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A/N: Hey guys! I am really sorry that it took me this long to get this chapter up but school has been a real bitch this semester. I had this beast of a research paper to write and I spent the last two months researching for it and writing it (I actually just finished it last night), plus I had midterms, work and a few feeble attempts at a social life. I worked on this whenever I could, but I didn't have a lot of free time so I am sorry again. I hope you guys can forgive me, lol :). So… I'm kind of rushing to get this up tonight for you guys so I apologize for any stupid spelling or grammatical errors. I actually kind of like this chapter and I hope you guys do too! Please review it and tell me what you think! Thank you to SweetPsychotic2358, Suddy, heather b (yes, Christmas will be coming up shortly :)), Andrien, Wraife, rikaaaaa, and ffacowgirl89 for your reviews!
James was sitting in the Gryffindor common room later that night, trying to do his Charms homework. He was having trouble concentrating, however, because he didn't know if Lily had heard about Bertram Aubrey. He wanted to ask Emily but he wasn't sure if he should. She was sitting across the room with Lily, Madison and Alice and he knew that if Lily knew and he just walked over there, she would most likely kill him. After he had read the first sentence in his Charms book for what felt like the thousandth time, Remus sat down across from him and said, "What are you working on?"
"Trying to read for Charms," James said.
"Trying?" Remus said, raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah," James smiled. "I can't seem to get past the first page."
"Is it that boring?" Remus said, wincing slightly.
James laughed. "I honestly wouldn't know. I'm just having a hard time concentrating."
"Oh," Remus laughed. He noticed Madison arguing with Lily across the room and said, "Did you find out what Emily was talking about yet?"
"No," James said. "And it's driving me a little bit crazy."
"A little bit?" Remus smirked.
James ignored that and said, "Where are Sirius and Peter?"
"Oh, they're strategizing for tomorrow in the dormitory," Remus said, his face darkening. The boys had decided to declare a full out pranking war on Bertram Aubrey. Sirius and Peter were deciding whether their first prank should be showering him with dung bombs as he walked up to breakfast or slipping some cockroach clusters covered in belching powder in his eggs.
James chuckled and said, "Oh come on, Moony, you can't honestly believe that Aubrey doesn't deserve it. He ratted on us right in front of us! I mean, that's just plain stupid."
"You and Sirius shouldn't have been hexing him in the first place," Remus said.
"How many times do I have to tell you that I was trying to help him?" James said, exasperated.
"You weren't much help," Remus said, chuckling.
James rolled his eyes at this. "Yes, I know."
"And pranking him all day tomorrow isn't going to help him much, either," Remus said.
"Well, I'm not trying to help him now," James smirked. "Now we're just going to show him that nobody likes rats, Wormtail being the only exception."
"I suppose I won't be able to talk you out of this?" Remus asked. "Even if I mention that Lily wouldn't like it?"
"No, you won't," James said.
Remus shook his head. He didn't understand how James could expect Lily to warm up to him if he kept doing things that he knew would piss her off. At that moment, Emily walked up to their table and said, "Hey guys."
"What's going on?" James asked immediately. "Did she find out?"
Remus laughed and said, "Right. I think I'm going to go and make sure those two aren't taking it too far." He got up and headed up the stairs to the dormitory.
"Taking what too far?" Emily asked curiously.
"Quit dodging my questions, Sullivan!" James said, standing up.
Emily rolled her eyes at his attempt to intimidate her. "Taking what too far?" she repeated.
"Our prank war," James said simply.
"Please tell me that you are not going to prank Bertram Aubrey again," Emily said.
James smirked at this and said, "And what if I am?"
Emily's eyes widened in anger. "I thought you were trying to help him!" she said, loudly.
James noticed that her outburst had gotten the attention of Lily, who appeared to be helping Alice with some Transfiguration homework now. "Will you keep your voice down?" he hissed.
"You know I can't control the volume of my voice when you're acting like a complete prat," Emily said angrily.
"How are we going to keep this from Lily if you're screaming about it?" James said, looking a little anxious.
Emily narrowed her eyes at him and said, "You know what, I'm hungry."
"What?" James said, confused.
"Let's talk about this down in the kitchens," Emily said pointedly.
"Oh," James said, finally understanding. "Right. Let me just get the cloak."
"Fine," Emily said. She sat down in one of the chairs and crossed her arms, looking very impatient.
James ran up to the boy's dormitory and started digging around in his trunk for his invisibility cloak. When he couldn't find it after a couple minutes, he turned to the three marauders, who were sitting on Peter's bed around a large sheet of parchment, and said, "Who has the cloak?"
Sirius got up and grabbed the cloak out from under his bed. "Where are you going?" he asked.
"Kitchens," James said.
Peter jumped off his bed and said, "Can I come? I'm starving."
"Me too," Sirius said as his stomach growled for effect. "Planning pranks on an empty stomach just isn't right."
James snorted. "I guess so," he said. He was hoping that if Sirius came, Emily would clam up and not bitch him out too much.
He lead them down to the common room and over to where Emily was sitting. She groaned when she saw the two boys. "And how exactly are we all going to fit under there?" Emily said, eyeing the invisibility cloak.
"That's a good question," Sirius said, immediately regretting asking to go to the kitchens with them. "In fact, maybe I shouldn't come. Then you'd all fit under there comfortably."
Emily rolled her eyes and Peter smirked. James grabbed Sirius's sleeve and said, "I'm sure we'll manage."
The four of them exited the common room. "Where do you think you're going?" The Fat Lady called after them. "It's past curfew!"
"We're well aware of that," Emily said.
They turned the corner and put the invisibility cloak over them. It took about five minutes to get themselves situated in a way so that no part of them could be seen. "You know, this is a little bit uncomfortable," Peter said, smirking.
Sirius let out a bark of laughter and said, "That's the understatement of the year. I have to admit, I'm a lot closer to Wormtail than I ever wanted to be."
Emily rolled her eyes and said menacingly, "Whoever has their hand on my ass better move it before I break it."
Peter sniggered and James sighed in frustration. "Will you three shut it? Filch is going to hear us!"
It took them almost fifteen minutes to get to the portrait of the bowl of fruit, narrowly avoiding Filch in the entrance hall. They took the invisibility cloak off, James tickled the pear and a door handle appeared. As soon as they got in the room, ten house elves gathered around them and asked them what they'd like. Once they had all asked for leftovers from dinner, they sat down at one of the long tables in an awkward silence. "So…" James said, trying to break the tension, "I'm making progress?"
"Yes," Emily said. "Haven't you noticed that she's actually been talking to you lately?"
"Well, yeah," James said.
Peter smirked and said, "He won't stop bringing it up!"
"So how haven't you noticed that you've been making progress?" Emily said.
"I don't know," James said. "She hasn't exactly been nice."
Emily laughed. "Well, she thinks you're up to something."
"Oh," James said, looking very confused. "And that's a good thing?"
"Well, I'm not sure," Emily said. "But at least she's talking to you, right?"
"I guess," James said as the house elves brought their food over to them. "So what do I do now?"
Emily bit her lip and said, "Well, you could start working on your reputation."
"What?" Sirius said, shocked. "But it took him years to get it!"
"Yeah," James said, looking as if he thought Emily had gone too far. "What's wrong with my reputation?"
"Oh nothing," Emily said sarcastically. "It's just that you're known as an arrogant, self-centered asshole that will hex you if you even look at him the wrong way."
"What's wrong with that?" James asked, not quite seeing the problem.
"Well, it's just, Lily would never date a guy like that," Emily said, starting to get frustrated with him. "She's more into guys that are responsible and nice, like... Remus, for example."
James choked on the piece of turkey he had just tried to swallow and said, "Moony? She likes Moony?"
"No! She's always said that she couldn't like him because he's a marauder, which is exactly my point!" Emily said. "Besides, she's not that stupid."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Sirius said, his temper flaring up in defense of his friend.
"I didn't mean it like that!" Emily said, clearly taken back by Sirius's reaction. "It's just so obvious that he fancies Madison. I mean, he might as well a large, neon sign around his neck. She's not stupid enough to fall for someone who so clearly fancies one of her close friends."
"So what am I supposed to do?" James asked, not wanting to discuss Remus's feelings for Madison.
"Well, I know I've said this already," Emily said, starting to sound very stern, "but no more pranking! And that means you have to leave Bertram Aubrey alone! You're lucky Lily didn't hear anything about earlier."
"You told her?" Sirius said angrily while Peter glared accusingly at James. He wasn't supposed to tell anyone about what they were planning to do to Aubrey.
James shrugged and grinned sheepishly. "Sorry," he said. Sirius shook his head in disbelief. James turned to Emily and said, "What else?"
Emily thought for a moment and said, "You could take on some kind of responsibility."
"Like what?" James asked.
Emily shrugged. "Like tutoring first years or something."
Peter laughed so hard at this that he choked. "James tutoring first years? That's the funniest thing I've ever heard."
Sirius chuckled while he slapped Peter on the back. "What would he tutor them in? Pranking?"
"Besides, McGonagall wouldn't let him anywhere near the first years," Peter said as he finally started to calm down.
Emily rolled her eyes and said, "Well, I don't know! Why don't you two think of something respectable that James could do?"
"He could give Aubrey what he deserves," Sirius said, smirking. "That's pretty damn respectable in my book."
"And honorable," Peter added.
"Well, it's a shame James isn't trying to date either of you," Emily muttered.
James made a face at this and Sirius laughed. "No, believe me, it's a good thing. James wouldn't have a shot in hell with me."
"You say that now, Padfoot, but everyone knows whose bed you'll be crawling into tonight," James laughed.
Sirius smirked at this and Emily rolled her eyes. "I think I'm going to throw up."
"At least this time it's not alcohol-induced," James said pointedly.
"Oh, shut up, Potter," Emily scowled. "Look, you can do whatever you want but you asked for my advice and I am telling you that pranking Aubrey is going to really set you back."
James frowned but didn't say anything. He didn't want to ruin any of the progress he had made with Lily but he wasn't exactly sure if he had actually made any. It was true that she was talking to him more but she hadn't been exactly friendly. He was starting to think that there was nothing he could do to make Lily like him. They sat in an awkward silence until Sirius turned to Peter and said, "We could always half-transfigure him into a rat."
Peter laughed. "That's perfect!" He turned to James and said, "What do you think, Prongs?"
Emily rolled her eyes at this. James frowned and said, "Maybe we should just leave him alone."
"What? You can't be serious!" Sirius said, surprised and a little angry at his friend.
"She's right," James said, feeling slightly guilty. He knew Sirius would be mad. "I'm sorry, Padfoot, but I don't want to fuck things up with Lily, especially if I've been making progress."
Sirius scowled and turned to Emily. "Nice going, Sullivan," he said. "You've turned James into a nancy!"
James scoffed at this. "I am not a –"
"Sod off, Black!" Emily said icily, interrupting James. "Just because James has finally decided to grow up doesn't mean he's turned into a nancy! And it's not my fault he doesn't want to take any part in your stupid prank! You don't even bloody need him for it!"
"It is your fault!" Sirius said, the volume of his voice starting to rise. He didn't even know why he was yelling at Emily, it was James that had made him angry. "You shouldn't even be helping him, you know that he doesn't have a shot in hell with Evans!"
"He does have a shot with her!" Emily said, starting to feel quite indignant. She didn't understand why she had to defend helping James to Sirius. "I wouldn't be helping him if I didn't think he had one!"
"No, you wouldn't be helping him if he hadn't blackmailed you into it!" Sirius yelled.
Emily's face flushed at this and she looked down at her plate, not really having anything to say to that. After a couple minutes of a very tense silence, James cleared his throat and said, "I think we should get back upstairs." Peter looked very awkward as he nodded vigorously.
When the four of them got to the door of the kitchen, Emily turned to Sirius and said, "Can I talk to you?"
Sirius shrugged. "I guess," he said, not really in the mood to have another row with her.
James and Peter stood by the door, waiting for them. "Er… alone?" Emily said, eyeing the two of them and hoping James would get the hint.
James did and he said, "See you guys in the common room." He grabbed Peter by the arm and dragged him out in the hallway.
"Do you think that's a good idea, leaving them alone with that many sharp knives?" Peter asked, looking slightly nervous. "They might stab each other."
James shrugged. "I'm sure the house elves would be able to get between them before it got that far." He threw the invisibility cloak over them and they walked back up to the common room.
Back in the kitchen, Sirius was leaning against the wall while Emily was feeling very awkward. She suddenly wished she hadn't asked to talk with Sirius. "Well?" Sirius said impatiently.
"I'm sorry," she said quietly. "About everything. I shouldn't have – " she bit her lip, stopping herself from bringing up the incident in the broom shed. "I've been so stupid lately."
Sirius smirked and said, "You've been a little more than stupid."
Emily rolled her eyes and smiled. "Don't make me regret this."
Sirius grinned, he was glad that most of the awkward tension between them was gone. "You shouldn't have what?" he asked curiously.
Emily blushed at this. "I shouldn't have been such a bitch to you or asked you to date Samantha." She stared resolutely at her feet and said, "Or kissed you. I really shouldn't have done that."
Sirius frowned. "Can I ask you something?" Emily nodded. "Why did you set me up with her?"
Emily shook her head. "It was stupid. I thought that doing that would help me…" she trailed off and Sirius raised an eyebrow at this. "I thought I wouldn't fancy you anymore if I saw you with Samantha," she muttered.
"Oh," Sirius said, feeling very awkward again.
"Yeah," Emily said. "We should probably head back now."
They left the kitchen and walked quietly up to Gryffindor tower, trying not to run into Filch. Unfortunately, they failed at this because halfway up to the common room, they could hear approaching footsteps and Filch complaining to Mrs. Norris about Peeves. "Shit!" Sirius muttered, his eyes scanning the hallway for somewhere to hide. He spotted a broom cupboard down the corridor and whispered, "Come on, Sullivan!"
Emily's eyes widened and she hesitated. "Are you sure that's such a great idea?" she asked, looking skeptical.
Sirius rolled his eyes, grabbed her arm and dragged her into the cupboard. Filch appeared at the end of the hallway just as Sirius closed the door. Sirius stood at the door and watched him through a crack in the doorway while Emily leaned against the far wall of the cupboard. After a few minutes, Emily sighed and said, "Is he gone yet?"
"Shhh," Sirius whispered. "He's talking to someone down by the Charms classroom."
"Great," Emily said sarcastically.
"What's your problem?" Sirius whispered as he turned around to face her. "You don't have to stay in here, you know, you could go out there and have a nice little chat with Filch and Mrs. Norris."
"And get detention with that nutter? I don't think so," Emily said. "It's just… we don't exactly have the best track record in enclosed spaces."
Sirius laughed and said, "I guess you're right." He turned around and checked to see if Filch was still in the hallway. "Did it work?" he asked quietly. Sirius had finally figured out why his insides had felt like lead after she kissed him. He had feelings for Emily, very strong ones. He had been trying to avoid them because he knew that if he acted on them, he couldn't treat her the way he normally treated the girls he dated. And Emily was right, if it didn't work out between them things would be a hundred times more awkward than they were right now. But now he was actually a little scared that she didn't feel the same anymore.
"What?" Emily said, confused.
"Did it work?" Sirius repeated. "The whole thing with Samantha, I mean."
Emily looked at Sirius as if she couldn't believe he asked that. "I kissed you in a broom shed and then completely freaked out and stopped talking to you. What do you think?"
"I guess not," Sirius smiled. "You do have to admit that it was a pretty dumb idea."
Emily rolled her eyes and said, "Yeah, it definitely was. Although, it's not as stupid as some of the other things I've done so far this year."
"You really regret it, don't you?" Sirius whispered, staring determinedly at the crack in the doorway. It felt like there were butterflies doing back flips in his stomach. He couldn't believe how nervous he felt after he asked her that, especially since it was just Emily. Normally he really didn't care if the girls he dated regretted it later.
Emily thought for a minute and then sighed. "I don't know," she said, shrugging. "I just wish we could pretend it never happened and go back to the way things were."
"That's never going to happen," Sirius said, finally turning around to look at her. "Well, unless you can get a time turner and find a way to stop yourself without getting killed."
"I know," Emily said. She looked him in the eyes and suddenly felt very vulnerable. "I just… I've missed you. And I know it sounds weird because I see you everyday but, you're one of my closest friends and I haven't been able to talk to you without this weird awkwardness all year. So yes, I regret it and I wish I had never done it because I miss my friend."
"Me too," Sirius muttered.
They stood in an awkward silence for a moment. Emily was glad she had cleared the air with Sirius but now wished she was anywhere else. "Is Filch still –" Emily started to say but Sirius interrupted her by kissing her roughly. She felt deliriously happy as she kissed him back but soon her conscience started nagging at her, reminding her that this was Sirius, one of her best friends, and this definitely wasn't a good idea. After a minute, she pulled away and said, "Sirius, what are we doing?"
Sirius looked at her in confusion and said, "We're kissing in a broom cupboard."
"No, I know that," Emily said. "It's just… why? I mean, we just got past that weird awkwardness and now we're doing this? I don't want to screw up our friendship anymore than we already have."
Sirius groaned in frustration. "Why do you have to over-think this so much? Why can't you just let it happen?"
"Am I speaking Mermish?" Emily said, exasperated. "I told you, I don't want to ruin our friendship!"
"I don't want to be just your friend anymore, Emily!" Sirius said, his voice getting louder as he got even more frustrated. "I don't understand what you're so worried about. Nothing in our relationship is going to change!"
"Oh, nothing's going to change?" Emily said loudly. "I don't remember ever kissing you in a broom cupboard before so something must have changed!"
"Really? You don't remember the night in the broom shed a couple weeks ago?" Sirius was starting to get amused at how hard Emily was fighting him. He really didn't understand why she kept pushing him away. "Did you have your memory erased?"
"That was a mistake!" Emily said.
"No, it wasn't!" Sirius yelled. "Merlin, Sullivan! So we fancy each other, so what? I don't see what the problem is!" Emily didn't answer him. Instead, she decided to ignore her conscience and all of the bad feelings she had and she kissed him, hard.
James was deep in thought as he walked back up to the common room with Peter. "McGonagall really wouldn't let me near the first years, right?" he whispered as they walked down a deserted hallway on the fifth floor.
"You're actually going to do it?" Peter asked, looking surprised.
"I don't know," James said, sighing. "McGonagall would probably think I was up to something."
"Well, you can't blame her after all the things you've done," Peter said.
James nodded. He knew Peter was right, McGonagall would have to be completely out of her mind to let him tutor the first years but he didn't know what else he could to do to prove to Lily that he had grown up. They walked in silence until James said, "Do you think Emily was right?"
"About what?" Peter said.
"Me making progress with Lily," James said.
"I don't know," Peter shrugged. "I haven't really noticed. But I guess if she says you have been then she must be right since she's so close with her."
"I don't know. I don't really think I have been. She still treats me like the mud on the bottom of her trainers." James sighed dejectedly and said, "Sometimes I think she's never going to see me as anything other than a, what was it she called me?"
"A bullying toerag?" Peter said.
"Yeah," James said. "I mean, it's never going to work and it's upsetting my friends. Why even bother?"
Peter didn't really know what to say. He had never seen James look this discouraged. He really wished Remus was there because he always knew the right thing to say. "Padfoot will get over it," Peter said. "And it'll work. Emily said she wouldn't have helped you if she didn't think you had a chance."
"No," James said sadly, "the only reason why she's helping me is because I blackmailed her into it."
"Yeah, but Sirius knows now and she's still helping," Peter said. "I know it'll work, Prongs, Evans just needs time to notice."
"I guess," James said.
"It's true," Peter said, smiling at his friend. He hoped he had been able to cheer his friend up.
Once they got into the common room, James saw that Lily and Alice were still working on homework at a table in the corner of the room. "I'll meet you up in the dormitory, Wormtail," James said.
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Peter asked, but James ignored him and walked over to the two girls. Peter shook his head and went up the stairs to the dormitory.
"What do you want, Potter?" Lily asked as soon as James was at their table.
"I wanted to ask you a question," James said, sitting down next to Alice.
Lily narrowed her eyes and said, "No, I will not go out with you."
"Who said anything about that?" James said angrily, his temper flaring. Although he knew Lily needed time to realize that he was actually trying to be her friend, he was getting quite fed up with her stubbornness.
Lily looked surprised at his reaction. "Well, I just –" she started to say but was interrupted by James.
"You just what, assumed that that was what I came over here for? You know, for someone who's always getting on me for being conceited, you seem to be pretty full of yourself."
"Well, what did you want then?" Lily said. She tried not to show it but she was a little shocked by James's outburst.
"It was just…" James said, looking a little embarrassed now, "I was wondering how you got involved in tutoring the first years in Charms."
"Professor Flitwick asked me if I would last year," Lily said, confused. "Why?"
"Oh, I was just thinking of asking McGonagall if I could tutor the first years in Transfiguration," he muttered, slightly blushing now.
Lily snorted. "You? Tutoring first years? McGonagall wouldn't even let you in the same room as the first years."
"Yeah well, we'll see," James said, getting up.
Lily watched him as he walked up to the boys' dormitory. "He's up to something," she said to Alice.
Alice shrugged. "Maybe he's changing."
Lily laughed and said, "I think hell will freeze over before James Potter changes."
Alice shook her head. "You know, Lily, you can be so stubborn sometimes."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Lily said defensively.
"He hasn't teased Snape, or any Slytherin for that matter, in a good month now! He wasn't hexed or jinxed any of the first years, he stopped pestering you and now he wants to help tutor the first years. I know you've noticed it," Alice said. "I just think you don't want to acknowledge the fact that James Potter is actually becoming a decent person."
"I don't know," Lily said. She turned back to her parchment but couldn't concentrate on her homework. Alice was right, she had noticed that James had stopped asking her out constantly and hexing the Slytherins and the first years. She had thought he had been up to something but maybe she was wrong. Maybe James actually was changing.