Chapter 26 : Chapter 26 - Graduation
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Lily groaned softly when she heard the annoying buzz in her ears, essentially alerting her to the fact that she was about to take her Charms NEWT in a little over an hour. The sound was beginning to annoy her, and after remembering how James had suggested trying to use wandless magic when she was agitated or upset, she gave it a try. Nothing happened at first, but this only made her more frustrated because the buzzing had gotten louder. She placed her hands over her ears annoyed and surprisingly, the sound vanished. She opened her bright green eyes with a smile. However, her smile disappeared when she realized something. James didn’t have his arm around her.
She immediately turned over onto her back and noticed the bed was empty except for her. She frowned. She was just about to call out for him when she noticed him sitting comfortably on his armchair in nothing but his boxers, obviously asleep. He was surrounded by parchment and had his wand and Charms textbook in his lap. She couldn’t seem to stop the tug of a smile from creeping across her face as she observed him quietly. He really was more of a perfectionist than most people knew. However, his idea of studying tended to be a result of procrastination or cramming. She, of course, had no idea how he could do this.
Lily quietly crept out of the bed and grabbed her wand from his desk. She waved it at James, and all of his things, including his glasses that had been skewed slightly on his face, piled neatly onto his desk once more. She made her way closer to him, running her hand through his messy dark hair. “Hey, sleepyhead, time to get up.”
James stirred, grumbling a bit to himself. He raised his sleepy and unfocused hazel eyes to her pretty green ones. “Is it morning already?”
Lily nodded, smiling a bit at his dishevelment, which was oddly alluring. “Yes. We need to get a move on if we want to eat anything before the exam. I can’t believe you stayed up all night studying.”
He nodded wearily, slowly standing up too. “It’s Sirius’ fault. Blame him.”
She tugged on his arm gently, and he immediately leaned down to kiss her for a few seconds. He groaned as he pulled away from her though. “I love you, but even when I’m blind, you walking around in nothing but your knickers and a camisole is so unfair.”
Lily giggled as she made her way out of his room. He was only wearing his boxers so she supposed the feeling was mutual. “I love you too, James.”
He squinted his eyes a bit as he struggled to watch her walk away, even though she got more blurry as she went. He sighed and rummaged through his belongings for a pepper-up potion. There was only one left. He would have to call Reeny to get some more from home. He figured the next week and a half would require this potion a lot. He quickly got ready and then headed out to meet his girlfriend while he was trying to remember the best way to cast a cheering charm without having the person become excessively giddy. He had done that to Sirius once or twice. Lily was looking through her packed satchel to make sure she had everything while James looked on amusedly. “Why did you even bother packing your satchel? You won’t need it.”
She gave him a look. “Just to look over a few things at lunch before the practical. Besides, seeing as you and the guys won’t bring anything, how do you think you all will get your questions answered when you suddenly have some five minutes before the exam?”
James chuckled and leaned against her doorframe. “I suppose. I still don’t think you’ll need them. Any questions we may have, you can answer them without any help.”
Lily didn’t seem to believe him. She pulled her hair out of her face, threw her satchel over her shoulder, and walked out to meet him with a sigh. James kissed her cheek. “Stop worrying.”
She grumbled at him, slightly annoyed with his cavalier attitude, “I’ll do as I please, James.”
He sighed at that and just grabbed her hand, leading her out past the sphinx. He had come to learn that sometimes you needed to just let Lily be cranky, and it would wear off. “I know.”
They both made their way into the Great Hall where everything seemed to be in a state of frenzy and walked over to where they usually sat. Christina was reading through her Charms textbook, and oddly enough, so was Sirius. Remus was talking quickly and quietly to a very scared-looking Peter. Lauren was the only one who looked completely relaxed. She was wearing a smirk on her face as she enjoyed her breakfast, clearly enjoying watching those around her stressing out. James rolled his eyes at her. “Lauren, how lovely to see you are doing so well this morning.”
She eyed him cheekily. “Oh, Jimmy, you noticed! It really is great being a sixth year, isn’t it? No drama about the future, no caring about getting a job… This is the life.”
Lily smacked her lightly for being so blasé about the whole thing. “You’ll be this way next year. Just wait.”
She shrugged, still smiling evilly at the seventh years around her. “I’m all about the here and now for the moment. I like watching you all squirm.”
James grabbed a few things for breakfast. “So where do we have to go again?”
Christina didn’t even look up from her reading, although she did nudge Sirius to turn the page, as she answered him monotonously, “We have our Charms test in the Charms classroom from 9-11am. The practical will be down the hall a bit in that classroom with access from different areas so students can be let in and out through different doors. The fifth years get the Great Hall, considering there are more of them than there are of us, and they have their test from 9:30-11:30am instead so they end just before lunch.”
Lily nodded. “I suppose we did lose a few people in NEWT-level Charms, didn’t we? A few Hufflepuffs and Slytherins?”
Remus sighed. “And Thomas from Gryffindor. If you think James is hopeless at Charms, then you have never seen Thomas try to cast a levitation charm. That was scary.”
James shot him a look. “I’m not completely hopeless, you know. I just can’t do the basic ones for the life of me. I suppose it’s not that I can’t do them, only that they just don’t last— kind of like Lily’s conjuring.” He ignored the annoyed look he got from his beautiful girlfriend and continued, “I’ve learned more than a few complicated Charms that work out just fine.”
Sirius chuckled. “Yeah. Like the one you did last week for Hailey on that fourth year prat. That was the best. I thought he was going to remain an icicle for the whole week until Dumbledore set him right about five hours later.”
James smirked. “He deserved it for calling her an ice princess and for being a first-rate git. I just made him into an ice prince, that’s all.”
Christina giggled. “His lips are still blue though. Dumbledore couldn’t fix everything. I hope his bits are still frozen. I have no idea how you got him to turn all frosty like that. Fantastic, that was.”
James shrugged. “Maybe I’ll do that as my extra credit in the practical. At least I know how to reverse the full spell now, just don’t tell Mitch.”
Lily nudged him, curious. “There’s no extra credit in the practical, James.”
Sirius eyed her outrageously. “You’re kidding, right? I had way too much fun during my Transfiguration OWL. Let’s just say the examiner didn’t expect to be turned into my pincushion.”
James snickered. “I morphed one of the gargoyles in the Great Hall to be a giant statue of McGonagall. She didn’t look me in the face for the rest of term.”
Lily’s eyes twinkled. “So that’s why everyone was astounded when I combined a bunch of the charms the examiners asked me to do, leading me to leave the practical examination after a total of ten minutes? No wonder I got an O.”
James poked her in her sides when she started to laugh. “Aren’t you a little smart ass?”
Lauren eventually bade them goodbye and good luck, indicating it was time for them to head to the Charms classroom. All things were left outside the classroom, and they were arranged in the spaced out seating in alphabetical order. James gave Lily a reassuring smile, which she happily returned. It wasn’t long before all of the seats were filled, and the examiners from the Ministry were introduced— Madam Wallis, Madam Grendell, and Mr. Blake. They gave the usual speech (more like lecture) about the importance of the exam and about the anti-cheating quills that were handed out before they were all allowed to begin. James watched Lily begin writing straight away, knowing that she would do exceptionally well today because this was definitely her area of expertise. He turned his eyes down to his own exam and did his best to answer the questions as thoroughly as possible. He thought it went pretty well, considering he had been up so late studying and was not necessarily top notch at Charms.
The Charms practical after lunch was interesting, to say the least. Sirius was one of the first to go in, giving their group an inspired look. If the scared noises coming from the classroom were anything to go by, Sirius may not have done so well, but at least he had been in good spirits on the way in. After that, a silencing charm was placed on the classroom. Lily looked to be a bundle of nerves when the examiner came to get her, but James smiled at her and it seemed to relax her a bit.
James couldn’t stand the waiting game. He was sitting near Peter, but Peter was panicking too much to be good conversation. He instead mentally went over the more common charms typically found on the OWL and NEWT exams. He was pretty sure he would do ok. Remus and Christina went in together since they fell right next to each other alphabetically. Soon, Peter was called in. He looked positively terrified. James felt a bit of sympathy for him, but he had had time to study just like the rest of them and Remus had helped him a lot that morning. He was sure Peter would be able to scrape by quite easily so long as he didn’t start to freak out. He was brooding about being near the end of the alphabet when he suddenly heard, “Mr. Potter?”
James stood up and made his way inside the room, fairly confident. His examiner, Madam Grendell, smiled at him and asked him to go through all of the OWL-level charms silently. This was a piece of cake for James. She started asking about the more complicated charms, but he was able to fumble his way through. Finally, she looked at him with a smile. “That’s great. Now, we have been asking every student to take a minute to do as many charms as possible, all silently, to show us something unique.”
James smiled inwardly. He knew without even asking that Lily must’ve passed with an O quite easily. “Sure.”
He thought about his cherub from the Valentine’s Day dance and decided to run with it. He quickly conjured his cherub, charmed it to dance, used a color-changing charm on his loincloth, conjured a violin, charmed the violin to play music (this time, it was normal music), charmed the cherub’s arrows to fly through the air gracefully, used a fireworks charm that spelled out ‘Love is in the air,’ and since his minute was almost up, he immediately pointed his wand over at Mr. Blake, who was overseeing the examination, changing him into the ice prince like he had done with that fourth year prat as a prank. Madam Grendell was laughing and nodding at him approvingly, but Mr. Blake was clearly unhappy, considering he couldn’t undo the charm. James felt for him. “Ahhh, I can undo that.”
He immediately flicked his wand, mumbling the countercharm, allowing Mr. Blake to return to normal. Madam Grendell patted him on the back, pushing him toward the exit. “Lovely, Mr. Potter. You’re all finished.”
James made his way out into the hallway and started heading to the Gryffindor common room where they had all decided to meet. He gave the Fat Lady the password and made his way inside. Lily’s pretty face immediately brightened when he appeared. “So?”
He plopped down next to her with a smile. “E, I think anyway.”
She kissed him on his cheek. “Good. Peter thinks he got an A because he fumbled up in the practical and on the written exam; Remus thinks he got an E, but I think he got an O and is being modest since Christina said he did really well in the practical; and both Christina and Sirius are claiming E too, but after what we heard, Sirius cannot be getting an E.”
Sirius looked offended. “I’ll have you know that all of that fuss was merely because I conjured a very large crocodile to use as my Charms subject. It was especially fun when I made it change colors. That is all.”
All of the Marauders started laughing. It wasn’t long before they all made their way to dinner before separating once more so they could prepare for their next NEWT in the morning. The days that followed were all very similar.
Herbology was the second day of exams. Lily had said the whole thing had been a piece of cake, but James hadn’t felt that way— for him, it had been cruel and utter torture. He decided that the written exam had gone ok, but the practical had been awful. They had gone around to tables and tables of plants where the examiners would ask them questions about identification, how to cultivate them, what their uses were, and their overlap, if any, with potions ingredients. James did not like this at all. Whenever he hadn’t known an answer, he would discuss some other plant that they had never studied in school that his parents had told him about, considering they had been Aurors and used rare plants and such to make all sorts of potions. Madam Wallis had been somewhat impressed with his extra knowledge so he hoped he might have scraped through with another E. He knew Herbology was semi-important for the Auror program.
The third day of exams was Arithmancy, Muggle Studies, Care of Magical Creatures, and Astronomy. James, Lily, and Remus took their Care of Magical Creatures written exam in the morning, but then Lily had run off for her Arithmancy exam in the afternoon while most students completed their Care of Magical Creatures practical. Lily had instead completed that portion after her other exam. By the time she had gotten back to start studying for Transfiguration the next day, she was wiped. However, this didn’t stop Lily from freaking out, considering it was her hardest subject, so James did his best to relax her. Instead of studying for the test himself, he had helped her study. She had thanked him profusely and even told him to go away after awhile to study himself, but he hadn’t. He had known he would do just fine without any real practice.
The Transfiguration exam the next day was extremely easy for James. Sure enough, the written exam only dealt with things he had known since fourth year due to the fact that he had mastered all of the NEWT-level transfiguration by that point so they could truly begin to understand the theory behind becoming an animagus. When the practical came around, he had a lot of fun showing off. He transfigured the whole room into a jungle and filled it with all sorts of animals, made inanimate objects come to life, conjured numerous things out of thin-air, transfigured himself into Professor Dumbledore, and transfigured Mr. Blake into a Knut. Madam Wallis had been practically stupefied as she watched him use large-scale transfiguration and do everything silently and effortlessly. Professor McGonagall had watched him approvingly in the background and gave him a nod with a rare smile as he left. Lily had told him that she had had a hard time with the practical, but the written exam she knew she did well on. He was sure she was being modest because he had watched her do every one of the spells the night before.
The fifth day of exams was the most annoying because it had History of Magic, Divination, and Ancient Runes. The night before the exams had been interesting. Lily, Remus, and Christina had disappeared to go through translation upon translation while Sirius and James had just looked at each other and shrugged, knowing that anything that happened in Divination would be the result of their imagination. Lily, Remus, and Christina had eventually approached him some time late in the evening, all looking disheartened, and asked him to please help them learn how to do a basic Rune ward before the morning. He had helped them, even though Sirius had intermittently chimed in about mundane Divination topics, like how he was quite happy he looked like a Grim in his animagus form. If James hadn’t known that Sirius was well aware that he could not show anyone that he was an unregistered animagus, he wouldn’t have put it past him to scare the examiners and Professor Merryweather to death by appearing as the Grim during his practical. As it was, the tests all ended up ok. Lily had been ecstatic, jumping onto James’ lap and squealing about how she had done her ward successfully in her practical. James had just loved seeing her so happy.
The group had their weekend to study for the remaining exams on Monday and Tuesday, which were DADA and Potions respectively. James had poured over Potions, considering he was more worried about that NEWT. It was important for Aurors to pass the Potions NEWT. Lily had helped him, suggesting he look at the ingredients themselves and understand how they work so in the practical, he could make a successful antidote, which was one of the potions they were going to have to make. The two of them had spent most of Sunday going over DADA and sparring, which was entertaining. He hadn’t realized how much he missed hearing Lily laugh. They had been so busy over the last week.
DADA was the most interesting exam. The written exam was nothing special, but the practical had been outrageously developed and almost fun. The examinees had to go through four blocked off rooms. In the first room, there was an assortment of dark creatures where they had to identify, describe, and explain how to evade or kill them. The second room was where the examiners tested knowledge on curses/jinxes and their countercurses/counterjinxes. In the third room, the examiners tested knowledge regarding dueling techniques, proper wand holds, defensive spells, and strategy. The fourth and final room was a chance for them to duel and/or attack four Aurors using what they had learned. One of the first things James had asked was whether he could use spells outside of DADA, which was a no. James had been disappointed because he would’ve liked to use large-scale transfiguration on the Aurors, but then he realized he could apply the large-scale principle to his stunning spell. He smiled and went on the defensive initially, mentally building his power to execute a large area stunner. He was able to do it, and the Aurors were so surprised, two of them went down immediately to the spell and the other two were soon struck with the body bind and anti-apparition jinxes while they were still in their stupor. He collected their wands and was quite happy with himself as he left. Lily had told him that she had gotten three of them, but then charmed the fourth one to bits, even though she wasn’t supposed to. She said that he had taunted her, and she had wanted to make him pay. James had laughed and reminded her that was why he liked being on her good side.
The final exam seemed like a reversal in comparison to all of the others. James was the one worried while Lily looked completely at ease. She had continued to help him with odd Potions concepts while still studying herself for their whole evening. The written exam had been difficult. James had panicked when he realized he was supposed to remember every ingredient for certain potions, but could only remember the major ingredients. He fumbled his way through, although he was glad he knew a lot of information about particular ingredients from Lily or he would have been screwed. The practical had actually gone ok. James had been in the room Lily had been in by chance, but just having her in the same room, even if there was utter silence as Mr. Blake supervised the group of eight students as he paced in the front of the room, made him feel more relaxed. It also helped that Snape had been placed in one of the other two rooms. He was able to concentrate better and was pretty sure he had made a fairly passable Draught of Living Death and a hopefully accurate antidote to the unknown poison he had been given.
On the way out of the potions drawing room, he pulled Lily into a hug and spun her around, burying his face in her neck and inhaling the sweet scent of her hair. It seemed like ages since they had just relaxed together. “Merlin, we’re finally done.”
She pulled his face over to hers and kissed him gently after he put her down. “I know! I’m so glad it’s finally over.”
They managed to collect their group and head over to the Heads’ common room after dinner where they all relaxed and discussed their woes with the NEWT exams. Lauren had come as well, bringing tons of sweets from the house elves in the kitchens. It wasn’t long before Sirius left and brought back firewhiskey for them all to celebrate with.
Lily only had a couple of shots with the others before curling up on James’ lap, incredibly tired. He let her lie on him, running his hand over her back and through her hair as he talked with the boys.
After what must’ve been a few hours, Lily felt James move and when she opened her eyes, she was surprised to see that everyone was sleeping and the room had darkened considerably, with only the fire in the fireplace providing a bit of light. When James shifted again, she raised her head off of his shoulder to look at him sleepily. “Am I hurting you, sweetheart?”
He must’ve been sleeping too because his glasses were no longer on, but he smiled at her, obviously awake for some reason. “My arm just fell asleep or something.”
He lifted her a bit and maneuvered her into what must’ve been a more comfortable location before relaxing again and running his fingers through her silky hair. She sighed as she lowered head to rest in his neck a bit. “Sorry.”
She felt his lips kiss her forehead. “You know I don’t care, Lils.”
She smiled. “Yeah, I know.”
They both were quiet for the time being until Lily looked out at the others, observing them more closely. Peter was lying uncomfortably in the other armchair by himself; Remus was sitting up on the couch, his head lolled to one side; Lauren was lying on the rest of the couch with her feet in Remus’ lap; Sirius was leaning against the couch on the floor with his head resting against the armrest near Lauren’s head; and Christina was sitting next to Sirius with her head on his shoulder. Lily pointed and said softly, “Look.”
James chuckled quietly into her hair. “You should’ve seen them earlier. They were flirting a lot. They’re like sparks waiting to happen.”
Lily sat up a bit so she could look at him better, her eyes twinkling. “Christina used to say that to me about us.”
He leaned down and captured her lips with his for a few seconds, smiling against them. “Well, then I’m glad we’ve passed the torch to them. I like having your sparks instead of wishing I did.”
She giggled at him as he continued to kiss her repeatedly all over her face and neck. She wrapped her arms around his neck when he finally stopped. “I like having your sparks too, James.”
He nuzzled her nose gently. “Good. I love you.”
She mumbled out, “I love you too” before pulling his lips back down onto hers. It had been so long since they had done anything remotely couplish besides falling asleep next to each other because of the hectic NEWT schedule. She had been craving to snog him for days. She loved losing herself in him. He eventually broke the kiss though, kissing her cheek softly and whispering near her ear, “I can’t wait to have fun with you later today.”
His low whisper caused her to shiver, and she whispered back seductively, “What kind of fun?”
His hazel eyes met hers and that heart-stopping grin of his crossed his features, making her heart pound. “Whatever I want.”
If there weren’t people in the common room with them, he probably could have had her right now with those words. He had no idea what he was doing to her. She played coy. “What about what I want?”
He chuckled and looked into her pretty green eyes. He was a bit distracted by her running her fingers slowly over his chest. “I’m sure I can work that into whatever I want.”
She leaned forward, pressing her body flush against his. “Hmmm, good.”
He wrapped his arms around her tightly, keeping her amazing body against his as he nuzzled her neck. He let his lips kiss her collarbone— only once though, because if she made any noise, he would haul her into the bedroom. “Let’s get some sleep then so we can be awake when we have all of this fun later.”
Lily had bit her lip to keep quiet when he kissed her neck softly and as his warm breath ran over her skin. She nodded against him and kissed him slowly just below his ear. She smiled slightly when his hands fisted in her blouse. It was nice to know that she affected him just as much as he affected her. “Sounds like a plan.”
He loosened his hold on her only so she could get comfortable again and then kissed her extremely kissable lips briefly one more time. “Night, Lily love.”
She rested against him, listening to his heartbeat and enjoying his strong arms around her. “Night, James.”
The rest of the week seemed to pass in a giant blur. The seventh years had no more class, leaving most free to relax out in the sunshine or wander the halls. Filch, of course, hated this. He stalked them all and sent them on their way, yelled at students for bringing dirt into the Entryway, and there was more snogging in broom closets than there had been all year. It was finally the day of the final House feast and the Graduation reception. James and Lily made their way into the Great Hall for the last time for lunch. It was incredibly odd to think of a life after Hogwarts, but it had finally come upon them nonetheless.
James nodded to Christina and Lauren, who were both already talking animatedly together, before sitting down with Lily across from them. “Hello, ladies.”
Christina waved him off and turned immediately to Lily, her eyes sparkling. “Guess what?”
Lily smiled. “What?”
She was bouncing with excitement. “My Mum and Dad are going to give me a down payment for a new apartment as a graduation present! Isn’t that amazing! I probably won’t move in anywhere or anything until July, but my own place! I am beside myself right now! I never even thought about moving out until right now, but it’s just perfect!”
Lily laughed. “You’re going to fall off the seat, Chris! Jump around in your seat, not off of it.”
James looked over at Lily curiously. “Were your parents going to do something like that too?”
She shrugged. “We haven’t talked about me moving out much, with Petunia’s wedding coming up in like two weeks or so. Shelley told me that I could always move in with her for a while though. She’s got this huge place from what she’s told me— a huge flat in London or something She finished her Healer apprenticeship just last month so she’s now a full-fledged Healer.”
Christina squealed, “YES! That would be so amazing if I could find a place out there too!”
James rolled his eyes as all three girls began talking about getting their own place one day. Leave it to the Marauders to leave him with a bunch of girls. He supposed he never minded being left alone with Lily, but the 3:1 ratio he was stuck with at the moment was a bit much at times. He smiled some when Lily absentmindedly rubbed his leg as she continued to talk animatedly with Christina, probably sensing his discomfort. She had told him before that she found his presence to be enough to make her feel at ease. He grabbed a few things to snack on as he tried to follow what the girls were talking about, but it was like listening to half-sentences that the girls seemed to understand completely while he lost the conversation about four sentences in. He sighed and just focused on his lunch. The Marauders were supposed to be meeting them all soon so it shouldn’t be a big deal.
After about fifteen minutes, however, James began looking around curiously towards the Great Hall entrance. It was unlike the Marauders to miss meeting up with them when they had said they would be there. He frowned as he ate his sandwich. It took a few more minutes, but the Great Hall doors eventually opened once more and the remaining three Marauders walked in, clearly upset and talking in hushed tones. Remus hurried over and left Sirius and Peter arguing near the entrance. James’ face furrowed as he observed Remus’ hasty approach. “What is it, Moony?”
He looked distressed and wary as he pulled on his arm. “Umm, just come with me, James.”
James threw an odd glance at Lily as he was dragged away. She was watching the both of them curiously. James shrugged helplessly and looked at her with mirrored confusion over the situation. “I guess I’ll be back in a minute, Lils?”
Lily frowned as she watched Remus pull away her boyfriend. Something big must’ve happened. Sirius and Peter were both arguing heatedly, and when James and Remus arrived, Remus shoved Sirius forward, almost for him to tell James whatever was going on. Sirius actually looked hesitant, like he didn’t want to say anything at all. When he did finally mumble something, the look on James’ face when he heard whatever it was surprised Lily. He was furious. As evidence of just how angry he was, his voice carried over the Great Hall, “YOU DID WHAT?!?!? I CAN’T BEL—“
The angry rant was immediately cut off, and Lily saw Remus with his wand out, waving it frantically to silence whatever was going to be said. Sure enough, Sirius looked to be shouting back at James, then Remus was shouting at the both of them, and finally all four of them were shouting at each other. Lily looked up at the Professors’ table briefly and noted that Dumbledore and McGonagall looked like they were going to interfere. She didn’t want the boys to get in trouble on their last official day as students. She turned to Lauren and Christina. “I’ll take care of this.”
With that, she got up quickly and walked towards the feuding Marauders. None of them even noticed her approach, although she saw a lot of the other students starting to whisper about it. She whipped out her wand and waved it around expertly. Suddenly, all four Marauders had their hands on their throats like they were choking as they were led out of the Great Hall from an invisible source holding their ears in reprimand. Lily vaguely heard the Great Hall laughing at the spectacle behind her as she followed the boys out into the Entryway. She dropped them against the wall and silenced the area before releasing her throat closing charm. She eyed them all with her wand still out before saying calmly, “Explain.”
James groaned in frustration as he observed his beautiful girlfriend clearly getting the best out of all of them. “They lost THE MAP, Lily.”
Lily’s eyes widened as she looked over at the other three in surprise. She hadn’t been expecting that. James usually had it on him or back in the Heads’ Dorm. She hadn’t even known that he had lent it out to them, considering none of them really used it anymore since they all knew the Map by heart. The only time the Map had even really been used was when she and James had done patrol. She turned to the only one who would give her a thorough explanation without skating around the topic or stuttering like a fool. “Remus, what happened?”
Remus sighed as he shot an angry glare over at Sirius. “We borrowed the Map from James to do a couple of last minute pranks, just some innocent stuff. However, a trip charm meant for an unsuspecting student tripped Filch’s bloody cat by accident and so Filch started yelling at us. He couldn’t give us detentions, obviously, since today is our last day, so Sirius decided to bate him about it. In retribution, Filch decided to confiscate EVERY SINGLE THING we had on us. We tried everything to get it back, but we must’ve tried too hard. Filch seemed to realize its importance, even though he couldn’t work it to save his life, and he took it with him. We’ll never get it back. It’s not like we can go up to McGonagall and explain to her what exactly was confiscated.”
Lily frowned. She could see why this was so bothersome, but she knew they shouldn’t be taking it out on each other. Looking over the four of them carefully, she could tell that they all appeared angry about the Map being gone, not necessarily at each other. “Well, there’s no use crying over spilled milk, boys. Stop the fighting.”
Sirius and Peter looked at her funny for suddenly talking about milk. James just nodded wearily because he had heard her use the expression before, but Remus clarified for the other boys with a roll of his eyes, “It’s a muggle expression. I swear, you two should have taken Muggle Studies.”
Lily sighed and tried to get them to be in better spirits, gesturing around herself. “It’s not the end of the world. So you lost the Map! Big deal. Some future pranksters should find it after breaking into Filch’s office. It’s not like you four haven’t done that before. Someone is bound to do it again.”
James whined, “But it was supposed to go to our kids, Lily, not some kids we don’t know.”
Lily chuckled as she watched the other three nod along to James’ sentiments, all looking like their dreams had been destroyed. “Well, it’s not like you don’t know how to make the Map again. I’m sure you have the magic written down somewhere. You can make a new Map with your future kids together, although I do feel sorry for the women who will procreate with the likes of all of you.”
James scoffed at her teasing with a smile, considering she was dating him seriously and he would be crazy to not eventually ask her to be with him forever. “Right.”
Remus smirked, obviously thinking similarly about James and Lily as a couple. “James and I have a copy of the magic we used, Lily. He and I kept detailed notes when we made it.”
She nodded, satisfied, and helped them all stand up. “Good. That settles it then. So now can we worry about officially graduating instead?”
Sirius grumbled, “I suppose. Sorry, guys. I didn’t mean for that to happen.”
James clapped him on the back and looked him over solemnly. “You know, Sirius, I think we should work on getting you to think things through. It might help you out a lot.”
Sirius rolled his eyes playfully as they all laughed at him. He assumed a dignified and defiant expression. “I’ll have you know that being impulsive has its advantages.”
They all gave him grief for that comment and made their way back into the Great Hall to finish up their last lunch at Hogwarts.
James jogged through the corridors so he could make it back to the Great Hall. He knew he was late by only a few minutes, but he had told Lily he would meet her back there once she went to go meet her parents, who were arriving specially along with other muggle parents for the Graduation reception. Their group had all sat together during the House feast where Gryffindor had won the House Cup for the second year in a row. However, directly after the feast, fifth and seventh year prefects, including him as Head Boy since Lily was busy meeting her parents, all had to make sure the rest of the students got back to the Dorms. All students would be going home on the train tomorrow, with the exception of most seventh years who would go back with their parents tonight.
He slowed down so he didn’t fall down the stairs and made his way back to the Great Hall entrance, which was now open wide for seventh years, their families, and staff. The sixth year prefects had done rather well. The long tables were gone and in their place were round tables with white, silver, and gold decorations for families and groups of friends to sit with one another. The Professors’ table was just as it always was only now with matching décor.
His eyes searched around the large room, and he eventually found the familiar red-haired beauty he had the luxury of calling his girlfriend. He made his way over toward where she and her parents were located, considering his parents, unfortunately, would not be attending. He sighed a bit at that thought, but the pang the absence used to cause him didn’t seem to be as unbearable as he thought it might be— perhaps caused by the wonderful people he had around him. He smiled at Mrs. Evans when she noticed him and waved him over. Lily turned around, her pretty green eyes shining, and reached for his hand. “Hey! I was wondering where you got off to. Have trouble with the Gryffindors?”
James shrugged, kissing her on her forehead. “Just some little things. They’re all tucked up in Gryffindor Tower now. Where are the others?”
Lily gestured in front of her. “Around. They’ll be back here soon. Dumbledore mentioned he would be getting things started soon so we should all get seats anyway.”
As Lily started moving all of them toward a table, James suddenly found himself doused in dirty blonde hair with accompanied girlish giggling. “Jimmy! You’re a graduate! Who would have thought it possible?”
Mr. and Mrs. Evans were looking on thoughtfully at the girl clinging to their daughter’s boyfriend, considering Lily was laughing at James’ expense and didn’t seem the least bit upset. Lauren eventually loosened her death grip around his neck so he could breathe once more. He merely rolled his eyes at the mischievous hazel eyes in front of him. “I’m so glad you have such confidence in my abilities, Lauren.”
She purposefully ruffled his hair to annoy him before turning to look at Lily and her parents with a smile. “Hi. I’m Lauren Shelton. I’m this git’s cousin, and you must be Lily’s parents?”
James tried in vain to make his hair presentable once more as he automatically corrected her, “Sister.”
Lauren gave him a pretty smile at this, as did Lily and her family. Mrs. Evans nodded and gestured between herself and her husband. “Nice to meet you, dear. I’m Emma Evans, and this is my husband, Michael.”
The five of them chatted excitedly, with Lily, Lauren, and James answering any questions Lily’s parents had about magic and the school— particularly the amazing ceiling. However, James noticed something just out of the corner of his eye, and he paled instantly. “Excuse me for a moment.”
His exit and words were so abrupt and panicked that they all turned in the direction James took off toward curiously, and Lauren’s breath hitched at what James was obviously concerned about. Sirius was surrounded by his family. Lily turned toward Lauren apprehensively, clearly realizing who the people were around Sirius. “Nothing can happen here, right?”
Lauren shook her head, but she still didn’t look appeased. “No, but that doesn’t matter if Sirius has a bout of accidental magic. Once was enough from what I hear. James saw him do it. He probably is going over there to calm him down before he does something stupid.”
Mr. Evans frowned. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
Lily sighed. “James’ friend, Sirius Black, doesn’t have a very loving family for various wizarding reasons. It’s hard to explain. Sirius is the friend who has been living with James.”
Considering the many possibilities why Sirius would live with another family rather than his own, the Evans family all looked on warily as James walked right up into the mess that is the Black family, who did not appear to be very nice people to say the least.
James held his breath as he approached a rather stoic Sirius facing his mother, his Aunt Druella, Bellatrix, Narcissa, and Regulus. He looked ready to unleash copious amounts of raw magic just from seeing them all once again, and that’s not even mentioning whatever snide comments they were making to Sirius which were only increasing his short temper. James couldn’t believe his mother had the audacity to even show up, let alone to try and talk with Sirius. He supposed that she wanted to put Sirius in his place— well, either that or to be there for Bellatrix, her favorite niece. He nodded to all of the disdainful glares he was getting as he stepped up next to Sirius. He hoped he sounded more confident than he felt at the moment. At least Sirius looked a little less stricken because he was no longer alone. “Mrs. Black, Mrs. Black, Bella, Cissa, and Reg… I hope you don’t mind, but Sirius is needed elsewhere.”
Sirius’ mother sneered at him. “Well, if it isn’t another little blood traitor! I expected my sons to have more dignity than to be seen with the likes of you. Too bad one of them fell short of my expectations and disregarded my wishes, the disobedient little brat.”
Bella snickered. “Well said, Auntie Walburga.”
Sirius snorted. “Stuff it, Bella. Why don’t you go lick the Dark Lord’s socks?”
Her mother held her back and looked at her nephew with disdain. “Do not speak of the Dark Lord with your filthy tongue, boy. You could’ve been great, you know.”
Sirius rolled his eyes. “I’ll talk about whomever I please, Aunt Dru. Speaking of which, MUM, I want you to know that I will do everything in my power to see him go down.”
His mother’s grey eyes flashed as she pointed her finger menacingly at her son. She was practically screeching as she advanced on Sirius, “Why, you ungrateful mongrel! You scorn of my flesh! How dare you speak such words!”
James held onto Sirius’ shoulders to keep him where he was, struggling to keep Sirius calm. He kept his tone as light as possible, “Always a pleasure, Mrs. Black, but we ought to go sit down.”
Sirius’ mother turned her cold eyes toward James. She spoke maliciously, “Ahhh, yes, sitting with your parents then, aren’t you? Oh, wait! Dear, dear, how could I be so silly?” She smiled cruelly at him before saying pointedly, “Your parents are dead.”
James remained impassive as the coldness of her words reverberated in his head. He would not show her how much that fact actually bothered him. His words were short, and gone were the pleasantries, “Yes, they are. That does not mean I am alone or that my family is, by any means, gone.”
She just chuckled wickedly, enjoying getting a rise out of him. “Keep telling yourself that then, little Jamie. Or why don’t you go talk with your mudblood girlfriend’s muggle parents? I suppose they ought to do, for a blood traitor and all.”
James could no longer hide his anger at those comments, his hazel eyes flashing, and Sirius was now holding onto his shoulders because he had stepped forward unconsciously. He was just about to retort when a pleasant and familiar voice came up from behind him. “Why, Walburga, Druella, it’s been a long time. I suggest you all take your seats as I will be starting things shortly.”
Both women turned their noses up at Dumbledore, nodding slightly at his words before walking snootily away with Bellatrix, Narcissa, and Regulus in tow, all three of them smiling like Christmas had come early. Sirius looked on angrily before turning to James, slightly concerned. “I’m sorry, James. You know how evil they can be.”
James merely nodded and pushed him toward where he had seen Lily and Lauren sit down with Lily’s parents. He was about to follow when Dumbledore’s hand came to rest on his shoulder. Dumbledore leaned down and spoke quietly, “Do not let them get to you, James. You have all the family you need; not to mention, I see both of your parents everyday, shining through in you.”
James smiled weakly at Dumbledore before following Sirius to sit down. Lily looked at him worriedly when she noticed his faraway and sullen demeanor. She leaned in to whisper, “Are you ok, sweetheart?”
He sighed. “I’ll be fine.”
Lily gave him a look, remaining rather worried about him. Lauren snorted at James’ words. “What in the hell did the wench say to you?”
Mr. and Mrs. Evans looked at Lauren, a bit surprised by her harsh comment. Sirius begged her off before she could start though, “Not now, Lauren. We’ll talk about it later.”
Lily could tell they should move on, but she was curious about Sirius’ family. She made sure to hold James’ hand comfortingly as she continued hesitantly, “So, was that your Aunt who said those awful things? She looked like an older version of Bellatrix.”
Sirius shook his head, frowning. “No, that was my mother. My Aunt Druella is the one with the white-blonde hair. Cissa is the first blonde born into the Black family in generations. We all thought it was weird when Andie had light brown hair, but the blonde is something else.”
Lily nodded, somewhat dismayed by the fact that Sirius’ mother would be so cruel to both Sirius and James. “Andie isn’t here too, is she?”
James shook his head. “She wouldn’t be welcome. She was legally disowned by Sirius’ aunt and uncle.”
Their attention was diverted by Dumbledore who gave a short speech about the school year in general before talking about the seventh year students more specifically. He presented all the seventh years with certificates magically with a wave of his hand. He concluded by acknowledging the prefects and the Heads. He even made both Lily and James stand up. As Lily and James sat back down, his voice had a hint of amusement in it as he asked, “How about the Heads say a few words?”
James felt Lily tense instantly next to him. He gave Dumbledore a knowing look because he had not asked them to prepare anything in advance, which was obviously going to make Lily highly unnerved. He was positive that Dumbledore was well aware of just what he was doing to his girlfriend at the moment too. James could do it with no problem, but thinking of his girlfriend, he responded loudly, “Let Sirius do it.”
Sirius looked positively overjoyed at the thought. Dumbledore chuckled before giving him the go ahead. Sirius practically jumped out of his seat, throwing a fist in the air while yelling a resounding, “YES!”
The whole audience looked on in amusement as Sirius bolted to the podium where Dumbledore had been standing. He cleared his throat importantly before beginning gallantly, “Fellow students, staff, families, and families I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting…”
There were a few snickers as Sirius openly winked at a few different women off toward his left. “As class president…” These words drew snorts and giggles from most of the seventh years, but Sirius continued as if he couldn’t tell, “I find it my personal duty to commend us all at finally reaching this plateau in our lives. A milestone where the new generation is beckoned to step up and make something of ourselves. Graduating is not only a time of ending, but beginning. We are now on the verge of starting a new adventure, one that will shape who we are for the rest of our lives.”
He paused as his eyes darkened when he noticed the sneers from a table in the back where his ‘family’ sat. “However, we must not forget where we came from as we now focus on moving forward. Remember your past, your adventures here at Hogwarts, and old friends, but be open to new experiences, new endeavors, and new friends. It’s finally time we show everyone what we all can do. Congrats, class of 1978!”
There were cheers all around the room. Lily turned to James, her eyes sparkling. “That was perfect. How’d you know he’d pull something like that off?”
James grinned wickedly. “We’re Marauders, Lils. We can do anything.”
She nudged him playfully as he laughed. Mr. Evans raised his glass when Sirius finally sat back down. “To the new graduates. May you have plenty of success!”
They all toasted to those sentiments, all of them feeling for the first time, like graduates.
Lily frowned as she wandered around her bedroom. She was back at her home for the first time since Spring Break. They had just finished up the Graduation reception. She had only had a few minutes alone with James before she had left with her parents, but the two of them had quickly talked about what had happened at the reception with Sirius’ mother. He had kissed her goodbye, warning her with that charming smile of his that he would be by to see her tomorrow. She sighed as she haphazardly tossed her belongings onto the floor, enlarging her trunk and a few other things. She didn’t really want to completely unpack. She was certain that by the time the wedding was over, she would be going crazy trying to get away and move out. She would have to owl Shelley about it. Greta was currently out hunting— well, she assumed she was out hunting. Greta was rather smart though so she was sure that she would figure out Lily was home once more eventually.
Lily changed quickly into a camisole and some shorts before climbing into bed rather tired. She couldn’t help but look at the other side of the bed, noting James’ absence. At least she would get to see him tomorrow. James. Just thinking about him made her smile. She was lying there for a while, remembering the past evening which had been filled with bouts of laughter and toasts, when she heard a whoosh of sound and found herself staring at a brilliant white light shaped like a stag. She sat up instantly, staring at the patronus in awe of its beauty, when she heard James’ voice ring out softly, “I love you.”
She smiled in a way that she knew was probably giddy and girly, but she didn’t care. The stag dissipated leaving her once again in the regular light of her room. He always seemed to know what to do to make her feel better. She quickly reached out for her own wand, thinking about how much she loved James to send him a reply. As soon as her patronus leapt out of the window, Lily fell back onto her bed, still smiling. Now, she really couldn’t wait to see James in the morning.
Meanwhile, James flooed through to his house, holding onto Sirius, with Lauren right behind him. They magically placed all of their things upstairs. He suffered through being forced to tell Lauren exactly what went on with Sirius’ mother, much to the amusement of Sirius. He sent them both away in annoyance after that, but the both of them were too tired to really fight him about it. He stopped briefly to talk with his parents, who told him how proud they were of him, before he made his way upstairs. His grandparents also stopped him briefly, his Gran giving him advice about being a grown-up while his grandfather laughed at his expense. He rolled his eyes playfully at their antics, but finally was able to pull himself into his room. Just looking at it reminded him of being back at school, considering his Dorm room had been identical. It also made him think of Lily. He smiled as he thought about her.
He tore off his shirt and got ready for bed. When he finally laid down, it seemed odd to not have a certain beautiful redhead coming to meet him. He twirled his wand absently as he looked around his room, ultimately resting his gaze on a stag figurine Lauren had gotten him after he had transformed fully for the first time. He sat up, realizing that he could still tell Lily he was thinking about her without actually going to see her. He thought of how much he loved her before pointing his wand out in front of him and mumbling, “Expecto patronum.”
His patronus immediately galloped out of his window, fading into the night. It may have been five or ten minutes later, but soon a rather bright patronus entered his bedroom. James stared at the vibrant tiger interestedly, considering he had never seen her patronus before, although he had remembered her mentioning that she had finally done it. A tiger fit her personality completely. The tiger rolled around on the carpet playfully before running itself along his legs, and then he heard Lily’s pretty voice echo, “I love you too.”
James’ face broke into a huge smile. It couldn’t be healthy to love and miss a person this much. It didn’t matter though. Suddenly, the night seemed far too long for him to wait to see Lily again. He laid back down on his bed with a sigh. The faster he was asleep, the faster he would wake up, and the faster he could go and see Lily. He made himself comfortable before mumbling, “Nox.”
It wasn’t long before he fell asleep.
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