"That Scamander kid won't leave her alone," he grunted as he flopped down on his bed. He stared moodily at the top of his four-poster bed, thinking of ways in which to destroy that Ravenclaw.
"Oh, yes," Peter deadpanned from his own bed. "You're the perfect one to talk about this; in fact, you should report to everyone about it."
"Wormtail," Sirius whispered, "that was one of the best thing you've ever said."
Peter shrugged, but his eyes were focused on James.
"I just don't see why he doesn't understand that Lily is destined to be mine, and stay out of my way," James grumbled, crossing his arms stubbornly. "I mean, it's creepy how he sits with her in every class. Right?"
"I am with you there," Remus interjected, glancing up fleetingly from his book. "It's not normal for acquaintances to spend so much time together."
"And I don't even think Lily wants to!" he exclaimed, sitting up and turning to his friend. "Right?"
"No, I don't think so. But he's not, well, you," Remus explained gently, "so she doesn't feel she can rudely tell him to bugger off."
"Well, I'll tell him for her," James announced, standing up.
"No, you won't," Remus said firmly, but James headed for the door anyway. "Restrain him, Sirius."
Sirius jumped into action, grabbed both of James' legs, and toppled him to the floor. Peter ran to help and held onto James' arms with every bit of determination in his body.
"Get off!" James cried, but the two latched on even tighter. Remus loomed overhead, an extremely serious expression on his face.
"Do you want Lily to hate you again?" Remus demanded, his arms crossed firmly across his chest. His drained face and tired eyes only made him look more menacing.
James sighed and closed his eyes. He whispered, "No."
"Then you damn well better leave her to her own affairs," Remus spat, pointing a finger at James. His shaking hand didn’t detract from the fear Remus instilled into James in that moment. "If she wants your help, she'll ask for it. Understand?"
James nodded dejectedly. He'd been tackled and told off in the same way once before, but he'd disregarded what Remus had harshly informed him of the previous time: the nice description was that Lily hadn't even looked at him for three weeks after that. James was determined to be better this time around.
Sirius and Peter wordlessly climbed off of James' back, and the three of them quickly departed the dormitory, Remus to the hospital wing, Peter and Sirius outside, leaving James alone with his scrambled and mushy thoughts.
Why did it all have to be so difficult anymore?, he wondered. A few years ago, it was simple. Like Evans, ask her out, hope for the best, repeat. Becoming friends with Lily hadn't made his life any easier, it had just made it more of a challenge. His feelings for her hadn't disappeared; quite the opposite, and that was what made life so hard lately.
James covered his eyes with his hands, waiting for the temporary pain to pass.
He leaned against the end of his bed, his eyes searching the ceiling for the answers to his desperate questions. He really liked Lily; what could he do to prove that to her?
He pushed himself off the floor and walked down to the common room, unwilling to wallow in self-pity on the floor of his dormitory. She was sitting there, reading a book in her favorite chair. Steeling himself, James plopped down on the couch next to her. She glanced up at him, a small smile on her lips. He grinned back, and she set her book aside, focusing her attention on him.
"Yes, Mr Potter? What can I do for you?" she said in her best imitation of Professor McGonagall.
James laughed, throwing his head back, his moment of weakness forgotten. He didn't need to prove it to her, he realized, he needed her to find it herself. She had to find it within herself, before she could believe it.
"Very good, Miss Evans," James retorted in his best impersonation of Professor Slughorn.
She chuckled, curling up within her chair. She leaned her head against the back, smiling kindly at him. James' heart skipped a few beats as she stared at him. She looked so beautiful, so innocent and kind.
"So, what were you reading?" James asked after a moment of silence, clearing his throat awkwardly. Lily narrowed her eyes curiously at him, but answered nonetheless.
"A Muggle book my dad sent me. My sister apparently liked it, so he thought I would." Lily rolled her eyes, smiling fondly as though at a pleasant memory. "He's trying hard, I know, but sometimes he does the silliest things. This is a romance novel," she added, laughing kindly. "I haven't read a romance novel since I was thirteen, and I haven't liked them since I was eleven."
James paused, unsure what he should say. "Maybe you're just backward," he teased, but it felt forced. He couldn't help wondering if her distaste for romance novels was a sign to him, or just fact.
But that had been the wrong thing to say. Lily sighed sadly, her smiling melting off her face. "Yeah, I know," she whispered, her eyes clouding over.
"Oh, Lily--" He stopped as her green eyes pierced him. The depth of sadness knocked the breath out of him, and he stared at her, unable to look away. She hardly blinked, and she didn't move. She stared back, waiting for something. He didn't know what it was, but maybe he could give it to her. Maybe it was something from him, within himself, and he only had to find it.
"Yes, James?" she said slowly. Her voice was calm; no sadness had invaded it as the sadness had taken over her eyes.
He took a shaky breath, and leaned forward. She leaned in slightly toward him, as if to listen intently. He gathered all of his courage and said softly, "Spend more time with me. I promise to make you laugh."
She smiled, weakly, but she smiled. "You can make that sort of promise?" she asked, leaning in closer yet.
He gulped, restraining himself, and responded with a nonchalant smile. "Of course I can."
"Well, then," she said slowly, her eyes unfocusing as she thought, "all right."
James could have danced. Without even realizing how, he had managed to pull Lily away from that Scamander kid and closer to him. They talked during patrols, sure, but their friendship, if it could be called that, was scattered and broken. Lily had agreed to give him a chance to strengthen it, and he wouldn't give that up for anything.
James said something, and Lily laughed. He paused, trying to remember what he had said, but it seemed his body acted without his brain; he couldn't recall anything.
The moments turned into hours, and soon the fire had died down to a mere whisper. James couldn't remember talking with Lily this long in his entire life. It seemed with every witty comment she made, he fell a little more for her.
James glanced at his watch and out the window once. It was a full moon tonight, and he needed to get away soon. He had planned with Lily that they wouldn't patrol on full moons (although he hoped she hadn't picked up on the connection), and now he was grateful she was so flexible in scheduling rounds.
"I suppose I'd never realized quite how funny you are, James," Lily said, yawning and stretching her arms over her head. She tilted her head for a moment, and sighed. As James was about to comment on her statement, she added, "I hope Remus is all right."
James spluttered, unsure if he'd heard her right. She closed her eyes and leaned against the back of the chair, pulling the blanket she'd conjured earlier closer to her chin. At James' stuttering, she opened her eyes back up and raised an eyebrow.
"You seem distraught," she said simply. "Was it something I said?"
"Oh, right," Lily said, nodding knowingly. "I get it now. You thought I didn't know about Remus. James, c'mon. Give me some credit. I'm his friend, too."
"I didn't mean--I'm just--"
"Surprised? Yes, I can tell." Lily smiled. "James, it's okay."
"How long have you known?" James whispered, clenching his fist against his knee and closing his eyes. He hadn't broken the pact; Lily already knew. That didn't change the guilt gnawing at his gut.
"Since Fifth Year, before Snape, well, you know," Lily said, looking purposefully away.
"That long?" James gasped.
"Wow, you must think I'm an idiot!" Lily exclaimed, planting her feet firmly on the ground. She seemed sincerely upset by this.
"I'm sorry, Lily, I didn't mean--" James sighed and put his head in his hands, grasping some of his hair tightly in his fingers. "Augh, why is it so hard to talk to you?!"
He meant for the last part to be said quietly, but Lily seemed to have heard anyway.
"I can go, James," Lily said, the hurt edging into her voice. James peered at her through his fingers.
"I'm sorry," he repeated as she stood to leave. He knew he needed to get down to the Shack, but he couldn't leave this conversation with Lily in such a bad state. "Does Remus know?"
"He asked me if I knew," she whispered, her back to him. "I visited him in the hospital the day after the full moon once I'd pieced it together. He asked me if I knew."
"Look, Lily," James tried, sighing again. "I didn't mean to offend you. It's just--it's his secret, you know?"
"James, I know," she interrupted softly, turning back to face him. "I know." Her face softened and she smiled at him. "You really are the greatest of friends," she added, and bit her lip. She smiled hesitantly at him once more. "Good night, James."
"Night," he whispered. She steadily climbed the stairs and when she had reached the open space, she leaned down and smiled. "Thanks, Lily," he called softly. She nodded, and continued on her way.
James pumped his fist in the air a few times. He'd managed to avert a train wreck with Lily, and she had smiled at him at least two dozen times in the last hour! It had been the best night of his life, officially, except for the first time he, Peter, and Sirius had--
As the thought crossed his mind, he dashed out of the common room, praying to any gods that might be out there that he wouldn't run into any teachers. Sirius and Peter had the Map and the Cloak, and he was terrible at Disillusionment Charms. He hoped he hadn't used all of his luck up on Lily.
Something in the universe loved him, for he saw no teachers and he made it outside without a scrape. Peter and Sirius were waiting for him outside of the Willow, both of them glaring daggers into his soul.
"Where were you?" hissed Sirius, crouching down.
James winced at the menace in his friend's voice and swallowed a few times before answering, "Talking to Lily."
Peter gave him a subtle thumbs-up before changing into a rat and heading for the tree. Sirius, though, didn't return the sentiment. James couldn't really understand why his best friend was mad at him, but he wisely chose to remain silent.
"You know how important it is that we're here," he finally spat, "and you were about to give it up for a girl. Mate, Marauders first; I thought that's how it was always supposed to be!"
James sighed, resigning himself to a verbal beating as he, then Sirius, crawled through the hole at the bottom of the Willow. "She isn't some girl, Pads," he said quietly. He found he always talked quieter in the tunnel, and he guessed it was because he always felt exposed.
"I know she's important to you, Prongs, but this needs to be more important," Sirius said, sighing. "What if she'd found out?"
"She knows," James admitted after a pregnant pause. "Fifth Year—Moony admitted it to her."
Sirius stopped dead. "No way."
"She's way smarter than we gave her credit for," James assured him, nodding.
"I've always known she was a genius," Sirius scoffed in his typical fashion of trying not to be the bad guy. "I just didn't know she had such wonderful observation skills."
James laughed, but the sound caught in his throat when he heard the eerie howl of his friend transformed.
"See you on the other side, mate," Sirius offered, and then added gently, "I'm glad she's coming around." He quickly became a scruffy black dog before James could reply.
As he jumped through the end of the tunnel, James smiled to himself. His final human thought before turning into a majestic stag was that Lily was indeed coming around, and maybe, just maybe, he wouldn't have to wait too much longer for the very thing he'd always wanted the most.
Please review. I'll get the next one up after a round with the others I'm working on, please bear with me.