Chapter 22 : Pranking the Pranksters
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^by the amazing marauderette at TDA!
“I am NOT a stalker!” I insist.
“Then what are we doing following Jimmy around?” Hattie asks, as usual ruining my fun with her stupid intelligent remarks.
“I’m not stalking him,” I repeat, “I’m just…seeing what he’s up to. With Eira.”
“But why do you care? You’re going out with James.”
“I know that!” I say, rolling my eyes. “I’m not doing this for me, it’s for his own good! I have to make sure she’s trustworthy!”
“I’ve met her, she’s a doll. And Max, Jimmy is a big boy; he can look after himself.” She pats my arm kindly.
“Can we just focus on the mission?” I ask, cranky. “I thought you said you knew the secret passageway out of here!”
“I do! But I’m not going to tell you. I have at least some sense, Max, enough to know that this is not a good idea. It will end with someone—you, most likely—falling out of a potted plant or something, and being caught, and then yelled at, and of course I will be the one to take the blame in the end…”
“Would I ever fall out of a potted plant?” I ask seriously. She just looks at me. “Never mind. Fiiine, don’t tell me. I’ll just find it myself.” We both know this is hopeless, since I still have hardly any idea where anything in the castle is; I’ve only had about half a year to explore, after all. I know that sounds like a long time, but time flies here. Sometimes literally.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Max. Come, let’s go watch the Quidditch practice instead!” She looks hopefully at me, and I can’t think of a reason to say no. So we trek slowly out to the pitch, where the boys are scrimmaging now. It’s been awhile since I’ve watched their practices; they did start their games, and won one out of two of them, losing to Slytherin and winning to Hufflepuff. Ravenclaw is playing them this weekend, I think.
There’s someone else sitting in the bleachers, and right away I can tell who: Lily. I frown; I didn’t even think she liked Quidditch all that much. She has a book with her, but keeps looking up into the sky, probably at James. Meanwhile, Hattie has her eyes glued on Ben. I go and sit next to Lily; she looks at me, and then looks away, frowning.
“I didn’t think you liked Quidditch,” I say testily. She just smirks.
Suddenly, a flash of the dream, of the faceless child, fills my head. It’s gone quickly, but it leaves me breathless, shocked. I tighten my grip on my inhaler, ready to use it if I have to.
“What’s wrong?” Hattie asks, coming up to sit beside me. “Hey, Lily.”
“Hullo,” Lily says cheerfully, giving Hattie one of her perfectly dazzling smiles.
“What’s wrong, Max?” Hattie repeats, taking my hand. “Is it your lungs? Do you need to go to the—“
“No,” I say sharply. “No, I’m fine. I’ve just realized something, though. Can I have a minute alone with Lily?” I ask quietly. Hattie frowns, looking bemused, but walks back down to the grass to sunbathe.
“Lily, why do you hate me?” I ask urgently. “What did I ever do?”
She ignores me at first. I shove her lightly in the arm. “Hey! I asked you a question!”
“Don’t touch me!” She says. “I hate you because you ruined everything! This is my last year, Max, my last chance! And you’ve ruined it!” She says loudly, accusingly.
“Your last chance? Lily, don’t you realize…you had all the chances in the world. And you didn’t take any of them! How is that my fault?”
“The summer before school started, I did a lot of thinking. And I decided that this year I would give Potter a chance. And then, he showed up with you on the Platform, and right away I knew this year would be terrible. And the closer you two got, the more I wanted him. But how can I ever expect him to choose me over you? I’ve turned him down, denied him so many times he’s tired of me by now. You’re pretty, you’re new, you’re funny, you’re foreign. And I’m just Lily, the bitch who broke Potter’s heart one too many times.” She’s breathing hard by the end of this speech, fire in her eyes, along with unshed tears. I swallow, indignant.
“EXCUSE ME??? Lily Evans, do you seriously think I have the advantage here? James has liked you from the first time he saw you; I was just a girl he randomly met, who had a big ol’ crush on him, and gave him boobs! And, well, let’s see about you: you’re top in the year, prettiest in the year, most popular in the year…head girl with James…the list goes on forever! If anyone doesn’t have a chance it’s me!”
“But you’re already going out with him! So obviously you had a chance, have a chance, whatever! And did you say that you…gave him boobs?”
I snort. “Ah, yes, I remember it like it was only yesterday…” I give her a brief description of what went on that day; at the point where I’m miming James suffocating in his boobs, she’s laughing so hard she’s almost crying.
“Maybe you’re right! Maybe I do have something over you!” She says, giggling.
“You know, Lily, I’d kinda like to be your friend,” I say thoughtfully. “I mean, I can’t promise that I won’t get crazy jealous of you, or that I won’t hate your guts sometimes, but we could at least be…civil to each other. You know. The whole mutual respect thing.”
She thinks about it for a minute, and then slowly nods. “I guess I could try…not hating you so much. Maybe sometime we can be friends.”
We both know this is unlikely, as long as James stands as a wall between us, but I feel a lot less stressed knowing that at least we can kind of respect each other, now.
“Can I come up now?” Hattie asks, squinting against the sun, “Only I can’t see Ben right because of the sun…”
“Hattie, what did I tell you about talking about my brother in front of me?” I ask sternly. “Come on up, I think Lily and I are finished.” I give Lily a small smile, which she returns.
“So are you two mates now, or what?” Hattie asks the minute she’s seated beside me.
“Well, we’re not so much friends as non-enemies,” Lily and I both say at once.
“Well, that’s a relief!” Hattie says happily. “Oooh, look, they’re coming down now! There’s James, and Ben!” She waves practically the whole team over to us; they’re all windswept, smiling, and flushed, and oh-so scrumptious (except my brother, that would be really weird…oh, and the twins, which would also be kind of awkward, not that I have anything wrong with…oh, never mind. Continue.), but James’s smile sort of falters when he sees that Lily and I are both here.
I stand up and go to him, giving him a swift kiss on the mouth. “Long time no see, Captain,” I say, smiling naughtily. I glance over at Lily, who looks like she’s trying very hard not to swear at me.
“It would be much easier not to hate you if you stopped doing stuff like that,” she says through clenched teeth. I grin.
“Oh, silly Lily.” This really throws her over the edge. She stands, glares at me, and storms off. “Oh, dear…”
“Well, that lasted long!” Hattie says cheerfully.
“What lasted long?” James asks, frowning, watching Lily’s back as she stomps off towards the castle.
“Max and Lily made a sort of armistice,” Hattie says, shrugging. “I was skeptical of the reality of such a truce, but they seemed really into it…” She smiles at my brother, fluttering her eyelashes. Ben clears his throat and then bows his head, tell-tale signs that there’s some serious blush-hiding going on here.
“Why did she get angry just now?” James asks, still confused. I sigh.
“I swear I’m losing brain cells just by standing next to you,” I mutter. “We can talk about this later. Why don’t you go change, and then we can walk back to the castle?”
James nods at this, gives me a quick kiss, and follows his team into the changing room.
“Oooooh, boy.” Hattie whistles. “This can’t be good. Do you really think he doesn’t know?”
“I thought he must…but I guess maybe I was wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time. What should I tell him?”
“Just say that Lily still has feelings for him. It’s best to be honest.”
Grrrrreat. This is one conversation I could do without. But I guess Hattie is right; some things need to be discussed, before everything gets blown up in our faces. I don’t know all that much about relationships, but I’ve seen enough failed relationships to know that honesty is key.
It doesn’t take the team long to change (the girls get their own little changing room next to the guys’, by the way…no, co-ed showers are still frowned upon here I'm pretty sure…). When James comes out he’s still sweaty and gross, but I don’t mind too much, even when he slings an arm across my shoulders.
“It’s been awhile,” he comments, shooting me a sideways glance. “Sorry I’ve been so focused on Quidditch. I am Captain, though, so I have responsibilities…”
I grin. “Yeah, yeah. I know. Anyway, it’s not just you. I was having some—er--nightmares, and I was even more zoned than usual.” He looks over at me, concerned.
“Nightmares? Are you okay?” He takes my hand in his and squeezes it. I sigh.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I think it was mostly just stress, and some unsolved issues. Lily, for example,” I say pointedly. I can feel James’s body tense up a bit at her name.
“Lily?” He asks, trying and failing to sound indifferent. He pauses, then clears his throat. “What about her?”
“Honestly, James? You really don’t know?” I stop; we’re about halfway to the castle now, and the others are slowly drifting up ahead of us. I pull away from James so that I’m facing him, but keep his hand in mine. “You must know that Lily…that she loves you. Or at least, she thinks she does.”
There’s a silence that’s so loud, and so intense that I almost have to wince.
“I know,” He says finally, bowing his head. “I’ve known…since that first time on the train, that I could have her if I wanted to, that this was finally the year.”
I’m shocked by this. “You’ve known…since the train? Then why didn’t you—“
“You don’t give yourself enough credit,” James says, giving me a small smile. “I had a lot of fun when I was with you. Still do. And Remus, and Sirius, they…encouraged me, I’ll admit…to give you a solid chance. And I’m glad they did.” He reaches up and touches my hair, smiling.
“Sirius and Remus…really? I’ll have to thank them. They must be smarter than I thought!” I say, beaming. “But James…I really, really care about you a lot, so…if you ever want to get together with Lily; if that’s what’ll make you happy, then…yeah. It’ll hurt, but I’ve been through worse. I’ll be through worse.”
“Well, I must admit, I do still…well, think about Lily a lot, if you know what I mean.” He admits. I swallow, trying not to be too hurt by this. “But then again, I think of you a lot, too, and never with any doubt in my mind that you’re the one I want to be with. I’m yours, Max,” he says simply, shrugging. I reach up and pull him to me, and we kiss.
Well, this could have gone a lot worse, I think.
Suddenly, I spot two figures, still a ways away, walking together, holding hands.
“Who is that?” I ask sharply, straining my eyes to see. James follows my glance.
“Isn’t that that dreadlocked fellow, Jimmy or whatever? I don’t know who he’s with, though.”
“Eira,” I say breathlessly. “Come on! Interception time!” I grab James by the arm and start dragging him towards Jimmy and Eira, who are now stopped and looking at us. “Hey! Hey, Jimmy!” I shout, happy to see him.
“Hullo, Max,” Jimmy says when we finally reach them. “And Potter. This is Eira.”
So, okay. She’s really pretty. I mean, not conventionally maybe, but she’s got a sort of edge to her. I’m instantly jealous.
“Hey. We met before,” Eira says smoothly, extending a long-fingered hand with shiny, painted black nails, for me to take. We shake hands awkwardly. She yawns.
“Well, this is awkward,” Eira and I say at the same time, then laugh. Jimmy looks almost alarmed.
“Well, Jimmy and I were just taking a walk. Do you two want to join us?” She smiles cheekily, and I can’t help smiling back.
“Well, I really need to go up to the castle and shower and actually get some homework done. Well, have Remus do it for me, anyway,” he says, laughing easily. “But I wish I could. You can walk with them if you want to, Max.”
My heart sinks, as I picture the three of us walking awkwardly around the lake, Eira and Jimmy ahead of me making out, and me left in the shadows, without James.
“I have an idea!” Eira says suddenly, looking mischievous. “Why don’t you walk back up to the castle with Potter, Jimmy? Max and I can take a walk by ourselves.”
I smile gratefully at her. Jimmy does not look pleased, but just shrugs and follows James away. And I’m left with Eira.
“Thank you,” I say, sighing. “I owe you one.”
“No problem, doll. C’mere.” She motions for me, and then puts a sisterly arm around my shoulder. “I figure you and I should have a little get-to-know-you time, anyway. And, since it will come up eventually, we might as well get talking about Jimmy now. I mean, you want to know what’s going on between us, right?”
I’m almost taken aback by her bluntness, but find myself nodding.
“Well, the thing with Jimmy is, he’s crazy about you, Max.”
“Just listen. Jimmy and I are pretty good friends, I think, and there has been some romantic…er…connection between us, but both he and I know that he’s only using me to forget you. Well, using isn’t the right word, I suppose. He’s…trying to find an outlet.”
“An outlet?” I ask stupidly, feeling very lost.
“I’m a pretty good listener, despite the fact that I’ve hardly let you talk at all. He rants to me. A lot. Mostly about you and Potter, but also about other stuff. You know.” She smiles at this, looking off into the distance, as if remembering something.
“But there’s one other thing you should know, Max.” Eira stops, and turns to face me, arms crossed, eyebrows raised.
“Yeah?” I ask, trying to make myself taller. “And what’s that?”
“If Jimmy ever does decide that he wants to date me—and I assure you, I will be more than willing to accept—nothing, not even you and whatever it is that you have over Jimmy, can stop us. I suggest you remember that. I’m not saying this to be mean; no, I rather like you, actually…I just wanted to warn you. Okay?”
I frown, then slowly nod. “Maybe this isn’t such a bad thing,” I say thoughtfully. “Maybe it would actually be a really good thing for you and Jimmy to date.”
“Excellent! Well, now that we’ve got that settled, we should probably head back,” Eira says, glancing back at the castle. “Unless you have a better idea?”
“Well…” A sudden idea strikes me, and for some reason I’m caught remembering my list; the one I made ages ago, like a sort of to-do list thingy. “You seem like a pretty…well, adventurous kind of girl,” I say.
“Sorry, I don’t sway that way,” she laughs.
“Soooo not what I meant,” I say rolling my eyes. “I was just about to ask you if you’d be willing to join us—my posse and me, I mean—sometime for some super-cold skinny dipping here. In the great lake,” I clarify. She snorts.
“You and your posse? You’d really get up during the middle of the night and jump in freezing cold water? Are you crazy?”
“Possibly. So. You in?”
“Without a doubt.”
We exchange grins, and then head on back to the castle.
We all sit together when it’s time to eat; and by ‘we’ I mean the girls. We’ve specifically forbidden the boys to come anywhere near us. They’re all glaring suspiciously at us from the other end of the table. Even Lily and Eira are with us, surprisingly, Lily looking way less than enthusiastic to be here. I mean she is Head Girl. But I think we can trust her.
“Okay, so the plan is to sneak out of the castle tomorrow night, right? We’ll have to move in shifts, so that we’re less likely to get caught. We’ll split up in groups—try and stay mostly with your own House. There will be…oh, about ten of us, give or take a few, so we’ll have to be super careful…”
“Wow, you’ve really thought this through,” Eira says, raising an eyebrow. “And what, oh Guru of all things Rebellious, do you recommend we wear?”
“Well, if any of you are too scared to skinny dip, you can wear bathing suits. But that would be reeeeally lame,” I say pointedly. “Wear something that’s easy to get off and on, quick, so that if we have to make a run for it for some reason we won’t be left running around in our birthday suits.
“Well, ladies, I think that just about covers it. Don’t tell anyone, all right, unless they can be trusted. And, DO NOT tell any guys. EVER. If you do I will personally hunt you down. Got it?”
They all nod seriously.
“Okay, then. Meeting adjourned!” I bang a fake gavel on the table, and we all disperse, heading in our different directions. I give James a smile, and since I’m not really hungry anyway, head off towards my room to do some last minute planning.
IN THE BOYS’ DORMITORY
“Well, Wormy, you were our spy; what did they say?” Sirius asked his fellow Marauder eagerly.
Peter was still wide-eyed and blushing, and by the looks of it unable to form coherent phrases.
“This is ridiculous. I can’t believe you forced him to spy on the girls for you. I’m sure whatever they were talking about had nothing to do with you, or any of us,” Remus said exasperatedly, rolling his light eyes.
“Let the man speak, Moony!” Sirius said, shushing Remus. “Come on then, Wormy, spill!”
“T-t-they w-w-w-were…” he took a steadying break. “Well, I didn’t catch all of what they were saying, really…”
“Well, what did you hear? Let’s not take all night, shall we?” James said impatiently, flopping back onto a bed.
“Well, I couldn’t see who was speaking, obviously. But one girl said something like, ‘We’ll split up in groups.’” Peter paused, and Sirius rolled his eyes, whispering “How scandalous!”
“And then,” pushed on Peter, his face flushed in embarrassment, “And then another said, ‘you’ve really thought this through,’ and then, and this is the really weird part, one of the girls, the same one who spoke first, definitely mentioned wearing something that could be 'taken off easily’, and I definitely heard the phrase ‘birthday suit’ mentioned more than once.”
“So…what?” Remus asked, looking confused. “Birthday suit? That had to have been Max speaking. What in the world are they up to?” But his friends were already lost in a world of fantasies.
“Imagine…all those girls tearing off their shirts…” Sirius said dreamily. “Max, with her long blonde hair and perfect skin…”
“Hey! Keep your thoughts away from my girlfriend!” James said crossly, whacking Sirius with an especially firm pillow.
“Oh, come on now, let a boy have his fantasies!” Sirius said, pouting. “And don’t even pretend that you’re not picturing Lily naked right now, you great big hypocrite!”
“I wasn’t until you said that!” James groaned, grabbing at his hair and squeezing his eyes shut, trying to clear his mind. “Oh, great…”
“Need to…go…shower…cold…” Peter sprinted out of the room and into the connecting bathroom, slamming the door behind him. They heard the shower start.
“That killed it,” James and Sirius said at once, sitting up, relieved.
“Now…how are we going to watch—I mean stop--them? We don’t even know what they’re up to.”
“But we need to get involved; they could get into trouble, and we wouldn’t want that,” James said innocently. Remus nodded.
“Yes…they could hurt themselves. And we wouldn’t want that.”
“No,” Sirius agreed hastily. “So we have to follow them. Carefully. We can use the map. One of us has to be watching at all times. Did Peter say when they are planning to…do whatever they are going to do?”
“Earlier he said he thought they’d mentioned something about doing it tomorrow night,” James said, squinting as if to remember.
“Well then, it’s settled. We wait. We wait, and we watch.”
The three boys nodded as one, determined.
“So, do you think they fell for it?” Hattie asks me. She’s lying at the foot of my bed, painting my toenails for me--an aquamarine color with silvery swirls.
“Definitely. And they’re probably all perving off right as we speak, picturing us naked.”
“I bet Sirius is picturing you,” Hattie says thoughtfully. I glare up at her.
“Why would you say that?” I ask.
“Oh, I don’t know. He’s always had a special fetish for blondes.”
“I feel honored,” I say, grimacing. "Oh, wait, did I say honored? I meant horrified."
“I can’t believe how stupid they are! Proof that they’re always being lead by their—“
“Yes, Hattie. I know. No need to go any further. Please.”
It was my and Eira’s idea, mainly. The other girls all know about it, though. The plan is to trick the guys into following us out to the lake. Well, they’ll think they’re following us anyway. Lily warned us about that damn map the Marauders have, which does make it a bit more difficult, but basically the plan is to leave a note beforehand inviting them to go skinny dipping with us, and then eventually capturing them in—shall we say—a compromising position. And stealing their wands and clothes.
It’ll be fun.
Whenever I start feeling guilty, I just remember that if they follow us out, they deserve to get their clothes stolen from them. It’s a test of character, more than anything. And we need something to liven this place up; pranking the pranksters. Sounds damn good to me!
A/N: Kudos to you; if you're reading this, it probably means you made it all the way through this verrry long chapter! I apologize if it was too long. I had to fit it all in, as a sort of lead-in to next chapter, which is going to be really funny, hopefully. Since I'm convinced, by this point, that I am inherently evil (due to the pleasure I get from putting my characters in awkward or embarassing situations) I will find immense pleasure in writing the next chapter, and hope you enjoy reading it just as much!
Thanks to all for reading, and to those of you who review, you already know how much I love you all! Until next chapter, then!
Oh, and at the risk of sounding too terribly desperate,
PLEASE, PLEASE REVIEW, I AM BEGGING YOU ALL!!!!!
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