Chapter 9 : Stupid, Useless Self-Control
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“Did you see Danny Fuller on the platform? My god, when did he get so fit?” Anna was gushing as we pushed our way through the crowded corridor of the train in search of an empty compartment. “And Zach Windsor… Oh, this is going to be such a good year.”
Scarlet let out an impatient sigh as she elbowed a small third year out of her way.
“What do you think would happen to her if we took all the boys off the planet?” she muttered under her breath to me.
“Probably collapse under herself like a dying star,” I giggled, peering into a compartment only to see that it was full of fourth year Slytherins.
“Yes, I like men. So what?” Anna asserted loudly, causing several passing students to stop and gawk at her. Scarlet snorted with laughter.
“You guys are such tosspots,” Anna huffed, pushing past us and sliding a compartment door open.
Several first years were seated awkwardly in the small space. It was obvious they didn’t know each other and Anna sighed impatiently.
“Budge up there,” Anna said loudly to the first years, peering into the compartment. “This is our compartment, get out.”
The first years stared at her, their expressions mingled with fear and awe at her presence.
“Out!” Scarlet barked, and they jumped to their feet, scrambling past us out the door. Once they were gone, Anna sprawled out across one of the seats grandly while Scarlet tucked her things into the overhead compartment.
“You really enjoyed that, didn’t you?” I said, staring at them with amusement.
“I love first years…twitchy little things, aren’t they?” Anna smiled and then sat up, her amused expression shifting quickly to suspicion. “Shouldn’t you be scolding us about now?”
“Not you too,” I groaned, sinking into the empty seat next to Scarlet.
“Well, no offense, Lily,” Scarlet said, pulling her feet up underneath herself. “But that’s the kind of thing you used to burst a lung yelling at us about…”
“But it was funny,” I shrugged and I saw Scarlet’s mouth drop open.
“Ok, seriously did one of your spells backfire and addle your brains?” Scarlet stared at me. “What has gotten into you?”
“I told you,” I said, my voice carefully light. “I’m trying not to take everything so seriously this year.”
Anna and Scarlet continued to stare at me, not sure whether to believe me or not.
“Well, of course, you shouldn’t have kicked them out, ” I burst after a moment of silence and Scarlet giggled. Stupid Prefect instincts. I growled and crossed my arms, preparing to pout.
“Lily, aren’t you supposed to be meeting with the other prefects right now?” Anna chuckled.
“Shit!” I cursed, ignoring the peels of laughter from Scarlet and Anna as I grabbed my bag from the overhead rack. I hastily retrieved my Prefect badge, and shoved it into my pocket before wrenching the compartment door open and racing towards the front of the train.
Students were still setting into compartments and I hastily shoved past them, pausing momentarily outside the first car to collect myself.
Operation “Don’t-Hex- Potter”, take two.
I slid the car door open and hopped inside, hoping I wasn’t too late. But when I turned around the only person already there was Potter. Of course.
I stared at him blandly as he waved me over, gesturing to the seat next to him.
I walked stiffly down the corridor, dropping down into the seat across from him instead.
“Where is everyone?” I asked, glancing around.
“Dunno,” Potter shrugged carelessly. “Train doesn’t leave for a few minutes yet.”
I sighed, folding my arms across my chest and we waited.
“Did you have a good summer?” Potter asked lightly, still smiling at my defiant expression.
“You’re asking me about my summer?” I said skeptically.
He nodded, amused by my cynicism.
I stared at him, trying to decide if he was genuinely interested or not. And then I sighed, realizing that my summer had been dreadful enough that I wouldn’t even be able to lie about it.
“It was bloody awful, to tell you the truth,” I said quietly, dropping my eyes to the floor.
“Not because of that idiot Hufflepuff, I hope,” Potter said lightly, not realizing he’d hit the nail on the head.
“Er…well,” I concentrated hard on the floor, not wanting to see his expression.
“Ah, come on, Evans. He’s a complete wanker. Whatever happened I’m sure it’s not worth being that upset over,” Potter said crossly and I glanced up at him, surprised that he wasn’t taking this opportunity to mock my failed love life mercilessly.
“You don’t know what he did,” I muttered under my breath, sure that it had been too low for him to hear, but Potter cocked his head to the side curiously. The Marauders knew nothing of what happened with Alex, only that we broke up, and I was desperately hoping that it would stay that way.
“What did he do?” Potter asked, a note of accusation in his voice.
“Alex,” I breathed, startled when the compartment door slid open suddenly and the tall, brown-haired boy entered with several other prefects trailing behind him.
Damn! I forgot he was a Prefect. Urgh, this is like a living nightmare. So much for forgetting about him…
The new Head Boy and Girl entered the compartment and began talking, explaining Prefect duties to the new fifth years. I was desperately trying to avoid making eye contact with Alex, but he kept staring at me with an unreadable expression on his face, his eyes running up and down my body sporadically, making my cheeks blush crimson. His piercing blue eyes sent shivers down my spine every time our eyes met. Had he gotten more attractive over the summer? I’d almost forgotten just how much the mere presence of him affected me. Potter kept glancing between the two of us with a mix of frustration and impatience on his face.
The Head Boy and Girl had us write down our preferences for patrols so that they could put together a schedule for McGonagall. After everyone had finished writing, they divvied up the train patrols, starting with Gryffindors.
Potter and I, along with the 5th and 7th year prefects hung back while everyone filed out of the small compartment.
I sank down into the now empty seats, my arms and legs feeling weak. How on earth did Alex still manage to make me all wobbly even after everything that’s happened?
I was mentally berating myself for letting him affect me so much when a voice cut through my reverie.
“Lily, can I have a word?”
I jerked my head towards the door and a jolt ran through me when I saw Alex leaning against the doorframe, gazing down at me.
“Huh?” I asked, stunned by his request.
Everyone left in the car turned towards me. How on earth did everyone in this blasted school seem to know what happened between Alex and I? See, this is why I never dated Hogwarts boys. Or maybe this was why I had kept it a secret for long… I was starting to lose track.
Potter, who was seated across from me looking over the Gryffindor password list for the year, glanced up at our exchange.
“Can we talk for a minute…er, alone?” Alex repeated, his sapphire eyes flitting to Potter and back to me.
“We’re supposed to head out on patrol now,” Potter said, locking eyes with me and there was an undercurrent to his tone that I couldn’t identify.
“This’ll only take a minute,” Alex said pleasantly, but his eyes were tight as he addressed Potter.
Potter stared at Alex for a minute and then turned expectantly to me, as if he were waiting for me to blow Alex off.
“Lily?” Alex said, his voice smoothing over and his indigo eyes bore into mine, frazzling my brain completely. “Please?”
“Erm…. Ok,” I finally said, giving in. Stupid, useless self-control.
I hopped off the seat, ignoring Potter’s frustrated glare and followed Alex out into the hall. He closed the glass door behind us and I crossed my arms, waiting for whatever it was he had to say to me. I knew I was dangerously close to crumbling before him, begging him to take me back, telling him that I’d changed. But I bit my lip, holding everything back and forcing myself to picture Katie Bishop and remember what he did.
I could see Potter and everyone else sneaking looks at us through the glass and I turned back to Alex.
“Did you have a good summer?” Alex asked, leaning against the wall, his hands hooked loosely around his belt loops and I let my eyes follow them down before snapping them back up.
Bloody hell, why does everyone keep asking me about my summer?
“What do you want Alex?” I said stiffly, hugging my arms even tighter around myself.
“You look good, Lils. I like your hair like this,” Alex smiled, reaching a hand out and brushing a strand of my long auburn hair away from my face. I wore my hair down constantly now, letting the loose waves spill over my shoulders and back.
I shrank away from his touch and Alex furrowed his brow in confusion. I had never been so guarded around him, but I was terrified of every second I spent standing there with him.
“What do you want, Alex,” I repeated, annunciating each word carefully.
“I just… I really hate the way we left things,” Alex said softly, regaining his composure.
I stared at him, incredulous and speechless. Was he joking?
“Look, maybe… maybe I was a bit hasty, ending things with you,” Alex breathed, taking a step towards me. “Maybe the end of the year wasn’t the best time for us to start dating, you know, with exams and everything. We were both stressed and I can see that I was a little too quick to judge…”
Alex was very close to me now, his breath caressing my face. I could feel his eyes on me. It was getting harder and harder to resist him when he was so close. I closed my eyes, knowing that it would be easier to say no if I couldn’t see him.
“You slept with another girl,” I said quietly, my eyes still closed.
“That was a stupid mistake,” Alex said earnestly, and I felt a hand rest on my arm. “Isn’t there any way you can forgive me?”
I opened my eyes, staring at him coldly.
“No,” I said stiffly and shrugged away from his touch, slipping quickly back into the compartment. Tears prickled behind my eyes but I quickly willed them away. I had already given someone else a second chance this summer… but this was just too much.
I dropped down into my seat across from Potter, not really caring that we were supposed to be doing patrol. All of the other prefects had left already and it was just he and I in the compartment now.
“Are you ok?” Potter asked in a surprised voice when I had sat down. I realized I was shaking and I took a deep breath to calm myself.
“I’m fine,” I snapped, tucking my legs underneath myself in a more comfortable position.
“What did he want?” Potter asked, trying to disguise his curiosity as mild interest.
I sighed irritably. Normally I would respond something about minding his own business, but I remembered that I was still trying to act more easy-breezy.
“I think he wanted to get back together,” I said dismissively, but my hands were still shaking.
I reached out to grab the password list Potter had left on the seat and I felt a sharp pain rip through my fingertips.
“Ouch!” I pulled my hand back, examining the thin paper cut that ran along the tips of all my fingers. Droplets of blood stained my pale hand and I hissed an oath.
Without waiting for me to ask, Potter was on the seat next to me. He pulled out his wand from his pocket and gently grabbed my hand in his, pulling it towards him.
“So are you getting back together with him?” Potter asked stiffly, resting the tip of his wand on my red-stained fingers.
“’Course not,” I said, sucking in a sharp breath as something pinched hard at my fingertips. I looked down to see Potter’s wand illuminated by his healing spell and the blood that surrounded its nonexistent source now.
“Why did you guys break up anyways?” Potter asked idly as another spell siphoned the blood from my fingers.
“Why are you so interested?” I said acidly, raising my eyebrows at him.
“Just making conversation,” Potter smirked, meeting my gaze. I looked away quickly, uncomfortable with our close proximity and surprised by the strange sensation that accompanied looking into his eyes.
“Thanks,” I muttered, pulling my hand away from his and quickly busying myself with the prefect schedule.
“So listen,” Potter said shoving himself off the seat. “Now that you’re officially open for business…”
I scowled darkly at him.
“Save your breath, my answer is still no,” I said carelessly, standing up and heading for the door.
“Are you sure?” Potter pressed, raising a mischievous eyebrow at me as he followed me.
“I’d rather kiss a hippogriff than ever date you,” I replied lazily.
“Then turn me into one of those next,” Potter winked playfully at me and I glared at him. “I wouldn’t mind.”
“Enjoyed being a squid, did you?” I threw back at him, my mouth turning up in a wicked smile.
“Once you get used to the tentacles, it’s quite nice,” Potter chuckled.
I smiled despite myself, although I was thoroughly irritated by how easy it was to converse with him. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, Potter was actually tolerable when he wasn’t being an arrogant prat. Maybe this year wouldn’t be so bad after all…
* * * *
“I can’t believe him!” Scarlet burst angrily when I finished telling her and Anna what happened with Alex on the train. We took our seats at the Gryffindor table and Anna sat on the other side of Scarlet shaking her head angrily.
“What did he think you would do? Take him back right away?” Anna huffed, folding her arms in front of her on the table.
“I think that’s exactly what he thought I would do,” I said, glancing around me and watching as the students filed into the Great Hall.
“You know why he’s doing this,” Scarlet said, dropping her voice as a group of Hufflepuffs passed us.
Anna and I exchanged confused looks and leaned closer to Scarlet who was scowling.
“Look at yourself, Lily,” Scarlet said like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “It’s obvious how much you’ve relaxed already since last year. You’re even wearing your hair down now. He thinks you’ve done all this for him.”
“He’s an idiot,” Anna muttered.
“I know, but—“ I started and then stopped quickly as the Marauders sat down across from us at the table. Potter winked at me and I rolled my eyes and turned back to Anna and Scarlet who were waiting for me to continue.
Before I could say anything McGonagall, followed by a swarm of tiny first years, came parading into the Great Hall. I took the brief distraction to discretely pull out a blank piece of parchment from my bag and a quill.
I quickly scrawled a note to Scarlet and Anna on the piece of parchment and slid it towards them so they could read it.
“Is it completely pathetic that I almost couldn’t say no to him?”
Anna and Scarlet quickly scanned the note and then looked up at me, sympathy plain in their faces. We weren’t even paying attention to the sorting ceremony going on around us.
I grabbed the scrap of paper and scrawled another note.
“I really wish I didn’t still have feelings for him.”
Scarlet read the note quickly and reached out a pale hand to grasp mine, giving it a reassuring squeeze.
The Marauders, sitting across from us were staring at us, completely perplexed by our exchange.
I quickly tucked the note into my pocket and turned my attention to the sorting ceremony that had just ended. Professor Dumbledore stood again, welcoming the students and giving out the start of term notices.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Potter and Black mimicking the exchange that just happened between Scarlet and I. Potter pretended to cry while Sirius grasped his hand affectionately. Their performance ended in a passionate embrace that dissolved Remus and Peter to silent laughter.
I brought my hand up to rest my chin on, casually flicking my wand in their direction in the process. I held back a smile as I heard all four of their goblets clanged against the table, spilling pumpkin juice all over their robes.
Black and Potter both swore loudly and jumped away from the table at the exact moment that Dumbledore ended his speech and every head in the Great Hall turned towards them.
Dumbledore raised one eyebrow, clearly amused by their outburst.
“Forgive me, Mr. Black, Mr. Potter. I did not realize you felt so strongly about treacle tart,” Dumbledore smiled pleasantly and titters of laughter broke out across the hall. “I will advise the kitchen staff to refrain from serving that particular dessert to your section of the table in the future.”
Sirius blinked and Potter stared open-mouthed at Dumbledore until Remus and Peter pulled them back into their seat, positively shaking with suppressed laughter.
“Touché, Evans” Remus chuckled, aiming his wand at his sopping robes and drying them with a stream of hot hair.
“Miss Evans, Mr. Potter,” A stern voice behind me made me jump and I whirled around to see McGonagall peering down at us from behind her spectacles. “I would like a word in my office after the feast. The other Gryffindor prefects will show the first years to their dorm.”
“Yes, Professor,” I nodded solemnly. I really hoped she hadn’t noticed that it was me who caused the “accident” with the pumpkin juice.
“Watch yourself, Evans,” Potter grinned, seeing my stiff posture relax as McGonagall walked back towards the staff table. “Another stunt like that and you could land yourself in detention.”
“Don’t get your hopes up,” I muttered and tucked into my food.
Scarlet giggled next to me as she passed the treacle tart to Sirius who was staring forlornly at it across the table.
Potter and I waited until the Great Hall had mostly cleared before we headed towards McGonagall’s office. As much as I had relaxed around him, I still found myself getting very irritated as he strutted down the crowded corridor, taking care to trod on as many first years as he could.
I walked behind him, taking several steps to match each of his long strides. I maneuvered through the students, trying to catch up to him.
I groaned inwardly when I saw him slip his wand from his pocket, aiming it surreptitiously at a passing group of Slytherins.
I watched with growing apprehension as the unsuspecting group of students tumbled forward into each other, their legs stuck together with a silent leg-locker curse. The fallen students toppled into passersby, creating a kind of domino effect down the hall.
I felt Potter’s hand close around my arm as he pulled me down a side hall that was unoccupied and out of the fray of falling students. I glanced back to see that everyone behind us was now on the ground, scrambling to get back to their feet, cursing loudly and wondering what had just caused their downfall.
I glared at Potter who was smiling smugly at the chaos he had created.
“Leg-locker curse?” I said scornfully. “I would have expected something a little more advanced from a Marauder.”
“Were you, or were you not amused?” Potter asked, glancing sideways at me.
“I…that’s not the point,” I said quickly, my mouth twitching slightly.
His smile grew wider as he turned back to stare down the hall ahead of us.
I smiled, despite my irritation with him. The school was going to be a wreck by the end of the year if Potter kept pulling pranks like this and I kept allowing it. It seemed I’d stumbled upon the first downside to my new attitude towards the Marauders.
As we rounded another corner I glanced ahead of me and stopped dead in my tracks.
At the end of the hall we saw two figures entwined in a passionate embrace. I recognized the figures immediately but they didn’t seem to notice us. The painfully familiar brown-haired boy pulled away from the girl and tugged on her hand, leading her around the corner and out of sight before Potter or I could say anything.
A/N: Hey everyone! Sorry about the wait! So now everyone's back at Hogwarts and things are already off to a rocky start... uh oh! Isn't Alex such a poo-head? Yeah, I think so too.
So some of you may be wondering, when the heck am I going to tell you about this wishing well that caused so much trouble in the prologue!? Well, guess what! It'll make it's very first appearance in the next chapter :) And it only took me 10 chapters to get there :P
Anyways, thoughts? Leave a review! They make me smile :)
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