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“You girls so owe me.” It wasn’t Sirius’s first complaint of the day, and it was hardly likely to be the last.  He was positioned on a very unmanly poof, surrounded by sparkly mirrors. The carpet was plush and purple, and he sat opposite a pair dressing rooms whose curtains resembled tapestries, both displaying dancing fairies.

“We know.” Lily sounded exasperated and muffled from behind one of the ghastly curtains.

“I’m breaking more than a few rules for you girls,” Sirius continued in a suffering tone.

“Since when do you have any issue breaking rules?” Mary’s voice came from behind the other curtain.

“I’m not talking about school rules,” Sirius rolled his eyes, though the effect was lost on the girls.

“He’s talking about lady rules,” Remus walked into the room carrying a bag bursting with chocolates and candies.  Bribery had been the only way Sirius could convince Remus to join the expedition; there was no way he would be the only man in a store filled with poofs and pink.

“Lady rules?” Mary stuck her head around the curtain, eyes dancing, “Pray tell, Remus, what is this lady rule that Sirius is violating?”

Never take a girl shopping, they’ll make you carry things and it’s far too close to the friend zone,” Remus’s tone was serious but his eyes were laughing.  Sirius glared at him from his poof.  Sirius Black had always been proud of his abilities as a self-proclaimed ladies’ man and Remus was killing his edge.

Lily’s laugh came from behind her own curtain, “You didn’t have to come into Gladrags with us Sirius; you could have left. Remus did.”

“And you could have owl-ordered a costume and prevented this whole ordeal,” Sirius retorted, shaking his head as he continued, “Nope, Remus only left to get chocolate.  We snuck you out, you’re our responsibility.”

“James would skin us if you got in any danger,” Remus agreed, ripping open a chocolate bar and breaking off a slab for Sirius.

“We could take care of ourselves fine you know,” Mary pulled herself back into the dressing room.

Remus and Sirius exchanged a horrified look. “Two girls against a hoard of Death Eaters?” Sirius asked, “Even if you two do kick their arses, James would still skin me.”

“James is probably going to skin you anyway,” Remus pointed out contentedly. Sirius shuddered a bit, not really able to deny Remus’s claim.  He was definitely not looking forward to James’s reaction, but so long as it all worked out, it would be totally worth it… or at least, that’s what Sirius kept telling himself.

“Alright guys,” Mary’s voice came eerily from apparent nowhere, “I’m ready!” And she pushed open her curtain with an emphatic gesture.

“You’re not wearing a costume!!” Sirius gaped, “All that time and you didn’t even change?!”

Mary laughed, “I tried on three costumes Sirius, I picked the best one and now I’m back in my street robes.”

Sirius shook his head, “No!  I refuse to sit here for hours and not even see what you’re buying!”

Remus leaned back against the pink wall and watched the pair squabble, glad he already had snacks.

“If you weren’t going to show me your costume, why am I even here?!” Sirius demanded.

 Mary glared, “To stomp your feet and whine like a baby I suppose!”

“Guys?” Lily’s voice was quiet but firm, “Can we focus on me for a minute?”

For a moment the three in the waiting lounge were silent as they took in Lily’s outfit, but then Mary broke into a grin.

“And that,” she said, gesturing at her friend, “is why we can’t just ‘owl order’ things.”

Sirius nodded, “Our little Jamesie is going to wet himself when he sees you.”

Lily tried to cover a smile, smoothing down the skirt with her hand, “You think so?”

“It’s just missing a mask,” Mary nodded, “It’s not a masquerade without a mask,” She tossed her bag down on the ground between Remus and Sirius, “Watch that,” she told them, “I saw one up front that’ll be perfect.”

As Mary walked out of the lounge, Sirius dove into her dressing room, intent on figuring out what her costume was going to be. He emerged holding out three brightly colored garments.

“Lily,” he pleaded, “a hint?”

She just laughed, “Sorry Sirius, but if Mary doesn’t want you to know, I’m not telling.  Now, what should I do with my hair?”

“Up,” Sirius replied, at the same time that Remus said “Down.”  The pair turned to glare at each other.

When Mary returned from an unnecessarily long hunt for the mask she could have sworn was sitting prominently on the counter earlier, she found Lily bent double with laughter while Remus and Sirius both pointed their wands at her head.  The girl’s auburn locks were bizarrely dressed; one half of her hair seemed to be attempting a bun, while the other half was curling erratically and brushing her shoulders.

“What the devil are you doing?” Mary gasped, unsure whether or not to be amused or disturbed.

Remus and Sirius, who had previously been arguing loudly, paused and turned to Mary and, unless she was very much mistaken, Sirius had begun to blush.

“Uh… see…” Sirius shifted uneasily, “We’re arguing about how Lils should do her hair.”

Mary blinked, and Lily managed to catch her breath.

“Apparently the Marauders want a say in everything I do for this dance,” she informed Mary, laughter still dancing in her eyes.

Sirius looked affronted, “Of course we get a say in everything Evans; how else can we guarantee success?”

“This prank does have a lot riding on it,” acknowledged Remus thoughtfully, “More than the Christmas extravaganza even.”

Lily and Mary both rolled their eyes at the memory and Mary held out the mask she had grabbed from the front room.

“It’s green!” Lily gasped, sliding it on and tying it behind her head.

Mary nodded as if Lily was very simple, “It goes with your eyes. They’re also green.”

Remus smiled, “You look great, Lily.  Now go change and pay so we can leave.  I’ll take Padfoot outside while you girls get ready.”

Not thirty minutes later, the four were climbing through the shrieking shack’s passageway back onto Hogwarts grounds. Sirius was still trying to get into Mary’s shopping bags, and Lily was still trying to untangle the mess the boys had made from her hair.

The group crept carefully up the front steps, making sure all traces of Hogsmeade were stashed in backpacks and pockets, checking the entrance hall for the caretaker and then darted into the great hall.

Excellent,” Sirius beamed, leading the way down the long table to where a morose looking James sat, “Dinner!”

“Where’ve you lot been?!” James looked up as the group approached, “We had quidditch practice!”

Mary and Sirius looked at each other.

“Oops?” Mary offered, not really sure what else to say; she knew Lily didn’t want James to know just how much effort she was putting into this whole ordeal.

“Sorry James,” Lily said airily, sliding into the empty spot beside him, “I needed Mary’s input on my costume for the ball.”

“And that took all afternoon?” he asked, doubt heavy in his voice.

“Every stitch counts!” Mary replied with forced cheerfulness.

“And you, Sirius,” James turned to his friend, “I suppose you were essential in Lily’s outfit choice as well?”

Lily nodded emphatically, “Sirius has quite the future as a hair stylist.” Remus snorted on his pumpkin juice.

After that, dinner was a subdued affair.  Peter stumbled in even later than Lily, covered with slime and moss and absolutely refusing to discuss the hour’s detention he had just endured with Slughorn.

Mary and Lily retreated before the boys.  Lily wanted to get some homework done before rounds that night, and Mary wanted to get her costume out of her backpack and into her closet before the ever curious Sirius managed to sneak a peak.

As soon as James was sure the girls were gone, he whirled on his friends. “What the bloody hell?”

Peter, who was still ignorant of what had been going on, looked between James’s glare, Sirius’s guilty face and Remus’s amused eyes and assumed the worst. “It was Lily’s idea!” he shouted, slamming his spoon down on the table.

“What was?!” James shouted back, and Peter realized that he might have miscalculated.  James probably hadn’t already figured out that Lily was taking Sirius to the dance in an attempt to make him jealous.

“Oh…” Peter turned to Remus, who, after rolling his eyes and reluctantly putting down his goblet of pumpkin juice, swooped in to save the day.

“It was Lily’s idea to get a guy’s opinion on the stupid dress,” Remus sighed.

James blinked, “Why didn’t she ask me then?  We’re still friends at least, aren’t we?”

Sirius shrugged, “I suspect she felt awkward asking you for advice on what to wear on a date with another guy.  In any case,” he sighed, standing and brushing off his knees, “I’d best get going. I haven’t even looked at that essay McGonagall assigned us, and I know Mary was planning on starting it tonight…”

Remus and James both stared after their friend as he left.

“Sirius is actually doing an essay ahead of time!?” Remus gasped, “Where was Mary during the OWLs?”

“Shouting at him from the other side of the common room,” Peter reminded them calmly, “that was when he died her hair purple.”

“Who’s Lily going to the ball with?” James asked, but Remus and Peter ignored him.  They ignored him again when he asked what she was wearing.  They ignored him a third time when he threatened to jump off the staircase they were climbing if they didn’t talk.  Remus and Peter successfully ignored James all the way back up to the Gryffindor common room, by which point they were quite ready to forget magic and use their wands as shanks just to make him shut up.

Luckily for all involved, James shut up on his own upon entering the common room; Lily was there. Grunting angrily, James slid into the empty armchair beside hers as Remus and Peter bolted for the stairs.

“Hullo James,” Lily smiled over at him, “Started Transfiguration yet?”

James’s anger melted a bit, “Not yet… have you started Charms?”

Lily laughed, “Nope.  What with all the dance preparations I’ve barely had time to go to class, let alone do outside work.”

James groaned in response; “I know what you mean.”

“Any luck with the band?” she asked kindly.

“None,” James glared at the blank parchment that was (eventually) going to be his Transfiguration (or maybe Charms) essay, “I mean, we have a band, but it’s not very good.”

“We could always ask— ” Lily barely got half a sentence out before James cut her brutally off.

No,” he said emphatically, knowing who Lily was going to suggest.

“Fine,” she harrumphed in a rather cute fashion, crossing something out on the page that (very obviously was) her Transfiguration essay. “They are good you know,” she noted after a minute, and James glared over at her. He’d finally managed to write his name on the paper and the date… he should’ve known she wouldn’t have given in that easily.

“Sorry,” Lily added quickly after seeing the look on his face, “Just keep writing your essay… Forget I even said anything.”

“They’re just so weird Lily,” James groaned.

She laughed, “That’s probably why they’re calling themselves the ‘Weird Sisters,’ James.  Who knows, someday they might make it big and we’ll be able to say we heard them before they were famous.”

“Fat chance,” James snorted.  And that ended the band debate for the night.  Instead they sat, side by side, in the common room for the next two hours.  Lily finished her Transfiguration essay and plowed on through her Charms essay.  James and Lily clearly had very different effects on one another.  Lily knew that, if she were to break focus for even a moment, in the quiet common room, she was far too likely to embarrass herself with James, whereas James was simply unable to concentrate with Lily sitting so close but yet so, so far.

The two hours passed slowly or quickly, depending on whom you asked, and when ten o’clock rolled around, Lily corked her ink and turned to James, “We’d best start the rounds.”

Rounds with James varied between being Lily’s favorite and least favorite part of Head Duties.  Of course, they could have designed the schedule so that they were paired with prefects, rather than each other, but they were supposed to be friends after all. Some nights, rounds were beyond lovely.  They would laugh, joke, tell stories and chase each other down the hallways.  Sometimes James and Lily would quickly walk the halls, and then spend the rest of the hour they were supposed to be patrolling in the kitchen with steaming mugs of hot cocoa, using the map to keep an eye on the students.  Those late nights in the kitchens were Lily’s favorite patrols.

Of course, not every night ended with marshmallow fights in the kitchen.  There were those nights when one or both of the pair started out grumpy.  The nights when they didn’t talk and completely overreacted to every little miscreant they found running amok in the halls. Those were the nights that made Lily wish she could have partnered with Remus and made James wish that he hadn’t been picked as the dark horse Head Boy.

As the pair left the common room that night, it started to seem to Lily as if it was going to be one of the latter.  Neither one of them said much as they walked around the floors.  There were no miscreants to chase or messes to clean up, but James did not suggest a jaunt down to the kitchens, and Lily wasn’t really sure that she would have wanted to go anyway.  Even though she had a plan in motion, and was pretty hopeful that she could win James back, she was still a little more than two-thirds hurt that he would ask anyone else to the dance.  Why had he asked Marlene, really?  She was pretty sure that she wouldn’t be able to keep from asking the question if they were in that safe, warm kitchen, and while one possible answer would be the best thing to ever happen to her, the other… would be soul crushing.

James couldn’t help but wonder what Lily was thinking about as they walked the halls.  He usually liked (really liked) doing rounds with Lily.  Of course there were some nights that he couldn’t wait to get back to the peace and quiet of the common room, but when you do rounds every other night with the same person for two months… well there are bound to be nights when you simply want to strangle them.  He liked rounds though.  The nights where he would persuade her to hang in the kitchen were always good, but, even better were the nights when they would round a darkened corner and hear a loud crash or bang (usually Peeves or some inexperienced prankster… or occasionally Sirius), and Lily, who would never admit that she found the dark castle eerie would jump, and for just a few seconds it would be… proper, polite, appropriate for James to grab her and hold her. It was never so dark that James couldn’t see the faint blush and hint of a smile on her face when she realized just how close they were standing and how very nice his muscles felt around her waist.

“Lily,” James started, after near half an hour of silence, he couldn’t help but wonder why they had been able to talk when they had been isolated in a room full of people, but now that they were actually alone, words were lost.  All he could think about was the stupid masquerade, and how she was going to be walking in on the arm of someone so attractive and perfect that Remus wasn’t even willing to divulge his name. James supposed it was possible that Lily was thinking the same thing, only about himself and Marlene, but… he couldn’t ask her.  What if she had only been annoyed that James hadn’t asked her to the dance because she assumed that he would and hadn’t wanted to go to the trouble of finding a meaningful date?   It was plausible, this would be the first time James had ever had the opportunity to ask her out and hadn’t took it… even during the early sixth-year days of their friendship he had never passed up an opportunity to ask her out.

“James,” Lily looked over at the boy, “You were saying something?”  And James realized that he must have trailed off without speaking.

“Uh,” he shook his head, trying to clear the fog.  Without thinking he ran his fingers through his hair, and halfway through the motion he realized what he was doing. He cursed and pulled his hand from his hair and glared down at it.  Across the corridor, Lily giggled.

“What’s so funny?” he demanded gruffly, shoving his hand into his pocket.

Lily raised an eyebrow, “You were glaring at your hand,” she reminded him with a smirk.

He turned his glare on her, which only made her giggle more.

“What’d your poor hand do to you?” she asked, still smirking.

James focused his gaze on his feet and started walking down the hall, towards the common room, as he answered “It ruffled my hair.”

Lily snorted, “You do that all the time anyway.”

“Do not.”

“Do so.”

“Not since sixth year,” James glared, how had she not noticed, “Not since you told me it bothered you.”

Lily didn’t answer, but her hand snagged James’s shoulder, pulling him to a stop.  Gently Lily tugged him so he was facing her, and then rose to her tiptoes so their eyes were almost level.

“It only bothers me,” she half-whispered, wondering where her own daring was coming from, “because I always want to fix it.” And one shaky hand reached up and brushed the hair out of James’s eyes, and then threaded through his hair.

“Lily,” James couldn’t believe it, Lily Evans was coming onto him.

“Why are you taking Marlene McKinnon to the dance?” Lily couldn’t hold it in, though she tried.  She had to know, and surely James wouldn’t let her stand here like this if he didn’t…

“She’s pretty,” James answered automatically.  It was the answer he had been giving everyone when they asked, it was the automatic answer.  It was only after the words had been said and Lily’s hand dropped from his hair as if stung that he realized that Lily Evans probably should have heard the truth, not the lie.

“Oh!” she stepped away, looking as if she had been slapped, “Right then.”

“No! I mean, I’m not!” James struggled to find the words, “It’s not just because she’s pretty!”

Lily stared at him, how could he be so insensitive.  It had been better when he made it sound as if he was only going with McKinnon because she was a knockout, now he was implying that he actually had feelings for the girl.

“It’s fine James,” she said curtly, moving quickly away from him, “Please save me the details of your romance.  I have work to do.  And a very important costume to fine-tune.  Can’t have my date disappointed, he’s so… right for me…  I’ll… I’ll see you around James.”

Lily Evans had never run away from someone before.  If cornered by a large group of Slytherins, she wouldn’t leave until they were all down.  If teased on the elementary school playground, she would kick and punch until the teachers pulled her away from her assailant.  James Potter was the first man she had ever run from.

“Aw crap…” James smacked himself on the forehead and then kicked the wall for good measure.  The suit of armor leaning against it turned towards him and James was sure that, if a suit of armor could look disgusted, this one did.

He walked slowly back to the portrait hole, and was unsurprised to see the Fat Lady standing with her arms crossed; she had always been very fond of Lily.

Upon spying James, the Fat Lady groaned, “Oh for goodness sake, please tell me you’re not the one who sent Miss Evans into a tizzy?”

When James didn’t answer, she scowled, “You need to get your act together boy!  If you don’t pull this off by the end of the year I’m going to owe Vi more galleons than I have!  Now I don’t know what you did tonight, but I suggest you go in there and fix it!”

James sighed, “I can almost guarantee that you will not be the only person to be mad at me over this… though really, no one could possibly be madder at James Potter than I am.”

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