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Chapter 21: Dance lessons
The dance tutorials for the May Day ball had begun that morning. Because of the good weather they were being held outside by the lake – a nice, if impractical suggestion of Professor Sprout’s, that the students had agreed to with great enthusiasm. It was now the turn of the sixth years, and Lily soon found herself standing among a huddle of giggling girls on the school lawn, waiting for Sprout to begin the lesson. She had positioned herself behind Mary and the others, so as not to be spotted by James, but it was no use.
“Right,” said Sprout briskly. “I want you to spread out into two lines, girls on one side, boys on the other. Quickly now - the sooner you organize yourselves, the sooner we can have some fun!”
As Lily shuffled herself into line with the others, James caught her eye and waved. Lily forced a return smile as the crowd of boys parted to let James through, Sirius, Lupin and Pettigrew beside him. Mary didn’t bother to contain her irritation as she found herself faced with Pettigrew as a dance partner.
“Step on my feet, and I’ll kill you.” She told him, as Peter cowered and promised not to. James was now standing facing Lily, with Sirius beside him.
Lily didn’t have to force a smile this time, James’s grin was infectious.
“Hey.” said Lily. “Hey, Sirius.” Sirius acknowledged her with a nod, his teeth gritted. Proffessor Sprout then called them all to order.
“Okay folks,” she began. “Quieten down now. I’d like a couple to volunteer.” Most people averted their eyes quickly, so as not to be chosen, and Lupin, amused by this, laughed quietly.
“Aha, Mr. Lupin, Miss Hayes!” Sprout burst out, with some enthusiasm. “How about you two?” Elizabeth looked mortified. “Come on, don’t be shy.”
James laughed and shouted encouragement as Lupin held out his hand to Elizabeth, the look in his eyes deeply apologetic. She hesitated for a moment before taking it, and allowing herself to be led to the head of the line. Proffessor Sprout then explained the steps of the dance – “Okay, you must step in, out, turn under, walk round each other, around the next couple and back. Now, weave left and right, take hands and gallop down the middle!” Remus and Beth appeared to enjoy this last part especially, and the rest of the students clapped in time as they came flying past.
“Looks fun,” said James, turning to Lily - and it was. When Lily and James’s turn came James grasped her hands with relish and practically dragged her down through the other couples. She laughed out loud with the thrill of it, forgetting that Sirius stood close by, looking stony faced. When the first practice was over, and the musicians began to play, Lily’s spirits lifted even higher. ‘All dancing should be like this.’ she thought, as James turned her under his arm in time with the sounding of the violins. She managed to ignore Mary’s questioning looks, yet as she wove past Sirius she sobered up a little. There was hurt in his eyes as he passed her, and he muttered
She opened her mouth to whisper an apology, but then James took her hand again. They danced down the lawn, and the sun was shining, and, in short, she couldn’t help but continue to feel happy, although she tried not to look it . When the lesson finally came to an end, Lily was as out of breath as anyone, but she couldn’t attribute it all to the dancing. She wished James wouldn’t look at her the way he did, as now she knew the reason behind it. Apparently it was the way you looked at someone you were in love with, and it fascinated her. She wanted more time to look into the dark eyes, just to watch his face, made beautiful by it’s love for her. But she was getting carried away - it was Sirius she should want to be looking at. As she was thinking this, James was thanking her for the fun he’d had that afternoon.
“I can’t wait till the ball now,” he was saying. “We can show the rest of them how it’s done, eh?”
“Of course, you’re the talent” he continued, “I’ll just be the eye-candy on your arm.”
Lily laughed, as James grinned sheepishly. He was teasing her – a first for James, since he had started his campaign to make her his girlfriend. She quite liked it.
“Actually, I think I’ve got the looks and the talent.” Lily answered. “You’re just a prop.”
At first James looked shocked, then realising she was teasing him back, he smiled a wide smile.
“Fair play.” He replied. “But you need me all the same.”
Lily opened her mouth to reply, but had no come-back ready. She closed it again. Then as if out of no-where, Sirius was beside them, and she felt her face grow hot. He looked livid, and she felt awful.
“You coming to dinner James?” he said.
“Yeah,” he turned to Lily. “Do you and the girls want to sit with us?”
Lily looked over her shoulder, to see that Mary, Alice and Rachel were all listening. Elizabeth was talking to Lupin and paying no attention. Mary pulled a face that clearly said “awkward!” Lily turned back to James, but before she could answer either way, Sirius cut across her.
“I don’t think they do.” He said. James looked at him questioningly. Sirius lowered his voice, but his mutter was clearly audible. “Prongs I can’t cope with this lot all through dinner, I’m not in the mood.”
“It’s okay.” said Lily. “I, erm...” She wasn’t at her best today, she had nothing to say that would stop this being awkward. Eventually she settled for
“We’ll be spending plenty of time together Saturday night – all of us.” She avoided looking at Sirius. “You want some time to yourselves.”
“Well, we do eat like pigs, you might not appreciate eating with us anyway.” James replied, still looking apologetic. Sirius turned and stalked away, and Lily bit her lip.
“What’s his problem?” asked Rachel approaching. James sighed.
“Did you see the Prophet this morning?”
Lily started. She’d attributed Sirius’s bad mood simply to watching her and James together, but maybe she was being vain.
“No,” Lily answered. “What’s happened?” James pushed back his hair, looking upset.
“ Regulus again.” He said. “The ministry know he’s a death eater, for definite now. There was an attack made on a family of muggles, and the aurors showed up before it got too out of hand. There was a fight, Regulus was seen. He got away, but – well we know now, he’s in deep.”
Lily closed her eyes momentarily.
“Were the muggles alright?” Alice asked.
“They’re not perfect, but they’re all still alive, and in their right minds.”
“That’s something, I suppose.”
James, Peter and the girls now headed back towards the castle, their spirits considerably lower than they had been a few minutes ago. Lily hung back behind the others, letting them get ahead. Rachel had engaged James in further conversation about Regulus. Lily stopped beside the walkway, and sat down heavily upon a stone bench, letting the others go on alone. She felt terrible – if she’d tried harder to convince Sirius to go home like Regulus had asked, if she’d been a better friend to Sirius so that he’d confided in her this morning... She’d spent all afternoon flirting with James, while Sirius had had this on his mind. She put her head in her hands.
James was beside her, and when she looked up at him there was understanding in his face. She smiled desolately at him.
“I’m fine” she said. “Just a bit tired. Don’t worry about me.”
He sat down beside her.
“Lily,” he continued. “Don’t be feeling guilty about Regulus. There’s nothing you could have done.”
“But there was.” She said. “If I had just...”
“Don’t.” said James, emotion creeping into his voice. He grabbed her hand suddenly. “Sirius knows his own mind, he never does anything just because someone tells him to – and whatever you said to him he wouldn’t have gone home. And Regulus had obviously made up his own mind. It was his own choice...”
“But it wasn’t! He was being pressured into it – “
“Exactly! Pressured, not forced. He joined the death eaters of his own free will, he wanted it.”
“That’s because he was brainwashed!”
“But still he should have realised. Look, Sirius had the same up-bringing, but he turned out alright.”
Lily was silent, and James looked at his feet, as if embarrassed. “I know,” he said quietly, “that me and Sirius don’t seem like the nicest people in the world. But we’re okay really, we have morals. But Regulus... he must know what he’s doing is wrong, but he’s still doing it. That’s not good. With that attitude I don’t see how you could have stopped him.”
Lily bit her lip, as it crossed her mind that what she and Sirius were doing was wrong too. What’s more, they knew how wrong it was, as well as Regulus knew it was wrong to torture muggles.
“I suppose – but, James he’s just a kid.”
“One year younger than us?”
“Yeah, I know but – you’ve got to make allowances.”
“Not too many. He’s made his bed now, and it’s nobody’s fault but his own. If he turns up saying he’s sorry then we can help him, but otherwise we should concentrate on fighting people like him, not feeling guilty that we couldn’t change them. I mean he’s joined the death eaters.”
James was still holding Lily’s hand, and at the moment this was all that was stopping the tears flowing. It was too late to help Regulus now, she’d had her chance and she’d failed. And now, when she should have been comforting Sirius, she was sitting with his best friend, letting him hold her hand. She hung on to it like a life-line.
“Mmhmm.” She said.
“I mean there’s organisations to fight against Voldemort – they’re worth joining. I’m going to once I’ve left Hogwarts. They need all the help they can get – but the Death eaters don’t, and Regulus is one of them now.”
“You’ve still got to feel sorry for him though.”
James smiled at her.
“You’re lovely.” He said, and Lily blushed. “Feel sorry for him if you want, but please don’t feel guilty – and I know you are feeling guilty.”
She laughed, disguising a sob.
“Okay, I won’t.”
He scrutinized her face, and decided that she had cheered up a bit. Then he let go of her hand, which immediately felt small and lonely without the comfort of his surrounding it.
“And don’t worry about Sirius either – he’s as tough as he looks.”
Lily nodded, and to her surprise, James leant forward and gave her a hug. Her head pressed against his shoulder, and she could feel the warmth of his body, smell the scent of his shampoo. Too quickly for her liking, he let go of her.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Yeah.” she said. “Thanks James.”
And they walked back to the castle together. She would find Sirius later, and talk to him about Regulus - comfort him. But for now, it had been nice to have someone to comfort her.