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Chapter 8 : Third Year: 1973
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“Hey, isn’t it your mum’s birthday tomorrow, Lily?” Mary asked, not looking up from her dream diary homework for Divination.
Lily gasped and clapped a hand to her mouth. “It is! I completely forgot! I’ll send her a letter and tell her the school owl couldn’t carry her package.”
Mary grinned. “It’s good having Muggle parents, isn’t it? We can use so many excuses and they won’t know a thing.”
Lily laughed as she pulled out a roll of parchment, an inkwell and a quill. “It is pretty good. Anyway, I’ll start writing this letter.” Mary nodded and returned to her Divination homework as Lily chewed on her quill. She wasn’t too sure what to write so she wrote something generic and sealed the envelope quickly. She wrote down her home address and then put all her belongings back in her bag.
“I’m just going to put this back in our dorm, and then I’ll be off to the Owlery, is that alright?” Lily asked her friend, standing up and stretching her legs.
Mary nodded. “Yeah, that’s fine. Just be quick because curfew’s in about twenty minutes.”
Lily smiled and rushed up the stairs to throw her school bag on the bed before bounding down the stairs, her red hair flying like a ribbon behind her.
She slammed the portrait door closed ignoring the indignant shout from the Fat Lady. She was running as fast as she could—but Lily hardly ever exercised so it wasn’t all that fast—until she smacked into somebody else, both of them flying backwards.
“Ow!” she said, sitting up. “Sorry about that,” she apologised, looking at the person who she’d knocked over.
“That’s alright, Evans,” James Potter replied with a grin. “Here.” He held out a hand for her to pull herself up with. She gratefully accepted it and brushed the dust and dirt off of her.
“Thanks,” she said. “Anyway, I best be off. Got a letter to send.” She gave him a quick smile before hurrying off.
James cocked his head and shouted down the corridor, “Where you going?”
“The Owlery!” she cried back, turning around to smile at him.
He smirked. “You know the Owlery is the other way right? I’m on my way as well.”
She halted and looked around at where she was, realising that he was right. “Damn,” she muttered. “Ran all that way for nothing.”
She slowly walked back towards James who was laughing at her. “You ran from the Gryffindor Tower?” She nodded, still puffing, and he asked in bewilderment, “Why?”
“I want to be back before curfew,” she said indignantly. James checked his watch and looked at her in worry. “What?” she said defensively, her cheeks becoming hotter.
“You know it’s only eight right?” he said, showing her the watch.
“I can’t read that,” she grumbled, looking at the strange wizard watch. She would never understand why they wouldn’t use a simple, Muggle watch. She then thought about what he said and she let out a loud exhale. “Bloody Mary told me curfew was starting in twenty minutes.”
James grinned. “You still have an hour, well technically fifty-six minutes but that’s practically the same thing,” he said easily, waiting for the stairs to arrive at their feet.
Lily smiled and tucking a lock of hair behind her ear, asked, “Who are you sending a letter to?”
“My parents,” he said. “They expect a letter at least once a week—worry warts they are—and I forgot to send one earlier. What about you?”
She grinned. “It’s my mum’s birthday tomorrow and I forgot all about it. I’m sending her a letter and going to get her present later at Hogsmeade. I just said that the owl wouldn’t be able to carry it, so I’m going to have to look for something big.”
James laughed. “If I said that to my mum she’d know straight away and wail that I don’t love her properly.”
Lily joined in laughing with him. They chatted back and forth about Hogsmeade and the new lessons they’d been taking and before they knew it, they were at the Owlery. James whistled to beckon his owl to come down. Lily, as she was reaching for a school owl, said, “That’s a nice owl.”
James shrugged as he tied the letter around his owl’s leg. “He’s just a barn owl.”
Lily smiled. “He’s still nice-looking. What’s his name?” she asked amicably.
James grinned at her. “Evans, are you trying to hit on my owl?” She snorted so loudly the owl she had just convinced to approach her flew away, hooting madly.
“Oh look at that, you’ve made me lose the owl!” she said exasperatedly. “But no, Potter. I’m not hitting on your owl. I’m just making conversation.”
He laughed and sent the owl flying out the window. “His name is Barney. Because he’s a barn owl?”
Lily bit her lip to hide her laughter. “You’re originality astounds me, James.”
He rolled his eyes and approached a school owl gently. “What would you name an owl?” He finally got an owl to perch on his arm and he started walking slowly towards her.
“I don’t know,” she said, biting on her lip in thought. “Something wise-sounding. Something like… George. Or Wilson.”
James laughed—although he was careful not to jostle the owl—and shook his head. “Those are terrible names for owls! You must be mad to think those names sound ‘wise’!”
Lily stuck her tongue out at him and slowly wrapped the rolled parchment to the owl that was perched on James’ arm. When she finally tied it up, James let the owl fly out into the dark night sky.
The pair watched the owl spread its wings out and soar into the open space. James said, “This could be a postcard picture, y’know?”
Lily laughed. “Of what? An owl soaring into the distance? Seems pretty boring if I say so myself,” she teased gently.
James rolled his eyes and nudged his shoulder with hers. “You’re just jealous of my creative talents. First Barney and now my postcard idea. You just can’t appreciate creativity, Evans,” he joked.
Lily laughed and looked around at the owls staring at the two. “If you say so, Potter. How many owls do you reckon live in the Owlery?” she asked curiously.
James shrugged. “Dunno. Maybe a couple hundred?”
“That’s crazy!” Lily said, shifting her gaze from the owls in the rafters to James’ nonchalant expression.
“It’s logical,” he pointed out. Lily stared at him incredulously and he sighed. “We have what? Five hundred students?”
Lily shrugged and said, “Yes? What’s your point?”
“My point is that if at least half of the student body has an owl—actually, it’s more like three quarters—then there would be at least two hundred owls. And then there are school owls, so then there’s even more!” he said, looking extremely proud of himself.
Lily stared at him. “That is the most terrible maths I’ve ever seen. Three quarters of five hundred is not two hundred! That isn’t even half! Three quarters is—” she paused, doing some quick calculations in her head; “—three hundred and seventy five!” she said triumphantly.
James looked shocked. “Woah! How’d you do that?!”
She shrugged. “It’s easy maths. Just division and then subtracting what you got in the first place!”
James looked at Lily in confusion. It was clear he had no idea what the bloody hell she was going on about. She giggled and he eventually said, “Easy?!”
She nodded. “You should see the stuff my sister does! I only know primary school maths, obviously. Didn’t you learn maths?”
James shook his head. “No. I was home-schooled by Mum. I mean, I know how to do easy things, like add money together and taking it away. Simple things like that. None of that ‘division’ rubbish!”
“Hey!” Lily said indignantly. “It isn’t rubbish. It was actually one of my favourite things to do, I mean before I knew I was a witch.”
James looked interested. “Can you teach me some?”
Lily looked shocked. He wanted to learn some maths? “Really?” she asked, the surprise evident in her voice.
James nodded. “Yeah! It seems really interesting!”
Lily bit her lip to stop herself from grinning. She thought it would be better to refrain from telling him that nearly every Muggle person in the world hated maths. She would never understand it. “Sure, should we go to the Common Room? Curfew has got to be ending soon.”
James glanced at his watch. “You’re right. It is ending soon,” he said.
“When?” Lily asked.
“Five minutes ago,” he said calmly. Lily’s eyes bugged out of her head and he said lazily, “No need to worry yourself, Evans.”
“We’re going to get detention!” she whispered.
James just rolled his eyes and shook his head fondly at Lily. “No, Lily. You’ve forgotten who you’re with.”
She folded her arms and glared at him. “So how are we going to get back to the Common Room without being noticed?”
James winked and gestured for her to follow him. She had déjà vu of when they had been doing this the previous year.
He’d obviously been a terrible influence on her.
She tiptoed towards him and he stuck his head out the door. He nodded at her and walked out, with Lily shadowing him nervously. They heard footsteps so they quickly hid in an alcove and waited for the person to pass. James then started rifling through his pockets and found an oddly shaped package. Lily frowned but he only whispered, “Wingardium Leviosa.” He then directed it to a place Lily couldn’t see. His wand twitched and a loud BANG! came from where Lily guessed the package was.
“What did you do?” she hissed. “That’s where we’re meant to go!”
“No time! Just follow me!” he said hurriedly, grabbing her hand and starting to run in the opposite direction of the Gryffindor Tower. Lily was confused but she didn’t dare stop even though her chest felt like it was on fire.
They finally stopped behind a tapestry and Lily let go of James’ hand to take a deep breath. James grinned at her and said, “Ready to go again?”
She looked at him in horror but he held up a finger. “You’ll get more rest. Hold on.” He started rummaging through his pockets again as Lily looked suspiciously at him. He found something different and Lily narrowed her eyes at the strange object.
“Is that a firework?” she said in hushed tones. James just gave her a wink before lighting it on fire with his wand.
He grabbed her hand and said, “Run.”
Oh boy, did she run. She ran in the opposite direction and let James tug her to all sorts of shortcuts before they had finally reached the Fat Lady. Lily wheezed, “Foxglove.”
“Next time try to get here before the curfew, dearies!” the Fat Lady said cheerfully as she allowed them entrance. Lily scrambled through the hole and flopped on the couch tiredly. James followed her, although in a much more graceful manner. She should have been embarrassed but she was too puffed out to care.
“So are we going to learn some maths?” James asked cheerfully, swinging his arms.
Lily glared up at him from the squashy pillows she had snuggled herself in. “Let me at least get changed first, I’m all gross and sticky right now.”
James made a face and nodded, telling her, “I’ll go get change too! Meet you down here in fifteen minutes?” Lily nodded and he bounded up the stairs. She slowly pulled herself off the lovely couch and shuffled up the stairs to her dorm.
She was surprised to find all her dorm-mates were already asleep. She had never seen them sleep this early but she remembered that they had played a big game of Quidditch with a few other Houses before dinner. She would have joined in but she wasn’t very confident on a broom and she had gotten all her homework done due to the lack of distractions in the library.
She had a quick shower and pulled on some pyjamas before walking down the stairs feeling much fresher and awake than she did before. She saw James already sitting in front of the dwindling fireplace and she grinned.
“Hey,” he said, tapping his fingers on his leg. “You ready?” he asked.
She nodded brightly and sat opposite him. “Yep. So where did you want to start?” As he thought about it, she took the time to analyse his clothing. He had red pyjama bottoms with a very large grey shirt that seemed to have faded words written on it. She tried to read them but James clicked his fingers in front of her face.
She jolted and he laughed. “Anyone home?”
She let out a light laugh. “Yeah, I was just trying to read what it says on your shirt.”
He looked down at his shirt. “Dunno, I just found it in summer and it fit so I thought it’d be good for sleeping. It’s really comfy.” Lily grinned and he said, “So maths?”
“Oh right!” she said, giving herself a small smack. “I forgot. So should we just start from the beginning?”
“That’s what I said,” James said, grinning. She blushed and quickly apologised but he just waved it off, his smile widening so much that it should have hurt.
Lily then started to explain all sorts of things and when she got to the multiplication, she did a little jiggle, excited for this part. Multiplying things together was her absolute favourite thing to do. “Is this part fun?” James predicted when he saw her bouncing excitedly.
She nodded and taught him the nine times tables. It was her favourite out of them all. She finally had gotten James to recite up to the twelve times tables. She was having so much fun but her grin was wiped off when James asked, “Do you actually find this fun? Honestly, it’s kind of boring in my opinion.”
Her shoulders slumped and she felt like all the happiness in the world had been taken from her. “You don’t like maths?” she asked timidly.
James—noticing too late that he had made her upset—widened his eyes and started to backtrack. “Oh. N-no! It’s heaps of fun! It really is!” he said enthusiastically, nodding his head vigorously.
Lily started to pack her stuff away solemnly. “You didn’t like it,” she said sadly. “It’s okay, not many people do.”
James felt terrible. She had been so excited to teach him and he had been honestly so excited to learn about it, but he quickly found out that it was so boring and tiresome. He could have fallen asleep, it was that boring to him. “I’m sorry, Lily,” he said earnestly. “I wish I did like it, but I don’t.”
She shrugged. “It’s okay. I just thought I’d found someone who loves maths as much as me. I’m just going to go to sleep now. Goodnight.”
She then stood up from her spot in front of the fire and started walking up to the girls’ staircase before James said, “Wait! Lily, I’m really sorry!”
She smiled at him. “No, it’s okay. I am overreacting a bit; I was just so excited to think that someone actually enjoyed it like I do.”
James grinned. “You never know, though. One day I might be in a battle and they’ll ask me to recite the seven times tables in order to live. It may be useful one day.”
Lily snorted. “I really doubt that, unless you were in some Muggle maths war.” She sat back down next to him and laughed. “But if you were in a Muggle maths war, how do you reckon it would have started?” she said.
James puffed out his chest importantly. “In my opinion, I think that they were trying to get rid of maths for good because they thought it was unnecessary but there was a smaller amount of people who thought it was completely necessary so it would have started a mathsive war!” He grinned and Lily burst into a fit of laughter.
“That was the worst pun I’ve ever heard, Potter,” she said covering her face with her hands. James laughed with her and she eventually calmed herself down to ask, “So in this battle, do you reckon you’d win?”
“Of course,” he said arrogantly. Lily laughed and he said, “I’m going to live until I’m two hundred years old, just you watch.”
Lily snorted and said, “Really? I plan to live until I’m two hundred and seven.” She grinned mischievously as he shook his head. “Don’t deny it, Potter. Women live longer.”
James conceded that point with a nod of his head but said, “Yes, but I’m better.”
Lily laughed again and clapped her hands slowly. “Great argument there, James. You should really work in the Magical Law Enforcement when you’re older.”
He gasped in mock horror. “Never! I’m going to win the Mathsive Maths War and inherit millions of riches so I won’t need to work and I’ll tell all my kids and grandkids and great-grandkids and great-great-grandkids what a hero I was-slash-am and they’ll be so amazed by my superiority.”
Lily was laughing so hard she nearly had tears streaming down her face. “What if there’s another Mathsive Maths War when you’re two hundred? Would you fight in that again?”
“Of course I would. I would die in battle of course, and I’ll be forever remembered as the Mathsive Maths War Hero. I’ll have a whole castle built in my name with different times tables on each door,” he said without missing a beat.
“Really die in battle? That’s the way I was going to die in the second Mathsive War,” she said, biting her lip to hide her smile.
James clasped her hands in his and said solemnly, “We’ll die together. As a duo and we’ll each have a castle named after us. It was a grand fight and we’ll be remembered forever, never you worry.”
Lily replied just as solemnly, “It was a pleasure fighting with you, Mister Potter.”
“And you, Miss Evans,” he said, bowing. Lily couldn’t take it any longer and burst into loud laughter and James then joined in, letting go of her hands.
The two of them were huddled over and gasping for breath, ignoring the older students who had been glaring at them for being so noisy.
Their laughter eventually abated and Lily let out a large sigh. “I should be going to sleep. This was fun; we should do it again some time.”
“Not the maths, though?” James asked cheekily.
Lily let out a small giggle. “Not the maths,” she affirmed. “But this.” She gestured with her hands wildly but James knew what she was talking about. “Goodnight,” she said, giving him a wide smile.
“Goodnight, Lily,” he replied warmly. She gave him one last wave before walking up the girls’ staircase in front of her.
James Potter really knew how to make her laugh.
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