Chapter 3 : Stupid Secrets: #11-13
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11. James Potter isn’t your typical crush.
Alright, diary. I’m done with the past. Now that I’ve got you up to date, I can complain as much as I want.
My first complaint is just how bloody hard it is to have a crush on James Potter. And not in the way you might imagine.
Usually, liking someone is manageable. Though you may seem them every day in class, avoiding them isn’t difficult, if that’s what you want to do. And despite how nervous you get when you talk to them, (if you talk to them at all) the conversation is never long. All you need to succeed, really, is a little bit of confidence, a spare smile and plenty of laughter. With that, you’re set.
Now, let us observe MY predicament:
I see James every day, everywhere. The only class I don’t have with him is Arithmancy, because he decided to take Divination instead. Avoiding him is close to impossible, seeing as I literally room right next to him. Also, other than the fact that our bedrooms aren’t even ten feet apart and we share the Heads common room at night to study, I’m constantly running into him in the hallway, the library, the Great Hall and so on and so forth.
As for talking- well, even if I didn’t want to talk to him, I’d still have to. As Heads, it’s our responsibility to be on good terms communication-wise. And aside from patrolling, Prefect meetings and periodically talking with Professor Dumbledore, the ‘niceness’ pact I made with him early this year requires me to talk to him. Not that I’m complaining.
…Oh. Except that I am complaining. Right.
On that confidence, smiling, laughing bit: For me, confidence has rarely been a problem. Though my older sister Petunia had tried her best to degrade me every minute of my younger life (at least since she discovered I was a ‘freak’), she’s never been successful in completely destroying my self-image. I’m okay with the way I look and I’m appreciative of my own intelligence. But confidence isn’t always a given. It’s more of something I have to look around for; not something I always have on me.
Smiling. I like to smile. Smiling is a daily activity for me. And now that I like James- let’s just say I can’t help myself around him. The moment he’s near, a grin claws its way out of my jaw and breaks out on my face. If he notices this excess of beaming, he does a good job of hiding it.
And as of laughing- well, the Marauders are funny guys. And though I absolutely despise the way they manipulate innocent students and pull horrible pranks on them, their personalities are contagious. James in particular.
But that doesn’t surprise you, does it?
James isn’t the kind of person who tries to be funny. He just is. Sometimes, he says things that aren’t funny at all- but the way he says them is completely hilarious. I have a particular weakness for his humor- and a particular lack of control when it comes to my own laughter.
Since promising to be nice to him, I’ve paid much more attention to the things he said, the jokes he made. And I’ve made another astonishing discovery- it’s not just his looks that I’m attracted to, because I seem to like his personality even more. Bizarre that after six years of hating him venomously, I’m suddenly seeing who he really is.
So now you see just how hard liking James Potter is.
It was just like me to suddenly fall for him, when there are plenty of other, equally as worthy boys I could’ve fancied.
(Whenever I think of it this way, my heart gets mad at me:
Lily! Wake up! You’ve finally got a hold on how you really feel about him and now you’re wishing it was someone else? Are you stupid?
Good one, heart. Not like I’ve ever heard that one before.)
12. James Potter makes me really nervous.
For all its advantages, being a Head has its downsides.
I can deal with most of them, but one particular drawback bugs me like nothing else: being late to class. Unfortunately, this is a weekly occurrence, and I absolutely hate it. Just imagine-what if the answer to a question on the exam shows up in those first few minutes? This thought drives me insane.
My concern for this amuses James way too much.
“You’re crazy.” He always informs me. “No person in their right mind would want those extra minutes with McGonagall. I mean, honestly, Lily.”
I don’t know what annoys me more- this taunting, or the fact that James revels in being late to class.
This Tuesday was just another one of those days. I was sprinting down the hallway towards Charms, James somewhere behind me, lollygagging along. This lateness had actually been instigated by the Headmaster himself- Dumbledore had kept us late after breakfast to review plans for the Hogwarts Decennium Ball.
About that…I’ll get there a little later.
After running through several hallways, I burst into Charms in my usual inconspicuous manner. Which means, of course, that I nearly knocked over a couple of desks and probably gave Professor Flitwick a heart attack.
I always was good at letting my presence be known.
I stood in the door for a few painful seconds, face most likely as red as my hair, every single student in the classroom staring at me judgmentally, before James entered behind me.
Unsurprisingly, he had his hands in his pockets, his face a cool landscape of composure. “Sorry to be late, Professor. Dumbledore kept us up.”
“Certainly, certainly,” Flitwick chimed, beaming at us. “There is an empty seat behind Ms. Burnell and Mr. Matthews, if you will.” He beckoned towards the vacant desk space behind the Ravenclaw Seventh years.
I groaned internally. Did I mention the more obvious downside to being late to class? Being paired with Potter.
Every. Single. Time.
Grudgingly, I took a seat next to the Head Boy. Flitwick resumed class. He was discussing the importance of keeping the wand ‘diagonally aloft’ when performing the Aguamenti charm, a spell more than likely to appear on the end-of-the-year N.E.W.Ts.
“Oh, we got here just in the nick of time,” James whispered. “Otherwise we might have missed the incantation and then would have probably failed our Charms N.E.W.T.”
I glared at him, trying to ignore the fact that his breath against my ear sent shivers up and down my spine.
“It is of utmost importance to aim directly for the pal in front of your desks,” Flitwick squeaked, indicating the empty buckets he had levitated in front of every two people. “We don’t want anyone walking away drenched!”
He proceeded to let us practice the water-producing charm. James turned to me, a smirk plastered across his face. “Guess we missed the incantation after all. Oh well- there goes the future!”
I scowled at him. “Luckily,” I retorted. “I already know it.”
I was furious beyond belief. And for no good reason, either. Maybe I was just upset about being late, or having to be partners with Potter. Or maybe I was just angry that even when he was being downright infuriating, he still sent tremors through my heart.
Doing magic whilst angry rarely ever works for me, and this time was no different. Turns out, pointing your wand rigidly and growling “Aguamenti” has no particular affect. James watched me while I failed again and again, obvious gratification playing across his face. Anger pulsed through my veins so hard I felt like I was going to burst.
After perhaps my millionth attempt, a weak drop of water finally fell from the tip of my wand. I sighed in frustration.
“Lily,” James said, leaning his elbow against the tabletop and resting his face against it. “You need to calm down.”
“Calm down?” I nearly shrieked. I immediately bit my tongue to keep myself from screaming bloody murder at him. After all, my irritation had zero rational ground.
He nodded against his palm, reaching out to enclose his fingers over my wrist. “You’re shaking for Merlin’s sake!”
His hand on mine, I was shaking for an entirely different reason then he may have thought. My anger had instantly evaporated, a very different feeling taking over. It blurred my thoughts and sucked everything reasonable out of my consciousness.
My reactions are so atrocious.
Oblivious as always to my inner-turmoil, James released my wrist. “Try again.” He told me, assuming his magical touch had calmed me down.
Unfortunately for him, it had done exactly the opposite. If anything, it had excited me.
I looked at him warily and he eyed me back, as if to say “well, go on now”.
I sighed again and voiced the incantation one more time. “Aguamenti!”
Instantaneously, a fountain of clear water jetted out of from my wand and absolutely saturated James Potter.
I guess I hadn’t exactly acquired the proper ‘diagonal aloft-ment’. Whoops.
James was completely frozen with astonishment, eyes shut, wet hair plastered against his forehead, glasses splattered with a hundred droplets of water. He was dripping all over the floor.
I was too stunned to say anything- I just stared, open-mouthed.
“Oh dear,” worried Professor Flitwick somewhere in the distance. “Better aim next time, Ms. Evans!”
I hiccupped a little bit, and James’ eyes popped open. Before I knew it, I was doubled over in hysterical laughter, stomach aching. I couldn’t help it. He looked funny. I laughed for maybe five minutes straight.
When I finally recovered, wiping tears from my eyes, I bit my lip sheepishly and finally raised my eyes to his. “I’m sorry.”
Whatever reaction I’d expected, his smile surprised me. “Don’t be.” He said. “At least you got it right.”
He went on to shake his head out like a wet dog, spraying water on everyone and everything. I laughed again, hoping my laughter dutifully hid the fact that my heart was beating faster than the speed of light.
13. James Potter has seen me at my worst.
I should have known Seventh wasn’t going to be all fun and games, drawing hearts around James Potter’s initials. I should have known there would be a hitch.
Something awful happened last night.
James and I were patrolling, just like usual. It was after 11, which meant students were supposed to be in their dormitories or house common rooms. Of course, that never stopped anyone. They find their ways around the rules, and hiding away in broom closets, sucking each other’s faces, has always been a popular option.
But just like our preceding Head Boy and Girl, James and I discovered this habit quickly. Now our nightly patrol of the hallways consists of discovering entwined couples in broom closets, lecturing them on their own stupidity and sending them off to bed.
Oh, it’s loads of fun.
This duty is especially embarrassing when I know one or both of the after-hour criminals. Periodically I’ll catch Charlotte with her latest fling- but this doesn’t really faze me anymore. Sirius Black is probably the most frequent perpetrator, which isn’t, of course, surprising. Just revolting.
Yesterday started out just the same as all the other nights. The broom closet on the third floor next to the painting of the poet by the tree was full of lips and moans and bare skin. I tried my best not to throw up as the embarrassed fifth-years mumbled apologies and hurriedly re-dressed, still secretly appalled at how I could have possibly broken through their amateur sound-blocking charm. Down the hallway, I heard James reprimanding another unfortunate pair in the closet by the Jungle watercolor.
I sent off the fifth years after a talk and walked towards where James stood. As I walked closer, I heard another familiar voice intermingling with his.
“What is this, third time this week?” chuckled Sirius amusedly. As I approached, I noticed that he hadn’t bothered re-buttoning his shirt, his hair completely messed up. A skinny, blushing blonde girl held onto his arm tightly, eyeing James with equal mortification and confrontation. “And you know what, Prongs? You going all ‘Head Boy’ on me doesn’t really do harm anymore. It used to be bloody scary- but now,” he laughed. “It’s just weird.”
“Well, the other weird thing is that this is indeed the third time we’ve had to tell you to cut this out. It’s past your bedtime, Black.” I snapped, glaring with all my might at the cocky Marauder. I turned to the blushing beauty at his side. “And honey, I hate to break it to you, but you’re not the only one he calls ‘pygmy puff’.”
The girl stared at me, trying to scoff but looking foolishly confused instead. I recognized her dimly- I thought maybe she was in Ravenclaw, maybe named Julie? Teresa? In any case, after eyeing me untrustingly, she turned to gape at Sirius. “Lily Evans? You call Lily Evans a pygmy puff too?”
James burst out laughing. Sirius shook his head, slamming his palm against his forehead. I rolled my eyes. This girl was definitely not in Ravenclaw. “That is NOT what I meant, Karen.”
“Julie,” she retorted, releasing Sirius’ arm in a huff of pettiness, crossing her arms. “It’s Julie.”
Ah. So I’d been right the first time.
Sirius turned to his latest girl. “Julie, love. You know she’s joking. I have eyes for no one but you!”
Julie glared at all of us indignantly, spinning on her heel and striding away. Sirius grinned at James and I self-importantly before pursuing Julie, cooing sappy apologies all the way down the hall.
I sighed. It’s true what they say- you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
James was examining my face thoughtfully as I watched Sirius leave. Upon noticing, I blushed. I hoped desperately that the dimness of the hall made it so he couldn’t see it.
“Did you get the poet by the tree?” James asked, talking in the casual lingo we’d accumulated the first few weeks of school. We referred to the broom closets not by saying ‘the broom closet down the hallway, you know the one a couple meters west of the staircase?’, but simply by naming the painting they were closest to.
I nodded, not even bothering to relay the grossness I’d witnessed. He’d seen it all and more.
It was weird, really. Sometimes I’d look at these couples and think strange things- like, “wow. They’re really living it. Why don’t I do that?” But weird thoughts like these make me shake my head really hard and get a grip. Me? Snogging in a closet? No way. Ever.
Unless I was with…no. Not even then.
“Only one left is nighttime in Paris.” James said.
I nodded, following him as he headed towards the staircase which would lead us to the fifth floor, our final destination for the night.
We got there in no time, having developed the skillful art of navigating Hogwarts’ magical, shifting staircases. A few paces down the hallway that also housed the Hufflepuff common room, we reached the broom closet next to “Nighttime in Paris”.
This painting was my favorite. It was just like its title suggests- a beautiful, illuminated street in Paris, wet ground reflecting the stunning light resonating from a distant Eiffel tower. The street was also lined with dimly glowing streetlamps, and a bench on the far left housed a lonely woman dressed. She held a closed umbrella tightly in her hands, and was entirely in black. Though the lights from the lamps and distant Tower flickered and moved about magically, the woman never moved much, eyeing the outside observer warily and yet curiously. I’d look at this woman and sometimes see myself- reflecting quietly in the wake of something absolutely gorgeous.
Finally in front of the closet, James turned to me. “Shall I do the honors?”
I smiled and nodded. “If you must!”
He laughed, gifting me with a dazzling smile (DAMMIT JAMES POTTER) before performing the least complex spell-revealing magic he knew. Sensing no enchantments, he tested the doorknob, and the closet door opened without protest.
The closet was completely dark, so I whispered “lumos” and my wand tip ignited with white light. A dark figure was immediately illuminated in the corner of the closet. The person appeared perfectly immobile, and I glanced back at James. We exchanged a confused look.
I turned my eyes back to the figure, clearing my throat to proclaim our presence, seeing as they hadn’t really noticed when we’d flung open the door. “Hello? Who’s there?”
The person didn’t reply, but stood up slowly. I saw them tuck a notebook surreptitiously into their robe, stepping closer to me. And then I gasped. My wand bathed light upon an already pale face, a mop of un-kept inky black hair hiding equally dark eyes.
“Sev?” I whispered.
I couldn’t help it. When we were children, friends, I’d always called him Sev. But that had been a long time ago, and things between us couldn’t have been more different. I hadn’t spoken to him since fifth year, when he’d called me a nasty name and we’d had a huge quarrel. He’d changed, and while it broke my heart to lose his friendship, it couldn’t have been clearer that we simply couldn’t be friends.
Afraid I’d crossed a line already, I took a step back, as if to literally retrace my mistake. I bumped into James, but he didn’t budge, remaining behind me like the rock that was forcing me to face my problems. I felt better with him there; his presence was reassuring.
Severus remained entirely unemotional. “Lily.”
I swallowed, trying my hardest not to burst into tears. Just because he’d been absolutely cruel to me in the face of our childhood friendship, I still had a soft spot for him.
“I was just leaving.” He said tartly.
“Like hell you were,” James stepped in front of me, his voice cold. “You’re out of bed after hours, Snape. That’s a violation of rules and constitutes detention.”
“James!” I cried. We always scolded people for being out after hours, but almost always let them off without detention. I knew James disliked Severus, but I wouldn’t stand for unfair treatment just because of that. “You can’t just give Sever-”
“How many times do I have to tell you?” Severus interrupted frigidly, turning his eyes on me. They could have been made of ice. “I don’t need help from a mudblood.”
I swear I felt my heart crack again.
After a few painful seconds of prickly silence, two things happened at once: the tears I hadn’t known were in my eyes were suddenly trickling down my face, and James launched himself at the Slytherin, crushing him against the wall of the broom closet.
It was too much. My heart was utterly crushed with misery, but a fight was the last things I needed. Gulping back the sobs that were scraping themselves out of my throat, I wedged myself in between James’ punching fists and Severus’ frozen, indifferent frame. I grabbed James by his arms, half-sobbing, half-yelling. “Stop, James! Stop it! Let him go!”
Though his face remained an explosion of anger, James’ fighting arms went limp at the sound of my voice, and Severus managed to weasel himself out from behind us, slipping out of the closet in a whirl of black cape.
When he was gone, I crumpled against the wall, burying my head in my hands. I felt James remain where he was, breathing heavily. Tears squeezed themselves out of my eyes without my permission and my chest shook with emotions I thought I’d put to rest years ago.
Severus had managed to twist the knife of his betrayal right back in my heart, another stab for good measure. It was more than I could take.
After a while of crying, I noticed I wasn’t leaning against the wall anymore but a solid chest, my body wrapped in a vaguely familiar embrace. I felt fingers rub my back comfortingly, and I could feel the fleshy texture of James’ cheek against my hair. It was perfect, but I was too broken to appreciate it.
This realization only made me cry harder.
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