Sirius dragged an exhausted Lily through the door of the Transfiguration classroom. McGonagall gave the sleepy Head Girl a pitying look that she was too tired to acknowledge with words. She smiled wearily at her House Head as she flopped into the seat on Sirius’ left.
James handed her her bag - which he had insisted on carrying - and, once her books were stacked to her liking, she let her head drop onto her desk. She would have been quite happy to stay there, and sleep, even if the hard wood was not as comfortable as James’ pillow. Unfortunately, Professor McGonagall had other ideas.
‘Today we will be covering human transfiguration,’ McGonagall said crisply. ‘Your task is to give your partner wings. The incantation is “Germinet Allaes”. If you would split yourself into pairs... Miss Evans and Mr Black partner with Mr Potter, please. If your being joined affects the transformation process at all, let me know.’
‘Yes, Professor,’ Lily said, blinking in an attempt to wake up.
‘Who wants wings first?’ James asked, brandishing his wand.
‘I will,’ Lily sighed.
James smiled at her and waved his wand, obviously doing the spell non-verbally. Lily’s shoulder-blades itched. Both dark-haired Marauders laughed. James waved his wand again, making Sirius laugh harder. She hoped he didn’t topple over because she knew she’d end up on the ground with him.
‘You look like a fairy, Lils,’ Sirius managed to chortle as he clutched his side.
‘Really?’ she asked, a small smile forming on her lips. James nodded and summoned a small rectangular mirror from his school bag. Lily saw a flash of recognition in Sirius’ eyes as he looked at it, but it was quickly hidden by his amusement. James held the mirror out to her, and she laughed; sprouting from her back was a pair of shimmering pointed wings. James had also charmed her a little tiara, made of joined lilies.
McGonagall walked past and gave them a rare smile as she examined James’ handiwork. She commended James on the best wings she had seen in years and awarded him fifteen points for ability, and five for creativity with the tiara.
With a grin, James made the wings vanish, earning him a further thirty points, since McGonagall hadn’t actually told them the counter-charm. The professor continued around the rest of the classroom, but Lily saw her sneaking glances at her best student from the other side of the room and saw her smile again when James bestowed Sirius with a pair of fluffy black angel wings.
Remus laughed. ‘Angel wings, Padfoot? That’s something of an oxymoron, wouldn’t you say, Prongs?’
Lily and James looked at each other, trying and failing to hide their smiles.
Sirius scowled good-naturedly at James. ‘I wanted fairy wings and a tiara too.’ Remus made a funny choking noise, which he hastily disguised as a cough.
After Transfiguration, the seventh years made their way to Potions. It was an easy lesson since Slughorn was ill and all they were required to do was prepare the ingredients for tomorrow’s practical.
Their substitute was a Ministry witch from the Department of Management and Control of Magical Children named Miss Umbridge. She was a short, squat young woman wearing pink robes and looked rather like a toad. She tapped the blackboard with her wand causing the instructions to appear and then told everyone to be quiet and work.
Umbridge had marched over to yell at Lily and Sirius for holding hands when they were supposed to be working. They hastily explained the situation, causing Umbridge to try to remove the Sticking Charm herself (Lily had rolled her eyes), and after that failed, she told them to get on with their task.
‘That’s what we were trying to do, before we were so rudely interrupted,’ Sirius muttered. Remus and James sniggered.
‘Sirius, I’m a scorpion sting short,’ Lily whispered.
‘I don’t have any spares,’ he said apologetically. Lily frowned, knowing she couldn’t Summon the dangerous ingredient because it might hit someone. ‘Hold on- Prongs!’ Sirius hissed. James’ head snapped up to look at him. ‘We need a-’
Miss Umbridge made a shushing noise. Lily gave the woman an exasperated look.
‘Sorry, miss,’ Sirius said with his most charming smile. ‘It’s just that Lily here need-’
‘Your hand is not up, Mr Black,’ she said sweetly. ‘I’ll take points from Gryffindor if you aren’t quiet.’
‘But-’ The witch held up a chubby finger, silencing Sirius. He made a face and was about to say something else-
‘-Sirius, be quiet!’ Lily snapped, cutting him off.
Umbridge cleared her throat. ‘Ten points from Gryffindor, Miss-’ she consulted the class list, ‘-Evans.’
Lily glared at the pink-woman but refrained from giving a retort.
‘Scorpion sting!’ Sirius shouted suddenly. Lily hit her forehead with the palm of her hand, shooting him a frustrated look. The class laughed.
‘Hem hem...’ Umbridge said primly. ‘Mr Black, I will have to take ten points from Gryffindor. Please be quiet now, else I’ll be forced to give you detention.’ Sirius nodded, but James was looking thoughtful. Lily went back to shredding her duckling feathers, which was quite difficult with only one hand.
Something small hit Lily’s head. She frowned looking down at a small golden ball that was lying on the desk in front of her. Sirius reached across and plucked it out of her reach with a wink. She looked across the room to see where it had come from.
James smiled at her and mouthed, ‘Open.’ Lily heard a metallic click from next to her and then Sirius carefully passed her the sting and then lobbed the ball into the air but it was only when it sprouted wings that Lily realised it was a Golden Snitch. James winked again, catching it and then it disappeared and his gaze left her face and moved to that of the Ministry witch. He watched expectantly.
The woman rubbed her head, scowling. She shrieked as something invisible hit her again. Lily watched, torn between disapproval and amusement. Sirius and James were not as subtle, sniggering over their workbenches.
Umbridge made a grab at the air and turned to James with an expression of triumph. Umbridge stalked over to his desk and slammed the now visible Snitch down in front of him. Several duckling feathers went flying.
‘You could’ve been a Seeker, Miss,’ James said, with a flattering smile as he pried the Snitch out of her hand and pocketed it. Lily sighed.
‘Mr Potter,’ she said silkily. ‘Is that yours?’
‘Yes. Yes, it is.’
Umbridge looked shocked at the admission and then smiled. ‘You do realise I’ll have to take points away for this, don’t you?’
‘Actually,’ James said politely, ‘you don’t.’
‘You’ve broken school rules.’
Sirius leaned toward Lily. ‘This’ll be good – Prongs knows the school rules better than Dumbledore himself.’ Lily raised an eyebrow, seriously doubting that.
James shook his head, smiling slightly. ‘No, I haven’t.’
‘Yes-’ Umbridge began.
‘You used magic,’ she said sounding annoyed.
‘So I did. But last time I checked the rules, using magic during lessons, in a magic school was allowed.’
‘You attacked a teacher.’
James sighed. ‘Miss, you’re not a teacher, though on principal, you’re correct... if you can prove that was my intent. I didn’t throw the Snitch at you, it seemed to hit you of its own accord, and if you check the spells my wand recently performed, a Wind Spell is not one of them.’
She did just as he said and seemed disgruntled to find the last spell he had cast was to give Sirius wings in Transfiguration.
‘Nonetheless,’ she said sweetly, ‘the Snitch hurting me was a result of your actions, direct or not. You must take responsibility for things inside your control.’
‘Miss?’ Remus interrupted, putting up his hand. ‘If that’s true, then shouldn’t you have stopped James from indirectly setting the Snitch on you, since he’s the student and you’re the teacher and therefore the one in control of him? One might make the argument that your choice to be uncompromising about Sirius getting his sting was provocation for James’ actions, and that would make it your own fault that you were “hurt”.’ Umbridge gave Remus a nasty smile but was cut off from whatever she had been about to say by Sirius.
‘Aside from what Remus said – which I completely agree with, by the way – I think now is a good time to mention that you’re hurting me with your actions,’ Sirius said innocently.
‘How?’ Umbridge snapped.
Sirius pretended to shield his eyes. ‘So pink!’ he groaned dramatically.
The class laughed and even some of the Slytherins gave reluctant smiles; Bellatrix and Severus had been shooting Umbridge disgusted stares all lesson.
Umbridge looked ready to breathe fire. She marched to the front of the class and opened her mouth to begin her tirade when the bell for lunch went. Lily and Sirius scooped their ingredients into their potions kits and hurried up to the Great Hall for lunch.
‘We have frees all afternoon,’ James said happily, flopping into his seat at the Gryffindor table. He began to load his plate with miniature sausage-rolls.
‘Excellent,’ Sirius said through a mouthful of sandwich. ‘Maybe we could try the Hospital Wing, see if they can separate us?’ Lily looked up hopefully, but then her face fell. Her lip trembled and she nodded.
She hated to admit it, but she was going to miss them. She knew they had only tolerated her because she was attached to Sirius, but to her, they were friends.
Sure, she wouldn’t miss having to shower in her swimsuit, having to put sensory-blocking charms on Sirius when she needed the bathroom, transfiguring her clothes into pyjamas and back again and only having one hand, but she actually would miss the Marauders’ antics.
She would miss the feeling of belonging she hadn’t had since Mary had left, miss having intelligent - and in Remus’ case, mature - company and being able to talk about things like school and family instead of the latest Witch Weekly article.
Surely she would still have those things? Surely the Marauders would still talk to her when she and Sirius were separated? But what if they didn’t? After spending three days straight with them, her opinions of them had changed drastically. But what if theirs had changed too, and they didn’t want her around anymore?
Surprisingly, another thought entered her mind; what if James didn’t like her anymore? That had never mattered before, in fact, at the end of last year, she would have thought it was a blessing... but now...?