"But why would she do that, Remus? I just don't understand--"
"Honestly, Prongs, when have you ever understood Evans?" Sirius interjected, tired of hearing James ask the same question for the past three days. "She's impossible. Remember when she bit your head off for handing her a napkin when she spilled pumpkin juice all over herself? She's mental!"
"He spilled the pumpkin juice on her, Padfoot," Peter piped up from the floor while searching through a rather ominous stack of parchment. "That hardly makes her mental."
Ignoring his best mate's attempts at dissuading him, and Peter's annoyingly accurate memory, James stared at Remus - the most understanding of the group - until he glanced up from the book in his lap. With a disgruntled sigh, Remus dog-eared the page and placed his hand on top of the closed book.
"I don't know why, James."
"But you two talk. You're friends! She hasn't mentioned him?" James looked desperate. He had been driving himself, and so too his friends, insane since the incident with Lily and Malfoy. Why had she stood up for him? Why hadn't she just left him there for someone else to find? Merlin knows, Filch would've snuck around that part of the castle some time in the night; it's not like she would have been leaving him to die, or anything.
Yet, she hadn't left him. For all he knew, she waltzed him right into the snake’s nest and handed him over herself. There hadn't been any talk of Malfoy being in the Hospital Wing, so it soon became obvious that Madam Pomfrey had never seen him. The curious thing, however, was that the Slytherins still held the usual amount of animosity toward James. Now, that was typically quite a bit, as the Slytherins had had more than their fair share of pranks - compliments of James Potter himself- but they were generally...bitter in the weeks after a particularly nasty one.
He hadn't gotten so much as an especially malicious glare in the past few days. Something was up.
"Not a word." Remus shrugged, thumbing the yellowed pages of his book. "We're friends, yes, but she has no reason, or desire, to speak with me about that night. She's probably moved on, anyway. Knowing Lily, I'd place a pretty safe bet that she's more concerned with her Prefect duties than this nonsense."
"It isn't nonsense!" James exclaimed, running his hand nervously through his hair and ignoring the smirk from Sirius by the fireplace. He watched Remus expectantly, but the sandy-haired boy had already reopened his book. "Is it, Wormtail?"
Peter looked up from a mess of papers now spread out in front of him on the floor - the hefty amount of Transfiguration homework McGonagall had already assigned to them that week - just long enough to smile and nod his head. "Yeah, nonsense, whatever you say, Prongs."
"Not nonsense, Peter. Not," James huffed, running both hands through his hair now and sliding further into the armchair.
"Look," Sirius said as he sat up from where he was lounging beside the fireplace, "Evans does what she does, and most of the time it doesn't mean anything. She would've helped anyone that was lying unconscious in the corridors. Just happens that it was that dirty git, you know?"
"Yeah...yeah, you're right." James's eyes clouded over and a goofy smile spread across his lips. "She's great, isn't she?"
"There's the Prongs we all know and love," Sirius chuckled, rolling his eyes. "Back to his daft, love-sick self."
"But what if there's something going on?" The smile was gone just as suddenly as it'd come, replaced by an angry frown. Sirius groaned, sinking back to the floor and rubbing his face with his hands.
"Are you ever going to give this up?" Peeking through his fingers, Sirius saw James shake his head and open his mouth. "You know what? Don't answer that. I don’t want to know that I’m doomed to hear about the Malfoy-Evans scandal everyday for the rest of my life.”
“Ah-la-la-la!” Sirius deftly plugged his fingers into his ears and began humming. “No way in hell I’m letting you take away my last shred of hope. Bum-da-dum-dum!”
"James," Remus said suddenly as he stood and tucked his book beneath his arm, rubbing his temple with his free hand and raising an eyebrow in annoyance at Sirius. "I'll speak with her tonight if that will put your mind at ease."
"Thanks Moony." James smiled. "I knew I could count on you," he added as he shot a nasty glare at Sirius, who was still humming loudly to himself, and Peter, who was desperately trying to fix a smudge on his Transfiguration homework.
"I'm only doing this to get you to shut up." Remus smirked. Sirius let out a barking laugh before quickly returning to his bum-bumming as James’s face fell in disbelief.
"Got to go. Wouldn't want to be late for the first Prefect meeting of the year." And with that, Remus ducked through the portrait hole. Sirius's awful singing soon turned into hearty laughter, spilling out after Remus into the corridor as the Fat Lady swung shut.
The corridors were eerily quiet; the only sound was the gentle thump-thump of worn trainers on the stone floor. Remus rather liked it that way.
With a book tucked under his arm and one hand stuffed in his pocket, he casually made his way toward the Prefect Meeting Room. He'd be early, he knew; he always was. There was something calming about never having to rush. Something relaxing about knowing that at least one worry was avoidable. And avoid it he did. Remus had more than enough worries for one 15-year-old boy - more than anyone should ever have to deal with - and he knew it better than anyone else.
Checking his watch as he rounded the corner, Remus doubted anyone but the Heads would have arrived. Much to his surprise, he heard the soft rumble of male voices coming from the open door of the Prefect Meeting Room. Slowing his step, he listened carefully.
"What do you mean by telling me I cannot make requests?" The first voice was eloquent in his speech, and very irritated. Remus knew who it was without a second thought: Lucius Malfoy.
"You know the rules, Malfoy. For the first month of patrolling, 7th years are placed with 5th years. It's how it's always been done." The Head Boy, Jacob Loury, sounded confident.
"Yes, yes, that's all very well. I am only asking for a specific 5th year. Surely you would be able to accommodate that, Loury?" A dangerous rustle of cloaks on the floor reached Remus out in the hall. He took a few quick steps back, readying himself for Malfoy to come striding through the door, but he never did. Instead, a weak whimper slipped through Loury’s lips. Remus tip-toed forward, peeking through the door jam.
"I-I don't have any control over that," Loury stammered, panic in his voice. Malfoy had him pressed against the chalkboard at the far side of the room, wand pressed against the boy’s throat. "Dumbledore picks the partners himself!"
"That sodding old fool..." With another swish of fabric, Malfoy turned away--an intensified anger burning in his countenance.
"In any case," Loury began, strength quickly returning to his words though he continued to lean on the chalk rail for support, "I don't even know who you're partnered with, yet. Amy's got the list. You may get your request after all."
"Very well." Malfoy was straightening his robes, his face the usual blank stone, as Remus strolled into the room. With a curt nod toward the both of them, Remus slid into a seat near the front of the room.
"Ahh, Remus Lupin." Loury's lips twitched into an uncertain smile, the colour still returning to his cheeks. "Good to see you."
"As always." Remus smiled, shooting a quick glance toward Malfoy, who was now lounging effortlessly in one of the impossibly uncomfortable chairs. Placing his book on the desk in front of him, Remus lifted his eyes to the Head Boy at the front of the room. "What's on the agenda for tonight?"
"Nothing, really." Loury began to relax, leaning against the table behind him. "Just patrolling duties for the month. Amy's got the list from Dumbledore," he said importantly, as if reiterating a point.
"I see." Remus thumbed the pages of his book thoughtfully. A few other students entered the room, filling the empty seats.
"She'll be here any minute, I expect." Loury glanced at his watch, then up toward the doorway where a fresh crowd of Prefects were filing into the room. His eyes fell upon a short brunette that was elbowing her way through the students. "Ahh, right on time."
"Move it, people, I've got places to be." Little Amy Green marched up to the front of the room, a thick envelope in her hand. Remus watched out of the corner of his eyes as Malfoy's hard gaze followed her, steadily eying the envelope, but he made no movement.
"Hello Lily," Remus greeted the redhead as she slumped into the chair next to him, out of breath. "Go for a run?"
"Very funny." She smirked. "I just remembered the meeting five minutes ago. I was all the way in the Owlery, too."
Remus let out a low whistle before raising an eyebrow at her quizzically. "I wouldn't have taken you for the kind of person to forget something like this."
"C'mon, Lupin." Lily rolled her eyes. "There are millions of things I'd rather be doing than sitting through this meeting."
He chuckled, glancing down longingly at his book. "As would I."
“Welcome to the first Prefect meeting of the year,” Jacob declared oratorically, quickly putting an end to their conversation. “One of many very important meetings to come! I am sure you all--”
“Oh, get on with it, will you? Some of us have things to do,” Amy interrupted bluntly.
Jacob blinked, mouth hanging open and a blush creeping onto his cheeks. A few chuckles could be heard around the room.
“Just sit down, will ya?” Amy stepped forward as Jacob settled for leaning against the table behind him. Standing at a threateningly solid five foot, Amy glared out into the murmuring crowd. “Alright, listen up. I’m sure none of you want to be here right now, so let’s make this quick.”
Within fifteen minutes, Amy had rambled through the “duties of Prefects” and began passing out a blank copy of the month’s patrolling assignments by the time the first 7th year began to doze off.
“Now, for the first month of patrols 7th years will be partnered with 5th years so they won’t royally botch it up when they’ve got to do it on their own. Dumbledore’s picked the partners. I don’t want to hear any complaining, alright? I can’t do anything about it anyway.”
A few of the 7th years began to scrutinize the 5th years, searching for any particularly undesirable partners. Remus took a quick glance around the room. When his gaze returned to Lily, she was examining the book beneath his hands.
“What are you reading?” she whispered, giving Amy a cautious glance as she began to address the 6th years.
“Oh, this?” He lifted the book from the desk and turned it a bit in his hand; ragged edges of stained paper peaked from beneath the cover, which was so worn that only a shadow of the title remained--completely illegible. “Just a bit of a side project. Defense is really a rather interesting subject, you know.”
“Where did you find it?” Lily eyes had opened wide in excitement. Since she was merely average in most of her classes, excluding Potions of course, it was a little known fact that she had a bit of an obsession with old books. “Surely Madam Pince wouldn’t keep a book like that out on the public shelves. How did you--”
The scraping of chair legs against stone interrupted their conversation as all of the 6th years rose from their seats and filed out of the room, clearly dismissed. Lily and Remus turned their attention to the petite Head Girl, waiting patiently for their instructions. As soon as the last 6th year had left the room Amy reached at last for the thick envelope she’d placed on the desk behind her.
“It’s alphabetical by 7th years’ names so listen up. I don’t want to repeat myself because one of you dolts wasn’t paying attention.” She looked around the room, glaring in turn at each of the students before her. “And I better not hear any complaining.”
After a long, threatening pause, in which a few of the 5th years shifted nervously in their seats, Amy began to call out the names listed. With each pairing announced, the couples’ names would appear together on several days throughout the weeks listed on the calendar she had handed out at the beginning on the meeting.
Remus watched curiously as the days began to fill, fancy cursive writing seeming to rise to the surface of the parchment. When his eyes flicked toward Lily, however, she was obviously distracted with something else. As each name formed on the paper, her foot twitched a little faster.
What is she so worried about?
“Longbottom and Lupin.”
He turned his attention away from Lily long enough to give a friendly smile and a nod to Frank, who kindly returned the gesture. When he looked at her again, she had begun nervously tapping her fingers on her thigh and looking around the room. Her eyes skated across everything, never really focusing, though Remus swore he thought they lingered a few seconds longer on Malfoy who, unsurprisingly, looked more than a little bored.
“Malfoy and Evans.”
Remus watched as Lily’s frantic brow furrowed, as the light in her emerald eyes dulled and she succumbed to her churning mind. Beneath his lashes, Malfoy kept his gaze on her, examining her face just as Remus had done. His blank expression made it impossible for Remus to read him. But of one thing he was sure: Malfoy had some interest in Lily.
In the next few minutes, Amy was folding up the parchment and dismissing them all. “Make sure to check your Prefect’s calendar for patrolling times. They’ll be updated every two weeks!”
“Yes,” began Jacob in a booming, authoritative voice, “and be aware of your duties as a Prefect. You are not just a Prefect while patrolling--you are always a Prefect. Your friends, your family--”
“Just stuff it, will you?” Amy pushed past the Prefects filing out of the doors and disappeared into the crowd, Jacob staring dumbstruck at her petite retreating figure.
Malfoy stood from his seat in one fluid movement before gliding through the room. As he passed by Lily his forward gaze made the slightest of flickers in her direction, but he remained completely silent.
“Hey Lily,” Remus began as they made their way into the hallway, “can I speak with you for a moment?”
“Hmm.” Lily seemed to consciously draw herself away from her own thoughts, tearing her eyes from Malfoy’s back, to listen to him. “Oh, sure, Remus. What about?”
Looking around at all the other Prefects filling the corridor, Remus grabbed her forearm gently and led her in the opposite direction. “A different route would be nice, don’t you think?” Lily walked in step beside him, but her attention to draw instantly to the night sky
“It’s Malfoy,” Remus began tentatively as they made their way back to Gryffindor Tower, pulling her attention away from the stars effortlessly. She said nothing, simply raised one eyebrow quizzically. “Well, you know, James told us about the fight. About how you helped Malfoy after he insulted you--”
“Be reasonable, Remus,” Lily interrupted, stopping in her tracks to turn on him. “I don’t suppose James told you that most of Malfoy’s arm and shoulder had received 2nd and 3rd degree burns because of him? Or that he was knocked unconscious and bleeding from the head?”
“Well no, but--”
“What else could I do? lt’s not like I kissed his bruises and gave him a bleeding lolly. I did what any decent person would have done and healed him. That’s all.”
Watching as the red flush that had quickly burned into Lily’s cheeks during her tirade began to disappear, Remus waited with a smile. “Are you quite finished?”
“Yes,” she stated lamely, a different sort of blush reddening her face. She took a few hurried steps to catch up with him. After a moment of silence, he spoke again.
“I never thought you were involved in anything. But you know James.” Remus ignored the roll of her eyes. “He worries. Especially about you.”
Lily huffed, crossing her arms over her chest and mumbling something about “his own damn problem”.
“I just need to be sure that there is nothing else going on,” Remus stated and, at the fierce look on her face, quickly added, “for James, of course.”
“You know, that isn’t really any of his business--” The angry flush began to creep up her neck.
“Is there something else?”
“No! Of course not.”
“That’s all I need to know then,” he finished with a sly smile, though it quickly turned somber as he remembered the conversation he’d heard earlier between Malfoy and the Head Boy. “Just be careful around him, alright?”
“What are you on about?” Lily tried. Remus’s expression remained quite serious. “Oh, fine. I will, I promise. Don’t you start worrying, too. Then I might actually have to start caring.”
As they rounded the corner, the Fat Lady came into view and they knew their conversation was over. They entered the common room in silence, mumbled their goodbyes and parted ways. As Lily made her way to the girls’ dormitories’ staircase, she watched Remus join his friends by the fire.
Lines of worry were etched into Potter’s face even before his friend approached him. He sat still, fingers laced together beneath his chin, elbows resting on knees, bottom lip pulled beneath his teeth. As Remus came into view, Potter looked up expectantly, an even darker shadow crossing his features. In an instant, relief flooded his face, soaking in his friend’s words like parched land drinks in a refreshing rain. All signs of concern washed away and, when he took her in with his hazel gaze--leaning just slightly against the door knob of the girls’ staircase, curiosity painting her face, watching him watching her--his happy smile curled up into that arrogant grin, right back in its place.
To James Potter, Lily was certain, all was finally well.
[Author's Note: There's chapter three! Let me know what you think! I really apologize for this chapter taking so long to post as I'd intended on only have two weeks between each update, but life is life. And here it is. ^^
Oh yes, and a HUGE thanks to my beta, Cherry Bear, who edited this in record time. :DDD