Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
7:14pm; Monday 31st October, 1977 – Great Hall
The Hallowe'en feast was one of James Potter's favourite pastimes of Hogwarts. The candles, the food… and the chance to pull as many pranks as he and the Marauders could. All in the name of the Hallowe'en spirit, of course.
The Great Hall was decorated as grandly as every other year. Thousands of live bats flittered far above his head near the enchanted ceiling, the tables filled to the brim with an assortment of both muggle and wizard sweets and crisps, and the carved pumpkins would howl a haunting tune whenever someone passed by, which almost making him revert back to a first year and giggle with undignified glee.
Seating himself proudly at the centre of the Gryffindor table, his Head Boy badge glinting on his chest, he called out greetings to his jovial classmates. A flurry of robes was all the warning James got before an arm was wrapped around his neck and a hand was dragged roughly through his hair, accompanied with cackling laughter.
"Oi! Ger'roff, Sirius!" James cried as he shoved an elbow into his friend's ribs, making the taller boy collapse into the seat next to his with a wheezing laugh.
"No fun at all, Prongsie. What? You worried that Evans is gonna dump you if you have bad hair? You'd have to get her to even look your way in the first place." Sirius teased as he slid into his seat properly.
James frowned before a voice answered for him, "Leave him alone, Padfoot. I'm sure James is still recovering from the last knock-back he received from Lily in Defence class."
Remus fell into his own seat opposite tiredly, the dark bruises under his eyes standing out more under the dim candle light, looking as high-strung as the third years they had terrified earlier that day with the charmed suits of armour.
James felt his cheery holiday mood plummet into the depths of his stomach at the mention of his latest embarrassing encounter with the red-haired beauty. Being shot down in front of his friends was one thing, but being told that she didn't even consider him a 'last resort' in front of Snivellus and the rest of the wannabe Death Eaters right in the middle of class was a low-blow. He'd barely even been flirting with her to receive such a harsh tongue-lashing.
"Cheer up, Prongs. I'm sure you'll be able to wear her down one of these days!" Peter Pettigrew squeaked as he sat down next to Remus, a sincere smile splayed across his chubby cheeks.
"Thanks," James replied sardonically, "That's really good to know, Wormtail. The only way I'd be able to get Lily to be my girlfriend is exhausting her into it."
"Oh, I didn't mean it like that." Peter's face dropped, but James ignored him.
Sirius slapped him on the back, "Don't fuss about it, mate. It's Hallowe'en! The Marauder's time to shine!"
James glanced wistfully over to where Lily sat with her friends, who was pointedly making an effort not to look in his direction. James sighed, "Yeah, I guess so."
Sirius turned to Remus and Peter and announced, "I think it's time to find Mr Potter here a new bird."
"What's wrong with Callidus?" asked Peter as he reached out to grasp a handful of Honeydukes' finest.
"He means a woman, Peter, not his owl." Remus clarified for the distracted boy.
James leaned heavily on his palm, watching the pretty redhead from down the table laughing with her friends, "No one could replace Lily." he mourned.
Sirius snorted while Remus rolled his eyes at Peter patting his hand consolingly.
5:32pm; Tuesday 1st November, 1977 – Hospital Wing Corridor
Quidditch practice the next day had been a complete failure, with a freak storm hitting them right in the middle of one of their rotations to drench the lot of them. James' sight had been obscured so badly by his rain-speckled glasses that he had run head-first into one of the posts, leading to him having a rather nasty bump and a cancelled training session.
His head throbbing, James reached the entrance to the Hospital Wing, his sopping red and gold robes making his movement sluggish as he stumbled through the doors, steeling himself for the inevitable scolding of Madam Hale that was sure to send his mildly aching head into pure torment with her loud and scratchy voice.
Peeling off his outer robes and shoes, not caring about the mud that he had surely tracked across the floor with him, he collapsed on the nearest vacant bed and shut his eyes with a blissful sigh. Soft footfalls shortly met his ears and he let out a dramatic groan of pain throwing his arm over his eyes, knowing it would attract the attention of the ancient medi-witch.
"Are you alright?" A kind voice asked. Definitely not the old crone's.
Uncovering his hazel eyes and snapping them open, he was surprised to find them clash with a wide pair of rich chocolate brown hovering over him, surrounded by a halo of thick, dark hair.
"W-who… who are you?" He stuttered, raising a hand to his chest to grasp at his heart where it was attempting to leap into his throat. He hadn't expected to have such a pretty witch to be standing over him. If he had, he wouldn't have put on such a terrible and weak act.
The witch took a hurried step back as if she'd received a shock at the sight of him. James automatically twisted to watch her move over to side table, sorting distractedly through an array of potion vials seated on top.
The young witch almost seemed to stutter over her words as she blurted out, "I'm Madam Hale's nursing assistant. But she's off in Wales due to some family issues, so I'm her replacement for the rest of the school year."
James nodded slowly as he tried to comprehend her words, "What's your name?"
The pretty girl sent him a thin smile and said, "Hermione Granger. But its Madam Granger while I'm working," the witch seemed to hesitate before asking in a thick voice, "You're James Potter, right? I've seen you around the school before."
James forgot his name entirely at seeing her smile.
"Yeah," he squeaked, shaking himself out of his reverie before clearing his throat and trying again in a voice much deeper than his own, "Yeah, I'm James Potter." He gave he an easy grin that he knew sent every girl (except Evans) swooning.
Hermione simply gave him a small frown, her eyes growing sad as if she was remembering something, before she turned back to her potions, not looking at him, "So what seems to be the problem, Mr Potter? It must be a terrible affliction if it's forced you to drag as much mess as possible through the Hospital Wing."
James blushed as he guiltily looked at the thick trail of mud he had brought in, along with the soiled robes and shoes he had dropped carelessly by the bedside.
"Headache." He mumbled, feeling quite childish as he pointed to the bump on his forehead.
Hermione clucked her tongue and picked up a large tub, "Well, nothing a simple healing salve can't fix." She stated manner-of-factly.
As she leant over him to apply the thick purple cream, James couldn't help but take in the scent of the unruly hair that brushed against his nose. The smell of dusty books and sugar quills filled his olfactory senses and his breath caught, making Hermione pull her surprisingly calloused hand away with a mutter of "sorry" as she carefully stuck a plaster under his fringe.
With a flick of her wand, James felt the pressure in his head die away with a cooling sensation making Hermione huff satisfied and, twisting on her heel without another glance, the witch called over her shoulder to him, "Please try to be more careful, Mr Potter. The last thing I'd want is for you to become a regular visitor."
As he watched Hermione scuttle into her office with a bang of her door, James decided that his seventh year was definitely going to be an interesting one.
6:04pm; Friday 4th November, 1977 – Gryffindor Common Room
"Have you met the new nurse yet?" James asked as he sat in front of the cheery Common Room fire, his legs stretched out towards the hearth.
Sirius rolled his eyes from one of the armchairs he was lazily reclining in, "Yes, James. We met her after Mooney's monthly visit. I just told you that."
James hesitated, "Oh, really? I don't remember that."
Remus spoke up, not taking his eyes off the little white chess pieces that were trying to sneakily trying to behead his knight at Peter's urgings, "I believe you were serving a detention with Professor Bulwark at the time, for hexing Snape in the corridors."
"Bloody git deserved it if you ask me." Sirius chortled, swinging his legs over the chair's arm.
James laughed along with him before he registered Sirius' words, "Wait, so does that mean she knows?"
"Yep!" Peter piped up cheerily as he swiped Remus' rook, "Madam Granger took one look at Mooney and sent him straight to bed with a dreamless sleep draught and a block of chocolate."
James blinked at the revelation, "And she didn't run off screaming?"
Sirius shrugged, "She looked a bit pale at first, but she seemed more freaked out by Wormtail than Remus or me."
"I can't help it if I'm an intimidating sort of guy." Peter joked.
James snorted, wriggling his sock-clad toes merrily as the fire's heat started to soak through, as he watched the Common Room's portrait hole swing open to reveal his long-time heartache.
Hopping to his feet and disregarding his amused friends entirely, he made after the disgruntled girl with an ecstatic, "Hey, Evans!"
10:33am; Wednesday 16th November, 1977 – Potions Dungeons
James hissed as his hand began to swell, trying to ignore the Slytherin's guffaws as the angry yellow boils grew to a tremendous size. Wrenching off his dragon-hide gloves, he watched mournfully as his right hand began to resemble a deformed, knobbly spider.
Professor Slughorn batted his own hands furiously at the sight of James, "Oh— oh dear, this is quite unfortunate, Mr Potter, to imagine such a small tear in the fingertip could result in this. Er, Miss Evans, would you please escort your fellow Head to the Hospital Wing while I get this cleaned up?"
Lily gave the Potions master a reluctant nod as she quickly led the way out of the dungeons, James shuffling behind a few feet cradling his palm. They walked in a tense silence out of the dungeons up to the first floor where the Hospital Wings was located, with James being too embarrassed to say anything witty and Lily still too annoyed at him for coaxing a group of first year Gryffindors into feeding the Giant Squid leftovers that morning.
Reaching the entrance, Lily braved a glance at him, pointing at the closed doors, "Well, there you go."
James looked sheepish as he gestured at his hand, "Er, would you mind…"
Lily heaved a sigh as she pushed open the heavy doors, wandering in after the injured boy, "Madam Granger?" she called out into the empty Hospital Wing, "Are you here?" silence followed her question.
"Huh, guess not," James said, seating himself on the edge of a bed as he asked slyly, "Want to keep me company while I wait? It'd be terribly lonely by myself."
"Ten minutes is not that long, Potter." Lily said, but despite her words, sat down in a chair nearby.
"Without you, ten minutes feels like a lifetime."
Lily scoffed, "You're a walking encyclopaedia of clichés."
They sat exchanging barbed words and lavishing compliments for another quarter hour before Lily suggested they check the nurse's office. James was reluctant to leave but grandly offered her his uninjured arm, which Lily refused quite bluntly, although she smiled. James felt on top of the world despite his painful disfigurement.
Slipping into the back rooms, Lily and James found themselves confronted by a mountain of books, with towers threatening to topple over at the slightest opportunity. Weaving their way through the precarious piles, James quite literally stumbled into a large oak desk, making the pretty young medi-witch seated opposite drop her book in fright.
"Mr Potter, Miss Evans! What are you doing back here?" Hermione blinked owlishly at them as James righted himself with Lily's help, careful of his swollen hand.
Lily ignored the nurse's question, "Have you been here this whole time, Madam? Potter and I have been waiting for you for ages."
Hermione hurriedly closed her book (which James curiously noted was called Tidnick Theed's Time-Travel Theories and Testaments) and leapt to her feet, "I'm so sorry! I must have gotten caught up in my research."
"S'no problem, 'Mione, I got to spend some very lovely bonding time with my Lily-pad, after all."
Lily and Hermione both glared at James, "Don't call me that."
The Gryffindor recognised trouble and kept his mouth closed. He might be brave, but he wasn't stupid.
Hermione reined her temper in first and asked calmly, "Now what's the problem that you felt the rather abrupt urge to charge into my desk, Mr Potter?"
James slowly raised his mottled and bloated right hand, strangely feeling much more embarrassed at Hermione seeing it than Lily, "Bubotuber pus got through my glove." He sullenly admitted.
Hermione winced sympathetically, "Ugh, nasty stuff that. Come on, let's get that healed up then."
3:24pm; Monday 12th December, 1977 – Hogwarts' Grounds
James shivered in his thin white uniform shirt as he and a handful of Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs and a single Slytherin stood at the edge of the frozen grounds. It was nearing Christmas fast and the snow was beginning to lay its thick white coat across everything, soaking into James' socks and leaving his toes frozen. Care of Magical Creatures, usually one of James' favourite classes, was starting to become something he despised.
Professor Kettleburn (who honestly had less sense than remaining limbs) was gesturing grandly at an empty spot of air by the edge of the Forbidden Forest, flailing his arm as he prattled on about some flightless bird called a Diricawl. James stomped his feet in an attempt to evade the cold, his throat felt raspy and his head fuzzy as he shivered again. He guessed that the sudden overnight snowfall was his punishment for setting off his stash of Dr. Filibuster's Wet-Start, No-Heat Fireworks a few days ago, resulting in his last clean pair of robes catching fire and combusting, leaving him without any proper winter wear for the rest of the week when the House-Elves would be done washing his spares. He was beginning to regret taking up the class, since all three of his friends had opted out, instead choosing to take Muggle Studies, and in Remus' case, Arithmancy.
Finally, the class ended by the time the snow had melted through James' shirt, trickling uncomfortably down his spine as he stomped his way through the ankle-deep snow up to the castle, ruffling his hair loose of the frozen flakes. He was thankful at least that it was his last class for the day as the snow was starting to fall heavier.
Deciding to forgo the chance of meeting Lily outside of Arithmancy with Remus, James stumbled up the Entrance Hall's stairs to head back to the Gryffindor Tower as violent, cold tremors continued to rattle through him. Finally reaching the Fat Lady's portrait, James mumbled the password and dragged himself in, heading straight for his dormitory to collapse onto his bed with a groan. Not even bothering to change into his pyjamas, the boy tore off his glasses, uncaring where they fell or if they broke, and drifted off into a fitful sleep.
Loud banging woke him up shortly after, making James wrap himself up further in his cocoon of sheets. Muffled voices echoed through the room, but he couldn't seem to find the energy to bother listening to what they were saying. A warm hand touched James' shoulder, making him peek out from under his covers to see the unfocused face of Remus staring down at him worriedly. The lycanthropic boy mumbled something that James couldn't understand before he gave up and drifted off to sleep again.
It was dark when James woke up again, a single lantern was lit by his bedside that left long shadows on the walls and the room was quiet. Untangling himself from his sheets, the Head Boy slid out of his bed to find himself dressed in his sleepwear, he couldn't quite remember if he'd changed out of his uniform or not before falling asleep. Looking over at his side table, he found his horn-rimmed glasses carefully seated on top without a single smudge or scratch on the glass.
His stomach rumbled loudly, allowing James to conclude where his housemates were. It must be dinnertime. Shuffling his way around the room, James sluggishly headed for his trunk to pull out some of his cleaner clothes. The shirt and trousers he'd worn to class had vanished, but James decided not to put too much thought into it, assuming either Remus or Peter would have gotten a House-elf to pick them up for him.
Sliding off his sleeping shirt, James languidly began to pull on an old worn sweater in hopes of being able to catch the end of dinner (or at least dessert. He could only hope that Peter hadn't scarfed it all down) when a sharp voice called out, "Where do you think you're going?"
James jumped with his sweater stuck halfway over his head, making him stumble backwards to collide with his mattress, sending him sprawling across it. Yanking it down, his hair sticking up as if he'd stuck a finger into a muggle power-socket, James met the stern glare of one aggravated school nurse. A hand on her hip and her wand in the other, Hermione stood in the doorway of his room with what looked like a hot meal of steak and kidney pie and pumpkin pasties floating behind her.
"Hullo." James mumbled uncertainly.
Hermione pointed her wand at him and ordered, "Bed."
James wasted no time scrambling under the covers, feeling oddly like a chastised child as he tucked the sheets around himself but couldn't help but grin at the idea of Madam Granger with her heavy frowns, calloused fingers and bushy hair looking after him for the rest of the night.
4:57pm; Monday 26th December, 1977 – Godric's Hollow
James' seventh year Christmas holidays were turning out to be the longest he'd ever had and, oddly enough, he couldn't wait for them to be over.
Sirius had sent him a bemused look after James voiced his thoughts as they wandered through the frozen yard, "What's wrong with you, mate? You're acting strange. Christmas was yesterday for Merlin's sake!"
"I dunno. I'm bored, I guess. Aren't you?" James had shrugged before suggesting, "Maybe we should head back to Hogwarts early this year."
Sirius had been so aghast at the idea that he had shoved James into a nearby snowdrift and headed straight for the Potter's parlour room fire to call the rest of the Marauders for an intervention.
Now James was wedged between his portly friend, Peter, and the much thinner Remus at the kitchen table as Sirius stared him down, tapping his fingers on the bench top while House-elves scuttled about their feet, offering the group platters of leftover ginger snaps and mince pies.
James huffed at Sirius' theatrics, "I don't see what the big problem is."
Sirius narrowed his eyes at him before letting out a tremendous sigh, "The problem, my dear Prongs, is that we've all been dying for the holidays to come ever since school started – especially you. But ever since Hallowe'en, you've been acting like… this." He gestured towards James with a frown who rolled his eyes tiredly in reply.
"I have to admit you have been acting rather strange of late. You've even stopped talking about that great present you had planned for Lily." Remus agreed.
James balked, "Present?"
"Yeah, the one that you were certain was gonna get Evans to notice you." Sirius pushed.
James's shoulders slumped and his fists grasped at his hair, "Oh, no." he moaned.
Peter glanced over and asked, "You did remember to get Lily a present, right?"
Silence met his friend's question when James hurriedly shoved himself away from the table, grabbing his wand and a satchel of galleons before scurrying over to the fire to grab a fistful of Floo powder rested on the mantle and toss into the flames.
"Oi! Where d'you think you're going?" James heard Sirius call out from his seat.
"Diagon Alley!" he cried, leaping into the fire and disappearing in a whorl of green.
1:42pm; Monday 30th January, 1978 – Third Floor Corridor
James skipped merrily on his way to double Charms. He was late. Class was almost over but James couldn't bring himself to care when he was in such a good mood. His trip to the Owlery was worth the risk of detention as he pocketed the hand-blown snow globe of Hogwarts' ruins he'd bought for Lily Evans' birthday. It had arrived a tad too late for the morning post, but Callidus had proved himself to be both trustworthy and stubborn once again, throwing up such a ruckus that the caretaker Filch had almost dragged James off by the ear at the end of lunch to "stop that infernal bird from tearing up the place!", making him miss the majority of his class. Not that he really minded.
His mood had been good ever since that morning at breakfast where he had approached Lily Evans at the Gryffindor table to wish her a happy birthday and she'd smiled at him. Not smirked, not sneered, but actually smiled. Right at him! A strike of lightning had crackled down his spine at the sight of her slightly crooked teeth gleaming at him and her magical green eyes, framed by that vibrant red hair, twinkling, making him lost in their depths. This, however, was his downfall. When she'd looked at him with those big expressive orbs of hers he'd turned into a stuttering mess, thrusting a bouquet of lilies he'd gotten for her wordlessly. His tongue had knotted itself in his throat and it seemed as if someone had hexed his lips shut as he'd silently handed her the flowers and fled to the never-ending amusement of his friends nearby.
Despite the obvious failure of attempting to ask Lily out in the morning, James couldn't help but feel giddy. With a dopey grin he strutted through the corridor, bowing comically low to a group of fourth years with a wink, who twittered madly at his act as he loped off.
Reaching Professor Flitwick's classroom, he was jolted out of his euphoric state at the sight of smoke billowing from the room, Lily directing chocking and gagging students out of harm's way.
With a confused smile, James lumbered over, "Hey, Lils! Need help?"
The girl sent him a sharp glare, making him pause in his stride, "Not from the likes of you, Potter." she hissed.
His mood plummeted at her words. A familiar hand grasped his shoulder and he looked over to find Sirius frowning in Lily's direction, "Get off your high-horse, Evans, he was just offering."
Lily swivelled around with her hands on her hips, "Oh yeah? Where was he when all of this started then? He's supposed to be Head Boy – an example to the rest of the students! But all he does is gallivant around the castle acting like an overgrown child, shirking all responsibilities onto the rest of us! Why, I bet he was running about docking points from Slytherins just for the fun of it while we were in class!"
James gripped the snow globe in his pocket tightly as he refused to meet his classmate's eyes who were now watching them with palpable curiosity.
Sirius growled, "Oh, lay off it already, will you?" Turning to James, he whispered consolingly, "She's just stressed, mate. Don't worry about it."
James just shook the hand off his shoulder and dragged himself past the rather petulant Lily into the classroom to discover Professor Flitwick hopping madly on his stack of books, waving his wand about as he squeaked at the remaining students to exit in an orderly fashion. James spotted Remus and Peter exiting but didn't bother to return their waves of greeting as he passed by.
He made his way to the small Professor's side who nearly fell off his tower in surprise, "Oh, Mr Potter, there you are. We seem to have had a bit of a situation. Miss Embers here had a little problem with the water spell and, well, set herself on fire," James spied the Gryffindor girl sniffling in the corner, her eyebrows burnt clean off, batting weakly at her smouldering robe's sleeve, "Will you accompany her to the Hospital Wing while Miss Evans and I clean up this mess?"
James nearly protested to stay behind to help Lily and beg for her forgiveness, but he strangely felt too tired. The messy-haired boy instead nodded and gestured for Elaine Embers to follow him. The girl let out another long sniff before she clambered off her seat and tottered over to his side to follow him out the door.
The walk to the Hospital Wing was long as Elaine moaned to herself (something about her muggle boyfriend going to dump her, he wasn't listening though). By the time they'd reached the entrance of the Hospital Wing, James was so deep in his melancholy that he was considering smashing the snow globe and forgetting he'd ever bought the stupid thing.
Helping Elaine into one of the carefully made beds, he headed straight for the office at the back of the room, not surprised to see Hermione once again surrounded by books, her nose almost touching the parchment she was frantically scribbling across. It had almost become a ritual to first look for the new nurse in her office now. Everyone knew that Hermione Granger was an avid researcher, and who many thought was much more suited to the role of Librarian than Madam Opus, the witch who seemed to find Hogwarts' dusty old tomes distasteful, much to the young nurse's verbally announced horror.
James slumped against the old wooden frame, not bothering to knock. After his first visit to her office he'd never really had to. She'd always just known he was there. As if on cue, the scratching of her quill stopped and James droned out, not looking up from the ground, "Elaine Embers needs you."
With that, James shoved himself off the doorway and headed back out to collapse into a seat by Elaine's side. She's worked herself into hysterics as she rocked back and forth in the bed, her face resembling an overripe tomato with her hair sticking to her cheeks and lack of eyebrows.
Hermione entered the room in a bustle of white robes, heading straight for the distraught girl as she analysed her. Biting her lip, Hermione pulled her wand out of her pocket, mumbling something and gave it a mighty flick. James watched in surprise as short brow-hairs grew to replace the remaining cinders of Elaine's. The girl gave a yelp and a cry of glee once she recognised that she was back to normal.
"Oh, thank you, Madam Granger!" Elaine gushed, "I was so worried what Seamus was going to think of me – he's a muggle you know – and I can't just go about telling him about magic and whatnot! It would have been a disaster if he saw me like this!"
Hermione raised her own neat eyebrows at that, "Seamus? I knew a boy called that. Had the same problems with fire as you, actually. It's not a very common name."
"He's actually Seamus Finnigan the third," Elaine clarified proudly, wiping her face dry of tears, "It's tradition to name the first-born that in his family; he's a descendant of a famous clan."
James watched as Hermione fell silent, seemingly debating something before shaking it off, "You can go now, if you'd like Miss Embers. Good luck with your boyfriend."
"Actually," Elaine giggled, "He's my fiancé. He proposed to me over the Christmas holidays, but we're waiting until I finish school before we get married."
Elaine thanked her once again and practically skipped out of the Hospital Wing. James continued to sit in his seat by the vacated bed, fiddling with the snow globe in his pocket as he watched Hermione make the bed by hand, her wand tucked behind her ear.
"Where did you learn that spell?" He finally asked.
Hermione blinked at him in surprise, "The hair-regrowth one? It's a very simple charm, you should have learnt it back in second year."
James shook his head, "I've never even heard of a spell like that in my life."
"But you should have—" Hermione cut herself off and James could only just catch her mutter of "timelines" and "discovery dates" under her breath.
Hermione directed a strained smile at him before she resumed making the bed, fluffing the pillows so violently that he was worried that they were going to split at the seams.
Watching her move about the Wing and administer another sleeping draught to the absolutely hopeless fourth year Ravenclaw, Gilderoy Lockhart, whom James knew had accidentally cursed himself in Defence Against the Dark Arts in an attempt to show off, James pulled the snow globe out of his pocket and stared at it. He didn't feel like heading back to class, or seeing the pitiful looks on his friends and peers faces after Lily's snipe.
Hermione's warm brown eyes filled his vision as she narrowed her eyes at him, her face close to his own as she studied him, "Are you sick?" she asked.
"No." James admitted sulkily.
"Well, do you need anything from me?"
James shook the snow globe angrily and watched the flakes roll across the glass and settle on the ancient castle miniature, cursing himself for his childish nature and desperately wishing he could be the person Lily wanted him to be. He felt his optimism that had burned so brightly in September start to dim. Maybe he wasn't meant to be with Lily. Maybe he wasn't good enough.
The scraping of a chair being dragged across the ground roused him from his dark thoughts and he looked up to find Hermione seated primly next to him, her hands folded in her lap and her eyes boring into his own with undeniable curiosity and focus. James licked his lips as she continued to watch him, feeling nervous. Nobody had ever looked at him like that, like he had their sole attention. It felt nice. Unnerving, but nice.
"What's wrong?" she asked carefully.
The question struck James in the chest and he felt his heart tighten as he was flooded with emotions. Happiness, sadness, frustration, anger, longing. It filled him up until he felt like he was going to burst as he struggled with his words. He sat there for a long time pondering on what to say while the pretty witch waited patiently, not saying a word as she watched him.
Finally, James figured out what to say. It didn't scrape anywhere near the base of his problems but it would have to do, "Have you ever felt that maybe you're not good enough for someone?"
Hermione bit her lip in thought, "Of course, everyone has at some point. But Ralph Emerson once said. 'To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.'"
James frowned, "Who?"
Hermione rolled her eyes at him unprofessionally, "Never mind. What I'm trying to say is that you shouldn't force yourself to change just because of something you think you want. You might end up being disappointed with the result."
"But I've been so sure for so long!" James groused.
"Time is rarely a sure thing. Trust me, I know. It changes people. Sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. You're a wonderful person, James, and you shouldn't allow yourself to become someone else just because you don't fit the mould."
James' breath caught on her words, "Yeah." he mumbled in agreement. His heart didn't feel as heavy as lead anymore and breathing was becoming easier.
"Training to be an Auror must be a tough. Don't worry, I think you'll get into the program just fine. Professor McGonagall told me you were one of her most capable student – despite your lack of concentration." Hermione smirked.
"What?" James asked confused, "But I wasn't talking about— oh, right. Yeah, classes are hard, but I think I'll cope."
Hermione pursed her lips and a small crease appeared between her brows as she stared at him quizzically before giving up with a shrug and asking, "What's that you've got there?"
James looked down at his lap to see that the white flakes had settled in the globe, powdering the Hogwarts ruins majestically.
"It's just a stupid toy. Nothing special." James lied. He had spent good money getting it made by a muggle craftsman. He was almost certain he'd been ripped off too, since he was so bad with the currency exchange.
"It's beautiful," Hermione sighed, "The ruins of a great castle."
James turned the globe in his hands, watching her eyes widen as the delicate glass caught the light, "It's how muggles see Hogwarts. Like an old building that's falling apart. It's in a book, Hogwarts—"
"—A History. Yes, I know it, it's my favourite, I've probably read it a hundred times." Hermione beamed at him.
James blushed, "I haven't," he admitted, "Remus, told me."
James' next words died in his throat at her soft laugh and he felt his own mouth tug up to match hers. Her brown eyes were hypnotising and her curly hair was a mess around her face. It suited her though; a woman who was so certain and so put together, it was good to see there was something wild about her.
James rolled the orb between his hands again before asking, "Do you want it?"
Hermione shifted back in shock as she looked up at him, "I can't do that, it's yours! And it looks awfully expensive!"
James chuckled at her flustered state, "It's no problem, and I got it for you anyway."
Hermione's eyes became wide and James realised he'd somewhat spoken the truth. He didn't want to give it to Lily anymore, partly out of hurt pride, but mostly out of thanks to the witch in front of him who had unknowingly given so much to him.
Grasping her hand (once again surprised at how calloused and warm it felt in his much larger one) he gently placed the glass globe in her upturned palm.
"Thank you," she whispered thickly. Her smile seemed to be jinxed to her face, "No one's ever give me anything like this before."
James didn't want to let go of her hand as he softly replied, "You're welcome."
5:09pm; Wednesday 8th February, 1978 – Gryffindor Boy's Dormitory
It was nearing Hogsmeade weekend when he heard the news; Lily had a date that wasn't him.
"Cheer up, James. It's not the end of the world." Remus offered comfortingly as James stared broodingly at the wall from his seat on his bed.
"Reginald Balfore? Why in the world would she want to go on a date with Reginald Balfore?" Sirius stomped around their dormitory, flailing his arms furiously, "That swotty twit's got less smarts then Snivellus ever had a chance at landing a date for the Yule Ball!"
Peter snorted from behind his Transfiguration essay. James ran a hand over his tired face, sliding off his glasses to pinch the bridge of his nose, his shoulders slumped.
James saw Remus throw Peter a look out of the corner of his eye, making his chubby friend's jaw snap shut, "Maybe she's just going with him as a favour? They are Potions partners, you know. And didn't you say that you've been getting along better with Lily lately?" Remus consoled.
"I thought so… I mean, she let me carry her books last Friday…" James answered half-heartedly, "She used to just knock me over the head with her bag whenever I tried. And she doesn't get as angry as she used to… She even laughed at that stupid joke I told in Divination today."
Sirius heaved a sigh from across the room, "The girl's just a rollercoaster, isn't she?"
Peter blinked, "A what?"
"Doesn't matter," Sirius grunted.
James shoved his glasses back on his face and stood up, scuffing the ground with his shoes, "I'm going for a walk."
Remus glanced over surprised, "Where?"
"Nowhere, anywhere." James said sullenly, slinking his way out of the room, softly shutting the door behind him, ignoring the muffled voices of his friends and slunk down the staircase.
Reaching the bottom of the steps, James caught sight of the object of his affections, surrounded by her usual crowd of Gryffindor girls as the chatted by the fire. Not wanting to be seen by his fellow seventh years, James attempted to discreetly tip-toe by, when a loud and irritating voice called out to him.
James cringed with his palm pressed against the Fat Lady's portrait as Gryffindor's fifth year beater, Thaddeus Enderson, strode over to him, patting him on the back jovially.
"Hey, Captain, was just wondering if we're still on for Quidditch practise tomorrow night?" Thaddeus jutted a thumb out behind him to a group of fifth-years playing what seemed to be a dangerous cross between chess and exploding snap, "'Cos me and the boys seemed to have gotten ourselves into a bit of a twist with old Filch and are stuck cleaning Madam Granger's chamber pots for the night."
James wasn't paying attention, his eyes had swivelled onto the group of girls sitting by the fire who'd seemed to have lost interest in their conversation and were blatantly staring at him with pitiful expressions, all except Lily. Her head was twisted away as she fiddled with a loose thread on the arm of her chair, and James couldn't help but feel grateful that he wasn't forced to stare into those mysterious green eyes that always left him breathless.
"Captain?" Thaddeus asked carefully, pulling James away from the sight of Lily.
James shook his head roughly, blurting out, "What? No. Yeah. Sure. That's fine. Whatever."
Without glancing back, James shoved open the portrait hole, ignoring the Fat Lady's squawks on proper manners and etiquette and ran as fast as he could away from Gryffindor Tower.
12:16pm; Saturday 11th February, 1978 – The Three Broomsticks
"Want us to sabotage her date?" Peter whispered from next to him, clutching a butterbeer tightly.
James tilted back his chair, balancing on two legs as he shook his head sharply, his mouth pulled into a harsh line.
Sirius leant forward in his own chair, his chin resting on his hand, "You alright, mate? I can get Moony to grab you another round while he's up?"
James grunted. He watched his two friends shrug uncertainly at one another as he struggled to keep his balance. The Three Broomsticks was oddly not as full as usual, of which James supposed was because most Hogwarts students were filling up Madam Puddifoot's ghastly teashop on the other end of Hogsmeade.
With his chair tilted back, he was at just the right angle to catch sight of Lily and her date, Reginald Balfore, as they snuggled up to one another at a table by the door, while still being concealed by the array of pink and red Valentine streamers that drifted down in what James assumed was supposed to be a whimsical fashion.
James heard Sirius mutter that he'd be back as he headed off toward a group of girls in the back of the room and Peter scampered off shortly after to find Remus by the bar, leaving James by himself.
A frustrated sigh left him as James watched Lily laugh at whatever the stupid Hufflepuff boy was whispering to her and he crossed his arms with a huff, leaning further back in his seat in a hopeless attempt to hear their conversation. Forgetting to keep his balance, the sudden over tip forced James to pinwheel his arms frantically in a hopeless attempt to keep himself upright. With a less-than-manly yelp that he would later deny, James squeezed his eyes shut as he fell back, waiting for the impact of the hard stone floor.
"No matter where you go, you can't help being the centre of attention, can you, James?" A voice called out to him, making James snap his eyes open in surprise at seeing himself upright, Hermione Granger seated in a chair opposite, her wand pointed at him as all four chair legs safely met the ground with a soft thump, "It was lucky for you that I was just finishing up with drinks with Professor Seleno, otherwise you might have blown your little façade."
Shaking off his surprise, James replied despondently, "Hullo, 'Mione."
Hermione pursed her lips confusedly, "You seem awfully down. I thought you'd be the type to be gallivanting all around Hogsmeade whenever you could. Permission or not," Hermione glanced around the room before her eyes fell on where Lily sat and asked curiously, "Who is that with Miss Evans?"
James stayed silent, burning in his near-embarrassment and self-pity. Hermione pressed on, reaching out a hand to gently grasp his shoulder, "James?"
James felt himself snap. Shoving her hand off he roared, "Why don't you just stick your annoying self out of my business already? You're just some bossy know-it-all nurse that can't seem to stay out of anyone's life and always has to have the last word!"
Hermione reeled back, emotions flittering through her eyes too fast for James to catch, and he cringed when her expression fell flat.
"Right, of course. Well I'm very sorry for wasting your time…" Hermione stood up abruptly, not meeting his petrified gaze, grabbing her robes from where she had tossed over the back of the seat and dashed towards the exit.
"Wait, Hermione!" James called out, rushing to his feet.
"It's Madam Granger to you, Mr Potter." Hermione said brusquely over her shoulder as she ran out into the weak winter daylight, the door's bell tinkling merrily as she hurried around the corner.
James felt Lily (along with Balfore) gaping openly at him from her cosy table, and despite it being the first time all week that she'd even glanced in his direction, James could only stare at the spot Hermione had just vacated.
8:12am; Monday 20th February, 1978 – Great Hall
James sleepily sunk into a seat at his regular spot at the Gryffindor table, placing his head on the cool wood and letting his eyes fall shut. A flutter of robes and a thump signalled that Sirius had just joined him in studying the table's craftsmanship.
"Remus okay?" James asked the lacquered ancient oak.
Sirius replied, "Uh-huh, Madam Granger's got him so bundled up and cosy, you'd think that he was at a retreat or somethin'."
Raising his head, James snatched a piece of buttered toast off Rowan Dorbin's plate when she wasn't looking and shoved it in his mouth, "'Ow abou' Pe'er?"
"Sleeping, probably," Sirius started heaping his plate full of food, tossing a rasher of bacon in James' direction who caught it with a grin, "You know how he is."
James laughed, "Yeah, if you're looking for predictable, Peter's your best man."
The duo fell into an easy silence as they ate their breakfast. The full moon was over for another month and James couldn't help but feel relieved. The last few sleepless weeks were really starting to wear on him.
"So I heard Lily's not going out with Balfore anymore." Sirius said conversationally.
James felt the last of his sleepiness slip away, "Where'd you hear that?"
"Mavery told me in the Common Room. Dumped him last week, she said."
James glanced down the table to catch sight of Lily. She looked the same, happily talking to her dorm mates as she nibbled on a sliced pear.
"Huh." James said.
Sirius swivelled to look at him but James had ducked his head, focusing hard on his toast, ignoring the way his friend's eyes bored into the back of his skull.
Sirius opened his mouth and hesitated and James watched him glance over at Lily before turning back to his own plate, a smirk forming across his face.
It was James' turn to stare, "What?"
"Nothin'," Sirius shrugged, his smirk still in place, "Just realised something is all. Wanna visit Mooney later?"
James grimaced, "Er, I'm not really sure I'm allowed near the Hospital Wing anymore."
"Has Granger banned you?"
James cringed, "More or less."
"So you've banned yourself then. Coward," Sirius stated knowingly, sneering at the Head Boy's glare, "You're lucky she didn't sent McGonagall after your robe-tails the way you talked to her the other week."
James ran a hand over his face tiredly and groaned, "Will you drop it already? I feel bad enough as it is."
"Hey, mate. No one's fault but yours."
The two fell silent again, the air feeling a little more strained as James bit into his toast, which now tasted as bland as parchment.
Sirius clicked his tongue, "School ends in a few months, which means I'll be legal."
James chewed roughly on another mouthful, "Legal for what?"
"I dunno. Granger's quite a nice-looking one, don't you think?" Sirius shrugged.
James gagged on the parchment-toast, "W-what?" he sputtered, "You're gonna ask Hermione out? Y-you can't do that!"
"Why not? It's not like anyone else is interested, are they?" Sirius threw a mischievous look at his friend, "And that's Madam Granger to you, Potter." he mocked.
James scrunched up his face, ignoring Sirius for the rest of breakfast to stare moodily at Lily.
12: 31am; Sunday 26th February, 1978 – Hospital Wing Corridor
The House-elves were exceptional cooks, James concluded. The midnight snack of freshly made toffee pudding he was carrying smelled delicious, but he refused to take a bite until he reached his dormitory and met with the others to celebrate. It was his turn to do the food-rounds tonight, and while it would have been easily explainable as to why James, being Head Boy, was wandering the corridors in the middle of the night, he enjoyed the challenge that sneaking through the corridors under his invisibility cloak brought.
Juggling the tray of desserts in his arms, James double-checked his map, ducking past the ticklish pear and made his way up the stairs from the Hufflepuff basement, sneaking down past the Hospital Wing to avoid Filch's cat, Mrs Norris from where she was lurking by the marble staircase in the Entrance Hall.
There weren't many portraits near the Hospital Wing. Many had been taken down a few years before when a portrait of a jester and a knight had started a feud, forcing them to have to be placed, along with the others, at opposite ends of the school.
Shuffling the cakes in his arms again, the Head Boy scurried across the marble floor, being careful not to trip over his invisibility cloak. The sconces on the wall had long been extinguished and only the soft light of the half-moon crawled through a bay window at the end of the corridor.
A cackle met his ears, making James jump back against the wall, his heart pounding in his chest as he held the platter close, making sure every inch of him was covered by his cloak. As James successfully snuck behind a tapestry, the manically grinning head of Peeves popped through the wall.
The poltergeist slid through the brick, carrying a rather large stash of dungbombs (of which James had no doubt Sirius had given him after their trip to Hogsmeade). James shoved himself further into the corridor wall worriedly as Peeves zoomed back and forth along the length, strategically placing the dungbombs in as many nooks and crannies, narrowly missing James' nose on more than one occasion.
Peeves cackled again as he looked back over his handiwork when he seemed to spot something in the darkness.
"What is this?" he crowed, swooping down to snatch up a rather worn piece of parchment off the ground. A rather familiar worn piece of parchment…
James gripped at the lining of his robes, patting himself down with his free hand in search of the Marauder's Map and swearing under his breath when he found it missing. It must have slipped out of his grasp in his hurry to hide. Peeves was giggling with glee.
"Ooh! Dearie, dearie me! Looks like an ickle student has dropped something!" The poltergeist licked his large teeth as he studied the parchment.
James cringed as Peeves began to do a jig mid-air, his hands clenched tauntingly around the map. Raising his wand, the tip pointing out from under his cloak, James aimed it at the meddling poltergeist.
"That's enough, Peeves." Hermione Granger's voice called out into the darkness, jolting James halfway through his hex.
Peeves stopped his dance and whirled around to stare at the school nurse. James did too. Dressed in a muggle nightrobe with her hair an even-curlier-than-usual mess, she looked beautiful in the moonlight. James was considering asking if the nurse could do something about his heart, it clenched tightly at the sight of her. He wracked it up to guilt.
"Madam Granger, what a surprise to see you out so late." Peeves jeered.
"Quite. Students are trying to sleep, I'll have you know," Hermione held out a hand, "May I have my parchment please, Peeves?"
Peeves' smile looked almost painful it was so wide, "This is yours, Madam Grouchy-Granger? What would you need a map for?"
Hermione heaved a sigh, "That's none of your concern. Now, will you hand me back my map or do I have to call the Bloody Baron on you again? You know how close we are." Hermione simpered darkly.
Peeves seemed to stumble over himself in his effort to please her, "Oh, I'm really sorry about that! Don't tell the Baron! Here you go!" Shoving the parchment at her, Peeves zoomed off around the corner with a muffled cry of "Sorry!"
James breathed a sigh of relief as he snuck out from behind the tapestry towards the medi-witch and with a whisper of "Mischief managed" the map was wiped clean, strangely not to the surprise of Hermione, who instead began looking around the corridor cynically.
Creeping closer, James tucked his wand into his trousers pocket and reached a concealed hand out towards Hermione's, which was holding the map. His fingers grazing the rough parchment, James softly began to tug the parchment out of her grasp when his invisibility cloak was yanked right off.
James stood stock-still as one of the puddings fell off the platter with a splat, earning him a glare from Hermione through the dark.
"Go to bed, Potter."
"How'd you know I was there?" James sputtered meekly.
"It doesn't matter. Go to bed."
"Are you still mad at me from Saturday? Because I'm really sorry—"
"Bed!" Hermione thrust the Marauder's Map and the invisibility cloak into his arms.
Blinking stupidly, he asked, "You're not gonna tell on me?"
Hermione threw her hands up in the air, storming back through the Hospital Wing's doors, "Oh, for goodness sake, go to bed, Potter, before I wake up Professor McGonagall to give you detention!" with that, Hermione slammed the Hospital Wing's doors shut.
By the time he had triumphantly returned to the boys' dormitory with (most of) the puddings, James found his heart was still beating abnormally fast.
1:49am; Tuesday 7th March, 1978 – Astronomy Tower
James strained his tired eyes as he leaned further over his star chart, struggling to read his chicken-scratch in the dim moonlight when he heard a series of high-pitched giggles erupt from the left of him a few seats away. Glancing up with an irritated huff, he found himself staring at a mixture of girls twittering happily to one another under the cover of darkness. Frowning at the curious sight of all four houses acting friendly, James dropped his quill and crawled closer to the obscure grouping, taking care not to be caught by Professor Seleno.
"—I can't believe I didn't see it earlier! It's so obvious now!" Mavery Brown cried excitedly.
There was a swish of black hair that James recognised as the Slytherin, Imogen Greengrass', "It's positively laughable how ignorant he is. Is he still after that little muggleborn?"
Another bout of giggled broke out from the group and affirmations filtered into the air. Imogen turned her nose to the night sky, "Ludacris. Even his friends have noticed."
A Hufflepuff, Dorcas Meadowes, spoke up, "Madam Granger's just as bad! I caught her staring at him the other day, but when I asked about it she said 'that it was none of my business'!"
"I think that has more with you needing to keep your mouth shut about her personal life than her being in denial." Sabella Crawford, another Slytherin, cattily replied.
The girls tittered before moving back to their star charts, leaving James to snatch up his quill and crawl back to his post, musing over his classmates' words (Madam Granger was in love with a student?) trying to ignore the feeling that someone had just magically excavated his insides and left him hollow.
9:41pm; Friday 17th March, 1978 – Transfiguration Classroom
"Mr Potter!" Professor McGonagall said sternly, jolting James from his thoughts, "Might you pay attention while I'm teaching? This is of high importance regarding your NEWTS, so I think it would be best if you could stay focused."
James flushed as sniggers erupted throughout the class when McGonagall continued, "And Mr Black, while I'm thoroughly impressed by your Charms work, I do not believe green is Mr Potter's best colour."
James confusedly swiped a hand through his hair as the strands fell in his eyes, making him flinch at the sickly colour they had been transformed to.
Sirius pointed his wand at him, "Simply celebrating the day of Saint Patricks is all, Ma'am." he said guiltlessly, turning James' hair back to its natural black.
Shoving him roughly in the shoulder, James slumped onto his forearms, ignoring the way Remus slapped Sirius' hand in silent congratulations over him. Peeking through his crossed arms, he caught sight of Lily holding back a giggle as her friends laughed uproariously. James dropped his head, embarrassed.
A timid knocking made James look up to see a small first year standing in the doorway of the Transfiguration room, clutching a slip of parchment in his small hands, visibly shaking as the rest of the class joined James in his act of staring at the boy.
"May I help you, Mr Volstrom?" Professor McGonagall asked.
Volstrom shuffled his way up to the front of the room and quickly shoved the note out to the Transfiguration Professor. Peeling it from the nervous Ravenclaw's grasp, McGonagall queried, "Have you notified the Headmaster yet?" at the boy's nod she continued, "Very well, please let Madam Granger know that I will be there as soon as possible," Turning to the class, McGonagall announced, "I want at least half a foot on the dangers of ill-performed animal transfigurations by next class. You're dismissed."
With a curious frown, James shoved his books into his bag and slung it over his shoulder, racing after his friends who were already one step out of the classroom.
"So what do you think's so important that McGonagall's letting us leave early?" Sirius tucked one of his hands in his pocket, the other twirling his wand carelessly.
Remus shifted the books in his arms, "How should I know? As long as Madam Granger's alright then I don't particularly see it as my business."
Sirius laughed, "Is that a hint of affection I hear in your voice, Mooney?"
James felt his hands uncontrollably curl into fists.
"I merely respect her values and medical expertise." Remus sniffed, before throwing a peculiar smirk in James' direction and adding, "But I'll admit that she is quite a lovely sight to wake up to after a full moon."
James pushed down the urge to hit his friend in his obnoxiously wolfish face.
"Come on, Remus," Sirius said seriously, "Aren't you a teeny-tiny bit curious? If Dumbledore's involved then it's gotta be something big!" he turned to his other friend, "Prongs! You think the same, right? I say we whip out the trusty old cloak and have a bit of a snoop!"
All murderous thoughts towards his lupine friend fled James' head at the suggestion, "Er, I dunno, Padfoot… I don't think we should be invading Hermione's privacy like that."
Sirius looked baffled, "Since when did you care about anyone's privacy? And it's Madam Granger to you, lover-boy."
"What?" James blinked.
Sirius rolled his eyes and grabbed him by his robe sleeve and pulled him up the staircase, calling over his shoulder, "We'll meet you at the Hospital Wing! Keep a lookout until we get there, will ya, Mooney?"
After being dragged up three flights of stairs and shoved through the Fat Lady's portrait, James reluctantly went and grabbed his invisibility cloak from his trunk, tossed it over Sirius and himself and headed back down to the first floor. It was easy to navigate through the castle, classes didn't end for another ten minutes making the walk to the Hospital Wing relatively quiet, except for James' constant grumblings and Sirius' harried shushing.
Reaching the intimidating wooden doors stood Remus, Sirius lifted the cloak enough to let their friend squeeze under with difficulty, all three of them now having to crouch to make sure their ankles weren't showing.
Cracking open the door the trio slipped through, shuffling into the empty Wing. Mumbled conversation could be heard at the back of the room where Hermione's office was located, and with the not-so-gentle nudging of his friends' elbows in his ribs, James led the way to the office.
Reaching the closed door, all three didn't hesitate to press their ears to the wood.
Dumbledore's voice echoes through the door, "Well I'm sorry, Miss Granger, but I must advise against another attempt."
Hermione's voice was distraught, sending a piercing pain through James' heart at the sound, "But I'm so close! I'm sure if you give me another chance! Let me review my notes! I might have just made a mistake in one of the calculations—!"
"That's enough, Miss Granger. There was only ever a faint chance of this working in the first place." McGonagall said in a tone that she usually reserved for the Marauders alone. The boys shared a curious look from under the cloak before listening in again, "Time travel is already such an unstable magic. Going back is one thing, but to go forward…"
"Minerva's is right, perhaps it is best to resign yourself to the here and now." Dumbledore said consolingly.
"But the timeline is fixed! All of my experience has always lead to that conclusion! If I stay here for too long and interfere with any more lives, the results could be catastrophic!"
"I'm sorry to disappoint you, Miss Granger, but I believe you've already made a lasting impact on many people in this castle, including myself. Try not to worry too much, my dear, I'm sure everything will work out just fine." Dumbledore said sagely.
The trio leapt back as the doorknob jiggled before opening, revealing the Headmaster in all of his green and gold shamrocked finery, his eyes twinkling from behind his half-moon spectacles and a small smile graced his face. Professor McGonagall stood behind him, a consoling hand on an upset Hermione's shoulder, who looked about ready to cry. James fought the urge to do something spontaneous and stupid.
Dumbledore spoke again, "Until next time, Miss Granger. Minerva, would join me? Argus informed me on the way here that he's discovered some rather vulgar writings on the walls of the second floor boy's bathroom which he suspects some of the younger boys in your house have scribed."
With a flick of their robe-tails, the two Professors exited the Hospital Wing, leaving an extremely upset Hermione and three confused boys behind.
5:02 am; Monday 27th March – Boy's Dormitory
It was his eighteenth birthday today. He didn't feel any older, or any wiser for that matter.
Lying in his bed, James stared up blankly at the crimson canopy that hung over his four-post bed, which looked a deep purple-grey in the darkness. Running a hand over his face he willed himself to back to sleep, only to find he couldn't. His mind was just too awake despite his exhausted body. He'd been struggling to sleep for over a week now, ever since he and his friends had overheard McGonagall and Dumbledore's conversation with Hermione.
It was driving him crazy. Emotions swept through him like a hurricane and the memory of Hermione's heartbroken face flooded his mind constantly, leaving him feeling sick in the stomach. Heaving a sigh, the Head Boy swung himself out of bed, his feet connecting with the cold wooden floor with a shiver as he shuffled his way into the connecting bathroom.
His eyesight fuzzy without his glasses, James stripped before turning the taps to full-blast and hopping under the scorching spray. With the water beating down on his back, James forcefully shoved the memories out of his mind, pushing away the thoughts of Hermione's big brown glassy eyes, her quivering pale lips, her untameable hair that seemed even bushier under distress… darn.
James agitatedly turned off the water and towelled himself off, yanking his uniform on even though class didn't start for another three hours. Hair still dripping, he exited the bathroom, slipping past his snoring friends and down to the Common Room. The sun had barely come up over the horizon and the fireplace had long since gone out, leaving the room feeling washed out and grey.
Seating himself in one of the squishy armchairs, James felt himself drift into his mind again, his eyelids feeling heavy from lack of sleep as he slumped in his seat, his thoughts always drawing back to the young medi-witch.
Someone was shaking his shoulder softly, dragging him from his much needed sleep. His eyes fluttering open, James was confronted with the fire-red of Lily Evan's hair as she looked down at him, poking his shoulder insistently. Seeing he was awake, Lily gave a soft smile which James instantly returned.
"You'll hurt your neck sleeping like that. Have you been here all night?" she asked.
James rolled his shoulders, "Just a couple of hours."
Lily nodded, "Well, it's almost time for breakfast, just so you know. Everyone's going to be heading down soon," the Head Girl stood up straight and seemed to hesitate. James watched her curiously as she seemed to struggle to say something until she blurted out, "Happy birthday… James."
James stared up at his long-time crush in surprise before giving her an easy lopsided grin, "Thanks, Lily."
A friendly smile flittered across Lily's face before she headed to the portrait hole, "Well, I'm gonna go have breakfast now… Guess I'll see you later."
James nodded slowly, watching her leave, "Yeah, sure. Later."
When Lily had climbed out of the portrait, James felt himself frown. His heart didn't leap in his throat as it usually did in Lily's presence, nor did he instantly come up with one of his usual witty remarks. It was just as normal a conversation as any other between him and one of his housemates.
Before he could delve further into his thoughts, a bright-eyed and smiling Remus slunk down the boy's staircase, a grin widening on his face at the sight of his friend, "Happy birthday, James! What are you doing up so early?"
James forced a smile of his own on his face, "Just waiting to be surprised with a flourishing of gifts from my great friends and colleagues. I thought it'd be best to just come to the people rather than them find me."
Remus threw him a strange look, showing James that he wasn't convinced by his act, before shrugging, "Are you hungry? Sirius and Peter probably won't be out of bed 'til the end of breakfast after their raid last night."
"I'm famished." James said honestly, standing up from his seat and followed his friend out of the Common Room and down the corridor.
"Excellent. Do you mind if we make a stop past the Hospital Wing first, though? Madam Granger said she's got something she wants me to try."
James balked slightly, Hermione's dismayed face flashing through his mind, "What is it?"
Remus shoved his hands into his pockets as he skipped over a trick step, "Don't know. I'm hoping it's chocolate. She showed me this muggle type with fruit and nuts in it the other day and she promised me more."
James dragged a hand through his hair, ignoring the way it stood on end, a puff of air escaping from his lungs in a rush, "Are you two close?" he eventually asked.
"I suppose so, yeah." Remus said.
The two walked in silence down to the first floor to stand at the base of the Marble Staircase where James hesitated.
"I think I'll just meet you in the Great Hall when you're done, yeah? I don't want to interrupt you two or anything..."
Remus stared curiously at him and huffed, grabbing the neck of his robes and dragging him behind (making James squeak in a rather undignified manner) while grumbling to himself. James thought he heard a few choice words in there that would've made even Sirius blush.
Reaching the large wooden doors, Remus unceremoniously shoved him through, eliciting a sharp yelp from the dark-haired boy as he stumbled into the metal frame of a bed.
"Morning, Madam Granger!" Remus called out casually into the empty Wing.
A soft call of "back here!" sent Remus strolling towards the office at the end of the room. James observed how comfortable his otherwise skittish and paranoid friend seemed to be and scowled, plonking himself down on the end of the bed he'd nearly careened across and harrumphed childishly.
He watched Remus's back through the open door as he laughed at something Hermione said. James perked his ears trying to catch her words but couldn't hear anything over his friend's chuckles. He turned away glumly to gaze out the sunny window when a surprised squeak sent him twisting in his seat to once again stare through the door. Remus had engulfed Hermione in a hug, clinging to her. The nurse's face peeking out from under her even messier than usual tangles with a look of shock, before it slowly morphed into a slow smile and returned the embrace just as tightly.
James felt an uncontrollable anger swell in him at the sight of the couple and shoving himself off the bed, hands balled into fists, barged his way out the doors, slamming them behind him as he stomped off to breakfast.
Reaching the Great Hall, James angrily sat down into his seat and grabbed a flask of pumpkin juice. His hands shook so hard that most of the liquid missed the glass to spill onto the wood, making the Head Boy even more frustrated as he slammed the flask back down on the table, making a few nearby third years jump.
"Wha'ssup with you, Prongs?" Peter yawned as he collapsed into the seat on James' right.
"Nothing." James grumbled, crossing his arms and resting his head in them.
A much more cockier and alert voice came from his left, "Liar. If you were okay, youd've noticed that Evans has been trying to get your attention from down the table since we sat down." Sirius snorted.
"I don't care." James told his forearms.
Silence met his answer before Sirius stuttered, "What was that, mate?"
James pulled himself out of his makeshift pillow, "I said I don't—" he halted, "Oh…"
"Huh?" Peter asked quizzically.
"I… I don't care about Lily anymore…" James admitted bleakly.
Sirius slapped him on the back, "'Bout time you figured it out. All that moping around and stuff with Granger was really starting to get on my nerves."
"Wait, what? What's 'Mione got to do with this?"
His two friends groaned, giving him pitying looks when a grin spread over Sirius' face once again and he pointed, "Hey look, here comes Mooney. Maybe he can talk some sense into you."
A dopey-looking Remus glided into the room, taking the seat opposite James. At his friend's obvious good mood, James felt his own darken.
Remus blinked languidly at him, "Great. She's great. Perfect even."
Sirius poked him sharply with his spoon, "You visited Granger, Mooney?"
Mooney snapped out of his stupor at Sirius' jabs and shoved the utensil away, "Obviously," he said sarcastically, "James, why'd you leave? I mean, I knew you were hungry, but not that hungry."
James rolled his eyes and refused to answer, burrowing back into his arms.
Sirius spoke instead, "Ignore him. He's just figured out he's not aiming for Evans anymore."
"So he's moved on to—?"
"Nope." Sirius replied smugly.
"Hasn't got a clue." Peter added with a smirk.
Silence fell across the Marauders as they (except for James) dug heartily into their breakfast.
Peter spoke first, "So what'd you visit Madam Granger for?"
"Something life-changing," Remus said mysteriously, "Or at least, life-changing for me. I present you, my dear marauding fellows, with this." James lifted his head, confused to see Remus holding out a vial filled with a softly smoking blue potion gleefully.
"What is it?"
"Madam Granger calls it the Wolfsbane potion. Said it was only perfected just last month and she got the first batch available for me," Remus' voice lowered to a whisper, "It's to help with my 'furry little problem'. Let's just say after a week's worth of this, I'll be less threatening than a Niffler with a cold."
All four grinned wide, before James' fell with guilt, "So back in the office, you weren't…"
"Weren't what? Oh, I almost forgot," Remus hauled his textbook-filled bag onto his lap and pulled out a neatly wrapped parcel the size of his palm, passing it across, "Madam Granger says 'happy birthday'."
James stared bewilderedly down at the tiny gift in his hand, a soft smile playing on his face, before tucking it safely into his pocket and joining his friends in their rambunctious early-morning celebrations with newborn vigour.
2:46pm; Sunday 9th April – Hogwarts Grounds
James leant back comfortably into the trunk of the oak tree, the sun filtering through the green leaves in the surprisingly warm weather, casting soft shadows across him as he contemplated shedding his outer layers. Peter sat beside him, nibbling frustrated on a quill as he frowned down at his Transfiguration homework. The rest of the Marauders were off on their own business. Remus had gone to attend a study-session that Lily was holding in the library and Sirius had tagged along, simply to annoy his friend and pilfer Lily's notes.
James' hand was clasp around a snitch comfortingly in his robe's pocket, but he refused to release it as it fluttered its wings hopelessly. He'd held onto the small golden ball like a lifeline since the moment Remus had handed it to him and he couldn't stop the elated feeling that rose up in him every time his hand touched the charmed gold.
Pulling it out of his robes, James studied the way the perfect polish gleaned in the sunlight, and smiled. Right in the centre of the snitch was a shallow engraving. Barely noticeable and only visible at the right angle were the words, 'Happy Birthday, James. Love Hermione'.
The small smile never left his face as he traced over the delicate 'H' of the medi-witch's name softly with his fingertips.
"She does know you play Chaser and not Seeker, right?"
James hurriedly shoved the snitched back in his pocket, and looked over to see Peter staring at him, his books packed away and a curious frown on his chubby face as he stood over him. James felt his own flush a deep purple.
"No, but it's the thought that counts." he muttered tersely, turning to stare out across the Black Lake where a group of older Slytherins were heading towards a pair of fourth year students skipping stones across the water's surface, one of which James recognised as a Gryffindor, Mary Macdonald.
At the sight of the silver and green, Peter seemed to freeze, "I-I think I'm going to head back to the Common Room to study. It's too hot out here." with barely a goodbye, Peter scarpered across the grounds and out of sight.
Confused, James turned back to the Lake, recognising one of the greasier heads of hair to be Severus Snape, who was slinking behind a haughty-looking Avery with an ugly scowl etched into his face. The embarrassed blush left James' face quickly when hazel eyes clashed with black, Snape's scowl turning into a malignant sneer at the sight of him and James felt his own twist to match.
He pushed his horn-rimmed glasses further up his nose as he watched the Slytherins approach the younger students, waiting to see if they simply walked past or (more likely) go out of their way to terrorise them. James' guess was right as Mulciber at the head of the group sent a severing charm at a particularly small Hufflepuff boy, sending the contents of his torn bag splattering into the muddy embankment. The Slytherins roared with laughter as the Hufflepuff embarrassedly knelt down to pick up his school-things and raised their wands again when James decided he'd seen enough.
"Oi!" shoving himself to his feet, he stormed over, fingers twitching for his wand, "What d'you think you're doing?"
Mulciber lazily twirled his wand between his fingers as he his cronies turned around, "Potter, what a surprise to see you! Where are those little blood-traitor shadows you call friends?"
James snorted, "As Head Boy it's my job to help out all students when necessary, including saving them from scum like you lot. And at least my friends bathe," his eyes flicked towards Snape, "Didn't know that the Death Eaters had such low standards."
The Slytherins snarled, drawing their wands and pointing them at him. Whipping his own out, James focused on Mulciber, barely noting that the fourth years had long since disappeared, "Don't even think about it."
There was a flash of light when ground seemed to slip out from underneath James as he was sent struggling into the air, hanging by his ankle, wand falling out of his grip. James craned his neck to see Snape smirking from behind his curtain of filthy hair.
Avery crowed, "You really should learn to hold your tongue, Potter. Or better yet, why don't we just cut it out for you?" Raising his wand level to James' face, he began to mutter, "Sectumsemp—"
James was shocked as he watched Avery's wand get wrenched out of his grip, flying along with the rest of the snakes' into Madam Granger's grasp. With Snape's wand stolen, James collapsed onto the ground in a heap, his head spinning from the rush of blood. He sat up, catching sight of the enraged older witch, and quickly snatched up his own wand, stuffing it deep into his pockets.
Hermione was standing a ways from the water's edge, wearing a simple white long-sleeved shirt with jean trousers and her ever-familiar frown, her hair seem to glow gold under the sunlight. She stormed her way down to the lake, gripping the Slytherins' wands so tightly James thought she'd snap them in half.
"What do you think you're doing?" Hermione hissed, coming to a halt a few feet away from them.
The Slytherins looked uncertainly at one another, Avery quickly pointed at James, "Potter came at us first, Miss. We were only defending ourselves."
"What? That's not—" James sputtered.
Hermione narrowed her eyes shrewdly, "Yes, I'm certain that Mr Potter was a terrifying threat against all five of you. Now I want you all to head back to your Common Rooms while I go and discuss your punishments with your Heads of House. Go!"
Snape hesitated, "Ma'am, our wands…"
She glared at him, "You'll get them back from Professor Slughorn later this evening. Until then, you'd best be on your way."
The Slytherins scowled as they shuffled past, shooting disgusted glares at both James and Hermione as they slunk across the grounds and disappeared.
James stared at Hermione contemplatively in her casualwear. She looked even prettier without the shapeless hospital garb she was forced to wear, but there was a gleam in her eye that made her seem almost dangerous, despite her frizzing hair and adorable scowl. She rounded on him with that same glower, stomping over to him and held her hand out. James stared at her bewilderedly, his heart rising in his chest. Hermione heaved a long-suffering sigh.
"I really thought you were better than that, James. Antagonising them like… well, I just thought you'd be more like him. I guess I was wrong," she stared down at him with a haunting sadness, "Your wand, Mr Potter. You'll get it back from Professor McGonagall tonight."
His heart crash-landed into the pit of his stomach. Reluctantly, he handed over his mahogany and dragon's core. Hermione snatched it from his grasp and, without a second glance, turned and headed back towards the castle. James clung desperately to the snitch in his pocket as he watched her walk away, the metal now felt cold.
10:03am; Wednesday 19th April, 1978 – Potions Dungeons
James slumped into his seat next to Sirius, carelessly dumping his bag next to him, not even bothering to take his textbook out. Sirius rolled his eyes, flipping his own book open to the number instructed on the board.
Professor Slughorn clapped his hands twice as the last Ravenclaw slipped into their seat. Waddled his way up to the front of the class, he stood next to a white tarp strategically placed to hide whatever was seated on his claw-footed desk.
"Seven years," Slughorn began, "It's been seven years since some of the brightest and best students I've ever met first sat down in my classroom. Some more than others," he winked mischievously at Lily who blushed embarrassedly, "But we're coming up to the end of this final year, which means you'll all be sitting your NEWTS. I've seen very few students of mine leave these dark dungeons with something less than an Outstanding under my caring hand. And so, in preparation for your final exams," Slughorn cleared his throat dramatically, reaching over to clasp the large cloth, "I present you with this!"
Yanking the tarp off, James was hit with an abundance of appealing smells that swirled from the small cauldron on the Potion Master's desk. Tumbling spirals of smoke rose from the mother-of-pearl sheened potion and James felt his thoughts become foggy as the soothing scent flowed over him. He looked over at Sirius to see he shared the same glazed expressions the rest of his classmates had.
"Now, can anyone tell me what this is?"
Too caught up in his own world, James barely noticed that his Professor had even asked a question until Lily answered, "It's Amortentia, Sir, the strongest love potion in the world. When consumed, it creates the illusion that one is in love with a particular person and makes them act out in an almost-obsessive behaviour."
"Excellent! Five points to Gryffindor! Now, Miss Evans, can you tell us what's so unique about Amortentia?"
Lily nodded gleefully, "Amortentia befuddles almost all of a person's senses, the most notable someone's sense of smell. It varies from person to person, but the potion can recognise our favourite scents and using it as part of the illusion."
"Another five points! Wondrous work, my dear! Would anyone like to describe what they smell? Don't be shy now!"
James took a deep breath through his nose and was instantly reminded of a crisp spring day, sending him into a state of nostalgia of riding on his broom, playing Quidditch. Other scents tickled his nose and he frowned, trying to catch what they were. His thoughts sent him to the Library, leaving him baffled. What could ever be appealing about a bunch of dusty old books? A sweeter smell pierced through, reminding him of the many times he and the rest of the Marauders had snuck through the passage of the One-Eyed Witch to Honeydukes for a late-night rendezvous (paid back in full, of course).
Sirius' elbow rammed itself into his ribs, making James let out a soft "oof!" and glare at his friend. Sirius merely stood, swinging his bag over his shoulder and said, "Class is over, you dolt. Come on."
Rubbing his sore side, James glanced around to find no one else in the classroom. He had missed the entire hour and the Amortentia had long been whisked away by whom he assumed was Professor Slughorn who was also nowhere in sight.
James snatched up his own bag, racing after Sirius who was making his way up the stairs of the dungeon into the first corridor, heading towards the south stairwell to make their way up to Charms.
So deeply meddled in his thoughts, the Head Boy hardly noticed that he'd just walked past the large oaken entrance he'd been avoiding for the majority of the year until a soft, cleansing scent sent his mind tumbling back to his most recent Potions class.
Throwing his arm out and catching Sirius in the chest (knocking the air out of the taller boy) James glanced through the thin gap of the Hospital Wing's doors and caught sight of soft brown bushy hair as it flew past in a flurry. He sniffed curiously and the sweet smell of Hermione blurred his senses, before slowly turning to his friend with wide shocked and horrified eyes. Sirius merely grinned back, rolling his eyes good-naturedly.
4:13pm; Saturday 24th June, 1978 – Hospital Wing
James was admitted to the Hospital Wing forty-seven times over the following two months. None of the teachers knew what was wrong with him, but James always seemed to find himself overcome with terrible colds and churning stomach aches. He' seemed to become impossibly clumsy overnight, and had consequently been banned from being allowed near any corrosive substances by Slughorn himself.
Peter and Sirius thought it was hilarious. Remus thought it was pitiful. James thought it was genius.
"It's simple," He'd explained to them late one night in their dorm, sporting a sling, "The only way 'Mione can't ignore me is if I'm stuck in the Hospital Wing!"
James found himself eating his words shortly after his fourth sprained wrist where the medi-witch had taken one look at him before casting a healing spell without even stopping by his bedside. He'd tried making his injuries and sicknesses more exotic, more than once coaxing some of the nastier Slytherins into duels in the corridors and consequentially being herded off to Madam Granger's with a wide grin and his earlobes dragging behind across the ground.
Today James hadn't actually planned on visiting his beloved Hermione, but after a rather nasty collision with one of Ravenclaw's beaters, Incutus Bilbrook, in one last friendly match in celebration of completing their NEWTS, James had woken up to find himself staring at the soft cream-coloured ceiling he'd so willingly familiarised himself with over the past month.
Turning his head slowly, wary of the way his brain thudded against his skull, he found himself bombarded with brightly coloured flowers and gifts crammed on his bedside table, which had been magically expanded to accommodate the vast amount of get-well presents.
James jumped at the voice, making him wince as his brain collided heavily with his cranium. Hermione stared at him from the bed next to him, her shoes off and her legs crossed, a thick book lay open on her lap.
James smiled wanly at her which she ignored to turn to the next page. Heaving a sigh, James let his head drop back onto the pillows under his head and traced a crack that ran across the ceiling.
The pair stayed in silence for a long time, the creaking of ancient yellowed paper being folded over permeated the room in a steady rhythm, lulling James into a light doze. A heavy slam jolted him back awake shortly after.
Glancing over, James watched Hermione glared darkly down at the book as if it'd done her personal offence, her hair had long escaped its neat braid in a knotted mess and she gnawed angrily on a thumbnail.
"Problem?" he mumbled.
Hermione turned her glare to him, before her face collapsed into a look of utter dismay, "Oh, I've messed up everything." she admitted.
Hermione glared half-heartedly at him, "Well, you, for starters."
James' eyes widened at the accusation, "What did I do?"
"It's all your fault!" James opened his mouth to retort when Hermione barged on, "You're up and down constantly! Hexing your peers in the corridors for the fun of it one moment and then being a complete gentleman the next! Making me feel like—!" she shook her head violently, "I just don't know what to do with you – along with a potential paradox coming into effect, you've caused nothing but problems."
He'd barely caught a word, "A pair-of-doxies?"
Hermione blanched before quickly muttering, "Never mind." and sunk back into her thoughts.
James stared at her contemplatively. Sucking in a deep breath he whispered, "I'm sorry."
"Beg your pardon?"
He cleared his throat, "About the other month. I just wanted… I mean… I'm just… sorry."
Hermione snorted rather unladylike, rolling her eyes, "I'm doubtful that you'd ever be sorry for taking Prof— Severus Snape and his lackeys down a few pegs, would you?"
"I would if it meant losing you."
Brown collided with hazel as a soft pink brushed over Hermione's cheeks. Hurriedly hopping off the bed, snatching up her book in the process, she stuttered, "W-well I'll just go get you something to boost you up and then you can be on your way, Mr Potter."
11:38am; Sunday 25th June, 1978 – Hospital Wing
She was in her office again, James found the next day. Scribbling down on a piece of parchment, her elbow unknowingly jammed in her inkwell, leaving a rather large stain in the arm of her oversized and slightly lumpy knitted sweater. A large bag crammed with books sat loyally by her side, as usual.
None of the books Hermione read were ever interesting though. They were always just some thick boring intellectual bricks whose only real use were as fire kindling, which baffled James as to why she would even bother to pick them up in the first place. She had a new one today too. The worn red leather almost completely hiding her from sight where she had propped it up, with only her mess of brown hair peeking out from behind the tome. James grinned wickedly as he skipped merrily over to her table, much more confident now that she'd forgiven him. Sneaking up behind her, he boldly rested his chin against the bushy-haired woman's shoulder, making her jump in fright.
"Wha'cha reading there, 'Mione?" James drawled into her ear, plucking the surprisingly heavy book from Hermione's grasp, ignoring her cry of outrage and batting away her hands. Glancing carelessly at the cover he laughed, "The Memoirs of Unspeakable Mintumble: The Time Traveller? I thought you didn't like fiction."
James scurried out of the medi-witch's reach as she made another grab for her book, reaching across her desk, "Well you thought wrong, now didn't you? And besides, it's not fiction, it's simply inconclusive fact," Hermione sniffed, "Now give me back my book before I get someone to give you detention, James Potter!"
James dangled the book above Hermione's head in response, chuckling at her exasperated expression, "Only if you say please."
Hermione huffed before gritting her teeth and holding a hand out, "Give me back my book before I get someone to give you detention please, James Potter."
"As you wish, my lady." James bowed low as he presented her the book, but pulled it back before her hands could touch it, making her scowl, "Once you tell me what you need it for."
Hermione's eyes glinted with a dangerous light which had made more than one out-of-line Slytherin run back to their dungeons with their tail between their legs. James smiled beatifically at her.
"How does it concern you what I read?" Hermione swiped again for the book that James teasingly held out.
James shrugged, his face becoming serious as he tucked the book under his arm, ignoring Hermione's incessant tugging to release it from his person, "I dunno. You've always got your head stuck inside some boring old book. Makes me curious how you tick."
"Well, that's for me to know and for you to keep you sodding nose out of, isn't it?" Hermione smarmily replied, before letting out a small squeak of success when he relinquished the book.
James studied her as she flipped the book back open, shoving a piece of hair behind her ear before her face took that glazed expression that meant that he'd lost her once again to the world of words.
Finally, nearly an entire chapter later, he said, "Sometimes it's like you're from an entirely different world."
Hermione glanced sharply up at him, "What did you just say?"
James felt uncomfortable under the intensity of the older woman's eyes, "I dunno," he admitted, "Sometimes it's just like you're from somewhere else entirely – not that that's a bad thing! But if you say that I'm up and down, you must be from a completely different universe—"
"Shut it." Hermione was still staring at him with those eyes, making him snap his jaw closed, "I'm thinking."
He snorted. The medi-witch never stopped thinking to begin with.
"Different universe…" She seemed to muse over the word, rolling it over her tongue as if it had an interesting taste when she burst out, "James, you're a genius! Oh, I could kiss you right now!"
"Okay!" James said enthusiastically, albeit confusedly.
Dropping her prized tome, Hermione shoved herself away from the table, muttering under her breath as she headed towards one of her many book-towers, running her fingers down the spines before wrenching one out near the base, not caring as the rest of the stack toppled over as she hurriedly flicked through.
"All this time, I've been viewing time as a fixed element, but maybe that's not it at all?" James sunk into the vacated chair, unable to tell if she was directing her speech at him or just talking aloud, "Maybe the idealisms of time extend and alter the further back you travel? The Grandfather Paradox is out since I have no way of getting back, and I've destroyed the idea that the timeline could reattach itself after such long exposure. The theory of cause and effect has been proven so that only leaves…"
Hermione paused. Staring down at the half-turned page in wonder, a small smile spread across her face, growing as she turned to James. Clutching the book close to her chest she leant over and pecked him on the cheek, before racing out of the office heading towards the great doors, "Thank you, James!"
James could only feel the heat where her soft lips had touched his unshaved cheek, and belatedly called out, "Oi! Where're you going?"
His question was met with the quick cry of "Dumbledore!" and the slamming of oak doors.
7:42am; Saturday 1st July, 1978 – Hogwarts Platform
James glanced around the small platform, standing on his toes and arching his neck to look over a bunch of Slytherin girls that were gossiping nastily. He struggled to balance his trunk and Callidus in his cage while his friends snickered at him.
James huffed, "I can't see her. Where is she?"
Sirius rapped his knuckles sharply on James' forehead, "Sorry to say, mate, but you probably won't come. When has a teacher ever seen the Hogwarts students off?"
"Technically she's not a teacher…" James said wanly.
"I don't really think that matters, James. Besides, I'm certain Lily is looking for you by now. She doesn't want you shirking off your duties again like at the beginning of the year." Remus said.
James grumbled as he awkwardly stomped off, Callidus squawking indignantly from under his arm whenever he jostled him too much, calling back promises of meeting up with the rest of the Marauders once he'd finished his obligations.
Head duties were a bore. Lily had taken it upon herself to do all the talking as she ordered students onto the train while James hung back, swivelling his head around every few seconds in hope of catching sight of the enchanting medi-witch always left his chest hurting. The last of the students had just filed onto the Hogwarts Express when it let out a low whistle, much to his owl's displeasure as he and Lily hurried to clamber onto the train, the pair splitting off shortly after with the red-haired beauty giving him a final kind goodbye.
James dragged his trunk down the narrow corridor as the train pulled out of the station. He glanced through an empty compartment to watch his beloved castle grow smaller as the train chugged away. James let out a sigh and turned to head further down the corridor, every so often glancing through open doors as Hogwarts became just a speck in the distance. Glancing up one last time, he was surprised to see a familiar figure perched primly on the edge of her seat in an otherwise empty compartment, a large book open in front of her.
"'Mione?" James blurted out, surprised, "What are you doing here?"
Hermione blinked up at him, "Going home, obviously."
She shrugged, "Anywhere I want."
"But I thought you—"
Hermione's laughter filled the compartment, "You have the worst memory, James. I've told you tonnes of times, I was only covering for Madam Hale for the year."
An easy grin slid over James' face as he casually dropped into the seat opposite her, stretching out comfortably across the length of the seat, ignoring Hermione's disapproving eye. All dismal feelings gone.
"So what made you scarper off so quickly the other week?" he asked coolly. He wouldn't admit it, but his heart was beating painfully fast as he forced his muscles to relax.
Hermione smiled ecstatically at him. James instantly committed it to memory, "It's a rather long story." she admitted.
"I've got time."
Something bright lit in her eyes along with the mirth that danced around in their depths, "So do I."
The end! You will not believe how long this story took me to write! It was infuriating! 30 pages!
Just an interesting fact, the person Hermione was reading about, Unspeakable Mintumble, is an actual character in the Harry Potter universe that was magically transported back to the Middle Ages for 5 days and in effect, accidentally made it so about 25 descendants of the people she met were never born and when she was finally returned to her time, she aged 500 years and died shortly after. Pretty tragic.
However, in Hermione's situation, she wasn't transported back in time to be exact, but to an alternate universe where she may never have existed in the first place. A timeline that was almost parallel to her own, give or take 25 years.
Hope you all enjoyed. Please review if you did, I'd love to hear your opinions!