Chapter 71 : Chapter Seventy One
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“GET UP! You have to get to work, you dolt!”
“Ahnnn,” I moaned in response, gripping my head. I still tasted firewhiskey in my mouth, and I was dizzy. How was I dizzy? I was lying in bed! Thinking that perhaps lying down was the cause of said dizziness, I sat up quickly, hoping to alleviate the sensation, only to find out that all the blood that seemed to be left in my body was suddenly rushing up to my head. “Bleeding hell!”
Coffee was being thrust into my hands, I noticed. I took a hesitant sip as Grace gave me a once over. “Where on earth have you been?” Her nose scrunched up as she sniffed me. “You’ve been drinking!” she shrieked with a dramatic gasp that would’ve made either a theatre or an asthmatic swoon in admiration.
“Please…don’t…yell,” I uttered as I forced myself out of bed, nearly falling down in the process. I felt like throwing up, banging my head against the wall to achieve unconsciousness, and collapsing back into bed all at once. I was never drinking again.
“Well, drink the coffee,” she ordered as I attempted to put on a sweater backwards. “I’ve heard it helps.”
“Isn’t there some sort of cure for this?”
“Oh, yeah,” said Grace with a knowing smirk, “it’s called ‘not drinking.’”
“I meant a potion!” I snapped, hopping into my shoes.
I glared at her one last time before turning on the spot and Apparating into the office.
And it was there that I was presented with my second dilemma of the day: James.
For a moment I forgot the hammering in my head and the bubbling inside my stomach, to dwell on more romantic thoughts. I could see James. It was the day after our ‘talk,’ our ‘understanding,’ if you will. Things had been resolved. We both had established our feelings for one another. All was well. So as he looked my way across the room, I did the only sensible thing and threw myself sideways into a random cubicle.
The little wizard who occupied said cubicle jumped nearly three feet in alarm. “Merlin’s beard!”
“Sorry!” I whispered hurriedly behind my back, then proceeded to move stealthily across the room, crouching low so that I could avoid being detected from above.
Luckily, James seemed to be occupied at the moment talking to Moody, so if he had witnessed my rather embarrassing avoid and run tactic he didn’t show it. Feeling slightly more at ease, I sat down at my cubicle, attempting to breathe calmly. One of my toes felt weird, not at all snug and comfortable. I looked down and saw that I had forgotten to put a sock on my right foot. Great.
It was one of those moments that you have so many things to worry about and do that you don’t even know where to start. I needed to organize myself. Lists sometimes helped, but I wasn’t in the mood for Sirius to ransack my drawers and have a means to humiliate me. Instead I simply organized a list of sorts into my head, categorizing. I labeled the first part of the list Important (The Order, paperwork, Patronus training), the second part Less Important (Did I lock the door? Why is that always a question?), and finally there was the Selfish (James. James is in the vicinity. James).
Despite common sense and Moody’s all-seeing, ominous eye, I decided to screw Important, forget about Less Important (It doesn’t even matter if I didn’t lock the door! There are protective charms all over our flat, for goodness’ sake!), and focus entirely on the Selfish.
Now, I know Drunken Lily (who I was beginning to consider a separate entity, hence the capitalization) would’ve had her mind set on one thing and one thing only upon seeing her former beau, and that would be snogging him. I, on the other hand, was having second thoughts. A lot of things didn’t match up in James’ little late night speech. For one, he had never explained why he had been an asshole in the first place, even if he did admit to being one. Drunken Lily might be perfectly satisfied with such a declaration, but I was not. Secondly, why was he suddenly open to our relationship now? Wouldn’t that sentiment have been useful, oh I don’t know, after sleeping together??? And what was with all this rubbish about wanting me but ‘not like this’?
But what bothered me the most was something else he had said that last night I had not caught: I’ve been looking for you everywhere.
Why would James be looking for me, you ask?
Now, it was rather obvious to me even though Drunken Lily might not think so. James had been looking for me because he had wanted to talk to me.
But about something entirely different. We started discussing our relationship and where we stand because I was stupid enough to try and kiss him. It was all initiated by me. I had a feeling that what James had in mind for discussing hadn’t been that.
Which is why at the moment, I was doing what I’m best at: avoiding.
I didn’t want to talk to James. I didn’t want him to see me like this, hungover and looking like shit, and I did not want him insulting me again. Because as far as I was concerned, leaving me hanging like that and making up all the rules, was an insult. He hadn’t even consulted me. Sure, I understood that Sirius needed him right now. Really, I did. But he was acting as if I was just going to get along with everything he said! I mean, I had an opinion here too, didn’t that count for anything?
That’s it. My thoughts were too jumbled. I needed a list.
I was jerked out of my self-loathing and James-loathing by Sirius, who greeted me far too cheerfully with, “Morning, Evans! Don’t you look lovely?”
“Damn it, Sirius!” I snapped, simultaneously jumping violently and scrambling to cover my sheet. “Don’t you knock?”
Sirius looked about my cubicle, raising his eyebrows, as if to say, ‘Uh, knock where?’ He refrained from an witty comments, however, when he noticed the parchment I was covering. To my surprise, he seemed uninterested by it.
“I heard the first hangover is one to treasure,” he added.
I pointed at him as threateningly as I could. “You are no longer my friend. Why’d you let me drink so much?”
“Let you?” repeated Sirius with a snort. “Believe me, by the end of the night, I was trying to keep the bottle away from you.”
“That’s not –” But I didn’t finish, for Sirius had just wrenched my list from underneath my elbow.
Uninterested my ass.
I’m an idiot.
“I hate you,” I said dejectedly, and laid down my head in defeat as Sirius tried (although not very hard) to hold in his snorts of laughter.
“‘Things to Do’,” he read out loud, “‘Number One: James.’”
Sirius grinned widely. I blushed.
“That’s – not what I meant,” I said, wanting to die.
“‘Number Two: Make Grace forgive me,’” he continued, ignoring me. Sirius looked over the piece of parchment. It was a kind of look that would’ve gone well with him lowering his glasses and raising his eyebrows in a scholarly, ‘oh, isn’t she pitiful’ sort of expression. “Grace is angry with you?”
“Yes.” I did not elaborate.
Sirius waited, but I did not continue. “Okay. Why?”
“Because of Number Five,” I said.
“There’s just a question mark here,” he said, pointing to it.
“Well I can’t write it out!” I hissed. I’m not sure Sirius understood. Although I associate a question mark clearly with the Order, other people might not really function the same way I do.
“You’re a sad, pitiful person, I’m afraid,” he said, voicing my own thoughts as he handed me back the list, “and this proves that.”
Tell me something I don’t know.
Sirius invited me to eat lunch, but I knew that he would be with James. Besides, I was quite positive that he would be doing more drinking than eating in that short fifteen minute period, and I was really not in the mood to be around alcohol again today, or any other day for that matter. Frank and Alice, the newlyweds, were unsurprisingly, nowhere to be found, and I was pretty sure that Dorcas wasn’t about to split a sandwich with me. So, for some reason on a regular afternoon, hangover still in process, I found myself on Level Six of the Ministry, outside of Peter’s office.
I spotted him in the Portkey Office, surrounded by old shoes, broken record players, and rusting pipes. He had his back facing me. I was about to approach him with a ‘Surprise! Guess who’s been isolated at work?’ when a thin, balding and grumpy man got there first, shaking a rubber duck in Peter’s face. The entire scene would’ve been comical if it weren’t for the fact that this man, clearly Peter’s boss, was screaming in his face, and everyone was watching.
“Damn it Pettigrew, can’t you get anything right? This was supposed to transport a family to Bristol, Pettigrew, Bristol!”
“Mr. Robbins!” Peter sputtered, turning red. I felt awful watching him. “Y-you said, B-Brighton –”
“B-B-Brighton!” imitated Robbins cruelly. “Do you think I’m some idiot who can’t tell the difference? I’ll tell you what, Pettigrew. Next time you make a mistake like this you can go over to Brighton yourself and see if they’ll hire you there.”
The room was quiet as Mr. Robbins stomped off like some sort of petulant child. I thought about hexing him but he was soon out of range. Besides, it probably wouldn’t have helped Peter much, although it might’ve cheered him up considerably.
Thinking that perhaps this wasn’t the best time to pop in for a visit, I started to edge out of sight and head back to my department, but Peter saw me first. “L-Lily!”
“Hey, Pete!” I said over-brightly. “Just thought I’d come and say hello. Hello!”
It was entirely obvious that I had witnessed everything. Peter looked miserable. “You saw then?”
“Saw what?” I said, before I could stop myself. Peter just looked at me. I turned red. “Yes…I saw. I cannot believe how much of a prick your boss is!”
“Keep your voice down,” Peter pleaded, as he waved me inside and closed the door.
I stared. “Is this your office?”
“Well, yes,” said Peter sheepishly.
Nice. Apparently Magical Transportation was the place to be, even if you were an underling. I could fit three of my cubicles in here.
“Does Robbins talk to everyone like that?” I asked, thinking that we might as well not tip toe around the subject.
“Some. But he takes a particular pleasure from yelling at me,” he said miserably.
I looked at my friend. His droopy eyes were staring dejectedly at the floor. Yes, he was definitely the sort of person that a bully like Robbins would pick on.
“Well, you can’t let him talk to you like that!”
“Of course I can! He’s my boss. Don’t you have any superior that you have to keep your mouth shut around?”
Dorcas immediately came to mind. “Yes,” I admitted lamely.
Peter sighed, slumping down in his chair, surrounded by the dozens of things he would have to bewitch today. He had an odd look on his face – almost vicious. “It doesn’t matter, though. He’ll get what’s coming for him.”
I watched him carefully as his expression grew darker, scarier. He didn’t look at all like the Peter I knew. “What do you mean?”
Peter jumped, as if he had been barely aware that we had been talking. “Oh. Well, I meant karma or something of that sort,” he said calmly, losing whatever expression that had spooked me.
“Karma,” I repeated.
“Well, yes. You know, ‘what comes around goes around’?”
“Oh, right,” I said, relieved. “Well, I should go.”
“Wait!” he called, as I paused at the door. “You didn’t say why you’d come.”
I shrugged. “Just to visit.”
He looked suspicious. “Just that?”
“Yeah, why else?”
“I don’t know.”
It seemed that for a moment he was considering this, then he smiled. “All right. See you, Lily.”
When I got back to my floor, James and Sirius were on their way back from lunch. Just my luck. I froze.
“Where have you been?” asked James. He sounded nonchalant. Not at all concerned.
“I went to visit Peter,” I said, somewhat tersely.
“I meant today. I didn’t see you.”
“She was writing,” interjected Sirius, with a lewd smile my way.
Sometimes I wish Sirius Black would just go jump off a cliff and die.
James was watching me closely. “Is something wrong?”
There was no time to think. I still had a headache. So I burst out with as much wrath as I could muster, “You said ‘I’ve been looking for you everywhere!’”
James and Sirius looked equally perplexed. “So?” ventured James finally.
“James and Lily drama,” Sirius declared, and deciding that he’d rather not be a part of this, fled the scene without so much as an excuse. I didn’t blame him.
“So, what did you want to talk to me about?” I demanded. “And don’t tell me it was about that whole sad little speech from last night, because I don’t buy it!”
“I wasn’t going to!”
“Good!” I retorted, thrown completely off balance by his agreement. Knowing that this wasn’t much of an argument, I continued with, “And why are you suddenly speaking to me now anyway?”
James had the audacity to smirk. “I’m confused as to what we were doing last night.”
“Don’t start with me, James Potter!” I practically screamed, knowing I sounded very much like his mother. “You know exactly what I’m talking about! You go weeks and weeks without so much as a word to me, and now you’re acting as if everything’s all right? You go days treating me like shit and expect me to agree to your twisted terms without complaint?”
“Did I not get the memo for ‘Point out James’ Faults Day’?” he snapped, finally cracking his cool exterior at least a bit. “If I’m so horrible why are you wasting your time with me?”
I wanted to hit him. I wanted to punch every bit of his stupid, scrawny (although he had filled out a bit since Hogwarts) body and then throw it off the cliff after Sirius Black.
Whilst my thoughts were rapidly taking a murderous turn, it was clear that James was still trying to bring common sense and rationalization into the conversation. He stepped closer, his voice low for discretion’s sake. “I thought we said we were going to put things on hold? Until all of this blew over?”
But I was way past common sense and rationalization. If common sense and rationalization were currently in England, I was in Brazil, making voodoo dolls with James’ hair around them and launching them into the freaking crocodile-infested Amazon. I was hungover, angry, and irrational. This was no time to mess with me.
“No, you said we’d put things on hold. I don’t recall being asked for an opinion.”
James had no reply to this. He looked absolutely stunned.
Moody was just getting back from his lunch break. “Potter, Evans,” he growled as he passed us, “I don’t believe you are being paid for discussing your squabbling love lives.”
That’s it. I’m transferring to Magical Transportation.
“I have a patrol.” I then spun on my heel and marched away, like the true hungover prima donna that I am.
I don’t know what hurt my head more: thinking about my fight with James or trying not to think about my fight with James.
Gawain Robards was my partner today. It suited me well, being that he didn’t talk much and I wasn’t in the mood to converse. He didn’t even ask me why I looked so awful, although I suppose he didn’t have to; I was already known as the idiotic rookie who had accused Dorcas of murder, gone crazy after seeing my fellow partner’s hanging body, and then proceeded to be forced into a “leave of absence.” Robards didn’t need to know about my newfound and already exterminated drinking habits.
I didn’t know why I was so angry. I had been annoyed, of course, this morning when I had seen him, but I didn’t think I truly knew the extent of my rage until I had confronted him face to face. Anger’s like that sometimes – dangerous and sneaky. It’s not one of the seven deadly sins for nothing.
With us, everything had started out strange. Our first kiss, our first date, the first time we had sex. I thought about the way he had been dismissing me these past weeks, how much it had hurt when he had left like that after we had made love for the first time. Were these things that I only thought about now because of the pain I was in, or had they always been present, lingering in the back of my heart only to resurface at my most vulnerable moment? Was I simply a drama queen, one who finds faults when there are none and causes problems when all seems to finally have resolved?
I wish we weren’t so complicated. I wish we were normal, unhindered and unbroken.
Was such a wish so impossible?
In between the trees, I thought I might be seeing things. Victoria’s Park did that sort of thing to me, ever since that awful day that we had found Eleanor’s body. But there it was, unmistakably – a bright light, coming rapidly our way.
Robards realized what it meant before I did. He tensed, his wand out. Someone’s Patronus. A hummingbird.
Oh my god. Alice.
“What are you waiting for?” yelled Robards, frantic. “Go!”
Alice was in danger. At this moment, my dear friend, Alice, could be dead with the Dark Mark over her body.
“You can’t do anything now,” said Robards, interpreting my immobility correctly. “You have to fetch Moody!”
He was right. The Ministry needed to know.
And although it tore my heart apart, I turned on my heel and Disapparated.
A group of Aurors was sent out immediately. I left with them, not caring if Moody wanted me there or not.
We arrived at one of London’s side streets. There had been some damage done to a few houses nearby, which were on fire. Two wizards were currently extinguishing it while another erased some Muggles’ memories. It was the aftermath – whatever Death Eaters had been here were now gone, leaving us this mess.
I looked frantically around for Alice, but couldn’t see her anywhere. I did spot Robards though, standing nearby and looking grim as he repaired a light post.
“Where’s Alice?” I demanded immediately. “What happened?”
“I heard she was okay,” he replied, “but I got here after it was all over.”
“One Muggle,” he said, pointing over his shoulder to the body bag that was at the end of the street. There were other Muggles in their houses, peering at us through their windows. Robards noticed them. “Damn, this is going to take a lot of cleaning up.”
“Someone just died,” I reminded him harshly, for it seemed that he had forgotten.
Robards seemed unconcerned. “True. But at least he was a Muggle.” He froze, suddenly realizing that I was Muggle-born.
I left without another word, disgusted. Robards was quickly put out of my mind, however, when I saw Alice, stumbling out of an alley. I rushed towards her, outrageously relieved, until I saw that she looked deathly white and terrified, her robes splattered with blood.
“Lily!” she gasped, clutching at the front of my robes. “They ambushed us! He’s got Frank!”
A/N: I’m afraid that yes, there will be more, to quote Sirius, ‘James and Lily’ drama. I know that plenty of you were infinitely relieved that James seemed to be coming to his senses, and most likely agree with Lily and believe that she is a drama queen, but she does have justifiable reasons to be upset. So far, we don’t know what’s going on in James’ head. We don’t know why he acted the way he did, we don’t know what happened to make him snap like that. Obviously, things will be explained in future chapters. Lily is not the kind of girl to take whatever’s thrown at her lying down, even if she does love James. She needs an explanation. I would even say that she deserves one, yeah?
I know that I freaked out a few of you with my author’s note in the last chapter, so I want to reassure everyone that I definitely AM continuing this story. I was a bit unclear, probably. Yes, it is true that I have been contemplating when to end Living Life, but by no means am I going to just end it when Lily and James get back together. I agree with most of you when you say that is cliché. From the beginning I’ve been looking forward to writing pregnant Lily, and most likely I will write to at least that part. I also definitely am excited about the wedding. So far there have been three weddings in this story – so of course I’m not going to simply leave out the most important one!
Basically, what I’m saying, is that even though I might not write to the Potters’ deaths, this story will be going on for a long time.
I know that this chapter is a bit short, but this is probably the fastest I've ever updated in a while, which should compensate for the chapter's length.
And ask me questions on my Meet the Author page: http://www.fictioncentral.net/hpforum/index.php?showtopic=57284#top
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