Chapter 14 : And Then Peter Becomes Very Well Acquainted With The Creek . . .
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It was perhaps the oddest situation Lily had ever found herself in.
She was standing, her back against a tree and her legs crossed, gazing out over the bubbling creek. Her thumbs were jammed in her pockets, and her hair was in one long braid that was draped over her shoulder. As James had wished, she was barefoot and was wearing the most basic white t-shirt she owned.
Four curious, studious pairs of eyes watched as she stood, neither moving nor talking.
James had brought along his mates for this day of charcoal drawing. Sirius, Remus, and Peter lay lounging in the grass, watching her inquisitively. Every once in a while they would lean over to check out James’ paper. James himself was fervently working, erasers and bits of broken pencils scattered around him. His hair was sticking up at every angle, from running his hand through it, and he seemed much more stressed than usual.
“This is boring,” Peter complained.
Remus was flat on his back, gazing up at the tree tops. He disagreed in a lazy, languid voice, “I think it’s quite nice.”
Sirius was flinging a Muggle baseball into the air and catching it. He nodded, “I agree with Moony. It’s a spiffingly lovely day.”
“Well, I’m bored,” Peter muttered.
James dropped one of his pencils and snatched up a charcoal stick. Lily heard the familiar scratching sound as James rubbed it against the paper.
“’Sides, Mrs. Potter wanted us out of the house today,” Remus yawned, “Mimzy’s starting to clean for the party.”
“That’s not for a week!” Peter whined.
“Six days,” Sirius corrected him.
Peter seemed sulky, “Same thing.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Lily saw Remus prop himself up on his elbows and give Peter possibly the most patronizing look Lily had ever seen on a person. She was deeply impressed by the professional, upwards tilt of his eyebrows, and faint twist of his sneering mouth. “Peter,” he said slowly, as if speaking to a four-year-old, “I think first year squibs suffering through a transfiguration final complain less than you. Belt it.”
“Yeah, Pete, quit whining,” Sirius threw the ball twenty feet into the air, and then caught it one-handed, “my spoiled Slytherin brat of a brother isn’t half this bad.”
James seemed to become even more compact, his shoulders hunching over as he worked on some tiny, minute part of the drawing. Lily kept her muscles frozen. James had trouble enough with charcoal – the last thing she wanted to do was move and ruin everything he’d completed so far.
Peter sat up. “I’m hungry.”
Sirius sniggered, “And deaf too, apparently. Quit whining!”
“Hold on just a minute Lily,” James said suddenly, “I’m nearly done with your face, then you can talk.”
Clearly, he hadn’t been listening to a word of his friends’ conversation. Lily grimaced inwardly and stayed frozen.
“Pete, if you’re hungry, why don’t you go try to find food? Then you won’t be bored or hungry, and we won’t have to deal with your complaining anymore,” Remus suggested sensibly.
“It’s too far away,” Peter moaned, clutching his stomach.
This little scene had done nothing to convince Lily that Pettigrew was worthy of the title ‘Marauder.’ He sounded eerily similar to a twelve-year old girl with menstrual cramps.
“Peter, if you whine one more time, I’m throwing you in the creek,” threatened Sirius, stretching his arms and yawning.
Peter fell silent. Lily fought to keep the smirk off her lips.
“Okay Lily, you can talk now,” James sighed, and ran a hand through his hair, “just don’t move anything else.”
Lily relaxed her face and grinned, “You worked pretty fast there. My face better not be one giant, hurried smudge.”
Remus leaned over, glanced at the paper, and then shook his head, “Nah, you’re good. He did it right.”
“Well done, you,” she congratulated him.
Sirius sat up, apparently bored with throwing the ball, and glanced uninterestedly at James’ work as well. “Are you going to the party, Lily?”
“Yeah, me and my family. My sister is coming too,” Lily wrinkled her nose at the thought of Petunia, “are you bringing anyone?”
“Ella,” he said simply.
“Oh, so you finally wrote her back, did you?” Remus asked, chuckling.
Sirius looked affronted, “Yes I did. I owled her last night, and she sent her reply this morning. Said she’d love to. And that she’d just finished sealing a howler and was very relieved she didn’t have to send it.”
Remus burst out laughing, and Lily giggled. “A howler?”
“Oh yeah, she sends them all the time,” Sirius said dismissively, “she thinks I’m dead if I don’t write to her every month or so.”
“Well that’s quite understandable,” Lily said, “I wouldn’t be so nice as to send a howler. You’d be getting envelopes full of curses from me.”
Sirius gulped, “Why you evil little prefect.”
“I sent him a biting envelope once,” Remus reminisced fondly, “it repeatedly mauled him until he sat down to write a reply.”
“That thing is demonic,” Sirius shuddered, “it lives under my bed now. Bites me now and again if it’s feeling particularly energetic.”
Remus laughed, “Remember when it decided your reply wasn’t grammatically advanced enough, and tore it to shreds? Then made you write a new one?”
“Yes, don’t remind me.”
Lily smiled, and carefully filed the idea of a biting envelope in the ‘mischief, revenge, and cruelty’ folder of her brain. It was a small folder, but a wicked one.
James nearly tore the paper with his frenzied charcoal drawing, and Sirius snorted. “Careful, mate, you may want to be a bit more enthusiastic.”
“Yeah Prongs,” Remus drawled, “it’s as if you’re tired of it or something. Show some effort.”
James gave them both an incredibly rude hand gesture, and Lily’s body shook with laughter.
Peter, who had been sulking in the grass ever since Sirius’ threat, chose to speak up again. “How long does this usually take, James?”
Sirius fingered his wand, and looked at Remus, “Does that count as whining?”
Remus shook his head ruefully. James ran his hand through his hair distractedly, “Er, five hours? Six? Sometimes more or less.”
“Are you kidding?” Peter exclaimed. Then he caught the gleeful look on Sirius’ face, and hastened to fix his mistake, “Er, that’s great! You spend so much time on it . . . ”
“Nice cover,” Lily said dryly.
“How many hours has it been?” Peter asked.
Sirius checked his watch, “Two.”
Lily waited, hoping desperately that the shortest marauder would say something whiny to incriminate himself, but she was out of luck. Peter, apparently, had more wits about him than she realized. He kept his mouth, turned downwards in a frown, firmly closed.
Remus sat up, “I’ll go with you for food if you want, Pete. We can get some for everybody. It’s nearly lunch anyways.”
“Hear, hear,” Sirius said enthusiastically, though he chose not to move from his lazy position on the grass.
Peter’s eyes shone, “Really? Right, let’s go.”
James glanced up from his work, his glasses slightly askew and his eyes crazed, “Can you get me coffee?”
“Yeah, sure Prongs,” Remus shot him a sympathetic look, “did you forget this morning?”
James didn’t respond clearly, though Lily thought she could hear him mumble ‘not enough’ as he worked frantically on a piece of the drawing. Remus and Peter shrugged, mystified, and then began moving towards the path.
“Oi!” Sirius called after them, “ice cream please!”
Peter gave him the thumbs up, and then disappeared through the clump of trees with Remus.
Lily bit back a smile.
“What?” Sirius asked, noticing her upturned lips.
“Oh, nothing,” Lily’s grin became more pronounced, “is Peter always like that?”
“Yeah,” Sirius chuckled, “since the day I met him. The bloke is never happy with what he’s got. So we just abuse him a bit and he lays off.”
“Pickles,” James muttered distractedly through the cloud of charcoal dust that seemed to swirl around him.
Lily had to stop herself from tilting her head curiously. Sirius explained with a wicked, gleeful smirk on his face, “Pete’s got a fear of pickles, so we keep a jar handy in the dorm. If he complains to much, we stuff one in any orifice we can reach.”
She gasped, turned red, and tried to choke down her laughter. “You wouldn’t!”
“We do,” Sirius said proudly, “did it the last day of term, didn’t we Prongs? He nearly missed the train because it took an hour to get it out.”
James didn’t respond. He was so immersed in the drawing Lily was surprised he remembered to occasionally breathe.
“Ah well,” Sirius glanced out over the creek, his gray eyes filled with warmth, “he’s a funny one. Half the time he whines just to make us laugh.”
At least there was one reason that Peter Pettigrew was included with the famous three. If nothing else, he supplied ample comic relief. Lily’s sides ached from trying not to laugh at Peter’s ceaseless whining.
Sirius lay back in the grass, the picture of nonchalance, and resumed throwing the muggle baseball into the air. Lily stayed quite still, and watched James for a moment. The messy-haired, bespectacled boy appeared highly agitated. He scrubbed the paper with an eraser so often that Lily was surprised there weren’t holes burnt through the clipboard.
“You alright, James?”
He nodded, not bothering to speak, and erased yet another part of the drawing. Lily sighed.
“You seem a little tense.”
He shrugged, a distasteful expression on his face, “It’s charcoal.”
Two words, and then he went back to drawing like a madman. Lily gave up. James had days where the conversation flowed as easily as Rosmerta’s meade in the Three Broomsticks, and he also had days where it took every ounce of his concentration to complete the task at hand. She was learning that this had a direct correlation to the amount of caffeine circulating his bloodstream.
She looked back over the creek, trying to resume the intense, brooding expression James had asked her to adopt earlier. As much as she hated to admit it, she did love James’ artistic style. The pose he had put her in seemed natural, effortless, and would undoubtedly translate exquisitely on paper. Lily felt beautiful as she stood there, against the tree, thumbs hooked in the pockets of her jeans.
The silence was comfortable, and Lily began thinking of the other poses she would put James in. She knew she wanted to draw him laughing at some point, because he was his most handsome when his hazel eyes were crinkled up and twinkling with mirth. For the full body, she should probably do something that emphasized his height and thinness. James was quite fit, and she intended on exploiting this fact to make her portfolio look better.
“Lily, are your jeans too big for you?” James asked suddenly.
Lily started, “Why?”
“Because I can’t get it right,” he replied, frustrated, “I know you’re much slimmer than my drawing is showing.”
Lily grimaced, “Er, yeah, they’re a bit big. Could you . . . I don’t know, show the bagginess or something?”
James held his drawing in front of him and squinted his eyes, as if trying to get a different perspective of it. “Maybe. Show more folds, or something?”
“Well,” Lily hesitated, and glanced at Sirius, “do you remember our figure drawing exercises last year? When Mrs. Briarwood made us draw each other for like, a month?”
“Alright, well the trick was to draw the figure as if you couldn’t see the clothes first. Remember? If you draw the accurate proportions, then no matter how you draw the clothes – unless they’re truly awful – the person shouldn’t look any different.”
There was a moment of quiet, and then Sirius let out a great bark of laughter, “Yeah, obviously the trick is to picture her starkers, Prongs!”
“It’s the truth!” Lily insisted, refusing to be embarrassed, “figures come out looking misshapen and weird unless you get the anatomy right first. Clothes are secondary – you add them according to the solid proportions.”
Naturally, Sirius could not contain his laughter. James looked a bit red around the ears. “So imagine you . . . without the jeans, and then add them, and it’ll look right?”
“Yes,” Lily refused to be immature about this, “come on, don’t you remember Mrs. Briarwood telling us this?”
James nodded furiously, though there was no denying the blush creeping up his cheeks. Sirius chucked the baseball at him, laughing, “Go on, James! Pretend her jeans were disillusioned!”
Lily kept a straight face. “Go on. I don’t mind.”
James shot Sirius a dirty look, and then sighed and looked down at the clipboard. He grabbed an eraser and a pencil, and began fixing the anatomy.
Every time his hazel eyes flickered beneath her waist, Lily felt nervous. Although there was nothing but concentration and technicalities reflected in his glasses, she was still uncomfortable. She had essentially just given a boy permission to imagine her naked for the next four hours - while she stood and did nothing about it.
Sirius could find nothing not amusing in the situation, and kept snickering. James seemed to be able to ignore him, but the blush did not fade from his cheeks for a good half an hour. Lily stayed very still, eyes straight ahead.
“Erm,” James coughed, “do you know your proportions?”
“Seven and a half heads precisely,” Lily responded automatically.
Sirius sniggered, “What does that mean?”
“It means that her height is equal to seven and a half of her heads,” James replied, “Mine is nearly eight. I’m stretched out. Yours is probably seven and a half too.”
“And Peter’s is five and a half,” Sirius said sensibly.
Lily had to hide her laughter with a well-delivered coughing fit. James shot her a knowing look.
“I don’t know how you do it, Prongs,” Sirius yawned and threw the baseball into the air again, “I’d go crazy if I spent all my summers imagining pretty girls without their clothes on.”
Lily felt herself blush this time. James rolled his eyes, “Isn’t that all you do anyways?”
“No,” Sirius said, pretending to be outraged, “sometimes I think about motorbikes.”
“Well at least you have variety,” James remarked, glancing up at Lily again, and then back down at the paper.
Sirius smirked to himself, retrieved the baseball, and continued chucking it into the air. Lily felt as though she was being x-rayed by James’ unnervingly intense stare.
After a short while, in which Lily stayed absolutely still, James pretended he wasn’t blushing and worked on the drawing frenziedly, and Sirius oozed apathy, Remus and Peter returned.
“Guys! Guys!” Peter shouted as he tripped through the trees, red faced and sweating, and hurried to the little group, “you’ll never guess what happened!”
Remus followed, his expression amused, and set a few bags on the ground. “Peter had a first today,” he explained, smiling.
“A first?” Sirius jumped up to pick through the bags, “which first? The naughty kind? ”
Peter beamed, “I think I love her!”
“Who?” Sirius asked, handing James a full cup of coffee. James glanced up, saw it, snatched it, and drank half of it in one enormous gulp. When his face appeared again he looked significantly happier.
“The girl at the ice cream shop!” Peter exclaimed happily.
Lily vaguely remembered the teenage girl who worked at Henrietta’s Ice Cream Parlor. She had short blond hair, a few spots, and a big, bright smile. The simpering sort that would fall all over themselves at the very sight of Sirius Black or James Potter.
Remus coughed, “She, er, saw us and was very . . . friendly.”
Sirius, who was in mid-lick of his ice cream cone, waggled his eyebrows, “How friendly? Was she cute?”
“She was beautiful,” Peter breathed.
“She was alright,” Remus amended, “and she was very keen on us.”
“I know the one you’re talking about,” James said suddenly, “blonde? Acne?”
Sirius wrinkled his nose at the mention of acne, and returned his full attention to his ice cream cone. Remus nodded, “That’s the one.”
“And Peter’s in love with her?”
“Er, yes,” Remus’s brown eyes danced with amusement, “Peter, I think you dropped a bag over in the trees. Where’s your pastries?”
Peter, who had been gazing longingly back towards the ice cream shop, jumped. He looked around, and then hurried back through the clump of trees.
“Actually, she didn’t like him at all,” Remus whispered quickly, struggling not to laugh, “she was all over me. Gave me free ice cream and all. Told me to come around whenever I wanted. Even gave me this.”
He held out a slip of paper with a series of digits on it. Lily, through a corner glance, recognized a telephone number.
“But Pete took it the wrong way,” Remus continued happily, “thought it was all for him. The girl couldn’t stand him!”
Sirius and James roared with laughter. Lily couldn’t help but laugh too. Poor Peter – the soppy look on his face was priceless.
“She told me not to bring my dumpy friend the next time I visited,” Remus’ shoulders shook with laughter, “but to bring any cute ones I may have.”
Sirius fell over, laughing hysterically. Even James, who had abandoned his drawing for his coffee, had trouble keeping a grip on himself.
Peter returned, holding a paper sack, the far-away expression still in his watery blue eyes. “What are you lot laughing about?”
“Oh nothing,” Remus smiled, “here, Pete, I found your sandwich.”
Sirius, gasping with laughter, propped himself on his elbows, “We should use this to our advantage. Tomorrow. Let’s bring him along and have fun with it.”
James nodded, “Oh definitely.”
“Do what?” Peter asked, confused.
“Take you back to your girlfriend,” Remus said promptly.
“Oh,” Peter smiled lovingly, “alright.”
The other three marauders exchanged gleeful expressions, and Lily could sense the mischievous energy between them. Poor Peter. She didn’t like him, and didn’t mind that he was usually the butt of their jokes, but this seemed a bit sad.
Hysterically funny, but a bit sad too.
“Lily, you in?” Sirius asked.
She thought about it. Either she could decline and hear all about Peter’s failure at a later time, or she could simply accompany them and witness the comedy firsthand.
“I’m in,” she decided.
James picked up his clipboard, his coffee gone, and attacked the drawing with renewed vigor. Remus glanced at his progress as he chewed on his sandwich.
“Oh no!” Peter dropped his sandwich suddenly, “they put tomatoes on it!”
Sirius sat up quickly, like a dog that had spotted a squirrel, and fingered his wand. “Really?”
“Yes!” Peter threw the wrappings sulkily, “now it’s all soggy! I can’t eat -”
But before Peter Pettigrew had finished his complaint, Sirius flicked his wand and Peter found himself hurtling head-first through the air. He landed in the creek with a deafening splash. Water droplets sprayed the marauders, and Lily felt a couple droplets hit her face. James yelped and protected his drawing.
They all burst out laughing at the sight of poor Peter, sitting in the creek with the water up to his chest, a thoroughly peeved expression on his face.
“I told you, Pete!” Sirius howled, “I told you I’d throw you in if you whined one more time!”
Peter gave him one, dignified sniff, which was pointless as he was sitting, looking like a drowned rat, in the middle of the creek.
Remus chucked the offensive sandwich in after him, and the Marauders collapsed into laughter once more.
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