Chapter 1 : James - Making The Bet (Prologue)
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"Don't you think, Prongs?" Remus's voice suddenly pulled me out of my thoughts. I started at the sound of my nickname and glanced wildly around at the three faces staring straight at me. Peter was on the bench directly opposite me in the compartment, his thin, straggly blonde hair partially covering his watery blue eyes. He was clearly waiting for me to speak so that he could agree with me, as usual. Beside him, Remus' light brown eyes were studying me quizzically, catching on to the fact that I hadn't paid him the slightest bit of attention moments before. Sirius, slouched on the seat next to me, straightened and glanced at my face for the briefest moment before barking in laughter.
"Oh, uh… yeah, I totally agree," I said quickly, feigning a look of interest.
"Me too!" Peter piped up immediately, just as I had predicted.
"You have no idea what we're talking about, do you, Prongs?" Sirius said knowingly as a wicked grin emerged on his face. "Deep in thought, hm? About what… or whom?"
"I was listening--"
"Evans, perhaps?" Sirius continued, wiggling his eyebrows. But before I could respond, the compartment door slid open, and Lily Evans herself was standing in my presence.
The first thing I noticed - as always - was her brilliant red hair, which was lightly cascading down her shoulders in gentle waves. It framed her face perfectly, the vivid red contrasting greatly with her lovely pale complexion. Her glistening emerald eyes were wide as she noted our compartment's inhabitants, and then her soft pink lips formed a familiar scowl.
She was truly the epitome of beauty, even more stunning when grimacing in person than when smiling in my daydreams.
Without meaning to, my hand jumped to my already-messy black hair, ruffling it nervously. "Hey, Evans," I said in what I hoped was a smooth, suave voice.
She glared at me. "Potter," she said coldly. I felt numb, like I always did when she spoke to me, or acknowledged me, or even glanced at me.
"And what has influenced you to grace us with your presence?" Sirius asked with a smirk. Her eyes swiveled to his grey ones instead, and I sighed, missing her piercing gaze already.
"I'm doing my rounds," she replied, pointing to her Head Girl badge. "But it looks like you guys aren't up to anything terrible… yet," she added, stepping out of the compartment.
"Go out with me, Evans?" I suddenly called out to her, mentally cursing myself. I couldn't help it - it was so difficult to restrain myself from finding out if her opinion of me had finally changed every day… or hour… or minute…
She sighed exasperatedly. "For the last time, no, Potter!" she yelled, slamming the door shut with such force that I was afraid it was going to break.
I slumped down in my seat, putting my head in my hands. It truly pained me how much I loved her and how little she could even tolerate me. But I had to keep my spirits up, or else I would never win her heart. I finally looked up and found the others all staring at me.
"This is the year," I told them all. They groaned loudly, but I plunged on. "This is the year that Lily Evans is going to fall in love with me. I can--"
"Just feel it. All it will take is planning, determination, and lots of perseverance," each of my friends said in unison in flat tones.
"We know," Remus said wearily. "You've been telling us since… second year?" he guessed. Sirius nodded in confirmation.
"Mate, you really should get a move on with her," Sirius urged, patting my shoulder amicably. "After this… well, there won't be a next year, Prongs. This is seventh year now. This is it."
I stared at him in disbelief. No. This couldn't be it, this simply couldn't be the end of my efforts to court Lily. I had always held on to the hope that if things didn't work out one year, it was no problem, there was always next year to pursue her. But not this time. With both of us gone from Hogwarts, I would never see her again. Sure, it had vaguely registered in my mind that we were heading to seventh year, but I hadn't considered what it meant for Lily and I.
"Padfoot… what am I going to do?" I begged, feeling suddenly hopeless. He shared a meaningful look with the others, and Remus spoke up.
"Well, Prongs, maybe you have to do something different this year if you want her to… reciprocate your feelings," he suggested.
"Yes, exactly!" Sirius exclaimed, a grin forming on his face. "And it's quite clear what you have to do."
"What's that?" I asked, looking from Remus' knowing look to Sirius' equally knowledgeable smirk.
"Use magic to charm her into loving you," Sirius answered.
At the same time, Remus spoke, "Be diplomatic and talk to her politely."
Both of them stared at each other. Then Remus said slowly, "Padfoot, the only logical thing to do is to befriend her first. If Prongs talks to her and gains her trust now, he'll be well on his way to going out with her."
"Yeah, like she's going to start being friendly with him," Sirius scoffed. "We go to a school for magic, Moony, how about we do something useful with it for once?"
I sighed and looked at Peter. "What do you think, Wormtail? Which approach should I try?"
Peter looked fearful at being asked his opinion on the matter. He stuttered out, "W-well, I think what you're doing is bound to work, Prongs. You know, pressuring her to go out with you."
"Where's that gotten him so far, Wormtail?" Sirius sighed impatiently.
"Well, she's gonna crack this year after six years of him bothering her," Peter argued.
"I've got it!" Sirius suddenly cried, an excited gleam in his eye. He stared at each of us mischievously before asking, "What do you say we each approach this in our own way?"
"What do you mean?" Remus asked slowly, though his racing mind was surely stumbling upon where Sirius' statement was heading.
"I mean that we each try to get Lily to go out with Prongs using our own method… like a game! I use magic, Moony uses… er, diplomacy, Wormtail uses pressure, and Prongs uses his supposed 'charm'. Whoever's method works gets bragging rights - and thirty galleons from each of the others!" he declared.
Everyone thought over this for a moment. "This may actually be a good idea, Padfoot," Remus admitted.
"You're not the only one with brains, Moony," Sirius replied, looking quite pleased with himself.
"I'll do it," Peter agreed earnestly, eager to prove himself worthy.
"Me too," Remus volunteered.
"Great," Sirius said, smiling widely and turning to look at me. "Prongs, are you up for the challenge?"
"Haven't I always been?" I retorted, but I couldn't keep the grateful smile off my face. Trust my friends to help me in even the most desperate of situations. We would each be wholeheartedly participating in this task, our motivation having no bounds. And when we Marauders put our minds to something, we never fail.
AN: Hey everybody, this is my second fanfiction, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it! Don't forget to leave a review with comments, compliments, or criticism. ~WaterLily :)