It's 1976 and Hogwarts' N.E.W.T. Divination class can only see the homework in their future. The Divination workload's ludicrous, and a week in they've all forgotten why they took it, but Professor Auriga's an easy marker and gives out molasses cookies to munch while the class studies the lumps in their tea or the inversion of their cards. Besides, the grading standards for Divination have gone so downhill in the past quarter century that anyone can pull an Acceptable, if she's a good enough liar.
Lily Evans heard as much from Sev, with his usual scorn, when it was still 1975 and they were still speaking. She doesn't need an easy mark, and really she's more interested in unicorns and old magic, but Potter's carrying on with Care of Magical Creatures and Sev Snape with Ancient Runes and by the end of fifth year, all she wanted was one class free of them both. And she might not be any good at seeing her future, but she's quite the liar. She's been perfecting it since she was eleven and started at a school she couldn't tell any relations or neighbors about.
She thinks she might be the only one in the small class actually enjoying herself. September is cool, so the Tower classroom isn't too muggy, and for once, there aren't eyes on the back of her head. Lily can breathe in Divination. Despite the incense.
They all sit at a round table of shiny brown wood in the center of the room, which swivels out into four small tables when Professor Auriga raps it with her wand. There's only seven of them in the class, so they can't pair off quite right- each time one group becomes a crowded three, which makes practicing tarot reading practically impossible.
October brings unseasonable warmth and Sirius Black, who strolls into the classroom as if he'd been their eighth all along.
To Lily's dismay, he takes the seat right beside her, and while she doesn't often feel his eyes on her face, she certainly feels the bits of parchment he keeps flicking at it.
"How're you here?" she finally hisses to him one day, while Professor Auriga has the lights out to showcase a projection of the night sky on the ceiling.
He stops tearing pieces of his parchment and looks up lazily, blinking behind the dark fringe of his hair. "I walked up the stairs—"
"Oh don't be smart—how'd you get into the class a month after it's been going on? I thought you were in Arithmancy—did Potter put you up to this?" Lily's fingernails are digging into the wood of her table in annoyance.
Sirius looks away, which she takes as confirmation. "I switched. Could hardly turn me away—I got an O on my Divination O.W.L."
"Don't be ridiculous," Lily says.
Marlene McKinnon, across the way, gives her a warning kick as Professor Auriga moves nearer.
Lily lowers her voice. "No one gets an O on Divination. Seers or something, maybe. Not you, Sirius," she says, his first name sounding funny on her lips. She'd meant to call him Black, but what with Auriga discussing his namesake star in the background, it sort of slipped out.
He grins, mysteriously, and she wants to strangle him, even more so when he simply lifts a finger to his lips. "Shhh," he says, " some of us want to learn something today."
Lily finds herself shredding her own parchment for the rest of class.
She has Herbology after Divination, and, unfortunately, so does Sirius, so they have to walk in the same direction. Lily walks very, very fast.
Sirius, it turns out, can walk faster.
"What's effin' wrong with the two of you?" Marlene McKinnon pants. She also needs Herbology, as one of the courses to get her into the Healer training program—and Divination as the easiest mark she can get, since her O.W.L.s weren't quite up to Healer requirements. For Lily, it's one too many courses with Marlene this year—the girl in her dorm she finds most insufferably boy-crazy and foul-mouthed. "Something happening at the greenhouse I don't know about?"
"I doubt that," Lily says, a little too wryly. For the past two years Marlene's name has been one of those most frequently linked with couples caught out behind the greenhouse well after class.
The tiny dig doesn't go unnoticed. Marlene shrugs her shoulders stiffly and falls back to walk with Hufflepuff Davy Gudgeon, and Sirius, one annoying stride ahead of her, shoots a scrutinizing look over his shoulder at Lily.
She's been refusing to speak to him on the walks over for the past few days, but, unable to tell if his look is appreciative or a reprimand, she can't quite help herself. "What?" she says snappishly.
"Judgmental today, are we, Evans?" Sirius says, not sounding even the slightest bit out of breath, and slowing his stride just enough that suddenly he's walking perfectly in sync with her.
She gives him her severest frown. "Don't you assume I'm always judgmental?"
"Always judgmental ? No, no. Always mental? Absolutely."
"…Did you really get an O in Divination?"
He smiles sweetly, and it's not hard to see why every girl in their year—and the year above, and probably three below—are completely in love with the boy. "Would I lie to you, Lily?"
"Please, Black," she says, as they reach greenhouse number three, "we're not on a first-name basis."
He holds the glass door open for her and grins maddeningly, again, leaning enough that he's practically whispering in her ear when he says, "We are now."
James Potter is giving Sirius a very strange look as they walk in. Lily, walking to the seat a friend of hers from Hufflepuff, Greta Catchlove, is holding for her, hears an oddly familiar strangled sound from her right. She looks and immediately looks away; Severus Snape is slowly turning purple.
She tries not to feel happy about that, but while part of her feels guilty, most of her is gleefully vengeful. Her walking in with Black is probably even worse for Sev than her walking in with, say, Potter would be. It's a toss-up, but she thinks right now he hates Sirius even more.
"Why's McKinnon shooting you death glares?" Greta wants to know, but Lily only shrugs. A moment later, with a surreptitious adjustment of her robes over her curvy figure, Greta says quietly, "Don't look now, but I think Sirius Black is waving at me."
Lily turns. Sirius, sitting alone in the back of the greenhouse, is casually waving at her with the hand not busy stabbing his spade into the dirt. She suspects this is only because she is not within parchment-piece throwing distance.
She can't fathom why he's sitting alone. A casual glance in Potter's direction - which he immediately notices, causing him to adjust his glasses and stare intently directly back - shows he's partnered with Pettigrew, and while Lupin isn't in this class, there's certainly plenty of room for three at Potter's space. Surely… Potter couldn't have exiled his best friend to the back of the class just because he'd walked to class with her… right?
Lily, perturbed, gives Sirius a little wave back. She isn't quite sure why, but she almost feels sorry for him, even more so when it seems to perk him right up. Potter, still staring back at her, knocks over his pot after witnessing this little exchange. The small shrubbery makes whimpering noises from the greenhouse floor and Potter apologizes dramatically as he cleans it up.
She can feel Potter's eyes on the back of her head, and Snape's too. She sneaks a glance back at Sirius to see if he's staring at her too, but he's finished tucking in his shrubbery and is staring blankly at the ceiling. He doesn't even seem to notice she's looking. It's a bit disconcerting; Lily's grown very used to having the bloke she's looking at staring right back (and she has to wonder how Sev and Potter get any work done at all, given that any time she so much as spots them in her peripheral vision both boys' attention is very decidedly locked on her instead of the lesson plan.)
It's another two days before she has Divination again, but Lily, instead of pretending Sirius didn't exist unless she was forced to accept it by him being right in her line of sight, finds herself looking out for him. Something's wrong, it seems—he's not at dinner, and during lunch period he never seems to sit down—he's swaggering around a bunch of Hufflepuff fourth years, all girls and mostly blondes; taunting the Slytherin fifth years, otherwise known as his brother Regulus and company; and lurking around the edges of the table where James Potter is sitting with Remus and Peter in a manner Lily would have thought awkward had it been anyone but Sirius Black.
Despite herself, Lily finds herself watching the other Marauders, too. Peter's eyes skitter to locate Sirius every few moments or so and he looks terribly anxious, Remus studies while he eats and keeps his eyes locked firmly on his textbook, and while she most absolutely does not spend a lot of time watching James Potter eat his lunch, she's never seen him so engrossed in a ham sandwich before.
"Why are we looking at James?" Mary Macdonald asks, pausing mid-bite. Mary, though a year younger than Lily, is her closest girl friend – her best friend overall, with Snape out of the picture now. Their friendship was sealed Mary's second week at school, when Lily slammed Mulciber with a bad case of buttock-boils after finding him keeping the first year under the Jelly Legs hex and shoving the stumbling Mary around for his friends' amusement.
Lily, very quickly, looks down at her own lunch. "Maybe you were looking at Potter, I was looking at- Lupin- doesn't he look a bit, a bit peaky to you?"
Mary pretends to play with one side of her nut-brown hair and steals a glance. "No peakier than usual. James looks sad, what'd you do to him now?"
Lily, choking on the water in her drinking goblet, sputters, "Me? I didn't do anything. I think he's rowing with Siri- …Black."
It's Mary's turn to choke. "You can't be seri- you're kidding. They never row. Ever. Not to say I haven't seen James yell at Sirius – just last week he was telling him and Peter off for harassing a couple second years – but Sirius never, never goes against James. None of them do, they all follow him around like a bunch of, I don't know, puppies or something."
Lily rolls her eyes. "That makes them sound considerably more adorable than they are, Mary."
Mary fiddles with her piece of bread, looking shyly over to where Sirius is standing now, seemingly having a fascinating conversation with Nearly Headless Nick right in James' line of vision. "I know you'd rather not hear it, Lily, but it's hard to deny that the lot of them are quite adorable. Even Peter, in a- y'know, in a bit of a pathetic way." Mary pauses. "You have to at least admit Sirius is handsome, even if James or Remus isn't quite your type-"
Lily scoffs slightly and eyes Sirius over her water glass. "Too pretty."
Mary gasps and signals desperately to someone behind Lily's head. Marlene McKinnon plops her lunch down next to them, to Lily's dismay, and waits expectantly for Mary to speak. Normally Marlene would sit with Gladys Gudgeon and Felicia Fortescue, other Gryffindor girls in their year who Lily gets on with well enough, but has never become close with outside of school.
"Marlene, could you please back me up- Sirius Black's not too pretty, is he?" Mary inclines her head towards him for good measure.
"Don't be ridiculous," Marlene says. "There's no such thing as too pretty. Why, you fancy Black now, Lily? Is that Potter's problem with him?"
"Wouldn't know, couldn't care. How's Gideon, Marlene?" Lily says, referring to one of the recently-graduated Prewett brothers, who Marlene had been seeing on and off for the past two years.
Marlene's eyes narrow cattily at the change in topic. "He's swell. Not quite as pretty as Black, of course, but I reckon he's coming along alright. Says he'll be up to meet me in Hogsmeade our first weekend out, I'll tell him you were asking about his general well-being and all. Any Hogsmeade plans yourself, Lils?"
Lily absolutely hates when people shorten her name. It's only two syllables, is there really a need to cut it down even more?
"Unless I decide to ask Black," Lily says, stressing the withering sarcasm, "I'll be spending that Saturday picking out exciting new colors of ink."
"Ooh, I'll come with," Mary says, "Felicia has that raspberry-colored ink from Flourish & Blotts and I want to see if Scrivenshaft's has it in."
"Scintillating," Marlene says, pursing her lips but failing to keep them from turning up at the corners. She waves over Gladys Gudgeon and Lily realizes that somehow, she's about to have lunch with more girls in her own year than she has since her second year. Lunch used to be the one time in her day practically reserved for Severus.
She has Divination again the next day, after N.E.W.T. Potions. Severus has been shooting her looks all class and trying to catch her attention as they file out, so she hustles out and up the dungeon stairs. She turns the corner to the main corridor so quickly she bumps smack into James Potter's chest.
"Well hello," he says, sounding a bit befuddled, possibly because his glasses have just landed in her hair.
She pulls them out, quickly, and frantically brushes off a dark red strand that caught around the wire frames. She's not really sure what Potter would do with a strand of her hair but figures she's better off hanging onto it. "Sorry," she says, shoving them into his hand and side-stepping as quickly as possible.
Sirius, who must have been on Potter's heels, is suddenly on hers. "Don't you think it's a little scary how that creep's got his eyes on you all hours of the day—and I suspect you'd rather not wonder what he thinks about at ni—"
"Oh, that's nice to say about your best friend, Black," Lily says, rather shocked.
"What? Not James! Snivellus! Obviously!"
"Is he still following?" Lily says, sighing and fighting the impulse to look, since that would probably encourage Sev, "and he has Ancient Runes next, that's in the opposite direction—" Poor thing , she thinks, but won't add that in front of Sirius.
"Want me to hex him for you?" Sirius says, almost hopefully.
"No," Lily says adamantly, raising her book so it's poised to knock his wand hand down should he take the initiative anyway.
They reach the stairs of the North Tower and Sirius bounds up them three at a time. "I'll save you a seat," he calls. She sighs again, more heavily this time, with a vague, and strangely guilty, recollection of Sirius budging over to make room for her at their very first welcoming feast—a seat she turned her nose up at. Well, he had been an awful little prat to Sev on the train—and before that Sirius and Potter both had sat there and both looked away while she cried in the corner over going away to school and Tuney being so mean.
"I don't believe you," a strangled voice says from behind her. Lily whirls on her heel, book still in menacing position. Severus eyes it skeptically. " Black , Lily? Potter's bad enough, but consorting with his homicidal mad dog lackey—"
"I am not consorting," Lily says hotly, and then, after a moment's thought, "and whatever else Sirius may be, I hardly think homicidal's fair—"
Severus smiles bitterly. "Shows how well you know him," he says coolly. "Even his mates have seen him for what he is—ask Lupin what he thinks of his good friend Sirius after his latest bout with that oh-so-regular illness of his. Go on, then—or are you afraid to hear what's behind Black's appealing façade?"
"See, even Snape thinks Black's pretty," Marlene McKinnon says, all out-of-breath. Severus nearly jumps up the first stair at the sudden interruption, but manages to give Marlene a look that could curl her hair anyways. "Sorry to interrupt your heart-to-heart and all, but if you could, y'know, budge, I'm late. Oh, and so are you, Lily," she adds, as she shoves past them without further apology.
Lily, startled into action but mulling over Severus' cryptic challenge, puts one foot on the stair.
"I don't care what you think," she says to him. "Not anymore. And, you know what, I can consort with whomever I damn well please." She turns, hair flying behind her, and races up the stairs so she doesn't have to hear his snarky reply. Knowing him, it would be spot-on and trouble her all day.
Sirius has his legs propped up on the chair across from him at the table when Lily darts into the classroom at the top of the winding flight of stairs, panting more heavily than Marlene had been at the bottom. He swings them to the floor and gestures to the seat as if to say, there you go . She hesitates a moment as she takes in the rest of the class. Everyone is sitting in pairs, Marlene with Felicia Fortescue, the only other Gryffindor in the class; Davy Gudgeon with Grace Hornby, both Hufflepuffs; Ravenclaw's Charity Burbage warily eyeing her sullen opposite, Evan Rosier of Slytherin. She briefly allowed herself the fantasy of asking Felicia or Marlene to switch with her—even Marlene, who was taken, would hardly object to pairing up with Sirius Black—but feeling that would be a very first-year-ish move, moved towards Sirius resignedly.
His mouth is full with one of Auriga's molasses cookies, but he points to the small basin of water in front of them. It seems they're into hydromancy today. Lily tips her face down to study it more carefully and immediately is struck by several droplets of water as Sirius flicks some up onto her face.
She tries to keep a straight face, but mad or not, it's hard to keep from catching Sirius Black's boyish glee. She also fervently hopes that if they touch on pyromancy this year, she won't be partnered with Sirius when he's given permission to play with fire.
"You can go first," he says, after swallowing. He gestures to the small pile of pebbles and simple silver ring on a string in front of them, which Professor Auriga is trying to explain how to utilize, despite the fact that as usual, no one is paying attention. He idly flips open the text book beside him and finds the correct page with such ease Lily would've thought he'd prepared, if she didn't know better. She gets the number off him and turns to page 127, but a quick look tells her the book won't help as much as she'd like—in N.E.W.T. Divination, everything's open to interpretation.
She tosses a pebble into the basin with more force than she meant to and watches as the ripples expand all the way to the edges. "Tell me my future, then," she says to Sirius Black, and it surprises Lily how much her words sound like a dare.
He quirks one eyebrow up—a trick she can't get the hang of at all, though Potter and all his cronies and Severus and all of Slytherin house seem to have it down pat—then rests his fingers on the basin while he gazes into it. In a moment he starts to drum them against it.
"And don't say you see James Potter in it," she adds warningly, unwittingly drumming her wand against the hardwood to the same beat. "He's been reading that in my tea since third year and it hardly got him into N.E.W.T. Divination."
"It's not like I saw being in this class coming, so don't expect any marvelous insights from me," he drawls.
"Nothing outstanding ?" For once he didn't rise to the bait, but stared distractedly at something over her shoulder. "At least come up with something that's in front of me."
"Trouble," he said, eyes scanning everywhere but her face.
"Describing yourself doesn't count-"
"I don't mean me sitting in front of you," Sirius says, quietly, intently and very suddenly looking right at her. "Evans isn't a wizarding name and sorry, but that's not going to make your post-graduate life a picnic, not when it's names and blood and grudges our world's about to combust over. Not to mention this year and the next'll be going rougher for you than they have before— now that you and Snivellus are quits, you're fair game so far as Mulciber and Avery and our man Rosier over there see it."
Her throat tightens instinctively. "I haven't had any more trouble than usual," Lily says stiffly.
The flash of Sirius' teeth is lightning-white in the dim classroom. "That's because James hexes them blind behind your back every time they so much as finger their wands around you."
Somehow, Lily feels as if she already knew this, but she's outraged anyways, and at Potter, at that, rather than the Slytherins. She'd like to shake that boy silly and let him know she can carry her own weight just fine, thank you very much, and—and … she lets that half-formed thought tumble out her ears like an unheard phrase.
She's distracted back to the moment as Sirius casually says, "And I help, some."
Oh, she bets he does. She makes an effort not to roll her eyes – her mother tells her it's an extraordinarily unattractive look on her, and Lily finds herself doing it far too often – and looks down instead. The ripples have long faded from the water, making the exercise practically pointless, and she trails her fingers over the surface, not letting them breach the film of the surface.
"I haven't even properly predicted anything about you, though," Sirius says.
"Trouble, remember?" Lily says dryly.
"That's what I said, not what the ripples said."
"Sirius, if the lines in a glass of water actually speak to you, maybe you deserved your O."
He looks at her like she's speaking Gobbledegook. "It's a basin," he says, tapping it
"Toss your pebble, Black," she says, grouchily.
"The slightest provocation and we're not so friendly anymore, hmm, Evans?"
It's her turn to stare, right as Professor Auriga calls they're all through and warns them the tables are about to swivel back to center, so she figures she'll just have to make something up for Black's future. A career in magical demolitions, perhaps, signified by an exorbitantly large splash? She mentally winces but can't think of anything better to go on.
"I wouldn't call it friendly," she says, hedging.
Sirius tosses in a pebble, casually, then holds his hands up in surrender. "I fully understand. What happens in Divination, stays in Divination."
"Oh shut up," Lily says, stumped for any clever retort.
"Excuse me?" Professor Auriga says sharply.
Sirius quickly covers and explains that Lily was actually talking to the basin of water, which, apparently, was telling her quite depressing things about his future—which seems to placate the professor surprisingly well.
Lily finds herself with a headache for the remainder of class and darts for the nearest girls' bathroom the moment it lets out, to avoid altogether the issue of walking with Sirius again. She feels rather sorry, though, and strangely responsible, when he never shows up in Herbology that day at all.
Severus, again, tries to catch her attention at the end of class, moving to grab her arm, but Potter barrels right past him. He's flanked by Pettigrew, with Lupin dawdling behind.
"Evans," James says, rather urgently and a little too near to her ear, while Severus slinks away towards Avery, who's waiting for him.
"I'm not going to Hogsmeade with you next weekend, Potter," Lily says reflexively, flicking the air between them with her arm as if she could swat him away.
"Yeah, I wasn't asking— did you see where Sirius got too?"
"No," she says, and keeps along the path back to the castle. He keeps following. "And really Potter, you could use a jacket."
He gives the sunshine a skeptical look. "Concerned about my well-being now, are we?"
"I thought you might use it to defrost that cold shoulder you're giving your friend," Lily says coolly.
"Oh aren't we clever today," James says, his eyebrows disappearing into his muss of hair.
"Quite generous of you to include yourself in my cleverness-"
"Look," he cuts her off, which takes Lily aback. James Potter rarely bails on an opportunity to banter with her, "if you see him, tell him—that—"
"You were asking?"
"That'll do," James says, rubbing at his eyes. "Wormtail, Moony, onward and upward," and he picks up the pace- again with the annoyingly long legs, thinks Lily- and passes her without a backward glance. She gets one from Peter, an anxious, searching look, as if she has Sirius tucked up her robes sleeve.
Remus gives her a vague smile as he falls into line with her.
"You feeling alright?" she asks lowly, and watches as an almost convulsive twitch passes over his face. He can't disguise the slight wince to his mouth and Lily regrets asking at once. She can't guess how many times he's been asked that over the years, as he does seem to eternally look rundown, but accustomed as she is to him, Remus looks even more run ragged than usual. "I know you'll say you're fine," Lily adds, as his lips just begin to form the words, "and I suppose I'm not the person you'd tell if you're not- fine, that is- but I'm trying to-"
"Be kind?" Remus says, wryly, and there's a bristle behind his words posed to ward off pity.
Lily flushed. "Be a friend."
"You seem to be making a few of those lately," Remus says lightly, and Lily can't help but roll her eyes.
"It isn't as if I'm hanging about with Black around the common room or I dunno, going with him to Hogsmeade—one class with him without you lot and… it is a bit strange, though, him switching into a class without even one of you…"
"You'll have to excuse me, Lily," Remus says politely, "I'm afraid I'm running behind for my next class."
It's rather astounding how quickly someone so ill-looking can breeze right past her. Lily stops in her tracks, crinkling her forehead in thought and annoyance, silently weighing James and Peter's anxiousness against Remus' feigning of cool disinterest. She's struck by a thought.
Right as several Hufflepuffs coming up behind her try to pass her, she readjusts the strap of her book satchel on her shoulder and chases after them towards the castle entrance. Remus seemed to have rejoined his friends without much difficulty, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with James, with Peter bringing up the rear on his shorter legs. Lily can sympathize—but when it comes to catching up with Peter , she's the one with the advantage.
He's about to turn into the stairwell behind James and Remus when Lily yanks his arm and pulls him back towards the grass and around the corner. Peter's eyes go immediately wide and wary.
"Is, ah, something the matter, Eva… Lily?" he says, voice squeaking slightly. He clears his throat and looks back around the bend, clearly expecting his friends to be waiting for him as he and James had slowed down for Remus, but James and Remus have continued trotting on, oblivious to the loss of their shadow. Peter's face falls.
"I need your help for a minute, Peter," Lily says, thinking fast as she spots the glaze of suspicion settling over his eyes, "and I'm hoping you'll keep this between us, but… I'm considering switching out of Divination," she says in a rush, as if it was a confession. "I was wondering what you thought of Arithmancy, 'cause that's at the same time, right…?"
"Well, sure, I'm not in Arithmancy," Peter says, bewildered.
"Oh," Lily says, trying to match the confusion in his tone. "I could've sworn… is it just James, then?"
"No, not James, Remus and Siri-" Peter clams up, quickly, and the suspicion in his eyes, which had been slowly thawing, has slid back in at full force.
"Oh, silly me, I suppose I should have asked Remus then," Lily says, forcing a giggle and trying to sound flighty and foolish, like so many girls she knows. Unfortunately she's never been remotely convincing at playing dumb, and Peter looks like he wants to hit himself- or her- in the head.
"Sorry I can't help, and I've got to go, I'm going to be late for class," Peter says, echoing Remus' excuse—as if James Potter's gang ever bothered with arriving on time for class. He darts around her and Lily watches yet another boy hurry away from her. It's getting to be a habit lately.
Next time she finds Sirius Black, she decides, she won't be letting him get away as easily as that—at least not before why she figures out why he would want so badly to steer clear of Remus Lupin that he'd go to the trouble of switching out of the class they'd had together.