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Chapter 8: Of Returns and Reconciliations
By the time Lily returned to school, she still hadn’t heard from James. She wasn’t sure if she had really expected him to contact her, but something told her that this only solidified his guilt—he knew he had done wrong, and therefore, would hide with his tail between his legs until she forgot about it and forgave him. Except, that wasn’t going to happen, and she would make sure of it.
And yet, even when she arrived back in the Gryffindor Common Room that night, she still instinctively thought that he would be there waiting, perhaps with flowers or flobberworms in hand. He always had odd ideas of what were appropriate gifts. But he wasn’t there. And why did that bother her so much? Her stomach dropped and she felt vaguely ill as she trekked up to her room. Perhaps this was what he had always wanted. Perhaps she had been a mere challenge all this time, one that he had finally given up on now that she had caught onto his scheme.
The thought nearly took her breath away, and she was thankful that nobody else was in the dormitory when she entered. Lily moved to her bed, dropping off her things carelessly as she sat down to regain her bearings. She didn’t care, of course. He had never meant anything to her, and a few days certainly couldn’t change that.
But then, there was something curious about those days—they seemed out of time and place, and she felt this undeniable connection that she couldn’t shake for the life of her. And something about being with him while he wasn’t surrounded by his friends and admirers had impacted her more than she could have imagined. He certainly wasn’t the same person she had once known. Or perhaps it was all one elaborate trick. Yes, that did seem more likely when you were dealing with a Marauder.
As she sat there, though, the magnitude of it all seemed to catch up to her. If it was all a big joke on Miss Perfect Prefect, then everyone would know by tomorrow. In fact, they probably already knew about it all. They were probably getting a great laugh out of her stupidity and ignorance, and congratulating James on his great work. She had never been one to mind the opinions of others, but the thought of the entire school mocking her brought on another wave of nausea.
With a sudden burst of determination, Lily tugged the blanket off of her bed and slid underneath it without bothering to change out of her clothes. She would not let this shake her. Things wouldn’t change, and what was done was done. And even if she couldn’t brush off this feeling that she had m missed out on something great, she had to let it go. For her own sanity.
With these thoughts forcefully present in her mind, she closed her eyes and waited for sleep to take over.
The next morning was odd. Just having to face her friends with a smile and behave as if nothing had happened was hard enough. They kept asking for details of her break and expected a few solid rants on the insufferable James Potter, but she couldn’t manage more than a couple of vague statements about the whole affair.
But what really made the morning one to remember was when she and her friends came down from their dormitory, only to find Sirius Black leaning against the wall at the foot of the stairs in wait. None of them took much notice of him as he straightened up casually, but Lily could feel his eyes on her from the moment he came into view. She tried to walk right past him, but he blocked her way before she could. Her friends slowed to a stop and turned around, sensing his movement.
“I need to talk to you, Evans,” he said in a flat tone.
All of them were now watching with full attention, eager to know what Lily would say. She held her head high as she glanced at them, nodding them along before she looked back at Sirius. Naturally, he would be here to defend James. To tell her that she had gotten it all wrong, somehow. Fantastic.
“What do you want?” she demanded, but he led her to a corner of the Common Room before he would respond.
Pulling her arm from his grasp, her expression became significantly more vehement as she continued. “Black, if you don’t—…” she began, but he spoke over her as if he hadn’t heard a word she said.
“What happened while James was with you?” he asked bluntly, only a hint of accusation in his voice. Her jaw nearly dropped as he said this, though, and she stared at him for a moment.
“I believe you were on the…mirror…with him the whole time,” she retorted, pausing as she recalled the mysterious contraption she had seen James using. “I think it’s pretty bloody clear what happened. Your friend is a git, and I dearly hope I never have to speak to him again. And given that we have to share Head duties, I have a feeling my dreams will not come true,” she hissed, her eyes narrowing as Sirius’ expression darkened.
“I think there’s been some kind of misunderstanding here, Evans…” he said slowly, but she merely rolled her eyes despite her quickened heartbeat.
“Sure, of course,” she laughed bitterly. “Potter is just upset that I heard him talking about me and how he just wanted to get into my pants. I think it’s pretty straight-forward, isn’t it.”
“What?” Sirius’ eyebrows furrowed, and for a moment she thought that he was honestly bewildered. But then she remembered just how devious he and his friends were and quickly banished the thought.
“‘She’ll come around soon,’ ‘This would have all been a complete waste of time,’ ‘It’s time you get something out of this’—Yeah, I think that explained it all quite well. I’m glad that I really understand why Potter’s been after me all these years. I’m afraid I really didn’t get it until now—…” she rambled on until Sirius nearly shouted over her in exasperation.
“That wasn’t about you!” he exclaimed, running a frustrated hand through his hair.
Lily stopped for a moment, staring at him with both shock and aggravation. Only having missed a beat, though, she continued on. “Oh, so he has another girl who he’s put up this ‘chivalrous act’ for?” she accused, crossing her arms stubbornly.
“It was about me,” he said evenly, letting out a low breath. “I—I have been after this girl in Hufflepuff, putting on that ‘chivalrous act.’ I was talking about myself—‘I keep asking myself, when I am going to get with her.’ C’mon, Evans, you know I’m the cad amongst my friends.” It was almost a joke, but neither of them laughed.
“I don’t understand…” Lily said in a significantly quieter tone.
“I was talking to James about her, and he was giving me advice. That was it.” Their eyes stayed locked for several seconds as Lily tried to read his expression, evaluating the truth behind the statement. Finally, Sirius let out another sigh and looked down at the ground. “Merlin, Evans. He’s mad about you. He always has been, and he wanted more than anything to get you to change your mind on this trip.”
“And I’m sure he told you all about it, didn’t he,” Lily muttered with sudden resentment, but she couldn’t keep the regret out of her voice.
“I have no idea what happened while he was there,” Sirius insisted with a slow shake of his head. “All I know is that he got back early and has barely spoken three words to us since then. And I know it has to do with you.” When she looked away and didn’t respond, he persisted on. “You need to apologize to him.”
“Excuse me?” she exclaimed, nearly jumping on top of his words. “I need to apologize?!”
“He didn’t do anything wrong!” Sirius yelled back, his understated insistence all but gone. “It’s just that you’re too stubborn to recognize that, and too self-absorbed to admit that something clearly happened this week that’s given you a change of heart!”
“You have no idea what happened, so don’t even try to lecture me,” Lily scoffed, rolling her eyes once again, but she couldn’t hide the vulnerability that she knew was bleeding into her features.
“You’re right. But here’s the thing, Evans—I know you care. You wouldn’t be arguing with me right now if you didn’t. People don’t fight this much about things they don’t care for.” His jaw clenched, and Lily felt her gaze wavering. “Do the right thing, Lily.”
He gave her one more hardened look before he cleared his throat and strolled out of the Common Room as if nothing had been said. She couldn’t move for a moment, completely taken aback by what had been said, but finally gathered her composure and made her wait out of the Common Room as well.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please! Must we go through this every time we meet for class?” The Muggle Studies professor was once again trying to quiet down the class as they chatted away endlessly amongst themselves. After a few moments, though, the conversations finally came to a close, and all eyes were back on the professor. All, of course, except for Lily’s, who kept drifting towards James Potter, who sat near the front of the room. The professor had asked her, and all of the other Muggleborns who had hosted students, to come back to class so that the pairs could share their experiences. Frankly, the thought of having to speak about the last week to anyone, let alone with Potter by her side, made her feel ill.
But then, it really wasn’t because she was angry at him. It was because she couldn’t even begin to process what had happened and whether or not to believe Sirius about the whole ordeal. And perhaps the fact that she was questioning it all was the scariest of all, because it meant that he was right all along—she really did care.
Nevertheless, when her name was called, she and James moved to the front of the room. James wouldn’t make eye contact with her, and she stood at a comfortable distance when they both reached the front. They looked sheepish up there together, and James kept his eyes dutifully trained on the ground. After a moment of silence, Lily cleared her throat and looked out at the students, who sent bored stares back at her. Before she even knew what she was feeling or how she should proceed, she began to speak.
“Well, we did a lot over the week. A lot of…Muggle stuff…” she stumbled as her heartbeat began to quicken inexplicably. “We went to the movies, and cooked without magic, and…Went out to a sports game…” she continued, sending a sideways glance to James. He still wouldn’t look back at her, though, and she took a deep breath as she turned back out.
“And we had a good time. And there may have been some…Misunderstandings…” she continued on hesitantly, watching out of the corner of her eyes as James’ expression changed almost imperceptibly. “Misunderstandings about Muggles, that is,” she amended quickly as the students began to look amongst themselves. “But I think he learned a lot. And…So did I.”
She finally turned her head slightly and caught James’ eye. His mouth hung slightly agape as he tried to read her expression, but she cleared her throat and made her way back to the back of the classroom to reclaim her seat. James lingered for just a moment longer before he, too, seated himself without so much as a word.
“Well, that was just fascinating,” the professor gushed, but Lily stopped listening as she waited with unexpected eagerness for the class to end. She stared down at her hands with determination, refusing to let her eyes drift up to look at James until the class was dismissed and the students filed out. Lily didn’t move, though, even as the professor left and closed the door behind him.
It was then when her gaze drifted up and she saw that James had lingered behind as well. He looked back, and their surprised eyes met one another. Lily stood up slowly as she searched for something to say, grasping for words that would not come. When he finally looked down to avert his gaze, words burst out of her mouth.
“I’m sorry, James.”
This had evidently not been the greeting he had expected, and his head shot back up, confusion written in his features.
“Lily, I—…” he began, but she continued without allowing him to continue.
“Sirius told me. And I made such a huge mistake,” she said breathlessly, shaking her head as she slowly made her way over to him. “I was such a bitch, I can’t even believe I—“ she continued, but James stopped her.
“No, Lily, that’s the last word I would use to describe you,” he insisted, taking a few steps to meet her in the middle of the classroom. “I just wanted this week to change everything, and I just hate myself for messing it up.”
“This week did change everything,” Lily said slowly, her breath catching in her throat at their sudden proximity. She held her breath for a moment, waiting for him to continue, but he seemed to be too absorbed in the words she had just said. “I would never have been so upset about what I thought I heard if it hadn’t,” she continued. “And I talked to my friends at home, and I didn’t really want to believe it. But then after Sirius came to me…” She drifted off for a moment, unable to finish her thought. When he didn’t respond, though, a smile came to her lips and she began to speak with sudden clarity.
“James, would you like to go to Hogsmeade with me this weekend?” How odd it was to hear those words coming out of her mouth for a change, and her smile only widened at the thought.
His eyes lit up as she had never seen them before, and he let out a small laugh of relief. “Oh, Merlin, Lily. What a mess the two of us make.”
Lily only chuckled at this, shrugging a bit without a worry in sight. “I really wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Well, that’s it, folks! Thanks for reading, and once again, I apologize for the year-long hiatus, particularly since there were only two chapters left. Please let me know what you think! Cheers!
Until next time,