The Sugar Quill
Author: Ajax (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Across A Wizard's Heart  Chapter: Chapter 1: Lily and the Snitch
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Across A Wizard's Heart by Ajax - Chapter 1
A/N: A huge thanks to my lovely beta Birgit for all her help with this fic, as well as to Stella, for letting me nag :)

ACROSS A WIZARD'S HEART
A Harry Potter fic by Ajax

Chapter 1: Lily and the Snitch

"Who wants to see me take off Snivelly's pants?" James yelled at the students around him. Many, including Sirius and Peter, were laughing anew at the sight of Snape's greying underpants, but James had no desire to laugh. He felt furious. He noticed dimly that his hand was shaking as he pointed his wand at Snape.

What stung was not so much that she had yelled humiliating things at him in front of so many students, but that she had refused him, firmly and clearly.

There was another roar of laughter from the students. Snape was struggling to push his robes up to cover himself and failing rather miserably. James ran over the curses he knew in his head, trying to find a suitable one to inflict on Snape. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Remus snap his book shut and get to his feet --

"FINITE INCANTATEM!"

James whirled around. Standing under the shadow of a tree not far away, were a group of Slytherin boys. The tall, thin boy at the front had his wand out and was pointing it at where Snape had hung upside down moments ago. Snape pulled himself up from where he had fallen and reached for his wand, but before his fingers could close around it, another Slytherin had summoned it to him. Frowning, Snape slouched towards the tree.

Sirius chuckled gleefully. "Well. Friends to the rescue, eh Snivellus?"

Snape's eyes flashed. Wilkes, the sixth year Slytherin who had summoned his wand, held it out to him, smirking.

"I wouldn't have done that if I were you, Rosier," said James, addressing the boy who had freed Snape. "I had something to settle with Snivelly here."

Rosier's eyes narrowed in anger. He hadn't lowered his wand either. "Ganging up on a lone Slytherin?" he drawled. "I thought you Gryffindors were supposed to be brave."

"I'm sure Snivelly knows enough curses to defend himself," James snarled. "Dark curses, that is."

The Slytherins smiled.

"I'll show you bravery!" said Sirius loudly. James could tell that he was itching for a fight. "How about you four, against me and James, and we'll see what Snivelly has up his sleeve?"

The students around them gasped. James heard Peter murmur something with admiration, then heard footsteps approaching behind him, and someone softly calling Sirius' name. "Remus," he thought, "he's not going to let us fight four Slytherins out here in front of everyone." But he didn't care. He felt angry enough to take on the whole of Slytherin house, and Wilkes, Rosier, Avery and Snape were a good start. The footsteps stopped and Remus laid a hand on his shoulder, but before he could speak, Wilkes suddenly cursed and hid his wand.

"McGonagall," he snarled. "Just came out of the gates. Let's go." He turned on his heels and walked briskly towards the castle.

"We'll deal with you lot later," called Avery darkly over his shoulder before following the others.

James slowly pocketed his wand and shrugged Remus' hand off his shoulder. He knew it would have been utter foolishness to start a fight in front of McGonagall, but he needed to let out his anger, to somehow get rid of the furious pounding in his veins.

"James --"

"I'm going to the Quidditch pitch," he cut off Remus and stalked off.

*

"Prongs! Oi, Prongs!" yelled Sirius after James, but the latter did not seem to hear him. "Come back, you idiot!"

Remus watched as Sirius streaked away after James, pausing only to call over his shoulder.

"Hey Moony, ask Wormtail to test you, he's been much better at Transfiguration since we did you know what! I'm going to talk some sense into the dimwit!"

Remus sighed. There was an odd lump in his stomach, a familiar lump that always formed when his friends went too far. Frowning, he retrieved his book bag and joined Peter in walking up to the castle.

"Don't worry about Prongs, Moony," Wormtail was saying. "He's just angry because Lily dealt him a hard blow. You know he wouldn't be stupid enough to pick a fight with four Slytherins like that. It would have been a good show, though," he added.

Remus shook his head absently, but didn't tell Peter that he was wrong. It wasn't James that worried him.

It was the nasty suspicion that Lily had been right.

"Will you help me study for Transfiguration?" he asked Peter, trying to dismiss his worries.

"Yeah, if you like."

"Sirius is right, you know," said Remus. "You really have been better at it since you managed the Animagus transformation."

"D'you reckon?" Peter beamed proudly. "All that research and practice we did is paying off, I suppose. Learning to Vanish my clothes without a wand and then Conjuring them back on when I transformed was horrible... It's lucky I didn't end up with half my robes missing when I changed back that first time, or my underpants would be on display, too! But I've got the hang of it now. I hope it comes up in the OWL, I reckon I might even scrape an O!"

"Well, Conjuring is really difficult, it's NEWT level, but Sturgis Podmore told me that they were asked to Vanish a racoon last year, so that might come up. How did you do in Defence Against the Dark Arts?" Remus asked, smiling indulgently at his friend.

"It wasn't that bad," said Peter, "I knew most of the stuff, but I always get so stressed with written exams. Everything became mixed up in my head and by the time I got to question ten... I could no longer think straight, you know? Er, nargle brains?"

They had reached the portrait of the Fat Lady, which swung open to admit them when Peter gave the password. Leaving his friend with a mumbled excuse, Remus rushed up the spiral staircase to their dormitory.

The sight of Severus Snape, powerless and hanging upside down, kept flashing before his eyes. He couldn't shake the sickening feeling that even someone as unpleasant as Snape did not deserve that treatment. The lump in his stomach became heavier as he thought glumly that Lily's words about James held more than a grain of truth. Going into the bathroom, he splashed some water on his face. When he straightened up from the sink, he caught sight of his prefect badge, glinting dully on his chest.

With a couple of steps, he was back in the dorm room, reaching into his trunk and opening the small locked compartment at the bottom, where he kept the things he did not want anyone to find. He rummaged around, pushing aside his mother's amulet and a few letters written by the girl who had had a crush on him at the beginning of the year. His fingers clamped around a small stack of folded parchments bits. He pulled them out of the trunk and leaned against his bed to peruse them.

A rush of memories overwhelmed him as he straightened the pieces of parchment on his knee, gazing at James', Peter's and Sirius' scribbles. He remembered James, bursting into the dormitory with a stack of books and gleefully yelling "Research!" as the other two groaned good-naturedly and rolled off their beds to grab a couple of the volumes. He remembered Peter, tending to the plants they had grown in their room to make the potions necessary for the Animagus transformation. He remembered Sirius, his alert face shadowed in the candlelight, stirring a cauldron beside his bed while James and Peter yawned and recited various instructions from books. Something twinged within him and he smiled, his fingers skimming over the wrinkled notes. He paused when he reached the last piece of parchment, and extracted it carefully from the stack.

This note was a lot more wrinkled and yellowed than the others, written in the lurid purple ink Sirius had favoured in their first couple of years at Hogwarts. Remus remembered stumbling into the dormitory after a particularly exhausting full moon, a couple of weeks into second year, having been given permission to skip classes and rest in bed. He had only noticed the scrap of parchment when his head had hit the pillow but had met the rough texture of paper instead of soft cloth.

      Remus,
      Are you sick? Peter kept us up all night with his worrying.
      If you're in trouble tell us. We'll help.
      S J P

Remus folded up the piece of parchment and smiled to himself, making sure to lock it back up in the trunk before descending to the common room. And when Peter later pondered whether Transfiguring James into a giant squid would increase his chances with Lily Evans, Remus found that he could laugh without any worries clouding his mind.

*

Sirius leaned back in his seat as he watched his friend zooming around on his broom. James had been chasing a Bludger and bashing it with a bat whenever he caught it for the past hour, and Sirius was growing very bored and restless. However, he knew better than to try to talk to James when he was this angry.

Overhead, the sky slowly darkened, and the stars began to blink into view. A light breeze stirred Sirius' hair. It would have been very peaceful if not for James' grunts and the sound of his bat colliding against the enchanted ball. Sirius directed his gaze at the sky and tried to find his namesake, but gave up after a few minutes. Astronomy was one of his weakest subjects, much to the dismay of his mother. He glanced back at the castle and saw that the lights had come on in the Great Hall. Getting to his feet, he cupped his hands in front of his mouth and yelled at James.

"Oi Prongs! Come down, dinner's nearly starting!"

James paused as he looked down at Sirius, barely moving his head in time to avoid the Bludger that zoomed at him. Swinging the bat, he managed to direct the ball towards the wooden trunk, jumping off his broom to catch it and lock it in.

"Here, I'll help," said Sirius, approaching his friend and taking out his wand to levitate the heavy trunk back towards the broom shed. James was still standing at the end of the pitch when Sirius returned from locking up, staring moodily at the ground.

"Blimey mate, don't let her get to you," said Sirius, prodding James with his wand to make him walk. They set off at a leisurely pace towards the castle, their robes swirling about their legs as the wind picked up.

"Make her sick, she says!" James suddenly burst out, startling Sirius. "What have I ever done?"

"I quite liked the list she made, actu--"

"Shut up, Padfoot!" grunted James.

"I don't see why you're so bothered about little miss hypocrite," said Sirius.

"What?"

"Didn't you see her? Mate, she nearly smiled when you showed Snape's rags to the school! Found it funny, she did. Then she calls him Snivellus --"

"It's customary to call people by their names," interrupted James.

"Calls him Snivellus, as I was saying, then leaves you to it! After he called her you-know-what, the rotten git."

"Well, she's not one to back down from an insult, is Evans," replied James moodily, kicking at a stone on the path.

"Which is exactly why, being miss prefect, she should have stuck the lot of us in detention. Instead, she lets you get on with exposing Snape's dirty underpants, which you were doing a spiffy job of, by the way. Now, hypocritical or not, I ask you?" asked Sirius vehemently, but James did not appear to be listening him.

"Do you think she would like it if I laid off a bit?" asked James suddenly.

"What?"

"If I laid off the cursing and stuff. You think she might like me then?"

Sirius stared incredulously at James, taking in the latter's glum expression. He knew that his friend had had a crush on Lily Evans for months, but he'd never thought that James would even consider changing his habits for anyone's sake, let alone for that of a prefect. He debated with himself as to what would be the appropriate response to James' question, but his mind stubbornly refused an answer.

"Look, Prongs -- you know girls are strange. That's the only reason Wormtail's got a girlfriend and the three of us haven't. Who knows how Lily thinks? Girls always do the opposite of what you expect them to..." he trailed off weakly. James continued walking silently by his side, the pained expression still on his face.

"I didn't know you liked her this much," said Sirius, trying to sound casual. "Why didn't you ever tell me?"

"You would tease me to death about it," answered James.

Sirius nodded gravely. "That is my duty as best friend, yes."

"Sirius, if you say one word about Lily Evans, I'll hex you."

"Oooh, ickle Potter's up-urk?" Sirius clutched at his throat as he suddenly found himself without a voice, while James wordlessly pocketed his wand and continued walking. He fished for his own wand in his robes, found it, pointed it at his throat and muttered the counter to the Silencio Charm. However, as he had no voice, all that happened was that he managed to jab himself sharply in the throat. Cursing -quietly, mind you-, he followed James, exchanging punches and prods with his friend all the way to the common room.

*

James rubbed his sore arm and stepped through the portrait hole. Sirius had given up on punching him and was instead ranting mutely in what was undoubtedly some very colourful language. James grinned, Sirius's gestures were getting ruder by the minute, and he wondered what Lily Evans would say if she saw. He glanced around the common room, but it was empty except for Remus and Peter, who had probably waited up for them before going down to the Great Hall for dinner.

Trying not to look too upset, he made his way over to his friends. They lifted their heads from their books when he greeted them, and he smiled wearily at them.

Next to him, Sirius made a vicious wringing motion with his hands.

"You want us to wring your robes? But you aren't wet..." murmured Peter, bewildered.

"I think he wants to wring my neck, actually," interjected James. "Listen, be a good mate and keep this buffoon away from me for a while, all right? I put a Silencing Charm on him, but it should wear off in a few minutes. I'd rather... I want a bit of quiet, actually."

"Is everything all right?" Remus asked, looking bemused at Sirius's increasingly demonstrative gestures.

"Yeah... Yeah, I'm fine -- Just tired. I'm going to rest for a bit," said James awkwardly. He was sure that Remus would see right through him. Sure enough, pale eyes flickered over to rest on his face.

Sirius snarled and mimed strangling himself.

"Sod off, will you!" James snapped at him. "Go down to dinner and choke on some food." He turned on his heel and strode up the stairs, feeling his insides boiling in anger at both Sirius and Snape.

"Aren't you going to eat?" called Remus after him.

"Not hungry," he murmured, just loud enough to be heard. He listened for the sound of the portrait hole closing behind his friends and entered the dormitory, not resisting the urge to slam the door on his way in.

The rich scarlet of the curtains greeted him. With a couple of strides, he threw himself onto his bed, not even bothering to take off his shoes. Absently, he reached into his pocket and took out the struggling Snitch. The moment his fingers uncurled, it zoomed off, hovering near one of the curtains hanging from a bed-post. It was gone by the time he had turned his head to look at it.

He squinted at the curtain. When the light was slanted just so, it looked the same shade as Evans' hair.

The Snitch suddenly flew into view again and started buzzing above his right foot like some demented insect. He lunged to catch it, letting its tiny wings beat furiously against his palm, before releasing it back into the air. The mattress creaked under him as he shifted to stretch out on the bed.

He looked at the curtains again. At the foot of the bed, on the bottom of the left bed-post, were her initials. He'd carved them with Sirius' penknife at the time when he'd first taken notice of Lily Evans. What an interesting week that had been...

He remembered a cool October day, one of the last days of the year where the weather had been mild enough to sit outside. Wrapped in their cloaks, they had ventured out onto the grounds. Peter had transformed into his rat form and was darting between their legs as they walked. James could still recall the euphoria he had felt that day, triumphant from having finally completed the Animagus transformation and successfully accompanied the werewolf during his monthly ordeal.

He and Sirius had wandered over to the great beech tree and settled down to watch Remus and Peter for a while. The rat had been running around Remus and jumping on his books, and Remus had laughed healthily as he gave chase. James had looked at his friend and tried to imagine the wolf in his place. A savage animal which had been crouched in a corner, torn and bloodied when he had first seen it, staring back at Prongs with wild eyes that shouldn't have belonged on any creature...

"-- go into Hogsmeade."

James had almost jumped, startled, as Sirius' voice had broken him out of his quiet reflections. "Sorry, what?"

"I said, we should buy a present for Peter's birthday, next time we go to Hogsmeade."

"Oh -- right." Then, abruptly, "You know, I'm so glad we could do this," he'd said, indicating the small rat that had been studiously turning the pages of Remus' Herbology book as the latter laughed. Sirius had glanced at Wormtail and sniggered, shifting to lean his back against the tree.

"Can you imagine how much easier it will be to sneak around Filch now? Peter only has to transform and he can get in anywhere! Of course, there's the small matter of avoiding being eaten by Mrs. Norris but I reckon --"

"No, that's not what I meant... I wanted to say... I'm happy we could do this. For Moony, I mean."

Sirius had shuddered, so slightly that James hadn't been sure he had really seen it. "It was so much worse than I thought. All that blood... I know we read about it but..."

"He won't ever have to go through that again now."

"Yeah... I reckon it did work. He seemed much calmer after he saw us, at any rate."

"It was the right thing to do," James had said simply, watching Remus swat Wormtail away from his book. "Because he's our friend, and he needed our help."

But Sirius had stopped listening to him then and, getting to his feet, had made his way toward a group of their Gryffindor classmates who had settled themselves a little further away, chattering merrily. James had watched Sirius grin and converse briefly with Meg Ashwood, who had rummaged in her bag and handed him a book. Just as Sirius had turned to leave however, Mary Crabtree, a blonde girl in their year, had pressed an envelope into his hand and muttered a few words, blushing copiously.

"What did they give you?" he'd asked Sirius upon the latter's return.

"Meg's my partner in Divination. I needed her book to finish my share of the homework, I've lost my copy somewhere."

"Is Divination still a load of nonsense?"

"Well, in our last lesson, she read in my tea leaves that a house elf would drown me in a cauldron of love potion. And I predicted that she would be eaten by a herd of rampaging Flobberworms on the sixth of October."

"Flobberworms don't have teeth. And the sixth of October was last week... Does your Inner Eye need my glasses, Padfoot?"

"I'm very good at Divination!" Sirius had exclaimed in mock indignation, throwing a grin his way. "In fact, I bet you five galleons that I can predict what's in this letter given to me by Mary Crabtree."

"A letter? Interesting..."

"Yes, very. Especially when you consider that it's for... Moony, can you come here for a minute?" Sirius had turned towards Remus, raising his voice to be heard. Remus had moved to join them, Wormtail scurrying at his feet.

"I have a letter for you."

"I don't want to read any letter you've written," Remus had said dryly. "It'll probably contain something very incriminating and get me in detention scrubbing chamberpots if I'm caught with it."

"It probably would, if I had written it. But I didn't write this."

"Oh. Well, I didn't think you could write, anyway."

"If you stop being smart with me, Moony my friend, you will learn that this," Sirius had paused dramatically, "is a love letter. For you. From Mary Crabtree."

There had been a loud squeak. Remus had dropped his Herbology book on Wormtail.

"What? Give me that!"

Remus and James had both lunged for the letter in Sirius' hand, but James, thanks to his Quidditch reflexes, had grabbed it first. After tearing the scented envelope open, he had started reading it aloud, while Sirius had held off a frantic Remus.

"Dear Remus... I'm sitting in Transfiguration class as I write this, and I know McGonagall will probably kill me if she notices, but I couldn't care less. -- Ooh, Mary is a right little rebel, who'd have thought? -- You are much more interesting than my badly Transfigured pigeon. -- Well, barely, I suppose... -- I think the way you chew on that purple quill when you're listening is so sweet. -- What's she talking about, that quill is always soggy, it's revolting -- I know that a lot of the girls in our year fancy Sirius -- girls these days have no taste, honestly -- but I think that you are the nicest boy in Hogwarts. Do you want to go to Hogsmeade with --"

"Stop it!" Remus had finally managed to get away from Sirius and wrest the letter from James. When they had calmed down, after much teasing, Sirius had pulled James aside.

"Listen, why don't we ask the girls to go with us on the next Hogsmeade weekend?"

"What do you want to do with girls?" James had asked, perplexed. "All they do is giggle!"

"It's for Moony, you thick-headed git! He's never going to ask Mary to go with him, you know how he is. If we go all together they can... I dunno, talk or something."

It was hard to stop Sirius when he put his mind to something, of course, so the next weekend, James had found himself walking down the path to the village, surrounded by six girls as well as his three friends. It had been a bit annoying; the girls had talked about clothes and the Ravenclaw Quidditch Captain's blue eyes, and Sirius and Peter had been too busy sniggering about Mary Crabtree, who had approached Remus and started talking quietly to him.

"...if she'd caught me I could have been expelled..."

James had heard a snatch of murmured conversation from a girl behind him and had started eavesdropping, wondering what she could have done to land herself in trouble.

"...I know I shouldn't have... I don't care what he says to me, but my poor sister's only a first year and if anyone insulted our parents like that in front of her she would be so upset! He made me so angry, I just wanted to hurt him. I don't even know what curse I used! If you hadn't put the Memory Charm on him he'd have gone straight to a teacher and got me expelled, but if anybody finds out they'll take away your prefect badge --"

"Don't worry about it," a clear voice had said briskly. "It was the right thing to do. You're my friend, you needed help, so I helped. He was --"

James had whirled around, not even hearing the rest of the two girls' conversation, and had found himself facing the skinny figure of Lily Evans, her mouth open in mid-word as she'd looked up in surprise at his sudden motion --

"I'm back from dinner, Prongs." Remus' voice broke him out of his reverie. His friend was standing by his bedside, eyes twinkling as he pushed at James' legs to clear a space to sit.

"I have elected myself," Remus said, settling down on James' bed with a flourish of his robes, "ambassador."

James snorted. "That's not very democratic."

"The other two people who could have participated in the election are in the Great Hall, stuffing their faces with apple pie. So I chose myself to come up here and tell you not to brood."

"I'm not brooding."

"Defeated posture, glum expression, a Snitch flying unchecked in our room, oh, and drooping hair... Nope, definitely looks like brooding to me."

"I was just thinking," James replied, raising his hand to ruffle his hair.

"About a certain prefect?" asked Remus, smiling slightly.

"No, about Mary Crabtree, actually. I was just wondering why you never went out with her after that day in Hogsmeade."

"Oh, you know... She was very nice, I suppose. Only she wanted to take me to a tea shop called --" Remus pulled a face, "Madam Puddifoot's."

"So what was wrong with it?"

"Pink frilly tablecloths. And little angels around the sugar bowls. It was quite revolting."

They both stayed silent for a while, contemplating the horror.

"There was also the fact that the name Puddifoot somewhat resembles," said Remus conversationally, "the name Padfoot."

James burst out laughing. He tried not to imagine the big black dog dressed in an apron, decorating a dainty tea shop with various pink objects.

"I did want to talk to you about Lily," said Remus.

"Look, I don't want to talk about her, all right? She can go out with the giant squid for all I care... I'm not bothered!"

"No, no... I just wanted to tell you that there were... certain points of interest in her little tirade, which you may have overlooked in... er... the heat of the moment," finished Remus, blinking as the Snitch zoomed into the air between them.

"What are you talking about?" James asked despite himself.

"The Snitch, Prongs. Now tell me, what did Sirius wonder when he saw you playing with it?"

"He asked me where I'd got it from."

"And why would he ask that?"

"Because... because I didn't have it before... Why is this important?"

"Patience, Prongs," clucked Remus. "You've never touched a Snitch outside the Quidditch pitch before, but now, for the first time, you have one and you're playing with it in front of everybody. And you tossed it around for a good long while before the Snape incident, after which, I might add, Lily shouted in her dulcet tones that you kept 'showing off with that stupid Snitch'."

"The anticipation is killing me," muttered James sarcastically. "Get to the point."

"The point is, Prongs, Lily didn't suddenly notice you when Snape became airborne. Don't you see she must have been watching you all along? Where else could she have seen you play with a Snitch you only brought out today?"

James felt his spirits lift slightly. Remus was smiling at him. He absently reached out and plucked the little golden ball from the air.

"You really think she was watching me all that time?" he asked, not caring how hopeful his voice sounded.

"I think you should think carefully about the things she said. And I should start to think very carefully about my Arithmancy OWL. See you." Remus raised himself from the bed and left, softly shutting the door behind him.

James fixed his eyes on the curtains again, his fingers still curled tightly around the sphere of gold. Within minutes, his eyelids grew heavy, and he was asleep before he knew it.

That night, he dreamt that the girl who talked with his own words and cast Memory Charms to help her friends was chucking Snitches at his head.

//
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