Chapter 9 : So Very Mature
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Remus couldn’t help but feel as though something was off. He sat with Bell on the couch, and he looked over at her from his book. She was flipping aimlessly through “Teen Witch”, marking pages that were of interest to her. He crinkled his nose.
“Since when have you been interested in Teen Witch?” he asked.
Bell’s eyes lifted to meet his, and he was taken back by the coldness in her eyes. “What’s it to you?” she asked, rolling her eyes.
“Well, I mean, I told you a few days ago you ought to try reading the new novel that Madame Pince let me borrow. I’ve finished it already,” he said, reaching into his bookbag to pull out the book.
Bell shook her head and proclaimed, “That old witch? No, thank you. I’d sooner fly outside during a thunderstorm.”
Remus looked at her in surprise. “You love doing that...”
Bell paused in shock. “Oh. Well, I mean, you know....a lot has changed since last year. Summer has really changed me. I’m thinking of dropping my position as Captain.”
“You’re joking.” James’s voice interrupted Remus. James looked at Bell as if he’d never heard anything so ridiculous.
“James, I don’t have any interest in continuing Quidditch. I have something more important now,” Bell said, wrapping a hand around Remus’s arm. She pointed her nose in the air snottily. Remus looked from her hand to James’s shocked face.
“I...you worked for years to get that position last year,” James said.
“I don’t need Quidditch to be happy, James,” she shot.
“I’m not saying you have to!” James returned, “I just don’t understand why you’d think of doing that when you were always the one who wanted it most. You made all those impromptu Quidditch matches just for fun when we were just in Third Year!”
Bell snorted. “That’s completely pathetic,” she snickered.
James stepped back. “Well, if that’s what you think of Quidditch, then that’s certainly a reflection on you,” he retorted. He looked over at Remus, who seemed too shocked by the entire conversation to even react.
“Moony, can I talk to you in private?”
Remus slipped out of Bell’s grasp and joined James in a corner of the Common Room. James peered over at Bell, who had now sprawled across the entire couch, still flipping leisurely through her magazine.
“Moony, haven’t you noticed Bell’s a little...well...rude?” James asked.
Remus let out a defeated sigh. “I don’t know what’s happened to her. Maybe this summer had a worse effect on her than it did on me...” he said dubiously.
“Did she tell you why she wanted to get back together?”
Remus’s eyebrows furrowed in concentration. He really couldn’t recall. He had been much too happy to even think about it when it happened, and the question had just slipped into obscurity over time. “I never...I never asked.”
“Well, I think you should, Moony. That girl over there,” James pointed to the couch, “She’s not the person that you and I were friends with last year.”
“Who else could she possibly be, James?” Remus asked, trying to dissuade his best friend from believing the worst of his girlfriend.
“I don’t know, Moony. But she is definitely not the girl we knew before. She’s so...cold. She takes a perverse delight in watching others suffer.”
“What do you mean?” Remus asked, his eyes widening slightly in alarm.
“Sirius and I were out flying one day, just messing around with a quaffle when for some reason Sirius lost control of his broom. It went insane for a while, throwing him about like a rag doll. I mean, we eventually got it under control again with a few spells you taught us, Moony. But I swear, I saw Bell standing there when Sirius was whirling about. She didn’t even try to do anything. She just stood there, watching...”
“Bell wouldn’t...” Remus began.
“Exactly. Bell wouldn’t! So why did she?” James asked with a shrug.
“I don’t know,” Remus admitted.
“Look, mate, I know you like her. Just...try to keep an open mind to all of this,” James said comfortingly.
Remus smiled slightly. “Really, James, when did you become so very mature?”
James laughed heartily. “Well, I’m only following Lily’s orders, aren’t I?” He clapped Remus on the shoulder before heading up the stairs. Remus watched him leave, his heart going out to his best friend. He didn’t know how he did it, but somehow James was in good spirits despite Lily still going out with Adam.
Lily was sitting in the Head Common Room, trying hard to figure out a way to make a lily petal into a fish for Professor Slughorn. Her mind had blocked out all other ambient noise. She wanted a distraction from everything, from the torture of pretending to be utterly happy with Adam when everything he did grated her nerves like nails on chalk.
“Hi, Lily,” James said quietly, approaching the concentrating redhead.
She sat up in surprise. “Potter,” she returned coldly. Turning back to her work, she continued to scribble on her parchment.
James sat down beside her, pulling out a book to read. Lily couldn’t help but continue to steal occasional glances at him. However, he seemed to be doing an excellent job of ignoring her. She let out an agitated sigh.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded finally after ten minutes of silence. She threw down her quill angrily.
“What?” James asked, looking at her curiously from his book.
“Well?” she asked, crossing her arms.
“Lily, I’m just reading a book...”
“Why are you reading it here?”
James looked at her in surprise. He closed his book carefully. “Didn’t know I wasn’t welcome to sit in the Common Room. Sorry,” he said sincerely, standing to leave.
Lily let out a defeated sigh. “No, no,” she said quickly, “I’m sorry. I’m just upset and tired. You can sit here and read all you want.” She smiled sincerely, and James felt his heart skip a beat. With a goofy grin, he plopped himself down beside her, peering over her shoulder.
“Slughorn’s essay?” he asked with a laugh.
“No actually,” Lily said, waving her wand across the paper, “I’m trying to make a gift for Professor Slughorn.”
“What then? Why’s that?”
“I like Professor Slughorn. He’s a good professor.”
“That’s because you’re part of the Slug Club,” James joked, “Favoritism, anybody?”
Lily opened her mouth in reproach, but stopped herself as she noticed the teasing glint in James’s eyes. She looked down and let out a little chuckle. Looking away, she continued to conjure up a little lily petal.
“I know, Lily.”
“Know what?” she asked, too concentrated to pay much attention to his words.
“I know you’re acting with Adam.”
Lily felt her blood boil unexpectedly. She might have a fake relationship with Adam, but he had no right to make any such claims!
“No, no!” James interjected before she could say anything, “I don’t mean like that! I mean...I know he’s been slipping you a love potion for the past few months. Bell told me.”
“Oh...” she muttered, her shoulders dropping. She had been so tired of pretending. Her only escape was in this room, and keeping the truth from James had been harder than she had supposed. He had been sweet and caring in the past few weeks. Suddenly, she felt as though the weight of the world she had been balancing on her shoulders came crashing down. Tears fell down her cheeks, and she buried her face in her hands in embarrassment.
“Oh, hey, Lily,” James said, putting a hand on her shoulder, “What’s wrong? Did I say something wrong?”
Lily’s shoulders shook from her sobs, but she put up a hand and shook her head.
“What’s wrong?” James asked, scooting closer and wrapping a comforting arm around her. He couldn’t help but smile when she leaned into him.
“It’s so hard!” she cried, burying her face in his neck.
“I’m sure it is,” he comforted, running a hand down her hair, “He’s a slimy git, he is. No offense, of course.”
“He is!” Lily agreed, sniffling loudly. “And he acts like he’s the king of the world! I hate it! I hate him, and I have to pretend that I’m in love with him...I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”
James fell silent, letting Lily cry on him. As her sobs ceased and the shaking in her body became infrequent, he pulled her away to take a look at her. She let out a little cry and covered her tear-stained face. “Don’t look at me when I look like this,” she muttered, looking away from him.
James smiled slightly, pulling her hands gently from her face. “Lily, look at me.” When she refused, he pulled her chin carefully towards him. She looked at him with her bright green eyes, puffy from her tears. “I always thought you were beautiful. Even now.”
Lily felt the tears threaten to pour out once more at James’s words. With no warning, she leaned forward and wrapped her arms around his neck.
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