This fic was started before the release of Order of the Phoenix, and while I was originally trying to stay true to canon, it's no longer possible. Bah. Where I can be true to canon I will, but there are some differences. Still, I prefer to categorize the fic as Pre-OotP rather than as an AU. at any rate, you have been warned.

"Fellow Marauders, we meet tonight to address a serious topic."

Sirius' voice was grave. James stifled a laugh and leaned back, resigned to hearing his love life ripped to pieces by his friends. He'd caught up to Remus and the others quickly after his meeting with Lily to tell them what had happened. The immediate decision was to hold one of their midnight outings to discuss the subject in full and in private, which was how the four of them came to be sitting in their cave by the lake, in the middle of the night, with enough food and drink to stock an army. James let himself grin at that analogy; it was entirely appropriate, since they were meeting to discuss battle plans.

Sirius continued in the same pompous voice, playing Chairman to the hilt. "The subject under consideration is one Lily Evans. Our own Master Prongs has expressed an interest in the lady and requests our aid in securing her affections. More immediately, he wishes to convince her to partner him to the Hogsmeade Midwinter Dance."

"Hear, hear!" Remus called, while Peter hooted. The Chairman waved them silent with a dramatic gesture.

"However!" Sirius continued solemnly. "Before any assistance may be offered, we must be certain that the target is fully deserving of attention. What is known about this individual?"

"A keen poker player," James called out, making the point Sirius himself had made in Lily's favour, earlier in the day.

Sirius flashed a grin at him. "What else?"

"Smart as a whip and one of the prettiest girls in school," Remus volunteered.

Sirius acknowledged this with a nod. "So, Miss Evans is clever, beautiful, and bluffs like a champion. Worthy qualities indeed, but are these things alone enough to make her worthy to companion a Marauder? Those paragons of pranksters? Those most eligible, worthy, and magnificent of men?"

James muttered quietly to Remus. "I could've sworn we were four pillocks who don't get enough sleep."

Peter spoke over Remus' stifled laughter. "Chairman Padfoot, I have a piece of information that may shed some light on the subject."

"You may proceed, Doctor Wormtail."

Peter stood to address the so-called court, hands behind his back. "I submit that Lily Evans is a person of excellent taste and judgement, in addition to her other sterling qualities."

"And how do you support this statement?" Sirius asked sternly.

"I personally overheard her call Severus Snape a greasy, noodle-brained nitwit," Peter declared.

The four boys looked at each other.

"Right," Sirius said, sitting down. "Such perception renders Miss Evans worthy of the best the Marauders have to offer. But I'll be off on holiday, so she'll have to settle for this twit."

"Thanks so much for the encouragement, Padfoot."

"That's Chairman to you, Prongs."

"Right," Peter said. "Let's see if we've got this straight. You have one week to convince Evans that you're genuinely smitten, does that sum it up?"

"Pretty much, yes."

"You are genuinely smitten, I take it?" Remus asked.

James shrugged, smiling a little sheepishly, and didn't answer.

"But really, all this trouble just for a bird?" Peter said, taking a swig of butterbeer and eyeing James askance. "Are you sure she's worth it?"

James raised an eyebrow. "I believe it was you lot that kept after me to ask her out again, wasn't it? So really, this mess can be blamed entirely upon you, and if things go wrong I'll be coming for your heads, or whatever other part of your anatomy is handy." He grinned suddenly. "But to answer your question, yes, I think she's worth it. How many girls do you know who can run verbal circles around Snape like she did?"

Peter chuckled at the memory. "It was a sight worth seeing, no question. I don't think I've ever seen the greasy git look so furious."

"Wish I'd been there," Sirius sighed. "Is it too late to offer her a medal, do you think?"

"Attractive, intelligent, and hates Snape," Remus listed. "Evans does sound rather tailor-made for you, James."

"Yes, and let's not forget her...sterling qualities," Sirius said solemnly.

James lobbed a handy rock at Sirius. "I'll thank you to be respectful when talking about my future girlfriend, Padfoot. I am not interested in Lily just for her body."

"Nice try, Prongs, but we all know what a horny bastard you are," Sirius said lazily. This time everybody threw things at him, pelting him until he begged for mercy and muttered under his breath about finding a new meeting place that didn't involve rocks of any sort.

"But back to business," James announced after the furor had died down. "I have one week to charm Lily into staying at Hogwarts for the holidays. I've got a few ideas about where to start, but I could use some more. Any brilliant notions?"

"Actually charm her," Peter suggested. "Cast a Confundus Charm or a Cheering Charm or something, and then ask her while she's out of her head."

"Definitely not," Remus said at once. "All charms like that wear off sooner or later, and she'd be furious when it did. To say nothing of what McGonagall would do if she got wind of it."

"Exactly," James agreed. "Besides, what she actually said was that I should prove my sincerity--using spells to change her mind doesn't count. So what's the standard for showing a girl you like her?"

Sirius began counting on his fingers. "Flowers, sweets, stuffed animals, anything cute and cuddly…"

Peter choked on his butterbeer. After Remus had clapped him on the back a few times, he managed, "Sorry, sorry, it was just the idea of Gryffindor's star Chaser walking around with a toy diricrawl--"

Sirius snickered. "Maybe you could find a stuffed deer to give her, James. Tell her to name it Prongs but don't tell her why."

"This is all well and good," Remus said, hitting Peter on the back once more for good measure, "but I suspect it'll take more than flowers and sweets to get into Miss Evans' good graces."

"What then?" James asked.

Remus shrugged. "Who knows? Something unique, something only you'd come up with."

"Such as?"

"If I knew that, it wouldn't be something only you'd come up with!"

James tossed a Bertie Botts Every Flavour Bean at Remus' head. "Helpful, Moony, really helpful."

Remus lobbed a Bean back at James. "Well, you're the planner of the group. Come up with something."

"I plan pranks, Moony. I outwit teachers and greasy-haired Slytherins. Girls are a different matter entirely."

"So start with the traditional things and see how she takes them," Peter suggested. "If it doesn't work, you can come up with something else later. You've got a week, haven't you? That's loads of time. Pass the Pumpkin Pasties, won't you?"

James couldn't find any flaws in that reasoning, and the meeting rapidly disintegrated into the usual jumble of prank-planning, Slytherin-bashing, and good-natured fighting over the sweets, followed by the usual scramble to sneak back into the Gryffindor dorms without being caught.

The plan began simply enough. James snuck out of the castle early the next morning to run several errands in Hogsmeade. He missed breakfast and was half an hour late to History of Magic. This would have landed him in trouble if the class had been taught by anyone but Professor Binns, who was so busy lecturing about the origins of the Ministry of Magic that he didn't even notice James sneaking in. "I never thought I'd say this, but thank Merlin for Bore-of-the-Year Binns," James announced after class, once they were out of the classroom and on their way to the Greenhouse Eight for Herbology. Professor Binns' given name was Boromir, but Sirius had dubbed him Bore-of-the-Year back in their first term at Hogwarts, and the label had stuck. "I don't suppose there's any point in asking if I missed anything?"

"No point at all," Peter said. "A lot of rubbish about Alastair Beaufolle and the disbanding of the old Wizard's Council. It's all in your textbook if you really want to know, Binns never tells us anything that isn't."

"That's a relief," Sirius sighed. "I didn't hear any of it either."

"Nor did I," Remus said wryly. "Sirius was snoring so loud I couldn't make out a thing. Did you have any luck, James?"

James nodded. "Flowers in her dorm room, and the best box of chocolates Honeydukes' has to offer set to arrive by morning post."

"Good plan," Sirius said approvingly. "There's not a girl alive that can resist chocolate. That covers flowers and sweets. What's next if they don't work?"

"You'll find out when Lily does. Did she notice I was late to class, do you think?"

Peter sniggered. "Not likely, if the way her head kept slipping off her elbow is any indication. I think Binns could put a dragon to sleep, the way he goes on and on. Was he that dull when he was alive, d'you think?"

"Probably," Sirius said, in tones of utmost disgust; History of Magic was his least favourite class. "All history teachers are dull as spoons; I think it must be part of the job requirement."

James let loose a huge yawn, wishing he'd had a chance to nap in Binns' class himself; between the meeting last night and sneaking into Hogsmeade that morning, he was short on sleep. It was lucky there wasn't a Quidditch practice scheduled for today, or he'd fall asleep on his broom. Kit had once joked that James was such a good Chaser he could score goals while asleep, but James wasn't keen to try it. "I hope we're doing something really boring in Herbology today," he said, rubbing his eyes. "I'm dead on my feet."

"No such luck, I'm afraid," Remus said ruefully. "We're collecting weaselweed pollen; I heard it from one of the Hufflepuffs. If half the rumours are true, we'll be chasing them all over the greenhouse."

"Just what I need," James groaned.

"Don't worry, James." Sirius grinned. "If you die of a nasty weaselweed bite, we'll be sure to tell Lily Evans that your last thoughts were of her."

James meant to tell Sirius to sod off, but only got as far as "So--" before he was interrupted by another yawn.

The rest of the day seemed to pass quickly, because James was half-asleep (and sometimes more than half) for most of it. Fortunately, he managed to escape being bitten by any of the weaselweeds in spite of this. Sirius was not so lucky; one of the weaselweeds spat a large amount of pollen directly into his face, and he was sent to the hospital wing to be treated for mild poisoning. He rejoined them in the Great Hall for dinner, wearing a sulky expression. "Sodding weaselweeds," he growled, taking a seat next to James. "Madam Pomfrey says I won't be able to taste anything properly for two days. And we're having chicken tonight, too. Life is distinctly unfair."

"Didn't anyone tell you, Sirius?" Peter said, pointing a drumstick towars him. "It's 'Be Cruel To Sirius' Day. We all decided this morning."

"Oh it is, is it?"

"Yes indeed. Official holiday and all that. We're even writing a letter to Parliament, to get it declared nationally. Pass the potatoes, won't you?"

It was only the timely intervention of Remus, who grabbed Sirius' arm at the last minute, that spared Peter from having the mashed potatoes dumped on his head. A small-scale food fight immediately ensued; but for once, James was uninvolved. He was glancing down the Gryffindor table, trying to catch Lily Evans' eye. She must have found the bouquet of flowers by this point. He'd left them attached to the sixth-year girls' door, along with a small card with "Lily" written in gold letters; he hadn't had time to sneak into the dorm itself and determine which bunk was hers.

But to his disappointment, Lily didn't so much as look at him through the entire meal, though she was sitting nearby; she was so absorbed in her conversation with Demeter Demaris and Cassie Tenax that she didn't seem to notice him. James frowned; this wouldn't do at all.

It wasn't until after dinner that he was able to catch up with her; Demeter and Cassie had walked off towards the library, and Lily was heading back towards the Gryffindor Common Room. James told Sirius, Remus, and Peter to sod off for a minute and followed her. Somewhat to his relief, she turned as soon as he called her name, and followed when he gestured to a less crowded corridor. James had intended to start by saying something clever or flattering, but somehow the question that was actually on his mind slipped out before he could manage it. "Did you get them?"

"The flowers? Yes, this morning," Lily answered, smiling. "But really, James…lilies?"

"It seemed appropriate," he said, a bit stung. "Besides, they're nice, aren't they?"

"Oh, very nice," she said pertly. "Not very creative, but nice."

"I wasn't aiming for creative this time, just nice," James protested. "Was it at least a good start?"

She shrugged. "That depends on how you follow up."

"You certainly are hard to please; most girls would be delighted by a bouquet like that."

"Well, I'm not like most girls then."

"Yes, I'd sussed that. What does it take to get on your good side?"

"Something more than realizing I'm named after a flower, I'm afraid; do you really think you're the first person to notice?" Lily's smile turned into a grin. "Traditional is another word for lazy in romance as well as in playing pranks." With that she turned and walked off, and James had no choice but to find his own friends and reassess his strategy.

Sirius, Remus, and Peter could hardly fail to notice James' gloomy expression, and had this latest development out of him in minutes. After five minutes of protesting Lily's ingratitude, admitting that she had a point ("Why didn't you get roses instead?" "Still too predictable." "Dandelions then. You should have gotten dandelions."), and generally stating that all girls were mad anyway, it was Sirius who brought up the real question: "Well, what now?"

James drummed his fingers on the tabletop. "Well, she gets the chocolates tomorrow morning; she'll probably think they're uncreative too, but it's too late to do anything about it. So I need to think of something unusual for after that."

"You could always give the chocolates to us instead," Peter offered hopefully. "We appreciate Honeydukes' finest more than she will."

"Get your own sodding sweets, Wormtail."

"Spell out both your names in fireworks in the Great Hall," Remus suggested, returning to the matter at hand. "Flashy, effective, and it makes a lasting impression. Of course, you'd have to endure the teasing from everyone in school for the rest of the year--"

"I'm getting more than enough from you lot already!"

Remus continued as though no one else had spoken. "--but love's worth a few sacrifices, don't you think?"

"I don't think she'd appreciate me making it that obvious it's me who's after her, though," James mused. "I bet she'd think it was conceited, you know. Like I was bragging about having a flame for her. She already thinks I'm big-headed, and the last thing I want to do is give her reasons for it."

"You are big-headed!" Peter said, laughing. "Wasn't it you that wrote 'Quidditch God' above your bed after you made the team back in third year?"

James shrugged, grinning. "Well, make sure Lily doesn't find that out, then. Anyway, I don't want the whole school in on this. They'd just get in the way."

"So, find something that's obviously meant to get her attention, something she'll know you did, but that nobody else can trace back to you," Peter said lazily. "Should be easy, we do that sort of thing all the time."

"Everyone knows it's us pulling those pranks, though," Remus pointed out.

"Everyone thinks it's us pulling those pranks, Moony m'boy," Sirius said loftily. "But no one can prove a thing, and we admit nothing. Not officially, anyway."

"That's a thought," James said slowly. "What have we gotten away with in the past?"

Sirius began counting off on his fingers. "Dyeing the Quidditch pitch blue, poisoning Snape about a hundred times, scaring the life out of half of Hogsmeade 'cause they thought I was a Grim--"

"Don't forget the time we jinxed all the chairs at the Head Table so the professors kept slipping out of them," Peter said. "I liked that one. So did Flitwick, as I remember; he kept getting back in his seat for another go."

"Or the time we hexed the mirrors on the first floor to whistle whenever a pretty girl walked by," Sirius remembered fondly. "Paulina Prismon just about went spare trying to figure out who was doing it."

"Or when we put that Slippery Solution all over the floors in the dungeon, and so that everyone had to skate to Potions on brushes until they got rid of it." Remus laughed. "Or--"

James was thinking very fast; he had the beginnings of an idea. "Sirius, could you sneak down to the kitchens tonight and ask the house elves to do me a favour?"

"That's a nice thing to ask a man who can't taste anything," Sirius said reproachfully.

"So stock up on things to eat after that pollen's worn off while you're there. I need you to ask the house elves to do something for me."

Sirius shrugged. "Anything for a mate, I suppose. But what makes you think they'll help?"

James waved a hand. "You know house elves, they're all romantics, they'll love it. That'll be easy to set up. Remus, Peter, could you help me with something else? We'll have to sneak out to the grounds, but that's never hard."

"What? Why us?" Peter asked.

"And why not me?" Sirius protested, indignant.

"Because I need Remus' skill with tricky charms and Peter's skill with measuring things out properly. And because you have a date in the kitchens, or had you forgotten?"

"So? Whoever said I was only allowed to do one bit of mischief a night?"

"This'll take more than one night, Sirius; you can come along tomorrow for moral support. Tonight, stick to the kitchens."

"What's your plan, James?" Remus wanted to know.

James grinned. "I'll tell you tonight. We'll need to sneak out at about midnight; this will take a while to set up, which is why I want to do it in two nights. The usual drill; if Peter goes rat, the three of us should fit under the Invisibility Cloak enough to avoid attention."

"I haven't agreed to anything yet," Peter protested. "Maybe you can blow off revising and hare about at all hours of the day or night and still get good grades, Prongs, but the rest of us aren't so lucky. The only classes I'm not behind in are Arithmancy and Astronomy, and arsed if I know what I'm going to do about the others."

"What are you so worried about, Wormtail?" Sirius asked. "It's almost the holidays, you won't have any trouble catching up then."

Peter glared at him. "Maybe that was true before, but not lately; the teachers are giving us all a load of new homework for Christmas. And we take the N.E.W.T.'s next year."

"That's next year, though. Ages and ages away."

"Tell it to McGonagall."

James leaned forward. "Look Peter, help me out for the next few nights and I swear I'll help you with your Transfiguration homework. Fair enough? Only you've got to help me with Astronomy; if Professor Ophiuchus gives us any more star charts to memorise, I'll be swimming in them."

Peter brightened at this. "All right, just promise that we won't be out all night; we have Care of Magical Creatures tomorrow morning, and Kettleburn said if I fell asleep in class again he'd feed me to a manticore."


The rest of the week found the students, staff, and generally everyone who happened to be in the area of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in a more or less continual state of astonishment. The first odd thing to happen took place at breakfast the next morning: when Lily Evans sat down at the Gryffindor table, a small white cake appeared in front of her. It was decorated with red and gold frosting, and had a large "L' written in the centre. All the Gryffindor girls present at the cake's appearance spent the rest of the meal wondering who was responsible. Lily only shrugged and said it was probably poisoned, though that didn't stop her from ignoring that morning's porridge in favour of the cake, which she shared with her friends Demeter and Cassie. One second-year giggled that Lily must have an admirer, but aside from some teasing about a smitten house-elf no one paid much attention to this.

The rumour gained more credence in Gryffindor House on Thursday afternoon, when Lily entered her dorm to find her bunk covered with an assortment of fireflowers, smokeblossoms, and sparkweed, all specially enchanted not to set fire to the bed. The other sixth-year girls were amazed, not least because entering the girls' dorms involved getting past a number of tricky charms. Lily pursed her lips, but gathered the flowers together neatly and kept them by her bedside until Demeter, who had the next bed, complained that the fireflowers gave off too much light for her to sleep, whereupon Lily moved them to the common room.

The whole school was convinced that Lily Evans was being courted when a gigantic box of Honeydukes' best chocolates was set before her at breakfast on Friday morning. The box was so large and heavy that two owls were required to manage it. Lily was immediately mobbed with questions, suggestions, and requests to share; but while she was more than willing to give away some of her present, she was not so forthcoming with guesses as to who had sent it.

But the real surprise came on Saturday during the Hufflepuff-Slytherin match, when the whole school trudged up to the Quidditch pitch to find that some unknown person or persons had written the words "Will you come to the dance with me?" on the Quidditch pitch in giant shining red letters. As if that weren't enough, at random intervals the players' brooms would emit coloured smoke, which spelled the words "Midwinter Dance, December 22nd." Several time-outs were called, but neither team was willing to forfeit the match to discover what was going on, so the players managed as best they could.

"Brilliant plan, James," Sirius said fondly. "Particularly the bit with the brooms."

"Yes, and isn't it lovely how the Slytherins are so unnerved that they keep missing their shots?" James grinned. "Nice side benefit, that; they've been neck and neck for points with Gryffindor for the Cup until now."

"Now there's a born Quidditch player for you," Remus said to Peter, rolling his eyes. "Even when he's not on the field he finds a way to sabotage his opponents."

James glanced at Remus with mock-disapproval. "Now really Moony, don't you want Gryffindor to win the Cup? Where's your team spirit?" He looked back towards the field, where the Hufflepuff team (who were less easily distracted than the Slytherins) had just scored their fifth goal. "I do like a plan that accomplishes several goals at once. I get Lily's attention and stymie the Slytherins all in one goal; what could be better?"

"I dunno," Peter drawled. "I rather like the way we're just sitting here, innocent as lambs, with all that chaos going on. I love getting away with things. Think Lily's guessed it's for her?"

Sirius looked back over his shoulder. "If the way she's got her head in her hands means anything, yep."

James stretched his arms above his head and watched with pleasure as a Hufflepuff broom emitted the word "--dance" in purple smoke just after the Chaser riding it scored another goal. "Serves her right for daring me to be creative." He smirked. "She's just lucky I don't have them spelling her name; that was the original plan, but I thought it'd be too much."

"Doesn't seem to have helped," Remus said. "Everyone knows it's meant for her. The Gryffindors do, anyway."

James shrugged. "Well, she could've just said 'yes' and saved herself all the attention."

"Just so, mate," Sirius approved.

James spent the rest of Saturday afternoon thoroughly pleased with himself, not least because Hufflepuff slaughtered Slytherin at two-hundred thirty points to forty. He'd managed flowers, chocolates, and a public demonstration. His week of trial was almost over, but he wasn't worried; surely, even Lily Evans would be convinced that he was serious by now. He wondered if it would be better to track her down and get details about the dance, or to let her come to him.

The question was taken out of his hands on Saturday evening, when Lily cornered him by the stairs up to the second floor after dinner. "Not exactly subtle, are you?" was all she said as greeting.

James grinned. "You told me to be convincing."

"I told you to be sincere, not flashy."

"Who says I can't do both? You never said how I was supposed to go about it, aside from being creative."

She smiled. "That bit today certainly was unexpected, I'll give you that. How did you bewitch those brooms? They're kept locked up before games."

James tried not to look too smug. "My lips are sealed," he said. Peter had gone rat, snuck into the Quidditch shed, and opened the door from inside, which neatly bypassed all the alarms. "But you still haven't answered my question. Will you go to the dance with me or not?"

Lily shrugged, raising her eyebrow in that gesture he was starting to find very familiar. "I haven't decided yet."

"What?" James was incredulous. "Merlin's Beard, Lily, what does it take to convince you? Should I throw myself off the roof of the Great Hall or something?"

"Certainly not." Her eyes twinkled. "Gryffindor's got a nice shot at the Quidditch Cup after today. If I do anything to harm the team's star Chaser, Kit will come for my head."

James smiled a bit despite himself; Kit could be very vengeful whenever he thought one of his team-mates was being mistreated. "I could threaten to tell him you're breaking my heart; he'd come after you for that, too."

Lily tossed her head. "You barely know me, and I find it hard to believe your heart would break just because I refused to go to one little, trifling dance with you."

"It's not that you won't go, it's that you haven't given me an answer one way or the other," James grumbled. "And if it's such a little, trifling dance, why not go with me? Where's the harm?"

"Well, what if I get another offer?"

"Then I'll make a better one."

"You make me sound like some sort of prize in an auction house."

"You're the one who's turned this into a contest, and Merlin knows I'm running myself ragged trying to win it." James sighed and ran a hand through his hair, not caring that this would make it stick up even more than it usually did. "I said it before, Lily; I like you, and I'd like to go to the dance with you. Is that sincere enough for you, or should I go throw myself off the Great Hall?"

He thought he saw a sympathetic expression flash across her face, but probably he only imagined it, because her next words were just as discouraging. "I hardly think the situation's that drastic. And I have one more day left to make up my mind, you'll remember. So you still have twenty-four hours more or less to convince me to come with you." She smiled, a bit wryly. "I'm not sure how you could top that display down at the Quidditch pitch, but seeing as it's you I'm sure you'll come up with something."

And with that she left.

James mused over the conversation that had just occurred and found that he wasn't as disheartened as he expected. Lily might say she was unimpressed, but she still hadn't turned him down, and she had kept the fireflower assortment he'd left for her. That was a good sign, wasn't it? But there was no denying the situation was getting more and more ridiculous. If the girl wanted to go to the dance with him, she could just say so instead of testing him like this. Still, he wasn't about to give up just because things seemed difficult; he wasn't through by a long shot.

The problem was...he was out of ideas.


"I never thought I'd hear James Potter admit he was out of ideas," Remus said with open astonishment."Hell must have frozen over. Was Filch elected Minister of Magic while I wasn't paying attention?"

"Well, not completely out of ideas," James defended. "I thought of clubbing her on the head and hauling her off to the dance by her hair, but somehow I don't think she'd fancy the Neandertal approach."

"Probably not the best way to earn her affection, no."

"James, you idiot, couldn't you have fallen for someone who actually liked you?" Peter groaned.

"I think she does like me," James said reflectively. "She's just being stubborn."

"Not at all like you, of course." Remus laughed. "I'll be a bit sorry if she gives in. Watching the two of you try to out-stubborn each other is the best entertainment I've had in months."

James ignored this. "I've tried charm, wit, and romance--to say nothing of flowers, chocolate, and flashy displays--and so far nothing has had any effect," he mused. "What's left?"

Peter grinned. "Go down on your knees and beg."

"In your dreams, Wormtail."

Sirius let out an exaggerated sigh. "I am surrounded by nitwits."

All eyes immediately turned to the fourth member of the quartet, as he had clearly intended. "Nitwits, are we," Remus growled.

James swallowed his irritation. "Right then. If you're so clever, tell me what to do next."

Sirius leaned forward in a conspiratorial manner. "Nothing, and I do mean nothing, makes an impression on a girl like--" He paused for effect. "--persistence."

Remus snorted. "He's only got one day left, dolt. He's done nothing but follow her around for the past week--longer than that, if you count those weeks of staring at her across the table in the main hall. How much more persistent can he get?"

Sirius flashed them a smug grin. "You misunderstand, my dear Moony. If you can't impress a girl with your sincerity, there's only one other way to go. You've tried being nice, Prongs. Now it's time to get nasty."

James blinked. Then an echoing grin slowly spread across his face.


"I'm Henry the Eighth I am, Henry the Eighth I am I am…"

James didn't sing very well. For once, this was an advantage.

"I got married to the widow next door…"

Lily growled, flipping the pages of her book in obvious irritation.

"She's been married seven times before…"

James was particularly enjoying his latest plan of attack. It involved a classic Marauder tactic: if you can't beat them, annoy the hell out of them. Chosen weapons: his own out-of-tune singing, an impossibly irritating song, the invisibility cloak, and a difficult Transfiguration assignment. He sang just loudly enough to distract Lily from her revising, but not loudly enough for anyone else to realise there was someone with her; he was safely concealed under his invisibility cloak. So far he'd followed her into the Gryffindor common room, the main hall, and even one of the girl's bathrooms. In desperation she'd run to the quiet and ever-populated library, but he followed her there as well, singing quietly all the while. It wasn't the most romantic of plans, but it was having the desired effect; Lily was obviously nearing her wits' end. "Do you mind?" she hissed loudly.

James stopped singing to answer. "Not at all," he whispered. "I can go on for hours, you know. Is there anything in particular you'd like to hear? I know the first two verses of the latest hit by the Hobgoblins."

"I'd like to hear you drop dead! I have to study, James! Go away!"

"Sorry, no can do."

She glared into empty space, about a foot away from where James was actually standing. "You're not helping your case, you know; this just makes going home seem appealing. At first I was welcoming an excuse to avoid my sister, but now I think she might be the lesser evil."

"I bet she's not nearly as charming as I am, though."

"At the moment you're about as charming as the Whomping Willow."

"Well, and whose fault is that? I tried being nice, and it didn't get me anywhere. Obviously the best idea was to change tactics."

Lily covered her face with her hands. "I should've admitted I liked the fireflowers," she said, her voice muffled. "And the thing on the Quidditch pitch was flattering too, even if it was far more showy than anything I expected you to do."

"Clearly you underestimated me."


"At least you know I can be nice."

"If you were nice, you'd stop singing and leave me alone!"

"Not until you say you'll go to the dance with me."

"I should just say no, go home for Christmas, and never speak to you again. At this rate I'll fail Transfiguration because of you."

James glanced around to make sure no one was watching, then whipped off the invisibility cloak. As Lily jumped in surprise, he sat down across the table from her. "Going home for Christmas might keep you safe for a few weeks, but what about when you get back?"

She paled. "You're not serious."

"Oh, entirely. Just think of it: me, popping up whenever you least expect it, singing constantly whenever you try to study, and nothing you can do about it because no one else will be able to see me…"

Lily eyed him with a level gaze. "Let me get this straight. I should go on a date with you, because if I don't, you'll stalk me?"

"Until you've been driven absolutely barking mad, yep."

She leaned forward. "And what's to keep me from complaining to one of the teachers? Or telling Filch about that cloak of yours? I imagine he'd find it very interesting to know who's responsible for all the pranks that have been played this year."

James was unintimidated. "First, you won't tell Filch about the cloak because you said you wouldn't, and no matter what you think of me, you keep your promises. Second, if you tell any of the teachers, I'll just find some other way to pester you. I'm sure Sirius and Remus and Peter would be only too delighted to help, and even Dumbledore can't keep an eye on all four of us all of the time. Third, if you alienate me, who'd help you finish your Transfiguration assignment?" He flashed her what he hoped was a charming grin. "Is going to one little dance with me so terrible a thing, in comparison?"

She grinned back. "You're impossible."

"So I'm often told."

"If I accept your invitation and stay for the holidays and go to the bloody dance with you, then you'll stop pestering me like this?"

"Maybe." His grin grew wider.

Lily shook her head in mock resignation. "At the very least, instead of pestering me now, you'll make yourself useful by helping me with all the Transfiguration homework I haven't been able to do because of you?"


"I have one more condition."

"Name it."

She leaned forward. "You are never, ever, ever to sing around me again."

James laughed. "Deal."

Lily leaned back, crossing her arms. "All right. I'll stay at Hogwarts for the holidays, and I'll go to this dance with you. But Merlin be my witness, if you don't show me a good time, I'll hex you so badly you won't be able to sit down for a week."

"That's fair," James agreed, grinning. "Now, how far had you gotten with the homework before you were so rudely interrupted?"

Lily made a sound that was halfway between a groan and a laugh, and pushed the Transfiguration text towards him.

Bwaha. Bwhahahahaha. Don't think the chasing is over just because she's going to the dance, mateys; we're far from finished. It's not over until they're a couple, after all, and one dance does not a relationship make.

And now for some notes. Ahem:

JKR has never specified a first name for Professor Binns. I decided that it should be Boromir. I decided this entirely so that I could then nickname him Bore-of-the-Year Binns.

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them describes a diricrawl as a bird that disappears at will and reappears somewhere else in order to escape danger. The idea of a toy diricrawl amuses me utterly, though I bet it'd drive parents to distraction, as they'd never stay where you left them!

The idea of James going invisible and singing "Henry the Eighth" in order to annoy Lily into doing what he wanted was inspired by a similar scene from the 80s movie Ghost. Great scene. And it was such a Jamesish thing to do, I couldn't resist. Thanks to Spookykat for informing me that "Henry the Eighth" was popularized by a British group back in the 60s and thus it'd be entirely likely that James would know it.

The mention of Alastair Beaufolle and the Wizard's Council is a tip of the hat towards Ariana Deralte's absolutely smashing Uric the Oddball fics, which everyone in HP fandom should be forced to read. I'm going to marry Uric, by the way.

My anthropologist friend Allison has informed me that Neanderthal should actually be spelled Neandertal, but nobody outside of the anthropology profession ever gets it right. I bow to her superior knowledge of the subject, as she's the one who spends her days measuring monkey skulls.

As I have mentioned before: there is a very definite reason why the Marauders call themselves the Marauders (though you'll note they only do so when they're in their hideout). I don't use the name because of the "Marauder's Map" (the grammar of which only indicates a map to be used by one would-be marauder), but because I like the name. I have a story for how the name came about, and one day I will tell it. 'Til then, those of you who can't stand the term Marauders (*coughWeavescough*) will just have to put up with it. Least I don't overdo things, ne? *gryn*

As a small point, in my fic Peter is a halfblood, and would be just as likely to consider writing Parliament as the Ministry. Trust me when I tell you that he'd be more likely to say Parliament, though to explain why would take more time/space than these author's notes merit.

A number of people have asked me to email them when new chapters are completed. Frankly, so many people have asked that I cannot possibly keep track it all. This is why I created the Jamescentric Mailing List. All updates, as well as numerous other things, will be posted to the ML before anywhere else. If you join up and set your Email Preferences to "Special Notices," it'll be just as if I were emailing you personally to tell you about a chapter update.

Be warned: I'm about to move to Scotland and start grad school (yeehah!), so it may be a while before there's a new chapter.