A/N: Finally hit 100 reviews, thank you everyone that's ever left one for me! If you like this one, please consider leaving another. Hope you have a good Christmas, and if Christmas isn't your thing, I hope you have a good weekend.
AkariWolfPrincess, Yeah, Em and Sirius are very much not on equal playing field right now, unfortunately for Em! Thank you for your review. / ForeverACharmedOne, 100th reviewer! I am always happy to read "aww" multiple times in regards to one of my chapters, no worries there. / Buttons, thank you for your review.
Marlene, Dorcas, and Emmeline each visibly cringed at the invitation.
Chapter Thirty-Four: Keep Your Cool
Emmeline had pulled the curtains closed around her bed, taking deep breaths in an attempt to calm herself down. She had packed her record player in its case and the moment it was time to actually leave the room and deliver it to Sirius, she found her hands shaking and her stomach turning.
She had never spoken to Sirius alone before. She always had a buffer of some kind, there were always other people around. She had already been a stuttering mess when he had offered to take a look at her record player, and she knew that she would dig herself into a deeper hole when she went to drop it off.
"Why do I even bother?" she groaned. Hadn't he just made a date with Gerald? Hadn't she felt her heart plummet into her stomach as soon as he agreed? Hadn't she spent most of Ancient Runes glancing between the two of them as she tried to swallow her feelings of envy?
Not to mention, she and Sirius had never even had a real, proper conversation with each other that lasted more than half a minute. The girl was almost certain that he forgot she existed when she wasn't around.
It wasn't his fault, and he certainly wouldn't be the only one. It was only after her drunken performance of Killer Queen that her classmates started paying any sort of attention.
Before that, she was Lily's friend. Dorcas' friend. Marlene's friend. That one brunette Ravenclaw—no the other brunette Ravenclaw.
She needed to leave soon. How long would he wait for her to return with the record player? Her stomach turned again. She just needed to calm her nerves.
Emmeline pulled her discarded school robe closer to her, digging through the inner pocket for the silvery flask, still full of fire whiskey.
She weighed it in her hand. She hadn't had any for a couple of days. When the Dark Mark appeared outside the school, she had actually been fine for a moment. She had helped usher all the students back to the tower and had calmed a significant amount of younger students that were fretting.
Then Flitwick came by to take attendance, and after that, all they could do was wait. With nothing left to occupy her time, no responsibilities to fulfill, suddenly her mind had spun and raced, dreaming up every terrible scenario that it could. Her heart had rattled her insides and her breathing had become labored.
So she had slipped back to the dormitory, pulled out the flask, and drank the entire contents, chewing on a number of mints after to the point that she smelled strongly of peppermint.
It had worked. Nothing mattered after that. Her brain slowed.
Emmeline unscrewed the lid to the flask.
She just needed to calm down. It wasn't as though she did this every day.
Sirius had been waiting on the seventh floor landing for perhaps five minutes when Lily Evans and Marlene McKinnon strolled over to him, arms crossed and eyes narrowed.
"What are you up to, Black?" Lily said, several inches shorter than both Marlene and Sirius but managing to look intimidating all the same.
"I'm waiting for Vance?" Sirius said, cocking a brow.
"What exactly are you going to do to her record player? Make it belch out frogs whenever she tries to use it?" Lily said.
"I'm going to fix it. You were there when we went over this," Sirius said, sighing heavily. "Although, let it be noted that I could make it belch frogs if I absolutely wanted to."
Marlene stepped in now and he felt his heart pick up the pace in response. "And I'm sure you don't know anything about how it got broken in the first place?"
"Are we speaking now, McKinnon?" Sirius said to her, feigning boredom though annoyance seeped into his voice. Marlene scowled. "How exactly do you expect I got into the Ravenclaw dormitory to destroy the possessions of someone that hasn't done anything to me?"
"Where were you this morning?" Lily said. "You and Potter and Pettigrew?"
"We overslept, it happens sometimes when Remus isn't around," Sirius lied. Honestly, if anyone was waking everyone else up in the mornings, it was James, with Remus being rather fond of turning his alarm off in his sleep.
But Remus was the responsible one, the prefect. It would do as an excuse. Sirius continued. "Is this interrogation over yet? I think machines are interesting, for Merlin's sake."
"Remember what I told you about making fun of Emmeline? It still stands, don't you dare do anything to prank her, Black, I'm warning you," Lily said, fingers gripped around the handle of her wand.
"I am not interested in making Vance's life difficult," Sirius said, rolling his eyes. "Does it get tiring being so suspicious all the time, Evans?"
"Well perhaps if you lot weren't responsible for most everything that goes wrong," Lily said.
Sirius waved her concerns away. Yes, yes, he and his friends were singlehandedly responsible for everything terrible in the world.
Honestly, if it weren't for her blood status, Sirius would suggest that Lily Evans and his mother have tea and discuss his many faults in private rather than to his face.
"I'm not going to do anything but fix the bleeding record player," the boy said. "Go find something else to get your knickers in a twist over, I think James might be breathing somewhere, that's probably suspicious."
"Look," Marlene said, holding Sirius' gaze. "Just find it somewhere in your itty bitty black heart to be nice."
"Or boils," Lily said, lifting her wand.
"Whatever," Sirius said, and with a glare each, the two girls marched off, noses in the air.
Sirius cursed himself as he watched the light hit Marlene's curls before she turned the corner, annoyed with himself for still enjoying the view.
Sleeping with someone else didn't help. Pranking her didn't help. Sometimes he would be working on an assignment or joking around with James and suddenly it would hit him all over again just how angry he was at the whole situation.
He didn't know quite how to fix it. Hopefully going on a date with someone else would take his mind off of Marlene McKinnon.
Sirius jumped, having not heard any footsteps. Emmeline was now standing beside him, holding a case by the handle. She smiled.
She smelled strongly of mint.
"Hello," he said, hoping he sounded casual after just getting caught up thinking of Marlene again. He took the case from her, their fingers brushing for less than a second.
"Thank you again," she said. She was speaking quickly. "If I can avoid having to save to buy a new one, I mean, they're not exactly cheap, you know?"
"No problem, hopefully I can get it working again," Sirius said. "I don't know how long it will take, of course."
Emmeline nodded. "Lily said I could borrow hers when Bowie's album drops, so at least I'll have that."
"Yeah, about that, how do you feel about the new direction he's getting into?" Sirius asked, cocking a brow. David Bowie seemed a safe, neutral topic that had absolutely nothing to do with Marlene. Emmeline Vance could be relied on for that much of a distraction, couldn't she?
Emmeline shrugged. "Every time he releases an album he does something completely different, I mean, it's Bowie, it's what he does. And every time I worry that I won't like it, and then I always do, so I've decided not to get worked up until I've heard the whole thing."
"That's fair," Sirius nodded. "I just hope there's a few tracks heavier than Golden Years, myself."
"Same here," Emmeline agreed, smiling. "As long as there's some decent guitar I'll probably be happy."
"Happier still if you can play listen to it," Sirius said, glancing down at the case. He prayed this would be less complex than the motorcycle had been. "Probably should have mentioned earlier, did you happen to have the—?"
"The manual?" Emmeline said at once. "It's in there, yes."
"Good," Sirius nodded. "I'll, uh, I'll keep you updated."
"Thank you again, I really appreciate it," she said. "Now, if only I could find my rat that's gone missing."
Sirius cleared his throat. "That, uh, that is a dilemma. What's it look like?"
"Sort of chubby, gray," she said. "He really was a sweet, if inactive rat. Bruno and Boris—those are my other two—they miss him quite a bit, actually."
"I'll keep an eye out," Sirius said, forcing a smile and feeling a small bit of guilt as he did so. There was no hope of returning her "lost rat," but hopefully he could fix the record player, if nothing else.
"Thank you," she said, her smile far more sincere than his. "Oh, and uh, about that song request, is it going to be something I know or something I have to sit and learn?"
Sirius was puzzled for a moment before remembering what he had asked for in exchange for fixing the record player. "Ah. Good question. I'll have to get back to you on that one, Killer Queen."
A week passed with little incident. Further rumors spread about the Dark Mark incident, who had been expelled, and how many students may have already sworn their allegiance to You-Know-Who. Lily had been asked a handful of times if it was true that Severus had taken on the Dark Mark. Each time she answered with anger, stating that he'd never do such a thing, meeting only skeptical looks in response.
Soon, personal gossip became far more interesting as yet another week went by, more whispers of who was dating who and who had done what. Sirius had been declared gay by word of mouth and developed the reflex of the two-fingered salute every time he heard a related slur, knowing it was likely directed at him. He had secured a week's detention for casually hexing a Hufflepuff girl that feared sitting near him in the library, loudly declaring that she might "catch something."
Significantly fewer students whispered about Lily and Gabriel, far less fascinating than whatever it was that Sirius was doing and with who.
Marlene had heard quite a few creative accounts of what she had apparently been doing with Benjamin, though she insisted that they hadn't had sex yet.
Mostly because finding a place to be alone was proving difficult.
"So, yeah, Bertha Jorkins did walk in on us in the broom cupboard but we were just—I mean we weren't doing that," Marlene insisted as she and Lily walked through the doors of the great hall for breakfast.
"The broom cupboard though? Isn't that a bit cramped?" Lily said.
"Absolutely, but Rosier and Peggy Madison were using the empty classroom on that floor, Frank and Alice were in that secret passageway, we were low on time and low on options," Marlene said with a heavy sigh.
"Tragic," Lily laughed.
"Well we can't all go the slow courtship route," Marlene said. "When are you going to kiss Gabriel, Lils?"
Lily blushed. "Soon!"
"Uh-huh," Marlene said as they settled down at the Gryffindor table where Dorcas and Emmeline were already waiting.
"Happy Birthday, Lily!" each of them said as she sat.
"Thank you," Lily smiled. Today, she was sixteen.
Marlene had already sung to her obnoxiously and given her a Holyhead Harpies sweater when they had first gotten up.
"Here," Dorcas said, sliding a flat package Lily's way. Emmeline dug another out of her bag.
Lily unwrapped Dorcas' first, the shape giving away that it was a record, which explained why Emmeline had given Lily back her record player despite not having her own back yet.
"Oh, the Eagles, excellent," Lily grinned. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," Dorcas said. Lily slid the record carefully in her bag with her books before reaching for Emmeline's gift. When unwrapped, a set of potion utensils used to prepare ingredients was revealed.
"Oh, these are really lovely, Em," Lily said. "I can't wait to use them, thank you."
"Of course," Emmeline said. "Happy Birthday. Shame we have class today."
Lily shrugged. "There are worse ways to spend a birthday, I'm sure."
"Spent mine at the dentist when I was eight," Dorcas cringed.
"Well, there you go," Lily said.
"Greaseball, three o'clock," Marlene said, taking a sip of her coffee. Lily cocked a brow before turning around to see that Severus had appeared behind her and was now glaring at Marlene, a small package in his hands.
"Morning, Sev," Lily said cheerfully.
"Morning," he said, handing her the package. "Happy Birthday."
"Thank you," Lily said, tearing at the wrapping to reveal a thick, hardcover book called Essential First Aid and Antidotes, A Complete Guide to Curative Potions and Spells. She began flipping through the pages, her eyes lighting up. "Oh, this is great, Sev! Cure for the common cold, a cure for acne, how to treat splinching wounds, steps to prevent dragon fire burns from scarring, there's so much in here!"
"I know it's not a very exciting gift," Severus shrugged, though he was sparing a rare smile. Lily got to her feet and pulled him into a hug, pecking his cheek as she went, leaving his pale face to turn pink.
"It's an excellent gift, thank you," she said as she released him. "Do you want to eat breakfast with us?"
Marlene, Dorcas, and Emmeline each visibly cringed at the invitation.
"Er, no," Severus said, his eyes darting between her and the Slytherins now, as though to be sure they hadn't seen anything. "I'm going to head back to my table now. Happy Birthday, again."
"Oh, all right, then," Lily said, waving as he went off. Even during their earlier years at school he had always been reluctant to sit at the Gryffindor table with her, and insisted she not wander over to the Slytherin table. He was sure that their meals would be far more peaceful with their own housemates.
However, sitting with Dorcas at the Hufflepuff table and Emmeline at the Ravenclaw table had always been pleasant experiences. No one really seemed to care in that case.
She returned to her seat, flipping through her book again. She would worry about house tables later.
"Are you back to wanting to be a healer now?" Marlene asked. "Thought you had switched over to Auror again."
"I'm constantly back and forth," Lily sighed. "When do we have those career sessions with our heads of house?"
"After Easter, I think, so probably April," Marlene said.
"Lily will change her mind six more times before then," Dorcas smiled.
"Well, all right then, what do you lot want to do?" Lily asked.
The group fell silent, eyes darting among each other as though waiting to see what the others would say first.
"I want to do something with muggle relations," Dorcas finally said. "I don't know what, maybe muggle liasons like Emmeline's dad or something. Maybe something to help muggleborn children integrate since they do sort of throw us right to the wolves."
"That would be great for you," Lily nodded.
"Yeah, if it exists," Dorcas sighed.
"I'd like to do music," Emmeline mused. "But I know if I mention that I'm just going to hear, 'you need something to fall back on!' And I don't know, I guess something with Ancient Runes would be interesting if nothing else."
"It'd pay well, too, no one wants to deal with those runes," Marlene said. "I really don't know, honestly. I don't want to be a healer, I saw Mallory go through the training and I do not want to do the same. I don't want to be a reporter like Mum. Dad's job at the Department of Magical Transportation sounds so boring. I just… someone should just scout me for a professional Quidditch team and then I'll be fine, you know?"
"Just remember us little people when you're a famous athlete," Lily said.
"Only if Emmeline remembers us when she's a rock star," Marlene grinned.
"And Dorcas when she's Minister for Magic," Emmeline added.
"And Lily, when she's somehow become head of the Auror Department and Chief Healer at St. Mungo's at the same time," Dorcas said.
"We'll have brunch on Sundays to discuss our many successes while our attractive husbands watch the children," Lily snickered.
"Attractive and generous in bed," Marlene said, raising her mug as though to say "cheers" before taking a drink.
The view of the sky in the enchanted ceiling became obscured as the mail arrived, owls heading in all directions. A bouquet of white flowers landed before Lily, a few petals landing in her coffee, along with a couple of envelopes and a small package that landed near her plate.
"Who thought they were clever sending you lilies, then?" Marlene said, laughing slightly.
"Lilies are lovely," Lily said, though her favorite flowers were roses, with dahlias a close second. She grabbed the bouquet and read the tag. "They're from Gabe."
"I was wondering what he'd get you, he got all panicked when I mentioned your birthday was coming up," Emmeline said.
"I'll have to run these back to the dorm before classes start," Lily said, glancing toward the Ravenclaw table where she caught Gabriel's eye. She smiled and waved, and he did the same.
Among the rest of her mail was a card from her grandmother, with a few bills of muggle money that Lily would probably stash away since she couldn't use it without exchanging it anyway.
She considered that her mother must have sent the card for her, as grandmother was getting on in years and her mind was starting to go. But Lily didn't much like to consider that.
Her parents had sent a card too, having signed Petunia's name as well. As there was no separate card or package from Petunia, Lily wondered vaguely if her sister even remembered that it was her birthday, or if she cared. The small package they had sent along contained a jewelry box with roses carved into the wooden lid.
"Oh, Für Elise! I love this song," Emmeline said when Lily opened the box and music began to play. "I mean you can't beat Moonlight Sonata, obviously, but it's still good."
"Which is the one that goes duh duh-nah-NAH nah! Duh duh-nah-NAH nah!" Marlene asked.
"Flight of the Valkyries?" Emmeline suggested.
"I want a music box that plays that," Marlene said.
"Noted," Dorcas said. "That's a really pretty box, though, Lily, I bet you could even put an undetectable extension charm on it if you wanted, fit lots of stuff in it."
"The ministry regulates that spell," Lily pointed out.
"The ministry also regulates the use of underage magic outside of school and that hasn't stopped you," Emmeline said.
Lily grinned, a glint of mischief in her eyes. "True."
Despite taking a secret passageway back to Gryffindor tower, which had significantly cut down on her time commuting, Lily had only realized after spending a great deal of time re-arranging the flowers in the vase she had set on her bedside table, that she was going to be late to class if she didn't leave… approximately five minutes ago.
Swearing, she had rushed out of the dorm and through the common room. Eager to take the passageway again, she was distressed to find that George von Rheticus had vacated his portrait and could not let her through.
Another stream of swears spilled from Lily's mouth as she ran down the corridor toward the stairs. She had darted down perhaps two flights of stairs before nearly running into what turned out to be Gabriel, who grabbed her arm to steady her as she skidded to a halt.
"My, my, Miss Prefect, you're going to be late for class!" he teased.
"I know," Lily groaned, though she smiled to see him. "Thank you for the flowers, by the way."
"You're welcome," Gabriel said. "And Happy Birthday."
From where she stood on the stairs, she was just about at eye level with the much-taller boy, his brown eyes dark and warm.
There was no harm, certainly no harm in this. They hadn't gone on a proper date yet but they had gone on several of their evening strolls by this point and she was wearing his Ravenclaw scarf almost as much as her own Gryffindor one.
Ignoring the nagging voice in her head reminding her that she was going to be late, she leaned forward and gently pressed her lips to his, remembering all at once just how fun it was to kiss someone. He happily kissed her back, and they broke away when the bell rang.
"I'm late! You're late!" Lily said, giving him one more, very quick peck before darting around him and rushing off, a grin pulling at her lips as she went.
"Gabriel Buckley," James said mockingly from his bed, watching as a snitch he had stolen from the Quidditch storage flitted around above his head, snatching it quickly before letting it go once more. "Gabriel Motherfucking Buckley."
They had overheard Lily and Marlene giggling about Lily having kissed the boy earlier, and James had been in a sour mood ever since.
"Gabriel Fuckley, if you will," Sirius said, very focused on the record player that was in pieces on the floor between his and James' beds.
"Yes, that's good, Gabriel Fuckley," James nodded, catching the snitch again.
"You didn't have a single opinion on him before he went after Lily," Remus said, glancing up only briefly from the comic book that Emmeline had lent him during the lunch break.
"I didn't need to before he went after her," James said, his tone bitter, as though simply thinking of the other boy was comparable to having a bad taste in his mouth. "You know he's not even a good Chaser, he didn't make a single goal last game."
"No one in Ravenclaw did," Sirius said, picking up a screwdriver.
"He barely scored last year, too, if I remember right," Peter nodded, watching in awe as James continued to release and catch the snitch. He was the only one bothering to pay attention to this, Remus and Sirius already well-aware that James could be a one-man Quidditch team if he really wanted to and unwilling to flatter the boy that much by telling him this.
"It's almost as though his talent on the Quidditch pitch has nothing to do with why Lily agreed to go out with him," Remus said in mock-amazement. "Don't get yourself so worked up about it, Prongs."
"Yeah, you were hard to live with last year when she dated Michael McKinnon," Sirius said, tugging a thick, muggle book he had borrowed from the library closer to him and comparing the device in his hand to an illustration in the book.
"How are you and Marlene McKinnon doing, then?" James shot back. Sirius glared at him, the book forgotten.
"Haven't you heard? He's given up women entirely now," Remus snorted.
"Ah yes, because liking more than one thing is unheard of, evidently," Sirius said with a roll of the eye. "My heart was just so shattered that I reached into my brains and flipped the switch over to 'blokes.'"
The others let out a slight laugh at the notion.
"Did you hear that we're having a secret love affair?" Remus said matter-of-factly. "Bertha Jorkins told me that we're going behind James' back."
"The nerve!" James said, sitting upright at last, the snitch in his fist. "Padfoot is my secret lover, get your own!"
"Boys, boys," Sirius said, the screwdriver between his teeth as he fiddled with the pieces inside the record player. "No need to fight, there's plenty of me to go around."
"Maybe you should just date each other and forget Padfoot," Peter shrugged, gesturing to James and Remus. "Either way, more girls for me."
"Imagine the conflict we could avoid," Remus snickered. "No more fretting over Lily! No more—"
He stopped short, turning his attention back to his comic.
"No more pining over Emmeline Vance and doing nothing about it," James finished for him.
"I'm not pining," Remus said, eyes still fixed to the illustrations. "I… admire her from afar, on occasion."
"Yeah, okay," Sirius said, fitting one of the pieces back into place and tightening a bolt. "I'm sure you never think about her when you're alone."
Remus frowned. "Don't be weird."
"Masturbation is not weird, it's very natural, Lupin," Sirius snickered. "Although if you'd just ask Vance out you could just get her to—"
"Shut up," Remus said, hiding his burning face behind his comic book.
James smirked. "You already know she likes you, what's the risk? It's not like she's gone off with some mediocre Quidditch player that wouldn't know good technique if it bit him in the arse."
"The risk is that I am a goddamn werewolf," Remus said.
"Moony," Peter sighed heavily. "How many times do we have to tell you—?"
"How many times do I have to tell you lot that I can't do that to someone?" Remus said. "Look, Emmeline is great. She's fun, and she's pretty, and she's talented, and sure I'd like to have her as a girlfriend, but she doesn't deserve that. She deserves better."
"What's better than you, Mate? So, you've… got a problem," Sirius said, glancing up briefly from the record player before fitting another piece back into place. "You're thoughtful and shit, girls like that."
"You remember things that people tell you, girls really like that," Peter nodded.
Remus shook his head. "There are plenty of thoughtful people, plenty of people who listen, plenty of better-looking blokes that don't turn into a monster once a month. I'm just not good enough for anyone."
"Stop talking about my best mate like that," James said sternly, pointing an accusatory finger at Remus, golden snitch still in his fist. "Anyone would be lucky to date you."
"I have the biggest deal-breaker you could possibly have," Remus said.
"Unless you've joined the Death Eaters without telling us then I highly doubt that," Sirius said.
Remus sighed. "Just because you oddballs still like me—"
"We can't possibly be the only ones," Peter reasoned.
"Right, you're not even giving her a chance to react, you're deciding right away she'd be disgusted, and who says you've got to tell her right away anyway?" James said. "Just take Vance for some tea or something and go from there."
"It's not that easy," Remus said.
"Yes it is," Sirius said, watching curiously as he tapped his wand to the record player, which let out a loud click in response. "You already know she likes you, that's half the trouble. Now, grow some self-esteem and ask her out."
"Lupin and Vance! Lupin and Vance!" Peter chanted.
"How did we even get here, I thought we were discussing how much James hated Gabriel Fuckley," Remus mumbled, closing his comic at last, being unable to focus on it long enough to read.
"Thought I was supposed to not get worked up over it?" James said, cocking a brow.
Remus shrugged. "If it's between lecturing me about Emmeline or complaining about Lily's new boyfriend, by all means, let's make fun of him."
"Boyfriend? I thought they just kissed, is he the boyfriend now?" James said, outraged. Remus leaned back against his pillows, satisfied that he had managed to change the subject.
It was habit now, these evening walks that she and Gabriel took. It was simply habit to wrap the Ravenclaw scarf around her neck and meet him in the courtyard an hour before dinner, curling up to him closely as they walked, talking about everything and nothing.
"You haven't read any Orwell?" Gabriel said, the shock clear in his face and tone.
"I don't have a lot of time to read for pleasure," Lily insisted. "I can fit in the comic books I started reading because those don't take very long, but otherwise, well, it is my O.W.L.s year."
"But you haven't read Orwell!" Gabriel said again. "You've got to at least read Animal Farm, that one's short. Nineteen Eighty-Four is better, of course, but if you read that you've pretty much got to read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley to compare the two."
"And which do you think is better, then, Nineteen Eighty-Four or Brave New World?" Lily asked, genuinely curious.
"They're both good for different reasons. Orwell thinks the things we hate will come to control us while Huxley thinks the things we love will come to control us," Gabriel explained. "And the tones are completely different, obviously, I think Orwell is a bit more straightforward in 'wow this is terrifying' while Huxley sneaks up on you a bit. I think Brave New World is probably more fun to read."
"Well, I'll put them on my list if I've ever got the time. I've got three essays due on Monday, what kind of cruel joke is that?" Lily said with a heavy sigh. She had already started them, thankfully, but wouldn't have time to work on them tomorrow since she was tutoring and had prefect duty, so she would be spending her Sunday surrounded by textbooks for sure.
"You and your mates don't have a homework swapping system in place yet?" Gabriel said, cocking a brow.
"Homework swapping system?" she repeated.
"Yeah, one of you does Potions, another does Transfigurtion, et cetera, and then you swap and, er, heavily reference the other essays, cuts down on the time," Gabriel nodded.
Lily eyed him in surprise. "That's cheating! And you're a Ravenclaw!"
"Oh come now," Gabriel laughed. "Ravenclaw's full of cheaters, surely you know that?"
"But you're the smart house," Lily said.
"Right, and we don't have time to do all the homework and our extra-curriculars," Gabriel shrugged. "It's not like we don't know the material or just copy each other outright, it's just getting the work done so it won't affect our grade later."
"I can't do that, it's the O.W.L.s year," Lily said, shaking her head.
"Well, you know what O.W.L.s stands for, don't you?" Gabriel grinned, cocking a brow.
"Ordinary Wizarding Levels," Lily said.
"Overwhelmed Wizards Lie," Gabriel said.
Lily snorted. "What's that make the N.E.W.T.s then?"
"Not Ethical When Tired," Gabriel said. "You haven't heard this?"
"No!" she said.
"Well, it's admirable you're so honest," said Gabriel, giving her shoulder a squeeze. "What was it you said your friends call you? Saint Evans?"
"Oh, come on, don't make me regret telling you that," she said, stopping to turn his way and face him properly.
"I'd hate to make you regret anything," Gabriel smiled. "It would make me an awful boyfriend, now wouldn't it?"
"Boyfriend?" she said coyly.
He nodded. "If you're willing to be the girlfriend, that is."
"You're officially asking me, then?" Lily said, heart racing a bit.
"Lily Evans, will you be my girlfriend?" Gabriel said, his breath fogging before him in the cold.
She stood on the tips of her toes and softly pressed her cold lips to his, hands on his shoulders to steady herself. She could feel him smiling into the kiss before she pulled back and said, "Yeah, all right."
"Excellent," he said, sliding his arms around her and pulling her close. She gave no protest, as he was very warm and snow still coated the grounds. He kissed her far more passionately this time, taking her slightly by surprise, but she kissed back, parting her lips to meet his tongue.
Lily hadn't had a lot of experience French kissing. She and Michael hadn't French kissed very often, and in fact a big reason they had broken up was the fact that, well, they got to a point where they didn't act like a couple as much as they acted like just very good friends. Kissing Michael was unimportant compared to making fun of Marlene with him or talking about bad muggle movies.
Gabriel seemed to have a better idea of what he was doing, and she hoped that she was keeping up well enough. He was so smart, he was so kind, kissing him was so nice. Her heart crashed against her chest, tightly pressed against his. Her arms slid around his shoulders.
Overall, it was a fine birthday if she got to end it by snogging in the gardens with Gabriel.
Lily's skirt shifted and she became very aware that only one of Gabriel's hands was around her waist, her lips slowing as a cold hand slid up her thigh. When he firmly attached his hand to her arse, she was unable to focus on kissing him any more, breaking away and pushing away his arm away in such a fluid moment, it was almost as though it were a reflex.
"W—We're out in the open!" Lily stuttered, eyes wide, the first thing to come to mind as Gabriel cocked a brow.
"No one's around," he said, gesturing to the quite empty courtyard.
"You lifted up my skirt!" she said. Nothing was exposed, she was sure of it, as she always wore extra leggings under the uniform skirt when it was this cold.
She was beginning to wish that she had opted for the uniform trousers instead.
"Oh come on, Saint Evans, it wasn't anything," Gabriel said, pecking her lips briefly. "And like I said, no one's around to see your knickers."
Was she over-reacting?
Sure, no one was around, but she thought they were just kissing, she had signed up for kissing! And to reach under her skirt…
But was it a big deal? No one was around and Gabriel seemed more amused than anything that she had reacted the way she did. Maybe it wasn't a big deal, maybe she was being a prude.
Perhaps it was her nerves when it came to sex that was settling in again. She had to grow up at some point, didn't she? She couldn't stick with chaste kisses her entire life, could she?
But did that mean that she should kiss him again, that she should just go along with it if he did it again?
Her heart raced at the thought, and not in the thrilling way it had moments ago at his kiss. This was all anxiety.
"Dinner's started," Lily said, glancing at her watch. "I, um, I told the girls I'd eat with them tonight, rain check?"
"Oh, er, okay," Gabriel said, looking puzzled. Lily straightened her skirt and began walking back to the castle.