A Different Kind of Magic by unjellify
Summary: James Potter is Head Boy and Gryffindor Quidditch captain in his seventh year at Hogwarts. He has three best friends and his life seems perfect--except that Lily Evans, the only girl he's ever loved, can't stand him.

Lily Evans is Head Girl and top of their class. She's always been disgusted by James' arrogance, yet she can't seem to stop blushing when he's around.

As their Head Boy and Girl duties bring them together, can James find a way to win Lily's love?

A Different Kind of Magic has been nominated for the 2011 Quicksilver Quills: Best Canon Romance. Thank you!


Categories: James/Lily Characters: None
Warnings: Character Death, Mild Profanity, Sexual Situations, Substance Abuse, Violence
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 17 Completed: No Word count: 42548 Read: 117814 Published: 08/05/10 Updated: 09/06/14
Story Notes:
This story is told from both James' and Lily's points of view, alternating by chapter. Enjoy!

1. Chapter 1- That Easy by unjellify

2. Chapter 2- Responsibility by unjellify

3. Chapter 3-Libatius Borage's Complete Guide to Women by unjellify

4. Chapter 4-Something There That Wasn't There Before by unjellify

5. Chapter 5-What Friends Are For by unjellify

6. Chapter 6-Trouble Brewing by unjellify

7. Chapter 7-The Storm Is Coming In by unjellify

8. Chapter 8-Flying Lessons by unjellify

9. Chapter 9- Black Holes and Revelations by unjellify

10. Chapter 10-Missing by unjellify

11. Chapter 11-A Little Unwell by unjellify

12. Chapter 12-Family Matters by unjellify

13. Chapter 13-Engulfed in Flames by unjellify

14. Chapter 14 - Returns and Regrets by unjellify

15. Chapter 15-Distraction and Temptation by unjellify

16. Chapter 16-Bella Notte by unjellify

17. Chapter 17- Confused Alarms of Struggle and Flight by unjellify

Chapter 1- That Easy by unjellify
Author's Notes:
The usual disclaimer: I don't own anything. All the characters, settings, spells, nicknames, etc. are J.K. Rowling's noble creation.
Also, thanks to Emily for being an awesome beta!


“James, mate.” James Potter groaned as someone shook him awake.

“James!”

“Uh…yuh…yeah?” James said sleepily, rubbing his eyes.

“We’re going back to Hogwarts tomorrow. Last time.”

James rolled over to see his best friend, Sirius, standing unsteadily above his bed. “Sir, you are intoxicated,” James said, grinning and prodding Sirius in the chest.

“Sir, I feel bloody amazing.” Sirius swayed, and through the gloom James was quite sure that he saw a hickey on Sirius’ neck.

“Who was the lucky lady tonight?” James ribbed him.

“I forget.” Sirius chuckled. “Lucy, Lacey, Lala, something like that.”

“Lala? Mate, you’re completely smashed. Get a little rest before the big day tomorrow, eh?”

“What big day?” Sirius looked blank.

“Go to bed,” James said firmly. “Either that or let’s go out again and I can have a go at that Lala.”

“Lala,” Sirius said dreamily, climbing into the bed across the room. “She was fantastic.” He was snoring within minutes.

*

“Now, James, Sirius, I know this is seventh year, but that doesn’t mean you can skive off,” Mrs. Potter said, tucking James’ shirt in and tugging Sirius’ tie into its proper place.

“Mum!” James exclaimed. “No one has their uniforms on when they board the train.”

“Yes, but you’re Head Boy. You need to look proper,” Mrs. Potter said fondly.

“I’m not Head Boy, am I?” Sirius grumbled.

“I suppose not, but it makes you both look dashing.”

“Evans might notice you,” Sirius said, ducking to avoid a swat from James.

“What’s that, dear?” Mrs. Potter asked.

“James is in love,” Sirius drawled.

“Really? Jamie, that’s nice. Which one is she?” Mrs. Potter looked around hopefully.

“She’s probably already on the train, Mum. Speaking of which, I’m supposed to be there too.”

“Oh yes, you need to give prefect assignments, don’t you. My James, Head Boy.” Mrs. Potter smiled and Sirius mimed gagging, turning his head slightly so that she couldn’t see. “Well, go on, then,” she continued. “I’ll write to you. And you too, Sirius,” she said, hugging both boys.

Sirius smiled. James knew he appreciated the attention Mrs. Potter gave him, especially since Mrs. Black was about as nice as a Blast-Ended Skrewt.

James and Sirius boarded the train together. “Paddy! Prongs!” someone shouted. They looked up to see Remus, wearing his prefect’s badge and running toward them.

“All right, Moony?” James said, clapping Remus on the back.

“Full moon isn’t for weeks, so I’d say he is,” Sirius said casually.

A crease appeared in Remus' brow. “I wish you wouldn’t say that, mate.”

“Fair enough. I’ll go find a compartment while you watch Bighead Boy drool over Evans.”

“One day, Black, I swear,” James said, shaking his head. “I do need to go, though. Find a good compartment, I’ll see you later.”

He entered the prefects’ carriage with Remus, where Lily Evans was already giving common room duties to each prefect. She turned. “All right, Remus, James? You’re late, by the way,” she added to James, rolling her eyes.

“Lovely to see you too, Evans,” James said. “Anything I can do?” He rumpled his hair unconsciously.

“No, I think I’ve got it under control, thanks,” Lily said coolly. “Remus, you’ll supervise Gryffindor common room with Mary, obviously. Any questions?” she called as everyone got up to leave.

“Yeah,” said Augustus Rookwood, a Slytherin prefect. “How come we should take orders from a filthy little Mudblood like you?”

James lunged at him and drew his wand, pressing it directly to Rookwood’s throat. “Apologize,” he hissed through his teeth. He couldn’t stand anyone insulting Lily, no matter how much she insulted him.

Rookwood’s bravado was gone. He was temporarily unable to say anything. “You deaf, Rookwood?” James yelled.

“James Potter,” Lily snapped. “However gallant you may think you are, you’re Head Boy. You can’t go around attacking people on my behalf.” James noticed that her face had gone very pale at the word Mudblood.

“Don’t”you”dare”say”that”word,” James growled, ignoring everything except the hurt expression on Lily’s face. He poked his wand into Rookwood’s chest with every word, which left small, cigarette-like burns in Rookwood’s shirt.

“James, that is enough!” Lily said sharply, and James released the trembling Rookwood. Into his ear, she whispered, “I think the way you try to boss everyone around is despicable.”

“Evans,” James said pleadingly.

“Thank you, James,” Lily said grudgingly, “but I can take care of myself.” Her lips were pursed in disapproval.

James remained silent. “I’ll see you later, Lily,” he said finally. She looks so bloody lovely when she’s cross at me, James thought as he walked out of the compartment.

Wormtail had joined Sirius by the time that James and Remus found them. Sirius was eating a pumpkin pasty, while Wormtail was scanning the first page of A History of Magic with a worried look on his face.

“How’d it go, Prongs?” Sirius asked.

“Lily’s brassed off at me. Just because I tried to teach that Rookwood a lesson for calling her a you-know-what.”

“A what? A temptress?” Sirius said.

“Vixen?” Remus suggested.

“Scarlet woman?” said Peter. They all looked at him and he quailed. “It’s what my dad always says,” he mumbled sheepishly.

“No, you morons, the M-word. I was trying to help her out, and she starts telling me off!”

“Ah,” said Sirius. “Well, it’s been years now, mate. Move on. Every other girl in Gryffindor fancies you.”

“No, it’s always been Evans, always will be,” James said miserably.

He could tell that Sirius didn’t understand. Sirius went through girlfriends like James went through broomstick polish. He knew Sirius was right, that plenty of other girls existed who would love to date the Gryffindor Quidditch captain. For him, however, Lily was the only one who mattered. She was the prettiest, smartest girl James had ever met, and there was something about her that James couldn’t put a name to that captivated him. James wished that Lily would be captivated by him. What did she see in him that was so repulsive to her?

“Bad luck, mate. I’m in the market for a new woman, as it were. Hey, you there!” Sirius stuck his head out of the compartment and called to a tall, blonde Ravenclaw walking past whom James didn’t recognize. “Alice, right? Would you fancy going out with me this weekend? Just a walk about the grounds, nothing formal.”

The girl eyed Sirius’ tousled brown hair and film star grin and nodded, giggling. “That would be nice.”

“Lovely. I’m Sirius. Sirius Black.”

“Oh, I knew that,” Alice said, and then blushed and hurried away.

“See?” Sirius said, turning back to James and grinning. “‘S that easy.”

James stared broodingly out the window. If only it were that easy with Evans. If only.
End Notes:
Chapter One is mostly for character and plot development, so next chapter will be more exciting. Also, since this chapter was from James' point of view, the next chapter will be from Lily's. Thanks for reading and please review; this is my first fan fiction and I'd love some feedback!
Chapter 2- Responsibility by unjellify
Author's Notes:
*Disclaimer* All the amazing characters, settings, etc. are JKR's, not mine. Oh, how I wish they were....
Thanks to my beta Emily for making this chapter so much more awesome.


Professor Dumbledore cleared his throat and all the new first years looked up immediately, with rapt attention. James and Sirius, Lily noticed, were otherwise occupied by dueling with a pair of breadsticks.

Since staff and students alike were now comfortably full and picking at the last morsels of food on their plates, Professor Dumbledore began to speak. After the usual announcements concerning newly appointed teachers, during which James seemed to remember that he was Head Boy and let his breadstick fall to the table, Dumbledore paused before continuing.

“You all know that a man who chooses to call himself Lord Voldemort is steadily gaining power in our world even as we speak,” he began. “I believe that he may try to”” he cleared his throat again “”recruit our older students to follow him. He may have already appealed to some of you,” he said, glancing momentarily at the Slytherin house table.

Then he turned back to the hall as a whole, and said passionately, “I urge you to refuse him and all for which he stands. I hope I do not need to reiterate that discrimination of any kind, including that which is based on ‘blood status,’ is not tolerated at Hogwarts. Any use of Dark magic will be punished severely.”

Dumbledore swept his bright blue eyes over the Great Hall, his gaze so intense that the first years’ eyes widened and they seemed to shrink a bit. “Now,” he said, “I am sure that all of you are very tired. You will soon be off to your dormitories, never fear. Goodnight.”

As Lily finished the last bite of her tart, Mary MacDonald turned to her and resumed the conversation they had been having on the train. “Come on, Lily, you can’t tell me that you don’t think James is good-looking.”

“He thinks he’s so special just because he’s a good flier and the best Chaser on the team,” Lily said, pressing her lips together.

“Best Chaser in the school, more like. That wasn’t my question, though,” Mary said, raising her eyebrows.

Lily didn’t answer. Mary smiled triumphantly, which only served to infuriate Lily even more. Since Lily had boarded the train with her, Mary had been rhapsodizing about the possibilities that came with patrolling the corridors at night with James. By the time that he’d walked into the prefects’ carriage, Lily was already sick of him, though she hadn’t seen him since the previous June.

She stood to leave, still refusing to answer Mary. She didn’t get very far, however, before Professor McGonagall approached her. “I would like to speak to you for a moment, Miss Evans,” she said. Despite her phrasing, it didn’t sound particularly like a request.

“Of course,” Lily said, rising.

“I’d like to see you as well, Mr. Potter,” McGonagall called.

Lily saw James look longingly at his remaining cauldron cake and then make his way down the table toward them. Professor McGonagall led them out of the Great Hall and up to her office. Once they were both seated, Professor McGonagall brought out a tin of Ginger Newts and offered them round. “No, thank you,” Lily said politely. James took two.

“Now, as Head Boy and Girl, you will have various duties this year. These duties include patrolling the corridors at midnight to ensure that no students are out of bed, administering a certain amount of discipline, and taking charge of the prefects.”

“Can we dock points?” James asked eagerly.

McGonagall gave him a narrow-eyed look, which Lily thought was well-merited. “If students are caught in an infraction of the rules, then yes, you may, Mr. Potter. For severe transgressions, of course, Professor Dumbledore or I should be called upon to address the situation.”

“Excellent,” James muttered, grinning.

“You will be notified when House passwords change and are expected to pass this information on to the prefects. Are there any other questions?” She paused, waiting for Lily or James to speak.

When they remained silent, she continued, “Let me just say that I am very proud that you two are members of Gryffindor house.” She smiled at them proudly for a moment, then seemed to remember herself. “I expect that you will conduct yourselves as such.”

Lily nodded. “Of course, Professor.”

“Oh, yes, of course,” James echoed, perhaps trying to make up for his earlier question.

“Also, Miss Evans, Mr. Potter, you will meet with the prefects shortly and inform them of their houses’ respective passwords. Gryffindor's password will be gladius, Hufflepuff’s password will be 'pixie dust,' and Slytherin’s password is malum discordiae . The answer to Ravenclaw’s riddle is ‘the second.’ That will be all, I think. Good evening.”

As they left the office, James seemed to be in considerably better spirits than Lily. “Evans, looks like we’ve got a great year ahead of us, eh?”

“Oh, certainly,” Lily said, with more sarcasm than she had intended.

“I can’t wait to take points off some of the bloody Slytherins for hexing people; they’ve had it coming to them,” James said.

Lily looked at him disapprovingly. “The Slytherins aren't the only ones who hex people, James.”

“Oh, I forgot,” James said, a slight edge in his voice. “You love the Slytherins, don’t you?” He sounded almost jealous, but Lily couldn’t see why he would be.

“Not anymore,” Lily said, trying to keep her face emotionless. She didn’t want to think about that right now.

James looked over at her. He opened his mouth and then closed it again. “Tell you what,” he finally proposed, “next time we see that dirty little”” James hesitated, perhaps to choose the least offensive word “”Slytherin, you can take two hundred points off him for something. I’ll back you up.”

Lily stared at him. “I can’t believe you’re just going to abuse this!”

“Evans, it’s not””

“I’ll tell you what it is, James,” Lily said, her voice rising in pitch and volume, “it’s that you feel so entitled because you’re good at Quidditch, and Professor Dumbledore may have thought you were ready for some responsibility, but you still obviously think that you’re above the rules and you can do whatever you damn well please!” She took a deep breath.

James looked genuinely hurt, and she felt a stab of remorse. Granted, what she had said had been mostly true, but she had said all of that because she had felt like yelling at someone. James was not the person with whom she was angry. “I’m not that bad,” he said. “I don’t know why you hate me so much. You treat me like I’m a Dementor, for Merlin’s sake!”

Lily didn’t know what to say. They gathered the prefects and informed them of the House passwords, saying nothing to each other. Finally, she broke the silence.

“You know, James,” she said thoughtfully as they walked toward the staircase to Gryffindor tower, “you’re not as bad as a Dementor. More on the giant squid level, maybe.”

“Oh, really,” James said. “Well, you caught me. I am the giant squid, I’m just cleverly disguised.” He reached over and tickled her waist with the hand that was not carrying his books.

Lily giggled involuntarily and then glared at him. “I think I see Mary,” she said, walking ahead.

“Wait, Lily, I’ve got a sonnet for you,” James said, keeping stride with her. “I just made it up, right then. Would you like to hear?”

Lily almost ran up the staircase, but she wasn’t fast enough. James followed, one arm outstretched like a Shakespearean player, bellowing, “How shall I describe the sound of your laugh, my flower? ’Tis obviously longing for hot sex with the most handsome Gryffindor Quidditch captain in the world!”

Lily blushed bright red as the rest of the students in the hall snickered. “James Potter, I hate you!” she hissed. Upon seeing how downcast he looked, she wished she had chosen different words. Then again, she wasn’t the one proclaiming inappropriate poetry for everyone else to hear”if that could even be classified as poetry.

Lily was so furious that she couldn’t concentrate on her Ancient Runes reading. She kept mistranslating ‘chaos,’ which she had known since third year. “Hot sex with James Potter, honestly,” she muttered, and looked up to see several girls staring in her direction with mixed confusion and jealousy. Lily felt like crying.

*

By the end of the next day, Lily wanted the floor to open up and swallow her. His comment on the staircase the day before had started the rumor that she had put out for James Potter, or, at least, that she soon would. Lily didn’t even want to see James, let alone have sex with him, but avoidance would be difficult, as he had somehow managed to sit in the chair across from her. By the time she had finished her Potions essay, she was well and truly cross. “I hope you’re happy,” she hissed, leaning toward him.

“Happy with what?” James asked, looking up.

“You know, all the gossip,” Lily said through her teeth. The common room had almost cleared out now, so she felt fairly safe in broaching the topic.

“Oh, that. I had to hex Mulciber when he asked me how, er, Muggle-borns are in bed.” James beamed at her.

“You did what?” Lily said, thinking, Honestly, it’s like he doesn’t know he’s Head Boy.

“Hexed him,” James repeated. “He was rather confused and had tentacles sprouting all over him when I was done, so I stuffed him into a broom closet until he could collect himself.”

“I thought you stopped hexing people for no reason,” Lily said sharply.

James looked at her disbelievingly. “I did. He insulted you, Evans, that’s a reason right there. It’s disrespectful, what he was saying, isn’t it?”

Lily knew that Mulciber hadn’t called her a Muggle-born, and despite herself she was flattered. “That’s very...er...chivalrous of you, but who made everyone think I was some sort of hussy in the first place?” she replied.

“You sound like my mum,” James said. His smile only grew wider as she sat down next to him. Lily resolved not to give him the satisfaction of asking him why he was so chuffed.

Finally, after Lily had finished her homework and they were ready for patrol, she asked, “What are you so happy about?”

“Your nightie’s a bit see-through,” James told her, looking positively gleeful.

Lily felt her face turn scarlet, something her fair skin did only too easily, and shoved her robes on in record time. Her nighties were all the same fabric, too, now that she came to think of it. Not only was she wearing pajamas for the rest of the school year, but possibly for the rest of her life. “Let’s go,” she said, unable to say anything else.

She soon found that Hogwarts was slightly frightening at nighttime, even after six years. She jumped every time a suit of armor or a staircase moved, which James took as an excuse to put his arm around her. Lily continually shrugged him off, noticing unwillingly that James did have very nice arms, lean and muscular. Not that she would ever tell him that”his ego was big enough as it was.

Patrol was uneventful except that they caught a couple of fifth year Ravenclaws kissing by the statue of Gregory the Smarmy. James wolf-whistled, which embarrassed both of the students, and Lily took ten points from Ravenclaw, which was what they had been told to do. She suspected that she was supposed to take more points, but keeping some semblance of authority was hard enough without James’ antics.

When Lily and James arrived at Gryffindor common room, which was otherwise deserted, Lily said, “I’m going to bed, all right? Goodnight.”

“No, Ev-Lily, wait.” James touched her arm and Lily turned.

James took a deep breath. “I’m sorry that I said those things in the hall yesterday. It was stupid”really stupid”and I shouldn’t have done it. Maybe you’re right about me.”

Lily was too shocked to speak for a moment. She stared into James’ hazel eyes, wide and earnest behind his spectacles. “It’s forgotten,” she said finally.

“Good.”

Lily broke her gaze away from his. “Well, g’night then.”

“Sweet dreams, Evans,” James said with his slightly crooked smile.

James Potter, apologizing for something? Lily thought as she walked up the stairs to the seventh-year dormitory. In Lily’s experience, he was seldom serious at all, much less conciliatory. She lay down and stared through the darkness at the shadowy hangings of her bed for a long time, wondering how someone could possibly be so insufferable at times and so mature at others. You know what, James, maybe, just maybe, I might be wrong about you, Lily thought. She knew he couldn’t hear her, but that was just as well.
End Notes:
Thanks for reading! Chapter three will be from James' P.O.V. again. Hope you enjoyed this chapter but either way reviews are appreciated; I love getting feedback.
Chapter 3-Libatius Borage's Complete Guide to Women by unjellify
Author's Notes:
I'm really sorry for the long interlude between updates, but it's back!
And, of course, the usual disclaimer: only the plot is mine, everything else is the incredible work of J.K. Rowling.


“So, any midnight magic happening with Evans?” Sirius asked James, grinning and downing a forkful of bangers and mash.

“I wish.” James rested his chin on his hand and snuck a glance toward the head of the Gryffindor table where Lily was sitting. She was twisting her vividly red hair around her finger, smiling as she talked to Mary.

Sirius suggested something that was unintelligible due to the quantity of food in his mouth.

“Sorry?” James said, turning back to Sirius.

He swallowed and tried again. “I said, why don’t you try going out with someone else? Make her jealous and all that.”

“That won’t work,” James returned at once. He wasn’t going to sink to that level, even if it would work, which it wouldn’t.

“Yeah? It worked with Claire, and that Muggle girl Diana I met last summer, and with Mary MacDonald, in fact.”

“You went out with Mary? I forgot that,” James said.

“Yeah, well....”

“No, that’s great. Would you fancy getting back together with her?”

“What?” Sirius looked at him as if James had gone mad.

“You know, then they’d always be hanging about and if Evans were there””

“I’m not getting back together with Mary; are you completely mental? I know love makes you daft and all that, but you remember what happened at the end of fifth year.”

“Oh, yeah, she was the clingy one, right?”

“Worse than a limpet. Fantastic body, though.” Sirius smiled reminiscently.

“I see your point. I’ll just have to think of something else, then.”

“Well, you don’t play guitar, write poetry, sing, anything romantic. I’m telling you, jealousy’s the way to go. Women thrive on it.”

“Not true,” Remus said, looking up from Advanced Potion Making.

Sirius and James both looked at him in surprise.

“To be honest,” Remus continued, “I’m a bit surprised that you didn’t ask me before Sirius.”

“Your dates consist of dinner and then a cozy trip to the library for some quality studying time. Sorry, Moony, but I wouldn’t say you’re an expert on the ladies,” Sirius said kindly.

“Yes, I go to the library a lot,” Remus said patiently. “That means that I talk to Lily almost every day. We’re rather good friends, actually.”

“Oh, yeah,” James said, the brilliance of this dawning on him. “Yeah, that’s right! Does she say anything about me?”

Lupin swallowed uncomfortably. “She knows you’re my best mate, so she won’t say too much, but she thinks you’re a bit egotistical.”

“I know that,” James said gloomily, remembering how she’d shouted at him in the corridor the day before.

“Anyway, what I wanted to tell you was that she told me that she likes how I sort of hang back and listen to her. Apparently most of her other friends talk too much.”

“Wait, she fancies you?” Sirius said, alarmed.

James contemplated breaking Lupin’s nose for just a second.

“No, she doesn’t like me like that!” Lupin said quickly. “I was just saying that if I were you I’d try listening to her and chatting with her a bit. You know, as Plan A. Then Plan B can be the manipulation and all that.”

James laughed. “All right, I’ll give it a go. Anything else?”

Remus looked reluctant. “Well, there is, but she wanted to keep it between us.”

“Aah, you can tell me. I won’t tell another soul. Has she got a furry little problem too?”

“No,” Remus said, grinning. “I’ll tell you...later.”

“Hey, that’s not fair,” James protested.

Remus gestured around them at the crowded Great Hall. James nodded to show that he understood. What could Lily possibly have told Remus that she doesn’t want anyone else to know? he wondered. He felt a sudden burst of envy. Though he knew that no attraction existed between Remus and Lily, he longed for Lily’s confidence, hungered to know everything about her.

“Wormtail and I are going to get some things from Hogsmeade for the first-week-back party,” Sirius said quietly to James. “You game to come with us?”

James shook his head reluctantly. “Nah, I’ve got that bloody Potions essay due tomorrow for Slughorn. Haven’t even started. Take the cloak, though, you don’t want anyone to see you.”

Sirius nodded. “All right. Don’t spend too much time studying. You’re already Head Boy. If you become boring on top of that, I don’t think I can associate with you anymore.” He smirked.

“No worries there,” James said. “This N.E.W.T. level Potions work is awful. I just want to get it over with.”

He took his copy of Advanced Potion Making, cursing Libatius Borage, Horace Slughorn, and anyone else he could think of, and walked to the library. Sitting down at a vacant table, he took out a parchment and began chewing thoughtfully on the top of a quill. Amortentia, he wrote, and underlined it. That was the easy part. Now he had two feet of parchment to fill, and he couldn’t think of anything. He described the characteristic spirals of the steam and the mother-of-pearl sheen, the effect”love”and then began on the ingredients. By then, his eyes had glazed over slightly, his concentration hardly helped by Borage’s pedantic style.

“Studying hard, James?”

James looked up to see Lily, her arms full of books, looking amused. “I’m doing that Amortentia assignment for Slughorn,” he said gloomily.

“Well, that only took me about an hour, maybe less.”

“That’s really fantastic for you, Lily,” James said, trying to keep the sarcasm out of his voice.

“I was going to offer you help,” Lily said in a slightly haughty tone.

“Could you? That would be amazing,” James answered fervently.

Lily sat down beside him. Does this qualify as wanting to spend time with me? James wondered, while simultaneously pondering the depths to which he would sink in trying to construe Lily’s every action as affection.

“James, are you listening to me?”

James had been otherwise occupied by willing his fingers not to smooth back the strands of hair that fell into Lily’s face. “Yeah?”

“I said, that ingredient is supposed to be Ashwinder eggs, not Acromantula venom. You want to cause desire, not death. I corrected that too, by the way.”

“Did I say Amortentia causes death? I know I’m rubbish at Potions, but honestly....”

“No, you said love. Amortentia causes infatuation or strong desire. Love is...nothing can replicate it.” Lily turned pink and fell silent but for the scratching of her quill.

James broke the silence by saying, “Thanks for doing this, by the way. You’re a complete lifesaver.”

“Oh, it’s no problem. I was just here picking up a few books for this week, and you looked like you were about ready to pass out.”

“Books for school?”

“No, just for myself.”

“What a coincidence! I like to read, too,” James said, perhaps too eagerly.

“You do?”

“Well, er, I like Quidditch Through The Ages, I’ve read that loads of times.”

“See, I’ve never really understood the appeal of Quidditch,” Lily admitted.

“Oh, it’s an amazing game,” James said, his eyes widening earnestly. “I just love the wind through my hair, the adrenaline, the freedom. I know Seekers get all the glory, but being a Chaser...it’s right in the center of the action. When you get to the goalposts, it’s just you and the Keeper. I really think you’d like it better if you played.”

“Maybe,” Lily said carefully. “When I’m watching, I’m always scared that someone will fall. It seems so dangerous.”

“It’s not really that bad. Like I always say, though, there’s no fun without a little danger involved,” James said. “Tell you what, I’ll take you flying sometime. If you don’t have fun, I’ll eat an entire jar of Cockroach Cluster.”

“Deal,” Lily said, laughing. “Sometime. Anyway, the rest of your essay is fine. You just need to write a bit more, and you’re done.”

“Any suggestions to kill space?”

“Well, you could discuss the scent, in general and in particular.”

“It’s whatever attracts you, right?”

Lily nodded, and James wrote that down, then thought, In particular? Does she want to know? No, she’s just offering me suggestions; I’m being ridiculous. James surreptitiously inhaled. Lily smelled like soap, but the overwhelming scent of her hair was something almost fruity. “What sort of shampoo is that?” James asked casually, sneaking a sideways glance at her.

Lily turned a brilliant shade of scarlet. “Strawberry,” she said quietly.

His hazel eyes met her green ones and they gazed at each other wordlessly for a moment. James was seized with an overwhelming desire to kiss her. He knew that would cross a line but at the moment he couldn’t think of any reason that crossing that line would be a bad idea.

“A-anyway, that should b-be enough,” Lily stammered. “I should go. I have, um, reading to do." She gathered up her books and almost ran toward Madam Pince's desk.

“You won’t get much reading done,” James said. “It’s the first Friday back; we’re going to have a bit of a party. Well-supervised by yours truly, of course.”

“That sounds fun,” Lily said over her shoulder, still looking stricken. She hurried out of the library, clutching her precarious pile of books, before he could respond.

James tipped his chair back onto two legs and sighed as she left. He had always thought that he would one day understand girls in a sudden, giddy rush of enlightenment. Now, however, he felt further away than ever from comprehending anything about Lily. He shouldn’t have asked her about her hair, but he was sure she had been flattered for just a moment. Nevertheless, they had been having a perfectly friendly conversation until he had ruined it.

He rubbed his temple. Maybe Libatius Borage had written a complete guide to women as well. James snorted at the thought. Maybe Lily was just utterly mental, and that was what she had told Lupin. This was equally ridiculous, but James resolved to find Lupin anyway, sure that a bit more insight into Lily’s mind could only help his cause.
End Notes:
Thanks for reading! Please review-I'd love some input on the story of any kind. The next chapter will be from Lily's point of view and hopefully with less of a wait.
Chapter 4-Something There That Wasn't There Before by unjellify
Author's Notes:
I am not J.K. Rowling (obviously) and as such her characters and settings are not mine. In the spirit of giving credit, the chapter title, as all Disney fans know, comes from Beauty and the Beast.
Thanks to Erin and Soraya for their help in shaping this chapter into its current, beautiful version. Enjoy!


Lily had absorbed herself in Notable Magical Names of Our Time when her concentration was broken by a loud thunk and a cry of, “Godric damn it!”

She looked up to see Sirius hopping up and down on one foot, a Butterbeer keg at his feet. “Are you all right?” she asked, standing up and putting her book on her chair. “Where did you get that?”

“Yeah, I s’pose,” Sirius said, rubbing his toe and ignoring her second question entirely.

Lily raised her eyebrows. She barely noticed her surroundings whenever she read, and, until now, she had been unaware that students were steadily streaming into the Gryffindor common room.

“I’m a Marauder, Lily,” Sirius drawled. Peter Pettigrew climbed through the portrait hole behind Sirius with more bottles and nodded in agreement with a bright, emphatic smile.

“That doesn’t explain anything!” Lily said, rolling her eyes.

Au contraire, Miss Evans, it explains everything,” Sirius said. “Right, Prongs?”

“Indeed,” James said enigmatically.

Lily sat down next to him. “What is this Marauders thing all about anyway?” she asked him.

“Honestly, Evans, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” James answered, dropping his decorum and tilting his head back onto the top of the sofa cushion.

“Try me,” she answered.

Their fellow Gryffindors were already standing around the room, laughing and talking. Sirius put on a Muggle record by The Clash.

“Well, you see, it’s kind of a secret,” James said, tugging at the collar of his shirt.

“Fine,” Lily said, turning away. She wasn’t sure why she was so offended; after all, it wasn’t like they were friends. “It’s not like we’re friends,” she said aloud, for good measure.

“You just broke my heart, Evans. Don’t you feel horrible?” James smirked, adding seriously, “It’s just that it’s not my secret to tell.”

“I can understand that,” Lily said, softening. “All right, we’re friends, are you happy now?”

“Incandescently,” James said.

“So, I suppose the ridiculous nicknames are part of this secret?” she asked skeptically.

“Your powers of perception astound me,” he replied, grinning. “How dare you call ‘Prongs’ ridiculous, though? I’m thoroughly offended.”

“I’m sorry. What, do you have horns underneath that mop of hair?”

“No horns,” he said, though there seemed to be an inexplicable tone of mixed surprise and amusement in his voice.

Lily threw up her hands. “Argh, you’re absolutely ridiculous, acting like you’re in MI6 or something.”

“In what?”

“Oh, never mind.” She had almost forgotten that James knew practically nothing of the Muggle world. She and James had actually been having a normal conversation tonight, without either of them getting offended. This was refreshing and surprisingly fun. Most of Lily’s close female friends”Mary, Florence, Marlene”had seemingly lost the ability to converse about much of anything but boys, whether about Sirius Black, judged by Florence to be the most attractive boy at Hogwarts, or international Quidditch players.

Alice Wilkes approached with Mary close behind. “Alice!” Lily exclaimed. “How are you?” She hadn’t seen much of her friend’s round, pretty face lately, what with all the time Alice spent in the Herbology greenhouses.

“Oh, I’m wonderful,” Alice said. Since she had started going out with Frank Longbottom the previous year, Alice always exuded a glow of happiness no matter the situation. Lily wished that she had someone who made her so transcendentally blissful, yet she doubted that she ever would. Despite the slight twinge of jealousy, however, Lily appreciated her friend’s good fortune, not to mention that Alice managed to keep from being sickeningly starry-eyed.

“Anyway, James, you can’t have Lily all to yourself!” Mary put in. “Come over and talk to us.”

Lily excused herself politely and followed Mary and Alice to the circle of chairs in the corner in which the older Gryffindor girls were now sitting. She didn’t particularly relish the excessive gossiping and speculation that was sure to follow, but she did enjoy talking to her friends and forgetting about schoolwork for a moment or two.

“So, you’re spending your nights with James Potter?” Mary said, taking a sip from a bottle that looked suspiciously like Firewhiskey. She knew perfectly well that Lily patrolled with James every weekend night, but she had phrased that somewhat salaciously for the benefit of the group.

Lily seized a cushion from the nearest chintz armchair and threw it at her friend. “It’s just patrolling for an hour! Must you make everything sound so scandalous?”

“Yes,” Mary said complacently. “I must.”

“Well, he’s nowhere near as gorgeous as his mate Black, but Potter’s definitely handsome and very dateable,” Florence said. Dateable? Is that even an adjective? Lily wondered.

“I wouldn’t say Sirius is all that,” she objected. Though Sirius was fun to hang around with, Lily had never particularly seen the attraction. It could have been his long hair, or the haughty set of his jaw, or the fact that he was usually the instigator when the Marauders”what a ridiculous name”had made fun of other students.

“So it is Potter that you fancy,” Florence exclaimed. “I knew it!”

“For the last time, I don’t fancy James,” Lily said indignantly.

“In denial,” Mary sang. “Anyway, Florence, are you making a play for Sirius now? I thought you had a man.”

“No, that was last year. I couldn’t stay with him forever, not like Alice over there, who’s practically married.”

Alice turned slightly pink but did not protest.

“Oh, and Lily, if you’re really not interested in Potter, I know someone who’d like to meet you,” Florence added.

After a moment’s hesitation, Lily got up and followed her friend. She could have sworn she saw James turn from his friends and glance at her, but when she looked back he was waving his hands around animatedly, most likely describing a Quidditch match. Lily had a strange feeling of disloyalty, but she brushed it away. After all, they were barely even friends. It wasn’t like James would care if she talked to another boy, or that he had any right to care if she did.

“Lily, this is Carl; Carl, Lily,” Florence introduced them.

“Hi,” Carl said. “We’re in Transfiguration together, I think?”

Lily thought for a moment. She usually sat in the front, with Remus and Marlene. However, his voice did sound familiar. James and all of his Quidditch friends always argued loudly over their favorite professional players before class started; perhaps that was it. Yes, Lily was sure she had heard Carl yesterday contesting loudly that Ludo Bagman was the greatest Beater of all time. She dearly hoped that he wouldn’t start shouting at her about Quidditch. “Yes,” she said, in a tone that she hoped suggested both friendliness and a reluctance to talk about sports. “I know you.”

“You do?” Carl said eagerly, looking surprised and pleased. “That’s good,” he added, collecting himself and nodding in an easygoing sort of way.

Lily laughed. She had expected him to be railing on about Bagman already, but instead he was shy in a rather charming way.

They began awkwardly talking about the Transfiguration homework”how difficult it had been to transform an owl into a rat and back again, and how frightening it might be to transfigure themselves by year’s end. When they moved on to other topics of conversation, however, Lily found out that Carl had a Muggle father and consequently had read many of the same books and seen many of the same films that Lily had. By the time that students began to disperse in the directions of their respective dormitories, they were reminiscing about their favorite episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

“You know, this was really nice,” Lily said. “I was afr”” she started, but stopped, not wanting to offend Carl.

“Afraid that I would only talk about Quidditch?” Carl said, half-smiling.

Lily laughed and looked at the fire. “You caught me.”

“Well, don’t get me wrong, I love the sport. Tryouts are next week, actually. Wish me luck?”

“Good luck,” Lily said. “Anyway, I’m sorry, but I’d better go if I want to have a bit of a nap before patrol.”

“Goodnight, then. See you later?”

“Of course,” Lily said, smiling. She walked away with a wave, knowing Mary would be proud of her. Despite Mary’s dramatics, she was a good friend and had taught Lily everything she had learned from her own mistakes with the opposite sex.

Lily changed into her pajamas, crawled into bed, and closed her eyes, but sleep eluded her. She had so much on her mind”Ancient Runes homework, her conversation with Carl, patrol at midnight”and yet her mind kept returning to James and his stupid nickname, disclosed with a smile she had never seen before, a smile that said he knew something she didn’t. Though Lily was hardly a know-it-all, she hated to be the last one to know what was going on. She had had quite enough of that as a child; after all, Sev”to even think his name now made her stomach twist”had known for ages that she was a witch before she had.

Lily was still awake thinking when she looked up at the clock in the dormitory and saw that midnight was almost upon her. She jumped up, threw her robes over her pajamas, and ran as quietly as she could down to the common room, which appeared deserted. She turned to sit in one of the armchairs near the fire, but found that one was already occupied by Sirius. He seemed to be attempting to bond a Dungbomb to a Filibuster Firework using a muttered Permanent Sticking Charm.

Lily cleared her throat. “Sirius, as Head Girl, I must ask you to dispose of that or I shall have to confiscate it.”

“Well, Lily, as a concerned student, I must give you detention for roaming about at such a late hour.”

Sirius was, willfully or otherwise, so unclear on Hogwarts’ rules and regulations that Lily decided not even to address it. Instead, she said, “I’m looking for James. We have patrol tonight.”

“He’s in his bed, but....” Sirius trailed off with the same expression he wore when deciding how much of his culpability to reveal to Professor McGonagall.

“What?” Lily asked severely.

“He’s a bit, shall I say, intoxicated.”

Lily closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “That is very, shall I say, irresponsible of him,” she said.

“I don’t think he meant to drink as much as he did. He was...distracted. Either way, though, I must say that it’s not classy.”

“You are the expert on class,” Lily said, smiling. “Anyway, will you go get him up for me?”

“Prongs needs his beauty rest!”

“He’s Head Boy, and he has duties to perform regardless of his sobriety.”

“Speak English, will you? It’s too late for that sort of fanciful language. Anyway, if you want him, you can go.”

“The stairs won’t disappear from underneath me?”

“Nope. The founders trusted girls a damn sight more than boys, apparently.”

Sighing, Lily climbed the stairs to the boys’ dormitory and found James (who had pulled the covers up over his head) in the seventh year boys’ dormitory through an embarrassing process of elimination. “James!” she hissed, pulling the covers from over his face.

“Lily,” James said, his voice gravelly from sleep, rolling over and squinting at her. “Are you wearing anything under those robes?”

“Of course I am!” Lily said impatiently, shaking her head incredulously at him. “Anyway, we’re late for patrol. Come on, get up.”

“I’m sick,” James said, pulling the covers back over his head.

“You’re drunk.”

“No’m not,” James said indistinctly from beneath his bedclothes.

“This is ridiculous! It’s like talking to a five-year-old. You are getting up and that’s final.” Lily yanked the sheets completely off him and immediately wished she hadn’t; he was mostly undressed except for his underwear and socks. She could feel her face heat up, but only because she was embarrassed on James’ behalf. That was all.

“You sound like my mum,” James grumbled. “Help me up.”

With much effort from both of them, James was on his feet and had one arm braced against her shoulder. “That’s progress,” Lily remarked.

James let go of her and took several slow, deliberate steps forward. “Was that a straight line?” he asked hopefully.

“No,” she answered, smiling despite herself.

“Good enough. C’mon, Lily,” he said, enunciating each consonant a little too much as he made his way to the door.

“Would you perhaps want to put some clothes on first?”

With help from Lily, who flinched every time her fingers touched his bare skin, James was finally in a physically presentable state to patrol by quarter after midnight and seemed steadier on his feet.

After they had patrolled four floors without event, James seemed to have sobered up. He cleared his throat. “Did you have fun with that duffer Carl, then?” he asked, trying and failing to sound nonchalant.

“He’s not a duffer, and yes, I did.”

“Are you going to see him again?”

“I’d like to,” Lily answered.

James paused. “What’s wrong with me, Lily?” he asked.

“Just a guess, but I’d say you’re still a bit drunk.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

Lily had to think for a moment before she understood that he was really asking what was so right about Carl, and once she did, she wished she hadn’t.
End Notes:
Thanks for reading! Please review with comments of any kind; I loved the feedback I got last chapter. Next chapter is from James' perspective.
Chapter 5-What Friends Are For by unjellify
Author's Notes:
Disclaimer: I am (obviously) not J.K. Rowling and do not own the products of her wonderful imagination.
Thanks to Soraya and Erin for their excellent work editing this chapter.


“James, look at this!”

Wormtail’s nervous voice cut through James’ thoughts. Reluctantly, he put aside the letter he had been holding and looked up to see what Peter was worried about this time. Peter held up the morning edition of The Daily Prophet and stabbed his finger anxiously at an article on the front page.

“Wormtail, you worry too...Merlin’s beard!” James said, impatiently moving Peter’s finger aside and scanning the article. Ten Dead Outside Ministry Entrance, the headline read.

“Ten...that’s a lot,” James said, staring at the Prophet.

“It’s the Dark Lord, isn’t it?” Peter asked fearfully.

“Don’t bloody call him that,” Sirius said, so vehemently that his three friends looked at him in surprise.

“Well, that’s what other people call him. I’ve heard it in the halls. Besides, I think we should show him some respect,” Peter said faintly, gesturing to the article.

“Respect?” Sirius snorted. “He’s a deranged nutter who goes around killing people for sport with his Death Eaters. People say that he only recruits pure-bloods, but he’ll try to get anyone talented who is just as mad as he is.”

“How do you know all of that, mate?” James asked. He had never taken Sirius for a Dark Wizard expert.

“Back when I lived in the hellhole, my dear brother Regulus was obsessed with Voldemort”still is, probably. It was always, ‘The Dark Lord this,’ and ‘The Dark Lord that’. I expect Regulus’ll send Voldemort a valentine this year.”

“Could you at least call him He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?” Peter implored.

“If Voldemort wants to kill me for throwing his name around, he can come and get me.”

“Yeah, Padfoot’s right. Someone like that doesn’t deserve anyone’s respect,” James said.

Remus had remained curiously silent through this conversation. As James looked at him for support, Remus hastily dug his spoon into his porridge again.

“Come on, Moony, aren’t you with us?” Sirius asked.

“I hate him,” Remus said instantly, lowering his spoon, “but I’d be less cocky, Sirius. Maybe you don’t know what he and his friends do to those who offend them”and their families”but I do.”

This ended the conversation as if a brick had just landed in the middle of the table, though Remus kept his eyes fixed on his porridge.

“Oh, we’ve got letters too, haven’t we?” James asked Sirius, trying to alleviate the tension.

“Yeah, I almost forgot!” Sirius answered.

Both boys tore open the envelopes next to their plates, just as eager to change the topic as they were to open their mail.

James unfolded his letter and immediately recognized his father’s handwriting.

Dear James,

Sorry we have not written to you in these past few weeks, but your mother has been quite ill. She insists that it is merely seasonal and does not want you to worry unduly. I will inform you of any developments in her condition. Hope all is well at school.

Love,
Father


James frowned. There was something strange about the letter that he couldn’t quite put his finger on, but before he could read it again Sirius let out a whoop.

“What is it?” James asked, trying to peer over the top of the parchment.

“Well, it’s rather unfortunate, really; my Uncle Alphard died. I haven’t seen him since I was a kid, but he left me a small fortune, apparently! I always liked him best out of my otherwise-horrid bunch of relatives.”

Pettigrew’s mouth fell open in an almost comical expression of delight, and Lupin clapped Sirius on the back.

“That’s fantastic!” James exclaimed, almost too heartily, to make sure that he was adequately happy for Sirius despite his own worry.

“I mean, don’t get me wrong, Prongs, your family has been lovely to me, but I’m dead chuffed. This means I can stop imposing on you and get my own place.” Sirius took a last bite of scrambled eggs and settled back with a blissful expression on his face. “What about you?” he asked, gesturing to the letter still in James’ hand.

“Oh, nothing much,” James said, carefully keeping the smile on his face, “it’s just news from home.”

*

Since Sirius had been in Professor McGonagall’s office all afternoon because of an exploding Dungbomb that had mysteriously found its way into Professor Binns’ History of Magic classroom, James was on time to Potions. Usually, Sirius found something more interesting for them to do during their free period that resulted in tardiness for both of them. James was almost offended by his exclusion from the exploding Dungbomb plot; Sirius had never left him out of a prank before. Then again, James had to admit that he was always busy these days. Between classes, Quidditch trials, and his duties as Head Boy, he wouldn’t have had time for the elaborate schemes he had used to devise with Sirius.

For once, James had found Slughorn’s self-indulgent lecture interesting. This particular episode of Slug Club history concerned his promising student Damocles Belby, who had graduated a few years before, specialized in aconite, and still sent chocolates to Slughorn every Christmas. However, it was not the chocolate that interested James.

After dinner, which he ate in five minutes, he went to the library. He scanned the shelves, grabbing any book that he thought might mention aconite, monkshood, or wolfsbane. He flipped to the relevant page of One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi and began to read.

Aconitum, also commonly known as aconite, monkshood, or wolfsbane, is characterized by its dark green leaves and brightly colored petals resembling hoods, hence the nickname monkshood. It is highly toxic, especially to the gastrointestinal system, and consumption may prove fatal.

James skipped through a detailed list of related species before settling on another, more promising passage.

Much has been postulated about its possible role in a cure for lycanthropy, with varying degrees of effectiveness hypothesized by notable magical names of our time, including your noble author and acclaimed potioneer, Phyllida Spore.

She would’ve gotten along well with Slughorn, James thought, and snorted before he continued to read.

Despite its poisonous nature, it is believed by some that the proper application of aconite will not kill a werewolf, though it may be unwise to suggest such a theory in the face of anti-werewolf sentiment. Nevertheless, many potioneers throughout Wizarding history have come to a similar conclusion: that, brewed in a specific manner, aconite will combat the dementia that accompanies lycanthropic transformation and, though metamorphosis will occur, the werewolf will retain human emotion. However, such a potion has never been successfully created.

James’ reading was interrupted by the thunk of a book being slammed shut. He picked up his book, using a finger to mark the page, and peeked around a shelf to see Lily running an agitated hand through her dark red hair and tapping the point of her quill on her parchment.

“All right, Evans?” James asked, walking over to her.

“Oh, hi, James. It’s stupid, really; I haven’t been able to even start this Transfiguration homework and it’s almost curfew. I can’t imagine how I’d Transfigure myself.”

“You’d have to use a wand at first,” James said automatically, “but you can do without it after practice. You need to know somewhere deep inside that you can become the animal as you’re Transfiguring yourself.”

Noticing Lily’s look of surprise, he added, “At least, that’s what I would think.”

“You’ve done it before, haven’t you?” Lily said, almost indignantly.

“Once or twice, for a laugh,” James answered.

She studied him, trying to determine whether he was joking. “So it’s really just about confidence?” she asked finally.

“Not exactly. The key is concentration, both when you transfigure yourself and when you return to your human form.”

“Thank you,” Lily said. Her green eyes lingered on him. “I thought you only liked Quidditch Through The Ages,” she said suddenly, gesturing to the book in his hand.

“I’m just doing a bit of light reading,” James said. “Aconite.” He wished he hadn’t told her that, but he always tended to say too much in front of her.

“Really?” Her gaze seemed to be trying to reach inside him. “I thought you weren’t much into Potions.”

“Well, surprises will abound,” James said, rubbing his neck.

Lily seemed to realize his discomfort. “Lovely night, isn’t it?” she said, gesturing out of the window. “That full moon is beautiful.”

James looked over her shoulder and internally cursed. “Look at that moon; I have to go,” he said absentmindedly, throwing his book down on the table and dashing out of the library. It was September the twenty-seventh. How could he have forgotten? If anything went wrong, it was best that he be there, and a nagging voice inside told him he hadn’t been paying as much attention to his friends lately as he should have.

He knew by heart which corridors wouldn’t be patrolled by professors, and ran at top speed into the corridor outside the Great Hall. Sirius, Remus, and Peter would already be gone, of course; the transformation wouldn’t wait. He sprinted across the lawn and into the Forbidden Forest, knowing from experience that the best way not to get caught misbehaving was to do so quickly.

James wondered what Lily would think of him after that unceremonious exit, and simultaneously realized, with a sickened feeling, that tonight was patrol. How can I possibly be in two places at once? James thought. He still had half of a Charms essay to do, but at least he wasn’t missing Quidditch practice.

He stopped and leaned against the trunk of a tree. The roughness of the bark against his cheek brought him back to reality. I’m not turning, he thought. I’m inside the Forest now; I have to, but I’m not. He wasn’t concentrating, after all that he had told Lily. Forget Lily, forget patrol, forget homework, forget Quidditch.

He pictured the stag in his mind instead. Though he had never seen himself transformed, somehow he knew every contour of his animal self as well as he knew his human self. The particular burn and the increased heartbeat within his chest rewarded him. Transformation always began inside him”inside his heart, inside his mind, inside every muscle of his body”before spreading to his frame.

James was concentrating so thoroughly that he didn’t notice the rustle of the brush until he heard the growl. He was hunched, and his bones had the peculiarly pleasant feeling that preceded rearrangement. With a stomach-turning certainty he realized that the growl had come from Remus. Though several things happened in quick succession, James saw each clearly, as if the scene were a film in slow motion.

Remus jumped at him, still scenting the human upon James, but Sirius leapt at the same time, pulling Remus”no, not Remus, the werewolf”back by the scruff of the neck to stop him. Only the werewolf’s claws reached their intended target, while his jaws snapped futilely at the air. James barely felt the pain of the wounds those claws had inflicted. He had to keep concentrating. He couldn’t become human again now, and he couldn’t stay mid-transformation for long. Ignoring the rivulets of blood running down his stomach, turned cold by the autumn air, and the pain, he focused on the ache of his body reshaping itself, rapidly now.

James had collapsed; he stood up on all four legs, feeling the uncomfortable itch of the matted fur on his side. Remus seemed confused by the sudden absence of his prey, though the tang of blood was still in the air, and Sirius stood between them. They had a different sort of communication as animals, and James could tell simply by the way Sirius stood and the look in his gray eyes, so similar to those of the human Sirius, that he should go back to the castle, that he was no help to anyone wounded. Peter watched from a branch, his eyes unblinking and agreeing with Sirius. Before James could protest that he was fine, the black dog nudged the werewolf with his shoulder and tore off into the forest. Remus gave chase, and James understood that that was his signal to run.

James waited until he could see the castle through the trees before deciding that it was safe to transform. The return to his human form was much easier now that he had cleared his mind. He pushed aside the brush beside the roots of the only elder tree on the outskirts of the forest and lowered himself into the hole that appeared, as a sudden wave of dizziness almost overwhelmed him.

He came out behind the tree-filled landscape painting on the fourth floor, carefully swung the frame shut behind him, and brushed the dirt from his clothes. His right hand felt strangely sticky, and James squinted at it in the gloom. “Shit,” he muttered, realizing that his hand and his shirt were stained a dark crimson. He ran up the three flights of stairs, faced the Fat Lady, and gasped, “Gladius!”

“Correct,” the Fat Lady said, looking at him reprovingly as if she knew exactly how many rules he had broken that night.

James threw his cloak on a table in the silent common room and wriggled out of his blood-soaked shirt.

“Why is it that every time I see you lately you’re undressed?” Lily asked coolly, getting up from an armchair behind him.

“Lily! What are you doing here? It’s past curfew,” James informed her hypocritically.

“I was”I was worried”about you.”

“Well, Evans, I’m touched. Now, I really must be going to bed, so””

“James, I saw you go into the Forbidden Forest!” Lily burst out.

James was so surprised that he spun around to face her, and knew from Lily’s horrified expression that he shouldn’t have.

“What happened to you?” she whispered, the accusatory tone leaving her voice.

“Nothing. It’s just a flesh wound,” James said, hastily putting on his shirt. Since the shirt itself was saturated with blood, this did not appease Lily.

“If you don’t want to tell me, at least go to the hospital wing!”

“No! I can’t!” James said, seized by an irrational conviction that Madam Pomfrey would at once realize he had been attacked by a werewolf, and that Remus would be expelled on the spot.

Lily narrowed her eyes. “Fine, then I’ll get some dittany from Professor Slughorn. He won’t ask any questions; don’t worry!” she said impatiently as James opened his mouth to protest.

As Lily left and James sank onto the floor, he was struck by the idiocy of his never having learned any healing spells for more severe wounds. However, Lily soon returned, faster than James would have thought possible without Apparition. She carefully removed the stopper from the bottle of dittany, lifted up his bloody shirt between her thumb and forefinger, and dropped a few cool globules of the essence onto his wound. Immediately, James felt the itch of new skin beginning to form. “Thanks,” he said, knowing that word couldn’t possibly suffice for what she had done, and sitting up gingerly.

“You’re welcome,” Lily answered.

“One question, Lily: why all the heroics on my behalf?”

Lily was silent for a moment, and James could have sworn that he saw her blush by the light of the fire. “That’s what friends are for,” she said. She paused and then added fervently, “James, honestly, you could have died. I don’t know what you were doing out there, but nothing is worth that.”

“Some things are.” It wasn’t Remus’ fault that he was a werewolf. If the situation were reversed, James knew that all the other Marauders would risk their lives for him.
End Notes:
Thanks for reading! Next chapter will be from Lily's POV. Comments make my day, so please review with praise, criticism, or, if you so choose, existentialist musings.
Chapter 6-Trouble Brewing by unjellify
Author's Notes:
Disclaimer: I do not own any of J.K. Rowling's captivating creations.
Thanks to Soraya for her wonderful editing!


Lily looked down the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall toward James. He was rumpling his already constantly messy dark hair with one hand while talking to Sirius, Remus, and Peter. This idiosyncrasy had once annoyed her, as had everything else about James, but her erstwhile loathing for him had dissipated somehow without her noticing.

“You’re staring,” Mary said.

“At what?” Lily asked. A sixth-year Gryffindor girl had turned from her friends and was now talking to James. Lily couldn’t hear the conversation, but the sixth-year was giggling exaggeratedly and twisting her hair around her finger with remarkable frequency.

“Lily, you can’t be so outraged if you haven’t made a single move on him yet,” Mary said, following her eyes.

“Do I look outraged?” Lily asked innocently. “I just think that she is...embarrassing herself. Nobody wants to see that sort of disgusting flirting. I mean, people are eating.”

Mary sighed. “As your friend, may I just remind you that you are going to Hogsmeade today with Carl? So, since he is looking at you at this very moment, you should probably stop ogling James Potter.”

Though Lily did not want to prolong the conversation, she felt it necessary to mutter that she wasn’t ogling, just glancing in that direction, before swallowing another bite of her omelet and waving at Carl.

After breakfast, all students in third year and above queued up at the doors to the Great Hall. Filch methodically inspected each Hogsmeade permission slip before allowing the bearer out of the castle.

Lily and Mary were shunted along by the crowd until they were close behind James and his friends.

“...You think you could make that?” Remus was asking, an uncharacteristic excitement making his voice rise. “Think how much safer I’d be”how much safer we’d all be.”

“My specialty is Transfiguration, not Potions, as you well know”at least, it is usually,” James said with a rueful laugh, “but maybe someone else could make it. Someone like that Belby bloke.”

Belby. Why did that sound so familiar? Something in Potions class, thought Lily.

“Or Lily,” James added musingly, catching her attention again.

“You haven’t told her, have you?” Remus asked, his tone suddenly panicked and his voice cracking on the last word.

“No, of course not; how daft do you think I am?”

Lily’s brow furrowed. James seemed to be keeping quite a few secrets from her. However, she was more surprised that Remus didn’t want her to know something”after all, they had talked about everything from their highest aspirations to their deepest insecurities during their many meetings in the library.

“You’re utterly daft around Evans,” Sirius said, snickering.

James shoved him lightly, and the conversation degenerated into a series of friendly insults.

“Did you hear that?” Lily asked Mary.

“What they were saying? Yeah, something about you and potions, but I wasn’t really listening.”

“It’s not important,” Lily said. She walked slowly along the path that led off the castle grounds and into Hogsmeade so that Carl could catch up with her.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hi,” Lily said, smiling. “How are you?”

Carl looked over at the Quidditch pitch to their left. “Exhausted, mostly,” he confessed. “The match is in two weeks, and James has got us training almost every night. Not that we don’t need it; Slytherin is”I hate to say it”quite good this year.”

“Slytherin has got quite the Keeper in Jared Bletchley, I hear,” Lily said. She, like every other Gryffindor, fell into the competitive spirit as the first match of the season versus Slytherin neared. Besides, Lily didn’t have anything against Quidditch; she just didn’t think it was worth shouting about.

“They do,” Carl said, surprised. “Here I was thinking you weren’t much for Quidditch!”

Lily shrugged. She didn’t follow Slytherin’s lineup very closely, but James had spent at least fifteen minutes straight during the previous night’s patrol ranting about Jared Bletchley. Lily had finally yelled at him to stop talking so loudly, after which they had glared at each other for a moment before dissolving into badly stifled peals of laughter. She grinned at the memory.

“I’m sure you’ll be able to score anyway,” she said to Carl. “You’re an excellent Chaser.”

The tips of Carl’s ears turned red. “Thanks,” he said.

“Anyway, I should visit Scrivenshaft’s first,” Lily said hastily. She did not usually give such bald compliments, and she wasn’t sure what to do in the aftermath of one. “I need a new quill,” she added unnecessarily.

“Of course, yeah,” Carl said, obviously bemused by her discomfort. “I could use one, too, come to think of it.”

Lily looked at him gratefully, and together they walked up the main street of Hogsmeade.

*

Carl and Lily ended up in The Three Broomsticks. Though Carl had offered to take her to Madam Puddifoot’s, Lily had declined, and Carl had been vastly relieved. Lily had been to the tea shop only once, and the perfume saturating the air coupled with the luridly pink interior had made her feel quite ill.

They were commiserating about a particularly nasty Venomous Tentacula in Greenhouse Three when their Butterbeers came.

“When it reached out to grab me, I very nearly screamed,” Lily said ashamedly.

“I would hardly blame you. That plant is out for blood, I swear!” Carl took a sip of his Butterbeer.

Lily was about to respond when she was distracted by the strains of shouting coming through the window by their table. She turned and saw James fishing in his robe for his wand, face contorted in fury, and, by all appearances, preparing to hex someone Lily couldn’t see.

“Carl, I’ll be back in a moment,” Lily said. She scrambled out of her chair and dashed out of the door.

Her eyes swept the improbable scene in an instant. James was facing Sev and Lucius Malfoy, both of whom were brandishing their wands as well. James’ arm was drawn back, ready to cast another curse.

Lily reacted immediately, running at James and catching him around the middle, trying to knock him sideways or, at the very least, draw him backwards. “James, stop!” she yelled as Severus’ face darkened. What could Sev possibly have said to make James so angry? Lily wondered.

“Me, stop? Why aren’t you yelling at these two?” James asked angrily, trying to remove her arms from his waist.

“You’re Head Boy! They aren’t! Protego totalum,” she added hastily, thrusting her wand in front of herself and James at the same time as Sev began to shout, “Sectum””

However, before he could finish, Lucius interrupted, “Careful, Severus.”

Sev lowered his wand, looking like a sulky child. Lucius stepped forward. His long blond hair shone in the sunlight, but that was the sole feature of his that looked familiar to Lily. She had seen him only in the halls when he had been at Hogwarts, but even one glance now was enough to tell her that his face was harder, somehow, and his eyes were absolutely devoid of emotion. His expression gave her chills.

Lily let go of James when he stopped straining against her grasp, and positioned herself between him and Severus. “Thirty points from Slytherin and thirty points from Gryffindor...yes, James, from my own house,” she said tersely, looking from Sev to James. “Your behavior is disgraceful and against school rules”and you, Lucius, should not be causing trouble among students.”

“Lily Evans,” Lucius said. He moved closer to her and examined her critically and methodically, as if she were a piece of meat. Lily trembled involuntarily at his gaze, though she tried to keep her posture perfect. Neither Lucius nor James missed this slight display of fear; Lucius smiled, and James stepped in front of Lily, pushing her behind him.

Lucius’ pale brow furrowed for a moment, and then his smile grew wider. “Have a crush, Potter?”

Lily could not see James’ face, but he did not relax his stance, and the arm that held his wand at his side twitched. “Leave her alone, Malfoy,” James said coldly.

“Oh, but this is cute!” Lucius drawled, chuckling. “With the company you keep at Hogwarts”blood traitors, weaklings, abominations”I thought you could sink no lower, but you fancy the filthy Mudblood, don’t you? Surprises will abound....”

James leaped at Malfoy, knocked him to the ground, and began trying to hit every part of him he could reach, kicking Lucius’ wand away with one foot. His own wand lay forgotten where he had dropped it; Lily picked it up quickly.

Sev started toward James and Lucius with his wand, but Lily cried, “Expelliarmus!”

Before she could decide what to do about the fight that was currently taking place, Carl, who had apparently decided to intervene, ran to them and pulled James off of Lucius, although James was clearly not finished. He lunged at Lucius, but Carl’s bear hug held him back.

“Are we fist-fighting, Potter?” Professor McGonagall asked, appearing from nowhere, her nostrils flaring.

Lily blanched. She didn’t know how long Professor McGonagall had been watching, but at any rate James had completely disgraced himself as Head Boy.

“If Smith would let me go, Professor,” James answered through his teeth, still looking daggers at Lucius.

“I think you had better come back to the school with me to see Professor Dumbledore,” Professor McGonagall said, her tone unreadable. “You too, Miss Evans,” she added.

“Evans didn’t do anything except take thirty points off our own house,” James muttered, regaining control of himself with a palpable effort.

“As well she should have,” Professor McGonagall said curtly. “Mr. Malfoy, I would suggest that you make yourself scarce and fix your nose; Mr. Potter seems to have done quite a job on it. Mr. Snape, I shall inform Professor Slughorn of your behavior earlier, and, Miss Evans, if you could return his wand...?”

Lily reluctantly walked to where Sev was standing and handed him his wand. Severus looked at her balefully. What is wrong with him? Lily thought. She studied him for a moment”his skinny frame, his pallid, scowling face, his hunched shoulders”and was reminded painfully of the boy who had been her best friend. Like Lucius, however, Sev had changed, and there was nothing left of that boy in him now.

She turned and followed Professor McGonagall and James to the castle without looking back.
End Notes:
Thanks for reading! Next chapter is from James' point of view. Please review: I respond to every one and I really appreciate them all. :)
Chapter 7-The Storm Is Coming In by unjellify
Author's Notes:
Hi everyone! I apologize for the hiatus in updating--March was an unbelievably busy month for me. The chapter title comes from the (brilliant) lyrics to Degausser by Brand New, and as usual, everything from the Potter-verse belongs to the incredible J.K. Rowling. Thanks to Soraya for her wonderful editing skills!


Professor Dumbledore steepled his fingers and considered James over the tops of his half-moon glasses. “I trust you know why you are here, Mr. Potter?”

James wondered whether it would be best to play dumb or to own up to what he had done. “Why, Professor?”

“I think our time here would be better suited to discussing not why, but how those circumstances came about. I am referring, of course, to your duel and fisticuffs with Mr. Malfoy.”

“Yeah...the, er, fisticuffs,” James said. “I’m really sorry about that, Professor. I realize that’s not how I’m supposed to act as Head Boy.”

“Most certainly not. However, I do know that Mr. Malfoy seemed to have been trying to convince you of something.”

“Yes,” James said reluctantly, feeling Dumbledore’s eyes boring into him, “he was.”

He paused. Over the years, with all the misadventures he and Sirius had got into, James had become an expert at editing the compromising bits out of the reports he gave to his teachers. This, however, required somewhat more delicacy. “You see, I’m...I’m quite good at Transfiguration, I suppose.” He stopped.

“Lord Voldemort would like you to teach his followers how to become animals at will?”

James’ eyes widened despite his best efforts. “Something like that.”

“Think what advantages that would hold for the Death Eaters. After all, nobody thinks that animals are listening. However, the magic required to become an Animagus is very difficult and very...impressive.” Dumbledore’s eyes again seemed to be looking inside James.

James stayed silent.

“I assume you refused?”

“Yeah, of course. I mean, Voldemort’s a complete nutter.”

“A ‘nutter’? Mr. Potter, we must never forget that he is very dangerous, very intelligent, and very persuasive. It is only when we let our guard down that he can find a way inside us.”

“Maybe that’s why Malfoy and Snape didn’t like it too much when I said that.”

“You told Lucius Malfoy that Lord Voldemort is a nutter?” If the situation hadn’t been so serious, James would’ve sworn that Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled.

“I know he’s dangerous and all that. It just...it just seemed right at the time.” He knew it had been a foolish thing to say, but Malfoy just made him so furious. How dare he even think, just because James was a pure-blood, that he would ever want to help the Death Eaters?

“I see.”

There was silence for a moment, punctuated only by the whir of one of the instruments on Dumbledore’s desk.

“Professor, am I still Head Boy?” James asked finally. “I know dueling is against the rules, and I didn’t keep control of myself like I’m supposed to.”

“You know, that’s an interesting question,” Dumbledore said conversationally. “Dueling is against the rules at Hogwarts, as is fist-fighting, and your behavior today is certainly not the way I would expect a model student to act.”

“I’ve never been a model student,” James said, before he could stop himself. “Remus has. I mean, I’m good in school, but I always thought I caused far too much trouble with Sirius and the rest of them to be Head Boy anyway.”

“You see, that’s exactly why I chose you. Remus Lupin has many virtues, but knowing the mind of a troublemaker is not one of them. You have initiative, for better or for worse, and you have courage. Both your and Miss Evans’ fortitude impressed me greatly today, as much as the situation gave me chagrin.”

It wasn’t courage, James thought. When Malfoy had stood there, laughing, making Lily cringe with his gaze, James had felt a frightening surge of deep hatred that he had never experienced before. Was that what Voldemort did to people, spread his darkness inside of them without their even knowing it?

“Mr. Potter,” Dumbledore said, interrupting his thoughts, “since you are already receiving job offers, I believe that now is the opportune time to talk to you about your plans after Hogwarts.”

James couldn’t see how this was the opportune time at all. He had fully expected at least to have got detention by now. “Well,” he said, bewildered, “I plan to be an Auror.”

“Why?” Dumbledore asked, his blue eyes focused on James in a penetrating way that made him uneasy.

“I want to fight Voldemort and his followers, to be honest. It’s horrible how many people he’s already killed or”or deluded into thinking that certain kinds of people aren’t as good as everyone else”and I’m going to stop him any way I can.”

“That is certainly very admirable. I must remind you, however, that Aurors work for the Ministry, which Voldemort is tenaciously attempting to infiltrate.”

“What are you saying?” James asked quickly.

“You would be better served fighting Voldemort from a position that is not so directly under his scrutiny. Mind you, everything I am about to tell you is strictly confidential.”

“Yes, sir.”

“What do you know about the Order of the Phoenix?”

“Nothing, sir.”

Dumbledore nodded. “The Order of the Phoenix is an organization that I have formed in order to oppose Voldemort. You would be a valuable addition to the group, with your considerable talents. I must warn you, however, that you are now making a choice, as everyone must, between what is right and what is easy. Fighting Voldemort will not be easy. Even now, with your laudable ideals, you are still at Hogwarts under the protection of the professors here and the ancient magic of the school itself. There will be times, should you choose to accept, that you will face death, that you will watch those you love die around you.” He paused.

“I’ll join,” James said immediately. “I don’t care”I do, but I know fighting is more important. I couldn’t imagine living in a world where Voldemort has won.”

“Are you certain? Keep in mind that you do not have to give me an answer at once, and you must not let your impulses get the better of you.”

“No, sir, I know. I want to fight, and I want to join the Order.”

“Very well.” Dumbledore beamed, and there was an air of finality in his tone as he said, “Do try to stay out of trouble, Mr. Potter.”

James nodded, got up.

“Oh, and would you send Miss Evans up, please?”

James nodded, and then his stomach dropped unpleasantly. You will watch those you love die around you. The words echoed in his head. “Professor?” he asked, looking back.

“Yes?”

“I wouldn’t watch anyone die. The Death Eaters would have to kill”anyone else”over my dead body.”

“Mr. Potter, you cannot always make that choice. However, your bravery is, and has always been, that of a true Gryffindor. It amazes me that you have ever wondered why I chose you as Head Boy.” Dumbledore’s normally probing gaze softened slightly.

“Thank you, sir,” James said, clearing his throat and ducking his head. “I’ll tell Lily to come in.”

Lily was standing outside the stone gargoyle when James stepped off the slowly revolving spiral staircase. Professor McGonagall was near the end of the hall, telling off some third-years who were skiving off class.

“What did Professor Dumbledore say?” Lily asked anxiously.

“I’m still Head Boy,” James said.

“You have all the luck, James,” Lily said, laughing shakily.

James hadn’t realized that she could have been nervous about his getting in trouble; after all, she had been the one docking points from him. For a moment, looking into her face with its wrinkled brow and wide, bright eyes, he was tempted not to relay Dumbledore’s message. If Dumbledore asked her as well, as James was sure he would, Lily would acquiesce. A terrible vision of her lying on the ground, those green eyes staring blankly into space, crossed his mind, and he knew that he would put himself in danger a thousand times over rather than ever see that ghastly image come to fruition. Nevertheless, he had to tell her.

“Lily, Dumbledore wants to see you,” James said, before he could have a chance to talk himself out of it.

“Oh, I knew I should have stopped you from hitting Malfoy!”

“Don’t worry about that. Just...go,” he answered, squeezing her shoulder.

Lily nodded, positioned herself in front of the gargoyle, and, just as Professor McGonagall had instructed them, said, “Butterscotch!”

As the gargoyle leapt aside and Lily stepped onto the staircase, James got the unshakeable feeling that he had just made a terrible mistake.

*

“So you beat up Malfoy and got off scot-free?” Sirius asked at dinner that evening, leaning on his elbows to goggle at James across the table.

“I did.”

“Wicked!” Sirius’ eyes gleamed. “That’s the Prongs I know and love. I only wish you’d got in a punch at Snivellus.”

“Don’t we all,” James answered. He didn’t like the way Snape looked at Lily. “Did you do the Potions homework yet?”

“You’re joking, right? It’s not due until tomorrow morning!” Sirius said confidently. “Could you stop being Bighead Boy for just a minute?”

“I just don’t understand Potions anymore. I don’t know how Lily does it,” James said, raking a hand through his hair.

“She’s a bloody genius, that’s how. Smartest girl I’ve ever met.”

“She’s out of my league, isn’t she?” James asked.

“What? Godric damn it, James, man up. She finally fancies you after years; don’t start moaning now about how you’re not good enough.”

“You’ve been thinking that too?” James asked. If Sirius could see that Lily liked him, surely it wasn’t wishful thinking. But she was going out with Carl, that idiot. He would never understand her.

“It’s obvious,” Sirius said. “Oh, bloody hell, McGonagall’s heading for us.”

“What did you do this time, and why wasn’t I invited along?”

“Nothing, I swear. Sure, there was that episode with the Dungbombs I bought at Zonko’s yesterday, but I blamed it all on Alice Wilkes.”

“Alice?” James snorted. “You’d have to be a real duffer to buy that.”

“It’s always the quiet ones who are up to something.” Sirius shrugged and tipped his head back, smirking.

As McGonagall drew closer, she wasn’t wearing any of her usual expressions”disappointment, annoyance, exasperation, or even outrage. “Potter,” she said quietly when she reached them, “if you could come with me to my office for just a moment.”

James followed her, meeting the quizzical look from Sirius with equal bewilderment.

Once they were seated in Professor McGonagall’s office, she offered him a Ginger Newt. This had become a sort of ritual between them over the years, and by now James felt the sinking feeling that preceded a detention whenever he tasted the sharp bite of ginger on his tongue.

Professor McGonagall looked at him down her long nose and shifted uncomfortably in her chair. “Mr. Potter, I don’t know how else to put this, but your mother is extremely ill. Your father recently sent me a request, which I have approved, that you be sent home a month early for the Christmas holidays so that you can be with her.”

James sank back in his chair, stunned. He felt as if he’d been punched in the stomach. Going home a month early? That sounded as if his mother were.... No, James thought, people get sick all the time. “Do you know what it is, Professor?” he asked dully.

Professor McGonagall glanced up at him. After all, he usually addressed her as, ‘Mc”Professor.’ “No, Potter,” she said, “I don’t. Apparently she has been to St. Mungo’s several times this autumn.” Her normally reedy voice suddenly seemed rather thick. “At any rate, you will be given all the work possible ahead of time, although Professor Slughorn has informed me that in order to adequately prepare for your N.E.W.T.s you must finish all of your Potions work before you leave.”

She cleared her throat. “That is all.”

James got up to go, feeling as if he were watching himself do so. “Thank you, Professor,” he said, and even his voice sounded alien to him.

“Potter? If you need anyone to talk to, you know where to find me.”

“Thank you, Professor,” he repeated. He didn’t want to talk to anyone about this”not Sirius, not Remus, not Peter”let alone her.

James couldn’t remember how he got to the Gryffindor common room upon his arrival. He slammed the portrait behind him, causing a shriek of outrage from the Fat Lady, and hurried past the groups of students studying so that no one would try to talk to him.

As if all the haste had sapped his last bit of strength, he climbed the stairs slowly and staggered into the boys’ dormitory. With a sigh, he flopped down on his bed and stared at his pillow. He couldn’t summon himself to care about anything at the moment.

Why hadn’t his father even written to him if his mother’s condition had suddenly worsened? It didn’t really matter, though. All he could do was wait”wait to go home, wait for the Healers to figure out what was wrong with his mother. It seemed like months ago that Dumbledore had asked him to join the Order. Well, James was ready now, ready to fight or kill or die or whatever it might take to fill the emptiness inside him.
End Notes:
Thanks for reading! Hopefully, the events of Chapter 6 are a lot clearer now. Next chapter will be from Lily's POV. Please review--I love all comments, whether they be praise or criticism or a little bit of both.
Chapter 8-Flying Lessons by unjellify
Author's Notes:
Sorry for the long wait, everyone! Luckily, summer is starting, so the updates will come more quickly. As usual, I am not J.K. Rowling, and cannot take credit for her creations. Thanks to Soraya and Erin for fantastic editing!



“James!” Lily kicked his chair swiftly right before Professor Slughorn began to circle the room again.

Damn Sirius. He was sleeping in again, no doubt because he hadn’t done the work, and since Remus was across the room, that left Lily to take care of James. As a seventeen-year-old boy, he shouldn’t have even needed a caretaker.

James jerked awake, rubbed his eyes, and flipped frantically through Advanced Potion Making. He was about to turn around to Lily when Slughorn stopped, peering into James’ cauldron. “Taking our time, are we, Mr. Potter?”

“Yes, Professor,” James said. “Sirius would usually take the lead on something like Veritaserum.” He said it with such guileless sincerity, though he was lying through his teeth.

“Very well. Miss Evans, perhaps you could help him? Although Miss Wilkes is absent, you seem to have managed a wonderful Veritaserum already.”

For a moment, Lily was tempted to ask him to test it on James, and ask why James couldn’t sleep at night. The urge soon passed, however, because it wouldn’t work fresh-brewed anyway, and in fact, it might actually kill James. “Of course, sir,” Lily said. “I’ll help James with his potion. Sirius is such a skilled potion-maker that James must be just lost without him. Shame, really.”

James’ eyes flicked towards her as Lily pulled her chair over to his cauldron.

As soon as Professor Slughorn moved toward the next group, Lily sliced the fumewort into increasingly smaller pieces with a vengeance and finally dumped it into the cauldron.

James glanced at her cautiously. “Are you””

“Okay? Am I okay? Well, let me see, James, word got back to Professor McGonagall from that barmy Divination professor, after weeks, that Alice Wilkes, of all people, put Dungbombs in the place of her incense, when everyone knows it was Sirius, who incidentally couldn’t even bother to show up to lesson today”” Lily stopped abruptly to take a breath. “Alice is in McGonagall’s office right now. Half the time, it has become my job to wake you up enough to pay attention during lessons, and for the past three weeks, I’ve had to come into your dormitory myself and get you for patrol. Maybe I’m just a bit cross at the moment. What’s wrong with you, James? What can possibly be so damn important that you have to do all your sleeping during the day?”

James shrugged.

“Seriously. Is it Quidditch? I realize that the game is tomorrow, but if that’s the reason I’m picking up all of your slack, I swear to God.... Tell me, James. I’d love to hear.” She poured a cup of dragon’s blood into the mixture and thrust the ladle at him. “Stir clockwise three times.”

James did so, and Lily sighed. He really did look ill. He had deep shadows under his eyes and a couple days’ worth of stubble on his cheeks. His skin was tinged gray. As if to protect himself from any further accusations from her, he was staring at the floor, his shoulders hunched.

Lily felt her chest tighten. Though she detested James’ appalling braggadocio, this sudden lack of it gave her a pang. “I”I’m sorry,” she stammered, laying a hand lightly on his arm. “You don’t have to tell me what’s wrong; I’m just worried, that’s all.”

James shook his head. “Don’t worry about me. I’m fine,” he said, forcing himself to smile.

She didn’t believe it, and she suspected he didn’t believe himself. His lies were usually airtight, but not this one.

“I’m fine,” James repeated firmly.

They sat in near silence for a while, the lie hanging between them, while Lily added ingredients and softly told him when to stir. Before long, the potion had boiled down to a clear and colorless liquid.

“Is that it?” James murmured, as if he didn’t want to disrupt the quiet.

“Give or take a full moon cycle,” Lily said.

James nodded. Lily looked around. Somehow, it had taken her less time to prepare two cauldrons of Veritaserum than it had taken most of her classmates to prepare one. The only other person in the room sitting idly, besides her and James, was Severus. He stared into his cauldron, his heavy brows drawn. Sev brooded like that often, but that had always been the point at which Lily would join him and start a conversation, and Sev’s face would relax. His Death Eater friends would have to do that for him now. Lily had nothing to say to him. He had made his choices.

She looked over at James, but strangely, his face was wearing the same expression as Sev’s”one of anger, and almost desperation.

“James,” Lily said, feeling reckless.

He looked up, startled. “Yeah?”

“I seem to remember that you promised to give me flying lessons.”

“You don’t need to do that, Lily.” His face softened. “I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but honestly””

“I have a sudden urge to take my life in my hands and get on a broomstick for the first time in six years. Are you going to keep me safe or not, Potter?” Lily asked.

“Well, when you put it like that....”

“What about tonight?”

“Yeah,” James said slowly. “No better practice for the Slytherin match, is there?” He looked more alive than Lily had seen him in weeks. “Tonight, we’re practicing as a team for an hour or so.... How about eight?”

“I’ll pencil it in,” Lily said primly.

James smiled, a real one this time. The ghost of whatever was plaguing him still hung in his eyes, but they both knew what Lily had just done. “Eight it is, then, Lily,” he said.

Professor Slughorn waddled past and examined the cauldron’s contents. “Excellent, excellent,” he said jovially, directing his compliment more towards Lily than towards James. “You two are quite a team.”

“Thank you, Professor,” Lily answered, glowing with the praise.

“Actually, Lily here might be just the one you need, Mr. Potter.”

Both Lily and James looked at each other and then at Slughorn, flustered.

“Oh, dear. Don’t mistake me,” Slughorn chuckled. “I meant that Mr. Potter has a great deal of extra Potions work, and you, Lily, would be just the person to help him. If you have time in your busy schedule, of course.”

“Yes, Professor,” Lily said. “I’d be happy to help James.”

“Capital. I thought we could start tomorrow evening. Tonight, of course, I wouldn’t want to be seen as sabotaging you before the match, Potter,” Slughorn said mildly.

James nodded. “Thank you, sir,” he said.

However, Slughorn had already made a beeline for Severus’ potion, booming, “Exemplary work, young Snape, exemplary!”

“Thanks, Lily,” James said, once Slughorn was out of earshot. “For everything.”

Lily just smiled, but her smile soon faded. What could be bothering James? she wondered. A moment later, her concern was replaced by guilt. Carl had been almost manic lately as the Slytherin match neared, but Lily hadn’t given a second thought to him. She did like Carl. He was handsome, smart, and even good for a laugh when he relaxed. She just had to remind herself of that.

Consequently, she fretted all through dinner. “Do you think Carl will mind?” she whispered finally to Mary, who kept casting sidelong glances at her.

“Mind what?”

“I don’t know. My spending the evening with James. I haven’t been making much time for him lately.”

“Who, James?”

“No, Carl! He might feel left out.”

“You already spend every weekend night with James patrolling the halls as it is. You could be shagging each other, for all anyone else knows. If Carl isn’t jealous yet, then a bit of flying won’t matter.”

“James is not shagging me!” Lily hissed.

“The lady doth protest too much,” Mary said, meriting a swat from Lily. “I was merely saying that you spend most of your free time with James anyway, so what difference would another couple of hours make?”

Mary did have a point. Lily relaxed and turned to the pudding that had just appeared on the table.

*

At five minutes to eight that night, Lily set out for the Quidditch pitch, her robes flapping about her ankles in the wind. She could see the silhouetted figures of the seven members of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, all in motion. So as not to disturb them, she quietly ascended the stands and sat down. James was barely a blur as he flew towards the goalposts, but at the last second he passed the Quaffle back to Carl. Lily could swear that James was about to hit Matthew Spinnet, the Keeper, and she bit her lip to keep from crying out. Just as the two were about to collide, however, James swerved away sharply, and Carl scored. The whole team, even those who had been defending the goal, burst into whoops and cheers.

“All right, everyone!” James yelled. “We’ve got our strategy for tomorrow. Davies, Martin, watch out for Bletchley. Hit him with your bats if you’ve got to. No, I’m only joking. Mostly. Carl, Vivian, fantastic job tonight. You too, Matt. Bobby, get a good night’s sleep. If Slytherin starts playing dirty, as usual, catch the Snitch as fast as you can. It’s the first game of the season; I want us to win without anyone getting injured.”

“On three!” Carl yelled.

“One...two...three...GRYFFINDOR!” the team roared, and slowly broke apart as they sank to the ground.

Carl waved at Lily as he walked across the pitch toward the changing rooms and she made her way back down the stands. “Come to watch?” he asked, obviously bewildered.

Lily flushed. “Something like that,” she said, cursing her traitorous complexion. She wasn’t doing anything wrong.

Carl looked behind them and saw James a few feet away, waiting. Barely perceptibly, Carl’s lips tightened. “Well, I’ll see you later, Lily,” he said, his knuckles turning white around the handle of his broom as he walked away.

“Goodbye,” Lily called after him, but Carl didn’t respond.

“Hello,” James said. “More than punctual, as usual. He seemed a bit pissed off,” he added, his eyes flicking towards Carl’s back.

“It’s nothing,” Lily said, hoping that Mary had been right.

James ran a hand through his sweaty hair. “I’ll just rinse off and be back in a minute. Shall I get you a broom?” he asked, gesturing toward the changing rooms.

“Yes, thanks,” Lily said, still thinking about Carl. Had he not realized that she and James were friends?

“You aren’t getting cold feet, are you?” James asked, with a crooked half-smile.

“No, it’s not that. I’m just tired.”

James paused and looked at her, his head cocked to the side, but he turned as it became apparent that she wasn’t going to say anything else. Lily sat down as he left and closed her eyes, trying to clear her head. If only I hadn’t blushed, she thought. That only made the situation worse. He is going to think we’re up to something, but we’re not! If it were Mary who needed cheering up, he wouldn’t have minded.

Then again, another internal voice said fairly, you’re at no risk of liking Mary as anything more than a friend.

I’m not risking anything with James, either. Until recently, everything about him irritated me, in case anyone has forgotten! Lily thought angrily. She suddenly realized that she was carrying on a mental conversation with herself.

“You there, Evans?” James said.

Lily looked up to see James standing in front of her, holding two brooms and staring at her, amused. She walked onto the pitch and took the proffered broom from him, embarrassed.

“Now,” James said, looking serious, “what you’re going to do is put your broom on the ground next to you, stick out your right hand, say, ‘Up,’ and concentrate very hard on””

Lily burst out laughing. “I already know how to fly a broom; I just don’t very often.”

“Are you having a go at my teaching style?” James asked, the corners of his mouth twitching.

“Say ‘Up?’” Lily repeated, mounting her broom. “Who made you Quidditch Captain, Potter?”

“For your information, Evans, your grip is all wrong. Here, let me.” James dropped his broom and walked over to her.

He pried her fingers from the broom’s handle. “Now, if you hold it with your right hand here and your left hand down there, with your thumb like this, you’re much less likely to lose your hold on it,” he said, putting his hand over hers and pulling it back on the broomstick.

As soon as her left hand was in the correct position, however, James jerked his hand away.

“Are all your fingers still there?” Lily asked mildly, though the fine hair on her arms was standing up.

James gave a short laugh and nodded. “Your grip’s all right now,” he added unnecessarily.

“Well, you’re an excellent teacher; I take back everything I said before,” Lily said.

“Thanks. I know.” James mounted his broom deftly and pushed off, and Lily did the same.

“Always the tone of humility,” Lily said, rising off the ground. Her stomach seemed displeased with this new development, but she had to admit that there was something exhilarating about being this much closer to the stars.

James flew towards her. Lily had no idea what he was doing until he reached out and tapped her shoulder. “You’re it,” he said, grinning and darting away.

“Does ‘haven’t been on a broom in six years’ mean anything to you?” Lily called, cautiously giving chase.

James stopped and waited for her until she was barely two feet from him, at which point he dived sharply.

“Oh, not fair!” Lily yelled, diving after him; the loose, straggling strands of red hair around her face were fluttering backwards. “I’m going to”to””

“You’ll have to catch me first, Evans,” James interrupted.

Lily slowly remembered the nuances of flying, shifting her weight forwards and accelerating. Soon, she was almost matching James’ speed. He would let her get just close enough to catch him before adeptly avoiding her outstretched hand.

Finally, Lily said, “James, I’m absolutely exhausted.”

“Really?” he asked, turning his head.

“No,” she said, reaching forwards. “You’re it.”

“That was low!” James roared in mock outrage as Lily accelerated away from him.

After three more lengthy rounds of tag, Lily called, “Seriously, James, I surrender,” letting herself sink to the ground. Her sides ached from laughing and the wind had completely taken her breath away. As soon as her feet touched the grass of the pitch, she rolled off her broom and onto the ground.

James dismounted his broom and lay down next to her, stray strands of hair plastered to his forehead.

“Do you see what I mean about flying now?” he asked, turning his head to look at her.

“Yes,” Lily said thoughtfully, meeting his gaze, “I do. That was the most fun I’ve had in a long while.”

“Same here.”

“James, can you please tell me what’s the matter?” The words slipped off her tongue before she could stop herself.

“Don’t,” James said, the blissful look slipping from his face, which was so close to hers. “Please, Lily.”

“I just want to help you.”

“You have helped me. This was the best help I could have asked for.” James gestured up at the sky.

“You know what I mean, James. I’ve missed your smile these past few weeks. Hell, I’ve even missed your arrogance, running around like you own the school.” Lily would never have said these things normally, but as she stared up at the night sky, she almost thought that no one was listening.

“I’ll be fine eventually, Lily. That I can promise you.”

They lay silently for a while.

“You’ve missed my smile?” he said suddenly, lifting his head.

Lily tried to sink into the ground, without success. “Did I say that?” she asked.

“Lily”” James started.

“What?”

“It’s getting late,” he said quickly. “We should probably go inside.”

“We should,” Lily agreed instantly.

He took her hand and helped her up. However, through some unspoken agreement between them, they walked a full foot apart on the way back to the Gryffindor common room.

When the portrait of the Fat Lady swung open, Lily thought that the common room was deserted. On second glance, she realized that Carl was sitting in one of the overstuffed armchairs, taking Transfiguration notes.

James noticed him as well and turned to Lily with a question in his eyes.

“Goodnight,” Lily said, hoping that conveyed everything she wanted to say.

“Goodnight, Lily.” With a last glance at her, and then at Carl, James disappeared into the boys’ dormitory.

“You’re up late, Carl,” Lily commented.

“I could say the same for you.”

“I just meant...since you have a match tomorrow, and all....”

“What exactly were you doing out there with Potter? Don’t get me wrong, Lily, I understand that you’re Head Boy and Girl, but unless I’m highly mistaken, that doesn’t mean you have to spend all night on the grounds with him. You are supposed to be my girlfriend.”

“It wasn’t all night! It can’t be any later than ten o’clock, can it?”

Carl stared at her without answering.

“Right,” Lily said, thinking that had probably been the wrong response. “If you must know, we were playing tag.”

“You were playing tag?” Carl repeated, obviously not sure whether she was joking.

“Yes, on broomsticks. It was just a friendly thing, because James couldn’t believe I hadn’t flown since first year.”

He looked as if he might yell for a moment, but then deflated. “I believe you,” he said, with a tone almost of resignation. “We haven’t been spending enough time together. I wouldn’t have even suspected anything otherwise, you know.”

“I know.”

“What about tomorrow night?”

“Yes, of course,” Lily said, and then remembered. “Actually, I can’t, Carl. Professor Slughorn asked me to help”someone”with extra Potions work.”

“Don’t tell me it’s James.”

Lily nodded.

Carl stood up, slamming his Transfiguration book shut. “Well, Lily, when you can find some time for me in your busy social schedule with James Potter, do let me know.”

“Carl....” Lily called, not knowing what she could say to soothe him.

“Goodnight,” Carl snapped over his shoulder.

Lily climbed the stairs to her own dormitory. She would never have expected this sort of jealous behavior from Carl. Surely he knew that she and James had not an ounce of possible romance between them. Then again, the same insidious voice from before said, you’re not very sure of that either.
End Notes:
Thanks for reading! Next chapter will be from James' perspective, and will be up much sooner than this one was. Reviews, good or bad, are much appreciated, so please leave a comment if it strikes your fancy.
Chapter 9- Black Holes and Revelations by unjellify
Author's Notes:
This has been my favorite chapter to write thus far. Before you read this, I am not J.K. Rowling and am only playing in her sandbox. The chapter title comes from the lyrics to "Starlight" by Muse, which I felt fit this chapter well. Thanks to Soraya for her superb beta skills.



James had been finding it increasingly difficult to be alone in the past week. Granted, he couldn’t complain, since his increased popularity had come from the Gryffindor Quidditch team’s winning the Slytherin match the previous Saturday. However, he felt like a smile was plastered to his face at all times, and he hated it.

It wasn’t as if no one had noticed anything wrong”Lily kept casting him worried looks and even Sirius had asked him if he was all right”but James wished he could drop the façade for more than a few seconds. After all, he would have to maintain his stoicism when he went home as well; he didn’t want to make his mum and dad feel any worse than they already would.

When he found himself alone, he wandered about, restless. His feet urged him to go, to take off running and to not look back. He could stand almost anything except not knowing, not seeing for himself how his mum was.

He was enjoying solitude walking back to Gryffindor Tower early after dinner when Remus caught up with him. “All right, Prongs?” he asked.

“I should ask you the same question, Moony.” Remus looked even worse than James did, a difficult feat, and James realized he had completely forgotten that the full moon would rise that night.

“You know, it’s that time of the month,” Remus said.

James couldn’t stop himself from saying, “Well, I hope your PMS clears up.”

Remus shoved him good-naturedly. “Anyway, I wasn’t very hungry, so I went to the library instead. I have some, well, not good, but some news for you.”

“Yeah?” James didn’t think he could take any more not-good news.

“Carl and Lily were having a terrible row when I got there. Madam Pince gave them both the boot, although I suppose they had to leave for dinner anyway.”

“Really? What about?” James asked. This was the sort of not-good news of which he needed more.

“I dunno,” Remus answered. “Lily was saying something about how Carl always tells her what to do, and then Carl yelled something”told her what to do, I suppose”and then Lily started screaming at him.”

“Screaming?” James asked, his brow furrowing. “I’ll grant you she can be a bit sharp, but screaming doesn’t sound like her.”

“You’re right. Well, she’s obviously having a bad day. You know what they say: ‘Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned,’” Remus answered, shrugging.

“You’re the only one who says that.”

“William Congreve and I both, Prongs.”

“It’s remarkable you don’t have more girlfriends. You can quote more poetry than anyone else I’ve ever met.”

Remus looked at him incredulously.

“You’re too sensitive about your furry little problem! That’s nothing when you speak the language of love,” James said, drawing out the last word.

“Shut up,” Remus said, but he was smiling wanly.

They had reached Gryffindor Tower just as the clock in the common room was striking seven. “Oh, damn it!” James said. “I’m supposed to be in the dungeons right now.”

“Well, get going. You don’t want to miss your date with Lily.”

“Trying to brew a Draught of Living Death is very sexy stuff, you know,” James said, straight-faced, before turning and slipping out the portrait hole. He stopped just as the Fat Lady’s portrait was about to swing back into place, faced Remus, and said, “Bye, Moony.”

It had hit him suddenly that was the last time he would be seeing Remus for quite a while.

Though he took the stairs two at a time all the way down, he had rushed for nothing. Lily wasn’t there. James sat down and waited for a few minutes. Then he got up and began to pace.

“Professor?” James asked, poking his head into Slughorn’s office. “Do you know where Lily is?”

“I do not, Mr. Potter. I feel sure that she is simply running late.”

Lily was nothing if not prompt, but James bit this response back. Instead, he returned to the Potions classroom and stared around at the walls for a moment. Where can she be? he thought. Suddenly, though it was, to say the least, a long shot, he knew.

He made more of an entrance into the library than he intended; Madam Pince looked up with the gaze she usually wore upon seeing him, as if she had just tasted something particularly acerbic. In all fairness, James had thrown open the door with a bang, so her condemnatory gaze was deserved this time. He had always suspected that usually she simply disapproved of his unkempt hair, and thus needed only a whisper from him in her presence to order him, “Out! Out at once!”

Being careful to make as few sounds as possible, James began the labyrinthine journey through the library’s shelves. He saw her at first as just a tangle of dark red hair; her head was down on a reading table, resting upon her arm, and she appeared to be asleep.

As he approached, however, he saw that her shoulders were shaking. “Lily,” he breathed.

She looked up. Her face was blotchy, almost as red as her hair in some places, and tears were still wending their way down her face.

“Go away,” she said flatly, retreating into her folded arms again.

“Was it Carl? That wanker, I’m going to kill””

“It wasn’t Carl. Go away,” Lily repeated, sniffling.

“Why was he yelling at you, then?”

“Why are you still here?” she countered.

“I’m not leaving.”

“Oh, lovely. Go ahead and be stubborn, James, because I’m sure that’ll help.”

“I will, thank you.”

“You’re impossible! You’ve been moping around for weeks, and you won’t let me have one good cry.”

“From the looks of it, you’ve already had one.”

“And insulting me, too! I feel so much better already.”

“You’ve stopped crying,” James pointed out.

“I hate you,” she hissed.

“See, that’s not true,” he answered, sitting down so that he was turned towards her. She didn’t immediately try to bash him over the head with one of the books stacked on the table, which he took as a good sign. While he hadn’t exactly expected her to do so, the vitriol in her voice had been quite frightening. Before he could stop himself, with a horde of cautionary thoughts in his head fighting to get out, he slid his arm around her and drew her close.

In a truly shocking development to him, Lily’s head dropped onto his shoulder. I will never understand women, James thought, but did not comment. His thumb traced slow circles into her arm.

“Tell me, Lily,” he said into her hair.

Wordlessly, Lily reached out for a tiny wad of paper that had been lying wrinkled in the middle of the table and unfolded it. The lump flattened into two sheets of Muggle paper, the one on top a typed letter. James took it with his free hand and read:

Dearest Lily,

Dad and I hope everything is well with you at Hogwarts. You are probably preparing for your salamander test already, so I’ll keep it short. Your father and I miss both you girls terribly, but other than that we are fine. He has been keeping busy with work.

Petunia has asked me to tell you that she has met a man at university. His name is Vernon Dursley. Petunia says he is dependable and very good to her. In fact, they have recently become engaged, and are coming here for the Christmas holidays.

If you feel that you should stay at Hogwarts over the holidays to better study for your exams, or if you are simply having too much fun with your friends, by all means do so. You should not worry about offending your father and me.

Lots of love,

Mum


James snuck a glance at Lily. “What””

“Keep reading,” Lily said, staring glassily at the note.

The one below it was handwritten on a sheet of Muggle notebook paper.

Lily,

I hope that by now you have gotten Mum’s letter, or this may come as a bit of a shock. I am engaged to Vernon, as I hope she told you. We shall be very happy together. Fortunately, we agree on almost everything. We both want a house in the suburbs, a family, and a nice, normal life for ourselves. Unfortunately, Lily, that means that Vernon shouldn’t meet you, especially right off. We could hardly have you turning the roast into a frog, or whatever it is you learn at your school.

I have explained the situation to Mum, and she agrees with me that it would be best if you and Vernon didn’t meet for now. Of course, Mum and Dad have both decided that they want to have the first holiday with Vernon and me. I hope you understand. Happy Christmas!

Petunia


James didn’t know what to say. Though Lily wasn’t sniffling any longer, tears were brimming over in her eyes and rolling silently down her cheeks, which was worse somehow. He had been dreading his Christmas holidays for so long now, but it was a small comfort he had never considered that his family wanted him home.

“I knew this would happen,” Lily said faintly.

“You couldn’t have done. This sister of yours is horrible; that’s all there is to it.”

“You don’t understand, James. I do this to myself all the time.”

“Lily”” James started, remembering what Remus had said to him, but she cut across him.

“I knew when I chose to go to Hogwarts that eventually this would happen. Do you know what Petunia told me the day I left? She told me that I was a freak. Of course my parents were proud at first, but last summer I could see it in their eyes. They’re worried, James, worried that they messed up with me somehow. They’ve realized that I’m never going to have an ordinary job, or live an ordinary life. I can’t blame them; I’d pick the normal daughter too,” she said bitterly.

She feels unlovable. He could hear Remus saying the words. James hadn’t believed them, not then and not until now. He opened his mouth, but Lily wasn’t finished. She continued with an almost crazed look in her eyes.

“That’s not all. I drive people out of my life, James. Whatever fondness they’ve got for me, it’s gone when they really get to know me. Take Carl. He fancied me, but now he’s jealous of you, and frankly I don’t know if he has a right to be. What I do know is that he can barely stand me now. When I finally needed him today, he told me to stop being so sensitive over nothing, and consider how someone else felt for a change, which was no less than I deserved.

“Then,” she finished, coming to the end of her litany in an almost triumphant manner, “there’s Severus.”

“He insulted you!” James exclaimed.

“He insulted me two years ago, and I haven’t spoken to him since. I pushed him away because I was ashamed of him, ashamed of the person he was becoming. I should’ve helped him when I still could. I should’ve made him see the good in himself, instead of the pathetic excuse for a boy that his father always told him he was. But I didn’t do that. We were best friends, James, best friends, and I know he would have stayed by me until the end, but he’s up to his nose in the Dark Arts now, and that’s because I failed him.”

“Lily, stop,” James said, his grip on her shoulder tightening as he pulled her around to face him. “Listen to me. First off, stop wishing you were normal. You’re the smartest, most beautiful, most amazing girl I know, and a great witch too. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.”

Lily looked into his eyes, transfixed, as if she had finally found the answer.

“You don’t push people away, either,” James continued. “That’s rubbish.”

“That’s sweet of you, James, but””

“I know,” James continued doggedly, “because right now I may know you better than anyone else at Hogwarts”” his conscience was telling him to stop, but he had kept the words inside him for too long, and they finally won the struggle “”and I’ve never been more mesmerized by you.”

He knew that he would hurt her that night far more than he would help her, and more deeply than he had ever hurt anyone else, but at the moment he was only thinking of her eyes. He could see her need for him at that moment, buried for so long in those green irises.

James kissed her. Her lips were swollen and salty from crying, and he lost himself in her taste, his fingers weaving themselves into her hair. As Lily pulled him closer, the restless fear that had kept him aching for home disappeared. He wanted to stay forever.

*

Moonlight poured in through the window of the tower, illuminating the contents of James’ trunk. Various schoolbooks had been tossed haphazardly atop an equally chaotic pile of clothes. James scooped up an errant pair of socks from the rug beside his bed and threw them into his trunk on top of the books, then looked around. Apart from his unmade bed, no trace of him existed in the dormitory. Sirius, Remus and Peter were out in the forest, no doubt feeling his absence in the way only animals could. Matthew Spinnet and Carl were sound asleep.

James looked out the window, hoping in vain to catch a glimpse of the dog, the rat, and the werewolf, and then turned and stared at the far wall. He wished he could see through it to where Lily lay, asleep. If I had explained everything to her, would it make any of this better? he wondered.

At precisely midnight, he walked out to the common room, carrying his trunk ahead of him with some effort. He could have used magic, but he felt some kind of self-punishment was necessary. Dumbledore was waiting there for him, and with a flick of his wand lifted James’ trunk into the air. “Are you ready, Mr. Potter?” he asked. “Your Portkey awaits.”

James didn’t answer. He thought of his best friends, still out in the woods underneath the full moon, and of Lily, who, unlike the Marauders, would not immediately realize that he was gone. Most of all, however, he felt the fear, returned and ever stronger.

Dumbledore gestured to an ancient, dusty book that lay on the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall. James stepped forwards and let the dread envelop him, let it grasp him and pull him away, because that was all he could do.
End Notes:
Thanks for reading! Next chapter is from Lily's POV. The line Remus quotes (“William Congreve and I both, Prongs”) comes from William Congreve’s The Mourning Bride, and is more commonly condensed into, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

Also, thanks to all who have reviewed so far. For this chapter, I especially would like feedback. Loved it? Hated it? Please review!
Chapter 10-Missing by unjellify
Author's Notes:
Thanks to Soraya as always for whipping this chapter into shape! Also, I am not J.K. Rowling (in case anyone wasn't sure) and take no credit for her creations.



Lily lay in bed staring at the canopy above her four-poster for a long time that night. She knew that she could simply go and talk to James, as the founders hadn’t bothered to safeguard the boys’ dormitories against intruding girls. However, she couldn’t help thinking that it wouldn’t solve anything to wake James up in the middle of the night. As she knew from experience, he took a good ten minutes at least to become fully coherent.

She couldn’t remember when exactly she drifted off, but disappointingly soon, Marlene was shaking her. “Wake up, Lily!” she hissed. “You’ll miss breakfast.”

Lily’s eyes opened, although every pore of her body was begging her to go back to sleep. She had never been even a minute late to breakfast, let alone missed it altogether, and Marlene already had her robes on.

“Have you seen James?” Lily asked sleepily, rubbing her eyes. When she thought about it, she hadn’t seen Marlene outside lessons in quite a long while, since Lily had been spending most of her time with James or in the library.

“In our dormitory? No, I haven’t.” Marlene looked at her as if Lily had gone mad.

“Right.” Lily got herself ready in record time and followed Marlene down to breakfast at top speed.

“Where’s Mary?” she asked her friend as they rounded a corner, stumbling over the hem of her robes in her post-awakening, lingering stupor. “Already at breakfast?”

“Apparently she’s got her eye on Patrick Finn from Ravenclaw. For some reason, that means she needs to be early for breakfast, I suppose so that she can stare at him longer.” Marlene shrugged.

“Since when?” Lily asked.

“Patrick? Since last night. She was waxing poetic to me about his eyes for almost an hour in the common room.”

Lily nodded.

“Where were you, by the way?” Marlene asked, tilting her head to the side.

“In the library. Come on, we’ll miss breakfast, like you said,” Lily said, speeding up. It wasn’t that Lily didn’t trust Marlene, who had always been a good friend to her, but she wanted to keep to herself James’ kiss, which felt like a small flame warming her insides even now.

As Lily stopped short in the entrance to the Great Hall and walked more calmly to the Gryffindor table, she scanned its length but could not see James anywhere. Instead, Lily sat down next to Sirius, who had been talking to Peter but immediately cut himself off. Marlene, looking surprised, dutifully slid in next to Lily.

“Morning, Black,” Lily said cordially.

“Morning, Evans,” Sirius said, as if this was a daily occurrence. “How are you on this fine day?”

“A bit perturbed, and yourself?”

“Can’t complain.” Sirius thought a moment. “Wait, ‘perturbed’ is bad. What’s up?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Lily said, in a tone heavy with sarcasm. “Where’s your mate Potter?”

“What did he do this time? He hasn’t been ‘your mate Potter’ to you for a good two months now.”

“It’s more a matter of what he didn’t do, which is show up to breakfast this morning.”

“He’s gone,” Sirius said, the easy smile suddenly gone from his face. This was the closest to lost that Lily had ever seen him.

“Gone?” Lily repeated faintly.

Sirius leaned towards her until his lips were almost against her ear. “Don’t look now, Evans,” he whispered, “but you have a smudge of James-snogged-me-and-ran on your face. Best fix that straightaway.”

Lily consciously adopted a pleasant demeanor, noticing Peter’s look of surprise from across the table. “Did James tell you that before he disappeared, then?” she asked sweetly through her teeth.

“Tell me what?”

“You know, what you just said.”

“That? Lucky guess. You just had that look.”

“You recognize the look of girls whom James has kissed and abandoned?” Lily whispered suspiciously, cursing herself for confirming Sirius’ guess. Marlene whipped her head around, shocked.

“Yeah. It’s a bit weird, though,” Sirius mused.

“I’d say,” Lily said curtly.

“No, not that, it’s...it’s that he was always running towards you.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, you know James has been mad about you for ages. Anyway, since he was acting like a bloody monk while you barely gave him the time of day, I’d take him out with me to a pub or something every so often. I felt it was my duty as his best mate, you know? We’d both bring dates, things would be going well, and then all of a sudden, he’d disappear.”

“Disappear?” Lily said incredulously.

“He’s mental. Some of the Muggle girls I set him up with were absolutely gorgeous. I’d come back to his house and he’d be there. Every time, he’d just say he wished it was you and then go to bed. He can be a real tosser.”

“Lovely story, Black,” Lily said, “but where is he now?”

“I don’t know!” Sirius answered, stabbing his eggs viciously. “We woke up and he was gone with all of his things.”

Lily believed him, but one couldn’t simply disappear from Hogwarts. Anti-Apparition jinxes covered the grounds. Someone had to know where James was, but if his best friends didn’t, then who did?

“Evans?” Sirius said.

“Yeah?”

“How’d Potter finally manage to win you over?”

“I thought he actually cared for me,” Lily said, staring at her plate.

Sirius snorted, a most inappropriate response in Lily’s opinion. “Of course he does! He practically wants you to have his children, for Merlin’s sake! He won’t shut up about you.”

“Then why would he leave?”

“I dunno. Must be something important.” Sirius paused, and then said the only thing that could have made her feel worse than she already did. “So, things are over with Carl, then? You’re well shot of him, from what I hear.”

Lily let out a barely audible groan. Though she and Carl had fought terribly the night before and gone their separate ways without a word of reconciliation, it did not exactly constitute a breakup.

She had never done anything that even smacked of infidelity before, but the previous night, she hadn’t been thinking about Carl at all. She had been thinking about Tuney, about the letters and about the fact that her family simply didn’t want her anymore. Just for that night, James had made her feel worthwhile again, had driven Petunia’s proclamation that Lily was a freak completely out of her head.

In the silence, Peter said hesitantly, “James has been upset about something.”

“Thank you, Sherlock,” Lily snapped. Sirius and Peter both looked bewildered by the reference.

“I was just pointing out that his disappearance probably has to do with that, whether he left Hogwarts early or, I don’t know, drowned himself in the lake,” Peter continued.

“You don’t think he drowned himself in the lake, do you?” Lily asked. She hadn’t even thought of that.

“You must be really terrible at snogging, Evans,” Sirius snorted.

“Bit rude, Padfoot,” Peter said, “and not helpful at all.”

“Sorry. I’m sure you’re an excellent kisser,” Sirius said, patting Lily’s hand comfortingly.

“If he took all his things with him,” Marlene said hesitantly, “then he wouldn’t go and off himself.”

“Very true,” Peter said. “See, Sirius, that’s productive.”

“I said I was sorry!” Sirius said loudly. “All right, if it’ll make you happy, Lily is well capable of pleasing”” The rest of the sentence died in his throat as his eyes traveled to something above Lily’s head.

Lily turned around to see Professor McGonagall, who was standing with her eyebrows raised as if she were waiting for Sirius to finish.

“Lovely morning, isn’t it, Professor?” Sirius asked, flashing a dimpled grin at her.

“Indeed. Mr. Black, would you like to explain to me why Alice Wilkes, a model student, has suddenly been getting herself into trouble?” she replied with narrowed eyes.

“Maybe she’s just decided to let loose. Embrace her wild side and all that.”

“My office after breakfast, Mr. Black.”

“Will you bring the elderflower wine or shall I, Professor?”

Professor McGonagall fixed him with a look so withering that Peter, sitting across the table, flinched.

“Miss Evans, I actually came to speak to you,” Professor McGonagall said. “It was merely a fortuitous coincidence that Mr. Black was so near. Are you finished with your breakfast?”

Lily wasn’t very hungry. Her stomach was otherwise occupied with contorting itself in worry and she felt almost ill. She got up and then paused. “Where’s Remus, for that matter?” she asked.

Sirius and Peter shrugged in unison.

“Probably sleeping”” Sirius began.

“No idea,” Peter said at the same moment.

Lily stared at them for a moment before turning to follow Professor McGonagall, wondering what on earth Remus could be doing.

*

“Please sit down,” Professor McGonagall said. “Ginger Newt?” She held out the tin.

Lily took one absently. She sat down, and her Head of House surveyed her carefully. Lily knew that this was the wrong time to voice her worries, so she focused on her Ginger Newt, breaking it in half. As the silence lengthened, however, she couldn’t stop the words from bursting from her lips. Her disquiet overruled her discretion. “Professor, please, where has James gone?” she said, trying to inject curiosity rather than desperation into her tone.

“Miss Evans, Mr. Potter has been unavoidably drawn away from Hogwarts. I cannot discuss the particulars of his absence with you.”

Lily broke her biscuit into quarters.

“What I was going to ask,” Professor McGonagall continued, “is whether you can manage your duties as Head Girl alone until the holidays. It is a month, and I could assign one of the prefects to help you....”

“No,” Lily said quickly. “Thank you, Professor, but I believe that I can fulfill my responsibilities by myself.”

She didn’t need anyone bothering her during patrol. With so much to do, someone else would only slow her down, especially if that someone wouldn’t stop talking and making her laugh and giving her that crooked smile and acting all solicitous with so much concern in his hazel eyes.

“Miss Evans, would you like a napkin?” Professor McGonagall asked civilly.

Lily looked down and saw her biscuit crumbled to pieces in her lap. “Yes, thank you,” she said, chagrined. After brushing off her robes, Lily stood. “Is there anything else, Professor?”r32;

“That is all, Miss Evans, but are you””

“Yes, of course,” Lily said hurriedly. “I have to go, Professor. Thank you for your consideration.”

She rushed out of the room before she could destroy anything else. Something deep inside her, a chronic ache to which she had grown accustomed, had been rubbed raw afresh. Lily only felt like curling into a ball and sleeping for a very long time, but her sense of responsibility took over. Her feet carried her of their own volition to her first lesson, while her mind preoccupied itself with quashing the urge to return to her dormitory. Intent on this pursuit, she passed Severus in the hall and did not notice that he was smiling at her until he had already disappeared into the after-breakfast melee.

*

“What are you doing with those Hiccup Sweets?” Lily asked loudly, her hands on her hips.

The first-year, Flavius someone, dropped the bag of sweets he had been passing out and mumbled something about their not being Hiccup Sweets at all. He trailed off as one of his friends gave a loud hiccup.

“Expecting to skive off your lesson, are you?”

“No...” Flavius said.

“Ten points from Gryffindor!” Lily snapped, taking the sweets and dumping them into the trash.

“Lily,” Mary said softly, coming up from behind her.

Lily rounded on her friend. “What?”

“Don’t start on me,” Mary said, unfazed. “You’re doing a very good impression of a Hungarian Horntail, but it’s Friday night. Come and sit down and stop making these first-years cry.”

“I’m not”” Lily broke off, noticing one of Flavius’ friends had tears welling in her eyes. “I’m sorry,” she said anxiously to the girl. “They’re against the rules, you know that.”

Mary took her by the arm before Lily could return to her manic rule enforcement and led her to the corner where Marlene and Alice were sitting. “I can’t believe James would just leave without telling you!” Mary said, with her usual anvil-like subtlety.

“You told her?” Lily said indignantly to Marlene.

“We are your friends, Lily,” Alice reminded her gently. “It’s our job to care.”

“He really kissed you?” Mary said, ignoring the “cease and desist” looks from Marlene and Alice. “How was it?”

Lily buried her face in her hands.

“Rubbish, I suppose,” Mary said. If this was her attempt at comfort, Lily didn’t think much of it.

“I’ve heard he’s not bad,” Marlene said vaguely.

“From whom?” Lily demanded, raising her head.

“Sirius.”

“How would Sirius know?”

“Well, as you won’t tell us, we’ll have to go on Sirius’ authority,” Mary said, shrugging.

Sirius. Lily needed to talk to him as well, since he was another Gryffindor not known for prudence.

The boy in question was very nearly obscured by Florence, who was kissing him with enthusiasm. Lily crossed the room to where they were standing. Though she was prepared to wait, she cleared her throat pointedly after a minute or two, during which the pair showed no signs of stopping.

Florence broke away quickly. “Lily!” she said, obviously bewildered.

Sirius sad nothing, looking disgruntled.

“Can I have a word, Sirius?” Lily said.

“As long as you don’t make me cry while you’re taking away my Hiccup Sweets,” Sirius said, mouthing at Florence that he’d be back in a moment.

“I made them cry, didn’t I? I’ve never made anyone cry!” Lily moaned.

He patted her shoulder. “I was taking the piss out of you, Lily. Relax. They’re first-years. Other things that make them cry include spiders, essays, and ugly people.”

“I’ve had quite enough taken out of me for one day, thanks. I’m exhausted.”

“I wrote to James,” Sirius said abruptly. “I asked him where he had gone and told him how upset you were.”

“I cannot believe you!”

“If you must know, I asked him where he thinks he gets off. I’ve never seen you so upset, and I’m not too happy myself,” Sirius said. He did look restless, like a wild animal penned up.

“Why do you care about how I feel?”

“First off, if you’re angry, that means you’ll probably expel me from Hogwarts before the week’s up. Second, you’re James’ best shot at future happiness, and he’s screwing it up.”

Leaving Sirius’ irrational conviction that she and James were meant to be together, Lily remembered what she had wanted to say. “Sirius, I need you to keep quiet about the, er, thing that James and I did.”

“What thing?”

“You cannot possibly be that stupid,” Lily said. “I’m trying to be discreet, Black.”

“Oh, the thing!” Sirius dropped a huge wink. “The names kids have for it these days....”

“I’m serious. Carl and I”” there was no way Sirius would listen to her without her impressing upon him the graveness of the situation “”we’re still technically going out.”

“I guessed that,” Sirius said.

“You can’t have done.”

“I mean, just now, from the look on his face.”

Lily turned slowly and saw Carl heading towards her, scowling. Sirius backed away.

“Carl,” she said when he reached her, “I need to tell you something.”

“Too late, Lily,” Carl said, “but I’m flattered that you finally thought of telling me.”

“Don’t be like that, please. We had just fought and I told you I was upset about that letter””

“That doesn’t mean you go off kissing whomever you want!”

“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to, it just happened. I wish more than anything it hadn’t,” Lily said, trying to duck around him. Standing between Carl and the wall was only increasing her sense of agitation.

“Where are you going?” Carl said, grabbing her arm. “Do you think you can just apologize and then waltz off? Did you promise Black you’d snog him too?”

“I’m not a whore, Carl. I told you, I made a mistake,” Lily said, her temper rising.

“I know that. If you were, all I’d have to do is pay you to spend time with me,” he answered coolly.

Lily slapped him across the face. Carl pushed her away from him and she hit the wall with a surprised gasp.

“Oi! What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Lily looked up to see Sirius, who, without further ado, threw Carl into the wall.

“I wouldn’t get up if I were you,” Sirius warned, as Carl, dazed, tried to get to his feet.

“Black, what is wrong with you?” Lily said, looking around at the suddenly silent common room. “I would have expected that from James, but not from you! Why does no one think that I can take care of myself?”

“He was pushing you around! My father’s as much of an arrogant bastard as anyone can be, and even he taught me that no real man hits a woman. Besides, if Prongs was here, Smith would be in St. Mungo’s by now.” Sirius seemed more at ease than he had been before; he gave Lily a quick grin, punctuating his last words.

“Ten points from Gryffindor for disorderly conduct,” Lily said automatically, although her heart wasn’t really in it. As everyone turned back to their schoolwork and conversations, Lily added, “I had to,” almost apologetically.

“It’s an off day when I don’t lose House points, Evans,” Sirius said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, your friend Florence looks lonely.” He loped off towards her, and within moments they were again snogging as if they had never stopped, while Lily made a beeline for her dormitory.

“For a Head Girl, you certainly get yourself into the middle of things,” Marlene commented, just as Lily was about to reach the steps.

“It’s not me, it’s Sirius. He’s unbelievable.”

Mary looked over at Sirius. “He’s gone from zero to near fornication in three-point-five seconds. I can’t decide whether that’s absolutely disgusting or really impressive.”

“I was going to say that he’s a bit of a loose cannon,” Lily said.

“James is usually the one who is around to defend your honor,” Alice said fairly.

“My honor doesn’t need defending!” Lily said. “If anything, it’s in jeopardy because of James.”

“Why did you kiss him?” Marlene asked.

Because he sees all the good in me, Lily thought, but then she realized that wasn’t exactly true. It’s because I’ve wanted to kiss him for a while. She ran up the stairs without answering, panicked by the thought.

Until recently, Lily had never let her emotions run wild, but now that they were out, they were as devilishly hard to suppress again as pixies. Her well-organized life was collapsing into confusion, and she seemed powerless to stop it. She hated James and missed him at the same time. She still hadn’t managed to break things off with Carl. Remus, whom she could always count on to keep a clear head and approach problems reasonably, was nowhere to be found, while Sirius had bafflingly taken it upon himself to protect her out of some harebrained notion that she was James’ best chance at a blissful future.

Lily flopped down onto her bed. She knew what she wanted, but that only disconcerted her further. She wanted James. She wanted to scream at him, to ask him how he could dare to leave, but most of all she wanted him to hold her, with that earnest look in his hazel eyes, and tell her that everything was going to be all right.
End Notes:
Thanks for reading! In addition, please review with praise, criticism, or descriptions of interestingly shaped clouds (as Luna would). I really appreciate every one. Next chapter will show what's going on at the Potter household.
Chapter 11-A Little Unwell by unjellify
Author's Notes:
The Potter-verse belongs to J.K. Rowling, and the chapter title comes from the song "Unwell" by Matchbox Twenty. Thanks to Soraya for her usual amazing editing, and to Erin for discussing the endless possibilities.



James landed in the dark hall of the Potter home. His insides took a moment to return to equilibrium, since he had always found traveling by Portkey disconcerting. Within minutes, he heard Lindy’s shuffling footsteps, and the weak glow of a candle illuminated the darkness. “Master James?” Lindy said.

“Lindy!” James exclaimed, so relieved to see the house-elf”or rather, what she represented, which was normality in the Potter household”that he bent down and hugged her diminutive frame.

“Lindy thinks it is for the best that Master James came home from school,” Lindy said, patting him cautiously on the back.

James stepped back and looked at her, his expression of relief dropping into a frown. He ran up the stairs suddenly, terrified by the possible meaning Lindy’s words could hold.

Lindy followed him, saying anxiously, “Mistress is very sick. Master must not be shocked when he sees her.”

“I won’t be,” James said distractedly, already halfway down the hall.

“Would Master James like a glass of water?”

“I’m fine, really.”

“Perhaps he should go to bed and wait until morning to see Mistress?” Lindy suggested.

James turned impatiently. Taking a deep breath to keep his tone even, he said, “Really, I just want to see my mum. I won’t disturb her.”

He made for his parents’ bedroom, but Lindy tugged at his shirt. “This way,” she said, pointing to the door across the hall that had always led to a guest bedroom. Her large, orb-like eyes were fixed nervously on him. James knew she was only trying to look out for him”after all, she had been in the family longer than he had”but he couldn’t help the irritation rising in his stomach.

He opened the door and walked in, intending only to look at his mother by the moonlight coming in through the window and ensure that she was all right, but a floorboard creaked under his feet. The bedsheets rustled, and then his mother’s voice said, “Lumos.” The spell lit up the room for a moment and then broke, again plunging the room into near darkness.

Lumos,” James supplemented. He still sometimes forgot that he was of age now.

“Jamie, you’re here!” It was his mother, and yet it wasn’t. She was skeleton-colored.

“Hi, Mum. I didn’t mean to wake you,” James said, swallowing.

“Nonsense, I always like to see you, especially since you’ve been away.” Mrs. Potter’s gaunt face split into a grin, but her high cheekbones were too pronounced under her skin and the russet roundness of her cheeks was gone.

James hugged his mother, and her arms reached up to encircle him. She was cold. She was so cold. He kissed her cheek, which felt powdery underneath his lips.

He drew back carefully. Her skin was as white and as fine as tissue paper, wrinkled at the places where the fullness of her arms had once been. James took her hand, keeping his touch light, afraid that if he pressed too hard, he might break through that translucent skin to the visible veins beneath. “How are you, Mum?” he asked, trying not to let the worry creep into his voice.

“I’ve been better, Jamie, but I’m so happy to see you. You had better stop frowning””

“”or my face will stay that way,” James finished, smiling weakly.

“Too right. A Healer comes every day to check on me, and she’s the one that does all the worrying.”

“The Healers are worried? They do know what the matter is, don’t they?”

“They’re not sure, James. They think now that it might be an illness that’s much more common among Muggles. They’ve been trying every cure they can. I was in hospice care at St. Mungo’s for the past two weeks, but they’ve sent me home.”

James felt as if something invisible and heavy had taken up residence on top of his chest. “Hospice, Mum?”

“Hospice, hospital, it’s all the same,” Mrs. Potter said, waving her hand airily and giving him the reassuring smile that had always told him everything would be all right. “Besides, I’m here now, so it doesn’t matter.”

It’s not all the same, James thought, closing his eyes. He knew. Hospitals are for the sick. Hospices are for the dying.

“They can’t just try a few remedies and then throw in the bloody towel!” James said, his temper rising. “The Healers could be wrong. I’ll do some research myself; they must have missed something.”

“James, listen to me,” his mother said seriously. “I don’t want you to shut yourself up in the library looking for a way to cure me. I want you to spend time with me. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” James said, deflating slightly. “Do you have enough to do? I could go to Flourish & Blotts tomorrow and get you something new to read.”

“That would be lovely, but not tomorrow. When you need to get out of the house, go and get me some books, and take your father, would you? I just banished him from this room tonight so he could have some hope of sleeping a full night.”

“How has everything been here? How is Dad?”

“Your father’s making himself sick with worry,” Mrs. Potter said disapprovingly. This didn’t sound like James’ father at all. He had always prided himself on keeping a cool head and an unflappable countenance.

“Other than that,” she continued, “I’ve been listening to my favorite records and the WWN, and finally making time to read all the books we have in that library downstairs. Lindy has been wonderful, keeping the house spotless.”

As if on cue, Lindy appeared in the doorway. “Mistress needs her rest,” she said, looking at James with a narrow-eyed glance he had never before received from her.

“But I haven’t got the chance to ask James about school yet!” Mrs. Potter protested.

“No, Mum, she’s right,” James said reluctantly. “I’ll tell you all about Hogwarts tomorrow.”

“And that girl, what was her name? Evans, Sirius called her.”

“I’ll tell you about Lily tomorrow,” James promised again. He needed the night to work out how he could tell his mother about Lily without mentioning that he might possibly have broken her heart.

*

For the next few weeks, James’ life fell into a pattern. During the night, he slept in a continual series of catnaps, waking up, pacing about the house, getting himself a glass of water, and returning to bed. He would sleep for an hour, or maybe two, and then get up again, petrified that something had gone wrong while he was asleep. You have to wait until morning anyway, he would tell himself sternly. You don’t want to disturb Mum now.

After a while, James’ body no longer counted on any more than three or four hours of sleep, which left him with even more interminable time on his hands. Most of those nights, he wrote.

Dear Sirius,

I got your letter. If you have time over the holidays


James stopped. As it was, Padfoot had been unusually brusque in his letter. What was he going to say in response? If you’ve got a minute, visit my mum, because she’s dying and I know you liked her?

Like, he corrected himself. Not liked, like. Mistakes like these made him feel faithless, as though he was just waiting for the inevitable, and that was when the voices in his head would start up a chorus of: Terrible son, disloyal son. That was when he would give up on writing any sort of letter, although he couldn’t sleep after that either. Much like Macbeth, his treachery only made him more restless.

Other nights, he would try to write to Lily, but his letters to her were even worse.

Dear Lily,

I didn’t mean to kiss you


But that wasn’t true. He had.

Dear Lily,

I’m so sorry for leaving suddenly. My mother


He couldn’t say that either. He would feel like a right prick burdening her with all of his problems, especially since her own family didn’t even want to see her.

In the mornings, Lindy would make the family breakfast. To keep busy, James’ father had always done something for Dervish and Banges that involved extensive traveling, even though the Potter family name carried an endless supply of Galleons with it. Now, however, he was home, looking around at everything with glazed eyes and a constantly tensed jaw. James didn’t really want to talk during meals, especially not with his father’s blank stare fixed on him, but he would go on animatedly if his mother asked him about anything at all. What she wanted outweighed the sleepless, hopeless feeling blanketing his insides like ash.

He would continue talking to his mother after breakfast, or read her something if her eyes were tired, or retreat upstairs to stare at the walls of his bedroom. Most of the time, as the weeks passed, his mother would disappear immediately after breakfast and James would find her later back in bed. He had tried reading the Prophet, which arrived every morning as it always had”James couldn’t believe this, somehow, given that everything else was falling apart around him”but its contents gave him no comfort. Headlines screamed, ‘DEATH TOLL MOUNTING’ and ‘MAGICAL LAW ENFORCEMENT BAFFLED.’ These were always accompanied by photographs on the front page of Ministry wizards holding their hands up to block the cameras, looking harried and just as helpless as James felt. The Order of the Phoenix was the only thought that gave him any comfort at all. Six more months and he would be out there fighting, not watching all these officials run around like chickens with their heads cut off as more people died.

In the afternoons, especially if he was sitting in his room and casting unsuccessfully about for something to do, Lindy would bring him tea and they would talk. James’ grandfather had always told him that it was a bad sign if one started conversing regularly with one’s house-elf, but his grandfather had been a bigot where both magical creatures and Muggle-borns were concerned. Almost all of his grandfather’s generation fell into this category; it was the way they had been taught. Having long, serious conversations with a house-elf wasn’t any different from talking to another person, except that James couldn’t voice his concerns with any of the people in his house.

“There’s something I don’t understand,” James said suddenly one day in late December, putting his tea down on his bedside table. “Why can’t Mum keep weight on? She’s been eating just as regularly as Dad and I have been doing, but she gets thinner every day.”

“Mistress would not want Lindy to say,” Lindy said, averting her eyes and studying the carpeting.

“Tell me,” James said sharply.

“The Healers gave Mistress a most evil potion.” Lindy took a deep, high-pitched breath. “Mistress has stopped taking the potion, but Mistress cannot keep her food down.”

“There must be something she can eat!” he said. “What about rice pudding? That’s always been her favorite.”

The house-elf shook her head sadly. “Master must believe that Lindy has tried. Lindy has made everything.”

“But...rice pudding,” he said idiotically.

Lindy shook her head again. “Mistress told Lindy it tastes like Cockroach Cluster.”

“Why didn’t she tell us? She doesn’t have to keep forcing food down for our benefit. Maybe if she ate less....”

“Mistress is embarrassed, Lindy thinks.”

James sat back on his bed. It all made more sense, but the resolution of his confusion only made him feel worse. This explained the weight loss, as well as the one, failed spell he had seen her try to perform on the night he arrived. His mother was weak, weaker than she would let on.

“Lindy, I need a moment,” he said. “Alone.”

Once Lindy had obliged, James curled up on his bed and pressed his fists into his eyes. At the moment, what he needed was a way out of his head, but he couldn’t see how he might accomplish that. He thought about doing his schoolwork, and then thought better of it; he had never wanted to write a Potions essay less than he did now. Finally, he got up, screwed up his face, and concentrated hard on his destination. A moment later, he felt the air pressing down on him from all sides, as if determined to take back the space he was currently occupying. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them, he was standing in the middle of Diagon Alley.

Immediately, he made a beeline for Quality Quidditch Supplies, as he always did. This time, however, even the new Nimbus 1700, the release of which James had been waiting a full year for, only made his heart leap slightly before he felt the worry settle firmly back over him. He always got the new model when it came out”a privilege that came with having all the money one could ever dream of”but James finally understood the saying that money couldn’t buy happiness.

He walked out of Quality Quidditch Supplies empty-handed and towards Flourish & Blotts, where he asked the man who greeted him for recommendations for his mum. The man smiled in a self-assured way and said, “Well, young sir, we have just the thing”a new series of romances for witches in their golden years””

“I don’t think so,” James said. “Thank you, though.” His mother had always said that she found little use in reading a book that didn’t improve her mind in some way, so James thought that he might have better luck on his own.

He eventually chose a biography of Pierre Bonaccord, the first Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation; that looked decently interesting and could always double as a doorstop if his mum didn’t like it. He was going to buy another book as well, but thought that he might need another excuse to get out of the house very soon. It was despicable, but there it was.

*

“Happy Christmas, Mum,” James said, handing her the book. He had dug around in various cupboards until he had found some absolutely horrible wrapping paper patterned with lurid red and green stripes, and wrapped the biography clumsily. He had even made a card, something he hadn’t done since he was small.

Mrs. Potter was now spending her days in bed, but she gathered her strength with a scowl of determination and sat up, tears filling her eyes as she read the card. James hadn’t thought it was that special. Unable to write all the things he wanted to say, he had settled for:

Dear Mum,

You’re the best mother anyone could ever ask for. I don’t tell you that enough. Happy Christmas.

Love,

James


Despite its brevity, it was the only note he had been able to finish in these past few weeks, and as his mother hugged him with every ounce of strength she possessed, James finally felt that he had done something right.

He hadn’t expected a gift, since his parents’ minds were obviously otherwise occupied, but his father came in as though he had been waiting on cue. Giving one final tug to the ribbon he had obviously just tied, his father handed him a long and lumpy package, the shape of which James recognized at once. He undid the wrappings and found the Nimbus 1700 that he had seen in Quality Quidditch Supplies just a few days before.

“Thank you,” James said, hugging both of his parents and trying his best to be sincere. No one in that room really wanted broomsticks or books for Christmas, nor the new hat that James had presented to his father earlier in the day, but he felt it would be churlish to call attention to that fact.

*

James had still been hoping for some kind of miracle, though he had noticed his father’s increasingly serious talks with the Healer, but it was on New Year’s Eve that his hope finally died.

He started the evening by forcing himself to do the Potions essay, convincing himself that he would be returning to school as soon as his mother was well and that Slughorn would accept no excuses, but his thoughts kept straying to what his friends were doing. Sirius had written asking if he could come for Christmas; James had simply written ‘No’ on a piece of parchment and sent it back. His life had turned into a game of Exploding Snap”he never knew when everything might fall apart”and he didn’t want anyone, not even his best friend of seven years, to see that happen. He found that he didn’t much care what Sirius would think, although probably it involved the words “berk” and “arsehole,” among other, more colorful terms. He didn’t know what Sirius would be doing for Christmas, but he hoped that his best friend wasn’t sitting in his new flat alone.

Peter always went home for Christmas, looking gloomy when he returned. James knew, from his brief encounters with Mr. Pettigrew, that Peter’s father was”to put it lightly”overbearing, but Peter never discussed his holidays with the other Marauders, and they didn’t ask.

Remus would probably stay at Hogwarts to study for his N.E.W.T.s, or, at least, James hoped he would. He didn’t want to think of Lily all alone either. Lily. James ran one agonized hand through his hair, but before he had time to do anything further, he heard his mother’s voice calling him. He got up immediately and ran into her room. “Mum? What do you need?”

His father was already there. “Thomas, James,” Mrs. Potter said, turning her head to look at each of them in turn, “I want you to stay with me through the night.”

Mr. Potter’s thin face, so like James’, looked haggard, but he looked into his wife’s wasted face and smiled as though he was looking at the greatest treasure any man had ever seen. For the first time, James saw his parents through Sirius’ eyes, parents who cared for each other and for both their real and honorary sons, and he wished that he had invited Sirius for Christmas.

James began to pull up a chair, but his father stood up. “You can have this one, James.”

Mr. Potter sat down on the side of the bed and squeezed himself onto the edge of the pillow beside his wife. “Healer’s orders be damned,” he said with an uncharacteristically rebellious expression on his face, and grasped Mrs. Potter’s hand. “I love you, Lucy.”

James felt like an intruder upon an intensely private moment. “I’ll stay, Mum,” he said, looking into his mother’s face and then looking away.

It was the longest night that James had ever had. He stayed just staring at his parents for what seemed like hours, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes each time it threatened, not even daring to call Lindy for a glass of water. Even after his mother and father were both asleep, James dared not close his eyes, because he felt deep inside him that this particular night was a matter of life or death.
End Notes:
Thanks for reading! The next chapter will actually skip backwards a little chronologically and tell what's going on at Hogwarts with Lily. Since this chapter was particularly difficult for me to write, I would love any feedback you all could give!
Chapter 12-Family Matters by unjellify
Author's Notes:
Sorry for the wait, everyone! As always, I don't own the Potter-verse. Thanks to Soraya for her excellent beta work.



Lily took a break from her painstaking work on everlasting icicles to examine the tinsel garland she had conjured, which now adorned one of the Christmas trees in the Great Hall. Suddenly, as though the long strand of tinsel had developed a mind of its own, it peeled back from the wall and wrapped itself tightly around Regulus Black, one of the sixth-year Slytherin prefects, who had been grumpily loitering behind the others. Regulus now resembled nothing so much as a glittering mummy.

Lily and Remus, who had been working next to her, spun around. Sirius”always quick on the draw, and adroit with non-verbal spells, for that matter”was in the entrance to the Great Hall, his wand nowhere in sight. He was innocently brushing nonexistent dust from his robes while Peter shook with suppressed laughter next to him, trying valiantly to keep a straight face. “Black!” Lily yelled. Both Sirius and his tinsel-wrapped brother stood involuntarily to attention.

“Lily! I didn’t see you there!” If anyone was better at spouting guileless falsehoods than James, it was Sirius, who looked up with an expression of sincere pleasure before bestowing his cocksure grin upon her.

She rolled her eyes and turned around again, knowing that since she hadn’t actually caught Sirius with his wand out, she had no firm grounds on which to dock points. “Relashio,” she muttered, pointing her wand at Regulus. Upon release, the boy turned furiously to face Sirius, one hand plunging into his robes and the other massaging his recently constricted larynx.

“Regulus Black!” Lily said sharply. “It is against the rules to attack another student.”

Regulus looked back at her, his ire at Sirius grappling with his prefect status for a moment. “He attacked me first. This doesn’t concern you, Mudblood,” he hissed, pulling his wand from his robes.

Expelliarmus!” Lily and Remus shouted in unison, and Regulus’s wand clattered to the floor, its owner looking dazed. From the ugly look on Remus’ face, Lily was sure he had wanted to do more than that, and she had to remind herself to keep her temper; both the insult and the dismissive, careless tone with which Regulus had pronounced it rankled with her.

Noticing the commotion, Professor Flitwick temporarily abandoned the fairies he had been organizing into fairy lights on the other side of the Great Hall. He approached them ostensibly to inspect the seventh-year prefects’ work on the everlasting icicles, the spell for which he had taught them during their lesson the day before.

Even in anger, Regulus wasn’t stupid”he retrieved his wand, quietly fuming, under Flitwick’s watchful eye. The Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw prefects had turned to watch this altercation, and Lily told them civilly but firmly to return to decorating. They moved away, the Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors festooning the House tables with red and green streamers, while the Ravenclaws, aided by the Slytherins, created ivy garlands and holly wreaths for the walls.

Lily had thought Sirius and Peter would sneak off to enchant snowballs, which was the Marauders’ usual Christmas pastime. Instead, they walked into the Great Hall, which Lily thought was pushing the dubious goodwill instilled in Regulus by Flitwick’s supervision.

“Is it time for another adventure, Moony?” Sirius asked He was barely audible from where Lily stood.

“Is now really the time or place, Padfoot?” Remus said, finishing another icicle with a gentle dip of his wand.

“Well, yes, because Wormy and I need to know how much trouble we can get into. Would two days’ worth of detentions be...inconvenient?”

“I’m a prefect!” Remus exclaimed in a hushed voice. “You can’t just go saying these things to me.”

“That’s why I’m not inviting you along at the moment, although we all know you’ll probably end up coming.”

Remus sighed, looking suddenly drawn.

“If you’re not going to be helpful, you can discuss this later,” Lily said to Sirius and Peter, her patience already worn short by her supervision duties.

Sirius frowned in concentration, thought for a few moments, and waved his wand in several complicated strokes. He produced a beautiful ice sculpture of a dog standing at attention with a wreath of holly around its neck.

Lily rolled her eyes as Remus and Peter inexplicably burst out laughing, and Sirius allowed himself a wicked grin. “What in Merlin’s name am I going to do with that?” she demanded.

“Lovely, intricate work, Mr. Black!” Professor Flitwick squeaked, looking over at Sirius’ ice sculpture. He turned back to decorating the nearest Christmas trees, saying things like, “Unforeseen talent in Charms and Conjuring!” and shaking his head.

“Fine, Sirius, since you are trying to interrupt this decorating session so doggedly...” Lily began reluctantly.

“Very doggedly indeed,” Remus said, grinning.

“Oh, come on, Lily, throw him a bone,” Peter exclaimed, extending a hand toward the ice sculpture. At that point, Remus lost his composure completely and doubled over.

Sirius waited patiently while Remus and Peter slapped each other on the back.

“What’s got into them?” Lily asked, forming another everlasting icicle with her wand in an attempt to look busy.

Sirius shrugged. “No idea.”

“Christmas...spirit...” Remus wheezed, trying to collect himself. After several deep gulps of air, he leaned toward Sirius and muttered something in his ear.

Lily only caught the word ‘tomorrow,’ and couldn’t make sense of it, as Christmas was still a week away. However, Sirius saluted him and walked off. Peter followed behind, his pale eyes streaming with tears of mirth.

*

After another few days of feverish holiday decorating, the prefects were starting to get on each other’s nerves. Regulus still cherished the thought of revenge for Sirius’ prank. He had been willing to take it out on Remus, who as Sirius’ friend was apparently his proxy for the purposes of vengeance. However, Remus was conspicuously absent from decorating, having fallen ill the day after the conversation in the Great Hall, so Regulus tormented Lily instead.

Thus far, Lily hadn’t really minded her duties heading up the decorating committee. It wasn’t interfering with her schoolwork too badly”she was used to rationing her time by now”and, more importantly, supervising twenty-four other people gave her little chance to think of anything else. When she wasn’t decorating, she was so preoccupied by her conscious effort not to think of James that she was ironically hard-put to concentrate on what she was doing.

Now, however, Regulus, Aubrey, Rookwood, and the rest of the Slytherin prefects took it in turns to use Severing Charms so that any decoration under which Lily was standing would fall on her head, although she took points from Kathleen Derrick when she heard her whisper, “Diffindo.” This elicited more mutterings of “Mudblood,” which provoked the Gryffindor prefects, especially Mary, to take offense on Lily’s behalf.

Altogether, tensions were running extremely high by the time the decorating team of prefects reached the seventh floor. It was something stupid”Lily didn’t even see what happened, but she heard that one of the Slytherins had spit at the portrait of the Fat Lady. When she shrieked all hell broke loose. Gryffindors who came out of the portrait hole rushed past, either ducking their heads or, in Sirius’ case, stopping to fire a hex into the fray. Only an occasional “”ridiculous!” or “”at once!” could be heard from Lily above the din as she tried to block as many spells as she could. Finally, Professor McGonagall entered the corridor and stood for a moment in shock. Most of the Gryffindors stopped at once, aware that she did not play favorites and did not take kindly to dueling.

Lily took a great breath and yelled, “STOP!” This quelled a few more, including Mary, who seemed to have realized that she was brandishing her wand in Kathleen Derrick’s face and stepped back quietly.

Professor McGonagall’s nostrils flared and her lips pressed into a tight, pale line. “This is disgraceful,” she hissed, and though a few errant jinxes had still been flying, the jets of light died out entirely. “Never in my twenty-two years as a teacher have I seen such a spectacle from prefects. You should all be ashamed.”

The severity in her voice alone was enough to make all but a few of the Slytherins hang their heads and scuff at the floor with the toes of their shoes. Lily briefly entertained the idea of casting a Disillusionment Charm over herself, and was immediately sorry. “I’ll take responsibility for this, Professor,” she said, stepping forward. “I’m in charge, and I didn’t defuse the situation as I should have.”

“Nonsense, Miss Evans,” Professor McGonagall said sharply. “Do not throw yourself to the metaphorical wolves. However, since you all are supposed to be pinnacles of responsibility, I shall take thirty points from each of you.

“Let me see, that’s one hundred eighty from Hufflepuff, one hundred eighty from Ravenclaw, one hundred eighty from Slytherin, and one hundred fifty from Gryffindor”” an undercurrent of whispering interrupted her at this point, but she continued smoothly “”because Mr. Lupin was absent tonight and Miss Evans was so ardently trying to stop this idiocy.”

Speak of the devil, Lily thought. At that moment, Remus came rushing down the corridor whence Professor McGonagall had come, still looking sickly but saying, “I’m sorry I’m late, but I’ve felt terrible missing the past few days as”” He broke off, noticing the cowed looks of the prefects and Lily’s lowered head.

“Surely, Professor, thirty points each is”” began Rookwood in his most placating, oily voice, the one he always used around professors.

“And detention, to be served at seven o’clock sharp tomorrow evening. Three hours exactly would do you all some good. It will not interfere with patrol duties, and I do not care about Quidditch practice for any team. No, Mr. Davies, I am well aware that you are the interim captain for the Gryffindor Quidditch team. You might have thought of that before you decided to duel with such enthusiasm.”

It would have been hard to say which of the prefects was most outraged.

*

That Friday, Lily left the girls’ dormitory at five till midnight for patrol. Normally, no one was out of bed at that hour, but she saw someone waiting by the portrait hole.

“Remus, what are you doing?” Lily asked, puzzled. “It’s far past curfew.”

“I know. I just thought that perhaps you could use some company. I don’t sleep much anyway.” He gave her an almost apologetic smile.

“Well, if you really don’t mind,” Lily said, noticing that Remus already had his robes on.

As they shut the portrait hole behind themselves, Lily said, “Is there any reason?”

“For what?”

“Your coming with me. I appreciate it, don’t get me wrong.”

“Honestly, you’ve just had a rough time lately. With what happened this week, and then...other things too.”

“James,” Lily said, breaking the taboo so that he wouldn’t have to.

“Yeah.”

“You don’t need to worry, Remus. Not about that, at least. The prefects’ duel was a disaster, but James...I’m done with him.” She said this while managing not to let any emotion slip into her voice.

“Done?” Remus repeated incredulously.

“It’s been almost a month. Not a word from him.”

“But there must be something seriously wrong”” Remus began to protest.

“No,” Lily said. “Remus, if you knew what I had told him the night he left...he could have just kept his distance and I would assume the same thing that you do. But he didn’t, and I don’t care about him anymore.”

Remus looked steadily into her face. “Don’t say things you don’t mean, Lily,” he said gently.

“I’m making it true,” she said firmly. “I do mean it.”

He said nothing, shaking back the sleeve of his robes to scratch an arm. Lily suspected this was a tasteful way of not pushing her to talk, but something made her turn back and look at him. Even by the dim glow of the lamps in the hall, she could see that his arms were crisscrossed with thin red scars, as though he’d recently fought his way through a briar patch.

“You said I’ve had a difficult week,” Lily said incredulously. “What happened to you?”

“I have no idea,” Remus said. There was an odd kind of truth about his tone. “Although I did have quite a tussle with one of the Greenhouse Three plants on Wednesday.”

“It looks as though you lost,” Lily said.

“I had it on the ropes,” Remus answered, grinning.

“Oh, and speaking of difficult weeks,” Lily said, “why has Sirius been taking every possible opportunity to hex his brother? I know there’s not much love lost between them, but honestly, it didn’t help when he started firing curses into the prefects’ fight .”

Remus hesitated. Finally, he said, “Regulus has the Mark.”

“You mean he’s working for Voldemort?” Lily said, outraged. “And he’s a prefect?”

“Godric, Lily, keep your voice down!” Remus implored. “Sirius didn’t know until he saw it a few weeks ago. They don’t talk at all. Anyway, Padfoot got”frightening. I don’t know how else to describe it. He was going on with all this ‘no brother of mine’ talk. If I were Regulus, I’d start looking around corners.”

“He expresses this anger by wrapping his brother in tinsel?” Lily asked skeptically.

“You know Padfoot. He’ll make anything into a joke. Maybe he wants us to see it that way; I don’t know. What I do know is that if Voldemort’s making sixteen-year-olds Death Eaters now, nothing good can come of it.”

*

Most of the Gryffindor students had gone home for the holidays. Among the seventh-years, Sirius, Remus, and Lily were the only ones who remained. Sirius, who was excellent at wizard’s chess, settled Remus’ and Lily’s tournaments by playing the winner. Though Lily often saw him staring moodily into the fire or out of the window, whenever he knew she or Remus was watching him, he would have his wonted easy grin on his face, as though it had been there all along. They ate with the teachers and the other students who had remained for Christmas at one long table, where Professor Dumbledore pulled crackers regularly.

Many of the other teachers were in a particularly festive mood as well. Professor Flitwick had been more tolerant than usual of Sirius and his antics ever since the everlasting ice sculpture, which still held its tail proudly aloft in the Great Hall. Even when Sirius bombarded each of the teachers’ office windows with enchanted snowballs that exploded and multiplied like fireworks upon reaching their target, Flitwick merely leaned out of his office to pronounce the accuracy of the charm amazing. He also suggested astutely that Sirius would at least earn an ‘Exceeds Expectations’ on his Charms N.E.W.T. if he put as much effort into his work during lessons.

At breakfast on New Year’s Day, Lily received another letter from her mother, expressing anxiety over Lily’s lack of a response to her first correspondence. There was an almost conciliatory tone to it with which Lily did not sympathize. Mrs. Evans closed with a well-timed ‘Happy New Year,’ though it contained just as much true feeling behind it as the ‘Happy Christmas’ from the previous letter.

Lily was folding up her letter again, creasing its folds angrily, when she heard a chair knock back from the table and fall over with a clatter.

Sirius was sprinting away from the table, already halfway out of the Great Hall. Remus looked up in alarm and got up as well. Lily followed both of them after a moment’s hesitation, while the teachers stared.

She and Remus only caught up with Sirius at the portrait hole. He seemed to be having trouble articulating the password, and it took them a few moments to figure out why. “Gladius,” Lily said quickly, as Remus helped his friend into the common room.

Sirius was sobbing. Even when he was brooding over Regulus, Lily had never seen him without the ghost of the customary smirk on his face until now, and judging from the frightened look on Remus’ face, he hadn’t either. Sirius sank down into one of the armchairs and buried his face in his hands, the anguish racking his entire body. His sobs were soundless, and each breath he took rasped, slow and rattling like that of a Dementor, as though he were barely keeping himself alive. This was more frightening, somehow, than if he had been wailing.

“What’s wrong?” Remus said. “Come on, Padfoot, talk to us.”

But Sirius only shook his head, either unable or unwilling to speak, and refused to yield the letter still clenched in his fist. Lily quickly handed him her handkerchief, and she and Remus took it in turns to rub his back gently as he continued to cry and convulse with his sobs. It was as though his heart had been broken, but to the best of Lily’s knowledge Sirius had never acted this way over any girl.

After Sirius made a feeble attempt at what might have been shooing them away, Remus and Lily decided to give him space in hopes that that would ameliorate his current condition. “Have you ever seen him like this?” Lily whispered.

Remus shook his head. “Not even after his hag of a mother blasted him off that stupid tapestry and told him she never wanted to see him again,” he said, his eyes still on Sirius. He seemed barely to know what he was saying.

Lily wasn’t sure what Remus was talking about”a tapestry?”although she knew that Sirius had lived with James for a time, and suspected that Sirius’ relationship with his family was at least as much of a mess as hers was.

As if hearing her thoughts, Sirius stood up and spun around.

“I probably shouldn’t have told you that,” Remus said guiltily.

“How could he?” Sirius yelled, his face contorted. “No”mention”what right does he”knew I would’ve given anything””

Lily and Remus tried to decode this without success. “Well, I don’t think he’s mad at you,” Lily said.

After a longer period of weeping than Lily had previously thought possible from anyone, Sirius blew his nose loudly into the already sodden handkerchief and stuffed it into his pocket.

“I have to go and see Professor McGonagall,” he said in a voice that sounded like someone had rubbed his throat down with sandpaper.

“Do you want me to”” Remus said.

At the same time, Lily suggested, “I could””

“No,” Sirius said, in the same quiet, painful voice. “I have to. Alone.”

They let him go, as the look in his gray eyes brooked no argument. By dinner that evening, Sirius Black was nowhere to be found.
End Notes:
Thanks for reading! (And waiting through the queue drama, of course.) Next chapter will be from James' viewpoint. Please review; I love feedback!
Chapter 13-Engulfed in Flames by unjellify
Author's Notes:
The chapter title comes from "I Was Once A Loyal Lover" by Death Cab For Cutie. I am still not J.K. Rowling. Thanks to Soraya for her usual masterful editing.



When James was a child, he had spent a great deal of time on his toy broomstick. His parents had acted as though this were the first time any young wizard had ever done such a thing. Both expressed the conviction that he was going to be an international Quidditch star someday, or, as his mother was quick to remind him, succeed at anything else he might want to do.

James had never really cared about his parents’ approbation because he had never been without it. Their praise was a given, just like the sky would always be blue and the grass would always be green. He loved flying around, even though he had risen barely two feet from the ground, but as selfish as it sounded now, he did tire of everyone exclaiming over him incessantly. Whenever he wanted to be alone, he went down to the river and sat and thought.

Now, it appeared that he had slept there the previous night. James groaned and rolled over, the vertebrae in his neck crackling, and sat up, his hands scrabbling at the ground beside him until he found his glasses. Pine needles and pebbles had left their imprints in his cheek, a rancid taste lingered in his mouth, and he was sure his hair needed to be washed. It wasn’t as though he had paid much attention to his appearance lately, but today was the funeral.

“Oh, shit,” he muttered, squinting upwards. James had barely got an ‘Acceptable’ in his Astronomy O.W.L., since that was usually the lesson he skipped with Sirius, but even he could tell that when the sun was directly overhead, it was around noontime.

Noon. He scrambled to his feet. If it was noon, he had seriously screwed up.

As he left the shadows of the trees, the sunlight and the multitude of somber mourners already in the garden combined to make him cringe. I’m late to my mother’s funeral, he realized, numb with shame. Of all these people who had never come to visit his mother in her final days, he was the one who had committed this final dishonor to her memory. He hadn’t even had a chance to say goodbye”she had died in her sleep in the early hours of New Year’s Day”and thus ignominious tardiness was his farewell gesture.

More out of self-punishment than anything else, James took the empty seat at the front, next to his father, and heard the susurrus begin behind him.

His father gave James the once-over out of the corner of his eye and his lips tightened. “Are you drunk?” he hissed, so softly that James had to take a moment to process the question.

Though he wasn’t drunk”not anymore, anyway”James apologized and put his head in his hands as an ancient wizard whom he had never seen before assumed his place at the front of the group congregated there. To the best of James’ knowledge, this wizard had never met James’ mother, and the eulogy that the man delivered did nothing to convince him otherwise. His mother’s body lay at the front, but James was too consumed by the knowledge that he had irretrievably let her down to look at it.
Mourning with his father had been difficult even before the final disappointment of James’ lateness. Mr. Potter was the sort of man who ate pizza with a knife and fork, and his wordless yet unequivocal position was that Potter men did not cry. For the duration of the service, they remained taciturn and dry-eyed, avoiding each other’s gazes. Thus, James watched silently as his mother’s body was entombed, reminding himself that she was already dead as her body was consumed for a moment by flames.

Afterwards they ate, the mourners descending upon the food and then clustering like vultures around those who were especially grief-stricken. James thought that this buffet was a terrible idea, as he had never felt less hungry in his life, but he knew that it was traditional and that cooking made Lindy happy. Judging from the spread, she had been up all night.

James retreated as far away from the buffet table as possible until he was at the edge of the yard, almost returning to the forest. He let out a deep breath, and then realized that someone was leaning against a tree right beside him.

“Padfoot!” James said in surprise. “What are you doing here?”

“Here in the trees, or here at the funeral?” Sirius asked coldly, without looking at him.

James was about to respond with the latter, but something in Sirius’ tone made him stop. However, his hesitation was apparently enough of an answer.

“I came to offer my condolences to your family,” Sirius said, in the same impersonal tone.

James turned and faced him dead on, frowning. Sirius turned his head away, but not before James saw that his friend’s features were set into an expression of proud haughtiness that had been passed down through generations of Black family members”an expression that had never before appeared on Sirius’ face.

You didn’t invite him, a small voice inside James’ head whispered.

Yes, James admitted, but he can’t be cross at me. An angry Sirius is a noisy Sirius; everyone knows that.

This was true. The time when James had set fire to Sirius’ favorite Wasps jersey during a particularly disastrous third-year Charms class, the time when one of Sirius’ sixth-year girlfriends”Lydia, maybe?”had cheated on him, the time when Snape had hexed him and Slughorn had given Sirius a detention”all of these had resulted in riotous fits of temper from Sirius, characterized by a slew of curses both magical and colloquial. If Sirius were furious at James, every one of the funeral’s attendees would know by now.

Yet, James realized, that isn’t always the case. During the few times that Sirius and Regulus passed each other in the corridors, the frigidity that emanated from them sent a palpable chill through the entire hall. Each pretended that he did not see the other.

Now, James felt the panic rising in his stomach. It cut through the dulling effects of both his sadness and his hangover. “Sirius, I’m sorry,” he said. “I thought you wouldn’t want to come.”

This time, Sirius tilted his head infinitesimally to the side and regarded James, without any change in his demeanor.

“I didn’t want anyone to see me like this. To see my life like this. I’m a mess,” James confessed, swallowing, rubbing the back of his head, and feeling a leaf in his hair that he had neglected to remove.

“Look, what do you want me to say?” James continued, when no response came. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry I didn’t invite you around for Christmas, and I’m sorry I didn’t invite you to the funeral. I’m sodding tired of everyone just feeling so sorry for me, and I don’t want anyone’s pity. I don’t want it.”

“Well, you haven’t got mine,” Sirius yelled, his façade breaking at last. “You’re so bloody self-centered, James, that you’re only making it worse. I’m just another one of those mourners who comes round the house to tell you how sorry I am, am I?”

“No, Sirius, I never said””

“You as good as did. D’you know how I felt, James, after my mum blasted me off that stupid tree and forbade anyone in the family to speak to me?”

“I do. My mum is”she’s dead. Godric, at least you still have two parents.”

In what James judged to be the pinnacle of insensitivity, Sirius turned and walked away. James followed, his own temper rising now. “I know you’re wallowing because your parents disowned you and your brother is a Death Eater and you’re just oh so misunderstood.”

Sirius continued walking farther into the forest.

“You know what, Sirius? I think you’re the one who’s bloody selfish. You have a family. You have a girlfriend. Yeah, I’ve been a bit preoccupied with my mum’s terminal illness! So what? I don’t have any of what you have, only a dad who’s completely disgusted with me at the moment.”

“And now you don’t have a best friend, either,” Sirius said coolly, and he Disapparated.

James simply stood and stared for a moment. They were all best friends”James, Sirius, Remus, and Peter”but the kind of best-friendship that James and Sirius had was slightly different from that of the others. They were”we’re like brothers, James thought, and in that moment, he realized the full enormity of his colossal mistake.

Sirius hadn’t brought up his mum to make James feel the loss of his own mother all the more keenly. Mrs. Black was Sirius’ mother in the biological sense only. How could James have forgotten that? He had been distracted, distracted by guilt and defensiveness and his own stupid attempts to elicit any reaction from his now former friend. Sirius was, for all practical purposes, a Potter, except, unlike the Potters, he had had no chance to say goodbye. He had received news of Mrs. Potter’s death from James’ father, and to top it all off, James had insulted him, told him that he was wallowing.

James rested his head against a tree and sighed. He wished he had a Time-Turner, or anything to help him restart this disastrous day. If he kept this up, he would soon be entirely alone.

He tried to move without success. Remorse was clawing away at him, more viciously than it ever had before, and he dropped to the ground and closed his eyes tightly. Potter men don’t cry, he reminded himself. He didn’t feel so much like crying, though, as screaming. Not even Firewhisky would help this. He wanted out, out of this crippling emotion, and out of life altogether.

Then he realized, finally, what he had been overlooking these past few days. There was an alternative, an escape, and at the moment, James couldn’t think of anything more wonderful. He stumbled to his feet and concentrated.

A moment later, there was no grief, no guilt, nothing except a stag bounding away into the forest.
End Notes:
Thanks for reading! The next chapter will be from Lily's perspective, and also contain the moment we've all been waiting for - James' return. Please review: a lot went on between James and Sirius in this chapter, and I'd really like some feedback.
Chapter 14 - Returns and Regrets by unjellify
Author's Notes:
Wow. So, it's been an insanely long time since I've updated (real life, everyone), but if anyone has stuck with me, a million thanks. As usual, props to my wonderful, wonderful beta Soraya.


Like so many of Lily’s days now, this one began unremarkably. Sirius had returned a couple of days earlier, and he seemed just as friendly as before, but imperturbably calm--almost strangely so. In the past, he had been mercurial and mischievous, apt to release a Filibuster’s Firework during their N.E.W.T. Defense Against The Dark Arts class just to see what would happen. Then again, Lily welcomed the respite, since disciplining Sirius was much more difficult than taking points from a recalcitrant second-year.

She rose and went to breakfast with Mary, Marlene, Alice, and Florence. Friday, she thought. Tonight is the prefects’ meeting for the new term; I should write up an agenda for that. Lily had always been diligent, but during the hectic month of December, she had developed the habit of making a mental list every morning. What she really needed was a Remembrall, but she had devoted the previous Hogsmeade visit to buying gifts for everyone but herself.

The first lesson of the day was Potions, which meant that Lily could absorb herself completely in her work. She had always thought that whatever her career might be, it would involve Potions, but this would not be the case. Her choice was simple. She was a Muggle-born, and she would do anything she could to stop the Death Eaters from killing innocent people like her in the name of –purifying” the Wizarding world, even if it meant that she would be too busy dueling to brew a tricky Draught of Living Death.

–Excellent, Miss Evans!” Slughorn boomed, interrupting her thoughts.

So much for absorbing myself in my work, Lily thought, accepting the compliment with a duck of her head and an automatic smile. She actually might need to concentrate on this one. For the past month, she had been making difficult potions with ease because she had already brewed them with James. However, they had never got to the Draught of Living Death. No, Lily told herself. I’m not going to think about that night. We kissed, he disappeared, I got over him. She had repeated this sequence of events to herself thousands of times now, and yet sometimes she still needed reminding.

She was distracted through Transfiguration, which had never been her strongest subject at the best of times. They were supposed to be Transfiguring their partners into Labradors and then Untransfiguring them. Peter was fairly good at it, but Lily only gave him a tail and floppy ears before she promptly lost concentration. Luckily, Professor McGonagall’s attention was taken by Sirius, who was easily Transfiguring Remus and then returning him to his normal form. Since he usually devoted his talents to Transfiguring his classmates at random, the relative order in the room today no doubt made her suspicious.

Lily finally managed to collect herself before calling the prefects’ meeting. She talked coherently about how students would likely bring illicit items into the castle from Hogsmeade next weekend, and remembered the new passwords and the answer to Ravenclaw’s riddle without fault.

–Lastly,” she said as the undercurrent of restless mouths and feet began, –I’ve made the new patrol rota for you all. You will be assigned the same corridors as before, but on different nights. Seventh-years take Sundays and Mondays. Fifth-years, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Sixth-years, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, but--”

The door opened. –Am I late?” he said.

Lily stared. Should I say hello? she wondered. And of course he’s late; does he think he’s being funny? Should I ignore him entirely? But he’s been gone for weeks. He looks exhausted. Oh, there I go feeling sorry for him again. Doormat Lily. That’s it; I’m not going to say hi to him. I’m not.

But James Potter had already joined her at the front. –Lily,” he said quietly, in what could have been a greeting or a plea of some kind.

–James,” she said coldly. She closed her eyes for a moment and then opened them. –As I was saying, I will also be patrolling on weekends, so it’s not as daunting as it sounds. Seventh-years, please post the copies of the rota in your common rooms; they’re near the door. Have a good night, everyone.”

For the first time ever at a prefects’ meeting, several people seemed reluctant to leave. They kept eyeing Lily and James surreptitiously and turning to look under their chairs, as if they might have left something behind. Finally, only James, Lily, Remus, and Mary remained.

–You can go,” Lily said politely to Remus and Mary.

–But I think it might be better--” Mary began.

Remus gently took her arm. –Yes, we were just leaving.”

In a low voice he obviously thought Lily couldn’t hear, Remus said, –Give them their privacy.”

–But they’ll kill each other,” Mary hissed, throwing a last nervous look at James and Lily before Remus pulled the door closed.

James was gazing at her without saying a word.

Lily endured approximately two minutes of this before saying, –Well?”

–I forgot what you were like,” he said wonderingly.

Something inside Lily snapped. –Yes, you forgot all about me, didn’t you?” she said.

–No, that’s not what--”

–Don’t even try,” she said scathingly, making for the door. She didn’t know why she had stayed back with him. There was nothing he could say to her, and there was nothing that she wanted to say to him. She strode towards the door and wrenched it open.

James followed her into the hall. –Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen, I swear.”

–What didn’t you mean to do?” Lily said without turning around, her temper flaring again. –To kiss me? To leave afterwards without one word to anyone?”

James was silent.

She hadn’t realized she was walking towards Gryffindor Tower until they reached the portrait of the Fat Lady, James still a pace behind her.

–Mandragora,” Lily said to the Fat Lady, and the portrait hole swung open.

–I messed up, Lily. That wasn’t the right time to tell you how I feel,” James said quietly.

He reached out to help her through the portrait hole, but she slapped his hand away.

–You didn’t care about me. You don’t care about anyone but yourself. You kissed me because you wanted to, and then you left because you wanted to.”

–I had to go.”

–Why?”

James faltered, opened his mouth, closed it, and examined the floor.

–Oh, that’s a bloody good reason,” she said impatiently. –And I suppose you think you’re funny, interrupting the prefects’ meeting like that? I don’t need another reminder that I’ve been picking up your slack for a month and a half.” Her voice rose in pitch. Their group of friends drifted closer as it became apparent that her anger would not burn itself out anytime soon.

–Don’t expect anything else from him, Lily,” Sirius drawled as he reached them. –He’s a self-centered bastard.”

Lily was so surprised at the lack of irony in Sirius’ voice that she hesitated for a moment before continuing, –I didn’t mean to kiss you back, James. I knew you were arrogant. I knew you were selfish. I was stupid, though, stupid enough to think that I could trust you, that deep down, you were a decent sort of person.”

James said nothing. For the first time ever, he wasn’t refuting her criticisms, but this only encouraged her.

–Was it fun for you, James?” Lily said in a dangerously pleasant tone. –Do you flirt with everyone so shamelessly? Of course you do. You’re James Potter, Quidditch star. You can have any girl you want. Who’d you kiss the night before me, James? Was she pretty? Did she think you were sweet?”

–Lily--” he said weakly.

–Was she crying, too?” Lily asked. –Was her life falling apart around her?”

This time, Remus reached out a hand as if to stop her.

–Don’t be shy, James. You can brag,” Lily continued, ignoring Remus’ silent attempts to warn her that she was still speaking at top volume. She took a perverse pleasure in trying to provoke James. –I was just the next girl on your list. Did you think I’d be a good shag? Maybe you’d wait until my parents banned me from ever coming home again.”

–Stop,” James said forcefully. –I want to protect you, Lily. That’s all.”

–Well, it’s bloody hard to do that when you’re not here, isn’t it?” Lily said.

–Will you two please stop acting like you’re auditioning for a soap opera?” Marlene said reasonably.

–Give me another chance,” James said. –You wouldn’t be acting like this if you didn’t still care about me.”

–...Or not,” Marlene continued under her breath.

Sirius rolled his eyes, and peripherally Lily saw Marlene and Alice cringe in anticipation.

–You don’t know anything about me,” Lily said. –I never cared about you.”

–You kissed me back.”

–Well, I’ve got news for you. I can kiss whomever I want and it doesn’t have to mean ANYTHING!” Lily snapped.

Anger burning through her, blinding her, she spun around to face Remus and kissed him full on the mouth, knowing with vindictive certainty that James was watching them. Maybe he would understand now.

Remus pulled away. Lily’s anger was gone, and now she cursed her stupidity, worrying that she had ruined her friendship with him just to prove a point. She had only wanted James to feel that emptiness when something that had been there all along, before they ever started trading awful jokes during patrol, suddenly disappeared. Even when he had annoyed her, soaking her with an Aguamenti charm at merciless range or trying every item of Zonko’s merchandise in existence on her and her friends, he had always been a part of her life, and part of her in some way she hadn’t understood. She had always been part of his, too, helping him with his Muggle Studies work when she wasn’t retaliating in kind (although she had convinced him of the existence of –fellytones” after the Aguamenti incident). She had no idea how she would ever explain this to Remus, though.

As she studied Remus’ face now, however, she saw nothing except surprise rapidly overcome by pity. Perhaps, she thought, he already understands. He touched her arm sympathetically, and it was then that James punched Remus in the face.

Sirius grabbed James automatically. –How dare you?” James yelled at Remus, struggling.

–He didn’t do anything, James,” Lily said. –He doesn’t deserve that.”

–He deserves it because he’s a traitor.”

–Well, then, let me take a swing at you,” Sirius said darkly.

–Oh, Sirius, don’t!” Florence said, putting a proprietary hand on his back. She had been watching the drama unfold with rapt attention, and looked far too happy that the situation was getting out of hand.

–Prongs, calm down,” Remus said.

–You just touched her! Right there! And you let her snog you!”

–Think about this. She only snogged me because she’s pissed off at you and wants to make you jealous.”

–That’s not true,” Lily said automatically. –I was supporting a theory with a practical application. I’m really sorry about your nose, by the way. Episkey.”

Though Remus’ face was still bloody, his nose returned to its normal shape.

Only then did Lily notice that every Gryffindor in the common room was goggling at her and James, waiting eagerly to see what might happen next. The color rose to Lily’s cheeks immediately. James deserved what he had got, but Lily had been so angry that she hadn’t realized she was making a spectacle of them both.

–I’m going to bed,” she said abruptly, though it was only eight-thirty.

Everyone bade her goodnight without further comment, James looking dazed.

Lily took up her bag and ascended the stairs to the girls’ dormitory. She intended to finish her Transfiguration essay, but as she reached her bed, she found that she only wanted to sleep, and hope that everyone would forget about her outburst by morning. She had hardly known what she was saying as she was saying it--most of it hadn’t been true, at any rate--and had simply wanted to hurt James.

It was only a kiss, she reminded herself. It wasn’t her first kiss, or the furthest she had ever gone with someone, and yet it had hurt her so much when he left. That was her own fault. Over the preceding months, she had allowed herself to trust James far too deeply. She had forgotten to keep the distance she maintained with Carl and her friends and her parents because she no longer gave people the chance to be disappointed with the real Lily, or herself the chance to see their disappointment.

When she had told Remus that she felt unlovable, she had left it at that and he hadn’t pressed her. She had told James everything, given him her deepest, darkest secret, and he had left her with nothing, not even a reason for his absence. Hardly anyone could have risen to that kind of trust, though, least of all a teenage boy.

–Lily?” Marlene had come into the dormitory.

–Hi,” Lily said, clearing her throat.

–Are you crying?”

–No.”

Though Lily hadn’t lied, she was remarkably close to doing so. Marlene chose not to pursue the subject. –Do you want to talk?”

–I don’t know.”

–If you don’t mind my asking, what exactly did James do to you? Yes, he kissed you and then went off to Godric-knows-where without telling you a thing, but you completely lost it tonight. That’s not like you.”

–It’s just...” Lily began. –It’s just that I’ve been so angry with him for the past month, so confused, and then he comes back and I feel this urge to act like nothing has changed. He showed up with one of his stupid, cocky lines and there was this part of me that just wanted to run over to him, to ask him how he was doing and tell him I missed him.”

–And you were disgusted with yourself.”

Lily nodded. That was exactly what James had done. He had come back and made her feel exactly the same way about him as before, even though he kept so many secrets from her, even though he had left her with twice the work as Head Girl, and even though she had felt so betrayed.

–Lily, that’s not so wrong. You can’t help how you feel,” Marlene continued.

–I want to hate him, but for some reason I still care about him. I couldn’t have told him that, could I?” Lily asked.

Marlene considered this for a moment. –I think you sort of did.”

*

It was eleven fifty-five the next night and Lily was waiting in the common room. She didn’t know if he would show up, or if he’d even remember that they had patrol on Fridays. She was sitting in one of the armchairs near the fire when she heard a cough and then a tentative, –Hi.”

For some reason, James had come through the portrait hole. –If you don’t want to come with me, I understand. I’ll go by myself,” he said.

–No, it’s my responsibility, too.” Lily had forgotten how tall and strong and so very, solidly there James was, and immediately she cursed herself for noticing it again.

They left Gryffindor Tower in silence.

–Why Moony?” James said finally.

–Why what?”

–Remus. Why did you kiss him?”

–After everything I said and did last night, that’s your question?” Lily looked at him disbelievingly.

James just waited for an answer.

–Proximity, mainly. I was just so angry and I wanted to make you feel just a tiny fraction of what I’ve been feeling.”

He sighed. –I know that it seems like I was messing you about, but I wasn’t. That was what I was trying to tell you. I couldn’t stand to see you like that.”

Lily didn’t say anything.

–My timing was absolutely bollocks,” he said.

–Yes.”

They were silent for a while.

–Where were you?” Lily said. –Tonight, I mean. You didn’t come from the dormitory.”

–Nowhere.”

–James....”

–It’s not important.”

Another pause followed. Lily sighed, and said, –You know, we could have been good together, I think.”

James glanced at her. –Maybe we still could be. Not now, but someday.”

She hesitated, and then said, –I don’t think so, James. You’re all about secrets. You keep everything to yourself. I wasn’t angry because you kissed me and left. It was because I told you everything and you wouldn’t tell me anything, and you still won’t.”

He looked suddenly wounded. –I’m sorry,” he said quietly. –Lily, the reason that I had to leave...my mum was very sick.”

Lily stared at him for a moment, not comprehending. –Did she...is she better now?”

He shook his head, his jaw clenched tightly, and Lily immediately realized her mistake. –Oh my God. James, I don’t even know what to say.”

–I should go,” he said, turning away and mumbling, –...look like an idiot....”

–No,” Lily said firmly. –If anyone looks like an idiot, it’s me.”

Before she could talk herself out of it, she hugged James tightly, because that was what he needed, and maybe what she needed as well as he returned her embrace. She could not think of an adequate apology for everything she had said to him. His mum had died, and he had returned to school only to have Lily make him feel worse.

Maybe he’s not the problem, she thought. Maybe I am. I acted like a complete cow to him and he can still forgive me.

–I’m sorry,” she said to James. –I’m so, so sorry.”

–You couldn’t have known. You’re right; I’ve already ruined one of my friendships this way, with all these secrets, and I am a selfish bastard.”

–You’re not,” Lily said automatically, but her mind was shuffling her memories like cards in a deck. This was what always happened when Slughorn praised her for improvising in Potions, or when she had a particularly difficult number chart in Arithmancy.

She heard the voice in her mind even before she recognized whom it belonged to. –How could he? No--mention--what right does he--knew I would’ve given anything--”

–That’s why Sirius is angry with you, isn’t it?” she said. –You wouldn’t tell him where you went--”

–Not just where I went,” James said hollowly. –He was a part of our family for a full year, and I told him nothing about my mum. He’s got every right to be furious with me.”

–You’ve fought before,” Lily said.

–This is for real. You’ve got to understand, I don’t want to go around whinging about my mum, but...”

–...But you don’t have to keep everything to yourself,” Lily said gently. –That doesn’t mean you’re selfish.”

–Lily, my first question to you wasn’t how things have been going for you or how you’ve been feeling. I asked you why you chose one of my best mates to snog.”

Another mental voice spoke up. He still wouldn’t tell me where he was tonight.

Yes, Lily argued, but it doesn’t really matter. I’m creating problems that don’t exist.

–It doesn’t matter,” she said aloud. –I already told you how I’ve been feeling, and I wouldn’t blame you if you never wanted to speak to me again.”

–I deserved it, trust me.”

Trust me.

I do, Lily thought. Don’t I?

When they separated, James grasped Lily’s hand and squeezed it briefly before they continued patrol, in what might have been forgiveness or affection or simply a parting gesture. His proximity had always made her feel sure of everything, but now that he was finally here, she only felt more confused than ever.
End Notes:
Thanks for reading, everyone! Next chapter will be from James' point of view. Reviews of any sort would be absolutely lovely; I read and respond to them all.
Chapter 15-Distraction and Temptation by unjellify
Author's Notes:
For anyone that may remember this story and was following it, I'm so sorry I haven't updated in so long! Real life has been great but hectic. For new readers, welcome! Hopefully I'll be updating more frequently now until this fic is finished. As usual, I don't own any of JK Rowling's lovely creations.



–This is weird,” Peter said, looking from James to Sirius.

–Shut up,” Remus said warningly.

–No, it is. You went and snogged Lily--”

–Did not, shut up!” Remus said, more indignantly this time.

–Lily went and snogged you,” Peter amended, –and you and Prongs are fine again. But them two--” he indicated James and Sirius –--nothing for a couple of weeks now.”

–What a brilliant deduction,” Sirius said coldly, not even looking up from his eggs

Peter was quiet. Even if he hadn’t articulated it properly, his point was valid, but neither James nor Sirius felt like explaining. In Peter’s world, people were very emotionally open, for better or for worse, and he had only been learning the art of subtlety from his friends. James had to admit that was mostly because of Sirius, who would take the piss out of Peter at the best of times. When Sirius was sullen or irascible, as he was now, he could be downright cruel.

Before James could give any more thought to this, he was distracted. Lily’s birthday was in two days, and things were still strained between them. He had really cocked up, he knew that, and he wanted to fix everything, but he couldn’t see how. If he could get to Hogsmeade somehow, and get her something really nice....

–Prongs!” A sharp jab in his ribs.

–Yeah?”

–You in there?” Remus asked.

–Yeah, sorry. What?”

–Come back to the tower with me. I forgot my Transfiguration book.”

Remus had never forgot a schoolbook in James’s memory, but he followed him out of the hall anyway. They were on the staircase when Remus said, –So what’s going on?”

–I don’t want to--”

–Not with you and Sirius,” Remus said in a low voice. –You can tell me about that if you’d like, but what I’m more concerned about is that lately you’ve been disappearing frequently.”

James had thought he was avoiding notice, and the look on his face said so.

–Oh, come on. I’m an expert in disappearing, without your cloak or an Apparition license. I have to be. I’d much rather talk about this with everyone, but as you won’t say anything at all in front of Padfoot and it would just be weird if I took both you and Wormy with me to get a book that I have in my bag, here we are.”

James considered. With increasing frequency, he had been transforming without the other Marauders. In his cervine form, things were simpler. He still felt attached to his mother, to Lily, to Sirius, but had no sense of guilt or personal responsibility for how thoroughly everything had gone to pieces.

–What is it? Are you getting off with someone?” Remus scrutinized him. –Nah, you’re still carrying that massive torch for Lily.” As was characteristic of Remus, he left the most painful part delicately unspoken: and she’d never want to get off with you now.

–I’m just...dealing with everything. You don’t need to be worried about me,” James answered.

Remus stayed silent.

–Just to clarify, we’re actually going up seven flights of stairs to get a book you don’t need. This is going to make us late to our lesson, you know,” James said, hoping this would allow them to turn around.

–Since when do you care about being late to lessons?”

–I don’t, but you do.”

–Maybe this is a seven-flight problem.”

James had never considered it, but Remus would make an excellent interrogator and prosecutor for the Ministry.

They made it to the fourth floor before James capitulated. –If I tell you, you have to promise not to tell anyone, not to judge, and not to interfere.”

Remus nodded.

–I’ve been going into the Forest.”

–As...er...Prongs?” They were trying to speak more guardedly now, since breakfast was over and the stairwells were filling with other students.

–Yeah.”

–But why--oh. You know, you’re not supposed to use it to escape from being human.” His tone was light, belying the seriousness of his words.

–But what if I want to?” James didn’t mean to say it; it had just slipped out.

Remus shot a glance at him, this time downright alarmed. –You don’t.”

–Sorry,” James said. He was such an idiot. –I’m really sorry, really, I am, that was a stupid thing to say.” To you, especially.

–Listen, Prongs, I understand why. Life isn’t some golden, halcyon journey. It’s awful sometimes, but what you’re doing is dangerous.”

James was stuck on –halcyon” for a moment, a word that he had used to know but had forgotten, and then he absorbed the meaning of Remus’s words. –I thought we said no judging, right?”

–Do you want to know what it’s like not to be human, James?” Remus asked, so softly that James could barely hear him. –You wake up in the middle of the woods, alone. You can taste the blood in your mouth--it’s metallic and it’s on your hands and on your chest and everywhere, and there are scratches all over you. And you panic. You’re wondering if you just killed someone’s child or someone’s father or someone’s sister, because you can’t find a body anywhere. You just can’t remember. Is that your blood or someone else’s? You’re never going to know, and that not knowing could drive you mad.”

James stared at him.

–Sorry. Rough week.” Remus swallowed.

–Yeah?” James paused and then asked seriously, –But that didn’t just happen, did it? I mean, it’s not even time yet, right? You didn’t...eat...anything?”

–This week? No.” And suddenly, inexplicably, Remus started laughing. His eyes met James’s and then they were both laughing, jogging down the last set of stairs and rounding the corner. James somehow knew that his friend’s laughter was the same as his, laughter that hurt so badly yet the only other alternative was crying. He was going to ask Remus what was wrong, but they were running, faster and faster, until they reached the classroom and burst inside, still emitting occasional –Ha!”s like idiots while gasping for breath.

–Mr. Potter, Mr. Lupin, ten points from Gryffindor for tardiness,” McGonagall said tartly. –Take a seat.”

She had been conspicuously more lenient with James in the past month, but evidently this grace period was over. They were starting a new unit on Animating Transfiguration, which meant that most of today’s lesson would be theory. James got out his Guide to Advanced Transfiguration and sat down.

*

That night, it started again. The silence was buzzing in his ears, and James couldn’t concentrate on anything except what was ahead and how massively unprepared he was. He had been so convinced, just two months ago, that he was ready to fight Voldemort and his Death Eaters. He had told Dumbledore that he would die trying to save those he loved, but he couldn’t. He could, in fact, watch people die. He had. That’s different, he tried to tell himself.

Yet would there be times in the war ahead when he was equally helpless, equally unable to stop the relentless progression of events that would turn those he loved into memories? He would be useless, just like the useless Healers who couldn’t cure his mother, joining the legions of useless people out there who did nothing while others suffered and died. What kind of asset would he be to the Order?

He knew that Remus was right, that using his stag form to escape these questions was dangerous, not to mention cowardly. But no one else would understand. They saw him as a Quidditch star, a top student with the slightest bit of effort, a rich son of a pureblood family. No one knew this side of him, except perhaps for Lily and Sirius. At the moment, one would barely speak to him and the other not at all. Perhaps that’s not a coincidence, he thought.

Easing slowly out of bed, he checked to ensure that his roommates were asleep before fishing underneath his mattress for the invisibility cloak. Within a minute, he had the cloak on and had grabbed the Marauder’s Map from Sirius’s bag. He kept a lookout for patrolling professors and prefects while focusing on getting out of the castle quickly. This, at least, was something at which he was adept.

He paused at the edge of the forest, resting his hand on a tree. And suddenly he realized: Remus was right. James had said that he was dealing with everything, but he wasn’t. As far as he could tell, it was more like standing in a riptide. Just staying in the same place was enough for him, and, he thought, it should be enough for everyone else, too. As his fingers clenched and dug into the bark, he thought of Remus’s serious, frightened face, of everything that his friend had been through, and everything that James had been through that Remus hadn’t. And he closed his eyes and concentrated as his transformation began.

*

–Listen, Remus,” James said, and then paused. The four of them were seated on the floor in the Gryffindor common room. Sirius had been poking Remus and Peter intermittently and making quiet jokes about Libatius Borage, pointedly not including James, who sat across from him.

–What?” Remus said.

–I haven’t started my Potions homework yet...do you think you could help?”

–I thought you were going to do it last night.”

–Well, I didn’t." Out in the forest was the only time that James felt good now, and Remus just didn’t understand. Remus tried to make eye contact with James, an accusatory you did it again didn’t you sort of eye contact which James assiduously avoided.

–You should really have done it last night. It was a bad idea to do something else instead,” Remus said pointedly.

Even Sirius, who had been pretending that any conversation involving James didn’t happen at all, looked confused.

–Give it a rest, Moony. You sound like his mum,” Peter said absentmindedly, turning a page.

James got up and stalked away, leaving all his books. He couldn’t cry in front of all his friends. It had been weeks. He’d look like an idiot. Besides, he was a Potter. He’d just go into the Forest for an hour or so, and finish his work afterward. He could, too—he’d carried the Cloak with him all the time now, even though he knew that there was no version of events in which it would be within school rules to have such a cloak. He left the common room, hearing, –James, I didn’t--” as he closed the portrait behind him.

He had to get Lily something for her birthday, too. Something great. Something that would make her fall into his arms and then, maybe...no. He remembered her face when she said sardonically, –Did you think I’d be a good shag?” Falling into his arms would do.

As he hurried down the corridor, he heard a voice behind him. –Running off to cry, Potter?”

He turned and saw Severus and behind him Regulus.

–No,” James said. Even to his own ears he sounded like a defensive child.

–Did someone make you feel sad, Potter?” Snape spat a little more every time he said James’s name. Regulus snickered.

–Shouldn’t you be in your dungeon, Sniv-Snape?” However much Lily hated Snape, she still hated the nickname Snivellus.

–What did you call me?”

–I called you Snape. It’s after curfew, I’m telling you, get back to--”

–I don’t think you did, Potter,” Regulus broke in suddenly. –I think you called him something else. I think you’re a bully, Potter. You may be Dumbledore’s favorite, but deep down you’re just a bully. And bullies need to be taught a lesson.”

–That’s a bit rich coming from a Death Eater,” James said, his temper flaring.

–We believe in what we’re doing. And things are going to change around here, believe me,” Regulus spat, drawing his wand. –You and my darling brother hex people for laughs, hang people from trees to make yourselves look cooler. Sev and I are making our world a better place.”

James drew his own wand, trying to ignore the buzzing behind his eyes. –We don’t do that anymore. We’ve grown up. Regulus, still trying to win Mummy and Daddy’s approval by hanging out with all their friends, yeah?”

Regulus’s eyes narrowed and James knew that his comment had struck a nerve, however much Regulus genuinely idolized Voldemort.

James remembered last time with Malfoy and Snape, remembered how he swore to himself he wouldn’t lose his temper again. But they’re Death Eaters. He knew in some deeper, more honest part of his mind that he really just wanted to escape, and if he gave into his anger that would surely be just as sweet as his stag form could ever be. But James didn’t particularly feel like being honest with himself, and he pushed that thought away.

–He doesn’t understand our mission, Regulus,” Snape said. –He’s still besotted with that Mudblood who won’t even talk to him.”

–Even the filthy Mudblood bitch refuses to associate with you?” Regulus said, smiling again. –How far can you sink? You dishonor your family, Potter.”

–Or what’s left of it,” Severus said, smirking and leaning back against the wall.

James suddenly couldn’t see. He raised his wand, not even knowing which spell he wanted to cast but knowing that he wanted to cause pain and he could catch Regulus unawares--Regulus, a sixth year who had just started learning nonverbal spells.

And suddenly, his wand was gone. So was Regulus’s.

–Regulus, I’m going to kill you if you don’t get back to your little hole or wherever you Slytherins live,” Sirius said flatly.

Regulus stared at him.

–And I’m going to use all three of these wands to do it,” Sirius continued, brandishing them.

–I want my wand back,” Regulus said.

Sirius walked away, leaned over the nearest banister, and dropped Regulus’s wand down the stairwell. –Fetch.”

He paused with satisfaction as Regulus sprinted away, muttering under his breath. –Why don’t you go help him, Snivelly?”

Snape flashed Sirius and James a look so full of hatred that it sent chills down James’s spine and walked away down the corridor.

–What just happened?” James asked.

–What do you not understand? I didn’t Stun you.”

–No, I mean, what was that? I’ve never seen you that serious.”

Sirius stared at him. –Did you honestly just say that?”

–Yeah, what--oh, right. Wait, are you talking to me again?”

–Wasn’t a fair fight.”

–But you came after me.”

–Yeah.”

–So you were planning to--”

–Shut up.”

–Why did you--?”

–Because you were just being stupid, like always. Like now. Did I mention shut up?”

–I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. You’re my best friend and as close to a brother as I’ll ever have, Paddy, and I didn’t treat you like either one.”

–I know. Come back before you try to fight Mrs. Norris or something.”

–Are we okay?”

–Of course we are, Potter. Let’s cuddle. Do you want to be the big spoon or the little spoon?”

–Shut up, are we?”

–Not yet.”

–Eventually?”

–Eventually.”
End Notes:
Thanks for reading! Sirius' "big spoon or little spoon" comment is not mine and comes from episode 2 of the classic show Scrubs--I just couldn't resist. Next chapter will be from Lily's POV. Please leave a review--I'm interested to know what everyone thinks after all this time, and I answer every one!
Chapter 16-Bella Notte by unjellify
Author's Notes:
I still (unfortunately) do not own the Potterverse. I hope this chapter is as fun to read as it was to write. This is the one we've all been waiting for!



The weather on the morning of Lily’s birthday had always been bleak at best. The January sun would cast its weak glow onto her bed, its light only further distilled by the mullioned, thick-paned windows of the girls’ dormitory. Hogwarts was covered in a sleet-weighted crust of snow, and the bare trees reached their naked branches into the sky like the supplicating fingers of Adam, more majestic and yet more starkly depressing than Michelangelo could have ever imagined.

This particular morning, however, Lily was woken not by the anemic sun, but by someone hurdling onto the end of her bed.

–HAPPY EIGHTEENTH!” Mary yelled, bouncing so energetically that a protesting squeak from the bedsprings punctuated every syllable.

Marlene, Alice, and Florence crowded around.

–What time is it?” Lily asked groggily.

–Time to open presents!” Mary squealed, grinning maniacally. She had inherited an unrivaled enthusiasm for birthdays from her mother. Mary’s own birthdays were, in Lily’s experience, marked by a tremendous gala every summer with no expense spared--string quartets, tables sagging with food, and more people than Lily had ever seen outside the Quidditch World Cup.

Lily’s first present was a huge, luridly pink hat that resembled the offspring of a standard pointy witch’s hat and a seven-layer cake, bearing the bedazzled title of –birthday girl.”

–Good Godric, that’s adorable,” Florence said brightly.

–What?” Lily asked incredulously.

–I completely agree, Lily,” Alice chimed in. –I think you should wear that round to lessons all day,” she added, as if she had just thought of the idea spontaneously.

–No, no, no--” Lily began, attempting to cram the hat back into its box, but Marlene seized it, exclaiming, –Don’t be silly! How else will people know it’s your birthday?” She stuffed it triumphantly onto Lily’s head, trying to keep a straight face.

–I’m quite sure this hat is visible from space,” Lily said, laughing.

–The more the merrier. That’s what Mum always says,” Mary said, swatting Lily’s fingers away from the hat. –Anyway, come on, open the rest of your presents!”

Lily’s other, less embarrassing presents included a history of the greatest contemporary potioneers, a huge bag of sweets from Honeydukes, and a bottle of Firewhiskey.

–Open it!” Florence said.

–I had a good buzz by two in the afternoon on my birthday,” Marlene said.

–Your birthday was a Saturday,” Lily pointed out. –It’s Monday morning and I have class in an hour.”

–Aah, Lily, you’re too focused,” Florence said, shaking her head sagely. –You’re going to give yourself ulcers. Drink with us tonight?”

–All right. Only a little; tomorrow’s still Tuesday.”

–Yes, Head Girl,” they chorused, grinning.

*

Remus caught up to Lily just as she was leaving Defense Against the Dark Arts. Behind her, James and Sirius were making fun of their Ministry guest lecturer’s wheezy and pedantic tone.

–Happy birthday, Lily!” he said, presenting her with a box of Chocolate Frogs. –That’s, erm, an interesting hat you’ve got there.”

Lily snatched it off her head and stuck it into her bag, where immediately the hat began to make loud weeping sounds. –Mary, I’m going to kill you,” she muttered, knowing Charms was her best friend’s strongest subject, and donning the hat once more. –Anyway, Remus, thank you! How sweet.... Um, no pun intended,” she added as Remus grinned.

–I have to admit, I have an ulterior motive,” Remus said. –I hate to spoil your birthday, but there’s a prefects’ meeting tonight at 10.”

–No, there’s not,” Lily said, puzzled. –I scheduled it for this Thursday at seven.”

–Yeah, but Ravenclaw complained to James because so many of their prefects are on the House team. They already booked the field and thought Gryffindor was trying to sabotage their chances against Slytherin, although why we’d do that I can’t imagine.”

–If Slytherin beats Ravenclaw by a margin of sixty points or more then we’re top contenders for the Cup,” Lily said absently, wondering why they had complained to James alone.

–Look at you following Quidditch,” Remus said, obviously impressed. –Apparently they thought wrongly that you wouldn’t understand how important Quidditch is.”

–Well, James is definitely the Quidditch lunatic, not me,” Lily said, although she had become more interested after listening to James pour his heart out over the game for an entire term. –Why couldn’t he have told me this?”

–He said it’d be better coming from me.”

Lily could understand that. They’d been talking more since that night on patrol, but things weren’t the same anymore and would probably never be, an eventuality about which Lily felt strangely and wistfully sad.

*

After opening all her cards, including a conciliatory birthday note from her mum that suggested she come home for Easter, and taking a celebratory shot with her friends, Lily ran down to the Divination classroom where they had prefects’ meetings. She was surprised when the knob did not turn beneath her fingers. Stepping back, she noticed a scrap of parchment Spellotaped to the door that read:

–Prefects’ meeting moved to kitchens.”

Lily rolled her eyes, recognizing the hand immediately, and stalked to the kitchens, tickling the pair so forcefully that it squealed before becoming the door handle. The kitchens were completely dark, which was unusual. –James Potter, what are you playing at?” she said exasperatedly, pausing on the step.

No one answered.

And suddenly the room was illuminated. Candles were floating in the air, ringed around a table with a red and white plaid tablecloth, two huge plates of spaghetti and meatballs, and two glasses of red wine.

–What...where are you?”

–Your arm, please, birthday girl,” a voice said from behind her.

She spun around and there was James, smiling his crooked smile.

Lily was rarely at a loss for words, but he seemed to have that effect on her. She took his arm, saying, –What is this?”

–Don’t you recognize it?”

–Well, it looks like something out of...I don’t know, Lady and the Tramp, but--” Lily broke off and eyed James. –You couldn’t possibly....”

–Fourth year. Remember when I didn’t do my developmental Muggle Studies assignment to interview a Muggle so I interviewed you instead?”

–Yeah, vaguely. I was a bit annoyed. I’m not a Muggle, after all.”

–Yeah, but you know their ways,” James said in hushed tones, as though Lily were a member of some highly secretive cult. –Anyway, you told me your favorite film when you were a kid was Lady and the Tramp, and then you started going on about pasta.”

Lily was having so much trouble processing the reality of this situation that she stared at him blankly.

–Wait, no, shi--um, let me start over. I wasn’t planning to lead off with the pasta bit.” James cleared his throat. –Lily Evans, I would like to wish you a happy birthday. Would you care to dine with me?”

–Yes,” Lily said, finding her voice at last.

They proceeded down the stairs, and as soon as their feet touched the ground, a song Lily knew all too well began to play. –James, this--oh my God, it’s ‘Bella Notte.’ You, you, but, you’re a Pureblood. You’ve never seen this film, have you?”

–Well, I have a certain newly reinstated best mate who’s obsessed with all things Muggle,” James said.

–Sirius? I thought you meant that as a euphemism for shagging girls from his village,” Lily said, grinning.

–No, no, no, you’ve got it wrong. Padfoot surrounds himself with Muggle culture to piss off his parents--and make sure no one confuses him with the rest of that horrid bunch. He’s not choosy any which way about blood status when it comes to girls.”

–What is he choosy about?”

–Well, they have to be completely female and have a pulse.”

Lily giggled.

–Anyway, Paddy’s well in with the Muggle Studies professors, believe it or not, and he got all the equipment and we watched it yesterday.”

–You watched Lady and the Tramp.”

–Merlin, Lily, I even took notes for you.”

Lily raised her eyebrows. –You didn’t even take notes when you took the subject.”

–Maybe that’s because I didn’t have the right motivation,” James said, and when he fixed her with his clear, earnest gaze, she knew it wasn’t just a chat-up line.

He pulled out her chair and Lily sat down. –Well, color me impressed, James Potter,” she said, looking around her. –How did you do the candles? What kind of enchantment is that?”

–Now, that is a trade secret. And, Lily, I’m not done yet.”

–What now?” Lily said, helping herself to spaghetti.

James’ hazel eyes widened and he looked almost scared. –My middle name is Maximus--”

–What?” Lily said, bursting out into a fresh round of giggles.

–I hate it. It’s embarrassing. I’m going to drop it as soon as I leave my parents’ house. Guess the arrogance runs in the family, Evans,” he said gently.

–James--”

–I absolutely cannot stand the taste of coconut.”

She briefly wondered whether James had lost his mind.

–Once, my parents and I were playing hide and seek and I opened this really old cupboard in a far wing of the house and one started shifting through all my relatives, all horribly dead, one at a time. My mum--” James paused, but continued, –--she took care of it, but after that I was always terrified of boggarts as a kid.”

Lily considered him, continuing to eat, frowning slightly. What was he doing?

–My greatest fear now is failure,” he said. –I’m afraid that I’m not going to be useful to the Order and that I won’t be able to do my part to defeat Voldemort.”

And suddenly Lily got it. –James,” she said quietly, –you don’t have to tell me all this.”

–Yes, I do, Lily. I want to be an open book to you, even if you don’t like what you find,” he said fiercely.

–At this moment, I’ve never found anyone quite so wonderful,” she whispered.

*

They walked on the grounds afterward, drunk on each other’s company. –Can you imagine if both of us get caught breaking curfew?” Lily said, grinning as they both stretched out on the grass.

–We’re Head Boy and Girl; relax,” James said. –We’re allowed to be wherever we want whenever we want.”

–Did you actually read the rule book they gave us over the summer?” Lily asked, shifting her position on the ground next to him.

James waved her off. –I skimmed it. That’s definitely what it said.”

–I like that. Okay, we can go anywhere we want. But if a professor asks, it was all you.”

–Deal. Oh, that reminds me, we Marauders have been trying to figure out a way to leave our legacy of mischief to the next generation. We tried to bewitch a copy of Hogwarts: A History, but something went wrong and now it’s just mixed in with the text. Had to wipe everything we had done and start over.”

–What exactly is your legacy of mischief?”

–You know, secret places in the castle, some tunnels we’ve found--the four of us are trying to make sure Hogwarts stays in mayhem when we’ve gone. So we’re starting a map instead.”

–A map?”

–Yeah, Wormy’s convinced he botched the last one--Charms isn’t his thing--but a blank piece of parchment should be foolproof.”

–I know I should disapprove, but frankly that sounds like fun.”

–You’re getting reckless, Evans. I love it.”

–And you, James, are going soft in your old age. When you tried the strand of spaghetti trick, I nearly died laughing. But I suppose it worked,” she said, blushing a little.

–I don’t know,” James said in a low voice, leaning in so that his nose skimmed hers. –Maybe we should...make sure.”

–Please don’t tell me you brought more pasta out here. I’m stuffed.”

James smiled. –I wasn’t talking about the pasta.”

It was Lily who kissed him this time, winding her fingers into his permanently messy hair and cradling the back of his head with her palm. She was tired of waiting, tired of resisting, when now there was nothing more to resist. The truth that burned in her lips and tingled in her hands was that she had never gotten over him, not even close.

She drew his tongue out of his mouth with hers, sucking lightly on the end of it until James gave a low moan as she pulled gently away.

–Merlin’s pants, Lily,” he said, panting. –Get back here.”

He grabbed her in a bear hug. Lily drew closer, expecting another kiss, but James skimmed her jawline with his lips, stopping at her ear.

–Lily, I want to date you. I want this to be official. Hell, I want to shout it from the top of the Astronomy tower. If you want this to be a one-off, I’ll understand. I will. But, otherwise, would you--” He faltered, and Lily realized that he was not at all sure of how she felt.

She leaned into him as his arm tightened around her, looking up at his thin face. –Yes,” she said. –Yes, I would like that very much.”

–Then I am yours,” he said in a voice barely above a whisper, without a trace of his usual egotism. He did kiss her then, and she lost track of time. It could have been minutes, or hours, or several glorious weeks, but she wasn’t particularly bothered with the movements of the sun and the moon, only here and now and him.

A loud crack from the forest startled them both. James pulled her closer with one hand and reached into his robe for his wand with the other. They waited silently for a minute or two, on the alert.

Eventually, they relaxed. –Oh, I forgot the most important one,” James said, twisting a lock of her hair around his finger. –The reason I’ve been going into the Forest all this time is, well, it’s the same reason I’ve been doing so well in Transfiguration lately. I already know how to--”

And just then someone screamed, horribly and high-pitched, deep in the Forbidden Forest.
End Notes:
Thanks for reading!! Next chapter is from James' POV. I also do not own Lady and the Tramp; all credit for that classic spaghetti kiss goes to Disney. Please review; I answer every one and I would especially like feedback on this chapter.
Chapter 17- Confused Alarms of Struggle and Flight by unjellify
Author's Notes:
Hi all! I do intend to finish this story despite the hiatus--special thanks to anyone who has actually kept up with it. Also, thanks to Wenlock for the awesome beta work on this chapter! Happy reading! (As usual, the world is J.K. Rowling's; only the story is mine.)


Well, James thought, it’s a good thing I never read that rulebook over the summer.

He and Lily were sitting with Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall. James had wanted to go into the Forest and investigate for himself, but when Lily refused to let him go alone they had reached somewhat of an impasse. After all, he could hardly let her go with him--it could be dangerous and she could get hurt. Lily was not only indignant at his refusal but had suggested they get Professor Dumbledore, mirroring his sentiments by telling James she didn’t want him to get hurt. James had to admit that he didn’t quite have the self-preservation instincts nowadays that he had once possessed. Unable to tell whether he was just pursuing another one of the potentially self-destructive activities of which Remus had so clearly disapproved, James had subsided and allowed Lily to lead him back to the castle.

–Tell me again what you saw.”

–We didn’t see anything. We heard a noise,” Lily said.

–And what exactly were you two doing wandering about the grounds at night?” Professor McGonagall asked.

–Just doing our duty as heads of--– Lily started.

–Holding hands, that was it--– James said simultaneously.

Lily’s eyes shot quickly in his direction and her pale cheeks flushed. James loved that, but it seemed that Professor McGonagall did not. Her nostrils flared. Clearly, Professor McGonagall had no time for teenage romance. –We will leave that aside for now,” Professor McGonagall said, in a tone that plainly said she would rather leave ‘that’ forty feet away in a ditch somewhere. –What is crucial here is that we find out what has occurred in the Forbidden Forest tonight.”

Lily and James nodded, both sobered by the memory of the scream and eager to change the topic from what exactly they were doing outside.

–This is a very serious matter,” Professor Dumbledore said, his half-moon glasses glinting in the light from the nearby fire.

–I know,” Lily said. –Do you have any idea--?”

–Not yet,” Dumbledore said gravely. –I have sent Hagrid into the Forest. The scream could have come from any source. It could have been an animal, perhaps a lost Nogtail. In the meantime, I wanted to talk to you both. Have you noticed any particular…tensions rising?”

James shrugged.

–Well,” Lily said hesitantly, –There have been a few things.” As she explained what had happened with the decorating committee, James felt even worse for leaving her to deal with all of this alone. Then again, he thought, with my temper it probably would have been me trying to hex Rookwood and we would have lost even more points for Gryffindor. He wondered when he had become so damned responsible. Last he had checked, he loved nothing more than to be in the middle of whatever fray was at hand, hexing people and generally being the center of attention, Sirius at his side. If he weren’t careful, he would become boring.

Speaking of hexing people….

–Professor,” James said hesitantly, trying to edit the incident without the seemingly all-knowing Dumbledore realizing it, –There was something else. The other night, Regulus Black and Severus Snape were out in the corridor after curfew, and they, er, we--that is to say--we argued. They said, uh, that things were going to change around here.”

Dumbledore’s stare grew even more penetrating until James felt like Dumbledore could see inside his brain to the unspoken parts, –Mudblood bitch” and the drawing of wands and Sirius’ intended fratricide.

–Anything else?” Dumbledore said in the tone of one who knows there is something else.

–Yeah,” James said reluctantly. –Sirius happened upon us and then once it was two on two they left.”

Dumbledore nodded. James realized he probably shouldn’t have used the phrase –two on two”; that made it sound like they had been squaring up to fight, which they sort of had been. Being Head Boy had seriously put a damper on his ability to tell half-truths to authority figures.

Before James could ponder his evolution into a more responsible and, it seemed to him, infinitely less interesting human being, Hagrid burst into the room, carrying a blond first-year girl James vaguely recognized as Tamara or Tabitha, something with a T and three syllables. The girl was shaking and crying.

–I found ‘er in the Forest, Headmaster,” Hagrid said, the lines around his eyes crinkled now with worry rather than his usual kindliness.

Professor McGonagall inhaled sharply and Dumbledore said, –Take her to the hospital wing immediately. I will be up as soon as I am done with Mr. Potter and Miss Evans. This should only take another minute.”

James stared at Hagrid’s retreating back. –Is she going to be okay?”

–I hope so,” Dumbledore said quietly. –She will certainly be in expert hands with Madam Pomfrey.” He paused for a moment, and then said, –When Mr. Black and Mr. Snape told you that things were going to change, did they say anything else? Did they say how they might change things?”

–Er…” James racked his brain, trying to remember. –I don’t think so. They said something about a mission, and then teaching me a lesson, but the lesson bit is, erm, pretty standard for Snape, so I don’t think that meant anything. I bet it was them, though, Professor,” he added. –They looked like they were up to something.”

Dumbledore sighed and shook his head. –Unfortunately, James, I cannot deal in hunches. They may be the sons of men pledged to Voldemort, yes, and there may be no love lost between yourself and the Slytherins, but prejudice is the root of Voldemort’s hatred and hold over the Wizarding community. It would be a mistake to allow prejudice to color my decisions as headmaster. I have no proof that these two managed to leave school grounds without being noticed, and I will not play Voldemort’s games and thus deepen the rift that exists in our world. I would welcome further information in this matter. Rest assured that I shall question both boys, since they have expressed such vehement anti-Muggleborn sentiment. I also intend to talk to Tabitha as soon as she is feeling up to receiving visitors, but in the meantime I shall withhold my judgment. You two, go back to your rooms, and tell everyone you see not to go out alone. I shall advise everyone to that effect at breakfast tomorrow.”

As soon as they left the room, Lily blanched. Worried that she might faint, James put his arm around her waist to steady her. –What’s wrong, Lily?”

–That girl…” Lily said shakily.

–What? Do you know her?”

–Yes…well, sort of. I’ve tutored her in Potions before. I quite liked her, except her tastes in football; she’s a gooner. Arsenal, honestly, they have to be the most boring team in England.”

–What?” James could only vaguely follow what she was talking about. One could describe his attention in Muggle Studies as patchy at best, and he hazily remembered football as the game that Muggles played by kicking a ball patterned with hexagons toward a goal. A single goal, mind you, not three, and the entire game was played on the ground, as if –football” couldn’t get any more boring. It was unfathomable how Lily could criticize just one team when the entire sport seemed incredibly dull. –Well, her taste in football teams might be rubbish, but is Arsenal that bad that someone would attack her over it?”

Lily just looked at him, disbelieving. –James,” she said, barely above a whisper. –We talked about football. Not Quidditch, football.”

Internally, James kicked himself for being so slow. It was late, but he still should have gotten it before. –Oh, Lily, just because she’s Muggle-born…” James said, and realized that if it were true, if that were the reason, he had no idea what he could say to comfort Lily right now. He was Pureblood and this news was different for him, no matter how much he wanted them to be the same. –It might not have had anything to do with that--–

–Don’t be naïve, James,” Lily said sharply. –It doesn’t suit you.”

–Don’t be afraid,” he returned. –You’ll be fine. I’ll be with you whenever I can, and just don’t go anywhere alone until Dumbledore sorts this out. He will. Dumbledore always fixes everything in the end, that’s why he’s Dumbledore. If only he weren’t so bloody noble about it. I would have already sent Regulus Black and Severus Snape a one-way ticket to Azkaban.”

Lily rolled her eyes, but James could tell she was in slightly better spirits. –I know you would’ve, James, but that’s because you’re seventeen and not headmaster of Hogwarts. We have due process, you know.”

They had reached Gryffindor tower, and James paused so suddenly that Lily almost collided with him. –I will do whatever it takes to keep you safe,” he said solemnly, turning to face her.

–I’m a fine witch in my own right, James,” Lily said, laughing shakily. –You don’t have to worry about me. I can handle myself, really. I’m worried about the younger ones. Who knows what spells whoever is doing this is using…if they’re going after first year Muggle-borns, they won’t be able to fight anything more serious than a Leg-Locker Curse.”

–Well, at least let me worry about you if you won’t do it,” James said quietly. He loved Lily’s compassion, but he thought she should be slightly more concerned for her own safety. I’ll see you at breakfast, alright?”

–Alright.” And suddenly Lily was kissing him almost desperately, her lips wanting more from his, with a passion that James had never experienced before from any girl. He was bewildered at how quickly she could go from fear and despair to…this, but he wasn’t about to complain.

She pulled away just as suddenly, cheeks flushed. –I should, I should--goodnight, James,” she stammered, muttering the password to the Fat Lady and dashing up the stairs to the girls’ dormitory.

Women, James thought, shaking his head. But she was his, finally, or he was hers, or they were each other’s at last. He went up to bed, for the first time in a long time, and slept. He had always been able to compartmentalize, and he had done an excellent job of it today. With Lily, he could channel his emotions into her, into making her happy. His emotions were so off these days, however, that it was hard to stay away from the grief for long. James had always heard about tides of grief rolling over people, coming in and receding and returning in waves, but James’ grief was more like a highly trained Auror. He tried so hard to evade it that he didn’t even know it was coming sometimes until it was already upon him. Though James went to bed dreaming of Lily and that kiss, he woke up with tears on his face and dreams that he couldn’t remember, although that was probably for the better.

He woke up and got breakfast with Lily, who had dark circles under her eyes and looked slightly glazed. The news of Tabitha had obviously kept her up, but she squeezed his hand anyway as he came to sit down next to her, and James kissed her on the cheek quickly before starting to eat. Their friends goggled at them, except, oddly, for Sirius, who continued to eat his bacon and eggs, grinning as he did so. The Second Kiss (James would pretend that it was the first kiss from now on), though it had happened only twelve hours prior, now seemed like ages ago with everything that had happened the previous night. It seemed like they had been together, officially together, for weeks, and for a moment James couldn’t understand why his friends were so baffled by the brief show of affection.

–So, what happened to you two last night?” Mary said with her usual bluntness, although everyone else looked like they wanted the answer just as badly.

–Oh, with--with us!” Lily exclaimed, and James could tell she had forgotten, too, after everything that had happened. –Well, James and I are, er, he’s my boyfriend, now.”

Mary looked as though she might have a heart attack. James didn’t think he had ever seen her quiet for such a long period of time. She kept opening her mouth, lips rounding in preparation for some exclamation of shock, and then closing it again. Everyone else looked equally surprised.

–You’ve pulled! Nice going, mate!” Sirius said, nodding approvingly.

James could feel his ears going red. Sirius had no filter between laddish conversation and conversation, say, in front of the girl in question. Lily, however, seemed not to notice or care.

–Did you give her a love potion?” Mary demanded.

–Yes, Mary, because I’m so brilliant at Potions,” James said, rolling his eyes.

–No,” Lily said, laughing. –He gave me a stupid amount of spaghetti, actually. I’ll tell you all about it later.”

*

At dinner, James was expecting to sit with her again, bask in the glow of them (James had never found quite so much joy in plural pronouns before that day), but she was nowhere to be found. –Where’s Lily?” he asked, casually.

–Nowhere,” Mary said, too quickly.

James just looked at her, cocking his head to the side.

Marlene cleared her throat. –Severus Snape asked her to help him with something.”

–What?!” James exclaimed, throwing down his napkin.

–I knew he’d be jealous,” Mary murmured from behind her own napkin.

–Jealous? Of Snivellus, that snot-nosed bastard?” James gave a dry, humorless laugh. –Hardly.”

–She should be back soon,” Mary said. –I don’t like him much, but you can’t stop Lily from doing anything. I think he had a Potions question or something.” She sighed.

Like hell he did, James thought. He couldn’t understand why Lily would go with him--she had heard him tell Dumbledore about him and his nasty little Death Eater friends just the night before. Then he remembered her crying that night before he left, what she had said about Snape. Can she really blame herself that thoroughly? James wondered. Does she think she can make any difference in what he has become?

He wasn’t jealous, no--he hadn’t been lying to Mary about that. James knew he was attractive, whereas Snape’s skin and hair were coated in enough grease to fry an egg, although James hadn’t told him that in at least two years. He was mature now, after all.

No, James wasn’t jealous. He was terrified. Whatever Snape wanted Lily for, it could not be good. The news of James and Lily’s relationship had spread faster than Cornish pixies released from a cage, and this would hardly be the moment for Snape to try to mend his relationship with Lily…or would it be? James had a horrifying vision of walking in on Snape down on one knee, ring outstretched. He shook his head to clear the image and stood up from the table. Sirius, Remus, and Peter stood up with him.

Please, please don’t have done anything stupid, Lily, he thought, although he was certainly one to talk. He needed to make sure that Lily wasn’t in the Forest, that was all, and then he could relax. She wouldn’t have gone outside. She wouldn’t have.
End Notes:
Thanks for reading! The chapter title is taken from "Dover Beach," a brilliant poem by Matthew Arnold, and next chapter will be from Lily's POV. Please leave a review, positive or negative, if you feel so inspired!
This story archived at http://www.mugglenetfanfiction.com/viewstory.php?sid=86679