Exploitation Chapter Three: Of Framing and Hair Dye

Disclaimer: I own the following: HP 1 in British, American, and French, HP 2 in British and American, HP 3 in British and American, HP 4 in British and American, HP 5 in British and American, HP 6 in American and in special illustrated edition, one homemade issue of the Quibbler, one Lumos booklamp, Quidditch Through the Ages, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Unofficial JK Rowling bio, The Official JK Rowling bio, The Science of Harry Potter, Exploring Harry Potter, two HP book ends shaped like Harry and Hermione, two knick knack HP boxes (again of Harry and Hermione…I can never seem to find Ron ones), a Christmas ornament of Harry catching a snitch, an ornament holder with the Hogwarts crest, and a giant Hagrid figurine/doll thingy. And this fanfic. I however, own no rights. (looks over what I've written so far) Jeez, that's pathetic…

A/N: As I said in the last chappie, I will not be shipping anybody but Lily and James in this fic, unless I decide to do an epilogue, in which case there will probably be a little Harry/Ginny and Ron/Hermione. I would also like it known that I have decided to rename this fic. It shall now be called "Good Things Come to Those Who Bait". Or maybe that should be a subtitle…Thoughts?

If Lily had known she was proving that James knew her very well, she would have walked calmly into the first period of the day. As it was…

"Ms. Evans!" A slightly pudgy man with an uncanny resemblance to a gaudy armchair with a walrus-like mustache started as the redheaded witch stormed into his classroom, accidentally knocking over a desk and causing two vials to crash to the floor. "Are you quite alright?"

Lily spared the man a glance and sighed as she refrained from slamming the ancient wooden door to the dungeon room that was her potions class. "Sorry, Professor Slughorn, it won't happen again." She struggled not to show her disdain as her potions professor waved it off and made a big deal of saying that it was no problem and that it would be ridiculous to punish a girl who was such a shining example much of the time. Winking in a conspiratorial manner, he assured her there would be no punishment. Lily said nothing. She was not one to criticize teachers, and she certainly wasn't going to complain when it was in her favor, but she despised teachers who played favorites.

'Especially those who do it so…conspicuously,' she thought as she sat down behind a cauldron in the very back of the room. Plunking her bag down in front of her, she rummaged in the front pocket to pull out her copy of 'Advanced Potion Making' by Libatius Borage…

…and pulled out a copy of the Playwitch December issue instead. Her eyes widened in horror as she dropped the magazine on the floor in shock and it fell open to the centerfold. Quickly, as the other students were starting to arrive, she stuffed the incriminating dirty magazine back into her bag…but not before seeing the mailing information.

She was going to kill Sirius Black. And she would do it slowly.

Taking care of the matters at hand, she carefully closed the bag and walked to the front of the classroom and informed Professor Slughorn that she had 'accidentally left her textbook in the common room this morning.'

"I'm afraid that the book is necessary for today's lesson. You will be relying heavily on pages 139 through 152 for instruction in brewing today's potion. It's a tricky one, and will be on the N.E.W.T. exam." Slughorn looked with concern at dismayed-looking witch. "And I just don't have any spare books."

"Lily Evans, not prepared?" came a laughing voice from behind. Lily glared daggers at Black as he ambled into the classroom, followed by the other Marauders. As he and Remus took their seats, (Peter Pettigrew was abysmal at Potions and had not made the grades in his O.W.L. year to continue taking the class at N.E.W.T. level,) James paused and looked at Lily.

"That is pretty unusual for you, Lily," he said, with concern in his voice. "You feelin' okay, Evans?"

"I'm fine," she muttered, wishing he'd just go away. Instead, she groaned as he, very gallantly, offered to share his book with her. Slughorn beamed and waved them to their seats as the period started and the few stragglers rushed into the classroom. As the two sat down Lily hissed at the smirking James, "I'd rather pair with Snivellus than you." Confidently, James glanced over at the greasy-haired Slytherin that was his main rival. Severus Snape was bending over his textbook, hastily scribbling notes in the margins of the page. Briefly, he marveled at how the pale boy managed to work so hard, then reminded himself that he was still a greasy git before he started admiring a Slytherin. Still, he had been making a concerted effort to act a little more…fairly to the boy after the 'Sirius' incident a couple of years ago. (What was he thinking? He could have got Snape killed!) While this didn't mean that he'd stopped pranking him, he'd only done it in retaliation for calling Lily 'mudblood' or for pranking first, and then only in private where he wouldn't be publicly humiliated. And…

"You oughtn't call him that," he spoke suddenly, shocking Lily so much that she nearly cut her finger off as she chopped up the billywig stingers for the weight-loss potion they were supposed to be brewing.

"What?" she asked incredulously, staring at him as he calmly dumped the chopped stingers into their cauldron. He ignored her as he gave the potion three counterclockwise, followed by one clockwise stir. He did not even look at her until he had added the roots he had grated that would ensure the potion didn't simply float away. Nodding as the potion turned the clear cerulean indicated by the book, he finally answered the now-impatient, (though slightly impressed) Lily.

"Snivellus," he said calmly, "You oughtn't call him that. He hasn't done anything to you yet. No need to antagonize him."

Lily was infuriated. How dare he?

"How dare you?" she said, "You hypocrite, you've called him nothing else in all the years we've been in school, and almost always unprovoked!"

"Not for a while now," James muttered, blushing a bit as he started to prepare the next ingredient for the cauldron. "I've been trying to leave him alone unless he attacks first." He shoved a silver knife into Lily's hand and indicated that she needed to finely chop the beetle wings, effectively ending the conversation.

Lily's mind was in complete disarray as she mindlessly set about the task. What the hell was going on here? James wasn't supposed to have grown up! He was hopeless. This was a universal constant and a law of nature. She snuck a look at his slightly troubled face. What had happened to change his mind? As she pondered this confusedly she failed to notice a sly look overcome his features.

"Hey, can I borrow a quill?" he asked, reaching toward her bag as if to take one out of the pocket. Her green eyes grew huge as he reached in.

"HERE!" she yelled, loud enough to draw an odd stare from the Professor. Face flushed, she dropped her gaze as she shoved the quill she'd been using into his hands. "Use mine," she muttered.

He withdrew his hand from the recesses of her bookbag, suppressing a smirk. "Thanks," he said, and began to write down the essay assignment Slughorn had written on the board. (Five feet of parchment on the effects of using billywig stings in common potions-Due next time!)

The two worked in silence for a few minutes. Lily was surprised: they had never been together so long without fighting, and James was a good worker. After they had filled a vile with their final lime green concoction, however, he broke the relatively peaceful silence. "Listen," he said, "I'm sorry about this morning." She stared at him, anger mounting. Was this a confession? "Y'see," he continued, "I pulled a prank on Sirius last night…"

"Oh!" she said, remembering, "You were behind the Inebriatius curse?"

He threw a rakish grin at her. "Yeah."

He continued. "I knew he'd try to get back at me, but I never imagined he'd ignore my rule for the Marauders and go after you instead of me. I'm really sorry, that was way off of him." He turned away to pack his bag so she wouldn't see the malicious smile on that had spread across his face as her eyes lit up with rage. That, he mentally admonished Padfoot, was for wolf-whistling at my girl.

Just then, the bell charmed to signal the end of class sounded.

"Do you mind turning the potion in, Potter?" asked Lily in a seemingly-calm voice. "I have something I need to take care of."

"Of course not," said James cheerfully. "Go right ahead. I'll tell you how we were marked at dinner." But Lily was already gone. Taking his time, he finished packing away his supplies and took the small vial to the front of the classroom. Slughorn had pulled a carton of crystallized pineapple out of his desk and absentmindedly offered a piece to James, who politely took one. Professor Slughorn took a piece himself and chewed as he noted the potion's completion by James and Lily's name…and dropped it as a sound akin to a krup having its tail removed by being strapped to a Filibuster firework resonated somewhere above their heads.

"What was that?" said the Professor jumpily.

James chuckled. "My guess is an unfortunate dog who got on the bad side of a very angry witch," he murmured, and shouldered his bag as he walked out the door.

"What'dja go and blame me for, Prongs?" asked a peeved looking Sirius as the four plopped down around the table in their war room. They had discovered it in the fourth year, a small chamber between their dorm and the sixth years' dorm below it that was accessed by tapping a wand to the carving of a lion on the third bed frame from the right five times. They called it Godric's Hollow and it was there that they planned their pranks. (They also kept all their prank pulling tools their, preferring to leave the Marauder's Map and James's invisibility cloak in their rather than in their trunks.)

Remus grinned at his friend, "It's a good look for you, Padfoot."

"Shut it, Moony," snapped the irate Sirius. He had spent a good thirty minutes trying to reverse the charm, but he simply couldn't get his hair to change back to black. The bubblegum locks that fell to his shoulders gave the impression of an ugly clown wig.

Peter piped up, "You can borrow my hat, Sirius." (Peter had bought the hat after his parents had forced him into a particularly bad bowl cut, and it was better than wearing the slightly dorky wizard hats that were part of the school uniform.)

"Thanks, Wormtail," said Sirius gloomily, looking one last time at his reflection in the shiny surface of the table.

"I'm actually surprised she went easy on you," said James mildly. "No one saw you, did they?"

"No," admitted Sirius grudgingly, "she cursed me in a back hallway so no one would see the head girl hexing a student. And she knows we have those communication mirrors, so she had to know I'd call you to bring the invisibility cloak." (The fact Lily had not snitched about or confiscated the items was the only, as far as Sirius could tell, redeeming quality of the stuffy girl.)

"Well there you go, and like Moony said it looks good on you. I bet Marjory will think it's cute."

"Kathryn," Sirius corrected absently, "Marjory was last week."

James rolled his eyes at his friend and began the meeting. "Ok, so the first order of business: The X-Ray glasses were a complete success, we'll be able to start marketing those next week. Operation: prank Evans is on track…" Sirius sniffed derisively at this. "Anything else?"

"Yeah," piped up Remus, "The map. A couple of first years stumbled across the password again. 'Professor Kettleburn only has one leg to stand on' isn't going to cut it."

"Bloody hell!" James cursed, "I thought for sure no one would figure that one out. Alright, we'll have to come up with a new password. Until then, the map stays in Godric's Hollow. Any other business?"

Silence in the room. "Ok," said James straightening his glasses, the next full moon is in nine days. How does everyone feel about exploring the Quidditch pitch?"

That night as the puddings were being polished off at the end of dinner, Sirius sauntered over to the Ravenclaw table and held out a hand to his flavour-of-the-week Kathryn, who grinned up at him and, giggling, allowed him to lead her out of the Great Hall. (Apparently, James was correct in the assumption that the girl would like the pink hair, even if he'd said the wrong girl.) Munching on his favourite treacle tart, James rolled his eyes at his promiscuous best friend…and saw Lily grinning evilly after the couple. Gulping audibly, he looked quickly away. If she ever looks at me like that, he thought, I'm moving to Siberia.

James started out of bed with a jump, as did the rest of the castle. An unholy shriek was echoing through the halls of Hogwarts. Ten minutes later, their ears still ringing from the mysterious noise, the door of the seventh year boys' dorm in Gryffindor tower burst open under an invisible force and James's curtains on his four-poster bed flew apart. Next thing he knew, there were invisible hands around his throat, and the invisibility cloak fell from the enraged features of Sirius Black as he strangled his best friend. Remus and Peter, after a second of astonished silence, jumped up and pulled their two friends apart. Looking incredulously at the two panting boys, (one panting from rage, the other from lack of oxygen), Remus exclaimed, "What the hell is going on?"

James shook his head, still unable to speak. Sirius, his voice quivering with rage, spat out the tale, "Did you hear that scream a few minutes ago?" Everyone nodded mutely, "That was Kathryn." Everyone stared. "We were having some fun in the astronomy tower, and things were progressing nicely. She got my pants off and…" he trailed off. Peter was staring at him in awe. Remus was shaking his head in exasperation and absently fingering his practically useless Prefect's badge. James choked out hoarsely, "Just because what goes on below your belt leaves something to be desired…"

"It's YOUR FAULT!" Sirius bellowed, his red face clashing terribly with his still-pink hair as he screamed at James. "You had to go and tell her I did it."

"What are you on about?" said James, his mind flashing back to that terrifying look on Lily's face while Kathryn and Sirius had departed on her tryst.

"She didn't just curse my head." Sirius explained, his voice low and deadly. "She cursed all my hair pink." Barely controlling his rage, he stormed out of the room, declaring as he left that he was going the common room and that he would be back in ten minutes, at which point James had BETTER be out of their room and back in the Head Boy room WHERE HE BELONGED! As the door shut and James, chuckling, gathered his things together.

"Hey," said Peter, "Hey, that's right! Why aren't you in your own room, James?"

Throwing the bundle he'd made using the discarded invisibility cloak over his shoulder, he grinned at the two. "I had a feeling Lily's revenge wasn't done. She never does things by half. I wanted to have witnesses to stop him when he eventually came to kill me."

Back in the Head Girl's room, a very awake Lily laughed silently. That about compensated for the wolf-whistle, she thought. She knew better than to think that Sirius had pulled the actual pranks this morning, (though the lie James had given had been, admittedly, brilliant). His transfiguration, she had remembered shortly after cursing him, was almost as bad as hers. Not that she had regretted her actions; she smiled as she heard muffled cursing from the common room below. At all. But now it was the Head Boy's turn. She fell asleep, sweet dreams of vengeance in her head.

End of Chapter Three