Chapter 21 : To Youth
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My apologies for being gone for a year. Read on.
"Pass the whiskey," Marlene bumbled, pronouncing it "hwiskey". Miranda giggled shrilly and fell into her lap.
Some part of me was wondering whether firewhiskey was a choice drink for a school night, but the wonderfully warm feeling spreading from the tips of my ears to my toes argued otherwise.
Oh, to be young and drunk with love!
Except, firewhiskey, and not love.
We were surrounded by an immense fort of bed hangings and linens, the floor strewn with pillows and comforters, dressed to the nines in our underwear and laid out across the ground. A silver platter was stacked with fancy little sandwiches, cakes, and a scattering of tea cookies next to our glasses of butter beer and firewhiskey. Alice and I were pacing ourselves, but Marlene and Miranda were already completely far gone. So I sat, happily woozy, reveling in the power of friendship.
"Hey, that's your third glass, you tipsy ditz," I quipped, snatching it away from Miranda before she could down it in seconds. "You've still got stories to tell, both of you, so don't get completely smashed yet. I've already let you indulge before making you speak, do be thankful."
"Yes master," Miranda replied, though her fingers reached again for the glass. "Liquor makes things easier."
"That's something an alcoholic would say," Alice pointed out, taking a sip of her butter beer-whiskey concoction.
"Alcoholics," Marlene said, frowning. "Am I an alcoholic, Lily?"
"Of course not. No more for you either, though," I said, also taking away her glass, "Well, for now, at least." And while they weren't looking I sneaked a sip out of both of their drinks and smiled as the liquid sizzled down.
"D-I-G-G-O-R-Y," Marlene spelled, hugging a pillow to herself and leaning forward towards Miranda, a taunting, sly smile on her flushed face. "Tell us all your secrets, darling."
"He's pretty," Miranda said flatly, before her face broke into a tremendous grin. "But he can't tell an elephant's front end from it's back end, he's so dim. I had a lot of fun messing with his mind. Did you know, apparently, that if you draw a mustache on your face, the answers for tomorrow's test will appear on your hand?"
We howled with laughter. "So that's all it was then?" I asked. "Just sexual venting?"
"Bah, I liked him at first," Miranda said, wiggling her hand in a nonchalant gesture, "because he was so romantic, mainly. I'm not used to that, you know - things are usually gritty and messy with me."
There was a slight uncomfortable pause where we all mentally thought Sirius, but it passed as Miranda plowed on with her tale.
"And he's a terrible conversationalist. The boy really enjoys himself, you know? So I got tired of putting on a show for the prince and started being less, fake, I guess, you know, more like my usual."
"The hateful, weird, sarcastic little shrew you are," Marlene said lovingly.
"Yeah, so he dumped me," Miranda said, and gestured to me to pass back her glass of firewhiskey. I obliged - she had earned it. "It kinda sucks that whenever I actually act like myself men get tired of me, but I guess I bring that on on my own, right?"
"It just goes to show that you haven't found the right person yet," Alice said quietly.
"It would be nice to be like you, Alice," Marlene said, turning onto her stomach. "You've found what everyone's looking for, haven't you?" Miranda nodded fervently in agreement.
"We're just bitter old women next to you," I agreed, cocking my head to the side and studying the smile on her face. It seemed sad, but at the same time, incredibly happy.
"I - well, maybe," Alice said, looking towards her knees. "Which I've been meaning to tell you guys this, but..."
The air was still. We watched in slight awe as a crimson blush flooded Alice's fair skin.
"Holy Merlin, he proposed didn't he," Marlene gasped.
We all waited on edge, anticipation stamped on our faces, until Alice nodded quickly.
The collective scream was loud enough to wake a sleeping troll. Thank Merlin we'd thought to put up silencing charms on the fort.
"ALICE! ALICE! ALICE!" was all Miranda could say, shouting with a dumbfounded gape on her face, while Marlene was rolling around on the floor, shrieking with happiness. I took Alice into my arms and clung to her tightly, grinning so hard I couldn't speak. Alice shook, and I realized that she was crying. How come she hadn't told us about this? These were tears of happiness, right?
Right, because when I pulled back, through the streams of tears glittering in her eyes I saw complete and true happiness, and knew immediately that that was how I wanted to feel someday. That filling dedication that could send you to the brink of sanity, could launch you soaring into the sky. A love filled not with pain but with brilliance and freedom. And I knew, in that moment, who could make me feel happy, but it came and went in a fleeting, breezy thought, clouded by alcohol and emotion.
"We're so young," Alice said, hiccuping slightly and rubbing the tears out of her eyes with her sleeve while Marlene and Miranda watched in awe. They were utterly spellbound by the thought of a successful school romance. "He says he understands if I'm not ready to answer yet - in fact, he doesn't want an answer yet. I'm scared, because we're going to be barely eighteen, but I can't imagine anything without him. I really think I love him. I was planning on saying yes, but I was just so unsure about it all.
"There's so much destruction going on right now, I never want to be in a situation where I can't see him and can't make sure he's safe and beside me. I don't know if we can handle just launching ourselves into the world, but...thanks, guys, for supporting me, I really -" she laughed nervously through her tears and we all reached for a piece of her to cling to, a part of her that we could touch to maybe feel the things she felt.
"Go for it, Alice," Marlene said, smiling slyly but genuinely. "If there's any story book couple that will never be separated, it's you and Frank. You'll have beautiful babies that will defeat You Know Who yourself, you'll see. You and Frank, and maybe Lily and James - you guys all seem like you could make world-saving children. Yes, definitely."
I was blushing a royal crimson. "You shut your dirty mouth," I said defensively, but it came out sounding more silly than angry.
"Oh you know it's inevitable," Miranda said, turning to me. "Speaking of which, it's about time you come clean, Lily. You've been in love for weeks and we still haven't heard a proper confession of your acceptance."
"We're you're best friends you dumbbutt," Marlene stated obviously. "Did you seriously think you could ever keep something from us?"
Alice and Miranda shook their heads disapprovingly.
By now I was so red you could've used my face for redirecting traffic. "I don't - "
They continued to stare, unconvinced.
"But, I hate him, I -"
"Guys, listen to me! I can't -"
"Do you want us to force veritaserum down your throat?" Miranda exploded.
"You love him!" Marlene and Alice hollered, before tackling me to the ground and sitting square on my back.
"Get off, you oafs!" I roared.
"Lily Evans loves James Potter and we're not getting up until she says so!" they chanted in an eerie unison.
"NEVER!" I screamed, finding the power to grab their legs and fling them off of my back. They tumbled across the floor, surprised, and I seethed as they watched my rapidly changing expressions - from anger, to embarrassment, then anger again - flit across my face.
"Is this part of your automatic defense mechanism? Cause if so, it's going to be awful hard for you to confess to him," Miranda said doubtfully.
In all seriousness, I glared at them and began a winding explanation. It started with my newfound tolerance for his antics, and our budding friendship, but as I continued my voice started sounding more and more disgustingly sappy - I could feel it in the words tumbling from my rather tipsy lips. I was now talking about how he suddenly seemed so physically attractive, and everything that annoyed me about him also endeared me to him. I was, in short, completely unraveling.
And I told them that it would be too much, too soon, if I began dating him now, because there was so much dysfunction in our past. It was better to leave him free then to tie him down when there were so many things I was still unsure about.
Their looks upon hearing this were utterly furious, but they did not say one unsupportive word, besides calling me a "daft cow".
"He's never going to run away from you, but you've got to understand that no one waits forever," Marlene sighed. Her words sparked a nervousness in me, and I knew that that was exactly what I was afraid of.
I took another glass of firewhiskey. Down the hatch.
"But past wise, sometimes you just have to put things behind you," Miranda said, swirling her finger around the rim of her cup. "Marlene."
The atmosphere was rather awkward, and Alice and I retreated to each other for comfort as we watched Miranda and Marlene lock eyes, their similarly dark gazes meeting with a snap, Miranda's heterochromatic eyes glistening and Marlene's dark blue irises flashing in response.
"He's a douchebag," Miranda said, and we all knew who she was talking about. "But I'm sure you know that."
"I do," Marlene said, nodding in acceptance. "But what's sad and strange is that right now I don't really seem to care. You've got history with him, Miranda."
"He was the only one who would pay attention to me when I'm really acting myself," Miranda shrugged, "but I guess I can find any old masochist who will do that. Marlene, he's yours - you can appreciate him way more than I can ever imagine myself doing."
"Don't give up," Marlene said quietly, as if hurt by Miranda's defeat. Which she was - a friend's pain was her pain, as it was with all of us.
"I mean it. When I'm around him, I'm destructive. I just need to take some time to calm myself. And I want your happiness more than anything. Merlin knows you deserve it." With those words, she poured us all another glass of firewhiskey, right to the brim in each cup, and lifted hers in victory.
"Cheers," she said, a wry grin twisting her lips, and we matched her expression, raising our glasses in the air in one triumphant toast to our world.
As we settled down and things became comfortably quiet, I blew out the hovering candles within our fort - a fire hazard I hadn't considered before, and only vaguely noted at the time - and let my thoughts run through my head as I drifted off into a dazed, blurry sleep.
I guess if some things ruin friendships, it's better to just bury them and leave them behind. Sirius - for Marlene and Miranda, at least, he's just another roadblock that they've overcome. Perhaps he won't mind, though. It seems like he wouldn't. I'm not sure what will ever make him happy - be it a girl, or a sexual favor.
And with those thoughts lulling me to sleep, I closed my eyes and dreamt of a boy with emerald green eyes and messy jet black hair, a smile on his face and a scar on his forehead, and James' warmth against my body.