"When the world says, "Give up,"
Hope whispers, 'Try it one more time.' "
That evening, after Willow had gone to bed Remus got James, Sirius and Peter together to tell them about Snape’s attempt to reveal his secret and about Willow’s reaction. The boys were a mixture of fury at Snape and shock and respect at Willow’s words. They had never seen how people could judge werewolves on something that they had zero control over and affected them only once a month. The fact that Willow was of a like mind in this regards raised her higher in their esteem and made them even more determined to help draw her out of her shell.
Friday was a little awkward at first seeing as Remus felt he couldn’t return to the banal conversation they had shared before seeing as Willow now knew something so intensely personal about him. But Willow didn’t seem to take this point of view and she said nothing all breakfast except at the end when she said they should hurry to Potions.
Frustration was returning to Remus as they made their way into the dungeon classroom and he didn’t notice Snape’s avid staring as they entered. Willow noticed though and suddenly she felt angry. How dare he try and ruin Remus’ life when, out of all the people in this school, Remus was one of the least provocative towards him. Her anger pushed aside her reservations momentarily and she grabbed a hold of Remus sleeve to get his attention. He looked down at her, a curious expression on his face:
“Let’s sit over here today ok?” she asked as she lead him to the desk right behind Snape’s, and after a seconds pause she smiled hesitantly up at him.
Remus instantly beamed back at her, and catching a glimpse of Snape’s expression he understood exactly the statement she was making.
They didn’t spend much time together for the rest of the weekend seeing as Remus spent most of it in the Hospital Wing but Willow’s tiny gesture in Potions played on everyone’s’ minds, including Lily and Alice who didn’t know the reasoning behind it. They still shared the boy’s opinion about it though; Remus had made a tiny crack and it was up to the rest of them to try and take advantage of it. With that in mind Lily and Alice approached Willow on Sunday evening when she was reading in a corner of the common room.
Alice coughed nervously to get her attention, but when Willow looked up inquisitively at the pair, Alice lost her confidence and nudged Lily to talk. Rolling her eyes slightly at her friend’s ridiculous behaviour, Lily smiled at Willow and spoke;
“Hey Willow, sorry to disturb you when you’re reading, I know I hate it when some-one does it to me, but we were just wondering if we could propose something to you?”
Willow stared at the red-haired girl before her for a moment, before closing her book and making space for both of them to join her on the couch.
“Go ahead Lily” she said, her tone completely even and her face entirely indifferent.
Feeling a little irritated by this complete lack of interest Lily wasted no time on pleasantries.
“Well I’m not sure who you were planning on spending the next week with, but myself and Alice would like to ask you a favour. Neither of us particularly wants to be left alone when it’s the other’s turn at trying to get to know you, and we feel like you would probably have a much better time if we all hang out together. As in all three of us for this week, rather than Alice one week and myself the next.” She let out in one big breath.
Alice and she had discussed this for hours the night before and they had decided that this would be their best shot at cracking Willow. It would be much easier to involve her in conversations that weren’t entirely focused on her; and to tell the truth Lily had a slightly ulterior motive for suggesting the idea.
Willow tilted her head at the girls in front of her and appeared to give the suggestion some serious thought for a few minutes. Honestly though she had made up her mind almost before Lily finished talking. She had been dreading the weeks with Lily and Alice, not because she disliked them anymore than the rest, but because she felt they would find it the hardest to sit in silence. She had had disastrous images of Lily losing her temper at her lack of response, or awkward silences with Alice where the tension could be served on a plate it was so thick. So she had absolutely no problem with this idea but it amused her to see Lily anxiously waiting for a response. Alice was clearly hoping she would agree too, but Lily seemed to desperately want an affirmative answer.
The reason for this came to her suddenly, and unable to help herself she smirked at Lily.
“Sure, I’ve got no problem with that plan girls. I guess it means you won’t be left to the mercy of the Marauders when Alice was meant to be with me though, huh Lily? James will be devastated.”
With that extremely out-of-character, cheeky response Willow picked up her book and headed out the portrait hole.
She left Alice and Lily gaping at each other. Slowly though, when the shock had worn off, smiles appeared on both their faces and the same notion appeared to both of them; it seemed Willow had a sense of humour after all, and it wasn’t buried as deep as they would have thought.
The next morning began much the same as it had with Remus. Willow sat in her usual place at the end of the table and Lily and Alice joined her there. They were sitting in a pretty companionable silence when they were disturbed by movement from the Hufflepuff table. Willow turned in time to see people jumping out of the way as pumpkin juice spread all down a section of the table.
All except one girl.
Oblivious to the juice dripping onto her lap the blonde fifth year stared at the letter before her, back frozen and stiff. What little Willow could see of her face was empty of all emotion except extreme confusion. Eventually one of her friends came over to her and asked what was wrong. At this, she seemed jolted back to reality and looking down at the puddle in her lap her expression cracked and as she turned to her friend Willow could see utter despair on her face. She threw herself into her friend’s arms, sobbing loudly, to the complete bewilderment of the girl. Slowly she coaxed her wailing friend from the hall, followed by a small group of Hufflepuffs with worried expressions.
Lily and Alice turned to each other with curious looks;
“Wonder what’s happened Marissa?” Lily asked, knowing the girl as one of the newly appointed prefects.
Alice shrugged and said she hadn’t a clue before turning back to her toast. But Willow couldn’t continue eating. The look on Marissa’s face had torn her in two and she was convinced she knew what had happened. So pushing her plate away she looked up at Lily and muttered;
“Didn’t you see her face? It is pretty clear what’s happened. Someone she loved has died.”
Both Lily and Alice exchanged a confused glance before Lily asked;
“How can you know that? She didn’t say a thing.”
There was a pause for a moment as Willow contemplated the wood of the Gryffindor table then without looking up she replied,
“Because I know what it’s like to lose a loved one, I understand the absolute confusion and grief that consumes you, and that’s what I saw on her face. I don’t need words to explain that kind of pain to me.”
Nothing was said for a moment. Then, reaching across the table, Lily gently placed her palm on the back of Willow’s hand. Alice followed suit seconds afterwards and both of them looked at Willow with sympathy in their eyes.
But not pity. And not understanding. Because Willow didn’t deserve the first and they had no right to assume the second.
Willow recognised that they realised this, and she felt a sudden upsurge of affection for both the girls before her. She had thought they would attempt to comfort her with useless and trite words that people always use in situations they can’t relate to. But neither of them had tried that, it had clearly never crossed their minds to try and empathise with death when neither had experienced it.
So she didn’t move her hand. And she didn’t stare at them indifferently. Instead she placed her right hand on top of Alice’s and she looked at both of them with gratitude shining in her eyes. Her perceptions of her roommates had changed, and she suddenly felt ashamed for assuming that they would have acted any other way upon learning of her loss.
That moment set the tone for the rest of the week and it was enjoyed by all three, however reluctantly by Willow. Neither Lily nor Alice pressurized her into joining their easy conversation; rather they asked her for opinions here and there and slowly drew her into the topic. Theirs wasn’t the mindless chatter of some of the more empty-headed girls in their year as Willow discovered. Instead they talked about career options, class difficulties, and events in the magical and muggle worlds. Willow learned that Lily wanted to work in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement at the Ministry. She had serious issues with the way some wizards were allowed to treat muggles and was determined to do something about it. And Alice, quiet little Alice harboured thoughts of joining the Aurors. Willow was shocked when she heard that but listening to Alice talk about the atrocities occurring in the world outside Hogwarts and hearing the anger and resolve in her voice, she had little doubt that she certainly had the commitment for the job, whatever about the temperament as of yet.
The Sunday night of their week together Willow came into the common-room, having spent most of the evening in the library working on an essay for Potions. She could see Sirius in the corner with Remus and Peter, seemingly doing the same thing and as she walked past he glanced up at her and teasingly said;
“Hey Willow, that your completed essay in your hand there? Don’t suppose you feel like casually leaving it on this table eh?” Peter snorted and muttered something that sounded like:
“....knew you hadn’t a clue what you were doing,” prompting Remus to smirk down at his own homework.
Willow just gripped the paper tighter and caustically replied;
“I’m afraid not Black, I have a feeling if I do that I might find a duplicate copy soon floating around. And besides, I wouldn’t want to deprive you of the opportunity to learn something about love potions. It might teach you something about how to hold onto a girlfriend.”
Both Remus and Peter stared up at Willow, shocked to hear something so cruel come out of her mouth. But Sirius just smiled. He recognised the barb as the payback it was seeing as earlier that day he’s shamelessly used Willow.
Sirius had the unfortunate fate to always fancy girls who didn’t really see any appeal in dating him. Despite the fact that half the school loved him, he seemed to always been drawn to the few who didn’t! As a result he hadn’t had much success in asking girls out and had maybe 3 girlfriends for longer than a month because the rest either said no straight away or having said yes, realised they couldn’t put up with him and quickly dumped him. So when he saw his current fancy Claire Edgeworth searching for a book in the library he grabbed the chance to be her knight in shining armour, or at least her librarian in a Gryffindor uniform. He asked her what she was looking for and then frantically searched throughout the library for the book. He finally spotted a copy, at Willow’s desk. Not only at her desk in fact, but actually open in front of her as she copied something down from it. Pausing for only a second he sneaked up behind her and reaching over her head, grabbed the book.
“Be right back, don’t worry, only need it for a minute. Thanks, Bye!” He garbled as he sped off to Claire leaving Willow speechless and too shocked to react.
He never actually came back with the book so, still smiling at Willow’s anger, he reached into his bag and stretched it out to her. She glared at him and snatched it from his grasp, then turned and headed towards the two girls in the corner.
They didn’t even ask what had happened, seeing the annoyed frown on Willow’s face was enough warning so they just kept chatting away. It took Willow a few moments to calm down from her temper and pay attention to the conversation, but when she did she realised they were talking about Frank, Alice’s boyfriend.
“He asked me the other day what I see happening to us when we leave here. And I told him about what I wanted to do and joining the Aurors and stuff and he smiled sadly and said he meant what would happen to us as a couple when we left. I hadn’t a clue what to say and told him that I hadn’t honestly thought about it. He kind of just looked at me and said that maybe I should start.”
Alice finished saying to Lily as Willow finally tuned in, and the worry in her voice was transparent. She took a breath before continuing;
“I mean I don’t see us splitting up or anything like that but I’m only 17 for Merlin’s sake! Too young to be thinking about spending the rest of my life with one person or about making a commitment like living together. At least that’s what my mum says. But I’m not so sure anymore. Look at what’s happening around us” she glanced at Willow sadly, then went on;
“People are dying all over the place and not just trained Ministry workers; innocent people who have nothing to do with any war. We live in a world where you can wake up one morning and spend the last day of your life alone without even realising it. There mightn’t be time to wait anymore.”
Lily had a sombre expression on her face as she surveyed her friend and Willow found herself placing a reassuring hand on Alice’s shoulder. She smiled forlornly at both of them then whispered;
“I guess it wasn’t until I thought about how much it would hurt to lose Frank that I realised the danger we’re all in. Whether you decided to join the fight or to bury your head in the sand; there’s no real escape. And I think if I’m going to be spending my life fighting something that causes so much pain, then I’m going to need something to keep me sane. Or someone. So I found him yesterday and told him I’d decided what was going to happen when we left school. We’re going to find an apartment together, we’re going to join the Aurors, we’re going to fight any kind of evil that decides to rear its head. And we’re never, ever going to forget that each day may be our last.”
She said the last words with strength in her voice and Willow was amazed at the transformation in the mousey quiet girl she had perceived before. Looking at both girls she realised she had failed in her determination to keep herself closed off from them. She knew that if something was to happen to Alice, after hearing her talk like that, or if Lily was to die before being allowed to make the difference she wanted, that it would affect her. It would hurt her. And cursing herself for her stupidity in allowing them in so close she glanced at them both before quietly stating.
“You’re right Alice. No-one has the luxury of time anymore. And you need to grasp your life now, and live it whatever way you want to before it runs out. But even though there isn’t much time, I need to ask you to be patient with me. I’m trying, and you’re helping in ways you can’t even imagine, to heal myself enough to allow friendship in. But it’s difficult and goes against everything I’ve built up for the past 6 years. Don’t give up on me, but don’t expect miracles.”
A/N: OK. I know I've been ages and I'm not even sure if there are still people reading this but I had one of the worst writer's blocks of my life. I lost count of the amount of attempts I made on this chapter that lead me to literally screaming in frustration. I refuse to hand up something half-done, that I myself don't like and so that is why this has been almost 2months coming. I really am sorry and I just hope that people haven't been completely turned away by the long delay. I think I've passed the rough patch though and it should never take this long again! Please review if you read this, even if just to let me know you haven't given up on the story! :S xx