Footsteps echoed down the corridor behind her but she didn’t turn around right away.
She sighed and halted, knowing she could avoid no longer. Arranging her face into an irate frown, she turned around. “Have you been lying in wait for me?”
“You had to get out of the library sometime,” Severus replied unabashed.
“What do you want, Sev?” she asked wearily. It was late, and she had been working on a particularly difficult essay.
“You ignored my note the other day,” he accused.
She raised her eyebrows. “I didn’t want to talk.”
“And you’ve been avoiding me.”
“I know.” She hoisted her bag higher up her shoulder and stared him down.
He seemed undeterred. “I noticed you weren’t talking to anyone else either.”
“I have you to thank for that,” she replied coldly.
“What did I do?” he demanded defensively.
“Oh, I don’t know,” she started, angered by his unapologetic demeanor. “A poisonous snake comes to my mind.” He opened and closed his mouth. “Well?” she demanded, further irritated by his lack of response. She half hoped he had something to say for himself, anything in his defense. She hated not talking to him.
“What do you want me to say?” he asked, his voice softer than before.
She dropped her act. “Why, Sev?” she pleaded, “why Dark Magic?”
He averted her eyes. “I told you last time that I had nothing-”
“Don’t lie to me!”
Severus started at her tone, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, clutching at his books. She saw him close his eyes and exhale deeply, almost as if preparing himself for something.
“Fine,” he started, in a voice so low that she had to lean in to hear him. “If you must know, I did do it.” She was compelled to cut in, but held her tongue. She really wanted him to make this right. “But I didn’t know it was poisonous, I swear! I just wanted to… to play a trick on that… that Potter.”
“But this wasn’t funny, Sev,” she replied softly.
"Come on!” He implored, “his friends were having a good laugh until he fainted. And I really didn’t know that would happen.”
Lily remained silent. She badly wanted to believe he was telling the truth… and a part of her did. He opened his mouth to say something but seemed to think the better of it. She wasn’t really looking at him but staring at a spot on the wall behind him where the flickering lights of the lantern seemed to reflect. She wanted to let it all go.
“Then why didn't you own up?” Her voice was barely above a whisper and she almost felt them being wrenched out of her mouth against her will.
“Well, that would be as good as walking up to Dumbledore and saying ‘expel me’.”
“Not if you had told the truth.”
She had seen him do this a hundred times before - looking at his feet, trying to adjust the strap on his bag, pretending not to hear. She didn’t repeat the question, and instead brought her eyes down to lock his in a gaze he couldn’t escape from.
“I-” he faltered. She wished he would say something to make this alright. “Lily,” he sighed, his shoulders drooping forward. “I couldn’t…” He closed his eyes as if in frustration. “I couldn’t bear the thought of…” he seemed unable to complete the sentence.
When he opened his eyes, they seemed to be appealing to something, something that he knew only she understood. And right then, she did.
“You knew they would write to your parents,” she complied quietly. Sev looked away. “Did they?”
He shook his head. “Just the detentions.”
“Did you ask him not to write?”
He nodded his head, a redness creeping up his pale face. He always got this way when the subject of his family came up. A textbook he was holding slipped from his hand and fell near Lily’s feet. As she bent down to pick up the copy of ‘Advanced Potion Making’ she noticed its tattered cover, worn out spine and pages almost falling out of the binding. They weren’t even up to the Advanced class yet, and he was already buying the books to read up. She realized with a jolt what a jerk she had been. Hogwarts meant everything to him. It wasn’t easy being Severus, and nobody knew that more than her. She dusted the book, handing it over to him with a smile - inviting him back into her life.
He wheezed out the password and scrambled past the portrait hole, ignoring the Fat Lady’s irate mutterings, heaving a sigh of relief at the familiar sight. He walked towards the fireplace, leaning against the couch and welcoming it’s warmth. The pillows, looking warm and cosy, seemed to beckon to him and he walked around and plonked himself on the couch.
Peter jumped up, clutching his backside and staring at the couch. Something had moved under him, and then screeched. He'd be damned if it was the stupid black cat that Shacklebolt kid owned. He hated cats!
And then, a head popped up.
On closer look it was evident that what he had mistaken for a mound of pillows was actually Lily Evans snuggled under covers. But it wasn’t evident why. He glanced at a tea table nearby where a wand, an alarm clock, a glass of water and an open book lying on its face were neatly placed.
“Er… Lily, why are you sleeping here?”
“Uhm…” She sat up, her eyes round and clear - not at all showing traces of someone who had just been in deep sleep. “What are you doing here?” she redirected, glancing suspiciously at his hand. He quickly jerked his behind his back, hoping she hadn’t seen the leaves. She was always a curious one, that Lily Evans.
“Er…” he cast his mind around for something to say. What would James say? “Official marauder business,” he attempted, smiling weakly and hoping she wouldn’t pry more.
Her eyebrows raised slightly. “I hope you’re not-” she stopped abruptly.
She shook her head, indicating she didn’t want to complete that thought. Peter shrugged. He wanted to steer the conversation away from the ‘marauder business’. Sirius wouldn’t be happy if Lily Evans started poking into what they were doing. He always said that girls could never keep secrets. He cast his mind around wildly to fill the awkward silence, and change the subject.
“Are you sleeping here because of… Er… the thing with you and the others?” he asked suddenly as his mind landed on Adhara Selwyn.
She turned red before looking at her lap, her curtain of hair swinging forward to hide her face. Peter wondered if he had said the wrong thing. Before he could decide what to say next, she looked up, and he noticed that her eyes were glistening. Good Merlin! She was about to cry!
And sure enough, she started sobbing into her hands.
“Listen-” Peter started urgently, looking around almost hoping somebody else would come and take over the situation. “I didn’t mean to make you cry!” She just sniffed, and made a noise much like the drain suction his mother often used. “I’m sorry, Lily,” he rushed, alarmed at what he had caused. Oh how he wished it was one of the others there and not him right then.
Lily resurfaced, wiping her eyes with her fingers. She was looking decidedly calmer, much to Peter’s relief. “It isn’t your fault.” Her voice was still thick, but at least she wasn’t spilling more tears. “It’s just… I can’t bear to go up there you know,” she nodded, as if she expected him to understand. He nodded in reflex, almost subconsciously, which seemed to be the only right thing he had done till now, because Lily smiled weakly.
“I never thought they all hated me so much.”
Her voice was so low that Peter had to bend forward to hear. She suddenly looked at him directly, the expression her eyes physically making Peter lean away from her.
“It isn’t like all of them are so perfect, you know,” she said furiously. Peter nodded mutely. “I mean, they stood there, just watching. Nobody said a thing, and…” her voice trailed off as she stared into the flickering flames.
The silence was increasingly uncomfortable for Peter. He felt like he ought to say something. He made up for his lack of words by moving to sit on the arm of the couch.
“I usually talk about such things with Tuney.” Her voice had lowered to a whisper again. He nodded, trying to figure out what a Tuney was. He didn’t think Evans owned a cat. Did she? “But… I can’t anymore. And Sev… Sev isn’t… I get the feeling he won’t get this…” She seemed to be talking to herself more than him. He wondered how someone could go from sleepy to sad to angry to pensive within matter of minutes.
“Peter,” she said suddenly, almost as if just realizing he was there. “You’re his friend, yeah? How is he?”
“Potter… James!” she said impatiently.
“Oh, yeah… Er - he’s doing good.”
Her forehead cleared. “Is he… is he playing in the match this Friday?”
Peter was surprised she was asking this. “You don’t know?” She shook her head. “Madam Pomfrey advised him not to, but he snuck out to practice anyway, overdid it and fell off his broom. Redford and Weasley were around to catch him, but he is still extremely weak.”
“Oh,” she looked quite upset. He never got the feeling that Lily cared much about James. “When did all this happen?”
“This evening. I suppose you weren’t here. He was forced to go the Hospital Wing,” he snickered a little at the memory of the fuss James had kicked up. Lily didn’t crack a smile, she probably didn’t know. He couldn’t understand why she was looking so distraught. Well, he needed to get away while she was distracted.
“Is he there now?”
“What?” He blinked. He had been too busy trying to figure out how to escape without her seeing the leaves.
“James,” she sounded hesitant. “Is he in the infirmary?”
“Er- yeah…” He was still racking his brains on how to get out of this conversation. It must have shown, because the next thing Lily said was -
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize how late it is… you were going up to bed, yeah?”
He got up, slightly relieved, ensuring the leaves were still behind his back. “Yeah… Er- goodnight, Lily. And-” he added as an afterthought, thinking it was the kind of thing Remus would have said, “everything will work out.”
She smiled, almost sadly. “Goodnight, Peter.” She threw the covers around herself again as he walked on.
“Peter?” she called tentatively.
“Yeah?” he turned around from halfway up the stairs. Lily was looking at him over the back of the couch.
“Can I ask you something?” she ventured, almost cautiously.
His fingers instinctively gripped harder at the leaves. Where was she leading with this? “Sure…”
“Do you think… is it possible… does James Potter, y’know, fancy me?” The last two words were almost a whisper that Peter wasn’t entirely sure he had heard right.
She turned a bright red. “N-Never mind,” she stuttered turning back around.
Peter stood there, debating whether or not he should reply. “Er- no,” he replied at long last. Lily turned around, pink-faced. “I never heard James talk about you. Like that.”
The firelight threw parts of her face into shadow. “
Oh.” Her voice sounded contrite. “Peter?” She scrambled to her knees so that she was facing him directly over the back of the couch. “You won’t tell Potter I asked you that, will you?” she asked anxiously.
“Please don’t tell him!” She looked horrified. Merlin, he didn’t want her to start crying again.
“No, I won’t,” he hastened to reply, trying to give her what he thought was a reassuring smile. But she continued to look doubtful as she sank back into the couch. He took that as his cue to leave.
"What took you so long?” an irate Sirius asked from his bed, where he was sprawled quite comfortably, idly making sparks appear from the tip of his wand.
“The doors were locked,” muttered Peter, throwing the leaves onto a desk and sinking into his own bunk. Remus looked up from his bed, where he had been reading.
“Yeah. I ran into Evans downstairs,” he said conversationally.
Sirius bolted up. “Evans. She didn’t see, did she?”
“No...I was careful… I think. Besides she didn’t seem to care what I had been doing,” Peter shrugged.
“If there was one person I’d place my bets on finding out about this, it’s Lily Evans,” replied Sirius darkly. “That bird is both inquisitive and intelligent. That’s dangerous for us,” he nodded rubbing his chin a bit dramatically.
“She doesn't know,” insisted Peter, slightly irritated by Sirius’ lack of faith in him. He debated for a split second if he should tell the others what Lily had told him. A feeling of guilt peeked into his head, but the urge to tell reasoned that - technically - he had promised only not to tell James. Besides, for once he knew something the others didn’t.
“Hey, get this,” he started purposefully. “She wanted to know if James fancied her.”
“What?” yelped Sirius, turning to Peter his eyes wide.
“Yeah,” he shrugged. “Seemed ridiculous to me too,” he replied, beginning to smile as Sirius rolled on his bed in laughter. “James? Fancy Evans?” He set off again. “Have you ever heard anything more ridiculous, Moony,” he asked, wiping tears from his eyes.
Remus was grinning. “That’s the best joke I’ve heard this month. And that includes the story of Amar Patil and the Bloody Baron scare.” The three boys snickered at the recollection. “Why would she think that?” Remus wondered out loud.
Peter shrugged. “How would I know? She was being strange, She didn’t want James to know she asked though.”
Sirius snorted. “Yeah, right. James would have a good laugh if he heard. Him, fancy Evans, indeed.”
“Maybe she fancies him?” suggested Peter, the thought suddenly striking him.
“Don’t be silly,” snorted Remus. “Anyone can clearly see that they hardly even like each other.”
He looked over at Sirius for validation but Sirius had sat up straight, and looked at Peter incredulously. “You could be right, you know.”
“Really?” Remus corked an eyebrow, sounded skeptic.
“No, listen, Moony. James has never given anyone reason to think he fancies Lily, so why should Lily ask Peter if he did? Unless, she fancies him.”
“I don’t see how…” Remus began slowly.
“That’s the only explanation!” Sirius cut in impatiently.
They could still find out. “Maybe Adhara would know?” Peter suggested once again, looking pointedly at Sirius.
“What? I’m not asking her if Lily fancies James. How weird would that be?” he snorted.
“I think you’re right…” Remus started slowly.
“Of course I’m right!” Sirius exhaled excitedly. “It would be weird.”
“Not that, git! Nobody cares about you and Adhara,” dismissed Remus. Peter smirked at Sirius’ haughty snort. It was nice to see him put in his place. “About Lily fancying James. I mean, she was quite upset when he got bitten, even more than Marlene was. And remember how she kept asking you about him. And I think Deliah Collins from second year mentioned that a redhead had been to visit a few times.”
Peter and Sirius raised their eyebrows. Maybe Remus was right, if Evans did fancy James. Was that why she and Marlene weren’t talking anymore?
“Could be,” replied Sirius darkly when Peter voiced these thoughts. “We’ll discuss this with James tomorrow,” he said briskly, swinging his legs over without even bothering to remove his socks.
“Er - she didn’t want James to know,” Peter said cautiously, the feeling of guilt seeping through to him once again.
“Peter,” started Sirius sternly. “Are you saying a girl is more important than our James here?”
Sirius turned his scornful eyes on to Peter, and he panicked slightly. He didn’t want them to think that. He felt a little queasy, but gulped under Sirius’ condescending gaze.
"N-no. Of course not."
After what seemed like hours of tossing and turning, Lily reached out for her alarm clock. Fifteen minutes? That’s all had elapsed since Peter had left her in the wake of an extremely embarrassing blurt out. She had no idea what possessed her to ask that, to Pettigrew of all people. She knew he wouldn’t keep his mouth shut… he had probably told them already and they had a good laugh at her expense.
She groaned into her pillow. She hadn’t thought of that in a long time - Mary’s stupid suggestion that Potter could fancy her. Why now? Maybe because stupid Priya couldn’t keep her mouth shut about how fanciable Potter was, as if she knew anything about him. Lily shared a common room with Potter, she knew exactly how unfanciable he was. The others just saw him play the fool, or flying.
Playing Quidditch. Despite everything Lily didn’t understand about Quidditch, she knew it meant a lot to Potter. Meant so much that he stupidly worked his arse into falling off his broom, to play the Quidditch finals. Someone had mentioned seeing him argue with McGonagall earlier. Was it related to this? Surely James Potter would end up playing the match, wouldn’t he?
Unanswered questions were never something Lily had been able to handle, the need to know burning in her head until it took over her every waking thought. The only way she knew she was going to get some sleep that night was to get herself some answers.
So. Lily really hadn’t thought this through.
She had just bolted out of the portrait hole with the mental image of facing an awake James Potter and getting answers. But now, looking down at the sleeping James Potter, she decidedly felt awkward and stupid. James stirred slightly, causing her to panic and take a step back, freezing. He stilled, and she released a breath she didn’t know she was holding. She decided to leave soundlessly.
And then, there was a loud noise.
As luck would have it, she knocked into a cart on the other side of the the drapes that had been drawn to impart some privacy to the occupants. She stilled instantly, grabbing on to the cart, praying that James wouldn’t wake up.
She bit back a curse. James was groggily groping around for something.
“Er - no… it’s me,” she confessed, her voice sounding oddly shrill. She cleared her throat a little, trying to ignore the heat raising up her neck. “Lily.”
James pushed his glasses on his face. “Evans?” The incredulousness was mirrored by voice and face alike. “What… is something wrong?” he asked, suddenly anxious.
“N-no…” Oh dear! Why had she come there in the first place? “I just, wanted to see how you were doing…” she faltered.
His expression shifted ever so slightly, but she wasn’t able to make it out under the dim moonlight. “You thought this was a good time to drop in?”
The amusement in his voice spilled humiliation on her nerves. “Well, I thought you’d be awake,” she replied, trying to sound casual.
“I am now.”
She couldn’t see his face clearly, but it sounded like he was laughing at her. And why wouldn’t he? Whatever was she doing there in the first place?
She decided to be outright. “I didn’t know you were back in here.”
“Yeah.” He sounded pleased for some reason. “I should probably rent a permanent bed here, me and Moony”
He looked at her directly, eyebrows slightly raised. “Never mind,” he replied dismissively.
“Right.” This was beginning to be the stupidest thing she had ever done. “I couldn’t sleep,” she confessed inconsequentially, hugging her elbows close to herself as a sudden wave of chilly breeze prickled against her bare arms.
“I- I… sorry,” she ventured into the questioning silence. He said nothing, but the furrow in his forehead deepened. “about... the finals.”
“Oh, that,” he muttered glumly.
“There’s always next season, right?” she replied at an attempt to brighten his mood.
He scowled. “That’s not how Quidditch works. It’s performance based. You have to constantly be on top of your game to be in the team.”
“Well, aren’t you supposed to be really good?”
“What’s the use of all that if I can’t play the finals?” His voice sounded awfully bitter.
“I’m sure Gryffindor will win,” she tried reassuring. “There’s Redford and… and Alice is a wonderful seeker…”
“Evans-” She stopped talking. “There’s a lot you are good at, but understanding Quidditch ain’t one of them.”
She grew red at the condescension in his tone. “Well forgive me for trying to make you feel better,” she snapped.
“Only way I’m going to feel better is if I can play day after tomorrow. And I don’t see Madam Pomfrey or McGonagall letting me do that,” he exasperated, lifting a hand to run through his already tousled hair.
“Can’t you ask-”
He snorted. “Do you really think I haven’t tried every trick in the book?”
She suppressed a smile. Of course, he was James Potter. She’s be surprised if he hadn’t considered confounding someone, if it meant getting his way.
“But maybe the trick isn't in the book,” she replied, her eyebrows raised. “Maybe you just have to find a new way.”
“Ahan.” He sounded disbelieving, and to be honest she wasn’t even sure what she was saying at that point. Maybe it was better she left.
“Well… Er- I’m glad you’re alright,” she said, shifting her weight from one foot to another. “I’ll just… Er- go,” she finished lamely.
He nodded, squinting at her through his glasses. “Sure.”
“Goodnight, Potter,” she gave him a small smile and raised her hand in a tentative wave.
“Goodnight, Evans,” he replied, throwing the covers over his head even before she had a chance to turn away completely.
She allowed her smile to grow as she walked away from him, the feeling of unrest and melancholy that had followed her into the hospital wing had dissipated at some point during their conversation.
James could hear Lily’s footsteps fading into the darkness. He was no longer sleepy. His mind began to focus on something she had said -
‘Maybe you just have to find a new way.’
Authors Note: I'm so sorry for the incredibly long wait. I just moved countries and I'm trying to get back into the writing routine. I'd love to know if any of you are still following the story!
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