Author's Note: Hello again! Just a quick note before you start...this chapter is a little different than the others...but I hope you like it anyways!
Lunch in the great hall seemed more mundane than usual today. There was absolutely nothing happening at all. Marcie was off somewhere, either snogging some new guy or actually studying. Joey and Kevin went off to play quidditch. Even the Marauders weren't present—probably off plotting something somewhere, so I couldn't even distract myself with them.
Which really was a pity, because I was getting quite fond of those Marauders. Even Peter didn't seem as much of a misfit in the group anymore now that I've gotten to know him a little better. And aside from that, there were definite improvements in my relationships with the other three blokes in the group:
1) I had stopped giving Remus the cold shoulder some time ago, figuring Marcie's way of doing things might be more effective (he seemed to be getting jealous… or at least really annoyed with her… or something).
2) I was getting better at being around Sirius without having 101 (he'd always be 101 to me, no matter what his actual name was) making stupid, snarky and sappy comments…by which I mean I was getting pretty good at just accepting them and letting them go.
3) James didn't hate me anymore for putting Sirius into a 'maybe-nows-the-time-to-get-the-straight-jacket-out' state of mind…twice, apparently.
(Yeah, that’s right. A numbered list… I so totally went there.)
Actually, James was a pretty cool guy. And totally head over heels for Evans. I mean, obviously I knew he had liked her, but spending all this time with the Marauders made me realize just how much he liked her. Instinctively, I felt bad for him. Evans should give him a chance. He really was a good guy, and not at all like I thought he was. Kind of like Sirius, actually: he was different upon getting to know him. Mind you, still annoying and arrogant, which pretty much meant that things seemed to get back to normal between the two of us after the duel.
Well, as normal as they could be, considering my recent revelations with respect to a certain someone. And as if controlling my feelings and actions associated with those recent revelations wasn’t hard enough, Sirius kept up a steady stream of jokes and comments that at times seemed to imply something more, if only to drive me insaner. His friends' knowing looks and smirks only made things worse, and while he was certainly able to ignore them, I wasn't. I wanted to know their inside joke too. And he had adopted a new motto of 'this-truth-thing-is-pretty-cool'. Which was stupid of him considering how often he did knowingly and sometimes purposely lie. And—
I nearly fell off the bench as James Potter sat down right beside me and yelled directly into my ear.
He grinned. "How's lunch?"
"Boring," I replied without a thought.
James seemed genuinely thrilled with my answer, for some reason. "Great! So you wouldn't mind something to shake this monotony up, right?"
I didn't trust myself to answer that question, so I just raised my eyebrows in response. Thankfully, Sirius hadn't shared my little secrets with any of his friends, and James wasn't observant enough (with regards to myself, that is, because he observed and noticed everything Lily Evans did) to notice my strange conversation habits. I mean, he probably just assumed I was insane and left it at that.
Not that I cared to correct him anyways. If that was what he was thinking, he really wasn't that far off the mark.
"Great! Let's go then."
I didn't even have time to utter a syllable in protest, as he grabbed my hand and dragged me out of the great hall. He let go as soon as he made sure I was following.
Déjà vu, much? And seriously, was it just the Marauders, or did all boys have some weird obsession with grabbing other peoples arms and dragging them around?
It hit me then that James was acting rather strangely. Because as much as I had gotten to know him better, I didn't think we were on the 'drag-me-along-with-your-evil-plan' level of acquaintance/friendship yet. And yes, it absolutely was an evil plan. Why else would James not say anything about it? It had to be an evil scheme or plan of some kind. An evil plan which I still knew nothing about. Though, this was James. How evil could he get?
So what was the reason for picking me up randomly and dragging me off? Images of the James interrogation with respect to depressed-sullen-Sirius flashed through my mind, and I suddenly grew apprehensive. Well, more apprehensive; Sirius had been acting strangely recently again…but I swear, I didn't do anything…
I mean, I thought I had been pretty good with acting normally around him the past two weeks, even if my heart did decide to beat faster and my eyes had trouble tearing themselves away from his…
"This doesn't have anything to do with Sirius, does it?"
"Hmmm? Oh… no. This is me."
That answer barely made sense, yet I somehow understood it. "Where is everybody then, that it's just you? Aren't you guys like, glued at the seams?"
"Well Sirius and Peter are sleeping…tired, you know…Remus is away again…Mom, you know," he was saying, though it didn't seem like he was wholly focused on what he was saying.
"Er…and where are we going?"
"A secret place."
I scoffed, "You mean the room of requirement?"
James looked at me curiously, and then smirked, "I'm guessing Sirius showed it to you."
"He did," was my answer, but James' stupid smirk and tone of voice had left me thinking some more. I definitely did not like the look and sound of things right now. See, it was at moments like these where I start cursing the Marauders and their existence to hell and back again, and start to deny I ever said anything semi-good about them. Hate did like having his share of the fun, especially since nowadays with 101 ruling everything he was severely lacking in Voice action. "And why are we going there?"
He thought about it, and then said, "I need your help."
It surprised me how strangely honest James always…well, usually was. From the little time I've actually known him, he barely ever lied. Sure, sometimes he never said the whole story, but he didn't make me feel those crazy papercuts. Unlike some people who seemed to love lying if only to make me mad…
Before I knew it, we were already at the room of requirement. James had definitely taken some sort of short cut here, and was already pacing before the wall. He pulled me inside the room as soon as the door appeared.
I looked around. The room wasn't the same as the one Sirius brought me to when we had first started our project. I liked it though. It was decorated with posters and pictures, had bunk beds in a corner, and armchairs and sofas around a fireplace, much like a common room. I figured this must be the Marauder's Lair. But it was nice, and cozy. And strangely enough, and made me feel safe and…all fluffy and warm on the inside.
I turned to look at James, who started to act strangely. He didn't want to meet my eyes, but he was staring at me. His arms seemed to be flailing, though in reality he was probably just beating them against his sides. Overall, my mind seemed to imagine him as some hungry wolf who had just dragged a sheep back to his cave. Me being the sheep.
I did mention somewhere that my imagination is a bit overactive, didn't I?
How overactive? You know Stephen King? Right, not like him. Try his character Paul Sheldon's (so vivid!) imagination, from Misery. It was something like that.
"Er…James…this is a little weird. Do you mind explaining, or should I be trying to get out while I still can? You look like you're gonna jump me any second."
Haha, and how true it was.
"Sorry," he said, grinning. "I'm just thinking how best to explain myself. And this is actually more awkward than I thought it would be…"
Alright, he was really starting to creep me out. But he looked really agitated, and shy, so I tried the only thing I knew. "Is this about Lily?"
He looked up with grateful eyes, and nodded.
"Ok…so you need me to help you…with…" I tried to start his sentence for him.
James took a breath, and then said, "I thought of a new plan to get Lily to fall for me but I need to practice and you're the only girl I know."
I blinked as he said it really fast. I caught all of it, but only the last part seemed to stick out in my mind. "I'm the only girl you know?"
"Well, the only girl I know that won't get offended by me being stupid or something, and the only girl I know that I could feel comfortable doing something like this with, even though I've only really known you for a couple of weeks," he replied. And then tacked on, "You're also pretty tough."
His strange explanation was all true, and pulled on my heartstrings, while my mind (Logic, in particular) was yelling things like:
Comfortable doing what?!
Offended by what?!
Ask him, you stupid girl!
"James, I don't mind helping you—I mean, provided it's nothing too… weird—but unless you start making more sense my body will take over and run away before you have a chance to explain your very creepy behaviour," I said.
Which made him laugh. That was good. Apparently I knew how to lighten situations. I didn't know the truth could do that. Interesting. Usually the truth makes the people run in the other direction…except for Sirius who decided to chase me down…but then again that was probably because I had run away in the first place.
Though I had been completely serious at running away right now. My brain is deranged, because honestly, the ESCAPE LOBES are the best functioning section. And right now, half of it was trying to interpret James' stalker-ish behaviour and determine whether I really was in danger, while the other half schemed out an escape route completely independently of the other half, just in case.
"Sorry, I've been stupid," James said after he stopped laughing. "Don't run away though, alright? I really would appreciate your help."
"I know," I said with a smile. Good boy, James. Keep up the honesty.
"Alright, so what I want to do, is pick up Lily – like, physically pick up – in that way married people do, and then confess again, while looking straight into her eyes…"
I blinked. "That, surprisingly, sounds really sweet."
"You think?" James asked hopefully, his eyes twinkling. It seemed as if he hadn't been completely convinced of his plan.
I nodded. "But how's the confessing going to work if she'll be trying to jump out of your arms?"
"Ah, I'm not worried about that," he said dismissively, not disclosing any further details. I assumed he had some plan for it. "The thing I am worried about, is actually picking her up."
I stared at him. For at least a minute.
"I mean, I've seen people do it before, but I've never done it, and it would be really horrible if I like, dropped her or something…"
Oh, he was so adorable, I couldn't help but smile. "But it wouldn't be horrible if you dropped me?"
At least this time he could tell I was joking, but again looking thankful that I had picked up on his request without him actually having to verbalize it. He grinned back, "Like I said before, you probably wouldn't get offended by me dropping you or by letting me practice."
"Well, you're right there," I replied with a grin. "But I do expect you to apologize profusely and mend me up if you do drop me, which honestly you shouldn't…I mean, you're pretty tall and buff, and I've seen way skinnier blokes do the trick."
He clapped his hands together. "Excellent. So, from what I gather, you're supposed to put your hands around my neck—"
"But I'm Lily remember? She probably wouldn't willingly do something like that," I said, and then quickly tagged on, "No offense. I just mean, you'll probably need to do it yourself and just assume that she'll instinctively grab hold of your neck when you lift her up."
"That…actually makes sense," James said thoughtfully. "I knew I chose you for a reason."
"Damned right." I walked a bit closer to him, estimating the space James and Lily usually stand apart from each other, and to my surprise, found that it was quite close indeed. James stared at me. "Well? I'm not going to jump into your arms, you know."
"Right." He started to bend down, and hooked his left arm under my knees, and his right around my back. It certainly did feel weird. "Ready?"
He heaved me up pretty swiftly, though rather carefully, and cradled me against his body. My arms had indeed, wrapped around his neck as soon as I felt myself being lifted up. I looked at him, and was for a second shocked at how close our faces were. I drew back a bit.
"That was surprisingly easy," he said with a grin. "And, you're not that heavy."
"Oh, were you expecting me to be too heavy?" I asked, mockingly offended. "Alright, put me down. You need to practice that again. I assume it'll need to be swifter and quicker if you want her to be caught off guard."
He nodded, and let my legs fall to the ground, setting me down gently.
"So I'm yelling at you Potter!" I started to say, getting rather into the game. It was, as he had said, a break from the monotony and rather fun. "You're so annoying! And egoistic! And stubborn and weird!"
Too bad I couldn't say I hated him. That would have been more Evans-like.
"Wow, I never knew you felt that way about me," James said with a wink. I tried to contain my grin.
"Well I do! And what's more—Ack!"
Before I knew it, James had tried to quickly pick me up, but lost his grip midway and let me slip to the floor. "Oh crap! Sorry Andy!"
I laughed. This was barely a fall. I had fallen from a lot worse, after all. I stood up, and brushed myself off. "No worries. That was actually a good try, I think. Let's go again."
He nodded, and this time he started. "You want to go again? Whoa, I know I'm irristible, but go easy on me."
I suddenly realised that Lily must either really, really hate James for her to be able to keep a straight face through a comment like that, or she really did have problems keeping a straight face and decided to yell it off. "Oh please! Don’t tell me other girls actually fall for that?"
Yeah, yelling seemed to work.
"Well let me tell you, Potter, I will not fall for that or for anything else! Got it?! Because you—"
Again I was taken by surprise, but this time I didn't fall. James made sure of it. My arms were locked around his neck again, and I was looking at him. "Cool! It worked!"
"Yeah it did!" he replied, just as enthusiastically.
"So what are you going to do from here, assuming Lily somehow doesn't jump out of your arms?"
James cleared his throat and looked me straight in the eyes. It was alarming, the intensity of his gaze. All of the sudden, his face took on a different look to it, seemingly more mature. "I love you, I really do. And I don't care if you hate me. Please, just give me a chance. I'm not the guy you think I am, though I am absolutely crazy about you. Will you go out with me?"
I was in shock. That confession was…so heartfelt. Surely Evans would see that. I mean, if he made me feel like that and I wasn't even the girl he was doing this for… For a second or two, I almost believed he was confessing to me.
Apparently, somebody else did too.
"Well, that's an interesting turn of events," a voice said from near the door.
We both whipped around to face it, and I felt my breath hitch in my throat, unexpectedly.
"Hey Sirius," James said, trying very hard to be non-chalant. That was proving difficult, considering I was still in his arms. I wondered at the look he was giving Sirius though, and the glare he was receiving in return. It was almost like some silent conversation they were having. Bah! I wanted in on it too!
"I thought you were in love with Lily?" he asked, sounding slightly…mad. Which he also looked rather mad too, though I couldn't understand why.
Yes, you very well can.
SHUT IT YOU!
He scoffed, "But since she's not going for you, you decided to get a little action in between?"
James only blinked, as I gasped. "Wow you're such a jerk."
He looked at me, his eyes making me cringe into James arms, but I didn't back down.
"And you know it's true," I added, challenging him. Maybe him knowing I can't lie would at least solve this little hitch. What was bugging me was Sirius' very strange behaviour.
"It's not what it looks like," James started, but I interrupted him when Sirius scoffed again.
"James, can you put me down," I said calmly. James nodded, and brought my feet to the ground. I immediately marched over to Sirius, and stood in front of him, silently at first. I was waiting for him to ask a question. But he only glared at me. "Well, aren't you going to ask me what we were doing? Or how it really isn't what it looked like?"
"Isn't it?" he retorted, staring down at me.
I didn't back down, and fiercely responded, "No."
He thought about it, still staring at me. After a glance at James, said, "So what was James doing confessing to you?"
"I was pretending to be Lily while James practiced his scheme for making Lily fall for him," I replied, for once actually enjoying all the truth that poured out of my mouth. As if to show him that I had nothing more to say, I kept my mouth visibly open. And for once, there was nothing more that I had to say. He seemed to understand that too.
Though James looked a bit confused at my fish-like behaviour.
Sirius looked at him again, and James nodded. After a few more tense seconds, Sirius laughed, "Should've seen that coming. Sorry James."
"S'alright, mate," James said, already sounding like the incident had already passed into non-existence. I seemed to have missed something. Stupid silent conversations! Why did they have to understand each other so well?! How do they expect me to catch on without them saying anything?!
"That's it?" I asked them.
James looked at me with a grin, "Well yeah. We're friends, you know, and we understand each other and stuff like that."
"So, enlighten me, James," Sirius interrupted me. "What is your plan this time?"
James' grin only grew wider. "Well, I'll sweep Lily off her feet into my strong embrace, stare her into the eyes and confess my undying love."
"Sweep Lily off her feet? Literally?" Sirius asked with interest, and receiving a nod in return.
Before I knew what was happening, I was in the air again, and being cradled against a strong body. Except this was different. This body felt confident with his actions, and almost smug about something. I turned around to face him, and again was surprised at how close our faces were, though it seemed like Sirius was leaning in a bit.
Oh come on, you like the closeness. Wouldn’t you just like to pull him in even closer and ki—
"You mean like this?" Sirius said to James, but still looking at me, his lips turning into that familiar dazzling smile. My heart started doing that weird thing 101 called a fluttering.
"Yeah! Yeah exactly!" James replied happily. I couldn't see him, but I could hear from his voice that he was grinning stupidly. I must have really missed something.
"You know, Thorse, you're surprisingly light," Sirius said with a wicked smirk.
If it wasn't for the fact that I knew he knew that I knew he was lying, I would have been slightly offended by his comment. After all, James had mentioned it too. And as un-vain as I might be, no girl liked being told she's heavy…
Or looks heavier than she is, for that matter.
"Well if it bothers you, you can put me down." I didn't even know my voice could achieve such strange tonalities. Actually I was surprised I was even able to say something that didn’t involve the words ‘kiss me already’.
He laughed, as did James. "No, I don't think I will."
"I don't think he will either," James put in, still laughing.
I frowned and muttered, "Oh I know he won't. But can you please put me down?"
Because really, all this closeness was making me weird…and I really didn't need to start blushing in his arms or something just as stupidly girly.
"Oh you said please!" Sirius trilled, rocking me back and forth, obviously having fun. "Let me think then…No."
"Black! Don't make me hurt you – you know I can," I said, trying to sound menacing, which was difficult considering most of my brain power was dedicated to keeping me properly functioning and not melting away in his embrace, and confessing everything to him right here and now, as 101 kept suggesting I do.
"Why, does this bother you?" he asked, sounding slightly intrigued.
I bit my lip. That answer had been dangerously close to coming out, and I didn't want to know what it was. I was hoping it would be a yes – because technically it did bother me – but there was no telling anymore. Not when it came to him.
I wasn't even sure what the hell that meant.
He was waiting for my answer, though surely he knew that I wouldn't be replying. He didn't give up though, and just kept staring at me. I turned my face away, unable to look into his eyes (without doing something rash) any longer, and looked at James pleadingly.
He seemed to notice my agitation but didn't quiet interpret my look correctly. "Just say it doesn't bother you, Thorse. You'll make him happy."
Time seemed to stop as I realized James wasn't joking, though his tone was light. And he wasn't lying. My brain seemed to explode into a million pieces right then, because everything that had happened within the past five minutes made absolutely no sense to me.
What did it all mean?!
Though it was probably only a second of a pause, it seemed like forever before Sirius started laughing his casual laugh, and put me down on the ground.
"Well I'll leave you guys to your practicing," he said. "I gotta go eat something anyways."
And with that, he left, leaving me stunned behind him, still very confused.
"Uhh well…actually I think we're done, Thorse. Thanks," James said, and made to exit behind his friend. He seemed to have notice something just went horribly askew.
Luckily for me, I was closer to the door, and blocked his exit. I looked at him. "What did you mean, by saying that reply would make him happy?"
James took off his glasses and made a big show of cleaning the lenses with his shirt as he replied, "Well…you know, Sirius' ego…he thinks he's all suave with girls…wouldn't be able to handle knowing some girl wasn't comfortable in his arms…"
Interesting. He was telling the truth, but his silly behaviour gave it away. That, and his reply didn't quite answer my question.
"Yeah," he concluded, putting his glasses back on. I cringed, but he didn't seem to notice. "Thanks again, Andy."
He got out of the room rather quickly, and I heard his footsteps die down outside the hallway. It sounded like he was running. I wonder, where was he running to? Or was he running to catch up with Sirius?
And why did he lie to me?!
And why did I feel like, like…like this?!
Don't even think about saying anything, 101!
Author's Note: So...what do you think? I know Sirius doesn't make much of an appearance in this chapter but I wrote this out way way long ago and just had to include it, so I worked it in. No worries, Sirius will be back in the next (and most likely last) chapter.
Thanks to everyone reading and reviewing! I really appreciate all the feedback, and I'll love you even more if you review again!
Now...why did Sirius run away? What's Andy gonna do about it? And are they ever finally gonna kiss?! Stay tuned to find out.
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