Author's note/warning: This story is in the realm of Hogwarts meets the Twilight Zone. Inspired by several people, but dedicated to respitechristopher.
Your hair is like the red flames
Warming my cold cauldron.
Your eyes a green light
Shining brighter than the moon.
Severus Snape took a long look at the words he'd just written and cursed loudly. This was not what he wanted to say, nowhere close. He crumpled the paper into a ball and threw it across the dorm room without looking. He took no notice when it was quickly snatched up and pulled under an Invisibility Cloak. Severus picked up his quill to start again.
Twin orbs reminiscent of freshly-pickled toads
Nestled in a face of alabaster porcelain.
He looked at the paper and smiled. Maybe he had something this time. Severus put the parchment on top of his trunk and stretched. He would pick it up again tomorrow. If he really focused on it, he'd be able to finish it before Christmas. He walked out of the room and down the stairs, followed quickly by his unseen guest. Just as Severus reached the door leading to the rest of the dungeons, the visitor walked up close behind him. He slipped through the door before it closed, gliding down the hall in silence as Severus made his way to the Great Hall.
Minutes later, James looked up from where he'd been reading the Daily Prophet. Without saying a word, he lifted his wand and pointed at the spot just before the fireplace. "Homenum Revelio." Within seconds, the tip of his wand glowed white briefly. James smiled as Sirius slipped off the Invisibility Cloak and tossed it over to the armchair where he sat.
"How'd you know I was here?" he asked.
"You couldn't sneak up on me if you wanted to." He folded the paper over and eyed his friend as he performed a charm to warm himself. "The dungeons must be especially cold tonight. I take it you were spying on Snape again," James said. "You know, if you spend any more time in his bedroom, I'm going to have to ask if you—"
"Not funny, Potter," he said, cutting off what James had been planning to say. Sirius rolled his eyes and reached into his pocket. "I'm not…well, just shut it. I was trying to get an idea of what we could do to make this holiday memorable."
"And the brilliant idea you came up with was standing in Snape's bedroom unseen?" James asked, one eyebrow raised. "Again, your idea of fun raises some questions."
"My idea was to get Snivellus something special for Christmas. Check this out." He tossed the parchment Severus had discarded over to his friend. As James straightened the paper, Sirius remarked, "You were right. Snivellus has a thing for Evans."
"As do a third of the guys in our year," James responded. He read the poem quickly and levitated the paper back to his friend. "What does that have to do with you spending quality time with him in his bedroom?"
Sirius glared in response and sat in the armchair next to James. "I was thinking we could get him a date with her for Christmas."
James stared at his friend for several long moments before bursting into laughter. Shaking his head, he lifted the paper again, opened it and turned to the second page. "You had me going for a second there," James said as he scanned the page. "Honestly, if you're going to drink, you could share. It's only polite."
"I'm not drunk," Sirius responded. "Look, you remember that spell we found in the library the week before holidays?"
"Any idiot could make an inanimate object seem lifelike for a few minutes. I was thinking we could find a way to make it walk and talk, at least for a few hours."
"You want your dancing tea pot to hold a conversation as well?" James asked. "If you haven't been drinking, then you've lost what little sense I thought you had."
"You're not seeing the big picture," Sirius said, leaning over. He pulled the newspaper from his friend's hand and tossed it in the direction of the fireplace. "We take a doll, transfigure it to look like Evans, get it to say a few choice lines and then deliver it."
James merely stared at his friend, some part of his mind wondering vaguely if Sirius would simply need restraints or a full straightjacket before they locked him up in a padded room.
"We'll make him think she wants him or something."
James shook his head again and stared wistfully at his newspaper. It had landed half in the fireplace and had quickly turned to ash. "The way I heard it, she hasn't spoken to him in months. Even if you were able to do something like this—"
"We," Sirius corrected.
"He'd never believe it. She wouldn't just…go to him, however convincing you think you could make it."
"You don't know what their relationship was like," Sirius said. At James's pained expression, he added, "I'm sure it wasn't like that, but that's what makes this even more fun. Snivellus will think she forgave him for whatever stupid thing he did and wants to…make up with him," he said, his mouth puckering at the thought. "Then we'll remove the enchantment and he'll see it was all a joke."
"So, what's to keep him from getting you—" James cleared his throat at Sirius's glare, "getting us both expelled? I'm pretty sure there's something about impersonating another student in the school rules. Even if there isn't, McGonagall could definitely make something up if it suited her. You heard what she said last time we got into it with Snape. Never mind if she finds out about it." He didn't have to elaborate to make it clear who he meant.
Sirius shook his head and leaned back in the chair, a small smile tilting his lips upward at one corner. "He'll be too embarrassed to tell anyone exactly what we did. Besides, he won't be able to trace it back to us."
"Oh, right," James responded. "It's Christmas and there's hardly anyone else here. Who else would he blame?" James shook his head again. "This is a bad idea. I don't know what made you think of this, but you're better off forgetting it. At the very least, he'll try to get us back and—"
"He wouldn't dare," Sirius said. "We'll just threaten to let Moony loose on him and he'll run faster than if you'd offered him soap."
James laughed before he could stop himself. "You wouldn't dare try that again. Dumbles would have your head." He chuckled again and ran one hand through his hair as he considered the idea. "This is probably something best left inside that crazy mind of yours. We've tortured him enough to last until at least next spring."
For a full minute, the only sound in the room was the crackle of the fire and the hard wind blowing outside Gryffindor Tower. "I don't believe it," Sirius remarked. "You've going soft on me."
James shrugged. "I'm just not in the mood to test Dumbledore's patience. At least, not until we're of age and can get a fair trial. Why are you pushing so hard for this, anyway?"
Sirius shrugged. "I've been on my best behavior for months, I need to break up the monotony. Besides, Snivellus could use a little loosening up. The last day of term, he yelled at Professor Slughorn, of all people," Sirius said. When James said nothing, Sirius continued. "Come on, the man who teaches his favorite subject. I was half-convinced Snivellus might be in love with him until we got our exams back."
"Fine," James said. "But that still doesn't mean this is right. I mean, this is a little…much, even for us."
"Don't think of it that way." Sirius smiled and gave his friend a light pat on the shoulder. "We're doing him a favor. You know what he's like. He needs something to love him. Let's give Snivelly a happy Christmas."
"This is a favor to him?" James asked, his expression going from skeptical to mild amusement.
Sirius shrugged. "Doesn't hurt that we'll get a good laugh out of it as well. You in?"
James said nothing. When his friend rose from the chair and went up the stairs to their dorm, he leaned back and closed his eyes, silently hoping the conversation they'd just had was the product of too much studying and stress on his friend and not the beginning of something that could go very, very wrong.
The next morning, he realized he had underestimated Sirius by a long stretch. More specifically, the degree of insanity to which his best friend was suffering. Eyeing the doll being held out to him, James crossed his arms and furrowed his brow in concentration, willing the sight before him to transfigure into something sensible. Sirius held a child's plastic doll at arm's length. It was wearing a tight black dress (Sirius's handiwork, James presumed) and came complete with overdone make-up and hair a shade of red so bright, it would probably give off its own light in the darkness of the dungeon.
"So," James began, "this is what you want me to start with?"
"You know what Evans looks like better than anyone."
Sirius laughed at his expression. "Come off it. We all know. Even Wormtail noticed. You didn't think the staring and showing off in front of her wouldn't be obvious?" He held out the doll. "You're better at external transfigurations than I am, so you can make it look like her. I'll take care of everything else."
"You're going to make this thing walk and talk like Lily Evans?" James asked.
"Well, I don't know if I'll get that little thing she does when she's walking just right, but I've got her voice." He shoved the doll into James's hand quickly and backed across the room. Pointing his wand at his throat, Sirius asked, "Does it sound real enough to you?"
James jumped in place and nearly dropped the plastic doll. Lily's voice had come out of the toy pitch-perfect. "Padfoot, you realize this only gives me more questions about what you do in your spare time."
"Funny," he said in his normal voice. "It has to be convincing to fool Snivelly."
This comment was met with a long stare from his best friend. "What is it with you and Snape?" James asked, finally. "I mean, I know he surprised you and Moony while you were studying a few weeks ago at the top of the Astronomy Tower. You managed to not kill each other that night. What could he have possibly seen or done that makes you want to—"
"Nothing," Sirius said, cutting him off. He turned away from James briefly before looking across the room and catching his eye. There was something in his expression that made James want to question him about it further, but he remained silent. "I just want to have a little fun at his expense," Sirius said quietly. "You used to find this kind of thing funny as well, remember?"
James shrugged and eyed the doll in his hand. He used to find a lot of the things they did together entertaining, but even Sirius had to know these kinds of pranks couldn't go on forever. Not even at Snape's expense. Especially something that looked to seriously involve another student. James looked up and took in Sirius's expression. Fine, he thought. Maybe this one last time.
"What do you need me to do?" James asked. When Sirius smiled, that familiar mischievous glint in his dark eyes, James almost took back his offer to help. Who was he kidding, anyway? He'd never really had a choice.
When he stepped back to admire his work on the doll a few hours later, James wondered why he'd been reluctant to join the prank to begin with. Plastic Lily was looking pretty…well, pretty real. Except for that glossy look in the eyes, but he would fix that in a minute. He pointed his wand and made the waistline on the doll a little smaller, then stepped forward to measure it with his hands to make sure it was right.
"Like you'd know how it feels," Sirius commented, laughter peppering his words. "She's never let you get that close."
James turned, one arm around the life-sized doll's waist. "You never know. This could be practice for the future."
"Speaking of that," Sirius began, "did you make all of her…equipment look functional?"
James shook his head, laughter making him speechless for a moment. "You're mad. You don't intend to let Snape get that far with a doll, do you? He shouldn't know what her equipment looks or functions like."
Sirius shrugged. "If we're going to pull the ultimate prank, we may as well make it interesting. Besides, it'll be better for when it goes back to being a lump of plastic. I think Lily is going to be very happy to see her Slytherin friend tonight," Sirius said, smiling at the doll in a way that made James a little nervous.
"Sirius, you know, if something happened with Snape, you can tell me about it," James said. He smiled, hoping to erase the immediate frown on his friend's face. "It's probably not a big deal. I don't know how anything could be big enough that you'd want him to get up close and personal with a doll."
"Why are you making this an issue?" Sirius asked. "It's just a prank. We've done tons."
"Nothing like this," James responded. "Are you really that bored without Moony and Wormtail around? Or is something else going on?"
"No," Sirius said, raising his wand and pointing it at the doll. "But there will be later." As James watched, Sirius went about enhancing the doll's features—to the point where James wondered if the thing would be able to move out of their room, let alone stand upright and walk.
"Why don't we shrink things here," James waved his wand, "and here?" He turned the doll until its back was facing him and waved his wand again. "Let me see if I can make the skin feel a little less like plastic and then I think it'll be done." Concentrating hard, he transfigured the skin to soften and mold itself to the shell underneath. Then James stood back and reached for one hand. As creepy and strange as it had felt to create this doll, it was stranger still to be holding the warm hand and looking into the eyes of something that looked and felt like someone he…had no strong desire to do this to.
"Now, I just need to animate it and we'll be all set," Sirius said. "Put it on your bed and I'll get started."
Reluctantly, James put Clone Lily on his bed and stepped back a few steps. Now he knew the thing was too lifelike. She looked like she was smiling at him, beckoning him closer. He blinked rapidly and narrowed his eyes. The doll was smiling. Now it was puckering its lips for a kiss. Now it was reaching for the bottom edge of the dress and edging it upwards slowly.
"Padfoot!" James elbowed his friend in his side, laughing when Clone Lily put her hand back at her side and winked at him from the bed.
"Sorry," Sirius said, sounding anything but. "Just wanted to make sure everything looks real. Can't have the plan given away by a flaw somewhere."
James grinned, but wisely kept his mouth shut. He neglected to point out to his friend that he'd be the last person—scratch that, the second to last person—to know what Lily Evans looked like under her school robes. He'd wager a guess that Sirius spent too much time fooling around with his friends to get that close to any girl.
Clone Lily stood from the bed and waved at the two boys in front of it. "Hi, James," Sirius said, projecting the voice from the doll's moving lips. "Your hair looks nice today. Fix it up for me?" Sirius then made the doll giggle and the dress shifted invitingly.
It was then that James noticed his friend had shortened the garment. A little too much for Lily to survive winter at Hogwarts. He would have to fix that later.
James shook his head. "You are enjoying this entirely too much. It's not too late to back out. No one will ever know what we've done."
"And ruin Snivelly's Christmas present?" Sirius asked. "Not a chance."
"How are you going to get it to talk on it's own?"
"It?" Sirius asked. He smirked and walked over to the doll which put its arm around his shoulder. "I think it's about time we refer to our little friend as 'her.' She's hardly just a toy anymore." His smile widened. "Though, I can't say the same for when Snivellus gets a hold of her."
"You didn't answer the question," James reminded him.
"The same way I'm doing now," the teenager said. "She'll be able to move on her own, but I still have to do the voice. Besides, if we're too far away, we won't know how Snivellus responds to his friend." Sirius held up two Gryffindor Prefect badges. "We'll be able to hear everything she hears and I can respond accordingly."
James knew for sure then, even if he hadn't wanted to acknowledge it before, he really had to get his friend a social life. Or a hobby that didn't require an Invisibility Cloak or fiddling with children's toys. There was something truly strange about this, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. Something other than Sirius getting Clone Lily to giggle and wave at him. He pushed the niggling thought away. Sirius would tell him later if something was truly wrong.
"Fine. So you'll take another stalking—uh…expedition into the dungeons," James said. "How are you going to convince Snape she even stayed for Christmas? Lily never stays here during holidays."
Sirius smiled. "I've got it all figured out."
That, in short, was what had his best friend worried. Sirius had this thought out a little too well.
James felt one last jolt of trepidation as he crouched behind an armchair in the dank Slytherin common room, waiting for Snape to come back. Clone Lily sat in the chair in a somewhat longer (read: warmer) dress, smiling vacantly. Sirius grinned at James beneath the Invisibility Cloak, worrying his friend further.
"This is going to be hilarious," Sirius remarked.
"I thought you were going to say 'criminally insane,' but I suppose it could be funny too," James said.
"What is wrong with you?" Sirius asked. "If I didn't know any better, I would think you were starting to like Snivellus."
"No," James said. Not him, he thought. "Do you know what my parents will do to me if I get expelled for this?"
"Nothing's going to happen," Sirius assured him. "Besides, your dad might find this funny too." At James's pained expression, he added, "We're not going to get caught. I've thought about it. Between a well-done Confundus Charm and a little Obliviation later, Snape will be none the wiser."
"That's your big plan?" James said. He winced. His voice had come out much louder than he'd intended, echoing off the walls of the thankfully empty common room. "You're going to use spells on Snape that you barely mastered just before exams?"
"That's why you're here," Sirius said. "You didn't think the transfiguration was your only part, did you?"
James only wished he could be so lucky. Something in his stomach dropped when the door to the common room suddenly opened and Snape walked in, gliding through the room quickly on his way to his dorm room. James elbowed Sirius.
"Sev, I need to talk to you," Clone Lily said.
Taking a deep breath, James aimed his wand carefully and Confunded Snape before he could get a good look at the reproduction sitting near the fireplace.
Snape's eyes widened and he took a step away from the stairs leading to the dorms. "Lily?" His lips moved silently for a few moments before he seemed to gather his composure. "What are you doing here? I thought you'd left."
"I couldn't stand us not speaking anymore," Faux Lily said, standing before the chair. As Snape came closer, she said, "My parents don't mind me being here for Christmas. They understand that my friends are more important than anything."
Snape shook his head, struggling under the effects of the charm. "I don't—you're ready to be friends again? I thought…after you walked away that last time, I thought you'd never talk to me again."
Lily shrugged one shoulder and the dress shifted. "I was being unreasonable. I should have listened to what you had to say, why you…did it."
James turned to Sirius, one eyebrow raised. Sirius shrugged.
"I told you," Snape said, stepping closer, "I never meant to call you anything like that. If anything, I admire you more because you're nothing like what Death Eaters say."
This time, both boys stared at the couple in front of the chair in confusion.
"Well," Lily said, "I'm willing to let it all go if you are. I've missed you so much," she whispered, practically purring the last two words. "Put your arms around me."
James elbowed Sirius who nearly fell from behind the chair laughing.
"I won't feel like we've made up until you hug me," Lily added.
Snape stepped forward and cautiously held out his arms to the walking doll, smiling perplexedly as she stepped into his embrace and hugged him enthusiastically. Over a minute later, as Lily still hugged him tight, Snape pulled his arms tight around her and ran his hands over her back, closing his eyes as they embraced.
"Wow," Lily breathed. Sirius put a hand over his mouth quickly and James had to restrain his laugh. "I uh…I missed you more than I thought. Can we go to your room?"
"What?" Snape's confusion reached an all-time high, but he didn't dare step away from Lily's embrace. Her eyes twinkled up at him.
"The rest of your House went home for Christmas, right? We can be alone."
"Yes," Lily purred. "We have some catching up to do. Unless…you don't want to be alone with me." Faux Lily pouted and lowered her lashes.
"I…no. Yes!" Snape said in response to her pout. James almost fell over when Sirius began laughing so hard, tears leaked from the corners of his eyes. After a minute, Sirius got himself together enough to say, "Lead the way, Sev."
A few minutes later, Faux Lily was seated on the bed with a nervous Severus Snape sitting next to her, watching as she leaned back and stretched over his comforter.
Chuckling, James whispered, "I can't watch this anymore, I'm going to leave the room," before slipping from underneath the Invisibility Cloak and into the hall. A few seconds later, Sirius joined him, holding the other Prefect badge.
"So we can both still hear," he whispered. He raised the tip of his wand back to his throat. "No, Sev. I don't mind if you lay next to me. I think I'd like that very much." Then he giggled. James began wiping tears from his own eyes, silently thanking anyone he could think of that he'd let Sirius talk him into this whole thing. It was a lot more entertaining than yet another game of Exploding Snap in the common room.
Sirius lifted the badge and James leaned over in time to hear Snape say, "…never expected this from you. After all this time."
"We've been friends for a long time, Sev. I can't even tell you when my feelings started. I just didn't realize how strongly I wanted to act on them until you were out of my life."
"You have no idea how much it means to hear you say that," Snape said. "I…I've felt pretty strongly about you for a long time as well. Actually, I've written some poetry for you. My trunk's full of parchment if you want me to read you some. Volume one is just about your eyes."
James looked at Sirius with wide eyes and both boys had to restrain loud laughs.
"That's so…flattering, Sev. I think I'd rather you just tell me how you feel." Sirius made to grab James's arm and puckered his lips. "Or you could show me," Lily said.
"Wait…now?" Snape asked.
"We're alone, Sev. Come show me exactly how you feel about me," Lily said, punctuating this last with a soft giggle.
There was no audible response from Snape. Sirius frowned at the small badge in his hand. He tapped it lightly. Both boys strained to listen as a series of strange moaning and thumping sounds came from the device. "Oh, Lily," Snape moaned and then the sounds continued, morphing into several indistinguishable gurgles and then a very definite smack. The boys looked at each other, smiles adorning their faces.
Then there was a loud ripping followed by several sounds James was hard-pressed to identify. At Sirius's equally confused expression, James figured it was time to end the elaborate prank. Before he could say as much, his friend pulled away from him, easing closer to the door with the Invisibility Cloak wrapped firmly around him.
Sirius opened the door and saw something no self-respecting person should ever have to witness. He turned pale and, after several long moments of slack-jawed staring, backed up and pulled the door closed behind him. James turned as his friend stumbled past him in the direction of the stairs.
"What happened? What was that noise?"
Sirius just shook his head and kept walking. He stopped abruptly and turned to James, pointing his finger shakily. "D-don't go in there. For the love of Merlin, DON'T DO IT!"
James stepped closer to his friend, worry creasing his brow. "Why?"
"You don't want to know," Sirius responded. "I just…I'm going to go boil my eyes now."
That left James to clean up the mess from this prank and erase Snape's memory. He repressed the urge to laugh. If Sirius had seen what James suspected, maybe he had finally learned his lesson about taking pranks too far. Hogwarts could only hope.