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Chapter 3 : Chapter 3 - Finding A New Resolve
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Remus glanced up from his reading casually to observe Sirius’ bewildered features. He could not stop the smirk from etching across his face. There weren’t many days when one could render Sirius into such a stupor. He spoke matter-of-factly to his mate, “Honestly, Padfoot, it’s not like you haven’t seen Prongs read and write before. I doubt it’s really all that shocking.”
Sirius’ face immediately became wounded. He tried to ignore the quiet giggling that started near them, but couldn’t succeed. His grey eyes seemed to indicate he had taken offense as he stated indignantly, “Just what are you laughing about, Al?”
Alisha couldn’t seem to stop giggling at Sirius and his ridiculous, exaggerated behaviors. “Nothing. Nothing at all.”
Sirius blocked her out and turned back to his best mate, whom he could tell was now smirking into his work meaning that he had obviously been listening to everything Sirius had been saying previously. He whined, “Pronnnnnnnnnnngs, must you be so bloody boring all of the time now? We’ve been here for a month—a WHOLE month—and you’re…you’re…” He couldn’t even say it. It was too horrible. “You’re doing…HOMEWORK?!?!?!”
James quirked an eyebrow at Sirius, fighting the urge to laugh. The word ‘homework’ came out of Sirius’ mouth like it was some type of profanity he didn’t approve of. James sighed exasperatedly before finally addressing him quietly, “Padfoot, this isn’t homework.” He paused dramatically before adding with his trademark wicked grin, “My homework’s already finished.”
Sirius looked stricken as both Alisha and Remus began laughing outright. He narrowed his grey eyes at James, tuning out the peanut gallery as best he could. “How dare you! You…you are a disgrace to the Marauders! Next, you’ll be saying Lily won’t let you prank anyone anymore either.”
James rolled his eyes. “Evans has nothing to do with this. I’ve always done my homework before so don’t sound so shocked.” He pointed to the parchment and reading materials surrounding him before he added, as if it were obvious, “Besides, this is something important for…McGonagall…and Dumbledore. Now, don’t ask questions.”
Alisha glanced between her brother and his best mate. James merely went back to doing his mysterious report that he refused to explain anything about while Sirius looked disgruntled over being pushed aside as he pouted on the couch in the Gryffindor common room. It had been a month since school had started, and so she supposed, from Sirius’ demeanor, that the Marauders must’ve been pretty quiet for their usual standards. Sure, there had been some highly amusing and embarrassing charms cast on the Slytherins during lunch every once and a while, but nothing on a grander scale— the kind she remembered hearing about constantly in letters from both her mother and brother while she had been at Beauxbatons. She turned her head back to her own reading, but not before she caught a pair of familiar green eyes darting down into a book across the room. Alisha couldn’t help but grin slightly into her muggle novel. Lily Evans had been watching them all rather interestedly since school had started, now not being an exception. There had even been times where Alisha had dragged both Lily and Maria over to sit with the boys, but both girls had remained subdued during these encounters.
Alisha gazed back at her brother thoughtfully. She was quite proud of him actually. Although she had mentioned to Lily all sorts of things she was going to tell James about her or whatnot, all she had told him really was for him to let up on the girl in order to give her a chance to see him for who he really was. Even after meeting Lily the first time, she had immediately known the girl was perfect for James. All Lily really needed to do was wake up to that fact. The reason Alisha was proud of her brother was because he had simply stopped asking the girl out constantly, which had diminished his necessity to act like a cocky prat in Lily’s presence. This meant that Lily could now easily see that there really was a thoughtful gentleman underneath the surface. Lily had definitely noticed, if her blushing was anything to go by. James, being a boy and all of course, still remained completely and utterly clueless as to any shift in Lily’s opinion of him. She sighed softly at their stupidity. She was going to have to step in at some point if things didn’t change.
The Marauders had tried questioning James about his decision to stop asking Lily out profusely because they hadn’t understood, considering James’ still obvious affection for the girl. He had quietly explained it to them both, mainly about taking her advice, which had caused Remus to literally strut proudly in front of an astonished Sirius. Remus had been telling James everything she had told him for the last two years now, but James had been listening more toward Sirius’ advice. Sirius had been mad at both she and Remus for about two days after that had gone down. Peter had just nodded his head like usual, drooling a bit behind the rest of the guys he had adored since first year. Alisha frowned. She still wondered what the boys saw in him. Peter was definitely a little clingy and a bit weird. It was a good thing Peter was also friends with some Hufflepuff boys or they would always be stuck with him hanging on James and Sirius’ every word all of the time.
Lily soon left, probably to meet up with Maria in the library like usual. She had nodded to Alisha as she left, but Alisha had looked back at her brother as soon as Lily ducked her head and held her books tightly to herself as she walked hastily out of the common room. James’ eyes tended to follow Lily’s every move, whether Lily was aware of it or not. Alisha thought it was rather endearing of him to be so protective of the girl he held so much affection for, even if Lily wasn’t properly aware of it. Some of the things Alisha had seen James stand up for regarding Lily when Lily wasn’t even around made her wish for some guy out there to think so highly of her one day. Sure, James would always protect her too, his twin sister, but it just wasn’t the same as having a guy who was in love with you doing the protecting instead. She sighed again into her reading as she listened to Sirius succeed in whining enough to drag James into a few games with him and Remus.
After an hour or two of watching the boys play Exploding Snap and some Wizard’s Chess, Sirius and Remus soon began ragging on James about Lily once again. Alisha rolled her hazel eyes as she read, but when she head Sirius make a comment jokingly about how Lily still refused to talk to her brother like she would with any other person, she immediately felt that one hit below the belt a bit. She always knew when James was feeling some sort of pain. Sure enough, James had shot up out of his seat, grabbing his satchel while shaking his head at his friends. His half-hearted grin didn’t really fool her, but it seemed to work on the boys. “I’m leaving so I can do something productive instead of having you two team up on me.” He nodded to each of them in turn. “Padfoot, Moony.” He met her eyes briefly, and she knew he really just wanted to be alone for a while. “Allie…”
As soon as James had left the common room, Alisha threw her book at Sirius. Just like her brother, she had very good aim. Sirius was soon rubbing his head while Remus pointed at him and laughed heartedly. Alisha looked the both of them over in a scolding manner, pointing her finger at them menacingly. “You two tease him way too much. Stop it.”
Sirius bowed grandly to her, holding out her book that she had cavalierly thrown at him. “My apologies, Al-dente. We promise to work on it.”
Alisha grabbed the book back in a huff, hitting him on the head with it a second time when he came too close. “For the last…time…I am not some bloody pasta!”
Sirius held up his hands in defeat as he backed away from her, struggling to contain his laughter at getting a rise out of her. Remus intervened, his wide smile not hiding his amusement over the situation, “Al, you’re right. We do tease him a bit much. We didn’t think it bothered him so badly, or we wouldn’t be so obnoxious about it.” Alisha merely raised an eyebrow so Remus continued hastily, “Ok, ok, Sirius would still be obnoxious about it, but we’ll tone it down. I promise. And Sirius, she’s right. Stop calling her all those pasta terms.” His blue eyes gleamed humorously though as he added lightly, “It’s making me hungry.”
Alisha growled at Remus, hitting him with her book this time. Sirius just snickered, falling back into the couch, his grey eyes still mischievous. “Yeah, and stop hitting us, Al-fredo.”
Alisha looked ready to pounce, but Remus held her back, stifling his laughter. “Al, stop. Stop!”
Sirius just continued grinning at the slightly enraged version of his best mate in girl form. He loved getting a rise out of her. James had a bit more patience, but the two of them had the same tempers if they were riled. He was distracted though by a familiar brown and black striped owl nipping at the window. His brow furrowed as he asked, “Hey, Al, is that Millie?”
Alisha turned quickly toward the window and pulled herself away from Remus to open it up. The owl flew quickly to her shoulder, nibbling her ear and hooting soothingly in greeting. She undid the letter from the owl’s feet quickly so she could fly off to the Owlery to rest. At least Millie was no longer flying back and forth from Hogwarts to Beauxbatons all of the time for her and James. The two of them had shared the poor owl for the last three years. Alisha turned the letter over and saw that it was from their parents. She frowned. Why didn’t Millie wait to deliver it until tomorrow at breakfast like usual?
Sirius looked concerned. “What is it? Is it from your parents?”
She nodded, still uncertain. Sirius was basically her brother too, but she wasn’t sure what the letter may contain, considering it was addressed specifically to her and James. “Yeah… I’m going to go find James so we can read it. We’ll show it to you once we come back, ok?”
Sirius shrugged and turned back to challenge Remus to another game of Wizard’s Chess. Alisha watched Remus sigh as he was dragged behind an exuberant Sirius to play another round of the game. Alisha made her way toward the portrait hole, trying not to roll her eyes at the giggling fourth years who were still staring over at Sirius and Remus in awe. She turned her attention to the mysterious letter in her hands and started to open it as she walked out into the darkened hallway. She wondered what was so important that couldn’t wait until the morning.
Lily sat down in a huff at the table in the Heads’ common room. Maria, while still her best mate, had gotten on her nerves sooner than usual that evening in the library. She knew that she had been having trouble concentrating on anything lately, but that didn’t give Maria the right to attempt to give HER a lecture about the importance of getting her Herbology homework done properly for tomorrow. She had always put her homework first, thank you very much. Her schoolwork and marks were very important to her. She was Head Girl and had the best marks in the year in every class…well, almost every class. Damn, stupid Potter. Well, technically, he wasn’t stupid. He was actually really smart. Really, really smart.
No. She was NOT going to think about him anymore. It was all she seemed to be doing these days. She muffled a small cry of despair as she leaned her head miserably into her Herbology textbook. Who was she kidding? The enigma that was Potter had been all that she had been thinking about for a long time now. In fact, it was one of the reasons, if not the only reason, why she still had not completed the homework that was due tomorrow. If this had been last year, she probably would be three days ahead by now. At least she had never seen Potter come in here, despite it being their shared space. She tried to dismiss the thought that it was possible that she just had never been in the room when he had been yet.
She forced herself to sit back up and read through Herbology. She had to read through the chapter and write out a short essay in summary about one plant of her choice. However, that didn’t mean she could remain ignorant about the other plants that were mentioned in the chapter. They would eventually be tested on them all. They would be discussing all of them in class during the next week too. Damn, stupid healing plants.
She reluctantly pulled out one of her sugar quills as she forced herself to read the horrendously boring chapter. She had never really thought the class was so boring until she had started paying more attention to the mischievous gleam in Potter’s hazel eyes as he squirted Remus or his sister with plant guts than to…say, the material she should be studying?
The sugar seemed to help her mood a bit, and she soon finished the chapter, leaving quill marks at certain locations that contained useful information. She was just pulling out parchment to start writing her essay when the portrait hole opened suddenly, causing her to practically jump out of her skin. Her green eyes shot up quickly to see Potter stopping short in the doorway, obviously startled by the noise she had made and perhaps also by her presence in general. He ran a hand through his hair, smiling back at her sheepishly. That annoying habit used to drive her crazy, but since she had been watching him so much lately, she had come to discover he only did it when he was nervous. She made him nervous. She found that fact incredibly odd, considering what he was able to do to her own insides lately. She gulped before instantly looking back into her homework. It didn’t really help because she could still feel his intense gaze on her. She mumbled out softly, “You scared me.”
James paused in the doorway after she spoke, his eyes taking the time to drink in her beauty. He hadn’t expected her to be in here, and she had caught him completely off guard. He had been keeping his distance from her, despite wanting to be in her presence every minute of the day. The two of them had remained civil over the last month since he had stopped asking her out, a fact that made him incredibly happy. He knew he had his sister to thank for some of it, but he also knew that deep down, Lily’s opinion of him must not have changed. Lily never looked at him longer than necessary, probably to avoid yelling at him like she had used to, but he supposed it could also be because she had always been on the shy side unless her temper was riled. He sighed and was instantly disappointed when she appeared to dismiss him so easily by looking quickly back into her homework. Her rejections, however small, continued taking a toll on him. Sometimes he wished she would still scream at him because at least then she would look at him. He would do the chivalrous thing to make her happy again, even if he liked being near her. He loved watching her when she was happy. Besides, it would be incredibly difficult to do any work while she was in there to distract him anyway. He spoke apologetically, “Sorry about that… I didn’t know you were in here. I can go somewhere else if you want…”
He saw her eyes dart back up to his face, somewhat surprised by his suggesting he would leave if she wanted him to. His heart seemed to beat faster at the thought that she might not mind if he was around her. He loved hearing the sound of her voice and so when she spoke, he was practically hanging on her every word, “No, it’s fine. I mean, why shouldn’t you stay? It’s your space too, you know.”
Lily couldn’t help holding her breath somewhat as he nodded at her awkwardly before making his way toward the couch. She let it out slowly, watching him empty out a number of books and scattered parchment from his satchel. Why did he make her so jumpy? Wait, how in the world was she going to concentrate on anything now? Maybe she should have thought this through a bit more.
She was shocked to see that he had pulled out about five advanced books about Transfiguration and Defense that were not on the booklist as well as pages and pages of parchment with his horrible handwriting covering every inch of them. She bit her lip, wondering if she should ask him what he was working on. She remembered hearing in the common room that he was working on something other than schoolwork. However, her words died in her throat as she opened her mouth to ask. She felt herself begin to blush horribly at that so she quickly ducked her head back into her homework, allowing her red hair to fall over her features to hide her flushed face. Why was talking to him so difficult?
She supposed she knew why, but she really didn’t want to have this argument with herself right now when he was mere feet from her person. She settled with trying desperately to concentrate on her damn, stupid essay for Herbology. James. Herbology. James. Herbology. HERBOLOGY.
After about ten minutes, it clearly wasn’t working. She had only written a few ridiculously simple sentences about a healing plant that she could not even remember the name of. Her thoughts were all focused on the handsome and popular messy-haired guy sitting on the couch. It wasn’t her fault. No, not at all. It was his damn cologne or whatever it was— his essence. She could not stop thinking about him when she knew he was there and could smell him so close. She had always liked his scent, although she had never admitted that fact to anyone before. He had always been completely astonished when she had always known he was coming up behind her in an attempt to surprise or embarrass her, saying things like she must have eyes in the back of her head. However, the real reason she had always been able to detect his presence was because she had always recognized his scent.
That thought suddenly made her freeze. She began blushing even worse as a memory came back to haunt her. It was the first day of their sixth year, and she had started heading to Potions with Maria. However, she had immediately smelled Potter, among other things, just outside the classroom. She had stormed into the room, thinking he had gotten there before her in order to cause chaos in her favorite class, but she had been the first one there. She had sat down puzzled for a moment, and when Potter had actually arrived, the scent had smelled even stronger than before. She had been horrendously embarrassed when she had discovered Slughorn had brewed Amortentia. She remembered picking a fight with him later that day just to prove that there was no way she could ever possibly love him. Suddenly, she was far from sure about anything anymore and that scared her more than she thought possible.
She found herself watching him out of the corner of her eye as he worked. She repressed a sigh at how he looked far from happy, almost disappointed, sad, and in pain. She had begun to love watching him laugh. She also noticed that he had been rubbing the left side of his chest every once in a while too. His hazel eyes were focusing extremely hard on the parchment in front of him. His unwavering focus made her temper flare briefly. Well, if he could focus when she was in the room, she could do it if he was there. However, her anger deflated quickly when she started thinking more clearly. He had been looking at the same piece of parchment for the last ten or so minutes she had been watching him. He obviously was having just as hard of a time concentrating, whether it was because of her or something else. She glanced at him again. Maybe she could find the courage to actually talk to him, although she had no idea what to talk about or ask him. She remained silent for a few seconds, and just as she thought she was going to give up, she suddenly blurted out, “Umm, did you hurt yourself at quidditch practice the other day?”
He looked up at her, surprised to see her speaking to him at all, but his face became incredibly confused as he thought about her question. He merely asked her back, “Umm, no, why?”
Lily bit her lip, feeling her face redden slightly. She forced herself to forget her embarrassment now that she had his complete attention. She could do this. He was just a guy. She could talk to Remus, couldn’t she? “Well, you have been rubbing your chest a lot so I just assumed it must’ve been from a bludger or something. Sorry.”
She immediately ducked her head, but she still was able to notice his extremely puzzled features as he answered her slowly, “No, I haven’t…” He drifted off though as he realized his right hand was indeed resting on his chest and she was completely right. He looked surprised before his face suddenly fell. He immediately sprang up out of his seat, horrified with himself. His voice was full of anguish as he mumbled, “Allie…”
Lily was completely startled by his odd behavior and watched as he quickly started digging in his pockets, pulling out some old piece of parchment. He tapped his wand to it while saying so rapidly that Lily barely caught it, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”
Her concerned green eyes widened as she watched the blank parchment come alive and as his crazed hazel eyes scoured through the parchment. Almost as soon as he had picked it up, he had dropped it as if it didn’t matter. Lily blinked in astonishment as he then tore out of the room faster than she had ever seen him move before. What was wrong with his sister? She carefully got up and looked at the odd parchment he had pulled out. Her mouth dropped open in shock when she realized just what exactly she held in her hands. He and the Marauders had made a map of Hogwarts? And they had the knowledge of wherever a person was whenever they wanted?
Ignoring her bewilderment over the map’s creation, she quickly found the Heads’ common room and her own dot before she started looking for his dot. His dot was darting through the main hallways and secret passageways that she had never even seen before at speeds that didn’t even seem plausible. His dot seemed to literally jump in the secret passageways, but seemed to just move in an obscenely quick manner in the main hallways. He was heading to the Astronomy Tower. She noticed that his sister’s dot remained stationary there.
She again wondered what could possibly be wrong. She supposed she would find out soon enough. He would have to come back for his things, especially this incredible map of theirs. She read the front of it hastily. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs…those odd nicknames of theirs. Her eyes narrowed as she began looking over the amazing magical item more closely. She quickly made herself comfortable on the couch next to his things. Yes, he would have a lot of explaining to do when he returned.
James practically flew through the hallways in an effort to reach the Astronomy Tower where his sister was hiding out. Somehow he knew that she was just emotionally upset about something and not physically hurt in any way. If she hadn’t been alone up there, he seriously would have used some advanced magic to reach her even faster. Alisha was a danger magnet sometimes, but this seemed different. He transformed back and forth as he ducked between the secret and main hallways, making him reach the Tower in record time. He would have to tell Sirius all about it later. His best mate would try to beat it.
As he started up the stairs to the Tower, he could hear her sniffling so he quickened his pace. At his appearance, her familiar eyes shot up to his, and he was extremely concerned to see them full of tears and all red-rimmed from crying. She hastily tried to wipe some of her tears away— she always tried to appear stronger than she was sometimes. He let her compose herself like she liked to as he caught his breath from his rush to get there so quickly. He furrowed his brow though when he finally felt more relaxed, wondering what the hell had happened to make her so upset, but he didn’t even need to ask. As soon as he began to approach her slowly, she just held up a letter for him to read. He grabbed it from her hands and sat down next to her, bracing himself for whatever horrid information it contained. Letters coming after meal times likely contained ill information. Their parents had been working on the fight against Voldemort with Dumbledore too, something even James had been helping out with. The only thing that made him feel slightly better was that the letter couldn’t be about their parents’ deaths. For one, the letter would have been in a black envelope; and for two, Alisha would likely be inconsolable if that were the case.
He felt her lean on his arm and heard her still sniffling so he quickly skimmed the letter. Apparently, there had been a large attack at Beauxbatons. His eyes immediately saddened. Her best mate, or at least her only real confidant from the school, had been murdered in the attack. He had only met the girl a handful of times during the summer since Alisha preferred to spend time with him and his friends, but he remembered that the girl had always been able to make Alisha smile. This was a good thing, considering that Alisha had always wished their parents had let her come to Hogwarts with him because most of the girls at Beauxbatons were a bunch of snobs. Not counting that loss, Alisha had still known most, if not all, of the other people that had been killed in the attack. Regardless if she had liked them or not, she had seen most of these people daily and now she would never see them again. Their parents mentioned that they were going to be working in cooperation with the French Auror Department, being Aurors themselves here, to sort everything out, especially because the attack was likely the work of Voldemort. There were also a few sentences about how they couldn’t help but be happy and relieved that Alisha had been safe here at Hogwarts this year, despite the sadness of the news within the letter. James sighed, knowing there wasn’t much he could say to make his sister feel better. He was happy she was here with him too. If he had heard about this and she hadn’t been here, no one would’ve been able to stop him from suddenly breaching the castle to get to her. He spoke quietly, “I’m really sorry, Al…especially about Ava.”
She nodded, still sniffling and wiping away a few tears. She paused only briefly before she asked him softly, “You’re coming, right?”
He glanced back at the letter to see what she meant and saw that their parents were picking her up at 6am the next morning for funeral services and the like at Beauxbatons for the next few days. They didn’t mention him at all, but he didn’t care. The two of them came as a package deal. He would be there for her, and she didn’t even need to ask. “Of course.”
They just sat like that for more than a few minutes, not really needing to say anything. James could tell she was still crying, despite the fact that she didn’t want to be crying in his presence and hated crying altogether, not that he thought any less of her for it. He hated to hear her cry though so he immediately pulled her into a hug and rubbed her back, being every bit the big brother. “Don’t worry, Al. You know that Mum and Dad will do their best to figure everything out. I’ll be with you for the next few days. Why don’t you go back to the dorm and start pulling a few things together? I’ll…” He was about to add that he would do the same and that they could just wait together by the Entrance Hall for the remainder of the night if she wanted, but then he realized the mess he had left in the Heads’ common room— Lily Evans and the no longer secret Marauder’s Map that he had so cavalierly thrown around in his haste. He gulped to himself, wondering if this would be the first time he would see Lily’s temper since the train, before continuing hesitantly, “…I’ll be there soon enough to do the same. I just have to straighten out a few things in the Heads’ common room first.”
She looked up at him suspiciously as she pulled out of his hug. She sniffled and still looked a bit sad, but there was suddenly a sort of gleam in her eyes now. “Lily’s there, isn’t she?”
James pondered the look in her eyes warily, considering it seemed as if she knew something he did not. He supposed she would tell him in due time. She had a lot of other things to worry about that evening. Instead of questioning her about it now, he merely pulled the both of them to their feet and just admitted somewhat reluctantly, “Yes, but the real crux of the matter is that I left the map open on the floor when I was worried about you. The guys are going to kill me.”
Alisha couldn’t help smirking at him through her tears. His naïveté about women made her want to smile despite everything. “Don’t sound so defeated. Just talk to her. Maybe she’ll be more understanding than you think.”
James looked at her doubtfully, but nodded and started walking toward the exit. “Right, we’ll see about that.”
Alisha shook her head to hide her smile. Before she followed him, she quickly wiped at her face and tried desperately to compose herself. “Wait! Do I look ok, Jamie?”
James turned, rolling his eyes. He had a smirk of his own on his face now at seeing her act so normally again. “You look fine, Allie. No mascara smudges at all.”
She punched him in his arm and shot him a dark look before stepping around him to go down the stairwell first. James just shook his head. He would never understand women. First, they were crying, then they were laughing, then they were mad, then they were quiet because you were supposed to know why they were mad, and then the process would repeat. Add dangerous and vocal tempers to the women he was around most often, and he was lost completely. Between his mother, Al, and Lily, he realized that he should definitely take some time to learn how best to keep up. He supposed the real question was why he liked having such fiery women in his life. He must be a glutton for punishment.
After her anger and confusion over Potter’s odd behavior finally wore off, it had given way to curiosity and interest over the Marauders’ mysterious map. Lily spent a few minutes intensely scrutinizing the magical item, but then she suddenly realized that Potter would be coming back soon to talk with her— or rather, would be expecting to receive a supreme tongue-lashing for making the map. That made her face fall, considering she had never given him a reason to expect anything less. Sure, she could see that this map had obviously aided their mischief-making in ways she could only imagine, but at the same time, she couldn’t seem to fault him for all of that anymore. Not to mention that the magic used to make the map in general was way advanced, and by the worn look of the parchment, the map had obviously been made, used, and handled profusely for a few years now. How they had made this map sometime in third or fourth year astounded her. She knew he and Remus were brilliant, and she could somewhat admit that Sirius had his moments, but to have the talent to do this type of advanced charm work at that age had her rather impressed.
She wasn’t sure how long she sat on the couch feeling remorseful for her behavior over the years, but then she again became horrified at the fact that he could return at any time. That meant she would have to talk to him again. She was instantly anxious and quickly looked at the map again, noting that James and Alisha were sitting next to each other in the Tower still. She let out the breath that she hadn’t even realized she had been holding in her panic. He wasn’t even here, and he STILL made her nervous. What was wrong with her?
Her fidgety and nervous behavior caused her to throw herself into her homework, anything to block him out of her mind. She ended up writing a nice comparison piece about two very similar plants so she knew that she would probably receive a few bonus points for her depth of analysis. Even though she was feeling slightly smug about her essay, her thoughts eventually returned to the fact that Potter could be returning at any time. Again.
Her face paled. She didn’t have anything left to distract her. Maybe she could just take off, pretend she saw nothing. That way she wouldn’t even have to talk to him! She wouldn’t be embarrassed or tongue-tied, and he wouldn’t expect to get yelled at if she wasn’t even here! It was a win-win situation! Why hadn’t she thought of this before?
She quickly began pulling all of her things together, throwing them into her satchel and not paying attention to any order. She was on her last book when the portrait opened up again. She was standing this time, but she still jumped ridiculously at the sound of the portrait opening up. In her nervousness, she dropped her satchel and scattered some of its contents in the process. She internally winced when she felt her face reddening. She immediately leaned down to start picking up her things and forced herself to calm her nerves when she heard him walking quickly to help her. Had he always been this gentlemanly and she just missed it? She mentally cringed when she realized that he had indeed always been this way, and she had instead always told him to stop touching her or her things. She focused on the smooth tone of his voice and realized he was apologizing. She didn’t deserve it— him or his attention. She had been so horrible to him over the years. Why he liked her, if he in fact truly liked her like she was beginning to think he did, she would never know. “…really am sorry about that… I think we need to work on making that entryway a bit more silent so I don’t scare you.”
Her frustration with herself caused her to be more biting in her reply than she wanted to be, “Yeah, something like that.”
She winced when she saw his hands pause over her things at her catty words. Merlin, she was such a bitch sometimes. What made her feel worse was the defeated way he responded to her, “I take it you saw the map. I suppose I deserve it.”
Lily stood up with him, and they finished placing her things back on the table. She forced herself to look up at him, as she felt awful with herself, but she suddenly felt small when she realized just how tall he was now that he was standing so close to her. She only came up to his shoulders. The downhearted expression on his face and the fact that he was likely bracing himself for her worst made her heart plummet. She had to fix this. “Yes, I saw it, but I’m not all that mad about it…surprisingly. And thanks…for helping me, I mean.”
His hazel eyes were something close to shocked when they met hers for the first time in a long time. “You’re not mad?”
His words were so incredulous that she couldn’t help the tiny grin that crossed her face. “No.”
He broke eye contact with her and started looking around suspiciously. “Is this some kind of a trick? Did you talk with Sirius? He owes me for the last time I got him.”
Lily scoffed playfully, turning her attention to packing her satchel again, “It’s not a trick. Besides, Sirius would come up with something better than this anyway, I’m sure.”
She could feel his eyes once again on her, and she tried not to blush as she steadily avoided his gaze. He relaxed against the table, indicating he must have believed her. “Yeah, you’re probably right. Now, about the map… I would really appreciate it if you didn’t confiscate it. We don’t use it all that much for the pranks which you despise, despite what you may think. It’s mainly so we can get to the kitchens late at night…and I’ll admit we’ve used it to go to Hogsmeade every once in a while. I’ve also used it when I’ve patrolled by myself those few times. It’s quite helpful with that.”
She bit her lip as she put her last book into her satchel. She turned back to look at him after she finished, but she faltered momentarily as she realized he was still looking at her intently, almost as if she was all he could see. She felt her heart flutter in response, leaving her slightly speechless. She quickly shook her head and finally just said softly, “I won’t confiscate it. It’s a good bit of magic. It would be a shame for it to be in the hands of Filch, who can’t recognize anything magical if his life depended on it.”
She watched him grin slightly at her words, but his grin was fleeting and his mood seemed to sober up more quickly than usual. She had a strong desire to see him happy though so she continued almost flirtatiously, “It also would be incredibly nice if you would let me use it with you every once in a while. I can see its potential.”
He looked somewhat surprised by her comments, considering she could have meant using the map with him specifically or with the rest of the Marauders or Alisha as a whole. Despite still being rather scared and hesitant to be around him because she was starting to see him in ways she never thought she would, she couldn’t say she would be opposed to hanging out with him alone anymore. In fact, a huge part of her would like that even if she would be a nervous wreck if that were ever to occur. There was obviously way more to him than she had ever thought. He took the tamer interpretation, and his gentleman score skyrocketed in her opinion, making her seem to like him even more. “Thanks. And I’m sure Al will be happy to hear that she doesn’t have to keep it a secret when she’s around you anymore. She likes to go to the kitchens every once and a while herself. She craves chocolate at least three times a week.”
Lily smiled, but noticed his tone change when he mentioned his sister. She had almost forgotten that something was wrong before. She asked him hesitantly, considering she had started to think of Alisha as a friend over the last month, “How is she? Was something wrong?”
He remained silent for a moment or two before saying, “She’ll be fine, but I think it would be better if she tells you about everything herself after we get back.”
Her brow furrowed. “Get back?”
He sighed, but reluctantly elaborated, “It will be in the papers tomorrow. She and I will be gone for a few days. I’m sorry you’ll have to patrol alone, but I’ll ask Remus to go with you instead. He won’t mind.”
His face had turned more serious, and it was clear he didn’t really want to talk about it without his sister so she just nodded. “Ok.”
He quickly got his things together, and the two of them made their way back to Gryffindor Tower. The walk was relatively silent, and Lily couldn’t help but be grateful for that because she had suddenly realized she had been talking civilly to James Potter alone for the first time ever. She was practically hyperventilating in her head and could feel the heat from the blush on her cheeks. It was a good thing the hallways were dark. However, a part of her felt empowered. If she could do it once, she could do it again. When he got back from whatever he was doing, she was going to make an effort to stop being so timid around him.
She snuck a glance at him out of the corner of her eye. Her resolve crumbled slightly when she realized she was thinking about becoming friends with THE James Potter. Pure-Blood, Popular, Quidditch Captain, Head Boy, Handsome, Funny, and Smart James Potter. He seemed way out of her league and talking to him was incredibly intimidating. He was everything she wasn’t, for the most part. She was going to have her work cut out for her if she was going to find enough bravery to just do it. However, when he suddenly looked down at her and gave her a small smile with his eyes twinkling even in the darkness, she forgot why it mattered that someone like him seemed to like someone like her. She could do this. At least, she hoped she could.
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