception for what I had the nerve to be saying. "Because every time I even think about starting to—about...you go on and prove that it's all bloody useless! That it doesn't even matter! That I don't even matter. Because if I did—if any of it did—you would fucking well realise...you'd remember..."
"Remember what?" I taunted. "Go on. Remember what? See? You're doing it now! You rant and you rave but you never actually say anything at all and it's not—"
"Fine!" James shouted, quickly closing the space between us. "You really want to know? Fine. Follow me."
He grabbed my arm and instantly kept in motion, jerking me around and giving me rather little option in the whole "follow me" bit when his fingers were like a manacle around my wrist and he was determinedly stomping off down the corridor. I stumbled slightly, but quickly picked up his pace, livid and exasperated but mostly so goddamned relieved because after all this, all these weeks, we finally seemed to be at some kind of turning point and he was finally going to tell me something—anything—and even in my all-out fury, I was desperate to hear it.
He took a sudden turn in a direction I wasn't quite expecting and we somehow found ourselves on the back staircase, which James took nearly in twos on the way up. Were we heading back to the Tower? To the Room of Requirement? But both would have required us taking a left at the top of the stairs, and instead James took a sharp right. My mind zoomed through possibilities, but the only thing I could think of in this direction was Dumbledore's office.
And sure enough:
"Here!" We skidded to a halt right outside of the giant gargoyle, and James's face was red and his breathing ragged as he turned on me. His grip on my wrist was nothing sort of crushing and eyes had this wild look about them. "Here! This!" he cried again.
"Are you mad?" I hissed frantically. "Dumbledore might still be in his office! Anyone can hear—"
"Lily." He jerked me closer, his face now inches from mine. This was not a James I knew. This was not one I'd ever seen. His jaw was clenched and his voice took on a deadly serious timber. "Look. Here. Does this mean anything to you?"
"No!" I whispered harshly, confused and anxious and what the bloody fuck was I supposed to see? "No, this doesn't mean anything! I don't know what the bloody hell you're talking about! What am I supposed to be seeing?"
There was a moment—just the briefest of moments—where my answer seemed to hang in the air between us and James's face—still so close to mine, so familiar and yet so unfamiliar that I wanted to scream, to cry, to shout my James back out of this terribly severe replacement I'd somehow created, to make this all of this go away—seemed frozen in place. He didn't move, didn't so much as blink. There was just the pair of us, standing there inside that corridor, staring at each other and waiting for what seemed to be the inevitable disappointments.
And then, just like that, he started to laugh.
"You don't see anything," he repeated, lifting his fingers beneath his glasses and pinching at the corner of his eyes. "No, of course you don't see anything."
I stared helplessly, lost. "No. What—"
"What the fuck are we doing? What the fuck am I doing?"
"Because you don't even bloody get it, do you? And why should you? It's not...fucking hell." He dropped his hand from his eyes and finally looked at me. Resigned. Almost exhausted. My heart began to pound. "What am I always trying to tell you?" he said. "What's with all the bloody secrets and lying and—Merlin, I don't even know anymore, but it probably all just comes down to the fact that I've been so bloody fucking in love with you, and you can't even fucking remember—"
Oh my god.
Oh my god.
"What?" I whispered hoarsely, my entire body frozen, everything in me just...ohmygodohmygod. "What did you just say?"
"I can't do this anymore," he said then, and while I remained fixed to the ground—completely and utterly rooted, with the deepest and strongest of tendrils, like I'd grown there for years and years and was never meant to do otherwise—he took a step back, away from me. "I just...I can't do this anymore."
My voice was small, choked.
But he didn't wait, not even a little bit, not at all. He turned round and walked off, and for the life of me I couldn't do anything more than just stand there and watch him do it—trace his disappearing figure as it vanished down the corridor, the heavy sounds of his quickening steps the only thing audible beside the frantic beating of my pounding heart.
Move, it screamed, loudly and hysterically. Go! Call to him! Go after him! What are you doing? Why are you just standing there?
But I didn't.
I don't know why.
I just...oh god, I don't know why.
Because when someone tells you...when someone tells you he loves you—even if he sort of yells it at you, even if he doesn't sound the least bit pleased about it—you're supposed to bloody well do something more than just stand there as he walks away.
I stood there staring like a mindless idiot, then promptly sped for the nearest lavatory where I subsequently vomited up my last eight meals.
And now I just...
So bloody fucking in love with you.
I've been so bloody fucking in love with you.
Oh god, I don't know. I don't know what to do and I don't know what he meant and I...I think I've just royally fucked everything up in every possible way but I don't even know how I've done that except that I obviously have done because otherwise he wouldn't have...when he said...
Still Too Late, Still Same
Observant Lily: Day 46
Total Observations: 329
I just need to go to bed.
I need to go to bed and to stop thinking about this because I don't have anything left to throw up and I can't cry anymore and everyone's going to be back soon and I can't talk about this right now, I just can't.
Better in the morning.
Everything's better in the morning.
Saturday, November 1st, 7th-Year Girls' Dormitory
Observant Lily: Day 47
Total Observations: 330
Not better in the morning.
Worse in the morning.
V v worse in the morning.
Shut up Quidditch shut up everyone worse.
Everyone gone and I think
Hurts too much
J OR G OR E OR ANYONE,
HELP. SOMETHING WRONG. EVERYTHING HURTS. TOO MUCH HURTS I DON'T KNOW YOU NEED TO COME BACK PLEASE GET THIS AND COME BACK I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO
Wednesday, November 5th (I think?), Hospital Wing
Observant Lily: Day 51 (Should this count?)
Total Observations: 330
That was...quite interesting.
And I mean, not to be That Person but...
Well. I did tell them so.
But hey, look at it this way—at least it's something to mark off the Life Checklist, eh?
Survive first brush with death?