Chapter 25 : Secrets and Chocolate
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Just when the silence had become nearly deafening, a bellowing roar came from the general vicinity of Lily’s side of the closet. Another loud grumble, this time accompanied by the sound of tiny empty gurgles, echoed around their small space. Lily desperately clenched her stomach to contain the obnoxious sounds, but was betrayed by an even louder one. James’ head snapped up this time and he looked down at the blushing red-head.
Her long disheveled hair curtained her face, but he could see in the orange glow how embarrassed she’d become. A smile flickered across his face.
“It isn’t funny, Potter,” Lily said matter-of-factly, noticing his smile. “We probably missed dinner, you know.”
He uncrossed his arms and crouched down next to her sitting form, staring directly into her eyes without ever loosing the hitch of mockery consistently stamped in the corner of his mouth. A flash of realization crossed his eyes. “I’m pretty hungry myself actually,” he swiftly reached into the robes she was sitting upon, his fingers rummaging around and coming dangerously close to her bottom.
“What exactly do you think you are doing, Potter?” She jumped as if a snitch tickled her most inappropriately. The shock of scandal filled her green eyes and her face reddened more than before, strangely reminding James of Christmas.
“Wouldn’t be like Sirius not to think of that,” his hand finally cupped around the large stash of chocolate frogs he’d won earlier from Remus instead of the wonderfully warm fleshy mass that grazed his knuckles. He quickly stilled that dangerous thought, remembering the dinner they’d missed. “Surely Remus would have had something to say about it, for that matter, the hairy git.”
The gold foil glistened like a galleons in James’ hands. “Where ever did you get all of those?” Lily asked, her mouth watering at all the chocolate goodness.
“It seems that Remus may have been on this plot as well or at least had a slight inkling about it,” James skillfully ripped open a package with his teeth and offered it to Lily. She shook her head only once, and he shrugged before he continued. “Suit yourself Evans,” he took a bite, chewing in delight. “Not bad for being rather smashed, and it’s warm to boot,” he teasingly raised his eyebrows in her direction.
“I can’t believe Remus would play a part in something as diabolical as this,” Lily crossed her own eyebrows trying to reason it all out.
“And here I thought I actually beat the bastard in wizard poker, he had it planned from the start,” James muttered between bites more to himself than to his companion. Lily’s large doe eyes looked up at him blankly wondering how his train of thought left the station without an engine. “See, we were playing wizarding poker before Pete came to tell me about the supposed ruckus in the broom closet. It was Remus’ idea to play for the chocolate, and you know how he is about his damned chocolate.” She snorted a light laugh.
“He wouldn’t give his chocolate up to escape an ornery dragon.”
James grinned wildly, “no, he’d bite him in the scaled arse first!” Both laughed at Remus and his strange affection for cocoa confections until a disturbing silence crept forward once more. Yet, that Lily’s stomach had quite a different idea when it came to uncomfortable silences. Another grumble loudly protested to the crinkling sound of gold foil in James’ hands, and practically screamed the mere fact that it was still rather empty.
“Oh, come on Evans,” James coaxed her adding a generous roll of his eyes. “I know you must be starving, and there’s plenty here.” He crouched down to sit opposite her, holding out a glistening package before her eyes. “Look at it this way, we can at least get back at Remus by eating all his chocolate since he failed to warn us about this ridiculous plan in the first place. What do you say, eh?”
Lily liked the way he smiled in that moment. Maybe it was crooked, and maybe his dimples were absolutely lopsided, but his smile was as warm as the soft bunny blanket that comforted her as a child. Equating Potter to pink and blue sweet bunnies was not only odd but somewhat disturbing in a charming sort of way. Even the waves of her claustrophobia couldn’t stop hunger, she was positively starving. And besides, her growling stomach would have found a way to sprout its very own arm to snatch the chocolate up, she easily reasoned.
“Thank you,” she politely said without looking up. If she did, she felt as if she would drown. Not because of the small closet, that dark closed space she was trapped in, or the horrible affliction of claustrophobia that would possibly consume her. But because of the way he had always made her feel.
Between bites of chocolate and chit-chat about classes, James and Lily almost seemed to forget they were trapped in a broom closet together. Amazingly enough, chocolate did possess the power to stifle even their most tempestuous natures regarding one another.
“You know ole Sluggy’s got a thing for you,” James gently taunted her.
“Now that is the most ridiculous thing to ever fall out of your mouth Potter,” Lily circled her eyes around in disbelief. “Just because I don’t manage to turn myself purple every time I brew a complex potion, does not mean the man’s pervy. Professor Slughorn just believes in encouraging his students.”
James held on to his breath. “Call it what you will. Though, we have a better name for it and him.”
“We, being the sacred Marauders?” Lily nibbled decisively on her chocolate.
“Yeah,” he smirked. “We have a few. Blowhorn, Slimegourd, and my personal favorite, Floppyknob. Oh, then there’s – ”
“Please don’t go on,” Lily objected with a wave of her thin hand. “I’d really rather not know anymore of your barmy nicknames if it’s all the same to you. You know, if you spent half your time concentrating more on potions than devising names for the Professor, you’d probably be a brilliant brewmaster.”
“Yes, that’s what Remus always says, but where’s the fun in that?” She shook her head at his oblivious response, knowing full well that a leopard can never change his spots. And neither could James Potter suppress his wild streak. But a stag could shed his antlers every now and again, couldn’t he? The warm light caught in his hazel eyes as if he read her mind.
“Can I ask you something?”
Lily tensed at his question briefly. Generally Potter never bothered with polite pleasantries, preferring to be much more direct when it came down to her. But so far he had been somewhat of a perfect gentleman, sharing the only food they had between them and holding her hand when she fainted. What could be the harm in a simple question?
“Go ahead,” she tensely replied.
“Who’s Tunie then?” James’ eyes darted about from one side to the next like the spark from tiny golden green snitches. Everything always seemed to go back to quidditch when it came to Potter, even in her mind. But, Lily never noticed before that eyes held that particular hint of colour because she never wanted to get that close to him before. But there was no stopping closeness in a broom closet.
James held his breath waiting for her to respond, and it was killing him that he quite couldn’t read the puzzling expression on her face. “The reason I ask is because before when you, you know, were asleep, you kept calling out that name.”
What looked to be a ghost of a smile crossed Lily’s face before it disappeared all together. She felt a certain debt to tell him, after all he did share his chocolate with her, and promised not to spill the Bott’s beans on her secret.
“Tunie is my sister. I used to call her that when I was little because I never could quite say her name, which is Petunia.” Between another quiet bite of chocolate and a sigh, she thoughtfully decided to elaborate.
“Once when I was little, my sister, cousins and I were playing hide-and-go-seek at my Grandfather’s house. It was a large old place, where monsters used to gobble up little girls like me, my cousins used to taunt. But, naturally, I wasn’t having any of it.”
“Naturally,” James fondly smiled and she went on.
“Well, I wanted to find the very best place and my cousin Stanley dared me to hide up in the attic. It wasn’t really much of an attic, quite small really, and dark, filled with old trunks and crates. But no one ever dared go up there.”
“But you did, didn’t you?”
“Of course I did,” Lily laughed at her foolish five-year-old self. “Once I went inside, my cousin slammed the door, bolting it tight, and running outside to join the others. It was pitch black, darker than a starless night, and I felt as if I’d been gobbled up whole. I could barely breathe in that small place, as if there was no air to speak of. I didn’t know what to do and I couldn’t see anything. Every time I tried to move, something prevented it.” She felt the choke of the closet once more. “And I thought I could hear the monsters breathing right down my neck.”
James listened attentively and hung off her every word. A part of him wanted to find this Stanley wanker and give him a right good hex. But he waited for her to continue the story, knowing full well that she’d never under ordinary circumstances tell him something so personal.
“Of course, there weren’t any monsters, possibly a few rats, but that wasn’t the most frightening thing.”
“What was?” He cocked his head to the side with sincere interest, dismissing the keen knowledge he had that rats really weren’t all that bad.
“I felt as if I truly had been gobbled up, and the walls seemed to cave in on me. I still don’t honestly know how long I’d been up there, and kind of blacked out from most of it,” Lily’s voice trailed off from the memory, and a bright smile returned. “It was Tunie who heard me crying out her name for help and came to my rescue, even kicking the door down since it had jammed. I don’t think I was ever as happy to see someone in my entire life!”
“And what happened to dear cousin Stanley?”
Lily’s smile reached up to her eyes, and James silently noted how much he still liked the way they sparkled softly. “Tunie punched him right in the nose, broke it too.”
“Sounds like a great sister,” James said quietly. “Wait. She’s the one who always used to be with your parents on the platform,” he paused once he remembered he hadn’t seen her in the past few years.
“Yeah,” a small breath escaped Lily, not as much of a sigh as it was a contemplative breath. “She’s a muggle and doesn’t necessarily have the fondest regard for those of us in the magical world.” Her long fingers tucked back a lock of hair behind her ear and she stared at the bare floor.
“Well, I suppose we can’t all be wonderful in her eyes. What I mean is, just look at what’s going on out there. Wizard Purebloods on a feral rampage to snuff out anything that is different than they are.” Lily’s eyebrows knitted together as she followed along the wiggling path of James’ reason. “And I imagine it would naturally go both ways after all. We’re always afraid of what we don’t know.”
He was right, she knew it, but never thought about it quite like that before. Petunia wasn’t evil, just grossly misguided in her understanding. She always sort of known that, but never really admitted it. Lily spoke suddenly before she thought. “Since when did you become so logical, Potter?” A smile swiped across her face before James could even feel the slightest usual hurt.
“It’s always been here you know. You just never looked close enough.” James took another giant bite off a chocolate frog head, but this time remembered to chew with his mouth closed as Sirius always told him to. He held his chin up in concentrated effort but the hint of his usual wiliness spilled over.
Lily watched him without expression, her green eyes darting between the rhythmic chewing of his jaw to the curve of the sideways smirk lingering in the corner of his mouth. A rush of strange air began to fill her seeking an immediate exit. She bit her lip attempting to contain it, but nothing could prevent it from escaping through her nose. A rather undignified snort brayed through her tiny nose, completely opening the floodgates to her peals of laughter. No matter how hard she tried to stop laughing, every time she looked at James, she just couldn’t.
“The noises you make in broomclosets Lily, I never would have guessed,” James stated, his cheeks now feeling scorched from her giggles. At least this type of attack, the hysteric sort at his expense, he could handle.
In between uncontrollable fits of laughter, Lily caught her breath. “Ah, now there’s the James Potter I recognize!” A few more merry chortles broke in before she could form complete sentences again.
“The funny thing is, are these the typical sort of noises that you receive from wayward girls in broomclosets?” An even louder laugh sprang out of her as she stared at James’ rather confused face.
“No,” he interrupted her quickly keeping his eyes trained on his shoes as the words ran away from him. “Only two times I’ve ever been alone in a broomcloset with a girl, this being one of them,” he cocked his head with a truthful shrug, “and I can tell you it was quite a different experience than the other.”
“Oh,” she softly replied. Embarrassment tangling with a shade of surprise flickered in her eyes. Lily felt the hilarity of the moment choke and die suddenly, and realization reared its ugly head. James Potter would have probably preferred to be in a broom closet with the likes of tarty Brenda Bowtrip, not her. Before she could quell the feeling, disappointment filled her insides like lumpy pudding.
James quietly played with the empty foils, his mind distracted with the memory of his other encounter with the opposite sex in a broom closet. It was last spring in his sixth year, the girl in question was one seventh year Annabelle Saunders. She was a Hufflepuff chaser, perfectly fit with matching honey blonde hair and golden eyes. Annabelle had called it a consolation shag, after her team lost the Quidditch cup to his. He remembered how her breasts threatened to spill out all over the closet from her mustard yellow silk bra. He should have been in heaven, as she pulled and ripped his uniform from him. But all he could think of was Lily.
“So your parents must have been fond of flowers, huh?” His voice broke through the still musty air.
“You know, your name being Lily and your sister’s being Petunia,” James explained and waited for her answer. He never should have brought up that other time in a broomcloset.
“Yes. My Mum is an avid gardener, so is Dad,” Lily looked away solemnly.
“Well, it suits you, the ‘tiger’ part withstanding of course.” James devilishly grinned. He couldn’t stop himself. And she smiled back, simply forgetting that he had been in a closet before with someone else. Because, now he was here with her.
A sole chocolate frog now remained in the pile between them. “You have it Lily,” James generously offered and proceeded to rummage through his pockets. “You ought to keep your strength up. I honestly don’t know how far Sirius intends to take this, and he’s been more than unpredictable lately.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course,” he said instead of telling her that he’d give her much more than his last chocolate frog, and he nodded reassuringly. Lily slowly ate the last chocolate watching James take careful inventory of the items he had. A spattering of odd gobstones, scraps of parchment, and the occasional dungbomb were all that they had between them now. Even with their wands, they were positively helpless in the dingy old closet. A tiny clink sounded as he placed the mirror delicately on the stone floor and she woke from her daze.
“Maybe you should try him again,” she motioned over at the mirror. “Perhaps he’ll listen this time.”
“Not likely,” James cynically regarded.
“Sirius did say he’d reconsider if you’ll tell him your middle name. Come on. You could try it,” she attempted the innocent suggestion. In the harshest light of actuality where she feared to tread, she honestly wanted to know what his middle name was. There were all sorts of things that Lily suddenly wanted to know about James Potter.
“Never going to happen, Lily, not in a million centuries,” James sighed hopelessly as he plucked up a ruby gobstone between his thumb and forefinger. Calmly he pulled the stone towards his face, one eye peering over the wire rim of his glasses for closer inspection. He closed his other eye and looked right through the rock. Everything illuminated and blurred with a blood red wash to it.
“Really Potter. It’s just a name.”
“Gobstones are brilliant aren’t they?” He looked over at Lily and her flaring nostrils under a fog of red. Even blurry she was still beautiful to him. “Never got into the gaming of it all that much, but I can see the appeal.”
“Can you focus for one moment, please? You could perhaps get us out of this silly predicament by telling him what he wants to know.” James seemingly remained unaffected. Though he could feel the tension rise between them, he continued to look around the closet like a boy with a brand new telescope. He could always feel that delicious tension between them especially when he acted, well, rather like a giant prat on top of the pudding, and he smiled to himself that maybe that was the very reason she always acted out of sorts with him. Maybe she felt it too
“I suppose this must be what it’s like for you when you see red, huh?” James, despite his great light of realization, continued to gaze around the cramped closet in unaffected abandon.
“Honestly! I cannot fathom for a moment, why you wouldn’t tell him what your stupid middle mystery name is!” Lily shouted, her nostrils flaring delicately, and James knew this was the start. She might soon boil over, and he felt his own temperature deliciously climbing.
He dropped the stone abruptly, the clattering noise silenced only by the release of the shuddering breath she’d been holding. “Lily, I did not put myself in an insurmountable amount of danger by sneaking into Filch’s office first year to completely obliterate that stupid name off of my parchment records, to now reveal it under forced duress.” His voice was deep, even and as sharp as a blade that cut to her core. Admission records to Hogwarts always had been filled out by the parents or guardians of a student, and naturally his parents relished the fact that the name was written down for permanent record. Had it been left, it certainly would have chased James for the rest of his life, leaving everyone to bludgeon it over his head forever. He had no intention of ever letting that occur.
Lily opened her mouth to retaliate, but quickly closed it again. A second attempt and she gained her ground with an unchartered approach. “I have been forcibly locked in a broomcloset for gods know how long with you, because of your ridiculous pride in revealing a middle name? I have unwillingly been forced to share my own somewhat depilating secret, where you haven’t even the brawn to sacrifice any of your own!” There it was, James had to force himself not to smile. “The stupid secret of your middle name?!”
He closed his eyes to her words and released a staggered breath. “I do believe that Sirius had other reasons for locking us in here together, as he did mention.”
“Despite the chance of that,” Lily dared not to dwell on the possibilities of Sirius’ romantic side, “I cannot believe you wouldn’t even tell him what he wants to know, Potter. Perhaps you hold the key to our predicament, and here you sit like an overgrown child that earlier stated he would clobber Sirius with a cauldron for locking me in here. Some great champion you propose yourself to be Potter!”
She stood abruptly, her knees bumping into his roughly, and began to pace like a wild tiger, which only amounted to about four or five steps one way or the other. James could sense she’d had it, and from his experience with her before, he knew she would start the downward spiral into claustrophobic oblivion. How in all that is sacred could she see right fucking through him?
“Lily, please sit down.” James stood, offering a reluctant arm out to calm her. Angrily, she shook him off, a wild storm flashing in her eyes. He sighed and leaned against the cold walls. “It has been a tradition in the Potter family for generations to saddle their offspring with a hideous and downright evil name once they have entered this world. My parents naturally didn’t want me to feel neglected, and they’ve always said that it was there in my instance to remind me of who I am.” Lily stopped and leaned against the opposite wall, happy for its physical strength. She studied James features as he continued.
“My brother Jack took pride in his,” James’ eyes looked away from Lily’s curious round ones. “He even saddled his daughter Julia, my niece,” he added quietly, “with one that would strike fear in any who could ever bear it.” A long smile graced his face as he remembered the little girl with the wild hair and the muddy knees, trembling when her mother called her by her middle name. “When we were little we swore to one another we would abolish the names in any way we could, and that’s why I rid any record of it as soon as I came to Hogwarts.”
Lily remained silent. Never before had James spoke to anyone about his family that she knew of, and she never even knew the name of his niece until now. Her eyes misted, and with a few blinks and a swallow of the lump in her throat, she reached out her hand to touch his softly. His chin touched his chest and she could no longer see his eyes. “I’m sorry James. I didn’t mean for you to bring up the past, I realize it must be difficult.”
He lifted his head as his eyes landed on the slender hand upon his own. “Yes,” he cracked a crooked smile, “it is sometimes beyond difficult to think about them, and other times it’s hard not to.” At that moment he wanted to tell Lily everything, all the rules he ever broke at Hogwarts, all the girls he ever had, all about his family, and even more so, all the feelings he never lost for the beautiful redhead. With so much reeling about in his head, he felt faint, but her hand on his kept him tethered to the ground. His thoughts turned to Julia, and the rather unfounded wisdom she had when it came to her arrogant uncle. Just be yourself James…
“She is something else,” he muttered, not thinking he even spoke out loud.
“Who?” Lily’s head tilted in thoughtful question, eyes wider than sprawling meadows.
James closed his eyes, realizing the mistake that he said and what Lily heard. “Julia, my niece. She was,” he amended simply, “something else.” Lily nodded slowly, and her fingers found his, entwining delicately around them.
“What was she like?” She smiled, pulling him back down to sit on the uneven floor and to listen to what James chose to reveal.
He smiled brightly back, his eyes shining as he began to tell the tales of a precarious little imp, grass-stained clothes and all.
Sirius intently listened in through the shining two-way mirror. Most of the stories he had heard a thousand times before, but he found he could never quite get enough of hearing about the strange girl and the way she had with things. Peter was right, the rat bastard. If Julia Potter ever graced the halls of Hogwarts, Sirius Black would most certainly be done for.
It didn’t matter what she looked like, or how ungodly tall she truly was, or even that she was far younger than him. He was smitten with the way she wrote to him, full of wisdom and advice far beyond her years. She wrote to him like she’d always known him with an open honest heart. And that was something which always eluded him with practically every witch he’d known. But, the reality was, she was not here. And James would murder him for even thinking along such lines concerning his adoring niece.
Reluctantly, he pushed the strands of hair that constantly fell over his eyes. He’d hide it for all time. He would have to. Besides, he had a most wonderful witch waiting in the wings for him, and she was already here with open arms.
His cheeks glowed from each and every story he shared with Lily. Naturally he kept to only the past ones, and none of the more recent communication he shared with his niece, though he was strangely tempted. The inside pocket of his robes where he had stashed a few of her recent letters burned through to his chest. But he knew he could not reveal such a deadly secret, even to Lily Evans. It was not his secret to reveal, and he held onto it fiercely.
“She sounds wonderful, James,” Lily couldn’t help but giggle at the adventures James and Julia found there way into. Her laugh lightened him tremendously with a natural ease and softness he’d never experienced before. “Sounds like the two of you have taken on a battalion of trolls armed only with mischief and good intentions.” James nodded solemnly at that, and thought it would have been amazing to see what he and Julia could have done at Hogwarts. As if Lily sensed his regretful thoughts, she added, “it’s good to have those memories because she will always live on because of them. Thank you for sharing them with me.”
“You’re welcome,” he again nodded spinning his wand purposefully in his hand. “So, I guess all things considered, I should probably tell Sirius my middle name and get us the hell out of here.”
“You don’t have to, really,” Lily said shaking her head slowly. She now understood the stubborn fierceness of his secret, one that he shared only with the niece he longed for but was gone.
“Look, the reason I didn’t in the first place, is that I rather doubt Sirius would have let us out of here anyway. But I should have tried especially with your, um, condition.” He picked up the two-way mirror that was forgotten amongst the other tidbits from his pocket.
Lily’s hand darted out even quicker than before with the snitch bringing the mirror back to the floor. Surprise and startlement filled his light eyes. “Please don’t. That is your secret, and for what it’s worth, he doesn’t deserve to know it for locking us in here. Besides, I’ve been holding my own, haven’t I? Chocolate frogs and decent company can do wonders for claustrophobia.”
The smile that split across his face he could hardly hold back. “Decent company?” James eyebrows cocked crookedly in amusement. Lily grinned back knowingly. “Well, I suppose I should take that as a compliment Miss Evans.”
“It’s meant to be, Mr. Potter.” Her small voice made his heart soar beyond the confines of the closet.
Forwardly, he placed his hand over hers, and over the two-way mirror that once again lay upon the cold stone floor. “You know, if you keep calling me by my surname, I don’t think I can divulge my secret identity.” Lily couldn’t look into his eyes, the way the light caught and shimmered like a warming fire, and instead focused on the tiny cleft in his chin that twitched in a familiar sideways smile. His hand was warm upon hers, and the feeling in the pit of her stomach made her feel lighter than air.
“You don’t have to James, honestly,” she said in the strongest voice she could muster, which in fact sounded like the flutter of a butterfly’s wing.
“Strangely enough, I really don’t mind telling you.” His eyes gestured to the floor and his large hand upon hers over the mirror. “But, just as you said, I do mind tremendously if he overhears, so I’m going to whisper it in your ear. Just one horrible secret for another.” She smiled delicately at his words, although the corners of her mouth trembled ever so slightly. That monstrosity of a name was a part of who he always was, and no matter how much he denied its existence, it would always be there. There wasn’t a more appropriate person in the entire universe he could share it with. Just be yourself… He leaned in slowly towards her porcelain face with one hand firmly over hers, and the other hand’s fingertips gracefully balancing his weight on the rough floor. She smelled sweet and fresh like the rain in a summer garden. It took everything in his male teenage state not to kiss the peach flesh of her delectable earlobe as he whispered what he thought to be the most hideous word in human history.
Lily could feel his warm breath upon her ear, like a humid summer breeze that came before the storm. And ever so quietly, he spoke a word that crackled like thunder shaking her mind into ecstatic oblivion.
“Bloody flaming pimples on Cronus’ hemroidic stinking arse!”
The exclamation echoed boldly down the deserted corridor, ricocheting off the crumbling bricks, and threatening to collapse the entire abandoned wing of the castle. The origin of such a foul useless curse sat heavily against the worn wood door clenching the mirror and shaking his lowered head from side to side. Sirius’ hair once again fell into his eyes.
He’d hoped to listen in on James’ confession, finally putting an end to the mystery of his secret name with an answer. It was quite the perk for locking his best friend away with the girl he’d always went on about. Sure, the main motivation in all of this was to diffuse the rapidly exploding dungbomb that surrounded Lily and James every time the two were within firing range of one another. But Sirius had hoped for the cherry tidbit on top of the mint toadie sundae – the secret middle name of James Potter.
Knowing James as well as he had, Sirius knew that he’d never give up the information willingly, even under extraordinary circumstances like being trapped and locked away. As the hours passed and he guarded the door, he made it a point to listen in every now and again to what exactly was happening inside the dreaded closet. Naturally, he couldn’t allow for the two Hogwarts Heads to blow themselves to pieces, which was a likely outcome. And then, fortune’s smile briefly winked at him when he happened to listen in just now.
Fortunately for James sodding Potter, he always had his wits about him, and was much too quick for such a snare. James knew Sirius equally as well, and made it a deafening point to cover the mirror and muffle the one word Sirius had hoped to hear. With a defeated chuckle, Sirius shook his head and returned happily to writing his letter. One day he would find out James’ middle name, even if it killed him.
Shell-shocked is a word that sprang to James’ mind. He was inches away from her face, watching her stunned reaction to his dreaded middle name. Frozen solid for a few seconds, Lily’s butterfly eyelashes fluttered and quickly blinked away her state.
“That does explain an awful lot,” her lips began to curl upwards to meet her eyes. “You do realize that that is the Latin name for – ”
“I am unfortunately well aware.”
Lily flushed and the smile she fought so hard to contain split wide across her face. “Oh James, I’m sorry, but it really is so horrible, I can’t help myself!” Her peals of laughter lightened his heart, and he couldn’t help but laugh himself. And she was positively contagious. Between the choking hilarity, James found his breath and a thought popped into his messy head.
“Lily, how did you know what it meant?” She pursed her full lips tightly together, attempting to quell the next round of giggling. In the lamplight, she met his stare and cocked one of her perfectly arched eyebrows up knowingly. “Right. You know just about everything, Lily Evans.”
“Maybe not everything, and especially not what your secret middle name was. I’ve never been privy to such pertinent information before,” she smiled, simply erasing and easing his doubt in himself. “But, I do know my Latin. Why ever would your parents name you something so,” she paused finding the right words, “odd and humiliating especially for a young boy?”
“When I was born, I had a head full of bushy hair,” he reached up to run his fingers through it once again, but stopped abruptly. “Things haven’t changed that much, I guess,” he shrugged off the impulse with a smile. “Anyway, my parents thought it was endearing, didn’t really see the downside.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but,” Lily looked up at his messy hair, “it is rather fitting.” In a move that took James by surprise, she reached for his hand. “And it’s safe to say, your secret middle name is safe with me. I’ll never tell anyone.”
“Thanks Lily,” he nodded, staring down at her small ivory hand holding his.
“Besides, I don’t think I could tell anyone without falling into a fit of hysterics.” James looked into her eyes and wanted to kiss her right there. But he didn’t. Instead he smiled back at her, admiring how delicately her rosy skin glowed from laughter. Either Sirius was a fucking genius, or a festering boil on Hades’ backside.
“Now, since we’re bound to be here all damn night,” Lily let go of his hand and reached into her pocket, “perhaps we can find out who would be the better seeker, hmmm?” In her hand she clutched James’ fluttering snitch.
“Oh Lily,” he grinned wickedly, “I thought you’d never ask!”
“I’d almost given up hope on any rescue,” Sirius smiled, finishing a last scratch of words spilling from his mind onto the completely the filled parchment. Carefully he tucked the loose sheets into his robes, sparing a quick glance up at the two tiny figures.
“Amos said that we should wait until right before curfew,” a squeak akin to a mouse emitted from the darker haired girl.
“And we’re happy to help, by the way,” the other smaller girl gleefully chirped in as she stepped forward in the lamplight. Grania Drake never forgot how Sirius helped her and Kelley from the nasty Slytherin gang that day, and would do just about anything to return the favor. Her friend, Kelley Candron, however, had developed quite the crush on the Gryffindor seventh year, just like every other romantically trembling girl at Hogwarts.
Sirius stood up, and quickly found his wand stashed away inside a secret pocket of his robes. “Now, you both know what to do, yes?” The girls nodded simultaneously like two bobbing birds. Amos Diggory, one of their Hufflepuff prefects, instructed them on the counterspell to the locked closet door. “You’re sure you know the wrist movements,” Sirius mimicked the swift actions quickly to demonstrate just in case. “They can be a bit tricky.”
“No worries, Sirius. We’ve been practicing all evening and have it down pat,” Grania confidently smiled.
“Yes, Amos made sure we knew it like the backs of our hands before he sent us,” Kelley added with overzealous abandon.
“Good,” Sirius beamed back at the girls, practically causing Kelley to sway on her feet. “I knew I could depend on a couple of brilliant Hufflepuffs.”
The old corridor was silent as Sirius readied his retreat. Grania moved towards the worn door, carefully leaning her tiny ear against it. “Are you sure they haven’t blown each other to bits in there?”
“Quite sure,” Sirius chuckled.
“And, they’re not like,” Kelley’s voice trembled in a whisper, “naked in there or anything?”
Sirius bit his bottom lip to contain his smile. Both girls before him were so very young, actually only a few years younger than Julia was. But she certainly didn’t seem that way to him. He reminded himself for the hundredth time that night to keep it all in check. Julia was and always would be James’ niece, and wherever his mind was wandering to would have to be kept back.
“Listen,” Sirius directed their concerns towards the door and swept his wand around in giant oval waves. He briefly considered using the two-way mirror in front of the girls, but nixed the idea since he wasn’t about to give up one of the very secrets of his success. A golden shimmer cascaded outward like a tumbling fog, and along with it, laughter and bright voices carried out in sporadic clips.
“What ever are they doing in there?” Grania Drake wondered aloud looking to Sirius for answers.
“Last time I checked, they were playing catch with a snitch,” Sirius explained.
A boisterous voice called out, “that’s five to three James Potter!”
“And it sounds like Lily’s kicking his arse too,” Sirius chortled proudly. Both girls smiled at the idea of Lily Evans beating James Potter at his very own game. “See, nothing indiscreet or indecent whatsoever. Well, maybe James would see it differently, but we won’t tell, will we?” Kelley giggled, turning at least three different shades of pink.
The spell faded before their eyes, and the voices vanished from their ears. “We won’t tell anyone Sirius,” Grania declared for both of them.
“I know you won’t. Now give me about a ten minute headstart, all right? Don’t want the two Heads of Hogwarts blasting me to bits before I can make my getaway,” he winked at the girls and swiftly took off down the hall to some undisclosed destination.
“Good luck Sirius,” Kelley spoke under her breath watching him fade into darkness.
Too busy attempting to balance on his tiptoes to catch the speeding snitch; James at first didn’t even register the yellow bath of light that suddenly illuminated the entire closet. He caught the snitch in a spectacular midair maneuver without any contest from her whatsoever. She hadn’t let him pull a move like that all night. Confused, he caught sight of a stationary Lily and her gaping fallen mouth. His eyes followed hers looking at the open door teasingly cracked behind him.
“Get behind me Lily, just in case,” James stated protectively without an air of usual arrogance and he crept towards the door. Normally Lily would never listen to a command from anyone, especially James Potter, but something was different now. And staring at the open door, Lily felt almost as if she regretted leaving despite her claustrophobic tendencies. She was perfectly fine as long as she was with him.
With their wands at the ready, James and Lily together flung open the creaky old door and stepped out into the abandoned corridor. The air was still and stagnant. No one was around, not a single soul. There was little doubt in James’ mind that Sirius had already run off with his tail between his legs. When he had the opportunity to catch up with him, he would make him severely regret ever locking Lily up in a broomcloset. Though, on the upside, he could feel Lily directly behind him, her warm hand resting on his back.
A bitsy screech came from behind them, and James spun about with one arm protectively pulling Lily in back of him, and the other one pointed his wand out in the direction of the offending noise. Right there stood two little girls, Hufflepuff by the look of their robes, oozing innocence with their sweet smiles.
James lowered his wand in an agitated frown, and Lily peered around his tall shoulder at the girls. “And I suppose you both have found yourselves lost, have you?” He now stood with his arms folded across his chest and all that was missing was the scolding sound of his tapping shoe. Lily could hardly contain her smile.
“Exactly,” the braver of the two girls stepped flippantly forward, the curls of her hair springing as if they had a mind of their own. She completely defied his authority and didn’t seem intimidated by his height whatsoever. Lily moved to stand next to James, quirking a curious eyebrow.
“You’re Grania Drake, correct?” Lily bent slightly to address the girl, with a soft smile to cushion the questions.
“Yes, yes I am. And this here,” she cocked her head back to the smaller girl behind her, “is Kelley Candron.” Kelley inched forward, her chin and eyes shyly melded to the cold floor.
“I thought so. I knew your older sister Maggie when she was in seventh and I was in third. It wouldn’t do for her to find out that you’ve been wandering about the castle, in a restricted section no less, would it?” James stood still, his eyes darting up and down between Lily and the little girl. The girl’s round eyes glistened in the lamplight as she pondered the probability by decisively chewing her bottom lip. A slow head shake then came from both girls, and now James forced himself not to smile.
“Well then. I think Mr. Potter and I should escort you back to your common room before curfew hits and more trouble follows,” Lily stated with kind authority.
“Yes, I for one certainly wouldn’t want to deduct house points for being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” James looked down at both girls with his best intimidation face, “and maybe you could enlighten us on where exactly Sirius might have wandered off to?”
Kelley’s eyes grew rounder than full moons, but Grania just smiled as if she were a secret Gryffindor.
The soles of his shoes slapped in time with every breath he took to get to her. Other students ignored his haste, as they raced to get back to their own common rooms so close to curfew. Sirius really hoped she didn’t fall asleep in the library again, as Shannon had a tendency to do lately. But she wouldn’t do that tonight, she had promised him.
He took the large steps leading up to Ravenclaw Tower three at a time, and once he reached his destination, he leaned his forehead against the cold wall catching his breath. Ravenclaws of all sizes fluttered in through the seamless door, whispering the riddle’s answer to the crass-looking bronze eagle so that the stray Gryffindor wouldn’t overhear. Sirius already knew it, and smirked back at a couple of younger boys shielding their mouths with their hands. He shook his head thinking how funny it was that some Ravenclaws actually thought they were the only smart ones at school.
Stella Sturgess lagged behind the group of boys, her face buried so deep within a thick book that she hardly even noticed Sirius standing against the wall in the shadows.
“Hey Stell,” Sirius stepped forward startling the serious girl, “you haven’t happened to see Shannon anywhere have you?”
“Oh,” her horn rimmed glasses slid down her straight nose and she pushed them back up with the spine of the book, “didn’t see you there Sirius!” She stood a foot away from him, flustered and certainly spooked. Sirius felt guilty for surprising her like that, but before he could apologize for his sudden intrusion, she collected herself quickly.
“Caught me off guard is all, no worries,” Stella smiled tightly as if she could read his thoughts. “I was a bit caught up in this volume about the magical properties of fungi growth; it is truly astounding how muggles can believe that fairy rings are the product of some sort of mycelium network underground. Where’s the logic in that?” Suddenly Sirius didn’t feel so guilty anymore. A girl that could ramble on and on about mushrooms until the pixies came home, definitely begged to be interrupted.
“Yes, I imagine some might lack that particular foresight,” Sirius desperately shrugged and scratched his head before he continued. “But, as much as I do enjoy the occasional mushroom, “only on pizza he silently added, “I was wondering if you could check to see if Shannon was in your common room? See, we were supposed to meet up, and I haven’t seen her.”
Stella actually snickered. “Of course I can look Sirius! She’s bound to be in there, we have four feet of parchment due in Charms, and she’s bound to be working on it. I’ll be right back.” He hoped she was right. Besides, that particular parchment wasn’t due for another two weeks, and the typical Ravenclaw that Shannon was, she probably already worked on it the entire evening. Without whispering the answer and much to Sirius’ surprise, Stella quickly replied to the riddle to enter Ravenclaw’s common room. As she walked through the open door, she called over her shoulder, “I know you already knew it, clever lad you are and all…”
A few years ago, he wouldn’t have given a Ravenclaw girl half a chance. But now, more because of Shannon than anyone else, he laughed at how sexy brainy girls could sometimes be. He immediately regretted that thought.
Angelina Redding climbed up the stairs as if she were conquering the castle. As always, she was flanked by her two flunkies, Della Fenimore and Andrea Antoine, the cattiest girls of the school. Sirius wondered if this is what Julia’s ‘plastics’ must have been like, all coverlets and polish without any substance.
When Angelina caught sight of Sirius, a snaking smile coiled across her features waiting to strike.
“Well, well, well girls.” The sweet venom floated over and Sirius narrowed his eyes at her. “Looks like a lion has lost his way. Is that so, Sirius?” She batted her own eyes ever so innocently.
He tried very hard not to look at her, or the way she rolled her shoulders back springing her ample breasts forward, nor did he dare stare into the fire of her crystal blue eyes. There were still parts of him he couldn’t trust around her. And those very same parts had too much blood rushing to them for his liking. A mask of utter disregard covered his face, and he concerned himself with a crack in the high plastered ceiling. Rescue couldn’t come quick enough.
Angelina stepped up close to Sirius, either in invitation or mock, he couldn’t quite determine. Ignorance really was bliss.
“Oh, come now Sirius, I’m only teasing you. You used to have such a great sense of humor, it was one of the things I always adored about you.” The smell of lavender and lilacs hit his nostrils like a full frontal assault. Every nerve in his body cringed as she dared to come closer. He was helplessly pinned against the wall. The sickly sweet aroma that once brought happy palpitations throughout his body now fueled fury and pain in his mind. He’d never hit a girl before, and certainly didn’t want to start now. Just where in the hell was Shannon? Angelina ran her tapping red fingernails over Sirius’ forearm setting his nerves on fire. He honestly couldn’t stand it anymore. He broke.
“Teasing become your new pastime Redding?” Sirius threw out at her just as good as she gave it. His expression was colder than the Black Lake in the dead of winter. “No, wait, that was always one of your very favorites, wasn’t it?” He allowed his eyes to travel down her body back up to her face, the whole time sporting a complete look of disgust at the sight of her.
Angelina hissed as her hand halted in midair to slap him. Never would she allow for anyone to see her shaken, and Sirius knew it. She was positively seething. And it was her nostrils’ turn to flare as she remembered they had an audience. The upbringing in the Redding household didn’t allow for slips of regard, another fact that Sirius well knew since his family held the patent on it. Della and Andrea shrank back behind her, bewildered by their leader’s crack in composure. Quickly gathering her wits, Angelina’s lips parted in a snarl and growled.
“You’re nothing but a filthy –”
“She wasn’t around, Sirius,” rescue in the most unexpected form broke through the portrait. Like a mouse standing down a cobra, Stella seemed suddenly taller, her small shoulders squared and her thick glasses missing from her face. No one ever saw Stella without her glasses, and her shining black eyes punctuated that fact. Her gaze at Angelina could have turned even the most brilliant minded to stone.
Sirius pushed away from the wall, shattering apart the tension in the corridor as if it were never there. This only further enraged Angelina, as her face silently went through the entire red color spectrum. Stella’s eyes never left hers for a moment.
“Thanks, Stella, for looking. I suppose she’s just forgotten again,” he shrugged and hoped that she was waiting for him in the Room of Requirement. “If you see her, let her know I was by, yeah?”
Finally Stella turned her head towards Sirius, and all the earlier iciness melted. “Of course I will.” She smiled and waited for the other girls to make a move.
“Well, have a good night then,” Sirius tossed his hair with a spring in his step. To him, Angelina didn’t even exist anymore, and his large arm brushed hers without notice when he passed. Climbing down the stairs, he hummed a happy tune that echoed back up to the girls. A Beatles tune that had been stuck in his head for weeks always made his head feel a little lighter.
The castle’s giant clock tower began to chime, shaking students in their shoes and announcing curfew had arrived. Stella retrieved her glasses from her pocket and began to clean them with a neat white handkerchief. She stared back at her fellow Ravenclaws with a smirk. “Time to hit the books ladies,” she paused briefly, “or you could just continue to pretend like you do.” Both Della’s and Andrea’s mouths fell open.
Before Stella walked back through the portrait, she added, “Really, now. You should both shut your mouths before something nasty flies in there. There are nargels loose all about the castle…” And then she was gone.
Angelina knew exactly what hit her, and definitely knew what to do about it. After demanding that the other girls get through the blasted portrait, she raced down the stairs to catch Sirius. She quickly found him since he meandered his way through the castle seemingly lost in great thought. A wicked grin grew across her face and she sidled up next to him.
“Sirius,” she stated more than asking polite permission for his attention. Everyone always dropped what they were doing for her. He gruffly sighed, picking up his pace.
“Whatever it is you want, you can bother somebody else,” he stared ahead, picking up the pace and wishing to the gods he were on four legs.
“Honestly, I can’t understand how you can hold such a grudge. It was last term, and I gave you your freedom for the summer, which I’m certain you appreciated.” She tossed her hair the way that all women do, especially when they were playing at something far out of reach for a man.
Sirius gritted his teeth. “Yes, as a matter of fact, I am grateful for it. Discovered exactly what I didn’t want,” he coldly stated, taking easy advantage of his long legs with even longer strides. But she dexterously kept up.
“I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that because you know it isn’t true. You know what you want, and you’re never going to get it from that little bint Shannon Sterling.” Nothing in the world could have stopped him more quickly than a nasty quip about the girl he loved. And in that moment, he realized he did actually love her, beyond wanting to get into her pants and all the other things he ever desired from a girl.
A sappy smile lingered on his lips as he stared back at Angelina. She naturally misread his expression as an invitation. Her fingers crawled up his chest and fiddled with the open buttons. He remained frozen like one of the multitudes of statuary at Hogwarts sporting that silly little grin. Only when Angelina’s red fingernail dragged against his bare skin, he shook himself from his stupor violently.
“Keep your poisonous claws out of me,” Sirius growled, nostrils flaring from containing his anger. “Shannon is a far better woman then you are, silly little girl, and she gives me more than I could ever imagine. If I ever hear you say another word against her, or about her, plan on facing me.”
Angelina regretfully moved away, but kept her emotions in check. It was too soon for reconciliation, but one day the hour would come. Until then, she decided that the best course of action would be to have some fun.
“Maybe you should check up on what your little songbird is doing so late in the library?” Carefully she took a step backwards and then another. “Can’t possibly be all those moldy old books that have captured her attentions.” The wickedest smile curled upon her face combining with the castle shadows and warping her usually lovely features into something momentarily hideous. Sirius stood staring and his mind began to wonder as Angelina sauntered away.
Peter narrowly escaped the bogie hex missle that hurled towards his fat head. Quicker than a weasel he scampered around the common room to escape James’ reach. Leave it to Potter to be upset about getting locked in a broom closet with the one girl he fancied more than marzipan. Fortunately, most of the younger Gryffindors vacated the common room when the hexes began to fly, but not good ole Pete. No, he actually tried to reason with a madman with horned hair.
“Get out from behind that chair, Pettigrew, and take it like a man!” James fired another nasty spell, one that could have potentially kept Peter from having children one day. Lily stood by his side, shaking her head yet honestly trying to mask the smile that kept sneaking up on her face.
“It wasn’t my idea at all, honest,” Peter carefully peeked from behind the armchair hoping to plead his case.
“But you played a major role in it, and since Sirius isn’t here, you’re the one who has to answer for it.” James prepared to fire another blow that would most likely disintegrate the chair, before Lily reached out and stopped him.
“James, it might not have been right what the boys did, but surely we can find another means to punish them, besides destroying the common room,” her hand rested softly on James’ forearm, easing his wand hand down. It was the most amazing thing, and Peter could hardly believe his watering eyes. Lily actually reined James in.
“Look, there are better ways to get back at him,” Lily nodded and quickly added, “all of them.”
With a shrug and a heavy sigh, James deflated, bringing his wand arm down to his side. She was right, and he knew it. Peter gingerly peered around the cushions in utter disbelief.
“I think, Miss Evans, that you are positively correct. We are the Heads after all, and vengeance in this circumstance will never taste sweeter.” Naturally James felt compelled to chain the other three Marauders to chest full of dungbombs and let the shite hit the fan. But, there were better ways, as Lily pointed out. And for the very first time since stepping through the Hogwarts doors, he actually listened to her.