Chapter 12 : Ultimate Challenge
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“Let me get this straight….” Scarlet said, staring at me incredulously. “You snuck down to the kitchens, with Potter. You stole firewhiskey, with Potter. And now we’re about to drink said firewhiskey in his dorm, with Potter?”
“Not to mention you did this all willingly,” Anna giggled, leaning back against my bedpost. We were sitting on my bed in the dorms and I had come up to ask them if they wanted to drink with the Marauders tonight.
The other two girls in our year, Mary McDonald and Margaux Littleton kept shooting jealous glances our way, as if they wished the Marauders had invited them to join the festivities, too. Why on earth did girls find them so fascinating?
“I think we may have underestimated you, Lily,” Scarlet smiled, hopping off her bed and slipping her feet into her shoes.
I scowled at her playfully. “Your lack of faith is insulting. You should know by now that once I’ve made up my mind about something, I see it through.”
“Apparently,” Anna chuckled, grabbing my arm and pulling me down the stairs after her.
“Won’t the stairs turn into a slide if we try going up?” Scarlet asked as we stared up at the boys’ staircase.
“That’s only for the girls’,” Anna said and Scarlet and I both turned to look at her.
“You’re forgetting that I used to date David Corwin,” Anna rolled her eyes and Scarlet and I giggled quietly.
“Brilliant!” Scarlet breathed, pulling me up the stairs behind her. “Now we can sneak in and put flobberworms in Potter’s bed.”
“What are you putting in my bed?” Potter’s head popped up from behind his bed as we entered the large circular dorm room that was identical to ours.
“Because if it doesn’t involve women or some especially delicious cakes we’re really not that interested,” Sirius poked his head over the bed too and I let out a laugh at the sight of them.
“I’m going to go ahead and assume that you two have already started drinking?” I looked over to Remus who confirmed my suspicions with a small nod.
Sirius and Potter hopped off the floor and settled themselves on one of the beds.
“Move over, Black,” Scarlet squished herself between Sirius and James on the bed, snatching the bottle of firewhiskey from Sirius’s hands and pressing it to her lips.
“Well, someone’s eager to get smashed,” Sirius grumbled, trying to grab the bottle back from Scarlet but she held it just out of reach.
Potter smiled at me from where he sat and stretched out his arm, offering me the bottle he was holding in his hand. His eyes were playful, slightly unfocused yet mischievous all the same.
I grabbed the bottle and pressed it to my lips, the scent of the firewhiskey hitting me before I’d even tasted the liquid. The whiskey burned slightly as it went down but it wasn’t unpleasant like I thought it would be.
“Shall we start, then?” Sirius asked, finally succeeding in snatching his bottle back from Scarlet.
“Haven’t we already started?” I asked, confused as I lowered the bottle from my lips and handed it back to Potter.
“I wasn’t talking about drinking,” Sirius sighed as if I was missing something very obvious.
“We’re going to play a little of the classic Never-Have-I-Ever,” Remus informed me as I perched on the arm of the chair he was sitting in.
“Isn’t that a little…cliché?” Anna asked, smirking as Potter handed her a glass of the firewhiskey.
“How dare you. The Marauders are never cliché,” Potter replied, feigning offense as he absently handed me a glass of firewhiskey.
“We just thought it would be a good way to get…er, better acquainted,” Sirius smiled and Scarlet rolled her eyes.
“Because clearly the best way to get to know each other better is by listing off our various misdemeanors,” Scarlet scoffed, but she smiled nonetheless. If there was one thing Scarlet loved, it was bragging about the scandalous things she’d done.
“It sounds stupid,” I said, taking a drink from my glass and Sirius and Potter both looked at me like I’d grown an extra head.
“You only say its stupid because you haven’t done anything worth bragging about,” Potter challenged me and I stared him down.
“That’s far from true,” I replied, but deep down I couldn’t help but worry a little that no matter what I had actually done throughout my life, there was no way it could rival the Marauders.
“Then what are you so afraid of?” Potter smirked at me, raising one devilish eyebrow.
I glowered at him as Scarlet and Anna exchanged grins. I bet they were just waiting for me to bail out, but that wasn’t going to happen. I said I’d lighten up this year, and that’s exactly what I’d do.
“Fine,” I shrugged nonchalantly and Potter’s mouth curved up in a smile.
“Need me to go over the rules for you, Evans?” Potter simpered at me and I frowned at him.
“I’m not an complete dolt, Potter, I know how the game is played,” I said as calmly as I could and Remus chuckled next to me.
“Just checking…” Potter shrugged, a smile still playing at his lips. “Padfoot, you want to start?”
“Alright, never have I ever… er, gotten in trouble with the Muggle police,” Sirius screwed up his face in concentration. I suspected there wasn’t much that Sirius Black hadn’t done, I was surprised he could think of anything at all…
All the Marauders turned to look at Potter who sheepishly took a drink from his bottle of firewhiskey. Anna, Scarlet and I left our drinks untouched.
“Got yourself arrested, did you?” I grinned, amused at the thought of him getting carted off in handcuffs.
“Not exactly…” Potter mumbled and I was surprised that he actually seemed embarrassed about this. “Over the summer I was, er, spending some quality time with a girl from my town and we were, erm, interrupted by the authorities.”
Anna let out a laugh and Scarlet giggled as Sirius chuckled appreciatively. I however, remained un-amused. Of course Potter would get busted hooking up with some scollywop. I should have seen that one coming.
Urgh, there was no way I was going to beat him at this game…
“Alright, alright, moving on,” Potter mumbled, his cheeks tinged with pink. Did that seriously embarrass him? I didn’t think it was possible to embarrass the Quidditch King…
“Never have I ever: cheated on an exam,” Potter said quickly, trying to change the subject.
Peter took a small drink from his glass and we all stared at him.
“Peter! What have you cheated on?” Remus scolded, surprise written all over his face at his friend. Everyone knew the Marauders were smart, no one would expect any of them to cheat, even Peter.
“The History of Magic O.W.L. last year… I couldn’t remember the goblin representative in the 14th century wizarding council and I just… panicked,” Peter stuttered, staring hard at his glass of firewhiskey.
“Eargit the Ugly?” I blurted without thinking. “That’s easy though. What I do when I’m studying is make an anagram of the name and… ” I trailed off as all the eyes in the room turned towards me incredulously.
Scarlet was near to tears from trying to suppress her laughter and I felt my cheeks burn red with embarrassment. So much for giving up the nerd act… yikes.
“Anyways, Peter, who did you cheat off of?” I said quickly trying to change the subject from my explosion of nerdiness.
“Well, actually I kind of cheated off you, Lily,” Peter mumbled and my mouth dropped open. Sirius choked on his drink and Anna and Scarlet dissolved into fits of laughter.
“Peter!” I scolded him as he ashamedly hung his head. And then a laugh escaped my lips, because even though I should have been furious that he cheated off me, it was rather funny.
“Never thought I’d see the day when Evans actually laughed when someone confesses to cheating off her on an exam,” Potter chuckled, shaking his head in disbelief.
“I’ll drink to that,” Sirius said cheerfully clinking his glass against Potter’s.
“You have got to stop underestimating me,” I growled, rolling my eyes at them.
“Alright, my turn,” Anna announced. “Never have I ever fallen asleep during a lesson.”
All of the Marauders and Scarlet took drinks from their glasses and mine stayed firmly grasped in my hand. I was starting to get frustrated with myself. When was someone going to say something that I’d actually done?
I wanted to drink, damnit!
“Evans, you’re up,” Sirius nodded towards me and I let out a sigh, trying to think of something. I knew there was a lot I hadn’t done yet, but for some reason I was drawing a massive blank…
“Any day now,” Peter muttered when after a minute I still hadn’t said anything.
“Patience, Wormy, she’s got a lot of non-experiences to choose from,” Potter smirked, goading me.
I gave him my best death glare.
“Never have I ever streaked naked across the grounds,” I shrugged, blurting out the first thing that comes to mind.
The Marauders once again raised their glasses and Anna’s mouth popped open in surprise.
“You didn’t…” Anna said, staring at them in awe.
“Last spring,” Remus confirmed, looking slightly embarrassed to have been involved at all. “Alright, Peter, time for your usual stand-by.”
Peter sighed and glared at his friend.
“Fine. Never have I ever hooked up with anyone in a classroom,” Peter recited. “Go ahead everyone, drink.”
The remaining Marauders took a drink, what a shock. Anna, Scarlet, and I took small sips from our drinks and Potter’s eyes lingered on me briefly before turning to Remus.
“Never have I ever been caught snogging in a broom closet,” Remus said. Anna, Sirius, and Potter all took a drink and the latter noticed that my glass was still on the table.
“So you hook up in classrooms but not broom closets? Too dusty for her highness?” Potter said, narrowing his eyes at me.
“Who says I don’t hook up in broom closets? I’ve just never been caught…” I said and Potter glared at me. Two can play at this game, Potter.
“Touché, Evans,” Sirius sniggered. “Alright. Never have I ever cheated or been cheated on in a relationship.”
I froze, my fingers automatically twitching towards my drink. Anna and Scarlet glanced warily in my direction, but I left my drink on the table. I was breaking the rules of the game by lying, but there was no way in hell I was about to tell the Marauders what happened.
Anna quickly took a drink when the Marauders noticed our exchange and she was accompanied by Potter. My eyes lingered on him. Scarlet and I knew that Anna was only covering for me, but Potter? Had he cheated on someone? Or was it the other way around?
I was about to ask, but before I had even opened my mouth, Scarlet chimed in with a new statement.
“Never have I ever gone all the way with someone,” Scarlet said and my stomach clenched. Maybe this game was a bad idea after all…
Scarlet and I left our drinks on the table while Anna took a small sip along with half the Marauders. Go ahead, guess which half.
Potter stared at me as I folded my arms resolutely across my chest.
“Never got down and dirty with Winchester?” Potter smirked at me, his eyes bright with understanding. “Is that the reason you never talk about him? You wouldn’t sleep with him and he ditched you?”
“That’s not the reason,” I said lightly, but I’m sure he could see the annoyance in my eyes. I wished he would just drop it. Why was he so insistent on this topic? Anna and Scarlet glanced warily between Potter and I, not knowing if they should intervene.
“Alright, moving on,” Remus said loudly, catching onto my reluctance towards the subject. “Anna, its your turn I think.”
“Well, what is the reason then?” Potter pressed, ignoring Remus.
“The reason’s not important. Drop it,” I said tensely but my voice broke and it gave me away. One of the corners of Potter’s mouth turned up in a victorious smile.
“Is that why you never dated Hogwarts boys before?” Potter continued. “Afraid they’d find out you’re a prude in the bedroom?”
That stung. I knew he’d meant it as a joke, but his words were cruel. My brain snapped and I jumped out of my seat, my hands still clenched at my side. I wanted to hex him, to make him feel as much pain as he was making me feel, but my wand was unfortunately in my bedroom. Stupid Potter, sitting there smirking because he thought he’d got me all figured out.
“James, stop,” Scarlet said furiously and Potter glanced over at her. Scarlet and Anna were both on their feet now, too and Potter was taken aback by their reaction.
“Oh come on, I’m just teasing,” Potter rolled his eyes and then turned back to me. “I thought you going to lighten up this year.”
“That doesn’t mean I’m just going to stand by while you have a go at me,” I said crossly, scowling at him.
“Maybe we should play a different game, or go to the kitchens and nab some food,” Remus said quietly to Sirius and Peter and the three quickly headed towards the door.
“No, stay,” I said forcefully, crossing my arms. “I’ll go. I wouldn’t want to spoil the party.”
I shot an angry look at Potter again who was still seated on the bed, his eyes wide with surprise at our reactions to his words. I turned on my heel and headed towards the stairs, slamming their door behind me.
I sighed and leaned back against the door, trying to calm myself down. I had let myself over-react, something I’d been trying not to do so much anymore. But how was it that Potter just knew the exact thing to say that would set me off?
“James Potter, you great, tactless, toe-rag!” I heard Scarlet’s shrill voice ring out of the silence followed by sniggers from the other Marauders. I was sure Scarlet had just whacked Potter on the head, as was her custom, and the thought made me smile slightly.
“Ouch, what’d you hit me for?” Potter whined, my suspicions confirmed.
“You know very well what I hit you for,” Scarlet’s stern voice filled the room and even through the thick wooden door I could hear every word she said. “Why on earth would you say something like that to Lily?”
“I didn’t think she’d get that upset,” Potter grumbled and I scowled into the darkness of the stairwell.
“You didn’t think at all!” Anna huffed.
“Ugh, thanks, mum,” Potter muttered.
“Listen up, Potter,” Scarlet said forcefully and I pressed my ear to the door, listening harder. “Lily’s got enough things to deal with without you constantly harping on her about Alex. Leave it alone, all right? If she wants to talk about it, she’ll talk about it. But you know her well enough to know that if she doesn’t want to do something, there’s no way in hell she’ll do it. And that includes going out with you, because honestly you’re an arrogant git who doesn’t deserve her.”
“Fine,” I heard Potter mumble and I could almost just picture him shrinking back onto the bed away from Scarlet. She could be quite terrifying when she was mad, despite her normally bubbly personality.
I stepped away from the door, not in the mood to listen anymore. So much for a fun night of blowing off steam with the Marauders…
Stupid Potter… he really was trying to make it impossible for us to get along. I wasn’t sure I could even pretend to like him after tonight.
And so much for our truce… Scarlet was right, we couldn’t even make it through the week.
I descended the stairs, and was glad that the common room was empty. The few sips of firewhiskey I had were starting to make my brain feel fuzzy and I needed something to sober me up a bit before going to sleep. Plus, Potter’s words were clunking around in my head and I doubted I’d be able to sleep anyways.
I stepped lightly across the floor of my dorm, making sure not to wake up Margaux and Mary who were fast asleep. I grabbed my Charms book off my trunk and hurried back out the door.
Anna and Scarlet met me coming down the stairs and we paused in the middle of the staircase.
“Are you alright?” Scarlet asked, her eyes flitting down the book in my hands.
“I’m fine,” I muttered, running a hand through my messy hair with my free hand.
“Are you sure?” Anna asked, concern pulling her eyebrows together. “You’ve got your Charms book… you always read your Charms book when you’re upset.”
I let out a small laugh, realizing that she was kind of right.
“James was a complete git for saying that stuff,” Scarlet said.
“Well, he was right, wasn’t he?” I growled, staring down the dark staircase.
“Stop that,” Scarlet said in a hard voice. “You know that’s not true.”
I sighed heavily and glanced over at her. “I know… I just—I think I need to be alone for a bit, if that’s alright.”
“Of course,” Anna nodded, tugging on Scarlet’s sleeve. “See you in the morning.”
I slid past them down the stairs and sank down on the couch.
Why on earth did I let Potter get to me like that? And what was his problem? He was perfectly fine when we were swiping whiskey and all of a sudden he turns into this nosy, cruel monster of a boy hell-bent on tearing me down.
I jumped when I heard the creak of a door from the boys’ staircase and turned swiftly towards the sound. I could see the shadow of a figure descending the staircase but I sighed in relief when it was only Remus.
“Hi, Remus,” I acknowledged, turning back to the fireplace and cracking open my book.
Remus wandered around the couch, taking a seat tentatively next to me.
“James is kind of an idiot, you know,” Remus said conversationally and I turned towards him, narrowing my eyes. “But… he feels really bad about what just happened.”
“Then why isn’t he down here apologizing?” I grumbled, staring over at the stairs to the boys’ dorm.
“Would you have listened to him?” Remus raised his eyebrows at me.
“No, probably not,” I conceded. “But he shouldn’t send you to apologize for him.”
“He didn’t send me to do anything,” Remus said pointedly. “I came down here on my own.”
“How’d you know I’d be here?” I asked him, peering sideways at him.
“Come on, Lily. Whenever you’re upset, you read your Charms book,” Remus nudged me playfully in my side and I bit back a smile.
“How on earth did you know that?” I asked, closing my Charms book, still trying to suppress a smile. Remus had such a calming presence about him that it was hard not to feel at ease sitting next to him, even though I still suspected he was here on Potter’s behalf.
“Come on,” Remus cocked his head to the side. “I’ve known you for five years and we spent a lot of time together during patrols last year.”
I bit my lip, remembering with chagrin that we wouldn’t be doing patrols together anymore.
“I’m sorry about that, by the way,” Remus said quietly, playing with a tear in his robes. “The whole Prefect thing… If I had known Dumbledore was going to replace me with James, well… you know I wouldn’t have done that to you on purpose.”
“I was really surprised when Potter told me you’d given up the post,” I looked over at him sincerely. “I was kind of sad, you know? I liked having you as the other Prefect.”
“I know, I really liked working with you,” Remus said earnestly and then bit his lip.
I nodded slowly. “So why did you give it up?”
Remus hesitated, his eyes flitting to my curious face and back to his robes.
“It just got to be too much,” he admitted, keeping his eyes down. “With school and homework and… everything else. I was a little overwhelmed.”
“You did seem awfully tired most of the time,” I agreed, remembering the way Remus had the constant appearance of never having gotten enough sleep.
I chewed my bottom lip for a moment and then looked back over at Remus. “Can I ask you something?”
He glanced up at me warily and nodded.
“Why does Potter pick on me all the time?” I asked quietly, staring down at my hands. “I mean, one minute we’ll get along fine and the next… well, you saw what happened. It’s like he knows the exact thing to say that’ll get right under my skin. I don’t understand it.”
To my surprise, Remus laughed but stopped abruptly when he saw my serious face.
“I’m sorry,” Remus held back a smile. “It’s just… we all think its rather funny, the way you two carry on.”
“I don’t see what’s so funny about it,” I muttered, crossing my arms.
“No I guess you wouldn’t,” Remus laughed softly. “It’s just… James has said the exact same thing about you. You really get under his skin sometimes… the way you went off on him last June for example.”
“Well, he deserved that,” I grumbled, but Remus ignored me.
“Look, I’m going to try to explain this to you the best I can,” Remus said, a smile tugging at his mouth.
I stared at him, folding my legs underneath me as I waited.
“You know what people think of James—other people, not you—They…. Well, they adore him,” Remus shrugged while I scowled. It was true though. Everyone loved James Potter.
“Well, I think James was a bit unnerved when you weren’t immediately taken by him in first year, like everyone else,” Remus said, a smile still tugging on the corners of him mouth.
“Well, what’s not to love,” I muttered and Remus rolled his eyes.
“And then, not only did you not like him, but you were smarter than him, something he definitely didn’t expect,” Remus said and I let myself smile in satisfaction.
“Don’t you get it, Lily?” Remus stared at me like the answer was obvious. I stared blankly back at him. “James is intimidated by you.”
“Intimidated by me?” I repeated skeptically. Intimidated, my arse.
“You’re the first person who’s challenged him,” Remus said, leaning forward slightly. “The other girls here… they’re nice and all but no one’s ever pushed James to be anything but what he is—which is great, don’t get me wrong. I love James like a brother and wouldn’t change him for the world. But when he’s around you… its like you flip a switch in his brain. Suddenly, he’s not charming enough; He’s not smart enough, he doesn’t have good enough manners, nothing he does is good enough… For Merlin’s sake, he actually studies for the classes you two have together, because he finally has competition—Someone to impress. To him, you’re like the ultimate challenge.”
“So let me guess,” I sighed, Remus’s words still sinking in. “He asks me out constantly because if I ever were to say yes, that means he’s won. And that’s exactly why I can never say yes to him… because I’m nothing more than that to him: a challenge.”
“Lily, you’re not just some girl he wants to cross off a list,” Remus said exasperatedly. “The other guys and I have talked about this… We’ve never seen anyone captivate his attention like you do. And we don’t think he’s realized exactly why that is.”
“And you have?” I asked flatly, staring towards the fire. I could see where this was heading and I was in no mood to hear it.
“He’s genuinely interested in you,” Remus said forcefully.
“You said I frustrate him, get under his skin. It doesn’t sound like he’s interested, it sounds like I annoy the shit out of him,” I reminded him pointedly.
“Of course you do, beyond belief,” Remus scoffed. “Merlin’s beard, you should hear him after you two have had a row.”
“What’s your point, Remus?” I asked, looking down at my hands.
“The point is, James says stupid things. All the time,” Remus sighed. “Mostly to you… we like to call it word-vomit.”
I held back a smile at the term and let Remus continue.
“I just thought I would help you understand him a bit, seeing as you two will be doing patrols together this year,” Remus said, pushing himself off the couch and heading around the back towards the boys’ dorm. “And all the joking and picking on you that he does… I don’t think you realize just how your mere presence affects him. That switch you flip in his brain? Well, apparently it also controls the word-vomit.”
I turned around on the sofa, resting my elbows on the back of the couch.
“What am I supposed to do with this information?” I asked, shaking my head at him. “I still don’t understand why you’ve told me all this.”
Remus bit his lip, thinking for a moment before leaning over the couch next to me.
“Just… we don’t want him to get hurt, when he figures all this out on his own,” Remus finally said, looking earnestly into my eyes. “I know you don't like him, and that's perfectly understandable... so when he does realize what’s going on, just try and let him down easy, will you?”
“Figures what out?” I asked, confused.
“’Night, Lily,” Remus said quietly, leaning forward and pressing his lips to the top of my head before hurrying up the steps.
“Figures what out, Remus!” I called after him, but I heard the door close up the stairs.
I reached my hand up, my fingers touching the spot he’d just kissed and I twisted myself back towards the fire, sinking down even lower into the couch.
Did Potter actually find me intimidating? And what on earth had Remus meant “when he finally figures all this out”? Let him down easy? But he didn’t even like me… what the fuck was going on?
Ugh, this year just keeps getting more and more confusing…
A/N: Hi everyone! I finally have internet again! Hurray! And a new chapter! Double hurray! Sooo the Marauder party, yikes. What a disaster. And I knoooooow that Never-Have-I-Ever is SUPER cliche but what's a James/Lily story without a little cliche? Anyways, what did you think? Poor Lily, James can be such a butthead.
Also, don't kill me but the next two chapters are kind of short. BUT i'll promise to update them quickly if you leave me some reviews :)
So will James apologize to Lily himself, or will he keep being an idiot?
Their truce obviously didn't survive the firewhiskey, but will they try again?
Is James actually intimidated by Lily? Or did Remus just make that up?
Will people ever stop being surprised by Lily's new attitude?
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