(Author's Note: Astute readers of my
previous works may realise that this is the tale of James and Lily that
Remus alluded to in 'Hallelujah' with the telling taking place before
that story occurs. As such, this is a paradox as it is an event in the
pre-Hallelujah past that Remus promises will take place in the
post-Hallelujah future. You are advised not to think about it too much,
in case the universe notices and collapses as a result.)
tore my eyes away from Tonks, stumbling across the dance floor with Ron
in tow. Neither of the pair was likely to win any 'Most-Coordinated'
awards, and I rather thought that this would be a story fit to tell the
"Hello, Harry," I said, Summoning a chair for him with a wave of my wand. "Lovely wedding, isn't it?"
nodded absently. I don't think he could have told me anything about the
wedding, even down to what colour dress Fleur wore – peach – although
he had his eyes fixed firmly on the bridal party all through the
ceremony. Either he particularly liked Gabrielle Delacour's curly hair,
But I digress.
"What can I do for you, Harry?"
"How did my parents get together?"
I stared at him for a moment, possibly just a fraction too long.
"James asked Lily out, and she accepted."
saw my dad ask my mum out in Snape's memory," he said. "It looked like
he asked her almost every day, and she turned him down every time."
"Well..." I said. "Harry, it's rather a long story."
He glanced out across the dance floor, where Ginny was dancing with George. Or possibly Fred. Harry's face darkened.
"I'm not doing anything right now," he said.
very well," I said. "But I should point out before we start that we
were seventeen years old at the time, okay? And we weren't entirely
separate from the idiots that you saw in the Pensieve."
"My dad and Sirius, you mean," Harry said, smiling slightly.
"Well, yes," I allowed. "Although idiocy takes many forms."
Harry muttered something under his breath but motioned for me to continue.
well. Where to begin..." I leaned back in my chair, and stared into the
dim and distant past. "Ah. I suppose that it all began with Pandora
Parkinson, or at least her birthday party..."
have to understand that it's rather unusual for an entire family to be
placed in one house in the manner of the Weasleys. Take the Patil
twins, for example. Parvati is a Gryffindor, while Padma is a
Ravenclaw. Even when the bulk of a family passes through one house –
such as the Blacks – you'll still find the odd misfit – such as Sirius
– who ends up somewhere else.
Such was the case with Pandora
Parkinson. She was quite something, it must be said. She is the younger
sister of Petunia Parkinson, who is the mother of Pansy Parkinson.
Quite what the Parkinson family was thinking in naming all their
children 'pee-pee' is beyond me, but I suspect that the generally
belligerent nature of the recent generations may be at least partly
attributed to this unfortunate practise.
Pandora, however, was
different. She was a Ravenclaw, for one thing. The Parkinson line has
produced some formidable wizards and witches, and often they have
become respected members of the Ministry or gone on to another
similarly illustrious career. Patrick Parkinson the Third, who was in
Sirius' uncle's class at Hogwarts, captained Wales at Quidditch, which
made him something of a hero to us all as we were growing up. Mostly,
however, the Parkinsons are known for their intelligence and ambition.
was something of an anomaly, as Sirius was to his family. They started
Hogwarts at the same time, their families knew one another well and
both were expected to be Sorted into Slytherin in the normal manner of
things. Of course, Sirius ended up in Gryffindor while Pandora went
into Ravenclaw. Neither family was particularly pleased with this, but
anomalies are expected and tolerated, and many a lauded pure-blood has
'unfortunate beginnings' in a house of which their family does not
But I digress. Pandora was a fine witch, one of the
smartest in her year. She had a pure and unfettered love of learning
that I admired greatly, but the one who was really taken with her was
We four were not exactly unfamiliar with our female
classmates, it must be said. Sirius had girls drooling over him - and
even fighting, on one memorable occasion - while James had his share of
admirers. Even Peter and I had our moments, although some form of
reflected greatness through our association with James and Sirius may
have inspired this. I remember one girl with whom I thought things were
progressing nicely until she asked me if I could put a word in for her
with James. Given what we were doing at that moment, it was not
entirely the most appropriate thing to ask, and Sirius and James never
let me live it down.
But Peter was forever a fumbler when it
came to girls. He had a tendency to overthink things and this would
always lead to horribly over-complicated plans on his part to get to
know a girl. Often one of us would talk him down from these wild
schemes. Occasionally, when we thought no great harm would come of it,
we would let him be and enjoy watching it all come crashing down around
his ears. To do him credit, he never seemed to mind, although nowadays
I can't help but wonder whether this contributed...
anyway, Pandora and Peter were very talented when it came to Charms,
and were often paired together on projects and the like. They were also
members of the Charms club. Sirius also claimed to be a member,
"Because of my amazing ways with women, but I don't go to the meetings
because I have nothing to learn, see?"
Peter was in a perfect
position to do what he did almost with the regularity of the setting
sun, and that was to fall head over heels in love, or at least
something hat felt like it at the time. At one time or another Peter
had been attracted to almost every girl in our year and many of the
girls in the years around us as well. He took each knock back with
commendable stoicism, and went right onto the next one. He was always
the first to joke about how easily his heart was won - and lost - and
the girls never really minded, indeed I believe that for a time being
asked out by Peter was seen as something of a rite of passage for girls
at Hogwarts, and those who hadn't been asked were heard to wonder what
was wrong with them.
With such a scattershot approach, Peter
had his share of success with women, but occasionally he would fall
heavily for a girl, and such was the case with Pandora. As I remember,
he had become rather taken with her shortly before we sat our OWLs and
had stewed on the matter over the summer holidays. I have a feeling
that he had talked himself into believing he truly loved her, although
he never would have said that in front of Sirius.
Pandora's seventeenth birthday came towards the end of the holidays,
and nearly everyone in our year was invited. Peter had sent us all
letters about how excited he was about seeing Pandora, and how he had
every intention of asking her to go out with him once he saw her.
four of us stayed at the Potters' home on the night before the party,
and travelled by Floo to the Parkinsons' house. We were greeted warmly
by Pandora, who seemed to be especially welcoming to Peter. Sirius gave
him a quick thumbs-up as we headed out of the house and into the
grounds, where the party was being held.
"You know," Sirius said. "I think that you actually have a chance there, mate."
"No need to sound so surprised," Peter said, with a roll of his eyes.
"Come on, Wormtail," James said, grinning. "Even you have to admit-"
"I know, I know," Peter said. "I'm rubbish with girls."
"You're not rubbish," Sirius said. "You just..."
looked to me for help. I nodded, and said, "You try too hard, Wormtail.
If you want to be more than friends with Pandora, be casual. She's too
smart to fall for one of Sirius' cheesy lines."
"Hey!" Sirius objected. I smirked.
know you're right," Peter said, reasonably. "But it's not easy. Any
time that I even think of mentioning anything to her, I just get all
tongue-tied. I can talk to her fine about other stuff, but..."
all about reading the signals, mate," James said. "Look, when you're
talking to her, does she lick her lips? Does she mimic your body
language? Does she lean forward and expose her neck?"
We all turned and looked at James for a moment.
"What in the name of Dumbledore are you talking about?" Sirius asked.
"I'm serious," James said.
I cut across Sirius quickly. "James, where did you hear that stuff?"
"It was in a magazine I was reading," he said.
"Playwizard? Was it the Celestina Warbeck centrefold copy?"
We all turned as one.
"Evans," James said, frostily. "I didn't know you were invited. I'd have made sure to stay away."
can only dream of the day that that happens," Lily replied, equally
coldly. "You do know that you're talking nonsense, don't you?"
"Eavesdropping on our conversations now? I'm not too impressed with your manners."
and I exchanged a look and took up positions on either side of James,
just in case we had to hold him back. We didn't seriously think that
he'd try and hex Lily, but she was quick on the draw and James wouldn't
want to spend the day with a radish for a nose.
"Hard not to hear you, you make so much noise."
"Most people seem not to have heard," James said.
"Most people ignore you," Lily replied.
"And you can't?" James replied. "I always knew that you couldn't resist me."
"Dream on," Lily replied, her cheeks flushing as she stared him down.
"Wait, Remus, you're making it sound like my parents couldn't stand each other."
I said, smiling. "You know that they loved one another dearly, and that
they were married not long after finishing Hogwarts, right?"
This is important. James and Lily argued a great deal, but this one was
where things really started to change between them. Give me a moment,
okay? Soon it starts to get better."
Harry looked dubious, but nodded for me to go on.
"I always do, Evans. You're a prominent feature of my dreams, didn't you know?"
Lily blushed, which didn't exactly complement her fiery red hair.
"You're foul, Potter," she snapped.
"And you're uptight, Evans," James fired back. "Loosen up and have some fun."
"How? By skiving off lessons and getting in trouble?"
"At least I'm not trying to live my life through a book!"
"At least I know what one looks like!"
about all you know! Did you ever stop and consider how much more
interesting life would be if you were actually living it?"
you ever stop and consider how much less pain you'd put your friend
through if you just told him that Pandora has a boyfriend!"
silence, then: "A boyfriend? Oh well, Wormtail. Looks like she wasn't
hanging around for you after all," Sirius said, in a falsely cheery
voice. But it was too late. Peter had turned as white as a sheet, and
he spun on his heel and stalked off away from us. Sirius and I
exchanged a look of mixed sympathy and weariness, but James looked as
though he was about to explode.
Instead, he turned back to
Lily and said, in a very calm and cold voice, "That was uncalled for,
Lily. Whatever argument you have with me is no reason to hurt my
friends. I hope you enjoyed that, although I didn't think you were the
sort of person who liked hurting other people's feelings."
with that, James turned and walked away, searching for Peter. Of the
three of us, he'd always been best at cheering Peter up when he was
feeling down, and of course it was a superbly disdainful end to his
argument with Lily.
listen to me," Sirius said. "Wormtail really likes Pandora; it's not
just some daft crush like it usually is. You had no right to come in
here and crush his hopes like that, especially not in front of all of
us. You humiliated him in front of his closest friends. How do you
think that made him feel?"
"Terrible," Lily groaned, her shoulders sagging. "I didn't mean to say it like that. I was just so angry with James."
well," Sirius sniffed dismissively, but I knew Padfoot rather too well
to believe that he was that bothered by Lily's mistake, and indeed he
tossed me a wink that let me know that I had to play along with him. It
seemed a bit cruel to tease Lily, but she had often enough made us feel
guilty for our myriad minor - and not so minor - transgressions.
doesn't have much success with girls, Lily," I said, crossing my
fingers behind my back. "And Pandora is very nice. I'm sure that she
would have let him down gently."
Lily grimaced. "I didn't mean to hurt Peter's feelings like that," she said. "I certainly didn't enjoy it."
"I can tell," I said, taking the lead from Sirius. "Anyway, we should be going. James will need help with Peter."
"Help?" Lily asked.
I nodded. "He can be... well, abjectly pathetic and devastated is such a strong term..."
"Oh God..." Lily murmured.
"Do you remember Tabitha Bones?" Sirius asked.
I shuddered, rather convincingly I might add, because Lily looked even more distraught.
"We agreed not to talk about it," I said.
"Oh God," Lily repeated.
"Has he ever spoken to her since?"
to her?" I replied, not pointing out that we were now, in fact, talking
about it. "I'm amazed that he stayed at Hogwarts. He has enough trouble
just being in the same room as her, I know that."
"Oh..." Lily moaned. "You have to help me."
"Sorry, with what?" Sirius asked, giving every impression that he had completely forgotten her presence.
"With Peter!" Lily said. "And James," she added, as an unconvincing afterthought.
"Oh," Sirius said, and sucked his breath in over his teeth. "Well..."
"Tricky," I said. "Very tricky."
dangerous," I said quickly, seeing the glint in Sirius' eye that I
recognised all too well as that of a diabolical plan forming.
any way," Sirius said, waving his hand as though the two were one and
the same. "And not for our future Head Girl to worry about."
"How did you-"
"I'm a Black," Sirius said. "Even if I've left my beloved family behind, I still have my contacts."
"Slughorn?" Lily asked.
yes," Sirius said, grinning toothily. "Your favourite teacher did
happen to mention it at the last meeting of the Slug Club. I noticed
that you weren't there."
"My parents don't want me travelling
too far. Not at the moment. I'm only here today because it's less than
half-an-hour from home."
A momentary pall fell over
proceedings as we thought about the war gathering pace in the world
around us. I knew that James was certainly planning on becoming
involved as soon as he left school - and Sirius would follow him,
lieutenant to captain, of that I had no doubt.
Sirius said, with a bark-like laugh that broke the spell. "Our esteemed
Head Girl wouldn't be interested in apologising."
"No, I would," Lily said, earnest. "What would I have to do?"
I shot Sirius a warning look, but I may as well have tried to hold back the ocean with a Beater's bat for all the good it did.
"It's simple," Sirius said. "You have to go on a date with Wormtail."
"She what?" Harry demanded.
"It gets better," I replied, waving him back into his seat. Hermione, I realised, had joined us as well.
"Sirius," Harry said, "tried to set my mum up with... with..."
please," I said. "At that time, Peter was seventeen years old and our
friend, whatever he may have become later. Besides, he was about as big
a fan of the idea as you are."
"What? No way!"
"Oh, come on, Wormtail. Take one for the team!"
"I don't want to!"
Sirius said, sitting up and glaring at Peter in the dim moonlight. We
were trying to sleep in one of the spare rooms in the Parkinson family
home, but Sirius, as usual, was still full of energy.
"No, Sirius," Peter said, and he meant it.
"Because James'll kill me," Peter said.
"No, I won't," James said listlessly.
"What?" Peter and Sirius said together.
"Prongs? What's up?" I asked.
"Let him go," James said, rolling over and turning his back on us. "Peter, have a good time."
three of us stared in bewilderment at each other. James' attraction to
Lily had been one of the worst-kept secrets at Hogwarts for several
years at this point, and it certainly wasn't like your father to just
give up like that.
"Just... Leave it, would you?" he said, and said no more that night.
was an unusually subdued group who boarded the Hogwarts Express later
that week. Even Sirius was relatively quiet, while Peter and James were
almost black holes of noise, each lost in their own worlds and
seemingly afflicting all those around them.
James and I left
Sirius and Peter to go up to the Prefects carriage. James, with his
shiny new Head Boy badge, and myself with my lion-head Prefects badge,
walked in silence through the usual maelstrom that fills the Express
every first of September. James was lost in thought, while I was merely
waiting, anticipating his return to his usual voluble self at some
point in the near future. James was never one to brood for long.
Prefects meeting was torturous, as it is traditionally led by the new
Head Boy and Head Girl, but it was clear that James had done no work,
while Lily only appeared to have half the information needed. Evidently
she had been relying on James to do the rest, and when she sat down I
overheard her say to one of the Hufflepuff girls that she had owled
James about what he had to do for his part. Evidently he hadn't
replied. From the way in which he had ignored Lily throughout the
meeting, I wondered if he had even bothered to read the letter.
Certainly he was first on his feet once it was clear that she was not
saying anything further, and with a hurried apology to Lily, I was hot
on his heels.
"Prongs," I barked, as he stormed along the
corridor, suddenly furious and radiating that anger outwards. The
carriage lights flickered as he stopped and swung around, raising one
finger to me in a gesture of warning.
"I don't want to hear it, Moony," he snapped. "I know I was acting like an arse in there."
"That wasn't what I was going to say," I replied. "Although you were, now I come to think of it."
get lost, Moony. I don't want to hear about what a prat I was to Evans.
I just wish I could get my hands on a Time Turner..."
"What? But she's right back there, Prongs. You can go and apologise, and-"
that," James snapped, and the lights flickered again. "I wish I could
go back to when I was thirteen and tell myself to not bother falling
This brought me up short.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
responded by grabbing me and pulling me into an empty compartment and
shutting the blinds. We waited for a moment, before he tweaked one of
the blinds away from the window just as Lily walked past, her features
contorted into a ferocious scowl.
"Look at her, Moony," James said, his voice now soft and reflective. "Look at what I do to her. She doesn't deserve that."
"James..." I began, suddenly seeing what was happening.
it's okay," he said. "I've tried to be a better person, Remus. I've
cleaned up my act - I even got made Head Boy! But she just... She
just... I can't think straight around her! She drives me crazy, and I
drive her crazy. What sort of relationship could we ever have, Remus, if all we do is make each other mad?"
He dropped into a seat.
get on well with Peter, I reckon," he said. "He's pretty smart,
sometimes. And he deserves someone like Lily. Not like me. What do I
"Severus?" I replied, mildly. James looked at me in horror for a moment, before laughing slightly.
"All right, Moony. You've made your point. No more self-pity."
on," he said, standing up and forcing an imitation of his usual
cheeriness upon his features. "Let's go and find the others."
"My dad gave up on my mum?"
"Yes, he did. Of course, giving up isn't the same as getting over."
A scowl was my silent reply.
didn't have a clue how to talk to James out of giving up on Lily, not
least because a part of me didn't wonder if he might have been right.
But at the same time, I had to wonder how likely it was that James
would be able to so easily switch off four years worth of attraction to
Under cover of the Welcoming Feast and James'
distraction with his duties as Quidditch captain, I was able to fill
Sirius and Peter in on what had happened.
Sirius pulled a face.
"We had a plan," he said. "First Hogsmeade weekend isn't until October, so we'd have had time to brew some Polyjuice."
"Don't you have some left over from last time?" I asked.
"Yeah, but it's still got Thaddeus Nott's hair in it. And he's left anyway, so it's useless."
"What were you going to use it for, anyway?"
were going to send Prongs off on the date with Lily in Peter's place,"
Sirius said. Peter nodded enthusiastically, apparently eager to be
relieved of his terrible burden.
"But after an hour, James would turn back and he'd be stuck in Peter's clothes," I pointed out.
know, and we'll be nearby with the Cloak and a camera, so everyone
wins," Sirius said, grinning. "But if you reckon it wouldn't work..."
know," I said, as I stared at James and Lily, pointedly ignoring one
another. "You might have given me an idea. Let's talk about it tonight."
I grinned. "Tonight I'm patrolling the corridors - and you two are coming with me."