Chapter 1: Numbers
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is a school for the unusual, for the strange, for the children who just wouldn’t fit in, anywhere else. At Hogwarts, these children shine, flourishing in this small school in Scotland, letting their natural gifts grow. Except for this child, apparently.
Friday, June 3, 1977
She had a knack for numbers. They made sense. That was why she got an O in her O.W.L.s in both Potions and Arithmancy – because she could bend the numbers to her will. There was something about them that spoke to her rationale. The components of a formula, chemical or mathematical, practically jumped to her bidding, solving themselves. But just because she was good at those two subjects didn’t mean that she liked them.
And then there was Charms. She was good at Charms, too, but it was a subject that she found rather interesting. To her, the ability to alter objects temporarily was absolutely brilliant. It was pure magic, it was – all you needed was your wand and a creative brain, no fancy props or anything. And when she liked something, she paid attention in class. So she got an O in her Charms O.W.L.; but what did any of that really mean, anyway?
Which was why, when Lily Evans was confronted by a Career Advice session, she panicked.
“Good heavens, Miss Evans, are you all right?” McGonagall, Head of Gryffindor House, was staring at the girl’s pale white face, a sheet of parchment listing Lily’s O.WL.'s in front of her. “I merely asked if you had given any thought to playing to your strengths, in terms of your future?”
“Erm, not at all,” Lily admitted, eyes cast downwards, her fingers twisting in her lap. “I mean, I don’t really like any subject more than any other, and it’s not like I’m especially good at anything.”
There was a momentary silence; Lily looked up to find McGonagall just staring at her, eyes narrowed. “Surely you’re joking,” she said at last.
McGonagall took off her glasses and cleaned them on her robes, saying slowly, “I would expect better from my sixth year prefect. What will you do for your senior tutorial? Or this summer? I hope you realize that an internship in the right field will help you be a star applicant for employment opportunities.”
“Erm” – Lily bit her lip, trying to think – “I dunno. I’ve just been a bit busy, I guess. My aunt wants me to help her out in her flower shop when school’s out.” She supposed this was not what McGonagall wanted to hear, but that was the truth. To some extent, anyway. To be honest, she had been a bit preoccupied of late.
“Miss Evans.” McGonagall leaned forward across her desk, and Lily knew that this meant that the woman was serious. “You’re a very bright girl, with a bright future, despite the current state of wizarding politics.” She slid a couple of colorful pamphlets towards Lily as she said firmly, “I expect you to take a look at these before our meeting next week. They’re geared toward someone of your particular strengths. You will prepare and bring me a list of potential careers that are of interest. Are we agreed?” She held Lily’s gaze until the girl nodded meekly, before regally inclining her head in dismissal. Lily left quickly.
“Merlin, Evans, what took you so long?” Lily looked up to see Sirius Black leaning on the wall outside McGonagall’s office, arms crossed, eyebrow cocked. Naturally, his voice was snide – for some reason, he’d never taken a liking to her. Not that it mattered - they rarely spoke to each other. Presumably, his Career Advice session was next - McGonagall was systematically working her way through all the Gryffindor sixth years this week. “You plan out your whole life with her or sommat?”
“Nah. Didn’t even get beyond plans for the summer, to be honest. Apparently I’m not going to amount to much.” She flashed him a wry smile and spun on her heel, leaving a rather bemused boy in her wake.
“Hello, poppet! What’re you reading?” Lily raised her eyebrows in greeting to her favorite source of irritation – Potter – but raised the book so that he could see the title anyway. “Flesh-Eating Trees of the World; sounds utterly fascinating!” She didn’t know how he had managed to find her, tucked away as she was in a small nook of the library, but, nevertheless, here he was.
“It is. Why are you so cheery?” Lily muttered, going back to the book. If she concentrated long enough, maybe he would go away…
No such luck. It was James Potter after all. With a wide grin, he collapsed into the armchair across from her before throwing a pile of pamphlets onto her table. Pamphlets that looked suspiciously like the ones that Lily had “accidentally” left in the common room before dinner. Damn. “I ran into McGonagall after dinner, you see.” If anything, his grin got wider. “She sent me on an errand.”
“Oh?” Lily pursed her lips. Ordinarily, she might have been amused by his presence, but as it was, she was actually caught up in a chapter that might prove useful to her Muggle botanist of a father. (Her family seemed to have an affinity for plants.)
Apparently Potter mistook her silence for interest, for he pressed onwards, pushing the brightly colored papers across the table, saying, “Well, not a technical errand. Technically, I mean. More like a suggestion of hers, you see. Wanted to make sure that you were thinking about job plans, y’know. These were left in the common room – Padfoot recognized them as yours?”
“Padfoot is much too observant sometimes.” She turned the page. “And there really is no need for you to be bothering about this career nonsense. I will do just fine, thank you." The carnivorous Fanged Geranium has a preference for humans, but it will often bite anything within a 1 meter radius. Easily mistaken for a generic geranium. While not a flesh eating tree per se, it is frequently found near those trees and is –
He snickered, interrupting her train of thought. “McGonagall worries about you, is all. I mean, what with this war and all. You do know there’s a war on, right?”
“Of course! But it's not officially a war yet.” near those trees and is capable of forming a symbiotic –
“Because despite the fact that Hogwarts is a bit of a bubble for news, you really ought to realize what an effect the war has on openings for jobs. The Auror Department, for instance.” A dark blue brochure with insistent silver block lettering was pushed into her lap, proclaiming “Your Ministry Needs You!”
She sighed before she could help herself. Clearly, she would have no peace until she dealt with the boy. He wouldn’t even let her finish the sentence, let alone the chapter! So she closed the book and stuffed it into her bag. “Is that what you’re going to be, Potter? An Auror?” But of course it was. It was what he’d wanted to be for years. Potter had no secrets from the Hogwarts community.
“Maybe.” He shrugged, and she was momentarily surprised to see such a noncommittal gesture from him. Potter was about assertiveness and confidence – she had always been the disinterested one. “If that’s the best way to help the government, I s’pose. But we weren’t talking about me.” He raised an eyebrow. “Thought you would’ve been organized enough to have a plan or something.”
“Me?” She twisted her mouth into something akin to a grimace. “Potter, let’s be honest. I can’t even plan beyond tomorrow, let alone the next couple of years!”
Now he really looked surprised. “But you’re always so organized! And working hard!” He sifted through the other pamphlets. “Well, McGonagall thinks you could be a Healer. Or a Curse-Breaker at Gringotts.” He brightened a little. “You’re good at Arithmancy, after all. Or Muggle relations! Bet you’d be brilliant at that!”
“What with being Muggleborn and all,” she pointed out dryly.
“Oh. Right.” He grinned sheepishly. Merlin – the boy just bounced from emotion to emotion, didn’t he?
“Potter, what are you really doing here?” She looked him in the eye, surprised to see him flush a faint pink. It was almost – adorable? No, comical was a better word. “Don’t you have pranks to pull with your little lackeys?”
“Well, there was McGonagall’s errand, you see.” He took on a serious look; she hoped he was joking. But he wasn’t. “She seems to be rather concerned about you.”
“And she asked you, of all the people that I know, to help me with this theoretically life-altering decision?”
“Erm…well…you see…” He was stalling. Any first year idiot could see that. She sighed again, winding a long curl around her finger – she really must see about cutting some of the blasted hair off, maybe the next Hogsmeade visit? “I was with Remus, and I mean, she didn’t say specifically, but – “
“She asked Remus.” Of course she did. Not only was he her fellow prefect, but McGonagall had a soft spot for him. And he was a friend. A reasonably close friend, actually.
“Right. But we passed Isabella right afterwards and she mentioned that you were in the library and I told Remus that I was on my way here anyway and he just kinda went along with it.” One of her friends had told them her location? She was going to have to have a talk with Isabella about this. Did the girl just not understand that the Marauders and Lily just didn’t mesh well? “Which is to say that I didn’t give him a chance to object.” Potter’s bright smile never wavered during this baffling explanation. “So you see, there was an errand, and McGonagall did assign it, and – “
“Merlin, help me,” Lily muttered, before leaning across the table and frowning at the boy “Listen, Potter. I don’t know what I’m doing, but frankly, I doubt that you’re the person to help me. So, if you don’t mind, I’ll just – “
He interrupted again. What was with him and interrupting her? “We could discuss career prospects over dinner this weekend, in Hogsmeade, if you like.” Ah. There it was. The inevitable invitation.
“I’ll pass, Potter.” In a swift motion Lily gracefully stood up, bag slung over her shoulder. “Nice try, though. Points for carrying on a conversation before trying to transition into asking. Too bad the transition needs work.” With one last smirk, she stalked out of the library, pointedly leaving the pamphlets on the table. Isabella had some explaining to do.
A/N: Right. So, I've been gone for a couple years. Three, to be exact. This is my first attempt at writing any fanfiction since then. But let me know what you think! I'm not even sure where this is going...
Chapter 2: Being Punctual
Lily has a knack for being punctual.
Friday, June 10, 1977
How had this happened? Somehow, an entire week had passed, and now Lily Evans was skidding to a stop in front of McGonagall's office. Damn Career Advice sessions. She checked her watch – it was 4:30; she was right on time, as always. This was something else that Lily was good at – being punctual.
Or rather, arriving just in the nick of time, a slight hair before anybody would consider her late. Fiona was rather envious of this ability, since the poor girl could set off ten minutes early and somehow show up late, whereas Lily could, from classes to Quidditch games, be unfailingly on time. However, professors were often marginally irritated with her for, as they often put it, "not showing initiative and showing up early." Apparently, prefects were supposed to be good role models. Strange concept, that.
"Bye, Professor." Lily grinned at Fiona Adler as the other girl stepped out of McGonagall's office, a pile of books in her arms. "Oh, hi, Lily. Your turn next?"
She nodded. "How was it?"
Fiona shrugged. "She hasn't got much to do with me, really. Healing runs in my blood." Lily was almost envious of Fiona's practically predetermined path – she had nothing of the sort. Fiona was still talking. "Anyway, McGonagall's in a good mood, so you should thank me. Well, her happiness might also be because I think all the Gryffindors passed their Transfiguration exams. I'm off to pack – Julian and I have plans later. See you tonight?" Without waiting for an answer the girl walked away, leaving Lily completely on her own.
"Hello, Ms. Evans. Take a seat." Minerva McGonagall peered over her spectacles at her prefect. "What ideas do you have for me?"
"Well…" Lily cast about for an idea. "Erm…I like Charms," she began hesitantly, thinking that McGonagall's eyes had brightened marginally. "And since I'm helping my aunt with her flower shop, er – I know I'm not very good with plants, but –"
"You haven't thought about it at all, have you." It wasn't a question. Lily averted her eyes – she didn't want to see the look of disappointment in her professor's eyes.
A loud sigh. "Ms. Evans, let's try a different approach, seeing as you seem to have misplaced all of those pamphlets." Lily was trying to not simultaneously blush and giggle. Fiona had brought the papers to her last night, saying that James had instructed her to give them to Lily. When the red-haired girl tried to vanish them, they had apparently appeared in various parts of the castle – at least Lily no longer had to contend with them. "Well? What do you like to do?"
"Read," she replied promptly, then blushed at how silly that sounded. "And I like Charms, I guess. More so than Herbology, anyway. Erm, I like Ancient Runes too, actually." She stole a look at her Head of House, relieved that the woman was nodding slightly. Emboldened, she went on. "I dunno, I want to create things, I think. Translating Runes is only fun because, well, because it goes back to the fundamental building blocks of magic, and you can play around with those." She didn't even know where that last bit had come from.
A flicker of a smile appeared on McGonagall's lips – had Lily just imagined it? "I see," the professor replied slowly. "So, what about a job in which you could learn to create your own spells?"
Lily gave this thought a moment's pause. "Create…anything? Really?" It had never even occurred to her, this idea. Then again, she hadn't thought about jobs at all, Muggle or magical. Oh, Isabella was going to be a Wizengamot intern this summer, and Fiona had her Healer ambitions, and even Emmeline had a plan, even if it was to marry a rich bloke (preferably one named Benjy Fenwick) and have half a dozen children. But Lily…Lily was the one who was trying to drift through life without a plan. Besides the whole flower shop thing. But this sounded…almost interesting, actually. She pasted a nonchalant smile on her face. "I'll look into it, Professor."
McGonagall sniffed. "Please don't lose this one." She handed the girl a dark green roll of parchment, labeled: "Spellcrafting: A Preparations Guide." "This has a list of recommended reading, all of which can be found at Flourish and Blotts. I'll see you at the beginning of next year to discuss which courses will help in this direction, if you are still interested." That last bit might have been sarcastic, Lily thought. Still, the idea of the job was intriguing, though perhaps the job wouldn't be. "You're dismissed – please send in Mr. Black."
Lily stood up and already had her hand on the doorknob when McGonagall said, "And, Ms. Evans – " Lily waited, slightly impatient – she had a lot to do today. "Have a good summer."
Five hours later, Lily could be found in her room, methodically packing. It was the last day of the term; exams were finished that morning, and she had nothing else to do, really. The feast had been good; she was pleasantly full, but she'd slipped away before everyone else so that she'd have time to walk through these hallowed halls one last time, alone. And so that she could avoid that Potter boy – he had been haranguing her all week about careers.
"Hey, Lily, I don't know if you've heard…" Lily looked up – Fiona had just walked into the room, twirling her wand idly with her right hand. "We have this thing called "magic," now." She paused for effect. "And it simplifies things." In demonstration, she waved her wand (Fee was great at nonverbal magic) and both of them watched as all of Fiona's clothing flew out of her drawers and into a trunk, neatly folding themselves as they did so. "See? Magic!"
Lily smiled faintly. "Never heard of it. I like doing things by hand. Keeps me humble, you know?" She rolled up a scarf and wedged it between two pairs of shoes.
"Whatever. Takes up more time," Fiona informed her. She held up a rather large amber bottle in one hand and a stack of cups in the other, smiling wickedly. "You ought to be proud of me – I managed to procure us some Firewhisky." Her eyebrows waggled. "With some…other, unnamable liquids too."
"Isabella will be so pleased."
"Isabella is pleased." Isabella Marquez strode into the room and grinned. "Hello darlings. I brought a pack of Butterbeer. Fee, I thought you were going to be out with Julian." She flopped down onto her bed, thick dark hair fanning out on the coverlet.
"And you with Michael?" Fiona retorted. She set the bottle down on her trunk and went to the mirror, examining her freckles closely. "Julian…wasn't extraordinary. I have yet to find such a boy. Why is everyone just second-rate?" The tall, thin girl pouted at herself in the mirror, then giggled and pulled her bright blonde curls out of a ponytail so that they fell on her shoulders.
"Well, Emmeline's not back yet," Lily observed. Of course, neither was Tracy, but her bed was practically always empty since she'd taken up with that Hufflepuff bloke. Tracy seemed to reserve a bit of disdain for her fellow Gryffindors, so, for the most part, Lily and her friends ignored the other girl. "And what do you mean, 'Julian wasn't extraordinary?' He's Head Boy – there's bound to be something special in that."
"Yes, but Emmy will settle. Fenwick is nothing special." Isabella pointed out.
Fiona laughed. "Don't let Emmeline hear that. And I think I'm done with our dear Head Boy. As of tomorrow, he's stripped of that status anyway."
Two scarves, a pair of jeans…a skirt. That damned green scroll. There. That was it. Lily closed the trunk and locked it with a satisfying set of clicks, then rested her cheek against the cool wood. It felt nice. "Guys," she murmured. "It's our last night."
"So it is." Fiona nodded agreeably. "Can we get piss-drunk now?" Fiona Adler – raging drunkard.
"Sure, now that I'm here." Emmeline appeared in the doorway looking a bit rumpled, her normally careful bun quite mussed, the skirt hiked too high. She wasn't even wearing her school robes – they were in a large bundle under her arm.
Fiona let out a low whistle. "Have a nice time with your little Ravenclaw, I see." The others giggled.
Emmeline, always so poised and confident, managed a disdainful sniff before she too collapsed into laughter. "He groped a bit, but all in all, rather satisfying."
"Erm, Emmy," Lily said. "Your shirt buttons don't line up."
She looked down. "So they don't," she said, bemused.
"That's okay. Here, look, I've got Firewhisky!" Fiona gestured to the bottle proudly.
"Where in Merlin's name did you find that?" Emmeline looked at it cautiously. "Spiked butterbeer is one thing, but we could get in trouble for – "
"Oh, lay off, will you? I didn't kill anyone for this, and Lily won't report us, right?" Fiona yawned widely, and Lily pretended to not see the flare of anger in Emmeline's eyes. The two girls had never quite gotten along. "If you must know, I bought it from Black. Maybe not exactly legal, but he and Potter have a stash."
"Of course they do. Can we drink now?" Isabella pleaded, sitting up. "I really want to forget the fact that Michael can't kiss a girl properly. Last time I checked, strangling a girl with your tongue is not very romantic."
Fiona wrinkled her nose in disgust, but obligingly uncorked the bottle and carefully poured some out for everyone. Lily passed the cups around, and they raised them together. "Can we toast extraordinary boys?" Fiona asked.
"Of which there are none, apparently," Lily said, raising her eyebrows.
"Yes, well, I expect to find some this summer," Fiona replied haughtily. "And Lily dearest, you'll have to help me. To extraordinary boys!" she yelled, and they all nodded and repeated the phrase, smiling.
As Lily looked around the room, watching her friends drink and chatter happily, she realized that this was one of those moments that she wanted to remember forever. The joy, the smiles, the ring of laughter. Sure, they would see each other over the summer, and they would be back the next year, but it wouldn't be the same. Isabella had turned seventeen in February, and Fiona and Emmeline had birthdays in May. Lily herself was a summer birthday. And when they came back to school, as seventeen, they would be of age, technically, legally, adults in the wizarding world. To be frank, the thought of adulthood frightened her. That meant decisions. And fighting. In a war that had been thrust upon them all.
And Lily wasn't sure that she wanted any part of it.
A/n: Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed! Penny for your thoughts?
Chapter 3: Letters and Messes
If only Lily read her letters...
Of Letters and Messes
Saturday, July 15, 1977
"Lily! Mail!" The redhead jumped at the sound of her mother's high voice. Mum had never really taken to owls.
"Coming!" Lily yelled back, before rolling herself off the bed, blankets tangling around her legs, the book she had just been reading falling to the floor. Then she clattered down the stairs and smiled at the sight of a thick stack of letters. "Morning," she called out distractedly. She bobbed her head at her mother and Petunia once – Dad was already at work. Then she grabbed the stack and ran back upstairs.
The first was a long letter from Fiona – her first one from the other girl, actually, since the Adler family took an annual vacation to south of France and weren't allowed to write to anyone. Merlin knew Lily's family was not the sort to go off and have fun together, but Lily had never met Fiona's parents, so she couldn't judge them for their strange ideas.
But Fiona was well, she missed Lily; she was back, could they meet up in Diagon Alley today at four to catch up? Lily didn't even need to think about it; she scribbled back a hasty "Yes!", making a note to herself to tell Mum that she'd be out late. It had been weeks since Lily had gone out with anyone. Then she coaxed her little owl out of her cage and sent the note off.
The second and third were short notes from Isabella (who spent all of her waking hours with the Wizengamot now) and Emmeline (who was vacationing in France, trying to pick up a decent bloke before she had to come back and work at Madame Malkin's). Isabella was busy with a big trial at the moment; she was wondering if Lily was going to some party – thrown by Sirius Black? Lily folded up the note and slid it into a drawer of her desk - she could answer that later. Lily wrote to Isabella all the time, though the poor girl was swamped with work and so wrote back considerably less. Lily could feel pages and pages with writing – she was good at that. So it was a slight disappointment to her when Isabella and Emmeline sent back two-liners. Still, at least they answered.
Emmeline's note was short and rather cryptic, however. Attached was a photograph of her and some bloke, who was relatively attractive enough. They were in a café, smiling. Actually, he looked vaguely familiar…
Australia is nice. The bloke is Fabian Prewett – do you remember him? He's here working with some dragons. And tell Fiona she was wrong.
Fabian Prewett…oh yes, hadn't he gone to Hogwarts several years back? Lily faintly recalled a bloke with nice hair and a wide grin. Oh well – even Fiona would acknowledge that he was more extraordinary than the usual lot that Emmy found. Anyway, why couldn't Emmy tell Fiona herself? But Lily had never been sure if her friends exchanged correspondence with one another, besides writing to Lily. She shrugged and tucked this note in her bag, resolving to show the picture to Fiona and pass along the message.
She turned to the rest of the pile. There was a letter from Hogwarts (probably school supply list – Lily tossed it under the bed, so that she wouldn't have to think about school for a little bit longer), a couple of magazine subscriptions, the Daily Prophet…and another letter. It was, surprisingly enough, from Potter. She smirked at the messy scrawl in blue ink, setting it aside to read later, when she perhaps needed cheering up. No doubt it was a cheeky request for a date, with one or two awful pick-up lines thrown in for good measure.
"Lily, do you want some lunch?" She was interrupted in her rereading of Fiona's letter by her mother, who was leaning against the doorjamb, fatigue wrinkling her brow and crinkling her eyes. Had her mum always had crow's feet, or were these new since Lily had been home for Easter break? "I made sandwiches."
Lily shook her head, a twinge of guilt passing through her. "If it's all right, can I go to London? I need to pick up a few things." Fiona would probably spend the whole time trying to pick up an extraordinary boy, but Lily desperately needed to get to Flourish and Blotts. Plus, she really couldn't handle another confrontation with Petunia at the moment – all that sniping about her menial job in Aunt Margot's flower shop and magic and her future, etc. What was it with people and being obsessed with jobs and flats and getting married? Wasn't she too young to be contemplating all this, anyway?
"Sure, of course. Do you need money?" her mum asked, lingering for a moment.
"Nah, thanks, though. Aunt Margot just paid me yesterday." She stood and started searching for clothing, smiling at her mother briefly as Clara Evans left and went back to the kitchen. That dark pair of jeans that made her butt look smaller…had she thrown it in the hamper? No, here it was, under her bed. She shucked her sweatpants and slid the jeans on before starting a search for that blouse that she had somewhere that supposedly went well with her hair…maybe under her library books? Or perhaps that pile of records…
Lily was good at being unorganized.
"Ack!" Lily jolted at the feel of a hand on her arm, startled out of her thoughts. Being naturally gifted at clumsiness, she bumped up against a display of beautiful hardbound books like A Century of Goblin History and War: A Goblin's Definition. The display pyramid wobbled and Lily yelped as the whole thing collapsed at her feet. Damn. They were interesting books, all of them. Given time, Lily might even have made her way over and perused them as, but now she wouldn't get the chance, seeing as a Flourish and Blotts employee would probably haul her out on her ass immediately. Double damn, seeing as, at the moment, she was engrossed in another book altogether.
"The Philosophy of the Mundane: Why Muggles Prefer Not to Know by Professor Mordicus Egg. Sounds fascinating – are you philosophizing now?" a bright voice read over her shoulder. Lily turned and bumped up against James Potter, happily grinning down at her. Had he grown another couple inches in the last month or so?
"You look like a daft fool, Potter. Merlin, the world is so small."
"Yes, it is, isn't it? And I am dreadfully thankful for this fact, because, otherwise, I wouldn't have met you today in this nice little corner of this nice little bookshop."
"How fortunate for me." She had no sooner slid the book back into its slot on the shelf when a harried looking young man in a Flourish and Blotts trademark purple apron came over, gesticulating wildly with his hands, sputtering outrage at them. She blushed; the man's face was starting to match the color of his apron.
"C'mon, Evans." That hand on her arm steered her outside, and she went, sighing at the injustice of it all. When they were both outside, blinking in the blinding sunlight, she turned to him.
"Y'know, I wouldn't have been kicked out if it weren't for you." She was miffed – yes, she'd already bought all the books she needed, but how was she going to occupy the handful of minutes before Fiona showed up? They were meeting at Fortescue's…well, she could go there alone first, she supposed.
"Terribly sorry about that, Evans." He looked mildly apologetic, which counted for something, she supposed. "I just wanted to say hi, is all – "
"Oy!" All thoughts of her anger were forgotten when she was practically barreled over by a terribly excited Sirius Black as he burst from the doors of her favorite bookstore and launched himself at his best mate, his long hair flipping about and making a bit of a commotion in the street, actually. She was appalled by the giggling girls who passed by. "Prongs, did you forget me or what? Oh, hullo, Evans."
"Hi." She flapped a hand halfheartedly at him. "Your Prongs got me kicked out of Flourish and Blotts."
"He is a mischief maker, this one!" Sirius said. "Having a nice summer, Evans?" Potter shoved the other boy away, so that they stood side-by-side, facing her. She was struck by the differences in them, how Potter had been unfailingly chipper every time she saw him, whereas Black alternated between the two extremes of laconic depression and talkative excitement. Even now, Black's happiness was just so much more than Potter's, like Sirius Black was realer than reality somehow.
"Yeah, I've been working. You?" she replied, adjusting her bags so that her grip on them was better.
"Well, Prongs and I have been up to our usual debauchery and tomfoolery, haven't we, Prongs dearest?" Black grabbed Potter's nose and rubbed it affectionately. "You see, you're looking at the two newest additions to the Ministry's set of poor, groveling interns. Except, if we keep messing with the messenger owls, they might fire us, I'm afraid. But how can I resist setting things on fire?" He flung his arms out wildly and struck a dramatic pose. She laughed. Black could be very strange.
Potter spoke up now, his eyes darting curiously from Lily to Sirius, and back again. "Did you get my note, Evans?"
"Erm…I think I saw something of the sort on my desk this morning, yes." It was partially true, in the sense that she had seen it. But if by "get my note" he meant "read it…" then she was a bit of a liar. "Was it important?"
"Uh…" He smiled at her in an almost pleasant but nervous sort of fashion. It was a strange mix of emotions that probably shouldn't coexist, since it made his grin rather awkward and almost menacing and his forehead was rather crinkled.
"If you were looking for a date, I'm afraid I'm rather busy," she said.
He cleared his throat. "No date."
"Oh." She blushed pink, feeling embarrassed for presuming such a thing.
"Prongs has got a bird, now," Sirius said suddenly. He flipped his hair in what was, presumably, a rakish manner. What was it with boys and their hair? Potter was always running a hand through his, Black was flipping it…even Remus had a tendency to twirl a strand around one finger, while Peter was a fan of unconsciously chewing a couple hairs.
"Really?" She quirked an eyebrow, hoping that her dry tone of voice would cover up the fact that she was feeling really, really embarrassed. Why had she presumed such a thing? Well, it was rather logical, since that's what most of his notes during vacations were about, when he bothered to send her notes, that was. Seeing as she only replied with short bursts of witticisms, she was frankly surprised that he wrote her at all. "Who is it?"
"Bridget, but I usually just call her Bird," Sirius said with a wicked smile. "She's a pretty little thing, almost as short as you, Evans."
"How…that's lovely, Potter. Very witty, Black." She paused. Hang on, didn't Fiona have a cousin named Bridget? How many Bridgets could there be, after all – it wasn't exactly a common name, right? "Then your note?"
"Oh. Well. I'm…I'm Head Boy."
Well, there was something weird. But to be truthful, Lily really hadn't given the choice of Head Boy (or Head Girl) much thought. She supposed that if she'd had to pick, Potter was a reasonable choice – the school did seem to like and respect him. "Congratulations are in order, I suppose." Her brow furrowed. "Why write to me about it? Surely you don't need to beg for praise."
Black snorted. "Prongs can be a bit vain, now that I think of it."
Potter just looked at her.
"Dumbledore said…he told me that…well…" Potter took a breath. "Aren't you Head Girl?"
"What?" Lily didn't know whether to laugh or snicker at this absurd notion. "Have you lost your mind?"
"What? But Dumbledore wrote me – didn't you get a letter from Hogwarts? He said that I was, well, Head Boy, and that you were Head Girl, and that I ought to contact you so that we could talk before school started and – "
"A letter?" What letter? Oh. "This morning," she said slowly, thinking. What was the order of it? She tried to picture exactly what had happened. "There was a letter from Hogwarts. But I…" She looked at the two boys, who were staring at her rather strangely. "Well, I threw it under the bed, if you must know," she admitted, blushing again. Now they'd think she was a bad prefect or something. Which she was, but that didn't meant that everyone had to know.
"You…threw – it – under the bed?" James repeated weakly. "You?" At least she'd shaken that strange sort of chipperness from him. Chipperness. For people like Potter, this neologism was coined. Beside him, Sirius was giving her a thumbs up and a strange, reassessing sort of smile, his head tilted slightly to the right.
"It's just a letter about school starting again, isn't it?" She swallowed, hard. "There's no way I'm Head Girl."
"Why not?" Potter looked perplexed.
"Because…because…" Great. Now she was sputtering like that Flourish and Blotts boy in the purple apron and her face was probably purple like his and – "My marks aren't that high, I'm a terrible leader and I can't even think about a career in the future, and I don't even rat on people like that Ursula Gilmore in Ravenclaw – she out to be Head Girl! I'm lousy at Prefecting, too. I mean, there's a list of reasons why I oughtn't be Head Girl, whereas I can kind of understand why Dumbledore would make you Head Boy, even if you're not a prefect."
Sirius snickered again. "Why would Dumbledore pick Prongs as his boy toy, then? Personally, I think Bancroft was just a little too bland for the likes of Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster extraordinaire."
She cocked her head. "That's a good theory. Ursula Gilmore fits into that – she'd follow his orders all over the place, whereas I would just forget them immediately after hearing them. I like that theory. How about it? I can see the Prophet headlines: James Potter: Manslave."
Potter's eyes darkened behind his glasses, his eyebrows coming together so that he was now the Bloke with the Unibrow. Apparently he didn't like this humor of hers. Then again, when was the last time she had joked around with these two? She couldn't remember. "All the same, Lily, I am quite positive that you're Head Girl."
She shrugged. "When I get home tonight, I'll check. Under my bed, that is. Except that I won't be back until late, so you'll just have to wait around, I'm afraid. Unless Dumbledore owls you lot back saying that he retracts his statement, has come to his senses, and has already owled Ursula for the position. Hell, maybe he'll even demote me so that I'm no longer a prefect."
Both boys stared at her, a bit stunned. Was it the sunlight that made them so strange? It was a bit bright, after all. She shrugged - all this talking and nonsense had quickly whiled away the time – if she didn't go now, she might actually be late for Fiona, and that would never do. "It was nice to see you, Black. Potter." She nodded at them and turned, walking away, shaking her head at the strangeness of boys. She didn't think she would ever understand the likes of them.
"Exactly in time!" Fiona Adler shook her head wonderingly as Lily ran onto the tiny patio of Florean Fortescue's. "I don't know how you do it."
"What, no hello?" Lily reached over and hugged her, then pulled up a delicately iron worked chair and plopped herself into it. "France treated you nicely, I see." Fiona, always the beautiful one of the group, looked absolutely incredible. She glowed, all dark brown skin and sun-dappled curls, large blue eyes and a sun-burnt button nose.
"It was lovely, but even French boys are nothing special." Fiona sighed dramatically. "We shall simply have to try to find some tonight, my dear." She waved over a waiter and they placed their orders, Fiona's for two scoops of vanilla with caramel syrup and Lily's for a Sorbet Sundae, an "explosion of fruity flavors on the tongue," as Florean "Anyway," Fiona added, "I wrote all about France to you, but you haven't said anything to me yet! What've you done today? Yesterday? Last week?"
"Potter got me kicked out of Flourish earlier," Lily informed her. "And then I had a strange conversation with him and Black. Apparently Potter is our new Head Boy. Or as Black says, Dumbledore's Manslave." She left out Potter's strange speculations – it wouldn't do to spread rumors about herself that were most likely untrue.
Fiona let out a low whistle. "Manslave, eh? No wonder I never really took to Julian – I want a boy that can think for himself, you know?" She laughed. "I never thought of Potter as the complacent type, I'm afraid. Maybe Dumbledore sees something in him that we don't?"
"Perhaps." Lily smiled at the waiter in thanks as he set the ice cream down on the table. "Or he gets a kick out of breaking headstrong young boys?" She picked up her spoon.
The other girl giggled. "You make them sound like feisty horses or something."
"Well, they do call him Prongs." She dug into the sorbet, starting with the mango.
"Mmm…" Fiona sighed in delight, completely forgetting the subject at hand. "They don't make ice cream like this in France. Do you want a bite?"
"I'm okay, want some of mine?" The blonde girl immediately reached over for a spoonful. "This is the first time I'm in Diagon Alley this summer."
"Lil-leeeeeeeeee!" Fiona could stretch any word out into its individual syllables. "What've you been doing this whole time?"
"Working." Lily made a face. "Aunt Margot pays well, but it takes up a lot of time."
"Lily! How much work can there possibly be at the florist?" Fiona scoffed. "You're…cutting flowers, arranging them into pretty things – "
"Cataloguing flowers, fixing Aunt Margot's accounts," Lily said, smoothly cutting in and making a bit of a face. "I love her to pieces, but she simply doesn't have a head for numbers."
"Which you're good at." Fiona let out a dramatic sigh as she idly twirled her spoon in the rapidly melting slush that was the remnants of her ice cream.
"Well, better than Aunt Margot anyway. And she pays well too." Lily lifted one eyebrow, suddenly remembering something. "By the by, Emmeline wrote to me this morning. Wanted me to tell you that you were wrong about something."
"Hmm." Fiona scrunched up her tiny nose. "Hold it. Was there a boy involved?"
"Yeah, she sent a picture of some boy too. Erm… Prewett? Fabian, I think. What grievous error of yours is she talking about?" Lily asked, grinning slyly.
"Oh, it's nothing." Fiona waved a hand dismissively. "I told her there were no amazing boys in Australia. I've been there – even if they do have the most adorable accents, they're all sun-blind idiots." A typical Fiona statement – Emmy had probably taken it as a bit of a challenge.
With a one-shouldered shrug, Lily changed the subject. "And Black mentioned that Potter's got himself a bird."
"Really?" Fiona pretended to fall out of her chair in shock. "But how ever will he proposition you if he's busy with some girl? And who is it?"
"Her name is Bridget – don't you have a cousin with such a name?" If anything, Fiona's large eyes got even wider, and this time, she actually fell off the chair. Lily peered over the edge of the table. "Are you all right?"
"Mpf." She rubbed her head as she stood and slipped back into her seat. Then, she stared at Lily. "My cousin has been writing me every other day about some bloke named James that she met that is apparently truly extraordinary. You don't think – "
"It's Potter? How many witches and wizards named Bridget and James do you know?" Lily remarked drily. "Face it – by the end of next year, you and Potter could be related."
Fiona spat out the water she had been drinking. "I never want to hear you say such terrible things again," she muttered. "You, my dear girl, have an overactive imagination."
The redhead smiled apologetically. "It's part of why you love me, darling."
"You think I love you, anyway."
"Psh. Don't kid with me." Fiona waved over the waiter and paid with a Galleon, ignoring her friend's protestations. "You can buy me a drink when we hit that bar. You ready to roll?" Lily looked at what she was wearing – she had forgotten to dress accordingly, and now she was in jeans and a blouse while Fiona sported a green halter and shorts. Bugger. Lily would probably only have to buy Fee the one drink, seeing as how that other girl was sure to be picked up by lots of blokes, extraordinary or not. Too late now. "Let's get out of here." They stood and, arm in arm, made their way out of the little ice cream parlor, towards the closest bar they could find.
When Lily stumbled back into her house in the early morning, tipsy and dazed off of red currant rum and a bottle of Ogden's, the only thing she remembered was that she had kissed a boy, an extraordinary boy. A certain Thomas Bennington, in fact.
My dear Ms. Lily Evans,
Thank you for your politely worded response to my letter. However, I assure you – there is no mistake. The entirety of the faculty stands behind my decision to appoint you as our new Head Girl. See you in the fall.