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A Different Kind of Magic by unjellify

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Chapter 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.


“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.
Chapter Endnotes: 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.