Chapter 40 : Chapter Forty
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Everywhere around me, there were people I didn’t know. For some reason I kept on reaching for James’s hand underneath the table, snatching it and squeezing it just to make sure that it was still there. Just to make sure I wasn’t alone, after all.
At some point I had finally let go of James and scrambled into the house so I could clean up. I looked an absolute mess; my hair was coming out of its elaborate do, and my makeup was smeared. James, being James, said I looked fine.
After I made myself somewhat presentable, we walked outside to find Petunia cutting the cake with Vernon, the guests surrounding her grinning and taking photos. James and I stood outside the crowd, quietly watching as she beamed at everyone and held onto Vernon’s fat arm so that more people could take pictures. After Colleen yelled at everyone to sit at the arranged tables, Petunia looked up at her new husband and wiped the cake’s icing adoringly from his face. I glanced at James and we simultaneously stuck out our tongues.
“Do you mind if I just lick the icing off your face instead?” James said inquiringly, although he wore a devilish grin. I rolled my eyes, ignoring the flutter in my stomach that seemed to be the effect caused by James’s suggestion that we would get married some day.
Things were much more comfortable between us, now that I wasn’t bawling all over him. I made a mental note to not cry in front of him again.
“You know what?” James said quietly, as I turned to look at him. He was leaning against his own hand as his elbow was propped up against the table. He grinned and winked at me. “We should just leave.”
I raised my eyebrow. “Just leave?”
“Well, yeah!” James said, a little too loudly. The people who were sitting at the same table jumped and glared at us for interrupting Colleen’s toast to Petunia and Vernon. He gave them an equally reproaching look and then leaned over so I could hear him whisper. “Are you saying you want to stay?”
I frowned and leaned backwards, which just caused him to lean in forward again. “James, it’s my sister’s wedding, in case you haven’t noticed.” I answered sadistically.
“C’mon,” James coaxed. He raised his eyebrows. “You’re just as bored as I am.”
“I’m not bored,” I said hotly. The woman next to me swiveled in her seat and scowled at me and I smiled apologetically. Turning to James, I immediately returned to my frown, lowering my voice. “James, we just can’t.”
“C’mon,” James said again. He grinned. “Where’s your reckless side?” I narrowed my eyes and his grin slid off his face. “Oh yeah, that’s right. You don’t have one…”
“Shut up,” I hissed as he laughed loudly, causing even more people to look at us. “James, be quiet.”
This only caused to James laugh even louder. He threw his head back and shook his hair out of his face, while everyone in the vicinity gave him appalling looks. Fortunately Colleen had left the little stage that was set up for the band that was to play, and everyone had made their toast and continued to chat. I watched as he shook and swept the tears out of his eyes, clutching his sides and laughing continuously. For a moment I just looked at him, just as everyone around us were, barely containing my grin that was struggling to come up.
And then suddenly, I started to laugh with him. Both of us were laughing insanely as people started to mutter around us. I grabbed his arm and gasped, “J-James! Stop—laughing—”
James opened one eye at me and grinned as he chuckled. “You’re laughing too,” he said.
“Fine!” I exclaimed, my voice the loudest it had been that whole day. This time Petunia turned around along with Vernon, narrowing her eyes at me from all across the yard where she was going from table to table, greeting everyone who had come.
Not wanting to embarrass myself even more, I grabbed James’s arm and scurried out of there, relieving quite a few people that were getting very annoyed at our laughter. I took him into the woods and pushed him against a tree, clasping a hand over his mouth as he still chuckled feebly behind it.
“James, stop—come on, James, stop—”
James’s laughter finally died out and he grinned, grabbing me around the waist and turning around so that I was against the tree instead and he was in front of me. He grinned and leaned in to kiss me but I snorted. He pulled back, raising an eyebrow.
“What?” he asked, looking actually offended about something. “What’s so funny?”
“Sorry,” I said, chuckling. He was continuing to eye me. “No, really. Sorry.”
A minute later I was laughing all over again.
James was now giving me an inquiring look as I toppled over, my arms wrapped around my stomach. I stumbled around in the dried leaves that were covering the ground, grinning at him.
“I guess you do have a reckless side,” he finally said. This just made me laugh harder. “Lily? Are you okay?”
“Yes.” I said, struggling to maintain a straight face. “Oh, c’mon.” I laughed, throwing my arms around his neck and kissing him deeply. I pulled away. “Don’t you like it when I laugh?”
“Of course I do.” James said immediately, ruffling his hair. He looked awkward. “You just don’t do it often.”
My grin slid off my face. “Really?”
“No.” James said. I gave him a hard look and he added lamely, “Well—sort of.”
We stared at each other for a while, not saying anything. Finally, I said crossly, “C’mon, then.”
“Hey, wait.” I heard him call behind me. I kept on stomping away, out of the forest until I reached the lake. I looked up at the hilltop, where Petunia and Vernon were laughing as they talked to their guests. I sighed, feeling completely out of place again, and sat on the grass, folding my legs underneath me.
James came and sat by me, mumbling something. I looked at him, raising an eyebrow. "What?" I snapped.
“I’m sorry.” He said, this time clearly. He looked at me and I saw that strange thing flicker behind his eyes again.
"It’s alright." I said. It wasn’t, but he didn’t have to know that. "You’re right, I don’t laugh often."
"Maybe it’s because I’m a git and you don’t think I’m funny."
I glanced at him and saw that he was grinning, trying to cheer me up again. I smiled slightly and smoothed out the wrinkles of my dress, staring out onto the lake. It was shimmering as the lilies floated lazily around. A few ducks squawked on the other side.
I felt his hand on my arm and I turned to look at him. He wasn’t smiling anymore and was furrowing his eyebrows, as if he was trying to comprehend something. "Are you going to be alright?"
"Yes." I said. The truth was though, I wasn’t sure.
James seemed to see this too. He smiled, pulling me closer and kissing me lightly. I held onto him, finding his lips with my own softly and wrapping my arms around his neck. I inhaled his smell again, the smell that I adored and could drive me to do anything.
It was so strange how I felt about him.
His hands were on my waist and slid down to rest on my hips as he left my lips and kissed the corner of my mouth, lovingly. I smiled at him and he smiled back, bringing me closer to him again so I could rest my head on his chest.
I heard him exhale and knew he was readying himself to say something. "So. Are you going to tell me what’s going on?" He said it matter-of-factly, as if he were speaking of the weather or how was my day.
Talk about ruining the moment.
I rolled my eyes and broke away from him, lying on the grass and looking up at the blue sky where white clouds were scattered. "Tell you what?"
James sighed, knowing that we both knew I wasn’t going to tell him anytime soon.
At least I hoped so.
“Never mind.” James said, ruffling his hair and sitting up straighter. He looked at me as if to say, for now, we’ll take a break from this. “Let’s go eat.”
I rolled my eyes. “Is that all you think about?” In the short amount of time that he was my boyfriend, I had already recognized that he was constantly hungry and asking for food. I would know, since he wasn’t allowed to go downstairs, I was usually the one to fetch him something to eat.
He smiled. “That and you.”
“Oh, shut up.” I said, covering my face with my hands and pretending to be shielding it from the sun. I was really trying to conceal my grin though.
“Seriously,” James said, and I felt him pushing his hands onto the ground so that he could lift himself from it. “I’m really hungry.”
I blew air out of my mouth and outstretched my hand, which he immediately grabbed onto to help me up. I brushed the grass off of my dress and followed him up the hill, where the guests were lining up for the buffet. It wasn’t long before my pleasant mood was extinguished.
"Do you mind?"
"Sorry, Pamela." I said, rolling my eyes before turning around to face her. Her piggy eyes were narrowed and she had her large hands on her misshapen hips, one of her cousins behind her. In the distance I saw Petunia, turning her head slightly as she held her champagne glass to her lips, but not saying anything. She had seen me being bullied all day by her stupid in-laws, and hadn’t said anything simply because she didn’t want to.
Or didn’t care. Or both.
I sighed and moved out of the way so that Pamela could get to the mashed potatoes like she wanted to. I grabbed my plate and walked over to the table where James was supposed to be at, but wasn’t. Thinking he was still at the buffet, trying to wrestle one of the Dursleys so that he could get his own meal, I started to sit down but abruptly stopped once I heard him calling me.
He had one of his hands swinging above his head as the other one held his plate of food. I raised my eyebrow and followed him, grabbing his arm so he’d stop moving.
"Come here." He said, and motioned me to follow him as he moved around the house so that he was in the front. I scowled as he dropped down onto the driveway and took out his fork, which had been in his pocket, and started to eat.
"You want to eat here?" I asked incredulously, raising an eyebrow.
He had his mouth full of something green, which I hoped was only some mixture between lettuce and green beans. I gasped as he suddenly clutched onto my elbow and brought me to sit down with him unceremoniously.
“Shut up and eat, love.” He said, stuffing a large piece of ham into his mouth and chewing rather loudly. I rolled my eyes and looked around to see that no one was around but us. Then again, only someone like James would want to sit and eat in the driveway.
“Blimey, look at all these cars,” James said after swallowing a particularly large piece of steak. He had some food on the corner of his mouth, so I swiped it away with my napkin because it was annoying me. He smiled at me for a moment then continued. “Honestly, I don’t know why muggles bother with them.”
I smiled. For some reason I smiled at almost everything he said now. “You have one too.”
“That’s only because my parents though it would look convincing to our muggle neighbors,” he replied, stabbing his carrot with his fork and proceeding to engulf it with his mouth.
“James,” I scolded. “Can you please use your knife?”
He merely grinned and swallowed, ignoring me.
“So, where’s your dad?” I knew he couldn’t be quiet for long.
For a moment my heart stopped but I quickly recovered. I looked at the cement of my mother’s driveway and ran my fingers over it, feeling it scratch against my skin. Suddenly I remembered what I had done at the train station and I looked at my wrist, where the small scars still remained.
“He’s not here.” I said softly, still running my fingers up and down the cement, mesmerized.
James snorted. “Obviously. Where is he?”
“My mother’s not dead.”
It came out without warning, and I had no intention upon releasing it. As soon as I noticed what I had said I gasped, clutching my mouth and widening my eyes in horror.
James looked perplexed. “What do you mean, she’s not dead?”
I shook my head wildly, backing away from him and standing up. He followed suit, scowling at me. “What are you saying?”
“Nothing.” I snapped. “Forget what I said.”
“Forget what you said?” James repeated with disbelief. “But you just—”
“I know, I know.” I said, and even to my own ears, I sounded crazy. “I meant Carrie. Carrie, my stepmother.”
“No, you didn’t.” James said slowly, and of course, he was right. “That’s not what you meant, Lily.”
“No, I mean, yes, that is exactly what I—”
“Wait a minute,” James suddenly said, interrupting me. He motioned towards the manor behind us. “Is this house your—” He paused, still moving his arms around to elaborate his point. “Is this your mum’s house?”
He was looking at me expectantly, and I could see that he was either ready to laugh at an extremely improbable joke, or he was going to let his mouth drop open so he could have that particular look of surprise. I swallowed.
“Merlin, Lily.” James said, rolling his eyes and stepping closer. “Just tell me the truth, okay?”
Fat tears were filling up in my eyes and I had no idea why. I looked down. I could handle this, right? All I had to do was lie again.
I’m tired of lying, though.
“Hey, Lil.” I heard James say, tilting my chin up and wiping a tear away. I sniffled and I hated myself for it. He smiled, and I knew he was trying to make me feel better. “My family has problems too, you know.” We both looked at each other, and I knew we were both thinking about Lynn.
“Yeah.” I said quietly.
“So…you can tell me.” His voice was very soft.
It was very, very quiet. My heart was pounding in my ears and I could practically feel the thick and humid air around us closing in on me, suffocating and choking my lungs. Breathe… I implored myself. Upon instinct, I touched my wrist.
“Well?” he prodded me coaxingly. I inhaled sharply, and then looked at him. “Is it?”
“Yes.” I rasped, and then I told him everything.
“Good one, Vernon!”
“I’m just so happy for you two!”
“Oh how wonderful—uh, who are you again?”
“I’m Lily, Petunia’s sister.” I said, restraining myself from rolling my eyes. James was nearby and snickered; he must’ve heard my tone.
The woman was probably one of Virginia’s friends; she had expensive jewelry on and a dress that looked especially made. She scrunched her nose up at me and said, “You don’t look like the bride. Or Virginia, for that matter.”
Knowing she was talking about how I was not thin as a skeleton or blonde, I said dryly, “Yes, most think so.”
She smirked and walked away, not even bothering to shake my hand. I snorted audibly, which made her look back with an affronted look.
“Bunch of rich snobs, aren’t they?” James said, raising an eyebrow at me. His hair was sticking up more now; the water that he had poured on himself earlier had already lost its effect. It was dark, and most of the guests were leaving.
“I used to think that you were one too.” I told him, blushing upon seeing him. I expected him to look at me differently now, after all I told him, but the way that he wasn’t looking at me was strangely unnerving. I decided to follow his lead and pretend nothing was wrong with me either.
Of course, some things were different. He had something different in his eyes, but it wasn’t like he was scared of me. No—he actually smiled at me when I looked at him and said that. Sure, he had smiled at me before, but this one was a little stranger. It was more—transparent. When James smiled at me I usually had no idea what he was happy about or what he finds amusing. That smile was different though.
“I live in the same neighborhood as you,” he said, grinning at me.
“Yes, but you told everyone how rich you were at school and how you have a manor and everything.” I said, scowling.
“Well, I would live in a manor, if it weren’t for my mom actually.” James said. Is it just me, or does he sound full of it? “My mom said she wouldn’t want to live in a big house where you would need a map to get around.”
“Hm.” I said. “Really.”
James grinned. “There are a lot more benefits in living in our neighborhood, though.”
I raised my eyebrow, smiling despite myself. “Like what?”
The familiar, devilish look on his face appeared again. His eyes gleaming and not looking ashamed at all, he said, “Well, when you forget to shut your curtains—”
“James!” I exclaimed. I suddenly didn’t find it funny or amusing anymore what he was saying, and blushed horribly. “I can’t believe you.”
James laughed. “I’ve never seen anything too bad, don’t worry.”
I scowled him. “Sure.”
“C’mon, Lil.” James said, giving me another grin that made my stomach betray me with a flip. To make sure he didn’t see me smile, I turned around and started to move towards the house. James followed. “So, do you know why your mum left?”
I looked at him but he just glanced at me as if it was the most natural thing in the world to ask something like that. I blushed and looked down, twiddling my thumbs. I stopped abruptly and looked over by the pond, where Virginia was showing a few of the last guests her garden.
“I didn’t think to ask.” I said quietly, although now that he had voiced my thoughts inside my head, my curiosity grew. Why hadn’t I asked her?
“Are you going to?” James asked. I looked at him again and saw that he was smiling again. It was that strange, unnerving smile that made me oddly uncomfortable but oddly peaceful at the same time. Hm.
“I don’t know.” I said softly, but once James dropped flat on my bed and fell asleep almost immediately, I left our room and walked (or did I drift?) to the other side of the hall, where my mother’s bedroom was. I pushed the door open and saw that all her windows were open including the balcony doors, but she was not there. Of course, I knew that. I knew she was still downstairs chatting with some of her friends and the Dursleys and having a few glasses of wine. Slowly, as if I wasn’t even telling myself to but actually watching from the side, I stepped inside her room and walked over to her bed. I sat down.
There were no portraits in her room, which was odd, since there were paintings and photos everywhere in her house, plastered on the walls. Virginia’s room, although the master and most majestic bedroom in the house, was the most bare and untouched.
I started to notice that I was breathing quickly. I pressed a hand to my chest and glanced at the door, almost positive that I’d see someone there. Thankfully, the hallway was still dim and black, except for the moonlight that was shining through the big window near the chandelier.
“Alright,” I said, my voice quivering. I reached towards the bedside cabinet and pulled open the drawer, only to find a few books and paper. I let out a sigh of relief and closed it again, then proceeded to the next drawer. Nothing was in there except for a rosary. I tried to remember if my mother was ever religious when she lived with us.
Nothing incriminating was found in the cabinet, so I walked to the bathroom and looked inside. Everything looked polished and clean, sparkling even in the dark. I searched through her drawers again and my heart’s pounding grew louder, but calmed again once seeing that there was nothing out of the ordinary in here either. I came into the bedroom again and caught a glimpse of myself in the many mirrors around her room. I looked pale, more than usual.
There were a few wardrobes and drawers in Virginia’s closet, but after looking through a few I saw that there was only clothes in there really. I looked through her boxes and to my surprise, there were a few of our things in there such as baby shoes, bibs, stuff like that. I tried not to think that it might’ve been some other baby’s, that it really was Petunia’s or mine.
Once I stepped out of the closet everything in my mind was very vivid. Books, paper, expensive jewelry and clothes; there was nothing that identified who Virginia was. Not even the baby things did, for all I knew she could’ve just brought those things by mistake, not really wanting them and not finding the time to throw them away.
There was one more place to look—Virginia’s vanity. I sat down on the stool and looked at myself for a moment, then opened the drawers one by one. All of them only had makeup in it.
I don’t know why I was so surprised. I should’ve known that this was who my mother was now—merely a woman full of riches and money, and obviously happy. I don’t know why she tried to contact me again. I don’t know why she contacted Petunia again. She could’ve left us alone.
Feeling angry with her and myself, I closed the last drawer angrily and pressed my forehead against my hands, hearing the clanging of the contents as they were thrown against the back. I furrowed my eyebrows and felt both my head and heart pound. I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself.
Get a grip, Lily. Honestly, why did I even try? Why did I even care? I didn’t need her. I didn’t need a mother. I had lived fine up until then.
I gritted my teeth and let my hands drop to my lap, lifting my head to look at myself in the mirror again. I jumped once seeing Virginia at the doorway, leaning against the doorknob, which she was holding. Her posture was different, and I was suddenly struck by how she used to be, and how I remembered her. They were both the same thing.
We stared at one another for a while, and for some reason, I was not embarrassed or ashamed for being in her room without asking. She was the one who should’ve been ashamed for not even trying to remember us.
“Look in the bottom drawer,” she said. Her voice was quiet but her face looked very harsh—the lines in her face were more prominent and she looked very old. I scowled at her and she said, “Look again.”
“I did look.” I spat, wrenching the drawer open again so hard that some of the perfumes that were balanced upon the cabinet toppled over and fell to the ground. I gave her a vicious look and leaned back so she could see the things inside of her cabinet. There were only hairbrushes, cosmetics, and a few magazines. I gave her a defiant look and she sighed.
“Look underneath.” She said, which only made me angrier. What was she playing at? Just to release some of my anger, I grabbed everything in the drawer and threw it out, sure that I was about to see the painted wood on the bottom, sure that I would find nothing—
Oh, look at that.
“I took it with me.” She said quietly. “When I left.”
The first thing I noticed about her was her eyes. They were vivid and green, sparkling and bright, and for some reason they triggered something in my memory, but I didn’t know what. Then I remembered something James had said earlier; “Your eyes are what really got me going.”
The little girl in the portrait was me, and the next portrait was of Petunia, when she was about five. As I took one by one out, I noticed that there were several pictures of us, several things that my mother had indeed taken before she left. I started to breathe heavily again and noticed that Virginia was now coming toward me, taking the small pictures gently out of my hands and setting them on the floor. There was one more portrait on the bottom, but I didn’t really care. I suddenly found myself crying again, although I wasn’t sure if it was out of relief or sadness. Maybe both.
“That boy who was with you earlier,” I heard Virginia say softly while my eyes were closed. I felt hurt that she wasn’t hugging me or touching my face, or making any other gentle gestures, but I listened anyway. “Is he your boyfriend?”
“Yes.” I said hoarsely, and squinted my eyes against my palms. I heard Virginia rummaging through her drawer again and taking out the final portrait. She touched my arm and I opened my eyes to look at her, and saw that her eyes were rather bright too. She looked frail instead of strong and tall, like I was used to seeing her be in this house.
I noticed that she was taking my hand and setting it on the frame of the photo, so I looked down at it. I stopped crying for a moment.
It was a picture of a bride and a groom. My eyes wandered to the groom’s face, and since I did not recognize him I assumed that it was a wedding of someone I didn’t know. Then I saw the bride, and realized I knew her, but I didn’t know him. It was Virginia, looking beautiful in a white dress and veil.
It was quiet for a while, until I said in an oddly calm but monotone voice, “This is why you left.”
Virginia nodded. “His name was Charles, like your father.”
“I’m going to bed.” I suddenly said, standing up and setting the portrait of Virginia and her husband on the stool. I looked at Virginia but saw that she was calmly putting her photos back into her hidden drawer, stopping for a moment when looking at her wedding day. I continued to walk and stopped at the door like she had done, then wondered if I was looking old too.
“He died, didn’t he?” I said loudly, not caring how cold it sounded. Virginia nodded, still not looking at me. I wanted to say good or he deserved it, but I didn’t. Instead I just left, walking quickly to my room.
I forgot to ask her if she loved him.
“Are you okay?”
“Sure.” I said automatically. Before I even looked at him, I knew that he saw that I was lying.
James raised an eyebrow. “Somehow I don’t think so.”
This time I ignored him and continued to eat my breakfast. Our bags were packed and I no longer cared if anyone knew James was hanging around anymore. Besides, all the maids and other servants seemed to know anyway.
We were quiet for a moment while I chewed on my cereal and James took a bite out of his bagel. Thinking that he’d start interrogating me again but seeing that he didn’t seem to think anything besides the food in his stomach was interesting, I broke the silence instead.
“I can’t wait until we get out of here,” I said.
“That’s understandable.” James replied. I looked at him to say something else, but he didn’t. I frowned.
“I’m going outside.” I said.
“Fine.” I scolded, and then left the table to go onto the porch. James gave me a perplexed look but said nothing.
Virginia was sitting in her garden, wearing a hat to protect her head from the sun. She had a pair of scissors in her hands, but she wasn’t cutting any bushes. She was resting on the bench and taking her gardening gloves off of her hands carefully.
“Hi.” I said. I sounded rather bold for going up to her and initiating a conversation, but something took over me that I just didn’t care. Virginia looked up at me and I couldn’t help but see that she looked so small again with me towering over her.
“Hello.” She said. She was smiling but I knew it was false.
I sat down next to her and looked at my hands, feeling her gaze upon me. Finally, I took a deep breath and looked at her. She wasn’t smiling any longer.
“This isn’t how I wanted it,” she said. Her voice was soft and feeble and somehow I felt sorry for her deep in my heart. That horrible feeling made me want to choke on it and die.
“This isn’t how I wanted it either,” I said quietly.
“I meant to tell you sooner,” she said quickly. “I really did, Lilian. But things came up with Petunia’s wedding and I couldn’t—I just couldn’t find the courage to tell you.”
“And I don’t know how else to say this, Lilian. I really don’t.” Virginia said, her eyes blinking. She looked very old there, which only made me feel even more sorry for her although I felt like I shouldn’t. “But I’m—” She stopped, swallowing. “I’m so, so sorry.”
I looked at her and said nothing, waiting for her to say something else. I could practically feel her soul pouring into me then, feel everything that she had felt and hating myself for it. What she did was wrong, there are no excuses, I told myself.
I wished that were how it went though.
Virginia really did smile, but she didn’t apologize. She just pretended like nothing was wrong and asked me how I was getting home. I told her I was going on a bus and she nodded. She nodded and I felt like screaming inside. Predictably, I didn’t.
I said goodbye but didn’t look at her.
The ride on the Knight Bus was uneventful. We didn’t worry about Virginia or her servants seeing us, and I don’t think they did. I didn’t say goodbye to Petunia or her new husband and his family, even though they were still staying at the manor. While James slept with his head resting against the window, (somehow he was still tired after about eight hours of sleep) I sat in my chair and looked at my wrists, which still had the scratches.
We arrived at Hogsmeade and made our trunks levitate as we walked up the hill to the castle. I told James I was tired and went up to my dormitory to sleep. None of the girls were there yet and I was thankful. I had a lot to think about.
I had gone to my sister’s wedding; hoping things would change between us. I had gone to confront my problems with my mother. At first, everything seemed fine. We were getting along and we had even cried in each other’s arms at the train station. But that side of her that I had prevented myself from seeing, merely to protect myself, suddenly shone.
She was scared, just like me. Somehow I didn’t want to realize that.
That was why she ran… I thought to myself. When she had seen me crying while James held onto me, she didn’t want to hurt even more and ran to protect herself. I breathed deeply and stared at the canvas of my four-poster.
I dreamed of a stag that night and my grandmother, telling me I’d be all right.
“Henn, don’t do it.”
“Aw, come on, why not?”
I awoke and found that my curtains were drawn and that Henn and Gaby were staring down at me. I shrieked and jumped in the air, banging my head against my headboard. Henn grinned.
“Why hello, sleepy head.” She said.
“Is she awake?” Grace’s voice said. She was by her own bed, already unpacking, being the efficient person she was.
“Hardly,” I said, squinting since the sunlight was streaming through all the open windows. I looked around at them, shielding my eyes. “Did you just arrive?”
“Yep. It is—one o’ clock in the afternoon and I am wondering why you, who of all people seem to always wake up early, are still snuggled up in your bed.” Henn gave me a questioning look, shoving her watch in front of my face just in case I decided that she was lying about the time. Gaby smiled and jumped on my bed, hugging me tightly.
“Oh we missed you terribly, Lily dear.”
Despite my light-headedness since of all the events that had occurred during the last week, I smiled and hugged her back. Once we had pulled away, I said, “How was your break?”
“My mum let me use her owl so I sent a letter to your house,” Henn said, tilting her head. “You didn’t answer though.”
“I must’ve missed it,” I lied, hopping out of my bed. I stretched my arms and walked over to the bathroom, brushing my teeth.
“So—” Gaby began matter-of-factly. I already knew what she was going to ask me because of her tone and mischievous smile. “Heard from James at all during break?”
I gave her a tired look. “Yes.” I said, spitting into the sink and rinsing my mouth. “He went to Petunia’s wedding with me.”
I washed my face and brushed my hair, glancing at Henn while putting my hair up in a high ponytail. She was raising an eyebrow at me. “What?”
“James went to the wedding with you?” she asked.
“Yes.” I said, giving her a questioning look. Gaby grinned and was about to say something that was probably involving James and how he was as my new boyfriend, but Henn interrupted.
“You took him with you?”
“Yes…” I said slowly, not really sure what she was trying to get at.
She merely looked at me and said, “Oh.”
“How was it, then?” Gaby asked me excitedly. Her brown eyes were sparkling as she gave me a devilish look. “What did you guys do?”
“Oy, Gaby,” I said, smiling. “Get your mind out of the gutter.”
“Don’t avoid the question!” she exclaimed as I walked out of the bathroom only to see Grace closing her trunk and raising an eyebrow at us. “Come on, tell me something.” I rolled my eyes at her as she jumped on my bed, her dark hair bouncing around her face. “So, he actually went to the wedding with you? Wow. He’s a keeper.”
I smiled. Henn, who was also smiling although it looked like she was forcing herself to instead of naturally doing it on her own, said, “Well, we all knew that.”
“What’s going on?” Grace asked. She was already done unpacking and was coming towards the rest of the people in the dorm. I looked at Gaby exasperatedly and pulled my clothes off to put on an old pair of jeans and a jumper. She gave me a horrified look.
“Lily, what are you wearing?” she asked me in a disgusted tone. I couldn’t help but feel offended. “You can’t wear that.”
“And why not?” I said, scowling.
“Because your man is waiting down there for you and you must look nice.”
Grace laughed and grinned at me while Henn raised an eyebrow. I blushed. “James is not my man.” I said in a pained voice.
Gaby ignored me and walked over to my trunk, looking through its contents. She pulled out a royal blue knee-length skirt and a white shirt and handed them to me with a triumphant look. “Here.” She said.
I scrunched up my nose as I held up the clothes that she had given me. “I don’t want to wear this.” I said finally. The shirt was all right; it was a short-sleeved V-neck and wasn’t too revealing although it was tighter than most things I’d wear, but the skirt was too dark and brought too much attention. I had only brought it from home because Petunia had made fun of me for not wearing anything girly.
“Put it on.” Gaby commanded. She was now going to her own bed, opening her suitcase and taking something out of it. “And then we can put some make-up on you.”
“I don’t want to.” I repeated, but she wasn’t listening. I looked at Grace, who merely shrugged, and said, “Well, Grace isn’t wearing any make-up or a skirt—and she has a boyfriend too.”
“Good point.” Henn said, looking Grace up and down, who compared to me, wasn’t insecure at all at having her friends search her critically. She merely smiled at Gaby who was narrowing her eyes at her.
“That’s right,” she said slowly. “Grace, go put something nice on.”
“Are you kidding me? I like this shirt and these pants are comfy.” She said calmly.
Gaby raised an eyebrow. “What about Remus?”
Grace frowned and leaned against my banister, letting her hands fall limply to her sides as she scowled at her. “What about him?” she asked coolly. Henn and I both looked at her and I noticed for the first time that Grace was wearing the same things that I was wearing. Her hair was up in a bun and her pale face looked even whiter against her freckles. It wasn’t strange when I wore something that was completely unattractive, but Grace wasn’t like me. Even though we both had red hair and light eyes, there was always a distinct difference between us. She had always taken care of herself and was always confident and outgoing, unlike me. She would make herself look really nice, attracting various boys such as Remus. But for some reason, today she was sporting a plain yellow shirt and faded jeans. Gaby furrowed her eyebrows.
“Well, Grace isn’t a pushover so—Lily. Change. Now.”
“So I am a pushover?” I asked, sticking out my chin.
Apparently I was, because not only did I change into the ensemble that Gaby had picked out for me, I was also wearing mascara, some gray eye shadow, and lip gloss when I left the dormitory with Henn to go to the common room. My hair was still in a ponytail but Gaby had taken some strands out so that they fell into my face saying that my face would look better.
“Well, lookie here. Ladies and gentlemen, listen up. I present to you, Mrs. James Potter!”
Henn raised an eyebrow while I turned around, blushing. “Hello Sirius,” Henn said, grinning. He was leaning against the wall by the portrait hole with Peter, who laughed.
We walked over to him and just as I was about to ask him where James had went, Sirius widened his eyes and said loudly, “Whoa, Evans! What’s with the makeover?”
I could feel the heat radiating from my face as I hit him hard on his arm, which made him wince. “Gaby did it,” Henn explained, and Sirius nodded painfully.
“Do any of you know where James is?” I asked, glaring at Sirius then looking at Peter.
“He said he went to look for you,” Peter said, shrugging. “Left about a minute ago.”
“Oh, I understand what this is about,” Sirius said slowly, giving me a mischievous grin. “This is to impress Jamesie-boy, isn’t it?”
“Sirius, shut up.” I said through gritted teeth.
Sirius merely laughed along with Henn, who despite her efforts, couldn’t help but snigger also.
“Fine. I’m leaving.” I said, blushing even more and stomping over to the portrait hole. I turned around and noticed that Henn was still in the common room and raised my eyebrow. “You coming, Henn?”
Henn looked over at me and shook her head. “I’ll see you later.” She said, and then started to talk to Sirius and Peter.
Momentarily stunned, I stood in front of the portrait hole and pushed it open, although still looking at her. “Uh, okay.” I said quietly, but Henn had just started to laugh loudly at something Sirius had said and didn’t hear me.
I scowled and left the common room hurriedly, passing the Fat Lady’s portrait and walking down the corridor. I was at the top of the marble staircase when I spotted James coming back from the grounds and sprinting towards me.
“Hey, I’ve been looking—whoa.”
“I’ve been looking for you too.” I said, not noticing that he was looking at me oddly. “Where have you been?”
James was now openly gaping down at my face. “Do you have make-up on?” he asked point-blank. I blushed.
“Er—yeah.” I said lamely, cursing Gaby inside my head. So much for looking nice… Seeing that James was still looking at me, I said hurriedly, “Well, I can take it off now—”
James raised an eyebrow at me, no longer looking taken aback. “Why?”
I scowled at him, putting my hands on my hips. “Well, you obviously don’t like it.” I snapped, feeling very humiliated and embarrassed at that moment.
James grinned and put both of his hands on my arms, which made me promptly stomp on his foot so that he’d get away. He must’ve foreseen this, however, because not only did he jump out of my way, but he also brought me closer to inspect my face. He furrowed his eyebrows in concentration, and then said, “So. Why did you put this stuff on?”
“Gaby forced me into it.” I said, not wanting to admit that indeed I also wanted to impress him. James gave me a weird look.
“I don’t think that’s it, Lily Evans.”
I furrowed my eyebrows at him. “Think what you want.”
James laughed loudly at this, which made me feel even more humiliated. Before I could do anything else he took me into his arms and kissed me deeply. For a moment I hung limply in his arms, having only a thought about wrapping my arms around his neck and running a hand through his hair—then I came to my senses and pushed him away, stumbling slightly.
“What is it?” he asked lazily, already moving towards me again. I moved backwards into the staircase’s banister, very aware of the fact that there were a group of second years at the foot of the marble stairs that were giggling at what we had just done. I gave them a very vehement look that sent them scattering, then glared at James. This time he looked bewildered.
“It’s just—I don’t see why you pretend that I don’t have it on.” I snapped, sidestepping him as James came closer.
“Have what on?” James asked, grinning. “The makeup?”
I narrowed my eyes at him. What did he think I was? Stupid?
“Why should I pretend it’s not on?” James said, no longer grinning. Now he looked confused. “Do you think I think it looks bad on you?”
Yes, that was exactly what I had been thinking, but now that he voiced my thoughts it seemed rather farfetched. I grimaced.
“Lily—” James said weakly, reaching towards me and taking a firm grip on my arm just in case I had any ideas. I didn’t pull away but he did pull me towards him…which wasn’t so bad. “Merlin. Did you really think I thought you looked ugly or something?”
“Well—yes.” I said, raising my eyebrows. My blushed cheeks gave me away though and he grinned, kissing me lightly.
“You know that I think you’re bloody beautiful.” James said in a tone that made my insides shiver. “With or without make-up or dressy clothes, alright?”
At this point I felt immensely stupid, but I didn’t want to show it. Instead, I said nonchalantly, “Okay.”
James smirked. “So. Why do you have this stuff on?”
“No reason.” I said, although he obviously didn’t buy it. He was giving me a look that told me he knew better. I sighed then muttered, “Well—Gaby told me that since you’re my boyfriend now I should—”
“Whoa…wait.” James said, pulling away from me for a moment and looking pensive. He glanced at me then said, “You did this to impress me?”
I made an incoherent sound in my throat and he grinned. “Lovely, you shouldn’t have to do that. You impress me already.”
Lovely. I like that, I thought, even though my defense mode was telling me to block those sort of thoughts. Ah, sod it, I said to myself, then smiled.
“I’m pretty flattered though,” James said, coming towards me again and kissing me. This time I kissed him back, but to my dismay he pulled away after only a few seconds. I looked up to see that his hazel eyes were staring down at me. He smirked. “I thought you didn’t care much for me.”
“Oh shut up.” I said, taking a piece of his hair and twirling it around my finger. “You don’t really think that, do you?” I asked, raising my eyebrows. James shrugged. “Well, if that were too I wouldn’t be dating you.”
James grinned. “True.”
“I’m glad you know,” I said, and as James leaned in for more I added, “Do you mind if I rub some of this stuff off in the loo?”
James, who looked sort of disappointed but smiled just the same, said, “Sure. Go ahead.”
As we rushed over to the nearest loo (or rather, I rushed), I turned into the bathroom and smiled at the sight of him waiting for me. I closed the door behind me and went over to the mirror, turning on the sink and wetting a napkin so that I could take some of Gaby’s make-up off my face. I grinned to myself. I did look all right, after I took off the stuff off my face, that is. I looked happy and well—and I momentarily forgot who I was at the wedding and with my mother, and tried to remember who I was at that moment, with James.
Gaby’s right, I thought. He is a keeper.
A/N: Alas, the chapter is finally here. I am actually quite surprised at how it turned out, meaning I actually like it for some reason...because this chapter was very hectic to write and it was slow and dull work at some parts and yet at other parts I was very excited about and wrote eagerly. I think you can see that Lily is getting much better right now, and that she has put most of her hardships behind her at this point, or at least started to. I am relieved that I wrote about Lily telling James the truth--I was dying to let that out. Anyway, I'm really sorry that this took so long to write and it won't happen again. I was having a hard time with school and all which was very hectic also...and I was having a lot of trouble writing. It is finally summer though now and I obviously have more patience to write. So for all of those readers out there that are miraculously still with me--I cannot thank you enough and I hope I haven't bored you all entirely. Please hang in there--lots of fluff and romance coming up soon, and of course, drama also (where would we be without it?).
Wow, it is so nice being able to write this story again. :-)
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