“So I’ve been told, but how do you think I got where I am today?”
“Stupidity, dumb luck. Maybe both.”
“Luck, yes. Stupidity? I don’t have the capacity for it. Too brilliant, me.”
James gave an almighty roll of his eyes as he tugged the crisp white undershirt over his head. “This is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done, Padfoot.”
The dog, who was seated at the foot of James’ bed, snorted. “This is hardly the stupidest thing I’ve ever done - and we both know that. Need I remind you of the one time with the diplomat’s daughter -”
He held up a hand. “Okay, so maybe it’s not the stupidest,” James consented, lacing up the side of his new doublet. The crest of the royal family - a long stemmed rose wrapped around a broadsword - was emblazoned on his chest, the red material accented by gold piping. The parallel was not lost on him. “But it’s definitely a dumb idea.”
“I resent that.”
“Probably not as much as I resent you right now.” Grimacing as his side flared, James sat down on the mattress, bending over to reach for his boot only to have it handed to him by Sirius. He snatched the booth from the dog’s jaws.
“You have to understand why I did it,” he tried to reason, cocking his head as James shoved his foot into the leather boot rather violently.
“I don’t have to do anything,” snapped James. He grabbed the other boot before Sirius could offer it to him. However as he did so, he saw the flash of hurt in the dog’s stormy eyes. Internalising his sigh, James dropped the boot to the floor to rub the back of his neck, just one of his many nervous ticks.
“But I do understand,” he added quietly. “And I appreciate your confidence in me despite my almost embarrassing lack of experience.”
Sirius snorted, giving a great shake of his big black head, ears flopping comically. “You’d be surprised at how many of the Royal Guard are a part of it simply because of their families and not because of their skills with a blade. Bloody nobles and their sense of entitlement.” He bared his teeth in a growl.
“Skill or no skill, they still know what they’re doing. But me?” James scoffed, leaning over his knees to pick up the fallen boot.
“They only know what they’re doing because I command them to do it,” Sirius deadpanned, hoping to lift James’ spirits. Naturally, it didn’t work, so Sirius nudged James’ thigh with his snout. “Come on, Prongs, you’ll be brilliant at this just like you’re brilliant at everything else you do.”
James glanced down at Sirius, an eyebrow arched. “You mean mucking out stables and making a right fool out of myself for royalty? That sort of brilliance?”
“More or less, yes.”
His snort might’ve been derisive, but the smile that touched James’ lips was nothing short of genuine.
“There you go!” barked Sirius, beaming in all of the ways a dog could. “That’s the spirit. Just keep thinking like that, and you’ll do wonderfully.”
Rolling his eyes, James eased himself to his feet, not quite hissing so much as inhaling sharply at the ache in his side. When he didn’t move too much, the ache was dull, a soft throb in between his ribs and easy enough to ignore, but he had never acted as anyone’s bodyguard before, let alone when injured.
He pulled a face. Whether he liked it or not, this was his job now. He was responsible for Lily’s protection and as long as her life was in his hands (in a manner of speaking; he would never try to control her), he would do his best to protect it.
“Well,” James sighed as he secured the strap of his sword belt; it hung loosely from his frame, down near is hips. “Suppose I should get this over with. Fast and quick. Like ripping a plaster off.”
“Right,” agreed Sirius, getting to his feet and following James out of the room. “Exactly like a plaster.”
They were nearly around the corner before the black dog looked up at James, his confusion evident in the pull of his brow. “What’s a plaster?”
- - -
Petunia was nursing her second cup of tea when one of her maids announced the presence of one Severus Snape. Not fully dressed, she pulled her dressing gown shut, tying a quick knot and cinching it just as Snape appeared.
His dark hair was slicked back so it laid flat against his skull; it glinted in the morning light, it was so oiled. Still, it looked good on him - or at least Petunia thought it did. Everything about him from his aristocratic nose to his dark eyes to his pristine nails was everything a royal should look like; they should look handsome.
“Severus!” she exclaimed, feigning surprise. “I was not expecting you so early in the morning.” She folded her arms over her chest, biting her lip. “Had I known your intentions, I would have dressed and had another place set out.”
“No one knew of my intentions, Petunia, as I was feeling a bit spontaneous.” He grinned at her, unclasping his spidery hands from behind his back. He raised a hand, preparing to snap his fingers. “I’m sure one of your servants can set a place for me.”
Petunia clicked her fingers before he could. “Deidre!” she called out, blue gaze sweeping over her large chambers. As the eldest, Petunia’s quarters were larger than Lily’s by far and also more lavishly (and, in her opinion, better) decorated.
The girl in question tripped out from behind the screen, where she had been untangling the necklaces she’d accidentally dropped, the very sound of which resulted in Petunia waking up. What the princess needn’t know would not hurt her. “Yes, my Lady?”
“Set another place at my table. Prince Severus will be joining me for my morning tea.”
Deidre dipped into a low courtesy. “Right away, ma’am.”
Through heavy lids, Snape watched as the young girl flounced out of Petunia’s chambers, his nose wrinkling. He didn’t have much taste for the staff at Westerhaven Palace; they were too comfortable with their superiors, and they were very lazy. Hardly disciplined like his servants.
“I do hope she hurries,” Snape said, breaking his gaze away from the now-closed door and striding over to the table. “I’m dreadfully thirsty.”
Petunia launched into action at once, reaching for her saucer and extending it to the visiting dignitary. “Here,” she said, pressing it into his extending hands. “Drink mine.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure?”
“Positive, my Lord,” Petunia said, smiling gently. “Besides, I’ve had a cup already. I am not so selfish as to hog it all for myself. I give as much as I take.”
The suggestion didn’t go unnoticed by Snape. In fact, he grinned rather wolfishly at her, his fingers caressing the bare strip of her wrist. “I think I know that better than anyone,” he replied, dark eyes sparking.
Petunia gave a simpering giggle and stepped back, watching as the prince lifted the cup to his lips and took a long drink. Once finished, he licked his lips and sighed. “That was delicious.”
She smiled again. “I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
“I always do.”
Before much else could be said, Deidre returned with a second place setting, hurrying over to the table and placing everything just so. “Is there anything else I can get for you, my Lady?”
“No, Deidre,” said Petunia in a rush. “That will be all. You’re dismissed.”
The girl frowned. The princess wasn’t supposed to be alone with a gentleman who wasn’t a part of her family or the Royal Guard. “But -”
“You are dismissed!”
One warning was enough, and with the soft pattering of slippered feet against the marble floors, Deidre was gone, and Petunia was alone with Severus.
“So,” Snape began as he pulled out Petunia’s chair. His hand lingered on the curve of her shoulder, his fingers warm against her skin. “Have you heard anything about your sister?”
“No,” answered Petunia, frowning at her boiled eggs. Had he not come to enjoy breakfast with her, but rather inquire after Lily? She did her best not to grimace at the pang in her chest. “I have not, but it’s likely that she isn’t even awake yet, the bloody layabout.”
Snape ignored the jab at his future wife, knowing that it was true. “So you do not know if everything is going according to plan?”
She sent him a (somewhat) scathing look. “Of course I don’t know. Dumbledore has only just given the boy permission to return to work; he hasn’t even started his duties yet, much less has anything happened to churn out a report.”
Pursing his lips, Snape did his best to keep his temper under control. He loathed it when women patronised him, even the lovely Petunia. Especially, he thought darkly, dropping his hand from her shoulder. “A simple yes or no would have suffice.”
Petunia lifted her chin in defiance. “You wanted an answer, so I provided one. It is not my fault if you are unsatisfied with it.”
“I am not unsatisfied.” With a petulant pout, Snape dropped into the chair across from the blonde and folded his arms over his chest. Leaning back, he kicked his feet up on the seat of the adjacent chair, making himself as comfortable he could. “In fact, the whole idea is rather brilliant.”
She smiled before she could help herself. “You think so?” Her pride was evident in her voice, in her face.
“I do,” he conceded with a deep nod. His mouth became a hard line as he stared down at the china pattern, petunias and roses intertwined. “When you first told me of your plan, I thought it a folly. What sense was there in forcing them to be together twenty-four hours a day? But then,” Snape continued, lifting his gaze to Petunia’s beaming face. “Then I realised how much easier it would to keep an eye on them if they were together for every waking moment.”
“That was my precise thought, Severus.” Her smile turned smug. “Great minds think alike.”
“Indeed they do.” He nudged her knee with the toe of his boot, smirking at the flush on her cheeks. “I just wish the prat would slip up so we could make an example of him.”
“All in good time, Severus,” soothed Petunia, reaching for the tea pot. As she tipped a healthy amount into Snape’s cup, she smiled. “All in good time.”
- - -
“So,” James began, leaning against the pillar, “what do you want to do?”
Lily, who was sprawled across the floor on her stomach, idly reading a book, shrugged. “I don’t know.” Cupping her cheek with a hand, she used the other to flip the page. “What do you want to do?”
“I asked you first.”
“And I responded with the same question,” she replied. Her eyes remained on the page and yet she wasn’t taking in the text.
Drawing a blank, he said the first thing that came to mind. “You’re insufferable.”
She snorted. “I do believe that’s my line, Potter.”
“Hey,” he said, mimicking her shrug, “I can’t help it if it applies.”
“I don’t think you know what insufferable means.”
At this, James quirked a brow. “Oh, I don’t?”
“Nope.” Shaking her head, Lily looked over her shoulder and grinned at the boy, who looked right at home against the pillar, which was long and lean just like he was. “If you looked in the dictionary, you’d -”
“See a picture of myself?” he interrupted, a sly smile of his own painted on his lips. “Nice one, Lily. It’s not as though I haven’t heard that one before.”
She blinked, taken aback by his response. “Well, no, I was going to say you’d find the definition of the word ‘insufferable’ and a reference to you, but a picture works just fine too.” With a simpering smile, Lily returned her attention to her book.
As James continued to laugh over her shoulder, Lily sank her teeth into her bottom lip to keep from smiling too hugely. Even though he couldn’t see her face, something told her that he’d be able to tell if she were smiling. She gave another small shake of her head and attempted to find her place, but couldn’t. She pulled a face, frustrated.
If she were being entirely honest, the reason why she couldn’t concentrate was standing in the corner of the room, alternating between staring at the back of her head and her bum - or so she imagined. By now, Lily reckoned she should be used to the feel of his gaze upon her - after all, she’d only been under it for the past three years. But if the faint flush over her skin was anything to go by, she wasn’t used to it, not at all.
Good thing Lily wasn’t being honest as she preferred to do as she always did and shoulder the blame on someone else. Or in this instance, something else, which just so happened to be the sunlight streaming through the open windows rather than the boy in the corner.
In order to keep up her charade of reading and thoroughly enjoying her book (and pretending not to feel flustered under his gaze), Lily counted to fifty and flipped the page, thinking that it was a believable time frame. She was, after all, a fast reader and they both knew it.
Whilst Lily pretended to read, James pretended not to notice, instead fidgeting with all of his new accessories. The belt that hung about his hips was made of boiled leather and on it hung his sword (naturally) as well as a pouch, a sheath and dagger, and a pair of iron cuffs. What the pouch was for, he wasn’t certain, but the plush velvet felt divine against his fingers, the way he imagined Lily’s skin to feel underneath the pressure of his palm.
It was silly, the way she seemed to encapsulate all of his thoughts. Not that he didn’t want her in some of his thoughts, just not all of them. Back at school, James guessed that she occupied maybe one-fourth of his thoughts. Now? Here, in Westerflower, in the midst of danger, she was all he could think about. Never mind the still aggravated pain in his side or his own safety - he was concerned about her…and maybe a little bit about himself; he did have some sense of self-preservation.
Still, even now, when there was only ten feet of distance between them, James felt like it wasn’t enough. It was enough that they were impostors in an unknown kingdom, let alone a kingdom that was on high alert from an enemy of presumably great strength. As much as he didn’t feel he was suited for the job, James was relieved that Sirius had picked him. After all, he didn’t think there was anyone else in the universe who would look after her the way he would. Of course, he was wrong as Lily had dozens of people who cared about her safety and valued her life just as much as he did, but James was selfish and prideful; he liked to think he was the best and the only one capable.
James was so preoccupied with valiant visions of himself that he scarcely noticed the knock at the door until Lily cleared her throat and asked archly, “Aren’t you going to get that?”
Tossing a pointed look in her direction to which she smirked, James pushed away from the pillar and loped towards the door. When he opened it, he expected to see Sirius or Remus, not the hooked nose and pallid face of one Severus Snape.
It took everything in him to not grimace at the sight of the eye-sore. Mustering the politest tone he could, James asked, “Can I help you?”
“I’m here to see my fiancée,” announced Snape in his pompous tones.
On the opposite side of the room, Lily did her best to scoot into the shadow of the ornate sofa in an attempt to hide herself from Snape’s view. The very last thing she wanted to do was talk to him.
“Oh,” James said, frowning. He leaned his weight against the door, narrowing the gap as discreetly as possible. “Um, I don’t know if that’s possible, Sniv--Prince Snape.”
Anger flashed in Snape’s dark eyes, and he shoved his foot in the door. “What do you mean you don’t know if it’s possible? Of course it’s possible! I am a prince and she is my fiancée! Now let me in, damn it!”
“The princess is not accepting visitors at the mo-”
“Do you have cauliflower for ears or did you not heart me?” Snape demanded, face flushing faster than a toilet. “I am the prince! Let me in!” He tried to push past James, but the latter stopped him easily enough, throwing up an arm to bar his entrance.
“I don’t care if you’re the bloody king, mate,” replied James casually, though the curling of his upper lip suggested his contempt. “I answer to one person and one person alone, and that’s Princess Lily.” His eyes roved over Snape, whose face was now an ugly shade of puce. “Not some snivelling spoiled prat of a prince from a foreign nation.”
Snape ground his teeth so hard, the noise was audible. By the time he garnered up enough composure, his eyes were all but bulging out of his skull. “You will let me in.”
“No,” said James, with a shake of his head. “I don’t think I will. The princess expressly told me that she did not wish to be disturbed - by anyone. Last time I checked, that includes you.” He smiled a bit too smugly as he added, “Your Highness.”
“Now I’ll ask you one time and one time only to remove your foot from the door,” James continued, not unkindly. Perhaps he was a bit too kind, though his smirk betrayed any genial notions his tone might’ve suggested. “Or else.”
Blanching at the audacity of a servant, Snape raised a single brow. “Or else what?”
It was a poorly veiled challenge, but James responded with dignity. “Or else I’ll forcibly remove it.”
They stared at each other for several tense moments before Snape, with some difficulty, pulled his foot free from the door. He narrowed his eyes and leaned in close to sneer one last time at James. “You will pay for this, Potter.”
“I do hope so,” James remarked cheekily, “I could always do with a bit more money.”
Rather than wait for the prince to sputter, James flashed one last smile and shut the door. As he turned to face Lily, smug and beaming, the room echoed with the sound of her laughter and commendations, followed by a slew of insults and back-and-forth was not heard.
As luck would have it, however, her laughter carried down the corridor as well, where Prince Severus Snape of Easterhollow stopped in his tracks, stomach burning with fury. His hands curled into fists at his sides, his teeth once again gnashed together, and the thick vein his forehead began to throb.
The servant would pay - one way or another. If Snape wanted something done, it would happen, no questions asked. And there was nothing he wanted more in that moment than to bring about the ruin of the bloody whelp. If the princess got caught in the crossfire, so be it.
He always had Petunia as a back up.
& & &
A/N: Overdramatic filler? Mayhaps, but at least we know why, exactly, Petunia has appointed James as Lily’s bodyguard. And who doesn’t love a good confrontation between James and Snape? Sorry for the lack of length, but I‘m going to try to shoot for this length for the remainder of the story as the last few chapters sort of got away from me.
Write a Review Distinctly Disenchanted: Chapter Fifteen