The Mirror of Erised
During the first weeks of December, James tried to follow Harry's advice.
The first tip was: No pranks that she might hear about later. If you prank anyone, do it discreetly.
James followed this easily by focusing on the Marauder's Map. James had told Remus that Harry knew about it, so Remus kept him updated on their progress.
The second was: Tone down your ego.
James had trouble with this, as it was a key part of his personality. The best he could do was to talk about himself a little less.
The third was: Give her space.
Lily noticed this the most. She still saw James in almost all of her classes, but he was no longer the part of her day that she dreaded. In class, Harry caught her studying James when she should have been studying the classwork.
The fourth: Be less of a prick to everyone.
James only applied this when Lily was around. His snide comments were suppressed if she was in earshot, so as far as she knew, he was nicer than he'd been before.
Harry realized why he wanted to change so suddenly: the Christmas Eve Party.
The upcoming party had garnered enough reputation to convince more than half of the students to stay at Hogwarts for the holidays. Professor Slughorn, who held a Christmas Party on the 20th for the Slug Club, did a poor job of hiding his disdain for the attention the Marauders' party was given. All anyone talked about was who one person asked to the dance and who another person convinced to stay behind at Hogwarts. Aluria, Florence, and Cheresse followed James around, giving suggestions and making sure he had made up his mind about his date.
Lily tolerated the girls' persistence of trying to win over James, but got annoyed when they brought up James in relation to her. Starting two weeks prior to the dance, James began courting Lily more than usual. To prepare himself for Christmas Eve, he practiced dancing in the dorm. Sirius had learned formal dancing at an early age for the Pureblood-only parties his family held. James was more than ready by the time Sirius taught him everything he knew.
After James asked Lily to the dance for a seventh time, she said yes.
Severus was taking the news much better than Harry would have expected; despite his usual pessimism, Severus had convinced himself that Lily had agreed to James for a reason other than because she liked him. Severus believed she either planned to do something to humiliate James or she just wanted him to stop annoying her.
James did back off, though everyone in the school knew about their "date" within the hour. When Lily walked between classes, kids would whistle, congratulate her, and try to high-five her. At least, they did until she hexed one Gryffindor who made an obscene joke after she ignored his shoddy effort at complimenting her.
Remus and Raven weren't going to the party together, or with anyone else. Florence was going with Sirius, Cheresse with Peter, and Aluria with Lockhart.
On Christmas Eve, the Great Hall was decorated at a level of quality between the previous year's dance and the Yule Ball. Strings of glowing silver bulbs were hung on the walls. There were five Christmas trees; one behind the High Table as well as one in each corner of the room. In front of the High Table was the band, which seemed to be influenced by Muggle rock. The floating candles were made up like icicles and the tables had been moved to form a square dance floor. The dance floor was colored silver under a layer of gold powder that drifted up whenever it was stepped on.
Severus, Harry, and Raven sat at the end of the Gryffindor table that was closest to the dance floor. They kept an eye on James for any signs that he was up to something. After a few minutes, James froze, broke into a goofy but nervous grin, and straightened his tie. Severus and Harry turned, following his gaze.
Lily walked down the aisle that led through the dance floor, hair pinned up, eyes on the floor in front of her, watching the gold powder spin, waist-high, where she stepped. She wore pewter earrings, a black dress, and her lips were blood-red. Severus watched her, eyes wide, his body rigid and breath stopped without his realization.
Lily looked up, finally, and smiled at James. He studied her in a way Harry thought only Severus could; as though he realized all of his feelings at once and that, if he had her, he would never need anything else in the world.
Nearly all of the students, though holding back at first, took to the floor. Dumbledore and the other staff participated until the third song, when they sat back down to drink and talk.
By midnight, most of the students had cleared out of the party. Harry tried to get Severus to leave, but there was no way to make him go before Lily did. The music had wound down to a slow, mournful pace. Lily was frowning, staring off into the distance. As the song faded to an end, James surveyed the others in the room. Everyone resembled the living dead, moving slowly, trying to keep their eyes open.
"Oi!" James, still holding Lily's hand, snapped his fingers at the band by the High Table. "Could you lot turn it up a bit? Something with a bit more kick, please."
The lead singer nodded, said something to the other members, then said, voice amplified, "Okay, last one for the night. We're gonna play a Muggle song that's been toppin' the charts in the U.K. Here's 'I Love You Love Me Love' by Gary Glitter."
James took Lily's hand and put his other hand at her waist. She looked around at the other partiers, who followed their lead. Severus glowered as James spun her. His scowl deepened as they broke into a sort of freestyle.
As the song ended, they slowed; swaying, smiling at each other. Lily broke the moment by yawning widely.
"Am I boring you?" James was worried.
Lily shook her head, laughing. "I'm sorry, it's been a long night. Oh, that didn't sound better. Eventful, I would say." She averted her eyes and tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear.
James seemed to consider something. "I'll let the others help clean up." He motioned Sirius over. "Can you get them to play one last song, then make the closing speech? And…tell Dumbledore we'll talk tomorrow."
Sirius frowned. "Where are you going?"
"Dunno. See you later, mate." James winked at him. He took Lily's hand and led her past the remaining students and out the Great Hall.
Severus stood up and headed in the same direction. "Hang on!" Harry grabbed his arm. "When we get out, we're using the Cloak."
"We?" Severus furrowed his brow. "Fine." Severus tried to go on, but Harry hadn't finished.
"Just be prepared for whatever might happen. And you can't interfere."
"Alright, I get it."
When they had left the party, Harry pulled the Cloak over them. It barely covered their feet.
Lily and James were at the foot of the stairs. "Clock Tower or Astronomy Tower?" he asked, his energy making Lily a bit breathless.
"Clock Tower." She could only manage a whisper.
Many flights of stairs later, Severus, Harry, Lily, and James were at the top of the Tower, silent among the clicks of gears.
James and Lily leaned on the balcony, his eyes on hers.
"Muffliato. Okay, now let's get closer," Severus said.
"No, you can see them, can't you? We're close enough." They stood at the top step of the winding staircase that led to the Clock Tower balcony.
"Did you have fun tonight?" James asked, following Lily's gaze over the school grounds.
"Surprisingly, yeah. To be honest, I only agreed to go with you to get you off my back."
James smiled. "That didn't really work, did it?"
Lily chuckled and studied her hands, which were clasped over the balcony. "I wasn't expecting it to work."
"I can't help being forward."
Lily shrugged. "Sometimes it's nice. You're very passionate about life, which I think—"
"I'm very passionate about you, too."
Lily flushed. "I know." She straightened and looked up at him. Her hands lifted slightly with anticipation.
James stepped closer to her. "Can I kiss you?"
Lily nodded, closing her eyes. He leaned in, placed his hand on the side of her face, and kissed her.
Severus stood rooted to the spot as if he expected her to slap him, or do something. But her hands were in his hair, and the kiss was no longer all from his side.
They pulled apart, slowly. "I guess this means you don't hate me?" James asked, lips almost grazing hers as he spoke.
Lily smiled and this time, she kissed him.
Severus nearly toppled Harry over as he turned and ran back down the stairs. The cloak slipped off of Harry, so he had to follow the sound of Severus' footsteps.
What had he thought was going to happen? Should I have made him leave?
Then the invisibility cloak slid off Severus and he scrambled to pick it up. Harry grabbed Severus' arm before he could start running again.
Severus' eyes blazed in his rage. He shot a Stunning Spell at Harry, blasting him across the corridor and onto his back. The air in Harry's lungs shot out. When he breathed in again he moaned in pain, wanting badly to lay awhile to recover. But, as he thought to himself, the farther behind Severus he became, the more time the boy had to do something stupid.
The common room was deserted. The only sign of life was the faint remainder of a flame in the fireplace. Harry ran up the stairs to the dorm and flung open the door.
"Lumos!" Only Remus, Sirius, and Peter were in their beds. Harry was running up the stairs again before they could react. Just as he got into the bathroom, he heard someone mutter, "Muffliato."
"Severus! I know you're in here. Please, let me help." He looked in each of the stalls, panicked. There was only a faint buzzing sound.
"It's not the end. You have three…no, three and a half years left. A lot can happen in that time." Then Harry froze. No, he had been Body-Bound.
Severus took off the Cloak and approached Harry, his face flushed, pained. He rolled Harry on his stomach and draped the Cloak over his immobile body.
Harry couldn't tell a minute from ten, and ten minutes from an hour. He couldn't sleep. His world was black and silent. He tried to figure out what Severus was doing, tried not to panic, and tried to focus on what he would do now that Lily and James were together.
Finally, the buzzing stopped and he heard, "Finite Incantatem." Harry sprang up and faced Severus. The boy's hair was slicked back with sweat, but his expression was flat.
Recognizing the look Severus had, Harry drew his wand, preparing himself for the worst. "Prior Incantato!" He was right to do so. A writhing ghost emerged from the tip of his wand. The ghost's mouth opened in a silent scream that dissipated the smoky figure. "Bloody hell…so you did…"
"The Cruciatus Curse? You tortured yourself? Are you out of your fucking mind?"
Severus wiped his eyes, a motion that seemed out of place with his expressionless face. "No." His mouth curled into a snarl. "I knew you wouldn't understand. That's why I had to—"
"You didn't have to." Harry said, shaking his head. "Merlin…How could you do that to yourself?"
"DO WHAT? What did I do to myself?" Severus' fists were clenched, his voice was high. "As if I snogged the biggest arse in the school. Ignored my best friend. Sold myself to the filthy pigs in Nocturne Alley. Beat my family."
"Severus, if you'd just—"
"Or do you mean how could I serve the Dark Lord? How could I get your parents killed? How could I be so fucking worthless." Severus' eyes watered, he stared at his now open hands.
"LISTEN TO ME!" Harry shook, frustrated that he couldn't get his point across.
"NO!" Severus stepped back. "Stop pretending like you can relate to my life. That we're similar. Did you ever think that maybe I deserved what the Slytherins did to me?"
"Severus, you didn't—"
Severus raised his voice. "It's more than that, though. I liked the torture. I forgot about everything. How much I hate myself…" he wrung his hands, biting his lip before continuing, "…and how I'll never be good enough for her—"
"Listen. No, look at me." Severus' eyes slowly moved up to Harry's, as though they were held down by weights. "She's alive. Right now, Lily is safe. And you're both nearly fifteen. You have so many chances, so much time, to make everything up. To fix things. I'm sorry things are bad today. I'm sorry things have been bad almost your entire life. It's made you who you are, and you're a good person."
Severus shook his head, about to cut in, but Harry continued.
"Every shitty moment matters. You're wiser. You've experienced more life than many wizards will ever live. So you have to realize that bad things don't make you disgusting, they don't make your life meaningless, and they don't make you and her hopeless." Some of Harry's words applied to himself, but he didn't notice.
Severus couldn't hold back his tears. "How do you know? You're rich, you have friends, a girlfriend, and you can get whatever you want because you killed the Dark Lord. I have nothing."
"You have talent. You have the ability to change your life. If I had known some things about my future when I was a kid, maybe fewer people would have died."
"Potter," Severus began, then corrected himself, "Harry, what you showed me didn't change who I am, it changed what I know. Goddammit, I can't suddenly be good! You think it's like a fucking magic switch that you can just flip, but it's not. Every day I had to force myself not to think about what it used to be like, how it felt when I performed Dark Magic. I forced myself to think that she would apologize and we could…" Severus' voice cut out and he swallowed.
Harry had taken a step back. He always assumed that Severus, after leaving the Slytherins, realized how the good side was better. Because Harry had forced it on him, Severus didn't fully believe in his decision.
"Is Lily really the one who has to apologize?"
"I already told her I was sorry. How am I supposed to talk if she won't even look at me? It's her turn."
"That's not how it works."
"So you're saying I should apologize again?"
"I don't know." Harry shook his head, thinking. "I don't know. Maybe you'll know when the time comes."
Severus still looked unconvinced, but he'd already used all of his debating energy, and his body was sore. He followed Harry back to the dorm, invisibility cloak stowed in his robes.
They fell asleep gradually, nightmares looming in their minds.
Most students didn't wake up until noon on Christmas morning. Severus and Harry wouldn't have woken up if James hadn't started whistling the song he and Lily had danced to the night before. Harry sat up and put his glasses on as James described to the others, in detail, his kiss with Lily.
"It tasted like…apple tart."
"You're making that up."
"I'm serious! No, not you, Sirius, you can go back to sleep. Anyway, I think she'd wanted it—bad. She was totally accepting of tongue…"
James snickered when Severus stalked out of the room, Harry close behind.
The tree in the common room was lined with gifts. Small groups of students convened around the room, opening presents from each other and their family. Raven, sitting cross-legged with Lily, Aluria, Florence, and Cheresse, glanced at Severus and Harry on their way toward her. She handed each of the girls a small package and excused herself.
"Happy Christmas!" Raven handed the two boys their gifts, then they found a place to sit. Harry's was a tiny painting of a phoenix, Severus' was the same size painting of a tree. Each subject on the paper moved slightly.
"Where do you find time to make all of these?" Harry asked, searching for his gifts for her and Severus.
"Over summer break, my parents don't let me out of the house much, so I do this." Raven shrugged. Her attitude toward them was nonchalant, but she was watchful of Severus, even though she didn't know what had happened after the party.
Severus didn't have anything to give, but that was expected, and Harry's presents were enough to count as two.
James invited Lily to go to the first British Quidditch match of the season in late February. His father had already asked Dumbledore if they could leave for the weekend, and he had given approval.
Lily crossed her arms and raised her eyebrows. "We haven't even been together for a day, why do you assume I'd want to go?"
James blushed. "Oh—I, well, after you agreed to go to the dance, I—"
"Relax, I'm teasing. Yes, that sounds fun, I would love to go."
Sirius came from behind them and clapped James on the back. "Congrats, mate! And Evans."
"Lily," she corrected, smiling a little.
"Wow, you are serious, aren't you?" He exchanged a dejected look with Remus and Peter. "We're gonna have to start our own group."
"Oi, Hang on, I haven't left you lot. I'll just have less time, that's all."
"We're only kidding. And I don't think there'll a big difference, considering how much time you put into trying to win her over." Sirius winked at Lily.
"Alright, I get it. And your gifts are under the tree. I'll meet you there in a tic." They raced over to the tree, Peter telling them to wait up.
James glanced in Sirius' direction, then back to Lily.
She smirked. "Go."
James took her shoulders and kissed her. "Thanks." He kept eye contact with her, grinning and walking backwards, until he bumped into a seventh year, at which point he hurried off, facing forward.
Lily's face was red, and she touched her lips as she thought.
Harry, watching from nearby, turned to his right to say something to Severus, but the boy had gone. Harry explained what had happened to Raven and they went to the dorm and found Severus lying in bed. The previous night had hurt Severus, but the boy might not've considered that it would lead so quickly to a relationship, especially one she seemed happy with.
Harry came in as far as the doorway. "Severus?"
"Go away," came the reply, muffled by his pillow.
Raven, who was oblivious to the previous night's events, stepped in. "You shouldn't give up hope. You should know that I'm—that we're—here for you, and you shouldn't shut us out."
There was no response, no movement from Severus.
Raven sighed. "Okay, well, Happy Christmas."
It was in January that Harry first noticed Severus was often absent from the dorm at night. It was in January that Harry noticed Severus was often absent-minded in every class but Potions, gazing out the window or at Lily, whom he had pretended was nonexistent for the week following the Christmas incident.
One night, Harry pretended to be sleeping, waiting for Severus to get up. Through a squinted eye, he saw Severus take the Invisibility Cloak. Harry would have to cast a Disillusionment Charm on himself. After first disregarding it, Harry realized he heard the slight buzzing sound of the Muffliato Charm. If he couldn't see or hear Severus, how would he track him? Luckily, the moonlight through the windows wasn't bright enough to guide him, so Severus had to use a Wand-Lighting Charm. Harry followed the faint light from the tip of Severus' wand.
Severus had wandered through the seventh floor corridor for barely a minute before a door materialized on the wall.
He knew about the Room of Requirement.
Severus opened the door to the room. Harry slid quickly in and moved aside. The room contained a single object: the Mirror of Erised. Harry's heart and breath clashed with the silence in the room. He remembered Dumbledore's warning that people had wasted away before the Mirror, and remembered the nights he had spent in front of it. He wanted to relay the same message to Severus. Curiosity, however, kept him from revealing himself.
Severus stood before the Mirror. His hands reached up and settled on his shoulder as if trying to touch something. His eyebrows stitched together and he squeezed his eyes shut. After a few minutes, Severus' gaze returned to the mirror, and he walked closer until his face was inches away. He rested his forehead against the glass, his hands pressed on either side of him.
Severus cried for a long time. It wasn't the deep, angry, hopeless weeping from when Jacob became Harry to him. It was the crying one holds back when they know they shouldn't be crying, when something seems trivial but hurts anyway. When Severus was on his knees, clutching his sides, Harry took off the Muffling Charm.
"What do you see?" His voice merely made Severus freeze.
"I—I knew you'd follow me sometime." Severus got, somewhat shakily, to his feet. Strangely, Severus' face was dry, and Harry wondered if he had suppressed his ability to produce tears. Clearly his skills in Occlumency had strengthened.
"I found this mirror when I was a first year." Harry regarded Severus, whose eyes were locked on the floor. "Dumbledore had discovered, somehow, that I had come to see it often. He told me not to return, because I could lose myself in the fantasy."
"I know what's real and what isn't."
"But it can be real in the Mirror." Harry paused, studying the inscription at the top of the Mirror. "Did you figure out the message?"
"Yeah, it's obvious. 'I show not your face but your heart's desire.'" At "heart's desire" his eyes moved back to the Mirror.
"And what do you see?"
Severus bristled. "You know damn well what I see."
"Sorry. Is she just…standing there?"
"Yeah." Severus stared into the mirror, his voice distant. "It's almost as if…she's trying to talk to me. Her eyes are always so…" He faltered. "She's always wearing a nightgown, I have no idea why."
As Harry's attention shifted, Severus' words disintegrated. He should have expected what he saw, but it overwhelmed him anyway. Everyone he cared about surrounded a small, far-away version of him. The view had to be wide in order to show each person: Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Sirius, Dumbledore, Hagrid, the Weasleys, Remus, his parents, Luna, Neville, Dobby, Hedwig, and even more were shifting around him, vying for space. People who were alive, people who had died and people, like Severus, who were with him now. Anybody he could count as close.
"I see my friends. I guess they're more than that; they're my family." Harry studied Ginny, hot pain churning inside him. She was laughing, shaking her head, as though they were talking and he'd told her a brilliant joke.
With great effort, Harry averted his eyes. "I know how much it hurts."
"How many people do you see?"
"I dunno." Harry used counting as an excuse to study them again. "About thirty."
Severus scoffed, his eyes still on the mirror. "I only see one."
Harry needed people. He needed family and friends, and a part of him died each time he lost one of them. Each relationship had shaped his life, his personality, and he cared for and about each person in different ways. Severus did benefit from people caring for him, but it was too late for him to truly need anyone but Lily. At least, that's how it seemed.
"Look, Severus, it's not a good idea to come back to the Mirror."
"Because you have to sleep. And it won't do any good to simply want Lily. If you're there for her, eventually she'll come 'round."
"Right. You just don't want me going insane."
"No, I just don't think this makes you feel better about things. Do you?"
Severus didn't answer.
"If I catch you coming back out, I'll take the Cloak."
Severus crossed his arms, finally turning to Harry. "I'll use a Disillusionment Charm."
"What if you need it during the day?"
Harry stared at Severus, eyebrow arched, until the boy broke. "Fine. But let—let me have tonight. Then I won't come back." His voice was strained.
Harry ignored his sense of guilt and left. Back in his bed, the people he'd seen in the Mirror remained on his lids. They waved him away to sleep.
Leading up to the end of January, James hinted to Lily that he was planning something exciting for her birthday. On the morning of the thirtieth, a Thursday, he paced, waiting for Lily to come downstairs.
Remus told Harry and Severus what James' plans were as James took Lily's hand and tugged her through the portrait hole.
"In a couple hours, he's taking her to the lake for breakfast. The house-elves are in charge of the food, I guess all he had to do was ask. Before school, he bought some of these…I dunno, they're pastries that make you puke." Remus didn't know that Harry had given them to James as a birthday gift the year before. "He's not going to tell her until after she eats it, though. So they'll puke in front of McGonagall, then they'll be out of class for the day. Then they're sneaking off to Hogsmeade for lunch and a butterbeer; James already talked to Rosmerta about it."
Severus wrinkled his nose and glowered at Sirius and Peter as they pulled Remus aside to ask about candles. When the three were done, Remus came back and told Harry and Severus the rest. "So, we helped James pitch a tent overlooking the lake. It's on this cliff right above the only sand beach on the water. They'll fly by broom there. We already put a bunch of candles inside, they're lit now, but they're enchanted flames; they won't catch the place on fire. They have food for dinner and breakfast, so they can be back in time for History of Magic tomorrow morning."
Raven approached them, yawning. "G'morning." Remus mumbled a reply and hurried away to join the other Marauders.
Harry raised an eyebrow at Raven. He hadn't realized how much they went our of their way to avoid each other. "Morning. So, Remus was just telling us what James is doing for Lily's birthday."
"Alright." Raven glanced at Severus. It was Harry who explained, noting Severus' instinctive check of his charmed pocket toward the end of the story.
Severus crossed his arms. "Do girls actually like that kind of stuff?"
Harry looked at Raven, who shrugged. "Yeah, I mean, would boys not like it if a girl did that for them?"
Harry shrugged. "It seems a little much."
Severus scoffed. "He obviously has to compensate for his—"
Harry, realizing something, cut Severus off. "Can I talk to you for a second? Raven, hang on a sec, please."
Severus followed Harry over to the side and crossed his arms. "What?"
"I saw you checking your pocket for the cloak. You cannot spy on them."
Severus blushed, then tried to hide his embarrassment with irritation. "What makes you think I would do that?"
"Because I know you. And it must be tempting. So I want the cloak back, only for today.
"Look, I wasn't—it's not like that. I just want to make sure she's safe."
"What would she think if she found out you were watching her, even if it was to help? You would lose the chance of her trusting you again. Why would you want to, anyway? They're just going to eat, snog, and sleep."
"FINE!" A couple walking by flinched. Severus ignored them and handed the Cloak to Harry. "I hope you realize you can't always make me do whatever you would do. You're not the world's most moral person, but you act like you know what's best for everyone, especially me. You treat me like a child when you're barely an adult."
Harry blinked. "I'm sorry. I know I can be…I know I don't always know or do what's right. I forget that, when I was at Hogwarts, people either told me too often what to do, or left me to figure it out by myself." He sighed. "We can go after dinner. You shouldn't go by yourself. But we won't stay longer than twenty minutes."
Lily and James came to class a few minutes into McGonagall's lecture. They were barely in the doorway before they both threw up. Sirius, who was leaning back in his chair, exchanged a smirk with Peter as James and Lily ran back out, saying something about the Hospital Wing.
That night, as soon as they'd eaten, Harry and Severus went down to the Quidditch pitch. Harry unlocked the shed and got two of the brooms that were for general use. He wore the cloak and cast a Disillusionment Charm on Severus. It took them fifteen minutes to find and ride to the spot Remus had described. James must've cast a Disillusionment Charm, because there was no sign of the tent. They landed a few minutes' walk from the site (Severus nearly crashed), then both walked under the cloak, which covered them well, since the night was dark and the clouds hid the stars and moon.
When Severus and Harry entered the clearing, they saw the tent.
"Do you think they're there yet?" Harry whispered. His question was answered when James, followed by Lily, touched down on their broomsticks in front of the tent. They rested the brooms against the side of the tent, then joined hands.
"C'mon," Severus said, and they moved forward. They went inside just behind James, moving into the corner.
Candles lined the edge of the room. There was a small dinner table with salad and some kind of meat. The bed was covered in red rose petals.
James shifted, a bit nervous. "So, yeah, we can eat, I know how to heat up the turkey so it tastes—"
Lily kissed him. "Thank you," she whispered, now holding both of his hands. She put her forehead against his.
"Happy Birthday." After a moment, James pulled away. "Now, c'mon, I'm starving." He grinned and they sat down.
Lily unfolded her napkin and laid it on her lap as James reheated their food with his wand. She took a bite of salad, and James followed. "This is incredible. I don't know how I'll be able to top this for your birthday."
James shook his head. "I wasn't expecting you to. I mean, don't feel like you have to. I don't even know how I'll beat this."
They laughed, then ate some more. After putting her salad aside, Lily considered him. "You know, one reason I didn't want to date you was because I thought it would always be about you. That's why I'm surprised whenever you do things like this for me."
"What about all the flowers I gave you over the years?" James realized his mouth was full, so he snapped it shut and continued chewing.
"I saw it as you trying to buy me over."
"Shit. Well, I know now that doesn't work." He gestured around him, smirking.
"Hey. This is different. And you're different. You've…matured since then. Or at least, you seem more sincere."
"I hope so." He took a bite of the second dish and his eyes widened. "This is really good."
Lily nodded. "I may be a little biased from this lovely atmosphere, but it's even better than the school food."
"Really? It's made by the same house-elves."
"This sounds silly, but I was hoping you made this."
James chuckled. "I can't cook. My dad does, sometimes, but I was never taught how."
"Right, you have servants to do all of your chores."
"Not all of them. I clean my own room."
"That must take a long time; I'm sure you have two walk-in closets."
He chuckled. "Just one."
"My god. That's…" She counted on her fingers, "…one more than me."
James frowned. "I would give it up though, for a brother or sister."
"Yeah. I get bored and, well…lonely, when I'm at home. My parents are out a lot, but even when they're home it's not enough. You have a sister. Petunia, right?"
Lily nodded. "But we don't get along. I love her, of course, but it's not how you would expect. It's not like having a friend. Tuney hates that I'm a witch."
James looked aghast. "Why?"
"Jealousy, mostly. And since coming here, she hardly ever sees me, and I knew her better than any of her friends."
"I'm sorry. Y'know, Sirius and his brother, Regulus, don't get along either."
"I can tell."
"Also, Peter and Remus don't even have siblings." James finished the last of his plate and downed the rest of his pumpkin juice, stalling before speaking again. "Do you want kids?"
Lily raised an eyebrow. "My boyfriend of one month is asking me this on my fifteenth birthday."
"No, no, I don't mean it like that! I—"
Lily leaned forward and put a hand on his arm."Relax, I'm just teasing. You're so gullible. Don't worry, it's cute." She stood and put her dishes in the sink. "I dunno, about wanting kids. With this war coming and everything, I don't think it's possible."
"I know what you mean." James stood, leaving his plate on the table. "Have any favorite baby names?"
"Like they won't have the name when they're an adult?" Lily smiled at her own joke. "Hold on, I'm going to change, and I'll think about it." She picked up her bag and brought it into the other room. James reached into his bag, grabbed his toothbrush and toothpaste, and enchanted his toothbrush to do the brushing for him.
"Harry and Molly," Lily called from inside the other bedroom. James abruptly stopped the charm on his toothbrush. "What?"
"Harry for a boy, Molly for a girl."
James spat his toothpaste into the sink. Harry couldn't read James' expression, and nearly shifted with impatience from standing in one place for too long. James tried to sound indifferent. "Oh. Yeah, I like the name Harry, too."
There was silence except for Lily brushing her teeth. The faucet stopped, and there was silence. After a couple minutes, the bathroom door opened. Lily, now in a pale yellow nightgown, came back into the room.
"You look beautiful," James said, crossing to meet her.
"My mum sent the nightgown for my birthday."
"She has great taste." James went in to kiss her, but Lily turned her head.
"Nothing serious tonight, alright, James?"
He nodded, then leaned in again, meeting her lips. She rose up to meet him, hands moving into his hair. Locked in embrace, they moved to the bed. Lily lay down on the bed with James positioned over her, and they continued to kiss.
Harry tugged on Severus' sleeve. The boy gave an almost imperceptible nod, and they both tiptoed out of the tent.
Severus took off the cloak as soon as they were back in the trees. Harry expected a rant, or for Severus to start crying, but he said nothing. Harry renewed the Disillusionment Charm on Severus, they mounted their brooms, and took off toward Hogwarts.
It wasn't curfew inside the castle yet, but they weren't allowed outside after dinner, so they stayed invisible until they went into a bathroom to become visible without anyone seeing.
Raven approached them as soon as they entered the common room. "Where were you?"
Severus opened his mouth to reply with the lie they had decided on, but Harry decided to answer with the truth. "We were checking on Lily."
Raven looked between them. "Why? Is she alright?"
Severus brushed past her. "More than alright."
"What happened?" Raven whispered to Harry.
"I don't know. She seemed fine. Happy, even." Then it dawned on him. "She really did seem happy. I guess that's the problem."
Severus had sat down at one of the desks in the back, so they joined him.
Raven tried to give a smile that was comforting. "At the rate they're going, it won't last that long. And everyone is happy in the beginning."
"Like we were."
Raven chewed her lip in thought. "I'm going to give you my view, as a girl, about James. I think she likes him for the same reason that any girl likes him." Raven blushed and suddenly became very interested in her hands.
Severus regarded her in a mixture of surprise and disgust. "What would you see in James?"
They realized why she had hesitated to explain further; Remus, coming from behind the two boys, sat down next to her. "What about James?"
Raven explained, without looking at Remus, "They were wondering what girls would see in James. But it doesn't mean anything, I don't—"
"I thought you were giving your opinion on James," Severus said.
Raven glared at him. "I was going to say that Lily probably likes him because he makes her feel good about herself. I'm sure it's difficult to not feel good about someone who gives you all that attention. He's kind to her, too. As for James as a person…he's exciting, popular, talented…"
Severus and Remus' faces fell.
"Don't get the wrong idea, that can get dull, after a while. And I've never fancied him, or anything."
Severus dismissed this. "Yeah, but she does."
They met each other's eyes. Raven sighed, gathering her thoughts. "I think…she'll find out that people don't need elaborate displays of affection. It's the little things that matter in the end."
After losing publicity to the Marauders' Christmas Eve Party, Slughorn recruited seven students in their fourth or fifth year to his Slug Club. Among the recruits, for her skill in Potions and traits as a person—her wit and kindness—Lily was chosen. For having been the first 11-year-old Quidditch player in eighty years and decent enough at Potions, Harry was chosen. Severus was also recruited, for being one of the best, if not the best, Potions students in the school. Aluria was the last to be chosen the day after she hexed a Ravenclaw, though several of her famous distant relatives had influenced Slughorn's decision.
The first meeting with the new members was a formal Valentine's Day Party, and everyone could bring a plus one. All of the staff was invited as well.
Severus and Harry jointly counted Raven and Remus as their guests, and of course Lily chose James.
Few people were excited for the party, even those with dates. Most boys could recycle their dress robes from the Christmas Eve Party, some scrambled to have some sent in. Harry had brought most of his wardrobe in Hermione's purse, which included dress robes from his fourth year and a pair he wore to all events he was invited to as The Boy Who Lived.
Most girls, on the other hand, had the same conversation over finding new dress robes as they had for the Christmas Eve Party. Only a few people from each year attended, so Harry and Severus only had to listen to it in passing.
On the night of the event, the boys waited in the common room for their plus ones. Remus pulled at a loose thread in his tattered sleeve and informed them, self-consciously, that the robes had been his father's.
Raven and Lily walked down the steps together. Lily wore a knee-length white dress with shimmery, pink tights. Her hair and make-up were done similarly to Raven's.
"Hi." Raven curtsied to the boys, a little sarcastically. She shifted in her black shoes and looked between Harry and Severus, unable to meet Remus' eyes. "Ready to go?"
"Really nice," Remus managed, as he cleared his throat.
"What?" She turned to him in surprise. It was the first time he'd spoken to her in months.
He swallowed. "Er, you look nice."
Raven smiled. "Thank you." To fill the uncomfortable silence, she added, "Cassandra did all the girls' hair and makeup. She would've let me borrow her dress, which is pink, but it was too short on me." Raven glanced at Severus, who was staring at Lily, then back at Remus, who was staring at her.
Harry considered Raven. "I like the black." Honestly, though, Harry couldn't have cared less, especially when there were more important things to worry about. But it mattered to her.
Slughorn's Office was draped with deep ruby, light pink, and silver hangings. Fairies flitted overhead, gravitating toward the chandelier in the middle of the ceiling. House-elves weaved between the staff and students with platters of food lifted high above their heads. Charmed, musician-less instruments played from the corner of the room.
Soon after they arrived, Sirius (brought by Aluria) dragged James, Remus, and Peter (who was brought one of James' fans) away to talk to a man with a rugged, athletic appearance. Lily joined Aluria and the two of them half-talked, half-sulked in the back of the room.
Remus returned twenty minutes later. "He was a Quidditch player they like. I couldn't hear very well."
Raven nodded and asked Remus, "Do you want to get some air?" He shrugged, taken by surprise, and followed her into the corridor.
After a minute or so, Harry and Severus, both bored, decided to join Raven and Remus outside of the party. Remus had spent the past months not talking to her, supposedly to protect her, but Harry knew there was more to it. After shutting the door, Harry spotted them down the hall. They were talking, quite close, and Raven was fidgeting.
Then she kissed him. Remus backed up against the wall, hands resting at her sides. Her hands cradled his face.
Harry and Severus crept back into the party, suddenly very patient for their return. To pass the time, they ate and talked about the people at the party. Severus had a lot to say about the Slytherins, but when Harry pointed out one in particular, he abruptly fell silent. "We should go." Severus had ducked his head.
The Slytherin was tall, bulky, and must've been in his seventh year. "That's one of them?" He couldn't imagine someone of that age being capable of what was done to Severus.
"Hey," Remus said. "Were we gone long?" His shoulder grazed Raven's, and their faces were both a tinged pink.
Harry checked his watch. "Only…fifteen minutes."
"Oh. Well, we were just…" Remus searched for an excuse.
"Where've you been?" James put a hand on Remus' shoulder, then threw a smile over his own. "There are some girls interested in meeting you. I've told them some of the classics. They're even flirting with Peter. C'mon."
Remus mouthed "sorry" to the others and let James lead him away.
Raven's gaze moved from Remus to Lily, who was still talking with Aluria. She turned back to Harry. "I'm gonna go over there for a tic."
"Okay." They watched her go, hugging Lily and Aluria before gesturing at the Marauders. It was clear that Lily and Aluria had already been complaining about them.
They watched as James started laughing and put a hand on one of the random girls' shoulders. Lily rolled her eyes, but Aluria and Raven appeared concerned. It went on like this for the rest of the evening; the Marauders drifted from group to group, socializing, as the three girls loitered in the back. Severus and Harry kept to themselves, occasionally speaking to one another, though there wasn't much to talk about.
At eleven, the girls went to the Marauders and seemed to inform them that they were leaving. Remus faked a yawn, saying he'd join them. James leaned in for a kiss, and Lily offered him her cheek instead of her lips. Sirius hardly acknowledged Aluria.
Severus and Harry followed the back of the group out of Slughorn's Office.
"What did James want you for?" Raven asked Remus.
"I dunno, he has a thing about all of us being together, especially at events with other people."
Raven nodded and reached for his hand. Remus hesitated, then entwined his fingers in hers. "I thought you just wanted to be friends. Last year, that's what you told me."
The group, now spread apart into pairs, went up the stairs that led to the seventh floor. "I liked you, but I thought you didn't know what you wanted yet." She lowered her voice. "You fancied Lily, then chose me. It was hard for me to get over being your fallback, your second option."
Remus slowed. "And I wasn't yours?"
Harry tugged Severus back. The boy had been trying to listen in, and had heard the bit about Lily. "He fancied her?"
Harry shushed him. "Yes, but not anymore." He stalled, not wanting Severus to hear what Remus might reveal about Raven.
Severus matched Harry's pace. "Was it like that in your time?"
"I don't know. You don't have to worry about it."
"Who did Raven fancy before him?"
"I don't know. I think Remus got the wrong idea about something." They stopped talking as they passed Raven and Remus.
"…But you weren't," Remus was saying. "You aren't."
"It's okay." Raven paused, and Harry could tell she was waiting for them to be out of earshot. "I know I was hypocritical."
The common room was mostly empty, but there were a few students who asked how the party went. Aluria and Lily both replied, "Fine," and continued up the stairs without stopping to chat.
Raven and Remus stopped at the foot of the girls' dormitory stairs. "Goodnight," Raven said. She checked to see if anyone was looking, then kissed him on the cheek.
"G'night," Remus replied, a bit dazed.
The next day, everyone knew about Raven and Remus, ruining any plans they might've had to keep it quiet.
Also, Harry found out that the feature, or the moral, of the stories James had been telling was what he was calling his group of four. Before Valentine's Day the day before, Harry had been the only one who knew that they called themselves "the Marauders".
James tried to explain to Lily that he hadn't meant to ditch her at the party, that she was overreacting, and that he'd been trying to build his—the Marauders'—reputation. It took a while before he realized Lily wouldn't accept anything he had to say. Eventually, he offered to take her on a date to Hogsmeade.
"Yeah." Lily observed the rowdy students around them. "It'll be good to get out, with just us."
James piled his plate with food. "So, where in Hogsmeade sounds romantic?"
"Well, it doesn't have to be romantic, that's not really the point—"
"Hang on." James stopped chewing and pointed his fork at her. "I thought that was the point." Then he continued eating, as though she couldn't say anything to argue that.
"No, I just want to spend time with you."
"Right, so like a belated Valentine's Day."
"No, James, I don't care about the details, or the specific reason for doing something, I just want to have time for us."
James nodded slowly. "Okay, then how about the Three Broomsticks?"
"Great." When James opened his mouth in frustration, Lily added, "I wasn't being sarcastic! That's great, yes, let's go."
Sirius and Peter peered at Remus and Raven over their breakfast. As James began to walk away, Sirius jumped up and whispered something in his ear. James' face split into a grin. He reached over and clapped Remus on the back, causing the boy to choke on his toast.
"What the hell?" Remus spluttered, turning around.
"Congrats, mate! And to you, too," James added, putting a hand on Raven's shoulder. "We'll talk later," he muttered to Remus, before rejoining Lily.
"I wasn't expecting that reaction," Raven said to Remus.
Remus glanced at Sirius and Peter, who were obviously still discussing the new relationship. "Er, Raven, If they say anything to you, ignore it. They like you, of course they do, but you were involved in the Dark Arts for a while, so they…"
Raven blinked, then nodded. "Okay. I get it. I don't mind, I wasn't planning to get along with them. It's only been a day, let's not worry about it."
After breakfast, Harry and Severus, not wanting to stay cooped up inside Hogwarts, decided to follow the others' lead and go to Hogsmeade. They went to the Three Broomsticks and sat down with their butterbeers.
"There's Potter." Severus nodded toward James and Lily. Harry noticed one of the Marauders' victims, a fifth-year Hufflepuff, was sitting nearby with his back to them, oblivious.
Eventually, when the Hufflepuff got up to leave, he spotted James. The boy froze, then saw that Lily was with James and relaxed a little.
"Hey, Marcus," James said as the boy walked past.
Marcus hesitated. "Oh, hi." He nodded once and continued walking.
Lily smiled, first at James, then to herself.
On occasion throughout the day, Harry and Severus happened upon Lily and James. Harry noticed that none of the students were fearful or cautious around James liked some used to be.
Harry didn't know what would be harder on Severus: if James still acted like a toerag and Lily didn't mind, or if James won Lily over by acting kind to everyone. The latter, to most, seemed to be the reality. But Harry knew his marauding days would continue.
After Hogsmeade, Harry and Severus went up to the dorm to straighten up before starting on their assignments.
Severus stopped sifting through his things and sighed. "Why are you still here?"
"Oh, I can leave, if you want—" Harry started for the door.
"No, I mean, why haven't you gone back home?"
Harry turned toward Severus, surprised. "You asked me to stay."
Severus ignored this. "The longest anyone's gone back in time is five hours. I've read about time travel. There was a witch, Eloise Mintumble, who traveled back 500 years for five days. When the Ministry got her back, her body had aged 500 years, and she died. Not only that, but her five days led to twenty-five people being unborn. The Tuesday after she came back was 60 hours long, the Thursday after was four hours. It screwed up time."
Harry shook his head. "I don't understand—"
Severus stood. "I don't either. You're putting everyone in danger, including yourself—"
"…But why are you worrying about it now? It's been four years."
"Because Lily and Potter are together, and it's going to stay that way. You're at the end of the story. You've been here long enough, and there's nothing left for you to do."
Harry forced himself to believe that Severus was wrong. "Why do you want me to leave? So you can join the Slytherins again without me telling you the Dark Arts are wrong?"
"No, I want you to leave to prevent you from fucking things up anymore than you already have."
They glared at each other, then Harry reached under his shirt and pulled out the Time-Turner.
Severus looked between Harry and the device. "That's not what Time-Turners usually look like. I didn't realize it until reading about time travel—where did you get that?"
"Ginny gave it to me."
Severus sighed. "I know, but who gave it to her?"
Harry shook his head. "I don't know. I never really wondered how she could have got a Time-Turner like this. All the ones in my time were supposed to be destroyed. It's been years since the day I left, but I think I remember her avoiding answering me when I asked her where she got it. I assumed she got it from someone who was grateful that I killed Voldemort."
"Don't say his name!" Severus hissed. Then he turned away, clearing his throat. "What if a Death Eater gave it to her?"
"No. That's not it. Can't be."
"They could have been trying to fuck up the future. What if she doesn't know who it's from? How do you know it wasn't a Death Eater?"
"Ginny is smart, and besides, all of his followers went into hiding. If they needed to change something, they would've done it themselves." He took the Time-Turner off his neck and studied it. "There's something else, though…it's more advanced than what the Ministry had; I'm not dead, or sick, and it let me go back further than five hours, easily. It has six rings instead of two."
"You didn't answer my question about leaving."
"Last June, you asked me to stay. So I'm going to stay through this year."
"What if people are dying in your time just because you wanted to feel better?"
"If that's going on, someone would've gotten me. I feel like I came back for a reason."
Severus began to pace. "You know your reason; you told me what it was."
"There's something more than that, though." Harry sat down and studied his hands. "And I haven't figured it out." He realized something. "Severus, they've only been together—actually, even been friends—for two months. You're acting like my dad is; like he and Lily are married. So snap out of it." Harry paused, then tried to sound less harsh. "It's not over yet. I still have a chance, and so do you."