A/N: All of my thanks go to my excellent beta, KC (DailyProphetReporting), who has toiled laboriously until the wee hours in the morning for this story over the past eight months (yes, eight!). I hope you enjoy it – please review!
Life and love are life and love, a bunch of violets is a bunch of violets, and to drag in the idea of a point is to ruin everything. Live and let live, love and let love, flower and fade, and follow the natural curve, which flows on, pointless.
-D. H. Lawrence
Chrissie Evans turned around from her spot at the sink and raised her eyebrows as her youngest daughter came pelting into the kitchen. Her eyes were wild with excitement and her dark red hair was escaping its confines in the knot at the back of her head. Usually Lily was immaculate; Mrs. Evans was instantly curious to find out what it was that excited her so much to not pull her hair back properly. She looked down and spotted a thick, heavy piece of paper – parchment, really – clutched in her daughter's fist, and began to smile.
Lily waved the parchment in front of her face. "I did it! I'm it! I'm Head Girl!" she gasped.
"Oh, darling, that's wonderful!" Mrs. Evans exclaimed, face lighting. She pushed the letter aside and squeezed Lily tightly. "I'm so proud of you, darling! Dad's going to be terribly excited!" The truth was, Mrs. Evans had had a strong feeling Lily would be appointed Head Girl. It was the highest honor for a female student at Hogwarts, and she, along with the Head Boy, would be the voice of the students for the whole of the school year.
"And look! Look at my badge!" Lily cried, stepping out of her mother's embrace and opening her palm. A shiny gold badge proclaimed her title in bold letters.
"I've got to keep it on at all times – well, at least until everyone knows I'm Head Girl, you know – and I get to attend some faculty meetings and keep track of House points and preside over meetings with the prefects – oh, Mum, this is the best day of my life!"
Lily said all this very fast and in one breath, and while Mrs. Evans hugged her yet again, she had to process her words. "Meetings with faculty, eh? That's going to be quite interesting, I'd say."
"Can I call daddy?" Lily asked, looking at the phone on the counter eagerly.
"Of course, and we'll have to tell Petty. But, Lily – isn't there also supposed to be a Head Boy?"
Lily paused next to the telephone, her smile wilting slightly. "Yes, but it doesn't say who it is." She looked down at the much-wrinkled letter in her hand, rereading it, as if hoping to find the answer. But she didn't care very much so long as she knew who it wouldn't be, and that was one of the Marauders. She told her mother as much, and Mrs. Evans smiled. She had heard much about the four boys who liked to terrorize the school with their pranks and practical jokes, and had ever since first year. Lily despised every one of them, even though one, Remus Lupin, had been made a prefect.
"But how do you know?"
Lily picked up the receiver and turned the dial. She cradled the phone in between her cheek and shoulder, and looked down at the papers again. "None of them make good enough grades," she said, shrugging as if it were obvious. "No, I have quite a good idea as to who it is – a Ravenclaw chap named Christopher Mi – Daddy!"
Mrs. Evans smiled, shaking her head, and turned back to washing out her paintbrushes in the sink, listening with one ear as Lily talked a mile a minute to her father. She stole a glance at her daughter. Her cheeks were flushed, and the huge smile was back in place. Mrs. Evans returned to the sink, some of the happiness ebbing out of her as it was replaced with concern for her daughter. Lily never smiled enough – it was always schoolwork, schoolwork, schoolwork, never enough time for anything else. She had friends – one of the girls in her dorm had been friends with her since they met on their first day six years ago. Lily smiled around Gwen Watson, but never as much as a seventeen-year-old should. Mrs. Evans was more grateful for the raven-haired witch than she could ever attempt to explain. If it weren't for Gwen, Lily would stay in her room or the library all day studying, and Mrs. Evans knew that-
"Mum, I'm going to Floo Gwen!" Lily called, flying out of the room. "Dad wants to speak to you!"
The receiver was lying on the counter, and Mrs. Evans picked it up with a slight sigh and a smile. "Hello, dear."
Lily tossed the green powder into the gas fireplace in the living room of her house. She called, "Number 300, Huckleberry Lane!" into the flames and promptly stuck her head in.
It was a lot like traveling by Floo Powder (in which case one would step completely into the fireplace and be transported completely to a destination, instead of just one's head): the dizziness, seeing all the other fireplaces on the network and glimpses of the rooms they were in. Luckily, it only lasted about ten seconds, and soon she was looking out into the very familiar front room in Gwen's large home. "Gwen! Are you at home?" she called, catching someone just passing by the doorway. It was Mrs. Watson, Gwen's mother, and she smiled warmly when she recognized Lily.
"Lily, darling! Gwen was just about to Floo you as well, I think. She wanted to know for sure if you've been named Head Girl. The Head Boy just got his letter today." She winked. Lily was about to ask about the Head Boy, but just then Gwen pushed past her mother and flung herself in front of the fire.
"Lils!" she squealed, her lovely face lighting up. She leaned in as close as she could. "Have you made it? Do you know yet?"
"Yes! I just found out this afternoon – I'm Head Girl, Gwen!"
"Aaaaah!" Gwen cried, wringing her hands in excitement as she always did. "I wish I could hug you – I knew it, I absolutely knew you'd make it, your grades are alarmingly perfect, you know-"
Before she could continue babbling (which she often did for long periods of time), Lily cut her best friend off. "And your mum mentioned something about the Head Boy – it's Christopher Miller, isn't it?"
But the smile on Gwen's face was fading. She turned around to see if her mother was still in the doorway, and upon seeing her still there, she said, "Mum, do you have something you could be doing just now?"
Mrs. Watson rolled her eyes good-naturedly. "Fine, fine, I can take a hint. Congratulations again, Lily. Perhaps you can come spend the night this weekend? I'd be glad to take you and Gwen to Diagon Alley on Saturday."
"Yes, yes, we'll sort it out later – goodbye, Mother," Gwen said impatiently, turning her back on her. Mrs. Watson smiled and waved to Lily, who grinned back, and left the doorway. "Good, she's gone."
"Why did you want her gone?"
"Because she's friends with the Potters."
"What does that have to do with anything?"
Gwen swallowed audibly and suddenly became very interested in the rug beneath her. She then said, in a voice so low Lily almost missed it, "Because James Potter is Head Boy."
Lily felt the blood drain out of her head, and she fought the urge to fall backwards onto the floor in her living room. "He's what?"
"Head Boy, Lily," Gwen said quietly, now meeting her eyes. "His grades were loads better than everyone else's, apparently. Even Christopher Miller's-"
The shock was suddenly gone, burned out by the irrepressible anger that welled up within Lily. "I'm going to kill him."
"Who, James? I don't think that's-"
Gwen raised a shocked black eyebrow. "Erm. Well. Go right ahead, then, be my guest. I'll cry at your funeral."
Lily wasn't paying attention to her best friend at all. Her blood pressure was steadily rising; she could feel it. Her temper rarely got the best of her, but when it did, she couldn't control it at all. "How could he do such a thing? Make James Potter Head Boy! He's a lazy, inane, trouble-making, cocky, egotistical, immature bloody bastard!"
Gwen moved away from the ranting head in the fire with alacrity. "Lily? Breathe, okay? It's not going to be so bad."
Lily glared at her, her eyes smoldering. "Do you remember what he did to me in third year? How he embarrassed me? And then how he didn't even feel bad for it? And still he goes after me, expecting me to leap into his arms like everyone else? He thinks he's Jesus Christ, for God's sake! And I have to have weekly meetings with him! Forced to sit with him at prefect meetings! He's not going to let me get a word in edgewise!"
"Lily! Stop, okay? I know how you feel about James," Gwen reminded her forcefully. "I was there, remember?"
Lily swallowed hard. She looked down and breathed deeply. "I'm sorry," she muttered. "It's silly for me to let him upset me like this." Get a grip on yourself, Evans! He's just a boy!
"It's okay, Lils," Gwen said gently, her heart going out for her friend. "I just saw him today, that's how I know. We had lunch together with our families. Sirius was there too; you know, he lives with them now." The note of disgust in her tone with unmistakable.
Lily frowned and looked up, distracted for a moment. "Wait – literally?"
Gwen looked a bit uncomfortable. "Yeah, his parents tossed him out last year or something. But don't tell, okay? I don't know if anyone's supposed to know."
"That's – that's horrible," Lily said, wondering what had happened to make his parent's disown him. Probably blew up one too many cauldrons, she thought to herself, and didn't consider the matter again. "But so, what did James say?"
Gwen shrugged. She and James had an odd relationship – they weren't friends, but were very comfortable with each other as they had been forced to play together since before they could walk. James's parents and Gwen's parents had been friends at Hogwarts, and both families were very influential in the wizarding world. "Just that he got his letter in the mail today. He was wondering who the Head Girl was." Gwen was quite uncomfortable now, and Lily knew someone had said something about her – probably bad. She didn't want to know and suddenly had the strong urge to be alone.
"Oh. All right, well….I suppose I'll talk to Mum about going to Diagon Alley this weekend. Is that okay?"
Gwen was looking at her anxiously. "That's fine, but we could get together earlier, you know. Tonight, maybe? Mum and Dad are going to a party, but besides that, we're not doing anything…."
Lily managed a smile. "Gwen, I'm fine, really. I think Mum'll probably want to celebrate or something," she said vaguely. "My knees are starting to hurt, though – I'll talk to you later, all right?"
Gwen was still looking worried. "Well, if you're sure…"
"I'm positive. Bye, Gwen, I'll see you soon."
Gwen had scarcely said goodbye when Lily jerked her head out of the fireplace. She sat back to give a respite to her aching knees and stared at the now-normal fire. The flames were licking the fake log perfectly, as if their every move was being controlled by a machine. Or magic.
"Get a grip," she told herself firmly. "You're a Gryffindor, Lily, this is nothing." She resolved not to let James rule her life, that she wouldn't let him bother her. If he got into trouble, well, that was his deal. She wouldn't speak to him except when necessary, and everything would be fine.
That night, though, after she had been warmly congratulated and toasted at a family dinner by her parents (Petunia sat at the end of the table and sulked, as she was forced to attend the celebration) and then tucked into bed, her mind turned to darker things. Before she could stop it, she was reliving the day that had forever shaped her idea of James Potter…
Lily's head jerked up from her book when she heard her name called. She was angry at the noise level in the common room and trying to concentrate through the talk and laughter, so it didn't occur to her who had shouted for her. If she had known it was James Potter, she would have completely ignored him and returned to her book, because James had just asked her to go to Hogsmeade with him last weekend and she had turned him down. He had been angry, she knew, and she took some sort of perverse satisfaction in irking him, because he was a conceited troublemaker – not the sort Lily hung out with. But, as it was, she had mistaken his voice for that of Tommy King, a fifth year on whom she had a terrible crush, and she stood up, looking for him.
Her heart sank as the person called her name again and she recognized the voice. Knowing there was no way of avoiding it, she turned around slowly to face the corner where the "Marauders" were. Luckily, they weren't far from her chair, so she wouldn't have to shout across the common room.
"Yes?" she said warily. James was looking at her with a mocking, cold expression on his face, and she felt herself tense up.
"I heard you were hoping Tommy King would ask you to Hogsmeade," he said. Well, shouted, actually, so the whole common room could hear. The noise level slowly decreased, and people began to turn and whisper. Lily could feel her face heating up.
"What?" she said, but it came out rather strangled. Her hands started to shake, and she couldn't take her eyes off of James Potter.
Parts of the common room were still chattering away; James called out to the far right corner. "Tommy," he yelled, "we've got a girl here who wants to ask you to Hogsmeade!"
To Lily's complete and utter horror, Tommy King, who had been talking with his sixth-year friends in the corner, turned around, puzzled. He was seen more as a nerd and therefore was quite astonished to see that James Potter was the one calling his name.
"Go ahead, Lily," James said, laughing. Sirius Black, his best friend, was laughing as well.
"Yeah, he's all ears!" he called, doubling over.
Lily was frozen, the blood pounding uncomfortably in her face. She couldn't breathe. The common room was now completely silent; she was sure everyone could hear her heart thumping erratically. She then turned, getting one last glance of James and the Marauders, before pushing blindly through the crowd to the portrait hole. She was through quickly, but not quick enough to miss the titters that went up from the assembled students at the spectacle.
She ran through the halls blindly until her legs felt like they would fall off. She slowed to a walk and then slumped quite suddenly into the wall, overcome with sobs. She kept trying to get a hold on herself, but whenever she tried, a new wave of embarrassment washed over her, making her cry harder. She couldn't ever show her face in Gryffindor Tower again…
Then, one thought overrode all others with a sudden clarity that made her head throb: I HATE JAMES POTTER.
Lily smiled grimly to the ceiling. She had returned to Gryffindor Tower later that night – snuck in – and woke Gwen, who had been sleeping in a chair right next to the portrait. Gwen was stricken by the incident and hadn't known at all what to say, but by then Lily had resolved to act like it had never happened. It was easy to pretend because no one ever mentioned it to her face – and Lily did end up dating Tommy King (who was appointed Head Boy two years later) for quite a while.
She realized now that it was probably because she had injured James's pride by turning him down when he asked her to Hogsmeade that he had done that. But still, he had gone overboard. He hadn't ever apologized and Lily never expected him to. Her contempt for him only grew after that incident, and she would go red with anger whenever she saw him. Her temper flared to life especially when he took to abusing people for no apparent reason. She still felt that way.
She also resented him, though she wouldn't ever admit it. His grades really did pass everyone else's by a lot, if word was true, and yet Lily had never once seen him study. She, on the other hand, worked her tail off to make good grades – the only class that seemed to come easily to her was Charms, while James was a natural at everything.
Lily rolled over onto her side so she was facing the window. The lights from the street below filtered into her room in a slightly orange glow; she got up and shut the curtains. When she turned back to her bed, she found she didn't really want to get back in – her brain was too full. She sat at her desk in complete darkness and had a serious talk with herself. It was time to resolve her situation with James Potter once and for all.
It was simple – ignore him. Be the stronger and better person – make him work just as hard as she would have to. She decided that on the Hogwarts Express, when she would sit in the same compartment with him and all the prefects, she would politely and civilly ask to speak to him. She planned out exactly what she would say, and she would say it firmly and maturely. If he acted like a prat, then fine – he would be the one with his badge taken away, not her.
Everything'll be fine, Lily, she told herself as she climbed back into bed some time later. You have to stand up to him and establish your power. If you handle this year like an adult, everything'll be just fine.
Easier said than done.
"I love you so much, darling!" Mrs. Evans cried for the hundredth time the day of Lily's return to Hogwarts, hugging her daughter tightly. "Remember that we are so proud of you, all right?"
Lily smiled into her mother's shoulder. "I know, Mum." She pulled away and was hugged by her tall father, who reiterated once more their pride in their youngest daughter.
"I love you both," Lily said, stepping back and firmly gripping her wand. She was used to saying goodbye to them, but she always got a bit teary-eyed anyway. Christmas was a long way away, after all, and because of the circumstances, it seemed even farther now.
"And no more of those misconduct letters from the headmaster, all right?" Mr. Evans laughed to try to cover the sadness that Lily knew was there. She had to smile, though; her father had said that every year since her second year and still thought it was one of his best jokes.
"Okay, Dad," Lily promised, hugging him once more. She stepped back and waved, and then turned and headed towards the front of the train. She was glad for her strong father so she didn't have to put her trunk up in the luggage racks by herself. She wondered where Gwen was briefly, but as they had just spoken together the night before and promised to meet up in front of the carriages at school, she didn't seek her out. Lily paused before climbing all the way into the train, turned, and waved once more to her parents. They waved back and blew kisses, and she smiled and blew one of her own before disappearing inside.
And there it was – the prefects carriage. Lily had sat in it since she was in fifth year and it was very comfortable, but this year it took on a new meaning. She was in charge.
But so was James.
She cleared her throat and pushed open the door. It was loud and rambunctious as always, and she immediately scanned the crowd for her Ravenclaw friend, Lauren Stevens. They had sat together their first time in the prefects carriage and stuck together during the meetings; as a result, a strong friendship had forged. Lauren's brown face lit up when she saw Lily, and she motioned over to the seat she was saving. Lily smiled back at her friend, and they embraced when Lily got over to her.
"Lils! I'm so proud of you!" Lauren was crying, pushing her dark hair out of her face and beaming up at her after they released one another. She was very petit and had a slightly exotic look to her, with large brown eyes and very tanned skin. "I know you must have heard that a thousand times, but oh well!" she said. She leaned forward to have a look at the Head Girl badge Lily had pinned to her shirt. "Ooh, it's so pretty," she said reverently. "Lovely. I can't think of anyone else who deserves it more. And is it true that James Potter is Head Boy?"
Lily's heart sped up slightly. "Yes, he is," she said as calmly as she could manage.
Lauren looked at her shrewdly. While she herself had a crush on James and Sirius (like most of the females in the school), she knew very well Lily's outlook on the both of them. "And your feelings on that would be…?"
Lily shrugged. "I'm fine with it," she said, sitting down. "Really," she added, seeing the doubt on Lauren's small face.
"Ooohkaaay," Lauren said, still doubtful, but before Lily could say anything more the door opened and James Potter, looking taller than she remembered, walked into the carriage. He was instantly and loudly hailed by the side of the carriage where most of the Gryffindors were. He flashed a smile (which sent Lauren and other girls onto cloud nine) at them, but made no move to sit over there. His eyes were traveling over the room, plainly seeking someone out – Lily felt her stomach drop. She knew instinctively he was looking for her, and she concentrated on smoothing her pants out, pretending not to notice him. Next to her, Lauren sucked in her breath sharply.
"Oh! Lily, he's looking this way! He's coming!" she hissed, clutching Lily's arm.
Lily, suddenly embarrassed, wrenched her arm away and took a deep breath. She would face him head on.
He was making his way towards the two girls with little difficulty. Everyone parted like the Red Sea, probably whispering to their neighbors at how terribly handsome he was and how they knew he would be Head Boy, but did anyone happen to know who the Head Girl was?
"Can I talk to you?" she asked, standing up, before he could say anything. She wasn't short, but James was rather tall; she had to tilt her head back slightly to see his face. He smiled mockingly.
"You're Head Girl, then? How surprising."
She stiffened, feeling her blood heat slightly. Be mature, Lily, she reminded herself. You're the adult. "Yes, I am," she said, as coolly as she could manage. "Can we please talk?"
"We are talking."
Lily clenched her jaw. "Alone, if you please?" Without waiting for an answer, she sailed past him and made her way with slight difficulty through the scattered students. She sincerely hoped he was following her. She very nearly missed colliding with the witch who wheeled the food cart once she exited the carriage, and the witch said eagerly, "We'll be setting off in a moment, m'dear. You'd best take a seat."
Lily nodded and glanced behind her; James was right there, thankfully, shutting the carriage door. "Thank you," she said graciously, and the witch nodded, a white eyebrow raised, and left.
James leaned against the wall opposite, smirking. "Ladies first," he said, sarcasm tingeing his tone.
Her blood pressure was rising steadily. She counted backward slowly from ten, during which he looked at her as if she were a particularly nasty bug he wanted dearly to smash, and then she began when her voice was calm. "I would like to have a civil, productive talk about our duties this year."
James rolled his eyes. "Lovely. Talk away."
"I'd like to have your input as well, Potter," she snapped, his annoyance with her making her flush with embarrassment and anger. "We're going to have to communicate a lot this year, you know."
"You think I don't know that?" he asked contemptuously, fixing her with a disdainful look. "I got the letter too, in case you've forgotten-"
"Potter, just shut up for a moment, won't you?" she cried, frustrated at his obvious attempts to make her lose her nerve.
He arched an eyebrow. "Temper, Evans – you're the one that wanted to talk to me, not vice-versa."
They paused, glaring at each other, as the train's warning whistle sounded loudly from somewhere above them.
"I know," she said with as much dignity as she could muster when the sound was over, and she cleared her throat. But suddenly her mind seemed to go blank. Everything she was going to say either had left her brain completely or suddenly sounded extremely stupid.
"You're – well, we don't exactly get along," she finally got out. "You don't like me, and I don't like you," she stated, and swallowed, waiting for him to comment.
His disdain turned slightly bitter. "Watch it, Evans. You're the one that turned me down when I asked you to Hogsmeade, remember?"
Lily's jaw dropped as her temper rose. "I turned you down because you're the most conceited boy in the school! You just wanted to go out with me so you could say you dated me!" she cried.
"What makes you think I didn't ask you because I liked you?" he shot back, standing up straight from the wall so he had his full height advantage against her.
Lily could tell with no little surprise that she had touched a nerve. She gaped at him. "Because that's ridiculous," she spluttered. "You never liked me!"
"Oh, and I suppose you know my thoughts, then?" he said sardonically.
"You treat me like – like dirt our whole time at school, and now you're telling me you had a crush on me and expect me to believe it? I'm not an idiot, Potter!"
"Just shut up, will you?" he groaned. "I don't particularly want to discuss this right now."
She swallowed and looked away, fighting to control her temper. "It doesn't matter," she muttered. "Never mind, forget I even talked to you." She turned around with the intent of reentering the carriage, but he stopped her.
"Evans…. What – what did you want to say?"
He sounded as though it was causing him pain to ask, but her temper was worn out for the time being, and she decided just to get it all out. She sighed and turned around to face him. "I was going to say that we shouldn't let the students think we're anything but friends, no matter how we really think about each other."
His face was impassive, but she could see a muscle moving in his jaw. "Much as it pains me to say it, Evans," he finally sighed, "you're right."
She gaped at him. Whaaat?
He opened his mouth to say something more but was interrupted when the whistle blew sharply and the Hogwarts Express came to a lurching start. Lily, not supported by anything, lost her balance and tipped forward. James caught her by the upper arm with his lightning-quick reflexes, and helped her to steady herself as the train chugged out of the station.
"Are you all right?"
"Yes, I'm fine," she said, trying to regain her dignity as she smoothed down her clothing. It took her perhaps ten seconds to realize that she was practically leaning against him – and then about five seconds more to realize she needed to step away.
She did so, flushing hotly, her eyes pinned on the floor. "Erm – yes, well, yes, I agree completely, yes-"
"Erm," he said, his voice a bit hoarse. Lily was startled into looking at him – dear Lord, was he blushing?
"Yes, okay then, that's settled, I'll just go-"
And, mortified beyond thinking, Lily backed away and grappled with the prefects carriage door when it opened on its own accord and she tripped backwards into –
Oh God. It was Remus Lupin, of course, one of James's best friends and a fellow prefect. He caught her, looking startled, and quickly she moved away. "Sorry, er, I was just trying to get by-"
Before he could say anything, she pushed past him into the carriage and slammed the door shut behind her, her face on fire. That did not just happen. The prefects near the door were looking at her with barely suppressed giggles. She knew they were laughing about her running into Remus, but she wondered – had they heard the heated conversation between the Head Boy and Head Girl?
When she took her seat again, Lauren was intently reading this week's copy of Witch Weekly, a tabloid. "How did it go?" she asked, looking up from an article on more controversy surrounding the breakup of the extremely popular wizarding group The Ladybugs.
Lily shrugged, her face still hot. "Erm…"
"We could hear you yelling…." Lauren ventured hesitantly. "It, um – didn't sound good."
"You heard us?" Lily exclaimed in shock, turning to face her friend. "All of it?"
Lauren looked uncomfortable. "Well, not all of it, just the parts you yelled….Oh, Lils, I'm sorry!" she gasped as Lily closed her eyes in complete and utter horror. "We didn't mean to – I mean, that is-"
Lauren's voice was rising; Lily grabbed her wrist and hissed, "Hush, please!"
"Sorry," Lauren said, wincing. She watched silently as Lily fought to master herself. Finally, the redhead looked up; her face was still deathly pale, but her features were calm and serene.
"I'm sorry," she said coolly. "I shouldn't have got so upset. This isn't a big deal."
Lauren watched her warily. "Are you sure you're okay?"
Lily nodded. "I'm fine." She reached down into her small bag and drew out a thick book. "I got this book from Flourish and Blotts the other day," she said with feigned excitement. "It looks terribly interesting, all about the Eleventh Goblin War-"
As she rambled, Lily became aware of the carriage door opening and closing behind her. She knew without a doubt James and Remus had entered because very soon she heard raucous laughter from the crowd of Gryffindors and the unmistakable sound of James's low voice.
Lauren had just about dozed off by the time Lily was finished describing the book.
"Hmm! Yes, that sounds fascinating, Lily," Lauren lied, attempting conviction and failing miserably.
Lily deigned not to answer and opened the book to the correct page. She didn't think she would be able to read much, but soon she was sucked into the fascinating details of the war and lost all sense of everything around her – she didn't even get up when the trolley of food was wheeled around at the lunch hour. It was dark outside when Lauren spoke to her.
Lily's head jerked up. She focused on her friend with some difficulty; her eyes were used to the tiny print on the page before her.
"I've only been trying to get your attention for ten minutes," she said, rolling her eyes and shaking her head with a smile. "Everybody's getting dressed."
Sure enough, all the prefects were busy changing into their standard black robes. Lily reached up to the luggage rack above her head and pulled her robes out easily; she always packed them closest to the top so she could easily access them on the train. As she slid them over her head, she relished the moment of being unseen. She told herself to breathe, that everything was going to be fine, and popped her head through the neck. She pinned her Head Girl badge onto the front of the robes and darted a glance over to where James was. He was busy fastening his own badge on and Lily had to suppress a smile of satisfaction – he didn't think he was too cool to wear the badge.
She reached up into her trunk again and withdrew her pointy black hat. It was raining outside, and she was glad of the wide brim that would allow her to stay marginally dry-
Lily whirled around from fixing her hat and saw James Potter looking at her with a guarded expression. "D'you think we should make a speech or something?"
Her mouth fell open in shock, not because he was proposing to make a speech (all Head Boys and Girls did that) but because he looked like he honestly wanted her opinion. "I'm not stopping you," she blurted, and he grinned.
"That's not a very attractive expression, you know."
Lily clamped her jaws together and scowled. She cursed her easy complexion.
"Shut up, Potter."
He raised an eyebrow, taunting her. "No need to snap, Evans."
"I'll make the speech," she said haughtily, stepping in front of him. "Excuse me!" she said to the loud, boisterous carriage. No one turned around. "Excuse me!" she said, this time a bit louder. A few people nearby turned around, but then turned back again to whomever they were chatting with. Lily made a frustrated noise.
"Step aside, Evans," Potter said in her ear. Before she could say something back, he turned to the loud carriage and raised a hand slightly. Predictably, the room hushed right away. Lily scowled and resisted the urge to slap the smug smile he directed at her off his face.
"Right, you lot. I'm Head Boy, in case you hadn't noticed-" (here there were loud shouts and cheering) "- and the lovely Lily Evans is Head Girl -" (half-hearted cheering) "- and we figure we should go ahead and talk to you before we get back to school. First off – everyone needs to remember that pushing the first years into the lake is entirely acceptable and encouraged by all-"
"Potter!" Lily hissed, kicking him, her temper flaring. The entire room had erupted into laughter. "Excuse me!" she yelled to the prefects, and everyone was startled into listening to her. "Thank you," she said calmly when the noise had died down. "You all know that pushing first years into the lake is entirely unacceptable." She glared venomously at James before turning back to the students. "You returning prefects know the drill on the platform, but for the new prefects, please direct all students to the waiting carriages. Once inside the castle, make sure everyone is seated and behaved at their respective tables. We'll be having our first prefect meeting sometime during the month and so please keep an eye out on your House bulletin board." Lily paused, surveying the quiet room with piercing eyes that made no one doubt her authority before turning to James. "Do you have anything mature to add?"'
"Yes," James said, straight-faced, "beware of fire hydrants."
The room burst into laughter again, but this time it was confused laughter – half the room had no idea what a fire hydrant was, and those that did (like Lily) were just as mystified as everyone else. Lily turned to James. "What did you say?" she demanded.
He shrugged secretively. "You'll have to wait and see like everyone else, Evans."
Oh, she did.
As everyone left the Great Hall that night after the Welcoming Feast, the first years going first and being led by their prefects, they were doused – soaked – by water coming from small, odd-looking devices that none but the Muggle-born children had ever seen before.
Lily, Gwen, and the two other seventh-year Gryffindor girls were just exiting the Hall when the hydrants were activated. It was chaos in the entrance hall as everyone scrambled to get away from the blasts of water, most taking refuge at the top of the huge marble staircase.
Professor McGonagall, Head of Gryffindor House and Transfiguration teacher, looked truly frightening as she surveyed the mess after the hydrants had been stopped, as did Head of Slytherin House Professor Kiser and the ill-tempered caretaker, Argus Filch. On the other hand, the Headmaster, Dumbledore, looked as though he was badly trying not to laugh, and the rest of the faculty was in similar states – laughter or extreme anger, depending on their temperament. All were standing in thigh-deep water, which was quickly filtering down into the dungeons below. Dumbledore waded out into the middle of the room and looked up at the students, eyes twinkling madly, as if searching for someone.
James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew were nowhere to be seen.
He turned back to the problem at hand and raised his wand. A hulking shape materialized, and some of the students laughed when they realized what it was – a giant sponge. The sponge, with help from Dumbledore, absorbed all the water in the hall and then was guided gently down into the basement. Dumbledore followed it down, as did many of the teachers. Professor McGonagall turned to the students, her mouth compressed. "To your common rooms!" she barked. "Slytherin and Hufflepuff Houses, wait here until the Headmaster returns!"
Lily watched as each House separated and went its own way. The Slytherins and Hufflepuffs remained at the stairs, the Ravenclaws went off to the right, and the Gryffindors continued climbing the stairs, all soaking wet and tripping on the water from their robes and shoes.
Lily was one extremely upset girl, as were Gwen and the two other Gryffindor witches of their year, Dorcas Meadowes and Mary Katherine Wampler. All four were slipping and sliding since they had decided to head up at the back of the Gryffindors (and therefore had the water from themselves and the other two hundred or so Gryffindors to deal with), and all four were muttering curses under their breaths towards the Marauders. They had long since fallen behind the rest of their House.
"I mean, really!" Mary Katherine burst after Gwen saved her from falling down the stairs for the umpteenth time. "It used to be funny, but they've gone too far this time!"
Gwen merely scowled, no doubt thinking, like Lily, of what they would do to James and Co. if they got their hands on them. "Immature bastards!" Dorcas yelled with no little frustration, clutching the banister for dear life.
"Why, thank you, my dear," someone said from behind them. The girls made similar sounds of surprise and whirled around. The four Marauders were standing at the foot of the stairs, looking smug and as dry as autumn leaves.
"I'm going to murder you!" Gwen burst, making her way with some difficulty down the stairs. Lily caught her wrist and stopped her, not taking her eyes off James Potter.
"Don't bother, Gwen," she said, "they're not worth it. All they want is attention, and we're certainly not going to give it to them."
Dorcas and Mary Katherine, who had discovered very early on the stupidity of dating a Marauder, made noises of agreement and turned to continue up the stairs. Gwen hesitated, still looking as if she dearly wished to squeeze Sirius Black's neck until his eyes popped out, but she turned almost regretfully and headed back up the stairs when Lily tugged on her wrist again.
"That's harsh, Evans," Potter called, but she ignored him. Her blood was boiling, and she wanted revenge.
She didn't speak again until she and Gwen had caught up with Dorcas and Mary Katherine at the landing. They turned around and looked down at the laughing and joking Marauders, and Lily made up her mind. "Come on," she said loudly, and started up the next flight of stairs on their extreme right. She positioned herself close to the banister and stopped when they were above the four laughing boys and turned to her friends.
"Oh, Lily, we're not really going to…." Mary Katherine trailed off when she saw Lily's vengeful face. Gwen grinned evilly and said, "I love you, Lily. Let's go."
All four lined up and positioned their wands on the boys. Lily called, "Hey Potter!"
All of them looked up, and all looked at the wands with dawning horror. Potter dove aside just as Lily cried, "Now!" and the four girls shouted, "Aquatius!"
Water burst from their wands and the boys, in their hurry to escape, slipped and fell in the water that was already there. By the time Lily murmured "Finite Incantatem," they had got up and slipped multiple times and were completely soaked. The girls were helplessly gasping in hilarity as they made their way hastily up the stairs in case the Marauders tried a retaliatory attack, but they made it to the seventh floor without incident, stomachs hurting from laughter.
"I think we've been bested by a group of girls."
James wiped his hair out of his eyes and glared at his best friend. "D'you think I haven't realized that, Sirius?"
Remus was on the step below them, red in the face from suppressed mirth. When Sirius glared at him, he couldn't help it and burst into loud, ringing laughter. James felt a smile tugging at his mouth despite himself, and so he looked away, which was a mistake. Peter was lying on the floor at the foot of the stairs, motionless and groaning, and James couldn't handle it anymore – he burst out laughing as well. Sirius glared even more.
"Come off it, mate," James said, gasping, "you've got to admit it's funny." He gestured to Peter and then erupted back into helpless amusement.
Sirius looked down at Peter for a moment and then back to his two other best friends. A reluctant grin cracked his face. "I'll laugh about revenge," he declared, and joined in the merriment louder than anyone.