Chapter 35 : Nothing But Ashes
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“Miss Evans, you’re sure that you were the only one involved in creating these books? Forgive me, but I find that somewhat hard to believe,” Professor Dumbledore mused, staring at me intently over his half moon glasses. Even though I had just spilled everything about the books, aside from the fact that it was Pippa’s idea Dumbledore was in a surprisingly good mood.
“You can check the spell-work,” I assured him. “It was done by my wand. Don’t take this the wrong way, my friends are brilliant, but none of them are advanced enough to be able to perform the spells necessary for this book.”
Dumbledore couldn’t argue that point and I knew that he had to believe me. But as relieved as I was to have the Clique off the hook, I couldn’t help but feel nervous still for my impending punishment.
“Miss Evans, you are aware that you are risking expulsion by turning yourself in?” Dumbledore asked, resting his elbows on his desk and gazing over his hands at me.
I swallowed hard, my insides twisting.
“Yes,” I replied.
Dumbledore nodded slightly. “McGonagall informed me that there were several confessions that were speculated to have been written by yourself about your friends. Is that true as well?”
“No, I didn’t write those,” I said truthfully. It was strange to tell the truth and have someone believe me for once.
“But you won’t tell me who did write them, even though you know,” Dumbledore’s blue eyes sparkled as I stared defiantly back.
“With all due respect, sir, I think enough name dropping has been done in those books,” I said. Even though I dearly wanted Holly get get some major Karma for screwing up my life, there was no way I could turn her in without having to explain why she was blackmailing me. Somehow rehashing my tattered love life with Dumbledore didn’t seem like the most appealing idea at the moment.
“Very well,” Dumbledore nodded. He stood up and began pacing behind his desk again. I watched anxiously, knowing that my punishment was coming soon. I could only hope that he would suspend me, or demote me rather than expulsion. It was a very small hope, though.
“Lily,” Dumbledore said, addressing me informally. “I have watched you and your friends for the last six years and forgive me, but I am not as oblivious to the goings-on at this school as you seem to think I am.” Dumbledore paused mid-pace to glance at me over his glasses.
“Oh, sir, I didn’t mean-“ I sputtered, horrified that I had insulted him but Dumbledore held up a hand, silencing me.
“I only mean that I know it was not just you who was involved with this little book,” Dumbledore gestured to the little black book still sitting on his desk. “Lily, you are Head Girl and the top student in your class. I know that your involvement with this book was most likely limited to your knowledge of the correct spells to use.”
I let out a strangled sigh. So he had seen through me… now I was going to get punished for lying and the Clique would get expelled. Why can’t I ever do anything right?
“It must have taken a lot for you to come here and confess to being solely responsible for this book, especially considering that you and your friends don’t seem to be all that fond of each other at the moment,” Dumbledore took his seat behind the desk, peering at me with his blazing blue eyes. How on earth did he seem to know everything? If he knew so much, why did he even bother waiting for us to confess?
“I’m not going to expel you,” Dumbledore said, and I glanced up at him sharply. Not expelled?
“Lily,” Dumbledore held up a hand again, silencing me. “If there’s one thing I greatly admire, it is loyalty. Even when your friends seemingly hate you, you are willing to risk everything to save them. And for that, I am not expelling you.”
I stared at him in disbelief. I wasn’t getting expelled because I risked everything for my friends? Merlin, maybe I finally did do something right.
“You are an excellent Head Girl, Miss Evans,” Dumbledore smiled. “So I will not be demoting you either. But I need someone to stay over the Christmas break to be on duty.”
“I can do that,” I said breathlessly. This was better than I could have hoped for.
“Don’t breathe easy yet, Miss Evans,” Dumbledore smiled. “I am presuming that you are still taking responsibility for this book, so in addition to your normal Head’s duties you will complete one month’s detention.”
“A month?” I gaped at him. I had never received as much as one night’s detention in my entire life.
“Since you won’t have classes over the break you will be doing your detentions during the day so that you can be free at night to be on duty,” Dumbledore smiled pleasantly at me, his blue eyes practically dancing.
It was a bittersweet victory, I guess. At least I hadn’t been expelled, right? Ugh, but a month’s detentions. And how was I going to tell my parents that I wasn’t coming home for Christmas?
“I’ll take your fuming silence as consent then,” Dumbledore smiled at me. “You may leave.”
“Thank you, sir,” I said, trying to be as pleasant as I could. I got up to leave.
“Miss Evans,” Dumbledore said, and I turned back towards him. “Your detentions will begin tonight with Professor Binns. I believe he needs his entire classroom dusted and cleaned.”
I groaned and Dumbledore chuckled sitting back at his desk, and with a flick of his wand the little black book that had caused so much trouble burst into flames, reduced to nothing more than harmless ashes.
* * * *
“So you just told him it was all your idea? And he believed you?” Sirius asked, hopping onto the desk I was cleaning.
“Well, not really,” I said, shoving Sirius back off the desk so that I could finish cleaning it. It was my second night of detention and I was still attempting to clean Professor Binn’s classroom. It seemed like it hadn’t been cleaned in about 50 years. There were thick layers of dusk covering everything and the desks were covered in ink spills and quill scratches.
“Dumbledore pretty much knew it wasn’t my idea. He said he admired my loyalty to my friends and for that he wouldn’t expel me,” I said, scrubbing at particularly stubborn ink stain. Lucky for me, Dumbledore had informed me later that I wasn’t allowed to use magic during my detentions.
“So no one else is getting in trouble?” Sirius asked skeptically, leaning against a desk I had already cleaned.
“Not that I know of,” I shook my head.
“You didn’t rat out Holly or anything? I mean, it was her fault that those secrets got posted,” Sirius said. He had come looking for me on my first night of detention. He was the only one of my friends still speaking to me and I couldn’t have been more grateful. I had told him everything that had happened: that it was Pippa’s idea to start the book, how I was the only one able to do the spells, and how Holly had stolen our personal books and blackmailed me.
“Yes, I know that,” I griped, giving up on the ink stain and dropping into an empty chair. “But there was already enough of a mess with that stupid book and it seemed useless to drag someone else into it, especially since she didn’t actually have anything to do with creating the book. And as much as I hate her for what happened, it just didn’t seem right to drop any more names, you know?”
“And James still doesn’t know anything about what happened?” Sirius asked, pushing himself away from the desk and sitting in the chair next to me.
“Not really,” I said, looking down at my hands. “I think I may have finally pushed him too far. He asked me about that kiss at the ball and if it meant anything and I told him it didn’t matter.”
“Lily,” Sirius groaned, shaking his head at me. “Why would you say that? I thought you wanted this?”
“I didn’t mean it!” I said helplessly. “I was just so upset about the Clique and I couldn’t deal with him asking me about that night and I thought he hated me for what happened. I mean, you guys must have really thought I had written that stuff!”
“Well, yeah,” Sirius agreed. “But we hadn’t heard your side of it. I mean, all we had to go on was what Pippa was saying.”
“Right, so isn’t it understandable that I thought he hated me for it? What kind of person writes that about their friends?” I said, exasperated. “I just wish Pippa could see that…”
“She’ll come around,” Sirius tried to comfort me, but it was half-hearted. I could see that he was distracted by something.
“Sirius, are you alright?” I asked, attempting to clean the ink stain again.
“Lily, that stuff that Holly wrote in the book,” Sirius started, his hands fidgeting with his robes. “Was all that true?”
I sighed, knowing what he was getting at. “You mean the confession about Pippa still being in love with you?”
“Well, not….I mean, I wasn’t really—” Sirius stuttered, taken aback by assumption.
“I think you already know the answer to that,” I said, giving up on the stain and moving on to the next desk.
“So it’s true?” Sirius asked, hopping off his chair and following me.
I turned back around to face him. “Look, in the interest of being honest, she’s loved you since like, fourth year. You know she never completely got over you after you guys broke up.”
“Oh… I didn’t realize that,” Sirius said, running a hand through his shaggy black hair. “But she really loves me?”
“Sirius, for Merlin’s sake can we please not talk about Pippa anymore?” I sighed, cleaning an unusually large spider web from underneath a desk.
“Still gossiping about people, Evans? Didn’t get enough of it with that book?” Pippa’s harsh voice came from the doorway and I nearly hit my head on the desk jumping up.
“Pippa, no I wasn’t—“ I stuttered, completely surprised at her appearance.
“Save it,” Pippa snapped, giving me a icy stare.
“Why aren’t you gone for Christmas yet?” I asked, attempting to be friendly. Surely she’s heard that I’d taken the fall for her. I thought she might be a little more grateful.
“Train doesn’t leave until tonight,” Pippa said coldly, turning to leave. “I have another meeting with Dumbledore before I go.”
“Oh,” was all I could say before Pippa was out of sight, leaving Sirius and I alone again.
“Why didn’t you tell her she was off the hook?” Sirius asked.
I shrugged. “I thought she already knew, but I guess not. Oh well, she’ll find out soon enough when she has her meeting with Dumbledore.”
“But maybe she wouldn’t have been so cold to you if you told her yourself,” Sirius suggested, grabbing a clean rag and helping me clean out cobwebs from underneath the desks.
“You must not know Pippa that well,” I smirked. “After what just happened with the books, I doubt she’d believe anything I say. Plus, Pippa’s the kind of person who needs extra confirmation on things, she has to hear them straight from the source.”
Sirius nodded silently, lost in thought. I couldn’t help but suspect what he was thinking about. I had the sneaking suspicion that maybe he still had feelings for Pippa, too. Maybe this was what he needed to hear to finally go after her.
“Sirius, you don’t have to help me with this,” I said, noticing that he was cleaning.
“It’s ok,” Sirius said. “I have nothing to do until the train leaves tonight anyways.”
I gave him a small smile and we continued to clean while we both tried desperately to keep our conversations away from Pippa or James.
* * * *
I still had three hours of detention left. Sirius had given up cleaning after about ten minutes and instead was amusing himself by pointing his wand at particularly large collections of dust and making them explode everywhere.
“Sirius, will you stop that? I’m going to have to take your wand away from you,” I growled at him as dust exploded all over the desk I had just cleaned.
Sirius stuck his tongue out at me like a five-year-old and I quickly pulled out my own wand from my pocket.
“Accio wand!” I said, and Sirius’s wand flew from his hand into mine. “Ha! See? I told you.”
Sirius scrambled off the desk he was perched on. “Lily, come on give it back!”
“That was almost too easy. I though you Marauders were supposed to be clever,” I smirked at him as I moved between desks, keeping my distance from him.
“Lily?” A voice came from the door and I whipped around, still holding Sirius’s wand. In my momentary distraction, Sirius leapt over the desk between us and snatched his wand back.
Marley, Emilie, and Pippa were standing in the doorway, their expressions solemn.
“Lily, we just had a meeting with the headmaster,” Marley said, looking at me intently. I was completely covered in dust, my hair pulled back into a messy ponytail and smudges of dirt smeared across my robes and face.
“He told us you took the blame for everything,” Emilie said solemnly.
“Oh,” was all I could say.
“Why did you do it?” Pippa asked, her face an expressionless mask. “And why aren’t you expelled?”
“Well, I didn’t want you guys to get expelled, so I told Dumbledore that it was all me,” I explained, leaning back against a desk as the Clique slowly filed into the classroom. “Of course, he didn’t really believe that it was all me but he said that….he said that my loyalty to you was really admirable and so he wouldn’t expel me.”
“Why would you even care if we got expelled or not?” Pippa crossed her arms over her chest. I could tell that she was going to be more stubborn about forgiving me. “After that stuff you wrote—“
“For Merlin’s sake, Pippa. You know I didn’t write any of that,” I burst, frustration seeping into my voice.
“Then who did?” Marley asked quietly, her eyes on the floor. “Lily, come on. You were the only one who knew it all. We just want a straight answer.”
“That is my straight answer,” I practically screamed. After all this, how could they still think I wrote that stuff? “Holly’s the one who wrote it. She was mad that Potter broke up with her so she stole my personal book from my room to blackmail me with. I was supposed to stay away from Potter but then she saw us kissing at the ball, threw a fit, and published all the secrets.”
“She what?” Marley hissed, snapping her head up to look at me.
“You were being blackmailed?” Pippa asked, shock written plainly across her face.
“You and Potter were kissing?!” Emilie practically shrieked. I winced, forgetting that we had all been too busy screaming at each other that night for me to tell them about that.
“But why didn’t you just tell us when it happened?” Pippa asked, hopping onto the desk across from me.
“Well, judging by your reactions the other night, could you blame me?” I said, looking hesitantly between my three friends. “I thought you’d get mad, especially since I was keeping secrets for all of you. I thought I could handle Holly by myself. I thought I could stay away from Potter… apparently not.”
“Well of course you couldn’t,” Marley laughed and the realization of what she said hit me before I was ready. I really couldn’t stay away from Potter. Even when my friends’ reputations were at stake I was still too damn in love with him to stay away.
“Look, we hate to go, but we’ll miss the train back the London,” Emilie said. “We’re really sorry that we got so mad…but you know, we didn’t know.”
“It’s fine, really,” I assured her as Marley tackled me in a hug.
“We owe you so much for taking the fall for us,” Marley said in a muffled voice as she held tightly onto me.
“No you don’t,” I said as she let go. “I got us into this mess. It’s the least I could do.”
Pippa was still perched awkwardly on the desk across from me and I moved hesitantly towards her.
“Pip, about Adrian…” I started, seeing that she was obviously reluctant to forgive me so easily. “It was a dare… that night when the Marauders were playing Truth-or-Dare, I was dared to go into the library and make out with the first person I saw. It was just a dumb coincidence that it was Adrian. I’m so sorry…”
“It’s fine,” Pippa said shortly. “I broke up with Adrian right after the ball.”
Behind me, Sirius dropped his wand accidentally and scrambled to get it again as it rolled under a desk. I held back a laugh, knowing how happy he might be to hear that Pippa was single again.
Pippa was chewing on her lower lip, looking like there was something else she wanted to say.
“Oh, Lily, I’m so sorry,” She burst, throwing her arms around me. “All those awful things I said to you. I was just horrible and you were only trying to protect us. I’m so, so, so sorry!”
I let out a stifled laugh into Pippa’s blond curls and hugged her back, happy that she wasn’t mad anymore.
“Ladies! We have to go or we’ll miss the train!” Emilie called from the door.
“Write to me over break,” Pippa said, letting go of me. “I’m sorry you have to stay here.”
“I don’t mind,” I said, my thoughts drifting towards James and how he would be leaving soon, too. Maybe I could catch him before he left…
“Pippa, wait,” Sirius called as just before Pippa disappeared out the door.
She turned back towards him, confusion painted plainly on her face.
“Can I walk you back to Gryffindor? I wanted to talk to you about something,” Sirius said, following her out the door as she nodded silently, too surprised to speak.
I smiled as I watched them disappear out the door together. As soon as they were out of sight, I threw the dust rag I was holding onto the nearest desk and left the classroom, not even caring that my detention wasn’t over yet. Professor Binns could give me an extra week for that but I didn’t care. I had to talk to James before he left.
I ran down the corridors, knocking into the students as they headed for the train. I just had to talk to him before he left. I couldn’t leave things like this… It was too similar to how we left things last summer. We were finally in that place where we both felt the same and I had to tell him.
I sprinted down the emptying corridor towards the Heads dorm, nearly tearing right through the portrait hole. I stopped in the common room, pausing momentarily to catch my breath as I looked wildly around for James.
The common was room was empty but his bedroom door was shut. Hopefully he was in there. I knocked on the door, still breathing heavily from running.
When he didn’t answer, I tentatively opened the door. His room was empty…
I let out a disappointed sigh, running my hands through my hair helplessly. I turned back towards the common room hoping that he would magically appear before me.
I noticed something on the table in the corner and walked over to it. I recognized it as my personal confession immediately and my insides tightened. How did this get here? I picked it up, turning it over in my hands. I opened the book, noticing that the book was creased in one spot. My insides sunk when I recognized the page and saw what we had written. I barely even noticed the small folded piece of parchment that fell out from between the pages. I was too embarrassed by what was written between myself and the Clique.
Hello? Anyone there?
We’re here. Is everything ok?
Um, kind of. Chris basically attacked me last night, and I’m fine, don’t worry, but I’ll tell you the full story when I see you guys.
Are you serious? He attacked you?
Really, I’m fine. Potter came just in time and basically saved me. And then we had a moment this morning…
What do you mean, a moment? Did you kiss him or something?
Not exactly….but I came SO close to telling him that I love him and then Holly came in…
Ok, seriously Lily get your ass over here, we need to Girl Talk.
I cringed slightly as I read over the messages. Whoever returned this book must have read this passage… the spine of the book was creased like it had been opened to this page many times. I would bet my entire Gringott’s bank account that it was Holly. I knew that she had read the book, this must have really set her off…
I noticed the folded piece of parchment lying on the table and carefully unfolded it, expecting it to be from Holly.
My stomach dropped when I recognized the handwriting as Potter’s. The note was short, my hope deteriorating with every word I read.
I thought you’d want your book back. I talked with Holly and she told me
everything. Sirius told me you’re not expelled… so good luck with your
detentions, I guess. I’m home for Christmas but I’ll see you when I get back.
I stared at the note, rereading it several times, looking for any shred of emotion in his words. Did he still love me? Why did he have to give me nothing to go on? If only I had gotten here before he left.
My stomach twisted unpleasantly as I read his note again. He had heard everything from Holly… so maybe he knew that I loved him? And yet he didn’t say anything about it… He had just left.
Maybe he had really listened to me this time and actually let me go. Tears formed behind my eyes as that realization hit me. Maybe I really had pushed him too far this time. He had put himself out there several times now and I still couldn’t give him a shred of hope. What was wrong with me?
Was I so scared of being in love with him that I unconsciously sabotaged any chance of ever being with him? I couldn’t see how he would ever want me again after this… I can’t believe I told him that our kiss didn’t matter. That just moved to the top of my “Lily’s stupidest decisions” list right above getting back together with Chris.
I sank down into a chair at the table, letting his note fall out of my hands onto the floor. I rested my head in my hands, letting the tears fall onto the confessional, blurring the ink so that it became unreadable.
What had I done?
A/N: Hooray! New chapter!! We're getting very close to the end! So sad....Never fear though! I may be back with a new story after this one! Hoorah! But for now, enjoy. More coming soon! I'd love to hear what you thought of it!
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