All Kidding Aside
Prologue: Lily's View
by Kihin Ranno
There were some things she just wasn't meant to understand.
Lily Evans had only been dating James Potter for a few months. She had known him for a little over six years, but they had been... rocky for the couple. Actually that was quite the understatement, but she really did not want to dwell on the past when the present was oh-so wonderful.
Lily winced inwardly, feeling quite foolish and did her best not to think about what she had just thought. Which really only made her think about it more which was grossly unfair in the grand scheme of things.
She hated that she sounded like a giddy school girl. She absolutely loathed it. She much preferred sounding mature and intelligent and all the things a giddy school girl was not. Nevertheless, the honest truth was that James Harold Potter, in spite of all his arrogance and ignorance in the ways of wooing, had somehow more than managed to sweep her off her feet. She was now completely and utterly head over heels in love with him.
What's more, she didn't mind it one little bit. She rather enjoyed it as a matter of fact. She still surprised herself when she woke up in the morning with her cheeks aching because she'd been smiling in her sleep again. She had never dreamed that she could feel this way about anyone, especially James Potter. But she did. It was wonderful and maddening and terrifying all at once.
She supposed it was rather like that awful Quidditch he was so terribly fond of. It even had the same dangers as grave injury, death, and uncomfortable chafing about the thighs.
Lily blushed slightly and stopped. James gave her quite an odd look. She was tempted to explain that his humor was slowly taking over her good sense, but she restrained herself and simply laid her head on his shoulder.
He wrapped his arm around her with an impossibly large and still somewhat nervous grin, keeping her warm in the cold winds of February. He didn't seem to notice that while he was completely absorbed with her, she was indulging in the same amount of though into something else altogether. Something that had been bothering her for some time. Or rather, she supposed it was two somethings. Two somethings that James loved dearly, not that he would ever admit it without turning red at the ears and in a ridiculously "manly" tone.
Those two somethings went by the names of Remus Lupin and Sirius Black.
It wasn't as if she didn't like them. Far from it. She had been a Prefect with Remus since their fifth year. She'd always respected him in spite of how infuriated he made her. After all, he could have been in such good company, but instead he chose to hang around with Potter and Black and Pettigrew. It had given her headaches and kept her up nights ranting about it in her head. Her roommates had nearly kicked her out when she developed a nasty habit of waking up screaming, "Bugger Remus!" and the like.
It had gotten to the point where one day she'd actually cornered him in the Prefect's bathroom. Poor thing had been quite embarrassed caught in only a towel and carrying a rubber ducky that he later claimed to have belonged to a Hufflepuff. She had demanded to know why someone so smart and so moral and so much better than his little band of "Marauders" as they were wont to call themselves (they would make up names for themselves) would actually choose to hang out with them. Granted he was their roommate, but it was like he had no interest in being friends with other people. Everyone else not in Slytherin liked him -- heck, most of the Slytherins liked him -- but Sirius and James and Peter were his world. She could not even begin to fathom such a thing.
Remus had struggled to ensure that all of his bits were covered and did a very good job of avoiding her eyes for most of the conversation. But when she'd finally gotten to her point (which had taken nearly an hour as she kept segueing onto James and his damn hair), he'd actually smiled at her. And it was the same way he always smiled at her. He was amused by her ranting, and yet sympathetic to her utter befuddlement. He was serene and kind and funny in a quiet sort of way that was pure Remus.
And then he had told her that it was absolutely none of her business.
He'd left her there, shaking with righteous indignation and had contemplated ripping his towel away. She hadn't done it of course. It was conduct unbecoming a Prefect and no doubt James and Sirius would love it. And he was not about to do anything they loved.
But Lily was not the type of person to be easily swayed from finding out the truth about something. Around Christmastime, Lily always knew what her presents were ahead of time because she lacked the patience to wait for the actual day. She did not deal well with surprises or with not knowing. She'd pulled many an all-nighter in the search for the truth. So, Remus had really only left her with one option.
She had observed him as he sat at James's and Sirius's Quidditch practices. She watched as he watched them fly around and loop and feint and toss the Bludger and hit the Snitch or whatever it was they did. She had never been too good with the specifics. She had watched and seen that he had that same look he had always plastered on his face during Potions. A look of complete and total boredom but with some sadness knowing that Sirius and James could do something he couldn't and was absolutely hopeless at. But mostly boredom.
Then she had taken to discreetly peering out of the corner of her eyes in the middle of the Gryffindor Common Room. They had their territory staked out and their positions assigned. There they would sit, regaling the lesser public with stories about their adventures during the day. Most of them consisted of things they had done or said to one Slytherin or another. Mostly Snape. Lily would always speak up in defense of the Sacred and Almighty Binding Rules of Hogwarts. She would quickly be booed back into silence in spite of her threats to deduct points. But she would always watch Remus during all the goings on. He always seemed to be just on the verge of speech, his lips twitching with want to vocalize. However, he would always falter and turn back to his reading, insisting he was paying no attention whatsoever.
And she had stared them down when she caught them dumping the poor, misunderstood, unloved, mistreated, disagreeable smarmy bigot that was Severus Snape in the mud. He was so unpopular; she couldn't help but feel sorry for him. At the same time, he was so prejudiced that she almost wanted to cheer the Marauders on were it not for her dedication to law and order. But while she had been defending Snape to the best of her ability, she watched Remus. Remus J. Lupin with his stooped shoulders and mysterious scars and elderly appearance despite his youth. He would never really look at what was happening. It was as if he were trying to convince himself that he wasn't there or that he wasn't seeing this.
This and some more evidence made Lily grow to understand the mystery that was Remus in connection with the Marauders.
He needed them. They were as necessary to his existence as blood, breath, and books. They were omnipresent and loyal and utterly obnoxious. They were all at once everything he was and everything he was not. But most of all, they accepted him without conditions and without question. They simply were the Marauders and that would never change.
Lily couldn't believe she hadn't noticed it before she began stalking... Well, watching Remus intently. She saw it now and it saddened her in a way she couldn't articulate.
She saw it every time she looked into Remus's eyes while he was around them. Underneath all of the quiet smiles and melodic laughter, was fear. Fear that they would turn on him. Fear that they would leave him. Fear that they had never liked him at all. Fear that he would be alone.
It was something that Lily could understand. She hadn't exactly been particularly popular among any of the houses. It was to be expected really. Who was she to try and dethrone the Kings of Hogwarts - the Marauders - with her rules and regulations and upstandingness and whatnot?
Ever since then, Lily had always had a special place in her heart for Remus Lupin.
In fact, she had briefly entertained a minor crush on the fragile boy.
Of course, one day they noticed she was following them and they had all become quite convinced she actually WAS in love with James Potter. Remus, who was designated James's in as it were, had then proceeded to talk about James ad nauseum. Remus had all but claimed that James was actually the God of All Things Handsome and Wonderful otherwise known as Jesus Christ himself. She had refused to speak to him ever again - otherwise known as one week - as a result.
And then there was Sirius.
Sirius, who despite or perhaps because of all his bigheadedness and ego, made it impossible to dislike him. He was always smiling. His lopsided grin had been known to make girls go absolutely weak at the knees. His eyes were bright and always mischievous. Lily wouldn't be surprised if he didn't spend every waking moment thinking about what sort of havoc he could wreak on the school while ensuring that his hair looked perfect.
Sirius's pranks were legend. They always had to be new, original, and historical. A simple dungbomb just wasn't enough for him. He reveled in the attention. Why, just a month ago, he had taken one of his latest girlfriends out for a midnight joyride on his illegal motorbike...
Through the Slytherin dungeons.
And yet, despite all of his blatant disregard for order and regulation, one could not help but like him. Lily was a person who believed rules were there for a reason, and she followed them unless she had a very good reason to break them. Which had never ever happened and would never ever happen.
Sirius was the kind of person who felt that the words mandatory and optional were interchangeable.
Naturally, Lily had hated him with the passion of a thousand suns only slightly less gaseous than the suns that burned with hatred for James Potter. Then, of course, she'd started dating James and half of her suns were thrown away like so much old pepper. And damn it if she didn't find herself liking Sirius along with everyone else.
It had irritated and annoyed Lily beyond her old limits. The nerve of him! Acting all charming and witty and personable... How dare he put forth an effort to gain her favor when all she wanted to do was continue hating him!
And yet, she genuinely liked the bastard.
Lily had been so aggravated by this turn of events that she convinced herself that Sirius did not in fact actually like her. He was merely tolerating her because everyone else in the group was fond of her and his best friend was dating her. He probably went back to his numerous girlfriends and mocked her behind her back. She had managed to become so convinced of this "fact" that she had once slapped him when she'd misplaced her wand, thoroughly convinced that he had stolen it. Peter had actually been sitting on it.
Then came one fateful day about a week or so before the Christmas holidays. On that particular day, she had been late coming out of Potions because Professor Slughorn had wanted to speak to her about one of his Slug Club Meetings or something. She hadn't been paying much attention to where she was going and was most unfortunate to run into Slytherin Princess, Narcissa Black, and Slytherin Lady-in-Waiting, Marguerite Blackeney.
Lily had never gotten on well with either of them. She, after all, dared to have not been born into a pureblooded wizarding family and was therefore to be cast into the bowels of hell for all eternity as punishment. And until she actually died so that such a thing could occur, it was up to the Purebloods to do the best they could to make real life hell for one Lily Evans.
She had sincerely hoped that being Head Girl would save her from such things. She had been grossly mistaken. They still called her Mudblood and a veritable cornucopia of other insults. It didn't help that she was the first of "her kind" to be named Head Girl. Narcissa had taken it all rather personally. And, of course, it was all Lily's fault and she should be punished swiftly and severely.
The taunts had gone on as usual. Marguerite and Narcissa had just refused to let her pass and get on with life. No, they had to make it clear to her that they still hated her because a simple glare just wasn't enough for them. Eventually, Lily had gotten quite fed up with both of them and had exercised her right to deduct points from Slytherin.
Marguerite apparently felt like backhanding her was an appropriate response judging by the way she drew her hand back.
Lily had never been so stunned in all of her life. They had never actually struck her before. Instantly, all thoughts flew out of her head and they were replaced by fear because Peter had broken her wand when he sat on it and now she was totally defenseless and Marguerite's hand was coming closer and Narcissa was buffing her perfectly shiny red nails and saying something like, "Take care of her, Marg," or something like that and Lily wondered if this is the sort of thing a Gryffindor should do in this situation - gape and back away slowly and desperately wish James would appear and save her as all good boyfriends should do.
That was when she'd shut her eyes and braced herself for a pain that never came. She heard the sound of what was almost a slap but not quite and Marguerite's shriek of outrage. Miraculously, James had come to her rescue because he was her boyfriend and that was what he was supposed to do! Or maybe it was Remus would surely know what to do in this situation because for once Lily was absolutely hopeless. Or maybe it was Peter who would run and get help because that was really all he was good for.
She'd nearly fallen over at the sight of Sirius Black standing in front of her, struggling to grip Marguerite's Beating arm but still managing to turn and wink at her.
That was all he had said to her before turning down to face the Slytherins. Lily wasn't quite sure what had happened next. She'd watched in some kind of stunned horror as Sirius actually hit Marguerite and then both girls had fallen upon him, claws bared and high heels kicking. Lily had been sorely tempted to jump in, but the to break a rule was like willingly breaking a bone. She'd screamed for help and brought just about everyone in the Castle running. James, Peter, Slughorn, and McGonagall had quite a time prying everyone apart until Remus came by and picked Sirius up as if he were a paperweight.
Sirius wound up in the Infirmary for the rest of the day and in detention for the rest of the week. All Gryffindors noted with boundless satisfaction that both Narcissa and Marguerite had received a month.
She hadn't seen Sirius until the next day, hobbling down the stairs into the Common Room. She'd been waiting for him, ready with a thousand insults and injustices. Sirius had just flashed his trademark grin. "Decided that you don't hate me now?"
It was all too much for her to withstand.
But she had thought of things that simply didn't matter anymore. She liked them both. She understood them both. Separately. They were quite easy to comprehend separately. It was when she thought of them together that her left eye started to twitch.
"Padfoot, would you kindly give me back my book?" Remus intoned serenely from a few feet in front of her. She looked up and saw that Sirius had indeed snatched the book Remus had been reading while he was walking (a task he had mastered sometime in the middle of first year). He was now holding it out in front of him with the tips of his thumb and forefinger as if it were something horribly offensive.
Sirius wrinkled his nose with the disgust Lily often felt for his precious dungbombs. "Moony, how can you read this stuff? I can't even pronounce the title! Hell, how can you read? It's a beautiful day! The sun is hidden behind the clouds, all of the trees are dead, and look! There goes the squid! Doesn't he look so miserable trapped under the ice?"
Remus spared the squid a sympathetic glance. "I happen to find reading relaxing."
Sirius rolled his eyes as if that was the stupidest thing that could have come out of Remus's mouth. "Moony..." he groaned loudly. "I thought that girlfriend of yours was going to loosen you up."
"I hardly qualify one date, that you forced me to go on I might add, grounds for referring to her as my girlfriend," Remus remarked with feigned bitterness. "Besides, even if she was, she's Ravenclaw. She'd appreciate and, dare I say, encourage my literary aspirations."
"Damn," Sirius muttered. "I knew I should have just set you up with that easy Hufflepuff."
"Foiled again. They work hard," Remus pointed out smoothly.
Sirius grinned rakishly. "Double meaning!"
"There's always a double meaning with you."
Sirius nodded in assent. "This is true. For I am clever and can find sexual entendre in chicken soup!"
"I'd hardly call that clever. I would call it--"
Sirius never did let him finish that sentence. "Anyway, I can't very well hand you over to a Slytherin, now can I? They'd tear you apart because, you know, you're all weak and stuff."
"Yes. There is that," Remus said in very clipped tones.
Sirius was about to continue, but he was momentarily distracted by Peter tripping and falling on to the lake. His leg went through and they were then first to endure his rather girlish screams as he was nearly accosted by the squid, who only yearned for a little company in the Winter months. Eventually, Peter managed to disentangle himself and ran up to them, white faced and struggling for breath. He looked at each of them, expecting some sort of comfort or acknowledgement.
Sirius returned to his previous conversation. "And Gryffindor girls are out of the question because they all know you."
"Love you too," Remus said dryly.
Sirius's face lit up with malicious glee and Remus then realized what he'd walked into. He sighed a little, but otherwise seemed good natured about what was about to occur. "Ah hah!" Sirius cried, gesturing theatrically and unnecessarily. "So, you admit it! You finally admit that you love me! I knew it! I knew it all along! Though you tried to mask it with your disapproval and your stodginess and your 'Sirius, must you wave that about all the bloody time,' I always knew that you loved me. Fear not, mon petit chou-chou. The feeling is mutual. I too love me as you do."
"You don't say" Remus said with a cool air about him. "You'd think that this feeling of deep rooted irritation would have disappeared."
Lily could hear Sirius's grin grow wider. "There's yet another double meaning to that statement."
"Only in your sick mind, Padfoot."
Sirius put his arm around Remus in an entirely too intimate way for two friends to be touching. He winked at his sandy haired friend and said, "But you just love my sick mind."
"Then why does it disgust me so?" Remus mused aloud, tapping a finger on his chin.
Sirius shrugged, removing his arm from Remus's shoulder as smoothly as he had put it around him. It was as if it had never been there in the first place. "I think we have a hate/love vibe going on."
"Oh, is that it?" Remus said, slowly dawning upon the epiphany.
Sirius pretended to ponder this for a moment, scratching his head for a few moments. Then he nodded emphatically and spoke as if he'd just discovered the thirteenth use for dragon's blood. "Yes. I believe it is."
Remus simply nodded in a more demure fashion. "Sirius?"
"What is it?"
"May I have my book back, please?"
"'Course, mate. Why didn't you say so?" He tossed it back to Remus. "There you go, Mooniekins."
Lily could not for the life of her understand the relationship that existed between one Remus Lupin and one Sirius Black.
"You do realize that you owe me sexual favors for the rest of your life now,
Remus sighed in a long suffering sort of way. "So much for a good night's sleep."
Were they shagging or what!