Chapter 1 : The Great Divide
| ||Rating: 15+||Chapter Reviews: 49|
Background: Font color:
As of September 1, 2011, I have gone through every chapter in this story and attempted to fix grammar and spelling. If you notice anything, please don't hesitate to speak up and let me know!
I don't own anything you recognize. Now, if you solemnly swear you are up to no good (or love those that do), happy reading!
The Great Divide
Words had never felt so unnatural to Lily Evans’ lips. She was not liberal with apologies in the first place, but giving one to James Potter felt nothing short of bizarre.
She could only imagine how odd it would feel when she was speaking to him instead of her two best friends.
“There. That wasn’t so difficult, was it?”
Lily wanted to tell Anna that, yes, actually, it was difficult. After all, not everyone could deal with life in the sarcastically stoic way that Anna did.
“Just breathe, and you’ll be fine.”
Mary’s assurances were much more deceiving. With her blond curls and sweet smile, Mary could probably soothe the anxieties of even the most conflicted person on earth. Unfortunately, Lily had become immune to Mary’s sugary kindness over years of friendship, and she was not comforted.
“Why am I apologizing to him again?” she asked, even though she knew the answer. “We were even sort of getting along last year.”
“Not talking to him isn’t the same as getting along,” Mary said.
“Lily, please don’t play dumb,” Anna said, using the power of her deep, rich voice to its greatest advantage. Nothing was so hard to ignore as Anna’s voice, even if Lily did not always agree with it. “Just for that, you have to remind us and yourself for—what is it? The twentieth time?”
Lily sighed. “I’m apologizing because...even though James Potter and I do not particularly get along, my deep-seated resentment of him is unfair. I’ve treated him with a level of disdain that, while justified at times, was generally inappropriate and immature. Since I will be forced into greater contact with him this year, it would be to everyone’s benefit if I gave him a fresh start...which begins with an apology.”
She recited the words with a dull, rehearsed quality, because she had been saying them over and over again to herself all summer. Anna’s estimate might have been an exaggeration, since they had only been in each other’s company for a half-hour, but it was true that she had given her friends some form of this speech several times already. Soon they would probably have it memorized, just as Lily did.
“You sound so sincere,” said Anna.
“I’m doing my best!” Lily protested. “You didn’t see him in the prefects’ compartment; he was exactly like he’s always been.”
This was not entirely true, Lily’s conscience irksomely pointed out. She had been surprised as anyone to see James actually taking his appointment as Head Boy seriously (well, semi-seriously), but he certainly seemed to be doing so. Rather than being pleased, however, Lily found his attitude to be unbelievably aggravating. He had spent the last six years doing everything he could to cause problems, and now he wanted to pretend like he had always wanted to be Head Boy?
Lily could not have cared less about being Head Girl; she considered the position to be very ceremonial and old-fashioned. It came with no more benefits than being a prefect, but certainly more work. Besides, it guaranteed that the majority of the student body would hate her the very moment that school started. Her parents had been thrilled, but apart from feeling a mildly flattered glow that the teachers had chosen her, Lily was apathetic about the title. Still, it bothered her that James, who should have shared her feelings more than anyone else, was acting so sanctimonious, like he was accusing her of not giving it due weight.
“He seemed pretty nice when he was carrying your trunk here, and opening the door for you, and then making polite-but-not-drawn-out small-talk with us,” said Mary.
“Yes, James Potter is altruistic, to his very core. No ulterior motives there,” Lily replied. She saw Anna smirk, but Mary simply shrugged.
“It was sweet, nevertheless,” she said. Lily shook her head; on her internal scale of weirdness, the idea of James Potter being sweet rated about as high as apologizing to him.
“Can we please talk about something else?” Lily asked. There were a million more things to discuss when it came to James, but Lily found she slept better at night when talk about him was kept to a minimum. The truth was, much as she protested having to apologize, she did feel guily about having treated him so coldly. Ever since she had stopped being friends with Severus at the end of fifth year, the guilt had been gnawing at her, insisting more and more that she make amends for holding such a pointless grudge. James had, after all, stuck up for her on several occasions, which was certainly much more than Snape could say.
“Well, Druella Lind finally got that mole removed from the end of her nose,” Mary said.
“She should stop fighting fate,” Anna said, leafing through the pages of a Daily Prophet. “She seems very comfortable as a hag, anyway.”
“Wait,” Mary said, “do you mean a real hag? Like, one of the scary, eating-children-for-dinner hags?”
“Oh, Merlin,” Anna groaned, “this is disgusting.”
She folded the newspaper back and handed it to Lily and Mary, who leaned in to read an article entitled, “Popular Political Columnist Announces Engagement.” Lily did not need to read further to know what this was about, but she continued anyway.
For a quick-witted and deeply analytical political columnist, Desdemona Richards is strikingly glamorous. Tall and statuesque, it is clear that this brunette goddess of governance has many tools at her disposal to intimidate some of the most famous politicians of our time.
Though Miss Richards is usually writing her own headlines, this week she has been in the news for her engagement to Aidan Seward, Keeper for the Kenmare Kestrals and the Irish National Quidditch Team. The couple has been together for a short eight months, but a love that supersedes time shines in Desdemona’s eyes when she discusses her future husband.
“I knew from the moment I met him,” she says. “I had gone to the Kestrals’ game against the Appleby Arrows in hopes of cornering Walberus Poole, who, as you know, was embroiled in a highly inflammatory feud with the Italian Minister for Magic. I was trying to find Poole, but I ran straight into Aidan instead. It was fate.”
Though the happy engagement only transpired last week, Desdemona says she has already started planning what she terms “the wedding of the century”. If the considerable diamond that glitters on her left hand is any indicator, it is sure to be an event that dazzles all...
The article continued for several more paragraphs, but Lily had read enough. She might be more of a romantic than Anna, but this sort of drivel was not romantic—it was just plain corny.
“I can’t believe my sister got engaged to such an idiot,” Anna spat, taking back the newspaper and throwing it onto the seat unceremoniously. “You should have seen him when they came to visit over the summer; I’m surprised he could remember how to navigate the house without signposts.”
Lily laughed. She had only ever met Anna’s sister briefly, but from what had been related to her, it seemed entirely reasonable that she would have gotten engaged to a handsome, rich, air-headed Quidditch player.
“Isn’t your sister supposed to be smart?” Mary asked. It was Anna’s turn to laugh.
“My sister likes to pretend she knows everything, and for some stupid reason people buy into it,” she said mirthlessly. “You should have heard how she was lording it over all of us when she told us they were engaged. It was like she was going to be married to the bloody Prince of Wales.”
“Come on, Anna, be fair,” Lily said. “Your sister is smart, even if you don’t like to admit it.”
“I might have agreed with you before, but if she can actually marry someone who has the intelligence level of a troll, she's definitely an idiot,” Anna replied.
“He is a Quidditch player,” Mary offered. “I’d marry a Quidditch player, even if they were dim.”
“Well, that’s it, isn’t it?” Anna snapped. “She can miraculously look past faults of his that would prompt a vicious character assassination were it anyone else, all because he flies around on a stick in front of large crowds and gets loads of Galleons for it. And it’s so disgustingly perfect, the young and hard-hitting journalista finding everlasting happiness with the world-famous, ruggedly handsome Quidditch player. It’s like a parody.”
Lily waited for a moment to see if Anna was finished her rant.
“Are we invited to the wedding, then?” she asked, grinning slightly.
“Well, you know, they’re planning on inviting most of the country, so I think you’ll get an invitation. Although you are both forbidden from coming, because there is no way I’m giving either of you the satisfaction of seeing me as her stupid maid-of-honour.”
“You didn’t tell us—”
“Dess said it would look ‘circumspect’ if anyone but her sister was the maid-of-honour,” Anna said. “Seriously, that was how she asked me. Lovely sister, isn’t she?”
Lily knew that Anna did not exactly get along well with her siblings. She was five years younger than Desdemona, who was closest in age to her. Anna also had two older brothers named Damian and Dax. Lily had been bewildered by how Anna seemed to have been marked for separation even by her name, which, in comparison to those of her siblings, was distinctively plain and non-alliterative. Anna had explained (rather bitterly) that she had been named after her grandmother, who had died just a month before Anna had been born. Unlike Lily, she failed to see the sentimentality in this.
Desdemona and Dax had both been at Hogwarts when Lily had started, and even then, they had sought to do everything better than others. They had both been prefects who got good grades, much-loved by the teachers, and their success had continued after Hogwarts. Desdemona, of course, had become a columnist for the Daily Prophet, and Dax worked for a non-profit organization called Healers Around the World in India. Lily assumed that Damian had been much like the other two, although she had never met him; he was in his mid-twenties and had been an Auror for several years.
Anna brimmed with resentment for all three of them, often referring to them as the “D’s” (which she had explained stood for “Dumbasses”). Lily felt sympathy for her friend, who she knew must feel suffocated by the pressure to live up to the successes of her older siblings. Still, a chance to see Anna as a sullen, eye-rolling member of a wedding party was too brilliant to pass up.
“Oh, if I get invited, I’m going to this wedding,” Lily said, laughing.
“Me too,” Mary said. Anna glowered at both of them, and Mary shrugged innocently. “What? I just want to wear pretty dress robes.”
“And how could you possibly deny us the opportunity to witness such a moving declaration of love in front of all their family and—”
“Shut it,” Anna interrupted Lily, “or else I’m going to start talking about my vision for you and James’ wedding.”
“Oh, that’s my favourite game,” Mary said, giggling.
“Like I haven’t heard it all before,” Lily said, rolling her eyes.
“Well, we’ve never gotten into planning your honeymoon before,” Anna replied thoughtfully.
“Eurgh. That’s pervy, Anna,” said Lily. There was no way she was going to let them get into what would surely be an hour-long conversation on candlelit evenings with James.
“Yes, I suppose it was,” Anna admitted, “but it did put you off making fun of me, so all’s well.”
Lily really wished Anna had not brought up James again. She had been having such a lovely time laughing about Desdemona’s wedding that she had almost forgotten about her plan to apologize to him. Lily had always considered herself to be brave, but she had never dreaded anything more in her life.
Luckily, Mary and Anna dropped the subject of James, and the rest of the train ride passed pleasantly. Mary told them all about her summer trip to Romania and swore up and down that she had seen Dracula himself crossing a darkened square one evening, no matter how much Anna insisted that Dracula was a fictional character loosely based on an historical figure. Lily was so glad to be back in the presence of her friends after a summer with only her parents to talk to.
They disembarked from the train at Hogsmeade Station as the sun was setting. Familiar faces flooded the platform as everyone heaved their trunks towards the horseless carriages that would take them up to the school. There was rather more chaos than usual because Argus Filch, Hogwarts’ resident caretaker, and a stone-faced stranger were standing at the exit of the platform with a long wand Lily recognized as a Secrecy Sensor.
“They’re searching us? What for?” Lily asked, when the news had travelled through the crowd to reach them.
“Why do you think?” Anna said darkly.
“At Hogwarts?” Lily said, incredulous. They had never been searched before, even though You-Know-Who had been at large for years.
The three of them made it past Filch and his Secrecy Sensors safely, as Lily had expected, and were about to climb into an empty carriage when Warren Mulciber and a group of his Slytherin friends cut in front of them.
“Sorry, Mudbloods,” Mulciber said, his voice devoid of anything resembling sincerity. Lily looked away as Snape pushed in front of them.
“You shut your mouth,” Anna snapped, though the three of them were undeniably outnumbered.
Lily glanced at Mary, who seemed to be trying to inch behind her two friends. Mary had been terrified of Mulciber since fifth year, when he had tested out a nasty bit of Dark Magic on her. Luckily for Mary, Peter Pettigrew, of all people, had intervened before Mulciber could do any serious damage, but he had still never been punished.
To this day, Lily had never really found out what Mulciber had tried to do to Mary. She was not proud of it, but it did make it easier when it was a nameless, shapeless incident, because Lily had always felt guilty, as if she had somehow been complicit in it. No matter how many times she told herself that it was not her fault (and she knew it was not), she could not help but feel that she had been a horrible friend for continuing to associate with Snape for so long after the fact.
“Watch out, or I’ll have to finish what I started with your friend,” Mulciber said, making Lily feel even worse.
“Find something new to threaten us with, Mulciber. That one’s getting old,” Lily said.
“Won’t this carriage move? I don’t want to be covered with any more of their filth,” Evan Rosier said. On cue, the carriage started to trundle up the road towards Hogwarts. As it pulled away, Lily caught a glimpse of Snape looking back at her, but she refused to make eye contact with him.
“That was a nice welcome, don’t you think?” Lily asked bracingly. Anna rolled her eyes, while Mary still looked rather pale.
“Oh, Hogwarts, with its charms and its curses,” Anna said, sighing. “Are you all right, Mary?”
Mary nodded and smiled weakly, but she didn’t speak again until they were in the Great Hall.
“Oh no,” she said, sighing, “Ben Thatcher’s going out with Bess Young again. Why do I always choose blokes who are so completely uninterested in me?”
“I don’t know, but you and Potter should chat about it sometime,” Lily said, glancing down the table at James as she spoke.
“I had no idea James was interested in blokes,” Anna quipped, but Lily’s response was forestalled by Professor McGonagall’s entry into the Great Hall. She carried with her the Sorting Hat and was followed by a train of white-faced first years. When she reached the front of the cavernous room, she placed the hat on a stool; moments later, its brim ripped wide open, and it began to sing:
Once upon a time ago
Near a millennia by now
Hogwarts School was built and began to grow
And its founders made a vow
They swore to teach young girls and boys
About the world of magic.
Witches and wizards they would emerge one day,
Their minds quick and filled with passion.
Though the founders four
Were great friends, they found they disagreed
What type of pupils they should let through the door
And what type they should pay no heed.
Mighty Gryffindor, with his shining sword,
Looked for the very bravest.
Kind Hufflepuff, her nature tough,
Thought hard-workers shone the brightest.
Clever Ravenclaw, with her books and quills,
Wanted the intelligent and the wise.
And wily Slytherin, with his tricks and smiles,
Ambition was what he prized.
How to satisfy these divergent tastes?
The four friends could not decide.
Suddenly Gryffindor put hand to head,
And whipped me off with pride.
There I was, and he enchanted me,
So I could choose instead.
Years went by, and though Hogwarts grew
The founders’ friendships died
Tension grew, fights broke out,
And there came a great divide.
Centuries have passed
Since proud Slytherin’s farewell
Yet still it haunts these castle walls
Where you students choose to dwell.
The story of the Hogwarts four
You would do well to keep in mind.
Perhaps now, more than ever before,
Divisions keep us blind.
If you think you’ve seen the worst
Then, oh, you are mistaken
And if you choose to put houses first
We’ll all end up forsaken.
If I could, I might choose
To keep you all as one
But it’s my job, I can’t refuse
And the sorting must be done.
The Great Hall filled with applause as Professor McGonagall stepped up next to the Sorting Hat and began to call names. The ominous message given by the Sorting Hat was no surprise, it had been saying the same sort of thing for years now, but Lily was slightly alarmed at his warning: If you think you’ve seen the worst, then, oh, you are mistaken. After the past few years, she couldn’t understand how things could get any worse.
Just as she had put thoughts of James out of her head, Lily managed to forget about her worries as the Sorting and the feast went on. The food was, as usual, delicious, and she was feeling exceptionally full when Dumbledore stood up to make his traditional speech.
“A very good evening to you all,” he said, once the Great Hall had gone quiet. “I find that a full stomach often leads to the desire for sleep, so I shall not keep you from your beds long. First, I would like you all to give a warm welcome to our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Dearborn, who will be taking over while Professor Timor is doing research abroad.”
Moderate applause rang through the Great Hall as Professor Dearborn raised his hand in greeting.
“Think his head could ask his chin to borrow some hair?” Anna whispered, and Lily smiled. It was true—fate seemed to have played a cruel joke on Professor Dearborn, who had a shiny bald head but a long and full beard. Dumbledore resumed his speech as the applause died out.
“Our caretaker, Mr Filch, has been fastidious enough to spend his summer holidays drawing up a list of all banned objects that he has put on display outside his office. He asks everyone to review it as soon as possible. I would also remind everyone that the Forbidden Forest is off-limits to students.”
Dumbledore paused for a moment and looked around the Great Hall.
“It grieves me to tell you that, this year, stronger protection of the school has been deemed necessary,” he continued. “I will not bore you with all the details of these protections, but one you have undoubtedly noticed is the searches that will take place whenever you, or anyone else, enters or leaves the castle grounds. I would like to impress upon you on all the danger of leaving the grounds without permission. Any such activity should be reported immediately. In addition, I urge you all to abide by the rules regarding curfews, for your own safety.
“Should you have any concerns about the new security measures, I invite you to discuss them with your Heads of House. I hope, above all, that you will return to your dormitories tonight feeling safe within these walls. And return to your dormitories you should—good night!”
Dumbledore returned to his chair at the center of the head table. Lily’s uncomfortable feeling of dread had returned with his speech. Anna had been right in her assumption that the searches were a protection against Voldemort, but that was discomfiting in itself. Since when had Hogwarts ever needed extra protection? Wasn’t Dumbledore supposed to be enough to keep them safe?
“I’ll see you up there,” Lily said to Anna and Mary, as they got up from the Gryffindor Table. “Have to lead the first-years.”
“Have fun!” Mary said as they walked away.
“Don’t lose any of them!” Anna teased.
James did not know if Lily would ever give him a break. She had disliked him when he had been irresponsible and arrogant, but she did not seem to appreciate his attempts at maturity and reliability either. She was barely looking at him, and certainly not speaking to him, as they led the first years through the castle and towards Gryffindor Tower. If she was going to act like this, there was surely little reason to try appeasing her. In fact, it might be better to try to provoke her into some sort of reaction.
“That’s the Hospital Wing down there,” he said, pointing to a set of double doors. “Madam Pomfrey is excellent at reversing the effects of any jinxes or hexes, so try and remember where it is unless you get hit by one.”
“Not that you will,” Lily interjected from beside him. James grinned for a moment, happy that he had succeeded in making Lily speak, before he noticed that some of the new students were looking alarmed.
“Well, you’re all Gryffindors, so I expect you’ll be doing the jinxing and hexing. It’s all the other houses who end up in the Hospital Wing most often,” James corrected, and he saw a few of the first years smile weakly.
"Can we try to not encourage inter-house rivalry this early on?” Lily hissed.
Now he was getting somewhere: she was even speaking to him directly. He was not exactly thrilled that he still had to resort to the same antics with her as he had in fourth year, but anything was better than silence.
James could not understand why Lily was in such a bad mood. He had thought she would be happy about becoming Head Girl, for it seemed like the sort of thing that would matter to her. As it was, it felt like he was prouder of it than she was.
“Oh, and this is a secret staircase, it’s dead useful, except for you might fall through one of the steps,” James said, pulling aside a tapestry to show them. He was kind of enjoying this Head Boy thing. It was nice to be able to share some of the things he had found out about Hogwarts over the years with such a willing audience.
They finally reached the portrait of the Fat Lady.
“Last, but not least,” James said grandly, “this is Catherine, the Lady of Gryffindor Tower.”
“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell everyone what my real name is,” the Fat Lady huffed. “It was so much more peaceful when students didn’t think they were on first-name terms with me. Password?”
“Tea leaves,” Lily said, and the portrait swung forward.
When they had directed the first years to their dormitory, James took his opportunity to talk to Lily again. “So, how about the Sorting Hat?” he asked. “Pretty ominous.”
Lily shrugged, but James could see worry cross her face. “It’s always like that.”
“Yeah, but still...all that stuff about the worst being yet to come...that can’t be true, can it?” he asked. As she bit her bottom lip, James felt slightly tactless. Why was he discussing this with Lily, who was a Muggle-born? Great, James; terror is surely the way straight to her heart, he chided himself.
“I should go. Anna and Mary will be wondering what’s taking me,” she said, heading toward the spiral staircase.
“Night,” he said. To his great surprise, she turned her head slightly, stopped, then turned around. She folded her arms across her chest, and James figured it would be wise to prepare himself for some sort of lecture about breaking rules and setting a bad example.
“Listen, Potter, I really think we should...try to...start fresh,” she said. James could not believe what he was hearing. “I just...I don’t want to spend this entire year avoiding you or bickering with you.”
“Well, you’re not exactly off to a good start,” James pointed out. He was all for getting along with Lily, but she couldn’t expect him to just forget about how she had treated him in the past.
“Can we just try not to get under each others’ skins?” she asked, and James could not help but smirk at how easily he could have twisted this into a joke that would make her blush furiously. He had to remind himself that it would probably be best not to push her, lest she decide that a fresh start was impossible.
“Does that mean you’ll go out of your way to be nice to me?” he asked innocently.
“Didn’t I just ask you not to do that?” Lily replied, and James laughed.
“Sorry. So, you want to be friends, then?”
“No!” Lily burst out, and James could not help but be momentarily offended. Perhaps she realized, for she continued, “I mean, maybe we could just be...acquaintances?”
“I don’t know if you noticed, Lily, but we’ve technically been acquaintances for six years already.”
“Can you settle for something in between acquaintances and friends?” she asked.
“So...we should just go back to how things were when we first met?” he asked. "Pretending that we actually got along in that instance, of course."
“Sure,” she said, laughing slightly, “if that helps you sleep at night. And I’m going to go do just that.”
James couldn’t help himself this time.
“If you’re going to try to help me sleep at night, there are other—”
“Good night!” she yelled, disappearing up the stairs.
James felt much more optimistic as he traveled up the stairs to his own bed. He had no idea why Lily had gone from ignoring him to calling a truce in such short time, but he supposed his attempts to elicit a response had succeeded in some way or another.
Was Lily’s change of heart (or of mind, rather—he didn’t want to get ahead of himself) another sign that he had redeemed himself? Ever since fifth year, when Snape had nearly gotten himself killed, James had felt immensely guilty and confused. For the first time, he saw how much his actions could affect other people. He could admit now that Lily had been right when she had yelled at him by the lake that day: he had been self-centered, and, frankly, sickening. He could not even remember why or how he had become like this, although he had always blamed boredom when he was younger. It was not necessarily untrue; he had been bored often in those first few years, but it was now an inadequate excuse in his mind
He felt like he had changed, but was there really a good way of assessing your own personality? For all he knew, he was the exact same person he had always been. Finding out he was Head Boy had been encouraging, for it was evidence that Dumbledore, of all people, thought James was not so bad.
And now Lily was willing to start fresh. James had spent the last year feeling adrift and uncertain of himself, but now he was feeling his old confidence returning. He hadn’t messed everything up, it seemed. If he could just go back to the way he was, but slightly less of an idiot, he was sure everything would be just right.
“Today is a momentous day,” he told his friends as he stepped into the dormitory. Sirius, Remus, and Peter were grouped around Peter’s trunk.
“You bet it is,” Sirius said. “Pete managed to sneak all our stuff in.”
Peter held out the Invisibility Cloak and James took it from him. When they had seen Filch searching students, a reasonable level of anxiety had ensued. None of them were carrying anything that would get them in serious trouble, but the Cloak and the Marauder’s Map were not objects they wanted to risk getting confiscated. Their only hope had been to trust them to Peter, who had always had a knack for concealment.
“Excellent,” James said, momentarily putting aside thoughts of Lily. “How’d you manage it?”
“You know,” Peter said, shrugging, “they never think it’s me. They’re always too suspicious of you and Sirius. I slipped right past them.”
“What were you talking about when you came in?” Remus asked. James grinned and chucked the Cloak onto his bed.
“Lily wants to be sort-of-friends with me,” he announced. He had been hoping for looks of enthusiasm, but all three of them looked sceptical.
“Sort-of-friends? What kind of rubbish is that?” Sirius asked.
“Are you sure this wasn’t another daydream?” Peter added.
“I think you meant to say, ‘Wow, Prongs, we never thought we’d see this day! Congratulations!’” James said.
“Got everything but the last word right,” Remus muttered, and Sirius and Peter laughed.
“Can't you be the slightest bit happy for me?” he asked them.
“Prongs, please, just forget about it,” Sirius said. “You’ve tried everything to get her to go out with you—with our help and support—but it’s not going to happen. She’s not interested.”
His friends waited for him to respond, and James could tell they were hoping he would agree with Sirius.
A collective groan filled the room. He knew Lily might never go out on a date with him, but he would not admit defeat until he had exhausted every last opportunity he could.
Besides, he thought as he fell asleep, I’m pretty sure she never thought I was that bad.
Other Similar Stories
In His Dreams
The Ongoing ...