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A Different Kind of Magic by unjellify

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Chapter 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.
Chapter Endnotes: 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!