It starts one early morning in the Great Hall, with a hickey.
Lily is barely coherent nor fully awake yet, her head keeps lolling forward and threatening to drop into her bowl of porridge. Her friends take the seats beside her and Mary pushes the pot of tea over to her which Lily takes with a grateful hum.
“Alright Lily?” Marlene asks, reaching for a piece of toast.
Lily grunts; out of all her friends she’s the worst in the mornings, closely followed by Peter and Remus who often stumble from their dormitory looking ready to murder anyone who steps too close. Sirius Black and James Potter are infuriatingly put together in the mornings, much to her disgust.
Sirius bounds over to them all like an eager puppy, slipping into the spot beside James and across from Remus. With nothing better to do Lily watches the Marauders absently as she chews on her porridge. Peter is minutes away from falling asleep at the table, his round chin resting on his fist and eyes drifting closed, whilst Remus seems to be waking himself up with a third mug of coffee. She doesn’t let herself linger on James for too long, his hair is scruffier than usual and he throws his head back to laugh at something Sirius just said. Lily quickly looks away as her heart does a little jump against her ribcage.
She focuses on Sirius instead. He’s chattering to the table, seemingly uncaring about whether or not anyone is actually listening to him; all the while pulling his thick black hair into a messy bun, held together with his wand sticking through it - terrible wand safety honestly.
That’s when Lily sees it.
It’s a small blemish at most, a circle of purple just below Sirius’ right ear, but it’s unmistakable in its origin.
The only issue is that as far as Lily is aware, Sirius isn’t seeing anyone right now.
“Oi! Black!” She catches his attention easily, feeling progressively more awake as curiosity replaces her desire to fall back asleep. “Is that a hickey?”
Sirius raises his eyebrow at her. “What’s it to you Evans?” He asks around a mouthful of toast and egg.
“Just curious, I didn’t think you were seeing anyone.”
Sirius shrugs, unbothered. “Yeah it’s a hickey, and yeah I am,” he answers easily, as though the news is nothing of importance.
“Like a one time thing?”
He shakes his head. “Nah, we’ve been together for almost five months now.”
The words jerk Lily into full attention. “What? Why don’t I know about this?”
Sirius smiles at her, bemused by her questioning. “Sorry Evans, didn’t realise I had to run my relationships past you.”
She sticks her tongue out at him in retaliation and he grins back.
The conversation drops after that but it doesn’t leave her mind throughout the rest of breakfast. There’s simply no reasonable explanation for it. Sirius has never been one to keep his relationships secret, the type to parade around the girls he’s seeing until everyone is begging him to shut up. Lily has, on multiple occasions, had to put a ban on relationship related discussions during what were meant to be study sessions. Remus and Sirius had once gotten into a huge row that lasted over a week over how much Sirius and his girlfriend of the month had been snogging in communal areas.
The girls Sirius were usually with were equally loud about their relationship with him. The Marauders are more than popular in the school, idolised by the younger years, and had gained the respect of older students even before they entered third year. Their pranks were infamous amongst the teachers, but famous to the student body. Not only that, but they’re attractive. James and Sirius especially are fawned over by almost every girl in the school, mischievous, dashing and kind spirited, they need only wink at a girl to have her wrapped around their finger.
So for Sirius Orion Black to be dating a girl and no one in the school to know about it is unheard of. It makes no conceivable sense, and if there’s something Lily Evans likes most in this world, it’s a puzzle.
She hurries out of the Great Hall after the boys, waving goodbye to Mary, Marlene and Dorcas as she goes.
“I just don’t understand why you’ve never mentioned this girl before,” she says, catching up and falling into step with Sirius and Remus.
“Merlin Lily I thought we dropped the subject,” Sirius teases, nudging her shoulder with his.
She huffs. “I’m just curious. You don’t usually keep this kind of thing to yourself.”
“It’s just different this time,” Sirius says vaguely, shouldering his book bag more securely.
He pauses, as if thinking about it. “This relationship is more important to me than the others. We wanted to keep it a secret for a while, give us a chance to be together without any pressure.”
“So you’re properly serious about this girl then?” Lily asks, they round the corner towards the transfiguration and charms classrooms.
Sirius grins wolfishly. “I’m always Sirius.”
James groans and punches Sirius’ shoulder through his laughter.
“But yeah, I am, properly serious that is.”
“So you’re keeping it private but how private?” She asks, and turns to Remus. “Do you know who he’s with?”
Remus smiles as if laughing inwardly at the question. “Yeah I know.”
“What about you two?” She demands, catching James and Peter’s attention. They both nod to confirm.
“Why can’t I know?”
Sirius shrugs. “It’s nothing personal Lily, we just wanted to keep it as private as possible and couldn’t keep it from these guys.”
They lapse into silence as Lily thinks that over. She understands wanting to keep personal relationships private, especially with how watched the Marauders are. A relationship with any one of them is bound to capture everyone’s attention. That being said, Lily is their friend, and she’s desperate to know.
“You can’t tell me?” She smiles at him hopefully.
Sirius laughs. “Alright Evans, if you’re so curious, I have a proposition for you.”
The other Marauders seem to take interest in this, slowing enough that they’re all walking in a tight group. Peter and Remus share a confused look.
“We’ll set up a little bet, you have until the end of the school year - so two months - to work out who I’m dating, or…” he pauses to think and with an evil smirk decides, “or you have to ask your crush out on a date.”
“Pads!” James complains, looking hurt at the suggestion.
Sirius claps him on the back. “Just trust me mate.” He smirks at Lily, a knowing glint in his grey eyes. A flush burns Lily’s cheeks, turning her almost as red as her hair, she pointedly avoids looking at James.
“Depends, what do I get if I win?” Lily asks, pretending to mull it over when really she knows that the promise of a challenge and the curiosity already present in her mind is enough.
“Uh, you get to know who I’m dating?”
She crosses her arms with a huff. “That hardly seems fair, I should get something for winning.”
Sirius narrows his eyes in challenge and they stare each other down for a few beats, when she doesn’t back down he relinquishes.
“Fine, what do you want?”
Lily thinks it over for a hallway before the perfect idea comes to her. “If I win, and I work out who you’re dating, you can’t prank Severus for the first term of next year.”
Sirius laughs, taking in the challenging glint in her eye and shrugs with a nod.
“Alright, you’re on Evans.”
They both ignore James’ grumble of “this seems like a lose-lose situation to me.”
Peter interjects. “Do you need to check with the person you’re dating first?”
“It’ll be fine, I’d say they’ll think it’s funny,” Remus answers before Sirius can.
Sirius nods, ruffling Peter’s hair. “Moony’s right. I wouldn’t have suggested it if I didn’t think we’d both be on board.”
“Got a good sense of humour, that lover of yours,” Remus agrees.
Sirius grins, his eyes taking on a fond and affectionate brightness. “Yeah.”
“So she’s got a good sense of humour then?” Lily confirms and all four boys’ eyes snap to look at her.
Sirius shakes his head. “No cheating Evans, I will neither confirm nor deny.”
Lily pouts. “Oh come off it Black, I need some clues, there’s too many girls in the school.”
Sirius chuckles as if she’s said something secretly amusing but doesn’t argue. “Okay fine, we’ll each give you a clue.”
Remus waves his hand noncommittally. “I gave away the good sense of humour, so that can be mine.”
Peter speaks up next with his clue, fidgeting with his tie nervously.
“You two get on well, and-” he’s cut off by Sirius all but throwing himself at Peter.
“Woah Wormy! One clue’s plenty.” He ruffles Peter’s hair good naturedly and the two boys grin at each other even as Peter slaps Sirius’ hand away.
Lily objects. “I disagree! No offense Pete, but that clue barely helps at all. I get on well with nearly all the girls in school, except maybe one or two Slytherins.”
Sirius shrugs, unbothered. “Then you can rule out those one or two Slytherins.”
She grumbles, sticking her tongue out at him but accepts the point. “Fine, what’s your clue then, Black.”
He answers her without hesitation. “I can guarantee you’ve spoken to them before.” He holds up a hand to stop her before she can protest that his is basically the same clue as Peter’s. “A proper conversation,” he clarifies.
“Okay so she’s not just some random Hufflepuff fifth year that I’ve never spoken to.”
Sirius waggles his finger at her. “Ah ah ah, might be a Hufflepuff, might be a fifth year, you don’t get extra clues Evans; but no, not random.”
She turns to James expectantly, the last to give her a hint. He hums in thought, running his fingers through his perpetually messy hair in what Lily used to assume was a display of arrogance, an attempt to seem aloof and cool, and now recognises to be a nervous habit; admittedly one formed out of a desire to seem aloof and cool.
“It’s not someone you would expect,” he says finally.
“What does that even mean?” She demands but James just shrugs at her, offering a grin that makes her stomach twist.
“I can’t say more, but I promise it’s more helpful than it seems.”
She pulls a face, turning the clues over in her brain. They all seem utterly unhelpful, even Remus’ - although by far the most clear - is entirely subjective.
A thought occurs to her as she mulls them over, a kink in their otherwise perfect bet.
“What if you break up before the end of the school year?” She asks. All four boys wince at the prospect.
“Yeah, that’s not going to happen,” Remus assures her, turning up his nose at the idea.
“This was a long time coming,” Sirius adds, nodding in agreement with Remus. “I’m in it for as long as humanly possible.”
It’s a bold claim, but as Lily looks at Sirius’ earnest and smitten expression she finds that she believes him.
“Alright then Black,” she says, feeling reassured. “You’re on.”
She holds out a hand for Sirius to shake and he clasps it with an impish grin.
“Can’t wait, Evans.”
Remus Lupin is an excellent student, but a terrible prefect. The issue is that in the choosing process for prefects, the teachers remembered the studious and book focused side of Remus, and managed to forget that he is as much a Marauder as the other three boys (perhaps more so than Peter who would often prefer a game of chess to the antics of his friends). Although compared to his friends Remus is academic focused and well mannered, always with his nose buried in a book; the reality is that he’s no more well behaved and rule abiding than his closest friends, he is simply more adept at not getting caught.
This meant that Lily was roped with Remus in her prefect duties, forced to be the one to keep them on track and on time when he would quite clearly rather be doing anything else.
“Can you at least pretend to be monitoring with me?” Lily sighs when Remus scribbles down another statue name onto a piece of parchment. “Or tell me what you boys are planning so I can be half interested in whatever you’re writing?”
Remus has the decency to look sheepish, pocketing the parchment with hands raised in surrender.
“Sorry Lily, can’t tell you. Secret Marauder business.” He winks at her.
She rolls her eyes but doesn’t push, having long since learnt that when the boys have decided to keep a prank a secret it’s better just to hope you won’t end up in the crossfire.
They walk along in silence for a while, Remus actually scanning the halls with her in an effort to apologise for putting all the work on her no doubt. Lily lets her mind return to her current concern, who Sirius could possibly be dating.
“I’m going to lose this stupid bet,” she groans after a few minutes of deliberating some of the potential girls in her mind.
Remus glances at her, smiling as if he’s trying not to laugh. “The bet with Sirius?”
“Merlin’s beard Remus, how many bets do you think I’m in?”
He shrugs, scratching at a scar that cuts across his jawbone. “James is in like four at the moment, Peter’s got two going, I’m pretty sure I’m in three but they’re all with Sirius so…”
She rolls her eyes, unsurprised by the answer. “Well I’m only in one, and I’m going to lose.”
Remus smiles kindly, giving her his full attention. “Why do you think you’re going to lose? It’s only been a week.”
Grateful for the open invitation to complain Lily groans. “There’s too many options! How am I meant to do anything with the vague clues you all gave me!”
“You’re smart, we can’t make it too easy for you.”
She pulls a face. “I suppose, but I've been watching, he doesn’t flirt with anyone.”
“No one?” Remus asks, raising his eyebrow at her.
“No one,” she emphasises. “He’s a natural born flirt! Him and Potter are all over any girl who’ll give them a second glance, making arses of themselves.” She tries not to let any jealousy seep into her tone but after seeing Remus’ amused glance, she’s pretty sure she fails.
“I suppose he’s probably not flirting with ‘any girl who’ll give him a second glance’ because he’s in a relationship,” Remus points out, not unkindly.
Lily huffs, blowing a strand of hair out of her face. “Well I know that. I just thought since I’ve seen it so often his flirting would be so obvious. It’s harder than I thought.”
Remus hums in understanding. “I think it’s more obvious than you think, try not to get too caught up in your head about it.”
“You’re really not going to give me any hints? Surely you know a lot about her! Just a little hint,” she pleads, batting her eyelashes at him hopefully. Those eyes would work on most other boys in their year but Remus just grins at her and shakes his head.
“Nope, sorry Lily.”
“But you do know a lot about her?” She confirms.
He chews on his lip as though trying to stop himself from laughing. “Yeah, I do.”
Peter is even less helpful, barely even entertaining the conversation.
“Sorry Lily,” he says over a game of chess in the common room. “Sirius swore me to secrecy.”
“You don’t have to tell me anything proper! Just a small clue!” She assures him but Peter shakes his head.
“Can’t tell you anything - Knight to G4 - Sirius would have my head.”
Lily watches in dismay as Peter’s knight clobbers her rook over the head and it makes its dejected way off the board.
“I’m starting to think you boys just know nothing about her and you’re using the ‘secrecy’ excuse to distract me,” she grumbles.
Peter laughs heartily, as if she said something far funnier than she did. “I promise you, all three of us know who it is, and know the person.”
Remus walks into the room, leaning over the couch to take in their game.
“Having any luck Lily?” He asks kindly, Peter’s known for being a whiz at chess and the other Gryffindors have made it their mission to find someone to beat him.
“Not at all,” she answers. “Pawn to D3”
Both Remus and Peter wince in sympathy which doesn’t bode well for Lily’s position on the board. Though she had eagerly joined in on the ‘beat Peter at chess action plan’ Lily is one of the worst players of the lot; the only person she can beat easily is James, which carries the same weight as bragging about having a more advanced reading level than a toddler.
Peter has her in checkmate three moves later.
James on the other hand at least has the decency to humour the conversation, humming along to Lily’s suggestions and listening to her ramble all the while floating a quill above his head and attempting to balance it on his nose.
“You, Remus and Peter are no help,” she complains after he’s sat listening to her for at least ten minutes and given her no useful responses.
James chuckles warmly, and Lily knows she should feel irked that he’s laughing at her but it doesn’t seem like he is, it’s like he’s laughing with her at an inside joke that she’s missing some of the pieces to.
“We can’t let Padfoot down. Besides, none of us want him to lose. Pranks aren’t the same without all four of us,” James says, managing to balance the quill on his nose for a second.
She rolls her eyes at him. “You’d survive.”
He grins with that specific James Potter glow that warms her core.
“Maybe so, but at what cost?”
She bites her lip to stop herself from smiling. “You’re so dramatic. I just thought you of all the boys would help me.” It’s a bit of a low blow but after a week of watching Sirius like a hawk Lily has made literally no strides forward and it’s time to start taking action.
James juts out his bottom lip in a pout.
“Aw Evans, don’t be like that. If this wasn’t for Padfoot you know I’d tell you everything I could in a heartbeat right? I’d do anything for you,” he says, turning his head to the side so his sparkling dark brown eyes are staring earnestly into Lily’s green ones.
Warm electricity thrills down Lily’s spine at the words, so desperate and wonderful that she has to look away from him to dispel it. The issue with realising she fancies James Potter is that she has spent the last five and a half years adamant that she would never think of him as anything but an arrogant, selfish jerk. Not to mention, James had spent the better part of their early years at Hogwarts seemingly determined to prove her right. He was immature, loud, and abrasive, and she had every right to dislike him. However, since getting to know him better Lily has realised that most of her initial judgements were very wrong.
Over the years, when Lily wasn’t looking, he matured, recognising his own faults and working to improve them. He’s kind, even more so than he needs to be; and despite still lacking an appreciation for the rules, he no longer does anything that could hurt someone else unless they deal the first blow. Lily now knows that it would be impossible to meet a boy more loyal and devoted to his friends than James Fleamont Potter.
To be considered a part of James Potter’s heart is an honour that not many can boast of, because the depth of his affection for his friends runs so deep it seems consuming. Lily is beginning to realise, and fall harder for it, that she has always held a part of that beautiful heart. Even when she thought he was a jerk who would never do good for anyone but himself, James would have done anything for her.
So she fancies James, it’s something she can admit to herself within the safety of her own mind, but isn’t ready to accept out loud. There’s no issues about his feelings for her. Of course she knows he feels the same way; he has asked her out incessantly since the day they met, and this year of closer friendship has made it clear that his feelings for her are not surface affection. No, the issue is that she doesn’t feel ready to admit how wrong she was, to give in to his smiles and her friends’ teasing and recognise that she had been incorrect about him for all those years.
He breaks her out of her reverie by saying, as if talking to himself. “What I can tell you is that they’re really good together.” He glances at Lily to see her reaction.
“Sirius and his girlfriend?” Lily confirms.
James hums. “They really care about each other, it’s very sweet.” The quill tickles Lily’s face as it falls to the floor and James has to levitate it back to his hand.
“So you like her then?”
He smiles at the ceiling, amused. “Yeah, loads.”
“She gets the ‘James Potter seal of approval’?” Lily teases.
James beams at her words, puffing his chest with pride.
“Actually, yes. They both asked for my blessing before they started dating, it was quite sweet.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“I am! You have to understand Evans. I can only allow the best for my friends.”
Lily laughs and quickly covers it with a cough. “You boys are so dramatic, I’m surprised you think anyone’s good enough for Sirius.”
James chuckles. “Well he and his paramour are more than good enough for each other, they’re perfect, you’d be stupid not to think so.”
“Paramour Prongs? Really?” Sirius interrupts, calling out from across the common room. Lily sits up just in time to see him march down the staircase from the boys’ dormitories, Remus in tow. “You’re such a pretentious wanker sometimes.”
James lets out a booming laugh. “Says you! Aristocratic prick.”
“Oi! I resent that,” Sirius grumbles with an accusing finger pointed at James, the beaming smile on his face taking any malice from the words.
He reaches over to tousle James’ hair boisterously, the affection quickly turning into a playful fight across the couch. Remus and Lily share an amused look just as Sirius goes flying with the force of one of James’ kicks. Remus rolls his eyes and grabs at the back of James’ cloak to stop him leaping after him with the practised air of someone who has broken up one too many of these such fights.
“I hear you’ve been talking the lads’ ears off about my mystery sweetheart,'' Sirius gibes at Lily, smirking when she scowls at him. He flops onto the couch beside James who in return plops his feet into his lap. Remus, standing behind Sirius rests his chin on top of his friend’s head and settles his hands onto his shoulders.
“You’ve set me up for failure Black,” she grumbles.
He shrugs loosely. “I never said I was gonna make it easy for you.”
“I expected it to be obvious,” she explains and he smiles, that same irritating, vaguely amused smile all the boys have been sporting whenever she talks about the bet.
“It is,” he answers cryptically.
“Can I get some help?” She asks, clutching at the hope of any kind of assistance. She cuts him off before he can deny. “Not from any of you lot, from Mary, Dorcas and Marlene.”
Sirius pauses, mouth snapping closed and contemplating. He looks at James and Remus in turn, raising an eyebrow in silent question, James shrugs minutely, Sirius raises both eyebrows, James inclines his head towards Remus, who gives a small nod of approval. Lily follows the interaction like a student who has only just started learning a foreign language, only vaguely aware of what’s happening but almost positive she is missing something.
“Alright sure, you can have help.” Sirius concedes. “But only Mary, Marlene and Dorcas.”
She nods, agreeing to the terms easily. “Thank you.”
Sirius pulls a dismissive face and says with a laugh to his voice. “No need to thank me, I'm hoping maybe now you’ll give us four a break from your pestering.”
Laughter fills the common room as Lily tickles his feet in retaliation.
By the next Gryffindor quidditch match Lily is no closer to working out who Sirius Black is dating, even with newfound help from the girls. From all her careful surveillance in the past two weeks all she’s gathered is that he doesn’t seem to be spending much time with anyone other than the Marauders. If anything he’s been spending more time with his friends than usual.
She turns her attention away from Sirius and his godforsaken love life to focus on the upcoming game. Lily’s never been all that interested in Quidditch, but she’s invested on behalf of her friends. Marlene, Sirius and James are all on the team and Peter - though lacking the general coordination to be a player - is just as interested in play as the rest of them. So as a result she finds herself at every game.
The Gryffindors cheer around her as the team walks onto the pitch. The stands are awash with gold and maroon, streaks of face paint and loud screaming excitement. Across from them in the stands opposite is a sea of blue and bronze. The Ravenclaw house are equally excited to support their team, waving banners and throwing homemade fire poppers that explode in bright blue sparks.
There’s no denying that the Quidditch teams look good in their uniforms, it’s something that everyone reluctantly agrees upon, and the members of the teams equally are aware of. Lily’s stomach swoops as James grins up at the stands, running his fingers through his already dreadfully messy hair. She redirects her attention to Sirius who is similarly basking in the attention. He winks up at the stands, focus directed somewhere so near where Lily is seated, he could be looking at her. She quickly scans the area for where his girlfriend could be but the sea of excited and flustered faces give her no hope of guessing who could have caught Sirius’ eye, if it even was his mystery girl.
She does however notice that both Remus and Peter seem just as interested in the team as everyone else. Peter is no surprise, he has a habit of fancying a new girl for every day of the week. Remus however, isn’t known for showing much interest in anyone, in all her years of friendship with him Lily has never heard of him having a single crush.
She leans over Mary and nudges Remus’ shoulder.
“Fancy someone on the Quidditch team Remus?” She asks slyly, waggling her eyebrows and delighting in the way he flushes red.
“You wish Evans,” he retorts haughtily. She pulls a disapproving face at him and he amends with a sigh. “Well I’m not blind. Everyone loves an athlete.”
Peter mutters something under his breath that Lily misses and in response Remus slaps him up the back of his head. Any other friends and she might be concerned, but the action just sends Peter into a fit of giggles.
The stands erupt in cheers as the teams kick off the ground with the shrill blow of Madam Hooch’s whistle. Both Seekers soar up into the air, disappearing almost completely amongst the clouds. Sirius and Marlene trail above the Chasers, bats hanging loosely in their grips and eyes sharp.
“Potter takes the Quaffle, and immediately makes a pass to Kingsberry,” the commentary starts, ringing across the pitch and play kicks off.
The game passes in a blur of colour. James scores and soon after a Ravenclaw chaser does the same. The Seekers circle above them all like hawks, sharp and keen eyes scanning for signs of the small golden Snitch.
Sirius punts a Bludger in the direction of the Ravenclaw team, throwing his dark hair out of his eyes and grinning when the stands cheer.
“He’s such a show off,” Remus scoffs, smiling fondly up at his friend.
Some girls in front of them sigh wistfully, Lily recognises one of them from the year below, Elizabeth Kingsington.
“Black’s so handsome,” the other girl practically drools, tugging longingly on her long dark hair.
“I know,” Kingsington sighs. “There isn’t anything I wouldn’t like to do to him.”
The other girl laughs, shrill and high pitched. “God Liz you’re so naughty.”
Lily glances over at Peter and Remus nervously. They both look distinctly uncomfortable, mouths pinched and eyebrows furrowed, but neither say anything so Lily doesn't either.
Sirius launches after another Bludger and the girls gasp gleefully in unison. Remus’ eyes flick towards them.
“I want to run my fingers through that hair,” the other girl says, her dark fingers curling into her robes.
“I want to do more than that to it,” Elizabeth giggles. Peter wrinkles his nose and Remus frowns. “Maybe I’ll sit near him at dinner tonight, I reckon I can get him to notice me and then it’s only a matter of time…” she trails off and Mary jumps in.
“No point ladies,” she says, tapping Kingsington on her shoulder and drawing the girls’ attention to her. “He’s taken.”
“Sirius Black?” The other girl confirms, looking offended by the suggestion.
Mary nods. “Not much point going after him.”
Kingsington scoffs, tossing her maroon and gold scarf over her shoulder. “That doesn’t sound right, I’ve heard he’s single.”
“Well we’re telling you he’s not,” Lily says pointedly, frowning at the girl.
She sniffs at Lily. “It can’t be too serious, if the whole school still thinks he’s single.”
“People don’t have to go around shouting their relationships from the rooftops for them to matter,” Lily rebuts, feeling more and more angry at the girl’s implications.
“Sirius Black does. He mustn’t be all too into this girl, he’s always talked about his relationships before,” Kingsington says haughtily, smiling as though she has won the fight. “I reckon I could win him from her without even trying.”
“Oi, shut up!” Peter cuts in, drawing all of their attention. He looks indignant on behalf of his friend, face screwed up and angry. Remus looks practically livid, with an upset scowl deep set into his mouth. Peter continues, “you don’t know shit about Sirius and you wouldn’t know how he feels from a rat’s arse, so butt out.”
The two girls blanch at the sight of the Marauders and immediately turn back to the game, squeaking out matching apologies
Everyone’s attention returns to Quidditch aside from Peter and Remus who speak together in hushed tones. Remus seems genuinely upset on behalf of his friend, his frown heavy and saddened. They whisper to each other, debating something Lily can’t hear until Peter says something that makes Remus laugh and they both seem settled. It’s evidence to Lily of the loyalty between the Marauders, a slight on one is an attack on all four of them. Someone being rude to Sirius about his relationship was equally upsetting to Remus as it would be to Sirius himself.
The game continues in blurred streaks of maroon and blue and screaming cheers as Chasers score goal after goal. The board is painfully tied up, Gryffindor score and immediately after Ravenclaw do the same. Suddenly all attention on the main action of the game halts as the two Seekers nosedive towards the left of the pitch. Lily holds her breath, alternating between trying to spot the gold pinprick the two players are aiming for and watching as they surge towards it.
Cheers erupt like a volcanic explosion as the Ravenclaw Seeker’s fingers close around the Golden Snitch and she holds it aloft in victory. The Gryffindor stands applaud alongside their Ravenclaw counterparts in the name of good sportsmanship, but amongst them Lily can hear rows of expletives and swears, Peter accounting for a good deal of it.
Remus leans over to Lily, the seat between them vacated by Mary as she hurries to talk to Marlene.
“Bloody hell, Sirius, James and Peter aren’t going to shut up about this for days,” he groans.
She pats his shoulder sympathetically. “Come on, maybe we can cheer them up and spare you an hour or two.”
James pulls himself out of a crowd of people when he sees them hurrying towards him. Lily and Peter reach him first but Remus branches away to head for Sirius. Lily notices that the Gryffindor team are quite dejected as they chatter to their classmates; the Ravenclaw game hadn’t seemed an easy win necessarily but Lily is aware that the team had felt confident they would come through with a victory. The loss has left them all quite downhearted.
“Hey Evans!” James greets her first, she can’t help but smile.
Peter mutters, “What am I chopped liver?” and they both ignore him.
“Hey. Alright?” She tracks the way James’ smile falters slightly, taking the game to heart. As the Captain of the Gryffindor team it makes sense he would feel so injured by the loss.
He shrugs. “Not too bad, it’s a shame about the loss but we’ll come back from it.”
“It’ll be easy Prongs!” Peter jumps in. “The Ravenclaw team exploited our weaknesses but you guys can fix those up no problem!”
Peter and James launch into a play by play of the game, immediately picking apart and analysing every aspect of the Gryffindor team’s actions. Lily trails away from them, bored within minutes. She does her best to keep up with the Quidditch tournament and listens when her friends need an ear to ramble to; but that doesn’t mean she’s going to subject herself to intense analytical breakdowns of a match she just sat through.
Besides, Sirius is the more melodramatic of the Marauders and she doesn’t doubt that Remus will need help wrangling him into a good mood.
However to her surprise Sirius is already laughing and smiling when she reaches him and Remus, seemingly unbothered by the recent loss.
“You really thought that dive I did to cover Notting was cool?” Sirius asks Remus, his eyes sparkling in excitement.
“I really did,” Remus replies, smiling fondly at him. Sirius looks genuinely excited by Remus’ reaction, grinning like he just won the Quidditch game single handedly.
“But,” Remus says, “we’ve got to tie up your hair during games. You look like a right arse showing off and flicking it over your shoulder.” He ruffles Sirius’ hair good naturedly.
“Aww, you love my hair Moony,” Sirius croons, ducking away from Remus’ hands and shoving at his torso. “It’s been described as my ‘most winning feature’ you know?”
“Oh yeah?” Remus raises an eyebrow. “Well I think you look like a scruffy mutt,” he teases, tugging on the nearest lock.
Sirius grins wolfishly. “I don’t believe you.”
“Don’t believe me huh? Don’t believe me?” Remus laughs as he lunges at Sirius and pulls him into a headlock, mussing with his hair. Sirius bellows with laughter, slapping at Remus’ arms and trodding on his toes, his eyes screwed shut and overjoyed.
Remus releases him, with that same fondness in his eyes from earlier, entertained by his friend.
“Oh, hey Evans,” Sirius says, opening his eyes and finally noticing her standing a few metres away.
“Hey. Good game,” she greets, walking over to the pair. “You played well.”
Sirius grins at the compliment. “Thanks, shame about the loss but honestly I think we knew we were gonna lose deep down.”
He nods. “The Ravenclaw team have been training really hard since Slytherin wiped the pitch with them. We’ll just need to put in a bit more effort to improve I reckon.”
Remus butts in with a groan. “Does that mean more Quidditch practises?”
“Will you miss me, Moony?” Sirius teases, pouting dramatically as he throws himself across Remus’ shoulders.
Lily giggles behind her hand watching Remus stagger under Sirius’ weight.
“You? Nah I’m gonna miss Prongs,” Remus shoots back, shoving Sirius off him and flicking him between the eyes.
Sirius gasps, scandalised, and the three of them start to make their way back to the castle.
For a couple of days the bet between her and Sirius slips from Lily’s mind. She doesn’t even spare the subject a thought. Between Professor McGonagall assigning them a beast of a Transfiguration paper and a few third year Gryffindors wreaking havoc, making her and Remus’ prefect duties hell for the week, she doesn’t have time to think about her friend’s dating life.
However the subject returns to her mind that Thursday night as she’s making her way back to Gryffindor tower. She passes Sirius scurrying down a back corridor, headed in the opposite direction and pulls to a halt.
He’s not necessarily acting suspicious, walking with his usual confident stride and a smile on his face. However the lack of another Marauder by his side is enough to raise Lily’s suspicions. It’s unusual to find one of the boys alone unless heading to a class that none of them share; and that is unlikely to occur at five in the evening.
There aren’t many reasons Sirius would be out on his own, not unless he was meeting a secret lover for an evening rendezvous - she curses herself for using the word rendezvous unironically in her mind, maybe James is rubbing off on her. Lily takes off down the hallway after Sirius, the allure of potentially catching him in the act a temptation she can’t possibly resist.
She’s sure to keep a decent distance between them, should Sirius get suspicious she can pass off her being there as pure coincidence rather than spying. Not that he can judge her for tailing him, it’s his fault she’s so invested in the first place.
He doesn’t appear to be heading towards any major pranking points in the castle either, like the Slytherin common rooms or the Great Hall; which only furthers her excitement. Instead he ducks and weaves through corridors, a bounce in his step, picking up urgency as he goes.
All of a sudden Sirius pauses midway down the hall and Lily has the good sense to duck behind a statue just in time. Her suspicions of him meeting his mystery girl seem proven correct as he glances both ways down the corridor to ensure no one is watching and slips behind a tapestry Lily hadn’t even known concealed a secret corridor. What better snogging location is there than a secret corridor most of the student body don’t know about?
Practically skipping with excitement she hurries after him, stopping just outside the concealed hall. With careful fingers she peels back the corner of the tapestry to peer into the hidden area. Her excitement disappears in a rush, filling her with a heavy disappointment like sand in her veins at the sight she sees. Sirius’ back is mostly to her, but she can see who he’s meeting, standing lounged against a wall; not a mysterious lover after all but Remus Lupin.
Remus, without the watchful eyes of teachers and other peers, looks more relaxed than Lily has ever seen him, cocky even. It’s not that he’s always uptight, quite the opposite, considering he and his friends are the cause of more than half of Lily’s stress headaches from their inability to be uptight about anything. Still, even around her and the other Gryffindor girls he usually holds a constant tension in his shoulders and back, and a tightness in his expression that she had just assumed never went away. Now she wonders if she has ever truly seen Remus before.
His smile is relaxed and comfortable, arms crossed loosely across his chest and foot propped up on the wall. He looks at ease, happy, even as he kicks his foot out at Sirius, aiming for his ankle and coming just short of his knee.
“You’re late,” he scolds.
Sirius lets out a light laugh. “Barely five minutes.”
Remus raises an eyebrow, clearly trying to be intimidating but the affection in his face softens the entire expression. “Five minutes in which I was waiting for you.”
“Apologies Moony,” Sirius says, Lily can’t tell if it’s genuine or sarcastic but it seems to appease Remus. “Impatient to get started huh?”
Remus sniffs dismissively. “Vaguely.”
“Sure, vaguely,” Sirius mocks, she can hear the smirk in his voice even with his back to her. “Shall we then?” He pushes himself off the wall, likely in preparation for whatever prank they’re organising in this secret area. She steps back from the tapestry as Remus grins wolfishly.
“Gladly.” Is the last thing she hears as she walks away.
There’s not much point staying any longer; despite her hopes for a reveal of Sirius’ secret girlfriend it was evident what the two Marauders were up to and Lily didn’t need to stick around to watch the prank unfold.
A mantra she has lived by since first year is that the less she knows about Marauders pranks the better, and that mantra has only become more important as a prefect. If she doesn’t know what they’re planning she can allow them to get away with it in good conscience.
She makes her way back to Gryffindor common room and doesn’t spare the boys another thought. Neither does she notice the following day that no prank unfolds, the night’s events slip her mind like water through fingers.
Dorcas drops her head forward onto the floor and groans, low and frustrated.
“This is hopeless,” she complains.
“It’s not hopeless!” Mary pipes up, ever the optimist.
Lily backs up Dorcas. “It’s a little hopeless. We’re not getting any closer to working it out.”
“If anything,” Marlene says from the bed, where her and Mary are dutifully writing out a list of all the possible girls Sirius could be dating. “We’re taking steps backwards.”
Mary concedes the point as she rewrites a name they had previously crossed off, Kate Simmonds. They assumed she had no sense of humour but then had overheard her raving about the latest Marauders’ prank, which put her back in the running for being Sirius’ mystery girl.
“It’d be easier…” Dorcas begins, trailing off as she stares at the wall of their dormitory as though it holds the secret to Sirius’ love life. Mary reaches out her foot to poke Dorcas in the side. “It’d be easier?”
“If Sirius so much as even talked to a girl,” Dorcas finishes. “I swear he hasn’t shown interest in months.”
“I haven’t seen him flirt with anyone recently,” Lily agrees, letting her head fall back against the bedpost.
“Not genuinely at least,” Marlene corrects, her tongue poking out the corner of her mouth as she writes.
All three girls turn to her in confusion. She blinks up at them.
“What do you mean?” Dorcas is the one to ask.
Marlene shrugs. “You know, Sirius flirts with people all the time when it doesn’t mean anything. He flirts with me because he knows it pisses me off, he flirts with Lily because he knows it pisses James off, and he flirts with Remus because it makes him all flustered from the attention and annoyed.”
Lily nods at the assessment, just the day before Sirius had raved about Lily’s ‘immaculate’ green eyes intermittently throughout the entire day until predictably James had gotten frustrated on her behalf and eventually tackled Sirius for it. Something which she decidedly did not enjoy. She didn’t.
It proves Marlene’s assessment of how often Sirius does ‘flirt when it means nothing’ that Remus and Peter didn’t even look up from their homework at the entire interaction. Even when Sirius hollered from the floor under James’ attacks, “Moony! Help me!”
Remus just retorted. “Ask your new girlfriend Lily for help,” and kept reading.
“In that case,” Mary says, “How are we meant to know when he’s flirting for real.”
Dorcas makes a thoughtful noise. “I suppose we just look out for him flirting with someone who isn’t one of us.”
“That’s the thing!” Lily exclaims. “I haven’t seen him flirt with anyone aside from our close friends since we started this damn bet!”
Marlene steeples her fingers under her chin, thinking. “Do you think he’s purposefully not flirting now that he knows you’re looking?”
They all pause a moment, contemplating.
“I don’t think so,” Lily decides finally. “He keeps going on about how obvious it is, and I could be noticing but I’m not.”
Marlene taps her chin with her quill, leaving a dot of ink next to her mouth. “So we’re missing something.”
“We need a plan,” Dorcas says, solemnly, like this is a dreaded mission that must be taken incredibly seriously.
They all stare silently, deep in thought. Lily pulls at a thread coming loose on her skirt, mulling over ideas and coming up completely short.
“I’ve got it!” Mary shouts, startling them all to attention.
“Go on then,” Marlene encourages. The three of them watch and listen as Mary sets out the plan. She holds up the piece of parchment she had been copying names onto.
“So the issue is that none of the boys will give us any hints right?” She asks, looking to Lily for confirmation.
Lily nods, thinking of her constant failures to get any of the boys to open up on the topic. “Right.”
“But that doesn’t mean we can’t bring up girls individually and see how Black reacts,” Mary points out.
Marlene smacks her hands together with a whoop.
“MacDonald you’re a genius!” She crows. “Sirius is so obvious about how he’s feeling, if we bring up the right girl he’s sure to react outwardly.”
Mary grins, clearly proud of herself.
“Not to mention,” Dorcas joins in, her eager expression scarily similar to James when he was scheming. “In the meantime we can talk to girls, it’ll be obvious who isn’t dating Sirius because they’ll be upset he’s taken!”
They all think of Elizabeth Kingsington at the Quidditch match and nod in agreement.
“We have a plan!” Lily cheers.
Lily is seated at one of the two tables in the Gryffindor common room, her quill scratching rhythmically against parchment as the dusk light starts to filter its way through the windows, casting a warm light over the room.
All her friends are busy or are elsewhere so she’s sitting alone. Remus had to go home for a couple of days, some family emergency or another. She’s honestly a little concerned about his family, what with the number of times he’s had to go on impromptu visits home over the six years they’ve been at Hogwarts. Severus’ theory for the disappearances jumps into her mind but she pushes it away. Even if it is true, that is Remus’ business to tell her and the last thing she wants is to think about these days is Severus.
Sirius, James and Peter have turned into their dormitory early for the night. Likely planning a prank or some other general mischief. Mary and Dorcas have done the same to the girls dormitory, although they’re more likely to be talking about Mary’s latest crush and Lily is eager to join them once she’s finished this beast of a Transfiguration essay. Finally, Marlene is out on the Quidditch pitch, even though James gave the team the night off after the last few days’ rigorous training. Honestly Lily reckons Marlene would attach herself to her broom and never walk again if given the chance.
She’s forcing herself to focus on the sketched words which seem to be blurring together on the page when movement catches her attention out of the corner of her eye. The common room is still decently full since the sun hasn’t even gone down yet, but there’s something off that piques her interest.
Slinking around the edge of the room is Sirius Black. The hood of his cloak is bunched up around his ears like he knows putting it on would be too obviously suspicious but still wants to remain inconspicuous. Sirius usually commandeers the attention of the room, demanding everyone look at him just by walking, right now he’s walking almost tucked in on himself and barely anyone spares him a second glance. He skirts around the very edge of the common room, dodging groups of people and ensuring no one strikes up conversation with him before slipping through the portrait hole and out of the room.
There’s only one thing he could be doing, and Lily scrambles to follow him.
She’s very aware as she trails Sirius that the last time she did this she was entirely mistaken and subsequently disappointed. However, now she is recognising her error. She should have realised that the confidence and lack of discretion to his gait last time was evidence that Black was on his way to meet the other Marauders. He had none of the caution of someone meeting a mystery girlfriend. This time he is secretive, practised and precise in his movements, clearly sneaking out and attempting to avoid attention.
They make their way through the halls, Sirius keeping haste but dutifully checking each corridor he enters to make sure no one is watching him before he does. She has to be much more cautious than last time to stay out of his sight.
They make it to almost the opposite side of the school when she’s forced to stop following. Sirius slips down a corridor and she goes to follow until Severus stops her in her tracks. She has managed to avoid talking to Severus all year, ever since their falling out in the final weeks the year before, and she is determined to keep it that way.
Unlike what she’s sure Severus believes, him calling her a mudblood was not the cause of her icing him out, it was the catalyst. She had spent years of her life ignoring the way he treated her, people like her, her closest friends, and never once truly apologised for his actions. Day after day Lily put herself in the crossfire for Severus, sticking up for him because deep down she thought surely he had the best interests at heart, he was her oldest friend.
She remembers vividly a moment in fourth year when her and Remus had been working on homework in the library and she scoffed at the mention of James and Sirius sitting in detention.
“They deserve it. I know they’re your friends but they shouldn’t treat Sev like that, he doesn’t mean any harm,” she had said.
Remus had looked at her strangely, a heavy frown pulling the scars on his face downwards. She’ll never forget that expression, he had looked so disappointed, so upset. “They were sticking up for me.”
“By bullying him?”
“You do know that Snape is no better than us, right? I’m not saying I like Sirius and James’ methods, but he’s just as shitty to us as we are to him.”
She hadn’t answered, turning back to her Potions homework. Looking back she wishes she had implored further, that she’d questioned Remus about what Severus had said, about why James and Sirius had felt the need to hex him in retaliation. Instead she had let the conversation drop, and ignored the twinge in the back of her mind that said something was wrong.
When Severus called her a mudblood it was confirmation of her worst fears, that what her friends had been telling her, warning her all along were true.
Lily slows to a halt, letting Sirius slip away down another hallway and off into the castle. It isn’t worth having to face Severus again. If nothing else, how far they travelled in the castle is enough to make Lily confident that Sirius’ mystery girl must be in a different house. If he wanted to meet a girl from Gryffindor they would be much less likely to be caught if they found a hiding place near the common room to sneak in and out easily. Feeling pleased at the advancement, she makes her way back to the Gryffindor common room and up to the girls’ dormitory. She can finish the Transfiguration paper tomorrow, she was barely working on it anyway.
With a pleased smile she settles into bed, catching a glimpse of the full moon out of the open window.
Lily makes her way across the lawn past the Black Lake. The sun is shining in bright streaks across the shimmering water, reflecting the brilliant blue sky. Students are dotted across the sprawling green grass, gathered in groups and soaking in the gorgeous day now that classes are over for the weekend. She spots the Marauders a little way around the lake, seated under a tree together. She pauses for a moment to take in the scene.
Her eyes are drawn to James first, how could they not be? His warm brown skin glows in the afternoon light, messy hair shading his eyes and sun glinting off his glasses. He throws his head back to laugh at something, and she can’t help but stare at the long column of his throat.
Abruptly she pulls her gaze from James, scared of where her thoughts might travel if she allows herself to stare any longer. He is shoulder to shoulder with Peter, inclined towards his friend like a bough of a tree reaching for another. Peter is smiling just as wide as James, both of them jostling and shaking at Remus’ feet which are resting across both their laps, likely teasing him. Remus doesn’t seem to be bothered, eyes crinkled with mirth even as he rolls his eyes at them. His head is pillowed in Sirius’ lap, resting on his folded legs and nudging happily into Sirius’ hand absentmindedly petting his hair.
She’s surprised actually that Remus is allowing the touch, unlike Sirius and James who will readily shove their heads at their friends in desire of pets, Remus is quite picky about who he allows to touch his hair. He looks serene though with Sirius’ fingers carding through, gently stroking the fine sandy curls. Sirius equally looks at ease, leant back on the arm not busied with Remus’ hair and laughing along with James and Peter.
It’s a picture of intimacy, the four of them.
James’ eyes find her first as she makes her way across the lawn towards them. His face breaks out into a brilliant smile that renders her legs useless, turning them to liquid jelly. The other Marauders follow his gaze and smile just as readily at her, but it’s different, it always has been. James looks at her like she’s special, like she’s the one good thing in a world of bad.
Sirius is the one to call out to her, and James beckons her over.
She smiles, sitting on the grass across from James and Peter. “What’re you boys talking about?”
The four of them share familiar mischievous smiles that only indicate one thing, pranking.
“Secret Marauders business,” Sirius says, removing the hand in Remus’ hair to tap the side of his nose and returning it to its original place when Remus makes a disgruntled noise.
She rolls her eyes. “Do I even bother asking?”
“That depends, do you actually want the answer?” Peter answers lightly.
She thinks about it, before shaking her head. “Nope. As a prefect I don’t doubt I won’t like whatever I hear.”
“And you should feel the same, Lupin.” She points at Remus threateningly.
He grins at her, toothy and bright in a way he only is around his friends. “Are you insinuating I am not the model prefect Lily? Why, I’m offended.”
“Our Moony here is the most well behaved prefect I know,” Sirius backs Remus up, boasting falsely with an amused twist to his mouth.
“I consider the rules my utmost responsibility,” Remus adds.
Lily scoffs. “God you’re both so full of shit.”
She receives twin smiles in response.
“Come on now Evans! When have you ever known us to break the rules,” James asks, winking at her.
She prods at his chest. “I would play along Potter, if your rule breaking in Herbology yesterday hadn’t cost me a good mark.”
He winces at the memory. He had decided to attempt to levitate their plant to the table - despite Professor Sprout forbidding the practise as the plants were very delicate - and had dropped it in the middle of the room, effectively destroying their final project and forcing both Lily and James to stay after class to clean the mess.
“Yeah,” he scratches at the back of his neck, “How about I make it up to you over a Butterbeer in Hogsmeade this weekend? What do you say, Evans?” James asks with an eager smile.
She bites down the urge to say yes, to jump on the opportunity, eyes glancing over to Sirius’ smug smile. Not only would accepting James’ invitation now be humiliating to her past self, every time she’s denied him over the years, but now it is accepting defeat in the face of Sirius’ challenge. Going out with James means accepting that she has lost the bet, and she would be willing to put Galleons on the fact that Sirius Black knows that.
“In your dreams, Potter,” she retorts instead, falling into the usual pattern of their interaction.
James smiles nonetheless, taking the rejection in stride as he always does.
“Every night,” he replies.
Remus makes a failure sound effect, sending the other boys into wild cackles of laughter.
“Will you ever give in Prongs?” Sirius teases, and Remus backs him up by poking his toes into James’ side until he laughs along with them.
“Never, my heart beats for no other,” James replies. He flutters his eyelashes and swoons dramatically into Peter’s side, overdramatising the statement, but there’s a genuinity to it that makes Lily’s face burn red hot.
Sirius pretends to gag. “That’s sickly mate.”
“Oh like you’re any better!” James fires back with a grin, sticking out his tongue at his best friend.
Sirius pulls an overly exaggerated smitten face. “Oh Evans. Light of my life! My heaven and earth! Did you know she smiled at me today, Pads?” Sirius moans, voice pitched weirdly in a poor imitation of James. He smirks at her as she narrows her eyes, ignoring the flustered blush climbing up her neck and cheekbones.
“Maybe if I bring her flowers!” Remus joins in on teasing James, throwing a hand to his forehead like a Southern Belle.
“Evans, Evans, Evans,” Peter adds, mimicking his hand chattering as if it is James going on about her.
“Alright!” She waves her hands to interrupt them, embarrassed by how high pitched her voice comes out. Remus, Sirius and Peter smirk at her knowingly but thankfully put an end to their merciless teasing of James without complaint. The boy in question, for his part, doesn’t look bothered by their mocking at all - standard practise and all that - although he does grin at her in apology, messing with his hair for something to do with his hands.
She clears her throat, desperately attempting to swerve the conversation as far from her and James as possible.
“What about you then?” She looks at both Remus and Peter in turn. “I know Black has a girl, are either of you interested in anyone?”
Peter answers first with a groan. “I’m seeing this Ravenclaw, Andrea Macintosh, but I think I’m gonna break it off with her.”
Lily frowns. “Oh Pete, how come?”
“She keeps talking shit about these guys,” he inclines his head towards his three friends. “How immature they are for the pranks - as if I don’t take part, mind - it’s just not working out.”
The other three shift uncomfortably, as if there’s more to the story than they’re letting on, but regardless she can understand how that is a dealbreaker for one of them. Dating a Marauder means loving all four of them, and it’s not the first time a relationship has ended due to this exact issue. She keeps pushing through the conversation, sensing it’s better for all not to think about Peter and his girlfriend.
“What about you Remus?” Lily turns to look down at him.
He blinks at her, and replies drily. “Oh yeah I’m mad for someone.”
“Madly in love eh Moony?” Sirius jostles Remus’ head where it’s still resting on his lap and beams when he glares up at him.
“Obviously.” The deadpan delivery indicates his sarcasm and she chuckles, letting James drive the conversation to a new topic without protest.
She’s looking at James and Peter and so she doesn’t see the way Sirius beams down at Remus, lighting up like a firework. She misses the way Remus smiles back, eyes soft and affectionate.
“Absolutely not,” Mary squeals, running across the room as Marlene chases her around the dorm, armed with a pillow and ready to strike. “I don’t care if I’m the best at Astrology in the entire damn school! I’m not doing your essay for you!”
She ducks laughing as Marlene chucks the pillow with impressive aim.
“You ought to be a Chaser instead of a Beater,” Dorcas teases.
Marlene flips first her, then Mary off and sits back in their little circle in the centre of the dorm room.
“Please Mary? I can’t be arsed doing it tomorrow.”
Mary shakes her head, also retaking her seat and pulling Lily’s head into her lap. “Nope, can’t help you.”
She starts braiding Lily’s hair and Lily sighs into the sensation.
They get into a friendly argument over the merits of actually understanding Astrology and Lily listens vaguely, pleasantly drifting through daydreams as she relaxes into the feeling of Mary’s fingers carding through her hair. She rummages in the bowl they’ve chucked in the centre and eats a few sweets.
“Oh blegh!” Lily groans, rolling to the side and spitting a ‘mud’ flavoured jelly bean into a tissue. “Why do we eat these horrid things?”
Marlene shrugs, throwing a bean into her mouth and humming. “Because sometimes we get things like lemon meringue pie,” she says.
“Sure, but who came up with the idea to have them actually include every flavour?” Lily demands, returning her head to Mary’s lap as though nothing happened.
“I assume Bertie Bott,” Dorcas says, tipping her head in consideration.
“I’d like to have a word with Bertie Bott,” Lily mutters darkly.
“It’s a bit like gambling isn’t it?” Mary says, squinting at the green jelly bean she has retrieved for herself trying to discern the flavour without eating it. “The thrill of getting a good flavour when you could get a crap one makes it more exciting.”
“Nothing like the adrenaline rush of eating sweets,” Lily laughs.
Mary nibbles nervously on the edge of the bean. “Lime cordial!” She cheers, throwing the rest of it into her mouth.
“We should’ve gotten those sweets that make you sound like different animals,” Marlene says longingly. “Nah.” Dorcas shakes her head. “We should’ve snuck to the kitchens and gotten some pumpkin pasties.”
Mary moans dramatically. “I’d kill for a pumpkin pasty right now.”
Lily leans over the bowl and pulls out an orange bean. “If you’re willing to hedge your bets this could be pumpkin pasty flavoured.” She holds out the treat for Mary to take.
“One Knut says it’s carrot,” Marlene declares.
“You’re on. I reckon it’s orange juice.” Dorcas holds out her hand and they shake on it.
Mary bites down and grimaces.
“Carrot cake,” she says, pointing to Marlene to declare her the winner. “God, I hate carrot cake.”
“Pay up Meadowes!” Marlene hollers, holding out her hand palm up for her winnings.
“I’m not sure it counts,” Dorcas argues, fighting a smile even as she gets up to fetch Marlene a coin. “It wasn’t technically carrot flavoured.”
“Well it sure as hell wasn’t orange juice.”
She’s starting to feel a little hopeless about her ability to actually work this out. It’s not that she isn’t making progress, but even as the list narrows she doesn’t feel hopeful. She’s crossing off all the Gryffindors, sitting at a table in the common room with Mary, but with every name she crosses off the lack of information she has itches at the back of her neck. She can’t help but be aware that she’s making guesses based on vague concepts, narrowing down options based on wild assumptions rather than fact.
Her eyes skim over the names she has already crossed off and feels like she’s trying to make her way through a labyrinth in fog. With no landmarks or signs to tell if she’s even heading in the right direction. The clues the boys gave her are barely enough to guide her, let alone narrow down the search. It’s impossible to tell whether she has already crossed off the girl, or maybe neglected to even write down her name.
“That’s it,” she slams her hands down on the table, making Mary jump in shock. “I’m asking James for another clue.”
Mary tips her head like a puppy. “You think he’ll help you?”
“Nope!” Lily replies cheerily, packing away her things into her satchel. “Eighth times the charm, you never know.”
Mary raises an eyebrow, despite being clearly unsure she doesn’t oppose. “Good luck.”
“Thanks, reckon he’s in the boys’ dorm?”
Lily starts making her way up to the Marauders’ dormitory and has barely made it to the first landing when she has to jump out of the way to avoid Sirius, who comes barreling down the stairs, taking them two at a time.
“Sorry Evans!” Sirius yelps, almost flying into the wall in his effort to swerve her. She manages to catch him by the hood of his cloak before he smacks into the stones.
“Merlin Black, what’s got you in a state?” Lily asks, gesturing to his general state of appearance. His hair has the flyaway appearance of someone running their fingers through it too many times, and he’s fumbling to do his tie, with both his shirt and jumper untucked. He looks like a mess.
Sirius shrugs at her, already skipping half backwards down the steps.
“I’m late to class!”
She glares at him, taking in the unkempt appearance, which is more ruffled than usual, even by Sirius Black’s standards who never wears his uniform correctly. The wheels of her brain click into place just before he whirls out of sight.
“Merlin’s balls! She’s up there isn’t she?”
Sirius falters again, almost tripping. The Marauders will kill her if he dies falling down stairs.
“What?” He says, spinning around to stare at her.
“Your girl! That’s why you look so-” she gestures to him from tip to toe searching for the word. “-disheveled.”
Sirius opens and closes his mouth a couple of times but the hesitation is enough for Lily to feel certain. She’s finally caught him. Without giving him a chance to respond she dashes the rest of the way up the stairs.
“Finally! Fucking finally!” She cheers, feet thumping against the steps as she advances on the Marauders’ dorm.
“I CAUGHT YOU-” She bursts through the door, pushing it open with a crash, then falters. “Oh.”
Remus looks up at her, raising a thin eyebrow in confusion. He’s mid-way through packing his book bag.
“Oh no,” he deadpans. “I’ve been caught in my dormitory… the horror.”
“What are you doing here?” Lily blurts out. Remus’ presence is the opposite of what she had been expecting when opening the door and it has her feeling knocked out of orbit.
Remus looks even more confused. “This is my room,” he says, as if she is incapable of thinking logically. He gestures around the room as if to say duh.
“No, I know that I just… I was expecting someone else.”
“Who were you expecting?” Remus prompts, he still hasn’t moved, hand poised with book in hand.
“I thought Sirius’ girlfriend was up here,” she admits.
Remus grins, letting out a light chuckle and finally returning to his task. “Ah I see.”
“In my defense he looked very flustered when he bumped into him.” She crosses her arms across her chest defensively, feeling very embarrassed as Remus just smiles wider, another small laugh escaping his lips.
“Oh he did, did he?”
There’s an intonation to Remus’ voice that Lily doesn’t trust, a poorly concealed amusement that implies she’s missing something. He knows something she doesn’t. She narrows her eyes at him suspiciously but Remus doesn’t look at her, chuckling to himself and shoving parchment and a quill into his bag. She is definitely missing something.
She drops to the floor and cranes her neck to check under James’ bed. Empty. She does the same with Sirius’ and when those searches prove futile she moves to the left side of the room to check under Peter’s.
“What are you doing?” Remus asks, properly laughing at her now.
She scowls but doesn’t deign him her full attention, moving to search under his bed. “I know she must be in here somewhere. You’re hiding something from me.”
He stands against his bedpost, watching and laughing as she throws open the shared wardrobe and rifles through the clothes in case a girl is hiding at the very back.
“You might not want to go in there,” he stops her just before she opens the bathroom door. She turns back to him triumphantly, a spark of wildfire in her eyes.
“Oh you’d like that wouldn’t you,” she gloats.
Lily throws the door open with a flourish and is confronted with the single most filthy bathroom she’s ever seen. There is at least one pair of underwear on every available surface, and more towels than four teenage boys could ever hope to use, and yet every one seems to be a little bit damp. Thankfully the shower and sink look decently clean, although she doubts that can be attributed to any of the boys and more so to the house elves. A pile of dirty laundry stinks in the closest corner of the room.
“Oh my god,” she gags, backing away from the room like the mess is contagious.
Remus smirks at her, moving to pull the door closed. “I did warn you.”
She wrinkles her nose in disgust. “I thought you were hiding his girlfriend from me, not that I would be walking into an active biohazard risk.”
He rolls his eyes at her, biting at the inside of his mouth to avoid laughing.
“I promise, there’s no girls up here,” he swears, laying a hand over his heart. “You excluded that is.”
She hesitates in front of Remus’ bed and on his nod of permission sinks onto it with a sigh. “I thought I finally had him.”
Remus hums in understanding. “Sorry to disappoint,” he says, shoving the last remaining items into his book bag. He must be heading to the library after lunch, there’s too many books in his satchel for a single class.
“Not your fault you were up here instead of her.”
He smiles reservedly but doesn’t say anything.
They lapse into silence for a minute until Remus throws his bag across his shoulder and nods to the door for Lily to follow him.
“You bumped into Padfoot on the way up the stairs didn’t you?” He asks and she nods. “Why were you coming up in the first place? Looking for James?”
The lilting tone to his voice is amused and sets of alarm bells in her head.
“I was looking for James actually, but not for the reason I think you’re implying.”
Remus shrugs loosely, so nonchalant it feels fake. He keeps looking ahead but side-eyes her with a teasing twist to his mouth.
“What was I implying?”
She scowls, setting her jaw so she wouldn’t rise to his bait. “It doesn’t matter. I wanted to see if I could get some more information about Sirius’ girl, but I couldn’t find him so I thought he must be in your dorm. He clearly wasn’t.”
Remus chuckles, closing the door behind her. “You know none of us are going to help you right? Wasn’t that the whole point of getting help from Mary, Marlene and Dorcas?”
She huffs in frustration, blowing hair out of her face.
“It’s not much help when we haven’t had a good reason to suspect a single girl on our list,” she complains.
“List?” Remus blinks at her.
With a heavy sigh she retrieves the few pieces of parchment, slightly crumpled from being shoved into her satchel in haste earlier, and hands them over.
Remus’ smile grows as his eyes glance over the list of names, doing a poor job of hiding his amusement. He even laughs lightly as he turns one paper over to find more names on the back.
“As you can see,” Lily snatches the papers back as he offers them. “It’s not going very well. So...” she trails off.
Remus offers her what is probably meant to be a sympathetic smile but just looks entertained more than anything else.
“So you wanted James’ help,” Remus finishes on her behalf.
“Or any of your help really,” she says, raising her eyebrows at him pointedly.
He chuckles lightly at the weak attempt of persuading him to assist.
“Alright, explain this to me,” Remus says. “Why do you care so much about this bet? Sirius’ love life really that important to you?”
“Well first off, it’s a good distraction. It’s either think about Sirius’ love life or think about the fact that we start NEWTs next year and I know what I’d prefer,” she jokes. Remus huffs in agreement, the two of them are the most school focused of all their friends, so if anyone would understand Lily’s nerves it’s Remus.
“I suppose it’s not so much about who he’s dating, although now I’m desperate to know the answer.” She chews on her nail, thinking over how to word her response.
“I have a small competitive streak-” at Remus’ expression she rectifies, “- a huge competitive streak. It’s not so much the substance of the challenge as it is wanting to win. It’s the principle of the thing.”
“Hey Moony!” Peter interrupts as they bump into him at the bottom of the spiralling staircase. “Is it good to-” he glances at her and redirects. “Where’s Padfoot?”
Remus nudges his friend’s shoulder good naturedly. “He’s got an extra Transfiguration practise, bloody left it to the last minute to get there too, so we’ll see whether McGonagall gives him a detention or not.”
“Right, excellent. I’ll be in the dorm then if you need me.”
They watch as Peter hurries up the stairs, before turning and continuing out of the common room.
“So what you’re getting at is you don’t so much care about the bet itself, but about beating Pads?” Remus continues their conversation as if they never paused.
“Yeah basically,” she shrugs, feeling a little self conscious now that her thoughts have been laid out so plainly.
Remus doesn’t look judgemental though, if anything his eyes are twinkling with impishness.
“You have no idea how tempting you’ve made it to help you,” he says with a flashing smile. “I always love knocking Padfoot down a few pegs.”
Lily swallows down her excitement, doing her best not to bounce on her toes, she’s so close to getting some assistance after three weeks of fruitless searching. She doesn’t want to say anything that might startle Remus away from helping her. Unfortunately he does so on his own.
“But I still can’t help,” he says with an apologetic grimace.
“Oh for Merlin’s sake, Remus.” She throws her head back and groans, ignoring the way he snickers into his fist at her dramatics.
He shrugs. “I promised Sirius I wouldn’t! Besides, watching you struggle to work it out is much more entertaining than the prospect of Sirius losing.”
“Just a teensy hint,” she pleads, all but falling to her knees. “Come on, you know him better than anyone.”
“Don’t let James hear you say that or I’ll have to sleep with one eye open.”
“Okay fine, but still, you two have something special.”
Remus hesitates, his face flashing through a range of complicated emotions Lily couldn’t hope to decipher before settling on something contemplative.
“Alright,” he concedes. “All I’m saying is that you might be overlooking something, I think you’re closer than you feel.”
She turns the words over in her mind. They’re not much help, no more useful than any of the other vague clues the boys had given her, but she senses there is a depth to this hint. Remus hadn’t wanted to even give in that much, so this clue must be more telling than it seems at first glance.
She resolves to pay closer attention to Sirus and his comings and goings. Every person he speaks to, every girl within five feet of him is to be catalogued and remembered. She is going to find what she has been overlooking.
“Thank you Remus.” She offers him a short side hug.
“Padfoot’s gonna kill me,” he mutters under his breath but accepts the hug with a glittering smile.
The common room is alight with activity. It’s a Friday with no early Quidditch game the next day so everyone has the evening off, something rare these days; especially considering the amount of studying they’re all getting up to with exams just around the corner. Even James and Sirius have taken to the books most afternoons. So Lily is soaking up the opportunity to spend some time with her friends, breathing in the energy and atmosphere.
Sirius is weaving the tale of a Potions mishap that occurred during the week which Lily had had the good fortune of being witness to.
“Slug’s lucky I didn’t singe off his eyebrows!” he exclaims.
“It can’t have been that bad,” Marlene protests, lying on her stomach with her chin cupped in her hands.
“It was! He scared the shit out of me!” Sirius tells stories with his whole body, he’s loud, and enthralling when he gets into it; capturing everyone’s attention without even trying. “All of a sudden he was right behind me, and saying-“ Sirius does a frankly terrifyingly accurate impression of Slughorn to embellish his story, “‘-how excellent Mr Black’. It’s hardly my fault I got so scared shitless I dropped the entire lacewing fly in the cauldron and set off the potion like a goddamn bomb.”
Lily chimes in, her voice ringing with laughter. “We all had to evacuate because the smoke was everywhere and smelt like rotten eggs.”
Sirius points at her. “You’re welcome for getting you out of Potions by the way.”
“I am eternally in your debt Sir Black.” She mocks a bow from her position on the floor by James and Mary’s feet.
“Not to mention,” Sirius adds, “Sluggy was so close if I’d turned the wrong way we would’ve been kissing which is not exactly my idea of a good ti- oh you think that’s funny do you?”
Sirius raises his eyebrows pointedly at Remus who just dissolved into laughter. Sirius’ expression is that of someone who is trying very hard to be stern but failing spectacularly. He gives up the attempt all together when Remus lets out a snort and he positively beams at bringing out the reaction.
“I’m glad you think it’s so funny that I almost laid one on our dear old Potions professor,” Sirius jibes.
“I’m sure Slughorn would be an excellent kisser,” Remus teases, still giggling to himself. James makes smooching noises and Peter accompanies him with high pitched fake pornographic moans. Sirius pulls a scandalised expression of disgust that makes Dorcas laugh so hard that she rolls off the couch and subsequently crushes Peter.
“I cannot think of anything worse than kissing Slug.” Sirius shudders, ignoring Dorcas’ string of apologies to Peter.
Remus grins, prodding Sirius in the stomach with his toes. “You’d be so lucky to get to kiss him.”
“Oh yeah? I’d be so lucky? Should I go see what he’s up to?” Sirius pesters, poking at the ticklish part of Remus’ foot, doing the same to his knee and making his way to his side.
Remus laughs, loud and unashamed. He makes loud smacking kiss noises like James was and cackles when Sirius tackles him.
“Idiots.” Marlene rolls her eyes and Lily lifts her glass to clink them together in solidarity as the two boys scramble to pin each other to the ground.
Sirius and Remus go rolling, grunting and laughing at each other as they kick and scrabble on the floor. Remus pulls Sirius by the hair and in response Sirius jabs him in a ticklish point of his side causing him to squeal and shy away.
“You’re such a dick,” Sirius grumbles as Remus pinches his arms until he’s squirming.
“I try,” Remus bites back, ducking away from Sirius’ slapping hands.
“Oh my god!” Lily shouts, as Sirius manages to prop his feet under Remus’ torso and promptly sends him hurtling into the side of the couch. James moves his feet out of the way, unbothered as he watches his friends with an amused fond expression.
Eventually - with a few profanities and choice insults - Remus successfully pins Sirius.
“I win,” he says, beaming down at his friend. He has Sirius pressed into the ground, knees bracketing either side of his torso and hands holding his wrists and head in place so he can’t get away.
“Is it really winning if your side of that argument is that Slughorn is a good kisser?” Marlene points out.
“Good point,” Sirius replies, muffled by the plush carpet.
Remus shrugs, releasing Sirius when he concedes defeat.
“It’s the principle of the thing,” he says, echoing Lily’s words and winking at her as he does it. She sticks her tongue out at him.
They return to their original position; both leant up against the couch with Remus’ feet propped in Sirius’ lap and Sirius’ hand resting against the bone of his ankle. Calling Remus’ hair a bird’s nest would be polite, his curls are a tangled mess on his head, and Sirius’ usually well manicured hair is no better. Lily’s eyes however focus on the place where Sirius’ grey t-shirt has completely fallen off his shoulder, exposing dark blemishes along his collar bone.
“What. The. Fuck?” She emphasises each word like a punch, leaning forward to stare down at Sirius.
He pulls a concerned expression. “Yes?”
“Hickeys!” She points to his exposed collar bone. “More fucking hickeys! How?”
“Well you see when two people love each other very m-” Sirius starts, a cocky grin twisting his mouth, but James cuts him off with a groan. Remus’ face is as red as the common room and Peter has taken to hiding in the couch.
“I wish you wouldn’t point them out Lily,” Peter muffles into a cushion.
“Aw are you jealous Wormy? Don’t worry we can find you someone too. I have it on good record that Slug’s an excellent kisser,” Sirius crows back. He’s boasting but Lily notices that he adjusts his shirt so it covers his collarbone again. Peter makes an affronted noise and throws the cushion at Sirius’ head who ducks it with a loud cackle.
“Merlin, when did you three become such prudes?” Marlene scoffs, glancing between Peter, Remus and James.
“There are some positions I prefer not to think about my best friends in,” James answers lightly.
“Since when?” Lily demands. “I’ve overheard way too many conversations between you two-” she points between Sirius and James, “- that have far too many details to be comfortable.”
James pulls a face. “There’s talking about it, and then there’s physical evidence of my brother being-” he hesitates, pulls a face and then says in a scandalised tone, “-ravished.”
He does have a point, though the evidence is now obscured, Sirius’ neck had all but been mauled and now that she’s looking she can see less formed bruises spotted up his neck as well.
“I just don’t understand when you had time to get ravished, I’ve been watching you constantly,” Lily drives the conversation back to the source of her frustration. “You haven’t even been in extended proximity with a girl, let alone have enough time for your feisty temptress to do that.” She gestures to Sirius’ general torso.
“Sorry, feisty what now?” Sirius asks, his question barely audible over Remus laughing so hard he chokes on his own spit, falling onto his side with a hacking cough. Peter, through his own wheezes, smacks hard at Remus’ back and James is similarly lost to laughter, doubled over with his head resting on his knees.
Even Lily giggles, registering the ridiculousness of the term.
“She’s clearly feisty enough to completely devour your neck, I stand by the term.” She sniffs and is answered with loud cackles from all four boys.
“Maybe we should stop calling her mystery girl and start calling her that Lily,” Mary snickers, prodding at Lily with her foot to her attention.
“Wait.” James waves his hands in the aid, catching all of their attention, still struggling for breath through giggles. “You’ve been calling Sirius’ sexy beast-“ Remus interrupts with a particularly loud wheeze, “- mystery girl?”
“Nevermind that,” Sirius dismisses James, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes. “You’ve been watching me constantly?”
She crosses her arms defensively. “I have nothing else to go on!”
Sirius snorts. “Oh that is priceless! Do I have twenty four hour surveillance? Are you like those detectives from… that muggle book?”
“Sherlock Holmes,” Remus fills in, finally recovered enough to speak but still letting out little high pitched chuckles periodically.
Sirius snaps his fingers. “Yes! Sherlock Holmes. Like that?”
Lily kicks her leg out at him. “Oh sod off you prat.”
“No really! I must know!”
He ducks away from her thrown shoe with a screech of laughter.
Sirius and Lily walk out of the potions classroom side by side, still chattering about the hilarious after effects of a botched potion on one Hufflepuff’s hair which had caused it to go bright green.
They were the only two of their group of friends who took Potions, and similarly they were the only two with a free period right after it so it was common for them to spend the free period together. Lily didn’t even have to ask anymore, Sirius just followed her to the common room, bouncing forward and then swaying back to be by her side again. He always has more energy than everyone else, bouncing on the balls of his toes with an uncontainable spark.
“Venomous Tentacula,” Lily announces to the Fat Lady and the portrait door swings open with little fuss thankfully. Recently the woman in the portrait had taken to forcing those who tried to enter to rate the quality of her singing, and crying if it wasn’t a compliment.
The two settle onto one of the spare three seater couches, twisting against the armrests and tangling their feet together to face each other.
“Oh!” Sirius holds up a finger and pulls Lily’s spare bobble out of his hair and holds it out for her to take, letting his hair fall out in waves. It sits on his shoulders now, which is long enough to almost dip into their cauldron, hence why Lily had lent the hair tie in the first place.
“You’ll need to tie it up every class now, assuming you don’t chop it,” Lily leans forward to pull on the nearest lock, falling in his eyes, and takes her hair tie back with a smile.
“Yeah,” Sirius sighs, tucking it behind his ears. “Prongs says it needs a trim and Pete reckons I should cut the whole lot off, but Moony said if I go near it with scissors he’ll cut off my hand so it stays as is.” He shrugs as if to say ‘enough said’.
“You do everything Remus tells you?” Lily teases, though she knows it’s not true.
Sirius grins. “You know what they say, happy wife, happy life.”
“What about your girlfriend?” Lily asks, being careful to keep her voice as casual as possible. “Does she prefer it long or short?”
Sirius glances at her but doesn’t outwardly react. “Definitely long, made that opinion very clear.”
Lily has to hold her breath so she doesn’t make any noise that might clue Sirius in, she’s almost positive he hasn’t noticed her ploy and the longer she can remain calm the more information she might get. She’s feeling altogether very proud of herself until he keeps talking.
“I’m pretty sure it’s something about being able to grab me by handfuls of my luscious locks,” he clutches the air like a Shakespearean actor delivering a dramatic monologue.
“Not to mention that ‘mon amour’ loves to manhandle me, just take charge you know? I’m not usually one to let someone else take the lead but exceptions can be made.” He winks and fans at his face.
She scowls. “You could have just said you knew I was trying to get you to talk about her.”
Sirius beams at her, tucking his hands behind his head. “Ah but where’s the fun in that, Lils?”
“You’re such a dick. I thought I was so casual about it that time,” she grumbles, slumping into the couch.
“You’re not as subtle as you think you are.”
Lily pulls a face at him and bites at her cheek to keep from smiling when he does the same in return.
“Will you fix my nails?” Sirius asks, pulling a hand out from behind his head and holding it out so she can see the chips in the black polish.
“Fine, but only if you gossip with me,” Lily agrees.
“I’m not going to tell you anything about my sweet honey bun,” he reminds her.
She wrinkles her nose at the endearment as she runs upstairs to fetch the girls’ shared tray of nail polish.
“You don’t have to tell me,” she calls out as she descends the stairs. “But you can still gossip.”
Sirius raises his eyebrows, clearly in question.
“For example: what’s different this time?” She shakes the nail polish hard to get the consistency right.
“What do you mean?” Sirius asks.
“I’ve watched you go through girl after girl after girl after… you get the point, and none of them stuck around for longer than a few months and you didn’t even seem to care when it ended,” when Sirius winces she stumbles to apologise. “Sorry I just-”
“No, you’re right. This time is different.”
She holds her hand out and he places his in it carefully, fingers splayed slightly to make the nails easier to paint.
“So why?” She prompts.
Sirius’ mouth twists in thought. She gives him a moment to think, and doesn't push. The brush glides along his nail, from cuticle to tip, applying the polish in an even layer.
“I’ve wanted this since third year, earlier if I’m being honest, maybe even the day we met,” he says eventually. “In my past relationships I always knew something was off, my heart was in a different place. Not that I didn’t like them, or enjoy the relationships or anything. I just wasn’t myself.”
Lily frowns, pausing to look Sirius in the eye.
He nods, running his tongue along the blunt edge of his teeth in thought.
“It’s like, in all my past relationships I was always trying to be someone I wasn’t. The girls wanted me to be the cool, rebellious disowned heir to the Black family. Or the funny prankster from Gryffindor House.” He grins at her, devilishly. “Although, obviously I am both of those things.”
She scoffs at him, fixing up the edge of a cuticle with her own nail.
“But…” His eyes go distant, thoughtful. “I’m not always like that. It was like there was a bar I had to meet, and I just never could reach it.”
Lily feels a pang of sadness for Sirius. Obviously she knows there’s hidden depths to him, she’s realised that about all of the Marauders. The people she thought they were through Severus’ perspective don't even come close to the warm, compassionate friends she has come to know. It saddens her to realise that none of his past girlfriends have realized or appreciated that.
“Your girlfriend’s not like that?” Lily asks, suddenly immensely grateful for this mystery girl. She is starting to understand why James is so affectionate when talking about Sirius and his girlfriend’s relationship.
“Not at all,” Sirius smiles fondly. “I’m finally myself, and loved for it. My love knows me better than anyone, except maybe James, and still wants me. It’s pretty bloody amazing Lily.”
Lily smiles at him, she can’t help it. The look on his face is positively starstruck, dreamy, his eyes have a far away dewey look and a fond smile is stretched across his mouth.
“I guess that’s the difference,” Sirius muses.
“What is?” Lily prods. The conversation isn’t giving her any more clues as to the identity of Sirius’ mystery girl but she finds she doesn’t even care. She just wants to see more of the affectionate softness in Sirius’ posture and face. He looks unabashedly happy.
“Well I’m in love. It was never like that before, I always knew deep down the relationship was going to end. I liked my past girlfriends, but I never loved them.”
Lily pauses to take that in and nods in understanding. She’s dated a few boys during her time at Hogwarts, and over the summers with muggle boys from her town, but she never felt like she loved them. Attracted to them, of course, liked their company, undoubtedly, but never love.
“I get it. I’m glad it’s different this time,” Lily continues their conversation. “You look happy,” she says fondly. Over Sirius’ shoulder she sees Remus, James and Peter enter the common room, closely tailed by Marlene and Dorcas.
Sirius breaks into a joyous grin, and Lily buzzes just from the proximity of it.
“I’m so happy Lily, you have no idea. I mean it’s more than just love, I know that this is my forever? You know? It’s more than I ever could have dreamt for.”
“Aw Pads,” Remus coos. He jumps over the edge of the couch to sit next to Sirius, glowing with the force of his smile, stretching his scars across his cheeks. “Who knew you were such a sap?”
Sirius rolls his eyes, grinning too much for it to have any real effect. “Oh sod off, Moony.”
“Can’t believe we managed to catch Padfoot being a secret softie.”
“You’re a right arse,” Sirius mutters, ducking away as Remus ruffles his hair.
“Quit it you!” Lily slaps at Remus’ knee. “You’re going to make me mess up his nails.”
“Sorry Lily,” Remus says bashfully.
Sirius sticks his tongue out at him. “Yeah Moony. Without my looks, where am I?”
“What looks?” Remus retorts.
James speaks over Sirius’ scandalised gasp. “I think you’re gorgeous Pads,” he pats Sirius’ knee consolingly, mirth underlying his words.
“I always knew I could count on you, Prongs,” Sirius sighs dreamily.
“I’m your knight in shining armour,” James replies.
“The wind in my sails!”
“The light of your life!”
“I could never be without you!”
“But Sirius it is not to be! Your heart belongs to another!” James wails.
Sirius flops onto Remus shoulder, weeping like a mourning widower.
“Forbidden love! The most romantic of all!”
Remus shoves him off, smirking as he unwraps a piece of chocolate and pops it in his mouth.
“Starting to think you should just date Prongs,” he teases.
“His girlfriend might take issue with that,” Lily replies, laughing as Sirius glances between them with a look of exaggerated horror.
“Eh I’m sure it would be fine,” Remus dismisses her, blowing a raspberry.
“Blasphemy! I could never leave my perfect little muffin,” Sirius scorns.
“I swear those nicknames are getting worse,” Lily mutters.
Remus unwraps another piece of chocolate and holds it out to Sirius who opens his mouth obligingly, not moving his hands from Lily’s lap where she is still steadily finishing his nails.
“How many names do you have left on your list?” Sirius asks, barely stopping himself from giggling as he says it.
Lily turns to glare at Remus. “You told him about the list?”
“He beat it out of me,” Remus replies sarcastically, chewing on another piece of chocolate.
“Oh yeah,” James snorts. “Absolutely forced it out of you.”
“We should’ve reported it for bullying,” Peter tacks on.
“It was heartbreaking to watch.”
Lily scowls. “You told him immediately didn’t you?”
Remus smirks. “The first chance I got.”
Lily notices Remus is off the second she arrives at the table in the Great Hall, lunch spread in front of them and smelling delicious. Remus is staring across the room at the wall, bags heavy under his eyes, and skin pale.
“Remus?” Lily says gently. “You okay?”
He blinks dazedly, like he’s waking up from a heavy sleep, turning to face her. “Huh?”
“I asked if you’re okay,” she repeats. Now that he’s facing her he looks even worse than she thought, he’s looking right at her but his eyes are unfocused as though he’s seeing through her. His skin is shiny with a thin sheen of sweat, clammy and grey with lack of colour.
Remus smiles, so forced she winces on his behalf. “Oh yeah I’m fine!”
Lily is seconds away from pointing out that he looks so far from fine when James scoffs, interrupting their conversation.
Remus spins to glare at him, squeezing his eyes shut and heaving a haggard breath when the movement is too much for his weak body.
“What was that, Prongs?”
James arches an eyebrow of disbelief at his friend. “You’re clearly not okay.”
Peter makes a noise of agreement from Lily’s right but carefully avoids Remus’ eyes when he swivels to turn his furious gaze on Peter instead.
“I’m fine,” Remus insists, looking more and more like he might unload his stomach onto the table if he keeps having to turn between his friends.
James rolls his eyes pointedly slowly so Remus will notice but doesn’t say anything. Lily gets the impression he isn’t dropping the subject, simply biding his time, and she only just begins to question what for when Sirius bounds over to the table.
“My favourite people!” He grins, nudging Peter’s shoulder as he takes the seat between him and Lily. The bright smile drops from his face faster than the flick of a light switch when his eyes fall on Remus.
“Moony? What’s wrong?” He asks, leaning forward to peer across the table at his friend.
Remus shifts uncomfortably, not looking up from his plate where he’s using his fork to push a piece of roast beef around half heartedly.
“Nothing, Padfoot. I’m fine.” He says, with the reluctance of someone who knows the pretense is useless.
“You look horrible,” Sirius murmurs, the concern in his voice so thick it sits heavily in the air between them.
Remus sits up, glaring murderously at him. “Wow, thank you, Sirius. That’s just brilliant. I’m glad to know you think I look horrible.”
The anger in his voice takes Lily aback. She’s always known that Remus isn’t as mild tempered and calm as he tries to make himself seem. In past disagreements with Severus for example, she’s seen Remus lose his temper and throw a mean hex when he wants to, but this is different. He’s a short fuse burning up and he looks enraged, the genuine, vulnerable type of anger that Lily herself is prone to when Petunia pushes her over the edge. She didn’t know Remus was capable of this type of incandescent rage, but the Marauders don’t seem remotely surprised by it.
While she would be shrinking away from his furious gaze, Sirius simply levels Remus with an unimpressed look.
“That’s not what I mean and you know it.”
“No go on, tell me how god awful I look.”
James butts in before Sirius can. “He’s been off since Herbology.”
Remus turns on James instead. “I see, you were just waiting for Padfoot to arrive to gang up on me?”
“He’s the only one that can get any fucking sense into you,” James retorts.
“When did you start feeling bad?” Sirius asks.
Remus turns too quickly and sways in his seat, squeezing his eyes shut against the onslaught of pain. “I don’t feel bad.” He mutters, stubborn even in the face of all the evidence.
Sirius narrows his eyes at him in challenge, losing none of his concern but not surrendering to Remus’ anger. They glare at each other for a few moments, at an impasse until Remus deflates, frustrated energy sinking out of him. “I woke up like this, I thought I could push through it until… tonight.” He hesitates before saying the last word and the boys nod as though this means something.
“You should have told me,” Sirius says softly, eyes focused on Remus as though they’re the only two in the entire Great Hall.
He reaches out his hand across the table and lays it across Remus’ forehead, hissing in concern. “You’re burning up, Moony.”
Remus leans into the touch seemingly unconsciously.
“Didn’t want to worry you,” he mutters, words slurring ever so slightly.
James moves to wrap an arm around him as he sways violently again, as though he’s seconds away from collapsing. “We’re always gonna worry about you mate. You’ve just gotta let us help when we can.”
Peter nods in agreement, Lily catches the movement over Sirius’ shoulder.
Remus sinks forward as Sirius moves his hand away, narrowly avoiding collapsing onto the table by James’ hold on his shoulders.
Sirius looks more concerned than Lily has ever seen him.
“I don’t need help,” Remus says, weak from exhaustion but forcefully, like he’s repeating a sentiment.
“Needing help doesn’t make you weak,” Sirius replies with a practised air. “We’ve been over this Moony,” he adds, confirming Lily’s suspicions that this is an ongoing argument. “We know you’re not weak, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need help.”
Peter chirps. “We care about you.”
“We love you,” James adds.
Lily feels like she’s intruding on a private moment until Remus glances up, and she realises he’s just as much seeking her comfort as his other friends. A warm feeling rushes through her. Severus never really made her feel wanted, needed definitely, necessary to an oppressive extent, but never wanted. It always felt like he really was looking for better than her, someone ‘pureblood’, a Slytherin, who needed him like he needed her, and she could never give that to him. Remus, and the other boys, wanted her friendship.
“We worry because we care, not because you’re not strong enough,” she says gently, the way one might calm a spooked animal. It must be the right thing to say because Remus’ eyes soften, going lax in James’ grip.
“Okay,” he whispers, so quiet Lily barely catches it.
“Alright, we’re taking you to the hospital wing,” Sirius says decisively.
Remus moves as if he’s going to argue but slumps again in resignation when his eyes go slightly cross eyed with the effort not to crumble in pain.
Sirius takes the silence as agreement and clambers over the table, only just barely avoiding sticking his foot in a bowl of soup. Peter manages to save two goblets of pumpkin juice out of his way but a third goes spilling across the table, not that Sirius notices. It is by no means a smooth affair, but compared to Sirius Black’s usual antics it hardly earns more than a few turned heads from fellow Gryffindors before everyone returns back to their meals.
With Sirius and James’ help, Remus gets to his feet, staggering and leaning his weight heavily into Sirius’ side.
“Pads,” Remus whimpers, eyelids screwed shut and breaths hollow as the worst of the wave of pain hits him. He presses his forehead into Sirius’ shoulder and breathes heavily.
They stand still like that for a moment, Lily can only just hear Sirius murmuring assurances and comforting words. “Shh, you’re okay Moony. I’ve got you.”
When Remus has recovered enough Sirius pats his shoulder.
“Alright Moons. Let’s get you to Pomphrey.” He gathers them into a more suitable position, hooking Remus’ arm over his shoulders and steadying the stumbling boy by holding him under the armpit.
Just before they leave he turns back to James. “Can you let Flitwick know where Moony is, and that I’ll be a bit late?”
“No problem. Look after our Moony.”
“Always.” The two boys lumber off, Remus’ steps purposefully well measured, head held high pretending he’s perfectly fine. Lily is astonished by his ability to hold himself together and can’t help but wonder just how often Remus putting on a charade.
She pretends not to notice the way Severus’ eyes follow the two out of the room from the Slytherin table. No matter how much she doesn’t want them to, his theories about Remus and his continuous ailments - and their suspicious timing - plague her. She can’t help but notice that this bout of sickness does indeed fall on the day of a full moon. Once more, she shoves the thought from her mind, true or not, Remus should get to come to her, share that information with her himself, and it doesn’t change that she’s concerned for her friend’s wellbeing. If anything it makes her more worried.
James and Peter still look vaguely anxious, but they turn back to their food and start up a new conversation. Lily however can’t relax so easily.
“Why were you letting him get away with pretending to be fine?” She asks, interrupting James mid sentence. He isn’t bothered, taking a pause to think about her question.
Peter answers first. “Sometimes it’s easier to let him pretend to be fine. When it comes to Remus’ health he’s always this close-” he pinches his fingers so they’re a hair’s breadth away from each other, “- to snapping if you try to help. He doesn’t want to be pitied.”
“Not that we pity him,” James adds.
Peter nods. “The prat can handle more shit in a month than most deal with in a year. He’s strong, and he knows it, he just doesn’t realise we do too.”
“But he clearly wasn’t okay,” she points out.
James shrugs, unable to disagree, they had all seen Remus sitting at the table looking like death reincarnated. “We were never going to let it carry on,” Peter assures her, skewering a piece of fruit onto his fork.
“We just also know he’s a stubborn arse,” James says.
Peter hums in agreement. “We,” he waves the piece of fruit between him and James, “never stood a chance of convincing him he needed to go to the hospital wing, so it was easier to just let him pretend to be fine until Padfoot arrived.”
“Pads is the only one who can get Moony to quit the stubborn act and admit he needs help, always has been, always will be.”
Lily tilts her head in understanding. “He’ll listen to Sirius?”
“Eh,” Peter makes a so-so gesture with his hand. “Even then it’s a 50/50. Like we said, he’s a stubborn arse, but Sirius has got a much higher chance than we do.”
“At the very least Moony will hear him out.”
Lily nods and lets the subject fall to a close, still worried, but reassured now that Remus is in good hands.
The roar of the stands echoes in Lily’s ears, so loud she can barely hear her own thoughts. The game has been neck and neck from the moment the players kicked off, a goal for a goal, penalty for a penalty. With every blur of maroon and gold that streaks by they are tailed by a player decked in green and silver.
The Slytherin team is merciless, every Gryffindor chaser has a green shadow clipping at the back of their brooms. Lily can see even across the pitch James’ frustration at his inability to shake Knott off his tail, but his eyes never leave the round red Quaffle. The Slytherin beaters are similarly keeping Sirius and Marlene intensely busy, firing the Bludgers around the pitch into the course of Gryffindor players.
“Merlin’s fucking pants!” Remus shouts, as Sirius nosedives and manages to punt a Bludger away from the Gryffindor Seeker with barely a second to spare. Lily has never seen Remus so invested in a Quidditch game but she can’t blame him, the play is brutal. Bludgers whizz dangerously and the Quaffle is almost impossible to follow as it is quickly passed between players, let alone spare a chance to find the Snitch.
She spares a glance away from the main play to check on the Slytherin Seeker. Sirius’ younger brother, Regulus, is meticulous and careful in his search, eyes precise and narrowed as he scans the field for the Snitch. Not that she would ever mention it to Sirius, but the family resemblance is obvious. Regulus has the same bright grey eyes as Sirius, the same sharp jaw and silky black hair, although his is short and well groomed whereas Sirius’ is a flyaway mess tied into a stubby ponytail at the back of his head.
The main difference between the two brothers is the way they carry themselves; off the pitch you would never think the two were raised in the same household. Where Sirius has a bright energy to his gait, constantly up in the air and grinning, Regulus seems to be weighed down by the expectations of his family, every movement performed with intent, consequences understood with every decision. On the pitch however that difference was lost, and Lily could easily see the two growing up together, hunched over their brooms with their calculative eyes and confidence radiating off them, you could think they were twins.
The Slytherin stands explode in a roar of noise as the Quaffle skims past the Gryffindor Keeper’s fingers and through the right most hoop. The newest goal brings the score to 90-100 to Slytherin. They haven’t been able to break the stalemate thus far, which means the game is resting on the capture of the Snitch.
“Oh god, oh fuck, oh great Godric’s left ballsack,” Peter is muttering a litany of curses next to Lily, his eyes glued to the game.
“It seems that the Slytherin Seeker, Black, has eyes on the Snitch”
The commentary is only just barely audible over the surge in noise as the two Seeker’s soar across the pitch, towards the Gryffindor centre goalpost. Remus’ fingers dig into Lily’s arm, shaking and tugging at her. The noise builds in a crescendo, so loud it rings in Lily’s brain and thrums in her chest. She feels wild, she screams along with the sound.
The Gryffindor Seeker’s hand surges into the air, holding up the small golden ball in his grip for the crowd to see.
“We won?” Lily gasps, hands clasped so tight her knuckles are white.
“We won!” Remus yells back, throwing his arms around her and Peter with a thrilled noise.
The maroon and gold stands explode with noise once again, cheers and screams that ring across the pitch. Remus grasps her by the hand and tugs her down the stands, taking the steps two at a time utilising his long legs and bony elbows to push people out of their path. She can’t help but grin as they hit the pitch.
Sirius lands from his broom at a run, beelining straight for them, his smile is magnificent, wild and unabashedly happy.
“Moony! We won!” Sirius cheers. He doesn’t slow as he nears them, continuing at full speed, scooping Remus into the air around his waist and running with him. Remus beams, whooping as they take off across the green pitch. He throws his arms wide like he’s flying, letting out a loud laugh that carries even over the still cheering stands, incandescently happy.
James pulls her attention away from the delighted pair as he stumbles to the ground, barely sparing his broom a glance. He twirls her around in a tight hug and presses a hard kiss to her cheek. Lily feels her heart thunder in her chest, a heated blush spreading from the point his lips had touched her face.
“Did you see that Lily!” James shouts, his eyes twinkling as he smiles down at her, arms still wrapped around her.
She giggles, unable to help herself. “Yes! You were brilliant!”
James’ expression goes soft, smitten as he looks at her, warm around the edges in a way that feels both inviting and dangerous. He’s so close, dark brown eyes as rich as the soil beneath their feet. It would be so easy to lean up into him, to kiss him, to map that lovely smile with her own lips. She knows he would be comfortable with it, would welcome it even, but she can’t, she isn’t ready.
He recognises her hesitation and pulls away first, stepping back and out of her personal space.
“Sorry about that Evans.” He bumps their shoulders together in apology. “Got a bit excited by the win is all.”
She offers him a reassuring smile. “It’s no problem, really.”
Unable to stand the awkwardness of James’ expression she speaks up again. “We should do something to celebrate the win.”
With a bounce he brightens immediately, an explosion of excitement.
“Yes! House party!”
The party is an excellent success, Lily has to give it to them, Gryffindor House know how to throw a roaring party - no pun intended.
People have filtered in and out for hours, keeping a constant buzz of activity, conversation and laughter flowing around the common room. Streamers have been decked across the space, spreading in wonderful patterns across the ceiling, some hanging low enough to brush against Lily’s cheek as she walks around. Fizzing sparklers careen like ping pong balls off the wall and swirl around groups of gathered Gryffindors.
Sirius brought down his record player from the boys’ dormitory earlier and a mixture of popular wizarding and muggle music was playing, the records charmed to place themselves on the turntable.
‘Dancing Queen’ by ABBA is playing, one of Lily’s favourite muggle bands and a personal favourite of James and Peter. The four boys are dancing in a huddle across the common room, belting the words with ridiculous dramatics, completely tone deaf but their joyous make up for their atrocious singing. James and Peter are serenading each other in an increasingly loud competition for who could slaughter the tune most while still having the song be recognisable. Sirius has managed to rope Remus into dancing with him, and is doing his best to twirl him despite their height difference making it awkward and difficult.
Remus, surprisingly, doesn’t even seem bothered by the crowd of eyes that are drawn to them as Sirius swings him around the small space. His smile is bright, eyes on his friend as though the rest of the world simply doesn’t matter. Sirius dips him low as the song comes to an end and Remus lets out a loud joyful laugh, tipping his head back. Lily smiles along with him as he beams down at Sirius once righted.
“Lily!” Sirius hollers when his eyes fall on her. He stumbles out of Remus arms and into hers, squeezing her so tight she wheezes. “Lily I love you,” Sirius says with the intense seriousness that only someone terribly drunk can possess.
Sirius is a very affectionate drunk, both in words and in touch. Which is why Marlene had suggested early in the night that they keep a close eye on him, because once he had polished off a bottle of Firewhiskey he was sure to not be able to keep himself away from his mystery girl.
Despite it being her idea, Marlene was little help, getting equally as smashed as Sirius and passing out on top of Dorcas. Not that it would have helped much, Sirius has spent the entire party wrapped up in his friends. He’s barely walked two steps away from the other Marauders and has found every excuse possible to be touching one if not all three of them. Even with his arms around Lily, swaying them to the music, he watches Remus with a sad pout as his friend walks away to fetch them more drinks.
He recovers quickly, pulling Lily close to his chest so her head can tuck under his chin and takes her hand. They step in a loose slow dance, completely out of time with the wizarding song playing but neither of them pay it much mind.
“No matter how much you try, you can’t beat the poshness out of the aristocrat, huh Black?” Lily teases, pointing out the lazy waltz he has led her into.
“Shut it, Evans.” He nudges her cheek with his shoulder. “I’ll have you know we learnt a much more sophisti-soph- fancy waltz in the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black,” he puts on a ridiculous posh accent over his family name.
She hums in understanding and they settle back into silence for a few steps.
“You sure your girlfriend won’t get jealous if she sees you dancing like this with me?” Lily nudges.
Sirius pulls back slightly to look at her, brows almost kissing as he furrows them in confusion. His eyes widen slightly as he comes to a realisation, but doesn’t pull away at all. “Nah,” he dismisses, blowing a raspberry. “My beloved knows you and I are close, no worries there.”
“Not the jealous type?”
Sirius chuckles. “Oh no, definitely prone to jealousy, but my love trusts me. I promise it’s fine.”
“You’re a fan of pet names for her aren’t you?” Lily observes, letting out a delighted noise as Sirius swings her out wide and twirls her back into his hold.
Sirius’ face sputters through a complicated mix of emotions that Lily can’t bring her tipsy mind to decipher. “I think we should stop talking about my love life before I give away something I don’t want to.”
Lily pulls a face at him. “Maybe that’s why I want to talk about it.”
“Nope.” Sirius shakes his head adamantly, large and exaggerated like a small child. “You’re too smart. If I give away this one thing, you’ll get it like that-” he snaps his fingers just in front of her nose.
Lily doesn’t get a chance to respond because at that moment Remus returns with three drinks in his grasp and Sirius all but shoves her away.
“Moony!” He cheers, ducking under Remus’ arms and wrapping around him in a tight hug.
Remus chuckles, lifting the drinks high above his head to avoid dropping them. “Woah Padfoot, down boy.”
Sirius sticks out his tongue, coming close to accidentally licking Remus’ cheek in the process.
“I missed you.” He slurs, tucking himself under Remus’ chin and nuzzling close.
Remus laughs, a little flushed himself from the alcohol.
“I was only gone for a couple of minutes,” he says, looking down at Sirius with an affectionate grin and then directs his gaze to Lily. Remus has a warm smile, like a cup of tea on a cold rainy day, comforting and safe. Lily has always appreciated the simple comfort of Remus’ friendship, he’s easy to be around. Though the Marauders would stare at her incredulously if she ever called him calm, she can’t deny his affection has a calming effect.
He nods his head towards one of the drinks in his grasp, one of Lily’s favourites, a fizzy butterbeer with another warm alcohol mixed into it. Lily takes it gratefully.
“This one’s for you Sirius.” Remus offers Sirius one of the two remaining cups. Sirius tries to take the glass without shifting from his position tucked in Remus’ arms. “Pads, you’re gonna have to let go.”
“No,” Sirius grunts.
“Sirius. Drop it.” Remus grins devilishly as Sirius scowls at him. “Drop it.” He says again, voice laced with mirth, surprisingly Sirius does as he commands, but not without pulling a face.
“What are you, a dog, Black?” Lily asks, giggling.
Sirius laughs, harder than the joke warrants, swaying so far to the right he almost topples off balance completely. “Something like that.” He takes the offered cup and swallows a mouthful before looking at Remus with a grimace.
“This is water.”
Remus raises an amused eyebrow. “I’m aware, I’m the one that fetched it for you.”
“I don’t want to drink water.”
“Too bad, drink up.”
Sirius pulls a face. “I’m a big boy Moony, I can deal with a little hangover.”
“Nice that you think this is about you. I don’t want to put up with your whinging tomorrow.”
Lily follows along the conversation like an enthralled spectator watching a tennis match; mesmerised by the way their conversation bounces naturally from person to person, expressions perfectly complimenting and challenging each other, quips trading in perfect rhythm.
Remus taps the bottom of the cup as though to encourage Sirius to drink until he finally does, scowl still twisting his mouth. A little bit of water dribbles down his chin as he downs the entire cup but he doesn’t even react.
“Merlin’s beard you’re a mess,” Remus scoffs, offering Sirius a napkin, his expression much more amused than frustrated.
Sirius doesn’t say anything in response, just grinning back at him.
“Dance with me Moony?” Sirius pleads, chucking the cup to the side and taking Remus’ wrists, swinging them to the beat of the music.
Remus shakes his head. “I’m going to sit down for a bit.”
“No!” Sirius whines, stumbling forward and thumping his head into Remus’ shoulder. “Dance with me!”
“Maybe later,” Remus concedes, patting Sirius’ head consolingly. He offers Lily an amused look over Sirius’ shoulder at his continuing muffled complaining.
“Lils? You’ll dance with me won’t you?” Sirius asks, eyes wide and begging as he turns his head against Remus’ shoulder to look at her, still leaning his weight heavily on his friend. Lily hesitates, her feet are starting to kill her and she could honestly use a seat as well.
Luckily Remus notices her pause and steps in for her. “Go dance with Prongs, Pete’s left him, so he’s lonely like you.”
Remus points over to where James is spinning slowly in a circle, swaying from side to side vaguely in time with the song. He has the appearance of a puppy told to wait for his owner, confused and wide eyed. Lily feels a pang of affection in her ribcage that she steadfastly ignores.
Sirius brightens immediately, not even hesitating to say goodbye to the two of them before running towards James.
“Prongs!” He shouts, throwing himself at James and sending them both stumbling onto the couch next to them.
“Pads! It’s been too long!” James cries in response, as though they haven’t been separated for fifteen minutes at the most. He laughs as Sirius smacks a kiss to his cheek.
“Come on,” Remus draws Lily back into herself by nudging her with his shoulder. “Let’s sit for a minute.”
They manage to claim a spare couch across from where Sirius and James have started dancing and settle into a companionable silence as they watch their friends. Lily swears to herself that she will only watch Sirius, battling her vaguely drunken mind into compliance. She can feel the buzz of the newest drink starting to set into her system and doesn’t trust herself not to run over to James and give into every desire that has slowly been building in her heart through the year.
To distract herself she turns her attention to thinking about Sirius and his mystery girl. She had been so sure that he wouldn’t be able to keep his hands off her when drunk, and now that that plan has fallen through she’s a little lost for ideas. She watches as Sirius wraps his arms around James and twirls the two of them in a clumsy circle. He’s so affectionate, surely it should be obvious.
“I don’t see how he has time for a girlfriend, he’s always hanging around you lot.” Lily muses out loud.
Remus makes a noise to let her know he’s listening, similarly watching his friends with a soft affectionate smile pulling at the corners of his lips.
She only realises her eyes have strayed to James when he smiles, so bright and gorgeous it makes her feel like the entirety of Hogwarts has to adjust itself to make room for the happiness in him. She redirects her attention pointedly
“At this point he must be dating James,” she jokes, barely able to finish the sentence before collapsing into a fit of giggles. The joke is even funnier with the alcohol creating a pleasant buzz in her mind.
Remus lets out an odd laugh that Lily couldn’t hope to understand.
“Prongs is too far out of Sirius’ league,” he jokes, voice pitched high. If Lily had been sober she probably wouldn’t have found it all too funny, or maybe would have put more thought into the complicated expression on Remus’ face even as he continues to watch his friends with fond eyes. As it is she keeps laughing like it’s the funniest thing she’s ever heard until Remus finally joins her.
“What’s so funny?” Sirius asks, dropping himself onto Remus’ lap and nuzzling into his side. Remus adjusts his hold on his drink so Sirius can settle more comfortably.
“Nothing Pads, I’ll tell you in the morning.”
Sirius pouts, jutting out his bottom lip dramatically. “But I wanna know now.” He whines, drawing out the last word.
“No Sirius, tomorrow,” Remus doesn’t relent and to her surprise Sirius slumps and doesn’t argue.
“Fine,” he grumbles.
“Done dancing?” Remus asks, toying absently with Sirius’ hair.
Sirius grunts in agreement. “Too tired. Prongs is still goin’ though.” He points over to where James is spinning like a top.
They all sit in pleasant silence for a few minutes, listening to the dulcet tones of David Bowie crackling from the record player. Sirius breaks the quiet.
“Moony?” He bumps his head against Remus’ jaw to get his attention rather than untangling his arms from their hold around his waist.
Remus looks down at him. “Yes?”
Sirius beams, brightening under Remus’ gaze. “I love you. You’re brilliant.”
“I love you too,” Remus replies easily. Lily is too tipsy to notice the way he glances to check on her.
Sirius seems to remember she’s there, smiling dazedly at her. “I love you too Lily, don’ worry.” He cuddles even closer into Remus’ side. Like a plant seeking the sun, Sirius seeks the touch of his friends.
“You’re drunk, Pads,” Remus mutters, biting at his lip to keep from smiling.
“Not tha’ drunk,” Sirius protests.
Remus chuckles. “Yes you are, you’re hammered.”
Sirius shifts and whispers something right into Remus’ ear, a murmur of noise that Lily can’t decipher over the music and cacophony of people talking.
Remus makes a choked noise. “Okay we need to get you to bed before you do something you’ll regret.” His cheeks are flushed with alcohol and the smile on his face is a concoction of amusement, fondness and something that Lily can’t recognise.
With a shrug and smirk like he knows something Lily doesn’t Sirius waves goodbye to her. It’s such a jarring shift that Lily feels thrown off balance by it. Remus tugs a giggling Sirius away by the arm as though they have somewhere to be, quickly stopping by James and Peter before heading up to the dorm. Lily can’t make a heads or tails of it.
However, she forgets about her confusion in minutes, letting the pleasant buzz of the drinks and music wash over her until she is lulled to sleep.
At one point she is woken briefly by the feel of a warm blanket being tucked around her chin and knuckles tenderly grazing her cheek.
“Wha’s happenin’?” She mumbles, voice slurred with sleep.
“Shh, just get some sleep,” James’ voice murmurs to her, brown fingers carefully brushing her hair out of her face.
“We’re just going to leave her in the common room?” A voice asks, too high pitched to be Remus, Peter maybe?
“Well it’s not very well like I can get her to her dorm,” James points out. “Besides, Marlene and Dorcas are out here too.”
Lily falls back asleep before she can hear the other person’s answer.
“Oi Potter!” Lily calls out, hurrying away from Marlene and Dorcas with a wave as she runs to catch up with the four boys up ahead.
The castle is a bustle of activity as everyone moves to get to their class on time; friends chattering creating a buzz of noise like the inside of a bee hive, clammering to reach staircases before they switch directions. Lily loves the gaps between classes, when all the students are out of the classrooms and making their ways through the winding corridors of the castle. It makes Hogwarts feel alive.
The Marauders are walking together, bunched as usual, one rarely more than two steps from the others. Remus and Sirius are in front, talking with wide grins; with every few steps Sirius deliberately bumps his hips into Remus, pushing him off balance and causing him to stumble with a laugh before he rights himself and does the same thing back to Sirius. A few paces behind them James and Peter bring up the rear, heads bowed together as they talk secretively, a twinkle of naughtiness in both of their eyes.
They both look up as she approaches, their conversation immediately ceasing. With anyone else Lily might feel insecure, sure they must have been talking about her but with James and Peter she knows there’s a more than likely chance they were discussing an upcoming prank.
“Hullo Evans,” James greets her with an easygoing smile, throwing an arm across her shoulders.
“Hey,” she replies, unconsciously leaning into his side. Peter shoots a knowing look at her but doesn’t say anything, just nodding in lieu of saying hello.
Peter smiles, glad to be acknowledged as ever and replies easily, “Yeah I’m alright, you?”
“Good, good. Just thought I’d see if you guys want to hang out with me and the other girls tomorrow afternoon since you lot don’t have Quidditch practise.”
James pulls an apologetic grimace. “We’d love to, but unfortunately we’ll be in detention.”
She frowns. “You don’t have detention right now. I thought you had your last on Monday?”
“That we did,” Peter answers, biting at his lip to keep from smiling.
Remus has no such qualms, grinning back at her as he and Sirius join the conversation, watching her frown deepen in confusion.
“We don’t have a detention right now, but by tomorrow we will,” he explains.
“Even you?” She raises a disapproving eyebrow at her fellow Prefect. He shrugs unapologetically, if anything looking entertained.
“I wouldn’t let these lads have all the fun without me,” Remus says, covering his heart with a dramatic flair that could rival Sirius.
Sirius shoves his shoulder. “No, but you do have a knack for getting out of the punishments. Wouldn’t be surprised if the rest of us are stuck in detention while you get out scot free.”
Remus smirks. “It’s a gift.”
True to the boys’ word that afternoon she spots each of them obviously preparing something.
She runs into Sirius first, lounging against a wall near the Potions corridor. At a casual glance he seems to be simply waiting for someone, twirling his wand absentmindedly, but as Lily looks more carefully she notices him mumbling spells under his breath and the periodic glow at the tip of his wand as he casts charms. He salutes her lazily with two fingers as she walks past, barely concealing his glee.
She bumps into Remus and Peter while walking the halls.
The casual and mannered evenness to Remus’ gait reminds Lily of how he’s able to fool so many people - teachers included - into thinking he’s the most well behaved member of the Marauders. Lily knows him best out of anyone (excluding the Marauders) and even she only spots that he’s up to no good when she’s specifically looking. His hands are shoved in his pockets, book bag swinging against his hip. When she squints she can see the shifting outline of his wand moving in his right pocket, but otherwise he looks totally at ease.
Peter isn’t as confident as his friends, eyebrows furrowed in confusion and unease as he darts down the corridors. He lacks the assuredness that the other Marauders hold, missing the bold confidence the others hold in the glittering mischief of their eyes. Despite this, when Lily raises her eyebrows at him in pointed question he just grins and continues his task, whatever it may be.
Lily doesn’t see James, and pointedly pretends that fact doesn’t bother her at all.
She does however feel something brush against her arm in the library, even though nothing was passing by. She briefly considers the rumour that the four boys have a way of making themselves invisible, which is how so many pranks have been set up undetected, but dismisses the idea.
The prank itself isn’t revealed until Charms the next morning.
Flitwick bursts into the room with his usual chipper energy, scurrying to the desk at the front of the classroom, clambering on top of his stack of books to meet their eyes.
“Books out today!”
There’s the usual muttering and groaning as everyone rummages around their bags to grab their textbooks. To Lily’s surprise none of the Marauders so much as pout - not even Remus who has a penchant for Charms and despises any class where he doesn’t get the opportunity to try a new spell - if anything they look positively gleeful.
The reason is revealed not even seconds later. When Flitwick calls out the page number to turn to, all four boys tap their wands to their books, Remus mutters a spell Lily doesn’t recognise under his breath, and hell is unleashed. The books simultaneously start screaming in a way Lily has only read about happening in the Restricted Section. Lily claps her hands over her ears to block out the cacophony, along with most of the class. Muffled words still reach her, the words on the pages are being screamed out, with their ear-splitting shrieks they seem to be competing with each other.
“Goodness!” Flitwick shouts over the din, his own hands pressed over his ears.
James is beaming proudly, fingers stuck in his ears, Remus and Peter high five, both wearing fluffy ear muffs and Sirius kicks his legs up on the bench. None of them even bother concealing that they are behind the chaos.
McGonagall storms into the room wearing a pair of fluffy earmuffs herself, likely procured from Professor Sprout, cloak flying behind her. She gives a nod of acknowledgement to Flitwick but otherwise doesn’t stray from her pointed march towards the four gleeful boys.
“I trust you know why I am here boys,” she says in lieu of greeting them, Lily has to release the pressure from her ears to hear her.
“I’m sure I couldn’t say, Professor,” Sirius answers easily.
“What is the countercurse?” McGonagall demands.
“Yes Mr Black, countercurse. It may have slipped your notice, but every piece of writing in the entire school is shouting and it is quite impossible to teach over the racket.”
James leans forward, steepling his fingers under his chin.
“Who is to say that we know the countercurse, Professor?”
McGonagall shoots him a stern look that would make anyone else shrivel in on themselves, but James just grins.
“Well Mr Potter, considering when something is amok in the castle you four are almost always the culprits, I feel confident in my assumption.” “We ought to be offended! Being accused without proof.” Remus grins, and Peter nods in agreement.
McGonagall gestures to their earmuffs. “I think these speak for themselves as evidence.”
“Now, what is the countercurse?” She stares down each boy in turn, sharp eyebrows raised in impatience.
“Sirius, do you know a countercurse?” James asks, playing up the acting dramatically.
“Why James, I don’t think I do.”
Remus tilts his head to the side imploringly at McGonagall. “Have you tried finite incantatem?”
McGonagall sighs heavily through her nose. “Yes Mr Lupin, we tried the most elementary spell.”
She waits, as though her silence will encourage the Marauders to speak up, when none does she takes another steeling breath. The Charms books continue to scream notes at them, echoing around the classroom and in Lily’s eardrums.
“Countercurse?” McGonagall prompts again.
James taps his chin. “I don’t think that will do much good, truly Professor.”
“And what do you think would be most effective, Mr Potter?” McGonagall says with a resigned sigh.
“I suppose you could try promising that lessons are cancelled for the day.”
Lily covers her mouth to keep a laugh from sputtering out, refusing to be brought down with their nonsense.
“I see. This is the only thing that will make it stop, I presume?”
The four nod.
“You will each have detention for two weeks, and fifty points taken from Gryffindor.”
“Each?” James confirms, grimacing for the first time since the ordeal began.
“Each,” McGonagall confirms sternly.
The Marauders look at each other, ducking their heads together and whispering sharply. Their faces are twisted in thought, James’ mouth is pinched and Sirius’ eyes are wide as he splays his hands with a murmured plan Lily can’t catch. After a few moments of deliberation Remus looks to each of his three friends and nods; even Peter seems satisfied with their decision.
“What about classes cancelled until lunch?” Remus offers.
McGonagall purses her lips, a long lull in conversation stretches as she considers, the books continue screaming in the background. “Very well, but just this once. I will speak to Albus and inquire about classes being cancelled until lunch.” She glares at them as though hoping they will admit to everything being a trick. Lily notices her lips twitch towards what could be a smile as they all beam back at her, unbothered by her stern disposition.
They grin in triumph, Sirius even goes so far as to slap James on the back heartily, a bold celebration when Professor McGonagall has yet to walk away. It’s clear that they feel like they’ve won.
“As soon as he says so, it’ll stop,” Peter promises.
“How kind of you, Mr Pettigrew,” McGonagall says, turning to leave the classroom. She pauses a few steps away from the door. “You will each have detention for a week, and twenty points taken from Gryffindor. Each.”
The boys splutter in protest, mouths dropping open,they came so close to having no retribution.
Peter grimaces and mutters under his breath, “We almost got away with it.”
“But Professor-” James attempts but McGonagall levels him a stern glare and he stutters into silence.
“I don’t enjoy docking points from my own house Mr Potter, I wish you boys wouldn’t make me do it so often.”
Sirius flutters his eyelashes at her. “Oh you love us really, Professor.”
McGonagall doesn’t reply, but her smile does grow ever so slightly.
She turns to continue walking from the room, but pauses in the doorway and admits. “It is an impressive bit of magic I will admit.”
Only a few minutes later the room finally falls silent.
“Alright then, I guess class is over!” Flitwick announces, hurrying them out of the classroom.
A horde of students come to applaud the Marauders, patting their backs and laughing at their genius. The boys bask in it, grinning, like celebrities on a red carpet. They drink in the attention as if it’s their life force. Sirius even goes so far as to bow with a flourish and laughs when Remus kicks his ankle for it. Even Professor Flitwick joins in. “Very impressive charm work boys, I certainly can’t deny it!”
They join Lily at the door and make their way to Gryffindor tower alongside her.
“Surely a half-day off work isn’t worth a week’s detention,” she teases, nudging Sirius with her elbow.
Sirius laughs, stumbling into Remus. “It’s not so much the classes off as the achievement of making it happen.”
“We just proved we have the ability to convince both McGonagall and Dumbledore to cancel classes.” James finishes for him.
“We have the power,” Remus says, eyes gleaming with excitement.
“We hold the cards,” Peter adds, grinning.
“All four of you are ridiculous,” Lily replies, rolling her eyes fondly at them.
“Ridiculously brilliant maybe,” James retorts, running a hand through his hair, smiling at her.
A horde of girls giggle and wave at them as they pass, only Peter seems interested, wiggling his fingers in return.
“What about your mystery girl, Sirius?” Lily asks, tipping her head at him.
“Hmm?” Sirius tips his head at her.
Lily shrugs. “Well what does she think about all your pranks?”
All four boys giggle like primary school children. Lily raises an unamused eyebrow at them.
“They’re fine with the pranks, don’t worry about that,” Remus assures her, biting at his finger to stifle his laughter.
“I don’t see what’s so funny,” Lily sniffs. Sirius throws his arm over her shoulder and jostles her good humouredly until she’s smiling again. “Aw don’t worry Evans you’ll get the joke soon. It’s only that my darling is very on board with the pranks.”
“Remember!” James pipes up. “Sirius’ hot piece of arse has a good sense of humour.”
Remus hacks a laugh, going red. “Sorry! Sirius’ what?”
“Hot piece of arse!”
Lily scoffs. “Potter, you are so crude.”
“I tell it like it is, Evans,” James shrugs.
“Oi stop moving in on my sweetcheeks!” Sirius shoves James so he stumbles into a wall, giggling as he staggers.
Lily makes her way over to Sirius and Remus, ducking around a group of Slytherin second years playing Gobstones on the grass. As she gets closer she can see that they’ve just been interrupted by a girl in the year below, a Gryffindor named Meredith Berlington, from Lily’s memory she has been on the list for a while. She feels a spark of excitement as she hurries over, thinking she might have finally caught him, but it is quickly extinguished when she sees the boys’ faces.
Sirius is facing Meredith so Lily can only just catch a glimpse of his uncomfortable smile but Remus’ frown is evident even from halfway across the courtyard. He’s standing a few paces back from Sirius, watching the interaction out of the corner of his eye.
“Will you go to Hogsmeade with me, Black?” Lily hears Meredith ask.
“Uh sorry Meredith, I already have plans.”
“Oh,” she pouts. “You couldn’t slip away for a little bit to grab a drink with me? I won’t tell, if you won’t.”
Lily reaches them, stopping beside Remus who offers her a grimace which she returns. She crosses Meredith’s name off the list in her mind, Sirius turning her down is enough indication. Sirius laughs, high pitched and uncomfortable, nothing like his usual bellow. “No I don’t think so.”
Meredith crosses her arms tight over her chest. “Well why not?”
“I told you, I already have plans.”
“With your friends?” She eyes Remus coldly.
Sirius tips his head, agreeing without outright saying it.
“They can excuse you for an hour to have a nice date, you haven’t been with anyone for months now. All the girls are talking about it.”
“All of them?” Sirius looks incredibly uncomfortable, Lily can’t help but wonder how Meredith doesn’t see it.
Meredith waves her hand dismissively. “Not all of them obviously, even you’re not that popular, Black. Just the interested ones.”
Sirius shifts on his feet. “Right. Well I’m not interested.”
“Not even for one date?”
Sirius shakes his head.
Lily wishes she would give up, most of the girls in the school would have by now to save themselves the embarrassment. Meredith was one of those rare girls who didn’t really care what effort she had to put in as long as she won out in the end. Lily knew for certain that there weren’t nearly as many girls interested in Sirius’ dating habits as she was implying.
“You’ve been flirting with me for weeks,” she protests.
“I definitely haven’t,” Sirius replies, glancing at Remus in a plea for help.
“You have!” Meredith insists. “Always laughing at my jokes and complimenting my hair.”
Sirius shuffles on his feet. “I’m really sorry if I’ve been sending you the wrong messages, but I swear I wasn’t flirting.”
“Then you shouldn’t make it seem that way,” she sniffs haughtily.
“Yeah, like I said, sorry about that.”
There’s an uncomfortable silence where Meredith glares at Sirius. There’s a moment where they all hope she might give up and walk away, and when she doesn’t Sirius wilts and fills the quiet, his shoulders slumping heavily.
“I appreciate your bravery in coming up to me,” he offers and Meredith brightens. “It’s just that I’m seeing someone, and I’m really quite mental about them.”
A frown falls across Meredith’s face like a shadow. “I thought that was just a rumour.”
Sirius smiles humorlessly while Remus scowls.
“Well it’s not. I’m taken and very happy about it, so you can tell all the ‘interested ones’ that.”
“Who is this girl then?” Meredith demands, stomping her foot into the grass.
Sirius frowns, dark eyebrows furrowing. “I don’t really see how that’s your business, Berlington. It’s not going to change my answer.”
“You are such an arse, Sirius Black!” Meredith exclaims, finally storming away.
Lily and Remus walk up beside Sirius who is staring after Meredith with gritted teeth.
“I hate doing that,” he mutters. The tension slides out of his shoulders as Remus lays a hand gently between his shoulder blades.
“Turning girls down?” Lily asks.
Sirius nods. “Obviously I don’t want to date her, I’m not even remotely interested,” he turns to Remus as he says this, before returning his eyes to Lily. “I just don’t like hurting anyone.”
“Then maybe don’t flirt with them,” Remus says, bumping his hip into Sirius’ side.
“I’m not flirting with-” Sirius explodes in protest before laying eyes on the teasing pull of Remus’ mouth and grinning. “You’re a prat.”
“Made you smile though,” Remus points out, poking Sirius’ cheek and ducking away from his slapping hand.
“So, got a date for Hogsmeade then?” Lily asks, wiggling her eyebrows at Sirius.
Sirius chuckles ruffling her hair. “Why Evans? You jealous?”
“You wish, Black.”
Remus slings his arm over her shoulder so all three of them are walking back to the castle in an intertwined huddle.
“I’m sure Prongs would be able to find time for you if you’d like a date, Lily. No need to feel jealous.” Remus says, smirking at her.
“Are you asking me out for Potter?” She asks, bemused.
Remus flashed a smile at her. “Maybe, is it working?”
“I’m good, cheers.”
Sirius lets out a loud cackle. She can’t help but smile, tilting her head so her cheek is resting against Remus’ shoulder.
As they meander their way back to the castle she hatches a plan. Sirius is clearly planning to spend the Hogsmeade weekend with his girlfriend, all she has to do is follow him and she’s sure to finally have an answer and win the bet. She had planned to spend Hogsmeade with Mary, Marlene and Dorcas but they are as invested in this bet as she is so they won’t mind if she slips away for a bit to gather information.
Lily loses Sirius immediately. She forgets to account for her prefect duties, her and Remus are stuck with a third year boy who is determined that he does in fact have a permission slip, that McGonagall must have marked him down wrong, for ten minutes. When they finally resolve that he doesn’t have his permission slip and he’s sent on his dejected way back to the castle, she has resigned herself to the fact that she will be hunting the entirety of Hogsmeade in search of Sirius and his mystery girlfriend.
Remus is in a similar rush to get to Hogsmeade, although who he’s meeting is unknown to her, so they run laughing all the way to the village. They split off once they arrive, Remus heading straight for Zonkos, while Lily decides to check Madam Puddifoot's first.
She’s not sure Sirius would be caught dead in the sickly sweet pink room, but his girlfriend might want a proper date and it is the most popular date location. The smell of rose and pure sugar is an assault on Lily’s senses even from a few metres away. She scans through the window and is almost grateful to not see Sirius seated at any of the tables just so she can avoid staying near the nauseating tea shop any longer than absolutely necessary.
Lily makes her way around Hogsmeade, looking into every shop and cafe she passes. She visits Honeydukes, grabs herself a chocolate frog, the quill shop, the bookstore, then Zonkos. She even ventures into the back alleys to pubs like the Hog’s Head, reasoning that if Sirius and his girlfriend wanted to keep their relationship private then less populated spots would be preferable. However she has no luck in finding them.
Dejected, she makes her way to the Three Broomsticks. She had intentionally left it for last, since it was the most popular spot in Hogsmeade and so it didn’t seem like the place Sirius and his mystery girl would visit. Even then she figured if she was unsuccessful in finding them she could probably use a Butterbeer to perk up her spirits.
To her surprise when she walks in she sees Sirius sitting across from Remus and laughing loudly. So she was wrong after all, he wasn’t lying to Meredith when he said he would be going out with his friends.
It takes her a moment to realise why James and Peter aren’t there until she remembers that they were banned from this Hogsmeade trip for detention. If Lily hadn’t known better she would have thought they’d been trying to get detention with how obvious they were. They had placed sticking charms on all the chairs in the Transfiguration classroom so once the Third Year Slytherins finished their class and stood up to leave their chairs came with them. It took Flitwick and McGonagall an hour to unstick all of the chairs. There were more than twelve passerbys who saw Peter and James leave the classroom just before class started. They might as well have gone up to McGonagall and said ‘we don’t want to go to Hogsmeade this weekend’.
She’s a little bummed she didn’t catch Sirius again, but it’s hard to be disappointed with how happy he looks. His head is resting on his fist, smiling as Remus tells a lengthy story Lily can’t hear over the clammer of the pub. Sirius says something in response and Remus coughs into his fist to hide how hard he’s laughing. Sirius notices the laughter nonetheless and smiles in triumph at having caused the reaction out of his friend.
Lily makes her way out of the inn, forgetting her plan to get a Butterbeer, instead running off to find the girls. After seeing Sirius and Remus together enjoying each others’ company it made something deep in her chest long for the closeness of her friends. She’s spent plenty of the day on her own searching the village, now she deserves some company.
She can’t help but smile as Marlene immediately wraps her in a warm hug and Mary links arms with her. They wander around the village together, giggling and talking about nothing and everything, and she doesn’t think of Remus and Sirius for the rest of the day.
“Can I drop out now?” Lily groans, pressing her head into her book with an exhausted sigh. Marlene pats her head consolingly, not looking up from her own work.
“Too many hours already wasted,” Mary mutters, chewing on the end of her quill in thought. “Might as well finish now.”
Lily doesn’t bother responding, just making another sound of exasperation, picking up her head slightly and letting it drop into the pages again.
There’s a long pause and Lily considers just closing her eyes and letting the rhythmic scratching of quills lull her to sleep when Marlene’s finger jabs into her side.
“Lily!” She hisses, poking Lily sharply again when she doesn’t move. “Lily.”
Lily squawks, batting her hands away. “What?”
“Look who is gracing the library with his presence,” Marlene mutters, pointing the feathered end of her quill towards the entrance.
She follows the line of Marlene’s quill and has to blink a few times to make sure she isn’t delusional. She may have been studying for hours but hallucinations seem a step too far.
“Is that Sirius Black? In the library?” She asks incredulously, to confirm her eyes aren’t completely betraying her.
Marlene nods slowly, also staring at him like she’s convinced he’ll disappear if she blinks.
“Since when does Black come to the library?” Dorcas asks.
It’s a well known fact that Sirius usually wouldn’t be caught dead in the library. Even if he does step beyond the elusive doors he won’t stay. He comes, gets the books he needs and leaves. This time he has a bulging bag strapped over his shoulder and a drink in each of his hands, obviously prepared to stay for a while.
One time Lily had teased him about it and he had just winked at her and said, “Libraries ruin my bad boy image.”
“What bad boy image?” Lily had retorted and that had been the end of the conversation because he had attacked her with a pillow and an intense battle had begun.
“He doesn’t,” Lily answers, getting to her feet as quietly as possible, keeping her gaze firmly planted on Sirius’ retreating back. He’s making his way towards the more secluded desks at the back of the library, concealed amongst shelves.
“What are you doing?” Mary raises an eyebrow at Lily, smoothing one of her dark curls back into place.
Lily tears her gaze away from Sirius and looks at her friends with a gleaming eagerness.
“Who could convince Sirius to spend an afternoon in the library?” She prompts.
Marlene’s mouth stretches into an impish smile. “His girlfriend.”
Lily snaps her fingers. “Exactly.”
“He had two drinks,” Dorcas points out.
“Go! Go go go.” Mary pushes Lily away and after Sirius.
She sneaks after Sirius as quietly as possible, not wanting to draw any attention to herself. He turns into an aisle with confidence, he clearly has a destination in mind - definitely meeting someone then. Lily turns into the aisle directly next to the one he entered, not wanting to be caught in her pursuit. She watches his hair bounce through gaps in books and carefully edges to a stop when she sees him stop moving.
“Hi,” Sirius murmurs and the person mumbles something in response. Lily stands on her tiptoes to try to spot the mystery girl but can only see Sirius who is still standing in front of the desk smiling down at the person in the chair.
“Brought your favourite,” Sirius says, holding up one of the cups. Lily ducks down and tries to peer through lower books but still can’t see more than flashes of the Hogwarts school uniform.
“Thank you. You didn’t have to do that,” the person replies, so softly that Lily can barely hear it, hardly louder than a whisper.
“Oh it’s self preservation believe me, I know what you’re like without eight cups of coffee in you.”
The person lets out a breathy laugh in response, lost in the brim of the cup.
Lily almost screams through her teeth in frustration as she continues to peer through gaps in books and can see nothing but glimpses of Sirius and piles of books. There’s a better gap only a few shelves up that will give her a good view of the scene. She swallows her pride and puts a foot on the shelf, praying to every deity out there that Madam Pince doesn’t walk around the corner. She can’t risk the ladders, they’re far too old and let out horrific screeches when dragged along the shelves.
As she climbs two shelves up she can see the top of Sirius’ head but no more of the person he’s with. She goes to reach for the next shelf and her foot slips.
Lily has enough time to think oh shit before she’s toppling backwards with a crash.
A few people poke their heads around the corner and she succumbs to the embarrassment of it all, letting her head thunk backwards against the floor. Sirius skids around the corner closely tailed by Remus, which only makes the embarrassment that much worse. He wasn’t even with his mystery girl.
“Lily?” Sirius tips his head at her, making his way down the aisle towards her.
Remus holds out a hand to help Lily to her feet once they reach her, hauling her up with impressive upper body strength.
“What happened?” Remus asks, his eyes wide in concern and a worried frown twisting his mouth.
Lily pauses for a moment considering whether she should make a run for it and deal with the consequences later or just admit defeat now.
She bites at her lip, scratching the back of her neck to stall. “I may have assumed you were with your girlfriend…” she confesses. “I was trying to climb the shelves to see who it was.”
Remus runs his tongue along his teeth, blatantly fighting a laugh and failing terribly. Lily glowers at him which only makes his smile more prominent.
Sirius has no such qualms, biting at his fist to keep himself from bursting out in laughter and risking getting kicked out by Madam Pince, his shoulders shaking with the effort to keep quiet.
“In my defense,” she continues, crossing her arms defensively. “You never come to the library. I assumed the only one who could convince you is this girl you’re so mental about.”
Sirius and Remus do that frustrating thing only the Marauders can do where they seem to have an entire conversation in a short amused glance.
“Moony’s here, so I’m here,” Sirius replies easily.
There’s a long pause where none of them say anything. Lily wants to sink through the floor and become one with the earth, simply succumbing to an existence where no one can know about her embarrassing failures.
“Right, well I’m gonna head back to the girls then.”
The two nod at her, both still valiantly fighting smiles.
“I’ll see you for prefect rounds later,” Remus promises, patting her shoulder.
They giggle together as they go. Even though mortification is still surging through Lily, she doesn’t feel too bad. She knows they’re laughing at her, but they would never be cruel, it’s friendly and affectionate and despite her embarrassment she feels a buzz of fondness for her friends as she makes her way back to the other girls.
Exams pass in a blur and over as quickly as they started, and the final feast of the year is upon them. Lily has spent the day in a flurry of activity, finding her possessions that seemed to spread far and wide around the dorm room, common room, and other odd spots around the castle. Somehow one sock had ended up in Peter’s book bag, and neither of them had an explanation for the occurrence. Nothing ever fit quite as well as it had when she’d hauled the trunk onto Platform Nine and Three Quarters in September but with the help of Dorcas standing on top of the lid they had managed to wrestle it closed.
Now she’s surrounded by the chatter of her friends as the year pulls to a close.
“Only one day left!” Sirius teases, nudging Lily in the ribs.
“Maybe I’ve just been holding out on you Black,” she retorts, even though she’s almost certain the final name on the list in her dorm room isn’t the mystery girl.
“Doubt that,” Peter replies cheerily and at Lily’s stink eye he adds, “Just calling it how it is!”
“I guess we’ll see.” Lily turns her nose up, fighting a smile.
Sirius props his chin on his hands and beams at her. “Oh come on, don’t you want to make a guess now?”
Lily shakes her head. “You’ll have to wait for tomorrow Black.”
She’s barely finished her sentence when Dumbledore clears his throat, somehow managing to call the attention of the entire room with a simple gesture.
“I believe it is time to award the House Cup,” Dumbledore says, gesturing to the cup behind him. It’s no secret to any of them who won for the year, the Hufflepuff banners are decked around the hall. Gryffindor House is a touch disappointed but none of them were operating under any false pretences, despite the joy and laughter the Marauders brought, Gryffindor House had yet to win the House Cup while they were students, and it seemed unlikely they ever would.
“As it stands: in fourth place is Gryffindor with three hundred and seventy-eight points; in third, Slytherin with three hundred and seventy-nine points; in second place we have Ravenclaw, with three hundred and ninety points and finally, congratulations to Hufflepuff with four hundred and two points.”
The room applauds raucously for Hufflepuff’s success, Gryffindor and Ravenclaw celebrating just as much as the Hufflepuffs, purely because they beat Slytherin. Had the Marauders held off from one prank and they might’ve forced Slytherin into fourth place. Not that Lily was in any way frustrated about that.
“With that! Let us feast!” Dumbledore announced and the delicious food of the Great Feast appeared in front of them, a delicious smelling banquet that covered every square inch of the long tables. Lily would never dare to admit it, but she often missed the Hogwarts Feasts over the summer holidays, her mother was an excellent cook but nothing quite beat the selection of delicious goods that the house elves churned out for special occasions.
“At least we won the Quidditch cup?” James offered as Mary teased him and the other boys about costing them the cup once again.
“Lily,” Sirius says solemnly.
“Sirius,” she says back, mimicking his tone.
The train has just pulled out of Hogsmeade station, taking off towards King’s Cross. It is the end of the school year, and therefore, the end of the bet.
Sirius begins monologuing, taking on a theatrical voice. “Two months ago a momentous event occurred, it was the coming together of two minds, the clash of a lifetime. One brave girl determined she could seek out the truth, the four boys confident that there wasn't a chance-”
“For Merlin’s sake Padfoot we were all there,” James interrupts.
“Let me have my moment!” Sirius cries, pouting dramatically.
“Make your moment a touch less lengthy,” Remus says, patting Sirius’ shoulder consolingly.
“Fine,” Sirius grumbles, bottom lip sticking out.
“Two months ago, a bet was placed. Could you, Lily Evans, work out who I am dating before the end of the school year? Should you lose, you must ask out your secret crush on a date.” Lily pointedly doesn’t look at James. “Should you win, I cannot prank Snivvelus all of the first term of our final year at Hogwarts.”
Sirius raises his eyebrows at her, a challenging glint in his grey eyes. “So, have you done it?”
The list had dwindled until only one name remained, but even though the elimination of potential girlfriends had been meticulous and careful Lily isn’t confident. Still, it’s the only answer she has.
“Is your mystery girl Deidre Waters?”
Sirius grins. “Diedre Waters, a fine girl, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.”
Lily feels something like hope blooming in her chest. “So?”
Sirius shakes his head. “Alas, no, she is not the one who holds my heart.”
“Oh and you’re just so desperate to be dating Deidre,” Remus scoffs, slapping the side of Sirius’ head.
Sirius plays up the melodrama immediately, aware that he’s annoying Remus. “Oh to be the boyfriend of Diedre Waters, what a dream.” He swoons, pulling at his collar, one hand over his heart.
“Should we go get her then?”
Sirius widens his eyes in mock excitement. “Would she agree, do you think?”
“Prick!” Remus grins, shoving Sirius’ shoulder so hard that he goes careening into the carriage wall with a bark of laughter.
“Alright!” Lily breaks them up with a shout before they can actually begin fighting and they smile sheepishly at her. “Not that your fights aren’t entertaining but I’ve been waiting months and I want the answer.”
Sirius raises his eyebrows, a shit-eating smirk plastered across his handsome face.
“You know once I tell you the bet is over? You’ve lost,” he confirms.
She nods, the competitive part of her screams in defiance but the stronger, more curious part is desperate to know the answer, regardless of the cost.
“You accept the terms of our deal?”
“Yes, I’m not going to back out, it’s only fair.” She scowls.
Sirius shrugs, looking far too proud of himself. “So you know once I tell you, you will have to ask your crush out.” “Yes,” Lily groans, throwing her head back. “Just tell me damn it!”
“Alright alright,” Sirius holds his hands up in surrender, grinning smugly. “I think it’s better to show though.” Lily furrows her eyebrows in confusion.
“What do you say, love?” Sirius says, turning in his seat to meet Remus’ gaze.
Remus rolls his eyes, expression dripping with affection. “You’re so dramatic.”
The realisation came to Lily slow as a tortoise and then all in a rush.
“You love it though,” Sirius says.
They lean forward until they’re smiling against each other's mouths and then they’re kissing. It’s chaste, simply a press of their lips, but it’s familiar and loving and makes so much sense that Lily is dumbstruck. Sirius goes to move away but Remus leans in and catches his lips in a final short kiss; so sweet it takes Sirius a few moments to open his eyes after it ends.
Remus on the other hand is staring at Lily with raised eyebrows. She’s too shocked to say anything, she’s vaguely aware that her jaw has dropped open. Not because it’s shocking, though it is a bit, but because it’s so obvious that she can’t help but feel blown away with it. It’s like she’s had a layer of film removed from her eyes and is finally seeing everything clearly.
All the events of the year suddenly make sense, Sirius’ teasing remarks, Remus’ amusement, James and Peter’s hearty support of the relationship. She never stood a chance of finding the ‘mystery girl’, she was too busy looking in all the wrong places. Now Lily sees Sirius and Remus with new eyes, the transparent reality of their relationship is so obvious in hindsight. Even the way they are sitting is achingly affectionate. There’s enough space for another person on either side of them. They are plastered together from thighs to shoulders, their ankles interlocked and Remus’ fingers are drumming on Sirius’ knee. They’re inclined towards each other like magnets drawn together.
“Lily? You’re okay with it aren’t you?” Remus draws her out of her head, he doesn’t look so proud of himself anymore, more worried, and Lily suddenly realises how her reaction would look to an outsider not in her head.
“Yes! Of course!” She says, too loudly, all four boys wince. “I’m just... shocked. I’m so stupid.”
None of them deny it, but they seem relieved, biting at their cheeks to keep from smiling.
“I just… you said you had a girlfriend!” Lily says with a glare in Sirius’ direction.
Sirius shakes his head, tutting at her. “Ah ah ah.” He wags his finger. “I said I was dating someone and you came to the girlfriend conclusion on your own.”
“I believe you said you were properly in love,” Remus corrects him, smirking.
Sirius raises an eyebrow at Remus. “Oh fishing for compliments, Moony? That’s a bit below you.”
“What can I say?” Remus sighs mournfully. “I’m starved for affection.”
Sirius grins, and Lily can finally see that the wolfish expression she had identified through the year was in fact desire. She wonders with great astonishment how she missed the heated way Sirius looks at Remus, like he wants to snog him until he forgets his name. His eyes swimming with affection, smiling like they were the only two in the carriage.
“Starved for affection, huh?” Sirius asks sarcastically, getting up in Remus face and laughing loudly when Remus pushes his head away roughly with a smile on his lips.
“And your clues!” Lily interrupts. “No kidding, it's not someone I would expect,” she says, attempting to sound chiding as she points at James.
He reclines against the wall of the carriage, crossing his legs lazily. “I told you that was more helpful than you thought.”
She scoffs, but can’t keep the smile off her face, realisations hitting her tenfold.
“And you!” She points between Sirius and Peter. “Understatement of the year we ‘get on well’ and ‘have had a proper conversation’! We’ve had a proper conversation about the so-called mystery girl.” With that another realisation dawns on Lily.
“Well it’s no fucking wonder you all found it so funny when you heard I was calling ‘her’ your mystery girl,” she groans, doing finger quotes around the pronoun and stupid nickname.
“And let’s not forget feisty temptress,” Peter giggles. The boys break out into raucous cackles as Lily covers her flaming face with her hands.
“No, let's forget that, let’s forget that forever,” Lily says desperately, muffled by her palms.
Remus flashes his teeth at her, leaning into Sirius’ side. “Aw I think it’s flattering Lily.”
“Oh god, all the stupid things I said,” Lily grimaces. “I’m so sorry for what I put you through, Remus.”
Remus waves his hand dismissively at her. “Don’t worry about it Lily, I thought it was funny.” At her disbelieving look he continues. “Really! Pads wouldn’t have set up the bet in the first place if I wouldn’t. Remember my clue to you?”
“Has a good sense of humour,” she quotes Remus from two months ago. “You were literally complimenting yourself,” she says incredulously.
“You were actually worried that Sirius’ lover would disapprove of the prank I planned,” he points out to her. “If anything I should’ve talked myself up more.”
“You planned that? Remus, you’re a prefect!” She chastises him but he just shrugs, unbothered.
“Ah yes, and Remus here has always been the poster child for what a prefect should be,” James mutters sarcastically, winking at Lily as she turns to glower at him.
“Moony’s the brains of the operation, you should know that by now, Lily,” Peter agrees.
She thinks that one over, considering how many times Remus has been at the centre of prank planning. On their prefect rounds jotting down corridor names, managing to talk his way out of detentions that the other got stuck in, sneaking off with Sirius to plan- her brain snags on that thought.
“Oh my god,” she murmurs, a completely different wave of memories hitting her. “How many times did I actually catch you with your secret lover and assumed I’d messed up?”
Remus and Sirius wear matching cocky grins, glancing at each other before back at her. Another thing she managed to miss, their silent entertained conversations with just their eyes.
“So many times,” Remus says smugly. “The dorm.”
“The library,” Sirius adds.
“Padfoot was quite obvious at the celebration party,” Remus muses, tipping his head, considering his boyfriend with a fond smile.
“Hogsmeade and that secret corridor,” she fills in, horrified at how many times she came so close to the truth before swerving away.
“Sorry what?” Sirius blinks at her.
“Nope,” she shakes her head. “Not going into that right now.” Sirius looks like he wants to argue but Remus claps a hand over Sirius’ mouth and hisses, “she’s embarrassed enough as it is,” into his boyfriend’s ear.
“Ew!” Remus shrieks, pulling away his hand, shiny with Sirius’ saliva and wipes it against Sirius’ trousers.
Sirius looks supremely proud of himself. “You should know better.”
“I’ve been told as much.”
Remus pokes Sirius in a ticklish part of his side until he squirms away, kicking at Remus’ ankles in retaliation. It warms something in Lily to see them acting normally together, she should have known nothing would change between them just because they’re together. They’ve been together for the entire term and Lily was none the wiser, but it’s still nice to see that their familiar bickering and teasing hasn’t shed away just because they’re in love.
The only difference is that once Remus has successfully pulled Sirius into a headlock and messed with his hair he drops a kiss to Sirius’ forehead before letting him go.
“Alright,” Sirius says. “Time for your end of the bargain, Evans. You have to ask your crush on a date.”
Her mouth goes dry. She swallows heavily and nods, meeting Sirius’ amused expression and then Remus’ reassuring smile. She does her best to gather confidence from their silent encouragement. Even Peter is leaning forward eagerly on her left, also very aware of who her crush is. She’s pretty sure Potter himself is the only one who doesn’t know how she feels about him.
Palms sticky with sweat, she turns to look at James. His eyes widen slowly in realisation, sitting up properly so they’re eye to eye, she has to look up ever so slightly to meet his gaze.
“So what do you say, Potter? Fancy a date with me sometime?”
James lights up like she just told him Christmas had come early. His expression is a glittering smile of wonder that makes Lily’s heart beat a frantic rhythm against her chest.
“I would love to, Evans,” he replies, taking her hand.