The Sugar Quill
Author: Cybele Adam  Story: Change of Heart  Chapter: 3 - A Month of Nightmare
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Change of Heart

 

Change of Heart

 

Disclaimer:

Nearly all of this belongs to Mrs J.K. Rowling. See before chapter 1 for details.
  

Thank yous:

To my beta readers Arwen and Beth,
my Italian friend Akari, my sister Nicky
and (last but not least) to you, my readers.
Here's the link to the Live Journal post on which I reply to the reviews.

This fanfiction is dedicated to Akari.  

* * *

Chapter 3 - A Month of Nightmare

First breakfast of the year, and Lily was late... She sighed, thinking it wasn't a very good way to start a term, especially for a Head Girl.

She had told the others not to wait for her while she was searching for her badge, which had probably been thrown on the floor during their pillow fight of the previous night. She had already groped about under the five beds when she realized she could easily have saved herself the trouble.

"Accio, badge!" she cried out, and the small object came to her, flying from behind her bedside table.

She felt quite stupid not having thought of using her wand right away. After six years at Hogwarts, she should have stopped acting like a Muggle! But, although she was now allowed to do magic whenever she wanted, she had been avoiding it all summer, because of her sister.

She walked out of the dormitory, pinning the badge on her robes... and nearly collided with Sandra, who was standing on the landing. Then she spotted Joanne, leaned over the banister four steps down, obviously watching something in the common room.

"What on earth are you doing? Spying on someone?!" Lily exclaimed.

Sandra beckoned her to talk less loudly and, exactly at the same time, they heard a familiar voice coming from downstairs:

"I don't understand. I've looked everywhere and I still can't find it. How can it be so stuck the Accio doesn't work?"

Lily looked from Sandra to Joanne, then back to Sandra, who reminded her just in time that she'd better not to shout.

"She's spying on Potter?!"

"No, on Black..." Sandra corrected with an amused smile. "You know she likes him!"

She had spoken in a very low voice, but not low enough to escape Joanne's ear.

"I'm only trying to overhear something that could help us finding out what really happened last year!" she protested.

"And you need to see him to hear better, of course!" Sandra replied, then she smiled again in Lily's direction.

Lily smiled back. She didn't have a much better opinion on Sirius Black than on James Potter, but she knew Joanne didn't really like him. She only liked looking at him because he was so handsome, but nothing more.

"Jo? Do you know that a well-mannered person isn't supposed to listen to the others' conversations?" she asked in a half-serious, half-amused tone of voice, joining her friend on the stairs.

"Well, according to my sister, I have no manners, remember?"

"Oh, that's the best excuse I've ever heard!"

Lily knew she should have told Joanne to stop it immediately, but it wasn't so simple. If she did, she'd be forced to go down and cross the room... And suddenly, in spite of her resolution, she felt unable to face James Potter. Even walking past him seemed impossible to do. And it wasn't the right time at all, anyway. With so few people around it would be useless. So she leaned over the banister as well, telling herself it was the only way to know when the coast would be clear.

From what she had heard before, she had already guessed James's badge had disappeared too, but Joanne knew more:

"It's in Sirius's pocket. I saw him holding it in his hand when James tried the Summoning Charm."

"You're lucky I've finally found mine, or I would have thought you were doing the same joke to me!"

In the meantime, James had been repeating again and again that his badge had to be somewhere. It wasn't normal at all he couldn't get it with the Accio...

"I bet Snivellus stole it!" he said eventually. "He probably locked it in his trunk or something..."

From the stairs, Lily and Joanne could see Sirius taking a look at the clock, hesitating. He was clearly about to decide it was time to give the badge back to his owner so they wouldn't be too late to eat but, before he could say a word, James had already opened the portrait hole, swearing Snape would "pay for that". Then Sirius followed his friend...and said nothing.

"I don't think he'll keep his badge for a long time if he kills Snape!" Joanne commented laughing.

"And it wouldn't have been worth saving his life!" Sandra added.

In moments like this, Lily thought they both were horribly childish. Nearly as much as those stupid boys that didn't seem able to stop making pranks, even to each other.

"Come on, girls!" she said in a very Head-Girlish tone. "We've got to go."

And she rushed down the stairs without waiting for them.

~ * ~

She must have looked like a total idiot, running into the Great Hall – and so late, on top of that! – to find Potter and Black setting down quietly at the Gryffindor table, where Lupin and Pettigrew had saved them seats. Of course James wasn't stupid enough to attack somebody in front at the teachers, so he was merely casting nasty looks at his enemy, waiting for a better place and time to come from looks to spells. Obviously Sirius thought the situation was very funny and Lily knew he would be glad to help James cursing Snape before making his mind up to confess he was the one who took the badge.

She sat down as far from them as she could and started eating as soon as the others had joined her, trying in vain not to hear the first year boys that were talking Quidditch right beside her:

"They say Gryffindor has the best team. "

"Yes, that's true! My sister is in it and she told me their Seeker is amazing. He'll surely be a professional someday.."

"Then we should get his autograph while he's still at school. It would be easier..."

Great! As if Potter needed new fans to swell up his head even more! At least they weren't girls, but still...

~ * ~

Lily couldn't concentrate on anything all morning. Her mind kept turning back to her ridiculous entrance. Although she hadn't really looked that way, she could picture the teachers staring at her in disbelief, and she was convinced that Professor McGonagall would hold her back after the Transfiguration class to remark on that unHeadGirly behaviour.

And this wasn't even the only troubling thing... As they were walking to their first class, Joanne had reported to Lily the part of conversation she had missed in the morning, and now she was wondering what Sirius had meant when he had sent Remus and Peter to the Great Hall, recommending them to chose seats "with the best possible view on Evans, so he'll immediately forgive us for the joke".

So James's best friends thought he was really interested in her? Joanne and Sandra, of course, had no doubt left. But Lily still couldn't believe it. There had to be another explanation. Because that letter...

She didn't even know what would be worse, actually. Being taken for a fool was certainly very unpleasant, but at least she would be able to cope with it, even though taking a proper revenge would probably contain some actual risks of falling in the teachers' esteem... She would only have to decide whether the satisfaction of slapping an awful git's face was worth the disgrace of a detention and the loss of her Head Girl position.

Oh God! Or Merlin... Or both. She would never have imagined she could asked herself such a question someday... It was frightening to see how a simple boy, as irritating as he was, could easily make her lose her mind up to that point.

 But the thought of him being in love with her was even more frightening, in a way. Because it would be completely out of her control. And most of all it would feel so weird!

It was impossible! He couldn’t... Why would he? He had never even really talked to her, except to answer back when she tried to use her Prefect authority to make him stop tormenting Severus Snape... or to ask her out, in that casual tone, the same he would have used to say something like "Today's Tuesday, isn't it?" You don't talk that way to someone you like, do you?

Of course you don't ask out someone you don't like, either... So he must like her a little, at least. Or, more probably, he liked the thought of dating for a while a girl that everyone considered as one of the prettiest one in the school. Which was a very silly reason – maybe rather flattering, but silly. Not that Joanne was better with her admiration for Sirius’s class and good looks. But, as it was going on since first year, Lily was so used to it that it felt perfectly normal. That was why she never blamed Joanne for it when she criticized so vehemently all the members of James's "fan club".

To be perfectly honest, she wasn't entirely sure it made sense. But Joanne was her friend, and friendship can excuse some faults, can't it? That was surely also why Remus, who hadn't an ounce of pretension in him, didn't seem to notice how unbearable James could be.

Completely wrapped up in those reflections, Lily hadn't paid any attention to the Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson, and she felt horribly embarrassed when Professor Redwood asked her a question she couldn't answer, not knowing what it was about.

"The holidays are over, Miss Evans," the woman said rather coldly. "Please try to remember you're back in class now."

How shameful! Being called to order like a first year... It was all because of Potter, of course, but she couldn’t say that to the teacher. So she only murmured an apology then glanced in James's direction with the same kind of look he had cast at Snape during breakfast.

That's how she saw he was staring at her. Clearly, he hadn't been listening more than she had, and he would have deserved a reprimand too.

Five or six times during the last twenty minutes of the lesson, Lily turned round to check whether James had finally taken his eyes off her. But he never did. And he didn't even seem to feel embarrassed at all when he saw she had noticed; he just smiled, as calmly as if he thought he was perfectly allowed to look at her that way, and that he had absolutely no reason to wonder why she couldn't help looking back. Was he so blind by his self-assurance he couldn't see the irritation in her eyes? Or did he think it was just a matter of time before she realized he was...what were his words, again? Not only the bloody git you think I am... Well, if he wasn't, then he showed a real talent pretending to be!

The bell rang as she was trying to stop herself from turning round again. She took more time than she needed to put her things back in her bag, so James would already be far into the corridor when she left the room. But she didn't want to be too far away, because she had to keep an eye on him in case that he would want to take advantage of the break to go and find Snape.

Lily didn't know whether Sirius had given the badge back to James yet or not, but she would have bet he hadn't. And she was right...

She had just gone out, followed by Joanne and Sandra, when she saw James casting a spell on Severus's bag, that tore open and dropped all its contents on the floor.

The badge wasn't there, of course, but sure enough James didn't give up. Before the Slytherin had time to understand his bag hadn't ripped by itself, the Gryffindor swooped on him like a bird on its prey – or like a lion on a snake, if the idea of attacking a snake has ever came to a lion's mind – to grab him by the scuff of the neck and give him a good shaking while shouting "Where did you hide it?"

Lily wasn't close enough to hear what Remus said to Sirius, but she guessed he was telling him to stop the joke. And seeing Sirius shaking his head, answering something that could have been "Let's wait a little more" or even "The fun has just begun", didn't surprise her at all. Remus didn't seem to agree with his friend, but he said nothing more. As for Peter, he behaved like he was watching a boxing match, encouraging James to hit their enemy. So, since she couldn't count on any of them to intervene, Lily decided to do.

"Accio, Head Boy badge!" she cried out, and Sirius, who obviously wasn't expecting that, couldn't stop the badge from flying out of his pocket. James might have been able to do so thanks to his Seeker reflexes, but Sirius was completely caught off his guard – as anybody else, including James, who let go on Severus, and the same Severus, who didn't think immediately of counter that assault he still couldn't figure out the motivation of.

He did try some moments later, but Sirius and Remus had get over their surprise too, and they stopped him just in time.

James hadn't moved at all. Lily wasn't even sure he had noticed that Snape had been about to attack him back. He stood there staring at her again, but this time he looked...worried?

Could James Potter be scared of a girl – even the Head Girl – when he didn't even seem to care of being caught by a teacher? Lily smiled at that thought...and James obviously took the smile for him.

All this self-confidence back, he walked towards her, smiling too. She handed the badge to him without a word.

"Thanks, Evans..." he said.

Then, just like in the letter, he added "Lily".

Lily... She couldn't even remember having heard him using her first name once in six years. Later, she tried to convince herself that that was the reason why it had sounded so strange, but in reality there was more, and she knew it.

Lots of things seemed to hide under that simple word. Not only the tone of voice, but also that smile he had given her and the look that had accompanied it... All that had been so gentle, so undeniably kind... Even Phoebus Garland, her boyfriend of the previous year, had never said "Lily" that way. Not even before the period of quarrels that had begun with that Quidditch match she had refused to go and watch because she didn't want to see Potter...

 Phoebus, as a typical Hufflepuff, was so devoid of jealousy that he sincerely admired James's talent and didn't mind his "tendency to push himself forward" - opinion that the vast majority of the other Quidditch players, including some of James's team mates, didn't share at all. At first, Lily had greatly appreciated Phoebus's modesty, but in the long run it had become more and more annoying. She couldn't stand hearing him complimenting James on his spectacular playing, forgetting he was a very good flyer himself and would be able to lead his team to the victory much more often if only he hadn't had that ridiculous complex of inferiority facing the "stars" like James Potter or the brutes like the Slytherin captain, who used to jostle everyone and held the record of the highest number of faults committed by the same player in one match.

Yes, definitely, Phoebus was a very nice guy, but much too self-effacing. Lily had left him the day when, after she had told him he really needed to acquire more confidence, he had replied she needed to know what she wanted, because she blamed him for being exactly the opposite of what she claimed to hate the most, and that if she had changed her mind she was free to date James instead of him.

Maybe he had even believed, at least for some days, she intended to follow that suggestion... But of course she had never thought of doing so. She was only upset and then - when she had calmed down and understood he probably hadn't meant to say he wouldn't have cared if she had decided to go out with someone else - too proud to apologize. And too unsure it was worth doing, too. Because she did like him, but not much more than if he had been just a friend. And because he didn't even seemed to have particularly strong feelings towards her either.

Now... What about James? How could he be so convincing if he was only trying to add her to his collection of girlfriends? Suddenly she was nearly sure his letter had been entirely sincere. And she didn't know what to do or say.

She avoided looking his way for the rest of the day but she could feel his eyes on her every time until she finally went back to her dormitory. It was terribly embarrassing, especially because she hadn't thought before answering and now he was likely imagining things...

Oh, what on earth had got into her?

When she fell asleep, the words still echoed in her head, as to mock her:

"Thanks, Evans... Lily."

"Anytime, Potter... James."

~ * ~

That thoughtless reply was also the first thing that came into her mind the next morning, and she spent all day wondering what James had thought of it.

She tried to analyse her tone of voice and the way she must have looked while saying that –  especially while saying "James". She wished she had been ironic, so it would have sounded perfectly normal to everyone including him, but unfortunately her confusion was so great that she hadn't even meant to be. She had only answered automatically to his "Thanks, Evans" by a logical "Anytime, Potter" then... Honestly, she really couldn't understand what had got into her.

There was no point in pretending he might have got it the right way, that's to say without any insinuation at all, just because she had spoken without thinking. He wasn't supposed to know that and, moreover, in all probability he hoped she had started to see him differently, so he was bound to have taken her words as an agreement to his decision of giving up the formal terms. And now he was surely convinced she didn't hate him that much, after all.

So that's what happens when you're too polite. And when you help people that don't deserve it. They think you like them, and you find yourself in a very embarrassing situation.

"It's so unfair!" Lily exclaimed.

She had been forced to talk to her friends, though she didn't want to, because hiding so much confusion to them was impossible, especially when her lack of attention in class kept bringing upon her remarks from all the teachers.

"But what did you mean, in reality?" Joanne asked for the third time of the day.

Lily sighed – and this was not the third time, but at least the tenth.

"I don't know. Nothing. Just what I said."

"So you meant 'I’ll help you again whenever you need me to' – which is being surprisingly kind to someone you're supposed to hate – then... Well, I may lack imagination but what could that 'James' mean apart from 'OK, from now on we're using first names to talk to each other'?"

"Nothing!" Lily repeated in a desperate tone.

Joanne stopped insisting but Lily could still see her dubious expression, and it wasn't much better than questions.

She turned to Sandra, who had been listening in silence.

"Don't you understand either? I just... didn't know what else to say!"

Sandra nodded.

"I know. You weren't able to think clearly. No girl is when a boy smiles at her that way..."

"Sandra!"

It was hopeless. If her own friends refused to listen to reason she hadn't the slightest chance to convince anyone. Was it really so difficult to understand? She had felt confused, that was true, but only because she was surprised. Not because that stupid boy had succeeded in touching her heart or any romantic idiocy of that kind.

"Should I stick up an explanatory note on the board of the common room to make it clear at last?!"

Until that point, Joanne had managed to look sorry to have annoyed her friend, but she couldn't help laughing at the idea of what Lily would write in her note.

"I DON'T like James Potter more than before. I still think he's awfully arrogant and imbued with himself. I used his first name by mistake, in a moment of aberration due to the shock I had when he dared using mine. So I strictly forbid him to do it again and I warn him that, if he doesn't obey, I'll be forced to put a silencing charm on him anytime he'll try to talk to me. Lily Evans, Head Girl. That would look great!"

Even Lily burst out laughing.

"I'll consider the possibility... But I would add I also forbid him to look at me. He hasn't stopped all day. It's driving me crazy!"

"Oh, just ignore him!" Sandra advised. "He's bound to tire of it sooner or later."

~ * ~

If Sandra really thought James wouldn't keep staring at Lily, she was seriously mistaken. He didn't stop that week or the next one, or even the one after. When the end of September came, he still took seats "with the best possible view on Evans" from breakfast to dinner. That included, of course, all the classes they had together – which meant Lily was freed from his harassment only in Arithmancy, while he was in Muggle Studies. She often wished she was in Ravenclaw, or in Hufflepuff... Even Slytherin would have done if it had been the only way to escape from that kind of constant surveillance.

She had taken the habit to do her homework in the dormitory, so he no longer had the possibility to annoy her as he had done on the first four days. Writing on a bed wasn't very easy, but at least she could concentrate instead of glancing sideways every two minutes, not even knowing why since it was obvious she would see the same as each previous time. So she considered now the Gryffindor common room as a place to be avoided, except at Quidditch practice times.

Sometimes she wondered whether James realized what he was doing. If she hadn't hated him yet she would certainly have taken a great dislike to him after less than a week of this unbearable behaviour. What was he trying to do, exactly? To get her attention? What would have been better, as it couldn't be in the right way? Obviously he hasn't any idea of what he was supposed to do when the girl he wanted wasn't already interested in him. With all those who had successively been given the honour – highly debatable, in Lily's opinion – of being the Quidditch star's girlfriend for a month or two (at the very most), he had just to ask and they said yes without any hesitation. But now that he had decided to go out of the circle of his fan club to tackle a real challenge, he must feel more uncomfortable as he would if he had to play against the best professional Quidditch team in the world.

Even though she would never have admitted it in front of anyone, Lily felt almost sorry for him about that. On the other hand, it was a very good thing: he wasn't the best at everything, after all, and he was learning he couldn't get all what he wanted. That could only be good for him. He might even change a little, who knows?

But... Wait a minute!

On reflection, he had already changed! He had been so busy watching Lily that he hadn't paid attention to any other girl since the beginning of term and – this was what surprised everyone the most – he looked now dreamy rather than arrogant, and thoughtful rather than self-assured.

Joanne had started teasing Lily about that:

"Now you could date him," she said. "You haven't any reason left to dislike him!"

But Sandra had been right on the first day; Lily did miss criticizing him. She still had something to reproach him, of course, but it was the same everyday so it couldn't keep a conversation going. Now, when she mentioned his name, it was no longer in a long speech but only in a few words, just to say he didn't seem to tire at all or another half-resigned sentence of that kind.

In fact, the situation, failing to improve with time, had reached another level on the scale of the intolerable around the end of the month, when James had started offering help to Lily with lots of little things she could perfectly do by herself, such as carry her bag, peeling an apple or going and get something she had forgotten in a classroom.

She systematically refused everything, but he didn't show any sign of discouragement – unlike her, who couldn't stand having him constantly on her way. That's why she finally blew up one day in the beginning of October.

He had just picked up a quill she had dropped then offered to carry her bag again, looking like he was begging her to let him do so, and she thought she really had to tell him he was acting like a complete cretin.

"Stop, stop, STOP! Please stop it before I have an attack of nerves and kill you to be alone at last! I thought you couldn’t be worse than when you're showing off on your stupid broomstick or playing with that ridiculous Snitch, trying to impress the girls, but I was wrong: you're hundreds of times worse now! And you even lost your dignity. I don't think I'm worth that – nobody is. You should be ashamed, Potter! You fell from one extreme to the other... Can't you find a happy medium? And most of all, if you really want to do something to please me, just let me be, OK?"

James didn't answer, and she walked away without looking back.

Then she smiled to herself.

She had finally managed to make the Quidditch star "fall of his broom". It was better than a slap in the face. And if he had any pride left, it must hurt even more.

* * *

See you next week for chapter 4!

//
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