Lily was reading her Transfiguration textbook when she heard the door to the common room open behind her, "Oi, James!" She called, "Can you help me with this when you get a minute?" She waved the book over her shoulder.
"I'd love to, luv." A voice responded. A voice that clearly wasn't James'.
Lily stood abruptly and turned to see Sirius Black standing in front of her.
"Sirius," Lily gasped, "You nearly gave me a seizure." She hit her head softly with her textbook, "I forgot James told me he told you guys the password."
"Yeah, he did." They stared at each other for a second, then Lily dropped back into her chair. "Is…uh…James around?"
"Nope." Lily said, turning back to the spell that was giving her trouble. "I wish he was. I need help with this spell."
"Yup, Prongs is good with Transfiguration." Sirius came and sat down on the couch across from her. He stared at her, playing with a quill in his hands while Lily tried to reread the theory behind the spell. Finally, she looked at him. "Do you need something, Sirius?" She asked nicely.
Sirius looked down at the quill he was twirling in his fingers. "I see you and James are getting along now."
"Yes," Lily said cautiously, apprehensive about where this was going. She wasn't going to admit to James' best friend that she was starting to look forward to Heads' Patrol with James. He had a crooked smile that had started recently to make her heart speed up a little. And when he wore his cologne...It was all Lily could do to refrain from leaning in and inhaling the scent every few minutes.
"You..uh…starting to…uh…fancy him?" Sirius questioned, still watching his twirling quill.
"No." Lily lied vehemently.
"Good." Sirius said abruptly. "Don't." He said strongly, leaning back in his chair. "Don't start to fancy him."
Lily was taken aback. "Why not?" She asked defensively. This didn't make sense to Lily. Wouldn't Sirius be happy that the girl James had fancied for years was finally starting to fancy him?
"He's got enough to worry about without worrying about you."
"Worry about?" Lily questioned.
Sirius stood up. "Yes, Evans, worry about. Have you even talked about what happened to his dad? Or what's happening with his mum?" He started to pace.
"Of course," Lily replied, dropping her book on the ground, "The first week back, before anybody else was here, we talked about his dad. But what's happening with his mum?"
Sirius groaned, "I bet he fed you that line about his dad dying of a heart attack, didn't he?"
Lily felt her face blanch. Fed her that line? "Y-y-yes," she stammered, "That's exactly what he told me."
Sirius scoffed, "You really are an idiot, Evans. You don't know James at all."
Lily could feel Sirius' anger radiating off him. "Isn't that what happened?" She asked in a small voice.
Sirius glared at her and sat back down, "Yes, it's true. Mr. Potter died of a heart attack—that was confirmed by a coroner. James wouldn't lie, but he would leave out a few details. Like how his dad was tortured by the Cruciatus before he died of a heart attack."
Lily gasped and sat down in the arm chair across from Sirius. But Sirius wasn't done with her, "Or coming home from a day trip to Paris with his mum to find the Dark Mark over his house—did he tell you that part?" Lily shook her head silently, "Yeah, I thought not."
Sirius stood and walked over to her, the anger evident in his eyes. Lily looked helplessly at him. Sirius raised a finger and pointed threateningly at her. His eyes were nearly covered by his dark hair, "Stay away from James, Evans. He has enough to worry about."
Lily bowed her head, and started to cry softly. Sirius stared at her a moment longer, "Stay away from him." He repeated strongly.
"Padfoot!" an angry voice cut into the conversation.
Lily and Sirius turned to see James standing in the door. Lily wondered how long he'd been there listening. "Pads," James asked plaintively, "What are you doing?"
"Looking after you, Prongs." Sirius said. His anger had diminished with James' arrival, and he lowered his finger. "Away," He hissed one final time at Lily. Then he walked towards James and stopped. Lily could see some sort of unspoken communication going on between the two of them. Finally, at the end, Sirius grasped James' shoulder and said softly, "Fratres."
"Fratres." James agreed softly.
Lily's red-rimmed eyes widened at the exchange. The words might mean nothing to someone else, but to Lily Evans, Charms prodigy, they implied a powerful charm. From Latin, 'fratres' meant brothers and there was only one charm that would involve the keyword fratres: the Fraternitas charm—the charm of brotherhood. It was the Fraternitas charm that you-know-who was using to tie his followers to him.
It was advanced dark magic.
Sirius left, and James turned to face Lily. The tears were still rolling down her cheeks. James sighed, "Evans…" This really was a mess.
"Is it true?" She asked, looking at him, "Was your dad killed by Death Eaters?"
"Yes." James said quietly.
"And 'fratres'? You've done the Fraternitas charm with Sirius?" She stared at him for a second, "Sirius was right, I don't know you at all."
"Lily," James began.
"No James." Lily stood up, and began picking up her books. The tears were streaming down her checks, "You lied to me about your dad. You're performing dark magic with Sirius, the same You-know-who is using," She stopped in her tirade to stare at him, "I don't understand you. You're in league with the same people who killed your…" Lily stopped and sobbed. She took a deep breath and tried to calm herself, "First Severus, now you." She choked out. The sobbing continued as Lily slung her pack around her shoulder and tried to walk past James. He grabbed her arm.
"Lily, please don't go!" He pleaded, "Please let me explain." Lily shook his hand off and continued out the door. Each sob broke his heart. She thought he had betrayed his friends, his family, her. Just like Severus. Being compared to Severus Snape in such a manner—any manner—caused him to shudder. "Lily!" He grabbed her shoulders, and turned her to face him, "I'm not a Death Eater."
"You're..you're..not?" Lily asked.
James smiled sadly at her. "Of course not."
Lily stared at James for a moment. Then, with a sob, she threw her arms around him. "Oh James," she cried. James was surprised at her actions and tightly wrapped his arms around Lily as she cried onto his chest. He rested his chin on her head, "I'm going to castrate Sirius for even putting that idea into your head," he mumbled.
As James continued to hold Lily in the doorway to the Heads' Common Room, he realized they were attracting many stares as students came down to dinner. "Lily," He whispered, "Let's go into the common room and I'll explain." James guided Lily back into the common room, and helped her sit down on the couch. Then he ran back to the door, and closed the door, making sure to lock it with a charm that would prevent the Marauders—who knew the password—from entering. The last thing he needed was Peter stumbling in during this conversation with Evans.
James sat down next to Lily, and pointed his wand at the fireplace. With a non-verbal spell, he had a roaring fire in the fireplace. He leaned back and mentally tried to prepare himself for how he was going to explain things to Lily. He was amazed then, when Lily moved closer and put her head on his shoulder. It stunned him for a moment, and then he said, "Here." He lifted up his arm, and she scooted even closer to rest her head on his chest. James placed his arm around her, and breathed in her scent. He had dreamed of this moment since he was eleven years old. It was even better in real life. After a moment, he cleared his throat. "While I hate to muddy up this moment with words, I have some explaining to do, huh?"
Lily nodded against his chest, and James was happy to note that her cries were stopping. "Well, first, I'm sorry. Sorry that I didn't tell you everything, sorry that Sirius ambushed you like that, sorry that you think I'm a Death Eater." Lily nodded again, and James could tell she was waiting for the rest of the explanation, "What you heard—fratres—it isn't part of the Fraternitas charm. It's part of the Germanitas charm."
"Germanitas?" Lily questioned, "I'm not familiar with that one."
"It is a brotherhood charm, but it's not Fraternitas. It's not dark." James cringed at the thought of performing dark magic, "It's just really….arcane. We had to search forever to find it. I did think about using the Fraternitas, but Sirius was dead set against it. We did it the summer Sirius ran away from home, and his folks are big in the dark arts, so Sirius wouldn't do it. He has a personal vendetta to prove to everyone that he is not anything like his family. So we used Germanitas."
"Sirius ran away from home?" Lily sniffed, astonished.
"Ahh, Lily," James groaned, leaning his head on hers for a moment, "Do you ever pay attention to anything not in a book?"
"Yes," Lily defended herself, "But for six and a half years, I've purposely ignored anything that had to do with you or Sirius."
James chuckled. "Fair enough. Sirius ran away from home the summer after our fifth year. His home life was awful, to put it nicely. His uncle died and left him some money, so he finally had a way to support himself. He's been on his own ever since."
"Wow." Lily breathed, her respect for Sirius growing, "But what does Germanitas do?"
"It binds us together. Essentially, we've adopted each other and share the same parents." James chuckled morosely, "Bet you can guess whose parents we choose." Lily giggled and James continued, "We are, in effect, brothers. In some ways, it's more powerful than actually being brothers. It's old, but legal. For example, when my parents die, Sirius will get a portion of their estate."
"Your parents okay with that?"
"Umm…" James shifted on the seat uncomfortably, "They kinda don't know. In fact, there are only five people that know we've done it. Me, Sirius, Remus, Peter, and now you. If Sirius had been thinking straight, which I don't think he was, he would have realized you probably would pick up on it."
"Are Remus and Peter part of the charm, too?"
"Oh, no." James laughed, "When Remus heard we'd done it, he shook his head, and rolled his eyes. And Peter…well, it was too much commitment for Pete."
"Hmm." Lily filed that piece of information away in her brain. "What about your dad? Why didn't you just tell me he was killed by Death Eaters?"
James sighed. "There are a lot of reasons. I don't want that type of notoriety. Or the pity: 'Look, there goes James Potter, did you hear his dad was murdered by Death Eaters?' I wanted to leave it behind, leave what's going on behind and have a good year at Hogwarts, y'know?" He tightened his grip around Lily for a second, "I didn't want to give the Death Eaters any free publicity because they murdered my dad."
"Why did they target your dad?"
James shrugged his shoulders, and stared at the fire. "Honestly? I have no idea. We've talked it over and under and around, but it's all speculation with no solid conclusions. I don't know."
"I'm sorry James."
"So am I." James admitted, "It's not been fun." Lily looked up at James, and saw tears running silently down his cheeks.
"Oh, James," Lily said, sitting up. She wiped his tears away with her palm and then pulled him down so his head was lying on her lap. She ran her fingers softly through his hair while he cried. After his tears subsided, she asked, "What about your mum? Sirius said something was going on."
James exhaled. "My mum's health is declining. Fast. She's older, and losing dad took the steam right out of her engine. That weekend a few weeks ago that I was gone?" He asked, "It was to find a her a full time care home."
"Yea. I worry about her a lot. She doesn't like the care home, but it's the only way, until I'm out of school. Then I can take her home."
Lily's hands stop moving. Sirius' words echoed in her mind: He has enough to worry about, without worrying about you.
"Please don't stop. It's very comforting." James said.
Lily just stared into the fireplace. "Lily?" James asked, sitting up and looking at her, "Oh, Merlin, what's wrong now?"
"Sirius warned me to stay away from you." Lily said slowly.
James slumped back into the couch. "I know. I heard."
"He said you had enough to worry about, without worrying about me."
Lily looked at him sadly, "Why would he do that? Am I worrisome? Am I so wrong for you?"
"No," James said instantly, "It's not that you're wrong. It's just…it's wrong."
"It's wrong?" Lily repeated blandly, "It's wrong?"
James ran his fingers through his hair, "The timing. It's wrong. It's off." He stared at the fire, knowing he was confusing Lily even more. "It's just that Sirius cares about me. A lot."
"Right," Lily confirmed, "'Fratres'. I was paying attention."
"He doesn't want me hurt anymore than I all ready am."
"And I would hurt you?"
James looked at her softly, "I don't think you would intentionally." He shut his eyes and tilted his head back so it rested on the couch, "My emotions are so fragile, it would shatter them if we didn't work out."
Lily stared at James for a moment. Then, unexpectedly, she began to laugh. James opened his eyes and looked at her curiously. "I'm sorry," She hiccupped when she caught his confused glance, "But did James Potter—the James Potter—just talk about his fragile emotions?"
James smiled and hit her gently with a couch pillow. "At least mine are fragile. I think yours are on holiday," he groused.
Lily sobered, "Isn't that the point, though? Sure, your emotions are fragile, but this could be your chance to win big. You risk it all and end up the winner."
"And if not?"
"You pick up the pieces and move on."
They stared at each other for a minute. "It's not that easy." James murmured, snapping his eyes back to the still roaring fireplace.
"It's not easy for me either, James." Lily said softly.
"It doesn't really matter, anyways," James continued as if he hadn't heard Lily, "I swore to the Head Girl, on my honor as a Marauder, that I would be nothing but professional in my relationship with her." He looked at Lily, "A marauder always keeps his word."
Lily's hopes crashed to the ground with James' words. But even then, she saw a loophole. "I see," she said primly, adopting her 'Head Girl' voice, "And did the Head Girl make any such promises to you?"
James looked at her confused, "No."
Lily slid over to James and lifted his arm so it was around her and placed her head on his chest. "So it wouldn't be breaking your Marauder's honor if the Head Girl was a trifle unprofessional with you." She snuggled deeper under his arm and into his chest.
"Lily?" James voice sounded panicked, "What is this? What are you doing?"
Lily shifted so she could see into James' hazel eyes. "Shhh," she whispered, placing a finger on his lips, "This is the beginning."