Piece of Cake
Part of the Marauder Chronicles
“Potter, you will be at my office Saturday, four o'clock. You will help me rearrange some furniture.”
Professor McGonagall's face was very stern. James bowed his head. “Yes, Professor.”
Her eyes shifted to the other culprit. “Same time for you, Miss Evans. I have a lot of records to be sorted and categorized.”
“Yes, Professor,” Lily replied, also lowering her head.
“I'm quite disappointed in you, Miss Evans,” the professor continued. “I've come to expect no less from Potter” – James actually looked indignant – “but I thought you, of all people, would have more sense than to encourage him in his antics, much less help him.”
Lily blushed. “I'm sorry, Professor. It won't happen again.”
Professor McGonagall gave her a long, searching, even sceptic look, which made Lily go even redder.
“Very well, then. Off with you two.”
Lily walked through the door that James held open and turned around, hands crossed before her chest. The moment he closed the door, she opened her mouth to tell him off. He was faster, though.
“I'm sorry I got you into trouble,” he said, eyes downcast.
Lily's mouth worked soundlessly, her angry words stuck in her throat. James, apologizing? Actually sounding sincere?
“I ...” she stammered, then took a breath. “I suppose that's all right. McGonagall's right, I did encourage you.”
James started grinning. “And help me.”
“And help you,” Lily admitted grudgingly. “It was a nice thing you did, I suppose.”
His grin turned into a smile. She made her voice sharp.
“But Potter, I've got my own friends to organize a birthday party for me. And they will probably not get me into detention.”
She turned and left, leaving James standing there, the smile thoroughly wiped off his face.
James had been carrying around heavy furniture for over an hour and was getting tired. Professor McGonagall looked around her office in approval.
“This looks very nice. You may go now, Potter. Or,” she said, looking at him shrewdly, “you could help Miss Evans finish her task. The sooner evreything is done, the sooner she can go.”
James looked from the door to the desk where Lily sat, a set of sorted reports to her right side and a considerably larger heap of unsorted reports to her left. He seriously considered leaving, but he knew Lily would probably sit until late in the evening if he didn't help, and be accordingly angry with him. He sighed dramatically and pulled another chair to the table. He was rewarded with a tiny smile from Lily and an approving nod from Professor McGonagall.
“A wise choice, Potter. Now, I have some work to do in the castle. You may leave when you're done, but no earlier. Do not think I won't know if you do.”
She took her cloak and left. James to Lily and sighed again.
“All right, Evans, what's the deal?”
Lily looked up. She pointed to the stacks on her right.
“Slughorn must have left a complete chaos in these reports. McGonagall wants them sorted by type. You can put all of them right here, “ – she pointed at the largest stack – “except for detention reports. Those need to be sorted by who gave the detention, and who received it. These stacks” – she waved her hand at an area where there were only the names of the teachers, prefects, and the few other people who could give detentions written on cards – “are for who gave it; then you sort the report into the boxes there.”
James looked at the indexing cards. Slughorn, who had given up his position as deputy headmaster after the last year, must have been very careless if he hadn't even bothered to put the lookup charms on the cards immediately. These charms allowed each report to be in more than one box, with each box having special criteria for selecting the cards that appeared within. The indexing cards were a quick way to put the charms on the reports belatedly.
They worked for a while in silence, only disturbed by the shuffling of the parchment. Then James felt hunger creeping up on him.
Lily must have had the same thought, but she was better prepared. From her satchel she took a piece of chocolate cake – the last of her birthday cake, James knew. She broke a bite off and stuffed it into her mouth, then placed the remaining cake next to her.
James stared transfixed at the piece of cake. His mouth watered as he remembered the taste of the cake. His stomach rumbled in response.
“Uh, Evans,” he said, “can I have a bit of that?”
Lily barely looked up. “No.”
James blinked. It was one thing for Lily not to like him – although, in the last few weeks she had at least spoken to him – but he hadn't expected her to deny him this simple wish.
“You know, I didn't have to stay here to help you.”
“I wouldn't be here if not for you,” Lily countered. “The guilt trip won't work, so don't even try.”
James grumbled in the back of his throat and reached for another bunch of cards. When he was through with them, he looked up again, just in time to see another bit of the cake vanishing between Lily's lips. She licked some crumbs off her fingers.
“I like the way you do that,” he said.
Her head snapped up, finger still in her mouth. She looked ... guilty. James suppressed a grin.
“You're supposed to be working,” she said.
“Sorry, but I can't concentrate.”
“What, are you so intent on watching me?”
“That, too.” James grinned as he watched her expression grow darker. “Very distracting, you are. But mainly I'm hungry.”
The corners of her mouth twitched.
“Perhaps you could eat some of the report cards,” she said lightly. “I doubt anyone would miss them.”
“Or perhaps you can give me some of that cake.”
“Forget it,” she said coldly. “As it looks like I'm going to miss dinner, this is all I have. And unless you stop keeping me from working, it will likely be my breakfast as well.”
“But I'll miss dinner too,” he whined. “You wouldn't want me to go to bed without having anything to eat, would you?”
“Knowing you, you'll just visit the kitchen.”
“It could be closed.”
“It's never closed.”
“The elves might not give me anything.”
“They always do.” Lily started sounding mildly irritated as she vainly tried to concentrate on sorting cards.
“Barrow might be patrolling the corridors.” The new Defence teacher was death on any student caught up after curfew.
“When has that ever stopped you?”
“You could be patrolling.”
“I'm not scheduled.”
“Pretty please?” James made his best puppy dog eyes.
Lily looked at him and chuckled.
“Stop it. That's not getting you anywhere.”
His expression sagged.
“How about flattery, then?”
“No,” she said simply.
But James ignored her and cleared his throat dramatically.
“Oh, my dearest Lily,” he intoned, “whitest of blossoms, reddest of hair, greenest of eyes, how do I admire thee. Let me count the ways.”
She was laughing out loud now, drowning out his recital. Spotting his chance, he lunged for the cake. But his attack was stopped short by Lily's hands.
“Nice try,” she said.
He threw his hands up in defeat and settled back into his chair.
“Alas, I've been thwarted by the Guardian of the Cake.”
He grabbed another bunch of cards and started sorting them. Lily watched him suspiciously for a moment, then got back to work too.
“One,” James began quietly, “I admire thy hair of fiery red, such as even the fiercest of dragons could not match with its breath.”
“Two,” he said a little louder, “I admire thy emerald eyes, more precious than all the jewels in the world.”
“You're just quoting that joke valentine you sent me in fourth year.”
“Three,” he declaimed, “I admire thine piece of cake, the smell of which alone makes my mouth water enough to flood the desert.”
Lily laughed again. “Oh, you men are all the same,” she lamented, taking up the game. “You tell a girl you love her, but all you really want is her cake.”
“You're really not going to give me any?”
In response, Lily broke off a piece of cake. James stretched for it, but instead of giving it to him, she opened her mouth, put the cake inside, closed her lips over her fingers and slowly pulled them out again, purring contentedly.
James mouth fell open, all conscious thoughts fleeing from his mind.
Lily savoured another piece, then slowly licked her lips.
“Delicious,” she said, then took another piece. Only one piece was left, but James had forgotten about it. He was, for once, lost for words.
“Do you want it?” Lily purred, balancing the last piece on her fingertips. “It's soft and squishy and sweet.”
James struggled to take his eyes off the cake and say something, but failed miserably.
“Well, if not ...”
She put the last piece in her mouth. The cake vanishing snapped James out of his trance.
“Wait,” he cried, “I do!”
Lily looked innocently at him. She swallowed, then said, “Too late.”
“That wasn't nice,” said James darkly.
Lily laughed at his expression. “Stop pouting, Potter, it doesn't suit you.”
He grabbed a bunch of cards and started to sort them with quick, angry movements. Lily hid her smile behind her hand. She also returned to work.
After a minute or so, she looked up.
“You know, we're not really supposed to have fun.”
“I'm not having fun,” James snarled.
Chuckling quietly, she put her thoughts on the cards again.
“Besides,” he broke into her concentration, “you're wrong.”
“The whole point of detention is having fun in spite of it.”
Lily grinned. She should have expected him to have such a philosophy. “I wonder what McGonagall would think about that idea.”
“She'd agree,” James said with conviction, and added, “And then she'd make it twice as hard to have any.”
Lily snorted, but was spared a reply as that very moment the door opened and Professor McGonagall came in, her head behind a scroll of parchment. She was so engrossed in what she was reading that it took her several seconds to notice them.
“Good heavens, you're still ...” she exclaimed in surprise before recovering. “You're finished. I'll find another student to finish this. Off with you to the Great Hall, while there's still something left.”
James didn't hesitate for a second. He jumped up, called, “Thanks, Professor,” and ran off as if chased by one of Hagrid's creatures.
Lily took her time in standing up and straightening her robes. Professor McGonagall was gazing at her door.
“That Potter,” she said as if to herself, “he's really quite something.”
Lily moved to stand next to her. “Yes, he is.”
She gave an a speechless Professor McGonagall her best smile, wished her a good night, and left.
Peeves ambushed her on an empty staircase, so it took her a while to reach the Great Hall. It was almost empty, the Gryffindor table deserted except for James, who waved to her as she came in.
“Hey, Evans,” he called, “where've you been for so long? Everything's gone. You'll be glad that I saved you something.”
He held a plate up as she came closer.
“For you,” he said, grinning widely.
On the plate was a huge piece of chocolate cake.