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Chapter 8: The Winner Takes It All
Chapter Eight: The Winner Takes It All
Why is everyone suddenly PREGNANT?
That was Lily’s first thought, as she recalled Petunia’s announcement from last week and what Sirius had said about Cindy’s same predicament a few seconds ago.
And then the meaning of said predicament sunk in.
Lily started shaking slightly, her insides burning with anger, as she felt that familiar pain tug at her heart, reopening wounds that had healed, or at least were healing. She closed her eyes, a feeble attempt to calm herself as she felt the tears sting.
Not again. Please.
She didn’t know with whom or what she was pleading but there had to be a higher force at work. She had to have done something horrible in a previous life if she deserved so much punishment. She was absolutely positive that it was someone else deciding her fate, because, subconsciously, she would always be falling for James, again and again and again. She could not stop it, even if it hurt like hell.
“Alright, I won’t go,” Lily murmured to Sirius who was still standing protectively in front of her bedroom door. “Leave, please?”
She didn’t find the strength to pretend, and yet she could not show how much this news had hurt her, not even to Sirius. It was too embarrassing how raw and destructive the pain was. Pain that shouldn’t even be there, disappointment maybe, but not such... despair.
If any other person had reacted as dramatically as Lily had upon hearing such news about an ex-boyfriend, even if you were still in love with him –not that Lily would admit that she was, even now- Lily would’ve rolled her eyes and thought they were being melodramatic and selfish.
But Lily couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. She didn't even understand why, and yet deep down she did. This was James. She had never met anyone who made her feel like James. This was like being at Hogwarts all over again, when she had been confronted by the possibility of James moving on and falling in love with someone other than Lily. The option of dating James Potter had been taken away from her, and that had changed something inside of her, some urgency to step up to the plate and make an effort to get the boy she liked back.
Lily hadn’t heard Sirius leave, but she was pretty sure he had disappeared, leaving her alone, like she had asked. He would come and check up on her soon though, Lily knew it.
That’s why she decided rashly, no time to think twice, letting the anger inside her give her strength. She felt the adrenaline rush through her as she crept by the open door that lead to the kitchen. Sirius was having a glass of firewhiskey in silence.
Lily hoped she had succeeded in closing the front door soundlessly, but she didn’t have the time to stay and check whether Sirius had heard her. If he had heard her leave, it was even more important for her to disapparate quickly.
The cool wind against her face calmed her down, but she didn’t want to calm down. She wanted to be fuming when she reached James, so that he would see her anger, instead of her pain. And so Lily started thinking of all the things she would say to him, getting her wound up all over again.
In no time she reached the apparating spot near her apartment, and still no screaming Sirius following her. Good.
She hesitated: was it really smart to go straight to James’ bar? She remembered that there had been anti-apparation spells on the place when they had held the first meeting of the Order there, but would they still be there? Moreover, wouldn’t that be the first place Sirius would look for her, when he found out she had snuck out (which would be in approximately one minute)?
She turned around and headed back, changing her strategy. She knew walking to James’ bar must take about half an hour –she could remember the car drive from her parents’ place with her father the other day. During those thirty minutes, she could take the time to figure out what exactly she would say to James, but the best part was that a pure-blooded wizard like Sirius would never think of walking when one could apparate. By the time she got to the bar, Sirius would have come by to find her already and hopefully would have disappeared again when he found out she wasn’t there.
It took Lily almost an hour to catch the first glimpse of the bar’s front door. More than once, she had stopped in her tracks and seriously considered apparating to China, to be adored by the Chinese for her light complexion, her freckles and her red hair. But eventually, sheer curiosity had driven her forward. She had to hear it from the source, if it was really true, and if he had any explanation. Then, she would proceed by calling him some not-so-nice names, making it clear how much of a coward he really was for not telling her himself.
With a clear head, she pushed open the door of James’ bar. It was a Tuesday night, so there was not a costumer in sight... only Cindy. She was cleaning the tables, humming while she worked. Humming!
Lily coughed once.
“Oh! Lily,” Cindy squeaked, dropping the wet dishcloth onto the table she had been cleaning.
“Cindy,” Lily greeted her coldly. Trying to be inconspicuous Cindy shuffled to her right, blocking Lily’s direct path to the door leading upstairs. She was smart enough to realise why Lily was here. Lily had to give her that. “Is James here?”
“No,” she answered quickly. Too quickly. Lily’s suspicion grew. She had come here to yell profanities at James, but she found her anger directing itself toward the petite blonde before her at that moment.
“I want to speak to him,” Lily said, ignoring Cindy’s answer.
“He’s not here,” Cindy repeated more forcefully now. The tension was suddenly very palpable. It was clear that Cindy was not going to back down easily, she was going to work to keep what she had going for her right now. Lily could see it in her eyes, in her tense attitude. Some primitive instinct to fight for her ideal family; almost desperate to keep it.
That strong sense of desperation scared Lily for a moment. She didn’t know this blonde witch before her, and she also didn’t know to what extremes Cindy would go to keep James with her. A number of scenarios ran through Lily’s head, all with Cindy as the supreme evil bitch who was forcing James to stay away from Lily.
Her mind went almost immediately to the Imperius curse. That was a popular one these days. You-Know-Who’s followers were throwing it around like free candy lately. What if Cindy had imperiused James into being with her? That would certainly explain his cold behaviour toward Lily during the last Order meeting. What if she had forbidden him from coming downstairs? What if he was up there, clueless as to why he was even in a relationship with Cindy?
Lily took an involuntary step forward, yearning to see James in person, but Cindy mirrored her actions immediately, stepping closer to Lily and putting her right hand up as if she was physically stopping Lily even though there was still quite a couple of feet between them.
It wasn’t Cindy’s right hand that had caught Lily’s attention, but her left that had reached back to her back pocket where her wand was.
I can take her, was Lily’s first thought, but then she remembered her theory on Cindy not being afraid to use the Imperius curse. She tried to recall everything that Dumbledore had told her about how to resist the mind controlling curse.
“Are you seriously going to hex me?” Lily whispered threateningly, narrowing her eyes. ‘Hex’ was mild, considering all the scenarios of Cindy’s wicked plan that ran through Lily’s head.
“No, of course not! Lily, please, calm down,” Cindy said nervously.
“I need to see him,” Lily said, walking bravely toward Cindy, who took a few steps back.
“He’s NOT HERE!” Cindy yelled suddenly, getting red in the face. To Lily, this outburst only confirmed her suspicions on Cindy’s insanity. Cindy collected herself quickly, seemingly a bit surprised by her own flare-up. “Please Lily, Sammy has just gone to sleep.”
Lily snorted. You’re the one yelling, Cindy!
“I won’t wake her,” Lily said distantly and took another step forward. Cindy put a hand on her shoulder. Lily tensed up.
“Well, I’d rather not risk it. She’s been very difficult lately. I’d appreciate it if you would stop being so stubborn and listen to me.” Cindy had gone back to that strong, protective attitude. Lily could feel it vibrate through her hand that was still on her shoulder, holding Lily back. But Lily wasn’t going to back down either. She would fight against the evil that was Cindy.
“I won’t wake her,” Lily repeated, brushing off Cindy’s hand and walking through the wooden door that would lead her to the staircase. Lily didn’t like turning her back on Cindy –by now her imagination was considering the possibility of Cindy being a disguise of You-Know-Who himself– but she walked on fiercefully and started mounting the stairs, Cindy at her heels.
Only after seeing a book and a pipe belonging to Ian Evans next to a small bookcase, did Lily realise that her father had moved into James’ guest room as of two days ago. Up until that moment, she had plain forgotten that detail. Not that it mattered, Lily knew her father was spending most of his time with his new girlfriend.
Even just thinking about it disgusted Lily. She should be happy for her father, shouldn’t she? Unfortunately, Lily hadn’t particularly been in a happy mood lately.
After glancing inside the sitting room to see if James was in there –which he wasn’t– she proceeded by barging into his bedroom without bothering to knock. It wasn’t supposed to matter anyway, since, according to Cindy, James wasn’t home.
Lily noticed that the door to Sammy’s smaller bedroom stood ajar, and she could see the little toddler standing upright in her crib, looking at her with those huge, curious eyes that only babies can pull off. From the moment she saw Cindy appear, Sammy opened her mouth and started wailing, clearly not planning on sleeping anytime soon.
Cindy cursed under her breath as she pushed past Lily to get to Sammy. Something inside Lily wished she had been the one to take Sammy into her arms and soothe her, but her feet seemed stuck in their places.
He is not here...
Evil, You-Know-Who-in-Disguise Cindy had been telling the truth. It collided so harshly with the mental image Lily had now formed of Cindy that she felt dizzy for a moment. James was not here, both he and Lily’s father were free to come and go as they pleased, Cindy was rocking little, innocent Sammy back and forth... Cindy was still pregnant.
Then how come the entire picture did not fit? What was wrong with it... There was something out of place, but Lily could not figure out what.
“Look Lily, I’m sorry if this... us, James and me together... hurt you in any way. I know you two have a history together, and I never intended to get in the middle of that, but you were out of his life when I met him, and I really care about him and Sammy... Might even say so much as love...,” Cindy said, trying to apologise in some way. Lily didn’t want to listen to Cindy’s good intentions. They would only mess even more with her head.
Lily knew she was being the bad guy here, and she was already feeling embarrassed for her behaviour, yet somehow she heard herself say:
“Where is he?”
Cindy stopped her awkward monologue immediately, glaring at Lily.
“Are you serious? I’ve told you, he’s not here! And even if he was, this is HIS house... and MY house, and he is with ME! Because he wants to be! If you would just admit that to yourself, you might actually be able to move on. But you can’t get that through your thick head, can you? Well, I’ll just show you.”
Those last four words caught Lily’s attention, and after shifting Sammy from her left arm to her right, Cindy thrust one hand forward, holding it up right in front of Lily’s face so that the redhead could get a clear look at the small but pretty diamond sparkling on Cindy’s ring finger.
“HE CHOSE ME!” She bellowed, making Sammy cry hysterically again.
Realisation dawned upon Lily immediately. There was something out of place here, and it was her, Lily Evans. James, Sammy and ... Cindy were a family, and Lily just didn’t fit into that ideal picture. Hell, even her father was more part of this family than she was.
"He proposed to me earlier today," Cindy added softly but proudly.
There was no place for Lily Evans here.
A/N: You probably hate me right now, don't you? For making James propose to Cindy, or for ending this chapter there? Just let me know if you do... In a review ! (Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?)