Chapter 17 : Just Friends
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“Lily darling, I don’t know how you stayed here all alone,” Erin wept in a dramatic tone, flopping onto Lily’s bed.
“Weren’t you lonely?” Vita asked, unpacking her suitcase and neatly folding her clothes into her trunk.
“I guess,” Lily sighed. She had been lonely, but the after effects of her actions had been the excruciating part. Deep down inside, a feeling had risen into her stomach and it would not leave her alone. This had never happened with any other boy. Lily wasn’t sure what to make of it.
As feet stomped up the stairs, the bright face of Leah Graham entered the dorm. Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes were sparkling. This could mean only one thing; Sirius Black.
“I see you’re much more cheerful,” Erin noted from the bed, raising an eyebrow.
“I missed him,” Leah confessed. “Everything was so polite and stiff at my house. It was so exhilarating to just be free with someone.”
Lily knew what she meant. Her mother and sister had always been so quiet about Lily’s father’s death. During the summer, Lily only embraced the fact that he was gone when she was all alone in her room. She didn’t dare mention it with her family. Yet, she had talked to her friends about it. And then there was James. She had talked to him about it as well.
Another deep sigh escaped from Lily’s mouth and her red hair spread out along the pillow. She wasn’t ready to see him yet. It would be awkward and uncomfortable. She knew how those things went. It had been awkward to speak to Ethan, even more so when they had spoken about her insecurities.
As Leah gushed over Sirius, Erin and Vita paid their utmost attention to the details. Only Lily noticed the frail figure of Ruby Wallace enter the room. She was slouching, as if ashamed to stand tall, and had a downcast look in her eyes. This was not the Ruby Lily liked to see.
“What did she do to you, Rubes?” Lily asked, getting up and hugging her arms around her friend. Ruby just shook her head and buried her face in Lily’s shoulder. The others immediately stopped talking about Sirius and rushed over to comfort their friend.
“Did she make fun of you?” Erin whispered. She knew all too well about Mrs. Wallace’s behavior. She had stayed in the Wallace home one Christmas and had quickly caught onto the verbal abuse coming Ruby’s way.
Ruby nodded, walking slowly over to her bed. She sat motionless upon it, her dark curls hanging loosely off her face. Slow, steady tears were traveling from her piercing blue eyes onto her thinned ruby red lips.
“What’s wrong?” Leah inquired, worried for her friend.
Erin shook her head, feeling so much anger towards Mrs. Wallace at that moment, that it was unexplainable.
“Ruby Wallace, you listen to me. Being tall is not a deformity. You are beautiful and poised. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, do you hear me? You are my friend and I never let anyone talk down on my friends,” Erin dictated, her voice steady and brave. She was staring straight at her friend. Ruby just nodded.
“I would kill to have legs as long as yours,” Leah divulged. “If anything, you’re lucky. You look just like a model.”
“Don’t let her make you feel weak,” Vita encouraged. “You are a strong seventeen year old witch. What is she? A housewife well past middle age who has nothing better to do than bring down her only daughter.”
“I guess you’re right,” Ruby said, smiling for the first time since leaving her dorm two weeks before.
The girls managed to gather into a group hug, holding onto one another in a sort of pact. They would try to always be there for each other.
Suddenly, Lily felt as if her feelings were inferior to the pain Ruby had been undertaking. It made her feel ashamed.
That night, as Lily read a book she had received for Christmas, she felt a body slide onto the couch beside her. She smelled the scent, recognizing it immediately.
Lucky for her, shivers ran up her spine as he breathed next to her.
“Potter,” she welcomed him, in what she hoped wasn’t a cold voice.
“Lily,” he replied right back. He stretched his arm across the couch, touching her shoulder for a millisecond, and sprawled out into a more comfortable position. “I was just thinking up in my dorm and I thought I should share these thoughts with you.”
“Share away,” she invited, still concentrating on the words written on the pages of her book. They were becoming blurry, hard to focus on. She wondered if James had this effect on all the girls. Why was he effecting her like so?
“Well, as Sirius was gushing over Leah- “He does that too?” she interrupted. “Oh yes, he does gush. Anyways, I was sitting on my bed, strumming my fingers innocently on the bedpost when an idea struck me. It was absolute genius and I have no idea why it took me so long. I mean, I am Head Boy, I should have been able to come up with this solution a long, long time ago.”
“This solution may be?” Lily inquired, not knowing what he was going on about.
“I think we should be friends,” he proclaimed, looking straight at her to see her reaction. She looked over at him impatiently.
“You know that doesn’t work,” she reminded him. “It’s near impossible.”
“Nothing’s impossible, dearest Lily. I am James Potter, conqueror of all challenges. I don’t give up that easily,” he retorted, brushing a hand through his messy hair.
“There is not one case in which two parties can date, then break up, and then resume a friendship. It’s not logical,” Lily stated, closing her book and giving her full attention to the conversation.
“Erin and Sirius,” James quipped, catching her off guard. She had forgotten about Erin and Sirius. The two of them had dated, broken things off, and now were friends. He was even dating one of her best friends. Somehow this trivial little fact had slipped right past her.
“I guess you have a point,” she voiced, somewhat defeated. “I just don’t see how the two of us can make something like that work. In case you’ve forgotten, we did end things rather messily.”
“I haven’t forgotten,” he said quietly. “I just hoped we could make it past that awkward, uncomfortable phase and try and reach a different level. We’ve never really been friends. It would be something new, a challenge.”
She contemplated this for a moment. Ordinarily, she would have said no right off the bat. No guy usually pursued the ‘let’s be friends’ opportunity. Something about the way James was so at ease made her nod in agreement. She wanted to be his friend, she needed to be his friend. Somehow, she hoped this might make up for her insensitive behavior before.
The two of them had already moved past awkward and into civilized; that was a start. They weren’t at one another’s throats, they weren’t having a row, she wasn’t even crying. They were sitting on the couch and having a normal, slightly out of the blue, conversation.
“Am I delusional?” Sirius asked Remus, slapping his face in hopes of waking up.
“No,” Remus assured him. “They’re actually getting along.”
“Three galleons on how long this little friendship lasts?” Sirius proposed to his friend, a wicked grin forming on his face.
“Not this time, Padfoot,” Remus ordered. “We leave them be this time.”
If being James’ friend was supposed to be difficult to adjust to, it wasn’t. She felt she could talk to him about anything. They often sat in the Gryffindor Common Room before patrol and talked about whatever came to mind. The time spent patrolling the halls was dedicated to getting to know one another better. Even after patrol they would sit down and do homework with each other.
If James was hurting, he wasn’t letting onto it. Lily was always worried he would bring it up, but he never did. He respected her boundaries, knowing that they would pass into awkward at the mention of it.
The information that should have been acquired before they’d ever started dating was finally coming out into the open. Lily learned that James had never liked cabbage, was an only child, listened to Muggle music sometimes, and had a small scar on the top of his forehead from when a tree branch had landed on him when he was five. He had learned that her favorite color was green, she’d had a crush on her next door neighbor when she was ten, her sister had always resented her, and that she felt there was no such thing as true love.
While in Potions class, Erin and Leah observed Lily and James with great caution. They were working hard, concentrating on the potion and still carrying on a conversation. They seemed to be playing some sort of alphabet game that Leah and Erin couldn’t figure out.
“Lemons,” Lily said, dropping a fig leaf into the potion and stirring it three times as directed.
“Spaghetti,” he piped in, chopping up a salamander tail.
“What are they doing?” Leah asked, still concentrating on how the game went.
“I think it’s about food, but I can’t be sure,” Erin mumbled, not noticing that her cauldron had been set on fire accidentally by her wand.
“Those two are an odd pair,” Leah observed. “Talking about food. Is that all they talk about?”
“Graham! Parker! Detention!” the professor barked, attempting to put out the fire.
“For what?” they cried in unison.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Ruby sighed, rolling her eyes and putting out the fire with a simple swish of her wand.
“Gosh darn detention,” Erin grumbled, returning with her brow furrowed and her pale blonde hair flying askew. “Never in my life have I experienced so much strain and physical labor from cleaning out bedpans with no magic.”
“I don’t know what her problem is,” Leah ranted. “Must have stuck her wand too far up her a-”
“Lily,” a voice called from the common room up to the dorm, drowning out Leah’s voice temporarily.
Lily got off of her bed and walked down the stairs. She saw James smiling as she did so.
“Time for patrol,” he reminded her.
“Oh, you’re right,” she said, glancing up at the clock.
The two of them walked out of the common room happily, no bickering involved.
“This entire scenario is scaring me,” Sirius murmured, making his move on the chess board against Remus. Remus nodded, acknowledging and accepting the fact that Sirius had just said.
“Lily and James friends?” Remus asked. “It’s a crazy world we live in, Padfoot. I don’t know if I’d want it any other way though.”
A/N: That game Lily and James was playing was adapted from The Truth About Forever. It's where you name something ending in the last letter of the word previously stated. Like if someone says bread, the other person would say something starting with a d. Please review.
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