Sparklemonster, ClaireBear1982, krml7054, shockla, Annunminuialiel , BalletandBooks, Demigod Bluez, ladybug99 – Hello!

ClaireBear1982 did some digging and found that Bellatrix was born in 1951, so that means she most definitely wasn't at Hogwarts during the Marauder's Era. Then I did some further research of my own and found that the birth order was actually Bellatrix, Andromeda, Narcissa, so that's a bit off in my fic as well. That was an unfortunate miscalculation, but for the sake of the fic, I probably wouldn't be able to stick solely to canon, anyway. *shrugs* It happens. And much thanks to Claire for checking up on that!

Thanks to everyone else who reviewed, and I'm glad that the almost-kiss was so well-received. Once again, you're all brilliant and lovely and you make my heart feel the way James Potter's does about Lily Evans; if that's not adoration, I don't know what is.

Note on this chapter: The heading of the Marauder's Map is taken directly from the PoA chapter of that title, and is therefore in no way my original wording.

I think that's all I needed to say. So… *jazz hands* –K.

Saturday, 11:07 A.M.

When the Marauders entered the Great Hall before making their way to Hogsmeade, they were greeted by an opaque sky and snow flurries dancing over the enchanted ceiling above them.

"Excellent," Sirius said, grinning as they took their seats at the Gryffindor table. "I challenge you all to a snowball fight once Prongs gets back from his date this afternoon."

"It's not a date," James told him. No matter what had – or rather, almost had – happened last night, he knew he had to keep this in mind. If he didn't, he'd be in major danger of making a great big idiot out of himself, as per usual, and usual was the last thing he wanted to be today.

Sirius shrugged as he poured ketchup over a plate of sausages. "Have it your way," he said, "but I'm still going to nail you with a snowball."

Peter laughed. "Promising day," he observed. "First snow of the season, last Hogsmeade visit of the semester, Prongs's date –"

"Not a date."

"Prongs's not-a-date, then," Peter rectified. "And look at that, the Slytherins are enjoying their lunch, not a care in the world."

The other three exchanged mischievous grins and looked around at the Slytherin table. Of course, it was a given that they'd be eating; they had no reason to be suspicious of the food in front of them. All the same, though, the Gryffindor boys were looking forward to quite a show.

As they watched the Slytherins, Lily entered the hall alone, Alice having already left for Hogsmeade with Frank, and Marlene holing herself up in the library to work on the essays she'd been neglecting. So Lily sought out the Marauders and, finding them, dropped herself into the seat next to James.

"What are you all staring at?" she asked, catching them by surprise.

"Oh, you know, just checking out the other side's injuries," Sirius replied nonchalantly, the first of the group to collect himself. He tore his eyes from his family's table and settled them back on his plate.

"Laughing at them, more like," Remus said without regret; he'd been feeling steadily less sympathetic towards the Slytherins as of late.

"Hmm." Lily tilted her head a bit to get a better look at the Slytherin table. Mulciber had a noticeable lump on his temple and it looked like one of his teeth had been knocked out; Avery had a large, pulsating welt over his left eye; and Snape was sporting two black eyes and his nose looked more crooked than usual.

"Blimey, you did them in," she said, impressed and not feeling a bit guilty about it. She nicked a kipper from James's plate.

"Sure did," James said, "and you'd think that would mean my food was safe, but all right."

Lily shrugged. "You had the last one."

"'Had' being the operative term here…"

"You could go to Hogsmeade by yourself, you know," she threatened lightly.

James pushed his plate towards her. "Eat all of this."

"Such a gentleman, Prongs," Sirius said, and swiped the toast from James's plate.

"Not you, you dolt," James said. He reached across the table to smack Sirius upside the head. "I'm not going on a – on a –"

Lily raised her eyebrows at him. "On a what?" she pressed, grinning as she watched him struggle to get control of his words.

"A not-a-date," Peter said. "What?" he asked when James shot him a look and everyone else laughed. "You weren't answering; you were blubbering. Thought I'd help you out."

"Speaking of help…" Sirius's eyes were on the Slytheirn table again. "Looks like our pureblood pals could use some."

The other four looked around to see what Sirius was talking about and, sure enough, utter chaos had unfolded at the table at the other end of the hall.

Amidst the platters of food and flasks of pumpkin juice, the Slytherins were slumped over the table, moaning and clutching their stomachs. Some of them were covering their mouths with their hands, their faces swollen with whatever it was they were trying to keep inside their mouths. Others weren't so lucky and had lost control completely, and as a result they were doubled over, their mouths open as they vomited out seemingly never-ending showers of glitter. Some stayed put at their seats, others had fallen to the floor in exhaustion as the glitter continued to pour out of their mouths, and still others were running from the hall in a vain attempt to be sick in private.

The rest of the hall had erupted in raucous laughter. The teachers were rather panicked, rushing down from their table to try and stop the glitter, clearing away the mess runaway Slytherins had made across the hall, leading others outside and towards the hospital wing.

"Oh, you're all a bunch of morons!" Lily choked through her own laughter. It didn't take a genius to figure out who was responsible.

"What? Come on, it's right impressive, isn't it?" Sirius said as he watched Rodolphus Lestrange rush out of the hall after Bellatrix, both of whom left a trail of sparkling red-and-gold behind them.

"Would've been more brilliant if you hadn't made them ralph our House colors," Lily pointed out.

The laughter somewhat faded from the Marauders' faces as the truth of Lily's words sank in. There was a moment of silence as they all regarded each other, their brains churning away as they considered their next move.

"Oh, bugger," Peter said, the first to break the silence.

"Didn't think that through, did we?" Remus observed.

Sirius checked his watch with an unnecessary flourish. "Oh, look at the time," he said as he leapt from his chair. "We'll be late for the thing."

"Indeed," James said, grabbing Lily's hand as he jumped from his own seat. "Come along, Evans, our not-a-date awaits…"

And the five of them hurried out of the hall, slipping a little on the glitter that hadn't been cleared away, careful not to look over their shoulders in case any of the teachers caught their eye and ordered them back inside for questioning.

They continued running after they'd passed through the double doors out onto the grounds, cold air whipping at their faces, snowflakes sticking to their eyelashes, the thick layer of snow crunching beneath their feet as they hurried down the lane to the gates.

"Okay – all right – stop," Lily panted once they'd reached the gates. She dropped James's hand as she doubled over, supporting herself with her palms against her thighs, a stitch in her side as she fought to catch her breath.

"Tired, Evans?" James said as he slumped against one of the gate's iron posts, his breathing just as shallow as hers.

"I – am never – running – again," Peter wheezed.

"I think we're going to have to start submitting our plans in writing to Lily before we actually go through with them," Remus said, coughing into his sleeve. "Then we won't have to book it anywhere."

"I don't understand why you thought red and gold was a good color combination," Lily said, shaking her head as they resumed their walk into Hogsmeade.

"S'pose we were feeling prematurely smug," Sirius said.

"Happens sometimes," James said.

"When you're as brilliant as we are, that is," Sirius added.

Lily rolled her eyes as the boys congratulated themselves on another successful prank and a daring getaway. She couldn't quite help her smile, but that didn't make the lot of them any less ridiculous.

After another minute and a pointed look from James, the three other boys took the hint and made their way into Zonko's Joke Shop, bidding James and Lily farewell as they went.

"Don't forget what happens when we get back on the grounds!" Sirius shouted after the pair of them, the reminder followed by the tinkling of a bell and slamming of a door.

Lily looked up at James inquisitively. "What happens when we get back on the grounds?"

"He's going to bombard us with snowballs," James told her. "Fair warning, Padfoot takes no prisoners. Last Christmas he hit my dad with a barrage of them, which was a poor idea in retrospect, since Dad made us shovel the walk afterwards. Can't blame him, really, since he nearly slipped and broke his leg trying to run away from Sirius."

"Sirius spent Christmas with you?"

"Oh." James's face fell a little as he thought about his best friend's former home life. "Well, yeah. He's always spent a lot of time at my house. He actually – he moved in with us this summer. You know how his family is."

"Right," Lily said, thinking of Bellatrix and Narcissa. They might have only been Sirius's cousins, but they were a good example of what to expect from the Black family; she didn't imagine Sirius's home life had been any better. "Well, that was nice of your parents, taking him in."

"Yeah," James said, smiling fondly as he thought of his parents. "Yeah, they're great. And Sirius is technically family, anyway; we're some sort of cousins, I dunno exactly how or anything. But that's what happens when your family's hopped up on pureblood mania – you all end up related."

"But your parents, they're not –"

"Nah," James said, realizing where Lily was going with this. "My dad's an Auror, actually; you don't get many of them who support anything Voldemort stands for. That'd be pretty counterproductive."

Lily nodded as she took her hat from her pocket and tugged it over her ears, which had already begun to sting with cold. "That always seemed like something I'd like to do after Hogwarts," she said as they walked. "Being an Auror, I mean."

"Yeah?" James turned to look at her. Her skin was tinged pink and there was snow stuck in her hair and dusted over her shoulders, and there was something so purely innocent about the way she looked that made it hard for him to believe that she wanted to run out and fight the Dark Arts. He knew it was a shallow interpretation, since really, fighting Voldemort seemed like the sort of thing that Lily Evans was exactly suited for. "You could talk to my dad, if you'd like."

Lily shot him a smile. "I might take you up on that."

"I hope you will. God, my mother would love you."

She laughed at the tone of his voice. "Is that a bad thing?"

"It's a potentially humiliating thing," James said. "For me, anyway."


"Not because of you," James said, elbowing her playfully. "It's just my mum, you know? She'd exchange two words with you and then be on my back about you for the next month. 'Oh, James, have you spoken to Lily recently? You should invite her to dinner. Such a lovely girl. It's no wonder she doesn't want to go out with you, your room is a mess…'"

James was careful to skirt around the fact that his mother had actually said most of these things to him. She'd been repeating herself like mad ever since last year, when he'd lost his head and told her all about Lily Evans and how she didn't like him back.

"Sounds just like my mum," Lily said, laughing, totally oblivious to the truth behind James's words. "Marlene came 'round this summer and you happened to come up in conversation. I swear, Mum was on the other end of the house but she came racing into my bedroom, all 'James Potter? Who's that? Is it a boy? Do you like him – oh, I'm sure he'd go out with you if you'd just do something about your hair –'"

"Pause for a second." James held up a hand to stop her, his jaw sore from smiling so much. "How'd I manage to come up in conversation, now, hmm?"

"Don't get too excited," Lily scoffed. "We were talking about Quidditch and that led to you and that led to me complaining about you."

If it were physically possible, James's smile widened. "You still talked about me," he teased, nudging her repeatedly with his elbow.

"Oh, shove off," Lily said, pushing his arm away, but James caught her by the hand and pulled her to his side, throwing his arm around her shoulders as they walked.

"Potter…" she began threateningly.

"Yeah, yeah," James sighed, but he kept his arm around her. "It's not a date. I know."

Wanting to get out of the cold, they made their way into the Three Broomsticks. It was crowded as usual, and by the time they'd found their way to a deserted back table, they'd been spotted by quite a few curious onlookers.

"Potter and Evans…" Lily heard Bertha Jorkins whisper none-too-quietly to her friends. "That's interesting, isn't it? You know, if he hadn't been chasing her since forever, I'd say it was a pity thing. I mean, you've seen that ugly scar on her neck, haven't you?"

"You would think," Lily said loudly as they passed Bertha's table, "that having your head double in size would give you a better appreciation of the merits of shutting up."

Bertha shot a dirty look in her direction, but said nothing more about it, instead turning back to her friends to gossip about someone else who probably didn't deserve it.

"Don't you just love it when she commentates the Quidditch matches?" James said as they sat down. "She's so insightful."

Lily snorted. "I don't know why they let her keep at it."

"Oh, I expect she's blackmailing the professors with a bunch of dirty laundry they don't want the rest of the student body to know."

They spent a happy minute abusing Bertha Jorkins, as was custom whenever she came up in conversation, when they were interrupted by the Prewett brothers.

"All right, so listen up," Fabian said without any attempt at a preface, sliding into the seat next to James. "Have you seen Alice?"

"Not this again," Lily groaned.

"Don't get cheeky with us," Gideon said, poking her face. "We were on their tail for a good ten minutes before they left the castle, then this git –" he pointed to his brother – "got distracted by McKinnon's legs as she made her way to the library."

Fabian appeared totally unfazed by Gideon's observation. "She's got fantastic stems, what can I say?"

"Bet she did it on purpose," Lily said. "I was wondering why she was shortening her skirt this morning."

Fabian slammed his palm down on the tabletop. "You women are so devious," he declared, looking at Lily as if it were all her fault that he'd been sidetracked by Marlene's shorter-than-usual skirt.

"Watch it, Prewett," Lily said, prodding him with the end of her wand.

"So I take it you haven't seen them, then?" Gideon asked, then sighed at the look on Lily's face. "You wouldn't tell us if you did, either, would you?"

"Nope," Lily said as she lifted her butterbeer to her lips.

"Damn it," Gideon said genially, and he and Fabian stood to leave. "Well, kids, we're off to find our sister and ruin her life. Enjoy your date."

"It's not a date," Lily and James said in unison, causing the Prewetts to exchange smirks.

"Riiiight," they said and, still grinning, disappeared into the midst of the pub.

James surveyed Lily over the top of his butterbeer and said, "You know, I think we'll be getting a lot of that."

"Yeah." Lily shrugged one shoulder, not meeting his eye, running a finger around the top of her bottle. "I know."

Of course she knew. The thing about being Lily Evans and James Potter was that you couldn't do anything without everybody else saying something about it.

"Does it bother you?"

Lily looked up at him, surprised; she hadn't been expecting that question. "I –" she began, but she didn't actually know how she felt about it. "I don't know."

James nodded. He could deal with uncertainty, especially since he was sure that, not too long ago, her answer would have been a resounding yes. "Okay. So do you want to know how I knew where to find you last night?"

"That was an abrupt change of subject."

Now it was James's turn to shrug. "Looked like you needed one," he said simply (besides, he thought, he'd been planning on showing this to her today). He pulled the blank parchment that contained the Marauder's Map from his pocket, unfolded it, and smoothed it out on the table between them.

Lily lifted a speculative eyebrow. "I don't even have anything clever to say," she admitted, wondering how on earth a spare bit of parchment could have told James that she was in trouble.

"Well, that's a first, isn't it?" James observed flippantly as he took his wand from his sleeve. He looked around the pub, but for once everyone was too engrossed in their own lives to pay attention to them. So James tapped his wand against the parchment and said, "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."

Lily gasped as the formerly blank parchment came to life; it was as if an invisible hand were drawing quick, intricate lines that crisscrossed and intersected to form a map… A map, if she were not mistaken, of Hogwarts and all its inhabitants, which were all identifiable by name as they lounged in their common rooms, studied in the library, or wandered over the grounds and hallways.

"This – it's incredible," she said, her fingers tracing over the corridors. "Where did you get this?"

For his answer, James simply tapped the heading that wove its way over the top of the map, and Lily read it aloud: "'Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs, Purveyors of Aids to Magical Mischief-Makers, are proud to present the Marauder's Map.'"

Lily's jaw dropped as she looked up at James. "You made this?"

James nodded. "With a substantial amount of help from Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, and Padfoot, yeah," he said, grinning at the look on her face.

"This is completely outrageous," Lily muttered, totally in awe, as she continued to run her fingers over the surface of the parchment. "I can't believe you pulled this off – well, no, of course I can, but still… And what are all these?" she asked, pointing out a few areas with which she was unfamiliar. "I've never been down those corridors."

"That's because they're not corridors," James told her. "They're secret passageways. We found most of them between first and third year, and we added them to the map as we went."

"So that's how you manage to sneak in and out of Hogsmeade," Lily deduced, her eyes following the little black dots now. "That's rather creepy, you know, spying on people like this."

James feigned offense. "We don't spy, Evans," he said, "but we have to know when the coast is clear, don't we? And it's not my fault if we occasionally catch Sirius in a broom cupboard with some bird or other, and the rest of us just happen to skip down to said cupboard –"

"Oh, yes, what happy accidents those must be," Lily said. She knew better than to believe that.

"Well, to be fair, he got me back for all those happy accidents last night."

Lily felt the heat rise in her face at the mention of what had almost happened last night. She should have known it would come up, but she'd really had her fingers crossed that it wouldn't, that perhaps he would forget – yeah, right – or maybe they'd just be able to avoid it through the aid of mutual embarrassment.

"Erm – yes, I suppose he did," she said, still staring fixedly down at the map but not really seeing it anymore. Her heart was pounding so hard in her chest that she didn't think she'd be able to concentrate on anything but slowing it down. "Anyway, James, that's an extraordinary bit of magic you lot conjured here."

"It has its benefits," James agreed, his eyes steady on Lily's face as he measured her reaction to his previous statement. She was absolutely mortified, he realized, and the realization disappointed him. But he shook it off, figuring he could change her mind as long as he kept telling himself "Baby steps."

The pair left the Three Broomsticks not long after, Lily still shaking her head disbelievingly at the Marauder's Map. James tried to keep his head in the here and now instead of the there and later when he might be able to convince her that there was nothing embarrassing about an almost-kiss, and in fact they should go for the real thing this time.

They wandered around the village, ducking into shops whenever they got too cold. James found little ways to touch her every so often – brushing snow from her shoulders, shoving her when she laughed at his expense, grabbing her hand and pulling her along when he thought she was moving too slowly. Lily, meanwhile, was doing the same, albeit less consciously; but James took note of every kick to his shins, every time she pushed his face exasperatedly, every ruffle of his hair, and the one time her fingers lingered a little too long on his face when she took his glasses off to clean them.

Perhaps he was making too much of the little things, James thought. But then Lily took his hand and he thought that it couldn't hurt to get his hopes up a little bit.

"Aren't your hands cold?" she asked as she did this, realizing then that he wasn't wearing any gloves.

"I've got weather-proof skin," he replied. "Can't you tell?"

Lily pulled James's hand up to her face to better inspect it, running her fingers over the calluses there. "Quidditch?" she guessed.

"Quidditch," he confirmed. He removed his hand from hers so he could slide his arm around her shoulders, pulling her into his side as he did so. He took note of the fact that she didn't reprimand him this time.

He tugged at the end of her hat. "Did you knit this?"

"Ha!" Lily snorted, amused. "I can't knit to save my life. My sister made this for me before we stopped getting along. Petunia's always been good at this sort of thing, although when she made it, it was a bit big – like falling-over-my-eyes big, but I grew into it."

James smiled at the image. "Why don't you get along anymore?" he asked. "Is it that git boyfriend of hers?"

Lily turned her head slightly to look at him, an expression of total bemusement on her face. "You remember that?"

"Sure," James said, nonplussed. "Who forgets a bloke called Vernon?"

"Hmm…" Lily pressed her lips together. There he goes again, surprising you. "Well, no, it's not Vernon, although he'd be much more tolerable if I didn't have to laugh at him by myself. Petunia and I just sort of… grew apart, I suppose."

James nodded. He could tell there was more to it than that, but it was clear that she didn't want to talk about it. He supposed that when she did want to, she'd bring it up on her own; he was pushy enough, so he decided to let this one slide.

They made their way back up to the castle, and they were just passing the frozen lake, trudging their way through the snow that blanketed the grounds, when a shout rang out somewhere behind them –

"Watch it, Potter!"

James turned just in time to get a snowball straight to the face. Lily burst out laughing – a loud, infectious sound – as James sputtered, shaking the snow from his face and hair.

"That's not exactly what I meant by watch it," Fabian called out from his perch in a nearby tree. "Black's been plotting this attack for the past half an hour. Thought I'd give you a heads-up but blimey, you're stupid."

"Stupid?" James echoed incredulously. "Next time try shouting 'Duck' instead, huh? And at least I'm not hiding up a tree!"

Fabian shrugged. "To each his own, mate, but better watch yourself, because Black's got a pile of snowballs waiting right behind my tree here."

"Shut up, Fabian!" Sirius shouted, whirling out from behind the tree, his arms full of snowballs that he began pelting in James and Lily's direction.

Lily managed to duck the onslaught of flying snow, but she wasn't prepared for the surprise attack from behind: Marlene slammed into her, tackling her so she fell face-first into the snow.

"Aren't you supposed to be studying?" Lily shouted. Marlene laughed wildly as she rolled off Lily and sprang to her feet.

"I was," she said, "but that library's so stuffy. So I came outside for a bit of fresh air and I was ambushed by this lot." She jerked her thumb behind her in the direction of the boys. Fabian had climbed down from his tree and joined his brother in pelting snowballs at Sirius, who was still busy attacking an unprepared James.

"Where are the others?" Lily asked cautiously, still sitting in the snow at Marlene's feet.

"Peter and Remus are just over there," Marlene said, turning her head to make sure she was pointing in the right direction. "Alice and Frank haven't gotten back yet, but I expect – aargh!"

Lily had gotten to her feet, a mound of snow in her hands, and thrust it into Marlene's face as she turned back around.

"Ha!" Lily exclaimed triumphantly, and she took off running in the opposite direction before Marlene could retaliate.

Meanwhile, James was sopping wet from the torrent of snowballs Sirius had waiting for him. "Hell, Padfoot, give me a minute to catch my breath, why don't you?"

"No prisoners!" Sirius roared, and James was hit with another snowball and the same words he'd used to warn Lily of Sirius's mad winter sport technique. James was able to find a reprieve, though, since right then Frank and Alice came into view, and Sirius took the opportunity to assail more unsuspecting victims.

"Damn it, Black!" Frank yelled good-naturedly as Sirius hit him twice in quick succession. At the sound of their friend's voice, Fabian and Gideon perked up and gladly joined Sirius in the attack on their little sister's boyfriend.

James was shaking his clothes clean of the blanket of snow covering him when he saw a streak of red about to fly past. Oh, no, he thought with a grin, she wasn't going to run away that easily…

"Not so fast, Evans!" James caught Lily around the waist and pulled her back against his chest. His arms wrapped around her from behind, and he was sure to lock her in a steel-like grip so she couldn't escape. He'd been at the receiving end of one too many of Lily Evans's expert hexes to let her go with her hands free.

"You're cheating, Potter!" Lily exclaimed as she attempted to wriggle free of James's hold. She merely succeeded in making him do an odd sort of waddle as he moved with her, refusing to loosen his grip.

If she was honest with herself, Lily quite liked being caught in James Potter's arms, but the middle of a serious snowball fight was no time for such revelations. So she shook it off, but couldn't help laughing as she failed to shake him off.

"I'm not cheating, Evans," James argued, the breath from his teasing voice warm on the back of her neck. "We both know you're much cleverer than me, so I'm only exerting physical force in order to gain the upper hand."

"You're such a brute." Lily tried elbowing him in the stomach but failed as he continued to hold her prisoner.

"You're only sore because I'm winning."

"You're not winning," Lily said, and using the challenge in James's tone to fuel her resolve, she wriggled so violently that both of them lost their footing and slipped, all tangled limbs, into the snow.

Lily felt the wet shock of snow as she fell into it, and James's sudden weight on top of her knocked the wind out of her completely. Lily thought that it was much more pleasant to fall on top of James on the common room floor; it was much less cold and much less breathtaking.

"Blimey, Evans, you got me a right good kick in the shins on the way down…"

"Nothing you didn't deserve," Lily retorted, her voice strained as she caught her breath. "And blimey yourself – how many Chocolate Frogs have you shoveled down? You're heavy."

"It's all muscle, I work out," James protested, and Lily was overcome with such a laughing fit that James could do nothing but smile at her.

It was then that the full weight of the situation hit him, as heavily as he'd hit Lily a moment ago, as heavily as she'd hit him when they'd toppled off the couch in the common room and he didn't do anything about it. This was his second chance – or was it third? Did last night count? He didn't know, but whether it did or not, right now was his saving grace, and maybe this time none of his friends would get in the way.

He was freezing, dripping wet with sweat and snow, and he was lying on top of Lily Evans. Laughing, pink-nosed Lily Evans, who had snow in her hair and her hands on his chest. He wondered if she could feel the erratic beating of his heart beneath the layers of material he wore to stave off the cold. But then he wasn't cold at all – in fact, he was nervous and sweaty and overheated and his mouth was dry and he was sure his heart was about to burst right out of his chest – right through the skin and bone and muscle and every single sweatshirt he was wearing –

"James." Lily's voice came crashing through his panicked train of thought. "Get up, you clumsy dolt, before I get pneumonia."

"Clumsy?" James repeated, although he was still finding it very hard to talk as his tongue was suddenly much too heavy. "You're the one who tripped."

"Because you're a rotten cheat," Lily said, failing miserably in her attempt to ignore her own pounding heart as she looked defiantly up into those brilliant hazel eyes. Eyes that were much too close and were looking at her with the oddest expression and she knew she was looking back at him the same way… "Now did you hear what I said about the pneumonia?"

"Evans, it's just a bit of snow." James didn't really think about what he said. He was too caught up in thinking about how he could do it, he could do it right now, and really what was the point in not doing it, he wanted to so badly and she was so bloody perfect, and he could swear that she was looking at him the same way he was looking at her, and…

He didn't miss another beat. He caught her lips with his, if only for a second, but still he felt her lips move with his, both pairs chapped with cold and parted ever so slightly, both on the edge of moving with the most insane urgency, with the kind of speed and desperation to rival both their heartbeats, when –


A snowball hit James square in the back of the head.

There were few people in the courtyard that late afternoon. Most of the castle's occupants were either still in Hogsmeade or tending to homework they didn't want hovering over them during the holidays. But that didn't mean the Gryffindors had the grounds to themselves.

Severus Snape scowled as he watched them – the Prewett brothers, enchanting snowballs only to have them blasted out of their hands by their sister and Frank Longbottom. Pettigrew, Lupin, and McKinnon, all dodging each other's lighthearted attacks. Sirius Black, undeservingly arrogant in everything he did… Snape's scowl intensified. Black, pompous as he was, couldn't hold a candle to his pig-headed best friend.

James Potter, who had his arms wrapped around her. James Potter, who was making her laugh. James Potter, who was kissing her out in the open, in front of everyone so he could be sure that he was properly showing off his trophy…

Snape ignored the voice in his head that said she wouldn't let James Potter do any of these things if she didn't want him to. He didn't know what else he'd expected. After it was all said and done, had there really been any doubt in his mind that she wouldn't let James Potter do those things?

He turned away from the scene, avoiding any feelings that weren't his hatred for the lot of them. Who were they to act so carefree, to not have the weight of war on their shoulders? Who were they to laugh and touch and kiss while death was waiting on everyone's doorstep? How could anyone be that arrogant, to smile while war waged just outside the castle walls? There was a war inside the castle, and still they acted like there was nothing to hold them back.

Snape shook off these thoughts. It was nothing to him if they chose to blatantly disregard the tragic reality that awaited all of them outside of Hogwarts. He had too much to do to spend his time scowling at carriers of dirty blood.

He would have to keep that in mind, Snape knew, and still simmering somewhere beneath the edge of total loss of composure, he began to trudge his way back up to the castle.

"Blast it, Padfoot!" James roared, his voice hoarse as he rolled off a breathless Lily. He pulled out his wand and shot a series of relatively harmless sparks at Sirius, who was doubled over in laughter a few yards away.

The mingled sounds of curses and laughter echoed oddly in Lily's head. She stared, wide-eyed, up at the clear gray sky, suspended in a state of shock and disbelief and this strange but undeniable tingle in the pit of her stomach…

Oh, she wanted James Potter to do that again.

And he wanted to do it again, too; in fact, he hadn't wanted to stop at all, ever, James thought as he scrambled to his feet and ran at a still-laughing Sirius. He was going to kill that mangy mutt…

"Oy!" Sirius yelled, unprepared for James's full-body tackle. They rolled in the snow, Sirius blocking the punches James threw at him. "What, are you going to snog me, too, Prongsy?" he mocked, still laughing despite James's anger.

"We weren't snogging, you sorry excuse for a best mate!" James said. "You miserable wanker, the next time you transform in front of me, I'm going to skin you and turn you into a fur coat –"

"Don't get your knickers in a twist." Sirius succeeded in kicking James off him then. The latter fell back into the snow, red-faced and out of breath and trying to hold onto the feeling of Lily's lips under his.

"What were you going to do, anyway? Lay in the snow with her all night?" Sirius demanded, still chuckling.

James scowled up at the sky. "Would've been pleased with an uninterrupted minute, at least."

"If I'd given you a minute, you never would've stopped," Sirius pointed out. He stood, brushing snow off him so it cascaded down his legs. "Now get up and go tend to Evans, I think she's died of shock or perhaps an unanticipated bout of disgust."

James's head popped up and he looked over at Lily, who was still lying in the snow where he'd lost his head completely and given into that nagging impulse that had been plaguing him since puberty hit.

He got up, shoved Sirius so he lost his balance and landed back in the snow, and ignoring his friend's curses, James strode over to Lily and stuck out a hand for her to take.

"Evans," he said, "up, or you'll catch pneumonia."

Lily blinked up at him, not taking the hand he offered. She felt suddenly defenseless, weak-kneed, and vulnerable. These were not feelings to which Lily Evans was accustomed, and she'd be damned if she let James Potter get away with it.

"What," she began in a deathly whisper, "the bloody hell was that?"

James took a moment to recover from the hostility in her voice. Then he crouched down so he was sure only she could hear him and said, "That was something we are going to do again. Good enough?"

"No, it bloody well is not." Lily sat up and shoved him away. She needed some space before she lost it and initiated the again herself. "What – is – wrong – with – you?" she demanded, emphasizing each word with a smack to James's head.

"Quit hitting!" James caught her wrists so she'd stop. "You're not stupid, Lily, you know what that was, and I don't have time to sit here and explain to you all the things that are wrong with me."

"You're insufferable."

"You're just mad because you want to do that again, but you don't want to want to. And that's just too bad because I have waited far too long to do that to let that idiot –" James motioned his head in Sirius's direction – "ruin it."

Lily glared at him. It was one thing to admit that he was right, because she did want to do that again. But it was a completely separate matter if he thought he could make that call for her because it was what he wanted.

"You can't tell me what to do, Potter," she said, her voice low and dangerous and indicating that she'd love nothing more dearly at the moment than to curse him into oblivion.

James noted the renewed use of his surname; more than that, he recognized the ice behind it. "So we're back to cold formalities, then, I see."

"I'll be cold with anyone who thinks they can make my decisions for me." Lily jerked her wrists from his grasp. "I'm not going to hop into a broom cupboard with you just because it's what you want to do."

"Ah, Evans, I didn't say a word about any broom cupboards."

"Nor have you given any indication that you take my feelings seriously!" Lily snapped, loudly enough for their surrounding friends to turn their hands curiously in their direction.

Fabian and Gideon exchanged half amused, half nervous looks; Alice was biting her nails; Frank shuffled his feet uncomfortably and tried not to stare; Marlene narrowed her eyes, wondering if anyone should intervene; Peter stood behind Remus and peeked around the taller boy's shoulder; and Remus and Sirius exchanged a look that clearly said, Here they go again.

But neither James nor Lily noticed that their friends had stopped their snowball fighting to watch the row that was unfolding in the middle of the grounds.

Lily stood, brushing snow from herself more aggressively than was necessary. "For Merlin's sake, I'm not some toy for you to control."

"I never said you were!" James said indignantly, standing with her.

"No, of course not," Lily scoffed. "You only told me what I wanted, what I was going to do, and then you laughed at me when I protested."

"I didn't laugh!" James argued, knowing that he hadn't really laughed but he might as well have for all the good it would do him now. "I didn't mean it like that."

Lily stared at him, steely-eyed and arms folded across her chest. How had everything gone so wrong? James wondered wildly. Damn his adolescent impulses; he should have known they wouldn't do him any favors. And the worst of it was, he still wanted to do it again, because even as angry as Lily was with him and he was with her, she was still that same brilliant and gorgeous and funny girl…

"Look, Evans," he said, trying to keep it together, "one second I'm kissing you and the next my idiot friend –"

"Right here, mate!" Sirius called out, but James ignored him.

"– is hitting me with snowballs and ruining that second for me," he went on. "So excuse me if I wanted to give it another shot."

"It's not about what you want!" Lily said, jabbing him in the chest with a finger. "It's that you took it upon yourself to tell me what I wanted as well!"

So much for keeping it together, James thought as his anger piqued again. He might tear his hair out. "Well, don't you?"

Lily didn't want to tell him, but he was looking at her so expectantly and she knew she wouldn't be able to lie. "Yes, all right?" she admitted, her voice low again as she looked up at him. "But –"

"So what does it matter that I'm a raving lunatic?"

"It matters," Lily said, and her eyes locked with his, "because you're too selfish to care about how I feel. You can't take no for an answer because you can't fathom why on earth anyone would say no to you. It's always about you, and that's always been what matters. The only reason you're such a raving lunatic is because you still don't see that."

And with that, Lily turned on her heel and marched back up to the castle, leaving a stunned and speechless James Potter in her wake.

A/N: Again, I know they don't get together until seventh year. I'm not much for head canons, but I'm rather stubborn in the belief that they totally made out before they made it official. There's so much UST between them that it was bound to happen. So. That is that, and I will see you for Chapter 15. –K.