First off, thank you to everyone who reviewed the last chapter of The Beautiful Game. I didn't have a chance to thank you, so . . . thank you. Also, thank you very much to Georgia, who betaed this fic for me. Cheers.
This story probably wont be nearly as long as the last one because it has a relatively simple plot line,but it's an excuse for me to write fluff at any rate.
One – Four NEWTs
While waiting for Dumbledore to arrive in his office, James Potter contemplated that he had quite a nice balance in life. The number of times he'd been hauled into a teacher's office for one misdemeanour or another was quite close to the number of times he'd asked out Lily Evans.
In the last year, after becoming Head Boy, there had been a lull on the 'being hauled into teachers' offices' front, but no let up on the 'attempting to take out Lily' front. However, with the recent events of the evening, it looked as if things were once again reaching an equilibrium. The number was catching up again to the amount of times he'd asked Lily out, which was, interestingly enough, exactly the same as the amount of times she'd told him to go and hang himself by his Gryffindor tie, or words to that effect.
What was it those top magic-medi-health-wizard-guru-type people said? Everything in moderation, wasn't it? At this rate, he'd live to be two hundred.
He twisted round in his chair to see who had come in through the stone gargoyle, and was surprised to see that it wasn't Dumbledore at all, it was the Head Girl, the very object of his thoughts and the love of his life-
"Oh, good grief, it's you."
-the last aspect of which wasn't really reflected in her attitude towards him.
"Lily," he said, scrambling up from his chair, "what are you doing here?"
"What am I doing here? What are you doing here?" she demanded, clearly horrified at the sight of him.
"Well, let's see, what do I remember about it?" James said, "I passed Snape in the corridor, got into a fight with Snape, was just about to surgically remove Snape's unnaturally huge nose, McGonagall caught us, sent Snape to his Head of House, and sent me here."
"Why did I even ask?" Lily wondered aloud, rolling her eyes.
"Firstly," James said, offering her the only chair in the room. Lily gave him a strange look, he'd never done that before. "Why are you here?"
"Owled by Dumbledore," she said, checking the chair cushion for pins and puddles of Stick-a-Brick glue before sitting down. "Said he wanted to see me."
"Secondly, are you free this weekend?"
"Not for you, I'm not," she replied smoothly.
"What a shame," came a voice from behind them. The Head students turned to see the Headmaster entering through a door behind his desk. Lily went slightly pink, while James stuck his hands in his pockets and looked sideways.
"A good evening to both of you," Dumbledore said, sitting down in his chair and peering at them above his half-moon spectacles. "Now, Mr Potter, would you please tell me why you think you are here."
"Er . . . because . . . up until ten minutes ago, I was intent on causing Snape as much bodily harm as humanly possible?"
"That is the likelihood," nodded Dumbledore. "Would you please tell me how this came about?"
"I was on my rounds," James began, "and I happened to pass Snape on the east corridor of the sixth floor. I told him he was out of bounds, and proceeded to take ten points off his house. Snape then commented that other prefects never took as much off for the same offence, and asked if I took off so much because of the fact that Lily doesn't appreciate my advances. He then proceeded to both say and imply things about the Head Girl that I don't deem fit to be said in public, sir."
Lily closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. He was such an embarrassment sometimes . . . well, most of the time, really.
"Indeed," said Professor Dumbledore lightly, as if he had just been told a mildly interesting piece of gossip. "And as for why you are here, Miss Evans, I shall tell you, because I'm sure you don't know. I have asked you here as a consultant as to what Mr Potter's punishment should be."
Lily immediately brightened at these words, while James blanched. When he did something like this, he usually got away with a detention or maybe a few points taken off, because the majority of teachers at Hogwarts liked him. However, hand his punishment over to someone who blatantly despised him . . .
"Well, Miss Evans, any ideas?"
Lily fought not to clap her hands with excitement. Instead, she racked her brains for something that would be a suitable punishment for James, and not just for the fight with Snape, for everything that he had ever done that had gone unpunished.
Now, what did James really love doing? Quidditch immediately sprang to mind, but she couldn't ban him from playing in matches, because they had already won the cup for that year, and besides, the rest of the house would be after her blood. He liked causing trouble with his friends, but she couldn't prohibit him from seeing them, because they'd probably have something to say about that.
Fine, what did James really hate doing? Lily cast around for something he never did. He never paid attention in lessons, but she could hardly force him to pay attention. Hmmm . . .
Wait, maybe something could come of that idea! James never paid attention in class, he never did his homework, his marks were appalling, and hated revising for exams! That was it!
"I think," Lily said, trying with all her might to hide her smirk, "that we should make Mr Potter pass all of his four chosen NEWTs, and if he doesn't, he should be made to repeat his last year of Hogwarts until he does pass them."
James felt faint. This couldn't be happening to him. Even if he did have a chance of passing his NEWTs at the beginning of the year (which he didn't), he certainly didn't have a chance with the exams only a little over a week away. His fate lay in the hands of the Headmaster.
"An intriguing idea," Dumbledore declared, his brow furrowed in thought, and James felt his breath freeze in his chest. That was it then, he was doomed to spend the rest of his days at Hogwarts, trying futilely to pass his public exams forever. Suddenly, living to the age of two hundred didn't seem like such wonderful prospect anymore.
"And yet," Dumbledore continued, "with no offence meant, I don't really see Mr Potter passing all his NEWTs . . ." James breathed again, ". . . without any help, that is."
Both James and Lily frowned in confusion.
"I shall be enforcing this suggestion," Dumbledore said, "as long as you, Miss Evans, agree to help Mr Potter in his studies."
James grinned. This changed everything!
"A . . . er . . ." Lily stammered. "I'll . . . er . . . have to think about it."
"Of course," Dumbledore smiled, the edges of his beard rising. "It's only fair that you have some time to sleep on it. A good night to both of you," and he walked them both to the corridor outside his office.
As soon as the stone gargoyle had frozen back into place, Lily spoke.
"Before you ask either: no, I will not help you pass your exams, and no, I will not go out with you."
"You are getting good at this," James told her, grinning, "but why not?" Lily gave him an incredulous look.
"Because!" she exclaimed, before realising that this particular method of reasoning wasn't going to get them anywhere. "Potter, it's as simple as this," she continued, speaking very slowly and clearly. "I don't like you."
"Not even a bit?" James asked. He had known it was bad, but he hadn't thought it was as bad as all that.
Lily didn't answer. She just gave a short sigh and started to walk briskly towards the Gryffindor Tower, but James hurried ahead and turned to walk in front of her, backwards.
"Lily, just listen for minute," James said, and the Head Girl stopped. "I know I'm the person that's least likely to be in your good books at the moment, but if it means anything, you were right. I am all the things you said I am, you know, all that stuff about being arrogant and pig-headed?"
"And moronic," Lily said.
"Yes, that too," nodded James.
"And conceited," she added.
"Yes, and that," James assented.
"Look, the point is," James said, "I am prat, and I know that now, thanks to you and your regular ego-bashing. Anyway, I want to make it up to you. I want to get into your good books, and if that means getting four NEWTs, well, then so be it."
Lily was finding it hard to believe that these words were actually coming out of James Potter's mouth. He would have died before he'd said anything like this in fifth year.
"Will you help me pass these exams, Lily?" he asked. There was silence for a moment as she scrutinized him with narrowed eyes.
"It's going to be a lot of work," she told him.
"Fine," he said breezily, shaking his head slightly.
"You're going to have to pay attention in class."
"Consider it done."
"We'll have to do extra work after lessons, and all day on the weekend."
"Brilliant," he said, "I mean, sure," he amended, under a glare. She sighed and looked him straight in the eye.
"Are sure you want to do this?" she asked him seriously. "I mean, Hogwarts is a cool place, but eight years here is a bit too much."
"Lily," he replied, "I promise to you now, that I will do everything in my power to pass these exams, if you help me do it." She pouted thoughtfully for a moment and sighed again.
"Fine," she said, and held out her hand. James grinned and shook it, anticipation ballooning up inside him.
"Maybe," she said, as they began their walk back to the Gryffindor Tower, "if we check your papers afterward, and it seems like you passed all four, then I might just consider attending one Hogsmeade weekend with you."
The words took even her by surprise. Where had that come from? "What?" asked James, stopping in his tracks.
"You heard," Lily told him, and carried on walking, "consider it as a little extra incentive."
"A little extra incentive?" James asked incredulously. "What more incentive do I need? Seriously Lily, you had better prepare yourself for the best Hogsmeade weekend the world has even known, because I am going to pass my exams!"
For the entire walk back, James wouldn't stop listing all the things he wanted to do with her in Hogsmeade. Lily stayed quiet, but listened nonetheless, and had to admit that sampling the new rainbow-flavour candyfloss at Honeydukes, betting on warlocks' drinking matches in the Three Broomsticks and finding excuses to try out Zonko's products on the shop assistants sounded like a lot of fun.
It was only once they had scrambled through the Portrait Hole that Lily began to wonder what she had let herself in for. She was just about to start up the girls' staircase when the Head Boy caught hold of her wrist.
"What n-?" she began to ask, but apparently all James wanted was to look at her uncertainly for a moment, then bend down to kiss her softly on the cheek.
"Thanks, Lily," he told her, and with one last smile, he disappeared into the boys' dormitories.
Lily was left to sink down into an armchair and contemplate her life, the balance of which had just been pulled out from under her feet.