Chapter 34 : We Were Wrong
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I watched as Pippa’s red dress disappeared down the hall. My heart was beating wildly in my chest. This all felt like some horrible nightmare, one that I couldn’t wake myself up from. Everything that had just happened, it was real.
I turned slowly, remembering that I wasn’t alone in the hallway. Remus, James, and Sirius were standing awkwardly behind me, unfortunate witnesses to the demise of the Clique. They were all still staring down the hall where Pippa had retreated. None of them looked at me. They must hate me. And who could blame them? From everything they’d heard I had written those things in the book.
And James….he must hate me now too. Why did this always happen? Just when everything was coming together for us something derailed us yet again. Why was this always so difficult? I had always thought that when you fell in love it was easy, effortless. This was the complete opposite.
“Excuse me,” I said to the Marauders, slipping the strappy heels from my feet so I could run faster down the hall to my room. I needed to escape from their condemning stares.
“Lily, wait!” James called from behind me but I didn’t turn. I couldn’t stop. I had to keep running.
“Let her go, mate,” I heard Sirius say just as I turned the corner.
I ran until I was at the Head’s Dorm, the tears that had been threatening were dangerously close to falling. As soon as I was inside the common room, I a tear escape down my cheek and I took a deep steadying breath. I didn’t want to cry. There was no use in crying… it just made me vulnerable.
I closed the door to my room, locking it with an extra charm. Knowing James, he’d try to talk to me tonight and I wasn’t sure if I could handle that. I was already falling to pieces, my breathing coming in sharp, ragged breaths. I sat on my bed, wrapping my arms around myself like I was trying to hold my body together. It was oddly comforting though, knowing that I couldn’t fall apart when I was holding myself together.
How long I stayed like that, I don’t know. James knocked on my door several times, rattling it practically off it’s hinges. It barely registered with me though, my thoughts were already racing a thousand miles a minute. My fight with the Clique was on constant replay while I tried desperately to think of a way to fix this without any of us getting expelled…
* * * *
“I don’t think I even have to say how disappointed in you all I am,” Dumbledore said in a stern voice, peering over the tops of his half-moon glasses at us.
Pippa shifted uncomfortably in her seat as we all avoided eye contact with each other. We were still seething from our fight three nights ago at the ball and the only reason we were sitting together now was because the headmaster had called us all in for a meeting after McGonagall filled him in on that nights events.
The confessional book was resting on the table between us and Dumbledore and I was tempted to jump out of my seat and stab it with one of the many ornate swords Dumbledore had hanging on his wall until that stupid little black book had suffered as much as I had.
“You four are the very last people I would have expected to be involved in something like this,” Dumbledore said sadly, watching us carefully as we squirmed under his scrutiny.
“Unfortunately, this little book cannot be taken lightly. There are some serious allegations in here…cheating, stealing, intimate details of peoples’ lives,” Dumbledore shook his head sadly and I visibly winced, knowing he was referring to the last secrets about the Clique.
“If someone doesn’t come forward soon and take responsibility for this, I’m afraid I’m going to have to punish all of you,” Dumbledore stood up slowly, pacing behind his desk. “I have spoken to Professor McGonagall about the matter and have yet to come up with a suitable punishment, however, suspension and expulsion have been considered. I need you to understand the gravity of this situation.”
We sat there silently in front of him, watching our futures tremble and slip away before us. None of us could say anything without condemning the others, not that any of us were interested in sparing each other. All the hateful things said that night were still burning in my mind, playing over and over again like a horrible broken record.
Dumbledore stopped his pacing to stare at us once more. Each of us had our arms crossed over our chests, defiantly looking anywhere but at each other.
“Since you all seem uninterested in confessing anything today I will give you one more week. If by the start of the Christmas holiday no one has come forward, I’m afraid that severe punishment with follow. You may leave now,” Dumbledore extended his left hand, indicating that we leave.
Slowly, we all got up, still avoiding any kind of contact with each other and started to file out of the room. As soon as we exited the headmaster’s office we all went separate ways, despite the fact that we were all going to the same class. None of us could even stand to walk down the same hall. I couldn’t blame them for being mad, we all said awful things about each other. However, after everything that had happened, I doubt they’d even listen to me if I tried to explain what had really happened. How on earth was I supposed to make things right when the Clique wouldn’t even stay in the same room with me?
All around me, kids were whispering behind their hands as I passed. I knew what they were talking about. It was all that everyone was talking about: the downfall of the Clique. I grew aggravated, being the focus of everyone’s attention as I walked to Charms.
“Make out with anyone’s boyfriend today, Evans?” a fifth year Slytherin sneered at me as I passed. I flinched slightly as his friends laughed along with him.
My grip on my bag tightened as I picked up the pace to get to class.
Just as I was about to turn into the classroom, Potter appeared from around the corner, making my stomach lurch. I had been very careful to avoid him since the night of the ball.
With the loss of my closest friends, I didn’t think I could handle his desertion, too. I wasn’t even sure if he would ditch me like everyone else but I couldn’t risk it. After all, why on earth would he still like me after this? For all he knew, I had written all those awful things about my friends in the confessional. I couldn’t exactly blame him if he didn’t want to be with me anymore… but I wasn’t quite ready to hear him say so.
I ducked into the classroom quickly before he could say anything to me and dropped into a seat between two Hufflepuff girls that I’d never spoken to before in my life. The two girls abruptly stopped talking as soon as I sat down and turned their chairs very obviously away from me like I was some kind of pariah. I might as well have been.
I pretended to be busy looking for a quill in my bag as Potter and Sirius passed by my seat and luckily Flitwick entered the classroom, sparing me from any awkward public confrontation I might have with them. Why couldn’t Christmas break come any sooner? I wasn’t sure I could handle another whole week of this…
* * * *
I twirled a piece of auburn hair around my finger as I stared absently at the chandelier hanging above McGonagall’s head. I wasn’t even paying attention to what she was saying about N.E.W.T.S. It didn’t matter to me at this point. All I could think about was how I had gotten into this horrible mess….It had been six days since our meeting with Dumbledore. We were running out of time. I hadn’t even started this whole thing and I was getting blamed. And worse, my position as Head Girl was seriously in jeopardy.
Accepting the fact that I wouldn’t take in a word of the lesson, I began looking around the classroom. Scattered around the room were the three girls I used to call my best friends. We used to think that nothing could ever tear us apart. We used to think that we were indestructible. And now I knew that we were wrong.
Marley was bent low over her notes, her long dark hair spilling over her parchment while she copied furiously what McGonagall was saying in her lecture on who-knows-what. It was hard to think of her, all the talks we used to have, the way that she could see a positive light in any situation… I wondered if she could see anything positive about our present situation….
Emilie was sitting in the row ahead of Marley, her chin resting in her hands, her lips turned down at the corners. I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen Emilie frown and it made me sad. She wouldn’t even look at me anymore…
I glanced down the table while pretending to scratch my neck and caught a glimpse of Pippa. She seemed not to be paying attention as well. She was resting her chin in her hands and absentmindedly moving her quill in circles on her parchment while staring at the corner of the ceiling. Her brilliant blond curls cascaded down her back and her hazel eyes were glassy and unfocused. My heart ached as I watched her. She looked uneasy sitting there. Every so often she would drop the quill and her hand would scramble until she felt the feather between her fingers, never taking her eyes off the ceiling. I wondered what she was thinking about, if it was the same thing I was thinking about.
I couldn’t stand sitting in that room anymore with everyone who hated me and each other. I just couldn’t. So for the first time in the history of my years at Hogwarts, I got up and walked out of class. I kept my eyes down, avoiding what I assumed to be a furious stare from McGonagall, slung my bag over my right shoulder and just walked out. As I neared the door, my vision started to blur as the tears I had been holding back for days started to slide down my cheeks.
Once I was outside the classroom I ran the rest of the way to the girl’s bathroom. I dropped my bag just inside the door and propped myself up over one of the sinks and turned on the faucet to drown out the sound of my crying. I watched the tears fall and quickly blend into the running water.
I looked up into the mirror above the sink at my tear-stained face, my green eyes ever more brilliant because of the crying. Strands of limp red hair fell around my face and down my back. My face was flushed and my freckles were barely visible at the moment. I sighed and slumped back against one of the stone walls, sliding down to the ground. I buried my face in my arms and started crying again.
Everyone hated me. Everyone. I had never felt like this before. How had I gone from the most popular girl in school to the most hated?
I heard the bathroom door open and I bolted into one of the stalls, quickly closing the door. I prayed that whoever just came in hadn’t heard me crying. Hopefully they’ll just do their thing and leave.
I held my breath. Damn.
“Lils, I know you’re in here.”
I didn’t move. Of all the people to come in here, this was the one person I absolutely could not face right now. Fresh tears were now falling silently down my cheeks and I put my hand over my mouth to suppress my haggard breathing. I heard footsteps coming closer to the stall and instinctively I backed away from the door. I remembered only too late that I hadn’t locked the stall. The door slowly opened.
“P-Please,” I stuttered through my tears as Potter’s face was revealed. “Please, just go away.”
I pushed past him out the stall and went for my bag on the floor but Potter caught my arm, pulling me back around to face him.
“Lily, wait,” Potter said, confusion painted plainly on his face. “What’s going on? Why have you been avoiding me?”
“Why do you think?” I sobbed, sinking back onto the floor next to my bag.
“What happened between us…on the balcony,” Potter said, his voiced sounding oddly calm and collected as he knelt down in front of me. “I thought… I thought maybe, I mean, you didn’t stop me… I thought maybe it meant something to you, too. But then you’ve been avoiding me and… did it? Mean something to you?”
“It doesn’t matter,” I sniffed, a fresh wave of tears spilling down my cheeks.
“It doesn’t matter?” Potter repeated flatly, sounding like he’d just been kicked in the stomach.
“Don’t you understand?” I looked up at him, my eyes swimming with fresh tears. “It doesn’t matter if it meant something or not, it doesn’t matter if it felt right or wrong. It doesn’t matter because there always seems to be something working against this… you and I. It’s Holly, and it’s Chris, and it’s these stupid bloody books and there will always be something getting in our way and…”
I trailed off, unable to finish my sentence. Potter stared at me in disbelief as a small sob escaped my lips. “Maybe Pippa was right… maybe I’m really not worth waiting for.”
“That’ not true,” Potter said quietly, his hazel eyes locking with mine through the tears.
“I don’t even blame the Clique for hating me right now,” I said looking away, barely hearing Potter’s argument. “I would too if I were them. And you know what the worst part of this is? I could have stopped this from happening. If I had just stayed away from you like Holly told me to, none of this would have happened.”
“What?” Potter’s head snapped up at the mention of Holly. “Wait, Lily, what did Holly say?”
“She was the one who posted those secrets about us, you know,” I scoffed bitterly, pushing myself off the ground and pacing restlessly back and forth in front of the sinks. “All because I couldn’t bring myself to stay away from you.”
“Woah, slow down,” Potter jumped to his feet, grabbing one of my arms to stop me. “What do you mean she was the one who posted the secrets about you? How would she have known?”
My head was racing and my hands were shaking with a nervous energy that I couldn’t identify. The warm tears were still flowing freely down my face and I didn’t bother trying to stop them. It was becoming clearer to me, how I could fix this.
“Lily, please just tell me, what’s going on? Why would Holly have known that stuff about you guys? Did she make it up?” James grabbed my arms, forcing me to stop pacing.
“Of course she didn’t make it up,” I said. “It doesn’t even matter how she knew.”
“Yes it does,” James shook his head at me. “How can you say that? Of course it matters!”
“No, it doesn’t,” I contradicted him. “Don’t you see? Either way, whether I did or didn’t write those secrets, it’s my fault that they got published. And while, granted, the books weren’t exactly my idea the spell-work is all mine. I can just turn myself in to Dumbledore and this whole horrible nightmare can be over with.”
I slid my hands from James’s grip and went to grab my bag.
“Wait, Lily, you can’t turn yourself in,“ James said, desperation edging into his voice. “Dumbledore said you could be expelled if you take the blame.”
“I have to do this, James,” I said, looking him in the eyes. “Dumbledore said that if none of us came forward then we call could be expelled. They don’t deserve that, as horrible as the things they may have said are, they don’t deserve to be expelled…”
“But neither do you!” James pleaded.
“I don’t know what I deserve anymore,” I said quietly, my eyes falling to the floor. “But this is the least I can do… Please, just let me go.”
James’s hands fell to his side helplessly as I grabbed my bag from the floor, slinging it over my shoulder as I pushed open the bathroom door, leaving him standing there.
I tried desperately to ignore the stabbing pains in my heart from what I just did and focus instead on what I was about to do.
I arrived at Dumbledore’s office and taking a few deep breaths to calm myself down, I knocked on the door.
A/N: Hey everyone! Yay a new chapter!!! Looks like we've come full circle, eh? But don't worry, it's not over yet.... more coming soon! Let me know what you thought!
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