Dinner was, predictably, very interesting. Sarah probably would have referred to it as “an experience.”
Lily wasn’t sure what was more amusing: James attempting to describe Quidditch to her father, or the sight of Petunia politely asking James to pass the potatoes. Lily rather suspected that James’s vehement dislike of Severus had done a lot to win her sister over.
After they’d finished, Lily said, “Mum, do you want any help cleaning up?”
Her mother glanced at James. “No, it’s fine. Petunia and your father can help me. Why don’t you two go wait for us in the living room?”
The implied warning not to go upstairs again did not escape Lily’s notice, and she forced a smile onto her face. “If you’re sure.”
Her mother waved her hand toward the doorway, and Lily led James back into the living room. They collapsed onto the couch again, and Lily curled up against him.
As they waited for her parents and Petunia to join them, James bent down and murmured in her ear, “After this, do you want to come back to my place?”
She glanced up at him in surprise. Behind his glasses, his eyes were glittering, and a smile was creeping its way across his face.
Lily hesitated, and he added, “Come on. I don’t even mean like that. I’m just dying for some alone time with you.”
Whether or not he meant it like that, she knew that going back to his place would result in exactly that. However, Lily was not actually opposed to the idea; her hormones had never quite settled down since they’d been interrupted before dinner.
“Won’t your parents mind?” she asked softly, and he shrugged.
“Nah. They’ll probably be asleep, anyway. They’re old. They go to sleep early.”
“They don’t wait up for you?” Lily found that idea to be distinctly odd; her parents always waited up for her when she was out with friends.
James snorted. “No. Definitely not. If I’m out with Sirius, sometimes I don’t get home until dawn.”
Lily felt a sudden stab of insecurity. “Out doing what?”
“You don’t want to know.” She stiffened a little despite herself, and he looked away from the fire and down at her face. “What, you think—” She shrugged. “God, Lily. No. Jesus, I’ll tell you later. It’s nothing like that. We’re just sometimes doing things that are not strictly legal.”
“You’re what?” she exclaimed in a voice that was louder than she’d meant it to be. The noise in the kitchen stopped for a moment, and she lowered it. “What do you mean?”
He groaned. “I’ll tell you later,” he said. “What does that box do, anyway?” He pointed at the television set.
Lily felt a smile spread across her face. “I’ll show you.”
Predictably, it took her about ten minutes to convince James that the television was not actually evidence that muggles could do magic.
The rest of the evening passed pleasantly enough. Petunia left shortly after dinner to go meet Vernon, though when she hugged Lily goodbye, she had reiterated her suggestion of the four of them getting dinner together before Lily went back to school, which left Lily feeling quite positive.
Her parents seemed to have decided that they liked James quite a bit, even if he probably was sleeping with their daughter, and he remained on his best behavior all evening.
As the evening progressed, however, her mother glanced at the clock a few times. Once it hit nine, she asked James very pleasantly if his parents would be worried about him.
“Oh, no,” James said. “They trust me, and anyway, if my curfew was before they went to bed, I’d have to be home around eight or nine every night.” At the surprise on Lily’s parents’ faces, he added, “Well, they are almost a hundred.”
Lily’s mother’s eyebrows shot up, and her father choked on the biscuit he’d been eating.
“Surely you’re exaggerating,” Lily’s mother said, and James shrugged.
“They just had me really late. They were born in the early 1880s.”
Lily’s father glanced at her, and she said quickly, “Witches and wizards live longer than muggles, Dad, I’ve told you that.” She glanced up at her boyfriend. “James was just their happy little miracle, weren’t you, sweetie?”
He made a face at her teasing and changed the subject.
Once the clock began to near ten, Lily’s father stood up. “Well, James, it was nice to meet you,” he said. “You’ll forgive us, but we’re getting old, too, and we get tired early.”
James popped up and held out his hand. “It was very nice to meet you too, sir,” he said.
Lily’s mother leaned in to kiss his cheek. “Feel free to come back anytime,” she said warmly, and glanced over at Lily. “Ten minutes.”
Lily wavered for a moment, and then made her decision. “We were actually— er— planning to go meet some friends of ours.”
Lily’s mother glanced up at the clock. “Now?” she asked incredulously, and Lily winced.
“It’s Jane’s birthday,” she said, choosing a friend that her parents had actually met to add some credibility to her story. “She’s celebrating at the Leaky Cauldron.”
“The Leaky Cauldron,” her father said slowly. “That’s that pub by Diagon Alley?” Lily nodded, and her parents exchanged a glance.
“I don’t know, Lily,” her mother said after a moment. “It’s already late.” She sighed. “Who else is going to be there?”
Lily hoped that her face looked innocent rather than tense. “Oh, just some of our friends. Sarah was planning to go, and Sirius, Remus…” She trailed off; her parents weren’t listening.
Her father looked at James. “Are you going?” he asked, his eyes slightly narrowed.
James nodded. “Well, yeah. I’m not one of Jane’s best friends like Lily is—” Her mother looked at her sharply, and Lily was suddenly very glad that James was so good at talking himself out of trouble. “—but we’re still pretty close, especially since she’s kind of going out with my best mate.”
That was a flat out lie, or at least it had been last time Lily checked, but she didn’t challenge it. She waited a moment, and then said, in an attempt to appease her parents, “Mum, it’s okay if you don’t want me to go. I told Jane you might not.”
Her parents exchanged another look. “Lily, we don’t want to spoil your fun,” her father said slowly. “We just worry, sometimes.”
She nodded and tried to look just disappointed enough that they would feel guilty without feeling defensive.
“When would you be getting home?” her mother asked after another minute.
Lily shrugged. “I’m not sure. Jane was talking about just staying at the Leaky Cauldron for an hour or two, and then she wanted the girls to come back to her house for the night.” Her parents both seemed to relax a little, and she added, “But I don’t have to go to that, I can just come home.”
She knew that the part that concerned her parents was not the idea of her staying over at a female friend’s house, and sure enough, her mother said, “Oh, no, Lily, that’s not what concerns us.”
“If you want, I can just wait and meet them there,” Lily offered, and her mother sighed.
“No, Lily, it’s fine,” she said after a moment. “Have fun with your friends. Why don’t you ask Jane to come by for lunch this weekend? I’ll make her something nice for her birthday.”
Lily nodded. “I’ll ask her,” she promised.
After a fairly protracted goodbye in which both of her parents made her promise to “stay safe,” she and James grabbed their coats. There were two loud cracks in the front hall, and they were gone.
They appeared a few seconds later just outside James’s house, and he grinned at her. “I never knew you had it in you to lie like that,” he teased.
“Oh, stop it.” She shoved him gently. “What was that about Jane going out with your best mate?”
He shrugged. “Well, Remus fancies her. I figured that was good enough.”
“Does he?” Lily processed that for a minute as they made their way up the walkway toward his house. “Huh.”
James unlocked the door and opened it quietly. He held a finger to his lips. “Mum’s a really light sleeper,” he said softly. “She’s getting over a cold, so I don’t want to wake her.”
He began to creep slowly up the stairs, and Lily followed suit. Once they reached his room and closed the door, he said in a normal voice, “Be as loud as you want in here. I’ve had a silencing charm around it since my fourth year.” He tossed his coat over the chair next to the desk that looked like it hadn't been used in years and kicked his shoes off. After a moment, she did the same. “Your family seems really nice,” he said, collapsing onto his bed.
“Tuney was on her best behavior,” Lily told him, pulling her gloves and hat off and setting them down on top of her coat. “I think you won her over by insulting Severus.”
James snorted. “Well, the feeling was mutual.” He patted the bed next to him. “Come here, will you?” She joined him, and he wrapped his arms around her. “Glad you came?” he murmured.
She nodded, leaning into his embrace. “Tell me something you’ve never told me,” she said. He didn’t say anything for a minute, and she twisted her neck to look at him. His brow was furrowed, and he appeared to be deep in thought.
“Something like what?” he asked.
Lily shrugged. “Anything.” When another silence followed that, she looked back up at him. “Come on, there must be something you haven’t told me.”
He swallowed audibly. “Oh, there is,” he said. “But…” His voice trailed off, but after a moment, he seemed to make a decision. “Okay. You have to promise that you won’t tell anyone.”
“All right,” she agreed.
“Really,” he added. “I’m serious. I could get into a lot of trouble for it.”
Now she was really curious. “I won’t. What is it?” She shifted her position so that she could more easily see his face. “James?”
He looked more serious than she’d even seen him look before. “Promise,” he said. “Swear to me that you won’t ever tell a soul.”
“I won’t,” she repeated. “God, did you kill someone or something?”
James bit his lip. “I…” She waited patiently, but nothing followed. He tried again. “I’m an animagus.”
Lily studied him. On one hand, she found it rather unbelievable that her seventeen-year old boyfriend could possibly be an animagus, but on the other, he didn’t look like he was joking. She searched for an appropriate question, but came up blank. “What?” was all she could manage.
He rubbed his neck awkwardly. “I’m an animagus,” he repeated.
“Well, we kind of taught ourselves,” he said. Lily wasn’t sure whether he was just talking about Sirius, or if Remus and Peter were included in that as well.
However, that question was not the most pressing one on her mind. “Why?” she asked.
James looked away from her. “That I can’t tell you.” At the look of indignation that spread across her face, he added, “It’s not my place, okay? I can’t tell you other people’s secrets.”
What exactly he was alluding to suddenly clicked, and she let out a deep breath, thinking about whether it would be reasonable to push him a little further to assuage the curiosity that had been plaguing her for the last several years. “All right,” she said after a moment, making her decision. “I guess that’s fair.” He relaxed, and she asked, “So what do you turn into, anyway?”
He grinned. “A stag.” Now that he’d gauged her reaction and she’d agreed not to press into his friends’ personal secrets, his demeanor had shifted back to normal. There was a slight smirk spreading across his face, and his hand had instinctively jumped to the back of his head. “Want to see?”
She bit her lip, trying to hide her smile. Her boyfriend could really be an idiot sometimes. “Sure.”
He clambered off the bed and over to the other side of the room. He turned to face her. The smirk had broadened, and there was a mischievous glint in his eyes.
Then it was gone, and in its place was a large stag. She let out a shriek and clapped her hands over her mouth as it tossed its head, and then in another instant, it was gone and James was hurrying back across the room.
“You…” She pointed at the corner. “You…”
Lily didn’t know what she’d been expecting. She knew what an animagus was. McGonagall had transformed in front of their class before. However, she had never seen anything as big as a stag before, and to watch her boyfriend to do in his bedroom…
“Yeah,” he said, kissing her cheek and putting his arms around her. “I know. Pretty cool, right?”
She swallowed hard. Her heart was still pounding wildly. “Very,” she said, trying to calm herself down. She had not expected that to be such a shock. “But James, that could get you in serious trouble. That’s… that’s… that could get you sent to Azkaban.”
She had no idea if that was true or not, but she did know that being an unregistered animagus was highly, highly illegal, for fairly obvious reasons.
James swept her hair out of his way as he lowered his head to kiss her neck. “Maybe,” he breathed. The feel of his breath on her neck made her shiver. “So, does it impress you?” he asked. “Does it make you want to haul me off to a broom closet?”
Lily snorted. “We’re in your bed, you idiot,” she said. “Why on earth would I want to go to a broom closet?”
She could feel him shrug his shoulders. “Habit? That extra little thrill? I don’t know.” He pulled back a little, and she twisted around to face him. “You do think it’s cool, right?” he asked, a tinge of uncertainty making its way into his voice.
“Yes,” she said, not trying to hide the little bit of admiration she was feeling from creeping into her voice. “James, that’s really amazing.”
He beamed. If there was one thing that could never fail to raise her boyfriend’s spirits, it was praise. “I know,” he said, his hand jumping to the back of his head again. “You know, I’ve been able to do that since my fifth year.”
She jerked back. “You’re joking.” He shook his head, clearly pleased with her reaction. “Bloody hell, James. That’s…” After a moment, she threw her hands up. She didn’t even have the words.
“I know.” James leaned in to kiss her. When he pulled away, he was smirking again. “Tell the truth,” he said. “It makes you want me more, doesn’t it?”
Lily rolled her eyes, but after a moment, she admitted, “Maybe a little.” She glanced around the room. “So is that what you were talking earlier?”
He opened his mouth, but no words came out. “Not exactly,” he said after a minute.
She put her head on his shoulder. “Tell me.”
James wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer to him. “I am so in love with you,” he said softly.
Lily felt a smile spread across her face of its own accord. “I know the feeling,” she replied, and twisted around to brush her lips against his cheek. “I love you.” He smiled, and she leaned back into the embrace. “But I am serious. Tell me.”
He laughed. It was a deep-chested, carefree sort of laugh, and she found it utterly infectious, and she nuzzled up against him to listen to what was sure to be a ridiculous story.
A/N: I wasn't sure when I was going to get this chapter up, but the validators have been working really hard and validating things super quickly, so here it is!
Thanks for reading, and as always, I would love to hear what you think. :)
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