Everybody knows the Marauders are mad. They always have been, after all. And yes, I am now at the point where I will admit that they are lovably mad. (Except for Sirius when he's being an annoying, arrogant moron. But that's besides the point.) I mean, I have to love them. I'm dating one of them, for goodness' sakes – that makes the others kind of like my brothers, doesn't it? I always wanted brothers.
Okay, there is that air in the castle today. You know the one – exams are over, it's the last day of term, and everybody is so damn happy that the air looks yellow and pink with the spirit of joy. A Gryffindor and a Slytherin walked smack into each other in the Great Hall, and just waved each other on. That type of day. But the Marauders can't be satisfied with that. Oh, no. They have to take it a step further – always.
It started when I was sitting in the common room before breakfast this morning. I was reading – the first chance I had had to do any light reading in more than a month; seventh year exams are impossibly important – but looked up at a noise on the stairs. Usually, I can tune out noise – I have to, to get any studying done in this castle. Sorry, I digress. But this noise was … weird. Almost like a two-year-old trying to be a train, punctuated by the unmistakeable laughter of the Marauders. So I looked up. And then jumped to my feet, wand at the ready.
"James, what on earth? Have none of you looked in the mirror this morning?"
My (adorable) boyfriend looked at me. "Oh, Lily, have some heart. Exams are over! It's the last day!"
"What happened to you?" I took in their rainbow-coloured robes and neon hair with some horror.
Sirius, with polka-dotted robes and blue hair, waved from the top of the stairs. "James put his Charms and Transfiguration exam studying into practice. Cool, isn't it?" He didn't wait for an answer. "Okay, guys, let's try this."
And, from my vantage point at the bottom of the steps, I saw them all turn their (rainbow-coloured) backs to me, and back down the stairs. Yes. Backwards. Have you ever?
When they reached the bottom, I grabbed James by his (rainbow-striped) robes and spun him to look at me. "What are you doing?"
He kissed me quickly. "We're a train, but only our reverse gear works."
Oh, Merlin, wherever you are, spare me. "What?"
Peter piped up. His hair was green, his robes looking tie-dyed. "We can only go backwards."
I took in a deep breath and tried to force a smile to my face as I clenched my teeth. "Yes, I got that part. My question is, why? And why are you dressed like this?"
"Do you want to as well? Here." James pulled out his wand, and I pushed it away just in time.
"No, I do not want to look like the freaking rainbow fairy come to Hogwarts, thank you! Why are you acting like … like … morons?"
Remus Lupin, purple-haired and with rainbow plaid robes, grinned. "I thought we established years ago that we are morons. Lils, it's our last time to make an impression. We have to leave Hogwarts with a stunning memory of the Marauders."
"And you're an honorary Marauder, so you need to do it too." James raised his wand again, and I would have quite happily yanked his electric-pink hair from his head as I Disarmed him.
"Honorary or not, I am not doctoring my robes or my hair, and what are you planning?" I knew those faces. They were the 'we have a prank to end all pranks planned for today' faces.
"Nothing." They chorused it, hands behind their backs and trying to look innocent. They failed horribly.
"Can I have my wand back?" James asked.
"Not until you promise not to try to alter my appearance in any way."
James huffed, and the next thing I knew, Sirius' wand was in James' hand. "Expelliarmus!" His own wand flew into his hand, and he handed Sirius' back. I just managed to keep mine. "You'd better watch your back, Miss Evans," he said mischievously before reaching for me to kiss me again. Usually, I'd welcome this and kiss him back, but I pushed him away.
"James, I forbid you to alter my appearance!"
"Sirius, do you hear something? There's this echo going around my head."
One wand movement and a silent spell had a bright yellow streak across James' face.
"Oh, Lily, you do want to help!" Peter clamoured. "Make mine red, okay?"
"Augh!" I threw my hands into the air and turned away. "You … you … Marauders!"
"That's how they love us," James said. "Now, are you coming to breakfast with us?"
I turned back. "That depends. Are you going like that?"
"No, of course not," Sirius said. "We're going like this." And, just like that, the four boys grabbed each other's waists and started moving backwards around the common room, making train noises as they did.
"Oh, Merlin." I closed my eyes. "This is all a dream."
"Really, it isn't," Lupin said.
"I'm not going anywhere with you," I said firmly.
"You'll be late," James warned, knowingly hitting my weak spot. I threw my hands in the air again. "Fine! I just need to fetch something." I ran for the stairs, but instead of going to my room, I went into theirs. From there, I flew to James' trunk (which I had had to pack for him, because he's helpless) and pulled it open, rummaging through it.
Oh, for Merlin's sake, get your minds out the gutter! I know which is his dorm, his bed, his trunk because when Remus can't wake James and Sirius after a Firewhiskey-filled night or the full moon, he calls me to get them out of bed. The best way is to just tip their mattress off the base. (And, of course, I had to be in there to pack for James.) But, once again, I digress.
I hurried back down the stairs to find the Marauders in a worse state than I had left them in. They all had bright streaks across their faces (á la James) and bright red noses, like clowns. Oh, Merlin, I will never complain about Vernon Dursley again.
"Ready, Lily?" James had on his little-boy face.
"Yes." I pulled out from under my robes what I had fished from his trunk – the Invisibility Cloak. I draped it around myself. "Let's go."
I don't know how they got out of the portrait hole, but they walked all the way to the Great Hall as a backwards train. Complete with sound effects. I stayed under the Cloak and didn't answer when they called to me. I didn't want to be classed as having any part in this fiasco. I hurried into the Hall ahead of them, shoved the Cloak under my robes, and sat down next to Alice.
She stared at me. "Lily, what happened to your hair?"
I picked up my spoon and looked into it. "James, you … TOERAG!" My hair was bright yellow. I fixed it just as the Marauder train backed into the room. James was hooting, and the other three were making the 'chooka-chooka-chooka' noises.
I dropped my gaze to my plate as Alice's eyes flew to me. "Um, Lily?"
"Yes, Alice?" I tried to keep my voice sweet.
"Your boyfriend has pink hair, a red nose, and is acting like a train."
I sighed sweetly. "Just thank your lucky stars for Frank, Alice. And warn me if they change my appearance in any way again." I turned to James, who was sitting across from me. "James, you're a toerag, a prat, a moron, an idiot and I'm not sitting in your compartment later unless you APOLOGIZE!"
He grinned that (adorable, irresistible) grin again. "Lily, it's the end of term. Lighten up!"
On the platform, Dumbledore stood, trying but failing to put on a stern face. "Messrs Potter, Black, Lupin and Pettigrew, do you care to come explain this … change of uniform to me?"
All at once, the boys swung to their feet. "Right away, Professor!" Sirius called. And – yes, you guessed it. They did their backwards train thing all the way to where Professor Dumbledore was standing.
I buried my face in my arms. "Oh, Merlin. Oh, Merlin. Oh, Merlin."
"Um, Lily?" Alice tentatively tapped my arm. "Your hair's yellow again."
"Toerag!" I sat up and restored my hair to its natural red.
James turned, grinned, and winked from the platform. I debated hexing him, but as he was standing right in front of Dumbledore, I thought better of it.
The boys, it appeared, were going to get away with what they were doing. I got the feeling that McGonagall – with her lips pinched tightly together – was putting an anti-laugh charm on Dumbledore. He dismissed them, and they trained back to their seats.
Once they were seated, the food appeared. And I saw the prank. Yep, all the food was rainbow-coloured.
McGonagall was standing over the boys quicker than you could say 'detention'. "Potter! Black! Lupin! Pettigrew! Detention!" It was such a familiar phrase that I didn't think anything of it, until James stood up.
"Excuse me, Professor?"
"What is it, Mr Potter?"
"When do you want us to serve this detention?" His face was nothing short of smug.
McGonagall's lips pinched together; white and bloodless. "Do not try me, Mr Potter." She turned away to hide the smile that I knew was on her lips. Then she turned back. "Miss Evans, why is your hair yellow?"
"JAMES!" I turned my hair back to normal. "FOR MERLIN'S SAKE!" And then I threw a piece of purple-spotted toast at him.
"Miss Evans!" McGonagall was struggling to hide her laughter – and her shock – now. "I expect that from Mr Potter in first year, not you in seventh! Do not throw food."
"Yes, Professor. Sorry, Professor." I sat down again. As McGonagall turned, a handful of orange scrambled egg hit me full in the face, and I yelped. McGonagall spun again, and I already had my wand on Sirius. "Sirius Black, I am going to hex you to next Sunday if you do that again!"
He put on his innocent face. "Me? You started it."
"Mr Black, apologize," McGonagall ordered. Sirius muttered an apology. "Now, you four, this food needs to go back to normal, please."
"Why?" James asked brightly around a strip of blue bacon. "It tastes okay. Actually, it tastes bloody good."
"Language, Mr Potter!"
I don't know where James got the guts – or the stupidity – to do what he did next. But the next thing any of us knew, McGonagall's hat was flying away, only coming to rest in the middle of the Ravenclaw table's eggs, and her usually pitch-black hair was bright orange. The entire Great Hall gasped in unison, and then held its breath. Even Dumbledore looked worried. James, on the other hand, just shrugged and went back to his bacon.
McGonagall spluttered, a look of utter shock on her face. And then she drew her wand and pointed it at James. "Right, Mr Potter, there's only one way to settle this. And if you were not graduated, I would not do this." She waved her wand and shouted a spell. James' glasses flew away, leaving him practically blind. He tried to Summon them, but McGonagall kept them out of reach. Blindly, he shot a Jelly-Legs curse in her direction, and she fell to the floor. Sirius stood up, positioned himself next to James and drew his own wand.
McGonagall undid the curse James had cast and stood up. "Right!" Then she glanced around even as she danced to dodge his curses. "Two on one isn't fair. Miss Evans! I need your help."
I was shocked, but seeing that my hair was yellow once again prompted me to fairly leap over the table and deal Sirius a Bat Bogey. He responded by throwing a Leg-Locker, which I blocked.
I was the luckiest one in the mock-duel. McGonagall felt no qualms, it appeared, at hexing either of the boys, and they felt the same about her. Sirius was happy to hex both McGonagall and I, and I was fine going for either of the boys. But James wouldn't do anything to me except change my hair or robe colour. So I only had to block Sirius' spells.
We were dancing quickly now; trying to dodge all sorts of hexes and jinxes. The entire school was gathered around, cheering either 'Marauders! Marauders!' or 'Professor! Head Girl!' But the other Marauders had joined in, and McGonagall and I were at a disadvantage when I remembered the Cloak in my robes (which were now the same pink as James' hair).
In one sudden move, I pulled the Cloak over my head and dropped to the floor. Because they didn't see me, I managed to get behind them before they realized I was gone, and then James shouted. "Lily, that isn't fair!"
He only just got the sentence out before I shot a Petrificus Totalus in his direction. Split-seconds after that, I hit Sirius, Peter and Remus. Then I threw the Cloak off and took a bow. The entire female population of Hogwarts cheered.
McGonagall was grinning as she reached to hug me – I was more surprised than I've ever been, but hugged her back. Her hair was still orange, her robes neon green and her nose bright red. My nose was also red, and my hair was green. We Transfigured each other back to normal and I Summoned her hat for her before we Disarmed the Marauders and reversed the spells I had cast. They spun to their feet before realizing that we each held two of their wands.
Dumbledore finally called order – he was laughing as hard as anyone; using his beard as a hankie. "Very good show, all of you – Professor, I'm surprised at you! Now, if you'll all take your seats again, and eat some breakfast, so that we're not late for the train."
As everybody moved to sit – McGonagall flushing furious pink as she handed James and Lupin their wands – James raised his voice over the racket. "Hey, seventh years!" When he had their attention, and his glasses back where they belonged, he continued in a slightly softer voice. "It's our last breakfast at Hogwarts. What do you say we eat it in style?" He indicated towards himself, Sirius, Remus and Peter.
Slowly, the seventh years started to murmur, and giggle, and then alter each others' appearances. I pinched my lips together much as McGonagall had to stop from laughing.
Alice leaned over to me, hair already red (not my red; clown-nose red). "Are you going to?"
I wanted to. I really did want to end my time at Hogwarts with a bang. But … "I don't want them to think that I like this moronic behaviour."
"Oh, Lily." Alice whispered in my ear. "Just do it. For once."
So I did. Hair and robes to match James, although I didn't do anything to my face. He saw, and shot me a thumbs-up with that (charming) grin of his. Then he sat down and leaned across the table. "I owe you for that Body-Lock, Lily Evans, just you wait."
"I'm so scared." I bit into a piece of toast.
"You should be. I'll embarrass you."
"This isn't bad enough?" I indicated to the robes and hair. He grinned but didn't answer.
After the meal, Professor Dumbledore made his end of year speech – no magic in the holidays, be careful (a subtle reminder of the lurking dangers) and have a good time. Then he looked towards the Gryffindor table. "I think it's only fitting for our Heads to come up and say goodbye to the school." So James and I got to our feet and walked, hand-in-hand, to the platform. James raised his eyebrows for me to go first.
I looked over the hall and noticed that only one seventh-year wasn't in colourful dress – Severus. I turned away from him. "Well, I'll never forget it, that's for sure – especially not today." I waved my free hand to indicate the whole room. "It's been a great journey with all of you. Especially all the seventh-years – I know you're all going to go out and do the wizarding world proud. Until the day I die, I'll never forget any of you – students, teachers and incurable pranksters," I squeezed James' hand, "so thanks for the journey and the memories."
They all cheered and applauded, and when they quieted, it was James' turn. "Well, Lily pretty much said it all. I can't add much – except that I hope you remember all the Marauders' pranks with the fondest of memories." He winked at Sirius, Remus and Peter. "All of you, but especially Pads, Moony, Wormtail and you, Lily-girl, have made this a journey that will stay with me to my dying day." He squeezed my hand, and everybody, assuming he was finished, applauded. I was set to walk back to the table, but he kept me next to him. "I do want to say one more thing, though." The school fell silent. "I hope that, through the halls of this school, two things will echo. Yes, the pranks of the Marauders. But secondly, I hope that the seemingly endless cat-and-mouse game between James and Lily will be remembered."
I heard several chuckles, and felt myself blush with that deep, curse-of-the-redheads blush.
"I hope you remember the day she was finally caught."
I did; I always would.
"But I want you to remember one last thing." And then James turned to me.
I felt all the air leave my lungs as James sank to one knee.
"Lily Evans, I love you more than life itself. I started loving you here, in this castle, I fought with you here, and I finally caught you for the first time here. This hall was the first place I kissed you, and I'll never forget it. I will love you until my dying moment. Will you marry me?" And out of his pocket flew a Snitch. I gasped as it came to a rest, hovering in front of me, and I reached out to touch it. At my touch, the Snitch opened, revealing the gold ring set with one diamond and two emeralds that I had seen his mother wearing the last time I had seen her.
I felt tears in my eyes, even as I nodded. "Yes. Yes, James, yes!"
The ring flew from its place in the Snitch onto my ring finger. James stood up and reached for me, and I fell into his arms. And then, in front of all the students, and all the professors – our friends, our enemies, and Severus – he kissed me. Slow and passionate, I knew it was a kiss I'd remember forever. His arms wound around my waist, my fingers twirled into his messy pink hair, and his tongue lightly skimmed my lower lip. All around us was cheering and wolf-whistling. When the kiss ended, but James was still holding me, he whispered in my ear, "Apology accepted?"
I could only laugh, and nod my head against his shoulder.
It was the happiest day of my entire Hogwarts life.