Chapter 12: Baffled by the Diminished Fire
James was baffled. Everything leading up to his attendance in Defense Against the Dark Arts had gone well for him. He was back to seeing his friends all the time. He recently found out he had been made Head Boy. Hearing that news was an equal shock to him as it was to the rest of the students that knew him. The challenge of being worthy to carry the title was not lost on James Potter. Overall, he was happy to step up to the plate and be an exemplary Head Boy next to the obvious choice of Head Girl, Lily Evans. It was that female student in particular that left him baffled.
Defense Against the Dark Arts began as James had expected. Slughorn sounding off on the big year ahead for his students. He prided himself in not looking at Lily Evans for most of the lecture. His most looked forward to class of the year quickly grew rather boring to James. They were not learning anything new in this class. Slughorn was just preparing them for what was to come in their future lessons.
When James caught on that his undivided attention was not needed for the remainder of the class, he casually turned his head and allowed his eyes to scan the room for Lily's seat in the class. He saw her walk in but did not allow his eyes to trail her to her current seat. He was now on the hunt to find the Head Girl. Observe her furiously taking notes as she was hooked on Slughorn's every word. When his gaze finally locked on the familiar bright red locks, James Potter did a double take. Her hair was meticulously french braided away from her face. Each angle of her beautiful face was exposed to James to get a glimpse of for once. Even if he had to sneak in the looks. James couldn't recall a time before when Lily's hair was not loose around her shoulders, if not fully let down but at least only partially pulled up. Maybe a new year so a new look? James pondered as he attempted to avoid looking like a creep who kept his gaze on Lily longer than he should have.
When he was able to sneak another peak and not be so fixated on her face and new hair-do, James was confused by Lily's demeanor. She kept her nose down in her notepad the entire time. Casually stroking her quill on the parchment paper. He concluded she was in fact not transcribing notes. Further evidence to support this was that Lily had not picked her head up from her notepad to make eye contact with Slughorn. A trait James infamously noted for her during their fifth year. She always bobbed her head up periodically from her note taking to stare at the professor lecturing. As if to make a silent agreement she understood all the information she was absorbing.
James tried to stop focusing on Lily. He already made up his mind on the train that he would not obsess about her this year. She was nothing more than the Head Girl to him, his colleague in official Hogwarts matters. He hoped they could at least end the year as friends. His current stalker behavior would not support that though. He forced himself to stop looking at her before someone caught on, or worse, that Lily caught on herself.
James was relieved that the lecture was almost over. The time crept by slowly when he stopped looking at Lily. James's attention was caught by Slughorn when he directed a question to Lily about her willingness to aid in him in setting up a future project for the class.
Lily did not answer Slughorn though. The class fell silent waiting for her response. All eyes were on her as she absentmindedly continued her strokes on her notepad with her quill.
"Lily?" Lily was finally aware her attention was required. James noted that she was every bit her patronus in that moment. A doe caught in the wild that was scared and didn't know how to proceed. Run or hide seemed like her only two options.
Before James comprehended what he was doing, he ripped off a piece of his own blank parchment paper, scribbled a note, and sent it to Lily's hand discreetly with a flick of his wand paired with a non-verbal spell.
James watched Lily receive his note and throw caution to the wind. She did not have the luxury of time to waver if she would follow his advice or not. She responded as James suggested. It was the first time James had heard her voice in months and it shook him. Not in a way that reminded him why this girl had been his obsession in the recent years. Her tone was not right. It lacked confidence. Knowledge. Lily was missing something. This along with the fact she was not paying attention in class led James to believe something was wrong with Lily.
When the class was ending, James was aware he needed to inform Lily of what Slughorn asked her since she didn't have any clue. The deer caught in the woods reference came to his mind again.
He approached her from behind her seat after he found the courage to talk to her after so many months. When she turned around to acknowledge his presence, he found words forming on his tongue that were not what he remembered rehearsing in his mind already.
"Hi Lily, are you okay?" The words left James's mouth carelessly before he could stuff them back in. He asked the question he wanted to know the answer to, but that was not why he approached Lily. Geez you are a git. She is just going to tell me to sod off now. Stupid git! James admonished himself internally.
He didn't allow his gaze to leave Lily's face though. She looked different. Beautiful as always to him. However, her face seemed strained to look neutral. Like she was masking the face she really wanted to make. James assessed her eyes. They were hauntingly beautiful to him. A different beauty he never saw in them before. The iris slowly phased from a light green from the outer rim to a menacingly dark green that wanted to be absorbed by her dark pupils. He never captured this emotional spectrum of Lily Evans on his radar before. It was not right. As quickly as he saw the transition of the green shading in her eyes, it disappeared. Her eyes were once again were the familiar emerald green consistently throughout her iris that he was used to seeing without an unprovoked emotional reaction from Lily.
"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's voice was calm and collected. It paired well with her face. It all should have gone together and the lapse in her eye coloring should have been wiped from James's mind. But he could not forget it. He decided it was not his place to press further. To uncover the mystery that had thrown Lily Evans off that day. That job was for someone else.
James kindly informed her what Slughorn wanted. She seemed pleased with his answer before she turned away and proceeded to walk in Slughorn's direction. James presumed she was relieved too in knowing James did not trick her. He felt optimistic their relationship this year was already off to a better start than he could have predicted.
"Lily, wait." While James was riding the high of being in Lily's good graces for once, it dawned on him that they hadn't schedule out their first meeting as Head Boy and Girl. He wanted to impress the girl in front of him further by showing his responsible side. He asked her when she wanted to schedule their first meeting with McGonagall.
James could tell he caught Lily off guard with his question. In a good way though. He imagined she would soon enough begin listing to him the meeting time, place and the topics she wanted to cover. Lily was always prepared. He wanted to show her he could meet her half way in his role. To his surprise, she did not respond how he expected her to. Instead she informed him, "Name the time and place and I can be there." She offered him a soft smile before she thanked him again and continued to make her way towards Professor Slughorn.
That interaction with Lily Evans left James baffled. Lily Evans for once, in all the time he had known her, was not acting like Lily Evans. He wasn't sure if it was a good or bad thing, this shift in her personality. He also speculated she could have been having an off day.
James was proven wrong over and over again. It was not one off day, but a string of them. After the third day in a row encountering this strange Lily Evans, he concluded it was not a pattern. This was a new Lily Evans. He wasn't sure what to think of her at this point. She tried, but she never seemed to really care as she once had. About anything. It saddened James to see the fire diminished in Lily's personality. It was one of the traits he liked best about her.
He felt relieved when the first Saturday of the semester had finally come and his thoughts involving the opposite sex could be shifted from concern about Lily to Amy.
Author's Note: So I changed my mind. Next chapter will contain their first call during the school year. Question, if you read this story and happen to read this author's note, do you have a preference on future chapters where Lily and James come across each other in person? Do you as a reader like the split third person from each side? Or do you prefer it be meshed together in one chapter without the split? If no one has input/preference, I'll continue forward as I see fit. Thanks for reading! - Lalaland972
P.s. I wanted to push this chapter out tonight because I felt bad I didn't put in James's perspective when I posted last night. Looking like a 20 chapter story at the moment.