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Charcoal and Paint by ExquisiteAmethyst

Format: Novel
Chapters: 17
Word Count: 64,815
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Scenes of a Sexual Nature

Genres: General, Humor, Romance
Characters: Lupin, Sirius, Lily, James, Pettigrew, OtherCanon
Pairings: James/Lily, Other Pairing

First Published: 05/04/2009
Last Chapter: 12/17/2010
Last Updated: 12/17/2010


Summer art class was never easy. But this summer – the summer after Lily’s sixth year – was destined to be borderline painful. With Petunia’s incessant wedding drama, the looming end-of-the-year art gala, and a forced artistic partnership with James Potter, Lily would be lucky to escape with her sanity intact.

A lighthearted comedy, with a paint splatter or two.

Chapter 1: And Then Petunia Had Purple Lipstick . . .
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Lily Evans:

There was summer, and there was Hogwarts.

For Lily Evans, the two had remained distinct, absolutely separated for as long as she could recollect. At Hogwarts everything was magic and wonder and the painful struggle to stay afloat in a harsh teenage world. During the summer the magic and fighting faded, and an unusual sort of harmonious infatuation took its place.

Every year since she was twelve, she would arrive home and attend an art class for the entire summer. It had started off as a whim – Petunia had joined a gardening class or something, and Mrs. Evans felt Lily needed something to amuse herself the blistering, monotonous summer. And so she would ride her bike to the high-ceilinged art studio on the corner a mile or so away, and liberate all the troubles boiling inside her.

For Lily, there was nothing better than putting her nub of charcoal to thick, creamy paper and sketching her view of the world. Her emotions, her hopes, her agony, her ecstasy – all of it rushed into each drawing like a torrential downpour from the sky. She felt alive. Art was not a light hobby for her anymore, it was her everything. And so when Hogwarts fell into the distance, and the train wound away like a silvery snake in the tall, swaying grass, she did not pity herself. She reveled in the excitement. Unsurprisingly, her friends, Marlene and Alice, were quick to notice.

“You know,” Marlene said conversationally to Alice, “we should probably say our heartfelt goodbyes to Lily now. Merlin knows she’ll be too busy to write this summer. Perhaps we should just lower our expectations.”

Alice giggled, “Surely she’ll write once or twice, right Lily?”

Lily, her freckled cheeks blushing, shrugged apologetically, “Sorry. I’ll try to write you more often.”

“Sure you will,” Marlene teased, “at the end of August, when your class is finished and we’re already back on this train.”

“C’mon now, I’m not that bad, am I?”

Marlene and Alice exchanged amused looks, and then Alice burst out laughing, “Lily! I’ve received a total of eleven letters from you the past four summers! Lets face it, you’re a bit . . . preoccupied when you’re not at Hogwarts.”

“And I’ll bet I know why,” Marlene waggled her eyebrows, “a certain Mr. Potter perhaps?”

Lily wrinkled her nose. The ever-loud, ever-mischievous, ever-arrogant, ever-annoying James Potter lived a mile or so from her in his family's manor. The prat unluckily seemed to find delight in painting. They went to the same art class during the summer, much to Lily’s vague irritation and displeasure.

“You’ll fall in love with him eventually, Lils,” Marlene continued, “but in the mean time, would you mind penning your friends every once in a while?”

“I’ll do my best,” she promised. And she meant it.

Unfortunately, her ‘best’ probably would not exceed that of previous summers.

“Lily, come down for dinner please!” Mrs. Evans shout rang up the stairs.

“Coming!” Lily called back. She brushed her long, dark red hair one more time, blinked indifferently at her reflection, and then swirled to hurry down the stairs.

The whale man, Petunia’s boyfriend Vernon, was crashing her homecoming dinner. He was large, utterly repulsive, and completely egocentric. Lily knew Petunia could do better, but was afraid to say it because her relationship with her sister was already tremulous at best. Lily figured it would be preeminent to allow Petunia to appreciate on her own that she was dating a sweaty lump of blubber.

Lily skidded to a halt outside her family’s quaint kitchen. She smoothed her summery dress one last time, sighed with resignation, and then slipped quietly into the kitchen.

“Ah, it’s Lily!” Vernon bellowed as soon as he saw her, waving his fork around. “How is my Petty’s sister?”

She winced at Vernon’s use of ‘my Petty’, but forced a painful smile on her face, “I’m very well, thank you. And yourself?”

Vernon immediately swelled, and Lily instantaneously regretted her words. She had presented Vernon the opportunity to endlessly discuss and praise his favorite subject – himself.

Trying to avoid her parents’ exasperated looks, Lily slid into the seat between her mother and Petunia. Petunia pointedly ignored her by repulsively simpering at Vernon’s self-absorption.

“Good evening, Lily Flower,” Mr. Evans said quietly under Vernon’s thunderous declarations, smiling fondly at his daughter, “did you have a good term?”

Lily nodded, trying to act as though she was paying the utmost attention to Vernon’s narcissism, “Yes, it was fine. I’m third in my class. How was home?”

“Wonderful,” the corners of his eyes crinkled slightly, “we’ve had quite a few dinners with the Potters, and the Brandons, down the street. Pet and Vernon also manage to come over often, which is . . . well, an event.”

Lily glanced at Vernon’s sweaty, pompous, voluble face. She giggled sympathetically, “I’m so sorry, Dad.”

He gave her a look that was two parts amusement and one part stern. Petunia elbowed Lily in the side.

“ . . . and so the boss – a fine old chap – says that if I continue at my pace, I’ll be up for a promotion right quick,” Vernon continued loudly, “I’m setting myself up for a wonderful, distinguished career. A true provider. That’s the way it should be done, right Petty?”

She gushed, “Oh, of course! And I think it is so impressive, don’t you Mum?”

Mrs. Evans concealed her disapproval of Vernon flawlessly, “Yes, dear. Vernon is quite the specimen.”

Vernon puffed up his chest, “That I am, dear Mrs. Evans, that I am.”

Lily choked a little in her throat. She seized her napkin and hacked into it, refusing to permit Petunia to think that she was satirizing her ridiculous boyfriend.

“Mummy, would you pass the green beans?” Petunia asked.

Mrs. Evans handed the blue china bowl to her eldest daughter, and then turned to Lily. “You’ll be doing art class again, I assume?”

Lily looked scandalized, “Of course!”

“Just checking,” Mrs. Evans’ eyes twinkled, “James Potter will be there too. He’s a fine boy, don’t you think?”

“Oh, mum,” Lily felt even more queasy, “I know you’re fond of his parents, but please don’t try to match us up. I’ve told you how we fight at school. It’s no different here.”

“Who’s this boy?” demanded Vernon, slapping butter on a piece of bread, seemingly vexed that the conversation had moved on to skinnier topics.

“Just a schoolmate,” Lily replied, “but Mum, really. Don’t get your hopes up. Potter and I can never quite see eye to eye.”

Mr. Evans shrugged, “That could change.”

“Oh, not you too,” Lily scowled, “honestly, you’re supposed to be on my side!”

“Sorry, darling.”

Petunia coughed shrilly, “I think he’s a wretched boy! Not quite . . . normal, wouldn’t you say?”

Lily’s eyes narrowed. Mr. and Mrs. Evans frowned at Petunia warningly.

Vernon smacked his lips rudely, “More bread, Mrs. Evans?” 

Later, after Mr. Evans, Petunia, and Vernon had retired to the garden for a few drinks and pound cake, Lily scoured the dishes with her mother.

“Are you sure school was pleasant, dear? I know it’s hard to talk with him around, but was it truly?”

Lily nodded as she attempted to dry a china plate with a damp rag, “It was fine, Mum. Challenging with prefect duties, but nothing I couldn’t handle. Marlene and Alice are wonderful as ever. Everything’s excellent.”

Mrs. Evans pursed her lips, her eyes worried, “Oh Lily. I just . . . I wish you’d find a boy you liked. You’re seventeen. Its time you started looking for someone to make you feel special.”

“I’ve had boyfriends,” Lily contradicted, suppressing her fiery irritation, “but Mum, I’m not going to run off with just anyone. It has to be someone that . . . I dunno, goes above and beyond.”

Her mother pursed her lips skeptically as she scrubbed Vernon’s greasy plate, “Perhaps you should lower your expectations a bit dear.”

“To what? James bloody Potter?” Lily snapped.

“Calm down,” Mrs. Evans handed her a dry rag, “no. Well, possibly. I still don’t understand what your issue with that boy is. He seems so polite, and ever so charming.”

Lily snorted, “Mum, he’s a conceited, arrogant prat. Besides, he doesn’t like me much either. I’m too ‘rule-abidingly proud’ for his tastes.”

“Well, you do have a proud streak,” Mrs. Evans said gently, “ah, who knows. One day you’ll find someone that loves you for you. And hopefully you’ll fare better than your unfortunate elder sister. I do hope she doesn’t marry him.”

“She probably will,” Lily countered spitefully, “she’s got a thing for men that work with drills. And she must enjoy the stench.”

“Be supportive,” Mrs. Evans warned her, “Pet’s been nothing but happy the past few months.”

Lily rolled her eyes, “So long as they don’t have any children that I’m forced to be the Auntie of, I’m okay. Warn me before he leaves, alright?”

Mrs. Evans nodded, “Of course, dear.”

Carefully checking to be sure Vernon was not around the corner, Lily apparated with an inaudible pop up to her room.

After only three days of being at home Lily was already bored stiff. As a child she’d been wild and reckless and not one to sit still. As a teenager she had mellowed some, but listening to Petunia coo about the whale man rammed the frenetic energy right back into her.

Lily’s father went to work every day, and her mother attended various neighborhood book clubs, cooking parties, and sewing classes. That left Lily to meander around the house, trying in vain to tune out Petunia’s nauseating prattling.

“Oh, he is just so handsome, and clever! And he’s really setting himself up for a good life, you know? Very financially capable. And respectful too! None of the cows that Mum chats with would dare say a bad thing about him, because he’s so spotlessly reputable! Oh, he is just perfect,” Petunia giggled, “Don’t you think he’s just so wonderful, Lily?”

Lily grunted. Petunia took that as assent, and continued gushing, “And he’s to inherit quite a bit, too! His father owned that one company – oh what was it, something to do with lumber. Anyway, they put the fortune at a nicely large sum. There’s a house too – one in Surrey, I believe.”

It took all of Lily’s effort, and then some, to not tell Petunia to shut up. She suspected that had Petunia not been utterly love struck, she would not have been talking to Lily at all. Lily would rather her sister speak to her than ignore her, even if it were nothing but a slew of adoring compliments concerning Vernon Dursley.

Finally, she decided she should best leave before something regrettable happened. She leapt up out of the flower-patterned chair, “I’m feeling a bit faint, Petty, I’m going to go for a walk. Alright?”

Petunia nodded dreamily, not comprehending a word she said.

Rolling her eyes, Lily tied her sweaty, long hair up in a messy bun and hurried through the front door.

Lily’s neighborhood, like many muggle neighborhoods, was one of those where most everything looks identical. Every house was either painted pastel green, sunny yellow, or light blue, with a large square of vividly green grass in the front. Flowers blossomed from little planters near the front doors. The only exception to this merry rule was the Potter Estate, which took up a massive chunk of the neighborhood on its own.

Although not usually a girl impressed by materialistic things, Lily could not help but admire the huge mansion. It was made of soft, toffee-colored stone, with large glassy windows and a vast lawn. Trees lined the sides of the house, effectively blocking off the backyard from people strolling down the street. Lily suspected that, due to the Potter’s magical practices, the space was used for variety of non-muggle activities.

She padded lightly on the scorching pavement, her white, knee-length skirt fluttering around her. After ten or so minutes of aimlessly wandering, she found herself before the Potter Estate.

Lily slowed to a halt, looking curiously through the black, vine-like fence. The manor was so distant that Lily could hardly distinguish the front door. A neat, elongated drive wound through the perfectly cut lawn, swirling around the side of a sparkling sapphire pond. It was so exquisite that Lily felt the bitter taste of envy swell up in the back of her throat.

She was not spiteful, nor did she wish to take away what the Potters’ had. She simply wished that her house could have that same luster, magic that this place possessed.

Grimacing, she persisted down the street. It took her another ten minutes to get past the barrier that marked the Potter Estate.

Lily walked for another hour, managing to get as far as the creek alongside Hemmingway Avenue. When the sun began to dip, and the afternoon clouds commenced gathering, Lily turned towards home.

“Mummy, where is my yellow scarf?” Petunia hollered frantically as Lily slipped through the front door.

Mrs. Evans replied calmly, “I washed it, dear. It’s hanging in your closet.”

Lily accepted a glass of chilled lemonade and collapsed in one of the flowery armchairs, swiping the sweat away from her porcelain forehead. Petunia’s thundering steps could be heard on the stairs, and moments later her dark-haired sister emerged at the landing.

“He’ll be here any moment! Where are my shoes?”

“Which ones?” Lily snorted quietly.

Petunia was infamous for her collection of shoes, most of which were out of style and utterly repugnant.

Mrs. Evans set her glass down on a coaster, and then stood to help her eldest daughter prepare for what was undoubtedly a date with Vernon. “Petty, you must calm down. You don’t want to be all flushed when he arrives, do you?”

Petunia relaxed at once. Lily watched contemptuously as she tucked her black curls behind her ears, swiped purple lipstick on her thin lips, and tightened the orange sash on her dress.

“Where’re you going?” she asked uninterestingly.

“Dinner,” Petunia snapped, “and no, you can’t come.”

Lily rolled her eyes. The thought of dealing with Vernon for another entire evening caused her stomach to churn uncomfortably. The whale man made her want to rip tufts of hair out of her head and screech like a banshee.

The doorbell rang. Petunia gasped, shoved her feet in the orange heels Mrs. Evans had found, and then practically sprinted to the door.

“Ah, good evening Petty,” Vernon greeted her in his deep, detestable voice, “for you.”

Lily imagined him handing her an ugly bouquet of wilted flowers. Petunia squealed excitedly.

“Shall we?”

Petunia giggled, “Let me get my purse.”

She floated back into the parlor, dropped the unsightly bouquet of flowers in an empty vase, and snatched her purse. Mrs. Evans waved her off, “Goodbye, Petty! Be safe!”

“Bye , Mummy!” Petunia shouted back. The door slammed shut.

Lily breathed in relief, and pressed the icy glass of lemonade against her flushed forehead. Less than twenty-four hours until her first art class, and the beginning of what was turning out to be her most irritating summer yet. 

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Chapter 2: And Then Rose Bennett Found Her Next Victim . . .
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Lily Evans:

Lily paused to absorb the image of the Fine Arts Summer Academy at the corner of Grendall and Posey. The strap of her heavy bag sliced into her freckled shoulder and one of her sandals was sliding off her foot, but she did not bother to resolve any of it. She simply tilted her head, smiled fondly, and then hastened through the front door.

She wound her way through the tiny front room, dominated by a single large reception desk and decorated with hundreds of exemplary paintings. Most of the Academy consisted of the colossal back room; a jumbled chaos of desks, sturdy tables, easels, and shelves of materials. The floor was splattered with paint, high windows supplied excellent lighting, and an oversized aluminum sink in the back provided a space for the artists to wash their materials.

Lily recognized a few people from previous years, and waved to a couple of them. The room was only half full. People meandered slowly about, touching the organized shelves of drawing, sculpting, carving, painting, melding, crafting, and building materials.

As she had every year since pre-puberty, Lily lifted her heavy bag and set it on her claimed table, back in the corner to the left of a window. Being right handed, the light splayed across the paper without her hand’s shadow interrupting. It was perfect. She swept a few crumbs of clay off the surface, tried to ignore the curse words etched into the wood, and waited for the director of the Summer Academy – Mrs. Briarwood – to march in and give them a challenge.

“Hey, Lily!” a few kids shouted excitedly as they piled into the doorway.

She smiled and waved to a pair of them that she had grown close to as a mentor last year. Timothy Hall and Megan Minton were fourteen and thirteen, respectively, and happily oblivious to magic. Lily adored helping both of them with their artwork. Charcoal sketches in particular fascinated Timothy, so she found plenty of camaraderie with the youthful adolescent.

“Lily!” Megan squealed as she threw her arms around the older girl’s waist, “Oh, we’ve missed you all year!”

Timothy hung back a little, a huge grin on his tan features, “I missed you too.”

Lily laughed and, ignoring his discomfort, hugged Timothy as well, “I missed you all terribly! How was school?”

Megan made a face, but Timothy stuck out his chest proudly, “Second in my class!”

“And you, Megan? Did you have a good year?”

The young blonde sighed heavily, “School was awful. I hate all that academic stuff. I’d much rather draw, or talk with my friends.”

Unfortunately, Lily could not relate. She shot a sympathetic look towards the girl, and then changed the subject, “Where’re you two setting up?”

“Next to you and James, of course,” Timothy replied breezily.

Neither Megan nor Timothy was the perceptive sort. They both idolized Lily and Potter, and yet were completely clueless to the underlying contempt and dislike that simmered between them.

“Yeah, James promised to help me with my painting this year,” Megan added, “and I want to sit next to Timothy, who wants your help with sketching. So we all have to sit together.”

Lily forced a painful smile on her face, “We’ll see.”

“Oh, and guess what else!” Megan shot up with excitement, “My Mum says if I get good enough this year, she’ll let me come here year round! She says if I can’t apply myself to math or whatever, then I might as well become the best I can be in art!”

Timothy shot her an envious look. Lily beamed, “That’s great, Megan. If I didn’t love my other school so much, I’d be here too.”

“But James has to help me,” Megan turned serious, “if I want to improve that much, then he’s got to teach me how. He’s like, the best painter in this class.”

Lily did not know how to respond. Potter was a talented artist, but she abhorred complimenting him in any way. He was too full of himself for his own good.

“Speak of the devil,” Timothy pushed himself away from Lily’s desk, “hey, James! Over here!”

Megan squealed. Lily shifted uneasily.

“Oy, Timothy!” Potter called back, sounding both pleased and eager, “and Megan too!”

They both ran over to chat with him. Lily subtly lowered her head to look down at her desk, allowing a curtain of long, wine-colored tresses to block her face from view.

Luckily, Mrs. Briarwood arrived exactly six minutes late, and ordered everyone to immediately find a seat.

Mrs. Briarwood was one of those exceedingly imposing figures, with a reedy voice and thick, perpetually traveling eyebrows. She was short in stature and wore long skirts, but her bulldog like personality allowed for no leniency concerning anything. She had specific notions about art, demanded they be followed, and refused to even entertain differing thoughts and opinions. It was because of this obstinacy that most students only stayed for one summer. Unless they agreed with Mrs. Briarwood, they probably would not return.

“Quiet!” she snapped.

Lily peeked over at Megan, Timothy, and James Potter. The three of them had salvaged desks in the corner of the room on Lily’s right, approximately five tables over. Timothy looked quite put out that he was not beside Lily. That cheered her up a bit.

“I have thirty students this year,” Mrs. Briarwood announced in her shrill voice, “and each and every one of you better adjust quickly to this place. It’s my school, it will not be kind to you, and it will demand more than you ever thought you could give. Get used to it. My returned students can attest to the fact that this is grueling, albeit beautiful work.

“There will be one slight change this year - ” Lily perked her ears, “ – we’ll be having a noteworthy showcase in August. You will have a single large project to work on throughout the summer, and your end result will be shown in a gallery walk open to all of England. The idea is that it will bring attention to both the Academy and yourselves. If you’re lucky, some of your work may be bought and hung in fanciful places you never thought possible.”

The familiar bundle of excited, feverish energy began tingling in the pit of Lily’s stomach.

“Any questions?” Mrs. Briarwood barked.

Nobody raised their hand.

“Good. Today’s challenge is to draw a basic grayscale illustration of . . .” she whipped a white dust cloth off a pile of haphazard rubbish, “this stuff.”

Lily saw a holey sneaker, a rusted serving plate, a muddy newspaper, and a tin can among the heap of junk. She wrinkled her nose in distaste. Lily enjoyed drawing faces. She liked finding subtle, human charm and emotion. There was no loveliness in this motley collection.

Potter raised his hand, “Do we have to draw it as we see it, or can we use the objects to create a different image?”

“Do as you wish,” Mrs. Briarwood replied shortly, with a fond twinkle in her eye, “either way is acceptable.”

He winked audaciously. Lily rolled her eyes.

“All pencils, charcoal, blenders, and erasers are on this shelf,” Mrs. Briarwood slapped a sturdy, dark bookcase, “lunch is at noon. You get a half an hour, and then its back to work. Understood?”

A few people nodded, but most were already scrambling for paper, their ideas overflowing faster than hands could record them.

James Potter:

He did not like pencils.

James had figured this out his first day of class years before. He had struggled bringing animation, or energy into his grayscale drawings. No matter how deeply he shaded or how brightly he highlighted, he simply could not energize his work. It aggravated him.

But when he was given brilliant, exquisite, wonderful paints, he suddenly discovered a joy he did not think possible. With colors he could move and shape and beautify the universe. It was easy. Right. Normal, even.

Irritated, he bit down at the turkey sandwich his house elf, Mimsy, had fixed for him that morning. It was lunch break, and so far he was feeling cranky and utterly exasperated about his drawing.

“I can’t!” Megan snapped as Timothy soothingly explained to her his secrets to finding joy in flat grayscales, “just quit it.”

Timothy, both miffed and empathetic, stood up and moved towards where Lily was seated, alone.

“You get what I mean, right James?” Megan asked.

He nodded, “Yep. We’re the same, you and me. Those pencils drive me bloody crazy.”

She frowned, “Maybe I should get Lily’s help.”

James sighed. Even for all of Lily’s pride and temper, he could not help but occasionally wish that he too could have the ability to ask her for advice. But just as he occasionally could not abide her haughty superiority, she despised his egotism and flippant manner. They rubbed each other the wrong way. Henceforth, he was not privy to her brilliance with grayscale sketching.

Megan picked herself up and brushed the dusty, clay-induced lightness on her jeans, “I’ll go over and talk with Lily. You coming?”

He shook his head, “Nah, I need a moment to think. Go ahead.”

She smiled at him, and then hurried over to where the familiar redhead was laughing with Timothy.

James crumpled up his lunch bag and chucked it in a high arc towards the rubbish bin. Before he could allow the tiny satisfaction of hitting his mark seep into his system, a high-pitched, irritating voice rang from directly behind him.

“Hey, James,” Rose Bennett purred, “how’ve you been?”

He struggled to suppress a groan, and then swiveled in his seat and plastered a happy smile on his face, “Great! You?”

“Oh, I’ve been better,” she pouted, “life’s been hard, you know?”

James hummed sympathetically, although he had no clue how life could have been hard for the spoiled, rich little muggle girl. Her father pampered her. She had plenty of money, rather common, but still attractive looks, and unrestricted ambition.

“My boyfriend broke up with me,” she announced meaningfully, “I’ve been so upset.”

“Oh, sorry,” he responded awkwardly.

Rose flipped her copious amounts of flaxen hair, “He broke my heart. I’ve just been looking and looking for someone who understands, you know? Someone who gets me.”

James knew exactly what she was inferring, but refused to even pretend to understand Rose’s warped, shallow mind. “Maybe you’ll find someone this summer,” he offered, neatly excluding himself from that category.

“Maybe,” she narrowed her cold blue eyes at him.

There was a strange silence, as she stared him down and he squirmed. Finally he jumped up, “Er, I got to, uh, go talk to Megan about, erm . . . paints.”

She opened her mouth to object, but he hurried away.

“Hey, James,” Megan snickered as he reached Lily’s table, “saw you talking to Rose. She ask you out?”

He shuddered in disgust, “No, but she was hinting so hard I thought she might suffocate me.”

Timothy and Megan laughed, but it was Lily’s small giggle that alerted him to her presence. He winced inwardly, “Oh – hey, Evans.”

She smiled vaguely, “Hello Potter.”

“Er, how’ve you been since school ended?”

“Alright, I suppose. Yourself?”

“Good,” he shoved his hands in his pockets, “waiting for this class to start.”

Lily nodded in agreement, “Me too.”

“Right,” he fidgeted in discomfort. It was even more difficult talking to Lily than with Rose. Lily did not repulse him like Rose did, but she had an uncanny knack for making him feel self-conscious, stupid, and childish.

“How have you been doing with grayscale?” she asked politely.

The tetchy mood quickly swept over him again, “Terrible.”

“Oh,” she said uncomfortably.

“You should see Lily’s,” Megan piped up obliviously, “its really good. I know what I can do to make mine better now.”

James was unsure how to respond. On one hand, he hated seeing Lily’s grayscale work because it made him feel incompetent and juvenile. But on the other hand he loved it because it inspired him and gave him a plethora of ideas on how to improve his own composition.

Megan did not give him a chance to decide. She flipped over the large square of stiff, creamy paper on Lily’s table, ignoring Lily’s protestation.

As was expected, James felt any scrap of pride he felt in his drawing collapse in a mound of dust. Lily’s uncanny talent in picking out the glimmering highlights, subtle shadows, and mid tones caused her drawing to practically sparkle with authenticity. The pile of junk appeared beautiful as a result of Lily’s charcoal work. James glowered enviously.

Embarrassed, Lily moved to turn the drawing back over. James stopped her, “Hold on a minute.”

His eyes traveled over every precise pencil stroke, every gray smear, every contour of the work. Although clearly unfinished, it still outshone his in every way. And he knew why. Lily captured light easily by contrasting it with darkness. Her highlights were blindingly bright, her shadows unfathomably dark. James’s whole drawing was either light gray or dark gray. If he darkened his shadows and brightened his highlights, perhaps it would be a little less dreary.

Finally, he allowed her to cover it up again. Her cheeks tinged pink.

“Thanks,” he offered up unexpectedly, “that helps a lot.”

She nodded curtly. James felt the familiar twinge of annoyance at her aloof, icy pride, but pushed it away. He could not always let her flaws aggravate him so.

“You ready to go back to work?” Timothy inquired.

James and Megan nodded.

“See you after class, Lily,” Timothy beamed at his mentor, “don’t leave until I see your finished work.”

She smiled affectionately at him, “Alright, I’ll see you later. Bye Megan.”

The young blonde waved, and then led the way towards their little cluster of desks. James could not help but compare Lily’s exchange with him and her final goodbye with Timothy. Why was she so against showing him that same warmth and charm?

He abruptly decided he did not really care, and settled in his seat.

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Chapter 3: And Then James And Lily Simultaneously Hated Mrs. Briarwood . . .
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James Potter:

After class, Mrs. Briarwood yanked James aside. “Wait here,” she growled. Then she stomped off into the crowd of students streaming through the narrow doorway.

Bemused, he leaned against a table and folded his arms. Timothy and Megan lingered for a moment, watching him inquisitively, but then eventually joined the crowd to leave.

Mrs. Briarwood reappeared, trailed by a perplexed Lily Evans. James felt his chest tighten.

“Now listen,” their teacher barked, muting her tone as the last few kids disappeared, “you two are my most promising students this year, correct?”

Unsure whether it’d be too conceited to nod, James glanced at Lily. She had smiled slightly, ducked her head, and allowed her hair to hide her rosy cheeks. James had to hide a snort when he visualized himself doing that.

“You’re at a level that no one else has reached. So, I’m going to have you two be partners for the year. You can help each other out, pose for each other, and all sorts of things. Potter, you’ll help Evans with paints. Evans, you’ll help Potter with charcoal. I think you’ll improve more this way than if I kept you back,” Mrs. Briarwood grit her teeth, “you can help each other when I’m too busy whacking a thirteen-year-old for scribbling outside the lines in his coloring book.”

Neither James nor Lily laughed. They were both frozen with surprise.

“Oh, right, and you’ll both be given extra assignments too,” Mrs. Briarwood added, slightly put out at their silence, “feel free to use the studio whenever you please. The key is under the mat. I trust neither of you will rob me?” Her gaze turned very stern.

“No, ma’am,” Lily murmured quietly. Her eyes were widened with residual surprise.

“You best hope not,” she scowled, “now, you’ll start partner work tomorrow. Wear your smocks – we’ll be painting.”

It was the best news James had received all day.

“Mum, I’m home!” James shouted after he apparated into the grand foyer of his family’s estate. He brushed past the enormous marble columns impatiently, ignoring the luxurious opulence of the manor. He had lived here his whole life. The novelty of it had never quite kicked in.

“I’m in the breakfast cranny!” A faint voice called back from somewhere within the diamond-inlaid innards of the house. James groaned, and then hurried up the sweeping entry staircase.

He found his mother settled in the cheery breakfast nook – a little table near the kitchen, tucked in a cavity in the wall. She smiled over her tea, “How was your art class, sweetie?”

He collapsed in one of the chairs, “Awful. I bloody hate pencils, grayscale, and Mrs. Briarwood.”

“Whatever did she do?” Mrs. Potter asked, amusedly.

James frowned dejectedly, “She paired me and Evans up for the summer. Says we have to work together, help each other or something. I’ll be with her all the bloody time.”

“Lily Evans? Oh, she’s a lovely girl,” Mrs. Potter nodded, “her parents are wonderful people.”

“That’s great, Mum, but Lily and I don’t exactly work, you know? She hates me and I don’t understand her. We’re way too different. It’ll be awkward.”

“You’ll work it out,” Mrs. Potter said confidently, “you’re a handsome, charming young man and she’s a delightful, courteous young woman. I see ample potential in this.”

James shuddered, “Ugh, no.”

Mrs. Potter gave him a disapproving look, “Lily Evans is a wonderful girl, and you would do well to treat her kindly.”

“I do treat her kindly, Mum,” James protested, although it was not entirely true, “its not my fault she’s uppity and aloof.”

Mrs. Potter stood, and Mimzy the house elf whisked away her teacup, “Try to do better, darling. Oh, and a letter came for you today. Its in your room.”

James rolled his eyes at her abrupt subject change, “Thanks.”

His mother smiled, and quickly paced down the stairs.

The letter was from Sirius. James tore it open with unbridled, immature excitement.

Prongs –

How’s the painting going? Murdered Evans with a paintbrush yet? I’m sure it’s going well since you’d go all goo-goo eyed and drool slightly whenever we mentioned it last year. You lovesick fool. And all for paints. .

Uncle Alphard’s money is doing me nicely. The flat’s decent enough. You should come see it sometime. When can I come over for dinner? I miss Mimzy’s cooking. Feeding myself is way too much responsibility. I’m not sure I can handle it.

Oh – and Remus would like to know if we’re available on the full moon. I said of course we are. You are, aren’t you? Anyways, it’ll be at that forest near his house. A bit of containing, but that’s it. May be fun.

Don’t drown yourself in artwork this summer, Prongs. I require constant attention. Neglect me, and I will maim you.



James chuckled aloud when he reached the end of the letter. Sirius had never failed to either entertain or mortify him. This letter did not disappoint.

He reached for a quill, his favorite scarlet ink, and a scroll of parchment.

Padfoot –

I won’t neglect you. I’ll simply ignore your existence until September. Sound fair?

Art class is strange. Evans and I are paired up for the summer because we’re top of the class, and the teacher feels we should learn from each other. I’m not too thrilled. I mean, its Evans. I fight with her every time I see her. She’s infuriating.

Come over for dinner any time. Mimzy loves you, and your nauseatingly large appetite. Of course I’m available for the full moon. Two Tuesdays from now, right?

Don’t bore yourself to death. I wouldn’t want to plan your funeral. Try to find a hobby or something, you lazy prat.

See you anytime


Satisfied with the letter, James cheerfully rolled it up and attached it to his owl, Henry VIII’s leg. The haughty bird glared at him, and then bolted out the window.

James stuck his tongue out after him.

It was a common occurrence for James to be late to just about everything. It was extraordinary for him to arrive fifteen minutes premature to his art class, so anxious and frantic that he had forgotten his own lunch.

He set up his paints at the desk next to Lily’s favorite one. Then he moved back to his corner. Then he returned to Lily’s.

He was beginning to gather everything together to go back to his corner, ignoring the curious looks of the other kids that had arrived early with him, when Lily walked into the room.

James froze.

She bounced when she walked, her small frame struggling to support the enormous canvas bag dangling off her shoulder. Her red hair was swept in a long, swaying ponytail.

The familiar smell of lilies-of-the-valley engulfed him as she placed her things at her desk. She looked uncomfortable.

“Uh – should I sit here?” James asked awkwardly. He scratched the back of his neck.

“Sure,” Lily shrugged. Her shoulders were tense.




James sat on his hands. He hated discomfiting conversations.

“So, um,” Lily looked exceedingly uncomfortable, “what exactly are we supposed to help each other with?”

“I dunno. Advice, or something I guess,” James shrugged, awkwardly mystified, “use our different talents to just help each other. Or something like that.”



They sat there, not looking at each other, unsure how to act. On one hand, James could not stand her. On the other, he could not go and tell Mrs.. Briarwood that he simply would not work with Lily because that would be cruel and cowardly. So he was stuck in this awkward situation of not wanting to be there, but refusing to go anywhere else.

Luckily, Megan, Timothy, and Mrs. Briarwood entered the room at the same time. Megan and Timothy scurried to the desks near Lily and James while their teacher barked for quiet.

“Silence!” she ordered.

The class quieted, and stayed still. James felt self conscious.

“The rest of this week I’ll be evaluating your painting skills. I don’t care what or who you paint, but it must be on two feet by three feet canvas and using a multitude of brushes. Do your best, and I’ll assess your progress at the end of class.”

Oh boy, James could not help but think. He was excited and mortified at the same time. What was he supposed to do with Lily?

He glanced at her, out of curiosity, and saw that she looked both dejected and utterly annoyed. It was a mirror example of his face yesterday with grayscale.

The class buzzed with activity. Before James could stand to go fetch a canvas and easel, Mrs. Briarwood stomped over.

“You two!” she growled.

They paused.

“You both need to paint the same object. Miss Evans, learn from Potter. Follow his instruction. Work together, understand? I want two beautiful paintings by Friday.”

Lily looked outraged.

“Okay, Mrs. Briarwood,” James intervened quickly, “will do.”

Their teacher went to go yell at a fourteen year old for knocking over an easel. Lily glared at James, her expression murderous, and James backed away quickly.

“Look, calm down, alright? You don’t have to -”

“I am not learning anything from you,” Lily spat, “don’t even think about trying to tell me what to do.”

He grit his teeth, “I wasn’t going to -”

“Just shut up Potter! You are not teaching me, I am not following you, and we can just forget this stupid partner arrangement!” Lily snarled, “Leave me alone!”

And, in a contradictory move, she stormed away in a swirl of red hair.

James glared angrily at her back, and stomped away in the opposite direction. He detested Lily Evans and her stupid pride and stubbornness and idiocy! She was a haughty, obstinate snob! He could not stand her sometimes!”

Lily Evans:

“ . . . And Vernon has decided he would like an indoor wedding, in the city, with all the important officials he’s connected with,” Petunia gushed, “doesn’t that just sound wonderful?”

“No,” Lily snapped.

“The guess list will be enormous,” Petunia continued happily, “can you imagine how many people will see me? Oh, it’ll be perfect. Absolutely perfect!”

“It sounds lovely, dear,” Mrs. Evans contributed as she dried the dishes, “I’m happy for you.”

Lily groaned loudly, allowing her head to fall into her hands.

“When we can we go dress shopping? Or flower shopping? There’s so much to do! I’ll never be so happy again!” Petunia sighed blissfully.

It was ironic that at the very moment that Petunia’s happiness was at its peak, Lily felt black to her very core. She was angry and frustrated and irritable and impertinent. While Petunia had been proposed to, Lily had suffered through what felt like the worst week in the history of the world.

First, she had shrieked at James Potter for absolutely no reason, successfully losing her confidential insight into his painting expertise. Due to her rash temper, she was stuck struggling with the colors, trying to bend them to her will disastrously. Then, not only had Rose Bennett torn her apart verbally in front of half the younger girls, but Mrs. Briarwood had loudly scrutinized her pathetic painting for the entire class to hear.

Lily felt as if she was the ugliest, stupidest, least talented person ever. Then, to add to it, Petunia was getting married. To the whale man. Who seemed to think it was his divine right to visit her house whenever it pleased him.


Petunia squealed, “Oh, Mummy, can we start on the guest list? Please?”

“Of course, dear,” Mrs. Evans dried her hands off, and then slid a pen and pad of paper off the counter, “here, you write.”

Petunia grabbed the paper. Lily stood quickly, “I’ll be going.”

Mrs. Evans shot her an amused look, and Petunia failed to even mind. Lily quickly exited the house.

The sun was beating strongly upon the summer avenue, the leafy trees doing their best to shade the quiet houses. Lily walked swiftly away from her home, moving in no specific direction. She felt as if she was trying to escape from her own despair.

Walk as she might, she could not avoid her misery. Images flashed through her mind like an old cinematic picture. James Potter’s hurt face, Rose’s triumph, Petunia’s horsy glory, Mrs. Briarwood’s disappointment, her weak, pathetic excuse for a painting, her messy room, Petunia’s wedding plans, Rose’s sneaky, malicious smirk . . . The pictures continued flipping.

Lily suppressed her temper and melancholy, and picked up her pace. If she couldn't escape from all these things in her brain, then she'd damn well get as far away, physically, as possible from them. Hell, she'd walk straight off the sodding island if that's what it took.

The Atlantic Ocean was starting to look pretty good at this point.

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Chapter 4: And Then James Realized He Was An Overgrown Sap . . .
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James Potter:

In a strange, unexpected twist, James found himself feeling very sorry for Lily Evans.

The usually cool, haughty redhead looked both exhausted and utterly beat down, as if the pressures of life had finally caught up with her. Her mess of long dark red hair was thrown in an unruly bun at the top of her head, and her clothes were wrinkled and unkempt. She lay slumped at her desk, one hand propping up her head while the other lay faintly against her amorphous painting.

The rest of the class had finished their paintings the week before. Lily and James had been at it for two weeks, striving for that ever-elusive perfection. James was nearly there. Lily was unfathomably behind.

Class was almost over. James carried his brushes over to the sink, dumped them inside, and returned to his desk. Lily had not moved. He hesitated, and then shook his head and moved his painting to a safe holding place on the north wall.

Mrs. Briarwood raised her voice above the din; “Turn in your pastel work by pinning it to the east wall! Make sure your name is on the back, or you’ll be marked up for an incomplete!”

A flurry of students rushed towards the eastern wall. James chuckled, and began packing his paints into his bag.

Impulsively, he glanced at Lily again. She had sunk even further into her defeated, miserable position. At some point she had flipped over her painting, possibly too ashamed to look at it.

James felt his gut wrench a little.

Someone brushed against his arm. He jumped, and then was caught by the view of Rose Bennett sashaying towards Lily.

“Hey, Evans,” Rose said loudly. James eavesdropped.

“What do you want?” Lily sighed, not even turning her head to look at the blonde girl.

“I heard you were failing the painting project,” Rose pouted sympathetically, “wasn’t that due a week ago? You must really be awful at it.”

Lily barely inclined her head. Rose continued with a cruel smirk, “I got high marks for mine. Perhaps you need some tips?”

James tried to suppress a snort. Rose was notorious for being terrible with paints. She was good with clay, but could not perform with any other mediums without making a mess of everything. Lily’s ghastliest cave painting could be better than Rose’s muddle of splattered color.

“Or perhaps I simply need you to go away,” Lily replied snippily, but James was surprised to see her eyes lacked that familiar angry spark. She just looked tired.

“Or perhaps you should get off your high horse and realize you aren’t even a good artist,” Rose retorted, “seriously, a six-year-old could do better than you at paints.”

Lily rolled her eyes in a rather feeble showing of disparagement.

“Face it, Evans,” Rose sneered, “you’re just a sad little nobody that only goes here because you have no friends, no talents, and no life.”

She waited for a response. Lily just stared straight ahead blankly.

Rose tossed her hair scornfully, made an irate noise, and stomped away.

James felt uncomfortable. His discomfort only increased when Lily collapsed, her head falling into her arms and her whole body crumpling. She was not crying, but her posture so clearly screamed weakness and defeat. He wanted to comfort her, but he also wanted to yell at her for being such a stubborn, icy witch the previous week.

“Class is over! Goodbye!” Mrs. Briarwood shouted. She opened the door, and people immediately streamed through it.

James got up to join them, but paused. Lily was not moving, had not yet cleaned up her space, and appeared absolutely wretched.

He lingered, debating with himself, until everyone had vanished into the bright sunlight. Mrs. Briarwood disappeared hurriedly out the employee exit.

It was quiet, tense. James felt ridiculously embarrassed and moved to leave silently, but he accidentally knocked a clipboard off the table.

Lily raised her head, noticed him, and lifted her eyebrows, “What are you doing?”

“Er,” he rubbed the back of his head embarrassedly and hastened to pick it up, “uh. Nothing.”

She did not believe him for a second, but apparently did not care enough to call him on it. Instead, she sighed wearily and sat up a little straighter, “I reckon I should be going then.”

“No, wait!” James blurted.

She frowned, “What?”

“Er,” he felt awkward, and could feel himself growing hot, “nothing. Just uh, wondering why you’ve been so unlike yourself lately, I guess.”

Her usually brilliant eyes narrowed, “What do you mean?”

“Well, I dunno,” he shrugged and ignored the sweat on the back of his neck, “you just seem a bit tired I guess, and kind of hopeless. Apathetic.”

Lily looked for a fraction of a second as if she could muster her usual fiery rage, but then the passion was checked. She blinked, “I suppose.”

James had to force himself not to look shocked that she had not only admitted a temporary character defect, but had remained calm while doing so. “Why?”

“None of your business,” she said dourly, standing and heaving her bag on to her shoulder.

“Evans, wait,” he rumpled his hair, slightly exasperated but overall feeling much more calm. The fact that she had not yet ripped him into minuscule splinters helped a bit.

She rolled her eyes at his gesture. It had always irritated her, “What Potter?”

“I just . . .” he paused, then shrugged, “Is there any way I can help?”

Lily stood still. Her eyes widened with surprise, and then quickly narrowed suspiciously, “What’s the ulterior motive?”

“There isn’t one,” James said, mildly offended, “you just seem depressed lately. I was wondering if I could help.”

She shifted her weight from one foot to the other. James watched, slightly guarded. Her mostly apathetic face shifted minutely from anger to shock, and then back again.

Finally, she pushed her hair out of her eyes, “I don’t believe you.”

Of course you don’t, James thought dryly, you are the most difficult, annoying, obstinate girl that ever walked this sodding planet.

“I think you’re just reveling in the fact that for once you’re beating me at something,” she continued tiredly, “so just, leave me out of it, okay? I’m going home.”

“Since when do you give up?” James asked, perplexed.

“I’m not giving up,” she elucidated wearily, moving a few paces towards the door, “I’m just refusing to start with you. Goodbye.”

She pushed open the door, and walked into the blinding sunlight. James groaned in exasperation and followed her, “Evans, wait!”

Lily walked purposefully in the slanting, golden light of the late afternoon. Her bag swung from her narrow shoulder, and her messy bun bobbed with her footsteps. James easily maintained pace with her.

“What do you want?”

“I want to snap you out of this weird funk,” James replied, “I mean, no offense, you annoy the hell out of me when you’re a snotty ice queen, but I’d rather you be dynamic then just . . . depressing.”

“Thanks,” she said sarcastically.

James turned with her onto the street that led to her house, instead of his. She noticed, “What, you’re going to follow me home? Since when do you care?”

“Since I don’t like this you more than the other you,” he smirked.

She rolled her eyes, “You realize I’m only an icy snot to you, right? Because you’re the only pompous prat that manages to both irritate and infuriate me. Everyone else I can deal with. You, I can’t.”

“Ah, there’s a spark of the old Evans,” James nodded proudly, “biting my head off for no reason. Way to go.”

“Ugh! Sod off!”

“Yes! More improvement!”

“I’m going to shove my wand up your – “

“Now, now, Evans,” James grinned, thoroughly enjoying himself, “lets not be, dare I say it, naughty.”

She stopped in the middle of the street, and glared at him with her infamous Stare of Torturous Death and Excruciating Agony. He automatically took a few steps back and raised his hands, “I have my whole life ahead of me – don’t kill me.”

Her cheeks turned red, “Potter! Just shut up, okay? I’m tired, upset, and I absolutely don’t want to deal with your immaturity right now! Grow up, or leave me alone!”

James knew, instinctively, not to listen to her words. He shrugged, “Hey, lighten up. C’mon, I’m trying to figure out why you’ve been all miserable in class this past week.”

“My sisters getting married!” Lily snapped.


James felt slightly uncomfortable. He shoved his hands in his pockets, “Er – aren’t weddings usually causes of celebration?”

“Not this one,” Lily slowed to a stop, and raised a hand to shield her eyes
from the angled golden light, “its just . . . complicated. Petunia – my sister – isn’t in a right state. She’s utterly infatuated with this beast of a man. He’s repulsive and self-centered and egocentric, and she claims to love him. I truly despise him, and she truly despises me, so none of it is working out too well.”

“Why does she despise you?”

Lily smiled bitterly, “Because I’m a witch and she isn’t.”


“That’s not very fair.”

“Yes, well,” she dropped her hand, “that’s how it is.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, surprising himself, “I had no idea that you’re sister was so difficult. Or that your home life isn’t all daisies and pudding.”

Lily glanced at him, “Every family has their issues. I’m not asking for pity.”

“I know,” he backtracked quickly, “its just, I guess I don’t really know you.”

She looked at him. He looked back. He was struck by exactly how much shorter she was then him. Her eyes were at least a foot lower than his. They were filled with understanding, and gradually diminishing bitterness.

“I suppose I don’t really know you either.”

“No,” he agreed, “you don’t.”

“Maybe, we should just, try again,” she dropped her heavy bag by her feet.

“Or we could try to move forward,” he suggested quietly, “I don’t know you, you don’t know me, and neither of us like our judgments of who the other was. Perhaps we should learn from that and try to progress.”

She nodded, “Of course. And this whole art-partner thing will be bloody awful if we don’t at least try to cooperate.”

“For Mrs. Briarwood?” James offered, holding up his hand.

“For Mrs. Briarwood,” Lily confirmed, smiling tiredly and raising her hand as well.

“Alright,” he beamed as he shook her hand, “see you tomorrow then. I hope your sister’s fiancée moves to Australia!”

Lily smiled, “Me too.”

He grinned one last time, and then turned around and walked briskly back down her street. The golden light was to his back now, and he could see his shadow walking ahead of him with a bounce in its step. Somewhere deep down, a weight had been lifted off his already buoyant heart. 

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Chapter 5: And Then Petunia Is Overwhelmed By A Napkin Crisis . . .
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Lily Evans:

“Lily! Have you eaten breakfast yet?” Mrs. Evans called over Petunia’s wails, “Lily!”

Petunia’s shrieking, desperate sobs echoed around the house. Lily hurried quickly down the stairs and made a sharp, skidding turn into the kitchen.

“There you are,” Mrs. Evan’s frazzled face softened some, “here, there’s a bit of sausage and toast on the table for you. Hurry or you’ll be late.”

Lily nodded, “Thanks, Mum.” She sat and raised her fork to her lips, trying to ignore her crumpled wreck of a sister that had taken residence in the opposite chair.

“I can’t bear this!” Petunia howled, “Mummy, its awful! Its ruined! Nothing will ever be the same!”

Mrs. Evans stroked her hair, “It isn’t that bad, darling. I’m sure the shop will fix it. The man who runs it is very kind.”

“No, he’s a horrid beast!” Petunia shouted, “he ruined my tablecloth order, and completely destroyed the napkins! That cloth was the most expensive Vernon was willing to buy, and now it is nothing but scraps for his stupid ugly daughters to make wretchedly ugly dresses with!” She dumped her head in her arms and shrieked.

Lily and her mother exchanged a similar, exasperated look. Enraged, Petunia kicked the legs of the table, “The wedding will be a disaster! Vernon will have no respect for my wifely abilities! If I can’t plan a bloody wedding, how am I supposed to hold a house or raise children? It’s all ruined! Ruined!”

“Pet, you’re being overdramatic,” Mrs. Evans said patiently, “nothing is ruined. There was a minor mishap in the shop, but everything will be taken care of and you will grow to be a lovely wife and mother. You simply need to calm down.”

Petunia screwed her face into an entirely unattractive pout, “No, everything has been destroyed. How will I tell Vernon? How will I tell his mother? Oh, now they’re all going to hate me! All his female relatives, and his sister! No one will respect me! What am I going to do?”

Before Mrs. Evans could kindly rebuke this latest round of wailings, Petunia screamed and threw a dishrag across the room.

There were still plentiful amounts of food left, but Lily could no longer bear her sister’s childish tantrum. She stood quickly and slung her bag over her shoulder. “Bye, Mum,” she tried to shout over Petunia’s shrieks. Mrs. Evans nodded wearily. Lily whirled around and dashed out of the house.

The beautiful, early morning sunlight and dewy feel to the air calmed Lily’s harried state immediately. Petunia’s shrieks faded quickly, and Lily could feel her nerves untangle themselves. Something about a grown woman’s temper tantrum made her feel both unbelievably sympathetic and positively livid. When would Petunia ever grow up?

Houses slipped by quickly as Lily paced through the awakening neighborhood. The smell of blooming flowers and the warmth of the air made summer feel like a reality. It was the kind of weather that stimulated artists. Despite Petunia’s awful behavior, Lily felt inspired.

She opened the door to the Fine Arts Summer Academy and nodded to the receptionist. When she entered the studio part of the building she was unsurprised to see most everybody already there. Even Potter, notorious for being late, had set up his things at her usual table. Petunia’s outburst had slowed her morning.

“Lily!” Megan shouted. The blonde girl was bouncing on her seat next to Potter.

“Hello, Megan,” Lily greeted her as she set her heavy bag on the table, “how are you?”

“I want to see your painting!” Megan clapped her hands, “its been two weeks, it must be nearly finished. Can I see it? Please?”

Fear crept down Lily’s spine. She was completely insecure about her painting, and knew that Megan, even though she had only used three days for her work, had probably done a more beautiful job. Lily was not ready for people to see hers. Not yet.

Potter suddenly spoke up, “Megan, you want to see mine? Lily’s isn’t out yet. She still wants to change a few more things on it.”

The girl’s short attention span had never been more appealing, “Oh, yes I want to see yours!”

Lily shot Potter a grateful look. He shrugged, winked at her, and went off to retrieve his painting from the in-progress shelf.

“Timothy’s little brother is sick,” Megan announced matter-of-factly, “he can’t come in today.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” Lily frowned, “is he alright?”

Megan shrugged, “Its probably just the flu or something.”

Lily nodded, relieved, and watched as Potter wound his way back to their table. He took the protective wrapping off of his painting and set it gently on his easel. Then he swiveled the easel towards Lily and Megan.

Megan squealed immediately, but Lily chose to just dissect the painting with her eyes. She silently absorbed every centimeter of the canvas, taking in all the colors and strokes and exquisite attention to detail. Potter had turned the subject – a painting of the art room itself – into a vibrant, attractive, beautiful vision of creativity and perfection.

The three dimensional element of his painting was startling. The tables and shelves were positioned perfectly, and the angles of the floor and ceiling mimicked the view from Lily’s table exactly. High light shown down upon the busily working artists. Lily could almost see the dust particles floating in the rays of sunlight.

Potter cleared his throat. Lily ignored him and continued inspecting the almost flawless canvas.

She could see Rose Bennett’s frustrated expression as her painting refused to work with her. Timothy was walking to empty a cup of muddy-looking water. The red gleam of Lily’s own hair was visible at the bottom of the canvas, as she bent to dip her brush in the blue paint.

The painting was a perfect illustration of the art room at ten o’clock in the morning. It screamed authenticity and demanded attention, the whole thing emanating the same cocky, confident, attractive air that James Potter was so known for. Lily felt envy sting her throat.

“Its so good, James,” Megan gushed, “unbelievable. I love the lighting of it. It actually looks like this room.”

Potter chuckled, “That’s good.”

“No seriously,” Megan placed her chin in her hand as she gazed at the painting, “can you teach me how to do the brush strokes that you used on the floors? Hardwood floors are really hard for me to get.”

“Use a small brush and always use vertical strokes,” Potter instructed, “and use as many different shades of beige as you can.”

Megan opened her mouth to respond, but before she could Mrs. Briarwood’s deep voice barked from the doorway, “What are you all sitting around waiting for? Get up! Do your work! None of your pastels are near good enough to be considered completed!”

A flurry of movement began as the students hastened to obey Mrs. Briarwood. Megan gave them an apologetic look, and then whisked off to retrieve her painting. The sound of chattering students collecting their work and materials shattered the spell that Lily had been placed under, and she blinked rapidly.

“So what do you think?” Potter asked quietly, his low voice sliding through the clamor. His eyes sparkled with amusement at the somewhat dazed expression on her face.

Lily was honest, “It’s really, really good. You’re very talented.”

“I know, but do you think you can learn from it?” he asked patiently.

She had to work extremely hard to suppress her fiery, biting pride and truly consider his question. She remembered how hard he had looked at her charcoal sketch, and how completely startled he had been when he had seen it. She remembered how afterwards he had gone straight back to work, and had not spoken to anybody in order to preserve his concentration. Potter had learned from her work.

“Yes, I think I could,” she admitted.

“Right, well I’m glad,” he grinned, “here, set up next to me. You can look over my shoulder while you work. If I sit and you stand I think it could work.”

She clenched her jaw and nodded, “Alright. Let me go get my easel and painting.”

Potter’s grin grew wider, and she offered up a tentative, wary smile. Then she went to fetch her abysmal painting.

Lily spent the rest of the long, sunlit morning focusing on retouching the various aspects of her painting that she despised, and illuminating and elaborating on the parts she had previously been content with. Potter’s example, so clearly visible, helped her more than she could possibly have imagined. All rising questions and insecurities were silenced with a quick glance at his gleaming canvas. Lily stared at his painting so often that she soon began to blur the two together, and had to stop and focus only on hers for extended periods of time to disillusion herself from believing she had attained perfection.

All morning the studio was filled with loud, chattering, rambunctious young artists armed with pastels, but Lily failed to even notice their presence. She was so focused, so caught up in her blissful flow, that she was utterly impervious to outside distraction. Only Potter, who was directly in her field of vision and responsible for her awe, could catch her attention.

Her paintbrush swirled feverishly in every hue of beige imaginable as she slaved over the hardwood floors. Her fine-tipped dot brush, barely coated in white, spent an entire hour working on the dust particles in the rays of sunlight. Her hands and dirty blue smock became smeared with every shade of paint as she furiously attempted to rectify mistakes and impatiently swiped at blots. Lily’s mind was a whirlwind of inspiration and restlessness.

When lunch came, suddenly, at noon, Lily found herself anxious and harried. Stepping away from her painting was as difficult as tearing a pasted-down price tag off a new set of charcoal. She ate quickly and ignored Megan and Potter’s lighthearted conversation. Her fingers itched for a paintbrush.

Afternoon sped by as quickly and abruptly as the morning. Lily stood behind Potter and observed his every motion, applying his techniques to her own amateur artwork. Her painting became less like a child’s attempt at cubism and more like the real, beautiful depiction of the art studio she was supposed to have done. Her confidence grew with every faltering, Potter-mimicking stroke, and eventually she felt brave enough to paint an entire table without referring to Potter’s painting.

Three o’clock rolled around. Students packed up their things and headed to the exit after Mrs. Briarwood’s daily tirade. Megan dawdled for a moment, unsure, and then trooped out with the rest of them.

Lily reluctantly paused, and watched as the room emptied. Potter also seemed aware that the day was done and everyone was gone. He had briefly stopped working and was watching the younger students leave.

Mrs. Briarwood stomped over, “Finished?”

Lily was torn. She wanted so much to continue, but she could not without Potter’s work as a reference. She would not stay unless he was there, working too.

Potter shook his head, “No, I want to finish tonight. I think Evans does too. That way we can do something new tomorrow.”

“About time,” Mrs. Briarwood sniffed, “you two have been poring over those bloody paintings for weeks. Hurry up and finish. Lock up once you’re done.”

“Will do,” Potter saluted her. She gave him one lasting, warning glare, and then swiveled around in an eddy of thick tweed skirts and stomped through the employee’s exit.

Potter swiveled in his seat to look at Lily, “You wanted to stay, yeah?”

She nodded, “Yes, very much so. Thank you.”

“Sure,” he shrugged, “I’m going to keep working. I suppose you should just tell me when you’re done because I could paint for ages.”

“Alright,” Lily agreed.

They worked in silence for a half an hour longer, but it was no longer the easy, comfortable silence it had been when all the other students had been present. With just the two of them, alone, everything was magnified and awkward. The room was huge and empty and lonely with just the pair of them in it. Lily was hyperaware of her own breathing, and could not sit still enough to paint anything significant.

Potter seemed uncomfortable too. He mussed his hair far more than usual and fidgeted constantly. She found herself watching his squirming more than his painting.

Finally, he broke the silence and spoke, “So, uh, did your beast of a future brother in law do anything worth hiring me to hex him, yet?”

Lily was so grateful for the question that she was able to answer it and paint a shelf at the same time, “Not quite. My sister threw a temper tantrum this morning over napkins, though. Could you handle that for me?”

He chuckled, “I don’t hex girls. Unless they’re Slytherin girls.”

“How gentlemanly of you,” she said, sarcasm tinting her tone.

“I try,” he replied. She watched as he lightly lined the bottom of Rose Bennett’s golden hair with a darker shade of brown.

“Are your friends going to attempt to wreak havoc on the peace and quiet of this neighborhood again, this summer?” Lily asked, “I remember last year Black thought it’d be funny to charm all the street lamps into singing. The muggles were so confused.”

Potter laughed aloud at the memory, “I do hope so. Sirius is renting a flat in London, though, and Remus is on vacation with his family. They’re rather busy.”

“Why is Black renting a flat in London?” Lily questioned. She dipped her paintbrush in the darkest shade of maroon she could create.

“He was disowned,” Potter said casually, “but his uncle left him a nice bit of gold. He’s happier now that he’s away from all their pureblood shite.”

Lily considered this. The news did not really surprise her, considering Black’s fierce Gryffindor pride and his family’s tendencies towards pureblood mania. “Is his brother still living there?”

Potter sneered slightly, “The little prat is such a stuck up, obnoxious Slytherin. He’s probably thrilled Sirius is gone. Quite possibly planned the whole thing out himself, for his own good.”

“Oh,” Lily wrinkled her nose, “what an awful brother. Black should hex him. He’s rather good at that, I’ve gathered.”

“What, Sirius? Yeah, he’s fairly talented with the wand. So long as its fun,” Potter glanced back at her, “ever done wandwork for fun, Evans?”

She could not help but tilt her head, slightly offended, “Course I have.”

“Any examples?” his paintbrush hovered over his painting, but did not make contact as he awaited her response.

Lily floundered. He was waiting, and she was at a loss for words. She had done plenty of terrible things to Petunia and her annoying neighbors over the years, but no specific instances came to mind.

“I . . .” Lily stalled, “oh – right, there was this one time that my ghastly neighbors had spent hours on this little flower plot, right in their yard, and had been bickering, loudly, the entire time. Bloody awful voices. So that night, after they’d gone inside, I charmed the plot to only grow those nasty little plant Professor Sprout has us deal with when she’s cranky. Gratenias, or something of the sort?”

Potter nodded in recognition, listening intently. Lily cleared her throat, “Right, anyways, they popped up a few weeks later and Mrs. Greenburrow almost wet herself. Swear, the bird screamed louder than Petunia at her worst. It was delightful. The ensuing fight caused the pair of them to agree to move to Whales.”

He laughed, “I knew you had an evil streak, Evans. Underneath that prefect badge there is a little marauderess.”

“That’s tripe and you know it,” Lily said, “Its all over the prefect badge. I’m just better at hiding it than you.”

“Ah, ah, ah,” he wagged his finger behind his head at her, “don’t compare yourself to the marauders, Evans. Competition and hilarity will ensue.”

She rolled her eyes, and bent to work on the window in her painting, “Hilarity?”

“Yes,” Potter nodded in confirmation as his brush gently coated the same window on his own painting, “don’t you remember when that Ravenclaw bloke, Gingham, thought he and his mates could take us on in third year? Waged an all out prank war. Course we won by a mile, and stripped their dignity, but it was hilarious and chaotic nonetheless.”

“I do remember that,” Lily reminisced fondly, “didn’t you cause McGonagall and Gingham to switch undergarments, or something of the sort, for the finale?”

“In broad daylight, with no outer garments to shield the display,” Potter boasted, “and that wasn’t even the finale. The final, decision-making prank was when we nicked all the 7th year Ravenclaw girls’ knickers, permanently attached them to his robes, and stuck him in an impenetrable glass box in the center of the great hall at the Halloween feast.”

Lily laughed. Gingham, his ugly, blotted face twisted in shame and humiliation, had been caught in that box for over an hour. The Ravenclaw girls had sharpened their claws in preparation for his eventual escape.

“You lot have a thing for girls’ knickers, don’t you?” she remarked idly, lining the windowsill with shadowy brown.

“We’re teenage boys,” he shrugged, “it’s to be expected. Though, in our defense, our last seven pranks have had nothing to do with those delightful little things.”

“Well at least you’re growing up a bit,” she smiled. She bent even closer to her painting, eyes narrowing as she struggled to make the window look realistic.

Potter was quiet for a few minutes, and then asked easily, “Does McKinnon fancy Remus?”

Lily spluttered. Her paintbrush slipped slightly, and she hastened to wipe off the offending drop of paint. “Excuse me?”

“Does Marlene McKinnon fancy Remus? You’re best mates with her, you’ve got to know.”

She looked down at her paint-splattered hands. Potter was spot on, but she was extraordinarily reluctant to betray any of her friends’ secrets. Marlene was known for her long lasting grudges. She would resent Lily to death if the marauders exploited that tidbit of information.

“Er . . .” Lily trailed off.

“Don’t worry about it,” Potter stuck his hand behind his back and waved her down, “its obvious she does. And Remus fancies her as well. I was just wondering if you had anything to pass along so that he gets up the guts to ask her.”

“Oh,” Lily sighed, “of course she does. She’s been waiting for him to ask her for ages. Tell him to get on it, yeah?”

“Course,” Potter chuckled.

Her hand strayed back to the infuriatingly difficult window, “Course if you tell anyone else about it I’ll cut off your unmentionables and force-feed them to you.”

He gulped audibly.

They painted in silence for a minute more, until Lily’s vexation with the maddening window reached its peak. She gritted her teeth as, yet again, she blotted the paint and smudged the design. Quickly, she wiped it off. Then she leaned back on her heels and glared at the stupid thing.

Observing Potter was no help. He had already completed that and moved on to a different, already perfect part of his painting that he found imaginary flaws with. His window glimmered with accuracy and almost mocked her with its perfection. She sneered at her own badly painted blob of color and charcoal sketch lines.

Finally, in an act that truly proved her desperation, she swallowed her pride and huffed, “Can you help me with this bloody window? It’s driving me mad!”

To his credit, he only hesitated in shock for a moment. Then he snapped out of it and turned quickly around, a cautiously welcoming smile on his face, “Sure. What about it?”

She wanted to be scornful and sarcastic and cruel. Her pride begged her to laugh in his face or shoot him a scathing look, but her inner artist stamped her pride into submission at the warm, enthusiastic twinkle to his hazel eyes. “Er, all of it. The frame is all right, and the sill, but the pane of glass itself won’t cooperate. How did you get yours to be so reflective?”

Potter stood, stretched slightly, and then bent very close to her painting. As he adjusted his glasses she noticed that even hunched over, he was a good four inches taller than she was. Vexed, she watched as he thoroughly examined her painting.

“Its looking loads better,” he offered unexpectedly, “certainly better than Megan’s. You’re doing really well.”

Caught off guard, she almost did not hear when he actually began giving advice.

“Here, see the problem with the glass is that you’re not using white. Light blue isn’t going to work. You’ve got to use really blinding white. Vivid, like. See, how yours only looks two dimensional because you’ve yet to give it that glare from the sun?”

His finger pointed carefully to the exact spot where the glare should be, “Put that in, and then see how it looks.”

She dipped her paintbrush in the white, and then, ever so carefully, brushed a radiating, valid looking highlight onto the pane of glass. She stepped back, considered it, and then grinned.

Potter smiled, “See? Perfect. You look about finished now.”

Disbelieving, her eyes traveled quickly across her painting. She searched for other pre-Potter sections, but the only one that caught her eye was a single patch of floor that she had yet to get to. Everything else looked beautiful. Of course Potter’s painting was incomparable, but Lily’s work was beyond exceptional. For Lily.

“Are you about finished as well?” she asked.

He shrugged, “I could be. Or I could work on it for another week. Depends on when you feel like you’re ready to be done.”

She chewed on her lip, and then shrugged, “Let me get that bit of floor and I’ll tell you where I’m at.”

“Sounds good,” he flashed her a grin, and then sat on his stool and swiveled towards his own superlative painting.

Lily worked quickly, and the patch of floor was finished faster than she had anticipated. She had already taught herself to do hardwood floors, based off of Potter’s instruction to Megan, and it was simple enough to repeat the process. When she had blended the unfinished patch so that it melded seamlessly with the rest of the painting, she stepped back and appraised her entire work.

Out of nowhere, a deep sense of pride and accomplishment settled weightlessly upon Lily. Peace and calm stole into her usually irate artist soul, and she had to suppress a smile. It was the best painting she had ever done. Nowhere near Potter’s, but more than good enough for Lily. It was beautiful to her.

“I’m done,” she announced. Her eyes did not leave her painting even as Potter jumped up and stood beside her to assess the painting.

Potter whistled, “Pretty damn good Evans. Who knew you had a painter inside you? Right little show off you are. Making me look bad.”

She snorted, “Yours is far superior and we both know it. I’m just content that it’s the best I’ve ever done.”

“Too right it is,” he looked at it with an artist’s intensity, “we should hang it up over Mrs. Briarwood’s desk. She’ll be shocked out of her mind.”

“Where will yours go?”

“In my portfolio,” he replied, “but lets put yours on the desk. A gallon she mistakes it for mine.”

She rolled her eyes, “I’d take that bet any day. She wouldn’t mistake it for yours if she were half blind and in the dark. But go ahead, have your fun.”

Grinning, he gently picked up the painting and carried it over to Mrs. Briarwood’s impeccably clean desk. He set the work down, flat, on the surface and smiled at it.

Lily gathered her brushes and paints and set out to clean up. Potter followed suit, and hung his painting on the ‘completed’ wall to dry. Once their table was free of materials and their smocks were bundled into their bags, they both headed out of the employee’s exit. Potter snatched the key from under the mat and locked the door tightly behind them.

They walked down the street in companionable silence. Compared to just one day previously, where Lily had been struck with wretched depression and Potter with some sort of annoying quest to figure out the cause of said depression, they were practically best friends. The lowering sun made long, graceful shadows on the pavement.

“Thanks for letting me observe you paint today,” Lily said honestly, “you have no idea how much that helped.”

He shrugged, “No problem. Figure you’ll let me do that when we’re stuck with charcoal one day.”

“Sure,” she agreed lightly, though the idea of someone watching her work was somewhat terrifying.

Potter scuffed his feet slightly on the pavement, “What do you think Briarwood’s going to have us do next?”

“No idea,” Lily shrugged, “anything she wants, really. I just hope it isn’t pottery. Can’t stand the bloody stuff.”

“Me neither,” Potter made a face, “I don’t know how the older level pottery students do it. Its irritating and juvenile and far to kinesthetic for my tastes.”

Lily nodded, “Agreed. It’s so uninspiring. All gray and dull and shapeless. Only people like Rose Bennett are capable of actually enjoying it.”

“Her personality is rather dull and gray and shapeless,” Potter pointed out, “she probably relates to it real well.”

Lily chuckled, “Probably.”

They reached the intersection where Lily would turn right and Potter would turn left. They paused a moment and looked at each other.

“Well, thanks again,” Lily fidgeted with the hem of her shirt, “you helped me a lot today.”

“No, thank you,” he smiled cheekily, “never knew you were actually fun to be around, Evans.”

“Never thought I could handle your ego for more than five minutes, Potter,” she retorted. She kept a smile on her face, so he would know she was only teasing.

He smiled, “Right, well I’ll see you tomorrow. Best be going.”

She nodded, “See you tomorrow.”

Her sandals padded across the pavement as she walked away from Potter, and for once she could not feel herself angry, upset, or frustrated in any way. This new relationship with Potter was decidedly easier to deal with.

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Chapter 6: And Then Lily Is Rudely Interrupted . . .
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James Potter:

Oy, Prongs!

Can I join your lot for dinner one Saturday from now? I’m bored stiff, but I can’t leave the stupid flat because of something to do with the Ministry recording a new wizarding residence. Anyways, I can get out on Saturday, stay with you until Tuesday, and then we can both go deal with Moony’s time of the month that night.

Sorry you’re paired with Evans. Has she been a right, uppity, stuck up prefect the whole time? I know she looks nice in a skirt, but she’s one icy bird.

Its so dull here. This flat is empty and gray and entirely obnoxious. I almost wish I had an Evans to torture and be tortured by. At least you can interact with people. I’m stuck with a muggle television. A television! Stupid thing only plays the bloody news.

Speaking of, did you hear about those recent attacks against that muggle-born family in Scotland?

Don’t forget about me. In fact, feel free to visit me anytime. I’ll stick you with my wand if you don’t.



James’ hazel eyes slid quickly down the letter he had received from Sirius. Predictably, his best mate was being a bit self-centered and was already completely bored with his independence. James laughed as he read the closing sentence, already missing his best mate. They were rarely separated for extended periods of time.

He grabbed a scrap of parchment and his favorite quill and sat at his desk to reply to Sirius. The desk was his favorite part of his large, cozy bedroom. It was strewn with paints and sketches, with artwork hanging all over it. His balcony, with its translucent crimson curtains, was in his field of vision. It inspired him.

The quill slid eagerly across the parchment as he wrote to Sirius.


Course you can come over. You can always come over. I’ll be gone all day at art class, but you can entertain yourself at my place. Chase the geese, bother the muggles, whatever you please.

Surprisingly enough, Evans isn’t being too awful. We agreed to try and see past our differences. She’s not as dull as we thought. And she even asked for help from me. Remarkable, right?

Televisions aren’t too bad. Try manipulating the picture with charms. It’s fun. I gave a well-known newscaster a pig nose once. Mum almost killed me.

Turns out McKinnon does fancy Remus. Don’t tell anyone, cause Evans will cut off my unmentionables and force-feed them to me, but we should tell him. Tuesday? Perhaps he’ll quit being a bloody poof and ask her out before we’ve graduated.

See you next Saturday.



He rolled up the parchment, tied it to Henry VIII’s leg, and threw the stupid bird out the window. It haughtily caught itself before it made an owl-shaped crater in the Potter’s lawn, and then slowly disappeared into the distance.

James did not linger in his room. He walked quickly past his enormous red and gold bed, ignored the clothes strewn about the floor, and bypassed the overflowing rubbish bin on his way out the door.

Sundays were the worst for James, because it was the one day a week that he did not have art class. His father and mother both worked on Sundays, as Aurors, and he was usually bored stiff. The Potter Estate was far too big and lonesome for James to enjoy on his own.

His feet carried him out into the ornate hallway, and down the ostentatious flight of stairs. His parents, both fairly practical, grounded people, detested the Estate. James’ great-grandparents had built and decorated the entire house, and the family refused to let it be remodeled or downsized. James didn’t really mind. A few diamond-inlaid pillars there, a few gold statues there – he hardly noticed any of it.

The grand foyer was impressively illuminated by the arcing skylights. James paused for a moment, appreciating the natural artists’ light, and then hurried to the front door. He slipped outside and locked the door firmly behind him.

The sun pounded down upon him the moment he stepped out of the shadow. Harsh, biting rays slammed on his exposed skin and broad shoulders, and made him yearn for some kind of large sun hat. Course that would make him look like a poof, and that simply would not do. James Potter, if nothing else, was not a poof.

He left the estate and headed in no particular direction. If he was lucky he would run into one of the many muggles he knew. There were quite a few teenagers in the area, and occasionally they would get a good game of football going. James, being naturally athletic, usually excelled. It was not very thrilling or exciting, but it was entertaining and James was in desperate need of entertainment.

Almost absentmindedly, he felt even worse for Sirius. There he was, stuck in a flat, bored out of his mind, while at least James was bored out of his mind with the world at his disposal.

The rays of the sun hammered down upon James’ shoulders. He found himself straying near the sidewalk instead of simply walking down the middle of the street, simply to benefit from the shade from the large trees.

“’Ello, Mr. Potter!” a cheery, ancient old man waved from his plot of tulips.

“Afternoon, Mr. Tinklewort!” James called jovially. He wavered between walking over and actually starting a conversation with the man, but then decided against it. Mr. Tinklewort had been in the war. War stories made James want to extract his pancreas and eat it.

In one of the mysterious enigmas surrounding teenage boys, James’ wandering feet led him directly to food. He was not sure what caused him to be drawn to food, or what made it so that he instinctually knew where to find it. All he knew was that his ‘no particular direction’ had turned into ‘Silvering Street.’

Silvering Street was the main street of James’ neighborhood. It was one of those quaint, relaxed little areas with a few shops, a couple cafes, and a wide array of benches and picnic tables to relax upon. James, without consciously realizing it, had made his way to the ice cream shop, Henrietta’s.

Before admitting to himself that he was hungry again after eating only an hour previously, he turned around to survey the street. It was busier than usual. Sundays were the best day to be on Silvering Street. Parents pulled young children into shops, haughty teenagers draped themselves over benches, and elderly people lounged casually in the shade. Unfortunately, none of James’ muggle mates were there.

The teenager behind the counter of Henrietta’s was young, decent-looking, and most definitely not Henrietta. James had met Henrietta. She was old, had a unibrow, a perpetual scowl on her increasingly unpleasant, wrinkled face, and was the proud owner of a hairless dog with red eyes. This girl, with her slightly mottled complexion and wide, flirtatious smile, was not Henrietta.

“Could I have a cone with vanilla, please?” James dug in his pocket for his muggle money.

“Sure,” she smiled and tucked a piece of hair behind her ear, “anything else I can do for you?”

“Not today, love. But maybe some other time,” he winked at her.

She stared for a second, and then hastily turned around and muttered out a stream of what sounded like self-scolding. He caught a few words like ‘stupid cow’ and ‘don’t stare like a bloody slag’ and ‘really? Was that necessary?’

When she turned around to hand him his cone her cheeks were tinged pink. He took it, and offered his money with his other hand. She reached for it, and in a moment of pure amusement he clasped her hand gently, stared deep into her eyes, and murmured huskily, “Keep the change.”

As he walked away he swore he could hear hyperventilating from the ice cream shop. “Oh my god!” the girl squealed.

He was a marauder, after all.

James strolled casually across the street, towards his favorite spot at the very end of Silvering Street. Three trees, proudly grouped together, formed an impenetrable wall of leaves that the sun could not pass through. A picnic table had been crammed in between the trees, so tightly jammed that one could lean their back against a tree while sitting at the table.

But someone was already there.

He huffed. Then he turned to walk away. Then he turned around again. He could not see the person’s head and therefore could not decide whether it was worth staying or not.

Finally, he gave in and simply shrugged. Worst possible scenario it was Henrietta and her demonic dog.

He sidled between the trees, and then stood stock-still, shocked.

Lily Evans was sitting on the table itself, her legs crossed and her body hunched downwards towards the sketchbook on her lap. A little bowl of melting ice cream sat beside her. Her hands were smeared with charcoal, and a smudge had even found its way onto her face, streaking across her cheekbone. James assumed she had been trying to hook her hair behind her ear when it happened.

She was wearing a simple white little sundress. The flowing fabric covered her crossed legs completely, and made her vivid hair look even more red than before. She looked completely peaceful, sitting and sketching beneath the green light that filtered through the leaves.

“Er – hi,” James rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly.

Her head snapped up, and she saw him standing there with his ice cream cone and an embarrassed expression on his face.

“Potter,” she said cautiously.

“Yeah, sorry, didn’t mean to intrude,” he took a step back, “I’ll just leave, yeah?”

She cocked her head curiously as he attempted to sidle back out between the trees. He found it was much more difficult leaving than entering. His hips were at the wrong angle, his right foot was twisted uncomfortably, and his ice cream cone was nearing a calamity. Finally, she giggled, “Just come sit down, you bloody prat.”

“Right,” he twisted himself back out of the knot he had forced himself into, “thanks.”

“No problem,” she watched as he sat on the bench part. She was hardly any taller than him, even though she was sitting on the surface part of the picnic table

James licked his cone, “Having a good day so far?”

She shrugged, “Well enough. Yourself?”

“I’m bored stiff,” he tipped his cone slightly to prevent it from dripping, “no art class, no parents, and Sirius is locked inside that bloody flat of his. What is there to do in this neighborhood?”

“Nothing,” she sighed, “its so unbearably dull.”

“Exactly,” he nodded, “so I’m glad I found you. You’re capable of holding intelligent conversation.”

She laughed aloud, “Intelligent conversation? Never knew you were into that sort of thing, Potter.”

“I have intelligent conversation all the time, thank you very much,” James said indignantly, “just the other day I had an engaging chat with Remus about the moral flaws in astronomic interpretation, and the philosophical questions it raises.”

Lily simply raised one of her eyebrows.

“I did!” he insisted, “course, Sirius took it as whether or not astronomy was sexually abusing centaurs, and then things just got awkward.”

She laughed again. She had a nice laugh. It was soprano and all but tinkled through the air, like wind chimes or something. James rarely heard it at school.

“Anyways, point is, I am perfectly capable of holding intelligent conversation, and am even known to pursue it sometimes,” he stuck out his chest proudly.

“I’ll accept it, but I’d lie if I say I wasn’t largely skeptical,” Lily told him playfully.

“Fair enough,” he shrugged. He licked his cone again.

She tucked her hair behind her ear, smudging yet another bit of charcoal on her cheekbone, and used her finger to blend something on her sketchbook.

“What are you drawing?” he asked curiously.

She held up her sketchbook for him. On the page a realistic, gray scale Gryffindor lion was ripping its way through a Slytherin banner. It had a familiar hungry, competitive gleam in its eye that James found unnerving. Then he realized he had seen that look in the mirror every morning during Quidditch season.

“Wow,” he said honestly, “pretty good, Evans.”

“I miss school,” she smiled, “I love art class, but being around so many muggles all the time is just suffocating, you know?”

He nodded in understanding as he looked at the lion. Its gleaming coat, large, fluffy mane, and huge paws looked so realistic that he could not fathom how she had managed to draw it without a reference.

“Do you miss school?” she asked.

“Sometimes,” he glanced at her, “right now, yeah. When I’m in class or with my mates, no.”

“You’re fairly, ridiculously close with your mates, aren’t you?” she said thoughtfully, “I mean, I adore Marlene and Alice, but I’m not sure I could ever have the same sense of camaraderie or . . . or family with them, like you do with Black and Lupin.”

“And Peter,” James added automatically, “but yeah, I see your point. I don’t know why we all click so well. Its bloody annoying sometimes. They always know exactly how to take a piss at me, or help out when I’m upset. Its like fucking telepathy.”

Lily sighed, “I’m a bit jealous. It sounds wonderful. You’re a lucky bastard, Potter. You know that, right?”

“Yeah,” he licked his cone, trying to suppress the tinge of red that might appear on his cheeks, “I got a lot going for me.”

“Too right you do,” she turned her sketchbook around towards her again, “but at least you’re not like those stupid Slytherin tosspots who have everything, and act like it too. Your ego is overwhelming, but it isn’t anything compared to theirs.”

James furrowed his eyebrows, “Was that an insult?”

“Perhaps,” she glanced cheekily at him.

He suppressed a grin and licked his ice cream again. Words could not express the joy and triumph he felt when he saw Lily – Lily – give him cheek. The ice queen was melting so quickly he did not know what to do with all the floodwater.

Being a marauder, he decided to be daring and test her limits.

“So, where’d the uppity prefect we’ve all come to know and love run off to? You’re being quite an associable person right now, Miss Evans.”

She shrugged, “She’ll appear again when you’re being a right wanker, Potter. She rather hates that bullying part of you, you know.”

“Ah, yes,” he licked his cone, “the icy bird does despise when I hex the ickle Slytherins.”

“Icy bird? Least she’s not a self-centered tart of a man with questionable masculinity and a penchant for hanging around such desirable characters as Snape,” Lily shot back. Her eyes were teasing.

“Questionable masculinity?” he yelped, enjoying arguing, “I play Quidditch for Merlin’s sake!”

Lily winked, “Enjoy the view on the field, do you?”

“No!” he narrowed his eyes, “for your information, I enjoy the adrenaline rush and the thrill of flying. And the competition. And the - ”

“Sculpted male bodies flying about,” Lily finished considerately.

He groaned, “I’m not a bloody poof. Snape, most definitely. Me, no. I pride myself on my ability to get any girl on the planet with a well timed mischievous wink and my own undeniably attractive looks.”

“If ‘attractive’ constitutes as a sloppy, bespectacled, gangly myopic with matted, tangled hair, then you’re the cream of the crop. As it is, I’ve seen far better specimens then you. Pettigrew, for example. A fine creature, him.”

James had to laugh, “Peter? The bloke, as amusing as he is, looks like one of them little chubby dolls on the adverts for little muggle girls’ play toys.”

“And its so appealing,” Lily pretended to sigh girlishly.

“No,” James disagreed, “Sirius, Remus, and I have had a combined eighteen girlfriends the last two years. Pete asked out thirty-six girls, and only one of them said yes. Then she mysteriously got the flu the night before Hogsmeade, and was mysteriously healed the next afternoon at the Three Broomsticks.”

“Couldn’t tear herself away, could she?” Lily smirked, “Face it, Potter. Pettigrew has all the desirable qualities you simply lack. He’s caring, considerate, and spends more time with girls than you do.”

“What? No he doesn’t!”

Lily lowered her voice to a regretful whisper, “Potter, he’s on the knitting squad. You don’t really believe they’re only playing with yarn in there do you? He’s probably having a right good time . . . frolicking. With the likes of Dorcas Meadows and Bernice Hornsquat.”

James broke character and laughed uproariously. The idea of Peter, surrounded by yarn and plump, unattractive, somewhat frightening creatures like Meadows and Hornsquat was too much to bear. “Very nice, Evans,” he managed to say between fits of laughter.

“I know,” Lily smirked, “give me more material to work with and we’ll have a field day with this.”

“Nah, I’d rather save my dignity for now,” he calmed down a bit and shook his head, “but someday you should go at it with Remus. He’s great at the witty comeback bit. Keeps me and Sirius on our toes. I think you could give him a fight, though.”

“Lupin?” Lily’s eyes grew wide at the prospects, “I would have a field day with that one. A bloody wanker, that one is.”

Still loyal to his friends, despite the glorious time he was having mocking himself and others, he smiled slightly, “Nah, he just acts like it.”

Lily smiled back at him, and pulled her long, crimson hair behind her shoulders. James felt his ice cream cone melting, but he felt no strong desire to sort out the dilemma. He would much rather sit comfortably on the bench in the shade of the ridiculously tall trees, watching Lily Evans and wondering how the hell he had never seen the cheeky, mischievous, witty minx beneath the prefect badge and perfect grades. Thinking of all the clever conversations he had missed out on due to his being a complete tosser made him think longingly of apoplectic fits. Even Sirius, who had an uncanny knack for construing complex female actions and words to reveal the actual person underneath, had not predicted this.

She stretched out her legs and set her sketchbook aside, obviously bored with drawing lions. James, being purely male, could not help but look at her sharp, porcelain little calves as they extended before his eyes.

“You know, you’re less of a fuckwit than I thought,” Lily told him reflectively.

He stumbled over the fact that he had just been labeled a fuckwit. Who the hell came up with that kind of thing? And, more importantly, who said it so sweetly, so innocently, in a way that disguised the foul nature of the word and made it seem like a dewy spring morning?

Lily Evans did, apparently.

“Er, thanks,” he ruffled his hair, “you’re less of a bitter cow than I thought.”

“Glad we sorted that out,” she smirked.

James was busy constructing pros and cons lists for fuckwit and bitter cow in his head, trying to determine who had the better insult, when Lily broke the silence again, “I know you’re close with the bloke, so I’ve got to ask, but has Black truly been dating one girl for the past six months?”

His stomach churned. As a part of Sirius’ new, rather major relationship, James had been sworn to absolute secrecy. The girl, Ella McManus, was beautiful, clever, and would be going into her seventh year in Ravenclaw. Sirius was uncharacteristically intense about her. He used complex adjectives to describe her minute facial expressions, became dazed whenever she kissed him on the cheek, and had already severely lost his temper four times at Peter for teasing him about it. The Marauders were worried that Sirius, originally thought the most flighty, would be the first to have a real relationship with an actual girl.

But James felt as if he could trust Lily. He did not feel like she was the type to go running off, spouting gossip about Sirius Black and how he had contained himself to shagging one girl. She simply seemed curious.

“Er, well, kind of,” James admitted, “look, don’t tell anyone ‘cause he’s rather uptight about it, but he’s fancied her for ages and finally asked her out to Hogsmeade ‘round Christmas. They’re serious enough that neither has felt the need to go broadcast it that they’re dating. So please, don’t spread it around, yeah?”

“Oh, I won’t,” Lily assured him. He believed her, and she sighed, “I suppose it’s a Ravenclaw, right? Seventh year, because Black doesn’t seem like the type to go for the younger ones, and more than likely beautiful and popular. I’d have to say either McManus or Hendriks.”

“McManus,” James confirmed.

Triumph was barely etched into her face, “Are they happy?”

“Yes,” James could say that honestly and proudly, “the idiot’s never been happier. She seems well enough, I don’t talk to her much, but she doesn’t try to control him and she isn’t the jealous sort. It’s rare to get that lucky with a relationship. You ever really dated anyone?”

“Nothing beyond a few Hogsmeade visits, and one that didn't turn out so well,” Lily smiled, but he could sense an undercurrent of sadness in her tone, “I’ve just yet to find someone I truly fancy, I suppose.”

“You’ll find someone,” he assured her, “you just need to show people the real you – this you – not little Miss perfect-grades, no-humor, uppity-prefect Evans.”

She cocked her head, “Should I be insulted by that little gem of advice, Potter?”

“No, no,” James said hastily, “what I’m trying to say is that . . . is that who you are right now, this playful and teasing girl, is who you should be at Hogwarts too. I’ve been in your house for six years and I never knew you were fun to be around. You know? People believe you’re nothing but rules and regulations and grades, because that’s the only part of you they see. If you joke around a bit, you know, loosen up, people will be less intimidated by you and I guarantee the blokes will come running. Its not like you’re stupid or a slag or a terrifying bitch.”

Lily mulled this over, considering his theory. Then she flashed him a maliciously wicked smirk that made his blood run cold, “Who says I’m not a terrifying bitch?”

James dropped his ice cream cone.

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Chapter 7: And Then James Witnesses A Tantrum Of Epic Proportions . . .
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James Potter:

James’ brain was not the most complex on the planet. Being a male he had three primary concerns; food, girls, and Quidditch. In that order. School came around eighth on the list, and painting somewhere around number five. It was rare that intellectual conversations played a on a constant loop in his head, and it was even rarer that he actually paid attention to them.

He was still absolutely shell-shocked by the mischievous minx that had prowled forth out of Lily Evans’ body yesterday. All the witticisms and sarcastic jabs had stunned him so deeply and thoroughly that the Lily Evans Question had replaced sleeping, number four, on his list of mental concerns.

Course that meant he was tired as hell when he dragged himself out of bed for art class.

“Potter!” Mrs. Briarwood had snapped, “Pull your head out of your bum and pay attention!”

She was explaining the younger students’ assignment for the day, now that they had finally trekked past pastels, and James failed to see how it applied to him. So, without another thought, he slipped back into yesterday’s conversation with Lily.

“Who says I’m not a terrifying bitch?” she had snipped off tartly, an impious little smirk playing on her lips. He still remembered how his stomach had constricted and his toes had curled inwards, struck by a sudden chill. It was not that he was afraid of Lily, it was that he had no idea she was capable of teasing, witty banter.

That was Remus’ forte.

He sighed and put his head in his arms, trying to tune out Mrs. Briarwood as she roared at a younger student for asking a ridiculously dim-witted question. He was trying to figure out whether Lily had been speaking of her own accord or if she had been possessed by some kind of playful, sinful little sprite.

“Potter,” the Lily he was familiar with hissed, “head up, or she’ll eviscerate you.”

With the kind of effort usually reserved for lifting automobiles or giving piggyback rides to overweight ten-year-olds, James agonizingly raised his head. He shot Lily a look of pure exasperated venom, and then glared at Mrs. Briarwood.

Cups of coffee, James’ only vice, danced tantalizingly before his eyes.

“. . . now, if you so much as break one pencil, you will spend the rest of your summer scrubbing the floor until every speck of paint and clay is gone. As I’m sure you can understand, that would take ages. I advise you be careful with the pencils and don’t take all bloody day drawing the still life. Its fruit. Not architecture or people, fruit. Don’t be imbecilic about it,” Mrs. Briarwood held their gazes, “do we understood each other?”

The younger students nodded furiously. She glared at them all one more time, for good measure, and then clapped her hands, “Go! Off to it!”

The familiar scramble of students leaping off their stools and stampeding towards the materials shelf forced James to wake up a little bit. He slid his glasses back onto his nose and sat up a bit straighter, watching blearily as Mrs. Briarwood stomped over to him and Lily.

“You two!” she snapped, “outside!”

Lily, looking faintly confused, stepped gracefully off her stool and began moving towards the employee’s exit. James, in almost humiliating juxtaposition, tripped off his stool, slammed his forehead into the table, and landed flat on his back on the ground.

“Er, Potter?” Lily looked questioningly down at him.

“’M good,” he slurred, “issan accistake.”

She waited until he had pushed himself off the floor, stood upright, and regained his balance until she resumed her path to the door. James followed, wincing slightly and cupping his forehead.

“Took you long enough!” Mrs. Briarwood grumbled as they stepped into the blinding sunlight, “come on then, follow me.”

She led them around the corner to the very back of the building. There, shaded by the trees, was a small corridor of grass and flowers, with a picnic table shoved into it. The back wall of the building, tall, wide, and white, faced the little scene.

“Right, this is your project,” Mrs. Briarwood gestured at the blank expanse of wall and colorful paint buckets that had been placed on the table, “make a beautiful, cohesive, colorful, abstract image on that wall. You’re only requirements is that both of you must work on it and it must be colorful. I don’t care what it’s of or about. Because you are my most advanced students, this wall will be part of our exhibition gala at the end of summer. I advise you do well.”

“Er – Mrs. Briarwood?” Lily stood akimbo, head tilted as she gazed at the wall, “how long do we have to do this?”

“Well just today, of course,” she rolled her eyes and sniffed, “tomorrow you have a whole new project. Must keep working along, you know, if you want to have a full portfolio by your graduation.”

She turned and tramped away, looking queerly analogous to an angry bulldog. The door slammed behind her.

“Bloody hell,” James groaned as he sank onto one of the benches, holding his head, “I feel like a troll went and bashed in my head for an hour or so.”

Lily looked at him with sympathetic eyes, “That was a nasty fall.”

“That, and I got no sleep,” James yawned and closed his eyes, “bollocks. How am I supposed to do art when I can’t walk in a straight line or keep a thought running in my head?”

“If you’d like, I can nip over to that café the block over. Coffee should help,” Lily offered, “and I’m fairly good at healing charms, if you’ll let me.”

He cracked one eye open, “Healing charms?”

“Yes,” she nodded, “but you’ll need some water first. Here, take a nap for a few minutes, and I’ll be right back. Don’t tell Mrs. Briarwood that I left. If anything else, I went to the loo, alright?”

James nodded, tremendously grateful, “I’m a marauder. Lying to get out of trouble is my specialty.”

She flashed him a grin, and then slipped lightly around the opposite corner of the building.

James slid out of consciousness quickly. His senses, honed and perfected after six years of being a marauder, were still on high alert, but his body and mind were resting. Random images flitted across his throbbing brain, but he suppressed them best he could and allowed the brief bit of rest to soothe his aching limbs.

He heard Lily’s almost inaudible footsteps before she rounded the corner. He lifted his head – another monumental achievement – and saw what was quite possibly the best image that could have presented itself to him at the time.

Lily, red hair gleaming and emerald eyes twinkling, with a steaming Styrofoam cup of coffee in one hand, and a bag of what was undoubtedly food in the other. Her summery skirt swished around her knees and the sunlight made a halo around her head.

Or that could have been him hallucinating.

Either way, she reached the table, handed him the coffee, and pulled a pastry and a bottle of water out of the bag. “Drink the water,” she ordered.

Obedient as ever, he unscrewed the lid off the clear plastic bottle and chugged the entire thing. When he lowered his arm he saw Lily, her face torn between being repulsed and impressed.

“All gone,” he showed her childishly.

She rolled her eyes, shoved the pastry in his hand, and pulled her wand out of somewhere in her flowy dress. “Stay still,” she instructed. Then, before he could protest or take a bite out of the pastry, she was leaning close to him, her wand pressed to his temple. Her lips moved quickly as she murmured a stream of unintelligible words.

He sat, awkwardly, feeling disoriented and discombobulated. Lily was so close to him that he could smell the lilies-of-the-valley fragrances rising off her skin, as if a cloud of scent was delicately floating away from her freckled shoulders. He felt vaguely threatened, because any other time in his life, had he been in this precise situation, he would have believed Lily was trying to kill him. Finally, he was completely overwhelmed by the cool relief that seeped from Lily’s wand into his aching brain. It was like a direct drug to the head.

“There,” Lily announced, drawing back slightly and tucking her wand back into the folds of her short dress, “that should do it. If you don’t feel fine in the next five minutes, it will only have been proven that you have an abnormally thick skull.”

He chuckled, his eyes closed and his head woozy.

“Eat the pastry,” she commanded.

Dutifully, he crammed the entire thing into his mouth at once and swallowed without batting an eye.

“Lovely, Potter.”

James, with his head still slightly dizzy and his eyes firmly closed, mumbled almost unintelligibly, “Call me James.”

“Excuse me?”

“Call me James,” he repeated, a little more clearly. He cracked open his eyes and squinted up at her.

She folded her arms, “Why?”

“’Cause it’s m’name,” he replied groggily.
“Well yes,” she sighed impatiently, “but are you trying to say that you’d like to be on first name terms now?”

James shrugged. He suddenly felt as if a cool, pleasant wind had just gently blown through the blazing hot, throbbing deserts of his brain. The pounding ceased to a dull thumping, and his usual energy began creeping back.

“I think we should be,” he took a sip of coffee, “besides, every time you say Potter it makes me feel like I should be in trouble. You sound an awful lot like McGonagall when you want to.”

Lily pursed her lips, “James?”

“James,” he confirmed, “and I’ll refer to you as Lily.”

She considered this. The thumping in his head faded into an almost indistinguishable twinge, and his naturally buoyant, marauder energy crackled through his veins.

“Fine,” Lily uncrossed her arms and reached for one of the thick paintbrushes on the table, “you ready to start, James?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be, Lily,” he replied cheerfully, purposefully over-enunciating her name to mock her own exaggerated diction.

And, in true Lily Evans fashion, she responded to his little jab by hurling the paintbrush at his face.

Lily Evans:

The smock she had borrowed from Potter – James – hung to her knees. Lily found herself constantly staring down at the expanse of smeared, discolored, faded yellow cotton. She was faintly irritated by the pastel color of the smock, and even more aggravated that it had bypassed the hem of her own dress and had the nerve to hide her kneecaps. Since when was Potter’s – James’ – torso longer than that of the average Hagrid?

“It looks good on you,” he had promised, after gleefully handing her one from his stockpile in one of the corners of the art studio. Lily had one smock, which she kept firmly tucked in the back of her least favorite drawer in her bedroom. James seemed to collect the stupid things as if they were trophies of his perseverance and artistic talent.

His artistic talent, unfortunately, had yet to recover from his ungraceful face-plant into the table. The white expanse of wall glowered obnoxiously down at the pair of them, infuriatingly blank and uninspiring. Lily was uncomfortable with a ruddy paintbrush in her hand. She did not know how to make the stupid wall look anything like a gala-worthy piece of art. Potter – James – was just as stumped.

“Well,” he had began, his lips pursed, arms akimbo, and head tilted slightly to the right, “we could paint it.”

“Or,” Lily countered, “we could stand here like idiots holding paintbrushes and just stare at the bloody thing.”

“Works for me,” he had shrugged.

Lily had ground her teeth and rolled her eyes until she was dizzy and her mouth was faintly sore. Nothing, not even the fuzziest, stupidest glimmer of an idea, had come to her. There was no scene big enough or dramatic enough for such a large, intimidating vacancy of color.

James was lounging in the shade. After a good fifteen minutes of contemplating the wall, and growing increasingly maddened by each unproductive minute that skipped merrily by, Lily stomped over and threw herself on the grass next to him.

“This is ludicrous,” she declared.

“That it is,” he nodded in agreement.

“Come on, you great, arrogant, obnoxiously talented git – where’s your inner painter? Aren’t you supposed to be good at things like this?” Lily tossed a twig at him, “help us out. Come up with something.”

James made a rather unpleasant facial expression, “I can’t. I’ve been trying. The wall’s just too bloody big.”

Lily threw her hands up in exasperation, “We have to have it done by today! We best come up with something, or we might as well just report failure to Mrs. Briarwood and go home for the rest of the bloody day!”

“Brilliant,” he flashed her a maddening grin, “you break the news to her, I’ll go ahead and start walking home.”

“No,” she snapped, thoroughly annoyed, “brainstorm.”

A glimmer of something Marauder-esque flickered behind James’ glasses, deep in his hazel eyes, and he sat up minutely straighter. “No.”

“Excuse me?” Lily spat. Her temper, both infamous and incredibly volatile, began slowly building in the pit of her stomach.

He tossed a well-crafted, cheeky smirk on his face, “You brainstorm.”

You have to as well!” she almost screeched, “this is not my job. I’m sick of always having to do everything with every bloody group of people I have to work with! You’re going to help. Brainstorm, now.”

“Nah,” he lounged back, the very picture of casual messiness and nonchalance, “I think I’ll just lay here for a bit. Maybe take a kip.”

Lily’s rage began bubbling over, choking her throat and making her vision fuzzy. She leaped up and curled her hands into fists, “You bigheaded, narcissistic, infuriating, ridiculous bastard!”

Smiling in vague, nearly aloof amusement, James winked at her, “Knew you’d understand, sweetheart.”

That did it. Before Lily even knew what was happening or which wicked spirits had seized her body, she found herself picking up the bucket of red paint and hurling it at the wall.


Chest heaving, eyes flashing, and body shocked into stillness, Lily stared at the wall, mouth agape. A wave of red paint splattered the entire center of the white surface. It oozed downwards, drizzling into puddles on the tarp. The bucket hit with a sickening clang, then fell to the ground and rolled away. She froze, staring, as their previously blank canvas trickled red.

Oh no.

Dimly, she heard James leap up behind her. Her eyes followed dribbles of paint as they escaped the giant meteor of red and raced towards the ground. The splash of blood-red paint dominated the wall. Speckles had even hit the far right and left ends.

James appeared beside her. She did not look at him, and paid no attention to her peripheral view of his face. She could do nothing but stare.

How ironic that she had picked the red paint to hurl at the wall in her fit of rage. It was almost as if her anger, her effervescent, seeping, expanding anger, had clung to the paint as she had thrown it, and transmitted its energy onto the wall. The wall writhed and dribbled and exploded with red fury. Anger clawed its way out of the center of the red pit that had formed, silently screaming with frustration and ire.

Nice,” James remarked appreciatively.

The spell broke. She whirled on him, fury returning with vengeance, “You did this!”

“Er,” he rubbed the back of his neck and took a step backwards, “no I didn’t. You did.”

“Yes, but you caused it!” Lily shrieked, “you made me so angry that I just completely snapped and went mental on our bloody art project!”

James coughed slightly, shoving his hand in his pocket and using the other to move his glasses back up his nose, “That might, have possibly, could have been the last item on my extremely long and virtuous list of intentions.”

“Excuse me?” she snarled.

“Er,” he twisted the hem of his t-shirt, looking both abashed and somewhat frightened, “nothing?”

“Do you mean to say,” Lily enunciated each word deliberately and slowly, “that your intention in being a complete and utter prick was to make me so angry that I would maim our project?”

James’ hazel eyes widened. He took another step back.

“Did you?” she screeched maniacally.

“Look, Lily,” he pleaded with her, “I just know that you do some of your best artwork when you’re pissed. I figured if I made you angry enough, you’d snap and do something artistic. And it worked! Look – the wall is amazing.”

Unable to calm down quite enough to look at the wall or stare at him with anything but piercing, insane rage, Lily curled her lips into a sneer, “You git.”

“Well, yes, I am a git,” James shrugged, “but I’m also a git with a knack for critiquing art, and I’m very impressed with your aim.”

Lily’s hands balled immediately back into fists. She rose to her toes, ready to beat him to a pulp, when he hastily raised his hands, “No, no, I meant that in a good way! Your throw was really remarkable. Look at how amazing it splattered.”

When she continued to glare at him murderously, he moved forward and grasped her shoulders. Like a parent gently showing a toddler the mess she had made, he turned her around until her back was to him and she was directly facing the wall.

“See?” the vibrations from his words trembled through his chest, into his arms, and transmitted to her bare shoulders, “its amazing. Quite lovely, to be honest.”

Lily was uncomfortably aware of his hot, calloused hands holding her shoulders, but she did her best to ignore it and try to pay attention to the wall. It did not take her long to realize it was nearly impossible not to concentrate on the vibrant, brilliant, explosion of color before her.

Again, rage simmered before her. It scrabbled out of the wall with vicious claws and homicidal screams. Every speck of red was a reminder of how unjustly furious she had been. Emotion coated the paint so thickly that it was impossible to see the simple splatter underneath.

“A bit angry, isn’t it?” James observed. He dropped his hands and moved to stand beside her, once he was sure she would not try to whirl around and stab his throat with a paintbrush.

“Er, yes,” her throat was constricted, “it is a bit angry.”

“And artistically splattered,” he added.

“And artistically splattered,” she agreed.

“And vivid,” he noted.

“And vivid,” she repeated.

“And wrought with pure unadulterated hatred for cocky gits that irritate hot-tempered redheads,” James smiled.

She cracked a grin, “That too.”

They stood, side-by-side, watching it for a moment longer. Then James nodded in satisfaction, “I like it.”

“Me too,” Lily admitted heavily.

“I say we leave it just the way it is,” James glanced at her, “and I am not saying that because I want to get out of doing work. I am honestly saying that because I don’t think we should touch this wall with this on it. Its already perfect.”

“True, anything else would just ruin it. We leave it, yeah?”

“We leave it,” James concurred decisively, “I’ll clean up, if you’d like. That can be my contribution.”

She waved him off, her anger seeping off her like dirt in a hot shower, “I’ll help.”

“No, really,” James flashed her a mischievous grin, and craned his neck to glance around the corner, “I’ll do it.”

Before Lily could say a word, or even step to pick up the paint bucket that lay only a couple meters from her, James pulled his wand out of his pocket and muttered a couple spells.

The lids on the paint buckets screwed themselves on, the paintbrushes were wiped clean of paint, the tarp was rendered paint-free and folded itself neatly on the ground, the empty red bucket disappeared, and the remnants of James’ impromptu snack earlier vanished into a rubbish bin. Lily folded her arms, amused, as everything righted itself behind the art studio.

“Truly talented,” she observed dryly.

“Ah no,” he winked at her, “that would you, my hot-tempered, rage-filled, combustible little friend.”

She scowled, “Shut up, you prat.”

His eyes laughed so merrily, she was nearly tempted to break her stubborn scowl and flash him a genuine smile. But she had committed to anger, and so angry she would be.

“You know, Lily,” James reflected happily, “I am so glad we decided to quit judging each other. You’re hysterical.”

“Glad I can amuse you,” she said wryly, “it was my goal for the summer, you know. To entertain you as much as bloody possible. God forbid a marauder becomes bored and loses his mind from the sheer monotony of life.”

He stuck his wand back in his pocket, “Yes, that would be tragic. Course Sirius did that ages ago. And Remus gave up his masculinity and began knitting for entertainment. You know your friend has reached a darker place when he knits a sweater with gamboling kittens on it, you know?”

“Gamboling kittens?” Lily questioned distastefully.

“Gamboling kittens,” James nodded solemnly, “we never speak of it, understand?”

“Understood,” Lily nodded. And although on the exterior she was as collected as ever, inwardly she felt a small place inside her heat up. She had a marauder secret. Sometime, somehow, James had begun to trust her.

Course she would never trust him again after his little antagonistic stunt.

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Chapter 8: And Then Lily Is Confronted By Something Ghastly And Orange . . .
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Lily Evans:

“Lily!” Petunia stamped her foot in pure, unadulterated rage, “you will put on that dress, and you will put it on now!”

Lily folded her arms defiantly, “I am never wearing that. It’s repulsive.”

“It’s your bridesmaid dress,” Petunia snapped, “you have to wear it. Now put it on so that incompetent cow over there can make sure it fits properly!”

Narrowing her eyes and shaking her head, Lily glared at her sister. Petunia huffed, “Mum!”

Mrs. Evans looked up from the magazine she had been perusing, “Yes, dear?”

“Lily won’t put on the dress,” Petunia sniffed, “how am I supposed to have a wedding with an unwilling bridesmaid? Lily obviously hates me. She wants me to be unhappy. Otherwise she’d try it on, and not act all snotty. Mummy, what am I supposed to do?”

Her mother’s stern, piercing green eyes zoned in directly on Lily. It was like a searchlight, entrapping her and blinding her with vivid power. Lily looked abashedly down at her feet.

“Lily,” Mrs. Evans enunciated very clearly, “go put on the dress.”

“Yes, Mum,” Lily muttered. She closed her eyes, reached down and picked up the . . . thing, and stomped all the way to the dressing rooms. Petunia’s self-satisfied snorts made her grit her teeth and almost rip the hideous fabric of the monstrosity of a dress. Instead, she slammed the door behind her, held the dress up to her neck, and glared sullenly into the mirror.

Lily had once heard that the more insecure the bride, the uglier the bridesmaid dresses. If that were true, Petunia must be the most insecure, self-doubting, jealous cow ever to waste perfectly good air.

It was orange.

Not only was it orange, it was frilly.

It defied gravity.

It had shoulder pads.

It had wilted yellow daises printed along the bodice.

It was hot and itchy.

It demanded orange shoes.

And, quite possibly the worst aspect of the hideous thing, it came with a faux-daisy tiara.

Was there no justice in the world?

Grimacing, Lily slid off her short, strapless summer dress and her perfectly decent sandals. Like stepping onto hot coals, Lily gingerly placed one foot inside the dress. Then the other.

Breathing deeply, she pulled the fabric upwards and forced her arms into the long, frilly sleeves. The zip was on the side, and she quickly yanked it upwards. Refusing to look at her reflection, she pressed down the shoulder pads best she could, arranged the tiara on her long red hair, and shoved her feet into the foul orange shoes Petunia had given her.

“I look hideous,” she announced when she stepped out of the dressing room.

Petunia inspected the ensemble, her eyes filled with satisfaction at the complete elimination of her sister’s beauty. Lily’s mother simply hid her eyes and shook her head.

“Mum,” Lily crossed her arms, “please don’t allow Petunia to be a sadistic cow by making me wear this.”

Petunia’s eyes filled with fake tears, “What? You don’t love it?”

“Mum,” Lily repeated in a dangerously low monotone, “help me, please.”

Mrs. Evans was powerless in the gazes of her two equally strong-willed daughters. She shrugged, “Lily, it’s your sister’s wedding. When you have your own you can force her into the ugliest bridesmaid dress you like. Until then, I need you to wear the dress like a good girl and not put up a fuss.”

Lily exhaled furiously. She watched as triumph etched itself into every visible pore on Petunia’s face.

“It needs to be tucked in at the bust, and the hem needs to go up a bit,” Petunia announced, “Lily, would you be a dear and stand there while I go fetch the incompetent cow?”

Lily shot her best, most sarcastic facial expression at Petunia’s retreating back. Mrs. Evans watched her sympathetically.

“This is borderline cruel,” she snapped in a hushed tone at her mother, “I can’t believe you’re allowing this to happen.”

“Its only for a day,” Mrs. Evans attempted futilely to console her, “then you’ll never have to wear it again. You’ll be beautiful on your own wedding day.”

She rolled her eyes, too vexed to be comforted by her mother, and spent the next hour staring hatefully at the horrific curtains in the room while the incompetent cow jabbed her with pins and fussed with the beast of an orange bridesmaid dress. Petunia watched, smiling in satisfaction, and Lily contemplated murdering her sister in her sleep.

James Potter:

Lily was not at art class.

For the first time in recorded history, James Potter was actually bothered by this fact.

Previously, whenever Lily missed class, James thanked his lucky stars and spent the entire day being more goofy and immature than he would usually dare to be. Megan and Timothy would waste the whole day laughing and joking with him, and his artwork would usually be less moody and more carefree. He would openly admit to himself that he was more relaxed without her scowl. It was easier for him, to function as a normal human being without Lily’s judgment wafting towards him like a bad stench.

Now, he found himself anxiously looking at the clock and feeling utterly morose that she was not there.

Who was he supposed to talk to? Who was he supposed to exchange witty banter with? And who the hell was supposed to help him with the stupid grayscale sketch Mrs. Briarwood had assigned to him? It was not going to be worthy of a space in his portfolio without Lily’s advice.

He was bored, annoyed with Timothy and Megan, furious with Rose Bennett, and vaguely put off by the entire feel in the art room. There was no cheek or fiery passion, only studious artists busily working to complete one-hour self-portraits.

Around lunchtime, Timothy chose to remark on James’ harried state. “What’s wrong, James?” he asked, “you seem a bit off.”

“I’m just uninspired,” James told him honestly.

“Why?” Megan wrinkled her nose, confused, “you don’t like your own face?”

“No,” James chuckled, “I don’t like grayscale. Or the feel in the room today. Does anyone else think that the energy in here is just weird?”

“The . . . energy?” Timothy snorted, “you sound like a fortune-teller, or one of those crazy psychics.”

James shrugged, “I don’t care.”

“It does feel a little strange,” Megan contemplated the room, “its more quiet and serious than usual.”

“Exactly!” James beamed at the girl who behaved more like him than he cared to admit, “and isn’t it so uninspiring? There’s no emotion in the room right now.”

Megan straightened up, “Yeah! That’s what it is! Everything is so dull and boring, I can’t focus on my work for the life of me.”

Timothy stared at them both as if they were complete and utter imbeciles, “You two are bloody insane.”

James glanced at Megan, who simply shrugged in return. Timothy was a person that neither of them could understand. Like Lily, he functioned based on will and desire rather than depending on others. While James and Megan struggled because the ‘feel’ in the room was not right and Lily herself was absent, Timothy hardly noticed a thing and continued drawing with the same adamant perseverance as ever. More than likely, he viewed James and Megan’s lack of interest as weakness.

Sighing to himself, James glanced at Megan’s self-portrait. It was a clumsy rendition of the bright, smiling young blonde. The basic proportions were perfect, of course, but the proletarian shading made the face look wrong. It was neither human nor Megan – it was simply a childish form of an unrecognizable human face.

Meanwhile, Timothy’s showed the young serious boy in perfect detail. His dark hair, slightly upturned nose, and the focused look to his intent brown eyes was all perfectly sketched in. The shading dramatized his rather forgettable features, and actually improved his looks. Megan had drawn herself with all the talent of a ten-year-old, while Timothy had drawn himself with Lily-like perfection.

The piece of creamy artist’s paper in front of James did not show his face. He had chosen to do a more abstract self-portrait, and so instead of the lines of his familiar features, images and patterns adorned the page. Of course he had added certain recognizable physical features. A hazel eye, complete with glasses lens, stared from the upper right hand corner. His chin, strong and sharp, was found somewhere south of the eye. A profile, formed of a chain of leaves, cut the page in half.

But still, it was unworthy of attention because James failed whenever his hands came in contact with charcoal or pencils.

Where was Lily?

“Well, I’m finished,” Timothy announced, using a dirty rag to scrub the charcoal off his fingers, “you ready for lunch, Megan?”

Megan eyed her drawing forlornly, and then sighed, “Why not? This isn’t getting better. Might as well declare it done.”

Timothy looked at her drawing, and then closed his mouth uncomfortably. There were no good things to say about Megan’s shoddy attempt at a grayscale self-portrait. He grimaced bracingly, “C’mon, we have oil pastels tomorrow and you know you’ll do great with those. Forget the stupid pencils. You’re more talented then everyone else in here, except for James, with color.”

James felt a sudden rush of affection for Timothy. Somehow, the boy knew exactly what to say to cheer Megan up. The young blonde girl smiled sweetly, “Thanks, Timothy. Would you like to eat outside with me?”

“Sure!” Timothy quickly flipped his drawing into his portfolio, “lets go, before the stupid cows over there try and follow us again.”

The pair of them quickly sped for the door, and managed to escape before a giggly group of fourteen-year-old girls could bully Megan and blink flirtatiously at Timothy.

For the umpteenth time, James wondered if Timothy and Megan fancied each other. Most of the time they acted like annoyed siblings, but every once in a while Timothy would say something sweet or Megan would uncharacteristically blush and James simply had to speculate. He liked the pair of them, and would not mind if they ended up together.

He pushed his work aside and rummaged in his bag for his lunch. If Lily were here, he would go sit with her. As it was, he would sit by himself and wonder why she had ditched art class without telling him why.

“James,” a revolting voice purred, “you look lonely.”

Rose Bennett.

It was difficult for him to put into words how much he truly despised her. She was cruel to Lily, simpering towards Mrs. Briarwood, and positively obsessed with James. She wanted him, and he wanted nothing to do with her.

“Care for some distinguished company?” her fingernails scuttled quickly over his shoulder, “I’m available.”

“Er . . .” he forced himself not to cringe away from her fingernails, “no, I’m alright, but thanks.”

She let the tips of her fingers drag across his back as she circled his stool, coming face-to-face with him, “Where’s Evans?”

“Gone,” James tried not to meet her vivid blue eyes.

Really?” using her fingers she gently pushed his chin up until he was staring directly at her, “then I’m sure it wouldn’t be any trouble at all to allow me to sit with you for lunch, now would it?’

He stared, speechless, into her generically perfect face. Her brilliant blue eyes were caked with make up, her pink lips were swiped with gloss, and her tan skin was brushed with visible powder. Even her blonde curls, which from far away looked natural, appeared stiff and unnaturally shiny, as if they’d been rubbed with broom wax. She was so fake that he could not stare at her for long periods of time without appearing sickly fascinated.

“Where’s your lunch?” she asked, and he realized he had not spoken for nearly two minutes.

“Er, right there,” he pointed at the brown sack sitting in front of him.

Rose giggled, “Of course. Need help feeding yourself?”

“No,” James grabbed his lunch hastily, “no, I’m alright, thanks.”

Her piercing eyes followed his every movement as she sat on Megan’s vacated stool. He felt like the prey to her predator, and was wary of the moment she decided to actually pounce.

“My arse of an ex boyfriend keeps trying to contact me,” Rose announced as she arranged her six carrots and three crackers in perfect formation before her, “I’m scared he’s going to come after me, or something.”

“Mm,” James hummed sympathetically. Looking anywhere but at her, he stuffed half his sandwich in his mouth and choked it down with some water.

“Boys keep telling me that they’ll beat him up for me,” Rose hinted heavily, “but I’m afraid he’ll hurt them. He’s very strong. I’m frightened.”

James offered another sympathetic hum.

“Have you ever saved a girl from that sort of thing?” she asked, twirling a rigid blonde curl around her finger.

James shrugged.

“I think it’s the sweetest thing a boy could do for me,” she sighed girlishly, “I’m a strong woman, but occasionally I’m forced to be the damsel in distress.”

There were so many things wrong with that sentence, James did not know how to judge her for it.

“Look at me,” she instructed.

James glanced quickly at her, and then looked away again. She huffed, “No, look at me, James. Look into my eyes.”

Gritting his teeth, he turned his head and looked her. He stared at her overly made up, phony face and struggled to maintain the eye contact.

She spoke to him again, undoubtedly begging her to handle this ex boyfriend and fall in love with her, but he didn’t hear a word. All he could do was stare at her face with strange absorption, and try to figure out how she had managed to make herself look so utterly sordid.

Almost subconsciously, he began mentally comparing her to Lily. Where Rose applied heavy make up and undoubtedly fought every day to make herself look ‘presentable,’ Lily always looked completely natural and a bit messy. Lily’s freckles were clearly visible, while Rose hid any blemishes completely by using what had to be a quarter inch of solid beige powder. Lily’s eyes sparkled with only a bit of mascara, while Rose had sewn-on pitch black feather dusters attached to her eyelids.

It went even further than that. Lily’s wild, long red hair was neither sleek nor glamorous, but it was entrancing in its windswept messiness. Rose’s stiff head of curls appeared not only uncomfortable, but also completely aberrant.

Most noticeable of all was Rose’s fake, uncomfortable, carefully constructed personality in comparison to Lily’s carefree originality and authentic sense of self. Rose was insecure and terrified of flaws, while Lily proudly flaunted her flaws as if they were gold medals earned through great pain. Lily was unafraid to be who she was. Rose, if she even had any other self other than this fabricated cow, was horrified of being anything other than picture perfect.

Unfortunately for Rose, James despised picture-perfect. Where was the complexity in something already superficially faultless?

And he realized, without any outside help, that he was no longer interested in the kind of girls that prowled across fashion magazines and flaunted their skin for the world to see. He didn’t want the stereotypical pretty girl. He wanted someone unique and original and fearless.

He wanted a girl that was authentic. And preferably naturally well-endowed. He was a teenage male, after all.

“. . . its just, so stressful,” Rose sniffed, blotting tears from the corners of her eyes, “I have nightmares, and no one can help me. No one can understand.”

Normally, James would have placed a hand on her knee, looked at her in the eye, and said in husky voice, “Its okay - I understand.” Then, as she lost the ability to speak, he would draw her in with soft compliments and mysterious glances. Before ten minutes had passed, they would be snogging in the supplies closet.

But James didn’t want that. He didn’t want to woo her, didn’t want to speak to her, and sure as hell didn’t want to touch her.

So, with a nonchalance that Lily would have been proud of, he shrugged. “Someone will eventually.” Then he picked up his lunch, chucked his water bottle in the trash, and walked outside to sit with Megan and Timothy.

Rose was still sitting there, staring with shocked eyes at James’ empty seat, when they came back inside fifteen minutes later for their afternoon assignment.

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Chapter 9: And Then The Two Art Students Experience The Indescribable Arrival Of Sirius Black
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James Potter:

Prongsie –

I’m coming to your house tomorrow! Thank Merlin, I’m about ready to go completely mental on this place. I lived as a dog for three days straight just to restrain myself from attempting to unlock the door.

Turns out, even with paws, I’m perfectly capable of unlocking doors. Funny, yeah?

I know you’ll probably be at art class when I get to your place, but I’ll just hang around until you come home. And don’t forget – Tuesday is the full moon. Moony expects us round six.

Have you made up a bogus story for your parents yet?

And we’ll tag team Moony about McKinnon. I haven’t brought it up yet, but with both of us intimidating him we should be able to make him admit defeat. Can Evans give us any more details about the whole sordid affair?

See you tomorrow, mate!


It was late Friday evening, and after a rather trying day of clay and small sculptures, James was more than pleased to get a letter from his best mate. Being separated from Sirius was always hard. They were more brothers than friends, and James missed living with the one person who understood him best in the world.

He seized a quill and a rather tatty piece of parchment, and penned a quick reply:

Padfoot –

I’ll try and get home early from art class. I dunno what the assignment will be yet, but hopefully I can either skive off or do a less-then-exemplary job. Lily won’t care, and Mrs. Briarwood doesn’t have any say in the matter.

I’ll make a story for my parents, and I’ll ask Lily more about McKinnon. By the way, she’s a fairly decent person. If you get past the prefect, she’s rather . . . interesting. You know how Remus does those dry, sarcastic, witty comments that sometimes neither of us can understand? That’s her forte. She’s funny when she’s not strung out on stress.

Anyways, you’ll get to know her while you’re here. She knows you’re coming. Don’t be a git, yeah?

See you tomorrow!


Henry VIII, once he carried the letter, was chucked rather violently out the window. James’ irritation with the clay was obviously not gone yet. The puffed-up bird would be angry with him for that little undeserved stunt.

James fell asleep quickly that night, exhausted from the stupid clay and eager for the following morning. Images of Henry VIII tumbling through the air and miniature clay werewolves dominated his dreams.

When he woke, late as usual, he bounded out of bed and dressed quickly. He shoved an apple in his mouth, grabbed his bag, shouted a muffled goodbye to his mum, and skidded out onto his brilliantly green lawn.

“Sirius is coming today!” he shouted to no one in particular, his feet hurrying down the sidewalk in a particularly giddy manner. He chucked his apple into a neighbor’s hedge as he passed it by, ignoring the indignant shout that naturally followed.

Mrs. Briarwood, predictably, greeted him with a condescending grunt and a short, “You’re late, Potter.”

“Good morning to you too, my dear Mrs. Briarwood,” he bowed to her, “how are you this fine, beautiful day?”

She stared at him, harrumphed, and then turned on her heel and stormed to the opposite side of the room.

James whistled to himself as he strolled over to where Lily was sitting. He heaved his bag on the table, threw himself on the tall stool, and grinned at her, “Hello.”

“Hi,” she raised an eyebrow at him.

“I’m in a ridiculously good mood this morning,” he informed her.

She raised both eyebrows, “You don’t say?”

“Tell me we’re painting,” he glanced around at the younger students around them, “what are we doing? Do you know yet? Do we have a separate assignment?”

“No, I have no idea, and I hope so,” a faint smirk danced at the corners of Lily’s lips, “may I ask, what illegal substance did you manage to successfully inject into yourself this morning?”

James shrugged, “Dunno. But Sirius is coming today!”

“Black?” Lily quizzically pushed her hair behind her ears, “is he staying with you?”

“Yep,” he beamed, “until Wednesday, at least. The ministry finally let him out of his flat. He’ll torment the muggles, flirt with the local girls, play a prank or two on my parents, and then we’re going to visit Remus on Tuesday.”

Lily cocked her head, “Is he still a prat, or is there substance behind the man whore?”

“Substance,” James confirmed, “but don’t take it hard if he teases you a bit. He’s a jokester, yeah? I told him you’re decent, but he’ll still try and bring out the prefect we all know and love inside you.”

She shrugged, “Okay. I’ll put him in his place.”

James, although he was deeply loyal to his best mate and would never abandon him or betray him for anything, had to concede that Lily would probably manage to verbally compete with Sirius in a battle of the insults.

“Quiet!” Mrs. Briarwood thundered.

The murmurs ceased, and James tapped his foot anxiously as he watched his art teacher.

“Today you will be continuing your clay work,” Mrs. Briarwood lectured, her deep voice reverberating in the deathly silent room, “all of your items were fired last night, and today you need to paint them. Materials, as always, are on the shelves. Any messes made must be cleaned up immediately. I expect every item to be painted and on the in-progress shelf by four o’clock.”

An uncertain silence pervaded the room. Mrs. Briarwood flapped her stout arms about, “Get to work! Now!”

The younger students frantically leapt up, and she rolled her eyes in frustration. Then, as was the custom, she stomped over to where Lily and James were not so patiently awaiting orders.

“Mosaics,” she growled, “both of you need one for your portfolio. Glass, mirror, and pottery fragments are in the bin by the door. Glue and twenty-by-twenty centimeter tiles are on the materials shelves. I don’t care what you choose to depict, but it cannot be abstract. When you’re finished take a picture of it for your portfolio and clean your bloody mess up.”

“Got it!” James gave her the thumbs up. Lily just nodded.

Mrs. Briarwood glared at the pair of them, and then tramped over to shout at a twelve-year-old that was laughing too loudly.

“You get the tiles and glue, I’ll get the bin?” James proposed.

Lily shrugged, “Sure.”

Thirty minutes later, James successfully glued his first fragment to his oatmeal-colored ceramic tile. “Aha!” he exclaimed excitedly.

Lily glanced at his tile, and then smirked, “Figured out how to use the glue properly, eh Potter?”

“Too right I have,” he beamed proudly, “now, only eighty-four more to go.”

She shook her head as she pressed a blue pottery fragment down with her thumb, “Why are you doing such small pieces?”

“Cause this takes detail,” he picked up a tiny blue splinter, “why are you using such large pieces?”

“I’m not,” she grinned, “I’m using normal sized pieces. Yours are practically microscopic. You’re going to need magnifying glasses and enlargement charms just to see the angles.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he struggled gluing only one side of the splinter, “well yours look pretty damn big to me. Almost as if you were cheating by using six-year-old bits.”

“Don’t be a git.”

“Oh but please, continue being a bitch.”

Lily threw the glue cap at him. He hid a smile, and continued with the intricate pattern he had planned for his tile.

When he had retrieved the bin for his and Lily’s use, he had noticed a small, uniquely shaped crimson fragment of glass at the very top. Though vaguely circular at the top, it splayed down and to the side, like a comma. To him, it looked like long, red, windblown hair. Instantly after noticing it, an ocean scene had sketched itself into his head. A girl, standing on a rather cloudy and somber beach, her hair blown to the side, watched the rolling gray waves in his head. James had penciled it in as quickly as he could.

That particularly inspirational fragment – which he had snatched up immediately after reaching the table – was the first to be glued on to his tile.

Lily, meanwhile, had sketched in a scene James was long familiar with. The lake at Hogwarts, with its crystalline depths and encroaching Forbidden Forrest, was quickly being tiled in. The castle of course was not present, but the landscape was beautiful all the same.

“Glass works well for water,” she noted absently.

James picked up a piece of blue glass, and experimentally placed it where the ocean should be. He grinned, “Too right it does.”

The minutes passed by in companionable silence. Although the younger students jabbered constantly, and could not possibly grasp the meaning of quiet concentration, Lily and James managed to create a bubble of hushed absorption. James tuned out the meaningless chatter and melded his entire focus to his work.

“Can you help me a minute, James?” Lily murmured after an hour or so of silent labor.

He finished gluing a small square before he looked up, “Sure. With what?”

Lily was sitting cross-legged on her tall stool, her elbow on the table and her chin in her hand. Her other hand was resting by her tile, which was already a third of the way completed. “I can’t get the right color shade for the bit of rock on the outer edge of the lake,” she pointed at it, “beige looks fake, while gray looks dreary and unrealistic.”

James moved his hand forward, “May I?” She nodded, and he turned the tile towards himself.

Of course the original sketch was utterly flawless, and of course Lily was working perfectly from the upper left hand corner downwards. While James attached fragments sporadically to the surface, creating a much more jumbled and chaotic effect, Lily systematically and carefully moved in a sweeping pattern across the tile. Because she was right handed, she had started on the upper left hand side so as not to accidentally move or smear already glued fragments.

The scene itself was pristine. The mountains and sky were beautiful, despite the jagged edges, and Lily had used small splinters of various shades of green glass and pottery for the thick pine trees. The trunks were all of normal, brown pottery clay. Lily had even begun to do the lake with blue glass, but had faltered when she had reached the colorless rocks on the outer edges.

“I just can’t find the right material,” Lily explained unhappily.

James nodded, his eyes on the tile, “Yeah, I understand. It’s tricky.”

He glanced over at the bin of scrap material, which was imposing in its vastness. He picked up a bit of gray ceramic, light brown glass, and seashell colored earthenware. Like Lily said, the gray looked completely fake and the brown glass tacky and dull. The seashell colored earthenware just looked like an enormous lumpy seashell.

“Blimey,” he said, stumped.

“See? It’s a right bugger.”

James fingered a few other stray pieces of mosaic material, and then leaned over and thoroughly inspected the bin. From the corner of his eye he spotted a small cache of odd, grayish brown pottery fragments.

He scooped the entire section up, and carefully let it fall beside Lily’s workspace. Then, beaming, he fit one into a ‘rock’ place, where it looked authentic. Like a true gentleman, he turned the tile back towards Lily and sought her approval.

“Brilliant!” Lily’s eyes sparkled, “thanks!”

James smirked, “Don’t thank me yet. Its your turn to help me.”

Amused, Lily tilted her head, “What’s your issue?”

“The clouds,” James made a face.

“May I?” Lily asked, reaching forward to turn around his tile.

James chuckled at the imitation of his own movement previously, “Go right ahead.”

Like him, she inspected the tile for a moment before acting. Then she beamed and dug through the bin until she found what she was looking for.

“Here,” she set a creamy, hazy white glass fragment on the tile, “there’s a ton of these, but they’re scattered. You’re going to have to really look for them.”

He eyed the piece, and abruptly decided it was absolutely perfect, “Brilliant – thanks!”

“Don’t mock me,” she narrowed her eyes.

“You mocked me first,” he countered impishly.

“So technically, I win,” she winked.

Baffled, James tried to come up with something to counteract her unassailable logic. Nothing came to mind. Irritated, he stuck his hand in the bin and tried to find more of the hazy white pieces for his sky.

He found a grand total of four of them, and sighed. Lily had already glued all of her rock pieces onto her tile. He was due to finish around six o’clock the following morning at the rate he was going. Sirius would go stir crazy and quite possibly murder his parents, Mimzy, and the next-door neighbors before James arrived home to stop him.

“OUCH!” he shouted suddenly. He pulled his hand out of the bin and cradled his index finger, from which blood was quickly pooling.

Lily looked up, alarmed, “What happened?”

“I’m wounded!” he held his hand out for her frantically.

Spatters of blood dripped across the table, and one hit Lily’s tile. He winced at that. She paid it no mind, though, and hurriedly ripped off a strip of fabric from the glue apron she was wearing and wound it around his finger.

“Sonovabi . . .” James struggled for words, trying not to swear too badly in front of the younger students, “bloody, good-for-nothing, smug bin of sharp objects!”

Lily sighed, “There’s too much blood. C’mon, lets go wash it off.”

Cursing under his breath, James followed her out of the room. She avoided the huge sink in the studio because it was crowded with small kids trying to wash off their paintbrushes. Instead, she led him to the boys’ bathroom, opened the door, and marched inside.

He hesitated, gripping his finger.

“Come on,” she rolled her eyes.

“But . . . this is the blokes’ room,” he said weakly.

“Do you usually use the ladies’ room?” she asked sarcastically.

James glanced around, and then ducked inside and hurriedly shut and locked the door behind him.

“Give me your hand,” Lily ordered. She stood by the sink and made him put his index finger under the faucet. He bit his tongue and bounced slightly, the pain of the water thoroughly vexing him.

“It’s clean,” after a minute she turned off the tap and handed him a paper towel, “hold that for a second, will you? Don’t let it bleed all over the place again.”

He wrapped the paper towel tightly around the cut, and watched as she washed his blood off her hands, forearms, and shirt. Then he glanced around at the urinals, and back to Lily. He was utterly bemused by the entire situation. Why was she in the boys’ bathroom, and why didn’t she seem fazed at all by it?

“Alright,” she dried her hands and pulled her wand out of some mysterious place in her dress, “let me see it.”

He unwrapped it, and held his hand out towards her. Gently, she clasped his wrist and rotated his hand until she could see the cut.

“It got you good,” she remarked.

The cut was about two inches, running down the length of his index finger. Not horrific, but annoying enough to keep him from painting or anything like that for a good amount of time.

Blood was already beginning to swell up again, and she quickly siphoned it away with her wand. “Don’t say a word,” she murmured, “this might feel funny.”

James fused his mouth shut, and watched with wide eyes as she did some complicated wand work and said a few funny words he had never heard before.

The skin began to knit itself back together.

It was the weirdest sensation of his life, apart from transforming into his animagus form, but with immense effort he managed to stay silent. He watched as new, fresh skin developed over the wound. After a few moments, it looked and felt as good as new.

“How did you do that?” he asked, amazed.

She shrugged, “Just a healing spell. Madam Dinglewort taught me.”

James shuddered at the mention of the frighteningly physical Hospital Wing overseer, Madam Dinglewort. He quickly looked at his finger, distracting himself from those menacing thoughts.

He had no idea Lily knew healing spells. She had made his headache ebb before, but this was different. He had seen his skin regenerate and the cut go away. Healing spells were tricky. Obviously, little Miss Evans was more talented than she was letting on.

Lily slipped her wand back into her dress and moved towards the door, “Let’s go. We both have a lot of work to do, and you’re not spilling blood all over the floor any more.”

“Wait,” he reached out and caught her hand before she could unlock the door. She turned around, and he flashed her a crooked smile, “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” she smiled, “be more careful next time, alright?”

“I will try, and probably fail to be more careful,” he let her hand go, “but hell, we can always hope, right?”

She laughed and opened the door, “To right, we can.”

Nobody was out in the hallway when they left the loo together. James felt carefree and happy as he followed Lily back into the studio. So caught up was he in his joyous strides that he failed to notice a pair of cold blue eyes watching them from the doorway to the girls’ bathroom.

Lily Evans:

When everyone else in the studio packed up to go home, Lily was not quite finished with her tile. Unsurprisingly, James was not finished either. Mrs. Briarwood had stopped by, given them the usual lecture about locking up the doors and finishing “those bloody projects before I die of old age,” and then left through the back door. The entire studio was now eerily quiet and empty, except for the two artists assiduously working on completing their mosaics.

Lily’s tile had come along nicely. The lake scene was realistic, but edgy due to the jagged edges of the fragmented pottery and glass. It was clean and orderly, but with a dangerous tone. The colors complimented each other and the scene itself seemed to ooze the very essence of Hogwarts.

She found herself missing the enormous, magical castle. She loved summer, and her art class, but with Petunia’s engagement her house did not feel like home. Everything was too chaotic and panicky. She yearned for the simple stress of classes and homework that Hogwarts provided.

“Where’s the bloody glue?” James growled under his breath. Lily absently placed the pot beside him.

He nodded in thanks, and then continued maniacally swiping glue on the surface of his tile and haphazardly slapping fragments on top of that. It was obvious, to Lily at least, that he was anxious to go home. Sirius Black, his best mate, had apparently arrived that morning.

Lily looked down and fit one of her last fragments into the bottom right hand corner of her tile. She was working on a single pine tree, whose needles proved exasperating. Thin, sharp, green glass splinters were complicated to find.

“I’m almost done,” she told James.

“Me too,” he said. She looked over and saw that, indeed, he only had a few more blank places on his tile.

She continued working, and fit the last three fragments in. Then, she sat back and looked at the finished product.

James shoved the glue pot away, “Done!”

“Here, swap,” she pushed her tile towards him, “I can’t look at mine anymore.”

He handed her his tile, and then looked down and inspected hers. She lowered her eyes and scrutinized James’ work.

The focal point of James’ mosaic was easy to see. A redheaded girl, standing on a beach, watching the ocean was his basic design. Her hair, which was the only bright part of the entire mosaic, stood out like white on black. The rest of his fragments were all muted colors, either blues or grays or beiges. Her hair, which twisted and swirled to the side due to an ocean breeze, drew in the viewer’s eye like nothing else could.

Despite rushing, he had done a brilliant job. The randomly placed fragments perfectly symbolized the chaotic and messy nature of the ocean. She was thoroughly impressed.

“This is really good, James.”

“So is yours,” he continued looking at her painting with wide, curious eyes, “its like . . . unreal. Mine’s a right mess. Yours is the lake.”

“Yours would be odd if it wasn’t a right mess,” Lily told him, “your scene is messy. It should be. And mine should be systematical and orderly. So really, we’re both just extraordinarily talented.”

He chuckled, “I’ll second that.”

They began cleaning up their table. James was moving rather excitedly, and had a foolish grin on his face. Lily sighed, “You’re maddeningly happy, aren’t you?”

“Yeah,” he enthusiastically chucked a pile of unused fragments into the bin, “because first of all, Sirius is here, and second, we’re painting tomorrow!”

“Ugh,” Lily vengefully tossed the glue brush in the sink, “ugh to both of those.”

He glanced at her, “C’mon, I’ll help out. It’ll be fine. And besides – if ever you get too irritated, Sirius is here to be abused!”

“I suppose,” she said skeptically.

“No, really,” he smiled at her encouragingly, “remember last time we painted? It was magic. That’ll work again. You’ll be ruddy brilliant! And Sirius is seriously not that bad.”

Lily bit her lip at his joke, but he seemed not to have noticed it. So she simply gave him a rather condescending, cynical twitch of her eyebrows, “I reserve the right to make a fuss about it, even though it will certainly not be as bad as before.”

“Okay,” he shrugged happily and swept off the surface of the table with a rag, “anything else you worried about?”

“No,” Lily picked up both their tiles and carried them to the ‘completed’ shelves, “actually, do you think you could bring in a smock for me tomorrow? I may have lost mine, and not gotten another with the foolish hope I’d never paint again . . .”

James laughed, “Rather optimistic, don’t you think? Course I’ll lend you one. But I reckon you should probably get it tonight because I’m bound to forget.”

She rolled her eyes, “Do you always wake up six seconds before class is due to start?”

“Without fail,” he beamed, “no, but really. You should just come ‘round my place and get it tonight if you’re actually planning on using a smock tomorrow.”

“Alright,” Lily pushed in both their stools and wiped her hands on the rag, “mind if I just walk home with you?”

“Who said anything about walking?” James winked impishly, “In case you’ve forgotten, Lily dear, there are no muggles in sight, I live in a ‘magical’ dwelling, and we are both perfectly capable of apparition.”

Lily placed her hands on her hips, “Excuse me for living in a muggle home, where I’d be beaten to death by my own sister if I so much as dared to display any signs of magic in the house.”

James picked up his bag and held out his arm to her, “Come on, side-along so that you don’t wind up in the bird bath or something of the sort.”

She huffed. Lily hated side-along apparition for a multitude of colorful and diverse reasons. Most of all, it made her feel like a little kid being dragged around by some domineering, powerful adult. She had no control over the process when she was the ‘side-along.’ She had to sit back, grit her teeth, and relinquish all control.

Which was not necessarily her specialty.

“Oh, quit it with the pride,” he chided her, “grab on, now.”

Lily threw him the most scathing, irritated glare she could possibly produce, snatched up her bag, and then grabbed on to his arm with unnecessary harshness. He didn’t even wince, he simply turned on the spot and they both vanished from the art studio.

When Lily opened her eyes after the thoroughly uncomfortable, pitch black, rubber tube like experience, she was staring at the grand foyer of the Potter Estate. She had been there before – it was not quite a new experience – but it always shocked her just the same.

James Potter lived in a world of wealth and opulence that most of the rest of the world could not even hope to imagine. Of course he seemed completely unaware of it, as he was incapable of telling the difference between an aluminum foil wrapped brick and a solid gold bar, but Lily still could not repress that recurring tinge of jealousy. She was not spiteful, simply envious of the style in which he had grown up.

“Come on then, I’m sure Sirius is upstairs,” he beamed with excitement, “as is your smock.”

He bounded up the wide marble staircase, taking it three steps at a time, and ignoring the conveniently placed hand railings. Lily trailed behind, watching his unbridled enthusiasm with bewildered eyes. She tried not to notice the exquisite architecture and beautiful art work inside the Potter Estate. Envy, though a commonly felt emotion for her, was not something she particularly enjoyed.

“Padfoot, Padfoot!” James yelped, skidding around the corner on the uppermost level of the house.

Lily hurried after him, and rounded the corner just in time to hear a frighteningly loud, eager, “PRONGS!”

James was standing approximately two meters in front of her, giddily staring down a long, high-ceilinged hallway. Growing nearer, Sirius Black was sprinting towards both of them.

The two collided with almost alarming force. Lily winced as the two teenage boys fell to the floor, rolling around and laughing uproariously. “Good to see you mate!” Black clapped James on the back.

“You too, you bloody imbecile!” James replied jovially, punching him in the shoulder.

Lily leaned casually against the wall, watching the pair of them with her best disparaging, faintly amused smirk on her face.

“This summer has been ruddy awful!”

“Sodding terrible!”

“Mind-shatteringly dull!”

“Well, not that . . .” James stood up and brushed himself off, and then reached down to give Black a hand.

Black leaped up and casually flipped his long dark hair out of his eyes, “You hear about Wormtail’s accident?”

“Er, no,” James looked concerned.

Black let out a great bark of laughter, “Oh, you’ll love this, then. Pete, being the thick git tosspot he is, tried to trim his eyebrows and shaved the pair of them off! Then, when he tried to grow ‘em back, he cursed his own nose purple and got a big chunk of his hair out of his head! The right moron!”

Lily, against her will, felt her lips twitched. There was something about Peter Pettigrew that was so heartbreakingly pathetic it always made her laugh.

James chuckled, “How d’you know?”

“Ran into him in Diagon Alley,” Black grinned, “he was looking for a healer near Gringotts. I told him that was St. Mungo’s and side-along apparated him there. His parents were at the grocery store or something.”

“Ah, Peter,” James shook his head, “what will he do without us?”

“Kill himself, probably,” Black shrugged.

The pair of them sniggered. Lily raised her eyebrows and continued leaning against the wall, waiting with annoyance to be noticed.

“Have you spoken to dear old Mrs. Black yet, this summer?” James asked.

“No,” Black snorted, “the old hag wrote a howler, but I chose not to reply. And Regulus is being a right git. Keeps showing up at my place, but he doesn’t know what the number is and so he just sort of noses around a bit. The neighbors think he’s a bit dodgy, to be honest.”

“Well, he’s always been just the picture of honesty and good intentions,” James said seriously.

Black rolled his eyes, “To my mother.”

Lily coughed. Loudly.

They both started and turned around. James immediately adopted a sheepish expression while Black looked delighted. “Evans!”

“Black,” she nodded.

He ran up to her and caught her in a hug, swinging her around a bit. “You’re in Prongsie’s house! Finally! You know how bloody long this took? We’ve been waiting years for you to finally get over your pride and start sneaking in here!”

“Sneaking?” she raised an eyebrow, trying to retain her dignity after being swung around like a rag doll.

“Well, yeah,” he beamed, “you were supposed to sneak in here ages ago, to get away from your muggles. Figured you’d enjoy the ‘magic’ or whatnot. But you never showed, so we figured maybe you liked the muggles after all.”

Lily rolled her eyes, “‘The ‘muggles’ are my parents, you git.”

“So? I hate my parents,” Black shrugged, “but no matter! You’re here! And you’re not wearing a tie and a prefects badge!”

Lily glanced down at her glue-spattered, wrinkled art clothes. Her hair was falling in messy red clumps down past her shoulders, and her face was undoubtedly smudged with some type of art supply. She looked the exact opposite from her usual primped, polished, perfect prefect appearance.

“No, I’m not,” she said finally. She felt a hint of awkwardness creeping in.

Black rounded on James, “Do you see this?”

“I do,” James nodded, fighting a smile.

“She looks normal!” Black exclaimed, “scratch that, she looks messy! Human! Evans – you do have a real person inside you!”

“Yet unfortunately, you’ve yet to find the meaningful soul inside the man whore shell,” Lily sighed sadly.

Black cackled aloud, “James – she’s funny!”

“Told you,” James smiled smugly. Lily glanced at him, confused and pleased.

Black grabbed her hand and dragged her down the hall, “C’mon, Evans! Let us show you around a bit! Give you the tour! Enjoy your witticisms! ‘Sides, James’ parents are due to be a gone for another hour or so and we need someone to distract us from our hunger.”

“Are you incapable of feeding yourself?” Lily asked quizzically, allowing herself to be dragged down the hallway.

“No,” he winked roguishly, “just too lazy.”

Lily sighed heavily, acting as if the world had just fallen upon her shoulders with Sirius Black’s latest disappointing statement, and resigned herself to an hour of entertaining a thoroughly overexcited teenage boy that was powerless to feed himself.

She glanced back at James, who tilted his head slightly and gave her a crooked, knowing smile. Sirius Black jabbered away happily in the background. For a moment – just one moment – Lily felt as if she shared something essential and intangible with James Potter. That one knowing glance, full of laughter at Black’s antics and weariness with the energy that came with it, created a feeling of kinship that left Lily feeling a little weak.

Thank goodness she was being fully supported by Black as he dragged her maniacally down the hall.

Thanks for all the kind reviews! They're very much appreciated.

Chapter 10: And Then Logic, Sweet Logic, Finally Appears In The Form Of A Lovable Werewolf . . .
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Lily Evans:

Lily spent an entire hour in the Potter Estate, traipsing through the halls with its two rowdy teenage male inhabitants and supplying entertaining quips whenever the mood struck. Black, surprisingly, was not as irritating as she had anticipated. He was, without question, a conceited arrogant prat. But his self-absorption and superciliousness was unexpectedly adorable instead of repulsive. It was easy to see that in his heart he was a genuinely kind person, and James obviously relied on him a lot.

Meanwhile, she saw an entire new side of James. A playful, younger, less mature side of James that was both more innocent and more naughty. He was carefree and mischievous when Black was nearby, and less likely to slip into the occasional foul mood. Happiness radiated from him.

Lily had finally begged leave, and they had reluctantly allowed her to apparate home, smock in tow. To be safe, she made sure to apparate directly into her bedroom. God forbid Petunia – or her obese fiancée – catch wind of the barest hint of magic.

“Lily!” Mrs. Evans had shouted when her ears had detected the inaudible pop of Lily’s apparition, “Come downstairs!”

Feet dragging and heart low, Lily trekked down the stairs. She knew she was in trouble. Art class was due to get out at four o’clock, and it was already seven.

“We’re designing Petunia’s wedding dress this evening, remember darling?” Mrs. Evans said when Lily appeared in the dining room, her face stretched into a tight-lipped, dangerous smile.

Petunia was sitting hunched in a chair, looking absolutely murderous. “I don’t understand,” she hissed, “why we have to wait for Lily to be home to design my wedding dress!”

Lily sat down in an empty chair, “Yeah, why did you wait?”

Mrs. Evans sighed wearily, “Because Petty’s using the material from my old dress, and we need to make sure she makes it in a way that you can still use it for your future dress.”

Petunia growled under her breath at the ‘sodding injustice of it all!’ Lily simply rolled her eyes. She didn’t even want to think about her future wedding. If there even was a future wedding.

“So,” Mrs. Evans changed her expression to one of bright interest, “what are you thinking for your dress, Pet?”

There was much sketching on napkins and hushed murmurs of lace and taffeta, along with whispered measurements and furtively shared ideas. Lily sat back and watched, bored. She was completely excluded from the entire process. Her mother and sister, she admitted to herself, occasionally drove her utterly batty.

“No,” Petunia whispered furiously, “not there.”

Mrs. Evans readjusted a mark, and Petunia nodded, “Yes, there.”

Lily placed her chin in her hand and tried to stop herself from falling asleep. Her eyelids fluttered. She was exhausted from the Potter Estate escapades and the tireless mutterings of corsets and ribbons and lace and ‘antique satin.’

Honestly, who cared?

“Lily, dear,” Mrs. Evans gently pushed a napkin towards her youngest daughter, “is this acceptable? We’ve left most of the fabric untouched so that you can do what you wish with it.”

Lily blinked and tried to absorb the hastily sketched image. A huge, monstrosity of a garment soon made itself visible to her tired mind. Lily detected shoulder pads, itchy sleeves, and a huge, hoop skirt-like contraption at the first glance. She felt nauseous.

“We’re using so much material for the overskirt,” Mrs. Evans pointed it out, “so you’ll be able to take that and make your own dress. It shouldn’t be too bothersome. And you’ll have more than enough fabric.”

“I . . . I don’t ever have to use this exact design though, right?” Lily choked.

Mrs. Evans patted her on the hand, “Of course not. You can have a slim, strapless, ankle-revealing item if you’d like. As long as you use the material.”

Petunia looked completely affronted, “What’s wrong with the design?”

“Nothing,” Lily yawned, “its absolutely perfect for you. Truly lovely.”

Mrs. Evans fussed over Petunia’s measurements for a moment, and Lily stifled the largest yawn of her life. She felt as if her skull would crack open if she opened her jaws any wider.

Her Mum noticed. “Lily, darling, go on up to bed. You look absolutely shattered.”

“Yeah, you look a right wreck,” Petunia said maliciously.

Lily stood up, “Thanks, good night Mum – Petunia. Don’t ruin the dress, yeah?”

Her mother said something, but Lily was too tired to hear. She stumbled up the stairs and crumpled, fully dressed, on her bed. Within a few seconds she was unconscious.

“No, I wanted stockings!” Petunia’s cry carried up the stairs.

James Potter:

“Where is Moony?” Sirius muttered impatiently under his breath as he peered into the window of the Lupin house, his other hand rapidly knocking on the thick wood. James sighed. They had been on the step for over five minutes, awaiting any response from the dim household.

“He said his parents would be gone,” James craned his neck, “said they trusted him enough to lock himself in the cellar. He should be here, and night doesn’t fall for a while so he can’t be in the cellar already.”

“Maybe he died,” Sirius suggested.

James rolled his eyes, “That is the most obvious answer to the question, isn’t it?”

“Well of course,” Sirius grinned. A light flicked on in the house, “Ah, there we go.”

The door was wrenched open, and Remus Lupin was revealed. There were deep purple bags under his tired eyes, and his usually peaky face looked even more pale than usual. James winced a little for his friend. Remus’ pain, consistent and unavoidable, was an invariable worry for all the Marauders.

“Oi, Moony!” Sirius clapped him on the back, “how are you, my dear fellow?”

“Quite alright,” the corners of Remus’ tired mouth twitched, “yourself?”

Sirius beamed, “Just brilliant! Thanks for asking! Mind if we step inside for a bit? Its mighty cold out here.”

“Its July, Padfoot,” Remus rolled his eyes. Still, he opened the door wider and James and Sirius hurried inside the small, quaint house.

James eyed the floral patterned wallpaper and framed photographs in the front entry room. The Lupins lived in a constant denial of their only son’s difficulties. Mrs. Lupin, though one of the sweetest women James had ever met, was determined to create a perfectly normal façade for any visitors that happened upon the house. There were dollies under polka-dotted mugs, lace trimmed curtains, and sweet photographs of Remus at various young ages.

“Well, where are we going?” Remus asked expectantly.

Sirius rubbed his hands together in excitement, “Harrows Wood. It’s this empty, country area North of here without any farms or anything, because the soil is awful. Something about too many clay deposits or something. Anyways, there are no people and plenty of running space. Should be a right jolly time.”

“And we figured out how to apparate into your cellar,” James chimed in, “so when the sun rises we don’t have to sneak you into it. We can just disapparate directly from the field.”

“Brilliant,” Remus smiled, and his usually weary face quickly filled with new life, “shall we get going, then? I already locked the cellar.”

James held out his arm, “Side-along?”

Remus gratefully accepted the offer. His magical powers, though usually keen, faded some within a few hours of the full moon due to his exhaustion and illness.

They disappeared with a loud crack, and when James opened his eyes again they were standing in a small, shadowy clearing filled with overgrown weeds and brambles. The sun was low, and the sky was darkening a bit. James threw himself on a patch of grass and settled in to wait.

Sirius arrived with an even louder, explosion-like noise. He always knew how to make an entrance.

The three of them lounged casually in the grass, awaiting the moon. Remus turned to look at James, “How’s art class been?”

“Good,” James nonchalantly downplayed the summer, “been making beautiful, swoon-worthy works of art. I have buyers all over Europe. My name is being called from rooftops all over the world. I’m being heralded as a genius. You know, the usual.”

“I’m sure the rampant attention is doing wonders for your ego,” Remus chuckled, “how’s Lily? Awkward as ever?”

Sirius let out a bark of laughter, “She’s James’ new best mate! We’ve gone and been replaced, Moony!”

Remus shot James a quizzical look, but he pretended not to have caught it. Sirius had already teased him relentlessly over the past few days about the change in his and Lily’s formerly cold relationship. Ever since Lily had acted right at home in James’ house, Sirius had been unable to let it go. It was Lily this and Lily that, so much so that James was almost relieved to spend time with Lily herself, simply to get away from the incessant chatter about Lily.

The past few days had been spent working on another painting – this one an abstract – and trying to convince Sirius that first, he was not being replaced, and second, Lily had not been possessed by some kind of poltergeist. He was exhausted.

“Lily and I are friends,” James shrugged, “we were forced to work together, and now we get along. She’s not cold anymore, and I guess I’m less annoying. I’m not quite sure why, but we’re not biting each other’s heads off anymore.”

Remus stared at him, “Are you. . .,” he carefully chose his wording, “being honest?”

Sirius pouted at the lost opportunity to skew their best, most worn out, and longest running joke. James nodded, “Yeah. She’s actually really funny. And she helps me a lot with some of my charcoal work. I dunno, I guess I just don’t mind being around her anymore. We’re friends.”

“Friends,” Remus’ gaze practically drilled a hole in James’ forehead, “you do realize that only a month ago you weren’t even on speaking terms because you both were so utterly irritated by the each other?”

“Er, yeah,” James rubbed the back of his neck, “is that weird?”

“Most definitely,” Sirius nodded, “completely abnormal. Truly worrying. I do think we need an expert to really critically analyze the situation and give us their opinion.”

Remus lay on his back and put his hands behind his head, “Nah, its not weird. Course I’ll mock you for it for the next decade or so, but you needn’t worry.”

“That’s a relief,” James chuckled, “but enough about me. How’s your summer been?”

“Decent,” Remus replied, “nothing earth-shattering, but nothing monotonous either.”

“Mine has been bloody awful,” Sirius announced.

“We’ve got some news for you, don’t we Padfoot?” James shot Sirius a knowing, mischievous look, “we think you’ll like it.”

Sirius, being Sirius, caught on immediately, “Oh yes, you’ll adore this tidbit of information. In fact, you may just wet your pants from excitement.”

Remus raised an eyebrow, “I can hardly bear the suspense.”

“Now, now, sarcasm is not appreciated,” Sirius chided him, “this is honestly a big deal. A ruddy huge deal. And, seeing as how we had to torture multiple people and pay hefty prices in order to get this information, I’d think you should be a bit grateful!”

“Rubbish,” Remus smiled.

James noted that, had it been any other time of the month, Remus would have come up with some sort of brilliant, sardonic, witty comeback that would have had Sirius sputtering indignantly and James rolling on the ground laughing. As it was, Remus was simply too anxious and tired. It made James sad, if he was honest with himself.

Sirius crossed his arms and gave Remus his best McGonagall glare, “Gratitude, young man! Gratitude!”

“Oh, just get on with it,” Remus stretched his legs out.

James smiled, “McKinnon fancies you.”

There was an anticipatory pause as Sirius and James watched him for his reaction. Remus had gone very still.


“Don’t be thick!” Sirius cried excitedly, “she fancies you, mate! Honestly! Evans told us herself. And we all know how close the pair of them are!”

Remus rolled over on his side to look at James. He had one of his eyebrow raised. That one perfect, seamless arch of the eyebrow had always fascinated all of the marauders. It was a seemingly effortless move that could portray irritation, shock, skeptism, fear, happiness – whatever Remus desired. He changed one tiny angle, and the force of the emotion transformed instantly.

Right now, the eyebrow was arched in flawless doubt. James stared at it with a kind of sick enthrallment.

“What words of poor Lily’s did you misconstrue?”

James snorted, “Didn’t misconstrue anything, mate. She said, clear as day, that her friend – Marlene McKinnon – fancies you – Remus Lupin – for, and I quote, your “kindness, intelligence, fit bod, air of mystery, and adorable dimples.””

“And the way your hair falls into your dreamy brown eyes,” Sirius snickered.

A faint blush appeared on Remus’ cheeks, “Lily said that?”

“Lily was quoting McKinnon,” James corrected him, “but yes, she told us that. Among other things. She’s got quite a collection of gossip. It’s a pity she doesn’t blackmail people with it like we always do.”

“Lily’s a decent human being, unlike us,” Sirius said dismissively.

James shrugged, “True,”

They both looked at Remus, who had rolled back on his back and was looking up at the darkening sky. A trace of a smile was pulling its way onto his pale face. His eyes twinkled with suppressed happiness.

“Aw, look Prongs, Moony’s gone all gaga over a girl,” Sirius laughed, delighted, “this is a first, right?”

“Like you can talk,” Remus snapped, unable to get rid of his smile, “been with one girl since what, January? A bloody shame.”

Ella McManus had, to be completely honest, completely stolen Sirius’ heart. It killed James to admit that, because he wanted to support his mate’s womanizer reputation, but it was the truth. Remus knew it, as did Peter. Sirius couldn’t even argue. He opened his mouth, gaped a bit, and then gave up and sulked. One for Remus.

The little clearing they were in became even darker, and James felt himself grow colder. Besides, nettles were digging into places he was fairly sure were not supposed to be prodded like that.

“So that’s three down . . .” Remus pondered aloud, “and one to go.”

“What are you blathering about?” Sirius asked, disgruntled.

“Peter’s having a constant three way with Meadows and Hornsquat,” Remus explained, “you’ve been with McManus for a ridiculously long time, and now, hopefully, I’ll work this out with Marlene. That leaves one.”

James shifted uncomfortably, and the nettles burrowed in a little deeper. He winced.

“James,” Sirius smirked.

“James,” Remus confirmed.

The bloke in question sighed heavily.

Sirius looked at him, “When are you going to get a girl, Prongs? For real?”

“We know you can get girls,” Remus added before James could protest, “but we’re talking about one you actually like. Not a cute Hufflepuff that’s fun to play around with for a few weeks, but is completely and totally dispensable.”

Slowly, James shut his mouth.

He had liked a girl. In fact, he had liked Lily for quite a while when he was younger. Then they’d hit fourth or fifth year or so, and suddenly she had become more annoying than anything. Infuriating, really. Ever since he would play around, collect a few admirers, and never let anything actually happen. Why should he? Decent girls were painfully difficult to come by.

“What about that blonde? The one in your art class that you pointed out to me at the ice cream place?” Sirius asked suddenly.

James wrinkled his nose at the mere mention of Rose Bennett. The girl was a manipulative, seething cow.

“No,” he shook his head, “no way.”

He wanted someone real. Someone who was authentic and genuine and who didn’t try to be anything else. Someone who cared about the world and who could commit herself, fully, to James. Someone who was funny and smart and unafraid to be silly or stupid. James wanted a girl that was different.

Remus and Sirius both understood without him saying a word.

“I’m with Ella because she’s not the same as all the rest of them,” Sirius said finally, “and it was a right pain trying to find her. McKinnon seems to be the same way – she’s not a shallow slag. Problem is, there aren’t many of them out there. We just have to find you one.”

Remus nodded, “I’ve always fancied Marlene because she was nice and kind and not completely self-involved, you know? She didn’t spread rumors, and she went out of her way to be caring towards me when we were younger. She wasn’t a cow.”

James felt even more pathetic being lectured by his two mates on their respective women. He didn’t have anyone he could even put into the conversation. His last ‘relationship’ lasted a whole three weeks. It was all so superficial.

“You’ll find somebody, mate,” Sirius tossed a twig at him, “you’re not that bad looking.”

James snorted and tossed the stick back. He wasn’t the problem. The problem was that his future girl, whoever she was, was brilliant at hiding herself.

The sky was dark, and the first stars were coming out. A familiar sliver of silver appeared on the horizon.

“Soon,” Remus sighed sadly.

“We’re here for you,” James said automatically. Sirius nodded in fervent agreement.

Yet even as the moon rose higher, and the three boys mechanically tensed for the coming transformation, James’ thoughts were not on his suffering friend. For the first time he was acutely aware of a loneliness, a deep, painful loneliness, that pervaded his bones and swallowed up his heart. Even with his best mates, who he cared for more than he could possibly express, he felt alone.

That loneliness hurt more than he ever wanted to admit.

I hope, if you've read ten chapters into this story, that you're rather enjoying it by now! Let me know what you're thinking - authors thrive on feedback. :)

Chapter 11: And Then James Nearly Loses His Composure And His Sanity . . .
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James Potter:

When James arrived home Wednesday morning he was more than relieved to get a message, from his mother, that Mrs. Briarwood was not expecting him until around four o’clock that afternoon. He was too exhausted to bother wondering why, and was simply grateful for the opportunity to sleep. Remus had been more energetic than usual the previous night, and James could not help but speculate if it had anything to do with the news about Marlene McKinnon.

Sirius had apparated home instantly after he and James had transported Remus to the cellar. Although they hated to leave their bruised, bloodied, battered friend lying unconscious on the floor, they really had no choice. The Lupins – hell, everyone really – could never find out about their animagus forms and monthly escapades with Remus. It was their most significant, perilous secret. And so, though they despised themselves for it, they had gently placed Remus on the floor and ripped up the cellar a bit so that his scratches and bruises would have a place of origin. Then, silent as possible, they had apparated away so that sweet old Mrs. Lupin wouldn’t find them.

James sighed wearily and collapsed on his bed. The morning sunlight filtered through his swaying curtains and lit his own scratched, bruised face. He felt his body melt into the comforter, his bones throbbing with exhaustion.

He woke up around half three, and hastened to shower and make himself look less maimed before his perplexingly late art class. Mimzy handed him a cup of coffee as he rushed out the front door.

“Thanks, Mimz!” he called over his shoulder.

James arrived at the studio just as everyone else was leaving. He stood aside and watched as a stream of distastefully short kids filed past him. Rose Bennett, ever the charming creature, flounced past, tossing him a coy wink. Megan and Timothy both beamed at him. He smiled, and then ducked through the door the moment he could.

“Potter,” Mrs. Briarwood thundered, “I see you got my message.”

“Er, yeah,” he glanced at Lily, who was visibly suppressing her amusement, “that is why I’m here.”

The cantankerous art teacher scowled, “Cheek does not flatter you.”

James shrugged and sat on the empty stool beside Lily, “Can’t help it.”

She glared at him acerbically, “The reason I brought you here at this unfortunate time, is that your assignment cannot be completed during normal working hours. You’re painting the ceiling in the entry room, and I obviously cannot have you in there when we might have potential students or customers walking in.”

Personally, James didn’t think it would be that odd if people walked into an art academy and saw people painting. Course, Mrs. Briarwood was a loony old bat.

“Now, I want a huge flower on the ceiling,” Mrs. Briarwood stared them down with her beady little eyes, daring them to oppose her taste, “and it must be realistic. Ladders and such are in the storage closet. If you don’t know where the paints are by now, you are utterly imbecilic. Understood?”

“Yes, ma’am,” James saluted her. Lily nodded.

“Good,” she frowned, “off to it then. Be out of here by seven, tomorrow morning. You don’t have class tomorrow.”

Wonderful – at this rate James would become bloody nocturnal.

“Call both your parents,” Mrs. Briarwood instructed, shoving a bulky contraption into James’ hands. He stared at it, befuddled.

Lily shot a sweet smile at Mrs. Briarwood and yanked the unwieldy muggle device out of James’ hands. “I’ll call first. Thanks Mrs. Briarwood.”

“Put that back on the hook once you’re done with it,” she ordered sternly. Then, with one last incinerating scowl at the pair of them, she wheeled around and stormed out the door.

“What a lovely woman,” James said fondly once the tetchy art teacher was out of earshot. He glanced at Lily, who was looking at him with a funny expression on her face. “What?”

“What happened to your face?” she demanded, clutching the heavy muggle contrivance to her chest.

James reached up and felt his face. He winced slightly. Both cheeks were bruised, he had a scratch on his forehead, and a gash running down his left cheek. “Er – wrestling?” he tried.

“No, really,” she deadpanned.

James contemplated his options. Either he could fabricate a story that she would immediately see through but he would defend anyways, or he could smile vaguely and say in an infuriatingly lofty tone that she would be better off not knowing. Both options would probably end up inflaming her infamously combustible temper, which he really wanted to avoid. For self-preservation.

“The truth, Potter,” she snapped.

A third option came to him quite suddenly; he could be honest. Course he wouldn’t actually tell her the truth, that was utterly inconsiderable, but he could avoid lying.

He looked at her square on, “I can’t tell you. It was recklessly dangerous, involved midnight marauder antics, and was entirely illegal. And you’d be better off not knowing the details.”

She narrowed her eyes – a flash of fear shot through his heart – but she relented. “Fine.”

“Thank you,” he grinned, “now, may I ask, what the bloody hell is that?”

Lily glanced down at the cumbersome thing in her arms. “A telephone,” she responded in an obvious tone that James didn’t really appreciate.

“And what do you do with this . . . telephone?”

She rolled her eyes and flipped it over. Like an insect, its belly was different than its back. She quickly pressed a series of numbers on the small pad, and then jabbed her thumb into a large green button. “Here,” she said impatiently, motioning for him to move closer. He inclined his head towards the telephone she was holding between their heads.

He heard a faint ringing and then a snappy, “Hello?”

“Petunia?” Lily asked.

“What do you want now?” the girl in the telephone demanded. She had a screechy, awful sounding voice that rose hairs on the back of James’ neck.

Lily rubbed her forehead, “Where’s Mum?”

“Out,” Petunia said tartly.

“When she gets home, can you tell her I’ll be here all night?”

The girl on the phone, who James presumed was Lily’s terrible sister, sighed as if all the world’s problems had just been dumped upon her. Then she growled menacingly, “Fine!”

“Thanks, Petty,” Lily cooed sarcastically.

There was a clicking sound, and then all noise abruptly ceased. Lily huffed and tossed the phone on the nearest table. James stared at it in fascination.

“That was my cow of a sister,” Lily announced matter-of-factly.

“Yes, I gathered that. A happy one, isn’t she?”

“Positively giddy,” Lily reached over and picked the telephone up again, “I’m assuming you don’t need this?”

“My mum won’t care, so long as I show up within a week or so.”

“Right,” Lily slid off her stool, “you want to start collecting materials? I’ll just go and put this back.”

James shrugged, and made his way to the storage closet. Hardly twenty minutes later he had set up a few different ladders and a scaffolding type thing in the front entry room. The ceiling was obnoxiously high. Mrs. Briarwood could have asked for a wall or a door to be painted, but no. It had to be the sodding ceiling.

Lily came into the room with her arms full of paintbrushes, buckets, and charcoal sticks. She dumped it all on the floor, dusted off her hands, and then appraised the ceiling, arms akimbo. James had to stifle a laugh. She looked almost comically short compared to how tall their current project was.

“This is going to be a right pain,” she muttered under her breath.

“Yes, it is,” James agreed, “do you have a flower in mind?”

Lily shook her head no. He picked up a charcoal stick and a scrap piece of paper. Quickly, he sketched out a hazy idea.

“I like it,” Lily decided. She drew her wand, pointed it at the ceiling, and swished it, “Evanesco!”

James nodded in appreciation, “Brilliant.” The ceiling was undoubtedly dusty, and the paint would not hold to it unless it was clean.

Lily looked around the small room, and James followed her lead. The ceiling was only twenty square feet, at most, and a thick welcome desk dominated half the room. Prized artwork littered the walls. It was white and dull. She toed the light hardwood floor, “We should cover this with a drop cloth or something.”

Together, they spread out a tarp. Lily grabbed a charcoal stick, “I’ll sketch, you stay down there and tell me if my proportions are off.”

“As you wish,” James sniggered.

She shot him a withering glare, and then stepped onto the ladder and climbed swiftly up. Her head was about even with the exact midpoint of the square ceiling. “Is this dead center?” she asked him.

“Looks about right. Go ahead and start. And make it dark so I can see it from here.”

Lily hesitated, gripped the ladder tightly with one hand, and then tipped her head back and began sketching on the ceiling. Her hair grazed her lower back. He stared for a second, and then quickly snapped out of it and began hurriedly setting up floor lights. They would need them once the natural daylight faded.

Every so often he would crane his neck to check on her progress. Privately, he thought she was doing extraordinarily well considering the awkward angle she was working at and her inability to see the whole thing at once. He always needed to see the big picture when he was initially sketching. Lily, it seemed, worked quite contentedly with smaller sections.

“Need me to move the ladder?” he asked helpfully when it seemed as if she had sketched all the area she could reach.

“Probably,” she admitted.

Breezily, he walked forward and pushed the ladder forward a few feet. She gasped and clung to the top of it, “James!”

He finished and stepped back, “Yes?”

“You’re supposed to wait until I get off, you thickwit!”

He snickered, “Why waste the time, love?”

She glared, but James could tell she was not genuinely angry, “You’re a prat.”

“And you should be sketching right now,” he winked at her.

She rolled her eyes, but let it drop. She nudged his shoulder with her foot and then returned her attention to the ceiling. James watched as she stood on her tiptoes to reach the surface, her skirt swishing along her thighs.

Suddenly, James realized he could see her thighs. His mouth went dry and he gripped the ladder with one hand. Slowly, though every cell in his brain was screaming at him, he allowed his eyes to travel up her creamy white skin. He gulped, quite loudly.

Eventually, after what felt like ages, his eyes came to a pair of lacy black knickers.

Oh bloody hell.

Lily had smooth, lightly defined legs that were dotted with faint freckles. They were by no means endless or tanned or statuesque or any word used to describe famous legs, but the sight of them going up and vanishing into those knickers . . .

He felt very cold, and then unbelievably, unbearably hot. He felt dizzy and short of breath.

Shivering, sweating, and panting, James was forced to admit to himself that one pair of knickers was capable of turning him into a leaking, pathetic puddle of goo. He clenched the ladder even harder, for support.

And yet, he could not tear his eyes away. The way the black lace cleanly overlapped the pale skin, the naughty way the tiny slip of fabric hugged her narrow hips . . .

Oh bloody hell.

James felt like he was either going to faint or puke, or quite possibly both. A deep well of something was growing in the pit of his stomach. It was huge and craggy and, quite honestly, scared the shit out of him.

Gasping slightly for air, he wrenched his gaze away and staggered towards the desk. He leaned against it with one hand and bent over, blinking furiously.

Lily looked down at him, “What’s wrong with you?”

James squeezed his eyes shut, “Nothing, m’fine.”

“Why are you all bent over?” she asked curiously.

Lacy black knickers danced before his eyes, “Just . . . felt a bit sick. Really. Keep sketching.”

She did what he asked, though she could feel suspicion wafting off of her. James fought to regain his composure. He should not be so affected by a pair of girl’s pants! It was utterly ludicrous! Completely and totally absurd.

He straightened up and suppressed the aching, ravenous, dark craving in the lower reaches of his abdomen. James had no idea what had just happened to him. And he didn’t want to entertain the notion that it meant anything more than he was extremely sexually deprived.

James was a virgin, no matter how ruthlessly Sirius teased him about it, and hadn’t gone very far at all, with any girl. Although he had had many opportunities- he was considered quite a catch – he never went all the way. It had never felt right. He didn’t want to give something so special and irreplaceable to a girl that he didn’t feel an intense connection with. Sure, Sirius called him a pansy, but James didn’t care. He wanted it to be with a girl he was mad about, and who was mad about him in return.

So this little bout of . . . whatever the hell had just happened to him could be chalked up to an achingly inexperienced and needy libido. It had nothing to do with any kind of emotional need, or the owner of those delightfully naughty knickers. Nothing.

James shook his head, like a dog shaking water out of its ears, and firmly pushed away all thoughts of black lace and his own sexual deficiency. He had a ceiling to paint. He needed to be serious and focused, not an immature bit of awed scum gawking up the skirt of his female partner.

By the time Lily completed the sketch James had fully composed himself. Though he could not look beneath her collarbone, he could sufficiently pass as a functional human being. It was a start, at least. He would worry about his deeper issues later.

“Here,” he yanked the raised platform into position, “what say we both work on a petal? It won’t matter if all of them look a bit different.”

Lily shrugged, “Alright. You got a palette?”

“Er . . .”

He hastened to get that while Lily, reluctantly, fastened the buttons on the yellow smock he had given her. Like a true professional, he set the palette, a multitude of different sized paintbrushes, a dish of water, and a few rags on the top of the ladder, which had dragged right next to the rickety apparatus.

“So, how are we doing this?” Lily asked, eyeing the platform dubiously.

“Well we both get on that,” James pointed at it, “lay on our backs, and paint.”

“Can we fit?”

He began climbing up, “As neither of us is morbidly overweight, I’m assuming we’ll be fine.”

It proved to be on the narrower side, and they were hardly comfortable. Still, it was the most efficient way of doing things because it allowed both of them to be painting simultaneously. James told himself this over and over again as he became hyperaware of the heat of her body pressing against the length of him. Her hair tickled his arm. She smelled sweet, like lilies-of-the-valley. Black lace, tantalizingly naughty, edged every one of his thoughts.

“Purple,” Lily sighed, “is a thoroughly obnoxious color.”

“You haven’t seen black,” James said darkly.

She shot him an odd look.

James used thin, precise strokes for his first petal. With a slightly darker shade of violet he traced he veins of the petal. Lavender blush spread up the charcoal design. Using color – sweet, beloved color – he shaded and highlighted the realistic blossom. It relaxed his harried nerves and tense muscles.

He glanced at Lily’s work. She used bigger, blocker strokes, and her shading was not quite as precise. Still, it was an admirable effort. Hers was set in interesting contrast with his own, more fluid version.

Soon enough they both finished, and James leapt down to move the platform. At the same time he flicked on the floor lights, as the natural daylight was vanishing rapidly.

Lily rolled on her stomach to look down at him, “Did you tell Remus?”

“Tell Remus what?”

“About Marlene.”

He glanced up at her, a twinkle in his eyes, “Yes ma’am. He was rather . . . excited about the news.”

Lily grinned, “Good. I haven’t told Marlene yet.”

James climbed up and lay besides her, acting nonchalant, “I’m glad our friends will be happy. They deserve that. Remus is such a good person, but I’m afraid life isn’t always kind to him.”

“I know,” Lily resumed painting, “I always feel so sorry for the poor bloke. Can’t get a break, can he? I do hope he’s Head Boy. Dumbledore should reward him for all his hard work.”

“Yeah,” James agreed, relieved that Lily didn’t catch his deeper meaning, “I’m sure you’ll be Head Girl.”

“Or Melanie Vincent,” she said with a surprisingly bitter relish to her words.

James carefully outlined his second petal, “The Ravenclaw?”

“Yeah, the stupid, superficial, egotistical cow.”

“Why do you say that?” he chuckled. Lily’s rage was always highly entertaining, as long as it wasn’t directed at him.

“No reason,” she painted with a vengeful scowl.

“Oh, really convincing,” he said sarcastically, “come on, tell us why.”

Lily threw him an aggravated look, “It’s entirely unimportant.”

“So?” he turned and stared directly at her, making her somewhat uncomfortable, “tell me.”

She was quiet. The only sound was her paintbrush, scraping gently against the ceiling. He waited, patiently. Simply painting was so therapeutic for him that he found it impossible to be anxious.

That is, until Lily’s fingertips accidentally brushed against his exposed hipbone as she raised her hand to swipe a piece of hair out of her eyes.

James immediately tensed and pinched his eyes closed. He almost didn’t hear when she began speaking.

“Fine, but you can’t laugh, yeah?”

“Promise,” he gasped.

She was oblivious to his preoccupied state, “Okay, well, do you remember Greg Samson?”

“Big chaser, Ravenclaw, year above us,” James recounted, somewhat regaining his mental faculties.

“Yeah, well, I may have gone out with him a bit,” Lily continued painting, “actually, for most of last year.”

James nodded and shakily raised his paintbrush, chills running from his fingertips to his hypersensitive hipbone, “I heard something about that. What happened?”

“Melanie Vincent happened,” she grumbled.

He chuckled nervously, “Well yeah, but what did she do, exactly?”

“I caught them in a broom closet together on my patrols,” Lily said matter-of-factly, “apparently, they’d been shagging during their patrols for months. He didn’t even apologize. The prick.”

James paused his painting. He felt an overwhelming urge to punch Greg Samson’s ugly, arrogant, sweaty face.

“I mean, he wasn’t perfect or anything,” she skillfully ignored his silence, “but I figured he was decent enough to be honest with me, you know? Thought he had that much in him. Turns out I was a fool, and Melanie Vincent is a stupid slag.”

“Samson is a bloody moron,” James stifled his anger, “why would he – why would anyone cheat on you? You’re fascinating and intelligent, unlike those boring flakes like Vincent and Rose Bennett.”

Lily shrugged, “Thanks. And I dunno, he was just looking for something different, I suppose. Different assets.”

James snorted, “What an arsehole. Did you hex them?”

“Both of them,” she grinned somewhat wickedly up at the ceiling as she edged a petal in a very dark, shadowy shade of purple, “they were in that broom closet, with a variety of skin ailments and incapacitating mental disorders, for a good couple days before anyone found them.”

“Good,” he nodded in relieved satisfaction, “and I truly hope you’re Head Girl and not Vincent. Least you don’t go off and shag guys like Samson, or my best mate.”

She wrinkled her nose, “Did Sirius really?”

Sirius and Lily had been on first name terms within an hour of meeting. Sirius was just naturally like that, affectionate and boundlessly inclusive. He roped Lily in like he had done everyone else, with a childlike charm and repulsively endearing antics.

James nodded regretfully for his immature mate, “Yes. Once.”

“Ugh,” she swished her paintbrush in the water, “Did you?”

“No,” he said firmly, “not her.” Or anyone.

Lily considered this. James worked on the tip of the petal, though he could feel his stomach tangling itself into knots, “Did you shag Samson?”

The question hung in the air for a moment, awkward and oppressively heavy, until Lily lifted her paintbrush into the air again, “Unfortunately.”

He felt a little sick, and doubly sorry for her, “He’s a bastard.”

“Yes,” Lily said, “he is.”

They stopped talking, each of them consumed with their own thoughts. Lily’s breathing beside him and the easy movements of his paintbrush helped soothe James’ fury. He focused intensely on the petal, trying not to envisage Lily and Samson engaged in some kind of passionate embrace.

The hours slipped deceptively by, and before he knew it the clock in the studio chimed midnight and most of the flower was completed. Although neither of them verbalized the happening, James went over Lily’s work and added minor details to make it appear more realistic. Tiny veins, hardly visible creases, little specks of pollen; James labored extensively on each bit. Lily watched with critical, observant eyes.

They moved on to the leaves that surrounded the vibrant blossom. Again, James put himself through agony by laying next to Lily. The tiniest movement of her hand or hip or foot would result in him wincing, the heat of her skin leaving a burning imprint on his body. Perhaps it was his profound sense of loneliness the previous night, or his lack of any real prior female companionship. Either way, her very presence was causing him excruciating pain.

“How do you make it look so transparent?” Lily wondered as he finished up his first leaf.

“Mix some white in,” he advised, “and, with a barely darker shade, trace leaves underneath it. Like this, yeah?”

She watched, and then copied his process almost flawlessly. He had to admire her capacity to learn swiftly. Though not naturally talented with paints, she was diligent and worked vigorously to make up the difference.

“You remember our defense teacher in third year?” Lily asked at one point.

“Yeah, Professor Hartmann,” James recalled fondly. The old teacher had a scruffy beard and a weird way of convincing his students that he was secretly twelve years old at heart.

“You remind me of him a bit,” she smiled.

He tried, very quickly, to determine if this was a good thing or an ego-crushing, painfully embarrassing thing.

“Your teaching style,” Lily clarified.

“Ah,” James pretended to get it, “how so?”

She gently painted in the tiny veins in the leaves, “You say things in a way that makes sense, and you don’t hover. You understand what needs to be said, and what doesn’t.”

He smiled, glad that the comparison was not a scathing, agonizing criticism of him as a person. “Thanks. You’re not so bloody terrible yourself.”

“How so?” Lily mimicked.

“Because you’re patient, and you actually care. Most teachers, art teachers anyway, show you and expect you to know it right away. You wait to make sure. It’s nice.”

He glanced at her and saw her fighting to suppress her smile. It made him grin. He always loved forcing joy to bubble up out of people. Lily’s was like the icing on the cake.

She cleared her throat, “Good thing we’re both such brilliant teachers.”

“Yeah, ‘cause Mrs. Briarwood is doing such a spanking job,” James happily shaded his leaf, “not quite on par with the likes of McGonagall, is she?”

“It’s difficult to be as good as McGonagall, I reckon,” she watched him work for a moment, “what do you want to be when you graduate Hogwarts, James?”

The question caught him. Though he knew what he wanted to be – he had always known what his life plans were – he wasn’t sure what Lily’s reaction would be. She never failed to surprise him. It was her unpredictable nature that made her so intriguing, and utterly terrifying.

“An Auror,” he eventually answered, “like my Dad.”

“That’s brilliant,” she resumed painting thoughtfully, “now I can’t imagine you as anything else. It’ll be terribly dangerous, but you seem fairly good at getting out of scrapes. You’ll be the survivor type.”

“That’s the hope,” James reached over to her leaf and carefully fixed one of her askew lines, “what do you want to be?”

She smiled wryly, “I was about to get that. And same as you, an Auror. Or something that’ll make an impact, I suppose. Save the world and all that ruddy nonsense, you know?”

“Not sure the world needs saving right now, love.”

“You hear about that Voldemort fellow?” Lily demanded, turning to face him.

He shrugged and kept his gaze on the ceiling, avoiding her piercing green eyes and undoubtedly tempting scowl, “A bit. I’m hoping he backs down. If not, there’s nothing he can’t do. We’ve got Dumbledore.”

“Yes, well,” Lily sounded troubled and more than a little peeved, “I’m not going to waste my life doing something meaningless and completely irrelevant. That’s not happening. I’m going to make a difference, somehow.”

James could not deny that he was impressed by her resolve, “Maybe I’ll help you. We’ll be in the same department after all.”

“If you pass your test,” she smirked like the little minx she was. Then she sighed, “Though I suppose you could help me, somehow.”

They both finished their leaves, Lily a few moments behind James. He jumped down and moved the platform again. When he was finished with the base coat of paint on his leaf he carefully voiced aloud his thoughts.

“I really . . . appreciate how deep you are,” he cleared his throat, “like, you care about the world, see? And you’re brilliant. And now that I know you, I can say that you’re nice. Caring. I just want you to know that I’m really glad you’re not afraid to be more than a stupid, shallow slag.”

His words hung in the air, delicately suspended by the strings of their newfound friendship. He imagined them as pieces of abstract art, as Lily tried her best to analyze and understand them.

After a minute she nudged him gently with her shoulder, “I could say the same thing back to you. Really. It – the gladness and awe – goes both ways.”

James noticed that the friendly nudge, initiated by Lily, didn’t tangle his nerves or tense his muscles. It simply felt nice. He also felt a sense of relief that not only did Lily understand what he was trying to say, but felt the same about him. The friendship was mutual.

“But, instead of not being a stupid, shallow slag, you’re not an arrogant, egotistical git,” Lily amended teasingly.

“Good to know,” he chuckled, and found himself unable to stop grinning.

They painted in quiet, easy, content, thoughtful silence. James was happy. Purely, simply happy, even as the wee hours of the morning ticked by.

“It’s late,” Lily yawned as they painted the last of the leaves.

He nodded, “We won’t be done until class starts again. We still have to do the stem.”

“How do you want to do that?” she asked quizzically, using his transparent technique.

James inspected the ceiling, and then the four walls. “We’ll do it down that wall, there behind the desk,” he decided, “it’ll come out of that little gap between our two petals.”

“Brilliant,” she stifled another yawn.

James too was growing tired, but he knew better than to allow himself to succumb to it. They had plenty of work to do, and rubbing his eyes and yawning every minute wouldn’t get it done any faster. Besides, with Lily’s drooping eyes and frequent sighs, it looked like he might have to finish up by himself.

“Oh, I’m falling asleep,” she propped herself up on her elbows, “it’s the lying down that’s doing it. I’m nearly finished, can you do the last one by yourself? I’m going to walk around and wake myself up.”

“Sure,” he put the final touch on his leaf, “then you can sketch the stem.”

She maneuvered herself off the platform and quickly climbed down, but not before a bit of her hair accidentally trailed across James’ forearm. He stopped breathing.

Something was certainly askew inside his brain. His neurons were twisted, or something.

He painstakingly completed the flower by himself, and then carefully set the ladder up for Lily to sketch. Then he deconstructed the shaky platform, cheerfully swearing at it in his thoughts for causing such unnecessary agony. The thing was like a bloody medieval torture device. James had already proved to be an extremely fragile mental state. Close female contact only succeeded in making it exponentially worse.

A vaguely more awake Lily climbed the ladder, charcoal in hand. He began putting away materials while she worked. The clock on the wall read half past four, and he tried not to think about how utterly dysfunctional his sleep pattern would be.

When he turned around Lily was rapidly sketching down the wall. He quickly grabbed his palette and paintbrushes. He knew he would paint the stem alone. Consistency was vital and could not be achieved with two radically different painters.

“I’m going to put away the charcoal,” Lily announced, clambering out from behind the huge desk.

“And I’ll get started on this,” he gestured at the sketched stem.

They nodded at each other, and then Lily turned on her heel and disappeared into the dark studio. James, though exhaustion was settling into his bones, raised his paintbrush and began slicking shades of green into the lines of Lily’s excellently drawn sketch. She was eerily good with proportional plant life, it seemed.

She returned and, as if the trek to the materials shelf had been fraught with peril and arduous obstacles, collapsed on to the drop cloth. Laying on her back she watched him work.

“You’re very thorough, you know,” she observed conversationally as James slaved over an improperly shaded leaf.

“It’s a terrible affliction,” he replied, his nose hardly an inch from the wall.

Lily’s only response was an epic yawn, and James privately predicted that she would be asleep before he was halfway done. It didn’t matter though, because she had done more than her share and honestly deserved a bit of a rest.

Sure enough, she didn’t utter another word, and James began painting to the tune of her slow, deep breathing. At his midway point he glanced down, and smiled. Lily lay nestled in the drop cloth, her hair flung about and her arms wrapped around her paint-splattered midsection. Her bare feet were tangled together. She looked so tired, so peaceful, that James deliberately painted slower so as to delay waking her.

He completed the stem around six, and paused to watch as the sky grew lighter and lighter as the sun rose over suburbia. Tiredness seeped into his bloodstream, but he forced himself to scale the ladder again anyways and do the final touches on the massive painting. He blended harsh edges, increased fluidity, got rid of all stray paint speckles, and added a tiny caterpillar on one of the leaves. Finally, with vivid shade of lavender, he spent ten minutes painting ‘Lily and James’ in curling, elegant script beneath a petal.

Reluctant to wake Lily, he put away all the paints and ladders by himself. Natural daylight filtered softly into the studio as he stood at the large sink and washed the paintbrushes. It was quarter to seven when, with nothing left to do except fold the drop cloth, he forced himself to wake the sleeping redhead.

“Er, Lily?” he tried. His voice sounded loud in the silent, cavernous art academy.

“Lily,” he repeated reluctantly. She failed to respond, again.

Hesitantly, he knelt beside her and shook her shoulder, “Lily, wake up - it’s finished.”

She stirred, and blearily opened her eyes, “Huh?”

“Look,” he grinned and pointed up at the ceiling.

He lay beside her, and they both admired their work. It truly was masterful. Lily sighed, half contentedly and half tiredly, “It’s beautiful.”

The enormous flower spanned the entire ceiling, illuminated by the pale morning light. The rich, purple color was vivid and vibrant, and helped cast a lavender hue over the entire room. The petals fanned out as if they were embracing the occupants of the foyer. Set against a background of emerald leaves and the thick, trailing stem, it set the tone for the entire space.

James was very proud. He and Lily made an exquisite team. And, most importantly, Mrs. Briarwood would be proud. It looked realistic.

“C’mon, up you get,” he offered her his hand. He pulled her up.

Once the drop cloth was neatly put away and Lily had located her shoes, they paused to admire their work one more time.

“Well,” James yawned hugely and put his hands in his pockets, “we did good.”

“Ruddy brilliant,” Lily agreed. She rubbed her eyes in exhaustion, squinting at the rays of morning light that played upon her face and hair.

James smiled tiredly at her, “Apparate?”

“Most definitely.”

There was a moment where they simply looked at each other, both of them about to crumble from exhaustion, and James flashed back to the agony he had endured that night, caused by an unknowing and obliviously innocent Lily. He felt his knees weaken at the thought of facing his obviously deep and troublesome mental issues. A fair bit of time would have to be spent worrying about those.

“Well, see you,” Lily said finally. With one last, weary smile in his direction, she disappeared with a tiny pop.

He looked around the room one last time, heaved a deep, satisfied sigh, and nearly asphyxiated on the paint fumes. Choking and spluttering, he quickly apparated to his bedroom before any more lasting damage on his person could be done in that godforsaken place.

I believe this is my most favorite chapter of this story. Not only because it is 5,000 + words, but because I'm genuinely delighted with the way it turned out. I'm so in love with James, I can hardly stand it. Haha

So anyways, if you adored it as much as me, or if you're entirely befuddled as to why I'm so attached to it, leave me a review! I've been getting a lot more feedback recently, and it does wonders for an author's confidence.

Thank you all so much for keeping with this so far! Your reviews are truly lovely. :)

Chapter 12: And Then Lily Finally Gets To Use Her Sweet, Beloved Charcoal . . .
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Lily Evans:

Lily woke to a haze of golden sunlight, coming the wrong way through her window, and the shrill shrieking of some sort of tortured banshee. She opened her eyes lazily, and stretched. Petunia’s screams happened to bother her much less than usual on this fine, sunny afternoon.

She examined her paint-stained fingernails and fondly remembered the oversized flower she and James had so painstakingly slaved over the night before, and early that same morning. It had been a strange, peculiar night. Her memories were blurred, but pleasant. They had chatted and painted and simply lay, quiet, enjoying each other’s company. Lily couldn’t remember the last time she’d willingly done that with a person.

Yawning, she pushed herself up out of bed and made her way to the door. She nipped across the hall and slipped into the bathroom, where the shower would undoubtedly drown out the noise of Petunia’s distress. Sure enough, as Lily stepped into the hot water, Petunia’s voice faded away and Lily was left, delightfully, with her own thoughts.

Water swirled purple down the rain, and it took Lily a good quarter of an hour to remove the lot of it from her hair and skin. She had certainly chosen a messy hobby. But the water did more than simply clean her; it relaxed the tense muscles in her back and cleared her mind.

She toweled off, dressed, and braided her wet hair into one long plait. Then she hurried downstairs to a much quieter kitchen.

“Afternoon, Lily,” her mother smiled at her from the kitchen table, “what were you doing all night at the studio?”

“Painting the entryway,” Lily replied, passing her breezily to snatch a biscuit off the plate, “couldn’t be done during the day, too many people. What was Petunia screeching about earlier?”

Mrs. Evans sighed, “Oh the usual. Seems something’s gone wrong with the location, so her and Vernon are off to meet with the planners.”

“Oh, wonderful.”

“Yes, well, I have better news,” her mother pushed an envelope towards Lily, “the Potters are having a dinner party, and we’ve been invited.”

Lily opened the letter curiously. The invite was written in swirling, elegant crimson script, and was signed by Mrs. Potter.

“Next Saturday evening,” Mrs. Evans supplied helpfully, “four o’clock. Seems it’s a bit of a fancy occasion. Mr. Potter did something well with work, so it’s partly a celebration and partly a social gathering.”

“And they invited muggles?” Lily asked, nonplussed.

Mrs. Evans smiled, “Well, seeing how you and James are such good friends and all now, and we are aware of magic, they saw no problem with inviting us. Mrs. Potter called to personally tell us that they would be honored if we would attend.”

“Well that’s . . . that’s great,” Lily smiled, thinking quite fondly of the Potters. Not every magical family would invite muggles over, especially not as honored guests. James had clearly been raised in the right sort of environment.

“I’m going to take you and Petunia shopping later today to get something proper to wear,” Mrs. Evans stood, and pushed in her chair, “besides, you’ll want something nice to change into for the wedding reception. I don’t want you in that horrid dress for all the pictures.”

Lily smiled brightly as her Mum left the room, and then hurriedly stuffed the biscuit in her mouth.

That evening, after her Mum had taken them to three different department stores, Lily finally found a dress that she thought would be acceptable for both the Potters’ party and Petunia’s reception. It was nothing terribly special, but it made her look decent. The folds of navy blue fabric cinched at the waist and left her shoulders bare. At the very least, Lily liked it a lot better than the repugnant yellow creation Petunia had purchased.

She fell asleep thinking affectionately of purple flowers, and the Potters’ very impressive kindness.

The next morning, fully rested and with her art bag slung over her shoulder, Lily headed to the Academy. The entire beautiful, sunny walk she had her fingers crossed that they would finally be working with charcoal. Although she was getting much better with paints, and had even enjoyed working on that flower with Potter, her fingers itched for the powdery, delightful feel of charcoal. She needed a confidence boost.

She walked right in, five minutes before it was supposed to start, and settled in her usual seat. Timothy and Megan bounded up to her.

“Lily!” Timothy beamed, “did you and James paint the entryway?”

“Er, yeah,” she smiled, pleased, “you like it?”

“It’s brilliant!” Megan bounced on the soles of her feet, “seriously, we walked in and were so impressed! Everyone’s talking about it. And you painted, Lily?”

A new voice, from behind Lily, startled her, “Too right she did. Excellently, if I say so myself.”

Lily rolled her eyes at James, who slid into his seat beside her and winked. “I practically didn’t do anything. I sat and watched as she did the whole sodding thing.”

“Rubbish,” Lily shook her head, “he did at least half of it.”

Timothy grinned, “I want an assignment like that! Painting the ceiling? That’s brilliant!”

Megan nodded fervently in agreement.

At that moment, Mrs. Briarwood stalked in and demanded silence. Megan and Timothy slipped quickly into their seats.

“Alright, it’s time to work with colored pencils. Now, they’re very tricky, and not the least bit forgiving. Not only do they blend terribly, but erasing is practically impossible. Which means no mistakes. If you botch it up too horribly, you’ll have to start over.”

Mrs. Briarwood pointed impatiently at the shelves of supplies, “Paper and pencils are there. You must draw an animal – any animal – and I advise you get a picture for reference. Due tomorrow by the end of class.”

Everyone waited, watching her with wide eyes.

“Well? Get going!” Mrs. Briarwood snapped.

The stools screeched back, chatters filled the room, and Megan and Timothy shot quick smiles at Lily and James. Then they bounded off for supplies.

“You two!” Mrs. Briarwood growled her usual greeting, “Charcoal work.”

Lily grinned. James groaned.

“Don’t give me that, Potter,” she said sharply to James, “you need plenty for your portfolio. Now, this is a two-week assignment. You each need to do five, perfectly proportional, excellently executed portraits, using each other for models. I advise you try different facial expressions and poses. Three should be head only, two should be full body. Evans, I expect you to give him plenty of advice and assistance.”

Lily nodded, excitement growing in her veins, “Should all of these be portfolio size?”

“Yes,” Mrs. Briarwood said, “and I don’t want you drawing in here either! You better have a ruddy decent landscape. Trees or something. Each portrait should take one day, so ten days to really finish it. Then spend the last few tweaking and perfecting. It’s a set, see? Every true artist’s portfolio should have one.”

Lily glanced over to see James thumping his forehead hopelessly against the table. Mrs. Briarwood raised one eyebrow, “Well? Get going. You can store your things in here, but I want you out, with a decent background, every day.”

She turned and stormed off, her tweed skirts whirling impressively around her ankles, leaving Lily and James alone with her instructions. Lily had never felt so excited for an art assignment. Finally, she’d be allowed to work with her preferred medium, with portraiture no less! And James wasn’t half bad looking – he’d be enjoyable to draw for two weeks.

“This is going to be hell,” James said darkly, “just you wait. Mine will be so terrible that she’ll expel me. Or worse, make me only use charcoal for the rest of the summer.”

Lily grimaced, “You’re not that terrible. C’mon, let’s get our things and go. I think Megan and Timothy will be wanting our table.”

James, his shoulders slumped and his fists practically dragging on the floor, reluctantly followed her to collect charcoal, pencils, lots of paper, clipboards, and a plethora of erasers. Lily also grabbed a few extra supplies, like rulers and such, to make James’ life easier. Then, she marched him towards the door.

“Er, wait for me outside, would you? I’m going to use the loo really quickly.” He unceremoniously dumped his stuff on top of hers, and jogged towards the bathroom.

Lily groaned, but made her way to the door. At least outside she could avoid the tiny kids running around holding sharp pencils.

But of course, her life wasn’t that easy. She couldn’t even get to the door without some sort of trauma occurring. This time, it was in the form of one Rose Bennett.

“Hey Evans,” she called, her tone clearly bitter, “where do you think your going?”

Lily rolled her eyes. “Out,” she said tartly, without pausing.

Bennett sidestepped in front of her, her clear blue eyes glimmering with barely-concealed hatred. “You’re not allowed to. Everyone’s supposed to stay inside.”

“Have you forgotten? James and I have special privileges. And Briarwood told us to go outside,” Lily narrowed her eyes, “so, we’re going.”

“Well, I couldn’t care less about that,” Bennett tossed her hair, “but I do mind that poor James looks less than happy to be going. Maybe you should leave him here with people who are more . . . suited to his tastes.”

Lily looked, bewildered, back at where the bathrooms were. James was nowhere to be seen. But she didn’t remember him being too upset at having to leave.

“What are you saying?” she demanded.

Bennett pursed her lips, triumph dancing across her face, “Well Evans, let’s face it, James is quite the catch. And you . . . well, you don’t see any of the boys in here leaping to be with you, do you?”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“See, I think James would be much happier with people who could properly match up with him,” she glanced at her nails, and then shot Lily a coy little smirk, “people like me, perhaps?”

Lily stared at her in disbelief.

“Go on, Evans,” Bennett said maliciously, “take him with you for now. But just know that he’d be much happier here with me.”

With a toss of her blonde curls, she sauntered back to her table.

Lily’s face blazed red. She marched out the door furiously, not caring that it slammed shut behind her. The sun pounded down upon the sweltering pavement, exacerbating Lily’s tremendous irritation. She stormed nearly a block before she heard a voice behind her.

“Oi! Lily! Wait up!”

She kept marching. She wanted as much distance between her and Rose Bennett as was physically possible. She’d end up walking into the bloody ocean if that’s what it took.

“Lily!” James finally caught up to her, “what’s up? Why didn’t you wait for me?” He eyed her for a minute, “why are you so mad?”

“Nothing,” Lily snapped, refusing to stop moving.

He rolled his eyes, “Real convincing. C’mon, what’s got your knickers in a twist?”

Nothing,” she repeated.

He stopped walking, and grabbed her arm. “You’re about as good at hiding your emotions as Sirius. Now, what the hell happened in the last four minutes to make your face redder than my Quidditch robes?”

She sighed. Then wrinkled her nose. “It’s stupid. I shouldn’t let her get to me.”

“Who, Bennett?”

“Yes, Bennett,” Lily snarled, “the cow.”

“Well, what did she say?”

Lily glanced up at him, his hazel eyes looking concerned behind the flash of his glasses. She let her shoulders slump, and handed him his materials, “Its actually not important. Never mind, I’m not angry anymore. Let’s just go draw. It’ll calm me down.”

“Okay . . .” James looked at her as if she was quite mad, “let’s go by the creek then. No one will be over there. It’ll be quieter than anywhere else.”

Lily agreed, and followed him as he led the way down a number of suburban streets. The sun beat uncomfortably on her freckled shoulders, and she remained bothered by Bennett. They were silent as they walked.

When they reached the path that diverged from the main streets to link up to the creek, Lily breathed a sigh of relief. A tiny bit of tension left her shoulders. The tall trees shaded the cheerfully trickling water, and the thick grass that surrounded it. James led her on the path for a while, and then slipped through a clump of trees to a little outcropping over the creek. The grass was deliciously soft, and shaded patchily by the imposing, noble trees.

Lily sighed, smiling softly at the little scene that would become her home for the next couple weeks. It would be a beautiful, quite place to draw. The sound of the creek and the birds chirping masked any suburban noise, and it smelled like honeysuckle.

She dropped her materials and sank into the grass, pushing Rose Bennett to the furthest corner of her mind. This had the potential to be absolutely lovely.

James Potter:

James felt vastly uncomfortable with this art assignment for a number of colorful and spiteful reasons. He couldn’t help but use every expletive in his vocabulary as he imagined the coming weeks, filled with charcoal, no color at all, and Lily’s disappointed face.

After all, he was supposed to be drawing five portraits of Lily. And the last thing he wanted was to offend her by drawing her face with some kind of horrible disfigurement. Or worse yet, draw a person who resembled someone else entirely. She’d either curse him, or give him grief about it for the rest of the summer.

Perhaps he should just give up now. Offer to do self-portraits instead. He’d botched his own face so many times that it hardly bothered him any longer.

“Right,” Lily arranged their materials, “you’re drawing first.”

“What?” he spluttered.

“You heard me,” her tone was dark, “and don’t argue. I’ve had a ruddy awful morning, and I’m in no mood to draw your face. It’ll look terrible. So pick up a pencil and tell me how you’d like me to pose.”

She was so bossy that James couldn’t help but recall Hogwarts. This was prefect, miss-perfect, don’t-put-one-toe-out-of-line Lily. Third-in-her-class, top-in-hexes-potions-charms-and-revenge Lily. Not the Lily James was too terribly fond of.

“Well?” she put her hands on her hips and glared at him.

“Alright,” he gave in, defeated, “just – let’s just do your face for now, yeah?”

She lay flat on her stomach, and propped her chin on her elbows. He sat, facing her, and pulled a fresh piece of paper from the stack beside them. Careful not to tear or smudge it, he fixed it on the clipboard and pulled the pencils and erasers towards him.

“Um,” he sat there, stumped.


James looked at Lily, lying on the ground, looking enormously disgruntled, and quite nearly laughed. As uncomfortable as he was, Lily’s frustration was genuinely funny. Her feet were kicking the air, and her ratty jeans and paint-smeared sleeveless shirt showed her utter lack of interest in looking presentable. Not even the threat of a portrait could make her brush her hair.

He chuckled, “Alright. Let me just sit and think for a moment.”

She turned her head and stared out at the creek. “Take your time.”

He put down the clipboard and leaned back on his hands, staring at the subject of his portrait. Faced with the inevitability of the assignment, especially with Lily’s stubbornness, he figured he might as well put his heart into it.

Besides, if he toiled over this assignment enough, and focused his entire brain on it, there was a chance he’d forget about his deep mental issues and wipe the black knickers incident from his memory forever.

Course, that was setting his hopes pretty damn high. Black lace had been the predominant feature of his dreams, and daydreams, for over twenty-four hours. He was going absolutely mad. Knickers were popping out at him everywhere, clouding his vision, distracting him from important matters. It would be miraculous if he lasted a week in this clearly damaging and unhealthy condition.

“Alright,” he tried desperately to push away all thoughts of knickers, “I have an idea. You might not like it.”

“Not like I have a choice,” Lily turned to glance upwards at him with her bright green eyes, “it’s your drawing.”

“True,” he chuckled, and pushed back a number of lecherous, marauder thoughts, all involving substantial quantities of black lace, “mind if I position you?”

She shrugged.

“Okay,” he eyed the grass and creek critically, “so if you could just lay on your side, over here a bit . . .”

James, though he struggled with words, finally managed to get Lily to lie on her side, cross-wise on the patch of grass. She rested her head on one arm, which stretched out towards the creek. Her other arm rested on her waist, her fingertips just trailing the grass. She looked at him with a decidedly peeved expression.

“My arm is going to fall asleep.”

“Too bad,” he stepped back to critique his work, “alright, now, do you think you could look a bit . . . er, happier?”

She stared at him.

“You don’t have to smile, but maybe get rid of the scowl?” he flashed a grin at her, “c’mon, look peaceful. Like you’re about to sleep or something. Or you’re just enjoying nature.”

Lily sighed, but closed her eyes for a moment and breathed deeply. When she opened her eyes, her eyebrows were no longer pinched together and her mouth was less rigid. She seemed lazy, and tranquil.

He hesitated. It was nearly perfect, but there were a few things off.

Carefully, he leaned forward and brushed her long red hair over her outstretched arm and around her face. The strands were soft, and she watched him skeptically as he made it swirl around her, on the grass and over her bare shoulders.

He smiled, “Perfect.”

He sat cross-legged in the grass a couple feet from her. She looked up at him through her eyelashes, and seemed puzzled. “Is this a portrait, or full body?”

“Portrait,” he replied, “I think I’ll do from your left shoulder to your right elbow.”

She glanced up at her outstretched fingertips. “Pity. It’d be a good full-body.”

“I have other plans for those ones,” he shot her a wicked smirk, “now be a good girl and lay still.”

Though she clearly did not appreciate the orders, Lily did as he said, and remained very still. The sunlight passed through the green leaves in patches, highlighting one strand of her vivid hair, and a spot on her jeans.

James looked down at the white expanse of paper glaring back at him, in the pockmarked sunshine. Suddenly, he felt very nervous.

He lifted a pencil, glanced up at Lily one more time, and then swiftly sketched the curve of her head, the line of her arm, and the nearly circular curve of her shoulder. His hand moved in large, sweeping motions, trying to get the fluidity, the curves of her body. Soon enough, a very rough, but proportionally accurate version of Lily lay gracefully across the paper.

It wasn’t sketching that was difficult for James. After all, he had to sketch before every painting. Proportions were simple, and transferring his ideas from brain to paper was never an issue.

It was shading, making it realistic, that caused James to rip out tufts of his hair and long for St. Mungo’s ward for the mentally unstable.

Lily seemed to relax the longer she lay there. Soon, she was gazing peacefully at the grass naturally, without effort. It seemed so normal for her, with her earthy, natural appearance, to be daydreaming quietly in the overgrown grass. A prefects badge would have looked enormously out of place on her rumpled, messy, serene person.

He sketched in her basic facial features, using the proportion skills he’d been taught over years at the Academy. Though it didn’t look like Lily yet – that would come with shading – the drawing already had the unmistakable almond shape of her eyes and the sharp line of her jaw.

“So,” he had no tolerance for drawing in silence, “has dear Petunia done anything particularly funny lately?”

Lily smiled, “Yesterday something happened with the reception location. Screamed bloody murder about it. But I suppose it’s fixed now.”

“Shame,” James said as he struggled with her eyebrows, “won’t there be a point where nothing else can possibly go wrong?”

“I thought we passed that ages ago,” Lily snorted.

“You know,” James grinned, somewhat puckishly, “Sirius, Peter, and Remus are coming to stay at my house tomorrow, until next weekend. We could pull a few pranks for you, if you want. Give Petunia a little grief.”

Lily laughed, “As much as I’d like that, I’m not sure my parents, or the house, could handle any more tantrums.”

“Aw,” he traced the lines of her untamable, long red hair, “well could we at least prank the neighbors? Someone? We go crazy without a challenge.”

“How ‘bout you pull something on Briarwood?” Lily suggested, “I mean, you’ve done something to every teacher at Hogwarts. Multiple times. With all the marauders I’m sure you’d have no trouble pulling some mischief at the Academy.”

“Brilliant!” He beamed, “oh the things we could do to that dear old bat. You’re a bloody genius.”

“Yes I know,” she shot him an amused look from underneath her lashes.

He felt himself chuckle, and then focused for a moment to get the exact folds of her shirt. His eyes strayed a bit too far down, and he was exceedingly grateful he had caused some of Lily’s hair to conceal that part of her anatomy. He felt a whisper of knickers float across his brain, and clenched his pencil harder.

“Why are all your mates coming to stay with you?” she asked, after a moment of quiet.

“No reason,” James cleared his throat, trying to sound casual, “I mean, they’re all invited to my parent’s party next Saturday, so they figured they might as well come spend some time with me beforehand. You’re coming to that, right?”

“Yeah, my Mum took me dress shopping yesterday,” Lily seemed to become even more peaceful, “it was really nice of your Mum to call mine and tell her that, even though they’re muggles, they’re still welcome.”

James rolled his eyes, “Yeah, my Mum’s always like that. She’s more into this wizard equality thing than Dumbledore.”

“It’s really nice. You’re the same way, obviously.”

James nodded, “Yeah, well, that Slytherin rubbish never made any sense to me anyway. ‘Specially with you beating me at Charms and Potions since our first day.”

Lily laughed, “Nonsense! I’ve never bested you at Transfiguration or Defense, not to mention Quidditch!”

“So, we’re equal,” he pointed out, watching her intently. He memorized the curve of her ear lobe, and then looked down and quickly sketched it in.

“That invite made my Mum so happy,” Lily said contemplatively, “I think she really wishes she was a part of our world. My Dad doesn’t care so much, I mean he’s excited of course, but my Mum is really thrilled. Petunia’s even a bit curious.”

James could not imagine Lily’s situation. His whole family was wizards. Hell, muggles were as foreign to him as wizards were to Lily’s mum. He had no idea how to drive a car, or operate a telephone, or any of those other confusing muggle contraptions. Truth be told, he should have taken muggle studies. But it was much too late now. He’d be a bumbling moron in the muggle world forever, probably.

“Well they’re welcome anytime,” he stretched, “my house is too big anyways. We should have events more often.”

“What did your Dad do at work anyway, that you’re celebrating him for?” she asked.

James smiled, a flicker of pride burning deep in his stomach. “He caught a bunch of dark wizards a few months ago, and the trials are finally finished. All have been convicted of consorting with that Lord Voldemort. They’re going to Azkaban, and the ministry gave my Dad a medal of honor or something.”

“He caught them?” Lily seemed deeply impressed, “how?”

“Tracked them for months, then got a few Aurors and ambushed a meeting. One of his men was pretty seriously injured, but he stunned quite a few and knocked the others out. It was a big deal, all over the Daily Prophet.”

Lily glanced up at him, “Wow. I definitely see why you want to follow in his footsteps. He’s doing a lot of good.”

“He is,” James agreed.

They fell quiet for a few minutes, and James’ brain was torn between focusing on the drawing and thinking about this Dad’s work. Lily’s sketch was approaching completion, and soon enough he’d have to pick up a bloody charcoal stick.

All that was left was her mouth. James hated drawing mouths. He usually got them wrong. Either they looked like pufferfish, with giant lips, or Professor McGonagall, with none at all.

He stared at her face for a moment, as she gazed unfocusedly at the grass. Her mouth was relaxed, the corners turned just slightly upwards. Her lips were soft and pouty, and had the faintest hint of a heart shape. James snarled at the black lace bordering his brain.

He drew the line first, carefully upturning the corners and making sure the angle was right. Then, hesitantly, with many quick upward glances at her face, he managed to get the general shape of both upper and bottom lip. Still, when he surveyed his work, he thought it looked a bit demented. That was probably a good thing – the black lace had scampered back down whatever dark hole in James’ brain from which it had emerged.

“Okay, I think I’m done sketching,” James said tentatively, “guess this means shading now.”

Lily smiled encouragingly, “Just don’t toss it up too bad. Draw what you see.”

“I’ll be asking a lot of questions,” he admitted, putting his pencil away and picking up the charcoal stick.

“Feel free,” she seemed to want to help him, “I mean, really. Come show me if you have any difficulty.”

“I will,” he sighed.

“And work from the upper left corner downwards,” she instructed, “seriously, or you’ll smudge everything up with your hand and it’ll look terrible.”

“Er, okay.”

He placed the charcoal on the upper corner, where the background of hazy leaves and the creek was supposed to be, and began to cautiously mark the paper.

“Don’t forget, charcoal blends as easily as watercolor paints,” Lily reminded him, “So use your fingers to blend it, swoop it, create shapes. It looks better than if you use the charcoal stick for every line. It’s like finger painting – a little bit of the material goes a long way.”

James nodded, “Alright.”

He used his ring finger to make large, blended shapes, and the edge of his pinky to do smaller lines. Soon, a pattern of leaves emerged, clear as day. He thought back, briefly, to when he was painting leaves on the ceiling with Lily, and he smiled. He could do it with the bloody charcoal too.

“And really, you should be using the eraser as often as the charcoal stick,” Lily said sensibly, “that’s how you get your highlights.”

He looked around, and then picked up one of the many erasers that littered the grass. He used it to carefully create the lighter highlights on the leaves. Suddenly, they looked three-dimensional. “Brilliant!”

She smiled softly, and then remained quiet. He was able to complete her shoulder, and the bit of shirt that could be seen without any help at all. They weren’t done, yet, but they were mostly shaded.

The sound of the playful, chattering creek soothed him, and relaxed his nerves as he started on her hair. An hour, maybe less, passed as he slipped into his flow.

The next time he looked up, her eyes were closed. Her chest was rising slowly, and James paused.


She didn’t respond. He smiled. It was rather pleasant, lying on the soft grass in the spotty sunlight, with nothing but the sound of the bubbling creek. He felt drowsy himself, but he was much more interested in completing the drawing than sleeping. After all, the charcoal wasn’t being a bloody nightmare at the moment. He was actually drawing with it!

The next few hours passed quietly, and James worked quickly in the familiar artist’s trance. He saw nothing but Lily and the paper, and thought of nothing else. There was a flow to his movements and his breathing, which were perfectly synchronized. James could never think of a time that he was more relaxed than when the artist inside him took over, and his mind was cleared of all but the work at hand. Only Quidditch, perhaps, could make his stress disappear as rapidly.

Before long, the Lily on his paper took a definite, recognizable shape. Her hair darkened, and was soon splayed across the fictional plane of his paper. Her jaw line was sharpened, her nose became prominent, and he drew in her eyebrows with a tiny, thin charcoal pencil. He was even able to shade her mouth, using an eraser to highlight her lower lip and the groove between her nose and upper lip. There was a small shadow on her chin, and another in the space between her eyes and eyebrows.

The only part he left untouched were her eyes, because he wanted to draw them open.

He drew the long, slender lines of her arm, and shaded them appropriately. Soon, a more-or-less accurate version of Lily, minus her eyes, lay across his page. It was looking fairly decent. Not quite perfect, but better than most of the shoddy charcoal work he had done before.

James carefully, using upward strokes, drew and shaded the tufts of grass around her. He was grateful she was such a still, peaceful sleeper. He thrashed about in his sleep, and usually caused extraordinary damage to anything unfortunate enough to be near him. Lily hadn’t moved an inch.

The sun was descending from its throne in the sky when James finally decided he should wake Lily. It was nearing three o’clock, and he needed both her advice and her open eyes.

Carefully, he crawled forward and gently shook her shoulder. She opened her eyes blearily.

“Hey, think you could wake up now? I need to sketch your eyes,” he said apologetically.

She nodded, careful not to move very much. He smiled in thanks and quickly skipped backwards to his clipboard.

“Where do you want me to look?” she asked. Her voice was a little raspy from sleep.

“At the grass, like you’re day-dreaming.”

Lily did as he asked, and managed to wipe all traces of tiredness from her face. James grinned, “Perfect.”

He used the very tip of his pinky finger to shade the creases of her eyelids, and the shadows beneath her eyes. Using a charcoal pencil, he blackened her pupil and the line surrounding her iris, wishing he could use the same shade of green that glistened beneath her lashes. Lily’s eyes, though pretty in any hue, were their most exquisite in their usual emerald green.

Finally, after making sure the highlights were in the right place and he hadn’t forgotten any shadow, he used the charcoal pencil and quick, upward wrist flicks to draw each of her thick, curved eyelashes.

Then, when he could find nothing else to fix on his own, he beamed, “Okay you can move now. I need your help.”

Lily groaned a sigh of relief, and rolled over onto her back. She stretched her arms and curled her toes, and arched her back in one quick, sinuous motion. James felt himself stop breathing.

Deep, mental issues, his brain reminded him snippily.

Unaware of what she was doing, Lily rolled back over on to her stomach and pushed herself up. She knelt beside James, and took in the drawing.

“This is pretty good,” she said, impressed.

James stood up, “You look at it. My eyes need a rest.”

Lily took the clipboard, and scooted back a few feet to lean against a tree. James heard his knees crack as he stood, and paced around the little clearing.

“Hmm,” Lily tapped a finger against her bottom lip, “do you want advice, or are you happy with it?”

“No, please give me advice,” James said honestly, not even thinking about it, “are you kidding? I need all the help I can get. These are sodding charcoals we’re talking about here.”

Lily giggled, “Yeah, but you’re good with them too!”

“About as good as you are with painting,” James amended, “but can we both agree that my skills with charcoal are very much subpar to yours?”

She shrugged, “Alright. Here, come look at this.”

James obediently sat beside her, and she put the clipboard halfway on his lap, and halfway on hers. “So I’ve told you this a million times, but the trick is to be dramatic.”


“Yes, dark with the shadows, bright with the highlights. No gray. Well, no, you’ll have lots of gray, but your shadows need to be very dark and your highlights need to be practically white. The dramatic ones at least. See here?” she pointed at the line of her shoulder, “the sun is glinting off it, and I’m certainly pale enough. Just make it white. The upper line of it, yeah?”

He nodded. “And here,” she pointed at her hair, “make the highlights bright! And the dark pieces, beneath my jaw, here, make it almost black! Nostrils, same thing, you see?”

James picked up the clipboard, an eraser, and a charcoal stick. “Okay, wait a minute, let me see if I can get it.”

As cautiously as if he were performing brain surgery at St. Mungo’s, he erased many light gray areas all over the page. Highlights became almost blindingly bright. Then, with the charcoal stick, he made the very dark areas nearly black, and the somewhat dark areas much darker. Soon, the portrait was entirely three-dimensional.

“Excellent!” Lily said enthusiastically, “see? You’re a bloody talented tosspot, and you know it.”

He nodded in thanks, and continued. With the pencil he blackened the inner part of Lily’s ear, and the shadows of her nose. The line of her mouth became black. The bottommost part of her arm also became very dark. Lily’s smile grew wider the more he completed.

“Alright,” he put the clipboard in the grass and stared at it, exhausted, “I think I’ll leave the rest of the touching up for the last few days of this assignment.”

“That’s an excellent idea,” she stood up, and brushed the grass off her jeans, “shall we pack up then?”

James helped her gather all the supplies, and then piled them on top of the clipboard, Lily’s portrait facedown. “C’mon, back to the Academy.”

They walked together on the path, and then crossed over onto a suburban street. The late summer sun cast a golden hue over the identical houses and neat little gardens. Lily walked a step ahead of him, her hair swishing.

“That was the easiest day of art class I’ve ever had,” she flashed a grin back at him.

“Yeah, tomorrow’s my turn. I get to nap, and you get to draw,” James smiled blissfully, “what a lovely day that will be.”

“Aren’t your mates coming tomorrow too? Isn’t that what you said earlier?”

James smiled brightly, “Yes m’am! The Marauders have over a week to wreak havoc on this quiet little neighborhood. It’ll be loads of fun.”

“You know, they could come watch us draw if they wanted,” Lily offered, “It isn’t like Mrs. Briarwood would know.”

He tried to imagine his friends, lounging on the grass while either Lily or James bent all of their concentration on sketching. Peter would nap, Remus would chat, and Sirius would find either a small animal or a muggle to entertain him. It could be a lovely day.

“I’ll ask them,” James decided, happy, “it wouldn’t bother you?”

“I’m the one who suggested it,” she replied dryly.

James hid a smile, and continued walking towards the Academy. Maybe he’d finally get to see Remus and Lily have their epic battle of the witticisms and sarcastic quips.

They reached the closed Academy. Lily fit her key in the lock, and opened the door. They passed beneath their striking flower, and continued into the empty studio.

James put his things away, and then turned to see Lily, on a stool, straining to put the clipboard on a very tall shelf.

Once again, her hair nearly grazed her lower back. She was on her tiptoes, her back arched, her entire, tiny body stretched to as long as it could get. He froze.

Oh god.

James was given an unprecedented and unbelievable view of the way her jeans stretched over her bum when she was in that position.

He felt that same deep, craggy, terrifying jerk suddenly open in his lower abdomen. His breath came in quick, short gasps. His heart seemed determined to beat its way right through his chest.

She turned, leapt of the stool, and pushed it back underneath the table. James struggled to regain his composure.

At least it wasn’t a skirt this time, was the only coherent thought running through his brain.

Lily eyed him curiously, “You look a bit peaky.”

He choked a little, “Do I?”

“What’s wrong with you?”

He gathered himself enough to wave her off, “Fine, fine. ‘M fine.”

Lily raised one, skeptical eyebrow.

“Really. I’m fine.”

It was easier to concentrate, now that she was facing him. He felt the well close, reluctantly, and he found he could feel his legs again.

“You should rest,” she said doubtfully, “I think the charcoal addled your brains.”

No, he thought miserably, I just clearly have a variety of unsolvable and potentially hazardous mental issues.

“I will,” he assured her, “and I’ll see you tomorrow, yeah?”

“Yeah, I’ll lock up,” Lily threw him one more suspicious look, “go home and sleep.”

James nodded, both grateful to Lily and extremely worried for his own mental health. “Er, thanks. See you tomorrow!”

She waved, eyes narrowed. He turned on the spot, disappeared with a pop, and reappeared in his room.

He sat on his bed, weak, and stared at the floor.

Excellent thing his mates were arriving tomorrow. He wasn’t sure he could handle another day without discussing his clearly worrisome and problematic health condition. One more slip up, one more accidental peek at something he shouldn’t see, and James was going to truly go off the deep end. He was looking at a long, hopeless future in some white, box room in St. Mungo's, away from normal civilization. There would be no hope for him.

He groaned, a whisper of knickers on his brain again, and left to go drown himself in the shower.

Reviews are like James Potter . . . I want them both so badly, but still I can never get enough. :)

Chapter 13: And Then The Marauders Faced An Inexplicable And Utterly Unsolvable Dilemma . . .
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James Potter:

There was no hope for him.

That was it. Everything was done. James should just head to St. Mungo’s now and ask for an isolated ward for the rest of his life. Everything was lost.

The deep well in his abdomen had opened, and now it refused to shut. James could not walk without feeling like some kind of hideous, awful monster was clawing its way out of his large intestine, black lacy knickers reflected in it’s eight, red, demonic eyes. Something horrid and lecherous was in the process of slowly possessing him, and he knew it was only a matter of days before his mind snapped completely.

He was a hazard to society. He needed to be locked up forever.

James was lying in his backyard, staring up at the blue sky, wishing that a bolt of lightening would strike him and end his misery. But there wasn’t a cloud in the sky – not even the poofy little cotton ball clouds. The clear atmosphere was beautiful, blue, and revolting.

He had no hope.

“James!” his mother called, “when are you friends supposed to be here?”

There was no point in responding. He was an embarrassment to his mother. He was an object of shame to his friends.

A bird twittered mockingly from a tree nearby. James groaned and closed his eyes. He had never wallowed in a deeper pit of melancholy than the one he was currently drowning in.

If he had thought the incident with the purple flower had been bad, or the incident of putting away the clipboard, he had been a bloody fool. For nothing – nothing – could compare to the torture he had been put through today, and what it had done to his already delicate mental health. In fact, James was impressed he was capable of lying still. At least he could behave safely, for now. It was only a matter of time before he lost all control of body movements too.

The beast in his abdomen laughed darkly, triumphantly. It was slowly gaining control over all of James’ bodily functions. It was winning.

Hormones had already annihilated the voice of logic in James’ poor brain. They had assassinated all reason, confidence, and rationality too. All that was left was his conscious, and even that was fighting a losing battle. Soon that would be gone too, and James wouldn’t even feel the shame.

It took everything he had to stay still, in the cool grass, letting the sun’s rays assault his face, and not allow that beast to take control. Because nothing, no distractions, no reliefs, no art, no Quidditch, could make it go away. He bent his will on suppressing it.

“I’m hopeless,” he said miserably.

There was clattering noise inside his house, and then the sound of quite a few new voices.

“Whoops, sorry Pete, stepped on your foot there -”


“Remus, my fine fellow, how have you been lately? You look positively spiffing!”

“Now is not the time – Pete, what are you doing?”

“Sirius, shut up!”

“Peter, that is definitely unhealthy.”

“Look – Mrs. Potter!”


“Pete, stop that now!”


Mrs. Potter’s voice rang through the house, and the onslaught of noise abruptly ceased.

“James is . . . well, looking a bit off. He’s outside. Do you think you could try to cheer him up a bit?”

Even with his eyes closed, James could sense three pairs of eyes pop up to catch a glimpse of him through the window. The beast yowled with satisfaction. It was very similar to James – attention was like an addictive drug.

“Sure Mrs. Potter,” he heard Remus say awkwardly, “we’ll, er, do our best.”

A door slammed open, and three pairs of feet marched quickly over to James. He sighed gloomily, and kept his eyes closed.

“Prongs,” Sirius’ curious finger poked his face, “Prongs, you alive?”

James stayed still. He couldn’t bear to look at his perfectly sane, normal, healthy, non-hazardous friends. He was an embarrassment to them all. In fact, he wasn’t sure he could call himself marauder anymore.

“I think he’s dead,” Peter whispered.

Remus’s voice dripped with sarcasm, “Yes, Peter, that’s why he’s still breathing.”

“Prongs,” Sirius prodded him again, “wake up. We need to chat.”

James let out a low, muffled groan.

“James, if you don’t get up, I’m getting Mimzy and telling her you’ve gone ill,” Remus warned, “very ill. And you know she’ll have you magically tied to your bed for a week.”

That was a potent threat. Mimzy, if she even caught the slightest bit of a snuffle from James’ direction, would put him on bed rest until he was the absolute picture of health. It could take weeks, especially considering his current mental condition.

“’M alive,” James mumbled. He opened one eye, and saw three faces swimming hazily above him.

“He’s alive!” Peter repeated ecstatically.

“What’s wrong with you?” Sirius demanded.

Remus frowned, “You look pale. Positively knackered. What’s going on?”

James sighed forlornly, staring up at his three enormously concerned friends. Then he pulled up one side of his mouth in a crooked, sad smile. “I’ve gone mad.”

It took an hour before the rest of the marauders could persuade James to go up to his room, a mug of hot chocolate in his hand, and tell them what happened. When he was finally sitting upright on his bed, staring at all three of his friends, he felt a bit better. Remus was sitting in his desk chair, Peter was lying on the floor, and Sirius was sprawled across the foot of his bed. Everything felt normal.

“Alright,” Remus rubbed his hands together, “what’s got your knickers in a twist?”

Oh sweet irony.


“That’s the bloody problem,” James moaned, nearly spilling his hot chocolate as he banged his head backward against the headboard, “knickers!”

“Er . . .” Remus shot Sirius an alarmed look, “whose knickers? Your own? Because we know a few spells that can help out if they’re actually, er, twisted.”

“No, no,” James waved that off impatiently, “it’s black lace knickers. They’ve taken over my brain.”

Peter snickered, “How’d they get in there? Through your ears?”

“No, you tosser,” James snapped, “not literal knickers! I mean they’re on my mind!”

Sirius raised an eyebrow, “What happened to get black lace knickers on your mind?”

James wasn’t too keen on admitting that he had glimpsed them from beneath Lily Evans’ skirt. After all, she wasn’t the sort of girl who would appreciate creepy pervs gawking at her pants, and if she got wind of any of this, he’d be dead faster than a spider flushed down the toilet. Not only that, but Remus would probably give him the sharpest telling-off he’d ever received.

“Okay,” he began reluctantly, raking a hand through his hair, “I sort of, er, accidentally glimpsed them. On a girl.”

“What girl?” Peter demanded.

James ignored that question, “And ever since, er, I can’t really seem to . . . focus. Or function at all, really. There’s some kind of dragon that sprouted from my large intestine and has been hell bent on my destruction.”

The marauders stared at him.

“And it just keeps getting worse, see?” James continued desperately, “I just . . . I see them in provocative positions. Or like today – merlin’s beard, today was bloody hell. All day. Everywhere.”

“Wait, girls or knickers?”

“Knickers on girls!” James exclaimed.

“Alright,” Remus said dryly, “and how is this unusual? Most girls wear knickers. You’re bound to glimpse them now and again. Why is it driving you mad?”

“Or more importantly, what happened today?” Sirius asked, his eyebrows dancing a suggestive tango across his forehead.

James’ shoulders slumped, “I’ve no idea why it’s driving me mad. And today . . . Padfoot, today brought me the shameful feeling equivalent to losing the Quidditch final and failing my Transfiguration exam. At the same time.”

Sirius gasped, “No!”

James nodded unhappily, “It was torture. Bloody torture.”

“What happened?” Peter breathed.

James couldn’t bear to tell them. Besides, if he did, they would know it was Lily that was driving him batty. And that absolutely couldn’t happen. He trusted them with his life, but this was information of the top-secret personal sort that no one should know.

Remus sighed, “James, you have to tell us. We haven’t the foggiest how to help you.”

He gulped. “It’s bad.”

“Oh come on!” Sirius exclaimed, “it can’t be as bad as when we found out Peter talked to his socks, or when I was chucked by three girls in one day, or when Remus lost it to Georgia Nichols and didn’t tell us for two months!”

Well, Sirius did have a point. But personally, James thought this was worse then all of those incidents. Possibly combined.

Peter looked up at him, his watery eyes curious, “James, you can tell us anything.”

“I know,” he sighed, “okay . . . but, you can’t tell anyone. This is a marauder’s secret.”

They all straightened up a little. A marauder’s secret was something that no one, not mums nor girlfriends nor nosy younger Gryffindors, was allowed to know. This was unbreakable, unchangeable, and practically sacred. James felt a little safer with that label on his sorry tale.

“It all started Wednesday night,” James began reluctantly. He told them about the art project, how it was late, how they had to use very tall ladders to paint the ceiling. When he got to the part about moving the scaffold, with Lily and her skirt above him, he paused a minute.

“And you caught a glimpse of something you weren’t supposed to?” Remus finished, taking pity on his sweating forehead and shaky hands.

“It was terrible!” James cried.

Sirius looked confused, “Really? I would have thought Lily looked nice down there. How incredibly deceptive of her.”

“No, no,” James said hastily, “she looked fine. Quite nice, in fact, but that isn’t the point! The point is that I saw it, and I wasn’t supposed to, and then I nearly had a fit!”

“What kind of fit?” Peter snickered.

James felt the words spewing out of him like vomit, “My knees went shaky and I couldn’t see straight and there was this odd ringing in my ears! My stomach felt like something was growing, or exploding out of it. And then it was huge, and I felt like I was going to either fall over or scream, and Lily asked me what was wrong. And after a few moments it went away – but then all night I was twitchy. Every time she touched it me it was like she was holding a hot iron or something. It burned me!”

Sirius cocked his head, “She’s that bad looking?”

“No!” James said vehemently, “That’s the problem!”

Remus looked distinctly puzzled, “I think you need to explain more.”

“Okay, okay. Well then, the next time we were working together, she sort of stood on a stool and reached to put away a clipboard, and I just glanced up and . . . look, it wasn’t my fault her arse was at eye level! But same thing! I had some sort of fit or something. That hole in my stomach opened up and that monster growled, and I think it wanted something, definitely to do with Lily, but I didn’t know what, and she thought I was mad, and I figured I should be locked up in St. Mungo’s for the rest of my life.”

“And today?” Sirius questioned.

James grimaced, and shook his head. Today was the day that marked his banishment from society. He was so disgusted with himself he could hardly look at his friends. It was appalling. Absolutely unforgivable.

“James,” Sirius said sternly, “we can’t help you unless you suck it up and tell us. We swear we won’t tell anybody.”

“You’ll hate me,” he mumbled sadly.

Remus gave him a sharp expression, “You’re talking to a werewolf, a bloke disowned by his family, and the lowest in our class. I think we can forgive you for whatever you did today.”

“I . . . er, good point,” James rubbed his forehead, “Well, yesterday we got a new assignment, yeah? We’re supposed to do five portraits, using each other for models. So yesterday I drew her, which was no big deal. We went by the creek and she fell asleep and I just kind of drew her face all day. And then we’re supposed to switch off, see, so today was my turn to model.”

“I’d like to take the mickey out of you, but go on,” Sirius gestured politely.

James shot him a dirty look, “I was supposed to sit against a tree, right? That’s how she wanted me to be. And I was supposed to look at the grass directly in front of her. Down, like, I don’t know, I was thinking or something. I just looked there. And about a quarter through, she leaned against the tree across from me and propped the clipboard up on her knees, and she was wearing a skirt, and . . . and it was those same bloody knickers! Right there! She didn’t seem to notice or anything!”

Sirius and Remus raised their eyebrows in unison. James buried his face in his hands, “And I didn’t tell her! I just stared at that patch of grass all day and didn’t say a word! And it was like a six-hour fit, and by the end of it I could hardly breathe or think, let alone talk, and she thinks I’m beyond insane, and that’s it. I can’t face her again. I can’t bear the shame.”

There was a long silence. James didn’t dare look up. He wouldn’t blame his friends if they got up and left. He was the most despicable, creepiest, repulsive teenage boy over to walk the sodding planet.

“That’s a bit low, mate,” Sirius said honestly.

“I know!” James’ exclamation was muffled by his hands.

Remus sounded very stern, “Why didn’t you tell her?”

“Because I couldn’t! I just sort of froze, my mind was completely taken over, and then like, fifteen minutes later, when I came to, it was too late, because then I’d have to admit I’d been seeing it for a while! It was bloody awful!”

“She looks that bad?” Peter said doubtfully.

“NO!” James nearly pulled out his hair from frustration, “can’t you lot understand that I’m losing my mind? I’m going mad! Every time anything like that happens I can’t control myself, my brain goes hazy, I can’t breathe, nothing works! And that dragon isn’t going away! It’s a greedy bastard and it wants me to do bad things.”

“What sort of bad things?” Peter smirked knowingly.

James ignored that question too. “The point is, I’m going mad. I can’t control myself anymore.”

“Well maybe this is just trying to tell you something,” Remus considered, “I mean, you’ve never reacted this way to knickers before. We’ve stolen loads of them, not to mention you’ve actually seen girls wearing them. Hypothetically, this shouldn’t be a problem for you anymore.”

James nodded, “I know, but it is.”

“It’s like being thirteen all over again,” Sirius marveled, “nearly wetting yourself the first time a girl bends over in front of you.”

“Yeah, but different. I know what it is, the mystery is gone. It’s something bigger,” James insisted.

“Hmm,” Remus thought about it, his brown eyes focused intently on James’ curtains, “do you think . . . I mean, I know it’s a bit of a stretch, but do you think it might have anything to do with your lack of a serious girlfriend? Sirius and Peter have them with McManus and Hornsquat, and I’m definitely going somewhere with Marlene. Like we said Tuesday, you’re the only one still alone, mate.”

James leaned back, frowning, “True, but I don’t feel terribly left out or anything. It’s just like . . .I can’t be around Lily without losing my bloody mind.”

“Maybe you fancy her,” Peter suggested.

“No, no, that’s ridiculous,” he waved that idea off absentmindedly, “it’s not like I act like an idiot to impress her or I get jealous when she talks to other blokes. I don’t fancy her. But that dragon in my intestine is quite interested in her knickers.”

“The word ‘lunatic’ comes to mind . . .” Sirius threw him an amused smirk.

James glared at him.

“I think it’s something to do with your being alone, mate,” Remus repeated, “it might be subconscious. Why else would you be going crazy over a pair of knickers?”

James remembered, acutely, the pangs of loneliness that had struck him when he was talking in the meadow with Sirius and Remus. It was possible that Remus was right. After all, his dry, sarcastic, werewolf friend was surprisingly in tune to the feelings of those around him. Not to mention, despite his lack of bountiful experience, he supplied the best relationship advice of all the marauders.

Sirius nodded slowly, “I think Moony has a point. You’ve been alone for forever James. I think this is less hormonal and more about a need for like . . . companionship, or something.”

“And it’s manifesting through a knickers obsession?” James said, disbelieving.

Remus gave him a mischievous smile, “To each his own.”

“So, to fix it, I need to find a girl and spend some quality time with her knickers. Or without them. Is that what you’re saying?”

Even Peter frowned at this one. Sirius shook his head, exasperated, “No, no, you need to find a girlfriend. Someone you fancy, James, not someone who you’ll pretend to fancy for three weeks and then give up.”

“Alright,” he struggled a little with this concept, “I need to find a girl – who I fancy – and have a real relationship.”

The other three marauders looked at each other for approval, and then nodded. “That’s about right.”

“Bloody hell,” he groaned and sprawled, stomach-down, on the bed like Sirius, “what a mess.”

“At least you know,” Sirius pointed out, “It should be easier now.”

It was true. The beast in his large intestine seemed to have withdrawn, eyes closed, with the promise of companionship calming it considerably. James nodded.

Peter rubbed his hands together, “Did you see anything beneath the knickers?”

James, Sirius, and Remus all shot him looks of absolute disgust. He shrank back, “Sorry.”

“Never again,” James said warningly.

Peter squeaked, and nodded rapidly. He always quailed beneath the glares of the other three. In fact, James was surprised he had even dared to bring it up. Tactless as he was, even Peter could occasionally see where the line was drawn.

There was an awkward silence. Then Sirius coughed dramatically.

“I have a question for Moony,” He looked at their slender, brown-haired, bookish friend with a mischievous expression on his face, “what’s going on with Marlene?”

Remus smiled, a devious glint to his eyes, and James was fondly reminded why Sirius and him had included Remus in the first place. He had been bullied in their first year because he was small for his age and quiet, but the kids who picked on him had a funny habit of ending up in the hospital wing a few days later with purple acne or knotted nose hairs. Remus had a naughty streak, heightened by his reckless nature and sarcastic intelligence, which glimmered through his usual weariness whenever he smiled.

“I owled her,” he replied casually, “just the usual, how’s your summer been sort of thing. And she owled me back asking to meet up in Diagon Alley a couple weeks from now.”

“Atta boy!” Sirius chucked a quill at him proudly, “knew we trained you right.”

“We?” Remus said indignantly, “excuse me, I have more experience than either Prongs or Wormtail here.”

“True,” Sirius amended, and grinned, “I knew I trained you right!”

James rolled his eyes, but smiled at Remus. “Did you owl her back?”

“Course,” Remus said breezily, “ it’s been going on for a few days now. She responds quickly.”

“As do you, I’m sure,” Sirius teased, “bet you drop everything to write her back whenever the owl arrives.”

“It’s better than using the letter as a napkin, and then forgetting to respond for three or so weeks,” Remus shot back.

Sirius grinned sheepishly, “I only did that to you one time.”

“I haven’t the faintest idea how you and McManus communicate on a regular basis,” Remus continued, “she writes letters so grammatically complex that it takes you four hours with a couple Latin and French dictionaries to get through them, and you never write at all.”

James laughed, and Sirius looked sulky. “I’ve written her once.”

“Are you counting the note you scrawled your name on and tied to her birthday present, that you bought in Diagon Alley?” Remus asked, a trace of a smirk on his face.

Sirius folded his arms and pouted, “Fine, I know. She’s already sent me a howler for it. I’ll write tomorrow.”

James winced, “A howler?”

“It wasn’t that bad,” Sirius laughed, “she tried to sound angry. She really did. But it just ended up with her begging me to write at least once, and for me tell her the date of the dinner party.”

“Ella’s coming to the dinner party?” Peter asked, shocked.

“Er, yeah,” Sirius glanced at James, “that alright?”

James snorted, “Have you met my mum? The more the merrier. McKinnon can come too if you want, Remus.”

Remus’ eyes brightened a little bit, “I’ll ask her.”

The Marauder rendezvous was interrupted by a knock at the door. Mrs. Potter stuck her nose in, “Dinnertime, boys. James, you feeling better?”

“Yeah Mum,” James stretched, “you don’t have to call St. Mungo’s after all.”

His mum pretended to look highly relieved, “Well thank goodness for that. Now come on, help your friends move in to their rooms. Mimzy’s made a roast.”

“Got it,” he waved her off.

They stood, and James felt triumphant when the beast remained curled deep down inside him. He was safe, it seemed, from being possessed by some monstrous manifestation of teenage boy hormones.

Well, safe for the time being.

There's these wonderful little things called reviews, which have the power to both make an author smile AND make her write with more enthusiasm!

Chapter 14: And Then Peter Becomes Very Well Acquainted With The Creek . . .
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Lily Evans:

It was perhaps the oddest situation Lily had ever found herself in.

She was standing, her back against a tree and her legs crossed, gazing out over the bubbling creek. Her thumbs were jammed in her pockets, and her hair was in one long braid that was draped over her shoulder. As James had wished, she was barefoot and was wearing the most basic white t-shirt she owned.

Four curious, studious pairs of eyes watched as she stood, neither moving nor talking.

James had brought along his mates for this day of charcoal drawing. Sirius, Remus, and Peter lay lounging in the grass, watching her inquisitively. Every once in a while they would lean over to check out James’ paper. James himself was fervently working, erasers and bits of broken pencils scattered around him. His hair was sticking up at every angle, from running his hand through it, and he seemed much more stressed than usual.

“This is boring,” Peter complained.

Remus was flat on his back, gazing up at the tree tops. He disagreed in a lazy, languid voice, “I think it’s quite nice.”

Sirius was flinging a Muggle baseball into the air and catching it. He nodded, “I agree with Moony. It’s a spiffingly lovely day.”

“Well, I’m bored,” Peter muttered.

James dropped one of his pencils and snatched up a charcoal stick. Lily heard the familiar scratching sound as James rubbed it against the paper.

“’Sides, Mrs. Potter wanted us out of the house today,” Remus yawned, “Mimzy’s starting to clean for the party.”

“That’s not for a week!” Peter whined.

“Six days,” Sirius corrected him.

Peter seemed sulky, “Same thing.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Lily saw Remus prop himself up on his elbows and give Peter possibly the most patronizing look Lily had ever seen on a person. She was deeply impressed by the professional, upwards tilt of his eyebrows, and faint twist of his sneering mouth. “Peter,” he said slowly, as if speaking to a four-year-old, “I think first year squibs suffering through a transfiguration final complain less than you. Belt it.”

“Yeah, Pete, quit whining,” Sirius threw the ball twenty feet into the air, and then caught it one-handed, “my spoiled Slytherin brat of a brother isn’t half this bad.”

James seemed to become even more compact, his shoulders hunching over as he worked on some tiny, minute part of the drawing. Lily kept her muscles frozen. James had trouble enough with charcoal – the last thing she wanted to do was move and ruin everything he’d completed so far.

Peter sat up. “I’m hungry.”

Sirius sniggered, “And deaf too, apparently. Quit whining!”

“Hold on just a minute Lily,” James said suddenly, “I’m nearly done with your face, then you can talk.”

Clearly, he hadn’t been listening to a word of his friends’ conversation. Lily grimaced inwardly and stayed frozen.

“Pete, if you’re hungry, why don’t you go try to find food? Then you won’t be bored or hungry, and we won’t have to deal with your complaining anymore,” Remus suggested sensibly.

“It’s too far away,” Peter moaned, clutching his stomach.

This little scene had done nothing to convince Lily that Pettigrew was worthy of the title ‘Marauder.’ He sounded eerily similar to a twelve-year old girl with menstrual cramps.

“Peter, if you whine one more time, I’m throwing you in the creek,” threatened Sirius, stretching his arms and yawning.

Peter fell silent. Lily fought to keep the smirk off her lips.

“Okay Lily, you can talk now,” James sighed, and ran a hand through his hair, “just don’t move anything else.”

Lily relaxed her face and grinned, “You worked pretty fast there. My face better not be one giant, hurried smudge.”

Remus leaned over, glanced at the paper, and then shook his head, “Nah, you’re good. He did it right.”

“Well done, you,” she congratulated him.

Sirius sat up, apparently bored with throwing the ball, and glanced uninterestedly at James’ work as well. “Are you going to the party, Lily?”

“Yeah, me and my family. My sister is coming too,” Lily wrinkled her nose at the thought of Petunia, “are you bringing anyone?”

“Ella,” he said simply.

“Oh, so you finally wrote her back, did you?” Remus asked, chuckling.

Sirius looked affronted, “Yes I did. I owled her last night, and she sent her reply this morning. Said she’d love to. And that she’d just finished sealing a howler and was very relieved she didn’t have to send it.”

Remus burst out laughing, and Lily giggled. “A howler?”

“Oh yeah, she sends them all the time,” Sirius said dismissively, “she thinks I’m dead if I don’t write to her every month or so.”

“Well that’s quite understandable,” Lily said, “I wouldn’t be so nice as to send a howler. You’d be getting envelopes full of curses from me.”

Sirius gulped, “Why you evil little prefect.”

“I sent him a biting envelope once,” Remus reminisced fondly, “it repeatedly mauled him until he sat down to write a reply.”

“That thing is demonic,” Sirius shuddered, “it lives under my bed now. Bites me now and again if it’s feeling particularly energetic.”

Remus laughed, “Remember when it decided your reply wasn’t grammatically advanced enough, and tore it to shreds? Then made you write a new one?”

“Yes, don’t remind me.”

Lily smiled, and carefully filed the idea of a biting envelope in the ‘mischief, revenge, and cruelty’ folder of her brain. It was a small folder, but a wicked one.

James nearly tore the paper with his frenzied charcoal drawing, and Sirius snorted. “Careful, mate, you may want to be a bit more enthusiastic.”

“Yeah Prongs,” Remus drawled, “it’s as if you’re tired of it or something. Show some effort.”

James gave them both an incredibly rude hand gesture, and Lily’s body shook with laughter.

Peter, who had been sulking in the grass ever since Sirius’ threat, chose to speak up again. “How long does this usually take, James?”

Sirius fingered his wand, and looked at Remus, “Does that count as whining?”

Remus shook his head ruefully. James ran his hand through his hair distractedly, “Er, five hours? Six? Sometimes more or less.”

“Are you kidding?” Peter exclaimed. Then he caught the gleeful look on Sirius’ face, and hastened to fix his mistake, “Er, that’s great! You spend so much time on it . . . ”

“Nice cover,” Lily said dryly.

“How many hours has it been?” Peter asked.

Sirius checked his watch, “Two.”

Lily waited, hoping desperately that the shortest marauder would say something whiny to incriminate himself, but she was out of luck. Peter, apparently, had more wits about him than she realized. He kept his mouth, turned downwards in a frown, firmly closed.

Remus sat up, “I’ll go with you for food if you want, Pete. We can get some for everybody. It’s nearly lunch anyways.”

“Hear, hear,” Sirius said enthusiastically, though he chose not to move from his lazy position on the grass.

Peter’s eyes shone, “Really? Right, let’s go.”

James glanced up from his work, his glasses slightly askew and his eyes crazed, “Can you get me coffee?”

“Yeah, sure Prongs,” Remus shot him a sympathetic look, “did you forget this morning?”

James didn’t respond clearly, though Lily thought she could hear him mumble ‘not enough’ as he worked frantically on a piece of the drawing. Remus and Peter shrugged, mystified, and then began moving towards the path.

“Oi!” Sirius called after them, “ice cream please!”

Peter gave him the thumbs up, and then disappeared through the clump of trees with Remus.

Lily bit back a smile.

“What?” Sirius asked, noticing her upturned lips.

“Oh, nothing,” Lily’s grin became more pronounced, “is Peter always like that?”

“What, whiny?”

Lily nodded.

“Yeah,” Sirius chuckled, “since the day I met him. The bloke is never happy with what he’s got. So we just abuse him a bit and he lays off.”

“Pickles,” James muttered distractedly through the cloud of charcoal dust that seemed to swirl around him.

Lily had to stop herself from tilting her head curiously. Sirius explained with a wicked, gleeful smirk on his face, “Pete’s got a fear of pickles, so we keep a jar handy in the dorm. If he complains to much, we stuff one in any orifice we can reach.”

She gasped, turned red, and tried to choke down her laughter. “You wouldn’t!”

“We do,” Sirius said proudly, “did it the last day of term, didn’t we Prongs? He nearly missed the train because it took an hour to get it out.”

James didn’t respond. He was so immersed in the drawing Lily was surprised he remembered to occasionally breathe.

“Ah well,” Sirius glanced out over the creek, his gray eyes filled with warmth, “he’s a funny one. Half the time he whines just to make us laugh.”

At least there was one reason that Peter Pettigrew was included with the famous three. If nothing else, he supplied ample comic relief. Lily’s sides ached from trying not to laugh at Peter’s ceaseless whining.

Sirius lay back in the grass, the picture of nonchalance, and resumed throwing the muggle baseball into the air. Lily stayed quite still, and watched James for a moment. The messy-haired, bespectacled boy appeared highly agitated. He scrubbed the paper with an eraser so often that Lily was surprised there weren’t holes burnt through the clipboard.

“You alright, James?”

He nodded, not bothering to speak, and erased yet another part of the drawing. Lily sighed.

“You seem a little tense.”

He shrugged, a distasteful expression on his face, “It’s charcoal.”

Two words, and then he went back to drawing like a madman. Lily gave up. James had days where the conversation flowed as easily as Rosmerta’s meade in the Three Broomsticks, and he also had days where it took every ounce of his concentration to complete the task at hand. She was learning that this had a direct correlation to the amount of caffeine circulating his bloodstream.

She looked back over the creek, trying to resume the intense, brooding expression James had asked her to adopt earlier. As much as she hated to admit it, she did love James’ artistic style. The pose he had put her in seemed natural, effortless, and would undoubtedly translate exquisitely on paper. Lily felt beautiful as she stood there, against the tree, thumbs hooked in the pockets of her jeans.

The silence was comfortable, and Lily began thinking of the other poses she would put James in. She knew she wanted to draw him laughing at some point, because he was his most handsome when his hazel eyes were crinkled up and twinkling with mirth. For the full body, she should probably do something that emphasized his height and thinness. James was quite fit, and she intended on exploiting this fact to make her portfolio look better.

“Lily, are your jeans too big for you?” James asked suddenly.

Lily started, “Why?”

“Because I can’t get it right,” he replied, frustrated, “I know you’re much slimmer than my drawing is showing.”

Lily grimaced, “Er, yeah, they’re a bit big. Could you . . . I don’t know, show the bagginess or something?”

James held his drawing in front of him and squinted his eyes, as if trying to get a different perspective of it. “Maybe. Show more folds, or something?”

“Well,” Lily hesitated, and glanced at Sirius, “do you remember our figure drawing exercises last year? When Mrs. Briarwood made us draw each other for like, a month?”

James nodded.

“Alright, well the trick was to draw the figure as if you couldn’t see the clothes first. Remember? If you draw the accurate proportions, then no matter how you draw the clothes – unless they’re truly awful – the person shouldn’t look any different.”

There was a moment of quiet, and then Sirius let out a great bark of laughter, “Yeah, obviously the trick is to picture her starkers, Prongs!”

“It’s the truth!” Lily insisted, refusing to be embarrassed, “figures come out looking misshapen and weird unless you get the anatomy right first. Clothes are secondary – you add them according to the solid proportions.”

Naturally, Sirius could not contain his laughter. James looked a bit red around the ears. “So imagine you . . . without the jeans, and then add them, and it’ll look right?”

“Yes,” Lily refused to be immature about this, “come on, don’t you remember Mrs. Briarwood telling us this?”

James nodded furiously, though there was no denying the blush creeping up his cheeks. Sirius chucked the baseball at him, laughing, “Go on, James! Pretend her jeans were disillusioned!”

Lily kept a straight face. “Go on. I don’t mind.”

James shot Sirius a dirty look, and then sighed and looked down at the clipboard. He grabbed an eraser and a pencil, and began fixing the anatomy.

Every time his hazel eyes flickered beneath her waist, Lily felt nervous. Although there was nothing but concentration and technicalities reflected in his glasses, she was still uncomfortable. She had essentially just given a boy permission to imagine her naked for the next four hours - while she stood and did nothing about it.

Sirius could find nothing not amusing in the situation, and kept snickering. James seemed to be able to ignore him, but the blush did not fade from his cheeks for a good half an hour. Lily stayed very still, eyes straight ahead.

“Erm,” James coughed, “do you know your proportions?”

“Seven and a half heads precisely,” Lily responded automatically.

Sirius sniggered, “What does that mean?”

“It means that her height is equal to seven and a half of her heads,” James replied, “Mine is nearly eight. I’m stretched out. Yours is probably seven and a half too.”

“And Peter’s is five and a half,” Sirius said sensibly.

Lily had to hide her laughter with a well-delivered coughing fit. James shot her a knowing look.

“I don’t know how you do it, Prongs,” Sirius yawned and threw the baseball into the air again, “I’d go crazy if I spent all my summers imagining pretty girls without their clothes on.”

Lily felt herself blush this time. James rolled his eyes, “Isn’t that all you do anyways?”

“No,” Sirius said, pretending to be outraged, “sometimes I think about motorbikes.”

“Well at least you have variety,” James remarked, glancing up at Lily again, and then back down at the paper.

Sirius smirked to himself, retrieved the baseball, and continued chucking it into the air. Lily felt as though she was being x-rayed by James’ unnervingly intense stare.

After a short while, in which Lily stayed absolutely still, James pretended he wasn’t blushing and worked on the drawing frenziedly, and Sirius oozed apathy, Remus and Peter returned.

“Guys! Guys!” Peter shouted as he tripped through the trees, red faced and sweating, and hurried to the little group, “you’ll never guess what happened!”

Remus followed, his expression amused, and set a few bags on the ground. “Peter had a first today,” he explained, smiling.

“A first?” Sirius jumped up to pick through the bags, “which first? The naughty kind? ”

Peter beamed, “I think I love her!”

“Who?” Sirius asked, handing James a full cup of coffee. James glanced up, saw it, snatched it, and drank half of it in one enormous gulp. When his face appeared again he looked significantly happier.

“The girl at the ice cream shop!” Peter exclaimed happily.

Lily vaguely remembered the teenage girl who worked at Henrietta’s Ice Cream Parlor. She had short blond hair, a few spots, and a big, bright smile. The simpering sort that would fall all over themselves at the very sight of Sirius Black or James Potter.

Remus coughed, “She, er, saw us and was very . . . friendly.”

Sirius, who was in mid-lick of his ice cream cone, waggled his eyebrows, “How friendly? Was she cute?”

“She was beautiful,” Peter breathed.

“She was alright,” Remus amended, “and she was very keen on us.”

“I know the one you’re talking about,” James said suddenly, “blonde? Acne?”

Sirius wrinkled his nose at the mention of acne, and returned his full attention to his ice cream cone. Remus nodded, “That’s the one.”

“And Peter’s in love with her?”

“Er, yes,” Remus’s brown eyes danced with amusement, “Peter, I think you dropped a bag over in the trees. Where’s your pastries?”

Peter, who had been gazing longingly back towards the ice cream shop, jumped. He looked around, and then hurried back through the clump of trees.

“Actually, she didn’t like him at all,” Remus whispered quickly, struggling not to laugh, “she was all over me. Gave me free ice cream and all. Told me to come around whenever I wanted. Even gave me this.”

He held out a slip of paper with a series of digits on it. Lily, through a corner glance, recognized a telephone number.

“But Pete took it the wrong way,” Remus continued happily, “thought it was all for him. The girl couldn’t stand him!”

Sirius and James roared with laughter. Lily couldn’t help but laugh too. Poor Peter – the soppy look on his face was priceless.

“She told me not to bring my dumpy friend the next time I visited,” Remus’ shoulders shook with laughter, “but to bring any cute ones I may have.”

Sirius fell over, laughing hysterically. Even James, who had abandoned his drawing for his coffee, had trouble keeping a grip on himself.

Peter returned, holding a paper sack, the far-away expression still in his watery blue eyes. “What are you lot laughing about?”

“Oh nothing,” Remus smiled, “here, Pete, I found your sandwich.”

Sirius, gasping with laughter, propped himself on his elbows, “We should use this to our advantage. Tomorrow. Let’s bring him along and have fun with it.”

James nodded, “Oh definitely.”

“Do what?” Peter asked, confused.

“Take you back to your girlfriend,” Remus said promptly.

“Oh,” Peter smiled lovingly, “alright.”

The other three marauders exchanged gleeful expressions, and Lily could sense the mischievous energy between them. Poor Peter. She didn’t like him, and didn’t mind that he was usually the butt of their jokes, but this seemed a bit sad.

Hysterically funny, but a bit sad too.

“Lily, you in?” Sirius asked.

She thought about it. Either she could decline and hear all about Peter’s failure at a later time, or she could simply accompany them and witness the comedy firsthand.

“I’m in,” she decided.

James picked up his clipboard, his coffee gone, and attacked the drawing with renewed vigor. Remus glanced at his progress as he chewed on his sandwich.

“Oh no!” Peter dropped his sandwich suddenly, “they put tomatoes on it!”

Sirius sat up quickly, like a dog that had spotted a squirrel, and fingered his wand. “Really?

“Yes!” Peter threw the wrappings sulkily, “now it’s all soggy! I can’t eat -”

But before Peter Pettigrew had finished his complaint, Sirius flicked his wand and Peter found himself hurtling head-first through the air. He landed in the creek with a deafening splash. Water droplets sprayed the marauders, and Lily felt a couple droplets hit her face. James yelped and protected his drawing.

They all burst out laughing at the sight of poor Peter, sitting in the creek with the water up to his chest, a thoroughly peeved expression on his face.

“I told you, Pete!” Sirius howled, “I told you I’d throw you in if you whined one more time!”

Peter gave him one, dignified sniff, which was pointless as he was sitting, looking like a drowned rat, in the middle of the creek.

Remus chucked the offensive sandwich in after him, and the Marauders collapsed into laughter once more.

Thanks so much for all the wonderful reviews! Dinner Party coming soon . . . well, after a few chapters to set the scene, of course. ;)

Chapter 15: And Then James Comes Face To Face With His Worst Nightmare . . .
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Lily Evans:

To her chagrin, Lily received a letter from Marlene a couple mornings after Peter’s creek incident. She realized that she hadn’t sent either Marlene or Alice anything all summer, and was sure to be steadily scolded by both of them until September 1st.

Dear Lily,

I’m not sure if you’ve been busy, or if you’ve simply forgotten I exist, but I have not heard one word from you for nearly a month! Summer is half over, and you’ve yet to talk to me! This is unacceptable, my friend.

But the good new is I’ll be seeing you, whether you like it or not, on Saturday. Remus Lupin invited me to the Potters’ dinner party! He told me you’d be coming, along with your parents and that dratted sister of yours. I’m so excited! Is it alright if I stay at your house for the couple days before and after? I promise I won’t bother your art class.

Let me know as soon as you get this – if possible, I can be there Thursday. And then I’ll be out of your hair by Monday evening.

I miss you, Lily dear!

Love, Marlene

Lily sighed, grabbed her quill, and scrawled a quick reply before she had to walk to class.

Dear Marlene,

That sounds lovely! Of course I want you to stay here. I’ll tell my parents, but I’m sure it’s fine with them. They adore you.

I’m so so so sorry I haven’t written. I’ve been busy, as usual, but I do have loads to tell you! Things have changed between me and Potter, finally. His friends have been here for the last few days, so I’ve spent plenty of time with all them. Anyways, you’ll have to see it to believe it.

See you Thursday! Show up anytime. I have class, but you know my parents would be happy to see you.

Love, Lily

She attached the letter to Marlene’s owl’s leg. The bird, which was named Sophie and had quite the temper, took off in a huff. Obviously the owl was irritated with Lily’s lack of communication too.

She sighed, shouldered her art bag, and thundered down the stairs. “Bye, Lily!” her mother called.

“Bye!” Lily shouted back. She hurried out onto the street, and breathed deeply.

The last few days had been some of the most entertaining, and most uncomfortable, of her life. Lily had witnessed debauchery, tomfoolery, lewd behavior, and a level of friendship that she herself had never experienced. James transformed when he was around his friends. Clearly, they were his lifeblood.

He was loyal, and compassionate with his fellow Marauders. Less mature, certainly, and far more prone to idiotic behavior, but with an added streak of genuine love and faithfulness. James was meant to be with his mates.

Not to mention, the marauders were hysterical. Lily had laughed more these last few days than any other time in the rest of her life.

The ice cream girl was the first victim of their gleeful pranking. They’d sent an unknowing Peter to flirt, and then, as poor Peter struggled to hold her attention, they had dispatched Remus, James, and Sirius in turn to nonchalantly order ice cream.

The poor girl had choked over the three boys in turn, and didn’t hear a word Peter said. After ten minutes of being ignored, Peter gave up, threw her a forlorn look, and walked sadly after his friends.

The kicker had been Lily, who had gotten her ice cream last. “Do you know those boys?” she asked the ice cream girl innocently.

“No, but they’re beautiful,” the girl breathed, staring after them longingly.

“You’re wasting your time,” Lily smiled kindly, “they only have eyes for each other, if you know what I mean.”

Sirius chose precisely that moment to jump on James’ back. Remus laughed and shoved both of them, all of them ending up in a heap of limbs and ice cream on the pavement. The girl’s eyes bugged out, and Lily calmly collected her ice cream and skipped after them.

Of course her week had not been all mischief and trouble. Lily had, so far, drawn three exquisite portraits of James. One day the three other boys had not shown up, as Mrs. Potter had put them to work. Lily chose that day to draw James sprawled on the ground, staring up at her with a smoldering sort of expression. She’d brought a chair for the occasion, in order to properly depict the angle she was trying to get.

Naturally, it had turned out quite well. James-on-paper lay, looking up at the viewer, hazel eyes narrowed and mouth curved up in a well-practiced smirk. Lily had particularly enjoyed drawing the way the hem of his shirt had raised, revealing a flat, muscular strip of tanned stomach.

“Why didn’t you tell me to pull my shirt down?” James complained after she allowed him to get up and see it.

“Because it’s more realistic,” Lily smiled, “don’t you show off how fit you are to anyone who will look?”

James laughed, “Alright, Evans.”

Today, once again, the marauders would be absent. Mrs. Potter was frantic in her preparations for this dinner party, and she required three reasonably tall, fit boys to get things done around the house. Sirius, Lily had heard, would be working in the yard, Remus would be cleaning the taller shelves and banisters in the house, and Peter would be reorganizing the storage closet.

James, the day before, had seemed quite triumphant. “Art class over cleaning,” he boasted.

“Shut it, you tosser,” Sirius had grumbled, tossing an eraser at his forehead.

Lily reached the Academy, and pulled open the door. She glanced fondly at her and James’ flower as she passed through the foyer, and then slipped into the studio.

Naturally, the place was bustling with noise and laughter. Mrs. Briarwood had yet to arrive to frighten the kids into silent order.

“Lily!” Timothy hurried up to her and grabbed her arm, “can you stay here today?”

Lily paused, “Why?”

“We’re working on portraits and I want your advice,” he made his eyes big and pleading, “I’m sure Megan will too.”

“Er, sorry Timothy,” Lily said regretfully, “but my assignment is kind of outdoors. I’m not supposed to stay here.”

Megan appeared at Lily’s shoulder, “Can’t you make an exception?”

“With Mrs. Briarwood?” Lily asked dryly.

“Good point,” Timothy frowned.

The younger art students were shouting, throwing bits of paper at each other, and generally causing a ruckus. Lily raised her eyebrows as she watched the rampant misbehavior. Surely she wasn’t this bad when she was younger?

“Ah,” James said fondly, appearing quite suddenly at Lily’s other elbow, “I used to be worse than these little ones.”

Lily snorted, “Worse?”

“Don’t you remember?” James glanced at her, surprised, “I must have cut off your hair four times a summer.”

Lily grimaced, “Right.”

Megan pouted, “Could you come back at lunch and help us?”

“We usually work through lunch,” Lily said apologetically, “if we finish early enough though I could come before class finishes, help you out a bit.”

Timothy nodded, “Yes, that works.”

“And Timothy can help me before then!” Megan said brightly.

Lily noticed the faint hints of a blush around Timothy’s ears. She grinned, “Perfect.”

Megan and Timothy, who looked quite a bit older than the unruly kids around them, made their way back to their table. Lily led James to the supplies shelf.

“Let’s see, I’m drawing today, right?” James asked, tapping his finger on his bottom lip.

She rolled her eyes, “Yes. Get what you need so we can escape.”

James chuckled, but took his sweet time collecting his materials. Lily figured he did it just to irritate her.

“I have a prop for you today too,” James said suddenly.

“A prop?” she asked warily.

James nodded, shifting the items in his arms and reaching high above her to grab a clipboard. “Yeah, will you go with it?”

“What prop?”

James smiled, “Nothing dangerous or obscene. I just want to draw you drawing.”

Lily contemplated this. She gazed around the room, and her eyes landed on Rose Bennett. The blonde girl was glaring at her with a positively murderous expression.

Lily felt her Gryffindor bravery and stupidity pump suddenly into her veins. She turned, gave James a wide smile, and placed a hand on his arm, “Brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that?”

“Because I’m the brains and you’re the brawn,” he retorted cheekily.

“Right,” she laughed, and gathered their thick folder of finished portraits, “shall we get out before Mrs. Briarwood tells us off?”

They made it nearly halfway to the door before Mrs. Briarwood stormed in. Lily quickened her pace, tossed Rose Bennett a naughty little smirk, and managed to slip out the door before Mrs. Briarwood noticed them and shouted a few choice phrases.

James led the way to the little creek side meadow. He had her lying on her stomach, legs crossed in the air, a sketchbook placed crooked in front of her. She had her chin resting on one of her hands, and a charcoal stick grasped in the other.

“I want you to actually draw,” James instructed hesitantly, “there’s this concentrated expression on your face that I love. I really want to capture that.”

Lily nodded, “Alright. Is this full body, or just face?”

James arranged himself facing her, in a nearly identical position. His face was a foot from hers, if that. He winked, “Face.”

Before he began sketching he reached forward, and gently arranged the silky mess of her hair. Most of it was falling around her elbow, draped over her left shoulder. James had taken one, particularly wavy strand and let it fall onto the sketchbook, trailing carefully over the paper.

“Right,” he said, pleased, “draw.”

Lily felt a little overwhelmed with James so close to her. She hesitated, and then glanced up at him. Without realizing what she was doing, she began drawing the contours of his face.

James fell silent, evidently concentrating very hard on the project before him. He stared at her so intensely that she felt very hot, though it was cool in the shade. His eyes roamed her face, and his pencil scratched rapidly across his own paper.

She glanced down at her sketchbook, and then up again at James. He had a very sharp jaw line. She darkened the line, and then tried to capture the soft line of his cheek. His hazel eyes twinkled from behind his glasses, and his soft mouth was set in a determined, concentrated smile.

Lily, for a moment, paused drawing, simply to study his features. James was very handsome. He that bad boy-next-door charm; not too naughty, but it certainly was not the type of face to bring home to Mum. Though his lips were sweet and soft, his hair messy, and his cheeks dotted with a few, cute freckles, he could never be mistaken for harmless. His bright, hazel eyes were too damn mischievous, and his jaw was much too sharp. Lily’s favorite part of his face was his glasses. Instead of making him appear bookish or quiet, they perched cockily on the bridge of his straight nose, seeming more like an accessory to his intelligence than a characteristic of his personality.

Breathing slowly, she forced herself to look down at her sketchbook and make a few marks. But it was hard, keeping her gaze away from his smooth, tan skin and concentrated expression.

“You have a beautiful face,” she said suddenly.

James grinned, and flicked her sketchbook, “So do you.”

She felt warm, and grinned down at her work. James-on-paper smiled back at her.

It was uncomfortable for Lily to stay in the position she was in after a couple hours, but she grit her teeth and did it anyway. James had fallen into an artist’s trance long ago, his eyes glazed over and his brain too focused to notice anything but his paper and Lily. She did not pursue conversation, and instead let him do what he did best. Besides, though the silence was occasionally uncomfortable, especially when he was staring at her with a hard, probing expression, Lily enjoyed the quiet. Days of being with the marauders had left her ears slightly sore.

It was one of their quicker drawing days. James worked fast, and seemed quite attune to her features already. It took him no time at all to draw her basic proportions, and he shaded with confidence.

Lily glanced down at his sketchbook, and watched as he shaded her eyelid with the sort of precision usually reserved for neurosurgery or brewing veritaserum.

“You’re not drawing,” he reminded her after she lay idle for a few minutes.

She looked down at her book, and then continued drawing the finest details of James Potter’s face, down to the last freckle on his nose and intentional patch of stubble on his strong chin.

She captured everything about James Potter in the lazy hours by the creek. There was a symmetry to his face that Lily adored. She imagined she could be happy forever, if she always had similarly attractive people to draw.

“This was quick,” James said, impressed with himself, after only four and a half hours of work.

“Are you finished?” Lily asked.

He held up the sketchbook for her to see. She felt like she was gazing into a mirror as she stared at the portrait, which was elegant and beautiful and made her feel much more attractive than she actually was.

“Very good,” she managed to say.

He grinned, “I’ve wanted to draw you drawing for a while. You’re so concentrated. It’s pretty.”

She smiled, “Thanks. Same for you.”

James tugged her sketchbook towards him, and flipped it around. He groaned, “How is it that even when you’re not trying, you draw better than me?”

Lily rolled her eyes, “You’re nearly as talented as me and you know it.”

“But it’s work,” he pointed out, “for you, it’s effortless.”

She smiled, “Doesn’t matter, same result.”

James helped her up, and dusted the grass of her jeans. Then he gathered his materials and handed her the sketchbook she’d been using. “Shall we go help Timothy and Megan?”

“I suppose,” Lily said. She was slightly disappointed that James had drawn her so quickly. She enjoyed spending time with him, especially when she was only inches from his sculpted, beautiful face.

They returned to the studio, teasing each other the entire way, and arrived just after the lunch break had finished.

“Lily!” Timothy beamed.

It turned out that they had only a few questions, and that Timothy had managed to direct both of their work with his own vast knowledge. “It’s just this bit here,” Megan pointed, “And this. I don’t know how to get that texture with gray.”

Lily sighed, placed her sketchbook on the table, and then demonstrated how to properly attain texture with nothing more than a charcoal stick and the tip of her finger. Timothy and Megan watched attentively.

“So, like this?” Timothy said, working on a scrap bit of paper.

“Yeah,” Lily nodded, “careful not to smudge it with the side of your hand though.”

Timothy, who was brave and quite confident in his abilities, immediately began applying the technique to his portrait. Megan practiced a while longer, and then hesitantly worked on her portrait.

“Good,” Lily encouraged, “see? It looks more realistic already!”

James, who had been watching the lesson intently, shot her a grin, “Thanks Lily, I didn’t know that. I’m going to go put all this away now.”

Lily snorted when she realized he’d been carrying an armful of art supplies during her instruction to Timothy and Megan.

“Okay, and then this,” Timothy pointed at a part of his work, “how do I show that there’s a line there when it’s white?”

“You need to make the background a light shade of gray,” Lily said, “look, see how this is illuminated, and therefore the line is more like an anti-line, just white space? Well to contrast it, and show that it is a line, you need to make the areas on either side slightly darker.”

“But then I need to make the entire background like that! And even!” Timothy complained.

Lily shrugged, “It’s the only way to do it.”

Timothy grumbled and began slaving over his background. Megan hastily copied him.

Lily watched them carefully. After nearly fifteen minutes, Timothy got the result he needed. He finished the anti-line with a flourish, and set down his eraser.

“Oh no,” he said suddenly, looking over Lily’s shoulder.

Lily, bewildered, turned to follow his gaze. She saw James, standing by the shelves, speaking reluctantly to an unimaginably smug Rose Bennett.

“What is she doing?” Lily demanded, feeling quite angry that she hadn’t noticed the exchange herself.

“Seducing,” Timothy said darkly.

Megan glanced up, and immediately narrowed her eyes at Rose, “That cow. She’s been after him since they were fourteen.”

Lily watched as James pressed himself closer to the shelves. Rose had one hand on his sleeve, the other coyly twirling one of her blonde curls.

“She’s going too far!” Megan exclaimed angrily, “He’s told her he can’t stand her, and she won’t leave off!”

Lily, who was equally furious, was surprised that Timothy and Megan had such a reaction to it. Timothy’s fist was clenched, “C’mon James. Leave it, walk away from her.”

“He won’t, he’s too nice,” Megan disagreed bitterly.

Lily felt like she was observing a familiar battle. Megan and Timothy seemed to have a history of watching James shake off Rose Bennett.

“This one feels different,” Timothy said slowly, “she’s up to something.”

Up to something? Lily found her familiar temper, fiery and uncontrollable, rise up. She wasn’t sure why she suddenly hated Rose Bennett, but she found she absolutely despised the girl. She couldn’t take her eyes away from Rose’s hand, which was resting innocuously against James’ sleeve.

“Should we interrupt?” Megan asked desperately.

But neither Timothy nor Lily had the chance to respond. Rose Bennett, as soon as James said something, seemed to adopt an entirely different personality. She rose onto her tiptoes, silky and alluring, and placed her other hand on his shoulder.

“Oh no,” Timothy said again, looking stricken.

Megan shot a nervous glance at Lily, and opened her mouth to say something, but lost her chance.

Rose, with all the speed and grace of a panther, pressed herself into James and kissed him.

Time seemed to slow. Lily stared, disbelief etched across her features.

She found she’d like nothing more than to throttle Rose Bennett’s skinny little neck.

“No!” Megan gasped, horrified.

James appeared stiff, as if he had been petrified, or frozen. Rose let one hand lightly stroke his cheek, the very cheek that Lily herself had so carefully drawn hardly an hour before. In fact, Lily could remember the exact number of freckles on that cheek, and the way it led downwards to a jaw line that was sharp enough to draw blood.

Lily rose, unaware of what she was doing, intending on making Rose Bennett stop, when a voice rang across the studio.


“Oh no!” Megan squeaked.

Rose broke away, and turned with one, triumphant eyebrow raised. James had his eyes closed, an expression of utter shock and disgust scrawled across his face.


Mrs. Briarwood’s voice seemed magically amplified as it echoed around the deathly silent studio. Everyone had turned to look at Rose, who was standing much too close to James.

“BOTH OF YOU, OUTSIDE, NOW!” Mrs. Briarwood roared.

Rose stalked, oozing satisfaction, through the studio and into the foyer. James followed, clearly shaken, looking utterly miserable.

Mrs. Briarwood followed them out, and slammed the door behind her. At once, all the younger students began chattering, gossiping about what had just occurred.

“That bitch,” Timothy spat.

Lily shook with fury. Her temper was completely out of control. She couldn’t have acted normal if she wanted to.

“Why would she do that?” Megan demanded, stricken.

Lily knew. Lily knew exactly why Rose Bennett had trapped James by the material shelves. She knew why Rose had kissed him, in front of the entire studio, as if she intended for the world would see.

Rose Bennett was trying to get her point across to Lily. James, who was sweet and oblivious, was hers. And Bennett would continue proving this until Lily backed off entirely.

Of course, Lily wasn’t even trying to get James! It wasn’t her fault Briarwood had paired them for art class. Rose Bennett was not at the same artistic level that Lily and James were, no one was. They were coupled because they could learn from each other, and could progress far behind the rest of the class. Lily had no claim on James, and had never pretended to have any sort of ownership over him. Except when she was taunting Rose.

This was revenge for the way Lily had behaved this morning. Rose was retaliating.

“Lily?” Megan asked tentatively.

Lily stood up, robotic, and slung her bag over her shoulder. “I think I’ll go home now.”

“Lily, wait,” Megan said, “Rose didn’t . . . James wouldn’t do that! It wasn’t his fault. She’s just a cow, and it didn’t mean anything.”

“I know,” Lily replied automatically.

“Lily,” Timothy said, eyeing her carefully, “this isn’t going to affect you and James, you know that right?”

“Affect what?” Lily asked blankly, “There isn’t anything to affect.”

“But . . . but you two will be fine, right? You know you will,” Megan pressed.

Lily nodded, dazed, “It doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t matter at all.”

She turned on her heel, and marched out the back door, into the blinding sunlight. As she walked up the street, towards her house, she could hear Mrs. Briarwood’s infuriated shouts echoing behind her.

If you have the time to review, it would be much appreciated! Thanks to everyone for all the kind comments so far. You guys are awesome!

Chapter 16: And Then The Marauders Create A Plan To Avenge James' Honor . . .
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Lily Evans:

Lily had had her fair share of the flu during her lifetime. She was quite familiar with the body aches, the fever, the inability to stay warm, the nausea, and the pounding head aches. In fact, Lily, due to a weak immune system or bad luck, seemed to contract the flu more than the majority of people her age. Though she would never say she was friendly with the flu, she was certainly better acquainted with it than most.

This feeling, this achy, nauseous, horrible feeling, was akin to the flu. Lily would feel cold, then hot. Angry, then apathetic. Nauseous, then . . . well, still nauseous.

The mental image of Rose Bennett’s lips glued to James’ was something Lily would probably never be able to stomach gracefully. It was like picturing Professor Slughorn salsa dancing, or the whale man in spandex. Certain things simply went against nature. And Rose Bennett, who was pure evil wrapped in blonde curls and lip-gloss, was one of them.

When Lily arrived home she threw her art bag into a corner, enjoying the loud clunk it made against the wall, and then stormed out into the back patio. As expected, her mother was sitting on a chair out there, reading the newspaper.


Lily plopped into a chair, a half sick, half furious expression on her face.

Her mother, who appeared quite familiar with this routine, folded her newspaper and set it beside her. “What happened, dear?”

Lily shook her head, unable to speak.

“Why are you so angry?”

Lily put her head between her knees, shaking her head no. The nausea threatened to overwhelm her.

Her mother sighed, “Darling, I can’t help you if you won’t tell me.”

Lily looked up at her, took a deep breath, and then blurted quickly, “Rose Bennett snogged James in front of the entire art studio today.”

She cringed. Even hearing the words was enough to make the bile rise in her throat again. She scooted over in her chair, closer to a watering can, just in case she was unable to suppress it.

Mrs. Evans raised one eyebrow. “Rose Bennett? Mary Bennett’s daughter?”

Lily glared at the ground. “Blonde, skinny, bitter expression?”

“Oh yes,” her mother nodded, “she was so sweet when she was younger.”

“Yes, well she isn’t anymore!” Lily cried, “She’s a horrible cow! She has it out for me, Mum, she hates me.”

Mrs. Evans frowned, “Are you sure? You’re not just being overdramatic?”

Lily shot her mother a dark look.

“Alright, alright,” Mrs. Evans leaned forward, looking at Lily with her piercing green eyes. “Lily, even if Rose is as terrible as you say she is, I still don’t understand why this is so upsetting to you. Do you fancy James?”

“No,” Lily said immediately.

“Then what is it, dear? Why would them kissing bother you?”

Lily thought about it. She had to suppress a blush. Obviously it seemed like Lily fancied James, which was absolutely ridiculous. Lily did not fancy James. Lily disliked Rose Bennett and didn’t want to suffer through the indignity of attending art class without her partner.

“Mum, if James is suspended, then for all intents and purposes I’m suspended too,” Lily explained, slightly calmer, “our project sort of requires both of us to be there. So as long as James is gone, I have to be too. And Rose only did it to bother me, Mum. She’s trying to rile me up.”

“She succeeded,” her mother smiled, “you and your temper. Did you try to talk to Mrs. Briarwood?”

“No, I er, kind of stormed out and came here. She wasn’t done yelling at the pair of them yet,” Lily admitted.

Mrs. Evans nodded, “Alright. Well, Lily, I would go talk to Mrs. Briarwood if I were you. Explain why you’re so upset. And just ignore Rose. You know how to behave around Petunia, and keep yourself calm. Do the same around Rose.”

Lily felt her shoulder sink a little. Her rage had dissipated, but she was still vaguely annoyed.

“Speaking of your sister, she wants to go over flower arrangements later. Will you please be a part of that discussion? She says you’re not helping out enough.”

Lily opened her mouth, outraged, but her mother hushed her. Mrs. Evans eyes twinkled, “It’s just this summer, Lily, and then she’s out of the house. You’ll miss her when she’s gone.”

“Doubtful,” Lily snorted.

She stood up, feeling better. Mrs. Evans reached for her newspaper.

“Oh, wait Mum, Marlene and Alice might stay with us this weekend. Is that all right? I already told them yes.”

“Of course,” Mrs. Evans smiled, “we would love to have them. Are they attending the dinner party?”

Lily nodded, “Yes. Marlene might begin dating one of James’ friends, so it’s all a matter of convenience.”

“A matter of convenience . . .” Mrs. Evans paused, and then shot her daughter a sly, Lily-like look, “be nice to poor James, too. It isn’t his fault Rose kissed him. And he is quite convenient.”

“Mum!” Lily exclaimed, exasperated, and slammed the door behind her. The loud crash made her feel marginally better, but she still stomped angrily up the stairs, enjoying each loud, furious footstep.

James Potter:

Suspended?” Sirius exclaimed in disbelief.

James nodded miserably.

“Like, the slag jumped you, and now you’re suspended?”

He nodded again. He found he was excellent at nodding these days.

Sirius lay back into the grass of James’ backyard, his hands behind his head, “Wow. Is she suspended too?”

Another nod.

“What did Lily say?” Remus asked softly. Remus, at least, was aware that the neighbors were probably asleep. It had been very late by the time James had arrived home. Mrs. Briarwood had made him and Rose scour the entire studio as a manual labor punishment. Then, she had announced they were both suspended for the remainder of the week, and she was thoroughly disgusted with the pair of them. Well, more like she screamed abuses at them the entire time they were on their hands and knees, scrubbing the permanently paint-stained floor. It was at least ten o’clock when he was finally allowed to go home, and face his mates.

James stared up at the night sky, the stars twinkling and dancing, and felt ill. In truth, he didn’t mind the cleaning, or the shouting. Hell, he was used to it, after all the screaming detentions McGonagall had given him. It was Lily that worried him.

Lily had seen, and then stormed off. He had no idea what she must think of him now. Probably that he was every bit the smarmy ladies man he acted at school.

“It’s just,” James swallowed the lump in his throat, “it’s Rose Bennett. She’s like, the pure incarnation of evil.”

“No, my cousin is,” Sirius disagreed, casually ripping up handfuls of grass and tossing them aside, “but I do get your point. Not a nice girl.”

“And she hates Lily. She’s had it out for her since like, our first summer.”

Remus rolled his eyes, “Not that it matters. I’m sure Lily has taken care of herself just fine.”

“Of course she has,” James said, watching a shooting star streak across the sky, “but still. It’s like, we were finally getting along, and then she sees me feeling up her rival! Not that I was, you know, but she was. Lily will hate me now! It’s like betrayal.”

“First of all, you didn’t owe Lily anything,” Sirius yawned, “you’re not dating her. Second, who the hell cares? If this Bennett is as much of a slag as you say she is, than Lily should have no trouble understanding. She’s not stupid, you know.”

Peter, who was sprawled across the dewy grass just like the other three boys, finally spoke, “We should get this Bennett back.”

Sirius smirked, “I like the way you think, Wormtail.”

“The worst part is that with my suspension, Lily is suspended too,” James reflected, not listening to a word his friends said, “I mean, not technically, but she can’t get anything done. Our assignment sort of requires me to be there.”

“I vote public humiliation,” Sirius continued wickedly, “seems like that would rile her up most.”

“No magic though,” Remus reminded him, ripping up a handful of grass and chucking it at the marauder, “it’s summer, and even if you’re of age, I think the ministry will notice you cursing muggles.”

Sirius grimaced, “Fine. But there’s plenty of other stuff we can do.”

“Do you think I should go apologize?” James asked fretfully, “She’s probably furious. She has to go to art class for the rest of this week, but she can’t get anything done because of how stupid I was.”

“Maybe we could utilize all the paint and such? Ruin her clothes?”

Remus shook his head, “It’s art class, she’ll be wearing a smock or something.”

James slowly realized his friends were blatantly ignoring his pathetic musings. He frowned. Only the stars, twinkling and mischievous, seemed to give a damn about his internal distress.

Sirius sat up, “Well what do bitchy blonde cows hate most? I mean, her reputation is probably a huge deal, yeah?”

Remus nodded slowly.

“So let’s do what we did to that one Slytherin! Ysmelda, or whatever. Let’s use the weapons we have!”

“What weapons?” James demanded suspiciously. He sat up as well, staring at his best mate in the darkness. James was usually keen to go along with most of the marauders’ plans. Hell, he created half of them! But cursing muggles, or Slytherins, outside of school was simply too risky. It was the one law the ministry tended to actually enforce.

“C’mon, mate, what are our four most potent weapons?” Sirius asked, excitedly. He leapt up to pace the cold grass around them.

“Er, the cloak, the map, our wands, and our animagus forms?”


James was stumped. “Er, our charm, wits, brains, and sense of humor?”


Remus chuckled quietly, “No, Prongs. Us.”

James’ eyes dawned with apprehension. “Oh, right. Us.”

“Exactly!” Sirius exclaimed, “us four, we are our most potent weapons. And which weapon do you think is necessary to, shall we say, annihilate a reputation?”

Three sets of eyes slowly moved, and, simultaneously, landed on a cowering, miserable Peter Pettigrew. The smallest marauder shook his head frantically, “I am not doing that again! Muggles are worse than Slytherins!”

Sirius’ smirk widened, his eyes dark and malicious, “No, you’ll do it Peter. It’s your duty as a marauder. Think of what happened to James today!”

James nodded quickly, suddenly much more keen on this decidedly legal plan of revenge, “Yeah, I was assaulted. It’s your job to avenge my honor.”

The night seemed to grow colder, and darker, as Sirius’ dark eyes practically burned holes through Peter. “Do it,” he insisted. Remus and James watched, interested, as Sirius’ gaze slowly but surely crumbled Peter’s resolve.

“Alright, alright!” Peter finally gave in, slightly panicky, “bloody hell, I’ll do it!”

James, Remus, and Sirius adopted identical, wicked grins. Tentatively, Peter grinned back.

“Time to formulate a plan,” Sirius rubbed his hands together, “Moony, fetch a quill and a bit of parchment. Wormtail, gather your courage. And Prongs, for god’s sake, figure out how to apologize to Evans. It was pathetic listening to you earlier.”

James rolled his eyes. So Sirius, the git, had been listening, and had simply chosen to ignore him. Brilliant.

But of course, James could not be annoyed for long. Now, there was a plan. James’ honor would be avenged. And hopefully, if he were extremely lucky, Lily would forgive him.

The three other marauders saluted Sirius. And, for the rest of the dark, starry night, they discussed the finer details of the ultimate revenge.

Lily Evans:

The next few days passed without incident. Lily had been excused from art classes by a thoroughly peeved Mrs. Briarwood (“The nerve of those idiotic, hormone-driven, bumbling fools! Morons! Why do I bother trying to teach them anything! Stupid, bloody teenagers!”) Her mother, similarly, had allowed Lily to ditch the majority of the wedding planning, in order to save Petunia from being throttled and Lily from a life-sentence in Azkaban.

It was a with a horrible, sickening jolt that Lily realized the repugnant, awful event – Petunia’s wedding – was due to occur in less than three and a half weeks. As Lily had sat at the breakfast table, eating her cereal, Petunia had flounced past with an unbearably smug expression on her face. “Guess what Lily. I’m getting married in three and a half weeks!”

Lily had choked on her cereal, spraying milk everywhere. Eyes streaming, face a hideous, blotchy red, she had peered at her sister with pure horror.

“That’s right, drown in jealousy,” Petunia stalked towards the kitchen, “everyone knows, as the eldest, I’ll get the best husband.”

Lily nearly swallowed her spoon with this little gem. Best husband? The whale man had enough girth to count as three or four husbands, not to mention the ego to count as eight. If ‘best’ meant ‘largest,’ in every sense of the word, then Petunia was spot on. Any other definition of ‘best’ and Lily’s sister was barking mad.

“I reckon Petunia either has never truly seen the man, or she actually likes fat, egotistical gits,” Lily marveled to her father.

Mr. Evans chuckled, “Ah Lily. We all need to support your sister . . . but when it’s your turn, pick one I can stomach, would you?”

Lily grinned. Her parents, at least, were still rational human beings. Rose Bennett may be satanic, Petunia may be deluded, but at least Lily’s legal guardians had their wits about them.

Two days after the infamous Rose Bennett scenario, Lily sat sketching out the street below her bedroom window. Her transparent ivory curtains fluttered gently in the late summer breeze, and Lily’s own tendrils of red hair swept across her face. Impatient, she set down her charcoal and reached up to toss the majority of her long, thick hair into an unruly bun at the top of her head.

Satisfied that, at least for the moment, her hair would no longer be a distraction, Lily picked up her charcoal and critically eyed the street. This drawing was a simple study in perspective, but Lily was still extraordinarily neurotic over every little detail. The cars, the flower bushes, the quaint window shutters . . . Lily slaved over every aspect of her work.

Hours chased each other away, yet Lily hardly noticed the passing of time. That was the beauty of art; it surpassed any hourly limit or time constraint. Art would go as quickly or slowly as it pleased, and Lily had absolutely no control over it.

Her eraser turned black with use, and Lily’s fingers and palms absorbed a near-permanent coating of charcoal from her obsessive need to blend the particles in to the paper. Yet, even with these minor annoyances, the drawing began to take shape. Mrs. Roberts’ house down the street looked perfect in Lily’s paper representation. The clouds, the mailboxes, the little picket fences – everything was turning out brilliantly.

Absentmindedly, Lily considered using a work like this for her final gallery presentation. It was certainly quaint and whimsical, and done with the kind of perfectionist attention to detail that Lily so prided herself on . . .

No, Lily decided, when the time came for her final, she would truly make it a final. Something that illustrated her passion, her dedication, her perfectionism, and her greatest loves. The final would mean something greater.

She blended a charcoal flowerpot with the tip of her pinky finger, and then used the corner of her eraser to swipe a highlight. The pot instantly took shape. Lily could practically see the crack running down the side of it, and the bit of dirt smudged near the bottom.

Sighing, happily, she stretched. This would be finished in another twenty or so minutes. Lily would have another work for her already prolific and beautiful portfolio.

Suddenly, a large, sleek, black owl soared gracefully through her window. It passed over Lily’s head, a rush of wind and feathers, and landed smugly on her bed.

Lily, startled, dropped her charcoal, and then instantly swore. Her white carpet was sprinkled with bits of charcoal powder. Her parents were now liable to murder her due to the potential stain.

Quickly, Lily did her best to clean up the mess. Still, the floor looked a bit shabbier and grayer than before. She tossed a shirt over the spot, and then wiped her hands on the rag next to her drawing board.

“Bloody hell,” Lily muttered, as she stepped carefully over the mess and reached for the envelope tied to the obnoxious bird’s foot.

The owl hooted, dignified, as Lily struggled with the strings. It was truly a beautiful bird. It’s feathers were the deepest black, and impossibly glossy. The bird was practically royalty. Nevertheless, Lily was a bit too peeved to pay it proper respect.

She finally managed to unfasten the letter, and ripped it open. Three pieces of parchment fell out. One was labeled, in neat handwriting, Please read first. The second, characterized by a messy scrawl, said READ ME FIRST. The third was unmarked.

Lily had always appreciated manners, so she picked up the one with the ‘please.’ She unrolled it, careful not to smudge the words with her charcoal-smeared hands, and then rolled her eyes. Remus, as sweet and adorable as he was, seemed to sometimes adopt the most formal tone he could in order to offset the crude language of his mates. The solemn tone of his letter was better fit for a ministry job recommendation, or to tell someone the news of a death in the family.

Dear Lily,

Let me apologize in advance for the antics of my friends. They have chosen to send you apologies and explanations – against my greater judgment – and I fear whatever they write will not adequately express what needs to be said.

May I, as the only reasonable marauder, explain what we truly mean to say. First, James is deeply repulsed by one Rose Bennett, and would like the entire world (including you) to know that he would like nothing more than to feed her to the giant squid. He has been brushing his teeth about twenty times a day since the, ah, assault occurred. Honestly, he is quite torn up over the entire event, and I have been extremely worried for him.

Second, we have planned revenge, but we cannot tell you the finer details. All you need to know is that it will occur at the dinner party, but thanks to the seating chart you will be out of harm’s way.

If you’d like, when Marlene and Alice arrive, we can all go get a coffee or something before the dinner party. It would be a nice opportunity to catch up, and plan for any unforeseen circumstances at the dinner party.

I apologize again, in advance, for Sirius and James. Always remember that they have the combined maturity of a six-year-old.



Lily, who struggled to bite back a fond smile, tossed Remus’ letter aside, and picked up the ruder parchment. Undoubtedly, this was what Remus had felt the need to apologize in advance for.


Not true, I find you to be a delightful creature, but the threat is daunting all the same, yes?

Anyways, here are the essentials: Rose is a bint, James is traumatized, and we need revenge. So James is very sorry – forgive him, would you? – and we are going to enlist your help to get revenge. Well, we won’t tell you the plan, but we do need you to do a few things anyways. You know how it is.

When McKinnon gets here with . . . er, the blonde one, (what’s her name?) we will have a very, ultra top-secret rendezvous to map out the finer details. Revenge is a very delicate process after all.

Owl us when they arrive! OR ELSE!

Forever and always yours, Lily darling,


Lily began cracking up before she had hit the second paragraph, and was positively unable to breathe by the end. Eyes streaming and giggling uncontrollably, Lily placed the parchment gently on her bed beside Remus’ letter. Sirius was wonderful, even if he lacked any of the social skills necessary to be a polite human being.

Finally, when she had properly composed herself, Lily picked up the final, unmarked scroll of parchment. She unrolled it with shaking fingers.

Lily was fairly certain, given the foreshadowing of the first two, that this would be a long, drawn out apology letter from James. Clearly his friends didn’t trust him to impart the correct message. She wondered how shaken up he truly was from this whole experience.

Lily held the parchment flat in front of her. James’ familiar, cramped, slanted handwriting had formed one, short line of text.

Meet me at the creek, 10:00 pm, tonight.

Lily stared at the line for one, long moment. Then, she glanced out the window. The sun was just barely setting. She had quite a bit of time before the anticipated meeting hour.

What on earth did James have to say that he couldn’t write in a letter? Remus and Sirius had certainly gotten the general idea across, and quickly too. James was sorry, Rose was awful, etc. Everything they said, Lily could have easily deduced by herself.

But James had not done what Sirius and Remus expected. Perhaps he was less reliant on his mates as Lily thought. Maybe James was capable of having individual thoughts. Clearly, James had something a bit more important to say than a simple ‘sorry.’

Absentmindedly, Lily stood up and cleared away her sketchbook and charcoals. Then she left her room, and went into the bathroom she shared with Petunia. Ignoring the hundreds of tiny perfume bottles, face creams, powders, and soaps that littered the shelves and counter, Lily shrugged off her charcoal-smeared shirt and turned on the tap.

She washed the black powder off of her hands, and watched the gray water that swirled down into the drain. It took a good five minutes to scrub most of the charcoal away. Still, Lily’s small, pale hands had that slight grayish tinge that would probably never disappear. It was a permanent product of her incessant charcoal use.

Lily looked into the mirror, and chuckled at herself. She had a great big swipe of charcoal across one cheekbone, and another near her hairline.

Painstakingly, Lily washed her face. She stared into the mirror, her eyelashes wet and her green eyes piercing. Suddenly, she felt extremely self-conscious. What would she say to James, after she knew he had snogged Rose Bennett? He had seen Rose, up close and personal. What if he preferred Rose’s picture-perfect features, flawless make up, and crystalline blue eyes to Lily’s own natural, disheveled appearance?

Lily’s hairbrush, rarely used and dusty, rested beside the sink. Tentatively, she picked it up and ran it through her eternally tangled hair.

The result surprised even Lily. Her beautiful, thick red hair, with its golden tints and dark crimson undertones, positively sparkled when smooth. It framed Lily’s pale face and pointed chin, and reached all the way to the underside of her rib cage. Her hair, when not a ratty mess of red curls and snarls, was actually quite pretty.

Pleased, Lily left the bathroom and returned to her room. She put on her favorite white summer dress, tight fitting at the bodice but loose around her knees. Then she slipped on a pair of sandals, grabbed her sketchbook, and glanced out the window.

She had perhaps an hour until the meeting. One hour until she was face-to-face with James Potter, who may or may not prefer Rose Bennett after their impromptu snogfest.

If nothing else, at least this would be a great opportunity to curse the bigheaded git into oblivion. A secret meeting at 10:00 at night? No witnesses, no one to hear him scream.

Lily grinned, and slammed the backdoor behind her.

Reviews are absolutely lovely! Thank you everyone for the incredible feedback so far!

Chapter 17: And Then James And Lily Have A Much Anticipated Conversation . . .
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James Potter:

The soles of his sneakers slapped comfortingly against the dark pavement as James hurried to his late, clandestine meeting with one Lily Evans. The sound echoed among the dark houses, but James made no effort to quiet his footsteps. He was not at Hogwarts, there were no snot-nosed prefects to catch him and dock points. Hell, he could stay out as late as he wanted. It was summer.

He shoved his hands in his pockets, and strayed away from the pools of light that gathered beneath street lamps. It was not that he was a creepy Slytherin that hated light, he just saw no reason to be blinded by artificial illumination when the night sky was so starry and beautiful.

It had been surprisingly easy to lie to his mates about where he was going tonight. He mentioned that Mrs. Briarwood had demanded more cleaning hours – payment for his shame in the form of manual labor – and Sirius, Remus, and Peter had promptly wrinkled their nose and bid him goodbye.

James didn’t blame them. If Sirius had detention, James sure as hell was not going to skip along for the ride.

Faking a letter had been the most difficult part. James had begun writing a number of letters, before crumpling the parchment and chucking each letter in turn on the floor. Eventually, he got so frustrated, that he settled for a brief meet me at the creek.

He let Remus catch a glimpse of an ‘apology letter’ filled with his handwriting (really, his summer homework Transfiguration essay . . . which he was not admitting to finishing already,) and then surreptitiously switched the two and tied the real letter, er, note, to his owl, Aristotle.

After all, everything would be easier in person, right?

Wrong. James was regretting this move with every step he took closer to his destination. Lily Evans was quite possibly one of the most intimidating people on this planet. Being face-to-face with an angry Lily was about as comforting as being face-to-face with a scorned hippogriff. Either way, James was likely to emerge maimed, disfigured, and possibly dead.

But James had never been great with written words. He had the ability to be heartbreakingly sincere in person, and irresistibly charming, but it never translated on paper. So, even as he grew more and more nervous, he knew this was the right thing to do.

He turned right on the street that lined the river. He had perhaps five minutes until he arrived at his and Lily’s drawing spot. Suddenly, his gut clenched, and James had to goad himself to go further.

“C’mon, head straight, go,” James muttered to himself. He ducked his head, and stared at the white tips of his sneakers. One foot in front of the other. Left, right, left.

Without warning, the mental image of Rose Bennett’s glossy, sticky lips pressed against his flooded James’ brain. He had to physically stop himself from retching all over the pavement.

“Dear merlin,” James gasped, hands on his knees, “will this never stop?”

It was not that Rose was bad looking, or all that repulsive at all. It was just that James had been forced into the snog, and Rose had all the compassion and kindness of a Gringotts goblin. She was, to say the least, a coldhearted bitch.

James shook his head, trying to clear his mind, and continued walking. The memories would fade, sooner or later. And the Marauders’ foolproof plan of revenge would help to alleviate the pain as well. Rose, hopefully, would back off forever.

He reached the spot where he had promised to meet Lily. Thick, dark bushes hid the little area from the path and street. James stared at the shadowy area.

Then, with all of his Gryffindor courage, and his own desire to make things right, he parted the bushes and stepped into the secluded, grassy patch of creek-side serenity.

And promptly stopped short.

Lily was perched on a large rock that jutted out over the water. Her white dress and pale skin glowed in the starlight, setting her at stark contrast to the shadowy nighttime world around her. She had her sketchbook on her lap, and seemed to be drawing something from her imagination. The creek bubbled and murmured around her, sighing softly in the cool night air.

“Er, Lily?” James whispered.

Startled, Lily looked up, saw James, and froze, wide-eyed.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you,” he held up his hands, and inched forward, “what are you sketching?”

“Nothing,” Lily said. Her tone was cold.

James sighed. He knew it would be like this. Although Lily was brilliant and surprisingly perceptive, she also had a temper and she hated Rose Bennett. James snogging Rose was equivalent to James snogging a Slytherin – Lily would be furious at him no matter what. Reason was lost in her rage.

“Mind if I join you?” James asked politely.

“It’s why I’m here,” Lily said. There was an obvious tone to her voice, which made James cringe a little bit.

He seated himself, back against a tree trunk, a few feet or so away from Lily. It was close enough not to be bizarre, but far enough that her aim would be seriously impacted if she decided to throw things, such as her unnervingly sharp pencil.

She closed her sketchbook, tossed it on the ground, and stared at him, eyebrows raised.

“Er . . . right. You got Remus’ and Sirius’ letters?”

She grimaced. “They worry a lot for you, don’t they?”

“Yeah, they do,” James smiled, “gits.”

Lily glanced to her right, listening to the water chatter as it chased itself downstream. Her small hands played with the cottony fabric of her dress. “I assumed you would have a lengthy, pathetic apology letter too.”

“I’m not so good with the quill,” James admitted, “I reckoned it would be to my best advantage to talk to you in person.”

She shrugged. “So talk.”

Right. The talking part. The apology piece. James was not so brilliant at this part. It was not that he had trouble admitting when he was wrong - hell James was wrong most of the time. It was that Lily’s hair was especially shiny tonight, her eyes particularly narrow, and James had a painful, overwhelming fear of mucking this up.

“Look, can I start at the beginning? Like . . . way beginning?”

Lily shrugged again. She seemed like she could not possibly care less.

“Okay,” James glanced at her nervously, and then resumed staring at his sneakers. “So you know I sort of despise Rose Bennett, right? I bloody can’t stand that type of superficial, self-centered bint, who only wants a fit bloke that won’t talk back. Trust me, Lily, she’s just about the last person on this planet I would ever consider even partially attractive.”

Lily’s mouth seemed to grow less rigid, and her eyes became minutely softer. James relaxed a little bit. Apparently, insulting Rose Bennett was the right way to go about this whole sordid affair.

“Really, she’s been pursuing me since the first year of the Academy, and every year my ‘no’ has become more and more blunt. Timothy and Megan know, they’ve watched it all happen. She’s chased me, I’ve said no. It’s a pattern, yeah?”

Lily shrugged. Again.

“So . . . er, this year it’s been worse, I reckon because Mrs. Briarwood paired us up. Bennett always thought she had a singular claim on me, you know? And then, all of a sudden, she had, er, competition.”

“I am not competing with Rose Bennett for your affections,” Lily said, her lip curled with disgust.

James backtracked hastily, “No, no of course not, trust me, I know that. I know you aren’t. But, er, she sees it that way, right? Surely you’ve noticed.”

She nodded bitterly. “Yeah, I suppose I’ve noticed.”

“Right,” James continued, relieved, “so yeah. She’s threatened by you, I think. Probably because you’re everything she wants to be. Funny, smart, talented, matched with me . . . you know how it is. You see it with the girls at Hogwarts too.”

Lily seemed to straighten slightly, as if she had long ago resigned herself to the fact that some girls were bitter, jealous cows. If James remembered correctly, Lily had often been the subject of such envious bullying during their younger Hogwarts years. Girls could be downright cruel during adolescence, and Lily, with all of her gifts and intelligence and confidence, had been a frequent target.

“Rose is just like all those other stupid girls, Lily,” James said quietly, “she’s insecure. Jealous, yeah? You have so much going for you, and they’re intimidated.”

Lily braided her hair, unfocused. The silky red strands seemed to shine in the starlight, and James found himself staring at the long red curls in fascination. Lily herself was unperturbed, cold, and continued gazing at the water beneath her.

“I didn’t enjoy that kiss, Lily,” James said suddenly, “I hated it, I assure you.”

She glanced up at him. “Then why didn’t you pull away? I mean, I’ve heard you go off on Bennett’s less-than-attractive personality traits before. It made no sense that you stayed there.”

He shrugged, “I was shocked. Didn’t expect her to be so bold.”

“But why didn’t you push her off?” Lily persisted.

James rested his head back against the tree trunk, and stared at the girl who was so irritated with his behavior. Why did she have to be so bloody curious? Why couldn’t she be stupid, like half the idiotic teenagers their age, and be satisfied with his first answer?

But Lily Evans was known for her intelligence, and right now, Lily knew that James had a greater reason for not pushing Rose Bennett the hell away from him. He knew the answer. He knew exactly why he hadn’t shoved Rose Bennett off of him as if she were infected with dragon pox. But he couldn’t tell Lily.

There was no way in hell he was admitting to Lily that he, James Potter, was as inexperienced as a twelve-year-old.

When Rose had pressed him up against the wall, James had frozen stiff with shock. His mind had raced, his heartbeat quickened, his fight-or-flight senses jumped into action. For all intents and purposes, he had completely shut down. James was sensitive, the youngest of all the marauders, and completely ill equipped to deal with girls. Hell, if James were ever forced into a situation like that again, he’d probably faint. Or play dead.

He could not tell Lily that the instant a girl touched him he reverted back to the courage and skill level of a second year. It was as if he had been facing a dementor for the first time, and had no idea how to combat it or protect himself. His sexual inexperience, though unexpected by anyone who had ever heard of James Potter (and most people had), was his greatest weakness.

He didn’t care when Sirius took the mickey out of him for it, and he didn’t care that Peter considered him positively saint-like for avoiding girls in his halfhearted search for ‘the one.’ But he sure as hell cared that Lily, who had already lost her virginity, did not know he had the sexual experience equivalent to a toddler, or a coffee table. As in, none whatsoever.

Lily was different. James, for the first time, cared what she thought about him.

Pride, like a patronus shielding him from the world, kept his mouth firmly closed. He did not speak a word to Lily.

“James,” she said lowly, dangerously, “either you’re not being honest, or you’re hiding something. Why was it so goddamn hard to push a girl – who you clearly despise – away from you?”

His mind raced frantically as he tried to think up a suitable lie. But nothing came to mind, and he could only stare, blushing and unhappy, at the base of the rock upon which she perched.

She stood up, but James kept his eyes firmly below her ankles. Carefully, as if she were stepping on river stones, she crossed the grass until she stood directly in front of him. Then, she sat, her legs crossed beneath her, the white fabric of her dress spilling onto the dark grass, and stared directly at him. James casually pulled his knees to his chest to give her room.


He shook his head no. He couldn’t.

“James, if you don’t tell me whatever is going on, I’m going to assume you didn’t pull away because you’re a smarmy git that only wants a shag.”

That hurt. James looked up at her, and frowned, “It’s not that at all.”

Lily raised one, dangerously skeptical eyebrow. The girl had been taking a few pointers from Moony. The skillful, shockingly accurate twitch of that eyebrow had enough power to make James’ hands shake. Only Remus Lupin was usually able to do that.

“I don’t want a shag,” James repeated weakly.

Lily scoffed, “You’re a seventeen year old boy!”

“And you’re supposed to be a rational, forgiving seventeen year old girl!” James fired back.

Her eyebrow touched her hairline. “Tell me the truth.”

James looked back at the ground, sulky. He was trapped into a corner with no foreseeable escape route. Lily Evans, master manipulator and queen of intimidation, had him cornered faster than she would a first year out-of-bounds at night.

“Look,” he said, desperately clinging to his dignity, “it’s not at all what you think, and it’s sort of embarrassing, and I’d really rather not say.”

“Wrong answer.”

James huffed, “Lily! Give it a rest!”

“Wrong answer again.”

He glared at her. “Why does it matter so much why I looked petrified when Bennett assaulted me?”

“Because, James,” Lily said acidly, with the type of tone one normally uses when disciplining a toddler, “the natural reaction would be to shove her off. People don’t just freeze when a terrifying bitch gets that close.”

She had a point. James feared Rose Bennett the same way he feared Snape; they were both incredibly creepy, bizarre to look at, and capable of great and terrible power. Rose’s power lay in her manipulative, conniving, and cunning one-track mind. Snape’s lay in his . . . well, his magical ability and his lack of hygiene. If either Snape or Bennett got that close to James, the ‘natural reaction’ would be to get the hell away. Flight, not fight.

But James’ natural instincts had somehow chosen ‘freeze’, because of his terrified and inexperienced libido. He may as well have crawled into fetal position and pretended to be dead.

The answer Lily wanted so badly lay completely and totally in his pathetic sexual inexperience.

And that was too damn humiliating.

“Er – full body bind curse?”

“Wrong answer.”

“C’mon, Lily,” James resorted to whining, “please let it go? It was nothing. I can’t stand her, I promise.”

Lily’s eyes flared, “James, I’m not going to trust you as an art partner if you can’t shake off Rose Bennett. It’s pathetic, and I truly loathe her. So you need to pick. Either grow up, tell me what happened, and we can move forward, or keep stalling and become Rose Bennett’s art partner.”

James paled. He was well and truly trapped. He may as well have been in windowless, door-less, oxygen-less room without a wand. In fact, that was probably preferable to this situation, with a seething, righteous Lily Evans.

Really, he was just screwed.

“Okay,” James said slowly, “okay fine. You’re coercing and blackmailing this information out of me, so I guess I don’t have a choice.”

Lily looked faintly smug.

“But that doesn’t mean I’m happy I’m about saying it,” James stressed, “I’d really rather you not know.”

She cocked her head, the smugness fading slightly. “You don’t trust me?”

James hit his head back against the trunk of the tree. “No! Merlin, Lily, I probably trust you as much as I trust my mates! It’s just . . . I mean, it’s personal, okay? And kind of humiliating. And you’ll laugh.”

“No, I won’t,” she rolled her eyes, “give me a little credit.”

“You’ll laugh,” he assured her.

“James.” She leaned forward, placing her hands on his knees, “Tell me. Now.”

He looked down at her small, pale hands, one on each jean-encased knee. Though he was too stressed for her touch to really affect him, he still winced a little. The naughty little knickers cackled from deep within him.

“Er . . .” he stalled, “okay . . . Who do you think I lost my virginity to?”

Lily pulled her hands back, looking a bit surprised. She pondered the question. “I’d say probably either Marcia Haddock or Emma Forrester.”

James shook his head no.

“Really?” Lily tapped her lip, slightly surprised, “Er, that Ella girl? Sirius’ girlfriend now?”

James emphatically shook his head no. Sirius had claimed Ella from first year; there was no way James would have ever delved into that forbidden territory.

“Sally Abbott.”


“Mary MacDonald.”


“Sophie Greengrass?”

Ew no, she’s a bloody Slytherin!”

Lily stared at him, exasperated. “All of those girls have told me they’ve slept with you. And none of them were your first?”

James wrinkled his nose with revulsion, “I’ve never slept with any of them. Especially Greengrass. God Lily, do you really think I’d do her?”

Lily’s mouth fell open. “What?

Suddenly, James realized what he had just said. He felt blood rush up to his cheeks, and he ducked his head with the pretense of adjusting his glasses.

“You’ve never . . . you never slept with any of them? All of those girls lied?”

He nodded, grimacing.

“They weren’t your first . . . and they’ve never had sex with you?”

James frowned miserably. “None of them. Ever.”

Lily was absolutely perplexed. She gazed at him with bewildered surprise, her eyes clearly confused. “So then, who was it? Have you slept with any of the girls who have bragged about it at Hogwarts?”

James avoided the first question. “Er, no. They like to make stuff up.”

“So that means . . . oh my god, Dorcas lied too!”

“Yes she did,” James felt a little sickened at the mention of Peter’s part time girlfriend, “I do have standards, you know.”

She threw him a dirty look, but was unable to stay too furious. She was simply too confounded. James had never seen Lily a state of disbelief like this; she nibbled on her bottom lip and twisted the hem of her dress, staring unfocusedly into the darkness.

“They . . . they all made that up,” she frowned, and then glanced at him, “you wouldn’t believe some of the stories I’ve heard about you, James.”

“Oh I can imagine,” he said darkly.

It was true. James was well informed as to the rumors that had swirled around him and various girls throughout his time at Hogwarts. Whether it was from one of Sirius’ girlfriends telling him, or from one of Remus’ many friends that were girls, or from Peter’s strange way of procuring even the most outlandish gossip, James always knew. He had heard stories that made him blush, babble incoherently, and require isolation for a number of hours. The marauders were always very careful with James, for although he was their unquestioned leader, he was also vulnerable, and inexperienced. They did their best to quench all the rumors, intimidate the guilty girls into silence, and constantly make sure James’ sanity was intact. It was one of the many reasons he would always be indebted to his friends, for they were the sole barrier between him and hordes of needy, demanding, terrifying girls.

James sighed, despising his situation. He did not want Lily to know the truth.

“If you haven’t slept with any of the stupid Hogwarts girls . . .” Lily knitted her eyebrows together, utterly puzzled, “than who have you slept with?”

This was it. The one question James had hoped she would not ask.

He bought himself a few, precious seconds with his dignity by swiping his dark hair out of his eyes, and polishing his glasses. He coughed a little.

“James . . .” Lily stared at him, piercing. He fidgeted.

And suddenly, in one short instant, she knew. And he knew she knew. And he stared at the ground in shame.

“There’s no one, is there?” she asked softly.

He wrapped his arms around his knees, staring determinedly at a point on the ground six or so feet behind her. If he only had mere seconds left with his pride, than he would damn well enjoy them.

“Wow,” Lily breathed.

James gave up with his pride. He had no hope. So he heaved a sigh, and slowly forced himself to look up into Lily’s intense gaze.

“That’s . . . surprising,” she admitted.

“I know,” James frowned.

“Really surprising.”

“Yes, I know.”

“Like . . . bloody hell, James! Your reputation! The things I used to think about you . . . and none of it is true.”

“None of it.”

Lily pushed her hair back behind her shoulders absentmindedly, her mind clearly reeling. James felt a different kind of satisfaction in seeing her shock. If nothing else, at least his act had been thoroughly convincing.

Her eyes widened again. “That means that I have more experience than you! Me! Prefect Lily Evans, has more sexual experience than the bloody ladies’ man James Potter!”

“A lot more,” James groaned.

She covered her mouth with her hand to suppress giggles. “Bloody hell, James!”

“Don’t rub it in,” he ruffled his hair, slightly anxious, “look, I’m not proud of it, okay? I’m not like this because I want to be. It’s just never seemed . . . right. You know? Never the proper moment. So I reckon I’ll live up to my reputation one day. It just hasn’t happened yet.”

She smiled. “I guess that just means you’re a bit chivalrous. It’s sweet.”

He wrinkled his nose. He didn’t want to be sweet. He wanted to be a rebel, a prankster, a mischievous little prat – something worthy of the title ‘Marauder.’

“If it helps, I’d give anything to be in your situation,” Lily offered, shrugging slightly, “I regret what I did. But I can’t take it back, and I just have to live with the fact that Greg Samson will always be my first.”

James prickled at Samson’s name. Since the night he and Lily had painted the ceiling, he had found himself intensely disliking the bloke. They had never been anything but cordial to each other before, but now James found he’d like nothing more than to let loose a few well chosen curses in the Ravenclaw’s direction. Or maybe just throttle him. Or introduce him to a man-eating giant squid.

“He wasn’t worth it, James,” Lily looked at him, her eyes sad and calm, “but at least you have the maturity and self-awareness to wait for someone who is.”

He felt his stomach jump a little. Lily had never complimented him on maturity before.

“True,” he looked back at her in the darkness, mouth pulled into a crooked half-smile, “I suppose I’ll just wait and see.”

Lily gave him a smile that was both vague and beautiful. James looked at her lips, mesmerized by the slight, mysterious upturned twist at the corners. In that one, passing second, he felt decades younger than his female art partner.

And for the first time in his and Lily’s friendship, James felt like he had said something completely and absolutely right. Maybe telling Lily’s his most humiliating secret had actually been a good thing. Maybe, if James continued behaving like the mature seventeen-year-old he was meant to be, he might just get Lily on his side once and for all. Lily, with her incomprehensible wisdom and adorable flaws, might be the person necessary to force James to grow up a little more.

He sighed, and ruffled his hair. All of these realizations were bloody exhausting.

“What time is it?” she asked.

James checked his watch. “Nearing midnight.”

“I best get back,” Lily sighed, “Marlene and Alice are arriving early tomorrow. We have to do some preparation before your mum’s dinner party.”

He agreed, because he was beat, but a small part of him wished that he could just stay by the beautiful, bubbling creek, talking to Lily forever.

“Sirius and Remus want to go get coffee or something beforehand to go over some revenge details with you,” James yawned, stretching his arms above his head, “say it’s important, ‘cause they don’t want you to get blasted.”

Lily laughed, “Yeah, they mentioned it in their letters. Best do it tomorrow, right? Then the day after the girls and me have to get ready and help my family prepare for a wizard’s house.”

“I’ll let them know. Maybe around four?”

Lily nodded, “Perfect.”

James clambered to his feet, and brushed the grass and leaves off of his jeans. Then he reached a hand down to help Lily up. Her tiny hand fit into his perfectly, and he pulled her to her feet as if she weighed nothing at all. Her dress swayed around her knees.

“Thanks,” she said, and collected her sketchbook and pencil.

“I’ll walk you home,” James offered, “it’s late, and no offense Lily, but you look far too young and pretty to be walking by yourself right now.”

He thought he saw a tint of blush appear on her cheeks, but it was dark so he could not be sure. She simply shrugged, “All right then.”

The pair of them climbed back through the bushes, and began walking down the paved street. James’ footsteps seemed inordinately loud, but again, he didn’t care to quiet them. Lily walked silently, ghost-like, beside him. Her head hardly reached his shoulder, and he chuckled at the obvious height difference.

They walked in peaceful silence all the way to Lily’s front door. Neither of them felt the need to fill the quiet with useless chatter, and James found he enjoyed simply being near her.

“Well, thanks for walking me back,” Lily said, turning to look at him.

He shoved his hands in his pockets and rocked on his heels. “No problem. Now I don’t have to worry if you got home or not.”

She tapped the bodice of her dress. “I have a wand, you idiot.”

He shrugged, “All the same.”

Lily stood, wavering slightly. He waited out the awkward silence comfortably. Inexperienced he may be, he was still perfectly capable of handling himself with goodbyes at a girl’s front door.

Then, she stood on her tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek, her hand barely brushing his shoulder for balance. He froze, inhaling the flowery scent of her shampoo and closing his eyes at the soft touch of her lips on his cheek.

Fight or flight, but this time, James chose freeze.

She shot him a cheeky grin, “Night, James.”

He blinked once, and she was gone, disappeared into her dark house. The door shut quietly behind her.

A grin slowly spread across his face. That little minx! He had the strongest feeling that she would be using her newfound information to torture him. Because although Lily was wise and intelligent, Lily was also a tad bit mischievous. And like James, Lily would not let juicy new information go to waste. He sighed, knowing the next few days, or even weeks or months, would be spent dodging Lily’s wicked agenda.

The dragon within him stood up, turned around, and lay back down, an evil smirk on its face. Knickers floated across his mind, taunting him.

James shook his head, torn between chuckling and groaning, and turned to slowly walk back home.

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