Chapter 1 : Stop in the Name of Love (No, Really!)
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Just to reiterate – this is for Kat1394's Glee Song Challenge. The song in question, which has largely inspired write this piece is Stop! In the Name of Love/Free Your Mind. Enjoy!
“I'm doomed! Condemned to failing! Predestined to fail miserably! Ruined before I even start! There is absolutely no point in existing any longer knowing how badly I am certain to fail!”
“Prongs, I never knew you were such a poetic drunk.” Sirius Black leaned casually against the back of his chair, folding his arms so that he could rest his unshaven chin on his forearm so as to better survey the man beside him, who had indeed grown steadily more imaginative in describing how much he was utterly screwed with each shot that was placed before him. He was no stranger to blokes who poured their souls the minute they sat down in front of a bar, but he had never been so strongly invested in the well being of these sorry-looking men. But Prongs – more commonly know to the world at large as one James Potter – was his best mate. And mates didn't let mates apparate smashed, which meant even if he had wanted to abandon this strange, distraught James in favour of friendlier company and his own bottle of liquor back at his flat, his damnable conscience wouldn't let him.
He was stuck, but that didn't mean he wasn't going to get some entertainment out of this. “Honestly, mate – your bringing tears to my eyes. You should bottle that whine.”
James fixed him with the harshest glare he could manage; not as effective as it could be, as his current inebriated state made it seem like he was actually intent on staring down someone just beyond Sirius' right shoulder. “Shaddup, Padfoot – Can't you see I'm in pain! I'm having a moral dilemma and you don't even care!”
“Hey, I care!” Somewhat affronted, Sirius tilted his head slightly, so that he actually appeared in James' wonky line of vision. “It's just that I don't care half as much as you think I should. Because you're being a sobbing berk, and you haven’t even managed to tell me why yet. And I can't very well be interested in a crying, four-eyed, scrawny ninny who can't even handle a couple of Firewhiskies without turning into the bard of self-loathing. Just be a man and tell me whatever the hell it is so we can figure out how to fix it, you can go home to that redheaded firecracker of yours and I can salvage this night and get some tail of my own!”
“'Thas the problem!”
“What, the fact that you're a skinny four-eyed git? Glad you're finally coming to terms with it, but -”
“No, you prat – my firecracker problem!”
“Lily?” Sirius was actually taken aback at this. Sure, if this conversation had come up four years ago, he could understand – but Lily and James were hardly the fighting duo they once were. They got on fairly well now – considering not only could the two Gryffindors now stand being in the same room with each other, but there was fair evidence that they were currently sharing more than a flat. He hardly ever worried about Lily strangling him with a necktie anymore, so for them to be having some sort of problem now...
“Shit, Prongs! You didn't knock her up, did you?!”
“No!” James seemed to shake himself into a slightly more sober state at that suggestion. “Well, I mean, we have, of course we have, but – Sirius, really, it's not that!” Pausing, James seemed to be thinking very carefully about what to say next. “I want to bring our relationship to the...next level.”
“No! I'm going to...you know...'pop the question'.”
“Oh...Oh!” Sirius' face seemed to positively light up, as he shot up in his chair. A second later he slapped his hand down hard on his unsteady friend's shoulder, nearly forcing him out of his own seat. “Congratulations, mate – dibs on best man – I mean, not that you could ever find a more perfect specimen of manhood than me - ”
“But what if she says no!” James yelled over him, once again dropping into a litany of self-abuse. “I mean, she hated me – and she's still kinda leery about our ingenious plans to help out Moony and all, and we're in the middle of a war! Maybe she wouldn't want to get into anything in the middle of a war, it is pretty morbid – but I love her, so I want to try - or I wanted to - but if she says no, Padfoot – I dunno what I'll do! It'll break my heart!”
“Prongs, Prongs.” Sirius steadied James carefully, trying to garner his focus once again, and distract him from the doubt that seemed to be eating him up inside. Nobody needed that – and he was honestly afraid that if James got more worked up, he'd do something that would embarrass the both of them, more so than he had already damaged his own reputation in this particular pub. “Lil's is crazy about you – always has been, although we started with a more homicidal-crazy; we managed to turn her around, didn't we?” He waited for some sort of confirmation from his mate, but received none. “She fell for you're scrawny pale ass back in seventh year – she's already hooked! So why are you so worried about reeling her in – you propose, and she'll get all giggly and redder than she normally is, and say yes – and then you can get on with having a dozen Potter-spawn that we can corrupt for a future generations of Marauders! What can go wrong?!”
“She. Can. Say. No.” James deadpanned back, accenting each word as if he were speaking to someone very, very young. Or at least a best friend with the mentality of a ten year old. “And if she says no, then I'll feel rejected. I don't deal well with rejection – you know I don't deal well with rejection!”
“Merlin, don't I know that...” Dealing with rejection was what had lead to the endless pursuit of this particular redhead in the first place. And it had nearly driven them all around the bend – listening to his whining since fourth year. “Well, in any case – you're just going to have to make sure that your offer is one she cannot refuse!”
“We'll give her the man of her dreams!”
“The night of her life!”
“Give her every woman's fantasy!”
“And we'll do it tomorrow!”
Caught up in Sirius' impassioned promises, James' mood had lifted greatly – making him forget all about trying to drown his worries. He never knew why he had doubted himself. He was, after all, James bloody handsome Potter – former head-boy, the best damn Quidditch captain Hogwarts had seen in years, and a Marauder. How had he ever sunk so low to think that Lily – his Lily, who had always been his Lily whether she wanted to be or not – would not immediately jump at the chance to be his wife? He was ready – ready enough to jump to his feet and get started immediately.
“TOMORROW!” And with that triumphant battle cry, the intoxicated Potter pitched forward into the chest of his closest friend, who stumbled under his surprisingly heavy weight.
“Or Monday!” Sirius amended, patting a semi-conscious James on the back. “Monday would probably be better!”
It could have been hours, or it could have been a few days, for all he knew. James awoke to find himself was laying on his back on the floor, feeling fairly uncomfortable and vaguely like someone had hit him in the head with a volley of bludgers. It hurt to move, it hurt to think – hell, James was beginning to wonder if he would ever feel well enough to move again - when something large and black came bounding out of nowhere and plunked itself down firmly on his chest, crushing what little air he had managed to gather in his lungs.
“The hell.” He rasped, as the dark shadow loomed over him. It took him a moment to fully comprehend what was trying to kill him – and even then, he couldn't dislodge the shaggy animal, and was helpless as it leaned down over him and swiped a slobber-covered tongue down the centre of his face. “Bugger off, Padfoot...”
The bear-like dog of indistinguishable breed barked gleefully, causing Jame's head to throb unpleasantly. It didn't dissipate when the doggy noise turned to the booming laugh of his currently annoying, horrid excuse for a mate, who was still crouched as best a grown man could atop his ribcage.
“Merlin Prongs, I didn't even know it was possible for someone to taste like shame – get up and on the couch! Come on! Up, boy!”
“Bad dog,” James grumbled weakly. He didn't want to get up – let alone the impossibility of doing so when Sirius was on top of him. “Go. Play dead.” As soon as he could breath - and and for that matter, as soon as he could feel his legs - he was going to kick Sirius's ass.
He laughed again, taking pleasure in how James winced, and removed himself from pinning his best mate. But he didn't allow James the luxury of remaining prone on the floor – instead grabbing him beneath his arms from behind and trying to hoist him up onto the couch, which he hadn't quite made it onto the night before when Sirius had brought him back to 'sleep it off'.
“Is sleeping beauty up yet?” Another familiar voice called from an adjoining room – much louder than it probably needed to be. Why was it that everyone that morning seemed intent on torturing him? “Will his majesty be joining us for breakfast, or will they never be touching food again?”
James' stomach flipped apprehensively. “Er...thanks but no thanks, Moony.” He gulped. “I'm good.”
“More for the three of us, then!” Sirius crowed, just to see James shrink away from him as he finally propped him up on the couch. Seconds later two other young men joined them in the flat's small sitting room – Peter Pettigrew, known to those gathered a Wormtail, taking a seat beside James and Sirius on what remained of the couch. Meanwhile Remus 'Moony' Lupin had sat a tray of toast and three mugs on the coffee table, and settled in a ratty armchair across from them. James eyed Remus suspiciously, before finally spurting out the first thing that came to his mind.
“Is this an intervention?”
“Why would we want to intervene? You're way more fun when your hammered!” Sirius cooed delightedly.
“You come up with you're best ideas when you're not sober, mate!” Peter chipped in.
“Not to mention we get the special satisfaction of seeing you hung over the next day.” Remus added. “It's a two-for-one deal, really, when you think about it. Hours of enjoyment from one flawed decision.”
“Ha-ha – thank you all very much; I'm so lucky to have mates like the three of you, aren’t I?” James grumbled. “And to think, I gave up being friends with Adit Patil and Jasper McMillian to hang out with you sorry bastards; who take my intense physical and emotional pain and turned it into one big joke.”
“The feeling's mutual.” Sirius replied, slapping his hand down on the table with a loud snap that caused Peter to jump and James' head to pound. “Imagine I'd have my own following of beautiful women by now if I wasn't hanging around with you losers.”
“What'd any girl want with a mangy stray like you, Padfoot?!”
“Children,” A wry smile on his lips, Remus, acting in his traditional role of Sirius-James argument referee, held up his free hand while the other remained firmly wrapped around the warm comfort of his mug. “Please, this is not the time or place; we apparently have serious business to get down to, after which, if there is time, the Padfoot and Prongs bashing session shall reconvene without interruption.”
“There's always time for a good P and P bashing!” Peter piped up, accidentally elbowing James in the side as he flourished his arms in some sort of odd presenting gesture.
“Ooff! Watch it, Wormtail – or I vote for re-instating 'fetch the rat' as a valid activity for next full moon!”
The small, stumpy man immediately tucked both arms tightly at his sides, and Remus was allowed to continue without interruption.
“It has recently been brought to the attention of those gathered that we have a dilemma on our hands – a situation that once again involves the infatuation of one James Potter with one Lily Evans,” here, Remus paused, fixing his gaze on Sirius. “Although I'm not quite sure about the source being all that trustworthy – I mean, didn't we get this all sorted out when she stopped trying to pass that restraining order through McGonagall?”
“Same subjects, totally different dilemma.” Sirius promised, even going as far as making a small cross over his heart. “I wouldn't lie to a Marauder, Moony. I heard it straight from the horse's mouth.”
“I'm a stag, you idiot!”
“It's an expression, you prat!”
“Thank you, very much, for clearing that up – now, back to whatever it is we're supposed to be doing here...”
“You told me this wasn't an intervention!”
“Not for you being a horrible drunk it's not.” A gleeful Sirius wrapped one arm firmly around James' shoulders, stopping him from being able to so much as stagger to his yet-unsteady feet. “We're intervening in your sorry excuse for a love life!”
“Yes, thank you for that, Padfoot.” Remus butted in yet again. “ It had indeed been brought to our attention by the very same Mr. Padfoot that once again, you are acting like a, well...”
“' A Crying, soppy, moaning, sorry excuse for a man with all the sex appeal of a dead flobberworm.'” Peter finished.
“Um...yes - ” the careworn man across from James shot him an apologetic look. “That one Mr. Prongs has been acting in such a fashion has been brought into question. Although we have yet to be told why.”
“This crying, soppy, moaning, sorry excuse for a man with all the sex appeal of a dead flobberworm wants to propose, but he's convinced his loving Lilyflower's going to trample all over his love-struck heart before feeding it to the hippogriff of rejection again.” Sirius added in a rush.
Before James could even open his mouth to speak, he felt the suspicious feeling that Remus and Peter had suddenly become intent on watching him. He knew he should say something – defend himself – but what came out was; “The 'hippogriff of rejection?'”
“You're not the only one with a poetic soul, Prongs.”
“That's honestly it?” Remus muttered. “Honestly – you wanting to propose gets Sirius bringing you back here half-conscious and insisting we need to host some sort of Marauder tribunal? At seven in the morning? When I could be sleeping? Congratulations and all that Prongs – but I think I should go before in my sleepless state I decide it'd be best to murder you all for keeping me up.” The tall Marauder made as if to get up. “Just – wake me up if I have to be fitted for a suit or something...”
Peter's reaction was completely different. “You're getting married?! Merlin, Prongs – I thought you and Padfoot would always end up just living with each other for the rest of your lives!”
“Excuse me?!” Sirius barked. “Pete, you better not have told anyone else about your little me and James fantasy! If I've lost out on any dates because you made the girls believe that Prongs and I are some sort of couple - ”
“I CAN'T DO IT!” James shriek – realizing too late that doing so was going to send him reeling in pain, but at the same time desperate to make himself heard over other three men. His senses were coming back, and with them, the realization that this was both a really, really bad idea that he shouldn't have voiced in the first place, and that he must have been insane to even contemplate the idea of asking the woman he loved to marry him. “I'm just...I not – Sirius is right, Lily'll just say no and then she'll feed my heart to that bloody hippogriff of whatever-the-hell and I can't go through with that now, or again, or ever – I can't, I won't and I can't -”
James seemed to curl in on himself, repeating this mantra just as he had done last night at the bar – and several night before that, at different establishes. He didn't notice how his friends had froze, and were starring at each other with identical expressions of shock and worry...and vague amusement.
“James...your, well...your James Potter!” Peter was the first to break the silence. “I mean, how can you think that Lily would ever turn you down!”
“Well, there was that time that he'd filled her school trunk with flowers, and she told him to get stuffed...” Sirius mused.
“And the time that he tied that 'Will You Date Me, Lily Evans' banner to the back of his broom during the Ravenclaw-Gryffindor Match...” Remus added. “She told me later that she'd hoped he'd go fly into a tree...”
“ - And the time that she'd burned all the hair off his head for trying to slip that love potion into her pumpkin juice...that was classic...”
“ - And when he'd asked me for the password to the Prefect's Baths, so he could confront her when she went in to have her wash...didn't that nightmare about bubbles and rubber duckies start after that?...”
“ - And you can't forget - ”
“Please stop.” Groaning James rolled over so that his face was buried in the cushions of the couch. “Just...stop...you're not helping...”
“Course we are! Reliving your past failures helps you...learn from them!” Sirius flopped down on the couch, realizing too late that James had folded his legs up in the spot that he had formerly sat in. Even though James grunted in pain, he didn't move – instead, shifting so that he was more comfortable, once again sitting atop his best mate. “Besides, it brings back good, entertaining memories for us!”
“I manage to sort of conjure my patronus thinking about that time Lily tried to drown him in the girl's toilets.” Peter added, trying to be helpful. “It always made me laugh.”
“Point is, James; what we're trying to say is, the past is the past.” Cutting over Peter, Remus was the one who, as always, tried to bring some semblance of order back to the current situation. “And really, that – Sirius, get off him – that yes, she may have said no in the past, but the two of you are hardly like that anymore. Do you honestly thing she'd say no? After everything you've done together at school and in the Order...”
“Yeah, Yeah I do.” James sniffed. “And if she does – It'll break my heart.”
“James, honestly – start sobbing like a woman again and I'll turn you into one, Marauder's honour. I'm not going to help a man who's gone all Hufflepuff on us, even if he is my best mate!”
James suddenly grew quiet. “What did you just call me?”
“I said that you're a Hufflepuff – that's the only explanation.” Sirius seemed to ignore the suddenly steely quality to his friend's muffled voice, or didn't really care that it seemed he was treading into dangerous territory. “I mean, if you were still an honest Gryffindor, then obviously you wouldn't be afraid of a woman – not even Evans. So, does a good little badger need a tissu – not in the face!”
“You're dead, Black! You're dead! In fact, I'm going to kill you, and then bring you back to life and kill you again!” For being rather hung-over, one had to admire how fast James was able to whirl around, eager to prove to his long-time friend just how much of a lion he was with clumsy punches. Peter and Remus didn't even try to intervene – as a sparring match between the two, even one where they threatened to murder and desecrate the opponent's corpse – was about a frequent an activity as brushing their teeth.
By the time James had managed to use all his body weight to bring Sirius down to the carpeted floor beside the couch, Remus sighed, and gently elbowed his fellow spectator. “Come on, Pete – kitchen. This looks like it could take a while.”
“Do you at least have a ring, Prongs?” Sirius, holding a bag of ice against his steadily swelling left eye, once again seemed ready to contribute to the hastily dubbed 'Operation-Make-Lily-My-Wife-or-Die-Alone' plan, and he had successfully goaded James into giving it a chance as well. “I mean, jewelry is big in this sort of thing; big, flashy – something that says 'I spent all my life savings, so you owe me.'”
“My mum's just got a plain gold band.” Peter added. “She's likes it 'cus it's simple and pretty.”
“You're simple and, well – never mind. This is Lily we're talking about, Wormtail! Lily – stop looking at me like that Potter, or I'll hex you blind – Evans! He's going to need a ring with some sort of flair!”
“And it's actually the wedding band that's plain gold, Pete” Remus explained. “What James needs is an engagement ring – which is usually rather flashy rather than simplistic.”
“'Course I got her a ring!” James – nursing a headache potion-laced mug of coffee, was looking a bit more conscious, if not any cheerier. “I went and bought her one last weekend – got it engraved and everything. At a muggle jewellers too – 'cus she appreciates that sort of thing.”
“You've been holding off on proposing to her for an entire week?”
“It never seemed the right time.” James admitted with a shrug. “I wanted to take her out to dinner after the Order meeting Wednesday, give it to her then – but when we found out about Benjy...it sort of...killed the mood...”
The other three men nodded, understanding. It was Sirius who, inevitably, broke the awkward silence.
“Well then, show it to us!”
James stood, disappearing into the front hall for a moment to grab his coat, and coming back with it slung over his shoulder – and small red-velvet box in his hand. He set it in the middle of the table in front of his three friends, and flipped back the lid with a click.
“Merlin, James – that rock could choke a thestral!”
“You give me that ring and I'd marry you!”
“You think she'd like it? Honestly?” James seemed desperate for confirmation that he'd made the right choice – even though his friends were hardly engagement-ring connoisseurs. Remus had picked up the ring, turning it so that he could better see the interior of the band, squinting so that he could see the fine writing written along it.
“Darling Lily,” he read. “My favourite flower...”
“That's so sweet!” Gushing, Peter took the ring from Remus, reading the engraving for himself. “You're so romantic, Prongs!”
“Really?” For the first time since had re-awaken, James was genuinely beaming. “I didn't know if it was too cheesy, or - ”
“Oh, it's cheesy - ” Snatching the ring from Peter, Sirius admired it for himself, particularly the shining diamond which was the centrepiece of the ring. “Cheesy as hell. But birds go ga-ga over all that sentimental sort of crap. You give her this and you two will be married within a month; guaranteed.”
“But – how do I give it to her?!” James groaned, the grin sliding off his face as he once again remembered his real problem. “I mean, I thought about dinner...but then again she barely thinks it's safe to go out anymore. Apparating out of the country to somewhere special is out of the question...”
“What's wrong with just giving it to her in her flat?” Peter asked. “I mean – I'm sure she'll go nuts about anything you do, James. I think she really likes you now that she knows you're not a total berk. You could cook her dinner at home...put on the wireless...dim the lights...”
“Have you ever seen James try to cook, Pete?” Sirius scoffed. “If he tries to make her dinner, he'll probably burn the place down – and she's definitely not going to marry a guy who made her homeless!”
“I think Peter's got a point though,” Remus mused. “Why go out when you can go all out making her own home romantic. I don't know...scatter rose petals or something – and the wireless was a nice idea. Maybe some candles, make her a bubble bath - ”
“No bubble baths.” James shuddered.
“Well then – just, order out...or get some sort of ice cream or something; a dessert that doesn't involve flames of any kind. Then when she comes in, just – give it to her.”
“That sounds so incredibly boring, I nearly fell asleep.” Sirius fake-yawned. “Come on, mate – this is Evans! You've got to think outside the box for once. Free your mind, and love's sure to follow! What you need, is to do something that will excite her – get her heart pumping. Adrenaline will do all the rest!”
“Oh yeah – then what do you suggest I do, oh hound of love?”
“What we do – because my plan will definitely be a spectacular group effort -” Leaning back from the table, Sirius paused. “Is sweet and simple. We need to put excitement into a firecracker like Evans – a danger situation where her passion for you can truly thrive. I suggest a fake kidnapping.”
“What?!” Three voice chorused, shocked.
“Go with me here – she arrives home; there's, oh – three guys waiting there in masks...They try to tie her up, James comes in, chases the guys away – and saves the day! Lily'll think you saved her, and be so grateful that she'll practically leap into your arms so you can carry her off to happily ever after!”
“You want to fake a kidnapping in the middle of a war to try and get my girlfriend to marry me?!”
“You'd want us to be the three guys in masks, wouldn't you, Sirius?!” Peter shrieked seemed to match James' in both desperation and volume.
“I gave you my honest opinion!” Holding up his hands in defence, Sirius tossed his bag of ice on the table in front of them. “What? You don't think it's pure genius?”
“You're more twisted than I think anyone has ever given you credit for!”
“Eh...suit yourself.” Despite the fact that his three closest friends were staring at him with varying degrees of shock and disgust, Sirius seemed as cool as you please, as if he'd just suggest they all go antiquing next Sunday. “We can just go with plan number four, James – which, I'm afraid...isn't as fun as plan number three. For you, at least.”
“What – actually kidnapping my girlfriend?!”
“Maybe you should run this plan by us first, Padfoot.” Remus couldn't quite keep the scepticism out of his voice. “So we can decide if we want to risk going to prison or not.”
“You know me, Moony – only minor felony charges at best for full-group plans. Marauder's honour.” Once again, he leaned forward across the table, gesturing for Remus and Peter to come closer. “ And I promise that the entertainment value greatly outnumbers the risks.”
And with that, Sirius had dropped his voice to a whisper. With his back turned to James, he couldn't really see what was being explain. That was slightly worrying – because allowing Sirius to be in charge of a plan was about as safe as trying to teach a house-elf to drive.
This – was insane. James thought petulantly. He should never have brought it up – especially to Sirius, who was sure to continue suggesting foolhardy plans to make his life a living hell. He didn't even know why he had thought of proposing in the first place. Sure, he loved Lily. He would to anything, including die for her – although he didn't intend on dying anytime soon. He had just thought that, maybe he could be happier – make Lily even happier, even with this war going on around them – if he was able to share a sort of bond with her. His parents had once told him that marriage was one of the most wonderful things two people could share – and he really began to hope that he'd be able to share it with someone as special as Lily.
Lost in his own thoughts, James didn't really notice that Sirius' hushed whispers had grown more animated – although still too quite to hear. He missed how Remus and Peter seemed to exchange glances and, eventually, matching mischievous grins that surely didn't bode well for him. He barely even remembered that his friends were plotting something until Sirius cleared his throat from somewhere behind him, and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Do you trust us?”
“Moony and Wormtail, yeah...you want to fake kidnap my girlfriend!”
“Touche – but, I'm sure you'd trust me if I, oh...did something to help you win Evans, right? In the name of love?”
“Not really - ”
And James remembered nothing after that.
Lily had arrived home later than usual, to find her flat pitch dark. Which was odd, because James usually stayed over during the week – ever since she'd admitted to him that she didn't quite feel save alone all the time, with the current upheaval of the Wizarding World. She had told him she was going to try and visit her sister – and after the screaming match that had consisted of their 'visit', she was really looking forward to coming home to a cheerily lit apartment, and a certain scruffy-haired, bespectacled man trying to make something that passed as edible, or with his eyes glued in fascination to her television set.
Instead, the room felt cold and empty, and much too dark for her to be comfortable in. Had he not arrived yet? Maybe he'd decided to stay back with Sirius and Remus and Peter in their flat. But he would have let her know somehow if he was changing plans. She hadn't heard from him since Saturday morning...oh, Merlin – had something happened to him?! She'd never forgive herself if James had suddenly disappeared – as so many people seemed to be in the current times. Disappeared never to be heard or seen of again. Or to be found mutilated or tortured or -
She shuddered. Please no – not James. She didn't know what she'd be do without him. He seemed the only one who was able to make her laugh as of late. He made her feel safe and warm, to the point that she was beginning to wonder how she would ever have gotten along without him. Before she could dwell on the panic rising in her chest, Lily flicked on the hall light, and the room was lit with warm yellow light.
Nothing seemed out of place. The only thing that was strange was the absence of James – because other than that there was nothing out of the ordinary as far as she could tell. Reaching into the pocket of her jeans, just in case, she withdrew her wand and gave it a cursory flick – testing the wards she had placed on the door and the security she had set in the threshold. Nothing – it hadn't been tripped, moved, or taken down by anyone else. Either they had to know how to remove her wards -
Or nobody had arrived.
Despite the mounting conclusion that there was nobody there, Lily continued as if she half expected some nightmare monster to jump out at her from behind her couch, or the fridge. “Hellooooo.” She called, drawing out the final syllable of the greeting. “Anyone here? James? ” No answer. “James?” Nothing, again. “James Potter, if this is some kind of sick joke I am going to curse you within an inch of your miserable life!” Silence. “I'm not kidding! James?”
There was no one here. She had no idea where James was, and since it was later that she was expected to be home, then he should be here – it wasn't like she'd arrived before he was meant to. Lily felt her heart rise into her throat. He was missing, something horrible must have happened to him, or to one of his friends. Oh Merlin something had to be horribly, horribly wrong!
Dumbledore. She had to contact Dumbledore. Or Sirius, Remus – somebody. Someone had to know what happened to James. Or they needed to know. She hoped she wouldn't have to be the one to break yet another disappearance to the Order. Especially not James'. She'd go to her bedroom, floo Dumbledore, and find out what was going on. Now with an action plan, she couldn't move fast enough dropping her Jacket in a heap at the door, and pelting down the narrow hallway towards her single bedroom, throwing open the door with a bang, and -
“What in the name of – James Potter what the hell are you doing?!”
“Hunngh – Wha', wait, What?!” Groggily, James blinked owlishly, doing his best to jump to attention at her shrill accusation. Or, at least, try to - he found it rather hard as someone had removed his glasses, meaning that the room around him must have been nothing but a blur. He was curled up on her bed – wearing nothing save his boxers, with an red ribbon knotted around his throat. The elegant bow also seemed to attach him to her headboard, so he only succeeded in gagging himself rather than jumping off her bed.
Meanwhile, Lily continued screaming.
“Good god what do you think you're doing?! I was scared sick – I thought you were taken by Death Eaters or you were unconscious in a ditch somewhere! Why didn't you answer me!? What are you doing is – is that my lipstick!?” Halfway up the wall, someone had scrawled something over the wallpaper above her bed in what looked suspiciously like her favourite dark red gloss. She was torn between getting closer to read the message, and strangling James for writing on her walls – but eventually curiosity seemed to get the better of her, and she sat down on he own bed, edging closer so that she could read the printed message.
James – acting on experience as to what Lily would do to him when she was in a huff, did his best to shrink out of her way, mumbling something in voice oddly higher than his usual tenor that sounded suspiciously like a prayer for mercy.
“James, stop – just, just stop – okay?” Lily had a hand on his shoulder, her grip like a vice as she tried to hold him still, half because she was afraid he may strangle himself, as he eyes scanned the message above her bed.
I'M TIRED OF GOING STAG
WILL YOU DO ME THE HONOR
(ALTHOUGH I CLEARLY DON'T DESERVE IT
AS I AM AN ANNOYINGLY SCRAWNY, UNAPPRECIATIVE BIRK
WHO IS SIMPLY FRIENDS WITH AN AMAZING AND TALENTED
GROUP OF MATCHMAKING GENIUSES)
OF BECOMING MY WIFE
SO I'M NO LONGER A BURDEN
ON DECENT SOCIETY?
She gasped; and she felt James' hand instinctively grope out to grab her forearm, trying to comfort her or possibly withhold any attack he foresaw. She didn't know what to say, or to do really – how was one supposed to react to a wedding proposal and a possible fiance trussed up like an early Christmas present sitting on your duvet? It caused her to pause, then stare down into the unfocused eyes of the tousled haired man.
“Lily...um...Lily are you alright?” He was worried about her – or his own safety, or her sanity, or most likely a healthy combination of the three. The look of sheer confusion, mingled freely with his concern for what was going on, finally provoked a reaction from the young redhead – and she promptly burst out laughing.
“What – what is it, what's wrong?!” James seemed plain frightened now – realizing that he seemed to be caught all but blind, stunned, and with an apparent giggling madwoman whom he was insatiably in love with crouched over him. But Lily couldn't help herself as she snorted and tittered, and eventually wrapped her arms around his shoulders, resting her head against his chest even as the unladylike snorts continued.
“Pardon?” He groaned weakly – honestly, if she didn't know better, Lily would have sworn James had been stunned. But out of the loop as he was, he had enough sense of mind to wrap one of his arms loosely around her own heaving shoulders.
“ What do you mean, 'Pardon?' What are you – oh, James, sorry, um...they had to have...oh, here!” As hard as it was to do so with her arms around him, Lily struggled to untie the ribbon from around his neck – allowing him to lay his head back in a little more comfortable a position. On the top of the wooden headboard, she found his glasses sitting neatly folded – and worked to slide them onto his face, effectively giving back his focus.
“Thanks.” He mumbled, his free hand going to his throat, where he massaged the slightly red area where the ornate bow had been tied the tightest. “Um, you didn't happen to...know why exactly...”
“You'd probably know more about that then me.” She admitted truthfully, twirling the ribbon between her fingers – stopping when she spotted what was knotted into the end of it. “Oh, James it's gorgeous...”
“Well...you know me...I'm a gorgeous sort of guy.” His free hand found it's way to the side of his head, where he raked his fingers through his hair. Lily punched him playfully in the shoulder. “Ow!”
“And modest too.” She murmured good naturedly.
“That's me.” He agreed, and one corner of his mouth lifted into a tired smile. “So. Yes what?”
“Yes, Mr. Potter?”
“Okay...Yes, Mr. Potter....what?” James replied, seeming to think that they were playing some odd sort of game. To help him out, Lily dangled the piece of ribbon in front of his nose – allowing the diamond ring to swing gently back and forth before his eyes.
“Yes to being...Mrs. Potter.”
“Wait, how – Really!?” James sat up at that, nearly pulling Lily over with him – but suddenly he seemed much more conscious than previous. Newly energized, he appeared to adapt the eager, optimistic exuberance of much more carefree man. A man she honestly could say had been missing for the past week or so. “ You, you really want to – I mean, if you don't want to, I could understand, or we can wait, or we can - ”
“James! Honestly – Yes just means...Yes. No strings attached. Or ribbons, even.” She added slyly. “It's not like you're trying to surprise me or anything – you are the one who tried proposing to me about once every year since fourth year. I have to say, you've gotten a bit more creative since then...Although I suspect you may have had a little...help this time?”
“Yeah...well...I suppose...well – sometimes you just gotta combine your efforts and - ” James was struggling to stand up – a tricky feat as they both had at least one arm tangled around the other. As he slipped out of her grasp, James seemed to realize that comprehensible speech was beyond his capabilities at that moment, and settled for summing up his joy and excitement over her positive answer with a whooping war cry that would have usually be reserved for use on the Quidditch Pitch.
“She said yes! YES – YESYESYESYESYES! EVANS SAID YES!”
Lily collapsed back against the pillows of her bed, taken up in her own bubbly laughter once more, as she watched James – her future husband – partake in his own ritual of triumph. She contemplated many things – how her relationship with James may change, or how it would say the same. What it would be like if they even started a family together, and how wonderful it would be to have an excuse for James to stay with her permanently. To be just hers.
But mostly, she wondered who, out of James' three closest friends, was the brave soul who had drawn the little hearts criss-crossing James' bare back in bright red lipstick.