The Sugar Quill
Author: Dessie  Story: Insane at the Knees  Chapter: 1 - On a Subconscious Level
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Author's Note: Thank you to Ada for being an awesome beta, as always.

Insane at the Knees

Remus blinked. 'Their first kiss?' Whatever he had been expecting Harry to ask him, it hadn't been that. 'What's brought this on?' he asked with a faint smile.

Harry looked embarrassed, twisting his hands nervously. 'Well...it's just that Sarah's been asking a lot of questions recently about me and Ginny, and how we got together and our first kiss and everything, and I suppose I just wondered...' He trailed off.

'You wondered about your own parents?' said Remus.

'I wondered if it was normal to want to know that kind of stuff about your parents,' he answered honestly. 'I don't know anything about my parents when they were at school, or how they got together. I just wasn't curious, I suppose - there always seemed to be more important things to think about. And I always thought I'd have the time to talk to Sirius about it later, when his name was cleared and the war was over and everything, but...' He shrugged. 'Well, you know.'

Remus nodded. 'You could have asked me, though.'

'I know,' said Harry, 'but I felt a bit awkward about it. It's not as though you were around all that often,' he added, and Remus winced at the veiled accusation.

'I know,' he said quietly. 'I'm sorry. I've got time now, though, so what do you want to know?'

Harry shrugged. 'What can you tell me?'

'Well, you asked about their first kiss, right? Do you want to hear about that, or do you want to know about when they started going out? Though the second's a much more boring story...'

Harry blinked. 'They're not the same thing?'

'They're really, really not,' said Remus, smiling at the memory. 'Do you want to hear the story? Though I warn you, Harry, I'm not really much of a storyteller.'

'No, I want to hear it.'

'Well,' said Remus as he tried to work out where to begin. 'Well, I suppose it all started with a girl called Katy Hill...'

*****

'Katy! It's your lucky day. How would you like to go to Hogsmeade with someone even prettier than you are?

'That's ridiculous. Who told you I was obsessed with Lily Evans?

'Really? Well, he's lying.

'Yeah, well, she's also lying.

'Everyone knows those two never tell the truth...

'Oh come on, you can never trust the entire Gryffindor Quidditch team!'

'How's he doing?' said an entirely new voice, and Remus jumped as Peter slid into the chair on the other side of the table.

'Well,' he said, 'it's difficult to tell since we can only hear his side of the conversation, but I'd hazard a guess it's not going too well.'

Sirius sighed heavily. 'There's got to be a way to get this thing to pick up more than one voice,' he said, picking up the device on the centre of the table. It was a small blue cube, currently emitting the tinny sound of James' voice trying to persuade Katy Hill that the whole thing with the Ravenclaw common room and the Dungbombs had never been proven to anyone's satisfaction.

'That's what you get for buying stuff in junk shops,' said Remus. 'Just be grateful it works at all.' He looked at Peter. 'How did it go?'

He shrugged. 'You know McGonagall. She knows that James or Sirius probably did it, but she can't prove anything. I just got the standard lecture about misplaced loyalty and everything.'

'Good old McGonagall,' said Sirius fondly. 'You can depend on her.'

'Thought of anything to do with the Cube yet?' asked Remus, nodding at it. 'Not that eavesdropping on James' attempt at a love life isn't fun, of course...' he added dryly.

Sirius looked defensive. 'I'm working on it! Great inspiration doesn't just strike overnight, you know.'

'You've had weeks,' Peter pointed out.

'Yes, I know, but this needs careful planning. We don't want to waste something this good on...' He trailed off.

'Spying on James' love life?'

'Oh come on,' Sirius protested, 'that's not wasting it! I need a laugh, I've got detention with Sluggy tonight.' He looked depressed. 'I swear, if I hear one more word about how much Regulus enjoys his little get-togethers and how much I'd enjoy them too if I only gave them a chance, I'll...well, I don't know exactly, but I'll do something.'

'Probably something that will just land you right back in detention,' said Remus absently, flicking through his Tranfiguration textbook. 'Try not to let him get to you. Besides you should be flattered - seven years and he's still trying to get you to join his Slug Club.'

'Huh,' muttered Sirius. 'Slug Club. Don't know how James puts up with it.'

'I'm sure there are compensations,' said Remus with a grin. 'Speaking thereof, has the Cube stopped working again or do you think James has given up?'

Sirius picked up the now silent device and peered at it, frowning. 'This is getting ridiculous, I thought we'd fixed this thing.'

'You did,' said a familiar voice suddenly from behind them, and all three started. 'I'd stopped talking.' James sat down in the free chair and put a small blue cube on the table next to its twin. 'Anyone care to explain why I found this thing in my pocket?'

'Um...'

'Er...'

'Well, you did say we ought to test it, James,' said Sirius defensively. 'And it worked great, we could hear you clear as a bell, all the way from the library.'

'Oh, well, that's okay, then,' said James, rolling his eyes. 'As long as spying on my private conversations is useful, well, please, go right ahead.'

Sirius clapped him on the back. 'Knew you'd see it like that, mate,' he said cheerfully. 'Time to change the subject, I think.'

'I agree,' said James. 'New subject.' He glared at Sirius. 'Padfoot, did you tell Katy Hill that I was obsessed with Lily Evans?'

Sirius widened his eyes innocently. 'Didn't you want her to know?'

'For the last time, Padfoot, I am not obsessed with Lily Evans!'

*****

'For the last time, Julie, I do not fancy James Potter!'

Julie raised an eyebrow. 'Then why does he always get such a reaction out of you?'

'Because,' said Lily through gritted teeth, 'I find him to be the most singularly irritating person I have ever met or am likely to meet.'

'Right,' agreed Julie, 'like I said. You think you hate him, but you really fancy him on some unconscious level.'

'I- What?' Lily gave her friend a suspicious look. 'Have you been reading books again?'

'Subconsciously, you fancy James Potter,' Julie reiterated, 'and I bet you he'd say the same thing.'

'Please,' said Lily, 'he wouldn't even know what the word meant. I do not fancy Potter, on a subconscious level or otherwise, and that's my final word on the subject. Now, can we please just drop it?'

*****

'Can we please just drop the subject? Would I be going to Hogsmeade with Katy next weekend if I were obsessed with Evans?'

'Yes,' said Sirius. 'You're trying to make Evans jealous, and convince us that you've moved on at the same time, thus killing two birds with one stone.'

'She said yes, then?' asked Peter, looking surprised.

'Of course she said yes! What woman has ever been able to resist the Potter charm?'

'Apart from Lily...' began Remus.

'Yes, okay, apart from Lily Evans,' said James, exasperated, 'who I was never seriously interested in, and only ever asked out because it seemed to irritate her so much.'

'Repeatedly,' said Sirius. 'For three years.'

'Precisely. Now, can we please change the subject? Besides spying on your best friend, you thought of anything to do with the Cube yet?'

Remus laughed as Sirius groaned. 'Why does everyone keep asking me that?' he said defensively. 'I notice none of you lot have come up with any ideas.'

'Hey, I'm Head Boy now,' James protested. 'I have to be good and set an example and all of that now. I can't sit around thinking of ways to use that thing - especially since it's bound to be on Filch's banned list.'

'But if I come up with a good way to use it,' said Sirius, raising an eyebrow, 'you'll have no objections at all?'

'Of course,' said James. 'I see no moral problems with that.'

Sirius shook his head. 'I knew that badge would go to your head.'

'Speaking of which,' said Remus mildly, 'have you looked at the time, James?'

James looked at the time, swore loudly and jumped to his feet. 'Lily's going to kill me!'

'Well, look on the bright side,' said Sirius and picked up his Charms essay. 'Maybe that'll cure your obsession with her.'

'For the last time, Padfoot, I do not have an obsess-' He sighed. 'Oh, forget it.'

*****

Lily Evans, having parted from Julie in a huff on the second floor, was standing in the Prefects' common room, deciding the best position to be in when he finally turned up. Should she be standing opposite the entrance, arms folded, looking at her watch and tapping her feet in impatience, or should she be getting on with her work with her back to the door, clearly showing that she was indifferent to whether he turned up or not?

Because she was, she assured herself firmly, shuffling and reshuffling her papers for the meeting. Completely indifferent. Julie was just talking nonsense. James Potter had absolutely no effect on her. None whatsoever.

'And whatever happens,' she added silently, 'however irritating he is, whatever he says, I will not let him get to me. I will not rise to the bait.' She suddenly heard running footsteps from down the corridor and bent her head to her papers, trying to ignore the odd sort of nervous feeling in her chest.

'I will not let him get to me.'

'Nice of you to show up,' she said, looking up as he entered the room. 'You remembered the password then?'

James, leaning against the doorway and looking around with interest, suddenly clasped his hands to his chest. 'Suddenly, she stood before him,' he cried melodramatically. 'Their eyes met. Especially hers.' He dropped the act, and his hands, and grinned at her. 'You know, Evans, you really ought to do something about that squint.'

'I don't have a squint!' she snapped before getting a grip on herself. Trying to pretend she hadn't reacted to the remark, she went on. 'If we're quite done with the theatrics, I'd like to get on with it. There's a few things I want to go over with you before the meeting - I know I said a lot of this on the train, but I have a lot of plans for this year, I really think the prefect system can be improved...and why are you staring at me like that?'

She glared at James and he started, looking oddly guilty. 'You know, Evans,' he said thoughtfully, 'if you did have a squint, it might actually improve your appearance.'

'If I had a squint, it would certainly improve yours,' she said before she could stop herself.

He raised an eyebrow at her. 'Oh, were you being funny there? I've heard rumours about you doing this.'

'I've a sense of humour, same as anyone!' she said defensively.

'Yeah, you told me that once, but I thought you were joking.'

'Well, that's probably because I always laugh when I look at you!'

'You, laugh?' he snapped. 'Without some kind of magical intervention?'

'Well, I...' She stopped, having run out of comebacks...and then froze in horror as she realised that she had let him get to her. Dammit! What happened to not rising to the bait?

She pulled herself together. 'Look, let's just get on with it, shall we?' she said with as much dignity as she could muster. 'I'm aware that this whole Head Boy thing is just a big joke to you - in fact, I'm pretty certain that everything in life is just a big joke to you - but this matters to me. So don't worry, I won't force you to do any work or anything at all. You just let me get on with my plans for this year and we'll stay out of each other's way. Deal?'

She glared at James, who looked back at her defensively, arms folded. He shrugged. 'Fine.'

'Good.'

'Glad that's settled.' He crossed over to the seat besides hers and sat down, looking around the room. 'So where is everyone? I thought you said the meeting started at half past six?'

'I did,' said Lily. 'I said that so that there was the slightest possibility of you turning up before seven, which is when the meeting actually starts.'

He looked offended. 'Honestly, Evans, it's almost as though you don't trust me!'

Lily said nothing, but looked pointedly at the clock.

He followed her gaze and shrugged. 'Fair enough.'

*****

The meeting for the most part was as boring as James had expected it to be. Having little to contribute - not that Lily would have let him if he'd tried - he spent the majority of the time idly watching Lily and wondering (not for the first time) about his own sanity. How could he be in love with someone who got this excited over rotas, for goodness sake?

He was, of course. Completely head over heels. He'd deny it to his best friends under threat of torture, and nothing in this world would ever get him to admit it to Lily, but it was something he'd come to terms with himself some months ago. It wasn't really something that affected his daily life, and it certainly wasn't something that would stop him from asking out other girls - what, was he supposed to waste away his life pining after someone who hated him? - but was just a part of his life now. A new school year at Hogwarts meant lessons to be attended, Quidditch to be played, and Lily Evans to obsess over.

He was aware that it was a funny kind of love, considering the delight he took in irritating her, and he was also aware that he had no chance with her unless he stopped tormenting her and managed to convince her that he'd changed. But something in him just couldn't help starting an argument every time they spoke. Maybe it was her. Maybe something about her brought out the worst in him.

Or maybe he just wasn't a very nice person; something he had suspected more than once, especially after the events of last year. Besides, it was fun causing her to turn that particular shade of bright pink that clashed so horribly with her hair.

He grinned to himself at the thought, before realising that the girl in question had fallen silent and the whole room was staring at him expectantly.

'Um...what?'

'I said,' said Lily, sounding irritated, 'that in order to implement all these changes, I think it would be useful to have prefect meetings once a week, instead of once a month. Do you agree?' she said in that special tone of voice that means 'you do agree, don't you'.

He opened his mouth to agree automatically...then her words sunk in. 'What? No!'

A murmur ran around the room and Lily froze. 'Why not?' she said, dangerously polite.

'Look, I agree with everything else you said,' he said, aware that he hadn't heard most of it, 'but we don't need weekly meetings. We don't have enough to talk about! And we've got NEWTs coming up, and the fifth years have got OWLs and everything - people just don't have the time. And Quidditch and the Slug Club and everyone's activities... We all need all the free evenings we can get just to get through the work.'

'Well, maybe if you spent less time skiving off in lessons with your friends,' said Lily through gritted teeth, 'you wouldn't have to do so much catching up in the evenings!'

'I do not 'skive off'!' said James, stung. He paused. 'What does that even mean? Is that a Muggle thing?'

Lily sighed. 'Never mind. The point is, just because you overfill your evenings doesn't mean everyone else does. Prefect duties ought to come first!'

'Really?' said James, raising an eyebrow. 'Surely school work should come first?'

'Of course,' she snapped, flustered. 'That's what I meant. But this stuff is important, and we need the extra time to do it all!'

'I'm not saying it isn't important, I'm just saying that we shouldn't overload people when they have enough to do already!'

'Um, could I interject here?' said a sixth year Ravenclaw, raising his hand.

'What?' snapped James and Lily in perfect unison. They paused and looked at each other warily.

Lily recovered first. 'What is it, Kenny?'

'Well,' he said cautiously, 'could we not compromise? I mean, once a week might be a bit too often, but I think Lily's right, once a month is just too long between meetings...so why don't we meet once a fortnight?'

There was a pause while all the prefects looked expectantly at their Head Boy and Girl. 'Now, why didn't we think of that?' said James dryly.

'Because you were too busy arguing?' said a prefect quietly in the back row.

Lily glared at the offender. 'Fine,' she said wearily. 'Let's vote on it. Anyone for once a week?'

No hands went up.

'Once a month?'

Two Slytherins, a Gryffindor and a Hufflepuff put their hands up.

'Once a fortnight?'

A forest of hands went up, including James'. Lily sighed. 'You don't have voting rights, Potter,' she pointed out.

'Oh, sorry.' He put it down again.

'Fine, motion carried. The next meeting will therefore be in two weeks time, on the Wednesday the week after next.'

'What?' said James. 'Sorry, Lily, that's Quidditch practice.'

'Well, you'll just have to miss it then, won't you,' said Lily, gathering her papers together on her clipboard.

He stared at her in disbelief. 'Miss Quidditch? Frazz would kill me! And Danny!'

Danny Peakes, fifth year prefect and Beater for Gryffindor, looked puzzled. 'Why would I kill you for missing practice? I'd have to miss it too.'

'I didn't mean that you would kill me, I meant that Frazz would kill you as well as me.'

'Ah, right.'

'Could we have less talk of killing, please?' said Lily. 'It's the only free evening that week, deal with it.'

James looked thoughtful. 'What about the Tuesday?'

'Tony and Linda have Gobstones Club.'

'What, and that's more important than Quidditch? Okay, fine, what about Monday?'

'It's one of Slughorn's get-togethers, half of us are going to that.'

'Thursday?'

'Charms Club.'

'Friday?'

She hesitated before saying firmly, 'I'm busy.'

James looked at her in deep suspicion. 'Really? Doing what?'

'I'm tutoring someone in Potions.'

'Can't you do that another night?'

She shrugged, looking smug. 'I don't have another night free.'

'Yes, you do,' said James, resisting the urge to match her smug smile with his own. 'You must have Wednesday free, or you wouldn't have suggested it.'

'Well...I...'

'That's settled, then!' he said cheerfully, clapping his hands together. 'Friday night it is. Meeting's over, you can go now,' he added to the prefects, who were all watching in rapt attention.

Slowly, obviously not wanting to miss the show, the prefects gathered up their things and wandered out of the room. James waited until they had all left before turning to Lily.

'Okay, what the hell was all that about?'

'I have no idea what you mean,' she said stiffly, standing up and putting her bag over her shoulder.

'Oh come on, Evans. You want to argue with me, that's fine, I quite enjoy it and it doesn't hurt anyone. But what do you have against the Quidditch team?' James paused as a thought struck him. 'Is this about tryouts? Are you still annoyed because you didn't make the team?'

'Of course not,' she said, but he could tell by the way her shoulders stiffened that he'd struck a nerve.

'That's it, isn't it? Look, I'm sorry that you keep trying out and getting nowhere. I thought you flew really well at tryouts -' and he was telling the truth, he had been impressed '- but Frazz is a good captain and he picked the best people. It was just bad luck.'

'Oh really?' she cried suddenly, wheeling around to face him. 'Look, you're a better flyer than I am, I admit that - or at least you would be if you worked a bit harder at it and stopped showing off so much,' she added, stopping the smile that had crept onto James' face. 'But the other two? I scored three more goals than Sam, and Pippa dropped the Quaffle twice, for god's sake!'

James frowned. 'So what are you suggesting?'

'I'm not suggesting anything,' she said, moving towards the door. 'But if I were suggesting anything, I would suggest that you take a good look at that Quidditch team, and the makeup of every team since your beloved captain took over. Think about it.'

James blinked at her as she opened the door and left. What did she mean?

He was still pondering it when the door suddenly reopened and Lily stuck her head back round it.

'By the way, Potter,' she said hesitantly, 'what does the word 'subconsciously' mean to you?'

He gaped at her, completely nonplussed. 'Not a thing.'

'Good,' she said smugly. 'Anyone ever tell you that you have a marvellous vocabulary?'

'I always knew that,' he said, still wondering about this abrupt change of subject. 'I could just never put it into words.'

She rolled her eyes and began to shut the door behind her.

'I suppose I knew it subconsciously,' he added, and grinned as she froze in the doorway.

'I hate you, Potter.'

'I know.'

*****

'James!' Sirius greeted him cheerfully as he entered the common room. 'We've figured it out!'

James slumped in the spare chair at the table, still thinking furiously about what Lily had meant. 'Figured what out?'

'Listen,' said Sirius, and he pointed his wand at the Cube. 'Lascivio tergum!'

The Cube glowed purple and James' voice began to issue from it once again.

'That's ridiculous. Who told you I was obsessed with Lily Evans...? Really? Well, he's lying...'

'Okay, fine, I get the point,' said James wearily, not wanting to hear it again. 'You can play it back. How did you figure that out?'

Sirius shrugged. 'Latin dictionary and some guesswork.'

'How was the meeting?' said Remus mildly.

'Fine.'

'Let me guess,' said Sirius, grinning. 'You and Evans spent most of it sniping at each other, and now all the prefects think you're both insane.'

'Pretty much,' James admitted. He had lost interest in the Cube, his eyes roving around the common room, looking for members of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. What had Lily meant? He spotted Pippa and Danny in one corner, talking cheerfully, and that was Sam over by the fireplace, surrounded by fellow fourth years, and Frazz Davies was at the next table, hunched over a diagram of a Quidditch pitch...

And then he saw it.

He sighed. 'Oh, bugger.'

//
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