The first time, Lily just wanted to be alone.
She was sitting in front of the fire, face burning in shame. The Slug Club Christmas party was next week, and she had been preparing all week to ask Austin Starling, a Ravenclaw Chaser, to join her, only to have been mercilessly shut down.
Okay, he had been very decent about it. It was very merciful, actually. But that didn’t help much. He had felt bad saying no, she could tell, but his friends had let out howls of laughter when she ran away. Because she did. Run, that is. Like a coward.
“Lily,” Mary tried, “I promise it wasn’t as bad as you think.”
Alice agreed (bless her), and they spent the better part of their day convincing her that Austin wasn’t worth it and that she could do much better than someone who ate the same meal every single morning. She was right, of course. Eating plain porridge every morning wasn’t the start of an exciting relationship.
“I will never live this down!” Lily whined. “I can’t go outside ever again.” Her life was over, officially. She would have to leave Hogwarts and go home and live with Petunia and her parents and never do magic again and go to Muggle school and have to learn math. Oh, god. Math.
“It’s not that bad! I promise!”
“Oh, but it is, isn’t it?” she responded, head between her knees. “Can I just be alone to contemplate my misery for a bit? Please?”
“Just… for a minute, okay? I’ll be right up.”
There was silence for a second. Lily could practically feel Alice and Mary exchanging looks, possibly even rolling their eyes (Mary, not Alice, for sure).
But they ended up leaving.
She felt humiliated. Logically (because Lily was able to be logical, regardless of what people tended to think), she knew that it would be over in a couple of days. That no one would remember it in a couple of days. But that wasn’t the real problem, obviously. The problem was that Lily would remember it. She would never forget it, would remember it every single time that she looked at Austin, every time any of her friends walked by her in the hall. Because Lily, if nothing else, could remember . (And there was plenty else, alright, she was kind of brilliant.)
“Evans,” she heard from behind her.
Not now. “This is not the best time, Potter,” she spat back. Unnecessarily nasty, perhaps, but she was tired and embarrassed. She needed a bucket of ice cream and some pumpkin pasties right now, that’s all she needed.
“Oh yes, I heard. Austin is a gargoyle, Evans. He’s not worth it.”
“You’re worth a thousand Austins.”
She felt oddly flattered by this. It wasn’t quite true, she thought, but she needed to hear it nonetheless.
“Thanks, Potter.” Snarky. Don’t let him get too close, she figured, otherwise he’d start asking her out.
Potter nodded at her, a smile on his face. “Why did you ask him out anyway? Didn’t you know he was gay?”
She groaned. She didn’t want to be reminded of her shame, of her obliviousness. “Well, obviously I didn’t. Did you think I did that just for fun? I needed a date to Slug Club and… he’s not bad looking, you know!”
“Evans, he doesn’t even put sugar on his porridge!”
“Just eats it plain!”
“I know !”
“Every single day!”
He was laughing at her, now. Her face was bright red, practically steaming. God, he frustrated her like no other.
“You don’t deserve someone that boring . What did you think you would do together?” he asked, laughter still clear on his face. “Besides, you’re too pretty for that oaf, everyone knows it.” She didn’t know it was possible to blush even more, but somehow she felt the blush on her face deepen regardless, without any attention paid to logic. She couldn’t quite decide whether to be embarrassed or flattered or angry, now, but rather settled for a mix of all three, which, to be fair, was how Potter usually made her feel.
“No, Potter, I get it, he’s boring, I messed up, oblivious Lily once again–”
“No, look !” He leaned over her to point over her shoulder, arm nudging her shoulder.
So she did. He was pointing out the window on the far right of the room, at the splashes of color outside. The sun was rising. Deep oranges and pinks were coloring the sky that was gradually getting lighter and lighter. She glanced over at Potter, who was still leaning over the back of the couch she was sitting on. She could feel his warm arm against her, and she moved away slightly to get away from the touch. Too warm. Too close.
“You’re too good for him,” he said simply, as if it was fact. “Sleep well, Evans.” And then he left.