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Chapter 8 : Perspective.
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I hated myself whenever I found myself thinking about those things – such silly and mundane things as friendships and schoolwork – when there was a world of things I should have been worrying about instead. I could even have done with worrying about school a little more and yet I’d be sat in the middle of my many lessons seated next to one or other Marauder and I’d suddenly find myself fixated on their truly absurd behaviour.
Remus had been looking more and more ill for a few days, had missed a day’s worth of classes, and then reappeared again looking slightly tired but relatively cheerful. I had long since given up worrying about this, as it was such a common reoccurrence, but now I found myself thinking back so Snape’s constant talk of these illnesses coinciding with full moons. I had made my judgement on that years ago: Remus was innocent until proven guilty and I would not stick my nose in his business as long as it did not concern me. Still, that dragged up thoughts of Snape and childhood summers when he began revealing the sheer magnitude and wonder of magic, conversation by conversation, sticky hot day by sticky hot day. How had Severus Snape, my Sev, turned into such a monster?
Sirius had gone from repressed emotions to out and out repression – he wasn’t eating properly, he looked as if he hadn’t been sleeping properly, he certainly wasn’t concentrating on classes properly. He was repressing friendship along with every emotion he seemed to have. The only occasions he contributed to conversations were during whispered chats about Charlotte and about where she might be now, and then it was usually a harsh comment about finding her body, or her turning up in pieces. Of course he’d retained enough sensitivity not to mention anything quite so brutal in front of Rachel (although he had reduced her to tears again by suggesting we should plan the funeral now) but I’d actually heard him tell Frank that if his Dad still hadn’t regained consciousness by now he’d probably be brain dead anyway. In short, he was being a complete arse. Half of me wanted to slap him whilst the rest of me wanted to drag him into another broom cupboard and get him to start crying again – if that’s what it’s took. Anything for the return of the normal Sirius, who was often a bit of an idiot but was never malicious.
I’d have talked about it to James under any other circumstances but, things had been different lately. The fact was I should never have internally accepted that James and I were ‘going somewhere’ because now I found the more pathetic part of myself endlessly searching for signs of progress, closeness and reminders that James bloody well cared. Flashbacks provided endless moments for my inner self to foolishly analyse: moments when James would watch me so intently I thought I might burst and ask ‘are you okay?’ as if it was the most important question in the world; moments when he’d seek me out if he thought anything could have upset me and worst of all, a particular moment when James Potter had said he wanted to kiss me in the hospital wing. Now though all this apparent... affection James usually displayed had evaporated and I was left desperately clinging to every moment when our gaze met to convince myself that I hadn’t been really really stupid.
Obviously I had been really stupid. He’d stopped asking as if I was okay. He no longer listened when I spoke. He walked off mid conversation. I was no longer the top priority.
Chances were, he was as preoccupied with school work and Head’s duties, and deaths and disappearance as I should have been. Apparently this time my defence mechanism was distraction, and this whole new chapter in James’s behaviour was definitely distracting enough to render me utterly hopeless in all other areas of my life.
I couldn’t help it. I really wish I could. Who would want to spend hours awake at night wondering why exactly James hadn’t so much as flinched when Mulciber had spat at me in the corridor yesterday, when one of my closest friends was missing somewhere? Rachel and Charlotte should have been my constant thoughts but my brain would simply not allow it.
So there I was, sat with my palms pressed against my forehead as if it would be possible to massage away each individual thought until I was left with a glorified sense of blankness, waiting for the Prefects to arrive for another pointless meeting that I didn’t care about. James seemed to care: he was sat next to me on the table, pouring over Patrol timetables (again) to ensure that there would be no devastating clashes.
“Do you think Charlotte’s okay?” I asked into the silence, partially because I wanted to force myself to think of the things that were important, but another more selfish part of me was doing it to test James. That part of me wanted to give the impression that I was very concerned and deeply troubled about Charlotte’s current whereabouts, to induce that look James might give me and to prove that even if he was a little distracted at the moment we still had a chance, we were still going somewhere and I hadn’t truly messed things up yet.
James paused from his reading and took a deep steadying breath. From the look of it James was as worried about the whole situation as I thought I should be. Did this lack of concern mean I wasn’t a real human? I certainly wasn’t a nice one if I could both abuse her disappearance for my own means and ignore it to concentrate on my own social relationships. “I doubt it,” James muttered quietly.
My heart sunk.
I blinked into the table and took in my own deep breath. She had been gone for three weeks. Rachel had last heard from her four weeks ago. James was not looking at me.
“I hope so,”
“Yeah,” I finished finding it slightly difficult to speak.
The silence fell over us once more and this time it was my turn to stare intently at the wood of the desk as I desperately tried to regulate my thoughts to something which contained humanity and not selfishness. Everyone else wore the same well practice expression of grief and anguish: the same expression they had all worn when Mary lay on her death bed, talking to each of us individually and slowly fading into nothing. I could barely summon any feeling towards Mary anymore, other than the guilt which came with this realisation – it seemed my insides had gone blank leaving me with nothing but selfish and irrelevant worries that I could not voice for fear of someone turning around and calling me a heartless bitch. Which I was.
“Isn’t Amelia a half-blood?” James asked suddenly and I looked up sharply and found my heart beating very fast for no explainable reason.
“Is she? I didn’t know that... I... what does it matter?” My voice was more frenzied than I thought it would be, as if I’d just been running a very long way without breathing – but I had no idea what had come over me, or why I felt the need to grip onto the desk with all my strength.
“We’ve partnered her with a Slytherin,” James said, pointing to the column where Thursday’s patrols were listed. I didn’t care about patrols. I’d learnt to hate the way you could not partner a Slytherin with a Gryffindor, or Slytherin’s with anyone who had questionable blood status and at the same time Dumbledore had specifically instructed us to partner people in a way that would promote inter house unity. Impossible.
“A fifth year Slytherin,” my voice was more even now and my grip on reality had been temporarily restored. I wasn’t the weak Lily Evans who’d started this year in floods of tears – I was my old self, my strong old self.
Except I had my doubts about how strong she’d been in the first place.
“But he’s nasty,” James frowned, “And look, the other fifth year Slytherin is partnered with Diggory. Did you change this Lily?” He looked at me sharply.
“Yes,” I admitted, “That fifth year Slytherin is, well – she’s not like the rest. I’m pretty sure she’s not a pureblood herself. I thought if we kept her away from all the others then she might not... might not cave under pressure. Plus, she definitely respects Diggory and -”
“You mean she fancies him?” James questioned with a familiar quirk of the eyebrow that made my insides wriggle slightly.
“I think so,” I admitted.
“You do gooder, you,” James grinned. I so wanted to be mad at him for driving me crazy with his sudden change in behaviour but then, whenever I saw glimpses of the old closeness I couldn’t help but forgive him for everything he’d ever done.
“It’s not like I’m matchmaking or anything, but-”
“I’m not going to argue with you,” James said and the next moment he was back pouring over the parchment as if enthralled by the frankly rather dull document. He wouldn’t look at me properly. Why? Why wasn’t he there for me when I needed him like every other time before?
“James,” I said feeling the words in my brain before uttering them out loud – even saying James had been slightly involuntary, “I know there are bigger things going on and... it doesn’t really matter I just wondered... why you were avoiding me before?”James froze for a second and closed his eyes. He said nothing. “So you were avoiding me then?” I was suddenly pissed off, anger flaring from some deep unknown place within me. God, I was a mess of emotional crap.
Now James looked at me and I suddenly wanted to dodge his gaze. I looked at his eyebrows instead, just to escape the blazing hazel.
“Have you been talking to Sirius?”
“No.” The sudden conversation shift was startling and caught me off guard.
“The Prefects will be arriving in a minute.” James said, and then I was struggling to follow his train of thought and that made me even more irritated. I dropped my gaze back to his eyes and stared at him incredulously.
“Have I done something wrong?”
“Not particularly,” James said, and now he was irritated too. I frowned.
“I could ask Sirius you know,” I threatened.
“You probably wouldn’t get much out of him,” James said darkly.
“Why have you been avoiding me?”
“Jesus, Evans, what do you want me to do?” James demanded dropping the parchment to the desk with a grimace.
“What are you talking about?”
“What do you want me to be, huh? Your friend? Confidant? A little enlightenment wouldn’t go a miss.” I gaped at him slightly, “You tell me you don’t want anything to do with me every day for four years, fine – at least I knew where I stood. Then you need me, fine – I’m there. You don’t need me to cry on any more Evans, and I’m a little unsure about what you’re expecting from me now.”
“You’re my friend.” I hissed angrily.
“Really?” James questioned, “Because even on the train ride here you made it clear you didn’t want that.”
“I was upset then!”
“And you didn’t bother explaining why, did you?”
“I didn’t realised you required an explanation,” I said, my voice acidic.
“That’s how friendships usually work, you know. You tell me what’s on your mind; I tell you what’s on my mind...”
“Well what is on your mind then?”
“Don’t pretend you care,” James returned irritable pushing the inkwell to the other side of the desk. “You wanted me to dry your tears and sod off, and I do that and it’s still not good enough.”
“That’s not true! I want you around.”
“What the hell for? To pay attention to you?” Yes, an internal part of me was screaming, that’s exactly why I needed James around. I needed someone who cared about to the extent that they’d ignore all my screaming faults and be there for me. I was a horrible, horrible person.
“You’re my friend,”
“Do you just kiss all your friend when you feel like it then?” James said. “Or is that just me?”
“I... is that what this is about?” I asked. I’d just been cursed, I’d just recovered, I’d just... I’d just kissed him. It was hardly even a kiss. Our lips had touched for the briefest of seconds and...
It was. It so was.
“What do you want from me then?”
“Some straight answers and a bit of respect. You can’t just go messing with people’s heads. If we’re friends, fine – but that means you can’t take it upon yourself to just kiss me and...”
“You bloody said you wanted to kiss me!”
“I thought you were deaf!”
“So what, James? You still said it,” but James had stopped glaring at me and was now looking over my shoulder, his face flushing. I swivelled around in my chair and saw Remus awkwardly standing in the doorway with his hands raised as if he was just about to knock on the door, but had suddenly thought better of it.
I had a sneaking suspicion he’d been there, frozen in the doorway, for much longer than he’d ever admit. He looked shocked enough for it to mean that James was choosing not to divulge all this information to his friends. I couldn’t decide if that was a good thing or not.
But all this should be irrelevant anyway, because Charlotte was missing and Frank’s Dad still hadn’t regained consciousness.
And because I was Head Girl and the meeting was about to start.
I had thought James was heading for the doorway to escape at the end of the meeting, but rather than rushing out the door he shut it, he turned around and leant on it. “Are we going to have this out then?” James questioned – I didn’t like it when he was angry. He rarely was and... the fact that I’d been the cause of all this anger made everything worse.
“It seems stupid to be arguing when there’s so much going on,” I muttered.
James ignored this. “Tell me this, Lily, what roll exactly am I supposed to be filling in your life?”
“The roll of James Potter,” I snapped, “that’s who you are in my life and it’s a bloody important roll. I’m sorry if you think I don’t care about you, or that... I’ve been, I dunno using you, but I need you and if you can’t accept that then -”
“But were not friends, Lily, whatever you might think. If we were friends you wouldn’t have disappeared all Summer, and you wouldn’t have bottled everything up, and you wouldn’t have spent months blocking everyone out before becoming yourself again without any explanation. Running off with Sirius, having that thing with Diggory -”
“I know,” I said, “I know I’ve been a shit friend, you don’t need to remind me.” And suddenly I was close to tears again. James noted this with alarm.
“Wait, Lily, that’s not what I -”
“Open the door please,” I requested, and then I exited the room at a near-run, pausing only in the girls toilets where I could allow myself to cry for a good fifteen minutes before going to dinner. It was all true and I truly was an awful excuse of a human being.
The worst thing was (even worse as this was the thing my stupid brain decided to focus on) was that I’d known all these things before, but they all sounded so much worse and hurt so much more coming from James.
The system had been in place for the past three weeks: we’d eat dinner as fast as we physically could before leaving and finding a spare classroom or something to practice spells. Occasionally, if we found nowhere we’d end up in the boys dorm with Sirius’s famously strong silencing charms (something that I did not what to think too much into) ensuring that no one ended up too curious about what we were doing. We’d made good progress and now we were all fairly capable in duel situations. Naturally, James and Sirius were still the best – but the gap in skill was closing quickly.
I threw myself into my normal seat at dinner and began eating furiously. Today there was the added bonus that stuffing my face would ensure that I didn’t have to talk to James or Remus. Or Sirius, actually.
“Lily,” Remus said softly. I looked up. There was something in his expression that filled me with a thrill of dread, “Mr Longbottom is...” I could feel the word coming before he voiced it, “dead.”
It still caught my breath. I blinked stupidly and found myself staring at my plate in horror.
All my emotions seemed to be rising up again from some distant part within myself. The worry, the anxiousness and the fear. If Mr Longbottom... who’d had Dumbledore arrive, who’d been saved, who’d survived the encounter with Voldemort... if he died... then what chance did Charlotte have? Charlotte only had her parents for protection and I couldn’t pinpoint anything which suggested they were particularly talented with magic or duelling. If Mr Longbottom was dead...
“Okay,” I said, breathing deeply and trying not to choke on the threat of tears. The numbness had gone and now my heart was thudding again in my chest, and a film of water blurred my vision as I tried to remain in control. I tried to reason with myself: I didn’t know Mr Longbottom, in reality I hardly knew Frank, I had no right to cry.
Rachel, too, was looking tearful but that was now such a common sight that I could hardly use it as an excuse. Sirius was looking even more like a statue with his eyes cast downwards, eating nothing. I didn’t even look at James.
“Where are Frank and Alice now, then?”
“Frank has gone home to be with his mother, Alice went with him.” I nodded again and thought about this for a long time. What would Alice be feeing now? I was sure she’d only met Mr Longbottom a few times and I was sure that she couldn’t really be grieving – she wouldn’t be missing him, she wouldn’t feel his absence like a Lead weight.
Suddenly I wanted to go home. I wanted my Dad. I wanted him to hug me and tell me that everything was going to be okay. I wanted Mary – I wanted her here, to experience this with us, to live with us. My own grief was creeping back. Frank had done just as I had done – he’d gone home. I hadn’t come back for weeks and weeks.
I did not have a father. Frank didn’t have a father and neither did Rachel. Alice’s father didn’t deserve the title of ‘dad’ and Sirius had been chucked out of his home. Mary had lost her mother. I had been so convinced that no one could understand that I’d, yet again, failed to see what was right in front of me.
I looked up to see what was right in front of me right that second, just in case this could rectify some of my previous mistakes. James was directly in front of me. And he wasn’t looking at me.
“That makes sense,” I continued, just to fill the silence.
“That’s what you did,” Sirius interjected. It took a second for the words to sink in and then... then I was furious. Sirius, god damn Sirius, who I’d confided in, and who had turned into someone I couldn’t bring myself to like as of late, “At the end of last year, I mean.” He finished as this was the casual sort of thing you can drop into conversation.
James was certainly bloody looking at me now.
As were Peter, Remus and Rachel.
“I didn’t realise your Dad died, Lily.” Peter said quietly.
“Heart attack,” I muttered, feeling my eyes welling up to a point very near tears, “I didn’t want to talk about it,”
How could Sirius? How could he just...? My brain was ticking overtime as I tried to comprehend his actions a little further. Then, suddenly, Sirius stood up and walked out of the Great Hall. I watched him until he’d reached beyond my vision feeling beyond angry. How could he do this? He was being even more selfish than I was.
I stood up.
“Lily, don’t,” James said, “he won’t talk to you,”
“I want to murder him, not to talk to him.” Then I was up and following him as quickly as I could, ignoring James’s warning and the stares from all other directions. James could go sod himself and Sirius was going to regret the day he thought he could betray our friendship without getting fair comeuppance. “Sirius, damnit!” I yelled, coming up around the corner and finding him sat rigidly on one of the stone window ledges just outside the Hall. “I don’t care what’s going on in your head, you can’t just do things like that!”
“Leave it Evans,” Sirius said in that same empty voice that was normally harrowing but was now as annoying as hell, “and then piss off and leave me alone.”
“Why did you do it?” I demanded.
“Because we don’t need another Mary-esque secret.”
“There’s a slight difference, Sirius – I’m not dying.”
“It doesn’t matter what it is, it always hurts when someone keeps something from you.” Then the tone of his voice evaporated my anger completely. A rolling wave of sympathy crashed into me so hard I thought I might collapse with its weight.
“Sirius, for God’s sake, what’s wrong with you?”
“I don’t want to talk about my emotions, thank you Evans.”
“Okay, you don’t want to talk about them but feeling them might be a nice start.” He didn’t answer. “Or even acknowledging they exist – that would be nice!” Nothing. He was gone again and there was nothing but his corpse staring out the window in the direction of the lake.
“What do you want James?” I asked, whirling around and glaring at him. Remus was there too. “I think I’ve had enough bloody arguments for today.”
“Precisely,” James said, grabbing my wrist and pulling me away to one side, “Remus will deal with it, come on. You’re mad enough already.” Then I was being pulled off down a corridor, my eyes finally spilling over. One hot tear trailed down my cheek. I wanted to brush it away but didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that it was there in the first place.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you why I left,” I blurted out suddenly.
“Its fine,” James returned, “Sirius told me anyway he... he thought I should know,” James’s hand enclosed round my wrist seemed to drift downwards until he had my hand instead. I didn’t care anymore. There was too much going on to worry about the liberties he was taking (although really it was slightly hypocritical given our stupid argument that had happened only a couple of hours ago). “So what do you want to do?”
“Distraction,” James said simply, “more head duties? Homework? A walk?”
“None of the above, I want to go to bed.”
“No, you’ll only get yourself worked up if you go stew on your own. Quidditch? Although I doubt you’d go for that... raiding the kitchens? What do you want to do, Evans?”
“Let’s... practice duelling,” James nodded and considered this for awhile before leading me in the direction of the stairs. “Where are we going?”
“Prefect’s bathroom – that’s big enough for the two of us, and no one will walk in and tell us off.” I nodded passively and now found myself doing the opposite of what I’d been doing for the past couple of days – trying to stop myself from thinking about Mr Longbottom and Charlotte.
“Are you still mad?” I asked after awhile.
“Not exactly,” James returned, “I just... I had this conversation with Sirius a few days ago and, well, that didn’t help.” I sent him a questioning glance. “Well you know how Sirius has been recently – he wasn’t exactly been in the best of moods. He started, well, he started listing your er... faults.”
I felt like I’d been slapped in the face. Sure, I spent plenty of time listing Sirius’s own faults in my head but that didn’t make the idea that he’d been mouthing off about me anymore pleasant. To James, of all people. As selfish as it made me, James was the only person in the world who seemed to think I was a genuinely good person and to have that stripped away was not something I would have wanted. Ever. James had to like me.
“What did he say?” My voice was stiff. We’d reached the Prefects bathroom now. I sat down on the floor with my back to the huge bath. James sat next to me, our arms touching gloriously.
“I... he said that you’re selfish. But, Lily, everyone is selfish. I don’t think you’re anymore selfish than Sirius is,” I didn’t say anything, “You’re stubborn, but I guess I knew that,”
“I don’t necessarily think of that as a fault.” I said primly.
“I only consider it as a fault if you’re rejecting me,” James grinned, but I didn’t smile. “The main thing was... that you’re not the best at dealing with things.” That was true. “And then, I just remembered... Lily, you know when Mary was stood at the top of the stairs,” a lump rose in my throat and the threat of tears was imminent once more, “you knew she was dying but you still yelled at her, you were still so angry I just... I don’t understand.”
“Well how could I begin to comprehend that she was dying?” My voice was thick now. “She wasn’t even seventeen years old and she was my best friend! I didn’t seem real, it hadn’t sunk in – what am I supposed to do with information like that, James? How was I supposed to react? I hadn’t felt it then, when Mary told me, and now I look back and I see exactly how selfish and self absorbed I was. God, what did any of matter? I didn’t know that was going to be the last time I’d ever see her on her feat! I didn’t know!”
Two more tears escaped from my eyes and a wiped them away with the back of my hand. I sniffed.
“It’s like I have a delay before my mind comprehends things like that, and until that point when it clicks I can’t... I can’t feel anything towards it. But how can I say that? Without sounding insensitive and heartless?
“Its natural,” James said, “you think the news about Charlotte hit me straight away? Sirius thinks... he thinks your worse at dealing with things because you’ve always been so lucky. Wait, here me out. People have always liked you, Lily, and things have been relatively smooth for you – with school, with friends, with yourself. You’re one of those people who comes out of life having never really hurt,”
“He doesn’t know anything about me.” I snapped harshly.
“He meant me too,” James added, “Sirius he... he grew up with the Blacks. Mary understood that, what with Becky and her Mum and, well, you know.”
“I’m poor, James. I’m muggle born. Sev betrayed me. My sister hates me. My best friend and my father died a couple of months ago. I’m the biggest target for mudblood-hatred there is. If I get out of this war alive it will be a miracle. How much do I have to suffer to meet Sirius’s standards?”
“But everyone is charmed by you,” James continued softly, “people are drawn to you,”
“Because no one’s ever been drawn to Sirius Black.” I muttered sarcastically.
James smiled. “They’re attracted to the idea of him,”
“You’re sounding especially feminine right now,” I told James. I rested my head against the back of the bath and took a deep breath. “I know Sirius and I will never get on brilliantly but, we were doing a pretty good job before.”
“It’s just a hiccup, I’m sure.”
“And our argument?”
“Not even a hiccup. An involuntary twitch.” I rested my head on his should without even thinking about it and closed my eyes for a second. “Are you going to tell me about your dark past then?”
“Hmm,” James began, “well I was lucky. There’s not much dark.”
“No strenuous relationship with your parents? No suffocating pressure on you? How very droll.”
James laughed. “I was suffocatingly spoilt, if that helps? The only child, the only heir for the sizeable family fortune? I’m nearly suffocated by my mum hugging me at the beginning of every summer.”
“That must have been hard,” I commented dryly.
“I did have to overcome the obstacle of my own arrogance, though. Had to learn that I wasn’t the most precious being in the world, that was hard.”
“I like to think I helped with that,” I returned. James grinned again.
“My parents are pretty old though. I worry about them a lot. I mean... they’re not old by Wizard standards really but, my family has a history for dying young.”
“How old are they, then?”
“My mum’s seventy two and my Dad’s eighty five,”
“Shit. So your mum was..?”
“Fifty five. I know it’s different for witches than muggles, but it’s still not young. They were trying for a long time.”
“My Mum’s not even fifty five now,” I said, and I couldn’t help but giggle. “Sorry,” I said hastily, “I just... I’m trying to imagine my mum with a baby now. Anyway, did that mean your parents were less active parents or something? Slight neglect?”
“It sounds like your digging for some jem of hardship.” James suggested and I suddenly realised that he must have taken my hand again because my fingers were grasping as tightly as possible onto the back of his palm. He’d probably have marks from where my nails had dug in if he were to ever let go again.
“Well,” I grinned, looking back up at the ceiling of the Prefects bathroom, “I always figure that a troubled childhood can explain away faults, then I can just ignore them.”
“Faults, what faults?”
“What did you say about overcoming the obstacle of your arrogance again?” James laughed and I let my head rest on his shoulder again for a long moment. I’d become so used to James that I’d began to recognise the scent of his after shave stuff, and for some reason that scent had become some comforting that I couldn’t help but relish in it.
It seemed I’d lost a lot of people in my life: Petunia (in a sense), Sev, Mary, my father. But James, James was irreplaceable. If I lost him... I didn’t know what I’d do.
“Come on,” I said quietly, “let’s practice duelling – I want to start learning to throw of the imperius curse by next week.”
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