The old oak’s branches creaked beneath his weight, his grubby fingers traced the worn names and gouges that he and his friends had made as young boys.
The dark, illegible blobs marred the tree where he had first attempted to carve his name, the bark had struggled to repair itself leaving only a scar, but James had been determined that his name would be immortalised on this weathered oak tree and in the first holidays from Hogwarts, he and Sirius had carved their names and charmed them so that they would never fade away. Remus and Peter had added their names as the years went by, and now half the trunk was covered in scribblings, dirty poems, declarations of lovesick thirteen year olds and early attempts at old magic, the charm to make their words untouchable had lasted these seven years.
He heard her approaching footsteps and smiled to himself, he briefly thought about jumping down from the tree to scare her, but having first hand experience of just how quick she was with her wand dissuaded him from the idea.
She stood at the base of the tree trunk, smiling and shaking her head. She was gathered up in her muggle gear, trying to fend off the lingering chill in the air, her hair plaited and snaking down her back, she grinned up at him and rapped the bark with her knuckles.
“Knock, knock,” she said. “Are you coming down?”
“Nope,” he replied, swinging his legs over another branch. “You come up here.”
Lily gave him a look that plainly said he was crazy before reaching for a branch and pulling herself up, James extended his arm down to help her up to where he was seated.
Her thick coat made it difficult to manoeuvre well, so she sat uncomfortably next to James, firmly grasping both his arm and the branch to anchor herself, apparently she no longer needed to look at him to judge what he was thinking. “You’d be scared too if your elbows couldn’t bend the whole way, I’d have a lot of fun trying to pull my wand out before I hit the ground.”
“Because I’d just let you fall,” James retorted sardonically.
A brief flash of anger registered on her face, but her lips fell into a sly grin. “I do recall a time when pushing girls off their brooms was your favourite way to sneak a peek.”
He nudged her very gently. “No need for that anymore.”
James’ parents had been out of the house often for the past four days dealing with Ministry issues and the increasing chaos in the Wizarding World, he and Lily had used it to their advantage.
“There might be if you keep moving like that,” she grumbled. “So why are we up here? Aren’t we supposed to be meeting Sirius for lunch?”
“We’re looking at scribblings of four stupid boys,” he replied, gesturing grandly. Lily looked unimpressed, but she awkwardly leaned over him to see what had been written. One of her hands rested on his thigh.
Her nose screwed up as she read one of Sirius’ dirty little limericks. “Ugh, you really were such little berks.”
He laughed, throwing his head back so far he nearly lost his balance and went toppling out of the tree, but quick reflexes and little hand from Lily made sure they didn’t spend the rest of the day at St. Mungos explaining that her boyfriend was an idiot.
Unabashed from his little tumble, his fingers searched out her face, threading through her hair and tugging at her earlobe (she’d discovered this little fetish early on in their snogging sessions, she’d never asked about the fascination). “Don’t you see it, Lily?” he asked her. “I first proclaimed my undying love for you here.”
She raised her eyebrows and jerked forward over his lap, her hair slipped through his fingers (luckily) and he pointed to a little blob on the tree with his free hand. She could make out the letters J, M, P, T, E and R above a crudely shaped heart and LILY EVANS very boldly beneath it. “Summer after Third Year, I think I’d seen you bathing in the Great Lake, ickle Evans in her two piece splashing about in the shallows – it’s enough to make a boy weak-kneed.”
She looked over her shoulder. “So you decided to tell your tree?”
He grinned. “Old magic. Before wizards had wands they’d carve incantations into the earth, on stone, into wood and hope it would come true, wood proved to be the best conduit for magic. I thought I’d try my luck.”
She sat up unsteadily, “So what you’re saying is that you cast a spell on me?”
“I’d like to think of it as charm. Did it work?” he asked her, all confidence under the façade of innocence.
Instead of replying, she leaned forward and kissed him, she broke away and leaned smiled against his collarbone. “I always did like my men pansies.”
It seemed an age since that day with James, even though it had only been two weeks ago.
A chilly breeze blew past her, shaking the leaves and ruffling her notes. Sunlight fingered its way through the overhanging branches, but the temperature was still rather cold: a typical spring day.
Lily was propped up against the tree trunk, a half written letter, two applications and a stack of textbooks beside her. She paused, her quill wavering just above the parchment and rolled her neck, trying iron out the kinks. Her job and apprentice application forms were due in shortly and because of her muggle heritage, options were slim. James, Sirius, Peter and Marjorie had been guiding Remus, Vi and herself away from names and positions with ‘purist’ views attached.
Lily hadn’t really cared about being out of the running for most of them, but she had desperately wanted the apprenticeship at the Diagon Alley Apothecary, as a potion brewer; James has insisted that the owner, Mr Mason, had associations with Voldemort and that she ought not to bother – no matter how often Professor Slughorn insisted he could get her the job.
It had been McGonagall who had suggested applying to become an Auror, so she was currently trying to think of how to best promote herself, along with answering a latter to her mother about being a bridesmaid at Petunia’s wedding (Lily suspected this was her mother’s idea more so than Petunia’s) and on top of these stresses, exams were looming on the horizon. Less than a month away until she undertook her first exam.
Her final term had been hectic, her Head Girl duties had continued to get more and more involved as Death Eater activity rose and more students lost family members, friends and occasionally their own lives. But Hogwarts remained a sturdy safe haven, so long as Dumbledore was here, Lily knew that there was no risk of attack on the school.
“Hey green-eyed girl,” a voice from behind her said cheerfully and sure enough, James bounded over a tree root and into a sitting position next to her, still in his Quidditch robes and sweaty from practice.
“You are no longer allowed near my record collection,” she told him, noting that she was a very patient individual on her application form at the same time.
He nestled against her neck and kissed her cheek. “It’s all I’m allowed near at your place. Your parents seem to worry about me corrupting their precious daughter.”
The side of her mouth curved into a reluctant smile. “You need a shower.”
“You don’t find this scent manly and intoxicating?”
“Surprisingly, no,” she rubbed her neck tiredly and smeared ink across it accidentally. “James, I have a lot of work to do, please don’t distract me.”
He jumped to his feet and she irately wondered where he got so much energy with all the responsibilities he had these days.
“You need a break,” he announced and before she could protest he had pulled her up on her feet and over his shoulder.
“James! Put me down! This isn’t funny Potter!” she screeched, slapping and punching his back and thrashing her legs about wildly.
“You know, you keep flailing about and you’re going to give everyone a good view of your knickers.”
She stopped immediately and slumped over his shoulder in defeat. “You prat.” She glowered even though she knew he couldn’t see it, but it was for the benefit of the other students watching them, giggling behind their hands as James greeted them gleefully. She imagined he had his same stupid grin on his face right now as he carried her away from the oak tree. She noticed that her books, parchments, quills and other materials were floating along behind them and was at least grateful for his forethought.
“Where are you taking me?” she asked irritably.
“Awa from books and quills and study,” he replied promptly, not really answering her.
She sighed and waited for him to get tired of carrying her, which happened somewhere around the middle of the bridge.
“Now what?” she asked, straightening out her clothes and glaring at him.
He leaned against the railings calmly. “Now you can sit, stand, lit down and take a breather before your brain turns to goo and drips out your ears.”
Lily closed her eyes and pinched her nose between her thumb and forefinger, she loved him, but his little games were very tiring. “I’m so busy James, I have a dozen applications to fill out and letters to write and studying to do. I can’t afford a breather.”
He moved towards her silkily and placed a hand on both of her shoulders. “You are going to wear yourself thin come exams,” he told her seriously. “I can help you write your applications – which you don’t have to worry about anyway, you’ll get in to whatever it is that you want and have several back ups in case you feel choosy later on and you’ll reply to your mother that yes, you will be there for your sister’s wedding with a rather debonair date and we can throw shoes at her and say that it’s the custom of my people in Latvia and your study? Lily, you don’t need to study nearly as much as you do, you know just about everything you possibly can know, what else can you learn by now that you don’t already? You’ll just stress yourself into mental meltdown if you keep going at this rate.”
She groaned and fell back against the wooden beams, he had a rather annoying habit of being right about these sorts of things. “When did you get so compassionate?”
“Since I learned the benefits of a well rested girlfriend,” he smirked and she spluttered in annoyance and punched him in the arm. “Your dad told me to make sure you weren’t burning out and if I get you through this year in one piece, I get a present?” he tried again, rubbing his arm.
Lily looked unimpressed.
“It’s because I’m worried about you,” he admitted, turning on his serious side once again. “We’re going out into the big, bad world soon enough and this is the end of Hogwarts for us, don’t you want to enjoy it, maybe?”
She crossed her arms and looked over at him slyly, too tired to argue. “You’re a clever prat sometimes.”
The rest of the afternoon was spent playing Gobstones and chess, drinking Butterbeer and scheming about all the awful things that they could do to Petunia at the wedding – James seemed particularly intent on the groom.
Ever since the holidays – or rather, ever since Frank and Alice’s wedding – she and James had grown a lot closer, and it wasn’t just that they were sleeping together, it was that they had grown comfortable with one another.
The final week of the holidays had been spent at his place, usually, because his parents weren’t there often and they could do whatever they liked.
The first time she’d gone to this the Potter Estates, she’d been absolutely flabbergasted by the size of and grandeur of it. James explained that they only really lived in one wing of the place; Lily couldn’t help remarking that his parents shouldn’t have stopped at one, with all the extra rooms they could have housed the entire student body of Hogwarts.
Lounging about in the Common Room, nattering on about stupid things, Lily was grateful that James had dragged her kicking and screaming from her studies – not that she’d ever let him have the satisfaction of knowing.
Later that evening, she, Sirius, Remus, Peter, Marjorie and Vi were down in the Great Hall, Lily had tried to offer the olive branch to Martina, but she was having none of it even going so far as to accuse her of stealing Vi from her as well. They’d delegated duties to one another: Remus and Vi were writing out everyone’s job applications, James and Peter were, at random moments and increasingly loud volumes, quizzing everyone at the table and Lily, Sirius and Marjorie were correcting homework assignments.
She had to admit that it was a far better system than her own.
Sirius was grumbling about being roped in to a such a thing and making sure everyone knew he had better things to do than sit here, occasionally she’d hear him muttering something like “Well that’s all wrong, Vampires don’t have a taste for blood, it’s Gin they’re after.” But when Lily snatched the parchment from his hands, he just smiled beatifically and the essays were pristine.
“I think we’re done here,” Marjorie announced after studying each of the parchment rolls meticulously, making sure Sirius hadn’t slipped in any ‘amusing’ remarks. Marjorie wasn’t overly keen on Sirius, James and Peter but out of respect for her friendship with Lily she’d been making an effort to socialise with them. Remus was proving very useful, being as sane and quiet as he was – his good example was making the rest of them look a little less like mad delinquents. Especially Peter who seemed to have developed a bit of a crush on Marjorie because she had been going out of her way to be kind to him and having little patience for James and Sirius, he must have been bowled over to have a pretty girl pay him some attention when his friends were about. He just about tripped over his own feet to say hello to her in the mornings.
Lily wasn’t entirely sure of what Marjorie thought of it all, she hadn’t asked yet and Marjorie didn’t appear to notice anything out of the ordinary.
The day ended with a flurry of owls being sent to respective job possibilities and the letter to her mother winging its way home. The ceremony was the weekend just before the start of exams; it could be managed for her and James to attend.
Something that she hadn’t included in her letter was the information that it could be arranged for her family to come to her graduation ceremony, Lily had long wished her parents could see Hogwarts but with the current social climate it was just far too dangerous and they would never miss it if they didn’t know.
It shouldn’t have bothered her like it did, to leave her parents out of her life like this, but the thought kept her up long after the snores of her roommates filled the room. She was only trying to protect them, it wasn’t like she was ashamed of her heritage and even though she knew no harm could come of them while at Hogwarts, she didn’t want them to be exposed to the blood purists and their fanatical views.
She tossed and turned in her sheets a little while longer before padding carefully from her room, down the stairs and into the boy’s dorm, making very sure not to wake any of the other sleeping patrons.
Slipping inside the valance around his bed, she crawled up beside him. “James?” she whispered, her mouth as close to his ear as possible.
He groaned and rubbed his face as though irritated. “What is it?” he mumbled sleepily into his pillow, not bothering to turn or open his eyes.
“Scoot over,” she ordered him, lifting up the covers and pushing at his side with her feet.
He gurgled in protest, muttering under his breath about her being high maintenance and a lunatic but managed to pick himself up and shuffle over enough so that she could slide beneath the sheets and settle in.
It was cramped in their school beds and James’ fondness for sprawling out didn’t help matters, but she found a comfortable enough position to lie in, curved around him, tangling her legs with his. She thought that he’d gone back to sleep, judging by the deep breaths he was taking, but shortly after she’d closed her eyes, she heard him snuffling and shifting about, throwing off her complicated sleeping position entirely. He rolled onto his back and his arm fell across her chest, drawing her into him.
Kissing a spot on his shoulder, she smiled to herself and lay her head down on his chest gently. This time when she closed her eyes, her head was emptied of thoughts of her parents and filled with the hypnotic rhythm of breath and blood pressed beneath her ear.
When James woke up the next morning, he was rather surprised to find a snoring Lily wrapped around him as he didn’t actually remember going to bed with anyone but himself.
He very carefully tried to extricate himself from her grasp, but she had a tight grip on his pyjama bottoms in a place that he didn’t care to make any mistakes around, so he pried each one of her fingers from him in the gentlest of fashions, still trying not to wake her before sliding over to pull aside his curtains and see what time it was and if they were alone.
The curtains were drawn around Remus’ bed, but Sirius and Peter appeared to be up and out and looking at the clock he could see why.
“Lily,” he said, shaking her a little and her eyes fluttered open slowly. “Lily, it’s time to get up, half an hour before classes start.”
She made a face and sat up in his bed, rubbing her eyes sleepily. Her hair was sticking out in every which way, her cheek was red where it had been pressed up against him and the cotton nightie she was wearing had slipped down to the point where it was almost obscene and James smiled at her.
“What?” she replied grumpily.
“You look pretty,” he replied with a wolfish grin.
“Shut up,” she replied and pulled herself out his bed, fixing up her nightie before opening up the curtains.
“We’re alone. Except for Remus, but he won’t be up for hours.”
She gave him a quizzical look and he shrugged and pointed upwards. “Full moon.”
“Oh,” she replied softly, casting a worried glance in the direction of his bed.
“He’ll be all right,” James told her, leaving out the specifics of that statement. “You’ve got to go and get ready and give a bloke some privacy while he changes.”
Smoothing her hair down, she paused for a moment before laughing to herself, he was about to ask what the joke was when she looked him up and down. “I’ve seen, I came, I conquered,” she told him in a voice that made it plain that she was very proud of herself.
He shook his head and groaned. “Not too early for you to be a smart arse.”
Still chuckling, she bounced from the room and James once again shook his head and started about his morning routine.
Thinking on it, it was a touch unusual for Lily to crawl into bed with him, seeing as she was so insistent on keeping certain aspects of their life private. He wasn’t even allowed to tell Sirius about what they’d spent their holidays getting up to. He looked in the mirror and decided the stubble would have to stay as he mulled over the possible reasons that Lily would forget the Total Secrecy rule she, herself, had drawn up. There would be time for asking later. Right now, he was struggling around the room trying to pull on his robes inelegantly and fix his hair to some semblance of tame, he could precious little afford to be distracted by his increasingly insane girlfriend.
“Oi, James, wondering when you’d show up,” Sirius said as soon as he’d entered the classroom. He was five minutes late, but luckily Flitwick hadn’t turned up yet.
“Slept in,” James replied, sitting himself down next to Peter. “And I had to check on Moony before I left, he wanted a glass of water,” he added in a quieter voice.
Sirius cocked an eyebrow. “He actually asked for a glass of water?”
“No, but I gave him one. And a sleeping draught. And a few books to keep him busy when he wakes up.”
“Thank god mummy’s about to care of him then,” Sirius said sarcastically.
Flitwick scurried into the classroom and onto his pedestal before James hadn’t even thought of a reply.
“Books out, please, we’ll have half the lesson theory and half practice, we’re going to try and fine tune your Appearance Charms,” he announced breathlessly, flicking his wand at the blackboard so that a piece of chalk went to work as he gave his lecture.
Sirius leaned back in his chair and let his quill take notes for him, Peter attempted to do the same, though his notes came out scratchily and occasionally the quill would overstep its margins and continue sentences on the desk.
James looked around the room for Lily, but he couldn’t see her and with a head of hair like hers, she was hard to miss.
A scrunched up piece of parchment struck his head and somehow managed to get caught in his hair and James turned his head to Sirius.
“Where’s Evans?” he mouthed and jerked his thumb back at Marjorie who was obviously the originator of the question.
James was in the process of shrugging and removing the parchment from her hair when Lily arrived in a flurry of apologies and wild hair. She cringed guiltily, mouthing ‘First Years’ at James and slipped into the only available seat, next to Snape at the back of the classroom. He sneered and turned away slightly, but she just set her books down primly and went about straightening herself out.
Sirius made a rude sign at Snape when Lily wasn’t looking and James just glared bloody murder at him, the foul git was insulting his girlfriend, as though she were beneath him.
Lily paid him no mind, looking pointedly at James as she asked Snape if she’d missed anything, when he didn’t reply immediately she flicked her hair back over her shoulder and staunchly told him that she wouldn’t infect his parchments with her tainted blood just by looking at it.
He hunched over the desk, refusing to answer or even look at her and James saw several shades of red, possible mauve and a putrid yellow colour; Lily gave him that same quelling look again, he knew it well, it was the kind of look that told him in no uncertain terms would he be getting any sort of affection if he made a big deal of this and like a chastised puppy, James sunk back in his seat and tried to focus on Flitwick’s voice. He took his notes with a fierce intensity that was rarely seen from him on the subject of schoolwork, dotting each ‘I’ violently and turning long passages of dreary Charms notes into vicious battles, quill and parchment duelling, spilled ink from brutal wounds bleeding everywhere across his notes.
Lily sighed and shook her head upon seeing them at lesson’s end. She reached up on tiptoes and kissed his cheek. “He’s not worth you getting caught. You’re Head Boy, make me look good Potter,” she said teasingly, tugging on his robes to illustrate her point before she sashayed across the room to talk to Marjorie.
Sirius sidled up to him as they filed out. “Later?” he said quietly, out of the side of his mouth.
A/N: So...updated finally and suprise of all suprises, another chapter is actually in the works. With more James and Sirius tomfoolery and gasbagging. I kind of took a break from writing it from James' PoV and have decided that I don't really like doing that and need to write James far more often than I do.