Chapter 14 : They Call It Surprise
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16 – They Call It Surprise
I wasn’t eating. Not that I wasn’t hungry, I hadn’t even had breakfast that day. But every time I tried Petunia giggled of something Vernon said and she touched his hand with such sweetness. Then my stomach would give a twist and I dropped the fork yet again. Everyone would look at me and I’d apologise with a low voice, looking down at my untouched lunch. Then I’d take another few minutes to control my stomach and by that time Petunia would laugh again and it’d all start over.
I wasn’t ill. I wasn’t warm, throwing up or sweaty, but my stomach hurt a little once in a while, and it was enough to make me lose the appetite. I wanted to eat, I really did, but I just couldn’t force it down.
I knew why, of course. The departure from Hogwarts hadn't been fun. James barely acknowledged my existence even though we had nearly bumped into each other. He hadn't even cared to apologise, but neither had I, of course. Apparently we both refused to speak to each other now, which, I admit, I didn't care that much about. Or...
I hated to admit it, but I was a little sad it was over. Not that I liked James, no way, it was something different which made me miss him now. Or I was sad, it was hard to tell. It could be both. But one thing was for sure, the thought of never kissing James again, made my stomach hurt.
“Are you all right?” My mum touched my arm, making me look at her. “You haven’t had a single bite.”
I shrugged. “I’m...” Fine wouldn’t be a fitting word. “I don’t feel well,” I stated honestly.
She touched my forehead. “Maybe you should go lie down. You’re not warm. Does your head hurt?”
“No, it’s fine,” I muttered. “Megan will be here shortly and she’ll kill me if I won't come tonight.”
“Your friend from school?” Petunia addressed me for the first time that day. I nodded. “You won’t be staying?” She sent me a glance.
“No,” I said, though smiling at the thought of Megan meeting Vernon, messing things up. “We'll be at her place the whole night. Don't worry.”
“Yes, Lily, about that,” my dad said slowly. “This party you’re going to...”
“Yes?” I looked at him and my mum.
“What was it again?” she asked. She was frowning and her mouth was pulled a little to the left – her concerned face.
I took a deep breath. “Mum, it's not even a party. I'm simply going to Megan's for New Year's. Her parents will be there and everything.” My mum didn't look convinced, so I lied, wanting her to feel better. “Remus will be there. You know Remus, you like him, remember?”
“Ahh, yes.” She smiled. “Such a nice boy, and very polite. Lily why don’t you get together with him? You would look so good together. He’s a great match for you.”
I rolled my eyes. “No, mum,” I sighed. “Remus is really sweet. But he’s... just a friend.” And that easily a lie could be turned into a bug.
“But you could ask him to dinner some time.” She looked at me, almost as if hoping by that little comment I’d start dating Remus.
I imagined for a second how that would look; Remus and I holding hands, standing in front of my parents; my mum’s pleased look; my dad’s calculating glance at him; Remus shaking their hands; Petunia’s astounded face; James praising my mum’s cooking, making her blush.
Remus praising my mum’s cooking, making her blush. Where did that come from?
I looked at my mum, absentminded, rubbing my stomach. “Yes?”
“Just think about it, okay?”
“Oh, yeah. I- I’ll think about it.” I nodded.
The doorbell rang and I jumped up from my seat and ran out of the kitchen. I flung the door open and dragged Megan inside without a word. I hugged her.
“Oh!” she laughed. “I’m glad to see you to.”
“Save me!” I hissed. “My mum is trying to set me up with Remus.”
“Oh! Is he here too?” She looked over my shoulder.
I shook my head. “That doesn’t stop her. Are we going?” I grabbed my coat.
“Yeah.” She quickly ran to the kitchen and stuck her head inside. “Bye, Mr and Mrs Evans, Petunia and... Person-I-Don’t-Know. Have a nice day!” She ran back to me and grabbed my arm with one hand and my bag with the other. “Come on.”
I closed the door after us and lead us around the house to a hidden place from which we could disapparate. I looked at her. “Thank Merlin,” I sighed. “I swear, if you hadn't come to pick me up, I wouldn't be at your house for another five hours.”
“But then you'd miss dinner,” she grinned. And then she was gone with a pop.
I fumbled with my wand, but then gripped tight and apparated to Megan's house. I opened my eyes to look at Megan.
“So was Petunia pissy as always?” she asked as we started walking towards the house, through the snow.
“Absolutely. I can't wait till she moves out.”
“Moving out? Was that her future husband? Was that Vernon?” Megan's eyes grew big.
I nodded. “She's moving out just before the wedding... I think,” I muttered.
“Ahh... When are they getting married?”
“I can’t remember the date. March or something. Don’t ask me such questions. I don’t know the answer.”
“That must be so hard.”
She pushed open the door into the house and let me pass her.
“Merlin!” I exclaimed. “Did someone throw up in here?”
She laughed and looked at the hall at the decorations. “No, my mum just went overboard. She loves New Year's.” She shook her head.
“Uhu.” I rubbed my neck and closed my eyes for a second (all the glittering had already started to hurt).
“Dinner's not before seven,” she said and grabbed my arm. “So that gives us plenty of time to do your hair.”
I groaned. “Can't we please just leave it as it is?” I let my hand run through my hair. A bit tangled maybe, but nothing a brush couldn't fix.
“Ohh, Lily, can I please, please, please, please just curl it? Please?”
“Will that make you stop saying please?”
She took that as a yes and dragged me upstairs towards her room.
It took her nearly two hours to finish with my hair (of course it wasn't all about the hair), so then I took a decision, and dragged her out in the cold, for a little walk. I wasn't a fan of New Year's Eve, but I was a fan of winter and snow. Therefore I also had to promise not to ruin the work she had done by starting a snow fight.
When we got back the house was filled with the warm smell of dinner, and somehow the appetite I hadn't really felt for a few days, returned, and a smile crept to my lips. And when we, a few hours later sat at the table, I was nearly bursting of hunger. If there was one woman that could cook fantastick dinners, it was Megan's mother. She was a genius and was far better than my own mother (though I didn't say this to my mother). And it seemed as if the whole of Megan's family were there. Her three aunts, four uncles, one great grandmother, two grandfathers, one grandmother and nine cousins. Her whole family indeed.
And despite the large number of people which all knew each other, and barely four who knew me, I felt at home. Megan's cousin, Ella sat across from me, and had since the start taken a great interest in me being a muggleborn witch, and had throughout the starter and the maincourse asked me a lot of questions, and by the time we had reached desert the subject had become football and muggles at Hogwarts in general.
“And you're the captain of this football team?” she asked, after we had talked about the great idea of putting such things on the schedule of the seventh-years.
“I try,” I said, going crimson. “I guess I could do better. I'm not good at the sport.”
Meagan leaned closer. “She's being modest, Ella. Lily is the best captain we could wish for. She's a fighter, and she believes in us. We couldn't want anyone better.”
“But...” Ella looked thoughtful. “I thought that football is for muggles as Quidditch is for wizards. Or am I wrong?”
“Not really,” I muttered. “It's just... well, I was never good at football. I find it interesting, and I have been to a few matches with my father, but I'm just not very athletic. Football is the greatest sport, and I doubt you can find a lot of muggles who does not know what football is. It's... I don't know. It's the biggest reason for a enormous get-together for muggles, I think.”
She smiled. “I really would love to overview a match sometime.”
“They're everywhere all the time. I'm sure you will see one once.”
Megan suddenly grabbed my arm. “Okay!” she exclaimed. “Now that we're done... Mum, is it okay if Lily and I go outside to watch some fireworks?”
Megan's mother nodded at us and I didn't even get to say a word before I was dragged out of the room into the hall. She threw my coat to me and grabbed her own. Slowly, I started to put my own no.
“Come on, Lily,” she said, her voice filling with more excitement for each second. A hint of concentration flickered across her face as she fought with an entangled scarf. “You only get to see fireworks once a year.”
“Technically,” I muttered, “It happens two times. 31st of December and 1st of January. It's not both sides of midnight.”
She rolled her eyes just as the doorbell rang. “Open the door, will you? I'm busy.”
With a grin I turned and opened the door, stopping midway as eight grins met me. Surprice. This could not be true.
“I still can't understand how you could keep this secret from me,” I muttered to her as we walked down the road in the middle of the crowd.
“I still can't understand how you can have been deaf enough not to notice me inviting our classmates to drop by here,” she answered. “Seriously, I haven't been talking about anything else the last day of school, probably.”
That would probably explain it.
“But the Marauders too?”
“We're good friends,” she said. “Just because you and James don't get along, it shouldn't ruin it for the rest of us.”
“Blah, blah, blah,” I muttered, studying the back of James' head.
After I had opened the door to our classmates they had invaded the hall, which suddenly seemed too little. Luckily we had all decided to go for a walk in the cold with just a little less than an hour to midnight. I had avoided James' eyes on me in the hall, but suddenly being so close to me, had made me all squirm-ish and I had just wished to run away. Luckily out in the cold, I could create distance to him, which I took advantage of.
After the walk we all settled outside of Megan's house on a few benches Sirius and James pushed together. Peter and Sirius were firing off some small things they had gotten from only Merlin knows where. And most of them ended the light show with a loud bang, or one last blinding flash.
I stood up next to Angela and Daniel, talking, when a hand closed around my elbow and pulled me away. I didn't protest, but just let him drag me around the corner of the house, away from our classmates. He let go of my arm as soon as we were out of sight, probably sure that I wasn't going to run, and looked at me, frowning.
“What?” I asked, moving uncomfortably.
“Look,” he said. “I don't know what's going on between you and James, but something is up and I want it to stop.”
I looked at him, not really sure how to respond. “Remus, how do-”
He lifted a hand. “Don't worry, Lily. I'm just observing, and I know something is wrong between you. You're not yourself and neither is James. Really, it's bothering him, I can see. We can't have that. So, please, fix it.”
My mind was still searching for words, so I stuttered my way through the next. “But... h- how... what's... I'm... come again?”
He rolled his eyes. “Whatever has happened between you and James, fix it! Now!”
“Umm,” I muttered feebly. “Okay.”
“I promise.” I rolled my eyes, but I don't think he could see that in the dark.
He smiled. “Thank you.”
He walked back, leaving me standing in the dark, all surprised and speechless, still not quite sure what had just happened. Did Remus know? Or did he just think that we had had a very serious discussion? No, he clearly knew. He knew. Oh, dear.
I took a few seconds, taking it all in before returning to the group with a smile. No one seemed to have taken notice of us being gone. Which would just make it easier for me to get away with talking a little to James.
Standing completely motionless, I kept my eyes on him, just waiting. I could catch him when he left the group at some point. If he ever did that. But really, I didn't want to. I didn't want to talk to him, but truthfully, I had known this would come. Just not this soon. It made me mad at Remus. I couldn't say no to him. He had always been too nice to me, helping me out when I needed it, doing favours, plus he was always right... I owed it to him, I knew.
I took a few steps away from the group, feeling my pissy mood might start to rub off on the others. Which we couldn't have. Because then Megan would kill me. Which probably would not be the best way to celebrate New Year's.
A hand closed around my upper arm and I turned just enough to know that now James was the one, asking for my attention. “Can I talk to you?” he asked, but before I could answer he had dragged me away from the group to the exact spot where I had been standing with Remus just ten minutes earlier. “So?” he said, letting go.
“Can I count on you to stay or are you running of again before we get to talk about this?” He crossed his arms.
“That depends,” I said, crossing my arms as an imitation of him, “What are we going to talk about?”
He rolled his eyes. “You know... Lily, I don't know what you think I... what was going on. All I know is you suddenly acting nothing like you. Being a bitch - yes, I said that - and not wanted to talk to me. So please, tell me.”
“Tell you?” I asked. “Do you want me to tell you what my problem is? Why are you acting like you don't know, James?” I shook my head. “Never mind. I don't want to talk to you.”
I was on my way to leave when he grabbed my arm, pulling me back into a long kiss. I wanted to push away from him, I really did, but as I placed my hands on his chest, I couldn't get myself to it. The nasty feeling in my stomach had been replaced by a good feeling. The right feeling. And I let myself enjoy the moment. So he was the one to break away after a few seconds.
I took a deep breath, looking at him. “Why did you do that?”
“Because somehow, that seems like the only way to make you listen to me.” He licked his lips, frowning. “You were jealous, weren't you? That I was talking to Ava... Right?”
I looked away. “Why would I be that? It's not like we're together or anything. If you want to date her, you can do that. I don't care.”
“Yes, you do.”
I clenched my jaw, suddenly wanting to hit him or something. “Fine, yes. Maybe a little bit. But it takes two. And you started flirting around with that Ava girl. So go ahead, date her if you want to!”
“Okay, I didn't flirt with her!”
“Yes, you did. I'm not an idiot, James.”
“Merlin, Lily,” he sighed. “I don't... I...” He dropped his arms, took a few steps away from me and turned a little away. “Can I ever win with you?”
“What do you mean?” I asked tensely.
“What do I mean? Lily, can I win? We've basically tried everything. We've been somewhat close to friends once. You've hated me. I've liked you. We've fucked. We've been fighting again... Somehow none of that works for you, does it? There's always something there. Like you want to create problems. Like you want me to lose. Can I win with you?” He looked at me as he said the last thing. “Can I?”
I didn't know what to say. I had no answer answer and no matter how many times I searched my brain, I couldn't come up with something to say. I had nothing.
“Don't bother starting if you can't finish.”
“I don't know...”
He held up both of his hands. “I'm tired of this, Lily. It stops now. There's no in between. It's all or nothing. I don't want half of you, I want it all... or I want nothing. I can't stand being with you if you don't really want to be with me.” He breathed in deeply, sticking his hands into his pockets. “It's okay you don't have an answer now. But you should know that I can't do this anymore. I like you too much. So I'll be waiting for you... cause you're the girl for me, and I'm the boy for you. But no more doing it halfway.” He walked to my side, looking at me. “I wanna be with you, but not this way. It's too hard.”
And he left. Didn't see that one coming.
Half a second later, the bell of the church started ringing and the sky more or less exploded from the fireworks.
“Fantastic,” I muttered, turning to walk back. “Just fucking fantastic.”
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