Story Three: Conceit
After Peter had eaten his last blue Bean,
and Sirius had finally stopped parading around in his new bright purple
pajamas, everyone in the room lay very still, as if in sleep. After waiting
patiently for almost an hour, James Potter decided to risk his luck and
pushed his covers back slowly, then padded to the door. He couldn't help
but crack a smile when he made it halfway down the common room stairs
unmolested. Not many people could slip by Sirius Black like that. Especially
when Sirius seemed to be looking for reasons to pester James lately.
The common room looked deserted, which
was perfectly natural, considering it was much past midnight. His sixth
years' boy's dorm was usually the last to clear out, and the last to fall
asleep, so they found it very rare when another person was there when
they doubled back for some mischief. Tonight, he hoped, would be an exception,
because he really felt like breaking some rules.
"James?" she whispered from the
entrance to the girls' dorms.
"Lily." He looked over at her
and smiled. She had made it. She moved towards him.
"It looks like a beautiful night out
"Shall we find out?"
She looked at him guardedly. "If you
This was a bit of a big moment for James.
He had assumed that Lily, like all the Gryffindors, and most other people
within a fifty-mile radius, knew that James and his friends were prone
to sneaking out and having fun without getting caught. How they did that
was a very closely guarded secret, known only to the four of them. Until
tonight, at least. James and Lily had been dating for months, since she
had returned from Christmas vacation. He hadn't really had all that experience
with the girls before, but he knew that Lily was someone special, someone
he wanted to be with, and that she was someone trustworthy. He slowly
slipped the invisibility cloak out from under his robes. Her eyes grew
"It's big," he whispered. "Can
fit, oh, about three or four people underneath." Her expression turned
to one of delight.
"I don't believe it! How in the world-"
"You know, Jon claimed you knew an
Invisibility spell, that you've been using one since first year."
"Who says I haven't?"
"And Willard told all the Slytherins
you just Charmed Filch and all the teachers. Think they believed him too."
"Nothing so grand or illegal, I'm
"But still pretty illegal."
"Not technically." He held it
out for her. "Now, we're going to have to huddle very close together
to both fit under here."
"Oh. You boys must like that."
He didn't dignify that with a response. They headed out and down the stairs
without further discussion, just a bit of girlish giggling. As soon as
they were outside the castle, James directed them towards the lake. He
knew a lot of really fun and action-packed places one could go after dark
at Hogwarts, but most of them, you shouldn't really take a lady. The lake
seemed pretty and romantic enough, plus he had never been attacked there
by any sort of dangerous wild beast, so he figured it would be perfect.
Lily found another pleasant surprise when they arrived; still-chilled
butterbeer, and her favorite, Chocolate Frogs.
"Oh good, it's still safe."
"How did you do this?"
"As Willard pointed out, I am quite
good at Charms. Not up to your standards maybe, but-"
"No, I mean… never mind." She
sat down and unwrapped the Frog, but didn't eat it. Instead, she looked
out over the lake. "It's so beautiful."
James was dying to say something wonderfully
romantic in response, but bit his tongue, letting her enjoy the moment
and concentrate on the view. He sat down softly next to her. She turned
to him, and he could see her glittering green eyes and soft red hair in
the moonlight as she leaned towards him. James closed his eyes and savored
the perfection of the moment.
Perfect was a word James heard a lot. From
describing tests. From Sirius, describing
plans. From fans, describing their Quidditch record this year. And last
year. And the year before that. Oh, third year, too. As he entered the
Great Hall for breakfast the next morning, James heard the word once again,
but this time, he wasn't happy about it.
"Look, it's perfect James Potter. He's
decided to join us mere mortals for breakfast." Severus Snape was
apparently still smarting from the thrashing Gryffindors had given Slytherin
two weeks earlier. Severus was not
on the team, nor was he traditionally a big fan, but tensions between
their two factions had been running high lately, and he had seized the
opportunity to make all sorts of nasty comments and predictions against
him personally. The Slytherins had been very amused at anything having
to do with tearing James down, so they had laughed heartily, and Snape
had made more comments, and everyone became overconfident, and secure
they would win… until about ten minutes into the game. Sirius still claimed
there must have been some most-baskets-in-least-time record broken during
that match. Severus had disappeared for a few hours after that, but reappeared
making snide comments again after some overzealous classmates kept carrying
James on their shoulders and conjuring up fancy goblets for him to drink
"I see they still haven't cleared
a spot for you at the main table. You should really complain about that,
I'm sure the teachers would be happy to oblige." James stopped in
front of him and glared.
"Would you do me a favor Severus?
I have an Arithmancy test coming up, and I need you to state I'll fail,
just so I can be sure I'll ace it."
Snape glared at him with more hatred than
he remembered. "You're not so special, Potter. You're not so perfect."
"I never claimed to be."
"Right." Snape looked him up
and down. James bristled at the sarcasm, but being the better man, he
headed to his table, to a spot right between Lily and Sirius. As he drew
near, he heard Sirius' voice suddenly raise.
"And then, James took the dung, and-"
"Shut up, Sirius. No one's listing
to you." Sirius gave him a hurt puppy-dog face. Lily laughed. James
looked around. Aryeh, Lily's best friend, was sitting next to her looking
interestedly at both himself and Sirius. Remus and Peter were sitting
across, and James noticed Remus looked a bit pale even for him, for this
time of the month. Remus shook his head and gestured to his tea in response
to James's questioning look.
Peter spooned more eggs onto his plate,
and looked at the girls mistrustfully, before turning his gaze to James.
"Was that Snape bothering you again? We should really fix him good
Sirius glanced back at the Slytherin table
behind him. "Maybe," he said casually. "Some of us might
have other, more important things on our mind, though." James flushed.
Lily and Aryeh exchanged significant girlish glances.
Peter frowned. "What could be more
Aryeh answered. "Well, we are in our
sixth year, now. Isn't it time to put away such childish behavior, and
start thinking about our futures?" Lily hid her head in her hands.
"Yes, well, James," Sirius no
longer sounded the least bit amused. "You should think about things
like that. Very important. Speaking of the future, I hope you haven't
forgotten our future plans for tonight. We agreed tonight would be the
night the four of us would meet… in our room. For… to study." James
considered hiding his head in his hands too.
Sirius did not really like Lily, or the
idea of her, anyway. James had tried to extol her good virtues, "Lily
this, Lily that," but had quickly realized that Sirius didn't want
to listen. It wasn't as though Sirius hadn't had his own girlfriend, or
twenty- but those were just casual affairs, none lasting more than a week.
And he hadn't borrowed the invisibility cloak; hadn't even asked. No,
a night with Sirius Black meant a slow creep up to the Astronomy Tower,
followed by a frantic retreat as soon as Filch caught up with them. Yet
somehow, the girls, they were still fawning all over him.
Sirius had NOT been pleased when he found
out James was going to spill about the invisibility cloak. It had lead
to some rather testy words between them, where James was forced to point
out that the cloak did not, in fact, belong to Sirius, but to him. Sirius
had said he was perfectly correct to be wary. The four of them did, after
all, have a lot of important secrets. James assured him the rest were
safe… for now. Sirius remained unsatisfied. James thought he might be
a little jealous because he was spending time with Lily he would ordinarily
spend with Sirius, or the others. So, he was trying extra hard to make
sure he still spent time with them, to assure Sirius he wouldn't be pushed
out in favor of Lily- but he made it perfectly clear Lily wasn't going
At least Sirius was being civil to Lily.
They had gotten on all right before Christmas, Sirius couldn't object
on those grounds. It wasn't as though James was dating a Slytherin. But
James knew Sirius's feelings were perfectly clear when he had gotten back
to his dorm late last night to find everyone sleeping peacefully, and
his bed short-sheeted.
He looked at Sirius. "Of course I
haven't forgotten about tonight."
"Are you sure you're up to this Remus?"
"I'm fine, I told you."
Sirius did a little impatient jig. "Come
"I can't find my sock. Who stole my
"What are we doing anyway?"
Sirius smiled that dangerous smile. "North-west
"What? That's where we're going?"
"Yup. Way up."
"We can't go there on a full moon,
we don't really know if it's uninhabited. And we couldn't go before the
whole Animagus thing, it was too far. Now, we can go."
"And I'll join you how?"
"On James' back. He already said you
"What about me? I'm so small, I can't
run fast like you."
"You can ride in Remus's pocket."
"You can just not come, if you don't
want to leave with one sock."
"No, no, one sock is fine." Peter
hurriedly put on his shoes.
"Oh Peter, we have time, just-"
"We don't, and see, he's perfectly
"Why do I have a bad feeling about
"Come on, we have to see what's up
"I bet it's a giant."
"There are no giants up there!"
"I hope it's nothing. I mean, that's
what we want to find, right? Nothing?"
"So we know it's safe to maraud?"
"Right, now come on."
As James galloped through the wood, he
was barely aware of Remus on top, holding tight as he rode. Instead, he
mostly concentrated on Padfoot, to his side, racing him forward in a rush.
They made good time of it, and it was less than two hours before James
sensed some sort of populated land ahead. He came to a stop, bowing quickly
so Remus could slide off easily, then changed back into a human straight
Remus pulled Wormtail out of his pocket
and put him on the ground, where he became a green-faced Peter. Padfoot
circled back, and became Sirius without breaking stride. "What is
"You're the canine, you tell me. I
just smelled… something."
"Just the regular pungent forest.
"I smelled something. Come on."
The boys followed James, silently.
"This is different from our side of
"Which is why we're exploring it,
see, I bet it has all sorts of strange creatures we can mix with in the
"And look. We don't have purple flowers
"Shhhh!" In the scarce light,
they could see a little clearing in the trees. James crept closer and
closer, before he could see a little cottage. "I told you someone
"Must be some sort of hermit, I'm
sure there isn't anyone else for miles."
It was a strange sort of cottage, very
small, and made entirely out of straw. There was a little stable next
to it, but he couldn't make out anything else.
"We shouldn't go any further."
"How will we know if its it's safe
to trip here, then?"
"It's obviously not. We'll have to
stay at least a mile away." James turned his head from the cottage
to look at Sirius, and saw that Remus was a couple paces behind them,
"Remus?" His face was white and
his eyes were wide. James rushed back and grabbed his arm. "Remus!"
He pitched forward, and would have landed on his face is James hadn't
been there. He struggled to breathe, eyes sill wide.
"James!" Sirius gestured to the
tree Remus was standing besides. It had some sort of strange drawing carved
in its trunk. "It's a hex!"
"We passed it all right."
"We're not magical creatures. James,
"I think I recognize that symbol."
James struggled to think, with Remus swaying next to him. "It must
be awfully powerful to repel a werewolf."
"A werewolf in human form?"
"It's the Raegilus-nonus, it has to
be. It's strong."
"We have to break it."
"I can do it." Sirius looked
at him expectantly.
He pulled Remus back a bit, away from the
tree. "Inraegilnon-us!" He really, really hoped he got the pronunciation
right. Next to him, Remus slumped to the ground, unconscious.
"Check his pulse."
"How do you check someone's pulse?"
Remus stirred, opened his eyes.
"Are you okay?"
"Lets-lets not come here again,"
he said hoarsely.
James carried Remus and Peter back to the
castle in their human forms, and he said he didn't mind much, even though
he secretly never planned on doing it again. Peter kept Remus awake, and
from tipping over as James ran, and as soon as they all arrived back,
they all crashed into bed. There were about five hours until breakfast.
James came down the next morning a little
early, leaving the other three still in the showers. He wanted to get
his alone-time in with Lily.
"Did you have fun last night?"
"Of course! Studying is always fun,
you know me."
She smiled. "Kipper?"
"Umm, no thank you."
She looked so pretty. He wished he could
kiss her right then. But perhaps a dining hall crowded with Ravenclaws
and Hufflepuffs and Slytherins and Gryffindors wasn't the right place.
Prefects should set examples after all.
"Where are Sirius and the others?
"Nah, they're coming down soon."
James' mind went back to the problem of the day before- Sirius and Lily.
There had to be some way that he could make them get along. Some way he
could make things perfect.
Just then, the other three Marauders swarmed
around, grabbing seats around him and Lily. She kept the smile on her
face. Sirius looked suspiciously at the two of them. "What're you
"Just talking about last night. I
do so love to study." Sirius snickered unkindly.
Lily ignored them and turned to Remus.
"Are you all right? You don't still have that headache, do you?"
Remus was looking paler than yesterday
morning, and was rubbing his head in a non-exasperated way. "Yeah,"
he mumbled. "But I'll be okay."
James frowned and exchanged a glance with
Sirius. Lily got up. "Come on you guys, its almost time for class.
You really got down here late today."
Remus slept through the next two classes,
and during lunch, the four of them gathered in an empty classroom. Peter
didn't even complain, though he'd missed breakfast.
"It's just a headache."
"Are you sure you don't feel worse
because of the hex?"
"Of course the hex made it worse."
"I got hexed, and my head is killing
me. It doesn't mean I'm still hexed, just that I was."
"Are you going to Madam Pomfrey?"
"Is that a good idea James?"
"I don't know, she could be able to
tell you were hexed."
"I could tell her Sirius did it."
"I wish I knew if there was any way
she could tell."
"It's only a headache anyway, maybe
I'll just skip the next couple of classes."
"Without going to Pomfrey? You'll
get a detention!"
"It's better than someone catching
me sleeping. I'm just tired."
"I think you should go to Madam Pomfrey."
"No, Peter, I'm fine."
"But what if you still have the hex
"He can't. I got it off. I mean… I
must have. If it wasn't the Raegilus-nonus, or if my counter spell wasn't
strong enough, it would have had no effect on him. But I broke the spell,
so you're in no danger now."
"I don't know. He looks pretty bad."
"Remus, are you sure it's just a headache?"
Remus sighed, and shrugged his shoulders.
"Alright… alright, listen. After class,
we'll go to the library and find out as much as we can about the spell.
If there's anything we missed, we'll be able to correct it."
"And Remus shouldn't go to Madam Pomfrey?"
"No," said Sirius. "We can't
bring any adults into this. If they find out where we were last night,
how we got there…"
James looked at Remus again, who met his
gaze. I'm sure it's just a headache. It has to be, I know my counter-curse
worked. And if it isn't, I'll figure it out when we get to the library.
Everything will be fine; Sirius is right. We can't bring any adults into
this. It would ruin everything. Remus looked tired, but cognizant.
He lifted his eyebrow, and James nodded. Peter frowned.
After class, James and Sirius headed to
the library, as Peter went back to the dorms to check up on Remus. It
took James two books and eight minutes to realize his mistake. He and
Sirius rushed back to the dorms at top speed. When they got to the doorway
of their room, they saw Aryeh peeking from behind their door. She quickly
rushed back as they burst through. There, they saw Lily sitting on the
bed next to an unconscious and very pale Remus.
"Is he breathing? Where's Peter!"
"Peter went for Madam
"It's my fault." James took his
wand out, and held it over Remus as Sirius shut the door.
"Inraegiplovon-us!" Why hadn't
he recognized the extra triangle of circles over the carving in the first
"Raegiplovo-nonus?" Lily gasped.
"What happened? What's going on?"
Aryeh asked, as Remus started to stir.
"He's still in bad shape. He's burning
"What's going on?"
Pomfrey will be here soon."
It was a close one, as Sirius said the
next day. Madam Pomfrey immediately recognized the signs of the aftermath
of a strong hex, but since James had broken it, she couldn't tell what
kind, or where he had gotten it, so the secret was still safe. In fact,
the teachers put a bit of pressure on the Slytherins for that, which they
all would have enjoyed had things not been so serious.
Remus was fine after a couple of days.
He didn't get detentions in any of the missed classes, so that was good
too. James felt terrible about the curse- he hadn't recognized the advanced
version, and felt he should have known about it. Remus said he was just
glad James knew what to do, and suggested that the next time they used
or came across unfamiliar spells, they try and learn about them sooner,
rather than later. Sirius was angry at Peter for directing the girls upstairs
as he ran for Pomfrey; Peter explained that said he didn't want to leave
Remus alone. Sirius repented a little, and after a tense day, started
acting differently towards Lily. A little more… accepting. After all,
she had played a small role in their adventure, and was showing herself
Lily still didn't know about the Animagi,
or the Forbidden Forest adventures, but James told her that Remus was
a werewolf. It was very tense; Remus was still unavailable in the hospital
wing, and didn't know Lily was being told, but she had recognized the
spell, and James figured a werewolf was one of the tamer magical creatures
covered. She accepted it well, was very open-minded, and didn't question
them about their other activities, which might have had a part in Sirius'
new attitude towards her.
Aryeh didn't recognize the spell, but it
was one of the ones briefly reviewed in seventh year. She wasn't really
a scholar, and wouldn't be one to look it up, but they would have to decide
to whether or not to tell her the truth about him before then, on the
off chance she should remember. No one really expected her to take it
well, but it would go over better in a quiet area in a close group of
friends, rather than in a classroom with a bunch of other students. They
would have to make a decision about that.
James and Lily went out again, and this
time James did not wait until Sirius was- or was pretending to be- asleep.
Sirius made no mention. As they walked outside, James let the stresses
of the previous couple of day pass out of him into the brisk night air.
After all, hadn't everything worked out in the end? For some reason his
mind went back to second year, when they had discovered Remus was a werewolf,
the last time he had been so afraid for his friend. He almost wished he
could tell Lily about the Animagus, tell her that he had figured a way
to keep Remus from the worst horrors of being a werewolf, that she didn't
have to worry about it that much. But the moment passed, and James kept
his friend's secret. Instead, he concentrated on beautiful Lily.
"Don't stare like that, James."
"I'm sorry. You're just so incredible."
"You're the incredible one, James.
You're just so… I'm so lucky."
"I'm the lucky one, Lily." He
pulled a lily, wrapped in white tissue, from under his robe.
"Oh," she whispered. "Oh
James, it's just… you always know what to do."
And with the moonlight shining down on
her perfect face, he leaned in and kissed her.
A/N Thanks as always to Zsenya, my wonderful,
patient, and extremely timely beta-reader.