Chapter 1 : must be amortentia
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there's a few inside jokes scattered throughout, but you won't likely catch them unless you know them ;)
James stood outside the Three Broomsticks, staring through the window, trying to inconspicuously spy upon his lady love. It was proving to be quite difficult, as peeping can often be. The love in question was sitting at a table just past the window, across from a somewhat tall, somewhat fit young wizard James had never seen before. He hated him. It was part of his occupation really, as a stalker, he had no choice. The wizard was going on about something or other, waving his nicely manicured hands through the air, holding Lily’s attention. She was rapt, gazing up at him with her sea green eyes, her perfect porcelain chin resting in her delicate hand.
Taking a deep breath, James summoned all his courage, which was just enough to get a step past the door. Where he darted behind a hastily conjured tree to listen. The wizard was saying something about cheekbones. James thought, quite enviously, that whoever he was, he really did have quite nice ones. But really, he ought to use their appeal on some other bird. This one was taken.
Now the bloke was stroking his lip, which would have made more sense if he’d had a moustache, but he didn’t so it just looked odd. Lily, however, still had not let her gaze wander away from him. James was strongly beginning to suspect Amortentia. There was no other explanation. The wizard had come out of nowhere – no one knew him – and snared Lily in a matter of weeks. Why Lily?
Actually, who else but Lily? James reckoned he could sympathise with the man. After all, Lily Evans was perfection all rolled up in flaming red hair, emerald eyes, and a body built to torture teenage wizards.
BUT STILL. Wasn’t it all kinds of obvious that the position of Stalker was already filled for Lily Evans?
Cheers for him though, he actually made it from Stalker to Date. Well, he may have bypassed stalker, James was as of yet unclear on that point. However, in his position as stalker, he would discover the answer eventually.
Now the bloke was ordering them drinks at the bar, Lily ogling at his bum. It wasn’t even particularly worth staring at, James didn’t think. He tilted his head a bit sideways, trying to see if perhaps she had a better angle. Other than appreciating the denims he was wearing, though, James didn’t see anything special from this vantage point either. He wondered a bit more where he got the trousers – they looked as if they fit quite nicely.
“What are you doing?” James jumped and shrieked when a voice whispered in his ear. So focused on his task, he hadn’t noticed anyone coming up behind him.
“SHH.” He said loudly. “You nearly gave me away!” Remus raised one eyebrow and James wished that he had that ability. It spoke on so many levels and Remus used it to his great advantage.
“I believe I was being quiet and you yelled like a dying banshee.”
James glared. Remus switched eyebrows. James glared more.
“So what are you doing?”
“Fair obvious isn’t it? Reconnaissance.”
Remus looked suitably impressed and James preened. “Who taught you that word?”
“Never mind. I’m trying to identify the bloke with Evans. He seems fishy. I think he’s using some kind of potion on her.”
Snort. “What? You’re mental.”
“I’m serious! She just doesn’t look... Normal.”
Remus looked over at Lily, then at the bloke approaching her with two butterbeers, then back at James. “How is that not normal?”
“She’s ogling him! She never does that!”
“She’s a witch, of course she does. I’m sure she just thinks he’s quite fit.”
James gaped at Remus. “Why would you say that?”
Remus looked nonplussed.
Peering through the branches of his tree again, James saw the wizard sit down and pass Lily her mug of butterbeer, being sure to brush his fingers against her as he withdrew. Cheap pass. But Lily blushed and tucked her hair behind her ear, ducking her head. Obviously the influence of a potion. She would never fall for that smooth, slimy act. James knew that for sure, he’d watched Nigel Cranmer try it. (He may have attempted it once as well, but never mind about that.)
“Why are you hiding behind a tree?” James thought this was a stupid question.
“So Lily doesn’t see me. You can’t properly stalk someone if they see you.” And James was very experienced with this sort of thing, so he would know.
“Er – James? You have a cedar sapling in the middle of a pub. It might be less conspicuous if you just sat at a table facing theirs. People are looking at you – and me – very oddly.”
Who cared about other people? It was Lily who mattered here. He was trying to look out for her. However, Rosmerta’s chips sounded delicious, so he consented. Remus went up to order for them and James found the perfect table. It was in a corner, a bit shadowed, and if he sat in just the right spot he had a full view of Lily and her date. Even better than through all those branches. He could hear better from here as well.
Lily was now listening to this chap go on about his university studies. Wait. What? DAMN. Older man. He was telling her how he travelled during summers, and was currently in Hogsmeade for a year doing an apprenticeship. Although he didn’t say with whom, so James was still lost as to what he did for a living. The more he listened the more he began to think something was – off – about this wizard.
Remus returned then with a basket of chips and two butterbeers. He slid in next to James so that he could watch Lily and her date as well. Without breaking his surveillance, James stuffed a handful of chips in his mouth.
“Remus,” he said when he could form speech again. “There is something off about this bloke.”
Rolling of eyes. “You just think that because you’re jealous.”
Preposterous. “He doesn’t even sound right. As if he can’t speak like the rest of us.”
Remus listened for a minute. The speaker in question was describing the ocean and how he just knew Lily would love it Down Under. What was he going to do? Drown her?
“James, he doesn’t speak funny. He has an accent.”
“Don’t you mean speech deficiency?”
“No. I mean he’s Australian, you eejit.”
DOUBLE DAMN. He knew for a fact that the girls of Hogwarts had an unhealthy attraction to men with foreign accents. Last summer Mary MacDonald’s French cousin-in-law had been with her family picking her up and all the girls had crowded around him. Never mind he was at least ten years older than them and married. Sirius had been disgusted when Kate, his girlfriend at that time, had told him to stop being so babyish, she just wanted to listen to this other bloke talk. Lily was no different – she had been as ridiculous as the rest of them.
“HELP ME REMUS.” He shouted. Everyone turned to look at him. Even Lily. James was nearly distracted by the fact that Evans was looking at him voluntarily but remembered at the last second that those beautiful, verdant eyes weren’t supposed to notice his presence. After a wild glance around the room, in which he noticed that Australian looking at him curiously and Remus hiding his face in his hands, James ducked underneath the table. He pulled his invisibility cloak out – he always had it with him while stalking Lily, it was a handy tool – and slipped it over his head.
After he disappeared most everyone went back to what they were doing. Remus kicked him, letting him know it was time to come out. He hit him back and crawled out from under the table, punching Remus again (for good measure) to let him know where he was.
“I’m going to get a closer look. I still think something’s off about him.” Remus tried to stop him, but couldn’t do much without looking ridiculous. Invisible, James crept carefully through the tables, his stellar reflexes keeping him from running into anyone. In just a few moments he was standing beside Lily, glaring at the Australian. Of course he was invisible, but James just knew that the force of his rage and protectiveness was coming through.
“Do you know that bloke? The one shouting a minute ago?”
Lily rolled her perfect, vibrant eyes. “Unfortunately. He’s in my year, the Head Boy.”
The Australian laughed. He had a stupid laugh.
“Really? Seems like a funny enough sort.”
Snort. Even her snort was cute. “He’s funny enough I suppose.”
Again. A stupid laugh. “So not a friend of yours, I take it?”
“Not a chance. He and his friends are so – immature. Not at all like you.”
Flirty eyebrow. What the hell? This guy could raise one eyebrow too? So unfair.
“Well, I am well travelled and experienced.”
“And I am quite handsome. And witty. Not to mention extremely intelligent.”
The Australian reached across the table to take her hand and she let him.
James couldn’t take it anymore. His heart was breaking. Evans – his Evans – was being seduced by a potion wielding Australian and there was nothing he could do to prove it. Morose, downtrodden, and etc, James left the Three Broomsticks – taking his tree with him.
“You can’t let this get you down mate.” Sirius told James, patting his shoulder consolingly. “Carry on, and so forth.”
“Yes James. She’s bound to notice you someday. You know – eventually.” Peter was not helping.
“It’s no use.” He declared dramatically. “She’s left me for another man. A foreigner. A dastardly despoiler of innocent Lily.”
“Seriously – have you been reading a dictionary?” Remus was a git.
“Reckon she’s just going through a phase.” Sirius offered.
“She’ll come around.” Sirius was his favourite friend. Obviously.
James heaved a heavy, laboured sigh. “I’m going to bed. Wake me up when Evans has married the blighter.”
Peter looked worried. Sirius seemed startled. Remus rolled his eyes.
For the next few days James wandered about the castles listlessly. Disinterestedly. Wraithlike, even. Meadows’ books said that was how broken hearted chaps carried on. (It wasn’t a dictionary he’d been reading, after all.) He dragged his feet, dropped the quaffle, and even McGonagall couldn’t get a rise out of him. She even cast him a concerned glance at one point, until Remus caught her eye and shook his head, rolling his eyes.
Still a git, that one.
James dragged his feet to breakfast the next Sunday morning. If sustenance wasn’t vital to survival, he’d have skipped it. He slid dejectedly into the first seat he saw – at the end of the table closest to the door.
“James! What are you doing? We’re sitting at the middle as always, don’t you know.”
“I know Pete.” He sighed. “I know. But I just can’t move from this spot.”
“Why not, James?” Dear, dear Peter. Such a great friend.
“Because, I have lost all will to go on.”
“Lay off the romance novels mate.” Remus advised. When did the Git get here? And how did he know about the novels?
“Sneaky, aren’t you?”
“Just tell her how you feel, mate. Bound to clear things up.” Remus told him, ignoring the jibe.
Sirius finally showed up.
“What’s going on then?” He asked.
“Remus is gone mental.” Peter breathed.
“I can’t do that, Remus. That’s – ridiculous.”
Remus shrugged. “Seems rather simple to me. I don’t reckon she really likes the chap anyway.”
”What?” Three sets of eyes widened and three jaws dropped, staring at Remus. Remus just grinned, shrugged, and looked mysterious. As if he knew something the rest of them did not.
James swivelled to look up at Evans. She was giggling at something MacDonald was saying. Probably about that Australian.
“This bears investigating.”
So that was how the four boys ended up crouched behind a tree, spying down the high street of Hogsmeade. Peter was grumbling about being hungry, Sirius was poking at a beetle, and Remus was not actually crouching with them. He was sitting quite comfortably on a rock a few feet behind them, scribbling in a little notebook. James was scratching his face – not shaving was part of his listless life and it was becoming a scratchy life.
Before long, they saw Evans coming down the street. Alone. Perfect. James stood up straight.
“What are you doing?” Sirius questioned him.
“Going to talk to Evans.”
“You can’t do that! You’re a stalker – stalkers don’t talk to the people they’re stalking.”
“He’s moving up from stalker to potential boyfriend.” Sirius stated with great authority.
“Right. Potential boyfriend.” With that, James came out from behind his tree and popped up in front of Evans. She startled, but recovered quickly, as if boys popping up to surprise her from odd locations happened all the time. (It may have been James)
“Potter. What are you doing?”
“Er – uh – hello Evans.” She peered at him suspiciously. He smiled non-threateningly.
“Right. You’re up to something.”
“No I’m not. I was just saying hello. Where are you going? What are you doing today?”
“Why do you want to know?”
“Ah – just asking. Conversation.”
More suspicion. Another innocent look. Perhaps working?
“I’m going to the three Broomsticks to meet Jack.”
“Yes, Jack. My boyfriend. He’s from Australia, and he’s in university.” She said defensively.
“Why are you growing a beard? You look – different.” Averted eyes. Nervous? About what?
“I haven’t felt like doing much this last week.” Moping, heartbreak, and etc. didn’t leave time for shaving.
“Does Jack have a beard?”
“No. He’s too fair, can’t grow one properly.”
“I’m leaving.” And she did, giving James one last curious look over her shoulder before hurrying down the street toward the Three Broomsticks.
“Right.” James declared, his three friends joining him. “We’re going to the Three Broomsticks.”
“Chips!” Peter exclaimed. “Brilliant.”
“Rosmerta.” Sirius leered.
As it were, they didn’t get chips or the chance to flirt with the buxom bar maid. Instead, they crowded into the same, shadowy booth James and Remus had sat at during the last Hogsmeade weekend. Only this time James wouldn’t allow any of them to reveal their location. Peter whinged. Sirius glowered. Remus ignored them some more. James just thought that this investigation was yielding depressing results.
“Seems to like him well enough to me.” James grumbled.
Remus was raising one eyebrow again. Jealousy.
James bristled. Shifted. Glared. Stood. Sat. Huffed.
“Fine!” He stood again. “I’ll go introduce myself.”
Remus wondered where he got the idea to do that.
Evans looked surprised as he approached, but not unhappy. She even looked a bit – pleased? Cheeks pink, eyes bright, smile at corner of mouth.
“Uh – Evans. Hello.”
“Just wanted to say hello to you friend – er – date. Welcome him and all. So – uh – hello. James Potter.”
“Jack Gellman. How’re you mate?” He shook James’ proffered hand.
“Well. Welcome to Hogwarts. Australian are you?”
“James,” Lily said. (Heartbeat racing) “Was telling me about his beard before I got here. I like it.”
Perked right up.
“Really?” Jack looking annoyed. Bonus.
“Yes, really. Why did you decide to do it?”
Remus might not be such a git after all. Or stupid.
“I have to tell you something, Lily.” Deep breath. “I like you and always have and I love you and I want you to drop this slimy foreigner and go out with me and be mine forever. And stuff. I grew this beard because I was heartbroken and couldn’t bring myself to care about my appearance.”
Lily blushed. Aussie’s jaw dropped. He started to speak but Lily stood up and stepped toward James, effectively robbing him of all speech.
“Really.” His heart soared. He had finally come out from behind the tree.
“Oh James.” She sighed softly. “I’ve been waiting so long to hear that.”
Need to breathe.
She whispered for his ears alone. “The beard is sexy.”
Walking on clouds after they left together, James held hands with Lily on his way back to the castle. He spared a tiny glance for Jack the Australian, who was chatting up a pretty, blonde Hufflepuff (affectionately known as Peach). James wished him luck, as long as he stayed away from Lily. Lily was his.
Still walking on clouds.
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