A/N: This is just a fragment of nothing very much that leapt into my head and wouldn't go away when I came across this passage from ‘Carpe Diem'. I've neither read nor written Lily and James before, but I've had a great time meeting and getting to know them. Hopefully Harry would have approved.
"They turned, as if with one mind, to stroll clockwise round the lake, the earthen path worn smooth by feet of yesteryear. Harry briefly wondered if his parents had been amongst those who had walked this way once, and half-smiled to himself. Ginny slid her hand into his, but said nothing as they wandered along the undulating track beside the shore, stepping around tree roots, and glancing out over the tranquility of the stretch of water on their right."
~ from ‘Carpe Diem' Chapter 16.
~ * ~
"So what are you going to do about it?" James Potter demanded, staring into the deep green eyes that sparkled so furiously at him.
"Do about it?" she hissed at him, oblivious to the throng of students bustling around them in the entrance hall. "Do?" she repeated, her voice creeping higher with passion, and her hair spitting fire as she continued to glare at him. James writhed uncomfortably under her gaze, his awkwardness increasing by the moment as he saw Sirius grinning over at him and winking conspiratorially in his direction.
"Lily, I'm sorry," he protested, flinging out his hands in a gesture of surrender. "You were never meant to get caught up in all this. Forgive me?" He brushed his dark hair out of his eyes and smiled winningly, in the way that would have had half of the girls in his house swooning at his feet. But not Lily. She glowered furiously at him and jabbed him hard in the chest with her forefinger to emphasise each word she spoke.
"You ever do this to me again, James Potter, and trust me, the consequences will be far more excruciating than last time. I take it you can stretch your mind back as far as Christmas?"
James felt his face flame scarlet, and there was a muffled chortle behind him. He could remember that occasion all too well. They should have known better than to get Lily embroiled in one of their escapades again. It had been Padfoot's idea. Well, something like this could have only come from Sirius.
James' mind instantly flew back to their arrival at Hogwarts in September. Sirius had been clearly up to something, and once they were safely ensconced in their circular dormitory high in Gryffindor Tower, Sirius had swung the door shut with a theatrical flourish, and a devilish grin had spread across his face as he looked from face to face.
"Well, gentlemen," he said, clear blue eyes alight with anticipation. "New mischief for a new term. Highly against the rules, of course, but it promises to be a lot of fun." He bent and picked up a large wooden box, heaving it onto his bed by the window. They crowded curiously around, watching expectantly as Sirius lifted the lid.
"It's a few bits of dead wood," Peter wheezed with a sense of anti-climax, leaning in to pick one up to prove his point. "What are we going to do with them?"
"I'd not touch that if I were you," James chuckled, realising instantly what Sirius was up to. He exchanged grins with his best friend, as one of the ‘pieces of wood' made a savage snap at Peter's finger with ferociously sharp teeth.
Peter backed away hurriedly, whimpering slightly, and rubbing his fingers.
"Dugbogs," Remus smiled. "Well, they're certainly going to be an interesting addition to the dormitory. Better start watching your ankles now."
"Oh what's a little pain between friends?" Sirius proclaimed airily. "Just think of the fun we can have racing these across the common room. They can go pretty fast, and I think a little bit of betting here and there may just help to ease the pressure of our N.E.W.T.s this year. Wouldn't you agree?"
"Couldn't be better," James agreed, loving the idea. "But we've got one problem though, Padfoot. You know as well as I do that Dugbogs only move in water, and how are we going to do that in the common room without McGonagall noticing?"
"Easy," said Sirius, with a widening grin. "A certain girlfriend of yours is rather an expert at Charms."
"Sirius, you can't be serious," James protested, unable to resist the tease. All the same he felt a sense of deep foreboding. "We'll never manage to get Lily involved with something like this."
"We won't, but you will," Sirius laughed. "You just need to use some of that famous Potter charm. Come on, Prongs; it'll be a laugh."
Shaking himself back into the present from these famous last words, James found himself backed against the wall in the entrance hall, with Lily's livid face glaring up at him. Perhaps they had taken advantage of her one too many times, he reflected ruefully, although she usually gave as good as she got. Despite the seriousness of the situation, he couldn't help a small smile flickering across his lips as he remembered some of the things she had done to them in recent months. There was the unforgettable occasion of the shrinking underwear, which had quite literally brought tears to their eyes, and if that hadn't been bad enough, she'd charmed their robes to spring into bloom whilst whistling "An English Country Garden" at full volume. James didn't ever think he'd forget the look on Sirius' face, as they'd fled through the crowded corridors, back to Gryffindor Tower, covered in begonias. Even McGonagall had been seen in fits of laughter.
"I'm sorry," he repeated, rubbing his face with his hands. He looked straight at her, and grinned apologetically. "What do you want me to do to prove it to you? Fly starkers at the next Quidditch match?"
Her anger flickered like a candle in a draft, and her lips twitched for a second before she exploded into laughter at the concept.
"And what would you do if I took you up on that one, James?" she teased, raising her eyebrows at him.
"I'd do it. You know I would," he said, never once breaking eye contact with her. She gazed steadily back, a huge smile wreathed across her face. A challenge was silently set between them to see who would back down first, and after a few minutes, Lily let her gaze fall.
"You win," she chuckled, shaking her head at him. "Somehow I don't think the school's ready for that."
"I am sorry, you know," he repeated, reaching for her hand. He suddenly caught sight of his three friends hanging over the banister listening intently to every word, and then feigning casual disinterest when they caught his eye. "C'mon Lily," he muttered. "Let's get out of here for a bit."
He pushed his way through the milling crowds, with Lily following swiftly at his heels. They slipped out of the heavy oak doors at the front of the castle, closing them firmly behind them to block out the babbling torrent of tongues, breathing in the blissful solitude of outdoors. The early evening was still warm; fragments of lilac and rose-pink lazily stretched across the blueness of the sky, heralding the beginning of a spectacular sunset. The glow of the sun sparkled enticingly off the rippling energy of the lake. Catching her hand securely in his, they set off down the grey stone steps and across the sloping lawns towards the edge of the Hogwarts lake.
"You didn't get into much trouble, did you?" James asked hesitantly, as they drifted towards the shore and turned to walk clockwise around it, the way they always did. The path had been well worn over the years, and its compacted earthen surface bumped unevenly beneath their feet. They followed the water line for the most part, twisting every now and then to avoid the tree roots that encroached upon the track, leaves whispering seductively in the towering trees above them.
"Enough," Lily said bleakly after a short pause. "A whole week of detentions and a letter home about my behaviour." She stopped abruptly and James turned to look at her, guilt engulfing him right through to his very core. Her dark red hair caught the sunlight and sparkled enticingly, making him long to touch her. She gave a short rueful laugh. "You can just imagine my sister gloating about this one, can't you? Petunia will be in her element."
"Lily," James groaned, feeling worse than ever.
"It's fine," she said, glancing away from him and out across the water. "Don't worry, I didn't tell McGonagall it was you."
"You should have," James burst out vehemently. "There's absolutely no reason why you should take any of the blame for this at all. Come on," he tugged restlessly at her hand. "Let's go and see her now and get this sorted out."
"No," Lily said firmly. "You know as well as I do what would happen if I let you do that. She said last time if you put one more foot out of line you'd lose your responsibility as Head Boy, and I've got a clean record. I'll do those detentions. I suppose I deserve some of the blame anyway for letting you talk me into doing that charm." She shrugged her shoulders, resigned to her doom, and James could see by the set of her jaw that there was no point in arguing with her. He knew his Lily better than that.
"I don't know why you put up with me," he said at last.
"Me neither," she smiled wistfully up at him. "Maybe I should trade you in for a trouble free model?"
He looked at her, wondering what he could do to salvage something from the situation, and suddenly an idea occurred to him. Checking all around him to ensure he was unobserved, he transformed easily, limbs warmly melting like treacle and shooting forth, stretching and flowing into a new shape. He regarded Lily soulfully, exaggerated hurt pouring from his eyes. She pressed her lips together trying not to laugh as she spotted his stag-like appearance.
"James, it's no good trying those Bambi eyes on me," she grinned. "It's not going to work."
He tilted his head sideways, antlers gently nudging her, and looked up at her again with adoring brown eyes.
She laughed and stroked the soft velvety fur of his nose.
"OK, you're forgiven," she smiled, kissing his muzzle affectionately. "Now can I have my James back please?"
"I think I can manage that," he laughed, springing suddenly back into his shape, and shaking out his limbs. He pulled her into a tight hug. "Love you, Tiger Lily," he murmured, using the nickname he'd teasingly given to her back in the first year. He buried his face penitently in her hair. "I won't do anything like that to you again, I promise."
"You'd better not," she laughed, kissing him gently, making him feel as if he were suddenly walking on clouds.
She slid her arm through his and they continued their stroll around the lake, watching the glorious array of colours reaching across the sky and merging in fluid swirls of glowing shades, as the sun itself darkened to a burnt orange hue. He felt her lean in against his arm, and smiled to himself. He loved it when it was just the two of them, like this. Nice and peaceful, content just to be. Not like the world outside.
"Lily," he said suddenly, as the towers and turrets of the castle began to loom up darkly before them. "What are we going to do when we get out of here at the end of the year?"
"What do you mean?" she asked curiously examining the mutinous expression on his face. Then her expression softened. "Oh James," she sighed, rubbing her hand reassuringly across his back. "You can't change what's happened."
"I'm not going to hang around and do nothing," he retorted, feeling the bitterness surge through him once more. "There's a war going on out there Lily and I'm going to do my damnedest to make sure he doesn't win. Look at what he's done already."
"I know. I know," she said chewing her lip. "It might be all over by then, James. The Daily Prophet have been really positive about everything recently, and some Death Eaters have been captured."
"Good," he said through barely contained anger. "It's not enough, not after what he's done. I want to do more. I want to make sure Voldemort never gets the chance to do something like this again. Not to me, not to anyone."
Silence fell between them. Gentle hooting sounds floated across the ever-darkening evening sky as owls began to flutter from the owlery on various missions. The dying golden glory of the sky danced on the ripples of the lake, stealing life for as long as possible before darkness reigned.
"If it comes down to that," she said steadily, cupping his face in her hand and gazing into his eyes. "I want to be fighting there right along with you. No arguments, James."
"I wouldn't dare," he whispered, staring at her in awe, knowing full well that Lily never made rash promises. "But things are getting better," he mused, wrapping his arms around her to keep out the chill settling on the evening. "You're right, this could be all over by the summer."
"Leaving us to get on with our lives," Lily smiled. She chuckled suddenly and placed her hand on his chest. "You know," she said. "I can see you about five or six years from now forcing our children onto your broomstick and teaching them to play Quidditch before they've even got the hang of walking properly. If you have your way, they'll be practising scoring goals from the womb."
"I should think so too," he grinned. "Although, I suppose I won't be too disappointed if we end up with a Seeker or something. No kid of mine is going to grow up without Quidditch, that's for certain."
"What am I letting myself in for?" she laughed. "Maybe I should run away now whilst I've still got the chance."
"You dare," he said gruffly. "I've got every intention of spending the rest of my life with you. There's so much I want to do with you Lily. Get out there and see places, travel a bit after this war's over. Watch you grow old and get wrinkles." He yelped as she playfully elbowed him on the ribs.
"That'll be after you develop middle-age spread?" she queried innocently.
"Probably," he laughed, reaching for her hand again, and beginning a happy stroll back uphill to the castle. "The future's ours, Lily. You and me."
The last band of bright orange sunlight slowly melted into the horizon leaving the world in a shadowy realm, the darkness tightening its grasp as time passed by.