Positive Reinforcement

Merlin's Beautiful Bum

The next month pushed the patience of every student in Hogwarts to the absolute limit. James had never pulled so many pranks or made so many grand gestures to Lily. It seemed that around every corner James Potter lurked waiting to either attempt to ruin Lily Evans' day or attempt to woo her. Both tactics seemed to be equally doomed to failure.

In the first week after the Pink Potions Prank, James spent an entire weekend wearing his invisibility cloak and lurking at the base of the girls' staircase in Gryffindor tower. Every time an upper year girl attempted to get to the dormitories, he set a foot on the bottom step to turn it into a slide and send them tumbling back into the common room. The other three Marauders supported his efforts by bringing him meals from the kitchens and coffee to help him stay awake for the whole forty-eight hours. Sirius in particular was always happy to help.

The next week, James and Sirius convinced all of the house elves that what the girls in the castle really wanted was for their clothing to be shrunk in the wash. Their clothing was much too billowy and large, the boys told the elves. The elves in their neat, small pillowcases understood perfectly and felt sympathetic towards the witches who had to wear all that cumbersome, heavy material. They happily agreed to shrink each item a size or two when they collected clothes for washing. House-elf magic was strong enough that the girls' attempts to return their clothing to the proper size had been in vain, and they were forced to ask the professors to intervene. The males in the castle had really appreciated that particular prank, although all of the girls were out for the Marauders' blood.

In the third week of Lily's detachment, James used a modified version of the piertotum locomotor spell to animate all the statues and suits of armor in the school and made them come to the Great Hall at dinner and serenade her with the Hogwarts school song with James at their head. That one had almost gotten her. Her face turned a shade of red that he'd only seen once or twice in all their years at Hogwarts—a perfect ten on the Lily Evans Rage Scale—and for a minute he was ecstatic, thinking he'd finally pulled a prank big enough for her to tell him off again. She appeared to choke on air, fight an internal battle, and finally just stood and left, trailed by statues and suits. James wilted and at the staff table McGonagall managed to recover from her shock enough to give him a month of detentions and take a round hundred points from Gryffindor.

Lily had never been so frustrated with another human being in her life. The look on his face outside the Potions classroom that first day had been truly satisfying, but now her patience was worn almost to the breaking point. So many times, she almost gave up on her policy of not yelling at Potter when he was being a tosser. It was so tempting and he was such a prat. She was also getting worried that the situation would keep escalating and actually throw her off for exams. The pranking was incredibly disruptive and if her education suffered for their Potter's childish behavior there was going to be hell to pay.

James was getting more desperate with each passing day. Evans hadn't yelled at him since that night in the common room and he didn't know what he could do to get her attention again. The most she would do was take off points (he couldn't have cared less) or assign detentions with Filch (decidedly unpleasant, especially with Sirius still intent on beating the joke about him being in love with the caretaker to death). He was starting to run out of brilliant prank ideas to provoke her into scolding him.

Sirius was the only one enjoying himself. James had never been more dedicated to pranking and the Marauder was thrilled. It was also highly amusing to watch his friend's misguided attempts to get Lily's attention when he was now certain of what she was doing. Sirius considered Lily and James's suffering to be richly deserved payback for all the Legendary Lily Evans Rants he'd had to endure at James's side. They hadn't turned him on, after all. He usually spent them coming up with new and innovative ways to describe Merlin's beautiful bum.

o0O0o

The evening after the unsuccessful statue prank, James returned to the common room after the first of his detentions with his Head of House. He was exhausted and he'd given up hope of getting Lily to interact with him again. That one had been his last big idea and he was now resigned to a life of loneliness and to never again seeing Lily at her most impassioned, hands and red hair flying and emotion animating every feature as she gave him her full attention for a moment.

He sat broodily in an armchair by the fire and stared at her where she sat across the common room, reviewing for the Transfiguration exam with Marlene McKinnon, Hestia Jones, and Dorcas Meadowes.

Lily was aware of James's eyes on her but did nothing. He technically wasn't breaking any rules by creepily staring, and she certainly wasn't going to go off on a tear like she might have done in the past if he'd looked at her that intently for that long.

Two hours later, the other three girls had long since gone off to bed and James and Lily were the only two remaining in the common room. Lily was still studying and James was still staring. Finally, Lily couldn't take the tension anymore.

"Can I help you, Potter?" she asked crisply, not looking up from her books and reminding herself to stay cool no matter what he did.

James started at the sound of her voice. He cleared his throat and shifted in the chair.

"Why have you stopped talking to me entirely?" he asked her in a low tone, smiling weakly. "I'm getting a bit desperate here, if you hadn't noticed."

Lily put down her quill and twisted halfway around to look at him. James felt a thrill as they made eye contact, something that hadn't happened for a month.

"Well, Potter, I finally worked out that you were getting some kind of perverse pleasure out of getting me angry at you and so I decided to stop rewarding bad behavior," she answered.

"So would you reward me for good behavior?" James asked with a hint of his normal cheekiness, a spark of hope flaring to life in his belly.

"I would…consider it," Lily stated. "After all, basic training guidelines for a household pet say that you should offer positive reinforcement for desirable behaviors and withhold it for rule-breaking." She wondered why she was even indulging him in this and chalked it up to insanity brought on by the month of nonstop pranking and loopiness induced by the late hour. She decided to head up to her bed before she made any more questionable decisions.

James smiled brilliantly at her as she gathered her things. His bout of gloominess seemed to have ended.

"Evans, I would love nothing more than to be your pet. You'll find me on my best behavior from here on out," he told her with a salute.

Lily snorted. Potter on his idea of "best behavior" was something she'd pay to see.

"Yeah, right. Good night, Potter."

"Night, Evans."

o0O0o


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