A/N – I'm starting to think my updates are severely restricted to during the holidays – winter, spring, summer, whenever, as long as classes have ended. And in following that shameful pattern, here's the next chapter. I haven't heard back from the betas yet, but I didn't want to make you all wait longer than I had to. I apologize in advance for the horrible typos or errors I've most likely made, and I will update the document once the betas send over the edited version.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J. K. Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
"Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings."
- Jane Austen
'My name's Betty Braithwaite, and I'm your girlfriend.'
James' omelette sandwich nearly lodged itself in his throat. He cleared it, eyes watering, and took a gulp of pumpkin juice before turning to Betty with a startled expression on his face.
'My what?' he stuttered, eyes agog.
'I'm your girlfriend,' said Betty calmly, passing him a napkin and swiping a hand over his back as he took another gulp from his goblet.
James stared at her in horror, unable to process the information. It seemed entirely implausible that this girl, Betty Braithwaite, should be his girlfriend. After all, James kept remembering the girl in the common room—Lily Evans. He liked her; he was sure of it. So why—how could he have possibly asked out another bird?
James lamented the loss of his memory at that moment, unable to piece together the bits of his life that seemed foreign.
He surveyed Betty from the corner of his eyes as a grabbed a crumpet from across the table; something was off about the situation. After all, if James had a girlfriend, wouldn't his supposed best friend, Sirius Black, have told him? Why would Sirius have told him that Lily Evans was the 'love of his sad and pathetic life'? None of it fit. James was quick to voice his concerns.
'But—but Sirius said—'
He was cut short by Betty's sharp intake of breath. 'No,' she whispered. 'You talked to Black? No, not him.'
'What?' said James blankly as Betty moved her hands from off his back and on either side of her freckled face frantically. 'Not him.'
James watched her anxiously. 'What? What's wrong with Sirius? Er—Betty, are you okay?'
The sound of her name must have snapped her back to normalcy, because she turned to him suddenly, her eyes piercing into his, and her jaw set determinedly. 'Listen to me, James. Sirius Black. You can't trust him.'
James blinked. 'Why not? He was my best mate, wasn't he?'
'No!' said Betty, her voice coming out shrill. She put her hands on his shoulders and shook him slightly. 'No, please James, listen to me. Don't let him manipulate you again. He's lying to you!'
James was never good with tears. Perhaps he lost his memory, but he still retained the innate sense of self that told him that the growing moisture on the corners of Betty's eyes was not particularly a good sign. James knew he had to do something.
'Okay,' he said, placing his own hand on Betty's shoulder in an attempt to calm her. 'Okay. Just relax, alright?'
She nodded shakily in response, making an attempt to compose herself.
'Okay,' said James. 'Now what's wrong with Sirius?'
Betty scowled. 'Merlin, I can't stand him.' She sighed. 'You were right about one thing, James. Sirius Black was your best friend. But he isn't anymore.'
James furrowed his brow. 'Why's that?'
'Because,' said Betty, and while she seemed reluctant, she looked him directly in the eye, 'he went out with Lily Evans.'
James jolted at the name. 'He what?' he croaked.
Betty appeared slightly downcast as she spoke. 'Lily Evans. You might have seen her around, she's in Gryffindor too. See, you and I have been going out for a year, but that, you fancied Lily for a while.'
James' heart thumped wildly in his chest. 'I did?'
Betty rolled her eyes. 'It's what you told me when we started going out. You fancied Lily for ages, everyone knew that, but then she started going out with Sirius Black, your best mate.' She spat the two last words. 'He went behind your back, James, and you both duelled it out in the Great Hall during the Halloween feast last year. You were in the hospital wing for two days and the two of you haven't spoken since. At the beginning of this year, Black tried to make up with you. I suppose he and Evans broke up over the summer. You wouldn't listen to him and he didn't like that. The next day, he—he asked me to Hogsmeade.' Betty narrowed her eyes bitterly, looking away. 'You and I were already going out by then, but that didn't stop him from trying to snog me.'
James gripped the edge of the table, but Betty grabbed his hands quickly, smoothing out the tight muscles with her hands. She smiled at him.
'Don't worry. I hexed him something fierce, came to you and then you hexed him worse.' Betty giggled. 'It was adorable, really. I didn't realize how protective you were of me until that happened.'
James found himself fond of Betty already.
'Anyway, we don't talk to Black anymore. And—' she added, intertwining her fingers with his, '—we're reaching our 15-month anniversary.'
James nodded numbly. 'So then... Lily Evans...'
'What about her?' said Betty sharply. 'You are over her, aren't you? That's what you told me when we started dating.'
'Lily's nice, of course. I haven't got a problem with her at all. I'm not a possessive girlfriend, it's just that I wasn't sure if you were lying to me last year when you told me you didn't like her anymore. Do you?" She gave a vulnerable half-smile.
James considered Betty, her dark brown, shoulder-length hair and light freckles splashed over her nose, and after her story, she appeared to him rather familiar. He'd had her by his side for a year, this girl, and in his memory loss, he'd been staring after a girl, Lily Evans, who'd helped his former best friend betray him.
James leant forward and kissed Betty on the cheek. 'Of course I don't. How could I when I have you?'
Betty beamed. 'Whew, I was worried there for a second. I thought for sure you were going to say yes. After all, you've lost your memory. It was the best chance I had to get the truth out of you, yeah?'
'Now off you go,' added Betty. 'You've got Potions first thing and Slughorn hates late students.
'Remember what I said, yeah?' called Betty as James stood to leave. 'Watch out for Black?'
James nodded curtly, and with one fleeting lopsided grin, he departed.
It wasn't until supper later that day that Lily discovered the news about Potter's newest girlfriend. In fact, Betty Braithwaite became a sensation within hours amongst the eligible birds in Hogwarts, though none were particularly pleased with the news.
'Betty Braithwaite,' Doris Cockford was saying. The Hufflepuffs had migrated over to the Gryffindor table that morning along with several others, to discuss the new turn of events. 'I can't believe it. Betty.'
'No fair,' pouted Greta Catchlove, a girl from Ravenclaw. 'I would've asked him out sooner if I thought he'd say yes.'
'Then why didn't you?' said Kalah in an annoyed voice as she stabbed mid-yawn into her porridge with her spoon.
'Because he'd say no,' said Greta, as though it were obvious. 'Everyone knows he fancied Lily since third year.'
'But Betty?' insisted Doris.
'Oh, shut up Doris,' put in Cynthia Cattermole from Ravenclaw. 'You're only bitter because she got to James Potter before you did.'
'Well, this is nice, isn't it?' said Titchy loftily from Kalah's other side. 'That Gryffindors, Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs alike can get together to discuss a piece of gossip?'
Kalah snorted milk from her nostrils, after which both Marlene and Titchy began to chant 'snort!' from the top of their lungs, a habit they'd gained one day after Quidditch practice together.
It was during this loud ruckus that Lily arrived to breakfast with Alice. The latter held up her Arithmancy textbook sheepishly as she took the seat opposite Kalah. 'It was under the bed the whole time,' she said. 'Lily found it.'
Lily took a victorious bow.
Kalah grinned. 'Always losing the textbooks, aren't you?'
Alice shook her head. 'I don't know how it happens. I come back from class, but them somewhere and then forget the next morning where I'd kept them. 'Anyway, what were you lot talking about?'
'Ah... the real question is,' said Kalah, 'to what piece of gossip do we owe this gathering of Houses?'
Lily nodded to her. 'Yeah, that.'
Doris and Greta exchanged looks before glancing towards Lily anxiously.
'What is it?' asked Lily curiously as she buttered a piece of toast
Doris cleared her throat. 'James Potter has a new girlfriend. Betty Braithwaite. She's been telling anyone who would listen.'
'Is that so?' Lily took a large bit out of her toast contentedly. Then she paused, looking up slowly.
'Doris asked James herself,' chirped Greta.
'You asked him?' asked Lily, her voice odd.
Lily cleared her throat. 'No reason. Did he... seem himself?'
Kalah turned to Lily suddenly, as though remembering at that moment that James Potter had lost his memory.
Greta shrugged. 'I suppose. As charming as ever. Why?'
'I guess you should have gone to Slughorn's party with him after all?' said Doris gently.
Lily burst out laughing before she got the chance to put a piece of waffle into her mouth. She waved the waffle-pieced fork at them. 'Don't worry about me. I couldn't care less who resident git James Potter was dating.' She popped the piece into her mouth. 'Merlin, these are heavenly.'
Greta and Doris once again exchanged nervous glasses and Lily grabbed a goblet of pumpkin juice and downed it in one.
'Besides,' said Lily. 'What I told Potter was nothing but the truth. I didn't go out with him because he makes me physically sick, not because I was playing hard to get.'
'Oh, come off it, Lily!' said Doris. 'You're not telling me you'd never go out with him.'
'Just you wait, Lily,' said Greta. 'You'll fall for that Potter charm one of these days.'
Lily laughed, choked on her waffle, and Kalah, Marlene and Titchy all started to chant 'Choke!' from the top of their lungs.
'Since when did he start going out with Betty Braithwaite!'
While the news of James' new association with the Ravenclaw was a sensation for much of Hogwarts, it was a living nightmare for one Sirius Black. Ever since the day after he'd lost his memory, James had been acting odd and aloof among the company of his friends and refused to engage the topic of his discontentment when asked. Next thing Sirius knew, Stacey McKinnon was telling him at lunch that she heard from her brother John, who heard it from his Potions partner, Annie, who heard it from her cousin, Greta Catchlove, that James Potter was dating Betty Braithwaite. The news came as somewhat of a shock to Sirius, Remus and Peter, who had all been exposed to James' utter infatuation with Lily Evans in previous years. Now, Sirius was pacing across his dormitory while Remus glanced at him from over his book and while Peter looking in front of him at the half-played game of Wizard's Chess in the midst of which Sirius had abandoned him.
'But how? He's still got it in for Evans, so what made him jump the wand and suddenly make him—how could a day apart from us make Prongs into—into—' He grasped at the air for words.
'Mr Betty Braithwaite?' supplied Peter.
Sirius pointed at him with emphasis. 'Exactly! We didn't see him this morning and he wasn't talking to us during Transfiguration. I just figured he was having trouble making conversation since he's gone and forgotten us all. But none of him have seen him since. He didn't even tell me that he was dating bloody Braithwaite!'
Remus put down his book. 'So then the change must have occurred between early morning and Transfiguration after lunch. That leaves us with a seven-hour gap of transformation from six in the morning to one in the afternoon. We've all agreed that none of us had seen Prongs within that time—'
'He didn't even show up to lunch,' said Peter. 'It was weird having him not compete for the roast beef with me.' Sirius patted his shoulder sympathetically.
'Maybe we should ask Betty,' said Remus diplomatically. 'She's the only factor that's changed since James lost his memory.
'Right,' said Sirius, heading for the door. 'I'll go settle this right now.'
'Oye—Lily. Care to explain why you're staring over at Gryffindor's finest Chaser and his newest lady love?'
Lily whirled round to face Kalah, appearing mortified. 'What! I wasn't—'
Kalah turned the page of her DADA textbook with a smug grin. 'I'm so sure.'
Lily shoved Kalah playfully on the arm. 'You know why. Am I the only one who finds that odd?'
Kalah looked up from her textbook. 'What do you mean?' Wait—don't tell me Greta Catchlove was right. Have you fallen for the charm of one James Potter?'
Lily rolled her eyes. 'Oh, spare me. Of course not, you Pygmy Puff. Honestly, is everyone expecting me to suddenly have feelings for Potter once he starts dating another girl?'
Kalah shrugged. 'It'd make a brilliantly cheesy love story, wouldn't it?'
Lily rolled her eyes. 'I'm sure Alice is more suited to those.'
Kalah frowned. 'Alice? What do you mean?'
Lily faltered. 'Er—nothing, never mind. You know her and her Witch Weekly. That's the sort of stories they have there, yeah?'
Kalah shrugged. 'So why the staring, Lily?' she asked instead, jerking her thumb towards James.
Lily leant in towards Kalah. 'Well, I realize it's none of my business. But isn't it odd? Betty Braithwaite tells Doris Crockford in Charms last week that she wished she'd gotten a chance to ask Potter to Slughorn's Christmas party to make Chris Humphrey jealous. And then a week later, Potter loses his memory and he's dating her?'
Kalah shrugged. 'Maybe she got to him while he was on a fresh start.'
'Maybe,' mused Lily. 'But something seems off about this whole thing. Anyway,' added Lily, flipping through her book. 'It's not like any of this is my business, yeah?'
Kalah remained quiet, as though unsure what to say, until a distraction in the form of Sirius Black arrived in the common room. Black appeared determined in his mannerisms, and his confident march towards Potter and Braithwaite succeeded in attracting both Lily and Kalah's attention.
'Why the rush,' muttered Kalah. Lily shrugged in reply. They watched as Potter, Black and Braithwaite had a conversation they could not hear. Potter and Braithwaite were initially cold, and Black polite. They spoke for a while and Lily watched as both Potter and Black grew progressively angrier. Finally, Black shot a spiteful look towards Braithwaite and made a comment, after which Potter stood up lightning-fast. Black held his ground, and Potter spoke for a bit before Black, appearing suddenly shocked, turned and stormed away.
Kalah let out a low whistle. 'Trouble in paradise?'
Lily closed her textbook, packing her things for astronomy that day. 'There's an understatement.'
Astronomy class ended particularly late that night, and as she walked up the castle steps alone after having taken a short stop at the lavatory, Lily began to rethink her decision to keep astronomy as a subject for the next year. It was past curfew, and only the few lamps on the wall kept the hallway in the dark castle alit.
Lily reached into her robes and pulled out her wand. Despite the fact that she knew Hogwarts was a generally safe place, the eerie and ominous atmosphere of the flickering lighted hallway prompted her to prepare for danger; Lily found herself taking tentative steps.
She heard a shuffling as she neared the corridor where the Fat Lady's portrait was hung. She froze in her steps and whirled around towards the sound, the wand held tighter in her hand than ever before. When she didn't see anything, she hastened her steps towards the Gryffindor common room, eager to shake off the feeling of being watched. It was only when Lily turned the corner that she heard the hiss.
'Oh my God!'
There was a loud bang and a squeal and suddenly Lily couldn't scream anymore. A large hand clamped roughly against her mouth and an arm snaked round her body, gripping her wand hand and rendering her unable to fire any more spells.
Lily attempted to use her free arm to free herself, thrusting her elbow backward in an attempt to make contact with the attacker's ribs. She missed, and a short back-like chuckling filled her ears.
Lily froze. Her attacker's head bent down next to hers and Lily saw Sirius Black's face grinning down at her. Remus emerged from the shadows.
'Lily,' he said gravely. 'We need your help.'
Lily blinked, relaxing considerably at the sight of her fellow Prefect and friend. 'Remus!' she gasped with relief, but her voice came out muffled against Black's hand. Satisfied that she was no longer going to scream, Black dropped the hand against her mouth.
'What's the big idea!'
'Now, now, Evans,' said Black pleasantly, still restricting her movements and her wand work with the arm round her middle. 'You wouldn't want to wake up the entire castle, now would you? Not especially since it is officially past curfew and we are wandering castle walls.'
Lily clamped her mouth shut and shot Black a loathing look. He chuckled in response.
'Oh my God,' he repeated curiously. 'That was very Muggle of you, by the way.'
Lily shot him a dirty look. 'I am a Muggle-born, aren't I?'
'Oh yeah, I keep forgetting.'
'Care to let me go, git? What do you want, anyway?'
'Certainly I'll let you go—but I'm going to need your word that you'll cooperate.'
Lily looked to Remus for help, but he shrugged with the air of someone who had given up trying to control his mates. He seemed preoccupied somehow, and was scanning the ground, grasping at the air oddly.
Lily sighed. 'Cooperate how exactly?' she said curtly.
'Just hear us out is all,' said Black pleasantly.
'Fine. Now let go.'
Black grinned impishly. 'As you wish.' He dropped his hands and stepped back, dusting them against each other with a victorious air. 'Alright, so what we need you help with is—'
But what Black needed help with Lily did not find out because he became suddenly rigid as a board, and appearing entirely shell-shocked, he topped to the floor. Lily stood over him brandishing her wand. She then stowed it and dusted her own hands in a mocking victorious manner. 'The full-body bind. Not very fun, is it?'
Remus snorted from behind her. 'Good one.'
'He had it coming.' Lily turned to him, appearing curious as he continued to grasp at air. 'Er, Remus—what are you doing?'
Remus gave a wry grin. 'Trying to find Peter.' He gave a chuckle. 'He's the one who was following you.'
Lily wrinkled her brow in confusion. 'But, how—oh!' Her clouded expression cleared as she remembered a very rare object. 'Potter's Invisibility cloak.'
'Unfortunately, yes. Sirius nicked it. The thing is, when Sirius over there decided to pop out from the shadows, he startled you, and I think you might have fired a spell. Any idea what it was?'
Lily shook her head. 'I don't know, I just panicked.'
Remus shrugged. 'Well, he hasn't appeared, so most likely he's unconscious and around here somewhere—ah.'
And in one fluid movement, Remus reached down and made a pulling notion. A silvery cloak extended from his fingers and once it was balled up in his hand, Lily could see the unconscious figure of Peter Pettigrew lying on the ground.
Remus bent to examine him and then turned to Lily with a small smile. 'Don't worry, he's only Stunned. Enervate.'
Pettigrew's eyelids fluttered open and he sat up, appearing dazed.
'Sorry Pettigrew,' said Lily sheepishly. 'You startled me.'
Pettigrew nodded slowly, his gaze taking in his surroundings. When it stopped at Black's frozen figure, he jerked a thumb towards it. 'What happened to—'
Lily cleared her throat. 'That was me too, though not an accident.'
Pettigrew gave a loud guffaw at this piece of news. 'Excellent!'
Lily grinned despite herself, and found herself in good enough spirits to turn to Remus and ask, 'Right. So what is it you lot need from me?'
'Right,' said Remus. 'Sorry about this, by the way, Lily. We wanted to be able to talk to you when you were on your own and you weren't in the common room—Mary MacDonald said you were at astronomy, so we thought we'd wait for you. It was Sirius' idea to jump out at you just now; he thought you'd hex the lot of us if he didn't, and I suppose he was right to an extent.' He gestured toward Peter helplessly. 'You did get Peter, after all.'
Lily grinned sheepishly.
'OK,' said Remus. 'What we need your help with is—and don't make a decision right away—w were wondering if you could talk to James for us.'
Lily blinked, looking from Remus to Pettigrew, who was now dusting himself off as he stood up. 'James? You mean Potter? Why?'
'Well, you know he's not himself,' said Remus, always quick to defend his mates. 'He's lost his memory, so he's fairly vulnerable at the moment and—'
'He's not talking to us,' said Pettigrew. 'He hasn't talked to us since last night and we're fairly certain he's mad at us about something.'
'How do you mean?'
'He told me he never wanted to see me again.'
The voice came from their right and Lily, Remus and Pettigrew all turned to see Black slowly get to his feet, the full-body bind finally having worn off. 'Nice one, by the way, Evans. Anyway, James and I have fought plenty of times, and we really go at it sometimes, ready to break limbs if we have to—but he's never said that to me. Memory loss or no, this time's different. The thing is, he's mad and none of us know why. He won't speak with any of us, and he's dating Betty Braithwaite now. There's something off about that bird too,' added Black scratching the back of his head. 'The way she was glaring at me earlier today, you'd think—'
'Yeah,' mused Lily. 'In the common room, right? I saw the lot of you arguing.'
Black scoffed. 'That's an understatement. James nearly bit my head off today. Told me I'd lied to him, that I'd backstabbed him. Couldn't even get in a word myself, and that little bitc—'
'—what he means,' interrupted Remus, 'is that James is going to get his memory back one of these days and find himself in a very precarious situation, dating Betty Braithwaite without knowing why, and estranging himself form his friends. We just want to make sure he's okay. That's all.'
'And what exactly did you want me to do about it?'
'Talk to him?' suggested Pettigrew.
'He's obviously not going to listen to us,' said Black moodily. 'But he'll listen to you.'
'What makes you think—'
'He always held you in high regard when he lost his memory,' said Remus gently. 'We're confident that hasn't changed.'
Lily considered him for a moment before letting out a sig. 'And what exactly am I supposed to tell him? Don't date Betty Braithwaite for a few days?' she added sarcastically. 'How do you suppose that's going to look on my part?'
'Like a jealous hag,' said Pettigrew amicably.
Lily shot him a look.
'I suppose you could just talk to him about what's been going on recently. Ask him how he's coping with his memory loss and ask him if his friends are helping him adjust. That'll give you the perfect in to find out why he's been so off with us lately.'
Sirius gave a hopeless shrug. 'Well, Evans? Will you help us?'
Lily looked upon the three pitiful faces before her. 'Fine,' she said, feeling as though she'd just agreed to donate a million galleons to St. Mungo's from the happy faces she was getting from them. 'I'll do it.'
When she woke up the next morning, Lily completely forgot about her encounter with Sirius Black and his mates for a total of four and a half seconds before her memory came flooding back to her. When she woke up, Kalah was in the midst of a conversation with Marlene about their uncoming Quidditch match, and to Lily, Quidditch meant Potter acting like a bigoted git for a week before and after, Potter, who lost his memory, whose friends she'd promised to help last night.
She was groaning, then, when she pushed aside the curtains of her four-poster and stumbled out of bed.
'Well, it depends on how behind we are,' Marlene was saying. 'Ravenclaw lost to Slytherin by only 30 points, but Hufflepuff beat Slytherin by 55 last month, so I should probably hold out on catching the Snitch until we're at least 60 points ahead, yeah?'
'But don't forget—Ravenclaw also beat Slytherin before the hols—' said Kalah. 'By 20 poitns too, which makes it easier for us. Will said we'll probably—all right, Lily?'
Lily yawned as she stood up and stretched. 'Yeah,' she said. 'Just tired.'
Sure enough, Lily had gotten into her dormitory quite late the night before. After she agreed to help Sirius Black help James Potter, the three mates prepared her about the situation.
'She's been feeding him lies, I'm sure of it,' Black had said as he paced. 'James kept talking about betrayal, but he wouldn't say what, and Braithwaite kept nodding throughout.'
Lily had sighed at the entire situation. 'Wouldn't it be easier if you just went to a professor and got the whole thing sorted out?' she asked matter-of-factly.
'Yeah, sure,' Black had scoffed. 'How would that go, exactly? Er—Professor McGonagall, Betty Braithwaite is dating our mate, James Potter. Mind giving her a detention?'
Peter laughed under his breath until Lily gave him a look that cut his laughter short.
'We did go to Professor McGonagall though, Lily,' said Remus. 'When James first lost his memory. She told us the spell was likely cast by an inexperienced witch or wizard, and that it'll run out on its own in a few days. He's our problem until then.'
Lily looked between the three of them, puzzled. 'Well, if it'll run out in a few days, what's the problem? He'll wake up one of these days the same berk I've known for five years, and then he can decide on his own whether to chuck Betty, can't he?'
'Trust me, Evans,' Black had said. 'If James wakes up tomorrow morning the same berk we loved since first year, he'd murder the lot of us for having let us date Betty Braithwaite. That's why. In fact, I'm not even too sure he'd be keen on your help, but we didn't have much of a choice, see.'
'So how exactly am I supposed to talk to him if Braithwaite's a problem?
'Don't you worry about that,' Black had said with an impish grin. 'We'll take care of that one.'
Lily didn't know what that meant, but she supposed she trusted Black in that regard. Anyway, she wasn't invested enough in the situation to carry it out with perfection.
Lily jumped, realizing with a start that Kalah and Marlene were already dressed, and were looking at her expectantly.
'Yeah,' she said, hurrying towards the bathroom. 'Give me a sec.'
All through breakfast, Lily attempted to think of reasonable things to say to Potter.
So... You're dating Betty Braithwaite, I hear...
No. Not so obvious.
It's been the talk of the school.
Please. As though she'd care about something like that.
You know, your friends have been worried about you lately.
Lily was finishing up a slice of toast when she saw a head of messy black hair leave the Great Hall. She got to her feet.
'What's wrong, Lily?' asked Alice mildly.
Lily considered, staring at the exit. It was probably best to get this over with. That way, she wouldn't have it over her head. Her job would be done and that would be the end of that.
'Nothing,' she said in response. 'But—I'll be right back.'
She took fast strides until she was in the Entrance Hall, considering which direction Potter had gone. Perhaps she was too late. She was turning to return to the Great Hall when she heard voices. Lily followed them to a small corridor on the right. She turned a corner, hoping to catch Potter when she inadvertently caught a lot more of Potter than she'd wanted.
He was wrapped around Betty Braithwaite in a tight embrace, holding her up against the stone wall and snogging her, while her greedy hands roamed about. They broke apart suddenly at the interruption, appearing stunned.
Lily turned away quickly. 'Sorry!' she squealed, her voice pitched oddly higher than normal. She strode away quickly, her cheeks flaming red, ignoring Potter's calls after her.
'Lily? Lily, wait—'
She'd turned the corner before he got any more words out.
Lily was in Ancient Runes that morning, waiting for her lesson to begin when Sirius Black stopped by her bench.
'What happened?' he asked.
Lily stared at him. 'You're not in this class, you know,' she said.
'Never mind that. I saw you follow James out at breakfast. You didn't come back.'
Lily flipped through her textbook idly. 'Hm, I wasn't hungry anymore.' She made a face of distaste. 'I was nauseous, see. Are you sure you want to break up Potter and Braithwaite?'
Black raised an eyebrow. 'What do you mean?' he asked.
'I don't know,' she said loftily. 'They seemed to really like each other when I walked in on them today.'
'Argh!' Black recoiled backward. 'He didn't—'
'You know, I'm starting to think I'm not getting paid enough for this job. Well, I'm not getting paid at all, but with the damages I faced today—'
'Jealous much, Evans?' said Black with a grin.
'Hardly,' shot back Lily. 'I'm just sorry I had to see Potter shove his tongue down Betty Braithwaite's throat.'
Black winced. 'He did that?'
'Well, one of them did, but I didn't intend to hang round to find out. Though, I'm sure they'd be willing to demonstrate if you asked nicely enough.'
'Er... no thanks.'
Lily had faced many awkward moments in her young life. There was the time when Petunia was talkinga bout Suzy Myer's rather unbecoming attitude and unlady-like manners when they were eight and ten respectively and playing in the park, and Suzy Myers had happened by, appearing offended. There was that time Lily had caught Professor McGonagall turning down the Minister of Magical Law Enforcement, Elphinstone Urquart, in marriage; she'd seen the man's photograph in the Daily Prophet only the week before, so seeing him on his knees in Professor McGonagall's office when she had gone in to ask a question, was more than uncomfortable at the time. There was also that time when Lily spent ten minutes explaining the nuances of the N.E.W.T.s to Mary MacDonald, after which Mary simply stared at her and stated that she actually wanted to borrow one of Lily's dried newt eyes from her potions kit.
But there was something odd about experiencing a moment, because when James Potter approached her later that day, Lily couldn't remember any of her past awkward moments, and she could have sworn that she had never felt so uncomfortable there than anywhere else.
Potter stood behind her outside the greenhouses as they waited to get into Herbology that day.
'Hi Lily,' he said.
Lily nodded awkwardly, but she felt her cheeks flame up instantly. There was an uncomfortable pause and then they both spoke at once:
'Hey, I'm sorry, I—'
They paused again, both eliciting short awkward laughs.
'I didn't mean to—'
'We shouldn't have—'
Another pause. Lily gave an awkward smile.
'I heard a sound in the corridor when I thought everyone was at breakfast. I hadn't realized you and Betty were—'
'Uh—no, that's okay,' said Potter immediately, turning bright red himself. 'Don't apologize—we shouldn't have been out there—er—yeah.'
The uncomfortable silence rang in Lily's ears, and she turned away slightly, hoping to end this mortifying conversation. Then she remembered Black's pleas to speak with Potter regarding his condition. She turned again and found Potter regarding her oddly. She averted his gaze, waving her arms wildly.
'So—Potter—I don't mean to pry or anything, but what's the deal with you and your friends?'
Potter's expression turned into a scowl, and he stuffed his hands into his robes, turning his head to watch as the second-years filed out of the greenhouse. 'What do you mean?'
Lily cleared her throat, business-like. 'You know, Black, Lupin and Pettigrew.'
'I noticed you don't hang round them anymore. What happened?'
'Nothing,' said Potter, though he sounded curt. 'I suppose I found out they weren't very good mates.'
'What makes you say that?' pressed Lily.
Potter didn't respond for a while, and Lily was very much ready to drop it, losing interest fast in Black and his cause. Then,
'Besides, you know who your real friends are by the way they treat your girlfriend. Black doesn't know how to get along with Betty, and while he may not like her, for someone who's had to put up with her being my girlfriend for the past fifteen months, he could have shown some effort.'
'Fifteen months?' echoed Lily.
'Yeah,' said Potter with a grin. 'Our anniversary's coming up.'
Lily raised an eyebrow. 'Congratulations, then.'
'Thanks.' Another grin.
Lily was about to enjoy an early supper before her meeting with Professor Slughorn regarding her extra-credit assignment, when Black ambushed her again in the common room.
'New plan, Evans.'
'Already?' Lily had begun to surprise herself at how readily she was becoming interested in Black's schemes. At first, they appeared diabolically interfering, but constantly being updated on the progress of their schemes made her begrudgingly understand the thrill of their constant pranks, disapproving of them though she may be.
'Yeah,' said Black. 'Thanks to your information. Makes sense, though, doesn't it? Of course Braithwaite would tell him he'd been chained to her for over a year. He can't remember the past six!'
'Now, we only need your help with one more thing. Care to brew us a Polyjuice potion by dinner?'
Lily stared at him, eyes agog. 'A Polyjuice—are you kidding me, those take weeks to—'
'Fine, for after dinner then—'
'Alright, last offer, for before curfew—come on, Evans, Slughorn calls you his pet for a reason, surely—'
'He does not—what do you need a Polyjuice potion for, anyway?'
Black regarded her critically. 'We just need it.'
'Well, I can't brew it in three hours. Even if I could, I'm not sure I'd trust you with it, to be h—'
'Looks like I'll have to nick it from Slughorn, then. Thanks anyway, Evans. Cheers!'
Lily watched dumbfounded, as Black disappeared behind the portrait door. 'What?'
Sirius Black woke up the next morning with a pillow having been unceremoniously thrown at his face. He sat up immediately, brandishing the offending pillow threateningly.
'Which one of you berks—'
'Oi, Padfoot, help me find my other Quidditch glove, will you?'
Sirius dropped the pillow. 'What did you call me?'
James ignored him, throwing open his trunk and digging through it.
'Come on, I'm late for practice!'
Sirius jumped to his feet. 'I don't believe it. You answered to Prongs.'
'Of course I did, you've been calling me that since summer.'
'You don't remember?'
Sirius regarded him, wide-eyed. 'What happened yesterday, mate?'
'What are you talking about—we Dungbombed Filch's office, didn't we?'
'Prongs, that was three days ago.'
'It's Friday!' Sirius strode over to Remus' four-poster bed, threw open his curtain and chucked his pillow at his sleeping mate's face. 'Oi, Moony. Tell Prongs it's Friday.'
Remus rolled over in his bed. 'It's Friday! Now go away!'
Sirius shut the curtains again.
James' jaw dropped wide open.
'Alright, so you're telling me I lost my memory, 'said James, as he and Sirius held down the boys dormitory stairs and into the common room.
'Well, that's—' James paused, having caught sight of Lily Evans curled up on one of the one-seat sofas in the far corner.
'Oi, Evans—what day is it?' he called rather obnoxiously.
Lily jumped and turned around immediately, her facial expression registering shock. Then, slowly, as though working out a difficult problem in her head, she looked from Black to Potter. 'Potter,' she said finally. 'Back, are we?'
James' grin faltered. 'It's true? I lost my memory?'
Lily rolled her eyes. 'I think I liked him better when he lost his memory.'
Sirius broke into laughter and James glowered at him, just as Kalah and Marlene came running down the stairs, donned in Quidditch wear.
'Coming to watch, James?' asked Marlene dubiously, regarding him.
'What?' replied James. 'No, we have practice, yeah?'
'Yeah,' said Marlene, appearing confused, as she glanced from Lily to James. 'But haven't you...' She gestured vaguely at her head.
'I'm not mad!' said James hotly. 'And there's nothing wrong with my memory, either. I've remembered everything.'
'Have you, now?' said Kalah, taking a few steps towards him. 'Do you remember yesterday? Or the day before?'
James scratched the back of his head. 'Well—except for the last few days. The last thing I remember is Dungbombing Filch's office on Tuesday.'
Lily rolled her eyes. 'Figures.'
'Wait,' persisted Kalah. 'Do you remember Betty Braithwaite?'
A furrow appeared between James' eyebrows. 'Who? That bird in Ravenclaw? Isn't she in our Charms?'
Kalah's jaw dropped open. 'You don't remember her? You don't remember sno—'
'Aren't you late for Quidditch, Ramnath?' said Sirius loudly, grabbing her arm wildly and directing her to the portrait door. Marlene and James followed, and as they got to the common room's exit, Lily found herself standing next to Sirius.
'Oi, Black,' she said, her arms crossed over her chest and an eyebrow raised. 'How'd you do it? Braithwaite's situation. He doesn't know?'
Sirius grinned. 'A wizard doesn't reveal his secrets,' he said.
'Sure he does,' said Lily loftily. 'Unless said wizard wants to be reported for stealing Polyjuice potion from Professor Slughorn's personal ingredients cabinet.'
Sirius laughed. 'Touché, Evans. Well...'
In the Mad Mind of Sirius Black...
'Hurry, Filch is gone! Pick the lock, Moony!'
'He's coming around again!'
'Yeah, right—I still haven't recovered from gutting those flobberworms last time—'
'Moony, are you done yet?'
'Are you kidding me? This was locked by a professional Potions master who—'
'Here, try this—'
'Where did you—oi, it works! Hurry, everyone in!
'Let me tell you, I absolutely refuse to become a woman.'
'Come on, Moony, you're the closest of all of us to a bird—'
'—I beg your pardon, I—'
'—you even have your monthly cycles and everything—'
'I swear to Merlin, Sirius—'
'Fine, then—Wormtail, you're up—'
'Take one for the team, mate—'
'You take one for the team, if you're so keen—'
'Hm, always the diplomatic one, Moony—'
'Come on, then.'
'You know what to do, right, Betty?'
'I swear to Merlin—'
'Sorry, I meant Moony.'
'I'm so sure.'
'How's it feel, Pete?'
'I do admit, I enjoy the height.'
'Ready to break hearts, Wormtail?'
'Hearts? I thought it was just the one.'
'Just go out there.'
'Excellent! Did you see the look on her face?'
'I daresay that went rather well.'
'What exactly are we supposed to do tomorrow, when Prongs cools down and is going to want to talk to Braithwaite? We can't exactly tell him we used Polyjuice.'
'Well, to be fair, he doesn't quite know what Polyjuice even is at the moment.'
'That's okay. We'll work it one day at a time.'
'Shatter one rule at a time.'
'Sounds about right.'
'Oi, Black. What in Merlin are you saying? You're not making any sense.'
Sirius blinked. 'Er—well, long story short, I had Remus change into Braithwaite and Peter into James. We had "Betty confess to our pathetic memory-lost mate and then we staged a very public break-up with the real Braithwaite and James' double at dinner. Shame you skipped dinner last night, Evans. It was hilarious, you should have seen the look on Braithwaite's face. Turned out she only scammed James because she was trying to make another bloke jealous. But that was pretty clever of us, eh?'
Lily laughed. 'Oh sure, clever. Never mind that you broke about a million rules.'
'Breaking and entering. Theft. Misuse of—'
'Alright, alright. But you know, you shouldn't be worrying too much about the Polyjuice potion. I mean, it's not like we haven't done it before.'
Lily's jaw dropped open. 'What?'
'Never mind that,' said Sirius hastily. 'Want to know something else Braithwaite said while Pete-turned James was breaking her heart?'
Lily regarded him warily.
'She said,' continued Sirius. 'James should be grateful that she posed as his girlfriend because at the very least, it's accomplished one thing.'
Sirius leant forward with a grin. 'At least for a little while, it's made you jealous.'
And with a wave, he departed, leaving Lily appearing scandalized in the common room.
The morning was so warm that Lily decided to take a walk on the grounds before class. She'd found Severus waiting for her outside the Great Hall after breakfast and the two decided to go out for a stroll to catch up.
'Where have you been, Sev?' said Lily immediately, pulling her old friend into a hug. 'I haven't seen you in ages. Mind explaining why you've been ditching Potions?'
Severus' pale cheeks were tinged pink when Lily released him. 'I—I haven't been feeling too well,' he said, looking away from her.
'Oh no, I'm sorry, are you feeling better now?'
'Yeah,' said Severus, still not meeting her eyes. 'A bit. Do you want to take a walk?'
Lily blinked. 'Yeah, okay. We've got a bit of time before class,' said Lily, offering a conversation starter. 'I did alright. Not as brilliantly as you, I'm sure, but then again, you always had a knack for it.'
'No, you were brilliant before we were partners,' said Severus quickly.
Lily laughed. 'Thanks for saying that, Sev. But I've seen all your Potions notes. You've already started making your own spells!'
'Trying to,' corrected Severus, the pink tinges reappearing.
Lily swung her arm around Severus, just like she used to when they were eleven and in the park by Spinner's End. 'You're making your own spells, Sev. And your own Potions, too! I wouldn't be surprised if you became a famous Potioneer one of these—what's the matter'
Severus had suddenly thrown Lily's arm off his shoulders, and had taken several strides ahead of her.
Severus whipped round to face her again, but then looked away, stuffing his hands into his robes. 'Lily,' he said, and his voice had returned to its low and sombre timbre. 'I wanted to talk to you about something.'
Lily tucked a stray strand of hair behind her right ear as the morning wind blew against her face. 'What is it?'
Severus stared at the ground as he spoke. 'I was wondering whether I'd e able to partner up with Mulciber for Potions for the rest of the term.'
Lily stared at him, a tinge of hurt seeping through her expression. 'What do you mean—you don't want to be my partner anymore?'
'No!' said Severus instantly. 'It's just—Avery and Mulciber—they think it's—er—odd—that I'm always partnering up with a—a—'
'Lily crossed her arms over her chest. 'A Mudblood?' she supplied.
Severus winced. 'I—of course not,' he sputtered. 'A Gryffindor.'
Lily nodded slowly, not quite buying it. 'You know, Sev, my mates think it's odd that I always partner up with a Slytherin, too. I suppose—well, I don't know why that bothers you, I thought that we were—'
'We are friends!' cried Severus, his face flushed. 'It's just—they're my housemates and I have to put up with them every day. It's got nothing to do with you, I just have to—you understand, don't you?'
Lily uncrossed her arms and placed her suddenly cold hands into her robes. 'Yeah, I suppose,' she said reluctantly. 'I just feel like we're drifting apart slowly. I only see you in Potions these days—'
'We'll see each other tons!' insisted Severus. 'It's just for a while. Maybe—' he paused, searching for words. 'Maybe it's because Quidditch finals are coming up—it's probably House rivalry. It'll pass. And then we'll talk all the time.'
Lily nodded slowly. 'Are you all right, Sev? Is everything okay?'
'Everything's fine,' said Severus quickly.
'Okay,' said Lily with a slow and reluctant shrug. 'I'm just worried about you, is all. Avery and Mulciber—they scare me, Sev. And I'm just—'
'—They're fine, Lily,' snapped Severus. When he caught the startled expression on Lily's face, his tone softened. 'You don't have to worry about me. I'm fine.' He paused, giving her a smirk. 'At least I didn't lose my memory.'
Lily gave a wry grin. 'Heard about that, did you?'
'The castle has nothing better to talk about, does it?'
'I missed you, Severus.'
There was a pause before Severus responded. 'I missed you, too.'
Once Potter's memory had returned in full-force, Lily did not expect to see much of him or his mates. In fact, she rather hoped she wouldn't see much of them. It was almost as though she'd spoken to James Potter and Sirius Black so much within the past week, that her quota had been filled, and she could not tolerate his presence for at least another week.
But only six hours later, Lily was unceremoniously met with Potter's albeit invisible presence as she waited outside Professor McGonagall's office for her careers appointment.
Lily jumped and whirled round, hand plunging into her robes to reach for her wand.
'Calm down, Evans, it's just me.'
Lily blinked, freezing on the spot. Her eyes darted from side to side, attempting to pinpoint the voice, but she could not see a thing.
'Wha –' she stuttered, looking round blindly.
There was a pause before James Potter appeared from what could only be described as nowhere.
'Potter!' He was grinning broadly.
'I scared you, didn't I?' he asked cheekily.
'Don't make me hex you, Potter,' said Lily, turning back round as she glanced at McGonagall's office door again. 'Don't you have lessons to catch up with? Or have you remembered everything?'
He chuckled. 'I think I'm caught up. Sirius has been prepping me all morning. Though, I do have one question. What's the deal with Betty Braithwaite?'
Lily turned round slowly. 'You remember her?'
'From Ravenclaw? Yeah, she's in our Charms class, isn't she?'
'I walked past her this morning. Gave me the dirtiest look I've ever seen. You'd think I stamped on her heart and humiliated her in front of the whole school.'
Lily hummed, hiding a grin. 'You could say that.'
Lily cleared her throat. 'Nothing. What are you doing here, anyway?' she demanded. 'You should be in class.'
'I have my career's appointment in twenty minutes,' said Potter simply.
'No, I have mine.'
'Now, now, Evans... With a tone of voice like that, a bloke might start to get the impression that he's not wanted.'
'What gave it away?'
'Touchy, touchy. Funny, I think I liked you better when I'd lost my memory.'
'You don't even remember when you'd lost your memory.'
'No, but Sirius says you were a lot nicer.'
Lily glared at him. 'If your appointment is in twenty minutes, what are you doing here now?'
'I wanted to skive off Potions.'
'Speaking of Potions,' said James, clearing his throat and stuffing his free hand into his robes. 'Do you have a partner for the lab coming up?'
'Yes, I'm working with—' she cut herself short, and cleared her throat. 'No, I suppose I don't.'
'No? What happened to Snivellus?'
Lily glared at him. 'Don't call him that.'
'Why not? Slimy little git deserves it. What's his problem this time? Is he planning to skive off the lab?'
'No,' said Lily instantly, defending her friend. She paused, lowering her voice. 'He's just got a different partner, is all.'
Potter gave an obnoxious guffaw. 'Looks like the little berk finally got the message. Maybe now he'll stay out of our side of the dungeon—'
'What did you just say?'
'—we can't have them mixing—'
'Shut your mouth, Potter!'
Potter turned to face her blankly. 'What?'
'Who said Gryffindors and Slytherins weren't supposed to mix? You and Severus, you're both the same—'
'Hey, that's out of line, we're nothing the same—'
'Yeah, you are. You've both got this stupid idea of House rivalry! Can't you see that You Know Who's on the rise? How are we ever supposed to fight him if we're so busy fighting with each other?'
'I'm not fighting—' retorted Potter. 'You're the one who's yelling—'
Lily made a sound of derision. 'You're infuriating, you know that? Why can't you just—no.' She paused, turning away and composing herself. 'No, you're not worth the trouble.'
'Not worth it, am I?' There was an edge of taunting in his voice.
'No. And I wouldn't be your Potions partner even if you were the last student in class. Now, if you'd just go away—'
'I have my appointment,' said Potter, sounding bored.
'Damn it, Potter—'
'Did you just curse at me?' His voice came out amused, and the atmosphere of the conversation shifted dramatically. 'I've never heard you curse before.'
Lily pulled out her wand. 'Oh, I can curse.'
Potter grinned, holding up both hands in surrender. 'Alright, I give. Listen, I came down here early for another reason. I knew you'd be waiting for your appointment before me, the list was in the common room, and I had to tell you something.'
'You're dropping out of Hogwarts?' said Lily scathingly.
Potter gave a laugh. 'Not quite, love.' He scratched the back of his head awkwardly. 'Well, it's probably nothing, but—well—I sort of told the entire Quidditch team that I saw Frank Longbottom snogging Alice Prewett.'
'You didn't.' Lily whirled round, appearing horrified.
Potter threw his hands up. 'It was an accident!'
'How could it be an accident?'
'I was confused, Evans! I just lost and regained my memory. My mind's a mess right now. Surely there has to be some leeway for forgiveness, here. Kalah and Titchy were fooling around during practice today, and Will said he missed the Prewett twins, except that they were also a bit stupid with the pranks. He said he wanted the talent and not the stupidity, so maybe Alice Prewett might be a good Quidditch player, since she's their cousin, but a lot more sensible. I considered that, but the time we caught them in the library was the first thing I could remember. It just came out. A revelation, if you will.'
Lily scoffed. 'And here I thought only teenage girls were gossip mongers.'
'What's that supposed to mean?' said Potter hotly.
'What were you doing gossiping during Quidditch practice, anyway? Aren't you supposed to be playing Quidditch?'
Potter grinned, fished into his robes and pulled out a struggling Snitch. 'We were,' he said. 'Look what I've nicked.'
Lily glared at him, disgusted. 'Put that away.'
Potter shrugged and returned it into his robes. Then he reached up and ran his hand into his hair. 'Calm down, Evans. I don't even think anyone thought much of it.'
'What are you talking about?'
'Dorcas was talking about Leah Summers and Davy Gudgeon at the same time. All I'd said when Will mentioned Alice Prewett was, 'Wasn't she snogging Frank Longbottom in the library?' They could have easily assumed I was talking about Leah Summers.'
'Yeah, Dorcas even asked me, 'You mean Summers?' But by then, I'd realized what I let slip. Will called the next play, and I didn't get a chance to answer her. There wasn't really any time to gossip, Evans.' Potter said the next bit rather condescendingly. 'So you can stop biting my head off. I don't know why you have to be so temperamental.' He propped his arms above his head casually and closed his eyes, pacing leisurely through the corridor.
Lily didn't respond for a moment. Then, 'What did you say?' Her voice was dangerously low.
'You heard me.'
'How dare you, I'm not –!'
'There you go again with the yelling,' said James, in a singsong voice. He began to hum, and infuriated, Lily held her wand up higher.
'Don't make me hex you, Potter—!'
'Miss Evans! What's going on here?'
Lily jumped. Potter stopped humming instantly and turned to find Professor McGonagall standing at the doorway to her office.
'Professor –' Lily's eyes were wide.
McGonagall glanced between Lily and Potter with a disapproving look on her face. 'You do realize that classes are still in progress?'
'Of course, Professor,' said Lily nervously. 'I'm sorry—'
'Sorry, Professor,' said Potter immediately. 'It was my fault. We were just having a—er—' He glanced at Lily, then back to Professor McGonagall. '–a spirited debate.'
'Perhaps next time this debate can happen in the confines of your common room.'
Potter gave her a salute. 'Yes, Ma'am.'
Professor McGonagall regarded him critically before turning back to Lily. 'Miss Evans, I trust we have a careers appointment?'
'Into my office, then.'
The question of her temperament was still lingering in Lily's mind as she followed Professor McGonagall into her office and it served to explain the rather scathing glare she shot James Potter before she disappeared through the door.