Chapter 19 : A turning point
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Lily Evans was fuming. She sat beside the lake with a large group of girls – those from her dormitory, Louisa and her ravenclaw friends, Jenny Nightshade and the hufflepuff lot. They were discussing the upcoming ball happily, and until a few minutes ago Lily had been as excited as any of them. But then Jenny had opened her big mouth.
“Oh my God,” she had said, as soon the subject of dates was entered on. “Guess who asked Rowan? Rowan, can I tell them?”
Rowan rolled her eyes.
“If you really want.” She answered, “Although I don’t see how it’s a big deal to be honest.”
“What??! Of course it is! How can you say that?”
Rowan shrugged, yet despite her blasé attitude, there was a light in her eyes which suggested she was more affected than she was letting on. The surrounding girls were intrigued.
“Well go on then!” Mary Macdonald demanded. “Who is it?”
There were squeals of excitement within the group, and Rowan was congratulated on her conquest. Only Lily remained silent. Sirius had asked Rowan to the ball? She’d known he wouldn’t ask her, because of the James situation, yet she thought he’d at least discuss it with her. And why did it have to be Rowan? Lily looked across at the hufflepuff girl, who sat less than three feet away from her. Rowan was beautiful – Tall, yet daintily proportioned (as was necessary for a seeker), with porcelain skin and luxuriant chestnut brown hair. She had a pointed, elfin face, large smoky green eyes, and she spoke with a soft Irish brogue. Lily couldn’t compete with that.
“They really suit each other, don’t you think?” Alice whispered to Lily. It was true, and Lily’s irritation grew. Why couldn’t he just have told her he was asking someone else to the ball? Just so she was warned! Was he trying to make her jealous or something?
“Lily, are you okay?”
“I’m fine Alice, I’m fine.”
“Are you sure? You seem a bit quiet.”
“Yes I’m sure! Merlin, can I not just sit and listen for five minutes?!”
“Okay – okay, sorry.”
Alice looked hurt, but Lily was feeling too irritable to apologize. She sat in silence for a while, ripping up handfuls of grass every now and again, out of frustration. The conversation had turned to clothes for the ball, and someone suggested a mass shopping trip. Lily hoped the idea would be scrapped, knowing that Rowan and Sirius would be the main topic of conversation throughout the day. Merlin, why was he putting her through this?
It was Mary this time.
“I know what you’re thinking about.” She said, knowingly. Lily started.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean the fact that James is bound to ask you to the ball, and you don’t know whether to say yes.”
“Oh.” Lily shrugged. She wasn’t thinking about James, but this was a good cover for her moodiness. “I don’t think he will ask me actually.” She said. “He hasn’t shown any interest for a while, I think he’s given up on me.”
“You don’t honestly believe that.”
“Well anyway, my advice was going to be – say yes. What harm can it do?”
“I’ll have to spend an evening with him, that’s what.”
“Don’t pretend like you still hate him. I know you don’t.”
“That doesn’t mean I want to spend big chunks of my time with him though.”
Mary looked sceptical.
“I’m just saying…”
But Lily never found out what her friend had been about to say, as a collective screech from the other girls broke both their concentration. A sudden cascade of water drenched those closest to the lake, as the giant squid burst from it’s surface and was lifted into the air. Everyone squealed and ran for cover, as the creature appeared to fly over the heads of the people nearby, it’s tentacles dangling scarily close. As Lily scattered with the rest, she spotted James and Sirius behind a bush, their wands pointed towards the squid as they muttered what was evidently the levitation spell, under their breath. Torn between amusement and irritation, she laughed with the rest, but was not sorry when Proffessor Kettleburn arrived, collaring the troublemakers whilst shouting about animal rights.
“They haven’t changed, have they?” Mary laughed. Lily shook her head – but she knew she was selling the marauders short. They had changed. They were still troublemakers, still idiotic and big headed. But even so they had matured. That mean streak wasn’t there anymore – they still saw themselves as superior, but nowadays they didn’t bully those they thought were beneath them. That’s what Lily had hated, and although she hadn’t forgotten their failings, she recognized that they weren’t the same people anymore.
“No Proffessor, those kids had nothing to do with it!” James was shouting now, as Kettleburn turned on a small group of first years that had been hiding behind him and Sirius. “They were just admiring our handiwork!”
“Obviously Sir – do you think this lot could pull off a stunt like this? They’re too small and stupid – we lured them into keeping watch.”
“And it took time too – they’re just that innocent.”
One of the first years giggled. Kettleburn glared at the child before turning back to the chief offenders.
“Well – keeping watch is bad enough!!” He exclaimed. “That squid is a living, feeling creature. And an endangered one at that. The lot of you can have detention, for your totally uncaring attitude if nothing else!”
“Please Proffessor, let the children go free!”
Sirius and James now fell to their knees in mock distress, pleading with their teacher.
“We poisoned their innocent young minds!”
“They would never have hurt this noble creature if not for our great powers of persuasion!”
Most of the surrounding onlookers were laughing hard at their antics, and the expression on the face of the older man. Kettleburn was becoming flustered.
“Get up.” He demanded. “Alright, alright. But you two can have another detention each, in their place.”
“I would be honoured to sacrifice myself for these brave children.” said James, jumping to his feet and throwing his arms out dramatically. Someone started clapping, and soon the majority of the surrounding students were applauding the marauders. Kettleburn stormed off, furious, while James and Sirius gloried in the attention, bowing and grinning around them. Lily smiled, her anger at Sirius almost evaporated. Then she saw the look on Rowan Finnegan’s face, as she tried to catch his eye, and her irritation flared up once more. Sirius was ignoring Rowan, and instead stealing glances towards Lily as if expecting her to be impressed. James was similarly employed and Lily simply rolled her eyes and turned away. She hoped Rowan hadn’t noticed the direction of Sirius’s gaze – if anyone found out about the relationship between herself and Sirius it would be extremely awkward. She sighed – things would be so much simpler if they had just told people in the first place.
It wasn’t until later that day that Lily got her chance to confront Sirius. She had prefect duty, and was patrolling the fourth floor corridor, when he turned up.
“I’ve been looking for you!” he said, grinning. Lily didn’t smile back. He stopped in front of her, a slightly confused expression on his face.
“Aren’t you happy to see me?” he asked.
“Not unless you’ve come with an apology.”
Sirius stared at her blankly for a moment, before a look of realisation spread over his face. His grin grew wider.
“Oh I get it.” He said. “You’re jealous aren’t you? Because I asked that hufflepuff girl to the ball.”
“I don’t know why you’re smiling.”
Sirius, still grinning like an idiot, grabbed her by the hand.
“One second.” He said, dragging her towards a large mirror just a little way along the corridor.
“Sirius, get off me.” Lily hissed at him, pulling at the hand which was now closed around her wrist. “I don’t want to go anywhere with you, not until...”
“Shush.” He said, leaving Lily almost speechless with outrage. He pulled out his wand, and whispered some sort of incantation, causing the large, gilt- trimmed mirror to swing open. “In here.” He said, pulling her through the doorway and into a large stone passageway. She was too surprised to stop him, and as soon as they were through the door it shut behind them, plunging them into darkness.
The torches along the wall burst into flame at Sirius’s command. Lily struggled not to sound impressed.
“How do you find all these places?” she asked, incredulous. “Do you ever actually go to lessons, or do you just spend all your time finding new secret passages to hide from Filch in?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Sirius replied, smugly. “But I know this castle better than anyone in this school – excepting James and the others of course.”
“Of course.” Lily answered, her lips pursed.
Sirius scanned Lily’s face.
“You’re angry at me.” He said.
“No shit, Sherlock.”
“Never mind, it’s a muggle phrase.”
There was an awkward silence.
“Look.” said Sirius finally. “You understand why I couldn’t ask you to the ball? We said we weren’t going to tell anyone about us. The Finnegan girl’s just a cover.”
“And you couldn’t have warned me first?”
“What did you think I was going to do, go alone? Obviously that’d look too suspicious.”
“Well, I was planning to go on my own.”
“It is?” Lily’s eyes flashed.
“Yeah.” said Sirius. “People expect me to go with a date.”
“Oh, and no-one expects me to, evidently!”
Lily was fuming now, but Sirius was not looking apologetic in the slightest.
“Look, I’ll say I’m sorry if you want me to, but I don’t understand what I’m supposed to be sorry for.”
“You insensitive pig!”
Sirius recognized how angry Lily was, but he saw no problem with the way he’d acted.
“What, because I’m trying to cover up our relationship to save my best mate’s feelings?”
“No, because you don’t get that asking out one of the most beautiful girls in the school, while you’re supposed to be going out with me, might hurt my feelings.”
“You’re hot when you’re jealous.” he said. “Plus, Rowan’s not beautiful – she’s got a pointy nose.”
He laughed again.
“Look,” he said. “You can still go and have a good time with your friends can’t you?”
“I’ll go, but not with my friends.” Lily retorted, her mind made up. “If you can have a date then so can I.”
“What? That’s nice, just to spite me.”
“No, because it’s only fair! And I deserve a bit of fun too.” She smiled, the first time throughout the argument. Sirius smiled too.
“Okay, I get it.” He said. “I get your point, I’m sorry.”
Lily scrutinized his face, and on deciding that he was being genuine, replied
Sirius put his arms around her, and leaned in for a kiss.
“Good.” He said, his grey eyes shining as they moved closer to her own. Their lips met and Lily’s anger melted into nothingness as Sirius leaned her back against his arm. But then he pulled away.
“Seriously though, now that I’ve learned my lesson...”
“Mmhhmm.” Lily answered him, slightly disappointed that he had stopped.
“Well,” he said. “You’re not really going to go the ball with someone else are you?”
“Yes! Why would I say so otherwise?”
“But you’re my girlfriend!”
“And you’re my boyfriend – but you’re still taking Rowan.”
Sirius let go of her suddenly.
“You’re not going with someone else.”
Lily’s jaw dropped. Her face flushed crimson with anger.
“You can’t tell me what to do.”
“No-one’ll ask you anyway.” Sirius retorted, scornfully. “Because they know that James will.”
“And they’ll know I’ll say no!”
“They still won’t ask.”
Lily took a deep, angry breath. She knew she was over-reacting, but with each sentence Sirius spoke her blood came closer to boiling point.
“Then maybe I’ll ask them!” She turned her back to Sirius, and reached for the handle that would make the mirror swing back open.
“Lily,” Sirius grabbed her hand, swinging her to face him. “You know I’d rather go with you.”
She hesitated for a moment, caught in the rapt expression of his dark eyes. His grin became triumphant. “See,” he said. “Isn’t it better when you’re not trying to be difficult?”
This was more than Lily could take. She swung back her free hand, slapping him hard across the face. He staggered backwards in surprise, and let go of her hand.
“I’ll be as difficult as I want.” She yelled at him, yanking open the door to the passage. “Don’t think you can tell me what to do!” And with that, she ran off up the corridor, her heart-beat frantic with rage.
How dare he! Was her first thought. Who the hell did he think he was? No-one would ask her to the ball would they? Well, she’d see about that! She turned a corner, still fuming, not looking where she was going, and walked straight into someone.
The voice sounded more amused than annoyed. It was also horribly familiar.
“James!” was Lily’s startled reply, looking up into his smiling hazel eyes. “I-I’m sorry, I didn’t see you.”
“It’s okay – there’s obviously something on your mind. Are you alright?” The laughter died on his lips as he noticed the bright light in her eyes, an angry light, though he did not know it. All he knew was that it animated her face, making her look more beautiful than he had ever seen her. His breath stopped.
“I’m fine, fine. Nothing wrong with me. Completley great.” She gabbled in her agitation. “Are you sure you’re okay though? You look a bit...”
James shook his head, clearing it of thoughts of her.
“I’m great, yeah. Don’t worry about me!” he laughed awkwardly. Lily smiled back, equally awkward.
“Right, okay. Well, see you around.”
“Yep, see you.”
Lily had only walked a few feet ahead before James shouted out.
“Wait – Lily?”
She turned around, her hair whipping through the air as she did.
“Will... will you go to the ball with me?”
Lily opened her mouth to speak, then closed it again. She thought of Sirius and Rowan. She thought of a night spent on her own, while her friends all danced with their dates. Then she looked at James’s anxious face, his eyes intense as he waited for her answer. She realised she didn’t want to see him disappointed.
“Okay.” She said.
“What did you say?”
“I said yes.” She smiled awkwardly at him, and his face lit up.
“Really?” he asked. “Really, you’re not just – I mean, that’s great! I’ll see you Saturday then. I mean, I’ll probably see you before then, but you know.” He pushed back his hair and turned away slightly, before looking back at her. He laughed.
“Looking forward to it.” Lily said, smiling a real smile then, at the happiness that infused his whole countenance. He really must like her.
“Yeah – yeah, me too.” He replied, laughing again.
“Well, see you.” Lily said, turning to go.
“See you, Lily.”
Lily turned and continued along the corridor. When she was out of sight, James punched the air, a smile of utter delight stretched across his face. Lily, meanwhile, was hit with a wave of guilt, a sensation that was beginning to feel all too familiar.
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