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Betting on a Date by WaterLily

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Format: Novella
Chapters: 12
Word Count: 23,462
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Violence, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse

Genres: Fluff, Romance
Characters: Lupin, Sirius, Lily, James, Pettigrew
Pairings: James/Lily

First Published: 07/29/2012
Last Chapter: 09/18/2013
Last Updated: 09/18/2013

Summary:




Banner by me :)


When James feels no closer to winning Lily Evans at the start of Seventh Year, he enlists the help of his fellow Marauders. They make a heavy bet on it, and soon the four boys are each working earnestly on achieving the impossible: Convincing Lily to go on a date with James. But with each boy so determined, who will win the bet?


Chapter 1: James - Making The Bet (Prologue)
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Disclaimer: Anything you recognize belongs to our Queen, J.K. Rowling. :)









 

James's POV:

"Don't you think, Prongs?" Remus's voice suddenly pulled me out of my thoughts. I started at the sound of my nickname and glanced wildly around at the three faces staring straight at me. Peter was on the bench directly opposite me in the compartment, his thin, straggly blonde hair partially covering his watery blue eyes. He was clearly waiting for me to speak so that he could agree with me, as usual. Beside him, Remus' light brown eyes were studying me quizzically, catching on to the fact that I hadn't paid him the slightest bit of attention moments before. Sirius, slouched on the seat next to me, straightened and glanced at my face for the briefest moment before barking in laughter.


"Oh, uh… yeah, I totally agree," I said quickly, feigning a look of interest.


"Me too!" Peter piped up immediately, just as I had predicted.


"You have no idea what we're talking about, do you, Prongs?" Sirius said knowingly as a wicked grin emerged on his face. "Deep in thought, hm? About what… or whom?"


"I was listening--"


"Evans, perhaps?" Sirius continued, wiggling his eyebrows. But before I could respond, the compartment door slid open, and Lily Evans herself was standing in my presence.


The first thing I noticed - as always - was her brilliant red hair, which was lightly cascading down her shoulders in gentle waves. It framed her face perfectly, the vivid red contrasting greatly with her lovely pale complexion. Her glistening emerald eyes were wide as she noted our compartment's inhabitants, and then her soft pink lips formed a familiar scowl.


She was truly the epitome of beauty, even more stunning when grimacing in person than when smiling in my daydreams.


Without meaning to, my hand jumped to my already-messy black hair, ruffling it nervously. "Hey, Evans," I said in what I hoped was a smooth, suave voice.


She glared at me. "Potter," she said coldly. I felt numb, like I always did when she spoke to me, or acknowledged me, or even glanced at me.


"And what has influenced you to grace us with your presence?" Sirius asked with a smirk. Her eyes swiveled to his grey ones instead, and I sighed, missing her piercing gaze already.


"I'm doing my rounds," she replied, pointing to her Head Girl badge. "But it looks like you guys aren't up to anything terrible… yet," she added, stepping out of the compartment.


"Go out with me, Evans?" I suddenly called out to her, mentally cursing myself. I couldn't help it - it was so difficult to restrain myself from finding out if her opinion of me had finally changed every day… or hour… or minute…


She sighed exasperatedly. "For the last time, no, Potter!" she yelled, slamming the door shut with such force that I was afraid it was going to break.


I slumped down in my seat, putting my head in my hands. It truly pained me how much I loved her and how little she could even tolerate me. But I had to keep my spirits up, or else I would never win her heart. I finally looked up and found the others all staring at me.


"This is the year," I told them all. They groaned loudly, but I plunged on. "This is the year that Lily Evans is going to fall in love with me. I can--"


"Just feel it. All it will take is planning, determination, and lots of perseverance," each of my friends said in unison in flat tones.


"We know," Remus said wearily. "You've been telling us since… second year?" he guessed. Sirius nodded in confirmation.


"Mate, you really should get a move on with her," Sirius urged, patting my shoulder amicably. "After this… well, there won't be a next year, Prongs. This is seventh year now. This is it."


I stared at him in disbelief. No. This couldn't be it, this simply couldn't be the end of my efforts to court Lily. I had always held on to the hope that if things didn't work out one year, it was no problem, there was always next year to pursue her. But not this time. With both of us gone from Hogwarts, I would never see her again. Sure, it had vaguely registered in my mind that we were heading to seventh year, but I hadn't considered what it meant for Lily and I.


"Padfoot… what am I going to do?" I begged, feeling suddenly hopeless. He shared a meaningful look with the others, and Remus spoke up.


"Well, Prongs, maybe you have to do something different this year if you want her to… reciprocate your feelings," he suggested.


"Yes, exactly!" Sirius exclaimed, a grin forming on his face. "And it's quite clear what you have to do."


"What's that?" I asked, looking from Remus' knowing look to Sirius' equally knowledgeable smirk.


"Use magic to charm her into loving you," Sirius answered.


At the same time, Remus spoke, "Be diplomatic and talk to her politely."


Both of them stared at each other. Then Remus said slowly, "Padfoot, the only logical thing to do is to befriend her first. If Prongs talks to her and gains her trust now, he'll be well on his way to going out with her."


"Yeah, like she's going to start being friendly with him," Sirius scoffed. "We go to a school for magic, Moony, how about we do something useful with it for once?"


I sighed and looked at Peter. "What do you think, Wormtail? Which approach should I try?"


Peter looked fearful at being asked his opinion on the matter. He stuttered out, "W-well, I think what you're doing is bound to work, Prongs. You know, pressuring her to go out with you."


"Where's that gotten him so far, Wormtail?" Sirius sighed impatiently.


"Well, she's gonna crack this year after six years of him bothering her," Peter argued.


"I've got it!" Sirius suddenly cried, an excited gleam in his eye. He stared at each of us mischievously before asking, "What do you say we each approach this in our own way?"


"What do you mean?" Remus asked slowly, though his racing mind was surely stumbling upon where Sirius' statement was heading.


"I mean that we each try to get Lily to go out with Prongs using our own method… like a game! I use magic, Moony uses… er, diplomacy, Wormtail uses pressure, and Prongs uses his supposed 'charm'. Whoever's method works gets bragging rights - and thirty galleons from each of the others!" he declared.


Everyone thought over this for a moment. "This may actually be a good idea, Padfoot," Remus admitted.


"You're not the only one with brains, Moony," Sirius replied, looking quite pleased with himself.


"I'll do it," Peter agreed earnestly, eager to prove himself worthy.


"Me too," Remus volunteered.


"Great," Sirius said, smiling widely and turning to look at me. "Prongs, are you up for the challenge?"


"Haven't I always been?" I retorted, but I couldn't keep the grateful smile off my face. Trust my friends to help me in even the most desperate of situations. We would each be wholeheartedly participating in this task, our motivation having no bounds. And when we Marauders put our minds to something, we never fail.

 

AN: Hey everybody, this is my second fanfiction, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it! Don't forget to leave a review with comments, compliments, or criticism. ~WaterLily :)


Chapter 2: Peter - Chaos on the Train
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Peter's POV:

We extended our hands toward each other at the same time, clamping them together and shaking them firmly up and down once. Then we pulled them back, and silence fell upon our compartment. I realized we were all racking our brains for clever ways to achieve the impossible - getting Lily to fall in love with James. But of course, I wasn't really considered a competitor in this challenge. It would be between Remus, Sirius, and James, as usual.


A thought suddenly occurred to me. If I were to somehow be the one to get Lily and James together, it would shock everyone. They'd be forced to respect me more and realize that I'm more clever than they give me credit for! Of course, I don't really think I'm all that clever myself, but this would still prove my worth to them.


Sirius clapped his hands with the air of someone who has just closed a deal. "Well, then it's settled," he said cheerily. "The competition begins… now!"


"Good luck to you all," Remus said politely to each of us in turn.


"Keep your luck to yourself, Moony. You need it more than we do," Sirius smirked.


I rose to my feet. "Well, I'll be back later," I told them all as nonchalantly as I could. "Bathroom."


I escaped the compartment and slid the door shut, then stood in the hallway for several moments. I needed to think. This was possibly the most important competition I'd ever been in - just imagining the looks of shock and respect directed towards me on my friend's faces would be worth any amount of effort I put forth. I thought harder than I'd ever thought before, trying to ease my feelings of anxiety. The first thing to do, I decided, was to spy on her. After all, the more information I got, the better. Then I would drill the idea into her day and night until she would be forced to consent just to get rid of me. That made sense to me, and I was rather pleased with myself as I crossed the hall to the bathroom.


Once safely concealed from the eyes of any students wandering through the train, I closed my eyes and concentrated on the image of my rat form - small as a potato, with smooth grey fur and a long pink tail that my friends comically referred to as a pesky worm following me around in a very undesirable place. I opened my eyes, and suddenly the dark room I had been in before was flooded with light - I was staring straight through the crack at the bottom of the door. Swiftly and silently, I slipped through the small opening and scurried down the corridor. But which compartment was Lily in?


I sighed sadly. If I were someone smart, like James or Sirius or Remus, I'd have solved this problem while I could still see above the windows. As it was, there weren't even small cracks under the doors for me to look through - the doors slid smoothly shut and blocked out any easy entrance to the compartments. Not knowing what to do, I returned dejectedly toward the bathroom to change into human form once more. Hopefully when I became a rat again no one would find my frequent bathroom trips suspicious. But as I passed a compartment not too far from the bathroom, I heard familiar bark-like laughter and stopped short. This was where my friends were, and their usual loud, boastful tones made them quite easy to hear with my ear pressed against the thin door.


"… Seriously, Prongs?" I heard Sirius manage to get out through his laughter.


"You really are a stalker," Remus said with a smile in his voice.


"No I'm not!" James protested indignantly. "I'm just saying the truth! Her compartment number is the sum of the digits of her address minus the product of the first two digits of her birthday." Yes! Now I could go to her compartment and-- wait. How was I supposed to know her address and birthday? I barely knew that about my friends, let alone Lily!


"Do you calculate everything in terms of Lily-related units, Prongs?" Sirius smirked, I was sure of it from his tone. "Because I'm happier than ever that I made this challenge now. You're so obsessed that it's almost sad!"


"It is sad, actually," Remus put in.


"Oh, thanks, Moony," James muttered. There was a pause briefly before James asked, "What are you doing, Padfoot?"


"Writing down some useful spells for my Lily-trapping, of course!" Sirius said proudly. "There's no way I'm losing thirty galleons to any of you." We'll see, Padfoot, we'll see.


"Sure, mate," James replied. "But you forget that I've had six years of practice wooing Lily. It'll take you more than a day!"


"But you forget that I seem to succeed in all my endeavors, whereas you, my good fellow, have been failing miserably at your only one."


"It's not as easy as it looks to charm Lily, and I don't imagine it looks all that easy!" James retorted. "Now you can see for yourself how difficult it is!"


"Well, dear Prongsie, I have a plan. I'll go to" -- dramatic pause -- "the Library." I gasped, as did the others. "I'll research every spell I can and look for something useful."


"Wow," Remus finally said sarcastically. "Very well thought out, Padfoot. I've actually made a useful plan. I'm going to find out exactly why she seems to so strongly dislike Prongs and talk her out of her dislike from there."


"Like that's going to work," Sirius chuckled. "Though that's an interesting point… surely she doesn't just hate Prongs's guts so much because he's a wee bit conceited."


"'A wee bit'? She says my head is so big that she's surprised my broomstick can carry me," James moaned. "That's making fun of my arrogance, weight, and flying ability!" The other two laughed heartily at this.


"Well, I think I'll pay Lily a visit," James said after a while. "Her rounds ended not long ago, she'll love to have some company."


"Yeah, good luck with that, Prongs," Sirius snickered. The door slid open in front of me, and there stood James Potter, messy-haired, bespectacled, and adopting a rather goofy grin at the thought of his destination. He turned and marched purposefully to his right, and I followed excitedly. Now that I knew everyone's plans and the compartment Lily was staying in, I was certain I was off to a great start. I allowed myself a small smile as I continued on - moments like these didn't come very often.


"My dear Lily!" James cried as he opened the door. "How fabulous it is to see you!"


Lily's laughing face turned our way, and in that instant I could see why James liked her so much. She was so naturally pretty, with her vibrant, wavy red hair and sparkling green eyes full of life, that it was hard to not first gaze at her when faced with a compartment full of people. Soon, though, her eyes became full of a passionate anger, and she grimaced deeply.


"You know what would have been a fabulous time to see you?" Lily said in a falsely sweet voice. "During our rounds! You're Head Boy, and you're supposed to be helping me out with our duties!"


He held up his hands apologetically. "Sorry, sorry, but I'm new to this whole 'responsibility' thing," he said casually, throwing her a wink that I've seen work wonders on many other girls. I had never gotten the hang of it - everyone just laughed at me when I tried to imitate my friends' flirting techniques. I may have been in the exclusive group known as the Marauders, but I didn't seem to really be treated as one - just as the odd kid tagging along. But I'd show them - one day I'd be known as a person of worth, and I really hoped this contest would be the thing to do it.


Lily scowled at him. "Just leave me alone, Potter."


"Actually," he smiled charmingly, "I think I'll stay right here. You ladies don't mind, do you?" he asked the other girls in the compartment.


The one closest to Lily smirked at her friend as she said, "Of course not, James. You can sit right here next to Lily." The girl, who had short black hair and dark brown eyes, scooted over in her seat.


"Oh, thanks Alice," Lily said sarcastically, shooting her friend a glare as a blonde-haired girl giggled. "It's not funny, Mary!" Lily protested. James, meanwhile, swept over to Lily and plopped down in the seat next to her. I followed in his shadow, hiding under the seat.


"So, Lilykins--"


"Don't call me that," Lily snapped. James raised his hands defensively.


"Okay, okay, Lilyflower--"


"No."


"Lily dearest?"


"No, Potter! It's Lily, and that's all! L-i-l-y. Got it?"


"Got it, Lilypad."


"UGH!" Lily cried out, clearly frustrated. She crossed her arms and looked defiantly away from James, her chin up and her mouth in a set line. I squirmed uncomfortably. I didn't like my spot under the seat - it was so dark and sticky, and I felt like I couldn't really get a good view of the scene, so I crawled up the seat on Lily's other side. She seemed to notice my head poking up, because her eyes drifted downward - uh oh. I tried to hide in time, but her gaze rested on mine, and she let out a small shriek.


"What? What's wrong?" Alice exclaimed, startled.


"It's a huge rat!" Lily screamed. I watched as the other girls caught sight of me and shrieked loudly, recognition dawned on James's eyes, and Lily jumped away from me - right into James's lap. She immediately realized her mistake and tried to escape, but James wrapped his arms around her and smiled.


"Relax, Lilypad, it's harmless," he said, giving me a significant look. "It'll leave right now and never bother Lily again." It was clear now that he was talking to me, and I sadly crawled to the door and waited beside it.


Lily squirmed against James's hold on her. "Er, Potter, will you let me go now?" she asked resignedly.


"But Lilypad, I thought you were quite comfortable with our seating arrangement!"


"Now," she repeated icily. James didn't seem to get the hint.


"I don't see a problem with it myse--"


"Relashio!" Lily cried, wand retrieved from her pocket and aimed towards James's interlocked hands. Sparks flew, relinquishing James's hold of her, and she leaped away from him with a repulsed look on her face. "Leave. Now," she hissed in a dangerous voice, wand pointed straight at his face. Everyone, even James, looked rather terrified at the pure rage in her face.


He got up from the seat and slowly made his way towards the door, Lily directing her wand on him the whole way. He opened the door and sent his foot flying towards me so that I squeaked in fear and scurried out of the compartment. James turned, gazing right at Lily, and asked her with a cheeky smile, "Go out with me?" He quickly slid the door shut so that it took the spell instead of him, and I watched in horror as the door shattered right before our eyes. Lily muttered under her breath as she waved her wand in frustration, and the pieces of the door reassembled as James and I made a hasty exit.


James picked me up by the tail and took a few long strides to our compartment, entering and finding Remus and Sirius in a very intense chess match. I felt highly uncomfortable, dangling uselessly by my tail, but if I changed back now I would crash to the floor.


"Hey Prongs," Remus greeted without looking up from the board. "Hey, where's Wormtail? He's been in the bathroom for quite a while."


James held out his hand, and I followed. Sirius took one look at me and laughed. "So what was Wormy up to, then?" he asked with a wide grin.


James tossed me onto the bench, and I took the opportunity to morph back into myself. "Spying on Lily, from what I saw," he grinned.


Sirius's mouth fell open. "What? He's started on this thing before we did?" He shook his head in disbelief. "We've got to step up our game, Moony."


I felt rather pleased with myself for the remainder of the train ride. Sure, I hadn't come close to winning yet, but I had definitely proven myself to be one step ahead of my friends, and that had definitely shocked them.

AN: And the story begins! I know Peter isn't one of the favorite characters of the Marauders, but throughout the story I will be changing the Point of View to each of them in turn, so he will be narrating a couple more chapters. I hope you're enjoying the story so far, please leave any comments in a review! ~WaterLily :)


Chapter 3: Remus - A Game of Strategy
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Remus's POV:

I frowned as Sirius expertly ordered his queen forward, seizing my last rook. This was a game requiring pure strategic and intellectual skill, so why was Sirius beating me already? I had suspected that I would at least have a lengthier battle with him before one of our kings met their ultimate demise, but we had scarcely been playing for five minutes and half of my pieces were gone. Cautiously, I pushed my bishop forward, biting my lip in apprehension.


"Hah!" Sirius cried triumphantly, his own white bishop sailing diagonally across the board. "Checkmate," he said gleefully. My mouth dropped open as I studied the board before me - how had I not seen that? How had I not foreseen any of these spectacular moves he had performed?


I leaned back in my seat, brushing back the few strands of light-brown hair that were just in my line of vision. I really needed to give my hair a trim soon, or I'd end up looking like Sirius.


"Nice job, Padfoot," I amended, though I was still shocked at the outcome of what I thought would be a harmless game.


"Wanna play again?" he asked with a wicked grin. I glared at him, but he just smirked back.


"How… how did you do that?"


"Do what, exactly?"

"All of… that." I gestured vaguely to the chess board in front of us.


"Aw, does Moony feel inferior to old Padfoot?" Sirius asked innocently, the wicked grin not leaving his face.


"I… suppose… well, mildly… oh, forget it," I sighed, packing away the remains of the pieces. Sirius's crisp white ones seemed to be mocking me as I stored them away. He had been adamant about using the white pieces, which I surmised had something to do with his complete hatred of the majority of the Black family and wish for dissociation with them. At least neither James nor Peter had seen my rather embarrassing defeat in the chess game - the two weren't there, and I supposed they had left in the midst of the game for more work on winning the bet. I felt the train begin to slow and quickly retrieved my luggage from the shelf above my head.


"This is great, isn't it, Moony?" Sirius said contently as he, too, reached for his trunk. "Seventh year! We're on the top of the food chain now."


"Haven't we always been?" I questioned, thinking back to our last four years at Hogwarts when people of all years seemed to admire us the most.


Sirius laughed loudly. "Oh yeah, I forgot. But we're officially top of the food chain now. And after this year… that's it. No more Marauders at Hogwarts."


My head snapped up, my startled brown eyes meeting his equally surprised grey ones. The thought of a Hogwarts without the Marauders hadn't really occurred to us yet. "Then this year will be our best yet," I vowed. "We'll make sure no one forgets our time at Hogwarts."


"We'll leave with a bang!" Sirius declared, excitement dancing in his eyes.


"But first let's get there before the carriages leave," I suggested. Sirius nodded hastily, and the two of us packed our things back into our trunks and left them in the compartment, striding out the doors and bumping straight into Lily.


She turned and smiled at me. "Oh, sorry, Remus," she apologized, continuing quickly on her way.


Behind her, I heard James rather desperately crying out, "Please, Lily!" He was racing after her, as was Peter - who was struggling to keep up with James in the crowded corridor - and had a look of pure longing on his face.


She turned towards him with a much different expression than she had shown me plastered on her face. "For the last time, Potter, no! Get it through your thick head!"


Sirius, meanwhile, had brightened at the sight of James and was making his way towards him. I heard him mutter in a low voice to him, and James, shoulders sagging, sighed and nodded reluctantly. The three scurried past Lily, James's head twisting quite obviously to get another look at her. I watched in amusement as Sirius slapped him, reprimanded him, and practically pushed him out of the train.


Lily, straight ahead of me, looked utterly confused as her gaze rested on the three Marauders. I recognized an opportunity when I saw one and hastened to walk right next to her. If I could enforce the fact that we were on friendly terms with each other, perhaps someday - hopefully soon - she would confide in me why exactly she didn't like James. Maybe I could even convince her to give him a chance. I had a clear advantage over the other Marauders here, for Lily could actually stand my presence and speak in an unforced, friendly way to me. I would have to press that advantage, because it was just about the only one I had, and James and Sirius seemed to be superior in nearly everything else. I was quite pleased with the terms of the bet. If I won, I would finally show my rather stubborn friends that diplomacy was the key to solving problems, not the brute force, persistence, and magical methods that they always seemed to resort to. And if I lost… well, maybe I'd be the one learning the lesson.


"So Lily, how was your Summer?" I asked pleasantly as I caught up to her. She looked a little confused but smiled at me nonetheless.


"It was wonderful, my sister's fiancé - now her husband - invited me to their wedding in France. My sister wasn't all that thrilled about it, but she figured she had to have some family member there, so I basically got a free vacation with my sister forced to be civil to me," Lily reminisced happily.


I frowned - Lily had a sister who had disliked her? Maybe I wasn't on as friendly terms with her as I thought. That would have to change as quickly as possible.


"Oh, right, you don't know about Petunia," Lily remembered. "Well, she's basically been jealous that I'm a witch since I was eleven."


"Since you were eleven?" I repeated, surprised. "That's an awful long time."


Lily sighed. "I know. But with the vacation to France, Petunia's civility, and no Potter, my Summer was great! Speaking of Potter, why aren't you with him?"


This seemed like my chance. "Well, sometimes I can't stand those three either," I laughed. She looked both surprised and amused by this. "You and I seem to be the only ones who understand the joy of reading and the importance of studying, and have the ability to hold a peaceful conversation around here."


"That's true," Lily reflected.


"We should become better friends with each other," I suggested. "I feel like I lose a brain cell every minute with the Marauders."


"Okay," Lily agreed, looking pleased. "I've got to go catch up to Mary now, but I'll talk to you later!"


I waved good-bye to her and allowed a satisfied grin to cross my face. It appeared that Peter and I were the only ones who had made any progress in our competition, and I had definitely gotten the most achieved.


Not a bad way to end a train ride. 

 

AN: Aah, this chapter is even shorter than the Prologue! The next one is longer though, I promise! As always, please let me know what you think in a review. ~WaterLily :)


Chapter 4: Sirius - Bringing Them Together
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Sirius's POV:

"Come on, Hat," I muttered, gripping a fork in each hand and staring at my empty golden plate in dismay. "Just put them in a house and be done with it!"


"This is an important moment for the First Years," Remus hissed from my left. "The food'll be here soon enough."


I frowned as I surveyed the long line of tiny children visibly shaking as they stood at the front of the Great Hall. "Honestly, the Sorting Hat doesn't need to consider these people for so long. Just one look at them can place them."


"You sure?" Remus asked skeptically. "People's minds and personalities are immensely complex, and you can't see through to their inner selves and match them with the House they belong in with a simple glan--"


"Ravenclaw," I interrupted.


A moment later, the Hat yelled out to the Hall, "Ravenclaw!" A great applause started up two tables away, and Remus's mouth dropped open as the nervous little girl hastened to her new table.


"How did y--" Remus began, but I cut him off as a young boy sat on the stool.


"Definitely a Slytherin, just look at that scowl. Oh well, there's some bad apples in every bunch," I sighed, quickly turning my attention to the next kids in line. Seeing the determined look in one of their faces and the way the other held himself up, I muttered under my breath, "Those two beside him will both be joining us soon."


By the time the Hat finished, Remus was staring at me in wonder. Every single one of my predictions had come true - not that I was surprised. The food finally appeared on our plates, and I felt relieved - I had only eaten fifteen Pumpkin Pasties and seven Chocolate Frogs on the train ride, so I was starving. I grabbed a bowl of chicken right by my elbow and set it on my plate, sticking both forks into different chicken wings and wolfing them down.


"Finally," I sighed happily, grabbing a few more bowls nearby. A couple new First Years nearby looked at me fearfully and a bit disgustedly, but I didn't mind - they'd be used to my eating habits soon enough.


My mouth completely stuffed with the rich Hogwarts' food, I turned to grin at James but ended up groaning instead - he was staring dreamily at the other end of the table, and I had witnessed this enough times to know exactly what - or in this case, who - held him so captivated. I nudged him sharply with my elbow and grabbed another forkful of mashed potatoes.


"Quit staring at Evans, Prongs," I ordered. He turned to me rather sheepishly, his eyes slowly coming back into focus.


"But I can't help it. She's becoming more beautiful each day, I swear," he sighed.


I shook my head at him in dismay. "Look, you know I'll be getting you and her together any day now--"


"Really?!" he exclaimed, his eyes lighting up in happiness.


"Really," I assured him. "I bet I can do it before the day's over."


James grinned from ear to ear and dug into his food, the excited look never leaving his face. I couldn't help smiling to myself as I kept eating - my best friend really was an idiot.
An assortment of creamy desserts appeared on the table in front of me, and my mouth didn't even get a chance to begin to water before I had grabbed a bowl and practically thrown its contents in my mouth. Chocolate pudding. Well done, House Elves, well done.


After about ten minutes passed by, all the decadent dishes disappeared without a trace. Even our plates and utensils vanished, along with all the food they carried. I cried out in dismay, earning a few appreciative laughs from three tables. Maybe I was a bit too loud. Whatever - I laughed along with them, quite used to playing off these things. I've had six years of practice, after all.


Dumbledore rose from his tall, elegant seat at the Staff Table and smiled down at us all, beginning the Start of Term speech that was oddly unchanging throughout the years. I found myself tuning him out as my mind drifted to more pressing problems than warnings about new rules - I was going to break them anyway, might as well be ignorant of them. My gaze rested on the subject of my current problems, who was eying Dumbledore with rapt attention in her big green eyes. Evans.


I frowned slightly as I pondered various spells I'd learned throughout the years. Surely magic was the only way to make her fall for James - only a miracle could cause her to even be able to stand him, let alone love him. As James's best mate, it was really my duty to be the one to get Lily and him together. After all, I was even more indebted to him since last year, when he offered his home as a permanent refuge for me.


I was expected to achieve this unthinkable marvel by the end of the night. I felt my confidence rising, as it always did when I was faced with a challenge, and I smiled knowingly. That always helped my brain speed up and find a solution.


The students all around me rose from their seats as one, and it was obvious that Dumbledore had just dismissed us. I hastily stood from my seat and strode as coolly as I could to the Gryffindor Common Room, nodding casually at various people I passed. Suddenly I stopped in my tracks, my head darting from side to side. Where'd the other Marauders go?


I whirled around and saw a distinctive red not far behind me, and surrounding her on three sides were none other than the three people I was searching for. On her right, Peter kept throwing looks at her, as though afraid to step forward and speak to her. Behind her, James's eyes were glued to the back of her head, a desperate longing evident in them. And on her left… was Remus talking to her?


The two were chatting as though they had been good friends for years, laughing and smiling with no sign of it being forced. At this rate, who knew when he'd be able to use his - what'd he call it? - diplomacy to encourage her to give James a chance? I gritted my teeth - I was supposed to be the miracle-worker here. That was it - drastic action had to be taken.


I turned back around and practically sprinted the rest of the way, climbing through the Portrait Hole as the person ahead of me entered - I'd find out the password later.
Once I arrived, I collapsed into an armchair by the fire, listening to the many Gryffindor students padding sleepily to their dormitories. Now what?


"Oh, that must have been hilarious, Remus!" I heard a chipper voice sound from near the entryway. My head whipped around and I peered, unnoticed by the tired Gryffindors, at the newest arrivals to the room.


"Well, I can assure you that at the time I was too frightened to think anything humorous about it, but looking back on the whole experience, it was definitely quite amusing," Remus smiled. That guy was good at talking, I'll give him that. He spoke so naturally, yet sophisticatedly, and had a touch of humor and wit with a tendency to avoid boasting. It was no surprise that Lily was getting along with him so well, however much I hated to admit it.


"I can certainly see why," Lily replied. "I'd be frightened out of my wits! Well, I have to wait for Alice - she's off with Frank and made me promise to wait here for her. Good night, Remus."


"Night, Lily," he returned pleasantly, starting towards the Gryffindor Boys' staircase and stopping when he caught sight of a small boy almost completely immersed in shadows. "Oh, hey Peter. You heading up?"


Peter shook his head. "Nah, I'm not tired at all."


"Funny, I'm not either. Want to play some Wizard's Chess?" Ah, seemed like Remus harbored a little grudge after the train ride. A natural smirk spread across my face at the thought of it, but it was too dark for anyone to see it.


"Sure, there's a board over there…"


As my friends left, an idea suddenly came to me. I crossed the room, pointed my wand at Lily, and whispered, "Expelliarmus." I watched in satisfaction as her wand came sailing straight into my hand and a priceless look of confusion appeared on her face. Her gaze followed her wand to me and the confused expression was replaced with an ugly scowl.
"BLACK! GIVE ME BACK MY--"


"Silencio!" I muttered quickly. Her mouth moved furiously, and I was relieved I didn't have to hear a legendary Lily lecture. I didn't know how James was still alive after being the target of so many.


Acting quickly, I picked up Lily, who was kicking wildly, threw her over my shoulder, and darted up the carpeted stairs to my Dormitory. I couldn't help smiling as I entered the familiar room - home at last. The maroon red carpet had various stains and scorch marks that we had inflicted upon it over six years, and looking at each one brought back a flood of memories. Our trunks were pressed up against the oak headboard at the foot of each bed - huh, I still didn't know how that happened. The five four-poster beds were empty, as Peter, James, Remus, and Frank were all elsewhere at the moment. I knew immediately from the first glance that this was the cleanest I would see our room this year. I set Lily down right in front of James's bedpost and said firmly, "Incarcerous."


Thick ropes swirled around Lily, binding her to the wooden post, and I couldn't help but grin as I noticed that her mouth hadn't stopped moving since I had grabbed her. "Save your breath, Evans," I smirked. "No one can hear you."


The door creaked open, and a messy-haired head emerged from the other side. Good, just the guy I was looking for.


"Hey Prongs!" I called cheerfully. "Look who's paying you a visit!"


His gaze fell on Lily and his mouth dropped open. Lily glared at him with such intensity that even I felt a bit uncomfortable. Then James slowly turned towards me, a questioning look in his eyes.


"Er… Padfoot, why'd you bring Lily here?" he asked confusedly.


"Well, I said I'd bring you two together by tonight," I reminded him proudly, "And I did! See, there she is, not yelling at you and not going anywhere. Isn't that enough?"


He frowned, then muttered to me so that Lily couldn't hear, "No, the goal was to make her fall in love with me, remember?"


"I thought it was to get her to go out with y--"


"This is not 'going out', Padfoot!"


"Fine," I sighed. "Well, magic can do that, too… after I think about it for a bit longer. Don't doubt me for a second, Prongs."


"Wouldn't dream of it," James grinned. He turned towards his bed again and noticed that Lily's mouth was still moving furiously as she struggled in vain against her bonds. Taking out his wand, he waved it once lightly and the ropes retracted from around her body. Immediately, the rather small girl raced straight up to me and delivered a sharp punch to my chest. It hurt far more than it should have, coming from her tiny fists, and she continued jabbing me repeatedly.


"Blimey, Evans!" I exclaimed, shocked. "Do I have to Stun you to make you stop?" Then realization came to me. "Oh, right. You want your wand back." She nodded fiercely, tapping her foot impatiently. I slowly reached into my back pocket and withdrew her wand, dangling it just out of reach as a thought occurred to me. "Now, Evans, don't start screaming like a Banshee like you always do after these sorts of situations happen. You'll wake up the whole castle! So just… stay quiet, all right?"


Instead of answering, she jumped into the air and snatched her wand right out of my grasp. I cringed, ready for her infamous screaming, as she waved her wand beside her head. But to my relief, she simply hissed, "I'll talk to you later, Black," and stalked out of the room, making sure to slam the door behind her.


I heard a small chuckle from beside me and frowned at James. "Why didn't you help me when she started beating me up?" I demanded.


"You deserved it."


I scowled at him and leapt onto my bed, finding it suddenly difficult to stay motivated to brainstorm ways to win over Lily for him.

AN: I've finished writing this story on my computer, so it's only waiting for each chapter to be validated that's going to affect how long it takes for the story to be completely up. :) Hope you enjoyed this chapter, and let me know what you think! 


Chapter 5: James - Flinging and Failing
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James's POV:

"James… Prongs… wake up!" I heard faintly. It sounded vaguely like Remus's voice plunging itself into my dreamless slumber. Frowning slightly at the interruption, I turned onto my right side and buried my face into my pillow. So soft… I felt myself slipping back into a deep sleep…


"C'mon, Prongs," Sirius's voice urged. Ugh, why couldn't he just let me sleep? "Evans is waiting for you!" What?! I bolted up in my four-poster bed, my right hand automatically messing up my hair as I turned my head from side to side in search of her. I soon registered Peter, Sirius, and Remus outright laughing at my reaction, and I finally realized what had happened.


I groaned. "Must you guys lie to me every single time I don't get up right away?"


"We have to, or else you'll be late," Remus reminded me. I really hate his logic sometimes.


"Never gets old," Sirius chuckled, wiping a tear from his eye. I smacked him with my pillow.


"Well, what time is it?" I asked, yawning as I hopped down from the mattress.


"8:20," Peter piped up, anxiously brushing his thin blonde hair back.


I frowned. I knew I was used to a Summer sleep schedule and all, but that still sounded way earlier than necessary. "That's pretty early. I could've had at least twenty more minutes of sleep."


"No you couldn't, Mr. Head Boy. You've got to hand out schedules, remember?" Remus said as he brushed his teeth.


"Ugh. What kind of reward is this whole Head Boy thing, anyway? It's just more work," I grumbled as I began throwing my belongings on the floor, finally finding my clothes near the bottom of my trunk.


"Well, considering you get to do your duties with Evans…" Sirius began mischievously.
I smiled. "I think I'll be okay," I conceded. I got ready more quickly, hoping Lily would perceive my early arrival as me taking my new responsibilities seriously. Surely she'd appreciate that.


By 8:25, the four of us left a sleeping Frank snoring soundly in his bed and strolled down the staircase to the Dormitories at a leisurely pace, planning future pranks on our way to the Great Hall.


"Mr. Potter, good to see you return as our Head Boy," Professor McGonagall said briskly as she strode purposefully towards us at the entrance of the Great Hall. "Here are the schedules for the pre-OWL years. Give Gryffindor a good name, will you?" She handed me a small stack of crisp rectangular sheets of paper and gave me a small, rare smile with a hint of warmth in it before she swept down the table. I always knew old Minnie liked me.


I shuffled through the papers and frowned. "Who in the name of Merlin are these people?" I asked, reading name after unfamiliar name. Sirius peered over my shoulder and a cloud of confusion overtook his features as well.


"Yeah… good luck with that, Head Boy," he grinned, plopping down at the table with Remus and Peter.


I stuck my tongue out at him (in the most mature way possible, I assure you) and began the long, dull task of asking the younger Gryffindors their names and finding their slip of paper out of the large stack, all the while ignoring the laughter of my friends. I glanced down at the top piece of paper and read the name to myself. "Susanna Niel," I muttered, my eyes sweeping the table. I wondered whether it'd make McGonagall angry if I shouted the names down the table and was just about to risk it when I heard a beautiful voice behind me.


"She's a Fourth Year, sitting right there," Lily informed me, pointing to a young girl four seats away. I grinned at Lily as I handed over the paper to the girl she pointed out, though I wasn't quite thinking straight anymore. My only thoughts were now of her vivid red hair, her lovely pale skin, her vibrant eyes… Why did Lily have to mess up my brain so much?


"Thanks for the help, Evans," I told her in the smoothest voice I could manage under the circumstances, trying to look busy as I ruffled through the stack.


Lily grimaced at the thought. "I'm helping everyone here, Potter. You're taking far too long, and they're all going to be late for their lessons if we don't speed this up."


"Sure," I said, my mind already interpreting her actions and trying to decipher the smallest hint of her affection for me. She rolled her eyes, grabbed my stack, and began swiftly delivering the pieces of parchment to each kid. I followed after her, probably looking like a lost puppy, and watched her intently.


"How do you know all these people?" I finally asked her as she handed out papers without blinking an eye.


"I tutor lots of them," she replied simply. "Surely you remember. I've kicked you out of the rooms I tutor in more times than I can count, though I don't know how you keep finding me…"


"Oh. Right," I said, trying to push thoughts of the Marauder's Map out of my mind. I wouldn't be surprised if Lily was a Legilimens - her stare was always so sharp and piercing towards people she didn't trust, like she could see right through them. Despite that, though, I loved when she looked at me, for even a second…


"There, done," she said not long after. "I hope you're better at the rest of your Head Boy duties than you have been at the first two."


"For the school's sake or mine?"


She narrowed her eyes dangerously. "Both."


Yikes. She turned and was just about to walk towards her spot at the table when the question popped out of my mouth.


"Go out with me, Evans?"


She threw her hands in the air in frustration. "What do you think my answer will be?"


"Yes?" I asked hopefully.


"No, Potter!" she spat, marching towards her amused-looking friends as I walked sadly towards mine.


"No luck, Prongs?" Sirius grinned.


"None yet," I sighed. "But this isn't over…"


"Is it ever?" Remus asked exasperatedly. I couldn't help cracking a smile at that as I sat down between Remus and Peter, joining the conversation by munching my meal and speaking at the same time. My gaze drifted upwards, as though I had felt Lily's disgusted stare the moment it landed on me, and I found my suspicions confirmed as I saw her adorable nose delicately scrunched up. I closed my mouth quickly, not even chewing as I stared back at her, and she swiftly looked away. Sirius followed my gaze and gave several barks of laughter.


"Repulsing Evans again, are we?"


"Maybe, but did you see that? She was looking at me without me forcing her to," I said excitedly.


The other Marauders quite obviously exchanged looks with each other before Remus said, "Yeah, well, you've almost got her convinced, then." I felt my hopes rise for an instant before I recognized the sarcasm behind his words and scowled at him.


"Mr. Potter, you are applying for NEWT-level Defense Against the Dark Arts, Herbology, Potions, Charms, and Transfiguration?" Professor McGonagall asked with an air of already knowing the answer as she pulled out a blank sheet of paper and consulted her notes.


"Yes, ma'am," I answered quickly.


"Well, all seems to be in order," she replied, tapping the parchment and handing it to me. I glanced down at my new schedule and smiled at the sight of several free periods each day.


"Excellent, we've got the same classes," I heard from my right. I turned and saw Sirius leaning around Remus to get a good look at my paper. "Wormy, how 'bout you?"


"Er, guys," Remus spoke up nervously, "Transfiguration's all the way in the West wing, and we've only got five minutes left before it begins."


"Have we ever been concerned about being late before?" Sirius asked lazily, ladling more soup into his bowl.


"We always are on the first day of term," I reminded him, standing up. "We've got to get the best seats! Plus," I added happily, "Lily gets mad at me for being late, and being on time will definitely impress her."


As if on cue, Lily and her friends rose from their seats and hastened towards the great double doors at the entrance of the Great Hall. I brightened instantly. "Lily!" Her expression, on the other hand, dimmed as I came into view. "Potter," she replied curtly, hurrying to get past me. I wrapped my arm quickly around her shoulders and plucked her schedule right out of her hands.


"Hey!" she protested, snatching it back, but not before I had gotten a good look at it. I felt a big smile stretch across my face.


"We have all the same classes, Lily! Isn't that exciting?" I said earnestly. She groaned and didn't seem to think the question deserved an answer, for she hurried forward to get past me. "Wait, Lilypad! We're going to the same place, we can walk together!"


She made a face at me. "I want to spend as little time with you as possible, if you haven't noticed by now."


"I assure you that I can make any time you spend with me quite worth it." I winked charmingly. Our lovely banter was sure to get me somewhere with her, right?


Lily looked revolted. "Must you make disgusting references every time you talk to me?"


"If you really want to, we can skip the references and go right ahead to--"


"Just stop right there, Potter." She rushed into the Transfiguration room before I could respond, and I noticed Professor McGonagall seated behind her desk. Lily had a relieved smile on her face as she sat in between Mary and Alice. Darn it - I was going to sit there! I tried to ignore her smug smile as I walked past her and plopped down in the seat directly behind her. I soon found myself smiling - this wasn't so bad. I could stare at the red-headed beauty in front of me throughout the whole lesson and no one could tell me off for it. Humming slightly to myself, I took a sheet of parchment, an inkwell, and a new quill out of my bag and began doodling absentmindedly in the corner of the paper.


I heard a heavy thud next to me and didn't even glance up - it was Sirius's characteristic way of entering a classroom. He would throw his bag off his shoulder, swing it around to his other side and allow it to fall heavily to the ground while he practically fell into his seat. He was an attention-seeker, and quite a gifted one, too. He peered over my shoulder and grinned wolfishly. "Nice drawing, Prongs."


"Hmm?" I glanced down and noticed I had doodled a very pretty, smiling girl with big eyes and labeled her in decorative writing 'Lily.' "Oh." I quickly scratched the drawing out with my quill, trying to ignore the sparkle of amusement in my best friend's eyes.


"Good morning, students," Professor McGonagall greeted us briskly, and silence instantly settled over the room. She certainly had a rare gift, being able to make an entire room of rowdy teenagers become completely noiseless in the space of a second. "As you know, this is the year of your NEWTs, the most important examinations you will take in your wizarding careers."


Oh, great. I forgot that the first day of seventh year would be filled with the same lecture delivered over and over again. As she rambled on and on about the importance of NEWTs and the details of how the practical and written exams would be conducted, I tuned her out easily. I'd be hearing this several times today, no need to pay attention now when there were so many more interesting subjects to think about - or at least one: Lily Evans.


I sighed as I stared at her radiant hair cascading down the back of her chair. If only I could see her face, her beautiful face…


I grabbed my quill and scribbled onto the paper 'Go out with me, Evans'. I paused, ink dripping after the last word, as I considered whether or not to put a question mark. No, that would give her too much of an option. I tapped in a period with a satisfied smile and crumpled up the parchment. Aiming carefully, I threw the wrinkled ball at Lily's head as though this were a Quidditch match. I, the Chaser, easily hurled the paper (the Quaffle) at Lily, the center hoop. Direct hit! "Ten points to Gryffindor," I thought to myself.


Lily's head whirled around as she felt the small paper bounce off of her. Her large green eyes settled on the wad of paper on the floor, and she glanced quickly at Professor McGonagall (who was busy writing examination information on the board) before picking it up and smoothing it out. As soon as her gaze fell upon the words I had scribbled, her inquisitive expression hardened considerably. She glared at me and mouthed, "No, Potter."


I removed several rolls from my bag and gently separated them into smaller sheets. Quickly I printed 'Please?' on one and hurled it at her. She steadfastly ignored it, so I copied the message again and launched it at her once more. And again and again and again. Finally she whirled around and hissed, "Quit it, Potter!"


"Miss Evans?" Professor McGonagall said sternly, though her tone also had a hint of surprise in it. Lily turned, terrified, to her tall teacher. "You know there is no talking in class. And what is this? Are you passing notes?"


"N-No, Professor," Lily said timidly. "They're being passed to me. I'm just telling him to stop!" I felt mildly bad for putting her in this position, but at the same time, I wondered if maybe she would read my notes from now on.


Professor McGonagall picked up the papers, unrolled them each individually, and frowned. "Mr. Potter, no passing notes in class. Any… commands for dates may be made outside the classroom," she said slowly with a slight air of disapproval. There was some snickering from a few students around me.


"But this way she can't yell at me," I protested, to a chorus of laughter from my classmates. The corner of Lily's mouth twitched, as though she were about to laugh, too, and I took a sharp intake of breath. Did she find me funny? Was she in love with me at long last?


Even Professor McGonagall had a small smile on her face for a fraction of a second. "Well then, Mr. Potter, you will have to find a different way to avoid that. Now, on to NEWTs…"


I debated sending more messages to Lily but decided that McGonagall wasn't going to be so lenient next time, so I settled for staring at Lily for the rest of the class. Not a bad way to spend an hour at all.

 

AN: Here's James again! It's so fun to write from his point of view. :3 Thanks again to all my readers and reviewers!


Chapter 6: Peter - Persistence
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Peter's POV:

It was nearly the end of class, and I glanced nervously to my left at the determined looks on my friend's faces. Well, two of them - James was just staring ahead of him with a dazed look in his eyes. But I had a feeling that the other two were thinking about this competition. I had lost my initial lead and hadn't even begun to ask Lily to go out with James yet. From what I had heard, Remus was now becoming friends with Lily, and Sirius had managed to kidnap her. I wasn't really sure how the kidnapping helped, but I often didn't understand my friends, and they always seemed to be right. I bit my lip. If I didn't one-up them now, I would lose this for sure. I waited anxiously as the Professor erased the board, clearly taking her time. Finally she turned to us and announced that we should head to our next class.


As soon as Professor McGonagall dismissed us, I scurried out of my seat and straight to Lily. Not far behind me, Remus and Sirius looked a little surprised. They obviously hadn't counted me as a serious competitor. Lily looked at me strangely, and I realized I hadn't spoken yet and was just standing there next to her.


"Er… hi, Lily," I greeted her quickly. Did that sound awkward? I hoped not.


"Hi, Peter," she said confusedly, cocking her head to the side slightly. In our six years of going to Hogwarts, I don't think I've ever actually had a conversation with her. Actually, I didn't have conversations with many people at all. I didn't say anything for a few seconds, and she seemed to consider our short conversation to be over. She turned and began packing her things carefully into her bag.


"You should really go out with James," I blurted out. I hadn't meant to come out that directly, but subtlety wasn't my strong suit when it came to talking to people. Uh oh. Was she mad? She looked surprised, there was no doubt about that.


"I think you know my view on the subject," Lily finally replied cooly. "I have no interest in James." She slung her bag over her shoulder and made to walk out of the classroom, but I hastily stepped in front of her.


"Please?" I asked a bit desperately.


She raised an eyebrow. "Why do you care if I go out with Potter or not?"


"Er… because… he's so mopey around us since you won't go on a date with him," I said quickly. Just then, James, Sirius, and Remus walked by, all three laughing their heads off and grinning widely. Why hadn't I thought of a reason for this beforehand? Maybe I was as hopeless as everyone said I was.


"Oh yes, he looks absolutely devastated." Lily rolled her eyes. "Did Potter put you up to this?"


"No, no!" I said quickly, my mind racing for another excuse. I always left excuse-making to the other three, who were very good at it. They were good at everything. Why couldn't I be good at anything? Why had I entered this competition? I couldn't prove I was worthy, I wasn't worthy, I was--


"So then why are you here? Are you feeling okay, Peter? You look a little… conflicted," Lily noted uncertainly.


"Yeah… um, yeah, I'm fine," I mumbled.


"Okay then… I'm going to Potions now," she told me in a voice that suggested she wasn't too keen on the conversation. I sighed. I didn't take Potions. I hadn't passed my OWL in that class, and though I rued it now, I hadn't been too eager to improve back before I took the exam.


"Wait!" I said suddenly. She stopped, clearly getting a bit annoyed now, and turned with a false smile on her face.


"Yes? What is it?" she asked wearily, inching towards the door.


"Go out with James, please!" I cried. She groaned and swept out of the room, leaving me to stare after her and mentally kick myself. I was going to lose for sure.


"Hey, Wormy." I jumped and whipped my head around to the other side of the doorway. Leaning there casually, as though he'd been there for quite some time, was Sirius, surveying me with an almost bored expression on his face.


"Hi, Padfoot," I said nervously. I wasn't sure what he was doing here. He was always tagging along with James, or if he was busy, Remus. He never exactly singled me out to spend time with me. Was he going to try to stop me from winning the competition? Or laugh at my futile attempts so far?


"Listen, Wormtail, we've got a situation," he said in the most serious voice I'd ever heard him use. I was shocked - we? "Remus is using his whole 'diplomacy' method way better than I could have imagined. He's become really good friends with Lily, and who knows what he could do then?" He looked pointedly at me, as though expecting an answer.


"Er…"


He slapped his head. "I'm talking about the competition, Wormtail. He could persuade her to give Prongs a chance, and then we've both lost. The time for drastic action is fast approaching!" He shouted the last part, as though encouraging me to fight in battle. This didn't make me feel confident at all, but I managed to whimper a response.


"Where are you going with this?"


He stared at me for a moment before answering. "Basically, I need your help to get into Slughorn's office. Seems he's charmed it heavily since the last time we stole from him. All you have to do is crawl through as a mouse to the other side of the door, transform into a human again, and open it from the other side. Simple enough?"


I nodded dumbly, trying to process this plan in my head. It certainly seemed easy enough. But…


"Why would I help you if I'm competing against you?" I squeaked. Sirius may have been one of my only friends at Hogwarts, but he intimidated me greatly.


"I'll give you your money back if I win," he offered. I just looked at him, and finally he sighed. "Fine. Your money plus twenty galleons. Fair enough? 'Cause that's the highest I'm going!" he declared.


I considered his offer for a moment. He seemed pretty certain of himself - then again, he was always certain of himself, he was Sirius Black - and he had a very good chance of winning. I had little confidence in my own chance of being the winner here by now, so if I teamed up with him, I would be a partial winner for once - and against the Marauders, too! I nodded eagerly. "Deal," I said happily.


He eyed me for a moment before smiling. "Thanks. Just go there right after our last class gets out. I'll join you a few minutes after to make it less suspicious." With that, he left, and I grinned to myself. I may not be too clever, but I do know how to get best deal for myself.

AN: Just a short chapter about how Peter's doing during all of this. Thanks so much for all of the great reviews! ~WaterLily :)


Chapter 7: Remus - Potions Problems
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Remus's POV:

I grinned as I strode to Potions, Lily laughing by my side. Our friendship was truly flourishing. I mean, anyone could tell by just looking at the facts - We could both relate to each other in many subjects and we shared the same view in nearly all the matters we brought up, making conversations between us both easy and enjoyable. It had only been a day, but I was certain that she trusted me completely by now, and I trusted her just as much.


"So how did Potter react to that?" she grinned, clearly entertaining the thought of several ways he could do bodily harm to himself.


"Well, first he grabbed his hair and began to pull it, but then Sirius cried out, 'Not your hair! It won't help for you to walk around bald!'"


"I'd like to see that," Lily smirked.


"I'm sure you would," I laughed. "But then James decided that the best thing to do would be to pull Sirius's hair instead--"


At this, Lily couldn't contain her laughter in the slightest. "Oh, that must have been priceless!" she declared.


"It was. For days afterward, all Sirius would do was mope around about his 'forever-damaged, once-handsome locks of hair'. He still doesn't think it looks the same today, but honestly, Sirius can be overdramatic at the best of times."


Lily nodded. "I know what you mean, the Marauders are the worst people to have ever entered this castle - besides you, of course, Remus," she said kindly. "I honestly don't know how you got mixed up with that lot."


I smiled grimly at her. This was my opportunity, if I could play it right. She certainly trusted me enough now, and she had brought up the subject…


"Well, they certainly appear that way from anybody outside of the group's view," I said carefully, trying to sound nonchalant. "But once you get to know them, they're actually the most brave, loyal, and selfless people I have had the pleasure to know."


She raised her eyebrows. "Really? Even Potter?"


"Oh, especially James! He invited Peter and I to his and Sirius's compartment on the first ride to Hogwarts. We were sitting in an empty compartment, not knowing anyone and being too shy to make friends. The minute he saw us, he wanted to include us."


Lily looked surprised. "Potter did that?"


"Yes, and that's back when he was eleven! He's matured since then, despite what you might think. He's done more for me than anyone else ever has. I just hope I can do the same for him one day." I said the last part more to myself, glancing sideways at Lily. But she was staring ahead of her, her jaw set, thinking deeply. I smiled to myself, certain that I had emphasized James's good points well enough in a natural manner.


We entered the classroom, where Lily noticed that her best friends, Alice and Mary, had partnered up. Lily took the seat in front of them, smiling at them as they waved to her. I was about to sit in the seat beside her when a tall figure beat me to it, practically pushing through the crowd of people in the room to reach the chair next to her first.


"Lilypad!" he cried out happily. She turned her grinning face towards his, recognized him instantly, and scowled.


"Potter, what are you doing here?" she hissed, the sound of her friends' sniggering quite obvious behind her.


"Being your partner, of course," he said nonchalantly, getting his things out of his bag and placing them on the table in front of him. I stood there, shocked at the turn of events. This was not supposed to happen. I was supposed to persuade her while we worked together! Now James was going to blow it, there was no doubt about that in my mind.


"Prongs," I whispered in a low voice, poking him in the shoulder to try to capture his attention. "Prongs!" It was no use. He had turned his eyes onto Lily, and it was like he was in a whole other world. Lily looked slightly bemused before turning her attention to the front of the room, where Professor Slughorn was shuffling through his lesson plans.


I glanced hurriedly around for a place to sit and found only one seat left - next to Sirius. I hurried over and practically fell into the seat, digging through my bag to find my Potions kit. By the time Slughorn's jovial voice was booming through the room, I had retrieved all the supplies I needed and was quickly jotting down his words in relief. Professor Slughorn said briefly that since this was the first day of school, he wanted us to try to create a rather tricky potion, just for fun, and we'd receive our NEWT lecture tomorrow. For now, though, he was scribbling quickly on the board, going over the fundamentals of the Draught of Living Death.


Throughout the short lecture, I stole a few looks at Lily and James to see how they were doing. Lily seemed a bit more curious and a little less angry at James than before, but still appeared uncomfortable with his gaze resting right on her during the entire lesson. He didn't even try to do it subtly or pretend to pay attention.


"Now please prepare for me the Draught of Living Death, using page 82 of your textbooks as reference!"


Sirius and I got to work silently, flipping our books to the correct page and removing the first ingredients from our kits. My eyes scanned the first directions quickly, and I began to chop the root in front of me into neat, even pieces, while Sirius ground the second ingredient with his pestle beside me.


As I threw the root's pieces into the cauldron, stirring twice counter-clockwise after each piece, I sighed audibly. Sirius glanced up at me with a raised eyebrow.


"Something up, Moony?" he asked, not seeming too concerned.


"Yes," I answered a bit sadly. "James is ruining things for himself! This was the period I was going to emphasize James's strong character and the best traits he has that would appeal to Lily, and now that's ruined." I suddenly looked down at the potion and frowned, thinking back to the last few seconds. "Um, Padfoot, was that one stir or two?"


"Uh…" Sirius scratched his head. "Two?" he guessed. At my nervous look, he practically laughed. "Seriously, Moony, half of the details in this book are just for show. Just go on with the potion." He scooped his ground-up, no longer identifiable ingredient into a cup and handed it to me to measure.


"Okay…" I wasn't too convinced, and I don't imagine I sounded very sure of myself, but I followed his advice and continued on with our work. Sirius dug through his kit for several leaves, seeming rather pleased about something. "What?" I asked, and the smile dropped from his face as he looked at me confusedly.


"What what?" he asked, puzzled.


"You seem happy… what happened?" I mentally cringed. What kind of question was that? Sirius seemed to be thinking along the same lines, for a grin appeared on his face.


"Gosh, Moony, someone's a bit jumpy today," he said, finally retrieving the necessary leaves and passing them along to me. I dumped the heavily-ground ingredient he passed to me into the cauldron and accepted the leaves, picking up the knife from my desk.


"Does it have something to do with my bad news?" I guessed, watching him carefully. His left ear twitched slightly, which I had learned over the years was a sure sign that he was at least very slightly nervous. Other than that, his face was completely impassive as I spoke.


"What? 'Course not, I just caught the eye of that Hufflepuff over there." He nodded to his right, and I turned and saw a giggly blonde chatting animatedly to her partner, turning, and throwing Sirius a flirtatious look. He returned it with a wink.


"Well," I said loudly, trying to capture Sirius's attention once again. "The potion should now be a delicate light-blue color--" I stopped short as the bubbling green liquid rose higher and higher in our cauldron. "Uh, Sirius--" I began before it exploded on both of us, covering us in faulty potion. Everyone in the room went quiet, including the Hufflepuff girl Sirius was flirting with, and after a few moments, Professor Slughorn strolled over in concern.


"You boys all right?" he asked, wrinkling his nose as he came nearer. "Merlin's beard! What happened here?"


"Er… I… we…" I wasn't really sure what had happened, so I gestured feebly to the cauldron in front of us. Professor Slughorn peered at it before gazing sternly at us.


"Did you not stir it both times when adding the roots?" he demanded.


Sirius looked shocked, and I muttered under my breath in a rather accurate impression of Sirius's voice, "'Half of the details in this book are just for show!' Rubbish."

AN: Sorry for the wait! School has been chaotic lately, but I've found time to put up the next chapter. Hope you're enjoying it so far, please let me know what you think! ~WaterLily :)


Chapter 8: Sirius - Slipping the Potion
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Sirius's POV:

"Mr. Black!" Professor Sprout cried. "What are you doing?!"


I paused, looking up at her incredulously. What did it look like I was doing?! "Well," I said slowly, pointing to the murderous plant I was holding in my left hand, "I'm trying to not die here, and the plant was making it difficult, so…"


"So you saw it fitting to roll on the ground, pummeling my precious plant, screaming, 'Die! Die! Die!'?" she demanded. She was normally good-tempered, though a bit stern when it came to working, but I could tell I had crossed the line when I had started doing harm to her plant.


"Erm…" I didn't really know how I was expected to respond to that.


"Did you not pay attention to the lecture when I told you how vital it is that you do not anger this plant? That the tentacles will grow thorns and become unusable? Did you not hear me carefully instruct you to tickle the plant with a feather duster, then slice the tips of the tentacles and collect them in a jar? Do you even know the name of this plant?"


I thought back to the beginning of the lesson this period. Could I remember anything from that? No, I was busy working out the specifics of my plan for once class ended. "Plantus Tentacli?" I guessed hopefully.


Professor Sprout looked startled. "Romneseus Jactellant, Black! These are going to be on your NEWTs! Must I repeat the lecture we went over last period?" Everyone in the room groaned - the first period of our double period of Herbology had been spent listening to the lengthy, repetitive speech we had gotten from every teacher while sweating in the heat of the greenhouse.


"It seems the popular response to that question is 'no.'" I said with a mild grin. She glared down at me.


"Detention, Black."


Ah, first detention of the year. I managed it in okay time, though the last class on the first day of school was rather late for me. I'd have to pick up the pace. Still, though, I had managed to make the first one be from the most unlikely teacher! Now that was an accomplishment.


I looked almost lazily at Professor Sprout. "What will it be? Lines? Pot scrubbing?"


"We'll be going over the lesson once more, and you will prove you can handle the Romneseus Jactellant on your own." She looked towards the castle, where students from other greenhouses were advancing. "Class dismissed!" she called, and everyone hurried to dinner. I quickened my pace as well, hoping to make it to Slughorn's Storage Rooms before Peter. He was hopeless at making excuses, and I figured I better be the one to do it if anything was to go to plan.


"Hey, Pad--" Remus frowned as I passed right by him. "Why are you in such a hurry?"


"Hello? It's food time!" I grinned quite convincingly and raced past him. Remus looked rather disgruntled today, and I could see why - James couldn't seem to stay away from Lily, who wasn't yelling at him nearly as much as usual (though still too much for my liking). She appeared very annoyed by the time it was Herbology, but James didn't seem to get the hint that he should leave her alone, and Remus was losing time in convincing her to go out with him.


I smiled to myself. She wouldn't need any convincing by dinner tonight.


As I pounded across the grand fields of Hogwarts, I tried to recall where Peter was. I hadn't paid much attention to his schedule this morning - well, I never really paid much attention to him. He was always just… there. Though he was good for a joke from time to time, and he had his uses in pranks, he didn't exactly stand out. Oh, yes, he was in Care of Magical Creatures, the only class farther from Slughorn's office than Herbology. Excellent - I'd be there far before him. In fact, if I ran, I could probably secure the location without him showing up halfway through! Pleased with myself, I hurried by, throwing a few occasional winks at some Sixth Year Ravenclaws I passed. Finally, I had entered the castle, descended to the Dungeons, and picked my way expertly through the twists and turns to reach the Potions room.


Just as I entered the room, taking a few deep breaths, I turned and saw a bemused Slughorn rising from his desk. "Mr. Black?" he asked curiously. "It's dinner, m'boy! What are you doing here of all places?"


I smiled innocently - deceiving teachers was one of my many special talents, and Slughorn was the easiest of them all to delude. "Sorry for interrupting you, sir," I said apologetically, keeping the grin off my face very effectively. "I think I left my Transfiguration textbook in here. I can't find it in my bag, and I've checked all my other classes today." I made sure to use an anxious tone at the last part, giving a more realistic effect.


Slughorn smiled slightly. "A lost textbook on the first day of school?" He shook his head rather patronizingly. "Oh, dear. Well, I'd be willing to help you find it if you'd like," he said kindly.


"No thank you, Professor," I said with a false smile planted on my face. "I appreciate the offer, but I'd hate to waste your valuable time--"


"No worries about that," he interjected cheerily. "It's the beginning of the school year, I'm not busy at all!"


Peter could be coming any moment now, even with my head start. However, not a trace of nervousness crossed my face, and I quickly became cool and confident on the inside again as well. "I heard a rumor that they're serving these delicious foods at dinner today… what are they called, crystallised pineapples? Have you ever heard of them? I don't think I've had them before."


I could practically see Slughorn's eyes widen at the mention of this particular dish. "Yes, I have had that before. And you probably haven't heard, but I happen to have a particular fondness for that treat." He had lowered his voice conspiratorially, as though sharing an important secret, and I acted as if this was news to me. "Well, if you're sure, I'll leave you to your searching. And, Mr. Black, you are feeling all right from that potion earlier today, aren't you?"


"Of course, sir," I told him quickly. I was sure I could hear Peter's faint footsteps in the distance. "We had hardly started it, I'm fine. I just hope there's still some of that pineapple left by the time I get back to the Great Hall."


"Ah, yes. Good day, Mr. Black." He smiled before waddling out of the room as fast as his legs could carry him. I smiled in relief inwardly as his humongous shadow finally disappeared and Peter's short, chubby one appeared close by.


"Am I late?" the small boy asked anxiously, his blue eyes darting around the room.

 

"Right on time," I grinned. "There's his office door. Now get in there and open it quickly, dinner's starting any moment now!"


Peter scanned the walls hastily for a crack big enough, finally spotting one close to the door. I glanced at the clock and cursed - dinner was starting right now. Now how was I going to slip the potion into Evans's pumpkin juice?


I watched as Peter transformed into a rat and scurried through the hole, having difficulty squeezing his lower half into the tight crack. Finally he managed, and seconds later, the door cracked open.


"Did I do it right?" Peter asked worriedly.


"Flawlessly." I rolled my eyes. "Now get going to dinner, Pete, and if anyone asks where I am, tell them I forgot something in Potions. Oh, and on your way, stop by the Kitchens and tell the house-elves to serve crystallised pineapple today."


"Crystallised pineapple?" Peter repeated, confusion crossing his face.


I nodded affirmation. "That was a good way to cut short Slughorn's long speech. I'd like him to believe me next time I use that excuse, too. Now hurry! Go, go, go!" Peter jumped at my sudden change of tone and scurried out the door. I quickly stole into the office, looking over my shoulder to be sure Slughorn wasn't on his way back.


The office was small, but comfortable enough. There was a huge, plush green armchair behind a small, expensive-looking maple desk, and the soft flooring was a silver rug. Slytherin colors. I grimaced, then turned my attention to the extensive shelves that covered three of the four walls in the square room. Stepping hastily over, I pored over the shelves for a white, shiny vial, racking my brains for a more identifying characteristic. Ah, yes, the spiraling steam! It only took about two minutes for me to locate it, and I quickly snatched the vial and slipped out the door, closing it softly behind me.


I rushed up the stairs from the Dungeons, clutching the vial in my right hand, and came to a sudden halt just outside the doors of the Great Hall. Taking a deep breath and flipping my hair back so that it hung in its usual simply dashing way, I strolled into the Great Hall as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. I looked over at the far end of the long Gryffindor table and saw Lily seated between her two best friends, Alice and - what was her name? Marcie? No, no -- Mary. Well, I couldn't exactly take their seats in a casual way. I pondered briefly how to be natural about getting close to Lily's cup of pumpkin juice, but quickly saw my answer on the other side of the table. There sat Remus, James, and Peter. James was partially across from both Lily and Alice, stealing so many looks at her I was afraid he was going to hurt his neck. I strode towards them with my usual self-confident smile on my face.


"Evening, Prongs," I grinned, pretending to tip an imaginary top hat to him. Hey, we were brothers, we did "weird" stuff spontaneously around each other.


"Good evening, Mr. Padfoot," he returned seriously, mocking a bow. He scooted to his left, as though about to make room for me across from Alice, so I quickly took the small space between him and Peter instead, putting me across from Lily.


"Thanks," I said, cutting across the question I knew he was about to ask while reaching for some mashed potatoes. Maybe I knew that guy too well.


Lily picked up a pineapple and frowned. "Was Slughorn in charge of dinner tonight?" she asked suspiciously, regarding it curiously. "He loves these things."


"Yeah, haven't you heard?" I lied quickly, my eyes scanning the hall for a distraction as I uncorked the vial under the table. I used a quick severing charm on a single hair on the back of James's head, figuring he'd forgive me for 'completely ruining his look' later, and dropped it into the potion. Everyone was being perfectly uninteresting, which wouldn't do at all. My eyes flitted up to the Staff Table, and I grinned wickedly. Maybe I could make something happen. Fingering my wand lightly, I hid it mostly up my sleeve while shoveling food in my mouth with my other hand - hey, I was hungry.


I silently used Engorgio, pointing my wand at the Staff Table. I watched Slughorn's laughing face slowly become perplexed as the plate holding his crystallised pineapple grew uncontrollably in his hand. Great, now to be convincing of innocence - always hard with my skeptical friends and acquaintances who knew me too well. I laughed convincingly, pointing towards Slughorn. "Look!"


Everyone around us turned their eyes to the Staff Table, where Slughorn was backing up in his chair and struggling to keep hold of his precious pineapple despite its plate's huge (and still growing) size. I didn't take more than a quick peek (though I was sorely tempted to), for people could look back at my actions at any moment. I dumped the contents of the vial in the glass of pumpkin juice beside Lily and quickly retrieved my hand, taking a moment to enjoy the spectacle I had given the Great Hall.


Unfortunately, McGonagall saw it fit to end my fun by reducing the plate to its original size, and the Great Hall soon settled down again.


"Well… that was random," Frank commented to Alice, who smiled at him happily. The two had started dating about a week ago, from what I recalled, but I didn't pay much attention to it. Relationships were made and broken around here all the time. Sure, today the two were sitting next to each other, holding hands, and blushing furiously, but it was only the beginning of the year.


"Psst," I nudged James next to me, who was talking distractedly to Remus. "Hey, Prongs!"


James turned and looked at me curiously. "Yeah? What is it, Padfoot?"


"Lily's gonna be all over you tonight," I whispered quietly, making sure that Lily was absorbed in conversation with Mary as a precaution.


James looked surprised and a little confused. "She does hate me a little less than before. Do you really think she's in love with me?" he asked hopefully.


"Er… not yet, but soon. You'll never guess what I did." I grinned wickedly. Without letting him guess, I continued in a nearly silent voice, "I slipped love potion into her pumpkin juice."


"You what?!" James gasped, looking shocked as he processed this. He seemed torn between his morals and his desires as his eyes settled on the glass to Lily's left.


"No, no, the other cup, the one on her right," I corrected him. James suddenly whipped his head towards me, an alarmed look in his eyes that couldn't mean anything good.


"Lily and her friends drink from the cups on their left!" James hissed, looking distraught.

Oops. Maybe I should've told the Lily Master this grand plan beforehand.


"But then whose cup is that?" I asked slowly, pointing to where the cup was and finding my finger landing on an empty space on the table. Simultaneously, our gazes lifted to the pale hand holding the cup above that space, clutching it firmly.


"Mmm, did they do something different to this pumpkin juice?" Alice asked, sniffing it and adopting a dreamy expression on her face.


Lily frowned and picked up her own drink, giving it a gentle sniff. "Smells like always to me. Like pumpkins."


"No, this smells… oh, just wonderful, like everything that I find perfect in the world," Alice sighed happily.


Mary laughed. "I didn't know you liked pumpkin juice so much, Alice."


"Me neither." She smiled faintly, lifting the cup to her lips.


"NO!" James and I cried out together, but I could see it was too late. Alice had distinctly swallowed.

 

AN: Oh, Sirius. This chapter was fun to write, and I hope reading it was just as enjoyable. Whether it is or isn't, please let me know in a review so I can improve. Thank you so much for your commitment to this story! ~WaterLily :)


Chapter 9: James - Decisions and Suspicions
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 James's POV:

I hardly had a moment to think about anything at all before Alice's gaze locked on mine and a crazy grin spread over her face. Before I knew what was happening, she had launched her head towards mine, kissing me passionately and gripping the sides of my head as though to make sure I didn't leave. I felt both surprised and terribly scared of this girl as her glossy lips seemed to ravish mine. She was definitely pretty, there was no doubt about that, and she always seemed nice, but I'd never really given her a second glance before. I put my hands on her shoulders and tried to push her away, but she wouldn't budge. Finally, I grabbed her hands and practically threw them off me, backing away instantly.


I suddenly realized that the entire Great Hall was quiet, staring blatantly at this sudden show of affection. Rumors would be flying, that was for sure. And right beside Alice sat Frank, looking crestfallen and completely confused.


Alice grinned mischievously at me and came towards me again, but Lily grabbed her quickly. Even in the most surprising situations, she managed to remain practical and responsive. She was just amazing… "Alice," she said in a tone of forced calm, though she sounded shocked and a little off-guard. "Come on, Alice, let's go to our dorm."


"No!" she shrieked loudly. "No, I want to be with James!" I was now thoroughly creeped out, though I knew exactly what had caused this.


"He's coming, too," Lily said, looking at me pointedly.


"I am?" I asked blankly, still trying to process the events of the last minute. It wasn't easy to do, considering what just happened, but Lily made it so much harder by holding eye contact with me. I felt slightly dazed, but tried to shake myself out of it as she continued talking.


"Yes, you are!" Lily turned to Mary and instructed her to hold Alice back. While Alice struggled valiantly, Lily got up from her seat, walked the short distance around the table (we were at the furthest end of it, after all), and grabbed my hand. I was vaguely aware of her dragging me down the silent room to the entrance of the Great Hall, but all my mind could really focus on was the fact that Lily Evans - the Lily Evans - was holding my hand. And willingly, too!


"Can you walk?" she hissed. "We would go faster then."


"Huh?" I snapped out of my thoughts. "Oh, right." I quickly caught up with her, but I didn't let go of her hand.

 

"Come on, Alice!" she sang as we reached the end of the Great Hall. "James is right over here!" I smiled - my name sounded so nice when Lily said it.

 

Mary released Alice, who bolted towards me from the other end of the hall. She, Sirius, Remus, Peter, and Frank raced after her, and Lily whispered to me, "Run, quickly!"

 

The two of us sprinted down the hall, up the marble staircase, and skidded to a halt by the portrait of the Fat Lady. She regarded us with interest for a moment.

 

"Bubotuber!" Lily gasped, panting for breath. The Fat Lady didn't immediately open, though this was the password, for her mouth had dropped open at the sight of us.

 

"So you two are finally together, hmm?" the Fat Lady asked with a small smile after she had closed her jaw, her eyes darting to our interlocked hands.


"What? No!" Lily sputtered. I found it strange how even the portrait was keeping track of our love lives, but tried to ignore the slightly disturbing fact for the moment.


"Look, we're in a hurry. Let us in!" I ordered. The Fat Lady sighed and swung open, and we clambered in, hearing some shouts behind us as the portrait swung shut. Had Alice caught up to us already?


Lily raced up the stairs to the Girls' Dormitories, and in my haste I started running up as well. How stupid of me - the stairs soon changed into a slide, and Lily and I went tumbling down to the bottom. I hit the floor with a grunt, and Lily landed right on top of me.
Hmm. Maybe that wasn't so stupid after all.


Suddenly, the portrait opened, and Lily and I turned our heads toward the opening. Alice had dashed in, closely followed by our friends. She took one look at our positions and became furious.


"You!" she cried out angrily, pointing directly at Lily. Lily looked a bit affronted at her tone as she continued. "You're stealing James from me!"


"What?! How could you think that?" Lily demanded. She looked down at me, and realization dawned in her eyes of how our positions must look to an outsider. She quickly crawled off of me, and I felt a strange sense of loss.


"Boyfriend stealer!" Alice screamed at Lily. Lily looked immensely concerned at this point.


"James isn't even your boyfriend, Alice," she said slowly.


"But he will be!" Alice insisted, turning to me with a smile on her face. "Right, Jamesie?"


"Er…" I didn't really know what to say to that, but Alice seemed content to take my hesitation as affirmation.


"See, he agrees. So don't come close to him ever again, okay? We're very happy together."


Lily subtly grabbed her wand from her bag and held it behind her back. Immediately, thick, coarse grey ropes wound around Alice, pinning her arms and legs to her sides. Alice fell to the carpet, her brown eyes wide with shock, before she started to roll directly towards me. Alarm filled me again instantly.


"Come on! Upstairs!" Lily cried, heading for the staircase.


"Wait! We can't go up unless a girl brings us up!" I reminded her, grabbing her hand again.
Looking over my shoulder, I noticed Mary holding Sirius's hand with her right hand and Remus's hand with her left hand, with Frank and Peter connected to the two boys. We stumbled up the stairs, trying to all fit on the rather narrow staircase, while Alice screamed my name and gave desperate cries of "Take me with you, James!"


We made it into the Seventh Year Girls' Dormitories, and Alice's shrieks downstairs could only be faintly heard. "All right," Lily breathed, dropping my hand and looking at each of us in turn. "We have to find out exactly what's up with her and fix it before dinner's over. Any ideas?"


"Maybe I was a bad boyfriend," Frank said worriedly, "And this is her way of breaking up with me while getting revenge on me!" He looked completely distraught at the very thought of it.


"Nonsense," Mary chimed in, shaking her head emphatically. "Alice talked about you nonstop at my house a couple days before we went to Hogwarts, at Diagon Alley the day before, during the train ride, and during meals! There's no way she would suddenly decide to break up with you."


"Well," Lily sighed, plopping down on her bed. "Any theories?"


Sirius and I exchanged an uncertain glance, and I knew exactly what he was thinking - it was the same as what I was thinking, after all. Should we tell them what was going on or try to fix it ourselves? Lily definitely wouldn't appreciate the story, but it would patch things up with Alice and Frank. Then again, could we fix it ourselves? And if we could, what would happen to Alice and Frank?


There was one solution: we had to hint at what was going on and pretend we had nothing to do with it.


"I can only think of one thing," I said slowly, feigning a look of pondering. "Someone must've slipped her some love potion." Everyone stared blankly at me. Then Remus slowly shook his head.


"Why would someone want Alice to fall in love with you, James?" he asked me, though he was looking to the others for an answer. "And when would they get the opportunity?"


"She was acting perfectly normal all day," Lily verified. "Until dinner tonight… remember she suddenly loved the smell of her pumpkin juice, then went all wacky?" I nodded, along with the other five people who were listening to her.


"Maybe something was in the pumpkin juice," Sirius suggested innocently.


"Who would have put it in?" Peter asked nervously, clearly fearing an attack on himself.


"Well…" Lily said slowly, eyeing me suspiciously, "I do recall James and Sirius screaming 'No!' right before she drank it…"


All eyes turned to Sirius and I. I shifted a bit uncomfortably, but Sirius's eyes just widened very believably. "What?" he asked, as though just processing what she had said. "Are you saying that you think we did it?"


"Why'd you scream?" Mary asked, looking just as suspicious as Lily did.


"I had a suspicion," he admitted in a confidential voice. "When she was talking about its smell, I thought something might be wrong with it."


"And James?" Lily asked skeptically. Despite my worry, I felt my heart soar. She called me James again!


Clearing my throat, I answered evenly, "Sirius and I are like twin brothers. Both clever, both charming, both devilishly handsome--" Lily raised her eyebrows, and I got back on topic. "We tend to think the same, and sometimes speak the same thing at the same time."


Lily still seemed a bit skeptical. She surveyed the people in the room and said quietly, "We're all the only people who were near Alice at the table, so we're the only suspects. Whoever did it must have been one of us, or else we would have noticed the culprit coming over and leaving." Everyone nodded seriously.


"Maybe… maybe we should deal with who did it after we fix up Alice," I suggested hurriedly as Remus opened his mouth to speak.


Lily dismissed this thought quickly. "We can't fix her until we know what we're fixing," she explained sadly.


Mary hadn't taken her eyes off of me yet. She leaned towards Lily and whispered something in her ear. Lily looked a bit reluctant, but then nodded discreetly, and she slowly advanced toward me.


"So, James," she said seductively as she came nearer. My breath caught in my throat at the sight of her, her green eyes sparkling with determination, her pale face set, a hint of a smile on her lips.


"Y-yes, Lily?" I stuttered nervously. She smiled fully now.


"You don't happen to know who did it, do you?" She really had a perfect smile, her teeth were so straight and pearly white… wait, what did she ask me again?


"No, no I don't," I answered quickly.


"You sure?" she asked, now so close I could feel her breath on my face. I suddenly felt clammy and a bit shaky, but tried desperately to keep my cool.


"P-positive," I answered, nodding firmly.


"That's too bad," she sighed, whispering in my ear now in the most tempting voice I've ever heard, "I would've been so grateful to know who'd done it, maybe expressed my happiness at finding out--"


"It was Sirius!" The words just tumbled out, and Sirius shot me a frustrated look. I shrugged helplessly - how was I supposed to keep my mouth shut when Lily was doing… whatever she was doing?


"What did you do exactly, Sirius?" Lily demanded, backing away from me instantly. I felt a huge sense of loss yet again, which was interesting, since I never really had her to lose in the first place.


"Nothing! James is lying, of course!" Sirius answered, but at Lily's sharp glare, he knew he had been found out. "Okay, okay, fine. So I put Amortentia in her drink, what's the big--"


"Amortentia?!" Lily exclaimed, mouth dropping open. "Sirius Black, that's the most powerful love potion in the world! What in the name of Merlin were you thinking?!"


"I didn't mean to!" Sirius protested. Everybody stared at him disbelievingly. "Well, I meant to put it in the drink, obviously, but not hers!"


"Then whose?" Lily ordered fiercely. "Who would you want to fall in love with-- oh."

Comprehension dawned on her gorgeous features -- snap out of it, I told myself sternly -- and she glared at me. "Did Potter put you up to this?" she asked, as though not daring to believe it.


"Er… kinda?" Sirius replied hesitantly, scratching his head. I wasn't sure myself - I had wanted him to get Lily to fall in love with me, but I hadn't specified this method or anything…


"YOU TWO TRIED TO GIVE ME LOVE POTION?!" she screamed, an expression of pure anger overtaking her face. "You were prepared to make me act like Alice is now?!"


"Um, yes?" Sirius answered tentatively. I groaned. That was a bad answer.


Her eyes were bright with fury. "Get… my… cauldron," she instructed Mary through gritted teeth. The girl scampered to Lily's trunk, her blonde hair flying behind her in her haste, and unlocked it. She retrieved both a coal-black cauldron and a copy of Advanced Potion Making before returning to a still-fuming Lily, who seemed to be taking her anger out on her potion ingredients.


Mary quickly flipped through the book until she got to a portion about Amortentia. "Here's the recipe for the counter-potion," she said hurriedly, practically shoving the book under Lily's nose.


"Step one," Lily said in a tone of forced calm. "Slice the bezoar into neat strips." She raised her shiny silver knife high into the air, then slammed it into the bezoar over and over again, producing a more mangled result than expected. I wondered if she was imagining the bezoar as me and shuddered at the thought.


"I think it's time for us to go," Sirius whispered to me, and I nodded quickly, practically sprinting out of the room. I was sure my best mate was trying to help, but he really was messing up everything. Maybe this contest wasn't such a good idea after all.

 

AN: Another fun chapter to write :D Your reviews mean so much to me, and they're very helpful too, so please continue to leave your helpful critiques and comments! Thank you all so much! ~WaterLily :)


Chapter 10: Peter - Mood Swings
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 Peter's POV:

I eyed Lily nervously from my seat in the far back corner. I was at the farthest distance I could possibly be from her, yet I could still practically feel her anger as she scribbled down the Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor's words furiously. I guess that she was still just a bit upset over the whole love potion mishap.


She was clutching her quill so tightly that I distinctly heard it crack. As she turned her head furiously to Mary, the terrified girl handed over her spare quill with a look of trepidation.


Okay, maybe more than just a bit upset. I was just glad that I had nothing to do with it.


James was seated on her other side, looking apologetic and very desperate. He kept tapping her on the shoulder, trying to get her attention, and would only receive venomous looks in return. By the end of the class, she looked ready to put him in the Hospital Wing, despite the presence of a Professor.


"Lily, please listen to me, I didn't know--" James begged.


Lily turned so rapidly that James drew back slightly. "Listen to me, Potter," she spat. "I don't want to hear it. You're an even bigger prat than I thought you were, and that's saying something. Now leave!" she ordered. James took a long, sad look at her before slowly walking out the door.


I was equally slow in rising from my seat and walking towards the furious girl, who was fuming while stuffing her things angrily into her bag. I watched her friends quickly leave, throwing her fearful looks that showed how I felt pretty accurately. I approached her tentatively as the students continued to file out of the room.


She turned to me and took a deep breath, as though trying to cool down her anger ever so slightly. "Yes?" she asked in a strained voice. I lost my resolve instantly, but took a deep breath and steeled myself to speak. I would prove I belong in Gryffindor. I would prove that I was a force to be reckoned with.


"I just wanted to tell you that you should go out with James--" I began, and immediately regretted it. Lily's already angry face hardened, and she looked absolutely terrifying.


"Have you heard what Potter tried to do to me, Pettigrew?" she asked harshly. I cringed, trying to ignore the fact that by using my last name she was showing clear dislike of me.


"I'm sure he was, um, just doing that because he cares so much for--"


"That Amortentia was very old. You saw what it did to Alice, didn't you? Didn't you?!" she demanded. I nodded fearfully. This wasn't going to plan at all. Then again, when did it ever? "I've never liked Potter, and I hate him even more now!" she declared.


"Just please give him a chance--"


Her eyes were flashing, and she looked extremely menacing. "Go away," she said in a low, dangerous voice, "And never ask me that ever again."


She began to walk away, and I panicked, knowing one of my last chances was up. I didn't think about my actions - I just waved my wand towards her and whispered the incantation for a Cheering Charm. She froze, and I watched anxiously as she turned around. In place of the angry scowl that was there moments before was an overly cheerful grin, which was equally frightening because of the rapidness of the change.


Then she burst out laughing, smiling widely at me.


"Um…" Had I cast that wrong? She was just supposed to feel a little happier…


Suddenly, Sirius's head popped out of the doorway. He frowned at me. "Wormtail, what just happened?"


"W-what do you mean?" I asked nervously, wringing my hands together.


"I saw Evans start to walk towards the doorway, then she suddenly became all… happy."

He looked mildly disgusted at Lily, who was laughing loudly now. "But you're the only one in here… you cast the Charm?"


I nodded meekly.


"Wormtail!" he groaned. "You're supposed to use persistence, I'm supposed to use magic, remember?"


"But… but she was so mad!" I protested. "I had to use it, otherwise she wouldn't listen to me!"


"So you thought you should go against the terms of the bet?" Sirius demanded. I gulped. Loudly.


"I'm sorry!" I told him sadly. "I didn't mean to - it just sort of happened!" He was still studying me rather unsettlingly, so I added, "I'll wait for it to wear off, I won't take advantage of this."

"Good," Sirius replied with a wolfish grin. "Because I totally am. A Cheering Charm, really, why didn't I think of that?" he mused.


"Hey!" I exclaimed, a rare feeling of boldness creeping up inside of me. Sirius raised an eyebrow at me, as though asking me to continue. Now would be no time to stutter or mumble. I planned out what I was going to say in my head, using my most eloquent words. I struggled to keep my voice both cool and authoritative. "As I am playing fair by not taking advantage of her when you are the one who gets to use magic, I believe you should play fair as well by not taking advantage of my idea."


"What are you saying?" Sirius said slowly in a tone that suggested he knew exactly what I was saying.


"What I'm saying," I said patiently, "Is that since that was my idea, you shouldn't use it to win."


"Remember our bargain, Wormtail?" he asked. "That can apply here, too, if this works. We can both win that way."


My efforts to win this contest on my own did seem to become more and more futile each time I tried. Sirius's last two attempts might have failed disastrously, but he still had a much better chance than I did. "Fine," I conceded.


"Lily? Are you still in here?" Sirius and I turned our heads sharply to the door, where James had just poked his head in the doorway. He looked concerned, as though he had been waiting for Lily this whole time. Then again, he probably was.


He caught sight of Lily and frowned. "Err, what's up with Lily?" She just began laughing hysterically in response, bringing a look of alarm to James's face. "Is she so angry that she's gone mad?" he whispered frantically to us.


Sirius snickered. "No, Wormy here just did a bit of overdose on a Cheering Charm."


James advanced slowly towards Lily, who was looking incredibly pleased by everything she saw. He carefully slung his arm around her shoulders, and she just looked at him and giggled.


A grin spread across James's face. "I like this Charm," he said to us with a smile, turning and striding away with Lily by his side.


Wait… had I actually done something right?

 

AN: I'm so sorry for not updating for a month! D: The story's almost over, so I'm pretty sure that won't happen again, though I will be busy for the next week or so. However, I should find some time to update. Thanks so much to all of you who are still reading this story! ~WaterLily :)


Chapter 11: Remus - Finding Reasons
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Remus's POV:

I sat anxiously in Transfiguration as Professor McGonagall addressed the class briskly, striding to the front of the room. There were several empty seats - four, in fact - and I knew exactly who was supposed to fill them: Peter, Sirius, James, and Lily. Why were my four closest friends suddenly missing when they were all present in Defense Against the Dark Arts last period? It was oddly suspicious that they were all not here - surely they weren't planning something without me, right? No, Lily wouldn't miss class for anything.


Professor McGonagall surveyed the class for a moment before her mouth's usually straight line curved downwards into a frown. "Quite a few absences today," she remarked, nonverbally summoning her clipboard from her desk. Her eyes moved quickly down what I supposed was a list of students before she looked up and locked eyes with me. "Mr. Lupin, are you aware of the whereabouts of Mr. Potter, Mr. Black, Mr. Pettigrew, and Miss Evans?" she asked sharply, clearly suspicious. I didn't blame her - I was suspicious, too.


"No, Professor," I answered honestly. "I have no idea where they are."


"I do," someone piped up from the front, pointing out the doorway. I heard a strange laughing and was surprised to see it was coming from Lily, who was looking happily around her as she was guided in by James. And James had his arm firmly around her, smiling broadly. My mouth dropped open. Lily Evans laughing crazily next to James? Had I lost? Had one of the other three managed to convince her to go out with James?


"Sorry we're late, Professor," he said casually, leading a giggling Lily to the back of the room. Sirius and Peter followed shortly afterwards, apologizing briefly to a baffled-looking Professor McGonagall. I could hear whispering on all sides of me as my mind raced furiously.


How could this have happened? Lily had been completely furious only fifteen minutes ago. Now she was grinning and allowing James to put his arm around her. The whispering got louder, and I knew that rumors would be all over the school by next period.


"What caused all four of you to be late?" Professor McGonagall finally asked the four tardy students.


"Well, we had a slight dilemma to sort through, Professor," Sirius answered lazily.


"All four of you?" Professor McGonagall asked suspiciously. James, Peter, and Sirius nodded, but Lily just continued smiling pleasantly.


"Do you have anything to add, Miss Evans?" Professor McGonagall questioned, giving Lily a curious look. "It is most unlike you to be late."


Lily didn't even glance at her, instead beaming at James. James quickly answered, "She was also involved in the dilemma. Don't worry, Professor, the issue is resolved."


"I see." She didn't look at all convinced, but kept her eye on the four as she began speaking to the class at large once more. "Now, today we will be studying more theoretical Transfiguration, as it is early in the year. Once you get the concept of it solid, you should be able to transfigure small parts of a human's face with little--"


A hysterical laughter rang through the room, cutting off Professor McGonagall, who looked highly frustrated.


"Miss Evans, what is the problem with you today?"


"Well, actually, Professor, that was the dilemma that caused us to be late," Sirius explained quickly.


Professor McGonagall delicately raised an eyebrow. "Laughter?"


"No, no," he clarified, "A poorly done Cheering Charm. Now she's a bit… loopy."


"I see. Well, Mr. Potter, since you and Miss Evans seem to be quite comfortable with each other, please escort her to the Hospital Wing," she said briskly.


James grinned and rose, as did Lily. "With pleasure, Professor." He and Lily strode out of the room cheerily.


"And then come right back!" Professor McGonagall called to their retreating backs, but neither one turned around, and James did not return to the lesson.


So it was Sirius who got Lily to go out with James. I sighed inwardly, knowing that I should feel happy for my friend but wishing I could have been the one to help him. After all he'd done for me…


I'd never minded lessons before, but today I was practically begging for dismissal throughout the long double-period. When Professor McGonagall finally uttered the two words I had been longing to hear ("Class dismissed"), I sprang out of my seat and bolted through the door, heading directly for the Hospital Wing that was only two corridors away. After what felt like only moments, I skidded to a halt on the stone floor directly in front of the door to the Hospital Wing. I reached out my hand to open it before coming to a halt merely inches away - the voice inside was familiar, but the words were surprising.


"Come on, Lily, you can do it. Just say 'yes,' it's easy!" It was James, clearly begging. Lily only gave a weak laugh in reply, not quite like earlier. "Will you go out with me? Come on, please, Lily!"


"Mr. Potter," said the stern but kind voice of the matron, Madam Pomfrey. "I will have to ask you to leave Miss Evans alone. She should fully recover in only ten minutes if she is secluded."


"But Madam Pomfrey--" James began rather desperately.


"You've been here for two hours, Mr. Potter, you can wait ten minutes. Now out!"


I sighed in relief. So she hadn't agreed to go out with him yet, meaning I still had a chance! The door opened in front of me, and James left rather sulkily, not even noticing me as he passed by.


I knew that all four of us had a free period now, and that the others might be wondering where I was, but I didn't think about that. Instead I sunk into a small stone bench right beside the Hospital Wing and pondered my next move.


Judging by the way things were going, this contest could be over any day now. Sirius, Peter, and James were all very determined to win Lily over, and so was I. So if I was going to be the one to win this, I'd have to work fast. We had developed a solid friendship over the last couple days, and I wasn't only glad of that because of the contest - she was witty, a good listener, and had a number of highly amusing and intriguing stories herself. Lily and I had similar taste, and it was quite enjoyable to have philosophical discussions with her along with the fun ones. Anytime I mentioned any subject even remotely related to education, Sirius would just grunt, "Put a sock in it," and James and Peter would silently agree. I wished I had become good friends with her earlier.


But now was no time to reminisce - I needed to plan. My mind sharpened as it focused on the issue - she was clearly interested in James's positive points, but didn't seem keen at all on going out with him. What was stopping her? Maybe if I could find out why exactly she didn't like him so much, I could help James fix his issues and then ask her to go out with him again. It seemed like the best course of action, so I smiled to myself, rose from my seat, and took a few long strides to the door. When I went inside, I saw Lily lying on a bed, faintly smiling.


I quickly made my way over to her. "Hi, Lily," I greeted her happily. "You seem to be in a better mood than this morning."


She made a face. "Oh, ha ha," she said sarcastically, though she was soon grinning again. "I guess Peter meant well, though it'd be nice if he had executed the spell better."


"I agree. Today's Transfiguration lesson was pretty important," I admitted. She groaned, so I quickly continued, "You can borrow my notes if you want, I took them nearly as immaculately and detailed as yours usually are."


"Aw, thanks, Remus!" Lily exclaimed in a relieved voice. "You're a real friend."


Friend. The word reminded me of my goal, which I had momentarily forgotten. Surely I could casually steer this conversation where I want it to go.


"I just wish I could have been there when the incident happened," I said wistfully. "I could have helped you out--"


"Oh, it's no big deal, Remus," she assured me calmly. "I'm fine."


"Yeah, it's a good thing James was there to help you," I said carefully. She stiffened a little but said nothing. "He made sure you didn't go running off or anything."


"True," she sighed, "But I remember him trying to get me to go out with him for over an hour in here."


"Well, he does care about you a lot," I told her before asking as nonchalantly as I could, "Why don't you like him, by the way?"


"Oh, loads of reasons," she answered immediately. "He's arrogant, conceited, a complete show-off, a braggart, extremely egotistical--"


"You know as well as I do that those are all synonyms," I said kindly.


"Yeah, well, it's true," she concluded, sounding a little disgruntled.


"Surely there's more to it than that?" I asked, a bit perplexed. "I mean, he gives you six years of devotion, and you continuously turn him down because he's a bit arrogant?"


Her gaze shifted a bit downwards and to the left. "Yeah, that's it. I don't want to inflate his big head any further." I couldn't hold in my laugh at this, and she grinned appreciatively.


"Well, see you around, Lily!" I waved to her as I exited the Hospital Wing.


"Bye, Remus!" she called back brightly. As soon as I opened the door, I bumped straight into Alice and Mary. "Oh, excuse me," I said politely, stepping aside.


"No worries, Remus," Alice bubbled, standing on her tiptoes and peering into the Hospital Wing. "Is Lily still here?"


I nodded and quickly explained, "She's fine now, she'll be leaving in a moment. Well, once Madam Pomfrey finally gives her permission, that is, so maybe in an hour or so." Both girls giggled at this, and an idea suddenly came into my head. "Say, Alice, are you and Frank okay now?"


"Oh, yes, he understood completely," she nodded happily. "Well, actually, he was a bit confused about the whole mess. But we've straightened it out, and he knows a love potion's involved, so it's all good."


"Glad to hear it," I grinned. "Sorry for my idiotic friends." The two laughed again.


"No problem, James has been getting a bit desperate lately, it seems," Alice replied conversationally.


"It'd be nice if Lily would just give James a chance so we don't have to put up with these schemes of his anymore," I joked.


Mary smiled, brushing some of her straight blonde hair out of her face. "I agree, but there's nothing we can do about it."


"Why doesn't she like him, anyway?" I asked, as if the answer was of no real importance to me.


"Well, according to her, he's arrogant, conceited, a complete show-off, a braggart, extremely egotistical--" Mary began.


"How many times have you heard her say that?" I asked, quite sure that this was Lily's speech verbatim.


"Far too many," Alice said wearily, "And we're not even done."


"I feel like there must be more reason for her to dislike him though," I frowned.


Mary shrugged. "So do Alice and I," she confessed, "But Lily's always fiercely denied anything more anytime we asked."


That wasn't good. Alice, Mary, and Lily had been close friends since the first day of Hogwarts. If she didn't tell them in six years, it wasn't likely she would tell me in two days. I exhaled slowly, trying to think of a new approach. "Well, nice talking to you," I said with a rather forced smile. The two girls waved cheerily and skipped into the Hospital Wing.


As I strode away, I turned and noticed a boy standing nearby with long, carefully styled black hair framing his familiar face.


Sirius Black had been eavesdropping. And he had a wide smile on his face.

 

AN: Exams are over, and I now have time to update again! :D Two more chapters, and then the story is over. Thanks so much to all of the people who have read, reviewed, or favorited this story. It means so much to me! ~WaterLily :)


Chapter 12: Sirius - Two Wrongs
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Sirius's POV:

Thoughts were rushing through my head at Remus's conversation. Of course! Hadn't he been talking about this very thing on the train two days ago? The key to winning James a date with Lily would be finding out why she doesn't like him in the first place!


Only one problem: from the sound of it, nobody knew why Lily really hated James. I had some work to do, and it would be tough. But surely with magic, anything was possible. I turned on my heel and walked slowly towards the Gryffindor Common Room.


"Bubotuber," I mumbled to the Fat Lady, massaging my forehead with my fingers to try to work out the whole 'Lily hates James for no apparent reason' issue. The Fat Lady eyed me with concern.


"Why, Sirius, I've never seen you look like you're thinking so hard! How've your first two days been?" she asked, looking sincere.


"A bit stressful," I admitted.


"Well, that's NEWT year for you," the Fat Lady said cheerfully.


"No, it's not because of the workload--" I began as the Fat Lady swung forward, but I quickly dropped the subject and walked into the room. Why waste time talking to a portrait when there was work to be done?


I sunk into an armchair by the fire and sighed, thinking deeply. It was a good thing the Common Room was so empty at this time of day - not only could I think more clearly, I could also snag the best seat in the room! I heard a small scuffling by my foot. "Give it up, Wormtail, I don't talk to myself," I told him loudly. After a moment, there was a small pop and Peter's small form stood nervously in front of me.


Suddenly, the Portrait Hole banged open, and Remus marched angrily into the room. I was a bit startled at the loss of Remus's usual calm demeanor but quickly covered up my surprise as he headed straight towards me. "And Moony! To what do I owe this delightful visit?" I grinned, but I didn't get a grin back.


"Padfoot," he whispered in a rather dangerous voice, "You better not do anything about the conversation you just overheard."


"Oh? And why not?" I asked pleasantly, trying to keep my tone light. I've found through experience that if you act like surprises don't faze you and are casual about the whole situation, others tend to think of you as a more calm, all-knowing person who isn't to be messed with. Unfortunately, Remus knows me too well.


"Wipe that grin off your face," he ordered. "You're cheating and you know it!"


"How so?" I demanded, rising from my seat as something close to anger shot through me. "Because you were talking extremely loudly near the Hospital Wing, where dear Evans and Prongs were for two periods? Didn't you think I might stop by?"


"If you take my idea--" Remus began, but I cut him off angrily.


"You shared your idea willingly with me on the train ride two days ago! And when I hear you talk about it with someone else I'm suddenly not allowed to use it?" I demanded.

"I gave you the idea then, and I reminded you of the idea just now! You most certainly cannot use it."


"Why does it matter to you, anyway?" I questioned irritably, sinking back down into my seat. "I owe Prongs so much. He gave me a place to stay in when I escaped my family last Summer!"


"I owe him, too!" Remus cried out, clearly both frustrated with me and desperate for me to understand. "He's the one who thought of the Animagus training for all three of you, and he's the one who did all the research and coached you guys through it for three years. You know why he did all of that exhausting work? For me! He not only didn't exclude me once he found out my problem, he tried to help me as much as he could, and he succeeded!"


His words shocked me a little, I have to admit that. I had been so focused on repaying James that I had forgotten the other competitors might have the same goal in mind.
"I also owe him," Peter added in a small voice. "He included me on the very first day of school, and keeps me around even though everyone says to him that I clearly don't fit in." He gulped nervously. "He gave me the only friends I've ever had."


"Look," I said, holding out my hand to silence any further sentimental outbursts. "This is all very touching, but I think the point is that we all owe Prongs more than we'll ever be able to repay. Right?" Both nodded, clearly wondering where I was going with my little speech. "Well, let's let the competition continue, then, and whoever wins… they deserve it. We each have a valid reason."


They looked at each other, then at me, and nodded. Then Remus turned, and with one last lingering glance at me, he finally left the Common Room.


I closed my eyes and racked my brains, but my thoughts were too jumbled to make any sense out of them. Perhaps organizing my thoughts into more simple concepts would help. Gah, I'm starting to sound like Remus…


Goal. That seemed like a good place to start. What was my goal? To get Lily to go out with James. What was my method? To find out why Lily hated James. This was good - nice, simple thoughts. But now what? That still seemed pretty complicated, though it was simply stated.


Maybe I should make it into several steps. I would need Lily to actually tell me why she hated him, and she didn't seem like the type to go spilling her secrets to me. Plus, how would I know she was even telling the truth? I needed the truth… I needed…


I jerked my head up. "Veritaserum!" I exclaimed jubilantly. That had to be the answer, it had to be! Without wasting any time, I raced out of the room, leaving a baffled Peter behind.


By the time I reached the Dungeons, I was starting to breathe heavily - I hadn't stopped once on my way, and I had made it all the way to the Potion Room from Gryffindor Tower in only two minutes. Sure, I had nearly toppled down the staircase, almost twisted my ankle on a remarkably sharp turn, and just barely avoided getting caught sliding down the banister by Filch, but hey, that was part of the fun. And I made it unscathed and unseen to my destination. I raced into the room and skidded to a halt.


Maybe not unseen after all.


Professor Slughorn raised his head from where it had previously been buried in a student's essay. He studied me inquisitively. "Mr. Black? Have you left your belongings here again?"


My mind feeling quite overloaded at the moment, I nodded hastily.


Slughorn frowned. "Well, that's strange, seeing as I haven't taught your class yet today… what's going on, Mr. Black? Not up to no good again, I'm sure?" He sent me a fond smile, though with a hint of suspicion in it.


"No, sir, I forgot I hadn't been here today," I answered quickly, my attention devoted to finding a suitable excuse. "I must have confused my schedule. You see, I think somebody's been taking my things, perhaps as retaliation for any pranks I've pulled on them. My items seem to be steadily disappearing from my bag."


Slughorn sent me a sympathetic smile. "That is quite unfortunate, but I am sure you will be able to solve it. You are cunning, after all! I always knew you should have been in my House, just like your brother, both of you are fine young men off to astounding careers--"


"Thank you, sir," I interjected quickly, not having time for his spiel. "I'll start investigating now." I fled the room, returning to Gryffindor Tower and pondering my options once more.


Veritaserum was out of the question, as I couldn't access Slughorn's office again without rousing suspicion. Perhaps I could cause a distraction somewhere? But then Slughorn would be one of the last people asked to help with trouble that was a distance away - I was surprised he made it to meals at all, seeing the way he lounged around and only occasionally hobbled to short distances. You'd think he'd get a House Elf to bring him his dinner or something. What is up with those House Elves, anyway? They'd do absolutely anything, and they actually enjoyed it! I had thought they were just commanded by their Masters to say that, but Peter had given one Veritaserum so I could interrogate him last year, and they had said that they truly enjoyed worki--


Wait…


"Oi! Wormtail!" Peter glanced over at me from halfway up the Boys' Dormitories Stairs and crept back down as I beckoned him over. "I need your help with something… you know the deal?" He nodded, looking a bit excited at being useful to me yet again. "Well, do you have any Veritaserum left?"


"Lots," he answered, a touch of pride in his voice.


"Great. Can you put a couple drops of that in one of the short glass vials in my trunk?" He nodded again and continued to stand there. "Quickly, if you will," I added pointedly, and he jumped and hurriedly scampered up the stairs. About a minute later, he returned with a small vial clutched in his shaking hand. I eyed it apprehensively, wondering how long it would last in his grip before it went crashing to the floor.


"Thanks," I said quickly, grabbing it from him and striding out of the Common Room. As I passed by a few lessons, I saw some people packing up. Oh, good, it was almost lunchtime. And that meant I could easily slip this into Lily's drink.


I suddenly recalled the events of last night with the love potion mishap in Lily's pumpkin juice. Lily was smart, she wouldn't fall for that again. I frowned at the thought of what she would do to me after the second time I contaminated her drink in less than 24 hours.


Maybe this would be harder than I thought.


On my way down the marble staircase, I bumped straight into someone and caught them by reflex before they could go tumbling down the steps. A second later, I realized it was Alice, and beside her were Lily and Mary.


"Oh, sorry, Prewett," I said quickly, releasing her. An idea came to me, and I asked as politely as I could, "Can I talk to you for a second - alone?"


All three girls eyed me skeptically, and I sighed and said exasperatedly, "I'm not going to do anything to her." Seriously, my reputation wasn't that bad, was it?


Well, maybe it was, but still.


"Okay, fine," Alice agreed. She turned to Lily and Mary and assured them, "I'll be fine, you guys go up."


"You sure?" Lily asked, "Because we don't mind wait--"


"No, I'm sure. I'll meet you there."


Lily and Mary shrugged, waved good-bye to her (hmph - they didn't wave to me) and continued on their way up the staircase.


Alice leaned against the banister and looked me over suspiciously. "So, Black, what did you want?"


"Look, sorry for putting love potion in your drink and very nearly messing up your relationship with Frank," I said quickly, waving aside the small issue, "But I need to ask you a favor."


She stared at me incredulously. "Why in the name of Merlin would I do you a favor after what you just did to me yesterday?!"


Was she seriously going to hold that little mishap against me? I groaned. "Do you want Lily and James together or not?"


This got her attention. "Why? What are you planning?"


"I just know I can't put anything in her drink anymore, and if I try I'll probably mess it up even more, so just… can you sit next to Evans and put this in her pumpkin juice? Please?" I handed her the vial, which she plucked from my hand and examined interestedly.


"It's Veritaserum," I explained, and Alice's eyes lit up.


"Oh," she smiled. "Well, Black, I suppose I could do it… but never tell her I took any part in it afterwards, all right?" she demanded.


"All right," I agreed. She smiled and skipped up the stairs after her friends. Not really sure where any of the other Marauders were at the moment, I just continued on to lunch, where I knew they'd all be soon enough. Some people were starting to trickle in through the doors, but overall the place was empty. And most importantly, the food hadn't appeared yet. No friends, no food: I had lost all interest in the room.


I was about to leave when James came barreling towards me through the doors, grinning. "Guess what, Padfoot?!" he exclaimed loudly.


"What, Prongs?" I asked at an equal noise level.


"Lily didn't yell at me when she walked by me!" he said happily, sighing wistfully at the memory of it.


"Oh, er, congrats," I told him in a falsely cheery voice. "That's… that's real progress, mate."


"I know!" he beamed. "Oh, look, food!" I turned and saw that many bowls had filled the table, each with a different dish inside.


"What are we standing here for, then?" I asked only semi-jokingly. We took one look at each other and then simultaneously sprinted to the table.


"Hah! Beat you!" I said triumphantly.


"Next time you won't be so lucky," he retorted, sinking down next to me. I grinned, taking the basket of bread rolls and emptying them onto my plate as James did the same with the bowl of mashed potatoes beside him. Soon enough, Remus emerged through the doorway, appearing deep in conversation with Lily. Beside her were Alice and Mary, engaged in their own chat that Lily seemed oblivious to as she conversed with Remus. They came closer, and closer… score! Remus sat down directly opposite me, leaving Lily to take the seat opposite James. Alice sat right next to her, with Mary on her other side.


I noticed Alice grab a glass and fill it halfway with fresh pumpkin juice, looking discretely at Lily before grabbing a stirring stick. As her long sleeve dangled above the drink, I just barely saw a few colorless drops fall in. Then she was smiling to herself and grabbing a sandwich.


"So Lily, what do we have next?" she asked as though nothing had happened.


Lily surveyed her schedule and looked pleased. "Potions," she replied. Mary immediately groaned, but Alice just shrugged, impartial to the class. Lily grabbed a glass nearby and began to fill it when she froze and narrowed her eyes at the person seated across from her.


"Maybe I shouldn't drink anything today," she said icily, her rather angry gaze flickering to me, too. That girl could be really scary when she wanted to.


"Well, you can't get dehydrated!" Alice exclaimed, concern written all over her face. "Here, take mine. Surely even they wouldn't make the same mistake again."


She spoke so seriously that I wouldn't have suspected anything if I hadn't spoken to her earlier today. Alice was way too convincing - I'd have to remember to watch out for her. As Lily gratefully accepted her glass and turned her head to Remus again, Alice smiled and sent a big wink my way.


"So what were you saying earlier about that essa--" Lily froze. She was holding her glass to her mouth and had clearly just taken a small sip. Her eyes had gotten a blank, unfocused look in them, and I couldn't help but grin. The plan was working so far.
"Lily? Are you okay?" James asked uncertainly.


Immediately, Lily responded in a calm voice, "I'm not suffering from any ailments, and other than feeling a bit tired, annoyed, and angry from continuous antics by the Marauders, my mental and emotional conditions are also healthy." Everyone around her stared at her, their faces nearly as blank as hers, except for Alice and I.


"Everyone, calm down. Lily just had some Veritaserum, that's all," I smiled.


"Veritaserum?!" Mary cried, appalled. "You can't just trick someone into drinking that!"


"Why not?" I asked, shrugging. "It works most effectively if the person doesn't expect it. Now, Lily," I said loudly, drowning out more protesting voices. "Why exactly do you hate James Potter here?" I gestured to my left, where James was looking bewildered.


"I don't hate James," Lily answered in the same toneless voice. People around her were beginning to notice, their shocked whispering spreading down the table.


"Fine, fine, dislike, then," I clarified.


"I don't dislike James," she replied clearly. Now she had completely grabbed the attention of just about everyone at Gryffindor Table, and the Hufflepuffs next to our table were starting to glance over as well. "I like James a lot." The Hall was practically silent as the surrounding students listened to Lily with their mouths dropped open. It took me a moment to realize that my mouth had done the same.


"James Potter?" I gasped.


"James Potter," she confirmed, speaking emotionlessly.


"Wait, wait, wait…" I shook my head, trying to clear it so that the completely ridiculous words she was speaking would make sense. "So you have a crush on him? Since when?"


"Since Fifth Year," Lily answered.


"Can you… explain why you continued turning him down after you developed this crush on him?" I questioned, perplexed.


"I had to turn him down for his protection," she elaborated, "Because everyone I care about is being murdered." There were more gasps of astonishment, but I hardly paid attention to them now, solely focused on Lily. "Just being friends with me makes people targets. So many people have been lost already because of me, and I can't let that happen to James Potter. I like him too much to put him in danger."


After several moments of students sending baffled, horrified, or pitying looks at Lily and whispering amongst themselves, her expression cleared, and her mouth went agape. Without losing a moment, she turned and sprinted out of the Great Hall. I just watched her in silence, unable to tell if I had just helped Lily and James or completely messed up their lives.

 

AN: I... I honestly have no excuse for the extreme lateness of this chapter. I forgot that I hadn't finished this fic, and when I found the document on my computer, it all came back to me. I can't believe it's been so long, but I'm determined to put the next chapter up promptly. And yes, the next chapter will be the LAST chapter of the story! :O As always, please leave your thoughts on the (better late than never) chapter. All comments and constructive criticism help me so much! ~WaterLily :)


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