Dirty Blood

Chapter 36

A/N: Thirty-Five chapters of posting on a consistent schedule and yesterday this website decides "yeah what if we just don't let you upload files?" So our first update of 2018 is late, sorry about that. But we're in Valentine's Day, which is sure to be a mess, so.

Thank you all for the reviews on the last chapter, please consider leaving one for this one!

"I'm just practicing for when you've got one."

"What? Me? Do you know something I don't?"

Chapter Thirty-Six: We're Teenagers; We Don't Know Anything

It was Valentine's Day, a Saturday, and the student body as a whole was far more annoying than usual in honor of the event.

Breakfast had been a huge display of pinks and reds, with flowers and chocolates and singing cards showering upon those that happened to be in a relationship on this fine day. Lily had received another bouquet from Gabriel, more lilies, while Marlene had received chocolates from Benjamin. Dorcas had gotten a box too, one that she had sent herself and immediately shared with Emmeline, who had received a card from her parents, which she found more embarrassing than anything.

It was difficult to walk more than ten feet without finding a pair of teenagers wrapped tightly around each other in a passionate public display of affection, far too many for the professors to properly break them all up.

The common room was full of them, too, hogging all the good couches and armchairs.

Then there were the moody groups of people that were single, loudly proclaiming that Valentine's Day was really quite a stupid holiday, and they were glad, really glad, that they weren't dating anyone and obligated to participate.

It was all incredibly obnoxious, and it was doubtful that the Hogsmeade visit that day would be any less so.

The Marauders were in their dorm room, milling about in an attempt to get ready for said Hogsmeade visit, having gone to breakfast largely in their pajamas rather than properly get ready earlier.

"Sure you don't want to go to the hospital wing?" James asked, gently poking at the lump of blankets, underneath which Remus Lupin was hiding. The following night was the full moon.

"I was just there," came a muffled voice.

"Yeah, funny how the moon cycle is a monthly thing," Sirius said, pulling on his leather jacket and running a hand through his hair.

"Hey Pads," Peter said.

"Yeah?" Sirius asked.

"So you've got a date with Jackson today," Peter said. "Who pays for everything when two blokes go out?"

"Girls are allowed to have money of their own now, you know that, don't you?" Remus' voice came from his pile of blankets.

"Yeah, and come on, Worm, one of us doesn't have to be 'the girl,' or whatever," Sirius said, cocking a brow. "And I assume he's paying, he asked me, after all."

"I mean that would make sense," James shrugged. "Have fun on your date though, I guess Worm is gonna have to be my Valentine this year, what with you off with Jackson and Remus hiding from the moon."

"I will be a great Valentine, Prongs, I'll buy you a chocolate frog and everything," Peter said with a short nod.

"Excellent," James said. "We'll hit Honedukes at some point, then, and after that we can hit the bookstore and Zonko's."

"You're going to the bookstore?" said the lump of blankets that used to be Remus.

"I said we were buying all the books on the list Barnes gave Padfoot," James said, nodding though Remus couldn't see.

"I had hoped you would have forgotten about that," Sirius groaned.

"Oh no, it's about time we studied something useful," James laughed.

Remus finally peaked out from beneath his blankets, rubbing his eyes. "Prongs, will you do me a favor?"

"What's the favor?" James asked, kneeling beside his bed to glance underneath it in search of his other glove.

"When you go to the bookstore can you please get me another bottle of ink? I'm nearly out. Just the cheapest one they have, I'll pay you back," Remus said.

James stood up, having found his glove and pulling it on. "Pay me back? For ink? Nonsense, it's ink. I'll get you the large bottle, I need to get some too, don't worry about paying me back."

"You don't have to do that, I can pay you back for one cheap ink bottle," Remus said.

James shook his head. "I'm getting you an ink bottle, you're not paying me back, that's the deal, Lupin."

"Really, Prongs—" Remus started.

"It'll just be faster if you agree to take the ink bottle," Sirius said, fastening his Gryffindor scarf around his neck.

"He's right," Peter nodded.

"Fine. Thank you," Remus said, hiding under the blankets yet again. "Let me know how Hogsmeade goes."

"We will. Drink water, and if you start getting really sick, go to the damn hospital wing," James said, patting the pile of blankets.

Remus made a noncommittal sound in response. His friends bid him farewell and departed the dormitory, leaving Remus with what would be a rare few hours of peace and quiet in the place.

They had just started heading down the steps of the grand staircase when someone called out "Oi, Black!"

Sirius, James, and Peter each turned to see who was calling. AJ rushed over to them, grinning broadly.

"All right, AJ?" Sirius asked.

"Oh yeah," AJ nodded. "You appreciate leather jackets, don't you? Check it out."

The boy turned about on the spot to show them the back of his jacket, decorated with a very large eyeball, the word "CYCLOPS" embroidered above it.

Sirius let out a bark-like laugh. "I like it."

"Nice," James said in agreement.

"Cool," Peter added.

"Thanks," AJ said, turning back around as they began walking down the steps again. "A Valentine's gift to myself, I suppose."

"No date today, then?" James said.

AJ shook his head. "Nah, I'm gonna take the Knight Bus into London to pick up some more supplies. It beats watching our classmates snog each other."

"Fair enough," James said. "Have fun on the Knight Bus, though."

"Yeah, it's not my favorite way to travel but it's either that or take the train and don't get in there until nightfall," AJ shrugged. "And you lot? I know Gerald mentioned having a date with you, Black."

"Yeah, I'm meeting him down at the gates," Sirius nodded.

"Evans still hasn't realized my charms—" James started.

"And has a boyfriend," Peter said.

"—so I'll be going stag," James finished. AJ cocked a brow when Sirius and Peter snorted at this statement, not sure why it was so funny.

"Girls have yet to realize what a catch I am, unfortunately," Peter shrugged.

"Our day will come! Eventually! Not you, Black, you're peaking now," AJ said, chuckling slightly at Sirius' appalled face.

"Some of us just keep getting better," Sirius insisted. "You'll see."

"I'll keep an eye out," AJ grinned.

Emmeline and Dorcas sat in the Three Broomsticks, sipping butterbeer and watching the variety of customers that came and went. They dared not visit Madam Puddifoot's as they often liked to, knowing very well that every table would be occupied with snogging couples today.

"What do you suppose this guy's life story is?" Emmeline said as a very tall, very thin man in a top hat strode inside, checking a comically large pocket watch and looking around nervously.

"He lied in his personal ad and said that he was six and a half feet tall," Dorcas said in tones only loud enough for Emmeline to hear. "And he's only got the stilt rental until noon, but his date is running late."

"I like it," Emmeline nodded. "I was personally going to go with 'took a polyjuice potion to take someone else's place on their date'."

"Also a good story," Dorcas said, glancing at her own watch. "We've got about forty-five minutes still before we give Marlene her out."

Emmeline sighed heavily. "I hope it's going well, I don't want to pretend to faint again."

"Well, she and Ben seem to be getting along," Dorcas shrugged, taking another sip of her butterbeer before wiping foam from her lip.

"Yeah but are they actually going to talk during this date or play tonsil Quidditch?" Emmeline said, cocking a brow. Dorcas snorted.

"I suppose that's a fair question. I'm a bit more concerned about Lily and Gabriel, honestly."

Emmeline nodded. "She keeps insisting an awful lot that everything's going great with him. Am I the only one that gets skeptical the more she says it?"

"Oh no, I'm a bit suspicious of him, too. It seems like she's trying to convince herself more than us," Dorcas said. "I guess we'll have to see how it plays out and if we have to beat him up."

"Is threatening physical violence going to become a constant thing now?" Emmeline said, pulling over a napkin to wipe at a bit of butterbeer that had been spilled on the table.

"Well it's not as though we're learning much on the magic front, thanks MacPherson," Dorcas sighed, watching as a few more patrons strolled into the bar, hand-in-hand. "Have your parents written to you about the detention we got, by the way?"

"Yeah, my dad did. He took it pretty well, actually, he seems to think that MacPherson is a bit of a joke and said he intends to teach me some spells when I go home for the summer," Emmeline said.

"Well, MacPherson is a joke. And how's he going to do that? You aren't seventeen yet," Dorcas pointed out.

"Well, the trace just picks up that magic is happening, not who's doing it. Lily always gets caught because the ministry knows she's muggleborn, so if magic is happening at her household, it's obviously her," Emmeline explained. "I live with an adult wizard, so I can get away with a bit more."

Dorcas scowled. "That isn't fair at all! No wonder none of the McKinnons ever got in trouble for that."

Emmeline nodded. It was true, every time they visited the McKinnon household over the summer, it was not uncommon to see Marlene or her siblings sneaking spells at each other, even when her older siblings had been too young to do so.

"Did your parents ever write you about the detention?" Emmeline asked.

"Oh, did I not mention that? My brother intercepted the owl, so they don't know, and I get to do his chores for a week when I get back so they don't find out. He wrote me and said he didn't understand why I was skipping a class at magic school but he was also pretty excited that werewolves exist and asked about twenty questions," Dorcas said.

"It's a shame he didn't turn out to be a wizard," Emmeline mused before finishing off her butterbeer.

"Yeah, I think he would have liked Hogwarts and Quidditch. But he's also rather enjoying that none of his teachers call him 'Dorcas' little brother' anymore, so," Dorcas said with a shrug.

"I can imagine, just based on the sour look that Marlene gets whenever someone calls her 'Mallory' by mistake," Emmeline said. It didn't happen a lot, most professors sticking with "Miss McKinnon," but it wasn't unheard of.

"Hmm… I wonder how Mallory's doing," Dorcas said thoughtfully.

"Marlene hasn't said anything, so I imagine she's doing all right," Emmeline shrugged. She checked her watch and sighed. "How has only five minutes passed?"

James and Peter were not bitter in the least about Sirius being off on a date and Remus being back in the dorm sick. No sir, they were completely content, the two of them, and had accomplished quite a bit since entering Hogsmeade.

They had picked up the ink for Remus, the books on the list given to Sirius, a book for Remus' birthday the following month (during which James loudly reminded Peter that his birthday was next month, too), and a wide range of fireworks and other tricks from Zonko's.

It was incredibly productive. They had set tasks and accomplished it. James was not thinking about how much more fun it would be if Sirius was there at all (although having Peter carry the selected books around the store had been humorous enough).

Now, don't get James wrong, he adored Peter. He would fight anyone that said anything bad about the boy. He had fought people for saying something bad about the boy. It was true of everyone he cared about.

It just wasn't the same without Sirius hitting on all the shop owners or Remus mumbling sarcastic comments.

James tried not to think about it, finding himself settled on a bench outside Honeydukes with Peter, a large box of chocolate frogs between them.

"I'll trade you two Dumbledores for Circe," Peter said, holding said cards to James.

"What do I need two Dumbledores for? Get back to me when you've got a Scamander," James said, shaking his head before popping one of the frogs into his mouth and examining the card he had just gotten: Bowman Wright, inventor of the golden snitch.

James already had three of him.

His attention was drawn from the card at the sound of a bark, and cries of people hastily moving to get out of the way of a large black dog that came barreling down the street. The dog seemed to notice them, barked again, and went straight for them, diving below the bench and hiding there.

"Pads?" James said, he and Peter both leaning over to glance under the bench at the dog in question. The gray eyes staring back at them were unmistakably their friend's.

"Er, what're you doing?" Peter said, though it wasn't as though they could understand any answer that Padfoot gave in this form.

The dog simply let out a "boof," and crouched lower, if possible.

"Aren't you supposed to be on a date right now?" James continued.

Another "boof." Padfoot's eyes focused past them, toward the street he had just come rushing down. James straightened, following the dog's gaze.

After a moment, a very confused Gerald appeared, looking around as though he had misplaced something. James glanced between Gerald and Padfoot for a brief moment before he nudged Peter and gestured for him to stop leaning over to look at the dog.

"Act natural," James hissed, shuffling through chocolate frog cards again.

Peter nodded briefly, reaching for another frog and beginning to unwrap it. "Sure you don't want the Dumbledores?"

"I told you, I don't need two Dumbledores, I need a Scamander," James said.

"Hey, Potter, Pettigrew," Gerald said, approaching the pair.

"Oh, hey," James said, pretending that he only just noticed the Ravenclaw.

"Shouldn't you be with Sirius?" Peter asked.

Gerald sighed heavily. "Well, that's my problem, he's sort of vanished on me. I mean—shit, it's not like I blame him, I guess."

"Did it go that badly?" James said.

Gerald shifted his weight from foot to foot, staring more at the storefront behind them than at either Peter or James. "Well, we didn't say much for about five minutes, and then we did that thing where you kind of try to start conversations that would immediately just go nowhere. Then, I don't even know how it happened, I just started babbling about Gobstones to him."

"Ah, Sirius is not a fan of Gobstones," Peter nodded. It was true. He would humor Peter about it to an extent, but even at that he rarely hid his disinterest.

"I could see him getting bored with me but I just kept going," Gerald groaned. "And going… and going."

"Sounds, er," James said, searching for the words.

"Awkward, terrible," Gerald provided. "Then someone's teapot exploded at the table behind us and I turned to look, and then this dog started running through the restaurant? Then when I turned back, he was gone. I don't know how he did it! He doesn't know how to apparate, does he?"

"Not to my knowledge," James said, he and Peter pulling off looking bewildered quite well.

They had quite a bit of practice covering up for their friends.

"Maybe he hid under the table?" Peter said.

"No, he wasn't there," Gerald sighed. "You two haven't seen him?"

"Not since this morning," Peter said, shaking his head.

"Tough break, mate, maybe you're only meant for drunken spin-the-bottle," James said, standing up and patting Gerald on the shoulder.

Gerald shrugged. "Yeah… yeah, you're probably right. It's just hard finding another boy that likes boys in this school, you know?"

"Well, you should have more in common than that, I imagine," Peter said. James nodded.

"Yeah," Gerald said, frowning. "Well, um. If you see him, tell him I'm sorry it didn't work out… and that he didn't have to pull a disappearing act, really."

"We'll pass the message along," James said.

"Thanks. See you in class, I suppose." Gerald stuck his hands in his pockets and started off down the street again, still glancing around as though hoping he would catch sight of Sirius.

Once he was out of earshot and he was sure that no one nearby was paying much attention, James crouched down in front of the bench to set his attention back on Padfoot, still crouched there.

"Really?" James said.

"That was kinda cold, Padfoot," Peter said before sliding a chocolate frog into his mouth.

Padfoot whined softly and looked at them imploringly.

"You could have just said it wasn't working out, since when do you have a problem telling people what they don't want to hear?" James said, cocking a brow.

Padfoot whined again.

"Oh, will you change back already? He's gone," James sighed.

The dog shook his head, crawling out from beneath the bench.

"Too many people around," Peter said, still chewing on the chocolate. "We'll have to take him somewhere."

Before James could even move to get his bag so they could find an alleyway or something for Padfoot to change back, someone nearby said, "Oh! Dorcas! It's a dog!"

Padfoot wagged his tail as Emmeline Vance kneeled down in the snow before him, offering her hand for him to sniff. He slid his head beneath her hand and she gladly began scratching behind his ears.

"Is he yours?" Dorcas asked James and Peter, who quickly exchanged glances.

"We are… walking him… for Mopsy Fleabert," Peter said, looking purposefully everywhere but at Emmeline.

"Yes, she has so many dogs, you know, and she's so old, it's hard for her to walk all of them," James nodded.

"Oh, aren't you a good boy? Yes, you are. Yes, you are," Emmeline cooed as one of Padfoot's hindlegs thumped against the snow in approval of the way she was scratching.

"He's a very pretty dog," Dorcas nodded, patting his head. Padfoot looked a little too content with the attention, finally rolling over in the snow so that Emmeline could rub his chest and belly.

"What's his name?" Emmeline asked as she happily complied.

"S—Snuffles," James said immediately. Padfoot barked and gave James a questioning look. James shrugged. Peter snorted softly.

"Aw, well you're a sweet boy, aren't you Snuffles?" Emmeline said.

"Unfortunately for you and for Snuffles, we have to go," Dorcas said, glancing at her watch and tapping Emmeline's shoulder. Emmeline pouted, setting her hands in her lap. Padfoot rolled over again and nudged her arm with his nose.

"I'm sorry, Snuffles, I have somewhere to be," Emmeline said, scratching his ear one last time before pecking the top of his head and pulling herself back to her feet.

"See you around," Dorcas said to James and Peter. Emmeline offered them a wave before following Dorcas down the street.

"That was a bit much, huh?" Peter said to Padfoot, who barked in response.

"That foot thing, he probably can't help it," James snickered. Padfoot defiantly headbutt him in the thigh. "Let's find him a place to transform, then."

"Yeah, okay," Peter said, glancing down at the wrapping for his most recent chocolate frog. "Hey, James! Scamander!"

Lily was trying to talk to Gabriel, a concept lost on every other couple that had gone to Madam Puddifoot's today. It was oddly quiet without others talking in the background, just the faint sound of smacking lips, giggling, and the occasional drink order.

Lily absentmindedly stirred her tea as she asked Gabe how Quidditch practice was going. He complained about the schedule the Ravenclaw captain had put together for a short while before they each got distracted watching a very enthusiastic couple nearby.

Bernard Clayton and Amy Foley were snogging with such commitment that Amy was no longer in her seat but on Bernard's lap. His hands were far beneath her shirt and Lily was beginning to wonder just how long Puddifoot would let them go before interfering. Their tea had long since gone cold, cups still full and long forgotten.

"Do... you want to go somewhere else, maybe?" Gabriel said at last.

"Yes," Lily said immediately. Gabriel threw a few coins on the table while Lily slid his scarf back around her neck and pulled on her coat. After squeezing awkwardly between couples that for the most part didn't seem to notice, they stepped outside into the cold, Gabriel immediately putting his arm around her shoulders.

"The Three Broomsticks?" Gabriel asked. "Should be less pornographic."

"Sure," Lily said. She spied Dorcas and Emmeline walking their way, remembering suddenly that they had promised to check on her and give her an out if need be.

Once they had made eye contact, Dorcas gave Lily a questioning look and a thumbs up. After making sure Gabriel was not paying attention, Lily returned the thumbs up, indicating that she did not need rescuing. Emmeline and Dorcas nodded in acknowledgment before Emmeline pointed out a nearby shop to Dorcas and they stepped inside.

As soon as they were out of sight, Lily considered the date a bit more. No, truly, she did not need rescuing. She wasn't searching for reasons to leave, she wasn't bored by his presence, nor frightened, nor disgusted. The most uncomfortable thing about the date had been the other patrons at Puddifoot's.

However, the thought flitted through her mind that she would have liked to head into that shop after Dorcas and Emmeline, who were surely laughing at silly products and debating over the pros and cons of purchasing a needless but highly-on-sale item.

She shook the thought away. She was on a date! With a very nice boy!

They walked through the door of the Three Broomsticks, immediately feeling warmer. If it weren't for the number of people inside, the enchanted fireplaces would have easily done the trick on their own.

"Hey, Buckley!" came a voice from a table near the window. Gabriel and Lily each turned to see a sandy-haired girl sitting with Emma Vanity and waving them over. "Lily!"

"Well, if it isn't—You're Wood now, aren't you?" Gabriel said as he and Lily squeezed their way over to the table.

"That I am," the sandy-haired girl said, holding out her left hand to show a dainty golden band. A bundle of blankets was resting in her right arm, inside which a baby was looking around wildly at the pub, sucking on a pacifier.

"Aw, he's really cute, Jolene," Lily said, walking over and waving to the baby.

"Thanks, our genes did an okay job," Jolene said proudly. She glanced Gabriel's way. "How's Quidditch, Buckley? I heard you scored exactly zero last game, glad to hear that some things don't change."

"Wonder who you heard that from," Gabriel said, shooting Emma a look. The Slytherin snickered. "The match lasted all of half an hour, hardly anyone scored."

"What was your excuse last year?" Emma said. Gabriel frowned.

The door to the pub opened again, an in-progress conversation flitting in with a cold gust of wind.

"Look, all I'm saying is don't knock it until you try it, Prongs. A good scratch behind the ears really—"

"I think I'll pass, really—"

"—I see the judgment in your face, Potter, I see it—"

"—Because you were being embarrassing—"

"—Oh don't talk to me about being embarrassing—"

"You're both embarrassing how about that?"

"—No one asked you, Worm—"

"Oi! Potter!" Jolene called, waving at the group. Lily cringed slightly, walking back to her previous spot beside Gabriel, wondering if they could slip away without causing much of a fuss. She wasn't much looking forward to spending her Valentine's Day with James Potter.

"Oi, Wood!" James called back mockingly as he approached, Sirius and Peter at his heel. For a moment Lily wondered where Remus was, and then realized that the day prior Madam Valdez had gone on poetically about the upcoming full moon yet again.

James grinned in her direction as he passed, as expected. "Evans."

"Potter," she said, forcing a cordial tone. Gabriel made a bit of a show of putting his arm around Lily's shoulders again. James smirked before returning his gaze to Jolene.

"This Oliver, then, or did you steal another infant?" he said, leaning over to get a better look at the baby.

"Yes, this is Oliver. Do you want to hold him? I trust you, you don't drop Quaffles," Jolene said. Gabriel sighed heavily.

"It was a thirty minute match, I didn't drop anything!" Gabriel said.

"I don't remember you mentioning Buckley by name," Emma smiled. Jolene snickered, carefully handing the bundle over to James, who seemed delighted at being trusted to hold the child.

"All right, Oliver?" James said to the bundle. Oliver seemed quite content, still looking around at all the new people curiously.

Sirius was gazing down at the baby with mild discomfort. Peter looked slightly fearful.

"Well. That is certainly a baby," Sirius said.

"Ah, the witty commentary I've been waiting for," Jolene said. Sirius smirked.

"He's so small," Peter said, keeping his hands close to his person as though afraid that James might suddenly hand him over.

James wasn't listening, though, instead cooing over the child, who had now grabbed on to his finger firmly and refused to let go. It was such an odd sight that Lily couldn't help but stare. She couldn't say that she had ever stopped and considered what James Potter would do when confronted with a baby, but this certainly was not what she would have expected.

"You've got a way with him, Potter," Emma said, now standing beside him and gazing down at the baby. "But then, you're just a good baby, aren't you Oliver? Yes, you're the best Godson in the world, aren't you?"

"Godson? Jolene, you've made a Slytherin your child's guardian?" James said, appalled. "What happens if you and Nick die?"

"Then he'll be raised by a fantastic Quidditch player," Jolene said with a curt nod.

"Ah, yes, the only reason I was awarded the title," Emma snorted. "My prowess in Quidditch."

"Okay, okay, she's also my best and most responsible friend or something," Jolene said, waving Emma's comment away. "But it's mostly the Quidditch thing."

"Well if we're going by Quidditch skills, I suppose that makes me the Godfather," James said, smug as he could be with his index finger still firmly in an infant's grasp. Lily snorted. He simply grinned in her direction again.

"Nick chose his brother," Jolene sighed.

"Disgraceful all around," James said.

Sirius rolled his eyes. "Either way, you're a bit too comfortable there, Prongs, it's weird."

"I'm just practicing for when you've got one," James shrugged.

Sirius' eyes widened. "What? Me? Do you know something I don't?"

"No, I'm just saying, of the four of us, which of us is gonna end up with one of these first? Probably you, and probably by accident," James said matter-of-factly. "It's just math."

Peter snorted.

"Don't jinx me, Mate," Sirius frowned. "I don't want one of these things—no offense, Jolene."

"None taken," Jolene smiled, prying her child out of James' arms. "You lot have plenty of time."

"Yeah, get through your O.W.L.s first," Emma added.

"Can you believe," Gabriel said, "That they haven't got a homework trading system in place yet? At least not Lily's friends."

"How are you getting by? Do you not sleep?" Emma said, surprised.

"Is this really that common of a thing?" Lily sighed.

"Overwhelmed Wizards Lie, Lily," Jolene nodded.

"Also Pete would have never passed third year if we didn't let him look at our homework," Sirius shrugged. Peter glared at him.

"Hey!" the shorter boy said.

"I'm not saying you're an idiot, I'm saying you're bad at essays," Sirius reasoned.

James nodded. "Some people suck at essays. You are one of them."

"We can't all have poetry in our souls," Sirius said, setting a hand to his heart dramatically. James snickered.

"Why do I feel like the only poetry in your soul is a dirty limerick?" Lily commented, cocking a brow. The others snickered at this.

Sirius opened his mouth to reply and then paused, considering this. "Fair enough, Evans, fair enough."

Marlene and Benjamin had finished their food a good twenty minutes ago, their plates already cleared away and tea cups in front of them as Benjamin spoke about his roommates and how one of them was trying to get all of them to follow a strict revision schedule of his own creation to prepare for N.E.W.T.s.

Marlene stroked his fingertips gently as she nodded along, caring so little for what he was saying. She had hardly considered the notion of revising for O.W.L.s, she certainly didn't want to think about N.E.W.T.s.

In fact, throughout most of the date, she had greatly lamented the fact that they were actually, well, going through the motions of dating when they had already done so much in secluded areas of the castle. She was finding very quickly that all she wanted to do was snog him, and all he wanted to do was talk.

The girl checked her watch and glanced out the window. She made eye contact with the girls on the bench across the way. Emmeline and Dorcas were right on time.

But did she need rescuing? This date wasn't exactly going horribly… she just wanted to move things back to the castle, somewhere private.

She had hinted a few times that they should go back, but Benjamin didn't seem to be picking up on what she was trying to communicate with him and simply continued to talk about the goings-on within the castle. Maybe a rescue would get them there sooner?

Oh, but Emmeline and Dorcas would probably be quite upset to find that their rescue was less of a rescue and more of an excuse for Marlene to move things further along with her date.

Marlene subtly tugged at her ear, indicating to the girls that she was fine, she did not need to be rescued. Another glance out the window showed that Dorcas and Emmeline had given her the thumbs up before getting up and walking away.

The blonde was on her own.

"—And he wants us to revise for herbology for fifteen hours a week? It's herbology, that much revision isn't necessary, don't you think?" Benjamin was saying.

"I dunno," Marlene shrugged. "You know what I do think, though?"

"What?" Benjamin asked, taking a sip of his tea. Marlene propped her elbows on the table and leaned across to whisper in his ear, figuring that if he was not going to understand any subtle hints, she was going to have to be more straight-forward.

"I think we should go back to the castle, do less talking, and wear less clothing," she said softly.

Marlene wasn't sure that she had ever seen someone ask for the check so quickly.

After Gabriel and Lily had excused themselves from the group fawning over Jolene's baby, which was shortly after Professor McGonagall walked over and was passed the child to hold, Lily thought that things would go a bit better. She thought they'd sit down, order some butterbeer, and have a pleasant conversation.

However, Gabriel spent the majority of their time at the Three Broomsticks insisting that his scoring average was perfectly serviceable, good even, and that he was one of the better Chasers on the team. Lily nodded along and agreed, though she found it hard to be as passionate about the cause as he was… after all, Jolene and Emma had just been teasing.

He seemed to have gotten it out of his system by the time they were on their way back to the castle, her hand in his.

"Well, I hope you had a good time," he said as they went.

"Oh, it was lovely," Lily nodded.

"Good, good," he said, glancing at his watch. "Look, do you want to come back to our dormitory a bit? Everyone should have cleared out to use the library if they're not down here."

"Your dormitory?" Lily asked, cocking a brow. She had never been seriously invited to a boy's dormitory before.

"Just to hang out," Gabriel said.

That sounded innocent enough. It would be a far more casual setting, and they wouldn't be surrounded by other couples at least.

"Sure, all right."

"Well, at least we didn't have to rescue anyone today," Dorcas said as she and Emmeline sat at the Hufflepuff table. The great hall was mostly abandoned, as a meal was not currently going on. A few students were tucked away in far corners of their respective tables in an attempt to get some work done away from their peers.

Dorcas and Emmeline had decided to busy themselves with a game of chess and were currently ushering the pieces to their proper places in order to begin.

"True. I wonder how their dates are going now," Emmeline said with a heavy sigh as she nudged her pawn slightly with her finger to get it out of the rook's square.

"Don't beat yourself up over not having a date, Em," Dorcas said. "Boys are such… well they're exhausting, in my opinion."

"At least you've been kissed. I just don't understand why it's so easy for people like Marlene and Lily and so difficult for me," Emmeline said.

"It wasn't a great kiss," Dorcas said with a slight frown. "It'll happen for you, you just have to stop worrying about it so much. Pawn to E-4."

The white pawn took two steps forward and braced itself, as though daring any of Emmeline's black pieces to dare approach it.

"Yeah, I'll get right on that," Emmeline said. "Pawn to E-5."

"In the meantime, I'll be your Valentine. Look, I brought more chocolate," Dorcas said, setting her Honeydukes bag down on the table.

Emmeline smiled. "Well, happy Valentine's Day, then, Dorcas."

"You too, Em."

Marlene didn't bother to examine the seventh year boy's dormitory beyond confirming that none of Benjamin's roommates were currently present. She was already pulling off her gloves when he turned to close and lock the door, humming to herself as though she was only vaguely interested in any of what was going on.

"Which bed is yours, then?" she asked. She let out a small squeak in surprise as he lifted her off her feet and set her down on the nearby bed.

"This one," Benjamin grinned.

"Hmm," she considered, leaning back against the comforter as she kicked off her winter boots. "I suppose it'll do."

It occurred to her that she hadn't actually had sex in a bed before, having used a bench in the locker room with Sirius. This was more comfortable, if nothing else, and from her understanding, well, Benjamin knew a little more about what he was doing.

Despite her ruined friendship with Sirius, their encounter had achieved what she had hoped for. She wasn't as nervous as she thought she would be as soon as she had entered the boy's dorm. She was certain that she could do this, absolutely certain.

The anxiety stirring in her stomach was more of excitement than nerves. She was so bored of beating around the bush with Benjamin. Now they finally had a private place to take the plunge they had been so close to.

"You suppose, hm? Do you want me to light a candle or something?" Benjamin asked, cocking a brow as he tossed his coat aside.

"Oh, one whole candle, you are a master of setting the mood," Marlene snorted, pulling him over by the collar.

"I might be able to find a second one," Benjamin said.

"Forget the candles," Marlene said, pressing her mouth to his.

Gabriel had answered the riddle with little effort and they had marched up to the boy's dormitory, passing what Lily recognized as two of the musicians from the Quidditch party, cuddled up and taking a nap on one of the common room couches.

The boy's dormitory was not unlike the girl's, which Lily had only entered a handful of times before. There were the same star-speckled blue curtains and blue bedspreads, though significantly less David Bowie on the wall than in Emmeline's room.

None of Gabriel's roommates were around, and for a moment, they simply talked about books, Gabriel handing his copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four to her, which she set in her bag and promised to try and read later on, if she managed to find a spare moment to do so.

Book discussions quickly dissolved into snogging, and Lily found herself lying back on his bed with him on top of her. The kissing part was lovely. She liked the way he touched her hair and her cheek, she was getting more and more used to French kissing.

Then his hand began moving down, and Lily tried not to so obviously freeze as she wondered where exactly it would end up. She wasn't wearing a skirt today, opting for a pair of high-waisted jeans. There was at least a layer of denim between his hand and her arse when he slid his hand there.

It's not a big deal! she thought to herself, trying to focus more on what his lips were doing. It was fine. He was her boyfriend, he could touch her there, it was fine.

She was sixteen, for Merlin's sake! She wasn't a child.

And at least he wasn't reaching under a skirt this time.

Yes, this was fine. Just fine.

His mouth trailed from her lips and down her neck. She hummed slightly, finding it slightly ticklish but nice. She could get used to this, absolutely she could.

Lily ran her fingers through his hair as he worked on her neck. This was nice.

That is, until his hand moved again, this time beneath her sweater. His hand was cold against her skin and she froze slightly again.

It was just her waist. It was fine, really, it was fine.

There was no reason for her to freak out.

She pulled him away from her neck so that she could kiss his lips again, hoping that it would distract her further to focus on what her mouth was doing with his. It worked for a time, chancing a small nip at his bottom lip.

This was fine.

Then his hand moved again and her lips slowed. He reached for the buttons on her jeans and she froze, wondering if he really was doing what she thought he was doing.

He unfastened the button and she sat upright, knocking their heads slightly in her haste and wiggling her hips away. It seemed to take her less than two seconds to scoot several feet away from the boy, who was rubbing his forehead in confusion.

"Sorry, I—er—well—!" Lily stuttered. Her cheeks had already been pink from the snogging, but she could feel herself turning a similar color to her dark red locks now.

"Are you okay?" Gabriel said, cocking a brow. "What's the deal?"

"Nothing—! I mean—well—it's just—" Lily said, unsure what exactly to say.

She was saved from having to say a word, however, by the door to the dormitory swinging open and a mousy-haired boy with glasses taking half a step inside before pausing at the sight of an out-of-breath and flushed Lily and Gabriel.

"You could knock, Augustus," Gabriel scowled.

Augustus seemed taken aback for a moment before saying, "Sorry, I was under the impression that this was also my room."

"It's fine, I should be going, I have an essay and I'm tutoring tomorrow so I really don't have time to do it then. I should have left half an hour ago really, if I intend to get this done, it's transfiguration and that's not really my strong suit, you know," Lily babbled suddenly, jumping to her feet and pulling her sweater down to cover her undone button. She scooped up her bag and her coat, Gabriel's scarf still in the pocket.

"Lily—" Gabriel started.

"See you around!" Lily said hastily, pecking his cheek before darting past Augustus and out of the room, heart racing the entire way.