Disclaimer: if I had any say Harry would be dead or with Hermione, simple as that.
Summary: he was supposed to hate her, but somehow she managed to get past his defenses regardless of that fact.
"Potter!" Moody barked as he walked through the office, searching for the young Auror.
"What now, Moody?" James asked in a tired voice as he walked through the doors to the office.
"What are you doing coming in so late?!" he asked, throwing his hands up in frustration.
"I just got back from a mission this morning at three, needed to get some rest before coming in to do all off the paperwork," he told him with a yawn.
"Well have Jacobs do it-"
"But it's my turn, he did it last time," he protested.
Moody just waved him off, "He was your partner, he knows the case, he can do it; I have another assignment to discuss with you."
"But I just got back-"
"Office, now," Moody ordered as he pointed to his office.
"Fine," James grumbled as he slowly made his way to the office opposite of his own. "So, what's so important that you're actually delaying the completion of the paper work? You're a stickler for rules Moody so it's got to be big," James noted as he threw himself into Moody's chair.
"Oi, out of my chair," Moody ordered him as he hit him upside the head with a case folder. "I'm the only person that sits there, how many times do I have to tell you that before it gets through that thick head of yours boy?"
"No need to be so moody," James teased him with a grin.
"That pun is far too trite for me to deem it worthy of a response."
"Whatever you say, boss."
"Here," Moody gruffly said as he threw the case folder across the table and onto his lap.
James cocked an eyebrow at him curiously, "What's this?"
"Your next case, feel free to look through it, I know you're dying to. After all, you were never known for your patience, Potter."
"You caught me," he grinned as he opened the folder; his excitement, however, was short lived when he read the details of the case and his face was soon marred by a frown. "Stalking? Is this some kind of a joke? Why the bloody hell are you sending me out on bodyguard duty?"
"Calm down, Potter, it's really important."
"Yeah, I can totally see why it needs to be done by one of the chief Aurors in the department rather than one of the interns," he sarcastically quipped, rolling his eyes at the preposterous idea.
Moody sighed, rubbing his temples as he willed his head ache to go away, "I have a meeting with the minister in two and a half weeks and the old wanker doesn't actually believe that any thing is going on out there. He doesn't think that there really are any threats out there. He's going to cut our funding, Potter, I can't afford that. You've seen what's going on out there now, it's close to being a full out war. I can't afford to lose whatever leverage I have in it."
James sighed, clenching his jaw in aggravation, "What does this have to do with the case you gave me?"
Moody smirked a bit, well aware of the fact hat he had won the argument, "I got an offer to have a reporter from the Prophet shadow one of our Aurors so I figure I may as well hit two birds with one stone through this one. I can get him to think that we're doing something that he'd consider 'worthy' of our time, get publicity, and appease the Prophet by giving them some sort of an in into our department-"
"But you don't, you hate them."
"Exactly, boy, this is a simple case. The girl already knows who it is that attacked her. I just need a simple case for the reporter to shadow you on that they can't muck up with that exposé of theirs."
"But why me?" he whined, "You know I hate reporters as much as, if not more than, you."
"You're charming, for some reason the girls go crazy over you. I need that Potter, I need the publicity. You will do this; I don't care how much you don't want to because, honestly, you have no choice in the matter."
"But it's not fair!" James groaned.
"Listen, it's an easy case, just prolong it a bit so it lasts a week and all will be good with the world," he told him with a tired smile. "Do me this favour and I'll let you do whatever you want; vacation time- two, six months, whatever you want- your pick on cases, teams, the works. I trust you, Potter, I'll give you full reign, but if you want to deserve that you also have to consider what's best for the department; we need that funding, without it we're screwed. Just do this, it's not that difficult."
James ran a hand through his hair in aggravation before finally getting out of the chair and walking to the door; before he opened it, however, he raised the folder, pointing it towards Moody, "I'll do it, but the reporter better not be annoying or ask too many personal questions."
"Can't guarantee anything, Potter, you know that."
He smiled, "A bloke can hope. I'll see you tomorrow, I have to get some rest so I can deal with the reporter, I have a feeling that I'll need it."
"Tomorrow morning, eight a.m., Potter," Moody called out after his retreating figure.
"Too bloody early," James muttered as he and Remus made their way into the ministry. "I should have gone into the Quidditch profession like Sirius; the prick never has to wake up earlier than noon."
"Well, you had offers," Remus smirked.
"Shut up, where's the bloody trolley?!"
"Right there," Remus pointed to one that was less than two meters away form them.
"No, the one with the good coffee."
"Oh, you mean Jordan, he's on vacation."
James growled, "Bloody hell, I think the worlds out to get me today!"
"You'll live, mate, now come on, you're going to be late if you don't hurry up," Remus clapped him on the back as he pushed him into an elevator.
"Potter, it's about time you got here. Evans and I have been waiting on you for the past ten minutes," Moody glared at him as he ushered him into the meeting room. "Now, I would like to introduce you to the reporter that will be shadowing you for the duration of this case, meet Lily Evans."
The reporter turned around in her chair to face him; raising herself out of it with a bright smile she extended her hand to him, "Nice to finally meet the famous James Potter."
James merely grunted in response, but after earning a glare from his superior he forced himself to smile at her, taking her hand in his and shaking it. "Nice to meet you too," he managed to choke out.
"Right, so I'll leave you two to discuss the case. You're going to have to update her on it, Potter, as I haven't had the chance to yet," he smiled at them, rather forcibly, before leaving the room.
They sat there in an awkward silence, both just staring at one another, unsure as to what to do next, until Lily finally interrupted it, "So, I'm really excited about this. When I heard that the Prophet was doing the story I jumped at the opportunity-"
She, however, was interrupted by James, "So, listen I'm going to be blunt with you, I hate reporters."
Lily, obviously taken aback by the statement, stepped back slightly, "You do?"
"I figured I should be honest with you if we have to work together for this case and that's the truth," he shrugged. "I despise your lot, can't stand you really."
She smiled weakly, totally bewildered as to how she should react to that statement, given that she now had to work with the prick, "Well, um… that's… nice?"
There was an awkward silence until James broke it by sighing as he threw himself into the chair opposite to the one that she had occupied only a few minutes earlier. "So, I guess we should get down to business then."
"Yeah, that'd be great," she said a bit apprehensively. While his tone may not have been hostile, he was still extremely cool and off-putting.
She took out her note pad and a quill so she could take notes, but just as she opened the booklet Harry took the quill from her, "Um, do you have a fetish for quills or something because if not I'll be needing that."
"No quick note quills," he briskly told her.
She rolled her eyes, "Don't jump to conclusions too soon, it's just a regular quill, nothing special about it."
His eyes widened, "Oh… um right, sorry about that then…"
"Whatever, let' just get on with this."
"Right, so apparently there's this girl, Sarah Prince, and five months ago she reported that she was being stalked. When Aurors looked into it, nothing came of the search and they just told her to call them if there were anymore incidents since they weren't able to find anything."
"Did anything happen after that?" she asked curiously.
He flipped through the pages of the case folder, looking for the interview with Prince, but found none; instead he found the answer in a cross-examination of her boyfriend. "Yeah, apparently there were incidents where she thought she was being followed. Since the Aurors weren't able to find anything last time, she didn't want to bother them since it was unlikely that that time would be any different."
"So what happened after?"
"She was attacked," he told her, so monotonously that it took her by surprise how blasé he could be about it.
"Poor girl, how?"
"One witness, but we're not clear on the details yet. Apparently, though, the person did it in broad daylight at the new ice cream shop in Diagon Alley. She apparently hit her with some old curse that ate away at her skin-"
"Yeah, it is kind of disgusting," he said with a grimace as he looked at the picture before handing it over to her.
"Cor, I think I'm going to be sick!" she gasped as she looked at the girl's picture after the attack. "Her entire face—just—just-"
"Don't worry, she's at St. Mungo's and based on the updated Healer reports here everything should be okay. In a few weeks she'll be good as new."
She paused, "So what do we do now?"
"We go interview her," James rolled his eyes, as if it was the most obvious thing on earth.
"Well, sorry that I'm a rookie to this, never shadowed someone. Maybe if you got your head out of your fat arse for a second you'd realize that not everyone knows the protocol and I'd like to get it right for this journal," she glared at him.
"Whatever, let's go, according to the itinerary Moody gave me he arranged an interview with Prince in fifteen minutes. I'd like to actually arrive on time."
"Someone's got a stick up their arse," Lily muttered as she reluctantly followed him out of the room, trying to ignore the fact that while he was a wanker, he did have a very attractive bum.
"So she's okay?" they saw a blonde girl ask the healer upon entering Sarah Prince's room. "Nothing happened to her, no harm at all?"
"Yes, within a week's time she should be released."
"Hello, can I help you?" a young man asked them when he noticed the pair coming in.
"Hi, I'm the Auror assigned to the case, James Potter."
"Oh, Jack Bergman," he introduced himself, eagerly shaking their hands. "Thank God, I was wondering when someone would come. I was so worried that there wouldn't even be a case given that nothing happened after that first interview."
"No, we just had to do some preliminary research and give her some time to recuperate so we could finally question her."
"And who is this?" the girl that had just been speaking to the healers interrupted them.
"James Potter, I'll be working on the case, and this is my assistant, Lily Evans," James introduced her, having only remembered her presence when she nudged him as he spoke to the blonde.
"Rachel Bergman," she introduced herself as she shook both of their hands.
"Siblings?" Lily asked her, noting how similar the two looked.
"I'm ten minutes older," Jack grinned.
Rachel laughed, "And he never lets me forget it."
"It's always that way with siblings, I should know, I have an older sister," Lily winked.
James coughed, "Right, well we should really get on with this interview. Would you two mind leaving us alone with Sarah?"
"But she finally fell asleep," Jack protested.
"Well, it's either we wake her up or the case is never solved and you risk her life. I'd say that the previous is the better bet," Lily told him with a smile.
He sighed, "Okay, but just please be gentle when you wake her up. She's still in a lot of pain, really sensitive since a lot of the skin hasn't grown back yet."
"We will, you have my word," James nodded.
Once the pair was out of earshot James turned to Lily, "You don't speak. You're shadowing, that's all. You have absolutely no right to 'help' with this case."
She raised an eyebrow at him, "I thought you said I was your partner."
"Oh please, I just said that so they wouldn't ask me why I didn't have a team of Aurors working on this case, like one isn't enough," James muttered the last part more so to himself than to her.
"If it helps, I won't include that part in the journal," she quipped.
"I wouldn't let you even if I wanted to, now be quiet so I can wake her," he ordered her.
"Someone's got a stick up their arse," Lily muttered as James gently nudged Prince.
"Who are you?" Sarah asked, obviously slightly affronted when she woke up to the sight of two strangers.
"I'm James Potter, the Auror working on your case, I was hoping you might have enough energy to answer just a few short questions," he told her with a charming smile that Lily couldn't help but roll her eyes at, he never gave her that smile, jackass.
"Is there anything that you remember about your attacker?"
"Well, I was at Mary Moo's Ice Cream Factory and they just sort of attacked me from behind. I don't really remember anything else," she chocked out, slightly tearing at the memory, which was a rather heart wrenching sight given that the girl was wrapped head to toe in a full body cast.
"Think, is there anything else that you remember."
"It just… it happened so fast, I really—I don't remember anything," she stumbled.
"James she obviously can't-" Lily began, but was quickly interrupted by a James that was glaring at her with such intensity that she couldn't help but be a little apprehensive about interrupting him again after that show.
"Just try to remember something, anything. Usually it's those small details that we think are so insignificant that make the case."
Sarah took a deep breath, closing her eyes as she desperately tried to collect her thoughts. Images swirled through her mind in a blur, but she looked for the details, just the minor things rather than focusing on the big picture. "Blonde hair… someone saying 'whore'… it was a girl's voice."
James nodded, "Exactly what the shopkeeper said. At least we have confirmation now since no one else was in the shop."
"So it helped?" she asked him with a hopeful smile.
"More than you could possibly imagine," he smiled at her, lightly squeezing her hand through the cast.
"Is there anything else that you'd like to know? I really want to help however much I can."
"Are you sure that you're up to it?" Lily asked, worried about the girls health.
"Small price to pay for my safety," Sarah joked with a forced laugh.
"Just one question then, who do you think it is?"
"Honestly? Jack's ex-girlfriend, the girl's a psycho. Shows up randomly at our dates every once in a while ranting about how he still loves her and they belong together. The girl's a piece of work."
"And she is a blonde?"
"Well, her hair colour is ever changing, sometimes she's a blonde, then a brunette, then a red head. You really never know with her."
"Right, well we'll look into that, but you just make sure you get plenty of rest. We want you out of here as soon as possible so we can put you in a safe house."
She smiled at them, yawning slightly; "Okay, thank you, if you don't mind I'll just take a kip."
"Do you really think that it's her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend?" Lily asked him as the two walked out of the hospital after the meeting with Sarah Prince, albeit it was more like she was running after him as his legs were far longer than hers.
James shrugged, "Wouldn't be the first time."
"A bit cliché though, don't you think?"
"Well, there's a reason why it's cliché," James rolled his eyes at her.
"You're awfully sweet, you know that?" she spat.
He shrugged again, an act that was beginning to aggravate her beyond belief. "You were forewarned, at least I was honest about it."
"Because that makes things so much better."
He just shrugged.
"Can you please at least stop shrugging. If you have to be a wanker you may as well not be a monosyllabic one."
"Don't see what we have to talk about."
"And here I thought they chose you for your charm," she muttered.
James stopped in his tracks after hearing that statement, "What? How did you know that?"
She cocked an eyebrow at him in disbelief, "What, do you think I'm an idiot? You're one of the best Aurors in that department, usually in charge of raids and finding dark wizards. Did you honestly expect me to believe that you're usually placed on a case like this? I may be a reporter, but that doesn't mean I'm an idiot, Potter, even I have some sense of logic; Moody chose you so you'd charm me since he knew that it'd be a female reporter shadowing you. But I do have to tell you, you're really not doing a very good job at it. I'll see you on Monday, Potter, I'm going to go work on this journal," she told him before Disapparating, leaving behind a dumbstruck James.
"But—but—how the hell did she know?" James sputtered after recounting what Lily had told him earlier that day to Sirius and Remus as the group sat in Luigi's enjoying an Italian dinner.
"Just eat a manicotti and get over it," Sirius told him as he shoved one of the stuffed pieces of pasta in his face.
"Show some decorum won't you! Honestly, you're a, Black, you went to bloody etiquette school," Remus chastised him, looking at him with disdain as he shoved another piece of lasagne into his mouth.
"Oi, forget about him, focus on my problem now," James pouted.
"Could it be anymore obvious that you are an attention starved only child?"
"So not important now," he muttered.
"Fine," Remus sighed. "You want an answer? She knew because, like she said, she's not an idiot, James. I did some research on her for Moody and the girl's pretty brilliant. She was top of her class at Beauxbatons and all. She's not some bimbo and you're only making it worse for yourself by treating her as such."
"She sounds hot, is she hot?" Sirius asked.
"No, the girl's a frigid stick."
Remus on the other hand merely rolled his eyes before nodding to Sirius.
"Knew it, I have such a sixth sense with these things!"
James immediately understood the implication behind the statement and turned to Remus with accusing eyes, raising an eyebrow at him.
"Oh, don't get so worked up because she bested you and just happens to be a reporter. She's hot, Prongs, at least admit to that much."
"Maybe she's just not my type," he grumbled in response.
Remus laughed, "Bull shit, that girl is everyone's type mate."
"The boyfriend's coming in ten minutes and the ex should be in soon after that so it seems like you'll have a ton of juicy details for your little journal," he told her sarcastically with a faux smile.
"You could at least pretend to be nice… and, come to think of it, acknowledge the fact that you need me just as much as I need you."
"But you see, there's a little problem with that, I don't need you."
"If it sates you to delude yourself like that then go ahead. The truth is that your department's being audited and the funding is being called into question. I do my research, Potter, don't underestimate me," she told him with a glare before walking out of his office and making her way to the examination room, a path that she had memorized with the help of one of the younger interns that she coaxed into helping her.
James grabbed her by the arm right before she opened the door, "If you're going to do your research you may want to look into proper protocol. You're not allowed in; you'll have to watch from the viewing room."
"Fine," she huffed as she slammed the door when entering the room.
James just rolled his eyes as he entered the room, "Jack Bergman, thank you for meeting with me…"
"You know I don't think the ex-girlfriend did it," Lily said as the two entered his office after both of the interviews.
James merely cocked an eyebrow at her patronizingly, not really wanting to admit that he was intrigued by the statement. He knew she'd be more than willing to talk whether or not he gave her any indication as to his interest in what she had to say.
"She just—I mean, yeah she seems a bit mentally ill, that much is obvious, but she doesn't seem like the type to do that. She's in love, not vicious."
"Women are vicious as a whole, Evans."
She stopped, just turning to look at him, jaw slack, unable to comprehend how he had the audacity to make a comment like that. "What the hell is your problem?"
James just shrugged in response, rolling his eyes at her immaturity.
"Stop that!" she yelled at him, catching him so off guard with her sudden outburst that he nearly fell off the chair that he had just sat in. "God, why are you such a prick?! I haven't done anything bad, but you and your arse-iness have made my life a living hell for these past few days. I'm trying to be a good reporter, help you by portraying you in a good light because I honestly believe that we need a department like yours. But no, God forbid that you have to be nice to anyone, much less a reporter!"
James got up so he was levelled with her as he didn't really like the prospect of her being in control of the argument, "Wait just a minute, I haven't-"
She pulled her wand out of her pocket, threateningly pushing it into his face, "Don't you dare try to defend yourself. Not after all the shit you put me through these past few days, you arse! I swear if you say one more word I will make sure that that little pecker of yours never works again!"
His eyes widened as he stared at the wand that was now pointed towards his nether regions. Somehow, he didn't doubt that she could do it at that moment. He quickly sat back down, gulping heavily as he tried to swallow his fear as she exercised her, somewhat cliché, red head temper on him.
"I've been through it all, randy Quidditch players that tried to grope me during an interview, political figures staring down my shirt and treating me like a bloody slag, being called a Mudblood. But none of that bothered me as much as you! I expected as much from them, but you—you treat me like some idiot. You make me feel like shit, and worst of all you're ruining an assignment that I was genuinely looking forward to. I've worked so hard to get to this point, a real article for the Prophet, have you any idea how rare they are these days? But no, you have to muck that up for me because God forbid that everyone isn't as miserable as you, God forbid that you put some effort into it!" she screeched before she poked him in the chest with her wand before exiting the room in a huff.
"I just—ugh, I want to hit him!" she ranted as she and her best mate Alice sat at Luigi's eating dinner.
"Eat your pain away love, trust me, the food's divine," she told her with a smile as she took a manicotti off of her plate and put it on Lily's so she could try it.
"I want to hit him."
"With what?" Alice asked her curiously, smirking a bit at the prospect.
Lily smirked, biting her lip as she considered all the possibilities, "A skillet."
"Well, you don't really use yours for cooking anyway-"
Alice smiled pityingly at her mate, "But you can't cook love."
Lily avoided Alice's eyes after that statement. While she didn't want to agree with her she couldn't exactly deny it either. "Should I use the twenty-three or the twenty-eight centimetre?"
"He called women vicious?"
"Then I'd say go for the twenty-eight, love."
When she entered James's office the next morning she was shocked to see him, uncharacteristically, smiling at her as she walked through the door.
She eyed him suspiciously, "What's up with you?"
"Here, a peace offering," he offered her a cup of coffee, "java chip mochachino. I asked your mate at the Prophet, Jeff, what your favourite drink is. I also brought you a chocolate croissant; he mentioned that you have a fetish for chocolate…" James rambled somewhat nervously. She was sure that if he wasn't such a prick she would have found it cute, but that was under different circumstances.
"Why are you doing this?"
"Like I said: truce. You're right, I was an arse and it was unnecessary. I shouldn't have been so rude just because you're a reporter… it doesn't mean that you can't be different from the rest."
She cautiously took the coffee and treat form him, "Just so you know this doesn't mean we're mates or anything, or that I even like you."
He smiled at her, the charming smile that she never thought she'd see directed at her, "I promise to make that change then."
"Doubtful," she muttered.
"Just watch, I'll surprise you, Evans. I'll make up for my 'arse-iness.'"
She smiled, "I still think it was a perfect description for you."
"Never questioned it, was I slightly offended by it? Yes. But did I question it? No."
"You shouldn't be the one offended when I was the one that had my entire sex called vicious," she said tightly.
"About that," he said nervously, running a hand through his hair. "I really didn't mean it that way, Evans."
"Then how did you mean it?" she asked him doubtfully.
"I meant that in comparison to men, women are vicious… oh bloody hell that didn't come out right either, did it?"
"No, afraid not," she said, trying to bite back her amusement.
"Okay, let me try again then. What I meant to say is that when they exact revenge they go all out… there is no half way with them. They are more particular about who they do it to and when or if. But that's what makes them so dangerous, because when they actually do, more often than not, it's worse than anything you could possibly imagine."
She sighed, stubbornly muttering: "You could have said that in the first place."
Over the next two days, James interviewed everyone that knew the ex-girlfriend, Lara McNaire, or Sarah Prince. They desperately tried to find an angle and, as much as he hated to admit it, the more that he learned about the two the more he doubted that it was actually McNaire that committed the crime. Lily was right, the girl wasn't right in the head, but she was a sweet person regardless of it. One that may have been in love, but she had a conscience that stopped her form doing something as awful as what had been done to Sarah.
Plus there was the fact that last week, when the crime took place, Lara had been a "pink-head"- as her best mate, Cooper, put it.
"So, you may have been right," he admitted gruffly as the two went over case notes that day, trying to find a solution of some sorts.
"Obviously, she had pink hair last week and there are no traces of any potion in her blood, nor has she even practiced magic for three months."
"I'm complimenting you, bask in it won't you, just accept the fact that you were right."
"So, does this mean you're actually going to listen to my opinions? Rather than just let me help to humour me so you can get on my good said?" she asked him with a smirk.
"Must you always be two steps ahead of me, Evans?" he groaned.
"It's part of my charm."
"What do you think we should do next?"
She gave him a quizzical look, "We?"
He nodded, "Yeah, as in you and me. Don't tell me I have to give you a lesson in English now."
"No, just surprised that you actually, genuinely, want my opinion."
"Enjoy it while you can. So, seriously, what do you think?"
"Well… the answer has to be found in whomever we didn't interview-"
"I don't think that there is anyone that we haven't interviewed."
She cocked her head to the side, "When is she getting out?"
"Tomorrow," James said as he flipped through his notes, organized courtesy of the interns. Suddenly he stopped as comprehension dawned upon him, finally catching on as to what she was insinuating, "No!"
"Well, what else can we do?"
"It's putting her in danger and she barely made it through the first time, I won't let her be a target, Lily."
She rolled her eyes, "Well she won't be alone this time. You and I'll take a Polyjuice potion and we'll watch over her, protect her; I was great in DADA you know, I can help."
He threw his hands up in exasperation, "But I don't like this."
"Neither do I, but seriously, what other choice do you have?"
"Fine… it's a back up plan. I need to have this case wrapped up by the end of next week so if worse comes to worse we'll do it. But until then, we do whatever digging we can. We'll pull all the stops, I just—I don't want her hurt if she doesn't have to be."
She smiled slightly, reaching across the sofa that they were sitting in and squeezing his hand, "How about we pull a late night, go over it all and try to think of whatever angles, realistic or not. We'll look at it all and try to figure this out."
He smiled at her, "Thanks, that'd help a lot."
"Can I ask you something?" she said suddenly as the two ate their curry in silence on the couch in his office when they finally took a break for some dinner that evening.
He paused for a second, looking at her wearily, before hesitantly answering, "Sure."
"Why do you hate reporters?"
He sighed, putting down his curry as he stretched a bit, "I'm a Potter."
She smiled at him quizzically, "I've realized."
"The name is synonymous with the wizarding world; my dad was even Minister of Magic-"
"Yes way!" he teased her.
"Okay, that was unnecessary," Lily pouted slightly.
"Do you want me to continue or not?"
"I grew up with the press constantly hounding us, following us, making up whatever lies they could about my family. I just—I can't stand them because of that. It led to so many unnecessary fights in my house, almost tore my family apart because of the lies."
"Doesn't mean that every reporter is like that though," she grumbled bitterly.
He nodded solemnly, "I'm learning that… slowly, but surely."
She smiled at him shyly, "Good to know."
"So what are we doing today?" she asked him brightly as she walked into the office.
"Must you be so perky in the morning?" he groaned as he squinted at her, the light bothering him so early in the morning. "Why does the sun have to be so bloody bright?"
"I take it you didn't have any coffee this morning," she laughed at him.
"No, didn't have time."
"Shame, I had a double shot of espresso, really gave me a boost," she laughed.
"Go to hell."
She wagged a finger in his face, "Tut-tut, Potter, that's not a very nice thing to say."
He glared at her, "Come on, we have to go break the news to Prince that McNaire isn't the attacker."
She winced, "Damn, I was really hoping I wouldn't have to see her face when you told her that."
"If I have to go through it, so do you, Evans."
"What do you mean it's not her?!" asked a furious Sarah Prince after they broke the news to her. It truly was a sight to behold as her face was already tinged red from the residual effects of the curse as she wasn't totally healed yet. That combined with the blush from her anger only made her look like a tomato. Lily was torn between laughing at the sight and crying because she hadn't been able to help solve the case yet. "How can it not be her?"
"Well, she has a solid alibi. Her hair was pink last week. She hasn't practiced magic in three months. There's no traces of any potion in her blood… it's just not possible that it's her."
"What's her alibi?" Sarah asked doubtfully.
"She was in a mental institution that her best mate placed her in a week and a half ago," Lily interjected. "We actually only found that part out yesterday when we finally pried the location out of her best mate. He didn't want to ruin her reputation so it'd be great if you didn't tell anyone that tid-bit."
"Then who attacked me?"
"We're working on it," James told her desperately, just then realizing how much he preferred raids over cases like these. In those you just had to deal with the dark wizards, no one else was part of the equation to feel guilty about.
"But what about when I get out? What happens if they try to attack me again?" she cried.
"You'll be in a safe house, no one can get to you there, I promise," James told her.
"Okay," she sighed tiredly, wiping away whatever residual tears there were. "Just please do whatever you can to solve this case."
"We will," he nodded.
"Well I feel like shit," Lily announced as the two left the hospital.
"Trust me, you're not the only one."
"Good to know," she nodded.
"Listen, we pulled a late night last night, how about we call it a day?"
"I think that's for the best, I need to go over these notes anyway."
"Good luck… have a nice weekend, Lily," he told her as he made his way to the alley so he could Disapparate.
"Yeah?" he asked, turning around only to see her running towards him.
She stood there for a minute just staring at him, evidently in some sort of an internal battle that left him puzzled as he had no idea what she could possibly be so conflicted about. A few times she opened her mouth only to close it again without having said something before she finally got up the nerve to say whatever it was that she had to say.
"You'll solve it, I may not have had much faith in you before, but I do now… You're a great Auror, James, you'll solve it."
He smiled down at her, "I'll take your word for it."
"Have a nice weekend, James," she told him as she kissed his cheek before Disapparating.
"God I love this place!" Alice exclaimed as the two were, yet again, found gorging themselves in horrendous amounts of Italian food at Luigi's.
"We look so fat right now, you know that?"
"It is pretty sad that we need a table for five just so we can fit all the food on the table and there's only two of us."
"I prefer to call it talent," Alice winked at her.
"I think I also prefer that description," she laughed.
"Lily?" she heard a voice call out to her from behind.
She turned around and the sight that she saw caught her totally off guard, "James? What are you doing here?"
"My mates and I," he said, pointing to Sirius and Remus, "are here for dinner, waiting for a table actually."
"Well you should join us," Alice offered. "We have more than enough space and food here, just enough for you actually."
"Are you sure?" he asked Lily a bit cautiously.
"Sure," she smiled at him. As the three sat themselves at the table she turned to Alice, whispering in her ear, "Down girl, you're engaged."
"Doesn't mean that I can't enjoy the view, love," Alice smirked at her.
"Oh, by the way, Alice, this is James, the Auror I'm assigned to for the journal."
"Oh 'the prick'!"
Lily's eyes widened at the statement, "She didn't mean that-"
James smiled amusedly, "It's okay, Lily, as far as my mates are concerned you're the 'bitchy reporter'."
"You also called her nosy; and by the way I'm Remus, and the one over there, eating your Fettuccini Alfredo is Sirius."
"Nice to meet you," Lily laughed. "So I guess that we're both to fault then."
James sighed good naturedly, "Apparently."
"I had fun tonight, it was rather surprising how much actually," Lily commented as James walked her back to her place, as he had offered after dinner since Sirius and Remus were walking a more than slightly tipsy Alice home.
"I did too; your mate, Alice, she's quite the character."
"Got to love her, she's an original."
"That's one word for it."
"So, this is my place," she said as she stopped in front of a brownstone townhouse.
"Nice place," he commented.
"I like it."
"So listen, Lils-"
"Yeah, I have a thing for nick names," he winked at her.
"Well, I happen to like that one so I'll let it go," she smiled. "So you were saying?"
"I just—I wanted to say thanks for giving me a chance, even after my unbelievable arse-iness."
"Oh God," she groaned, slightly pouting at hearing that word come out of his mouth. "You're never going to let that one go, are you?"
He chuckled, "Too original for me to just let it die like that, Evans."
"At least I'm prepared now. Good night, James."
"Oh, James?" she called out after climbing up the stairs to her door.
"Yeah?" he asked, turning around to face her.
"It was worth it… See you at work on Monday, Potter."
"When did you get here?" she asked him suspiciously when she entered the office to see a haphazard James at his desk- papers and pictures pasted all over the walls.
"Last night, there was an attempt at an attack last night."
"Why didn't you call me?"
"I figured you could use the rest-"
"Relax, Evans, I knew that I'd need at least one person that was fully awake. I'm too burnt out to find any new prospects. I need you here now; I didn't need you back then."
She sighed; he truly was a stubborn git, "What happened?"
"We have no clue who it was; they got out too quickly once they detected the defences. We don't even have a trace on their wand which means that they were there for less than fifteen seconds-"
"Why fifteen seconds?"
"That's how long it takes for the spell to activate," he smirked.
"Oh, right," she laughed. "That was pretty pathetic, wasn't it?"
"Just a bit."
She smiled, before finally letting out a deep sigh, "You know what this means don't you?"
He winced, "Don't say it."
"She shouldn't have to go through that… not after that curse. She shouldn't have to put her life at risk like that; I should be able to solve this, to save her-"
"Stop it, James; you can't beat yourself up over it like this. It's not your fault, there just aren't any leads. No witnesses that can give us any more information than what we already know… there's no other option, James."
He groaned as he cradled his head in his hands, "Who would have thought that dealing with dark wizards is easier than this."
She smiled, "The cases here are easier. You get emotionally attached… it just means you're a good guy, don't beat yourself up over it, Potter."
"Here, I thought this would be the easiest case of my career. It was supposed to be so simple…"
"Well, think about it this way, the longer it goes on, the longer you get to bask in my enlightening company," she smiled. "Come on, I'm taking you home-"
"But we should work-"
"No, you need sleep, James. We'll take a day off to relax and tomorrow we'll be able to look at the case with a fresher perspective. We'll take care of all of the arrangements and on Wednesday we'll use her as bait."
He paused before finally heaving a sigh in defeat, "You don't know where my home is."
"Oh no you don't, we're leaving. You're not finding a way out of that; and by the way, that's why I'm taking you to my place," she winked at him as she helped him up.
He cocked his head to the side as he watched the movie, looking at it a bit confusedly, "What the hell was this guy on when he made this?"
Lily gasped, "How can you say such a thing about Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?! It's blasphemy is what it is, bloody hell…"
He smirked, "Calm down, Lils-"
"I will not, here you are mocking my favourite movie of all time and you just expect me to take that lying down?!"
"I can hope can't I? Would be nice to see you stop talking for once."
"Why I never!"
"Don't act so offended when we both know that you're not."
She laughed, biting her lip, "You're an arse, Potter."
"Part of my charm, love."
They sat in silence as they both returned their attention to the film until, twenty minutes later, James interrupted it. "Can I ask you something?"
"Why the Prophet?"
She furrowed her eyebrows in confusion, turning to look at him, "What do you mean?"
"Why go there? I mean you're such a talented writer-"
"You've never read my work."
"What, you think you're the only one that can do research, Evans?" he asked her, cocking an eyebrow at the connotation.
She smiled, "Well…"
"Lily!" he groaned, dramatically throwing him head into his hands.
"Oh, don't be so flamboyant, Potter… but I guess I should thank you for the compliment."
"You're welcome, and for your sake I'll ignore the fact that you questioned my manliness back there. But seriously , why the Prophet?"
She shrugged. "It's the most prestigious newspaper here. I mean where else am I going to work, Witch Weekly?" she asked with obvious distaste.
"But it's so focused on gossip; the former gossip columnist is editor in chief there."
"What choice do I have, James? I love to write, it's what I want to do with my life. So yeah, it's not the Yorker or anything, but it's the best there is in England and that's my home. I don't want to leave my friends and family for a job, they mean too much to me."
"Are you sure that it's not that you're scared of not being accepted into the Yorker?"
She paused, evidently surprised by his blunt question, "I'll always be a bit apprehensive, I can't help but doubt myself as a writer… but no, I just—I love England and I don't feel like I'm done here yet."
"And how will you know when you're done here?"
She smiled, "When something major happens."
"What do you mean?"
"I define my life by its life changing moments: finding out I was a witch, graduating from Beauxbatons, and moving back to England. Something big has to happen here so I can end this chapter."
"That's really girly."
She let out a laugh, swatting his arm, "No, you're just an insensitive berk."
"So, I've strengthened the wards on the safe house-"
"You know, if she didn't get through the first time she won't this time," she teased him.
"I was just being careful, can't hurt to take extra measures."
"You're such a sweetie, Pothead," she pinched his cheek.
He groaned, "Please, don't patronize me."
"But it's so much fun, not to mention so easy."
"Glad to hear that my humiliation can at least be to your amusement."
"Well, at least you can be of use in some way."
He chuckled, pausing for a minute before sobering up. "So, what do you think, should we go back to the ice cream place tomorrow?"
"So you're actually going through with it?"
"I didn't want to… you know that, but you're right, no other option," he admitted, albeit reluctantly.
"So how's it going to happen then?"
"Pretty much we parade her around Diagon Alley if nothing happens at the Mary Moo's."
"Very descriptive, obviously thoroughly thought out," she quipped.
"I'd like to think so."
"So, when are we going to go tell her the plan?"
"I'm going to go by tonight to tell her about it," he winced, preparing himself for the rant that was sure to follow.
"Wait a minute, I'm coming too!" she protested.
"You need to get some rest and I have to drop by there anyway. Don't go feminist on me right now, Lils."
"Fine, but I hope you realize that I am moping over the fact that you're just leaving me like that."
"Just work on your article, not like you don't have other work to do, Evans."
"But what if this doesn't work?" Sarah asked Lily and James, both of whom were disguised.
James was a blond with blue eyes, in contrast to his raven hair and hazel eyes. Lily only slightly darkened her hair so it was a darker shade of auburn and changed her eye colour to brown. The two were posing as a married couple, having borrowed rings from the supply room at the department where they held all the materials for undercover missions.
"It will," James squeezed her arm lightly.
"We'll be by your side, so don't worry about it," Lily promised her.
"Okay, let's go," she said as she let them lead her into the ice cream factory.
"You go get yourself some ice cream; Lils and I will be at the corner table."
"Okay, right… I'll just go then," she said as she timidly approached the vendor.
Lily and James walked to the table, watching Prince from afar. "Do you really think it'll all be okay?"
"I'm hoping that it will, but honestly, Evans, I have no clue."
The two sat at the table, waiting for a waiter to come by so that they could place their orders. After five minutes of waiting and watching Sarah enjoy her ice cream as she stared out the window to the ice creamery Lily heard the distant sound of the bell chiming as someone opened the door to the shop. From the corner of her eye she noticed that among a group of children a cloaked figure entered.
"Bloody hell, James, look at five o'clock" she muttered to him before she ran towards Sarah trying to act as a buffer. When Lily noticed that the cloaked person was taking out her wand, she pushed Sarah to the side just in time to be hit by the spell meant for the girl.
After the spell hit Lily, everything happened in a blur. She heard James take down the attacker with a stunning spell. She heard Sarah crying wildly, yelling for some sort of assistance. She heard James ordering her not to scratch at her skin as he pulled at her hands to keep them by her side, leaving her to only cry in anguish over the excruciating pain. She couldn't see a thing, but she heard it all, she could feel the panic in the room.
Then everything went black.
She opened her eyes to the sight of a scraggly James staring out the window. After a few attempts she finally managed to croak out, "What are you doing here?"
He turned to her, looking at her almost apprehensively, as if he was afraid that it was merely his imagination, "You're awake."
"I guess I am," she asked, trying to smile only to be accosted by a distinct pain.
"Yeah, no sudden movements… she used the same hex as last time… luckily the healers got there sooner so you'll be let out tomorrow."
"That's all you have to say? Usually I can't get you to shut up."
She chuckled lightly, "That's nice, very sentimental."
"I aim to please. A bunch of your mates were here, but given that it was nearing two in the morning I told them to leave and stayed to watch over you…"
"How are you feeling?" he asked her, his worry for her finally coming through.
"That all depends on how Sarah is."
"She's good, nothing happened to her, just like we promised."
"Then I'm great."
He smiled down at her, "You have no idea how glad I am to hear it, Evans. Now take a kip, I want you well rested so you'll be able to leave on schedule."
"So what's the full story?" she asked him as he helped her into her townhouse.
"You've already said that, James," she growled.
He sighed, nervously running a hand through his hair, "It's not a fun story, Lils, really not the best homecoming."
"Out with it, Potter, I'm going to need to know sooner or later considering I have to write an article about it for Tuesday's post."
"It was the sister."
Lily furrowed her eyebrows, obviously bewildered by the statement, "Sarah has a sister?"
"It was Jack's sister, Rachel Bergman."
"Why would she do that? Did Sarah cheat on her brother or something?"
"Well it's a little wackier than that…"
"How wacky, James?" she asked him a bit apprehensively as she took note of how he shifted his weight from one foot to the other, obviously uncomfortable with the topic.
"Flowers in the Attic wacky," he muttered, staring intently at the floor.
Her eyes widened, "Wait—bloody hell—they—they-"
"No… she was in love with him though… I really wasn't paying much attention to the psychologist when he went over the exact details of how it happens; I was just in a total state of shock when she said it. The brother was even worse off than me though, he was hyperventilating. I mean total state of shock there, almost had a heart attack when he heard her say that."
She winced, "He heard?"
"He was in the viewing room, poor bloke, can't imagine what that must be like…"
"Talk about family drama… no wonder we never figured it out."
"Right about now I'd say it's a good thing that we didn't, a testament to our sanity," he winked, chuckling a bit forcibly as he was still rather uncomfortable with the entire situation.
"Listen you need some rest so I'm going to get going, but Alice said she'd be by as soon as she leaves work and she'll bring food from Luigi's."
"Thanks, James, you didn't have to do all of this."
"I owe you that much at least, you saved my charge."
"Glad to be of service," she saluted him as she walked him to the door. "But really, James, thanks… for everything," she smiled shyly at him as she kissed him on the cheek.
"Any time, Evans… plus had to make up for my prior arse-yness."
"You're getting there… bye."
"Bye, Lils, hope you feel better."
"So are you ever going to talk about it?" Alice asked her as the two sat in front of the TV. They were watching a Godfather marathon while enjoying obscene amounts of traditional Greek food from the new place that recently opened down the block from Lily's brownstone.
"Talk about what?" Lily asked her suspiciously.
"Your undying love for James."
"Ha-ha, very funny," she laughed dryly.
"I wasn't joking, love," Alice smirked at her.
Lily glared at her, "Enjoy your musaka and leave me alone then."
Alice sighed, "You're gaga for the bloke, Lils. It's so obvious."
She cocked an eyebrow at her mate, "Gaga?"
Alice shrugged, "I'd say that it's the best term to depict it."
Lily rolled her eyes, trying to hide her smile. "We're just mates… and barely even that, we're more like acquaintances than anything else."
"Oh please, stop lying to yourself, you want him, I see the way that you look at him."
She sighed, putting down her souvlaki, "I don't know, Alice… He's just — he's so James."
"Well, I'd hope so given that he is James. What's going on, Lily? You've never been like this over a bloke before."
She shrugged, pouting slightly, "He was supposed to be an arse, just another cocky Auror… but I don't know… somehow he's different and I really like him…"
"Then go for it."
"I can't, he doesn't like me that way, Alice. Hell, I don't think he even really likes me all that much. I'm just another reporter that had to shadow him."
"I wouldn't say that, I mean he did-"
"He's just a sweet guy," Lily told her stubbornly.
Alice sat back; scrutinizing her friend before finally speaking again, "You really like him, don't you?"
"Yeah," Lily reluctantly admitted, keeping her eyes on the food in front of them rather than her best mate.
"And you're not going to do anything about it?"
Lily nodded her head, "I've realized."
"So I wrote the article, should be coming out on Tuesday," she announced as he entered his office only to see her sitting in his chair with her feet propped up atop of his desk.
He eyed her curiously, "Really, any chance I get a sneak peek?"
"Nope, sorry, I'm afraid that you're going to have to read it when everyone else does. The good news, however, is that it comes out the day before Moody's meeting with the Minister so it'll be fresh on his mind."
"Then I hope that he'll be impressed by it."
She smiled, "Don't worry, he will be… I promise."
"Good, glad to hear my arse-yness didn't make it in."
"Now who ever said that?" she teased him.
His eyes widened at the thought, "Oh God, please tell me that it didn't."
"Don't worry, Potter; your reputation is safe, even if I did have to make up a few lies so that it could be that way."
"Well, thank you for going against your journalistic principals for my sake."
She laughed, "Just don't expect me to do it again."
They paused creating a slightly uncomfortable silence until Lily got out of the chair and walked to James, extending her hand, "It was nice working with you, Potter… that is when you weren't being a total wanker."
He accepted her hand, smirking at her all the while, "Same here, Evans… when you weren't being annoying that is."
When her hand was released from his grip she shyly looked up at him, "So I guess this is bye."
"Yeah… I guess it is."
"It was nice getting to know you, James, really," she told him sincerely as she kissed his cheek before hastily exiting the office.
"Potter," Moody barked as he walked through the office in search of James after he found that he wasn't in his office.
"Yeah, boss?" James asked as he walked through the entrance door drinking a cup of coffee.
"Why are you late?!"
"Jordan the coffee guy finally came back from vacation so we were talking about his time in Sardinia."
Moody just rolled his eyes at the young Auror, "And that's an excuse for coming in at one?"
James just shrugged in response.
"In my office now," he barked, poking James in the chest with his wand, clearly agitated by the monosyllabic response.
"Okay, just don't hex me please," he raised his hands as a white flag, finding the entire idea of being in a duel with an angry Moody more than slightly off-putting. He entered the office timidly and for the first time actually took a seat in the chair opposite to Moody's rather than his boss's as he usually would. "So… what's up?"
"Your girl did good to say the least," he reluctantly nodded in approval as he passed James a folder, "open it."
James opened it and his eyes widened at the sight of it, "He increased funding?!"
"Yeah," Moody smiled a bit at the irony. "Here we were worrying that he would cut it only to have the complete opposite occur… good work, Potter. I knew you could do it."
James just stared at the file disbelievingly, "Yeah, thanks."
Three months later…
"Bloody hell, why can I never find you when I need you?" she asked herself as she threw out all of the contents of her purse onto the floor in her aggravation as she desperately searched for her keys.
"About time you got here," she heard a gruff voice say from behind her, causing her to jump in surprise.
She turned to see a seemingly depleted James sitting on the stairs opposite the door to her apartment. "James?" she whispered tentatively.
He nodded a bit too sombrely. In her opinion as she had always preferred charming James over wanker James, "I believe that's my name."
"James," she repeated, acclimating to the idea of him actually being there. "What are you doing here?"
"Aren't you going to let me in first?" he asked her with a small smile as he got up and bent down to pick up a familiar set of keys off the floor.
"Thanks," she smiled down at him as he collected her things off the floor and threw them into her purse for her.
She stood there for a minute, just staring at him, trying to will herself to look away. She couldn't help but be afraid that if she did she'd find that he was no longer there. He coughed slightly, interrupting her form her reverie, pointing to the door.
"Right, um… come on in," she invited him as she unlocked the door.
He entered it a bit hesitantly, "Nice place, but I have to say that I prefer the townhouse."
"Yeah, I love that place too, but this was my favourite out of all the apartments I saw before moving here."
He nodded slightly, face grim, void of any emotion.
"James," she placed a hand on his shoulder, turning him so he'd finally face her, finally look her in the eye. "What are you doing here?"
He paused for a minute before finally chocking out the most monosyllabic yet baffling response she had ever heard, "You left."
She could only nod, unsure as to what to say in response to that.
"I just—I spent two months trying to get you off my mind… went to Russia on a raid, then Romania. I was even in Greenland for a while tracking this English werewolf that had some crazy goal to make everyone in the world werewolves. And it was all supposed to get my mind off of you… I was supposed to forget you after you walked out of my life," he paused and her breath hitched as the impact of his words hit her. "I tried it all… and trust me a winter in northern Russia and Greenland isn't all that fun."
She wanted to say something, but she found herself immobile, all she could do was watch the scene play out and hope for the best.
"After two months of that hell, I decided to go to you. I went to the prophet… you weren't there. Imagine my surprise when I learned that you left England a week after the article came out."
She swallowed nervously, the fear of not knowing what would happen next finally really getting to her.
"I tracked Alice down, but she wouldn't give me your address. No one would… Apparently once you leave the country your records are confidential, no matter how high of a clearance you may have. So long as the person is a law abiding citizen no one can see your records… I got lucky though, I have a mate who works in the department and after two weeks I was finally able to goad him into making me a copy of your papers."
Comprehension dawned upon her, "So that's how you found me here…"
He nodded, "In Dublin of all places… Why the hell did you leave, Lils? How—how could you just go like that?"
She looked up at him, the picture of bewilderment, "It felt like time," she whispered self-consciously.
He let out a forced, chocked laugh, "Another chapter in your life was finished, isn't that it? That's why you finally went for the Yorker, as an editor no less…"
She swallowed heavily, trying to gain some courage as he closed in on her, only a centimetre separating the two, "Something like that."
He ducked his head, capturing her lips, taking her totally by surprise. Just as she was beginning to respond he separated himself from her, much to her protest. He looked down at her with the smirk on his face and she finally saw the youthful James, the one that had been absent when she first saw him on the stairs.
He held her face in his hands as he brought his mouth to her ear. "Don't ever close a chapter on me again, Lils… please don't, I doubt I could take it," he whispered in her ear, begging her.
She pulled at him so they were nose to nose, looking directly at his eyes, "I never ended that chapter, James. I merely began a new one."
He smiled at her. Giving her no time to continue whatever thought she may have had, he ducked his head again to capture her lips a second time.
When he finally had to separate himself from her he said, "I better be part of it then."
She smiled at him, "Well you're in luck, I just so happen to be a witch that can take a Portkey to work and happens to still own a townhouse back home."
"Hoping I'd come for you then?" he teased her mischievously.
"Wanker," she muttered as she tightly grabbed hold onto his shirt, forcibly pulling him into another kiss.