Chapter 8 : When Tom Finally Understands
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When Lily got back to Hogwarts, she made an effort to act more committed to Tom, especially when Scorpius was around. She continued to hold on to the hope that she would feel something romantic for Tom, but that hope died a little more every day. His hand felt foreign in hers, the brief kisses they shared felt forced and awkward.
If Tom noticed any of this, he kept it to himself. Lily assumed he was just happy that she was being more of a girlfriend towards him, rather than friends who occasionally kissed.
However, a few weeks after they returned from the holidays, Tom confronted Lily in the common room.
“Lily, is something bothering you? You’ve been acting different since we got back. I hope this has nothing to do with me,” he told her softly.
“No, Tom, it doesn’t,” said Lily with a sigh, “there’s just some things I’m working out in my head. I’m sorry if I seem down, I really am happy.”
Tom gave her a concerned look and then put his arm around her shoulders. They sat in silence for a few minutes, Lily wondering how long she had to sit there before leaving without it being awkward. Just as she was about to get up, however, Scorpius walked in. Lily could feel Tom tense beside her.
Seeing the opportunity to make Tom happy and hopefully give Scorpius the message, Lily leaned over and planted a kiss on Tom’s lips. While he was at first surprised, Tom soon responded eagerly, taking advantage of his girlfriend’s seldom-seen sign of affection.
When the kiss was over, Lily subtly glanced to see if Scorpius had seen them, but he was not in the common room. She frowned, miffed that the opportunity had probably been wasted.
“What, am I just a really bad kisser? Why are you frowning?” asked Tom, a slight smile on his face.
“Oh… nothing… I was just thinking about that Defense Against the Dark Arts essay we have to write for Wednesday,” she lied. It was getting easier and easier to make excuses to him.
Tom shrugged and returned his arm to their previous spot around her shoulders.
Over the next month, Lily continued this pattern and was glad to see results. Tom seemed to finally accept that she was dedicated to him, and Scorpius seemed to have gone back to his former ways of tormenting her. Her friends, however, became increasingly concerned for Lily. One night, after a study session with Tom in the Library, Lily returned to her room to once again find her best friends sitting in a circle on the floor.
“Oh goody, are we having boy talk again? I told you Kendra, just because my barmy cousin doesn’t have a clue about how to handle girls, doesn’t mean—” said Lily, but she was cut off by June.
“No, Lily. We’re here to talk about you,” she said with a solemn voice. Lily looked at her best friend with surprise, but sat down in the circle nonetheless.
“I know you think that you’re doing the right thing by not breaking up with Tom, but it’s starting to have an effect on you. He may be too brainless to notice, but it’s clear to all of us that you are not happy!” said Mia. Natalie nodded next to her.
“Plus, he’s bound to find out how you really feel eventually,” added Kendra, “and when he does, he’s likely to be even more heartbroken than if you told him now.”
“You guys, don’t worry about me. Tom is happy and Scorpius is off my back. I’m happy as a result of those two things,” said Lily skeptically.
“That’s just it,” said June, “the whole Scorpius thing. I know you’ve completely rejected any thoughts we have on the matter, but it’s clear that you aren’t happy with Tom, and it’s been even clearer now that it seems Scorpius has moved on!”
Lily took her words into consideration. The other day when she heard a rumour that Scorpius was going after Alyssa Smith in the year above her, she should have been ecstatic that she was no longer the target of his affections. Instead, she had this queasy feeling in the pit of her stomach that she refused to acknowledge as jealousy.
“You may be right about the Tom thing, but I still want to stay with him. I feel like if I’m no longer off the market, now that I’ve indicated to the school that I’m dating, boys will be even more insufferable,” concluded Lily. This received several skeptical looks from her friends, but everyone decided to just drop the subject for now and come back to it another time.
Unfortunately, that later time never came.
The next day, to get her friends off her back about not being “happy,” Lily was extra affectionate and bubbly around Tom. When she started giggling uncontrollably at one of his jokes during lunch, he looked at her funny and became unusually quiet for the rest of the meal.
On the way to Transfiguration, Tom pulled her into a side corridor.
“Tom, what are you doing? We’re going to be late!” said Lily in her best little-girl voice.
“It’s that. The voice, the giggling, everything. It’s just not you. I don’t get it; one day you seem to be forcing smiles and the next you’re acting like this. What’s going on?”
Lily sighed. She didn’t know what to do. She knew Tom had to find out eventually, but that’s easier said than done.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been my usual self lately, Tom. It’s just that I’ve been going through a lot recently… and…” she stuttered. She didn’t know what to say.
“And what?” asked Tom, his voice rising, “Lily, you know you can tell me anything! I’m your boyfriend!”
“Well maybe I don’t really want to be your girlfriend!” said Lily without thinking. She quickly covered her mouth and wished that she could take back what she said.
Tom froze. He stared at her for a while, then frowned and looked at the ground.
“If that’s how you feel, then we don’t have to be together. I knew it was too good to be true that an amazing girl like you would want a guy like me,” he said sadly, then turned and started walking to Transfiguration.
“Tom, wait,” pleaded Lily. She grabbed his arm and turned him towards her. They were already late for class, what was another couple of minutes?
“It isn’t that I don’t like you, you know you’ll always be my friend. I care about you, I really do, but I was just forcing myself to have romantic feelings for you. I thought if I just stayed with you, they would come eventually. But they didn’t,” she finished.
Tom looked at her again, and then pulled her into a hug. This wasn’t like the embraces they shared as a couple, which were often stiff and uncomfortable for Lily, this was a friend hug that felt much more right.
“I just wish you would have told me sooner. I hate that I’ve been making you feel uncomfortable all this time,” said Tom.
“I couldn’t break it to you. I was afraid it would ruin our friendship,” said Lily. Then, delirious that it looked like they would still be friends, she added, “besides, being with you kept Scorpius off my back.”
Tom broke the hug. “What do you mean? Has he been giving you trouble?”
“Not really, it’s just that everyone says he likes me, and I wanted to make it clear to him that I don’t feel the same,” explained Lily, a little unsure of where the conversation was going.
“I see,” said Tom, his voice much less friendly, “so you were using me.”
“No! I wasn’t using you! I wanted to feel that way towards you, and at the same time make it clear to Malfoy that nothing would ever happen between him and me! It made sense for me to stay with you!”
“Lily, remember what Scorpius said that first night at Hogwarts? About you being an enigma?” asked Tom, his voice now rather stony, “I’m starting to think he knew what he was talking about. You really are hard to figure out.”
With that, he turned again and walked to Transfiguration. This time, Lily did not try to stop him, instead she was still trying to process what he had just said. How had they gone from in a relationship, to friends, to fighting in such a short time?
Eventually, Lily walked into Professor Mutatio’s class ten minutes late. After a short scolding from the strict teacher, she sat down next to June. She noticed that Tom was sitting next to Jordan Bert, another fourth year Slytherin, rather than his usual spot next to her.
June noticed the change in seating arrangement, as well as the expressions on her two friends’ faces, and knew right away what happened. She gave Lily’s hand a comforting squeeze then passed her a note that read “We’ll talk after class.”
Lily started to tear up at her friend’s support. She did not feel like she deserved such a wonderful best mate after everything she had done to Tom. She had manipulated him, and in doing so she had lost sight of herself.
When class let out, Lily and June went into the nearest girls bathroom, where Lily promptly started crying in earnest. June put an arm around her shoulders and held her while she let it all out.
“I can’t believe I didn’t listen to you,” said Lily when the worst of the crying had subsided.
“It’s okay, hon. I know you had the best intentions,” sighed June. Now was not the time to say “I told you so.”
“From now on, I’m going to be honest with my feelings. I’m never going to manipulate anyone ever again,” stated Lily confidently.
June gave her best friend a look that clearly said she didn’t believe her. “This is you we’re talking about, Lily. Prankster extraordinaire. You manipulate people like it’s your job!”
Lily smiled. “Okay, you have me there. But I promise I’m not going to play with people’s feelings again. I swear.”
June smiled at Lily in return, and the two linked arms and headed back to the common room, both of them glad to have all their boy issues behind them for now.
A/N: Bit of a sad ending, but a necessary one. The next chapter is a lot more action-packed (hint: QUIDDITCH!). Keep reading, and feel free to leave a review! I’m updating as fast as I can!
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