As she sat in the Three Broomsticks, listening to the dramatic stories told by Gary Freeman of his years spent playing Exploding Snap, Lily sighed in disappointment.
She had done it yet again; she had asked someone on a date that she knew was only temporary. Poor Gary had no idea. She made occasional consenting sounds when he asked questions.
She honestly was not listening. She was hoping to get this date over with so she could go back to her dorm and scrunch herself into a ball. She had almost taken Sirius and Vita’s advice; she had been so close. James was right beside her as she deliberately asked someone other than him.
She knew that he was expecting that someone to be him; the someone she was going with to Hogsmeade. His eyes had almost lighted up at the prospect of her approaching. Something inside of her couldn’t do it. He wouldn’t give up on her, never. She wasn’t sure if she was ready for commitment to someone that serious.
So, there she sat with Gary Freeman and his desperate attempts at conversation.
“At least she’s broken her no-Gryffindor rule,” James observed from a booth with his friends. Lily was sitting with Gary Freeman, a Chaser on the Gryffindor Quidditch Team.
“I seriously thought she was going to ask you, mate,” Sirius sadly spoke.
“That’s the thing, so did I,” James replied glumly. “I didn’t even know she knew Gary.”
“I don’t reckon she does,” Sirius knowingly acknowledged. The only Marauder absent from this rendezvous was Remus. He was on a date with Ruby Wallace, one of Lily’s friends.
“Moony understands girls so well,” Peter compromised. “Maybe we can ask him later about it. He is, after all, on a date with one of Lily’s best friends.”
“Fat load of help that would do,” James commented. “Girl’s are all so secretive. One minute you think you understand them, the next you don’t. It’s an awful never-ending cycle we males must face each and every date.”
“Never heard you speak a truer word, Prongs,” Sirius mumbled.
“What’s your troubles?” James asked, catching on to Sirius’ tone.
“I don’t have any troubles,” Sirius quickly covered up. “In fact, I’m jealous that you have them and I don’t. It’s such a stimulating thing, troubles.”
James knew his friend was hiding something, but he didn’t push it. He watched Lily once more, taking sips of his Butter beer every once in awhile.
What did Gary have that he didn’t?
Leah Graham stormed into the Girls Dormitory, her eyes set on prying information from Lily. She threw her purse onto her bed, looked over at Lily’s crumpled figure and she picked up a pillow and threw it at her friend with all her might.
“What was that for?” Lily shouted.
“You,” Leah replied. “You are so stupid.”
“That’s a bit rich,” Lily coldly replied. “Coming from someone who can barely make a simple potion.”
Leah rolled her eyes, ignoring her friends comment.
“You just wait until Erin gets back from her date,” Leah warned. “She’s a bit angry as well. Little Vita’s livid.”
“What about Rubes? I suppose she’s mad as well?” Lily questioned.
“Actually, no,” Leah said thoughtfully. “She’s on a date with a Marauder. Something you should have been doing this afternoon.”
“So this is what this is all about?” Lily questioned, sitting up in her bed.
“Lily Evans!” a voice screamed, followed by loud, dramatic footsteps and the pushing of people. “Out of my way, emergency.”
Erin Parker was a small girl, but her eyes shone with fury. Lily stood her own ground.
“Oh, don’t give me that look,” Erin advised. “You know why I’m angry.”
“Actually, I don’t,” Lily said. “You all have no reason to be mad at me. I did nothing wrong.”
“Gary Freeman?” Leah questioned. “You call that nothing wrong? Oh, my friend, I dated him in third year. Dull as a doorknob.”
“No, he’s not,” Lily protested, hearing the lie in her own voice.
“What did he talk about?” Leah asked. “Quidditch and Exploding Snap, I suppose?”
Lily couldn’t lie about that. Her date had only talked about that; not really asking any personal questions. The two of them barely knew each other and he hadn’t really acknowledged her any different than anyone else.
“Fine,” Lily said. “He was dead boring.”
“Now that this misconception has been addressed,” Erin cleared her throat. “We are now onto the reason I am extremely mad at you.”
“Why?” Lily asked, rolling her eyes and speaking in monotone.
“Do you think we’re trying to help you for our health? Sorry, but that is definitely not the reason,” Erin bitterly spoke.
“Help me?” Lily questioned. “What exactly is wrong with me?”
“You’re seventeen and you’ve never held a steady boyfriend,” Leah responded.
“Loads of people haven’t,” Lily pointed out. “Look at Leah.”
“You may be right about that,” Leah offered. “Yet, I am not afraid. That is the difference.”
“I’m not afraid,” Lily insisted. Her friends disbelieving looks were shot her way. “I’m not.”
“James Potter is not the someone to be afraid of,” Erin said. “I do live next door to him, after all.”
“Why didn’t you ask him?” Leah asked.
“I guess I really was afraid,” Lily confessed. “I don’t know if I’m ready for a commitment.”
“What is the worst that can happen?” Leah wondered.
“Someone could get hurt,” Lily said, feeling tears sting her eyes. “I try and end things before anyone gets hurt. Ethan was my boyfriend, but wasn’t hurt because we hadn’t dated that long. With James, I know he would get hurt. He’s been after me for so long. I couldn’t stand to just bring him up, and then shut him down.”
“It’s ok for all these other guys who like you though?” Erin questioned.
“Admit it, Lily. You care for, James. That is the reason you don’t want to hurt him. He’s shown you more attention than any boy here and yet you’ve always refused him. It’s not because you can’t stand him,” Leah inferred. “It’s because you like him a lot more than you let on.”
“You guys don’t understand,” Lily cried. “When my dad died, everyone around me got hurt. Of course, me and Petunia were crushed, but my poor mum was in a state of shock. It was the most awful experience of my life. She was so in love with him, and he just left.”
“We only want what’s best for you, Lily,” Erin insisted. “We want you to realize that a life of fear is not healthy. It’s not fulfilling. You’ll never know what could have been if you just sit back and take control of everything. You have to let nature run it’s course.”
“You have to let me do things on my own,” Lily cried. “I love you guys so much, but please, just let me try and live my own life.”
She stormed out of the dorm, her hair askew and makeup all down her face. At that point, she really didn’t care about her appearance.
“She’s right,” Erin whispered. “We can't live her life for her. We just have to let her make her own choices.”
“She’ll never learn,” Leah angrily hissed. “Never. She’s got to learn.”
“I don’t think we’re the ones to teach her,” Erin truthfully said.
“Evans, hey Evans!” a voice called as Lily stormed out of the Portrait Hole.
She knew that voice; the voice. He wasn’t the one she needed to talk to, she didn’t need to talk to anyone.
“Lily Evans, please stop,” his voice pleaded.
She walked faster, her wand in her hand. He jogged up her, tapped her on the shoulder.
She whipped around, wand at his chest.
“Leave me alone, Potter,” Lily cried.
“Evans, what’s wrong?” he asked her, seeing her tears and bleary eyes.
“Nothing of your concern,” she vaguely answered.
“Honestly, I care. What’s wrong?” he asked. “Did Freeman do anything to you? I’ll kill him.”
“It has nothing to do with Gary,” Lily protested. “Nothing. I told you, Potter, this is none of your business.”
“I’m just trying to help,” he answered. “I thought we were getting along ok.”
“You thought wrong,” she replied.
“What’s your problem?” he asked, his voice getting harsher but staying at a low, reasonable volume. “All I’ve been to you is nice so far and you seem to feel the need to act unreasonably rude to me.”
“You’re the one who cares,” Lily said, still walking. "I personally have no reason to care at how far our platonic relationship goes."
“I think you’re wrong,” James yelled. He was standing, not walking with her anymore. She paused and looked back at him.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“I mean, you care,” he said blatantly.
“What makes you think that?” she wondered.
“Your eyes. I can see it in your eyes. You’re scared,” he said.
Was she really that readable? That was the second time someone had accused her of being afraid.
“Just tell me this, Evans. Am I wasting my time?” James asked, staring right into her eyes, absorbing every inch of emotion left in them.
She failed to respond. Her lips wouldn’t lie nor tell the truth.
“What is it? You can yell at me any other time, but the moment the subject turns to you and me, it’s as though you’re incapable of speaking,” he said. “Am I wasting my time?”
When she failed to respond once more, he shook his head and walked off in a different direction, leaving her alone and crying.
“No, James. You’re not wasting your time,” she said easily. Although, this time, no one was there to hear her.