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Not Fade Away by Noblevyne

Format: Novel
Chapters: 27
Word Count: 82,139
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Drama, Romance, Angst
Characters: Dumbledore, Lupin, McGonagall, Snape, Sirius, A. Longbottom, F. Longbottom, Lily, James, Pettigrew
Pairings: James/Lily

First Published: 06/30/2004
Last Chapter: 09/13/2006
Last Updated: 09/13/2006


It's better to burn out than to fade away - Neil Young. James and Lily romance that starts in their 6th Year and (hopefully) follows them until death. Chapter 26 added. Amazing banner by Acappella.

Chapter 1: Chapter 1
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The air was heavy with excitement and emotion; there must have been a thousand people standing on Platform 9 ¾, laughing, crying, gossiping…it was the same every year.

James and Sirius looked around at the swelling masses, a sardonic smile playing on both their faces: the start of another Hogwarts year was always heavy with the promise of mischief and fun.

They spotted the tall, lanky figure of Remus Lupin, not one hundred feet away, off to the side, looking quite disorientated by the large crowd; he hated being around so many people.

“Hey, Moony!” James called over the ruckus, bringing Remus’ attention to the two dark haired Marauders now approaching him, the frown that had been etched into his prematurely lined face slowly emerged into a shy smile.

James and Sirius reached him, laughter and light in their eyes, “Have a good summer Moony?” James asked, his black hair, sticking out in every direction.

“Superb,” Remus replied in his quiet, unassuming voice, slight smile still on his handsome, but exhausted face, “And yours?” he asked, carefully aiming this question at Sirius.

Sirius said nothing, he simply ran a hand through his long, black hair, plastered his trademark roguish grin on his face and punched Remus in the arm, “My we’ve grown, Moony, you’re beginning to look like a real boy,” he said, his voice straining to remain light.

Remus knew that Sirius had run away from home that summer and taken to living with the Potters, but Remus knew that Sirius would no sooner admit that he had had a hard time than Remus would announce his own being a werewolf.

Remus looked at James, his eyebrows raised, James smiled casually back at him, but also managed to communicate a warning with the look in his eyes.

Leave it alone…

Remus nodded gently, to indicate that he had understood then laughed as Sirius went into another of his hyperactive tirades about the fun they were going to have this year.

However, Sirius' observation had been quite correct, Remus no longer looked pallid and weak, but rather…he had grown over the course of this summer, becoming as tall as James, his light brown hair already flecked with his first greys, he had taken on a rather distinguished appearance, he was still rather thin, but he had now acquired an athletic figure; not surprising since inside of him a monster of considerable strength dwelt.

Sirius remained basically unchanged, though it seemed he had grown a full foot, pale skin heavily transposed against his dark hair and grey eyes, hair a little bit longer, chest a little boarder, but he retained a cat like physique; long and lean, he always looked like a predator, always searching for his next attack.

James, as always, was James. If no one knew better they would see his charming face and think he might be a polite, attractive, slightly bewildered young man; he looked like a choir boy, his hazel eyes peered out from behind his circular glasses and immediately people misjudged him because of them, they did not see past the glasses into his eyes which were always glinting with the distinct hint of trouble. His jet black hair had the rather satisfying effect of sticking up in several directions, he liked it, even if it did make him look a bit dotty.

Standing next to Sirius you probably couldn't find a better example of contrast: James looked like the boy next door whereas Sirius looked like every mother's worst nightmare and every middle aged housewives dream.

“James! Sirius! Remus!” A high-pitched voice exclaimed, and a podgy teenager came scurrying from the crowd, tripping over his own feet and skidding a few yards.

James, Sirius and Remus exchanged a look of amusement between each other before going to help him.

“Slow down, Wormtail, you’re a bloody health hazard when you try to run,” James joked, bending down with Sirius to help him up.

“Yeah, Wormtail, really, you need to work on that hand eye co-ordination thing, before you get someone killed,” Sirius added, his impish grin appearing once again.

“Oh! Sirius! I heard you ran away this summer, you’re living with James right? What did your parents say?” He asked excitedly.

Sirius clenched his jaw and an odd glazed look came over his face, he looked away from Peter, almost making as if to stand up and leave.

Both James and Remus noticed Sirius’ change in countenance, sharing a furtive glance at one another.

“Not now, Peter,” Remus hissed, so that Sirius couldn’t hear, Peter looked confused, his watery eyes darting from Remus to James and Sirius.

James was desperately searching for a distraction, noting that Sirius had both of his fists clenched, as if in preparation for a fight.

“Snivellus,” James said loudly, praising Snape’s timing.

Sirius head snapped around to see where James was looking, Sirius’s eyes narrowed to slits as he watched their greasy haired Slytherin friend amble towards to the train carriages.

His sly smile returned and he looked at James waywardly, “I think we should pay Mr. Snape a visit, Mr. Prongs…”

James looked heartened by Sirius change in mood, but he heard the whistle blow and the conductor cry out ‘All aboard!”

“It might have to wait, Padfoot,” James whispered conspiratorially.

Sirius smiled, he looked positively wicked, “I think the wait might be worth it,” he said wildly.

They began to board the train, Sirius seemed to be back in spirits again, already organising his next attack on Snape with devious enjoyment.

“Maybe we could hex him so that grease pours from him in buckets…what’s that incantation again, James?”

“Slipertitius,” replied Remus, not looking up from his book, a frown forming on his lips.

“He doesn’t need help with that, Padfoot,” James pointed out.

“Right, yeah,” Sirius said distractedly, running his hands through his hair repeatedly, “it has to be something really big, something we haven’t done before…” he then began to list all of the curses, hexes, jinxes and charms he could think of, suggesting them out loud then refuting the idea soon after.

Remus looked over the top of his book at James, a disapproving expression on his face, James didn’t care, he was just pleased that he could get Sirius’ mind off the events of the previous summer, glad that he had been able to avert his attention before Peter could say something really stupid and have set him off.

He gazed out of the window, watching the scenery drift past and he thought back to the night that Sirius had turned up, literally, on their doorstep, the desperation in his eyes as he had asked if he could stay with them for a while.

His parents had been quite accommodating, being quite fond of Sirius, and none of them had asked any questions as they helped him bring his luggage to the guestroom.

But they had all noticed the welts and bruises on his arms.

James had silently helped Sirius get settled in, waiting until his parents had stopped fussing over him so that he could ask.

“What happened?” James asked tentatively, Sirius sat on the edge of the bed, James stood over Sirius with his arms crossed, his expression was somewhere between concern and fury.

Sirius barked out a laugh and eyed James with the his trademark smile, “Apparently,” he said slowly, “my parents did have objections to my leaving. Apparently,” he said, drawing out the word, “I may be a disgrace to the name of Black, but that doesn’t mean I ‘can just walk out of this house so easily!’” he screeched in a voice convincingly like his own mother’s.

Sirius still had a grin on his face, which seemed to irritate James “Look, can’t you be serious?” James demanded loudly and Sirius smiled at the word ‘serious’, prepared to offer his usual rebuttal: But I am! But James glared at him, Sirius could see that he was fuming with anger, “Tell me what happened.”

Sirius sighed resignedly, his posture slumped and the grin slid off his face: he really didn’t want to talk about, didn’t want to let James know that he’d been weak, didn’t want to see the pity in his eyes.

“Fine,” he said tiredly, “fine. I’ve had enough, had enough of my family, my father, my mother.” he sneered, “This afternoon she decided to give me a 3 hour lecture on the importance of blood, see, I guess she heard about my little tryst with those muggle girls…” he trailed off, “and I didn’t react to it well,” he shrugged, “ I guess I gave her a little piece of my mind, told her that I didn’t care about blood, that it didn’t matter to me, that there were more important things in life than blood,” he shook his head, “told her that she was a bitter old hag who was stupid enough to believe that kind of crap, told her she could go get buggered too, by a muggle no less ” he said, raising his eyebrows in exclamation.

The fury had been removed from James’ expression, now to be replaced by a look of celebration with his friend, but it was brief, and soon to be replaced by concern again.

“Predictably, neither she, nor my father were too impressed by that comment, he grabbed me by the arm, tried to hold me down, but I had my wand with me, managed to knock him back a few feet and I ran upstairs, packed everything and made a run for it…” he paused, his eyes went dark as he remembered something, “Stupid, bloody idiot,” he muttered.

“What?” James inquired softly.

“Regulus,” Sirius explained, “he tried to stop me, thought he’d have a go for the’ family honour’ or whatever,” he looked down at his bruised arms, “He hits like a girl,” he snorted. “Anyway, he slowed me down, and that gave my dear parents enough time to catch up with me, try to hold onto me, stop me from going for God knows what reason, I mean, it’s not as if they ever wanted me there…anyway, the short and hairy of it is, that I got away and now I’m here and I’m not going back,” he finished, staring determinedly up into James’ eyes, daring him to feel pity.

James seemed to be deep in thought, he sat down on the bed next to Sirius, his hands clasped on his lap, “You can stay for as long as you want, mum and dad won’t mind, dad will go back and get the rest of your stuff, with some of his friends…oh I want to see the look their faces...”

“No,” Sirius said suddenly, “I want to go back…you can come with me, just…I need to do it,”

“Don’t be daft,” James exclaimed, “they’ll kill you!” he said, only half joking.

“Nah, they won’t, but they need to know that I’m serious,” he finished, the smile already spreading on his face.

“I know you are!” James laughed and he wrapped his arm around Sirius’ shoulder, pulling him in for a rare hug, their heads touched briefly and James said affectionately, “I’m glad you’re here Padfoot,”

Sirius smiled candidly at James, “Thanks James,” he said and briefly threw his own arm around James’ shoulder, “Now geroff you great dolt!”

James was snapped back to reality by Sirius’ hands waving in front of his face, “Hello, earth to James, you in there Prongs? I think he’s finally gone mad, Moony, his eyes have got that funny glazed over look…but then, perhaps he was thinking about someone, a certain redhead perhaps…” Sirius finished with a leering grin.

“Shove off, Padfoot,” James replied testily, pushing him out of the way, Sirius fell back into his seat, long limbs flailing, his bark like laugh sounding out.

“Honestly mate, I don’t know why you keep on chasing her, I mean, she’s not likely to give in anytime soon to your, ahem, persuasive charms,” he teased.

Remus had put the book back in his lap to watch the proceedings with amusement; Remus knew that Sirius had hit a sore spot mentioning Lily, even though it was all in fun, always in fun.

James shook his head at Sirius, who was still cackling with laughter, he knew that Sirius had been baiting him; it seemed to be a kind of game to him, the Mention Lily Evans and See How Flustered James Gets Game.

“Ah, come on Prongs,” Sirius reasoned after he had straightened himself up, “there are plenty of girls out there who love it if you looked their way, you’d be doing them a service if you gave them a bit of attention, make ‘em feel all special, Prongs,”

“That your philosophy too, Sirius?” Remus said disinterestedly.

“Ah, well, I’ve got to do my bit for the needy,” he shrugged gleefully.

“I think they would appreciate it a lot more if you could remember their names,” scoffed Remus.

Sirius’ grin stretched on his face, “I can only give so much, Moony,” he declared, his hand over his heart.

Remus just shook his head and rolled his eyes, “Get a grip Sirius,”

Sirius was about to retort, no doubt with some lurid comment, but was interrupted by the door sliding open.

The famous Lily Evans popped her head inside and Sirius shot a leering grin at James whose hand had immediately reached to ruffle his already messy hair.

She briefly glanced at the scene before her; Sirius long legs were stretched out haphazardly over both sides of the compartment, resting on the seats, his shoulder length black hair hanging in front of his dark eyes that were now watching her carefully, Peter was bundled next to James, sleeping, James was sitting opposite Sirius at the window, staring questioningly as was Remus, though the two boys expressions were quite different: James was watching her with eagle eyed intensity, whereas Remus looked up at her with mere interest, there was kindness in his countenance.

“ ‘Lo, Evans,” Sirius said merrily.

She didn’t acknowledge his greeting and instead threw him a look of contempt and rolled her eyes.

“Remus, we’re needed up in the Prefect’s compartment, new instructions,” she explained and he nodded and stood up.

“Bye Evans…” Sirius said in a singsong voice to which she sighed heavily.

“Guess I’ll be seeing a lot of you two then,” she said, but not maliciously, it was more like tired acceptance, she turned on them, her startling green eyes focusing on the lounging figure before her.

“Well,” he said flippantly, “we do try to keep up appearances,”

There was a tight smile on her face, something akin to McGonagall’s.

“Careful, Evans, the wind might change,” Sirius said, his dark eyes alight with danger.

She just turned and stalked out muttering “Idiot”, Remus turned to his friends, shrugged and followed her out.

“We miss you already!” Sirius called out after her.

“Honestly, I still don’t know how you can put up with them,” she said once Remus and Lily were both out in the train hall.

“They’re an acquired taste,” Remus said with a kind smile.

Lily snorted, tossing her fierce red hair over her shoulder, “Yeah, acquired," she said, emphasizing the word, and Remus gave a little laugh at her frustration, Lily Evans had no time for the Marauders and their, what she called, ‘silly little games’, it wasn’t that she hated them, she just grew tired of their childishness, Remus seemed to be the only one she could stand, even though she was wary of him at first because of his ties to Potter and Black, but she soon found his temperament to be much like her own, and so they found themselves friends, Lily was a particularly good study buddy, he couldn’t ask James and Sirius, who had never needed to study in their lives, but Lily was always willing to help others, something for which she was greatly admired for at Hogwarts, in all houses.

Remus knew how much it irked James to see Lily friendly with anyone, especially a guy, especially one his Marauders.

He tended to steer clear of this fact in conversations.

The two of them reached the Prefect’s compartment and listened to their instructions just as they had done last year, neither of them suspected that being a 6th year Prefect was any different to being a 5th year Prefect, but still, you never knew.

“Have a good summer, Remus?” Lily asked politely as they walked back to their companions.

“Pretty good,” Remus replied, “and yours?”

“Had to spend it at my aunts with my sister Petunia,” Lily said, rolling her eyes, “bonding session apparently.”

Remus chuckled, knowing full well that Lily did not get along with her sister, seeing as she didn’t understand about her being a witch, Remus knew full well what it was like to be misunderstood.

“Later then,” he said as she slipped back into her own compartment.

She smiled brightly, her brilliant green eyes crinkling up, “You bet, oh and tell Black that this year he’s not to go into the girl’s dormitories…I don’t know how he did it last year, but I don’t ever want to wake up in the same room with him ever again,” she sighed.

He nodded and shook his head walking back to his own friends, currently in a rather animated conversation about Quidditch, but at the second of Remus entrance, James became quiet and Sirius looked a little disgruntled.

“So…” James urged.

“So what?” Remus inquired, knowing full well what James had meant.

“So what did she say?” James said, frustrated.

“Oh, nothing really, thinks you’re all prats, she had a bad summer and, oh Sirius, she wants you to keep out of the girl’s dorms this year,” Remus replied quickly.

Sirius barked out a laugh again, “Yeah right,” he laughed, “Evans isn’t going to keep me out of there, if Dumbledore can’t, then Evans isn’t bloody likely to, is she?”

But James ignored Sirius and focused on Remus, “Why was her summer so bad?”

Remus shrugged, plonking himself back into his seat, “Just had to spend it with Petunia is all,”


“Her sister,” Remus explained.

James ran a hand through his hair again, he hated that Remus knew more about Lily than he did, hated that Remus could have a conversation with her that didn’t involve Lily telling James to ‘deflate his head’ or ‘jump in the Lake’, but he hoped he didn’t let it show.

“And that’s a bad thing because…” James goaded.

“Because her sister thinks that Lily is some kind of monster, doesn’t understand about her being a witch,” Remus sighed.

James felt a flush of anger towards this stranger who shared Lily’s blood, and also something resembling jealousy towards Remus, which he quickly swallowed.

Sirius nudged him with his foot, his expression darkly contemplative, “Quit obsessing mate, let her be ‘the one that got away’, you’re wasting your time with her,”

James remained silent and returned to intently staring out the window, trying to think of reason after reason why Lily would continually spur his advances.

He couldn’t be as disgusting as she said he was, could he?

Well, he was disgusting to her and that’s all that mattered, wasn’t it?

Sirius continued to watch James with the same expression on his face, his brows were furrowed and he continued to stare at him intently.

Remus watched this interaction with mild interest, but he soon resumed his book.

It was another hour before he there was another sound in the room, apart from Peter’s assorted snorts and wheezes.

“I’m bored," Sirius moaned, his arms folded across his chest.

“Then find something to do,” James suggested, still gazing distractedly out the window.

“Like what?”

“Well, you could have a nice little nap like Wormtail here,” Remus said, indicating the snoring and spluttering figure before him.

Sirius snorted, “Yeah right,”

“I think a little nap would do you a world of good, Padfoot, you’re cranky if you don’t have a nice little afternoon sleepy time,” Remus teased.

Sirius simply raised an eyebrow and smiled at the joke, shaking his head at Remus.

“Come on, not long to go anyway, here,” Remus said, tossing him a book, “you can read this,”

Sirius dropped the book as if he was allergic to it, “Pwhht, I don’t need to read anything, I know it all,”

Remus stared at him with a bemused expression, “Then why don’t you go revise it all in your head and think of a whole different language til we get to Hogwarts then?”

Sirius smiled broadly, turning back to the still quiet James, “Come on Prongs, you’ve been a bore the whole trip, up for a bit of fun?”

James looked up at him, he smiled at Sirius’ restlessness, “Settle down, mate, we’ll be there soon, we can have as much fun as your little Black heart desires when we get there, just sit still for now,”

Sirius looked disheartened, his expression dropped into a scowl as he relaxed back into his seat, still sprawled over both sides of the compartment, but as always, he listened to James.

45 minutes later they had arrived at the station, Sirius had gently woken Peter by yelling in his ear and laughing maniacally, James and Remus just laughed and shook their heads, stepping off the train.

Sirius stretched his long legs out, complaining about the lack of space in the compartments.

“No, Sirius, you’re just an abnormally tall freak,” James had commented lazily.

They grabbed another coach and headed towards Hogwarts, all four of them stared out the window as they approached it, never quiet overcoming the awe that the castle had instilled in them.

They entered the Great Hall, all still laughing about the various things they had done during the summer, though they managed to catch snatches of harried conversation among others.

“Did you hear about those muggle killings?”

“My dad said that he’s becoming more powerful, that nobody can stop him…”

“He’s taking over, it’s starting…”

James knew that that summer had been particularly eventful, strange muggle deaths had almost doubled in the last year, there were disappearances within the magical community, deaths…all leading to something. Everyone knew that Voldemort was rising, James and Sirius had experienced this quite close up, with the Potters being high up in the Ministry of Magic, and Sirius’ family being, well, in agreement with the stance that Voldemort and his supporters had taken.

Things were becoming more and more dangerous, there was a certain disquiet among the whole wizarding community.

They plonked down into their seats, Sirius was winking and waving at various girls already, while other girls were staring hopefully at James, who simply flashed them a smile, at which they all burst into furious giggles.

Peter eyed the girls with intent hope, knowing that he could never catch one of his own, but maybe one of Sirius’ cast offs…

The hall became silent as the Sorting Hat was brought out and placed on a stool, James, Sirius, Peter and Remus looked on with a sense of nostalgia, remembering their own sorting fondly.

They listened in silence as the first years were sorted, cheering whenever they got a new Gryffindor, they then became silent as Dumbledore approached the podium, he waited for all to become silent before speaking.

“First of all, welcome to our new students, I know that in the coming years you shall all find various ways of ending up in my office,” he said, with a twinkling in his eyes, the Marauders knew was directed at them, “and also, welcome back to all our students, I expect great things from you all this year, especially…” he paused, “especially in the face of such adversity,” the twinkle was gone from his eye, replaced by a fierce intensity now, “no doubt you will have all heard about the various attacks this summer, no doubt you must have felt the fear of uncertainty, knowing the risk we all undertake in such dark times, but we must remain strong, we must face these trials together, as divided we cannot hope to conquer Voldemort,” he continued, unmoved by the audible gasp that went as His name was spoken, “I must ask you all to triumph over your fears and try to band together in these uncertain times,” he finished, staring out over the sea of faces now gazing up at him, he could see the looks of fear and puzzlement flickering on their young features.

He cast a quick glance at the Marauders, gauging their reactions, Remus young, but lined face was poised in askance, as were James and Sirius’, Peter’s eyes were flickering around the room uncertainly, as if he was unsure of what to feel.

Dumbledore sat down again, his expression pensive, he clapped his hands and a feast appeared on the table, James, Sirius and Remus were still staring at him, as were some of his other students that had picked up the hidden warning in his words.

But their wariness over his words faded as they hesitantly started to eat and converse with their fellow students, and Dumbledore smiled, They should be allowed their innocence, hard times are coming, let them enjoy themselves, let them have their fun…

Chapter 2: Chapter 2
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Chapter 2

Things had relaxed into a pleasant rhythm, classes, Hogsmeade and Quidditch, James had found to his delight that he had been nominated as Quidditch captain by their former captain Martin Dervish.

Something that undoubtedly called for a celebration.

“Oi, James!” Sirius called out from the banisters in the Gryffindor common room, “Are we having fun yet?”

James smiled up him, “I see you are,” he said, referring to the girl hanging from Sirius’ arm.

Sirius raised his Butterbeer at him and cackled madly.

James shook his head, smiling: What has he spiked his drink with? He wondered, chuckling to himself.

Remus was standing uneasily with James, uncomfortable with the rabble, the swelling crowds of well-wishers that had flocked to James’ side.

“We knew you’d get it James,” said Daniel Rodgers, Keeper for the Gryffindor team, he slapped him on the back and mock saluted him, “Oh Captain, my Captain,” falling into a low bow, he backed away humbly.

James smiled broadly, laughing at Rodgers with Remus, who was still retreating shyly from contact with everyone.

“Have some fun, Moony,” James whispered, seeing that Remus had now backed himself into a dark corner, “Come on, you’re big enough and ugly enough to step out on your own,” he chided teasingly.

Remus just smiled accommodatingly and replied, “I’m supposed to be keeping an eye on you, make sure you, ahem, don’t get out of control…”

James guffawed loudly, at the mere suggestion that anyone could control him. “Evans’ words?” he asked.

Remus nodded, “I think she’s waiting for Sirius to fall into her trap,” he said, eyes flickering to the place where Sirius was merrily singing the school song with a couple of guys.

“Should we tell him?” Remus asked bemusedly.

James shook his head, “I want to see Evan’s get all riled up,” he commented happily.

Lily, currently, was talking with Pollyanna Biggerstaff; James was eyeing her almost predatorily.

“Why won’t she go out with me?” James moaned dramatically.

“I’d say it’s because you’re a conceited prat, but that’s just me,” Remus suggested casually.

James glared at him, but then his face split into a wide grin.

“Go talk to her,” Remus urged, “civilly,” he added.

“I’m always civil!” James replied, shocked, to which Remus just raised his eyebrows, “Okay, okay, civil, right, I can be civil,” he said, prepping and preening himself, hands nervously raking through his hair.

He approached Lily, filled with forced confidence, and he tapped her on the shoulder, “Hello,” he cooed, wide grin still on his face.

For a moment it looked like she didn’t know whether to smile or glare, but this indecision was only brief and she smiled politely up at James, who was almost a foot and a half taller than her.

“Congratulations Potter,” she said kindly, but tightly.

James was so thunderstruck by this reaction, that he was momentarily speechless, finally he spluttered stupidly, “Ah, yeah, thanks I guess,”

“So, er, did you have a good summer?” she asked, he could see that she was growing uncomfortable.

And he was too, the way she had responded to him was alien, and they were both venturing into new territory, still unable to get out a single coherent thought, he rounded on her, eyes narrowing and stood in stance he was most used to when dealing with her, “What, no yelling about the party? About how I’m just an irresponsible prat with a superiority complex who gets by with favoritism and dumb luck?”

She smiled lightly at him, her green eyes flashing dangerously, “No, that will come later, but this is your party after all, didn’t want to be rude,” she explained, the tone of her voice clipped and proper.

“And I know how to have fun, Potter,” she said, and laughed airily, “I rather enjoy a good celebration,” she said, her eyes scanning the merriment that surrounded her.

James smiled curiously down at her, still feeling a little unsure as to how to go from here, he opened his mouth to speak when they heard a loud bang coming from somewhere above them.

Lily’s eyes snapped up to where the sound had come from and she smiled slightly, she then bolted up the stairs leading to the girl’s dorms.

They heard her laugh as she and another girl helped a slightly dazed looking Sirius down from upstairs and lay him down on the couch.

Lily had a broad grin on her face; her eyes were illuminated as she shook her head down at Sirius, who gaze was now refocusing, rather accusatorily at her.

“What did you do?” he demanded croakily.

She smiled sweetly down at him, “Well, I knew you’d figured out a way to by pass the charm on the stairs so, ye of little faith, I put another one on the door,” she said, mischief twinkling in her eyes, “I knew you wouldn’t bother checking, so I figured it would get you by surprise,”

Sirius scowled at her, but there was something like laughter brewing behind his eyes.
“Oh, ha ha,” he said testily, pushing himself back up, then he gave her his most charming smile, “I’ll get you back, you know,”

Lily shook her head, still smiling “You’re all talk Black,” she retorted, turning abruptly and walking back to her friends…the ones who weren’t cooing over the ‘injured’ Sirius Black.

James was still gaping disbelievingly at her retreating back, Remus came up behind him, slapped him on the back, “How’d it go?” he said laughingly.

James just sent him a scathing look and sat down heavily on a well-cushioned couch, legs stretched out in front of him, he was deep in thought when he was approached by Martina Coately.

“James,” she purred, kneeling in front of him, her eyes alight with lust.

“Oh, hey Martina,” he said distractedly.

She bit her lip enticingly, placing a hand on his knee, rubbing it slightly; “I thought you might want to…celebrate, with me…alone.”

James looked down at her, taking a few moments to absorb what she was saying, “Oh, ah, what? No, some other time maybe, I’m…” he desperately tried to think of an excuse for passing up the opportunity with the very delectable Martina, “I’m really tired,”

She looked crestfallen, “Oh, well, maybe some other time then,”

He got up from his seat, and made to go upstairs, “Ooo, James, I can’t believe that you actually just gave up the chance to spend some time with Martina Coately,” Peter squealed.

James chuckled and patted Peter on the shoulder, “I’m kind of tired, Peter, there’ll be plenty of chances to be alone with Martina Coately later, you should go have some fun, I’m off to bed,” he trudged up the stairs, casting one last glance at Lily, who had thrown her hair back as she laughed with her friends, he watched it shake and shimmer in the dying glow of the fire, admiring her quietly for just a moment before turning into his dorm, alone.

Chapter 3: Chapter 3
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Chapter 3

Three months passed, without any real event, just the odd prank from the Marauders, nothing unusual, (well, that thing with the shrinking clothes had been interesting for the Slytherins) but with the steady flux of more and more reports of strange and violent deaths, the atmosphere had become a little stifling, everyone was eager to get home to their parents over the holidays, to make sure that they were alright…as if a bunch of teenaged wizards could stop fully grown dark wizards who didn’t care who they killed or how they did it.

On the final day before holidays, everyone was out in the grounds, building snowmen or, as in the case of Sirius and James, bewitching snowballs to chase after certain enemies.

Lily was sitting with her friend Marjorie Dawson, discussing what they were going to get up to over the Christmas break.

“Just a family thing,” Lily was saying, “I expect Petunia will be bringing her new boyfriend though,” she rolled her eyes, “probably a bigger idiot than she is.”

Several snowballs started to attack the both of them, and they turned to face the perpetrators, after muttering a couple of immobilising spells.

Remus looked disapproving, but James, Peter and Sirius were getting a good giggle out of seeing the rage in Lily’s eyes. She stood up and shook the snow from her hair, fixing up the low bun she’d put it in.

“Very clever, Black, Potter,” she drawled.

“Aw, come on Evans, it was only a little bit of Christmas cheer,” Sirius said, as he and James came over to help her get tidied up.

“You think you’re so funny,” Marjorie spat at them, brushing the snow out of her dark hair.

"Yeah, we kinda do, you’re right,” James said casually.

Lily just glared at him, but he held out a hand to help her up, saying “Care to spend some time with me over Christmas, Evans? Come on, go out with me…” she complied to his gesture with a shy smile on her face and as soon as she had stood up, she pushed a handful of snow down the back of his robes, causing him to yelp with surprise.

She quickly stalked off, yelling over her shoulder, “I hope you freeze to death, Potter!”

Sirius came to stand by his still shivering friend, who was staring after Lily with a look that could have only be described as ‘pathetic shock’. He laughed and slapped James on the back with vigour.

“Ah, Prongs, you are yet to understand the finer points of women,” Sirius said, throwing his arm around his neck, commiserating with him.

“And you do?” Remus asked incredulously.

Sirius leered at him, “I know enough,”

“I just don’t get it,” James spluttered, “I mean, every other girl, every other normal girl throws themselves at me…I’ve never had to fight for one like this, what’s wrong with her?” he demanded, almost angrily.

Remus, Sirius and Peter looked at each other, “We have explained that whole ‘conceited prat’ thing before haven’t we?” Sirius asked in a tone of mock seriousness.

James just shook the rejection off, as he had done for the past two years, knowing that later he would mull over it until his brain hurt.

After saying their goodbyes and promising to keep in touch, the Marauders had gone their separate ways, or rather, Remus and Peter had gone their separate ways, Sirius and James went home together, seeing as he now lived there.

Much gossip had gone around about Sirius running away from home, but the Marauders had purposely kept it to themselves, even Peter had learnt to deflect questions about Sirius. To take his mind off things, James had suggested a little ‘extra-curricular’ activity, which concerned mapping out the premises of Hogwarts, for the future benefit of troublemakers like themselves, they had spent many evenings finding the correct charms and incantations, memorising passwords and passages, it was a pleasant distraction from the world.

Charles Potter and his wife Dorea were waiting out the front of their home, broad grins on their faces.

James had taken after both of his parents, he had his father’s unruly black hair and stature, but he had his mother’s hazel eyes and shared the same affliction of having to wear glasses.

“James!” Dorea said, running towards him with arms outstretched, she enveloped him in a tight hug, Sirius snickered as he watched James struggle to wrench himself from her grip, quite an amusing spectacle, considering James was a full foot tall than her.

“Okay, Mum, yeah, I missed you too,”

She let go of James and rushed at Sirius, who looked positively dumbstruck and more than a little frightened.

“You didn’t think you’d escape did you, Sirius?” James said drolly, shaking his father’s hand. But Sirius now had a broad smile on his face, and he returned the hug affectionately.

“Nice to see you again, Mrs. Potter,” Sirius said, “But I’m going to need my ribs in full working condition if I ever want to breathe again,”

She broke away from him, her face alight with laughter, “It’s Dora, Sirius," she said warmly, clasping his hand.

James watched the blush rise in Sirius cheeks with a soft smile; he knew that receiving this kind of affection must be somewhat strange to him.

Charles shook Sirius' hand cordially, “Welcome home boys,” he said brightly and they walked inside, their trunks floating behind them.

The warmth felt at their reception had ebbed away as they reached the dining room, Charles and Dorea were throwing anxious looks at one another and Sirius and James didn’t have to wonder what they were about.

“Just say it,” James said cautiously, but confidently, both he and Sirius were watching them intently, a dark sense of foreboding behind both of their eyes.

Charles smiled slightly, proud of the aptitude of both of the boys, but he cleared his throat and looked suddenly quite serious.

“Your mother and I were debating on whether or not we should tell you this, or rather, how much we should tell you, but we feel it’s only fair, and after all, there’s no doubt you will have heard the rumours, it’s better you get the facts from us…yes, much better,”

“Just tell us Dad,” James said abruptly.

Charles smiled that same smile James had inherited, “You’re quite right. Now, boys, you have probably heard various rumours and speculations about the rise of the dark wizard Voldemort,” the Potters had never shied from using his real name, “You will have read about the number of deaths concerned with the Dark Arts, and I know that Dumbledore will have warned you, being the highly sensible man that he is…these are dark times, boys, and they are about to get a whole lot darker…your mother's and mine jobs at the Ministry of Law Enforcement mean that we are quite involved in this, we have been able to track various happenings, trying to keep up with Him, but as usual, the Ministry is three steps behind,” he scowled, “we know that he gathering strong support from many wizarding families who share his views about blood purity,” he said this with a specific and remorseful glance at Sirius, who looked as if he had been expecting this, “No, don’t worry, Sirius, your family has done nothing in an official capacity to support Voldemort, but we do still maintain a close eye on them,”

Sirius looked somewhat relieved but he still scowled, “Won’t be long, now, they’ll be throwing dinner parties in his honour, sewing his initials into their clothing” he said darkly

James just raised his eyebrows and smiled sympathetically, patting him on the back with a strong arm.

“That’s not all,” Charlies said hesitantly, trying to pull up the strength to continue, “There…there…lately the Ministry has been extremely busy, trying to keep control over the scourge that is taking over…your mother and I have been doing a lot of field work and, well, there is a chance that we may get hurt,” James’ and Sirius’ eyes darkened, Dorea had an uneasy smile on her face and was fidgeting terribly, “we want…we want you to be prepared for that eventuality, if it is one of course,” he added quickly, “Just in case we don’t make it or we get hurt…we know that you are very brave, both of you, but we want you to understand the danger everyone is in at these times.”

He finished, watching the two boys process the information, seeing no shock, little fear, but a lot of worry, in their eyes, and he swallowed; it had been hard to say those things, they were still children but they needed to know.

“Thanks for telling us, Dad,” James said, sincerely hoping that his voice didn’t sound strained.

Sirius nodded, “What can we do?”

Charles rocked uncertainly on his chair, “You can be safe, Sirius, you and James can stay out of trouble,” a smile crossed his face fleetingly, “or cut back a bit, anyway,”

James and Sirius laughed a little at thought of staying out of trouble, but the atmosphere was still quite tense.

“We’ll try dad, but don’t expect too much,” he said with his casual smile spreading on his face.

Charles and Dorea laughed with their son, remembering the various owls that had been sent home this year telling of the mischief he and his friends had gotten up to.

Sirius still looked wary, his worried look did not fade, and it still had not faded as Sirius left to go to bed, silent and alone.
James knew that he was bothered by his family’s connection with the Dark Arts, and knew which side they would take, James knew that as much as Sirius loathed and despised everything his family stood for, they were still his family and knowing what they would do…he knew the thought must be haunting Sirius.

He decided it would better to let Sirius think about it on his own, he would come to him when he was ready.

The days passed, and soon Christmas had passed, the holidays were spent blissfully at the Potter Manor, whether it was James and Sirius mucking around in the snow, or trying to perfect the map and generally, their conversation never strayed to what was happening outside in the Wizarding world, they just tried to enjoy it.

Soon enough the holidays were over and they were back within the walls of Hogwarts, James and Sirius had felt uneasy about going back, given the warning James’ father had given them, the two boys had both momentarily thought about whether or not it would be the last time they saw them.
But they had managed to settle back in reasonably well, sharing the information with the other two Marauders about Voldemort’s uprising.

“Yeah, my dad told me something similar,” Remus had said, an expression of worry in his eyes, “But then again, there’s not much we can do, is there?”

James and Sirius had agreed, but in their minds they were trying to think of ways they could help, Peter had looked terrified throughout the whole story and after.

“Don’t stress, Peter,” Sirius had said kindly, “Voldemort’s,” Peter winced at the name, “hardly going to try anything with Dumbledore around, he’s the only thing he fears, mate, and we’ll look after you,” he said, placing a comforting hand on Peter’s quivering shoulder, who whimpered gratefully.

Winter passed, and Spring came upon them, all were grateful to get out and stretch their legs on the Hogwart’s ground…for Mooney, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs, this also meant that their moonlit strolls were a little more comfortable.

James had still constantly approached Lily, almost begging her to date him, but she had insisted that he was still a selfish git and would not concern herself with the likes of him, instead she had taken to dating Thurston Padget, a Ravenclaw 7th year, who, James thought, had all the charm of a weak tea.

But he resigned himself to weary acceptance, spending more time with the Marauders to plan out their next mode of attack on the hapless students and teachers of Hogwarts.

Quidditch training had started again, and that often kept James and Sirius busy in the afternoons, as James did not want to lose their next match against Slytherin. A sentiment shared by every other house and all of the students within them.

Today, however, there was no Quidditch practice, James had decided to let everyone have a well deserved break, this left the Marauders to an afternoon of lazing around near the lake, a place conveniently chosen so that James could watch Lily talk with her friends, who were sitting to their left under an old oak tree.

“Anyone been noticing Snape nosing around about where Remus goes on full moon?” Sirius said in a conspiratorial whisper.

Remus looked more than a little panicked, as he hissed, “What?”

“Yeah, I’ve been noticing him lately too, just sitting there, behind some bush or tree or something, trying to get a glimpse of where you’re going,” James explained to Remus, who looked positively petrified.

“Don’t stress, Moony, he hasn’t got a clue in that slimy head of his, he just can’t keep his honker out of other’s people’s business, I suspect he’s trying to get back at James and figures he can do it through you,” Sirius observed, this did little to appease Remus, who was now breathing rather shallowly and looked as if he might faint.

“He can't find out," Remus said with a strength that belied his present condition. If anyone found out that he was a werewolf, he would have to leave Hogwarts.

“Relax, Moony,” James said soothingly, “He won’t see you, I just reckon he’s curious is all, he’ll get over it in a while, we’ll just give him a, erm, distraction,” he said, the tone in voice indicating he was going to have a little bit of fun with old Snivellus.

He turned to Sirius to discuss plans, but they were interrupted by a cold and sneering voice.

“Oi, Sirius,”

The four of them turned, Peter’s watery eyes darted towards a boy standing roughly six feet away from them, he had the same features as Sirius, dark hair and eyes, long limbs and pale skin, but their was something in the way he looked that separated him from Sirius, a cruelty in his features that made Peter shudder.

Remus stopped having his panic attack and stood up with Sirius and James, facing a group of devious looking Slytherins, the rest of the school had seemingly gone quiet and were now all staring at the tense stand off.

“Hello Regulus,” Sirius sighed.

Regulus was standing with a group of Slytherins who were all positively vibrating with the excitement of an approaching fight.

“Hello Snivelly,” James said coolly.

Snape just scowled.

“Didn’t see you at Christmas, brother, too ashamed to show yourself at home? No matter, mother and father have disowned you, said that they didn’t want a weak fool like you for a son and after they beat you…”

“What?!” Sirius roared, but Regulus continued on, a little louder an ugly smirk growing on his otherwise attractive face.

“After father and I had thrown in a few good punches, I knew you’d be too scared to come back," he crowed and his band of Slytherins laughed uproariously, other students had broken into bursts of gossip, discussing whether or not it was true.

Everyone was now waiting to see Sirius’ reaction, Remus, James and even Peter (who had been sneaking peaks of the stand off from behind his friend’s backs) were all glaring murderously and it seemed it would be a question of which one of them would throw the first curse.

Sirius was white and shaking with rage, his hands balled, his wand clenched in one white knuckled fist.

“Not so brave, are you Black, when your mummy and daddy are beating you? Do you cry? Do you scream?” Snape was muttering fervently, though everyone could hear him and the whole school’s eyes widened at these cruel remarks, “I bet you do, I bet you…” but he never got the chance to finish the sentence, James had cursed him, there was a cold fury in his eyes as he stepped forward, wand raised.

Regulus and the rest of the gang snickered, still confident, still reveling in their ‘victory’ over Sirius, who was still shaking with rage.

“I told you,” Regulus shouted to everyone, “I told you all, my brother is nothing but a mudblood lover: weak, pathetic…look, he doesn’t even have the guts to raise his wand!”

But Sirius had dropped his wand and was rushed forward, fists flying, ready to pummel every inch of his accursed brother that he could. He flew at Regulus, pushing him to the ground; he drew back his fist and smashed it into Regulus’ face repeatedly.

Remus and James were cursing the rest of the group with Peter shouting support from the sidelines … he was always terrible at dueling.

Sirius continued to pound Regulus, sitting on his chest, pinning him down his arms with his knees, Regulus was struggling beneath him, he was staring up in wide-eyed terror at Sirius, who had a demented look of rage and pain in his eyes.

“You liar!” he screamed, flecks of spit flying down at the shrieking Regulus, “I left because you…you’re all disgusting! Filth!” he spluttered, “I would have rather died then spend another night in that house, under their rules! You’re nothing but an idiotic,” he punched him hard, could feel the ridge of nose shatter, “vile,” another blow and blood splattered up onto Sirius face and robes, “pathetic,” Regulus had now managed to get his arm free and was desperately reaching for Sirius' face, “coward!” Regulus' arm fell down limp.

Sirius drew his fist back again, but someone grabbed it and pleaded distraughtly “Stop! You’re going to kill him!” Sirius face snapped around, his breathing laboured, he was staring into the startling green eyes of Lily Evans, who wore an expression somewhere between horror and concern. She clasped his fist in her delicate hand, entreating him silently to let it go.

“Please Sirius, it’s ok,” her voice was forceful, but kind, “stand up, just let him go,” she was saying and he felt as if he was waking from a daze, he gaped up at Lily, his mouth slightly open, he removed his hand from Regulus, gawking at his own blood stained hands.

Everyone was frozen; James and Remus had stopped dueling with the Slytherins, they were, as with the rest of the school, watching Sirius and Lily.

Sirius glanced momentarily at the bloody mess that was his brother, at his own hands, then up at Lily again: he looked horrified, his dark eyes, usually twinkling with laughter and mischief were now wide with shock and fear.

He felt sick.

“Just let it go Sirius,” Lily was pleading gently, “It’s okay now,” she released his fist and he lowered it, she then offered him the same hand, palm open, asking him to take it, her long red hair was whipping about in the breeze. Sirius grappled her hand, still wearing the same vacant expression, she pulled him up, he leaned heavily on her shoulder, as though he was too out of it to move.

“James,” she called, looking over at him from beneath Sirius tall frame; he had been watching the whole thing, his hazel eyes not missing a trick, “Come over and take Sirius for me, Remus, Peter, you too,” they both ran over, shouldering his deadweight, “I think you should take him back to your dorm, I’ll, ah, I’ll take care of this, “ she said, indicating the fair amount of injured people, whether incapacitated, as several of them were, or merely bleeding or suffering from the after effects of a various jinxes.

Both James and Remus had minor injuries, but Lily knew they wouldn’t be concerned about themselves, but more about Sirius and seeing the unstable condition he was in now, well…Lily could see the alarm in their eyes.

“I’ll be fine,” Lily assured him, her eyes and features were soft, almost serene, but set with a grim determination, “Just take care of him,”

James hesitated for a moment, but staring down at her, looking both at her with both awe and intrigue, he nodded and along with Remus carried Sirius, whose legs weren’t fully functioning as yet, he was stumbling and disorientated, his eyes were still unfocused.

He looked back at Regulus and mumbled, “Sorry.”

“It’s okay, Sirius,” James said gruffly, “Come on mate, let’s get you out of here,” he advised urgently.

Remus caught James’ eye, scrutinizing him, “Later,” James mouthed, meaning he would explain everything later.

“Nothing to see here,” James said loudly as they pushed their way through the mystified crowd, people watched, mouths a gape as they heaved Sirius back to the castle, his legs seemed to work properly now so, they were making the journey quite quickly.

Everyone stared after them, long after they had disappeared through the doors of the castle.

“Right,” Lily said abruptly and slowly people turned to her, “we need to get these people up to the Infirmary, “ she conjured up a couple of stretchers, “Come on,” she said irritably, as they continued to stand there “I can’t do this by myself,”

People started to shake themselves from their stupor and came to her aid. The more advanced students conjured up another couple of stretchers, while others helped the less injured up and towards the Infirmary.

Meanwhile James, Remus and Peter had helped Sirius into a chair up in the dormitories, James had ordered everyone else out of there and they were currently trying to assess what was wrong with him.

“He’s in shock,” Remus said, observing that Sirius was pale and shaking, he placed a hand to his forehead, “He’s freezing, we need to warm him up,”

James was almost as pale as Sirius was, but the man looking out from behind his glasses was not the same sixteen year old James Potter, Marauder and Practical Joker extraordinaire, the wizard behind the glasses was seething with furious power, the wizard behind his wired glasses seemed much, much older, “Yeah,” he said.

Remus stood in front of James, keeping their unblinking connection, he said, “Peter, go down to the kitchens and get some Butterbeer.”

Peter squeaked in understanding and scurried off to the kitchens.

James and Remus continued to stare at one another, until they heard Sirius stir behind them.

“I didn’t mean to do that,” he mumbled quietly.

James and Remus moved him into his bed, taking off his shoes and some of his more bloodied robes; they wrapped him up snugly in blankets and James sat down next to him.

Sirius looked up at him with the appearance of a child, “I didn’t mean to do that, James,” he whispered fearfully.

“I know mate, I know,” James soothed, taking Sirius hand in his own.

“I lost control,” he spluttered and James was not surprised to see tears shining in his eyes, “I…oh God, I’ve killed him! I’ve killed him,” he whispered, watching the scene flash and flicker in his mind: his hands…bones splintering…blood…blood everywhere…on the grass, on his robes, on his hands…Sirius lifted his hands up in front of his eyes, as if seeing them for the first time: they shook terribly, Sirius let out a strangled “Oh!” and began hyper ventilating.

“Breathe, Sirius, breathe. Regulus is alright, he’s just a bit bloodied up is all, he’ll be fine,” James assured.

Remus stood back from them a bit, just observing with his light brown eyes how James calmed Sirius, almost expertly.

“Shhh, Sirius, it’s okay now, you did what any of us would have done, you are not as bad as they are,” James was reading Sirius fears, the bond between them so palpable, words were unnecessary.

Sirius fearful eyes locked onto James’, “I’m not like them, James, I’m not like my family,”

“No, you’re not, you are better that them, you know that, everyone knows that,” James was speaking with a tenderness that Remus had rarely heard in his voice, but it didn’t surprise him.

Peter stumbled in carrying half a dozen bottles of Butterbeer, he looked like he had run a marathon, “I tried to get here as fast as I could,” he panted, his face flushed.

“Thanks Peter,” Remus said, taking a bottle and uncorking it, “Drink this, it will help warm you up,” he entreated Sirius who nodded, the focus slowly shifting back into his eyes.

Remus began to rummage around the room, “Ah,” he sighed, frustrated, “I don’t have any chocolate with me,” he said remorsefully.

“I…I could go get some,” Peter offered, feeling useless.

“Thank you,” Remus smiled.

Sirius propped up on a couple of pillows, brooding over his drink, his eyes still shining with tears.

Remus went to the bathroom and ran a basin of warm water, he summoned up a cloth and brought it out to Sirius, he began to wipe away some of the blood on his face.

Sirius sniffed and laughed, “You guys don’t have to baby me,”

James ruffed up his hair affectionately, “Ah, but you see Sirius, I just don’t think you understand the basics of personal hygiene, I reckon its safer if Remus here does it,” he joked and Sirius chuckled.

There was a knock at the door and Lily was standing there, looking apologetic. Sirius quickly wiped his eyes with the heel of his palm and avoided looking at her.

“Sorry,” she said quietly,” James, could I speak with you for a moment? Outside?”

James looked baffled, he threw a glance at Sirius, who in regaining his common sense had also recovered his sense of lurid humour; he raised his eyebrows suggestively and James glared at him, but he strode out, even now, out of nervous habit, his hand automatically went to ruffle his hair.

Lily looked nervous, but serious as she pulled him over to a corner where they wouldn’t be over heard by the muttering masses below.

“Thanks,” James said, looking upon her with strengthened respect.

Lily pushed some stray strands of hair behind her ears and met his gaze unflinchingly.

“Don’t mention it,” she said softly, “I know what it’s like to have family that don’t respect you, don’t like you,” her was tone grim, “there have been plenty of times when I’ve wanted to strangle my sister, I suppose that Sirius just had a lot of pent up anger, but it’s not his fault he’s related to them,” she shrugged.

James felt a wave of gratitude and compassion for her and said, “No, but he still feels bad. Regulus, the great wanker, deserved it though,”

“I don’t disagree,” she said dourly, “Listen, we’ve managed to get them all up to the Infirmary and Madam Pomfrey thinks they’ll all be fine, nothing serious really, and…and I spoke to Dumbledore,” James suddenly became extremely tense, “and we all agreed that it was started by Regulus and his gang started it, nearly all of the witnesses agreed, Dumbledore and the other Professors are quite sympathetic, so I doubt you’ll have much o worry about, but he still wants to see and Sirius later, when Sirius is feeling up to it, okay?”

James was dumbstruck by her manner and attitude, he was so in ingratiated towards her that he could have kissed her. Of course he often felt that urge, but right now, in his eyes, she was a Goddess.

“You’re amazing,” he murmured and she laughed.

“I’ve been telling people that for ages,” she said, deadpan.

James smiled easily and for a moment the two of them were enveloped in comfortable silence. She smiled curiously at him, her green eyes staring into his hazel ones.

“Anyway,” she said slowly, “I’ll let you get back to Sirius, don’t burden poor Remus with him too long,” she joked feebly, but the truth was that she was beginning to feel uncomfortable under his intense gaze…he made her hesitate, made her uncertain and Lily always liked to be in control of herself.

“Oh, I forgot, Sirius dropped this,” she said, digging into her robes and handing him his wand, James extended his arm and Lily saw that blood was seeping through his robes.

“You might want to get that looked at,” she said, holding his arm and inspecting it closely, James basked in her delicate touch for a moment…this was a dream come true as Lily had never been anything but prickly as a pincushion towards him.

“Nah, I’ll be right, it’s just a scratch, nothing major,” he said dismissively, smiling broadly…but it was not his usual leering grin, but rather a genuine smile. Lily continued scrutinising his arm for a moment, “All the same, I’ll fix you up with some essence of Murtlap, I’ll bet Remus has a couple of cuts…” she realised that James was chuckling. “What?” she said, her eyes narrowing, but there was an inquisitive smile on her face.

“Nothing!” James proclaimed, still laughing, “It’s just, well, you’re such a mother!”

Lily looked murderous for a second, but then her features softened and she laughed with him. Rolling her head back to look at the ceiling, she shook her head.

She had still not let go of his arm.

“I can’t help it! You’re all such juveniles! Someone’s got to take care of you!” she said in a tone of mock exasperation, making both of them laugh harder.

“James?” asked a simperingly sweet voice, James and Lily were unpleasantly interrupted by Martina Coately, her long brown hair tied up in two ponytails on top of her head, she wore an expression that reminded Lily of her sister’s face whenever she wanted to use her parents sympathy to get what she wanted.

Martina glanced disapprovingly at Lily and then rushed forward to James, completely ignoring Lily.

“Oh James! I saw what happened! Is Sirius okay? Are you okay?” she said, her voice oozing with pity.

“Er, Martina, I was talking to Lily,” he said, a little miffed by her interruption.

“No, it’s okay,” Lily said quickly, “I'd best get down to round up the masses, make sure they’re all okay." She started to walk away, but she stopped briefly at the top of the stairs, looking pointedly at James, “Tell Sirius…tell Sirius he’s not the only one with an idiot sibling.”

James desperately wanted to go after her, but Martina was blocking his path, he watched Lily descend the stairs with a longing look in his eyes.

Martina had now grabbed his injured arm and began fretting over it.

“Ooo, James does it hurt terribly?” Maybe you should go see Madam Pomfrey, I could take you…”

James snatched his arm away from her, “I have to go,” he growled, he blamed her for cutting short his time with Lily. He went back into his dorm to find Remus and Sirius talking animatedly, Remus was laughing at the nonsense now pouring out of Sirius’s mouth.

James knew that this was a defence mechanism but this was not the time to sit down and have a heart to heart; Sirius liked to work things out on his own.

“Oh, you’re back,” Sirius said, looking up from his bed, grinning widely, “Did Evans have a special message for you?” he teased.

James grinned back, “For you actually: You’re a tremendous git.”

Sirius and Remus laughed heartily for a while, but when they had finished, Sirius spoke up, “No really, what did she say?”

James sighed a little and then told him, “She says that you’re not the only one with an idiotic family and that no blames you or believes what Regulus said.”

Sirius nodded, fully appreciative of Lily’s comfort.

“She also said that while everyone’s fine, Dumbledore still wants to see you and me later,”

Sirius nodded again, he had already been thinking about the repercussions.

Lily stood at the bottom of the stairs, she had immediately been attacked with an onslaught of questions.

“What did James say?”
“Is Sirius alright?”
“What happened down there?”
“What’s going to happen to him?”

Lily raised her hands, signaling for silence, “You’ll have to talk to James or Sirius about that, whether or not they tell you is their choice, but let me just say this: anything Regulus Black and those other foul Slytherins said about Sirius isn’t true and you, as Gryffindors, are all too intelligent to believe it, okay?”

Everyone felt an enormous sense of relief, none of them could really bear the thought of energetic, adorable Sirius Black allowing himself to be abused in such a fashion, others nodded in agreement with Lily’s stance.

“Now, I suggest you go back to your business, we’ve all had enough excitement for one day,” she sighed.

Sirius and James, who had heard the whole thing from the top of the stairs, started to clap.

”Here, here!” Sirius said, and Lily gave him a reproachful look…old habits die hard.

They came downstairs, all eyes on them, Sirius sighed, knowing that everyone would want to hear from him, otherwise the rumours would never stop, “Everything Evans said is true, Regulus is a right foul git and if you choose to believe him you have rocks in your head," he said simply.

“Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have an appointment with Dumbledore. Don’t wait up,” he added.

James and Sirius started towards the door, Sirius stopped in front of Lily, smiling at her coyly, humility in his eyes, “Thanks Evans,” he said simply.

“I didn’t do anything,” she smiled and the two of them escaped through the door.

Peter came running up from the corridor, breathing heavily and sweating profusely, “ couldn’t find any in the kitchens! So then I had to ask Terry Randwick if he had any, but he didn’t so then I…”

“It’s okay, Peter, I’m alright now, thanks anyway, I’ll see you later,” Sirius said, walking away.

James clapped a hand on Peter’s shoulder and nodded approvingly, “You did good Wormtail,” he said and then ran after Sirius, who had managed to get quite far away with his casual long strides.

Peter stared after them, watching James grab Sirius’ shoulders and push himself up, jumping onto Sirius back, Sirius threw him off and laughed, showing James into the wall while couple of portraits complained. Sirius threw his arm around James’ neck and the two of them stomped down the hallway, cackling madly at one another’s jokes and antics.

Peter didn’t understand how either of them could act like that: laughing and joking when only an hour or so previous, Sirius hadn’t been capable of a single coherent word.

They were his best friends in the whole world, but he was damned if he could understand them.

“Chocolate frog,” James said to the gargoyle outside Dumbledore’s office. The two of them had been there so many times that they knew the routine by heart.

They approached his desk with some trepidation and to their horror, Dumbledore’s expression was quite grim.

“James, Sirius, sit down boys,” he said, indicating with one long fingered hand.

They sat down, sharing a quick, tense look at one another before looking straight back at Dumbledore, who was gazing at them over his half moon glasses.

The atmosphere was incredibly nerve-racking, Sirius felt that this was it, he had really done it this time, crossed that one final line…

“Would you like some lemonade?” Dumbledore asked genially and quite suddenly, making James and Sirius all the more confused, they shook their heads slowly, utterly bewildered by his attitude.

Dumbledore conjured up a glass for himself, took a sip and smiled, “I do love how the bubbles tickle one’s nose,” he laughed softly, “and speaking of noses, Regulus’ is fine, as is the rest of him, alive and kicking and quite a lot actually, Madam Pomfrey is having a dreadful time trying to keep him still…”

The both of them laughed a little easier now, but there was still something in the way Dumbledore was looking at them that made them anxious.

Dumbledore judged from their expressions what their fears were and he smiled slightly, “No, you’re not going to be expelled Sirius,”

They heaved a sigh of relief.

“But I am most troubled that you waited so long to let it out, Sirius, it can’t have been good for your heart,”

“Er…” Sirius started.

“I too know the pain of having a brother who you do not see eye to eye with: Aberforth, excellent though he is, is quite a peculiar fellow and I often find our relationship can be quite strained…but he is my brother,” he said in his singsong voice.

“Yeah,” Sirius said bleakly, “but you’re brother isn’t a purity nut, he’s not into the dark arts either,”

“No,” Dumbledore said and he chuckled, “though Aberforth does have his own vices,”

“Look Dumbledore,” Sirius said abruptly, “if you want Regulus and me to kiss and make up, well…it’s not going to happen, yes, I worry about him, yes he’s still my brother, but that’s not my fault,”

“I wasn’t suggesting anything of the sort Sirius, but I doubt your parents will see it that way…”

Sirius rolled his eyes, “Now there’s a Howler I’ll be looking forward to,”

Dumbledore laughed his deep infectious laugh again, “Yes, I daresay it will be explosive,”

Now it was James who spoke up, wanting to get to the point, “Look, if we aren’t getting reprimanded or expelled or anything, why did you want to see us?”

“I never said you weren’t going to be reprimanded, Professor Denison has demanded at least a weeks detention for dueling.”

“Ah,” James said.

“But I also wanted to speak to Sirius about his new living arrangements, as you, erm, forgot to inform me,”

“Oh. Oh that,” Sirius said as it dawned on him, “I guess I just didn’t think about it,”

“No doubt,” Dumbledore smiled, “anyway, I shall be sending this owl to the Potters, it will be a pleasant change considering the number of owls James has merited this year,” he said, blue eyes twinkling, “I think you may have set a record,” he added affectionately.

James beamed proudly at his unusual achievement.

“Now, I suggest that you two you back to your dorms and prepare for bed, try to get some sleep. Tell Remus that he need not worry, I’ve convinced Professor Denison that he was trying to control and not exacerbate the situation,”

They nodded and stood up, thanking him, just as they were about to leave Dumbledore spoke again.

“Remember that true brothers have no need for shared blood, their bond extends much deeper than that.”

The two of them smiled puzzled at him then at each other, getting his intention, they grinned widely and left to get back to their dorms where they found Peter snoozing in bed.

“All that running tuckered him out,” Remus said, he was sitting in an armchair, behind yet another book, “What did Dumbledore have to say?” he placed the book in his lap.

“The usual weird stuff,” Sirius told him, “but I’m not expelled, James and I have just got detention for a week, you got off Scot free…must be your devilish good looks,”

Remus rolled his eyes, “Oh. Lily left that for you James,” he indicated a large bowl of Murtlap next to James bed, “She said she was sorry she couldn’t stay but that she and Thurston had a date,”

James looked rather disgruntled as he sat down on his bed, pulled up his sleeve and pressed the soaked cloth to his wound.

Today had been an interesting day to say the least: Sirius had had a near nervous breakdown and Lily had spoken to him like he was a friend and not a fatal disease.

The image of Lily smiling up at him with kindness danced in front of him and he fell asleep dreaming of her kind eyes and soft hands.

Chapter 4: Chapter 4
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Chapter 4.

Lily was frantically trying to concentrate, she was sitting in the common room, her Transfiguration essay in front of her, but she could not. Martina Coatley’s voice was ringing in her ears.

“So James said that he thought I was the best looking girl in the whole school and that he would love to take me out sometime, for a little, you know, alone time,” she giggled.

Violet Prunella laughed at her, “Look, a lot of girls have spent time with James, Marty, you're not special,”

They had been talking about James for the past hour and half, giggling about his good looks and his talents, both on and off the Quidditch pitch.

Lily found this kind of gossip intolerable, as she usually did when James was the subject, she hated the way girls simply fawned over him and Sirius just because of, urgh, she would not admit it to herself: their good looks.

True, their relationship had changed since the incident with Sirius, but she still regarded Potter worship with abject distaste.

Lately she and Potter had been able to continue a conversation for more than 3 minutes, though he still acted the fool and she still considered him a bully most of the time, she found that her annoyance and frustration with him was now minimal compared to what it had been, and James, to his credit was not as bad as she had originally thought, she had seen another side to him that night, James Potter really cared about his friends, he would protect them no matter the cost, a side that she found intriguing and endearing. Though not completely cleansing, after all, he was still as content with practical joking than ever.

Sirius was now the main offender, he had recovered from his fight with Regulus with a kind of vindictive vengeance, determined to get back at the whole house of Slytherin for associating with his brother.

It had only been 3 weeks and already the effects of Sirius’ actions were quite severe: people from Slytherin House found themselves jinxed, cursed and hexed at most times, they were the victims of some of the most cruel practical jokes that Hogwart’s had ever seen and now most of the students seemed to be afraid of him, even though they found him funny, even though he was their beloved Sirius Black…the things he was doing scared many.

He reserved a special loathing just for Snape, teasing him and embarrassing him, just as Snape had done to him.

James did nothing to stop him, even involving himself in most of the attacks. Which he was still insisting were harmless, just Sirius way of venting his anger.

Lily disagreed, as much as she felt for his situation, she could not allow him to continue. She just hoped that with 3 weeks left of term and exams to keep him busy that nothing terrible would happen.

She had tried to talk to Remus about it, but he said that there wasn’t much chance of controlling him…he just told her to weather the storm out and hope that he came back at the start of next year a fully-grown, mature individual.

Lily had raised an eyebrow at the comment, to which Remus had replied with a wry smile, “Well, let’s just hope he’s over it, then,”

James had found that Lily was not going to be simply be won by one day of unification against a greater evil (a greater evil than himself that is), she was still quite severe with him, telling him off when he tried to show off, the day after the Sirius had recovered, she had told them off for hexing Snape, but, he noticed, she would sometimes turn away, the inklings of a smile at the edges of her mouth.

But he would not desist in his ‘harmless fun’, he an Sirius were still very fond of tormenting the Slytherins, James regarded it as a kind of therapy to work all of his frustration out, he didn’t see anything wrong with it, it was just as before, only now the ‘fun’ came hard and fast and more often, James didn’t care what Remus or Lily said, he could see life behind Sirius’ eyes and that’s all that mattered really…there was no harm in it anyway, they were only Slytherins and he was only Snivellus after all.

Snape had been trying to get back at them ever since James had decided it would be funny to curse away his clothes in front of the entire school last year: he had noticed that the four of them would often sneak out of their dorms and disappear into the Whomping Willow…Snape was very interested in where it was that they went…he knew that the teachers must know about it because he had seen Madam Pomfrey down there sometimes, taking Remus Lupin, but still…they were up to something and he wanted to find out what it was, he wanted them to suffer, he wanted them to pay for making his life a living hell for the past 6 years.

Sirius had not forgotten about seeing Snape hiding in the gardens the last time there had been a full moon, and he knew that Snape had been following them around lately, he knew he had to get him off the trail…plus get another one on old Snivellus. Tonight was the full moon, he needed to think of something…

They were sitting in the library during the afternoon, reading up on some extra curricular curses; Snape, as per usual, was buried in a Dark Arts book, his hooked nose almost scraping the page he was reading it so intently. None of his little Slytherin cronies were with him…they were all too afraid of the fact that Snape attracted a lot of revenge from Sirius and James.

Sirius sat lazily in a chair near a window, longs legs spread out in front of him, he had finished reading and was now quite bored, he scratched the back of his head absentmindedly, frowning he noticed Snape, he watched him for a few moments, his dark eyes glittering dangerously.

He had an idea. “Wormtail, come here for a sec,” he said, jumping to his feet. Peter looked bewildered, but followed him to behind a bookcase near where Snape was sitting.

Sirius grinned wildly and he said in a very clear voice, “Nah, it’s a dead cinch, mate, all you’ve got to do to get the Whomping Willow to behave is poke the knot near the base of the tree, you know, that big malformed lumpy thing near the rock shaped like a snail,”

Peter looked up at him, utterly baffled, “Wha…” he started, but Sirius silenced him with a finger, he grabbed Peter’s arm and dragged him back over to where they were sitting, making sure that Snape didn’t see them, which wasn’t a problem, as Sirius could see that he had heard him. Snape’s eyes were unfocused and there was a nasty smile itching on his lips.

“Mission accomplished, Wormtail,” Sirius whispered and Peter finally understood, he grinned up at Sirius in devilish glee.

“Cool,” he whispered and Sirius looked very proud of himself.

Sirius looked at the clock on the wall, but Remus had already noticed the time and he and James were already standing up, ready to leave.

They walked from the room, the same routine they had undertake for the past year, but James was stopped at the door by one of his Quidditch team, who wanted to know the exact time of their next practice and when they were going to audition a new seeker, because Taber Stringfellow was in his final year.

Remus, Sirius and Peter stopped and waited for him, James sighed, “You guys go ahead, this could take awhile, I’ll see you later,”

Remus walked off as soon as they left to go out into the corridor, he always went first so as not raise any suspicions.

Doubling back to the Gryffindor Common Rooms they ran into a very terse looking Professor McGonagall, Peter literally slammed into her, he was so eager to get down to the Whomping Willow.

“Watch where you’re going, Pettigrew!” she snapped, as Sirius helped her up.

“Sorry Professor McGonagall, I didn’t see you!” Peter whimpered.

“Well that is obvious,” she said sharply, “I hope that you are rushing back to get some homework done you certainly need it, your marks have been simply atrocious of late, I would have thought that you might buckle down this year,” she lectured, Peter was growing more and more nervous, Sirius’ eyes kept darting out the window, he could see the sun setting: they were running out of time.

“I was going to do it now! Of course I was, Professor!” Peter was saying, a pleading tone in his voice.

“Look at the time, Peter!” Sirius said suddenly, drawing both McGonagall’s and Peter’s attention to him, “Well, I’d love to stick around and chat with you, but I’ve just remembered I left something in the library, tell James where I’ve gone, Peter, you know he worries,” he said theatrically, bounding off down the hall.

McGonagall shook her head and then continued reaming into Peter.

Sirius sprinted out of the school, very aware that the sun was almost gone, the night was very soon approaching and he was not going to miss out on his glorious revenge on Snivelly.

He quickly transformed into the big bear like dog and he hid himself in the undergrowth. He watched as Snape stepped forward tentatively, saw him levitate a stick towards the knot on the tree, making sure it was pressed, he observed Snape’s face as he looked at the tree dubiously, then his jubilation when he realised that it had worked, he witnessed Snape creep forward, wand out raised, a triumphant sneer on his face.

If only dogs could smile…

James had managed to sort the matter out and he now trudged up the stairs to the Fat Lady, he entered the room to find Peter sitting at the table, deep in concentration, tongue poking out of his lips.

The scene itself was curious, as James had never seen Peter look so devoted to his work.

“What are you doing?” James said loudly and he laughed when Peter jumped.

“Oh! James! You scared me!” he gasped, clutching his chest, “I was doing my essay for Professor McGonagall, Sirius and I ran into her on our way back here and she yelled and I don’t want her to go mad at me tomorrow so I’m doing it now.” He said quickly, but then his voice turned to a whine, “I wish I could be down there with Sirius though, I want to see Snivellus’ face when he finds him…”

“What?” James said distractedly, not really listening.

“Oh yeah, I’m supposed to tell you that Sirius is playing this awesome prank on Snape, he’ll get him good, James,” he said excitedly.

James suddenly became apprehensive, his eyes narrowed and he focused on Peter, who still had a wide and wistful grin on his face.

“Sirius told Snape how to get past the Whomping Willow.”

James paled, his eyes went wide, thoughts blasted through his head each making him more and more tense: he couldn’t have, could he? He’s not that stupid? Surely he’s not that careless

“How long ago was this?” James demanded so forcefully that Peter nearly fell off his chair.

“Um, he told him in the library, about 10 minutes ago maybe…”

James was running out the door, bolting out of there as fast as he could. He was still in disbelief but he needed to get down there.

How could Sirius have been so stupid? So foolish? Was he that vindictive? That obsessed with pay back? Maybe Lily and Remus had been right to be worried…this was too far!

James’ feet were pelting the ground so hard that the sound echoed in the corridors, he could hear snatches of chastisement from the paintings, adrenaline pumping in his veins.

The sun had just set, Remus would be transforming now, he didn’t want to think of what would happen if he didn’t make it in time.

He sprinted out to the Whomping Willow now standing eerily still, he didn’t hesitate to breathe or look for Sirius whom he knew was watching from somewhere close by, immediately throwing himself down into the burrow.

He crawled on his belly for a few feet before finally pulling himself up and scrambling along the dark tunnel. His glasses had slipped from his nose, and he couldn’t help but feel a sinking feeling when he heard a distinct crunch under one his feet.

He wanted to call out Snape’s name and for a moment he struggled to think of his real name.

“Severus!” he called out, squinting in the darkness, cursing his poor eyesight.

He could here the faint sounds of someone scrambling eagerly away from him.

“Severus!” he repeated, “Stay where you are, don’t…don’t move,” he warned,

A high pitched laugh carried down the length of the tunnel, “I’ve got you now, Potter! You and your friends will be gone by tomorrow!” he screeched.

James stifled the urge to call him an idiot and just leave him there; he scampered quickly through the familiar twists and turns of the passageway.

“Severus, you don’t understand…” he called out desperately, “you don’t know what’s at the end…where this leads to…”

“I know that you don’t want me to get there!” he cackled madly.

James could make a blurry shape 10 feet away from him. Snape had raised his wand, muttering ‘Alohamora’, James dived forward, but it was too late: the door had opened, James and Sirius could hear a low growl emit from somewhere very close by.

James pulled Snape back by the end of his robes and he pushed him to the ground. Snape could see in the dim light that James looked frightened but extremely alert.

“You have to get out of here,” he whispered urgently.

Snape was in shock, he had seen…he thought he had seen…but that would mean…his thoughts came a shuddering halt and he realised what he had seen: Remus Lupin was a werewolf!

“Get away from me!” Snape hissed, standing up and backing away.

James grabbed around the waist and pulled him back towards the exit, he could hear Remus sniffing around the door and he knew that the werewolf knew that they were there…he kept glancing back towards the door, Snape struggling in his arms, but James held on tighter, he could hear the sounds of something large in the tunnel with them now, he forced Snape though the exit, immediately the Whomping Willow whipped around a branch and sent them flying backwards, far away from the Whomping Willow.

James lay on the grass panting, face pale and glistening with sweat, he could hear Snape nearby taking deep, ragged breaths.

James pushed himself up on to his elbows and looked around, but without his glasses he hadn’t much hope of seeing his hand in front of his face, let alone a dark figure in a pitch black and slightly misty night.

“Severus?” he whispered, and he heard Snape’s breathing hitch. He stumbled up onto his feet, feeling the beginnings of a nasty bruise across his chest where the Whomping Willow had smacked into him, “Where are you?”

There was no reply, and James exhaled, getting frustrated now, “Look, I can’t see a damn thing, I broke my glasses, just tell me where the hell you are?”

He looked down at the ground hopefully, with no reply yet again, he thought that maybe Snape had passed out. Clutching his wand he sent up a distress signal, hoping that one of the teachers or maybe Hagrid would see it and come help.

He took a couple of cautious steps when he heard a twig snap behind him, he stopped, not daring to take another breath, but within a few moments it became quite clear that it wasn’t Remus or else he would be dead by now.

Suddenly James felt livid, “Get out of here, Padfoot,” he hissed, seething with anger.

Sirius could see him well enough even in the dim light, he could see that James was almost shaking, his face had gone white and his mouth was taut, Sirius noticed that his hand was clenched firmly around his wand, his hand twitching as though he’d quite like to use it.

Sirius made another step towards him.

“Get out of here,” he repeated darkly and Sirius could sense that James was losing patience: he had now gone rigid.

Sirius turned back into a dog and ran back to the castle, once inside he changed back and made his way hurriedly back to the Gryffindor common rooms, careful, as always, not to arouse suspicions.

Once inside he went up to his dorm, ignoring all comments towards him, he sat on his bed, his heart racing at a thousand miles an hour, he could only speculate on what had made James so infuriated: He had gone too far.

But, he reasoned, he never went too far, no, Snape had it coming, he shouldn’t have been nosing around there, it was Snape’s fault.

Sirius couldn’t stand the waiting, he got up and paced angrily around the room, finally tiring of being alone when James hadn’t returned after half an hour he went back down to the Common Room.

Peter had gone, as with most of the Gryffindors, down to dinner in the Great Hall, he knew he had an hour or so before anyone would be coming back.

He leaned against the wall by the fireplace and scanned the room, noting the students that had stayed behind and there, enjoying a sandwich and a cup of tea, was the unmistakable Lily Evans.

Her red hair was today restrained in a high ponytail, she was listening to a younger student describe his woes.

“No matter what I do, I just can’t seem to get the hang of it,” he said sadly, demonstrating what it was that he couldn’t get the hang of.

Lily took another gulp of tea and set the cup down on the table, leaning over to closer look at the parchment on the table.

“Don’t worry Nick, it’s a very common mistake, everybody makes it,” she said kindly, “What you’re doing is forgetting to add the salamander eyes [I]after[/I] waiting several minutes for the grendelwart to fully absorb, you’ve been waiting too long, Nick, there’s your problem,” she took out her quill and made c ouple of adjustments to what he'd written, "There, that should help you remember it better,"

The boy looked thoroughly relieved to say the least, “Oh! I thought I was going to fail this years exams for sure! Thanks Lily!”

Sirius had forgotten about exams, but it didn’t worry him anyway: he knew it all.

She smiled broadly, patting him on the back, “Don’t worry about it, you have all of this stuff in your head anyway, sometimes we are looking so hard that we miss the answer when it’s right there in front of us!” she said kindly and the boy, Nick, laughed along with her.

“Hey Sirius!” said Daniel Rodgers, sitting with a couple of Quidditch team members, Iphigenia Joon and Gregory Pratchett.

Sirius noticed that Lily’s head snapped around and she eyed him inquiringly.

“Hey,” Sirius smiled, sliding over to sit with the group, “Why aren’t you guys down at dinner?”

“We grabbed some food earlier, last minute studying and now we’re enjoying a well deserved break. Why aren’t you down shovelling food into your face?”

“I do not shovel!” Sirius cried, his grin wide.

“I’ve seen you eat, you could be part of one of those muggle travelling freak shows, mate,” Daniel replied teasingly.

Sirius laughed, “I just didn’t feel hungry,” he shrugged.

Daniel, Iphigenia and Gregory just raised an eyebrow at him, as if to say, ‘Yeah right,’ but Sirius continued to smile impassively.

“So, what are you getting up to these holidays, mate?” Gregory asked, breaking the silence.

“ ’Spect, I’ll be going to France with James and his parents…otherwise I thought I might drop in on Andromeda and her husband, see how they’re going, catch up with little Nymphadora” he said lazily, though the mention of James had reminded him just why he was sitting here, his stomach gave an uneasy flip and he squirmed in his chair, “And what about you lot?” he said, shifting the focus.

“Nothing much,” Daniel replied, “Just hoping to relax before next year,” and the others agreed with a groan, “I can’t believe we’ll be 7th years next year!”

Iphigenia giggled, “I know, I feel as immature and childish as the day I walked in here! And God help us all, we’re setting Sirius Black on the world!”

Sirius barked out his usual laugh, feeling a lot more at ease, he began to launch into his plans to wreak havoc as an adult when the door slammed open.

Everyone’s heads turned to see a fuming James Potter standing in the doorway, hand firmly gripped around his wand.

People barely had time to register their shock at seeing him so angry when he launched himself at Sirius, who had stood up by way of going over to ask what had happened.

James slammed him into the wall, his hands trembling with barely contained rage, “What were you thinking?!” he roared and Sirius recoiled from the intensity of James’ accusation, “Were you thinking at all?”

People were standing back, watching with a kind of grim fascination as James repeatedly slammed Sirius into the wall, hurling insults and looking generally murderous.

No one had ever seen the two of them fight in the entire time at Hogwarts, I fact, they doubted if James and Sirius had actually ever fought, the two of them were so close and always saw eye to eye on things: brothers, kindred spirits, best friends…whatever, everything that indicated that that were the two most unlikely people to be the position they were in now: James screaming at the top of his lungs at a thoroughly shocked looking Sirius.

“You son of a bitch,” James muttered, his face drained of all colour, “You could have got him killed! Or was that your plan?” he sneered, “I never thought you’d take the same toad as your family, but you’ve proved tonight that you really do belong in the noble house of Black,” he said cruelly, and this was what shook Sirius from his shock.

“How dare you!” Sirius spat, pushing James back so that the two now stood facing one another, ready for a fight, “It was just a stupid prank James! He deserved…”

“Oh? He deserved to die?” James said dangerously, “You don’t mind being a murderer then? Quite happy with that term?”

The colour drained from Sirius’ face only to rise again to a brilliant red, “Don’t make this out to be anything other than what it is! And what it was is just a harmless…”

“Harmless practical joke, right?” James said quietly, his jaw rigid, “I should have seen this, should have listened to Remus and Lily…” he said, looking at the floor, talking to himself.

“Oh!” Sirius exploded, “Let’s bring darling Lily into this! You’re pathetic James! Stop trying to impress her, she doesn’t want you!” Sirius snapped.

“This isn’t about Lily,” James said hotly, the only sign that he had even registered any emotion at hearing her name was a slight pinkish tinge to his ears, “ this is about you! But she was right and I should have seen it! Tell me, did you fancy yourself a cell in Azkaban? Do you even have a soul to suck out?”

“That’s enough!” Lily said, she had been watching the unpleasant scene in shock, only awakening when her name had been mentioned.

James and Sirius let go of one another and looked around the room, for the first time James noticed that they were not alone and was slightly embarrassed people were staring at them as though someone had died: too shocked to do anything, Lily was the only thing moving in the room.

James swallowed angrily and grabbed Sirius by the arm, pulling him upstairs, Sirius struggled for a bit, but James had already had to deal with an angry Snape and he was in an extremely foul mood.

James pushed Sirius into the room and rounded on him menacingly.

“What’s your problem?” Sirius said angrily, rubbing his wrist where James had held him.

James laughed dismally and shook his head, “You don’t get it do you? You don’t even understand what you…what you did tonight,” he said softly.

“I don’t understand why you’re carrying on like this!” Sirius erupted.

“Carrying on like this?!” James repeated, his voice rising, he sighed, muttered a silencing charm and then turned back to Sirius, his eyes (still lacking glasses) burning, “You don’t realise what you could have done?” he asked dubiously.

“It was…I just wanted to get Snape back,” Sirius explained.

“And it would be okay if he died in the process?” James said quietly.

“What? No! I just wanted to scare him a bit!”

But James was shaking his head and clenching his fists, “What did you think was going to happen?!” he demanded furiously, “You let Snape go into that tunnel, without any knowledge of the danger he was in, facing a fully grown werewolf and you didn’t think that he might die?!” James bellowed, utterly mystified that Sirius could be that thick.

Sirius swallowed, “Yeah, I guess I thought about it…but I didn’t really think it would happen,” he said nervously.

James growled impatiently, “You’re an idiot,” he muttered.

“I still don’t see why you’re making such a huge deal out of…”

“Just think for a moment, Sirius, use your head for just one second and think what could have happened,” James snapped, pacing angrily, “Think, just think if Snape had been killed then there would have been an inquest, you’d be expelled, probably on your way to Azkaban right now, Peter too and Remus…” James looked like he might burst into flame, “Did you even think what might happen to Remus if he’d killed him?! You don’t think that maybe Remus would have to live with that everyday, knowing that he’d killed someone?! If he was even allowed to live, you do know what they do to werewolves that have killed people, right?!” James shook his head, “Remus is terrified of hurting people…tonight you treated him as a monster, just so you could get back at Snape,” he said softly.

Sirius heart stopped, blood drained from his face as he realised. “Oh,” he said softly.

James nodded, “That’s right, Oh, you could have handed him a death sentence, nice to know that if you don’t at least care about Snape’s life you don’t even consider your best friends’” he yelled at the cringing Sirius.

Sirius sank into a chair, suddenly quite unable to move. James sat on the edge of his bed, his head in his shaking hands, he looked up at Sirius who was pale and rigid, not daring to move…James didn’t even think he was blinking…but then again he thought angrily, I wouldn’t know, I can’t see damn thing without my glasses.

James wiped a hand down his face, resting it over his mouth contemplatively; after Sirius had left he had stumbled around in the dark for a couple of minutes before tripping over Snape, he had picked him up, and heaved him back to the castle…getting back to the door from memory. Being somewhat distracted he had run straight into Dumbledore, who had then taken over, James had followed anxiously, people looking at Snape and whispering, James didn’t notice, he was far too scared to think of anything else but the task at hand…Snape had even less colour in his pallid face: he looked dead.

“Snape is okay, just a couple of bruises from the Whomping Willow,” he said feeling a twinge from his own bruise, he stared straight ahead, not daring to look at Sirius, “he saw Remus…he knows what he is…Dumbledore is trying to sort it out now,” he sighed, rubbing his face again, “I’ve got to get back now.” He stood up, Sirius did the same but James glared at him, “You’re not coming,” he told him and Sirius looked at him confusedly, “You’ll incriminate yourself further if you come and…”he paused, but he never looked away from Sirius’s eyes, “I don’t want to be in the same room as you right now,” he said coldly, turning from the room and leaving Sirius standing by himself, James looked at him one last time as he stepped out of the door, Sirius forced himself to look back, but in seeing the disappointment, disgust and the…the fear, he turned away, ashamed.

Chapter 5: Chapter 5
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Chapter 5.

James had stomped downstairs, the room was now filled with Gryffindors that had arrived back from dinner, the witnesses of Sirius and James explosive confrontation were now telling the story with vigor to their disbelieving audience. Only Lily, it seemed, was not involved in the gossip, though she was surrounded by Martina, Violet and Marjorie, all begging her to recount the story.

“Look,” she said irritably, “It’s not my place to say anything, go find out from someone else, but I’m not going to tell you,”

But nobody heard her say it, as they had all noticed that James was standing at the bottom of the stairs, nobody approached him, because it looked as though he might will them all into dust if they even spoke to him, he caught Lily’s eye and stared at her, his expression unreadable, the rest of the room gawked at him fearfully and hopefully, he scowled at them and trudged towards the door, all eyes upon him.

Martina, Violet and Marjorie started gossiping furiously, ignoring Lily, who stood up and walked back to her dorm unnoticed.

She collapsed on to her bed, loosening her hair, so that it sprawled wildly over the surface, she just lay there, staring at the awnings, feeling utterly wretched.

She didn’t know what James and Sirius had been arguing about, but she had heard her name mentioned and it seemed to be a matter of some tension between the two.

She didn’t want to be that girl…

She laughed morosely to herself about James’ continual requests, she always turned him down because…because, because it was just pointless. James Potter thought that he was better than everyone else, and to be truthful, when everyone treated him like he was, she didn’t blame him.

He was arrogant, conceited and cruel…or at least he had been until recently, now, she wasn’t denying that he was still an immature idiot most of the time, but there were moments…moments when she wondered about him.

She groaned and rolled over onto her stomach, sweeping her hair out of her eyes and sighing heavily and looked at her bedside table.

There was a picture of herself and Thurston that she had only put there 3 days ago, after debating for weeks just how serious they were.

She stared into the picture, she had thought it was a nice picture, but looking at it now she could only see how uncomfortable she looked and how possessive Thurston appeared, his arm clutching her shoulders, a broad, proud grin on his face that seemed to say Look what I’ve got!. Lily stared deeper into the photograph, she reached out a hand, noticing a solitary figure in the background, she squinted down at the figure who was watching forlornly from the sidelines, his hands shoved deep into his pockets, she barely recognized him without his lopsided grin.

James Potter.

Was that how he looked at her when she wasn’t watching?

She didn’t have time to contemplate it because her roommates burst in, she quickly replaced the picture on the table and sat up, trying to look as unconcerned as possible.

“We heard your name got brought up,” Martina said accusingly, her hands on her hips.

“Really?” Lily said lazily, “Where’d you hear that from?”

“Well, since you wouldn’t tell us, we had to ask Iphigenia and she told us that James said that you and Remus had been right and then Sirius went right off and started calling James pathetic, you wouldn’t happen to know anything about this would you?” her tone was venomous.

“No idea,” said Lily flatly, she stood up, but Martina rounded on her, Violet and Marjorie looked embarrassed by Martina, but they stayed in the background.

“I think you do,” Martina said coolly, “I think you’ve been fooling around with James,”

Lily fought the urge to stand up and get in a screaming match with her, instead raising an eyebrow she said calmly, “Do you now? Couldn’t be that you’re just sulking because he won’t give you the time of day?”

Martina flushed an ugly shade of purple and advanced another couple of steps towards Lily, but Violet put a hand on her shoulder warningly.

“Don’t be stupid Marty,” Violet said sharply.

Martina glared at Lily who gave her a calm, dignified sort of expression in reply, Marty glowered at her and stormed out of the room, Lily breathed a sigh of relief and sat down on the bed again.

“Thanks Vi,” Lily said.

“Don’t mention it,” Violet said quickly, “Marty gets a bit stupid about James sometimes, think she has exclusive rights to him…she should know that he only wants a bit of fun,”

Lily snorted derisively at that comment, remembering exactly why she had never considered James: she didn’t want to be just another notch on his bed post.

Lily looked up at Marjorie and Violet, they were both looking at her curiously, wanting to ask a question but too afraid to, “Oh come on!” Lily exclaimed in disbelief, “You guys don’t really think that Potter and I have been having a wild love affair, do you?” she asked incredulously.

Violet and Marjorie glanced one another then back at her, not quite meeting her eyes, “Well, no…yes, I mean, have you?”” Marjorie stuttered nervously.


“Well, it’s just that you have been a lot nicer to him lately, and you’ve been happy and we just thought that maybe…”

“Maybe I’ve been sleeping with him?” Lily inquired silkily.

They both nodded, “Come on Lil, it’s not as though it’s that bad, you can tell us, nobody would care…”

“But…I haven’t… we haven’t…I’d tell you if there was anything going on,” she gasped, unable to believe what she was hearing.

They still looked doubtful. “Let me get this straight,” Lily said slowly, “you think that James and I are together because I’ve been happy and I haven’t been yelling at him as often?”

Now they looked embarrassed, they both blushed when they nodded. Lily laughed, “My God, I’m sure he’s good, but he’s not that good. He would have to really be something to give me an attitude adjustment,” she grinned.

Violet and Marjorie laughed with her, feeling rather stupid now, “We’re sorry…but when we heard that you’d been brought up in the argument, we kind of jumped to conclusions…well actually, Marty did, and we kind hopped on after her…but,” Violet said, her expression confused, “why were you brought up in the argument?”

Lily thought about it a moment, “If you had been there you would have seen that it wasn’t about me…Sirius did something incredibly stupid and he and James were hurling insults at each other…I think my name was just ammo,”

Violet and Marjorie were satisfied with that explanation, “I wonder what he did? Did they say anything that might…”

Lily groaned, but she now looked quite stern, “I really don’t feel comfortable talking about it…I just don’t feel like I have any right to say anything,” she shrugged, “but I honestly don’t know what Sirius did,”

“Must have been big,” Marjorie said, and both Lily and Violet nodded.


“He tried to kill me!” Snape yelled, looking murderous himself.

James stood silently behind them all, listening to Snape screech accusations and insults about Sirius, Professor Denison, the Head of Slytherin House, backing him up.

“He’s trouble, Professor, really, he’s shown himself to more than capable of inflicting serious injury before, and tonight he has gone too far, he would have seen Severus murdered and I don’t think it would have mattered to him,” Denison said, his lip curling.

Dumbledore had remained quiet, listening to Denison and Snape demand that Sirius be sent to Azkaban.

“And Remus Lupin is a werewolf! He should be chained up or…or put down! What’s he doing at Hogwarts? Wait until I tell my parents about this…” Snape snarled, James started to object but Dumbledore silenced them both.

“You’ll do no such thing, Severus,” he said quietly and Snape’s mouth snapped shut, “Remus is here as a student, under my invitation, we have a special arrangement and he is of no danger to anyone,”

“He was tonight!” Snape yelled vehemently, his usually pallid face now purple and splotchy, “He would have ripped me to shreds if…if…” he muttered himself into silence.

“If James hadn’t saved you?” Dumbledore said softly.

The colour rose in Snape’s face again, “He was in on it! Him and Black! He just chickened out!”

James was snapped out of his daze, “Hang on! I went in there to pull you out!”

“Sure,” Snape sneered at him, “You just got scared about spending the rest of your life in a cell at Azkaban!”

“Maybe I should have left you down there!” James roared.

“Silence!” Dumbledore ordered loudly, making everyone jump, “Severus, James, kindly sit down,” he said and they obliged, mostly out of shock.

“Severus, you have been through an extremely trying ordeal, but you must remember that James went into that passageway at great risk to his own safety, you owe him your gratitude and your life…” he said grimly, he then paused, carefully considering his next words, “I see no evidence to suggest that James was involved in anything sinister, nor do I see any that would implicate Sirius Black,” Snape started to rise angrily, “you might be wary, Severus, of what you hear next time,”

“But…you can’t…he tried…he…Sirius Black!” Snape spluttered.

“Furthermore, Severus, you will not breathe a word of what you saw down there tonight, if I hear so much as a rumour about Remus Lupin being a werewolf I will have you expelled,”

James could have fainted from relief, he closed his eyes and thanked who ever was listening.

“But Dumbledore, you can’t be serious,” Denison said, a nervous laugh escaping from his throat.

“I assure you I am quite serious, Darius, and quite determined too, after all, Severus did deliberately go into an out of bounds area at night,”

Snape looked positively furious, he sank into his chair, a nasty scowl on his face, but he didn’t say a word.

Dumbledore turned to James, “James, sunrise is in another 6 hours, at exactly…” he looked at 12 handed wristwatch, “5:28 and 12 seconds, I assume that you will be there to fill Remus in,”

“Er, what? Yes Professor Dumbledore,”

“Good boy,” he said, and offered the first hint of a smile that James had seen the whole time he’d been in here, “What happened to your glasses?”

The innocent question took James completely by surprise, for the last 4 hours he had been dreading that either he or Sirius or Remus or Peter or all of them would be meeting some kind of terrible fate and sheer relief that all of them had gotten off so lightly had made him a little light headed.

“I…oh, I trod on them back at the Whomping Willow, I’ll go find them tomorrow,”

Dumbledore smiled pleasantly, “Yes, I wondered why you were knocking Severus’s head into doorways, I suppose all is forgiven if you can’t see,”

James smiled back sincerely, at that moment he had never felt so much gratitude towards Dumbledore, who he had known always to be a brilliant man, but right now…James knew that Dumbledore knew that Sirius knew exactly what he was doing, but he had saved him from expulsion or a jail sentence even.

Not that he didn’t deserve it but, James thought painfully, Sirius was still his best friend…no matter how much the thought of him made him sick right now.

“I think you should all go back to bed, try to get some sleep, I will talk to your teachers about excusing you from exams Severus and you James,”

“Don’t worry about it,” James had said assuredly, “I know it all,”

Dumbledore smiled at him and dismissed them both.

“You just wait Potter,” Severus had hissed in his ear as they stepped into the corridor, James turned to him, eyeing him blankly, giving him no indication of what of he was feeling, large hazel eyes unshielded, he just stared at him until Snape backed off.

He trudged wearily back to Gryffindor, more exhausted than he had ever been in his entire life.
Nobody was awake when he’d gotten there, and he was incredibly grateful, he walked mindlessly to up the stairs to his dorm, his hand resting on the handle, but tonight opening that door seemed like the most impossible thing in the world: he knew that Sirius would be on the other side of that door, wide awake, waiting for him and for the first time in his life he felt like he couldn’t talk to him.

There wasn’t really a time he could remember in the 6 years that they had known each other when he hadn’t been able to find some solace in talking with Sirius, he remembered seeing him for the first time on the train to Hogwarts: he was a gangly looking boy, his dark black hair long by his parents standards, hanging gracefully just under his chin, sitting with a bunch of over grown and malicious looking Slytherins, Sirius was sitting off to the side, looking thoroughly disgusted by his present company and utterly miserable. James had barely noted the boy and therefore failed to recognised him when they met, quite by accident, on the boats, going over the lake.

Sirius studied the boats ranked against the water’s edge, he threw a cautious glance to those around him, making sure no one could see him hesitate as he dipped his foot into the boat: it wobbled slightly and he felt a little queasy.

He did not trust water.

There was a blur beside him and now the boat rocked considerably more.

“Come on!” a voice said urgently, hands grasped his robes, pulling Sirius down into the boat, it took him a moment to register that they were now moving, the boat gliding over the water’s surface.

He stared back at the land bank, now shrinking into the darkness and turned to face the blur that had taken him far away from the comfortable, stable land.

He was greeted by an innocent, wholesome looking child, jet black hair wildly sticking up in all directions, glasses slipping down his nose…he looked like a young librarian but there something in the way he grinned that gave you the impression that his looks were entirely deceiving.

“What’d you go and do that for?” Sirius demanded, hoping that he merely sounded disgruntled and not mortified.

The dark haired boy shifted his gaze from somewhere out in the misted darkness and his eyes rested on Sirius. He pushed his glasses back up on to the bridge of his nose and took in the figure glaring accusatorily at him, he noted that his hands were gripping the side of the boat to the point where James thought if he held on any tighter then the wood would splinter beneath his fingers.

“Sorry, I dropped a couple of dungbombs in one of the boats…I, uh, needed to make a quick get away, yours was the only boat not full, didn’t mean to frighten you,” he explained, adding that last bit as a sort of a test.

Sirius made a derisive sound, “I wasn’t scared,” he huffed, “I wasn’t the one running away from a fight,” he reminded James testily.

James broke into a wide grin, “You would have too, have you
seen Rabastan Lestrange and his friends?”

Sirius laughed darkly, “Yeah, I have, his brother’s engaged to my cousin, Bellatrix, old family friends,” he added grimly.

James was flabbergasted, “You…you’re Bellatrix Black’s cousin?” he stuttered, wondering now if he’d just jumped out the frying pan and into the fire.

“Sirius Black,” he muttered dully, not bothering to extend his hand: his family always managed to screw things up for him.

For a moment James seemed unsure of what to say, but, he figured that if this dark haired kid hadn’t hexed him yet, he was either an alright sort or a bit of an idiot, either way, the silence was getting to be uncomfortable.

“James Potter.” He extended his arm and Sirius took it, staring at it in disbelief and doubt, as if anyone would associate with him when they knew where he came from.

They sat in silence for a while, contemplating each other.

“So,” Sirius said slowly, his face hidden in shadow, “How many dungbombs did you put in there?”

James smiled curiously at him, “ ‘Bout 10,”

Sirius snorted, “Might actually improve his body odour, a bit,” he said slyly.

James broke into a wide grin, “Nah, it’d take more than that,”

Sirius smiled back at him, not even noticing the boat was rocking anymore. The wild haired choir boy laughed and pulled Sirius down into the floor of the boat, so that only their eyes were visible over the edge of the boat, their heads knocked together, James whispered, “Reckon we could hit ‘em from here?” he whispered conspiratorially, his voice filled with laughter and Sirius had smiled and laughed with him, feeling as though he’d found a comrade…for the first time in his life he’d found a friend.

From that moment on, the two had been inseparable. There had been nothing they hadn’t shared: secrets, pranks, jokes, friends, girls...when James had tried out for the Quidditch team, Sirius had followed, when they found out Remus was a werewolf, they had both come up with the idea of becoming Animagus. Every prank they’d ever pulled they’d done it together. Together. Wherever one went, the other followed. Without questions. There was no need for them. No need for words. They had been there for each other through everything, triumphs and despair, both knew what the other one needed, without question, without words. James had been the family that Sirius had never had, the one person (outside of Andromeda and maybe Uncle Alphard) that saw past his armour, and it was beautiful armour, but there was something pure beneath it, James knew that, James knew that.

For awhile he just stayed at the door, his hand trembling on the handle as if it were a loaded gun, but after what felt like hours, he finally broke away from the door, instead choosing a comfortable position on the lounge, to curl up and sleep, or at least to rest, his body…his mind was still grinding away.

Chapter 6: Chapter 6
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Chapter 6

Remus had awoken the next morning: battered, bruised and bleeding, but the real horror was in his mind…images flashing before his eyes: last night, last night he had nearly killed someone…last night he had been so close that his own acute werewolf senses were hardly needed.

He had been able to drink the fear from the two that had been in the tunnel last night, one he recognized as James from scent, the other had been Snape, he had been sure that he had heard James call out ‘Severus’. But he wasn’t sure he could trust his memory, even now. The images and sounds of last night were floating to him: surreal and untrustworthy…he could not trust his own body or mind, last night he hadn’t looked at James with a tender affection, he had seen him as prey, as blood waiting to be spilled, as flesh waiting to be devoured…no, he could not trust his mind.

He lay on the warped floorboards for awhile, unable to move for fear he might break. He looked around at the damage he had caused last night, saw the large gouges in the walls, the floor, saw the smashed furniture, felt the deep gashes in his own skin.

He shuddered as he retraced their familiar paths, a daily reminder of what he was, what he would always be.

He eventually managed to find his feet, and he stumbled around, trying to find his clothes in the early morning light.

He’d found that he’d done a lot more damage to himself than he’d originally thought…or maybe it was that he had grown so used to having his friends with him, he had forgotten what damage he could actually do.

He winced as he pulled on his t-shirt and pants, feeling the effects of a rather deep cut in his side…it seemed to be bleeding quite profusely and now his shirt was soaked blood red.

He needed to get out of here, he needed to get up to the Infirmary: to heal, to rest.

He pulled himself back down into the tunnel, leaning heavily against the walls as he descended. He felt a rising feeling when he caught his first glimpse of sunlight, streaming in from the outside world and he took a few more limping steps when he heard a crunch beneath his feet.

He lifted his foot gingerly to see what he had trodden on.

The shards of glass glistened in the early morning light.

Remus bent down, exhaling painfully and he picked up the bent wire frames, a sort of strangled scream escaped his throat, he wracked his mind to make sense of the pollution that was last night’s memory, but he could not.

Don’t let him be hurt, don’t let him be dead… he chanted, as if it might make a difference.

He lunged forward, scrambling out of the hole and up into the sunlight, he did not bask in it’s warmth, the touch of his saviour from the moon, the heat didn’t begin to touch the cold that had now sunk into his skin.

He staggered as fast as he could, desperate for someone, anyone to tell him what had happened last night, whether or not the bent glasses clutched in his hand meant something as sinister as he thought they did.

His side was burning now, and his legs felt somewhat numb, blood was dripping from scratches on his face, obscuring his vision.

“Remus?” came a concerned voice, a familiar voice.

“James…” Remus said gutturally, “You’re not dead,” he was crouched over, holding his side, James comes to his aid, wrapping his strong arms around his shoulders, he could feel the blood, sticky and wet against his own fingers.

“You’re bleeding,” he stated in a low voice.

“I thought I’d k…k…killed you,” he stuttered, his voice barely a whisper.

“I’m alright mate,” James had assured, but there was a tautness in his voice, “ You’re the I’m worried about, come on let’s get you up to Madam Pomfrey, she’ll kill me if I don’t,”

Remus was leaning heavily against James’, unable to express the relief he felt he grasped at his robes, hugging him with all the strength he could muster.

James felt sick again, right now he wanted to make Sirius see what he had done, just how far he had gone…what he had done to Remus.

James heaved him silently back to the castle, Remus’s clutching his neck as if it was the only thing tethering him to the earth.

They made it up to the Hospital Wing, Remus had lost a lot of blood, James had bandaged him the best he could with the healing spells that he knew…but he couldn’t remember a time when he had seen Remus that bad.

Madam Pomfrey nearly had a coronary when James finally dragged him through the doors, she immediately took over, leaving James, blood splattered and exhausted but determined, to watch as she fussed over him, letting out little gasps as she discovered more and more injuries on his pale, wasted body.

James simply stood back and let Madam Pomfrey do what she could, but he would not leave, he would not leave.

Remus could see him, through tired eyes, he could see James standing just beyond Madam Pomfrey, could see the way his hands were balled into fists, could see the expressions that flitted on his face: anger, remorse, regret, pity, concern…all of the things he had expected to see there, except maybe anger…

Remus had remembered that when James had first found out he was angry, but not with him, it was more like he was angry with the injustice of it all: angry that kind, sensible, intelligent, studious Remus could be dealt such a cruel blow. He remembered seeing that look on his face then, but now…why now?

Remus continued to watch him, he was hoping to perhaps pull a clue from his stance, his posture…but he gives nothing away, Remus is almost shaking with impatience, he needed to know, he needed to know why.

His wounds hurt but they are nothing compared to waiting, he wished that Madam Pomfrey would just leave, Remus is all too familiar with this routine now, he could do it himself. In his sleep. Tied to a tree stump.

After several thorough examinations of his torn body, Madam Pomfrey saw fit to leave, though she went with a sigh and a pitying look towards him, which Remus did not appreciate: he was tired of being seen through the eyes of his lycanthropy. It was either pity, disgust or disbelief and none of them were very becoming to him.

For a while neither of them said anything, James looked as though he was struggling with himself, trying think of the right way to say it.

“For Merlin’s sake, James, just say it,” Remus said quietly.

James offered him a staid smile and he looked down at his hands, “How much of last night do you remember?” he asked.

Remus watched him, his heart already pounding: this can’t be good.

“I remember…I remember you and Snape, in the tunnel, I remember I smelt you and I heard you tell Snape to get out of there,” he told him, his voice shaking slightly, “What happened?” he asked, but his tone was pleading.

James sighed and ran his hand through his hair nervously, “You didn’t hurt anyone,” he said quickly, alleviating Remus’s fears, “But Snape knows,”

Remus cocked an eyebrow, Well, that was obvious he thought sarcastically.

James looked as if he was struggling with himself again, Remus could almost see the silent battle in his eyes, “Sirius told him how to get to you,” he said finally, and for the first time, Remus understood James’s expression…he was sure that it now mirrored his own, James continued with a heavy sigh and shaking hands, “Dumbledore has put it right, Snape’s forbidden to tell anyone what he saw and Sirius…” he trailed off, Remus waited expectantly, “Sirius isn’t going to be expelled,” there was something in his tone that made Remus think that he was not exactly in agreement with this fact, but he didn’t say anymore.

“Fuck,” was the only thing that Remus could think of uttering. He rarely swore, but now it seemed highly appropriate, if not entirely inadequate.

Of all the times he had imagined his secret being revealed, he had never once thought it would be one of his friends, one of the Marauder’s; he had never thought that Sirius would betray him.

Never thought that Sirius would use him.

Remus had only been made feel like he was a monster by others 2 times in his whole life: once by the people at the werewolf registry, once when his parents had tried to enroll him in Hogwarts and the current Headmaster, Armando Dippet had refused him, he never spoke to him, he just had to see the look on his father’s face when he read him the letter of rejection, the words ‘highly dangerous’ and ‘unacceptable risk’, still frequented his thoughts.

But this was different; from their second year onwards Remus had come to trust James, Sirius and Peter with his secret, he’d been grateful, relieved and overjoyed at their reactions, they had not treated him any different, not looked at him as a dark creature residing in a human body, instead they had tried to make him feel better about it, made him feel normal, not some tragedy, not some delicate weakling in need of their help, not some freak of nature, just a guy, just a friend, nothing special.

He didn’t mind walking in James’ and Sirius’s shadows, feeling normal and overlooked was something that he treasured.

And Sirius had shattered that.

Sirius had used him as a means to an end, or, an end to a means. The point was he had used the fact that he was a werewolf to get back at Snape.

Remus felt the hot flush of anger, and he looked up at the other boy, he could see his own anger reflected in James’ hazel eyes, usually so calm and full of laughter, now they were cold and steely…there were bags under his eyes and Remus suspected he hadn’t slept at all last night. He had never seen James look so old.

“Get any sleep last night?” Remus asked casually.

James snorted, “Yeah, slept like a log,” he said sarcastically. There was another very pregnant pause and the spoke up again “He’s an idiot,” he said quietly.

Remus didn’t have to ask who ‘He’ was, he just nodded and waited for James to continue, “He didn’t even realise what he’d done was wrong, couldn’t distinguish the fact that it was murder and he really didn’t see that you would be the one who would suffer the consequences of his idiocy, the idiot,” he growled.

Remus was inclined to agree, his throat was uncomfortably dry, right now he could hardly think of Sirius without his muscles constricting all over, tensing up as though he would quite like to hit him, which he would, he wanted to hit Sirius until he understood, until he got the message through his thick skull.

Remus suddenly remembered the cracked and broken glasses in his hand, “Oh, I forgot, I found your glasses…they’re a bit, er, smashed,” he said apologetically.

“Yeah, I know, trod on them last night, can’t see a bloody thing with out them…I’m as blind as a Bartles Bat,” he said, taking them from Remus outstretched hand, he muttered ‘Reparo’ and slipped them back on his face, grateful that he could see again.

“How are you taking this so well?” James asked exasperatedly, noting that Remus had said barely said a thing, and hardly anything about what had happened last night.

Remus raised an eyebrow at him, “You think I’m handling it well? I guess I just don’t know how to react…plus I’m exhausted, but if he was in the room right now I think I’d kill him,” he said honestly.

James exhaled again, “I nearly did, last night I nearly did,” he was staring at something o the floor, his hands fidgeting restlessly, “I slammed him into the wall a couple of times and I swear I would have killed him, I was so caught up, so angry with him, I forgot that anyone was in the room…I wanted him to bleed, to feel pain, I wanted to make sure he was human…I was so angry with him, I still am I guess,” he looked up at Remus with a guilty smile, “Guess I’m not half as angry as you are,”

Remus grunted, feeling a twinge of pain shoot up his body, a very literal, painful reminder of just how angry he should be, “No, I guess not,”

Madam Pomfrey bustled back in, noticing for the first time that James was there.

“Mr Potter! Last night you refused my attention, I trust you’re not stupid enough to do that this morning?” she glared at him, he smiled his slow, handsome smile.

“Well, I am stupid enough, but I value my life, you may as well give me the works, Poppy, I’m due for a service,” he said brazenly.

Madam Pomfrey shook her head and laughed affectionately at the boy, whom had seen his fair share of injuries in the past 6 years.

“Honestly, I’m fine, though, nothing broken, just a bit bruised, should heal up in a couple of days…I recall you telling me the last time I was here with a bruise from the Whomping Willow that it would ‘Serve to remind me not to be an idiot,’”

Madam Pomfrey obliged him grudgingly, seeing as she had others to attend to, she put Remus into an enchanted sleep, even though he fought it, but James stayed, eventually falling a sleep in a chair beside his bed.

Chapter 7: Chapter 7
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James did not return to the dorm, nor did he show up at classes all day. Sirius had to brave the scornful glares and curious whispers alone. He heard his name muttered wherever he went, but this time it was not in awe, not in gratitude, not in admiration…they spoke in hushed tones: it was fear and confusion driving their whispers.

Sirius hunched over his work and tried to ignore it, but without James to distract him it was proving difficult, he only had Peter to talk to and, he found that after awhile this became extremely tedious, because as much as Peter liked a good prank, it was like talking to a wet blanket, Peter was only open to suggestion; no imagination of his own.

With only a week before exams, he spent a lot of time helping Peter to study, writing down little hints to remember formulas and practicing charms and hexes, most of the time underneath the oak tree down by the lake: a stupid idea really, because that’s where the four of them had usually gone to study, only served as a bitter reminder without them.

This particular routine continued for 3 days, Sirius saw neither hide nor hair of James or Remus and he could only assume that they were avoiding him. He knew they must be up in the Infirmary, because that’s what they had always done after full moon: stayed by Remus’s side until he had fully recovered.

The first time Sirius had seen Remus after full moon was back in second year, and he didn’t admit it to anyone but James, but it had scared him to death seeing Remus looking pale and weak, his skin torn and bloodied from claws that Remus could not possibly possess, he hated seeing Remus look so ashamed, so scared that he would be rejected, but they had not, they had sworn to protect, to stand by him, to save him from the moon…and he had betrayed him.

Maybe Moony’s really hurt this time.

He shuddered to think about it, but he couldn’t help it, their absence from his life was incredibly noticeable…he didn’t have James to muck around with and he didn’t have Remus’s notes to copy off.

One particularly lonely afternoon he had taken himself down to see Hagrid, desperate for some company other than Peter’s (Peter had almost had a pink fit when Sirius told him that he could study on his own).

Hagrid was, as ever, warm and accommodating, looked down at the pitiful figure, hands stuffed in his pockets, eyes downcast, looking nothing like the 16 year old prankster he was, but rather a puppy that had been kicked repeately, Hagrid smiled broadly as he invited him in.

“Yeh alrigh' Sirius?” he asked, pouring him a cup of tea.

Sirius forced himself to smile, “Fine Hagrid,” he assured in a-would-be dismissive voice.

Hagrid raised an eyebrow at him, (something difficult to see behind the masses of hair), “Yeh don’ look alrigh', you look like my mate Adrastos when he was told he lost a bet to Cardew Bronnen,” he chuckled.

Sirius laughed emptily with him, taking another mouthful of tea, he sighed, figuring it was pointless to lie, “I suppose you’ve heard about…about, well I guess you would have heard what I did,” he said grimly, carefully avoiding Hagrid’s eyes.

Hagrid stared at him over his mug, “I heard yeh played a rotten trick on Severus Snape, nearly got him killed.”

Sirius laughed darkly into his own mug, nodding, “That all you heard?”

“No, I know what yeh did to Remus, but I wanted to hear yeh say it out loud,” Hagrid said gruffly.

Sirius grimaced, his hair slipping down into his eyes, “I didn’t mean to use him like that…he just…I just… I’m an idiot,” he mumbled apologetically.

Hagrid laughed, “O’ course yeh are, yeh’re all idiots, bu’ yeh an’ James an’ Remus are mates, yeh’ll work it out, just give it some time,”

“I don’t think it’s going to work that way,” Sirius said bitterly, “I’ve really fucked up this time, Remus shouldn’t have to forgive me,”

Hagrid shrugged, “Maybe, but he will, cause he’s like tha’, friendly sort of bloke, never seen him angry,” he mused.

Sirius slumped further into his chair, “And I gave him a reason…of all the shitty things that have happened to him, I get the honour of making him angry,” he groaned.

“Jus’ give it time, Sirius, they’ll come around, James can’ live without his brother, yeh’ve only got half a brain between the two of yeh and yeh need it all to work on those pranks yeh play,” he laughed quietly to himself.

A small grin flitted across Sirius’s face, his first smile for days, “Thanks Hagrid.”

The next day Remus was released from the Madam Pomfrey’s anxious clutches, he was still heavily bandaged around his waist and still retained a few minor cuts on his face and arms, and she had been positively scary when she had entrusted his care to James.

But he was out of there and that’s all that mattered.

Well, almost all that mattered.

Their first lesson back had been DADA and they had unfortunately been revising werewolves.

Sirius sat hunched in the far back corner, shirking off any attempts from Peter to make conversation, insisting that he leave him alone so that he could study, people anxiously watched the interactions between James and Sirius, realizing from James’s actions Remus was somehow involved.

Snape had also been given leave to attend classes, and Sirius watched his eyes flicker onto Remus’s back as their Professor wrote notes about werewolves on the board, Snape sneered with abject disgust and Sirius felt like he would quite like to grab Snape by his greasy roots and swing him out the window.

He sighed and remembered that this was all his fault in the first place.

Remus and James ignored Sirius blatantly and he obliged, figuring that he shouldn’t try to get in the way of Remus’s rightful indignation.

Sirius wandered the halls, attended classes, ate in the Great Hall, alone, a mere ghost of his former self.

Remus didn’t blame Peter, so in an instant he was back at James and Remus’s side, Sirius didn’t mind, solitude was becoming customary to him. They sometimes passed in the corridors, but Sirius would lower his gaze and move away, saying nothing, James glowering at him as he slouched away.

After a particularly horrid Arithmancy lesson, one stifling Thursday afternoon (he couldn’t even answer the damn questions, cue more laughter and gossip directed at him), Sirius decided that he would skive off the rest of the day, dragging himself back up to the Gryffindor common room.

He flopped down onto the lounge in front of the fireplace, loosening his tie and sighing deeply, he sat, eyes staring blankly at nothing in particular.

“Accio Firewhisky,” he called dully, remembering that he still had a couple of bottles stashed away under his bed. He caught the flask in his hand, flipping off the lid and sipping it.

He felt incredibly lonely, more lonely than he had ever felt at home when his mother had screamed at him, told him he was a traitor to her flesh, a parasite, a waste, a scourge and number of other vile names that she had called him, sometimes muttered beneath her breath, other times screeched, her voice echoing throughout the dark halls of his house so that he could not escape.

But he had, he had escaped, he had gone to live with James, just as they had always planned, now he wasn’t sure if he even had a place to live, maybe Andromeda and her husband would take him in, maybe. Hopefully.

Hr groaned loudly and hung his head, his attention was piqued by the sound of the portrait swinging open and two people entering, talking rather animatedly.

Sirius looked over the back of the couch and was met by James, Remus and Peter, who upon seeing him, immediately stopped talking.

Sirius observed with a pang of guilt that Remus still looked exhausted and weak, he had a fresh cut along the side of his face and his robes hung off him.

He opened his mouth to speak, to apologise, but he couldn’t think of anything that could cover everything he was feeling right now.

James apprehensively stepped a little closer to Remus, defiant in his posture, still seething with anger at his friend, still disappointed with him.

Still trying not to love him like a brother.

Peter’s eyes snapped from one to the other, watching the tense scene fearfully.

Sirius stood up, stilling his queasy stomach, James and Remus made to walk past him, but they’d only got a few steps when Sirius finally spoke up.

“Hit me,” he said quietly.

They turned to him, “What?”

“Hit me,” he repeated a little louder, taking a step forward, “I want you to hit me,”

Remus shook his head, “You’re mad,” he said exasperatedly.

Something resembling a smile twisted on Sirius’s faces, “Begging and pleading won’t do it, an eye for an eye, Moony, you got to take it by the pound,” he said, smacking his fist against his hand

“You’re mad,” Remus repeated, but James saw the flask in his hand.

“You’re drunk,” he said and Sirius laughed morosely.

“Little bit,” he shrugged, taking another swig, “Doesn’t make me wrong. Hit me Moony, you’ll feel better,” he offered his arm to him, swaying slightly. The whole thing would have been funny if it wasn’t so disturbing, if Sirius wasn’t actually, well, serious.

Remus shook his head, he was trembling slightly, his anger getting the better of him, “You mean you’ll feel better, that’s what this is about, you want me to alleviate your guilt and your suffering,” he snapped, his voice cold and hard , “I don’t want to forgive you, I don’t want you to feel better,” his fists were clenched now, his eyes clouded with fury, “I want you to fucking suffer,” he quietly, calmly, his hand gripping the railing on the stairs so as to hold him up.

Sirius looked away from him, he nodded in grim acceptance and turned away, “I’m sorry,” he mumbled.

Remus sighed and rolled his eyes, “You should be,” but this anger…this rage; Remus had always prided himself on being able to remove himself from the beast inside of him, feeling like he did now was too close to the effect that the full moon had on him.

Sirius could not raise his eyes to meet Remus’s, “I am, God…I’d fucking grovel if I thought it would do me any good, I’m an idiot, a moron, coward, fool…anything you want to call me, I am,”

Remus snorted, still not moving from the stairs, “I’m not disagreeing with you there,”

James had taken a backseat to the whole drama, he stood behind Remus watching intently, he watched as Sirius swayed gently under the influence of too much drink, there was something mournfully pitiful about his posture, his expressions, he felt a twinge of guilt knowing that he had been in part responsible.

I should have seen it, I should have seen it…

“I didn’t think…I just acted, it was a stupid decision made in about a half a second, I just wanted to hurt Snape, wanted to get him back once and for all…I didn’t think about you,” he explained, his voice trailing to a whisper, “I didn’t think about you!” he reminded himself loudly, “God, I’m an idiot,” he muttered.

“Yes, we’ve established that,” Remus said lightly, a faint smile on his face, Sirius let out a half sob, half laugh and he finally gained the courage to look up at Remus.

“I’m sorry Moony, I really am, I’m a fucking twat and you should take me up on my offer…beat me senseless, or rather beat some sense into me,” he laughed sullenly.

Remus sighed and took a few steps to where Sirius was standing, his head hung, flask in hand, “I’m not going to hit you, Padfoot,” he said softly, a calm reassuring smile on his face.

Sirius snorted again, “You should,”

“No, no, if I wanted revenge on you, I’d just kill you in your sleep,” he said pleasantly, Sirius barked out a laugh and flung his arms around Remus’s neck emphatically.

Remus returned the hug, laughing to himself about what a gigantic idiot Sirius was, nothing but a big puppy dog, really, a big slightly intoxicated puppy dog

Sirius caught sight of James over Remus’s shoulder, James’s expression was indiscernible, but, he thought grimly, James was unlikely to forgive as easily as Remus had…even though Remus had more right to be angry, Hagrid was right: it was not in his nature to hold a grudge.

You don’t want to betray James’ trust, his loyalty.

Sirius broke away from Remus, grinning impishly, “Sorry, you know I get emotional when I’ve had a few,” he slurred.

“Just so long as you keep your distance when you start getting gropey,” Remus joked.

“Too late!” Sirius laughed, throwing himself at Remus, overwhelmed with joy that he was actually speaking to him. James allowed a ghost of a smile to grace his features before it set back to its original stoic stance.

Remus laughed heartily at Sirius, subtly clutching his side so that no one would notice that he was in pain. It was obvious to him that Sirius had been tortured enough without him knowing what the results of a few moments of stupidity had been.

“You’ll want to be careful with him Padfoot, our boy’s…what’s the word Madam Pomfrey used? Oh yeah, ‘delicate’,” James said smoothly, light and laughter in his eyes.

Remus and Sirius both stopped and turned to James, who dropped down the last couple of stairs with a joyful sort of spring in his step, confident cocky grin on his face again. Sirius was dumbstruck, he caught James’s eye and with a look said it all.

“I’m not delicate!” Remus hissed, but he was smiling, “Take off your glasses and we’ll see who’s the first one to have an unfortunate accident,” he challenged.

“So pale and thin, ickle Moony, come now, you should sit down before you do yourself some serious damage,” James teased.

“Maybe you just don’t want to see Madam Pomfrey again so soon…I seem to recall you backed up against the wall when she asked you to take care of me,” Remus commented wryly.

James laughed, “More like threatened, mate, I ‘ve a lot of respect for Poppy, she’s healed my bones countless time, ‘spect that she knows how to break every single one of them too,” he said soberly.

“Wimp,” Remus said edgily, squaring off with James now, shy smile still on his face.

Delicate,” James elaborated the word, drawing it out for maximum affect, and his grin became wider still when he saw that Remus looked positively demented, “Sirius, give us a hand with Mr Lupin here, in his delicate condition it would be best if we carried him upstairs to bed with a nice cold compress,”

Remus growled in a very werewolf like manner and launched himself at James, the two of them tumbled to the ground, laughing madly, Sirius just stood away from the tumbling pair, chortling with happiness, feeling it keenly after it had been so absent from his life.

James reached up an arm and pulled at Sirius’s trouser leg, and Sirius, being slightly inebriated didn’t need much to put him off balance; he fell the floor with a residing thump, the near empty flask of Firewhisky flying from his hands.

The three of them lay there on the ground, panting, huge grins plastered on their faces.
Peter stood over them, round face peering down with extreme glee, “It’s about time!” he exclaimed, “It’s a right bore when you’re all fighting!”

Sirius laughed and pulled him down to the floor with them. They lay there, still tangled up from their roughhousing, laughing like idiots.

There was no better way to spend an afternoon.

Chapter 8: Chapter 8
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It was late, a magical fire had been conjured up but as it was summer, it gave off no heat, it was there more for ambiance really.

James was sitting in an armchair close to the fireplace, reclining comfortably with a book propped up in front of him.

He still wore the same slightly dazed grin and he did not notice when a solitary figure padded downstairs.

“What are you doing down here?”

James turned around to see Lily standing in her pyjamas at the bottom of the stairs, her long hair braided into a plait.

“Could ask you the same question,” James said, adjusting his position.

Lily cocked an eyebrow at him and gracefully slid into a chair opposite to him, “Oh, playing that game are we?”

James eyed her bemusedly, “You wouldn’t believe me if I said I was studying,” he said jovially.

She laughed quietly, “You’re right, I wouldn’t,”

He held the book up so that she could see the cover in the dim light, Brewing Destiny: Level 6 Advanced Potions. He wore a kind of satisfied, superior smile, Lily looked at him, mildly impressed.

“The great Potter studying? Where’s a camera when you need it?” she jested lightly.

He threw her an anxious look, raising his finger to his lips, griining broadly “Shh, don’t tell anyone,”

She laughed despite herself, noticing that James had not once run his hand through his hair, in fact he had a slightly calm, serene appearance that she could not quite place…

“Have you and Sirius made it up yet?” she asked boldly.

“Merlin, Evans, don’t be shy!” James exclaimed, admiring her daring.

“Evans? I thought it was ‘Darling Lily’?” she teased airily, recalling Sirius’s spiteful words a few days previous.

A blush rose in his cheeks and his hand was in his hair again. She watched him with a sense of triumph, suddenly acutely aware that she, (and she would never be able to understand why) among all of Hogwarts female population, could make James Potter nervous.

“So have you?” she asked again, relieving him from some his embarrassment.

“Yeah, we have, all on speaking terms again,” he said quickly.

She smiled, “Good, it was getting a bit boring without the you lot breaking up the monotony,” she said dryly.

James beamed proudly at her, “So what are you down here for?”

She sighed, “You actually, well it’s your fault I’m down here anyway,”

James just waited for her to answer, slight smile on his face.

“It’s Marty, actually, she’s sulking again because she thinks I split up the dream team,” she explained, rolling her eyes.

“Well you can now assure her that all is well in the world,”

Lily let out a derisive noise, “Really Potter, you should have a disclaimer above your bed, “Just Because You’re Here Tonight Doesn’t Mean I Will Be Tomorrow Morning” or something to that effect," she joked.

James’s cheeks flamed up almost immediately but he recovered quickly, “I don’t think that would fit on the sign, I could stitch it into the bed cover, though,”

“I somehow think they’d spend more time looking at the ceiling,” she quipped, a mischievous smile on her own face.

He was dumbstruck by the remark, never having heard anything un-towards come out of Lily Evans’ mouth and now they were discussing, of all things, his sex life. He inwardly marveled at her quick humour.

Lily chuckled seeing the frozen expression on his face, as if he was searching for a witty comeback but had been hit by lightning in the process.

He shook his head, grinning in an amused sort of way, “I didn’t expect that coming from future Head Girl,” he said finally.

“What makes you think I’m going to be?”

James snorted, “Well, it sure as hell isn’t going to be Marty, and you’ve been our faithful, friendly, female prefect these 2 years past, no one deserves it more than you,” he said earnestly.

Lily viewed him quizzically, unsure as to how to react to a compliment from James Potter (a compliment that didn’t involve an immediate request for her company and a lurid grin from Sirius), instead she asked, “So you think Remus will get Head Boy?”

“Nah, Sirius will get it and he’ll drive Gryffindor into the ground, teaching all first years to be mad delinquents, Slytherin will never know what hit ‘em” he kidded. She shuddered at the thought, laughing softly too, “Moony deserves it,” James said quietly, serious now, “He’ll get it and together the two of you will reign,” he said this without the slightest touch of jealously or bitterness in his voice.

She had noted Remus’s nickname, she’d heard it many times before, but she’d never been in a position to ask…”Why do you call him Moony?”

James’ expression changed from gleefully indulged to one of wary concern and regret, “Just a nickname,” he said lightly. He pushed himself up off the couch, grabbing his book, “Better get to bed, exams coming Evans, need to rest my wicked mind,” he joked, but the humour had evaporated from his voice. “Night,” he said as he walked up to his dorm, he threw a longing glance after her, but managed to force himself up the few remaining steps.

Lily sat contemplating James’s hurried exit, she cursed herself silently for saying that, for letting her curiosity get the better of her, but then…that would mean she would have had to have been enjoying a conversation with him…and that had certainly never happened before.

She sighed resignedly, settling herself down into the armchair, feeling strangely uneasy. Trying to push Thurston to the forerunner of her thoughts.

Days passed, exams came and went. James, Sirius, Remus and Lily were all competing for the highest marks, the number one position…even Ravenclaw couldn’t give them a run for their money. It was always pointless trying to guess who would top what, the marks were generally extremely close.

Sirius topped Transfiguration, receiving a most beneficiary look from McGonagall when he had received the mark back on his exam. She had been overflowing with pride for her most talented and (albeit grudgingly) favourite student, she had even insisted on reciting some of his answers back to the class, a request to which he simply lowered his head and grinned impishly, smoothly complimenting her with: “And I could have never have done it without you, Professor.” She had almost allowed herself to laugh as he launched into a rambunctious and improvised ode to Transfiguration and its teacher.

As he finished his impromptu performance, she stared at him down through her glasses, a twitch at the sides of her mouth, “I thank you Mr. Black, for not presenting you entire exam in rhyming couplets, be thankful that you will never be in a position where we require you to sing,” she said it tightly, but her eyes were twinkling with affection.

Remus had topped Ancient Runes and Arithmancy, finding himself very happy indeed with his results, after all, coming second or third or fourth after Lily, James and Sirius was a huge accomplishment in itself.

James had topped Defence Against the Dark Arts, as had been expected, though he had not expected to come first in Potions, but then again, Snape had not had to take the exam, so perhaps it was just luck.

Lily, of course, had topped Charms and also Herbology.

Peter had barely scraped Acceptable on all of his exams, but it was enough, his mother would be appreciative that he had at least passed.

By way of tradition the term ended with a party: to farewell the 7th Years and welcome the 6th Years, to celebrate the end of exams and just any old excuse they could think up for throwing a party.

The Gryffindor common room was decked with large banners, each baring the name of one of their 7th Years. Sirius and Remus had stolen away into Hogsmeade and brought back as many supplies as humanly possible.

Sirius had also acquired a fair few flasks of Firewhisky from the Hog’s Head, just to get the party started.

“Well, Prongs, I reckon we’ll have our work cut out for us next year,” Sirius said, the four of them sitting on the floor, drinking Butterbeer.

James cocked an eyebrow at him, “I’m guessing you don’t mean school work,”

“You even have to ask?” he grinned.

“I don’t know, Padfoot, I think we might actually have to ‘buckle down’ as McGonagall puts it,”

“I’d have to be extremely desperate to study, I’d rather fail then be caught with my head in a book,”

Remus looked at them both incredulously, “I think I’ll kill you both myself if you fail, or alternately, if you pass without any study at all I may kill myself,” he said taking a sip of his Butterbeer.

“Relax Moony, we’ll be good little boys and study ourselves to the point of implosion,” Sirius assured him.

“No you won’t,”

“Have I ever lied to you?”


“Okay, well, yes, but for you Moony, we’ll study,”

“Are you even sure you’d be able to recognize a book?”

“No, you shall have to teach me of these strange and mysterious objects called ‘books’. Tell me, Oh great Professor Lupin, impart your knowledge to me,” Sirius begged grasping the hem of Remus’s robe in a pleading fashion.

Remus laughed and shoved him away, “Thank God you don’t have to beg for dates, Padfoot, you’re terrible at it,”

James snickered at their playful argument, aware that only a week or so ago he would have thought a scene like this to be impossible.

After Sirius and Remus had reconciled he had tried to speak to Sirius alone, but they’d never really got round to the ‘speaking’ part, the moment they’d stepped into the dorms, Sirius had hugged James until his breathing was severely constricted, and James had been inclined to hug him back, unable to stave off the relief and joy he felt at having his best friend back in his life. The distance between them in those too long days had been painful.

Part of him was still afraid, afraid of the part of Sirius that he could not control, afraid that this would not be the last time his anger and his rage would get him in to trouble…and he worried that Dumbledore would not be there to protect him.

But now was not the time to commiserate over what might be, now was a time to celebrate, to relax, to enjoy and get merrily drunk with ones best friends.

“When have I had to beg for a date?” Remus asked testily.

“Not in words, you just use those puppy dog eyes and it gets them every time,” Sirius answered.

“I do not use ‘puppy dog eyes’” Remus said through gritted teeth.

“Girls seem to think you’re the strong silent type, they go nuts for a man of mystery…you really should start using that to your advantage.” Remus just sighed at this comment.

“How did we get from study to girls?” James wondered out loud.

Sirius and Remus turned to him grinning, “Natural transition Prongs, for why does one study if not to impress girls? Why does one do anything if not to impress girls?”

Remus snorted, James shook his head, “One day, some girl is going to tie you down, Padfoot, and we will laugh at you,”

“No girl is ever going to tie me down!” Sirius proclaimed.

“You’re suggesting that it might be a boy then, because if you lean that way I have a cousin…” James said casually, teasing grin on his face, Sirius shoved him playfully.

“Actually, now that you mention it…” Sirius growled seductively, flashing James a predatory grin.

“If only I’d known,” James said sarcastically, rolling his eyes.

“I think you two would make a lovely couple,” said a voice hovering above them, it was Iphigenia, standing above them with a bemused grin on her face, “But please, think of the children,” she said dramatically.

Peter screwed up his nose, “This is kind of giving me the collywobbles,” he said, shuddering.

Sirius leered mischievously, “What is? The thought of James and I entwined in lusty embrace? Legs thrown casually on our bedspreads, slick with sweat, I think I would be tracing little circles on his chest…” he cocked his head and a mock dreamy expression came over his face.

“I think its more the thought of you two having children, but thanks Padfoot, now I’m going to have nightmares,” Remus said, cringing.

Sirius’s eyes lit up again with the thought of scandalizing his friends, “What do think Prongs? Should we give it a go?”

“Didn’t you hear? Sorry Padfoot, but my heart belongs to Moony,”

“We can include him, don’t blush like that Moony, you know you want it,” Sirius hooked his arm around James’s neck pulling him in for a hug; he rested his head on his shoulder, pulling a simperingly sweet lovelorn face.

Remus smothered his face with his hands, shaking his head incredulously.

“You’re going to be fuelling a lot of girls fantasies tonight,” Iphigenia chuckled.

“Don’t we every night?” Sirius said slyly.

“You’d like to think so,”

“I do,”

She rolled her eyes, “ I did actually come over here to ask you something, but I’ll leave you three to get more intimately acquainted, be gentle on young Remus,” she giggled and walked away, leaving Remus thoroughly embarrassed, his head buried in his hands.

Peter grinned widely at Remus, laughing as the blush rose up his face.

Sirius slapped him on the back, barking out his loud laugh, “Come now Moony, if you don’t want to join in you can just watch…”

Remus couldn’t help it: he smiled.

Chapter 9: Chapter 9
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Going Home, or in Sirius’s case, to someone else’s home.

The train ride had been a dull affair, considering they’d all had hangovers, but they had made promises to see each other over the summer, just as they always did and Sirius’s 17th birthday was looking to be interesting…he was the first of them to come of age, meaning he would now legally be able to curse Snape out of the Hogwarts grounds…well, not so much legally, but he could do it and not be traced, anyway and he was looking forward to some rather interesting confrontations with his family; for the past year Regulus had been moping around, his formally aquiline nose bent from making contact with his brother’s fist, but he generally stayed out of his way.

Arriving home they were met by the familiar site of the Potters, smiling broadly, twitching with anticipation.

“James!” his mother squealed, and for a moment it would have been easy to forget that she was a 45 year old woman in a very high position at the MoM.

“Hey mum,” James said, wrapping her up in a hug. If there was one good thing about Voldemort, it was that he taught you the importance of time, taught you to use it. With a steady flux of deaths and disappearances, those near and dear became nearer and dearer.

Sitting down to a humble meal made by Calista (which, in Sirius’s eyes was far better to anything at Hogwarts), they talked about the term, about the grades given, about the year approaching and finally Calista raised the topic of Sirius’s birthday.

“What would you like to do for your birthday, dear?” she asked kindly.

Sirius blushed, still unaccustomed to the kindness of a parent, and he hadn’t celebrated a birthday since his first year at Hogwarts…his parents had been too busy wishing he was dead to remember that it was his birthday.

“Erm, nothing,” he mumbled,

“Don’t be stupid, Sirius, you only turn 17 once,” Ignatius chided.

“Well, ah, nothing big, just James and Remus and Peter, nothing big,” he repeated.

“I think we can manage that,” Calista said warmly, smiling at her husband, who clasped her hand affectionately.

“I’ve organised to take you down for your Apparating Test, it’ll be first thing in the morning so you can parade it in front of James for the whole day,” Ignatius told him.

Sirius beamed gratefully, unsure of what to say. This kind of familial interaction almost always caught him off guard.

“I’ll bet he splinches himself,” James remarked.

“How would you like me to Apparate in on you in the shower?” Sirius replied testily.

“I think you’d like it more than me,”

“Boys!” Calista scolded them, she was trying to look stern, but was failing miserably.

“I’m sorry, Cally,” Sirius simpered.

“Suck up,” James said out f the corner of his mouth.

“Just because you’re the ‘bad one’, James, doesn’t mean you can drag my good name down with yours,” Sirius huffed in mock outrage.

“I’m the bad one?”

“You led me astray,”


“I would have followed you anywhere,”

“You were always destined to be someone’s bitch,”

“James!” His mother admonished.

“Sorry mum,” James said, blushing a little, Sirius beamed triumphantly.

“Git,” James muttered good-naturedly, Sirius only gave him a look of supreme smugness.

They passed the first week of holidays relatively uneventfully, summer days spent lazily flying around on Silver Arrows, James planning game strategy and Sirius enjoying the undivided calm he felt when lobbing a hard object at another person’s head.

James noticed that in the days leading up to Sirius’s 17th, he was apprehensive, there was little of his cocky charm and confident stance to be seen when either Calista or Ignatius made mention of the fact that he would be of age, released from the bonds of childhood. James knew why: for the past 6 years they had found refuge within the walls of Hogwarts, everything good that had ever happened to Sirius had happened there, it was his home and turning 17 was another gap that would divide him from there, he would soon be of age, no longer a child, but an adult, fully responsible for his actions…a job, a career, a family maybe…those things drew closer with every single day, and none were so incredibly significant than his birthday.

On the day itself, James had quietly entered Sirius’s room, sneaking up to his bed, leaning over and shouting ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY!’ in the loudest voice he could render, Sirius had, of course, woken with a start, tumbling out of bed, tangled within the blankets.

James had nearly laughed himself hoarse at his reaction, he was doubled over with huge racking laughter for nearly 5 minutes whilst Sirius struggled against his entrapment.

“You value your nose, Prongs?” he growled threateningly as James, still chuckling, helped him up from the floor.

“Come on, crack a smile, birthday boy,” James teased, pulling him in for a brief hug, “you’ve made it, congratulations on not blowing yourself up,”

“When did you become sentimental?”

“When I looked into your eyes…” he sang lavishly and terribly, making Sirius laugh.

“Changed my mind, you’re just mental,”

James almost skipped downstairs, Sirius followed him, thudding dully, his body still weary with sleep.

At the bottom of the stairs a beaming Calista and Ignatiusstood, fully dressed and he wondered what kind of people were up at this ungodly hour.

“Happy Birthday Sirius,” Calista greeted him, wrapping him up in the most affectionate embrace he’d ever experienced, she planted a kiss on his cheek which he rubbed, mystified, a stupid grin on his face.

“Happy birthday,” Ignatius said warmly, giving him a brief, ‘manly’ hug.

Sirius immediately flamed up with embarrassment, acutely aware that he must look a sight in his rumpled pyjamas, and the fact that he hadn’t bothered slipping on a t-shirt became obvious next to the stiffly formal attire that the Potter’s were wearing, but he was glad that James was also not dressed for the day.

The attention also made him feel a little odd, he had grown accustomed to being independent, spending his birthdays alone, locked in his room, most of the time James, Remus and Peter had organised a party when they returned to school, usually a small celebration in their dorm, complete with stolen food from the kitchens and Butterbeer from Hogsmeade, the parties had almost become tradition…midnight feasts where he could laugh and let go of all the misery the previous summer had incurred.

James nodded at the dining table before them, indicating the presents which where piled up on the surface.

Sirius looked up uncertainly at the beaming family before him, they were all waiting expectantly, “You didn’t have to do this,” he said nervously, raking a hand through his hair as he stared incredulously at the gifts.

“Traditionally, its what’s done on people’s birthdays,” Ignatiussaid jovially, quite amused at the dumbstruck expression on Sirius’s face, also a little sad for the boy, who quite clearly didn’t know how to react in such a normal situation.

“Open them Sirius,” Calista said, grabbing one from the table and handing it to him, “Go on, I made sure none of them bite,” she threw a sideways glance at James who stared at the ceiling.

He took the box in his hands tentatively, slowly unwrapping it, even though he was officially an adult today he had never felt more like a child.

He opened the medium sized box and found a book, he looked quizzically at James who gave nothing away with his ever present smile. Flicking open a page he realised that it was blank…as was the rest of the book.

“Say something to it,” Ignatius urged, “A subject, anything,”

“Er, ‘Quidditch’,” he said to the book, feeling rather silly. Immediately ink began to spider across the page, forming words and diagrams.

“Whatever you desire to see the book can call upon, all you have to do is speak quite plainly the name of the topic you wish to research or read about and it will be called, it’s not just for study, but we thought it might help you with your, er, extra-curricular activities…it’s quite comprehensive.”

“It’s got all the hexes and jinxes that Madam Pince won’t let near the library,” James added, his eyes flashing with excitement behind his glasses.

“I…thank you,” he mumbled, getting lost for words again, “you really didn’t…”

“Yes we did dear,” Calista said briskly, “Now, you might have to wait til you and Ignatius get back from your Apparition test to open the rest, you have…” she looked at her wristwatch, “35 minutes to be showered and dressed and ready to go,”

“Shit…sorry, I’ll go, yeah, um, get ready.” The book was still his slightly trembling hands, “Thanks, really, both of you, thank you so much,” he said earnestly.

“What about me?” James whined.

“And you too,” Sirius amended, rolling his eyes. He turned to leave but was stopped by a gentle hand.

“Hang on a second,” Calista said, taking another package from the table and handing it to him, “take these, new casual robes,” she explained and Sirius felt a surge of gratitude and affection.

“Thanks,” he muttered again, giving her a brief hug. James made a retching sound in the background.

“Oh shut up James,” Calista scolded him.

Sirius bounded upstairs, leaving the Potter family to grin happily among themselves.

“You’d better go get ready too, James, you’re going to be helping me,” his mother told him.

“You’re not going to make me cook,” he said flatly.

“I said help me, not kill me,” she ruffled his hair affectionately and pushed him towards the stairs, “Go on, I’ll expect to see you down here within the hour,”

He scurried up stairs, catching up to Sirius on the way, “Good luck mate,” he shouted, as Sirius ducked into his bedroom.

Sirius’s head popped out of the doorway, a nervous grin on his face, “I don’t need luck.”


He passed his Apparating Test with flying colours, relaxed on the knowledge that he actually did know it all. His instructor, an elderly wizard by the name of Aldous Tote, had described him as the most talented young wizard he’d seen in all his time as an Apparition instructor.

Ignatius had beamed proudly as he too congratulated Sirius and he was allowed for the first time to Apparate home.

James had spent the morning with Calista, helping her grudgingly. There wasn’t much he could do with out magic, but he still organised things the way he was asked, wanting to give Sirius a proper birthday party like the one’s he had been privy to his entire life.

James couldn’t help but watch the clock tick away the hours that passed since his father and Sirius had left. He knew that he could take a couple of hours (which is why they’d gone early), but he felt somewhat anxious as the clock struck 11.

As if to synchronise with the chiming of the old grandfather clock in the living room, there was a resounding CRACK and Sirius appeared, grinning wildly and supremely as he saw James.

“Passed then, did you?” James remarked casually.

Sirius gave him a patronizing roll of his eyes and smirked, “Yeah, I just might go pop by Evan’s place, see how she’s getting on…”

James narrowed his eyes at the taunt and his mother, who had entered the room when she heard Sirius Apparate, smiled benignly, “Would that be Lily Evans, dear?”

James glared at Sirius who continued to grin, “Yes, one and the same,”

Calista smiled knowingly, “I think she’s a bit out of your league,” she teased.

James scowled, but remained quiet, blushing profusely from the neck up. The doorbell rang out loudly, thankfully rescuing him from further embarrassment, he frantically rushed to answer it, finding Remus standing on the doorstep, pleasant grin and slightly stooping as he was wont to do these days with his newly acquired height.

“Hey Moony, our boy’s just Apparated in, he’s in the living room,” James instructed, taking the gift from his hands and taking it into the dining room.

“Happy Birthday Padfoot,” Remus said, greeting Sirius with a customary hug, “Congratulations on passing, too,”

Sirius beamed, “Thanks,”

Peter showed up a half hour later and the lunch that Calista had prepared seem almost inadequate for a bunch of ravenous teenage boys.

Sirius opened the rests of the gifts, fully appreciating the clothes, (muggle clothes, because he liked to irritate his family) books, various mischief making objects (itching powder, dungbombs, shrinking sherbert etc) and it looked as though the whole of Honeydukes had been bought out, but perhaps the most treasured gift was the large, untidily wrapped gift that remained on the table, Sirius unwrapped it anxiously and gaped in awe as it was revealed to be a Nimbus 1007; he swallowed visibly and looked up at the beaming faces of the Potters.

“This is too much,” he stuttered.

“Stop being so bloody humble,” James chided glibly.

“I…” he started, but somehow the rest of the sentence disappeared. When James had told his parents that he wanted Sirius to really be indulged for his 17th, they had really taken off with the idea, wanting to spoil Sirius as if he was their own son.

“Thanks,” he finally mumbled.

“You going to try it out or just stare at it?” Ignatius asked.

Sirius was still gazing absently down at the broomstick in his hands, unable to believe that it was really there, “Erm, yeah,”

He stopped himself short of running over to Ignatius and Calista and groveling at their feet, instead turning to James who dragged him out of the house, Remus and Peter in tow.

The rest of Sirius’s birthday was spent lazily wheeling about in the sky (or in the case of James and Sirius: playing chicken at 100 feet in the air), all in all, it was by far the best birthday he could remember.

But the unfamiliar calm was to be interrupted less than a week later as James and Sirius were outside relaxing under a particularly old oak tree; an owl came swooping in, landing on a root near Sirius, he held out his leg and he took the letter, James paid the owl and it took off. He turned to Sirius who was reading the letter with a curious expression on his face.

“What is it?” James asked tentatively.

“Ah…my Uncle Alphard died,” he told him.

James racked his brain to think of who Uncle Alphard was, “Hang on, was he that old codger who was always telling you not to listen to your parents and inviting you to muggle fairs and stuff?"

“Yeah, that’s him, bit of a white sheep in the Black family, really, good guy, he and Andromeda were the only family I ever really liked…I haven’t seen him in ages though,” he said in a voice that betrayed no remorse, just general sadness, he had liked Uncle Alphard, there had been times when he had been rescued from the dungeons of his home but his slightly quirky uncle, it was him in the first place who had taught him that being a Black had nothing to do with blood and everything to do lies.

“How are you feeling?” James asked nervously.

“Bloody shocked, he was only 112 after all.” James let out a nervous laugh and Sirius sighed, “Well, I guess I’m not as upset as I should be, I mean, it’s not as if we were that close, but still, he was one of the only sane Blacks left, just me and Andromeda now,” he finished wistfully, “Funeral’s tomorrow, I’d better go.” He cringed at the thought of a another confrontation with his parents.

“I’ll come with you,” James said briskly, “Maybe we should invite Andromeda, Ted and Nymphie ‘round for afterwards, you can mourn the loss of a rare species,” he was trying to lighten the mood, seeing the pensive look now knitted on Sirius’s face.

“Yeah,” Sirius got up, brushing away the grass that had collected on his clothes and he stalked away silently, leaving James absolutely mystified.

Sirius went up to his room, well, not his room, the Potter’s guestroom, aesthetic and plain, rigidly traditional…nothing like his room at Grimmauld Place had been, he sat, staring blankly at the wall, not moving for over an hour, trying to figure out what he was feeling but his thoughts were interrupted by a soft knock on his door.

“Padfoot?” called James softly, his hand resting on the doorknob.

“Come in,” he said resignedly.

James shuffled in, closing the door behind him, “Just came to see if you were still alive.”

Sirius withdrew from his wall gazing and looked at James: it was clear that that was not the reason he had come up here. He came down to sit on the bed next to Sirius.

Sirius regarded him with a slight smile, “Still kicking,” he said softly.

James gave him a kind of grimace that might have been a smile if he remembered what they looked like, “You going to tell me?” he asked brazenly.

He sighed, back to staring at that fascinating spot on the wall, “Been thinking…” he started, cutting off while he tried to organise those thoughts, “been thinking about Uncle Alphard, I guess, been thinking that if it wasn’t for him, I might’ve ended up like Regulus. I was just a kid, you know, the only people I’d ever socialized with up until Hogwarts were family and family friends…all of them thinking the same thing, and I started to think like that too,” he laughed darkly, “If it wasn’t for him I might have already joined Voldemort’s little group, you and me…” he trailed off, “I didn’t love him, or anything like that, I barely knew him, but he was the most important person in my life and I never really knew it.” he finished with a sigh, “Guess he just made me think.”

James nodded, understanding now, “You can pay him a final respect tomorrow, I think it would have been enough to know that he got to you, Sirius, that he saved you from…them,”

“Yeah,” he answered monotonously.

“You are not your family, you were always different Sirius, always smarter than that, look at Reg…”

“Yeah,” he drawled, James looked unconvinced, “You’re right James, I guess I’m just in an introspective mood…death makes me think.”

“It makes us all think,” James said softly.

“Yeah,” Sirius whispered, they sat there silently for awhile, bending thoughts around their tired minds, “You don’t have to stay here, you know, I’m not going to go all suicidal or anything…just on the rare occasion when I do actually think, I need as little distraction as possible,”

“I’m worried you might go catatonic,”

“My mind’s already in a permanent vegetative state, Prongs, I can’t do it much more damage,” Sirius reminded him.

“Got me there.” James sighed then stood up briskly, adjusting his glasses, “Dinner’s in half an hour, I’ll tell mum and dad about the funeral, okay?”


James hesitated at the door, hand gripping the handle, he looked as if he might say something more, but thought better of it and he left.

Sirius threw himself onto his back, closing his eyes. Images whisked past in his mind: memories of his childhood, nothing particular, just flashes of times when he had felt alone or scared or angry…which was most of his childhood. He remembered holding his brother’s because Regulus was too afraid to walk past the mounted heads of their former house elves, remembering how their father had seen that kind of affection as a weakness and beat Regulus in front of him: a punishment for them all. He cringed as the memory of his hands pummeling his brother’s face resurfaced. His brother hadn’t been so different from him, only 3 years younger, not a bad kid, the difference was that Regulus had believed all the crap that their parents had spouted…but then again, so had he…and in the end, it wasn’t that Sirius was better or more powerful or smarter than his family, he had been lucky, that was all. Lucky to have met Uncle Alphard, to have listened to him.

Sirius groaned audibly, turning on his side. There was a time when he remembered loving his family, or at least feeling for them, curled up on his mother’s lap as a child, she would whisper things to him about pollution and filth and he didn’t care what she was saying because she was his mother and he was just a kid.

The sound of Calista’s voice calling for dinner takes him from his thoughts, thankfully and he can perhaps stave off remorse until tomorrow, when he is faced with them, faced with a family who bore him but rejected him. He didn’t doubt that they would come, somewhere in their twisted version of honour they would see fit to come to Uncle Alphard’s funeral…even if just to scorn him.


Clad in black, as apt and ironic as it was, Sirius and James walked solemnly towards the cemetery. Sirius had opted to wear muggle clothes, knowing that it would earn him many a disdainful stare from his family, James had complied with Sirius, knowing that it would really get them going.

The ceremony was benign enough, stark, cold words spoken by stark, cold people about a man who had more life in him dead than most of the people standing here today. His mother, father and brother caught sight of him and immediately exhibited their distaste, scowling at him then affecting a manner as if to pretend that he wasn’t there, he was used to this tactic.

Afterwards the two of them were walking out of the cemetery but were stopped by someone calling out Sirius’s name; “Hello Sirius,” Andromeda smiled, wrapping him up in a hug, “You too James,” she gave him a brief hug as well.

“We didn’t see you during the ceremony,” a mild looking man holding a small girl’s hand said.

“Hello Ted,” said Sirius, shaking his hand, “We kept up the back, didn’t want to cause to much of a scene,” he nodded, indicating his family who were standing about talking with the Malfoys, occasionally raring their heads to glare at them. “Hello Nymphadora,” he said to the small girl clinging to her father, she poked her tongue out at him and he beamed down at her.

“Oh yes, have you heard? My dear sister Narcissa is going to be married to Lucius Malfoy,”

James and Sirius raised their eyebrows, “Bit old for her isn’t he?” Sirius observed.

“I hardly think that that’s what drove the marriage,” she grumbled.

“Yes, keep it young and in the family or so the saying goes, the more toes on each foot the better,” Sirius said sarcastically.

“We would have seen you married this year if you hadn’t made the most intelligent decision of your life,” she said, grinning at him, “Couldn’t have imagined you and that Parkinson girl,”

“Think of the children!” Ted joked lightly, Sirius and James screwed up their faces.

“Well, you and me both, cousin, I took your lead and decided I’d had enough,”

“I didn’t decide anything, I just fell in love,” she said airily, grasping Ted’s hand.

Sirius rolled his eyes. He knelt down on the ground, “So, Nymphadora,” he paused and she growled at him, “What have you been up to?”

“Nothing,” she replied stubbornly, still glaring at him for using her given name.

“Nothing? That must be dull,” he teased, “Nothing at all? You hear that Prongs? Her life must be very boring,”

“I reckon we might have to remedy that Padfoot,” James said with a cocky wink.

Sirius grabbed her by the hands and swung her around, muttering a levitation charm, Nymphadora giggled as she was spun around in the air, after he had finished he swung her up on his shoulders, James laughed at the affectionate display and from his pocket produced a bar of Honeydukes chocolate.

Nymphadora beamed at him, and indicated that she wanted to get down by pulling Sirius’s hair.

“James, would you mind taking Nymphadora for a little walk, we need to discuss something with Sirius,” Andromeda asked him, with a very meaningful glance.

“Sure,” he beamed, taking Nymphadora’s hand and walking over to a bench. Sirius could hear her chattering about James’s hair and asking if she could borrow his glasses. He looked back to Ted and Andromeda who were looking at him very seriously.

“What?” he asked cautiously.

“Well, first of all, we just wanted to see how you were going…”

“I’m good,” Sirius said quickly, “No really, I’m good, better than I have been in my entire life.”

They smiled at him furtively, “That’s good then, the other matter we wanted to discuss was Uncle Alphard’s will…you and I have inherited his entire estate, and it’s not a small sum either Sirius, he’s left you enough to buy your own bloody island if you wanted,”

Sirius gaped at this revelation, “Er…okay,” he managed.

“All you have to do is take yourself down to Gringott’s with this slip of parchment, and it’s all yours,”

“Uh…thanks,” Sirius said blankly, taking the paper.

Andromeda and Ted shared a look, “Use it wisely, Sirius, I wouldn’t be expecting any support in the future from your parents,”

Sirius’s face was slack and expressionless, his mouth gaping open, his usually talented smart mouth seemingly gone on holiday and he couldn’t make out coherent words.

Andromeda petted him on the shoulder and grinned, “You’re a big boy now, Sirius, be careful with it, but go out and blow some galleons on useless things, you’ve earned it,”

She brought him in for a hug, and he murmured “Thanks,” in her ear before the three of them went to find James and Nymphadora. The three of them couldn’t hold back a laugh when they saw James staring horrified as the young girl’s hair changed shape, colour and texture, finally affecting the appearance of James’s own tousled black mop.

“Nymphadora, honey! No, not in public, remember? We do not transform in public!” Andromeda admonished, though she was still chuckling at the look on James’s face.

“Say goodbye to James and Sirius, Nymphie,” Ted was saying as the little girl’s hair fell back into its dark brown state and she beamed up at James.

“Bye James,” she said, clutching him around the waist, he bent over slightly to hug her back, she ran to Sirius now, he swept her up from the ground, cradling her in his arms and spinning her around, “Bye Princess,” he said affectionately and she giggled madly, throwing her little hands around his neck and giving him a kiss on the cheek, “See you soon, okay?”

He released her from his grip and set her down on the ground where she rushed into her father’s waiting arms, “See you, Sirius, James,” Ted said, managing to free his arm to shake their hands.

Andromeda gave them both a final hug before turning to take her husbands free hand and walking off with her family. Sirius smiled furtively after them.

“Ready to go?” James asked after a moment of silence.

“Yeah.” Sirius felt happy, an odd thing to feel after a funeral, but all the same, he appreciated it.

The two of them started towards the Fireplace that would take them home.

“What did they want to talk to you about?” James asked conversationally.

“Oh,” Sirius said, remembering the inheritance, “Uncle Alphard left me a small fortune in his will,” he said vaguely.

James raised an eyebrow, “How much of a small fortune?”

“Zonko’s is going to have to restock,”


Sirius gave him a broad smile and then stepped into the fireplace, disappearing in a flash of green flame. James stood stationary for a moment, mulling over what had been said and what that would mean and then he too stepped into the fireplace.

“What are you going to do?” James said immediately as he stepped out of the dying flame.

“Don’t know,” Sirius answered honestly.

“James, Sirius? Is that you?” Calista called out from her place in the dining room.

“Yeah,” James answered loudly and Calista came in, her hands nervously twitching, itching to suffocate Sirius with yet another maternal hug.

Instead she simply asked, “How was it?”

“It was a funeral, Cally, nothing much to say about it,” Sirius said shortly.

“But Padfoot has some rather interesting news to share with you,” James added helpfully.

Calista looked benignly curious, “What is it Sirius?”

He raked a hand through his hair, “It’s nothing, nothing, just, ah…Uncle Alphard left me a fair amount of Galleons in his will,” he said quickly.

“That’s wonderful!” Calista exclaimed, “He was a good man,”

“Yeah,” he admitted, “I’ve got to take this slip of parchment down to Gringotts tomorrow, and Bob’s your uncle…well, Alphard is. Was.” He shrugged. “What’s for eating?” he said, grinning devilishly at the look of incredulity on Calista’s and James’s faces.

A/N:- Howdy folks, thanks to all that have reviewed and read it, I haven't had a bad review yet and that just makes a girl feel special :) I want to prmose that the next 4 or so chapters will really start to work the James and Lily relationship and I'll start to flesh her character out a bit more...she's been a bit of a wallflower (no pun intended) so far, so I'll fix that soon. Erm, random notes for this chapter: Tonks is about 3 or 4 and Andromeda is roughly 25...more of them later hopefully. Oh and I didn't want to have a big Black family stand off...maybe later ;)

Chapter 10: Chapter 10
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“Been thinking,” Sirius said one morning as the two of them strolled down Diagon Alley.

“Dangerous pastime,” James remarked, drawing his gaze from the window of Quality Quidditch Supplies.

“I’m going to buy my own place.”

James froze, “You sure?”

Sirius smiled, “Can’t mooch off your parents for the rest of my life, I’ve got the Galleons and I’m of age now, I think it’s time to spread my wings, so to speak,”

James nodded, “You don’t have to, you know you’re welcome to stay,”

“Yeah, but I really think it’s time you know, I’ve got to grow up sometime,”

James snorted derisively, “Don’t make me laugh…bitterly,”

Sirius rolled his eyes in reply, “So anyway, I’ve been looking for a place, an apartment, and there’s one in Muggle London, near the Leaky Cauldron that I think I’ll get…you should come check it out,”

“You’re serious about this, aren’t you?”

He grinned, “Can’t say I’m not excited about the idea of being totally independent, no curfew, no parents…jealous?”

“Of you? Nah, I think you’ll have a nervous breakdown when you realise you have to actually do everything by yourself, the mould will start taking over and we’ll find you in a month trapped in a corner,”

“Ha ha,” Sirius said drolly, “Come on, come check it out, I’m going to put down the deposit today, you can help me move in,”

“Gee, thanks ever so much,” said James sarcastically, “Alright, let’s see this castle then.”

Three days later Remus, Peter and James were helping Sirius move his stuff in to the old apartment. It had a mild dusty smell and the air was stale, the pipes talked and the floorboards creaked but Sirius insisted it was excellent.

Remus heaved in the last of the crates, using his surprising strength to carefully place it in the corner with the other boxes. The four of them were sweating in the summer heat, Sirius having gone so far as to remove his shirt; he conjured up four glasses of ice-cold water and they sipped at them gratefully.

“Your on your own now Padfoot,” Peter panted.

“I can move everything in about five seconds, just needed help getting all my stuff up without raising suspicions with the muggles. Anyway, what do you think?”

Remus surveyed the room with distaste, “Erm, it’s charming,” he said, trying to keep it sincere.

“I think muggles call them fixer uppers,” Peter added.

“In other words ‘derelict’” James said brightly.

“Shove off, Prongs, it’s brilliant, I don’t need anything fancy, just so long as it’s not Number 12 Grimmauld sodding Place,” he muttered bitterly.

The rest of the afternoon was spent lazily sipping Butterbeer and talking about world Quidditch, Remus had brought along some homework to finish, ignoring Sirius’s demand that schoolwork be expelled from the building.

When at last the time came for the rest of them to go home, Sirius was suddenly struck with a sense of awe, he looked at James and saw the same emotion expressed in his eyes, a sort of observant wonder, a reminiscent daze in which they both realised the importance of this moment, what it signified.

It had all come to this.

Six years of friendship, youthful innocence and digression, bonds cast and shared, the comfortable quirk of immaturity and here we are

Sirius almost felt that he was saying goodbye to an old friend, the knowledge that now he was an adult, independent, no longer the same raven haired child with coltish legs who was always running away from the scene of the crime, giggling wildly, his comrade, brother in tote, kneeling behind some statue to observe their results, laughing with devilish glee as their chosen victim would be met with a nasty surprise, shared whispers and glances as they made their way, tripping on their long robes back to the common room. Even shy, frail Remus had become quietly dignified, looking every bit a young scholar and Peter…well, Peter still looked like a pork dumpling, but he would grow out of that.

Youth had been a shelter, but they were young men now, no longer boys, still childish, but no longer children. James no longer the imp he had been, but a broad shouldered adolescent, strong and capable, magically powerful and Sirius just the same, they had grown together and yet somehow managed to miss the moment when they’d changed.

James clapped a hand on Sirius’s shoulder, smiling, “See you later Mr. Black,”

Sirius grinned, “Bye Mr. Potter.”

“Oi, Prongs! Over here!” Sirius called across the platform, James looked completely paranoid (usually Remus’s forte), as he caught Sirius’s eye and pushed through the crowd to meet him. Sirius smiled playfully, “Where’s your shiny badge, James?”

James scowled at him, his hands fidgeting in his trouser pocket, “Go on, put it on, be proud of who you are, stand up tall and rule with an iron fist,” he said seriously, fighting for control of the laughter building up in his body.

“Shove off,” James growled, but he was now fingering the badge between his long, adroit fingers, eyeing it distastefully.

Sirius would still come over in fits of giggles when trying to think of James as Head Boy, just as he had the first night when it had taken him a full hour to recover from James’s shocked revelation. “Hang on, I’ve got an idea, can I borrow that?” he asked indicating the badge.

James handed it over to him without hesitation, glad to be free of the weight it implied. Sirius deftly pinned to his chest and paraded it proudly, strutting pompously, “Oh yeah, I could really get the hang of this!” he crowed, “I can feel the power! The authority! Oh yeah Prongs, a guy could get used to this!”

James watched as Sirius walked through the crowd, drawing the fearful, horrified stares from parents and students alike.

“I think he might cause a couple of nervous breakdowns before we get to school,” someone murmured bemusedly in his ear.

“I reckon you might be right,” James whispered back. James and Remus started towards the train, watching Sirius enjoy the attention that he was getting and the trail of frantic whispers that followed in his wake.

James and Remus shook their heads and they boarded the train, Sirius, who had now found Peter, bounding behind them.

Remus cocked an eyebrow as James shoved his luggage, “Don’t you have to be up in the Heads’ Compartment?”

James blushed, “Yeah, but I thought I’d just go up and get the orders or whatever and then come back with you guys.”

“I wonder who got Head Girl?” Peter wondered.

“I reckon its Evans,” said Sirius.

“I’ll find out in a few minutes anyway,” said James grimly.

“Ah, cheer up Prongs!” Sirius said, throwing his arm around his shoulder, his face split into a wide grin, “Hang on, let me walk in wearing the badge…I want to see her face.”

“She’s not stupid Padfoot, she’ll know it’s not you,” Remus argued.

“You think she’s going to believe James got it?” Sirius reminded him and Remus fell silent.

James sighed and made to exit, but Sirius bounded in front of him and ran towards the Head’s carriage, knowing the kind of havoc he could induce, James, Remus and Peter ran after him.

Sirius came to an abrupt stop in front of the door to the Head’s compartment, skidding to a halt with a Bang against the door. Lily looked up with a startled expression; she caught a glimpse of Sirius before James tackled him to the ground. Remus and Peter followed up, Remus raised a hand to his forehead, shaking it despairingly, and Peter merely looked amused. James and Sirius struggled to their feet, with Sirius forcing himself into the carriage, throwing out his chest so that the Head Boy badge was highly visible.

Lily looked at them with a bored expression, “Give Remus back his badge, Sirius,” she sighed.

“Can’t,” he replied, positively bubbling with the urge to laugh.

She cocked an eyebrow, “Why’s that?”

“Not my badge,” Remus replied, he was smiling broadly. Lily narrowed her eyes and looked at him in askance, the question forming on her lips.

“Who…” she started as her eyes fell onto James, he was blushing profusely and staring at the floor, “Oh.”

Sirius let out a torrent of laughter and Remus and Peter snickered quietly but James looked thoroughly embarrassed. Sirius handed him back his badge and he took it, shoving it into his pocket hastily.

“Erm…congratulations,” Lily said after a few moments of awkward silence.

James stood up a little straighter and ruffled his hair, “Thanks…you too, er, you deserved it though,”

She didn’t reply to his nervous compliment, finding herself a little lost for words. For a moment everything was quiet, save for Sirius’s amused chuckles. Remus picked up on the atmosphere, smiling slightly, “Come on, Padfoot, Wormtail, we’d better head back,”

Sirius didn’t object as he left, he just threw a suggestive look at James who ignored him. The silence didn’t evaporate with their departure, instead it became more palpable. Lily stared at him and he looked out the window, at the floor, examined his nails, anywhere but at her.

“So is this going to be like a good cop, bad cop thing?” Lily said finally.

“What?” he spluttered surprised and confused.

“Muggle expression,” she said dismissively, “What I mean is I need to know how this is going to work, being Head Boy is a very responsible position and I need to…”

“Know if I’m going to be handing out detentions to the kids while secretly instructing them exactly how to get into the Slytherin common room?”

“For example.”

He smiled clandestinely, “Can’t make any promises…don’t actually know why Dumbledore gave me the badge, really…seems a bit odd making the current title holder for most detentions scored into Head Boy,” he sat down opposite, slumping in his seat, his long legs uncomfortably cramped as he tried to look civil.

“Well, he’s a bit mad isn’t he?”

James looked up at her, allowing a curious smile to ghost upon his lips, matching her own kind, comforting one.

“Erm, have we got letters or something…instructions?” he stammered.

Lily pointed at the little box near the door, “In there.”

He reached a long arm over and collected the letter from inside of it, tearing it haphazardly and reading it lazily. Lily noticed how tense he seemed: the normally calm, collected James Potter was fidgeting, his eyes downcast and she could shave sworn that he was almost sweating.

“Sorry,” he mumbled under his breath.

“What for?”

“Getting it…I don’t think I deserve it and you…well, you actually do and I’m just…sorry.”

”I can’t say that I’m not, well, surprised and a little mystified by Dumbledore’s choice, but he’ll have his reasons, and I don’t think you’re exactly the worst choice…people seem to follow your orders, you do have some redeeming qualities, after all” she joked lightly and he seemed to brighten up a bit.

“Remus reckons it’s because ‘m the only one who can keep Sirius in check…and also, what better way to reign a troublemaker than to give him a position of authority, a sort of ‘see how he likes it’ kind of thing…do you know what I did to the Head Boy in my Third year?”

Lily smiled tightly, she did know that James and Sirius had done to Lachlan Fiddle, she could remember that ‘great prank’ all too well, it seemed to have been Sirius’s and James personal mission to give the poor guy a mental breakdown by the end of term…and they had damn well near succeeded, but, she decided this was not the time to bring up past grievances, instead she focused on another part of his conversation. “How did Remus take it?”

James scowled, “He should have got it, he should have, I know someone from the Ministry stepped in…” he trailed off, leaving Lily slightly puzzled as he picked up and continued, “But he’s fine, taking it in true Remus Lupin style, which is to be supportive and good and kind and completely brilliant about it.”

She nodded, that did indeed sound like Remus Lupin. The two of them sunk back into awkward silence again, James shifted uncomfortably in his seat, Lily had been expecting him to come out with a string of proposals and suave suggestions, but he said nothing, he couldn’t even look her in the eye and this subdued James Potter made her more nervous than anything…not that she could figure out why.

“So, er, how was your holiday?” She asked, hoping to break the uneasy silence, which left way too much time for speculation.

James looked up at her, clearly surprised by her question, “Good… passed my Apparition test, turned seventeen… but I mostly spent it at Sirius’s new place, what about yours?”

“Ah, also good,” she answered quickly, “ Happy birthday and Sirius has a new place?”

James smiled wryly, “Yeah, he inherited quite a bit of gold from one of his uncles…one of the sane ones, and he brought a place with it…not a bad place, in a bit of a questionable neighbourhood, but I don’t think that bothers him much.”

James felt both relaxed and exhilarated at the same time, talking with Lily…without the usual preamble involving a fight (which he may or may not have been the cause of) or a prank (which he was almost always the cause of) or his random greetings, nervously delivered and always rebounded with a disapproving glare. No, this time she was talking with him and feeling a sudden surge of confidence he, of course, screwed it up.

“You still going out with Thurston Padget?”

Her lips creased to a thin line and he knew he’d said the exact wrong thing, “If it was your business, Potter, I’d tell you.”

Inwardly cursing himself he struggled to apologise, “I’m sorry, I didn’t…it was just a question!” he exclaimed in a panicked tone.

“Perhaps you should get back to your friends Potter,” she said, her voice biting with cold. He would have argued but seeing the look on her face, decided it was not in his best interests.

“I’ll see you around then,” he muttered as he exited the carriage.

Lily stewed indignantly for a few minutes, cursing James Potter’s name, existence, acquaintances, Quidditch position and marks, before realizing that she was now alone: His fault also. Sighing heavily she pulled herself out of the compartment, back to the distraction of her friends.

“So, who got Head Boy?” Vi asked, almost as soon as Lily’s head was in the door.

“James Potter,” she sighed.

There was silence as that particular information sunk in. “You’re joking,” Marjorie exclaimed vehemently.

“Nope,” Lily smiled at the shocked expressions on everyone one of their faces.

“That’s really…” Vi started.

“Unexpected?” Lily interjected.

“I think it’s great,” Martina said stiffly and Lily rolled her eyes.

“It’s going to be an interesting year at any rate,” Vi commented drolly.

Lily groaned, plonking herself down next to Marjorie.

“Are you sure it wasn’t just another one of his pranks?”

She shook her head, “Sure. Remus confirmed it, plus Potter looked pretty worked up over it…I mean getting Head Boy doesn’t exactly count as prestigious for a guy who prides himself on making trouble.”

Martina got that simpering expression she always got whenever she heard about Potter’s personal pain, Lily tried not to look too contemptuous.

“Don’t you have to go give a talk to the Prefects or something?”

She cursed, “I forgot.”

“Good way to start the year, huh?” Marjorie drawled.

Lily rolled her eyes and stood up, “I’ll be back in a few, just…if you hear a strangled scream, it’s just me throttling Potter.”

She arrived at the Prefect’s carriage, sighing indignantly when she saw that James wasn’t there. The expectant faces of the Prefects looked up at her, she noted that the Slytherin ones were scowling.

“Erm, hi,” she said meekly.

“We knew it would be you, Lily,” a Sixthyear Hufflepuff by the name of Jemima Dorkins said happily.

“Congratulations,” was the general response, and she sat down, feeling a little more confident.

“So who’s Head Boy?” the Fifth Year Gryffindor prefect Michael Daltrey asked, craning his head to see if he was coming.

But she didn’t have to answer because at the moment James poked his messy head in through the door.

“No way,” Michael exclaimed in a hushed tone.

James smiled broadly, pushing his glasses up on to his nose, “Sorry I’m late…we, er, had a bit of a problem…incidentally, don’t use the bathroom near the end of the train.”

He didn’t look at Lily, but if he had he would have seen her eyes glaze over coldly, a stiff, controlled expression on her face.

“So anyway, we don’t know what we’re doing here…well, I don’t, never been within twenty feet of the Prefect’s compartment actually…”

Lily sighed, “Basically we’re just here to tell you that if you have any problems with students or whatever to come to one of us and we’ll handle it. Both of us are in Gryffindor, as you know, but I can be found in the library usually and…”

“I can be found on the Quidditch pitch,” James interjected merrily, “Which reminds me, we have a position open for a new chaser, tryouts are on Wednesday afternoon.”

Lily pinched her nose between her thumb and forefinger and shook her head dismally. It would be a miracle if she got through this year without attempting to kill him.

Why did she even think he could be civil? He had always been a self important prat and it seemed that nothing had changed. He wasn’t going to take this seriously, it was all just a joke to him.

Her thoughts were interrupted by an explosion of laughter it appeared that Potter had said something tremendously funny. He was smiling gently as the rest of the cabin (with the exception of the sullen Slytherins) rolled about with laughter, as she looked over at him, eyeing him disdainfully, he caught her eye and immediately stopped smiling, with a final glare she turned and left, leaving him in a considerably poorer spirits than he had been. Just when he thought he'd struck a good note...

A/N: Hey, I have 3 more chapters that I've been scribbling to type up (it's not the end, though)...I can say, with definite promise that the romantic in me has been exercised. I would like to thank my Led Zepplin album for getting me in the mood, also Hendrix, the Who and VAST...I was stuck and there they were.

Chapter 11: Chapter 11
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The first few weeks of their Seventh Year were hectic, their Professors seemed intent on drilling the fact that their NEWTS were the single most important exams they’d undertake in their entire lives and should they fail them they might as well die, because their lives would be over.

Lily and James spoke in painfully polite tones, and only when the situation absolutely, completely and totally required it. James still couldn’t figure out exactly what he’d said wrong, but he decided that perhaps distance was the best remedy, especially when she looked at him with such pointed distaste, much like the glares she had given him back in 5th year, when he had been at his worst.

The homework started to pile up and even Sirius and James could occasionally be found in the Library, finishing off assessments, much to the surprise of everyone.

It started to get colder too, the onset of autumn upon them. Lily always thought autumn was the best time of year, spring and summer were over rated, she loved the palate of autumn. Deep golds and reds, true Gryffindor colours, she thought to herself airily.

She herself was relaxing in front of the fireplace, book in hand, the afternoon sun flitted in through the high windows of Gryffindor tower, curled up on the couch her mind on anywhere but the events of her summer.

Potter stomped in with Sirius, splattered with mud, both looking windswept and sweaty, she sighed and looked down at her book. Their ‘relationship’ (and she used the term lightly), had become, if possible, even more strained than it had been in previous years, now that she had to view him as an equal, someone who attracted the same respect as she did, she could only do it grudgingly.

She knew she’d been harsh with Potter, knew that she’d hurt him, she could see it in his eyes every time they met face to face, he was always the first to look away, make some lame excuse as to where he had to be and shuffle off, looking utterly dejected. But that had only served to make her more incensed for making her feel guilty.

He should keep his nose out of other people’s business. Especially hers. He had no right to ask what had happened with Thurston. No right. And now he didn’t even have the decency to be shirking his responsibilities! No, he was the perfect picture of responsibility, the whole school bending to his whim, as they always had, fawning around him like besotted school girls. It didn’t matter that he didn’t go out of his way to attract the attention anymore, not to her anyway. Not when he let his mouth run off and ask things that were none of his business.

Lily hadn’t told a soul about what had happened with Thurston, she tended to repress that memory with sick, queasy feeling in her stomach and a bitter taste in her mouth.

She supposed it wasn’t that big a deal now, in retrospect the whole thing seemed quite trivial, but the things he said, the names he’d called her. Not even Snape and his band of pureblood maniacs could make her feel as dirty as she had when Thurston spoken to her.

During the holidays, she decided to take a break from the tedium of home life, Petunia’s dalliances with her boyfriend had become more serious and he’d been a frequent guest at their house. Vernon Dursley had to be among the greatest lumps of moronic waste that she had ever encountered, he was like a vast expanse of wrong conclusions and stupid opinions.

She had wanted to escape, just for a bit, so she had owled Thurston, (Marjorie was in Tasmania and she hadn’t particularly felt like going to Vi’s…Marty was always there) asking him if she could stay for a few days. Things had been going smoothly enough and she was well aware of what staying with him might him imply, but she hadn’t really made her mind up on the subject, perhaps spending some more time with him would help her come to a decision.

But when she had arrived there, she found that his parents had gone away for a week, and that they would be alone. She remembered that sort of hungry look in his eyes, she supposed he thought it passed for seductive…the fight that ensued had been colossal.

She had never thought that he could have acted like this, he was Ravenclaw after all, a prefect, she sensed the atmosphere had been strange of late, the world was changing, people had to ally themselves in one camp or the other, and perhaps it was just the tension of a world gone topsy-turvy, but then again, perhaps it was nothing more sinister then hormones.

She had fled his house and gone to stay with muggle friends, she coulnd't explain to them anything...she'd never felt so lonely that summer, how could she explain to her muggle friends about Thurston?

She had resolved not to think about it, pushing it away with a Scarlett O’Hara like attitude (“I’ll think about it tomorrow.”) but then Potter had brought it up, painfully, inescapably. It was none of his business.

The light dissipated and darkness fell, Lily showered and changed and resumed her position near the fireplace, she was interrupted some time later. By James’s voice and that of a squeaky first years.

“It…it was my mother’s,” a little girl was sobbing, she turned in her seat to see what was going on, she realized that James must have been working on the table behind her, papers and books were spread across it and his hands were decidedly ink stained; she hadn’t even noticed him come into the room.

“Calm down, it’s alright, what’s your name?” James said soothingly, crouching down to her level.

“Li…Li…Lizzie,” she blubbered weakly.

“What’s going on?”

Lily had stood up and moved closer to the two of them.

“Lizzie here can’t seem to find her wand, she says she left in her room, but it’s not there now,” James explained, not quite meeting her gaze.

“When was the last time you saw it?” Lily asked kindly, also kneeling down beside her.

“This morning,” Lizzie sniffled, “I’ve been looking all day!”

“Don’t worry, I’m sure it’s around here somewhere, probably just hiding,” she comforted.

“Lily and I’ll find it for you, I know this place like the back of my hand,” he winked, brandishing his hand and inspecting it, he then smiled confusedly, “Hey, I never noticed that there before.” He joked and Lizzie laughed a little.

James and Lily began scouring the Gryffindor tower, no pillow went unturned and no trunk unchecked, Lizzie followed them both hopefully, giving a detailed description of what her wand looked like, James continually cracked jokes in the jokes of cheering her up, and it wasn’t hard in the end to get a smile out of her, despite the situation. It was nearly two hours before James shouted triumphantly from somewhere in the vicinity of the furthermost corner of the Common room, “Found it!”

He stumbled out from under one of the stairways, shaking the dirt from his hair, “Must of slipped out of your pocket when you walked down the stairs, it rolled just under one of the ledge things,” he said, handing it back to her, she gawked at it for a few seconds, seemingly unable to find the words to thank him, she grinned tearily at him and then threw her arms around his neck (he was crouched over), he looked startled by this action but quickly returned the hug, smiling one of those honest smiles that Lily had once seen on his face (and thought attractive). Lizzie pecked him on the cheek and scurried upstairs to her dorms.

James straightened, rubbing his cheek in a dazed sort of manner, stupid grin still on his face.

Lily had been impressed by the tenderness and authority he had displayed tonight, the manner in which he’d soothed the near hysterical girl had been almost expert, but so genuine, she looked over to him and their eyes caught for a moment.

“I think you’ve got yourself an admirer.” A truce, she swallowed her pride and anger and offered him a truce, apology’s were unnecessary (and awkward), but she wanted him to know…know what? She wanted him to know that she’d been stupid and harsh and irrational…she doubted that that would be conveyed within one simple, feeble attempt at reconciliation, but it was what she had.

His dazed look did not waver, but his brow crinkled in bewilderment before he smiled again, “Hope she’s not as annoying as I was.” He commented blithely.

“Impossible,” she teased.

From then on everything was a little easier, they saw eye to eye on things and could work together without James having to skulk off feeling utterly wretched. By the time December came around they could almost converse like friends, even if her temper did flare a bit when he would stomp into the Common Room, chuckling about some prank or another when she was stuck with her head in a book, nose to the figurative grindstone.

It was one such evening just before the Christmas break when she confronted him exasperatedly after having read the same sentence for the past 15 minutes and not absorbed a word.

James was sitting at the table behind her, the Common Room was mostly empty, seeing as it was rather late, a few students lingered in the shadows of the room, she’d have t tell them to get to bed soon…she winced at the thought, maybe James should do it, he tended to make commands sound more friendly.

James caught her eye and his hand moved of it’s own volition to his hair, he stopped it just in time and rubbed his neck instead, hoping he’d looked casual. Lily advanced on him, practically throwing her book across the room, he laughed heartily and went to retrieve it, he handed it back to her and she gave him a sardonic glare, he sat back down at the table, picked up his quill but made no further movements to get back to his work.

“How do you do it?” Lily exclaimed.

“Do what?” he asked mildly.

Everything, Quidditch, your Head Boy duties, class work and your social life. I can barely keep from drowning under the amount of homework we’re given but you always manage to have it all done and keep on top of everything.”

He shrugged, “Just do it.”

She groaned and plonked herself down in the chair next to him, glancing at his papers, “But how? You never slack off, always have everything done and yet you’re always laughing about…well, you’re always laughing about something” she said miserably, “The only laugh you’re likely to hear from me is one with a slightly hysterical edge to it.” She brightened, “Go on, how do you it?”

James chuckled, “Er, good time management?” She cocked an eyebrow, “No really, I’ve always been pretty good at organizing things, who do you think was always behind the structuring of the pranks?”

She supposed that was a satisfactory answer, but not terribly pleasing. She yawned and stretched in her seat, looking over his work.

“They’re going to have to cart me off to St Mungo’s by the end of this year.”

“I’ll send you flowers.”

She laughed a little, but the scene almost immediately became uncomfortable, as things got quiet, he lowered his gaze to his parchment again, the quill rolling in his nimble fingers, she bit her lip and glanced towards the clock, heaving out a another great yawn, “Well, I’m off to bed,” she said a little too quickly, “Make sure that everyone else is in bed before midnight. Please?” the last part had been plea for him to actually act the leader, sometimes he got a bit flustered when he had to take some responsibility, all his life he’d been rebelling against authority and now he was the authority.

“Okay,” he nodded, giving her what he hoped was a grin that inspired confidence.

“Goodnight,” she said as she got up, returning the smile. He watched her thud up the stairs, heavy with sleep, marveled in the pendulum of her hips and the way her hair flowed down her back…he looked down at his half finished essay and sighed, he wasn’t going to be doing any more work tonight.

Chapter 12: Chapter 12
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“Oi, Peter, you hungry?” Sirius asked as the village of Hogsmeade came into sight.

It was the first Hogsmeade weekend since the start of the second term and it was freezing.

“Nah, we only had breakfast an hour ago!” he replied giving Sirius an incredulouslook.

“Yeah, well, I was, ah ‘otherwise detained’” Sirius explained.

“Jane Pertwick or Amelia Duffle?”

“A gentleman never kisses and tells,” he said sanctimoniously.

Remus made a derisive sound, “Since when have you been a gentleman?”


Remus made a low, dramatic bow, “Well then, forgive me your lordship.”

“You are forgiven,” Sirius offered his hand for kissing and Remus made a noise of disgust.

“Eurgh, I don’t know where that’s been.”

Sirius’s grin expanded and he opened his mouth to say something.

Remus raised his hands in the air defensively and cut him off, “I really just left that one wide open. No, I don’t want to hear your witty comeback, spare us all.”

“Yeah Padfoot, spare us all” James said slyly from behind them.

“Hey! Prongs! Thought you were helping Evans set an example,” Sirius exclaimed.

“Was, but I think she’s got them under control…she’s got the Head Girl Glare of Death down, anyway. So I thought I might slip off and walk with you guys.”

“Your sentiment touches me,”

James simply rolled his eyes, “Moony, I’ll never understand how you did it, all this behaving is a strenuous business! When Turner and Hobbs set off those dungbombs in the Great Hall, I wanted to award them points, not bloody deduct them.”

Remus smiled sympathetically, “I think you’ve got it easier than I had it, first of all: the school’s most notorious trouble maker is out of the running.”

“Oi!” Sirius exclaimed, offended.

“Well, one of them anyway,” Remus amended, “You had to grow up sometime Prongs,”

James gave him a wry smile, “I’m never going to grow up, I’ve got a…what does Evans call it? A ‘Peter Pan Complex’!”

Remus, Sirius and Peter rolled their eyes.

“How’s it going with Lily anyway?”

James blushed momentarily but recovered quickly, “She hasn’t been calling me all of those offensive pet names she used to, so I’ll take that as an improvement.”

“You should probably stop calling her Evans,” Peter observed in a rare moment of understanding, “But I still don’t get why you’re still so hung up on her.”

“I’m not hung up on her!” James said quickly, “I just…” he swallowed, blushing again.

“Oh, here goes ‘101 Reasons Evans is Heaven on Earth’, Brace yourself lads, you’re in for a familiar ride” Sirius teased.

Peter laughed, “1. Have you seen her lately?”
Sirius added, “2. Because she is, don’t argue with me!”
Remus chuckled, “3. She’s so smart and pretty and vivacious and…oh hi Lily.”

She cocked an eyebrow bemusedly as James sent his friends repressive stares.

“Been teaching him the Death Glare, Evans?” Sirius remarked and James thwacked across the head.

“Did you need me for something?” James asked, trying to appear as casual as possible.

“Ah, yeah, could you just try to make sure they don’t get out of control? Just keep and eye out, okay?”

He opened his mouth to argue that he was perfectly responsible but instead he simply replied: “Sure.”

She flashed him a relieved smile and ran to meet Marjorie out the front of the Three Broomsticks.

“Whipped,” Sirius teased and James ignored him.

“Where to?” Peter asked as they came to a standstill in the middle of the lane.

“Don’t know, the only reason I’m here is because I didn’t want to face the mound of homework waiting for me,” Sirius grimaced.

“I need some new quills, Scrivenshafts?” Remus suggested.

“Yeah.” The four of them set off in the direction of the store but as they drew nearer they could hear raised voices and people cheering.

Giving each other significant glances they picked up the pace and moved towards the kerfuffle.

There seemed to be a crowd of students surrounding two boys (lucky James was tall and all the students seemed to be below 5th year) who were hurling insults at each other, as well as the odd curse.

“What’s going on here?” James demanded loudly, startling a fair few of the younger kids.

"Ready to assert some authority Prongs?” Sirius muttered as he and James pushed their way through the swarm.

The two boys in the centre had seemingly not heard James, seeing as they were so intent on glaring each other to death, their wands raised.

“Is there a problem here?” James asked coolly. Remus had also stepped into the throng of students who were now eagerly watching the new entrants with awe.

“What’s going on?” Lily asked Peter, having heard the shouting from down the road.

“Don’t know,” Peter replied, “Couple of kids scrapping I guess, Prongs’ll sort them out.”

The boy’s line of vision remained unbroken and James repeated himself, recognising the students as 4th Year Gregory Warwick of Slytherin (which he deduced meant trouble) and Sebastian Mallory from Hufflepuff.

Mallory’s face was swollen with anger and loathing, “He…he insulted my father!” he managed to get out in huge, heavy gasps. James understood immediately: Martin Mallory had been murdered at the hands of Death Eaters during the holidays.

He was about to ask Warwick is this was true when the boy answered without any prompting. “He deserved it! Filthy Mudbloods! Wipe them out!”

Mallory yet out a shriek of rage and threw himself at Warwick, intent on breaking every bone in his body.

Lily rushed in, wand at the ready but James appeared to have it under control.

“Remus!” James said, instructing him to grab Warwick while he and Sirius wrenched a flailing Mallory from the other boy, using every ounce of their combined strengths to hold Mallory in place.

Remus meanwhile, had calmly seized the struggling, swearing Warwick and held on to him without much effort at all. People looked a little confused to see the slightly scrawny, often sickly looking Remus Lupin exert such strength.

“Calm down Sebastian,” James commanded quietly but forcefully.

“He…he said it…he said, he…” Mallory whispered weakly, twisting in James’s grasp.

“I know, let Dumbledore deal with him,” James said softly and Mallory finally surrendered, sinking to the ground, pale and shaking. Lily moved to the boy and put a protective arm around him.

“The rest of you can clear off!” James ordered, a few people left hesitantly but no one strayed terribly far.

James strode forwards to Warwick who was still struggling in Remus’s effortless grasp. “And as for you Warwick: 50 points from Slytherin and I’ll have one of the Prefects escort you back,” he said coldly. Their was a storm of protest from the Slytherin students but James ignored them.

“What happened to freedom of speech, Potter? After all, he was only speaking the truth,” a voice said silkily.

James gritted his teeth and spun to face Snape, who was standing with Rabastan Lestrange, Evan Rosier, Simon Avery and of course, Regulus, who had become quite the little groupie.

“Well, seeing as freedom of speech doesn’t extend to snotrags like yourself and Mr Warwick, I don’t see a problem,” James sneered.

“Ah,” Snape said smoothly, “Yes Potter, you’re Head Boy now, tell me, how much did your parents pay to get Dumbledore to look the other way? Or is there some sort of double entendre to the title ‘Head Boy’?”

Sirius growled and for a moment James had murder in his eyes. Lily, Remus and Peter waited warily.

“Hilarious Snape, the pointed edge of your wit is as sharp as the hook of your nose,” he sighed, he wasn’t going to let Snape get a rise out of him, he had to set an example and cursing him into oblivion (as appealing as it sounded) was not the actions of a Hogwarts Head Boy (well, not in front of all these people anyway).

Snape smiled slyly and changed his tactics, “Have you gone soft Black? I would have thought that beating up younger boys would have been right up your alley,” he derided, sweeping his arm out to indicate Regulus, “You seem to get off on it.”

James situated a placating hand on Sirius’s shoulder and with a meaningful glance, restrained him.

“I think it’s time for you to return to school Snape,” Lily interjected, hoping to head off a possible explosion of tempers, but all it seemed to do was further excite Snape and the Slytherins.

“I don’t take orders from Mudbloods,” he said greasily.

James’s wand was raised before Lily could even process the insult, “Watch what you say, Snivellus,” he hissed.

Lily grabbed his wrist, “Don’t James, he’s just trying to cause trouble,” she sighed.

He looked down into her eyes and nodded, “Get lost Snape, before I deduct more points.”

The Slytherins sniggered, “I see you have no trouble taking orders from a filthy Mudblood whore, but then again, you seem to make it your business to hang around with the lowest scum there is,” said Snape malevolently, his eyes flickering unmistakably towards Remus.

Lily’s hold on James’ wrist tightened, but it wasn’t him she had to worry about, Sirius, who had been standing as a sort of intimidating body guard, laughed scathingly and briefly and swung his fist into Snape’s face. Snape sank to the ground, Sirius towered over him imposingly, glaring down at him with utmost loathing.

The crowd seemed to have grown and each person’s eyes were fixed on Sirius, nervously anticipating what he would do next.

James and Peter had rushed forward, seizing Sirius together, before he could do anymore harm, but he shrugged them both off and stepped back, hand raised in surrender.

“Everyone clear off! This time I mean it!” James shouted and he looked so determined that no one dared defy him; they slunk off, throwing the occasional glance over their shoulders.

James looked around him and assessed the situation: Remus was still detaining Warwick, the boy looked at his captor reproachfully, but seeing as Remus could maintain control 0over him with one hand and a bored expression on his face, Warwick decided it might not be in his best interests to put up a fight.

Lily was comforting Mallory, who was now sobbing defeatedly in her arms, Marjorie was approaching to help, and Vi and Marty had come out the woodwork too.

James sighed audibly as he looked down at Snape sprawled on the ground, clutching his nose and groaning. James offered him a hand to get up but Snape glowered at him and struggled up to his feet himself.

“He broke my nose!” Snape accused, pointing at Sirius who growled at him.

“It’s a bloody big target!” he snapped.

“Sirius!” Lily reprimanded sharply and he fell silent.

“Just get out of here Snape, go to the Hospital Wing, but get out of here, James ordered furiously.

Snape eyed him testily for a moment, his lip curling, but he seemed to think better of attacking him and turned abruptly and severely, stalking off, Regulus, Rabastan, Avery and Rosier in tow.

James heaved a great sign of relief (and repressed anger) before kneeling down down to meet Lily and Marjorie.

“Is he all right?” he asked quietly.

She nodded, “Just a bit shaken and upset,” she replied with a weary but warm smile, “Marjorie’s going to take him back.”

“You’ll be right, kid” said James, clapping him on the shoulder with an assuring smile, Mallory smiled back at him weakly. James offered his hand down to Lily who took it and he pulled her up, she leaned into his ear and whispered “I want to deal with him,”

He looked at her with mild surprise. There was no sign of maternal warmth in her features, it had been replaced by a cold fury which matched his own.

James and Sirius helped Marjorie and Sebastian up, “Take him to Madam Pomfrey first, otherwise she’ll be out for blood, mine specifically, then get Dumbledore, make sure you tell him everything…er, actually, Remus, Sirius, one of you should go with them.”

“I don’t need a guard Potter,” Marjorie snapped.

“I know that, but two wands are better than one, right? And well, let’s just say we’ve had a lot of experience explaining things to Dumbledore.”

“I’ll go,” Remus volunteered, “No offence Padfoot, but my diplomatic skills are a little more refined.”

James nodded, “Okay, erm, we’ll be along in a bit.”

Remus released his grip on Warwick, quickly replaced by Sirius, who was by no means gentle.

Remus and Marjorie started to move away from them, Sebastian between them, still trembling slightly.

Lily and James rounded on Warwick, fully prepared to lay into him, knock some sense into him if possible. The boy looked up at them defiantly.

James removed his glasses and cleaned them on his shirt, for some reason this seemed to unnerve Warwick slightly. James opened his mouth to speak, but the words were swallowed by some other distraction, one that brought a smile to Warwick’s lips.


Chapter 13: Chapter 13
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James and Sirius registered a look of realisation, followed by a momentary look of fear which quickly dissolved into steely resolve.

“Everybody get down!” James commanded loudly though he needn’t have bothered, as students were ducking behind anything that could serve as protection, screaming wildly.

Remus, who had not yet walked 5 steps from their merry little consort hissed to Marjorie, “Take him and any others over there…they won’t see you.” Marjorie gave a frightened nod and obeyed. Remus quickly rejoined his friends who had ducked into a narrow laneway, dragging Lily, Vi, Martina, Warwick and a couple of 3rd years with them.

They could hear the sounds of things imploding with the impact of powerful spells, children screaming and crying and a woman’s high shrieking laughter.

“So she has joined,” James whispered to Sirius.

“Looks that way, doesn’t it?” Sirius replied darkly.

“What are you talking about?” Lily demanded in tones of rising panic.

“That’s Bellatrix, my cousin…I’ll bet you anything Rodolphous is behind one of those masks too. Who knows, this could be a family reunion,” he added grimly.

“What are we going to do?” Marty whimpered.

James and Sirius and Remus’s eyes flashed dangerously.

“Don’t be stupid!” Lily shrilled, “6 Death Eaters! You can’t take them all on!”

“Look around Evans! Do you see anyone coming to help? All the teachers are back at school!” Sirius reminded her.

Lily was about to protest further when a spell hit the wall opposite them, brinks and mortar exploded and the wall crumbled.

“Don’t worry,” James said softly, forcing his features into a look of reassurance, “The rest of you, stay here, you too, Peter,” he ordered.

Her green eyes widened with realisation but he was too fast. He, Sirius and Remus had whipped from the laneway.

The three of them were launching spells at their would be attackers, who were surprised by the sudden onslaught and three of them were Stunned, almost immediately.

A powerful spell struck the corner of the wall that Lily and the others were pressed up against and they scrambled to get out of the way.

Ducking into the rubble they were now given a clear view of the battle.

Lily could see Remus furiously dueling with his opponent, his normally meek and compliant expression twisted into furious determination as he roared potent curses at the masked Death Eater.

Sirius was dueling with a woman, his cousin Bellatrix she supposed, he ducked and weaved gracefully, his longs legs and arms sweeping skillfully as he fought with her, Lily could hear him hurling swear words and insults as well as hexes and curses. She didn’t see a flicker of mischief in his pale grey eyes, there was no trace of the vehement troublemaker now, just an incredibly powerful wizard.

James drifted into vision: he was dueling so forcefully that his adversary was being pushed back by his advances, it occurred to her that both he and Sirius were renowned for their knowledge of jinxes, curses and hexes (they had spent a good deal of demonstrating on Slytherins-she had spent a good deal of time yelling at them for it), this time, though, she was immensely grateful for it. She could now see why they were Hogwarts most brilliant students.

James deflected another curse and Lily watched, transfixed. He looked nothing like the skinny, straggly boy she’d always seen him as, his confident air had been adapted into power, he looked intimidating.

James whirled to avoid the Stunning spell and she was that he was not unscathed: blood soaked his t-shirt and he had a nasty gash across his cheek.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw something move: one of the Death Eaters had recovered from the effects of being stunned. Lily saw with horror that he was pointing his wand directly at James.

Without thinking she leapt out from the rubble and raced towards the new opponent.

“Expelliarmus!” she bellowed and the wand flew from the staggered Death Eaters’ hands and into her own.

“Stupefy!” she yelled before he could react and he was blown back.


Lily whipped around as she heard the words spoken and saw that Sirius had been struck down, Bellatrix was laughing maniacally as she watched him twitch and flail, an anguished moan escaping him.

Lily seemed frozen to the spot, she felt like if she moved she would be violently ill. She looked around frantically and saw that James’s face was wrought with terror and he leapt forward ready to meet Bellatrix in duel, forgetting about his own opponent.

She finally remembered herself and moved to replace James.

Suddenly all of the Death Eaters clasped their left forearms. She caught her Death Eater grinning at her through the mask and he Disapparated.

“The Dark Lord wants you to give a message to Dumbledore: He wants him to know that the Dark Lord has arrived, darkness shall reign and we shall return!” Bellatrix bellowed defiantly, she quickly summoned the incapacitated Death Eaters and disappeared.

Remus was left in mid curse as his Death eater vanished and he, like James ran to Sirius and knelt beside him.

The two of them looked extremely pale and grave as they checked him over. Lily came down beside them, willing to help in anyway if she could.

Sirius lay crumpled on the ground, his eyes were squeezed shut and his face was glistening with sweat, his black hair plastered to his forehead, his breathing was ragged and he was shivering slightly.

“Sirius?” James said, his voice quavering.

He opened his eyes slowly and let out a low groan. “ ‘M fine,” he said hoarsely.

Remus looked like he might die from relief and James let out a string of swear words and heaved Sirius from the ground and into his arms.

Sirius choked out something halfway between a laugh and a sob, “I’m all right,” he said gruffly, but he returned the hug all the same. “Honestly, get a hold of yourself Prongs…if you need to get physical with someone Evans here is a better shape for it,” he joked weakly, his grey eyes fixing her with a piercing stare.

The image of a flash of red streaking across the street emerged in James’s mind, he let Sirius go and stood up, turning abruptly, his arms shot out and clamped down on her shoulders, “Are you okay?” he asked her seriously.

She forged a smile, “I’m okay.”

James groaned in reprieve. He wanted to hug her, hold her, kiss her…he also wanted to yell at her for getting involved in the fight but he realised that there were more pressing matters at hand.

“We need to get everyone back to school, they could come back at any moment so we need to act fast.”

“I don’t think they’ll come back,” Remus said softly.

“No, I don’t either, but we can’t take chances,” he agreed. “First of all we need to check what kinds of injuries we’ve got, make sure everyone’s okay.” Make sure everyone’s alive.

“You 3 are the worst of it!” Lily exclaimed exasperatedly, her arms under Sirius armpit, holding him up as he swayed gently, “Look at yourselves!”

They looked down at their various injuries, as if only realising they were there. All three of them were wounded in some shape or form, blood seeping through their various clothing layers and bruises forming on their exposed skin.

“Oh.” James said gently, gingerly running his fingers along the cut on his cheek. “It’s nothing really,” he mumbled; for some reason they all looked extremely uncomfortable.

Lily shook her head in frustration and disbelief and turned her back to them, facing the laneway (which now looked like a landfill area) that the others were hiding in. “You guys! Vi, Marty, Peter! Check on everyone, make sure they’re okay, get them organised and ready to leave!”

Their 3 heads popped up from the rubble and they nodded, quickly (but shakily) going to work.

She turned back to them, “Let me have a look at you at least, I’ll patch up what I can so you don’t die on the way back or frighten the little kids” she said stiffly.

“But we…” Remus started to protest but fell silent upon seeing the look on Lily’s face.

Seeing as Sirius was still slumped awkwardly in her arms she examined him first, he didn’t appear to have too much in the way of flesh wounds, the damage seemed to be all internal, though his pale skin was rudely glowing with bruises.

She let him down onto the ground, ordering him to stay still until they had to move, he grumbled stubbornly but felt too weak and sore to put up a fight.

She whipped around, “James, take off your shirt.”

“What?!” he yelped, his hands unconsciously clutching his shirt.

“She wants your body Prongs, better hurry up and oblige the lady before she changes her mind,” Sirius said garishly, though he winced with every word.

“Shut up Sirius.” She would have said more but she remembered that less than 10 minutes ago he’d been tortured, he might still be delirious, though she doubted that. Humour was his defence mechanism, she could understand that at least.

James reluctantly pulled his shirt over his head, in any other situation he would have obliged all too willingly, but not with her, not with Lily.

Lily swallowed all apprehension and embarrassment and bent down to inspect his chest. There was a long diagonal slash that ran from his collarbone to where his ribs ended, the blood was incredibly obvious contrasted against his pale skin. Lily ran her fingers over his chest tentatively, he shivered and sucked in breath, though she was sure she wasn’t hurting him.

Sirius was trying not to laugh at James’s stricken expression. He was trying not to laugh because a.) it would earn him a bucket load of scorn and b.) his muscles were still cramped and sore, even the most minor of movements was painful.

“I don’t think anything’s broken, but this cut is pretty deep…I don’t think I should try to heal it…I’m so shaky I might accidentally flay you.”

James laughed nervously and Lily conjured some bandages to stem the bleeding a bit. He hurriedly slipped his shirt back on and mumbled his thanks, still blushing furiously and cursing himself inwardly for allowing himself to get worked up at one of the most inappropriate moments he could think of.

She stood up straight and turned to Remus, who, if possible, blushed brighter than James, “I’m all right,” he muttered.
She sighed impatiently. Why were they acting so immature? They had just fought fully grown Dark Wizards and yet they were afraid of what? Girl Germs?

“Look Remus, don’t be stupid, I’m not asking you to strip naked or anything, but you’re bleeding,” she said forcefully, pointing at his bloodied and tattered shirt.

Remus’s eyes darted between his friends, silently pleading for their help.

“It’s okay mate,” James encouraged softly. Remus’s eyes were wide with fear but he gave a resigned sigh and lifted his shirt with a deep breath.

Lily gave him her most soothing smile and she shifted to look at his injuries. Her eyes caught on his pale flesh and she let out an exclamation of shock, her hand flew to her mouth. She looked to both James and Sirius for answers but their expression revealed nothing. She looked up at Remus and saw that his eyes were squeezed tightly shut, his breathing shallow and erratic, his hole body was in fact tense.

There were injuries, yes, but only a few of them looked recent. His skin was a positive battlefield of scars, he looked as if he had been ripped apart and then roughly sewn back together. She traced the scars lightly with her hands: deep gouges and scrathes, bite marks…where had they come from?

Her hands paused over one particular wound on his side. It appeared to be a bite, something rather large had gripped him in it’s jaws. The scar itself was white and hairless, the skin surrounding it was fetid and warped. She recalled seeing a similar wound in her DADA text book, it had belonged to a werewolf: the bite that had turned him.

Realisation dawned on her and she gawked up at Remus: his eyes stills crewed shut, his breathing almost non-existent now.

She couldn’t imagine shy, sweet, studious Remus as…a monster, a homicidal nightmare, he was the most gentle person she’d ever know, the idea was utterly absurd!

She repeated what she had done with James and stood up to face him, she now noticed that he had light scars across his face and neck too, “It’s okay,” she whispered and he opened his eyes, his fear painfully apparent in those soft, warm, brown eyes; she smiled tenderly at him, “It’s okay Moony,” she repeated, his nickname tentatively rolling off her tongue.

He fixed her with a stare, unsure if he was hearing her correctly, did she really understand…his eyes locked onto her own, and he felt the warmth resonating from them; he gave her a grizzled smile, “Thank you,” he said in his soft voice, pulling on his shirt nervously.

“Didn’t do anything,” she said brightly.

James and Sirius were beaming at her and now it was her turn to colour; she felt almost as if she had just breached something very special. The bond between James, Sirius, Remus and Peter was so strong it was tangible, evident in their every movement and word and she had just been allowed to glimpse a part of it.

“Come on, we’d better make sure everyone’s okay,” said James, assuming the role of leader once again.

Sirius stumbled to his feet, abetted by Remus, as his balance was slightly off and when they started walking towards the others, Lily observed that Sirius did so with a slight limp.

As they approached the other students, the four of them felt keenly powerful; perhaps it was the shock, but they all felt somewhat invincible, as if they could tackle anything right now.

Peter and Marjorie rushed to meet them and inform them of the current situation: No major wounds, just a few concussions, bruises and a lot of scared kids.

“It’s okay!” James said loudly, “They’re gone, everybody please keep calm, we’re going to go back to school, keep together and we’ll be fine.

People seemed to calm in James’ presence, but then, Lily mused, they always had. He carried an air about him, something that reassured them: his strength, his compassion, his confidence…a natural born leader, a powerful wizard.

The four of them led the way back to school; not a word was spoken as the gravity of what had happened sunk in…they were extremely lucky that no-one had been killed. Sirius understood this better than all of them his body was an all too painful reminder.

James ordered Marjorie, Vi, Marty and Peter to escort the injured students to the Hospital Wing. Lily wanted James, Sirius and Remus to go also, but they refused, insisting on informing Dumbledore themselves, though, Sirius joked, he would have liked to have seen Madam Pomfrey’s face when she’d been told of the situation.

The remaining students were ordered to go wait in the Great Hall.

James, Lily, Sirius and Remus then started off towards Dumbledore’s office, unfortunately they ran into Professor McGonagall along the way.

“Potter! Black! What have you been doing?!” she shrieked furiously, “Look at yourselves! Have you been duelling again?” she demanded, but gave them no time to answer, “Remus Lupin! I expected better from you! And Potter! You’re Head Boy now! It’s high time you started to act your age! Explain yourselves!” she fumed, her face a shade of red that Godric Gryffindor would have been proud of.

“Please Professor,” Lily interpolated quickly, before McGonagall could launch into another tirade, “We were just on our way to see Professor Dumbledore, there was a…situation at Hogsmeade and we need to see him now,” she said, hoping McGonagall could sense the urgency.

Their Transfiguration Professor stayed silent but continued to eye them suspiciously, “All right,” she said sternly, “I’ll escort you.”

They didn’t argue, already fatigue was settling in and they needed to see Dumbledore.

“Flossing Stringmint,” McGonagall snapped at the Gargoyle. The five of them entered and ascended the staircase.

“Come in,” Dumbledore said cheerily, anticipating McGonagall’s knock, he smiled as he saw who the visitors were but his expression sobered when he saw the state they were in.

“What has happened?” he asked quietly. Sirius hobbled to a seat, while the rest of them organised themselves around his desk.

James, Lily, Sirius and Remus looked from one another uncertainly. Where to begin?

“Death Eaters,” James said finally, earning an exclamation of fear from McGonagall behind them, Dumbledore said nothing, did nothing, but he continued to look grave, his light blue eyes boring into James.

“There was a scuffle, between a couple of boys, Gregory Warwick and Sebastian Mallory…Warwick said a number of… offensive things about Mallory’s father, we were just sorting it out when 6 Death Eaters Apparated into Hogsmeade, started destroying things immediately…fair amount of damage to the village and a couple of concussions, but nothing more serious than cuts or bruises,” said James quickly at the wary look of concern on Dumbledores’ face.

“Except for Sirius,” Lily corrected softly; everyone turned to her, observing her apprehensively, “One of the Death Eaters used the Cruciatus Curse.”

Sirius shifted uneasily in his seat as McGonagall clapped her hands to her mouth, muffling a scream, “I’m all right,” he mumbled indignantly.

Dumbledore remained silent but his passive face aged 50 years as his gaze fell on Sirius, who could not look back at him. Dumbledore continued to observe his young student for a few more moments before returning his attention back to James.

“How did you escape?”

“We, er, we dueled,” James explained, “Me and Sirius and Remus sort of took them by surprise and Stupefied 3 of them, so that evened up the odds a bit and we dueled. Eva…Lily too.”

McGonagall’s face had gone a grayish colour, “You dueled!” she repeated disbelievingly, “What did you think you were doing?! You could have been killed!”

“The thought had occurred to us,” said James grimly, “But we didn’t have much of a choice.”

“Where are they now?” Dumbledore asked, his calm almost unnerving.

“Gone,” Lily answered this time, “They Disapparated, one of them said something about giving you a message: ‘The Dark Lord has arrived’ or something.”

“I think we were supposed to be the message,” said Remus quietly, “I think they came to kill as many of us as possible and send a message to Professor Dumbledore and the rest of the world.”

“I have no doubt that that was His plan,” Dumbledore agreed brusquely. “The four of you have performed admirably and saved many lives today. There can be no price on what you have done, but I think I shall start by awarding you with 50 points each for Gryffindor and awards for Special Services to the school, I must now ask you to place yourselves in the care of Madam Pomfrey.”

“But sir!” James protested, “We want to know what’s going on!”

“When I myself understand that, I will inform you, but right now you need medical attention. When you have been released from Madam Pomfrey’s able hands we will speak again. Might I ask where the other students are?”

“The injured ones are in the hospital wing, the rest of them are in the Great Hall…someone should go speak to them.”

Dumbledore gave James a smile that showed how proud he was of him, of them all, “Well done. Minerva perhaps you should inform the other teachers while I address the school.” He turned to the four of them, “I cannot stress how much your actions have meant, you have, for a long time, been the brightest students Hogwarts has encountered, but today you showed more than skills or intelligence, you showed courage and compassion in the face of evil, qualities of a true Gryffindor. I can offer you no higher praise than that.” His serious expression flickered to reveal a smile, “Well, perhaps I could but we haven’t got three hours.”

A/N: I suck at action writing, so bear with me, updates may be few and far between while I do my exams and major works for school, the next 4 weeks are full on but I have 3 more chapters to post, so it won't be too bad.

Chapter 14: Chapter 14
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Lily’s eyes snapped open.

It took her a moment to understand where she was, her breathing was ragged and she could feel a film of cold sweat over her body.

She had been dreaming about the attack, only it was different, some how more frightening, more exaggerated in her memory, Bellatrix’s high shrieking laughter more chilling, Sirius’s screams more fearful…

She felt uncomfortably hot, despite the sweat and decided to get up and get some fresh air, hopefully clear her head.

Sitting up she saw the dark outline of another person standing by the window, outlined by the moonlight. She moved across the room gracefully to see who it was.

“Couldn’t sleep?” he asked quietly without turning around.

“No,” she admitted. “You?”

James craned his head to look down at her, a weary smile quirking on his lips, his glasses reflecting the dim light.

“Poppy is a little bit enthusiastic when it comes to warming charms, I had to get up before I started baking.”

Lily allowed herself to laugh quietly and then she proceeded to fix him with an intense stare that only Lily Evans could muster, “How’d you know it was me?” she inquired.

His smile broadened, “I pay attention,” he replied simply then added, “You, Sirius and Remus are the only ones in here who would sneak up on me at night and the those two are still knocked out…I used my powers of deductive theory to figure it out.”


James had wrapped a blanket around his bare shoulders, wearing only red tartan flannel pyjama bottoms and a pair of think black socks, but as he turned his body to her she could see through the loose folds of the blanket, could see the angry scar that marred his torso, it gleamed whiter than his already pale skin; Madam Pomfrey had dine a fine job healing them, but she said that a powerful curse must have zipped by him.

“Does it hurt?”

“Nah, itches a bit,” he replied dismissively, “Had worse and Poppy knows it…what about you?”

“I’m fine, not even a scratch…I didn’t really do much fighting anyway.”

“Peter says you saved my life, says you jumped in and stopped one of those masked gits turning his wand on me, so I guess I owe you my thanks, you know, and my life…so thanks for my life.”

“You don’t owe me anything,” she said softly, though smiling at his unusual thanks, “You, Sirius and Remus saved all our lives today, I’d say that makes us even.”

“If you say so,” he shrugged.

She wanted to push it further, to assure him that he had done good, wonderful things, but the ridiculousness of the situation hit her: she was going out of her way to praise James Potter, so surrendering to his stubbornness she changed topics, “Is Sirius going to be alright?”

James sighed, “Yeah, he’s…he’s pretty strong you know? Bella’s done a lot of shitty things to him, I’m not even sure this clarifies as the worst,” he reflected grimly.

Lily wondered what could possibly be worse than the Crutiatus Curse but decided it wasn’t not her place to ask.

“What about Remus?”

“He’ll be fine, he’s seen a lot worse and Madam Pomfrey always tends to overreact with him, baby’s him a bit much.”

The slight referral to Remus’s lycanthropy was a test, as much as he was proud of her reaction, he had to test her, acceptance was all very well and good, but yesterday seemed so far away.

“How long have you known?” she asked, her voice filled with concern and he allowed a furtive smile.

“2nd year. You can’t share a dorm with someone for a year and not wonder where he disappears to monthly. Sirius and I got curious and nearly got killed because of it. He came clean with us the next morning, though his confession was a tad redundant by that time…anyway, he was terrified we would abandon him or rat him out or something, but he’s Remus, you know? Just Moony. You can’t be afraid of him, not for something he can’t control, 30 days of the month he’s a better man than I am.”

Lily nodded, she still couldn’t quite believe that Remus Lupin was a werewolf, and now that she’d had time to think on it, she was extremely angry at every single one of her text books that made mention of werewolves as monsters, dark creatures that should be exterminated…perhaps she would be sending off a few irate letters to certain publishers.

“Who else knows?” she inquired tentatively.

“The teachers, of course, but other than that just me, Peter and Sirius. You now. Oh, and Snape,” he added angrily.

“Snape?” Lily repeated, puzzled, “Hang on, was that why Sirius got so worked up when Snape insulted Remus today? Yesterday, I mean,”

He nodded.

“I thought it was just because his mum’s a muggleborn!” she said, forcing her voice down to a whisper “How on earth did he find out?”

James smiled bitterly, “Through a serious mistake in judgement.”

Lily frowned, her brow wrinkled in confusion as she tried to figure out what James was implying. “Serious? Sirius!” she exclaimed, “Sirius told him?” she hissed, glancing over at the raven haired boy’s peaceful slumber (induced of course). “That’s what the fight was about last year, wasn’t it?” She realised as the words came flooding back to her.

“Pretty perceptive aren’t you? Yeah, it was. Sirius told him how to get past the Whomping Willow…into the Shrieking Shack, which is where Remus goes to…transform,”

She puzzled at that revelation, “It’s not haunted?”

“No, the screaming…that’s Remus, it’s kind of painful to transform and the wolf is by himself, no humans, no prey, so he’s cuts himself to ribbons.”

“The scars…” Lily whispered, horrified.

“The scars are from himself,” James confirmed.

“Oh my God.” She couldn’t bear to think of anyone in that much pain; she had heard the screaming from the Shrieking Shack once herself, back in her 3rd year. It had terrified her, she couldn’t imagine the kind of pain that must be behind that kind of inhuman sound.

“Yeah,” James agreed, sighing and staring out the window.

“Remus forgave him?” she pressed on, incredulously.

James shrugged, “It’s not in his nature to hold a grudge. We’re family and we fight like it too. Sirius made a mistake. A big one. He’s an idiot and no-one’s denying that, but there are some things that aren’t worth it.”

“I would have…”

“Killed him?” James interjected, “I damn well nearly did.” He turned to look at Sirius’ sleeping form. He looked so peaceful; his handsome features making him look innocent and angelic. “He’s a good person, he just cocked up big time.”

James had carefully left out the bit where Snape and himself had nearly been killed; he decided that she didn’t need to know that yet, though he wasn’t sure why.

Lily shivered visibly and he realised that she must be freezing.

“You’d better hop back into bed, it’s chilly in here.”

“Budge over and I can share you blanket. I’m not tired, extremely awake actually.”

James felt the bottom of his stomach drop out at the thought of being in such close proximity to her, but he shifted nervously to make room.

“Oh come on, you faced 6 Death Eaters today and you’re afraid of me?” she chuckled, feeling him tense beside her, “I’m not that hideous am I?”

“Er, yes, you’re a troll,” he quipped sarcastically, hoping his voice sounded remotely normal.

She elbowed him playfully and he snorted softly.

He had almost stopped breathing: she was so close, her could smell her, feel her hair tickling his bare chest, feel her pressing close to him to get warm, could feel her breathing and the soft cotton of her pyjamas.

She was suddenly very aware of how intimate their position was, she couldn’t really recall ever being this close to James Potter without trying to break one his fingers, but after watching him fight today she couldn’t help but feel safe in his presence and still shaky from her dream, from the events of the previous day. A little safety was highly appreciated. James radiated that kind of strength and power that made women want to be damsels, she realised, and right now she was feeling pretty content.

Except for the fact that she was starving.

“Is that your stomach?” James inquired bemusedly.

“You can hear that?” she whispered, embarrassed. “Oh God,” she groaned, “Well, I didn’t eat anything before because I wasn’t sure if I could it down, but now I’m starving and somehow don’t think sweets are going to be terribly satisfying.” Another rumble from her stomach escaped.

A grin lit up James’ face and he beamed down at her, “How does a midnight feast sound?”

“Well, wonderful but there’s no point…”

He quickly untangled himself from the blanket and knelt down o rifle through the rucksack that Peter had brought him.

“Yes!” He exclaimed triumphantly as he pulled out his Invisibility Cloak that had been buried at the very bottom of the bag.

“Wha…” Lily began but James cut her off instantaneously.

“Pull on some socks and a dressing gown,” he ordered.

She stared at his inquisitively but did as he said. She turned and watched him pull on his own shirt, noting for the first time that when she had seen the scar he had actually been bare-chested.

She felt herself blush as she fully appreciated what years of Quidditch had done for his body.

He strode over to her, practically vibrating with playful energy. “What are we doing?” she asked him.

“Getting you some food,” he told her. She saw the silvery material clasped in his hand and was about to ask what it was when he swept around their bodies, forcing them closer together.

“You’ll have to stick close so it’ll cover both of us.”

“What are we doing?” She repeated demandingly.

“This is an Invisibility Cloak,” James explained, “The secret…or one of them…to our success. Ready?”

“James!” she admonished, laughing. “We can’t! We’ll get caught.”

“Do I need to explain the concept of ‘invisibility’? Come on, you’re hungry and I could do with a bit of exercise. I hate being cooped up here.”

He was grinning at her in such a fashion that she could swear that mischief was contagious and after yesterday’s eventfulness she was feeling just a tad rebellious.

“Oh, all right!”

Chapter 15: Chapter 15
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He wrapped an arm around her waist (ignoring his pounding heart) and pushed forward. They let themselves out of the room (Lily had the distinct impression that he’d done this before) and she felt impossibly free, her heart hammering excitedly as she pelted down the halls of Hogwarts with James Potter.

“Come on,” James urged as they went through a door in the Entrance Hall. Lily watched as he reached a hand from beneath the cloak and tickled a pear on the painting of fruit in front of them. She watched, fascinated, as the pear giggled and the painting swung open.

James pulled off the cloak entirely and stepped in, extending his hand to Lily; she took it, shaking her head at this show of chivalry.

“Where are we?’ she whispered as the painting swung shut behind them.

“School kitchens,” James replied. “What do you want?” He started to rummage through the cupboards, shelves and iceboxes and he emerged with his hands full of various foods. He dropped them unceremoniously on the battered hardwood table and looked up at Lily with an exultant grin.

“So we’ve got some bread, ham, left over chicken from tonight’s dinner, cheese, lettuce, baguettes, pumpkin juice and a quart of mulled mead…one of the elves must have a drinking problem.”

“Elves?” Lily repeated, still in disbelief of the whole situation. She never really had thought about where the food came from.

“House elves” James clarified. “They run this place, basically. If you wanted something more filling we could wake them up, I don’t usually like to, though.”

“No, no, this is fine,” Lily said, pulling out one of the rickety chairs and sitting down. “This is great, thank you.”

James’ smile broadened but he said nothing, just poured himself a glass of mulled mead. “Do you want some?”

“I’m underage.”

“And out of bounds,” he reminded her. “Come on, live dangerously.”

She surrendered and her poured her a glass.

“How long have you known about this place?” Lily asked as she pulled apart the lettuce.

“First week of first term of first year—Sirius and I were curious little sods and my dad had given me the Invisibility Cloak strictly for the purpose of exploring. I had to honour his wishes.”

Lily laughed, “Pretty harsh standards your folks set.”

“I come from a long line of trouble makers.”

She laughed again. Sitting here with James was, well, fun and easy and for some reason she felt perfectly comfortable and safe with him, he exuded a sense of goodness about him that she had never allowed herself to feel, though she had been getting inklings of it all this year: seeing the way he reacted with people, how they in turn reacted to him.

She suddenly felt guilty for the number of times when she had scolded him just because he was an easy target. The most recent being:

“I owe you an apology.”

“For what?” he inquired, mildly surprised and politely puzzled.

“For the way I treated you on the train at the start of the year. I had no right you didn’t understand why, I was angry and I took it out on you. It was wrong you didn’t deserve it and I’m sorry.” She’d said the whole thing in a single breath and now felt strangely ashamed but also relieved.

He regarded her with a contemplative expression for a few moments before saying softly, “You didn’t have to apologise. No offence Lily, but I’m kind of used to being on the wrong side of you.”

She winced remembering all those other times he hadn’t really deserved the pointy end of her glare, sure she’d often been highly justified when yelling at him, more often than not really, but sometimes she’d just done it because he was there. Being a redhead, her mother had always encouraged her temper, she seemed to regard it as her birthright and Lily had never shied from speaking her mind.

“I know, it’s just I think you deserve an explanation, it wasn’t anything you did or said, I was just being a bitch.”

He nodded, “You still didn’t have to apologise, I’ve got a bit of a foot-in-mouth problem.” He paused unsure if the shaky bonds of their friendship were strong enough for further investigation into the matter. “May I ask…”


He nodded and she sighed. “Thurston and I didn’t have an easy break up. He…he said a lot of things that even Severus Snape would find distasteful.” She observed the way his lips pursed into a thin white line and how his fists clenched angrily. “Maybe it’s just this…war that’s rising, everyone’s acting strange.”

“Maybe,” he said darkly.

“Look, it’s all in the past now. I’m over it. There are more important things to worry about.”

“Yeah,” he drawled, still looking murderous, “funnily enough, you’re right.”

“Funnily enough,” she repeated gently.

They sat there awhile: Lily enjoying her sandwich and sipping her mulled mead whilst James continued to look lost in thought. Lily didn’t like the look on his face.

“James?” she inquired tentatively.

He shook himself out of his funk and looked up at her questioningly. “Hmmm?”

“You okay?”

He offered her a weary smile. “Just thinking,” he said softly. He looked up at the Grandfather clock and shifted in his chair. “We’d better get back—if Poppy comes in to check on us and we’re not there she’ll have puppies.”

She laughed at the serious look on his face which broke into his familiar impish grin, “You think I’m joking?”

She liked him like this, when he was relaxed instead of busy trying to impress her…even though he hadn’t really pulled a stunt like that since last year. But since last year she’d been feeling it come on gradually—this affection for him, nothing conscious or cognitive, just reactions to him, she often found herself laughing at one of his jokes during prefects meetings or deliberately carrying on a conversation. She noted the way that Dumbledore respected him, and she found herself understanding why.

Last year he had been tolerable, this year, however, he was likeable and she wasn’t sure who had changed. Him or her?

She was sure that this year it was because she had been exposed to his more redeeming qualities, working in such close proximity with him had allowed her to get to know him in a different manner.

He was still arrogant, overtly self confident, occasionally conceited and endlessly troublesome but he was also brave, fiercely loyal, compassionate, understanding, kind (well, to most people), clever, fun and (she thought back to his lithe body in the Hospital Wing) not at all unattractive.

At 17 years of age he was so unlike the scrawny 11 year old she’d started school with. His shoulders were broader, long limbs moved with a sort of studied grace, sinewy muscles melted down his arms, running into his slender, skilful hands and fingers. He was slight in frame, thin even, though not the straggly boy she’d regarded him as all this time.

His face; no longer that of angelic choir boy with bright, fiercely intelligent eyes, his glasses were no longer too big for his face and they perched on his nose, giving him a scholarly look, she thought. His impish grin was ever present but his jaw was stronger and at the moment covered in the coarse beginnings of a day old beard. His untidy black hair still made him look quite juvenile, but she kind of found that endearing.

His appearance was trapped somewhere between naughty schoolboy and powerful wizard.

And he was currently looking at her with a strange expression.


“Er, yes?”

“I asked if you were ready to go.”

“Oh. Yes, sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it.” He grinned and tossed the Invisibility Cloak around the both of them.

He was sp close that she could feel his heart beat against her back, it was considerably faster than usual, but, she realised, that her own heart was keeping pace admirably.

This was not her normal reaction to James Potter, not even with all the recent progress they’d made. James Potter inspired a sense of frustration, but now she was struggling to remember exactly why he was so frustrating.

She gave an involuntary shiver and she knew he must have felt it. He was so, so close.

She might have blamed it on the mulled mead, but then she remembered she’d only had half a glass.

The attack yesterday had brought down her inhibitions, taught her a thing or two about the power of instinct and perhaps a little something about the kind of person James Potter really was.

She turned to face him and he looked down at her with a puzzled appearance. She pressed a hand to his chest and could feel his heart race beneath her palm, she wondered idly how he could still be standing, it was a miracle he didn’t just rocket off through the ceiling.

A smile quirked on her lips and his quizzical expression was now replaced with trepidation and longing. His breath was shallow and concentrated; warm…she could feel it on her skin.

His hand trembled as he raised it to cup her face. He had suspended his disbelief and decided it might be a good idea to do something in this situation, lest it really was just a moment of insanity and she would remember who he actually was and change her tactics.

She was intoxicating. Her hair smelled faintly of citrus, impossibly soft as it cascaded over her shoulders. She was looking up at him with those magnificent green eyes, pleadingly.

Never in his wildest fantasies…well, perhaps in a couple of them, had he ever been in a situation like this. But this was real, staggeringly, painfully real. He’d never felt so nervous in his entire life.

Her delicate hand was still pressed against his heart and he savoured the touch; his thumb stroked her cheek, desperately trying to keep his calm. She raised up on her tip-toes and he leaned down to meet her lips, his other hand braced her against his body.

This was unlike the chastened kisses she’d shared with other boys. There was no stilted uncertainty, no childish exploration of her body. James Potter knew what he was doing, and he applied the same virtues he applied to all other areas of his life: passion, skill, honesty and power. But at the same time he was incredibly gentle.

He tasted like bread and honey.

The Invisibility Cloak slipped from their shoulders and shivered to the floor. She wrapped her arms around his neck and deepened the kiss; her toes were barely touching the floor.

While he could have gladly stayed this way forever. Kissing Lily Evans was everything he’d ever imagined it to be. However he hadn’t counted on just how nervous she had made him, and he’d always imagined himself taking her on a date, somewhere a little more classy than the Hogwarts kitchens.

Oh well, the important thing was that Lily Evans was kissing him, in his arms of her own free will. Stranger things had happened, but right now he couldn’t have given an example.

They broke apart and when they did, their eyes never left the others’, each trying to interpret the torrent of emotions running behind them.

Her lips were swollen with kisses. His kisses he thought with a sort of giddy pride.

For a second he wondered if she might realise who she had been kissing and run off or slap him, but instead she rested her head on his chest, her hands pressed against him.

She sighed contentedly and sought his hand with one of her own, with his spare hand he adjusted his glasses (which had gone quite askew amidst the action) and then stroked her back languidly, smiling to himself and for her.

She laughed breathlessly and he could feel the vibrations on his skin.

“What?” he murmured.

She tilted her head up to look at him. Those hazel eyes were filled once again with bewilderment. “Should have done that a long time ago,” she drawled, and this time he laughed.

“Probably not a good time to say ‘I told you so’, right?”

She grinned. “I don’t think so, not if you know what’s good for you, anyway.”

“I know what’s good for me,” he whispered suggestively and she could hear the leering grin in his voice.

“Don’t push it,” she warned, looking up at him seriously before breaking into a sly smile.

“Me? The perfect gentleman? I think I ought to be questioning your motives, Miss Evans.” He’d meant it lightly but there was a note of gravity to his voice that Lily did not fail pick up.

“James?” she inquired, freeing herself from his embrace.

He sighed and fidgeted uneasily. He forced himself to look at her, still tasting her on his lips. “I…what was that for you?” he blurted. “Because I like you, Lily, you know, in case you hadn’t figured that out. But…but I know that I’m not exactly your favourite person, so…why?”

She felt her temper rise at the insinuation, feeling cheapened somehow, but it subsided as she glanced the vulnerable, anxious look on his face.

She knew that this was going to have to be handled rather delicately, after all, it was a fair question, one that she didn’t really have a coherent answer for herself. She couldn’t think of a single reason that she would be down in the Hogwarts kitchens kissing James Potter. Except that she liked him. Oh well. Nothing ventured, nothing gained

She took a step forward, closing the space between. She conjured up a smile, trying to give off the impression that she was calm. Taking one of his hands in her own, she fixed him with a stare. “James, I…do I really have to convince you you’re a good person? You wasted a lot of time trying to impress me but things change. People change.” She cringed, “Horrible cliché, sorry.”

His features melted into a mask of relief and he smiled, a smile that even now she was beginning to think of as her own. “Well, I liked it. Impress you huh?”

She grinned wickedly. “I prefer this approach,” she said leaning in and he could do nothing but oblige her.

Chapter 16: Chapter 16
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“Er, Master James sir?” came a meek voice from somewhere around his mid thigh.

James groaned and pulled away from Lily reluctantly. She look flushed and slightly panicked by the interruption.

“It’s okay,” James told her, a note of amusement in his voice. “This is Milly, one of the many fine house elves here at Hogwarts.”

“Oh! Oh, hello Milly,” Lily said a little too enthusiastically. She’d never met a house elf before. “I’m Lily Evans.”

“Nice to meet you Miss,” the house elf curtsied. “Is master wanting anything to eat or drink?”

“No, we’ve already eaten, thanks,” James explained, not really paying attention. He desperately wanted to reach out and press his mouth to Lily’s again, feel her fingertips tap-tap-tapping against his skin.

“Already eaten?!” Milly cried with such gusto that they were both startled from themselves, noticing that other house elves had now appeared.

“Oh master James! You is not supposed to do things by yourself! You should have woken Milly up! She would have helped you!”

“Ah…erm, sorry Milly, I wasn’t thinking.” Not untrue really—his mind had turned to mush about the time Lily had approached him in the Hospital Wing.

“Sorry!? Sorry, sir? Do not be sorry! We should have heard you or waited for master and his young miss.” Lily blushed. “We is knowing you has had a hard day!” Milly squeaked and the other elves agreed emphatically.

“No, no, it’s okay—“ he stopped. “Hang on, what do you know?”

Milly looked uncomfortable and a little scared. “We is hearing some talk while we clean the rooms,” she explained nervously. “We is hearing that master fought Dark wizards!”

The other house elves were surrounding them, looking up at James with a mixture of awe and fear.

“Is…is it true, master James?”

James sighed, staring down at the sea of expectant faces. “I guess so.”

Lily goggled. When it was something as trivial as Quidditch he was so quick to claim glory, but when it was something like combating 6 Death Eaters he would become as self-effacing as, well, as a house elf! But she was beginning to understand that James Potter was not all that he appeared.

A sound of exasperation must have escaped her lips because James turned to face her and she felt a blush rise in her cheeks as his eyes met hers and she felt a pang of longing which overcame her initial hesitation of wanting to lunge at him.

She compromised and sidled up next to him, taking his hand in her own, he complied with the gesture with a slightly dazed expression.

A thought emerged from the cloudy haze and he narrowed his eyes.

”Milly, where did you hear the students talking about this?”

She hesitated momentarily. “They is talking about everywhere master James, but Milly is hearing from the Slytherin Dungeons.”

He frowned. “What did they say?”

Milly wrung her bat like ears fearfully. “Milly cannot say, sir, she is not allowed to spread secrets, we is bound as house hlves…”

James looked as if he might interrogate her further his mouth was half open, ready to ask her more, but his eyes caught the hands on the clock.

“Bugger,” he hissed under his breath. “We’ve really got to get back.” He ducked down to retrieve the Cloak and with one deft movement had thrown it over the both of them, grabbed Lily’s wrist and pulled her out of the kitchen, calling his goodbyes and thanks to the house elves.

The dash back was taxing for Lily not that she was unfit, just that James’ legs were considerably longer than hers and every bounding step he took was three of her own.

The sun was just beginning to rise as they reached the door of the Infirmary; they let themselves in, both panting heavily.

“Next time…” Lily gasped, “you can carry me.”

"Next time?” James replied in mock innocence, his own breathing returning to normal. “Planning for more midnight snacks then?”

She smiled. “Not if you don’t shut up.”

He laughed quietly so as not to disturb the rest of the sleeping ward. He captured her waist in his hands, dragging her towards him, still half expecting her to fight back and hex him. Instead she exhaled a light, free laugh and mirrored his actions, wrapping her arms around him. He marveled at how easy it was just to touch her, to hold her like this.

He wondered idly if it was all just a spectacular dream; if maybe he’d been knocked down by the Death Eaters and was currently drifting away in delirium.

If so, he didn’t want to wake up.

Lily Evans had been an unattainable object for the better part of 4 years. He’d been deflected, rejected and met with icy silence by her, but here she was: in his arms, wanting him.

“We should probably get into bed,” he sighed. She cocked an eyebrow at him in good-natured incredulity. “So it won’t look suspicious.” He added quickly. “Also, they’re going to be awake soon,” he said, inclining his head towards the rows of sleeping students.

She groaned. “I don’t think sleep is going to be an option for me.”

He smirked. “No, not for me either, but if Poppy finds out we’ve been enjoying, er, ourselves, she might think the activity’s a bit strenuous and we’ll never get out of here.”

She nestled against him and he tightened his arms, completely reluctant to let her go. His mouth was saying one thing, but the situation called for another.

“James?” she murmured.


She bit her lip. “D’you think we could make this a regular thing?”

“Lily, are you suggesting more night time maraudering? Surely not.”

She punched him playfully. “You know what I mean.”

“I don’t suppose it would be terribly becoming if I giggled like a schoolgirl.”

“I resent that.”

“Sorry,” he muttered into her hair. “This has been a very strange day. Days,” he corrected seeing the sun stream in through the window. “I’m still in a state of shock, you see. How about I take you out properly instead of making you skulk about the dungeons.”

“I rather enjoyed skulking about the dungeons.”

“I’ve been a bad influence.”

“I’d like to go out on a date—though I suppose Hogsmeade is off limits for awhile.”

He sighed and tensed a little. “Yeah.”

“This is bad isn’t it?—Understatement of the century, sorry.”

“No, you’re right, it is bad and I’ve a feeling it going to get worse.”

She was about to reply when the sound of faint footsteps echoed from outside the room.

“Quick, get into bed!” James ordered.
“You sound like my mother,” she teased over her shoulder as she scampered into bed, shrugging off her robe.

He slid into bed and looked over at her. “I hope your mother doesn’t perform demonstrations smiliar to tonight.”

“Anymore smart arse comments like that and you won’t be either.”

“I’ll shut up.”

She made a derisive noise and the door creaked open. James and Lily grinned at one another and fell down silent.

Madam Pomfrey bustled in through the doors. James rolled and stretched, yawning dramatically.

“Good Morning Madam Pomfrey,” he said brightly, sitting up and adjusting his glasses.

She stopped and narrowed her gaze. “You’re up early Mr. Potter. In all my time of knowing you you’ve never been up before 11 whilst in my charge,” she said suspiciously.

“Well, after yesterday I was pretty exhausted, fell right asleep.” He explained this guardedly, careful not to make himself sound pitiable. “Good night’s sleep makes me feel a lot better.”

She made a clucking noise and returned to her rounds. A few of the younger students were waking up. James looked over at Lily, who was still curled up in bed, giving every indication of sleep. Some how the lingering effect of last nights dalliance were more important than Voldemort or Death Eaters.

Lily stirred from her feigned sleep, she lifted her head from the pillow, just slightly so her titian tresses shivered across the austere white surface. She gave him a wink the corners of his mouth twitched indicating his pleasure.

“Good morning Miss Evans,” Madam Pomfrey said, startling James and Lily both.

“Good morning Madam Pomfrey,” Lily said warily

Madam Pomfrey gave her a benign smile and carried on.

Lily looked like she was fighting the urge to laugh nervously, run from the room screaming and throw up all at once while also trying to hide it all with a quasi-hysterical rictus of what she supposed was a serene smile. James fought down a laugh and started to get up.

Pomfrey noticed the movement, seeing as, of course, she has a third sense and possibly another set of eyes trained to follow the movements of trouble makers. “Let’s see how those scars are healing up.”
He obliged (having learnt his lesson in the second year when he refused to be co-operative and was thus hit with a full body binding curse and left for 4 hours) and showed her his ‘battle wounds’. She made a few disapproving “hm” sounds and judged it to be healing nicely, though she almost seemed disgruntled at his fast recovery.

“Listen Madam Pomfrey,” said James casually as he tugged his shirt back down, “I was thinking it might be a good idea for Lily and I to be released.” Pomfrey glared but James plundered on, bravely and (Lily thought) stupidly. “I mean, we’re both physically fine and you know, seeing as we’re Head Boy and Girl it would be good for, er, school morale.”

She seemed to consider his words with the air of a woman who might implode if prodded any further, but she could, grudgingly, see some logic to his argument. “All right Mr. Potter,” she said tersely. “But I don’t want you to attend classes tomorrow.”

He tried to look just a little perturbed that he wouldn’t have sit through Double Potions and Charms tomorrow. “Can we go now?” he blurted before recovering. “I just think it’s important to get back, for the sake of school morale.”

“Yes Mr. Potter” Madam Pomfrey said with a sigh and a tight, tolerant smile. “I’ve no doubt I’ll be seeing you again before long.”

He flashed her a sunny smile and turned to Lily who had already got out of bed and heaved her bag onto her back hastily.

Madam Pomfrey gave an offended gasp. “I’m not that bad am I?”

A/N: Sorry about the lack of updates, I've written all the way up to chapter 20, but I haven't typed them up yet, I'm currently trying to finish my major works so I hope this can tide you over for a wee bit. Thanks for all the reviews et al and I shall return!

Chapter 17: Chapter 17
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James stepped outside of the Infirmary doors and let out a relieved sigh. “Freedom.”

Lily raised her eyebrows. “You could have escaped at any time, in fact, you did,” she reminded him.

“Yeah, but I don’t have to go back now, do I? See, it’s a matter of principle.”

“You don’t like being copped up, do you?” she observed.

“Not really. I’m a man of action,” he said with a smirk.

“That you are.”

They stopped at the top of the stairs, a familiar feeling of uncertainty creeping up on them.


“What happens now?” Lily asked, casting her gaze into his.

“Buggered if I know. I suppose we should go see Dumbledore; maybe shower first.”

He really was delightfully oblivious sometimes. “No,” she said calmly, “I mean us.”

“Oh.” His face froze in a rictus of concentration, trying to look nonchalant, but his hand betrayed him by immediately raking through his hair. “Us?” he repeated as if getting used to the word. “Thought you knew. I’m just winging it here.”

She smiled shyly and moved down a step. “Well I don’t usually spend half the night kissing boys that I have repeatedly wished painful hexes on.”

“And performed some too,” James added cheerfully. “Look Lily, I’m not…there was nothing casual about last night.”

“I know that, but how are we going to do this?”

“You really like rules don’t you?”

“I like understanding.”

“Fair enough.” All this talking about his feelings and his plans was making him slightly queasy. He’d never had to be so diplomatic in the face of a possible relationship; he’d found that that with most girls the ‘Shoot first’, approach usually worked. However the sensible, logical part of his brain was screaming for him not to screw it up. “How does the word ‘relationship’ sound to you?” he said modestly, trying to defeat the fact that his tongue had become a lump of clay.

“Bit banal, actually, but I like the context you’re implying,” Lily replied brightly.

He grinned with barely contained manic euphoria and fought to keep his voice even. “That shower is sounding quite good now. Have you got a spare set of clothes?”

“Should do, Marjorie’s pretty considerate and completely anal retentive.”

A thought struck him. “What are we going to say to everyone?”

She bit her lip. “I hadn’t actually thought about that.”

He looked pensive for a moment but his eyes began to glint with the distinct hint of mischief. “We could always pin up an announcement on the notice board, or all over the school, or a quick ‘Sonorous’ would have everyone in the know,” he teased her perilously.

Her eyes narrowed to slits and she glared. “No,” she said firmly.

“Perhaps a tasteful one page ad in the Daily Prophet?”

She gave an exasperated groan and started down the stairs.

He didn’t hesitate in running after her, bouncing along like a hyperactive child in front of her eyes, continuing to make stupid suggestions. “I know a couple of charms that would work on firecrackers. I could get it tattooed to my forehead. I could enchant your t-shirts.” Etc. He knew that he was beginning to grate on her nerves, after all, he had been the expert for the previous 6 years.

He continued to taunt her, utterly confident with himself, dancing under her nose, a few steps ahead.

She could feel the blood pounding in her ears, but found his antics oddly endearing, but she would never let him see that.

Well, perhaps not.

She swiftly seized his face in her hands and pulled him to her, kissing him. He let out a muffled sound of surprise but didn’t really seem to mind.

“Or,” she said breathlessly, resting her forehead against his, “We could continue to do that at every available opportunity.”

The rest of the day was, for the most part, spent allaying the fears of other students. Even if James had only been using ‘school morale’ as an excuse to get away from the manic clutches of Madam Pomfrey, it seemed that the presence of Head Boy and Girl (alive, well and brimming with assurance) had a calming effect on everyone.

The moment they had stepped into the Gryffindor common room, hair still damp from their showers, James still joking about how much time she’d taken, the room had gone very, very silent then very, very loud as they were both greeted enthusiastically, assaulted by a barrage of questions and nearly knocked to the ground by a bunch of exuberant first years.

Everyone was speaking so loudly and quickly that nothing could be separated from the din and recognised as speech. Lily and James threw each other looks of bemusement and waited till the hoards had dispersed and quieted, now waiting with revered silence, waiting for a report, an explanation, comfort. Anything. Something.

“Prongs!” Peter called from the top of the stairs, he hurried down, stumbling slightly in his haste and stood in front of James, his expression and countenance clearly showing that he hadn’t slept a wink of sleep throughout the night.
“All right Wormtail?” James asked him quietly.

“All right,” Peter replied brusquely, his hands fidgeting nervously. “James, what’s going on?”

“What have you been told?” Lily asked, breaking away from her friends.

The whole room looked to one another uncertainly.

“Not much,” admitted Vi. “Dumbledore basically told us not to worry and that no one had been seriously hurt and that we should all look out for one another.”

There was an angry murmur of assent and Lily and James got the impression that Dumbledore’s version on events had been less than satisfying.

“A more important question, I think, is what have you heard?” James asked the crowd.

The angry buzzing started once more but nobody seemed to be speaking to them.

“Peter?” James pushed gently.

The room silenced itself and all eyes turned to Peter as he screwed up his face in concentration, looking vaguely startled by James request. “We…there’s a lot of talk about how none of the Slytherins got hurt. Not one of them. Not even a concussion. How they all cleared off…like they knew what was going to happen.”

James considered this, nodding contemplatively. “I’ve been thinking about that too.”

Lily gave him a confused sideways glance.

“There were also some rumours going around that someone had died. Some people thought it might be Sirius because of…”

“No one died,” James said firmly, cutting Peter off with a warning glare. “Just a few cuts and bruises, nothing really big, everyone should be out in a day or so, they should be out now, but you know Madam Pomfrey, she likes to be thorough.

This description elicited more than a few sniggers form the Gryffindor students. James was beaming confidently at everyone and Lily marveled inwardly at his ability to know exactly what to say, what to do in times of fear or trouble, the way that people seemed to defer to him. She’d accused people of following him blindly before, made it sound like a slur, but she could see the way he commanded respect, didn’t ask for it, really, well he didn’t anymore at any rate.

“Any questions? Comments? Complaints?” he said casually.
Silence for a moment, then: “What about Quidditch?” Eileen Grufford called out in, her drawling Liverpool accent, she was their 5th year Chaser, a recent, but welcome addition to the team.

James laughed. “I don’t know, but it should be fine. Hogwarts is the safest place on earth; there are so many wards up that you’d be fried and skinned alive if you ever tried to get in with bad intentions. No one can get here, not with Dumbledore in charge.”

There was general sigh of relief and the crowd once again delved into pockets of furious chatter.

Lily was ushered away by Marjorie, Marty and Vi, all eager to hear the whole story from her. She managed to catch a glimpse of James over her shoulder as restless hands tugged her towards their room. James was standing serenely amidst a swarm of people, all congratulating him on one thing or another, or asking after Sirius and Remus or simply trying to talk Quidditch, but he wasn’t listening, instead he looked up at Lily and smiled clandestinely, she returned the smile briefly before she was pushed into her room and out of sight.

A/N:-Another chapter soon, I promise this is going places, I swear to God!

Chapter 18: Chapter 18
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Later that day, when all the excitement had died down, James was in his room, on his bed, scribbling down notes for a Potions essay, his books and parchment spread haphazardly on the surface. Peter had gone elsewhere one he’d discovered James wasn’t much in the mood for talking.

There was a tentative knock on the door, James looked up from his essay and smiled at the figure standing in the doorway.

“I was wondering if you wanted to go see Dumbledore, find out what’s going on then go see Sirius and Remus, fill them in.”

He considered this, stretching languidly. “Sounds like a plan.” She continued to stand in the doorway, looking as though she was waging a mental debate, James guessed the subject matter. “You can come in, you know.”

She looked startled, though extremely tempted. “Oh. I don’t think I should.”

“Afraid of being alone with me?” he inquired.

“I just don’t think it’s appropriate,” she stuttered and shrugged her shoulders, but still not budging an inch.

He shook his head, chuckling, “Don’t worry about it. Come in, Mi casa, Su casa.”

She took an anxious first step in to the dimly lit room, she looked as though she was half expecting something to leap out and disembowel her, but realizing that she was quite safe, she strode confidently across to James’s bed and stood rigidly near the end of it, as if waiting for further instruction. “What’re you doing?” she asked him, fighting to keep her voice as nonchalant as possible.

“Potions. And a bit of Arithmancy,” he told her with a sigh.

“I can’t believe you’re doing homework, I only just escaped from Marjorie, Vi and Marty. And, well, my mind is elsewhere,” she babbled, wringing her hands fretfully.

He grinned up at her and pushed away the parchment, quills and ink and swept his arm out by means of inviting her to sit down.

She did so hesitantly and chose a seat on the edge of the bed, but close enough to him (after all, there wasn’t that much bed to go around.) James moved backwards and propped himself up against the headboard, smiling sardonically at her. “You’re right, this is incredibly inappropriate, what if someone walked in all this debauchery?”

She glared at him disdainfully for a moment then sighed. “I’m still not sure how this works.”

He groaned. “Merlin, you like to talk about things, don’t you?”

“I know,” Lily said dully. “But everything’s changed. I like this, I like you, I like ‘us’, but…” she stemmed her current rambling and transfigured it into coherent speech, “look, the only other steady boyfriend I’ve had was Thurston and that wasn’t ever anything terribly serious,” she explained. “I just get this feeling that I’m out of my depth with you.”

“Why’s that a bad thing?”

“Because it scares me witless. I like knowing my boundaries, being prepared and the only things I know about you are second hand or things I can see for myself. Both highly biased.”

“So ask,” he said abruptly. “Ask me anything you want.”

She paused. “All right,” she said slowly and she searched her mind for a question. “What’s your middle name?” she blurted after a few moments of consideration.

He grimaced. “Cyril.”

She burst out laughing and immediately tried to muffle the sound with her hands. “Sorry,” she said, still giggling. “Why?”

“Thanks for your sensitivity,” he grumbled. “Old family name,” he explained, still looking quite sour, “every male Potter is blessed with it. What about yours?”
“Renee. Lily Renee. Don’t know why, first names are more the tradition, my family likes flowers though if you hadn’t noticed.”

He nodded. “Your sisters’ name’s Petunia, right?”

“Right,” and now it was her turn to frown. “So, that leads us to our next question: Family. Brothers/sisters? Parents?”

“Only child. Bit of a trend among wizarding families, usually one, rarely more than two,” he observed. “My parents are named Ignatius and Calista. My dad’s a high up Auror in the Ministry and my mum is an official for the Ministry of Law Enforcement. Your turn.”

“Well, you know about Petunia, but my parents are Daphne and George Evans, my mum used to be a primary school teacher and my dad owns a book shop. Common Muggle jobs.”

“I do know about the Muggle world, Lily, quite a bit actually.”

“How? You don’t take Muggle studies.”

“I went to Muggle primary school up until I was seven, my parents wanted me to socialise you see.”

The thought of a young James Potter rampant in a the Muggle world was entirely too troublesome a concept. “Why’d you stop going?”

“I discovered that if I really wanted something to happen, then it would. I had a lot of little girls in floods, turning their dollies into insects and monsters and the like, scaring the teachers by levitating the chalk and dusters. Caused quite a stir, I did. Most of the town seemed to think that the Devil must have been present and went on witch hunts, but nobody suspected the skinny kid with glasses,” he grinned puckishly at Lily who found that the tales of his escapades were quite amusing, really. “So my parents had to take me out of there; mostly ‘cause I was breaking all the Secrecy Laws, and I got educated at home, where I could set fire to the hedges as often as I liked, even if mum did wollop me for it.”

Lily thought back to her days in primary school and the rudimentary magic she had done back then.

“All right, your turn: Embarrassing story.”

“That wasn’t embarrassing!” she protested.

“Lily, I told you my middle name’s Cyril. James Cyril Potter. Cyril,” he reminded her.

She restrained herself from telling any story involving blackberry nip and some rather shady truth or dare games and instead told him about the time when she was five and decided to paint the bathtub with red house paint.

At that moment James felt a kind of…kinship with Lily, seeing the way she flushed and grinned impishly as she delved into other stories of a misspent youth. Including her early dalliances into magic.

“How old were you when you first realised you could do it?” James asked her, genuinely curious.

“About seven, I guess, I didn’t know what I was doing at the time, but in retrospect…” she shrugged, “I just thought I was weird.”

“We all are, it’s all a big surprise when you realise that you can do those things, I mean, I grew up in a Wizarding household and it still didn’t stop me from being completely dumbstruck the first time I really got a hold on a spell.”

“The Great James Potter?” she snorted, “I would have thought you’d have been levitating your rattle and flying your own broomstick by the time you were one,”

“Well, yes, but it didn’t stop me from strutting around the school like a pompous arse when I transfigured that hairpin first day.”

“I remember,” she said serenely. “You were such a berk.”

“Thanks,” he said, rolling his eyes.

“You still are,” she added brightly.

“Charming Evans,” he drawled, reverting back to her old title, “make a guy feel special.”

“You have your fan club for that,” she replied tartly, the use of ‘Evans’ and its associations making her feel a touch bitter.

“They only meet on weekends, and I need constant pampering,” he shot back, un-phased.

She hated how he could make her smile when she was trying to maintain an irritated glower.

“You’re a softie,” he remarked slyly, gleefully triumphant and she this time aimed a revealer at his head.

“Hey!” he protested, fending himself from the threat of more stationery themed attacks. He straightened himself up and grinned passively at her, his hand sneaking across the covers to rest next to hers. “Feel like you know me?”

“Hardly,” she replied. “But you have piqued my interest.” She tried to make her voice sound mysterious and seductive, instead she heard the shrill edge of hysteria tinge it and groaned inwardly. James did not have to know that he did funny things to her pulse.

His hand captured hers and she stared down at it, fascinated by the way his slender fingers adroitly intertwined with her own, softly stroking the tender webbing between thumb and forefinger; something helplessly sensual but playfully innocent.

She shifted closer to him, coming to kneel awkwardly to face him, his long legs arched on either side, fencing her in.

There was something wonderfully exciting about being in a boys room, alone with that boy, his hands threaded through your hair, deceptively coy smile on his face.

Every second she was thinking about how wrong this was, how many school rules she was breaking, but the lure of the forbidden was enough to keep her firmly in place. In fact it was enough to draw her closer to him.

She covered his mouth with her own, fingers twisting in that unruly hair, his arms now slung against her back, pulling her closer to him.

Thud. Thud. Thud. “Oh. Sorry.”

Both of their heads snapped around to see a very embarrassed looking Second Year standing in the doorway, his eyes downcast and his hands wringing nervously.

“Um…did you want something?” James asked in a would-be-calm voice. Lily untangled herself and hurriedly stood up, distancing herself from the bed and James.

“I, ah…yes. Um, Professor McGonagall is downstairs, she said that the Headmaster wants to see you,” the boy said to the floor.

“Thank you Parnell.”

The boy gave a timid nod and dashed from the room, quite clearly wishing he had knocked beforehand.

James cleared his throat and look up at Lily who had her hands over her mouth and a mortified expression on her face. “I can’t believe that just happened,” Lily groaned, the sound muffled by her fingers.

James quickly turned a laugh into a hacking cough. “Bound to happen sooner or later, and I seem to recall you suggesting that we, ahem, do that at every available opportunity.”

She glared at him. “How can you be laughing?” she accused viciously, as he now reclined lazily, looking utterly smug and confident. And infuriating.

“It’s not a big deal, Lily, we weren’t doing anything wrong.”

“Ah, except for me being alone with you in your dorm room,” she replied caustically.

“Is that a rule?” he asked casually.

“I thought you would know, seeing as you went about breaking all of them systematically.”

“Still got a few to go,” James responded, keeping his face remarkably neutral, “haven’t committed a murder or impersonated a woman. Except for that one time.”

Normally she would have yelled, but his jovial, owlish face, the gentle humour in his voice was soothing in way, and she allowed a begrudging smile and he beamed back.

“Come on, McGonagall’s downstairs.”

That effectively destroyed her mood. “Oh God. What’s she going to think? What’s she going to say?”

“Stop worrying about other people’s opinions,” he said, throwing his legs over the side of the bed and pulling his shoes towards him.

“You might not mind being viewed as a…a…a trollop! But I do.”

“A trollop? Oh, my honour,” James retorted blandly, not reacting to Lily’s increasing hysteria.

She made and exasperated noise and turned to leave, his arm flashed out with all the reflexes of a well-trained chaser and caught her wrist.

“Don’t.” It wasn’t an order, but a gentle request, the deep thrum of his voice catching in her mind, immediately dulling the panic and anger. She turned to him and he stood up, his movements slow and deliberate, his height quite evident as he towered over her.

“I’m sorry,” he said softly, using his limited knowledge of female behaviour to rectify the situation. “I don’t know when to shut up, it’s a chemical imbalance or something,” he said earnestly.

“All right,” she sighed. “We’d better get going anyway. And no more ‘tasteful’ jokes from you.”

“What? Me? Never!”

McGonagall’s only acknowledgement of their synchronised exit from the boy’s dorm was a disapproving but largely indifferent expression. James thought that they might have looked less conspicuous if Lily hadn’t immediately tried to explain and then promptly coloured as red as her hair.

The walk to Dumbledore’s office was mostly silent, with the occasional and slightly desperate inquiry from McGonagall about their health, state of mind, homework, home life, families etc.

James wondered idly if he should reach for Lily’s hand, but as she had folded them across her chest, this was out of the question.

“Acid Pops.” And with that, they were directed into the Headmaster’s office, leaving McGonagall to wait outside the door, ever obedient.

“Ah, Mr Potter, Miss Evans, I’m very pleased to you both up and about,” Dumbledore said jovially, sitting behind his vast desk, with it’s impressive and interesting array of gadgets, “though I am a little surprised; Poppy is usually reluctant to let her go of her charges before anything less than 2 days, and after that those patients are usually cured of every ailment known to wizard kind. Very thorough.”

James smiled puckishly and chanced a joke, albeit a lame one, but he was slightly nervous. “Perhaps she feels that my presence can only be cured by my absence.”

“No doubt,” Dumbledore agreed. “Take a seat please.” He conjured up a couple of cushy chairs and gestured for the two of them to sit. “You are, of course, curious as to the content of information I’ve collected over the course of the past twenty-four hours,” Dumbledore began calmly.

“I guess you could say that,” Lily replied haughtily, still rather on edge.

Dumbledore peered intently at her and then shifted his gaze to James, he appeared to be choosing his words, sizing them up for assessment. “As Head Boy and Girl, you will know that you were chosen for specific skills, abilities, character traits. Things that are important to maintain the morale and the atmosphere of this school.” James and Lily knew that Dumbledore liked to indulge in highly cryptic messages, so they didn’t complain at the ambiguous beginning, they merely, sat, watched, waited, listened.

“James, you have perhaps wondered, as with the rest of the school I wager, why you were chosen for Head Boy; I want to assure you it had nothing to do with favouritism or a particular fondness for your practical jokes, and everything to do with your mind and your heart. You are a fine young man James, an exemplary student and person, students look up to you, and follow you even in your less inspired moments, you possess the ability to lead, to provide understanding and guidance…and the capacity to control Sirius Black,” he added as an afterthought.

James had sunk into his chair like a sullen teenager being extolled by his mother, embarrassed by the attention and the praise stinging his adolescent sensibilities. Lily thought it rather a joke that he could be so boastful about something as trivial as Quidditch and yet find Dumbledore’s honest commendation of his virtues dishonourable to his Code of Misconduct or something.

She mused a moment on the complexities of a teenage boy’s mind before she realised that Dumbledore was now watching her with that intense, off-putting stare. “Miss Evans, your appointment to Head Girl, I feel, was inevitable, you have always been sound of heart and mind, an extremely talented and promising witch, even from a young age, headstrong and brave, disciplined and kind to almost everyone,” he indicated with a slight nod in the direction of James, just who was the exception to that rule. “Despite what they may think of you and your heritage.”

“There is no fence in this war, no happy medium; you are either in agreement with Voldemort or you are not.” He paused, his hands steepled in front of him. “Remus’s conjecture about Lord Voldemort’s intentions during yesterday’s attack was quite correct, from what I can gather, it was an exercise in showing the Wizarding populace just what He does to those who oppose him.”

There was a lengthy silence wherein Lily and James expected him to say more, but he appeared to be finished and now waiting for their reaction.

Lily gathered her wits and tried to dull the sense of bafflement at his words (which induced anger for some reason). “Sir, with all due respect, there’s a school full of students who don’t know what to think because they don’t know anything. I understand all about examples and choosing sides, but we can’t tell this to a frightened 12 year old, they need facts,” she finished resolutely, her head held high, defiant and proud, she stared at the Headmaster, his expression relaxed into one of patient benevolence and she wilted. “Please, sir.”

“You’re quite right, Lily, but I’m afraid there’s not much more to give. Voldemort works in secret, we only see what He allows us to see and we must work with educated guess and imprecise details.”

“We?” James interjected suddenly, shaking from his apparent stupor. “Who’s ‘we?”

But Dumbledore just smiled benignly and ignored the question. “I can tell you that Voldemort has grown more confident, that this attack is likely to be the first of many similar, very public attacks.”

James slumped in his chair, looking for the first time as tired as he felt. “What can we do?” he sighed, remembering asking his father the same question last year.

“You can remain safe, James, and you can keep others safe.”

James scowled. “That’s what my dad said last year, we’re not children, I think we’ve proved we can do more than play ‘keep-away’.”

“No, you’re not children,” Dumbledore said placatingly, stroking his silvery beard thoughtfully, “but neither are you adults. We all have our parts to play and I feel it’s far to early for your performance.”

James did not answer this, instead choosing to adopt the pout of a petulant child.

“I will, however, do my best to keep you informed. Knowledge is, at the moment, the most powerful weapon we have.” The Headmaster moved one thin fingered hand gracefully across the table, picking up a quill, slowly and deliberately, he fingered it absentmindedly for few seconds before speaking again. “Is there anything you wish to ask or tell me?”

James and Lily exchanged a look. James started speaking, his eyes still fixed on Lily’s. “Some of the students, have, er, expressed concern over the fact that none of the Slytherins had been hurt, how they all managed to clear out in time, like they knew what was going to happen.”

“Be careful what you say, James,” Dumbledore warned gently.

“They’re in on it,” James replied viciously, abandoning all eloquence. “They’ve got to be. Everyone knows that they’re not afraid to use the Dark Arts, ambitious enough to fall under any git who offered them a bit of power.”

Dumbledore did not say anything at first, he merely cocked his head at an odd angle, as if listening for something neither of them could hear, his long, spindly fingers again arched in front of him. “And what would you propose I do?” he inquired calmly.

“I don’t know. Expel them,” James suggested angrily.

“I cannot make rash decisions based on a generalisations, James. We Gryffindors are naturally inclined to be suspicious of Slytherins, however it does not do well to hold biases against all of them. Not all Slytherins are ‘bad’, just as not all Gryffindors, or Ravenclaws, or Hufflepuffs are ‘good’. People are bound by character, their house does not define who they are necessarily.”

James snorted derisively. “Death Eaters are more likely to be Slytherins, it’s a fact, its part of their whole creed.”

“If I expel them, they will most certainly fall into league with Voldemort. I will not abandon my students; they too need protection, James.”

“I think it’s too late to ‘protect’ them, Headmaster.”

“It is never too late. People are allowed to change.”

Lily remained silent throughout James’s little diatribe. She agreed with Dumbledore and thought that James’s vision was impaired by his contempt for Slytherin house. People were always worthy of second chance and James should know that, he was best friends with a Black afterall.

“What do we tell the students?” Lily asked, seeing that James was now quietly smouldering in indignation, knowing that Dumbledore had a point.

“What you will,” he replied munificently. “The truth perhaps.”

He dismissed them with beatific smile reminiscent of the ones they had seen on his face in their early years, somewhat bitter sweet now, because they knew it was a gesture of comfort.

Dumbledore watched as James held the door open for Lily, still sullen and moping from his talk with Dumbledore, he never the less managed a smile when Lily grazed his arm with her delicate fingers.

McGonagall entered the room almost directly after James and Lily had exited it.

“Did you tell them?” she asked brusquely; Minerva McGonagall had never been the kind of woman to beat around the bush.

Dumbledore smiled in a hollow sort of manner. “No.”

A/N: So I know it's been a long time coming, sorry...lots of stuff going on, like graduation and all that that entails, the next chapter shouldn't take as long, but don't hold me to it.

Chapter 19: Chapter 19
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“Still in bed, Sirius? It’s one in the afternoon, lazy scrounger.”

Sirius’ tousled head snapped up; he had been lolling lazily on the bed, still dressed in his pyjamas, apparently involved in a rather boring game of Exploding Snap with Remus who was still looking frail and drawn, but he appeared comfortable, or at least used to this.

James’ grinned wickedly at his friend, an impish and yet droll expression that Lily had seen on his face numerous times when he was in the vicinity of one Sirius Black.

Lily felt immediately forgotten as James strode away from her and over to Sirius and Remus who smiled back at him, looking bored and a little bit sullen, but overall relieved to see James.

Lily lingered in the background, suddenly quite nervous now that she was faced with the sudden reality of their situation and just what this little confrontation would mean. She could only think that the timing was bad, and that they should hold off any sort of announcement for now. Yes, that would be best.

“Peter’s already been by,” Remus informed James as he reached the bed, standing by it. He said nothing, simply nodding in reply. Lily noticed that he moved with a slightly nervous energy, as if scared or worried, but he hid it all behind that smile, that laid-back stance.

“All right Sirius?” he asked.

“All right,” Sirius replied, “but bloody bored.”

James and Remus snorted and rolled their eyes. “He’s been insufferable,” Remus sighed, stretching in the chair he had pulled up beside Sirius’ bed. “Won’t stop moaning about how bored he is, and he won’t do anything to help himself either, because apparently, study is beneath him, and he’s allergic to books.”

Sirius screwed up his nose at the mere mention of them and Remus shook his head mournfully. “Insufferable,” he repeated.

Lily studied the way James fiddled with his calloused index finger, scraping the thumb along it as if trying to distract his hands. “And you? What about you Remus? Is Madam Pomfrey taking good care of our boy?” She noted the slight edge to his voice, the way he shifted weight from one foot to the other.

Remus’ expression grew dark and mulish, uncharacteristically ugly. “You’d think I was on my deathbed the way she carries on.” James gave a brief, barking laugh and Remus’ eyes drifted to Lily, who felt about five, on the night of her first dance rehearsal. Remus rarely missed things and it seemed he noticed that his own anxiety was dwarfed by hers; he gave a fleeting smile and what she thought might be a wink and turned away.

Sirius had not failed to notice this little exchange and his face grew dark and defiant. “ ‘Lo Evans,” he said flatly, keen grey eyes boring into her own.

There was nothing kind or warm in Sirius’ eyes, he appeared to her as he normally did (with very the rare exception of his fight with Regulus): arrogant, possessive and dangerous. She had expected as much and she remembered with an unpleasant sinking feeling that they hadn’t even told him yet.

She decided to grin and bear it, forcing herself to remember two things: 1. Sirius didn’t scare her and 2. He had recently been under the Cruciatus Curse, perhaps she could blame the behaviour on that.

The latter was doubtful.

“Hello Sirius, Remus,” she said brightly, stepping forward. Remus smiled, polite as always and Sirius remained stoic, but this did not deter her calm manner. “James, I’m just going to check on some of the other students.”

He nodded dumbly and watched her walk over to a cluster of injured Third Years, all yammering excitedly. He turned back to his friends with a dopey, dazed smile on his face.

Sirius groaned at the familiar expression and Remus interjected before Sirius could ay anything.

“What did Dumbledore have to say?”

“Everything and nothing,” James said, adopting the gentle intonations of their Headmasters’ voice. “The sky, the stars the universe and the tiny little hairs on his nose, and I didn’t understand a word of it.”

“Another round of cryptic clues, then?” Remus sighed.

James nodded. “I just wish he’d be straight with us, it’s not like we can’t handle it, not like we’re kids anymore.”


“Don’t you ‘technically’ me, Lupin,” James growled.

Sirius still hadn’t said anything, but now looked up at James, looking as though he hadn’t taken in a word of the conversation, instead having been too wrapped up in the contemplation of just how bored he really was.

James did a quick scan of the room to find Lily and let out a sort of contented sigh as he watched her comfort the students, laughing and talking easily.

This grabbed Sirius’ attention and the sour look returned to his face.

“What?” James said testily.

“Why’d you bring her along?”

“Ah, because she’s Head Girl, she’s got the same responsibilities as me and she wanted to see the two of you.”

The look on his best friend’s face was fair indication that now was not the best time for announcements, though he knew it would be better if he got it all over with now.

“Bit insensitive, did you even think of Moony when you—“

James cut him off. “Of course I did, she knows now, can’t change that fact, so you may as well get used to it. I don’t see Remus complaining and besides, Lily and I’ve talked about it—“

“When?” Sirius demanded.

“Last night.” He suddenly felt a giddy urge to tell Sirius right there and then (along with the rest of the ward, and then the rest of the school (whom he suspected knew already), and then his snobby cousin Ophelia who said he’d never ever be able to get anyone of Lily’s calibre, and the then the rest of the Wizarding population and then—

Sirius laughed bitterly. “Never let it be said that you’re not an opportunist Prongs. Use a bad situation and a friend for you own benefit.”

James blinked, a cold resolve coming across his features as he absorbed what Sirius had said. “Don’t talk to me about ‘using’ people, Sirius,”.

Sirius’ mouth was left in a gaping ‘O’ and he looked away from James’s dispassionate stare, fidgeting with the bed-sheets as though he’d quite like to tear them to shreds and use them to merrily strangle James.

Remus sighed outwardly, groaned inwardly and waited for the storm to pass, wondering again if Sirius was ever going to stop paying for what he did to him. To all of them. He thought (as he so often did) that perhaps they were all clinging to some childhood ideal of ‘friends forever’, and while the sentiment was honourable, reality had a most difficult habit of interfering.

James physically deflated his ‘impressive’ stance (Sirius had always said that he looked like a starved chicken trying to make its self intimidating). “Sorry,” he murmured, finding something very interesting about his shoe.

“No, I am.” Sirius said with eager contrition, “Really Prongs, don’t listen to me, I…”

“I never do,” James replied steadily; he felt guilty for berating his closest friend after he had…after what Bella had done.

“One day you’ll regret not listening to my worldly advice, James.”

James swallowed, “Sure, I will, Sirius and then I’ll go out and openly declare my undying love for Lucius Malfoy.”

“Blondes have never been your weakness,” Remus intoned slyly, a knowing nod towards Lily.

James ears coloured and the three of them turned their attention towards Lily, who was currently talking to a couple of Second Years. She looked up and the three of them immediately snapped their heads around, feigning innocence.

James shoved his hands in his pockets and looked guilty. “Look, I might as well tell you this seeing as you’re bound to find out anyway and it should be all over the school by, well, now…” he rambled, much to the amusement of his friends.

“Spit it out, man,” Sirius cajoled.

James took a deep breath, desperately trying to seek out some of that ‘Gryffindor courage’ that he usually had no trouble finding.

“Lily and I…we aren’t just…friends anymore,” he said carefully. “I, I mean to say we kissed.”

The words sort of hung there, empty and pathetic. Sirius and Remus seemed genuinely stunned.

There was something unreadable in Sirius’s eyes, though, but it was only a brief glint and disappeared as his features melted in his familiar grin. “And you still have all your body parts?”

“Still. And I’m hoping that it’s a continuing trend.”

“What? The kissing? Or the keeping-all-your-limbs-intact part?” Remus asked.

“Both.” James relaxed a little, seeing as Sirius seemed jovial enough and Remus had actually managed a smile; these were considered good signals. “The kissing trend has so far been successful,” he reported, feeling almost exactly like a giddy 14 year old relating the details of his first date.

Sirius raised his eyebrows, “And we all thought she had better taste.”

“She’s shown that frequently, for on thing, she’d never dated you.”

“Likes ‘em big and dumb, I guess.”

“As opposed to sissy and stringy,” James shot back, a welcome note of teasing in his voice.

“Right, because you’re the very image of bulking masculinity”

“Congratulations James,” Remus interjected, “we knew you’d wear her down eventually.”

“He’s an acquired taste.” Lily had snuck up behind them, the look on her face suggested she’d been listening for a while.

Remus gave her a genuine, but shy smile, but he did not look away. She took a couple of steps forward, coming to stand awkwardly in their circle. Sirius pasted on his most beatific smile and began talking, his words stumbling over one another.

“So here she is, and we thought she’d had much higher standards, morals, values! James has been fantasising over this day for years now, Evans, glad to see that you took pity on the boy and offered him a little bit of relief, should give him something to think about for a while…”

“Sirius,” James warned. Sirius gave no reply, his face a mask of innocence.

In a rush of defiance and the thrill of excitement, Lily captured James’s hand with her own and smiled at Sirius, daring him to protest. All of her previous calm and intentions or going easy on him forgotten. James looked helplessly between Lily’s stony faced rebellion, and Sirius’s expression of forced calm.

James looked at Remus who could offer no more comfort than a shrug.

“So when are you getting let out?” James asked, hoping to break the tension.

It worked; at least for Sirius it did. “Don’t know. Maybe you could have a word with Madam Pomfrey for us.”

“I’m all right. I should be able to get out with my usual story about ‘needing to relax in a comfortable environment’. But Sirius is going to have a little more difficulty, she’s really overdoing it this time,” Remus told him.

Sirius’s groan was evidence as to just how much she was overdoing it. “ ‘Don’t turn over, I’ll do it for you’, ‘Do you need help sitting up? Breathing? Chewing?’. Honestly, she’ll be asking if I need help going to the bathroom next.”

“I don’t know, she might be eager to get you out, she ought to have learned her lesson by now, anyway.”

“Worth a shot,” Remus said dully.

Sirius seemed determined not to look at Lily and kept his gaze firmly focused on James, his mouth a thin, set line, his eyes false with casual disinterest. His eyes always gave him away (The kind of eyes, Sirius would gloat, that girls would wax lyrical about).

They remained quiet for a few uneasy moments before Sirius seemingly got bored and flipped himself out of bed. “Right, enough laying about, got to go see a maternal, scary type about a dog. Coming, Lupin?” He didn’t wait for a reply and Remus sighed, stood up and followed submissively.

“Better get back to the Tower, I’ve a feeling this is going to take awhile,” he said and jogged off to catch up to Sirius.

James and Lily were suddenly keenly aware of the curious stares of the rest of the ward and decided to make their way out.

As the door closed behind them they could Madam Pomfrey’s enraged voice “What are you doing out of bed?!”

A/N: I updated! Hallehlujah! I hope that this chapter isn't a let down. Thank you all for being so patient and supportive while I waged a war with my computer. I will try to be more regular about it from now (seeing as I have oodles of spare time). Again, thank you to everyone!

Chapter 20: Chapter 20
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“Well that was interesting,” Lily said as they made the journey back to their Common Room.

James remained silent and Lily suspected (rather astutely) that he was angry. “What?” she asked in not overly friendly tones.

James stopped walking, turning to face her. “Why’d you have to push him like that? He’s hurt, Lily and this isn’t like all those Quidditch injuries, this is serious,” he said sternly. He continued: ‘You were trying to provoke him into getting angry.”

“No, I was defying him to, there’s a difference,” she replied stubbornly.

“Are you that insensitive?” James asked, his voice low and feral. “After what happened, you can’t just expect him to be all sunshine and daisies.”

Lily was momentarily speechless; hurt and anger flushing across her face, her breath hitched as though she was swallowing a particularly poisonous retort, when she finally managed to speak, her voice was tight and controlled.

“I understand that he’s your best friend, I know that he’s not a bad guy. But he doesn’t want me near you and I will not be scared into backing down by someone with the emotional maturity of a ten year old, I was showing him that I wasn’t going anywhere.”

“So you were using me just to make a point?” James inquired bitterly.

“To be honest: yes.” James opened his mouth, Lily didn’t wait to hear what he had to say. “And that point was that I’m not going anywhere.”

The little light of realisation sparked. “Oh.”

“Yes. Oh,” she repeated fiercely.

James continued to soak in that information, he looked both embarrassed and bewildered and the white hot anger Lily had been feeling began to ebb away, leaving only a sickening feeling of guilt.

“I didn’t meant to be so blunt with Sirius, I shouldn’t have acted like that. He’s a good man, I know it, I’ve seen it and after what he went through yesterday…” she found herself looking into James’s eyes, “well, I shouldn’t have.”

She looked so tired. James stretched his hand out, and brushed his fingertips lightly against her hair.

He smiled ruefully, “He didn’t seem to have much of a problem with it until you came over.”

“Black’s a very complicated sort.”

“To say the least.”

“The very least.”

They smiled mildly at one another, James’s hand dropped away from her face. “I didn’t mean what I said before.”

“It was true,” she conceded, shrugging it off.

“No, I… I shouldn’t have said it though.”

“Reminds you of old times, huh?”

He laughed briefly and somewhat dourly. “A little too much.”

She reached up and pressed a kiss onto his cheek, “Let’s get back to the Tower.”

The Fat Lady was waiting for them, a knowing smile on her face. “Heard all about the two of you,” she said smugly.

James didn’t seem rattled by the fact that his personal life seemed to be the school’s talking point (but the, Lily surmised, it usually was). She, however, could only manage a nervous titter.

“Here goes,” James said bracingly.

They stepped in to the room. James: ever confident in his stride, Lily with some trepidation.

The Common Room was crowded and every occupant was now focused on them.

“This is ridiculous,” Lily whispered irately. “Honestly, it’s not that big, is it?”

“Apparently so,” James answered, his mood decidedly chipper.

Lily looked longingly at the stairwell, desperate for escape. She wasn’t quite ready to meet the critics, and as it was, they were being stared at with the same sort of grim fascination that people reserved for watching Quidditch collisions.

“I…ah, I’ve got to get going, James.” The whispers had started again and Lily didn’t care for opportunity, she just wanted to get the hell out of there.

“Bye Lily,” James trilled.

She moved swiftly up the staircase towards her dorm room, ignoring the sets of eyes upon her. She tried to affect a detached air as she took one final step and entered her dorm room.

She collapsed against the door with a groan, sliding down into a puddle of her own embarrassment.

“That bad, huh?” said a deeply amused voice from somewhere in the recesses of their slightly messy room.

Lily started. She hadn’t realised there was anyone else in the room.

“Vi?” And she sorely wished there wasn’t. Wallowing in self misery was not a spectator sport.

“Expecting someone else?” Vi replied, flipping herself off the bed with barely suppressed glee.

Lily picked herself up from the floor and moved to the confines of her bed. Vi came to sit upon the end of her bed. Obnoxiously happy.

“So,” Vi began, laughter bubbling beneath the surface of her voice, “I heard the strangest thing, Lily.”

Lily groaned audibly.

"It was about you and a certain Mr James Potter, it involved activities not strictly outlined as Head Boy and Girl responsibilities, though some do consider a tradition of sorts” she continued smoothly.

Lily sat up and glared at Vi who took great delight in this reaction.

She smirked and gestured dramatically, “Well, I told them: I wouldn’t believe it until I’d heard it from the horse’s mouth because Lily Evans would never sink so low as to knock around with James Potter. Lily Evans would never go into the boy’s dorms with another boy who’s name just happens to be James Potter. Lily Evans…”

“ All right!” Lily exclaimed, resiting the urge to strangle her. Vi waited as Lily fidgeted nervously with the end of her bedspread. “James and I…we…” she struggled to think of how to put it, “kissed,” she finished pathetically.

“Well, I figured as much, but I want details!”

Lily pinched the bridge of her nose between thumb and forefinger, blushing several shades of red. “I’m not going to paint a big, vulgar picture for you Vi. Use your imagination.”

“You don’t want me to that, the end result would be terribly distasteful,” she scoffed.

“Ha,” Lily replied flatly.

“Oh come on,” Vi grumbled. She moved forward and grabbed Lily’s shoulders, shaking her slightly, “Tell me all your dirty little secrets.”

Lily pushed Vi’s arms away and covered her own face with her hands. “It was nice,” she said, her words muffled through her palms.

“I’ll bet it was,” Vi said suggestively.

“I think you’ll find my version is a lot less interesting than the rumours,” Lily muttered.

“Nothing beats the truth.”

Lily eyed her disbelievingly. “We only kissed. Really. It’s not as if I was going to throw myself at him with mad, impetuous lust.”

“Blood from a stone,” Vi sighed. Lily glared at her. “All right! All right! I believe you!”

“Good. Could we please change the subject now?” For some perpetually odd reason, talking about the event would always be more difficult than the doing of said event.

Vi nodded, a smug look of supreme satisfaction on her face. Her fluffy blonde hair and doe eyes often reminded those around her of a lamb, but Violet Prunella was most definitely the wolf.

The door swung open and an irate Marty stormed in through it. A henpecked looking Marjorie following behind; Marty gave Lily a venomous look and swiftly exited the room.

“This should be fun,” Vi said resignedly. She gave Lily a wink and a grin and hurried out after her friend.

Marjorie stood at the door, leaning against the frame, her face cradled in her hands. “She’s not happy,” she announced, sighing heavily.

“I gathered that.”

Marjorie came to collapse on the end of her bed. “Be glad that you didn’t have to break the news to her, we’d all be attending your funeral otherwise.”

“That bad?”

Marjorie gave her a look which clearly said that it was indeed that bad. “Wish you’d given us a little more notice, we could have at least chained her down in the dungeons.”

“I didn’t exactly plan it.”

“No, I didn’t see it on your schedule. I believe I would have noticed that.”

Lily tossed a pillow at her head.

“Hey! Is that any kind of way to treat the girl who just spent four hours trying to calm down a very scorned young woman, all so that you didn’t end up with a case of boils tomorrow.”

“My most sincere thanks.”

Marjorie didn’t ask about James and Lily didn’t elaborate, they just in a comfortable silence, the sound of Marty’s increasingly high pitched wails carrying up the stairwell.

Lily awoke the next morning to find an empty dorm room. She came to a partially groggy conclusion that it must be Monday, and that she must have been asleep quite soundly.

She showered and dressed for the day, thudding downstairs feeling as though she’d hadn’t slept a wink.

“Morning, sunshine,” James sang out in an obnoxiously cheerful voice.

“Morning,” she murmured dully. “Is it still morning?” she added, taking a rather ungraceful tumble down the final two steps.

“Still,” James affirmed, in that evergreen chirpy voice. “11:36, actually,” he said.

He got up. Lily might have noticed -- had she been in a more conscious and observant state -- that he was fidgeting nervously, but to her it simply looked as though he was bouncing around in an affected manner, and she was much too tired to deal with James’ ‘affected mannerisms’.

“I’m impressed, Lily, you overslept me by a half hour.”

She didn’t reply, but instead flopped down onto the lounge in front of the fireplace. After a moment’s hesitation, James planted himself beside her. She glanced at him and was able to see just how apprehensive he was. She moved a little closer, barely touching him, but enough to make him jump. It was a power Lily had thought she would never revel in.

He smelt crisp and clean, the tang of soap and the musk of aftershave: an intoxicating combination.

She closed her eyes and yawned. “Not a morning person,” she said apologetically.

He laughed softly and she felt him slide his arm around her, drawing her into his body. “I know.”

The whole tower was silent apart from the crackle of the fire, and the occasional wet THUD of snow on the window ledge. They were completely alone, and completely aware of that.

Now she was awake.

She tried to remember proper dating etiquette, but surmised that James defied explanation, convention and example. Besides, they had been performing this clumsy balancing act for some years now, it had all culminated in a kiss before their first date; there was no reason to act demure now.

Her hand splayed across his chest, enjoying the way his breathing became shallow. He smiled down at her with befuddled delight.

“So…are you hungry?” he said abruptly, the words spilling uneasily from his mouth. “We could go get some breakfast.”

She peered at his wristwatch. “Or lunch.”

“Bruch?” he suggested.


“Food,” he compromised.

“So, er, do you want to go now?” She hoped she had kept the petulance from her voice. She didn’t really want to go anywhere.

“If you do.”

She was on the verge of replying ‘Only if you do,’ but caught herself at the last second. “I feel like it's Third Year all over again.”

“Yeah, well, that’s about as far as my own maturity extends. Come on.” He shuffled off the couch, onto his feet and offered her his hand.

Lily accepted it and tried to keep her face from showing her disappointment. The relative newness of a relationship, still scented with a fresh and untainted optimism, the way every glance and touch and thought was something unventured…she had always liked that feeling.

“Picnic?” James suggested in a would-be-casual voice.

Lily looked outside, through the frosty windows and the snow obscuring much of her view, she gave him a puzzled look.

He grinned.

A/N: Sorry about the long waits between updates, everyone, but thanks for the continued support.

Chapter 21: Chapter 21
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He watched them.

The way she placed her hand on his knee and didn’t think twice or even at all about it, the light, five fingered flutter across his arm, the way his face split into a wide, dopey grin every time she came into contact with him like he still couldn’t believe his good fortune. Watched her laugh, red strands of hair flying about as she shook her head, a guilty smile on her face as he said something unseemly or un-towards (otherwise known as a ‘joke’); she’d spent years ignoring him and lecturing him, and even now she didn’t seem entirely comfortable with what he was saying.

Well, it looked that way to Sirius anyway.

“What are you doing?”

Sirius turned around to find Remus slouching, hands shoved in his pockets, his lips twitching to suggest a smile.

Sirius disengaged from the tree he had been using as cover. “Why my dear Moony, I am observing the mating rituals of the Plucky Redhead and her eager beau: the Thick-headed Tit. See how he preens himself, tactlessly parading his less than ample physical attributes: scrawny, pasty and quite frankly: daft, but we all know she hasn’t a whit of taste and…she’s fallen for it.”

Remus shook his head slowly, “You know, Padfoot, I don’t want to suggest that you’re mad, but really, it’s the only logical conclusion.”

Sirius grinned lazily and reclined against the tree, “What are you on about?”

Remus waved a hand in the general direction of the Plucky Redhead and her Thick-headed Tit. “Do they know that you’ve taken up an interest in bird watching?”

“Moony,” he said seriously, “I’m always watching the birds.”

Remus sighed and shook his head again. Sirius was peeking around the tree trunk again, watching as James rather clumsily launched himself at Lily, try to grab something out of her hand, managing only to push her backwards onto the snow, they tussled a moment longer, but James was 90 percent limbs, so he always had the advantage of being a very tall, gangly boy. Besides, if Lily had really wanted out, they’d probably have been able to build a snowman out his gathered bits for the next week.

Remus and Sirius watched as Lily pushed James’ glasses back up his nose and Remus suddenly felt a little too like a dirty old man and he turned away, Sirius made a low sound in his throat as he backed away and a scowl crossed his face briefly.

“Where’s Wormtail?” Sirius asked, his hands fidgeted with his sleeves.

“Detention, James couldn’t sweet talk McGonagall into changing her mind.”


Remus had noticed that ever since James and Lily had been dating, Sirius had been a little on edge. It was nothing really noticeable; he just seemed distracted and a little too energetic.

He supposed that no one else had noticed it, partially because distraction and energy were two key parts of his personality, but Remus had been spending more time with him lately (he, Sirius and Peter seemed to have an excess of time together now that James was so keenly focused on his Head Boy duties), but Sirius didn’t quite know what to do with himself without James and Remus had been discovering just how dreadful a study partner Sirius really was. James had been able to curb some of that energy into their various nefarious schemes.

“Why aren’t you locked away in the dorms studying?”

“I occasionally need to remind myself what ‘outside’ looks like. The pictures don’t do it justice.”

“Hah,” Sirius replied, rolling his eyes.

“Any particular reason why you’re not locked away in the dorms studying? It’s freezing out here.”

Sirius waved a hand at him impatiently, “If you don’t know it all by now, there’s no point. And any half witted wizard knows to put a warming charm on his undershorts.”

“We can’t all have your brains.”

“Or dashing good looks.”

Remus raised an eyebrow as James came trundling up towards them, half carrying Lily up the slight embankment. She didn’t seem to mind, in fact, she was wearing a slightly glazed expression that was usually the side effects of the more potent strains of Amortentia

“And he comes up for air,” Sirius said casually.

James tried to stifle a very smug grin; all he succeeded in doing was turning his face into an Edward Munch canvas.

“’Lo Remus,” Lily said, disentangling herself from James, her were cheeks flushed with colour, her hair was sodden, pits of twig and browning grass were poking out of it.

“Hey Lily, er…how have you been?”

If she were any other girl she might have giggled and given a coy reply, fluttering her eyelashes, but Lily just smiled widely, plucked some organic material from her hair and replied, “Tired. Between NEWTS and James’ insatiable desire to picnic, I haven’t any time to sleep. Or Eat.”

“Doesn’t a picnic require some sort of food?” Sirius wondered aloud.

James smiled suggestively down at Lily. “Don’t you dare say it,” she warned fiercely and he surrendered. “Anyway, how’s the studying coming along?”

“I’ll find out soon enough,” Remus replied grimly.

“You’ll do fine, I’d have thought you’d know the entire library back to front by now.”

Remus smiled awkwardly and thrust his hands deeper into his pockets.

Sirius let out an audible groan. “Simply spiffing to see you again, James, but I reckon I’m going to find myself a nice little distraction like yours.”

James gave him a confused look, but Sirius didn’t wait for a reaction, he quickly sauntered off towards the castle, leaving a very uncomfortable Remus in his wake.

“I…er, I have to go catch up on some reading. Bye.” He gave an apologetic look over his shoulder and broke off into a jog after Sirius.

James and Lily were left standing, their mouths agape. “Do you suppose I should go after him?” James said uneasily.

“Not if you value your priorities,” Lily replied stiffly; James blanched. “I’m kidding, go catch up to him.”

He gave her a sheepish smile and a quick kiss before going after him, and now Lily was all by herself, staring up at the castle.

Things had most certainly taken a most unexpected turn this year. The world had literally gone mad outside these walls, leaking in increasingly often, but still…she felt safe here.

She and James had only been seeing each other a few weeks and for the most part Sirius and Remus had been very genial about the whole thing, but lately Sirius had grown sullen and Remus and Peter had become increasingly twitchy whenever in their presence. Lily supposed that she had offset the unspoken rules of group politics, but she doubted Remus, Peter or Sirius would appreciate her saying anything. James, sweet as he was, was really quite unobservant…though that was partially because he had been focused on other things. She guessed it would all end in some spectacular display of testosterone, all brawn and hurled insults, declaring James a traitor to their noble bachelor ranks. There might even be a death…

But in case that failed to eventuate, Lily was prepared to lock them all in a room with a large quantity of Fire Whiskey and let them have at it.

Either way, the photos were going to memorable.


James slowed down to a trot as Sirius stopped and reclined against the railing on the second floor corridor.

“Where’s Remus?” Sirius asked, working hard to keep his face as neutral as Switzerland.

“Said he had to go study,” James puffed.

“Marathon snog sessions not keeping you in shape?” Sirius drawled.

“Too long spend hunched over books and girls, lately. Or a girl, anyway, “ James grinned crookedly.

Sirius groaned. “Did you want something?”

James straightened up, his own expression souring. “Yeah, I wanted to ask what your problem was?”

“Nothing, not a care in the world, have I.” Sirius started to move away, but James grabbed his arm.

“Not this again, don’t go all moody on me just because I’m spending some time with Lily and not wasting it on hexing Slytherins,” James bit out.

“Snivellus will be glad to hear that, but I guess he doesn’t count because it certainly wasn’t me who jinxed his quill in Potions yesterday,” Sirius replied, his voice rumbled low and dangerous as he wrenched his arm free from James’ grip.

James smiled momentarily, but saw that Sirius wasn’t in the joking mood and his expression hardened again. “What would you have me do, Sirius? Stop seeing her? What is that you would like me to do with my life?”

“Absolutely nothing,” Sirius replied coolly.

James kicked the railings in frustration, “She’s my girlfriend, Sirius! It’s only been a few weeks and I…you know what this means to me! You and I have been friends since we were eleven years old, can’t I spend some time with her? I still want to hang out with you and Remus and Peter, you’re my best mates!”

“Think you could slot me in between groping Lily and brown nosing McGonagall? Gee, I’d be touched if you could,” Sirius said, his voice dripping with sarcasm and venom.

“Stop being an arse, Sirius. I’m sorry I haven’t been much a friend lately, but having a bloody tantrum is hardly going to lure me in to spending more time with you.”

“Who wants to?” Sirius spat.

“Oh come off it! You’re jealous!” James looked positively purple, and Sirius had gone a rather attractive shade of red. Both looked as though at any moment they might explode in a shower of sparks.

“Of who: You or your bit of totty? Soddit James, go deflate your head. I’m off.” James threw his hands up in angry surrender and he glared after Sirius who was muttering curses under his breath.

The next few days were wrought with tension, their falling out growing so juvenile that Peter and Remus had almost taken to being messengers between the two. Peter had remarked that it felt a lot like being at home.

Remus and Peter were both growing tired of having to listen to the continual whining on both parties’ sides. They mostly kept their mouths shut and tried not to agree or disagree with anything that was said. Remus, who was well practiced in the art of keeping his mouth shut, had even coached Peter on the finer points. As if they didn’t have enough to worry about.

Sirius had been growing increasingly reckless in his endeavours, James’ lips were in a continual thinly pressed line and the very mention of Sirius’ name and various stunts was enough to send him in to a torrent of vitriol, but they still refused to talk to one another, despite Lily’s gentle nudging for James to make the first move and be the bigger man. This was apparently too difficult.

It all came to head one evening as the students turned in for the night. James and Lily were making final rounds, making sure there were no stragglers about. They heard a cacophony of piercing screams issuing from their floor followed by whoops and cheering.

They both bolted in the direction of all the commotion and arrived to find several very embarrassed girls trying desperately to hide behind the bathroom fixtures, because the walls and all the showering stalls had inexplicably disappeared.

Lily conjured some shower curtains and the girls quickly ducked behind them, James was testing out the magic to see what sort of a spell it was and how (and if) he could reverse it.

Lily ushered the crowd back to their dorms, threatening fire and brimstone if they didn’t do it quick smart.

It had been a pretty complicated bit of magic and James could recognise the handiwork. He clenched his fists and set about reversing it. Just as he was adding his finishing touches to the nearly opaque wall he heard a stifled chuckle from somewhere in the apparently empty corridor.

James went very still for a moment, listening for any further giveaways and when he caught onto the sound of a breath hitching, he whipped around, blasting his invisibility cloak off the hunched figure of Sirius Black.

Sirius rose to his full height, a satisfied smirk on his face, James didn’t even waste time with accusations, he simply pushed Sirius back against the wall, not really caring that about Sirius’ strangled protest.

He took a slip of parchment from his pocket, managing to hold Sirius back with one arm and sheer force of will, he touched his wand to it and it disappeared.

Lily returned to the scene just as James released him, still visibly seething he spat: “Detention.”

A/N: Wow, that was a really long hiatus, I am so sorry for anyone who has been waiting, I hope this is okay. Timeturner always deserves a massive thanks for her continued support and ideas.

Chapter 22: Chapter 22
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“Don’t even think about it,” Sirius said, not even bothering to look up from the book he was supposedly studying.

“I wasn’t going to say anything,” Remus replied lightly, settling himself in the chair next to Sirius.

“You had that strangled look on your face that you always get when you want to tell u…me off.”

“You weren’t even looking at me.”

“It was all in the walk. Weight distribution of the morally minded.”

Remus rolled his eyes and pulled out one of his text books. This merry little game had been going on for a week now and it rather painfully brought up the memory of the Snape incident in their Sixth Year, except it was now James who was more or less the outcast and they were finding that to be disastrous…like a ‘ship without a rudder, or a broomstick without the balancing charms, or, Peter added, it was like that time he cut the tail of his budgerigar off and it flew around in circles, bashing into walls until the feathers grew back…and even then it was still a bit funny and wouldn’t it be nice if James would just…

But no. Every time James came into a room that Sirius was occupying, the two of them did the avoidance dance, blushed, pouted and invariably puffed up and deflated depending who had on scowled first. His conversations with Remus and Peter were increasingly stilted and Remus knew that it was because he felt guilty, but was too proud to admit it to Sirius…or anyone, so he spent his time with Lily, careful to avoid Sirius as often as he could and usually crept into their dorm only if he thought everyone was asleep. Remus would lie awake at night, hearing the floorboards squeak, the sounds of James carefully disrobing, smelling of perfume and the way that Sirius’ breath hitched as soon as he heard the door open. More than anything he wished he could just sit up and say something, but the words caught in his throat and his tongue felt heavy from all the things unsaid.

Sirius had thrown himself into study, taking what James had said to him a little too personally and he was determined to prove that he was an adult, capable of adult-like pursuits, like a fondness for very large and boring texts filled with ‘the basic components of magic’ and the kind of attention span that only adult’s have.

Remus was surprised that he missed that element of recklessness in Sirius, but he often found himself lamenting ‘the good old days’ when he should have been concentrating on his studies. He hadn’t seen Sirius even crack a smile this week, his face looked like strangers without a lopsided grin.

Since he had been delegated to silent observer in this (and apparently had nothing better to do with himself), he’d begun to notice the little things in his friend’s behaviour.

At least when James and Sirius had been doing their male dominance aggression and jealousy act they had been speaking.

He was sure it would sort itself out, it was just that he didn’t have very many friends and was therefore extremely invested in keeping those he already had. Split royalties were unpleasant and rather tedious considering all that was going on in the world at the moment.

His parents had written to him expressing their concern over the impending threat. There had been a lot of talk of Voldemort recruiting werewolves for his cause and a spate of attacks on the outskirts of London had done nothing to quash that rumour. He really didn’t like thinking on it; every attack brought up memories of all those close calls, he wondered if the others werewolves were being forced against their will, or if he truly was the exception to the rule. Lately he’d had a lot of questions about his kind, about what it meant for him…but mulling it over lead to a very unpleasant line of thought and so he tried to push them to the back of his mind.

If things had been as they were James, Sirius and Peter would have been reassuring him, distracting him from his sullen disposition and trying to make him laugh but everyone’s focus was elsewhere and though he felt like a right prat: he missed being that centre of attention, taking care of him had taken up quite a lot of their schooling career and he might have wearied of being treated like a child sometimes…but he now found that he also missed being protected.

The dilemma of every young man he supposed. He didn’t like it.

The door creaked open and Lily stepped into the room, laughing with Marjorie about something or other.

Remus glanced sideways at Sirius who was determinedly looking down at his book, his lips drawn in a thin line.

The two girls sashayed across the room, still tittering on. Remus heard the words ‘broomstick’, ‘boys’ and ‘if he thinks…’ and tuned out. Marjorie had taken to dating a Sixth Year boy named Paul Postlethwaite and it seemed every other time they talked they were sharing dating stories, Remus wasn’t sure he wanted to know about ‘that little thing that James did with his hands’, or really, what miraculous things other parts of his anatomy could do; there are some things that friends just do not share. He noticed a couple of third years checking their wrist watches and glancing towards Sirius, looking like little beasties; none of them would have dared to try and pull a prank on him, no, it had become a game to time how long it would take Sirius to leave a room that Lily had just entered.

So far the longest he’d lasted was two minutes and 18 seconds.

Right now he was clenching his book so hard his fingers might snap off.

“Sirius,” Remus touched his shoulder gently. “What’s the theoretical process behind conjuring again? I can’t seem to remember it…too many things floating about in my head.”

He didn’t even look up as he began explaining. “When you conjure something from nothing it creates a temporary imbalance in the matter of the world, which is why it’s unstable. Essentially it’s transfiguration…except you change the structure of air rather than…” Sirius' eyes cut toward him suspiciously and Remus knew his rather deceptive attempt at discussion had been discovered.

Sirius frowned. "Nice try, but you've never asked me for help in the 6 years I've known you." His voice lowered in sarcastic conspiracy, reminding Remus how much he missed the inside jokes and well intended but sometimes needling remarks between the Marauders. "How on earth did you keep your furry little problem a secret?"

“Seeing as you found out, I’d say I’m not terribly good at it.”

“We do have above average intelligence…and we were incurably curious at…”his breath caught as he realised what he’d been and he trailed off.

Plurals were apparently taboo these days.

Sirius made a start to get up, but Remus pressed down on his shoulder and made him sit.

“What’s your problem?” Sirius hissed.

Remus didn’t say anything, knowing he’d garble the words anyway. Sirius glared at him waiting for him to say something…but he couldn’t. What on earth could he say?

The door opened again to reveal James, Sirius shook his head and muttered something under his breath. He shrugged Remus’ hand from his shoulder and stalked off, out of the portrait of the Fat Lady.

He spied on them from beneath his fringe, James and Lily were talking in hushed tones, they could have been whispering declarations of love if it weren’t for the tension in their postures. Remus watched James pull away from her, that familiar expression of defiance on his face, but she caught his arm and pulled him back, when he turned around again the look on his face now resembled the look that his father always wore whenever his mother got her way.

Remus raised his hands in defeat and frustration, beckoning to The Powers That Be to rectify the situation…or at least give him the balls to say something.

“Remus!” He looked up to see Lily walking towards him, James trailing reluctantly behind her. Remus smiled brightly, the smile of a man with no confrontation skills.

The two of them stopped in front of where he was sitting, Lily grasped James hand, making sure he couldn’t escape. His other hand was jammed in his pocket, head bowed and very nearly scuffing his shoe on the floor: The stance of a very truly whipped man.

“You two need to talk, then you need to talk to Peter. And then you all need to take Sirius by the ear and beat him till he sees reason, understand?” Lily said pleasantly before turning away, giving James a kiss on the cheek, slap on the back and prancing back off to Marjorie.

After a few agonising moments of silence, James spoke up. “So…”


“This is weird.” James shifted his weight a few times, looking every bit like the eleven year old boy Remus had met his first year at Hogwarts.

“I know.” Remus set his quill and books down gently and crossed his arms in front him, an unconscious act of dismissal.

Remus considered for a moment, trying to organise his thoughts. “You need to talk to Sirius,” he said quietly before getting up, leaving James looking hurt and bewildered.

“Just talk to him, James. Just tell him he’s being a prat.”

“Yes, because that worked so well last time,” he said sarcastically.

"Well, maybe you didn't do it right," she returned testily.

"Right? Is there a right way to call your best mate a prat?" He scowled and turned away quickly, trying to vent the dirtiest of his looks at the wall rather than her. "Can't you just let it sort itself out? It always does. We aren't like a bunch of girls who need to talk about everything, you know."

She fixed him with a hard stare. “It’s not going to sort itself out, he has to realise that I’m not just going to vanish because he wants you all to himself.”

James looked sideways at her. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Lily sat herself down on the end of his bed, straightening a rumpled edge delicately. “He’s jealous, James, he thinks I’m taking you away from him.”

“He’s not a poof,” James growled.

Lily groaned and rolled her eyes, she swept the curtain of red hair from her face and looked up at James entreatingly. “I never said that,” she said slowly, “I meant that he thinks that I’m taking you away as his friend, that you’ll grow up and forget about him.” She grinned deviously, “I never believed those rumours about the two of you, anyway.”

James glared at her reprovingly. He had been pacing about the bedroom for an hour now, his hair standing on end and his glasses smudged with fingerprints as he had absentmindedly tried to clean them so often.

They had known they wouldn’t be interrupted as Sirius was serving a detention with Slughorn for some other altercation and Remus helping Peter study in the library, they were alone for a good long time.


Apparently James was looking at a comfortable future in which Lily was his only company. The thought terrified him.

Her vague attempt at a joke had infuriated him even more. "I could never forget about Sirius and if you think that I will-"

"Of course not!" She huffed. "I never said that. I just think you are both acting like juvenile prats."

"Both? Now it's not just Sirius but me as well?" James whirled on her. "I've spent every waking hour with you for weeks. I've listened to your little giggling girlfriends go on and on. I've put up with who knows how many hours of incessant talk about potions class. And in return you decide this whole thing is my fault?"

"I didn't say…"

James could tell she was trying to temper her words but the look on her face told him so much more. "You don't like him, you never have! And you just can't accept that he is a part of my life!"

"James, be reasonable," she said quietly, taking a step toward him.

"Reasonable?" he hissed. "All Sirius has ever asked is for me to be his friend. How's that for reasonable?"

Lily couldn't suppress a furious laugh. "Sirius Black, reasonable? He's just jealous of me and that I have you and he doesn't. For the first time in his life he didn't win."

James couldn't contain the rage welling within him. It was one thing to ramble on about how he needed to talk to Sirius, it was quite another to treat him like a chess piece to be fought over. At least Sirius had the presence not to fall into such a childish fight. "You," James breathed. "You are the one that's turned this into a fight."

Lily spluttered incoherently. “You can’t possibly be serious! Come off it James! I want you and Sirius to be friends, I don’t like coming between you two.”

“All you ever do is want to talk about it, I come in here to try and be alone with you and you insist on bringing him into the bedroom with us. Maybe that’s what you’d like, can’t get him off your mind Lily?” He sneered, turning to her, anger rippling through the space between them.

Lily set her jaw and glared up at him witheringly, too shocked and hurt to say anything. James gave her a final look of contempt and turned on his heel.

A/N: Yay update. I've moved out of home to a place with no internet, well, saying that updates may be fewer and far between really doesn't say much considering I haven't been queen of the updates lately, so I don't know, it will affect my response to your reviews as I have to come home to log in etc etc, but I do appreciate them.

This may actually have a positive affect on my writing, going out and experiencing the world et al, oh, if only I could tell you all about my housemate situation. And my cat had kittens, so cute and fluffy thoughts for all.

Okay: here come the thanks: Timeturner...Linda, I adore this woman, I don't think I could get anything done without her counsel, she helped me write this chapter in a big way, changed the tone and even wrote some of it. The fight scene would not have the same impact with out her input. She's amazing, go read her work and give her cookies.

Er, that's all, I hope you enjoyed.

Chapter 23: Chapter 23
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Sirius was sitting in the library, fortified by a large portion of the books from the Charms section.

“You in there Sirius?”

“Go away.”

Remus shifted some of the books aside so he could at least peer at Sirius through the gap. Peter sat down beside him, looking as though he hadn’t slept in a week.

“Is there any point to you going over all of this?” Peter asked groggily. “Don’t you know it all?”

“Can’t hurt to brush up, Peter.”

“Exams are still months off, brush up later,” Peter yawned and leaned back on the chair, Madame Pince glared at him and he straightened up.

Remus was saying nothing, but staring at Sirius pointedly, which would normally serve to irritate Sirius, but knowing Remus’ expressions like he did, he knew it wasn’t a lecture coming. He also knew that Remus would never speak up of his own volition, something that they had all taken advantage of.

“What?” He ventured.

Remus opened his mouth briefly and closed it again before speaking. “James and Lily…I think something’s happened.”

Sirius shook his head and laughed sourly. “Yeah, well, bound to happen some time.” He shrugged and continued to focus on the book, quill scribbling faithfully by his side.

Remus fidgeted nervously and nearly went blue in the face as he struggled to work up the courage to say what was on his mind. “I think…you were mentioned.”

Now Sirius looked up at him, “And?”

Remus shrugged, “I think…I think you really need to speak with James.” Remus mentally smacked himself across the head for being, in Sirius' own words 'a huge sissy pansy girl'.

"James is a big boy, Remus. If he has something to say, he can come say it." Sirius shoved his books toward Peter and strode out of the library without so much as a second glance Remus' direction.

Sirius' couldn't help feel a bit ill as he made his way through the hallways. He hadn't really wanted them to get in a row, had he? The thought puzzled him even more and he frowned. Maybe he should at least go check on James and see if he was all right. The idea made him bristle. James was the one being an arse, after all, he could jolly well come to him and apologize.

His face flushed with newfound anger again, he hurried around the corner only to run in to Lily. As she struggled up from the ground, the girls around her began to pick up the books that had slid out of her bag and scattered across the floor.

"You!" she hissed. "Can't you watch where you're going?"

"Pardon me, I didn't realize I was invading your space, your highness," he managed through gritted teeth while offering her a mock bow.

"Just go find James and leave me be, Sirius. I hope you’ll be very happy together," she said wearily, shoving the last of her scattered books into her bag.

"Do I detect trouble in paradise?" Sirius eyes' glittered dangerously. "Don't tell me you've finally shown your true colours."

Unable to resist the bait, she flew around to face him, finger poised to accuse him of being the worst type of miscreant. "We all know what colours you fly, Black. Finally broadcasting the family pride, are you?”

Sirius clenched his jaw, determined not to lose this verbal sparring match. "Still won't take responsibility for your own, screw ups hm, Lily?" he tisked. "He couldn’t stand you, so of course it’s all my fault.”

"You arrogant, self-righteous-" Her hand was raised as if she was going to slap him but Sirius had already disappeared down the hallway, the soft laughter he left behind infuriating her even more.

Sirius sank onto his bed, his eyes roaming across the room to where James should be sleeping. The room was void of sound; he got up and pushed back the curtains to find an empty bed. He had never been an early riser and it bothered Sirius to think he had left before dawn. Looking closer, he noticed that there wasn’t a wrinkle, and his nightclothes were still laid out where the house elves had placed them the night before. Frowning, he moved across the room and touched the covers. Cold, as he'd expected…James had never come back last night.

A deep furrow appeared on his brow and he grabbed James' cloak from the wardrobe as he set of to find him. That he hadn't even remembered to take it wherever he'd gone off to gave Sirius some ideas as to his mindset.

He'd gotten halfway out of the castle before Lily appeared in his path, alone this time and her green eyes blazing. He tried to brush past her but she has no intention of letting him pass by.

"I don't have time for you now, Evans."

Her eyes narrowed to slits as she advanced on him. "You don’t have time for anyone but yourself. Your stupid, childish irresponsibility are the only thing that’s standing between me and James, you're content to pull him down with you just so you can have him all to yourself, some fantastic friend you are," she spat.

Sirius allowed the hurt to register momentarily on his face before he screwed his face in an ugly manner. "Maybe it's just because you weren't any good in bed," he hissed.

Lily bit down the torrent of obscenities that such a comment inspired. “Don’t you dare, Black. I came up here to talk, just…don’t.”

“Fine,” Sirius replied testily, moving towards a window.

There were a few uneasy minutes of silence.

“You’re an arse, Black, you know that?” Lily burst out.

“What? I…” he spluttered, throwing his hands up in frustration. “Oh bloody hell, yes this is a marvellous talk, Evans. Fine great, I’m an arse, thanks for saying.”

“No, you…you bloody well can’t help getting in your own way. But this time you aren’t just making it hard on yourself, you’re making James miserable and…oh bloody hell, you’re making me miserable.”

Sirius didn’t say anything he just stared out the window; skeletal trees were silhouetted against the grey sky. Winter still had her hooks in the weather.

Lily crossed her arms and waited expectantly, when Sirius didn’t deliver gave an exasperated groan and walked off.

Sirius lingered at the window for a moment longer before taking off; not even bothering with the cloak as he escaped behind the one eyed witch.

He found James slumped in a corner of the Hog’s Head where the sun seemed to shy away, the flickering light of a few pathetic candles was all that stopped Sirius’ from tripping over the overturned chairs and dirty glasses.

“James?” Sirius enquired, leaning down over him. James looked up at him bleary-eyed, his hand was curled around a near empty bottle of Firewhisky. Aberforth was an all right bloke but he never let drowning via alcohol get in the way of making a few sickles. They’d come here and drunk themselves stupid more than a couple of times.

“Sirius?” He slurred, straightening up too quickly and slamming into the wall. “Ow. Whatchoo doing here?”

“Looking for you.”

“Ah. Well, here I am.”

“Yeah.” Well, a deep and meaningful conversation was certainly out of the question at this juncture in time. Sirius felt a pang of guilt as he watched James struggle to stand up; he looked so wretched and muddled at the moment. “Come on, mate, I’ll help you home.”

James gave him a suspicious look. “When did we become friends again?”

“Last week, trust you to forget”, he muttered as he hauled him up and out of the bar. James was too confused and unstable to protest.

Sirius half carried him through Hogsmeade, it took him a good three quarters of an hour to actually lug him back down to the passage into Hogwarts, James may have been as skinny as a rake, but he managed to carry a lot more weight on him than what his build suggested and he had a habit of wandering away, prattling on about teacups and flowers or somesuch.

Sirius spent that forty-five minutes arguing with himself on why he was even here.

Finally, with his remaining strength and his last frayed nerve, Sirius pushed James into the trapdoor in Honeyduke’s cellar.

James slid down the wall, looking very pale, though he had sobered up considerably.

“Thanks Sirius,” he said, his head still felt as though it was going to spin off his neck.

Sirius was busy listening for possible trouble so he didn’t turn around to reply. “No problem.”

“I mean it,” James reiterated doggedly. “God, I’ve been such a prat.”

Sirius gave an ambiguous smile and went to sit down beside him. “You’re not the only one.”

James took off his glasses, pressed the heel of his palm into his eyes and glanced sideways at Sirius. “You didn’t imply that your girlfriend was having obsessive sexual fantasies about your best friend.”

Sirius looked at him in alarm. “That’s how I came up in the argument? Oh Christ, I just figured she was calling me names behind my back or something!” Sirius looked incredibly distressed by this information. “Oh god, James, you are a prat.”

“Thanks,” James said sarcastically and then groaned because the act of rolling one’s eyes is not advisable in his state.

The two of them sat in silence a while longer, backs pressed to that cold, craggy wall. James had been trying to organise his thoughts, because at the moment they were just one loud, messy noise inside his skull. He could remember drinking at least a bottle and half of Firewhisky, but something in the rhythmic pounding of his head told him it was more.

Sirius was generally clueless as to how to approach the entire situation; his anger had been ebbing away as soon as James had started talking to him, leaving only a feeling of guilt mixed with anxiety.

“Can we just say sorry and be done with it?” Sirius blurted.

James had been on the verge of issuing a patently long speech about the value of friendship and was now left, mouth agape.

“Oh thank god, I don’t think I’d ever live down what I was planning to say.”

Sirius snickered. “Something like ‘Sirius, thou art mine blood brother, I have forsaken thee’”.

“Yes, but not so fruity like.” James said, feeling simultaneously relieved, nauseous and awkward.

Sirius smiled to himself and looked down at the ground. “I am, sorry, you know.”

“Yeah, I am too.” James replied; he really hoped they wouldn’t have to speak any more, his masculinity felt vaguely threatened and with all the whisky in his system he was sure he’d start hugging if they got into it any further.

“Reckon you can walk?” Sirius said after a moment, easing both their discomfort.

“I think it’s the standing up part that gets me.”

Sirius stood, up, brushed himself off and offered his outstretched hand to James who took, it, managing not to topple over on his way up.

James made his way slowly to the exit, taking care to remember that it was one foot in front of the other. “Any one out there?”

Sirius gave him a devious leer. “What ever will they think to see the Head Boy smashed off his face? All those innocent young minds you’ll corrupt, Prongs.”

“Oh yes, I’m quite sure this will be a terribly destructive moment in their childhoods, far more fearsome than current events.”

The mirth disappeared from Sirius’s face and he looked back at James, his face peered out at him from the darkness, a grim smile playing on his lips. “Sorry,” he muttered.

The violence of the world outside of Hogwarts had begun to infect the school, not a day went by without news of a disappearance, an attack or a murder. Battle cries were splashed all across the front page of the Daily Prophet and other papers. You couldn’t ignore it these days, or hide behind the walls of Hogwarts, war had arrived on them all, and it was drawing nearer to the time when they’d all have to take more active roles in the fight. It was getting harder to hide from their futures.

Sirius pushed the door open, slipping through. James hesitated a moment, swaying on unsteady feet before following him in to the light.

A/N: Another update that wouldn't have made it without Linda, honestly, were we not seperated by thousands of kilometres I'd be sending her flowers and giant chocolate sculptures of Ralph Fiennes. But as it stands, I'll just have to give Sirius and Lily more scenes together.

Shout out to Jaydah, who has been so helpful in her reviews and such fun to chat with. *proclaims International Jay Day*

And never fear, Lily and James will eventually reunite, I just like torturing James.

Chapter 24: Chapter 24.
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It had been three days since James had last spoken to Lily. Rather, three days, sixteen hours and twenty-seven minutes. Apart from brief, frantic glances in her direction, he hadn’t had the courage to do anything about it, resigning himself to a miserable and lonely existence with a large quantity of cats for company.

At least he and Sirius had mended their friendship and he had had words with Remus and Peter, at least he had his mates, it wasn’t all going to be cats and Firewhisky.

He had idly wondered if for one half of his life to be going well, the other half had to be a chaotic mess.

He chanced a fleeting look in Lily’s direction once more, she was on the other side of the room; her face was rigid with concentration and determination, her hair was haphazardly tied up in a bun, her robes were crinkled from the knees and that very fact alone was enough to send a shiver of longing through him.

It was at this moment he was smacked to the ground by a feathery missile.

“Mr Potter! Please pay attention. Your NEWTs are right around the corner, this is basic material, I would have thought there would be no need to go over it, but clearly you need to work on your concentration skills. There’s no time for daydreaming anymore,” Flitwick chided sharply.

‘Sorry Professor,” James said, removing the pillow from his face and blushing furiously. He was sure he could feel Lily's eyes burning into the back of his skull but when he chanced a look her direction, she wasn't even facing him. He wasn't sure if that made him happy because she hadn't witnessed Flitwick's humiliating him or that she didn't seem to even notice his presence.

Peter extended a hand to him, a jovial and slightly smug grin on his face. This was one of the rare times that Peter had got the better of any of them, and like all those times beforehand, they allowed him his victory; it didn’t matter if the cause was distraction, intoxication or generosity, Peter was a good enough sport to know he wasn’t the best at anything much and he was good enough not to let on that he knew he was being had.

Most of the time.

“Got you, eh? Can’t think what’s got you so distracted,” he said with a knowing look in Lily’s direction.

“Shut up,” James growled.

“Touchy, James,” Sirius teased as he floated his cushion and the chair it had been sitting on with ease. James knew Sirius was delighting in torturing him, he wasn’t sure at this point whether it was out of petty revenge or relief though he thought it was the former. And he’d noticed that Sirius was incredibly at ease in Lily’s presence.

“You have to talk to her,” Sirius urged as they headed out of the classroom. James stayed stoic and tight-lipped; anything he said at this point would sound like a weak, cowardly excuse.

“The worst she can do is shoot you down, but it might give her the chance to vent a little steam, that always seemed to work before.”

“It took her three years of venting steam to even talk to me in a lower register,” James muttered.

“Maybe she won’t have so much built up now,” Peter interjected.

No one outside of James, Sirius and Lily (and likely Marjorie) knew about the accusations James had hurled at Lily in that room. “I don’t think so,” James said slowly.

They had stopped near a portrait of Godric Gryffindor, Sirius thrust his hand towards the man in the painting. “Are you or are you not a Gryffindor, James Cyril Potter?” he cried impressively. “Go forth, man! Victory or death awaits you!” He gave James a shove and before he could even realise what was happening, James was faced with the backside of Lily Evans, only a few feet ahead of him in the hallway. Looking back at Sirius, Remus and Peter all now posing and pointing at Gryffindor’s painting (in fact, Sirius had managed to throw himself against it, much to the other painting’s chagrin, but Godric himself was huffing with laughter).

Lily looked around to see what the commotion was and when she realised it was Sirius, she gave a reluctant smile and began to turn, apparently not noticing James.

“Canispeakwithyouforamoment?” James blurted so quickly he thought he’d been hit with a Blabbermouth Curse.

Lily stopped, her gaze slid over him reprovingly. “What?”

James took a breath and took a second to untangle his tongue. “Can I speak with you for a moment?”

Lily sighed doggedly. “Haven’t we said enough?”

“I won’t…it’ll only be a moment.”

Se seemed to argue with herself for a second before giving him a studied look of irritation. “Fine.”

Both relieved and stunned to have got this far, James was struck incapable of coherent speech.

“Today would be good.”

“Oh, right. Yes.” He gave a horrid little laugh and tried to get his thoughts straight. “I…where are you going?” He had just noticed she was carrying a gift in her hands.

She raised her eyebrow coolly. “I’m off for a quickie with Sirius in the Library, care to come watch?”

James was taken aback by her crude remark, it seemed so unlike her and he could see that she was highly embarrassed to have said it. She wrung her hands awkwardly a few times, opened her mouth to say something, gave him a look that he couldn’t decipher and stalked off, leaving him to feel as though he’d just had a very lucky escape.

She felt awful, her stomach seemed to have dropped out, leaving her with a tingly feeling of anxiety that set her whole body on edge as she moved briskly into the crisp spring air.

She oughtn’t have said those things to him, it was a very cruel thing to have done and she didn’t like the way those words had sounded coming from her mouth.

Hagrid was waiting for her at the gate; she could just barely make out a warm grin underneath his bushy beard.

“ ‘Lo Lily,” he said as she reached him.

“Hello Hagrid, are we ready?”

“I reckon so,” he replied, patting down his coat to try and locate the key. He hit one of the pockets and it emitted a yelp, causing Lily to jump several feet. She knew what Hagrid liked to keep in his pockets. “No, no, it’s nothin’ to be afraid of. Bought myself a puppy, must have curled up and gone to sleep when I took my coat off, is all.” He reached into his coat and pulled out a squirming, slobbering and very excited puppy that was about the size of a sheep.

Lily reached out her hand hesitantly to pet him. “He’s…lovely, Hagrid, what are you going to call him?”

“Haven’ decided yet. Maybe something fearsome to cover the fact tha’ he’s a complete wuss,” he chuckled.

Lily grinned up at him as the pup gave her a playful nip. “Fang.”

Hagrid thought about it for a moment then picked the dog up to face him. “What do yeh think o’ tha? Are yeh a Fang?” The puppy replied by eagerly licking his face and barking. Hagrid gave a booming laugh and set the dog down. “Fang it is. Thanks Lily.”

She gave Fang a pat on the head and smiled, glad to fund a distraction from feeling like a complete git. “No problem.”

Hagrid unlocked the gate and the two of them passed through, Fang bounding out ahead of them as they walked to Hogsmeade.

It wasn’t anything other than a lunch with her parents (and if they had managed to force her along: Petunia), but even something so simple these days required a great amount of planning and security. There wasn’t a day that went by that a student wasn’t pulled out of class because their parents, aunts, uncles, cousins or grandparents had died or disappeared, being Head Girl meant that Lily often had the responsibility of comforting those students and watching over them, she’d seen James doing the same, though with the stench of alcohol wafting from him, she wondered if he wasn’t just giving them a few nips of mead.

It had been hard these past few days to avoid him, when the pressure of their responsibilities was evermore increasing, fights were breaking out all over the place. The other day a boy had been accosted because his father, the Head of Magical Law Enforcement, had ordered another boy’s father to be killed.

The tinkling of chimes announced their arrival to The Three Broomsticks, she was eagerly met by her beaming father and mother, both looking quite enraptured with the goings on of the busy pub.

Hagrid greeted the Evans and ambled over to the bar. Daphne and George ushered their daughter into a booth in the corner, a candle floated above them for ambiance and Daphne gave a joyful titter.

“Happy belated birthday, dad,” Lily said, leaning over the table to give her father a peck on the cheek. He unwrapped his present eagerly and was utterly chuffed at her gift of a book that spoke its words to you when opened.

“Amazing,” he muttered. “First edition Tolstoy, too. My girl knows what I like,” he said warmly.

“I charmed it myself, I bet you don’t have anything like that in the store.”

“I should think not,” he said, puzzling over the book. George was the very image of an old English gentleman, from the top of his silvery head, to his favourite argyle jumper and matching socks, he looked quite out of place in this crowd, but didn’t seem to mind the curious glances, both he and his wife were enjoying being the odd ones for once in their lives.

“Petunia couldn’t come?” Lily asked conversationally.

Daphne managed to drag her focus away from a group of goblins that had just entered and gave Lily an appraising look. “You know your sister,” she sighed. “She’s spending the day with Vernon, I think it would take a family emergency to drag her away from him, and even then she’d insist on bringing him along.”

“Probably couldn’t fit in the doorway,” George mumbled under his breath.

“George Evans!” Daphne admonished. “He’s got a good job and he’s a fine young man. He’s just rather…healthy.”

“He’s healthily going to explode if he gets any bigger.”

Lily held back a laugh behind her hand; her father gave her a mischievous look that turned into one of contrition as soon as her mother caught sight of it.

“They’re getting serious, aren’t they?” Lily observed. “Reckon you might have a son in law before too long.”

“God help me.” George mouthed and even Daphne didn’t look terribly thrilled at that prospect.

“He treats Petunia well, he can give her the life that she wants. And we only want her to be happy. Don’t we George,” she added, nudging him.

“Yes, yes, of course,” he said dismissively, waving his hand about. “Wonderful age to be a housewife, though.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being a housewife,” Daphne told him angrily.

Lily smiled as her parents continued to argue, she hadn’t seen her parents in months and she had been incredibly homesick of late, perhaps trying to grasp the last days of her childhood and the safety and comfort that it entailed. The next time she would see her parents would be at her graduation, she would never go home again as a school girl, she would be out on her own, and like most young girls her age, the prospect made her both excited and incredibly anxious.

“How’ve you been, Lily darling?” her mother asked, suddenly. “You look a little pale, are you ill? You haven’t been taking on too much, have you?”

“It’s nothing mum, really, you know how it gets in your final year. I’ve been studying a lot, is all.”

“Remember to take some time for yourself, no point in beating them all out if there’s only a drooling vegetable at the end of it,” her father warned jovially.

She rolled her eyes impatiently, “Of course I will, dad. I won’t drive myself too hard, take it all in moderation and remember to eat between panic attacks.”

“That’s my girl.”

Daphne looked around at the other patrons of the pub and leaned across the table conspiratorially. “Is it true what they’re saying about a…dark wizard?” she whispered, grasping Lily’s hand.

Lily felt her throat constrict, she’d been hoping to conceal the current danger in the Wizarding World from her parents, knowing they’d only fret. It was lucky she’d had a lot of experience giving reassuring statements about the war (occasionally known as ‘flat out lying’.) so she smiled and squeezed her mother’s hand and told them it was all fine, nothing to worry about, just an exaggeration.

With the feeling of guilt slick in her stomach, she said her goodbyes, promising to write, to keep safe and stay sane. When they had finally left, accompanied by several Aurors, her whole body seemed to shrink into itself, her jaw was aching from trying to hold her smile.

Lily dropped into a chair as she watched her parents depart. It wasn't so much their presence that had exhausted her, but more that the Firewhisky had allowed her mind to reel through the events of the week…Penny…James…the new life ahead of her…it all seemed to have enveloped her at once.

Mulling over the empty glass, she idly traced the carved initials of past patrons on the battered tabletop, the etched declarations of love, little jokes between friends.

Some of the dates read back as far as the 1800s. She knew they would have fascinated her father; he’d always had a fondness for messages written in public toilet stalls, he’d told her that they were like the historical tomes of the people, just as valuable as any book on war or ancient artefact. Her father hadn’t even mentioned them to her; that spoke as to just how worried he was.

On reflection, her father was an odd little man, no wonder he’d taken to Dumbledore from the moment he met him when Lily had been invited to Hogwarts.

A/N: Okay, okay, so this wasn't the big old reunion I was promising, it is coming, in fact, it is written. This chapter was just getting far too long, so I split it.

Again thanks to timeturner for all her help, keep an eye out for a her new Sirius/Lily that she's writing ;)

Chapter 25: Chapter 25
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“Is this seat taken?”

She looked up to find the source of the query and found one Sirius Black, looking both smarmy and serious all at once. She thought about protesting, but found she wasn’t much in the mood for it, and perhaps talking with Sirius could serve as her penance for what she had said to James this morning.

She gestured for him to take it and he sat down without hesitation, shoving a very full glass of the most foul smelling liquid in front of her. “You’re going to need a drink.”


There was something on his mind; you could tell by the way his whole body seemed to hum with nervous energy. He thumped the table a few times, Lily recognised the pattern as the tune of a Nick-Knack and the Kneazles song, but before she could ascertain any semblance of meaning from his behaviour, he very calmly gave her his reason for being there.

“Penny Thistleton’s family have been found dead, the Dark Mark was hanging over their house. Mother, father and two young sisters have all been murdered.”

He said it so steadily that you could be forgiven for thinking that he didn’t care, but Lily could tell by the determined look on his face and the tension in his hands that he cared very much, so much that he’d have liked to have gone after those Death Eaters himself.

Penny was one of the students that Lily tutored sometimes, she was an intensely bright Ravenclaw but seemed to suffer from an intense mental block when it came to the subject of Potions. She was a very sweet and funny girl, and Lily couldn’t think of a single person who disliked her, even Snape found her tolerable.

“Like, I said, you need a drink,” he signalled to Rosmerta to bring out some more Firewhisky and indicated that she should drink her own.

“No, I…I have to get back, someone should be there for her,” she said shakily, raising herself from her seat.

Sirius grabbed her wrist and pulled her back down. “James is taking care of it, it’s all right. I just thought you should know, you two seemed on pretty friendly terms.”

Lily laughed sardonically. “Who wasn’t on friendly terms with Penny?”

Sirius’ face clouded. “Someone, obviously.”

Lily looked down at the tabletop; someone had scribbled a dirty poem to the left of her forearm, she tried to decipher it, but the words began to blur and run together. “He doesn’t count, he’s hardly human,” she said softly. Sirius hesitantly reached over to give her a few awkward, but sincere pats on the hand as a gesture of comfort.

Rosmerta hurried over to their table to serve his drink, freeing Sirius from his efforts. He stuffed a few coins in her hand, gave her a sunny smile and turned back to Lily, his features dark with malcontent.

“You might as well drink up, Evans, it might make you feel better.”

“I doubt it,” she said miserably.

“You drink enough of this stuff and it can make you forget your own name.”

She looked up at him, his dark eyes glinted and his mouth was set in too hard a line, distorting his features into an ugly rictus. He downed half his glass and sat back in his seat, eyeing Lily closely.

Under his intense stare she felt very compelled to drink, so she hesitantly picked up her glass and examined it. Even the fumes made her feel a little dizzy. She’d never quite had the daring to taste Firewhisky, only going so far as to enjoy smuggled Butterbeer or mead with her friends, or a glass of wine at home.

Taking a too large mouthful, she sputtered and gagged, thumping her chest and desperately trying not to throw up.

“Very graceful,” Sirius said coolly. “ I can see why James has spent this week pining about you now.”

She scowled at him, her already red face darkening a shade. “Shut up,” she said scratchily and defiantly took another sip.

Sirius looked mildly impressed and they sat quietly, drinking and mulling things over, the din of the crowded pub compensating for their silence.

“Those your parents?” Sirius asked abruptly, sliding back in his seat like a qualified lounge lizard, long limbs and pale skin thrown about carelessly.

“Yep,” Lily replied. The two of them were entirely stuck for conversation, having had very few civil things to say to one another during their time at Hogwarts. Lily sat hunched over her drink, fussing with an errant strand of hair.

Sirius stared her down. “They shouldn’t really come here, you know,” he said casually.

Her head snapped up and she glared at him viciously. “Why? Because they’re inferior?” she spat.

He gave her a haughty smile and actually laughed at her. “You might want to ease your grip on that glass Evans, I don’t care to see if my Healing Charms are up to scratch.”

She gave him a venomous glower and went to get up.

“You certainly jump to conclusions, don’t you?” Sirius said as soon as her back was facing him; she looked around at him, looking incredulous. “I meant for their own safety.”

“Did you now? Thanks for your concern,” she retorted waspishly.

He leaned over the table, almost lazily and once again his fingers encircled her wrist, entreating her to sit down, not only with his grip, but there was something of a look in his eyes.

She sat down in a petulant manner, not caring if she looked all of five years old as she pouted and crossed her arms defensively.

“It’s not safe for any of us these days, but especially for people like you and your family. You know that.”

“‘People like me?’” Lily repeated

Sirius groaned exasperatedly. “Oh shut up. You know I didn’t mean it like that.”

It was as close to an apology as she’d get, so she explained. “They were protected, Dumbledore organised for them to be escorted by Aurors.”

“Do you know how many Aurors I saw around at my parent’s place? How many Ministry officials? Don’t assume anyone is on your side, Evans, because you don’t know where loyalties lie.” He took a deep breath and considered his next words carefully. “And to declare them could mean a death sentence.”

She gave him a questioning look.

“Do you know why Penny’s family were killed?” he asked her, his voice was smooth and sharp and humming with tension, his graceful fingers twitching upon the over his empty glass, itching to act in some violent way. “They were working against Voldemort, they had openly denounced him. Purebloods. They were made an example of.”

“How do you know this?”

“Who else can you think of who fits that bill? Prominent pureblood family, not siding with Voldemort?”

“James’ family? They’re not…”

“They’re in danger of being made an example of. As are you.”

“Why? I’m not important, I’m not even Halfblooded.”

He laughed briefly and bitterly. “Surely you can see that? A Muggleborn Head Girl in these times? A talented witch who disproves everything that these people preach?”

“Oh.” There seemed to be little else to say to that. She was beginning to understand that being patronising and crude was Sirius’ way of showing he cared.

“Yes, ‘Oh’. Just watch it, okay? Don’t start baiting them, don’t put you or your family in any position where you make yourself a target.”

She looked up at him, her eyes blazing fiercely. “And what if I want to put myself in exactly that kind of position?” she whispered, in a challenging tone.

Sirius leaned back again; he smirked at her briefly and shook his head. “I guess I’ll see you there.”

They seemed to have reached some sort of accord and they sat in easy silence.

Lily’s body ached with inaction, the Firewhisky was thumping through her veins and suddenly she didn’t want to be here any more.

“Guess I should get back,” she raised herself up and thought about what to say to Sirius. A thank you didn’t seem sufficient or appropriate.

“I’ll walk you back?” Sirius suggested.

“Hagrid…” she started, but Sirius cut her off.

“Hagrid is three sheets to the wind and won’t even notice you’re gone, besides, he’s not much protection in this state,” he gestured towards Hagrid who was merrily indulged at the bar, crooning some unintelligible shanty with a couple of hags.

“I need you to protect me?” Lily scoffed.

Sirius leered at her, “Sweet, innocent, virgin redheads are going for a small fortune these days, can’t be too careful. Who knows, I may need some galleons in the future.”

She rolled her eyes, and signalled to Hagrid that she was leaving.

“Don’t worry Hagrid! I’ll protect her!” Sirius called out over the din.

Lily gave him a shove and he stumbled out the door, laughing gleefully.

The two of them tumbled out into Hogsmeade; the streets were lacking their usual bustling crowd, so Sirius and Lily were able to amble comfortably down the street. The two of them were silent as the effects of the whisky started to take their toll. Sirius' pace had slowed down, his footsteps mimicking Lily's. The rhythmic fall began to unnerve her and she whirled on him. She immediately felt dizzy but his steadying arm around her waist just incensed her more.

“I don’t need coddling,” she said haughtily, shoving his arm away.

“You need a walking frame at the moment,” Sirius replied, leading her to a wall where she could steady herself.

She took a couple of deep breaths and attempted to straighten. “I guess I don’t handle my liquor very well,” she chuckled, resting her head against the brick, it grated on her cheek, but it felt cool and right now, that was a godsend.

“Well, I didn’t figure you for a big drinker,” Sirius told her, leaning on the wall next to her.

“I do believe I’m utterly pissed. Thanks ever so.”

Sirius smiled slyly, “You know, were you any other girl, this would be ideal for me.”

“I’m not that drunk, Black,” she told him bemusedly.

“You’re not that drunk at all, you know, you’re just not used to it.”

“I hate to think what really drunk would be like, then.” She splayed one of her hands out beside her on the brick, the rough surface made her fingers tingle.

“It doesn’t matter, you don’t remember any of it the next day,” Sirius said drolly.

“Just pray that you kept your pants on and no one had a camera?”

“Something like that.”

“Look, Black, you go back to school, I’ll just…stay here for tonight.”

“Dumbledore would have a pink fit,” Sirius said, “besides, James would kill me.”

Lily growled. “It’s not up to James what I do and where I stay.”

“He can’t exactly help himself.”

She looked over him suspiciously, “Since when do you care?”

He groaned, looked as though he might say something to explain, but a devious grin spread over his face. “I care quite a bit, according to James. So do you apparently. Quickie in the library? I had no idea you were up for a bit of adventure.”

She flushed bight red and buried her face in her hands. “Oh god, he told you that?” she asked, her voice pitching towards a screech.

“There are many things James is talented at, keeping things from me, is not one of them, as you’ve seen first hand.”

Lily didn’t reply, she can only recall two other times she has ever felt this level of embarrassment, one time involved a boy named Darren Mears and some particularly bad timing by her parents and the other had involved James and Sirius, from a time and an attitude long passed.

“Look, how about I take you some place where you can cool off, sober up or calm down,” Sirius said, he reached over to help her up, but she didn’t particularly feel like making any sort of contact with him right now and pushed herself away from the wall, hoping that she could at least be allowed the dignity of balance.

Sirius stayed in step with her, his hands thrust deeply into his pockets, his stature crouched over and yet he still towered over her. “Look, I’m trying to…fix this, it’s my cock up, what James said and what he did…he did it because of me, okay?” She could tell that this admission pained him, but it was a relief to both of them that they had stopped dancing around what they had actually wanted to say.

“I didn’t see you holding the puppet strings, Sirius. Let James take responsibility for himself,” Lily retorted angrily. Her hair was whipping in her face as the wind grew more vicious, she yanked it back artlessly and tried to knot it in to staying in place.

“Fine, he’s a big boy, he said those things and he’s sorry, okay? Let him at least tell you that.”

“Did he send you here?” she accused.

“He was a little preoccupied, Evans, what with the tragedy and all that. He’d kill me if he knew I was here, stupid git wants to fight his own battles.”

“I’m a battle now, am I?”

“You’re an uphill battle, complete with bloody turrets and muggle explosives. You make things difficult for him and for you.”

“Thanks for the advice, but I think I know how to manage my own life.”

“Like right now, for instance,” Sirius pointed out calmly.

“Right now I am trusting you not to walk me off a cliff and hand me an anvil, where are we going?” she replied smoothly.

“You,” Sirius corrected, “You’re going to the Shrieking Shack.”

Lily halted in her steps and gave him an incredulous look. “You can’t be serious.”

“Why? It’s an excellent place to dry out,” Sirius started off again, forcing Lily hobble after him in an effort to keep up. “Not scared are you, Evans?” he teased.

“No,” she replied moodily. “I know it’s not haunted, but the whole place looks like it’s going to pack in on itself.”

“Charmed to look that way, stronger than Hogwarts, it is,” Sirius informed her.

“Ah.” Lily still felt incredibly dubious, there must be a reason why she had entrusted Sirius Black with her safety, because only mad people and drunks did that. She was pretty sure she was the latter.

He walked her as far as the house itself, which hung over them ominously, creaking and groaning with age and wear.

“Right, well, this is where I leave off, surely you can find a door?”

“Yes,” she replied, a little less snippily than usual. “Thank you, I guess.”

“Don’t mention it,” he replied, grinning. “Be careful, okay? You know they’re all going to blame me if anything happens to you.”

“I’ll keep that in mind when I start running with the scissors and playing with the stove.”

He flashed her another smile and sauntered away, hands in pockets.

She approached the door tentatively, gently testing the doorknob, it opened without any further need for experimentation and she stepped inside the house.

It looked even worse from the inside than it did out. The warped floorboards protested under her weight, the windows were boarded up so only the slightest sliver of light was able to invade the house. The air danced with specks of dust, they reflected what little light there was: sparkling in the gloomy atmosphere, the only sound from outside that could be heard was the howl of the wind.

Lily had the feeling that she had stepped into some old horror movie and even though she knew the house was safe and sturdy, the part of her that accepted things at face value couldn’t get rid that unsettled feel in her stomach.

She climbed the stairs carefully, the banisters rattled and shifted beneath her grip, the stairs bent and ached with each footfall, she reached the second floor and found an almost comfortable little arrangement: a dilapidated bed, couch and piano, all remarkably well kept; they seemed such odd things to find in a place that she knew a werewolf inhabited once a month and on closer examination, she could see that there were deep gouges in the floor and walls, wall paper had been torn and shredded by huge claws and lay in messy clumps in the corners. The bed itself had been restored using magical means, she was sure it was Remus’ handiwork.

She reached over to touch the bedspread; it felt warm and worn beneath her fingertips and in her current state, was the most inviting thing she’d ever felt. She flopped down on top of the bed, curling up.

The bed smelt like boys: sweat, dirt and musk, none of them had actually learned a thorough Cleaning Charm, obviously.

She closed her eyes, breathing deeply and trying to forget about her parents, Penny, Voldemort and James, sleep was an inviting option at the moment and the bed was warm.

There was a loud pop, a thump and a surprised yell and Lily woke up, gasping for air.

“Lily?” came a shaky voice. Her eyes adjusted to the dark and she could make out the blurry form of James.

“What’re you doing here?” Lily asked him groggily, her heart pounding

“I…came here to, ah, relax,” James replied. “I went into Hogsmeade, but there were too many people in the pubs,” he explained rapidly, his hands knotting together. “This place is usually abandoned, you know.”

“I know it is, why do you think I’m here?”

James stepped closer to her, his face becoming clear. “Yeah but, how did you…”he trailed off and his face hardened with resolve. “Sirius.”


“Did Sirius bring you here?” he asked rather forcefully.

“Yes,” Lily said slowly, curiously. “Why?”

“He came back about 10 minutes ago, all flustered and insistent I come here to…relax.”

Lily noted the way he kept hesitating when he said he’d come to ‘relax’, she wondered what possible reason could be behind it but then remembered the incident that had set off this whole chain of events, that coupled with James’ pale, drawn appearance gave her the answer.

“How’s Penny?” she asked.

James exhaled loudly and stood very still, crossing his arms defensively. “She’s not good.”

Lily supposed it was a very stupid question to ask in lieu of the situation. “What’s going to happen now?”

“Ah…” James took a moment to compose his thoughts, clenching his hands anxiously, and scuffing his feet on the dirty floor. Against all reason Lily wanted to take him into her arms and comfort him. “Dumbledore feels it’s best she stays at the school, she’s safer here, but her aunt and uncle are coming to stay with her, she’ll go home to them, I suppose.” His voice trailed off to a whisper towards the end and suddenly looked incredibly young and defeated.

“How are you?” Lily asked cautiously. Whether it was the Firewhisky or the severity of the situation, Lily could feel her anger at him ebbing away.

He looked down at her, her eyes were wide and honest and he wanted to reach out and touch her, to take comfort in her… “I’m fine, I’m not the one who lost my whole family today,” he said, attempting to shrug it off.

“James…” she chided softly.

“I’ll go, Lily, you don’t want me here. I shouldn’t have…” he swallowed and then repeated rather desperately, “I’ll go.”

She sat up quickly and slid across the bed, capturing his hand. “I didn’t say that. Stay, James, just sit down.”

His hands shook nervously as she pulled him towards her, he seemed to have given up any thought of fighting her but he kept his eyes on the floor, away from her.

He half fell on to the bed, his eyes still wild and unfocused, Lily pulled herself up to sit next to him, tucking her legs beneath her and watching his face warily, he held himself still, forward facing, trying to ignore Lily beside him, though thinking about her, and smelling her and feeling her warmth detracted his mind from the thought of Penny, of those children, of what they had been put through before they’d been murdered.

He shuddered involuntarily and raised a shaking hand to his face, cupping his jaw.

Lily sidled up closer to him and took his hand in her own again; it tore her up to see him in this much pain, as much as she could hear his spiteful accusations ringing through her ears she could also see the anguish behind his eyes, and in the pull of his mouth.

He looked down at their hands intertwined and recoiled from her as though her touch was vile.

“It’s okay James,” she said softly.

He short, harsh laugh and told the wall in front of them. “It isn’t.”

She wanted to roll her eyes and shake him until he saw some sense. She wasn’t offering anything except than comfort and he needed it, she could see it in the way he held himself like a weeping plant: too long in the sun and starved of water.

“We can play this game all day, James, but I’m not going to let you alone. Sirius is a…he’s many things, but he was right to send you here, right to send me here to find you,” she pulled his face around to hers. “We don’t have to talk or anything, just stay here, okay?”

He nodded numbly and turned away again. “Our talks haven’t been going that well lately anyway,” he mumbled. The subject is awkward for her, and still fresh and riddled with pain and guilt, but at least he wasn’t shaking anymore.

“No,” she said gently. “Look, I wanted to apologise for what I said to you this morning, it wasn’t fair of me.”

“I deserved it," he mumbled softly causing her to strain to hear. "I deserved worse and I damn sure don't deserve you.”

She smoothed a crease in the bedspread, trying to think of a way to respond and how to say what she felt. It would have been nice to understand what she felt herself, but there wasn’t time for that right now.

“Nonsense,” she said bracingly, “you deserve all the good things in life James Potter. Despite not being able to think before you speak, you are a good man,” she finished emphatically.

He looked around at her again, his eyes looked a little more hopeful; the deadened look had disappeared at least. “I’ve no right to…Lily I’m sorry, I’m sorry for what I said and that I hurt you. God, if only I’d thought ten seconds into the future before I opened my mouth for once…”

“You were trying to push me away, I get it James.”

“It worked didn’t it? I can’t take it back; I can’t make it go away…” he dropped his head in his hands, the raspy broken tone of his voice catching Lily off guard. "I'm a fool. What happened to Penny...." she could hear him suck in a breath, " it made me realise how much we all stand to lose, but that doesn’t matter…I’ve already lost you.”

She reached out and stroked his face gingerly, the pads of her fingertips tracing a scar on his cheek, he was sitting so still that a thin layer of dust had settled on his head and shoulders, right now he looked more afraid of her and what she was doing to him rather than Voldemort.

His vulnerability surprised her…in the time that she'd known him, she thought she had seen the James Potter Spectrum of Emotions. But he had never once let his armour slip - never once let her witness the tiny cracks that pierced through to reveal how things affected him. Penny's situation had amplified his emotions, she realized that, but how could she have so easily misjudged his character? She silently thanked Sirius for knowing him better than she did.

It had occurred to her that perhaps she was still a little tipsy, but she banished the thought as she leaned forward and kissed him, at first he was surprised and she thought for a moment that he might try and get up, but he didn’t; his breath was warm and ragged on her lips, his hands slid from her waist to her hair, aching for contact like he’d been starved for months, moving around so he could wrap her up in his arms entirely.

She breathed him in and didn’t let him push her away.

A/N: so yeah, here tis, the thing I've been promising for an age. I really hope you enjoyed it.

The picture is of James, supposed to be a photograph taken by Lily, but drawn by me, I drew it about a year ago,, not that good, but I figure I can use them for something.

Chapter 26: Chapter 26
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The first thing he noticed was the shadows dancing and flickering on the wall as the light from outside penetrated the shuttered windows of the House, the second thing he noticed was that these shadows were far too malformed and blurry and the third thing he noticed was that there was a steady, gentle weight on his chest that felt rather like a human hand.

It was certainly an interesting way to wake up.

James desperately searched for his glasses on what he believed to be a bedside table, he recognised this particular blurry shadow house to be the Shrieking Shack and the delicate hand and mop of red hair as belonging to Lily, but he was far to frazzled to have made any sense of situation, crashing his glasses onto his face he turned his head slightly to the still sleeping Lily, her hair had fallen artfully across her face, shielding it, he could feel his tingling sensation in his arm, it felt like it had been pinned beneath her for some time.

The memory of a kiss, kind eyes and soft hands passed through his mind, a recollection of…what, the night before? Ten minutes ago? Hours? How long had they been asleep for? He began to panic, scanning the room for a clock, but knowing they’d never placed one in here. If there were enough light in the room, he might have been able to use the Tempus Solana spell, but the house didn’t let much of anything in.

His sudden, jerky movements elicited a soft murmur from Lily and he froze, but she didn’t wake, instead she clumsily tried to push the hair from her face.

Haltingly, he reached for her face and with nimble fingers; he brushed her hair to the side of her face, perhaps savouring the touch of her skin a little too much in the process; her restless hand stilled itself.

He caught himself admiring her sleeping form, marvelling at the line of her body and her soft breath on his shoulder; the adolescent boy in him came screaming to the front of his mind, reminding him that he was in bed with Lily, that they had fallen asleep together and for a moment, it was enough. Just for a moment.

A kiss, some crying and a heartfelt apology did not a reunion make; James wasn’t foolish enough to believe that anything had really changed except perhaps, she thought him weak and pathetic now.

Remembering that Lily always wore a wristwatch, James skilfully pulled up her sleeve and craned to look at the time, but with the poor light, James could barely make out the watch face. He carefully and slowly lifted her wrist closer to his face.

She seemed quite determined to sleep, but James was getting careless in his determination. Lily gave a reluctant groan, a few incomprehensible mutterings and she opened one eye. The other eye quickly followed when she realised who was bent over her.

“James?” she gasped, snatching her hand back and very nearly catapulting across the bed. She clutched her robe tightly to her chest. “What are…what’re, wh…oh.” Lily relaxed her hands and smoothed the tangle of hair that had formed at the side of her head. “Oh.”

She blushed plum red and demurely folded her legs beneath her in a distracted fashion, trying to recall all of what had happened.

She didn’t say anything at all for a full minute; her face was a hard mask of concentration, James waited anxiously for a hint of what was to come, already practicing several responses in his mind.

“James, what time is it?” she asked him suddenly.


“We’ve been here for three hours!” she interrupted, after she too remembered that she owned a watch.

She made a mad dash for the staircase, but James caught her by the waist and immediately regretted catching that particular body part.

“Ah…there’s a quicker way,” he muttered, releasing her quickly. “Me and Sirius rigged up an Apparition spot this year, thought it might be easier than fighting that bloody tree all the time,” James yammered on nervously. Lily was contemplatively battling the knot on the side of her head.

“Just stand there and Apparate. The best place is in the laneway behind Honeydukes, well hidden, you know.”

“You’re going to have to take me Side-Along.”

“What?” he yelped.

“We don’t have time to argue, James,” she snapped at him and he knew better than to say anything more, wrapping his arm around her waist again and focusing his mind on a little spot wedged between the wall and some garbage bins. He disengaged from Lily as soon as he felt he ground beneath his feet.

“Lily, I…”

“Please don’t say you’re sorry again,” she mumbled.

“Then what would you like me to say?” he said gruffly, hoisting her over the rubbish bins and avoiding her gaze.

“I don’t know,” she straightened her robes with distraction, trying to sort out her tumble of emotions. “What exactly we’re doing here, why things are so hard between us. Something,” she dropped her voice a notch, “anything.”

James ruffled his hair. “I think my being a prat answers for a lot.”

She groaned in frustration.

“No, look…I…I am a prat and I think it’s best you know this.”

“It hadn’t exactly escaped my notice,” Lily snorted and James gave her a sheepish grin.

He leaned up against the wall and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “You know, I pined for you. Actually sat around and moped. Sulked a fair bit too”

“I can see you’re finally absorbing Remus’ vocabulary,” Lily said drolly.

“That’s exactly my point!” he said exasperatedly. “Anything I say always comes out wrong and if my being a prat should ever make a problem for us in the future, you are free to use my head for a bludger. I didn’t particularly like what I said or did to you and I would really like the punishment to fit the crime. If you haven’t curbed the impulse in a couple of months: take me out and curse me. Tell the kids I went to live on a farm.”

Lily opened her mouth to reply, but James apparently didn’t notice and continued to ramble on, apparently without feeling any need to breath between statements.

“And I know this sounds incredibly corny, like something out of a Celestina Warbeck song; But I…I care about you and I don’t want it to be my stupidity and lack of control that does us in. I just need you to know what you did for me today…and what you do for me…”

He trailed off, gesturing helplessly and took a deep breath to refill his lungs; he now took to eyeing Lily warily, waiting for a response.

She smiled faintly at him and bowed her head, a light blush on her cheeks. Treading softly on the slushy ground, she moved to him and with a coy grin and the whisper of the material of their robes rasping against one another, she kissed him.

"You are a prat," she murmured with a teasing grin, "but I do believe I've built up a resistance to it."

Lily tossed her toothbrush into her already brimming overnight bag. She grabbed her pyjamas from the end of her bed and grimaced, wondering whether she should take her comfortable flannel shorts and tatty t-shirt or the satin slip that Vi had given her as a present on Valentines (with a cheeky grin and a note that said ‘use it wisely’).

But before she was able to make her decision there was a knock on her door and her mother informed her that her young man was waiting downstairs. She blanched and raced downstairs to find James talking rather animatedly to her stern faced sister. His face brightened when he saw her and she nervously smiled down at him from the staircase.

“Your sister seems to think I’m some sort of infectious disease, what have you been telling her about me?” his eyes sparkled with mischief and Petunia seemed very put out by his entire appearance, though to his credit he looked really quite Muggle in faded denim and a plain white t-shirt, but his hair was sticking up at all angles, and the faint outline of his wand could be seen in his jeans’ pocket.

Lily screwed up her nose and glared at her sister. “We don’t usually let Petunia get the door, her nose is usually buried in some stupid girl’s magazine.”

Petunia sneered at her and silently cast a look of disgust in James’ direction before scurrying back off to her room.

“Charming girl,” James said cheerfully and gave Lily a quick kiss on the cheek.

They were only four days into the first week of Easter Break; the last two weeks of school had actually been spent in a blissful fashion, with relatively few disappearances and no known deaths. The inaction was disquieting in the minds of everyone intelligent enough to grasp at what it might mean, but for the first time in since the attack after Christmas there was a good deal of laughter in the hallways.

She and James had spent those two weeks making up for lost time, though both very careful to include their friends not wishing for a repeat of what James was calling ‘The Meltdown’ and just before school had broken up he had received an invitation to the wedding of Alice Babbage and Frank Longbottom. James had been a long-time friend of Frank since childhood, but Frank had been the one to first give him a position on the Quidditch team in his Third Year, which was something far more binding than family ties to someone like James.

Lounging casually in the Common Room he had suggested she come with him. “ It says ‘James Potter and Guest’, can’t turn up on my own now, can I?”

She’d rolled her eyes and pointed out that it also included an overnight stay at the Longbottom residence because the wedding was being held in the evening. James had smiled innocently, kissed her on the cheek and left her with the invitation and the instruction to ‘think it over’.

And here they were, standing in the cloakroom over her parent’s house, her mother watching anxiously over shoulder and her father giving James an appraising sort of look.

“Mr Evans,” James said genially, striding over and outstretching his hand, Her father took it, but the suspicious look still remained on his face as he said his greetings.

“I don’t like this,” he said gruffly, staring his daughter’s scruffy haired suitor down.

“Dad,” Lily chided.

Her mother strolled forward brusquely to stand beside her husband as a gesture of intimidation. “I would like your word, Mr Potter that you won’t take advantage of Lily. Now, I don’t know what sort of things are considered socially acceptable in your society, but in ours, a young woman has a very delicate reputation, if I hear you’ve done anything to betray the trust that George and I are instilling in you tonight I will find you myself and see that you endure a very painful punishment, are we clear?”

James didn’t bat an eyelash at the threats, having long dealt with overprotective and strict authority figures his entire life, he simply nodded curtly and said seriously: “We’ll be in Augusta Longbottom’s house, I can assure you that she won’t stand for anything like that under her roof. And I would never take advantage of Lily, I don’t fancy been scraped off the ground for the next three weeks.”

Lily hid a grin behind her hand and the little joke seemed to ease her father’s mind, her mother eyed him sternly but Lily could see he had made a good impression.

Lily gave him a subtle signal that it was okay to proceed and he nodded slightly and grinned broadly at George.

“So, what’s this ‘television’ thing that Lily keeps prattling on about?”

After an hour of George excitedly showing him around the house and how the various electrical appliances worked while James showed off with a few simple magic tricks, though Lily saw him cast a spell that she wouldn’t have thought possible for him to cast at his age and made a mental note to ask him about it later.

“He’s a very nice looking boy,” her mother said offhandedly as they sat in the dining room, watching James examine their lawnmower.

“He is,” Lily replied.

“He’s the same one who gave you all that grief?” Daphne asked her, taking a sip of her tea.

“The very same.”

“Either you were too stubborn to see him for what he was or he’s calmed down since.”

Lily smiled into her cup. “A little of both.”

Daphne pushed her cup back onto the table. “Is it serious?”

“I…yes,” Lily replied, unsure of where this was now going, her mother fixed her with a steely-eyed stare and then smiled, looking as though she might say something and struggled with herself for a moment before saying, “I think your father likes him.”

Lily chuckled. “He and dad are two peas in a very strange pod.”

“What does he intend to do after finishing school?” Daphne asked, her face a little softer than it had been all day.

“I don’t know,” Lily replied honestly. “He has the marks to do anything he wants…and his family has the contacts and the money, but I haven’t heard him make up his mind on any one job.”

“Money?” Daphne repeated slyly. “Got yourself quite the catch, Lily.”

Lily rolled her eyes as James and George stumbled in from outside, laughing at some story James was telling that involved Sirius, Remus and Peter and the relocation of all the owls at Hogwarts to the Slytherin dungeons.

He looked over at Lily, a smudge of grease on his nose and nodded at the clock. “We had better get going soon – You packed?”

She cursed inwardly remembering the mess that was her room. “Er…no,” she blushed and went to get up.

“I’ll help you – door open of course,” he added to appease Lily’s mother who looked ready to object.

She gave them both a warning look and they advanced upstairs.

“Your father’s great,” James said enthusiastically. “Showed me how to work your lawn mover thingy.”

“So I see,” Lily said and grinned at him as she wiped the smudge from his nose, he grinned back and took his glasses of to remove the last off it.

“Don’t reckon your mum’s too keen on me, what with threatening to kill me and all.”

“No, I believe she threatened to remove certain parts of your anatomy that you’re very fond of, but she likes you.”

James snorted in disbelief.

“No, she does, she would have actually killed you for even suggesting we go upstairs into my room alone if she didn’t.”

James beamed smugly at this. “Old Potter charm.”

“Pffft,” Lily replied. “You conned her into thinking you were a dear sweet boy with only the most innocent of intentions towards her daughter.”

“See? Charm.” They reached her messy room and James took looked around amused by the sight of it. “And you say I’m unorganised.”

“Shut up,” Lily said irritably. She spied her dropped pyjamas and to save herself any awkward questions stuffed both into her bag.

“What else do you need?” James asked her. “I mean, not that I’ll be able to find anything in here, but I want to know exactly what is that you haven’t actually packed in that bag.”

Lily threw a pillow at his head and he blocked it with a quick Shield Charm. At the appearance of his wand, Lily remembered about the spell she’d seen him perform earlier.

“You never told me you could cast a corporeal Patronus,” she stated, glancing up at him as she cast a cleaning charm on the room, things zoomed around her feet, organising themselves.

James looked sheepish and scratched the back of his head. “I didn’t know you saw me do that.”

She raised her eyebrows. “You knew full well I was watching. How long have you been able to do them?”

He twiddled the wand in his hand distractedly. “Only since the start of the holidays, they’ve just been mist until now.” He sighed and rubbed his face, looking careworn. “My dad has been at me to learn it since the start of the year and I’m probably not supposed to say anything to anyone but Bagnold has just passed a law to have the Dementors guard Azkaban.”

What?” Lily hissed. “What’s she doing aligning the Ministry with them?”

James shrugged and looked disgruntled. “I haven’t a clue what they’re doing there, but dad reckons she’s lost her mind.”

There was the sound of something creaking just out of the doorway and Lily flew outside the room. “What were you doing sneaking around my door?” she spat.

“I’m not allowed to walk past your door now?” Petunia said coldly, she glared at James and Lily and strode off haughtily.

Lily raised her wand for a few moments and aimed after her sister, but she decided against a hex and instead thew her hands up in frustration.

“You know, it never fails to make me happy seeing you yell at someone else,” James grinned, rocking on his feet like an overgrown schoolkid.

Lily smiled reluctantly and packed the last of her things in a rather violent fashion, sweeping the room with a Tidying Charm and dragging James out the door with a quick and flustered goodbye to her parents.

They arrived at the Longbottom’s household less than ten minutes later, after a brief walk from the neighbouring town of Pendle Hill.

Lily had seen Wizarding residences before, but none quite as quaint or grand looking as the Longbottom’s; it loomed across the wild moorland, towers and spires sticking out at odd and angles.

They were greeted by a rather stern looking woman to which McGonagall paled in comparison; Frank Longbottom came out of the house beaming at James and embracing him warmly.

Frank was a little taller and stockier than she remembered him being in her in First Year when he was a Fourth Year, but his wide, easy smile hadn’t changed. Upon seeing Lily he grinned slyly at James and went to shake her hand and kiss her on the cheek.

“Nice to see you again, Lily, heard you’d thrown in with this git – didn’t believe it though.”

She smiled at him and congratulated him on the wedding. Alice had been in Frank’s year also and Lily could remember her round, smiling face in the Library all the time.

Frank beamed proudly and even Mrs Longbottom managed a small, tight-lipped smile at this. The two of them were dragged off to their rooms, James and Frank nattered on about Quidditch almost the entirety of the time, though Lily was pleased to hear James enquire about training to become an Auror, that line of work would definitely suit him.

“There’s a few hours until the wedding actually starts, so you may want to start flattening that hair of yours, Potter.” Frank said in the doorway of her room (James had apparently been here earlier in the day and dropped his things off). “But be down in a tic, the lads and I are up in the East Wing, Lily: Alice and her lot are in the drawing room having a chat about- I dunno, knowing Alice she’ll have them all demonstrating defensive spells.”

James gave him a playful punch in the arm and dramatically feigned hurting his hand. “Putting you through your paces, I see.”

Frank just grinned and ambled off whistling some obscure tune.

As soon as he was gone Lily poked James in the chest. “What do we do now?”

“Don’t you need seven hours in the bathroom or something?” James teased, deciding that poking her in the chest would be bad form.

“I rather think you would, you heard the man James, better start on that hair of yours,” she replied mischievously, mussing it up for effect.

He ran a hand through his hair futilely and smiled. “I think it makes me look dashing.”

He hooked his arms around her waist and lifted her up slightly to kiss her, her feet dangled just above the floor. “Either you’re going to have grow taller, or I’m going to have to shrink,” James grumbled.

Lily grinned wickedly and wrapped her legs around his hips; James made a strangled sound in his throat. “Or I could just get a broom and fly around at waist level.”

James groaned. “Girls on brooms, stop being such a tease.”

Behind James, someone cleared their throat disapprovingly and Lily quickly dislodged herself from him, blushing furiously, James didn’t even look slightly abashed, he simply smiled broadly at Mrs Longbottom and trundled off down the hallway, dragging a thoroughly embarrassed Lily along behind him.

James had abandoned her at the door of the drawing room, leaving her to enter a room full of women she barely knew, all of them four or so years her senior.

She felt like a First Year as Alice and her friends, some of whom she didn’t recognise, greeted her warmly.

“Lily Evans, right?” Alice said ushering her towards one of the cushy chairs organised in a circle, the other women beamed up at her eagerly. “I remember that red hair anywhere.”

Alice was a very short witch with honey coloured hair, currently set in an ornate design with sprigs of wildflowers twisted in her braids, her round, pretty face was never lacking for a smile. She offered Lily a glass of champagne and settled back into her chair.

The conversations never strayed into anything serious, just banter about the wedding, what was happening at Hogwarts and Auror training, where she and Frank had fallen in love.

“What are you going to do about your training?” an Indian woman that had been introduced to Lily as ‘Prita’ asked.

Alice looked quizzical. “What do you mean?”

“Well, I mean you’re going to have to drop out of the course after the wedding, to be a mother, I mean.”

Lily found this highly offensive but Alice looked amused. “I’m not pregnant, Prita.”

“But with the war coming, surely you’ll want to stay at home and protect your family,” another witch named Veronica piped up.

“I’d rather be on the front line doing everything I can to protect my family – if we choose to have one.” The smile never slipped from Alice’s features, but Lily could see a hard look lurking behind her eyes and felt an immense amount of respect for her.

“It’s not a woman’s place to fight this war,” Veronica said stiffly.

“Where is a woman’s place, exactly?” a dark haired witch asked irately. “To sit at home and keep house while the men do all the fighting? How does that help win the war?”

“Women aren’t born fighters,” Prita said stubbornly.

“Really? I’ve never seen boy come out of the womb with an intimate knowledge of Defensive spells, either,” the dark haired witch said coldly. “Just because you’re afraid to get involved, don’t blame it on our gender.”

“Marlene,” Alice said warningly.

Marlene threw her a guilty look, her pale cheeks tinged with pink. “Sorry Alice.”

Alice beamed at the room, determined not to let anything affect her good mood. “I think it’s time we all start getting ready, any way. They’re going to need an hour at least to lace me into my gown.”

They flooded out of the room, hurrying back to their own. Several groups formed, gossiping in hushed tones. Lily noticed that Alice, Marlene and two other women held back, casting concerned or dark looks in the direction of the other women. She wanted to join them, to tell them she emphatically agreed but found herself struck by a case of bashfulness.

Alice realised they were being watched and smiled over at Lily before walking off, still deep in conversation.

Lily hurried up to her room, pulling out the contents of her bag carelessly. She found her dress robes crumpled at the bottom and quickly charmed them straight. By the time she had found both of her shoes, had a quick shower, done her hair, cleaned her teeth and managed to slip her robes on, there were fifteen minutes left before she had be down at the ceremony.

She threw open her door to find that she had narrowly missed hitting James in the face; he stumbled towards her rubbing his knee. “Lucky thing I have such good reflexes,” he grumbled.

“You look very nice,” Lily said, smiling wryly. He did look handsome in dress robes of deep maroon and black.

“You looking stunning,” James said smoothly and he crooked his elbow. “Shall we?”

The ceremony was surprisingly simple though Lily was fascinated by some of the Wizarding traditions, there were elements from a Handfasting, and all the bridesmaids wore similar gowns to Alice (James explained that it was so a jealous witch couldn’t single out the bride and curse her) and afterwards shoes were pelted at the newlyweds, for good luck, James said, as he hurled a boot in Frank’s direction. Frank’s mother looked as though she was forcibly trying not to cry and the result was that she ended up looking as though she’d eaten something nasty.

After they had congratulated Alice and Frank, who were now sitting somewhere in the garden, James asked Lily to dance and he surprised her by being reasonably good at it.

“Brushed up to impress me?” she teased as they slowly turned around the dance floor.

He grimaced. “Dancing lessons when I was kid, mum thought she’d have a go at ‘focusing’ my energy. I can also play the piano, beat any man alive at chess and speak French.”

She laughed and rested her head against his chest again, savouring the velvety texture of the material on her cheek and vibrations from his heartbeat, she might have also enjoyed the way he held his hand at her waist if she didn’t have to keep dragging it up there.

Frank and Alice emerged from their little sojourn in the garden, looking quite rumpled and guilty. Frank grabbed his bride’s wrist and pulled her to the dance floor, spinning her around in his arms as she giggled and admonished him playfully.

“You’ll drop me, Frank! I wouldn’t trust you with a teacup at the moment, let alone my back.”

He dipped her down and grinned at her roguishly. “I’m being extra careful, I have big plans for your back and all the rest of you tonight.”

Alice gave him a scandalised look and tapped his shoulder. “There’ll be none of that if you can’t keep your voice down, Mr Longbottom.”

Lily and James tried to appear as though they hadn’t heard anything, but Lily hid a smile in his chest and she could feel James starting to tremble with laughter.

Frank stood up straight again and pulled Alice to him, kissing her deeply. “Anything for the Mrs,” he murmured, just loud enough so that Lily and James could hear as they swept by them.

James’ hand had drifted south again, but Lily found she didn’t care at all, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d been this happy or seen people this happy. Alice’s ever-positive attitude was infectious, Lily could see Marlene and Prita standing together laughing as a wizened and scarred wizard blew up one of the wedding gifts, claiming it to be cursed object.

James shook his head and laughed softly, Lily reached up and kissed his neck and rumble of laughter caught in his throat as he looked down at her.

“Thanks for inviting me,” she said.

“Not a party without you,” he said with a smile.

“I’m sure you’d have found a thousand ways to amuse yourself without me.”

“Perhaps,” he said slyly, a hint of wickedness behind his glasses. “But when else was I going to get you all to myself without any parents or teachers or Sirius snoring in the next bed?”

She slipped her hand out of James’ and drew her hands around his neck, stroking the tufty hair at the base of his head. “And what do you plan to do with me now that you’ve got me all to yourself?” she murmured with a coy smile.

James said nothing but dropped his other hand down to her arse and pulled her closer to him.

All her bravado seemed to dry up and she blushed at the contact and the implication, but she didn’t shy away from him and instead nestled against his chest, hiding her inflamed face, and though his smug smile and controlled gestures might not show it, she could feel his heart beating a little faster than usual.

Later that night after the wedding party had thinned out and the House Elves had started to emerge, Lily was lying in bed listening of the last of the guests (including an increasingly loud Frank and Alice Longbottom) enjoy themselves downstairs.

A strike of light interrupted the darkness as the door opened silently and Lily sat up in anticipation, pulling the cover around her in a futile act of reserve. She’d spent five minutes arguing with herself over whether the slip would look as though she’d come here expecting this.

Part of her argued that she in fact had come here expecting and wanting this, so she pushed her doubts aside and was now wearing it.

James shut the door behind himself and she could hear him carefully making his way towards the bed, tripping over her bag on the way and half stumbling onto the end of her bed.

Lily reached over to light her bedside lamp. “Sorry.”

James, dressed in his pyjamas now, was rubbing his knee again with a pained expression on his face. “I think I’m going to have a rather attractive bruise there, if anyone asks: They’re from a rough game of Quidditch.”

Lily laughed despite the jitters she felt and relaxed a little.

James moved over the bed to sit next to her. “Did you have fun at the wedding?”

“You know that I did,” she replied. “I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a wedding so much.”

“You just enjoyed chucking shoes at them, didn’t you?” he teased, reaching around to find a half squashed mint under the pillow.

“Muggle ceremonies are boring, no one hurls anything except rice,” she chuckled.
“What did you get up to with Frank and the others beforehand? Secret men’s business I suppose.”

He grinned. “Nothing terribly interesting, drunken revelry and that sort of thing, you know us.”

She turned over on her side and poked him on the shoulder. “I know you, James Potter.”

He reached a hand over to cradle her face, his long fingers brushing away the hair from her face. He craned over to kiss and she instinctively moved closer to his body, she felt his hand trail down the length of her body, under the covers.

He broke off the kiss, his glasses askew and his cheeks flushed, she almost whimpered when he took his hand away from the hem of her slip and grasped around behind him for his wand, making the room impenetrable.

“Don’t fancy being interrupted,” he murmured. He righted his glasses for a moment before deciding they’d be a hassle and placing them on the bedside table.

James always looked younger without his glasses, though he tended to squint. His hand crept around her waist and he again captured her lips with his, pushing the covers down from around her and pushing Lily onto her back, holding himself above her body, careful not to crush her.

Lily’s hands crept up the back of his shirt and he sat up, flinging off his shirt roughly. James’ impatience didn’t surprise her and he smiled impishly as he lowered himself onto her again; his kisses and touches becoming more intense and she could certainly feel the affect she was having on him.

His hand hesitated again at the edge of her slip, brushing her leg lightly; he stopped kissing her again and stared down at her seriously.

“Are you okay with this?” he asked her softly. Lily could hear the unspoken urgency in his tone and she idly wondered how he would take it if she decided she didn’t want to, the very thought of the look on his face brought a smile to her lips.

With only a tiny shake in her voice, she nodded, threading a hand in his unruly hair. “I’m okay with this.”

He nodded, dropping his head to hers. He let his lips brush her lightly, tenderly, his voice strong and reassuring even with his own nervousness. "I love you, Lily."

A/N: Yay, bloody finally. I know it's a long one but I hope that makes up for the lack of updates lately. Speaking of which, I'm starting my university term on Monday, so expect updates to be shorter and probably fewer.

I got a kick out of writing Frank and Alice, I think I'm going to enjoy them in future chapters. Oh, play 'spot the future Order members' because that was fun.

Oh, and I know you must be tired of my constant thanks for Linda/timeturner, but this chapter would never have been completed without her.

Chapter 27: Chapter 27
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The old oak’s branches creaked beneath his weight, his grubby fingers traced the worn names and gouges that he and his friends had made as young boys.

The dark, illegible blobs marred the tree where he had first attempted to carve his name, the bark had struggled to repair itself leaving only a scar, but James had been determined that his name would be immortalised on this weathered oak tree and in the first holidays from Hogwarts, he and Sirius had carved their names and charmed them so that they would never fade away. Remus and Peter had added their names as the years went by, and now half the trunk was covered in scribblings, dirty poems, declarations of lovesick thirteen year olds and early attempts at old magic, the charm to make their words untouchable had lasted these seven years.

He heard her approaching footsteps and smiled to himself, he briefly thought about jumping down from the tree to scare her, but having first hand experience of just how quick she was with her wand dissuaded him from the idea.

She stood at the base of the tree trunk, smiling and shaking her head. She was gathered up in her muggle gear, trying to fend off the lingering chill in the air, her hair plaited and snaking down her back, she grinned up at him and rapped the bark with her knuckles.

“Knock, knock,” she said. “Are you coming down?”

“Nope,” he replied, swinging his legs over another branch. “You come up here.”

Lily gave him a look that plainly said he was crazy before reaching for a branch and pulling herself up, James extended his arm down to help her up to where he was seated.

Her thick coat made it difficult to manoeuvre well, so she sat uncomfortably next to James, firmly grasping both his arm and the branch to anchor herself, apparently she no longer needed to look at him to judge what he was thinking. “You’d be scared too if your elbows couldn’t bend the whole way, I’d have a lot of fun trying to pull my wand out before I hit the ground.”

“Because I’d just let you fall,” James retorted sardonically.

A brief flash of anger registered on her face, but her lips fell into a sly grin. “I do recall a time when pushing girls off their brooms was your favourite way to sneak a peek.”

He nudged her very gently. “No need for that anymore.”

James’ parents had been out of the house often for the past four days dealing with Ministry issues and the increasing chaos in the Wizarding World, he and Lily had used it to their advantage.

“There might be if you keep moving like that,” she grumbled. “So why are we up here? Aren’t we supposed to be meeting Sirius for lunch?”

“We’re looking at scribblings of four stupid boys,” he replied, gesturing grandly. Lily looked unimpressed, but she awkwardly leaned over him to see what had been written. One of her hands rested on his thigh.

Her nose screwed up as she read one of Sirius’ dirty little limericks. “Ugh, you really were such little berks.”

He laughed, throwing his head back so far he nearly lost his balance and went toppling out of the tree, but quick reflexes and little hand from Lily made sure they didn’t spend the rest of the day at St. Mungos explaining that her boyfriend was an idiot.

Unabashed from his little tumble, his fingers searched out her face, threading through her hair and tugging at her earlobe (she’d discovered this little fetish early on in their snogging sessions, she’d never asked about the fascination). “Don’t you see it, Lily?” he asked her. “I first proclaimed my undying love for you here.”

She raised her eyebrows and jerked forward over his lap, her hair slipped through his fingers (luckily) and he pointed to a little blob on the tree with his free hand. She could make out the letters J, M, P, T, E and R above a crudely shaped heart and LILY EVANS very boldly beneath it. “Summer after Third Year, I think I’d seen you bathing in the Great Lake, ickle Evans in her two piece splashing about in the shallows – it’s enough to make a boy weak-kneed.”

She looked over her shoulder. “So you decided to tell your tree?”

He grinned. “Old magic. Before wizards had wands they’d carve incantations into the earth, on stone, into wood and hope it would come true, wood proved to be the best conduit for magic. I thought I’d try my luck.”

She sat up unsteadily, “So what you’re saying is that you cast a spell on me?”

“I’d like to think of it as charm. Did it work?” he asked her, all confidence under the façade of innocence.

Instead of replying, she leaned forward and kissed him, she broke away and leaned smiled against his collarbone. “I always did like my men pansies.”

It seemed an age since that day with James, even though it had only been two weeks ago.

A chilly breeze blew past her, shaking the leaves and ruffling her notes. Sunlight fingered its way through the overhanging branches, but the temperature was still rather cold: a typical spring day.

Lily was propped up against the tree trunk, a half written letter, two applications and a stack of textbooks beside her. She paused, her quill wavering just above the parchment and rolled her neck, trying iron out the kinks. Her job and apprentice application forms were due in shortly and because of her muggle heritage, options were slim. James, Sirius, Peter and Marjorie had been guiding Remus, Vi and herself away from names and positions with ‘purist’ views attached.

Lily hadn’t really cared about being out of the running for most of them, but she had desperately wanted the apprenticeship at the Diagon Alley Apothecary, as a potion brewer; James has insisted that the owner, Mr Mason, had associations with Voldemort and that she ought not to bother – no matter how often Professor Slughorn insisted he could get her the job.

It had been McGonagall who had suggested applying to become an Auror, so she was currently trying to think of how to best promote herself, along with answering a latter to her mother about being a bridesmaid at Petunia’s wedding (Lily suspected this was her mother’s idea more so than Petunia’s) and on top of these stresses, exams were looming on the horizon. Less than a month away until she undertook her first exam.

Her final term had been hectic, her Head Girl duties had continued to get more and more involved as Death Eater activity rose and more students lost family members, friends and occasionally their own lives. But Hogwarts remained a sturdy safe haven, so long as Dumbledore was here, Lily knew that there was no risk of attack on the school.

“Hey green-eyed girl,” a voice from behind her said cheerfully and sure enough, James bounded over a tree root and into a sitting position next to her, still in his Quidditch robes and sweaty from practice.

“You are no longer allowed near my record collection,” she told him, noting that she was a very patient individual on her application form at the same time.

He nestled against her neck and kissed her cheek. “It’s all I’m allowed near at your place. Your parents seem to worry about me corrupting their precious daughter.”

The side of her mouth curved into a reluctant smile. “You need a shower.”

“You don’t find this scent manly and intoxicating?”

“Surprisingly, no,” she rubbed her neck tiredly and smeared ink across it accidentally. “James, I have a lot of work to do, please don’t distract me.”

He jumped to his feet and she irately wondered where he got so much energy with all the responsibilities he had these days.

“You need a break,” he announced and before she could protest he had pulled her up on her feet and over his shoulder.

“James! Put me down! This isn’t funny Potter!” she screeched, slapping and punching his back and thrashing her legs about wildly.

“You know, you keep flailing about and you’re going to give everyone a good view of your knickers.”

She stopped immediately and slumped over his shoulder in defeat. “You prat.” She glowered even though she knew he couldn’t see it, but it was for the benefit of the other students watching them, giggling behind their hands as James greeted them gleefully. She imagined he had his same stupid grin on his face right now as he carried her away from the oak tree. She noticed that her books, parchments, quills and other materials were floating along behind them and was at least grateful for his forethought.

“Where are you taking me?” she asked irritably.

“Awa from books and quills and study,” he replied promptly, not really answering her.

She sighed and waited for him to get tired of carrying her, which happened somewhere around the middle of the bridge.

“Now what?” she asked, straightening out her clothes and glaring at him.

He leaned against the railings calmly. “Now you can sit, stand, lit down and take a breather before your brain turns to goo and drips out your ears.”

Lily closed her eyes and pinched her nose between her thumb and forefinger, she loved him, but his little games were very tiring. “I’m so busy James, I have a dozen applications to fill out and letters to write and studying to do. I can’t afford a breather.”

He moved towards her silkily and placed a hand on both of her shoulders. “You are going to wear yourself thin come exams,” he told her seriously. “I can help you write your applications – which you don’t have to worry about anyway, you’ll get in to whatever it is that you want and have several back ups in case you feel choosy later on and you’ll reply to your mother that yes, you will be there for your sister’s wedding with a rather debonair date and we can throw shoes at her and say that it’s the custom of my people in Latvia and your study? Lily, you don’t need to study nearly as much as you do, you know just about everything you possibly can know, what else can you learn by now that you don’t already? You’ll just stress yourself into mental meltdown if you keep going at this rate.”

She groaned and fell back against the wooden beams, he had a rather annoying habit of being right about these sorts of things. “When did you get so compassionate?”

“Since I learned the benefits of a well rested girlfriend,” he smirked and she spluttered in annoyance and punched him in the arm. “Your dad told me to make sure you weren’t burning out and if I get you through this year in one piece, I get a present?” he tried again, rubbing his arm.

Lily looked unimpressed.

“It’s because I’m worried about you,” he admitted, turning on his serious side once again. “We’re going out into the big, bad world soon enough and this is the end of Hogwarts for us, don’t you want to enjoy it, maybe?”

She crossed her arms and looked over at him slyly, too tired to argue. “You’re a clever prat sometimes.”

The rest of the afternoon was spent playing Gobstones and chess, drinking Butterbeer and scheming about all the awful things that they could do to Petunia at the wedding – James seemed particularly intent on the groom.

Ever since the holidays – or rather, ever since Frank and Alice’s wedding – she and James had grown a lot closer, and it wasn’t just that they were sleeping together, it was that they had grown comfortable with one another.

The final week of the holidays had been spent at his place, usually, because his parents weren’t there often and they could do whatever they liked.

The first time she’d gone to this the Potter Estates, she’d been absolutely flabbergasted by the size of and grandeur of it. James explained that they only really lived in one wing of the place; Lily couldn’t help remarking that his parents shouldn’t have stopped at one, with all the extra rooms they could have housed the entire student body of Hogwarts.

Lounging about in the Common Room, nattering on about stupid things, Lily was grateful that James had dragged her kicking and screaming from her studies – not that she’d ever let him have the satisfaction of knowing.

Later that evening, she, Sirius, Remus, Peter, Marjorie and Vi were down in the Great Hall, Lily had tried to offer the olive branch to Martina, but she was having none of it even going so far as to accuse her of stealing Vi from her as well. They’d delegated duties to one another: Remus and Vi were writing out everyone’s job applications, James and Peter were, at random moments and increasingly loud volumes, quizzing everyone at the table and Lily, Sirius and Marjorie were correcting homework assignments.

She had to admit that it was a far better system than her own.

Sirius was grumbling about being roped in to a such a thing and making sure everyone knew he had better things to do than sit here, occasionally she’d hear him muttering something like “Well that’s all wrong, Vampires don’t have a taste for blood, it’s Gin they’re after.” But when Lily snatched the parchment from his hands, he just smiled beatifically and the essays were pristine.

“I think we’re done here,” Marjorie announced after studying each of the parchment rolls meticulously, making sure Sirius hadn’t slipped in any ‘amusing’ remarks. Marjorie wasn’t overly keen on Sirius, James and Peter but out of respect for her friendship with Lily she’d been making an effort to socialise with them. Remus was proving very useful, being as sane and quiet as he was – his good example was making the rest of them look a little less like mad delinquents. Especially Peter who seemed to have developed a bit of a crush on Marjorie because she had been going out of her way to be kind to him and having little patience for James and Sirius, he must have been bowled over to have a pretty girl pay him some attention when his friends were about. He just about tripped over his own feet to say hello to her in the mornings.

Lily wasn’t entirely sure of what Marjorie thought of it all, she hadn’t asked yet and Marjorie didn’t appear to notice anything out of the ordinary.

The day ended with a flurry of owls being sent to respective job possibilities and the letter to her mother winging its way home. The ceremony was the weekend just before the start of exams; it could be managed for her and James to attend.

Something that she hadn’t included in her letter was the information that it could be arranged for her family to come to her graduation ceremony, Lily had long wished her parents could see Hogwarts but with the current social climate it was just far too dangerous and they would never miss it if they didn’t know.

It shouldn’t have bothered her like it did, to leave her parents out of her life like this, but the thought kept her up long after the snores of her roommates filled the room. She was only trying to protect them, it wasn’t like she was ashamed of her heritage and even though she knew no harm could come of them while at Hogwarts, she didn’t want them to be exposed to the blood purists and their fanatical views.

She tossed and turned in her sheets a little while longer before padding carefully from her room, down the stairs and into the boy’s dorm, making very sure not to wake any of the other sleeping patrons.

Slipping inside the valance around his bed, she crawled up beside him. “James?” she whispered, her mouth as close to his ear as possible.

He groaned and rubbed his face as though irritated. “What is it?” he mumbled sleepily into his pillow, not bothering to turn or open his eyes.

“Scoot over,” she ordered him, lifting up the covers and pushing at his side with her feet.

He gurgled in protest, muttering under his breath about her being high maintenance and a lunatic but managed to pick himself up and shuffle over enough so that she could slide beneath the sheets and settle in.

It was cramped in their school beds and James’ fondness for sprawling out didn’t help matters, but she found a comfortable enough position to lie in, curved around him, tangling her legs with his. She thought that he’d gone back to sleep, judging by the deep breaths he was taking, but shortly after she’d closed her eyes, she heard him snuffling and shifting about, throwing off her complicated sleeping position entirely. He rolled onto his back and his arm fell across her chest, drawing her into him.

Kissing a spot on his shoulder, she smiled to herself and lay her head down on his chest gently. This time when she closed her eyes, her head was emptied of thoughts of her parents and filled with the hypnotic rhythm of breath and blood pressed beneath her ear.

When James woke up the next morning, he was rather surprised to find a snoring Lily wrapped around him as he didn’t actually remember going to bed with anyone but himself.

He very carefully tried to extricate himself from her grasp, but she had a tight grip on his pyjama bottoms in a place that he didn’t care to make any mistakes around, so he pried each one of her fingers from him in the gentlest of fashions, still trying not to wake her before sliding over to pull aside his curtains and see what time it was and if they were alone.

The curtains were drawn around Remus’ bed, but Sirius and Peter appeared to be up and out and looking at the clock he could see why.

“Lily,” he said, shaking her a little and her eyes fluttered open slowly. “Lily, it’s time to get up, half an hour before classes start.”

She made a face and sat up in his bed, rubbing her eyes sleepily. Her hair was sticking out in every which way, her cheek was red where it had been pressed up against him and the cotton nightie she was wearing had slipped down to the point where it was almost obscene and James smiled at her.

“What?” she replied grumpily.

“You look pretty,” he replied with a wolfish grin.

“Shut up,” she replied and pulled herself out his bed, fixing up her nightie before opening up the curtains.

“We’re alone. Except for Remus, but he won’t be up for hours.”

She gave him a quizzical look and he shrugged and pointed upwards. “Full moon.”

“Oh,” she replied softly, casting a worried glance in the direction of his bed.

“He’ll be all right,” James told her, leaving out the specifics of that statement. “You’ve got to go and get ready and give a bloke some privacy while he changes.”

Smoothing her hair down, she paused for a moment before laughing to herself, he was about to ask what the joke was when she looked him up and down. “I’ve seen, I came, I conquered,” she told him in a voice that made it plain that she was very proud of herself.

He shook his head and groaned. “Not too early for you to be a smart arse.”

Still chuckling, she bounced from the room and James once again shook his head and started about his morning routine.

Thinking on it, it was a touch unusual for Lily to crawl into bed with him, seeing as she was so insistent on keeping certain aspects of their life private. He wasn’t even allowed to tell Sirius about what they’d spent their holidays getting up to. He looked in the mirror and decided the stubble would have to stay as he mulled over the possible reasons that Lily would forget the Total Secrecy rule she, herself, had drawn up. There would be time for asking later. Right now, he was struggling around the room trying to pull on his robes inelegantly and fix his hair to some semblance of tame, he could precious little afford to be distracted by his increasingly insane girlfriend.

“Oi, James, wondering when you’d show up,” Sirius said as soon as he’d entered the classroom. He was five minutes late, but luckily Flitwick hadn’t turned up yet.

“Slept in,” James replied, sitting himself down next to Peter. “And I had to check on Moony before I left, he wanted a glass of water,” he added in a quieter voice.

Sirius cocked an eyebrow. “He actually asked for a glass of water?”

“No, but I gave him one. And a sleeping draught. And a few books to keep him busy when he wakes up.”

“Thank god mummy’s about to care of him then,” Sirius said sarcastically.

Flitwick scurried into the classroom and onto his pedestal before James hadn’t even thought of a reply.

“Books out, please, we’ll have half the lesson theory and half practice, we’re going to try and fine tune your Appearance Charms,” he announced breathlessly, flicking his wand at the blackboard so that a piece of chalk went to work as he gave his lecture.

Sirius leaned back in his chair and let his quill take notes for him, Peter attempted to do the same, though his notes came out scratchily and occasionally the quill would overstep its margins and continue sentences on the desk.

James looked around the room for Lily, but he couldn’t see her and with a head of hair like hers, she was hard to miss.

A scrunched up piece of parchment struck his head and somehow managed to get caught in his hair and James turned his head to Sirius.

“Where’s Evans?” he mouthed and jerked his thumb back at Marjorie who was obviously the originator of the question.

James was in the process of shrugging and removing the parchment from her hair when Lily arrived in a flurry of apologies and wild hair. She cringed guiltily, mouthing ‘First Years’ at James and slipped into the only available seat, next to Snape at the back of the classroom. He sneered and turned away slightly, but she just set her books down primly and went about straightening herself out.

Sirius made a rude sign at Snape when Lily wasn’t looking and James just glared bloody murder at him, the foul git was insulting his girlfriend, as though she were beneath him.

Lily paid him no mind, looking pointedly at James as she asked Snape if she’d missed anything, when he didn’t reply immediately she flicked her hair back over her shoulder and staunchly told him that she wouldn’t infect his parchments with her tainted blood just by looking at it.

He hunched over the desk, refusing to answer or even look at her and James saw several shades of red, possible mauve and a putrid yellow colour; Lily gave him that same quelling look again, he knew it well, it was the kind of look that told him in no uncertain terms would he be getting any sort of affection if he made a big deal of this and like a chastised puppy, James sunk back in his seat and tried to focus on Flitwick’s voice. He took his notes with a fierce intensity that was rarely seen from him on the subject of schoolwork, dotting each ‘I’ violently and turning long passages of dreary Charms notes into vicious battles, quill and parchment duelling, spilled ink from brutal wounds bleeding everywhere across his notes.

Lily sighed and shook her head upon seeing them at lesson’s end. She reached up on tiptoes and kissed his cheek. “He’s not worth you getting caught. You’re Head Boy, make me look good Potter,” she said teasingly, tugging on his robes to illustrate her point before she sashayed across the room to talk to Marjorie.

Sirius sidled up to him as they filed out. “Later?” he said quietly, out of the side of his mouth.

James nodded.

A/N: So...updated finally and suprise of all suprises, another chapter is actually in the works. With more James and Sirius tomfoolery and gasbagging. I kind of took a break from writing it from James' PoV and have decided that I don't really like doing that and need to write James far more often than I do.