"What on earth –"
"Shh! I thought you lot were supposed to be good at this!"
The Marauders stared in shock at the redhead who was sprawled out on the floor along with them. They hadn't seen her because she hadn't been carrying a light – and she hadn't seen them as they were under the invisibility cloak – leading to a collision in the middle of the hallway many hours after curfew. Several papers were strewn about, as were several carefully wrapped items that Lily had been carrying.
"Lily, what are you –" Remus began, before Lily shifted her weight forward and covered his mouth with her hands, effectively silencing him. She gave him a mild glare and cast a furtive glance behind her.
"Shh! Do you want to get caught out here?" she hissed. The sound of movement from down the hall drew her attention and she paled, scrambling towards one of the papers on the floor. She pulled out her wand and picked it up, tapping it. "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good." Her voice was barely audible, but it left all four Marauder's gaping.
How in the world had she learned one of their biggest secrets, much less how to use it? Next she would tell them that she knew about them being Animagi and Remus being a werewolf. She didn't seem too surprised at the cloak, so she probably had already figured that bit out for herself. But how had she learned about the Map?! As they watched, Lily dragged her finger across it, before paling drastically, and scrambling to her feet.
"Damn! Come on, you four. Trust me, you don't want to be here when he catches up to me." As she spoke, she scooped up everything that had fallen, keeping the Marauder's Map visible and in front of her. When she saw that they weren't moving, she rolled her eyes. "If you don't want to move, then it's your funeral. As for me, I prefer staying alive."
She started running down the hall, her footsteps making no sound whatsoever. James, Remus, Sirius, and Peter all exchanged a look, then stared down the hallway she had just come from. A male voice spewing muffled curses reached their ears, and in unison, the four stood and darted after Lily. She led them on a twisting path through the castle, and only after several minutes did she pull open the door to an empty classroom and sprint inside. The four boys followed behind her, and the moment the last of them were through, she shut the door and cast a locking charm on it.
For a moment, the only sound was their breathing as they caught their breath from the mad sprint through the castle. Peter was swaying on his feet as Remus leaned on one of the empty desks. James was sprawled in a chair, and Sirius was bent over with his hands on his knees as he panted for air. Lily was leaning on the wall beside the door with her head tilted back. She suddenly burst into soft laughter as she slid down the wall so that she was sitting on the floor.
"Ah, that was fun." she said, ignoring the disbelieving looks she was getting as she checked the Map. "Oh good, he's still several corridors away. That gives us some time to catch our breath before making our escape. I suppose I should check to make sure some of the vials didn't break in the fall." Lily set the Map off to the side, and began to rummage through some of her bundles.
"Do you mind explaining what the hell is going on? Who was that back there, and what are you doing out after curfew? More importantly, how do you know about the Map?" Sirius interrogated, looking almost scandalized at his last question. Lily looked up, startled, and seemed to notice the looks she was getting for the first time. Only seconds after his outburst, Sirius seemed to have a realization, and turned James accusingly. James held up his hands in surrender.
"Hey! It wasn't me! I honestly have no idea how she knows about it – and quite frankly I'd like to know that as well. The answers to the other questions also wouldn't be unwelcome." All four boys turned to Lily once again, and the Prefect was now sporting a look similar to a deer in the headlights of a car. Her cheeks flushed slightly.
"Er, right. I suppose you guys have the right to know, seeing as I almost got you caught by an angry seventh year who I'm pretty sure is a Death Eater in training, if he isn't one now." At their resulting expressions, Lily backed up. "I suppose I should start at the beginning. Several weeks ago I was cornered in the halls by a group of pureblood elitists who have been harassing me since the beginning of the year. I'm pretty used to it by now, but that time they . . . well, let's just say that their insults crossed a line that time.
"As there were never any other witnesses to the events, I couldn't prove what they had been doing. So, I decided to finally take matters into my own hands. I brewed several potions that I invented especially for my payback, and found several charms I could use for it as well. I decided to use both tonight, and was able to bribe – er, convince the house elves in the kitchen to spike their food with the potions tomorrow.
"After that, I snuck into their dorm rooms, and managed to hex each of them as they slept. Unfortunately, the last one woke up after I cast the spell. I spelled his bedspread to wrap him up as I escaped, and managed to cast a silencing spell on my shoes as I fled from the dormitories. My trick with the bedspread hadn't held him up for long, and he was soon chasing me through the castle. Shortly after all that, I managed to run into the four of you, and here we are."
By the end of her explanation, Lily looked rather sheepish, but she still lifted her chin proudly, her emerald eyes flashing in anger at her treatment over the past several months. Remus cast a glance at his friends to gauge their reactions. Peter looked a little puzzled, but otherwise rather indifferent. Sirius was studying Lily with a renewed interest after her tale, and the werewolf could pretty much see the scheming his friend was doing with the new information. He had to admit that he himself was pretty impressed with his fellow Prefect's skill at pulling off this prank.
It was James's reaction to the news that was the most interesting. Based on the expression on his face, Lily Evans had just gone from the queen of his world to a goddess come down from the heavens. Remus could still see the traces of fury at the news that apparently she had been getting harassed all year without anyone's knowledge, but it was overwhelmed by his new-found awe of her.
"That . . . is pretty amazing." James said faintly, causing Lily's blush to deepen. Then something seemed to occur to him. "Wait, if you pranked them, then won't they immediately think it was us?" Lily didn't look fazed at the question. In fact, her eyes began to sparkle with mischief as she smirked.
"Actually, no. I already thought about that, and despite the fact that we don't always see eye to eye, I wasn't going to throw you under the bus. Or, I suppose, throw you to the hippogriffs." She corrected, with a slight frown. "Whatever. The point is, when I hexed them, I made sure to leave a different signature."
"Meaning?" Remus probed, watching in slight fascination as Lily's smirk grew. She drew her legs up and crossed them underneath her as she cast a glance at the Marauder's Map. Satisfied that they were still in the clear, she returned her attention to the four boys in front of her.
"That is the brilliance of the thing, if I do say so myself." she said. "The colors I left behind were specifically Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. I arranged the order so that it looked like two people had teamed up to quickly hex them all, and made the style of the hex slightly different for each House to support the idea of a pair. Now the cursed group will be looking for a Ravenclaw – any of who could be the mastermind behind it – and a Hufflepuff. The Hufflepuff will be impossible try and locate, because all of their less friendly members hide under friendly masks."
"That is actually rather brilliant." Sirius admitted. "Maybe we should be consulting with you more often on our pranks. However, you still haven't told us how you found out about the Map – much less how you discovered how to work it."
"I actually only learned about both by accident. Midway through fifth year, I was having some trouble sleeping one night, and decided to just get up and get some work done down in the common room once I realized that sleeping was a lost cause. Before I made it all the way down, I heard the four of you talking, and when I was all the way down, saw you use it to double check something or another. I've known about it ever since."
There was a moment of silence as they absorbed all of the new information. By now, all five had caught their breath, and Lily glanced once again at the Map beside her. After a long moment, she stood, and turned towards the door. She murmured the spell to unlock it again, before tapping the Map with her wand again.
"Mischief managed." Lily then held out the map to James, who slowly took it from her. His expression still said that he didn't quite know what to do with this new side of the girl he was in love with. "Nearly everyone's in bed now, and the others who aren't won't bother us on the way back to the tower. Come on, we should go while we can."
The Marauders trailed after her as she led the way back to the dormitories. They walked in an amicable silence that was rather surprising for each of them. Lily easily led them through the halls without a light, and the only close call they had was when they heard an echoing meow from Mrs. Norris. Lily had tilted her head in concentration, then shook her head, telling them softly that she was still at least three halls away from them. Once they had made it safely back to the common room, Lily hesitated on the first step to the girls' rooms before turning to face them with a small smile.
"Goodnight. I had fun tonight, perhaps we'll have to do it again." She then turned back around, and was about halfway up the stairs when James suddenly called after her.
"Lily!" she stopped and turned back around, a questioning look on her face. "How did you know how to pull off a prank like that?" The same glint from earlier entered her eyes as she grinned mischievously.
"I'm the younger sibling to the most annoying sister on the planet. Believe me, I've had a lot of practice." With that, she darted the rest of the way up the stairs, and disappeared from view. James stared after her for several long moments before turning to Sirius.
"Padfoot, I don't care how long it takes, I am going to get that girl to marry me one day." Sirius laughed slightly, shaking his head in disbelief.
"After tonight, I don't doubt that. Man, just think, so many pranks around the school could have been her, and nobody would be any wiser because she makes it look like other people." Realizing that James would probably stand at the base of the stairs for the next several hours, Sirius grabbed him by the shoulders and herded him up to their room, followed by the other two. "Come on. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be late for breakfast tomorrow. After all, we were promised a show."
The next morning, hushed whispers and muffled laughter followed a group of five students as they made their way into the Great Hall. The Marauders looked up from their breakfasts at the sound, and their eyes widened in surprise before they too were muffling their laughter.
"So that was what she meant by 'colors'." Remus commented quietly to the others as he laughed. The group that she had hexed were all seventh year Slytherins, though they didn't look it at the moment.
The ones colored like Ravenclaw each had brilliant blue skin and shining copper hair, while the Hufflepuff ones had skin the color of daisies with pitch black hair. What Lily had failed to mention to them the night before though, was that she had also Transfigured their features somewhat so that they each resembled badgers or ravens. Needless to say, the five Slytherins were fuming.
"Still sure you want to marry her after this?" Sirius asked, though it was clear from his tone that he didn't really mean it. He subtly pointed to Lily as he continued. "Just think, if she ever gets mad at you, she could hex you five ways to Friday."
Lily appeared to be completely absorbed in a conversation with her friends, but the Marauders could see the small smile on her face and the subtle glances she was giving the five students. At the particular moment that Sirius was pointing her out, she was subtly sending a jinx at a jug of pumpkin juice in front of the hexed Slytherins. It exploded, covering them in liquid, and their shouts instantly turned into squawks and grunts. The rest of the room erupted into laughter, and even several of the teachers were chuckling at the sight.
James laughed in delight at the trick. Despite what Sirius had said, he was more convinced then ever that Lily Evans was the girl for him. Now, he thought as Lily winked at them from further down the table, he just had to convince her of that. He smiled, then sat back to watch the show as another jinx was sent across the room.