Author's Note: This story is dedicated to Duj as a get well present after her operation. She knows why!
Canon tells us that Lily Evans was clever, kind, beautiful, a caring mother and (inexplicably) in love with James. She was also an Auror. As I see it, you can't be an Auror unless you are also tough and prepared to be ruthless…
This story is set in the Marauders' final year at Hogwarts, in the summer term. It is rated for occasional strong language and implied adult themes - nothing explicit. It's a quickie - 5 chapters.
Chapter 1:A FOOLPROOF PLAN
"It'll never work," laughed Sirius, draining his Butterbeer to the dregs and wiping a white line of froth mingled with perspiration from his top lip. "But nice idea, all the same."
As a concession to the unseasonal heat the proprietor of the Hogshead had grudgingly allowed them to levitate their table outside onto the pavement. Sirius was beginning to wonder whether it would have been cooler inside, in the shade, even if the atmosphere inside the pub was unbreathable. He loosened the top and second buttons on his shirt for ventilation, and then, rather taken with the effect, unbuttoned the third.
"It could work. I mean, James has really done his homework on this. I'd say go for it. Let's get the slimeball!" Peter, beady-eyed with admiration, defended James' plan keenly.
"Possibly." Sirius' attention was veering towards a pastel cloud of gauze-clad Hufflepuff sixth year girls, as they walked demurely down towards the High Street, carrying a wicker picnic basket, freshly baked baguettes and the neck of a wine bottle tantalisingly visible beneath the lid. "Looks like we could be on for a picnic, chaps, if we play our cards right." He was already lubricating the smile that would have them eating out of his hand. "Off to the lake, eh, girls? Lovely day for it. We might see you down there…" He leaned back nonchalantly in his chair, stretching his legs out, radiating the kind of confidently louche allure that set more than Hufflepuff hearts racing.
"Give it a rest, Padders. Don't you ever give up?" James had expected his scheme to get a more enthusiastic reception. But he too was casually running his fingers through his hair, fluffing the quiff.
"Just keeping my hand in. Practice, as they say, makes perfect. Besides, they might be planning on a swim. Bikini time, eh, boys?" He rolled back his shirt sleeve to reveal a tanned, well-defined forearm.
"I'm serious. I've got this thing all set up. It's a cert, this time. And we've got to do it today, while we're out of Hogwarts' wards." James was not to be swayed.
"Oh, go on then. Run it past me again." Sirius caught Maisie Linnet's eye as she cast a wistful backward glance over her shoulder, and gave a slow, suggestive wink that left her blushing with hot and cold flutters for the rest of the afternoon. "It was your round, I think, Peter. Same again," he stated, not bothering to waste the subtlety of a hint on his eager friend. Ever obliging, Peter eased his way inside and through the sweating customers to the bar. Once he was safely out of earshot, Sirius lowered his voice.
"You say you found it in the Restricted Section? Given the cloak another outing have we? I thought you said it was just a Vanishing Spell. Presumably you've tried it out? Does it work?"
"Like a Charm!" James gave his trademark boyish grin, his hazel eyes sparkling behind the glasses. "Bungled it the first few times, but I've got it down to a T now. Look, I've got it here."
He slipped a thin, soft-bound book out of his pocket and passed it under the table to his companion. Sirius leafed through the pages quickly, keeping it inconspicuously on his lap.
"Tut, tut. Liberating literature from the Restricted Section? What would dear Pincer-face have to say about that? So what's it called again?"
"Directed Vanishing. I've marked the page. But there's nothing to it really. Wish we'd known about it before. Vanishing spells are always so unpredictable - you never know where the stuff's going to end up, or when it'll turn up again - if it ever does. Hey, do you remember that time Snelling disappeared out of Charms and re-materialised in the lake? But this one's a cracker of a spell. It's virtually a DIY Portkey kit." James could hardly contain himself. "I can't wait to try it on that -"
"And you're sure we don't have to register it?" Sirius had scanned the basic spell and was now poring over the footnotes, searching the small-print for the loophole that would land them into trouble with the Ministry. Not that that would necessarily have stopped him.
"Nope. As I said, it's tailor made for us! It has a limited range though - a maximum of ten miles - perhaps that's why nobody bothers with it. Not much cop for long distance travel. But today's a lovely day for a walk, wouldn't you say? A ten mile walk?"
"He'll be livid."
"Won't he though!"
"Who'll be livid?" Peter's small, pudgy fingers were hardly long enough to hold the three glasses and he set them hastily down on the grubby table. "Oh, you mean Snape? We're on, then? This'll be so great. Tell me again what I have to do…" he squeaked, almost bristling with excitement.
"Shouldn't we wait for Moony? When is that guy ever on time? If he doesn't get here soon I may have to amble on down to the lake. Do a spot of sunbathing… admire the view… if you catch my drift." Sirius took another long pull of poorly chilled Butterbeer. "Though if I down much more of this brew I'll be asleep all afternoon."
For someone who had turned flirtation into a virtual art form, James reflected, Sirius Black never seemed to be involved in any meaningful relationship. Spoilt for choice, perhaps. Unlike himself and Lily Evans - he was definitely making progress there. She hadn't been a pushover by any means, but perseverance had paid off. How long had they been going out now? Two months? Two tempestuous, glorious months! He supposed the feistiness and the fiery temper went with the red hair - but could she honestly blame him for being jealous when he knew that pretty much every bloke in Hogwarts was lusting after her? Did she have to be so infuriatingly friendly with everyone? She was even civil to that creepy, Slytherin git.
Peter's nervous sips were making scant inroads on the contents of his own glass. He was fidgeting, waiting for a break in the conversation.
"I, er, um. Actually, chaps, Remus gave me a message. He can't make it. Bit too soon to the, er - you know." He cast his eyes upwards. The blue dome of the early summer sky showed no traces of a moon, full or otherwise, but his friends instantly understood what he meant.
"Blimey! Is it that time again already? I'd forgotten. Poor old Remus - it's a double blow when it messes up a Hogsmeade weekend too. Below the belt."
"Sirius'd know all about that," chipped in Peter, attempting risqué humour. "Er, below the belt…?"
"Are we all OK for tonight then? 'Shack' attack? Usual time and so on? Marauders' Mission of Mercy? Wolf watching?" asked Sirius.
"Shh! You know, Pads, he wouldn't like it at all if he knew you talked about him like that - behind his back," Peter pointed out earnestly.
"Which is precisely why, my fat friend, we're not going to tell him, are we?" Sirius gave Pettigrew a playful prod in the chest. "Fair enough, we'll have to count Moony out of this one. Probably just as well - he might get all Prefect-y on us and stuff it up."
"He's only doing his job," Peter objected.
"Quite the diplomat today, aren't you Worm? But it's a dangerous principle. Wars have been fought for less. And, may I say, it's no defence in a court of law. So, you're saying you support the elitist educational standpoint that a number of non-democratically elected individuals should be elevated to positions of arbitrary authority over their peers and - "
"Oh, cut it out, you two," muttered James impatiently. Though, as Head Boy, he should really have been defending his status. He wished Sirius didn't always patronise Peter so. "If we want this to work we've got to concentrate. Merlin! Where's he gone now?"
For throughout their conversation, James had been maintaining a careful, covert surveillance of their target – Severus Snape.
"He was there just a moment ago, at that table just inside the door. He was having a beer with Malfoy."
"Beer? One might almost think the guy was human."
"Oh, I wouldn't go that far!"
"Shut up! No, look, there he goes! Into the Apothecary. Slippery as a squashed slug and yet so boringly predictable! How did I know the greaseball would end up in there? Right, men, this is it! Peter, you pop over to Gladrags and find Lily - she's buying a new skirt or something - and tell her that if she wants to get her gorgeous mitts on the special, secret present I've been hinting at all week, she'd better meet me on the corner outside Scrivenshafts now. Go on!"
Peter scuttled off.
"She'll go for that. Women are suckers for a mystery. And a leetle soupçon of romance. Even Lily. Likes to pretend she's so clever and capable but really, underneath it all she's a total pussy-cat." James was still in the doting throes of infatuation. "She's completely adorable, Sirius. She's a peach of a girl! Soft and fragrant and feminine and rounded in all the right places and…"
"Juicy? With a heart of stone? Bite too deep and you break your teeth?" Sirius preferred strawberries. Lily was nice enough, but a little too serious for Sirius' taste. Too opinionated, too independent, too impervious to his dazzling charms… "As I see it, James," said Sirius, "the mystery is why Evans has to be involved at all. That is designed to preserve our anonymity - how? Snape'll immediately put two and two together and come up with the 'Golden Couple'. Or am I missing something here?" There was a distinct note of doubt in his voice.
"Have I got this right?" he went on. "You've already put the Vanishing Spell onto her diary, yes? Which is in her bag. So, she's standing there like a lemon, waiting for you supposedly, and Snape walks past…"
"He's got to come that way from the Apothecary," James pointed out.
"Yes, I get that. But then what? He sees her, and then what? If she's got any sense she'll run a mile. Or what if she sees us?"
James answered more confidently than he felt.
"She thinks we're at The Three Broomsticks. She won't be looking down this way. Then I levitate the diary out of her bag. It falls on the floor, Snape picks it up… The moment he touches it, I'll activate the spell while you do Expelliarmus! and get his wand and - hey presto! - Snivellus disappears into the middle of next week!"
"She's on her way now." Peter arrived back, puce and breathless. "Middle of next week? You didn't say anything to me about time travel." He sounded aggrieved.
"Figure of speech, Peter. Figure of speech. You've not missed anything," James reassured him, one eye still fixed on the door of the Apothecary. "I've 'directed' the spell at that old Rangers Hut up on the Cairnmhor Trail - d'you remember, we saw it that time we did the Flying Endurance Training? It's not much more than a shed really, but I had to have a specific location for the spell - couldn't just say 'Dump the sod in the middle of nowhere and leave him there'. I originally wanted to jettison him on the summit of Hog's Crag - you know, where the 'Trig' point is, but it was just out of range. But the Hut'll do. I've measured it on the map and it's getting on for ten miles away - as the owl flies." The cheeky gleam lit his face again. "But going cross-country, on foot, I'd say it could easily be… phew! a lot further!"
"And I perform Expelliarmus! because…?" queried Sirius.
"No real reason really. I just thought it would be better if he didn't have his wand. Then he can't do a Summoning Charm to get a broom to fly back on, or send up sparks or anything. Or Apparate. The bastard'll have to walk. Serve him right. Anyone notice what kind of shoes he's got on?"
Sirius gave his friend a look of undisguised affection, opening his arms in an expansive gesture.
"What a plan, James! Foolproof in every way! How could it possibly fail? No margin for error there whatsoever! Merlin's Beard! If we manage to pull this one off, the drinks are on me! Pure genius, James. And such sang froid! You're learning, my friend! I salute you." Sirius raised his glass. "There is, however, one minor flaw. Just a wee, weeny, pauco problemo. To whit: I don't get it. I still can't see why you have to drag Lily into all this. I am assuming she doesn't know what's going on. No? I thought as much. Wait - humour me a minute – give me one good reason why someone - Peter here, for instance - couldn't simply hand Snivelly a spelled book, or get an owl to deliver him a spelled letter. Forget all that rigmarole with the diary and levitating and dropping… Oh James, you don't half complicate the issue!"
Peter had been nodding his shared confusion, and now stared expectantly at James. His friend's face was bullish.
"Reason? You want a reason? I'll give you a reason. It's to show that hook-nosed sleaze what's coming to him if he as much as looks at Lily again. It makes me sick the way he sniffs around her like she's some bitch on heat. Can't he see she's not interested? She won't have a bar of him. But I've seen the way he letches at her. And it's not on. I won't have it!"
Up until this point Sirius had been assuming that James must have overlooked the cautionary footnotes in the spell book. One clearly warned, in bold print, that Directed Vanishing was applicable to inanimate objects only and on no account was to be used for human teleportation. (Naturally, Sirius had not been intending to draw his friend's attention to the clause.)
"Decoy deployed!" announced Peter happily, enjoying himself.
"Lily. She's there. Outside Scrivenshafts."
And there she was, James saw, beautiful and radiant, craning that soft, kissable neck to catch a glimpse of him, as she thought, hurrying to meet her through the crowd of weekend shoppers.
And now there was Snape emerging from the shop, squinting in the sunlight, a parcel under one arm, pausing on the threshold to re-check the receipt before tucking it neatly away into an inside pocket. Dressed in his habitual black, his tall, skinny figure stood out sharply amongst the pale shirtsleeves and sundresses in light muslins or floaty cheesecloth.
She had her back to him, but he'd recognise that hair, that figure anywhere. He swivelled in her direction just as, it seemed, she hitched her bag more comfortably up on her shoulder and something fell to the floor, almost at his feet. A small, violet book.
"Evans! You've dropped something," he called, bending…
"Don't you dare touch that!" she cried, diving forwards…
End of chapter. Please leave a comment!
Next chapter: THE LADY VANISHES.