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Chapter 8: Eight
Disclaimer: Okay, think this through. If any of us owned Harry Potter, what would we be doing here?
There's a flashback, in italics. I'm not a big fan of these, but the sudden eye-opener Lily's about to get made it necessary.
She had believed they were past this point; this was a scene out of her nightmares. That explained it: this was a nightmare, a fantastic recreation of something very similar to an event in Fifth Year. But they were more mature than that; they weren't fifteen anymore and he finally had learned how to make her laugh. Surely he should know this was the wrong way to ask her out. There were a variety of ways in which she would have agreed, but this wasn't one of them.
She felt the blood leave her face as he extended the flowers. Any moment, he would say this was a joke and apologize for humiliating her. If she just waited a moment…
When she realized he was serious, that he expected this to work, her reality crashed around her. She felt she could hear it shattering in her ears as it collapsed to the ground. Her mind hummed in a state of numbness and her instincts took over.
The faces blurred as she hurried away, so embarrassed she wanted to scream. She really liked him, why did he have to hurt her? Why couldn't he have asked like a normal boy, when no one else was around? Didn't he know this was the wrong way to go about it?
It seemed as though she should be used to it, after so many years of his public displays of affection, but it was just the opposite. She couldn't stand public attention now; it made her nervous to be at the center of a crowd's eyes, for she feared something ridiculous would happen. She hated to be embarrassed.
"Please, Lily, wait!" he yelled, but Lily didn't want to hear what he had to say. The tears were blurring her eyes and she could hardly see what she was going, but she continued to run. She knew if he kept after her, he would catch her; he was far faster than she was. But after a while, she knew he wasn't behind her anymore. That hurt far more than any of what had just occurred did.
She was tired of being humiliated by James and his displays. Her feelings for James slid under the bridge as her embarrassment and anger overtook her. He hadn't changed, not really. He merely pretended to be more mature around her in order to win her over!
She sighed, rubbing the tears from her eyes. She slid down the wall, her knees packed in closely. She knew that wasn't true; she could see it in his eyes.
A hand tucked itself against her shoulder and she turned her head to it lethargically.
"He didn't mean to upset you," Sirius whispered. As she looked into his eyes, hers filled with tears against her will once more.
"I'm tired of being humiliated," she whispered back. "I'm tired of being hurt and confused and played with."
Sirius wrapped his arm around her shoulders and said gently, "He's not playing. He really does—"
"Yes, I get it," she interrupted harshly. "He has real feelings for me. But what does that matter if he can't bloody express them properly? Doesn't he realize I have feelings, too? That I'm a person as much as he is, and I have as much say as he does? Does he realize that, Sirius? Do you?"
Her voice got quieter as she spoke and it trembled at the end. She held back her tears: she would not cry for James Potter, not anymore.
"Does he even know I fancy him in return?" she whispered, her gaze met by the wall across the way.
"Yes, that's right," she interrupted harshly. "You heard that, I admitted it. Lily Evans has fallen for James Potter. Gloat all you'd like now."
"I wasn't going to gloat, Lily," Sirius whispered back kindly. "I was just going to say—"
"It doesn't matter," she said, pushing away from Sirius. "He's done worse than this, he can figure his way out of it."
"You aren't so innocent yourself," Sirius said, his eyes focused on the ground. Lily looked at him blandly, waiting for the rest of the accusation, but it never came.
She sighed, forcibly scrunching her eyes to avoid any more tears. She wiped the ones away that already had fallen, hoping he hadn't noticed. She had been trying so hard to keep them at bay, but it seemed she couldn't hold all of them back. It seemed to symbolize her life and when Sirius spoke, she was grateful for the distraction.
"No, please don't cry," Sirius begged and Lily had to laugh. It seemed so out of character, for her to be in this hallway with Sirius Black. It hardly fit with reality, for her to be friends with Sirius Black, to have done homework in the common room with Sirius Black, to have started a food fight with Sirius Black. It was similar to being friends with Sev, although it was a more cheerful relationship. She wondered when it had changed where Sirius came after her, instead of plotting a prank with James. She wondered why it had changed, and what she felt about it.
She and Sirius really weren't that close; they were shallow friends, over the edge of acquaintances but not yet able to share life stories. She wondered if this would change that, and if it was something she wanted.
"How did we get here?" she asked after a moment of silence, her head leaning back against the stone. She turned to look at him, and the question seemed to have surprised him.
"Well, we ran out of the Great Hall…" he began, smirking a bit, and Lily laughed, just as she knew he'd intended.
"You know that's not what I meant," Lily scolded, her legs stretching out and resting on the stone floor.
"Do you mean to ask how you and I ended up here metaphorically?" he clarified, and Lily nodded slowly, trying to quash the smile as it crept up on her at Sirius' words. His straight face made her want to giggle. He reached out and took one of her hands, stretching his legs alongside hers.
They stared at each other for a moment, waiting as patiently as they can for the right words to surface between them, the laughs leaving Lily in a rush. Suddenly, it all seemed so much bigger than that. They had a long history, most of it fairly unpleasant because James was their go-between. But now that they'd befriended each other, it seemed too ridiculous how long they'd each stood on their sides of James, unwilling to try to get along.
"Could we have always gotten along?" Lily asked, her voice wavering slightly, although not from tears. Now it was from a slight exhaustion that had hit her. Being emotional always seemed to leave Lily unsteady.
"Doubt it," Sirius stated, patting her hand. "I would have needed to stop enjoying the pranks I pulled on you." Lily started to protest, but Sirius cut her off. "I let you blame James for most of those," he added, "because your rows were far funnier than ours were."
Lily sat in a stupefied silence. All those years she'd blamed James, hexed him even, he hadn't even deserved most of it! His protests of innocence were, in fact, true! She had turned out to be the bad guy, after all, just as he always insisted she was. She had doubted him unnecessarily, had believed him to be not only a prankster and arrogant but a liar as well.
"You allowed me to torment him?" Lily suddenly cried, shoving Sirius. "It was you I should have set all those Stinging Hexes on?!"
Sirius shrugged and Lily saw a slight fear in his eyes. She wondered if he regretted admitting it, but she knew he couldn't take it back now.
"You let me think him worse than he was?" she whispered, disbelieving. "He's insisted for years that he truly fancies me, yet you allowed me to think so terribly of him?"
Sirius opened his mouth, his face defiant in protest, and Lily guessed what he would say.
"Oh, I know he was bad," she stated flatly, cutting him off. "But I thought him as low as the Slytherins."
Confusion flashed across his face and Lily sighed, desperately wishing she could take those last words back. The question was flung at her, and Lily knew she couldn't lie. It was one thing in life she believed in fiercely: telling the truth even if the consequences were unsavory. But this question left her wondering if a lie might be more beneficial. "Why?"
"I'm a Muggle born, Sirius," she reminded him. Blood status didn't matter to him, and sometimes she knew he could forget. "I've always been a target of the Slytherins; pranks, hexes, sometimes worse. I've been singled out because I'm much better at magic than many of the pure-blood Slytherins and I felt I'd been singled out as a pranking target by James, too."
A stunned silence formed between the two of them, and while Sirius was forming his thoughts, Lily found herself drifting back. It all seemed to make so much sense now.
"Okay there, Evans?"
His cocky voice made her skin crawl, but the humiliation swept over her faster than her irritation. She stood in the middle of the Great Hall, sopping wet and her hair steadily turning green. In fact, she would be unsurprised if her clothes were now transparent with how swimmingly the morning was going.
"You," she growled, whirling on him with her wand pointed in his face. She spun droplets of water into his face and he didn't wipe them away, a smirk growing on his face. As her wet hair hit her cheek, she began to flip through her internal encyclopedia to find the drying spell.
"I'm glad you've realized it's me," he said cheekily, crossing his arms in front of him, "because it's you for me as well."
She snarled and the spell for drying herself off slipped from her mind as a burst of light came from her wand. James Potter was sent flying and landed on his back on the floor, staring up at the sky dazedly.
"What did I do?" he demanded as he sat up, his hair turning a vibrant orange and starting to scarily resemble a clown's wig.
"You did this!" she shrieked, gesturing to herself. "You always humiliate me! Why can't you just leave me alone, you arrogant bastard!?"
Instead of mollifying him, as she always hoped to do, his Fifth Year mouth smirked. "My, my, Evans. Your language has certainly escalated."
She felt the tears welling up behind her eyes and for the first time in their years at Hogwarts, James' face displayed something like regret and shame.
"Why can't you find someone else to pick on?" she whispered, but she knew her words carried loud and clear to him. For that one moment, they were the only two in the Great Hall as she awaited her long in coming apology.
Instead of being the bigger man and admitting to the truth, James stood up and said, "I didn't do it, Evans."
She tried not to be disappointed, because she couldn't have expected more of him. The Great Hall came back in focus and she saw all of their peers around them again.
"You never do, do you?" she said accusationally. "But yet we always end up here, and I always walk away hurt."
She followed the outline she'd demonstrated to him and left the Great Hall in the middle of lunch, drying herself as the incantation reappeared in her mind while she walked to the lake, where no one ever seemed to bother her.
"I should have said something," Sirius whispered, jolting Lily out of her memory. Many more similar to it were filed in the same place in her mind, and she was grateful to not have to think of it anymore. "I never thought about it like that."
"I've never told anyone," Lily whispered back. "It was easier to bear on my own."
There was a pause, and Lily was going to continue, but it seemed it was now Sirius' turn to cut her off.
"You really had a reason to dislike him, if you thought he was behind even half of those pranks," he said, rubbing his thumb on the webbing of her thumb. It seemed he was no longer talking to her, but to himself. "Jesus, I never thought…"
"I was so angry with you for being mean to James, but now I understand; you thought you had him figured out because he proved everything you thought about him to be correct every time you saw him. Gah, I understand now!"
Lily struggled to contain her laughter at his sudden outburst because she knew this was an important moment, but the nonsensical words that tumbled out of his mouth made it slightly difficult to do just that.
When she began to laugh, Sirius joined in, too. They laughed and laughed and the sound swelled, encompassing the entire hallway as it seemed to lighten the entire world, a ball of swirling happiness and carefreeness.
As they calmed again, Sirius said, "I'm sorry." She could see the rest of the words bursting out of him, the explanation and the begging, but she didn't need it. It was in the past, and now they could only move forward.
She placed her free hand on his arm, and his grateful smile mirrored her own.
How strange that she and Sirius Black should be in this hallway together, befriending each other.
Please leave your feedback. I'm really nervous about the reception of this chapter, and I can't know how you feel about it if you don't tell me.
I'm toying with the idea of the Patronus discovery (that their Patronuses match), and I'd like your opinion if I should do it. It's currently not in the story, and as my readers, you give a lot to the story. Your thoughts are much appreciated.