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Chapter 17: Cauldron Cakes
The next day, Lily found her way to a small classroom off the fifth floor. She hadn’t been in the room before, and was pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn’t dark and dominated by stone like many Hogwarts classrooms. A wide picture window ran the length of the far wall, showing impressive views of the Quidditch pitch and the mountains behind it. The desks were several large tables that had chairs around three sides of each. They were all angled towards the front of the room, the empty side of the table the closest to the podium. On the wall opposite the window, a large bookcase filled the entire space. Tomes big and small, old and new were stacked side by side. But the ceiling was the most impressive space. Lily looked up to see yards and yards of colorful fabric pinned in different directions from the ceiling to the rafters and upper parts of the walls. The sun shone through some of them nearest the window, casting a warm pinkish glow around the room.
Lily took a seat at a table near the back and waited for Finn to arrive from Arithmancy. As the other students began to trickle in, she heard him set his bag on the table.
“How is your day going?” She asked. Finn grimaced. “Not any better than yesterday then?” He shook his head.
“I just—“ he began, but at that moment, Professor Turlington strode into the room and began speaking, causing Finn to close his mouth and sit down.
“Good afternoon class. I will remind you that my name in the corridors and great hall is Professor Turlington, but in my classroom, I would prefer Sarah. Please find a seat and we can begin.” She had in her arms several long boxes, which she began to place on all the tables. “Inside these boxes you’ll find an assortment of quills, pens, and pencils. I know that most of you write with quills, but perhaps you might find you enjoy writing with a pen or a pencil more. Or perhaps a different kind of quill. I would like you all to pick out four or five different instruments and write a few sentences with each one. Just try them out.”
The class looked at her silently, and she looked back. “You can begin?” she said questionably. The students smiled and hurried to open the boxes.
A tall brunette in the back of the room raised her hand. “Yes, your name is…?” Sarah asked.
“And your question?”
“What do you want us to write?”
Sarah smiled. “Well, I was going to give you the opportunity for free write but since your generation seems to have a need for such direction… I would like you to write about something that makes you emotional.” The boys groaned and Sarah sighed. She thought for a moment. “No. Not that, then. Let’s be more specific for today. Write about something that would make you see someone in a more negative or positive light. An action that would change how you feel about that person.” The class sort of nodded collectively. “Any more questions?”
They shook their heads. “Alright. Begin.”
The class continued their silence as they began to write furiously. The only sound was that of quills scratching and students playing with mechanical pencils. Some of the magically raised students found them fascinating.
Lily picked up a ballpoint pen and rolled it around in her fingers. With a few moments of planning, she began to write. Next to her Finn was sitting, staring off into space. When she had finished a few paragraphs, she looked up to see that he still hadn’t moved. With a gentle nudge, she got his attention and reminded him of the task at hand. He nodded and finally began to write. But as Lily began to wind down her essay, Finn suddenly began to write furiously, not even bothering to stop and switch from pen to pencil or quill.
Lily looked at him quizzically but then turned back to her paper. She frowned. It was substandard, but definitely not her worst work. She shrugged and set her pen down. She looked back at Finn who showed no sign of stopping. Looking around the room, she saw that most people were finishing up. Sarah noticed too, because she cleared her throat.
“Okay then. Let’s have some of you read, shall we?”
The class groaned. “Sorry.” She said. “But some of you will never try unless you know that others will be paying attention to what you say. Let’s have…” she stopped and looked at her list- “Miss Boyce.” She said. A small Hufflepuff stood up from the back of the room and cleared her throat nervously. She read a short piece about how had seen a homeless muggle give his sandwich to another homeless man. It made her realize that they weren’t all the same. Lily played with her pen and watched Finn continue to write as the Hufflepuff read her essay. The girl finished quietly and Sarah smiled. “Very good. But I think we need to review listening decorum. You.” She said, pointing to Finn. “You should put your pencil down when someone else is speaking.”
Finn looked up. “Sorry Professor. It won’t happen again.”
“Well whatever you’re writing must be interesting. Let’s hear it.”
Finn blanched. “I-I don’t think it’s ready.”
Sarah smiled. “No judgement. It’s only the first day. Just read, please.”
Finn nodded and stood up. He cleared his throat. And then again.
“People are liars.” He began. Lily sighed. She should have known he’d talk about his parents.
“You can live your whole life thinking you know something, and trusting that person, and then in a few moments you realize you don’t know them at all. One little lie can turn it all into a big lie.
“I’ve always thought that I knew the people I was close to, but apparently that wasn’t true. Realizing that I’ve been lied to about something so important, something that I had taken for given, made me see them for the horrible people they are. How could they keep something like that from me?
“And now I’m seeing that it’s no different in the rest of my life. Everyone is a liar. There are so few people who always tell me the truth, and that number is getting smaller every day. I just don’t know who to trust anymore. Learning the truth behind the lie not only changed the way I felt about those people, but the way that I feel about everyone in my life. Liars are the worst people on this earth.”
Finn snapped out of his trance and looked around the room letting the hand holding his paper drop to his side. He glared at everyone, daring someone to argue with him, and then slowly, sank back down into his chair.
“Insightful.” Sarah said calmly. She turned to face the rest of the class. “This is the last time you’ll meet like this. I’m going to take your papers tonight and group you into new classes based on writing ability. See you then. Class is dismissed.” With that, she gathered her things and strode out of the room.
Rose sat in the library that night, with her legs tucked up under her and her chin resting on her fist. She nibbled slowly on a cauldron cake while pouring over a long piece of parchment.
“Studying already? The beginning of term feast isn’t even over.”
Rose smiled, looking up at Scorpius. “I’ve been slacking lately. Time to get back to preparing for my NEWTS. What are you doing here?”
“Same as you, unfortunately. I’ve been slacking too.”
“You want to join me?” Rose said, clearing a space for him before she even realized what she’d said. She mentally shrugged. They were friends, if nothing else. This was what friends did.
Scorpius raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure Luis and Hugo won’t catch us?”
Rose giggled. “I’m not sure either of them even know where the library is.”
Scorpius smiled and sat down. “What are you working on?”
Rose grimaced. “Potions.”
“The essay?” Scorpius asked. “I finished it yesterday. It’s pretty intense.”
Rose nodded. “You’re telling me. Although it’s probably silly of me to try and write a thorough essay about a potion I haven’t tried to make myself.”
Scorpius looked down at the paper “You’ve never made bone-healing potion? We spent a week on that in fifth year.”
Rose nodded. “Yes. I week that I spent in the infirmary with chicken pox.”
“You got chicken pox when you were sixteen?” Scorpius said with a laugh. “Why so late?”
Rose shrugged. “I dunno. Lucky, I guess. I was around a lot of cousins when I was little but I always managed to avoid it.”
“Huh.” Scorpius said. “Well it’s a relatively simple potion. The thing that makes it tricky to write about is that you have to very carefully calculate the dosage.”
“Exactly. But I can’t find anywhere in here what the consistency is when you’re done.”
“It’s kind of a tricky one, there, because it’s almost gel-like. And it’s hard to get kids to swallow goopy stuff, and they always manage to spit some out, so you have to give them the dose a few, pre-measured milliliters at a time and pay attention to how many cups they actually swallow rather than spit out. And of course Slughorn is asking for the child dosage for a broken femur.”
“Oh. I see.” Rose said. “That makes sense.”
“So just write a few paragraphs about that idea you should be good.”
Rose nodded and began to write. Scorpius drummed his fingers on the table top and opened his Arithmancy book. They sat in comfortable silence for a moment.
“Rose?” he asked a few minutes later.
“Would you like to—“
“Rose!” Lily came running into the library. “We need to talk.” Lily looked and saw that Scorpius was at the table. She paused for a minute, thinking maybe she should come back later, and then shook her head. “Please. We need to talk now.”
Rose arched an eyebrow. “What do you want to talk about?”
Lily pleaded with her eyes. “Just… stuff. Can we do this somewhere that he isn’t?” She asked, nodding to Scorpius.
“Oh, I’ll go.” Scorpius said, gathering his things up.
“No, it’s fine, Scorp. If Lily wants to talk, she can talk to you, too.”
Scorpius looked at Lily, as if asking permission.
Lily sighed and sank down in the chair across from Rose. “Fine.”
“What is the problem?” Rose asked.
“Finn is dealing with some stuff, and it’s made him all angry and jaded and now he is on a personal vendetta against liars, which is horrible timing, because I finally got up the courage to tell him that my Sigg is fake, and—“
“Your sigg is fake?” Both Rose and Scorpius asked at the same time. Both their right hands went instinctively to their left.
“Oh yeah.” Lily said sheepishly. “Forgot to tell you. It’s fake. Totally fake.”
Rose raised both eyebrows in disbelief. “Why did you make a fake sigg?”
“Because I was tired of people pressuring me to get one. So I just… made one.”
“And what was your plan for when the date came and went and no boy appeared?”
Lily frowned. “I know, this wasn’t my smartest idea.”
“I’d put it up there with your top five dumbest, actually.” Rose said, grinning, then leaning back and crossing her arms. “But continue.”
“I want to tell Finn that it’s fake, but I can’t because he’ll hate me for lying to him.”
“He would have a right to be angry, Lils.” Rose said softly. “That’s the only truth I see here.”
Lily felt her bottom lip waver. “I know, but I still need to tell him.”
“Why right now?” Rose asked. “I mean, I’m all for honesty and telling the truth and being true to yourself. But if Finn really is going through all the crap you say he is, then maybe you should give it a few days to cool down.”
Lily nodded. “I think you’re right.”
Scorpius spoke up. “Lily, I think you should tell him now.”
“Why?” She asked.
“Because I think that you want to tell him for reasons other than friendship. I think you want to tell him so he knows you’re available.”
Lily shifted uncomfortably. “And what if you were correct in that assumption?”
Rose gasped. “Finally! You’ve admitted it to yourself?”
Lily nodded. “Answer the question, Scorpius.”
“I think that if you care about him then you should let him know. I know he cares about you, too.”
“That’s it! I can just tell him I like him. I don’t have to say anything about the Sigg yet.” Lily jumped up, and hurried out of the library.
“That’s not what I meant.” Scorpius said.
Rose shrugged. “She never listens to reason anyway. That’s why we love her.”
Lily looked all over Gryffindor but couldn’t find Finn, so she ran back down to the great hall to have another look downstairs. As luck would have it, Al came stumbling out of a broom closet.
“What’re you doing in there?” Lily asked.
“Nothing. You looking for Finn?” Al asked.
“How do you know?” Lily asked.
“You have a frenzied look about you. I saw him head out the doors about ten minutes ago.”
“Thanks!” Lily said.
“Hey Lils?” Al asked.
“Curfew’s in ten. Better hurry.”
“Tell your blonde friend in the closet the same thing!” Lily called back with a giggle as she headed out the front doors.
The slim blonde from the train came out and shut the door behind her. “I think we got caught.” She said with a grin.
“Jane, I’d like to introduce you to my sister, Lily.” Al said, gesturing to the empty air where Lily had been a few moments before.
“Nice to meet you Lily.” Jane said with a smile, and grabbed Al’s hand. “If you’ll excuse us, Al and I still have ten minutes until curfew.”
Lily ran around the lake until she found Finn, sitting in their usual spot under the big oak tree.
“I thought I’d find you here.” She said quietly, and sat down next to him. “What are you doing?”
“A knut for your thoughts?”
Finn smiled. “I’m leaving this weekend. I’ll gone for a week or two.”
“That’s two days away. Where are you going?”
“I’m going to help Taylor.”
Lily smiled. “No way.”
Finn nodded. “I thought about what you said, and he is my family, whether I like it or not. I don’t like him right now, but if I let him get sicker, then I won’t get a chance to change my mind. I went down to Hogsmeade today, and I’m a match, so they are going to do the procedure next Monday.
“Finn, I’m so proud of you.” Lily said.
Finn shrugged. “It’s just the right thing to do, regardless of the wrongs they’ve done.”
Without thinking, without planning, without breathing, Lily leaned in and kissed Finn softly on the lips. He didn’t hesitate; he kissed her back with even less thought or plans. Her arms wrapped around his neck and his wrapped around her waist. They kissed for several long moments, their lips moving in perfect, yet still awkward-first-kiss harmony, until they both slowly drew apart.
Finn looked at her with disbelief. “What was that?”
Lily looked down at her shoes. “I just thought it was time to really tell you how I feel.”
“You didn’t say anything.” He said.
“Did I really have to?”
Finn shook his head and laced his fingers through hers. “That sort of spoke for itself.” With that, he leaned in and kissed her again. And again and again. A few more blissful moments passed until the moon passed through the trees and began to shine on the couple. Finn pulled away from the kiss for just one moment, and his gaze fell on the shiny black letters on Lily’s ring finger, making his veins run ice cold.
“Lily, we can’t—“ he let go of her and stood up.
“What’s wrong?” Lily asked. “I thought you wanted this too.”
“I do.” He said, his voice strained. “All I want to do is sit here and kiss you but we can’t.”
“And why the hell not?” Lily asked, following his gaze down to her hand.
“I can’t compete with a soul mate, and furthermore, I won’t.” He said, getting up and striding away.
“Finn! Stop!” She called after him. “Please come back.” She whispered.
But he was already gone.