I didn't ask Dorcas what Twilfitt had said to her.
It wasn't that I didn't want to know; I was all but dying of curiosity to find out what had happened. When Dorcas approached me Sunday night with a stack of homework spilling out of her arms and a stream of apologies spilling from her lips, the question had been on the tip of my tongue.
But something made me hesitate. There was something about her anger that just seemed off. She didn't glare at Twilfitt whenever she got the chance; it was as though she was so furious she couldn't even bring herself to look at the other girl. And while rows between her and Seby weren't exactly unusual, the way Dorcas didn't even tell Mary and I that they had broken up again was.
But neither of us particularly wanted to risk being on the receiving end of Dorcas' anger, so we didn't ask her what she was upset about, and she didn't make any indication that she planned on telling us any time soon. Instead, the three of us danced around the subject and tried to pretend like everything was normal - and mostly failed.
My mission to talk to Sirius about the fact that his best mate kind of sort of hated me was almost a welcome distraction from how awkward everything suddenly was between the three of us. It was a time-consuming distraction, if nothing else; it seemed like every time I saw Sirius, he was too busy to say three words to me, much less give a detailed answer to a question I had been dwelling on for the last five years of my life. I was beginning to think he was deliberately avoiding me, and my suspicions were only confirmed on Tuesday, when he unabashedly ran into the boys' loo when I tried to pull him away from his mates.
By Wednesday, I was fed up with playing his stupid game. "Where's Sirius?" I asked Remus and Peter when I saw them playing chess in the common room after dinner.
Remus scrunched up his nose and hesitantly moved his knight across the board. "He's up in the dorm," he answered without lifting his eyes from the game.
Peter glanced up at me suspiciously. "Why?" he said, but I barely heard his question as I darted toward the boys' dormitory. Ordinarily, I would've had at least some qualms about breaking the no-dormitories-but-your-own rule, but in my fierce determination to get answers I couldn't bring myself to care. I bounded up the stairs, slipping past a confused and slightly nervous-looking Sebastian, and pounded on the door to the sixth year boys' dorm.
"Sirius!" I said loudly. "I know you're in there! Open up! I need to talk to yo-"
The door swung open, but it wasn't Sirius who stood on the other side; it was James. He was looking at me with a bemused and irritated expression on his face. His hair was sticking up in all directions, as though he had just been running his hands through it, and his shirt sleeves were casually rolled up to his elbows. He looked even more adorable than usual.
I stared at him dumbly for a few seconds, my fist still suspended in mid-knock, my heart beating wildly. "Um," I said lamely. "I need to talk to Sirius. Is he in there?" I felt like knocking myself over the head for not realizing that Sirius might not be alone in his room, but I didn't want to make myself look like even more of an idiot in front of James.
He studied me for a moment, before turning around and calmly sauntering back to his bed. "Padfoot!" he called. "Someone's here to see you!" I winced at the unfriendly twist he put on the word 'someone', but it only strengthened my resolve to speak with his best mate.
When Sirius strolled out of the loo that was adjacent to the dormitory, he stopped ruffling his wet hair and blinked owlishly at me. "What are you doing here?" he said; it might just have been my imagination, but he looked rather anxious to see me.
"I need to talk to you," I said, with as much confidence as I could muster considering I could see James lazily sprawled across his four-poster from the corner of my eye. I didn't dare glance in his direction, but I knew he was watching us, and it was doing that jelly thing to my legs again. "In private," I added, letting just a hint of desperation creep into my voice.
After a few uncomfortable seconds of silence, he nodded, a resigned and weary expression on his face. He gave James an indecipherable look before obediently stepping out into the staircase outside the dorm and closing the door behind him.
I took a deep breath and summoned up all my courage; I wasn't a Gryffindor for nothing. "Why have you been avoiding me?" I blurted out straightforwardly, deciding that it would be better to just dive right into things. Before Sirius could even open his mouth, I hastily added, "And don't tell me you haven't been. Last week we were perfectly chummy, and yesterday you ran into the loo when I tried to talk to you."
"I had to go," he responded weakly, not quite meeting my eyes. This was a different Sirius than I was used to. He wasn't bold or brash; he was almost meek.
"Sirius," I said warningly, nudging him with my shoulder so that he would look at me, "tell me the truth. What's going on?" I had never seen him look so nervous and, to be honest, it was making me feel rather nervous myself.
He sighed, lifting his hand to rub anxiously at his temple. "It's nothing serious," he insisted. "It's just that - well, it's only that it's a bit difficult for me to explain our friendship to my mates. That is to say...they don't really understand it."
I stared at him. "So you just thought if you pretended I didn't exist the problem would go away?"
"No!" he replied hastily and somewhat pathetically. "I was just trying to think of an alibi of sorts for why we might spend a lot of time together. I can't exactly tell them that we're plotting how you're going to win my best mate," he said with a wry grin.
I didn't smile back at him; it was obvious that there was something he wasn't telling me. "Why do we have to have an alibi?" I demanded suspiciously. "Why can't it just be enough that after five years of going to the same school we decided to be mates?" When he didn't answer, I quietly prodded, "Because James hates me?" It wasn't exactly how I had envisioned asking him, but it would do.
"What are you talking about?" Sirius said, laughing. And maybe I was just being paranoid, but his laugh sounded off to me - like it was forced. I narrowed my eyes at him, but he glanced down to brush an imaginary piece of lint off of his clothing as he weakly murmured, "James doesn't hate you."
He shook his head. "Why should he? He doesn't even know you."
I watched him uncomfortably shift from foot to foot. I couldn't believe he could stand there and so blatantly lie to me but, more than that, I couldn't believe that he was so bad at it. I laughed. "You know, I've always sort of expected you to be good at lying, but you're not; you're absolutely awful at it."
Sirius huffed, clearly not pleased that I was making fun of him. "I'm not lying!"
"Fine," I said, the laughter disappearing from my voice just as quickly as it had come; I suddenly felt tired and overwhelmingly dejected. "You can deny it all you want, but I know it's true; I know he hates me. I just - I just wish he didn't. I want him to fancy me so badly," I whispered, knowing that I was pathetically indulging in my own personal pity party but unable to bring myself to stop.
Sirius wrapped his arm around my shoulder, pulling me closer to him so that I could hear his next words despite how surprisingly soft they were. "So do something about it."
I glanced up at him, inhaling his boyish scent of soap and parchment and, strangely enough, caramel; it made me wonder what James smelled like. "I am doing something about it." At his incredulous look, I said defensively, "I smiled at him in the corridor the other day!"
He rolled his eyes. "No, I mean actually do something about it. Be honest, Lily: you're not really trying here."
And even though I wanted to tell him he was wrong - even though I wanted to say that I was trying - I knew it was a lie. He was right; I hadn't been trying to get James to fancy me, not really. Despite what I said that first day on the train - despite my declaration that I was going to make James fancy me back this year - I hadn't really done anything besides wallow in a vat of self-pity.
"It's just that..." I said, struggling to find the right words to explain my actions to Sirius, "I don't really know how to try. I don't know how to go about getting a bloke to fancy me back. Any pointers?" I quirked an eyebrow at him.
I was mostly joking, but Sirius seemed to take my appeal for help seriously. He was silent for a moment, his ski-slope nose scrunched up in concentration, and when he did finally respond, his voice was hesitant, almost as though he wasn't sure that what he was about to do was a good idea at all. "Come to Hogsmeade with us Friday night," he said impulsively.
He smirked, clearly pleased that his words had shocked me. "Come to Hogsmeade with us," he repeated more slowly. "The four of us go every few months, just for some good illegal fun, and it'd give you a chance to get to know James better. You can even bring Meadows and Macdonald if you like."
I gaped at him. "Are you absolutely bonkers?" I hissed. "You can't go to Hogsmeade except on the designated weekends; it's not allowed. And you most certainly cannot go out after curfew. How can you lot be so irresponsible? I can't believe - " Sirius clamped his hand over my mouth before I could launch into a full-on lecture.
"Do you want to try or not?" he asked me.
I reached up and peeled his hand away from my mouth, giving him an exasperated look. "You know I do. I just don't understand why I have to break so many rules to do it," I said, running my fingers anxiously through my hair. The very idea of sneaking out of Hogwarts after curfew was already twisting my stomach into knots.
"Because James likes daring girls," he teased. "Just say you're going to go already; I think we both know you will."
And the sad thing was that he was completely right. As uneasy as I already was about the idea, I couldn't just say no. Sirius' words had hit a sore spot, and the bloody bastard knew it too. "Foul play," I grumbled, glaring at him. His smug grin only grew.
"Glad you've finally decided to abandon your stick-in-the-mud ways," he said, patting my arm reassuringly. "Now, er, I'd better get back in there." He gestured toward the door behind him, a sheepish look on his face. "I've sort of got some explaining to do."
I sent him a sympathetic smile, idly wondering what James would say when he found out I was going to Hogsmeade with them on Friday night. "What are you going to tell him?" I asked.
Sirius shrugged, his dark eyes twinkling. "Oh, I don't know; maybe that after five years of going to the same school, we just decided to be mates. It seems like the best bet anyway, since a mate of mine says I'm an awful liar."
"Sounds like a pretty brill mate," I said, grinning back at him.
"She's alright," he joked. I slapped him on the arm, and he laughed, winking playfully at me before opening the door to his dorm and disappearing inside. I debated eavesdropping, but the possibility of one of the four sixth year Gryffindor boys finding me crouched outside the door to their dormitory stopped me. Instead, I leapt down the boys' staircase three steps at a time, strangely jubilated by the thought that I was finally going to be doing something.
I glanced up at Dorcas, my eyebrows furrowed together. "Stop what?"
"Fidgeting," she said, flipping through her magazine with more force than was really necessary. "You've been doing it all day and it's driving me crazy."
"Sorry," I said somewhat sheepishly, hopping up off of my bed to pace across the dormitory. "I'm just so nervous about tonight," I complained, unconsciously wringing my hands. Not only was I planning to break about a million rules by sneaking out of Hogwarts for a Hogsmeade rendezvous, I was going to do it with the bloke I fancied the trousers off of.
"Well, could you go be nervous in the library for a bit?" she suggested unkindly, and I bit back the retort I could feel instinctively sneaking up my throat. Since the whole Twilfitt episode, Dorcas had been even more irritable than usual; it was mostly easier to just ignore her.
"Fine," I mumbled, snatching my school things off of the floor and stalking out of the dorm. Schoolwork was at least preferable to sitting around and waiting for eleven o'clock - the time Sirius had told me to be outside the portrait hole - to come; if nothing else, it would occupy my hands and my thoughts.
The library had a surprising amount of people inside it considering it was a Friday night. I ambled between bookshelves, scanning the room for an empty table where I wouldn't be disturbed or distracted, and had just begun to make my way toward a vacant one in the Charms section when I heard a familiar voice that made me stop in my tracks.
" - don't see why you're making such a big deal out of this, Prongs." I knew that voice; it was Sirius and, based off of the strange nickname, he could only be talking to one person.
"I just don't understand why you invited her in the first place," James hissed back. "You know how I feel about her." A shiver crept up my spine, not at all like the shivers I normally got when I was around James. This was a bad shiver: the sort of shiver the main character gets in one of those horror flicks right before the murderer creeps up behind her and sticks a knife through her heart. This was the sort of shiver that comes with the realization that people are talking about you.
I could see my options laid out very clearly before me: I could finish my Potions essay and forget that I had ever heard even these tiny snatches of conversation, or I could let my curiosity get the best of me and slip into the nearest aisle of bookshelves, making as little noise as possible as I crept in the direction of the voices.
And I guess it just shows what little morals I have that I never even seriously considered the first option. I just went right along with the second one, shamelessly peering through the gaps between the shelves in an attempt to see the objects of my eavesdropping. And when I did catch sight of them, I rather wished I hadn't; they were in the next aisle, and James looked downright furious.
But Sirius looked fairly angry as well. "We're mates, alright? I really wish you would just let bygones be bygones and forget this whole petty grudge you have against her. For Merlin's sake, you hardly even know her," he said. I felt a smile curling my lips at how assertively Sirius was jumping to my defense. If ever I was thankful that we had decided to be mates, it was then.
The smile quickly disappeared when I heard James' response. "How can you call it petty, Padfoot? After everything I've told you - after everything my dad's told you..." He paused as a third year hurried by, a stack of books overflowing from her arms; when she had gone, he glanced around so suspiciously that I hurriedly ducked, even though I was quite sure he couldn't see me. He lowered his voice. "I don't trust her."
I wanted answers, but I didn't want this - this strange jumble of vague statements that left me even more confused about what James thought of me than before. Why didn't he trust me? What exactly did his dad say, and what did it have to do with me? And why hadn't Sirius told me the truth?
"What do you want me to do? You want me to uninvite her just because you don't trust her?" Sirius retorted sarcastically.
James agitatedly ran a hand through his hair. "No," he bit back, although I couldn't help but think that that was exactly what he wanted. "I - it's just - I'm looking out for your best interests as well here, mate. Just don't get too close to her, alright?" He gave him one last penetrating stare before abruptly turning on his heel and stomping out of the library.
Sirius quickly darted after him, his mouth set in an irritated line. Thankfully, neither of them thought to glance into the aisle they passed; if they had, they would've seen me pressed tightly against a bookshelf, my face ashen.
I waited till they had been gone for a few minutes before shakily stumbling out of the library. I wasn't quite sure what to do. For once, running didn't sound even remotely appealing; the mere idea just made me feel nauseous. And even though the thought of seeing James and Sirius again made me feel equally - if not more - nauseous, I desperately wanted to return to Gryffindor tower to talk about what I had just overheard; even talking about it with grouchy Dorcas would be better than holding it inside.
I trudged up to my dormitory; when I finally slipped inside, still struggling to wrap my head around Sirius and James' private argument, I was barely holding back tears. Just two days ago, I had vowed to stop wallowing in self-pity, but now I could hardly stop myself; my life just wasn't fair.
Dorcas was gone, but Mary was sitting on her bed with a blissful smile on her face. It disappeared when she saw me. "What's wrong?" she said, rushing forward to wrap her arms around me. I returned the gesture; Mary's hugs really were the best medicine.
"My life is what's wrong," I complained, pulling away from her to dejectedly throw myself down onto my four-poster. "It sucks!"
The bed shifted slightly as she sat down next to me and I felt her hand on my back. "What's happened now?" I was grateful that there was no trace of sarcasm or weariness in her voice, like there would have been if Dorcas was comforting me. Mary really was a fab mate sometimes.
I related to her what I had heard in the library. Her face stayed surprisingly impassive the entire time I was talking, and when I had finished she rested her chin on the palm of her hand contemplatively. "Bygones be bygones?" she repeated, a quizzical crease appearing between her eyebrows.
I nodded, staring up at her gloomily. "That's what he said."
She was quiet for a few minutes, mulling over what I had told her. When she noticed how distressed I was, she smiled at me in a weak attempt at being reassuring. "Don't worry about it, Lily," she said. "It really just confirms what you already suspected, right?"
"Yes, but there's a difference between thinking he hates me and practically hearing him say it," I retorted with a frown. "I just don't know what I'm going to do. How am I supposed to get James to fancy me when he's dead-set against even spending time with me? How am I supposed to even act normal tonight, after everything I heard?" I buried my head in my hands. "I don't even want to go anymore."
"But you have to go," Mary insisted. I lowered my hands from my face and stared at her, surprised that she, of all people, would be encouraging me to break the rules. "You have to go and make him like you. You have to show him that there's absolutely no reason why he shouldn't trust you," she said with a firm nod.
"I'm rubbish at showing him anything except how much of a prat I am," I joked, "so I suppose it's good that you'll be there tonight to help me." I flashed her a grateful smile.
She shifted uncomfortably. "Well, actually - "
"What do you mean 'well, actually'?" I interrupted, narrowing my eyes at her. "You said you would go! You can't honestly tell me that you care more about the stupid Charms Club than you do about helping me win over the love of my life."
"No, it's not the Charms Club," she replied, her cheeks turning pink. "I have a date."
Her response was so unexpected I nearly fell off of my bed. "Mary Elizabeth Macdonald, you did not just say you had a date." When she met my incredulous gaze with a innocent smile, I sputtered, "What? With who? And why was I not informed of this sooner?"
"Yes I did, Reggie Cattermole, and I only just found out myself," Mary replied, the blissful grin that had been on her face when I first entered returning. I let out a squeal that would've put even Gladys Gudgeon to shame.
"Tell me everything!" I demanded. "When did it happen? What did you say? What did he say?"
She laughed, her brown eyes dancing - whether from laughter at my ridiculously girlish antics or from outright happiness, I couldn't tell. "There's not really much to tell," she said. "After dinner I told him how much I fancied him and he asked me if I wanted to go up to the Astronomy Tower with him tonight. He's got a really nice telescope and Pluto's supposed to be exceptionally bright." Her blush deepened.
When she didn't add anything else, I exclaimed, "It happened just like that?" She nodded dreamily. "Christ. Why can't my love life be that simple?" I was more than a little envious that all Mary had to do to get a chance with the bloke she fancied was tell him she fancied him; I was quite sure James would laugh in my face if I declared my undying love for him. He would probably think it was some bizarre ploy to infiltrate the sixth year Gryffindor boys or some such nonsense and trust me even less than he already did.
"Probably because you won't let it be," Mary replied matter-of-factly.
"Hey!" I said, pointing my finger at her. "I'm trying here. Now be a good mate and help me get ready; I have no idea what to wear." She rolled her eyes but obediently climbed off of my bed to start sifting through my clothes.
And despite the fact that I was about to break a million school rules just so I could spend the night attempting - and failing - to ignore the dirty glares the bloke I fancied would most likely be sending me, I was actually excited for eleven o'clock to come. Not quite excited enough to completely forget how nervous I was, but it was definitely a start.
A/N: I'm immensely proud of myself; I managed to write the next chapter in half the time it normally takes me (although that might have something to do with the fact that I had a week off of school and nothing to do, not to mention this is the shortest chapter I've written so far). I promise the next chapter will be extra long to make up for it, though.
Thanks to everyone for all the wonderful reviews you've left, and extra thanks to those who have added this to their favorites! As always, let me know what you liked or disliked about this chapter. Personally, I thought that Lily's conversation with Sirius turned out a bit rushed. What do you think of it? Also, which summary do you like better: the old one or the new one?
Next chapter: Lily and Dorcas make fools of themselves.