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Chapter 20 : Chapter 20
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James remained silent and Lily suspected (rather astutely) that he was angry. “What?” she asked in not overly friendly tones.
James stopped walking, turning to face her. “Why’d you have to push him like that? He’s hurt, Lily and this isn’t like all those Quidditch injuries, this is serious,” he said sternly. He continued: ‘You were trying to provoke him into getting angry.”
“No, I was defying him to, there’s a difference,” she replied stubbornly.
“Are you that insensitive?” James asked, his voice low and feral. “After what happened, you can’t just expect him to be all sunshine and daisies.”
Lily was momentarily speechless; hurt and anger flushing across her face, her breath hitched as though she was swallowing a particularly poisonous retort, when she finally managed to speak, her voice was tight and controlled.
“I understand that he’s your best friend, I know that he’s not a bad guy. But he doesn’t want me near you and I will not be scared into backing down by someone with the emotional maturity of a ten year old, I was showing him that I wasn’t going anywhere.”
“So you were using me just to make a point?” James inquired bitterly.
“To be honest: yes.” James opened his mouth, Lily didn’t wait to hear what he had to say. “And that point was that I’m not going anywhere.”
The little light of realisation sparked. “Oh.”
“Yes. Oh,” she repeated fiercely.
James continued to soak in that information, he looked both embarrassed and bewildered and the white hot anger Lily had been feeling began to ebb away, leaving only a sickening feeling of guilt.
“I didn’t meant to be so blunt with Sirius, I shouldn’t have acted like that. He’s a good man, I know it, I’ve seen it and after what he went through yesterday…” she found herself looking into James’s eyes, “well, I shouldn’t have.”
She looked so tired. James stretched his hand out, and brushed his fingertips lightly against her hair.
He smiled ruefully, “He didn’t seem to have much of a problem with it until you came over.”
“Black’s a very complicated sort.”
“To say the least.”
“The very least.”
They smiled mildly at one another, James’s hand dropped away from her face. “I didn’t mean what I said before.”
“It was true,” she conceded, shrugging it off.
“No, I… I shouldn’t have said it though.”
“Reminds you of old times, huh?”
He laughed briefly and somewhat dourly. “A little too much.”
She reached up and pressed a kiss onto his cheek, “Let’s get back to the Tower.”
The Fat Lady was waiting for them, a knowing smile on her face. “Heard all about the two of you,” she said smugly.
James didn’t seem rattled by the fact that his personal life seemed to be the school’s talking point (but the, Lily surmised, it usually was). She, however, could only manage a nervous titter.
“Here goes,” James said bracingly.
They stepped in to the room. James: ever confident in his stride, Lily with some trepidation.
The Common Room was crowded and every occupant was now focused on them.
“This is ridiculous,” Lily whispered irately. “Honestly, it’s not that big, is it?”
“Apparently so,” James answered, his mood decidedly chipper.
Lily looked longingly at the stairwell, desperate for escape. She wasn’t quite ready to meet the critics, and as it was, they were being stared at with the same sort of grim fascination that people reserved for watching Quidditch collisions.
“I…ah, I’ve got to get going, James.” The whispers had started again and Lily didn’t care for opportunity, she just wanted to get the hell out of there.
“Bye Lily,” James trilled.
She moved swiftly up the staircase towards her dorm room, ignoring the sets of eyes upon her. She tried to affect a detached air as she took one final step and entered her dorm room.
She collapsed against the door with a groan, sliding down into a puddle of her own embarrassment.
“That bad, huh?” said a deeply amused voice from somewhere in the recesses of their slightly messy room.
Lily started. She hadn’t realised there was anyone else in the room.
“Vi?” And she sorely wished there wasn’t. Wallowing in self misery was not a spectator sport.
“Expecting someone else?” Vi replied, flipping herself off the bed with barely suppressed glee.
Lily picked herself up from the floor and moved to the confines of her bed. Vi came to sit upon the end of her bed. Obnoxiously happy.
“So,” Vi began, laughter bubbling beneath the surface of her voice, “I heard the strangest thing, Lily.”
Lily groaned audibly.
"It was about you and a certain Mr James Potter, it involved activities not strictly outlined as Head Boy and Girl responsibilities, though some do consider a tradition of sorts” she continued smoothly.
Lily sat up and glared at Vi who took great delight in this reaction.
She smirked and gestured dramatically, “Well, I told them: I wouldn’t believe it until I’d heard it from the horse’s mouth because Lily Evans would never sink so low as to knock around with James Potter. Lily Evans would never go into the boy’s dorms with another boy who’s name just happens to be James Potter. Lily Evans…”
“ All right!” Lily exclaimed, resiting the urge to strangle her. Vi waited as Lily fidgeted nervously with the end of her bedspread. “James and I…we…” she struggled to think of how to put it, “kissed,” she finished pathetically.
“Well, I figured as much, but I want details!”
Lily pinched the bridge of her nose between thumb and forefinger, blushing several shades of red. “I’m not going to paint a big, vulgar picture for you Vi. Use your imagination.”
“You don’t want me to that, the end result would be terribly distasteful,” she scoffed.
“Ha,” Lily replied flatly.
“Oh come on,” Vi grumbled. She moved forward and grabbed Lily’s shoulders, shaking her slightly, “Tell me all your dirty little secrets.”
Lily pushed Vi’s arms away and covered her own face with her hands. “It was nice,” she said, her words muffled through her palms.
“I’ll bet it was,” Vi said suggestively.
“I think you’ll find my version is a lot less interesting than the rumours,” Lily muttered.
“Nothing beats the truth.”
Lily eyed her disbelievingly. “We only kissed. Really. It’s not as if I was going to throw myself at him with mad, impetuous lust.”
“Blood from a stone,” Vi sighed. Lily glared at her. “All right! All right! I believe you!”
“Good. Could we please change the subject now?” For some perpetually odd reason, talking about the event would always be more difficult than the doing of said event.
Vi nodded, a smug look of supreme satisfaction on her face. Her fluffy blonde hair and doe eyes often reminded those around her of a lamb, but Violet Prunella was most definitely the wolf.
The door swung open and an irate Marty stormed in through it. A henpecked looking Marjorie following behind; Marty gave Lily a venomous look and swiftly exited the room.
“This should be fun,” Vi said resignedly. She gave Lily a wink and a grin and hurried out after her friend.
Marjorie stood at the door, leaning against the frame, her face cradled in her hands. “She’s not happy,” she announced, sighing heavily.
“I gathered that.”
Marjorie came to collapse on the end of her bed. “Be glad that you didn’t have to break the news to her, we’d all be attending your funeral otherwise.”
Marjorie gave her a look which clearly said that it was indeed that bad. “Wish you’d given us a little more notice, we could have at least chained her down in the dungeons.”
“I didn’t exactly plan it.”
“No, I didn’t see it on your schedule. I believe I would have noticed that.”
Lily tossed a pillow at her head.
“Hey! Is that any kind of way to treat the girl who just spent four hours trying to calm down a very scorned young woman, all so that you didn’t end up with a case of boils tomorrow.”
“My most sincere thanks.”
Marjorie didn’t ask about James and Lily didn’t elaborate, they just in a comfortable silence, the sound of Marty’s increasingly high pitched wails carrying up the stairwell.
Lily awoke the next morning to find an empty dorm room. She came to a partially groggy conclusion that it must be Monday, and that she must have been asleep quite soundly.
She showered and dressed for the day, thudding downstairs feeling as though she’d hadn’t slept a wink.
“Morning, sunshine,” James sang out in an obnoxiously cheerful voice.
“Morning,” she murmured dully. “Is it still morning?” she added, taking a rather ungraceful tumble down the final two steps.
“Still,” James affirmed, in that evergreen chirpy voice. “11:36, actually,” he said.
He got up. Lily might have noticed -- had she been in a more conscious and observant state -- that he was fidgeting nervously, but to her it simply looked as though he was bouncing around in an affected manner, and she was much too tired to deal with James’ ‘affected mannerisms’.
“I’m impressed, Lily, you overslept me by a half hour.”
She didn’t reply, but instead flopped down onto the lounge in front of the fireplace. After a moment’s hesitation, James planted himself beside her. She glanced at him and was able to see just how apprehensive he was. She moved a little closer, barely touching him, but enough to make him jump. It was a power Lily had thought she would never revel in.
He smelt crisp and clean, the tang of soap and the musk of aftershave: an intoxicating combination.
She closed her eyes and yawned. “Not a morning person,” she said apologetically.
He laughed softly and she felt him slide his arm around her, drawing her into his body. “I know.”
The whole tower was silent apart from the crackle of the fire, and the occasional wet THUD of snow on the window ledge. They were completely alone, and completely aware of that.
Now she was awake.
She tried to remember proper dating etiquette, but surmised that James defied explanation, convention and example. Besides, they had been performing this clumsy balancing act for some years now, it had all culminated in a kiss before their first date; there was no reason to act demure now.
Her hand splayed across his chest, enjoying the way his breathing became shallow. He smiled down at her with befuddled delight.
“So…are you hungry?” he said abruptly, the words spilling uneasily from his mouth. “We could go get some breakfast.”
She peered at his wristwatch. “Or lunch.”
“Bruch?” he suggested.
“Food,” he compromised.
“So, er, do you want to go now?” She hoped she had kept the petulance from her voice. She didn’t really want to go anywhere.
“If you do.”
She was on the verge of replying ‘Only if you do,’ but caught herself at the last second. “I feel like it's Third Year all over again.”
“Yeah, well, that’s about as far as my own maturity extends. Come on.” He shuffled off the couch, onto his feet and offered her his hand.
Lily accepted it and tried to keep her face from showing her disappointment. The relative newness of a relationship, still scented with a fresh and untainted optimism, the way every glance and touch and thought was something unventured…she had always liked that feeling.
“Picnic?” James suggested in a would-be-casual voice.
Lily looked outside, through the frosty windows and the snow obscuring much of her view, she gave him a puzzled look.
A/N: Sorry about the long waits between updates, everyone, but thanks for the continued support.
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