Chapter 12 : Burn out.
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“Yes, I can count,” I returned, flipping the page of my book over feeling distinctly frustrated – Alice’s new fixation on pointing out extremely obvious facts was largely rooted in her desire to make me go and grovel at James Potter’s feet, which I was not about to do, “one, two, three, four – there you go, I have gained that ability and now feel free to shut up.”
“You sound like Mary.” Alice said, looking up at me sharply for a moment and then I was at a loss of what to return; a thank you? Sarcastic or genuine?
I looked back down at the book I was reading and sucked in a deep breath.
“Lily,” Alice implored, “Lily go speak to him before Christmas.”
“I don’t want to.”
“Stop being so childish!” Alice snapped, “You’re acting like we don’t all know.”
“Know what, exactly?” I asked, my eyes desperately trying to focus on the book in front of me. I didn’t want to think about James: if he was audacious enough to think that retracting his company from me was some sort of punishment, then he was an even bigger idiot than I’d previously thought.
Anyway, I missed him.
“Jesus, Lily, James Potter is the reason you haven’t spent this whole year crying in the foetal position –it’s not like I blame you, it’s not like I don’t understand... but you can’t just do that to someone.”
“Abandon them when things get tough,” But, I thought, swallowing back the chocking feeling that came before tears, that’s exactly what James had done.
“Everyone does it to me.” I said, and I thought of Petunia and Severus and Mary and my father. Was I just such a shit person that, like Sirius said, I couldn’t even keep someone as persistent as James around without driving him crazy and causing him to up and abandon ship?
“What exactly is the problem here?” Alice asked, getting up and placing herself at the bottom of my bed instead. “Are you upset because you’ve finally realised that you need James Potter despite your years of ranting and raving? It’s perfectly okay to be a contradiction,” I tried very hard to continue reading my book instead of concentrating on her, but I could feel her presence and her words and everything she was probably planning on saying, “or is it because you don’t want to talk to me about it all, because you just want to talk to him?”
“When did I get so needy?” I asked, looking up at her, “I don’t care that I care, I care because... because I think I care too much,” Alice raised her eyebrows slightly, enough to spur me into speech for another few moments, “I don’t want to get hurt again,”
“There is far too much irony in that sentence,” Rachel said quietly, stepping into the dorm with her hair soaking wet from Quidditch practice. “Don’t use that line on James, he wouldn’t appreciate it.”
“Rachel, will you tell Lily to grow up, please?” Alice said, sighing and vacating my bed – I felt her weight disappear for a moment, and all of a sudden I wished she wouldn’t leave. I didn’t want to be alone. “Maybe I should give up on you too, I’m sure you’d like that. So you could prove your little theory correct. How was practice?”
Rachel glanced at me, “terrible, James is just... urgh, I don’t even want to talk about it.”
I wanted her to talk about it: I wanted to absorb these little snippets about James so I could imagine them – picture the crease in his forehead and the absence of the easy smile on his face. And would that make it better? Maybe. That was the issue: at some point, although I felt as though some warning or alert should have been given to me when the moment arose, I had accepted the fact that James was James and I was Lily. I’d accepted the fact that I needed him and that I couldn’t lose him – but I hadn’t realise the extent of which the attachment had gotten too.
And not in a good way. I was a mess. I needed the constant reassurance of James’s presence to function, it seemed, and now that I no longer had the option of running to him when I needed to cry it was physically painful. I hadn’t expected that. I hadn’t thought that I could, yet again, make the mistake of becoming so dependent on somebody.
I couldn’t lose James, but surely if I was that dependant on another person then I’d lost myself.
“Where’s Mary when you need her.” I muttered quietly, ignoring Rachel and Alice’s idle chat about Quidditch. Mary would understand how I’d always scorned marriage and settling down and those girls who were happy to just exist as an extension of their boyfriend. James and I hadn’t even been dating, and yet here I was returning to reading the same books in the same way I’d done after the days after Mary’s death.
For Merlin’s sake: I was insulting Mary’s death by being in the same mindset, but it was true. It gave me yet another reason to hate myself, but there it was – I was Lily Evans, a person completely and utterly dependent on a boy. And not even a boy who even liked me anymore. Pathetic.
“I’m going to go talk to Sirius.” I muttered, shutting my book and shoving my hands in my pocket.
“They’re still down at the pitch.” Rachel said.
I didn’t have to ask who ‘they’ were.
“Okay, well, I’ll meet you for dinner.”
“You’re still going down there?” Alice asked, raising her eyebrows.
“I’m not avoiding him,” I said firmly, folding my arms, “I’d love nothing more than a confrontation.”
“Of course,” Alice said, and then she rolled her eyes and flicked open her wedding magazine again.
I didn’t want a confrontation.
James, God bloody James, had invested so much time into avoiding me since I’d been discharged from the hospital wing (apparently night time visits were disbanded the moment I was deemed healthy enough to walk around – although this was probably for the best, it would have turned into being downright creepy if he’d continued this new found practice) and if my death wasn’t imminent – Merlin I shouldn’t even joke about that sort of stuff in my head – then I didn’t really matter anymore.
But, that wasn’t even the worst of it. Everyone in the whole damn school seemed to know that I’d been tortured and there had been a good few people who’d had the audacity to approach me in the corridor and ask me what it felt like and the Slytherins were being worse than normal – I could hardly walk down the corridor alone without being injured, but at least they hadn’t seemed to realise that the whole thing had been intentional. Then they really would be pissed.
Still, out witting their poster-girl for violence, Bellatrix Lestrange, wouldn’t go down on the list of the smartest things I’d ever done.
I pulled my robes around me as I stepped outside the castle. There was snow again and I was reminded sharply of the snow last year – the snow day prank and Mary and Sirius. Bugger it all.
Yet, already the snow was melting due to the onslaught of the rain, more sleet really, to the point when it was hardly even beautiful anymore – just another thing slowly crumbling.
I half ran across the grounds to the Quidditch pitch to avoid freezing to death, wondering how the bloody hell they could stick out flying in this weather. Flying: Mary in the hospital wing, not knowing whether she’d even wake up...I needed James. I couldn’t do this without him, and that was the horrifying part of all of this.
I could hear their voices mingling together as I approached the locker rooms, but only managed to catch a few words above the wind: bloody told you didn’t I?... Well, mate; you’ve always been a bloody seer at heart... Sod off...
I swallowed, “hey,” I muttered, pushing open the door and stepping into the room.
It went silent.
It looked like they were just about to head back up to the castle; Sirius seemed to be halfway through shrugging on his robes (crap that bloke must be warm blooded) and James stopped with his scarf in his hand, waiting.
“Evans,” Sirius said, looking between James and I as if he was really enjoying it. I risked a glance at James, who was rather badly feigning indifference to my presence. I flushed slightly and glanced down at the floor.
“Rachel said you were down here,” I said quietly, not unfolding my arms from around my chest and glancing downwards. “I wanted to talk to you, Sirius.”
“Fire away,” Sirius said, stretching out his arms and raising his eyebrows at me. James ruffled his hair up. Pants. I hadn’t really expected it to be this awkward, or maybe I’d half hoped James would simply throw open his arms and be all ‘never mind Lily, what’s a bit of intentional torture between friends?’
Which had been stupid given I knew James a little better than that – I had met him, after all. I’d heard his declaration of giving up, or whatever it had been, him saying that he’d leave me alone. Acting like that’s what I wanted, when only a week before hand I’d told him: we’d sat in the park and I’d told him I needed him.
“Well,” James said, putting his Gryffindor scarf on and getting to his feet slowly, “I’ll be going.”
“Okay,” I said quietly, looking very intently at the floor for a few minutes.
“Excuse me.” He added, standing up.
I needed to say something and not something stupid like ‘okay’ but an actually genuine something. Maybe Alice was right, maybe I did have to speak to him before the holidays because then, surely, everything would be so much worse?
(And how was I supposed to survive a Christmas without Mary, without Dad and without James? There were only so many missing pieces I could take, and James was central).
So, I had to speak. There was a horrible moment when I opened my mouth, just as James brushed past me to get through the door (which, naturally, I was rather inconveniently in the way of) making a strangled sort of sound – enough to make James turn and look at me for a second.
Now he was expecting me to say something. Bugger.
“I’m not sorry.” I burst out, before realising with jolt that sometimes it is best to shut the hell up. The wind picked that moment to ruffle up his already-scruffy hair giving him an almost comical expression of surprise. Then he was angry.
“I’m sorry?” James questioned, glaring at me.
“You should be!”
“...I should be sorry?”
Oh God. James was standing there being all adorable and beautiful and angry, and here I was saying all the wrong things (wouldn’t, don’t ever leave me again you horrible prat, I can’t function without you have worked much better? Yes, it scored much higher on the pathetic scales and I was going to have to try and find something really badass to counteract it, but thinking it and not saying it was just as pathetic. More, even) and then Sirius was just there hovering in the background listening.
“Yes,” I said, not meeting his eyes as I tried to save my pathetic face.
“For what, exactly?”
“You... you should work it out.”
Holy crap, what was I talking about?
“Right,” James said, leaning against the door frame for a second, “I’ll bare that in mind.”
“I... I told you.”
“Excellent,” James said, shoving his hands into his pockets, “and I’m sure it was just as easy to follow as this ridiculous spew.”
“You’re the one being ridiculous.”
“Okay, Evans – I’m ridiculous. Later, Sirius,” James said over my shoulder, and then he started walking off. I watched him for a second, his shoulders hunched over and his hands buried deep within the pockets of his robes. God, I was horrible.
“When I said I wasn’t going to give you relationship advice, Lily, I didn’t mean just start shouting random stuff,” Sirius drawled with an easy smirk, “that doesn’t work.”
“Why are you being so mean?” I demanded, closing the door with my left hand and glaring at him, “do you just not care?”
“No, I just know you’re both being melodramatic."
“You’ve got plenty of experience of that.”
“Precisely,” Sirius said, “don’t stress about it – you’ll be ‘together’ by April.”
“You said March before.”
“Yeah, then I saw that,” Sirius grinned, “Oh come on Evans? ‘You’re being ridiculous,’ ‘no, you’re ridiculous!’– please tell me Mary and I were never that pathetic.”
“You were worse,” I said with narrowed eyes, “if I fall in love with you?”
“Shit, she told you about that then?” Sirius said, pressing his fingers to his foreheads, “I’d hoped that line would just... stop existing."
He’d been about to say ‘die out.’ We could both feel the unsaid words for a moment. Sirius recovered first.
“Anyway, there’s been a great deal of progress made on the James front.”
“Yes, Evans,” Sirius said, smirking at me again, “you seem to have accepted the fact that you’re going to marry him and have his children and what not – when did that happen?”
“I’m predictable, okay,” I sighed, giving up and sitting next to Sirius heavily, “and I don’t want to get married or have children.”
“What did you want to talk about, anyway Evans?” I shrugged lamely, tucking my knees up to my chest on the benches and looking out towards the door, “I’m your replacement James?” Sirius continued, still grinning, “well, I’m not about to kiss it better, Evans – so suck it up.”
“You’re such an arrogant shit,” I sighed, leaning on his shoulder for a minute, “why does anyone even like you?”
“Charm, intellect and good looks,” Sirius said, “and my great compassion.”
“Compassion my arse,” I muttered darkly, “I miss Mary. She’d get it,”
“You’re really not that complicated, try me.”
“I miss James,” I said reluctantly, “but I don’t want to miss him. Not because he’s James, or anything like that – not anymore. I don’t want to miss him because I’m tired of missing people. It’s stupid, Sirius, why do I just carry on putting my faith in people who are just going to disappear or die or become Death Eaters? Am I that, like, insecure that I can’t just be self sufficient and happy without depending on someone.”
“Who’s self sufficient, anyway?” Sirius questioned to the empty locker room, “You’ve got to depend on some people.”
“But people are shit!”
“Yes, Evans, that’s life. You can’t depend on yourself because you’re crap, so you’ve got to depend on other people even though they’re crap too. And thus, you are continually disappointed until you learn to live with the fact that you’re not a nice person and that your boyfriend and your best friend probably aren’t nice people either. Then, you get over it.”
“Sirius,” I muttered, shaking my head at him.
“You wanted some sort of message of hope? Look at me – I’ve got no family, not really, I’ve been disowned, I’ve lost Mary and I’m, as you said, an arrogant shit. But, I do have James,” he nodded to me, “and Peter and Remus. They’re not saints – James is a spoilt brat, Peter is a suck up and Remus just loves to wallow in self-pity – defeatist bastard. We prank people who we don’t like, we strung up Snape from a tree and took his pants off because we were bored – there aren’t any Heroes, Evans, but that doesn’t mean people can’t be heroic.”
“So you’re saying I should just accept the fact that I’m wholly and completely dependent on James and just be fine with that, even if it means I’ll just be some broken shell of a person if he ups and leaves or I somehow wind up alone again?”
“It’s not so bad,” Sirius shrugged. I swallowed.
“Sorry.” The moment hung over us for a long moment before Sirius shook his head slightly and ran his hands through his hair.
“Hey, maybe that’s how you should have started with James,” Sirius said, “let’s go back to the castle before my feet freeze off. I’m too beautiful to lose my toes.”
“Sirius said you ran into James and yelled at him.” Remus said with a grin, sitting down next to me over dinner and raising an eyebrow.
“Sirius said you’re a defeatist bastard, but who am I to tell tales?”
“Defeatist bastard? Coming from Sirius? Merlin – I should brush up on my optimism.”
“Why were you in the hospital wing the night I got tortured?” I demanded, folding my arms and watching him carefully.
“I got attacked.”
“Yeah, I saw.”
“By my rabbit.”
“It got in the way of one of James’s engorgement charms – never really quite recovered, to tell you the truth.”
“So, you’re telling me you were in the hospital wing because you got attacked by a giant rabbit.”
“Yes I am.” Remus said leaning on his elbows and looking as serious as he could manage.
“Actually, Remus, I think you just showed a fine display of optimism right there.”
“Okay, it wasn’t a giant rabbit.”
“Really?” I asked sarcastically, turning over a page in my book, “you do always surprise me.”
“Please don’t go sniffing around,” Remus asked hopefully, “please, Lily, promise me you’ll just drop it?”
“Fine,” I said and then, “excuse me,” because James was just walking into the hall – alone this time – and this time I wasn’t going to start waffling on about blame and things: I’d just get right to the point at hand. Sirius was right; James wasn’t going to give up on me just yet. I reckon I still had about half a life before I finally pushed him too far and I wasn’t planning on doing that.
“James,” I said, up on my feet and blocking his path before he could consider where about he was going to sit (a decision which I expected would be based on how to avoid me in the most successful and efficient manner) – I could feel the gaze of Alice, Peter and Remus on the back of my neck for a minute, “there’s a... a Head thing which we need to go do.”
“What is it?”
“Tell me what it is, and I’ll sort it. You should go rest or something.”
Oh, lord. He was being snide.
“I’m fine,” I said, shrugging, “we should really work together.”
“No, Lily really I -”
“Shut up,” I ordered, “just listen a minute James.”
“Just don’t want to be accused of being ridiculous.” James said, one hand going back into his pockets and the other up to his hair.
“I’ll make a scene.”
“For God’s sake...” James began, but I’d already reached forward and pushed him hard in the chest. James stepped back for a second, narrowing his eyes in disbelief, “did you just push me?”
“Yes! Because you’re so pushy.”
“People are starring.”
“That’s the point, Potter. Now give it up and talk to me a minute.”I hissed quietly
“Why didn’t you visit me?” I demanded loudly, trying to ignore the fact that my plan at successfully causing a scene was working a little bit too well and I could feel dozens of pairs of eyes on the back of my head – how had I managed to wind up in the middle of these confrontations with James on a daily basis before? It was impossible.
I pushed him again.
“Drop it,” James said, narrowing his eyes.
“Stop avoiding me then! I want to talk to you.”
“So talk,” James said with a cruel smile, “fine by me, let’s talk.”
“You didn’t visit me,” I repeated.
“Did you expect me to?” James asked, his own voice rising slightly. Damnit he was using my own play against me. I should have planned the whole thing out instead of just standing up and making a fool of myself.
I hated the way he was talking too. The truth of the matter was, it had caused a genuine ache in my stomach every time it wasn’t him that walked into the Hospital and I hated that he could make me feels things like that. It wasn’t fair.
“Personally,” James said in a low voice, making a point of acknowledging our growing audience, “I thought we were more.”
“What do I have to do to get you to talk to me?” I asked, swallowing, “what do you want me to say?”
“It hardly matters now,” James said stiffly, putting his hands back in his pocket, “but fine, let’s talk.”
“It matters to me.” I said, folding my arms awkwardly and biting my lip.
“Shall we?” James questioned with an almost smile, beginning to walk towards the entrance of the Great Hall with me awkwardly walking beside him. Everyone was still looking, “great plan,” James added under his breath once we’d crossed the threshold, “can’t wait for all the gossip.”
“You brought it on yourself,”
“Funny,” James said, “I could say the same thing.”
“So,” I said in a small voice, “are we going to talk?”
“Are you going to yell things at me and tell me that I should be sorry?” James asked, a shadow of a grin on his lips before it was gone again – I hated that he wasn’t just being James anymore, but restricting and changing things just for my benefit. I like it much better when he was just James.
“I’m not going to make any promises.”
“No,” James said, rolling his eyes towards the ceiling, “Lily doesn’t make promises, right?”
“James,” I said, half sighing and half feeling like I was begging him, “can’t you just... forget it?”
“Why should I?”
“Again?” James asked.
“In here,” I muttered, gesturing towards a disused classroom because a fifth year Hufflepuff seemed to be walking a little too slowly, “James,” I said weakly. He crossed the room and sat on one of the desks, waiting for me to continue to speak, “I know you’re mad but I... I don’t know where to start.”
James’ firm gaze remained unyielding. Internally I winced a little.
“I knew it would upset you,”
“So, you did think of my feelings and you just disregarded them? Well, that does make me feel better about everything. Thanks for the chat,” James made to stand up again.
“Don’t leave,” I muttered. This time, he obliged.
“I did it anyway because I don’t trust people,”
“You don’t trust me?”
“No, James, I trust you with stuff. I just don’t trust you not to leave me.”
“I wouldn’t leave you,”
“You did!” I said, feeling my eyes brimming with tears again, “you disappeared and you didn’t visit me and you left me alone. How could you do that, James? How could you just not visit?”
“How could you go and get yourself fucking tortured!?”
“I don’t know!” I said, “I wanted to understand, I thought it would make things better. That I’d know what I was facing so when Voldemort tries to torture me I’m prepared. I thought it would be just Mulicber and Regulus – I didn’t think Bellatrix would show up,”
“So minor league Death Eaters are just play things, right?” James demanded him.
“Did you just not miss me?”
“You’re missing the point." James said angrily.
“No, you’re missing the point James.”
“And I’m being ridiculous.”
“No, I’m being ridiculous,” I said, “but not because of the torture thing, because you not visiting was worse than that,” James was silent for a minute, “the others got over it.” I said quietly.
“Maybe they don’t care as much as I do."
I was dizzy with it. I hated James. I hated the way he was so important and that he could just throw stupid inconsistent lines like that at me until I couldn’t speak. Everything would have been fine if he’d just visited. Didn’t he understand how much I needed to see him?
“You don’t care!” I said angrily.
“And how do you figure that out?” He asked coldly.
“Because I care now,” I said, “and if you cared as much as you said you would, you wouldn’t have left me alone.”
“You’re so selfish,” James said incredulously, “you’re so damn selfish.”
“I know I’m selfish, but you knew! You knew!” James sent me a questioning glance, “I told you that I needed you, and then you went away and left me anyway. Why would you do that?” The tears were welling up again now, “you knew.”
“Lily,” James muttered in a pained voice, “please don’t cry.”
“What difference does it make, I cry on you all the time.”
“I’ve never made you cry before,”
“You have,” I contradicted, sitting down on the desk next to him and looking down on the floor, “I couldn’t stand you not being there, I couldn’t stand it. How could you just..? I don’t understand.”
“I don’t either,” James said, “how are you managing to turn this back onto me?”
“Selfish, remember?” I muttered, the first tear falling from my left eye and landing on my leg.
“How are you turning me into the bad guy? You know full well about where I stand when it comes to you, it’s hardly a secret, and then you mess me around and never give me any straight answers, you let me get carried away then turn around and go get yourself tortured?”
“All this needing me shit.”
“I do need you.”
“Evidentially not, if you could just go fuck everything up on a whim.”
“I do need you; I just don’t want to need you.”
“I wish you’d listen.”
“You missed me, I get it,” James said dully, “thanks, Lily, but I’m not sure that’s going to cut it.”
“I missed you a lot.”
“Cause we’re such good friends, right?”
“No, James we’re not friends! I don’t want to be your friend!” He was so thick and adorable and, just, bloody hell – all my efforts to explain exactly what I meant through widening my eyes at certain moments seemed to have fallen on deaf ears, “we’re crap at being friends,”
“Then what the hell do you want from me?” James asked, his eyes flashing again, “cause it seems that I could love you till my back breaks and it still wouldn’t make the damn slightest difference to you, as long – of course – that there’s someone around to pat you on the back when you feel bad about yourself,”
“Not someone,” I said, “you,” James laughed humourlessly, running his hand through his hair and shaking his head, “this isn’t about me being needy and pathetic, well, not much – can’t you read the subtext here, James? Can’t you listen?”
“I usually mishear you,” James returned, “or else you just talk a lot of crap,”
“I like you a lot James,” I said, “is that plain enough? Or do you want me to elaborate further,”
“No, I got it,” James said, sending me a half hearted grin, “but that doesn’t change what you did.”
“It might explain it. Obviously, I’m not very good at loosing people. Maybe I was just, testing the waters.”
“God, you’re a bitch,”
“You did the same thing!” I snapped back, “don’t act like you’re completely ignorant, you knew how I felt and you knew I couldn’t handle it. It’s not... you’re guilty too. You, you hurt me too.”
“Stop talking like you understand,” James sighed, not looking at me again.
“Stop acting like I don’t! You made me feel like the worst person alive – not just because I’d hurt you and because, as Sirius continually pointed out I’d finally pushed you away, but because I needed you to be there and you weren’t! You made me feel like there was something missing and I hate that. I don’t want to not feel like myself when you’re not there, okay? Because that’s just, just so pathetic and I don’t know how I let it happen.”
“So,” James blinked a couple of times, “so you like me, huh?”
“Should have picked a Ravenclaw,” I sighed, letting my head rest on his arm for a second, “even a Hufflepuff could have gotten that quicker. Do you still hate me?”
“I never hated you.” James said, resting his chin on the top of my forehead and wrapping one of his arms around me.
“You must have done, to do that to me.”
“So you like me?”
“Shut up, James,” I said, leaning into his shoulder and surprising myself by starting to cry again, “I’m still upset with you.”
“Okay,” James said, “I’m still angry at you.”
“But, you’re not going to hold this against me for the rest of my life?” I asked, looking up at him. His hazel eyes were sparkling slightly and I wanted nothing more than just to stay locked in this classroom forever and never have to face everything else that was rubbish in the world.
“Just a week or two.”
“We’ll see,” James said.
I reached up and pressed my lips against his for a second, pausing to smile at him weakly.
“Sorry,” I said quietly, closing my eyes and kissing him again, “I didn’t mean to be so horrid, not really.”
“I’m sorry too,” James said, “I’m really sorry you were horrid.”
“James,” I sighed with an irritated smile and then he grinned and pulled me into a long hug, in which I held onto to him for a very long time – until, of course, we parted ways remaining just as angry and upset with each other as before. Of course.
“Ah, Miss Evans, Mr Potter – you’ve arrived,” Dumbledore said with his eyes twinkling again. I started a little when I saw the others already sat around his office, everyone but Rachel, and then it began to register that this wasn’t going to be about Head duties.
This was different.
My heart was beating my chest, vulnerable and open. It was a strange feeling. Similar to how I’d been feeling on September first. Just as scared. Just as honestly terrified, but excited too. And a little bit free. It was bloody James, who’d caused all this.
“As I have been saying... Mr Black here has been helping me out for quite some months now,”
James seemed just as surprised as I was. Sirius offered a little casual shrug before stretching his legs out and looking idly at the ceiling.
“But I think the time has come,” I stared at him, “it seems as though you have been practicing certain spells.”
“We didn’t think you’d be mad about us using it sir,” Frank said quickly, leaning forwards “Because we all agreed, and it was for a good cause, and, it’s not illegal if... if the person consents.”
I wanted to glance at Remus for a moment, but I resisted. I’d long since accepted that Dumbledore knew everything that happened around here, but the idea that he’d known we were practising the imperious curse on each other was slightly frightening. Why hadn’t he tried to stop us? Unless he approved of what we were trying to do.
“A war is coming,” Dumbledore said, his eyes flat for a moment, “it seems unavoidable.”
“We wanted to be able to do something,” James said, “I know we’re just kids but, Sir, we wanted to...”
“Have you ever heard of the Order of the Phoenix?” Dumbledore said, folding his old hands and regarding us with a small smile.
It was snowing outside: flakes of white dandruff spinning to the ground and glittering in the weak December light. It was beautiful this time. I traced the frost that was creeping up the windows of the Hogwarts express for a moment before dropping my hand to my lap and pulling my robes closer around me – the train certainly wasn’t warm yet.
“Well,” Sirius said from the opposite side of the compartment, “I’m already involved. I’m in.”
We had decided that we would discuss what Dumbledore had mentioned to us on the train, as the days running up to the Christmas holiday had been so full of catching up on homework, last minute checks on the muggleborn to Slytherin ratio of people staying at Hogwarts, James not talking to me but still sending me the most adorable glances very so often. There hadn’t been an opportunity, before right now, to weigh it all up.
“I’m in.” James said seriously. He was sitting opposite me in the compartment, our feet nearly touching in the middle. I looked back out the window.
“I think my recent mistake shows I’m in.” I said quietly. The ‘mistake’ bit was entirely for James’ benefit, of course.
“We’re in,” Frank said, “we discussed it.”
I wondered if it was nice to have somebody to speak for you, or horrible.
“I’m in.” Peter said quietly.
“Remus?” James questioned, the pause was long enough for me to turn away from the window and look at Remus instead. There was a long tense moment when he looked nervously at the floor.
“I... it’s just...” A hand went self-consciously to his hair. Such a Marauder action. It made me incredibly affectionate towards the lot of them, “it’s Mary. She made me promise not to let you fight,”
“What?” Peter asked. “How did she know?”
“She told me I had to make sure you’d all live you to your eighties and not get yourself killed and... she made me promise. She said that she didn’t care if you had a chance to fight You Know Who himself.”
Collectively, we all turned towards Sirius.
He’d gone shockingly white.
“Okay,” He said, staring intently at his hands.
There was a long moment of silence. Remus looked apologetically at all of us.
“I’m still in,” Peter said, even quieter than before.
“Me too,” Alice affirmed. Frank nodded.
“Sirius?” James asked quietly. We couldn’t make that decision without him. This was his call. Mary... as much as she was my best friend, she was entirely more Sirius’.
“I’m,” His voice was thick with that uncomfortable emotion that made me want to run away and hide. Because this was Sirius, who I cared about, who was so... choked up, “already in, I can’t back out now,” He clenched his fists, “and, I’d say the same to her if she was alive.” His voice broke on the last moment, and he slumped down in his seat.
“I’m in,” I said, “I couldn’t be out if I wanted to be. I’m a mudblood.”
“Don’t call yourself that,” James said sharply.
“I thought you weren’t talking to me,” I smiled. James bit his lip and didn’t look at me.
“I’m not,” He said, unconvincingly.
“Really?” I asked, and then Alice elbowed me and pointedly nodded at Sirius. He looked as if he was dangerously close to tears again, or ripping someone’s head from the chest to vent his feelings.
“Let’s go for a walk,” James said quickly, grabbing Sirius’s arm and pulling him up onto his feet. “Lily?” He asked. I nodded, standing up and stepping out into corridor with the two of them.
“Why would she...” Sirius trailed off, “why would she make Remus make that sort of promise?” Sirius shook his head, “wouldn’t she have known that it was the impossible promise?”
“I think,” I said slowly, “she just wanted to make us stop and think. She wouldn’t stop us.”
“Wouldn’t she?” Sirius asked, “I don’t care if I die,” Sirius said turning round to face us, “I don’t. But... you guys – maybe you shouldn’t fight.”
“I don’t have a choice Sirius,” I said, squeezing his arm tightly and giving him a comforting smile.
James was silent for a few seconds. “You two are... the most precious people to me in the world and,” He paused again, “there is no chance in hell that I’d let either of you fight without doing everything within my power to make it safer for you.”
I nodded. Sirius nodded too. I linked my arm through his. The most precious people in the world? To James, I was precious... and they were precious to me too. Sirius was my brother in pain, precious. And James. How could he be anything but precious? They were my life. Far surpassing anybody else, or anything else. So who cared if I needed them? Who cared if I was pathetic and crap?
“Precious.” I nodded, my heart tugging painfully in my chest.
The snow was even worse by the time we pulled up in Kings Cross, and I wondered exactly how many of the muggle trains were even running – a fine layer of white had settled across platform nine and three quarters, footprints scattered across it reducing the snow to mere sludge in several thick paths from the barrier.
“That term went really quickly,” I said softly, balling my hands up in my fists. The other’s were all beginning to move, collecting their belongings and chatting in enthusiastic and animated voices about snow, Christmas and having two weeks off.
“Merry Christmas, Lily!” Alice said, pausing at the doorway.
“You best be coming over on Christmas Day, Sirius, my Mum won’t take no for an answer,” James grinned, standing and pulling the last of the trunks down, “you don’t want to disappoint her.”
“Course not,” Sirius said, “and tell her she’s free to visit it anytime.”
“Not after last time,” James said, “she was too horrified by the mess.”
“Bye everyone,” Rachel said, putting her head round the door of the compartment and offering us a little wave, “and Merry Christmas.”
“You too,” I said, and everyone offered similar sentiments. It was still snowing. Mum and Petunia wouldn’t be collecting me from the station this time; I would simply by apparating straight home. I’d written to Mum about it last week.
“Lily,” James said, pausing when it was just the two of us left in the compartment, “planning on staying here all Christmas?”
“Not quite,” I said, and then I smiled helplessly at him for a moment. James dropped the hand that was about to open the door and smiled back at me –we stood there for a few seconds, just smiling stupidly at each other, “am I forgiven then?”
“Oh, Evans you’re impossible.”
“I think you should talk to me again,” I said lightly, “Christmas spirit, and all that.”
“Fine,” James said, “we’ll pretend none of it happened.”
“Or we could just progress from the happenings and maybe reference the fact that we had a nice long conversation about things.”
“Okay, not nice.”
“Am I supposed to be reading subtext again?” James grinned.
“Visit me over Christmas. I need to see you.”
“Need to see me?” James questioned with an eyebrow raise. I rolled my eyes at him and threw my arms around his neck, hugging him so tightly it nearly hurt. I didn’t care. There were a lot of things I didn’t care about anymore.
“Just visit me, soon.”
“Christmas eve? That’s in a couple of days.”
“Come to my house, I’ll write you into a couple more Christmas cards.”
“Sounds like a euphemism,” James said, taking my hand for a second and grinning at me – a proper James grin, “you could come visit me, too.”
“I could,” I said, “write to me.”
“You are needy.”
“Shut up,” I said, hugging him again, breathing in the set of his neck, before stepping back and grabbing hold of my suitcase determinedly.
“Bye, Lily,” James said, following me off the train and stepping onto the platform – sending me one last glittering wave before I had to apparate away.
Next time: expect fluff. Or arguments. Or both.
Thanks for sticking with me for this story! When I'd finished writing this, I really liked the chapter. Now I'm doubtful but, well, I guess we'll see. Don't forget to review! I'm doing well at responding :)
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