Chapter 11: The Black Hole that Nothing Could be Conveyed from
The first week back at Hogwarts for Lily had been difficult for many reasons. She carefully had to navigate avoiding the conversation topic of how her family was and how her summer went. She was chosen as Head Girl, putting more of a spotlight on her then she needed. Dumbledore implored her to give it time before making the final decision of withdrawing. Like some dreadful curse was now haunting her since the summer, James Potter was made the Head Boy. Another reason she wished to expedite the decision to remove herself from the position. These stresses on top of dealing with the anticipated heavy work load of her final year at Hogwarts and studying for the N.E.W.T.s were taxing on her health. But she could secretly admit to herself the distraction from her grief was slightly welcomed, even if it came from other forms of stress.
Every morning before Lily left the Gryffindor dormitory, she perfected her look in the mirror. She carefully learned to control every muscle in her face to keep up a flawless appearance of a neutral expression that gave nothing away. The edges of her rose lips ever so slightly curled up to hint that her lips offered an approachable façade and left no indication that in any moment they could fade to a frown and reveal her secrets. The look was held together by her mouth and eyes. If they faltered at all, someone who observed her closely enough would know. Lily also assessed that her weakest point in her aesthetic was controlling her eyes. Any hint of emotion was reflected in the green orbs that stared back at her. Her ideal play was to make sure her emerald eyes dulled to a point to only hinting of a trace of emotion and recollection that she was paying attention to the world around her. Just enough given away that no one would assess them further and look for the emptiness and sadness that were scratching at the outskirts of her iris. She kept those two needless emotions confined to the pupil in her eye. The black hole that nothing could be conveyed from.
When she was ready, she walked the great halls of Hogwarts. To any onlooker, she had a normal and complacent face. On the inside, she was barely holding it together.
It was in her first Defense Against the Dark Arts class that the first crack in her façade appeared. Thanks to a James Potter. By the grace of merlin, the damage was not done until the end of the lesson.
Lily had not been paying attention at any point during the class. She had been struggling that whole first day of classes with concentration. If her focus was not on her father, it was thinking of something to distract her from thinking about her father. None of that included what Professor Slughorn was drabbling over in class. She resolved she would make up for it later. She could borrow Anna's notes after class. Anna owed her a million times over for being her note supplier over the years on a vast diversity of classes. She could return the favor at least this one time. Thus, instead of notes being written in the ink coming off her quill's tip, she was instead doodling. She was drawing a bouquet of lilies. Something was compelling her to draw the outline of the gravestone the lilies would be sitting next to.
Lily's head immediately jerked up as she heard her name being called. Everyone in the room had their eyes focused on Lily Evans. Shit. Lily was panicked. She had no idea what to say. It was obvious now that she was not paying attention or she would have been able to answer why Professor Slughorn was calling on her. Lily felt a light touch on the palm of her left hand that was on her lap hidden from view. She carefully slid her hand to her abdomen and read a torn parchment that read "Just say, "Yes I don't mind, Professor Slughorn." Trust me. -JP". She didn't have time to doubt the sincerity of James Potter's rescue efforts.
"Yes, I don't mind, Professor Slughorn." She offered the professor a weak smile when she finished her sentence. She questioned if he would buy her delayed response to him.
"Good, very good. Thank you, Ms. Evans. I'll get with you after class then." Professor Slughorn resumed the lecture after Lily provided an answer to an unknown question to her. She felt uneasy of her choice to trust James. She was in a bind though and had little other options. She always could have asked Professor Slughorn to repeat the question, but then murmurs would soon begin of how the Head Girl was not paying attention in class. The fact she cared about that part of her image befuddled her. She was going to bow out of the position in the right timing. She realized she just blew her chance to unravel the tapestry of her departure from Head Girl sooner rather than later.
Before the class was over, Lily hid her doodles and any evidence that she was in fact not paying attention to any part of the lecture. She quietly put away her books, pen and ink into her bookbag as the class was dismissed. Lily anxiously hoped she could pull off figuring out what it was that Professor Slughorn wanted from her. With the thinning out of her classmates from the room, she noticed that there was a stationary presence behind her. She cautiously turned around, masking her face to the neutral expression that she saw in the mirror every morning.
To her surprise, her green eyes took in the appearance of James Potter for the first time since they were announced as Head Boy and Head Girl. James looked as she expected after not seeing him for a whole summer. Still tall. Still handsome. Still allowing his dark hair to ruffle in the air as if it was asking to be pet. Everything was so effortless for him. It vexed Lily that he was blessed with good looks, effortless smarts, a charming personality, and he wasted it all on being a prat and not being the top student in their class. If he wanted to, he could easily blow Lily out of the water when it came to school performance. He, however, did not care. Now additionally she was jealous that on top of those things he also still had his parents and a good life.
She had no idea what to say to him. She bemused a thank you was best since his advice got Professor Slughorn off her back. She swallowed her pride and parted her mouth to allow the words to leave her lips. They stopped on her tongue when her eyes focused on his glasses. The silver wired rimmed frames adorning James's face held lenses that were slightly smudged, but that did not mask the concern in James's hazel eyes.
"Hi Lily, are you okay?" Lily was stunned. She could not understand of all the people in the class why it was James in front of her, concerned about her. She did nothing out of character to warrant it. Everyone spaced out in class every now and then. Even her. She pulled her mask back on and ignored the crack now running through it thanks to James Potter.
"Of course, James. I just got lost in thought for a minute. Thanks for the save back there. Quick thinking. Can you catch me up on what I agreed to before I see Slughorn?" Lily kept her voice low and casual. Her voice did not tremble as it should have if she was not pretending in that moment.
James did not press further, and Lily was relieved. "He wanted you to help him on a special project that our class will be working on in the future. Something to do with a top tier Shield Curse." Lily held her composure despite wanting to curse up a storm for agreeing to one more thing that required her social participation. She could not fault James. His assumption of her wanting to help Slughorn would have been correct for the Lily he knew from the previous six years. Lily was not her anymore though. She would have to find a way to back out of it. She was sure another bright student in their class would jump at the chance to replace her.
"I see. Thanks, James." Lily turned away from James to now deal with Professor Slughorn. Time was not on her side to figure out how to keep on Slughorn's good side while rejecting his offer.
"Lily, wait." Lily turned around to face James. They were now five feet apart when a moment ago only 12-inches separated them. "When did you want to schedule our first meeting with McGonagall for Head business?" Lily was caught off guard that James was prompting that conversation topic. He was taking his role seriously. She also recalled that James had yet to hit on her so far. She wondered who this new James Potter in front of her was. She respected him in that moment. She wished she had more to give him. What he would expect of her as the Head Girl. Lily was running on empty at that point in the day though. She readjusted her bookbag to sit on her other shoulder and said, "Name the time and place and I can be there."
Lily offered James a soft smile. His maturity in that moment made the contempt she normally held towards him simmer. She knew life was too short to hold such a grudge against James and the hand he was dealt. She was ready to talk to Slughorn and then let her grief consume her. She now more than ever in that day felt it knocking on her door. Warning her it was coming in soon.
"Thanks, James. I will talk to you later. I need to catch up with Professor Slughorn." Lily once again turned away from James and walked to Slughorn at the front of the classroom. She moved with an urgency to remove herself from the role she had previously volunteered for.
Sorry this took a while to write. It is short. But I wanted to post something. Thanks, llama, for the inspiration to write. It takes a certain headspace to write this story. Next chapter we will get James's take on what happened this chapter and see how their first phone conversation goes during the school year. IF you read this, I hope you enjoyed it. – Lalaland972