Lily loved, absolutely loved, the Hogwarts express. It reminded her of the way she felt about airports when she was younger. It was just that indescribable feeling of going somewhere. Floo and apparating were certainly faster, but they couldn't match the excitement of airports and the train.
The only downside to the train was that she knew, inevitably, she would run into Potter. In fact, it was more a matter of being completely unable to avoid Potter, as she always tried her best to do so, and always – somehow – ended up stuck in a compartment with him and his friends. She blamed this entirely on her friends, who seemed much more willing to tolerate the prats than she was.
At the moment, Lily was seated next to Marlene McKinnon, her absolute best friend in the world. Next to Marlene was Sirius Black. He had his arm slung around Marlene's shoulder, but that was nothing new. Lily didn't think she'd seen Black sit next to any even moderately attractive female without trying for a least a little physical contact. Herself excluded, of course. Potter's supposed "claim" was thoroughly respected by all of his friends.
The boy in question sat across from his best mate, obviously debating whether he should continue trying to apologize to Lily for having made head boy. They both knew he didn't deserve it, but what was done was done. He was, as always, surrounded by friends. Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew sat on either side of him. Lily would have felt sorry for Dorcas Meadowes for being stuck that close to Potter and Pettigrew, but at least she had the luck to end up next to Remus. He was the only decent one of the lot, as far as Lil was concerned.
"I've been thinking about it, Lily," Sirius said, looking around from the other side of Marlene as he spoke, "and I really don't think you have the right to be angry with James for being head boy. Honestly, at least he isn't prejudiced." He paused for a moment. "Which," he smirked, "is more than can be said for you."
Lily shared an eye roll with Mary MacDonald, who sat on her other side, as Marlene elbowed Black and extricated herself from his grasp. "And I suppose I'm a closet self-hater then, is that it, Black? I have," she added in her haughtiest tone, "been seriously considering joining Voldemort." Lily ignored Mary's gasp, continuing in a dry voice. "If I really apply myself, one day he may consider me worthy to lick his boots."
Dorcas and Marlene both snorted with laughter, but James cut across them. "You really shouldn't joke about him, Lily," he said, sincerity pouring out of his eyes. "You're actually in a great deal of danger."
Lily glanced up at the ceiling, seeming to pray for patience. "Yes, Potter, I'm aware of what a Voldermort regime would mean for muggleborns, which is why Black's suggestion that I'm prejudiced is completely ludicrous."
Black smirked. "You misunderstood me. I didn't mean you were prejudiced against muggleborns, I meant you were prejudiced against purebloods." Even Mary laughed at this.
"You're right, Black," Marlene jumped in. "I can't even begin to imagine the trials and tribulations you and Potter have faced. Mountains of galleons in your Gringott's vaults, loads of connections to help you get a job when you finish school, not to mention being top of the class without even having to try," finished Marlene, elbowing him again for good measure.
"And honestly, even if you weren't handed everything on a silver platter, I don't see how you can claim I'm prejudiced," said Lily. "I like loads of purebloods," she gestured to Dorcas and Remus. "They just don't happen to be you."
Black smiled, shaking his head and tisking. "You might stoop to being friends with purebloods, but you refuse to date anyone who is not a muggleborn."
Lily scoffed, swinging her head around to look at Potter. "Please. This is your new ploy? Trying to make me out to be prejudiced for not dating you?" She shook her head and leaned over to glare at Black. "My complete unwillingness to date Potter has nothing to do with his blood status and everything to do with the fact that he's an arrogant prat that thinks the world and everyone in it should bend to his every whim just because he's good a quidditch." Out of the corned of her eye, Lily say Potter wince, but refused to feel guilty for speaking the truth.
"Lily, we all know you're a shrew, there's not need to prove it," Black responded cheerfully.
"Oi, mate," Potter cut in, shaking his head at Black, "can we not?"
Black shrugged, smiling. "Real arrogant prat, yeah? Defending you when you've just insulted him for no reason." Before either Lily or Potter could respond, Black continued, "But I didn't say you wouldn't date James, I said you wouldn't date purebloods. And I'm right. When have you ever dated a pureblood? I can name several muggleborns, but not a single pureblood."
"And if you think I don't know every bloke you've even so much as looked at," Black added, before she could object, "you clearly have no idea what it's like living with this one," he jerked his head toward Potter. Black flung himself back on the seat, laying a hand across his head in faux desperation. "She smiled at Fenwick today," he said, in a fair imitation of Potter at his most dejected. "She likes him, I know she likes him. But why," Black's voice rose to a pathetic whine at the word, "does she like him."
Lily glanced at Potter, who was trying – and failing – to cover his blush by using both hands to mess up his hair. She quickly turned her eyes back to Black. "I still don't see what me turning down Potter has to do with him being a pureblood."
Black cocked his head at her. "Can you think of a single pureblood you've even thought about dating?" he asked. "Honestly?" When she looked blank, he smiled triumphantly. "See. Prejudiced," he said in a sing song voice.
Lily considered for a moment. "I suppose you have a point," she said fairly, to the obvious shock of everyone in the carriage. "But I don't think it has so much to do with a prejudice against purebloods, as, I dunno, having more in common with muggleborns."
Black raised an eyebrow. "And if I were to announce that I didn't have anything against muggleborns, I just had more in common with purebloods, and so I was only going to date purebloods, wouldn't you think I was a bit of an arse."
Lily pondered the question, clearly taking it seriously. "I think it's different. No really," she continued, over Black's snort, "I've spent the last seven years living in the wizarding world. I know about the sports, and the music, and the culture and all that. Mary and I could both talk about almost anything Marlene and Dorcas could talk about." She shook her head, keeping eye contact with Black. "But the reverse isn't exactly true, is it? I mean, a pureblood isn't going to know who Jack Johnson or David Beckham is. If I say Cage the Elephant puts me in a good mood, or A Fine Frenzy is soothing, or that I feel like dancing at Wicked, or hunkering down to read Pride and Prejudice, or that I sometimes wish we could make a DVD player work here, because I'm in the mood for an Office marathon, none of that makes any sense to you." She tilted her head, continuing her thought process. "A muggleborn might not know exactly who A Fine Frenzy is, but if I said it's the sort of music you'd hear on Grey's Anatomy, they'd have a good idea. They might not know who Robben is, but if I said he's a bloody fantastic ball handler, they'd catch on without me having to first explain what football is, and why he's so amazing to watch." She shook her head again. "It's not that I'm prejudiced against purebloods, it's just that being a witch is only part of what I am, and I'm not really very interested in being with someone who only wants part of me."
No one seemed to know what to say to this, so Lily shrugged, and smiled, and announced that she needed to go patrol.
As she walked out the door, James turned to Mary. "I don't even have half a chance with her, do I?" he said, his voice distraught. "I didn't understand anything she just said. She likes to cage elephants?" he asked, baffled. "Is that some mad muggle sport?"
Everyone's eyes shifted to Mary, who had fallen to the floor, she was laughing so hard. "Not cage elephants," she gasped, still laughing, "Cage the Elephant." When no one understood, she tried to get herself under better control. "It's a band." She shook her head. "Honestly, James, I'm not sure you had a chance from the first train ride," she responded sympathetically to his earlier question. "Even if you learned to play the guitar, I don't think it would make a difference."
"Oi. Fenwick," James shouted. "I'd like a word." Benjy Fenwick, a tall sixth year, stopped on his way to join the other Gryffindor for the sorting and turned to look at James in surprise. "You play the guitar, yeah?" When Fenwick nodded, James continued, "I'd like some lessons."
Fenwick's eyebrows rose. "You want lessons? In how to play the guitar?" He looked confused. "James, I really don't understand how a guitar could figure into any prank you guys might be planning."
James shook his head. "It's not for a prank. I just have an interest." He glared at the sixth year. "And this is between us, yeah?" he added menacingly. "Don't go running your mouth about it to anyone, hear?"
Fenwick agreed calmly, still blatantly confused. He didn't look any less baffled when James nodded sharply and strode away, heading toward the Gryffindor table to watch the sorting. After a moment, Fenwick shrugged and followed, seating himself at the other end with a group of lads in his year.
When James got to the table, Remus eyed him curiously, but said nothing. Sirius, ever the subtle one, loudly inquired as to what the conversation with the sixth year was all about. James shrugged uncomfortably, glancing at Lily, who was – mercifully – distracted by her friends, and muttered something about 'just having a word'.
As the first years were sorted, James cheered loudly for each Gryffindor. Then he proceeded to eat heartily with his friends. After desert was finished, he rose with the rest of his mates, ready to head up to the dorms, only to find Lily waiting for him. He stared at her blankly for several long moments.
"Hi?" he ventured.
She took a deep breath and, with the air of getting the worst over with, rushed through her sentence so fast he didn't catch a word of it.
"One more time?" James asked, hoping she wouldn't shout at him for listening poorly.
"We have separate quarters," she said, with obvious distaste. "Because we're the Heads." When he didn't respond, she elaborated. "There's a heads tower, with a common room, a bathroom, and two bedrooms. We're supposed to sleep there, instead of the old dormitories."
James tried to speak, but his mouth just opened and closed, no sound coming out. Sirius slapped him on the back, loudly congratulating him on his luck.
James thought he should test his understanding of the situation, to be sure he'd heard Lily right. "We're sleeping together?" His voice cracked at the end, and he turned an interesting shade of scarlet.
"Merlin," Sirius sighed. "It's a wonder he's ever managed to snog anyone. Ever." He shook his head, disappointed.
James' eyes snapped to Sirius, back to Lily, and then settled about six inches above her left shoulder. "Right then," he said in an abnormally deep voice, "I suppose we should go now."
Sirius snickered and led the others away, proclaiming at full volume that they really should leave the lovebirds to christen their new nest.
James risked a glance at Lily, who looked like she might actually consider sharing living quarters with him a fate worse than death, and fell into step beside her as she led him to their new rooms.
"So, how did you find out where to go?" he asked, relieved to find that his voice was back to its normal baritone. He prayed like hell it didn't crack again.
"Oh," Lily shrugged, "I was pretty close with the head girl last year."
"Right," James nodded. He racked his brain for a suitable topic of conversation.
"How was your summ –" Lily started to say.
At the same time, James began to ask, "What classes are you – " He cut himself short when he realized she had spoken as well.
Lily switched to answering his unfinished question, "Potions –"
And James tried to save the situation by answering hers, "Good, I just . . . "
They both decided to wait for the other one to speak, which led, naturally, to them walking in silence for a solid minute.
"I" – James started.
"Right, so, we're here." Lily wasn't going to stop for anything this time. "We need to choose a password together," Lily said, gesturing to the portrait of a group of laughing students from what appeared to be the seventeenth century.
"Anything you like is fine with me," James shrugged.
"OK," Lily thought for a moment, "Polyjuice Potion." She nodded, ready to walk in.
"Except that," James shook his head apologetically when Lily turned to glare at him. "It's just that they'll guess it."
"Who will guess it?" she asked sharply.
James shrugged again, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "The lads. They'll definitely get that one. Probably no more than a day. They'll go for anything to do with you first. So, you know, potions, charms, anything muggle related, beauty products, all that lot should really be tossed out."
"Right," Lily said, taking a deep breath. "Why don't you choose something then," she suggested, making it clear it was not really a question.
"Well," he said, scuffing the floor with the toe of his shoe, "the thing is, they know me really well, so I don't really think that's the best plan either."
Lily huffed out a breath. "Let me see if I understand. We need to choose a password, but it can't be anything to do with me, or your friends will guess it. And it can't be anything to do with you, or your friends will guess it."
James smile brightly. "Exactly," he nodded.
Lily looked at the portrait for long moment. "Right," she said, straightening her back. "Bloody buggering, son of a whore, arse wank." She glanced back at James, whose mouth had dropped open. Looking back at the portrait, she asked "Got that?" The students in the portrait were doubled up laughing, but managed to nod anyway, and the painting swung open. Lily stepped through without a second look at James.
Fair warning: This is going to be a bit A/U. The characters are all generally in line with what could be inferred from the books, but I've set it in current times. I figure if it's a choice between doing a shitty job of trying to write about the 1970's (with no legitimate knowledge of the era) and changing the time the story is set in, I'll take the latter. I could be wrong, but I only remember a few explicit references to dates in the book (like James and Lily's gravestones) and don't find them particularly central to the story. On the other hand, as this fanfic is intended to be about Lily being split between two worlds, it's important to me that I do my best to accurately represent the muggle interests she might have. Short of putting a mass amount of research into an era I really have no interest in, I have no real way to do that if I set it in the 1970's. As such, I chose what I consider the lesser of two evils. If that's a problem for you, please feel free to hit the back button now.