Lily glanced over at where James and Peter sat, no more talking quietly. Peter was lying flat on his back, and James was propped up against the trunk of the tree scribbling something on a piece of parchment. Lily grabbed her bag and pulled out the pair of sweatpants and James' jersey that he had lent her. She had placed the piece of parchment she had found in the pockets on the top. She looked down at it. She was sure the initials L.E. were scribbled on it. But she had spent quite some time figuring out what else the letters could be. She had shown the parchment to a first year. Without a second look they had told her it was L.E. and that she should consider getting her eyes checked by madam Pomfrey. For some reason her pulse was getting a wee bit quicker, as she quietly approached the two boys.
"Hi." said Lily, her voice barely audible.
"Hey." James replied, trying not to meet her eyes.
"Hi Lily, come sit with us, we're waiting for Sirius. He's run off with Marlene again to trouble some Slytherins." said Peter, rolling his eyes.
"And didn't invite you guys?" asked Lily, smiling a little, as she sat down in front of James with Peter at her side.
"No not that. I mean yeah, he could have invited us too, but we had to make plans for tonigh-" Peter was cut off hurriedly by James.
"Enough about us, what's up with you Evans?" asked James, giving Lily a charming smile, and turning to Peter to glare at him when he was sure Lily wasn't looking.
"I just wanted to return this," Lily started as she pushed the sweatpants and his jersey in James' direction, "I also found this in the pockets. It's got a bit washed out."
Lily gave James the parchment with her initials on it. As he took the parchment from Lily and looked at it, his eyes turned wide and he quickly crumpled the parchment shoving it in his pocket.
"Er.. thanks. Important parchment," replied James, now completely avoiding Lily's eyes, "you should keep the jersey, y'know, looks good on you." added James, his cocky smile almost making it to his face, before his ears started turning pink.
"I'm too short for it." Lily replied immediately. "Not that I would want it if I were tall." she added quickly.
"A lot many girls would choose that jersey over a giant squid you know." said James, grinning as he flipped his wand between his fingers.
"Then I'm not 'a lot many' girls." replied Lily, rolling her eyes.
"No. No you're not." said James, finally looking up at Lily, studying her curiously. Lily couldn't look away from James. Normally James would receive a flying quill on his head. Not that Lily would ever boast, but she had great aim and there was a phase when James had pestered her to try out for a beater. Lily of course had refused on the grounds that she might not be able to fight her instinct and aim for James' head instead of the other team's members. Lily knew (or thought she did) James was doing that only to get her attention until she had heard him talking to Sirius and Remus. James had been saying, that he of course knew she couldn't fly well, at least not as well to play quidditch, but he acknowledged the fact that she'd make a great beater, if only she could fly to play.
"She's got it all, you know, eye for the trouble maker, force and great aim. You'd think she's small and can't hit you, but she's got force. She threw Marlene's candle at my face last week, and I had the bruise for an entire day. Think what she could do with a bludger and a bat!" James said.
"I thought you said you got that bruise because you got into a fight with some Slytherin git." Remus pointed out.
"That's not the point!" James guffawed, throwing a cushion in Remus' direction.
And while Lily would never admit it openly, she had felt strangely at home, and had laid off of James for the next few days, until he had sent paper planes bewitched to follow her around the entire day.
James was still regarding her as if she was made of puzzles only Ranvenclaws could solve. Her pulse had quickened and her palms were tingling with a sensation she felt only when she was in the face of the unknown, mostly during her practical exams. James wasn't unknown to her. Neither were his antics. She was well acquainted with them. But he had been surprising her a lot since the summer. Making Lily, whether consciously or unconsciously, reassess everything she had known so far about him. The feeling of seeing James in a new light was unsettling. Remembering every sane thing he did in their previous years, during such reassessment was even more unsettling. She had quietly tucked away everything good about James Potter just so she could have an objective approach to mentally putting him in the 'Satan's Box'. Her thoughts went over to the two people she knew would never see the light of the Satan's Box. Severus and Petunia. But both of them had changed so drastically that Lily had been forced to put one of their legs in Satan's Box and had let the other stay in their old, 'VIP Box'. Everyone, as she knew them, was turning out to be someone else entirely, then why should James Potter be an exception, she thought.
Without knowing what had come over her, she reached out and pulled James' jersey towards her.
"I think I'll hold on to this." she said, as she got up from her place, because honestly, she'd rather have Marlene chase her down for throwing her candle at James (she thought it got knocked out of the dormitory window because of some storm) than deal with James looking at her like that.
Marlene and Sirius waited for a fourth year Slytherin to pick up a stray cupcake in which they had mixed the potion that turns makes the hair on the drinkers head stand up like spikes. The targeted Slytherin was in an abandoned classroom, brewing a potion while Sirius and Marlene were huddled in the classroom cupboard.
Sirius turned to look at Marlene, who despite the dark of the cupboard was looking a bit nervous.
"Yeah?" Sirius asked, equally nervous. If Marlene was nervous about something, it can't be any good, he thought.
"About that day-"
"I know, listen it's okay, if you don't want to do this anymore. I know I was wrong about, you know, not caring if someone sees us despite promising that we'll keep this a secret. It'll be okay if you don't want to do this anymore." said Sirius, trying to maintain a steady voice, even though his heart seemed to be going helter-skelter.
He had tried telling himself that even if Marlene decides to end this arrangement of theirs, he'd still be friends with her, play quidditch with her, prank Slytherins and attend classes with her. But the thought had made Sirius feel as if he was about to miss the Hogwarts Express. He felt anxious, as one feels when something tries to wiggle its way out of one's grasp. The past week however Sirius had realised that, if anything, Marlene might just get more mad at him, if he tried holding on to her. More or less like Regulus had. And so the decision had been made, if Marlene didn't want to continue with their relationship, he'd agree. And now that the elephant in the room had been addressed, Sirius held his breath, waiting for Marlene to drop the bomb on him. It never came. Not at least in words. Because after regarding him for a moment, Marlene had pressed a light kiss on Sirius' lips. Sirius had blinked rapidly through the kiss. The dark, the smell of the potion brewing outside the cupboard, the scent of Marlene's shampoo, her hands pressed on his chest, and the anticipation of rejection had been way too much to process anything, let alone the kiss which had been the least expected thing to happen. But before Sirius could respond, Marlene had pulled away.
"I enjoy doing whatever we do, with you. You were wrong. We did agree to kiss and not tell. If you want to stop, we can, but I'd rather snog you to compensate for the nasty scowls i get from girls for just hanging out with you than get those scowls for nothing in return." finished Marlene, a hint of a smirk playing on her lips.
"So you're basically using me to feel good about the scowls?" asked Sirius, amused, but also massively relieved, that he wouldn't have to let go of her. Not yet.
"What do I get in return?" pouted Sirius.
"Um me?" scoffed Marlene, and though Sirius couldn't see, he knew she rolled her eyes. Marlene always rolled her eyes when she scoffed.
"A fair trade I'd say." mused Sirius.
"More than fair really." teased Marlene.
"Okay, don't get ahead of yourself." said Sirius, as he leaned forward to kiss Marlene.
Marlene and Sirius jumped apart, and peeked outside the cupboard through a crack. Sirius had forgotten about the Slytherin in the classroom who now had hair all over his body growing out and standing on its end. The potion was boiling out of the cauldron, onto the floor, over which the said boy skidded and fell down on his behind. Marlene and Sirius had clapped a hand to their mouth to stop themselves from laughing out loud. They stayed in there for another fifteen minutes until someone had heard the poor boy's screams and taken him to the hospital wing. The two Gryffindors had then gone on to finish what they had started before the poor Slytherin had met his fate, after all they had been deprived of each other's company for a week.
James was waiting in the common room for the first year boy who had woken him up in the morning. Sirius was still missing, Remus was in the hospital wing, much worse than when James had seen him in the morning. James sometimes felt guilty for feeling this excited about the new moon when Remus practically despised it and was positively scared by it and for good reason. But James loved it when he transformed into a stag. His senses became so much more pronounced and amplified, and he felt so much in control. He breathed a heavy sigh as he looked towards the portrait hole hoping for the kid to show up. Much to his surprise it was Lily who climbed down from the girls' staircase. He looked over at where she stood at the last step of the staircase, her gaze fixed at him, looking as if she was frozen to the spot. James' hand flew to his hair to push them back, and clutched his broomstick tighter.
"Hi." said James, after he got the hint that Lily might just choose to die on that spot than speak to him first.
"Hi. I didn't think quidditch practice started this early in the session." Lily said, looking quizzically from his broomstick to James.
"Oh, no, not practice, we haven't even had try outs yet. Hell we don't even have a captain as of now. Sirius set me up to take a first year to ride my broom." explained James, scowling at the thought of Sirius who has been missing in action for most part of the day now.
"What did he have on you?" Lily asked raising her eyebrows. James contemplated telling Lily Sirius' evil plan. Maybe then she'd let go of that horrible image of me in her mind and see me in a new glorious beautiful light, James thought.
"He made the kid wait for you to show up, so you could see me spread out like jam." smirked James, although he was struggling contain the horror that was building up inside of him. What if she laughs? And tells the whole school about it? he thought. He dismissed the idea. Everyone loves me, he thought smiling internally.
"What?!" spat Lily, her eyes wide, her face looking wild.
"Uh, yeah, he can be a dick sometimes but really I don't think he meant any harm." spluttered James, fearing for the life of his best mate at the hands of the love of his life. That'll be some drama, he thought ruefully.
"Are you telling me you and your boyfriend weren't together in making me look like an absolute idiot in front of a first year?! I'm supposed to be believe that you had no hand in this?!" asked Lily, her voice dangerously quiet.
"Okay, one, I did not have a hand in this. I mean how could have I had a hand in this? I was sleeping for the love of anything that's rational. And two, you were supposed to see me sleeping like a passed out troll and get on with your life. I was the one that was supposed to and did look like an absolute idiot." explained James in a frenzy. He didn't want his streak of having a civil conversation with Lily to die out before even completing twenty four hours.
"So you don't remember anything?" asked Lily, he eyes narrowing suspiciously.
"Remember what? I. Was. Asleep." replied James, enunciating every word with actions.
"Just that you sleep with your mouth open." said Lily, as he folded her arms and leaned back on the wall, smirking, all signs of anger gone.
"I absolutely do not sleep with my mouth open."
"You absolutely do, like an old man."
"I don't!" whined James.
"Wonder what the rest of the school has to say about that."
"You will not." said James, although for once he was enjoying Lily's smile in his presence.
"We'll see." Lily replied in a business-like tone.
Just then the first year entered the common room, prodding James in his back.
"Took you long enough," said James, as he turned around to look at the boy, "what's your name?" he asked.
"Rodney." he replied, curiously eyeing Lily.
James turned to look at Lily to say goodbye, but found her gazing at Rodney, her face white.
"You okay Evans?" asked James.
"Um, you know what, I need some fresh air, do you mind if I join you guys at the pitch?" she asked, her eyes darting from James to Rodney quickly.
"Not at all. Come on." replied James, besides himself with joy, all worries about Lily exposing him to the school gone.
The three of them walked down to the quidditch pitch in silence, with James asking Rodney about how he was enjoying Hogwarts. James occasionally glanced towards Lily, not believing she was actually accompanying him to the quidditch pitch.
"Right, I'll go get one of the school brooms. I'll fly on it, Rodney you take mine." said James. Just as he was about to hand Rodney his own broom, he pulled it back to himself and said, "Not one scratch, clear?" Rodney nodded in response, his eager hands itching to touch James' broom. After James was satisfied that Rodney got the message, he handed him the broom and went to the locker room to get himself a broom. He looked at the horrible collection of brooms kept in the store room and cursed his luck. Good luck impressing Evans with that.
He walked back to the pitch to see Lily hunched over to the height of the boy and talking to him hurriedly. When she heard James walking across the pitch, she straightened up.
"Giving him tips to be a beater, Evans?" asked James, approaching the two.
"If I were, you'd be down on the floor." quipped Lily, as she sat down on the stands and opened a book.
"Well, we should get going." said James, as he kicked his broomstick and flew right up. Rodney mimicked the action and flew up and away from James, giving a yelp of awe. James looked at him, manoeuvring his way through the hoops and realised the kid was a natural flyer.
After about an hour after flying around and showing Rodney techniques James called it a day. James went on to keep the school broomstick back in it's shed while Rodney went to Lily in the stands. When James came back he saw Rodney talking animatedly with Lily, explaining to her the moves and techniques.
"Let's get going then, don't wanna miss dinner." said James. James shoved Rodney to his other side so the former could walk beside Lily.
"Any news of Frank?" asked Lily, not looking at James.
"He's conscious now. Might be able to come to school too." replied James.
"Oh that's good. Finally some good news." said Lily as she breathed a sigh of relief.
"Who's Frank?" Rodney asked from his side, almost jogging, trying to keep up. James slowed down his pace a bit for Rodney to relax.
"He's a seventh year, also the Head Boy. He was hospitalised this summer." Lily explained calmly.
"Why?" he asked. Lily hesitated. James sensing her hesitation answered instead.
"He was cursed."
"But why?" asked the boy, a look of terror on his face. James looked at him and crouched down to his height.
"Because his dad died fighting the bad guys and he got caught in the crossfire." said James, gauging the boy's face for any reactions.
"Th-the bad guys like the de-death eaters?" stammered Rodney.
"Yes them. How do you know about them?" James asked.
"My dad was speaking to my mum, and I listened to them fighting about it. I-I didn't mean to eavesdrop, I was just worried about them, but they won't tell me what's wrong. They say I'm too young."
"It's okay to be worried about your parents, even if they think you're too young for that," James smiled at the boy in front of him, "you really should take care of them no matter your age. You will, won't you?"
"Yeah." replied Rodney, with a shy smile. James got up and saw Lily looking at him, possibly lost in her own thoughts. He waved his hands in front of her and she snapped out of her thoughts.
"Yeah, let's go." she said, quietly.
Together they walked towards the castle, with Rodney's mind full of questions about death eaters and the head boy. James' head was a myriad of emotions. Listening to Rodney had reminded him of himself, his parents and how they were getting old, how helpless he felt when it came to lending them a hand in this fight. As a slight wind blew, James caught a whiff of Lily's lavender perfume. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath trying to get in as much of her scent as possible. He was immediately transported back to that night when Lily had cried her eyes out while he had comforted her. It was the first time she had been that close to him and he had loved the smell of lavender since then(before that he had thought it was too strong, but now he just describes it as heady). He looked down to see her lost in her thoughts. He'd give anything to just be able to put his arm around her shoulders and tell her to stop worrying. He looked away as they entered the castle. Rodney ran straight into the Great Hall, and James saw him meet up with his friends and just bursting into the details of his flying sessions.
"Mr. Potter, if you'll follow me to my office please, I've some matters to discuss with you and Ms. Meadows." James heard Professor McGonagall's voice and tore his eyes away from Rodney to see her climbing down the stairs of the Entrance Hall, Dorcas Meadows trailing behind her. Dorcas gave James a weak smile. James returned it. McGonagall was finally going to choose a captain. James was nervous but he didn't want to show it, not in front of Lily.
"Yes, professor." he replied. As he turned around to walk with the head of his house, he felt a hand on his arm.
"It'll be okay, Potter. All the best." said Lily with a smile, but before James could reply, she was already entering the Great Hall. Maybe it won't be as bad, he thought.