Author's Notes: I wrote all this in one night, so if it flows a little too quickly, be sure and let me know! When this idea popped into my head I couldn't leave it alone. :D
Lily the Frog Princess
Lily feels warm and heavy, and wonderfully languid, and she is only dimly aware of the hand wrapped around her hip. She is pressed up against someone's side—a boy's, she thinks, because she can feel a bit of muscle through their clothing and because this person is an awfully lot taller than her—and she thinks vaguely that she should push him away. She is Head Girl, after all, and she can certainly get herself to her own room. She hadn't even really wanted to leave the party. There was a mug of butterbeer back in there with her name on it. But she can't find it in herself to protest, either, especially when the arm around her is probably the only thing keeping her from tripping or bumping into a wall.
"I'm not drunk," Lily says. She doesn't know why she says it; she simply feels that she should.
"Yes, you are," replies the boy, amusement coloring his tone, and then she knows whose arm it is around her: James Potter's. Because it's James who she asked to accompany her to Slughorn's Winter Ball, but only because Amos Diggory went with someone else. It is not a date, and Lily made sure James knew this before she asked him. He had still agreed without hesitation, even when she made him swear that he wouldn't tell any of his friends.
"I'm not drunk," she repeats. "And I wasn't finished. Amos was about to ask me to dance."
She thinks James' arm tightens around her fractionally, but he says in a perfectly even tone, "You would be on the floor if it wasn't for me holding you up."
"Not true," Lily argues, and then promptly trips over her own feet. James gets a grip on her with both hands, which settle at her waist and remain there longer than they would if she wasn't inebriated. But she's still sober enough to slap his hands away, walking determinedly towards the staircase.
"Lily," James calls, and there is an exasperated note in his voice.
"James," she throws back, and catches the railing to keep from falling as she whirls back to face him. He hurries to catch up with her, his hand attaching itself to her hip again. Lily notices how warm he is in comparison to herself. The castle hallways are drafty at night, and in the sleeveless black gown she wore to the party, her body is chilly. Inside, though, she feels like there's a fire burning.
"I told you this isn't a date," she continues as they make their way up the stairs, irritated that he keeps touching her there, even more irritated that she likes it.
He looks at her, startled by this change in topic. "I'm well aware of that," he says.
"You keep touching me," she points out.
"Yes, and if you'd let me carry you, this would probably get done a lot faster."
Lily shakes her head emphatically. Absolutely not. "I've got a railing," she says, leaning on it for emphasis. "You can probably let go of me now."
"You are the most bloody stubborn woman I've ever met," says James, and now he's angry, and he lets go of her. "I'm just trying to help you. If you don't care, then you can get yourself back up to Gryffindor Tower and I'll go finish that butterbeer of yours myself."
But Lily doesn't want him to go back, either. Because Millicent Rhodes is still at the party, and she has been trying her hardest all night to corner James under the mistletoe. And James is Lily's date, not Millicent's, and it would just be bloody rude to snog someone else's date at a Christmas party. Plus, Millicent only likes James because he's good at Quidditch.
James is not Lily's date, though, because this isn't a date, and so there is nothing stopping him from turning around and going back to the party. Nothing, until she reaches out to grab his arm, but catches his hand instead. Close enough, she thinks, and holds onto it tightly.
He looks up at her, obviously surprised, and Lily has no idea what to say. Words burn the tip of her tongue, but they are all crazy, butterbeer-induced words, and has just enough sense left not to say them. So instead she says nothing, but keeps hold of his hand. He has a big hand, she thinks, and she rather likes the way it fits in hers.
"Are you going to let me help, then?" James asks, and his voice is softer. Lily just nods, and he lets her retain her grip on his hand as they continue up the staircase.
Suddenly, the world is lurching, and she falls forward, landing hard on her elbows and knees on the stairs. Everything is spinning, and she closes her eyes tight to keep from vomiting. She barely hears the cry of alarm from James. Suddenly, it's all still again, and Lily takes a chance at opening her eyes.
James is gripping the other side of the staircase, and he laughs a bit, bending down to help her up. "I forgot this is one of the staircases that like to move," he says. "Damn Firewhiskey will do that to you…"
She gets slowly to her feet. "So where are we?" she asks, looking at the corridor above them.
He shrugs. "Dunno, but I guess we'll find out."
With that, he gives her hand a tug and pulls her the rest of the way up the stairs, into a dark, musty corridor that Lily definitely doesn't recognize, and probably wouldn't even if she were sober. She can tell that no one has been up here for a long time—maybe not even Filch or Mrs. Norris. As she and James enter, a torch lights along the wall, other following, until the entire corridor is bathed in yellow light. Unfortunately, it doesn't make things look any less creepy.
"Let's go back," she says to James. "I doubt we're allowed to be up here." It's colder here, too, almost like there is a place where air from the outside is blowing in. It's a shock to Lily's skin, and feels a little more sober. Even so, she doesn't let go of James' hand.
"Why don't we see what's down here?" he suggests instead, and she's hardly surprised that James Potter wants to walk a creepy, unused corridor at night. Their Head badges give them liberties, but this is not the kind of corridor they would be permitted to patrol. It is undoubtedly out-of-bounds to everyone.
"No," Lily says, pulling on his hand. All she wants to do now is find Gryffindor Tower and crawl into bed. "We're not allowed…"
"It's never stopped me before," says James, and that much is true. He has bent the rules as long as he's been here, even as Head Boy. And as much as Lily doesn't like to admit it, some of his mischievous curiosity has rubbed off on her. She's hardly in a position to argue anyway, since she has no idea if she'd be able to find Gryffindor Tower alone, at least without hurting herself at least once.
"Come on." James looks at the expression on her face. "This entire castle is enchanted. It's full of stuff no one really knows about—even Dumbledore can't account for everything. Once, Sirius and I found this room with a mirror. Only, it wasn't really a mirror, because when you looked in it, you didn't see yourself. At least, not the way you are now. It shows you something else. Sirius said it was the future, but I don't really think that was it." He runs a hand through his hair once, something that used to irritate Lily, but now usually draws her attention to his hair and keeps it there for a bit. This time, her eyes are drawn to his face, where she notices his cheeks have gone a bit red. She isn't sure if it's from the drinks or not.
"What did you see?" she asks.
"Ah—nothing," he says, and she thinks he regrets bringing it up. "It was a bit stupid, really."
"Probably had to do with that big head of yours on a Quidditch poster," Lily mutters before she can think, and she wonders why she is so mean to him, when he hasn't given her a cause to in a really long time. But when she looks up at James, he's smiling, and as he catches her eye, he chuckles.
"Something like that," is all he says.
"Where is this mirror?" Lily asks, not in the mood to pry information from him.
He shrugs a little. "No idea. It took Sirius and me months to find that room again, and when we did, the mirror was gone. We haven't seen it since."
"Dumbledore probably knew you were in there," she says.
"If he did, he never said anything about it. The mirror might have moved itself," he replies, and then comes to a halt, pulling on Lily's hand so that she stops with him. Abruptly, she realizes they've reached a dead end.
"So much for that," she says flatly. "Really exciting."
"Well, that's disappointing," says James. He moves to press his hand against the wall, and suddenly he falls right through it, as though he were a ghost.
"James?" Lily moves forward to grab him as he vanishes, and she walks right through the wall as well, so startled that she trips and falls again.
"Ouch…bloody hell…" Her knees are going to be black and blue in the morning, she's sure. The ground beneath her is damp and dirty, and she's glad she wore a black dress. She feels James' hand on her hip again as he helps her up, and she automatically wipes her hands on the front of his shirt, barely even conscious of her actions until he says, "This isn't my shirt, you know."
"Sorry," Lily mumbles, and glances around. They're in another corridor, but it's much smaller, darker, and smellier. At least, she thinks it must be smaller, when she moves slightly to the right and brushes against the wall. But she can't even see three inches in front of her nose.
"Lumos," says James, and the tip of his wand illuminates the place just enough for Lily to tell that the corridor is tiny; there is barely enough space for both of them to walk side-by-side. In fact, it is impossible for her to move without brushing against James.
"Let's get out of here," she says, coughing a bit at the smell. She has never liked small spaces, though she wasn't really claustrophobic. And this place was far too rank for her tastes. Turning, she moves to walk back through the wall where they had come in. Her hands meet solid wall, and when she pushes—nothing. She pushes harder, but she may as well have been trying to move all of Hogwarts for all the difference it makes. James takes her arm and pulls her back.
"It doesn't look like we're going to be able to get out that way," he tells her. "We're going to have to figure something else out."
Lily's heart rate picks up, and suddenly she feels hot again. The thought of being trapped in this corridor forever is a sudden and terrifying one, even though the part of her brain that is still rational rejects it. If there's a way out, there's a way in—but Lily's alcohol-soaked mind cannot let go of the fear, and she tries not to let it show on her face. "Let's hurry, then."
James glances down at her. "Are you afraid, Lily?"
"Of course not." Her answer is swift and firm.
He grins and gently slips his fingers through hers, which sends a strange wave of heat over her. "Look, maybe I can figure out where we are." And he lets go of her hand to pull a long, rolled sheet of parchment from his back pocket. Unfurling it, he held the tip of his wand to its surface and murmured, "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
Lily raised an eyebrow at him, then leaned over the parchment to watch as ink blossomed over it, forming words. They looked just slightly fuzzy to her, but she could still read them. "The Marauder's Map…what is this rubbish?"
"The secret to our success," says James with a smirk, "and don't you dare tell them I showed this to you. I could get kicked out of the group."
Lily scoffs, but watches him unfold the parchment. It looks a lot like a map, all right…a map of Hogwarts. That certainly explains a few things. "Where did you get this?"
"Made it," replies James casually.
"You made it," she repeats. But then, it isn't really so surprising, considering how frustratingly brilliant James is at…well, everything. Sirius and Remus make it look effortless, too. "So this is how you choose to spend your time?"
He grins. "It's damn helpful sometimes. It may be helpful now." He bends down and scans the parchment for a long moment, and Lily wonders what he's looking for. Surely if this corridor was on his map, he would have known it was here. Eventually, he looks up and shrugs. "We aren't on the map, so this passageway hasn't been added."
"What do you mean, we aren't on the map?"
James taps the paper again, and suddenly Lily notices that there are moving dots all over the place. Upon closer inspection, she realizes they are footprints, and each one is labeled with a name. Her eyes find Gryffindor Tower, where Mary, Marlene, and Dorcas are all in the girls' dormitory. She looks back up at James, who is a lot closer to her than she thought, and she pokes him in the chest.
"You haven't been using this to spy on anyone, have you?" she asks sharply, and by 'anyone', she really means herself.
"No," James laughs. "Really! That's not why we made it. It's solely for avoiding authority."
Lily's lips twist, but she decides not to argue the point. The fact that he could pull this map out anytime and see where she was is a frightening thought, but it seemed as though he truly wasn't using it for that purpose. If he was, she surely would have noticed by now. "So it's not going to help us, then."
"No, but look." He points at the map again. "This is the staircase we were on, yeah? And it switched, and went off to the left…here." He stabs at a long corridor. "So the creepy corridor was on the map already; it's just that the hidden passageway was looked over. Sirius and I did a lot of the investigative stuff when the map was made, so we probably just turned around when we saw the dead end."
"How does that help us?" Lily asks. She is frustrated, tired, and no longer warm and tipsy. What she wants, more than anything, is to Apparate back to Gryffindor Tower, even though she has only Apparated three times since passing the test and had thrown up two of those times. It didn't matter, because she can't Apparate inside Hogwarts anyway.
"It means that we're somewhere here," says James, pointing at the end of the corridor where the wall is. "And all secret passageways come out somewhere, Lily Evans, and so we just having to keep walking until we find out where it is."
"Again, how it that comforting?" asks Lily, folding her arms across her chest. She has goosebumps now, and she is just thinking about trying a warming charm when a heavy fabric suddenly falls over her shoulders, and she looks up to see that James has thrown his outer robes over her. He is left in the dress pants and shirt beneath them. She wants to protest, but the warmth she feels left over from his body is too welcome. So instead, she pulls the robes around her more closely and thanks him in a quiet voice.
"It's comforting because we know where we are," he replies, grinning hugely as he watches her pull his robe around her body. "And that's always nice to know, isn't it?"
"It'll be nice when we can just get the hell out of here," says Lily a bit sharply, and James folds the map and sticks it back in his pocket.
"Well, we won't be able to do that unless we get moving," he says. "We'll probably have to walk single file; this seems like a pretty tight space."
Lily nods. "Fine by me."
They start walking, Lily keeping close behind James, mostly because if she lets him get too far ahead, it will seem too much like she's alone in here. She lights her wand too, and tries to think about things other than being stuck in a dark, unknown corridor, but when she notices that the pathway is getting progressively smaller—the walls closing in on them—she tugs on James' sleeve.
"We're going to get stuck," she breathes, and her voice sounds far more terrified than she wants it to.
James glances back at her, and she feels like a child, her hand still clutching a handful of his shirt. She lets go and puts some space between them, but she refuses to go forward. It's gotten progressively mustier as they've moved on, and now she can't walk without brushing against one cold and slimy wall or the other. "There has to be another way out of here. We've missed something," Lily presses.
"We haven't," James replies. "But you're right; the corridor is getting narrower."
She swallows. "What should we do?"
He searches a moment for an answer. "I don't know, Lily. We could try going back where we were and yelling until someone heard us…"
"We've been walking for at least an hour," she argues, "and that corridor looked like no one had walked down it in decades. No one would ever hear us."
He sighs. "Well, do you have any other ideas?"
She thinks a moment, then shakes her head. "Maybe if we went back and waited until morning…and used an exceptionally strong Sonorus charm…someone might hear us."
He smiles grimly. "It sounds like the best plan we have, doesn't it?"
She nods, taking a deep breath, and starts to turn back around, but James catches her hand again.
"Lily, someone will find us. They'll notice we're both missing."
She nods again, not saying anything, and the two of them set off back into the dark. The trip back down the corridor feels even longer, and by the time they reach the end of the wall, Lily is exhausted. She slides down onto the stone floor, not caring about the wet and the dirt. After a moment, James slides down next to her, looking as worn out as she felt.
"Sorry about this," he mutters.
"It was my idea to go looking down here," he continues. "It's my fault we're stuck in this bloody passageway."
She leans her head back against the wall, then tilts it slightly so she can see his face. "Well, I didn't exactly stop you," she says.
"You couldn't even if you had tried, as tipsy as you were."
Lily frowns. "Excuse me for enjoying the party."
"Bollocks. You were only drinking constantly because that Diggory idiot kept snogging his girlfriend."
She flushes angrily. "Well, what about you? You followed me around all night to keep me from dancing with him!"
"No, I followed you around because I was your date, and I wanted to make sure you didn't hurt yourself," James spits back. "And he wasn't ever going to ask you to dance with him, all right? He has a blooming girlfriend!"
"God, you're such a jealous prick!" Lily shouts, turning away from him.
"Damn right I am," James snarls. "Don't think I don't know why you brought me. You were hoping that Diggory would see me with you and get jealous, am I right?"
"Shut up," she hisses. That isn't the reason she brought him with her, but she'll have her tongue cut out before she tells him the real reason.
"Sirius told me I was bonkers to even agree to go with you," James continues, ignoring her. "And I guess I was. But I really couldn't help it. I'll keep torturing myself until the day I bloody die for you."
Lily doesn't say anything. He's been making it clear since fourth year that he fancies her, but he hasn't really sounded serious about it until recently. The raw emotion in his voice causes a lump to rise in her throat, and she turns her entire body away from him so he won't see her trying to swallow it. They don't say anything else, and eventually, Lily curls up on the floor, using his robes to cushion her head. It takes her a long time to fall asleep, and when she does, her slumber is fitful. She tosses and turns, unable to get comfortable, until at some point, she wakes up and feels something soft and warm beneath her head. It isn't the robes. Too tired to figure out what it is, she drifts off and doesn't wake up again.
Not until she senses light behind her eyelids, and they flutter open to discover that she and James are no longer trapped inside the musty corridor. She sits up, and finds that her head has been resting in James' lap. He is propped up against a headboard, and they are in a bed, in a room twice or maybe even three times the size of her dorm. The room is, in fact, filled with beds. Lily pulls away from James quickly. How did they get here? The last thing she remembers is falling asleep on the damp floor.
"James," she says, shaking him a little. "James, wake up."
"Hmm?" He stirs a little, glasses askew, and she shakes him some more until he opens his eyes all the way and sits up with her. "Bloody hell. Where are we?"
"I don't know. I was hoping you could tell me," she says, sliding off the bed. She is still in the dress she wore to the party last night, so she knows it wasn't all a dream. "Check your map thing."
"It's called the Marauder's Map," he corrects her, but he pulls out the parchment anyway and stares at it. "Dammit…we're still not on here. That fucking corridor probably just dumped us somewhere else."
"Great," Lily says, rolling her eyes, and she holds a hand to her head as she looks around. She has a terrible headache, but at least she doesn't feel sick. Usually, an excess of alcohol doesn't sit well with her because she is unused to its effects. "Oh, there's a door!"
At the end of the large room are huge double doors, and when she runs over to push them open, she finds that they lead out into a hallway, one that looks like it's part of the main castle. Feeling a rush of excitement, she turns back and beams at James. "I think we can get back from here!" she says.
"Really?" James stands up, starting to head over to her, but he pauses with a wince and bends over a bit. "Ouch."
"What's wrong?" She crosses back over, feeling much better now that the nightmare appears to be over. It's as if their argument the night before never happened.
"Well, you slept with your head in my lap the whole night," he says. "My legs stayed in the same position, so my muscles are just a bit tense."
Lily blushes faintly. "I don't remember putting my head in your lap."
"You kept squirming around and kicking me. I figured it might be a little more comfortable for you," James replies, and Lily suddenly wonders at how quickly he can forgive her. She hasn't even apologized for the argument, and he still thought about her comfort before his own. She finds herself smiling.
"It did make a very nice pillow, your lap," she says, and laughs.
James stares at her for a moment as though he's never seen anything quite like her, and then he laughs too. For some reason, Lily can't stop, and it's several long moments before she catches her breath and wipes the tears from her eyes. "Well, I suppose we should get going. I'd like to get out of this dress."
But James is looking at the ceiling. "Whoa."
She follows his gaze, and finds that a green plant is sprouting out of the ceiling, everywhere. It grows down until it's hanging right above their heads; around them, the beds are vanishing. And Lily knows what it is.
"Mistletoe," she says quietly.
He looks back down at her, and she watches the Adam's apple in his throat bob up and down as he swallows audibly. "Yeah."
She bites her lip. "We don't have to. We can just walk away."
Suddenly he grins. "Yeah, but what's the fun in that? You know what Sirius says. Everyone needs a good snog at Christmas."
She laughs, thinking how absurd it is that he's mentioning Sirius at a time like this. "You know, I've already been caught under the mistletoe once this year by Remus."
"I'll pretend I didn't hear that," says James, taking a step closer to her.
She looks up into his eyes, which seem slightly golden behind his glasses. "I probably shouldn't have told you. He told me not to."
"Good friend," James breathes, and he's so close to her now that she can feel his breath on her lips.
"I'm sorry about last night," Lily murmurs, but James just kisses her in response, and she's lifting herself up onto her toes, returning it eagerly, and it's meant to be chaste but it keeps going, and soon she knows she's going to need oxygen but she doesn't really care, and then James is holding her so tightly to him that she's practically standing on his toes—
And then it's over. Her blood is running hot, and her hands are trembling slightly on his shoulders, and James is wearing the most ridiculous grin she's ever seen. It takes her a moment to realize she's wearing the same one.
"Dully noted," he says, "but if this is what I get for getting us lost, I'd rather get lost with you more often."
Laughing, Lily kisses him again, because the mistletoe is still dangling above their heads. That's her excuse, anyway. It's not as if she can blame the alcohol at this point.
But she doesn't want to blame anything, not really. Because she thinks James is right: they should get lost more often.
After all, there are bound to be more secret passageways in Hogwarts that aren't on that map of his…