A/N: Many thanks to Gretchy Stretchy, my incredible beta, to Ardie Bea, my dad and pre-beta, and to J.K.Rowling for writing all this lovely material for me to steal. Without these people I would just curl up and die.
Lily sprawled in a chair by the fireplace, watching the boys' staircase. It was twenty-five minutes past eight. She'd been certain he'd show up early, but maybe he was very, very punctual. She hated that in boys.
Lily stared into the fire. She straightened her dress. She got up and walked to the bottom of the boys' dormitory stairs. After staring up them for a few seconds, she walked back to her chair and dropped back into it. She checked her watch. It was a few seconds away from half past. She stopped a boy coming down from the dormitory and asked whether James was up there. He studied her for a few seconds and then replied that he hadn't seen James all morning. She thanked him and walked back to her chair, mind buzzing. Where was he? He wasn't upstairs, so where was he? He'd definitely wanted to go... maybe he was having me on, playing a cruel joke? This thought grew and kept growing until she was certain that was what had happened. She decided to give him five more minutes and then she would go up to her dormitory, sulk a bit, and go to Hogsmeade on her own.
Just as she was about to storm up her tower, the portrait hole flew open, and James came through it, panting heavily. He was soaked in sweat and gasping for breath.
'Hi... Lily!' he panted, obviously relieved she was still there. 'Sorry I'm... late. I had to... run all the... way from the... hospital wing.'
'The hospital wing? What were you doing there?'
'I might... tell you later. But right now... I need a... shower... and a... change of robes. Okay?'
'Okay, but don't be too long. I've been waiting.'
'See you in... five, then,' he said, smiling, some of his ego beginning to shine through as he regained his breath.
* * *
Ten minutes later, they walked through the castle doors and set out across the grounds.
'So,' asked Lily, 'why did you have a gashed leg? What were you doing?'
'I don't think I can tell you. I mean, if it was just me, I'd tell you, no problem, but this involves the others as well.'
'What... Sirius, Remus and Peter?'
'Yeah. Us four. So really, it'd be better to ask the others before I tell you. So that topic's closed for now. What else can we talk about?'
'Well, what are we going to do in Hogsmeade?'
'That depends. What do you want to do?'
'I dunno. The Three Broomsticks?'
What now? James wondered. I love this girl and I'm on a date with her... although she'll refuse to call it that. Smart, sweet and slightly romantic, that's what Remus said. Well, if I try to talk, it'll come out stupid, so smart is walking in silence.
They reached Hogsmeade, and they walked into The Three Broomsticks, side by side, in companiable silence.
'Two butterbeers, please,' said James, dropping four sickles on the counter. 'Unless you want something else?' he added, looking at Lily, who shook her head, taking her bottle.
'Okay then,' said James, taking his. They walked to a table near the back and sat down.
'So, what's this big secret then?' asked Lily, opening her butterbeer.
'I already told you that I'd have to talk to the others,' replied James, taking a swig from his.
'Oh come on. You're basically the leader of your little gang, you and Sirius. They'd let you tell me.'
James shook his head. 'Not with something like this they wouldn't. We'd have to have a long talk about this. It's our deepest, deadliest secret, and something just happened -- last night -- and we don't know what it was. Here's the truth -- it was really bad.'
Lily sat back, turning what he'd just told her over in her mind. 'Okay, so can you tell me why you were in the hospital wing?'
James shook his head and drank some butterbeer. 'I had a nasty gash in my leg. I can't tell you how I got it.'
'Okay then. Talk to your mates about your "big secret,"' she said, drawing punctuation marks in the air with her fingers. 'Then come back and tell me.'
'I can't. They're in the hospital wing, or they were anyway.'
'Wait, there's Sirius and Peter,' she said, pointing. 'They just walked in.'
James turned his head to see the wild, shaggy haired Sirius and the small, mousy Peter working their way towards him. Sirius waved.
He turned back to Lily. 'Yeah, okay, they're here, but Remus isn't. I'd need to talk to the whole gang. For about an hour. He won't be coming out of the hospital wing for a few days.'
'But the full was over a week ago. What's wrong with him?'
James sprayed butterbeer across the table, luckily missing her. 'What? What about the full?'
Lily laughed. 'Oh come on. You think you're the only one to notice? He's away from his prefecting duties once a month. He always ends up in the hospital wing, and no one's ever told why. Of course I know he's a werewolf! What I don't understand is what happened to him now!'
Sirius and Peter were close enough to have heard, even though it had been in a whisper. They looked shocked.
'Prongs, what've you been telling this girl?' asked Sirius, recovering, planning to tell her it wasn't true.
'Nothing, she figured it out for herself. Too smart for her own good,' replied James, looking slightly gobsmacked.
'Oh,' said Sirius, wilting. 'I see.'
Peter let out a nervous squeak.
'Just a moment,' said James to Lily. He turned to the others. They whispered amongst themselves for about five minutes, and then James turned back around.
'Okay then,' said James, turning back to Lily, 'so you know he's a werewolf. So? Big deal. Do you want to know what happened last night? Well, we do too. We don't know. We're not going to tell you what we do know until we've had a chance to talk properly about it, so don't ask. Madam Pomfrey's trying to figure it out, so can we stop talking about this now?'
Lily considered. 'Okay,' she said finally, 'but I want to know what happened as soon as you know, all right?'
'Moony's decision,' said James. 'Shall we go?' He put down his empty butterbeer and stood up. Lily drained her bottle and stood up as well. They left.
They went to Zonko's at James' suggestion, the Shrieking Shack at Lily's -- she obviously hadn't figured that bit out yet -- and Honeydukes by general request.
As they were deciding how to trick Sirius into eating a 'Raw human flesh taste guaranteed! Perfect for the reformed undead!' toffee, Remus crept up on them from behind and grabbed James, who spun around, ready to attack, but as soon as he saw who it was, instead slapped him on the back.
'Moony! I didn't think you'd be out of the hospital wing for a week yet!'
'Neither did I. According to Madam Pomfrey, for some reason it healed faster than normal.' He looked at Lily. 'And I bumped into Sirius and Peter earlier. They filled me in.'
'Well, if you'll excuse me, it was a bit obvious. I couldn't help but figure it out,' said Lily defensively, crossing her arms.
'It's okay, it's okay!' said Remus, feigning terror. 'Don't bite my head off! I knew you'd figure it out sooner or later. I'm just surprised you waited this long to spring your knowledge on us.'
James looked at them. 'So, Moony, has Madam Pomfrey figured it out yet?'
'No, she hasn't. Apparently Dumbledore's called a staff meeting to figure it out.'
'Okay. Well, they'll figure it out and tell you later probably. Wanna hang with us for the rest of the day?' He looked at Lily. 'That is, if my date agrees?' Lily hit him on the arm.
'It's fine with me. We can have your girl counselor along,' she said with a mischievous grin. 'I don't miss much, Potter!'
* * *
As they walked out the door, Lily turned to Remus. 'So, what exactly happened last night? I've tried asking Potter, but he clammed up.'
Remus looked at James. 'Thanks,' he said. They began walking out of town, up the hilly mountainside.
'Well, I was with him when he flew up to your dormitory. I gave him censoring glasses. And then... about ten minutes after I'd heard him take off, I felt really hot, like I do right before a transformation. So I looked at the moon, but --' He gestured expansively, conveying that he'd confirmed that it was nowhere near full.
'Anyway, I felt hot. And then I felt my hair start to grow and my teeth beginning to -- lengthen -- so I knew I was turning into a werewolf. You have no idea how painful it is. And it was worse this time...it's like...there are all these new muscles, and they turn up before the werewolf's skin does, so they tear my own skin open.'
James had heard Remus' descriptions of his transformations before and seen them himself firsthand, but it was all new to Lily, who was staring wide-eyed, looking horrified, yet fascinated.
'So I'm lying there, bleeding worse than normal, because there was way more muscle this time -- don't ask me why -- and then I started growing, and the skin and fur came. And then I ran off into the forest.' They reached a large rock and sat down on it. 'And then, about an hour later, James and Sirius and Peter showed up, and I tried to fight them. So they ran away, and I chased them. We did that all night. I am so glad they're fast enough. I almost caught them more times than I could count. Anyway, they ran into this little cluster of trees too thick for me to get into. But I just got Sirius before he jumped in, so James came out and rescued him...I got him as well. End of story, they got just far enough into it so I couldn't reach them. Sirius and James were both badly out of it... I almost killed them both...'
'Yeah,' said James, 'he jumped on top of me. I passed out right where he was about to tear my head off. He must've changed back right then, because I woke up and he was lying on top of me.'
'I was just about to say that!' said Remus, feigning annoyance. 'Yeah, I was just about to snap his head right off. Then all my muscles disappeared. I always faint right then when I'm coming back -- I think it's something to do with the shock of going from such a hugely muscled form to,' he gestured at his own slight body, 'this.'
Lily continued to stare at him for a few seconds, and then shook her head, as if coming out of a trance. 'Okay... that's amazing.' She turned to look at James. 'You ran out and confronted a monster, and then dragged Sirius back into cover? Just how far out was he?'
'Not far,' said James, his mind panicking. But he wouldn't lie to her, he wouldn't... 'Two yards? Three?'
'You must be incredibly fast; I've never seen you run... but that was incredibly brave! You are so brave!' She touched his arm. Fireworks exploded in his mind. He couldn't move. What should he say, what should he say? His mind panicked again, for the second time in two minutes. She ended his confusion by standing up. 'This rock is oddly shaped, isn't it? Look here: a sharp corner, like on a box!'
'Yeah!' said James, standing up, glad of the subject change. 'In fact, the whole thing looks square...'
They all hopped off the rock and looked it over. James was first to speak. 'Look there!' he exclaimed, pointing. 'That crack -- the shadow in there's much too deep.' He darted forward. 'Yes!' He disappeared into a crack that looked about two inches deep unless you looked closely, then poked his head out again and beckoned. 'Come on! It's quite roomy...' He disappeared again.
Curiosity getting the better of them, Lily and Remus climbed down into a cool, dimly lit cave the size of a small room.
'This place is amazing!' exclaimed Lily, staring around in wonder.
James, who was also staring, said, 'I wonder why I never found this before?'
'I'm the one who found it, remember?' said Lily. 'I saw that the rock was a funny shape. You just found the way in.'
James smiled. 'Yeah, okay, that's why we never found it.' He looked almost as if he was going to try to hug her, but instead said, 'But there's nothing to do in here. I mean we could turn it into a clubhouse or something if we had supplies, but we don't. Shall we go?'
They scrambled out of the hole, blinking in the sunlight.
'Okay then, what are we going to do now?' said Remus.
'Let's head back to the village. I want another butterbeer,' said James.
As they headed down the hill, Remus, who was walking about two yards behind the others, saw James' fingers deliberately brush against Lily's. He saw Lily stiffen slightly with surprise and then relax.
Their fingers brushed again.
Easy to tell who instigated it: Lily. James visibly faltered slightly in his step but kept walking.
Lily peeked up at him for a moment, and then looked back to the path. James peeked down at her a moment later, but he too flicked his gaze back on to the path.
They continued in this manner, fingers brushing occasionally, looking at each other for brief moments, and always missing each other, all the way down the hill. My God, thought Remus, They're absolutely crazy for each other!
When they were about a hundred yards away from the village, they both looked at each other at the exact same moment. Their gazes locked, and their fingers finally caught each other. There was obviously no room in their heads for anything but the other. They looked as if they were about to kiss, but instead...
'Lupin!' Professor McGonagall's cry sliced through their concentration, and they looked up. The head of Gryffindor house was striding towards them, looking at Remus.
'Good afternoon Potter, Evans. Lupin, the teacher's council has come up with a few ideas, and we need you to help us test them. Come with me, please.' She marched off, Remus behind her.
'Wait! Professor, how long will it take?' called James.
'We're not sure, Potter. He'll be back in your dormitory by tonight.' They left.
'Tonight,' echoed James. He checked his watch. 'If she means six, he'll be gone five hours.' He squeezed Lily's hand. 'Shall we amuse ourselves in the meantime?'
Lily pulled her hand free. 'How do you mean?' she asked guardedly, rubbing it with her other hand. His squeeze had obviously been harder than he'd thought. 'Well, we could go have that butterbeer and make silly little guesses about what happened to him last night.'
Lily smiled and took his hand again. A thrill of electricity ran through his body. 'Yeah, we could do that.'
* * *
'Okay, the thing was... umm... okay, how about this? Some girl none of us know has been stalking him, but he doesn't like her, right? So she decides if she can't get him nicely, she'll go for nasty. She puts a love potion or something in something he eats...but she's a horrible potions maker, and it turns out to be all wrong. So it reacts with his normal morphological abilities and turns him into this monstrous wolf!' James and Lily both laughed.
It was now two o'clock, and they were both on their third butterbeer.
'Or maybe... lessee...' Lily took a swig from her bottle. 'Maybe it wasn't him at all! How's this? There's this huge wolf in the forest, and it's the one that chases you! Then Remus comes and gets rid of it right after you black out, and then he collapses!'
'No, too many holes. I mean, why wouldn't he have been in bed or something to start off with?'
'Right, well, maybe he fell asleep and then sleep-walked?'
James shook his head. 'No. He's never sleep-walked before. But hang on,' he sat up straight, a thought lodged in his mind. 'Didn't you say you noticed something screwy about the moon last night?'
'Yeah, there was! After you'd left, I just kept looking out the window for a bit, and I thought the moon looked weird. I don't know how, though.'
'That was it! It was the moon. Something about it was weird, and it hit his werewolf... switch or whatever. That's it!'
'Yeah, it must've been! So... okay, he's at the bottom of the tower, you come up to meet me, the moon comes out, he becomes this huge monster, he gallops off and goes into the forest, you guys go after him, etcetera etcetera etcetera. That's gotta be it!'
'Great! Okay. So, we've figured that out... what do we do now?'
They sat in silent contemplation for a little while.
'Wanna go for a walk?' asked Lily.
'Sure. Where? The Shack again?'
'Yeah, alright.' They drained the last dregs of butterbeer from their bottles and left the bar. On the way up the hill, they met Sirius and Peter again.
'Hey Padfoot, Wormy. What are you guys up to?'
'Going back to the castle. We've done everything there is to do here at least a dozen times over.'
'Okay. See you there later.'
A little further up the hill, Lily took his hand again. 'So what's with your nicknames? Are they just weird nicknames, or do they have a bit of meaning?'
James contemplated. 'Well, Padfoot is for a dog. Wormtail kept a rat once, I think. Moony's obvious. And I've always loved stags, so Prongs.'
'Okay. Makes sense I suppose.'
They continued their walk, holding hands.
* * *
Remus showed up again at dinner. James, Sirius, and Peter were sitting together, Lily at the other end of the table. Remus sat down next to James.
'Well, I know what it was now, at least. And they reckon it shouldn't happen for at least another three hundred years.'
'Well that's good news anyway. So are you going to tell us?' inquired Sirius.
'No. Not here. Later, when people can't hear.'
James shrugged and swallowed a mouthful of spaghetti. 'Makes sense, I suppose,' he said, unconsciously echoing Lily. Sirius, who'd noticed, grinned.
* * *
James led the way through the portrait hole, and they sank into the armchairs nearest the fire. 'Well? Are you going to tell us now?' he asked.
'Yeah, I suppose,' said Remus. He lowered his voice so the others had to lean in to hear.
'According to Professor Sinistra, the moon was blue last night. Apparently she'd been up looking at some interesting pattern made by the planets -- all the planets -- and she saw it. According to her calculations, which she says she spent six hours on, the gravity of all those planets in exactly the right places, while the Earth and moon were both in the exact places pulled it slightly off its axis, and it turned blue. They reckon that's what it was.'
'I thought so!' said James triumphantly, punching the air. 'Well, not me, Lily, but we were right!'
Remus grinned at him. 'Speaking of Lily, how did it go?' Sirius' ears pricked up.
'It was good. We held hands, we chatted, and we had fun,' said James evasively. 'I'd better go and tell her she was right again. That's okay with you, isn't it?' Remus nodded, and James set off across the room.
This time he didn't care about her girly friends, and sat down right in the middle of them, next to Lily, who smiled her stomach-melting smile at him. 'Well?' she asked, knowing why he was there.
'You were right. It was blue. Professor Sinistra knows more,' said James. He looked at what she'd been doing. 'Blimey, you don't like to get behind, do you? This isn't due for a fortnight!'
'Yeah, but I like Potions. Slughorn is a very cool teacher.'
'Yeah he is. Hey, I had fun today, did you have fun today?' Oh no, I'm sounding like a dork again.
'Yeah, I did. It was good.'
'Well, d'you want to do it again sometime? Next Hogsmeade weekend?'
'Yeah, that's be good,' said Lily, beaming up at him, and that smile cracked something inside him. Suddenly the entire world faded away, except for him and Lily. Her giggling friends, who were talking about a radio program, the other Marauders, who were staring at him intently... they all disappeared, leaving him and Lily alone. He put his arm around her back, and lowered his head to hers. She turned her face up and kissed him.
James shifted so he held her tighter to him, and their kiss deepened. And as they kissed the world seemed to explode around them, and they still kept on kissing...
After what seemed an eternity, but was still far, far too soon, they broke apart, but remained in each other's arms. The world came rushing back. The giggling friends were no longer giggling, just staring at them, Sirius, Remus and Peter were hooting with laughter, and the rest of the common room was deadly silent. But James and Lily weren't looking. They had eyes only for each other.
'That was fun,' said Lily, her beautiful green eyes filling the world.
'Yeah, it was,' said James, and squeezed her. 'Shall we do it again?'