James sank down taking a seat on the bottom step of the staircase that led to the Entrance Hall. He scanned a letter from his mother; his father’s condition had improved for now. He should be heading to the pitch for Quidditch practice, but he was already five minutes late, so what difference did a few more make. He was Captain and he was confident the team could warm up without him.
As usual the source of his troubles was a fiery red head. In the past four weeks she’d been alternating between hot and cold, which was driving him nuts. Every time he saw her he wasn’t sure if she was going to smile at him as if they were friends, ignore him because he wasn’t worth her attention, or scowl at him for daring to look at her.
He hadn’t imagined it would be like this. After the conversation they’d had when she asked if they could be friends he thought things would be different. Apparently Lily’s definition of friendship differed from his, because many of their interactions were still far from friendly.
There was some progress; James was confident Lily didn’t hate him. It had gone down to a mild dislike and sometimes he swore she felt the same force of attraction he did. Couldn’t she see how hard he was attempting to act in the way a boyfriend worth Lily’s attention should? Did she realize how much inner strength it had taken to stop all the pranks, even when a perfect idea sprang into his mind or to stop himself from turning some first year’s hair into a multicolored rainbow?
The Marauders had taken Lily’s advice to lighten the mood of the student body, enchanting the two coats of armor near the Great Hall to sing a popular Wizard rock song every time the door opened and enchanting the lights in the Great Hall, so it was dark and disco-like. Still compared to the advancements in pranks they’d made over the years, the idea was too simple and it did little to quell the Marauders’ creative spark.
“James! I’ve been looking for you everywhere!” There stood Evans, breathless and as beautiful as ever. Her long hair was loose and tangled, just the way he liked it.
He gave her an annoyed look. He hadn’t been the one avoiding her. “I have practice, Evans. Can this wait?” What was the point of using her first name anyway? That was a sign of familiarity that she clearly didn’t feel about him.
“This is sort of important.” She hesitated, unnerved by his coldness and then relayed, “I was wondering- I know this is short notice – I already talked to Dumbledore and granted you’ll say yes he’ll let us go…”
He stared at her blankly, unable to make sense of her rambling. “Sorry?”
“My sister is having an engagement party and she expects me to bring a guest and I was wondering if you’d go with me.”
“When is it?” James was impressed that he was still speaking coherently and unless his ears were deceiving him, Lily was asking him out.
“Sunday. I’m terribly sorry for the short notice, it’s just I didn’t know who to ask and at first I just thought I’d go alone, but then my sister wrote me and she’s under the impression I have a date and I realized I can’t go alone and…” Her face was bright as her red hair and she refused to look at him properly. Lily was nervous he was going to refuse her! This was an insane twist in roles.
“Yes,” he interrupted her. There was so much hope and wonderment that accompanied that word that he wondered if Lily could feel it.
“Just as friends, James. No strings attached.”
“Fine.” He was already imagining kissing her.
“I’ve told you about my family and my sister…not many people know what a terrible Muggle she is and I didn’t want to have to explain it to anyone else.”
“What time do I have to be ready?”
“Oh…hmmm…good question. I’ll have to ask Dumbledore what time he arranged for the transportation.”
“Ok. Look, Lily, I really am late for practice.”
“Sorry,” Lily flushed. “Thank you, James.”
James stood up giving her his trade-mark cocky grin. As he turned to give her a wave, he found that she had disappeared up the flight of steps.
Real smooth, Prongs.
Quidditch practice felt endless that day and the team was surprised when he ended it early. Usually he squeezed as many extra minutes as he could until whatever teacher who was watching their practice shooed them down.
He didn’t bother stopping to change into his normal robes, or even check to see if their equipment was locked away properly.
Entering the seventh year dorm, James greeted his mates. “You gents will never believe what happened.”
His friends all picked up their heads. Sirius was lying on his stomach fiddling with some enchantments on the Marauder’s map, Remus was sitting on one of the desks getting ahead on an essay, and Peter had all the stuff in his trunk scattered on the ground.
“What Prongs?” Sirius asked lazily.
“Evans – Lily asked me out on a date!” The words tumbled out fast and his friends were stunned into silence.
“Very funny,” Padfoot said rolling his eyes. “And did all the clouds turn into pink bunny rabbits too?”
“I’m serious!” Sirius smirked, but James continued, not giving him a chance to make reference to the overused pun. “Her sister is having an engagement party and she wants me to be her date!”
“When’s the party?” Remus asked. He was the most sensible after all and it made sense he’d be the first to believe him.
“This Sunday,” James said proudly.
“Wait a minute,” Sirius said looking very concerned. “You didn’t by chance get hit in the head by a Bludger, did you?” Peter sniggered.
“This was before Quidditch practice, thank you very much,” James replied indignantly.
“And you sure she was talking to you? There didn’t happen to be a bloke standing behind you?”
“I’m quite sure she was speaking to me,” James said tersely.
“Hmmm…” Sirius scratched his head thoughtfully.
“Maybe she got hit in the head with a Bludger?” Peter offered looking like he was about to burst with laughter.
“Ah…quit teasing him,” Remus said with a smile. “This is quite a step, Prongs.”
“She did insist we were going only as friends…but…”
“Did you say this Sunday?” Sirius asked abruptly.
“The full moon is this Sunday.”
These words sent James crashing back down to earth. Ever since he’d spoken with Lily, he had felt light on his feet, as if he were flying. He no longer felt like that; his daydreams had come to a thunderous halt. His one chance to show Lily and it had to be on the one night he couldn’t go. Why were the fates so against Lily and him being together?
He frowned, not bothering to hide his disappointment from his mates. “What am I going to tell her?”
“I think it might do her some good to be rejected one time,” Sirius said callously.
Remus cleared his throat. “You can go, Prongs, I can manage for one night.”
“What?” cried Sirius. His grey eyes were quickly looking like approaching storm clouds. “Don’t be daft. Of course he’s coming with us, Moony. He wouldn’t abandon us like that!”
Sirius then turned to James for confirmation. “Right, Prongs?’
James tried not to look too guilty. Was it wrong that he was seriously thinking to take Moony up on his offer? James knew how Sirius looked forward to their full moon escapades, but Lily had asked him out. She wanted to spend time with him on her own time.
“I manage in the summer on full moons. I can manage Sunday.”
James ignored the scathing look Sirius was giving him. “Are you sure about this, Moony? Lily would understand, after all she asked me last minute.”
“Yes. Go sweep the fair Ms. Evans off her feet,” Remus said lightly.
Sirius however was not taking the subject lightly. “Since when is a girl more important than your friends?” accused Sirius.
“I never said -” James answered, but Sirius cut him off.
“She’s leading you on, Prongs! It’s not right to dump your friends just because a girl smiled at you prettily!”
“I’m not choosing her over you, Padfoot,” James quipped, “and don’t you dare suggest I am.”
“Don’t forget how she treated you after her chat in the locker room, all that nonsense about being friends.”
“Don’t fight guys!” Peter squeaked. James knew Peter hated when they argued because he never knew who to side with.
“I said it was OK, Sirius,” Remus said forcefully.
“Your opinion isn’t the only one that matters,” Sirius said dismissively.
James was at a loss of what to say. Sirius knew that Lily wasn’t just some girl. Sirius knew that this was a chance to grow closer to Lily, something he’d been trying since fifth year when his knees first grew weak at the sight of her sparkling green eyes. James also knew Sirius had never particularly liked Lily as a person, finding her stuck up and haughty, too good to associate herself with pranksters.
“You’re being a git,” James replied. “We’ve had to cancel full moons before for you, especially after that idiotic prank you played on Snivellus!”
Sirius froze and James immediately regretted bringing that up. The prank was a very sensitive subject and they had all silently agreed never to bring it up.
“Look Padfoot…” James began in an attempt to apologize and still get his point across.
Sirius decided to ignore the reference to the prank for he didn’t let James continue. “I bet my inheritance that she’ll leave you heartbroken!”
“You don’t have an inheritance. You were disowned, remember?” James retorted. This too was a bit of a low blow, reminding Sirius of that.
“Well I bet your inheritance then,” Sirius shot back.
“It’s a chance I need to take. If she breaks my heart then I won’t grumble the slightest when you tell me I-told-you-so.”
“Evans is messing with you, Prongs. Can’t you see that? She’s messing with all of us. First we have to tone down our pranks because you want to impress Evans-”
“And because I’m Head Boy.”
“We can’t hex the Slytherins because Merlin forbid, Evans is around the corner…and I see you breaking up a perfectly natural fight between a first year Gryffindor and a first year Slytherin – and now she’s gone one step further…she’s even ruining our full moon outings!”
Remus rolled his eyes. “I hardly think Evans purposely picked a full moon night for her sister’s party. Now you are being paranoid.”
“That’s not the point!” Instead of growing calmer, Sirius’s fury just seemed to be increasing. “The point is James wants to abandon us, and you, Remus, are giving him permission!”
“What if I just cancel Sunday’s outing? Regardless if James goes or not. Then he won’t be missing anything even if he goes.”
“You can’t do that!” Sirius said incredulously.
“Yes, I can. You promised when we first started out that if I ever felt uneasy, if I ever told you not to come, that you’d obey.”
Sirius gave Remus a mutinous, but silent stare. Moony was speaking the truth and for all of Padfoot’s faults, his loyalty was not one of them. Sirius had given his word and he wasn’t one to go back on it.
Sirius stood up. “You’re a selfish prat, Prongs!” He strode out of the room, slamming the door loudly behind him. They could hear him swearing as he went down the stairs.
James sunk down onto his bed. He hadn’t wanted to upset Sirius like this. He knew how much the full moons meant to Sirius. He knew how sometimes that was the only thing his mate had to look forward to. When the four of them were out there together, there were no predetermined destinies to worry about. Out in the woods blood didn’t matter, the rules didn’t apply, family obligations vanished into the night air. Sirius grew very restless with the mundane life as well as reckless and full moon nights served as the perfect vent for all his pent up energy.
“He’ll get over it, Prongs,” Remus said softly.
Peter added, “We ran into Regulus this morning…the git forced Sirius into a confrontation.”
“That explains why he’s been so short tempered,” James replied. “In a way he’s right. I am being selfish. I should have checked to make sure we didn’t have plans before saying yes to Lily.”
“We can’t expect you to have been thinking properly, especially after she asked you out,” Remus said laughing.
“Aren’t you still going out with Joceyln?” Peter questioned.
“We aren’t really together…”
“She thinks you are and she won’t be happy.” James could detect disapproval in Peter’s voice.
“I don’t care, Wormtail. We should check the Map. With Sirius in such a foul mood, he’ll go looking for trouble.”
James walked over to the Map on Sirius’s bed and quickly found the dot labeled ‘Black, Sirius’. He was walking directly into the path of a pack of Slytherins, who James knew would be all too willing to take on Sirius without much prodding. It was strange how only a few months ago James had spend nearly every day and every waking hour with Sirius, but since the start of Hogwarts, he’d barely hung out with him. Between Head duties, Quidditch practice, school work, and preparation for NEWTs, there hardly seemed any time for fun this year.
“You can’t go after him,” Remus pleaded. “If Padfoot is looking for a fight, then as Head Boy you can’t take part in it.”
“I won’t abandon him either,” James answered briskly and threw a smile at Remus as he disappeared under his invisibility cloak, “and anyway they’ll never know I was there.”
Author's note: Thanks for reading, and please review!