A/N: Well, after about a year of not even touching this story, I felt bad and decided it was time for an immediate update! I apologize for the long delay and I hope there's at least one person out there, who hasn't forgotten about this story! It will be finished one day, I promise you that. When? Well, I'm afraid I can't give you an exact date. However, you've got my word that it WILL be finished!
Ah, to be young and in love. Who knew what it could do for one's complexion? I daresay, many of my peers have commented on the radiant, youthful exuberance of my newly refined features. Hmm, so maybe it would be unfair and inaccurate to say that this energy directly correlates to feelings of love. I don't know what I should exactly call it, but I know it's more than a passing fancy. I thought Sirius was acting rather peculiar a few days ago, but my suspicions have been cleared. It seems I'm just paranoid. Although, when in appropriate context, I think I was rather justified.
Moving along, I was in the library when Sirius approached. This was surprising, considering that Sirius rarely set foot in the library. He would need a lot of motivation to enter on his free will. I had a test in Herbology that week. A gargantuan stack of books patiently rested by my elbow. I'd sought seclusion in the back of the room, coveting an empty desk and chair. On my lap was an impressive leather-bound book, which evoked flurries of dust whenever I turned the pages. Very few voices resounded throughout the room, as the majority of students were engrossed in their work. I was deeply lost in thought, my eyes boring into the page.
A lanky finger jabbed my shoulder and I strangled a gasp. I was initially frightened that I would whip around to meet Potter, but relief surfaced. It was Sirius, hovering over the desk, complete with a lopsided grin. As you already know, our relationship has allowed me to become quite familiar with his assortment of grins. I've evolved into a semi-expert when it calls for interpreting the classifications of Sirius Black's grins. He's got that semi-dashing, half-smirk when he's about to crack a joke and expects my appreciation. He's also got that uneasy, perturbed grin when he's been caught red-handed. The one that he was issuing at the moment didn't call for alarm, though it contained an underbelly of hesitation.
"Can I talk to you for a minute, love?" he wondered.
I nodded, promptly closing my book and carefully placing it on the pile.
Sirius looked around the room and then spotted another chair, a few feet down. Another desk and chair set had been arranged at the other end of the room. I watched with budding curiosity, as he strolled towards his target and then haphazardly tossed it over his shoulder. I giggled as he planted the chair next to me. He sprawled onto the chair, my thigh brushing against his knee. I wondered if other people were looking at us and I realized the unpredictability of this year, how one day I'd gone from Bumbling and Blushing Admirer, to Certified Girlfriend.
When I was ten, a year before I'd come to Hogwarts, but well aware that I was different, I'd been embarrassingly smitten with Lawrence Spencer. He was a boy at my (muggle) school, who was sort of awkward, with gangly limbs like lima beans. His mother cut his hair and his shoes always shone with polish, even trainers. He was always getting nose-bleeds in the middle of lessons; the school nurse had memorized his home phone number by the second week.
While the other girls in my grade pursued the Class Clown or Trouble Maker, I fiercely defended my crush on Lawrence Spencer, convinced that we'd get married and live in a glass castle, because Lawrence always complained that he was allergic to the mold in wood. Thank goodness I'd been asked to attend Hogwarts and developed better taste! However, according to James Potter, I haven't changed at all.
"I want to ask you something," he hesitantly began.
I rose an eyebrow, hoping I would appear cool and collected. Despite my limited knowledge of relationships and the inner workings of the male mind, I knew that commencing a sentence with these words were both ominous and a set-up for something far from pleasurable.
He chuckled, as though it were a suitable distraction from his forthcoming words. He swiped a piece of hair out of his eyes, squirming a bit, as though someone had dropped a worm down his trousers.
"Well, Winter Break is coming up soon. And I know this may seem a bit too soon, since our relationship is considerably new, but I was wondering, if you didn't mind, if you wanted to perhaps…spend the holiday with me?"
My eyes widened and I quickly processed my thoughts, so Sirius wouldn't assume that my silence signified rejection. Well, this wasn't the earth-shattering news I was anticipating! Usually, in the context of ordinary circumstances, such news wouldn't contain a delightful proposition. But then again, why should I associate "ordinary" with Sirius Black? There was nothing ordinary about Sirius Black; to connect this word with his name would be slanderous.
Before I could control my own emotions, I'd flung my body into his arms. We nearly stumbled onto the floor, chair and all, but Sirius gained his balance. I pressed my cheek into the side of his face, feeling the corners of his mouth tug into a relieved and ecstatic smile. I should have generated a laundry list of anxieties, especially concerning the reactions of parental authorities. On the contrary, I kissed him.
"Oh Sirius, do you mean it?" I asked, desiring further reassurance.
He laughed, his arms clasped around my waist. I shifted around, so I was perched on his lap and not about to tumble to the concrete. This time, I KNEW there had to be students peering at us with interest, but I didn't care.
"So I'm taking this reaction as a yes?"
I nodded, grinning foolishly.
"Take it as more than a yes, take it as an abso-bloody-lutely yes," I affirmed.
If I lacked any inhibitions, I probably would have leapt from his arms like a ballerina and started doing pirouettes or some sort of dance. I didn't think my parents would cause much of a fuss. Certainly, my Mum would automatically protest, stressing the importance of family during the holidays. But I was 98.9 positive that I could persuade her to rethink the decision. My Dad, not one to favor making waves, would surely follow my Mum. Old Weedy (Petunia) wouldn't fight for my presence.
Come to think of it, she'd probably throw a party. And on the plus side, it would be rather relaxing to spend a few weeks away from her. She's still terrified of me and harbors all of these ridiculous stereotypes that are connected with being a witch. However, she's figured out that I can't conduct magic while at home. Thus, any sort of threat to hex her elicits fear, but it lacks any permanent stronghold. We don't even do that much during Christmas Hols anyway.
On X-Mas Eve, we went to some Aunt or Uncle's house; Mum and Dad would mix and mingle, while I was left to the mercy of some snooty cousin. Petunia would steer clear of me, glued to our Cousin Ethel's side. Ethel was two years older than Petunia and me; she owned some sort of beauty salon in London.
Ethel normally wore obnoxiously loud and disastrous outfits to these functions, which earned a coo of approval from my daft sister. No, I wouldn't be missing out this year. I'd gathered that Sirius wasn't painfully close to his family and on the whole, the Blacks weren't going to win any congeniality awards in the future. However, I was willing to overlook this and have faith in Sirius. Besides, I had the feeling that we'd be spending much more of our time out of the house than inside.
We kissed again, right there in the library. And although particles of dust had superstitiously crept up my nostrils and I still had to study for that blasted test, the moment seemed oddly and fittingly romantic. It appeared that a declaration of love would also accompany such a leap in commitment, but deep down, I didn't feel comfortable saying those three words.
Later that night, as we headed up to the dorms, I told Audrey about the offer in the library. She clutched my arm and squealed, nearly knocking me off the stairs. Merlin, for such a tiny girl, you'd think it would have the same affect on her excitement levels. Her voice increased an octave, as she relished in this development.
"Lily, this is monumental! This is brilliant! Did you hear me, brilliant!" she screeched. She added a little jig to this exhibition of bliss and I laughed.
I stuck a finger in my ear and wiggled it about, wincing as though I'd just put my eardrum up to an exceptionally deafening speaker. I found it rather amusing that my best friend's initial reaction was even more boisterous than my own. Was that a bad thing? Ah, no harm in it. I just worry too much, that's all. Silly Evans, lamenting about useless nonsense again.
"I heard you the first time."
We continued to barge up the stairs, contemplating appropriate outfit choices for my extended stay.
The next day, I was reminded that with the arrival of something good, something bad proceeds. Or rather, I was reminded that Fate or whoever is in control up there, likes screwing around with the unfolding events of my life, because I seem to be His favorite plaything. I was sitting in Potions, minding my own business, skimming the chapter in discussion, while corresponding with Remus. Our Professor had paired us together again, a decision that I didn't mind in the least. In the background, Peter and James were snickering, no doubt amusing themselves about the conception of a talking toilet or some ridiculous fantasy. Sirius hadn't come down to breakfast; Remus told me that he'd stayed in bed, moaning about terrible stomach pains. I suspected that he was doing one of the three things:
A) Telling the truth (HA!)
B) Faking deathly illness in order to finish the five page essay due at the end of class (Most likely)
C) Really telling the truth, but then remembered that he didn't finish his essay and therefore was technically lying, because his procrastination equaled the reason for his bed-ridden distress, and not the cramps themselves (The best possible answer)
Because Remus is a more often than not, a wiser person than myself, and due to his additional insight to said boyfriend's line of rationale, I decided to inform him about my holiday plans.
Has Sirius ever asked a girl to come home with him for Christmas Hols?
Remus scrawled something in his precise calligraphy, glanced upward to ensure the success of interception, and then shoved the paper into my hand. Our Professor was yapping at the blackboard, rattling off a list of Latin nomenclatures that sounded more like gibberish.
Absolutely not. I do believe you're the first girl that this has ever happened to!
Take that as a good sign. I'm quite surprised James hasn't said anything. When he finds out, I'm sure you'll have to deal with his temper. Take this as a warning in advance.
I was about to write back, when I heard my name. I snapped my head to the front of the class and sheepishly grinned. Professor Slughorn had shouted my name, finally noticing that I'd been distracted. I felt my classmates rigidly staring at me; a few satisfied that the Head Girl had been caught red-handed in an act of punishable disruption.
"Yes Professor Slughorn?" I meekly wondered.
With furrowed eyebrows, he pointed to a daunting equation. He rapped his knuckles below the formula, disappointment clouding his eyes. My heart sunk with embarrassment, though I didn't allow the humiliation to color my face. Without meaning to, I observed that James and Peter had stopped talking.
"Can you please tell me what potion this formula yields?"
Silence flooded my ears, my palms slightly perspiring. I studied the equation, flipping through my mental archives with lightening speed. I had already read our potions book from cover to cover, yet nothing stood out. The unwanted attention from my peers did not alleviate my stress, only reinforcing the steely gaze of my Professor.
I bit my lip, praying that Remus would speak up or perhaps slip the answer into my palm. This was truly humiliating. I, Lily Evans, didn't know the answer. Under all normal circumstances, caught off guard or not, I would have spat out the solution, shooting off extraneous information to boot. I could hear the ticking of the clock as though a drummer were pounding in the center of my head.
"Well? What is the answer, Miss Evans?" Professor Slughorn persisted.
"Hey. Hey, Evans, look at your parchment," a familiar voice hissed into my ear.
Too panic-stricken to question the credentials of the speaker, I obediently looked down. In boxy script, someone's wand had scribbled: AFRICAN NIGHTSHADE. I met Professor Slughorn's eyes and forced out a shaky smile.
"Yes, I've got it now. The formula makes African Nightshade," I cautiously revealed.
Professor Slughorn crowed with contentment, clasping his hands together.
"Very good, Miss Evans! I see someone has been doing her homework. Five points to Gryffindor. But next time, Miss Evans, please pay more attention. I know you're excited to read ahead, but please stay with us."
Some of my classmates snickered and my cheeks burned strawberry.
"Yes. Certainly, Professor," I modestly replied.
Slughorn went back to speaking, his mood buoyant, now that I'd (falsely) proved my commitment to academics. I scribbled a note of gratitude to Remus. He opened it, frowned, and then wrote back.
I'm sorry to say, but I was too late to come to your rescue. You should be thanking James, not me.
I could only stare at the words until they blurred together.
After class, I waited for James. Yes, even writing it down makes me slightly queasy. But, I couldn't let this good deed go unnoticed. And, most importantly, I wanted to know why Potter had felt the need to throw down a ladder, figuratively speaking. Of course, I could conjure a plausible conclusion, based on past experience. But all things considered, I was curious. Curious enough to go to the source himself. I said goodbye to Remus and then leaned against the wall, lazily watching my classmates file out of the room. James and Peter were the last to leave. James was in the middle of telling a joke and Peter was hanging onto his words, eyes wide with idolatry.
"Psst. Potter. Potter!" I snapped.
James stopped entertaining Peter and looked in my direction. We locked eyes and he issued a sort of funny half-smile, as though sincerely bewildered. His eyes lacked their usual sparkle of childish mischief.
"I'll catch you later, Peter."
"But James, what-"
"I'll meet you in the common room. Just give me a few minutes," he gently interrupted.
Peter sighed, as though he'd just parted with a bag of gold. With slumped shoulders, he left. When Peter was a good three feet away, I focused my attention on Potter. I adjusted the textbook tucked under my armpit and straightened my spine.
"I just wanted to say thank you."
I was met with another dosage of bamboozlement.
"For what?" he asked.
"C'mon, don't play games. For saving me in class today. You didn't have to do that."
He shrugged, radiating humility that seemed to belong to another person. In all the years I'd known him; humble was not a proper adjective to describe James Potter. Loud, obnoxious, and arrogant were fine words to summarize his personality, but humility did not belong.
"Hey, don't even mention it. I didn't want you to feel embarrassed. Remus would have helped you anyway. I just beat him to it."
I laughed to cover my uneasiness.
"I suppose so."
An awkward silence conquered the brief discourse. I looked at the floor and cleared my throat. Why was it so difficult to speak to him without the fuel of fury?
"Well. I assume you're heading back to the common room," James tentatively began.
I nodded, suddenly shy.
"You've assumed correctly."
"Do you mind if I walk with you? I'm headed the same way," he explained.
I shrugged, knowing that there wasn't any reason to reject his request. We began walking side by side. The hallways were practically barren, as the majority of students were either still in class, or had reached their next destination. I felt awfully uncomfortable, although we weren't that close. I wondered why a sudden surge of tension contaminated the atmosphere. I was just walking with James, nothing more to it. We passed a window; the afternoon sun teetered in the skyline, though you could tell the temperature remained on the chilly side.
With a cluck of disapproval, I shifted my book again. I studied James and a tiny gasp escaped my mouth.
He lifted a hand to his head, frowning.
"What? What about it?" he pressed, alarmed and confused.
It was quite a shock. For practically seven years, I'd grown to loathe the sight of Potter's bed head, tufts of wild, jet-black hair angrily jutting out of his scalp like a bunch of feathers on a quill. James took great pride in this disheveled appearance; last year it'd been so long, pieces slouched over his eyes like wet jeans on a clothesline. However, in the present, his hair had been, dare I say it, combed and slicked back with a noticeable amount of pomade. He looked like a different person. It was like he'd added a certain degree of maturity to his face, so that his cheeks and his jaw seemed more distinct, evoking a sense of renewed masculinity.
James laughed, hand falling to his side.
"Oh, is that it? Yeah. I guess not. I don't know. It kept getting in the way during Qudditich practice. Bloody annoying, having to always push it out of my eyes. Especially when I'm trying to avoid a Bludger hoping to rearrange my face."
I cracked a smile.
"Well, I'm glad that you finally followed my advice and bought a brush," I teased.
"I should have listened to you sooner."
Judging from his tone alone, I knew he was flirting. And yet, I didn't mind. The impulse to adopt a suit of armor and an acid tongue failed to ignite. Granted, I'd prefer it a lot more if he didn't flirt, seeing as how I was dating his best mate. On the contrary, I wanted to continue the conversation with James, because I knew this sort of light-hearted dialogue was something rare, something worth prolonging. Was I really going to spend the rest of my seventh year bickering with James Potter, simply out of tradition? It seemed that this tradition was changing and morphing into another beast of burden.
My shoes clicked on the smooth floor.
"Sirius really fancies you," he stated, without a hint of jealousy and less dismay than I thought appropriate.
"No, I mean, he's absolutely mad about you. Kind of funny, actually. I've known Sirius for seven years now. To hear someone like that go on and on about a girl is mind-boggling. But then again, you're not just any girl. You're Lily Evans, so I suppose that's part of the trick," James pensively noted.
I rose an eyebrow, our pace having decreased. Did I just imagine that, or did we both understand that the slower we walked, the more time that allowed for the continuation of our current activity?
"Oh, stop it. It has nothing to do with me; it's all about chemistry. If I was someone else, but Sirius had the same sort of, well, you know, zing with her, then that would be that," I sternly argued.
James shook his head, laughing.
"Zing? Is that what you call it?"
"Yeah! What's the problem? It's all the same thing, just a different name. That zing. Attraction. Magic. That's why they say opposites attract. People gravitate towards other individuals that mirror themselves, yes. But on the other hand, when you fall for someone, when you really fall for someone, sparks usually fly when interests clash."
"And you think that works in the long run?" James intently interrogated.
"For the most part, absolutely. If marriage is supposed to be forever, why would you want to spend the rest of your life with your clone? Wouldn't you want to be challenged, to avoid boredom? I mean, of course you can't pick someone who is so drastically opposite that you end up despising one another. Change is nice, in small dosages, that is. Too much becomes like a poison too quickly."
I couldn't believe I was opening up to James. We were having a normal conversation. He was listening. I was speaking without screaming. Had I stepped into an alternate universe?
"Jeez Lily, I knew you were smart. But I had no idea your intelligence spanned such a broad scope. Any other hidden talents or wisdom you want to reveal? Can you say, juggle fire? Jump through a flaming hoop? Cook a mean cheesecake?"
I laughed, really laughed. And it felt unusual to laugh in the company of James, as though I'd forgotten how to do so and had momentarily rediscovered the action.
"I'm sorry, but I'm not hiding anything else. I can't cook to save my life. Cereal, I can do. Even macaroni and cheese from a box. Besides, who needs to learn how to cook? Culinary arts is just a fancy word for magic. Give me a wand and I can whip up the cheesecake of your dreams," I joked.
"Aw, that's cheating. And cheating is an immoral misdemeanor I'd never associate with Lily Evans!"
I rolled my eyes, increasingly aware that our walk would soon end.
"It's not cheating. It's ensuring your safety. Forget an Unforgivable Curse. Eat something I've baked and you're likely to fall over dead."
"Hmm, is that a bona fide promise? If so, maybe I should start sending over your baked goods before matches. Put it in a nice basket with a fancy card. The other team wouldn't suspect a thing!" James schemed.
I laughed and James grinned, glad to have won my approval and appreciation.
"By the way, are you going to this weekend's Qudditich match?" he interjected.
I halted. We were hovering in front of the common room entrance. The Fat Lady waited. My head hummed with possible answers, my caution springing to life. James smirked, though it wasn't intended for mockery.
"Don't worry; I'm not trying to hit on you or anything. I was just wondering, because it's an important game. And I'd really like the majority of our House show up, if that's possible. It's against Slytherin. It's going to determine who will compete in the Cup Tournament. Sirius told me he was going, Remus too."
I filled in the blanks, though I wasn't entirely positive that the reiteration of his rationale equaled his true motivation for inquiry.
"Ah, and so because we're both the respected girlfriends of said blokes…"
"Correct. See? Perfectly casual question. No misleading undertones whatsoever."
I laughed, though I was more worried than before. With James Potter, there were always undertones. Always. And the fact that he'd stressed that such devices had vanished, deemed even more of just cause to panic.