(A/N: Heyy everybody!
This is butterflaii again, and yes, this is my first try at a one shot ina long, long, long, long, LONG time. since my first ever fic was a one
shot that ended quite badly, i've tried to avoid writing them as much as possible.
but no matter! my beta and i had just finished Deathly Hallows (and yes, this holds spoilers just like it says in the summary, so please don't read this if you haven't already read DH! spoilers galore!) and we were going over some of the stupider points of the story, such as "Albus Severus Potter" - what an unfortunate name; the sadly written kiss between Ron and Hermione; "Wand of Death" "Stick of Death" "Stick of Doom" "Doomstick of Doom"(?!); Lily being kinda stuck-up for throwing a friendship away because Sevvie called her a you-know-what; and other delightful things.
then we kinda hit on the whole Patronus thing, and how it was so totally like, WOAHHH JAMES IS A STAG and WOAHHH LILY HAS A DOE PATRONUS and WOAHHH SNAPE HAS A DOE PATRONUS TOO? then i was like: "wait... if Lily's a doe because James is a stag, does that mean Severus...?"
and booyah, this story was formed.
so... i guess all i can say is, forgive the gigantic plotholes, forgive any grammar/spelling mistake i happened to have missed, thank you darling beta, and enjoy the show.)
If Only For A Moment
Lily Evans stumbled through the corridor as she rushed to class, haphazardly running a brush through her hair while she tried to keep a grip on her messenger bag on her way down the main staircase. Cursing inwardly, she ripped her bag open as she flew down the last steps into the Transfiguration courtyard, cutting directly across it as she shoved her brush into the dark recesses of her bag. Tripping on the step up from the courtyard, she raced down the hall, through a set of double doors, and up the winding staircase past several portraits who looked extremely surprised to see a student – much less the Head Girl – who, by all appearances, looked like she was trying to outrun a hideous monster hot on her heels. And what a monster it was.
Damn the time! Lily thought frantically as she threw open another set of doors and raced down the last stretch to her destination. Of all the days to be late! Should have set my alarm, but then again, I never knew I could ever – Merlin, I hope the Professor won't be too –
She burst through the last door into the classroom, halting as roughly two dozen pairs of eyes whipped around to stare at her in surprise as the door banged against the wall. For two seconds nobody moved; Lily was sure she was a sight to behold, her hair still messy after using her brush, her face and neck red with her mouth open, panting because of the run, and one hand still on the door, as if to brace herself against it.
"Ah, Miss Evans," a rough – though not unkind – voice cut through the silence. "So glad you could join our Defence Against the Dark Arts class today."
Lily's face turned redder than before, although this time it wasn't because of physical exertion. She dropped her hand and looked up at the Professor who was standing in front of the class. His wand was directed at the board as if he was about to magick instructions on it. He held a copy of their textbook flipped open in his other hand, although when Lily turned to face him he had let it drop back on his desk. His face seemed emotionless, although Lily thought – hoped, really – that there appeared to be a slight sparkle of humour in his eyes.
"Well, Miss Evans? Have you an excuse for tardiness?" he asked in his rough voice, interrupting what sounded like snickers coming from the Slytherin side of the room.
"No, Professor Scarbrough," Lily murmured, dropping her head to look at the floor in a gesture of demureness. "I woke up late today from a late night of studying. I'm sorry."
Professor Scarbrough looked over Lily with an air of slight disapproval, although if anyone knew him better, they would have said that he seemed to be scrutinising her form in a pleased sort of way. Although being observant was all part of the job description if one wanted to survive in anything related to the Dark Arts, Scarbrough was a little bit more observant of those of the opposite sex – not that he was a pervert of course. He saw through Lily's act of shyness to the fiery, vivacious girl – No, woman, he corrected himself – that existed in very rare times during the school year.
He knew she was not the 'bookworm' image she seemed to exude; Lily Evans was strong and passionate, and would dedicate her life to things she considered important. For example, homework was considered one of her priorities in the present, thus supporting her studious demeanour. But she also, the Professor knew, valued love and honesty, among other things. She never lied, even if the odds were not in her favour; she never had found any reason to be worth dishonesty. And he knew Lily was also quite popular – the sort of popular that had to do with quiet generosity and a good heart. She treated the people she considered important with undying love, although at school that seemed to only be a small, small handful – really, her only close friend Mary MacDonald.
Although Lily never was very close to the girl until recently, the Professor had seen her comforting the ever self-confidence-lacking Mary the past six and a half years, cheering her up whenever she had received a 'Poor' on a test, or if a Slytherin had made another jab at her Creaothceann-loving father. This wasn't to say that Lily favoured only those close to her with love – he saw that her love encompassed everyone she encountered, even the Slytherins. He knew for a fact (through faculty gossip, anyway) that a certain Slytherin seventh-year and Lily Evans had been quite close during their beginning years at Hogwarts, but for some reason had broken off their friendship near the end of their fifth year. She seemed to be able to love anyone, no matter where they came from, their House, their blood, or their past, shown through the fact that she was still nice to the boy, greeting him in the hallways between classes and other times she bumped into him.
She's the sort of person we need more of, nowadays, he thought as he watched her shift uncomfortably under his gaze. He allowed himself a small, inconspicuous smile before nodding to the Head Girl. She raised her face again and Scarbrough watched her dark red tresses slide smooth across the shoulders of her robes.
"Take a seat, and make sure it doesn't happen again," Professor Scarbrough said, turning around to swish his wand at the blackboard. As he turned back to his students again and started the lecture off with the noises of shuffling parchment and scribbling quills quivering through the air, he could not help notice the earnest, deep green eyes of Lily Evans staring up at him and the board as she hurriedly dipped her quill into her inkwell and started taking notes.
Simply lovely, Scarbrough thought before shaking his head at himself. Here you are thinking about a young girl not even out of school! She hasn't enough experience for you. And with that, Lily Evans was out of the professor's mind, replaced with the material for today's class.
"Today we're in for a special treat," Professor Scarbrough announced as he flicked imaginary lint off the front of his robes and glanced up to assess his class. The Slytherins and Gryffindors were unfortunately placed together in this class for their last year in Hogwarts, and the usual ruckus that followed erupted in almost every class. Thankfully, Lily's late arrival seemed to have put off any efforts to disrupt class time, but just as he thought that, a tiny paper bird soared past his head and into the blackboard.
Grumbling in his head, Professor Scarbrough raised his eyebrow at the crumpled bird's form under his desk before looking up to see if he could spot the culprit. He – or they – weren't that hard to pinpoint: two Gryffindor boys sitting in the back of the classroom had wide grins on their faces, their attention concentrated solely on Professor Scarbrough.
I should have known, the Professor thought to himself as he made his way to their desks.
"Mr. Potter and Mr. Black," Professor Scarbrough greeted when he reached his destination. "How nice of you to let us experience the flight of your pet paper bird."
Both grinned up at him from their seats. James Potter was leaning on his desk, elbow propped up and chin resting in his hand, dark hair as messy as usual. His glasses lay slightly askew on his nose and his hazel eyes glimmered up at the Professor. Sirius Black, on the other hand, was leaning back in his chair, its back legs the only thing supporting him, and his hands behind his head. His grey eyes and wide grin matched the mischievousness in Potter's, although this boy's dark hair fell into his eyes and had acquired a sort of roguish, lazy attractiveness. Not to say Potter wasn't attractive – he certainly had something – but not enough to compete with his best friend. Leaders of their little ring of friends, Potter and Black were inseparable – if one caught them away from each other without a teacher's interference, something suspicious was definitely happening.
In spite of their late night wanderings and various pranks – although few and far between, they still were very big and very loud, and were usually focused on an entire House or more worth of students – the Marauders, as they liked to call themselves, achieved good marks and stayed near the top ten percentage of their year. Remus Lupin, of course, being a quiet, intelligent boy, was most likely behind their otherwise shocking good marks. A Prefect, Lupin was an extremely talented student, especially in Defence Against the Dark Arts. Scarbrough rarely came across a student so passionate and determined about Defence, and Lupin was one of them. Scarbrough had foreseen a very bright future for the boy, had it not been for the fact that Lupin was a werewolf. Many of the professors seemed to agree; they all knew he would lead a hard life. Peter Pettigrew, the last of their little group, was obviously not the shiniest wand in the shop, but was passing with fairly good marks, no doubt as well from the help of his friends. A likeable boy, if a little more gullible and slow on the uptake, Pettigrew added the last piece to the Marauder's puzzle – the ever loyal, ever helpful follower.
Of course, as soon as the boys had seen him coming, they had glued on their best smiles to discourage any disciplinary action. A great difference to the redheaded girl who had stood there moments before, not looking him in the eye and apologising sincerely! Insolent as the two were, the Professor refrained from berating them, as any other teacher would have done by now, but instead stared at them in a silent question.
"Oh, well, we thought it would be a wonderful experience for the entire class!" Sirius revealed, his mischievous and relaxed expression still in place.
"Yes," his best friend agreed, "No one ever knows if the other side can conjure up fire-breathing paper dragons out of a piece of parchment. It would be an extremely good use of low resources, and an unexpected form of attack to boot."
"Well," Professor Scarbrough said, after processing their 'excuse' and finding himself without a comment, "It seems extremely coincidental that the disturbances during class today were made by both the Head students."
At this, Lily, who had been too busy scribbling down what was on the board to notice what was going on, shot her head up to look, surprised, at James. He noticed her gaze and glanced at her, throwing a devastating grin her way before turning back to the Professor. Unbeknownst to both him and Lily, the flush that had disappeared from time in class reappeared on her cheeks, sprinkling her cheeks a soft, rosy colour.
From the other side of the room, contemptuous silence exuded from the students dressed in robes marked with the green emblem of Slytherin. But one certain Slytherin seemed to have his gaze fixed on one particular Gryffindor. His dark eyes never straying, he watched the exchange between James and Lily, unable to prevent slight evidence of an ill disguised cross between a sneer and grimace from finding its way on to his face. As he eyed Lily's blush and James's messy hair, his eyes seemed to flash before his face retreated behind a curtain of black, oily hair.
Severus Snape bit the inside of his cheek until he could taste the coppery trickle of blood on his tongue. Watching them during class was maddening – being unable to prevent anything was even more infuriating. Worst of all was how they had been paired this year as both Head students. He had to sit idly and watch as they spent more and more time with each other, getting to know each other in private. It was all he could do not to think about what they might be doing behind closed doors.
He turned away from the scene in disgust, muttering to himself in his head. No one ever wondered why he had taken an early liking to the Dark Arts. They had no idea why many of his spells had to do with mutilating bodily parts, or causing deliberate pain to the victim. He had to try out spells he created on something, didn't he? Potions was one of his fortes as well: they were extremely handy in hiding evidence. There were a few animals in the Forest that would never be the same again – but no matter. It was all in the name of discovery, anyway…
When news of his abilities found their way to a certain group of his fellow housemates, they were quick to invite him into a particular circle. Mulciber had approached him one evening in the common room while he had been working on Transfiguration homework – he could remember everything said in the conversation. An elite circle, one that could get him places. Help him gain power…
And that was that. He had accepted the invitation, had walked into their ranks with no qualms… until a few months later. Lily had found out, and instead of congratulating him as he thought she'd do, she had looked upon him with shock and dismay. She had disliked the people he had found a place among. He hadn't understood at the time, had continued to participate in the group, hoping Lily would turn around and realise that this situation wasn't a bad one. But she never did.
Severus could almost kick himself. That incident in fifth year had never ceased to haunt him at all hours of the day. He had been caught unawares by the spell, and humiliated in front of half the school. He had seen some Slytherins in the crowd – and they hadn't even bothered to help him, hadn't made a move to save him from his embarrassment. Then he saw Lily coming towards him, and that familiar emotion swelled up in him. She had yelled at Potter for what he had done, but to no avail. And, unable to see through the haze of anger – or was it because all his blood had rushed to his head? – he had called out the dirtiest word he could have possibly pulled out of thin air at that moment.
Severus had always wanted to take that statement back, since the moment it had escaped his lips. No one had ever suspected that he and Lily were friends – best friends – and after that incident, no one ever would. Lily had been so hurt and confused, and that had been the end of their friendship. The end of his – perhaps – only chance to ever acquire what he had wanted the most. All he had managed to prove was that he was as "lowdown" and "dirty" as any other Slytherin.
But Severus had finally retreated back to the little elite circle. For what else was there for him? He had no Lily to turn to anymore, and he sure as hell couldn't rely on his good-for-nothing family. And after the little spat, he had thrown all his efforts into the circle, gaining trust and connections with everyone, even outside of Hogwarts walls. He knew what would happen after his graduation. He knew he probably would never talk to that person ever again. The students had just returned from Christmas holidays, and its end only further emphasised the five months left of opportunities for sly glances, gazes, and following of that particular desire he had never been able to capture.
Severus was shaken out of his thoughts when the professor finally moved away from Potter and Black to the front of the classroom. Severus would never allow himself a poor grade on anything he received at Hogwarts.
"Well, thank you again, Mr, Potter, Mr. Black," Professor Scarbrough said, nodding at both the students, who grinned back. "Now, if we could finally move on to the lesson for today?"
Everyone's attention snapped back to the front of the room, several quills stood poised and ready over parchment. Lily had recomposed herself, and was once again as studious as before. James and Sirius had not changed positions, but they seemed to be having a non-verbal conversation with Remus and Peter the next table over. Rolling his eyes, the professor smiled inwardly as he thought of the perfect way to recapture their attention.
"As I was trying to announce earlier, today we'll be learning a bit of advanced magic."
Two pairs of mildly interested gazes flickered towards him. Triumphant, the professor continued with a bit of a flourish, "I am going to teach you the art of the Patronus Charm."
Lily squealed softly and her eyes shone in anticipation at the prospect of learning something as potentially powerful as a Patronus Charm. She had, of course, heard of the spell before, and had always wanted to see what a Patronus would really look like.
Several rows behind her, James Potter and Sirius Black straightened in their seats. They had seen this particular charm performed before, and it was one of the few things pulled up in class that they had not fully mastered yet.
"An interesting challenge, Master Potter," Sirius said, extracting his wand out of his robes as James did the same.
"Interesting indeed, Master Black," James replied, carefully caressing the smooth wood of his wand before whipping his eyes to look at Sirius from the corners of his eyes. "But no doubt something we will easily master." Both smirked as they fixed their attention back onto the Defense professor.
"Does anyone know what the Patronus Charm does? Miss Evans?"
Potter lowered his hand as Sirius, grumbling, did the same. James had long since grown used to the surprising amount of knowledge Lily seemed to have of Defence Against the Dark Arts and Potions. She was also adept at Charms, although in a more practical sense than how she seemed fluent in the theories of her other classes. He had always admired her determination and intelligence, as well as the kindness she contained. James let his eyes wander over her form as she diligently answered, "The Patronus Charm is used to repel Dark creatures, sir. Usually Dementors and the like."
"Very good, Miss Evans. Five points to Gryffindor. Does anyone in the room know of the incantation for this particular spell?"
As always, no one in the Slytherin section bothered to raise a hand. Pleased to see that James Potter and Sirius Black had decided to participate in the class, Professor Scarbrough called on Sirius. Black grinned, throwing a triumphant glance at Potter who only shrugged indifferently and rolled his eyes.
"Expecto Patronum, sir."
"Very good, Mister Black! Another five points to Gryffindor." He turned and swished at the board again, and the words 'Expecto Patronum' appeared underneath the notes. "But you have to put a little more emphasis on the second syllable of both words, Master Black. Try it with me now, everyone: Expecto Patronum."
The classroom echoed with the phrase, mostly bored tones from the Slytherin area, and genuine effort from the Gryffindors. Several students had to try a few times before they got it correctly; Professor Scarbrough wandered between the desks and corrected people's pronunciations before returning to his desk again. As he was doing this, James's attention wandered back to Lily Evans, who's face was slightly scrunched up in concentration, committing the pronunciation and spell to memory. A ghost of a smile appeared on James's lips as he let his eyes commit something to memory as well – Lily's image.
James Potter knew that he really shouldn't be staring at Lily during classes. It wasn't a common occurrence: he really only eyed her during the odd class when Sirius, Remus and Peter weren't doing their normal jobs of entertaining him. Like, the times when they were actually concentrating on things being said in class. He remembered the humongous crush he had on Evans two years ago; the thought of it alone causede a blush to grace his cheeks. He had been an overbearing git, he knew. But what else was a fifteen-going-on-sixteen year old going to do to gain a girl's attention? Like any other stupid pubescent boy, he had chosen to show off and play it cool – none of which impressed Lily.
James had been confused for a while – wasn't it what Sirius did all the time? And he was successful – but finally got the hint and retreated from annoying Lily at every turn. Instead he watched her silently from a distance, never confident enough to talk to her again. He thought his interests were waning over sixth year, even dating a bit here and there. But then Dumbledore had appointed him Head Boy, next to Lily's Head Girl! It was a pleasant shock – although it only confirmed his suspicions that Dumbledore was off his rocker – and when he discovered that Lily was willing to forget what he termed 'the Fifth Year incident', they had started over.
Through their time spent together on various chores and duties, he found out that his affection for her was still there, and they only intensified as he got to know her better. Obviously not over personal issues, but she was a hard worker, organised, and passionate about what she did. From just another pretty face, she had turned into a confident, talented young woman with a bright future. Over time, James found he was interested to find out what the future held for Lily – and more than once he felt that he wanted to be a part of it.
Shaking his head at his delirious musings, he turned back to Professor Scarbrough who had finally finished his rounds of the classroom.
But it isn't a bad idea, a voice whispered in James's head as the professor addressed the class.
"Now, if everyone would move away from their desks, please?" Immediately, scraping of chairs and sounds of scrambling filled the air as people packed their things hurriedly into backpacks and stood away from their workstations. With a wave of his wand, Professor Scarbrough had stacked the furniture against the walls neatly. Remus had pulled Peter out of the way of a flying chair, but other than that, there were no mishaps. The professor nodded, satisfied, before asking his students to spread out in the room, finding themselves a space large enough so that they were at least an arm's length away from everyone.
"Prongs! Stop it!" Remus hissed as James stuck out his arms and twirled madly, pushing Sirius and Peter out of his space. James merely smirked before standing still and looking up at Professor Scarbrough with an expression of innocence as clear as a cloudless blue sky. The professor did not deign a reaction to this, and continued forward.
"Now, everyone hold your wands out. There's no silly swishing and waving for this particular spell. I want you all to try and cast it. Make sure you're not pointing at anyone though – don't want anyone to be unintentionally hurt." Some Slytherins snickered at this, leering at the Gryffindors, but shifted uncomfortably as the Marauders threw them a grin, challenging them with their eyes. They bristled back in retort, but Professor Scarbrough interrupted, "On three, everyone! One, two, three – "
Again, the classroom was filled with people chanting Expecto Patronum. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to be happening. The Slytherins had stopped trying after a few times, annoyed and frustrated at their inability to produce anything. The Gryffindors were a bit more stubborn; they doggedly kept chanting the spell. Lily was among these students – she frowned in concentration, saying the incantation forcefully, but to no avail. No one noticed that James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew – after Remus whispered something in his ear, anyway – had not tried to master the spell at all.
Professor Scarbrough, after five minutes of this craze, had finally realized the abnormal quietness coming from that particular corner of the room and seen their relaxed, bored stances. He quickly called a stop for the pandemonium, before turning to face the four boys.
"Is there something you'd like to share with the class, boys?" Professor Scarbrough asked, knowing that one of them had probably already known the one fact that he had not shared with his students yet. "Mister Lupin?"
"If I may, sir," James cut in smoothly. He glanced at his friend, who nodded, before turning back to the Professor. "The one most important thing to do when performing the Patronus charm is to think of happy thoughts. Otherwise the charm won't work at all."
"Well done, Mister Potter. Ten points to Gryffindor." The professor addressed the class again, "Mister Potter is right. The main base of power for the Expecto Patronum is thoughts of joy. The more powerful the memories, the more powerful the Patronus. Can anyone tell me what a Patronus looks like?"
"Sir," Lily started, "A Patronus is a silvery shape, and usually looks like an animal. The animal that best fits you, actually."
"And well done again, Miss Evans! Another five points to Gryffindor!" The Slytherins muttered; already Gryffindor had earned itself twenty-five points in one lesson. Professor Scarbrough seemed to be a little point-happy today.
"Well, if you would only participate in class, you would have gained points, too, you know," the professor reminded them reasonably, raising an eyebrow. At once, the murmurings stopped and silence met his ears.
Remus suddenly raised his hand, and the Professor nodded at him to continue.
"Sir, is there any possible way for a Patronus to change form, or animal?"
"Good question, Mister Lupin. Yes, but it is exceedingly rare. It only occurs when an incident or something happens that has a profound impact on the wizard or witch in question. A death is one such example. Patronuses are very unique, and they reflect your true person. Sometimes it can be linked to, or changed, by the people you love."
At this, several Slytherins snickered and coughed conspicuously at the comment on love. Professor Scarbrough raised one eyebrow at them, but otherwise didn't comment.
"Is that all your questions? Good. Well. Now, I would like you all to try again. Think of the happiest moments of your life, and really concentrate – that is extremely important! Without both concentration and happy memories, the spell will not produce anything. And don't expect anything in the beginning. Most people usually accomplish this spell after they have graduated from wizarding school. You may begin!"
Lily bit her lip and closed her eyes, trying to bring up the happiest moments of her life. She remembered getting her Hogwarts letter, finding out she was a witch and able to perform magic. Opening her eyes, she said, "Expecto Patronum!"
Frowning again, Lily closed her eyes and summoned up another memory. Playing in the park with Petunia, back before they had fallen out, back when they still were the best of friends. Childhood innocence. Opening her eyes again, she said more forcefully, "Expecto Patronum!"
A little bit of faint silvery mist seemed to seep out of the tip of her wand. Triumph filled her as the Professor walked over to where she was, looking at the mist that had started to disappear.
"Excellent, Miss Evans! Amazing, especially on the first try! Well, well done!"
Lily blushed at the praise and looked at the floor again, although she couldn't help but grin. She looked up again when the Professor had left, eyes scanning the room to see how the others were doing. The Slytherins weren't doing a very good job – but then again, had they ever really had happy memories? – and her fellow housemates didn't seem that well off either. But she finally twisted around to look towards the back of the classroom and widened her eyes in surprise.
James Potter had managed to get a silvery shape to appear, more than she could ever hope to accomplish. Sirius seemed to be slightly put off that his best friend had been able to pull it off so quickly, and was concentrating on getting the mist to appear. Remus was having no luck either, and poor Peter was saying the incantation all wrong.
Steeling herself, Lily whipped out her wand again, preparing herself for another try.
I need something happier, Lily thought, raking her mind for something suitable. There's no bloody way I have never had a happy enough time for this spell.
Finally, she remembered her last visit to Hogsmeade and the time she had with Mary. It had been raining hard – pouring actually – but they hadn't cared. Of course, they had tried to cover their hair with their arms as they ran towards Hogsmeade from Hogwarts. But before they were able to duck into any sort of cover, Mary had slipped on a slick part of the road, grabbing Lily's robes and dragging her down with her. The next instant found them giggling and laughing madly, sitting in a large puddle under the torrential rain. It was one of the best days of her life; the threat of the Dark Lord far from her mind, all the stress from work and Prefect duties disappearing, her family's misfortunes effectively buried – even if it was only for a moment. It had felt like there was nothing in the world except for that particular moment, dripping and completely drenched. Mary's face so carefree and happy, the surroundings greying and blurring past her conscious vision…
Lily kept the image of Mary's laughing face in the rain as she gripped her wand, pointing it in front of her.
"Expecto Patronum!" she cried, letting the joy from that day sweep through her into her wand. Suddenly, a burst of silver light emitted from her wand, making the room glow with an ethereal light. But just as quickly as it had appeared, the light extinguished quickly. Lily stared, shocked, at her wand, clasped tightly in her hand.
No one said anything for a moment. Out of the silence there was a cry of delight and Professor Scarbrough strode over to Lily, who was still standing there looking very shocked at her success.
"Astounding, Miss Evans! Congratulations to you! The most successful try we've seen today!" Professor Scarbrough beamed at Lily, who was still too shocked to do anything but stare between her teacher and her wand.
"Seriously!" Everyone turned to look at Sirius, who had broken the silence that the students had been observing. "James here was watching it the entire time, did you know that? Never saw his eyes pop out so far. Good show, Evans!"
Even without Sirius's exagerrated, obvious elbow jab into James's ribs, anyone could have guessed the sexual undertone he had been suggesting. For two seconds, no one reacted to Sirius's latest insinuating comment. Then Peter started snickering, followed by some chortling from Remus, and the whole class was laughing. James took it in stride, although his ears seemed to have bloomed into an interesting shade of red.
"Congrats, Evans," James said, trying to ignoring his guffawing friends. Lily immediately ducked her head, looking towards the floor again.
"Thanks, James," she mumbled, keeping her gaze on the floor. James blinked, surprised that she had used his first name. She didn't notice as the students began to pick up their bags from the sides of the classroom, getting ready for their next class.
"Good job, all of you! Continue working on your Patronuses in your spare time. We'll hold a little contest in a few months to see who's improved the farthest. The person with the most corporeal Patronus will receive a prize, and anyone else who tries gets extra credit! Oh, and another ten points to Gryffindor!"
The Slytherins grumbled after Professor Scarbrough's announcement, sending glares towards the happily promenading Gryffindors. As all the students disappeared down the hallway, Lily hurriedly exited the room, last one out. She didn't expect anyone to wait for her – where was Mary, anyway? – but was surprised to see James Potter standing outside of the classroom, apparently waiting for her.
"Hey, Evans," James said, shooting her his trademark grin. She nodded, and continued walking, not sure of what to do. James fell in stride with her, and they walked awkwardly in silence before James spoke up.
"Good job back there, Evans." Lily looked up and blinked in surprise. James smiled down at her. James actually hadn't tried to ask her out at all these two years, which came as a shock to Lily. Sure, James hadn't asked her out all the time in fifth year, but he did make it a point to remind her of his interest. Sixth year was a reprieve from all the attention, and Lily had been relieved. This year, however, she'd seen him more often than not with all their Head duties. She was pleasantly surprised to find that she liked James's sense of humour as well as his charisma. He didn't use his charm on her anymore than necessary, usually teasing her when they had some sort of disagreement over something or another. But he was good at compromising, and most of his ideas were good ones. He even took on his new title and responsibility with a level of effort that she didn't know he had possessed in the first place. She didn't know much about him personally, and she found a desire to delve into this new pile of mystery.
But she obviously couldn't. Lily was popular – she knew that as well as any other person – but the difference was that she didn't approach anyone. They all approached her. And she had no problem with that – she was normally nice, generous, and at odd times, bubbly. From what she could tell, anyway. But with James she couldn't do that; really, she didn't know what to do. He didn't approach her, and she had never approached anyone. So, as a result, they barely knew each other.
Although all this was true, Lily could not help but feel the pull. She desperately wanted to respond – to figure out what was going on behind those hazel eyes she had become so used to seeing across the table at their meetings – to wonder why he was always ruffling his hair, why he put her off edge. Because he really did – she wasn't sure if he knew he was doing it, or even if he had wanted to pursue after something more than just being co-workers, but the one thing Lily Evans was certain of was that she wanted to become friends – good, close friends, like she and Mary were – with James Potter.
Completely unaware of this fact, James continued, seemingly nonplussed as they continued their way to Transfiguration.
"You must have thought of something really happy back there, to have come up with something that good." James paused to glance at Lily to see if she had a response. She didn't, keeping her eyes focused on the path in front of her. "What was the memory, if you don't mind me asking?"
Lily blinked again. This was the first time James had asked her anything personal in a long time. She wasn't sure how to respond, but fell back to a failsafe approach – the truth.
"Mary and I in the rain."
Now it was James's turn to blink, astounded. For a minute there, he had thought she wasn't going to answer him, but she had.
"Really? When was this? On the grounds sometime this year?"
"No. It was during the last Hogsmeade trip. Remember the severe rain that day?" James nodded. "Yeah, it was during then. We were running to get under cover when we slipped and fell, soaking our robes completely through. And instead of just getting up and continuing, we sat there for a long time, just laughing."
James noticed the tiny smile appearing on Lily as they made their way through the throngs of students being herded to their next class. It brightened her face in such a small way… more like a soft glow than an intense glare.
"It was like it was just the two of us and nothing else. No more troubles, no impending doom – " James chuckled at that " – like it was… just us."
"I know what you mean," James said solemnly. "It's the best feeling in the world, isn't it? Feeling like there's nothing to worry about in the world? No danger once we graduate?"
Lily shot James a small smile as they reached their Transfiguration classroom. "Yeah. Exactly that."
"Well, you shouldn't worry, Lily. I'm sure we'll get out of it fine." Lily stared at James as he headed over to his seat where his best mates were already seated. "Promise!"
Lily fell into her seat near the front of the classroom, and put on her best studious face as Professor McGonagall nodded at her and proceeded with the day's lesson. But for some reason, Lily couldn't focus on anything but a single word echoing in her head.
That night, Lily stumbled into the Gryffindor common room late in the evening. By this time, most people were getting ready to retire to bed, or finishing up the last of that night's homework. She noticed what looked like a very familiar head of blonde hair, and started towards the empty seat next to it.
She collapsed in the seat, dropping her books unceremoniously on the table. "Where have you been?" Lily asked, exasperated.
The head whipped around, and Lily coloured slightly under its gaze. This was in fact not Mary MacDonald – it was Remus Lupin from the Marauders gang.
He looked up, surprised, with his quill held mid-sentence. He hurriedly scribbled the rest of the sentence before giving Lily his full attention.
"Have you really been looking for me, Evans? Or have you mistaken me for someone else?"
His voice held no mocking or any kind of amusement, so Lily looked up to meet his gaze. He smiled at her kindly, in the sort of forgetful way that old historians or librarians had, but nonetheless was extremely friendly.
"Oh, well, um, that is – " Lily stammered incoherently, "I thought you were, um, Mary. MacDonald? Yeah, Mary."
Idiot, Lily berated herself. Remus, she saw now, had a particular shade of blond – darker, almost a faded blond-brown. Almost bronze, but with a lot more gold mixed in it. Mary's locks were one hundred percent blonde, no extra colours mixed in. Lily decided she liked the colour of Remus's hair.
Remus laughed, shaking his head and causing a lock of hair to fall into his eyes. "I have no idea where MacDonald is, Evans. But you're welcome to call me Mary anytime you want."
Lily flushed and smiled up shyly at Remus as he looked down at her kindly. Suddenly, behind him came a second roar of laughter, and Sirius appeared at Remus's elbow.
"Mary? Why, Remus! Is there anything you haven't told us? I wasn't sure you were entirely male before, but now it seems I've got a bit more evidence for my argument – "
"Shove off, wanker," Remus mumbled, neck colouring. Lily ducked her head and bit her lip in an effort not to smile.
"Aw, come on, old pal!" Sirius smacked Remus a couple of times on the back, causing the poor boy to choke a little. "You know we're only kidding. Kind of. Actually, not kidding at all. But still – "
Remus had got up, calmly put his stuff together, bid Lily a good night, and finally grabbed Sirius's ear, proceeding to haul him up the stairs to the boys' dormitories.
"Lupin! Bloody hell, that hurts! Gerroffme! Geroffme I said!"
Lily watched silently as the boys disappeared before making one last glance around the room. Noting that her best friend was definitely not one of the blondes in the room, she made her way up to the seventh-year girls' dormitory with her books.
Entering the room, she finally spotted her missing friend lying on her bed, doing homework.
"Mary!" she cried, dumping everything onto her bed before moving to sit beside her friend. "Where have you been? I haven't seen you all day!"
"Sorry, Lily," Mary replied, looking up at Lily sheepishly from her position on the bed. "I was in the hospital wing most of the day. Got back in the middle of dinner, which you never really returned from."
"Hospital wing? What happened?"
"Well, I was trying this new spell for Charms yesterday, and apparently I must have cast a whole different spell that backfired on me. The effects didn't appear till overnight, so I rushed over to Madame Pomfrey as soon as I figured out what happened."
"Oh, that's terrible. I'm so sorry."
"No, it's fine, really! Nothing Madame Pomfrey couldn't fix, anyway." Mary smiled up at her before scribbling the last bit to her Arithmancy homework.
"Well, guess what you've missed then!"
"Missed? Oh, I hope it's not anything too interesting!"
"Unfortunately, Miss MacDonald, it was extremely interesting! We learnt something advanced in Defence today!"
"Oh, no, really?" Mary looked slightly crestfallen. Both Lily and Mary loved to learn advanced techniques in any class. Both of them joked that if they had had to be sorted into a different house, they would have both ended up in Ravenclaw.
"Yeah," Lily exclaimed happily. "He started to teach us how to use the Patronus Charm!"
"The Patronus Charm?" Mary shrieked. "Oh, no! I can't believe I missed that!"
"No, don't worry! He said that we have a few months to try and master it. It's quite difficult, though I'm sure we'll manage."
"Teach me now? That is, if you aren't exhausted with your day."
"Of course not! It would my pleasure," Lily said chivalrously, attempting to sound like a hero in a cheesy romance novel. Both girls giggled as they retrieved their wands.
"Now, what you do is…"
A month later found Lily practicing in an abandoned courtyard. The weather was not at its best – grey and slightly foggy, the humidity so thick Lily could scarcely breathe – but she ignored that fact and focused all her attention on the task at hand.
Well, what if I combine two memories at the same time? she wondered, fingering her wand. Would the two joined amounts of happiness improve my Patronus? Let's try it…
She pulled up her memory of Mary and her in the rain as well as the memory of Petunia and her at the neighbourhood playground. Opening her eyes, she shouted, "Expecto Patronum!" loudly into the quiet afternoon air.
The silvery light from class before burst from her wand again, although this time it seemed to glow even more brightly that before. A slight mist appeared this time, floating around Lily and filling her with feelings of joy and calm before fading into nothing again.
Proud of her accomplishment, Lily fell onto the grass unceremoniously, lying flat to stare at the cloudy sky. At this rate, I might be able to create a real Patronus, she thought happily. I wonder what my animal is? Maybe I'm a cat. Or a dog. Perhaps a hare!
Lily laughed out loud at the thought. A hare? I'd rather have something like a tiger… But a tiger doesn't seem to work with the kind of person I am. Ha, Lily the tigress…
She chuckled, but almost choked on it when a pair of familiar hazel eyes and head of messy black locks appeared in her field of vision, blocking the clouds from her view. She hurriedly sat up, looking around herself frantically for her wand.
"Looking for this?"
Lily looked up and blushed as James held out her wand. She took it and let him help her up, dusting off her robes and refusing to meet his eyes.
After a moment's silence, she demanded, "Why did you scare me like that?"
James laughed. "Well, you were just lying there… And I don't think you would have realized I was there unless I made it pretty clear. What better way than standing over your head?"
Lily could think of a retort, but held her tongue. It wasn't exactly an innocent retort; she had got a view of more than just his face when she had looked up from her position from the ground.
"Well, think of a better way next time!" was all she said when she finally got the courage to. James smiled pleasantly before running a hand through his messy hair again. In the second before she spoke, it hit Lily that the gesture didn't annoy her anymore. Blinking in surprise, she asked, "So why were you looking for me?"
"Who said I was looking for you?"
"Well, there's no one else here. So I'd assume if you came here you would be looking for me."
"True, true. All right. So I was looking for you."
"… Then why, Potter, were you looking for me?"
"Not much of a reason. Just wanted to talk to someone." Lily raised an eyebrow.
"And you just happened to choose me." James looked shocked and offended.
"Of course I'd choose you, Evans darling! Who else in the world would I want to talk to as much as you?"
Lily laughed and shook her head, refusing to answer such a ridiculous suggestion. They stood in relatively comfortable silence as they watched the clouds swirl above their heads.
"Have you got far with the Patronus Charm, yet, Lily?"
"A little bit. Not quite. I still haven't got to the point of corporeal-ness, but it's much larger now. And brighter."
"Good for you. Know what animal it'll be?"
"No, not really. Actually, I was thinking about that when you came along."
"Yes. I was wondering if I'd be a cat. Or a dog."
James shook his head at both of these, and Lily looked up at him, clearly surprised.
"Really? How are you so sure?"
"I just don't think you're a cat type. Or a dog type, for that matter." Lily frowned.
"Oh, really. And what do you think I'd be, then, since you claim to know all." James laughed and smiled a secretive grin.
"Oh, I don't know. I was just expressing my opinion."
They were silent once more, both standing still as they watched the clouds grow thicker and darker with each passing second.
"We better get inside. Looks like it's about to rain."
Lily looked up at James, who still hadn't turned away from the sky yet.
He hummed an acknowledgement.
"Do you know what kind of animal your Patronus is?" A light seemed to sparkle in his eyes before he turned to look at her.
"I've got a hunch."
"Really? What is it?"
James stood watching her silently for a moment. She looked up at him expectantly, red hair cascading down her shoulders and green eyes alight with curiosity. James had never seen her look more beautiful than she did now. Most people would have laughed at him and how lovesick he sounded, but he couldn't shake the pull he felt whenever he was around her lately. He ignored it, and focused on her face and his image reflected in her eyes.
Then slowly, he bent down and softly caressed her lips with his own. Lily caught her breath as James kissed her, his movements always gentle. It was only two seconds before he released her, but still Lily felt it had taken weeks. Unsure of what to say, Lily could only stare up at James mutely, green eyes wide against her rosy cheeks.
He ran his eyes over her face, seeming to search for something. Lily watched as his eyes softened, satisfied. He smiled before walking away. Lily still hadn't moved when he had turned around again and lifted his wand. She caught his eyes closing for a second before the incantation left his lips. James was already inside when Lily turned to look at the phantom shape.
Standing before her was a beautiful silver stag.
Behind a pillar, dark eyes narrowed as the silvery stag stood there, staring down at Lily Evans silently. The dark eyes flashed as Lily reached out to touch the creature; it bowed its head before finally dissipating in the oncoming darkness. At its disappearance, the spell seemed to be broken, and Lily backed up, startled. She turned and glanced at the clouds before hurrying away in the direction James had left.
When the last flash of red disappeared into the depths of Hogwarts, the figure stepped out into the darkness. A flash of thunder illuminated the courtyard; far away a low rumbling sounded. And still the figure stood there.
He stood and stared at the space where the stag had just occupied few moments ago. He remembered exactly how it looked, down to the very last detail. Then again, he had always had a good memory.
His eyes darkened as he thought over what he had just witnessed. He had just followed that person here and watched Lily and James as they sat in companionable silence. He had felt the intense anger, hurt, and jealousy stab his heart as he witnessed their kiss. He had wanted to run out there, throw his arms around that person, and shove the other away. He had wanted to scream, "Don't touch her!" and then "Mine!" He had wanted to utter every single horrible curse he had ever learnt at them, wanted to stop them from touching each other, to stop the softness in both their eyes when they had broken away.
But he couldn't.
He sank to his knees as he felt his helplessness – hopelessness – surround him like a suffocating cloak that he couldn't for the life of him lift. Silently, he stared at the ground and let the overwhelming feeling of loss and hurt crash over him.
And when he finally felt wetness on his cheeks, he wasn't even sure if it had come from the rain.
"All right, everyone! I hope you've all written down your schedules for the week. And don't forget to get back to us on your ideas for the End of the Year ball!"
Lily shook her head as the Prefects exited the meeting room, a few of them waving their hands dismissingly as they each headed off to their respective dormitories. They usually didn't have meetings so late at night, but Lily had forgotten to call for an earlier one to plan the ball for the end of the year. Fortunately she was able to call everyone in for half an hour before curfew. Not many had been happy to have the meeting take place at this time, since it was a very busy time of night, with people doing last minute studying in the library and God knows what else in secluded broom closets around the school. But Lily had had no choice – it was either annoy her fellow prefects or disappoint Dumbledore.
Lily retreated back to the table and started gathering her supplies together. Thank God James has left already, she thought as she organised her papers. I don't think I'd know what to say, after that wonderful meeting in the courtyard…
Lily smiled wistfully, remembering what had happened. She had walked away after the stag had disappeared, running her fingers over her lips where his had been so recently covering. She shivered as she recalled the memory, how simple and sweet it was. There wasn't the tingling sensation she always read about in her secret obsession with romance novels. Her knees hadn't buckled in bliss, and her body hadn't been trembling with ecstasy either. Instead, she had felt something else that she couldn't name at the moment.
Lily closed her eyes again, momentarily pausing her actions. She tried to bring back that feeling and label it as something, but she still couldn't identify it. A few more attempts brought up nothing. Deciding to forget about it, Lily resumed her paper shuffling before realising that there was a shadow hanging in the open doorway.
She turned around and almost squeaked when she realised it was James leaning in the doorframe. He pushed off it with an easy smile, ambling towards her. This time, she felt her blush and she quickly ducked her head to finally pack everything in her messenger bag. She hurriedly snapped the flap closed and had managed to shoulder the bag on when she felt a hand land on her shoulder. Breathing deeply, she turned slightly to see James's questioning gaze. She smiled prettily before hiding her face behind some of her red hair.
Suddenly, a hand appeared in her field of vision, brushing her hair back behind her ear. She blinked up into James's laughing eyes and found herself unable to look away. James still hadn't removed his hand, letting it rest lightly on her right cheek.
James couldn't get over how she looked at that moment, her green eyes wide and peering up at him again, just like a few days ago. Except her eyes seemed to hold something more that they had before – her usual curiosity was still present, but now it was mixed and swirled with something else when she looked at him. James wasn't sure what it was yet, but he was just content to know that she looked at him differently than she did at others. He finally let himself caress one rosy cheek before letting his hand fall back to his side.
James had also forgotten to tell Lily that the Patronus in the Transfiguration courtyard after the kiss was the first time he had been able to make his Patronus corporeal.
"I'm sorry I didn't see you there," Lily said, breaking the comfortable silence. "I thought you had already left."
"No worries. I had stepped out for a moment to make sure they were properly on their way. I'm sorry if I intruded on anything."
"Oh, no, not at all. I was just gathering up the reports and putting them away. What do you think of the workload everyone's been getting? I feel like this month's been our hardest as Heads."
Lily was desperately searching for a topic of some interest to talk to him about. She wasn't sure how to treat him now, and her uncertainty showed in her voice. James smiled down at her reassuringly, replying, "Oh, it's not too bad. If you want, I can take on anything extra if you have too much homework one night."
"Oh! Oh, no, I don't think that'd be necessary – "
"It's no problem, Lily. It'd be my pleasure."
Lily thought of saying the same chivalrous thing to Mary over a month ago, and found herself blushing again, smiling shyly up at the charming young man. Lily started when she realised that that was indeed what James was – a young man. James had grown up right under her nose, and she hadn't even noticed.
Lily took a moment to resurvey James. There was the face she had become so familiar with – the dancing hazel eyes, the easygoing smile, the unruly black hair. But only now did she recognise the faint, shallow laugh lines near his eyes and his mouth. His nose had become more prominent – something she was sure he wasn't very happy with – and the baby fat that seemed to stick through everybody's pubescence was gone, leaving behind defined cheekbones and a stubborn chin.
His body had filled out over the years, and he wasn't the scrawny stick he had been in fifth year. He seemed calm and confident in his body, always graceful – she thought, anyway – and it was something that Lily envied about him. He had let his hair grow out a little bit, so that a particular strand of hair fell forwards in his eyes at an angle, something he no doubt picked up off of Sirius. His glasses were slightly lopsided, giving him that adorable studious look she always fancied, but what she liked the most were his eyes. His hazel eyes always swam with splashes of green and chestnut brown, and Lily never really knew where one colour began and one ended.
Once, she had thought him immature and a prat – which he had been, back in fifth year. It had taken awhile, but she could see he had finally matured. It was reflected in his eyes: there was a level of wisdom there that Lily thought had never existed.
"What are you thinking about?" she whispered, so softly she wasn't sure if he had heard her.
"Truthfully?" She nodded, but never broke away from his gaze.
"Just life in general. How your view of it changes as you get older. I remember when everything was just so simple, and innocent. And then when the time comes, you finally understand what's happening and that it can affect you… how that tells you that there's more grey than black and white. And how much every decision from now on will be important to what will happen in the near future. It's not like we can just ignore the threats and the hardships anymore. Hogwarts had always made me feel safe – but our time outside these walls is soon drawing to a close. It's sort of like suffocation and release from a cage, you know?"
Lily almost didn't respond, but nodded quickly. She had been so transfixed in what he was saying and the fact that it had hit a chord inside her that she had almost missed registering his question. She had talked about things like this somewhat with Mary, but they had never gone so far into it as James had in just a few sentences. Lily didn't know how to tell him that she felt the same, and that she was just as afraid of what was coming – but it seemed that she didn't need to. James smiled down at her understandingly before moving closer to give her a hug. For a moment, she didn't know what to do, but she finally succumbed to his warmth and wrapped her arms around him.
She didn't know how long they had stood there in each other's embrace, but the feeling she had felt in their kiss previously had returned, and she didn't feel like letting go. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she felt herself recognise that the feeling was one she always felt subconsciously whenever she was around James, but was only now fully aware of it. She sighed softly, leaning more into James's comforting arms, unable to resist the urge of burying her head in his shoulder.
Suddenly, a resounding crash sounded in the corridor. James and Lily jumped apart, although Lily noted that James's arm was still around her waist. Lily moved towards the doorway to investigate, but James tugged her back.
Extracting his wand from his robes, James motioned Lily to be quiet before moving to the door himself. He darted his head out quickly, surveying both ends of the corridor before turning back to Lily.
"There's no one there, although one of the knights seems to have fallen over." James's observation had assured Lily some, but she couldn't help but notice a slight air of wariness around James. She nodded, snatching up her messenger bag where it had lay forgotten, before grabbing her wand.
Nodding at James, they both exited the room, Lily closing the door behind them. When she turned around, James was standing casually in the middle of the hallway, although his eyes betrayed his alertness. They both started moving back to Gryffindor Tower, although James's eyes darted around to make sure no one was following them or hiding in the shadows. Lily muttered a quick "Reparo" as they passed the fallen knight, following James closely.
When they had disappeared down the corridor, a cloaked figure emerged from the shadows near the entrance of the classroom they had so recently vacated. He stood silently in the middle of the hallway, his hand gripping his wand so tightly he was sure it was going to snap. He found he didn't care.
He had waited in the shadows for that person to exit the room, but it didn't work out as planned. He had become frustrated when James had only popped out to watch the Prefects leave. He had returned to the room, only he stood within the doorway, looking at her.
He watched as James's eyes had softened, watching Lily's unhurried actions. So much was said in that one look that he almost choked at the wave of emotion that had rushed over him at that moment. Then Lily had noticed him in the doorway, pretending to blush to draw him closer. James reached over, brushed her hair back. He had eyed James's hand on her cheek until it had fallen back to his side. They had discussed something, ending in them hugging in the deserted classroom.
Fury and longing had risen like bile in Severus's throat, causing an overwhelming desire to run. But his legs stayed locked in place. When they hadn't moved for several seconds, he had turned around and slammed into the nearest knight and disappeared into the shadows. Silence had echoed in the corridor before James's wary eyes searched the corridor. For two seconds, he thought that the hazel eyes had found him in the darkness, pausing over his location for a second before continuing. James's head disappeared, and a few moments later they had exited.
Severus had battled himself from raising his wand and uttering "Sectumsempra" at one of them. He kept fighting the urge until they had exited the hallway; now he was standing in an abandoned corridor well past curfew.
Severus growled, his face moulding into a dangerous snarl.
This was getting to be too much of a pattern. It needed to stop. Soon.
James crawled out of the portrait hole, helping Lily down when she appeared behind him. She smiled in thanks, and found them standing in relative awkward silence in the empty common room. The dimmed light from the magical lamps scattered around the room cast a warm glow throughout the room as the couches beckoned comfort.
Lily reluctantly glanced towards the staircases leading to the dorms, and James caught on. He smiled, whispering, "You should go to bed, Lily."
"Yeah, I really should." Lily glanced at the floor again, not moving any closer to the staircase. She found she had the inability to tear away James.
James chuckled, and wrapped his arms around her in another hug. This time, Lily held hugged him back with no hesitation.
They broke apart, and James smiled before kissing Lily on her forehead. Lily was grateful for the darkness to disguise her blush before she started moving slowly towards the girls' dormitories.
Halfway there, she realised James had just settled himself on to a couch instead of making his way over to the boys' dormitories. Turning around, she asked quietly, "Aren't you going to bed?"
James, startled out of thought, looked up at Lily in slight surprise before shooting her another grin.
"I'm just staying down here tonight. I've got some things to… well, mull over, I suppose." He chuckled softly.
Lily blinked. Finally, she nodded, and turned back to the staircase. James retreated back into his thoughts until he heard Lily's voice whispering.
"Can I stay with you?"
Again he was startled out of his thoughts, looking up at Lily with those hazel eyes. For a moment, Lily was filled with dread – was he going to say no? But it slipped away when she saw him smile.
"If you want to."
Lily moved back towards him, sitting down on the couch next to him. Belatedly, Lily realised there wasn't enough space for both of them to lie there comfortably. She blushed, unsure of what to do.
James's arms snaked around her waist, gently changing her position and pulling her back onto his chest. Lily felt the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest, and his arms wrapped around her waist.
And as she leaned into his chest, she felt that feeling seep under her skin and into her heart again.
Lily sat down as Professor Scarbrough entered the classroom, nodding at her. She inclined her head before setting her books out. Mary was busily chattering away next to her, but Lily barely noticed. She was thinking about the night last Thursday.
It had taken no time whatsoever for her to fall asleep, feeling safe and comforted in James's arms. All too soon, the sun was peeking into the large windows of the common room, and Lily awoke to the early morning sunshine. James had been awake then, and they both got up off the couch and headed back to their respective dormitories to get ready for the day. Since then, neither of them had mentioned that night, but she still couldn't forget the feeling of being in his arms. They seemed to bump into each other more often in the halls, and she caught herself looking for him in the corridors between classes and in the Gryffindor common room at night. But nothing had happened since then.
Her thoughts were still on James when Professor Scarbrough demanded their attention. Everyone focused for the lesson, excited for the little contest that the Professor had promised for today.
Class seemed to go by in a blur. Soon, the students found themselves ushered out of their seats again, and the desks and chairs pushed against the walls.
"Good! That's the last of the furniture. Now, I hope you've all been practicing. Everyone get in line. Any of you who wish to just watch, please stand near the walls so that the participants get maximum space."
The students moved to obey his instructions. Most students stood near the wall, talking amongst themselves, while a small handful of students stood in line at the back of the room, ready to be called.
"No Slytherins? I'm fairly disappointed," Professor Scarbrough said, eyes shining less brightly than a second ago. That side of the room said nothing, only smiled at him with grins that looked more like grimaces.
"Very well. If anyone's shy, they can just speak to me at the end of class and perform it privately. Let's begin."
He turned to survey the few students brave enough to venture a try. The Professor grinned as his eyes landed on a particular head with bronze-gold hair. "Mister Lupin! Please step forward."
The conversation ceased as Remus took the floor first. He lifted his wand and closed his eyes for a moment. Opening them again, face moulded in concentration, he said quietly but firmly, "Expecto Patronum."
For a while, nothing happened. But a silvery light burst forth, and a blurry shape hovered in the air in front of him. Lily could only decipher four legs before the shape disappeared again. Professor Scarbrough nonetheless looked impressed and congratulated Remus on his progress before calling the next person.
Sirius Black sauntered into the middle of the floor, confidence oozing from every inch of him. He lifted his wand lazily before uttering "Expecto Patronum" without even gathering his thoughts.
This time, the shape that had erupted was a lot clearer than Remus's had been. For a moment, Lily thought that his Patronus was a bear, but she finally recognized the shape of its face and identified a humongous dog before it, too, disappeared.
Professor Scarbrough grinned at Sirius, who made a little bow to his classmates before clearing the floor. James stepped up as the professor said, "Excellent! Just splendid, Mister Black!"
When his classmates had calmed down, James closed his eyes and performed the spell. Lily was already prepared for it, and watched silently as the stag appeared before her again. She watched as it reared, tossing its head before landing on all fours again. James grinned and petted it before it vanished.
At this point, Professor Scarbrough was ecstatic at the brilliance of his pupils. He couldn't keep a wide grin off his face as James walked off to join his friends in the corner of the room. Now it was Lily's turn.
Lily walked up, noting that everyone's eyes were on her. She was sure she would be able to perform the Patronus Charm, although she still hadn't done it perfectly yet. The last few times she had tried it resulted in a large, but blurry silver shape, and she was pretty sure it wasn't corporeal enough. Now she felt doubt tugging at her mind as she registered that Professor Scarbrough's expectations had now risen due to the previous performances. She bit her lip worriedly staring down at her wand.
"Go, Lily! Good luck!"
Lily looked up and grinned as she saw the smiling face of Mary, who had decided to not join in the competition. She hadn't been able to master the spell at all, and had given up the night before, deciding to cheer for Lily instead.
Pushing the doubt from her mind, Lily lifted her wand and closed her eyes in search for a perfect memory to use. Happiness… joy…
Suddenly, her mind was filled with the incident in the courtyard, and the night in the common room. James's face appeared before her mind's vision, grinning at her. The feeling she now associated with James spread through her body, warming her. Smiling herself, Lily could only see hazel eyes as she cried, "Expecto Patronum!"
Silvery light burst forth from her wand again, and Lily stared wide-eyed as the phantom took shape. For two seconds, nobody moved as a perfectly corporeal Patronus stood before Lily.
Staring right back at her was a doe.
Lily couldn't breathe as she watched the doe pick her way across the room towards her. The large eyes blinked up at Lily's own wide ones, and Lily was filled with an incredible feeling of peace. Slowly, she raised her hand to the doe, fingers trembling. She managed to lay a hand on its neck before it finally blinked and disappeared, letting Lily's lungs inhale air again.
Suddenly, loud chattering erupted in the classroom as her fellow Gryffindors congratulated her. The Slytherins, however, looked unimpressed. Lily ignored them as Mary ran over to hug her and lead her off, still chattering about Lily's success. But still Lily was silent as she finally looked up in James's direction.
The Marauders were quietly watching her from their corner of the room. Lily couldn't tear her eyes away from James's hazel ones. Finally, she turned to Mary, excusing herself before heading over to James's side.
She stood there next to him, saying nothing as they stared at each other. Lily realized that a slight blush was staining her cheeks – Not again! she thought embarrassedly – and she hurriedly looked at the floor again. She felt fingers under her chin, lifting her head up to face him again.
As James's hazel eyes bore into her own, she heard the Professor's voice from two months ago:
Patronuses are very unique, and they reflect your true person. Sometimes it can be linked to, or changed, by the people you love…
All Lily could see as she looked into his eyes was warmth. He smiled and Lily found herself smiling, too.
"A doe, huh?" was all he asked.
"Yeah. A doe. To your stag."
James had only smiled wider before pulling her into an embrace, which she immediately returned. They broke apart, startled, when they heard Professor Scarbrough announce the end of class. Immediately everyone sprang into action, grabbing book bags and heading out the door, chattering. Sirius nudged James with his elbow, winking at him as he followed Remus and Peter out the door. Lily glimpsed Severus going over to talk to the professor before James had led her away and out the door, grinning down at her.
"So what do you think it meant – "
Lily's eyes widened when she dropped her hand to her side, where her messenger bag usually hung. Her hand met air, and Lily realised she had done something extremely foolish.
"Oh, no! James, um, just go to class first. I forgot my books."
Face flaming, Lily ducked her head and ran back towards the classroom.
Can't believe I just walked out the door and forgot mybooks because James was smiling at me. I must seem a complete moron!
Lily had just reached the classroom, hearing James's footsteps behind her, when a cry from within stopped her in her tracks.
Severus Snape stood in the middle of the classroom, his wand pointing directly ahead of him. Belatedly, she thought, Severus must have asked to perform the charm after class and not in front of the rest of the Slytherins. In a flash of silvery light, another Patronus appeared where Lily's had stood just moments ago.
Lily gasped in disbelief as she stopped, one foot over the threshold.
In front of Severus Snape was a silver doe.
"Lily!" James laughed, coming up behind and hugging her. "What's the rush? You sure walk fast for – " James's eyes widened when he caught sight of what was going on over Lily's shoulder.
No one moved as the silvery shape wavered and finally flickered away. The classroom echoed with silence as Lily and James stared at the Slytherin standing in the middle of the room. Only erratic panting coming from Severus could be heard. He was only looking at one thing.
James and Lily caught in a half-embrace.
His dark eyes flashed before he whirled, grabbing his possessions and flying from the room, his robes billowing around him like a dark cloud. James moved Lily out of the way hurriedly as Severus brushed by them roughly, sending Lily toppling back into James's arms. James looked down at her urgently before striding into the classroom, grabbing Lily's bag, and nodding to the professor who still had not said a word. Handing her belongings to her and grabbing his own where he had dropped them by the door, James grabbed Lily's hand and strode off down the corridor.
"We need to find Snape. We need to find out what the hell just happened here."
Lily mutely followed as he hurried out of the classroom. James never swore around her. There had to be a reason that he was worried enough to use bad language, and Lily couldn't help but dread finding out.
Professor Scarbrough could only watch as the Head students rushed out of his classroom. He sighed, unable to do anything but sit there and wonder how in the world that had happened.
"Severus! Snape! Slow down!"
Severus could only grimace as a part of him leaped at the sound of his name coming from that voice. If only it was shouting his name because of a different reason… But he kept his legs going – he didn't have to stop unless he wanted to.
If they weren't as stupid as they looked, they would have realised what the Patronus had meant by now. And Severus didn't feel like being interrogated at a moment like this.
"Snape! Stop, right now!"
But still he ignored them, wilfully pushing forwards down the corridor, down the stairs. He led them through the maze of corridors in Hogwarts, and through the throngs of students getting out of class. It took them nearly ten minutes to reach him. By the time they did, they were out the front doors and on Hogwarts grounds.
"What do you want?" he hissed as he finally turned around, unable to deal with their following anymore. He glared as he saw them stop a few feet from him.
"Well?" he asked when they didn't say anything. "You just chased me all the way down here. Now what the fuck do you want?"
James's eyes flashed before they returned to their guarded state.
"Apologise, Snape. Don't use language like that in front of a lady."
He couldn't help it. Severus burst into laughter – maniacal laughter that held no humour in it at all. Lily shrunk back against James, who squeezed her hand reassuringly.
Severus choked when he finally could see again. He eyed their entwined hands hatefully before raising his eyes to theirs again. Green and hazel met black. The contrast couldn't have been so painfully obvious as it was now.
"I thought the Patronus would have explained everything already," Severus hissed angrily.
"No. Not everything."
Severus raised an eyebrow at James. Lily still hadn't said anything, but looked at Severus with confusion in her eyes.
"Not everything? Perhaps you both are as stupid as I think."
"No, we're not, Snape," James replied evenly. "Why?"
"Why?" Severus repeated, before laughing again, harshly. "Why?"
Severus straightened himself from his hunched position. His dark eyes glared into James's as James asked, "Why Lily?"
For two moments, everything stopped. Lily's eyes widened as she heard the question. James's eyes were filled with determination and protectiveness as he grasped Lily's hand in his own. And Severus just stood there, disbelief written plainly on his face.
Then he started chuckling softly, progressing slowly to full-throated laughter, ascending to the level of mania he had just experienced a minute ago.
"Why Lily?" he gritted out through his laughter. "Why Lily?"
Finally, his chuckling ceased, but his body continued to tremble. His hair covered his face away from their view as they fought to understand his disbelief.
He lifted his face to look into their confused faces as he felt a knife plunge into his heart.
"You," he said, pointing at James, "think I'm in love with her?"
He moved his finger over to Lily's direction. Here, he could see her perfectly clear. And he had never hated anyone so much in his life.
"She is the only reason why my life is in such a miserable state. She is the reason behind all my pain for the past four years. She is the one who has taken everything from me!"
Lily and James could only look on in horror as Severus's face took on a mask of hatred. Never had they seen him look so furious, and so full of anger.
"I've never asked for much. From anyone. And when I finally found the one that I wanted the most, it was taken away from me from perfect, gorgeous Lily Evans. Did you take pleasure in that, Lily?" he spat, turning to Lily. "I had to stand there in the shadows, while everyone liked you, because you were smart and beautiful. And a Muggleborn as well. Who would have thought? And I could never join you in the spotlight because a Gryffindor could never be friends with a Slytherin.
"Finally, I discovered one thing that I wanted the most in the world, and you didn't want it. It was the happiest time of my life, knowing there was something you couldn't – wouldn't – obtain. Should have known you would have taken that away from me, as well. So, guess what? You've won."
Snape turned to stare at the two of them intensely. The wind seemed to blow through them, whipping their hair around their faces and into their eyes.
"The one thing I've ever wanted was you."
Lily's eyes widened as Snape's eyes darkened even more, if that was possible. It was when she realized that Severus was looking right at James that she had begun to shiver.
"Do you know what I was thinking during that Patronus? I was thinking about the tunnel under the Whomping Willow. When that idiot Black sent me down to my death, and you had come and rescued me. I could only remember lying in your arms as you tried to drag me out of there. It was the closest I had ever been with you, and it gave me such a feeling of euphoria, I couldn't help but think about it everyday since then.
"But of course, you never noticed did you? No – all you ever had on your mind was Lily Evans."
At this, Severus turned to sneer spitefully at Lily. She flinched under his gaze, but was unable to turn away.
"Perfect Lily Evans. Beautiful red locks framing her adorable face. Her demureness, her generous demeanour, her gorgeous green eyes. A favourite of everyone. You took everything away from me, Lily Evans. I hope you're satisfied with yourself. For ruining my life."
This last part he hissed at her before turning away abruptly and stalking away. James and Lily could only stand and stare at the spot he had occupied just moments before. A breeze fluttered through, surrounding Severus and making his cloak billow around his frame, so familiar to the first time Lily had met him on the playground so many years ago. Finally the sounds of his feet crunching the ground underfoot disappeared, leaving James and Lily alone with the knowledge of his confession.
Snape continued hurriedly, almost running, and stumbled into the dungeons before mumbling the password to the Slytherin common room. He felt wetness on his cheek as he blurred by the green of the room – like Lily's eyes – and he wiped them away impatiently.
He stalked into his room, and, after seeing no one else was there, hurried over to his bed before violently tugging the drapes shut around him.
I do not cry! Only weaklings cry; only Gryffindors cry…
But one lone tear escaped his eyes and slowly dripped down his cheek before falling onto the forest green linens before he had himself under control again. He clenched his fists, remembering how close he had been to admitting everything out loud.
It would have been the worst thing he could have done. He would have ruined everything he had gained – respect, status, and power among those in the circle.
Severus closed his eyes and breathed in, before a well-lived memory floated in front of him. It was the memory from within the tunnel under the Whomping Willow, where he had found exhiliration in the arms of James Potter, had experienced contentment even though his feelings hadn't been reciprocated. He breathed deeply, losing himself in the images dancing across his eyelids as he felt the pain, anger, and hurt wash away, if only for a moment.
He ripped his mind away from the taunting memory. Snape cursed loudly, still gripping his hands tightly, imprinting his nails into his palms. The memory was gone, replaced instead by the images of James and Lily where he had left them on the grounds. The expression on James's face when he had heard him declare his love… it was a mix between horror and disgust. He knew it. And her eyes… gleaming with pity, and so green.
It was too much for him to bear.
This is it, he thought angrily, snapping his hangings open again. He scrambled to his desk, fumbling inside one of the drawers before extracting a quill and a piece of parchment. He hurriedly scribbled something onto it before tying it onto his faithful owl who had been watching his antics with cold amber eyes. He opened the door to watch the black shadow soar out of the common room. For a moment, he stood in the doorway, expression dark.
A door banged loudly in the corridor, causing a few heads to look up. When they saw nothing, they continued their activities, unperturbed.
The owl flew out into the night, fading into the darkness. On the parchment was drawn a deadly looking skull with a snake slithering out of its open mouth. Beneath it, scribbled in almost illegible script, was written, "I accept."
A few days had passed since the incident on the grounds. Snape had not acknowledged either of their presences during that time. Lily couldn't help but avert her eyes from her former friend, something she had never done except for the first few weeks after their fall out. Severus would ignore her in the halls and in class, his gaze always concentrated straight in front of him as Lily shuffled away, head bowed.
James had never thought that his one opponent at Hogwarts had actually carried any feelings other than hatred towards him. James had, of course, only hexed him for the last five years because he had been an arrogant git, and then later, Lily's closest male friend. When their friendship had fallen apart, James was more than pleased, but after that, he hadn't picked on Snape quite as much. He had no reason to – well, except for the whole House rivalry thing.
So it had come to an intense shock to him. Actually, the whole incident had set off a chain of shocks for him in the week to come. He was dealing with it better than he thought he would have – the man he had been calling a 'slimy git' for most of his time at Hogwarts had just confessed his unrequited love and sexuality in front of him and Lily, for Merlin's sake – and dealt with it silently. After hours of lying awake at night and mulling in class, James had finally come to a conclusion: he would treat Snape no differently – he hadn't cursed or hexed him at all this year, anyway – and that there was really nothing he could do about the situation. It was one of the most traumatic and shaking events of his life (until now) and although he knew he could never look at Snape in the eye ever again, he figured that if there was nothing he could do about it, then he couldn't, shouldn't, and wouldn't worry about it for any longer.
Even if he was still extremely, nerve-wrackingly, intensely shocked and not all right with the entire matter at all.
"You sure you're all right, Prongs?" Sirius had asked the day afterwards, looking concerned. "You haven't been fine since after that class. Where'd you run off to, anyway?" James had shrugged the questions off, remaining uncharacteristically silent. The others finally stopped asking, knowing how stubborn he could get, and left him to his jumbled thoughts and now routine shivers.
The last shock came when he discovered that Lily had been avoiding him. Their Head meetings seemed full of forced normalcy, and he couldn't help notice Lily's hurried packing of belongings and exiting – almost running – out of rooms he walked into, as if trying to cut down the amount of time they were together in private. He had to congratulate her – between their meetings, duties, and rounds, it must have been a right challenge to avoid him as well as she did. Finally fed up with her, he cornered her a week later after one of their meetings, determined to find out what was wrong.
When Lily saw James lingering, she shoved everything as quickly as possible into her messenger bag and tried pushing past him to the door. James stood in front of her and planted himself squarely in her way. Every attempt at getting around him was foiled, and she finally froze, cheeks flushed and eyes dropped to the ground.
"What's wrong, Lily?" He raised her face to meet his inquiring gaze. Lily felt his hazel eyes threatened to delve out all the secrets she kept with her, and although her mind was screaming for her to run away as fast as she could, her feet stayed planted and a feeling of peace seemed to settle in her stomach. She found she didn't mind.
"Nothing, really," she said, eyes wide. His hand slid to cup the side of her face, caressing her softly.
"Really? Because I'm getting the feeling that you're avoiding me. Am I right?"
She blushed again, finally averting her eyes to the side, her fingers playing with the folds in her robes. When she lifted her head to meet his gaze again, she saw humour sparkling in the depths of hazel. She ventured a small, embarrassed smile and was rewarded with a grin from James.
Something burst inside her, and she was filled with something giddy and warm. She suddenly had a huge urge to wrap her arms around James and never let go. Ignoring it, she took a deep breath and let it out silently, hoping he wouldn't notice.
"Is this about Snape? Or is this about… something else?"
Twisting her hands, Lily replied, "Kind of both, I suppose."
"More one than the other? Or…?"
"More one than the other."
James was silent as he gazed at her, waiting for her to continue. Lily bit her lip and uttered really quickly, "Patronuses."
"Ah. Our Patronuses?" At Lily's nod, James smiled.
"Remember what… um, what Professor Scarbrough said about Patronuses?" Lily asked, looking down at her wringing hands.
"Well… Um. What do you think our… uh, Patronuses mean?"
James was quiet for a few moments before answering.
"Whatever you want it to mean."
Lily's head shot up to look at James in surprise. James took her hands in his, looking into her eyes.
"If I'm correct, you've been thinking about what's going on between us, haven't you? And I'm being completely serious when I say that I'll go with whatever you want our Patronuses mean."
Lily found it hard to drop her gaze again, trapped between James's hands and his eyes. Lily opened her mouth to say something, but her voice seemed to have disappeared. She tried again, with the same results. Then James came to her rescue, asking the question that simplified it all.
"Lily Evans, will you go out with me?"
Lily's breath caught in her throat – it had been so long since she had heard that question. She had never given it a second thought, but she found that she missed it. Amazing how much six words could affect someone.
And Lily wanted to say yes. She wanted so much to say yes – she couldn't stop thinking about the Transfiguration courtyard, the common room, and their Patronuses. And yet…
"Oh, I don't know, James!"
James had watched her eyes sparkle then drop into conflict and confusion. Now, he found her in his arms, again. Only this time she was far from content.
"I don't know if I sh-should. I r-really want t-to, b-but I k-keep th-thinking about Sev!"
"Lily, listen to me," he started, partially releasing her from his embrace so he could look her fully in the face. "None of it was your fault."
"But – "
"It doesn't matter what Snape says," he said firmly, looking into her eyes. "There's nothing you could have done. You were amazing to start off with, and you never did it to him purposely. There's no blame in this on you, sweetling. You shouldn't let him dictate your answer."
Lily's eyes watered, but she let her gaze fall towards her feet. Again he lifted her chin with his fingers, eyes softening at the guilt he saw in her eyes. He hugged her again, and they stood there for a moment more, revelling in the silence of their surroundings.
He hummed in acknowledgement.
"Did you… really mean it? When you promised that we'd come out all right in the end?"
James eyes were dark as he stared down at her, fathomless and deep.
Finally, after taking a shuddering breath, Lily looked up with her green, green eyes and whispered, "All right."
James's face broke into a wide grin. He knew that she really meant it more for her concurrence that she was faultless on the account of Snape, but he had been waiting for almost three years to hear that answer, and it sent thrills of joy through his body. He wrapped his arms around Lily, letting her bury her head into his shoulder. He stroked her red locks, marvelling at their softness as they slipped like dark red wine through his fingers.
How many nights I lay awake wishing I was able to do this…
Did I just say yes? Lily wondered, inhaling his now-familiar scent. The scent of James. Sudden wave of realisation shot through her.
I said yes! I've finally said yes!
She choked out bright laughter. Hiccupping, Lily pulled back, sending a grin up at James.
"Yes, James. I will go out with you."
James bent down to kiss her, not able to get the image of her smiling face out of his head. After a few moments, they broke apart for air, smiling tenderly at each other.
"Come with me."
James grabbed Lily's hand and led her out onto the grounds. Night had veiled the surroundings in shadows, but Lily felt at peace with her hand in James's as he led them to the spot that Snape had probably two of his worst memories. They were quiet for a moment, wrapped up in each other.
"Hey, look. The moon's up," James commented quietly. Lily looked in the direction he was facing, and couldn't help but smile. The moon was almost full, its brightness reflected in the water, throwing back an unearthly glow on their surroundings. With everything highlighted in silver, it was hard not to smile at the beauty.
After awhile, she tugged James's arm, extracting herself from his embrace. She caught his hand, leading him around the lake. He smiled and followed after her willingly. They finally reached a spot with a perfect view of the castle and the lake. Suddenly thinking of something, she reached inside her robes, and extracted her wand.
"James," she started, looking up at him shyly. "Could we?"
James smiled back down at her and found his own wand as well. Together, they cast the spell before putting away their wands and sitting in the grass, Lily's arm in James's and her head leaning on his shoulder. She looked up into his hazel eyes, and smiled. All of a sudden, the feeling had come back again, stronger and washing over her in waves that grew stronger by the second. Lily blinked, mind filled with hazel as she realised she never wanted to lose this feeling of… rightness. James smiled, his own mind coloured green as the shock and incredulity that he still held from Snape's confession ebbed away.
They turned to watch the scene and let all their worries disappear, if only for a moment.
Close to them, a silvery doe and stag were nuzzling each other's necks, their eyes locked on each other's, never straying.
(A/N: SO! now for shameless plugging!
You could kinda call this a companion piece to the new MWPP project that i'm starting with two betas / part-time alphas. so yeah. totally checkus out. We're writing a complete series from the Marauder's (and Lily's and Severus's) first year to the night Lily and James died. So yeah. we're not out yet, but we're still working on it. diligently. kind of.
so... yeah. review if you liked it? or if you didn't like it, whichever. i won't promise to not cry though.)