James Potter wasn’t quite sure if he could balance his new-found responsibility as Head Boy with the Marauder in him. Prefect meetings in the Head Students’ study weren’t quite as fun as late night war councils in the familiar Gryffindor dormitory. Supervising third-year boys scrubbing out toilets was much better than doing the scrubbing himself, but the activities that resulted in that unsavory punishment were far more enjoyable than studying for NEWT courses. But, he decided, studying for NEWTs in the cozy study was a treat compared to the crowded tables in the library. When one sat in the library, one did not get to watch Lily Evans pace back and forth, mumbling Charms theory.
“Memorizing Charms theory?” he asked her in attempt to spark conversation. Lily held up her hand to pause him as she finished whispering a theorem. This was a good sign, James knew, it meant she had something to say in reply.
“Yes,” she told him. “Newton’s Fourth Law of Motion. Sustained levitation versus gravity, you know, the apple falls, Newton levitates it, and Newton discovers gravity and anti-gravity all at once.”
James exulted in silence. “Oh, yeah, I forgot we have that levitation theory exam next week. Tuesday, right?” Lily nodded and continued pacing. James’s heart fell a little as he struggled to keep her talking. “First test of the year in any of my courses, what about you?” Lily nodded again. “So,” James pressed, “do you miss taking Transfiguration at all? I actually miss Potions with Sluggy.”
Lily gave him a look. “I really need to memorize these theorems. I have an extemporaneous Potions exam the same day that I need to prepare for.”
“How do you prepare for something that’s extemporaneous?” James asked conversationally.
Lily looked back up with an intensified glare. James bent back over his notes.
Lily tugged on her earring absently. James Potter just made her so angry, it was unexplainable. She continued muttering, but suddenly she realized it wasn’t theorems running through her head. It was Fleetwood Mac lyrics. She groaned in exasperation and dropped into a hugely overstuffed armchair. “You wouldn’t mind if I put some music on, would you?” she asked.
James looked up brightly. “Oh no, not at all,” he assured her. “I could run up and get my Wireless, if you’d like. The Witching Hour premieres tonight, and I know my mum is looking forward to that.” Lily looked at him blankly. “You know Celestina Warbeck, the singer—she’s getting her own radio variety show.”
“Um, I’ve heard of her, but I have, er, this record player that I modified to work on charms instead of electricity,” Lily said, blushing. “I just sound like a total freak, don’t I?
James shook his head vehemently. “You could never sound like a freak! But what in the world is a record player?”
Lily frowned momentarily before opening up a large package on one of the tables and lifting out some sort of wooden box with a flimsy-looking handle and some dials. Next she pulled a large black disc from a colorful envelope, set it on the box and swiveled the handle to rest on it. With a turn of a dial and a tap of her wand, music started emanating from the box. James was fascinated.
“You see,” Lily explained, “the music is stored along the grooves of the record and the needle can read it. And then you hear it. I don’t really know how to tell you how that works though. I could tell you how I converted the power source, though.”
“It’s like…like…like magic!” he exclaimed. He ruffled his hair excitedly and nearly leapt across the room to get a closer look at the turntable.
Lily nodded in agreement. “It’s amazing how those Muggles get along, right?” she suggested.
James nodded, too intrigued to catch the joking tone. “I have to say, the only Muggle thing I understand is a smoking jacket.”
“A smoking jacket?” Lily asked. “Do you think all Muggles wear smoking jackets in the lounges of their boys’ clubs while they enjoy a good cigar and cognac?”
“Don’t they?” James said innocently. “Remus said his grandfather does.”
Lily shook her head, laughing. “Remus’s grandfather must be practically a lord, then. My dad would never ever wear a smoking jacket. He just smokes his pipe in the living room while he watches the telly or listens to the wireless.”
A groove appeared between James’s eyebrows. “Oh,” he said. “Well, that makes me feel rather dumb.”
“Oh, don’t feel dumb,” Lily reassured the dark-haired boy. “Why would you know anything about Muggles at all? My dad smoking a pipe in our flat above a grocery in dear little Eton is as different as from Remus’s grandfather’s boys’ club as I am to, say, the Minister of Magic.”
“It’s not that I feel dumb about not knowing,” James said, squirming. “It’s just, the four of us, we…well, we ordered matching smoking jackets with monograms.”
The room was in complete silence for a few moments before the red-haired Muggle-born exploded with laughter.
“Can I borrow it sometime?” she asked, her voice quivering with repressed giggles.
“Not if you’re going to laugh at it,” the dark-haired teenage owner of a monogrammed smoking jacket responded.
“Would you listen to me recite theory, then?”
A stack of parchment landed in James Potter’s lap.
It was at times like this, Lily Evans had decided, that she was really glad to be Head Girl. The little private study was empty and blessedly quiet. The largest table was covered with a haphazard collection of essays, job applications, textbooks, tissues, and Muggle albums, while a battered copy of Tapestry played on her “adapted” turntable. As Lily eyed the slowly congealing porridge she’d eaten earlier, the record hit a particularly bad scratch in the middle of “Where You Lead.” Lily cringed, sniffled, and slid the album back into its cover.
Several things seemed to happen simultaneously as she placed the needle on a new record. James Potter burst into the study and immediately upset a hat-stand; a precarious pile of books and parchment cascaded off the table as Lily reached for her glass of Pepper-Up; and her wristwatch announced it was eight o’clock precisely.
James let out a garbled yelp from a tangle of various items of clothing that were now knotted around his various limbs as a stream of music rippled peacefully from the record player. “It was so calm in here a minute ago,” Lily commented mildly and waved her wand briskly—the porridge was Banished from the room and her things flew back into neat stacks. “You really don’t do anything by halves, do you?”
James began extricating himself from the hat-stand. “No,” he said, sounding more foul than he meant to. “I don’t. And what the hell are you listening to?” He began to pile clothes back on the stand by hand indiscriminately. Lily rolled her eyes, swished her wand, and the various jumpers, cloaks, and jackets settled themselves efficiently onto the arms. One particular tweed blazer spent a few seconds shaking out wrinkles before perching contentedly over a cardigan.
The Head Boy threw himself into an armchair and knuckled his eyes before running tense hands though his hair. “I can’t do anything right today,” he muttered to himself. “And really, what are you listening to?”
“Showaddywaddy.” Lily shook out her ponytail and looked somewhat like the tweed blazer. James looked momentarily mesmerized by her profuse amount of auburn hair but blinked quickly. Lily took off the record, looking embarrassed for even owning it. “I didn’t buy it, I got it for Christmas,” she justified. “I got it from my mum, so I’ve got to at least keep it.”
James rubbed his face against his shoulder. “I still don’t like it. What happened to the one I like?” Lily gave him an incredulous look. “You know, that one. With, you know that guy.” With another roll of her eyes, Lily went back to revising her Herbology essay, twirling her hair in her fingers and absently singing along to the Bread album she’d put on. Minutes passed comfortably.
“I know!” James cried suddenly. “The posh stoner!”
Lily began to laugh. A lot. “David Bowie?” she managed to choke out. “Glam rocker?” After what seemed like a year to James, she swallowed hard. “David Bowie is a glam rocker. You always put Low on, and I’m kind of sick of it. Actually, I’m really sick of you trying to sing along.” She sneezed and held out a small stack of records. “Put on Rumours or something—but not David Bowie, for the love of God.”
James shrugged. “Posh stoner, glam rocker,” he muttered to himself as he fiddled with the turntable. “I don’t see the difference.” He watched as Lily tied back her hair again. “Don’t,” he said impulsively as she twisted the band expertly.
“Don’t what?” she asked, pinning her nearly grown-out fringe back and combing her fingers through the ponytail.
James looked years younger when he flushed. “Never mind,” he said nonchalantly.
“No, really, I want to know,” Lily pressed. James squirmed under her penetratingly green-eyed stare and mumbled something like “donputchyherp.” Lily blinked at him. “What?”
James rubbed his hands over his face as if he was peeling off his skin. “I don’t kno-ow,” he moaned. “I think I’m going crazy with work.” Lily raised her eyebrows and turned back to her essay, quill revising rapidly. “You have one more NEWT over me—how are you not just plain out dead?”
“In case you haven’t noticed,” Lily replied with out looking up, “I am, which is why I’m hiding in here with porridge, tissues, and Pepper-Up. My annual December to April cold is months early.”
After apologizing unnecessarily, James rearranged himself in the chair. There was a strange lull in the room. Lindsey Buckingham implored them to not stop thinking about tomorrow. Lily slapped her quill onto the table and nearly ripped the record from the turntable. “I really don’t think tomorrow will be better than before,” she viciously told the album cover. The silence hung heavily in the room for an interminable amount of time before James spoke.
“Um,” he began, “I was just wondering if, maybe, you know…” Lily looked up and motioned with her quill for him to continue. “Er, would you go to Hogsmeade with me? I mean, next Saturday during the Hogsmeade weekend.” He broke off, somehow knowing he was becoming incoherent. “Sorry, I’ve got out of practice this year.”
Lily twirled her quill thoughtfully. “Are you asking me out?”
James’s eyes looked as panicked as the eyes of a hunted deer. “Maybe?” he attempted.
“Well, Alice is meeting Frank, so I won’t see her at all, but the Ravenclaw girls are always up for a bit of fun…” She seemed to be weighing her options. “Well, sure, I’ll go with you.”
James rose from his chair without really realizing it. He gaped at the redhead, who, to his great disbelief, seemed to be taking this landmark occasion in stride. The floor was nowhere near his feet and it seemed safest just to sit back down. The chair was hardly more corporeal, so he was back on his feet in a second. “Sorry,” he said again, “it’s like I forgot how to ask just now, but why did you, I mean, I’ve asked way better before, like the time with the flowers and the—” He broke off, Lily had held out her drained Pepper-Up.
“I have nothing better to do,” she told him. “Would you mind running to get me some more Pepper-Up?” James took the mug, still thunderstruck as he turned to leave. “James,” Lily said suddenly as he left the room, “to tell more of the truth, you were sincere.”
“Well, if we’re telling the truth,” James replied, looking something between dazed and ecstatic as he looked around the doorframe, “I was going to say not to put your hair up.”
Lily blushed invisibly under her feverish cheeks. “Oh.” She listened for his footsteps down the hall and from the stairs heard an echoed whoop of triumph. Smiling, she blew her nose and put on David Bowie. “Posh stoner,” she murmured to herself, “he was more spot-on than he knows.” She laughed quietly as she pulled the elastic and pins from her hair.
Lily Evans was fairly sure that people usually didn’t have raging head colds and a high fever on first dates. Her nose was red, her face varying between scarlet and ashen, and her freckles just looked strange. Not that James Potter seemed to mind. He was busy collecting autumn leaves as they walked on the winding road to Hogsmeade, and between sneezing and sniffling, Lily couldn’t bring herself to hurry him along.
“I’ve been trying to find the prettiest autumn leaves to make a headdress for you,” James told her, “but your hair is much better than them. If you had brown hair, that would be better for leaves. But chestnutty brown would still be too nice; mousy brown would be better. Sorry, I’m talking too much. I just can’t seem to stop.”
“Oh,” Lily said, rubbing her nose with the sleeve of her new Fair Isle-patterned cardigan. “I didn’t know the leaves were for a headdress. Would I look tribal if I put them in my headband?”
“No, you’re not tribal, not really. You’d look more earth goddess than tribal,” James decided, now walking backwards in front of Lily as he held up leaves against her bright auburn hair. Lily’s feverish flush darkened under his scrutiny. “You’re looking sicker. But don’t worry, I grabbed this Pepper-Up for you from the darling Poppy Pomfrey.” James produced a flask of what Lily assumed was Pepper-Up from the pocket of jeans.
Jeans look nice on him, Lily thought to herself, trying to recall seeing James in Muggle clothing. As she reflected on the matter, James managed to trip on something Lily wasn’t sure existed. His empty hand broke the fall behind his back and a sickening pop followed by a crunch reached Lily’s ears immediately. James, who always seemed so composed after Quidditch injuries, lay on his back and let out a sort of whimper that Lily had heard from sad puppies.
“Oh, James!” she exclaimed. She knelt down next to him, shaking her long hair from her eyes. “Can you sit up?” James shrugged and then winced. Lily coaxed him to sit upright, careful not to touch his left arm. “Give me the Pepper-Up, would you? And give me the leaves, too. Then we need to get your jacket off.” She set down the flask, tucked the colorful foliage in a pocket, and turned back to the absurdly quiet James. He had wriggled his right arm free of the corduroy blazer and looked to Lily with help on the left sleeve.
Lily shuffled on her knees to James’s other side and proceeded to assist him in sliding his arm out of the sleeve. “You’re just a great baby, aren’t you?” she said exasperatedly as he wordlessly moaned his pains. “Come on, stand up, now.” Lily straightened up and tugged her skirt and knee-high socks into place.
James’s left arm hung strangely under his shirt. Lily couldn’t help but notice how the strong line of his shoulder looked so well under the starched cotton of his shirt on the right. “I think my shoulder is out of the socket. My wrist might be broken, too, but I can’t really tell.” Lily gulped. “I’ll be all right,” he said. “Worse has happened out on the pitch.”
The red-head rolled her eyes. “You should go back and visit the darling nurse, I think.” She took a swig from the flask and blinked her eyes clear. “Whoa. This is some awfully strong Pepper-Up, James.” She wafted the rising steam toward her nose as if from over a cauldron bubbling with some concoction.
“It’s Sirius’s flask,” he admitted, cringing as his arm shifted as the pair turned back toward Hogwarts. “And it probably held some things that, ah, aren’t Pepper-Up.”
Lily shrugged and took another swig. “It’s doing the trick like Pepper-Up. I guess Firewhisky doesn’t change the properties of the potion. The components are similar, I know.” James gave her an incredulous look. “What?” she asked. “I’m really good with potions!”
The Head Boy and Girl ventured a few more steps towards the school. Lily continued to empty the flask and James continued acting generally injured. “I think I need a sling,” he groaned.
“I can use my scarf to make one,” Lily offered. She untwisted the soft blue wool from around her neck. They stopped and James painfully bent his arm nearer his body. Surprisingly tender, Lily wrapped the scarf around James’s arm and stood on tip-toes to tie it behind his neck. James swallowed.
Her fingers were deftly arranging the scarf around his neck and kept brushing the soft black hair curling at his hairline at the same time as her own hair brushed against his chin and cheek. He could hear her breathe. The woolen wrist of her cardigan was nearly as soft as the scarf. James wasn’t sure if his shoulder still hurt. “There,” Lily said. She moved away and turned around to keep walking and James chokingly remembered to breathe. After a moment of watching her walk away, an old hobby of his, his shoulder began to ache again and he trotted to catch up with her.
They walked in an uncomfortable silence until they reached the castle. Lily’s cheeks seemed hotter despite the Pepper-Up, and James wasn’t sure if the pain on his left side was completely due to the pain of his shoulder. They both spoke at the same time outside the doors. “Ladies first,” said James, not entirely out of politeness.
“I just wanted to know if you needed someone to go with you to the hospital wing,” she said. “I mean, just if you wanted help with doors and things until Madam Pomfrey fixes you up.”
“I don’t…I mean, yes, thank you,” James said, his voice cracking. They continued on until reaching the infirmary, where several younger students in varying states of ‘flu, colds, and sinus troubles were lounging around. Every one of them looked healthier than Lily. The Healer looked harried as she strode toward them.
“You,” she said at Lily, “need more sleep.” She turned to James with a frown. “What happened this time, Potter?”
“I fell,” James said simply. “Really, I did this time.” The Healer sighed and sat him on the edge of a bed.
After removing the makeshift sling and casting a diagnostic spell, Madam Pomfrey frowned. “Dislocated shoulder and broken wrist,” she told him. “I’ll spell the shoulder back in,” she said and did without warning. James screeched in a most un-masculine manner. She pressed a thick grayish potion into his right hand. “And drink this for your wrist and try not to move it very much for a few hours.” James did as he was told, wincing at both the taste and the healing pain that shot through his arm. “Now, shoo,” she said.
James shooed. Lily was waiting for him outside the doors. “Hi,” he said. “I was right about my hurts. Sorry for being a terrible date to Hogsmeade. We didn’t even get there.”
“It wasn’t so terrible,” Lily said, her voice catching unexpectedly as James wrapped the scarf back around her neck and slid it under her hair. “I mean, I got a rather nice headdress out of it.” She pulled a few leaves from her pocket to tuck in her headband.
James swallowed. He reached over and ran his hands down the scarf, the movement upsetting his shoulder just enough to make him cringe. Lily touched a caressing hand to the aching joint, stopping where the muscle and bone met the curve of his neck. Suddenly they were kissing, right there in the antechamber of the hospital wing. “Sorry,” James said into the side of Lily’s mouth. “I bet that tastes just awful.”
Lily laughed, shivering at his breath on her cheek. “Pepper-Up isn’t wonderful either,” she whispered. “So stop apologizing.” James complied.
“Your hair smells really nice,” he said against her jaw. His eyelashes fluttered against Lily’s skin.
“If you don’t stop talking, I don’t know what I’ll do with you. Maybe you’ll have to serve a detention for me.” Her lips grazed his skin and James couldn’t have spoken if he wanted to, even if her hair did smell really nice. James’s hands were pressing against Lily’s lower back and both of Lily’s hands had found James’s shoulders when footsteps were heard from around the corner.
When the Headmaster arrived at the antechamber, the Head students were sauntering out casually. “Not out enjoying the many delights of Hogsmeade on this beautiful day?” he asked. His blue eyes sparkled knowingly above the white beard.
“I have two essays due Monday, sir,” Lily offered at the same time James explained that he needed to look over Transfiguration theory.
“Ah, NEWTs,” Professor Dumbledore sighed, “so often stealing from the pleasures of youth. I have come to dispatch several young students who seem to think the infirmary some sort of resort.” The pair of students excused themselves and turned in some sort of mutual agreement toward the Gryffindor common room.
“Miss Evans,” the headmaster called after them, “I don’t know if you’re aware – the leaves complementing your hair are sparkling.” Lily pulled a leaf out and observed it was, indeed, sparkling. “It is always interesting, isn’t it, when accidental magic manifests itself in a trained witch?” Lily blushed from head to toe and excused herself again. The headmaster paused and chuckled to himself as voices and quiet laughter echoed down the empty hall.