Chapter 1 : Midnight Teachings
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“Merlin, Lupin, c’mon. Up and at ‘em, or something to that effect.”
“What time is it?” the boy murmured sleepily as his eyes fluttered open, taking in the darkness around him.
“Irrelevant,” his attacker stated. “Come on, Moony. You sleep like—“
“An exhausted werewolf?” Remus responded, propping himself up on his elbow and rubbing the drowsiness from his eyes.
“Ah…right,” his mate declared, feeling sheepish. “Sorry, mate. You can go back to sleep, if you’d prefer.”
“It’s fine, Prongs, I’m already up. What do you want?”
“Well, I was wondering if you could do me a favor…”
The grounds were completely silent and crisply laid out before them, and the thick layer of ice that coated the Black Lake shone softly in the glowing moonlight. Fresh snow was falling, leaving the world seemingly untouched and majestically beautiful. The only thing polluting the picturesque scene was James Potter’s foul language.
“Fuck—,” he swore rather loudly, when his haste to rise only proved to result in yet another tumble onto the ice. “There is no possibility that I’ll have this down by tomorrow,” the Head Boy declared, trying to pick himself up again with a furious speed.
“You will,” Remus insisted comfortingly, tugging his hat down to cover his earlobes and offering James a hand, which the Head Boy took. Moony lugged his mate to his feet—or rather, blades. “I can’t believe you never learned to ice skate.”
James threw his friend a scathing look while holding on tightly to Remus’s forearm to steady himself. “Who in their right minds would desire to learn how to balance on these stupid devices?”
“Just about anyone who has lived beside Black Lake for the past seven winters,” Remus informed him, earning another glare. The boy just laughed. “I’m sorry, you’re right. But it doesn’t change the fact that you need to learn this before the sun rises.”
“Yes, I’m aware,” James said sullenly. He slowly attempted to release his grasp on Remus, his feet jostling and wobbling every which way without his mate’s support. After a few long moments, James’s arms were spread out on either side of him, assisting in maintaining his balance.
“Good!” Remus praised. “Now just slide forward with one foot…like that! Now the other…no, don’t try to lift your—” a heavy thud sounded as James’s bum hit the ice, his feet swept out from under him, “—foot.”
James groaned, dropping his head down onto the ice and closing his eyes.
“Why don’t we take a break?” Remus suggested, once again helping Prongs to his feet. James nodded jerkily, and allowed himself to be half-dragged over to a hardened snow bank that ledged out slightly over the ice. They sat, and relief swept through the Head Boy as every ounce of pressure was removed from his blistering feet.
“How long have we been at it?” he asked.
“Nearly forty-five minutes,” Remus responded, glancing at his timepiece. “It’s almost one.”
“Sorry,” James apologized for the fifth time, a feeling of hopelessness spreading throughout him like the cold permeating his winter gear. “I should have just let you sleep.”
“It’s fine, really. I don’t mind,” Remus said, and they sat there for a time, looking up at the cloudy sky that seemed to be a substantially bright hue of light pink as a backdrop for the endlessly falling snow. The flakes landed on their reddened cheeks and noses, melting almost instantly from their flushed faces and steamy breath. Soon, Remus spoke. “Does Lily know?”
The question did not surprise James. He cleared his throat. “Know that I’m out here in below-freezing weather getting my arse kicked by a patch of ice? No, she’s not aware.”
“You’re a prat,” Moony laughed. “And you know that’s not what I meant.”
“Does she know about the date?” James inquired, and his companion nodded. “Yeah, Lily knows about the date.”
Remus raised his eyebrows. “She knows?” James only bobbed his head. “And? How did she react?”
James shrugged. “I dunno. Normally. We’re mates now, you know.”
“Oh, I know,” Remus assured him. “I just…I don’t know. Who’s the girl?”
The Head Boy sighed. “Moony, I woke you because Padfoot pries incessantly. And even if Pete hadn’t gone home for winter hols, he’s not too good with balance.”
“Fine, fine, I won’t ask,” Remus said, putting his hands up in defeat.
Prongs glanced over at his mate. “Right. Let’s get back at it, yeah? Unless you’d rather go sleep, which I wouldn’t blame you for doing.”
“No, it’s fine,” Remus repeated. “Let’s try again.”
James pushed himself up onto his feet, immediately sliding forward and losing his balance. Within moments, he was spread out on the ice. “Fuck,” he swore again, the curse being his primary selection that night.
Remus fought to keep the grin off of his face. “C’mon, you almost had it that time,” he said, with a hint of sarcasm that James picked up immediately.
“Sod off, you prick,” Prongs shot at him. Moony cocked an eyebrow and made to turn away. “No, wait!” James called. “I was only joking.”
“And you need help getting up,” Moony prompted, skating with a flawless motion over to the jumbled mess of limbs that was James Potter.
“And I need help getting up,” James admitted miserably, grasping his friend’s hand once more and hauling himself to his feet.
Half an hour and countless bruises later, even humble Remus Lupin was becoming concerned.
“What were you thinking, asking a witch on a date that involves something you can’t do if your life depended on it?” he asked desperately, losing hope in the situation. He tucked his nose and chin into his scarf, the cold reaching an almost unbearable point.
“I don’t know!” James exclaimed exasperatedly. “It seemed like a fun idea at the time. It was only after that I realized I’ve never skated.”
Remus scoffed, before cocking his head to the side in thought. “Stay here,” he ordered, skating off to the edge of the lake, where the boys’ boots were waiting patiently.
“What?” James cried, from where he—inevitably—sat on the ice. His clothes were nearly soaked through with moisture and melted snow, and his limbs (and his bum) had become numb some time ago. “Where are you going?”
“To gather reinforcements,” Remus said, yanking off his skates and thrusting his feet inside his freezing boots. “Just stay there!”
James made a protesting noise. “Where the bloody hell would I be off to?”
Moony didn’t deign offering a response, but merely jogged slowly away into the night and back up to the castle.
“Traitor,” James muttered moodily to himself. “All Sirius will accomplish is being a git about all of this.” James’s gloved hands gestured vaguely at everything that encompassed this: the midnight escape with Moony, the desire to learn how to ice skate—hell, just the fact that he asked a girl on an ice-skating date would be enough to get Sirius going.
He blew out a heavy sigh. This whole mission was stupid. Even if he was a professional skater, he was bound to make a fool of himself anyway. And waking up Moony was positively daft. There was never a good time to interrupt Remus Lupin’s sleep. In the days following a full moon he was exhausted. The nights that came during the two weeks of normalcy, Moony was just lucky enough to fall into an uninterrupted slumber. And James knew that his mate barely got any sleep in the week leading up to the full moon, be it from anxiety or the intense pain that Remus always denied. Nevertheless, the werewolf would never refuse the chance to assist his mates, no matter how much the other three insisted that Moony didn’t owe them anything.
The Head Boy looked around at the setting around him, his joints aching and his body chilled to the bone.
And then, oddly, he cracked a smile. Because, truthfully, pretending this plan was anything but expected from a reckless wizard like himself was stupid. He had acted before thinking—typical—and that might’ve titled him a dunce, but all was said and done. He couldn’t go back now, and Moony was already awake, anyway.
James pushed himself firmly to his feet, the blades sliding in every direction of their own accord. His hands flew out into the air around him to look for a steadiness in his balance. I can balance on a broom but not on my own two feet, James mused bitterly as his shaking arms stabilized along with the rest of his body. He straightened his back.
He was standing. He was standing on his own, and he hadn’t even fallen…yet. Keeping his slightly-bent arms out to his sides, James pushed his right foot forward, even as he recognized how futile his trials were. This was never going to work. Hadn’t he proved for the last Merlin-knows-how-long that ice-skating was simply not for him? Still, as his left foot slid forward to accompany his right, the Quidditch Captain couldn’t help but feel a bit of pride in his small triumph.
“Well, I don’t know what you’re talking about, Remus. He looks like an expert, out there on the ice,” came a voice from behind him. James whirled around quickly with wide eyes, promptly causing him to lose his balance.
It was the worst fall yet (of course it was), what with his arms flailing and his feet flying straight out from underneath him. James couldn’t keep from wincing as his back made solid contact with the rock-hard surface beneath him. He kept his eyes tight shut as the familiar laughter resounded in the open air.
“Lily?” he deadpanned menacingly, opening his eyes and craning his neck to stare at his best mate. “You’ve gone and brought Lily?”
“Sorry!” Remus said, looking the part not one bit. “Sirius is a right ponce when we wake him during the night, and I’ve seen Lily skate before. She’s a good instructor!”
James groaned, keeping certain to remain off his feet, as doing anything otherwise would surely prove himself a failure.
“I can’t believe this,” he whined as he propped himself up on his elbows. “You shouldn’t have come. Why did you come?” The words were directed at the redhead, who was bundled up snugly. James could only make out her shimmering green eyes and red cheeks from behind her white scarf, and a black knit hat was jammed over her waves of red hair.
The girl in question responded with a smirk that James couldn’t see but detected from the way her eyes crinkled at the corners, crossing her arms over her chest. “Well, I refused to rouse at first. But once I heard that James Potter was making an absolute fool of himself trying to learn to skate in the earliest hours of the morning, I knew I had to see it for myself.”
“You would have seen it for yourself,” James reminded her. “If you had just waited for twelve more hours for our date you could have even seen it during the daytime.”
“Everyone likes a preview,” Lily quipped, and Remus found himself looking back and forth between the two Head Students.
“Wait a tick…you’re the girl?” he asked, turning to Lily with an accusatory stare. “You’re the girl who James asked to go ice skating?”
“Hmm,” Lily hummed her affirmation, still scrutinizing the scene in front of her with a small smile and a cocked head. James looked charmingly haphazard, with his limbs all splayed and his cheeks glowing with a rosy tint. His hazel eyes had that indescribable glint, the one she could never match to his emotions except when he was looking at her. “I’m quickly discovering what a mistake it was to accept.”
“You said she reacted normally!” Lupin accused, ignoring Lily and turning towards James. “Lily Evans reacting normally to James Potter asking her out would be defined as a denial, Prongs.”
“No,” James said, a smirk of his own creeping up onto his face. “Lily Evans reacting normally would be to blush and stammer her way through the entire ordeal.”
“Oh, shut it,” Lily commanded, unable to prove James wrong as a lovely flush crept up onto her cheeks.
“I cannot believe this. I’m going to bed,” Remus declared sourly, turning away from the pair and starting to trudge back towards the castle, step by agonizing step. “Bloody idiot…can’t believe I woke up for this…” he was murmuring to himself, causing Lily to chuckle lightly.
Then she turned her attention to James, stepping onto the ice with her boots. “What in Merlin’s name were you thinking, suggesting ice skating when you bloody well knew you couldn’t do it?”
“You were talking to Marlene just the other day about how you missed skating because of the ‘unseasonable warmth!’ And the Prophet predicted a cold spell, so I figured I’d take a shot at it,” he said stubbornly as she approached.
“You’re an idiot,” Lily said, sitting down next to him.
“Yeah, but we already knew that,” James countered.
“True,” she agreed, twisting to face him. “So, am I going to teach you to ice skate, or what?” Lily asked, offering her hand out to him.
James grinned, grasping it. Lily made to stand, but he tugged her back down, intertwining their encased fingers together. She fell into his side, shoving him over slightly. “Nah, I figure if my date doesn’t understand my failures as a skater, to hell with her.”
The redhead raised her eyebrows at him. “Oh, yeah?”
“Yeah,” James confirmed with a resolute nod. He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and tousled the thick tufts of hair that were sticking out from underneath his cap. “Besides, I reckon she’ll find that I can make up for my shoddy ice skating with my other talents.”
“Quidditch?” Lily voiced, smiling as he leaned in closer to her. Their breath was mingling at his close proximity, and Lily rather thought these first two minutes of their impromptu date were going much better than expected.
“Guess again,” James advised, his voice a whisper as he fit his lips with hers.
Lily pulled away quickly, and James looked at her confusedly. “Wizard’s Chess?” she said with a sly smile, biting her lip in amusement as his eyes flashed in humorous annoyance.
“Stop ruining the moment, Evans,” he said firmly, leaning in again.
“You’ve had nearly seven years to botch everything up, Potter,” she told him with a teasing glint in her eyes. “I figured I should have a go—“
“Shut up,” he ordered, cupping her face in his fingertips and pulling her mouth back to his.