Chapter 41 : Chapter Forty One
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The following day was not so pleasant. While I was swimming in my own head in ecstasy, thinking of James and only James while we spent the last day of break together, I thought that the next day would be just as fun and wonderful as the previous. I was wrong. I must’ve forgotten what was coming because not only did I gasp when the people around us started to utter all the same word, I toppled out of my chair and let out a scream.
“N.E.W.T.s.” McGonagall said curtly once I had regained my balance and sat back in my chair with a steaming face. Her lips were tightly shut and she was surveying the class with a glare—as if daring someone to speak. Everyone in the class had the same expression of terror and anxiety—our eyes were widened and our mouths open. Henn was making a weird gagging noise in the back of her throat.
“This exam is one the most important of all your lives,” McGonagall continued, pacing the room slowly with her arms behind her back. “When I accepted you all into my class you knew what was coming and this should be no surprise to you. If you do not wish to have wasted all of your years of studying advanced Transfiguration I suggest that you study hard and every day and night—many of you need it.”
Her eyes rested on Peter, who was chewing his nails ferociously.
“All of you in this class want a certain career that requires Transfiguration.” McGonagall said, her every vowel echoing in the room. “If you still wish to pursue this career do not squander your knowledge by seeing these exams as unimportant.” The Professor stopped pacing for a moment and lowered her gaze so that she could look every student in the face. “You will regret it if you do.”
“Who does she think she is?” Sirius burst out angrily as soon as we got out of the classroom and we were out of ear shot.
“A teacher.” I said immediately. Sirius and Peter looked at me and I shrugged. “Well…she is, isn’t she?”
“Whatever.” Sirius said dismissingly. “But still…she’s trying to intimidate us. You do realize that, don’t you?”
“I think she just wants us all to do well.” I said earnestly. This time Henn glared at me too.
“I agree with Sirius.” She said. “I mean, come on—we already had to pass through that ordeal with O.W.L.s…now this?”
“Ay.” Sirius said encouragingly. They started off towards the courtyard, but I stayed where I was. Henn raised an eyebrow at me.
“Aren’t you coming?”
I jerked out of my trance and grinned despite myself. “Uh…no. I’m waiting for James.”
Was it just my impression or did Henn say ‘Oh, all right’ a little too forcefully?
I watched the three of them scowl and complain yet more about the exams until they turned the corner and were out of sight. I sighed and leaned against the walls, crossing my arms and waiting for James, who had gone to talk to Professor McGonagall for some reason.
“All right, Professor. Thanks.” James said as he walked out of the room. He turned to me and smiled, giving me a quick kiss then wrapping an arm around my shoulder as we walked down the hall.
“So, what did you want with her?” I asked, looking over at James’s anxious face. He was smiling nervously.
“Nothing.” He said, waving a hand and blushing slightly. “It’s just…well, you know.”
I raised my eyebrow. “No, I don’t.”
“I just wanted to ask McGonagall something.” James said, glancing at me. “It’s nothing.”
We had turned so that we were walking down a staircase and out onto the courtyard, where we could see Sirius, Peter, Henn and Gaby all sprawled out on the grass. Grace and Remus were nowhere to be seen.
“Why don’t you want to tell me?” I asked, just as James waved to Sirius who saluted him back. He had let go of my arm and was now holding onto my hand, which caused a few fifth year girls around us to glare. I gulped and noticed that they weren’t the only ones looking our way, which unnerved me.
“Do you really want to know?” James asked me. We were walking over to our friends, who all seemed to have piled their books and bags at the side, as if to rid them of the memory of the exams. I gave James a pointed look and we stopped in the middle of the courtyard, where he gave me an embarrassed smile. He ruffled his hair and I scowled at him for buying time. Finally, he said, “Well it’s that—I just wanted to ask McGonagall…about being…well, an Auror.”
He kind of mumbled the last bit, as if he was hoping I wouldn’t hear him and I’d just drop it. Instead I raised my eyebrow and said, “That’s it? Why were you embarrassed about that?”
James exhaled slowly, looking to the sides and giving me a questioning look. He leaned in and said in a low voice, “You don’t think it’s—”
“It’s what?” I asked slowly.
I laughed. “No, you idiot.” I said, giving him a shove. Of course, this didn’t have too much effect since he was a lot bigger and taller than me. Instead I grabbed his arm and made him walk again, because Henn and Gaby were already looking interestingly at us.
“Are you sure you don’t?” James asked worriedly.
“Yes, James.” I said, rolling my eyes. “Actually, that was one of my career choices too.”
James raised both his eyebrows this time, looking curious yet surprised. “Really?”
I smiled. “Yep.”
“Do I want to know what you two were doing?” Sirius said loudly.
“Shut up.” I replied. I looked over at Henn, who was sprawled between Sirius and Gaby. I vaguely wondered if she had done that on purpose but quickly pushed the idea out of my mind. I sat on the ground next to James, who grinned at me.
“Have you seen Grace or Remus?” Gaby asked. “We’ve been looking for them.”
“Nope.” James said, moving slightly closer to where I was sitting. “They’re probably in the library.”
The bell rung overhead and James stood immediately up, stretching out his hand so that I could be helped up. Henn coughed slightly.
“Sorry, just feeling a bit sick.” She said, once we both looked at her.
The rest of the day was of the same talk of our exams. All the Professors seemed to want to remind us how important they were and what would be the outcome if we failed. I tried to concentrate on something else as Harrison told us about N.E.W.T.s in the dungeons.
“This is harassment.” Sirius mumbled later that day as we left Divination, which I wasn’t too worried about since I only took that class for fun and it wouldn’t matter if I failed, and headed over to dinner. Grace and Remus were sitting silently beside one another, both looking sulky.
“Hello.” I said, sitting across from Grace. James immediately took the seat next to me.
“Hi.” Grace said, attempting a smile. It didn’t look too good.
“How was—” I paused as James discreetly put his hand on my leg underneath the table. Grace was raising an eyebrow at me. “Your class…Arthimacy?”
“It was basically the same as our other ones.” Remus said, shrugging. “Talk about N.E.W.T.s and all.” He glanced at James’s other hand, which was on my arm and then at Grace. He cleared his throat and gulped down some pumpkin juice.
“I reckon we’ll do okay.” James said. He was wearing a cocky grin. “I mean, we’re the Marauders, aren’t we?”
“Oh, shut up.” I snapped, although I did smile a bit when he looked at me. “You think far too much of yourself.”
“Well, I have to, don’t I?” James said, kissing my ear. “Don’t I have a girl like you sitting next to me?”
I glanced at Remus and Grace, who were both frowning at us. I coughed and moved slightly to my right, where Henn was talking to Gaby, Sirius, and Peter and was laughing about something. She didn’t look at me.
“Anyway,” I said, feeling my face increase steadily from warm, to hot as James gave me a prolonged kiss on my ear. “So, where were you?”
But Grace nor Remus were listening to me; Grace was staring at her porridge and Remus was carefully avoiding our eyes. I raised my eyebrows and jumped once being addressed.
“Lily! We’re heading out to the common room.” It was Henn, who had already finished dinner and was leaving the Great Hall with Sirius. She was wearing an expectant expression, like she knew already what I was going to say.
“Um…I—er—” I gestured wordlessly towards James and then pointed to the grounds outside. Henn merely scowled and took off without another word. I sighed and turned to look at James, but he was narrowing his eyes at Remus as if trying to figure him out.
“Let’s just leave.” I muttered in James’s ear, and he nodded. We left the Great Hall in a hurry and stepped out onto the moist grass outside; it had sprinkled a bit that day and it was very humid.
James took my hand and led me over to the lake, where we started to walk around to the other side. Finally, after we were quiet for a while admiring the water, I said, “James…has Sirius been acting…” I paused, and James looked at me. “…I don’t know—weird?”
“No. What did he say?” James asked, furrowing his eyebrows. We had reached the other side of the lake and we both sat down underneath one of the trees. I sighed and twiddled my thumbs, biting my lip.
“It wasn’t him. It’s just that—I’m thinking that maybe Henn’s a bit…” I trailed off, not really knowing how to put it.
“A bit what?”
“Well, don’t you think she might be jealous?” I said anxiously. “Of you,” I clarified, when he continued to look lost.
“Ohhh.” James said, a look of dawning comprehension on his face. “You mean of us dating?”
“Yes. Exactly.” I said, nodding my head. James grinned lazily at me and undid his tie, leaning back on his elbows. “It’s not funny, James. Henn’s been my friend for a while.”
“I just think you’re overreacting. So what if she’s jealous? Girls are like that anyway.”
I leaned back on my elbows too, raising an eyebrow. “And boys aren’t?”
“Does it look like Sirius cares?”
“Exactly.” James replied, smirking slightly. “He’s actually happy for me…I mean we all know how long I’ve liked you.”
I raised my eyebrow at him, pretending that what he said didn’t make my heart flutter. “Right.” I said slowly, pushing his hand away that had found its way to my hair. “Grace and Remus are acting strange too.”
James merely said “Mmhmm” while he let his fingers roam up my neck. I pushed them away and said mostly to myself, “I think they’re hiding something.”
“James, will you stop it?” I suddenly snapped as James moved closer and kissed my arm. “I’m trying to—” His lips skimmed my arm and went to my shoulder, “—talk—” to my neck “—here.”
“Damn it, Lily. I don’t want to talk about other people right now.”
“But I do.” I said feverishly, which only made him look up from the crook of my arm and grin widely. “I’m worried about our friends, you know.”
“So am I,” James said, easing me on my back so that my head tumbled onto the grass. He kissed my lips for a long moment then looked at me, smirking. “But that’s not why I asked you to come with me out here…alone.” He gave me a pointed look and put a great emphasis on “alone.”
I stared at him, blushing. “And what is it that you want to do?”
James grinned. “You know,” he said, and answered me very sweetly on my neck.
“Lily, you have grass in your hair.”
I looked over my shoulder at Gaby and returned her grin, unbuttoning my rather ruffled shirt and changing into my nightgown. I then walked over to the vanity where she was brushing her hair and sat down on Grace’s bed, sighing audibly and contently.
“He’s really great, you know.” I said, answering Gaby’s look which was quite perspective. She raised her eyebrow at me as I said, “I didn’t think he would be, to be honest.”
At that moment Grace came out of the bathroom, wearing a bathrobe and a towel on her head. She was looking a little better than the last time I saw her at dinner, but she wasn’t smiling either.
“How was your date?” she asked, opening her trunk.
“Nice.” I said, smiling reminiscently.
“You should’ve said ‘yes’ to him sooner.” Gaby said, turning around on her stool and giving me a pointed look.
“Not when he was being a jerk.” I said frowning. “But yeah…maybe you’re right.”
“Where’s Henn?” Gaby asked Grace.
“She’s down in the common room with Sirius.” Grace said nonchalantly, glancing over at me. “Are you two in a fight or something?”
I snorted. “Not on my part.”
“Oh, I see. She’s jealous.” Grace said, nodding understandably.
“James told me to not worry about it.” I said, shrugging. Gaby grinned.
“Oh…James told you, eh? You do notice that every five minutes you mention him, if not less.”
I felt my face burning and saw it too in the vanity mirror. “Don’t exaggerate, Gaby.”
“I don’t think I am,” Gaby said, smiling at me. “I think someone’s in love, Grace.”
Grace merely scoffed at that statement and returned to the bathroom to brush her teeth.
“In love?” I repeated, sounding rather sour myself. My heart was beating rather loudly in my ribs though. “No…I don’t think so.”
“You will soon enough,” Gaby said, and then promptly turned around to brush her hair in front of the mirror again. “Realize, that is.”
I frowned at her, but didn’t say anything as I crawled into bed. My heart was still thumping in my chest, and it was giving me a headache from thinking so much. I closed my four-poster and tried to ignore Gaby’s sniggers as I lay down to ponder.
Love is quite a strong word, Lily, I told myself firmly. Don’t even consider it until you’re absolutely sure.
My other side was telling me to do what I thought was right. I sighed and stuffed my head under my pillow.
But since when did I know what was right?
The weekend had finally arrived after many days of homework and studying. James and I were currently in the library while Henn (sulking, predictably) and Sirius were in the back trying to stick gum to the backs of as many books as possible. We were trying to finish our homework so we could have Saturday and Sunday to do whatever we want.
Natalie had just entered the library, holding a boy’s hand. Hm. I supposed she had already dumped Jack…not that I felt sorry for him at all, for what he had done to Gaby. I looked around the library and saw that there were many other people there, even though it was a Friday. It was mostly consisted of fifth and seventh years, which all had their noses in their books. I also noticed that there were many couples aloft also. For once, I was part of the Spring Time Love that everyone seemed to be so eager about.
“You seem distracted,” James said. I looked over at him and saw that he was bent over a book but his eyes were locked on me. I smiled.
“I’m not.” I said. When he made a disbelieving noise in the back of his throat, I said, “Well, okay. I am a bit.”
James closed his book and scooted his chair around the table so that he was closer to me. I swiveled my chair around as he took my hand and ran over it with his thumb. “What are you thinking about?”
I grinned and kissed him, something that I had been very fond of lately. For some reason I didn’t avoid it or turn my head whenever he wanted to do it too, like I did with Zach. It was strange, but I actually was very comfortable with James. Maybe it was because after all those years that we argued and fought endlessly, I didn’t realize that we were actually spending quite a lot of time together. Even if we didn’t spend time in a very pleasant way.
And now I was regretting it more than ever. It was already May, and we had only about two months left to spend together in Hogwarts. After that James was going to be trained to be an Auror at the Ministry, and we would almost never see each other due to the fact that James was going to live at Sirius’s flat for a little bit in the very heart of London. And me—well, I didn’t even know what I wanted to be, and when I’d start to do be it.
“Lil?” James said when we broke apart. He looking at me questioningly, and was still stroking my palm with his thumb.
“I’m just thinking.” I said softly. This was obviously not a very satisfying answer, because James perked an eyebrow up at me urging me to continue. “About…well lots of things. Like Henn. And that jerk Jack—there’s also the fact that I just noticed everyone around here is dating. And…”
I trailed off, gesturing to nothing as I lost the will to say what exactly was on my mind. James grinned at me, bringing me closer and tucking a piece of my hair behind my ear. “So? Are you going to tell me or not?”
I sighed, lowering my eyes so that I looked at my hands, which he had let go of. “I’m worried about what will happen when school is over.”
I looked up, expecting a look fully of understanding and cherish, his arms opened to embrace me in comfort. What I did get though, was something rather different. James backed up with his chair, ruffled his hair, and widened his eyes, as if he was very surprised with what I had just said. I gasped and covered my mouth with my hand, horrified. I had just noticed something that had just pranced off that thin boundary line of my mind that divided the fantasies from the reality.
And I had just fallen back into reality. James doesn’t want to be with me when the summer is over. He wants to start out fresh, get another girlfriend who is also an Auror, and who can live with him in London, get their own flat…perhaps even get married—
“But you’re right. I shouldn’t worry.” I said quickly, feeling my cheeks on fire as I cursed myself inwardly. “I’m being stupid. I should’ve realized—”
“Realized what exactly?” James asked. He was looking rather amused at my flustered expressions as I continued to stammer.
“James—just—argh—stop it!” I hissed, for now he was laughing out loud in the library. I saw Henn poke her head from behind one of the shelves with a venomous look.
“Potter!” Madam Pince snarled from behind us, having just appeared. “Keep—your—voice—down.” She stalked off while James slapped a hand over his mouth, his eyes watering from preventing himself from laughing. He removed his hand and beamed at me, inexplicably taking me by surprise by grabbing me and kissing me deeply.
The whole library must’ve seen, because soon the boys were catcalling and whooping while others giggled. When I had finally gotten over my shock and started to kiss him back despite my anger and humiliation, I felt two dry hands wrench us apart so furiously that we toppled out of our chairs along with our books and bags that were being thrown onto the floor next to us.
“Out!” Madam Pince shrieked, grabbing me by the neck and shoving me to the front of the library along with James. A second later we were being thrown out of the library with our things, while everyone laughed and Madam Pince started screaming something about “indecencies in such a sacred place”. The doors were slammed behind her and James stood up and grinned at me, extending his hand, which I promptly refused. I picked up my books and glared at him, sidestepping him and stomping away.
James followed me, laughing all the way. I was so fully irritated that by the time we got to the entrance hall, I spun around and made an incoherent noise between a yell and a growl—which turned out to be very strange indeed.
My git boyfriend widened his eyes and gave me a strange look. “What?” he asked. He was clearly confused and was no longer laughing. I glared at him.
“You—just—argh!” My breathing was shallow as I stared daggers at his face. James continued to look lost.
“Is everything…okay?” He asked me uncertainly, as if he wasn’t sure if he really wanted to know. I put my hands on my hips and narrowed my eyes, giving him my trademark bitchiness that I seemed to be known for.
“Did you even notice that you made complete arses of ourselves in the library?” And that I’m miserable because you don’t want to be with me during the summer?
“Oh, that’s it?” James said, looking relieved and amused at the same time. “C’mon Lil…”
“No.” I snapped, for he had just grabbed my arm and was pulling me towards him. “Go away.”
“I was only playing…”
He paused an inch from my face, but this time I wasn’t giving in. I breathed through my mouth so I wouldn’t have to smell his cologne and promptly turned on my heel and left, racing up the staircase and having the strong urge to cry.
I spent the rest of the day in my dorm, sulking about while I did my homework. I concentrated on the text in front of me and willed myself to ignore and forget James and other unpleasant things and moments—such as Cecilia’s sneers that implied that I really did not have a life if I was to spend my Friday night alone in our room, and the various thoughts floating in my head, plainly about James and only James.
Patricia, who had miraculously, suddenly become cheery and happy again (to the point that it had reached that annoying way of hers), strode over to me and said softly, “Don’t fret about her. She’s just bitter about you dating James.”
Not for long… “I’m not fretting.” I said, giving her a forced smile which she, either choosing to or just plainly not recognizing for what it was, assumed that I was all right. Patricia had been all smiles and sunshine these days…apparently she had met a Muggle over break and had fallen head over heels for him as he had for her—which just added to the bonus that she was disappointing her pureblood family that did not want her dating him. She had mentioned this all to me her first day back, sighing romantically as she told me she didn’t expect to be “rebellious”, even if it was for such a noble act of love.
“Okay.” Patricia said, positively beaming at me. “Well, I’ve got to run—I’m about to send a letter to my love.” She skipped after her sister and closed the door, leaving me alone once again.
None of my friends had been sent up to my room, telling me that they were instructed to ask me to come downstairs because James was asking, no owls delivering consoling letters, nor were there (which I was deeply embarrassed to hope) any knocks on my window where James would be riding a broomstick in the air. I was simply alone, cold, and very angry.
We had been dating barely two weeks, and already I was addicted to him. I loved everything about him—his eyes, his untidy hair (even when he ruffled it), his nose, his mouth, his skin, his delicious smell…I even loved the way he’d frown at me curiously as if he wasn’t sure exactly what I was saying but was trying to figure it out. I couldn’t imagine Hogwarts without him—or rather, any other place. Only two weeks… For heaven’s sake, what had gotten into me?
Suddenly, Gaby’s taunting and teasing voice filled my head. I think someone’s in love…
Uh, no. I’m not. I thought, suddenly panicked. No, no…pay attention to what you’re reading, Lily. Pay—attention—to—your—homework.
I squinted as I scanned my textbook, although I didn’t catch a word of any of it at all.
Finally. I guess I do have friends.
“Where’s Henn?” I asked, once Gaby and Grace had decided to visit me in my little enclosure. They were trying to convince me to go down to dinner, but I wasn’t giving in. I lay on my bed and looked at them, waiting for an answer. I saw them exchange a glance.
“She’s at dinner.” Gaby said, in a too casual voice. “That’s why you should go too.”
“I don’t want to.” I said, sounding childish but not caring.
“Why not?” Grace asked tiredly. She had dark circles under her eyes and they looked rather sunken. Grace wasn’t looking too good these days—it was almost as if she were sick.
I sat upright and looked at the pair of them, debating whether I should tell them or not. Usually I didn’t tell my friends much, but I was so desperate to get out in the open what I was fretting about that I couldn’t control myself. “It’s about James.”
“Of course.” Gaby said, rolling her eyes. She didn’t look surprised but suspicious. “So what’s wrong? I thought you two were all smiles and heaven, hm?”
“For now.” I said quietly. “Not later though.”
Grace was getting impatient. “Just tell us, will you?”
I breathed in, and then exhaled slowly. Finally, I said, “He wants it to end once school’s over.”
Gaby widened her eyes, and Grace raised her eyebrow, as if she wasn’t quite sure if she ought to believe it. “What?” Gaby breathed, looking astounded.
“Are you sure?” Grace asked slowly.
“Yes, I’m sure.” I snapped, getting very annoyed at her at the moment. “He practically spit it out on my face.”
“Don’t talk to me like that,” Grace said, suddenly frowning. “We all know that you’re known for exaggeration.”
“Oh shut up.” I snarled, and she fell silent. A second later, however, she turned on her heel and slammed the door behind her. We could hear her angry footsteps as she descended.
“Well, aren’t we all jolly today,” Gaby said sarcastically, looking rather peeved herself. When I turned to glare at her, however, she added quickly, “I am terribly sorry though. I wish there was something I could do.”
“There isn’t.” I said dully, feeling dread sink deep inside of my skin and intoxicate my lungs. “Nothing at all.”
“You shouldn’t worry about it,” Gaby said softly. “After all, we still have at least five weeks left…and only four of studying.”
Far from cheering me up, I suddenly wanted to cry. Only five weeks? That wasn’t nearly enough.
“Lily?” Gaby said urgently, looking worried. Clearly she noticed my anguish. “Oh, darling…it’s all right.” She sat next to me and hugged me tightly. “Maybe you can sort something out.”
I didn’t say anything, for I feared that it would come out choked and watery. Gaby didn’t seem to want to prod me. “Just imagine…we’re almost done with school—after those dreadful N.E.W.T.s are over, it’ll be smooth sailing from now on. And we’ll keep in touch! I’m sure of it.” Even though she assured me this, I could feel doubt and worry in her voice. Gaby had told us merely a week ago that she was going to live with her grandmother in Venezuela for a while—possibly forever if she liked it there and found a decent job. I held on more forcefully as she said this, as if time would pass by far too quickly and the next second we’d be getting off the Hogwarts Express to separate ourselves into different lives and different cities. I gulped.
“It’s going to be okay,” she said, and I tried to believe her as we stayed still in that room, just embracing each other and our friendship.
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