Chapter 28 : Atonement
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(A/N: This chapter starts after Lily's first visit to the hospital wing.)
It was my fault. My fault that James was in the hospital wing, that Celia wasn’t speaking to him, that Severus and I were no longer friends…
I walked quickly from the hospital wing, my head throbbing with James’s words.
Of course, out of the all the things that happened last night the thing James would focus on would be Celia’s reaction to all this. I was so stupid for even thinking he cared anything at all about my reaction.
Everything had been flipped upside down last night and though I wasn’t the one to sneak the love potion, I felt like everything that happened was because of me. James was in the hospital wing, Celia wasn’t speaking to him, and I had once and for all lost Severus…
His words from last night kept echoing in my head. How could I have been so blind? So stupid? I had always been aware that Severus was different with me than other people… I had naively thought that it was because we had been friends for so long. But his accusation that I’d dragged his heart up and down the halls for years kept repeating over and over in my head.
He was right, of course. I had let him believe that maybe someday we could have been something when all along I knew that would never happen.
But he was wrong, too. About too many things to even list. And it all started when he called me mudblood.
I wandered through the halls aimlessly, trying to ignore the looks people were giving me as I passed by.
“I heard Evans was secretly dating Snape and when he found her snogging Potter he went ballistic,” A fourth year whispered behind her hand to her friend, both of them sneaking glances at me as I walked by.
“I heard Celia Carrington’s going to challenge her to a duel for snogging her boyfriend,” a Ravenclaw girl whispered to a group of girls in the entrance hall.
“Apparently Evans and Potter have been sneaking around together for a while and when Celia found out she paid Snape to hex him. He’s always had a thing for Evans, you know, so he was more than glad to do it,” another student said when I passed, not bothering to keep his voice down.
I rolled my eyes, not in the mood to listen to the inane Hogwarts gossip circulating the castle, and turned around heading back towards the library.
I had to do something. James was lying, miserable in the hospital wing because of me. If I hadn’t felt bad enough before, his thinking that Celia’s stony silence towards him was his fault sent me over the edge.
As much as I disliked the thought of him with Celia Carrington, I couldn’t help but feel guilty about the whole situation. I actually felt bad for Celia. This was the second time something like this had happened and it wasn’t exactly fair to her. She had never actually done anything to make me dislike her…
I stopped in the doorway to the library and suddenly I knew what I had to do. It was the least I could do, really. And if it made things easier for James, then I owed him that much, at least.
I had pretty much succeeded in ripping Severus’s heart out and dragging it about the castle, and this would be my punishment—my retribution. I had damaged two relationships last night, one beyond repair, but I could still salvage the other.
No matter how I felt about James, this had to be done. No matter how much this hurt to do, it was the right thing… maybe it was good that it would hurt. It would be my atonement for all the years of pain I’d put Severus through.
I walked along the row of books towards a table where a girl sat by herself, head bent over a book as her quill scratched furiously across the parchment where she was taking notes.
I came to a stop in front of the table, hesitating slightly before speaking.
“Celia?” I asked quietly and the girl looked up slowly from her books, her brown eyes narrowing when she recognized me.
She studied me for a moment, confusion written plainly all over her face.
“Can I help you?” Celia asked, raising her eyebrows slightly when I didn’t speak.
“I… I think I owe you an explanation of what actually happened last night,” I faltered, my fingers twisting together behind my back as Celia appraised me carefully.
“Thanks, but I’m really not interested,” Celia said, looking back down at her book.
“Wait,” I said, sinking down into the chair across from her and she looked up at me expectantly. “I really think you need to know what happened.”
“I know what happened,” Celia said plainly, her eyes dropping back down to her work.
“I really doubt that,” I said starkly. “I’ve heard the rumors. They’re not even close.”
Celia bit her lip and finally put her quill down on top of her parchment, looking up at me.
“Alright,” she said slowly, a flicker of apprehension in her eyes as she waited for my explanation.
“Yesterday in potions,” I began slowly, “we made Amortentia. Love potion, you know? Apparently my friends thought it would be funny to sneak some out and slip it into the Marauders’s drinks. All of them got it; it wasn’t just James.”
Celia’s eyes widened with this revelation. None of the rumors included love potions. Only the Marauders, Scarlet, Anna, and I knew what had really happened.
“I was able to get Sirius and Remus to Slughorn before they did any real damage,” I continued. “But James was a bit more difficult.”
Celia’s jaw clenched slightly as she listened and I could tell she was dreading this next part.
“Look, he did kiss me, but you should know that it was only because of the love potion,” I said hastily, my stomach twisting uncomfortably by how true this was. “He never would have done so otherwise.”
“And… the bit about Severus Snape hexing him?” Celia asked, her eyebrows pulling together.
“That part’s true as well,” I admitted, dropping my eyes to indicate that I didn’t want to go into more detail than that. “I’m really sorry about all of this…”
“What’s it matter to you?” Celia asked after a moment of silence.
“Excuse me?” I asked, taken aback. The question wasn’t hostile… it was genuinely curious.
“Why are you telling me all this?” Celia asked quietly. Her face wasn’t angry or guarded anymore. Her features softened considerably as it sank in that James had been under the influence of a love potion.
“I didn’t want you to think that James cheated on you,” I replied simply. “He would never do that.”
Celia nodded, chewing on her bottom lip.
“James and I are friends,” I said, meeting Celia’s gaze. “But it will never be anything more than that. And I’m sorry if…if I gave you the wrong impression.”
Celia nodded again and then gave a great sigh.
“Everyone thinks James fancies you, you know,” Celia said, her eyes meeting mine. It wasn’t an accusation, merely a statement. “And who could blame him? You’re brilliant, top of the class, looks that could kill… and to top it all, you’re bloody nice. Merlin, I really wanted to hate you, but I can’t. There’s no logical reason for it other than the fact that I’m jealous of you.”
I let an incredulous huff but quickly stifled it as Celia frowned at me.
“You’re not actually jealous of me, are you?” I scoffed and Celia’s cheeks blushed pink.
Sweet Merlin’s beard she actually was jealous… of me. What an absurd notion. I couldn’t let her go on like this. As painful as it would be, I had to tell her the truth. It was a difficult thing to say, partly because deep down I knew it was completely true and partly because I wished it wasn’t.
“Look, Celia,” I said taking a deep breath. “If James really wanted me—if he fancied me at all—he would probably have me by now. But this thing between him and me has always just been kind of a game… a joke. It’s never been real. You’re what he really wants. He’s not just messing around. He cares about you… a lot.”
Celia considered my words carefully and seemed finally to accept what I was saying. She twisted the watch around on her wrist and hissed as she read the time. She grabbed her quill from the table and quickly scribbled something on a scrap of paper from her notes. She folded it carefully, taped it shut with some spell-o-tape, and held it out to me.
“Would you mind giving this to him for me?” Celia asked, her eyes friendly. “I would give it to him myself but I’m already late for a tutoring session and I have a study group after that, but I don’t want him to think I’m still mad at him.”
“Of course,” I said, slightly surprised as I took the folded letter from her.
Celia gathered up her books quickly while I watched numbly from my chair.
“Thank you, Lily,” Celia said sincerely as she slung her backpack over her shoulder. “It means a lot to me, hearing all that from you.”
“No problem,” I muttered absently, getting to my feet and watching as Celia gave me a friendly smile and hurried down a row of books to where a second year girl was waiting to be tutored.
I stared after her for a moment, trying to feel happy that she seemed to have forgiven James. I clutched her letter loosely in my hand and glanced down at it. I idly wondered what it said, but realized it didn’t really matter. It wasn’t my business. I shoved myself off the chair and my feet carried me to the infirmary where I ran into the old nurse at the door. After begging her to let me in, saying I only had a letter to deliver, she begrudgingly granted me entrance.
I came to a stop at the foot of his bed, staring down at his sleeping form. I was glad he was asleep. I could just leave the letter and he’d never know that I’d been here. I didn’t think I could bear to talk to him again. Every minute that I spent with him was one giant frenzy of confusion anymore.
James stirred slightly in his bed and icy fear clamped down on my chest. If I was fast enough I could drop the letter and run, and he wouldn’t see me. But before my feet could move, James snatched his glasses off the table and sat up in his bed.
“Celia, I’m so glad you’re—“ James started but snapped his mouth shut when he realized his mistake. My jaw clenched and I hoped that my eyes didn’t betray how much that stung.
“Sorry,” James muttered awkwardly, pushing himself into a more comfortable position. “Without my glasses you look just like—“
“Celia,” I finished for him and my voice sounded distant. James looked at me oddly, his eyes hazel full of sympathy. I was sure that by now he had gotten the full story from the Marauders. I didn’t want his sympathy. I had brought this on myself.
Without waiting for him to speak again I thrust my hand out, Celia’s letter clutched loosely in my fingers. I let the parchment fall into his outstretched hand and James frowned slightly.
“What’s this?” he asked, turning the letter over in his hands.
“It’s from Celia,” I said carefully, making sure my voice didn’t give away just how much it had cost me to go to her.
James raised his eyebrows slightly at me, questions written plainly all over his face.
“I… I ran into her in the library,” I said slowly, the lie flowing smoothly from my lips. “She was in kind of a rush. She was tutoring someone and running late. So she asked me if I could give this to you…”
“What’s it say?” James asked, examining the letter as if it were a bomb that might go off any second.
“I’m just the messenger, James,” I said quietly, my eyes falling to the floor as I realized that that was all I was to him… the friend, the messenger, nothing more. “I didn’t read it.”
James slid his finger under the tape and ripped it open, his eyes skimming across the lines of hasty script. He blinked once and then let out a sigh as he finished reading. I let my own eyes fall closed, not wanting to see the relief on his face at Celia’s apology.
“Well, I’ll leave you to it then,” I said, wanting nothing more than to get far away from the hospital wing. As I turned, I caught sight of something resting at the end of James’s bed and paused. It was a book with gilded edges and huge elegant letters stamped across the front reading Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches. What a strange book for James to have…
I glanced over at him, biting my lip to keep from smiling.
“Er… James,” I said, looking back towards the book. “What on earth is this?”
I pointed at the book and James sat up to see what I was indicating, immediately turning bright red as he recognized the book.
I couldn’t stop a smile from spreading across my face as I picked up the book and turned it over in my hands.
“Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches?” I read the cover, glancing up at James with an amused look. It was a hollow kind of amusement… On the one hand, it was absolutely ludicrous that James would have this book (he was a Marauder, after all) but on the other hand, he had probably gotten this book to fix things with Celia.
“Bloody hell,” James muttered, sinking back into his pillows.
“Sorry, but what do you need a book like this for?” I asked, scanning the back cover where the twelve steps were outlined in shiny gold print.
Before I could read through them all, James snatched the book from my hands and shoved it under his pillow.
“If you must know,” James growled, his face still red, “I’m just trying to think of a way to make it up to Celia.”
“Well, you’re not going to find anything in that book,” I sniggered, nodding towards the lump under his pillow.
“Oh? And how do you know?” James sniffed, his voice annoyed. He crossed him arms over his chest.
“James,” I sighed, letting the amusement fade from my voice. I bit my lip, trying to think of the right words. “Romance isn’t something you can learn from a book… trust me on that, I’ve read nearly every book in the library and I still don’t know the first thing about love.”
“Well… but you’re a girl,” James frowned at me, looking like he was contemplating something in his head.
“I’d say that’s an accurate assessment,” I rolled my eyes at his obvious statement.
“I just mean… “ James paused, contemplating his next words. “The Marauders aren’t very good with this kind of stuff and I don’t really have any other girl-type friends I can talk to…”
“So you want my advice about Celia,” I asked incredulously, letting any emotion disappear from my face. Of course. Stick the knife in deeper, James, that’s fine.
“If you… if you don’t mind?” James said, a strange expression crossing his face, like he was just as unsure of this as I was.
“Oh, James… I don’t really know anything about relationships,” I said uneasily, reaching for any excuse that would get me out of this. My fingers twisted together in my lap. How could I help him with this? Did he realize how much this was costing me?
“That’s ok,” James said quickly, sitting up straighter. Damn. “I just need your opinion, that’s all. As a girl.”
I stared at him for a moment, searching his face. Was I waiting for him to say to me what he said last night? I had been so stupid… why had I let his words affect me so much?
“Alright. Fine,” I sighed, deciding that this would just have to be part of my atonement for everything that had gone wrong last night.
“It’s just… I want to do something special for her when I get out of the hospital wing, to make it up to her. But I have no idea what to do…Hence, the book,” James explained hastily, watching me with careful eyes as if he expected me to dash out of the hospital wing before he could finish. Not that the thought hadn’t crossed my mind…
Something hot and burning trickled through me at the notion of him being romantic with Celia, though I tried to convince myself it wasn’t jealousy. Was I really going to help him with this? I had never been romanced… Sure, Alex had said gooey, lovey-dovey things but with him there had always been an ulterior motive. What did I know about romance? The most romantic thing to ever happen to me had been last night… oh, Merlin.
“If you want to do something really romantic,” I said after a moment, pushing the flutters away from my stomach at the recollection of last night. “Then you don’t need to plan a huge production, and you don’t need a book to tell you what to do. Just go with your gut… Spontaneity is always good, but honestly just take her somewhere where you two can be alone. Talk to her, listen to her… maybe do dinner, but nothing too fancy. Some girls… me, at least, anyways, like simplicity.”
James stared at me, frowning slightly as if he were trying to memorize my every word.
“Am I just supposed to talk to her for several hours? Won’t that be boring?” James asked after a minute and I suppressed an impatient sigh, raising my eyebrows at him instead.
“You’re kind of clueless sometimes,” I shook my head at him sadly. “There are other things to do besides talking, aren’t there?”
“Oh…” James let out his breath as my words sunk in. “So, take her somewhere nice, maybe dinner… then snog her brains out?”
I wrinkled my nose at his crudeness, trying to push away those particular mental images.
“Well, don’t just pounce on her,” I rolled my eyes, trying to keep the disgust from my voice.
“Come on, Evans,” James whined, sitting up more in his bed and I glanced up at him. “I do the cheesy stuff, not the romantic stuff. I mean… I’ve had dates. And then I’ve had dates, if you know what I mean. But I want this to actually mean something… what if it were you?”
My eyes widened instantly and James winced slightly as he realized just how bad of a choice his words were. I didn’t want to think about his past dates… I’d heard the rumors and from what I knew of James and Sirius, they were all true.
“I just mean… what would you want, you know, if you were on… on a date,” James quickly tried to recover, stumbling over his words.
I chewed on my bottom lip for a moment. He wanted to know what I would want from a date with him? Merlin, he was really trying to make this as hard for me as possible. He couldn’t actually be this clueless, could he? He had to know what this was doing to me…
I sucked in a deep breath, carefully composing my face so that I didn’t give anything away. Maybe he would just assume I was thinking of Alex… that would be the safest thing. He couldn’t know that I was only thinking of last night…
“Well,” I started, hesitating. “If it were me, I’d want you to… to…”
I let my breath out slowly and my eyes fell closed. This would be easier if I couldn’t see him.
“I’d want you to catch me off guard,” I practically whispered, remembering with a flip of my stomach how James had done just that last night. “With like, a really good kiss. You know, one of those kind that makes your heart stop. Soft at first… but with the promise that something amazing could happen…”
I opened my eyes to find James staring at me with the oddest expression on his face, like he was mesmerized by my words.
“And then maybe you’d look into my eyes, like I’m the only girl you’d ever seen,” I breathed, my eyes locking onto his and I thought I saw James’s breath hitch slightly. The way he looked at me now— like I was the only girl he saw—I never wanted him to stop.
“Maybe you’d brush the hair away from my face,” I continued, absently reaching a hand up to run through my hair. I was trying desperately not to remember how James had done just that last night, too…. “And pull me close… and… and…”
I let my words drift off, not able to continue anymore. I could imagine what would happen next, as I’m sure he could too. I let my eyes fall from his face, unable to look at him anymore. My stomach was doing cartwheels and I was sure that if I looked at him any longer, I would burst into flames. I tried to keep my mind from picturing what had happened last night, but the images flooded my head and I was overwhelmed by the urge for him to kiss me again.
I was pretty certain I was losing my mind. I shouldn’t want to kiss him. That was a fluke, what happened last night. Maybe I had accidentally swallowed some love potion as well and it just hadn’t worn off yet.
James had leant in closer to me and I could smell that infuriatingly enticing scent coming off his skin. I ached to feel his lips on mine again, to experience once more what it was like to kiss an angel and without consciously deciding to do so, I leaned in closer to him, intoxicated by the way his cool breath felt on my skin.
“Alright, you’ve had fifteen minutes, Miss Evans,” Madam Pomphrey appeared around the bed curtains and I lept away from the bed so fast it made my head spin. “Now, out! He needs to take his medicine and rest some more.”
I sent James one last wide-eyed look, terrified at how close I’d just come to succumbing to my undisclosed desire for him. That was too close.
I turned on my heel and rushed from the hospital, not even looking back though I could feel James’s eyes on me.
What was I thinking, letting myself come that close to ruining everything once more? I couldn’t be actually falling for Potter. That was impossible. No way.
But whether these feelings were genuine or the result of some rare magical disease, being around James Potter was dangerous. I lost all rational though when I was near him.
Sigh… I longed for the days when I could confidently call him a toe-rag and mean it. Where had those days gone?
I could tell you exactly where they’d gone. They were rotting away in a bin somewhere in York.
Damn Potter and his stupid, irresistible charm.
A/N: Hey Everyone! Happy Holidays whatever you celebrate! I wanted to get you guys one last chapter before the break so I hope you enjoyed it! Nothing really new here, just Lily's point of view of the last chapter... but what did you think?
Did you like seeing both sides of the same situation?
Do you think James will go through with his date with Celia?
What do you think of Celia after this chapter?
I know the Well has been absent for quite a while, but guess what? It makes its comeback in the next chapter and you'll FINALLY learn a LOT more about it :)
Have a good break everyone! I'll post the next chapter as soon as the queue reopens :)
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