Let's do something you're not supposed to…
Lily climbed into the Ravenclaw common room with as much grace as she could muster when her hand was wrapped up tightly in Richard's and being dragged along at twice her usual speed. She'd asked him to walk slower, she had, but he had the tendency to forget sometimes when he was excited. Like now for instance, as they made way their way to the party.
If she was caught in here under normal circumstances she'd be in detention for a month at least, but everyone was in far too high spirits to tell a teacher tonight. Ravenclaw had just won the Quidditch final against Slytherin, and if the Ravenclaw's were anything like her fellow Griffindors, the celebrations would be going on long into the night before the prefects finally called rank.
Her hand was finally released and she felt an arm snake around her waist for a moment as he pulled her close enough to be heard over the noise of the party. "Do you want a drink?"
"Yeah," she nodded. "Butterbeer if you've got it."
He laid a quick kiss to her temple before releasing her, and Lily watched as his blonde head disappeared into the crowd. She felt suddenly very alone in the midst of the busy common room; she didn't belong here - these weren't her friends. As if proving her point, a tall blonde girl that Lily was non-too find of approached from her right, waving and smiling merrily as stumbled though the crowd to meet her. "Did Richard bring you?" she asked, indicating a couch where they could sit.
"Yeah, he's gone to get us drinks," Lily explained, following the girl through the room before taking a seat beside her. They weren't friends, but Lily was thankful for a familiar face.
"Didn't he tell you it was a party?" the blonde enquired casually, crossing one seemingly endless leg over the other.
Lily furrowed her brow in confusion. "Of course he did."
The blonde looked equally bemused. "Then why didn't you get dressed up, silly goose?"
Lily fell silent, but it appeared the blonde did not expect a reply as she gazed around the room, waving at random partygoers as they passed. Actually, this was Lily's best dress, and Richard had even berated her for taking so long to do her hair…
"Congratulations by the way," she finally spoke up again, changing the subject.
"Thanks," the girl grinned, flipping her long hair. "Too bad Griffindor didn't make it to the final." Lily noted she did not look sympathetic in the least.
"No, it's good thing," another voice added to the conversation. "They would have beaten us!"
"Grace," Lily greeted the new girl, who plopped down on the armrest beside her. "Hi!" Finally, someone she could call a friend.
"How is Wentworth, by the way?" Grace enquired, stirring her drink with a straw.
"Recovering," Lily nodded. "I think he's more sour than anything."
"I can imagine," Grace laughed. "Falling down all those stairs and breaking his arm just before the most crucial match of the year. Slytherin will never let you live it down."
Lily chuckled. "Actually, they've been giving him compliments all week!"
"Yes, and good on Potter for still playing," the blonde added. "Even though it was obvious you'd never win without a seeker."
Lily forced a smile.
"Potter's too stubborn to forfeit," Grace chortled. "But they still gave it a good shot; an impressive score none the less." Lily tried not to look too smug as the blonde finally looked defeated. "Oh!" Grace said suddenly, rising from her potion on the couch. "Lacey, you must come and see the hideous ensemble Tiffany's got on tonight. I must simply get a photo - it's just too good an opportunity to pass up!"
The blonde – Lacey - looked delighted as she chugged the rest of her drink and took Grace's hand before being led through the crowd. Poor Tiffany, Lily thought. But rather you than me…
Finally she spotted Richard heading towards her, pausing here and there to receive his well-earned congratulations from his house members. Richard of course, was captain of the Ravenclaw Quidditch team. "Having fun?" he asked, taking a seat beside her and handing her a cup of some amber coloured liquid.
"This isn't butterbeer," she told him, sniffing the substance tentatively. Firewhiskey. Yuk. He'd obviously forgotten she hated the stuff.
"What was that, love?" he asked, leaning forward to hear her better.
"I said, this isn't-"
"Richard, mate! Nice game today!"
Richard turned away from her to greet the new arrivals – his fellow seventh year friends – who had come to congratulate him on the match once more. They ignored Lily sat beside him. They always did.
"I think I'm going to find some butterbeer," Lily told him when she finally found a pause in the conversation.
He looked at her briefly, clearly not understanding what she had said as he raised his eyebrows, but one of his mates called him back to the conversation and she left the couch with him barely noticing.
Lily wondered why he even bothered inviting her to these parties. Actually, that was a lie. She knew exactly why he brought her along; so she would be within arms reach when the party ended and he could drag her up to his room and begin the 'official celebrations' as he liked to call it. Though 'drag' was probably too negative a word – she certainly went willingly – but did he always have to walk so fast?
He barely spent any time with her while they were at the actual party; always too busy with his friends to pay her any attention, and there was never anyone else there she could talk to. His friends didn't like her very much, but she didn't know why, she'd gotten on with them quite well until they officially started dating. Maybe they were jealous of the time Richard spent with her between classes, instead of them. She'd asked Richard about it once, but he said she was imagining things.
The beverage table finally came into view and it almost frustrated her to see there was plenty of butterbeer on display; how could he have forgotten? She put it down to him being so excited about the win today; Ravenclaw hadn't won the cup in years. He was allowed to celebrate, forgetting that his girlfriend detested firewhiskey was almost understandable under the circumstances.
Popping the top of a bottle she dwindled by the table for a moment, swaying to the music though she didn't recognize the song, She hoped to give Richard enough time with his friends so they might have left by the time she returned. But then some pesky third year mistook her for a barmaid and she decided it might be better to make her way around the room instead. She might find someone she knew after all…
As it happened, she did not, and regrettably made her way back to the couch she had left Richard on – he was probably wondering where she had got to by now anyway. But Lily did not find Richard on the couch. In fact, Lily could not find Richard anywhere. "Great," she huffed to herself, flopping down onto the empty sofa. "He's probably outside doing loops on his broom with his mates and left me here…alone…again."
Over an hour later Richard had still not returned and Lily was tempted to actually leave herself. Several younger students had already gone up to the dorms and the crowds began to thin, leaving mostly couples dotted around the room. But she knew if she went before he returned he'd be upset; he'd be expecting her to join him tonight. And he would be sorry for neglecting her, he always was, and he'd more than make it up to her when they got upstairs… Maybe she just needed to learn to be a little less possessive? It was his big night after all; their last year at Hogwarts and the last chance to celebrate before exams - she should let him do what he wanted.
"What's a pretty girl like you doing all alone at a party?" a familiar voice sounded from above.
She looked up to see fellow Griffindor James Potter standing above her, a cup of firewhiskey in one hand and a butterbeer in the other. Lily smirked. "Making the most of the free drink, Potter?"
He smiled, helping himself to the space beside her and gently pushing the butterbeer into her hands. "Of course, care to join me?"
She accepted the drink gratefully, taking a swig before setting it between her knees. "So, how did you get in?"
He grinned, tapping his nose with his index finger. "We have our ways, Evans."
Lily raised an eyebrow inquisitively. "We?" He cocked his head in the direction of the beverage table, much more visible from this position now that the crowds had cleared. Three boys stood stuffing their robes with bottles of butterbeer, and rather indiscreetly at that. "Of course," she muttered dryly. "Your fellow Marauders; why did I bother to ask?"
They both fell into awkward silence for a moment and Lily turned to watch as Sirius Black stuffed a bottle down the front of his pants, Remus Lupin cringing and making some remark about how that one now required a label so no one else might accidentally drink it.
James took a sip of his drink, leaning back into the couch and smacking his lips in contentment. "Crap party," he commented lightly, gazing around the room.
Lily could not help but laugh. "You crashed a little late I'm afraid," she told him, shifting to match his position. "It was as good as any Griffindor bash not half an hour ago."
"Careful Evans," he warned, giving her a reproving stare. "That's bordering on treason. I think you've been spending far too much time with that handsome Ravenclaw boyfriend of yours," he added playfully. "I'll have to throw a bash especially for you; remind you what a real party looks like."
"You do that."
Silence took them again and this time Lily felt a little more comfortable. She was no stranger to Potter's flirting, having been a sorry victim of it for many years, but it was much more subtle now and he even spoke about her boyfriend with something akin to civility. He had done a lot of growing up over the past year, certainly physically, no longer resembling the scrawny kid with glasses but a tall, muscular and handsome young man. But the biggest change Lily had noticed was his growth mentally. The Marauders would always be the Marauders, but he was far more level headed than he had been a year ago – he'd even been made Head Boy! And he surprised everyone by finally dating a number of girls himself, though that did give him a bit of a reputation –by 'number' we mean half of Hogwarts. Although he would never get out of the habit of asking for Lily's hand before anyone else's on Hogsmead weekend, unless of course either of them were already attached.
"Where is the lucky man, anyway?" James spoke up suddenly. "I should congratulate him."
Lily raised an eyebrow, impressed. "That's awfully generous of you."
"It's all about sportsmanship," he explained seriously. "It was about time Ravenclaw won something. Besides," he added, a slight smirk playing about his lips. "Everyone knows we would have crushed them if it weren't for Wentworth."
Lily shook her head, smiling in amazement at the wonder of James Potter. She took another sip of butterbeer. "I don't know where he is actually, but he'll be back. Are you planning on sticking around or are you going to take your stolen beverages and make a run for it while you can?"
James chortled into his cup. "I may as well stick around. We can't have the prettiest girl in school looking like a wall-flower now can we?" he added smoothly, flashing her one of those famous Potter smiles. "Shall we have a dance?" He set down his cup on a nearby table, extending his hand expectantly.
Now that would go down well, wouldn't it? Lily Evans dancing with the most popular boy in school right in the middle of her boyfriend's victory party.
"I'm not much of a dancer," she declined politely.
"Nonsense," he clucked, taking her hand and forcing her to her feet. "I've perved on you many a social gathering and know for a fact that you are quite the performer."
"Now quickly," he added, pulling her to the center of the room. "Before your charming boyfriend returns and ruins the mood." No one had really noticed them take center stage, but she still looked apprehensive. "Just one dance," he spoke gently, waving his arm to someone over her shoulder – probably one of the Marauders. She heard the current record being cut short, and a new, slower tune begin. "I promise I'll keep my hands right here," he added, his voice barely above a whisper as he lay his strong hands on her waist, pulling her steadily towards him, but not too close so that their bodies would touch.
They began to sway to the music, and Lily bravely brought her hands to rest on his shoulders. She had never danced like this before, not properly. Richard wasn't fond of dancing and for that simple reason he wasn't very good at it either. Though he would always attempt it if another boy dared to ask for her hand. They would stumble about the dance floor and sometimes Lily would insist they just stay still so as to avoid injuring other couples and her own poor toes. Wrapping her arms tightly around his neck and allowing his hands to wander below her waistline she could usually avoid him picking up on her embarrassment.
James moved his right hand from her waist to rest over her own on his shoulder, snapping her out of her reverie. "You look distracted," he commented lightly, giving her hand a slight squeeze. "Am I a very bad dance partner?"
"Oh no," she assured him, giving him a sincere smile. "You're very good – haven't stepped on my toes once."
He chuckled, taking her hand from his shoulder and holding it in his own to spin her around. He was very graceful. Nothing like Richard.
"Now where does a boy like you learn to dance like that?" Lily laughed, finding herself facing him again with his hands on her lower back.
"My mother," James replied proudly. "Before she died she said there were several things every young man aught to know before he goes out into the world. The first being dancing."
"She must have been a very good teacher," Lily smiled respectfully. She did not know his mother had died; they had much more in common than she originally thought.
"I beg to disagree," James commented seriously. "She made Sirius my partner; we had to take turns being the girl."
At this Lily burst out laughing and for a moment James looked awfully pleased with himself for eliciting this sort of response, until the moment of rapture was cut short by the noisy arrival of five heavily intoxicated boys stumbling into the common room. Lily dropped her hands to her sides in an instant, and feeling her tense under him, James did the same, stepping back to allow her more room.
"No, not dancing!" Richard bellowed, laughing all the while as he staggered toward her, completely ignoring James's presence. His friends slowly dispersed throughout the room, making the most of the left over party nibbles. "You know how I detest it," he added, lunging forward to claim her in his arms. Lily allowed it, only struggling a little as he crushed her face to his chest in what he assumed to be a passionate embrace in his drunken state.
"Oof," she giggled, making herself more comfortable as he began to apply small kisses to her cheek. "Richard, where have you been all night?" she asked lightly. "You've missed your own party."
"Come with me Lily," he slurred drunkenly, ignoring her question and running his fingers through her long red hair. "I've come across a lovely spot by the lake; I want to make love to you under the stars."
He had lowered his voice, but James had still caught wind his 'offer', his eyes widening at the suggestion. Lily had the good grace to blush. "The lake Richard?" she questioned with a smile, carefully hiding her embarrassment. "But it's so… public."
"I don't care," he muttered into her neck, before rising to meet her gaze. "I love you Lily Evans; let everyone see!"
This time James had to snort; Richard was not usually the sort be seen making public declarations of love with his tough boy image to uphold. He was clearly very drunk. "Well that's awfully…romantic, Richard," Lily politely declined. "But I'm afraid it's a little chilly out tonight. Let me get you to bed."
"Bed?" Richard questioned, his nose wrinkled slightly, and then more jubilantly he exclaimed, "Bed! Of course! Why you sly little thing, Lily Evans, always trying to get me into bed aren't you? All right then, this way…" He stumbled off across the room down a passage that Lily knew led to the seventh year boys' dorm.
She sighed audibly. How utterly predictable. And here she was thinking he might be up for a little romancing first. Too bad he was so pissed he'd be asleep by the time she even got to his room. Or maybe that was a blessing?
"Evans?" James called to her as she began to follow in Richards's footsteps, his brow wrinkled with concern.
She smiled, waving her hand at him in an absent manner. "He'll be passed out the moment his head hits the pillow."
He nodded, but did not look convinced in the slightest.
Why was she so miserable? She'd been invited to a fantastic party, for a lovely occasion, to spend time with her wonderful boyfriend, and yet here she was feeling utterly… unhappy. She shouldn't feel like this. She had no right to feel like this. Her life was perfect - that's what everybody told her. So why didn't she feel perfect? Why did she feel, that despite all her lovely friends, good grades and handsome boyfriend, there was just something missing? Everyone kept telling her she'd leave Hogwarts and get married to Richard and then she'd be complete. But Lily could not imagine anything more terrifying…
She pondered these thoughts as she lay in bed, Richard incessantly rutting between her legs, his heavy weight that she had once found comforting now crushing her to the mattress; sticky, sweaty and very far from aroused. It appeared the vast amounts of alcohol he had consumed previous had no effect on his stamina, only numbing him to awareness of her own needs. Gosh, when had this become so routine? It used to be beautiful.
She felt no inclination to input anything into the activity, he seemed to be managing just fine on his own, and why waste the energy when it wouldn't do anything to increase her own enjoyment? He wouldn't remember she'd been a lousy lay in the morning, so what did it matter? And it wasn't always like this, after all. He quite often took the time to make it a pleasurable experience for the both of them. But not tonight. Not when he'd been drinking. And Lily didn't expect anything more. As long as he got what he needed now and then she could sneak back to Griffindor once he'd fallen asleep. She was hungry. How much longer 'til breakfast…?
She was beginning to feel a little lightheaded; the fumes of his whiskey-tainted breath engulfing her as he leaned his forehead against her own, his breathing heavy. Usually she welcomed the closeness, but right now she was close to passing out – and not in a good way. Merlin, she couldn't take much more of this. "Oh…God…Richard-" she muttered, finally tearing her face away from his with the need for oxygen and wondering how she could she possibly phrase this request without injuring his self-esteem. Honey, would you mind closing your mouth? Your breath's killing me, thanks love. But in his drunken haze he had already taken her 'Oh God Richard' complaint as some sort of compliment.
"Yeah baby… that's how you like it, huh?" Shit. Now she had to put up with his attempts at talking dirty. At least his face was now securely buried into her neck and she couldn't smell his whiskey breath. "Come on Lily, tell me how you like it."
She rolled her eyes. "Just like that, baby," she drawled, not even bothering to put on her 'sexy voice'. He wouldn't notice. "That's it…right there…"
She ran her hands down his back as she shuddered against her, his breathing erratic and hair stuck down onto his clammy forehead. She pushed it back for him, and he smiled contentedly before laying a lingering kiss to her own forehead and rolling over. And that was that. He was dead to the world.
Lily stepped out into the dim corridor, wrapping her cardigan more tightly around her in the cool chill of the night. A shadowy figure could be made out, crouched against the wall and she gasped, realizing she'd been spotted. But on closer inspection it was far too big to be Mrs. Norris. What – or who – was it?
"All right there, Evans?"
"Potter?" She stood awkwardly by the portrait as he rose to his feet, taking a few tentative steps towards her. "What are you doing?" she whispered, wrapping her cardigan around her tighter still. "You'll catch a death out here."
"Concerned?" he chortled, not bothering to lower his voice. He always seemed so confident, not worrying about being caught out of bed in the middle of the night. But why was he here? Had he been waiting for her all night? She glanced over her shoulder nervously, not sure how to respond. "Lover boy fell straight to sleep did he?" he enquired, not quite catching her eye as he stuffed his hands in his pockets. She nodded.
He knew she was lying. She knew he knew. But one should not really ask those sorts of questions when they already know the answer.
"It's not really safe for pretty young girls to be wandering the castle alone," he added more off-handedly. "Not at times like these. I thought I'd walk you back to the tower."
So he had been waiting.
"All right," she spoke quietly, falling into step with him as they set off down the corridor. But it wasn't long before she found herself panting as she struggled to keep with his long strides. "You walk so fast," she breathed out, jogging slightly to get back into step with him.
"Do I?" he asked, glancing down at his own feet and noting her hurried little steps. "How's this?" he asked, slowing considerably until they found a comfortable pace. Lily smiled her thanks, still a little out of breath, and James offered her his arm but she refused politely. He just laughed. "Actually I wasn't offering, I was asking. I'd appreciate the body heat, it's bloody freezing out here."
She smiled again, this time in amusement, looping her arm in his and they walked in mostly silence to Griffindor tower.
"Oh it's nice in here," Lily whispered, rubbing her hands together in the warmth of the common room. "A castle full of magic and not a single heating charm down those awful corridors."
James grinned, flopping down onto one of the couches. "It's all part of Hogwarts charm, don't you know; a magic castle's not a magic castle without a couple drafty corridors."
She smiled, but did not respond to his comment, edging towards the girls' staircase. "Well I suppose I'd better call it a night."
"So soon?" he asked, the disappointment he managed to hide in his tone betrayed by his eyes. "The night's still so young; I've told you those Ravenclaws don't know how to party properly." Lily smiled again. She felt awkward. "That's okay," he sighed. "Run away, I'll survive another heartbreak yet."
She released a small laugh at his dramatics. "It's past three, Potter. We're not supposed to be up."
He raised an amused brow. "Don't you ever do anything you're not supposed to?"
More awkwardness. " Good night Potter," she dismissed him. "Thanks for walking me...Thanks for waiting."
"Not a problem," he nodded, and he she could tell he meant it, though he did still look a little thwarted that she was running away from him so soon.
"I'm very tired," she excused herself, although he not actually voice his disappointment.
"Then you better get yourself to bed," he replied simply. "Good night Evans. Oh, and Evans…?"
"Thanks for the dance."
"Not a problem." And she meant it too.
Lily half expected to discover Potter dogging her tracks after his little evening of chivalry, and was surprised she did not see hide nor hair of him for another three days, where in the line for Potions she found herself momentarily panicking as he appeared to be holding her hand, only to discover he was simply passing her a note.
She waited until the end of class to read it, the little ball of paper seeming more like a lead weight in her breast pocket as she contemplated what it could be about. But she dared not read it with Richard sitting so close at the desk behind her, not yet sure if the little note was simply a request to copy her homework or something akin to a love letter. Richard would have to run off for Ancient Runes straight after class, where as she was blessed with a free period.
After what seemed like the longest Potions lesson in history the class finally began to depart and Lily breathed a sigh of relief as Richard leaned forward to kiss her goodbye, before disappearing down the hall. "What have you got there?" Margaret enquired, seeing her friend scramble for the little piece of parchment in hr pocket. "From Richard?"
"Not exactly," Lily replied evasively. She trusted Margaret, she did, but right now she was too confused to know what was going on in her own head to try and explain it to someone else. Richard had passed her extravagant love letters in class before, but she had never felt quite so excited about those as she did reading this tiny scrap of crumpled parchment. It was very confusing feeling.
Let's do something you're not supposed to-
It was brief and rather unexplanatory, though she did recall their previous conversation in which he had asked rather cheekily if she ever did anything she wasn't supposed to. And by God she wanted to. Anything to mess up her perfect life, anything to ter her mind away from the terrifying thoughts of marriage and 'completion'. But what exactly he had in mind he did not reveal here. He wanted her to have to approach him, that much was certain.
He had already left the potions classroom by the time Lily began to look for him, and was not able to track him down until later that evening in the common room. Approaching the four Marauders in their natural habitat was a daunting experience, but Lily did so bravely as she moved toward their corner of the common room by the fire. James was stretched out lazily in an armchair, laughing about something with his good friend Sirius Black when he caught her eye. He looked mildly surprised, as if he had not really expected her to approach him at all.
"Evans," he smiled, straightening himself in his chair and running a hand through his messy hair by habit. The other Marauders quickly made themselves scarce and Lily was thankful as she took the second armchair Remus offered to her. "To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?" he asked, still with that surprised tone. "Head business perhaps?"
Lily smirked at his supposed innocence, answering his question with a question. "What did you have in mind?"
His grin grew steadily, understanding perfectly what she meant. And leaning forward in his seat slightly he whispered, "Go to Hogsmead with me."
Lily sighed in disappointment. He was no more unpredictable than Richard. "I'll be going to Hogsmead with my boyfriend, Potter. You know that."
But his grin did not falter as he held out his hand to stop her from leaving. "No, go with me tonight."
She had not expected that. "But we're not-"
"Not supposed to?" James offered with a slight smirk. "That's exactly the idea, Evans."
She thought about it for a moment, considered the possibility of getting caught by a teacher, a big red stamp on her permanent record, Richard finding out… "What time?"
It was one thing sneaking out of the castle to go into Hogsmeade, but a completely different thing altogether by abusing their newly acquired licences to apparate out of the village completely.
"We're going to be in so much trouble," Lily whimpered, clinging to James's arm as they made their way down the busy London street. "What if someone recognises us? What if Hagrid walks out of the next pub?"
"What if, what if, what if," James mocked her, shaking her arm playfully with each syllable. "Loosen up Evans, nobody knows we're here."
Her eyes widened as if in sudden remembrance. "You said it's not safe to be wandering around at times like these; it's dangerous! And there's nobody who even knows we're out here!"
He sighed audibly, pulling her closer to his body as they turned the next corner and subsequently into the wind. "You're safe with me Evans," he told her earnestly. "I'd never let anything happen to you; I promise."
She honestly believed him. She didn't really know why. She didn't seem to know much lately. Like how she ended up sneaking out with a boy she barely knew when she could be wrapped up asleep and warm in the arms of her boyfriend. She had let him take her to dinner in a nice Muggle restaurant – you could have almost called it a date if she wasn't already attached - and now he was leading her down some random street and refusing to tell her where they were going. But there was something about James Potter; something that drew her towards him. She just couldn't say no. "Are we nearly there?"
He smiled, seemingly content with her change in attitude as she appeared to relax, leaning her head on his shoulder as they walked. They would have got there much faster if she didn't have such little legs, but he had remembered her complaint from their previous encounter and reduced the speed of his steps. "Nearly, I promise." And he was right, stopping abruptly at the next corner and waving his free hand towards the shop.
Lily scoffed. "Here? You can't be serious."
"Certainly not," she huffed, though still eyeing the shop with uncertainty. "It's just not something you spring on a person. Something like this takes a great deal of thought and consideration."
"You're right," he added seriously. "It's not something you're really supposed to do." He drew out the words, every syllable challenging her and she felt the urge to slap him. He laughed lightly at her defiant expression, pulling her towards the entrance. "I'm not asking you to get one Evans, but I am, and I have put a lot of thought into it if you must know. You can watch if you like…"
Lily shuffled into James's cubicle, wincing with every step as her stinging skin stretched and strained with each move of her leg. She was going to regret this, she could feel it already. Why oh why did she ever listen to James Potter?
"How did you get done so quick?" he asked, flinching slightly as the tattoo artist continued to work on his design.
"I asked it to be done on a much smaller scale," she explained, leaning across to see the progress on James's shoulder.
"How does it look?"
"Great, just like your drawing."
The tattoo artist gave them both another questioning glance as he worked to complete the snitch tattoo. He had given them the oddest looks when James first handed over their request – he had drawn it himself on a little piece of parchment, and he had been right; he had put a lot of thought into it – but the tattoo guy thought they were nuts.
She tried not to stare too much as the bronzen body laid out before her; well defined arms and back muscles flexing with each flinch of the needle. She really shouldn't be getting turned on by this; she had a boyfriend.
"Bit sore Evans?" James grinned as she continued to shuffle about the room in search of somewhere comfortable to sit. "Where'd you get it?"
"Somewhere nobody will ever see," she replied though clenched teeth, gingerly setting her bottom on the edge of a table. "Ouch," she winced, jumping up again quickly.
"Kinky," James grinned, realising immediately where she had gotten the tiny snitch imprinted. "I expect a proper viewing when we get back."
Lily looked scandalised. "Absolutely not, that's private!"
James scoffed. "You just showed it a complete stranger. Besides, it's my design – I think that gives me the right to take a look whenever I please." He was grinning again, and looking awfully pleased with himself.
"Not a chance," Lily replied haughtily. How was she going to explain this to Richard…?
Lily had to bite her lip to avoid whimpering as she lowered herself onto the bench behind her desk in Transfiguration. She'd considered finding one of those inflatable doughnuts she'd once seen her Grandfather use, but that may raise a lot questions so she decided against it. She wondered if Potter was having as much trouble as she was right now? She hoped he was, she was in agony.
Glancing over her shoulder she saw him at his usual desk in the back row, using his hands to tell some elaborate story to the girls in the row in front of him, clearly loving the attention as they leaned over his desk, fluttering their eyelashes all the while. Something stirred with in her; something she had never felt before when looking at James Potter. Was it jealous? No, that didn't make sense – she had a boyfriend.
She caught his eye for a moment and he paused to give her a questioning expression, his eyed flickering towards her rear end as if to say 'how's it doing?' She made a gruesome face, something that would clearly identify the throbbing in her ass right now, and he laughed. 'What about you?' Lily mouthed back to him, and he shrugged as if to say 'fine'. But at that moment Sirius entered the room, falling into the space beside him and clapping his friend on the shoulder in greeting. The expression on James's face said it all. Lily turned back to the front of the room content.
"But I'm not even a seeker."
Lily propped herself onto her elbows to better see over her shoulder. "Richard, the snitch is the international symbol of Quidditch. Did you expect me to get a beater's bat stamped on my ass? Goodness, imagine how that would look. I may as well have the words 'insert here' printed on it."
"What about a broomstick?"
"Just as bad."
He sniggered at the thought, causing Lily to shiver slightly as he ran his calloused fingers over the curve of her bottom. "Does it hurt?"
She shook her head; it wasn't really a lie – the pain had dulled considerably over the past few hours. He sighed audibly, his breath tickling the bare skin. It was pleasant. "Just don't let my mother see it."
Lily snorted. "I should hope I'm never put in the position for your mother to actually see my bum!"
"Well you sharn't," he replied matter-of-factly, pausing to blow on her skin again after seeing how she had reacted the first time. "Once we move to Sweden she'll finally be out of my hair for good."
"Sweden?" Lily piped up, her brow furrowed in confusion. "Who's going to Sweden?"
He laughed lightly at her obvious ignorance. "We are, Lily." He seemed to act as thought it was something they had discussed many times before.
She felt him tense; the finger that was lightly tracing patterns on her thigh pausing mid-swirl. "Since I told you my uncle left me the Manor in his will."
"But you didn't say anything about-"
"I assumed it was obvious," he cut her off gently. "I expect my wife will be living with me once we're married."
There it was again; another reference to marriage. It should have been comforting. It wasn't.
"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked, referring to the tattoo again as if the previous matter was settled.
"You don't like the surprise?" Lily pouted playfully over her shoulder.
He ginned broadly in reply, leaning down to apply chaste kisses to the little snitch on her left cheek. It seemed to please him to think she had snuck out of school and done this just for him, so that was the story Lily was running with, and it appeared to raise fewer questions. She had hoped to keep it from him as long as possible, at least until after school where it was perfectly believable that she could have gone out and got it done in her Muggle home town, but after she had screamed bloody murder when he had pinched her bottom in the line for Charms, she owed him a good explanation.
"Don't let me interrupt," an amused voice sounded above them, causing a great deal of fuss as both Richard and Lily struggled to right her underwear and pull her robes back down to an appropriate length.
"Potter," Lily blushed, squinting against the sun to make out their intruder. "W-what are you doing here?"
"Don't you have any respect for people's privacy?" Richard snapped, rising from his indecent position between Lily's legs. "Couldn't you see we were in the middle of something here?"
"If privacy was what you're after you'd have done better finding a nice broom closest," Potter replied nonchalantly, flicking a piece of lint from his robes. "Besides, you might try having dome respect for the other students," he added on a more serious note, gazing across the grounds. "As delightful as I'm sure your girlfriend's bottom is, we don't need the younger students waltzing in on your little display."
Lily hid her ever-reddening blush by glancing out across the lake. There wasn't another student for at least fifty feet, but after all, Potter had managed to sneak up on them without noticing.
Richard scowled. "Is there something you want Potter, or did you just come to have a nice perve on my girlfriend's knickers?"
"Both actually," James replied coolly, infuriating Richard further. "Evans is needed in the castle."
Lily got to her feet immediately, brushing away the shards of grass that had stuck to her robes. But Richard took her by the arm. "What for?"
"Head business," James replied loftily, turning on his heel and not waiting for Lily to follow. Lily knew Richard hated it when James did that; stealing away his girlfriend for 'head business' and no other reasonable explanation. Lily had an inkling James knew it too.
"I'll see you later," Lily called over her shoulder as she jogged to keep up with James who had already made it half way back to the castle with his long strides. She noticed however she could keep up quite well once she finally reached him. "Was that really necessary?"
He shrugged, keeping his gaze straight ahead as they continued their way towards the castle. "Did I embarrass you? Sorry then, but you were exposing yourself most indecently."
"To my boyfriend," she needlessly reminded him. "Hardly indecent."
"Well I certainly got a peek."
"You could have just called me from here," she frowned, as they entered the castle. "It wasn't necessary for you to come all the way out there."
"Nonsense," James clucked. "I wanted a look at that tattoo." He turned to her at last, smiling, and Lily could not help but smirk also.
"Well I hope you finally got that out of your system."
"Absolutely not. I intend to make it my life's goal to catch a glimpse of that tattoo as often as I can."
Lily ignored him; changing the subject before it became obvious she was actually enjoying their playful banter. "What am I needed for anyway? Another first year wet her knickers?"
He shuddered at the memory, leading her around a corner and up a flight of stairs. "No, I told you, I want another look at that tattoo."
Lily wouldn't put it past him; stealing her away from her boyfriend under false pretences to lock themselves in an empty classroom and hitch up her robes, but there was something in his manner that told her it was a lie. "Funny, Potter."
"All right," he smiled; stopping outside a door Lily knew to be Professor McGonagall's office. "Can't put anything past you, can I? McGonagall wants a word." He knocked on the door for her and turned on his heel, making his way back down the corridor hands in pockets. "But I will see that tattoo some time," he called back to her, not bothering to turn around and disappearing round the next corner.
Lily admitted herself, taking a seat opposite the Professor who was currently reading a piece of parchment. She did not acknowledge Lily's presence at first, and Lily cleared her throat just in case she had not even noticed her enter the room. The Professor looked up instantly, her weathered eyes brimming with unshed tears.
"Professor McGonagall," Lily exclaimed, reaching across the desk to claim the old woman's hands as they shakily dropped the parchment to the desk. Lily recognised it as a letter. "Are you quite all right? Do you need me to get someone?"
"No," came the Professor's watery reply as she released her hands from Lily's grasp and in turn claimed them in her own. "My dear girl, I am so sorry to have to do this to you again."
And Lily felt her heart skip a beat. She knew what was coming.
She ran. She didn't know where she was going. She didn't care. She just…ran. The tears hadn't even begun falling yet as she skidded out doors and stumbled though the crowded courtyard. Several people called out to her but Lily didn't stop – she just needed to run. She didn't want to think, she didn't want to talk, she didn't want to face reality. She just needed to get away – from everything. Before she knew it she was at the border of the school grounds, crashing through the outskirts of the forest where she knew no body would stumble upon her. And there she let the tears finally fall; heavy, choking sobs wracking her entire body as she collapsed onto the ground, dirt smudging her pretty face as it mingled with the tears, bits of hair coming loose from her perfect ponytail as it caught on the branches of a bramble. But it didn't matter. Nothing really mattered anymore.
How long she had lay there Lily didn't know, but it was slowly turning dark. She wondered if anyone had noticed her missing? She would have to make her way back soon, back to the castle and back to reality. She thought of her friends and how they would smother her with condolences and she would be made to explain what had happened over and over as more and more people caught wind of the tragic news. Her heart pained with just the thought and she wished she could just lay here in the dirt forever and cry until she shrivelled up and didn't have to hurt anymore. She thought of Petunia and wondered how she had received the news. Did her sister want to see her now? To share her pain? And then there was Richard. How would he take the news? Would he hold her and tell her he loved her and that everything was going to be all right because he would never leave her? And Lily cried harder than ever because she knew that's exactly what he would do. Kiss her and marry her and take her away to Sweden. Because now there was nobody to stop him. Because her Daddy would have never allowed it…
The noise called Lily to her senses, forcing herself to hold back her cries, though tears continued to fall freely as she searched for the source of the noise. It was probably nothing, just a squirrel or even the wind – students weren't allowed in the forest. Then again, the Head Girl had just wandered right in… She sat there for a moment, her breathing heavy as she fought against the urge to break down again. She could no longer hear anything, no movement of an intruder, but it was as if she could sense a presence moving ever closer. It scared her.
A sudden shuffle in the bushes.
"Is someone there?"
Definite footsteps getting closer.
There was no reply, only silence for a moment and then the sound of cloth moving over cloth, and she turned just in time to see a figure emerging from the trees, a silvery cloak draped over one shoulder. James Potter.
"Evans?" He sounded almost frantic. "What the devil are you doing out here? Don't you know it's dangerous-" He stopped, just short of reaching for her arm to pull her to her feet, catching sight of her puffy eyes and dirty, tear stained face. His face contorted in pain at finding her reduced to this state. "What happened to you?" Lily shook her head, the idea of re-telling her tragic news too painful to bear. And she couldn't hold back any longer. She bawled. James dropped to his knees, pulling her into a tight embrace, rocking her back and forth in what he hoped was a comforting manner. "Are you lost?" she asked desperately, fishing for some kind of explanation. "Are you injured?"
She shook her head to both and released a shaky breath. "It's my…my Daddy…m-my Dad." And James knew exactly what she meant. There had been far too many deaths in recent times to know what it meant to pass a fellow student crying in the halls.
"I don't know what to do Evans, tell me what to do."
"Please, just hold me."
The following week played out just as Lily had imagined it. Friends doting on her, Richard smothering her, complete strangers stopping her in the halls to offer their condolences, even fat little Peter Pettigrew had sent her a selection of Honekdukes confectionary. She had sent a letter to Petunia and was surprised to receive an immediate reply. The funeral would be put off until after exams so Lily could attend; Petunia and her husband would be making all the arrangements, all she had to do was turn up. And there they would decide what to do with her; where was she going to live? She made a mental note not to invite Richard – he would push his Sweden plans, no doubt proposing on the spot, and Petunia would be happy to finally wash her hands of her weird little sister…
Lily was relishing some time alone at last, lounging on her stomach under a tree by the water's edge, her textbooks spread out in front of her although she wasn't studying. She had no intention of doing so either, but people were less likely to bother her if she looked busy.
"Are you aware you've been reading that same page for the past forty minutes?" a familiar voice enquired.
"I wasn't aware anyone was watching me that closely."
"Always Evans, always. You never know when I might catch a glimpse of that tattoo."
She smiled, his voice a comfort despite her desire to be alone.
"May I join you?"
"Do I have a choice?"
He flopped down beside her on the grass, leaning back on his elbows to watch the students playing in the water. "I think I'm supposed to ask something along the lines of 'how are you doing?'" he muttered thoughtfully. "But that seems silly; I imagine you're feeling pretty shitty."
She smiled again, turning her face to lean on her outstretched arms so she could see him better. "Bingo."
"And I suppose you don't really want to talk about it either," he added in the same tone.
She shook her head. "I'm all talked out."
He brought his hands over his head, falling back into the grass so their faces were about level. "Good," he said simply, staring into the sky. " Nobody likes to watch a pretty girl blubbering all over herself anyway." He turned to face her, smiling that Potter smile that could bring any girl to their knees. She smiled back – how could you not?
"What are your plans for after school?" she asked, catching him by surprise with the change in subject.
"I've applied for the Auror Program," he replied with a slight shrug. "I think I'll get in." Always so confident. "What about you?"
"I won a scholarship with Saint Mungo's," she told him, feeling a slight pang to her heart when she realised she had not had the chance to tell her father. She was going to surprise him at Graduation. "I'm going to be a Healer."
"That's wonderful," James smiled, rolling on his side to face her properly. "Congratulations."
He frowned slightly. "You don't seem too happy about it."
She shrugged, doing her best not to make eye contact. "I haven't actually accepted it yet. Richard said I should refuse; he says I won't need to work once we move to…once we finish school."
James did not miss the lump bobbing in her throat as she fought to hold back fresh tears. "Well I think you should go for it," James told her matter-of-factly. "If you want, that is. Do you want it?" Lily nodded, afraid if she opened her mouth she might start to cry again. "Then I'd say the matter's settled," James shrugged, rolling back to look at the sky again. "A scholarship before you even take your NEWTs? You've really got it made Evans," he added with a slight sigh. "You really do."
Silence ensued until Lily could hold back no more, and she caught James's attention with a slight choke. "I'm so sorry," she whimpered, shifting to a sitting position and trying to cover her face. "I c-can't help it-"
"Hey," James soothed, sitting also and extending his hand to her back. "You don't have to apologise to anyone. Let it out, I don't care. Sorry I don't have a tissue on me – blow your nose my sleeve if you like." Lily could not help but laugh, choking again in the process on the tears that would not stop. "You're doing well," he added assuringly, rubbing small circles into her lower back. "I remember when my folks passed; I was such a wreck."
"It's not that," Lily sobbed, shaking her head as she attempted to stem the flow with her own sleeve. "I feel so horrible. I should be crying about my Dad, but I'm not. I'm so selfish."
Naturally, James looked very confused. "What on earth are you talking about? You're not selfish, you're wonderful."
Had she not been so preoccupied with what she was about to reveal, she may have blushed at the compliment. But as it was, Lily raised her head to look at him, realising she was about to voice her fears for the first time, and to someone she barely knew. "I don't w-want to go to S-Sweden."
Now James looked more confused than ever. "Sweden? Why would you be going to Sweden?" But before she could answer he already knew. Hadn't that useless lump of a boyfriend been bragging to everyone how his dead uncle had left him a mansion somewhere in Europe? And he was talking Lily with him. His Lily.
She was surprised when he got to his feet quite suddenly, hurling the nearest thing he could find into the water – which just so happened to be her charms homework.
"Hey, that's my essay!" she cried indignantly. "Are you mad? What's the matter with you?"
"What's the matter with you?" he spat back, taking Lily completely by surprise with his sudden rage. Her tears had ceased immediately and she wiped her cheeks as she steadily got to her feet. "What the hell happened to you?" he said again, his tone cruel, but his voice never rising to a shout.
Lily blinked. "I beg you pardon?"
"You don't want to go to Sweden," he said, stepping forward so they were barely a foot apart. "You want to be a Healer – at Saint Mungo's – here – in England."
Now he was starting to confuse her. "Potter, what are you-"
"But you won't," he continued, his hazel eyes boring into hers. "You'll go to Sweden, even though you don't want to, because it's what you're supposed to do. Because you're supposed to marry your boyfriend – that's what everyone expects."
Lily was too shocked to speak, wiping a stray tear from her cheek.
"Don't you dare cry," he hissed, slapping her hand away in a manner that Lily considered rather unnecessary. "You're allowed to do what you want – you don't have to do what is expected of you all the time. How can you expect me to have sympathy for you when you've brought all this upon yourself? You don't deserve to be pitied."
And she knew he was right. And it all sounded so simple. But it really wasn't. She couldn't help but feel she was realising this all a little too late.
"He doesn't own you, you know."
"I know that," Lily spat, refusing to let anyone think she had become Richard's puppet. "But no one deserves to pay for someone else's mistakes. I let it get this far - you're right, it's not exactly what I want - but Richard shouldn't suffer for it."
"You're allowed to make mistakes," James told her gently, his cruel tone vanished completely now. "You're allowed to change your mind."
She didn't really understand where this sudden fury was coming from. She had passed sadness much sooner than expected, and now she was angry; angry with herself for letting it get this far, angry with Richard for blinding her to her own desires, angry with her father for leaving her so alone when she needed him the most, angry with James for showing her how her life could be so truly perfect when she no longer had any control over it… "It's too late, Potter!" she cried helplessly, looking over her shoulder at the sound of approaching voices. She could make out Richard in the distance, heading their way. "I have to go."
"Can't you see?" he said suddenly, stepping forward and taking her by the arm as she tried to gather her belongings. His voice was low and desperate, his eyes searching and his fingers bruising. "Can't you see I want you for myself?"
He was hurting her, though it wasn't intentional, and she knew she should pull away, but she couldn't. "What do you expect me to do?" she asked in a shaky voice, one she barely recognised. "What do you want me to do, Potter?"
"Love me," he replied breathily, their bodies only inches apart. She could smell his breath on her face; chocolaty and smooth. "Don't go with him – don't marry him – don't go to Europe. Just love me, Lily." And her name from his lips had never sounded so sweet.
"Unhand her, Potter," an angry voice shouted from somewhere to Lily's right. She turned to see a Richard now ten feet from them now and coming closer still, his wand raised and expression livid. James dropped her arm instantly, Lily got the impression he had not even realised he was holding her. "Get back!" Richard ordered, approaching Lily from behind, his wand still aimed at James's chest. James made no move to retrieve his own wand, though Lily could see it outlined though his robes. He just stood here, his eyes locked on Lily's, silently pleading to her.
The contact was broken for a moment as Lily felt Richard grasp her arm and pull her away. She did not think he had intended to be so forceful, but she landed in a heap on the ground, tripping over her own textbooks. He did not offer her any assistance, and when her eyes met with James's again she was surprised to see them full of laughter. "I hope you weren't coming over here to lecture me on man handling her," James snorted. "That would appear rather hypocritical of you now wouldn't it?"
That had obviously been the centre of Richard's argument, but he had always been a quick thinker. "I'm coming over here, Potter, to teach you a lesson about touching things that don't belong to you."
"Hmm," James acknowledged this statement, folding his arms across his chest in thought. "By that I suppose you mean 'putting my filthy hands on your property'."
"Smart cookie, aren't you?" Richard bit back scathingly.
James caught Lily's eye again, an all-familiar 'I told you so' expression gracing his handsome features. She turned away, unable or perhaps unwilling to face the horrific truth.
"Don't look at her," Richard growled, stepping aside to block Lily from view. "She has nothing to do with you. Look at me when I'm addressing you, Potter." James turned back to him casually, his eyebrows raised derisively. "What makes you think you have the right to go about harassing women?" Richard asked, his wand still raised although James showed no sign of drawing his own.
"Do you intend to duel with me?" James asked nonchalantly, checking his watch. "Because it's nearly lunch and I'd hate to miss out on the ham sandwiches for the sake of giving you a good beating – you know they always go first."
"Do not mock me," Richard hissed, stepping forward so that the tip of his wand was pressed into the front of James's robes. Still, James made no attempt to retaliate, and Lily could not help but think although Richard was the one with the weapon, James held all the power. Richard was acting like a crazed lunatic, where as James remained calm, rising above the petty spat as a Head Boy should. There was just something about his countenance that demanded respect.
Lily finally got to her feet, collecting her scattered books in the process. She saw no real threat; Richard was too smart to attack the Head Boy – he just wanted to shake him up a bit. It wasn't working. "Richard, put the wand away," she sighed, slinging her book bag over her shoulder. "This is childish."
He visibly tensed, and Lily could almost swear she heard his teeth grinding as he slowly turned his head to face her. "Lily, dear," he gritted out, and Lily could tell it was taking all he had to keep from shouting at her. "Go back up to the castle."
"I intend to," Lily replied evenly. "But I'd rather see you stop this silly display before you embarrass yourself further. He hasn't done anything wrong, leave him alone."
She saw his nostrils flare. "Lily, go back up to the castle."
"She can make her own decisions," James stepped in. "She'll do what she wants – when she wants." And Lily knew he meant more than just when she would make her way back inside.
"Potter," Richard scoffed. "Mind your own business."
"Maybe she is my business."
"I beg your pardon?"
"You heard me."
Lily exhaled loudly; this was going nowhere. "Look," she said irritably, moving between them and snatching the wand right out of Richards grasp before thrusting it into his pocket. "You take back your stupid stick and stop being so irrational, and you," she added, turning to James. "Maybe you should just mind your own business once and a while," she continued calmly. "Your concern and opinion are appreciated, but you need to know when to…let go."
Richard furrowed his brow in confusion where as Lily witnessed several emotions flitter across handsome James's face; shock, disbelief, comprehension, disappointment…anger. He shook his head, sidestepping them both with a derisive snort and striding off across the grounds. "You two deserve each other…"
And nothing had ever cut Lily deeper than that thought.
Lily did not see much of Richard over the next few days. In a way she was thankful to finally get some real time alone (unless you counted her friends checking up on her every fifteen minutes to see if she needed more tea, chocolate, biscuits, crisps…), but she knew eventually it would all come to a head and she'd have her first real fight with Richard. Not the usual petty arguments about whose friends they would hang out with on Hogsmeade weekend, or whether her outfit was appropriate for meeting his great-great-great something or other. This was something serious; something real. She almost anticipated it.
James on the other hand was a little harder to avoid being a fellow Griffindor and Head Boy, but he certainly did his best to make sure they did – avoid each other, that is. Again, Lily was thankful; she had seen far too much of that boy in recent times and it was becoming something of a worry, because she actually found herself enjoying his company. Under normal circumstances this would not have been a problem, but Lily was trying to convince herself that Richard was 'the one' and that Sweden really was a wonderful place to live, however far away it was from her friends, home, sister, ideal place of work, childhood memories, etc. That Potter boy was just getting in the way, what with his handsome smile and charming manners, putting ridiculously wonderful ideas into her head…
It wasn't until three days later that James finally acknowledged her; late on Thursday evening while she was finishing up some homework at a desk in the corner of the common room. Her friends had gone up to bed about an hour ago, as had most of the students, just the odd few dotted about the room. The four boys caught her attention as they hastily descended the boys' staircase and crossed the room towards the portrait hole. They did not make much noise, but the hissing of their hurried whispers alerted her to the fact that someone was up to no good, and she glanced back over her shoulder to see who was planning on sneaking out after curfew. The Head Boy. How responsible of him.
Her gaze lingered upon him longer than intended and he noticed, catching her eye for a split second before she turned back to her essay. More whispers, and a moment later he was by her side; his hand extended in the same way he had done when asking her to dance. "Lily, come with us." She wasn't sure when they had switched to a first name basis.
She should have said no. They weren't officially on speaking terms; he had been ignoring her for three days; it was past curfew; they were probably up to no good; it was her duty to tell them off-
"Where are you going?"
He smiled. "To the future."
She held his hand as they passed though the tunnel – the same one they had used to escape the castle exactly one week ago when he had taken her to London in the dead of the night. They had barely spoken since leaving the common room, the simple act of holding hands a symbol of their mutual apologies.
James led the way, his expression unreadable to Lily bar the look of determination in his eyes as they reflected the light of his wand. Sirius and Remus followed behind, whispering and laughing discreetly among themselves; falling silent whenever Lily turned to glance back over her shoulder, and smiling confidently as if they knew something about herself that she did not. Peter brought up the rear, the occasional cough the only sign he was still with them.
She wanted to ask more questions; wanted to know where they were really going, but the idea of breaking the silence seemed forbidden, like it would ruin the moment. The very air around them seemed alive with electricity – vibrant and exciting and everything that summed up the Marauders. Lily wondered if all their late night expeditions were like this – for she was sure this was far from the first – and if perhaps she had been missing out for seven years for not allowing herself to become their friend.
Eventually they arrived in Hogsmeade, the humid summer air a blessing in comparison to the foisty dampness of the tunnel. They marched up the street at a brisk pace, Lily wondering what the rush was about, and where they could possibly be rushing to at this hour. But the boys seemed to know where they were going, and soon enough she found herself being led into a pub – The Three Broomsticks. This seemed a dangerous action, Lily thought, seeing as the Landlady was particular friends with many of the Professors at Hogwarts, and here was Lily still dressed in her school robes.
But to her surprise, upon spotting them enter the pub the voluptuous lady greeted the boys by name, indicating a narrow staircase towards the back and telling them to hurry. Lily could contain her curiosity no longer, tugging on James's hand as he pulled her up the stairs. "What is it?" she whispered. "What's up there?"
But he simply shook his head, holding his finger to his lips as they approached a heavy wooden door. "You'll see."
Sirius opened the door, his head disappearing into the room for a moment before ushering the rest of them in. Lily found herself standing at the back of a crowded room, a familiar voice sounding from a position she could not see, witches and wizards of all ages (though they were clearly the youngest) all sat or stood in silence as they listened to him speak. She recognised a few of them, though they did not see her at her position at the back. A girl called Alice sat at a nearby table, her arm around a man Lily knew to be called Frank. They had been a few years above Lily at school, and rumour had it they had not long since gotten married. The famous Prewett twins stood not far from the same table – they had been in their seventh year when Lily began her first, but their shenanigans had left them with legendry status only the Marauders could compete with.
She glanced at each of the Marauders in turn, all staring in the same direction; their hight an advantage to them in the crowded room. Each wore the same expression as they listened intently to what was being said; one of great interest, agreement, determination… She wanted to ask what was going on; why were all these people here? But Peter coughed again and Sirius hushed him irritably, so she remained silent.
Entering the speech midway she could not catch on to what was being said at first – something serious, she could tell that much by the boys expression and the tone of the speaker's voice. But then he spoke a word that left no doubt as to the topic of conversation; Voldemort.
"What's going on?" Lily whispered to James, suddenly too eager to care about being heard.
He did not take his eyes from the front of the room for more than a second, just enough to acknowledge she could not see from her vantage point, and took her by the arm to have her stand in front of him. From here Lily could just see clearly, and she felt silly for not recognising the owner of that familiar voice immediately; Dumbledore. Her movement must have caught his attention and for a brief moment she locked eyes with the Headmaster. She thought they'd be in trouble – they'd been spotted – but he merely inclined his head to her, continuing his speech as though nothing had occurred. Yes, it was Dumbledore, but Lily hardly recognised him. Gone was the fool of a man they called their Headmaster; here was a powerful wizard, strong, respected by all those who stood before him, and by the sounds of it, a soldier.
A warm breath grazed her neck and a moment later Lily heard Remus's voice whispering in her ear. "They call themselves The Order of the Phoenix."
The atmosphere on the way back to the castle was once again alive and fantastic as Lily accompanied the Marauders through the tunnel. And for the first time Lily understood why it was people spoke of the Marauders with such reverence - she felt a sense of privilege at being allowed among them, to have been asked to go with them. But this time they did not walk in silence; their previous experience far too great and wonderful to remain something unspoken.
The Order of the Phoenix – an underground organization of Witches and Wizards, banding together in the fight against the Voldemort. Unknown to the Ministry they met and worked in secret, uniting under the leadership of Albus Dumbledore in an attempt to bring down the Dark Lord, and free the magical world. And they could be a part of it.
Lily had never lost anyone to the war, but she knew all too well the pain of losing a loved one, and her sister was the perfect example of the prejudice that could destroy a relationship, never mind an entire nation. She had read about the terrible acts of violence in the newspaper, and witnessed the suffering first hand as she was often called upon to comfort a crying student who had just come from one of those dreaded meetings with McGonagall. Lily had not walked into that office with the fear her father had been murdered by Voldemort. As Muggles her family was too unimportant to be considered a threat, but she knew there were many that went to bed at night wondering when they would be called to that office; she had heard her roommates crying in their sleep. It was all just a matter of time before one of them received the news too.
But now she had been offered a chance to stop all of that. A chance to help make their world a better place. A chance to change history. A chance to make sure that no other student had to suffer the loss of a parent like she had.
At the end of the meeting James had once again taken her hand, and Lily expected them to make a quick exit, but this time he led them all directly to Dumbledore. They waited until he finished speaking with a haggard looking wizard James told her to be Alastor Moody, and finally the old wizard turned to face them, giving them a look of consideration as if contemplating reprimanding them for leaving the castle. But Sirius spoke first.
"We want in."
The headmaster laughed, shaking his head at their apparent determination. Lily felt James's hand tighten around her own. They did not take kindly to being mocked, not by anyone. "We appreciate your interest in our cause, but I will not mislead you in any way. The fact of the matter is, you're all too y-"
"We are not too young," Sirius cut him off, his tone defiant. Lily could tell that he wanted to shout, but his respect for the old Headmaster would not allow him to loose his temper. "We're all of age, you can't deny us." But again Dumbledore shook his head.
"You can use us," James added, and Lily knew that he too was fighting to keep his cool. "Sirius and I are applicants for the Auror training program - Remus is the best Defence student in the school – Lily starts Healer training soon; they're all valuable skills." Peter, Lily briefly noticed, did not get a mention, but she would have been able to feel more sympathy if it were not for the fact that James had just told Dumbledore she had accepted the scholarship. The matter had not been discussed by anyone since their argument by the lake.
Dumbledore sighed audibly. "You have no idea how proud it makes me to see you all take such a strong stance against the evil in our world, but I cannot have the death of a student on my conscience," he added gravely. "It is a dangerous business, war."
James furrowed his brow, slowly losing the resolve to keep his temper in check. "Headmaster, we are well aware of the risks-"
"Mr Potter, the answer is no."
"We deserve a chance," Lily stepped in, finding a courage she did not know she possessed. "The war affects our lives just as much as any Auror or Ministry worker," she continued evenly. "Why should we be made to sit back and let Voldemort destroy those lives after everything you've taught us? You spoke of a free world; without fear and uncertainty and Death Eaters and whatever else it is that Voldemort deals in. We deserve a chance to help make that happen." She left suddenly shameful for her outburst, but another squeeze from James's hand and she glanced up to see he had never looked prouder. As did the rest of the boys.
"I will not risk the lives of my students," Dumbledore reiterated, ushering the group towards the door. And in that moment Lily felt all their hopes drain away. But just before Dumbledore closed the door to them, he smiled; a familiar twinkle in his eye, reminding her that he really was the fool of a man she had thought him to be. "Come to me after school."
"Richard… Richard, wake up."
Finally he stirred, catching a glimpse of her though bleary eyes and rolling over again dismissively. "No Lily, I'm too tired… In the morning, I promise."
"I didn't come here to shag you, you dimwit." She rolled her eyes, kicking off her shoes and climbing onto the bed beside him. "Richard," she hissed, pinching his arm. "I need to talk to you; the most wonderful thing has happened."
She felt him tense beside her, rolling over to face her at last, his eyes wide and expression anxious. "Your pregnant." It wasn't a question, more of a statement – a fear.
If she had been pregnant she would have been very upset with his response, but as it was she was still too excited to worry about that. "No I'm not bloody pregnant, you fool." He visibly relaxed. "I went to a meeting, in the village, there's this group that call themselves-"
"Hang on," he stopped her, lifting himself to a sitting position beside her. "You went into Hogsmeade? Without me?"
"I didn't have time to come and get you," she dismissed his concern quickly. "But I came straight here to tell you; I want to join them – I'm going to join them – and you can too. It's amazing; I saw Dumbledore and he was telling everyone about how-"
"Wait, Lily," he interrupted her again, rubbing his forehead in obvious frustration. "You woke me up to tell me you're joining some sort of club?" He snorted. "Honey, go to sleep, we can talk about this tomorrow." He made to lie back down but Lily caught him by the arm.
"No, Richard, you haven't let me finish. It's not a stupid club, they're a proper organization; Witches and Wizards teaming together to bring down Voldemort-" He flinched at the name. "-They're going to win us the war!"
His brow furrowed in a mixture of confusion and irritation. This was a lot more serious than he had first thought, and he didn't like the sound of it one bit. "What do you mean? Who are they? Aurors?"
"Some of them," Lily nodded. "But most of them are just regular people like you and me. Oh Richard, it's fantastic; we can do this, we really can."
"Defeat him!" Lily cried with exasperation. But Richard hushed her, his eyes flitting anxiously over his sleeping dorm mates, and she lowered her voice. "Aren't you listening to what I've told you? They're called The Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore said we can go to him after Graduation – he wont let us join while we're still at school, he says it's too dangerous."
"Lily," Richard scoffed. "You're not joining anything."
She blinked. "But I thought we could do it together."
"And how do you suppose we'd do that?" he asked, his tone mocking. "We'll be in Sweden."
She paused for a moment, examining the stitching of his quilt to avoid eye contact. "I thought that maybe…maybe we could stay here – you know, not go to Sweden quite so soon." Or ever. That would be nice.
Now he looked angry. "Lily," he hissed. "I'm taking you to Sweden to escape this mess; so we can live a normal life, away from the war. I'm only thinking of you – I'm trying to make you a better life! And this is how you repay me? You want to run off, join some crazy cult and get yourself killed?" He pulled his arm away from her, turning back to his side to lie down. "And what about the other day? I still haven't heard an apology for that."
In her excitement Lily had completely forgotten they weren't on speaking terms at the moment. "Richard, I appreciate it, I do, but the war is everywhere – it's not something you can escape my moving to Sweden."
"It's remote," he muttered into his pillow. "It's safe."
"But I want to do this."
He looked back over his shoulder, his eyes dark, like she had never seen them before. "No Lily."
"Because I don't want to die!"
And as he lay there staring at her, his eyes wide and his tone desperate, Lily felt as if she was seeing him for the first time. "You're running away," she said quietly, the disappointment evident in her voice. "You're not doing it for me; you're not noble…you're afraid."
A mumble from the opposite side of the room caught their attention - one of Richard's dorm mates being disturbed by their noise. Richard ran a hand along his forehead, quickly making his fearful expression with one of irritation. "This not the time or place, Lily," he whispered. "We'll talk about this tomorrow – in the morning - when you're thinking straight. I don't want to hear any more of this nonsense – go to bed."
"I am thinking straight," Lily replied bitterly. "And all I see is a coward. I'm not going to Sweden Richard; I'm staying here. I'm going to be a Healer, and I'm going to join The Order of the Phoenix with James and the others. If you don't love me enough to understand that, then you can go to Sweden by yourself – I don't care anymore."
"Potter?" he repeated, sitting up again sharply. "You were with Potter tonight?"
"Yes," she replied evenly.
He frowned. "Did he touch you?"
Lily rolled her eyes again. "Oh for goodness sake, Richard, stop being so childish. He took me to Dumbledore, okay? We sat in a meeting and then we came back here. Honestly, it's just pathetic."
"I said, did he touch you?"
Lily scoffed. Was there any point in trying to make him see reason? He clearly didn't trust her.
He sat up straighter, leaning in to her so that their faces were barely as inch apart. Lily would have expected him to kiss her if his face wasn't turned up into such a nasty scowl. "He wants you Lily, you know he does. And I think you're beginning to develop a soft spot for your little Head Boy," his voice was low and seductive. He ran his fingertips along the outside of her robes; up her leg and past her hip. "Do you like it when he touches you?" he asked in barely more than a whisper, his hand sliding up to cup her breast. "Does he touch you here?" Lily slapped his had away irritably. And he laughed, a cruel, hollow laugh she would expect from a madman. "Do you let his little Marauder friends touch you too? Do you let them fuck you?"
Lily's mouth dropped in utter scandal. "I can't believe you would disrespect me enough to even suggest something like that," she said, shaking her head. "I'm insulted Richard, and you're only managing to make a fool of yourself."
"No Lily," he said darkly, his hand finding its way around her pretty wrist. "It's you that made a fool out of me. I was willing to give you everything, and how do you repay me? By becoming Potter's slag."
"Take your hands off me, Richard," Lily hissed, struggling to release herself from his ever-tightening grip. "This has gone on for long enough; I won't be treated like this!"
But he ignored her, pushing her down onto the mattress and using his weight to pin her down. "Is that what you are, Lily? A slag? Is that how you want to be treated?" He bit at her neck, his hands searching to pull up her robes, his right knee forcing her legs apart. Lily groped for her wand, struggling to find the pocket as her robes became bunched about her hips. "If you want to act like a slut, that's how you'll be treated," he growled, one hand moving to cover her mouth while the other tore at her underwear.
"You could at least close the hanging's, Richard."
And they both froze. Richard's dorm mates were awake. It was enough. Lily grasped her wand, taking him by surprise as she cast a silent stupefy hex. He collapsed on top of her and Lily heaved him off, pushing so hard that he rolled right off the bed and onto the floor.
"For fuck's sake," the aggravated dorm mate complained again. "Will one of you please learn how to do a bloody silencing charm if you insist on shagging in here!"
"Darcy," Lily grunted, raising her wand in the boy's direction. "Go to hell." And she left him there, gaping like a fish with the perfect silencing charm.
She did not know how she ended up there. After what had just happened it was probably the most inappropriate place to go, but before she knew it, she was storming up the boys staircase in Griffindor Tower and launching herself at Potter's bed, where she found him sleeping soundly. Or at least until she shook him awake.
"Lily?" he slurred, sitting up immediately. "Are you all right? What are you doing here?"
"I'm so angry!" she fumed, her fists clenching around the wand she still held.
"Hang on," he hushed her, indicating the sleeping form of Remus in the bed beside his. She caught his meaning and curled her legs onto the bed as he knelt up to close the hangings. "All right, go on."
"I'm furious!" Lily began again, trying her best to keep her voice at a reasonable level. "I went to Richard, to tell him about the Order-" James gave her a disapproving look. "I know it was meant to be a secret," she hastened to explain. "But I thought if we all joined then he might want to stay here - I wouldn't have to go to Sweden… He said no."
James shook his head. "That doesn't mean you have to go-"
"Oh, I know!" Lily declared, taking James thoroughly by surprise. "Like hell I'm going anywhere with that pig!"
Her voice was steadily rising again, but James didn't bother to shush her. He was far too excited by this sudden development. "You broke up with him?" he asked, trying not to sound too eager.
"Well," she said thoughtfully. "There was no official 'I'm breaking up with you' statement, but I think he got the message." Maybe she should have told him about what had happened afterwards, but she was afraid James might try to kill him. Besides, Richard wouldn't be bothering her again.
Meanwhile, James had to momentarily lower his head to hide the grin that was trying to take over his face. He cleared his throat and lifted his head again with the intention of making some charming remark; now was his big moment – she was finally single again – but upon catching her eye, he noticed those lovely emerald orbs were slowly brimming with tears. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," she sniffed, wiping the unshed tears from her eyes. "I just feel so…light."
"Light?" James repeated with a slight laugh. "Is that a good thing?"
She laughed too, shaking her head and feeling utterly stupid for not being able to control her emotions. "It's such a relief… Oh, I'm sorry, I always do this to you don't I? I've cried more in this last week than I have in the past eighteen years - I feel like such a…girl!"
"That's quite all right," he grinned, reaching out to pull her closer. "Though I should warn you; there are some girls that can still look quite lovely when they cry – you my dear, are not one of them."
She released another watery laugh, punching him half-heartedly in the chest as he wrapped his arms around her; drawing her in for a hug. For the first time she realised he wasn't wearing a shirt and she was glad he could not see her blush as her face brushed against his bare skin of his collar bone. "So what will you do now all your plans are ruined?" he asked.
He felt her shake her head against his chest, and James hoped to God she could not feel his heart trying to beat its way out with the emotions she was causing him. "Actually, they're not – everything just became very clear," she sniffed, drying the last of her tears on the back of her hand. "I'm going to accept the scholarship, and then I think I'll owl Petunia; she might let me stay with her until I can afford my own place. I imagine she'll be selling our parents house."
"You can always stay with me."
Lily pulled apart, shaking her head steadily again. "No, you don't have to do that; I'm not trying to make you feel guilty."
"I don't feel guilty," he replied simply. "I'm offering because…well," and Lily thought she actually saw him blush. "You know how I feel."
Yes. Yes she did. "Thank you," she smiled, taking her right hand and placing it over his own. "But I think I'll try my luck with Petunia first. It might be a good opportunity to finally make amends-" She looked thoughtful. "Or maybe we'll end up tearing out each other's hair… Probably the later, but I need to give it a try."
He nodded acceptingly, trying hard to hide the disappointment he felt when she did not in fact jump into his arms the moment he reminded her of his love.
Lily sighed contently, turning towards the hangings. "I think I'm going to head to bed; I'll sleep well tonight." She dropped her legs over the side and James began to panic. She had been right there in his arms; finally letting go her of her prejudice against him, finally understanding how much he felt for her, finally single – but still she did not make any sign of ever returning those feelings… Oh sod it. If this was his last chance at getting her he was going to make the most of it.
"Bugger," Lily muttered. "I left my shoes in Richard's dorm. Now I'm going to have to ask for them back. Maybe I could just-"
But what exactly Lily was planning on doing James did not find out, as he took her face in his hands, crushing his lips to hers is a heart-breakingly desperate kiss. She did not struggle, but sat rigid and unresponding until he finally broke away, panting for breath. "I'm sorry," he muttered to her shocked expression. "That was completely inappropriate – I'm taking advantage of you, I'm so sorry. You must hate me now-"
But unless Lily was fond of demonstrating her abhorrence by snogging the other person senseless, he was quite mistaken. She caught him by surprise as he dropped his eyes in shame, pulling him closer by the back of his neck and pressing her already swollen lips to his. And it was perfect. He was quick to overcome his initial shock, poring his heart and soul into returning that wonderful kiss; passionate and always desperate, yet tender and loving. And everything James felt for her he gave to her right then and there until the need for air forced them apart.
James closed his eyes, trying to savour every moment of what had just occurred. "Did that really just happen?" he breathed, his heart still pounding wildly in his chest. "Or am I dreaming? If so, I never want to wake up." He felt her shove him in the chest and opened his eyes to see her cringing.
"Don't say that," she squirmed. "It's terrible."
James furrowed his brow. "But I mean it."
"It's so corny!"
"Actually," he pouted. "It was very hard for me to say and now you're making fun."
"Now you're just ruining the mood."
"Well what do you expect me to do after a comment like that?"
He grinned. "Just love me."
And at last she smiled. "I can do that," she nodded, taking his hand in hers.
"So…" James cleared his throat. "Does that include all access right to that tattoo?"
Lily rolled her eyes. "Now who's ruining the mood?"
"Are you kidding me? I'm just setting it; roll over for me," he grinning wickedly, gently lying her down and lifting her robes, causing her to shriek and giggle as he pulled them over her head. "Now let's have a look. On your knees…that's a good girl…"
"Do you think he'd kill me if I interrupted to remind them they forgot the silencing charm?" Remus muttered to Sirius across the room.
Sirius paused as Lily gave a particularly high-pitched squeal of delight. "Moony, it's Evans. We'll let him off just this once."