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Chapter 5 : Distractions
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That night at 11:00, Lily stood by the lake in a sweatshirt. The chilly air of November was far worst when one stood by a body of water. She hugged her arms around her, trying to keep warm. She was waiting, like the fool she was. She cursed under her breath, disappointed for even following through.
He probably won’t even turn up, Lily thought to herself. I bet whoever’s behind that mask is having himself a good laugh right about now. Why did I even come?
She turned as she heard footsteps coming from the castle stairs. He was dressed in his cloak, his red masked fixed properly on his face. It was night and she could barely see him, apart from his warm eyes and his mask. He walked over to her and smiled. He handed her another red rose.
“For you,” he told her. He seemed shy to her, which she liked. She hated overbearing people who felt that they were almighty. Lily hated the way women were thrown around as men’s property. She felt they were all created equally. A little bit of chivalry never hurt though. She blushed as she took the rose in her hand. Surprisingly, the thorns had been removed. She smiled up at her mystery man.
“When are you ever going to take that mask off?” she asked him softly, raising her hand up to remove it. “I want to know who you are. I want to know who I’ve been dreaming about; day and night.”
He gently eased her hand away, clearly uncomfortable. “Not yet,” he told her. “When the time is right, you’ll know. Right now, can’t we just be with each other?”
She nodded as he leaned down to kiss her softly on the lips. She had never felt so attracted to someone who hadn’t even shown her their face. It was more than physical. Whoever was behind that mask was a caring, sensitive person.
The two of them shared slow, shy kisses, not wanting to rush too far into things. Lily liked the fact that she didn’t know who it was. She thought it was better this way. Yet, the nagging feeling in the back of her mind wouldn’t go away throughout the entire night.
The next morning, Lily walked into the Great Hall and sat down at the Gryffindor table red eyes and yawning. She had fixed her red hair back into a loose ponytail and it was obvious she wasn’t as collected as usual.
“Morning,” she stifled out as she helped herself to a glass of orange juice and a bowl of warm oatmeal.
“Good morning,” Sydney said pleasantly. “What a good morning it is. I, for once in my life, have the pleasure of asking you where you were last night and who you were with.”
“Oh,” Alice responded as well, tilting her head thoughtfully. “Are we talking about the Head Girl of Hogwarts? Because, if we are, it would be very interesting to know what lured the Head Girl from her dormitory so late? I don’t exactly remember a 4 AM curfew being one of the benefits.”
Lily grinned, focusing her attention on her oatmeal. She knew the suppression of information from her friends was slowly killing them.
James entered the Great Hall, his glasses sitting crooked on his nose and his robes hanging off his shoulders loosely. There were dark bags under his eyes, but a fulfilled smile brightened his picture.
“Morning chaps,” he said as he sat down across from his fellow Marauders. “What’s for breakfast?”
“Oatmeal again,” Peter whined. “Can’t those house-elves become a bit more original?”
“Forget the oatmeal,” Sirius insisted. “We have a very pleased Prongs on our hands here. I take it all went well with a certain flower last night?”
“That they did,” James informed them.
“Well, if I’m correct, Prongs, I don’t see Lily rushing over to greet you,” Remus surveyed. “She looks happy, but she hasn’t even acknowledged the fact that you’re sitting in the same vicinity as her.”
“She doesn’t really know yet,” he said quietly.
“Idiot,” Sirius muttered. “How do you expect to win her over if you haven’t even told her who you are?”
“I’m sorry,” James explained. “But like I said before, if this is the only way I get to spend time with Lily, so be it. I’ll live behind a mask forever if that’s what it takes. I’ve never felt happier than when I’m kissing her. Never. I’m getting to know the real her. She wouldn’t give me a chance if her life depended on it.”
“We’ll see about that,” Sirius mumbled, shoveling in a large spoonful of his fourth bowl of oatmeal.
A couple of weeks passed without word from her masked man. Lily was starting to wonder whether their paths would ever cross again. Her thoughts were lingering on him while she sat in Transfiguration. She had never felt that way about someone in her entire life. He seemed so sincere, so trustworthy, but she was starting to wonder if somehow it had all been a dream.
“Miss Evans,” Professor McGonagall acknowledged. “It is the end of class and I see that your wand has remained untouched throughout the entire session. How do you ever expect to catch up with the rest of the class if you keep daydreaming like this?”
Lily snapped back to reality. She looked at the board for the assignment, but panicked as she realized she had to get to her next class.
“I am so sorry, professor,” Lily apologized. “I know I could do better, but-”
“There are no but’s Lily,” McGonagall told her. “You are one of the brightest and most responsible students I’ve ever taught. Somehow though, this year, Transfiguration has become your weak point. I know it’s in you somewhere, you just need a bit of help. I am going to assign a tutor for you.”
“A tutor?” Lily asked, appalled. “Professor, I’m Head Girl. I should be the one doing the tutoring, not receiving it.”
“When your marks come up, then we’ll see if your statement holds true. Until then, meet your tutor in the library tonight at seven o’clock sharp. Don’t disappoint me, Lily,” McGonagall told her before walking into her office.
“What’s this?” Sirius asked as he took a piece of parchment away from James. “You’re tutoring Evans? Hm, looks like you can forever forget the mask idea now. You’ll be seeing her three times a week.”
James nodded. He knew he should have been excited about it all, but truly, he wasn’t. He knew that it could quite possibly take Lily all eternity to realize that he wasn’t a half bad guy. The mask was the only way he could be real with her.
Almost reading his thoughts, Remus spoke up, “Why don’t you try pretending you’re wearing that mask while you’re with her? Except, you won’t be hiding behind it. You’ll be showing her the real you.”
James nodded once more. He hoped that things would go alright. He really did.
Lily sat at a table in the library where tutoring sessions usually took place. She looked down at her Transfiguration book glumly. She didn’t know when she had started falling behind in the subject, but now it was getting out of hand.
Yet, she knew that she had never felt happier in her life. That counted for something.
James Potter rushed in and set his bag down on the table in a hurry. “Sorry I’m late,” he told her. “There was a nasty fight in the halls that I had to break up. Apparently, a small game of Exploding Snap isn’t for everyone.”
Lily smiled, although she was somewhat disappointed. James Potter seemed to be everywhere she turned. She had to patrol with him, he was in her classes, he was in the halls, he was at the Quidditch pitch, he was in her common room, and now he was her tutor.
“So, McGonagall told me you need help,” James started off. “I’ve been in classes with you before and I think I know what part of your problem is. You don’t concentrate hard enough on the task.”
Lily looked at him dumbfounded. “I don’t concentrate? How do you think I am so good at Charms? Charms is all about concentration. Trust me, I concentrate.”
“Then why didn’t you even pick up your wand today in class?” he asked her. She didn’t know what to say. He had her there. “Well, I think it’s best to go back to the small stuff and work our way up.” He pulled out a quill before her. “Let’s try a simple Vanishing Spell.”
“A Vanishing Spell?” Lily repeated. “That was from two years ago. Why do we need to try that again?”
“Just do it,” James told her.
“Evanesco,” she said, pointing her wand at the quill. It moved slightly, but otherwise, the spell had no effect on it whatsoever.
“You’re not concentrating,” James insisted. “Try it again.”
“Evanesco,” she repeated. The red coloring of the feather at the end of the quill was distracting her. It reminded her of the mask her mystery love wore. Thoughts of him came barging into her brain once more. She hated the fact that she couldn’t keep her mind clear and her thoughts straight. A blush was rising in her cheeks.
“This isn’t working,” he declared. “Obviously, your mind is on something.”
“The Masquerade Dance,” Lily told him.
“Ah,” he sighed, leaning back in his chair. “The infamous masquerade.”
Although, it made him feel good to know she was thinking of him, it made him feel even worst when she had no idea that it was in fact him underneath that red mask. She was so smart, but he was getting the feeling that she was intentionally avoiding trying to figure out who he was. She was curious, but at the same time, she liked the allure of not knowing.
“You know, why don’t you try focusing your attention on this quill,” James advised her. “Forget about the masquerade. To you, it doesn’t exist. This quill is the only thing you’re worried about. You want it gone. Try the spell one more time. Forget everything about Halloween night.”
She did as he told her to do, emptying her mind and focusing on vanishing the quill. Nothing except reciting that incantation was in her thoughts.
“Evanesco,” she recited. After she said it, she had closed her eyes. She heard James laughing.
How dare he laugh at me, Lily thought angrily.
She opened her eyes to tell him off, but in fact found that the quill was gone. She had successfully vanished it.
She started laughing as well. She had never laughed harder in her life about something. She wiped tears from her eyes and clutched her side as stitches formed. She looked over at James and saw the warmth in his hazel eyes as he laughed.
“I did it,” she finally said.
“Yes you did,” James told her. “Congratulations.”
“I couldn’t have done it without you,” she told him. “It’s weird. Last year, I would have never been able to laugh about something like this. I would have never found such satisfaction is achieving something so petty.”
James smiled. He was glad she was appreciating her hard efforts.
“You deserve it though,” he informed her. “You managed to overcome an obstacle. Concentration was one of your problems and you proved to me right now that you can sit down and concentrate on a task.”
She grinned, enjoying the empty space the quill had once sat upon. She set her hands on the table, but was surprised when it brushed against one of James’. They both jerked their hands away immediately, although Lily noticed he was blushing. She, herself, felt heat rising in her cheeks.
“Lily,” he said to her, something that was rare for him. “Do you think that maybe, just this once, you could go with me on the next Hogsmeade weekend?”
He wasn’t asking her out in his usual cocky manner. He was truly asking her, propositioning her for a date just for the pure satisfaction of being in her company.
She felt hurt when she heard the word, “No,” drip from her lips. She appreciated James after that night, but she wasn’t ready to forget about how she felt around that mystery man. “I’m sorry.”
“That’s ok,” James told her, clearing his throat. “I understand. I’ll see you later on for patrol then.”
With that, he grabbed his bag and walked out of the library. He knew that while the red mask existed upon his face, the person behind that mask would never be able to win over Lily Evans.
“Where’ve you been?” Sydney inquired, as she turned over on her bed. Lily walked over to her own bed and lay her things down on the floor.
“Tutoring with Potter,” she told her.
“James Potter is your tutor?” Alice asked. She was sitting on Sydney’s bed also, having her toes painted. Sydney and Alice had grown to be better friends, as well as confidants.
“Unfortunately,” Lily mumbled.
“This coming from the girl who called him ‘James’ not too long ago?” Sydney reminded her, enjoying the torment she was causing her friend. She knew Lily had a particular soft spot for anything involving James Potter, whether she wished to admit it or not.
Lily rolled her emerald green eyes at her friend and rest her head on her pillow.
“He asked me out again tonight,” Lily told them.
“What’d you say?” Alice asked.
“No,” Lily told them. She sighed. “It’s not that he hasn’t grown up; he has. It’s just that I don’t see him or any other boy at Hogwarts like that. I’ve found someone who’s equally up to my level and is able to understand me in ways I never thought possible.”
“What’s his name?” Sydney inquired, her blue eyes shining for information.
“I don’t know his name,” Lily regretfully informed them. “He wears a mask every time we’re together. A red, simple mask that seems to be just enough to keep his identity from me.”
“So, you’re giving up James Potter, the real deal, for some phony, no good, secretive guy?” Sydney asked. “I don’t like the sound of that, Lily. He could take full advantage of you and you wouldn’t even have a name.”
“He’s not like that,” Lily told her friend. “He’s sweet and gentle. He seems to actually care for me.”
“Why is it that you’re allowed to reveal yourself to him, yet he wont even take off his mask?” Alice asked. “Obviously, he’s trying to hide something.”
Lily had never thought of it that way. She didn’t like looking too deep into the meaning.
“It really doesn’t matter to me,” she told them. “He’s nice to me and that’s all that matters.”
“As long as you’re happy,” Sydney told her. “We’ll support you.”
Sydney was lying next to Sirius in his bed and was holding his hand and smiling at him. He played with her hair, enjoying how soft it was. Her blue eyes danced as he sent butterflies through her stomach. She leaned in and kissed him.
“Get a room,” Peter called from the other side of the dorm. Sydney giggled as Sirius sent a shoe flying at his friend’s head. It missed.
“You could have seriously injured me, you idiot,” Peter complained.
“That’s what I was going for,” he told him. “I suppose he’s right though. Do you want to take a walk?”
“I’d love to,” Sydney told him, climbing out the bed. She looked over to see James sleeping in the bed next to her. She thought she saw a pair of red underwear under his bed and cringed at them. She picked it up, fully intending to lecture the Marauders on being a bit more sensitive, when she realized it was a red mask. She looked over at Sirius, shocked.
A/N: Well? Please review. It was a long one too. I want some good reviews. Tell me what you think.
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