Chapter 3 : Forgive and Forget
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A/N: Sorry this took me forever to get out. I put in a lot of work to this chapter and rewrote it in parts three times! Hope you enjoy it cos it's the last chapter till end of May :(
Please let me know what you think. I adore and thrive on your feedback.
Oh this is not good. Why did I wear this stupid salmon pink dress, it clashes horribly with my hair!
Alright, that’s the main thing to focus on! ‘Cos clearly he’s going to be wondering why you’re wearing pink, not why you’d want to talk after telling him the world’s better off without him!
I crossed the road nervously fidgeting with the hem of my dress and my hair and my watch and my purse…
I looked back over my shoulder at the coffee shop to see Alice grinning at me through the window with a double thumbs-up.
The Potter-Black duo was a few feet ahead of me, both wearing matching white collared shirt and a carefree spirit. Funny how often they seemed to wear things that matched.
Suddenly I stopped dead in my tracks making an old man with a goatee bump into me painfully. He walked around me muttering something about watching where I walked. I breathed carefully, staring at the back of an unmistakable mess of black hair.
What the hell do I say to him?
I swallowed collecting myself.
This shouldn’t be too hard.
I watched as Sirius ahead nudged James with his elbow with a significant look. James followed his gaze curiously (as did I) to find a rather balding middle-aged man crouched on the pavement a few feet ahead of them, busy tying his shoelaces. In his mouth he held the leash of his young bullmastiff. I hadn’t seen many dogs in Diagon Alley before and wondered if the man was lost.
“Mr Potter, wouldn’t you call that a big mistake?” Sirius asked his mate with a wide grin.
“I concur Mr Black, that’s really not smart!” James replied with an identical smirk.
Sirius pulled out his wand slowly and directed it at the man. I was about to jump in and stop him from hurting the poor chap when Sirius uttered the incantation.
I froze just behind the two boys as a small black and white cat appeared a few feet before the dog. The mastiff tensed, his ears perking up at the site of the cat who hissed loudly. Its sudden appearance seemed to have startled him but he began to growl warningly tugging slightly on the leash in his owner’s mouth.
James tried to hold back his laughter as Sirius smirked wider, “And losing his teeth in 3… 2… 1…” Sirius counted off his fingers.
Without warning, the dog barked loudly lurching forward at the cat pulling the bewildered man forward by his teeth. The cat screamed loudly and scarpered across the paved road making the dog promptly chase after it barking madly and pulling the poor dumbstruck man behind him.
I stood behind the boys shaking my head as they doubled up with laughter, although in all honesty it was hilarious to watch. The things they get away with!
“That was a little cruel don’t you think?” I said trying to curb my amusement.
They both turned to me in surprise.
“Well well, if it isn’t Little Red!” smirked Black, “Where’s the picnic basket?”
The same joke for nearly four years. I gave him a look, “Your mother ate it!”
“Whoa now!” Sirius smirked raising an eyebrow in mock offense, “Aggressive today Evans!”
I rolled my eyes. He sure liked to show off his knowledge of muggle stories. Instead of replying I turned to James trying to keep things on point. My stomach flipped over uncomfortably.
“Umm… James? May I have a word? …Alone?” I blurted quickly before I could overthink it.
James who had so far been smiling bemusedly at his friend turned sharply to me. He seemed slightly shocked at being addressed so directly. I might as well have asked him for his kidney. Awkwardly I shifted my glance to Sirius who was watching both of us with a grin. He was evidently enjoying himself.
“Oh right, that’s my cue!” Sirius said in response to my pointed stare.
James smiled at him unapologetically as he clapped him on the shoulder and muttered something that sounded remarkably like, “Let me know how it goes?” before crossing the road and heading down a side street.
“All right, then?” James was watching me with a questioning look and a soft smile.
“Umm…” I pulled on the strap of my handbag, “Are you headed that way?” I suddenly pointed down the road.
He looked over his shoulder, “Yeah, actually I am.”
“Great, me too. Shall we?”
“Sure,” Despite his thoroughly confused look, he stood back politely allowing me to pass before falling into step with me. I wasn’t used to James Potter being polite. Arrogant, haughty, cheeky? Yes, definitely. But not, quiet, silent and polite.
I noticed James slide his hands into his trouser pockets. We walked silently side by side as people bustled past us along the busy road.
I was usually a lot more talkative. Usually I knew exactly what to say to Potter before he even approached me. Usually it was something along the lines of “Please say something more intelligent than ‘All right, Evans?” or “Did broom whack you in the head lately?” Never. NEVER. Something like “I’m really sorry for hurting your feelings James I didn’t mean to call you a waste of space!”
Maybe I should just say that and be done with this. Like ripping off a band-aid.
Alice will send you right back here!
Hmph! Damn you, Conscience.
“Are you ok?”
My head snapped up at the sound of his voice. I put on the most charismatic smile I could muster at that point. “Yeah, of course. Why?”
“Well… you were frowning at the pavement.”
Smile gone. “Oh…right. I was just thinking…”
He nodded as if to say, “That explains it.”
I sighed as we resumed walking. Forget Alice entirely, it wasn’t enough that I apologise to him. I needed to know he forgave me for my heartless words. I could barely function with this constantly hovering around the back of my head. It was odd, yes. But I can’t handle being ok with hurting someone so callously, even someone as pretentious and obnoxious as James Potter.
“So, what did you want to talk about?” he asked out of the blue.
I gave a short flickering smile still counting the tiles on the pavement.
“What are you two doing here today?” I asked instead.
“Pad- umm… Sirius wanted to celebrate. OWLs you know. Spent half the morning talking him out of buying a solid gold lunascope!”
I gave a weak chuckle as he laughed fondly.
He’s talking about OWLs? Great! So Fates have decided not to allow me to worm my way out of this.
“You?” he asked, before the silence could settle again.
“Just wanted to check out a few books for next year.”
No I didn’t. Just happened to see the sign of ‘Flourish and Blotts’ right then.
“Oh, so Flourish and Blotts?”
Obviously. I nodded with another forced smile.
James Potter followed me into the store just as the bell rang somewhere inside the shop. Several assistants were helping prospective buyers with some choices of books. I headed deep into the store while James lingered at the display desk at the front possibly giving me room alone.
My hands sifted through the familiar stacks of books I’d frequented during my many visits to the shop. In truth I was procrastinating, my eyes constantly peeking through thin spaces between the thick leather bound volumes at James. He was flipping through a short thick red-velvet-bound book seemingly interested. I pulled out several books and thought since I’d have to buy them anyway, might as well do it now.
“Dagamor’s Account of Charmwork is our bestseller!” piped a young assistant next to me making me jump. Her round eager face peered at me with a smile. “Starting sixth year at Hogwarts, then?”
“Err…Yes” I nodded.
She pulled several more books off different shelves and handed them to me. “Now for Transfiguration, this is what everyone uses.”
I turned the thick volume right way up with some struggle and read the title: ‘Transfiguration: The Next Step’ by Darius Flockner.
“Also you’ll want this if you’re starting DADA too?”
“Umm, yes I am,” I said staggering slightly under the weight of the books as she added another two volumes to the pile. The topmost read “The Dark Creatures Exposed by Professor Isaac Everett Dumas”
A soft chuckle came from behind, “Need help?”
“Yes please!” I exclaimed. As much as it was awkward to be around James, I wanted to get rid of the over-enthusiastic young shop assistant.
“We’re covered here, thanks so much for the help,” James said politely and she nodded with a wide smile and unless I’m much mistaken curtseyed before leaving us.
James waited until she was out of earshot before letting out a small laugh, “Must be an intern.”
“I thought I’d have to buy the entire store! It’s not fair you know, if I’d said what you just said she’d have thought I was being very rude! How do you do it?” I asked as he took some of the heavier books off my arms.
“I smile, genuinely. Might want to try it sometime,”
I resisted the urge to stick my tongue out at him as I noticed his eyes sparkle with the same mischievous glint from his earlier prank.
“Oh you don’t need this, this is utter rubbish!” James put the heavy Transfiguration book back on the shelf. Since it was twice the size of my Oxford Dictionary I didn’t complain!
“Try this instead,” James reached mechanically to the top of the shelf labelled ‘Transfiguration’ and blindly pulled out a book, at which point my brain registered two things.
One, James was much taller than I’d assumed at a glance, and two, the place was almost as familiar to him as it was to me, meaning James had frequented the bookstore too.
I wondered wildly what else I was wrong about…
The book he handed me was a small, almost pocket sized dark green leather-bound book. Two gold wands were crossed beneath the title that read, Essence of Transfiguration: The Secrets of the Forte
“You’re welcome,” he smiled at me.“So you’re taking Transfiguration next year?”
“Umm yeah, I thought I might,” I said swallowing uncomfortably feeling myself go pink in the face as I bustled over to the counter and hurriedly paid for my books. James said nothing more as we exited the store and looked around.
The sky was streaked with brilliant orange. My stomach flipped nervously as I realised my window of time was closing fast.
As we continued to walk along the pavement (James insisting on carrying two of the four bags from the bookshop) I spotted several familiar faces from school also doing their shopping. Yet I was slightly alarmed at the sudden wide-eyed bizarre looks they were all giving me.
Confused, I checked my reflection on the window panes of Plantasia Herbs until I heard James chuckling next to me.
“It’s not you,” he said calmly looking directly at the next passer-by.
“You noticed it too?”
“Well? Why are they staring?”
It was his turn to stare at me now as if I was missing something obvious. “You’re joking?”
I shook my head confused. A crooked smile twisted into the corner of his mouth.
“Well, I reckon, you and I walking along the road together with shopping in our hands probably makes them think they are hallucinating!”
I couldn’t help but laugh, “It wasn’t that bad was it? Not always?”
“Mostly always” he grinned.
I didn’t know what he was thinking. But while I ran the words I now had to say in my head my mind constantly kept distracting me, possibly because I hated not knowing what he’d say in reply.
“Ah, there’s Sirius!” James suddenly exclaimed. At the far end of the street opposite, Sirius was talking to two girls. One I recognised to have left school a few years ago.
“James!” I said hurriedly making him turn sharply to me, “Umm, I have to tell you something…”
His brow furrowed both curiously and in confusion. I sighed deeply before continuing.
“I got an Outstanding for Transfiguration” I said in a low voice looking down at my nails.
“What? That’s brilliant! Congratulations!” His wide smile was so genuine that it burned me in the pit of my stomach with guilt. He almost reached for my shoulder and let his hand drop as if he thought better of it.
“James…” I shook my head dismally.
“What is it...?”
I bit my lip looking up into his eyes. How could his eyes, that had always just been brown, be such an amalgam of colour now?
“We both know I wouldn’t have got if it weren’t for you…”
James’ smile vanished to be replaced by a sympathizing look. He stared at me for a long moment and I could see his confusion clearing. He knew why I was here.
“I didn’t teach you anything you didn’t already know, Lily.”
“James please… don’t.”
Somewhere in the depth of my mind a siren rang out loud. I was out of time. The words had to come now.
“The last day of school… I said some truly horrible things,” I swallowed.
“True things…” He deliberated.
“No…” I looked up at him and the orange glow of the setting sun glazed the side of his face illuminating across his iris. His gaze upon me was soft yet resolute. They somehow kept us in an illusion of empty space where I had no audience but him. I could say anything now because there was no one else around us. Just me and him. He waited giving me the time I needed.
“I’ve been going through it over and over again in my head. What I said… I’ve realised a great potion of that is assumptions and biased opinions. In any case there’s no excuse for the way I treated you after you helped me through that time. I just…”
“Lily…” James spoke in a deep but tender voice, one you’d use to console a wounded child, “there’s no need to apologise…”
A smile flickered onto my face as a small measure of relief filled my lungs. I was sure he was going to say it was alright, and all was forgiven. But he didn’t…
“I’ve taken a lot of things for granted in the past and hurt a lot of people along the way…”
I tilted my head trying to understand what he meant. The fiery light of dying sun set the sky ablaze and in that light I could see the regret in his face for the words he was about to say.
“You were right, Lily. Even if I change… we can’t be friends. Because deep down inside, at least a part of you will always blame me for the way you lost Snape.”
Snape… A chill ran through me.
“I’m sorry.” James said with a hard smile.
It felt like a punch to my gut. One I hadn’t expected leaving me dazed. I couldn’t understand why it affected me so much. Granted no one had ever refused an apology from me before, it seemed almost childish. But why did it matter so much, why did I care?
I stared at his face, not the boy I once knew but a young man who had grown in a way I had never predicted. I’d discovered first-hand the icy veil behind the friendly mask he wore. He stared back into my eyes, unblinking.
“Red, I’m sorry to interrupt,” Sirius said wondering over, clearly in an uncomfortable situation with his fists burrowed deeply into his pockets. “Rita wants to interview me about my emancipation! Prongs, please get me out of this! I beg of you!”
James looked over Sirius’ shoulder and then turned back to me at which point I decided I couldn’t look at him anymore. “I’ve got to go…” he handed me my books, “I’m sorry,” the apology was subtle but not casual.
“Sorry Red, see you later” Sirius patted my shoulder and hurried off with James along Beechwood Alley disappearing into the crowd.
Distraction had never been a strong suit of mine, when something was bothering me it took hold of me completely. Back at home, I tried to think about anything else other than the humiliating apology that had been returned as a slap on the face.
“Everything alright, dear?” mum asked me while I helped her with supper.
I nodded mutely.
“Why don’t you go on and set the table, it’ll be ready in a minute.”
I took my leave from the kitchen thankfully to escape my mum’s sharp instincts and set the table quickly.
“This isn’t fair Dad! Why? Why can’t I have a night out with her? She’s perfectly lovely!”
“Tuney I’m sorry, I’ve made up my mind. Your mother’s laboured in the kitchen all afternoon for this nice meal and you’re not about to walk out on a family dinner!”
A row had already started between Tuney and Dad because Tuney wanted to go to a party with Marge, her boyfriend’s sister and Dad wouldn’t hear a word of it.
The arguing continued back and forth while I placed a bunch of marigolds at the centre of the table. I felt somehow she’d make this row about me. At the very least they would shield me from Tuney’s death-stare.
When we all sat down (Tuney grudgingly so, raking her chair across the floor,) Mother had us say ‘Grace’. While she piled beans and chicken onto each of our plates, Dad passed out the bread rolls.
We ate in silence for a short while. Occasionally forks chinked against the china. Finally Dad decided to break the silence.
“So, Lil how was lunch with Alice?”
And… there goes dinner.
There was a loud CLANG as Tuney dropped her fork loudly onto her plate.
“Of course! Dear old Lilikins gets to go out with her freaky friends! But if I actually want to see another human being? NO! This is just DAMN UNFAIR!”
“Petunia!” Mum glowered, “Keep your voice down at the table!”
Dad seemed to realise his grave mistake and said nothing but fork some potatoes into his mouth. He was very fond of Alice and loved having her over for short visits, so it wasn’t unusual for him to ask how she was. But it was terrible timing considering Tuney’s foul temper.
“I can’t believe you two!” She said pointing her bony finger at our parents, “How can you just sit there and pretend she’s normal!”
I swallowed. It gave me a sickening chill whenever my sister treated me like I was an unpleasant stain on her life. I was getting used to it, but it was still horrible. And that day, I really didn’t want to feel worse.
I kept my eyes on my plate and ate slowly trying to ignore her, mainly to stop Dad from shouting because I hated it when Dad got angry, especially on my account.
Tuney’s pointed chin pulled further in bitterness as she gave me a dirty look, “One day, she’s going to bring home another freak just like her and I’ll bet you’ll be over the bloody moon about it! It’s just the people I date that you’ve got a problem with!”
Dad’s fist came down on the table making the plates rattle loudly. Mum clutched her chest and we all stared at him alarmed.
“Enough!” he said loudly, “I will not tolerate another word against Lily and her gifts under this roof!”
I couldn’t help but give Dad a small appreciative smile.
Tuney got up. “Fine!”
“You listen to me young lady, you need to watch your tongue! You’re not going out of this house till I say so!” Dad called after her as she stormed off.
“FINE!” I could hear her running up the stairs.
Her door closed with a loud bang.
Dad sighed, “I’m so sorry, Mary,” he said to my mother. They looked at each other shaking their heads.
I skipped out on the pudding, not having the stomach for it, and escaped to my room.
I didn’t fall asleep till much later although I went to bed earlier than usual. Finally I fell asleep only to be woken up in the middle of the night by a loud tap on my window. My eyes snapped open to the sound of small rocks hitting my window.
I rubbed my eyes and got up.
Who in the world would be throwing stones at my window at this time of night?
Once I reached the window and looked out however, I wished I hadn’t asked myself that question. There on the grass was an annoyingly familiar tall boy with a similarly adamant mass of black hair shining in the light of the street lamps.
I didn’t know what possessed me to do what I did next, but I pulled my nightgown over my pyjamas and tip toed down the stairs. I opened the lock on the front door soundlessly and stepped out onto the soft grass. The cool breeze of the night was welcoming at it tickled though my hair but it did nothing to improve my mood.
With an impatient sigh I stood in front of him, arms folded across my chest.
“Hey,” he said with a playful smile upon his lips.
I said nothing.
“Didn’t think you’d come down. Thought I might have to climb up to your window!” James chuckled juggling the small rocks still in his hand.
“How did you know where I lived?” I asked with a stern gaze. I had been humiliated the moment I let my guard down, I wasn’t about to make that mistake again.
“I didn’t. I knew where Snape lived and I knew you lived close by, so I came to the town and asked around. They said the Evans family lived up here.” He dropped the stones back onto the lawn dusting his hands off on his trousers and turned to me with a smile.
Was I supposed to be impressed?
“Well you found me! Now, what are you doing here, Potter?”
“I came to apologise…”
I stared at him for a moment before a harsh cynical laugh burst out of me.
“Are you having a laugh? I could have sworn you disliked apologies,” I said sarcastically.
“Look,” he stepped towards me boldly, “I’m sorry, ok? You surprised me. I mean… It’s you! Lily Evans! I panicked!”
“You panicked?” I asked incredulously.
“You find that so hard to believe?” he asked with a mixture of fondness and curiosity.
“I do, actually!”
James took another step closer holding my gaze while I stood my ground with my head held high.
“You find it odd that I panicked when you were so close to me, asking for my forgiveness?”
He tilted his head a small fraction. I shifted my feet back, which was a grave mistake…
As if given the incentive, James closed the space between us, coming to stand inches away from me. Startled, my arms fell to my sides! A smile twisted in the corner of his mouth at my reaction.
He was indeed taller than I’d anticipated. My brow barely reached his chin. My eyes levelled at his collarbones where the muscles of his neck filled his collared shirt. I assumed to look up into his eyes then was as brave an act as any. My eyes traced along his neck, his rough set jaw and over his nose. Behind his glasses I watched his eyes, trying to read them. They were burning bright even in the dim light… almost smouldering.
I swallowed and my voice was a lot less defiant when I spoke again.
“What did you have to feel so unsettled about in an apol-”
“It had nothing to do with the apology,” he cut across me with a soft murmur that ran swiftly across his lips making me look up at him suddenly.
I couldn’t stop it.
My lips parted but I didn’t know what words to say. He leaned forwards holding my gaze until his lips caught mine with a soft, gentle kiss. I didn’t break it, I didn’t even know how. My eyes closed. His hand slowly held my waist and pulled me in, pressing his lips more intently against mine. I felt his fingertips brush up my neck and cup the side of my face. I realised then… I was kissing him back.
My eyes snapped open.
Half my face was buried in my pillow. My eyes swivelled around the room to get my bearings. I was still in bed.
STUPID. STUPID. STUPID. I punched my pillow repeatedly.
YOU’VE GOT TO BE JOKING! OF ALL THINGS TO DREAM-
URRRGH! I got up throwing my sheet off me and quickly wiping away the bit of dribble on the side of my face, which was perfectly normal. No one had control over their dribble during deep sleep!
More importantly I was more invested in who was outside throwing stones at my bloody window and why didn't I own a gun to shoot it!?
I made a mental note.
Note to self: Invest in a gun.
I marched up to the windowsill and looked out. I could see the large backside of a plump boy bent double on our lawn picking around for more stones to throw at the window. Fuming, I pushed the window open and yelled.
“WRONG WINDOW, DURSLEY!”
The boy got the shock of his life and fell over his own feet knocking the rubbish bins down with him.
“Lily you FREAK! Keep your voice down!” Petunia hissed in a loud whisper from the next room.
I was breathing rapidly as I ran. Most people would pace themselves and jog consistently, but not me, I chose to push myself. I find running to be one of the things that help me clear my mind and right now I needed it. A long run through the dense forest of these parks provided the perfect environment to think.
The woods were calm and cool, dimly lit in the early morning light. We’d been running for nearly an hour at a stretch. Sirius fell behind as I jogged further ahead. When he didn’t catch up I slowed to a stop and turned around to find him holding his knees breathing hard. I was out of breath myself but I needed the run. I needed the adrenaline and the fresh air.
I watched Sirius who was struggling somewhat to get air into his lungs fast enough.
“You’re…slow…” I said in between breaths joshing him.
“Sod off.” He replied without even looking up.
I laughed at his annoyance. Sirius didn’t take it well when someone challenged his physical capacity. Once he’d straightened up, he stretched a little pulling his tall frame to its limit before walking over to me. He kicked some of the dead leaves along the footpath carelessly, no doubt to vent his feelings to nudge me in the head.
“Just because…you can prance… doesn’t mean… you need to show off!”
He said panting slightly.
I smiled to myself. I knew he was impatient whenever he made a reference to my Animagus in his sarcasm. I felt bad for him, he hated running and only did it to keep in shape for Quidditch. No doubt he sensed my preoccupied state past few days and wanted to find out if something was bothering me.
“I didn’t ask you to come,” I said quietly.
He gave me a look but otherwise ignored me. My watch gave a signalling whistle. It was charmed to record our run and we had broken our previous record by a long shot.
“Brilliant!” Sirius said perking up at the sound, “I’m starving!”
Something we quickly realised about being Animagi was that while our physical performance and endurance had expanded, our metabolism too seemed to quadruple overnight. We were literally burning through our food and we constantly needed to eat. As if on cue my stomach rumbled.
“Yeah, me too! Let’s head back. They should be up by now.”
Sirius and I apparated to the front gates of Potter Manor. It was the closest we could get since the manor was too protected to allow apparition inside.
As we approached the gates, invisible locks began to unlock with several loud clicks and clangs leaving a reverberating echo behind. The wrought iron high gates pulled apart seamlessly and we walked up the stone path winding across the grounds. Gregory, a loyal servant and a friend of my father’s was already taking a few Granians out for training. They were majestic winged horses my mother’s family had bred. Their strong hooves clunked on the stone path as they followed Gregory.
At the forefront was Hades, my favourite. He was jet black, a rare mutation for the solid grey breed. A magnificent animal by looks, he was however rejected by the Breeders’ Association as ‘Unfit for Profiling’.
Hades earned his name by his equally rare fiery orange eyes. Though he appeared menacing, he was intensely loyal and exceptionally obedient. Behind him was Skyla, mother’s prime jewel. The lightest of greys, with her wings almost a dove-white, she was the oldest mare in our stables and was gentle and patient with any untrained rider. Bringing the rear was our youngest, Pegasus, still a foal but with a promising set of steel grey wings.
“Good morning, Master Potter, Master Black” Gregory have a curt nod as he headed out.
“Good morning, Gregory.” We replied. I patted Hades gently as he passed by.
We headed quickly to the manor and found a bit of a commotion in the stone courtyard outside.
An orange light streaked across the courtyard and hit the large clay vase by the pillars, rebounding off the unbreakable charm. Both Sirius and I ducked just in time as the jet of light soared over our heads.
“Great! They started without us!” Sirius muttered angrily under his breath pulling his wand out from behind the shelter of a stone statue.
“Nigrum fuma!” Peter cried. A thick black fog spread from the tip of his wand.
“Evaneso,” Remus siphoned the smoke into his wand. “You can’t be serious?”
Remus and Peter stood ten feet apart from each other on the stone courtyard in front of the lawn. By the looks of it Remus was coaching Peter on duelling.
“Come on, Peter! We’re two weeks to the next full moon! You know I’m at my weakest right now. Beating me should only be too easy-”
“Expelliarmus!” A well-aimed disarming spell hit Remus squarely, knocking him to the ground while his wand flew out of his hand landing on the floor with a soft clatter.
Remus coughed straightening up, “You were just distracting me,” he shook his head.
Peter smiled guiltily, “Sorry mate!”
Sirius and I laughed joining them.
“Atta boy, Wormtail!” Sirius thumped Peter on the back, “and never apologise for playing dirty!” he smirked.
“Looks like the tutor has underestimated his student?” I chuckled and held out my hand pulling Remus to his feet.
“Touché,” Remus rubbed his jaw picking his wand off the ground.
Sirius twirled his wand between his fingers with a smirk. “Gentlemen, what do you say we make this more interesting?”
And it was on.
The four of us battled each other on the grounds outside the manor, firing hex after hex for the title of ‘Last Man Standing’.
Sirius was exceptionally good at attacking, knowing the precise movements and lunging at exactly the right moment. But in contrast his blocking spells were flawed and he often had trouble with his footwork. Remus was smart, employing a series of curses, counter-curses and blocks in rapid succession which often would intimidate an opponent. It was all a mind-game to him, to think like the enemy and retaliate accordingly.
Peter on the other hand liked playing it safe. His strong suit was defensive spells. No one could quite generate a shield charm as impregnable as Peter’s, save for those spells it couldn’t block. He rarely chose to attack and when he did it was in a clear cut opportunity when his shot would not be missed or when he had little choice.
I had a bit of both in me, I wasn’t as strong as Sirius in attacking but I was quick and precise. So I used fast-paced spells with quick movements to attack and relied on my agility and footwork to avoid being hit rather that conjuring blocking spells.
But of course, when one had trained as much as we had with each other everything became a mapped out game plan in one’s head. We all have our little tells after all.
Sirius moved an inch to the side and tilted his arm to the right. Ahh, his famous Shoulder Dislocator hex.
I ducked tucking my arm in anticipation and avoided the bright blue hex Remus threw at Peter just as Sirius fired his curse.
The crimson jet of light streaked past my left ear narrowly missing my intended shoulder.
“Anteoculatia!” I fired back twirling my wand quickly in three concentric circles. A pulse of violet light burst from my wand-tip.
Sirius jumped out of the way to avoid the curse and it hit Peter instead making thick horns grow out of his skull. Sirius and I paused briefly to laugh before Remus sent his signature Stinging Hex at us making me roll over along onto the grass to avoid getting hit.
I quickly jumped to my feet narrowly blocking Peter’s “Spectra Nox”, a temporary blinding curse. Peter used the moment of diverted attention to get rid of his horns.
A pale grey curse streaked past me missing me by a whisker.
"Jelly legs? Really?" I asked Remus.
"Prefer a bunny tail?" he laughed mockingly.
"Eat slugs" I fired a jinx at him making him jump out of the way.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Sirius use my distraction to fire another, “Carpi Distortia”
I had just enough time to twist out of the way before it hit me. Very clever of Sirius to use a Wrist Torsion Hex, so that it could stop me from defending myself with my own wand thereby successfully eliminating me from the game. Too bad it didn’t work out for him though.
I retaliated with an impulsive “Propulsa maxima” which Sirius couldn’t get out of in time and managed to knock the wind out of him, throwing him down on his back.
Remus seized the opportunity to exert a Full Body Bind on Sirius, that left three of us still standing.
Peter, Remus and I stared at each other, breathing hard. I watched them carefully for a shifting glance, a clenched jaw or a twitch in an eyebrow, anything that would give away their actions with a second’s warning. My wand was slack in my hand. Apparently something Remus hadn’t missed in his calculating look as he shifted his glance to Peter whom he might choose to attack first…
Or it could be a bluff… to get my guard down. I watched both of them for a reaction. Then without warning, Remus and Peter simultaneously attacked each other.
“Rubro Occulo!” Conjunctivis curse.
“Entomorphius!” Insectoid Transformation.
Thick jets of yellow and electric blue light engaged each other but the force of the curses hitting each other was too strong and both Remus and Peter were pushed to the ground with the rebounding force with their wands still in hand. As a result the curses began to interlace with each other, both spiralling straight at me.
I couldn’t conjure two successive blocks fast enough and a shield charm wouldn’t block them both. I couldn’t dodge one without being hit by the other. I was out of time…
“James!” Someone yelled.
Between the winding curses, I saw the rapidly closing spindle of empty space. It was my only window out. It was now or never.
With a quick instinctive glance, I lunged forward, pushing myself headfirst through the space as the curses weaved into each other. I pulled my arms in and twisted my body in mid-air with the momentum of the jump to manipulate myself out of the chaos. The blue curse slid beneath me grazing my elbow below as the yellow one narrowly passed over the bridge of my nose.
The next second I landed painfully on the ground on my side.
Remus and Sirius pulled me back by my shoulders along the grass as the two curses collided in a shower of bright sparks.
Sirius seized me by the collar immediately, “Are you alright?”
“Yes Padfoot, I’m fine!” I laughed pushing my glasses up my nose. Sirius pulled me to my feet as Peter came hurrying over to us.
“James! I don’t know what happened! Are you alright!?”
“At ease boys! I’m fine!” I insisted dusting myself off, “But you’ve got to admit, that was bloody brilliant!” I grinned.
Remus rolled his eyes while Peter and Sirius laughed.
“Can we declare I’m the winner of this duel?” I said highly positive of a unanimous vote.
They all laughed and bowing good-humouredly before me and I graciously acknowledged their humble praise with a courteous nod.
All four of us stood on the green lawns looking at the aftermath of our duel. Big patches of grass blasted off the smooth grounds as if someone had excavated something huge, stone boulder’s blasted to pieces, burning holes through perfectly trimmed hedges and several stone statues decapitated…
“Oh boy,” I shook my head “Mum’s going to murder us!”
Yet I couldn’t help but grin.
After magically restoring the garden back to its pre-apocalyptic state before afternoon, they boys and I spent the remainder of the day playing exploding snap and exchanging stories from our homes the two weeks we had been apart. Sirius filled in Remus and Peter about his emancipation and his plans hereon. After a delectable supper, the end of a long day found the four of us sitting by the marble fireplace of the cosy library.
Today however our focus had shifted to more trivial matters: Homework.
Quills scratched as we wrote our Transfiguration essays quietly around the centre table. Sirius, having little interest in homework was leisurely examining a new type of telescope advertised on Magnus Magique magazine. Leant back, feet resting on the armrest of the nearest chair, he looked simply at ease.
“Is it correct to say ‘The liquid stage prevails the molecular transforming stage’?” Peter asked out loud.
“Precedes,” Sirius and I said together without looking up.
Peter scratched something off and resumed writing again.
“You should really get the essay done an over with, Sirius” Remus remarked offhandedly looking up from his work.
I hid my smile behind my copy of Friedhausen’s Principles at the prospect of Sirius’ reply.
“Don’t worry, Motherhen,” Sirius nonchalantly flipped the glossy page over beside me, “I fully intend on copying yours as soon as you’re done!”
“Really think McGonagall can’t tell the difference with a few alterations?”
“I think Minnie will be in a huff if I didn’t do anything, so by logic ‘something’ is always better,”
Remus laughed and rolled his eyes, “Think she’ll be in a huff if she heard you calling her that! If it’s used enough times it’s bound to slip out eventually you know”
Sirius smirked, “Unless she’s promised you Head Boy, and you won’t slip, ’Ickle Prefect, I think we’re safe!”
Remus pretended to be scandalised, “Words hurt you know?” he threw a small book at him and Sirius caught it before it hit either of us.
With a thoughtful look Sirius dropped the magazine on the polished table and turned in his seat deliberately toward me, “Speaking of words that hurt, what the hell did you say to Evans?”
“What?” I almost dropped my book and had to pick it back up, “What are you on about?”
“I mean, after you two talked in Diagon Alley she looked like you’d slapped her across the face!”
“What!?” Remus and Peter turned to me suddenly abandoning their work, “You two met up in Diagon Alley? When did all this happen?”
Sirius waited his eyes curious, looking at me expectantly with a subtle smile.
Damn. He knew I wasn’t telling all and he was going to enjoy pulling it from me slowly.
I narrowed my eyes at him and sighed turning to the other two.
“We didn’t meet up. We just… met…”
“Right… that clears it up!” Peter said sarcastically.
I rolled my eyes, “Sirius, would you tell them? Please?”
Sirius grinned, “Sorry mate, I’m having too much fun watching you wiggle about!”
“Unbelievable!” I got up feeling the heat rise behind my neck and gathered some of the abandoned books deciding to put them back into their shelves.
“We didn’t meet up alright? Sirius and I, we were there and she just popped up! Said she wanted to talk…”
“Ok,” said Remus turning around as I moved behind him to store the books. I could tell by the hint of a smile upon his face he was catching up too. “And what did she want to talk about?”
They’ll fish it out of me eventually, might as well just say it.
“Nothing,” I said in the most careless tone I could fabricate, “She just wanted to apologise…”
Not wanting to see their ogling looks I turned swiftly and pressed a few books into their cramped shelves.
“Apologise?” came Remus and Peter’s unified disbelieving voice, “What it the world for?”
“Remember that incident I told you about… after OWL transfiguration?” I turned to face them
“That you existed?” Sirius laughed. I rolled my eyes.
“And?” Remus pressed following me back as I resumed my seat.
I picked up my favourite book, Essence of Transfiguration and pretended to read, not a hard task since I’d practically memorised it already.
“And nothing, that was it. That’s all we talked about,” I said as a closing statement flipping the page over for effect.
I was aware of Sirius watching me carefully from the corner of my eye, his broad grin not diminishing for a second, “You didn’t accept, did you?”
I couldn’t help the smirk that crept into my mouth, didn’t expect him to read me that easily.
“No, I didn’t.”
“Why not!?” Peter demanded, “I thought you liked her!”
“She’s making an effort here!” Remus said diplomatically.
“Why would you make it more difficult?” Peter asked loudly.
“Because she doesn’t mean it!” I said closing the book with a snap, “You know Evans, she’s practically got a halo on her head. The only reason she’s apologising is ‘cos what she said is eating her up inside. So she wants to put things right and forget about it…” I explained.
They all watched me for a long moment before Remus finally asked, “And you don’t want her to put things right, because?”
I smiled at them and leaned forward on the table, “Because I don’t want her to forget about it…”
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