Written for the Quidditch League Fanfiction Competition. This is the original version - you can find the abridged, under-3000-words version in my profile. It's been a while since I've written anything in Marauders Era, so I'm eager to know what you think!


Lily had only been back at Hogwarts for four hours, and she was already exhausted out of her mind.

She had known, of course, that the requirements being Head Girl demanded involved a lot more work than being a Prefect did, but the reality had proved much more tiring than she had expected. And what with the First Years getting separated from the rest of their new House on the way to their common rooms, and the Prefects already having forgotten the passwords to the dormitories, she had come to realize that she had greatly underestimated the amount of responsibility her new duties carried. She had, altogether, patrolled for about six hours, subtracted points from more students than she cared to count, and discovered some of her classmates in all too compromising positions for her taste. Her head ached with the persistence born out of sheer exhaustion, and her feet hurt so much from extensive patrolling in both the train and around the castle, that she had to bite her lip to avoid letting out pained yelps with every footstep.

The holidays had been… unsatisfying, to say the least. Petunia had returned to Cokeworth at her mother's insistence, and spent the entire time shooting passive-aggressive remarks at Lily every time they were in the same room, much to their mother's chagrin. It hadn't been a pleasant experience for any of them.

Lily clutched the light blue towel on her arm, trying to tread more lightly and somehow spare herself pain. At least there were privileges to go with the long list of duties of a Head Girl. She could really use hot, perfumed water to soak her feet in. The thought itself somehow managed to make her walk a little faster.

The castle was deserted, now – or at least she hoped so, after all the effort she had put into sending people off to bed. Potter was off somewhere, hopefully Gryffindor Tower, but she wouldn't put it past him and his friends to already carry out one of their over-complicated pranks on the very first day of term. Still, she hoped he wasn't. She had no idea what Dumbledore had been thinking when he put James Potter in such a position of power. She was already dreading Seventh Year and it had only just started.

Finally, she reached the statue of Boris the Bewildered, leaning heavily on the stone wizard's shoulder as she came to a stop beside the fourth door.

"Cinnamon spice," she all but groaned at it, and it unlocked with a sharp click.

She pushed open the door and closed her eyes at the already sweet, fresh-smelling air. The Prefect's bathroom had to be the most relaxing place in the castle; she certainly didn't come here enough. She resolved to make use of it more often. Merlin knew she would need it. She leaned back against the closed door and felt it lock behind her, took another deep breath and then opened her eyes to what had to be the only good part about that day and possibly the rest of term–

And met Sirius Black's startled gaze.

She let out an involuntary gasp and tried to regain her composure, seizing her towel once more and moving to exit the bathroom just as quickly as she had arrived.

But the door was locked.

She pulled at it, pushed at it, and finally whispered "Cinnamon spice" with increasing desperation, but it didn't budge.

Black remained mute behind her.

Lily turned around slowly, half hoping that her tired mind had merely imagined him. But no; he rested in the foaming pool-like bath with the water just covering his chest, the foam mercifully covering the rest of him from her eyes. His hair was damp, and his grey eyes stared at her with uncharacteristic blankness.

It took Lily a moment to register the fact that she was not, in fact, the intruder here.

"What are you doing here?" she demanded, perhaps a bit more forcefully than necessary, but damn it, she was too tired to put up with this.

Black was usually the sort of boy that always had a witty comeback on the tip of his tongue, so it surprised her when he took a solid two seconds to reply, his startled expression melting into a sort of surly non-committal state.

"Taking a bath," he retorted, rather defensively for someone who wasn't supposed to there to begin with.

"This is the prefect's bathroom!"

He smirked at her, but it looked more like a grimace. "I'm aware."

Lily sighed. Of course Potter would give his friends the password. She turned and tugged on the handle of the door one more time, feeling a bit desperate. Finally, she looked back at Black, who hadn't moved an inch. Her eyes narrowed. "Did you do anything to the door?"

"No," he answered, looking offended at her implication. But he seemed to realize something shortly after. "Well – not just now."

"What did you do?"

He looked uncomfortable. "I cast a locking charm?" He worded it more like a question than an answer, probably anticipating that he had somehow done the wrong thing.

She was already pulling her wand out of her sleeve. "Please tell me you used Colloportus."

His silence was enough of an answer.

Lily grit her teeth and pointed her wand at the lock, muttering spells until she was convinced that there was no way of unlocking the door in that manner. She fixed him with a scathing gaze. "Tell me what spell you used."

He told her.

"Why wouldn't you just use Colloportus?"

Black snorted. "Oh, sure, because no one knows the countercharm to that. I didn't want people just barging in," he said pointedly.

"Well, you obviously failed in that regard, much to my disadvantage," she bit out. She was growing increasingly more anxious. She had no intention of remaining locked in the prefect's bathroom with a naked Sirius Black, no matter how much of a fantasy that sounded like to every other girl in the school. She didn't particularly like him, certainly didn't trust him, and was really much too tired to deal with any of it.

Black had the decency to look alarmed for a second, and then his concern gave way to a relaxed shrug. "It's all right, James'll come looking for me eventually. Don't get your knickers in a twist."

She shot him a fuming glare, but he had already leaned his dark head against the edge of the pool and closed his eyes.

"Why would Potter even come?" she said hysterically. "He'll probably just assume you met up with one of your girlfriends and–"

She fell silent. Black said nothing, looking almost as if he had fallen asleep. She now realized that that was where the perfumed smell was coming from – evidently Black liked his baths even more scented and foamy than she did.

It was an unsettling thought, and she banished it quickly from her mind. For all Black's good looks, she wasn't attracted to him in the least. Maybe it was something about his rebellious attitude that didn't quite look right to her – he always seemed to be trying to compensate for something, his scornful laughter and wild antics seeming to mask a much more vicious side of him that reminded her more of Bellatrix Black than it did of James Potter, no matter what House – or side – he was really on.

And, especially in recent times, finding similarities with oneself and Bellatrix Black wasn't considered a good thing.

She really, really wanted to leave the bathroom.

Sighing, she dropped her towel on the ground and crossed her arms in front of her. "What makes you so sure Potter's going to come looking for you?" she snapped, and then suspicion quickly returned to her tone. "It's well past curfew. Unless you've got some sort of prank planned–"

"Relax, Evans," Black groaned from where he was in the water. "I just know, okay? He'll be looking for me, and yes, he'll know where to look. I'm sure of it, all right? Just stop being so infernally loud."

"I'm not being loud," she grumbled, rather pettily. But she had to concede that it couldn't possibly be a prank aimed at her – she had really just made a spur of the moment decision, summoning a towel from her trunk and making her way to the prefect's bathroom before even setting foot in her dormitory. They couldn't have known. And no matter how blasted infuriating Potter was, she highly doubted he would ever willingly choose to have her locked in a bathroom with his best friend as a prank.

As she looked at Black, his eyes still closed and body immobile in the water, she suddenly realized that something was wrong. He was always the lively one in the group – maybe in a less overenthusiastic way than Potter and Pettigrew, but there was something about the way that he held himself that gave the appearance of someone who was always well put-together. She had never seen him looking like he did now: dreary, morose and decidedly guarded from her. The Sirius Black she had known for the past six years of school would have jumped upon the opportunity to tease her mercilessly about their current predicament, and – she realized suddenly – would never have called Potter 'James'. Black usually adhered to the nicknames their group of friends had assigned to each other.

"What's going on, Black?"

He heaved a heavy sigh, his skin looking even paler than usual. "I told you, Evans. Nothing is going on. We'll get out of this eventually. Just… sit down, or something. I'm sorry you're locked in."

His tone was almost soft, if frustrated. She frowned and followed his advice, sinking down with her back to the door, arms coming to rest on her knees. "No," she began again. "I mean what's going on with you."

His jaw clenched. "Nothing."

"You look sick."

He raised his head and gave her a wicked grin that didn't quite convince her because it was missing its characteristic flare. Instead, he looked slightly deranged. She pursed her lips.

"Did you mean to take a bath?" he asked her, closing his eyes again, not having moved an inch from his original position.

"Just soak my feet."

"Well, go ahead," he said, nodding his head towards the opposite end of the pool. "There's enough water for both of us."

Lily snorted. "I definitely don't know you well enough for that."

She was racking her brains for some sort of solution to the locked door, but was fully aware that trying any other sort of magic on it might just worsen the damage and have them locked inside longer. If Potter found them, he would have the advantage of being on the opposite side of the door – the spell Black had so brilliantly cast was meant to lock things from within, and since it had malfunctioned, she supposed the lock was probably harder to break from the inside than from outside.

"Suit yourself," Black said nonchalantly. "But it's a big pool and we might be in here for a while."

She weighed her options carefully and then realized that she was much too tired to be bothered with what was appropriate or rational. Instead, she kicked off her shoes and socks and was soon at the edge of the pool between two of the golden, jeweled taps, sinking her feet into the deliciously hot water with a sigh.

She leaned back on her arms and relished in the relief the water brought to her aching feet. Across from her, Black still hadn't moved a muscle. Thankfully, the foam seemed to be enchanted to not dissolve while someone was in it, because his body was still entirely hidden from her view. She intended to keep things that way.

"So," she said presently in a low voice, because she could tell if Black hadn't fallen asleep despite his closed eyes. "How were the holidays?"

Black groaned and opened his eyes, fixing her with a sardonic smile. "An absolute disaster; thanks for asking. Yours?"

"It was all right," she said dismissively, even though it really hadn't been. "Why a disaster?"

He snorted. "I went home."

Opening her mouth, she was about to ask another question when his sardonic smile became a real one, and he began to chuckle at something.

"What?" she demanded, feeling uncomfortable at him knowing something she didn't.

"It's just–" he laughed. "If Prongs looks – to find me – and he sees you… and me… in the prefect's bathroom–" He shook his head, grinning brightly. "Oh, he'll be down here in a second."

"I don't understand," she muttered crossly. Well, she did understand part of it, but not how Potter could possibly know she was there when he wasn't with them. She tried to change the subject. "Is it true that you've been living with Potter?"

Black nodded shortly. "Up until sometime these holidays, I was."

"And then you went back home?"

He stared at her guardedly for a second, as if debating whether or not he should tell her the truth. Finally, he spoke slowly. "I got my own flat in June. I went back home for – for other reasons."

She could tell it was a weighty subject, so she dropped it. Everyone knew that the Black family had to be the most dysfunctional family in the wizarding world, especially with one of their sons having been sorted into Gryffindor and being so blatantly vocal about his hatred towards the so-called 'Dark Lord' and his minions. She had thought that his living with Potter may have just been a matter of practicality, in order to simplify both their lives since they already seemed attached at the hip, but it was clear that it had been more of a manner of retaining the peace – and perhaps personal safety, given the rumors about what happened among such families.

"So, any tips for dealing with Potter this year, then?" she asked lightly, forcing herself to look annoyed. Truth be told, the fresh, fruity smell of the water – rather comedic as Black was draped in it himself – was so relaxing she feared she might fall asleep there altogether, awkward situation or not. "Since you've lived with him and all. It must have been a nightmare."

He grinned, the dark cloud of the last subject forgotten. "Looking forward to working intimately with him during rounds?"

Lily snorted. "To say I was disappointed to see his name on the letter is an understatement. I've had enough having to share most of my classes with him – and now I have to see him practically all the time I've got in between. It's going to be an exhausting year. How I'll find the energy to keep him in line, I have no idea."

Black had sobered slightly, leaning his head back again, though it was obvious he was still listening. "I think you underestimate him, Evans," he said presently. "He's not the annoying kid you think he is – he's going to behave this year, he's convinced of it. Oh, and he's not after you anymore," he added as an afterthought. "So you'll be rid of that."

"Oh." The last part caught her by surprise. Oddly enough, it elicited a sort of nostalgia in her. Now that she thought about it, he had really acted quite seriously during their meetings with the Prefects earlier that day, addressing her normally and without so much of a hint of flirtatiousness; something that, last year, would be unthinkable. Hadn't Potter spent the better half of their years in Hogwarts so far torturing her with his advances, and proposals, and unstoppable teasing? Yet she felt strangely disappointed –

"Disappointed?" Black was smirking.

She scoffed. "Of course not."

"Oh, you can always regain his interest again, Evans, don't worry," he said teasingly, eyebrows raised. "With that hair I bet you could get any man–"

She was riling up for an angry retort when she saw him wince with such pain that she stopped short. He was in the middle of making a gesture with his hand – a gesture she was rather happy he never got to complete – but the movement seemed to have rendered him temporarily incapacitated, and he slumped against the wall of the pool, face scrunched up in pain as he coiled stiffly, clutching the edge of the pool.

She had known something was up. She pulled her feet out of the water in an instant, ignoring the cold ache that seemed to begin again almost at once, and made her way over to his side of the pool, forgetting, for a moment, about Black's state of undress. He was clenching his teeth with pain and holding himself so stiffly that she realized he must be in agony.

"What is it?"

"Nothing," he grunted through clenched teeth, but followed it with a breathless curse.

"What is it?" she asked more forcefully, and something about her tone must have changed his mind, or maybe the pain was too unbearable, because Black suddenly turned and exposed the most battered back she had ever seen.

It was as if someone had swung at him with a baseball bat, bruises of various different colors, swollen and almost too painful to even look at dotting the entirety of his upper back and trailing down into the water. As she looked, Black seemed to shrink where he was, eyes downcast as he leaned with his elbows on the stone floor level with his face.

"Is this what you meant by 'disaster'?" Lily asked in a low voice.

Black's voice came out hoarse, and he turned again in the water, hiding his back from her view, as if he suddenly regretted showing her. He reached up and ran a hand through his dark hair in an attempt to look casual, but the movement only seemed to make him wince. "That's the sort of shit that happens when you go home after running away for a year."

Lily didn't say anything for a moment, merely looking at him. He looked away soon afterwards and she frowned, her feet dripping water against the floor, forgotten in her rush to see what had happened.

Finally, she spoke again in a low voice. "Did you parents do this to you?"

Black seemed reluctant to reply, but he did so anyway, and something about his expression was so familiar that Lily almost started with surprise – the defensiveness, the dark, downcast looks, the way he kept answering her questions as if there was a part of him that needed to talk about it even though he seemed to be fighting to keep it all hidden – all of it reminded her all too much of the thin, dark haired boy from Spinner's End that she used to be friends with…

She would never tell him about the similarity, but he faced her with a challenging gaze that didn't faze her in the least. "My mum did it," he said, lips pulled in a thin, mirthless smile. "Greeted me like this just before she locked me up in the cellar, like a fucking prisoner, for almost a whole day before she pulled me back out and did it again – I don't know what curse she used, but it hurts like bloody murder. I got out, though. They're idiots for thinking I wouldn't. I did it once; I could do it again."

"I didn't know it was that bad," Lily replied softly.

"Yeah, well, neither did I, or I wouldn't have set foot in there," he grunted, and then shook his head. "I should have known, though. I – I should have known better."

"You couldn't have," Lily said, and bit back the I'm sorry that pushed at her lips. She knew he would reject it. "Do your friends know?"

"'Course they do. Moony did some wandwork on it – you should've seen it this morning."

"When did it all happen?"

"Yesterday."

She was frowning. "You should go to Madame Pomfrey."

Black glared at her. "No," he said roughly. "I'm fine. I told you – Moony fixed it. I just need rest."

"You can't possibly go to class like this; you can barely move!"

"I can, and I bloody will."

Of course he didn't want to – but she had to say it, just to know that she had offered it as an option. But naturally Black, stubborn to the last, would rather die than go to Madame Pomfrey over something so personal.

She sighed, and stuck her hand into the pocket of her robes. "You haven't healed properly. You need Essence of Dittany."

"Yeah I know," Black grumbled. "We tried to steal some but there's all sorts of protective spells on Pomfrey's closet and we couldn't get through on our way to the Great Hall. Moony's going to try and wheedle it from Pomfrey tomorrow because she likes him."

Lily snorted. "Well, you're in luck, because there wasn't any of it in her closet tonight. I have it." She pulled her purse, shrunken to pocket-size, and extracted the small bottle from it, unable to help a smile as Black stared at her in surprise.

"You have it?"

She savored the moment before answering, holding the bottle in her hand and smirking at his shock. It wasn't often one got to see Black honestly surprised. "Lovegood fell from one of the carriages and got a very nasty gash on his leg," she explained. "He ran off somehow, and Madame Pomfrey gave me the bottle to administer because she was busy with some First Year who nearly broke his ankle getting out of one of the boats – don't ask me how, I have no idea either. Anyway, I have it, so we might as well use it while we're locked in here for Merlin knows how long."

He opened his mouth to argue. She glared at him.

"Are you really going to tell me you don't need it?"

Black scowled, and finally sighed, rubbing his face with his hand. It must be past midnight. Lily held the bottle and watched as he nodded tiredly. "Fine. Might as well." He fixed her with a pointed look. "As long as you don't tell Pomfrey… or McGonnagall… or…"

She glared at him again and he grinned reluctantly. Slowly, he waded through the water towards her – there was a small flight of steps leading out of the water, though she hadn't seen them before; maybe they had appeared magically – wincing with every minuscule movement he gave. It was clear that the curse went deeper than only the bruises; both his muscles and bones must have been violently affected for him to be in such deep pain. Lily tried her best not to let the pity she felt show on her face; she knew it wouldn't do more than make Black resent her, vulnerable as he already was, and she already had enough experience dealing with that sort of thing.

She nearly yelped as he suddenly began to emerge from the water beside her without so much as slowing down, the foam parting to let him through.

Black laughed a loud, barking laugh, and she realized that he was wearing swimming trunks. "I'm not an idiot, Evans."

She tried to mask her embarrassment at her assumption with a derisive sniff. "Says the one who locked us both in the Prefect's Bathroom with a ridiculous spell."

"Touché."

He sat down stiffly in front of her, at the edge of the water, still dripping and shivering slightly in the colder air. She tossed him the towel that was lying nearby, and he dried himself off gingerly, wincing as his pained muscles contracted. He was fit – Quidditch did that to its players – and she had to smirk to herself, thinking of all the classmates that would die of envy if they saw her now. But there was something about the way he held himself – a very clearly teenage awkwardness – that made her suspect that perhaps he hadn't dated quite as much as he let on.

She pulled the handkerchief Madame Pomfrey gave her and cleaned it with a quick Scourgify before wetting it with the bottle's contents and beginning to dab it on Black's skin. It was technically better when applied for scarring, and Black had no open wounds, but it would certainly help with the pain and aid the healing process, which was bound to be faster this way than it would be if she let his injuries be. His back was a tapestry of red, purples and blues, and Lily shuddered to think what sort of Dark Magic Mrs. Black had inflicted upon her own son. She couldn't imagine how it must feel to be so violently attacked by someone so close.

"You know," Black said presently, and she could hear the grimace of pain in his words. Even the lightest touch seemed to cause him discomfort. "I really did think we might be able to go through at least one more encounter without going at each other's throats."

"Why did you go?" she asked.

He began a shrug, and then stopped, because it hurt him too much. She couldn't see his face as his back was turned towards her, but she didn't need to. "It was my brother's birthday," he said slowly. "August thirty-first. I figured… he hasn't got long before my madwoman of a mother pushes him to join… Voldemort." Lily wasn't sure if the pauses in his sentence were from the pain of her treating his wounds or not. "I guess I just wanted to go back, to see if anything had changed – if maybe Regulus would listen when he's not surrounded by Slytherins. I know he always told me to leave the house and I thought that maybe if I did, once I had… he'd learn something… and maybe my parents would have missed me – shit, I don't know. I guess I should've known it wasn't going to be like that; that's not the way my family works. I just – I just wish my brother was able to realize that everything they're teaching him to say is prejudiced bullshit."

"Prejudice has a way of changing even the nicest people," Lily said, rather more bitterly than she intended.

He turned his head and glanced at her. She didn't look back.

"You have a sister, don't you?" he asked suddenly.

Lily let out a short laugh. "Yes. But our relationship isn't much better than yours and Regulus'."

"What's her deal?"

Lily shrugged, even though Black couldn't see her anymore, looking straight before him as she applied more Essence of Dittany to the handkerchief and watched the marks on his lower back slowly fade into duller, older-looking bruises that didn't seem quite as painful. "She's angry – angry that I'm a witch, that I left her behind, that… I don't know. She's bitter. Prejudiced in her own way, I suppose, and nothing I or anyone else says can get her out of this idea that I'm doing it all on purpose to spite her. I–" she stopped short, suddenly afraid that her emotions might betray her and tears escape her. She hadn't cried about this in so long; it wouldn't do to do so now, here, with Sirius Black, of all people. She cleared her throat. "I've gotten used to it. It would just be nice… to actually have a sister."

There was silence, broken only by the dripping of some of the taps into the water, and Black's breath, which was no longer so labored. The wounds on his back were healing somewhat.

"Siblings," he snorted. "Ungrateful bastards, the lot of them."

She had to laugh at that. And she suddenly felt inexplicable warmth towards the usually cocky, rebellious boy whose attention-seeking antics normally disgusted her. An unusual bond had been made, and she felt as if they were partners now – in exhaustion, in sufferings, in a strange understanding of the deeply personal blow prejudice could have within one's closest family.

She was done soon after, his back now made mostly of dull blue marks. He straightened and didn't wince anymore, seeming relieved at the difference. She thought he might go back into the water after that, but he just seized the towel and wrapped it around his torso like a protective shell. Lily lifted her knees up to her chin, the bottle back in her purse.

"How long do you reckon it'll take Potter to find us?" she asked. The initial adrenaline of the unusual situation was starting to wear off, and her bones were beginning to ache again. The prospect of spending the night in that bathroom wasn't particularly appealing; not after having spent the last few months dreaming of her four-poster bed in Gryffindor Tower.

"Not long now," Black answered, not seeming worried at all. "He always keeps an eye out for me when… you know." He shifted uncomfortably. Then he grinned. "I should make him think we're locked in here on purpose."

Lily raised an eyebrow. "I thought you said he doesn't care?"

Black said nothing, a smirk still playing on his lips. Lily suddenly felt self-conscious, confused between his differing remarks about Potter's feelings towards her, and not completely sure why she cared. But there was something special about the way Black spoke about his friends, and especially about Potter – a kind of reverence that only came out of a deep love and respect. It wasn't something she was used to hearing in the voice of a seventeen-year-old boy.

Black moved slightly until he was able to lean against one of the walls. The foam in the pool had dissolved, leaving a smooth, mirror-like surface that reflected the light from the torches, mingled with the colors of the stained glass windows.

"What're you going to do after Hogwarts?" Black asked after a moment.

Lily hugged her legs a bit tighter to her chest. "I'm hoping to get an internship of some sort in the Ministry," she said. "But it's going to take some convincing my mum… with all the attacks on muggle-borns, she's becoming a bit reluctant to let me become too noticeable in magical circles."

Black snorted. "Good luck with that. Head Girl, top of the class..."

"Yeah, I know. I don't think hiding's the solution, either. What do you want to do?"

He shrugged.

"There was a rumor going around that you and Potter were going to apply to become Aurors," she said casually, twisting a lock of hair around her finger. She didn't like admitting that she heard the school rumors about them, but it was impossible not to hear them. Their entire House held some sort of devotion towards the four boys.

Still leaning against the wall, his expression was guarded again. "I don't know."

She frowned. "Why? It seems like something right up your alley," she said. "I don't want to feed your and Potter's already inflated egos… but you're both very talented."

"I know," he said, shifting restlessly where he sat. "It's just… if my brother does go on to become a Death Eater…"

Realization spread over Lily's face. Of course he would be reluctant to become an Auror, should Regulus join the Dark Side. The last think Black would want to do would be to encounter his brother in a fight and be faced with the option of attacking him…

They both started as there was suddenly a loud knock on the door, and a hand shook the brass handle. Their eyes met even as a halting, uncertain voice was heard from outside.

"…Padfoot?"

Black grinned. It was Potter. Lily let go of her legs and crossed them, trying not to feel as awkward as she did in the bizarre situation.

"Yes, Prongs?" There was something cheeky about the way Black was grinning.

Potter's voice was still hesitant, a hint of irritation in his voice. "…care to explain?"

It was like he knew she was in there with Black. She frowned. The four of them always seemed to have a knack of knowing exactly where people were at any given time – their skill at carrying out pranks certainly gave off that impression. It was uncanny.

Black's grin had widened. "Explain what, Prongs?"

There was a pause. Potter's voice came muffled through the door. "Are you in there with… Evans?"

The look in Black's eyes had turned positively wicked, and Lily refused to give him the satisfaction of making up some sort of story to embarrass her and tease Potter. She spoke up.

"Potter, your idiot of a friend charmed the door to lock from the inside. I don't know if the password works to open it from outside, but you should try."

There was a pause, and Potter seemed to clear his throat. "Oh, all right." She heard him mutter the password. It didn't work.

"Maybe you should call Moony!" Black called out, still smirking.

"I don't need to call bloody Moony," Potter protested, sounding affronted. "Just give me a second, will you?"

"Take your time," Black said lazily, expression wicked. "We don't mind."

Lily glared at him, but he didn't seem to care. She heard Potter muttering countercurses outside, and stood up to go dry her feet properly and put her shoes back on. She certainly felt a lot better than she had felt before putting her feet in the water, though there was an unmistakable heaviness in her eyelids that told her that she would fall asleep as soon as she reached her bed. She straightened up and watched Black slowly doing the same, preparing to go towards where he had left his robes in one corner of the bathroom.

As he stood up slowly, towel still around his shoulders, he looked at her seriously.

"You'd like Prongs, you know," he said calmly, low enough for Potter not to hear from outside. "If you get to know him. Just give him a chance." Then he smirked and changed his tone, raising his voice. "You sure you can do that all by yourself, Prongs?"

"Of course I – " there was a sudden click, and the door swung open slowly to reveal James Potter, his hair more tousled than usual, a cloak draped hurriedly over his blue pajamas. He straightened and put his wand in his pocket, nodding towards Lily. "Hi Evans. Sorry about that."

Lily couldn't help being amused at his businesslike tone. Nor could she help the small smile that appeared on her lips. "You're not the one that has to apologize," she said coolly, shooting Black a glare that she meant more teasingly than in earnest.

Black smirked, running a hand through his damp hair as he put on his robes over his swimming trunks. "What can I say? I enjoy locking redheads into bathrooms with me."

"Now, if only the redheads enjoyed being locked in with you," Lily replied, but she couldn't help a smile. There was something about Black's tone that was more friendly than flirty, and she found that she couldn't make herself feel irritated at him for anything that had happened that night.

She had inadvertently found a friend in the rebellious idiot, and as she left the bathroom, towel in hand, ignoring Potter's curious look because his more-than-usually unruly hair somehow seemed to make him extremely handsome in the light of the corridor, and heard Black's barking laughter follow her out, she realized that she really didn't mind.