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Chapter 6 : And Then Lily Is Rudely Interrupted . . .
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Can I join your lot for dinner one Saturday from now? I’m bored stiff, but I can’t leave the stupid flat because of something to do with the Ministry recording a new wizarding residence. Anyways, I can get out on Saturday, stay with you until Tuesday, and then we can both go deal with Moony’s time of the month that night.
Sorry you’re paired with Evans. Has she been a right, uppity, stuck up prefect the whole time? I know she looks nice in a skirt, but she’s one icy bird.
Its so dull here. This flat is empty and gray and entirely obnoxious. I almost wish I had an Evans to torture and be tortured by. At least you can interact with people. I’m stuck with a muggle television. A television! Stupid thing only plays the bloody news.
Speaking of, did you hear about those recent attacks against that muggle-born family in Scotland?
Don’t forget about me. In fact, feel free to visit me anytime. I’ll stick you with my wand if you don’t.
James’ hazel eyes slid quickly down the letter he had received from Sirius. Predictably, his best mate was being a bit self-centered and was already completely bored with his independence. James laughed as he read the closing sentence, already missing his best mate. They were rarely separated for extended periods of time.
He grabbed a scrap of parchment and his favorite quill and sat at his desk to reply to Sirius. The desk was his favorite part of his large, cozy bedroom. It was strewn with paints and sketches, with artwork hanging all over it. His balcony, with its translucent crimson curtains, was in his field of vision. It inspired him.
The quill slid eagerly across the parchment as he wrote to Sirius.
Course you can come over. You can always come over. I’ll be gone all day at art class, but you can entertain yourself at my place. Chase the geese, bother the muggles, whatever you please.
Surprisingly enough, Evans isn’t being too awful. We agreed to try and see past our differences. She’s not as dull as we thought. And she even asked for help from me. Remarkable, right?
Televisions aren’t too bad. Try manipulating the picture with charms. It’s fun. I gave a well-known newscaster a pig nose once. Mum almost killed me.
Turns out McKinnon does fancy Remus. Don’t tell anyone, cause Evans will cut off my unmentionables and force-feed them to me, but we should tell him. Tuesday? Perhaps he’ll quit being a bloody poof and ask her out before we’ve graduated.
See you next Saturday.
He rolled up the parchment, tied it to Henry VIII’s leg, and threw the stupid bird out the window. It haughtily caught itself before it made an owl-shaped crater in the Potter’s lawn, and then slowly disappeared into the distance.
James did not linger in his room. He walked quickly past his enormous red and gold bed, ignored the clothes strewn about the floor, and bypassed the overflowing rubbish bin on his way out the door.
Sundays were the worst for James, because it was the one day a week that he did not have art class. His father and mother both worked on Sundays, as Aurors, and he was usually bored stiff. The Potter Estate was far too big and lonesome for James to enjoy on his own.
His feet carried him out into the ornate hallway, and down the ostentatious flight of stairs. His parents, both fairly practical, grounded people, detested the Estate. James’ great-grandparents had built and decorated the entire house, and the family refused to let it be remodeled or downsized. James didn’t really mind. A few diamond-inlaid pillars there, a few gold statues there – he hardly noticed any of it.
The grand foyer was impressively illuminated by the arcing skylights. James paused for a moment, appreciating the natural artists’ light, and then hurried to the front door. He slipped outside and locked the door firmly behind him.
The sun pounded down upon him the moment he stepped out of the shadow. Harsh, biting rays slammed on his exposed skin and broad shoulders, and made him yearn for some kind of large sun hat. Course that would make him look like a poof, and that simply would not do. James Potter, if nothing else, was not a poof.
He left the estate and headed in no particular direction. If he was lucky he would run into one of the many muggles he knew. There were quite a few teenagers in the area, and occasionally they would get a good game of football going. James, being naturally athletic, usually excelled. It was not very thrilling or exciting, but it was entertaining and James was in desperate need of entertainment.
Almost absentmindedly, he felt even worse for Sirius. There he was, stuck in a flat, bored out of his mind, while at least James was bored out of his mind with the world at his disposal.
The rays of the sun hammered down upon James’ shoulders. He found himself straying near the sidewalk instead of simply walking down the middle of the street, simply to benefit from the shade from the large trees.
“’Ello, Mr. Potter!” a cheery, ancient old man waved from his plot of tulips.
“Afternoon, Mr. Tinklewort!” James called jovially. He wavered between walking over and actually starting a conversation with the man, but then decided against it. Mr. Tinklewort had been in the war. War stories made James want to extract his pancreas and eat it.
In one of the mysterious enigmas surrounding teenage boys, James’ wandering feet led him directly to food. He was not sure what caused him to be drawn to food, or what made it so that he instinctually knew where to find it. All he knew was that his ‘no particular direction’ had turned into ‘Silvering Street.’
Silvering Street was the main street of James’ neighborhood. It was one of those quaint, relaxed little areas with a few shops, a couple cafes, and a wide array of benches and picnic tables to relax upon. James, without consciously realizing it, had made his way to the ice cream shop, Henrietta’s.
Before admitting to himself that he was hungry again after eating only an hour previously, he turned around to survey the street. It was busier than usual. Sundays were the best day to be on Silvering Street. Parents pulled young children into shops, haughty teenagers draped themselves over benches, and elderly people lounged casually in the shade. Unfortunately, none of James’ muggle mates were there.
The teenager behind the counter of Henrietta’s was young, decent-looking, and most definitely not Henrietta. James had met Henrietta. She was old, had a unibrow, a perpetual scowl on her increasingly unpleasant, wrinkled face, and was the proud owner of a hairless dog with red eyes. This girl, with her slightly mottled complexion and wide, flirtatious smile, was not Henrietta.
“Could I have a cone with vanilla, please?” James dug in his pocket for his muggle money.
“Sure,” she smiled and tucked a piece of hair behind her ear, “anything else I can do for you?”
“Not today, love. But maybe some other time,” he winked at her.
She stared for a second, and then hastily turned around and muttered out a stream of what sounded like self-scolding. He caught a few words like ‘stupid cow’ and ‘don’t stare like a bloody slag’ and ‘really? Was that necessary?’
When she turned around to hand him his cone her cheeks were tinged pink. He took it, and offered his money with his other hand. She reached for it, and in a moment of pure amusement he clasped her hand gently, stared deep into her eyes, and murmured huskily, “Keep the change.”
As he walked away he swore he could hear hyperventilating from the ice cream shop. “Oh my god!” the girl squealed.
He was a marauder, after all.
James strolled casually across the street, towards his favorite spot at the very end of Silvering Street. Three trees, proudly grouped together, formed an impenetrable wall of leaves that the sun could not pass through. A picnic table had been crammed in between the trees, so tightly jammed that one could lean their back against a tree while sitting at the table.
But someone was already there.
He huffed. Then he turned to walk away. Then he turned around again. He could not see the person’s head and therefore could not decide whether it was worth staying or not.
Finally, he gave in and simply shrugged. Worst possible scenario it was Henrietta and her demonic dog.
He sidled between the trees, and then stood stock-still, shocked.
Lily Evans was sitting on the table itself, her legs crossed and her body hunched downwards towards the sketchbook on her lap. A little bowl of melting ice cream sat beside her. Her hands were smeared with charcoal, and a smudge had even found its way onto her face, streaking across her cheekbone. James assumed she had been trying to hook her hair behind her ear when it happened.
She was wearing a simple white little sundress. The flowing fabric covered her crossed legs completely, and made her vivid hair look even more red than before. She looked completely peaceful, sitting and sketching beneath the green light that filtered through the leaves.
“Er – hi,” James rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly.
Her head snapped up, and she saw him standing there with his ice cream cone and an embarrassed expression on his face.
“Potter,” she said cautiously.
“Yeah, sorry, didn’t mean to intrude,” he took a step back, “I’ll just leave, yeah?”
She cocked her head curiously as he attempted to sidle back out between the trees. He found it was much more difficult leaving than entering. His hips were at the wrong angle, his right foot was twisted uncomfortably, and his ice cream cone was nearing a calamity. Finally, she giggled, “Just come sit down, you bloody prat.”
“Right,” he twisted himself back out of the knot he had forced himself into, “thanks.”
“No problem,” she watched as he sat on the bench part. She was hardly any taller than him, even though she was sitting on the surface part of the picnic table
James licked his cone, “Having a good day so far?”
She shrugged, “Well enough. Yourself?”
“I’m bored stiff,” he tipped his cone slightly to prevent it from dripping, “no art class, no parents, and Sirius is locked inside that bloody flat of his. What is there to do in this neighborhood?”
“Nothing,” she sighed, “its so unbearably dull.”
“Exactly,” he nodded, “so I’m glad I found you. You’re capable of holding intelligent conversation.”
She laughed aloud, “Intelligent conversation? Never knew you were into that sort of thing, Potter.”
“I have intelligent conversation all the time, thank you very much,” James said indignantly, “just the other day I had an engaging chat with Remus about the moral flaws in astronomic interpretation, and the philosophical questions it raises.”
Lily simply raised one of her eyebrows.
“I did!” he insisted, “course, Sirius took it as whether or not astronomy was sexually abusing centaurs, and then things just got awkward.”
She laughed again. She had a nice laugh. It was soprano and all but tinkled through the air, like wind chimes or something. James rarely heard it at school.
“Anyways, point is, I am perfectly capable of holding intelligent conversation, and am even known to pursue it sometimes,” he stuck out his chest proudly.
“I’ll accept it, but I’d lie if I say I wasn’t largely skeptical,” Lily told him playfully.
“Fair enough,” he shrugged. He licked his cone again.
She tucked her hair behind her ear, smudging yet another bit of charcoal on her cheekbone, and used her finger to blend something on her sketchbook.
“What are you drawing?” he asked curiously.
She held up her sketchbook for him. On the page a realistic, gray scale Gryffindor lion was ripping its way through a Slytherin banner. It had a familiar hungry, competitive gleam in its eye that James found unnerving. Then he realized he had seen that look in the mirror every morning during Quidditch season.
“Wow,” he said honestly, “pretty good, Evans.”
“I miss school,” she smiled, “I love art class, but being around so many muggles all the time is just suffocating, you know?”
He nodded in understanding as he looked at the lion. Its gleaming coat, large, fluffy mane, and huge paws looked so realistic that he could not fathom how she had managed to draw it without a reference.
“Do you miss school?” she asked.
“Sometimes,” he glanced at her, “right now, yeah. When I’m in class or with my mates, no.”
“You’re fairly, ridiculously close with your mates, aren’t you?” she said thoughtfully, “I mean, I adore Marlene and Alice, but I’m not sure I could ever have the same sense of camaraderie or . . . or family with them, like you do with Black and Lupin.”
“And Peter,” James added automatically, “but yeah, I see your point. I don’t know why we all click so well. Its bloody annoying sometimes. They always know exactly how to take a piss at me, or help out when I’m upset. Its like fucking telepathy.”
Lily sighed, “I’m a bit jealous. It sounds wonderful. You’re a lucky bastard, Potter. You know that, right?”
“Yeah,” he licked his cone, trying to suppress the tinge of red that might appear on his cheeks, “I got a lot going for me.”
“Too right you do,” she turned her sketchbook around towards her again, “but at least you’re not like those stupid Slytherin tosspots who have everything, and act like it too. Your ego is overwhelming, but it isn’t anything compared to theirs.”
James furrowed his eyebrows, “Was that an insult?”
“Perhaps,” she glanced cheekily at him.
He suppressed a grin and licked his ice cream again. Words could not express the joy and triumph he felt when he saw Lily – Lily – give him cheek. The ice queen was melting so quickly he did not know what to do with all the floodwater.
Being a marauder, he decided to be daring and test her limits.
“So, where’d the uppity prefect we’ve all come to know and love run off to? You’re being quite an associable person right now, Miss Evans.”
She shrugged, “She’ll appear again when you’re being a right wanker, Potter. She rather hates that bullying part of you, you know.”
“Ah, yes,” he licked his cone, “the icy bird does despise when I hex the ickle Slytherins.”
“Icy bird? Least she’s not a self-centered tart of a man with questionable masculinity and a penchant for hanging around such desirable characters as Snape,” Lily shot back. Her eyes were teasing.
“Questionable masculinity?” he yelped, enjoying arguing, “I play Quidditch for Merlin’s sake!”
Lily winked, “Enjoy the view on the field, do you?”
“No!” he narrowed his eyes, “for your information, I enjoy the adrenaline rush and the thrill of flying. And the competition. And the - ”
“Sculpted male bodies flying about,” Lily finished considerately.
He groaned, “I’m not a bloody poof. Snape, most definitely. Me, no. I pride myself on my ability to get any girl on the planet with a well timed mischievous wink and my own undeniably attractive looks.”
“If ‘attractive’ constitutes as a sloppy, bespectacled, gangly myopic with matted, tangled hair, then you’re the cream of the crop. As it is, I’ve seen far better specimens then you. Pettigrew, for example. A fine creature, him.”
James had to laugh, “Peter? The bloke, as amusing as he is, looks like one of them little chubby dolls on the adverts for little muggle girls’ play toys.”
“And its so appealing,” Lily pretended to sigh girlishly.
“No,” James disagreed, “Sirius, Remus, and I have had a combined eighteen girlfriends the last two years. Pete asked out thirty-six girls, and only one of them said yes. Then she mysteriously got the flu the night before Hogsmeade, and was mysteriously healed the next afternoon at the Three Broomsticks.”
“Couldn’t tear herself away, could she?” Lily smirked, “Face it, Potter. Pettigrew has all the desirable qualities you simply lack. He’s caring, considerate, and spends more time with girls than you do.”
“What? No he doesn’t!”
Lily lowered her voice to a regretful whisper, “Potter, he’s on the knitting squad. You don’t really believe they’re only playing with yarn in there do you? He’s probably having a right good time . . . frolicking. With the likes of Dorcas Meadows and Bernice Hornsquat.”
James broke character and laughed uproariously. The idea of Peter, surrounded by yarn and plump, unattractive, somewhat frightening creatures like Meadows and Hornsquat was too much to bear. “Very nice, Evans,” he managed to say between fits of laughter.
“I know,” Lily smirked, “give me more material to work with and we’ll have a field day with this.”
“Nah, I’d rather save my dignity for now,” he calmed down a bit and shook his head, “but someday you should go at it with Remus. He’s great at the witty comeback bit. Keeps me and Sirius on our toes. I think you could give him a fight, though.”
“Lupin?” Lily’s eyes grew wide at the prospects, “I would have a field day with that one. A bloody wanker, that one is.”
Still loyal to his friends, despite the glorious time he was having mocking himself and others, he smiled slightly, “Nah, he just acts like it.”
Lily smiled back at him, and pulled her long, crimson hair behind her shoulders. James felt his ice cream cone melting, but he felt no strong desire to sort out the dilemma. He would much rather sit comfortably on the bench in the shade of the ridiculously tall trees, watching Lily Evans and wondering how the hell he had never seen the cheeky, mischievous, witty minx beneath the prefect badge and perfect grades. Thinking of all the clever conversations he had missed out on due to his being a complete tosser made him think longingly of apoplectic fits. Even Sirius, who had an uncanny knack for construing complex female actions and words to reveal the actual person underneath, had not predicted this.
She stretched out her legs and set her sketchbook aside, obviously bored with drawing lions. James, being purely male, could not help but look at her sharp, porcelain little calves as they extended before his eyes.
“You know, you’re less of a fuckwit than I thought,” Lily told him reflectively.
He stumbled over the fact that he had just been labeled a fuckwit. Who the hell came up with that kind of thing? And, more importantly, who said it so sweetly, so innocently, in a way that disguised the foul nature of the word and made it seem like a dewy spring morning?
Lily Evans did, apparently.
“Er, thanks,” he ruffled his hair, “you’re less of a bitter cow than I thought.”
“Glad we sorted that out,” she smirked.
James was busy constructing pros and cons lists for fuckwit and bitter cow in his head, trying to determine who had the better insult, when Lily broke the silence again, “I know you’re close with the bloke, so I’ve got to ask, but has Black truly been dating one girl for the past six months?”
His stomach churned. As a part of Sirius’ new, rather major relationship, James had been sworn to absolute secrecy. The girl, Ella McManus, was beautiful, clever, and would be going into her seventh year in Ravenclaw. Sirius was uncharacteristically intense about her. He used complex adjectives to describe her minute facial expressions, became dazed whenever she kissed him on the cheek, and had already severely lost his temper four times at Peter for teasing him about it. The Marauders were worried that Sirius, originally thought the most flighty, would be the first to have a real relationship with an actual girl.
But James felt as if he could trust Lily. He did not feel like she was the type to go running off, spouting gossip about Sirius Black and how he had contained himself to shagging one girl. She simply seemed curious.
“Er, well, kind of,” James admitted, “look, don’t tell anyone ‘cause he’s rather uptight about it, but he’s fancied her for ages and finally asked her out to Hogsmeade ‘round Christmas. They’re serious enough that neither has felt the need to go broadcast it that they’re dating. So please, don’t spread it around, yeah?”
“Oh, I won’t,” Lily assured him. He believed her, and she sighed, “I suppose it’s a Ravenclaw, right? Seventh year, because Black doesn’t seem like the type to go for the younger ones, and more than likely beautiful and popular. I’d have to say either McManus or Hendriks.”
“McManus,” James confirmed.
Triumph was barely etched into her face, “Are they happy?”
“Yes,” James could say that honestly and proudly, “the idiot’s never been happier. She seems well enough, I don’t talk to her much, but she doesn’t try to control him and she isn’t the jealous sort. It’s rare to get that lucky with a relationship. You ever really dated anyone?”
“Nothing beyond a few Hogsmeade visits, and one that didn't turn out so well,” Lily smiled, but he could sense an undercurrent of sadness in her tone, “I’ve just yet to find someone I truly fancy, I suppose.”
“You’ll find someone,” he assured her, “you just need to show people the real you – this you – not little Miss perfect-grades, no-humor, uppity-prefect Evans.”
She cocked her head, “Should I be insulted by that little gem of advice, Potter?”
“No, no,” James said hastily, “what I’m trying to say is that . . . is that who you are right now, this playful and teasing girl, is who you should be at Hogwarts too. I’ve been in your house for six years and I never knew you were fun to be around. You know? People believe you’re nothing but rules and regulations and grades, because that’s the only part of you they see. If you joke around a bit, you know, loosen up, people will be less intimidated by you and I guarantee the blokes will come running. Its not like you’re stupid or a slag or a terrifying bitch.”
Lily mulled this over, considering his theory. Then she flashed him a maliciously wicked smirk that made his blood run cold, “Who says I’m not a terrifying bitch?”
James dropped his ice cream cone.
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