“Okay, she’s smiling, which means she’s in a good mood, or she’s figured out something extremely mischievous.”
“Mischievous? Lily doesn’t do mischievous.”
Remus was telling James his deductions about everything Lily did, and he was trying to poke a hole in each one.
“Not so you’d notice she doesn’t. She’s better at covering up than we are. Remember that time the Hufflepuff team’s brooms started flying in formation in the entrance hall?”
“That was us.”
“Well, yeah. But she said afterwards that she wished she’d thought of it.”
“Okay, so either she’s in a good mood for some reason, or she’s cracked something mischievous, which is why she’s happy. Which one is more likely?”
“Probably not mischief, unless she’s had some sudden inspiration. But as she’s happy, you can go over there and be accepted better. So why don’t you?”
“Because it’s Lily. It’s not Darlene, or Esme, or Bella, or any of the other girls. I can smooth-talk them, because I don’t really – like them like them. This is a girl I’ve had a crush on since I first saw her. When I try smooth-talking, it comes out wrong. Okay?”
“Go over there and talk to her, you idiot. She likes you. I think.”
“You think. Great. I’m filled with confidence that –”
“Shut up and go over there. I don’t know why you’re arguing, you just said that you really liked this girl.”
“Which is why I can’t do this,” grumbled James, getting up all the same.
As he walked over, he felt like the world slowed down, giving him time to go over all the things that could possibly go wrong. The eight-second walk took about eight centuries. He felt like the whole common room was staring at him, and he blushed. Looking around is a mistake. No one’s looking at you. And do something about that blush! he lectured himself.
When the ordeal of the walk was over, he found himself at the desk, standing awkwardly over it, with Lily looking at him quizzically.
“… Hi,” he said, and mentally bashed himself in the head immediately after saying it. Great starting line, Potter.
“Hi,” replied Lily. She spoke to him! Hallelujah!
“Can I sit here?” he asked. Lily smiled that smile again. He loved that smile.
“Sure.” He was going to sit next to her! Lady Luck loved him!
He sat down. “So we’re going to Hogsmeade tomorrow, then?” Just get it over with...
“What gave you that idea?” Oh help… better try something quick!
“Well, you said you were going to, and I still want to, so I don’t see any reason for us to not be going.” This was good. That had been smart and fast. Best of all, it hadn’t sounded like something a dork would have said. He was coming back.
“Actually, what I said was, ‘If I don’t have a better offer.’ I think Severus’ offer counts as better than yours.”
“Severus’… but he’s a… he called you a…” He stopped. It would only get worse. What a fall. From smart and fast to stammering and gasping. Even a dork would do better than that.
“Called me what? I don’t recall him saying anything nasty to me. Well, I’ve finished my homework; I’d better get to bed. Gotta be fresh for my date.”
She left him gaping.
* * *
“This looks bad,” said Remus as James got back to their table.
“It’s bad. She’s going to Hogsmeade with Snivellus. Snivellus!”
“Wha-ha-ha-ha-ha… you’re kidding me.”
“I’m not. Her exact words were ‘I think Severus’ offer counts as better than yours.’”
“Ohhhh. That smile was mischief. Directed at you. And I must admit that you looked funny.”
“What? No, don’t repeat yourself, I heard you. So she’s having a laugh at my expense. I can take that. But how am I going to tell her I know that before she goes to sleep?”
* * *
“This is insanity, James. Let’s forget it, and you can talk to her in the morning.”
“I might miss her, and she might think I didn’t think about it, took her word for it, and went on my own. Besides, we’re here now, so why not?”
“Here” was the bottom of the corner of Hogwarts that ended in the girls’ dormitory tower. James had come up with a plan to get to Lily. He would fly up to her dormitory window under his invisibility cloak, watch, and wait. He knew for a fact that most nights she stayed up reading. If she showed any signs of going to bed before the other girls, he’d cast a Wakefulness Charm on her. It didn’t stop her being tired; it just stopped her going to sleep. Then when she was the only one awake, he’d take off the cloak. They’d talk. He just hoped that this wasn’t too romantic.
“Okay, I’m ready. You’re going to wait down here, right?”
“All night, if you transfigure a couple of these rocks into blankets and a bed. Mosquito net would be nice, too. And a bedside table. A fireplace wouldn’t go down too badly, either.”
“I’ll take that as a yes. Transfigure your own bedroom.”
Remus sighed. “If I can’t stop you going, at least put these on.”
“What are they?”
Remus sighed again. “Censoring glasses. They’ll do the same as your normal ones, and also censor out anything deemed inappropriate to the wearer. You do realize that girls get changed in their bedrooms?”
“Heck. Okay, give ‘em here.”
He donned the glasses and cloak, and then obviously kicked off, because there was a soft whooshing sound that moved off quickly. Remus was left sitting on a cold rock. He’d never been much good at Transfiguration.
* * *
James soared up the side of the tower, feeling good. He only felt this alive when he was flying. As he neared the top, he slowed a bit, looking in through the windows. Lily’s was near the top. Good! She was still awake, reading. A couple of other girls were up as well, chattering and giggling away in a corner. He watched them for a while. That was the thing about invisibility cloaks: you could perv without anyone knowing. But not with these glasses, he realized, as they blacked out. And Remus had put a Sticking Charm on them. That crafty fox! Not that I would, he added quickly. Of course not. Remus thought of everything. The lenses went opaque again, and the three chatting girls were climbing into bed, still talking. He looked over at Lily again. She was putting her book down, obviously preparing to go to bed as well. Not in the plan. He charmed her. She picked up her book again. The girls had stopped talking. About thirty minutes and five charms later, she was the only one left awake. And she looked very tired. Probably liable to be cranky. Well, he had to give it a go. He dipped under the window, pulled off the cloak, set it hovering in midair, and rose up again. She noticed him immediately. Dropping her book, she ran to the window, and opened it, only to hiss angrily, “What in hell do you think you’re doing, you idiot?”
He gulped. Not a good start. Oh well…
“Coming to talk to you.”
“And why did you have to fly up, knucklehead?”
“It seemed the most romantic way to do it. Course, you could tell me a better way, and then I’ll do that.”
She smiled slightly. Good. It wasn’t even a mischievous or mocking smile. It was a smile that said, “You almost made me laugh.”
“Well, now that you’re here, what do you want to talk about?”
“Well, things like where, how, and what time I should meet you; what I should wear; how much money I should bring; what I should bring; where we should go first…. I know that the whole going with Snape thing was just a spot of mischief.”
“Okay, it was a spot of mischief. But that still doesn’t mean I’m going with you.”
“Right then, first things first. Will you go to Hogsmeade with me?”
“Oh, alright. But this doesn’t mean I’ll be going out with you permanently. This is just because I didn’t get another offer. Okay?”
“Okay. Where do I meet you?”
“Common room, I suppose. Eight-thirty. You greet me as a friend, not as a girlfriend, got that? We’re not going out.”
“And the money?”
“Oh for heavens’ sake! Just bring as much as you think you should. And get out of here now, I need my sleep.”
“See you tomorrow then, Lily.”
As he soared down, once more under his invisibility cloak, James noticed that the moon looked slightly bluer than usual.
* * *
Remus was gone when he got back. Well, he had only said he’d stay there all night if James had conjured up a bedroom, hadn’t he? He was probably up in the dormitory, snoring away. James picked up his gear and walked back to the dormitory.
Remus wasn’t there, either.
Maybe he’s raiding the kitchens? But he’d have taken Padfoot and Wormtail if that was it. It can’t be that he’s transformed; the moon’s a week past the full. What’s happened?
He was getting worried now. He’d better go look for him. But he’d need more than a stag to find him. He’d need someone with an amazing nose, and someone who could get through a few tight spots…
Sirius and Peter were definitely there. You’d think they had loudspeakers strapped to them by the sound they were making. He could easily shake them awake, but… maybe if he cast Muffliato on everyone else…
After three Muffliatos, the other people in the room wouldn’t wake up if a wounded hippogriff roared in their ear. And, since snoring was what these two did best, they certainly deserved someone to show them how good they were at it.
He cast Sonorus on the two sleepers. They woke immediately. Two Quietuses later, the room was silent.
Sirius was the first to break the silence. “Why did you do that, you bastard?”
James grinned. That had been fun. But he had no time for fun now.
“Moony’s gone missing. I’ve got no idea what happened to him. We’ve gotta go look.”
“Wow, Wormtail, your powers of hearing are amazing.”
“Or not. I don’t know; that’s what makes me worried. If he’d been raiding the kitchen, he’d have taken you two. Come on, let’s go.”
“All right, let’s go. But I haven’t forgiven you for waking us up yet.”
Fifteen minutes later, a bear-like black dog accompanied by a stag with a rat riding on its antlers galloped across the grounds.
* * *
They went towards the place where James had been. Sirius sniffed around, trying to find a scent. After about a minute, he froze, popped back to human for just long enough to say, “Got it,” and then went back to dog. He ran off, nose to the ground, and James keeping pace beside him. Suddenly, Sirius stopped and became human again. James followed suit.
“What’s wrong, Padfoot? You look weird.”
“Well, by the way the scent’s going, he was going back to the castle. But then he stopped, and his scent changed. He smells like he’s in his wolf form. Then he ran off to the forest.”
“His wolf form? But it’s not the full. What’s going on?”
“I don’t know, but it’s not good. We’d better go after him. And James? Full alert. It smells like his wolf form, but it’s stronger than it should be. Which means one of three things: we’re right behind him, he stayed here for a couple of hours, or he’s bigger than normal. Be ready to fight.”
“I don’t want to hurt him.”
“If you don’t, he may kill you,” said Sirius, looking more serious than James had ever seen him.