For the Title Challenge & also for The Writer Round Two
Events have been slightly changed from what information is given in the books.
"Engulfed in Pride"
For Kerr (misswhiteblack), Albo (watching stiricide), Liss (fabricated fantasies), Rose (contemplating being nocturnal) & Visa (Lowi).
There's a clamour on the platform as seven years' worth of Hogwarts students attempt to board the train, amidst the sobbing mothers and the fathers being 'strong' for their wives. There are the trolley wars as the older students attempt to race one another down the concrete surface to find 'their compartment', the one they apparently have every year, aboard the Hogwarts Express.
Plumes of smoke billow from the funnel at the top of the steam engine, fanning out into a delicate, shimmering haze that hovers over the top of the hundreds of people all throwing goodbyes at one another.
Amidst the crowds of people, the majority of whom are of the magical stock, is Lily Evans, her copper red hair causing her to stand out from the sea of mundane normality that is usually the way the first years are regarded as – not important enough to be individually recognised, no matter their blood creed.
"Lily, darling, are you sure you're going to be-" her Mum begins to reel off the spiel about whether Lily is going to be happy at Hogwarts, about how she can come home whenever she desires to if she doesn't like it there, how she must write to them every day, because they need to know she's safe. She's heard it so many times that she can almost recite it along with her Mum – and she sees the tightening of Tuney's face as the words Lily and witch are thrown about so casually within the setting they're in.
"I'll see you at Christmas, Mum, Dad, Tuney," she calls as she jumps onto the train, her Dad having already placed her trunk in one of the empty compartments on the train, her owl Harold perched in his cage atop the shiny brown case with all her belongings. "I love you!" she yells this as she moves backwards to get into the compartment just across the way.
And this is the first time she meets James Potter.
She's been expecting Severus to come find her soon, to continue telling her about Hogwarts and what to expect; they had made plans for their exchange of how far they're gotten in their reading (already done on Lily's side) and whether either of them had even made the simplest of spells work yet with their wands. So when another black haired boy steps into the compartment, an air of pride about him that's indescribably standoffish to Lily as soon as she sees him, her sweet smile slips onto her lips for a moment.
"Hey! You! It's empty in here!" the boy hasn't noticed her sitting in the corner, her slight frame evidently mixing in with the seats – evidently her flame of hair isn't something that this boy seems to notice, even though everyone else has.
"Excuse me," her voice is slightly cooler than she intended, yet she decides that she doesn't care – she's got Severus if he turns rude, and she's always been able to hold her own in an argument. "I got this compartment for me and a friend who is on his way to meet me, so it is not empty," she continues, watching with a small smirk as the boy jumps a good three feet into the air.
As he turns around, she sees that he's got a rather round face – no doubt the product of too much food, she thinks rather harshly – and glasses to match, along with a strange eye colour that she can't make out at first glance. There's something more than annoying about his hair, something that makes it seem as if he's forgotten to brush half of it as it's just so lopsided, so messy! He's shorter than she is, but there's an air about him that makes him seem as if he's trying to be someone a good three or four years older than he actually is.
"And you are?" he drawls as if he's got some rights to this compartment just because of who he is – but she doesn't know this yet, doesn't know that he's from one of the most prestigious bloodlines in the wizarding world.
She stands to face him, getting angry because he's being so rude to her; a boy who can't even brush his own hair thinking he's better than her for some reason that will probably be known by those who have grown up in wizarding families, unlike herself.
"Lily Evans – and you?" she inquires him his name also, tossing her long hair over one shoulder to face him with a grace rarely found in those older than herself, let alone an eleven year old.
"James Potter," he replies pompously, something that makes her laugh slightly, because she thinks it's hilarious that he assumes he's everything just because of his name. "What?" he asks in a tone that relays slight confusion as to why she's laughing, his glasses falling down his nose slightly as his face crinkles up.
"Just because your name is James Potter doesn't mean that you're allowed to act like you own the place!" she says with almost disbelief in her tone, looking at him as though he's crazy, for that's how she thinks he is, really.
His expression clears and a smirk slides onto his lips, though Lily can't tell why because he's evidently not Mr. Popular since the person he was calling on earlier still hasn't arrived. Then again, she theorises, neither has Severus and he said he'd meet her straight away when she arrived.
"I'm guessing you're not from a wizarding family," he assumes correctly but she can't help but feel annoyed at how quickly he deduced it; if he could realise this quickly, how fast can the rest of the school? It's almost enough to send her into a frenzied panic but she's Lily Evans, cool thinker even at this age, and she realises that there's nothing wrong with being non-wizarding.
"Yes…?" she's hesitant as she answers, something in her tone egging him onto all new levels in the…one minute and thirteen seconds since she met him.
"Then you haven't heard of the Potters, have you?" naturally, he's pompous as he addresses his family line, people who must be exorbitantly wealthy from the way he's acting. "We're big in the wizarding world; there's not one family who doesn't own something manufactured by my Father's company," he grins in a manner that has Lily's back up as far as possible, a lack of disbelief that someone could be so arrogant about himself right in front of her!
And there's the fact that they've not even been stood together for five minutes, of course.
Before she can think up as scathing a response as someone aged eleven can, Severus appears at the door, a look of trepidation on his face as he sees Lily that turns to confusion when he sees James. He knows who the messy haired boy is; there's always been something about those wealthier pure blood families in the paper that his mother bought secretly…and Severus is sure that the boy looks more pompous in the flesh than he does in the papers.
Something he never thought was possible.
"Sev!" Lily squeals, all anger and annoyance forgotten at the sight of her best friend as she rushes over to hug him. There's confusion on James' face as to why he's been abandoned by the girl he doesn't know, until he turns and sees the boy with curtains of sleek, ebony black hair around his too skinny face.
"You need to wash your hair," James is rude without fail, not even bothering with introductions to Severus before he turns away. Another black haired boy is approaching, someone James seems familiar with, for he says, "Sorry, Sirius, there's no hope there. It's just a Muggleborn and a boy who has never heard of shampoo."
As Lily hears this as she and Severus sit down in the compartment, feeling the rumbling of the train beginning to leave the station, she's already sure that she severely dislikes the bigheaded nature of James Potter.
People say that the best relationships start off as hatred!
The season changes from autumn to winter to spring to summer, then back to autumn again, a cycle that never stops, and yet even as their fifth year comes round, Lily Evans' opinion of James Potter is as negative as it was at their first meeting – if not more so. Five years has merely afforded her to see more of his negative aspects and wonder if there's anything good inside of him at all, anything that could allow his pompousness to be redeemed.
Something tells her that there isn't.
He's been hounding her for almost two years now, ever since he "fell in love" with her one random day in third year, and yet all he's doing is going down in her mind all the more. He's James Potter the Quidditch genius to most of the Gryffindors who only see him as a glorified hero because he's able to score goals in their Interhouse games – sometimes she wonders if they really do see the proud monster that lies underneath, yet merely choose to only see an embellished hero.
She's not surprised that he didn't get the Prefect badge; he's got all the charm in the world for the ladies – something that strikes her with stabbing almost pinpricks of anger whenever she sees him flirting, though that doesn't mean anything – and even the males, in a different sense, yet the teachers can see right through him. He's a strong student, she has to begrudgingly give him that, but he doesn't do anything besides land himself in detention – usually for messing with her best friend.
Or someone who was her best friend: at the same time as James has grown to be more of an ignorant, proud prat, Severus has grown further away from her, towards his Slytherin buddies who she just can't stand. This talk of the Dark Lord and his followers always seems to centre on those in Slytherin and there's a group of them that she's positive are going to end up being those who feel they need to join the "group to change the Wizarding World into a better place"…and Severus hangs around with them.
She's worried for him, worried that he's going to be pressured into joining something she's positive he doesn't really want to join, and this makes her short temper even worse with Potter. She can't even think his name without a contemptuous edge slipping into her thoughts, tainting her mind until she's angry with him for doing…nothing. It reaches the point that just seeing him sitting there with his little "Marauders" irritates her to the point of snapping.
His pride is the thing that gets her the most, she thinks if she's ever rational when thinking about James Potter. She considers that perhaps – perhaps – there's a slight chance that he could be relatively acceptable a human being if he didn't think of himself as such a god. But no, he has to fight back every time someone says something, has to be Mr. Sarcastic, has to get one over on every person who says anything against him to the point where he's cast more spells on his peers than what he has!
"Oi, Evans!" he's at it again, calling her to try and get her to pay attention to him tossing a snitch into the air. There's another thing she hates about him; he's predictable…and not in a good way.
Lily likes predictability in a good way; she likes to know that people aren't going to just go off the rails, aren't going to dye their hair bright pink and shave half of it off (though she feels like doing this sometimes, to avoid the ginger jokes, amazingly something that Potter hasn't caught onto) and are just going to act like normal human beings. Unfortunately, this principle cannot be applied to James Potter. His predictability consists of his getting up in the morning, annoying the hell out of every single person he can, charm them into forgetting he annoyed them, at the same time as curse or hex every single Slytherin who walks by, and any other person if they annoy him.
(Oh, and there's his incessant attempts to 'woo' her, they're near constant as well as his infallible self assurance that he is who everyone wants around.)
"Evans." She can tell from the way that he says her name, that infuriatingly patient voice as if he thinks that one day, she'll come around to him if he uses that tone all the time, he's not even going to contemplate licking his wounds of rejection for the rest of the day. So she tosses her copper coloured hair over one shoulder and lifts her gaze from her Transfiguration essay and shoots him the most contemptuous glare she can muster in the moment.
"What do you want, Potter?"
"As usual, no."
"You're an arrogant, proud prick, that's why."
"Your bluntness astounds me to the core, Evans." He actually manages to sound slightly hurt, though she's not sure how he can pull this one; she says something along the same scathing lines whenever he asks, so it's not like he's not expecting it.
She knows he's really rather handsome; there's something about his face that makes her want to forget all of his sins and just kiss him – this, she supposes, is her starting to succumb to the force that has had girls falling over their feet to meet James Potter since their first year. Therefore, as she does every time, she imagines punching him in the face to destroy those beautiful features and feels one million times better.
"Your stupidity…oh no, wait, it doesn't," she retaliates, rolling her eyes as she stands up to head to the library. Whenever he's here, she can never concentrate, not properly. Thus, the library is her usual safe haven – Potter never bothers with the library, merely steals books that Remus takes out, so she's usually safe in there.
"Where are you going?" he, as per usual, seems slightly surprised to see her leave, as if he continues to be amazed that there's a girl immune to his charm. Yet she doesn't respond, merely gathers her papers and walks towards the Portrait Hole to head to the library, her gaze mutinously focused on the hole towards the outside world. Just a few more steps and you don't have to turn back and curse him, you don't have to sink to his level, she chants to herself, perilously close to turning and hexing him so irrevocably that he remains a slug for the rest of his life.
(Sometimes, expulsion'd be worth it, she thinks evilly.)
Her ears focus involuntarily upon the noise in the Common Room, focusing upon the loudest voice of them all, the one with the arrogance in every syllable of the words that reminds her why she can never see James Potter changing.
"Petrificus Totalus!" he drawls, evidently pointing his wand at some poor, unfortunate soul who probably gave him a funny look.
Gritting her teeth, Lily walks out of the Common Room and makes a vow that she'll never see him as anything other than a pompous, proud, conceited prat.
This is the one word that has her – for the shortest of moments - condoning Potter's actions against a fellow student, even against her best friend, Severus. Shock reverberates through her as she processes that Severus called her this: Severus, the boy who is supposed to be different from all the other Slytherins has slipped and called her what he vowed he would never call her.
She's been hurt almost beyond repair, finding herself almost happy that James Potter is there to protect her, because she doesn't know what she'd do otherwise. Grief grips her tightly, wracks through her body as though she's nothing other than a mere vessel for something greater than she is; she's unable to cope with this realisation that he's only another person who has lied to her in her life. He said he wasn't one of the stereotypical Slytherins, that he didn't support the idea that Slytherins are inherently 'superior' to other houses, that Muggleborns have no right to be witches or wizards. And yet he lied to her.
So, for the moment after James Potter's curse has Severus hanging in the air upside down, she's strangely gleeful that he's getting even a small castigation for just proving that he's something he always said he wasn't. Just for that moment, she feels a sinful happiness at her best friend's misery, due to his attack on her birthright. Just for that moment, there's a kinship between her and Potter; she almost wants to thank him for taking her out of having to deal with the situation in what would most likely have dealt with entirely differently.
Then this moment is over and she's back to remembering that he is still someone she cares about, even if she doesn't think that she can be friends with him anymore after this, so she tears her gaze from Severus hanging in the air to look at Potter, whose smug look merely ignites her anger at him further.
"Let him down!" she shrieks at him, her eyes blazing a green so luminous that they stand out almost like precious gems within her face. "Potter, this is nothing to do with you! Stop trying to justify your attack on him for-" she splutters to a halt, not wanting to confess verbally that Severus called her a Mudblood, for it would almost be akin to severing their friendship herself.
The mocking, proud look dispels from James' face slightly, replaced slightly with confusion. "He called you a Mudblood, Lily. And you want me to let him down?" he says this with disbelief, as though he can't accept that she could be so accepting of someone who has committed such a heinous crime.
Her eyes lock with James' for a second and she can see that he's doing this for her, that he wants to try and make her feel better and that this is the only way by which he knows how. Yet this merely drives her anger further on, causing her to reach out and yank on his wand arm with such force that Severus drops to the ground like a stone.
"Yes!" she snaps, an edge to her voice so acidic that bystanders flinch back in fear. "Yes I do, Potter, because this is nothing to do with you. I don't care about your so called 'justice' you're trying to inflict; I'm a big girl, I can deal with things myself. I have no need for you to come running to my rescue every second because, let's face it, you're the one more in need of rescue!"
He merely stands next to her, stunned into silence, his mouth moving to try and formulate a response yet no words coming out. Lily takes this as her personal victory amidst a time of more anguish than she would want to confess to anyone, so she turns on her heel and stalks off, striding as far away from James bloody Potter, his buddies and Severus Snape as she possibly can. Only then does she let the tears fall, allow those shimmering eyes to relinquish their tears down her cheeks, leaving glistening tracks upon her skin as the rivulets roll furiously onto her chin.
Why, is the only word that forms in her head. But one thing she does know, and this she's absolutely certain, James Potter has absolutely no right meddling in her life and she will never talk to him again.
(Though she has to admit that she sort of did appreciate his response…just a little bit, even now.)
Fifth year rolls into sixth year and she's managed to avoid talking to Potter for an entire…one hundred and forty six days, her only mishap being a mumbled "bye" as he hounded her on the Hogwarts Express on their way home for the Summer…and her success is slightly tainted by her realising that ninety eight of those days were spent away from him anyway.
Yet she doesn't bother with this as she works studiously in the corner of the Common Room, shooting glares his way each time his obnoxious opinion becomes loud enough for her to hear, yet never actually saying anything to him. If there's something she wants to say to him, she's figured that she'll make it generalised to the entire band of Marauders and either yell it at Sirius or tell Remus to tell the rest of them. And it's worked thus far…with relative success.
(The only drawbacks are that Sirius doesn't really care and that she can't tell if Remus bothers to pass on her extremely longwinded messages with enough effect.)
There's almost something different about him for brief moments, as though she can see through an almost veil of his projected persona to realise that there's someone who does recognise the severity of the situation in which they are all in and that he's finally beginning to mature – yet only a small part of him. Each and every time that she contemplates the possibility that perhaps he's growing up, as is supposed to happen, he goes and hexes another innocent Slytherin (as they're not all destined to be bad) or tricks another first year Gryffindor into thinking they're to go to Potions in the Forbidden Forest at midnight and reminds her why she's set up this stubborn stance against talking to him, even to reprimand him.
Gone is the carefree girl who stood upon platform nine and three quarters, the girl with nothing to be fearful of, nothing to know about factions within the wizarding world. She's even lost her best friend since then! No, now the startling red hair is tied back in a severe manner, her features stony and show the evident strain she's putting herself under to do everything she can to help fight Voldemort. There's no concern about the fact that she's too young; Lily Evans has decided to burden herself with the adults' issue and there's nothing anyone can do to try and draw the completely carefree girl back.
Her best friends are the only ones who can bring the old, sarcastic Lily Evans back, the only people able to let it be seen that the fiercely loyal girl continues to be present beneath the outer shell that is entirely focused on her end goal: to be one of those to help defeat Voldemort. With Marlene and Verity, she's able to return to her normal self – yet, as soon as they're gone, she's back to being single-minded in terms of her desired end goal.
Those astute enough to realise, notice that the old Lily Evans began to fade to be under the radar as soon as she stopped talking to James Potter.
(But, really, how many sixth years notice this?)
She's determined to keep this resolve on as long as she can, to continue not talking to James Potter until preferably the end of their school life together, but she's aware that it's unlikely to occur. Whilst her life may be saner now without him messing it up every three seconds, not talking to someone for another year and three quarters is near impossible to do in a school this small, even more so when they're in every class together.
He sits behind her in Transfiguration and Charms, stands diagonally across from her in Herbology, and his cauldron is on the kindling block adjacent to hers in Potions. There's just no escaping him, she finds; she's always able to hear his conversations about absolutely nothing of interest with his friends, never able to just enjoy a moment of peace and solitude because James Potter is always throwing his opinion around the room in his usual conceited manner, presuming that people want to know what he thinks.
She knows she doesn't.
But she gets along just fine, ignoring him as best she can, shooting contemptuous glares at him when she's scared she's going to have to bite her tongue off to stop herself saying even one word to him, doing anything to merely stop her focus being on him. Yet this time makes her realise that there's no way that he's changed, that any thoughts she may have had were incorrect because James Potter is as conceited and proud as ever; not even the knowledge of the war can make him grow up and act even close to his age.
"Miss Evans," their Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Muggart, calls her name and she starts slightly, having drifted away into a world where she's able to be who she wants to be without fear of being called a Mudblood.
(She'd never admit to anyone, but since the day that Severus called her that, the word has haunted her.)
"Yes, Professor?" she doesn't want to have to ask what she's meant to be doing, yet she has to as he stares at her for some reason. His gaze merely intensifies after her question, causing her cheeks to burn a colour akin to the brightness of her hair; embarrassment is not something Lily Evans usually feels in regards to being in trouble – this is something she tries to shame Potter into…usually unsuccessfully, however. She doubts that he's ever felt embarrassed in his life. Egos as inflated as his don't allow for embarrassment.
"You're to work with Mr Potter, were you not listening?" the elderly Professor snaps slightly at her, his tone turning more to weary by the end of the sentence. Yet she doesn't notice this; she merely hears that she has to work with Potter on what she presumes is the project on the board.
Something that shall require her speaking to him.
Not even bothering to fake a smile, Lily gathers all her work together into her arms and stomps across the classroom – the one lesson she gets away from him, she has to work exclusively in! – to where James Potter is sitting with a smug look upon his face.
"Well, well, if it isn't the girl who has been ignoring me for the last few months," he's almost smug as he says this, as if it's something only a genius could figure out.
"Well, you've finally figured it out, well done, Potter," she shoots back at him acerbically. "Only took you longer than it would have probably taken a bat to have firstly turned into a human before then learning to speak, eh?"
"You killed it, Evans," he replies without even looking at her, cracking his knuckles because he remembers that she always hated that. And something James has yet to realise is that annoying the girl he 'loves' isn't the way to get her to fall in love with him.
Hate him, maybe, but love usually doesn't form from someone cracking their bones just to send chills through the other person's body.
She doesn't bother to reply, for from the moment in which she found out she would be forced to work with Potter, she made the decision to not descend to his level any more than she can avoid – a decision she's already partially broken. So, gritting her teeth, she focuses her attention upon Professor Muggart, just to hear…
"You are expected to work with your partners as much as it takes to compile an entire analysis of the area of magic you are being given to study, complete to the standards you know I expect from you. I am aware that many of you are not paired with people you would generally work with, and may not particularly like," he breaks off to stare most pointedly at Lily and James, the latter of whom merely managing to make his facial expression more conceited than before, "however, I would like to hope that the importance of your NEWTs would override such petty quarrels. Is this understood?" the Professor finishes, looking around all the students for a confirmation he doesn't particularly need.
Both Lily and James nod in time with the rest of the class, Lily's mood fouler than she could have ever imagined it would be able to become – she thought that she had gotten rid of Potter for this year, at least! But no, she has to complete probably the biggest project of her entire Hogwarts career with the boy who annoys her more than every other Gryffindor in the entire school does put together, and she can't even tell him to piss off. Great.
Their teacher begins to distribute the slips of parchment upon which their research task is to be based upon and whilst they wait for him to reach their table, Lily and James sit in an awkward silence, of which it is obvious that she doesn't want to be there and he is trying to stop himself saying something completely bigheaded which would most likely make this task even more difficult.
"Miss Evans, Mr Potter," Professor Muggart addresses them as he reaches their table, sighing as he finishes saying James' surname. "I trust that I can be reassured in the knowledge that neither of you are going to blow the other to smithereens in the course of this task?" he asks them and Lily almost snorts in a 'you should have asked this before putting us together' sort of way.
However, she merely smiles sweetly and sees a chance to destroy some of James' credibility in a way that any response from him will only seem cheap. "Oh, Professor, Potter doesn't know how to blow someone to smithereens, so as long as I keep my temper and he doesn't try and be something he's not, we should be fine."
Not entirely convinced yet unable to rearrange the groups for he chose them, Muggart hands them their slip of parchment. "Beware that this is perhaps the most dangerous brand of magic, something that, ahem, unsavoury characters within our world use. I trust you two not to use this knowledge you will learn in ways that…oppose the teachings of Hogwarts, if you understand my drift." The hooded eyes of the Professor somehow manage to look at both Lily and James at the same time, giving them both the same soul searching glance that has Lily wishing to look away as soon as she can.
"I'm a Prefect, Professor; I have no desire to venture into the Dark Arts, no matter what you set us to do," Lily states clearly, keeping her voice low incase the few students left in the classroom have Dark tendencies and will want to steal their knowledge.
James shrugs, yet there's something in his face that Lily's never seen before, something which reminds her of the more mature James she's seen in flashes – yet it's much stronger, much more refined, as if this is how he is underneath, yet cannot admit.
"I can't say that it's because I'm a Prefect, like Evans here," he starts, his tone devoid of its usual flippant undercurrent. "But I can say that if I were ever to stray into the Dark Arts, I'd want Evans to blow me to smithereens, because I am never going to that side. Mark my words I will never stray away from the good side." The sense of absolution in his voice startles Lily, and she can see that it startles Muggart to the point where his usually expressionless face is displaying shock.
"Very well," he says slowly, handing Lily the slip of parchment. "You have two weeks, as do the others. I do not expect that merely working in what would have been lesson time shall be enough; you must be willing to sacrifice some Quidditch practise time, Mr Potter."
The look on James' face, the one of absolute shock and revulsion, is the one that returns him to the James that Lily is used to, the one who doesn't have a redeeming quality in him – most certainly not someone who is more adamant than she is about opposing Voldemort and dark powers.
"No buts," Muggart says as he turns away. "However, your chances of winning the Cup are as great as those that Miss Evans will be top in the year when you take your NEWTs in seventh year, so I suppose the other Houses will appreciate the chance to catch up a little on their training." Though he's not facing them, Lily can't help but think that he's smiling, something that distracts her from remembering, just for a minute, that she's working with James Potter.
"Right then, we'd best get cracking!" James sounds more than delighted to be working with her, yet she rolls her eyes and stands up, waving her wand to gather her possessions together to prevent her opening her mouth to insult him – something that she doesn't want, yet is rising closer and closer to the surface each time she moves to talk.
"Let's go to the library," she mutters, stalking out of the classroom and leaving him to follow in her wake, to move in the path of a destructive and lethal flame which twists through the corridors.
As they walk across the courtyard, James having managed to catch up, Professor Dumbledore turns to look at his deputy, Professor McGonagall with a smile.
"There is no need to look so smug, Albus," McGonagall says with a sternness to her tone so seldom present for addressing her friend. "After all, she still despises him."
"Ahh, Minerva, yet what if my plan was not for them to fall in love?" he asks rhetorically, plopping one of the sweets from his crystal dish on his desk into his mouth. "What if it were to see the ability of our two brightest students and see if they are suitable candidates to join our Order?" he continues.
"But…but they're just children!" Minerva replies, aghast. "Neither of them is of age yet, Albus; you cannot recruit them into something currently with only well trained witches and wizards – and few of them as it is!"
Her colleague smiles the same smile as before, then turns to look out of the window at the startling brightness of the sun. "Whoever said anything about either of them joining the Order this year, Minerva? I don't recollect saying such a thing."
He turns back to face her once more, there being something in his face that she cannot decipher, almost as if he has a plan in action that involves more than just the two of them.
"No, they are the two greatest students of their age," he murmurs, more to himself than to Minerva. "If they do not desire to join the cause, who do we have?"
"So, what do we have then?" James asks Lily as they sit in the library, well away from the other students in the class just incase they get distracted. In her haste to leave the classroom and to start this work so she can get away from Potter quicker, Lily forgot to find out just what they are to be researching.
Rolling her eyes at his impatience though she can't wait herself, Lily unfolds the piece of yellowing parchment in her hand and reads it once, then twice.
"We are to research…Dark Magic and what defines it as this and then compare and contrast it to comparatively good magic," she says slowly, clarifying in her head as she speaks aloud as to what they're to do.
As James lets out a low whistle and says, "well, he didn't give us much to do, did he?" she can't help but agree, something which startles her again, that she's agreeing with James Potter – yet she's always liked a challenge.
"I suppose we'll be needing access to the Restricted Section, then, to be able to get the books about Dark Magic out," she murmurs to herself, already beginning to write down a list automatically as to what they need to research and how to structure their findings.
"It's doubtful that they're just going to be leaving books about Dark Magic out on the shelves for first years to get, isn't it?" James says flippantly, yet she doesn't react, focusing too hard on her work. It's the technique that's gotten her through the past five years, with moderate success, so she's not too concerned with blocking him out.
A large part of her is relieved at this opportunity to assess Dark Magic, to see just how damaging it is to their world; it's a chance for her to be able to reaffirm in her own mind, even without seeing the effects of it, the reasons for why she made the decision to find herself a way to join any resistance against the growing power of Voldemort. And, as much as she hates to admit it, she doubts that she could have gotten a much better partner than Potter; after his outburst in the classroom, she's confident that he's not one of the Purebloods who secretly want social elevation for their blood.
"Right, so I can do this and you do this, but we'll need permission from the teachers when we reach this." Lily turns her attention back to James after a few minutes of writing a list, him having been bigheaded and spent his time waiting for Lily to plan their work insulting Slytherins in the corner of the room, and points out various parts of her roughly written spider diagram to him.
"That's another reason why you love me, you know, Evans," he says with a cocky grin, completely off topic. The suddenness of the return to their old conversations of him telling her why she loves him, then her responding with what he can do with his 'love for her', startles her slightly, causing her to actually have to think about what he said.
"W-what?" she stumbles over her word for the first time in living memory to him; she's always, even when they first met, been so self assured with him, always been able to respond without a heartbeat's hesitation. Yet today, she's not only hesitated, she's been unable to speak.
This only makes his grin even cockier, causing him to raise his eyebrows with a level of self confidence that makes her repulsed by him. "We write the same, Evans, honestly! You need to be more observant, girl."
To this, she doesn't reply.
This could be a long project.
As they work through their project, Lily begins to worry about her state of mentality…because, for the first time, there's part of her that doesn't seem to mind James Potter. Now he's been set tasks to do by her and is away from anyone who could be charmed by his infallible attempts, he works hard and furiously, completing things to such a high standard in such a short period of time that she's almost wondering if he's somehow managed to capture her work mentality by working in close proximity to her. There's no incessant bad jokes, or attempts by him to make her realise that she loves him (though she doesn't)…it's almost as if they're just a normal pair of students who have been put together to complete a project.
Yet it isn't…at the same time, Lily is aware that they're completing a project on something that she doesn't think is anything to do with the NEWT at the end of their seventh year; this is something bigger than just their education, something which she cannot explain. There is no reason, she doesn't think, as to why they have been told to work on this…unless…but no, they couldn't be asked to join a resistance, could they? After all, neither of them are of age yet.
So, whilst the motive behind their project is unclear, the unlikely duo continue to work hard on it, reading late into the night about those types of spells and their effects that the pair of them. To the librarian over the few weeks they're to work together, the sight of his messy black-haired head next to the masses of copper red curls, fiery and incandescent in their appearance, is one that is her new expected one…when she doesn't see them together, she can only wonder where they are.
And so the legend of Lily Evans and James Potter begins here, begins with the girl still overall hating the boy and the boy continuing to be the biggest prat within the entire school.
One day, their voluntary silence breaks with Lily saying James' name in one of the most cordial tones she has ever used when speaking to him. As he looks up, he sees her emerald green eyes scanning over the bottom of a page of one of the books stacked high on the table, almost as if she hasn't spoken.
"Uh…yes?" is the only way he can respond to her actually speaking to him since the beginning of their project. The past few days have been her handing him the books she wants him to read, as well as pointing silently to the points on the list he has to write about. It's been a blissful peace, something that he actually hasn't minded – being silent, that is – because it's given him a chance to be able to observe how she works. He's finally been able to understand just how brightly the girl he's said he loves for four years now shines when she works, when it's just her and the books…finally, he can appreciate how she loves working so much. The spark he can always see in her, something that seems buried most of the time (especially recently; he's wanted to talk to her about how she just seems to have dimmed to almost not existing, but he's always too scared to) besides when she yells at him, flares to life when she sees a book she hasn't read yet.
Even though they're researching Dark Magic, he can see that she's still enjoying herself – even if that enjoyment is tainted by the knowledge that there are people out there using these spells for fun.
"Why…why were you so vehemently opposed to the possibility of being lured to the Dark Arts?" she hesitates slightly as she asks, because she knows that it's an extremely personal and pertinent question.
She can see him clamming up ever so slightly, a clenching of his jaw as though he can't believe that she would ask him something like this, want to see the inside of his soul, but then he turns his gaze to her. The intensity in his eyes is back, the level of maturity so great that Lily begins to question everything she thinks she's ever known; is he really this bad boy who riles up every single person he can by showing off and being so proud of himself?
"Uh…right, well, my parents have always been strong fighters for the side of good magic, so to speak, and they were fighting with Dumbledore when he defeated Grindelwald," James begins slowly. "They weren't in the thick of it, but they have always been firmly on the side of good. No matter what offer was thrown at them by any Dark wizard in their lifetime – and before them, my grandparents, and then even before them – every single one has been declined. They have had no interest in destroying the good reputation of their name, destroying their beliefs in the world in which we live, just for the possibility of power that neither of them want.
"I may be someone you don't like, Lily, but I've never been someone who abandons their principles. I was raised a Gryffindor, someone true to the heart and brave, someone who would fight against evil to be able to ensure that the right side won. Dumbledore was a Gryffindor, so they say. Anyway, I had the chance to join those Death Eaters. I am someone who would be accepted there, no matter my house, if I desired because of the fact that I'm pureblood. Yet I don't want to. I want to kick those bastards down for what they're trying to do to our world. Voldemort does not have a place in trying to be the supreme ruler of us. We don't want him. I don't want to be one of his followers. Neither does Sirius; his family are supporters of Voldemort, hell his little brother is involved with them which is something we're trying to sort out, but why else would he have stayed at my house over the summer rather than go home? Just because we're purebloods doesn't mean that we support Death Eaters, Lily." With this, he smiles ever so slightly, looking right into her eyes.
She feels shamed slightly that she was so quick to jump to conclusions, to believe that there was a possibility that James Potter could ever have been evil…or had the chance; after all, how many times has he condemned those who are obvious Death Eater wannabes in Slytherin? How many times, up until last year, did she defend Severus from his vicious tongue because he was saying that they were the blood traitors they love to hate?
She's never seen him this clear, she doesn't think; beneath the pride, beneath the cocky demeanour he has, there's a soul as strong as hers in regards to fighting evil. Neither of them want to allow Voldemort into power; neither of them want to merely stand by or move countries as Voldemort moves into power through every crack and slip in the frameworks. They want to be the ones who stamp on those who support him, be the first line of defence in a war that must be coming to a head more and more, soon to be in the stage of outright battle within their world, ripping it to smithereens.
"I…I'm sorry I doubted you," she whispers, this being the first time she's ever possibly admitted that she's wrong about him. She still despises how he acts, yet she's able to see that there's more to James Potter than just the Quidditch Captain, womaniser façade that she normally sees.
And, of course, he jumps on this like a dog to a bone. "Well, you have to be wrong some time, don't you, Evans?" back to the surname calling, he picks up a quill and flashes her that cocky grin he knows she hates…and he's back to Potter again. "Come on, Evans, you're lagging behind. We don't have eternity to finish this, you know."
She narrows her eyes at him, yet doesn't respond, her mind still whirring at just how sincere he seemed when he was telling her about why he doesn't want to be a Death Eater. And how little Regulus is already on his way to joining those who they – James and Sirius – hate so much. He must be in pieces that he can't save his brother, she thinks about Sirius, wondering if the slightly more mature atmosphere in the Common Room at times this year has been for this reason. There are forces at play that she can't begin to understand, things that add up in ways that she thinks she understands now that she's aware of the complexity of their issues…and yet this could all be frivolous thoughts, ideas that are just entirely fictional. It's beginning to drive her mad, just thinking how she could be forced to admit that her entire characterisation of James Potter could be entirely wrong…Sirius, however, she's not as sure about.
Yet she forces herself to focus on the book, so James can't say anymore – she's almost into the habit of calling him James now, not Potter, something which annoys the hell out of her yet strangely pleases her also. He's a more complex character than she thought, someone with more sides than a octagonal dice.
And, for the first time in her memory, Lily Evans decides that maybe, just maybe, there's a good side to James Potter after all.
Unfortunately, nice James Potter doesn't last that long. Within weeks, she's back to merely seeing the pompous, proud prat who thrives upon humiliating others. Yet she's unable to wholly go back to only seeing this side to him; whilst it hasn't made much difference to her opinion of him, she can't shake the knowledge that he is good underneath, that he would never betray their side, even if enticed.
And so the weeks turn into months until they're returning for their seventh year at Hogwarts – and, this year, Lily is Head Girl. She's wondered who her Head Boy will be ever since she got the letter confirming her as Head Girl, something she always knew she would get, if she's honest.
"We'll see you in a few months; we love you," her mother says to her as they stand upon the platform, as usual Lily standing out from the crowd with her flame red hair shimmering in contrast to her pale skin. The elegance about the way she holds herself makes everyone, even timid first years, follow her with their eyes as she moves to the Head's compartment at the front of the train.
This is it, she thinks as she walks through the door into the seating area, her luggage already on the train thanks to her Dad's placing of it in whilst her Mum clutched her close for the final time. Only now does it really kick in that this is her last time heading to Hogwarts; this is the last time she will ride the train to Hogwarts as a student – and she's Head Girl as well.
"Well, well, if it isn't Evans already in here," a drawling voice captures her attention and she groans inwardly – James Potter.
"What are you doing here?" she questions harshly, narrowing her eyes as she turns to look at the messy haired boy in confusion. "Are you looking for Remus? Is he the new-" she trails off as she spots a badge the spitting image of her own pinned to the front of his creased t-shirt.
"Nope," he replies, leaping three metres or so to land with a thud upon the padded sofa. "Wow, it's comfy in here, isn't it? Blimey, no wonder the Heads seem to go home for the holidays – they want to travel in here more!" as he speaks, he reaches out for an apple and bites into it, grinning all the while.
In opposition to this happiness on James' face, Lily's expression is slowly turning further and further into a grimace. "Potter. If you don't tell me why you're here and where on earth you stole that badge from, I'll curse you into oblivion then send your mother a card with the picture of an owl on the front to inform her."
He looks up from his apple at this, his grin fading for a moment before being replaced with an even wider one as he points the apple at her. "Nice touch with the card, Evans, I don't think you've had that one before," he doesn't bother to address the issue of the badge, as so to annoy her further. "As for the badge…well…let's just say that one of those delectable owls which belong to Hogwarts – bloody irritating things; one tried to bite my finger off! – brought it to me with my booklist this summer. A sort of 'we are sorry for messing with you for all these years' present, I suppose, though I would have thought Hogwarts would have expected that from me at the end of the year…hmmm…" he trails off in mock thought, trying to appear pensive concurrently with Lily's teeth coming together with a snap.
"D-Dumbledore made you Head Boy?"
"Looks that way, unless someone intercepted Moony's owl, Confunded it, changed the name on the envelope and then sent me it just to mess with us." Unsurprisingly, James says this without a hint of humour to his voice, trying to mess with her.
"Don't mess with me, Potter."
"Wouldn't dream of it, Lily."
"Lily my arse," she mutters under her breath, turning away so he doesn't hear – he's gotten into a habit of trying to call her that in opposition to just Evans. And it's something that needs to be stopped.
Strangely, though, she sort of likes how he says her name…something that she needs to stop.
"Are you actually growing up and maturing, or is it just me?" one day as they walk around the school on their rounds, Lily asks James this question, frustration in her tone as she tries to decipher what is going on.
Since they returned to school in September, she can't actually recollect seeing him curse or hex any other student in the school; even the last day of sixth year, he was there, hexing everything that moved…and yet now, now he seems almost normal. To Lily, the only thing she can think of for this is that he's realised that every single House now looks up to him, rather than just the Gryffindors; he has to set an example.
(The real reason is that he loves her and he's realised that behaving in a mature manner is the only way there is to win her heart…but she remains unaware of this, of course.)
"Oh, Lily, you have to ask me the most awkward of questions, do you not?" he laughs slightly as they round a corner, passing some of the less amiable portraits to Gryffindors, ones more suited to Slytherins. "Maturing signifies that there was something that needed to be made more mature."
All Lily does is raise an eyebrow, not even bothering with saying anything. It's strange how easily she is able to laugh and joke with someone who, until ten weeks ago, remained firmly in her no list, someone who she really didn't like. But it's almost like his changed personality has changed her attitude towards him, to the point where he makes her blush. And when she blushes, she has to fight harder to get back to their original positions in Hogwarts, complete polar opposites, because allowing her cheeks to redden merely means that she's like all those other girls who fall head over heels for him. There's one thing she has to admit: he doesn't seem as proud as normal, doesn't seem as completely full of himself in all the wrong ways, as he had been before.
"Alright, alright, I'm not the same boy I was before," he concedes slowly. "Oi, Jones, stop snogging Hestia, it's not right!" he then bellows down the hall towards a snogging couple on the side who suddenly make Lily feel very, very awkward.
"Not the same boy?" she repeats, grinning slightly, something which alone feels strange enough to be allowing herself to do in James Potter's presence. Well, besides for when they got back their grades from the Dark Arts project they did last year – the purpose of which was never revealed, much to Lily's dismay – and they had received full marks. Other than that, she can't remember openly grinning with James before this year. "You can say that again, Potter."
"Potter? I thought we'd gotten past the surname barrier, Lily, since you no longer roll your eyes and look as if you want to murder me when I call you that," he replies near instantly, a twinkle in his eyes that almost makes her want to fall weak at the knees. Strong thoughts, Lily, you're just experiencing the Potter charm for the first time in your life, that's all.
"Fine, James; you can say that you've turned a new leaf," is her response. "In fact, if there's ever been anyone with as drastic a personality change as you in such a short period of time, I want to meet them because that would be remarkable."
He falls into silence as their footsteps echo down the corridor where the gargoyles mark Dumbledore's office, the one who appointed them into the roles. Neither of them can still figure out why James was appointed above all others, yet there's a theory in Lily's head that it's to do with his characteristics and traits. After all, Head Boys and Girls are supposed to be the epitome of brilliance in the school, someone who everyone should aspire to be like – someone on the side of good, someone unlikely to defect across to the Dark side.
"It's to do with the war as well, I guess," he offers up suddenly as they near closer to the gargoyles which are muttering. "I mean, you can't be immature in a war situation, can you? I want to be an Auror, you know. I can't remember if they've ever accepted anyone in, no matter their grades, if they mess around as much as I do…did. You know what I mean?"
She nods slowly, thinking through about how everyone and everything is so different because of this war. It's official now, something that they're fighting against yet losing more and more ground every week, it seems from the Daily Prophet. They're fighting and she'll be damned if she doesn't get into whatever groups there are who are fighting Voldemort, because if there's a will there's a way, and Lily Evans has more than just a bit of will.
"I guess so, yeah," is all she can respond with, as she realises that James is waiting for an answer. "We've all got to grow up faster, don't we? As we're going to defeat Voldemort, James, even if it's just you and me together…and the others, of course." For a moment, her words ignite an almost lost spark of something within him, as though she's finally realising they're perfect for one another – until she quantifies it with the others.
So all he does is offer up a smile and change the topic of conversation as they stroll through the castle, the same route as three other nights per week, because they're Head Boy and Head Girl, and nothing's going to get in the way of their routine.
(And yet she still doesn't know that he's only so serious because he loves her so deeply and there's no way he's letting her leave Hogwarts without being able to say she's dating James Potter.)
The voices of James and Lily drift up towards the office at the top of the spiral staircase, amplified by the wand in the middle of the room which was ordered to. As almost a year previously, Albus and Minerva sit together, looks of confusion and indecision present on their faces.
"They're ready, Minerva," Albus says gravely, writing the names of his Head Boy and Head Girl upon a piece of parchment in his sloping handwriting.
"But they're still children!" she protests as she did before, yet there's less surety within her voice as to how far she can persuade him against recruiting them to the Order just yet.
"You heard them for yourself, Minerva; they want to be part of the war and they have proven themselves to be so. It is entirely their choice if they accept my invitation to join the Order of the Phoenix; it is, after all, an entirely voluntary organisation and we are all united, in some cases the only unity, by the common hatred for Voldemort. They are ready," Albus replies slowly, his steady blue gaze upon the startling feathers of his Phoenix. It's in the height of its prime as it was when he first decided to name the Order after Fawkes, the astonishing shades of red and burnt orange glossy upon his back.
"I cannot change your mind, can I?" Minerva admits defeat, standing up slowly, as though she has aged beyond her years.
"Regrettably not, my friend. After all, it is not my decision either; it lies entirely within the hands of Miss Evans and Mr Potter," is Albus' response as he sets down his quill and smiles at one of his longest, most dear friends.
"I can only hope that they know what they are doing if they accept, Albus, and know that this is not a game."
And to this, Albus has no answer.
The mystery surrounding the circumstances in which they are requested – requested, not ordered, as has usually been the case when James is sent to see Dumbledore – to head to Dumbledore's office in the middle of Transfiguration. Neither of them have a solid theory as to why they're being summoned, though speculation runs rife in Lily's mind, possibilities ranging from a discussion about the rumour that Lily is pregnant with James' baby (impossible, since she barely likes him, let alone loves him) to that Dumbledore is disappointed with how they've behaved as Heads and wants to remove them both from post.
"Stop stressing and just chill out for a bit!" James tells Lily as they're walking up the stairs. "Stress doesn't do much for your features," he continues, causing her to barely bite back a scathing remark for fear that Professor Dumbledore would hear it.
"Ah, Miss Evans, Mr Potter, thank you most dearly for attending this impromptu meeting," Dumbledore addresses them as they enter the room, motioning for them to take the comfortable looking seats in front of a desk which seems to be overflowing with paperwork. "I trust that you are inquisitive as to the nature of this meeting and for just what purpose I have called you out of a most vital lesson to partake in dialect with me?" he continues, both of them nodding eagerly, neither of them able to wait much longer.
"Yes, Professor," Lily confirms verbally, apprehension in her tone, words which James hastily utters also as Dumbledore's scrutinising gaze lands on the pair of them equally at the same time.
"Professor McGonagall has warned me that this is too early, that you are not ready to join us, yet I disagree…as do others," he begins slowly, these words giving away, Lily thinks, the focus of this meeting…something which has her fighting to suppress her excitement because it most likely isn't anything like her dreams. "We feel – and this includes Alastor Moody and Frank Longbottom – the pair of you, along with perhaps other trusted individuals, are ready to join the ranks of our organisation.
"We are a relatively small group called the Order of the Phoenix, an order I established four years ago, when the threat from the so called Lord Voldemort became so strong that it was necessary for there to be a resistance. We consist of only those who are the strongest magically as well as emotionally, those who have no desire whatsoever to join Voldemort and betray us. The assignment last year was set to test you, to see if you would succumb to the knowledge about the Dark Arts if left to your own devices. I admit, it was a gamble, for allowing you that knowledge if you did turn would be catastrophic."
A stunned silence fills the room as Dumbledore ceases to talk, both Lily and James staring straight ahead in utter shock that they have been invited to join the Order of the Phoenix. It's what they've both wanted for so long, the chance to feel as if they're actually doing something against Voldemort, rather than just sitting safely in school. And now neither of them knows what to say.
Then they do.
"Oh my gosh-"
"I can't believe-"
"It's just…a dream!"
"Professor, thank you…"
It continues on and on, a tirade of relentless thanks which goes on until the revered Professor raises a hand for silence, a wide smile playing upon his lips. "I shall take that as a yes then, that you would like to join the Order."
"Yes!" Lily bursts out then blushes a deep purple in colour, looking away as Dumbledore chuckles softly.
"There shall be an official meeting in which you shall be announced, as with other individuals you may be able to suggest to confirm my own thoughts, yet it is imperative that you ensure the Order remains a secret as large as possible," Dumbledore's tone turns to deadly grave and serious as the stare he gives them almost hardens the insides of his eyes. "We aim to be able to operate under the covers as much as possible; after all, we have spies within the Ministry to watch Voldemort's spies. Their covers cannot be blown and anyone linked with me shall be suspected of joining an organisation called the Order of the Phoenix." With this, he raises a hand and gestures to the grand bird in the corner, the feathers of which seem to be glistening even more on a murky day than previously.
"We swear, sir, our lips are sealed," Lily hastily promises, James' mouth moving to form similar words, yet nothing comes out – the shock overrides the power of speech.
"Very well, I shall be in contact when we are to hold our next meeting, Miss Evans, Mr Potter; I trust you shall continue your studies in the same way you have been thus far, as so you can both reach your intended careers at the end of this school year. Good day," Dumbledore dismisses them, the duo rising numbly from their seats and walking towards the door without even realising what's going on.
As soon as the door is entirely closed, a whoop issues from James' mouth, something so loud he sincerely doubts even the Slytherins can have missed it in their little underground hideout they live in. Yet something that eclipses even the news that he's now part of the Order of the Phoenix is when Lily's arms go around his neck, a squeal issuing from her lips as she hugs him tighter than anyone has ever hugged him before. And this includes his mother.
"We're in!" she cannot help but repeat over and over again as he somehow manages to make it down the stairs with Lily still attached to his neck. "Oh, James, we're in! We're able to change this world back to how it should be!"
And all he can do is smile.
Barely a week later, there's the first official Order of the Phoenix meeting, held within the castle walls for ease of the many members who work at Hogwarts. Word of the meeting comes through a note from Dumbledore, addressed to the pair of them and slipped into Lily's pocket as she walked from Transfiguration to Potions.
"Dumbledore's office, 7pm," she reads out as James paces up and down the small room they share as their Head's office just down the corridor from their Common Room. "Parsnips…why on earth would we need to know the word parsnips?" she's puzzled by the randomness of this word, for she is sure that the password cannot have changed from squirrel, as it was when they were called there to be invited to join the Order.
James laughs and, for the first time in recent times, he knows something Lily Evans doesn't. "Dumbledore changes the password weekly, in line with his thoughts. Evidently he was thinking of parsnips when he made parsnips the password," he explains, his tone jovial and relaxed as he jumps onto the sofa in the corner of the room. A habit which, no matter his grown complacency in regards to what Lily wants, he refuses to give up, much to her annoyance.
"Ah right," is all she can say in response, folding the sheet of parchment over in her hands and throwing it into the fire, to eradicate all evidence of it. "Well, Po-James, shall we prepare just how you are going to act? After all, you can't exactly start coming out with your jokes in there, no matter how humorous they are," she rolls her eyes as she envisions a scenario where James tries to break the ice numerous times with jokes, something which has also continued through to seventh year. Well, she concedes; they're not hexes.
All her words do is make him grin, because she's admitted that she finds him amusing. "You find me funny," he comments, turning his gaze onto her to see her expression. "Even last year, who'd have thought that Lily Evans not only likes me, she finds me funny…not even me, I can admit."
She blushes a furious red, averting her gaze from his direction and instead focusing on the burning embers of the fire before her. "I…yes, I find you funny. But I don't like you, not really. We're more of acquaintances, are we not?"
The laughter fades from his face as his gaze intensifies on her face, his eyes noticing the pale, flawless complexion of her skin in opposition to the striking nature of her hair. All this time, all this effort, and she still doesn't even like him, let alone love him. "We are what you desire us to be, Miss Evans. And that is all I can give you."
With this, he stands up suddenly and stalks to the door, walking through it after a brief hesitation, leaving her alone in an office which suddenly seems too big and empty for just Lily.
"Here are our newest members: Miss Lily Evans and Mr James Potter!" Albus Dumbledore introduces the students, one looking as humble as his pride at being allowed to join this organisation can allow, the other blushing furiously as all eyes in the room turn to them. There are faces which they recognise, both knowing personally and just by name: the Prewett brothers, Frank and Alice Longbottom, Mad Eye Moody, Dorcas Meadows, Ted Tonks…all people who they are aware of, fighting for their cause, along with others neither Lily nor James have ever set eyes on previously. Then there are the teachers, standing at the back, internally despairing that their two brightest students have been brought here, to the jaws of death, to fight for something that only they can win.
"We have missed you," Alice says as she stands to hug Lily, taking her arm to lead her to sit next to her at the long table. "It's been too long since I last saw you and Marlene, yet Frank and I have been positioned at the other side of the country and it's too dangerous to send letters by owl now," she continues, her face hardening slightly at the mention of danger.
"It has!" Lily exclaims, wondering how the time has passed. At one time, she was sure that she would follow in Alice's footsteps; the older girl had always been a model of inspiration for Lily, yet in the three or four years since her graduation from Hogwarts, those happy days seem to have almost faded from her mind. Now, they're able to be happy, yet always have the reminder in the back of their minds that there are forces working against them, that these days are numbered.
"How are you and James fairing as Head Boy and Girl?" Frank leans across Alice to ask Lily, a smile on his lips as James sits down in the spare seat next to Lily. "Managed to avoid killing one another yet?"
"Yes, do tell how the most volatile pair in the entire year could have been put together to head the students in Hogwarts," Alice's mischievous expression makes the red barely beginning to fade from Lily's cheeks return with a vengeance, betraying emotions she never wanted to express.
"Well, now he's deflated his head a bit, he's almost manageable," she laughs, brushing her hair back and making a point not to look at James for fear of either blushing further (though why, she doesn't know) or laughing to the point of uncontrollability.
"And now she's no longer of the opinion that she is the only clever person in the year, she's almost manageable also," James, of course, has to chip in, riling Lily…yet not in the way he did in the past. Before, if he had said that, a vicious tongue lashing would have ensued, insults flying towards James whilst only compliments would return from James. Now, she manages to laugh, if though slightly forced, and manage to compose herself to avoid insulting him an exorbitant amount.
"Me almost manageable?" she repeats, turning to look at James to see a twinkle in his eyes. "I think you'll find that I'm the same as I have ever been, James; you're just the one to have grown up."
Before James can respond, Dumbledore calls attention back to the main focus of the meeting, Frank and Alice turning to look in the direction of the revered man who leads them all. As Dumbledore begins to discuss the possibility of inviting other seventh years to join – most notably the rest of the Marauders, at the request of Frank Longbottom, and Marlene McKinnon – James leans close to Lily's ear, his hot breath on her skin causing it to tingle and shiver uncontrollably.
"You have changed," he insists in a whisper, barely audible over Dumbledore. "After all, now you call me James, remember?"
As they turn their focus back to Dumbledore entirely, Lily realises that she has changed…and with each change, James Potter comes ever more dangerously close to being allowed access to her heart.
The cold wind whips Lily's bare face and neck as she hurries through the courtyard with James, Sirius, Remus, Peter and Marlene, the six of them heading for Hogsmeade to be able to Apparate across the country to reach the meeting place for the Order. The holiday season means that it is easier for them to leave, there being very little control placed on the seventh years, with most teachers already at the meeting place for missions already in place.
"Cold?" James asks her with a smile as they lead their friends down the path towards the gate. She looks over at him to see him offering her his arm, something she accepts with gratitude as she notices a large patch of ice approaching further down the hill. As her grip on him tightens, she can feel his body heat radiating through their clothes into her body, warming her from the inside out, a feeling delectable in this cold weather.
"Shit," Sirius proclaims, stopping still so suddenly that it has the result of the three people following him slamming into one another. "Look over there," he insists, pointing with his wand to a point in the far distance, near to the boundary of the Forbidden Forest.
Lily's sharp eyes make out the four figures Sirius was referring to, her heart sinking when she recognises the familiar shape of Severus. Eighteen months have passed since she last said a friendly word to him, yet that doesn't mean that her heart has forgotten her best friend, the person who told her what she is.
"Hey, is that…?" Remus says, making the connection between the figures heading into the forest and the Death Eater recruitments they all know are occurring within the school presently.
"Yes, it's them, Remus, but we can't do anything about it," Lily says bitterly, just waiting for someone to mention Severus. Even with the 'reformed' James, insulting Severus has never been one of the things he has forbidden himself from doing, and she just knows that he's going to take a crack at it. "Come on, let's just go and tell Dumbledore when we get to the meeting…it's not like we know who they are, is it?" she continues, feigning that she can't make out the figures in the distance, as so to prevent Severus' name being mentioned.
But, as she looks back at James as they continue to walk down the hill, she can see that he knows she's lying. He doesn't say anything.
And for the first time, Lily feels indebted to James.
They rush into the flat above one of the Muggle nightclubs in central London, the wacky style of some of the people barely older than them astounding the young witches and wizards. It's completely different to everything they've seen – even Lily, who grew up exclusively in this world for a decade – and yet they don't get chance to dally, for they're late for their meeting.
Lily and James take the lead on the way in, as though doing this is completely natural to them; there is no question from their peers as they walk through the door to the meeting room first. They're already aware that Lily and James are meant to be together, that James, though perhaps merely for the wrong reasons, was intuitive enough to realise this years ago and that Lily is taking her sweet time in figuring it out. Then again, it always takes the geniuses longer to figure out what's right under their noses…and the common cliché is that one time enemies are the best love combinations.
"Come in, quickly, the meeting has started," the person at the door ushers them in, Dumbledore already speaking about past events that have to be learned from…all the students learn is that some time in the not so distant past did three of the Order get murdered for making a mistake…
"…a mistake that not even my students would make," Dumbledore makes reference to the six students trying to sneak into the meeting, causing, as it did last time, every pair of eyes in the room to land upon them. "Welcome, dear children, let us continue with the meeting."
With this, he gives a motion for Mad Eye Moody give a presentational point about some attack that needs to be launched on the Death Eaters cumulating near to Hogwarts, Lily and James listening intently as they realise that this could be their very first mission.
An hour or so later, the meeting breaks up and a young man whom the pair recognise from the last meeting approaches Lily and James, alone since their friends seem to be disposed on the other side of the room.
"Hello, Lily, James, I have heard a lot about you," he speaks in a lilting accent, something fluid that sounds Irish to Lily. "My name is Joseph Brandon and I am twenty nine years old, so I have never had the pleasure of meeting you at Hogwarts. I am from Northern Ireland and, like yourself, Lily, am Muggleborn. You may be aware of a Charles Brandon from the Tudor period of history, Lily. I am descended from him through one of his illegitimate children, it is true," he reveals more about himself in thirty seconds flat than either Lily or James would have expected to learn in the entire evening.
Joseph is relatively tall, Lily decides as she looks at him, his hair dark and longer than most men's hair, yet it suits his face shape and the colour of his skin. "Pleased to meet you, Joseph," James says with a smile on his face that seems genuine. "My Mother tried to teach me all about the Kings of Muggle England, in particular the Tudor Dynasty, yet I can't say I particularly listened."
"Well I can't blame you for that," Joseph replies, laughing as he twirls his wand in his fingers. "So you both desire to change this world back to how it used to be, is that right?" he confirms with them, though it seems a rather futile question, for they are within the Order, so why would they not be of this mindset?
"Yes, we want to get rid of Voldemort and just have peace in the Wizarding World, with no Dark wizard trying to overtake the control of anything," Lily answers instantly. "I want to be able to live a normal life, to allow my children to be free from this torment and fear of attack, and just get on, you know what I mean?"
Joseph nods his head in agreement. "My precise reasons for joining this Order; I want to get rid of someone who shouldn't be trying to get power," he explains, sitting down in one of the chairs near to the table. "And you, James?"
James hesitates for a second, his gaze turning to look at Lily almost involuntarily. As his gaze meets hers, she blushes slightly, for reasons unknown, and a smile lurks on the corner of his mouth. "The same reason as Lily," he finally says softly, addressing Joseph and yet continuing to stare into Lily's eyes. The depth of the emeralds astounds him, as though every time he thinks he's reached the innermost part of her soul, he takes another corner in a tunnel that never ends. She's complex and unique, he is reminded, and he doubts he will ever truly understand her – if she'll ever grant him the chance.
"I'd love to be able to chat more with you two – you seem fine people, and I've heard many great things about the pair of you – but I have to go," Joseph says suddenly, his gaze fixed upon the clock in the back corner. "I have, ahem, things I need to deal with, if you get my drift. There should be a meeting in the next couple of weeks, so we can chat more then. Lovely to meet you both," he smiles at the pair of them as he stands and walks away, so abruptly that it almost seems as if their entire meeting was make believe.
"Well, he seems nice," Lily says as she continues to face in the direction of the door after the man who has walked out. It was such a short meeting that it doesn't feel as if they know anything about him; and, at the same time, they know almost everything about him! Perhaps this is the way they have to be; they have to share all the knowledge about themselves as fast as they can for fear that, possibly, they may not be around at the next meeting to inform them of their lineage or any other facts.
"Yes, he does," James agrees, his hand still on her arm because she hasn't realised that it is yet, and it's something that helps him to remain calm. He's aware that Joseph has embarked on a mission that could result in the end of his life – something he knows that will hit someone here in the next few weeks; soon, they will receive a letter about the death of a member of the Order and how they need to rearrange themselves to fill the void left by the inconvenience of the death of said person. "Come on, Moony and the others are over there, waiting for us. We'd better go," he forces himself back to the present and drops his hand from her arm.
They walk at the same time, the exact same pace length – though that could be because James has trained himself to walk at the same speed as Lily for years now. "James," Lily mutters his name as they reach their friends, her uttering of his name obscured to everyone but the pair of them by the frantic, smaller discussions everywhere.
"Someone is going to die soon, aren't they?" Lily's gaze drops to the floor as she says this, a matter of fact sense to her tone as she speaks. "I don't mean that in an I want to leave way, or even that it's going to be one of us…it's just…someone is, aren't they? They always do."
James has no need to respond.
And then it happens, mere days later.
As she reads the letter slipped to her by one of the House Elves saying "it is from Professor Dumbledore", Lily accidentally knocks her glass of pumpkin juice over. The stain spreads outwards along the white linen tablecloth yet she doesn't notice, her gaze focused solely on what the letter says.
Her head begins to spin, dancing in circles that make no sense, random facts of knowledge leaping into her head as she thinks about everything to do with that man: the order of Henry the eighth's wives; the act of succession; Muggleborns; men with darker skin – anything and everything that could possibly be linked to Joseph Brandon comes to mind.
James looks up from his toast as he sits diagonally across from her, his eyes raking over her face as he notices the drained, strained nature of it. Gone is the usual elegance to her features present even with stress; no, now, she looks haggard, as though a lifetime's worth of oppressed sorrow has just hit her in one movement.
Her hand drops the piece of parchment onto her plate as she stands up suddenly, a look of intense sickness upon her face. None of the other five members of the Order have been sent a letter, and so James reaches across to pluck the piece of parchment from it's manner of being discarded as the doors to the Great Hall are wrenched open.
His gaze returns to where Lily is, just catching a glimpse of her fiery red mane passing through the door before it slams shut with a reverberation which shakes the entire hall. James is about to stand up and follow her out, to try and ask her what's wrong, when he realises that he can just read the letter to find out – then he can go comfort her…and maybe she can see that he's not the arrogant, proud prat he makes out to be, even to her, even now.
If you could pass this message onto your fellow Order members; I dare not send many pieces of parchment containing this information, for it is pertinent to the Order.
It is regretful to inform you that Joseph Brandon was killed last night. He engaged in battle with four Death Eaters, outnumbered four to one, and succeeded in killing two of them before his own demise. His mission was not a failure; on the contrary, he was killed returning to double check his facts, which is most regrettable.
We are to meet tomorrow night, Saturday, at five pm in the upstairs bar to the three broomsticks.
It is what happens in this Order, I am most sorrowed to have to say, and we can only be stronger and stronger to hopefully stop this heinous event occurring once again.
All the colour seems to fade from the world for a second as James finishes reading and processing the letter in his mind; Joseph, the Muggleborn descended from one of Henry VIII's men, is dead…and they were meant to be talking more at the next meeting! The one man to whom James has spoken that he hasn't known previously has gone and died – no wonder Lily is so upset!
Sorrow ingrained within his features so deep that James can hardly imagine himself feeling less than eighty years old, he stands slowly and walks with an inner pain he has never felt before. Never has he ever spoken to a person who has succumbed to death; his parents are still alive and kicking, thank you very much, and due to their age, his grandparents were dead before he was born. The idea of death in the war has always been abstract to him, people he's never heard of or known…but this, the death of someone who he knew.
It's more than he can cope with.
Yet he forces the feelings down into his chest cavity, determined to be as strong as he can for Lily because he knows how badly she'll be taking this. Even if he didn't know her, just from her face earlier, he could be able to tell that she isn't ok, that the death of someone who spoke to her for five minutes has haunted her greater than anything else thus far in the war. It's always the smaller things that get people as strong as her, he thinks…until he remembers that he's barely keeping it together for the sake of Lily.
He sprints up the spiral staircase, tearing past fearful first years who flatten themselves against the walls to get out of the way of their Head Boy on a mission; he's determined to find her before she relinquishes her self-control without anyone to talk to – she may not love him as he loves her, a fact he's growing to reluctantly accept, but he can be there for her as a friend, someone who lost someone with the same worth to them.
And, because he knows this girl inside out, knows more than just her physical attributes of her flaming red hair, the exact shape of her eyes, he knows where she's gone to.
The library, of course.
He finds her in the alcove they discovered at the very far back of the library, within the Restricted Section. They never lost the 'privilege' to enter this section of the library (though if he were ever to deem it a privilege to be allowed in there, James knows he would be asking to get as far away from it as possible) and therefore she's been able to go in here for months. Those precious weeks he was allowed an insight into her mind afforded him the chance to be able to see more than ever that she desires the tranquillity of those places which are forgotten by most, those horrible places which can hide just one spark of something special. And this, for the Hogwarts Library, is the alcove in the very back of the Restricted Section.
There's a lamp above the comfy – comfier than the other seats in the library, that's for sure – seating area that affords enough precious light to be able to read whatever the reader desires; the layer of dust that covers the table because Madam Pince tries to avoid this area of the library comes away with one cleaning spell to reveal a charming wood beneath…nothing consequential when taken away from this place – in fact, James supposes the alcove would be deemed normal if in the main part of the library – but, here, it seems to have some sort of magical air about it. Perhaps it is just to do with where it is situated, in a place filled with such hatred, but it's where Lily has fallen in love with, an almost Utopia style thought process in regards to this little area of the library unloved by anyone else.
James' eyes adjust to the darkness of the Restricted Section as he dashes through the rows and rows of books, passed sections where he's unfortunately positive that he's read every single book on the shelves, until he finally reaches the back wall. Here, he turns to the left without pausing for a breath, his eyes locking upon the faint pinprick of light from the alcove where he knows Lily is sitting; he's got no need to doubt himself because he knows her so well that he can predict everything she's going to do.
At one point, Sirius accused him of being a stalker who would be arrested when he was older, because he knows so much about the girl he loves.
She thinks that he doesn't know her, that he only wants her as a trophy – but that's never been the case…it perhaps factored into the equation when he was the cocky, arrogant third year, yet every year that passed brought a new wave of strength of his love for Lily Evans. She's never believed him that he does love her, and he's not exactly able to blame her – whenever the flame haired girl has been in his eyesight, he's acted more of a prick…just to show off. He was too proud, thought that by showing off she would finally come around to him – but she never has.
He hears her before he sees her, hears the sobs issuing from the alcove and that only makes him run there faster, run right into the alcove to see her sitting curled up on one of the seats. She's so small and fragile, he subconsciously realises, and he's never seen her looking like this before.
"James?" she whispers his name as she turns to look at him, her hair half covering her face. He can see her skin is blotchy, evidence of the tears that have been running down her cheeks, even though she can barely have been in here for mere minutes.
"Lily, are you alright?" he asks her frantically, moving seats to be sitting right next to her, which is more opposite since she's turned to face him. "I saw you run out and then I read the letter," he ducks his head as he speaks, both for he read her mail and also for the loss of Joseph.
She shakes her head and reaches out to him; for the first time, she touches his arm to make him look at her. "It was a letter for all of us…but, oh, James, I just…it's like, I knew that someone was going to die…it's natural in a war…I just didn't know that it would be him, someone that we were talking to," she replies, her voice getting more and more frantic as she speaks. "We had plans to talk to him; he had ideas for what he wanted to do, but that's all over now. Just as suddenly as we met him, he's gone. There's nothing we can do to change that…" and, with this, she bursts into tears once again, her entire frame wracked with their intensity.
Acting instinctively, James reaches out and pulls her into his body, feeling no resistance as he does this. She needs someone to comfort her, someone she's close to, and it's something that suppressed parts of her – parts she has never acknowledged exist – are brought to the surface by, just beneath the grief she feels.
"I just…it's just so real," she wails into his shoulder, her body fitting just perfectly into the alcove under his arm as he tries to comfort her the best he can. For all his dating, he's never had to deal with anything along these lines, and so he's making things up on the spot.
"Lily, everything is real; it may not seem like it, but our life at Hogwarts is just how our life is really going to be – just with a few differences," he begins, deciding that he may as well try and talk some sense into her in these few minutes when he's the one in control, not her. This could be his only chance to make her realise that he loves her, that she loves him, and that he's not this immature boy who doesn't know anything. "The people we spend time with now are those we will be with for life – otherwise what would be the point in friendships? Things happen to us that are supposed to make us stronger; we learn from the events that occur to mean that we can beat what causes others to be slain. I'm not saying that Joseph was a bad wizard, not at all, but if we know just how easily we can die, just how sudden it can be, then maybe it'll be easier for us to avoid thinking we're safe. Just a thought," he stops talking as soon as he realises her piercing eyes are upon his face, filled with tears and yet a sort of mutual understanding between the pair of them.
And this is the first time that she sees James Potter entirely for what he truly is, with no restraints. This is the first time the emotions which are amiable towards him get to break through, to make her realise that she can't remember a school memory – good or bad – in which James Potter has not been in. Whilst mainly in a negative manner, he's been with her for her entire life, always been around – and the focus of her thoughts for the most part, because she's always been wondering about how he can be so bloody stupid.
Even with his 'reform', he's still a cocky twat, but she doesn't really care, she thinks. That's what makes him James – and, to be honest, they all need a few jokes around here now that things are heating up in this war. Maybe, his pride'll be the thing that gets them through everything, because someone having confidence in a war may not be a bad thing. It'll give him the chance to oppose his enemies with his magic skills and maybe, just maybe, he'll have the chance to be able to pass on some of that confidence to those who need it more than he does.
Whatever the reasoning behind it, no matter how sudden it seems, she's pretty sure that she loves him and that he's always been right. Something that annoys her slightly.
"Just when did you get so mature?" she asks as she wipes her eyes dry, something in his words sticking with her: she can learn from this. There are people who knew the man more than she did who have the right to grieve – yet she saw McGonagall sitting there as if nothing had happened. Life goes on after death and that's something she knew…James just reminded her of it.
"Oh, you know, since forever, it's just taken you this long to figure it out," he smiles slightly, wondering if he's pushing his luck by saying this and continuing to hold onto her as though his life depends on it.
Her eyes narrow, but she doesn't say anything and her lips curve upwards into a smile, amused by his words. It feels almost natural to be sitting this close to James Potter, something she would never have thought even three weeks ago, probably; it's as though they're soul mates and she's the one who has been hindering everything between them.
Almost instinctively, her head moves to press her lips to his slowly, softly – nothing more than a brief, chaste kiss, the anticipation for which sends shivers through her body. However, as her lips press to his, a memory of them standing together as they waited to be Sorted flashes into her head; it's of James, when he was moving to the stage, for they didn't Sort in alphabetical order that year, and he looked petrified. For one millisecond, she can remember seeing him look as though he was worried as to whether or not he would get into Gryffindor, incase his pride made him be Sorted to Slytherin.
And this is what makes her realise that she's never not loved him. It has just always been buried that far underneath.
"It's you," she whispers as she pulls her head away far enough for her to be able to look into his hazel coloured eyes. "It's always been you, right from first year. I just never saw it…" she trails off as the smile on his lips widens into an incomparable grin, like something nobody has seen before. She thinks it's the most radiant she's ever seen him – even more radiant than when he's playing Quidditch or even with his Marauders – and this, in turn, makes everything in the darkened section of the library shine all the brighter.
"Took you long enough," he, of course, is back to his sarcastic ways, yet he's lacking the edge that he used to have.
"Well I can always just chuck it back where I found it and marry Sirius," she threatens him, but he can tell that she doesn't mean it; there's the side to her voice that makes him sure that she's just joking with him.
After all, when his lips press down on her own for a second, longer kiss, she doesn't push him away.
As dusk approaches on the cool winter's evening, they walk out of the Entrance Hall and into the grounds. The air is frosty, the ground covered with the remnants of the snowfall for this year, whilst the lake is entirely iced over. Yet none of the frosty, coldness captures their attention.
No, the sight of the glorious sunset is what steals their focus; the mingling of so many varied shades of red, orange, purple and even green leaves them breathless – such a show of beauty reminds them that there is potential in the world, no matter what those brief moments of doubt may make them think.
And, as they watch this, Lily's hand slips into James' and her head rests upon his shoulder in a movement so natural it feels wrong to not have been doing it before. So they stand, together, facing the sunset, the magnificent mountains in the background, with the knowledge that they have one another in the face of adversary now.
As quickly as the sunset began, just like the suddenness of their relationship, it ends, casting the world into a darkness only broken by the light of the moon. Yet Lily and James' relationship doesn't end here; no, it carries on as her fingers twine around his tighter, as they walk back to the castle to face their life together, Lily Evans and James Potter, soulmates.
Together at last.
Ok, so I never intended for it to be this long.
(and I've just spent days solidly revising the Tudors for my exam that was this afternoon, so that's why you got the reference in there to Charles Brandon!)
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