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James rubbed his head, wearily. He thought it said something about his patience that he hadn't hexed him yet. At least, he hadn't hexed him today. No matter what kinds of stupid tripe was coming out of his--

"--and I think," the Slytherin prefect continued, "that this continual favoritism shown to certain members of certain houses denigrates both the integrity of this school and the high standing one should expect from it." He straightened his robes, tugging on the cuff of his sleeve. "For this reason, it is Slytherin's prerogative to boycott any more meetings until measures have been taken."

Lily looked around the table, seeing the annoyed looks coming not only from the Slytherin Prefects, but also from one or two others. "What," she said, "you all want us to step down?"

Martha, the Hufflepuff representative sitting across from her, looked shocked. "Step down?" she started. "It's not that, it's just, you must admit, there are--"

"If that is what is required," the Slytherin prefect, Lestrange, slipped in, smoothly, "then that is what is required." He stood. "I, myself, am finished with meetings."

James and Lily looked at each other. As one, they rose as well. "Well, then," James said. He didn't look at Lestrange, kept his gaze focused on the rest of the students, who were still seated. "We'll continue this tomorrow, same time?"

Lily smiled at them, then glanced at the Slytherin. The smile dropped immediately. "Those of us who wish to show up, of course."

Lestrange, as expected, opened his mouth to retaliate, when James and Lily turned their backs, and left the room.

~

"This is probably not a good sign," James said later, trying to study in the library for a test and failing miserably. He could barely remember what subject he was taking. "Not a good sign at all."

Lily closed her books, as well. "We tried," she answered. "He wouldn't listen." Then she snorted. "And as if we'd step down! Just because a few of them who'll probably be prancing around in bloody masks next year want us to."

James slouched over their table, off in a little corner of the library where no one could see them. He finally allowed himself to feel as depressed as he liked, as dejected as he'd wanted to all through the Prefects' meeting. "Who says they'll wait till next year?" he said. "Didn't you notice? All of them went home last holidays."

"While we stayed at school." Lily started ripping a piece of parchment apart savagely. "No matter what we do, he's not going to back down."

"I'm going to ask McGonagall what I should do," James said, finally. "Not that she'll know, probably."

Lily put an arm around him. "Oh, James. No." He could practically hear her teeth grinding together. "We can handle this. She has enough on her mind."

"But what do we do?"

Lily rubbed his back. "I think I know."

~

They didn't even sit down at the table next meeting; instead, Lily and James stood in front of their chairs. A younger Slytherin prefect, Lily thought she was barely a fifth year, had come 'simply to hear the decisions, not to participate'. Lily had nodded to her, once, but immediately turned back to the rest of the seventh and sixth years facing her.

"As you know," James started, "there have been complaints that the staff of this school have been favoring some of us over others. That Lily and I were chosen to be Head Boy and Girl because we were favored, not because we deserved it."

The Slytherin girl - Lily thought her name was Hortence - smirked a little. Martha and the other Ravenclaws just looked a bit annoyed. The older, and most sensible, Ravenclaw Prefect, Gus, said, "look, it might have been said, and there might be a grain of truth in it, but what's important is that we have an equal say. You know that I don't envy you any."

At that, Martha chuckled a little, as did Lily. It was becoming patently apparent to everyone what an enormous task it was, trying to head the school -- Lily and James included.

Lily said, "maybe it's a fair complaint; as Heads, we hear more from the staff, we're asked our opinion more." She leaned forward a little. "The truth is, however, we were chosen."

James finally looked right at the Slytherin fifth year for a long moment, and Hortence shifted uncomfortably, knowing that he was about to say something right to her. "Any more complaints registered about our appointments are going to fall on very deaf ears," he said.

Martha looked at her fellow Hufflepuff representative, and blinked. Lily said, just as calmly, "These meetings are to get input, to discuss issues, and to help the school. Not to question James, or me." She straightened up, looking down at the students sitting around the table, then at Hortence, who'd pulled her chair a little ways away from the rest of them. "If people don't want to participate, then they have nothing to complain about. Period."

Martha nodded to herself, slowly, and finally said, "Fair enough." She glanced at the other Hufflepuff. "I didn't want to be Head Girl, I have no problems with the two of you running things the way you see fit."

Gus nodded, as well. "I doubt that this show of power," he said dryly, "would have come off quite so totalitarian if the two of you hadn't been pushed into it. You've never ignored our opinions before, so long as they weren't stupid."

"No," Lily said, "we haven't ignored any stupid opinions." She glanced at Hortence once more. "And we are most assuredly not stepping down, until the whole of the staff and this council requests it."

James suddenly pulled his chair out, and made a show of sitting casually. "Now that that's over with," he said, "we should probably go back to the previous points of discussion." Lily sat, as well. "Martha, you wanted to talk about some of the protective warding around your dorms -- do you think the Hufflepuff wing needs an upgrade?"

Martha and the other Hufflepuff Prefects began telling James about their worries, trying to be as diplomatic as possible and yet clearly showing underlying anxiety about the safety of their students. James took several notes, while Lily merely sat back in her chair and listened intently.

She also observed Hortence, after a moment or two, rising from her chair and slinking out the door.

~

"You think they'll show up next week?" Lily said, dog-earing another page for later study and memorization. They were talking of the Slytherin Prefects, of course. James had seen Lestrange talking angrily to Snape just last period. Lily added, "Or have we basically gotten into a jam?"

James peered out the window, to where a bunch of students were lounging around outside, cold non-withstanding. The two of them were holed up in another hidden corner, trying to work. "It's likely we won't see another Slytherin in a Prefects' meeting again until we graduate," and he sighed. "But I don't know what else we could have done."

Lily glanced up, startled. "Do you think that's what they wanted?" she asked. "A reason to drop the council?"

James sighed, rubbing his temples. "You know, it didn't occur to me," he told her, "but that might be what Lestrange was after all along. Trying to muscle us out." He rolled his eyes. "It could have been, he wanted out all along."

"Why not just drop the council anyway?" Lily asked, frowning.

James thought, hard. Down in the quad, a handful of students, green scarves clear and obvious, started walking. Several younger students picked up and all but ran back inside. "It gives them the moral upper hand," James said, slowly, then he shook his head. "I don't know why. Maybe they thought they could actually get us out. Maybe Lestrange," and he spat the name out, "just thought it was funny."

"We bunged it up," Lily said. "Forcing them out." She dropped her book, running a hand through her hair. "But I refuse to give the school over to a cruel piece of trash like him."

"Me too," James answered. He kept watching out the window. The Slytherin group sat down on a bench on the side of the courtyard. "You think that the staff really did favor us over the other students?"

Lily looked at him, startled. "Over that pack of Slytherins? Surely. At least I hope they did. Don't you?" James grinned at her. Lily added, "Look, we were picked for a reason, and we just have to do the best we can."

"You're a pretty great girl, Lily," James said, scooting closer to her. "You handled them brilliantly."

"I did, didn't I?"

They bent over their work again. Quidditch, homework, N.E.W.T.S., Prefects' meetings. He was likely to go barmy before graduation. "Politics," James said, disgusted. "Why does it have to be so complicated?"

Lily didn't answer. Suddenly alarmed, "say, you don't think they'll plan something, do you?" she asked instead. "Since we basically muscled them out? You think that's why they're boycotting? Because they're planning something?"

James looked up. Despite himself, he started to feel anxiety creeping into his stomach. "Do you think they would?"

Lily put her book down again. "It's not impossible."

James sighed again. He wasn't going to get any work done today. "Yeah," he said. "It's possible." He stared out the window, down at the troupe of Slytherins throwing magic snowballs at two passing Hufflepuff students. When the Hufflepuffs pulled out their wands, the Arithmancy professor came out of the castle to scold them. "Very possible," James said.

Lily patted his shoulder. "But we'll take care of it."

The Slytherins outside stomped off, and one of them threw a dirty look back at the professor. James could clearly see the pure anger on his face. It was Lestrange, Snape right beside him. James said, "I hope so."

Lily slapped him with a book, none too gently either. "Quit being so depressed, Mister," she told him. "It'll be fine."

"I know," James said, still feeling more than a little anxious. His stomach clenched, as he looked out at the now deserted courtyard. "I just hate that." He frowned. "It's almost as if they feel the Prefect Council is beneath them. As if it doesn't matter."

Lily's eyes flashed when he looked over to her, and she squeezed his hand. "Believe me, luv," she said angrily, "it doesn't matter whether they think they rule the school or not." Her lips were a thin line. "We'll give them a nice surprise."

James looked out the window again. The courtyard was still deserted. The courtyards were always deserted. The school had been way too quiet all term, as if there really weren't any students in it. The lower years stayed in their Common Rooms from choice, and the only people out and about happily were students wearing green.