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"How is she doing?" Ellen asked me quietly.

I was sitting with her and Pettigrew on the couch in the common room after dinner that night, silently staring at the fire and attempting to complete my Transfiguration essay. Leigh and Remus sat on the floor in front of us, their schoolwork scattered around their legs. Meg was upstairs in the dormitory shoving chocolate in her mouth at a mile a minute, not speaking to anyone since we had returned from Hogsmeade. James said he had to go to the library. Brooke and Sirius had gone missing for a few hours, shown up at dinner, and then they ran off again. Frankly, I didn't want to know what they were up to. However, Ellen, Leigh, and I felt that her time spent with Sirius was necessary. Merlin knew this had been building up for years now.

In response to Ellen's question about Meg, I merely shrugged. I had told my friends that Meg had simply been shocked by the event, and so I took James out of class to be our escort for chocolate. They didn't ask many questions, and they gave Meg her space. We all decided to pretend like nothing happened.

"Help me," Pettigrew whined, elbowing me and pointing toward his essay. I picked it up and raised my eyebrows.

"'Peter Pettigrew, 7th year, Gryffindor House. Why the Second Flourish Is Important to the Rienate Spell,'" I read aloud. "Pettigrew, why do you want me to help you? You have absolutely nothing written down."

Leigh giggled as Pettigrew's face turned a darker shade of pink. I handed his essay back to him.

"Try," I commanded. "If you still can't figure it out, come find me."

After I made sure Pettigrew was using the textbook to write his essay (honestly, it's as though the Marauders are allergic to the concept), Remus and Ellen began a quiet conversation about Professor Slughorn's most recent exam. I ignored them as I added the final finishing touches to my essay.

I made a triumphant noise, blowing on the ink to make it dry faster. As I was rolling the parchment up, Sirius and Brooke came bounding in through the portrait hole, James not far behind them. His eyes met mine for a brief moment, but then he glanced away and shot a smirk toward Pettigrew.

Although Sirius and Brooke were holding hands, Brooke was biting her lip and searching our group of friends for someone.

"Where is she?" she asked as the three of them walked over to us.

"Upstairs," I muttered.

Brooke nodded and let go of Sirius's hand, sprinting towards the girls' staircase and taking them two at a time. Sirius watched her leave with a familiar lovesick glint in his eye.

Ellen clearly noticed this, too. "You romantic sod," she said, whacking him in the stomach with the back of her hand.

Sirius smiled and winked. "You know how I do it, baby," he said smoothly. Ellen rolled her eyes and turned her attention back to her essay.

James sat down in the armchair nearby and ran his hands through his hair. My stomach flopped uncomfortably, but I convinced myself that it was because I had eaten too much chocolate today.

There was a strangled sound, and I turned toward the noise to see that Leigh was glaring at Sirius.

"What?" Sirius asked innocently.

"You know what," Leigh hissed. "One of our friends is up there crying because of your utter tactlessness."

Sirius was quick to defend himself. "I was not being 'tactless' and you know it, we all know –"

"Stop trying to pretend this is okay, you of all people should've known that seeing something like that would make her want to –"

"'Me of all people'? What is that supposed to mean?"

"You know full well that you're such a –"

"– Don't you dare finish that sentence if you value my manhood –"

"– Ha! As if I care if I hurt your feelings when you're so insensitive to –"

"Stop it!"

Leigh and Sirius stopped bickering and joined the rest of us in staring at James, who was glaring at the two of them.

"Sirius did what came naturally to him, and we all know he and Brooke have been needing to do that for ages." James's eyes flickered to me and then away again. "It hurt Meg in the process, but this isn't about Sirius and Meg, it's about Brooke and Meg. Hopefully, their newfound friendship will be strong enough for them to move on and mend the bond was broken. Or whatever."

I stared at him with my mouth wide open.

"When did you get so wise?" Ellen asked bitingly.

James shrugged. "You were just fighting over something stupid. Meg doesn't need Sirius back, she just needs her friends to be with her while she's feeling this way. Just trust me on this." His eyes flickered to me again, and I looked down at the finished essay rolled up in my hands.

"Erm, right," I said. I stood up from the couch and stretched. "Well, I'm going to go to bed now. 'Night."

Leigh, Ellen, and Remus told me goodnight. James said nothing, he just stared at his shoes like a complete prat, and Pettigrew complained to me about his essay.

"I'm sure Potter can help you," I said, "he's better at Transfiguration than I am anyway."

James shot me an unreadable look, but I tried not think much of it as I walked up the stairs to the dormitory. The hangings around Meg's bed were drawn, but I could hear Meg and Brooke whispering behind them. I was pleased that they weren't yelling at each other or anything crazy like that.

Silently, I changed into my pajamas and climbed into bed. I fell asleep quickly, but when I awoke the next morning, I found that I had dreamed of James Potter, who had been holding a piece of parchment that rolled all the way down to the ground and was reading aloud to me a list of all the things about him that I had never noticed before.

So by the time all the girls had awoken, I was determined to study not only James but all the Marauders' mannerisms this morning at breakfast. After a long talk with Meg over the tops of the showers, it was clear that Brooke was now closer to the girl than any of the rest of us were. Meg told us that of course, she was not angry at any of us, nor was she angry at Sirius, but she was frustrated with herself for being so weak.

"You are not weak," Leigh said forcefully, her voice echoing off the shower walls.

"Yeah, anyone would have reacted the same," Brooke said. I could hear her smile through her voice. "We're all just lucky that you're so forgiving."

Meg laughed easily. She seemed to have returned to her perfectly at ease attitude overnight.

"Don't worry about ickle boys anyway," Ellen said. "I'd rather fall in chocolate than fall in love, honestly."

"Hear, hear!" I said, and all of us laughed.

After getting dressed into our uniform, the five of us wandered down to the Great Hall for breakfast. James and Remus beamed at Meg as we sat down beside them, and Sirius smiled shiftily at her. Well, it was a start.

I was sitting beside James, so that I could more easily creep in on the Marauders' conversations and watch them without causing too much suspicion. I began buttering my toast casually as I racked my brain for a conversation starter.

"So…" I said, "Did you boys hear about the Tornadoes completely crushing the Cannons last Wednesday?"

Immediately all the Marauders began talking over one another.

"Of course they pummeled them," Remus said scornfully, biting into his bagel forcefully. "How did the Cannons stand a chance when the Tornadoes have a Keeper like Michael Meadows?"

Sirius barked out a laugh. "Michael Meadows is a dolt. Every move he saves is based completely on luck!" He shook his hair out of his eyes and spooned some cornflakes into his mouth.

"That save Williamson made though," piped up Pettigrew, blinking quickly as he spread some shredded cheese over his eggs. "You can't deny the Cannons don't have good Chasers when they've got someone like that."

James, who had been listening patiently while his friends spoke, suddenly said, "Yeah, but those two Beaters the Tornadoes have – Kyle and Brunner. They make quite the pair."

"Practically unbeatable!" Remus chimed in.

"UNBEATABLE!" Sirius exclaimed. "HA! That was punny. Good one, Moony."

Pettigrew rolled his eyes. "Anyway, the Cannons have never lost that badly before. Maybe they were just having an off game."

"Hmmm. Maybe," Sirius consented. He was now attempting to shove three pieces of bacon into his mouth. In the process, he caught Brooke's eye, and winked. Brooke sent him a disgusted face and returned to her conversation with Leigh and Meg.

"Pete, I think you've got enough cheese on your eggs for now," Remus said slowly, moving the plate of shredded cheese away from Pettigrew before he could get more.

Pettigrew nodded and his eyes flickered over to me. He had noticed that I had been watching them. "Oh, right," he said.

"So, Lily, what did you think of the match?" Remus asked me politely.

I shrugged. "The Tornadoes deserved it, I think. They've been training a lot harder this year than the Cannons, and I agree with Potter that the Tornadoes Beaters are outstanding."

James raised an eyebrow at me. "Of course, the only thing we can agree on is Quidditch."

I laughed. "I learned from the best," I said, remembering that James had been the one to explain it all to me.

He obviously remembered this too. He was looking at me with a quizzical expression, as though trying to make me understand something that, to him, seemed very simple. Of course, I couldn't form any kind of coherent thought when he was looking at me like that. Curse him and his stupid pretty eyes. I was going to gouge his eyes out with a pair of acorns and then give the eyeballs to Professor Slughorn for class.

Wow, that insult was particularly violent. Oh, well. Potter deserved it. Stupid, attractive, Quidditch-teaching, overly-patient git.

"Oi," Sirius said suddenly. James turned to look at him. "Stop bouncing your knees like that, mate, you're making the table shake. You know I hate it when you do that."

Sure enough, James's habit of bouncing his legs was causing the contents of my flask the quake. I raised a brow at this, filing all the characteristics that I had learned from this conversation into my mind for future studying.

"Sorry," James said. The four Marauders shot quick looks in my direction and then returned to their food.

I furrowed my eyebrows at this, about to open my mouth and begin another long conversation, but I was interrupted by the arrival of Ryan.

"Hey," he said, leaning down to kiss me on the cheek. I blushed and tried to keep my gaze away from Potter. "What are you doing later?"

I picked apart the crust from my toast and didn't meet my boyfriend's eye. "I dunno," I said slowly.

Ellen, who had, thankfully, been watching my face once Ryan wandered over, suddenly said, "It's girl's night, so we'll be stealing Lily all day. Sorry."

"Girl's night again?" Brooke complained loudly. Ellen shot her a look and Brooke abruptly changed her tone. "This is great!"

"Yaaaaaaay," mocked Sirius in a high-pitched voice, "it's giiirl's niiight! G.N.O. ladies, let's get naked!"

Leigh shot a glare at him and I sent Ryan an apologetic expression. "Sorry," I said, "but duty calls."

"Aw, but you girls steal my Lily all the time!" Ryan said to my friends, laughing. "Not that I mind, you give her excellent stories to tell, but share a little bit, please!"

I sensed James tense next to me. I glanced at him, and he quickly tried to arrange his face into a nonchalant expression. His knees began to bounce again.

"I'm sorry, Ryan," I said forcefully, "but I've got other plans. Maybe some other night."

Ryan held his hands up in a surrendering gesture. "Fine," he said, smirking easily. He reached over me, grazing his hand along my left shoulder as he made to reach for the fruit basket on the table. He probably thought he was being seductive or something, but all I could think about was the fact that his hand just ran over those seven freckles on my shoulder that made the smiley face – the ones only James knew about.

Ryan snagged an apple, smirked, and said, "See, ya, Lil."

As soon as he was out of earshot, I sighed and said, "Thanks, Ellen. I owe you one."

"No problem," she said, smiling kindly. "But if he's annoying you, you should probably break up with him."

I was opening my mouth to explain that Ryan wasn't usually like this, that this new persona had only started appearing within the past week or so, when suddenly James shouted "Anteoculatia!" and a great burst of dark light shot from the end of his wand.

Ryan, whose back had been to the Gryffindor table and who had been walking innocently out of the Great Hall, immediately sprouted two enormous antlers that emerged from the crown of his head. Unaccustomed to the added weight, Ryan began stumbling around on his feet and then fell head-first into a crowd of Hufflepuffs, who screamed and dove out of the way.

"WELCOME TO MY WORLD, HENKE!" James was yelling in the midst of all the commotion, laughing loudly at his own handiwork. "INNIT PEACHY?"

Remus frowned, shushing his friend with an imperative expression. "What on earth were you thinking, Prongs?" he demanded, shooting another quick glance at me and the girls.

James stopped laughing and looked at me guiltily. "Oops?" he said, raising his shoulders and looking at me innocently. He looked kind of cute when he did that, so of course I yelled at him for it.

"POTTER!" I roared furiously. "THIS IS THE SECOND TIME YOU HAVE HEXED ONE OF MY BOYFRIENDS, AND IF YOU THINK FOR A SECOND THAT THIS KIND OF BEHAVIOR IS ACCEPTABLE THEN YOU SHOULD TURN IN YOUR HEAD BOY BADGE TO DUMBLEDORE RIGHT NOW!"

Sirius was still guffawing at Ryan as his friends helped him out of the cluster of Hufflepuffs and up to the Hospital Wing. "'Innit peachy,'" Sirius repeated, wiping the corners of his eyes. "Ah, atta way, Prongs…"

I stood up furiously and grabbed the nearest thing I could reach – the fruit basket. I picked up the first thing my fingers came to and chucked it as forcefully as I could at James's head. The fruit, which happened to be a peach, made a sick crunching noise as it collided with James's glasses. I smirked triumphantly and stormed out of the Great Hall, but not after hearing Brooke laugh and say, "Peachy… HA! That was punny. Good one, Lily."

 

 





Cheesy, yes, but better late than never I suppose.

Thanks to Potterholic1999, this story is updated and once again in the works. Big thanks to her and to the talented synthetic musician Drehz for all his wonderful inspiration.

Please please please review!
 
 

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