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Chapter 24 : Guessing Game
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A cool breeze blew lazily around the four of us as we made our way away from the castle to the small town of Hogsmeade. The Clique had said goodbye to Marley in the Great Hall once Liam met up with her. We had officially given him our stamp of approval when we saw that he had brought Marley a daisy, her favorite flower, and tucked it behind her ear. That sealed the deal for us. The Clique may have high standards, but we’re suckers when it comes to romantic gestures.
A thoroughly disgruntled Sirius stomped along next to me, grumbling under his breath, and staring angrily at Potter and Holly who were walking a ways ahead of us.
“Don’t be so sulky, Black,” Pippa scolded, whacking him on the back of the head. “You’re bringing the whole group down.”
“I’m not sulking,” Sirius muttered, shoving his hands in his sweatshirt pocket.
“Come on, Black,” I exhaled. “So you don’t have a date for once in your life. You’ll live.”
“Barely,” he grumbled.
“We can go to Zonko’s,” I offered.
“Its no fun without Prongs,” Sirius pouted as he kicked at a rock.
“We can go to the Three Broomsticks for butterbeer after,” Pippa suggested.
` “Fine,” Sirius moped but the thought of butterbeer seemed to cheer him up slightly.
“It’s like babysitting a four-year-old,” Emilie whispered to me and I stifled a laugh.
“Do we have to look at dress robes?” Sirius whined and Emilie and I had to cover our mouths with our hands to stop ourselves from laughing.
“We won’t be long,” Pippa rolled her eyes at him.
“Yes you will,” Sirius sulked. “You’re girls.”
“Fine,” Pippa snapped. “We won’t look at dress robes. What do you want to do? Do you want to go to the Shrieking Shack or something?”
“No!” Sirius’s head snapped up at once and we all stared at him. “It’s just that… I’ve been there before. Not much to see. Let’s go to Zonko’s.”
He picked up his pace and walked ahead of us. The three of us glanced at each other briefly with bewildered expressions before following quickly to catch up with Sirius.
* * * *
“This color makes me look like a boy,” Emilie whined as she twirled around in front of a mirror. The blue silk of the dress she was wearing spun around her looking like a river.
“How can a color make you look like a boy?” Pippa laughed, holding a low cut emerald green dress up to herself. “Does this dress match my hair?”
“It makes me look like a boy because it’s blue,” Emilie rolled her eyes at Pippa like it was so obvious. “Ya know, like blue for boys?”
“Emilie, that’s stupid,” I sighed. “And Pippa you’re hair is blond. Any color will match it.” Out of the corner of my eye I saw Sirius let out a huge sigh and his head drop even
“Lily you haven’t tried anything on yet,” Pippa whined, throwing the green dress into her ever-growing pile of rejects.
“Nothing’s catching my eye,” I shrugged.
I heard the chime of the bell on the door as someone entered the shop. I glanced over to see a boy with blond hair hurry through the door.
“Hey, I’ll be right back,” I said quickly and turned towards the front of the store. “Where are you going?” Sirius asked, looking up at me from the floor. Emilie and Pippa were still preoccupied with finding the right dress to pay attention.
“Bathroom. I’ll be back in a minute,” I stepped over him and turned a corner in the store so they were all out of sight.
“Chris?” I called quietly.
He turned around, surprised, and I stared into the gaunt eyes and thin face that I’d become used to seeing now.
“Lily?” Chris’s pale face split into a wide grin when he recognized me. “What are you doing here?”
“Shopping for dresses for the Snow Angel Ball. I haven’t found one yet though,” I said, still trying to keep my voice down so my friends didn’t hear. “What are you doing here?”
“I ripped one of my robes the other day, so I’m here getting that fixed,” he turned his gaze away from me and looked down at his shoes. “Look, I know you said you didn’t think it was good it we came here together, but do you think maybe we could get a drink later?”
I sucked in a sharp breath. My better instinct was to say that it was a very, very bad idea. I couldn’t get closer to Chris than I already was without risking falling back into how things used to be. That was a dangerous area. But I couldn’t deny that a part of me really wanted to get a drink with Chris. Pippa would kill me, though. But then again, how often did Pippa do things that I didn’t approve of?
I bought myself a few seconds of thinking time by looking out the front shop window onto the street. The wind was blowing fallen leaves quickly across the ground and people were hugging their coats closer around themselves. Some students passed by the front of the window wearing scarves and hats and boy turned to say something to girl. Potter’s face appeared from under a hat and I nearly stumbled backwards in surprise. He turned to the girl next to him, Holly, and pulled her hat closer around her head, brushing a stray piece of blond hair out of her eyes and tucking it behind her ear. The look on his face alone could have killed me right there. He was looking at her like she was the only girl in the world. And I realized that maybe for him, she was the only girl in the world. It could have been me…Stop, Lily!! You can’t think like that anymore.
Something ached in the pit of my stomach and I clutched at it weakly, hoping it would go away. I watched for a second longer as they disappeared into the Three Broomsticks
“I guess a drink would be ok…” I whispered, watching as he hopefully raised his eyes back to my face. “We’re going to the Three Broomsticks after this. Meet you there?”
“Sounds great!” Chris smiled and I waved at him as I backed toward the dressing rooms where my friends were.
“This one makes my face look fat,” Emilie pouted as she twisted and turned in front of a mirror in a pale pink dress.
I saw Sirius let out another huge sigh and I turned to face him, crossing my arms. “Sirius, if you’re so bored why don’t you either leave or help us so we can leave sooner.”
Sirius let out a huff and pushed himself off the floor. He scanned the racks of dresses, running his fingers through some of them. After a few moments of contemplation, he pulled three dresses off the rack.
“Emilie, green will look better than blue and won’t make you look like a boy or make your face look fat.” Sirius tossed an olive green bundle of silk at her and turned to Pippa. “Pip, I don’t mean to be crude but you should show off what you have. Red looks killer on you; you’ll be the center of attention.” Pippa’s face went bright red as Sirius handed her the dress. She held it up, watching the folds of silk flow down to her toes.
“Lily,” Sirius said, snapping my attention away from Pippa’s dress. “Dark blue and simple. I think you’ll like it.” He held out a midnight blue dress draped over his arms. I gently lifted it and held it up in front of the mirror. The dress was strapless and tightly fit all the way down to the knees where it flared out.
“Since when did you become such a fashion expert?” Pippa muttered, running her fingers over the red silk that she held up to herself in the mirror. “These dresses are perfect.”
“You guys just passed right over those dresses. You always find more when you look a second time,” Sirius shrugged. “Can we go now?”
* * * *
“Tell me why you’re sitting with Chris again?” Sirius hissed to me as we walked quickly through the crisp air towards the Three Broomsticks.
“He asked me to get a drink, that’s all,” I said back calmly. I’d told the Clique as we left that I would joining Chris instead. Emilie seemed fairly unsurprised, Marley was concerned at first but assured me that if it was what I wanted, it was alright with her, Sirius on the other hand…
“But we’ve been over this, Lily!” Sirius sputtered. “Nothing good will come from this!”
“Enough, Black,” I snapped as we walked through the door to the Three Broomsticks. We were met by an inviting gust of warm air and I turned back to Sirius. “Look, I’m sick of being alone. The person I was hoping for has clearly moved on, so I should too.”
Before he could argue with me anymore I spotted Chris sitting by himself at a table in the corner and I headed towards him. It was only when I was halfway there that I noticed Potter and Holly sitting in the booth right next to Chris. Perfect.
“Hey, Chris,” I said, sitting down at the table. He perked his head up and gave me a heart-wrenching grin that caused my stomach to flip in more than one way.
Behind him, I saw Potter straighten up in his seat, no doubt listening to us.
“Why don’t I get us some drinks?” Chris hopped up eagerly. I smiled at his excitement and nodded, watching him practically skip to the bar.
“What are you doing, Evans?” I heard an exasperated voice whisper.
I glanced up and saw Potter leaning over the partition between our booths. His hazel eyes were narrowed at me. I glanced behind him at Holly and saw that she was distracted by one of her Hufflepuff friends who had come to say hi.
“I’m having drinks with Chris, what does it look like I’m doing?” I hissed. I didn’t want Chris to come back and see me talking to him.
“But why?” Potter urged, leaning over the booth even more.
“Mind your own business, Potter. I can have drinks with whomever I want,” I sniffed. I started to turn away but Potter snapped his fingers, vying for my attention again.
“Come on, Evans. Friends tell each other stuff,” he pleaded. Why on earth was he so bloody interested all of a sudden?
“Not everything, Potter,” I hissed at him and turned away from him just as Chris returned to the table with two frothy butterbeers clutched in his hands.
“So did you guys end up finding dresses?” Chris asked, taking a seat across from me.
“Yeah, we did,” I said, loosening up a bit. Potter was still glaring over the seat at me. “Sirius actually found them. Strangely enough, he seems to have an eye for that kind of stuff,” I laughed.
“What does your dress look like?” Chris asked, leaning forward on the table.
“Um,” I stuttered, lowering my eyes from Chris’s. It had been so long since we’d been together. I forgot how jittery I got around him, how my stomach fluttered every time he looked at me, how his smile made my heart stop. “It’s dark blue, long, elegant. It might be a bit too fancy but Sirius picked it…”
“Are you going with him to the ball then?” Chris pressed.
“Merlin, no!” I laughed, taken by surprise. “I don’t know who I’m going with. It’s months away anyways. I’ve got lots of time…”
Chris nodded and took a drink of his butterbeer. Behind him I could hear Potter and Holly talking, not bothering to keep their voices down. Potter had his head bent towards Holly but I couldn’t see his face.
“You know, Holly,” he was saying, taking one of her hands in his. “I’m really glad we’re together.” Holly giggled and muttered that she was too. Sick.
“So Chris,” I said loudly, trying to cover up their lovey-dovey conversation. “Do you know anyone you would want to take to the ball?”
I glanced away from Potter onto Chris’s face and saw that his eyes were on me. My stomach did a double flip as he said, “there’s one girl I just can’t get out of my head.”
Aside from the mad dance my stomach was doing at Chris’s words, I couldn’t help but overheard Potter’s conversation again.
“Holly, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you, but I don’t want you to think I’m too forward,” Potter said, raising his voice slightly so I could hear.
Oh god, I thought, he’s going to tell her he loves her. My brain jumped into frantic mode as my thoughts stumbled around those words. He couldn’t tell her that. He just couldn’t! So I didn’t the only logical thing I could think of…
“Chris,” I said loudly, looking him straight in the eyes. “I’ve been thinking lately that I may have been too hasty in breaking up with you. I think we should try to work things out.”
The silence that followed my statement was profound. Potter had stopped talking mid-sentence and his head was bowing slightly more with every passing second as if he was letting the words sink in.
Chris was staring at me with a mixture of amazement and disbelief.
“Are you serious, Lily?” He asked, leaning forward and staring at me intently.
“Yeah,” I said, and I was surprised when I realized that it was actually true.
A sudden noise from Potter’s table made me jump. When I looked up his seat was empty and Holly was frantically gathering her things as she called to Potter to wait for her. I glanced over to the door where his robes were just disappearing from sight.
* * * *
The Clique was relatively supportive when I informed them at dinner of my snap decision to get back with Chris. With the exception of Pippa choking on her pot roast, they were all fairly enthusiastic about it which eased my mind considerably. Even Sirius was relatively supportive. Even though he told me numerous times to be careful, he finally admitted that whatever made me happy, made him happy. There was only one person who didn’t seem thrilled about it….
Potter hadn’t left his room since he’d gotten back after Hogsmeade. Rounds were quickly approaching and I was getting more and more anxious for him to emerge from his room.
At midnight, when he still hadn’t come out, I figured I would have to knock and remind him of rounds. The fluttering in my stomach as I approached his door was drastically different than earlier in the day.
I knocked softly on the door and when no one answered I knocked again.
“Potter? Its time for rounds…” I called through the door.
The door opened abruptly and Potter strode past me without saying a word. I hurried after him out the portrait hole, jogging to keep up with his abnormally fast pace.
“Potter, wait up!” I called after him, as I jogged down the hall.
He didn’t answer but kept his fast pace and turned the corner where we normally split.
“James, stop!” I tried to call but it came out more as a strangled cry. I was bent over with my hands on my knees, trying to catch my breath. I looked up and saw that he had stopped a few feet ahead of me and was slowly turning around.
Potter crossed his arms, looking down at me as I struggled to make my breathing normal again.
“Are you ok?” I asked, straightening back up to meet Potter’s icy gaze. “You haven’t left your room all night and now you’re ignoring me.”
“Why do you think I’m mad, Evans?” Potter said steadily, keeping his eyes on my face. It was unsettling how emotionless he sounded and the lack of expression on his face.
“I was never good at guessing games,” I replied, matching his cold stare. “You said it yourself: friends tell each other stuff. Can you please just tell me?”
I kept my eyes on him, not wanting to be the first one to break the stare off. Potter took a deep breath before he spoke.
“Lily, have you ever wondered why it’s so hard for us to be friends?” Potter asked softly, breaking my gaze and looking down at his shoes.
“Well….yes,” I admitted, still watching him. He lifted one of his hands and ran it through his hair.
“Maybe all of this work we’re doing to be friends… why it’s so hard, is because we’re just not meant to be friends,” Potter sighed lifting his head, his hazel eyes locking on mine.
I could feel something building in the pit of my stomach. Could this be the moment I’ve been waiting for these past few months? Would he finally tell me that the reason we can’t be friends is that we’re meant to be something much more than that?
“W-what do you mean?” I stuttered, my heart racing with anticipation.
“I think…. I don’t know. Maybe it would be best if we just stopped trying to be something we’re not: friends,” Potter spoke softly, his forehead wrinkling slightly as though he were upset. “Look, we’ve both got our groups of friends and mutual friends in between. Maybe we should just leave it at that. You’ll be the Head Girl and I’ll be the Head Boy and that will be that.”
It felt as though time has slowed down. Like every word Potter was saying was taking me further and further from reality. He couldn’t really mean he didn’t even want to be friends anymore, could he? All I could hear was my ragged breathing, the shallow pounding of my heart as it sputtered uselessly in my chest. I couldn’t make myself respond or even tear my eyes away from his emotionless face.
“Lily?” I saw Potter’s mouth form my name, the sound reaching my ears what seemed like ages later. “Are you ok?”
“No,” I said simply, turning to walk away, leaving Potter blankly staring after me just like so many times before.
A/N: WOW long time without an update. FAIL. So basically school was kicking my ass but i'm on top of it now. hoorah! So i've been working on this chapter for ages and finally finished it -- hopefully the rest will go a bit faster, eh? Anyways here's the latest, hope you like it! More coming soon (hopefully?)
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