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Chapter 17 : Chapter 17
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Lily raised her eyebrows. “You could have escaped at any time, in fact, you did,” she reminded him.
“Yeah, but I don’t have to go back now, do I? See, it’s a matter of principle.”
“You don’t like being copped up, do you?” she observed.
“Not really. I’m a man of action,” he said with a smirk.
“That you are.”
They stopped at the top of the stairs, a familiar feeling of uncertainty creeping up on them.
“What happens now?” Lily asked, casting her gaze into his.
“Buggered if I know. I suppose we should go see Dumbledore; maybe shower first.”
He really was delightfully oblivious sometimes. “No,” she said calmly, “I mean us.”
“Oh.” His face froze in a rictus of concentration, trying to look nonchalant, but his hand betrayed him by immediately raking through his hair. “Us?” he repeated as if getting used to the word. “Thought you knew. I’m just winging it here.”
She smiled shyly and moved down a step. “Well I don’t usually spend half the night kissing boys that I have repeatedly wished painful hexes on.”
“And performed some too,” James added cheerfully. “Look Lily, I’m not…there was nothing casual about last night.”
“I know that, but how are we going to do this?”
“You really like rules don’t you?”
“I like understanding.”
“Fair enough.” All this talking about his feelings and his plans was making him slightly queasy. He’d never had to be so diplomatic in the face of a possible relationship; he’d found that that with most girls the ‘Shoot first’, approach usually worked. However the sensible, logical part of his brain was screaming for him not to screw it up. “How does the word ‘relationship’ sound to you?” he said modestly, trying to defeat the fact that his tongue had become a lump of clay.
“Bit banal, actually, but I like the context you’re implying,” Lily replied brightly.
He grinned with barely contained manic euphoria and fought to keep his voice even. “That shower is sounding quite good now. Have you got a spare set of clothes?”
“Should do, Marjorie’s pretty considerate and completely anal retentive.”
A thought struck him. “What are we going to say to everyone?”
She bit her lip. “I hadn’t actually thought about that.”
He looked pensive for a moment but his eyes began to glint with the distinct hint of mischief. “We could always pin up an announcement on the notice board, or all over the school, or a quick ‘Sonorous’ would have everyone in the know,” he teased her perilously.
Her eyes narrowed to slits and she glared. “No,” she said firmly.
“Perhaps a tasteful one page ad in the Daily Prophet?”
She gave an exasperated groan and started down the stairs.
He didn’t hesitate in running after her, bouncing along like a hyperactive child in front of her eyes, continuing to make stupid suggestions. “I know a couple of charms that would work on firecrackers. I could get it tattooed to my forehead. I could enchant your t-shirts.” Etc. He knew that he was beginning to grate on her nerves, after all, he had been the expert for the previous 6 years.
He continued to taunt her, utterly confident with himself, dancing under her nose, a few steps ahead.
She could feel the blood pounding in her ears, but found his antics oddly endearing, but she would never let him see that.
Well, perhaps not.
She swiftly seized his face in her hands and pulled him to her, kissing him. He let out a muffled sound of surprise but didn’t really seem to mind.
“Or,” she said breathlessly, resting her forehead against his, “We could continue to do that at every available opportunity.”
The rest of the day was, for the most part, spent allaying the fears of other students. Even if James had only been using ‘school morale’ as an excuse to get away from the manic clutches of Madam Pomfrey, it seemed that the presence of Head Boy and Girl (alive, well and brimming with assurance) had a calming effect on everyone.
The moment they had stepped into the Gryffindor common room, hair still damp from their showers, James still joking about how much time she’d taken, the room had gone very, very silent then very, very loud as they were both greeted enthusiastically, assaulted by a barrage of questions and nearly knocked to the ground by a bunch of exuberant first years.
Everyone was speaking so loudly and quickly that nothing could be separated from the din and recognised as speech. Lily and James threw each other looks of bemusement and waited till the hoards had dispersed and quieted, now waiting with revered silence, waiting for a report, an explanation, comfort. Anything. Something.
“Prongs!” Peter called from the top of the stairs, he hurried down, stumbling slightly in his haste and stood in front of James, his expression and countenance clearly showing that he hadn’t slept a wink of sleep throughout the night.
“All right Wormtail?” James asked him quietly.
“All right,” Peter replied brusquely, his hands fidgeting nervously. “James, what’s going on?”
“What have you been told?” Lily asked, breaking away from her friends.
The whole room looked to one another uncertainly.
“Not much,” admitted Vi. “Dumbledore basically told us not to worry and that no one had been seriously hurt and that we should all look out for one another.”
There was an angry murmur of assent and Lily and James got the impression that Dumbledore’s version on events had been less than satisfying.
“A more important question, I think, is what have you heard?” James asked the crowd.
The angry buzzing started once more but nobody seemed to be speaking to them.
“Peter?” James pushed gently.
The room silenced itself and all eyes turned to Peter as he screwed up his face in concentration, looking vaguely startled by James request. “We…there’s a lot of talk about how none of the Slytherins got hurt. Not one of them. Not even a concussion. How they all cleared off…like they knew what was going to happen.”
James considered this, nodding contemplatively. “I’ve been thinking about that too.”
Lily gave him a confused sideways glance.
“There were also some rumours going around that someone had died. Some people thought it might be Sirius because of…”
“No one died,” James said firmly, cutting Peter off with a warning glare. “Just a few cuts and bruises, nothing really big, everyone should be out in a day or so, they should be out now, but you know Madam Pomfrey, she likes to be thorough.
This description elicited more than a few sniggers form the Gryffindor students. James was beaming confidently at everyone and Lily marveled inwardly at his ability to know exactly what to say, what to do in times of fear or trouble, the way that people seemed to defer to him. She’d accused people of following him blindly before, made it sound like a slur, but she could see the way he commanded respect, didn’t ask for it, really, well he didn’t anymore at any rate.
“Any questions? Comments? Complaints?” he said casually.
Silence for a moment, then: “What about Quidditch?” Eileen Grufford called out in, her drawling Liverpool accent, she was their 5th year Chaser, a recent, but welcome addition to the team.
James laughed. “I don’t know, but it should be fine. Hogwarts is the safest place on earth; there are so many wards up that you’d be fried and skinned alive if you ever tried to get in with bad intentions. No one can get here, not with Dumbledore in charge.”
There was general sigh of relief and the crowd once again delved into pockets of furious chatter.
Lily was ushered away by Marjorie, Marty and Vi, all eager to hear the whole story from her. She managed to catch a glimpse of James over her shoulder as restless hands tugged her towards their room. James was standing serenely amidst a swarm of people, all congratulating him on one thing or another, or asking after Sirius and Remus or simply trying to talk Quidditch, but he wasn’t listening, instead he looked up at Lily and smiled clandestinely, she returned the smile briefly before she was pushed into her room and out of sight.
A/N:-Another chapter soon, I promise this is going places, I swear to God!
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