Enslaving Fireflies

Author: Aralias
Rating: PG
Archiving: All FQF will be archived solely at this site until September 30th, 2005. After that, it's yours to do with as you will.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. I do not own Harry Potter, its characters, or anything associated with it. I'm not making any money from this story, and I don't intend to.
Challenge & Summary: Challenge SS #13: Fireflies. At some time in their first year James decided it would be a good idea to create a message of fireflies for Lily's birthday and forced his friends to help him catch them on the roof. That this eventually became a tradition was nobody's fault.
Author Notes: Possibly veering slightly more towards J/L than R/S, but hopefully that will be ok. Plot... minimal. I tried.

May the first, 1972.

“I’m not having any fun,” Peter said for the fifth time, lunging dangerously at another firefly that hovered five feet about his head and almost falling to his death.

“Go inside then,” Sirius pointed out mercilessly, as he had done every time Peter had suggested that standing on a roof in the early hours of the morning trying to catch glowing insects was not quite as thrilling as James had made it seem inside the common room an hour ago.

Peter scowled in his general direction, but stayed where he was. Sirius smirked and Remus rolled his eyes: after almost a year he, at least, had learnt that it was unwise to let Sirius know he’d won, even if Sirius already suspected as much.

There was five minutes of silence and then Peter spoke again. “How many of these things do we need to catch?”

“A hundred and fifty,” James informed him for the third time. “Thirty for will, twenty-five for you, fifteen for go, twenty for out, thirty-five for with and fifteen for me and ten for a question mark.”

Peter considered this. “And how many do we have?”

Remus lifted up the large glass jar that they had ‘borrowed’ from the kitchen that morning and which now held the product of the last hour’s work. “Four,” he said, seriously, “and I think this one’s dead, so that’s three.”

“Only another forty-nine hours to go,” James said happily waving his net enthusiastically in the general direction of some more fireflies, “which means, minus the time we have to be in lessons, we should just be in time for her birthday.”

Remus put down the jar and set to work again. Another five minutes passed and then Peter said, “I’m really, really not having any fun.”


May the fifth, 1973.

Shit!” Sirius yelled, almost falling off the roof as he jumped about clutching his foot, apparently in deep and mortal agony. “I think one of them bit me!”

“Fireflies don’t bite people,” explained James, who had recently made the Gryffindor Quidditch team and was therefore a registered authority on all things that flew. “They just glow.”

“And fly,” Peter added, wisely. “Usually away from us.”

“They must have some sort of inbuilt defence system,” James mused. “Some way of knowing that we wish to enslave them and make them spell messages.”

“What’s all this we business?” Sirius growled, now lying artistically in the position that best conveyed just how much pain he was in. “As far as I’m concerned the little buggers can spend the rest of their miserable lives flying around the astronomy tower. You’re the only one who thinks this is a good idea.”

“Didn’t she hate it when you did this last time?” Remus asked, privately wondering how James had managed to forget that last time he’d had to walk around school with no hair for a week.

“Well, she didn’t like as much as I’d hoped, that’s true,” James admitted. “But I’ve re-thought the message this time and I think it’s going to be ok.”

“What is it now?” Peter asked, unaware the answer was not going to make him any happier.

James removed a grubby piece of parchment from his school trousers and read: “Lily, I still love you even though you hit me with a beetle yesterday. I’m sure you didn’t mean to. Happy Birthday,” before looking up. “What d’ya think? I think it conveys the right message.”

“How many fireflies is that?” Peter asked.

“I’ve estimated about five hundred, just to be on the safe side,” James said, consulting his parchment again. “But we’ll probably only need four hundred and fifty.”

At this point Sirius’ leg recovered enough for him to throw himself at James and Remus was forced to grab hold of his leg to stop him falling off the roof.


May the fourth, 1974.

“Tell me why we’re doing this again,” Remus asked, removing the first firefly of the night from his net and depositing it in the jar.

“Because James is mad,” Sirius informed him. “James is mad and we’re his friends and because I want to see the look on Lily’s face when she storms downstairs tomorrow and throws porridge over him.”

Remus nodded. “I thought it might be something like that.”

May the second, 1975.

“No, don’t even think about it,” Sirius said without looking up. “Remus, it’s your move.”

“You don’t know what I’m going to ask,” James said in a hurt sort of voice.

“Yes, I do. Come on, Remus. It’s your turn. Hurry up.”

“I’m thinking,” Remus explained, irritably. “Try it some time.”

“I don’t need to think,” Sirius said, “I know and James, I know you’re going to ask whether we want to help you catch fireflies on the roof tonight and the answer’s no. Nobody wants to help, nobody has ever wanted to help. Have a nice evening.”

Remus began to move his knight and then sensing this was not only foolish, but suicidal moved back as James said pointedly, “Pete’s coming.”

“But he doesn’t want to,” Sirius pointed out, fidgeting slightly because it had been over a minute since he’d been allowed to make a move. “And so your argument is still fundamentally flawed in that it is non-existent. Hurry up, Remus. Bye James.”

“Fine!” James declared moodily and stormed off as Remus moved his queen somewhere he shouldn’t have and Sirius took his bishop.


May the seventh, 1976.

Remus was trying to eat a bowl of cornflakes when Lily stormed into the Great Hall.

“A sickle says she throws pumpkin juice at him this time,” Sirius murmured.

“You’re on,” Remus grinned, watching as the furious redhead swept towards them. “I think she’s getting more inventive.”

“Happy Birth-” James managed, before Lily interrupted him.

“One of your fireflies bit me this morning,” she informed him angrily. “I put up charms around my bed to try and keep them out and they still got in and bit me. On my birthday.”

James’ smile faltered slightly, but he kept going, hopefully. “You almost have to admire the persistence, don’t you?”

“Why won’t you just give up?” Lily demanded, the colour rising quickly to her cheeks.

“It’s a tradition,” James tried, smiling winningly.

“Well, so is this,” Lily snarled, flicking her wand expertly and striding away as a large quantity of dark blue liquid materialised above James’ head and crashed down, covering him.

Remus reached over and wiped a finger across James’ sleeve, brought the finger back and examined it. “I think it’s that completely permanent ink Snape invented last year,” he announced after a moment’s thought, “but you might be lucky. It might just be the usual permanent ink that comes off in about thirty years.”

“How bad is it?” James asked, trying to wipe his glasses clean on his inky robes and finding to his dismay that both were staying in a pretty stable condition.

Sirius valiantly tried to stop laughing long enough to tell James it was very bad indeed, but eventually he gave up and merely flicked a sickle at Remus, who grinned and returned to his cornflakes.

May the sixth, 1977.

Sirius looked up in surprise as James slumped down next to his rapidly growing house of cards.

“Deal me in,” he said instructed, morosely.

“But, today’s may the sixth,” Sirius informed him as the house exploded and the cards showered around them. “Why aren’t you out risking your life on the rooftops?”

“I’ve given up,” James replied in the voice of a man who has just discovered that life is not worth living. “That’s it… It took me three months to get that ink off, remember?”

“Golden days,” Sirius agreed, summoning the cards back from where they had landed on the floor, the other armchairs and Remus’ hair. “But that doesn’t explain why.”

“Don’t you ever just get tired of… just not getting anywhere?” James explained, taking the pile of cards from Sirius and dividing them neatly into two piles. “Hasn’t there ever been anything that you really wanted and didn’t get?”

“No,” Sirius said eventually, placing one of his cards into the centre of the table. “I don’t think so.”

“Well, take it from me: there comes a point when even though you still really – SNAP – sorry, you really want whatever it is you want, you think – I can’t take this failure any more. I’ll just stop trying and then maybe I won’t want it any more.”

They played in silence for a while and then Sirius said, quietly: “You know you won’t stop wanting her, don’t you?”

“How would you know?” James said reasonably, taking the opportunity to examine his cards because cheating was expected and encouraged between friends. “It could work.”

“It won’t.”

How do you know?”

“I know, ok?” Sirius snapped. “So just go out and gather your fireflies like a good boy.”

James glared at him and then deflated, putting his cards down carefully in front of him. “Alright. But this is the last time.”

“She’ll come around sooner or later,” Sirius assured him.

James nodded as if he didn’t believe this really, rose and made his way out of the common room. Left alone once more Sirius added more and more cards to the pack in front of him, until, at last, two of them matched, the pack exploded and he got up to tell Remus one of them had disappeared down his back.


May the seventh, 1978.

It was a warm evening, but Remus was enjoying the additional heat of the fire as he read when Sirius landed in the small space remaining on the sofa. “Hello,” Remus said, still reading. “Where’s James?”

“Where indeed,” Sirius said wickedly and Remus looked up to see the familiar grin sparkling in his eyes. “I chose not to enquire when he said he was going out with Lily; I assumed that that would be rude.”

“Knowing James, it probably would be,” Remus agreed, smiling as Sirius manoeuvred his legs until he was more comfortably positioned, half across Remus’ lap. “Don’t you have anything better to do?”

“Actually that’s why I came over, I knew there was something” Sirius said, swinging his legs back around. “Fancy going out onto the roof to watch the fireflies? James’ display is something really special this year… now she actually likes him.”

“How much better could it be than last year’s picture of Lily picked out in light?” Remus asked, raising an eyebrow. “That must have taken him hours and,” he added, “it was actually tasteful which was a first.”

“This one’s better,” Sirius assured him. “Come on, you know you want to go really.”

Remus rose with a few token protests and followed Sirius up and out onto the roof of the astronomy tower where the words I love you were marked out across the sky in enslaved fireflies.

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