Chapter 5 : Treading in Unfamiliar Territory
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Author's Note: I apologise profusely for the lengthy wait. This chapter isn't very good because I pushed myself to update but I tried my hardest. A million thanks to Betsy (wulfeyez) who helped me immensely in getting through this chapter.
September had slowly faded into October and truly marked the end of summer. October brought colder weather and more rain. October also meant the start of the Quidditch season, and the prospect of the first Hogsmeade trip which would be announced when the Head Boy and Girl had made a decision. However, Lily’s relationship with James mirrored the turbulent thunderstorms that often flooded the seasonal change from summer to autumn which meant that coming to an agreement would be difficult.
Lily and James had decided to meet after classes in the library to discuss possible dates for the Hogsmeade weekend. They had been there for nearly an hour and were nowhere closer to coming to a decision.
“What about the twenty-second?” Lily questioned, chewing thoughtfully on the tip of her quill.
“No,” James said immediately, tipping the chair he was sitting in so that it balanced on its back legs.
Lily looked up, annoyed. “Why not? And put that chair down. This is a library, not a circus,” she snapped.
James complied and replied, “I was planning on having Quidditch practice that day.”
“You’ve said ‘no’ to every other Saturday I’ve suggested because of Quidditch practice, Potter,” Lily said. “We might as well not have a bloody Hogsmeade trip this month if we’re to revolve around your schedule.”
“I’m Quidditch Captain, Evans. It’s my last year, and Gryffindor must win the Quidditch Cup.”
“You must have some high expectations for your team, then,” Lily retorted.
James slammed his hand down onto the table.
“Mr. Potter, restrain yourself or you’ll be forced to leave,” Madame Pince said as she walked by on her way to find a book for a first year.
James waited for Madame Pince to leave before he hissed, “Damn it, Evans! Can’t you just, for once, keep your remarks to yourself? I’m getting tired of it.”
“Well excuse me, Mr. High and Mighty Quidditch Captain. I’m sorry if I’m just a bit frustrated that you can’t help me decide on a date for the upcoming Hogsmeade trip. Every suggestion I make is automatically discarded because you have Quidditch practice or something equally and pathetically unimportant. I haven’t heard one suggestion from you,” Lily ranted. She sighed heavily and slumped in her seat, ignoring James’ protests.
“How’s it going?” Remus interrupted, slipping into the seat besides James. Lily glared at him reproachfully. “Not so good, I take it.”
“You can deal with him, Remus,” Lily said, getting up and grabbing her things in one fluid motion. She walked out of the library, her shoulders stooped slightly from her weariness.
Remus let out a long, slow breath. “What did you do, Prongs?”
Lily clutched her books tighter to her chest, and sighed. Professor Dumbledore needed a date before the night was over and they were no nearer to coming to a decision. Lily silently wondered why they could not agree on anything.
She reached the common room and muttered the password. The Fat Lady smiled sympathetically at her before swinging open. She trudged up the stairs to her dormitory and dropped her books onto her night table.
“Have you decided a date for the Hogsmeade trip yet?” Anne questioned, looking up from her homework.
Lily gracelessly plopped down on her bed and rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands. “No,” she muttered. “And we’re nowhere nearer to deciding one.”
Anne smirked. “I’m sure if James wasn’t Head Boy, the date would’ve been set already.”
“I know. We need to set a date by tonight, and I don’t know what to do.” Lily sounded exasperated and weary. Anne came over and sat down on Lily’s bed, and patted her hand understandingly.
“Well, talk with him again after dinner. If you can’t come to any conclusion, talk to Professor Dumbledore.”
“And say what? ‘I’m sorry Professor Dumbledore but James and I have not yet come to a decision because we can’t seem to agree upon anything. Please, why don’t you just remove us from the Head positions because it’s obvious we can’t work together,’” Lily replied.
Anne sighed. “You’re right,” she said. She gave Lily a half-smile before getting up and going back to her homework. “I’m sorry, Lily. I don’t seem to be much of a help.”
“That’s all right, Anne. James isn’t much of a help either,” said Lily. She absently pulled some loose threads from her duvet and then groaned.
Anne glanced up from her homework. “What is it now?”
“It’s just…this is our first real Head duty together, and if we can’t do this, what if Professor Dumbledore really does take away our badges? This school can’t have Heads that don’t get along, especially during such a dark time. I could work with anyone except James. We just can’t agree. We’ve never been able to agree.”
“I don’t know what to tell you, Lily. I just think that you need to set aside your differences. The school is divided as it is. We don’t need our Head Boy and Girl to be divided as well.”
Lily nodded in agreement. “Let’s go to dinner, Anne. I’ll try and get James after, I suppose.”
Anne nodded and they descended the dormitory stairs and excited the common room. The Great Hall was already filling when they arrived and they quickly found seats with the other girls from their dormitory.
“Hello,” James said, stopping behind Lily and greeting her roommates.
“Hi James,” the girls chorused.
“Which one of you lovely ladies would like to accompany me to Hogsmeade?”
Anne looked at Lily questioningly. Lily shook her head in confusion.
“Oh, you’ve decided on a date, then?” asked Sophia, one of Lily’s roommates.
“The twenty-ninth,” James replied. Lily turned around quickly and almost knocked over the pitcher of pumpkin juice.
“What?” she exclaimed. “I had no say in that.”
“Yes you did. It was the first date you suggested because it was the weekend before Halloween.”
“You said we couldn’t. You wanted to fit in one more Quidditch practice because your first match is the thirtieth.”
“The team can miss one day of practice. We’ll be practicing all week anyway,” James said.
Lily felt as though she could shriek with rage. “James Potter, you—you are the most frustrating person I have ever met, let alone work with.” Lily flung her hands up in exasperation. “We sat in that library for over an hour with you saying ‘no’ to every date I suggested. And now, now, you walk into the Great Hall as though you were Merlin himself, making the final decision without my opinion! It’s…it’s…frustrating,” Lily ended lamely.
“But I did have your opinion,” James replied. “You suggested the date, so that means you thought it was a good date. Now, I’m just reinforcing that idea.”
This time, Lily did shriek with rage, and she grabbed James by the front of his robes, dragging him out of the Great Hall.
“Dragging me off for a snog before dinner, eh?”
“Shut it, Potter. You are absolutely infuriating,” Lily snapped angrily as she shoved James against the wall and glared at him. “How could you…how could you do that to me? In front of my roommates?”
“Do what?” James asked, cocking his head to one side.
“Embarrass me,” Lily said, her eyes challenging him to say otherwise. James sobered and frowned.
“Since when did you care about what people thought of you?”
“That doesn’t matter! What matters is that I wasted an hour of my time disagreeing with you. And then, in the end, you decide on the first idea I had suggested. If you had just agreed in the first place, we could have been done in five minutes. But no, you just have to be difficult and—”
“Oh, get over it, Evans,” James cried. “When are you just going to stop thinking about yourself? I could have been doing something much more important than spend an hour of my time with you—”
“I should stop thinking about myself? That’s rich coming from you, Potter,” Lily scoffed. “You are the most self-centred—”
James groaned in frustration and sunk down to the floor, his hands dangling between his bent knees. “This won’t work,” he muttered.
Lily stopped her tirade and looked at him in surprise. “What won’t work?”
“Us…as Head Boy and Girl.”
“I know,” Lily said quietly. “We’re too different.”
James shook his head. “We’re not different. We’re more alike than you know. We just don’t share the same views, and when we’re wrong, we’re too stubborn to admit that we made a mistake.”
Lily was silent. She watched James tug at the cuff of his robes and then ruffle his hair. “What?” she asked.
He looked up questioningly. “Hmm?”
“You’re nervous. You’re doing that thing with your hair,” she said, gesticulating with her hands.
James chuckled, and then opened his mouth before shutting it again. “Do you think I should resign as Head Boy?” he asked finally, looking up at her. His gaze had softened, and he looked troubled.
Lily bit her lip in thoughtful concentration. Finally, she said, “No.”
“Lily,” James started, “we can’t decide on anything. It won’t work.”
Lily shook her head. “We’ll make it work. There’s a reason why Professor Dumbledore made us Head Boy and Girl.”
James looked confused. “First, you call me infuriating and you say how you’ve never worked with anyone as frustrating as me before. Now, when I offer, freely mind you, to resign as Head Boy, you won’t let me?”
Lily shrugged. “We—” She was interrupted by the sound of hundreds of students exiting the Great Hall. “We should tell Professor Dumbledore that we’ve decided on a Hogsmeade date,” Lily said, though James knew it wasn’t what she had planned on saying.
James nodded and got up. Together, they walked silently. James said the password when they reached the entrance to Dumbledore’s office and the stone gargoyle jumped aside. They climbed the spiralling staircase and entered his office without saying a word to one another.
“Ah, so you have decided on a date then, yes?”
“We were thinking about the twenty-ninth of October, sir,” Lily replied, fidgeting slightly under the gaze of the Headmaster.
“The day before the first Quidditch match of the season. Are you all right with this decision, James?”
“Yes, sir. I’ll be working the team hard all week. They’ll need a much deserved break.”
“Very well. I’ll put a notice on the bulletin board tomorrow morning. Oh, and before you go, I must congratulate you. You both are still alive and without injuries after making your first decision together.” Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled merrily.
Lily and James nodded and took their leave. Again, they were silent as they walked back to the common room.
James, who had longer legs, was several steps ahead of Lily but he paused and allowed her to catch up before continuing down the corridor towards the common room.
James suddenly stopped and blurted, “I’m sorry.”
Lily turned around and looked at him, puzzled. “What for?”
“For embarrassing you and being an absolute toad. I know that I can be aggravating, but I don’t mean it. I’m not normally like this.”
“Yes you are,” Lily said. She began to walk again, and James quickly caught up to her.
“Around you, yeah. But when I’m with friends like Sirius or Remus, I’m not. You make me all jittery and nervous. When you get angry at me, I’m angry with myself for cocking it up so badly and then I take my frustrations out on you because that’s what you do to me all the time and—”
“And you’re rambling,” Lily interrupted, smiling slightly. She looked up at James and saw him flush.
“See? I don’t normally ramble either.”
“Of course you don’t,” Lily absently replied.
James was silent. They had given up on heading to Gryffindor Tower and were standing in a deserted corridor, overlooking the grounds through a dusty window. The hall was dark except for the torches that hung every few feet of wall.
Lily watched James. She noticed the way the firelight danced in the frames of his glasses and cast shadows on his face. She never realised how troubled he really was when given the chance to let down the defences he wore around everyone else. She was glad that he had removed his false façade, and she felt as though he was giving her the chance to really see him like Remus and Sirius and Peter saw him, see him as she had always wanted to see him when he wasn’t showing off. He rested his hands on either side of the window and gazed down at the melding shadows that moved with the wind and crept through the trees, the same shadows that haunted Lily’s dreams.
Breaking the silence, Lily asked, “Aren’t you ever afraid? Of Voldemort and all this death, I mean?”
James turned to look at her properly in the light and leaned against the stone wall; a casual action that Lily knew was all too defining of James.
“Of course I’m afraid, Lily. Who do you think I am? Despite what you might think, I’m not Merlin reincarnated. Though we all know that I certainly could pass as him,” James added to lighten the tone of the conversation.
“It’s just—you seem so unaffected by all that’s going on,” Lily said. “You talk about the future and what you and Sirius plan on doing after Hogwarts. And I can’t help but wonder how you can be so certain that there will be a future. You’ve seen the destruction Voldemort has already been causing and we don’t know how much longer he’ll be wreaking havoc in our world. I’m scared, James,” Lily admitted, looking down at the floor.
James stepped towards her and tentatively wrapped his arms around her, pulling her closer to him.
“It’s okay to be scared,” he murmured in her hair.
Lily stepped out of his embrace and let out a strangled laugh. She silently berated herself for allowing James, of all people, to see her during a moment of weakness. James coughed nervously and ran his fingers through his already mussed hair.
“We should head back to the common room,” James said finally.
Lily nodded and they continued on their way down the corridor.
“Er, do you—do you think that maybe we can be friends?” James asked, looking at her hopefully.
“On what terms?” Lily asked, raising a questioning eyebrow.
“Lily,” James warned.
Lily smirked, but then shrugged. “I don’t know. Don’t you think it’s kind of sudden? We were just about to kill each other only a few hours before. You can’t just up and decide to be friends with a person you’ve claimed to hate for six years.” Lily shook her head. “It just doesn’t work that way.”
James frowned. “Why not?”
“Because it doesn’t,” Lily sighed.
“You’ve never really hated me, have you?” James asked abruptly.
She hesitated for a moment. But then she answered, honestly, “No. Even if I had really hated you, it would do us no good. We are living in an age where hatred dictates peoples’ lives. It is the driving force behind Voldemort and his followers. It feeds them with the power that they so desperately crave.”
James nodded. They finally reached the portrait of the Fat Lady. She smiled amiable at them and opened when James said the password. The common room was full of students working on homework or just conversing with their friends. The rest of the Marauders were sitting at a table in the corner, a small candle burning between them. Sirius noticed Lily and James and waved them over.
“Thanks for leaving us at dinner,” Peter said without looking up from the parchment on which he was scribbling a note.
“Sorry,” James murmured. “Lily and I had some things to settle.”
Remus nibbled on the edge of a Honeydukes’ chocolate bar and looked particularly at Lily. “And did you?” he asked.
James looked at Lily who, in turn, shrugged noncommittally. “For the most part.”
“That’s good,” Sirius replied. He then motioned to the empty chairs at the table. “Sit down and join us in our merry mischief making.”
“You know that as Head Boy…” James started as he sat down across from Sirius.
“Ah, Prongs, since when has that ever stopped you?” Sirius asked, his eyes gleaming with the maniacal glint that appeared when he was causing mayhem, a trait he inherited from his parents.
James, again, looked to Lily, who had taken a seat beside Remus and was quietly speaking with him. She looked up when she felt his eyes on her and gave a half-smile.
“As long as it doesn’t involve Slytherins or causing anyone harm, I’ll pretend I didn’t hear a thing,” Lily said.
“Whoa, whoa,” Sirius exclaimed. “You would’ve bit James’ head off before, what’s with the change?”
“James knows his limits as Head Boy, and if he crosses them, well, at least I won’t have to worry about having to work with him again.”
James smiled at Lily, and proceeded to discuss, at length, the parchment that Peter had been scribbling on. His eyes lit up and a passionate fire burned within them as he pointed to a specific line. Sirius nodded in agreement. Lily watched as they bent over the parchment, talking to one another in hushed, excited voices. She saw the way that Sirius’ head always tilted slightly towards James’ when he talked, and the way that Sirius and James kept one another in check, and how Remus kept them all under control, even when they were all understandably excited. And for once, Lily felt as though she belonged to something wonderful; a circle of almost complete opposite people inexplicably drawn together in such a tight-knit group of friends. She smiled and noted that at that moment, she would not have cared if they had been planning the end of the world because she finally understood what it felt like for them to be together as ‘the Marauders’ and she never wanted to ruin that for them.