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Chapter 7: The Name Of The Game


“So this is what we call a broomstick, Evans. You sit on it like this,” James smirked, throwing his leg over his broomstick in an exaggerated fashion when they reached the field, “and then you kick off from the ground to rise into the air. We call it flying! Amazing, isn’t it? Did you follow that? We can go over it again if you’d like.”

Lily glared at him before stalking away in the direction of the stands with Hermione without responding. James kept grinning however; it was just so easy to annoy Lily and it never got old. He never got tired of the satisfactory amusement he got from getting on Lily Evans’ nerves. The girl needed to see the funny side of life every now and then.

“Prongs? Earth to Prongsie? Come back to us!” James turned his gaze away from Lily’s retreating back and looked around to see Sirius standing behind him, smirking openly. “Ah, so you are on this planet. I feared the worst there for a minute; I thought you’d been abducted to Lily World again. Try not to scare me like that!” his friend said sarcastically.

James rolled his eyes, still smiling happily to himself, and looked about automatically to see where Lily had gone to, a habit he had developed over the last six years. She had moved off the pitch and was now settling herself in a seat beside Hermione looking very disgruntled. Despite knowing he would definitely pay for this, he had to notice how good she looked even when mad. Hell, Evans always looked good to him! James couldn’t feel too bad for annoying Lily though, it was just the way things were between them. And since she never made the effort, why should he stop enjoying himself?

Not that he’d complain if a few things changed between them…like their dating status for instance.

“You know, Prongs, I think it might be illegal to stare at someone like that,” Sirius pointed out, dragging James back down to the pitch instead of up in the stands daydreaming about Lily.

“You can guarantee Lily knows all the wizarding stalker laws so I’d be careful, Prongs,” Remus added, smiling himself. “She could probably have you arrested or something.”

But Sirius shook his head. “Nah that would mean someone else getting to torture him. I get the feeling Evans likes to commit her own murders.”

James kept his arrogant grin in place. “Personal prison with Lily? I think I could live with that!”

“Harry, I never knew how strange your dad was.” James turned around and grinned at a very amused looking Harry, Ron and Ginny who’d obviously been listening to them.

“Thank you, I appreciate the compliment!” James beamed.

“So are we gonna play?” Ginny asked them.

“Sure thing,” Sirius said, but he turned eagerly to Harry. “But before we pick teams; can I try the Firebolt, Harry?” He was almost jumping with anticipation and James saw Harry grinning himself for the first time that morning. James wasn’t as pleased though. He’d never heard of a Firebolt before he’d come here, didn’t even know about the Nimbus brand, but they sounded amazing! And his son had one! Couldn’t get prouder than that! Which meant he should get first try, only fair after all.

“No way, I want a go first! Can I, Harry, son?”

“Wait your turn, Prongs!” Sirius argued.

“He’s my son, I should get to share with him first!”

“Don’t use that ‘son’ line, that’s cheating! I’m his godfather!”

“I’m his dad!”

“Godfather!”

“Dad!”

“I bought it for him! He wouldn’t have it without me,” Sirius pointed out, looking smug and reached towards Harry. James jumped between them though, putting a hand on the broom before Sirius got a chance.

“Is it true?” James asked Harry, who looked more than a little uncomfortable at his question. Why hadn’t he given it to him? He was his dad after all, what was this all about?

“Well…yeah. Sirius got it for me at Christmas in my third year,” Harry admitted. Why did he look so sad, James wondered. As far as he’d noticed Harry always looked a little gloomy around them, but why? It wasn’t like they were boring! The Marauders were nothing if not brilliantly exciting…if he did say so himself.

“Woo, go me! One for the Padster!” Sirius cheered, looking thoroughly delighted in himself. James fought off a sulk; why hadn’t he bought the best broom available for his son? Why did his godfather get to do it? Seemed quite odd from his perspective…But maybe Lily hadn’t let him buy it for their son? The thought actually amused him; it involved the two of them, him and Lily Evans, together after all. He couldn’t be annoyed by that!

“Well if that is the case then you would have already tried it out when buying it for him,” James said logically, only short of sticking his tongue out at Sirius in victory. “So therefore it should be my turn now!”

James was halfway through swinging his leg over the broom when Sirius grabbed hold of his ankle…causing him to remain standing quite unsteadily on his left foot. Like he really needed both feet on the ground; balancing on two feet was so overrated anyway…

“Maybe. But there’s also the chance that the experience of riding the Firebolt now makes me decide to buy it for Harry when we get to that future time,” Sirius said, James and everyone else, including Sirius himself, looking a little confused at his words. “Anyway, what I mean is if this is the time I decide whether to buy it for Harry or not I really should get first go or else there might not be any Firebolt at all. And that would be devastating, right, Harry?” Sirius winked at Harry who was smiling amusedly at James and the over-confident sly Sirius Black. Damn him! James was so close to winning this argument! No matter, he could beat him. He usually did. He was James Potter after all, and James Potter was fabulous (no matter what the time era!). He was about to charge in with another argument in his favour when Ron interrupted them again.

“How about whoever is on the winning team gets first try?” he said reasonably.

Oh yeah! There was no way Sirius could beat him at Quidditch! He hoped the Firebolt was ready because it was almost his. One Quidditch game away and he would be soaring around the pitch on it laughing at Sirius.

It was so much fun to beat your best friend after all! It just made competition all the more entertaining as he and Sirius had discovered long ago. Who had the most detentions, who came up with the best pranks, who had the most dates…their list of rivalries went on forever.

“Deal!” James agreed enthusiastically. “I get Harry and Ginny on my team!”

“No way,” Sirius complained loudly. “I want Harry at least!”

Remus sighed. “Oh great, here we go again.”

“Are they always like this?” James heard Ginny ask as he continued listing the rules behind the “First come, first served” clause to Sirius.

“These two? Constantly. They never give up, they have to make a competition out of everything. It takes about half an hour just to decide who gets to use the bathroom first in the morning,” Remus said and James could see the others grinning and laughing.

“So this is going to be a long morning, then?” Ron asked. “I should have had more breakfast.”

“Here, here!” Sirius called, stopping halfway through his rant about “talent distribution” to agree. James laughed; you could nearly always distract Sirius with food…or a girl. Whichever happened to be more handily available at the time.

“Let’s get this game started then!” James yelled, taking advantage of Sirius’ distraction. “Harry, Ginny, over here to discuss tactics!”

“Hey, now wait just one minute, Potter!” Sirius called but Remus put a hand on his shoulder.

“Just let it go, Padfoot.”

James laughed as he heard Sirius growl and mutter; “Fine then. But Merlin save you if we lose, Moony.”

This was going to be fun!

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

“Stupid, Padfoot,” James muttered to himself as he strolled down the stairs towards the common room later that night. Very later that night. He should be sound asleep by now!…if only his bloody friend could only sleep soundlessly.

Walking into the deserted common room he thought back through the day he’d just had, smiling broadly at the funnier parts. He couldn’t think which had been the bigger highlight; winning and rubbing it in Sirius’ face as he flew around the stadium on the Firebolt, or Lily trying, and failing miserably, to mount a broom for the first time. Ahh, that was a moment he would remember forever. It seemed strange that he could love someone who couldn’t even do the thing he enjoyed most…but then again she had looked adorable when the broom took off and she shrieked in surprise before tumbling to the ground about two foot below her.

Oh the memories.

James collapsed restlessly onto the sofa in front of the now extinguished fire and looked around the common room. It didn’t seem real that twenty years before now he would have been sitting here in his own time…well maybe not exactly now, he would have been sleeping normally. But you get the picture.

Not much really seemed to have changed here…and yet everything was different when he really thought about it. Not that he was keen on thinking over it too much, that would just spoil all the fun. It was obvious, even to him who was trying to ignore it, that there was more at work here that anyone let on. Stuff that was a hell of a lot darker than he’d faced himself so far.

But for now, he was perfectly happy just to day dream about the life he would have with the Lily Evans when he got to live it for himself. Life was good…

Thinking about his bride, his wife, his life partner (phrases he would never tire of mentioning around Lily he was pretty sure) he sat up. Well, since he wasn’t going to go asleep, he might as well go on a walk. And sure if he was really lucky, something known to happen every now and then, maybe Lily would be out for one too.

You know midnight was quite a common time for going on an out of the blue walk. And he hadn’t let Lily’s darkening circles under her eyes escape his notice either; she hadn’t been sleeping properly by the looks of things.

Moving quickly, this new prospect giving him an extra burst of energy, he left the common room through the portrait hall and entered the empty corridors - which would hopefully remain that way as he didn’t have the usual helping hand of the invisibility cloak. Although he had a long record of detentions, he didn’t feel like adding the prize of future punishments to the list just now. Maybe later mind, but not right now.

However, while he was lucky on the one hand that the halls remained empty of teachers and professors, it also lacked Lily. Darn it, dragging himself out here and she didn’t even have the decency to be there to bump in to.

Maybe the game had tired her out, she had seemed to be very focused on something…that wasn’t him he was sorry to say. But she did look distracted most of the day (one tended to notice these things about the people they’d watched almost minutely all day long for six years or there abouts) so she was bound to be tired.

…Or bound to be sitting up awake in the Head common room.

Yes, that was it! Grinning he made his way towards the Head rooms through the various hidden passageways and tunnels he’d committed to memory, paying little thought to the warning sirens blazing in his head telling him just how happy Lily would be to deal with him in the middle of the night. She could hardly stay calm in his presence during the daylight hours, he didn’t really want to dwell on how she’d react to him while sleep deprived.

Oh well, it was a risk worth taking in his opinion!

Moving swiftly, with impressive pace for someone with barely twenty minutes sleep, he wove in and out of the corridors unnoticed, thank Merlin, until he eventually stood outside the portrait for the Head common room.

He still couldn’t believe that he actually got to spend a year in this dorm. How in Merlin’s name had be become Head Boy? Maybe Sirius was right; maybe Dumbledore had made a be to see how long the castle would last with him in charge.

He’d have to ask how that actually turned out…He was entitled to some of the winnings!

But not right now. He had different plans for just now.

The large golden phoenix that guarded the entrance was staring at him with wide eyes, obviously not asleep himself, waiting rather patiently for James to speak the password.

“Can’t sleep either, mate?” James asked the bird conversationally, the magnificent creature shaking his head from side to side before looking over his shoulder. Was he trying to tell him something?

“Someone keeping you up?” he asked excitedly, looking even happier when the gold and scarlet bird let out a note of affirmation. Oh yeah, go James! Moving as close to the portrait as he could, he strained his ears to hear what was going on inside. Maybe Lily wasn’t having a very happy sleepless night, judging by the fact she was keeping the portrait guard awake. But there was no yelling, no angry shouts…no screaming from her torture victims. None of the usual stuff.

In fact, he was ready to believe there was no one awake in the whole place until he snatched a fragment of speech said in a feminine voice, most decidedly Lily’s (getting whiplash every time that voice spoke kind of committed it to memory with force).

“Does your scar hurt, Harry?”

Hmm…so Harry was up to? Well that kind of demolished his original plans of sweeping Lily off her feet (he didn’t like to see his parents at that type of thing, he wasn’t going to subject his own son to that just now). But it could still be interesting.

Finally giving the beautiful phoenix the password, James stood back to let it swing forward and scrambled through the opening revealed behind it. Inside he saw Harry and Lily sitting on the sofa opposite the fire, both in their pyjamas yet not looking very tired.

Well that made one of them. But he could pretend for a while.

The two had swung around when he’d come in, alarm so clear on both faces James had to hold in his laughter…he knew it could probably be very likely that someone came after Harry often enough to make him expect attacks, a thought that was quite an amusement-killer. Trying to act like waltzing into the Head dorms in the middle of the night was no big deal, he smiled.

“Hello, all. What are you two talking about?” James asked, taking a seat casually on one of the two available armchairs beside the sofa…the one nearest to Lily coincidentally. Does that surprise you? If so, you need to pay better attention!

“Nothing you’d be interested in, Potter,” Lily quipped abruptly, quickly recovering from her fearful thought of someone coming inside.

James raised an eyebrow. Oh really? “How can you be so sure, Evans? I have many interests that may surprise you.”

Lily rolled her eyes at him. “Yeah right, Potter. You’re only ever remotely interested in anything if it can fly or is fawning all over you like some brainless idiot.”

James smiled brightly. “You’re quite mistaken there, Evans. On the contrary, I’m very interested in you. And, as has been demonstrated today, you have the flying ability of a penguin,” he said, remembering the hilarious attempt Lily made at Harry’s encouragement to mount a broom, “and don’t show any humanly intelligible signs of fawning all over me…unfortunately,” he continued, adding the last bit under his breath but well aware she could still hear him.

He really hoped penguins couldn’t fly…he might just look a teeny bit stupid if it turned out they did. His clever sentence would be ruined then, and James didn’t like to have things ruined. Especially the things that made him look smart, which were pretty few and far between.

“What are you even doing here, Potter?” Lily asked, suddenly sounding very tired.

“Actually, Lily darling, I think the question that needs to be addressed here is why I wasn’t here earlier,” James countered, frowning from her to Harry and back in a play-along-that-I’m-serious voice. “I’m very disappointed that you didn’t invite me to this little family get together. I’m wounded! If you’d told me about it I would have been here long ago.”

“Oh joy,” James heard Lily mumble and a smile flickered across Harry’s face. Well, James wasn’t going to let this minor fact of being disowned by his own wife and son keep him down. It was easily dealt with; force his company on them! Apparently it was a very successful method for securing said wife in the past, who said it wouldn’t be as effective now?

“Not to worry, Lily dear, I’m here now,” James reassured, earning him a roll of the eyes by the red haired girl. Didn’t those eyes ever get tired? Rolling constantly like that must be some sort of slave labour. He hoped they’d go on strike soon, earn themselves some rights!

“So, great game today, Harry!” James complimented for the hundredth time since the previous morning, beaming proudly at the other boy who even managed a grin in return.

“Thanks,” Harry replied, looking genuinely pleased at the compliment, however many times it had been repeated. Ahh, just like his dad!

It was quite shocking when silence feel between the three of them then. Sure, it was late at night, but James Potter was still in the room. That wasn’t usual a characteristic of a quiet room.

Breaking the awkward hush (you know, not wanting anyone to get the wrong idea that he was going soft or something. Psh, don’t even think like that!) James said; “So what were you talking about earlier? Fascinating and all as that fire is, I doubt that’s what has you both up at this hour.”

“Wow, observant, Potter. Didn’t know you had the ability in you,” Lily said sarcastically.

“Not to worry, Evans. We have plenty of time to improve your knowledge of me during our marriage,” James said in an offhand manner, giggling on the inside at the outburst she was trying to hold back. Holding steady on his track though, James continued; “So what was so interesting that has you both up?”

Again, it was Lily who did the talking, after glancing hurriedly at Harry. What were they hiding, James wondered? But before he could ask, Lily spoke. “Nothing specific. Just…general things.”

“Well I’m very interested in things that are going on now, even the general stuff,” James said, successfully cutting off the legs of Lily’s attempt to hoodwink him. He was handsome, not stupid!

Lily gave a tired sigh. “If you really have to know, we were talking about Harry’s scar.” James was quite surprised she’d actually given into him so easily, that was definitely something for the history books! She must be falling for him…or else she was just really interested in Harry’s story. Nah, had to be the first one.

But when James glanced over at Harry the look he found on his face was clearly not happy his mother had relented and returned to the topic. Not that he could blame him - James doubted very much telling people how you cut your head open was a bunch of laughs. But he also had to admit that he was curious about it himself. Harry had only mentioned his scar once really, the first day they were here. Secret things always caught James’ attention.

“Yeah, what’s with that? You said Voldemort gave it to you?” James asked curiously and all Harry did was nod. “But why’d he come after you in the first place?” He didn’t bother pretending like he thought it was an accident. Lily might call him dense at times but he did have a bit more cop on than to think Harry had just stumbled into Voldemort’s way.

Harry looked very uneasy again, as he usually did whenever anyone asked him about his confrontations with Voldemort James had noticed. “Well…he was after you and Mum.”

“Why?” Lily asked evenly.

“I suppose it was because how powerful you both were, and how much you were against the Dark side. You were Aurors and members of the Order so he wanted to get rid of the people who would cause problems for him, I guess,” Harry said, refusing to look at either of them

“What’s the Order?” James and Lily asked keenly. James understood his own enthusiasm for this subject, it was cool knowing you’d ticked off some great powerful wizard, but he was a bit surprised Lily wasn’t completely shocked by the revelation that Voldemort had been after them. Strange woman that. He really wished she’d pick one personality and stick to it. Having to work with her dozen different characters involved more bloody study than the NEWT’s did!

“It’s like a secret society,” Harry explained. “It was set up during the first war as a resistance against Voldemort. Dumbledore founded it.”

James didn’t say anything, neither did Lily. All she did was nod in understanding, her lips turned down in a sad frown. He still didn’t believe it himself; Dumbledore was really dead? You didn’t just accept those type of things.

“So he came after us when he found out we were part of the resistance?” James went on. “What happened then?”

“Well, Dumbledore suggested you go into hiding, and-” Harry was saying but James cut him off, unable to hold in his vexation.

Hiding?! Why did he made us hide? We could have fought him!” he burst.

“I suppose he didn’t want to risk it,” Harry said, shifting a little in his seat. James’ eyes narrowed suspiciously; what was really going on here? But before he could demand a real answer, Lily spoke firmly.

“Of course he didn’t, and I’m pretty sure I would have agreed with him. What if we’d fought and got killed, James? Do you want Harry to grow up without his parents because you wanted to act the hero?!” Lily said powerfully.

There was no doubt about it; Harry definitely looked paler now. He had started visibly when Lily spoke, and though he was trying to settle his expression James had caught the flash of panic that had run across it. Wow, we must be wonderful parents if he is so terrified of us dying, James thought with pride. But clearly this conversation was hitting a lot of nerves Harry couldn’t handle. So James, being ever the hero as Lily had pointed out he enjoyed doing, decided to sacrifice himself to his wife on his son’s behalf.

“Wow, Flower. Admitting to us as his parents and calling me James all in the one rant? You must be falling pretty hard. Don’t worry though, I won’t let you hit the ground when you finally get there,” he said, his arrogant grin in place and winked at her. Oh yes, she was effectively distracted. James could almost see the anger rising up through her body until it reached her mouth so she could voice it.

“Merlin, Potter, can’t you take anything seriously?! Does everything always have to focus around you and your giant ego?” she fumed. James still smiled; just like always. Those five minutes had been nice, talking like they actually got along, but now the truth was returning. Sad, but fun too. Plus Harry looked relieved to see his mother distracted. She must be torturing him all the time trying to force information out of him. Poor chap, he knew what that felt like!

“Well it wasn’t just about me this time. It was about us! Which is far better in my opinion, and I know you‘ll be able to admit you like it too soon enough. It‘s not a good idea to hold in your feelings about me like that, Lils. It has a tendency to come off as anger which isn‘t very pleasant.”

“You’re ridiculous, Potter. Absolutely unbelievable!” Lily cried, “I’m going to bed. I listen to enough of your rubbish during the day time, there’s no way I’m going to put up with it at night.”

With that she really did stand up and stalk towards her room without so much as a goodnight to her son. After the door had slammed behind her (most likely rousing Hermione nicely) James turned to Harry who was trying to hide a smile.

“Don’t worry. You get use to her tantrums after a few years,” he reassured and Harry grinned back. He was about to say more when he heard a muttered yelling coming from the other side of the Head Girl’s door. James glanced from the door to Harry before both burst out laughing.

Oh yes, one big happy family. That was the Potters alright…

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