“Al, you’re the alternate if anything goes badly today. And trust me, with Slytherin, it could happen so be ready to jump in the match.”
Lily couldn’t help it when she started giggling softly as she watched Alisha’s mouth drop open and close repeatedly in shock as her fingers fumbled around the uniform that was just tossed haphazardly into her lap. She supposed James’ twinkling eyes and trademark smirk may also have had something to do with her giggles, but that was beside the point. Alisha, however, was outraged. Her hazel eyes flashed up at her brother dangerously, and her words were pure ice, “And when exactly were you going to tell me about this?”
James just chuckled as he turned and walked away from her, heading toward the portrait hole to leave for the pitch. He was already dressed and ready for the match that afternoon, his broom perched comfortably on his shoulder. “I just did.”
Once he disappeared, Alisha jumped up from her seat thoroughly pissed off. She threw the uniform down where she had just been sitting as she vented, “He…I can’t…I’m going to…He…He is soooo infuriating sometimes…”
Lily looked up, smiling widely at her words. “I know.”
Alisha shot her a knowing smirk while pointing back at her in a scolding manner. “Oh, shut it, you. You know you don’t have nearly as many problems with him as you think you did before so you are one to talk right now. You are NOT fooling me.” She then turned her attention to the boys’ stairwell. She ignored everyone else in the common room and just randomly shouted upstairs, “SIRIUS! Get down here THIS INSTANT!”
Lily bit her lip to hold back her wide smile as she watched the common room sweep into muffled laughter because this was something that had been happening a lot over the last few weeks. It appeared that Alisha and Sirius had a very…ahh…sirius…love/hate relationship. It was sad that she found those jokes rather funny now. She attributed it to hanging around Alisha and the Marauders more than she ever would have considered in the past, even if she still remained rather reserved herself.
She had made good on her deal with herself to be more open to the possibility of friendship with the boys, James in particular, and had been pleasantly surprised that they weren’t nearly as bad as she had first thought. In fact, she had had a lot of fun whenever she was around them. She felt insanely guilty that she had been so judgmental in the past, and it caused her to still be a bit tongue-tied around James. Yes, she had actually begun calling him James to his face. That had earned her plenty of heart-breaking smiles from the boy in question, but for some reason, she was positive he was holding back from her still, even after they had called an unspoken truce of sorts. He just didn’t seem to be his normal lively self that she remembered watching from a distance, and she couldn’t be sure, but she had a feeling that he was treating her like she might disappear. There was also the fact that he was far quieter than normal. She had even watched as Sirius ragged on him endlessly about being so reserved, but he hadn’t lightened up at all. It had made her more than a little curious as to his behavior. She almost wished he would say something arrogant or outrageous because it was now rather obvious that that sort of behavior had been his way of lightening the mood. After finding out about what had happened at Beauxbatons in the news and after he had returned with Alisha after being away, he had just seemed…different. He still made jokes and fooled most people, but there were times when she would watch him and see something like worry in his eyes. She had thought Alisha would be having the hardest time after everything, but that was just not the case. Alisha was still morose occasionally, but James was just somber…always.
Her attention was pulled away when Sirius sauntered slowly down the stairs as if he were a rockstar, waving grandly at their audience and blowing kisses to a few of the younger girls huddled in the corner. After taking his sweet time, he leisurely made eye contact with the irate Alisha, who was tapping her foot loudly on the floor. Heeled shoes were the greatest. His expression was that of complete innocence. “You rang, Alley Cat?”
Her hazel eyes darkened. “Stuff it, dog. You lost all dibs on calling me any form of Allie a long time ago. Now, tell me why my brother has declared me the alternate for today’s match and not you? Weren’t you on the team already? Why would he just spring this on me?”
Lily was surprised to see Sirius’ face fall completely before a mask was quickly put into place. He spoke softer to her, all jokes gone from his face. Lily had to strain to hear him now. “I can’t play, remember? Ummm, ever again. We don’t speak about it anymore…”
Lily was thoroughly confused by this, but Alisha’s eyebrows rose as she suddenly remembered something. All of her previous anger was immediately gone, and she looked incredibly apologetic for some reason. “Oh, right. I’m sorry. I forgot.”
Sirius just waved a hand at her letting it go, but Lily noticed him wince slightly when Remus brushed past him abruptly, dragging Peter and himself quickly out of the portrait hole, likely heading to the pitch. Sirius spoke unevenly before quickly changing the subject, “Don’t worry about it. You are the best person for the job though. He was supposed to tell you yesterday, but he disappeared suddenly. Don’t be too hard on him, even if he did ditch us all for something he still refuses to talk about…”
Alisha just nodded absently, like she agreed with his sentiments over the sly way James had disappeared last night. Lily remembered being thoroughly grumpy with him somehow getting out of his Head Boy responsibilities with merely a short note from McGonagall. She had actually patrolled alone last night as a result. She refused to admit how much that had bothered her, considering a very small part of her really liked the time she spent alone with him. Her attention snapped back when Alisha began replying, and it became clear that she was more than a little anxious by the sudden responsibility James had randomly thrust upon her, “I remember, but you don’t really think I’ll have to play though, do you? I mean, I played with you all this past summer, but while I know all of his plays and such, I’ve never been to a single practice with the team! Wait, what if the Keeper’s knocked out? You know I can’t play Keeper at all!”
Sirius placed his arm around her shoulders comfortingly, rolling his eyes. “You are just as good as James is, even if you don’t like to play as much as he does, and James would play Keeper while you would play Chaser, silly. Duh.”
Alisha shook her head at the obvious answers he gave and looked mildly embarrassed for freaking out. “I can’t believe I just asked you all that.”
Sirius snickered at her. “I can’t either.” He then just plopped down to sit next to Lily, dragging Alisha onto his other side as he placed his remaining arm around Lily’s shoulders. “Ahh, this is the life. Beautiful women.” He chose to wiggle his eyebrows suggestively at Lily before asking her in a hopeful voice, “Hey, where’s Maria? She would make my dream complete.”
Lily rolled her eyes and shoved his arm off of her. She started gathering her things with a sigh. “Maria’s in the library, where I’m headed actually, and you really should stop embarrassing her so much with all of your flirting, Sirius. You know she’s rather timid and doesn’t like it.”
Sirius ended up just shaking his head sadly in silent acceptance at realizing that Lily wasn’t going to the match like usual, but Alisha’s jaw dropped. She began blinking wide-eyed at the redhead, her words incredulous, “You’re not going to watch the match?”
Lily quirked an eyebrow over at her, confused as she briefly paused her efforts of packing up. “Umm, no?”
Alisha looked horror-stricken, but Sirius just started grinning at the two of them. Lily became guarded, not knowing what to expect from Alisha. She only went to the quidditch finals because if she didn’t, she would be the only Gryffindor sitting around in the castle. It was no surprise to Sirius, but it obviously was to Alisha. Alisha grabbed her shoulders, pleading with her, “No, you can’t miss it! You have to go! You’d leave me all alone with Sirius for a few hours? What if I have to play? You have to keep me calm, Lily! Please? Pretty pretty please!?!? Please please please!”
Lily gently escaped Alisha’s clutches, feeling slightly guilty for saying no. “I never go to the matches, Alisha. I don’t really understand the draw.”
Alisha pouted at her, holding her hands together in front of her as she continued her pleas, “I’ll tell you whatever you want to know. So will Remus. It will be a lot of fun! You can’t just study your whole weekend away. We’ll grab Maria on the way. Please?” Lily sighed helplessly, but that seemed to be enough for Alisha, who began jumping up and down in excitement. “Yes! You’ll have fun, or my name isn’t Alisha.”
Sirius smirked at her from where he was still lounging on the couch. He spoke up in a bored tone, “I thought your name was Al.”
Alisha glared at him, pointing her finger in between his eyes. “That’s enough from you, smart ass.” She turned excitedly back to Lily. “Come on, let’s go grab Maria and head down to the pitch for good seats! I bet Remus and Peter already grabbed us all some!”
Lily just shook her head as she let Alisha drag her out of the common room. Apparently, she was going to watch the first quidditch match of the season…umm…for the first time ever.
Maria looked at Lily confused. “Umm, why are we here again?”
Lily just shrugged and pointed at the over-excited Alisha in front of them, who was talking incredibly fast to a third year male Gryffindor. The boy was staring at her adoringly and like she knew everything in the world there was to know about quidditch, which after listening to her for a time, she did. “She’s very persuasive when she wants to be.”
Maria snorted, but didn’t appear all that upset. She actually didn’t mind quidditch all that much to begin with so she hadn’t been all that opposed to going to the match when Alisha had basically dragged her from the library. “You can say that again.”
They were both giggling with each other quietly until they both heard, “Lily? What are you doing here? You never come to the quidditch matches…”
Lily turned around at the sound of her name, but she knew exactly who was standing behind her. His voice seemed to resonate in the back of her head these days, and she cursed her treacherous heart when she felt it speed up in her nervousness. She bit her lip slightly at his sudden attention, considering he had been so quiet lately. His eyes appeared to be thrilled that she was there, and he only seemed to have eyes for her. She felt surprised that her being present could make him so happy. She could feel the heat starting in her cheeks so she broke eye contact quickly and gestured to his sister, as if that explained everything. “Alisha made me.”
He chuckled and moved towards his sister as he rolled his eyes. “Al, did you really drag Lily out here? If she didn’t want to come, you didn’t have to make her come.”
Alisha turned over to him, looking completely innocent. “I did nothing of the sort. She can’t prove that she didn’t come here of her own free will.”
Lily snickered at that. “Oh, Sirius…”
Sirius glanced up from his conversation with Remus, but upon noticing Alisha’s death glare, he just spoke as innocently as ever, “Completely free will. Lily couldn’t wait to come, Prongs.”
Lily grumbled at his lying to be on Alisha’s good side, “Sure, sure. Take HER side. See if I ever help you with Potions again, Sirius.”
Sirius yelped and turned to James, his grey eyes wide and scared. “Alisha dragged her here! By the hair and everything! It was the most amazing chick fight I have ever seen!”
Alisha took a swipe at him, laughing, but James just shook his head at the both of them with a grin. “Well, whatever works, I guess.” He then turned back to Lily and Maria, his eyes alight as he watched the both of them also laughing and enjoying themselves. Lily was positive that he looked happier than he had in a while. “Well, I’m glad you both came. If you were going to come, this would be the one to see. There’s nothing like a Gryffindor v. Slytherin match to get things underway. This is—“
“Hey, J-James? Can I, umm, t-talk with you really quick? I mean, it’ll just be a-a second.”
Lily watched James tense slightly before he turned reluctantly to face a tomato-faced Rachel standing behind him. She was looking at anything but him and was shuffling her feet awkwardly. James sighed, speaking softer, likely to not make her more uncomfortable, “Yeah, sure, Rach. I’ll meet you over by our tent.”
She nodded quickly before backing up and heading away, tripping over her own feet slightly as she left. James pretended not to notice and turned immediately to talk quieter with Alisha, but Lily watched Rachel out of the corner of her eye and couldn’t help but notice the hate-filled gaze aimed directly at her. She froze where she stood, feeling out-of-place. What had she done to deserve that? She didn’t have much time to contemplate the reason because James suddenly turned around fast and shot her one of his famous handsome grins before darting back toward the Gryffindor tent area. That’s when she knew, and she found herself gulping. James had been thrilled to see her there and had come over to talk to the group only because of her. That meant she had dragged away James, even if it had been by accident, from the one thing Rachel always had his attention for. She was bound to be pissed off at her.
Alisha suddenly patted her on the shoulder, laughing quietly. “You caught that too, huh? Hilarious.”
Maria was giving her a knowing smirk too, but Lily was flustered at the attention. She immediately was defensive, “I didn’t do anything.”
Alisha gave her a half-hug as she pulled her along, her hazel eyes twinkling. “Yes, you did. You made my brother’s day. That was more than enough for her. Come on, they’re going to be starting!”
Lily was shocked that such a simple thing like coming to a quidditch match would make such a difference for James, but she supposed she had seen it with her own two eyes so she knew it to be true. What was sad was that seeing him that way after watching him so reserved for so long had made her day too. What exactly did that mean? Why did that even matter?
She shook her head and struggled to focus on what Alisha was saying about how quidditch was played. However, it proved to be really difficult. All of her thoughts kept returning to Rachel and her petty attempts to get James to notice her. She shouldn’t care, and yet, she was caring more than she should. Technically, she didn’t even have to worry about Rachel, right? Wait, why was she even worrying about Rachel to begin with? She didn’t care what James did in his free time, nor who he did things with…
That funny feeling in her stomach was starting to come back, and she gulped when she realized that she was indeed worrying about Rachel more than she had thought…specifically regarding anything that had to do with Rachel and James together in any way.
This wasn’t going to end well.
The match had been a nail biter from start to finish. Alisha had lucked out and not had to play, but both teams had taken a nasty beating or three before the snitch had been anywhere in sight. The Gryffindor section had practically exploded with cheers and excitement when the snitch had been snatched from right under Slytherin’s nose.
James had been targeted the whole match and had taken four hits from intentional bludgers. Lily had been horrified by this, especially because he had continued playing throughout the match anyway. At the end, he had merely sat patiently with that trademark smirk of his stretched across his face as he quietly let Madam Pomfrey vent at his careless behavior while she had mended the broken bones in his right hand, right leg, left ankle, and ribs. The only time he had seemed to show an ounce of emotion other than what was quickly becoming his normal reserved nature was when he had been on the pitch and he had pulled Rachel aside during a time-out after she had randomly missed obvious passes because she looked to be highly distracted. After James had…well…given her a ‘talking to’ so to speak…she had suddenly looked more infuriated than ever before. Whatever he had told Rachel must’ve gotten to her considerably, but she had started playing better after their ‘moment.’ James had been so cool and collected in all regards lately, even when it came to quidditch, that the interaction had surprised Lily slightly. He had appeared more than fed up with Rachel, and it looked as if he had finally had it with her.
Was it wrong of her to have felt (and still feel, mind you) gratified by the fact that he didn’t like Rachel or care for her attentions? She had been observing the two of them mildly throughout the past weeks, not on purpose, of course, but more in passing. She couldn’t believe that she had missed how awkward the two of them were around each other, mainly Rachel’s weak and obvious attempts at flirting or James’ tendency to be overly polite to the point of being delicate at times. Now that Lily had been spending more time around Alisha, James, and the rest of the Marauders, she could at least admit that she had noticed that Rachel was rather intrusive on James’ time, but it must have been worse than ever before, considering that seemed to be the only conclusion you could draw from James’ sudden loss of temper during quidditch when Rachel had been paying more attention to him than the match.
The quidditch party in the Gryffindor common room had been equally…enlightening. Rachel had tried to cling to James’ side, and in only what could be construed as a deep effort to be polite, he had allowed it. Rachel never liked being the center of attention and was often highly embarrassed in large groups of people so Lily had known that James had to have been acting out of extreme kindness by allowing her to stay near him in order to make her more comfortable even though he wasn’t all that comfortable with her constant presence himself. This selflessness Lily had seen in him had shocked her, but it had only increased her opinion of him; not to mention that she couldn’t believe how she had missed all of this before. Rachel had also tried to keep his attention on her the whole night by asking him quidditch questions, but that didn’t really work out for her. The Marauders’ conversations tended to jump from one topic to the next, and she hadn’t been able to keep up because of her preoccupation with her own embarrassment at times. Lily supposed it also hadn’t helped that Alisha had given Rachel a combination of annoyed and pitied looks the entire time.
When Lily had decided to call it a night with Maria, James had gone out of his way to say goodnight to her. This had caught her completely off guard, and she still had no idea why he had made such an effort in the first place, but she had somehow managed not to stutter all over him before heading upstairs with Maria. As soon as they were in the confines of their dorm, the first of all of the seventh year girls, Maria had attacked. She had demanded to know what was going on between her and James and whether or not Lily had changed her feelings. Lily had never remembered blushing so badly in her whole life and made sure that Maria knew that she and James were only friends…strictly friends— as if they would be anything else! Maria hadn’t seemed to buy it, but it was true! Lily knew that she couldn’t like James Potter, of all people. Besides, he was...James Potter. James-he's-so-arrogant-and-he-thinks-he’s-so-funny-Potter. That was it entirely. Lily was merely entertaining her deal with herself to be a nicer person to him. That was all.
Now, it had been a few days, and things had seemed to escalate even further. Rachel’s angry glares had morphed into the occasional bump in the hallways just to get Lily out of her way and sharp, catty remarks muttered in passing. In fact, Rachel had just brushed past her with a quiet scowl so she could walk in first to the Transfiguration classroom that morning. Lily frowned, not really understanding. So James didn’t like the girl. It wasn’t like this was something that was different from before Lily had started talking with him. James had never liked Rachel in that way before so she had no idea why Rachel was so bent out-of-shape with her now. Just because James had liked Lily in the past didn’t mean that they were suddenly going out now that she was talking to him. Besides, James hadn’t asked her out since that first day back on the Hogwarts Express. He clearly must have moved on. She ignored the slightly nauseated feeling this thought gave her and instead used this thought to solidify her belief that Rachel was blowing everything completely out-of-proportion.
Alisha snickered and shot Lily a knowing look as she made her way to her seat next to her brother. Lily just rolled her eyes disapprovingly at her. She had no idea why Alisha found this whole Rachel thing to be so amusing. When Lily turned away from her snickering in order to face Maria and achieve some sort of sympathy, she was shocked to see her best mate giggling under her breath as well, obviously for the same reason that Alisha was. Why were they so obsessed over this? And when did Maria jump on the bandwagon? James and Lily did not belong in the same sentence in that context. Why couldn’t they understand this? She narrowed her eyes menacingly at Maria and hissed out quietly, “Stop it! It’s not funny.”
Maria snorted, still grinning widely. “Yes, it is.”
Lily was about to retort, but Professor McGonagall began class in her no-nonsense manner so she really had no choice but to keep quiet. The class seemed to drag longer than usual, but she supposed it was only because it was Transfiguration, something she didn’t necessarily enjoy. What was the point of conjuring something that would eventually disappear anyway? And why would you change something you have into something else? Wouldn’t you just buy what you wanted the first time so it didn’t need to be changed in the first place?
Professor McGonagall’s loud and matter-of-fact voice as she walked past her and Maria’s desk interrupted her from her mental rant over the worthiness of Transfiguration, “And now, you will pick your partners for the project I’ve just set forth and get started on preliminary ideas for research for the rest of class. Make sure you both mark down on some parchment your names and what topic you are considering. I will set some general books aside in the library for you all once I have an idea of what everyone will be researching.”
As soon as she was finished speaking, Lily slowly turned to where Maria was, but Maria was already walking away towards…Alisha. Wait. What was going on here? Sirius was fawning over some brunette Hufflepuff giving her his ‘come hither’ stare while the girl looked back at him blankly with a bit of adoration, Remus and Peter were already talking, and so that left…no. She turned slightly to see a rather confused James, also looking at their friends. As understanding started to grace his handsome features, Lily became amused as he seemed just as indignant over their friends’ behavior as she was. It was nice to know that he felt similarly over their friends’ collective intrusion in their newfound friendship. If something were to ever happen between them beyond that, and Lily forced herself to focus on the strong and unlikely ‘if’ in that sentence, it would be on their own behalf rather than by their friends forcing them together. James must have felt similarly, which made her feel better. She was just about to rant at their friends and fix this nonsense when she noticed his stance tense suddenly as his eyes scoured the room, causing her some concern. He spoke quietly near her ear, and Lily could hear mild apprehension in his tone, “So Lily, do you mind?”
Lily shook her head slowly, hiding somewhat in her hair as she pushed her things aside so he could sit next to her. It looked like it was too late to rectify the situation. Alisha and Maria were so dead, but she could at least admit that the whole working together thing wouldn’t be so bad now that the two of them had been getting along…both in general and for Heads’ duties. It would be the first time they did something like this for a class though. James quickly sat down next to her, and Lily could practically feel his relief radiating off of him. She looked at him confused, and he must’ve understood what she was wondering about so he just offered softly, “If I had to work with Rachel, I think I would’ve snapped so thank you. At least you won’t have to do hardly any work if you work with me, right? I promise it won’t be so bad.”
His voice was so apologetic and apprehensive that it threw her for a loop. She was surprised that he thought she wouldn’t want to work with him at all, and she gulped when she couldn’t help but notice the dark look she had just received from Rachel over his shoulder when she couldn’t stop herself from glancing at her after he had mentioned her. Well, the two of them were friends, weren’t they? It wasn’t a big deal if they worked together. Maybe James didn’t think that she thought they were actually friends. She quickly corrected the notion, although she kept looking down into her parchment so she didn’t blush horrendously like she sometimes did when she met his intense stare, “I don’t mind working with you, James. Besides, maybe I’ll actually understand whatever we research. I hate Transfiguration, as you well know.”
She could see his body completely relax as she gazed at his profile out of her peripheral vision, and when he responded, she could hear the smile in his voice, "Alright then, so what do you want to research? I’ve done most research in this entire area already so…I’d rather make you happy. You should pick.”
Her eyes shot up to his in surprise, but he quickly broke eye contact and started doodling on the piece of parchment in front of him, seemingly avoiding her stare for some reason. She noticed that he had at least written both of their names on the sheet, but she was not going to let him turn that in if he was going to draw dragons all over the parchment as well. She forced herself to concentrate on picking a topic, but she hadn’t exactly been listening so she had no idea what they were supposed to be doing in the first place. She didn’t really want to admit this to him, but he wasn’t offering any suggestions so she was going to have to admit it at some point. She asked him tentatively and a bit sheepishly, “Ummm, well, what exactly were we supposed to be researching again?”
Lily watched as a tiny smile crept across his face. His hazel eyes met hers, and the way they were shining at her made her breath catch. Did he have to do that to her all the time? He chuckled softly over her admission before asking her teasingly, “The Lily Evans wasn’t listening?”
She narrowed her eyes at his sarcasm, and she pulled out a piece of new parchment roughly from her bag in an effort to distract herself from turning on him for his cheekiness. She could also feel a faint blush creeping into her cheeks. Great. That was just great. Why was he the only one who could make her face as red as a tomato? After he had stopped asking her out and embarrassing her all of the time, she had thought that would stop. Evidently not. “Shut up.”
She quickly wrote down their names on the new piece of parchment as she waited for him to reply. He didn’t say anything right away so she reluctantly looked back over at him. He was still looking at her thoughtfully with a sort of half-grin on his face, and it made her heart jump slightly. He finally spoke when she met his eyes once more, “Well, it’s supposed to be something of interest to us regarding the topics we’ve covered in our NEWT studies here in Transfiguration…something that we would like explore more in depth. We have to finish it by the last week of classes before Christmas break. However, since you have no real interest in Transfiguration and probably don’t have an area of interest you would like to look at more in depth, we should probably do something that you will need to understand so you can learn it in advance now instead of waiting until later. You wanted to be an Auror the last I heard so maybe we could do concealment and disguise human transfiguration? That way, you can master it now with my help and at a slower pace instead of waiting until you get to Auror training. At the very least, you will be better able to understand it when it comes up later because it can be rather difficult at times. I’ve already researched all of it and can do most of it so I will be able to help you. I also know exactly which books are best, but like I have already said, it’s up to you.”
She blinked carefully, pulling her eyes back to the parchment in front of her, twirling her quill a bit as she thought that over. His stare was so overwhelming at times. That half-grin of his was really growing on her too. She sighed, nodding along to that topic, as she dipped her quill into her inkpot and wrote that topic down. It wasn’t a bad idea, and she had had trouble with human transfiguration when they had glossed over the topic briefly at the end of last year. She was just about to ask him how he knew she wanted to be an Auror when he spoke again, his voice immensely curious, “Why do you always do that?”
Her face scrunched up in confusion as she wrote down a few extra sentences about what they were going to research. “Do what? And how did you know I want to be an Auror?”
He scoffed, “You told me once. I remember everything you’ve ever said to me, Lily… And I was referring to your little quill twirl you always do when you start a new assignment.”
The way he had said that first part was something she had never heard out of him before; dare she say the words were almost…passionate. No, that wasn’t the right word. Wait, why was he so concerned with her quill twirling? She was entitled to have some quirky habits. Didn’t he always fluff up his hair? Well, he technically hadn’t done that since she had purposely spilled pea soup on him for doing that ridiculous habit during dinner sometime early in sixth year, but that was beside the point. She noticed he was looking at her expectantly so she drew herself out of her thoughts, still confused by his interest. “You want to know why I twirl my quill? How am I supposed to know? It’s just a habit, I guess.”
He snickered. “I like it is all. I was just wondering.”
He went back to his doodling, even though he was still obviously amused over her in some way. She glanced at his dragon once more and smirked when she noticed that it looked more like a giant lizard with fangs and…were those thorns on its tail? She couldn’t seem to stop the smile that crept across her face as she tried to make some sense over the ridiculous drawing. She started laughing softly to herself when he added an insane-looking stick person riding the dragon and labeled the drawing as ‘Padfoot takes on the fire.’ He shot her his famous mischievous grin before tapping the parchment. This caused it to turn into a giant canary which started circling Sirius’ head. Sirius shot James a glare before changing the canary back into parchment. When he finally glanced at the drawing and his grey eyes widened into the back of his head in horror, Lily couldn’t seem to stifle her laughter any longer. James was laughing right along with her, but his laughter died quickly when he noticed a bright flash of fire in the front of the room.
He shot quickly to his feet, seemingly startled and instantly alert. Lily stopped laughing straight away, observing him curiously. The rest of the class was just as intrigued about the sudden flames, and the entire classroom became immediately quiet as a result. However, Professor McGonagall acted quickly, not hesitating at all as she grabbed the feather that had fallen onto her desk. She didn’t look curious, but rather appeared to be just as anxious as James currently was. The feather turned into parchment at her mere touch, and as soon as her eyes read over whatever it stated, the parchment burst into flames and disintegrated. She looked up nervously before saying something no one expected, “James...go. Go now. He’ll meet you.”
James flew into action, stuffing his things into his satchel in any order, while the class just blinked in shock. Professor McGonagall never called James…James. It was always Potter or Mr. Potter. Whatever was going on was obviously important, but it still didn’t make any sense. James ignored Sirius’ attempts to speak with him, instead just shrinking his satchel and swiftly tossing it to Alisha. She caught the flying tiny object with no trouble, considering she and James had similar reflexes, but her eyes were deeply troubled and worried. James nodded to her before sprinting from the room, his footsteps echoing along the corridor briefly before the noise disappeared entirely.
Every one of the students in the classroom immediately burst out into questions and conversation, but Professor McGonagall interrupted everyone in a commanding tone, “That’s enough! All of you! Back to work. Mr. Potter had an important meeting to attend. That was all.”
No one dared to cross Professor McGonagall when she was looking wild-eyed like she was at that moment. The class rapidly turned quiet, instead talking about the whole things in hushed whispers with their partners. Sirius shot her a glare and was mumbling under his breath, but even he kept quiet. He was now ignoring his overly interested partner so Lily knew he was concerned about James. Alisha was silent as Maria asked her soft questions so Lily furrowed her own brow over the situation. Where would James go looking so crazed and worried? And why would McGonagall be looking so worried if it wasn’t something important? A meeting sounded so silly. If it was a meeting, she doubted it would be planned for the middle of a school day; not to mention that she had no idea what kind of meeting he would need to attend while he was still in school to begin with. If it wasn’t a meeting and it was something else entirely, then what was it? James had been acting strangely lately sure, researching things outside of class or disappearing at random times, but this was something different entirely. He had never been sprung from class in such an unorthodox way.
Lily was broken from her thoughts when Professor McGonagall stepped in front of her desk. “Ms. Evans, did you and Mr. Potter reach a topic before his…departure?”
Lily nodded, forcing a tiny smile in an attempt to cover up her concern over the whole situation. She was going to figure this all out. It was just a matter of time. She held out their parchment to hand in. “Yes, I wrote a few sentences for you. We’re going to focus on concealment and disguise human transfiguration with an emphasis on its uses in combative situations.”
Professor McGonagall pursed her lips, but her eyes lit up for a brief moment, almost in amusement. “Yes, I dare say Mr. Potter will be able to help you with that area very much. Your written work has always been spectacular in this class, but your practical work can use some improvement. I’ll leave some book for you both in the library to get you started, but I’m sure Mr. Potter will have other texts for you both to use.”
She was thoroughly confused now. Intrigued, but confused. She knew that James was excellent in Transfiguration, but she had never heard Professor McGonagall insinuate as much until that moment. Lily looked back up at her skeptically. “Yes, he mentioned that. Professor…why did James really have to leave?”
She hadn’t been able to resist asking, but Professor McGonagall just sighed in frustration before looking closed off again. The woman spoke pointedly at her, “Never you mind. He’ll be back.”
Lily was alarmed by the way Professor McGonagall had shifted from mildly easy-going to instantly strict in a matter of seconds. She watched the professor walk away toward the groups sitting behind her, but the one other thing that she couldn’t seem to shake off had been her tone while she had said ‘He’ll be back.’ She could be deluding herself, but it almost seemed as if Professor McGonagall had been trying to reassure herself of that notion as she said it. What in the world was going on that would make Professor McGonagall think that James would not be coming back? Or not be ok? Apparently, there was something major that she was missing, and it was clearly…dangerous. She glanced over at the Marauders’ frustrated faces and knew right away that they had no idea either. Alisha looked worried, but the last time James had disappeared, she had told Lily that she had no idea what James was up to. It had been obvious that Alisha hadn’t been lying so why was everything being kept so secretive? What was James really up to? And why did not knowing bother her so much?