Chapter 6 : Dear Universe, You Win
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I hope your summer’s going well…er, better than it started at least. I know you’re still upset about what happened with Alex and I wish I could say something, anything to make you feel better. Just say the word and I will hex his brains out, I don’t care how illegal it is. I guess you’re probably tired of talking about him, so I promise I won’t mention it again. I just… I hope you’re doing all right. Don’t take what he said too personally. Everyone else loves you just the way you are, especially Potter… kidding! I’m just kidding, please don’t send me a cursed hat for that. And I know you’re probably too busy at the shop to write back to your own best friend, but I’m taking your lack of response as a yes to you coming to stay here for the last week of holiday. See you soon!
XOXO - Scarlet
I smiled slightly at Scarlet’s letter and folded it back up, slipping it carefully back inside its envelope. I leaned over the counter, staring out the big front window at the boats that floated by on the river, golden in the evening sun.
Riverside Flower Shoppe, printed in bold red letters across the window impeded my view and I looked back down at the box full of letters sitting in front of me. I was trying to sift through the pile that I had accumulated over the summer, deciding which ones to save and which ones to toss…
Ok, I know you’ve gone all “troubled teen” on us, but I was kidding when I said I’d take your lack of response as a yes to you coming to stay. Can you please just owl me back already? Otherwise I’m going to think that that jungle of a flower shop your parents own has finally taken you prisoner and I’m going to come with a machete and rescue you from it’s flowery depths. Answer, pleeeease.
XOXO - Scarlet
A small giggle escaped my lips as I set this letter on top of her other one and tore open the envelope that had just arrived today.
Thank Merlin you FINALLY answered. I had my machete in hand, just so you know. You thought I was kidding, didn’t you? Anyways, Anna’s arriving tomorrow and we’ll meet you at the train station on Sunday when you get in. Can’t wait to see your beautiful, smiling face!
XOXO - Scarlet
I smirked and tossed this letter on top of the others. Anna had written to me all summer, too saying about the same stuff as Scarlet, hoping I was doing ok after what happened with Alex and saying she couldn’t wait to see me soon.
I had told Scarlet and Anna everything that had happened with Alex, from his list of reasons not to be with me right down to his infidelity. They were furious of course, and it took Anna and I quite a while to talk Scarlet out of marching down to the Hufflepuff dorm and beating the snot out of him right then and there.
Nothing like the loyalty of friends, eh?
I looked down at the counter, noticing one last letter that I hadn’t opened yet. I carefully ripped open the envelope and a small scrap of paper fell out.
This is getting stupid. Please just talk to me… I can’t believe I have to resort to writing letters when I’m just a few streets down from you. Will you please just talk to me already? I just want--
I crumpled the letter in my hand before I had even finished it and tossed it in the bin. I knew who it was from… It was from the same boy who kept showing up to the flower shop, begging for my forgiveness, but I still had no desire to speak to him.
“Lily?” a voice rang through the empty shop and I started, not even realizing how late it had gotten.
I scrambled out from behind the counter towards the staircase in the back corner of the shop that led upstairs to the apartment.
“Yeah?” I called up the dark staircase, and a figure appeared at the top.
“You can close up now.” It was my mum. “Dinner’s just about ready.”
I nodded and started flicking off the lights as I wandered around the shop, giving the flowers one last drink of water for the night. I locked the front door and flipped the “Sorry, we’re closed” sign over.
My parents had opened the Riverside Flower Shoppe when they got married twenty years ago and had run it fairly successfully ever since. Er, well, successfully enough to pay the bills I guess.
Makes sense now though, doesn’t it? That my parents would name my sister and I after flowers? Pretty clever, eh? No, I guess not…
The apartment upstairs was…. Well, small. Petunia and I had shared a room for a while but she took it over completely once I left for Hogwarts and she made it verv clear that I wasn’t welcome in that room when I got home after first year. So I moved my stuff up to the attic, and I’d been there ever since.
It wasn’t exactly a glamorous place to live – Petunia was horribly embarrassed of it—but it was good enough for me. It could be a bit crowded at times, especially when Petunia invited her monstrous boyfriend over. He took up half the kitchen. Seriously. I wish I were kidding.
But I mean, how many people can say, “oh yeah, I grew up in the attic of a flower shop on the river, what about you? A house, you say? My, how predictable…”
After I made sure all the lights were off and the plants were watered, I hopped up the rickety wooden stairs to our small flat, glad to be free of the intoxicating aroma of a hundred different kinds of flowers.
“Hey Lils,” my dad called from the stove. “How was the evening?”
“Slow,” I said, dropping down into a chair at the table.
“Well, that’s ok,” my dad shrugged and I suddenly felt bad that not more people wanted to buy flowers tonight.
“I’m sure it’ll pick up again tomorrow,” I reassured him, watching as Petunia silently entered the room and threw me a dirty look.
Awesome. It was going to be one of those nights.
“I saw Severus stop by the shop earlier,” Mum commented casually as she brought dinner to the table. “Is he having a good summer? I haven’t seen him around much…”
“He’s been busy,” I shrugged, already tuning myself out of this conversation. My parents didn’t know anything about what happened between us at school. I doubt they’d understand… and Petunia would probably only tell me that I deserved it either way.
“Have you finished packing yet?” My mum asked, taking the seat across from me at the table. Petunia sat begrudgingly next to me, folding her arms across her chest.
“Not yet,” I said biting my lip. I hadn’t even started packing yet. Oops…
“Well, don’t leave it for the last minute,” my dad said, settling in at the head of the table. “Your train leaves early tomorrow and you don’t want to miss it.”
“Yeah, then we’d be stuck with you all year,” Petunia grumbled, stabbing a potato rather violently with her fork.
“Give it a rest, Pet,” I muttered as my parents exchanged a resigned look. They had given up on getting Petunia and I to get along. It became very clear after my first year at Hogwarts that she wanted nothing to do with me.
“So do you have more of those, B.I.R.D. tests this year?” My dad asked and I snorted into my stew.
“They’re called O.W.L.s dad,” I laughed loudly and my dad smiled unapologetically. Across from me, Petunia’s scowl was starting to burn holes in the table.
“And no, we only have to take O.W.L.s once at the end of fifth year, and then I’ll have N.E.W.T.s at the end of seventh year,” I explained and then remembered something. “Oh!”
I hopped off my chair and the floorboards creaked loudly beneath my feet as I flitted across the room, grabbing one of the letters from my stack and holding it out to my mum.
“Speaking of O.W.L.s,” I said slowly as my mum took the envelope and pulled out the parchment inside. “I got my results today.”
My mum’s green eyes scanned the page, and she frowned slightly, looking up at me. “I don’t understand… What does ‘O’ stand for?”
My dad looked over and me, his face expectant.
“It means ‘outstanding’,” I said, trying very hard to ignore the daggers Petunia was shooting me with her eyes. “It’s the highest grade you can receive.”
“Lily,” My mum’s eyes twinkled slightly and I noticed that tears were forming in the corners. “You’ve gotten O’s in everything.”
I nodded eagerly and my mum jumped out of her chair, engulfing me in a tight hug.
“Oh, sweetheart,” She murmured, rubbing my back. “We’re so proud of you.”
“Proud of what,” Petunia hissed suddenly, slamming her fork down on the table. “That she can levitate frogs? That she can turn turtles into teacups? What the hell kind of accomplishments are those?”
“Petunia,” my dad said, using his warning voice.
“We do more than that, Tuney,” I said quietly from where I stood with mum.
“Of course you do,” Petunia spat, sliding her chair away from the table violently. The legs of the chair scraped against the already-scuffed floor. “That foul Snape boy talked about those dementor things that suck your soul out. Do you also learn how to do that?”
“Petunia, that’s enough,” My dad said forcefully. “Sit back down.”
Petunia ignored him and paced across the floor. “I’m sick of this family acting like what she does is so great… like what she does is normal. It’s not normal!”
I stared at Petunia, her silky blond hair falling into her thin face.
“It’s bollucks!” Petunia shouted, cutting me off. “I’m sick of lying to everyone about where you go during the year. I can’t even tell my boyfriend where my own sister really is.”
“You’ll be able to tell him eventually,” I stuttered, not knowing what else to say. Even though I wasn’t crazy about Vernon Dursley, I couldn’t even imagine how hard it would be to have to lie to him about her own family.
“Everyone thinks you’re some prodigy sent off to a special boarding school because you got a scholarship,” Petunia sneered. “But I’m the only one who sees you for what you really are… a FREAK!”
“Petunia Marie Evans!” My mother yelled and Petunia stopped pacing to stare at her, still seething. “I never want to hear you say that ever again. We realize this is stressful for you, especially considering how close you and Vernon are. But when you two settle down and get married, you can tell him everything you like. Lily has said so herself.”
“I’d rather tell him she were dead than a witch,” Petunia growled and I felt like I’d been slapped across the face.
“Go to your room, Petunia,” My dad said quietly, and I looked over at him. He was staring at his hands resting on the kitchen table; his eyes were tight with anger.
“This is bollucks,” Petunia scoffed again, stomping across the small room to her bedroom and slamming the door loudly. “I can’t wait to move out of this dump.”
I stared at Petunia’s closed door, chewing on my lip. Had the entire world gone fucking crazy? First Severus flips out at me, Alex cheats on me, and now Petunia…
Dear Universe, you win. Now can you leave me alone?
I always knew Petunia had a problem with what I was, but she’d never said it in so many words. I looked over my dad who was still staring at the table. My mum had gone to sit down next to him, her pale blond hair clashing wildly with his red hair… the hair that I inherited from him.
“Dad… I’m—I’m sorry,” I said quietly, not moving from where I stood.
“This isn’t your fault, Lily,” Mum said, glancing up at me. “Your sister… she just needs to learn how to control her temper.”
“I shouldn’t talk about school in front of her,” I muttered, dropping down onto the shabby couch in the corner.
“She’s just sensitive about it,” Mum said softly. “Do you want to finish your dinner?”
“I’m not really that hungry anymore,” I shook my head. “I think I’ll just go finish packing if that’s alright.”
Mum nodded in understanding. Dad was still staring at the table, his hands clasped together.
I walked down the narrow hallway past Petunia’s closed door to the end, where the door to the old linen closet had been removed. A ladder was stuffed awkwardly into the space, leading up to a square hole in the ceiling where my bedroom was situated.
I scrambled up the ladder through the hole into the attic that had been renovated as my room. A wooden hatch served as my door and I lowered it over the ladder.
The attic was small, the ceiling slanting down dramatically on either side but there was enough room for me to stand up straight in the middle. My bed was shoved unceremoniously against the wall by the large window looking out over the front of the store and the river.
The wooden walls had been bare when I first moved up here, and my parents didn’t have enough money to have it wallpapered or painted.
Severus and I had spent that first summer going all over town collecting old wallpaper sample books and pasting them onto the walls so that instead of one continuous patter, my room now contained several hundred, none of them the same.
It wasn’t fancy or glamorous by any means, but it was home and I loved it, though this summer the multicolored walls only served as a constant reminder of what Severus had done…
I dropped down into the chair in front of my desk that was situated at the opposite end of the room from my bed. A dusty mirror hung precariously on the wall and I stared at my reflection.
I wrinkled my nose at myself in the mirror, not satisfied with what I saw.
Ever since Alex had so nicely informed me of my lack of physical appeal, it was all I could see when I looked in the mirror. My freckles were too prominent, my hair was too red, my eyes were too green.
I looked like an alien.
Maybe he was right… would it kill me to brush my hair once in a while?
Ugh, listen to me! One guy tells me I’m not pretty and suddenly it’s all I can think about.
I stared at myself, my auburn eyebrows pulling together in concentration.
As Scarlet and Anna had said constantly the last week of the term, Alex had been an idiot for breaking up with me. I knew they were right… I was pretty and smart, the top of my class. So shouldn’t I have a line of guys waiting to ask me out?
No… I knew why I didn’t. Alex had been right about one thing, at least. I did take everything too seriously. Hell, even Potter said I should loosen up.
I couldn’t deny to myself that my life did seem rather dry and unexciting. When was the last time I felt that rush of danger from doing something against the rules? When was the last time I snuck out of the dorm after hours?
Well, never actually. I had never broken the rules. And look where a life of following the rules had gotten me…
“Maybe it is time for a change…” I muttered to my reflection.
I frowned at myself in the mirror, pulling the hair-tie from my hair and watching as my auburn hair fell around my shoulders. My unruly hair was kinked and tangled from being left in a ponytail all the time.
Yikes, no wonder I always kept it pulled back…
I combed through it quickly with my fingers, watching as it smoothed out, falling into loose waves down my back.
If I truly adopted a laid back attitude, maybe I would have the same luck with boys that Scarlet and Anna did. I had always said I didn’t date Hogwarts boys, and that was true. I’d never had an interest in them before Alex. But maybe I just wasn’t attracting the right ones…
I sighed, suddenly wondering if I was only doing this to get Alex’s attention and then shook my head vigorously. That was stupid and childish and I had to promise myself that I wasn’t doing this for him. I was doing this for me…'
I pulled open the bottom drawer of my desk and drew in a sharp breath.
The drawer was stuffed full of letters that Alex had written me during our brief love affair, before things had gone wrong. I had re-read these letters several times this summer in the hopes of spotting exactly where everything had gone wrong…but to no avail.
I shoved the letters into the bin next to my desk on top of the letters from Severus without another thought. The last thing in the drawer, a magical moving photograph of Alex and I, made me hesitate. I looked at the photograph for a minute, overwhelmed with the image of Alex kissing me lovingly on the forehead while I hugged him. This had been taken just days before everything ended. Maybe even the same day he’d slept with Katie Bishop…
Without another thought, I tore the photograph down the middle, tossing the pieces into the bin.
I nodded resolutely at myself in the dusty mirror and then busied myself with packing up my school trunk for the rest of the night, trying to make sure I didn’t forget anything. It was well after midnight when I finally finished. I closed my trunk and sank back on my bed.
Ugh my train leaves the next morning at seven. Can I pass out now?
I closed my eyes, not bothering to change into pajamas and my thoughts started to get fuzzy as sleep took over.
A tapping sound startled me back awake. My eyes snapped open and I stared up at my ceiling. The tapping sounded again and I sat up groggily, staring around my dark room.
The sharp tap sounded from the direction of the window right next to my bed and I stared at it.
The moon outside was full, illuminating the street below as I leaned out, trying to find the source of the disruption.
“Lily?” A voice called from below and I squinted into the darkness.
I recognized that voice. Ugh, not now please. I just want to go back to sleep.
“Lily, can you come down here, please?” Severus called up at me and I let out an impatient sigh into the darkness.
“I don’t want to talk to you Severus,” I hissed down to the dark street below.
“Please, Lily,” Severus begged, his voice heavy with emotion. “I’m prepared to sleep down here in front of your door if I have to.”
“Sev, you have got to stop making that threat,” I growled. “It wasn’t funny at Hogwarts and it definitely isn’t funny here.”
“Then just talk to me,” Severus pleaded.
I leaned my head against my window frame, thinking.
If I were really and truly going to try and be more laid back… wouldn’t it only be fair to start with Severus? Here I was, staring down at the boy I had grown up with, cast my first spell with at Hogwarts, cried on his shoulder when I got made fun of for being too brainy or having too many freckles…
He had made a mistake, that was for sure. And I knew that I couldn’t just forgive him for calling me a mudblood…
But… would it kill me to just talk to him?
“Lily, please,” Severus said quietly, his voice breaking slightly.
I swallowed hard, the warm summer breeze blowing my hair into my face.
“Stay there,” I called down to him. “I’ll be right down.”
A/N: Hey everyone! Another chapter, hurray! Sorry this was a bit shorter, but I wanted to give you a look at Lily's home life and her sister and stuff. Also, I know the dialogue was a bit lacking, but Lily's thought process is kind of important in this chapter. And there'll be a bit of drama in the next chapter :)
Thanks so much to everyone who's read and reviewed so far! March was a terrible month, but all of your reviews made me smile :)
Also, check out my Meet the Author page! I'd love to answer any questions you have about this story or my other one!
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