Chapter 5 - megalomaniac
You’re no Jesus
Yeah, you’re no fucking Elvis
Wash your hands clean
Megalomaniac - Incubus
A hand was waving in front of her face and Lily blinked, jolting herself back to the present moment. Tearing her eyes from the door the Head Girl glanced up at Melanie. “Yeah?” she asked distractedly, shoving her books back into her bag and standing up.
“You were totally spaced out,” Melanie told her.
Lily glanced at her for a second before continuing to pile books into her bag. “Thinking, that’s all,” she said simply, deciding to avoid the subject. Were Melanie or Anna to find out the reason Lily Evans had spaced out at the end of class was because of James Potter, she might just have kill herself.
Or James, whichever proved easier.
“Snap out of it, then,” advised Anna, “We have Potions next – I daresay it’ll require all your brainpower.”
Lily groaned. Not only was Professor Cornelius possibly the driest teacher alive – second only to Professor Binns who, frankly, wasn’t alive – he was also quite strict. To make matters worse, with the pairing of Gryffindor and Slytherin, the James-versus-Severus antagonizing was at its peak.
Slinging her bag over her shoulder, Lily rose to her feet and followed Melanie and Anna out of the classroom.
“What was that all about?”
James turned his attention to Sirius as the other boy inquired, one eyebrow arched upwards.
“What was what?” James asked innocently, feigning ignorance as he continued on with his stride. Lily really wasn’t lying when she said he walked like he owned the place. The cocky swagger of someone a cut above the rest and well aware of it was amplified by the concept that he’d just impressed Lily Evans.
Or, at least, that was the idea. The girl was terribly hard to impress, he had to admit. Perhaps impressed wasn’t quite the word. Surprised, maybe… surprised that someone with his head seemingly in the clouds was capable of something that required skill.
Heh, close enough.
“You know damn well what,” Sirius replied, shooting James a half-exhausted half-amused glance. “The smoke-and-mirrors for Evans.”
James’ shoulders twitched in an elusive shrug of a response.
“Spill, James,” seconded Remus, slipping into step on the other side of James.
“It was nothing,” James insisted, eyes rolling upward in a tauntingly ‘I’ve got a secret!’ way. “Just some friendly help.”
“’Friendly’,” repeated Peter, making quotation marks in the air with his fingers.
Sirius and Remus sniggered.
“Admit it,” pressed Sirius, “You were trying to impress her.”
Sending them a smile over his shoulder, James arched an eyebrow. “Yes. D’you reckon it’s working?”
“James, it hasn’t worked for five and a half years.”
“There’s always lucky number six!” came James’ voice as the boy steered into the Potions’ dungeon.
A simple but well-placed and cruelly intended shoulder-bump between Severus and James was enough to set the stage for animosity for the entire rest of the class. This, of course, had become routine for Severus Snape and James Potter. It didn’t have to be a shoulder bump – often times a nasty glare or shove from behind initiated to the rest of the class that the two of them were both very much present and henceforth for the rest of the two hours they were centre stage.
Today, however, it was a shoulder-bump, and the glare that accompanied it was undoubtedly harsher than any words they could’ve concocted.
There was little else they could do, for the moment, however. Professor Cornelius controlled the class in a way only a creepy middle-aged man could. He lurked around the room sending people shifty glances and breathing down the necks of most of the girls. Rumors flew around school faster and more elaborate about him than anyone else – even with the nasty lot of things James and his gang often said about the Slytherins.
“I don’t trust any of you to be able to master this one on your own,” were the first words he spoke to his class. Lily and Melanie exchanged glances; Severus arched an eyebrow as though this were some unspoken challenge. “Which means you’ll have to try to co-operate with one of your damned peers for the next two hours.”
Lily was almost positive she heard Melanie mutter something under her breath. She could see why. It was doubtful – very doubtful – partners would end up being a good thing.
“I also don’t trust any of you to be able to choose a partner wisely,” Professor Cornelius continued, “So I’ll be doing that.” A point of his wand and quite suddenly the chalkboards were covered in elaborate steps they’d have to follow.
And with that, Professor Cornelius began pairing people off. Lily simply waited expectantly, offering a grim little wave to Melanie as she was paired off rather toad-looking Slytherin girl. The class was paired off but Lily was barely paying attention – instead she was going over the instructions on the board, mentally mastering them.
“Pettigrew! With Snape.”
Lily jolted back into reality to glance over at a simultaneously revolted and terrified looking Peter opening his mouth to protest who decided against it at the look on the Professor’s face. Talented though Peter was at Potions, the prospect of spending the entire class with Snivvy, of all people, was terrifying -- Severus, for his part, looked like he would much rather swallow all the newt eyes on the table.
It was then she realized there was only four people left – she, Anna, Sirius, and James.
Sweet Merlin, no!
“You four the only ones left?” asked the teacher, eyeing them suspiciously. With varying speeds and enthusiasm, the quartet nodded. “Well, then.”
Everyone seemed to shift uncomfortably. Sirius whistled innocently while James twiddled his thumbs and rocked on his heels. Lily and Anna didn’t dare exchange glances – in a situation like this, it was always best to pretend you hated everyone around you in the off chance he might guess wrong.
“Black and Evans, Potter and Scully.”
Lily nearly sighed in relief at this. At least she hadn’t been paired with James; she might just have had to lace the potion with arsenic. Professor Cornelius swooped off to do whatever it teachers do while their students are working, all the while is managing to look quite unnerving in a way most often managed solely by old men smelling of cabbage. With a passive shrug, Anna and James filed off while Sirius and Lily stayed where they were.
For a moment, there was a silent pause.
“Well, my work here is done,” Sirius proclaimed suddenly, dusting his hands off and taking a seat once more.
Sending him a blank look, Lily arched an eyebrow. “No, mister Black, I’m afraid it isn’t.”
“Damnit,” he replied simply with a quirky grin before, much to Lily’s surprise, he actually reached forward to begin dicing up the first ingredient appropriately. The girl decided not to question it. Never look a gift horse in the mouth, as they say.
The peaceful – and preferred, in Lily’s opinion – silence between the two of them didn’t last long.
“You seemed relieved to be working with me,” Sirius mused aloud, slicing up the ingredient lazily with one hand while the other supported his chin.
Paying him little mind, Lily had set straight to work.
When she chanced a half-glance up from her bat spleen, however, she saw Sirius staring at her.
“Right, then, let me rephrase that – you seem relieved not to be working with James.”
She had thought about denying it, for half a second, but saw no point in it, to tell the truth. To her mild surprise Sirius simply snickered, shaking his head. Once more Lily decided it best not to ask – she wasn’t sure she wanted to know. It would seem, however, Sirius was just as eager to ‘talk’ as James had been on the train. Fine – at least his sentences weren’t littered with pickup lines.
“How is working with me any better?” he asked, arching an eyebrow at the redhead.
“Well, for one,” Lily said, eyes averted as she took to brushing the first batch of chopped cat’s eye into the cauldron, “you won’t flirt with me incessantly.”
Grinning a rather amused grin, Sirius continued staring up at her. “Oh won’t I?”
“No,” Lily replied firmly, “you won’t, because Potter would kill you.”
“Kill? Naw. But I’d be sleeping on the couch for a few days.”
Lily stopped chopping and stared at him blankly.
“Never mind, never mind,” he said hastily with a dismissive hand-wave. For a brief, hopeful moment, Lily thought he might leave it at that.
She was wrong.
“Can I ask you something?” he said suddenly. “And please don’t say, you just did, because that is dreadfully trite, quite like every one of the puns that can possibly be constructed out of my name, because, I assure you, by the age of five I had heard all of them and none of them are even remotely entertaining anymo-”
“Can I ask you the question?”
“Well, I’m going to anyway,” said Sirius, shrugging. “Is he even close?”
Once more Lily looked up to stare at him blankly. Close to what? Getting in my pants? Hell no.
“Close…?” she asked, her voice bland. Keeping fixated on her work, she tried to ignore the fact that Sirius had stopped doing anything productive and was simply staring at her in that creepy way most of the girls in the year found ‘amazingly attractive’.
“Yeah. To, y’know, convincing you he’s not a bottom-feeding Satan-spawn bent on the corruption and destruction of all things good and pure on this Earth.”
For a beat of silence, Lily merely stared at him, wondering what on Earth made this man pass his OWLs.
Once she got around his immense talent for waffling, she opened her mouth and her lips curved to begin the ‘n’ of ‘no’. It was the automatic answer, and required absolutely no thought before she spit it out. A split second later, however, she hesitated. “Well—“ He had helped her in Transfiguration, he had stood up for her at the Prefects meeting, he had been reciting Shakespeare – that may have been sweet, were it not so pathetic. “--…No.”
Instantly she regretted the brief half-second of contemplation – because Sirius picked up on it.
“I said no.”
Lily sighed and shook her head, resisting the urge to chuck her the ingredient she was chopping up at his head. She saw, now, how it was he and James were best friends – both of them were bloody annoying. Not to mention bloody brilliant, but she would never voice that aloud – it wouldn’t do to admit either of them had an IQ higher than that of a frog. They certainly never acted like it.
“He’s really not that bad, you know.”
Lily’s eyes once more found their way to Sirius, perhaps wondering why he was still talking. Why was he still going on about this? Was she supposed to care, much less believe him? It was likely James had put him up to it, and truth was she didn’t give a damn. James? A decent person? Of course - just like Severus Snape was a social butterfly.
“I’ll make judgments on my own, thank you,” she said coolly.
“Fine – but you’re making the wrong ones.”
“I doubt that.”
“It’s true,” Sirius insisted.
“It is not. James Potter is an arrogant, self-centered prick and that is only the top of the list of reasons why I want nothing to do with him.”
Throughout all of this neither of them had been looking at each other. Their gazes had dropped solely to what they were working on, voices calm and collected despite the argument. It was more like a debate, each simply trying to make the other understand. Now, however, Sirius stopped what he was doing and folded his arms across his chest, leaning back in his chair and arching an eyebrow.
“Evans, I know James better than anyone—“
“I’m sure you do,” she interjected impatiently.
“—and I know that he’s not the horrible picture you paint him to be.”
Irritated, now, Lily stopped what she was doing and looked up at him, completely nonplussed.
“What?” she demanded. “What is it? What do you want me to admit so you’ll drop this? Do you want me to tell you that he’s a wonderful person? Because he’s not, you can’t possibly—“
“You don’t know him, Evans. That’s all I want you to admit.”
Sirius’ expression hadn’t changed. One eyebrow was arched up simply, his arms were still folded, and somehow he still managed to appear rather smug about the whole thing.
“Do you really expect me to believe, Black,” Lily began through gritted teeth, “that James Potter is actually the next messiah?”
A twitch of a grin appeared on his face. “Messiah?” His eyes shifted over towards Anna and James – Anna’s shoulder were shaking with silent laughter, muffled behind her hand, and it would appear James had just switched he and Anna’s mangled cat’s eye with Severus and Peter’s pristinely chopped pieces. The grin broadened a bit and he looked back at Lily. “No. That might be giving him a bit too much credit.”
Lily rolled her eyes in a very no kidding way.
“…but he would go to the ends of the Earth for those he cares about, he’s undeniably courageous and he’s a damn good friend. Get to know him sometime, Evans, and you might be pleasantly surprised.”
The pair of them lapsed into silence and didn’t speak again for the rest of the period.
“I dunno, Lily, he wasn’t that bad when I worked with him in Potions.”
Having just relayed the story of her and Sirius’ debate, Lily sent Anna a very you’re not helping look. The two of them and Melanie were perched on their respective beds up in the girls’ dorm, doing what most teenage girls do – gossiping. Anna, sitting Indian style and resting both hands on her feet, simply smiled innocently.
“It’s true, Lily, whether or not you want to believe it. Now, granted, I only spent two hours with him, I’m not saying I know him much better than you do, but really, if you look past the constant innuendos his presence isn’t that horrible.”
Melanie turned to look at Lily, wondering how the redhead would react. With a sigh, Lily rolled her eyes once more.
“It’s easy for you to say, Anna,” she argued. “He doesn’t pester you constantly, all the time, twenty-four seven. He hasn’t asked you out innumerable times over the course of five and a half years.”
Anna shrugged. “Whatever, Lily – but you know, if you really wanted a date to the dance I’m sure you’d be able to find one.”
Melanie snickered, but Lily looked irritated. Rising to her feet she shook her head. “Will you all stop playing matchmaker? There are plenty of fish in the sea, and they’re all immensely better than James Potter. Now if you’ll excuse me, I really ought to finish my Charms homework.” And with that the Head Girl gathered some books in the crook of her arm and stalked off to the Common Room, despite that it was quarter after ten at night and the Charms homework wouldn’t be due for three days.
The instant she left, Melanie and Anna exchanged glances and shrugged.
That was the only sound Lily made as she let her books drop onto the table with a clatter, resounding rather loudly in the dead common room. She really didn’t want to be doing work – but at the same time, she’d have to do it eventually anyway, and she really didn’t want to be lectured on James Potter, either. It was a lose-lose situation.
Spreading her books out across the table the girl pulled out a quill and some parchment and took to writing, quickly disappearing from the real world into the much more comforting solitude of the world of academics. Lily Evans loved academics because they were cold and impersonal. They didn’t give a damn what your family background was, they held no prejudices, and most of all they didn’t follow you around for five and a half years. She loved them because they weren’t people and served as a perfect escape to get away from just that.
Unfortunately, the common room did not do this quite as well. The girl had been working in peaceful silence for only a few minutes when an unwanted voice sliced through the silence.
“Isn’t it a bit late to be doing homework?”
Emerald eyes slipping shut, Lily took a deep breath and willed herself not to throw something. “I happen to prefer working later at night, Potter,” she informed. “Because, for the most part, it ensures I don’t have to spend time around people like you.”
“It’s not really working, then, is it?”
Lily glanced over her shoulder to find James’ chin resting on the back of the couch, arms dangling over the edge limply. There was no idiot grin on his face for once – rather, he simply looked tired.
“It was,” Lily countered, turning back to her work. “Until you decided to speak.”
“Hey, now,” said James, “I’m not going to stop you from working.”
She dipped the nib of her quill into the ink, hand scrawling across the paper once more. “Your presence is enough to distract me, Potter.”
“Can’t keep your mind off me, can you?” he mused aloud, grinning – not that she was looking, or anything.
“No, Potter, I can’t keep my mind off how much I’d enjoy ramming this quill’s tip through your left eye.”
That shut him up, although, as always, bliss was momentary. A minute or so later the boy was seated on the table she was working on, much to her distaste. She decided his silence must have been so he could concentrate; he didn’t quite have the capability to talk and walk simultaneously.
“Get off of the table, Potter.”
She didn’t bother to look up at him. In all honesty Lily was trying to view him as little as was possible. She could tell that, as always, his eyes were glued to the top of her head, but she didn’t care. After five and a half years his staring was routine. She wasn’t in the mood for this, at the moment – not after been preached to all day and then having to find out what in the hell a Plode charm was. She would have voiced her irritation at his presence again if she wasn’t focusing more on finding out the answer to the aforementioned question. She knew she’d read it on this page a second ago, and now where was it? It wasn’t in the glossary at the back of the book, nor in the index, she was –
“It’s on page three-twenty-six.”
Lily blinked and looked up from the book in order to, for the first time that night, make eye contact with James Potter.
“What?” she asked blandly.
“The Plode thing. It’s on page three hundred twenty six.”
She didn’t move. She was well aware the page she was looking at was in the two-hundreds, far off from the page he was suggesting, but she wasn’t all that sure she wanted to believe him. “Oh really?” she repeated dully.
James made no verbal answer, at least not initially – he simply reached over and flicked over a hundred pages or so in the textbook, pointing to a paragraph towards the top. “Really,” he affirmed finally.
Trying to hide how bittersweet she found it, Lily craned her neck forward to peer at the paragraph he was pointing to. Indeed, the first sentence started off ‘A Plode charm, which…’
Wow, the girl thought with a simple blink, he actually did his homework.
“So it is,” she agreed finally, skimming over the little paragraph. “Now get off the table.”
James chuckled, which annoyed Lily even more. Why? Why was everything so funny?
“I’m serious,” she added, arching an eyebrow. “Or I’ll…” she paused as she fished around for a threat. “…throw this textbook at you.”
At this James chuckled. For some irritating reason, he chuckled. Why did he always find it so amusing?
James simply continued chuckling, shaking her head. A moment or so after, however, he flinched. Lily, quite true to her word, threw the nearest textbook at his head – and, thanks to years of being the Slytherin Quidditch team’s favorite bludger target, James ducked. The textbook narrowly missed him and landed in a heap on the floor. In the process of dodging, however, one of James’ legs had flinched instinctively – and knocked over Lily’s ink well.
The ink, upon being spilled, did what ink most often does – flow out rather viscously onto the nearest stainable items. The items, in this case, happened to be the top half of Lily’s charms homework – and the corner of another of her textbooks. There was a split second in which the two just watched. James’ laughter had died off and Lily’s eyes widened as her work and precious literature was rather obliterated.
And then they both lunged forward to scoop up the ink before it spread any further. As luck would have it, Lily got there first; half throwing herself atop the table, she managed to grab the ink and turn it upright. James, who’d reacted a split second later, did not account for the sudden arrival of Lily when he reached down – and brushed something that most definitely was not the ink. Somehow, Lady Luck would have it that Lily’s chest got in the way of James’ hand and the ink.
This in itself spawned a sort of stunned silence, in which neither moved, although that lasted for a total of fifteen seconds before James jerked his hand away and Lily jerked her head up. He looked absolutely stunned – she looked absolutely murderous.
“Evans, I d—“
The sharp sound of skin to skin contact resonated in the room for a split second as Lily slapped him across the face. The boy’s cheek flushed a bright red, naturally, after she drew back her hand and stared at him.
“How dare you?” she demanded sharply, straightening up so she was no longer sprawled on the table and letting go of the ink well. Her tone made it more than clear that she was not amused in the faintest.
“Evans, really, I ---“
“The nerve!” she shrieked, looking as if she wanted to slap him again before deciding better of it. And then, quite in a huff, she instantly turned her gaze downwards and began collecting all of her things at an unusually fast rate. All the while she ranted: “All day people have been lecturing me on what a wonderful person you are, that you’re not half as bad as you seem, a sheep in wolf’s clothing—“
“Honestly, Evans, I was just—“
“Shut up!” she shrieked, loud and shrill enough that he complied instantly. “I’m sick of your excuses, your explanations, I’m sick of hearing about you, I’m sick of hearing you - I’m sick of your voice!”
In a swift arm motion she shoved all her now stacked books and parchments sideways off the table and into her readily placed book-bag.
“I’m sick of you thinking you know everything and can win over anyone and I’m sick of people telling me it’s true! I’m sick of you thinking the whole romantic stalker thing is sweet, I’m think of you thinking you’re sweet, I’m sick of you thinking you’re God’s gift and for god’s sake, most of all, I’m sick of you!”
She threw it over her shoulder and let out a quick exhale of anger, one red lock of hair blowing out of her face. Standing up to her full height she narrowed her eyes at him, her glare a most disproving one.
“And I’m sick of the fact that, for even the tiniest fraction of a half-second, I thought there was a chance they all were right.” With that the girl stormed past him and up the stairs to the girls’ dormitories, living up to her hair colour’s reputation in every way.
James didn’t even watch her walk away. He simply sat there, looking something between stricken and dumbfounded, one hand rubbing his sore cheek.