Chapter 56 : Chapter Fifty Six
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“How is he?” Remus asked as the three of us stood together, looking at the sleeping form.
“As well as can be expected,” I said. I glanced at Sirius. “He knew that you sent me here. He didn’t…take it well.”
Sirius was now looking at the pile of firewhiskey bottles which I had preoccupied myself with whilst James ignored me. “Merlin, how much did he drink? We’ll have to give him some sort of potion later.”
“I brought lasagna,” Remus said. Sirius and I looked at him. “What? Food helps.”
“I think you two should take him inside,” I offered. “I wanted to before, but I was afraid he’d wake up and get angry…” I trailed off, not wanting to divulge the rage James had been in after seeing me. The two of them watched me, waiting for me to continue.
“Sure,” Sirius said eventually.
They could’ve easily levitated him, which would’ve been simpler to do, but instead Sirius heaved him over his shoulder while Remus picked up the blanket, following solemnly afterwards. Feeling useless and unhelpful already, they wished to actually do something for him.
I brought all the empty bottles inside and dumped them into the kitchen. I looked around, wondering what I could do next. The kitchen was practically spotless; there was a sponge on the counter in mid-wipe. Mrs. Potter had been cleaning.
Remus found me in the living room, dusting the mantelpiece. “I put the lasagna in the fridge,” he said. “James won’t be awake for a while.”
“I’m dusting,” I countered. “I…the kitchen was already clean.”
Remus smiled sadly. “It seems we’re both trying to make ourselves helpful.” He glanced around the room, shifting nervously. “You can go home, if you like,” he finally said. “Sirius and I are staying here. You’ve been here the whole day, and you’re probably tired.”
“I am,” I admitted. “But I feel like I should stay.”
“How did he take to seeing you?”
I scoffed in self-loathing. “Not well.” Then quietly, I added, “I used to be able to comfort him. I used to be able to help him. I was his friend.”
“‘I am his friend’,” he corrected softly.
I faced him. “What?”
“You said ‘was his friend’.”
I smiled sadly. “No, I was right the first time. He basically told me that he didn’t want to see me again.”
Remus looked genuinely surprised. “He said that?”
“Not exactly. But he told me that we can’t be friends anymore.”
Remus observed my features for a while. Instead of meeting his gaze and whatever it held there I continued to dust the mantelpiece, avoiding his eyes. “Ah,” he finally sighed. But he didn’t elaborate on his thoughts. Instead he settled down on the nearest armchair and began to rub his temples.
I hesitated. “I—do you feel like that sometimes? I mean, with Grace?”
Remus looked up at me, his handsome face furrowed in confusion. “You mean if I don’t wish to be friends with her anymore, even though it’s over?” I nodded and he smiled rather cynically to himself. “I’d like to be friends. But things are…complicated.”
“Caroline?” I inquired.
“Oh, no,” Remus said dismissively; Caroline had clearly not been on his mind. “Other things.” His dark blue eyes met mine. “You know what.”
I flushed, turning back to the mantelpiece and idly tapping my fingers against the dark wood. Remus did not encourage me to reply; he was already well acquainted with the apparent disgust that he believed seemed to emit from others because of his condition.
It was this thought that made me turn around and face him again; I did not wish him to think I was repelled by him. “Have you talked to her?” I said, trying hard to appear nonchalant.
“Once, which you have already witnessed,” he replied dryly.
“Are you saying that the only time you actually talked to her about your—er—”
To my relief, Remus actually smiled. “James likes to call it my ‘furry little problem’.”
“Yes,” I said, laughing. “I remember that he used to say that.”
“Quit it,” said Remus patiently.
I was bewildered. “What?”
“Quit saying ‘used to’ and ‘was’. Mr. and Mrs. Potter are dead, but James isn’t.”
I finally let go of my nervous tidying and sat on the armchair across from him. Both of us were slumped, our backs bent and shoulders hunched tiredly. “So, is it?” I finally said, breaking the silence.
“That time, when I found you two yelling at each other—is it the only time you tried to talk to her about it?”
“So how do you know it’s really all that complicated?” I continued more confidently. Although Grace was one of my best friends, she was always a rather private person, even more so than me at times. I had never known what went on in her relationship with Remus, and she had never thought to tell me. The only reason I knew the actual reason why they had broken up was because I had accidentally overheard their argument in the common room all those weeks ago. Still, I felt that I knew her. And the Grace that I knew would confront many things if she was truly in love.
Remus did not seem to think that my train of thought was worthy enough for a reply. He merely smiled at me, a little sadly, but he did not say anything. My mind was a jumble of thoughts, my heart a mess of emotions, and at the moment, I really did not wish to dwell on such things. I tried to keep him talking so that we could keep our minds off of the empty house and its no longer existing inhabitants. “Why are you with Caroline?”
“Why are you with Ray?”
I frowned. “I’m not. Who told you that?”
“Sirius said that James had a rather violent reaction towards him,” he explained, speaking as if James’ encounter had been with a particularly venomous piece of poison ivy rather than a harmless shoe salesman. He eyed me skeptically. “He’s interested in you, isn’t he?”
“No,” I said quickly.
Remus gave me a knowing smile. “Well, then.” Then, quite suddenly, he was serious. “Lily, you know that I love you. You’re my friend. But James is like a brother to me and I don’t want to see him get clobbered. Especially now.”
His utter honesty startled me after our light joking with one another. I flushed. “I’m not trying to hurt anybody,” I said earnestly.
“I know you’re not,” he said lightly, “but you are. You may not do it on purpose, but you are hurting him, Lily, even when you’re not with Ray.” He paused, meeting my eyes seriously. “So I really don’t think you should stay here tonight.”
“Of course,” I said quickly before he could realize that his words had hurt me. “I’ll leave.”
I stood up, pausing before leaving. “We’re better off without each other, I suppose,” I said, trying to keep my voice light.
It was his silence, more than his words, which wounded me when he did not immediately contradict me. I forced a smile and said, “Keep me posted, okay? I won’t come and see him but you’ll let me know how he’s doing, right?”
Remus stared at me solemnly, then nodded. I turned on my heel and Disapparated.
Thank Merlin that I had appeared in my bedroom, and not the living room, for as soon as Gaby heard the movement going on in my room she was rushing over and hissing, “Ray is here! Go Apparate in a closet somewhere in the hall because he thinks you’re out!”
I was stunned. “Ray’s here? Now?”
“What, are you extra slow today or something? Go!”
“Gaby,” I pleaded. “I don’t want to. Tell him to leave. I spent the whole day with James and I’m just really…”
Gaby had the grace to look sympathetic as I trailed off, but wasn’t moved. “You have to go. He won’t leave until you arrive, and you can’t just arrive from your bedroom. Unless you want to actually tell him about the whole witch thing so that Grace and I don’t have to discuss what kind of wallpaper we chose for the bathroom, which by the way, we’d be really grateful for.”
I opted to Apparating into an alley just outside our flat instead and tried to appear nonchalant as I strolled out of the dingy, normally vacated alley.
Mr. Livingston was quick to notice where I had been. “What were you—” he began.
“Hi, Mr. Livingston,” I said quickly as I rushed past him. “Bye, Mr. Livingston.”
I fumbled for my keys at the door (why did I never have them in my hand?) and entered our flat only to find Ray sitting at the counter and chatting with Grace, who looked like thunder at the moment as she tried to reply as sweetly as she could, “Oh, yes, I just love the university. It’s great. Really.”
Ray turned around and smiled at me. “Hey. I’ve been waiting here for over an hour.”
“I’m sorry, did we have plans?” I asked pointedly, knowing fully well that we did not.
“Well, no,” he said as he jumped off the stool and approached me. He grinned. “I just wanted to see you.”
Gaby coughed rather conspicuously as I struggled for a smile. “That’s…sweet.”
“I was hoping my pathetic waiting would induce you to accept my invitation to eat dinner with me.” He didn’t even look embarrassed as he said it. Clearly, he was used to this sort of thing. Which wasn’t a surprise really, with his looks.
“I—well, maybe some other time. I had a real tiring day,” I said truthfully. I was mentally exhausted, and at the moment wanted nothing more than to simply collapse on my bed and try to forget the afternoon’s encounter.
“C’mon,” he coaxed, smiling, as Grace and Gaby rolled their eyes behind him. “Have some pity for me. I’ve been waiting here for you in your flat, looking like a complete fool. I’d like to get some of my dignity back.”
I smiled despite myself. And then, before I even thought about it, I said, “All right. I suppose I can go.”
To say that my friends looked shocked was the understatement of the year. Their mouths dropped and Gaby actually let out a rather offended gasp as if I had somehow betrayed them.
Ray didn’t seem to mind. “Knew you’d give in,” he said easily, opening the door for me. “Bye Gaby. Grace.”
Before anyone judges me, I did have good reasons to do what I did. One, I was hungry. Like really hungry. I hadn’t eaten at all that day, even though Remus’ lasagna had been rather tempting. Reason number two had to do with Remus also, and what he had said. ‘I really don’t think you should stay here tonight.’ He was implying what James himself had admitted to; we couldn’t remain friends. Not when we were constantly yet unintentionally hurting one another.
I thought that it would be best if I just stayed away from James. For the moment, I needed to forget about him a little. And Ray had been there, offering company. So I took it.
He was funny, I admit. Charming, suave, and all of that. And when I refused to let him pay for my half of the check, he just laughed and didn’t insist. James had never let me pay for anything, which had of course, been infinitely sweet. But this time I didn’t budge. I needed to do things differently. I needed to be different.
“I’ll walk you home,” he said as we left the restaurant.
“No, you don’t have to,” I replied. “It’s not far.” Again, I was reminded of James, who at Hogwarts, had constantly been beside me, walking me to classes that were out of his way, and sitting next to me any chance he got. I hadn’t minded that sort of gesture then.
He gave me a sideways glance, and grinned. “Great. You’re not one of those feminists, are you?” he joked.
I frowned, not getting it. “No, why?”
“First you don’t let me pay for your dinner, and now you don’t want me to walk you home. I’m just wondering if you were offended that I offered, or if you’re just naturally independent.”
I thought about it. “The latter,” I finally conceded.
We stood outside the restaurant in the lamplight. I shifted uncomfortably. I was about to open my mouth and excuse myself when he asked conversationally, “So, what was so tiring?”
“You said your day was tiring,” he clarified.
“Oh, right,” I said. I looked at him before answering. There was only so much I could tell. “I…well, I spent it with my friend. He’s not in the best shape right now.”
“What happened to him?”
I hesitated. “His parents died.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, and genuinely looked it too.
“Me too,” I said quietly. There was so much I’d like to discuss, like how unfair the situation was, how unjust that the Death Eaters had gotten away with it, but of course, I couldn’t. Ray wouldn’t have even known what Death Eaters were.
I had thought the conversation would end there, but once again Ray surprised me. “My parents died too,” he said, “when I was nine. It never gets easier, even when you’re older.”
I was so stunned that he had shared this particularly private piece of information with me, that I remained speechless, without offering my sympathies. Ray smiled a little sadly and said, “Tell your friend that I hope it gets better. It won’t, not for a while, but I hope it does.”
“I…won’t be seeing my friend for a while,” I said, surprising myself this time. It was strange how easy it was to share things with him.
Ray looked curious. “Why?” And when I didn’t answer, he inquired, “James?” I nodded. He seemed to understand.
“So, I’m going to go,” I said suddenly, wishing at once that I was at home and had never agreed to go out with him. “So…thanks.”
“Sure,” he said easily. If he thought it odd my abrupt end to the conversation, he didn’t show it. “Wait, here,” he said, suddenly grabbing my hand. For a panicked moment I thought he was going to kiss me, but instead he took out a pen and started scribbling on my palm. “It’s my number,” he explained as he dropped my hand, leaving me stunned. He looked into my eyes, serious. “You should call me.”
He spoke as if giving instructions to a rather slow toddler. I nodded, dumbstruck. Then, with a rather feeble wave, I retreated, going into the first empty alleyway I saw so that I could Apparate home.
If I thought I would have some peace there, I was sorely mistaken. Grace and Gaby were in my room in a flash as soon as they heard me come in, badgering me.
“I can’t believe you did that! I can’t believe you left with him!”
“I thought you were going to refuse! I mean, couldn’t he tell that you weren’t the slightest bit enthused?”
“Of course he could,” Gaby said reassuringly, as if to comfort herself. She looked at me, her eyes wide. “Lily didn’t have any fun whatsoever. Right? Right?”
I laid on my bed, hoping to encourage them to leave. This didn’t work. Instead they sat on my comforter, watching me and waiting for my verdict. “Well?” Grace spat when I didn’t deliver. “Aren’t you going to tell us what happened?”
“We went out to dinner,” I said tonelessly.
Gaby went directly to the point. “Did he kiss you?”
“Of course he didn’t, he wouldn’t dare,” laughed Grace, then abruptly stopped, looking at me. “Wait, did he?”
“No,” I sighed.
My two friends sighed with relief. “He’s not coming back, is he?” Grace finally said. It was clear from her tone which answer she was inclined towards.
“He gave me his number,” I said, showing them my hand. Immediately Gaby reached for it, studying the ink with an intensity she had never shown in studying.
“Apparently he thought the date went well,” noted Grace.
“Well, it did.”
Absolute silence followed this statement. Grace and Gaby were staring at me as if I had just announced that I wished to behead myself. I cleared my throat uncomfortably.
“What do you mean?” said Gaby, as if she had misunderstood what I had said the first time.
“I mean, it went well. Okay, it wasn’t amazing or anything, but it was—”
“Uncalled for?” offered Grace.
“Unpleasant?” seconded Gaby.
“I was going to say nice,” I replied dryly.
Grace looked bewildered, as if she simply did not comprehend. “But why?”
“Yes, why?” Gaby repeated, confused. “You told us you weren’t interested in him.”
I hesitated. “I never said that.”
This apparently was a catastrophic statement. “Yes, you did! Didn’t she?” Gaby said, turning to Grace.
“Even if you didn’t,” Grace started, “you made it clear anyway.”
“I just had dinner with him!” I protested incredulously. “What’s the problem?”
“James!” Gaby suddenly burst out, standing off the bed and heaving with indignation. “James is the problem, can’t you see that? He’ll be broken hearted when he finds out, more so than he already is.”
“He won’t be,” I said quietly.
“What do you mean ‘he won’t be’? Are you daft?”
“I won’t be seeing him for a while,” I explained with as much nonchalance as I could muster.
“Of course you will,” said Grace uncomprehendingly.
“No, I won’t. James…is better off without me. We’re better off without each other.”
Gaby rolled her eyes. “Not this again.”
“Even Remus said so,” I said, glancing at Grace.
She frowned. “He did?”
“Pretty much, yeah. I was going to spend the night at their house but Remus said it would be better if I left.”
“Seriously?” said Gaby.
None of them knew what to say to that. I took the opportunity to kick them out. “Look, I’m exhausted. I want to sleep. I don’t want to think about Ray, and I especially don’t want to think about James. So, please, let me sleep.”
To this, they actually conceded. Gaby nodded, and the two of them left the room, picking up Jinx who had been loitering by the door, and closing it behind them. I could still hear them talking quietly to one another as they moved to their room instead, but I ignored them. I turned on my back and stared up at the canvas of the canopy of my bed.
I went to the Ministry the next day. The Auror offices were cramped cubicles, and memos were constantly streaming in and out of the room. No one paid attention to me.
A particularly harassed looking woman was rushing past me when I touched her arm. “Um, excuse me?” I said as politely as I could. The woman looked as if she very dearly wished to snap my arm off for interrupting her in her errand.
“Yes?” she said ungraciously, looking impatient.
“I’m part of the Auror training program. I wasn’t able to attend yesterday because—well, I just couldn’t. Where should I go?”
She pointed brusquely to a broom closet behind her. I thought of clarifying that I was a trainee and not a custodian, but she was already walking away from me.
“Do you know if James Potter is in the program still?” I called out.
“How should I know?” she replied with annoyance.
It turned out that he wasn’t. He wasn’t present that day, at least. I discovered this after hesitating before the closet, my hand on the knob. I looked around, but no one was looking at me. I turned the handle and stepped inside, only to find that the closet had been enlarged into a classroom, where there were merely a handful of students in the rows of vacant seats. I scanned the room and saw Sirius, but no sign of James.
“Can I help you?” said the professor harshly. He had a startling appearance, one eye electric blue and spinning on its own accord, and a wooden leg.
“I’m Lily Evans, sir,” I said, stammering a bit. He was very intimidating.
He gave a barking sort of laugh. “And let me guess, you wish to be an Auror?”
I flushed. Everyone in the room was looking at me now. Sirius was smirking at my discomfort. “I…wasn’t able to attend yesterday.”
For a moment his crazy eye stopped spinning and fixed on me. I felt as if I was being x-rayed. After scrutinizing me thoroughly he seemed to come to some sort of conclusion. “Well sit down, girl,” he said gruffly, already turning to the blackboard again. “Merlin knows how much we’re in need of fools such as yourself.”
The professor was Mad Eye Moody. My first class passed by in a blur and I hardly took anything in; the entire time I kept looking back to see if James would come in at any second. Finally, I quit it when Mad Eye rebuked me.
“Hey you! Girl!” he barked at me. “Unless there are some Death Eaters coming through that door, I want you to be facing the front!”
He was unnervingly intimidating, so I did as he said. I tried to look as focused as I could as he continued with, “Normally, Auror training would take you two years to complete, and even then you probably wouldn’t be in any action for a while. However, given the circumstances—” He paused, and gave an awful grin that contorted his face so that all the scars on his face turned white. “You’ll be finishing a quick crash course in five weeks. Taught by me.”
No one in the room looked particularly enthused by this. I swallowed nervously.
“So!” he spat, causing us all to jump. “All of you, to your feet! Now!”
And so my Auror training began.
I just wanted to wish everyone a happy anniversary! Yes, that's right; on March 6th, Living Life celebrated four years. I can't believe I've been writing so long and I can't believe how some of you have stuck by. You've all been very patient, and I really appreciate all the enthusiasm you guys leave in your reviews.
I would like to clarify one thing, however: I wish my story to be as canon as possible. In other words, Lily and James will get together and die at the end. So, don't worry, it will happen. Just not yet.
Of course, some of you have been rude as well, but most of you have been quite polite and so patient, which more than makes up for the nasty reviews.
I love you guys, and thank you again for sticking with me this whole time! Happy anniversary! After all, this story would be nothing without you guys.
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