Chapter 8 : A Fine Line
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I got a 55 on my Chemistry test today. Yikes.
The girl next to me got a 25. Someone else got an 8.
And yes, it was out of 100.
Leigh and Remus were officially a "thing," as one would call them. They were always together, and they sat next to one another in classes. On normal circumstances, that would have been a great thing - except the new relationship required everyone else to get new seating arrangements.
I sat next to different people every day. In some classes, I found myself sitting next to Ryan. When I wasn't with Ravenclaws, I sometimes ended up beside Ellen or Meg. Once I found myself next to Sirius. Today, however, I somehow ended up sitting on the right side of James in Potions.
"This is new," James commented as both of us began setting up for class.
"Don't get used to it," I muttered.
It was November now, and Ryan and I had been dating for three and a half steady weeks. Things between us seemed to have been going swimmingly, despite the fact that Ryan was occasionally hounded by Peeves. I asked him when that had first started happening, and he told me it began after our first date. I began to think that the Marauders had not really been looking at a drawing that night, but I had no way of knowing for sure.
"Good afternoon, class!" Professor Slughorn said cheerily. A few people returned muted "good afternoon"s, myself among them. James sent me a sideways glace, and I tried to force my cheeks from turning pink. They seemed to have been doing that a lot around him lately. I told myself it was anger and left it at that.
Professor Slughorn explained our task for the day, and I immediately began gathering up the necessary ingredients that I had around my table. I began sliding off my stool to get supplies from the storage cupboard, but James stopped me.
"I'll get it," he said. "You stay."
I was slightly mollified. This was one of the numerous acts of kindness I'd seen James perform throughout the year, and it had started out as being somewhat unnerving, but it had grown on me. I watched James grab two of each ingredient and thought about how much he'd changed throughout the past three months we'd been in school. He was really owning up to his Head Boy duties - not abusing them, as I would have thought - and he was being altruistic and kind to almost everyone, even the Slytherins. He hadn't asked me out since party, which I thought was weird, but I wasn't complaining and I wasn't putting any bets on him, either. He could be having a temporary change of heart and tomorrow he could be back to asking me out every other class.
James hadn't said anything about my relationship with Ryan, which I thought was very surprising. Though he had looked slightly discouraged the Tuesday after our first date, I blamed it on the fact that we had received our marks on our Potions essays that day and told myself James had made a bad grade. After that day, though, James looked like himself again. I found that I was usually quite pleased to be in his company, though I was often quite short and impatient - not with him, but with myself.
"Here ya go," James said with a smile, scattering the supplies out around the table.
"Thank you," I said, reaching for the goosegrass.
We worked in silence for a moment, listening to the sounds around us. Behind us, Remus was telling Leigh a story and she was giggling quietly in response. In front of us, however, Sirius and Brooke were working together. They seemed to be arguing.
"No, I told you," Brooke was saying heatedly, "the beetle eyes go in after you stir counterclockwise three times!"
"You're doing it wrong!" Sirius shot back just as angrily. "You insert the eyes, stir clockwise twice, and then add the frog spawn."
"You're both wrong," I said loudly. They whipped their heads around and looked at me. "You stir counterclockwise twice, add the beetle eyes, and then you add the frog spawn."
Brooke and Sirius glared at each other for a moment and returned to their work. James blinked at me, but didn't say anything. I ignored him and continued with my work.
I thought about my next date with Ryan, which was tomorrow. He was taking me somewhere special, he said, and he promised me it wasn't Madame Puddifoot's. I was curious, and eagerly awaiting the event, as I had a new dress I was dying to wear.
"Did you know Professor Doggett was retiring next year?" James asked conversationally.
"No," I said. Professor Doggett was the Ancient Runes professor, and he was quite liked by most of the students because he always strayed off topic and began telling stories about his old job at a cemetery. "Why?"
"He says he misses his family. He is married, after all," said James. "But in my opinion, he's really missing the cemetery, and he wants to return home so he can go visit all of his old mates."
I shoved James in the shoulder. "You're horrible," I said with a laugh.
"You like it," James said audaciously.
"All the time."
I looked over at James and found myself studying his eyes again.
I cleared my throat, reminding myself of my date tomorrow night, and happened to look down into James's cauldron.
"That... doesn't look right," I said, eying the orange mush James was brewing.
"You think?" he muttered sarcastically, running a hand through his hair.
I sighed and said, "Good thing it's easily fixable."
I shifted closer to James's cauldron and began fixing his potion. I added some more water, turned up the temperature, and dropped in some more goosegrass.
"What are you doing?" James asked.
"Helping you. Stop asking questions."
"You never help me."
"That's a lie," I said, stirring the potion until it turned to the light bronze color it was supposed to be. "I've helped you out plenty of times."
I thought for a moment and came up short. "Just because I can't think of anything right now doesn't mean I've never helped you before."
James smirked. Unfortunately for me, I was sitting in just the right spot to see James's dimple perfectly. It made my stomach twinge, but it was only because I hated him so much I was upset that such good lucks had been wasted on someone so annoying.
"Right," James said, the amusement evident in his voice.
I looked down at my cauldron to hide my inexplicable blush. "You're annoying and I hate you," I said quickly.
There was a pause. "Right," James said again.
"Sirius, I can't believe you're being so ignorant about this!" Brooke said loudly. I looked up from my potion abruptly and saw Brooke and Sirius at each other's throat's again, though this time almost literally - the pair were standing so close together their chests were almost touching. Brooke was breathing heavily and Sirius was looking murderous.
"Me?" Sirius said, gaping at Brooke. "You're the one telling me I'm doing everything wrong - I'm always doing something wrong! You're never happy!"
"How could you say that?" Brooke practically shrieked, poking Sirius angrily in the chest. "It's not like you even care about what I have to say -"
"That's a lie and you know it!" Sirius interjected furiously. "I care about everything you say, and you never seem impressed -"
"Why should I be impressed with you when all you do is be immature?"
Other people had stopped working to watch the pair argue, and I wanted to tell them to clear off. Ellen and Meg were watching with unreadable expressions, their potions emitting brown smoke. I wondered what Meg was thinking about.
"Immature? That's rich, coming from you!"
"You're incorrigible!" Brooke yelled.
James leaned over to me. "I see she got her vocabulary from you," he muttered. I smiled.
"At least I'm not bipolar!" Sirius said, raking his fingers through his hair.
"I'm not bipolar!" Brooke said indignantly. "That's an awful thing to -"
She was cut off when Sirius leaned down and kissed her full on the mouth. There was a fine line between love and hate, I supposed. Just look at me and James for a better example.
Most of the people in the class who had been watching Brooke and Sirius fight looked away awkwardly, but I saw Meg standing there with a shell-shocked expression on her face. She muttered something to Ellen, grabbed her bag, and ran out the door. Ellen vanished Meg's potion and returned to her own, but did not appear as though she was going to go comfort Meg. Leigh was too busy with Remus to follow, and Brooke and Sirius didn't seem like they'd be breaking apart any time soon.
"James, could you...?"
He grinned at me. I forced myself to think of Ryan so James's dimple and smile and eyes wouldn't make me do something stupid, like snog him. Or punch him. "I'll take care of it, Lils," he promised. "You need to help your friend."
I beamed, ignoring the twinge - of anger, or course - in my stomach I received when he called me 'Lils.' "Thanks, James, you're the best!" I packed up my bag and slung it over my shoulder.
"I know, I know," James said, and I waved goodbye as I followed Meg out the door.
I looked down the corridor and there was no sign of Meg.
"Meg?" I said tentatively, my voice echoing off the dark dungeon walls. "Are you here?"
I heard a sniffle and a cough, and I followed the sound to the stone staircase. Meg was sitting on one of the steps with her face in her hands, sobbing.
"Oh no," I said, throwing my bag on the ground and rushing up to sit beside Meg on the step. I gathered her up in a hug and she buried my head in my shoulder.
I didn't pressure her to say anything, but I did rub her back and softly tell her things like "shhh, it'll be okay" and "don't cry, love." I thought about how I would never have had to be in this position if I hadn't suggested that girls' night, but I was glad I was. I wasn't glad Meg was crying, but I was glad I felt close enough to her to be able to comfort her. If this had been a few months ago, I would never have imagined myself in this predicament ever, but this wasn't a few months ago, this was now.
And now, Meg was crying. I was helping her. I was glad to be helping Meg, who was crying.
It took a few minutes, but with a massive sniffle, Meg lifted her head from my shoulder. Her mascara was streaked across her cheeks, and I was sure it was on my robes, too, but those were black so it didn't matter.
"Are you alright?" I asked gently.
Meg sent me a look that obviously said no, but she answered anyway. "I can't believe she would do that. She knew better than anyone how I feel."
I didn't want Meg to be mad at Brooke. "Well, Brooke didn't exactly initiate the kiss," I said. "And I'm sure if she was going to, she would have talked to you about it first."
Meg laughed humorlessly. "I wouldn't be so sure about that."
I frowned. "What are you trying to say?"
"Most girls are selfish, Lily. They don't think about other people, they just think about themselves." Meg sniffed. "Trust me, I would know."
"Not all girls are like that, Meg," I placated. "Brooke would never do that. She genuinely cares about people, about you. All of us do. Ellen, Leigh, Brooke, and I. You're our friend, and we'd never try to hurt you."
Meg didn't respond for a few minutes. She sniffed and breathed deeply and started wiping her make-up off with her hand before I conjured a handkerchief for her. She took it with a grateful, though watery, smile and rubbed it under her eyes.
"I'm glad I have friends like you all," Meg said after a moment. "It's different, but I like it."
"It's a shame you found us during our last year here."
"Yeah." Meg blew her nose in the handkerchief. "It's nice to feel like I actually belong somewhere, you know?"
"I know what you mean," I said, rubbing my hand in a soothing circle on Meg's back.
"I thought I belonged with Sirius, but I guess not."
I felt awkward. I had never been very good with talking about feelings - someone else's or my own - and so therefore I wasn't necessarily the best at comforting other people when they were upset. I usually left that for Ellen or Leigh.
"Surely you've noticed how close Brooke and Sirius are," I supplied, thinking it would be a helpful thing to say.
Apparently it wasn't.
"So you're taking her side?" Meg asked, flaring up.
I was on my guard at once. "No, of course not, I -"
"I should have known, you all have been together for so long -"
"Meg, stop -"
"And I'm just this stupid girl who comes up whining about Sirius -"
"Meg, STOP!" I shouted, my voice echoing off the walls around the staircase. "Listen to me. I'm not taking sides. I'm trying to make you see clearly that this was not what you think it was. Sirius and Brooke have been flirting together for weeks now. I'm sure the only reason she thought you were okay with it was because she thought you had seen her and Sirius together and she thought you didn't have an objection."
"Well, I have an objection now," Meg mumbled, folding her arms across her chest.
"This is just a colossal misunderstanding." I sighed. "Please don't be mad, Meg. Not at Brooke, not at me, or anyone else."
"No. Not even him."
I stood up, and Meg did as well.
"What do we do now?" she asked.
I pondered her question for a moment. I thought about just going straight up to Gryffindor tower and skipping the rest of the afternoon classes, but then I thought of a better idea. I smiled. "Now, we get James."
A/N: I go to Disney World for Nationals in 7 days! Wish us luck!
Standings so far for my dance team: 1st competition - 1st place in jazz, 1st place in kick, Highest Scoring routine in kick, 1st place duet, 2nd place ensemble.
2nd competition - 3rd place in jazz, and 1st place in kick.
Anywaaaay, a review would be lovely! Not much feedback for this story yet, so please drop a comment! Thaaaaaaanks lovies(:
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