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Chapter 27: The Messenger
Disclaimer: You know the drill... not JKR
I was no stranger to the hospital wing. Being captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team and best friends with a werewolf had its consequences, you know. So I wasn’t really surprised when I awoke to find myself staring at the familiar high vaulted ceiling of the hospital wing. Though for the life of me, I couldn’t remember why I’d ended up there this particular time…
I blinked into the bright afternoon sunlight filtering through the tall windows. I was vaguely aware of a dull stinging in my chest but I ignored it and tilted my head up.
Two figures were standing at the end of my bed, though they were fuzzy and blurred without my glasses. One I easily recognized as the matronly nurse, Madam Pomphrey and the other… well, the other had long, auburn-colored hair that I would recognize anywhere.
My heart thudded weakly in my chest as I reached to the bedside table where I knew the old nurse would have put my glasses. Like I said, it wasn’t exactly my first stay there.
I slipped my glasses on and opened my mouth to make a snarky and charming comment to Lily Evans when I stopped, my mouth frozen open as I realized that it was not in fact Lily Evans who stood at the end of my bed, but my girlfriend Celia Carrington.
Oy. My very, very mad girlfriend.
“Ah! You’re awake!” Madam Pomphrey cried, rushing to my side and unscrewing gray bottle on the table. She poured some foul-looking liquid into a glass, which she offered to me. “Drink this. Come on, we don’t have all day!”
I took the glass gingerly and without letting myself think twice, swallowed the contents of the glass in one gulp. Ugh, it tasted like troll bogies.
Not that I knew what those tasted like…
“You stay still,” Madam Pomphrey fussed, pushing me back down onto my pillow when I tried to sit up. The pain in my chest gave a sharp twinge and I sank back down onto the bed without a fight. What on earth happened to me?
“I’ll need to change your bandage,” Madam Pomphrey clucked, lifting my shirt up over my chest (despite my feeble protests) to reveal a long white bandage taped diagonally across my front. Seriously, was I in a knife fight or something?
“Not too long, Miss Carrington. He needs to rest,” The nurse turned her stern eyes on Celia who gave a small nod.
The nurse bustled away and I let my shirt fall back down with a sigh. Celia was still standing at the end of my bed, staring at me with an impassive expression on her face. Oy… whatever happened, it must have been bad.
“Hi…?” I said tentatively when Celia didn’t speak.
“Care to tell me what happened last night?” Celia said in a carefully measured voice. Her arms were folded across her chest and her normally warm brown eyes were cold and hard as she stared at me.
“Er… I was kind of hoping you’d tell me,” I said, gingerly pushing myself into a sitting position. I winced slightly as long cut on my chest sent a sharp jolt of pain through me.
Celia sniffed and shifted her weight, keeping her dark eyes trained on me as if waiting for some grand explanation. I was stumped.
“Ok, really, what happened? Why am I here?” I asked and I was sure that my confusion must have read on my face. Why was she so angry with me? What did I do?
“Please, like you even need to ask,” Celia huffed, her stern expression faltering slightly. “The entire school’s talking about it. How you were snogging Lily Evans in the dungeons last night when Severus Snape caught you and hexed you so badly you nearly died.”
“I was snogging Evans?” I choked, sitting bold upright and immediately double over as my chest seared with pain.
“James!” Celia shrieked, dropping her arms, a hint of hysteria edging into her voice. “Care to tell me just why you were snogging some other girl? Her of all people!”
“First of all,” I winced, relaxing myself into a more comfortable sitting position. “I have no idea what you’re even talking about. I don’t remember a bloody thing after lunch yesterday… it was yesterday, right?”
Celia scowled and I took that for a yes.
“Secondly,” I continued. “How accurate is your information? Because I’m pretty sure if I’d snogged Lily Evans, I would actually be dead right now because there’s no way in hell she’d ever let me live after that.”
Celia chewed on her lip for a moment and I knew that she was debating the validity of her story. Hogwarts rumors usually only had about an ounce of truth to them anyways… but would I ever find out what actually happened? Her story seemed a bit far-fetched if you ask me…
“Look,” Celia said after a minute, her expression returning to indifferent. “I’m not sure what to believe. There are a lot of stories going around right now. But they’re all saying basically the same thing… that Severus Snape saw you kissing Lily Evans in the dungeons and got mad and hexed you.”
“Celia,” I said, trying to make my voice as tender as I could. I hated that she was so upset about this. Frustrated as I was that I had no recollection of what happened, I would feel even worse if what she was saying was actually true. “I have no idea what really happened yesterday. But believe me, if I’d known what I was doing… nothing would have happened. I want you…. No one else.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that before,” Celia said quietly, dropping her chocolate brown eyes to the floor. My gut twisted with guilt. “And every time you say it, I turn around and find you running off with Evans again.”
“Celia, I’m not—“
“Save it, James,” Celia held up a hand calmly. Her eyes flickered up to meet mine and they held a kind of accepted sadness in them. “I’m not going to waste my time with you if you don’t really want to be with me.”
“Celia, I want to—“
“I just need a bit of time,” Celia cut me off again, shaking her head and backing slowly away from my bed. “And I think you do, too. Just think on it. And feel better, alright? I’ll talk to you in a few days. I just… I need some time. ”
But she was gone from the infirmary before I could even finish my sentence. I stared after her blankly, barely able to register what had just happened.
We hadn’t broken up… at least I didn’t think we had. But what did she need time for? In my mind, I hadn’t cheated on her. It didn’t count as cheating if I honest to Merlin couldn’t remember it, right?
And why couldn’t I remember what happened? I squeezed my eyes closed and concentrated what little energy I had on trying to remember… but nothing came to me. All I could remember was making the love potion in Potions class and then going to lunch…
“Merlin’s beard,” I hissed, letting my head flop back onto my pillow. I didn’t even wince as my head thunked against the hard wooden headboard.
The love potion.
If what Celia said was true, and I actually had snogged Lily Evans in the dungeons then a love potion would make complete sense… except there’s no way Lily would ever slip me a love potion.
Unless it wasn’t Lily… My friends and Lily’s would have found that a very amusing prank to pull.
I groaned and sank even farther down into my bed, wanting nothing more than for the earth to swallow me up whole.
I would have to explain all this to Celia if Madam Pomphrey ever let me out of this infernal bed. I felt wretched as I replayed my conversation with Celia in my head. Why was it that she always seemed to get the rotten end of things? True, I was the one in the hospital wing with a nearly hacked off torso, but Celia was one who actually got hurt by all this.
Despite what people (i.e. my friends) thought, I actually cared about her. Sirius was under the impression that my feelings for Celia were fleeting, something I would get over soon and move on to the next one. But it wasn’t like that with her.
She was different. She was beautiful of course, but she was also smart— incredibly smart, and funny. Merlin, that girl could tell a joke. And she had this infectious laugh… I couldn’t help but laugh whenever she did. And the way her chocolate eyes twinkled when she smiled… not that she’d had much cause to smile lately. That was my fault.
If I was lucky enough, she might forgive me for this whole mess. And I would make it up to her… of course, she deserved better than me, but I’d damn well try. I was lucky to have her, really.
So no more nonsense. No more stupid, foolish pranks. No more messing around. No more… no more what? No more Lily? What would I do, cut her out of my life? We’d finally struck a balance, although I’m not sure how that fared after last night if what Celia said was true.
I sighed into the sterile hospital pillow. It was going to be a rough couple of days.
“James?” a tentative voice jerked me from my reverie and I nearly laughed out loud at the irony of Lily Evans turning up at that precise moment.
I sat up and my stomach twinged a bit as Lily came into view around the white curtains, though I chalked that up to my injury. I knew for a fact that Lily didn’t care about me that way, so why should I waste my time pining after her when I had Celia?
Lily’s hands were playing idly with a loose thread at the hem of her dark blue jumper and she eyed me anxiously as she came to a stop at the end of my bed. It looked like she hadn’t slept at all last night. There were dark circles under her eyes and her hair was tangled in a few places.
“Are… are you alright?” She asked quietly as if anything louder would physically hurt me.
“I’m fine,” I shrugged nonchalantly. “It’s just a scratch.”
I almost smiled as Lily visibly held back an eye-roll. She blinked slowly and then sat down on the end of my bed.
“I’m so sorry,” Lily burst, speaking so quickly that that I had to concentrate to catch all her words. “Everything was just happening so fast and I couldn’t control anything and I couldn’t stop him and…and…”
Lily broke off with a quiet sob that she stifled with the sleeve of her sweater and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the last time she cried in front of me. But that was the last thing I wanted to think about at the moment.
“It’s alright,” I said, reaching out a comforting hand to her, but she shied away from me, pushing herself off the bed.
“It’s not alright,” She contradicted me, resting her hands on the footboard of the bed frame. “Scarlet and Anna feel absolutely horrible. It was them who put the love potion in your drinks.”
So it had been a love potion. My eyebrows lifted in surprise at the news that it had been Lily’s friends who had dealt the potion and then furrowed them as I realized Lily had referred to multiple drinks…
Lily sensed my question and answered before I could even ask.
“Remus, Peter, and Sirius all got doses, too” said Lily evenly. “Scar and Anna thought it would be funny to have all of you chasing after me all day. Of course it wasn’t. It was horrible. I think Pete went into shock after I talked to him during Herbology and I was able to get Remus and Sirius to Professor Slughorn for the antidote before they did any real damage.”
“And… me?” I asked tentatively, not sure if I wanted to hear her answer. I was terrified of what I might have said to her in my love-induced state. And even more terrified of her reaction to what I might have said to her.
“You were… a little more difficult than the others,” Lily said slowly, dropping her eyes.
“Bloody hell,” I muttered, Lily’s words confirming my fears. Lily looked slightly stung by my reaction but she shook it off quickly.
“James, I’m sorry,” Lily said quietly, her voice breaking slightly. She let her hands fall to her side and gazed up at me with a gut-wrenchingly hopeless expression. “You must hate me after all this… I really did try to stop them. If I’d have known what they were planning—“
“You think I’m mad at you?” I interrupted her incredulously and her mouth pulled down in a frown.
“Aren’t you?” She asked, her eyebrows pulling together.
I sighed and leaned my head back against the bedframe. “No. I’m not mad at you. I’m… mad at myself. Celia won’t even talk to me after what happened. It’s my own bloody fault… if I hadn’t been such a terrible boyfriend to her lately, she probably wouldn’t be so mad.”
“Of all the things that happened,” Lily said quietly, her face tight with some expression I couldn’t identify, “You’re most upset because Celia won’t talk to you now?”
I nodded glumly and saw Lily let out a breath, wincing like she’d just been punched in the stomach. I wondered if Snape had hexed her, too… I would have to find out the full story from the Marauders. I was sure Lily wouldn’t want to go into detail about that particular bit.
“I’ll let you rest… I just wanted to make sure you were ok,” Lily said quickly, taking a few steps backwards away from my bed before turning abruptly and marching out of the infirmary.
My afternoon was filled with other visitors. Anna and Scarlet rushed in shortly after Lily left and spouted apologies for a good half hour before Madam Pomphrey came bustling out of her office to force feed me more of what I was convinced was poison. The girls were still apologizing when the old nurse had to physically remove them from the infirmary.
The Marauders were allowed to stay for a good long while as Madam Pomphrey was quite fond of Remus (and couldn’t resist Sirius’s charm). I got the full story from them, including Remus and Sirius’s epic slapping match in the corridor over who got Lily.
Sirius and Remus had been on the scene when Slughorn found Lily and I, deserted by that bloody death-eater in the corridor and had heard her recount the nights events to the potions professor. It was more than I could take, Snape professing his love for her, though I was inexplicably pleased that she had acted as though he’d gotten some love potion too. Apparently Lily hadn’t been keen to elaborate on happened with Snape to Slughorn, though she had begrudgingly admitted to Sirius and Remus after they’d left the hospital wing that he’d called her a mudblood… again.
I had nearly jumped out of my bed by this point, determined to strangle that greasy git’s neck, but Sirius had calmly pushed me back down onto my bed with the comforting fact that Slughorn had given Severus two solid months of detention and the promise that we’d pull a prank on him as soon as I was better. All in all, their visit definitely cheered me up, and it was a relief to finally understand what happened, though none of them could really understand why I cared so much about Celia’s unsympathetic reaction to the situation.
“Any girl who gets that offended at something that happened while you were under a love potion is just too high maintenance if you ask me” Sirius shrugged when I voiced my concerns.
“Well, I did snog some other girl,” I said reasonably, to which Sirius simply shrugged again, as if he didn’t see any problem with that. “And she doesn’t know that it was because of a love potion.”
“I say if she wants to go, let her go,” Sirius said with a bored roll of his silver eyes.
“Look, Prongs,” Remus said, elbowing Sirius in the stomach, obviously annoyed by his indifference. “If she means that much to you, you’ll find a way to make it up to her.”
“Thanks,” I muttered glumly, not particularly inspired by this bit of advice.
“You’ll think of something,” Peter clapped his hand on my shoulder. “You always do.”
Sirius, however, quickly became bored with my worries about Celia and changed the subject to the birthday party we were still planning for Lily Evans. My gut twisted slightly at this, knowing it wouldn’t help my case with Celia that I was quickly becoming close friends with the girl she thought I’d cheated on her with. Twice.
I let my friends babble on and on about the music, what type of whiskey they should get, and whether the party should be in the common room or the room of requirement while my mind wandered again to Celia. Before long, Madam Pomphrey was ushering my friends from the infirmary with the promise that they could come back later and I was ordered to try and get some sleep, an edict I was more than glad to obey.
As Sirius and Peter left the infirmary, I reached out to pull Remus back. He was the most understanding of my friends and I trusted that he wouldn’t give out to me for what I was about to ask him to do.
“Could you possibly fetch me a book from the library?” I asked, trying to keep my voice down. I noticed Peter and Sirius waiting at the door for Remus looking impatient.
“Sure,” Remus frowned slightly, puzzled by my request. “What book is it?”
“Erm… promise you won’t laugh?” I muttered and Remus raised one quizzical eyebrow.
“Alright,” he said in an amused voice. “I promise.”
I hesitated and then reached over to the table beside my bed, tearing off a corner of a napkin and writing down the book title. I shoved it into Remus’s hand, trying to keep my face from reddening.
Remus glanced down to read the title and snorted. I flashed him a glare.
“You promised not to laugh,” I reminded him acidly.
“Well, it’s funny,” Remus chuckled. “What on earth do you want with this book?”
“Just get it, alright?” I said hastily, shooing him away with my hands. “And don’t let Sirius see. I’d never hear the end of it.”
Remus gave a quiet laugh again and tucked the paper into his pocket, joining Sirius and Peter as they left the infirmary.
I sank back down on the bed, trying to force all the noisy thoughts from my head so I could get some sleep.
I enjoyed the easy emptiness my mind assumed as my eyes fluttered closed and sleep washed over me, my last coherent thought being one of hope that everything would somehow be fixed and back to normal when I awoke next.
It wasn’t, of course. My head throbbed when I finally awoke and I noticed a fuzzy figure waiting at the end of my bed… a figure with vibrant red hair. Well, I couldn’t make the same mistake twice. I grabbed my glasses off the table and without waiting to put them on said, “Celia, I’m so glad you’re—“
But I snapped my mouth shut when I saw that I’d gotten it wrong… again. Lily Evans stood at the foot of my bed, her jaw clenched slightly at my wrong assumption and her vivid green eyes were oddly flat and devoid of any emotion. She looked ever worse than the last time I saw her.
“Sorry,” I muttered, lifting myself into a sitting position. “Without my glasses you look just like—“
“Celia,” Lily finished for me, her voice just as lifeless as her eyes. After having heard the full story from the Marauders, it made much more sense to me why Lily was a bit morose. Having been called a mudblood for the second time by her supposed best friend must have been quite a blow.
Lily hesitated for a moment, then thrust out her hand. In it was a small square of parchment, folded twice and sealed with a piece of spell-o-tape.
“What’s this?” I asked, taking the parchment carefully from her. She let her hand fall back to her side listlessly.
“It’s from Celia,” Lily said in a carefully measured voice.
I raised my eyebrows questioningly at her. Since when were Lily and Celia on such good terms that she would trust Lily to give me a letter?
“I… I ran into her in the library,” Lily explained slowly. “She was in a terrible rush… she was tutoring someone and running late. So she asked me if I could give this to you…”
“What’s it say?” I asked, turning the small square of paper over in my hands. I didn’t want to open it… I was scared of what it might say.
“I’m just the messenger, James,” Lily said quietly, her emerald eyes dropping to the floor. “I didn’t read it.”
I slid my finger under the spell-o-tape and ripped it open, unfolding the parchment carefully.
I’m so sorry I got mad at you earlier. One of your friends told me it was a love potion you were under… I feel terrible for yelling at you. When you get out of the infirmary, come find me and we’ll do something special, just us.
I let out a sigh of relief at the letter and I saw Lily’s eyes close for a moment, as if her suspicions were confirmed.
“Well, I’ll leave you to it, then,” Lily said when I folded the parchment up and placed it on the bedside table. Lily turned to leave and stopped at the foot of my bed, staring at something with an odd expression.
She turned her eyes back to me and bit her lip.
“Er… James,” she said, glancing back down at my covers. “What on earth is this?”
She pointed to something resting on the bed and I sat up so I could see over the lump my feet created. A book was laying on the covers… the book I’d asked Remus to get. I felt my stomach drop and my face redden.
A smile tugged on Lily’s mouth as she picked up the book and turned it over in her hands.
“Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches?” Lily read off the cover, turning back to me with a smile, though it didn’t quite reach her eyes.
“Bloody hell,” I muttered, sinking back into my pillows. Trust Remus to leave it right out in the open… stupid werewolf.
“Sorry, but what do you need a book like this for?” Lily asked, her eyes scanning the back cover of the book where she could read a preview of what the book held.
I sat up and quickly snatched the book from her hands, shoving it under my pillow.
“If you must know,” I said stiffly, full of embarrassment, “I’m just trying to think of a way to make it up to Celia.”
“Well, you’re not going to find anything in that book,” Lily sniggered, nodding towards the lump under my pillow.
“Oh? And how do you know?” I folded my arms across my chest crossly. Even after everything that happened last night, that girl could get under my skin.
“James,” Lily sighed, sinking down onto my bed. “Romance isn’t something you can learn from a book… trust me on that, I’ve read nearly every book in the library and I still don’t know the first thing about love.”
“Well… but you’re a girl,” I faltered, not sure if what I was about to ask was a good idea or not.
“I’d say that’s an accurate assessment,” Lily rolled her eyes at me.
“I just mean…” I paused, looking for the right words. “The Marauders aren’t very good with this kind of stuff and I don’t really have any other girl-type friends I can talk to…”
“So you want my advice about Celia?” Lily asked incredulously, her eyes going oddly flat again.
“If you… if you don’t mind?” I said, absurdly aware of just how awkward this was.
“Oh, James… I don’t really know anything about relationships,” Lily said uneasily, her fingers twisting together in her lap.
“That’s ok,” I said quickly, sitting completely upright. “I just need your opinion, that’s all. As a girl.”
Lily considered this for a moment, her eyes searching my face before she sighed, “Alright. Fine.”
“It’s just… I want to do something special for her when I get out of the hospital wing, to make it up to her. But I have no idea what to do…Hence, the book…” I explained hastily, hoping Lily wouldn’t change her mind about helping me and dash out of here.
Lily stared at me for a moment as if she were trying to decide something in her head and after a moment she sighed and dropped her eyes from my face. Merlin, I really wish I could know what she was thinking sometimes… Was she still just upset about what happened with Snape? Or was there something more?
“If you want to do something really romantic,” Lily said after a moment. “Then you don’t need to plan a huge production, and you don’t need a book to tell you what to do. Just go with your gut… spontaneity is always good, but honestly just take her somewhere where you two can be alone. Talk to her, listen to her… maybe do dinner, but nothing too fancy. Some girls… me, at least anyways, like simplicity.”
I clung to her every word, trying to imagine in my head what she was describing. I could take her to the astronomy tower… or the room of requirement maybe.
“Am I just supposed to talk to her for several hours? Won’t that be boring?” I asked and Lily raised her eyebrows at me.
“You’re kind of clueless sometimes,” Lily shook her head solemnly at me. “There are other things to do besides talking, aren’t there?”
“Oh…” I breathed as I realized what she meant. “So, take her somewhere nice, maybe dinner… then snog her brains out?”
Lily wrinkled her nose at my crudeness.
“Well, don’t just pounce on her,” Lily rolled her eyes.
“Come on, Evans,” I sat up straighter in my bed and she glanced up at me. “I do the cheesy, charming stuff, not the romantic stuff. I mean… I’ve had dates. And then I’ve had dates, if you know what I mean. But I want this to actually mean something. … What if it were you?”
Wow, bad choice of words. Lily’s eyes widened at my words and I quickly tried to recover.
“I just mean… what would you want, you know, if you were on… on a date,” I stumbled over my words, mentally kicking myself for being such an idiot.
Lily chewed on her bottom lip for a moment before scooting herself slightly closer to me on the bed. She glanced up at the ceiling for a few seconds as if trying to decide whether she could actually help me with this or not, then looked back at me with a carefully guarded expression. Talking about this kind of stuff must make her think of Alex, or even Snape… that was probably why she was so reluctant.
“Well,” Lily started, hesitating slightly. “If it were me, I’d want you to… to…“
Lily let out a slow breath and let her eyes fall closed as if she were replaying a memory in her head, perhaps of a time when she had been with Alex...
“I’d want you to catch me off guard,” Lily said quietly. “With like, a really good kiss. You know, one of those kind that makes your heart stop. Soft at first… but with that promise that something amazing could happen.”
Lily lifted her eyes to meet mine and her emerald green irises danced in the sunlight filtering through the windows.
“And then maybe you’d look into my eyes, like I’m the only girl you’d ever seen,” Lily breathed, and I felt my own breath catch in my chest as she gazed at me. All I could see was her… No. Celia. All I could see was Celia. Merlin, what was wrong with me today?
“Maybe you’d brush the hair away from my face,” Lily said quietly, reaching one of her hands up and idly sweeping her red locks away from her pale face. “And pull me close… and… and…”
I let myself get lost in her words, picturing in my head everything she said. Except the redheaded girl in my mind wasn’t Celia… it was still Lily. But that was only because it was her talking. It didn’t mean anything. It would be different when I was with Celia…
Lily had let her sentence drift off but I was sure we were both imagining what would happen next… Her eyes dropped from my face and I had the inexplicable urge to reach a hand out to lift her face back up to mine… anything to see those eyes again. I could smell the lavender scent from her hair as I leaned slightly closer to her. I was straining to remember kissing her last night… what it must have been like. I wondered if she had kissed me back…
“Alright, you’ve had fifteen minutes, Miss Evans,” Madam Pomphrey appeared around the bed curtains and Lily jumped off the bed like she’d been given an electric shock. “Now, out! He needs to take his medicine and rest some more.”
Lily sent me one last wide-eyed look, as if she were horrified at how close we’d just gotten to… no, nothing. Nothing would have happened.
She disappeared around the curtain and as her footsteps faded in the hall I sank back onto my pillow, my breath escaping me in a whoosh. Celia’s letter glared at me from where it sat on the table and my stomach twisted with guilt.
Celia was my girlfriend and I knew I should only have eyes for her… so why couldn’t I get Lily Evans out of my head?
A/N: Hey everyone! Back with another chapter! sorry this one took a bit longer to upload. I have review boards coming up very soon and about a thousand other things to do before the holiday so it might be a little bit before I can get the next chapter up, but don't worry! It won't be too long -- 2 weeks at the most.
All of your feedback has been AMAZING so far and I can't believe I just got over 500 reviews. I'm totally shocked. You're all amazing, thanks SO much for reading my story!
So what did you think of this chapter?
James genuinely likes Celia, but it's obvious he's developing feelings for Lily... how do you think that will turn out?
How do you think he and Lily will act around each other now that they've had another near kiss?
... ok I can't think of any more questions. Any questions for me? Next chapter will be Lily's point of view of what happened here :) Cheers! (And kudos to anyone who read this entire ungodly long author's note... oops)