Lily Evans had never really occurred to Sirius as a person before seventh year.
Of course, she was a pretty girl who laughed a lot and was in all of his classes, so he knew who she was. Everyone knew who she was.
Lily Evans, first year with a high ponytail who served the first detention of anyone in their year for being caught out after hours.
Lily Evans, second year who caught the Quaffle that fell into the Gryffindor stands when everyone else jumped out of the way.
Lily Evans, the third year who tossed a crystal ball from the Divination Tower as she quit the class in spectacular form.
Lily Evans, fourth year who was still close with that smarmy Slytherin Snape. Who talked to him in Potions class and ignored James and glared when people told her she was crazy.
Lily Evans, fifth year who screamed at James Potter after their O.W.L.s and turned down a date and had her best mate call her a Mudblood in front of a dozen people, and yelled right back.
Lily Evans, sixth year Prefect who let most everyone get away with everything, ignored Snape and hated James.
Lily Evans, seventh year, Head Girl, and suddenly Sirius Black's best mate's girl.
A real live person who plopped herself down in the middle-left of Sirius's life, a strange anomaly with laughing eyes and a bright smile. Who charmed the shit out of the professors and students and anyone who happened to glance her way. That detention first year was probably the last she ever received.
"What are you doing?" the girl herself asked him when she found him leaning against a window ledge late one afternoon at the end of their seventh year.
"Thinking about you," Sirius said.
"That's creepy. You planning my murder?"
He shook his head, long fringe brushing past his eyes. "Nah. Then I'd have to deal with James being all mopey."
"And you'd have to deal with the hassle of hiding the body," Evans said, twisting around to lean against the stone ledge beside him. "And we both know you're awful at being sneaky."
He laughed with her.
"Why were you wandering the castle?" he asked.
"Trying to find some troublemakers to dock points from before the Leaving Feast tomorrow night. Gryffindor's still down to Hufflepuff by twenty," she said, twisting her hair up into a bun atop her head, as restless as James.
There was a time when her blatant favoritism would have surprised him, back before he realized she had emotions.
She liked things. People. She loved classes and the professors. Genuinely liked learning and thinking and being taught. It was strange, but not oppressive, since she didn't try to force this love on others—something for which Sirius was grateful, because James already liked Transfiguration enough. Another class would have been too much.
"You're a strange bird, Evans."
"Well, you only have to deal with me one more day," she said, pushing off the wall.
"Right," he said, his elbows pressed against the glass behind him. Like James would ever leave Evans.
"It's true. School's ending in less than forty-eight hours," she said, glancing out the window as his heart thudded at the thought. "And then we're cut loose into the wild."
James didn't think of the end of school that way, Sirius knew. When he bothered to think about it at all, James thought of leaving school as nothing more than the next step—as easy as coming to Hogwarts had been for him. He would walk off that train in two days certain of his future, friends, job, and family. Strange that he'd ended up with someone like Evans as a girlfriend, who realized they were losing something when school ended.
"What's your plan, then?" he asked, resting his hands on the cool stone. "For afterward."
Her green eyes danced. "I don't believe in plans, Sirius. I thought you knew that."
"Right," he said indulgently, though she was probably being honest; she was like that.
Evans twisted her hair into a knot again, holding it in place with both hands. "I don't know what I'm doing after we leave. I don't even know where I'm going to live."
"Being a street person's not so bad." He and James had spent three weeks sleeping in parks and random hotels and friend's houses the summer after fifth year. It had been a blast.
She let her hair fall as she grinned. "I hear it's warm underneath bridges."
"Just keep your wand close. Bums are handsy, and James would have us fighting for your honor or something stupid like that, and it'd be a mess."
Evans laughed, leaning her head back to look at the paintings of cherubs and clouds. "I always thought I'd take a gap year like my sister did between secondary and university, but with everything the way it is..." She shrugged, shaking off the melancholy. "I'll figure it out, though. I'm not worried."
She never was.
"The Potters would take you in," he said, with his hands in his pockets.
The look she gave him was less than flattering.
"They took me in," he said defensively.
"Taking in a ragamuffin best mate who also happens to be a cousin is different from housing their teenage son's girlfriend."
The problem with Lily Evans being a real person now was that Sirius couldn't just treat her like the girl who was taking over his best mate's life. It was on the tip of his tongue to say the meanest thing possible—that she could go huddle over her dead parents' graves for all he cared—but he didn't.
Because James would punch him in the face.
And because, well... because Sirius actually didn't mind her the way he thought he should. In fact, he sort of enjoyed her. Because she wasn't just some little girl in his year who had landed the first detention or wound up as a Prefect. She wasn't just a vague idea of a girl that his best mate couldn't get out of his head.
She was Lily Evans, person, now. Who glared at Snape but wouldn't let James hurt him. Who didn't suck up to teachers, still made them love her. Who was so blindingly different from just about anyone in his life that Sirius sometimes found himself just wondering if she was just putting on a big show.
So when he learned that her sister was awful and parents were dead, he was sort of glad. It was something he understood about her.
And something he thought he understood about James, who was always accidentally fixing people. Giving Wormtail and Moony friends when they needed them. Giving Sirius a family.
"You'll move in with James," Sirius said, pushing off the wall.
"That would be a scandal, wouldn't it?" But she didn't sound unhappy about the thought. "Muggle-born and pureblood shacking up."
Sirius walked down the corridor beside the girl who came up to his nose. "It wouldn't be a Muggle-born and a pureblood. It'd be Evans and Potter. No one would be surprised."
She grinned. "We are sort of scandalous already, aren't we?"
Again the words came to mind—yeah, you're scandalous; he's the mortal enemy of your former best mate who is a Mudblood-hating-Death-Eater. But Evans had heard one of his worst fights with Regulus, the drag out threats and vitriol cascading around them, and she'd been able to look him in eye afterward without giving him that stupid, pitying girl look.
"Though I've never had to escape the police with James like you," she said thoughtfully, "so I still have some work to do to catch to truly scandalous."
"Oi, what are you two doing that's scandalous?" came James's voice from behind them, sounding as offended as he could. Sirius turned to give his friend an amused look, and knew Evans was beaming at him like she had been doing ever since she had stopped acting like she didn't like him.
"Shacking up with you," she answered, hand on her hip.
"Both of you? I don't think that'd be scandalous," James agreed, wrapping an arm around Evans's waist and pulling her close as the three began walking in the direction of the Kitchens.
"It'd be scandalous if there were only one bed that we all had to share," Lily said reasonably.
"I call the middle," Sirius said, and James shoved him roughly into the wall. Sirius and Lily just laughed.
"You could have the couch," James said. "Outside the locked bedroom."
"That's what I get for seven years of solid friendship?" Sirius asked. "Chucked onto the couch in favor of the girl who hated you until a few months ago?"
He walked a tightrope with his tone.
"You wouldn't be tossed aside," Lily said, easing the tension in that particular way of hers that made Sirius so confused about her general existence. "We'd have a spare bedroom with soundproof wards for you."
"Why can't your room be soundproof so I can wander around the flat?" Sirius wanted to know, goading.
"Because we might want to shag in the kitchen or on the couch," James said, and she nodded seriously.
"Oh whatever," Sirius said. "You know, James, she doesn't even plan to keep dating you."
"Lies," James said.
"She just told me so. Said moving in with you would be absurd." Sirius couldn't keep the smirk off his face when she turned to glare at him. "Guess she doesn't think you're in it for the long haul."
Evans's eyes narrowed at the challenging look he shot her.
"Why wouldn't you live with me?" James asked, not giving her a chance to address a very smug Sirius.
"Because we're only seventeen?" Evans said. As if she had ever been only seventeen. Sirius had never met anyone less 'only seventeen' in his life.
"She said she didn't think your parents would take her in because they'd consider her a hussy." Sirius loved pointed teasing that kept him on the right side of hurtful.
"I hate you," Evans said to Sirius, without real feeling.
"My parents don't think you're a hussy," James said, making Sirius really smile.
"I didn't say they did." Evans pointed to Sirius. "He's being sneaky."
Sirius couldn't let that go. "You just said I was awful at being sneaky a few—"
"You need to learn to interpret tone."
"You're going to live with me," James said, ignoring the argument that Sirius had stirred together so easily.
"Oh, is that right?" Evans asked, still in a bit of snit.
"Yeah," James said. "Maybe not right away, because you'll move in with one of your girl mates and I'll move in with Sirius, but you're still coming with me when we leave."
There it was, that confidence in the future, in his plans and friendships. Sirius just shook his head. He knew he could deal with whatever happened next, but James knew he'd excel. He was lucky that he'd become obsessed with a girl who wasn't afraid of anything.
"Maybe," Evans said, but she was smiling and there wasn't any doubt.
"We'll still have to do something illegal together first," James said, grinning at Sirius. "Proper initiation and all that. See if you're up to the challenge."
"Maybe we can do that while she's living as a street person," Sirius suggested, making Evans glare as she tried to fight off a smile. She enjoyed the game.
"Only if it involved driving a dangerous motorbike around," Evans said. As if Sirius would ever let anyone other than himself drive his bike. James wasn't even allowed, though he mostly didn't care, claiming a broom was better.
"Nah," James said. "It'll have to be something unique."
"So not breaking and entering?" she asked.
"It would let you force her to meet your parents once she's in prison," Sirius said. "Though that might not make the best first impression."
"Mum would just laugh and post bail, like she did for you," James said, nudging his friend.
"Sure, right after she buys you a place to live with Evans," Sirius teased, though it wasn't entirely a joke. Mrs. Potter was dead cool, and might just do something like that.
"Well, if he and I really do move in together," Evans said to Sirius when they were walking again, "I'll expect you to take him out a lot to keep us from driving each other mad."
If, she still said. As if the entire world didn't know that Evans and Potter were freaking inevitable. Their world was ending and war was starting, and James was taking Evans with him. So Sirius was, too, in a way.
Sirius sometimes wished he could hate Lily Evans, who lost her parents and didn't hate the world, who had a crap sister and evil ex-best mate, who turned in all her bloody work on time, and practiced Charms for fun. Who pushed James into the lake when they were finally outside on their second to last day at Hogwarts, right after James had already shoved Sirius unexpectedly into the water, who jumped in herself a moment later, fully clothed.
Who reminded Sirius of himself, if he had been a better person.