Lily Evans sat tucked into a corner of the common room, her feet nestled neatly beneath her and a textbook open across her knees. She had abandoned her school robes but still remained loosely in uniform, her white socks slipping low on her calves, her shoes kicked haphazardly at the foot of the armchair, and the top buttons of her dress shirt undone, revealing a lacy camisole. Stretching backward and cracking her back lightly, Lily tried to find comfort in the plush cushions of the maroon chair. She needed to focus. She had an independent research essay due to McGonagall in less than a week and had barely started, but the seat cushion was sinking uncomfortably on her left side and her ankle was cramping beneath her weight. She squirmed distractedly, finally issuing a sigh of defeat as the textbook slid from her lap, landing on the carpeted floor with a dull thud.

Abandoning all pretenses of work, Lily allowed her eyes to drift lazily across the common room, tiredly absorbing the assorted collection of students back from a long day at Hogsmeade. A first year Lily recognized as Fabian Prewett seemed to be holding court with his large circle of friends, his brother Gideon sitting stoically at his side, visibly put out at not being the center of attention. Emmeline and Alice had managed to snag two chairs before the fire and were in the middle of a heated game of chess, completely oblivious to the besotted glances Frank Longbottom kept throwing Alice's way. Beside Frank two third year boys were regaling a group of giggling girls with far-fetched escapades and to their right, lounging lazily in a corner of their own, were the Marauders.

From her corner, Lily unabashedly admired the seamless fluidity of the boys' actions, enthralled by the aura of casual intimacy the small group radiated. James Potter, as per usual, had claimed the coveted armchair – why they insisted on fighting for the one chair instead of simply dragging another over, Lily couldn't fathom – his long legs dangling over one arm, his head pillowed by the other. Sirius Black laid sprawled across the couch, forcing Peter Pettigrew to squash himself between the end and Sirius' feet. Remus Lupin sat cross-legged at the base of the couch, his head resting gently against Sirius' abdomen as he absentmindedly flipped through the pages of his own textbook. For once Peter seemed to be dominating the conversation, though his exclamations were often punctuated by prods in the side from Sirius' feet. Fed up with the tormenting, Peter finally launched himself at Sirius, Remus instinctively leaning forward as a knee narrowly missed his head. James laughed and shook his head, jovially egging the two on while Remus continued to feign interest in his text.

After six years of being joined at the hip, the Marauders exuded an image of perfected friendship. Lily had watched them long enough to know that no one could tear this group apart. She pitied the fool who tried.

"Oy Evans!" Lily gave a start, noticing for the first time that James' attention had wandered from the wrestling match and his eyes were now resting deviously on her. She felt heat rise to her cheeks, realizing he must have caught her staring, but she willed the blush away, addressing him with a cool cock of an eyebrow.

His grin widened. "C'mere!" He waved her over, righting himself in his seat. At James' call Sirius had abruptly ceased his tussle with Peter, repositioning himself in a near perfect imitation of James. Lily knew them well enough to observe that this mimicking wasn't mocking, it was simply how they operated. The closest of the four, James and Sirius were almost always in sync. Gently inclining their heads when the other spoke, mirroring each other's actions, and slipping in an out of a seemingly perpetual silent conversation; nothing could ever come between them.

Sighing to herself, Lily heeded James' summons, sauntering slowly over to their enclosed circle. She smiled kindly at Remus, nodded to Peter, and good-naturedly wrinkled her nose at Sirius before turning her eyes on the boy that had called her. "Potter?"

"C'mere," he stated again. Letting loose a melodramatic sigh, Lily rolled her eyes and obligingly stepped forward, only for James' fingers to encircle her wrist. He gave a sharp tug on her arm and she came tumbling down, sprawling gracelessly across his lap.

"Ow," she muttered, shooting him a glare, but he only grinned back cheekily, obviously quite pleased with himself. She struggled to remove herself but James only tugged her back down, eliciting a bark of laughter from Sirius.

"Better stay there, Evans, looks like Prongsie means business."

Lily snorted, twisting her neck awkwardly to award Sirius with an icy glare. "And I suppose I'm supposed to be intimidated by someone whose mates gave him a nickname reminiscent of kitchen utensils, eh Black?"

"Hey!" James took affront to this as Sirius chuckled appreciatively. "I'll have you know, prongs can be very dangerous."

"Mmhmm, and I suppose you got this," Lily boldly traced a scar along his chin, "from some freak fork accident?"

"You'd be surprised," Remus muttered darkly, but before Lily could shoot him an inquisitive glance, James was leaning forward, his hot breath tickling her ear and thoroughly distracting her with the shivers it sent down her spine.

"I've got a more important question," she could hear the grin in his voice as she tensed. "Have a good time with McKinnon today?"

She smacked him round the head, struggling again against his grasp. "No, and you bloody well knew that, you git." Lacking the decency to look abashed, James merely smirked, earning another whack from Lily.

"Hardly my fault we seemed to have the same itinerary."

"Right, I suppose it's just coincidence then that you happened to bully those third years out of the table next to ours, hm?"

"Damn straight," James nodded, grinning at the memory.

Lily threw her arms up in exasperation, nearly knocking James' glasses off his face in the process. "You, James Potter, are insufferable."

"What's insufferable, Lily Evans, is that you won't admit what's really bothering you here."

"And what, pray tell, is that?"

James leaned forward again, his hazel eyes blazing behind wire frames. Lily swallowed thickly as a familiar fire coursed through her veins. "What's bothering you," he murmured quietly, "is that despite the fact that McKinnon is a prefect, a rather handsome bloke, and already accepted into the Ministry's advanced Auror program, you couldn't summon up the slightest interest in him today, aside from what polite society requires. What's bothering you," his fingers slid down her side, playing with the hem of her shirt, "is that today you were bored out of your mind." His cool hand brushed against her stomach and his voice dropped to a whisper. "What's bothering you is that the entire afternoon, you couldn't stop thinking about someone else."

"James," Lily whispered hoarsely, her stomach dropping as his rough fingers splayed across untouched skin. She wanted to protest but she suddenly found that she couldn't tear her eyes from his. The flecks of gold in that burning hazel were damned distracting.

"It's okay, Lily," suddenly James was smiling wickedly, gold melting with green as his eyes brightened. "We've all felt that way about Sirius at one point or another."

The boys roared with laughter as Lily ripped herself upwards, pummeling James furiously with her tiny fists. "I am going to kill you, Potter!"

James just laughed, catching Lily's fists in one hand, the other regaining claim on her waist as he pulled her into him. The crown of her head bounced unceremoniously off his jaw as she put up a futile fight, squirming in his lap.

"Aw, don't fight him Lil!" Sirius waved an arm dismissively, stretching out along the couch once more. "The bloke's been a sodding mess all week, what with McKinnon asking you to Hogsmeade and all that. Bloody pathetic if you ask me."

"I don't believe I did, Black. And don't call me Lil!" But the moment she turned her attention to Sirius, all hope was lost in the battle against James. His free hand met its brother around her waist and was busy tracing distracting circles around her navel as he tucked her neatly under his chin. "Bloody boys," she muttered, dropping her head against James' chest in defeat.

"Aw, c'mon Lily," James murmured against her hair, nuzzling her affectionately. "You know you love us."

And the thing was, she did. Though she would never admit it to James, it was that particular thought that had been plaguing her all afternoon as she tried to feign interest in McKinnon's theories on the ill effects of the Polyjuice Potion. She had felt a deep sense of longing within her, a hole that hadn't felt completely filled until James' hand circled her wrist, until Sirius tossed her a few lighthearted remarks and Remus smiled while Peter laughed. She might not be ready to haul off and marry one of them – though in all honesty, to marry one of them, really, would be to marry them all – but she couldn't imagine life without the Marauders. They gave her hope in this otherwise darkening world, loath as she was to admit it.

"Hey," James nudged Lily, gently demanding her attention. "I was not pathetic."

" 'Course you weren't," Lily laughed softy. "I'm sure you were the very picture of composure."

"Exactly."

"What with all your moping, and scheming, and whingeing, 'guys,'" Sirius adopted a pitiful whine, "'What if Lily actually has a good time, what if she thinks McKinnon's-'" Sirius ducked, guffawing, as James' shoe narrowly missed his head.

"He's mental, that one," James muttered murderously, his eyes narrowed venomously at Sirius. He shifted slightly, tilting his head down so his breath caressed Lily's cheek as his voice softened. "I knew you'd come back to me."

Lily shook her head, wincing as her hair caught on James' button – though she made no effort to remove it. "With humble charm like that, how could I stay away?"

She could feel his grin against her cheek as he thumbed the waistband of her skirt. "You'll come around."

"You know what, James?" She settled in against James' chest, somewhat pleased to note the quickening of his rampant heart each time he stole a furtive glance down her shirt, and paused to watch the boys interact around her. She watched as Peter exuberantly began another tale detailing his latest detention with Sprout, his hands gesturing wildly in emphasis. She watched as Sirius poked Peter and prodded Remus, tossing James a few verbal jabs so as not to exclude the boy, and awarded her with randy suggestions. She gladly flipped Sirius the bird and responded genially to Remus' polite inquiries, sharing secretive smiles with him at the others' antics. And as James tightened his grip, surreptitiously dropping a light kiss to her forehead, Lily found herself smiling uncontrollably. "I think I already have."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A/N: Alright lovelies, not my best work but I started writing it in CanLit the other day (I know, I'm a model student) and it's been nagging me ever since. I have a handful of half-finished one-shots cluttering my computer and, if you're patient, you'll hopefully see sporadic updates throughout the summer. Hope you enjoyed this! It's good to be back.

-DOJ