A/N: Sorry about this little tangent, but sometimes you just have to give in to the plot bunnies and let them roam freely through your brain and make you write stories like this one.
This is a two-part one shot. It was too long to be one chapter so I split it up – part two should be around in a few days. Millions of thanks go to Daily Prophet Reporting, my loyal beta, who is wonderful about telling me when things don’t and do work and making my stories the best they can be.
“I’m going to kill him,” she muttered furiously as she rounded the corner. “Stab him with his own quill. Strangle him with his bloody broom. Drag him by the throat down to the lake, call up the merpeople, and force them to take him to live with them. Forever.”
“I must find Professor Sprout and ask her where I can find some flesh-eating slugs. Or maybe – I wonder if she’d let me borrow a Mandrake for a minute?”
“Lily, really, don’t you think you’re taking this a bit too far?”
Lily Evans ignored Cassandra Seltzer, one of her best friends, as she stomped through the halls. She pushed through the portrait hole, her green eyes blazing in her flushed face. Her eyes scanned the room until they lighted upon –
Sirius Black turned around from where he was chatting up a gaggle of fifth years and looked at Lily. His handsome face burst into a knowing grin as Lily strode purposefully towards him. “Ah, Lily – finally up for that snog you owe me?”
“Where in the name of sweet Merlin is that poor excuse for a human being that you call your best friend?” she yelled, ignoring his last statement and fixing him with a gaze that barred argument.
“Who, Peter? He’s right here, Lily-”
“SIRIUS BLACK! YOU KNOW WHO I MEAN!”
“All right, all right, keep your knickers on, woman,” Sirius said. His playful grin faded, however, as he said, “Actually, Evans, I think it would probably be a good idea for you to stay away from James just now. He’s a bit – er – on edge-”
“WHERE IS HE?”
“Well, you see, my dear-”
“Sirius, James wants to know what you did with his Potions book,” Remus Lupin said conversationally as he came down the stairs of the boys’ dormitory. Lily spun around and Remus, who had clearly not noticed her before, blanched. “Oh, no.”
“Remus, you great git, stop her, for heaven’s sake!”
Lily had twisted out of Sirius’s reach in a second and she pushed past poor Remus before he could act. She ignored Cassandra’s pleas on behalf of James’s life as she raced up the stairs, imagining what she would do with the king of the prats once she got her hands on him.
James Potter had been plaguing her for six long years. He had also, beginning when Lily had her first boyfriend fourth year, taken to harassing the various blokes she went out with. If they managed to hold on to the vivacious, fiery, and quick-tempered redhead for more than two months, misfortunes seemed to follow them around constantly. They were little things – mysterious hexes in the night, strange mishaps in the hallways and at mealtimes, curious rashes – but they built up over time. These mishaps frequently befell those unfortunate sirs until they broke it off with Lily.
Jantzen McTavish had held on to Lily for six months, the longest relationship she had ever been in. Granted, much of it had been over the summer between sixth and seventh year, and thus out of Potter and Co.’s reach, but Jantzen was a tough bloke; Lily had thought he wouldn’t mind the immature jokes when they returned to school. And she was right; it had been three months of little jinxes and curses and he still seemed determined to stay with Lily. He was attentive and sweet and made her feel more special than any bloke had before, not to mention the fact that he was almost unbelievably attractive. She fancied herself to be falling for him.
But this time Potter had gone too far. Lily fumed as she remembered what had happened only fifteen minutes ago when Jantzen had burst into the empty classroom where she and Cassandra were studying, soaking wet, fuming, and claiming his broom had tossed him into the lake:
“That’s awful, Jantzen,” Lily said, her brow furrowed. She was rather displeased because he was dripping onto her Potions essay, but she felt it would be wise not to mention that – the boy looked as though he were about to have an apoplectic fit.
“’Awful’? That’s all you can say?” Jantzen screamed, his face a mottled red. “Bloody Potter came out and hexed my broom and all it was is ‘awful’?”
Lily stood up slowly. “It was Potter?” she said, her voice dangerously quiet.
“Of course it was Potter! Who else would it be? The pathetic prat’s been in love with you for six years, the whole world knows it! He came to the pitch and did it in plain sight! Pointed his wand at me, and next thing I knew I was hurtling towards the lake!”
Lily was starting to see red. “I’m sorry, Jantzen,” she told him, although her mind was focused on ripping Potter limb from limb. “It won’t happen again, I promise. I’m going to deal with him.”
“You’re ‘going to deal with him’?” Jantzen said with a snort, disbelief etched into his face. “Is that what you tell all your boyfriends after something like this happens?”
“Nothing like this has ever happened-” Lily began impatiently.
Jantzen interrupted her. “You know what I think, Lily? I think that if you really wanted Potter to stop this, you would have done something about it a long time ago.”
“I have done something about it! I’ve done everything about it, but the stupid prat just won’t listen!”
“Have you gone to McGonagall? No. She could stop it. If you wanted to end it, you could have.”
Lily stared at him, the blood pounding in her ears. “What are you saying, Jantzen?”
“I’m saying I can’t go out with you while Potter’s pulling things like this. Three’s a crowd, Lily. You tell McGonagall about Potter or I’m out.”
And with that he had stormed out of the classroom, his wet shoes squelching on the floor, making sure to slam the door loudly behind him. Lily was gripping the back of her chair so tightly her knuckles were white.
“Lily?” Cassandra had asked timidly. “Are you all right?”
Lily had turned and strode out of the library, not towards the Ravenclaw common room in pursuit of Jantzen, but instead in the direction of Gryffindor Tower, Cassandra hot on her heels. Cassandra, as calm and cool as Lily was hot, had tried to dissuade her from a path that would most certainly end with both the Head Boy and Girl in a lot of trouble, but Lily would not sway. Today was the last day of James Potter’s life.
She shook off the memory when she arrived at his dormitory door. She didn’t bother to knock but instead flung the door open without ceremony. James’s bed, which was the closest to the window on the left, had the hangings closed.
The hangings swung open just as she reached the foot of his bed and James emerged from behind them, a stormy look on his face. “I’m not in the mood, Evans,” he said as he coldly brushed past her.
She was stunned. “Excuse me? You’re not in the mood? You just threw my boyfriend into the lake, damn it! I don’t care if you’re not in the bloody mood!”
James stopped and turned towards her. “I don’t have time for your drama, Evans, so could we just get this over with?”
Lily gaped at him. “You – what – I-” she spluttered incoherently. She was stunned that he wasn’t provoking her. It was his favorite thing to do. Well, that and ask her out.
He heaved a sigh. “Look. I’m sorry. I lost my temper. It shouldn’t have happened. There, happy now?” he asked sardonically, going to his dresser and rummaging through the top drawer.
“What, that’s it?” Lily demanded, placing her hands on her hips. “No, ‘Well, Evans, it wouldn’t have happened if you would just go to Hogsmeade with me’, or ‘He looked at me funny in the corridor yesterday and I had to do something about it’, or something equally infuriating?”
James shut the drawer with a bang. “Why don’t you ask your dearest boyfriend why I lost my temper? Or, better yet, why don’t you ask Stella Harburcker why I lost my temper?”
Lily paused, confused. Stella Harburcker? Who in the name of great Merlin’s beard was that? “What are you on about, Potter?” she asked angrily.
“I’ve got an essay due tomorrow and detention tonight. Sorry I can’t stay and chat,” he said, and before she could call him back, he had disappeared down the stairs without looking at her. She was left in the middle of his dormitory, gaping at the spot he had just vacated. What just happened? Had James Potter really walked away from a fight with her? And what did Stella Harburcker have to do with anything?
Lily strode down from the boys’ dormitory a few shocked moments later and searched the common room. Potter and his cronies were nowhere to be found. Cassandra hurried over to her from their group of friends. “How did it go, Lily? Did you give him the old one-two?”
Lily was so puzzled it took her a moment to realize Cassandra had been speaking to her. “Oh – er, no, I didn’t. Um, Cassie, do you happen to know anything about – about someone called Stella Harburcker?”
Cassandra’s face scrunched in distaste. “That tart from Slytherin? I’ve heard of her. She came this year from Durmstrang. She’s a sixth year. I’ve heard she’s snogged practically every bloke in the school.”
Something strange began crawling in the pit of Lily’s stomach – a nagging thought – at those words. She did her best to ignore it and became determined to get to the bottom of the situation. “She’s a Slytherin, you say?”
“Far as I know,” Cassie, who was a good bit shorter than Lily, said, peering up suspiciously at her determined face. “What are you thinking?”
“I’m going to find this Stella,” she said firmly. “Are you coming?”
“Of course,” Cassie said; the shy girl had an inner love of adventure and always snuck to the kitchens with Lily.
“Good,” Lily said, and she marched out of the common room with her jaw set.
“Er, Lily,” Cassie asked as they moved along at top speed, “where do you hope to find Stella?”
“Leave it to me,” Lily said, and continued on her route. They passed several students before she suddenly came to a halt. “You, there!” she cried. Three second-year Slytherin boys all stared at her in alarm as she approached them. She commanded imperiously, “Take me to your common room, please. It is of the utmost importance.” She made sure they could clearly see the Head Girl badge pinned to the front of her robes.
They looked at her suspiciously but set off all the same. Lily followed them, Cassandra on her heels, down through the dungeons and to a long passage that ended with a flat wall. One of the boys looked back at her, hesitating a moment, before whispering a password she couldn’t hear to the wall. It slid open, revealing the low-ceilinged, green-tinted Slytherin common room. It was full of students chatting and doing homework before dinner. The boys who had helped them in scattered.
“Lily! Look, there she is!” Cassie hissed, gesturing to a group of boisterous girls after a moment of surveying the room. “The blonde in the middle!”
Stella was – well, beautiful. Lily swallowed that uncomfortable suspicion in her stomach and strode purposefully over to the group, ignoring the fact that she had absolutely no idea what she would say to the girl. The Slytherins she passed looked at her curiously.
When she arrived at the group they stopped speaking and stared at her. Stella’s gaze swept coolly over Lily. “Lily Evans. I finally meet you,” she said, her blue-eyed gaze returning to Lily’s face. “What a pleasure.”
The girls she was with snickered; Lily ignored them. “Stella, isn’t it?” Stella nodded in assent, her eyes trained challengingly on Lily’s. “I was wondering if I could have a word with you.”
Stella smiled insolently. “Go right ahead.”
Lily looked at the group; they stared right back at her, obviously not getting her hint to leave. She sighed impatiently. “Alone, if you please.”
Stella shrugged. “There’s no need. They already know what you’ve obviously come to talk to me about.”
Lily felt her ire rising. She crossed her arms. “And what would that be, exactly?”
Stella’s smirk dropped. She narrowed her eyes at Lily. “Do you really not know?”
Lily clenched her jaw. “Look, I’ve come here to talk to you about a rumor I heard, all right? So are you going to talk to me or what?”
Stella looked around at her group of friends and crossed her arms, leaning back in her high-backed chair. “Well, I don’t really have much to talk about with you,” she taunted. “Unless, of course, you wanted to discuss how good of a snog Jantzen McTavish is?”
The blood drained out of Lily’s face. “What?” she whispered.
Stella looked extremely proud of herself as her cronies burst into badly concealed laughter. “Typical Gryffindor,” she said, her eyes boring into Lily’s. “Too proud to pick up that when your boyfriend tells you he’s going to play Quidditch in the middle of the afternoon he’s actually fooling around with another girl.”
Lily stared at her. “You tart,” she said, stunned.
“Oohh,” Stella said, pretending to be scared. “Is that the best you can do, Evans?”
“Lily, come on,” Cassie said, grabbing hold of Lily arm and tugging. “Let’s go.”
Lily whipped out her wand in a flash, ignoring Cassie’s entreaties. Stella’s eyes widened at Lily’s wand, suddenly terrified. Now it was Lily’s turn to smirk. “Typical Slytherin,” she said coldly. “Clever words but nothing to back them up with.”
“I’ll report you!” Stella shrieked, cowering. Her friends were slowly creeping away. “You’ll lose that badge, so help me! My parents own half of Britain!”
Lily stared at her for a long moment before pocketing her wand. “It’s not worth it,” she said with disgust. “But don’t think I won’t do it if you cross me again, Harburcker. And you can always count on a Gryffindor to hold to her word.”
Lily allowed Cassie to steer her through the common room, where everyone was talking about what had just happened. Cassie practically shoved Lily through the sliding wall, where they almost had the misfortune to collide with-
“Well, well, well, what have we here?” Severus Snape said, raising a black brow silkily.
“Not now, Snape,” Lily snapped as she pushed past him. She practically ran out of the dungeons, fuming. How dare she? How dare that little tart snog her boyfriend?
But better yet, how dare he? The smarmy, self-absorbed cad! He had cheated on her! No one cheated on Lily Evans. He was going to regret the day he was born when she dismembered him piece by piece.
“Lily,” Cassie panted, knowing all too well that the course they were on would result in them breaking into another common room, “Lily, dear, can we please just talk about this before you go haring off to kill Jantzen?”
“I’m not going to kill him,” Lily said grimly. “I’m going to castrate him.”
“Oh, good lord, please – Lily, come on, see reason, won’t you? Can’t you just accept that he’s a lousy bastard and get over it?”
Lily stopped abruptly and spun on her friend. “No, I can’t. No one cheats on Lily Evans. Thanks for going with me, Cass, but I need to do this next part alone.”
She strode up to the Ravenclaw common room, not allowing herself to think of anything but what she would do to Jantzen.
“You are the foulest excuse for a man on this whole planet,” she hissed in front of the entire (and attentive) Ravenclaw common room. “You are filthy, cheating scum, and I can’t believe that I ever saw anything in you but a self-obsessed cad!” And then she hit him square in the face with the worst Bat-Bogey Hex she had ever conjured before turning on her heels and pushing out of the common room.
Her anger carried her all the way downstairs and out to the lake. She flung herself down at the base of a tree and then, and only then, did she allow herself to burst into tears.
When Sirius Black saw Lily Evans running out towards the lake as though possessed by the devil, he knew he had to do something. It wasn’t that he owed her anything in particular; she was a bit too high maintenance for his tastes and she had treated his best mate like dirt for the past six years (not that James had merited anything better). But despite his other opinions, he still felt like he needed to help her out in some way. Show her the light, if need be.
He pondered for a moment before heading casually in her direction. He had been chatting with Louise Short, a pretty Gryffindor fifth year, but decided she could wait. It was time for Sirius to play matchmaker. James was his best mate, after all, and was always there to stop him from making seriously stupid mistakes. Sirius definitely owed him something. And here was the perfect chance. He knew Lily must have figured out the situation and probably broken it off with McTavish – he would hate to be McTavish at the moment – and now needed some advice. And he was the perfect man for the job.
He rounded the tree he had seen her disappear behind and plopped down beside her. Her knees were drawn up to her chest as she leaned against the tree, sniffling loudly. She turned her confused and tearstained face towards him. “What do you want, Black?” she said, wiping her face. “Can’t you see I’m having a private moment here?” She turned her face away from him.
“Why yes, I can see that, in fact,” Sirius said, running a hand through his dark hair and leaning back against the tree. “But, you know, there’s always room for one more.”
She snorted in annoyance. “What do you want, Black?” she repeated irritably.
Sirius sighed. “I want to tell you a little story, actually.”
“Sirius, for Merlin’s sake-”
Sirius ignored her. “Once upon a time,” he began, “there was this bloke. Devastatingly handsome, he was – but, of course, not as devastating as me – and on his first day at Hogwarts he met a girl. They annoyed each other practically right off the bat. He tormented her because it was fun for him and she tormented him because, admit it, it was pretty fun for her, too. And then, ‘round second or third year, when his hormones started to kick in, he realized that this girl was actually very pretty – if a bit spotty there for a while, sorry – and from then on he realized that somewhere along the line he’d fallen in love with her. And, you know, a man in love, especially for that ridiculously long amount of time, gets very jealous when the object of his affection is with another bloke. So he did what every sane bloke would do and tried to kill off the lads she was going out with. This didn’t make the girl very happy. Meanwhile, this chap had a few girlfriends of his own, but everyone knew who he was really after. He kept getting brutally rejected and did everything he could to impress her, but nothing worked. Still, he persevered.”
Sirius paused and sighed, squinting as he looked out over the lake. “And then one day – today, actually – this poor young lad decided to go for a spin on his brand new, ridiculously cool Nimbus 505. He entered the pitch, and what did he see but the bloke who was currently going out with the girl of his dreams snogging a tramp from Slytherin. He yelled to the bloke, asking him what the bloody hell he thought he was doing” – here Sirius began gesticulating wildly – “and then got so pissed off that he cursed this lad’s broom and sent him flying into this very lake before us. After completing this task the boy went back up to his castle. He was in a right state, let me just say, and not only does he have to do detention tonight and have a rather long essay due tomorrow, but also the girl of his dreams came up and yelled at him for doing what he did. It’s a wonder the bloke hasn’t ended it all, actually,” he concluded pensively.
Lily closed her eyes, feeling another onslaught of tears approaching. She couldn’t think of anything to say, but when something did come out of her mouth, she was quite shocked by it.
“Is he really in love with me?”
Sirius was silent for a long moment. Lily peeked from between her fingers to look at him. “I’ve never seen any bloke look at a girl the way James looks at you when you don’t realize it, if that means anything at all,” he finally said, his tone free of anything but frank honesty. Lily hid her face again. She had seen James look at her like that before, actually, but it made her insides feel funny so she usually tried to forget about those instances.
Sirius let that sink in for a moment before he met her eyes and smiled suggestively. “He’s in the Charms classroom if you want to ask him about it.”
Lily slapped at him halfheartedly, a smile coming to her lips unconsciously. She felt strange inside – as though something had exploded in her chest. Someone was in love with her. Someone had been in love with her for six years. And that same someone had just been angry enough on her behalf to throw her no-good, cheating boyfriend into the lake.
Unfortunately, she had just said some pretty nasty things, if her memory served her correctly, to that same someone. How could she tell him she was sorry? Just go up to him and say, “Hey, James, sorry I yelled at you, and thanks for tossing my ex-boyfriend into the lake”?
Beside her, Sirius got up with a grunt, brushed the seat of his pants off, and held his hand down to help her up. Lily took it and he pulled her to her feet. She bit her lip. “D’you think he would believe me if I apologized to him?”
Sirius patted her on the shoulder. “Honestly? No, I don’t think so.” He fell silent for a moment, pondering, and suddenly grinned as an idea popped into his head. “You’ll have to make it up to him somehow, you know.”
Lily looked distressed. “Yes, but how? What can I say to him?”
“Well, my dear, what I’ve got in mind only takes seven small words.”
Five minutes later Lily arrived at the closed door to the Charms classroom, her heart pounding in her chest. She couldn’t believe what she was about to do. She took a deep breath, squeezed her eyes shut for a second, and then pulled the door open.
James was seated at one of the desks, his untidy hair falling into his eyes, scribbling furiously on a sheet of parchment. He looked up when she came in and pushed his glasses up farther on the bridge of his nose, an oddly endearing gesture, and furrowed his brows at her.
Lily took a hesitant step into the classroom. “Hi,” she said, suddenly feeling ridiculously shy, an emotion she very rarely experienced. She closed the door behind her.
He stared at her. “Have you come to yell at me again?” he asked apprehensively.
Lily winced. “Er, no, I haven’t, actually. I, um, actually, I wanted to say – well, I wanted to tell you that I’m sorry.”
James looked taken aback for a moment before recovering. “Apology accepted, then,” he said coolly, returning his attention to his essay.
Lily stepped closer, feeling slightly desperate. He had never acted this way before – normal, not with his usual cocky swagger. Perhaps it was because she was never with him without someone else around? “I was terrible to you. I’m really, really sorry. I wanted to apologize for yelling, but then I also wanted to thank you.”
James looked up at her. “You’re welcome.”
“No, but really, thank you. Thank you for – for everything.”
He looked confused. “What d’you mean?”
Lily was definitely flustered. “For – you know, everything. Never giving up.”
“What are you on about?”
“I – never mind. Just, thank you, and also…well…I…” she trailed off. Her mouth wouldn’t form the words.
“You…” he prompted, raising his eyebrows.
Lily swallowed hard. “I, er…I was hoping that, erm, maybe….” Seven small words, Evans. Seven small words. Now SPIT THEM OUT!
“Oh, bugger it all!” she exclaimed finally. “Will you go to Hogsmeade with me?”
James seemed to freeze. “What?”
“I said, ‘Will you go to Hogsmeade with me?’. There’s a trip next weekend, y’know.”
“Of course I know there’s a trip next weekend!” he exclaimed.
She was affronted. “There’s no need to yell, Potter, I was just reminding you-”
“Will you shut up for a minute? I’m having trouble understanding this. You want to go to Hogsmeade with me next weekend.”
“You asked me to go to Hogsmeade with you.”
“And this is of your own free will, is it? No Imperious Curse or anything?”
“Good Merlin, Potter, I’m not under the bloody Imperious Curse!”
James was silent for a long moment, his brow furrowed. “Why?” he asked finally.
Here was the awkward part. “Because I want to,” she said quietly.
He looked at her as if she’d just grown an extra head. “You want to,” he repeated, disbelief evident in his tone and expression.
“Yes, I do,” she said firmly.
He was silent for a long moment. “Right, let me get this straight: you want to go to Hogsmeade with me even though I’m a git to you and I just threw your boyfriend into the lake.”
This was getting too complicated. Lily moved to the desk in front of him and perched on the edge, facing him. She looked down and swung her leg slightly. “My ex-boyfriend, actually. I dumped the tosser.”
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly. Lily looked at him; he really meant it. What had got into him today? He would have been making fun of her right now if it had been any other day.
“Yes, well, I’m not,” she said firmly. “He’s a cad. I should have seen it from the beginning.”
“There’s no way you could have done that.”
She shrugged. “I know.”
They looked at each other for a moment before Lily blushed slightly and looked away. Were they actually having a normal conversation? That hadn’t happened – well, ever. She was stunned, but hoped it didn’t show on her face. Maybe this Hogsmeade trip won’t be so bad, she thought, before instantly berating herself. Normal James Potter was a once in a lifetime thing. It definitely wouldn’t last for a week.
She looked up in surprise when James started chuckling. “What?” she asked curiously.
He shook his head. “It’s just – well, I told someone else I would go to Hogsmeade with her this weekend.”
Disappointment spread through her like fire before she could stop it. “Oh, okay. Well, that’s all right,” she said, trying not to sound upset, as she slid down from the desk. ASK ME TO THE NEXT ONE! her mind screamed at him. Didn’t he know that if he asked her to the next one she would bloody go with him? She fiddled with her badge as she looked at him.
He smiled sadly at her. “It would’ve been fun. You’ve never seen Hogsmeade until you see it with James Potter, after all.”
Lily rolled her eyes, but it was the first time she had done it without meaning real annoyance toward him. “That’s what you always say.”
“It’s true,” he said, leaning back in his chair with a grin that made her knees feel suddenly unsteady. He really was an attractive boy. Not in the classically handsome way like Sirius, but in that he practically oozed confidence. Plus, all those days on the Quidditch pitch certainly hadn’t hurt his body.
SHUT UP, BRAIN, SHUT UP!
“Right, well, too bad,” she said, turning away to hide her blush. She was sure he could read her thoughts. He had a disturbing talent at that. When she felt she had herself under control, she looked back at him. The smile had slipped from his face and he looked rather – wistful. “Bye, then,” she said.
He held her gaze for a long moment. “Bye,” he said finally, his tone and face tinged with regret.
She got to the door as quickly as she could, feeling enormously vulnerable as she did so (another rarity), and managed to shoot a small smile at him over her shoulder, which he half-heartedly returned, before getting out of there as quickly as she could.
Once safely outside the classroom, Lily released a breath in a long whoosh of air. Her knees still felt unsteady so she leaned against the wall for a brief moment. She was totally mystified at her reaction – at everything that had gone on, actually. She told herself to get a grip; she was probably just playing things up in her brain. James Potter would be back to his usual fingernails-on-the-chalkboard self by tomorrow. And she would not feel regretful about not going to Hogsmeade with him. She would not try to find out who was going to Hogsmeade with him.