Actions

Work Header

Fighting Fate

Chapter Text

In her five years working here, Lily Evans had never seen the cafe this busy.

The Leaky Cauldron was a small establishment-- white and black checkerboard linoleum tiles, worn-out red booths, tables that were rarely more than half-filled. Today, though, all the tables were crammed full, and there were customers standing around, unable to find a free seat to sit. Lily’s shift had barely started, but she was already running herself ragged, almost sprinting back and forth from the bar to the tables.
She ducked into the warm bustling kitchen, panting heavily as she called out to Rosmerta, the owner of The Leaky Cauldron. “Two butterbeers and a cup of earl grey!”

Lily didn’t wait for the reply before running out of the kitchen again, eliciting a fond reprimand from Madam Rosmerta as the door slammed. After helping out here after school since she was thirteen, the woman was practically a second mother.

As Lily passed Hestia, another waitress, she exclaimed through the clamor, “What the heck is going on? I’ve never seen the cafe this busy.”

Hestia stopped for a moment and turned to Lily, wiping her coffee-stained hands on her apron. “Apparently they’re all college students” she said, smiling slightly as Lily’s face brightened at the word college. “Meeting up before the school year begins.” She knew of Lily’s lasting ambition to attend college-- something that not many people in the dingy, poor, crime-ridden town of Cokeworth did.

And Lily didn’t want to attend just any college. She wanted to study at one of the most prodigious colleges in England: Hogwarts.

The Evans family lived in a old little one-story house that was practically falling apart every second, fighting to keep food on the table. How were they going to pay the colossal Hogwarts tuition? And the town’s dilapidated schoolhouse didn’t have a single decent teacher or up-to-date textbook. Forget the tuition-- how was Lily even going to get in?

But now, Lily thought with an exhilarating rush of joy, she was going to prove them all wrong. After five years of working late nearly every night and studying even later, getting scholarships, and applying for benefits, she was finally set to attend Hogwarts in the fall.

Lily grinned back at Hestia. “Oh. Well, I guess we’d better get going.”

---

Lily glanced around her and Petunia’s room, the whitewashed walls feeling less depressing than they normally would with everything on Lily’s side of the room packed up into boxes. The day Lily had been waiting for for years was almost here. Tomorrow, she would be heading off to Hogwarts.
Plopping down on her bed, Lily closed her emerald green eyes to savor the moment and grinned. Her dreams were finally coming true!

The moment was broken when she heard Petunia stomping up the hallway towards their room. Lily’s sister had been moping in the living room for the whole day, complaining about Lily’s imminent move. Not because she was going to miss Lily-- but because Petunia didn’t agree with Lily going to college.

Lily clenched her fists, angry just thinking about it. Petunia didn’t want her to pursue her dreams, to get an actual job, to get out of the cycle of poverty and despair that was Cokeworth. Petunia had been bugging Lily for years to do what she planned to do-- to marry someone rich, and languish in a mansion for the rest of her days, ordering servants around.

Lily snorted. Petunia could fantasize, but she doubted any of Petunia’s fantasies would come close to coming true. No successful, intelligent person in their right mind would date Petunia, let alone marry her. And if Lily were ever successful, she would want it to be a result of her own accomplishments, not because of a marriage.

And even though the outward reasons Petunia didn’t want Lily going to college was because “college is for freaks and overachievers” and “we can just marry into rich families”, Lily was pretty sure that deep down, Petunia was jealous.

And it wasn’t that Petunia didn’t have a right to be jealous. Lily had always been the beauty of the family, the one who got cooed and winked at in parties and family reunions, and in school, Lily was the smart one. To their little town, she was “one who got out”. The one who got out of the endless, relentless poverty cycle, living paycheck to paycheck. Still, even if her jealousy was justified, Lily wished that Petunia would be a little more supportive.

The door to their room was thrown open with a bang, and Lily sighed, resolving to be as civil as possible. “What do you want, Petunia?”

The blonde didn’t answer the question. “What are you doing?” she spat.

“Isn’t it obvious?” Lily spat back, all civility already forgotten. “Packing. For college. Because I’m going to do something useful in my life, unlike you."

“Useful? Ha! You can keep fantasizing, but you’ll never be useful. You’re a freak! And I’ll be glad when you’re gone.”

Lily squeezed her eyes shut, pretending the words didn’t bite into her the way they did. I don’t care about what Petunia says, because I’m going to be something one day and she’s not.

Feeling anger bubble in her, Lily shot back, “Me? Fantasize? I’m the one who’s actually going to college. You’re the one who’s fantasizing about marrying someone rich. And no one in their right mind would ever marry you!”

“Vernon would!” Petunia sniffed, pointing her nose upward.

“Because Vernon is a bigoted idiot!”

“Humph! When I’m rich, and you’re nothing, you’ll be sorry!”

Lily gritted her teeth, wanting the argument to be over. “No, I won’t.”

“Stay home.”

Lily stood up angrily. “What? I’ve been working for this for years! Aren’t you proud of me?”

“Stay home. You don’t know what you’re doing!”

“I don’t know what I’m doing?! I’m going to have a future, and you won’t!”

“Mum agrees with me! You know she does, no matter what she says!”

Lily bit down on her retort, feeling tears prickle at the corners of her eyes. It was true. No matter how many times Violet Evans unconvincingly told her daughter that she was proud of her, Lily knew that her mother wished that she, like Petunia, would stay home and find someone rich to marry.
“You’re just jealous,” Lily told her sister, trying to control her anger.

Lily and Petunia had been close, more like best friends than siblings, once upon a time, Lily thought wistfully. But that had ended with a bang with their father’s death. For the millionth time, Lily cursed the thoughtless drunk that had T-boned Mark Evans’s car in the middle of an intersection. He hadn’t just killed a great man, he’d torn a family apart.

“Me? Jealous?” Petunia scoffed. “Why would I be jealous of you?”

Lily let out a shuddering breath, not willing to let a row with her sister ruin what could still be a great day. “Just go away. I need to finish packing.”

With a last spiteful glare, Petunia slammed the door and left.

---

Lily parked her old truck in front of a brick building with marble pillars surrounded by grass and tall oak trees, grinning madly. Lily had worked so hard to get here-- it was the one and only ambition that had pervaded her dreams and waking hours for years now-- but now that she was actually in Hogwarts, her rusty old car parked outside one of the dorms, she could hardly believe this was reality.

It was almost surreal, the beauty of the Hogwarts grounds compared to the derelict scenery of Cokeworth, which was all she had ever known. The impeccably trimmed green grass and the meticulously shaped bushes contrasted beautifully with the tan cobblestone paths and shocking blue cloudless sky. The beautiful Tudor architecture was weathered in a way that made the buildings look almost like a sprawling castle from some far-away fairytale, standing in stark contrast with the buildings in Cokeworth, which looked like a village in which the villain might live in said fairytale.
Even the dormitories looked like they were straight out of a storybook. With its pointed turrets and Victorian windows, Lily’s dormitory-- the third building of the Gryffindor complex, she noted, looking down at the leaflet one of the staff at the front had handed her-- looked almost like a monastery. Next to the archway leading into the building, a small booth stood with a red and gold flag emblazoned with a symbol of a lion.

Lily reached the booth, still looking around as if in a trance. Noticing her, the blonde girl shot Lily a grin. “Hey, welcome to Hogwarts!” She said chipperly. “I’m Marlene, prefect of the Gryffindor dorm. What’s your name?”

“Lily. Lily Evans,” Lily said, finding herself breaking out into a smile at the girl’s infectious enthusiasm.

“Great!” Marlene turned to the table, shuffling around a couple rosters before finally finding Lily’s name. “You’ll be on the second floor, room three-oh-seven, rooming with Alice Prewett. Here’s your key; I’ll show you to your room.” She handed Lily a old-fashioned iron key, then led her into the dorm and showed her the first floor common room.

A large, ornate fireplace sat at the far end, and large puffy chairs and couches filled the rest of the floor. The ceiling, painted Gryffindor’s colors of red and gold and dotted with large windows, stretched all the way to the top of the building, curving inward into an arch near the top. A chandelier and a flag similar to the one on the table fell from the arch. All up and down the walls, hallways opened into balconies to look down into the common room. Many open entryways were lined up on the far side, presumably leading into dorm rooms. A few students were already milling about.

The common room was homely and luxurious at the same time, and Lily felt herself equally stunned and nervous. She was pretty sure that this room alone was worth more than her whole house, and the classy dresses and button down shirts the students were clothed in were just about as far as you could get from Lily’s old T-shirt and rundown jeans.

Noticing Lily’s wide eyes and dropped jaw, Marlene grinned and broke her out of her thoughts. “Come on, now, girls are on the left, boys on the right.”

“Wow,” Lily marveled. “It’s amazing.”

“Dorms are even better,” the prefect commented, smiling. “But we’ll never get to them if you stand here forever like a gaping fish.”

Lily shook her head, blushing. “Sorry. It’s just…”

“A lot to take in, right?” Marlene said, stifling a laugh. “Don’t worry, nearly everyone’s like this on the first day of freshman year. I was, too.”

“Oh. Alright,” Lily muttered, her face still red. Of course she’d already made a fool of herself.

“Where are you from?” Marlene asked hastily as she led Lily down one of the hallways, trying to diffuse the tension.

“Cokeworth.” Upon seeing Marlene’s confusion, she added, “It’s a little mining town in Staffordshire.”

“Oh!” Marlene exclaimed. “Well, it must be nice living somewhere that’s relatively close to here. Staffordshire’d be just around a two-hour drive, right?”

“That’s right,” Lily affirmed. But she didn’t specify any further. After all, what was the use of living close to home when there was no one there worth visiting?

She thought about her and Petunia’s fight the day before yesterday, the last day before she left Cokeworth for a place that had seemed like a distant dream for years.

Lily had dreamed about going to Hogwarts, to get an education, and become a clinical geneticist ever since she was eight and her father died.
Petunia and their mother had always a slightly different perspective on the matter-- after all, they said, it would be difficult to get enough money for an education, and then there would be studying, and then there still wouldn’t be a guarantee of a job. Why not just get married and let your spouse do hard part? Besides, a geneticist had always seemed like a ridiculously impossible dream for a poor girl in a poor house in a poor town who went to a poor school. What chance did she have?

Lily grinned inwardly. Ha. Well, here she was now, defying all the odds.

Still, Lily wrinkled her nose just thinking about it. How could even Petunia and her mother try to convince Lily to abandon what had been her dream for what felt like forever? Petunia was her sister. She should have been supporting Lily, especially during her last days at home, but instead, she had been throwing things around and screaming.

Lily was jolted out of her brooding thought by a gentle verbal prod from Marlene. “Hello? Earth to Lily Evans?”

Lily spun towards Marlene, eyes wide, like a deer caught in the headlights. “Sorry? Repeat that?”

Marlene mock-sighed, but the twitching corners of her mouth betrayed her. “I said, I’m majoring in civil engineering and minoring in sociology. Do you know what you’re doing yet?”

Lily’s eyes brightened. This was definitely something she could talk about. “Well…”

---

Duke James Potter could already tell he was going to hate college.

Everything was so stiff and uptight. The usher at the introductions desk had been wearing a tuxedo, for heaven’s sake! And it was only the first day of term! The grass and bushes alone looked like someone had spent hours perfecting them. Who frigging cared about your gardening skills, anyway?

And even worse were people’s reactions when they saw his title. James Potter, Duke of Kent. Previously slack staff immediately stood at attention, sleazy girls tried to chat him up, and people fell over themselves to get his title right.

And Dukes had never even been that well known. It wasn’t like he was a prince, or a famous pop singer, or something like that. But of course, James was a rare exception-- after all, nothing drew the attention of the public like a possible murder mystery, and one that concerned the murder of one of the world’s richest men at that.

Charlus Potter, the late Duke of Kent and James’s late father, had dropped dead suddenly and unexpectedly in the middle of the day while walking down a road. The man had only been fifty-six, and relatively healthy.

Murder accusations had circled around the family for months. After all, it had been assumed, reasonably, that many people stood to gain with Duke Charlus’s death. And from there wasn’t that far of a jump to say that, just maybe, one of those many people had gone a little wacky in the head from thoughts of riches and splendor, and… well…

The accusations had proved to be unfounded, however. After a great deal of legal mess and an autopsy, it had been found that the Duke’s death had been caused by a genetic defect in his brain.

James closed his eyes briefly. It had been two years since his beloved father’s death, but he still missed him keenly.

Charlus Potter wouldn’t have done what James’s mother, Dorea, was doing now. He wouldn’t be pressuring James into a marriage, into choosing a job, into producing an heir. Charlus would have given James that crooked grin and told him to enjoy life.

At first, the attention focused on James after his father’s death was almost gratifying, James being a showy person by nature, but after awhile, it just got old. James was tired of walking in public, hoping against hope no “potential suitors” would notice him. Most of those women cared more about his title, looks, and the glamour of being seen with him than James himself.

His mother would say that the last problem was mostly James’s fault. And maybe she was right. After all, at first, it had been fun to play with those girls who would do anything to be seen with the Duke of Edinburgh, to bury himself in flirting and fake crushes and try to forget that the person who perhaps meant most to him in life was dead. And even after the novelty of it had worn off, James had continued, because after a year of going out with every good-looking girl who asked, he had earned quite the reputation as a playboy. Besides, it irked his uptight mother royally.
But perhaps a deeper part of him did it because he hoped that one day, he might find someone he would want to stay with for more than a couple of weeks; someone he would want to stay with forever.

James was giving up hope of that, though. Every acceptable person of the female variety out in the wide world seemed to fall in one of two categories-- superficial and more concerned with James’s money than James, or too shy to approach him. Which was inconvenient, because James was sure that after the scare that had jolted the family after his father’s death, Dorea was going to force him into an arranged marriage to produce an heir as soon as possible if he didn’t get at least one stable girlfriend by the end of college, twenty-first century freedoms and ideas be darned. For all Dorea cared, it could have still been the regency era.

The young Duke gritted his teeth. The slim black limousine he was riding in was attracting eyes already. Even though James couldn’t help the little bit of satisfaction, the attention was still largely unwanted.

James hadn’t wanted to come to the first day of uni in a limousine. If he had driven his own car, fancy and expensive though it might be, James might have been able to prolong the attentions of the fangirls for a couple of days. (Or at least the bad-looking ones.) Still, James’s mother had insisted. James remembered her words clearly: Get there in a bang, you know, she’d fluttered. That way, you’ll attract the attention of all the eligible young women.

James snorted at the memory. He and his mother had vastly different ideas of “eligible young women”. To Dorea, the phrase meant a rich girl who preferably held a title and at least a fortune of a million dollars, who would sit in Potter Manor and order around servants all day long, like it was still the regency era. James… well, James wasn’t really sure what type of woman he wanted to marry. But he was sure that he’d know her when he saw her. Or at least he was clinging onto that hope.

James diverted his thoughts from his mother and his rather depressing romantic life to the leaflet Tuxedo Man at the introductions desk had handed him several minutes ago with a failed flourish. Looking to the future and all that rot, he thought grimly.

Hogwarts had a massive campus, and even though James was used to massive grounds-- his own home, after all, was one-- he was just as bad as the next person at adapting to them. He looked around through the tinted windows of the limousine and then back at the map on the leaflet in his hands, trying to find his location. When his attempts proved to be futile, James sighed and called out to his chauffeur. “David? Where are we?”

The chauffeur’s monotone voice answered back immediately. “Punnett Square, your Grace. Just a minute from Gryffindor Dormitory three.”

“Ah.”

Before James knew it, the limousine was pulling up to an old-fashioned red-brick building.

The third Gryffindor Dormitory building, with its red brick and Victorian windows, reminded James uncomfortably of home. It should have been comforting, James thought ironically, but it most definitely wasn’t. James loved Potter Manor, despite his overbearing mother, but when he had left for Hogwarts a day ago, he had hoped he would be able to begin anew. And yet, looking up at this dorm…

James sighed and stepped out of the limousine, heading to the back to get a start on carrying his things up into his room. But David was already there, hauling out James’s huge leather trunk.

He felt himself turn red at the many stares being directed his way by students walking by-- after all, who brought a chauffeur with them on the first day of college?-- but James forced himself to grit his teeth and endure it. After all, it could have been worse. Dorea Potter had been just about ready to see her darling son James off to college, but James had thankfully been able to dissuade his mother from an idea that probably would have been an experiment in how much embarrassment James could take in one day. If his mother were here, she would probably be announcing to the whole campus with a megaphone that the Duke of Kent had arrived.

Deciding to keep the damage at a minimum, James turned to David and said tersely, “I’ll take that.”

The middle-aged man smiled politely. “That’s alright, your Grace. I’ll take this to your room.”

James could feel his patience slipping away, but he forced a smile on his face, the way he had been trained to ever since he’d been old enough to talk. “I insist.”

The man acknowledged this with a bemused nod, and handed James the suitcase, but James could feel even more stares being directed their way.
James closed his eyes briefly. The attention wasn’t anything new, but it felt different, here in a place that James had thought he could start over in.
But it seemed like his Dukedom would be a curse he could never break free of.

---

James walked away from the small table outside Gryffindor dorm building three. The red-headed junior, Gideon, who was volunteering to help ickle firsties (his words, not James’s) find their way around the dorms as per instruction of his sister, Molly, rambled on about being forced to help the ‘tiny children’ though James was five inches taller than him, but the young Duke couldn't care less. As they entered the first floor common room, decked in red and gold, James stood and marveled. Not that he wasn't used to enormous rooms-- he lived in a mansion, for Heaven’s sake, but this… Something about it struck a chord in him. James was already planning his first prank. Maybe it would loosen up some of the people here.

For as long as he or his mother could remember, James had been a delinquent. His earliest prank had been when he was two. He’d gone and rolled in a mud puddle, somewhere in the forty acre property, but then snuck into the house. Little James then proceeded to walk around most of the mansion, spreading mud everywhere, before a servant noticed him. It took about a week to get all the mud out of the carpet, off the walls, and off the tables. That had been more luck than skill, but from then on, he had devoted himself to the fine art of pranking.

James’ most recent prank involved hiding frogs in a few of the many secret places around the house, especially near the places he knew his mother would be. Their croaking had annoyed the heck out of Dorea, and James hid in his room during the four hours it took to get all the frogs out.

Some would call him horrible and ungrateful to be such a brat when he was so privileged, but James didn’t really think he was as privileged as many thought. Sure, things could be much, much worse, but James thought that a gilded cage was no better than any other one. Even though the attention and riches were gratifying, James knew he would much rather have a normal life.

“Did you hear me?” Gideon said, waving his hand in front of James’s face. “What do you think you're going to major in?”

“Oh!” James jolted out of his thoughts. “I really have no clue,” James responded sheepishly. “My mum has all these big ideas about me majoring in political science and being, like, prime minister or something, but to be honest, I’d rather die than do that.”

“You just have to pick what you like,” Gideon said, with a quirk of his mouth, sounding reasonably honest for the first time since James has met him. “No use doing something you hate for your whole life.” James sighed to himself. It was an awfully romantic notion, but he hated all the career paths his mom had picked out for him, and he knew that if he did something else, his mom would make his life miserable until he gave in. So there was really no way out for him.

After climbing tons of spiral stairs and getting hopelessly dizzy from the circles and winded from carrying his trunk, James reached the sixth floor. Gideon pointed to a door about halfway down the hall and handed him a key. “This’ll be your dorm.” James said goodbye absently, wondering what sort of person would be waiting for him inside. Tuxedo Man at the front had told him the name of James’s roommate-- Sirius Black-- and James waited with a sort of nervous anticipation to see what kind of person this Sirius Black chap would be. If he was like half of the student population at Hogwarts-- uptight and hard-core student-- James thought that he might go insane.

Taking a deep breath, James opened the door to see a boy with long black hair, soft brown eyes, a black leather jacket and jeans staring at him, as if he had been waiting for James’ arrival.

“Hello, your Grace,” the boy said mock-politely with a smirk, not fazed in the least at seeing James standing in the doorway. “I’m Sirius Black. Pleased to make your acquaintance.” He dropped into a bow with an over dramatic flourish and quirked an eyebrow at James. When James, who was frozen in place in surprise-- this was definitely not what he had been expecting-- deigned to reply, Sirius continued, “So. I heard you're James Potter, Duke of Edinburgh, blah blah blah, a bunch of other boring titles I couldn’t be bothered to remember. So I’m afraid you’ll have to teach me the proper protocol. Do I bow, curtsey, give you a high five, kneel… or what?”

“High five is fine,” James replied, holding a hand up, feeling a smile spreading across his face. It turned out all his worries had been for naught, after all. This was definitely the sort of person he could room with.

Sirius held a hand up, seemingly unfazed, but a corner of his mouth quirked up.“Well, welcome to dorm number nineteen-eighty one, James Potter, Duke of Edinburgh, blah blah blah. I've already looked next door; there's these two kids: Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew. They’re pretty cool. Come on.” Sirius jumped up from the bed and walked past James, who stood stock still, a bit shocked at how quickly things were progressing. “Are you coming, or do I need to hold the door open for you, your Grace?” Sirius smiled sarcastically.

“I'm coming,” James said quickly. He liked his new roommate already. He walked into the hallway, half of it open and facing down into the common room.

“Hand me your key,” Sirius said, holding out his hand as he stood in front of the door of the room next to theirs.

“But that’s the key to just…”

“Every room. Yup. At least in this dorm. Don’t see the reason there are keys at all, really. This lock system probably hasn't been updated in centuries.”

“Cool,” James smiled mischievously. Any room in the building… the possibilities were endless! Excitedly, he handed Sirius the old-fashioned silver key. With a deft turn of the lock, Sirius stepped into the newly unlocked room, and was greeted by a tall boy with sandy-colored hair, his face showing signs of exasperation.

“What now, Sirius? This has to be the sixteenth time you've come into our room, fifteen of them just to distract us from unpacking with your random punk rock stuff and pictures of your motorbike.”

Sirius sighed, feigning hurt. “I actually have a reason this time, Remus.” He stepped aside with a flourish and let James in the room. “This is my new roommate, Duke James Potter.”

Remus’s eyebrows shot up. “A pleasure, your Grace.”

“There's no need for all that, my friend,” James said cockily, running a hand through his hopelessly messy hair. (Dorea Potter had wrestled with it for years, but she'd never gotten anywhere. It just knows the ladies love it, James had told her a million times. His mom only relented because of her many fantasies about James miraculously finding a rich wife, but that too was a lost cause.) He stuck his hand out to the boy. “Call me James. And you are…?”

Remus shook James’s hand firmly and said, “Remus Lupin.”

Sirius grinned and stuck his head farther into the room around a corner. “Pete! Come meet my new roommate!”

As all three boys turned their heads, there was a muffled thunk and a curse; then a short chubby boy came stumbling into the entryway of the dorm, face guilty and a blush staining his neck. “Uh-- Remus--”

Remus sighed. “What is it, Peter?”

“Well-- I didn’t see that old box you left out in the room-- the one with some of your books in it, y’know-- and…”

Remus sighed again as Sirius sniggered and James bit back a smile. “We’ll deal with that later,” Remus said. He gestured to James. “This is Sirius’s roommate, Duke James Potter.”

Peter seemed to take a moment to process this information, then turned to James, eyes as wide as saucers. “Duke-- er, hello, your highne-- grace, sorry, hello, your grace…” Peter’s face was almost a full-on tomato red now, his mouth slightly ajar, and James had to tap on all of the manners training he’d ever received to keep from bursting out into laughter.

“That’s alright, Peter,” James said with as much propriety he could manage to muster up, and stuck out a hand to shake. “Good evening.”

Peter, who seemed unable to process that James’s outstretched hand was for him to shake, almost looked on the edge of fainting, so Remus cut in politely. “Well, James--” he nodded at the aforementioned boy-- “It’s been a pleasure, but Peter and I need to get back to unpacking, and I’m sure you and Sirius do, too. Term does start in three days, after all, and we’ll have freshman orientation activities until then. I’ll look forward to seeing you around.”

No one seemed to have anything to add after this, even Sirius-- after all, Remus was right; they really did need to get settled in their new room-- so James and his new roommate exchanged their goodbyes with the occupants of room nineteen-eighty and headed back to room nineteen-eighty-one as if stepping into their doom.

Or rather, into an evening of unpacking.

Chapter Text

Lily decided right then and there that she hated whoever had come up with the Hogwarts schedules.

Not only were classes starting the day after freshman orientation, they had put Lily in three early morning classes. Three. And they were important classes-- Organic Chem One and English Composition One. Drat. Lily was never awake until after ten and at least two cups of tea.

Alice Prewett, her roomate, had given Lily a chagrined smile and expressed her “sincerest apologies” (yeah, right-- Alice was just glad she didn’t have Lily’s schedule), and half-heartedly suggested Lily call the student help desk to ask for a schedule change.

Alice was great and all, but she just didn’t understand. Alice had zero morning classes. Zero. None. Zip. Alice’s earliest class started at nine-thirty. Nine-thirty! The universe had to be plotting against Lily.

Alice’s major was less demanding too. Criminal justice, to become a police officer. She only had to go to college for two years. Lily had to study genetics for four years and then go to med school.

But there was no way in this world that Lily was going to call and ask for a schedule change. She had known this was going to be difficult; a demanding schedule was to be expected, and Lily had worked too hard for this. The thought of anyone viewing her as a slacker was unacceptable.

She most definitely wasn’t a slacker, and she’d gladly wake up early if it meant going to classes that were going to help her pursue her goal. She’d much rather be waking up early in Hogwarts than sleeping late back in Cokeworth.

She was already reading through her textbooks for this term. They were new, and shiny, and everything Lily had ever dreamed of. After her outdated, worn-out textbooks back in Cokeworth, these textbooks seemed like a miracle.

I’m quite the nerd, aren’t I? Lily mused to herself. It was the first night on campus, so most students were probably still out partying (she knew for a fact Alice was), clinging on to the last strands of their summer break even though it was one in the morning, but here Lily was, obsessing over her textbooks.

It was strange by anyone’s standards, but Lily liked it about herself.

She smiled, and returned to flipping through her textbooks. Her tickets to a new life.

---

James was having the time of his life. For the first time in a while, he could go to a party in jeans: no ties, no suits. And for the first time, he could actually be just James, not Duke Potter.

At least, he could be “just James” to Sirius, Remus, Peter, and another boy called Frank Longbottom, who were in a booth with him. The number of girls (and a couple of boys) he saw pointing at him or smiling in what was probably supposed to be a seductive way in his direction was incalculable. He smiled and winked at them, like always, then laughed until his sides hurt-- especially when one fainted.

The small restaurant was packed full. The crowd and music were so loud, James was shouting to Sirius from two feet away, but James and his new friends still chatted casually, their topics ranging from classes they were taking to the latest video game.

Their little group broke apart after a little while. James and Sirius started flirting liberally, while Remus watched with some chagrin, and Peter got quite tipsy.

After an hour or so, Sirius had an idea. “James, you know what I just realized?”

“What, Sirius?”

“There are probably wimps who didn't go to the party.”

“Yeah, so?”

“I’ve got an idea for the prank you wanted to do,” Sirius said in a satisfied tone. “I say, we prank the idiots who stayed in their dorms today. They need a little fun. We have three days left in summer and they aren’t spending them very wisely.”

James grinned. He was beginning to like Sirius more and more. “What do you suggest?”

“Well...”

---

James decided right then and there that he hated the smell of gorilla glue.

He had spent nearly the whole evening trying to figure out how to start uni with a bang. After all, apparently news spread fast on campus: everyone seemed to know he was that James Potter and were either tiptoeing around him or trying to snog him. And he’d only gone outside of his room for half an hour to check out the rest of the dorm!

James was pretty sure that everyone who had ever picked up a tabloid knew his name and his exploits, but he had felt a need to announce himself to the campus in his own way, Duke or no. James had never been one for moral obligations.

And besides, getting into trouble on his first day at Hogwarts, before term had even started, was definitely going to outrage Dorea. Which was always a welcome side effect.

He had told Sirius of his plan immediately. Well, at that point, it really hadn’t been as much of a plan as it had been a hazy aspiration to do something, but Sirius had proved to be a genius at planning pranks, and by the end of the night, he’d managed to map out an intricate plan.

While he and James had been at one of the many parties raging across campus that night, he had been the one to suggest a prank that would get to all of the students who were too straight-laced to go out and party the first night on campus. James had thought this was a genius idea at the time, but now, he was rethinking Sirius’s plan. He wasn’t quite sure that any plan that involved James gorilla-gluing what felt like a million door handles was really that great of a plan after all, no matter how funny it would be.

Finishing gluing fixed the current door handle (room three-oh-one), James moved to the next one, cursing Sirius and hoping that the little bit of glue on his thumb wouldn’t pull his skin off when he tried to get it off later.

Sirius’s so-called genius plan consisted of knocking on all the doors in the third Gryffindor dorm, then using gorilla glue to glue immobile the ones with occupants inside. It won’t be permanent, he’d said with a mischievous gleam in his eye. Anyway, I’m sure that all those idiots won’t mind being stuck in their rooms for a bit longer.

Now, James wasn’t sure if this prank was more punishment for him or them. He could only hope Sirius, who was starting from the topmost floor while James was starting from the bottom, was having as much trouble as James. Gluing door handles shut didn’t sound that hard, but actually doing it, especially if you had to be completely silent, was a different matter.

James knocked on six more doors (he blessed whoever lived in them for going out and saving James a whole lot of trouble) before reaching one with someone in it.

“Hello?” A distinctly irritated female voice from inside called.

James shouted the excuse that he and Sirius had concocted to the girl. “Sorry. I thought that this was my friend’s room.”

“Well, it’s not,” retorted the voice.

“Sorry!” James shouted back sheepishly. Whoever lived in this room had a nice voice, he thought. And she had quite a bit of spirit. Looking up to the plaque on the door that announced that this room was room number three-oh-seven, he resolved to go to the student help desk as soon as he could to find out who lived here. Maybe she wouldn't mind going out to get a drink with him.

Shaking his head clear of any unrelated thoughts, James took a deep breath and resolved to focus on the task at hand. Not that it was a particularly glamorous one, but hopefully it would be worth it in the end. (If it wasn’t, he going to murder Sirius.)

Deciding that he might was well get started since the girl probably wasn’t going to come check who it was, James sighed inwardly, bent down, and started unscrewing the cap of the gorilla glue, when he suddenly heard footsteps coming towards him. From the inside of the room.

He only had a moment to think, crap crap crap crap crap before the knob was turning and the door flew open, whacking James in the face and sending his container of glue flying.

A redheaded girl about James’s age stood in the doorframe, glaring accusingly at him. “What are you doing?”

She was quite possibly the most beautiful human of the female variety that James had ever seen, despite her mussed hair and the fact that her current wardrobe choice was an old Beatles T-shirt and plaid flannel pants.

“I was just, um…” James wracked his painfully throbbing mind (that door handle was hard!) for an excuse, but coming up with a believable lie while being faced by the most beautiful person he’d ever seen in his life proved to be extremely difficult, even though he’d been lying for years. After all, lying to his mother and lying to this girl were two extremely different matters.

“What are you doing?” she repeated, even more irritated. “Is knocking on every door in this hallway really necessary to look for your friend? It’s one in the morning, you know.” The bottle of glue caught her attention, and she asked, eyes narrowing, “And what is that for?”

“It's… uh..” James sheepishly glanced into her bright green eyes, which were filling with rage. “Well…”

“I won’t repeat myself again,” she warned in a dangerously low voice.

“Um… there was-- there was a crack in your door handle. And I… uh… I thought that I’d fix it, y’know, because I felt sorry for possibly waking you up.”

James hadn’t thought that it had been that bad of an excuse, considering the circumstances, but the girl’s eyebrows had been raising in incredulity with every word. “There was a crack in my door handle,” she spat disbelievingly. “So you decided to fix it with the container of gorilla glue that you just happened to be carrying around?”

“Um, yes?”

“You need to work on your lying skills.”

James didn’t quite know what to say to that, so he mumbled the first thing that came to mind. (Which probably wasn’t very wise, but after all, James had never been known for his tact.)

“Want to get a drink together sometime?”

The girl took a moment to process this, her eyebrows creeping so high that they almost looked like they were part of her hairline. “What?” she hissed. “What?”

James felt his face burning red, and wished that he could just crawl into a hole somewhere and die silently. He’d never been tongue-tied with a girl before… “Um… well, you’re really fit…”

James didn’t think he’d ever seen anyone as angry as she looked in that moment. “Excuse me?!”

Feeling like he was digging his own grave, James plowed on. After all, he couldn’t make things any worse, could he? “I’m the Duke of Kent.”

Wrong. He could make things worse. James’s announcement only served to make her angrier, and she roared, “I know! I don’t care if you’re the bloody King of Shangri-la!”

If looks could kill, James would have been fried to a crisp. Luckily for him, though, they couldn’t, and the girl only stood there for several moments longer before turning on her heel and going back inside her room, the door banging shut with a loud boom.

James sat there, frozen, for several moments longer before picking up his bottle of glue and high-tailing it.

---

I hate my life, Lily thought groggily.

Well, actually, she hated it sometimes. Only, like fifty percent of the time. The other fifty percent of the time was fine. (She had made it to Hogwarts, after all.)

But right now definitely fell into the category of that fifty percent of the time.

At around 1:50 in the morning, when Alice had still been out doing God-knows-what and Lily had still been obsessing over her textbooks, a rhythmic knocking had begun from the end of the hallway.

Her brain being slightly muddled as a result of the time and Lily’s overconsumption of information on everything from English to Biology, it had taken several minutes to comprehend that what she was hearing was someone knocking on every. Single. Door.

So by the time that the person had gotten to Lily’s door, she had been furious. Who in the world would knock on every door in a dormitory at this ungodly hour, especially on freshman party night, when most of the student population was bound to be out?

When the stupid knocking idiot had reached Lily’s door and told her through the door that he was looking for a friend, Lily had exploded. How idiotic could someone be? Who knocked on everyone’s door to try and find someone, instead of going to the help desk or asking around? It wasn’t the eighteenth century anymore!

She had stormed outside, intent on giving the person a piece of her mind, when she had been greeted by a face that was all too familiar to her from the covers of Petunia’s tabloids and the internet.

His Grace Duke James Potter of Kent.

Ha ha. More like His Stupidity Duke James Potter of Knocking on Every Single Bloody Door in Hogwarts in the Middle of The Night.

He had been up to no good; Lily could tell. She’d seen that guilty expression all too much-- it seemed like whether you were a sleazy teen with nothing better to do than stare at tabloids all day (Petunia) or a stupid boy with nothing better to do than knock on doors at one in the morning (Potter), you had the same guilty expression.

And how dare he ask her out? He’d even mentioned his position, as if Lily could care less. She wasn’t going to be another one of his flings that he disposed with once he was bored.

Of course it had been James Potter. She’d known that he was going to Hogwarts-- how could she not, after having to deal with Petunia moaning and groaning about Lily going to the same college as Potter for months?-- but had never even entertained the possibility of running into him. After all, Hogwarts had tens of thousands of pupils.

No such luck. Of course she met into him on her first night here. And up to something, probably a prank, nonetheless.

Yep, right now was definitely part of the fifty percent of the time in which she hated her life.