A/N: So I decided I was too impatient to try and write more plot heavy stuff and wait to post this, so this is fairly fluffy, but it moves the plot along too. I hope you all like it, and rest assured they will get to adventuring and whatnot in part 3 (which I think will be the final part)
The seventh time Sirius suggests a giant magnet, Remus drops his head to the table, James lets out an almighty groan, and Lily turns red and leaves the room, muttering to herself.
Despite the dramatic reactions to his proposition, Sirius remains unperturbed, fiddling with one of the many fountain pens scattered across the crowded table.
Lily can be heard clattering about in the other room, likely putting on a kettle, if the metallic slams are to be believed, and Remus half drops half rolls to the floor, lank hair eschew and lanky limbs akimbo.
Seemingly looking for some guidance, Sirius prods James with his finger - the long, slender, and un-calloused digit of an aristocrat. "What have I done?"
James props his cheek in his scarred palm, blinking slowly at Sirius. "I have to believe – for my own sanity – that you know the answer to that question."
Sirius shrugs and James scrunches his eyes closed, rubbing at his lids beneath his smudged spectacles. "I'm too tired to tell if you're being a bastard or genuine."
"Can't I be a genuine bastard?"
"They both get too academic and in their heads," Sirius finally says, relenting somewhat as he murmurs to James, "you've seen it too."
James tilts his head, partially surrendering the point, knowing Lily's been up well past the witching hour most nights and skipped more meals than she's had, despite his protests. "Still."
"If we don't get their blood going every once in a while they'll keel over, Iacomus."
A mischievous smirk rises on James' lips, but he bites back the retort about other more pleasurable ways to get blood going. Still, Sirius manages to trace his train of thought and scowls. "Don't."
Raising his hands in a defensive posture, James leans back in his chair. "I was merely going to suggest daily sparring sessions," Sirius blinks at him, unimpressed, but James plows ahead, "two birds with one stone, exercise and training; just in case."
Not a handful of minutes later, the kettle whistles from the kitchen and Lily soon pokes her head around the doorframe, hair a wispy riot framing her face. "Tea's in the sitting room, come help yourselves," Remus' head lifts from the ground and Lily offers a small smile to the trio, "got too stuffy in here."
She's halfway down the hall when she calls out, "I've also set out fresh pastry from the bakery," and the boys are after her in a trice.
Before long, they've settled in near the crackling fire, draped in various decidedly improper positions across the furniture and each on their second slice of Beef Wellington by the time anyone says much more than an incoherent moan.
Remus slumps further in the chintz armchair he claimed promptly following their entrance into the cozy study, absentmindedly nudging Sirius with the tip of his boot. "So. The Geats."
Sirius groans, "Can't we digest first?"
"Can someone explain who this Beowulf character is," James scowls, "was?"
Sitting up abruptly, without noticing James' bereft expression when her head is no longer pillowed on his chest, Lily's eyes light with excitement. "Beowulf was a great hero, particularly among his people, the Geats."
James' lips purse almost unnoticeably. "So what did he do exactly?"
Lily kicks off her boots and pulls her feet up on the couch, face alight with excitement. "The usual heroics – defeating monsters, liberating people."
Remus takes in James' unimpressed expression and bites back a smirk. "Mostly, people thought he was a myth, so among other things this could prove he existed in the first place."
"So he defeated this monster, Grendel," Lily continues, nodding to acknowledge Remus' point.
"And later Grendel's mother," Remus adds.
"Yes! They had been tormenting the Danes in Heorot for – how long?"
Lily laughs, "Sure."
"Eventually, he was slain by a dragon – but not before he delivered the killing blow," Remus concludes, nibbling on a biscuit.
Caught up in the excitement of their story telling, Lily's not noticed James' silence or vaguely pouty expression, but Sirius – ever watchful – has. Still, his perceptiveness does not include a propensity for respect of social mores, so Sirius pushes up on his palms and sends James a sideways smirk. "Lily dear, I do believe our Iacomus is feeling a bit tossed aside."
Scowling, James kicks Sirius' shin rather roughly for someone who's not upset, "Don't be daft."
Lily quirks her brow, but slips her hand into James' and scoots closer so they're pressed together from shoulder to hip, earning an exaggerated gag from Sirius.
Shaking his head and laughing affectionately, Remus settles his feet cross-legged on the table and snuggles down into the plush armchair. "Anyway, Sirius' contact has reason to believe one of Beowulf's swords is soon to be in demand."
"For some nefarious purposes," Sirius agrees, nodding.
James lifts his arm and gestures for Lily to lean against his side, and after she's tucked her head in the crook of his shoulder, she turns her gaze to Remus. "What's the lore, then?"
Remus hums thoughtfully for a moment, "Generally, the power of swords is associated with the might of the person – in this case Beowulf - who wielded the blade with success."
Nails scratching lightly at Lily's scalp, James puts in, "There's a general history of blood or venom imbuing blades with power."
Lily's eyes get a far off look, and the three men can practically hear the gears turning in her head before she murmurs, "What about someone who bested a sword."
All three turn to her and Lily doesn't give much clue to her train of thought aside from stating a seemingly unrelated idea. "Peat bogs have preserving capabilities."
She sits forward and James shares a glance with Sirius and Remus, wondering if his inability to follow Lily's thoughts is some 'I'm from another millennium' problem, but they each look equally flummoxed. James twists around to follow Lily's circuits as she paces behind the settee and she looks at the boys excitedly. "We need the sword that Grendel defeated."
"I'm fairly certain Beowulf strangled Grendel beyond sword-defeating capability," Sirius drawls, but James shushes him.
"Yes, but then Beowulf needed proof," Lily says quietly, eyes distant.
James turns around fully, tucking one leg beneath him. "Which would mean he'd have beheaded Grendel," Sirius raises his brows and James shrugs, "standard procedure."
Remus bites his lip. "So the bog…"
"We need the hilt," Lily begins and Sirius finally catches on, cutting in, "And undead Grendel."
Lily rolls her eyes as the boys exchange excited looks, "Not undead."
Remus nudges James with the dusty toe of his boot. "Good – we've got enough 'should be dead but aren't dead beings floating in our orbit'."
"I don't appreciate your tone, Lupin," James grumbles mulishly, "I think your experience with me has gone pretty well."
"So far," Lily teases, swiping a biscuit and taking a healthy bite.
"Don't make me take back the proposal."
"You wouldn't dare."
Flopping back onto the plush carpet, Sirius sighs, "Nah he really wouldn't. Iacomus is well and truly gone on you," Lily squeezes James hand and Sirius groans, scrunching his eyes shut, "It's quite disgusting."
Remus sighs and Lily just snuggles into James' side, undeterred by Sirius' teasing. "So where'd you get this tip?"
There's an almost unnoticeable pause before Sirius answers around the rim of his teacup, "A friend."
"Not good enough," Remus drawls from his perch on the armchair.
"I figured as much," Sirius murmurs, "It's from Albus Dumbledore."
Lily and Remus let out twin groans and James is lost, while Sirius straightens, showing that steely aristocratic backbone he only whips out on the most deserving of occasions. "Don't tell me what I already know, you two snobs."
James quirks a brow, "Anyone care to enlighten a poor, uninformed, elderly man?"
All three immediately turn to provide the requested information, but Sirius cuts across Remus and Lily, much to their chagrin, "Lord Dumbledore is a wealthy aristocrat with a reputation for backing – unusual endeavors."
Remus snorts, "If by 'unusual' you mean completely insane and dead end then, yes, unusual."
Despite her initial harsh reaction, Lily's been uncharacteristically silent for the last bit of conversation and James is the first to turn toward her, letting the other two argue. "Lily?"
Chewing her lip, Lily pulls away a little so James' hand falls to her waist. "I – well Dumbledore does have a bit of a reputation that I admit to believing, but," she brushes her fingers over the rough nap of his trousers, "If I had been a famous Lord while I was looking for you – "
She lets the sentence drop and a small smile tilts James' mouth, "You'd have seemed just as odd, eh?"
Lily nods and James presses a kiss to her forehead, lingering and affectionate, "You're too good for any of us, my dear."
"Because I decided to stop being a hypocrite?" Lily asks, wry.
"Because of your heart," James says simply, eyes crinkling with his grin just for her, "It sounds a mite soppy – better in the Greek I think."
Remus is halfway through a rant on Dumbledore's claims that he'd found and conveniently hidden the secret to eternal life because he feared its effects on society when Lily clears her throat. "It's worth a look, yeah?"
Summer's well and truly over when Lily and James find themselves tucked together on the deck of a steamship called Aeterna, fall winds whipping through their woolen coats like pinpricks on skin. They're one of the few milling about above deck, and definitely the only passengers there, and the crewmen who find their daily tasks demand aboveboard actions tend to move as quickly as possible.
Which affords them a nice sort of loneliness, and allows for more familiar behaviors that general society would frown on. Nothing too untoward, but if Lily tucks her harms inside James' jacket and rests her cheek on his scratchy jumper, no one's near enough to care. And James' arm doesn't have to be twisted to get him to wander the decks despite the chill, largely because he seems to feel and endless tug toward the red head in his arms that's only staid when she's near enough to touch. But secondarily, anything cave-like tends to grate on him after a time, leading him to surmise he wasn't quite as unaware of the millennia he spent below ground as he'd like to think.
Still, he's rather well adjusted all things considered, having got past bursting from below barefoot and trembling when the cramped cabin walls seemed to close in around him. Sirius had woken that night too, only making himself known by following James at a slow pace, fully dressed and bearing a coat and shoes which he handed over wordlessly before lighting a cigar and wandering far enough away that James could let the tremors work through his limbs naturally.
When Sirius finally wanders close enough to speak, James is somewhat returned to himself and fully expects some sort of inquiry as to his night terrors. Slowly, Sirius rests his forearms on the rail, gazing out at the inky sea lit by the silvery glow of the moon. "Did I ever tell you about the time I almost won the title to Bagshot Park off Prince Arthur in a game of pinochle?"
And even though he knew precisely what the other man was doing, his question was just the right level of absurd to draw a startled laugh from James' chest, breath fogging the night air.
That had been – weeks ago. And slowly but surely, James manages – with help – to sleep through most nights. He still has a preference for the wide open waters though, so when he can, he tucks himself into copious layers of clothing and tugs Lily with him like a very human, very gorgeous, very brilliant, hot water bottle.
His lips brush her hairline, his lower back pressed against the railing as the boat rocks beneath them. "So the Geats, eh?"
Lily lets out a cold sounding laugh and snuggles closer. "That prompt doesn't really give me guidance on what information you're looking for."
Before he can clarify or tease back, a third figure emerges to join them with that jaunty lope that can only be associated with a certain disinherited Lord Black. "I do not appreciate the amount of time I've spent in frigid temperatures since making your acquaintance, Lily."
Lily laughs again, her breath warm against James' throat. "Don't lie, dear brother. I make your life exciting."
"Besides I'm better than Lucius."
Sirius squints at the darkness, pulling a cigar from his coat and silently asking Lily's permission, which she gives with a nod. He lights the tip expertly so it glows orange in the night and sends a warm vanilla scent floating across the deck. "I think dried out flan is better than Lucius."
"That is the shade of his hair," James puts in, having become briefly acquainted with Sirius' prat of a cousin one unexpected day in London. The trio had been locked in an awkward sort of dance, all well aware they were on very opposing sides in what was nearly an underground war of sorts that year, but Lucius had always been a bit weak-willed and at least knew he was no match for Sirius and an ancient warrior in a brawl, so he'd just sent a stiff nod in their direction before contusing down the crowded street and disappearing down a winding byway, carefully polished boots clicking against the pavement.
They're silent again for a bit, comfortable and familiar, before Lily murmurs, "Besides, it's nowhere near as cold as last time, you big baby."
Despite the chill, the first snows haven't arrived yet and aren't projected for a few weeks, leaving the foursome to travel by carriage from the docks to the city center. It's bustling with merchants selling freshly caught fish and salted meats alongside bright smelling herbs and dry cheeses. Once they've broken past the bustle into the meandering streets, the shouting turns to the steady rumble of chatter as neighbors and shopkeepers exchange pleasantries and barter between themselves. Their guide is relatively silent, only pointing out landmarks he thinks to be of particular interest and Lily really does try, but the days of travel and her extensive and borderline obsessive research if the region over the last months means she could probably accurately guess exactly where each part of the wagon jostling beneath them was imported or exported from.
Still, only those who know her best would be able to tell, which is why Sirius sends her a teasing glance, Remus sends her a commiserating grin, and finally James - showing his particular expertise in all things Lily - draws the driver into a conversation.
"We're interested in a bit of sightseeing in the countryside. What's the best way to travel with ease?"
The coachman, Frederick, scratches at the thinning hair beneath his dark cap. "If y' want speed and maneuvering, horses are likely your best bet," he glances over his shoulder, eyes lingering on Lily for a moment, "assuming everyone in the party's capable riders."
Sirius looks half indignant and half eager at the slight on Lily's abilities, likely battling between twin instincts to fight on her behalf or wait and see what maelstrom she unleashes in the face of sleep deprivation and questioned sportsmanship.
Remus puts on a somewhat forced light air and shakes his head, "You've got a keen eye Freddy. I'm not much for equestrian pursuits. Raised in the city as I was."
"Important trait to have, that," Sirius nods, winking at Lily as James picks up the thought. "Aye. Would be right embarrassing to make snap judgments about a person's abilities and talents only to be proven woefully incorrect."
Frederick flushes but doesn't answer beyond a jerk of his head, jostling the horses wordlessly as they trundle toward the inn.
It's early afternoon by the time they're fully registered with the management and everyone's simultaneously famished and exhausted, lounged in the cozy guest parlor, a crackling fire warming their bones.
"Dinner's at six?" Sirius asks.
Remus chuckles to himself, "Yes, and it seemed non negotiable, if Mrs. Nilsson's scowl was anything to go by."
And despite the fatigue that weighs heavily, Lily's got other appetites to fill, ones that have been deprived for what feels like ages. "I saw a nice sort of pub a few streets down."
James' eyes light at her meaningful glance and he stands, brushing off his trousers. "I'd like to stretch my legs a bit if you don't mind the company."
Sirius snorts. "Don't try and run away to the Royal Shakespeare Company either of you, you're right terrible actors."
Grinding despite himself, Remus nudges Sirius with the toe of his boot, "Leave them alone you git."
Placing a kiss on Remus' stubbled cheek, Lily trots up the creaky stairs to retrieve her coat and James follows to do the same. And if they take a bit too long and look a bit too flushed for a single flight of steps, Sirius and Remus manage to hold back their teasing. Largely because of Lily's lofty expression and promise to "forget" Remus' hatred of halibut and eat all the bread on the way home.
They're quiet for a dozen or so steps, shoes clacking on the uneven cobblestones while Lily leans into James' side, arm tucked through his.
"So," Lily parrots.
"Now that you've got me alone, what would you like to do with me?" James murmurs, warm breath sending her flyaways floating around her face.
Clearing her throat, Lily doesn't break stride despite her thudding heart. "I think you know very well - I demonstrated it pretty clearly, I thought."
"I have been called a slow learner," James laughs as he and Lily stop off at a bakery too tempting to ignore.
Both light on being together and the rewarding, heady feeling of finishing a journey, James and Lily make casual chatter with the baker and his wife, which is not only polite, but also ends up with lots of free 'samples' to gobble down as they browse. By the time they've made their selections – sweet breads and a parcel filled with hearty rolls.
They also get a recommendation for a local tavern – after being quickly warned away from their intended restaurant with a wince and reference to the fact that there are on occasion large numbers of unwanted four legged patrons that frequent the storage room.
When they arrive at the Sword and Anchor, it's that odd time between lunch and dinner where the occasional stray dish and customer alike linger in the forgotten corners, but the rest is like a ghost town, albeit a clean and welcoming one.
Bergljot, the bar matron, introduces herself and sends them a warm grin as she returns from the washroom, hands and apron damp as her sharp blue eyes assess them. "Late lunch for two?"
There's a beat where James hesitates, he's still a bit shy about his odd accent in public, but he must be buoyed by the easiness of their time at the bake shop and maybe the squeeze of Lily's hand on his arm, because he's the one to answer lightly, "We've got a couple of companions who'll be very distressed if we return with only enough for two."
"Four of you, eh? Why not eat here?" Bergljot suggests, wiping down the bar top, "We've got a local group of musicians coming in tonight to play. It'll be a wonderful night."
They share a look between them, and Lily can see that behind the weariness of travel, James is carrying too many years of everything – and if she needs a night of lightness, then he must be aching for it. So she sends him a subtle grin and turns to Bergljot. "What time?"
The boys are fairly easy to convince and Sirius is nearly vibrating with the prospect of getting to see Remus 'loosen up' which he seems to believe will include a fair amount of drinking, singing, and dancing. And despite Remus' eye rolls and huffs at each of Sirius' proclamations – and James and Lily's eager agreements – he seems to be playing the part of 'grumpy old researcher' rather than exhibiting genuine distaste for the prospect of a night spent reveling.
Still, James holds him back once Sirius and Lily disappear into the garden, already comparing their mental catalogues of drinking songs. "You could speak up, Remus. If you really don't want to go. None of us will mind a quiet night in," James murmurs, quiet, before he chuckles under his breath, "Probably the most sensible thing to do, eh?"
Remus laughs and ruffles James' hair with his spindly, scarred fingers. "You really are a mother hen."
"I'm just trying to – "
"Cluck, cluck," Remus says, sniggering as he wraps one arm around James' neck and squeezes playfully.
Shoving at Remus' side boyishly, in that way that's almost shocking considering his entirely un-boyish age, James scowls, despite the smile tickling at his lips. "May all your ale be just too warm and your fish tinged with a hint of too much brine."
"Shouldn't you mention my first born too? Maybe you've forgotten how ancient curses work, in your old age – "
With a loud grunt, James throws his arms up and down before striding toward the staircase, turning back as he reaches the landing and pointing an imperious finger at Remus. "Just for that, I'm not cutting in when Sirius tries to make you dance."