Summary: James poses as an advice charm in Lily's diary.
Author's Notes: I find my tolerance for author's notes has decreased over the years, so I'm putting all the important stuff up front and you won't hear from me again (so to speak). A few points of clarification and acknowledgement:
1) This is a complete rewrite of an earlier story called The Diary. The only thing the two stories share is a basic premise and a couple characters. I took the original down in 2008, promising to rewrite it. This is me, following through on that promise.
2) This story takes place in a "Haggis from Algernon"-type universe. You do not really need to have read that story to read this one, although this story does reference a few events that happened in Haggis. Most of the characters in this story migrated from that one, with a couple notable exceptions. Characters like Bea and Karl were written by my co-author for that story, GhostofBambi, and I can't do them justice on my own.
3) Deathly Hallows more or less settles that Sirius telling Snape to go to the Whomping Willow happened at latest in fifth year. I've set it in sixth, effectively delaying it. It's more convenient to my story, I find it somewhat more compelling to have them be older when it occurs, and there is no real change to canon timelines from doing so. You can consider everything else that happened in DH Chapter 33 to also have happened in this universe; pretend Snape's conversation with Lily about the incident happened later in their timeline, but before this story.
4) I wrote this story for Eddie and all the other poor readers who have been wondering how this story ended for years. Thanks for never giving up hope. And of course I wrote this for Sarah, the Lily to my James, who ended up effectively being my Roscoe because of The Diary, and who made me promise never to cut the scene about the Italians, despite it being completely pointless. (Promise kept.)
Chapter 1: Julia
"I need you to give this to Lily," James told Remus, holding out a small but thick diary in his hand. He'd chosen it in part for its color, a red somewhere between Gryffindor maroon and Lily's hair that probably had some poncy name that James wasn't aware of.
Remus took the diary from him, furrowing his brow. "Did she lose it?"
"No," James said, as if it were obvious. He sat down on Remus' neatly-made bed and cast a brief look at the dormitory door to check that Peter was well on his way to breakfast. "She's lost her parents."
"Yes," Remus said slowly. "She has. And how is this relevant?"
"Because she needs to, you know, get her feelings out, yeah?"
Remus stared, still confused, at the book in his hand.
"Look, Moony, I thought about what you said."
"To which conversation are you referring? I hope not the one where we talked about communicating clearly."
"No, I'm referring to the time we talked about Lily. Obviously."
"You'll have to be more specific than that, I'm afraid. For someone who doesn't talk to her all that much, you have an awful lot to say about her."
James had to admit, he had a point. "I'm referring to the time you said that if I want her to like me I should get to know her."
Remus' half-curious, half-perturbed expression changed quickly to one of sharp disapproval. "James Potter, are you planning to steal the diary back after she writes her most intimate thoughts in it?"
"Don't be ridiculous. That would be an awful invasion of privacy."
Remus inspected the diary's blank pages. "I'll give this to Lily if you promise not to read it."
"I'd have to get hold of it first."
"One, that's not encouraging me to go along with this, and two, we both know that's not an insurmountable barrier for you."
"I promise, once she has that diary, I will not touch it or cast spells on it or anything."
"And you won't get someone else to do it for you?"
"No." James smiled brightly. "I'm just doing what you told me."
"But if you're not planning to read it, how does this help you get to know her?"
"I know she's sad and this will help. Isn't that knowing her?"
"I suppose, but anyone could have guessed that she was sad. You'll have to work harder than that to win her affections."
"Well, I have to start somewhere, don't I? And no one else has given her a diary."
"And how would you know that?"
Remus rolled his eyes. "Stupid question. You checked."
"Well, yes, but if she had one I still wouldn't have read it." Probably, James mentally added.
"James Potter, do you swear that this isn't some harebrained scheme?"
"I swear that this isn't some harebrained scheme." And it wasn't – it was brilliant. "I bought this in a shop. It has some advice charms." When Remus raised his eyebrows, James added pointedly, "I think I've proven my trustworthiness and responsibility lately."
"Your rationality has always had an enormous blind spot when it comes to Lily Evans, but fine. This seems well-intentioned. Seems. If I find out this is some scheme—"
"Can we use shenanigans instead? That's a much better word."
"Fine. If I find out this is some—see, shenanigans doesn't fit there."
"If I find out this is some shenaniganery? No, you're right. Use scheme. For now."
"If I find out this is some scheme, I'll…." Remus faltered, then grinned evilly. "I'll turn you into a goat."
"You wouldn't! That punishment is reserved for the lowest of the low. Like Terry Heaney or that bloke who stole Lily's shoes. Oh wait, that was also Terry Heaney. Excuse me, I need to go turn him into a goat."
"And here I thought you were being more responsible."
"I am being responsible. He's a public menace and he must be stopped."
"You go get another detention. I'll try to get Lily this diary. It is a nice thought, really."
"Yes, it certainly is."
Smiling faintly, Remus tucked the diary into his satchel and followed James down to the Great Hall.
"How was Transfiguration yesterday?" Peter asked as they approached.
James sank into a chair and grabbed a sausage with his hand.
Remus grimaced at James' lack of decorum and set his satchel on the floor.
"Come on, Moony," James said around a mouthful of sausage. "Anything. Any tidbit of information would be greatly appreciated by us, your very best mates who have done so very much for you."
"My record of detentions would speak to everything you've done for me, it's true. But I swore I wouldn't tell anyone, and I shan't." Remus sat next to Peter and across from James. The fourth seat remained empty, as it had for nearly a month. "I'm just grateful all the professors are being so accommodating. Binns, as usual, is the only one who doesn't remember."
"Five Sickles he doesn't show up for you today," James said, not expecting either of them to take the bet.
"If only," Remus said, adding a fried tomato to his plate. "That would be quite the cap to term."
"What are we going to do for Polish Pirate Poker?" Peter asked, leaning forward.
James suppressed a scowl. Peter only cared because he was close to taking another title.
"We can't just leave it and start over next year," Peter continued. "The rules say we have to finish this year. I checked."
"I don't think we have much choice except to hope things right themselves over the summer." Remus sighed. "We can have the final Supraround on September first and start the next season on Saturday as usual."
James got distracted for a moment when he spotted Isobel Marks glaring daggers at him from the Hufflepuff table. He pretended that she was glaring at Peter for stealing all the sausages. He mentally rejoined the conversation when Peter poked his hand with an eggy fork.
"Sorry?" said James.
"I asked whether our plan to postpone the final Supraround was amenable to you," Remus said.
"Yeah, all right," James said absently.
Trying not to be obvious, he snuck a look at Sirius, who was sitting at the end of the Gryffindor table, alone and picking at a piece of toast.
Remus must have picked up on James' train of thought, or at least his line of sight.
"He's not ready to listen," Remus said. "I thought the other day… but he walked away before I could say anything."
James didn't have a reply, so he shoved an entire boiled egg in his mouth to avoid the conversation.
That evening, lacking better alternatives and desperate to keep his mind occupied, James joined Remus and Peter in the common room to revise for their Charms exam.
"You could have taken this exam early, you know," James told Remus.
"Professor Flitwick offered," Remus said. He rubbed an eye with his palm and yawned, all without looking up from his notes. "I declined."
James fidgeted in his chair and tried to twirl his quill around his thumb. He wished Sirius were there to talk to. Remus and Peter actually revised thoroughly, something James didn't think he was physically capable of doing.
"Learning anything interesting?" he asked Peter.
"No," Peter said, biting his thumbnail. With his other hand, he flipped back a few pages in the textbook to search for something. "I forgot we covered some of these subtypes of Conjuring."
"Right," said James.
He tapped his foot out to the beat of Celestina Warbeck's latest song.
"Peter, I left some of my notes on water Conjuring on top of my trunk. They're yours if you get them."
Peter perked up. "Is that from the day I had the flu?"
"Yes," James lied.
"I'll be right back."
Peter left his textbook open and raced up the dormitory stairs. When was gone, Remus shot James a quick look of disapproval.
"Did you deliver my gift to Lily?" James asked, feigning nonchalance.
"I don't intend to give it to her," said Remus, going back to his notes.
"But you said you would. A Marauder doesn't go back on his word, Moony."
"I decided to give it to Emily to give to Lily instead."
"That probably is a better idea," James said. "Then she won't think it came from me."
Remus turned a page. "Precisely."
After a moment, James asked, "D'you know if she's given it to Lily?"
"I haven't the foggiest, James. I didn't cast a tracking charm on it."
James anxiously looked over at Emily Wood and Lily sitting by the fire. They were speaking in low voices and appeared to be having a very serious discussion. He hoped his charms on the diary had worked, particularly the ones that hid what the diary actually did. At least if they didn't, he assumed he'd know straight away. If Lily discovered the true purpose of the diary, she would very probably try to castrate him sooner rather than later.
It wasn't until the following day, after acing his Charms exam and walking a peaky-looking Remus to the Hospital Wing, that James could confirm that Lily had indeed received the diary. While he and Peter lounged by the lake, James catching and releasing his snitch and Peter biting his nails over their Muggle Studies exam, James felt his ring tighten slightly around his finger.
Lily was holding the diary.
He brought his hand out from under his head, where it had been acting as a pillow as he lay sprawled out in the grass, and examined the golden family crest on his right middle finger. He wondered what she was writing, if anything.
He only lasted another half hour of Peter's inane questions before making up an excuse and hurrying off to the Tower. Along the way, he felt his ring return to normal. Ensconced by his bed curtains, he pulled out a diary from beneath his mattress, one identical to the diary he'd got passed on to Lily. On the first page he found a copy of what she'd written.
So, this is a diary. Bit of an odd present from Emily. What do you write in a diary? I've never had one before. Should I write about my day? There's nothing exciting there. Writing essays, wishing Emily and Robert wouldn't snog in front of me, missing my parents. Mostly that last one. I received an owl from Barry the solicitor this morning. Don't want to get into it, but my sister is a complete cow.
Honestly, what do people write in diaries? I can't imagine that years from now I'll look back and fondly reread my every last thought. "Ate toast for breakfast." "Trounced Emily at Transfiguring eye color while revising for exams." How banal.
Emily said this diary has advice charms. Maybe this one is broken.
James sat looking at the page for a few minutes. It wasn't much for a first entry, but that was to be expected, really, if she'd never kept one before. After thinking for another moment, he picked up his self-inking quill to write back.
Emily must not have explained this properly to you. I am your advice charm! Did you recently lose your parents? I'm very sorry to hear that. Have you talked to Emily about how you're feeling? She sounds like a good friend.
That was safe, generic advice. A good start, he thought. He spelled his copy of her diary shut with a password that no one but his parents would guess, cast a camouflaging charm on it, and tucked it back under his mattress.
This was probably one of his more unusual ideas, pretending to be a diary charm, but he'd thought it over for a week before implementing it.
Anyone paying attention could tell that Lily had lost some of her vivacity since Easter holidays. She'd always been one of the first to answer questions in class before, but now she seemed to have trouble paying attention. Professors would call on her and she wouldn't know the answer, which James hadn't seen happen very often before.
If he were living in an ideal world, he'd be dating Lily and be in a position to comfort her. Sadly, he wasn't. He hated seeing her so upset and wanted to help somehow. Wood was probably doing a decent enough job as her best friend, but sometimes there were things you didn't even tell your best mate, and he thought Lily would sooner trust Terry Heaney with her secrets than James.
This really was a shenanigan for her benefit, he told himself. He only hoped it would work.
"Sorry, Evans. Didn't see you there," James said. They'd just finished their Herbology exams and he may have accidentally-intentionally run into her as he walked by. Students milled around them in the corridor on their way to class.
"You're an awful liar, you cad," she said.
He was lying, of course. Sometimes he lied to her without thinking about it, just for the thrill of having her call him out on it.
"Cad. I like it," he said. "Let's bring that back into common usage, yeah?"
"You did see me and you deliberately walked into me."
"What a load of bollocks. Why would I do that?"
"Because you are insane," she said, bending down to pick up one of her dropped books from the ground. "I hope you enjoy your detention tonight with Kettleburn. Must you always be so predictable? Yes, we all know you can turn people into goats. Terry Heaney might permanently have horns because of all the times you've Transfigured him."
"Admit it," James said, beaming. "You're glad because he's a soddy little perv who should be left as a goat."
"Despite his…fetishes…and however odd they may be, he's still a human being," she said, grabbing her other books and shoving them back in her bag.
"Not for much longer, by your own account. You're not really that torn up about it but you feel the need to berate me anyway. It's all right, I understand. Now pretend I said something mean and witty so you can say something else about me being a cad."
"Clearly you don't even need me to have this conversation, so I'll just leave once you apologize for tripping over me."
"Why would I be sorry? It was an accident."
"A load of rubbish, as usual."
"More like excellence," James said. "I know I just aced that exam. Did you see how I handled those Spitting Chrysanthemums?"
"I had much more important things on my mind. My dinner options, whether my shoelaces have come undone…. There are so many pressing matters at hand, I simply don't have any time to dedicate to you."
"You try so hard to pretend that you don't care, but I know how you really feel. It'll be our secret."
"Ugh, just apologize."
"And lose your company?"
By this time, most of the other students had filtered out of the corridor, leaving James nearly alone with Lily. That hadn't been his plan but he couldn't say he was displeased it had turned out that way.
"Don't you have people to terrorize?" she asked. "I think there's someone in Hufflepuff who hasn't been turned into an animal in a while."
"You're right, but Tilden Toots taught me how to handle the Chrysanthemums so he's cool. For now."
"I can't believe you're so insistent that you didn't run into me intentionally. You are actually mad." She shook her head. "It's such a stupid point. Just say you're sorry."
"I'm sorry, I can't do that."
"You wanker. I have things to do."
"Yes, talking to me is very important. I'm glad you're setting aside time for it."
"Merlin, the lengths you drive me to." She pulled her wand out of her pocket, and James did likewise. "Oh, is that Algernon with a bacon sandwich?" she said, looking beyond James and breaking into a smile.
"Hm?" James' head turned of its own volition.
She nearly hit him with a Body-Bind Curse, but he hadn't been revising Defense for nothing. It bounced off his Shield Charm.
"Low, Lily Evans," he said, glaring at her. "Don't even tempt me with that."
"I'll convince him to bring you one if you apologize."
"It's not the same if he doesn't bring it to me of his own free will," James said darkly. "No deal."
They stood at an impasse, wands raised. He noticed the enormous bags under her eyes and felt guilty for being a prick. Merlin, why did he start these arguments with her? Well, he knew exactly why, but he still berated himself. She probably wasn't in the mood for haranguing him. He didn't want to make her life more difficult.
"I'm sorry for running into you," he said.
She eyed him suspiciously but didn't immediately lower her wand. Finally she said, "Right. That's that, then. You're not forgiven."
"I figured as much," he said, pocketing his wand.
She followed suit and grabbed her schoolbag.
"Bye," she said abruptly, then turned and marched away from him.
James ran a hand through his hair and left it there for a moment. Was there really any question why she wouldn't go out with him?
He deliberately took the long way to the Great Hall to avoid running into her again.
James and Peter had revised Transfiguration all weekend so they could keep Moony company on Tuesday night. Normally they slept in the Shack with him, but given their exam in the morning, they returned to their dormitory in the early morning and felt awful about it.
The next morning when they awoke, Sirius had already left the dormitory. James sighed. He'd hoped Sirius would at least ask after Moony but apparently his stubbornness knew no bounds. James had been angry with Sirius before, but Sirius' callous and continued disregard for Remus sent him into a terrible mood. He thanked Merlin that he only had Transfiguration that day. He could have aced that exam in his sleep. Because he'd stayed up so late the night before, he nearly did.
Lily didn't write in her diary again until that evening, sending his ring off during a game of wizard chess with Peter. After trouncing Peter, James headed up to his bed to read her entry. He nearly tore his curtains pulling them shut.
How does this work, then? I write and then later you write back? I'd hoped for some more immediate feedback. Why wouldn't you work instantly? You're magic, after all.
Of course I've talked to Emily about losing my parents. She's my best friend, and she has been helpful. All the talking in the world won't bring my parents back, though, or fill the hole left in my life. Still, I don't know what I would do without her.
James had hoped for a longer entry this time, but he supposed she had to get used to writing out her thoughts. He wrote back the explanation he'd prepared for why he couldn't reply instantly.
I'm like a portrait. I used to be someone, but unlike a portrait I don't remember who I used to be. I must have been someone quite wise to be turned into an advice charm, I imagine. Most of the time I visit other diaries. I can talk in generalities to them, but we can't mention specifics or names or anything, so your secrets are safe with me. Considering I spend the vast majority of my time waiting for you to write, I hope you won't hold it against me that I'm away more often than not.
It sounded plausible enough to him, and he hoped she would believe it, too. He didn't know what to write back about Emily without sounding like an idiot, so he left his response at that.
Normally the Friday night after exams was reserved for the Polish Pirate Poker conclusion. That night, however, James found himself sitting alone in the dormitory, pulling out Lily's diary. He had no idea where Sirius had run off to and couldn't be bothered to check the Map. Peter was getting a snack in the kitchens and Remus had been roped into a conversation in the common room with Mary MacDonald about their Defense exams.
I'm not sure I like the sound of that, you being able to discuss my entries with other people. Will you agree not to share anything I write with anyone, ever, in any way?
This afternoon after the Arithmancy exam, Lucinda thought that I was lying when I said I could put my legs over my head. Even when I proved her wrong through demonstration she thought I was cheating through spellwork. She's just jealous. She huffed off, saying she had to revise for exams. Emily and I laughed at her after she left, in part because I think she forgot that we've finished exams. Then I convinced Algernon, someone else's cat, to fetch us bacon sandwiches. They were delicious.
James nearly shouted in outrage. Algernon never brought him bacon sandwiches. He'd fetch nearly anything else but not bacon sandwiches. Life was so unfair. Although he was very impressed by Lily's flexibility.
I promise not to share what you write to me with anyone, ever. I'll be the dullest diary at the parties, but if it makes you happy, then my pages are sealed. Well, not really, because then you couldn't write in them. But you get my point. I assume.
He'd imagined himself wisely doling out advice whenever she felt lonely, but he couldn't help but feel that so far he'd accomplished exactly nothing because she didn't seem to have a problem as far as her entries were concerned.
He spent several days hoping she would write something a bit more significant so he could show how useful he could be as the diary, but the opportunity didn't arise. He saw her in the common room and the Great Hall, talking to her friends or reading alone. Sometimes, though, he'd catch her staring off into space, looking lost.
Finally he decided he couldn't wait anymore and took what he considered to be a drastic measure. When his father had given him the Invisibility Cloak, he'd made James swear to only use it for eavesdropping in the direst situations. The power of invisibility wasn't to be taken lightly, he'd said, and it was much too easy to become addicted to hearing everyone else's private conversations. James wasn't sure if his father would think this situation merited the use of the Cloak, but he certainly wasn't going to ask because he suspected the answer would not be to his liking.
The week after exams, he found Wood and Lily lounging on two large armchairs in a corner of the common room. He lingered near the wall, trying to stay out of anyone's potential path. Wood sat mostly upright, slouching terribly, while Lily sprawled sideways, head against one armrest and her legs hanging over the other.
She and Wood were holding a friendly debate about some book they'd read, but James leaned against the wall and hoped something interesting would come up. He'd just about had it with listening to them go on about some soddy sounding bloke named Heathcliff when Wood changed the subject.
"Have you written back to Barry?" she asked.
James tried to think of which House had a Barry and came up short.
"No," Lily said, crossing her arms over her chest. "I haven't had time."
"Rubbish. We've no assignments or exams."
"I've been…I dunno, reading."
"Because the latest mystery novel is loads more important than writing to your solicitor."
"I don't want to think about it, much less talk or write about it."
"Lily," Wood said softly, "I hate to be the messenger, but you can't just stick your head in the sand about this."
"It's my problem and I understand the consequences. Don't worry about it."
"I have to. I'm your best mate."
"Petunia's the one who should be worried about it. If she can refuse to handle things, why can't I?"
"Do you really want her or, Merlin forbid, Barry to make these decisions?"
Lily scowled. "No."
Wood gave her a small smile. "Are you sure? I hear he's very good."
Lily laughed softly and hurled a throw pillow at her. "Shut it. Although I do have to give him points for being flexible on owl communication."
"Well, fortunately for you, you can choose your own solicitor now."
Lily looked uncomfortable at the thought. "Once things are settled," she said.
"That's even more incentive to wrap things up: no more Barry."
"Curse you and your logical arguments."
James grimaced as they went back to discussing the stupid book that sounded dead boring. He decided he'd had enough and wandered down to the kitchens for a snack. At least his eavesdropping hadn't been a complete waste. He'd learned something more about Lily's situation, and he knew for certain that she was being looked after by Wood.
Although he hadn't had the chance to prove it yet, he felt certain that he could help Lily, too, if only given the chance.
Later that evening, while sitting in his dormitory and listening to Peter moan about Helena Hodge, James felt the increasingly familiar tightening around his finger. He gave an exaggerated yawn and shut his curtains when Peter was mid-sentence. He'd been looking for an excuse to stop listening anyway. Sirius had probably spelled himself deaf in his bed to keep from overhearing. James watched as she wrote:
Don't girls make lists of blokes they think are fit in these things? Naturally Emily and I have had this discussion before and here is what we determined:
5. Isaac Stoneham. Too young now, but he'll grow into it.
4. Evan McNamee. What a voice.
3. Remus Lupin. Sexy scars.
2. Robert Caulfield. Emily was involved in this discussion, after all, and I wasn't going to argue.
1. Gaspard Shingleton. No explanation necessary.
James gaped at list. Granted, Isaac Stoneham would one day be attractive enough to be a model, but to include Remus and not James or Sirius? Lily and Wood must have been high on Alipotsy when they came up with the list. Again, he was at a complete loss over what to write back as the diary. He supposed he could advise her go after one of those blokes, but that wasn't really an option and it still sounded ridiculous. He wished she would write about things like her solicitor problem. Then again, he supposed he wouldn't be terribly helpful on that front, either. For now, James was stuck writing a stupid, one-line response to Lily's entry and hating himself for it.
What a diverse set of attributes those blokes have.
The Leaving Feast normally lifted James' spirits, reminding him of what a spectacular year he'd had at Hogwarts, but this year it just made him depressed. The year should have ended on a high note, but he'd lost the last Quidditch game—and as a result, the Quidditch and House Cups—to Slytherin. He may have lost his best mate, and the girl he fancied couldn't stand to be around him for more than ten minutes at a time. At least he'd fared well enough on his exams, but that was a minor consolation at best.
His foul mood lingered through the train ride. Remus left to fulfill his prefect duties, leaving Peter and James in a compartment by themselves. They played a bit of Exploding Snap but mostly sat staring out the window at the passing scenery. James remembered that Peter probably had mixed feelings about going home too but didn't want to bring up a sore topic.
At King's Cross, James greeted his parents with hugs and an enormous smile. Algernon, who'd followed James off the train, rubbed himself against James' dad's legs. Odette had to explain the strange blue streak in his dad's hair—James didn't quite follow, as it had to do with their competing academic theories regarding the source of magic. Or something. James could never puzzle together exactly what it was they had spent nearly a century studying together.
"And that's why you never bet against your mother," his dad said, clapping James on the shoulder.
James' lovely family moment was rather spoiled by Sirius' arrival. James expected him to be as sullen as he'd been since the incident, but he was downright cheerful with James' parents.
"Oscar! Odette! Lovely to see you," he said.
"Sirius Black, welcome into the Potter family," Oscar said, shaking Sirius' hand and drawing him into a hug.
"Couldn't be happier to be a part of it."
James noticed that Sirius didn't even look at James throughout the exchange. He watched, irked, as Odette pecked Sirius on the cheek, her bright red lipstick leaving a smudge.
"We're so happy you'll be joining us for the summer," she said. "We've prepared a room for you right next to James, as requested."
Sirius' grin faltered for only the slightest moment, but James saw it. He was tempted to tell his parents that he and Sirius weren't exactly on the best of terms and that there would be no shenanigans from them this summer. He'd kept news of the incident from the so far, in part because he didn't want to think about it further and in part because he didn't want them to rescind Sirius' invitation. As angry as James was with Sirius, he didn't want him to have to return to Grimmauld Place.
So instead James forced a semblance of a smile, picked up Algernon, and followed his parents and Sirius to the nearest Floo station. For once he couldn't wait for summer to end.