Authoress's Note: Wow, it feels strange to be back on here. Oh, nostalgia ... Anyway, this story was written for Unknowable Room's January Scrivenshaft Challenge, and it's based around the moral "When in doubt ... mumble." I hope you all enjoy it. E.D.J.

Had I but known even a small bit about the intricate workings of the female mind, I might have given up sooner.

Unfortunately for Lily Evans, I, James Potter, wasn't one to give up on a challenge after a mere handful of rejections.

On that wintry morning in the midst of the glory that was my seventh year, my musings were interrupted when a flash of red hair disappearing around the bend of the corridor ahead caught my eye. I quickened my pace to catch up with Lily.

"Attempt number two hundred forty-six is the charm." I heard Peter hiss the number in Sirius's ear, thinking I was too intent on my quest to hear him, and perhaps I was since I didn't stop to pummel him.

All right, I admit, a handful of rejections was a bit of an understatement, but today was different. I had gotten a perfect score on the latest Potions exam—a feat I'd been striving for in Slughorn's class since first year—the full moon was less than two weeks away—not necessarily something Remus looked forward to, but still—and nary a point had been lost by Gryffindor on the Marauders' account in the past week (which wasn't to say we hadn't pulled anything, but rather we hadn't been caught).

Yes, things couldn't have been better.

Merlin, Lily was moving fast. When I got within reach, panting slightly, I grabbed at her bag to slow her; however, when she whirled around to confront me, eyes blazing, the bag gave a sickening rip, and its contents soon became strewn over the floor.

"Potter! Look what you've done!" she said furiously.

At least three bottles of ink had exploded all over her books, the front of her robes, and her shoes, and I watched, with a sinking feeling, as ink dripped from the hem of her robes to dot the stone floor. Filch wouldn't be happy, but that was nothing compared to Miss Evans's temper.

I apologized, muttered, "Scourgify," and began my best 'Let me make it up to you' line, but Lily quickly jumped out of the way of my spell, and a fifth-year Ravenclaw walking behind her was hit with a burst of pink bubbles instead.

"Don't, Potter," Lily spat through gritted teeth, "you've done enough."

With that, she scooped up her ink-spattered books and stalked off.

Had I but known James Potter would go above and beyond the call of duty to further ruin my day, I wouldn't have even bothered to get out of bed this morning.

If it had been anyone else, I would have taken the event as purely accidental, but Potter's and my clashing history didn't allow me to let anything slide.

"Look at this!" I said shrilly to my best friend Hestia, aiming an angry kick at my bag and sending it tumbling across the dormitory floor. "Completely ruined!"

"Oh, you know you can fix that in a second with magic," Hestia scoffed from her position on her bed. She arched her back and flopped her head over the bed's edge, so she could goggle at me from upside down. "Besides, you've been complaining about that bag since term started. 'Oh, it's too small! How on earth to they expect me, the brilliant Head Girl, to fit all my Charms books in here?'" she mocked, her tone high and imperious.

It would have been quite funny if I wasn't in such a foul mood.

"But it's the principle of the thing!" I huffed, blowing a strand of hair out of my eyes. "Potter did this on purpose simply to get some attention from me!"

Hestia sighed. "Well, I don't deny that attention was probably his original intent, but honestly, why in the world would he think destroying your property would get him in your good graces, Lily? James isn't that thick."

"Don't question me about the way that bloke's mind works!" I retorted, and I paused to think of whether I'd ever understand my own mind let alone James Potter's before launching into a new tirade. "Look at my shoes! They're a mess! I'll never—"

It was then that Hestia put that damn Silencing Charm on me. And of course, she'd taken the necessary precautions and hidden my wand.

"Stupid, stupid, stupid," I chanted as I banged my head against the dormitory wall.

"Now, Prongs, really. You should be a man and insult Padfoot to his face," Remus quipped absently, glancing up from his Defense Against the Dark Arts homework. Peter and Sirius had opted to skive off homework entirely for an intense game of Exploding Snap in the common room.

"I'm glad you find my misery amusing," I grumbled irritably and attempted to give him my finest glare, but I only managed a slightly cross-eyed grimace of pain.

"Now, that's new." Remus propped himself up on his elbows and gave me a searching look, eyebrows raised. "I was under the impression that nothing Lily does has the slightest effect on you." He grinned. "I'm sure she'd be thrilled to see you in such a state."

"No doubt," I muttered venemously.

We sat in utter silence for a few moments, but then a brilliant idea hit me. "Moony ..." I began, every inch of me oozing pathetic as I gave him a hopeful smile.

"Oh, no." Remus scooted himself backward to put more distance between us. "I know that look."

"Moony, would you—"




"—me with the Potions homework?" I finished.

"Oh, well, sure, Prongs. I thought you wanted help with Lily," Remus responded sheepishly.

"Well, since you offered ..." I was on my knees now, giving him my best pleading looks.

"I didn't! No!" Remus groaned, burying his face in his pillow.

"Moony ..." I whined.

"I'm not getting involved! I'm doing nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing!" He said firmly, and with a crackle of old book pages, he disappeared behind his copy of Keeping the Dark Arts Out of Heart and Home and ignored me.

I leaned back against the wall, defeated for the moment and attempted to shut out the dull ache of the bruise I could feel blossoming on my brow.

Hmm. Perhaps he hadn't meant to do it, but Remus had given me some advice nonetheless. As I sat examining the cool darkness behind my eyelids, a small satisfied smile playing across my lips.

Yes, perhaps 'nothing' was exactly what I needed to do.

The next morning dawned sunless and cranky as I was woken by a deafening, "Lily! Get up!"

"Never!" I groggily growled back, refusing to open my eyes. I reached out both arms and clung to my pillow because I knew that would be the next thing to go.

Sure enough, I felt a familiar, particularly forceful, tug, and the pillow's softness disappeared from my cheek. My head flopped against the mattress, and I grappled sightlessly until I found a wrist.

"Hestia," I said, managing to keep my voice charming and light while inside I felt like shrieking over the injustice of it all, "I'd really like my pillow back. And would you be a dear and bugger off?"

Argh, there went the blankets. Brr. I curled into a ball and whimpered piteously. I opened my eyes to slits to better achieve the possessed-looking glare I was sending my best friend.

Hestia rolled her eyes heavenward and hauled me to my feet. "You would think after seven years of this childish routine, you would have given up, but no ..."

"You are an evil, evil witch," I muttered as she pushed me toward the bathroom.

"Well, if the broomstick matches my eyes, I've got no complaints," she recited, as she did almost every morning. "Shower and get dressed. And don't even think of crawling back into bed, or else I will personally make sure every runny egg in the castle is devoured before you reach the Great Hall."

"Every wonderful morsel?" I asked in a low voice, gazing at her suspiciously from under my eyelashes.

"I guarantee it," she responded stoutly, returning my determined glare.

"Fine, you win," I relented with a disdainful sniff and shut the bathroom door with a loud bang.

I soon was thundering down seven flights of stairs with my stomach chanting, "Eggs, eggs, eggs" with every step. I finally skidded to a halt in front of the Gryffindor table and plopped down next to Hestia.

"Morning, you awful fiend," I greeted her cheerfully, helping myself to a huge plate of food, including three deliciously runny eggs.

"It never ceases to amaze me how a large display of food instantly wakes you up," she said with a wry smile. "I should just force you to sleep in the kitchens; I'll never have trouble getting you up again."

"I'm all for it," I said enthusiastically through a mouthful of bacon.

Between bites and chattering with Hestia, I surveyed the Great Hall and was surprised to find James Potter and his marauding cronies sitting at the far end of the table. Odd. Potter always opted to sit near Hestia and me. Even if he arrived to the Great Hall first, he constantly dragged his friends to new, closer seats, so he could compliment me on my eating habits or try whatever new and absurd way he'd come up with to try and win me over. This seating arrangement was so regular that no one ever dared to sit near me for fear of the sharp retribution of one James Potter.

But now there he was chatting amiably with his friends, and I watched with a furrowed brow as he laughed uproariously and slapped Sirius Black on the back.

Were they plotting something? An elaborate prank? I wondered. But no, it made no sense. They never minded people overhearing their plans; in fact, they usually welcomed it as long as the intended victim wasn't informed.

There always had been a sense of camaraderie throughout Gryffindor House in regard to the Marauders. They were our claim to fame, and we rallied around them, eager to see what they would do or say next. The Marauders had every bit of their fellow students' loyalty, and as a result, they hadn't been snitched on in years.

I'd given up trying to put a halt to their antics long ago because there was nothing Potter and his friends liked better than seeing me red-faced, aggravated, and tearing at my hair over the Dung Bombs they'd placed underneath the Slytherin table.

As I mused over what in Merlin's name was going on, Potter's gaze fell on me chewing my bottom lip, and the look he gave me shocked me even more. There was no glint of humor or mischief in his eye; it was only an indifferent fleeting glance, not at all the look one would give a person one had tormented and plagued for the past seven years. What the hell?

I turned to Hestia, and since our chatter had trickled to a halt when I became focused on the mind-boggling irregularity brewing at the far end of the table, she had her nose in a volume of Emily Dickinson's poetry that I had tossed into my truck out of sheer sentimentality last September.

"Well, this is a cheery way to start the day, isn't it?" she announced, shutting the book. "Is this what most Muggle poetry is like? 'I felt a funeral in my brain'? Honestly, it's depressing."

"Perhaps I'll take the book back then if you find Emily so trying," I replied.

I reached for the book, but she pressed it to her chest protectively. "No, I want to try and make sense of this woman."

"As you wish," I sighed, and then I leaned closer to her and murmured, "Don't you think it's odd?"

"What? The poetry? Yes, of course, it's—"

"No, I mean that." I jerked my head in Potter's direction.

Hestia looked down the length of the table, and her eyes widened. "Oh, you mean James and Sirius bludgeoning Snape's head against his plate?"

" What?" I felt my voice crack, and I whirled around to find nothing of the sort occurring. Potter was leaning forward on one hand, listening intently to some story of Black's, in which he seemed to need to gesticulate wildly.

"Ha, gets you every time," Hestia said mockingly, and I gave her a withering look. "No, there's nothing out of the ordinary happening down there, Lily."

"You don't think where they're sitting is odd?" I pressed on.

Her brow furrowed, and she gave me a confused look. "Has the other end of the table suddenly become Slytherin territory? Out with it, Lily. What's the problem?"

I groaned, ran a hand over my face in frustration, and burst out, "They aren't sitting near us, which they've insisted on doing for only Merlin knows how long. Doesn't that strike you as odd?"

Hestia looked on the verge of laughter. "You're upset, Lily!"

"I am not upset! He can sit wherever he damn well pleases! In fact, I encourage it!" I shot back hotly. "But when something this unusual has happened it's gotten to mean something funny is going on, and as Head Girl, I'm honor-bound to investigate."

"You are being completely paranoid," Hestia concluded, shaking her head sadly as if I was some lost cause escaped from the local insane asylum. "They sat somewhere else. Big deal. I'm sure by lunch you'll realize how completely bonkers you're sounding, and you'll soon cherish this as one of the few Potter-free meals you'll ever have."

"Maybe," I said my tone faint as I took one last furtive look at the Marauders. "But it is odd …"

Hestia didn't reply; she had resorted to ignoring me and had returned to the book of poetry.

" 'Upon the gallows hung a wretch, too sullied for the hell' … oh, joy …"

Transfiguration class didn't bring any respite to my suspicions, in fact, it encourage them.

"Look! Look! Did you see that?" I hissed in Hestia's ear as Potter entered the classroom with his friends and sat down. "He took one look and headed for the furthest seats from us!"

"Perhaps he's simply decided it's time to view class from the front of the room. It's quite a different experience from the back," she replied absently, toward the end of class as I had continued to rant for most of that time. She provoked an offended squawk from the guinea fowl in front of her as she prodded it with her wand.

"Oh, you're no help at all," I snapped, and with a flick of my wand, I placed a Freezing Charm on my own guinea fowl, which now sported a forked tongue, scales, and bat's wings in the appropriate miniature cockatrice imitation we were attempting to achieve, and carried the awful thing up to the large bird cage on Professor McGonagall's desk.

As I made my way back to my seat, I was unable to contain myself any longer. I pretended to stumble and dropped my quill next to Potter's desk.

"What do you think you're doing?" I hissed as I bent to pick it up, and Potter looked down, surprised.

"I'm considering whether or not the bird's fangs are too long," he said mildly.

"No, I mean this!" I gestured furiously at him, at a loss for words.

"What's she on about, mate?" asked Sirius, leaning forward with interest. "What'd you do this time?"

"Nothing!" Potter protested. "I—"

"Mr. Potter, Miss Evans, are you quite alright?" McGonagall asked sternly, and I quickly jumped to my feet.

"Just dropped my quill, Professor," I squeaked and hurried back to my seat.

"Crazy ..." Hestia sang under her breath as I placed my head on top of my books and moaned.

The day continued much the same, and the next day, and the next day. I soon realized that Potter had simply walked out of his role as my sole tormenter and taken up a new one that consisted of 'no speaking unless spoken to' and even that was nothing more than a few meaningless, albeit polite, sentences.

And as loathsome as it was for me to admit, I kind of missed that old role of his. I mean, the novelty of him. There had always been a good Potter story to write Mum and Dad about when I was particularly fuming. What was I supposed to write to them now?

Dear Mum and Dad,

Potter's turned into a Pod Person. Must make up new source of entertainment for your letters from now on as it seems I really am the boring type of person Petunia warned you I'd become if you let me read so much.



I could constantly feel my insides winding tighter and tighter together as those three days dragged by, and I had no one to shout at. I'd resorted to sitting around looking menacing, or as menacing as I could look without the bathroom mirrors shrieking, "Oh, dear, I feel like I should be shattering!"

I couldn't stand it, this break from routine. My life was structured and regulated, down to patterns and clockwork, and now there were huge gaps where I didn't know what to do with myself.

Oh, I know what your thinking, but I don't mean I kept a log book reading:

12:00 p.m: Eat lunch.

12:10 p.m: Be annoyed by Potter.

12:30 p.m: Storm furiously out of Great Hall due to berating from Potter.

12:32 p.m: Storm back into Great Hall, grab roll, kick Potter in shins, and run back out.

But life was predictable enough to say the least, and I liked it that way. The Marauders' pranks were the only surprises I needed.

Potter had upset my balance, and now after three days of this madness, I had to set things back to their normal state. I simply couldn't stand this anymore.

First order of business: Finding Potter.

"Moony," I announced, plopping down in a chair across from him in the common room, "you are, without a doubt, the most brilliant man alive."

"I've always thought so," Remus said absently, rubbing his chin as he examined the chess board before him and Peter. "But what particular moment of brilliance are you referring to?"

"Your advice," I replied cryptically.

Peter cursed as he lost a bishop.

"What advice?" Remus asked.

"The advice about Lily."

His head immediately jerked upward. "You know I did no such thing."

"Not true. You told me to do nothing, and it's worked out perfectly," I said with a smile.

Remus looked absolutely horror-struck. "That was not advice! That was a not-so-subtle way to tell you to bugger off, Prongs!"

"Well, I ..." I began, but Remus wasn't finished.

"You can't just take anything I say and make it advice! What if I said the words 'buttered toast' to you? What advice can you make of that?" he demanded.

"Um, let's see," I floundered, thinking hard. "'Buttered toast is good for your health', 'This particular French village makes great buttered toast', 'I'd advise you to pass the buttered toast before I run this fork through your hand?'"

"Personally, I'd pick number three," said Sirius, abandoning the smoking Exploding Snap card castle he'd been building as the conversation become much more interesting.

Remus gave a moan of frustration. "So, this 'advice' I supposedly gave you is working?" He gave me a look of complete skepticism.

I nodded vigorously. "Hestia's told me Lily's going mad with all this 'doing nothing' business, and she practically begged me to revert back to normal, so she won't have to listen to Lily's ranting."

"Oh, she did, did she?" came a profoundly chilly voice from behind me.

I felt my stomach sink to somewhere near my toes as I turned to see Lily's angry, white face. "I ..."

"It was all some plot to win me over then?" she asked softly.

I was at a loss. What should I say? Which answer would make her less angry than she already was? A lie might shield from her wrath for a time, but Lily would find out the truth eventually.

"Yes," I finally said, rather dejectedly.

She gave an odd sort of shiver and whispered, "I should have known," before turning on her heel and walking quickly up the staircase to the girls' dormitories.

As soon as Lily had disappeared, I slumped in my chair. Another failure. As I stared into my hands, I could just imagine Peter putting another mark on the well-worn piece of paper he kept in his robes' pocket. Would an attempt of this nature ever end well?

When I looked up from my hands, Sirius was glaring at me fiercely. "How could you not remember my three rules about girls, Prongs? Number one: Girls tell their friends everything. Number two: Never criticize, even when given the opportunity. And last but certainly not least, number three: When in doubt ... mumble!"

I gave a grating laugh and attempted to look amused rather than pained. "I'll have to remember that last rule next time around, Padfoot."

"That you will," he said quietly, almost to himself. "That you will."

I leaned against the doorframe and sighed contently. The balance had been restored, and I was sure Potter would be back to his own thoroughly annoying self by tomorrow. And though I would never admit it out loud, I was glad.

Over the last seven years, Potter had woven himself untidily, in a series of knots and twists, throughout almost every intricate part of my Hogwarts life, and now I realized that no matter how much he tormented me and no matter how much I complained, Potter truly did seem indispensable.

Odd, isn't it?

I had fun writing it, so I hope you enjoyed reading. Fancy a review? E.D.J.