A/N: Heeeeeey guys! Got past 50 reviews last time, which is pretty sweet. Thank you everyone that takes the time to review, I really appreciate it, be sure to let me know what you think of this one too.
LG14, Yeah, James is still shitty and fifteen right now, but he'll figure shit out. Eventually, haha. Glad I could make part of your Saturday morning nicer! / ForeverACharmedOne, yeah, definitely, it must be awfully gloomy to be dear Snivellus. Glad you enjoyed the chapter! / AkariWolfPrincess, Patronuses will certainly come up, just not quite yet! And yeah, I think we've all been in Emmeline's shoes at some point. / Random Hero, Happy to read that you're enjoying the story! Halloween was actually a few chapters ago, we're getting close to December, timeline-wise, but yeah it's definitely gonna be slowburn when it comes to Lily and James, hopefully it stays entertaining in the meantime. / Fran, I know you said you were stopping last chapter, but just in case you stopped by again, I do want to say there's a method to the madness, I promise! There's still quite a ways to go until Jily and I have lots planned as far as how to get there. Having crushes that don't work out is a thing that happens and people move on. You should have seen the weirdo I had a giant crush on when I was 15 that I rarely even thought about a year later. / Vivi, thank you for your review, I'm glad you enjoyed it! / Milk, holy long review, Batman! Thank you for sharing such a long, thoughtful comment with me! You brought up some good points about Lily that I will definitely keep in mind. For all I talk about James having some growing up to do, I think dear Lily does as well (the whole cast does, actually). I hope to read more reviews from you in the future and that you continue enjoying the story. Also, your English is just fine!
"You two are really terrible prefects."
"So, you're not helping?"
Chapter Twenty-One: Late Nights
It was snowing and Moony couldn't be more thrilled. The werewolf darted across the fresh powder, howling for joy before rolling through it. The others rushed after him, leaving prints in the snow as they went.
The cold seemed to invigorate the already energetic creature. He hadn't slowed down since they left the shrieking shack, his hot breath clouding before him as he scurried around the grounds.
"Moony!" Padfoot barked, his dark fur speckled with snowflakes. "We're gonna check out he forest, come on!"
"But the snow!" Moony whined, rolling through it again. "Snow is great! Let's play in the snow!"
"The forest was Remus' idea," bleated Prongs.
"Remus isn't here," Moony bayed. He was trying to catch snowflakes in his mouth now, biting at the air.
"There's small animals to chase," Peter squeaked. Moony seemed to consider this briefly before nodding.
"Okay, forest. Then more snow!"
They bounded off to the edge of the trees, Wormtail holding tight to Prong's antlers as they went. Moony was the first one to slip into the trees, not the least bit apprehensive. The others followed, curious about the region that had been deemed off-limits to the students. Snow didn't reach the ground much here, the trees catching most of it.
They ducked under low branches as they went, so far nothing out of the ordinary. At least, not until the others jumped in surprise as Prongs bleated in frustration. His antlers had gotten caught in some branches and no matter how much he tugged, he could not seem to get them free.
As Wormtail worked to release him from the tree, Padfoot and Moony looked about as amused as canines could be.
"There you go," Wormtail squeaked as he released the last branch from Prongs' antlers.
"You're my one true friend, Wormtail," Prongs bleated, looking pointedly at the unhelpful dog and werewolf. They howled and barked in amusement.
"Wormtail outranks us!"
"We must eliminate the competition!"
"Prongs shall be ours!"
"Come down here and face us like a rat, Wormtail!"
Wormtail shook his head, getting more comfortable atop Prongs' head. "Nah."
"Worm is scared," Padfoot taunted.
"I am not, I have Prongs," Wormtail squeaked proudly.
"But he can't fight for you when we're fighting over him!" Moony objected.
"Conflict of interest!" Padfoot barked. Everyone's ears perked, however, and the "argument" was forgotten at the sound of footsteps.
The group took a few quiet steps toward the sound, finding a clearing. Standing in this clearing was a unicorn, tall, grand, and poised, listening intently, likely for them.
Before anyone could attempt to stop him, Moony let out a howl and leaped forward. Startled, the unicorn took off through the trees at a gallop, Moony quickly following.
"Shit," Prongs bellowed.
"Moony!" Peter squeaked as they began to chase after their friend.
"Moony, hunting a unicorn is at the very least bad karma!" Padfoot barked. They slipped around the trees, ducked beneath branches and ran after the sound of Moony's howls. They weren't sure which way they were going or how far they had gone when the dog and stag slowed to a stop, straining to hear anything.
Padfoot howled and the others listened carefully. Moony's faint howl could be heard in return.
"He's that way," Prongs and Padfoot each stated, pointing in completely separate directions.
"Er, maybe he is that way?"
"No, maybe you were right…"
"I thought it came from that way," Wormtail squeaked, pointing in yet another direction.
"Well, we suck at this," Prongs bleated. "Sniff him out, hound dog."
"I am not a hound, I'm a shepherd if anything!" Padfoot bayed, insulted.
"Well, then part of your flock wandered off, go find him, Shepherd!"
Padfoot exhaled sharply before beginning to sniff at the ground around them. Prongs followed with Wormtail as Padfoot started off in a direction none of them had pointed out earlier.
Padfoot howled again and once more Moony returned the call. The dog picked up the pace, seeming to have caught a trail, and gaining confidence once Moony's next howl seemed to be coming from the direction they were headed.
None of them would admit to any worry over their friend being in parts unknown in this forest, but it was certainly there. What if they didn't find him before sunrise?
Moony could handle himself in the forest with all the other creatures. But could Remus?
Another howl and they took off on a run, sure they knew where he was now. Padfoot and Moony nearly collided, skidding to a halt as the other came into view.
"There you are!" Moony barked, tail wagging. "I lost the unicorn, too fast."
"Don't run away from us again!" Prongs bellowed. If stags could give away worry in their tone, Prongs certainly had. "We need to look after each other."
Moony tilted his head, tail falling between his legs. "Oh. I'm sorry. I was just playing."
"Yeah, well, we're safer together," Prongs bleated, gently nudging the werewolf in a friendly manner.
"Hey, uh, do any of you know the way out?" Padfoot whined. The four glanced around. All the trees looked the same.
"Well," Wormtail squeaked. "It's gonna be a long night, isn't it?"
After each taking turns to explain to Lily, yet again, just how stupid the bet she made was, Dorcas, Emmeline, and Marlene had agreed to all help Lily study during the lunch hour. They had eaten hastily on their way to the library, knowing Madam Pince took a sick sort of pleasure in banning students from the library so close to midterms. They would not tempt her by bringing in food.
"Okay, Ravenclaw, what's our strategy?" Marlene whispered as they entered, plopping the last bit of her sandwich in her mouth.
"Huh?" Emmeline said. "Oh, I don't know… I usually just review my notes the night before."
"You don't have an elaborate study system in place?" Dorcas teased.
"You lot have literally seen me working on essays the morning they're due at breakfast because I kept putting it off," Emmeline said. "I really have no system."
"You are a disgrace to Rowena Ravenclaw," Marlene tsked.
"How dare you not live up to the house stereotypes!" Lily added.
"Fine! Fine. Lily, you must copy down the text book chapter, word for word, seven times in English and then translate it into Latin," Emmeline said. "Ravenclaw enough?"
"Who knows Latin outside the spells?" Lily said.
"We have a Latin word of the day calendar on the common room notice board," Emmeline said.
"There you go, there's the stereotype," Dorcas smiled
"Let's make up flash cards and work from there," Marlene said.
"We should really do that for midterms anyway," Lily nodded.
"And we can save them to study for OWLs," Emmeline said. They walked past one of the tables provided for student use, occupied.
"Flash cards, then!" Dorcas said. Lily stopped and doubled back to the table they had just passed, the other girls following in confusion.
However, once they saw who was seated there, they understood. James Potter, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew were all fast asleep in their potions text books, James' quill still in his hand.
"Wow, this is due next class," Marlene said, glancing at the top of Peter's half-finished essay he was drooling on.
"Should we wake them?" Dorcas whispered.
"And pass up this glorious opportunity?" Lily said, shaking her head. "The self-proclaimed prank kings are asleep in public, we may never get a chance to mess with them like this again. You know they'd do the same thing."
"I dunno, I'm already on thin ice with them," Marlene frowned.
"They don't have to know you were involved," Lily shrugged, pulling out her wand.
"They don't have to know any of us were involved," Emmeline said, taking her wand out as well.
"You two are really terrible prefects," Dorcas said, gesturing to Lily and Emmeline. "They're not hurting anyone, they just fell asleep."
"So, you're not helping?" Lily asked, mumbling a spell to vanish James' eyebrows.
"Oh, I never said that, this is a grand opportunity," Dorcas said, she and Marlene drawing their wands as well. "But if anyone asks, I tried to stop you."
It had taken all night to find their way out of the forest, hardly reaching the edge of the trees before Moony transformed back into Remus. Propping him upright, the others barely got him back into the passageway before Madam Promfrey left the castle to fetch him. As a result, James, Sirius, and Peter had gotten exactly no sleep that night, sneaking back into the dorm long enough to pull their robes on and head back out again. It was truly no surprise they had each fallen asleep while attempting to finish their potions essays.
James only woke up when an enchanted paper airplane crash-landed into his forehead. He groaned slightly, cracking open his eyes before glancing at his watch.
"Shit, guys, wake up! Class started twenty minutes ago," James said, suddenly alert. When he sat upright, he turned to see his friends and frowned at the sight. Peter had a thick mustache drawn on his face and his hair was styled into a bright yellow mohawk.
Sirius' hair was coated in glitter and sticking out in all directions. A pair of glasses and a unibrow were scribbled on his face.
"Mate, your face," James said, lifting his hand to point at the ink smudges and finding that his quill and parchment were stuck to his hand. Brow furrowed, he attempted to peel the parchment away, only to find it now sticking to his opposite hand.
Sirius was mumbling under his breath, attempting to free his palm from his text book.
"Your eyebrows are gone, James," Peter said, his essay stuck along the length of his forearm. "And someone drew pretty eyelashes and a beauty mark on you."
"You've still got eyebrows but they drew a mustache on you and gave you a yellow mohawk," Sirius said to Peter, while still trying to pry the book cover off his hand.
"Your hair is covered in glitter and you've got glasses and a unibrow," James frowned. "What's the big idea, who did this?"
"Your hair's the same, they must have figured it was already a joke," Sirius said, finally freeing his hand, only to make the mistake of touching his glitter-coated hair. His hand was now stuck to the strands. He swore.
"Who did this?!" Peter groaned, echoing James as he nearly tore his essay while attempting to pull it away from his arm.
James glanced around, seeing no one in the immediate area. "I have no idea."
Honestly, there were plenty of people in this school with motive.
"We can't all fall asleep like that, it's just asking for this to happen," Sirius said, trying to free his hand from his hair and shedding glitter with every motion.
"But I'm so tired," Peter whined, setting his head back on the desk.
James reached for his wand, his quill still stuck to his hand, and found that it wasn't in his pocket. "What the hell," he said. He stood up to look for it and fell over as soon as he took a step.
"Jelly leg jinx?" Sirius asked, leaning over to see if James was okay.
"No," James said, lifting his feet to show the laces tied together. From this angle, he could see the underside of the table where three wands were secured by unknown means. "Found our wands!"
He grabbed Sirius' wand and tried to pass it off to the boy's free hand, only to find that they were both unable to let go of it.
"This spell is so annoying, we have to start using it," Sirius mumbled, he and James both still tugging on the wand, hoping one of them would be able to let go.
"Yes, it's really a quite effective prank," James said, vaguely impressed. "I wish we knew who did it so that we could prank them back."
"Let me try a spell my mum used to try and undo my permanent sticking charms," Sirius said.
"As long as I'll still have a hand," James said, still firmly grasping the tip of Sirius' wand whether he wanted to be or not.
"I think you'll be fine," Sirius said.
There was a brief burning sensation and James tore his hand away. His hand was thankfully in one piece and he apprehensively touched the paper airplane on the floor to see if it would stick. It did not. He sighed in relief before handing Peter his wand and grabbing his own.
As James returned to his seat, he felt something was off about his wand. Why did the handle still feel sticky? James turned his wand over to see that they had been held to the underside of the table with chewing gum. He made a face.
"Awfully muggle of them," Sirius said, peeling the chewing gum off his own wand now that he had counter-cursed both his hands.
"They were thinking outside the box for sure, the wankers," James said, starting to counter-curse his other hand. "Perhaps we've been limiting ourselves by only using hexes and jinxes."
"So, this hair," Peter said, turning his head slightly. "How does it look, really? Maybe I keep it?"
Sirius and James exchanged glances.
"No," James said. Sirius pointed his wand to Peter's head and restored his hair to it's normal color and length. Peter sighed.
Sirius began running his wand through his own hair, freeing it of glitter, but littering the floor and table with it.
Overall, it took them a good ten minutes to fix Sirius' hair, vanish most of (but not all of) the glitter, and magic off the ink on their faces.
"Anyone know how to fix my eyebrows?" James said, running his fingers over his hair-free brow bone.
"The hair growth spell I know says specifically not to use it on eyebrows or they'll get so long you won't be able to see," Sirius frowned.
"Eyebrows grow really fast, though," Peter said helpfully.
"We'll figure it out later," James said, standing upright. "We're late and we need to take notes for Moony."
"Class is already over," Sirius said, checking his watch.
"What!?" James said, checking his again. "No, it started half an hour ago!"
"Wait, this can't be right, my watch says it's ten minutes to dinner but he sun is still out," Sirius said, eyes darting from his watch to the window.
"Mine says it's nine forty-five, maybe we slept through the night?" Peter said.
"No, whoever pranked us messed with our watches," James scowled.
"So simple and so annoying," Sirius said. "We'll have to synchronize all over again when we visit Moony."
"Come on, let's find out what time it actually is," James said. They gathered their things and started off.
Unfortunately, James had forgotten to fix his shoe laces while they were undoing all the other pranks. Sirius and Peter hadn't noticed the same happening to their shoes and all three fell with a loud thud to the floor, parchment and ink strewn about.
Various swears escaped their lips and harsh shushing was heard from nearby as they hastily attempted to untangle their laces
Scrambling back to their feet, the boys were off again, stopping when they found Lily, Marlene, Emmeline, and Dorcas at one of the tables. Marlene and Sirius made a point to avoid each other's eye as they approached.
"Do any of you have the time?" James asked. Lily turned her wristwatch, which had slipped and turned around her wrist again, so that she could actually see the face.
"Half-past noon," she said.
"Lunch isn't even over yet," Peter mumbled as the three of them adjusted their watches.
"What time did you think it was?" Dorcas asked, cocking a brow.
"Someone messed with our watches," Sirius sighed.
"Oh, that's unfortunate," Dorcas said. "How did they do that without you noticing?"
"We fell asleep," James sighed. "So, we don't even know who did it."
"You all fell asleep?" Emmeline said, underlining a portion of her notes.
"Prongs couldn't sleep and kept us all up complaining about it," Sirius lied. James cast him an unamused glance.
"Why are you 'Prongs'?" Marlene said, eyes still at her book to avoid Sirius' gaze.
"Inside joke," James said.
"Don't worry about it," Peter added. "You don't think Snivellus did it, do you?"
"No, gum and tying shoe laces isn't his style," Sirius said, rolling his eyes.
"Yeah, there were none of those curses he's so proud of," James snorted.
"Were have your eyebrows gone? You look permanently surprised," Emmeline said, glancing up from her notes at last.
"I don't know, someone vanished them!" James said.
"Well, the good news is that eyebrows grow fast," Dorcas said.
"Do you need anything else, Potter? We're sort of busy," Lily said, gesturing to their books and in-progress flash cards.
"Studying for the next transfiguration quiz, are you?" James said, looking as smug as he could without eyebrows.
Lily rolled her eyes. "Go away, Potter."
"I will if you go out with me, Evans," James grinned.
"James," Emmeline whispered, gesturing for him to lean down closer to her so he could hear, as though she was revealing some grand secret. "Girls do not want to be bribed or blackmailed into a date."
"I see it more as a deal," James said. The four girls simultaneously rolled their eyes. "I'll even let her out of the bet!"
"Potter, listen," Lily said. "You're going to leave so that we can study in peace and you're going to lose that bet. All without me dating you."
She gestured for the boys to shoo and James shrugged as though he were only minorly inconvenienced. Sirius tugged James along by his collar as he and Peter walked off.
"You're an idiot," Sirius could be heard saying.
"It was worth a shot, and I tried to let her out of the bet!" James replied.
The rest of their conversation could not be heard from the girls' table as they softly snickered amongst themselves.
"You know it's only fifteen minutes past twelve, right?" Marlene said, referring to the time Lily had given the boys.
"There's worse I could do than send them to Slughorn's class early," Lily smiled. "Like actually dating James Potter."
"I'd wait for a better bribe," Dorcas nodded.
"Yeah, he's loaded, wait until he offers a broom or something," Marlene agreed.
"He could offer me his entire bank account and I still wouldn't want to date him," Lily said. "I do want to take his money by winning this bet, though."
"Right, so, let's go over the wand movement," Emmeline said, flipping through her notes.
"Finished our essays, got to class on time, we can definitely handle ourselves without Moony," Sirius said triumphantly as they reached the door to the potions chamber.
"Moony reminded us to finish the essays before the full moon and we ignored him," Peter said.
"Not the point!" Sirius said as they stepped inside to find the classroom empty.
"It is Wednesday, right?" James said, looking around at the vacant seats, puzzled.
"Yes," Sirius said.
"It's just barely one o'clock, though," Peter said, gesturing to the classroom clock.
"That explains why the bell never rang," Sirius said. As soon as those words left his mouth, the fifteen minute warning bell sounded.
"Evans gave us the wrong time!" James scowled.
"You don't think the four of them pranked us in the first place do you?" Peter said, pointing off in the library's general direction.
"Evans probably just wanted to make sure we weren't late," Sirius said mockingly. "Bloody prefects."
"Well, since we're here. Want to put a permanent sticking charm on Snivellus' chair before he shows up?" James said, approaching the seat in question.
Saturday had come far more quickly than Lily had wanted, which was only a problem because she still had more studying for Transfiguration to do but would have to tend to other things on this fine day. She had spent the morning helping Slughorn organize his cupboard of potions ingredients. His cupboard was small in size and she hadn't expected the task to take as long as it had, forgetting about the possibility of him having magically expanded the inside (which, he had).
After dusting every jar, bottle, and vial, and organizing them by name, Slughorn had handed Lily two gold coins and reminded her of his upcoming Christmas party.
Lily had honestly forgotten about the party. Her mind had been occupied by the sneakoscope, her friends, the bet with James, and the whole thing with Remus.
Slughorn had reminded her that she could bring a date and she found herself wishing, yet again, that things had gone differently with the boy.
As she arrived at the library to tutor, she saw him there, checking in with Madam Pince about the student he was meant to tutor for arithmancy that had never shown up. He glanced over, his tired eyes meeting hers, and smiled apprehensively. She returned the favor before walking past him to wait at the table for the student she'd be tutoring in charms.
More than being disappointed that he had turned her down, Lily missed having him around as a friend and wondered if they would ever get back to that place. Perhaps they would be stuck in a purgatory of awkward smiles forever.
Her heart lightened when she saw Severus sitting at the table, waiting for a student to tutor as well. She smiled, this one not the least bit awkward or forced, and settled down beside him.
"Hey, Sev," she whispered. It had been ages since they properly spent time together outside of class.
"Hey," he replied, setting his book down.
"How're you?" Lily asked.
Severus shrugged. "Since getting a chair stuck to me? Okay, I guess."
"If it makes you feel better, Potter tried charming his eyebrows back yesterday and walked around with a huge unibrow for an hour," Lily said. Alice had finally gotten to take care of James' eyebrows that day, leaving them well-groomed when she was through but the skin surrounding them red, raw, and irritated.
James had insisted he'd rather take another Bludger to his person than rip his eyebrows out of his face again.
Severus simply shrugged again, not finding this as amusing as the girls had. "Let me know when someone permanently sticks him to a dragon."
"Right… so, um, any plans for Christmas?" Lily asked, deciding the best thing to do was steer the conversation away from James Potter.
"I'm going to sign up to stay here," Severus said.
"Oh," Lily said with a frown. She was hoping to see him over the holiday, away from class and his housemates. "Why's that?"
"Better than home," Severus said simply.
"That's a shame, we won't be able to do the Yule log or build our snowman army," Lily said. She looked forward to both with him each year.
"And I also won't be able to hear my father yell at my mother for dinner not being hot enough," Severus mumbled. Lily frowned.
"I'm sorry, Sev," she said. "I bet my parents would let you have the couch if I asked. I'd hate for you to spend Christmas alone—"
"No thanks," he said.
Lily urged herself to remember that he wasn't avoiding her, he was avoiding his parents. Still, it disappointed her that he would rather be alone at the castle than entertain the idea of staying with her.
This is not about me, she reminded herself again.
"Well, okay," she said. "We're only scheduled to tutor until one o'clock. How about we go outside after and build our snowman army today?"
"I'm, um, I'm meeting up with Avery and Mulciber after this, actually," Severus said, at least managing to sound apologetic. "We've got plans."
Lily sighed. "Those two? What sort of plans?"
Severus hesitated slightly. "Studying."
"Well, great! I could stand to study a bit more for midterms, I've been really focused on transfiguration and not much else," Lily said. Severus put up with Marlene, Emmeline and Dorcas and vice-versa, she could deal with Mulciber and Avery.
Granted, this was all ignoring the fact that at least Marlene, Emmeline and Dorcas did not have goals to be Death Eaters. Lily asked, "Can I come along?"
"We're not studying for midterms, it's a separate project," Severus said.
"Don't worry about it."
"Sev," Lily said, worry clear in her voice. "You're not doing anything illegal, are you?"
"Don't worry about it."
Before Lily could continue, Madam Pince arrived with a Ravenclaw first year. His hair was in a well-groomed afro and his smile was kind.
"This is Miss Evans. She will help you with that charm," Madam Pince said. She handed Lily a key. "Study room C, Evans."
Lily nodded, casting Severus one last glance before gathering her things and walking off with the first year.
"You are Lily Evans, right?" the boy said.
"Yes, I am," Lily nodded.
"Okay, good. It's just a common surname, is all, and Emmeline said to ask for you," he said.
Lily smiled. Emmeline had sent a lot of younger Ravenclaw students her way to help her with her sneakoscope money. "Well, that's nice of her. I think I'm the only 'Evans' that tutors. What's your name?"
"Kingsley Shacklebolt," he said, shaking her hand. His handshake was perhaps one of the firmest she had experienced.
"Nice to meet you," Lily said, recalling that this was Emmeline's favorite first year. She unlocked study room C and held open the door. "Now, what charm are you having trouble with?"