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Chapter 4 : Holding On
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o.O Sorry, my slightly psychotic side is showing.
“Teddy Teddy Teddy-“
“Professor, Lily. I’m your Professor.”
I grinned at him; an honest, genuine grin.
Fucking Jack- him and his fucking smiles rubbing off on me.
“I know,” I said, and the Ravenclaw himself came up behind me, resting one hand on my lower back and the other passing me the scroll of parchment that had given me hell but I had finally, finally finished it.
He frowned slightly. “Is this the essay due yesterday?”
“Be glad it’s only a day late,” Jack advised him, glancing around the Entrance Hall at the final, straggling students. They, also, should have been on the train by that point. “She wanted to keep the whole damn thing over the holidays and check for mistakes.”
I rolled my eyes at him. “The moral of that particular story is, if there are any factually incorrect references or spelling mistakes, they’re his fault.”
Jack smirked at me. “Shouldn’t have made them in the first place, kiddo.”
“I’m one month younger than you, you little shit-“
“Language, small person.”
“AND if you weren’t a half giant you might not tower over people so much!”
“Guys, can the sexual tension until I’m not in the room,” Teddy said, grimacing. He plucked the essay out of my hand, flicking open the seal like I hadn’t done it only five minutes before. “Is this a ‘pretend to read and give an A because it’s a load of bullshit’ or an ‘actually read and grade properly’ type?” he asked coolly.
“Read it,” Jack said instantly, grinning. “It’s hilarious, and you’ll definitely appreciate it. Like mine, hopefully.”
“What- you guys actually tried to be witty?”
“Giving you a laugh made it easier to write,” he shrugged. “No offence, but it was sort of for my own motivation’s sake.”
“And I had no fucking clue what to do, so giving some entertainment was my best option,” I added.
Jack turned to me. “Speaking of giving entertainment, don’t we have a train to catch?”
“That- doesn’t make sense, but yes, we do. Bollocks- see you at home, right?” I asked Teddy, giving him a hurried hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“Always, Lily,” he smiled. “Bye, Jack.”
He grabbed my hand and yanked me after him, barely able to keep up with his ridiculously long legs as he jumped down the steps three at a time and my bag slammed into my back, nearly toppling me over but his grip steadied me and YAY for Quidditch practice this was why I kept it up and oh, shit, didn’t mean to terrify first years on top missing the train and was that Roxy? Might have been, never mind, he’s still got my hand and we’re still running - why are we running?
When we reached the train the station was completely deserted, which wasn’t surprising, as we’d passed the bulk of the students who had left on time for the train. It was hissing merrily and I was gasping for air, a stitch running down my side and making the long, deep breaths I knew were good for me harder to control.
“Why- didn’t- we- stop?” I demanded, between the difficulties of keeping my heart pumping.
“Because- that- was- hilarious!” Jack gasped at me, bright red in the face and looking like he’d been given liquid ecstasy (which is poisonous, by the way).
“Glad... my death... is amusing to- you.”
“Never- your death- perhaps- your life- though.”
“What’s that... supposed to mean?” I asked, looking up at him.
“You just- questioned happiness. You had- as much- fun as me- and you still... didn’t see the point. Like- what is your life, Lily?”
Amazing, really. How the boy could still be bright red, still be smiling as though he had taken helium, and say something as both poignant and terrifying as that?
I consoled myself that Quidditch had at least trained me for that run for that far, because Jack certainly hadn’t. He was doubled over and laughing and just so... free. I wanted to glare at him for being so happy, but I couldn’t.
I didn’t know why- there was just something about him, especially when he said things like that, that told me there was far more going on in his pretty little head than he let on.
Having recovered a usual breathing pattern, I looked down my nose at him. “Oh pathetic one, my life is wonderful.”
He simply grinned at me, putting his hands on his cheeks.
“Are you cold?” I asked him curiously.
“My hands are. It’s great,” he said, smiling contentedly. “Wanna get on?”
“I don’t think we can until Hagrid arrives.”
“Well, that sucks.”
After a while, he gained his normal (yet abnormally) tall stance, and leant against the side of the gleaming red paint of the train.
“You’re looking very... colourful, today,” he noted.
I glanced down. I’d gone all-out: my favourite pair of red skinny jeans, a fitted navy polo neck and a dark purple jacket. I also had taken the time to apply a light layer of makeup on, with a hint of gold eyeliner, because I loved it. I had forgotten how much I loved my eyes sparkling.
“It suits you.”
I turned away to hide my blush.
He shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans. “So.”
We looked at each other at the same time, and he fell into his laughter again and I tried really, really hard not to but I ended up giggling along with him anyway.
Hagrid arrived, the train was magically unlocked (no, seriously, he used his umbrella to do it) and we helped all the first years onto the train with their overly bulky trunks onto the train.
I didn’t even know why they bothered- all I was taking home was my wand and the books I needed to write homework essays with, neatly stacked inside my usual schoolbag- but Jack insisted on helping the midgets, so I felt guilt tripped into doing the same.
We had nearly finished shoving the ridiculous things after the sprites when the second years thought they’d try their luck, although they backed off pretty quickly when I cursed the third one to have antlers coming out of his arse.
“That was unnecessarily cruel,” he sighed.
“Tell that to my back,” I grumbled, rolling my shoulders back and stretching. “At least we started a trend...”
Everyone was helping everyone get on. It was really... nice.
To see nice things happen. Just because other people are nice.
Until I made the stupid mistake of stretching forwards, that is. Because I leant forwards and just so happened to bend over a little bit...
“Hey, sexy- ride my train!”
“THAT DOESN’T EVEN MAKE SENSE!” I retorted instantly back in the general direction of the catcaller, snapping upright again.
Fucking boys fucking hormones fucking embarrassing only because I fucking have the fucking X chromosome fuck everything.
I tried not to look at Jack. I hated getting told I was ‘sexy’ and ‘hot’ and all the other damn things guys thought it was okay to say to women. Hey, believe it or not, we don’t feel complimented or flattered or happy about it. We feel objectified and mocked and disgusting.
Even I had to admit, though, walking down muggle streets were far worse than wizard ones.
After a while of not saying anything, Jack took my hand.
I suppose he didn’t need to say anything. He had his eyes trained on whoever had said it, but they didn’t seem like they were going to respond.
“Fine,” I muttered.
“You know, I don’t think any guy thinks anything of it. My sister gave me hell when she’d found out I’d done it once, though, so I haven’t done it since.” He squeezed my hand. “But, you know you-“
He cut off as McFarland passed us.
“I could show you a really good time,” he leered, stepping towards me, winking.
I didn’t recoil in disgust how I wanted to, but I did pull Jack to my side a little.
“Doubtful. You don’t even look capable of knowing what a good time is,” I dismissed.
“Ditch the uptight loser,” he told me, and I felt Jack stiffen up. I was pretty sure it was in anger. “I could entertain you all night, baby.”
“If you don’t keep walking, I swear I’m going to commit you to St Mungo’s for at least a month, McFarland,” Jack snarled, pulling my hand close and somehow tucking me behind him.
Life Lesson n° 80 (I’d learned since meeting Jack): don’t. Piss. Him. Off.
“Come on, Potter,” he grinned, his mates cheering him on. “You know you want to.”
I snorted. “I want you to keep talking so he’ll put you in St Mungo’s for a month. That would be entertainment.”
McFarland looked like I’d slapped him, which must have been a form of irony because that’s what my instincts were screaming for.
He narrowed his eyes. “You’re a whore.”
“Oh, yeah, I’m the whore yet you’re the one handing out offers of sex.”
“Bitch,” he growled, starting forwards with his dark eyes fixed on me. “I’ll show you-“
“Move on, McFarland,” Jack growled through gritted teeth. His entire body was tensed and ready for a fight- McFarland stopped abruptly, his face inches from Jack’s.
My other hand gripped onto Jack’s wrist.
It was only when McFarland jerked away, glaring at us with his gang of idiots, did I see that Jack had had his wand pressed into his throat. The angry red mark on McFarland’s neck suggested he hadn’t been too light about it, either.
“Well,” I said awkwardly, releasing his wrist and hand. “That was... sufficiently humiliating. I mean, I know that guys are, overall, physically stronger than girls but that felt far too ‘damsel in distress’ for my liking.”
I plucked his wand out of his hand. “Calm down, Jack. It’s okay.”
“So why do you look like you’re about to murder him anyway?”
“Because it’s not okay, in any shape or form.”
Nodding, I put his wand in his pocket and took his hand back in mine.
“Wanna get on the train?”
Despite getting the carriage with some of Jack’s friends, including a very timid-looking Veronica, they mostly kept to themselves and didn’t really talk to either of us, playing games of Exploding Snap and Gobstones. Jack was sat next to the window and leant against it, so I felt no qualms about using him as a pillow.
“You looking forward to going home?” I asked him sleepily, as the backdrop of yelps of indignation and occasionally pain buzzed beside us.
“Not much. It’ll be nothing special- just me and my dad.”
“Nah. I’ll keep to my room mostly.”
“Yes. There is that.”
I shifted so my back was pressed up against him, but he threw his arm over my head before I could properly snuggle down. I whined my complaint as I pushed backwards, and his hand rested on my stomach.
“I don’t really like going home,” I told him.
“There’s my mum. She always fusses over me, saying I look thinner than the last time she saw me and I need to drop a couple of classes-“
“In all fairness to her, you do-”
“-and then there’s the total absence of James. He’s my big brother, but he’s not there anymore. He has Chelsea, his own life, his own job... like he’s forgotten we even exist. And when he does come back, he doesn’t really ask how I am. I think he thinks I’m fine- which I am, by the way- but it’d be nice if he asked. And Al’s so busy worried about Ellie all the time, and his new job with dad, that I don’t think he has the time for me. And dad... he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t at all.”
Jack kept quiet after I had spoken, clearly trying to think of the right thing to say.
“I’ll owl you. If, you know, you want to. You can vent to me.”
I smiled, even though I knew he couldn’t see. “That’d be nice.”
Relaxing, I found myself slumped into his chest. I didn’t mind as I drifted in and out of consciousness, legs curled up and hands making a pillow under my head.
“Are we nearly there yet?” I asked him.
I realized the games had stopped, and his friends were all talking in muted voices, occasionally glancing over at us. My eyes were barely half open.
“Nowhere near. Go back to sleep.”
There was a small pause before he spoke again.
“Why the sigh?”
I chewed my bottom lip thoughtlessly. “My dad never liked leaving Hogwarts. He hated his home. I never used to mind- either way I had everyone I wanted- but now home is just a sad reminder of what I had.”
His hand rubbed my stomach comfortingly. “If it’s any consolation, I know exactly how you feel.”
Dad used to tell me all about his adventures at Hogwarts. He’d tell me tales of dragons and evil teachers, of Hippogriffs and mermaids, of Basilisks and love potions; they were the best bedtime stories. I once asked him about the trains and going home: I must’ve been only seven or eight.
He had caught my gaze with strikingly still eyes, and simply said ‘I liked Hogwarts best’. He never lied to me.
“I hope Ellie’s okay.”
“I’m sure she’ll be fine.”
I tightened my fingers on his shirt a little, then closed my eyes again.
Vaguely, I could hear the growl of his voice through his shirt and the murmur of other voices, but I didn’t really try to wake up or commit it to memory. He shifted a little under my hands so I strengthened their grip to keep his warm, reassuring body under me. When he stopped moving, I slackened up and fell easily back into sleep.
Waking up was not fun- the first I knew of it was being lurched forcibly off Jack, then his strong hands gripping around my waist and neck before I fell.
“Whoops,” Jenny said, having fallen off her seat and clambering back up.
“We either ran over a small dragon or part of the track was missing then,” commented Scott, unpicking Greg’s hand from his arm whilst Veronica checked all the bags above were still in place.
“Are you okay?” Jack asked me, slowly releasing me.
“I’ve lived through worse.”
“Ooh, now you’re awake-“ Jenny said to me, expectantly looking at Jack.
“Oh- right-“ Jack suddenly nodded, urging me to sit up on my own. I did so, if reluctantly, as he pulled something out of his pocket.
It was two Sugar Quills.
“One for you, and one for Ellie,” he said softly, pressing them into me hand.
“But- they’re her favourite- how did you-“
“She mentioned it in her letter you on Wednesday,” he shrugged.
“I- well- thank you.”
Being honest is not one of my strongest traits, but if I am I hardly knew what to say. I couldn’t even remember her doing so, or him reading it.
“No- really. Thank you.”
I hugged him tightly, and he hugged me back.
The train pulled to a stop, and there was a huge surge of students as everyone quickly grabbed their stuff and eagerly leapt off the carriage, waving and hugging goodbyes with promises of seeing each other floating through the air with the smoke.
We trailed behind this crowd, Jack hugging plenty of girls and guys alike and chatting happily with them, but he didn’t leave my side until we stepped off the train, at which point he dropped his bag and faced me.
“It’s been an exciting couple of weeks,” he grinned.
“It certainly has,” I agreed lightly, smiling back.
“Although there haven’t been as many explosions as I hoped for.”
“We’ll try harder after half term.”
“I’ll hold you to that.”
I grinned, then it dropped. “Okay, I really have to go. Mum’ll be looking for me.”
I readjusted my bag on my shoulder, and began to turn away.
His lips were pressed against my bottom one, my eyes were closed, his hands were on my waist and neck, my bag dropped to the floor, he pressed me closer, and I rose on my tiptoes to get a better angle.
He was everywhere and holding me and it was wonderful.
All too soon, he stopped kissing me, but he didn’t pull away. He rested his forehead on mine, eyes still closed and breathing slightly heavy. Mine was too.
He pecked my lips again, jolting me awake, and unwound his arms and hands from around me and out of my hair.
“I really have to go now,” he whispered.
Me both chuckled slightly, and I finally let go of him.
“I’ll owl you,” he told me as he handed my bag to me and picked up his own.
“You’d better,” I smirked, taking it.
“See you Monday.”
“See you then.”
Ellie and mum met me at the train station, mum bright eyed and cheerful, Ellie pale and tired.
“How was school?” mum demanded, hugging me tightly and kissing me on the cheek.
“Good,” I said, finally a little honest, and turning to Ellie. “How are you?”
“I’m fine,” she said, smiling faintly. She twisted a little anxiously with the ring I had given her, three Christmases ago. It had enchantments of healing and protecting- not that it seemed to help much, these days. “Tired, but okay.”
“You shouldn’t have brought her,” I said to mum through gritted teeth.
“No! I’m glad I did, Lily,” Ellie said immediately, pulling me in for a hug too. “I want to see you. I miss you.”
“I miss you too,” I said into her neck. “I miss you a lot. Here.”
After a second of rummaging in my bag, I handed her one of the Sugar Quills. Her eyes lit up.
“Yay! I love these things! Om nom nom, it’s like happiness,” she said brightly, her cheeks a little pinker and smile a little wider, licking it.
“Seriously? Is that all I need to get to please you?”
“I’m easily pleased,” she agreed, taking my hand. Mum took my bag from me.
“What do you want for tea? It’s your choice tonight.”
Mum was beginning to cook in the kitchen, and I was sat at the table occasionally conversing with her when Al got back from work with dad. The second he saw me, he grabbed me up into a tight hug.
“Lilster! How are you?” he exclaimed, ruffling my hair and putting me back in my seat (thank you, it’s appreciated).
“I’m cool,” I shrugged, leaning back and straining for a smile.
“Hogwarts still warting?”
“Doing it’s thing, yeah.”
His eyes were shining in excitement as he turned to mum, who was tucked into a gentle embrace with dad.
“Guess what mum? Guess what I did!”
He had all the energy and enthusiasm of a two year old. I raised my eyebrows, but dad just smiled and gestured for me to listen.
“What?” she asked.
“I passed! I passed! I’m only half a year away from being a qualified Auror!”
Joy flooded her face, and she left dad in favour of being hugged by Al.
“Sweetie! Congratulations, you’ve done so well! I’m so proud of you!”
He grinned, hastily pulling out a crumpled piece of paper from his robes. “And- look!”
“Full marks,” dad said, eyes also lighting up. “How-“
“Boggarts are my bitch, dad,” Al said knowledgably.
“Albus Severus Potter, mind your language,” mum scolded, arms crossing and glaring at him.
Yeah, like she didn’t swear at every opportunity.
“Um... yeah... Boggarts are my... friend. Totally. My friend. They’re a cool bunch of guys. You should meet them-“
“You’re ruining what was a perfectly good moment,” I interjected, rapping my fingers on the table in front of me.
Mum nodded at me, a hint of a smile playing around the edge of her mouth. “I think you’re right, Lily. Well, I’m just making a start on the food- both of you, go and get changed and hopefully I’ll have it done soon. We’re having Shepherd’s Pie.”
“Yum yum yum,” Al grinned. “Lil’s favourite.”
“We’re glad to have you back,” mum told me, wrapping her arm around me. “Sort of. Minus the sarcasm.”
“I am sarcasm, mum. Without sarcasm, my life will no longer have any meaning. I will cease to exist, and you will have nothing but the mere memory of me.”
Dad and mum threw a look at each other.
“Yes... well. Memories are stronger than you might think.”
“I’m going!” Al announced, hugging mum and dad collectively then pecking me on the cheek. “I’m gonna check on Ellie- was she okay today?”
“Quite good, yeah,” mum nodded. “Happy, actually, right as the train rolled up. She’s very tired, though, so try to be quiet.”
“Will do, will do.”
He disappeared upstairs, and I found myself helping mum cook.
“Are you alright, Lily?” she asked me. Dad had slowly followed Al away, after telling mum all about Al’s test (apparently, it was half the qualification, or something) and how brilliantly he had done. He hadn’t even stumbled- according to dad, he’d done better than he had ever seen. Even Ron and Teddy had tripped up on a few points, and so had he.
The moral of the story? Al was a fucking perfect human being, just like James.
“I’m fine. Cool. School is lame, though. I’m done with it all. I just want a job.”
I grabbed a knife and began to peel the potatoes whilst mum worked over a pan with the mince.
“We all went through the same thing, Lily. Don’t wish your life away.”
“I’m not. I’m wishing this part of life away.”
“Because it sucks. All the kids with all their little dramas and their little homework projects acting like they’re so major and they’re never going to get through all two sides of one mark questions done, and their life is so crap and oh, however will they manage? And they’re the more interesting ones.”
“Lily... surely there are some people that- I don’t know, suit you?”
I thought about Jack’s lips pressed against mine.
“...I suppose there’s one or two.”
“And you’ve only got- what, one and a half?- terms left, and then you’re done. You’ve finished. By the way, how’s your application coming along?”
I put the potatoes over the stove, and began to boil them.
“I sent it off last week. I couldn’t handle the stress. I needed to get rid of it.”
“At least you’ve got the holiday to chill out in. Catch up on some sleep, see some friends... you look really tired, Lily.”
“I am tired. Tired of Hogwarts.”
“You are trying, aren’t you?”
“Trying to what?”
“Be... oh, I don’t know. You are... okay, aren’t you?”
“I’m fine. I’m always fine.”
“Fine is not the same as okay.”
I rolled my eyes. “My mother, the drama queen.”
“I’m not a drama queen, you little diva!”
“Diva? Diva? I’ll show you diva-“
I yanked the heat up on the potatoes, and marched to the table, plonking myself down and clicking my fingers at mum. “Bring me wine, peasant!”
The ensuing fight nearly cost us the food.
Sometimes it’s unfortunate to be so very, very alike to your mother.
Ellie joined us for tea. Dad helped her down, as mum served and I set the table and Al bounded after the pair of them, pulling out the seat for Ellie and she smiled weakly, gratefully. She always seemed so pitifully frail.
“You alright, Ellie?” I asked quietly. I shifted a little tensely as she glanced up at me.
“I’m fine, thank you. How’re your classes? You are taking Charms, right?”
“Yeah, I am. They’re all fine- school is school, y’know? Bit boring. It’s really boring without you.”
She smiled at me, and speared some carrots on her fork. We all turned to Al, who was animatedly describing some of the better moments in his practical test.
“-you wouldn’t believe how fast it was going- those things can really move!- but I got the upper hand using Immobilus- thank Merlin Aunt Hermione taught me that- and it was pretty easy once it couldn’t move.”
I decided to take my hand at contributing to conversation, and asked loudly, “is it true what the Quibbler’s saying, dad?”
Dad caught my gaze. He looked surprised at such a question. “It depends which story it is- although there’s usually some truth to what’s said in the Quibbler. Except the Crumple Horned Snorkacks. They’re definitely not real.”
“It’s saying that you’ve been doing new tests to ensure the standards of the Aurors aren’t slipping.”
He narrowed his eyes slightly, in curiosity. “I have. Unofficially. I’m pleased to say no one has been below satisfactory, but until the newer rules are implemented, there’s not much more that can be done.”
Al chuckled. “No need to worry about me, dad- I’m gonna be a better Auror than Teddy!”
“Considering Teddy quit after three months, that’s not a difficult target,” mum whipped at him, but his smile didn’t fade. Dad joined in, ribbing Al about his aspirations, and Ellie watched them with light interest playing across her eyes.
“-you’re supposed to be my parents!” wailed Al, who clearly hadn’t thought they’d turn on him. “You’re supposed to looove me!”
“Being obligated to do something doesn’t mean you’ll do it well, Al,” I said.
Mum’s cooking tasted like Grandma Weasley’s. I’d missed it.
“They were never obligated to do it. They should’ve looked at James and realised having kids was not their thing,” Al retorted, sticking his tongue out at mum. “Instead, they decided two more was a good idea. I mean, what was that?”
“Love isn’t exactly something you plan on. You can’t help it if you love someone or not.”
“Of course you can. Ditching friends is far easier than making them.”
“I agree with Lily,” Ellie announced quietly, but we all turned to listen. “Sometimes, you’re in too deep.”
“Be more selfish,” shrugged Al. “Sometimes you have to be, for your own sake.”
We didn’t laugh much after that. In fact, we didn’t really talk, except to thank mum again.
A/N Yaaay new chapter. :D Took long enough. (I say that, but it’s only been three days since my computer was sent off for repairs. I don’t even know if it’s fixable yet). (Edit: got computer back)
Sorry McFarland’s creepiness levels haven’t reflected in my writing at the beginning- I actually had a brilliant/disgusting/disturbing line for him to say until I realised that particular word pun isn’t allowed on this website. I can’t make a guy scary enough, so I make him too scary. Go figure.
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