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The Affairs of a Wilting Flower



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Old February 16th, 2005, 3:36 am
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The Affairs of a Wilting Flower

I apologize to those of you who have been waiting for an update. I noticed a canon error that I needed to correct. Now that I have, I can continue with the story, but it will be a little different from the original version.



Last edited by HermioneLuna; May 25th, 2005 at 6:29 am.
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Old May 25th, 2005, 6:32 am
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Fifth Year
 
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Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Unknown Beginnings


Seventeen-year-old Lily Evans tucked stray strands of loose, deep red hair behind her ear. It radiated a vibrant fiery orange-red in the light streaming in through her kitchen window. At the moment, she was looking inside her refrigerator. She emerged with a bowl of grapes and returned to her seat at the kitchen table where she had been studying the Charms homework she'd been assigned to complete over the summer.

Across from Lily sat her older sister Petunia, who had been determinedly ignoring Lily all morning. Petunia no longer lived in the Evans home and was visiting while on holiday from the university she attended. Even though Petunia kept a "polite" distance between herself and her sister, Lily knew her sister didn't want her around at all.

Lily grabbed a handful of grapes and then offered the bowl to Petunia and was ignored. Lily gently pushed the bowl closer, placing it right above the magazine Petunia was reading. Petunia ripped the magazine from underneath the bowl and put it right in front of her face. Lily took the bowl back and sighed. She looked at her sister and wondered, not for the first time, how they could possibly be bound together by ties of blood. They were as different internally as they were externally.

Lily had dark red waist length hair and startling green eyes. She was tall, confident, outspoken, kind, and was born with special powers that her family did not possess, but were proud of just the same.

Petunia, on the other hand, had short blonde hair and blue eyes that may once have been pretty, but had been dulled by her anger, jealousy and resentment. Though a few years older than Lily, she was roughly her sister's height and often removed herself from social situations, preferring to skulk in corners. The only time Petunia ever spoke her mind was when she was angry. She resented Lily's talents and couldn't understand why their parents didn't view Lily as strange.

Lily continued to stare at her sister, who persisted in staring at the magazine she was reading, until Lily heard a soft tapping coming from somewhere in the room. She looked around and saw a large eagle owl hovering just outside the closed kitchen window, clutching something in its claws. Lily stood up, walked over to the window, and let the owl in. It flew over to the kitchen table, dropped its package and flew out again. Lily picked up the envelope, turning it over and saw that it bore the imprint of a badger, a lion, an eagle, and a snake all twisted around the letter H. It was around the time that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry sent out letters welcoming returning students to a new term, giving them their supply lists as well as any other information they might need.

Lily felt a surge of anxiety and a bit of sadness. Here was the information for her final year at Hogwarts, the place that had been her second home for six years. She didn’t feel ready to say goodbye.

"You're such a freak," Petunia spat from across the table. Lily looked up to see that Petunia was now looking at her with an expression of utter disgust. Lily sighed as she began to open her envelope.

"Really, Petunia," she said as she sat down. "It's been seven years. Don't you have any better material?"

"It's abnormal to get post delivered by bird," Petunia went on, "England has a perfectly good post system. But I don't expect your kind to use it. You're all too strange to use regular ways to communicate," she sneered.

Lily smiled at Petunia. "Petunia dear," she said sweetly, "Do shut up."

And with that Lily returned to her letter. She pulled out the folded pieces of parchment and something shiny and metal clinked onto the table. She picked it up and looked at it. It, too, bore the symbol of her school with the words HEAD GIRL written underneath in sparkling gold letters.

Lily leapt out of her chair, knocking it over in the process, and let out a high pitched squeal that caused Petunia to nearly jump out of her skin.

"What is it?" she snapped.

Lily danced around Petunia squealing, "I'm Head Girl! They made me Head Girl! See?!" She thrust the badge directly in front of Petunia's face.

Her sister shrugged haugtily. "So they made you Head Girl at a school for freaks. I don't see what you're going on about."

Lily ignored Petunia. There was no way she was going to allow her sister's sour attitude to spoil her happiness, and Lily let out another rather high-pitched shriek in her excitement. She continued this pattern of squealing, dancing, and proclaiming her new position as Head Girl until her parents came rushing into the kitchen.

"What's wrong?" her mother inquired, looking at Lily in some concern. "Is everything alright?"

Lily stopped her routine and shouted, "Everything's fine! Look! I'm Head Girl at Hogwarts!"

"Oh Lily, that's wonderful," her mother said, wrapping her arms around Lily in a congratulatory hug.

Once she had pulled away, Lily's father gave her a hug and said, "Congratulations, Lily. I'm very proud of you. We knew you could do it."

When they had broken their embrace, her mother turned to Petunia and said, "Isn't it great? Lily made Head Girl!"

Petunia, who had watched this display with the utmost revulsion, simply rolled her eyes and muttered a sarcastic, "Yes. Fantastic," before sliding off her seat and leaving the room. Her mother made a move to go after her, but instead turned back to Lily.

"Who's Head Boy?" she asked excitedly.

"I didn't check," Lily confessed. "I was too excited. But I suspect it's Remus. He managed to do what years worth of detention couldn't do: get James and Sirius to mellow out a bit. Not much, but it's more than most could do."

"If your list of supplies and everything come with your badge, we'll go to Diagon Alley this weekend to get your things," her father said. "Are they there?"

"I think so," Lily said as she went to grab the packet of parchment. She unfolded her letters. The first was the standard new term welcome that Hogwarts always sent. The second was the list of books and supplies required for seventh year students. Lily quickly skimmed the list and then handed it to her father. The third was the letter containing congratulations and instructions for the Head Boy and Girl.

"Here it is," she told her parents, and she began to read out loud:

"Ms. Evans,

We are pleased to inform you that you have earned the position of Head Girl at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Enclosed is your badge. Once you have boarded the Hogwarts Express, you are to report to the Prefects’ cabin to give the new Prefects their instructions for the train ride and other information for the start of term. You will find those enclosed as well. For the rest of the year, you and Head Boy, James Potter ---"


Lily stopped reading out loud and re-read the last sentence silently to herself. She felt her stomach plummet, half because of pure shock and disbelief, half because of something else.

"No," she said as if saying the word would change what she was reading. "No!" she repeated more firmly.

"What?" her parents asked together.

"James Potter?" Lily said. "James Potter?" her voice rising in volume. "How? He was never even Prefect! No....It's a mistake. There's no way Professor Dumbledore would ever make that berk Head Boy!"

"Perhaps Professor Dumbledore has his reasons," her mother said reasonably.

"But...But..." Lily looked from the letter to her mother and back again, unable to find the words to respond. She felt as though her world were ending. She just stared at James' name, willing it to say Remus. Anything except James Potter.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Still staring blankly out into space, Lily sat in the room the Potters had so kindly provided her. She hadn't moved from her current sitting position since she woke up in that room. She couldn't feel anything; not pain, not grief, not even hate. She just sat staring. It had been days since she'd eaten, but she wasn't the least bit hungry. Even after all she'd been through, she couldn't bring herself to cry. She wished she could lock herself inside again, both mentally and physically, but without her wand, she couldn't.

She felt utterly alone. She had no real family anymore and she'd just pushed away the last people on this earth that might have truly cared for her. She thought about leaving, but where could she go? She was trapped; nothing to look forward to, but she couldn't go back either.

Outside the room, she could hear people passing by. She thought she heard the door open once or twice, and people’s voices, but no one ever disturbed her. She hadn't looked away from that one spot on the wall for hours, and had no intention of doing so until sleep took her.

She didn't know if she was able to think of what she'd witnessed or if she just wouldn't, but she was in no hurry to remember what she'd just gone through. Deep down, way below conscious level, she knew that eventually she'd have to come to terms with it and most likely would have to talk about it, but with who? No one could possibly understand the horror that would haunt her for the rest of her life.

All because of him.

Her blank mind started to take on images and sounds. She pushed them away, but they came back in full force. She had no idea why he would bother with her personally. He hadn't with others she'd known and loved. She was completely confused. And when she thought about what he had done, about what he'd taken from her, about what he'd put them all through, she began to feel something else. Something she'd never felt before in her life. Rage beyond rage. Hate beyond hate.

She couldn't sit anymore. Not if those images were going to be playing over and over in her mind. She carefully unfolded her legs from underneath her and cautiously got to her feet. They had long since fallen asleep from the pressure of her body sitting on them.

"Ready to talk?"

The voice came out of nowhere. Her heart skipped a few beats, her stomach plummeted and she instinctively reached for her wand as she spun around to see who and where the owner of the voice was. She felt another surge of panic when her wand wasn't in its normal place, but relaxed ever so slightly when she saw who her companion was.

James Potter sat in a chair placed in the corner of the room, calmly watching her, waiting for her to speak.

"I...Wh-what are you doing here?"

"Well, it is my-"

"I mean, what are you doing here? As in, 'in here'?"

"Waiting for you," he said simply.

"When did you get here? I didn't see-"

"I've been sitting here since last night."

"I told you to stay away from me," Her voice lacked emotion. "I don't want to talk to you or anyone else you drag in here. I wish to be left alone."

"And I told you you're not getting rid of me that easily," he said stubbornly. "After everything we've been through, there's not the slightest, smallest chance I'm letting you let this destroy you. You can push us away all you want to, but you're wasting your energy. It won't work."

"You don't get it, do you?" Lily snapped angrily. "You can't make this all better, Potter. Nothing can make this better! What that monster did-It can't be changed. Nothing will ever be the same again. And you're sitting there in that chair thinking you hold the key to mending my life when you don't know what you're going on about. You can't possibly know or understand how I feel, so don't pretend as though you do!" She was shouting now, but she didn't care who heard her.

"I can't fix it," he admitted. His voice was soft and his eyes looked as though remembering something he had experienced. "There is no "fixing" it. But I can help you through it if you'll let me. We all want to help you. Moony and Padfoot have been in and out of here checking on you. We helped you before, remember?"

"This is not even close to being the same," she said, her voice low in its anger. "That...I didn't...Just leave me alone." She didn't want to talk about it. The memory was still too fresh and too painful to entertain.

"Now, you know that never works," James said with an edge of his old cockiness. It was an obvious attempt to lighten the situation just a little. "You'll have to talk about it, you know. You have to tell Petunia."

Lily closed her eyes. She had completely forgotten that her sister didn't know. She took a deep breath and opened them again.

"No, I don't. She'll figure it out some other way. And this is the end of this discussion," she added firmly.

"Do you really want her to find out any other way than from you?"

"I don't care how she finds out! I don't care about anything! Just go away."

"I'm not going anywhere. I told you that last night. And if you don't tell your own sister-"

"Then I'll tell her," Lily interrupted, willing to say anything to make James disappear. "I'll write to her."

"You really want to tell her this in a letter?" He asked, dismay in his voice.

"I just told you, I don't care about anything anymore!"

"Really? Then what's the harm in letting us help you? If we don't manage to, you won't care anyway."

"I already told you," she began, "you get close to me and you get hurt. You die."

"Ah. Then you do care about something," James said with a soft smile.

"What?" She thought about what they had just said and realized he was right. She cared about him, about what happened to him. She cared what happened to Remus and Sirius. She even cared about Petunia. This realization didn't calm her, though. It only made her angrier.

"Oh you think you're clever, do you? Tricking me like that. Well, you aren't. That was low, James. Manipulative."

She spun around, flung the door open, and stormed out of the room. She had no clue where she was going, having only been outside of that room once, but she didn't care. She'd find a door and leave. She didn't know where she was running to, but she knew she couldn't deal with this.

She heard James' footsteps behind her, but she ignored him. When she came to a flight of stairs, she charged downstairs and found herself in a hallway with many doors leading off of it.

She didn't feel like going into each and every one of them, so she rounded on James and demanded, "How do I get out of here?"

"You go out of one of the doors," he said unhelpfully.

Lily felt a surge of anger again. "This is not a game, Potter!" she exclaimed, pushing him with all her might. He momentarily lost his balance, but managed to remain standing. "I want out! You can't keep me here!" She began pounding him with her fists and he grabbed her by the wrists to stop her. "Get your hands off me let me out of this house right now!"

She attempted to pull away from him, but he wouldn't let her go.

"I mean it!" she yelled, still struggling. "I swear, if you keep me here, I'll...I'll..." She couldn't think of a strong enough threat to shoot at him, so she finished with "I'll make you regret it. I don't care if I don't have my wand. I can do just fine without it!" Tears started flowing from her cheeks and she swore inwardly. She didn't want to cry.

James was watching her with a concerned, serious expression that couldn't be changed even with all the fighting they were doing. He simply held her wrists, waiting for her to calm down.

"Let me go, Potter!" she demanded through her tears.

Seeing that her current attempts would get her nowhere, she tried a different method. She tried to knee him and didn't care if she knocked the wind out of him, she just wanted to get away. From him. From everyone who inhabited the earth.

He maneuvered himself out of the way of her punch and then spun her around so that she was facing away from him. He was holding her tightly against him to minimize her struggles.

"Lily, please, please calm down," he pleaded. "You have every right to be angry, but stop fighting me!" There was a pause, as though he were searching for words to calm her. "I'll let you go, but you have to promise me that you won't go running around out there. It isn't safe."

Thinking that was the only way she'd get even a small chance of escaping, Lily ceased her struggles and nodded.

"Promise," he insisted.

She looked over her shoulder at him and saw his face was solemn with no hint of a smirk.

"Okay," she took a deep breath. "Okay, I promise. Now, let me go."

He cautiously released his hold on her, as if he was certain she'd take off as soon as he let go. But Lily had had it. She couldn't go through that again and she knew he'd only catch up with her anyway. It was his house after all.

James walked around in front of her. "Are-Do you-"

But before he could find the words he was looking for, Lily burst into tears, which flowed more freely than when she cried of frustration. She couldn't find the energy to hold herself up anymore and sank to her knees. James knelt to her level and hugged her, comforting her. She cried into his shoulder as she had done so many months before; cried for what she had lost and would never get back; cried her anger, rage, pain and helplessness; cried for her world that would never return.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

What do you think?
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Last edited by HermioneLuna; May 27th, 2005 at 10:17 pm.
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Old May 26th, 2005, 10:28 am
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The Truth Revealed

Lily strolled briskly toward the barrier between platforms nine and ten at King's Cross Station. She passed through the solid wall as if it weren't there and looked around at the crowd of new and returning students who were boarding the Hogwarts Express. Lily made her way onto the train and found the Head's cabin, where she stored her trunk. Just as she finished securing it in place, she heard a familiar voice.

"Hello, Lily." Remus was standing in the doorway, smiling in his usual manner and looking genuinely pleased to see her. Lily smiled back.

"Hello, Remus," she said. "How was your summer?"

"Good. Yours?"

"Great!"

"Looking forward to a new term?"

"Yep. I'm Head Girl this year." She stopped, thinking Remus may not want to hear about it since he wasn't Head Boy, but he didn't look the least bit bothered by it. On the contrary; he looked downright thrilled.

"You deserve it, Lily," he said.

"You know," Lily began, "I thought you would be Head Boy. I don't understand how --" She thought saying she didn't understand how a jerk like James Potter became Head Boy might sound a bit mean, so instead she finished with, "…how you didn't get the position."

Remus looked like he was about to say something when another familiar voice rang down the corridor.

"Alright, Moony? Evans?" James Potter was moving toward the Head's cabin, dragging his trunk behind him. Lily sighed. So begins another year with James Potter, she thought.

"Alright, Prongs," Remus greeted him.

James was at the door to the cabin now. He turned to Lily and repeated, "Alright, Evans?"

Lily looked at him for a moment, then said, "I'm fine, Potter."

Remus muttered something about finding Sirius and Peter and disappeared. Lily watched his retreating form as he shuffled slowly down the corridor. Then she turned to see what James was up to and observed him stowing his trunk next to hers. Ever since she had gotten her letter, she had been hoping that by some small miracle, James had matured over the summer.

It was known to the entire population of Hogwarts that James was in love with Lily. He had been trying to get her to go out with him for years. She always turned him down, not because she wasn't interested, but because he was so arrogant. That was usually why she gave him such a hard time, even when it seemed unwarranted. She wanted him to come down to Earth; if he would just deflate his head a little, she'd be happy to go out with him. But for now, she was frustrated with herself for liking him even when he was quite unlikable. She was torn on her feelings about him and didn't suppose spending copious amounts of time with him would help matters any.

James finished putting his trunk away, then turned to look at Lily.

"Why are you just standing there? There's no law against you coming in, you know."

"Well, I was talking to Remus, but seeing as he's gone now, I guess I should be getting to the prefect's cabin."

She started to walk off, but James stopped her. "Why?"

"Because it's our job to meet them there and give them their instructions," Lily said.

"No, I meant why---never mind."

Lily didn't respond. Instead she made for the prefect's cabin, James right alongside her.

"So what did you and Moony talk about?"

Lily didn't even look at him. "Is that your business?"

James shrugged. "Just looking for a topic," he said casually. "It seemed as good a choice as any."

They had reached their destination at this point, and stepped inside to see all eight house prefects waiting for them. They were all talking eagerly amongst themselves and did not hesitate to continue with the arrival of the Head Boy and Girl. Just as Lily asked them to quiet down, the train began to move. James and Lily took turns giving the prefects their instructions for the train ride, a general overview of their duties for the first few days of term, and the passwords for their houses. They completed all of this in about a half hour and dismissed the younger students before returning to their own cabin.

Lily slipped in and took a seat next to the window. She gazed out as England quickly passed by. James sat down next to her and said, "So I guess you won't be answering my question then."

Lily faced him and furrowed her brow. "What question?"

"What you and Moony were talking about."

"Nothing, really," she responded, then directed her attention out of the window again.

James, seeing he wasn't going to get her to talk, moved closer and changed the subject. "How was your summer, Evans? I want to hear all about it."

Once again, Lily turned to look at him and saw that he was sitting very close to her. She felt a weird sense of anxiousness, but tried to hide it. She shifted in her seat and asked "Do you mind?"

James shrugged. "It probably wasn't as exciting as mine, but I want to hear about it anyway."

Lily gave him a disapproving look. "I meant, do you mind not sitting so close to me?"

James said, "I like this seat. I see no reason to move."

Lily sighed. Any hope she'd had of James maturing over the summer was quickly fading. She moved to a seat across from him so that she was now facing him.

"What is it with you, Evans?" James asked, annoyed. He adjusted himself so that he was leaning against the window at his ease. "I'm trying to be nice and you're acting as if I've done something wrong."

Lily looked at him calmly. "I don't like you, Potter. I don't like how you treat other people. You're an arrogant bully and I don't see why Professor Dumbledore would make you Head Boy over any student in the entire school. He should know that you're only going to abuse your authority."

James was quiet for a moment. He looked at Lily with an expression she couldn't read. When he spoke next, it was quietly and slowly.

"Evans, Dumbledore has reasons for what he does. Just because you may not know or agree with them, does not make them any less justified."

Lily looked at him in puzzlement. Before she could ask what he knew that she didn't, he continued. "Anyway, I think you're confusing arrogance with confidence. See, I think you like me, but, for whatever reason, you don't want to admit it."

"And I think you're forgetting why I don't like you. The way you treat other students, especially poor Severus is----"

"'Poor Severus'?!" James exclaimed incredulously. He now situated himself so that he was sitting upright in his indignation. "Evans, Snivellus is not as innocent as you might think. Anything that happens to him is well deserved."

"Oh? And what has he ever done to you? Didn't you tell me it was more the fact that he exists?" The heat was rising to her face now.

Now it was James's turn to furrow his brow. "What are you talking about?"

"You told me that the reason you torment Severus is because he exists," Lily said simply.

"When?"

"Fifth year. Right after the Defense Against the Dark Arts O.W.L."

James looked at her, a confused expression on his face, before it was replaced with a look of "oh." "Well, yeah, I did say that. But, there's more than you could know. Besides, did you forget what he said about you?"

"I remember very well what he said about me, Potter. That doesn't excuse what you did."

"But it excuses you letting me? You insulted him and then walked away. If you cared so much what happened to the git, why didn't you do more to help him?"

"He didn't want help. I wasn't going to force it on him. But he didn't deserve----"

"He deserved what Sirius and I did and worse for ---" James stopped in mid-sentence as though he were about to say something he shouldn't.

"For what?" inquired Lily.

"Does it matter?" James snapped defensively. "I mean, my reasoning would only be that of an arrogant bully anyway, right?"

Lily looked at him, but said nothing. James had never snapped at her before. James sighed. "Look, Evans," he said apologetically, "I didn't mean to bite your head off."

"Believe me, Potter, I took no offense," Lily responded, though that wasn't entirely true.

"Good," James said, suddenly business-like. "Now, the first Hogsmeade trip is usually early in the year. Seeing as term hasn't started yet, I know you don't have other plans, so let's just go together."

Lily actually found herself considering the idea. However, she realized that after years of trying to make James become less egotistical, to give in now would make it all for naught.

"No," she said simply.

"We're going to be spending a lot of time together this term. You might as well learn to tolerate me, if nothing else."

"I've tolerated you since we were eleven. I can do it for another year. But that doesn't mean I have to date you. I will never, ever date you, Potter. You may just as well give up on that idea right now."

James just laughed. "You're very stubborn, Evans. That's alright. I can be patient. Eventually you'll stop hating yourself for liking me and agree to go out."

Lily rolled her eyes. When she spoke next, it was slowly and with the attitude of one speaking to a very young child in an effort to calm him down. "I do not like you. I do not want to date you. I never have and I doubt very much that I ever will." She only half meant it, but said it convincingly enough to fool anyone.

James looked at her with an amused smile on his face. "Did it work?"

"Did what work?" Lily was genuinely confused.

"Did you convince yourself?"

Lily didn't see the point in arguing anymore. She focused her attention out of the window once more and resigned herself to what looked to be a very long school year.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Lily stared silently out of the window as the minutes slowly crept by. She could see reflections of the other five people living in the Potter home moving around behind her. She had decided to stay with the Potters rather than running away. She knew there was nowhere she could go in any case. She was still reluctant to open up and talk about the last week, especially since she'd be telling Petunia soon enough.

She felt like if she tried to leave after her mini-breakdown, the Potters, Sirius, Remus and Peter would send an entire search party after her. So instead, she contacted Petunia and told her they needed to talk. She'd only managed to get her sister to agree by promising to show up in the middle of one of her classes, brandishing a wand and yelling nonsense words, all the while making sure everyone present knew she was Petunia Evans’s sister.

They'd agreed to meet in Petunia's dorm because Petunia absolutely refused to venture near Godric's Hollow. Lily ran through her speech over and over until it made her ill to think of repeating it once more. She had never broken such terrible news before and wasn't looking forward to doing so now.

Sitting at breakfast with six people chatting around her, Lily was able to slip into the silence she had generally maintained since she and James had fought. She always felt their sidelong glances, but no one was trying to force her to talk anymore, which she appreciated. She thought they knew how hard this would be for her and decided to leave her alone until it was over.

She thought about what she was going to say one more time, trying to make sure it sounded right. But she knew there was no "right" way to say what needed to be said. She checked her watch. Seven minutes left. She sighed, got up from the table and went into the sitting room. Six minutes.

"Do you want someone to go with you?"

Lily turned. Everyone had followed her. "No. I need to do this myself," she answered softly.

"I think someone should go with you," Mr. Potter said. "There's safety in numbers and you can't really be too safe now."

"Fine," Lily said, still in a soft tone and avoiding eye contact. She didn't care if it was dangerous times, but she wasn't up to arguing.

"I'll go," James volunteered.

Lily didn't respond. James walked over and stood next to her. Four minutes. Lily knew Petunia would have long cleared her roommates out in preparation for her visit. It was safe enough to Apparate now. Focusing on her destination, Lily closed her eyes, her stomach twisted in dread, and popped out of Godric's Hollow.

She came to a halt in an empty room and looked around. For a moment she wondered if she hadn't called out the wrong room. Then she heard her sister's voice floating in from outside the closed door.

"I don't care. I've got a lot of work to do. You'll just have to come back later."

Petunia had barely finished her sentence when James entered the room behind Lily.

"I don't think you should be here when I tell her."

"Yeah, I'll make myself scarce," James agreed, looking around the room. He walked over to a table and peered at it. Then he ran a finger along the top and whistled in amazement. "Your sister is very clean, isn't she?"

Lily looked around the room. It was spotless; exactly the way Petunia liked it. Her work area was organized neatly and the only pictures on what she assumed was her sister's desk were of her mother and father and of Petunia and a rather large and beefy man Lily didn't know. Looking at her parents smiling faces filled Lily with anger once more.

"I'm going to kill him," she hissed.

"What?" James asked.

"Voldemort. I'm going to kill him myself. I don't care how long it takes, but I'm going to bring him down."

"Killing is too good for someone like him," James said. "It would be better to give him to the Dementors."

"The...the what?"

"You know what Azkaban is, right?"

"Of course I do. It's our prison. Well, the wizarding prison."

"Dementors are the guards. They can make him truly suffer like death never could."

The door closed behind them with a sharp click and Lily wheeled around to see Petunia standing just inside the room. She was gaping at the two of them as though they were seven foot tall horned demons.

"Are you mad?" she whispered in a low snarl. "Do not mention that strangeness here!"

James cleared his throat. "I've always wanted to see what a Muggle University looks like," James said. "I'll be off then." He exited past Petunia, who moved quickly out of his way as if thinking that he might contaminate her with something dangerous and contagious. He looked past her, rather than attempting to meet her eyes.

Petunia quickly closed the door behind James and then rounded on Lily.

"All right. Let's hear it, then. Why did you need to talk to me?" she snapped.

Lily tried to gather enough courage to tell Petunia what had happened. Because of what Petunia overheard, there was already tension Lily knew would only grow.

"P-Petunia, can we sit down?"

"Oh fine, fine," she responded with the air of someone wanting to get this over with as soon as possible. "Sit down and let’s be quick about this."

Lily took a seat and Petunia sat near her, waiting impatiently for Lily's supposedly urgent news.

"Petunia, I-I went home...for...for the Easter holidays, and erm, and while I was there..." Her voice trailed off; this didn't seem like the right way to say it. After all her attempts to prepare for this conversation, now that she was there and actually talking to her sister, it all seemed wrong.

"A few days ago..." She stopped and started again. "What I mean to say is-"

"Just spit it out," Petunia commanded.

"There's a wizard-"

"Shhhhh," Petunia said, looking around as though the walls heard her.

"There's someone," Lily corrected herself, trying to find her wording again, "who is trying to form an army of other people like him. He's got quite a few followers now who agree with the way he thinks. They're killing everyone who gets in the way and...And when I was visiting mum and dad...He and a few of his Dea- erm, followers came and when I- I mean, he attacked us. I got away, but Mum and Dad-" She broke off and looked at her sister. Petunia's hands were clenched so tightly into fists that her knuckles were white, her large pale eyes were wide and her lips were thinly pursed. Lily knew she didn't have to go on.

Taking a deep breath, Lily tried to continue. "I think-"

"SHUT UP!" Petunia shouted, leaping to her feet. "You're a lying, scheming little -" she dropped her voice to a whisper, "witch." Then she rose again to her full volume and shouted, "And this is a cruel, sick joke!"

Lily rose to her feet as well. "Petunia," she began, "why would I make something like this up?"

"Don't ask me to fathom the mind of a freak!" Petunia spat.

"Petunia, that's enough," Lily said firmly. "I'm telling you the truth. I saw it happen."

"Then why didn't you stop it?!"

"Do you honestly think I saw those people enter my house and did nothing about it? I tried and I've got the wounds to prove it. Voldemort is much more powerful than I am. I did my best, Petunia, but..."

"What did you do?"

"I learned some spells in Defense Against the Dark Arts and a little-"

"Not that abnormal stuff," Petunia hissed. "You started to say something before. You said when he and his followers came and you...What did you do?"

Lily swallowed. She hadn't realized Petunia caught that. She knew that if Petunia knew the specifics all hope of reconciling their already extremely fragile relationship, if it could even be called that, would be dashed. "I didn't do anything," she said slowly. "I didn't ask him to pop into my sitting room and start throwing Unforgivables around."

"What!"

"They're-"

"Just shut up about that abnormality!" Petunia shrieked. "That's what caused all of this. If it weren't for that this would have never happened."

"I didn't cause this," Lily defended herself.

"I want you out of here," Petunia stated angrily.

"But we have to arrange a funeral or have something for them. We can't just pretend like it never happened."

"Get. Out," Petunia said again.

"Petunia listen to me," Lily begged. "We're each other's only family now. Isn't that important to you?" She was standing within a foot of her sister now, pleading not only with her words, but with her eyes as well. "We have to be there for each other. It was important to Mum. She said-"

"Shut up!" Petunia shouted again. "We wouldn't be the only family we had if it weren't for you. I always knew you'd be responsible for something awful and if Mum and Dad had listened to me, they'd still be alive."

Those words hit Lily hard. It was one thing to blame her magic. It was quite another to blame her. And, Lily thought, it was her fault their parents were killed. If she'd only just...

"You're right," she said in a voice barely above the quietest whisper. "I'm so sorry."

She stood in the room for a moment, looking into her sister's face, but not noticing her hatred. Her mind was on something else.

It is all my fault, she thought.

And with a pop she was gone.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

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Last edited by HermioneLuna; May 27th, 2005 at 10:21 pm.
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Old May 28th, 2005, 9:45 am
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HermioneLuna  Undisclosed.gif HermioneLuna is offline
Fifth Year
 
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Posts: 777
The Journey

Lily sat with her nose buried in a book, doing her best to ignore James. She could hear James muttering words and supposed he was practicing spells or curses, but she wouldn't allow herself to look up to see. As the Hogwarts Express slowed to a stop at the Hogsmeade station, Lily put her book away and stood to grab her trunk.

"Let me," James said. In one swift movement, he leapt from his seat and was standing next to her. Before she could protest, he pulled her trunk down from its place.

Lily raised an eyebrow at him. "I could have got it myself, you know."

"I'm just trying to be nice, Evans," James said, a note of irritation in his voice.

Lily grabbed hold of her trunk, eyeing him suspiciously. After a moment she said, "Thank you, Potter," before heading out of the cabin and into Hogsmeade to await the horseless carriages.

The night was clear and the light shone from the stars that littered the night sky. The only other light was the weak luminescence the crescent moon provided.

As she disembarked from the train, Lily caught sight of Emily, her housemate and best friend for the previous seven years. Emily was a good distance ahead of Lily and making her way toward the spot the horseless carriages would pick them up.

"Emily," Lily called, her stride quickening to catch her friend. "Hey, Emily. Hold on for a second!"

Emily turned in Lily's direction, her blue eyes searching the crowd for the voice calling her name. She spotted Lily moving through the mass of swarming students and halted in her place. Lily reached her and didn't even break her stride as she walked right up to Emily and gave her a hug.

Emily laughed at her friend. "It can't have been that bad. James wouldn't do anything too horrible on the train. There's no escape," she finished jokingly.

Lily put on an air of mock indignation. "Why would you assume it had anything to do with him?"

"Because you just hugged me as if we hadn't seen each other in years, and you spent half the summer at my house. Therefore, you've either grown an unnatural attachment to me, which is kind of scary, or you've just suffered through the most aggravating few hours of your life." Before Lily could say anything, Emily spoke again. "And before you tell me I don't know what I'm talking about, bear in mind that I know you better than that."

There was a sudden swelling of the crowd as the students pushed their way forward to board the carriages that were now approaching. Lily and Emily picked up their trunks and headed toward a carriage that looked empty. Once they were settled inside facing each other, Emily looked at Lily, a serious expression on her face.

"Did you tell them?"

Lily blinked. "Did I tell who what? Oh, right! No, I didn't."

"Why not? Don't you think they need to know?"

"I don't know. If I told them they would only worry about me all year. I couldn't do that to them. Besides, what could they do if they knew?"

Emily pretended to be deep in thought before saying, "Protect themselves, maybe?"

"They can't protect themselves, Emily. Anything I said about it would only make them afraid for all of us. They don't need that."

"Well, hello, ladies. Mind if we join you?" Lily and Emily looked around to see Sirius Black standing next to their carriage.

Emily sat up a little straighter and smiled at Sirius. "Sure, plenty of room here!" she said brightly.

Sirius smiled his thanks and then climbed into the carriage, bringing his trunk with him. He was followed by Remus, James, and Peter Pettigrew. Sirius sat next to Emily and Peter sat next to him, his short legs dangling over the seat. James and Remus seated themselves opposite their friends, on Lily's side of the carriage. After they had all greeted each other, Emily turned back to Lily.

"But they should at least know about it," she continued as if they hadn't been interrupted. "It's just as dangerous for them as it is for us. Worse, in fact."

"I know. But the most they could do is be worried. I don't want to make them paranoid. Besides, if we're talking about who's in more danger, it's --" Lily paused and considered her words. "It's not me," she finished.

The four boys were watching the girls with a look of utmost confusion. Before any of them could speak up, Emily plowed onward.

"Dumbledore could do something to help them. If you asked, I know he would."

"Wait, wait, wait," Sirius interrupted. "What's so dangerous that you need Dumbledore to intervene?" He looked between the two girls, still looking utterly confused.

Emily looked in his direction and smiled, her cheeks slowly reddening. "UmErm, we're talking about...you know. Well, you know."

Sirius stared blankly at her.

"We're talking about Voldemort," Lily informed them.

Peter gave a slight squeak and slipped a little in his seat. "Shhh. Don't say the name," he demanded.

"No worries, Wormtail," James said. "There's nothing scary about a name."

"Wormtail?" Emily questioned. "You know, I always wanted to ask about your nicknames. Why do you call Peter, 'Wormtail'?"

The boys exchanged quick glances. Remus cleared his throat into his fist, adjusted himself in his seat and looked around at his friends, a grin on his face. James ran his fingers absentmindedly through his hair. Then he and Sirius looked at each other as if they could come up with a quick lie just by focusing on each other. Peter looked utterly panic stricken.

"Well?" Emily persisted.

"No reason," James said, his attention falling on her. "We just started calling each other by certain names and they stuck."

"But why those names?"

"Erm," James began, looking at his friends for help.

"Well, you see," Sirius started. "We sort of..."

"It's kind of, erm," Peter tried.

"We didn't pick them." Remus spoke for the first time. "Not exactly, anyway."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

The carriage jolted and came to a halt. Lily hadn't even noticed they started moving.

"Well, look at that," Peter observed. "We're here. We shouldn't dawdle. Off we go then." He gave a nervous smile to the girls and quickly slipped out of the carriage opening. Lily and Emily looked at each other with the same confused expression the boys had used just minutes before. Lily had wondered about their nicknames in the past, but had never asked. She had always assumed it was some sort of weird symbol of the bond between the boys. Now, her interest was piqued. What does he mean they didn't pick them? she wondered.

"Coming, Lily?" Lily was drawn from her thoughts to see that she was the only one left on the carriage.

"Right behind you," Lily said.

The five of them entered Hogwarts and made their way to the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall. As they waited for the Sorting Ceremony to begin, Lily looked around at her fellow students and began to miss the school already. This is the last time I'll get to see anyone sorted, she thought sadly to herself, feeling strangely nostalgic.

Her mind wandered during the actual sorting, however, as her mind wandered and everything she saw or smelled reminded her of some event that happened at Hogwarts. She came drifted back to reality as Professor McGonagall escorted the hat and stool out of the Great Hall.

"Tsk tsk. You're Head Girl now, Evans," James whispered from the other side of the table, a grin on his face. "You're supposed to be setting an example."

Lily looked at him for a minute before it dawned on her that he noticed she wasn't very attentive. She didn't respond to him, turning her attention instead to Professor Dumbledore, who stood up to speak.

"Welcome to another year at Hogwarts. There are a few notices for this year, but this is not the time for them. Enjoy the feast."

"So," Emily began, focusing on James. "You were telling us about those odd names you go by."

"Was I?" James responded.

"You know you were," Emily said impatiently. "Why the hesitation? They're just names."

"Well, if they're just names, they don't matter, do they?" James questioned, an annoyingly superior look on his face.

Emily sighed and turned to Peter. "Wormtail. It's such an interesting name. How did you happen by it?"

Peter shifted uncomfortably, and then said "Well, a couple years ago --" He was cut off by a sharp jab in his ribs by Sirius, who tried to pass it off as a motion to spoon food into his own mouth. Peter stopped talking and focused on his meal too.

Emily finally decided they weren't going to tell her anything and fell into a disgruntled silence on the topic.

"What do you think Voldemort is doing right now?" Lily asked somewhat out of the blue.

The reaction to this question was immediate: Sirius froze with his fork in his mouth. Remus stopped suddenly while lifting a piece of turkey off his plate. James messed up his hair distractedly. Emily's food fell from its place on her tongue back onto her plate. And Peter once again looked panic stricken.

"Well, I mean, do you think he's gotten new followers or..." Her voice trailed off awkwardly.

"I don't know," Sirius said. "He's probably planning new...attacks or something."

"I just think that-" Lily looked up to see Professor Dumbledore approaching the table. In all her seven years at Hogwarts he had never done that before. She felt her stomach tighten at the bad news she knew he was bringing.

"Mr. Potter, Ms. Evans, might I have a word?"

"Y-Y-" Lily took a deep breath and tried again. "Yes, sir," she said.

"Of course," James responded.

They both rose and followed their Headmaster out of the Great Hall, exchanging confused and scared looks as they went.

When they reached Dumbledore's office, Dumbledore politely asked them to occupy the seats on the other side of his desk, while he sat in his usual one.

"I've asked you both here because I need to ask for your assistance in the coming year."

James visibly relaxed. "Well, we're Head Boy and Girl. It's our job to assist, isn't it?"

Dumbledore hesitated. He looked as though he were trying to find the right words. Finally, he spoke. "As Voldemort grows in power, gaining more followers each day, I feel a strong need to encourage House unity and fellowship among the students of Hogswarts. I shall need your assistence in this matter."

"How?" came Lily's confused response.

"Set an example. We can not afford to let animosity infiltrate our school."

"With all due respect, Professor," James began, "Competition has been a part of Hogwarts for years. Gryffindor and Slytherin are always competing in everything. It doesn't mean the losing house will run off to join Voldemort's Dark Army."

"What you have just said is the one of the reasons we need house unity, Mr. Potter. Repressed bitterness and resentment can manifest itself in frightening ways in these troubled times. I feel the responsibility to the students of this school to keep them safe and to provide them with the capabilities to make the right choices. House unity is and always will be important, but never more so now. Remember that ill will toward others is not an inherent trait but rather, is learned.""

"We'll do whatever we can," James answered.

Lily began thinking of possible ways to encourage the houses to work in harmony, but each idea she thought up seemed more unlikely than the one before it. Finally deciding none of her ideas would work, she spoke up.

"Professor, how can we promote house unity? What sort of example were you thinking of?"

Dumbledore rested his gaze on Lily, his blue eyes looking into her green ones. Then he said quite calmly, "I think you have an idea on how to make this work, Ms. Evans. And I have to say I quite agree."

Lily blinked in confusion. What on earth is he talking about? she wondered. She looked over at James to discern if he understood what Dumbledore was talking about. He looked at her and shrugged.

"And now," Dumbledore continued, "We must return to the feast. I have announcements to give and I believe you have duties to perform."

Dumbledore rose from his seat and made his way to his office door, holding it open for the pair. James left first, closely followed by Lily, who paused at the door to stare in puzzlement at her Headmaster.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Lily sat in the Potter's sitting room, watching Mr. and Mrs. Potter poring over parchment while Sirius and Peter were engaged in a game of Wizard’s Chess not far away. Remus sat reading a book and cautiously glancing at Lily with every turn of the page. James was in another part of the house and Lily thought he was probably sleeping since he'd been up all the previous night watching her. She hadn't told anyone what happened in Petunia's dorm yet and wasn't planning on divulging that information ever. Petunia had only confirmed part of what was troubling Lily, and Lily didn't want to hear anyone's empty words telling her otherwise.

Lily's mind was racing; it wouldn't hold one thought for longer than a few seconds. She was having trouble blocking out what happened the last time she was at her home. She remembered brief flashes of the pain, death and screams; of the masked faces and the snake-like eyes gleaming at her; of the words that were spoken and of how she could have stopped it.

She considered giving up magic completely to avoid any one else she cared about getting hurt or killed. However, she immediately dropped that idea when she realized that without magic, she'd have no chance of killing Voldemort.

"I have to go home." The words were out before she had even realized she'd thought them.

"What's that, dear?" Mrs. Potter asked, turning her attention to Lily. Sirius and Peter looked up from their game where Sirius' knight was beating Peter's bishop on the head and dragging him off the board. Remus closed his book and watched her.

"I-I have to go home," Lily repeated uncertainly.

"Lily," Mr. Potter began.

"I know," she said, not having the slightest idea what he was about to say. "But I have to...I need to see it again. I can't just leave it like this. And I still have things there that I need."

"Well," Mrs. Potter started, clearly hesitant about the idea. "If you feel you need to..."

"No," Mr. Potter cut in. "That is the last place she needs to be."

"Why?" Lily asked. "Why shouldn't I be there?"

"It's dangerous, for one."

"Everywhere is dangerous right now. It's not like the Death Eaters will still be there," she pointed out. Then she added in a low voice, "They've done all the damage they're going to do...."

Mr. Potter looked around the room, searching for support. Then he looked at Lily with the same sympathetic look everyone was giving her. "N-," he started, but then seemed to think of something else and sighed. "Fine," he said with a tone that said this was against his better judgment. "But you should take someone with you." He turned to face Sirius and Peter and appeared as though he was going to ask one of them to accompany her.

"No," Lily said firmly. "I have to do this by myself."

"Someone can wait for you-"

"No," she repeated. "No one goes with me. I need to do this alone. I'll be fine."

After a little more discussion, the Potters finally agreed to let Lily go home, but only with the promise that she would be more cautious then she'd ever been before. Armed with her wand, Lily Apparated back home to gain closure.

She came to a halt just inside her front door and it was immediately obvious to her that no one had entered since the night of the attack; the house was still a disaster area.

Stepping over the broken glass on the carpet, she looked at the charred and broken remains of her sitting room. The figurines that had stood gleaming on the mantle above the fire place where now shattered into irreparable pieces on the floor and she thought of the panicked scream her mother had emitted when that first spell flew.

Her eyes slid slowly, fearfully to the shattered window. She saw and heard clearly, as if it were happening again, the sounds, sights and smells that took the life of one of the people she loved most in this world. What her father had said and done would echo forever in her mind. He'd never have had to do that if it weren't for me, she thought sadly.

Taking a shuddering breath to control her emotions, she walked past the staircase, not even chancing a glance up, past the damaged piano and made a short left turn.

She ran her hand along the back of the damaged sofa and remembered how she had been pulled down behind it, while the sofa took the effect of whatever spell the Death Eater had shot at her. She thought of how she'd looked up to see a masked face, a wand pointed at her, and then...If I hadn't fought, they wouldn't have had to... She pushed the thought aside.

She swallowed the lump that was forming and looked beyond the ripped and torn sofa into the middle of the room, where the glass table had once stood. If Lily hadn't known what it was before, she wouldn't be able to identify it now. She stared at the place where she lost another of her loved ones. It's my fault she's gone now. She didn't have to suffer like that.

She spotted something on the ground. It wasn't shattered like everything around it. As she approached it, she saw it was her mum's childhood stuffed rabbit, which she kept it for sentimental reasons. Before the attack, it was a bit ratty. Now, however, it was damaged beyond all possibility of repair. She loves that old thing. Or rather-loved it, she thought.

Closing her eyes, she turned away. When she opened them again, she saw the severed head of one of the unicorn figurines that had been on the mantle. She recalled how she had gotten that figurine. When she was little, she had a fascination with unicorns. She remembered how, after a particularly awful day at school, Petunia had sat with her and listened to her vent all her frustration. Later that day, Petunia went out with friends and when she returned, she gave Lily the unicorn she had bought for her. It hurt Lily to think about how she once had a good relationship with her sister. And then it all crumbled because they discovered she was a witch. All because of Hogwarts, she thought. All because of magic.

Unable to view these vestiges of such a horrible night any longer, she walked back over to the staircase and slowly climbed up to the next landing. She walked past Petunia's room and further down the hall until she reached her parents'. She didn't know why she was going in there, but she felt drawn to it.

She entered slowly, feeling as though she were invading an ancient shrine of some sort. There was nothing remarkable or out of the ordinary in this room. She walked to the bureau where stood pictures of her and of Petunia. Seeing no reason those pictures should remain there, Lily picked them up and turned to go.

She then entered her room and looked around. It, too, bore no indication of the battle that had taken place downstairs. Lily knelt down to her suitcase, which she’d never gotten the chance to unpack, and slid the pictures inside. Then she walked over to her window, pulled the chair from the desk over to her, sat down and gazed out.

She looked at her wand. We wouldn't be the only family we had if it weren't for you. I always knew you'd be responsible for something awful and if Mum and Dad had listened to me, they'd still be alive, Petunia's words echoed loudly in her mind. Magic. That's what did this. If I were just born a Muggle, like Petunia, my family would still be alive. If I weren't a witch, they'd never have come here. They’d never have known we existed. Petunia's right. I'm a freak. If I'd just been normal...It's all my fault.

She was starting to cry again. So many tears in such a short time. She was beginning to wonder if the well of tears would ever dry up. I'm a lightening rod for pain and suffering. And everyone who comes near me suffers and dies. James will. Sirius will. Remus will. Even Peter. And there's only one way to keep them all safe, she decided. No more magic. Not ever.

She looked at her wand again, and without realizing what she was doing, threw it as hard as she could out of the window. She thought about where she could go. Petunia wouldn't allow her to stay within a hundred miles of her. She had no other family. Her friends, the closest thing to family she had now, would be endangered by their friendship.

She sat thinking about how far she could get without using magic. Petunia was right. She was abnormal for her abilities and if she stopped using them, she'd have some hope of a normal, happy life. Distant sounds reached her ears, the sounds of a crack and a pop, but they barely registered in her numbed state.

"Lily?" Sirius called, his voice sounding as though he were underwater.

Lily didn't move, didn't comprehend what was going on. No one from Hogwarts can come near me. It wouldn't work. It just wouldn't.

"Where are you?" Remus's voice reverberated loudly through the house.

Maybe if I tell Petunia I won't do magic anymore, she'll let me stay with her.

There were footsteps coming up the stairs, but she didn't notice.

Don't be stupid, she scolded herself. What would I say? "Hi there, Petunia. Sorry I killed our parents. Can I stay with you?" She sighed in sadness and aggravation.

"Lily! What are you doing? Why didn't you answer us?"

Lily just stared out of the window, utterly non-responsive. She felt the hand on her shoulder, but didn't look at the owner.

"Lily?" Remus asked cautiously.

"What happened?" Sirius asked, concern in his voice.

"Go away." She didn't even look away from the window and her voice was once again devoid of emotion.

"What's wrong?" Sirius questioned.

Lily continued to stare blankly out of the window, lost in a stupor of grief.

"Lily, look at us," Remus said firmly.

After a few seconds that lasted an eternity, Lily turned to look at the two boys.

"What's going on?" Sirius tried again.

"Nothing." She knew there was no chance of them believing that, but she certainly didn't want to talk about it.

Sirius crossed his arms and looked at Lily skeptically. Remus furrowed his brow in worry and Lily knew she wasn't getting out of it that easily.

"It's nothing," she insisted.

After a prolonged silence, neither party giving in, Lily spoke again.

"What are you doing here? I said that I need to do this alone."

"You've been gone for over an hour," Remus said. "We came to check on you."

"I'm fine. Just go back to James's. I'll be leaving soon." Lily was forcibly reminded of her conversation with Remus over the Christmas holiday.

"We're under strict orders not to come back without you," Sirius told her. "We'll wait until you've got everything you need."

Now seemed like as good a time as any to tell them.

"I'm not going back," she said simply.

Sirius and Remus exchanged confused glances.

"What? What do you mean you're not going back?" Remus asked.

"I'm going away. I don't know to where, but I'm going."

"Lily, what are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about making sure everyone I care about stays safe!" she burst out. "I'm talking about taking myself as far away from here as possible."

Sirius uncrossed his arms. "I don't understand. How does you leaving make everyone safe?"

"I don't want to talk about it." She moved to stand up and walk away, but Sirius grabbed her by the shoulders.

"Tell us what's going on," Sirius insisted.

Lily looked from Remus to Sirius and sighed. "Fine. If that's the only way, then fine. People I love keep dying! My parents and...and my friends. It isn't hard to figure out the reason. It's me." Both boys looked as if they were going to interrupt, but Lily pressed on. "If I were a Muggle, no one would think twice about me. No one would care. If I weren't a witch, my parents would still be alive."

"That's rubbish," Remus said.

"You were here!" Lily exclaimed. "You heard what Voldemort said. It is my fault."

"You can't control what you're born as," Sirius started sympathetically.

"Maybe I can't," Lily snapped. "But I shouldn't have gone to Hogwarts. I shouldn't practice magic." Her words started coming out quickly. "I'm not going to endanger any more people. It's very simple. Magic, my magic did this. No one else in my family has it. If it goes away, things will be better. For everyone."

"Your magic can't 'go away,'" Sirius said. "It's part of you. That's something you learn growing up as a Black. Magic is in your blood. It isn't going anywhere."

"All I have to do is stop using it. You can't talk me out of this, so stop trying."

"What about Voldemort?" Remus suddenly said. "Don't you want to stop him?"

"What a stupid question. Of course I want to stop him."

"Well, how do you plan to do that without using magic?" Before Lily could respond, he continued. "Lily, think about it. Maybe you were born with the magic because you're the one who is supposed to stop him. If you leave, all hope of defeating him could go with you."

"Right," she said sarcastically. "Lily Evans is going to defeat one of the most powerful wizards who ever lived?"

"You're one of the most powerful witches at Hogwarts," Remus said. "And if you walk away now, you'll never know."

"Think," Sirius said. "Think what he did to your family. Remember what you saw? What you heard? What he did to you? If you give up now, you can never avenge your parents or protect your sister. And you'll never move on."

"And," Remus added, "now that you're known, Voldemort might not stop with your parents. You might have to do something to protect Petunia or someone else."

Lily tried to ignore them. She wanted to wallow; to be seen as wise in her decision and allowed to disappear, but Sirius was right and Remus had a good point. The debate inside her was ever growing; should she give up and banish magic from her life, ensuring that she'd never be responsible for anyone's death again? Or should she continue to fight, put other people at risk, but possible kill the most evil wizard who ever lived?

She thought back to Christmas when they had discussed the Anti-Voldemort League. She still wanted to participate in that, despite what she was telling herself.

And then she thought about her parents. Innocent victims in a war they weren't involved in. She could fight to protect other innocent people. Would she really turn her back on them because of what might happen?

I guess what it really comes down to, she thought to herself, is if I'm willing to die to stop Voldemort. And if I'm willing to make whatever sacrifice is necessary.

She looked back into Remus's face. Then she looked at Sirius. She didn't say anything. She recognized that they saw and understood the decision and resolution in her eyes. Silently, they left the Evans home for the final time.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

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Please submit feedback here. It only takes a second and you'll make me very happy.

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Last edited by HermioneLuna; May 31st, 2005 at 9:14 pm.
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  #5  
Old May 31st, 2005, 10:59 pm
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Fifth Year
 
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House of Rumors

Lily sat crossed-legged on a chair in the common room, a parchment in her lap and a quill twirling between her fingers. The fire burning nearby cast dancing shadows over her scribbled plans. She was trying to work out the house unity project Dumbledore had assigned her and James not long before. So far, she had been working alone.

James, Peter, Sirius and Remus were across the common room huddled over their own parchment, pointing at various places and trailing lines along them with their fingers. Occasionally they would stop to discuss something. Lily couldn't help but divert her attention away from her plans to James and his friends. She wondered what could be so intriguing about a piece of parchment. Her eyes were fixed on James, who was nodding in agreement with something Peter said.

"Lily?" Emily's voice broke into Lily's trance. From Emily's tone, Lily knew it wasn't the first time Emily had said her name.

"Oh. Sorry, Emily. I was just caught up in-"

"In watching James Potter," Emily finished. She was lounging leisurely on a nearby couch, laying on her side and looking at Lily with a knowing look in her eyes.

"Well, yeah," Lily agreed. "He's supposed to be helping me with this. Instead, he's playing some game with his friends."

"The plan for bringing the houses together? Dumbledore's mad if he thinks that's going to work."

Lily unfolded her legs and placed them on the floor. She leaned forward toward Emily, her arms resting over the parchment in her lap, and sighed. "Maybe," was all she offered.

"I mean, if Slytherin couldn't get along with the others and they were supposed to be such good friends, how can he expect us to?"

"Well, we aren't them."

"Whatever," Emily said dismissively. "I still think it's a lost cause. There's no way the Slytherins would start mixing with us ‘lesser beings’."

"We don't know that," Lily said fairly. "Even they might do anything to save themselves. In fact, especially them. Slytherin is said to have looked out for his own interests above all others, isn't he?"

"Oh absolutely," came Emily's response. "So much so that he supposedly continues to do that even though he's long dead."

Lily wrinkled her brow. "Mmm?"

"The Chamber of Secrets, I think it might be. I told you about it," Emily answered.

"No, you didn't," Lily argued.

"I did too! About the monster and ridding the school of Muggle-borns."

Lily thought for a moment before she remembered. "Oh, what utter rubbish!" she exclaimed.

"Well, no one has found it. I don't know what kind of creature responds to something based on blood. It doesn't make any sense."

"I wish I had a creature servant to make this stupid plan for me." Lily had resumed examining her parchment.

"Is it really that bad?"

"I'm not sure if it will work," Lily said, her eyes still skimming her writing.

"Let me see it." Emily was sitting up now, her hand outstretched toward Lily's work.

Lily handed her plans to Emily, who read in silence and then burst out laughing, drawing the attention of every student in the room. Lily looked around at everyone and saw that James and his friends were staring in their direction. She quickly looked away and back at Emily.

When she realized she was now the center of attention, Emily immediately began to read the parchment in silence again until her housemates lost interest in watching her.

"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Emily. That's exactly what I needed," Lily muttered sarcastically as she tried to take the parchment back.

"I'm sorry," Emily responded, handing the plans back, "but if you think that James is going to agree to that..." Emily never finished her sentence,; having given in to helpless peals of laughter.

"Agree to what?" said a voice close to them.

James had left his group of friends and made his way over to the girls without either of them noticing. Lily looked around him and saw Sirius tap the parchment with his wand and then roll it up.

"Finally decided to join us, Potter?" Lily asked. "Or were you working on plans of your own?"

"Plans, yes. But it probably isn't what you're thinking." He plopped himself next to Emily on the couch. "Agree to what?" he repeated.

Emily took a few deep breaths to calm herself and then said, "Oh, Lily's got one heck of a plan to unite the houses, James. You're going to...you'll die when you hear it." She paused and considered her words. "Well, one of you will."

"Is that what Dumbledore thought was a good idea? Well, let's hear it, then."

"I don't know what he was talking about," Lily said. "But my idea was, erm.." …" She hesitated to say it after Emily's reaction. It seemed far-fetched when she thought about it, and Emily's reaction just confirmed its absurdity in her mind. "Do you have any ideas?" she asked abruptly, in an attempt to remove the focus from her.

"Well, we could always just declare Gryffindor the winner of both the Quidditch Cup and the House Cup before term even starts. That'll end competition."

Emily choked on her attempt to stifle her laughter. James raised an eyebrow at her. "You know, I think that maybe the excitement of arriving at Hogwarts is too much for you."

"What?" she questioned through her laughter.

"It's not that funny ---"

"Oh, but it is," Emily stated. "You just wait. You'll see." She faced Lily. "Go on, tell him."

Lily looked between the two of them. "Oh fine,” she relented.. “I guess you'll have to hear it sooner or later." She thrust the parchment in his direction and waited for him to read it.

When he finished, he looked up at her, an unreadable expression on his face. "No way, Evans. No way."

"Potter-"

"Dumbledore wouldn't agree to that, you know. It's part of what Hogwarts is to-"

"I think Professor Dumbledore will like it," Lily said, though not altogether certain. "It'll definitely increase house unity."

"And erase house pride. Evans, that completely undermines the entire house system."

"Oh, it does not, Potter. We can still have inner house spirit, and there are house points."

"A lot of the house points come-"

"I know. That doesn't mean this can't work. It's the only idea we've got, unless you can think of something else. But I really think this has a chance if we all give it one. And just where are you going?"

Emily had just stood up and was making to walk away from the duo. "I'm leaving you both to your little spat," she replied easily. "I get enough of this during lessons."

Lily didn't see where Emily went because James was attracting her attention once more.

"And I'm not the only one who has to agree to this, you know."

"I know, Potter. But listen. You're Head Boy and Captain of the Quidditch team. If you agree, you'll be convincing a lot of other people to participate as well. If it doesn't work, we can just forget it, but I want to give it a chance."

James smiled his trademark annoyingly superior smile and Lily rolled her eyes in minor irritation. "Isn't that what I've been asking you for seven years, Evans? To give us a chance."

"This is completely different. One has nothing to do with the other."

"No, it's the same concept," he responded stubbornly. He looked like he intended to continue with the topic, but then he suddenly became business-like. "Here’s a thought."

Lily watched him with apprehension. "Mmm? Yes?"

"I'll agree to this," he said, waving the parchment, "if you agree to let me make a few changes."

Lily blinked in confusion. She had not been expecting that. "Well, erm," she tried to switch gears in order to get back into the conversation. "I can live with that. Just be sure to keep it fair, all right, Potter?"

"No problem, Evans," he agreed. He looked at the parchment again. "I'll have this done tomorrow and then we can give it to Dumbledore. Sound good?"

"Sure. That works," Lily answered, looking James in the eye and wondering what was going through his mind.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Lily looked into James' hazel eyes as he gazed back, patiently waiting for her to finish speaking. Remus and Sirius were also in the room, listening to Lily's speech. Peter had gone to bed early. A few days had passed since Lily had visited her home for the last time.

"...And it really means a lot to me. You all have been great friends to me throughout all of this," she said, now looking at each of them in turn. "I won't ever forget it. And you don't have to say anything. I just wanted you to know."

"Hogwarts just wouldn't be the same without you," Sirius said. "What would Prongs do without you to fight with every day?" he joked.

"Actually, I'm more worried about him getting through the rest of the year. He's Head Boy and has N.E.W.T. exams coming up. Without my guidance, he wouldn't know what to do with himself."

"'He' is sitting right here," James spoke up.

"See?" Lily seized the opportunity and continued to talk to Sirius. "He needs the attention."

"James!" Mr. Potter called.

"Yeah, Dad?" James called back.

"Are you and your friends packed?"

"Yeah," he responded. "Have been for hours."

"Good. You all should get to bed soon."

"Packed?" James asked them, looking at each of them with a confused expression.

"We go back to school tomorrow," Lily answered.

"Oh. I'll pack in the morning," James said casually.

"It is the morning," Remus spoke for the first time, looking at his watch.

"What's that?" Lily asked.

"It's half two in the morning."

Lily turned around so she could see the clock the Potters kept on their sitting room wall. "Wow. It doesn't feel that late," she said, facing them again.

"Nope. I could stay up for hours more," Sirius agreed.

"Me too," James and Remus chorused.

"I'm going to try to get a little sleep," Lily said. "I'd rather not pass out on the Hogwarts Express tomorrow. Erm, today. See you in the morning. Well, later in the morning."

She left and headed upstairs. Once there, she decided to pack away at least half of her things to cut back on what she'd have to pack later on. Walking over to the closet, she grabbed a few of her things and turned to take them to her trunk when she bumped into something quite solid. So jumpy lately, she found herself not the least bit shocked for some reason. And other than a sharp intake of breath, she didn't display any sort of fear.

"I thought you were staying downstairs," she said.

"I was," James responded. "I mean, I'm going down back down there, but I wanted to talk to you."

She furrowed her brow. Had they not just been talking a minute before? "Erm, all right?"

"I was wondering," he started, but did not continue.

"Yes?" she prompted.

Suddenly it seemed as if someone flipped a switch and James regained a touch of his old arrogance. "I know you've had much more important things on your mind, but I wanted to know if you've changed your mind." He smiled at her.

Lily raised an eyebrow. She had no idea what he was talking about.

"About what?"

"Us."

"Us? What about us?" Lily asked, starting to understand, but confused as to why he'd bring that up now.

"Is there still an us?"

"Erm, yes? At least, as far as I know," she said cautiously, wondering if maybe he had changed his mind. "Why wouldn't there be?"

"You said you didn't want to-"

"Right. Look, James," she said setting her stuff down on the bed. "What I said to you... I didn't mean it. It was right after I realized what happened and I just..." she trailed off, looking for the words. "It's like I told you. I thought that if you got close to me..." She had been saying this same thing since she woke up at his house. If he didn't know by then, she certainly wasn't going to keep repeating it. "But, yes. There is still an us."

"Okay," he said happily. "Well, goodnight then."

"Goodnight, James," Lily responded. She smiled at him and he turned to leave.

The click of the door announced his departure.

The next morning was a blur of confusion as the five Hogwarts students hurried to finish packing and make it to Platform 9 3/4. Lily had barely gotten any sleep because as the Potters lived so far from the station, they all had to wake up very early if they were going to drive.

"Why are we rushing?" Lily heard Peter ask from out in the corridor. He sounded out of breath, as if he had been running. "We can just Apparate, can't we?"

"We could," Sirius responded from a little further away, sounding as though he were carrying something heavy, "but Mr. Potter thinks it's too dangerous. So he's driving us."

Lily grabbed Archimedes' cage and placed it on top of her trunk, yawning and wondering if he'd return before they boarded the train.

"What's that, Moony?" Sirius asked.

"Study schedules," Remus responded, though his voice sounded strange, as if he were eating something. "I made them last night. We've got N.E.W.T.s in two months, remember?"

"That's right," Sirius said. "Two whole months. Way too early to start studying now. What's the point? I bet you five galleons old McGonagall is going to make us learn at least six new Transfigurations."

"Six?" Peter squeaked. "She wouldn't!" he exclaimed as though Sirius had just suggested McGonagall use him to demonstrate various human transfigurations.

"Relax, Wormtail," Remus said. "And keep it down. Prongs's mom is still sleeping."

"Lucky her," Sirius remarked.

"Where is Prongs?" Sirius questioned.

"Kitchen," Remus said. "At least he was there when I left. Anyone seen Lily?"

"Not today," Peter said. "Why?"

"Did you check her room?" Sirius asked.

"Oh, right," Lily heard Remus say. "She's probably packing."

Lily heard footsteps and then Remus was standing in the doorway.

"Hey," he said.

"Hi."

"All packed?"

"Yep. Did it all last night." She checked her watch. "We'd better hurry."

"We're all done. I think we're just waiting for Prongs." A pause, and then, "Have you started studying for N.E.W.T.s yet?"

"Erm, no. I should, but with everything that's been going on..."

"Right. That makes sense."

"I'm going to start as soon as we get back to school, though."

"Aren't you worried about the tests?"

"Yeah, but they're just like O.W.L.s and I did fine on those. Then again, Emily and I were study buddies, so I was pretty prepared."

"Well, you had to study twice as long if you were studying with Emily."

Lily laughed. "This is true."

Remus looked like he was going to say something, but a voice behind him spoke first. "If you're ready to go, you can start loading things into the car."

"Okay, thanks," Remus responsded to Mr. Potter with a smile.

Mr. Potter poked his head into the room. "Lily, do you need help with your stuff?"

"Nope. I've got it," Lily smiled.

Mr. Potter disappeared and Remus turned back to face Lily. "Where's Archimedes?"

"I don't know," Lily said, eyeing the cage again. "Still delivering Peter's letter, I guess." She tucked the cage under one arm and grabbed her trunk with her free hand.

"Need help?"

"Nope," she repeated.

"Okay. I should get my stuff anyway."

He left and Lily started to pull her things out into the corridor. When she got to the top of the staircase, she set the cage down and took hold of the trunk with both hands as she carefully pulled it down the stairs. Then, she ran back upstairs to get the cage. Once she had everything in order again, she dragged the trunk all the way outside with relative ease, having finally learned her way around the Potter's house.

Mr. Potter was organizing everything into the car so it would all fit. Once her trunk was loaded, Lily decided to stay and help him rather than go back inside. The four trunks, the broomsticks and other belongings that were already in the car all fit comfortably.

Lily gave a small smile to Mr. Potter. She hadn't spent much time with James's parents over the last few days, and there was a certain amount of awkwardness in her doing so now.

"Lily, I've been wanting a word with you."

"Huh?" she said, taken aback. "Okay."

"How're you doing?" he asked, concerned.

"I-I'm fine. I mean, some minutes are harder than others, but I'm okay."

Mr. Potter watched her skeptically. "It's okay to not be okay, you know."

"I know. But I am. Okay, I mean. Definitely not great, but I'm getting better."

After a brief silence, she spoke again. "Thank you."

"For what?"

"Everything. Letting me stay here and-"

"Don't mention it," Mr. Potter cut in, avoiding her eyes and scratching his head. Lily got the impression he didn't handle thanks well, so she let it drop there. "And finally my son emerges," he said cheerfully.

Turning, Lily saw James approaching followed by Remus, Sirius and Peter. James loaded his things into the car while Remus Sirius and Peter slid into the backseat.

"You take the front, Lily," Mr. Potter said.

Yawning, Lily sat herself in the front seat and then started looking in her bag for a book to read. Mr. Potter started the car and pulled out of the drive.

"We're going to make excellent time," he said happily.

Unable to focus on her book for long, Lily rested her head against the headrest and barely managed to stay awake while she listened to the seemingly distant sounds of James, Sirius, Remus and Peter talking.

She was certain she drifted off more than once, but was awake by the time they pulled into the train station. With Mr. Potter's help, the five students were able to load all of their belongings onto trolleys and pass through the barrier onto Platform 9 3/4 unnoticed by any Muggles.

The Platform was bustling with students and parents clambering onto the train and saying their goodbyes. A few times, Lily was certain that her schoolmates were looking at her strangely, whispering while looking curiously in her direction. She convinced herself she was being paranoid, said goodbye to Mr. Potter, and boarded the train.

She found an empty compartment and pulled her things inside. The door to the compartment opened and Remus entered as well.

"Want help?" he asked.

"Yes, please," she said, not willing to move her heavy trunk up to its place alone if she didn't have to. Together, they got both of their trunks secure just before Sirius and Peter entered.

"James is getting lectured on being careful," Sirius told them. "We could be at Hogwarts before his dad decides he's gotten the message."

Lily sat near the window and rested her head against the sill, her mind fuzzy with lack of sleep.

"Anyone up for a game of Wizard’s Chess?" Remus asked.

"I'll play," Peter piped up quickly.

The compartment door opened a final time and an exasperated and breathless James came in just as the train started to move.

"My dad told me to tell you all not to wander around the Forbidden Forest at night or in the daytime because you can never know what's lurking in the shadows. Honestly, he is the most paranoid person I have ever known," he said as he sat in the seat next to Lily.

"He's just worried," Lily said sleepily.

"Hogwarts is the safest place in Europe," James argued. "Nothing is going to happen there." He tilted his head, looking at her in some concern. "Are you all right?"

She nodded. "Just sleepy." She sat up straight. "You all were up later than I was. Why aren’t you tired?" She said looking at Remus, who appeared to be rather peaky.

"We got enough sleep," Sirius said.

"Yeah," Peter agreed, not looking up from the game. "We've stayed up all night before."

"That wouldn't happen if you did your homework earlier," Lily said, still feeling like she might fall asleep at any moment.

"Not doing homework," Peter said distractedly.

Under normal circumstances, Lily might have asked what they were doing or listened in amused silence as Emily pestered them for an answer, but at that moment she was just too tired to question anything. She leaned against James, who wrapped his arms around her in a sort of a hug.

"You should go to sleep," he said. "It's not like you don't have the time."

An ear splitting scream shattered the peaceful silence. Lily didn't remember turning around, but suddenly she saw a masked face shoot a purple jet of something out of his wand toward a cowering figure in the corner. A larger figure pushed the first out of the way and took the force of the spell itself.

Another scream. Lily frantically looked around, but she couldn't see where it was coming from.

The larger figure was speaking, but she was unable to understand; it was as though he were speaking in a foreign language. Then there was a burst of green light and the larger figure fell to the ground with no other sound than the thud of dead weight hitting the floor.

Another scream. This time, it was longer and louder, more afraid or in more pain than the first two times.

No one seemed to notice Lily was there as this fight raged on around her.

Lily's eyes flew open. Sirius and Peter were playing Exploding Snap, Remus, who looked to be sweating very slightly, was reading his Potions book, and James, who still had one arm wrapped around her, was talking.

She sat up quickly, her heart pounding, and looked around the cabin as if expecting Death Eaters to pop out at any minute. James stopped mid-sentence. "You all right?"

"Yes," Lily said at once. "I just forgot where I was."

James nodded in acceptance of her answer and then said, "You've been out for a long time. I was starting to think you'd sleep all the way there."

Lily checked her watch. "I was asleep for three hours?! It didn't seem like it."

"How can you keep track of time when you're asleep?" Peter asked.

James looked as if he were going to respond, but Lily spoke first.

"The dream I had was only a few minutes long."

"What was it about?" Peter questioned.

"I don't know," Lily said, looking over at Remus who was poring over the page he was reading. "See any exciting new Potions, Remus?"

"Exciting and complicated," he said, turning the page. "I hope we don't have to do these in the exams."

Lily sighed. "I'm going to study for Bursnell's exam."

"What exam?" Sirius asked.

"He told us he's giving us an exam first day of term after the Easter holidays," she reminded him.

"He can't do that!" Peter objected. "I don't remember anything we learned." His voice was almost a whine.

"So open up your books and study," Remus suggested, still reading.

Peter looked around as though searching his friends' faces for anyone who would volunteer to study for him and then magically transfer the information to his brain. When he realized no such offer would be made, he grudgingly took out one of his own books and, huffing and muttering to himself, disappeared behind it.

Lily dug through her stuff until she found her Defense Against the Dark Arts notes and began studying them as well. She didn't cease reviewing for all of her classes until the train arrived at Hogsmeade Station. When they were all preparing to deboard the train, Lily's mind drifted back to her nightmare as she pondered the meaning of it.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

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Last edited by HermioneLuna; June 7th, 2005 at 10:07 pm.
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Old June 2nd, 2005, 2:00 am
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Pranks and Preparation


The next morning, Lily sat on Emily's bed while Emily prepared to go down to the Great Hall for breakfast. Lily had awoken early and was already ready. They often woke up early or stayed up late talking; it was part of what made them so close, despite their backgrounds. As far as Lily was concerned, Emily was family, even more than Petunia was. And the feeling was entirely mutual.

The other girls in the dorm were absorbed in their own things: either finally unpacking, finishing their assignments at the last minute, or reading.

Emily was standing in front of a mirror, attempting to brush her usually curly hair straight as she listened to Lily.

"I mean, I know I'm taking on a huge load, but it'll be worth it in the end."

"Definitely. I've already figured out my future. It's Minister of Magic all the way," Emily said. "Then I could get rid of the stupid laws and bylaws we have."

"Like what?" Lily inquired interestedly.

"Like the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Magic. That law makes no sense. As though the day before our 17th birthday we lack the common sense not to use magic in front of Muggles, but once it's officially our birthday we're smart enough to know better? That's so stupid," Emily said as she stopped trying to straighten her hair.

"And it's not like all of us listen, anyway, is it?" Lily added. "I've performed 'illegal' spells before. They don't care enough to do anything except warn us."

Emily had begun trying to smooth her hair down again and seemed to be only half listening to Lily. "Well, when I'm Minister, the laws will actually be logical and everyone will follow them," she said distractedly.

"And if they don't?"

"They'll be punished, of course. I figure I can unleash the wrath of Lily Evans on them. That'll teach them," she said jokingly. She threw her brush down in frustration and marched over to a wooden box on the side of her bed and began pawing through it for something.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Lily challenged teasingly.

"Well, let's see, shall we?" she began, finding what she was looking for and walking back over to the mirror. "You've got the temper of an angry wasp---"

Lily gasped in mock indignation. "Well, you haven't got the personality of sweetened honey, either, Emily Lowsley."

"Good. Perfect girls annoy me," Emily said as she started to pull her hair into a ponytail.

"Then how can you ever stand to be friends with me?" Lily put on a face of mock innocence.

"I only put up with you so that if I get into trouble, you can get me out of it."

"Is that so?"

"Oh, yes," Emily said, smiling. "Otherwise, I'd have no use for you whatsoever."

"You're going to regret that, Emily," Lily said, trying and failing to sound serious. "Maybe not today, no wait, today, when you need help with classes."

"Merlin!" Emily exclaimed. She tied her hair with the tie that was in her box as she practically ran the few steps to the trunk alongside her bed.

"Forget to do your assignments again?" Lily asked, completely not surprised by this reaction.

Emily opened her trunk and started pawing through the contents. "I did most of it," she replied distractedly. "I just forgot to finish the Defense Against the Dark Arts work. It didn't make any sense to me." Emily found what she was looking for and stood up. She handed the assignment to Lily.

"Erm, what do you want me to do?" Lily asked, though she knew full well what Emily wanted.

"I know, I know. 'How will I ever learn,' right? Just this once, Lily. Please? Have I ever asked you to do my assignments for me before?"

"Yes."

"Fair enough. But have you ever done them?"

"No."

"So the way I see it, you owe me. Please?"

"I'll help, but I don't really get it either."

"Then how'd you do it?"

"I struggled through it. If I were smart, I'd have asked someone," muttered Lily, thinking back to how she'd forced herself through it.

"Like who? Petunia?" Emily said tauntingly, knowing full well Lily would never ask her sister's help on anything.

Lily laughed. "I could have owled you or someone else."

"Well, if you don't get it, you can't explain it to me." Emily turned to face the rest of the girls. "Anyone want to help me with Defense Against the Dark Arts?" she called out.

She was met with half-hearted, non-committal responses.

"And that's a resounding 'no,'" she said disappointedly. "I'm open to suggestions," she informed Lily.

"You could ask Remus," Lily volunteered. "He's really good with that stuff."

"Erm, well that's an idea," Emily said hesitantly.

Lily raised an eyebrow. "Why wouldn't you ask him?"

"He's a little, you know..."

"No I don't," Lily replied more defensively than she intended. "What is he?"

"Standoffish?" Emily tried. "He doesn't really like to socialize."

"That's not true. I'm friends with him. How would that be possible if he didn't socialize?"

"That's not what I meant...He's shy. He might not like me randomly asking for his help at the last minute."

"He won't care."

"Yeah, but..." Her voice trailed off.

"Oh. I get it," Lily said with realization in her voice. "It isn't Remus you're worried about bothering."

"Shut it, Lily," Emily said playfully as she set her homework down and tried to study it.

Lily just laughed.

"I fail to see what's funny," Emily said indignantly.

Lily laughed harder.

Emily sighed. "I better go ask if I'm planning to pass the course." Emily walked over to the door of the dorm. Lily grabbed her bookbag which held all her summer work, scrambled off the bed and followed.

"Right behind you," Lily laughed as she followed her friend out.

They found Remus in the Great Hall, sitting with his usual group of friends. They were talking in quiet voices as the girls approached.

James was the first to speak. "Hello again, Evans," he said as he scooted over, allowing her room to sit down. "What can I do for you?"

Lily stared at him a moment before taking the space he offered. There was no use starting any sort of argument over something so trivial. Emily was still standing, shifting her weight from foot to foot.

"Emily, why don't you sit here?" Remus offered as he too moved over to open a spot between him and Sirius.

"Thanks, Remus," Emily said as she took the seat.

"We were just talking about you," Sirius said.

"Oh were you?" Emily said in what she clearly thought was a casual voice. "Talking about how you just can't live without us? Because we already knew that."

"Prongs told us-" Sirius began, but Emily interrupted.

"Prongs. That's James, right? James and Prongs. I don't get it."

"Let it go, Emily," Lily said. "They aren't going to tell us."

"Never give up, never surrender!" Emily exclaimed playfully and Sirius laughed a loud laugh that sounded more like a bark. Emily gave him a pleased smile.

"So you said you were talking about us. What about?" Lily asked.

"That house unity thing you thought of," Sirius spoke up.

"I don't think it's very likely, but I could be wrong," Peter commented.

"It's likely if everyone agrees to it."

"Yeah," Peter agreed. "But what are the chances of that?"

"Well, I for one, think it's a worthwhile idea," Remus said.

"We didn't come down here to talk about that, anyway," Emily said. "I, erm, needed some help with my Defense Against the Dark Arts work." She could see Sirius watching her as she spoke and her cheeks started to burn, but she plowed on anyway. "And, Remus, you're really good at that. So I thought maybe you could help me?"

"Sure," Remus nodded. "Where is it?"

"It's, erm, oh I must have left it in the dorm," she said, her cheeks flushing more at the thought of Sirius Black being witness to her carelessness.

"That's no problem," Remus assured her. "We can just go get it."

"You'd better hurry," James advised. "Our first class is about to start."

"What?!" Emily practically shouted. "How do you know that?"

"McGonagall just passed out the schedules."

Before James could continue, Emily had grabbed Remus by the arm and was practically dragging him out of the Great Hall.

"Looks like Moony's got himself a girlfriend," Sirius commented.

"Moony and Emily?" Peter asked.

"Yeah," Sirius replied casually. "You saw how nervous she got."

Lily smiled to herself. She was amused at how much they mistook the vibes Emily was giving off. While the boys debated Emily's true emotions, Lily picked up another piece of toast. She was nervous about starting her N.E.W.T. classes, so she decided not to eat very much.

"What's so funny, Evans?" James questioned, evidently noticing her smile.

Lily bit a piece of toast and shrugged, still unable to hide her grin.

"Now now, Evans. It's not fair to keep secrets," James said lightheartedly. "What do you know that we don't?"

Lily looked at the three boys in turn; first Peter, who looked confused, then Sirius who seemed interested in the answer, and finally James who smiled at her in an obvious attempt to convince her to tell by using his charm. Lily felt her stomach fill with butterflies at the sight of it. Even though she hid it well, she thought.

She cleared her throat, smiled a sweet smile, and responded, "What's the first class today?"

James handed her his copy of the class schedule for the Gryffindor seventh years. She skimmed it quickly. Her first class was Charms.

"So, Evans, what are you hiding?"

"Hmmm? I don't know what you're talking about," she replied innocently, handing the schedule back. "I'm going to get to Charms. I don't want to be late." She grabbed another piece of toast and left in a hurry.

She didn't want to stick around James, not because he was frustrating her, but because he wasn't. He hadn't annoyed her once in that brief encounter and she was of two minds concerning it. She wanted to leave before he did upset her as well as leave in the event he didn't. So far as she knew, he had no idea of her feelings for him and she didn't want him to know. Not until he deflated his head. By sticking around and conversing pleasantly, James might pick up on her true feelings. He wasn't stupid, after all.

Lily slipped into her classroom and took a seat. She was alone, as most of the students were still at breakfast. She began to unload her Charms assignments and prepare for her lesson.

Other students started filing into the room soon after Lily arrived. James, Sirius and Peter sat in the very back of the class, just behind Lily. When Remus and Emily came in, Emily took the empty seat next to Lily and Remus and Peter sat a few rows ahead.

Professor Flitwick was a short, but friendly wizard. He spoke with a squeaky voice and generally always had a cheerful disposition. After taking attendance, Flitwick began his lesson.

As Lily had expected, he spent the first quarter of an hour telling his class that N.E.W.T. exams would make all the difference in what careers they could chose from. After he finished, he brought his students' attention to matters which were must closer at hand.

"We're going to start today with a review. Ms. Mckinnon, do you know the incantation for the Exploding Charm?"

Ravenclaw Marlene Mckinnon blinked once or twice as though gathering her thoughts before responding. "It's Exedifisto, I think."

"Very good," Flitwick congratulated her. "Mr. Bones, please explain the Fidelius Charm."

"The what?" Edgar Bones questioned.

"The Fidelius Charm," Flitwick repeated, smiling kindly.

"S-Sorry?" he asked timidly. Flitwick patiently repeated the question.

"I..." he looked around desperately, as though hoping someone would be holding a sign with the answer on it. "The Fidelius Charm," he tried. Then he sighed and looked down at his desk in defeat. "I don't know."

"Very well," Flitwick said. "Ms. Evans, perhaps you can answer the query?"

Lily looked back to her professor. "It's a complicated charm that's used to hide a secret in one person called the Secret Keeper. As long as the Secret Keeper keeps the secret, no one can ever find out what it is. And no one can find out from anyone that the Secret Keeper tells. It has to be from the person themselves."

"Exactly!" Flitwick agreed, then he turned to speak to the entire class. "This year you will be learning some of the most complicated charms in your time at Hogwarts. Included in those charms will be the exploding and imploding charms, the Fidelius Charm, and the bubblehead charm. Of course, there are others. It's important that you study and prepare for every lesson. These charms can and will go very wrong if not treated with care. We will begin this term perfecting Exedifisto, so if you will all come get a cup upon which you will implement the charm..."

Lily was able to perform the charm perfectly on the second try. She was surprised to see that Peter learned it straight away and looked genuinely pleased with himself for the rest of the lesson. It was faster than he had learned anything in all of Lily's memory.

After Charms, the Gryffindors joined the Slytherins for Potions, which was a disaster that left Lily yearning for the ease that was her Charms class. Again they sat in a stupor waiting for their professor to finish his lecture on the importance of N.E.W.T.s. Then he began to instruct him on how to properly concoct their potion for that day. They were supposed to be brewing a Glory Potion; a very complex and sensitive draught that even the slightest mistake would upset.

Lily and Emily were working at the same table. "Be careful of the rat's eyes, Lily," Emily said. "That's two stuck together, not one."

Lily looked at the eye she was supposed to be adding. It was indeed two joined as one. "I don't even want to know how that happened," she said returning the eyes to the jar and picking a new, singular one.

"It's disturbing," Lily heard Peter say. She looked over to the table he was sharing with Remus.

"Sorry?" Remus asked.

"Why would anyone cut out a rat's eyes and use them in a potion? There should be a law against it."

"I didn't know Peter was such an animal lover," Emily commented.

Lily shrugged and returned to her own potion. "Neither did I. He's just full of surprises."

"What are you talking about?"

"Did you see him in Charms? He blew up those cups every time he tried. I've never seen him do that before."

"Yeah. I guess he actually studied for once."

"Emily!" Lily practically shouted.

"What?" Emily froze.

"Watch what you're doing. You almost poured too much mandrake root juice."

"Oh, thanks."

With only a few minutes left of class, Lily was surprised to see that there had been no real incident so far.

"What's that sound?" Emily asked. A quiet hissing noise had just started to fill the room. Lily and Emily peered at their own cauldrons, placing their ears close in order to hear.

"It isn't coming from us."

They looked around and saw a cauldron was bubbling over. A greasy haired, pallid Slytherin stood looking at his cauldron in shock before backing up with such force and speed that he knocked over a housemate standing behind him. Both boys got to their feet in an instant and rushed back toward the door to the room. At the same time, the rest of the students broke out in mass panic, for the potion was charring everything it touched, leaving blackened versions of the objects it passed over behind. Lily and Emily both joined their fellow students in exiting the room as their professor waved his wand to clear the potion.

It was a few moments before anyone was brave enough to venture back into the room, but slowly, the students filtered back in to retrieve their belongings. The room filled with the murmur of everyone trying to figure out what went wrong. Severus Snape usually did fine with potions. Lily didn't have to wonder; she knew. After the professor had dismissed the class with no more than a warning to Severus to be more careful in the future, Lily stormed out in search of the real culprits.

She found them in the Entrance Hall, laughing about their successful prank. "You lot are ridiculous," she began angrily. James, Sirius and Peter looked at her with mock innocent faces. Remus stood a little apart from them and remained silent.

"What are you talking about?" Peter asked with false sweetness in his voice.

"Stop it, Peter!" she said impatiently. "I know very well that you all added things to Severus's potion to get him in trouble. "

"Serves him right," Sirius stated.

"You could seriously have hurt us all! What were you thinking? Or were you even thinking at all? And Potter," she snapped, rounding on James. "You're the Head Boy, for Merlin's sake. How are we supposed to unite the houses when you're attacking the Slytherins?

"I'm not attacking 'the Slytherins,' Evans. It's only Snivellus," James said, apparently thinking Lily was overreacting.

"Isn't it about time you—all of you—grew up?" Lily said, clearly tired of this argument.

"We're just having fun, Evans. Isn't it about time you lightened up?"

"‘Lightened up’?" she said incredulously.

"Yeah.” He ruffled his hair. “A good way to start would be to go out with me."

Lily blinked. "I'm going away now, Potter."

"You can't," James said simply. Lily ignored him and kept walking. "We have to meet with Dumbledore now," he called after her. She stopped, realizing he was right. She turned and stomped back in his direction, walking past him toward Dumbledore's office.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ *~*

Lily, James, Sirius and Peter walked to the place where the horseless carriages would pick them up and take them to Hogwarts. She half listened to Peter telling them about something as she looked around at her fellow students. Again she got the distinct feeling there were unseen eyes watching her and unheard whispers directed at her. She turned to face the crowd, searching for the sources. The carriages pulled to a stop behind her and she turned to climb in.

She stopped dead when she saw something she had never seen before. Dragon-like horses with leathery wings and skin that stretched tight over their bones were pulling what were supposed to be the horseless carriages. Their wide, sightless eyes appeared to gaze right through her. She gasped and refused to climb in, despite the fact that carriages were loading and moving off all around her.

"Wh-what are those?" she demanded.

James, Sirius and Remus, who had been standing with their backs to the carriages while listening to Peter turned as well. James' eyes widened. Sirius looked utterly unsurprised. Remus blinked, shook his head as if to clear it and blinked again. Peter looked confused.

"They're thestrals," Sirius said. "Climb in and we'll tell you about them."

"I'm not getting in anything that has those things pulling them," Lily said defiantly.

"They've always pulled them. You've just never seen them," Peter said, climbing in without hesitation.

Sirius followed him in and Remus followed him. Lily looked at James and back at the carriages. At least if she was going to die when those sinister looking beasts galloped into hell, she wouldn't be alone. She clambered in and James followed her.

"What do you mean they've always pulled them? How come I've never seen them?"

"I don't know. I've never seen them before either, but I know what they are. I heard about them," Peter responded.

"You can't see them until you've seen death," Remus said quietly. "But I thought they were just a myth."

Lily, who was now over her initial shock, said, "Are they evil or something?"

"No. Just ugly," Sirius said.

The carriages came to a halt and they all exited. Lily gave a parting glance to the thestrals and then joined the others in walking toward the castle. She looked at the sky.

"Hey, it's a full moon tonight," she observed.

James, Sirius, Remus and Peter all exchanged shocked glances and then looked at the sky as well.

"No, it isn't," Remus said. "It's close though. It'll be full tomorrow."

"Looks like it'll be one of those huge yellowish moons."

"What?" Remus asked.

"You know. Those giant moons that look like they're much closer to the Earth than usual. You've seen them, right?"

"Wonder where Archimedes is," James wondered out loud. "Does he usually take this long to come back from delivering a letter?"

"Depends on how far he has to go. It took him a few days to get to your house and back."

"It's been a week, hasn't it?" Sirius inquired as they climbed the stairs and entered the entrance hall.

"I don't know," Lily responded. "I've sort of lost track of the days."

They started climbing the stairs to Gryffindor Tower. Lily fell into silence, but for the first time in days, she wasn't lost in her own isolated world. This time, she listened as her friends talked about Quidditch and N.E.W.T.s.

"They shouldn't make us go to classes on the day right after a holiday," Peter said as they climbed through the portrait hole. "Some of us forget things."

"Like how many porcupine quills go into a Glory Potion," Sirius said.

"Like our Potions books," Peter said. "I asked my parents send it back, but they probably forgot I even wrote to them. They know I'm alive cause of the letter, so they'll probably wait until the next attack before writing back."

"Caring parents you've got there, Wormtail," Remus said sarcastically.

"Are you sure they're okay?" Lily asked.

"If they weren't, it'd be in the Daily Prophet," Peter said dismissively.

A thought suddenly struck Lily. "How many people here do you think get the Daily Prophet?"

"At least half," Sirius said. "Why?"

"At Platform 9 3/4 and then at Hogsmeade station, I thought people were...I don't know, talking about me I guess. I thought I was just being paranoid, but what if they read about the attacks?"

"What if they did?" Peter asked impatiently. "It's not new these days. No one is going to care about a couple Muggles dying anymore."

"Shut it, Wormtail," James said, angry and threatening.

Peter mumbled something about being tired and disappeared up the boys’ dormitory staircase.

"I don't want the whole school knowing," Lily continued. "I should be able to tell them when I want to."

"They might not know," James said.

"What are you talking about? Of course they know. It was in the Daily Prophet and Voldemort himself was-"

"'Evans' is a popular surname," James reminded her. "All the Prophet said was that a family called Evans was murdered by Voldemort. There weren't any specifics."

Lily wanted to argue that this was different, that it wasn't a mass Muggle murder, that it was one family who was killed in their own home, but she decided against it. He was right. There were a lot of Evanses in the world.

She said goodnight to all three boys and then climbed up to her own dorm. She assumed the other girls would be asleep since it was late and classes were to resume the next day. When she actually entered her dorm, however, she saw that the others were still quite awake, talking amongst themselves. When they saw her, Lily's dorm-mates fell into silence and looked around at her cautiously.

Ignoring them, Lily walked over to her bed, sat down, and was about to pull the hangings shut when she heard, "Is it true?"

"Is what true?" she asked politely.

"It said in the Daily Prophet that...that You Know Who attacked your family," Alyson Domville said.

"No. The Daily Prophet said that people with the surname Evans were attacked. Half of England has that surname. It wasn't me."

"Oh," her dorm-mate replied, somewhat disappointedly.

"I'm going to sleep," Lily announced, pulling the hangings shut around her.

The thought of having to deal with that all day the next day was her last before she drifted off to sleep.

The following morning, Lily woke up early, dressed quickly, and exited the dorm before any of the girls had a chance to question her again. She went down to the Great Hall alone, and decided to start studying for classes again. She was soon joined by James, Remus, Sirius and Peter.

"Sleep well?" James asked.

"Yep," Lily said cheerfully, looking up from her notes. "You?"

"Like a baby."

"That doesn't surprise anyone," Sirius remarked.

"What're you studying?" Peter asked.

"Charms. First class of the day."

"Why do you bother studying that?" Sirius inquired. "You're great at charms."

"Or maybe I'm great at charms because I study a lot," Lily pointed out.

"Or maybe you're trying to confuse me into studying," Sirius countered.

"You're fighting a losing battle, Lily," Remus said with a smile. "He wouldn't study for one exam even if he were being threatened with Unforgivables."

Lily looked at Remus with concern. He looked like he was coming down with a bad flu or some other illness. His skin was paler than usual and his eyes were bleary.

"Are you okay?" she questioned.

"Yeah," he responded, looking confused. "Why?"

"You look ill. Maybe you should go see Madam Pomfrey."

"I'm not ill," he began.

"Well, you aren't well, either," Lily insisted. "I've never seen you look so sick. Madam Pomfrey will help cure whatever you've got or are getting. It could be contagious and you don't want to be spreading a contagious illness during N.E.W.T.s. And even if it isn't contagious, you don't want to be sick..."

"Okay, Lily," he said, laughing. "I'll go see her tonight."

"Good," Lily responded, now searching for her Transfiguration notes.

Sirius gave James a look.

James shrugged. "She's your friend," he said casually, looking over Lily's shoulder at her notes.

"Yeah," Sirius said, "but she's your-"

"That isn't right," James said, pointing at something on Lily's notes.

Lily looked at the excerpt he was pointing at and read it out loud.

"On average Animagi training takes one year. The Animagi are usually able to choose into what animal to turn. What?" she asked, looking at him. "Yes it is."

James shook his head. "It can take three years to become an Animagus.

"And they can't choose what animal to change into," Sirius added.

"But, this is what McGonagall told us."

"I didn't take notes," Sirius said, "but I know about Animagi. Trust me."

"How do you know so much about them?" Lily asked, interested.

"We've done independent research," James said. "McGonagall talked about them in class years ago, but never told us how it was done, so we looked it up."

Lily looked at them, impressed. She had just begun to realize that there were sides to James she had never before seen and wondered what else she didn't know about him.

"Did you think we got head of our classes because of our good looks?" James teased.

"If you're sure," she said, "I guess I could have written this down wrong." She took out a quill and changed it.

"Hi, Lily," said a voice behind her.

She turned to see a boy she recognized as a Hufflepuff, but hadn't ever interacted with before.

"Hi, erm..."

"Terrance," he answered her unasked question.

"Hi," she said again.

"I wanted to ask you something," he stated.

"Okay."

"I read in the Daily Prophet that some people called Evans were attacked-"

"If you're about to ask if it's me, then I should tell you there are a lot of people with my surname."

"Yeah," Terrance said. "Yeah, I knew that, but I wanted to know if it was you. Guess it wasn't then." He turned and left.

"He's the second person to ask me. I'm going to change my last name," Lily said, irritated.

"How about Lily Potter?" James asked.

Butterflies began to flutter in her stomach as she thought it may not be so bad. "Lily Potter?" she repeated, as though contemplating the sound of it. "I don't know. Sounds weird to me," she teased.

"Come on, Moony," Sirius said, standing up. "If these two are about to start making googly eyes at each other, I'm going to lose my breakfast."

Peter looked at his watch. "We're late anyway."

"What?" Lily questioned.

"Almost late, I mean."

Without a word, Lily grabbed her bag and she and James walked toward their Charms class. He interlocked his fingers with hers and she smiled at him, appreciating how much he'd been there for her. She knew Flitwick wouldn't be upset, but with N.E.W.T.s. rapidly approaching, she didn't want to miss anything.

Just as she expected, Charms class that day was the most difficult she had ever attended. They were learning how to make inanimate objects talk.

"We can make our own Sorting Hats," Peter squeaked excitedly.

"No we can't," James contradicted. "Our hats only repeat the same words. They don't think."

Lily spent the entire class studying the method by which to charm the hat, and by the end of the lesson, she was the only one who had perfected the Animus charm.

In Potions, however, she was not so fortunate. That day they were learning how to concoct The Draught of Living Death, which was even more sensitive than the Glory Potion. She accidentally added too much root juice and not enough caterpillar legs. In the end she was left with something that might have passed for foul smelling tar, but not any digestible potion.

A few tables away from her, she saw Severus bottling his potion, which was the colorless liquid they were told it was supposed to be. He looked quite pleased with himself, but kept casting cautious glances at James and Sirius, as though fearful they might try to sabotage him.

During break, Lily absorbed herself in her Potions notes, determined to memorize the formula and perform it expertly the next time.

"I wonder if I can borrow those ingredients and practice them on my own," she told James.

"Probably not," he said. "Most of that stuff is dangerous in the hands of students. Or so I keep being told," he added grudgingly.

"Bugger," she muttered, disappearing behind her notes again.

During Transfiguration, McGonagall announced that they would be doing human to animal transformations. Lily noticed that James, who was sitting next to her, shared almost conspiratorial looks with Sirius until McGonagall said that they would only be transfiguring their heads. She assured them that the spell would wear off on its own in a matter of minutes.

Lily was apprehensive about pointing her wand at her head in an attempt to change it into any sort of animal, and judging from the looks of shock and caution on her classmates’ faces, she was not alone. She intended to pretend to practice without actually aiming a spell at her head, but McGonagall said it might show up on their N.E.W.T.s., so she actually put forth a real effort. In the end, she managed to grow bunny ears that disappeared almost as soon as she completed the spell.

After Transfiguration was Defense Against the Dark Arts. Bursnell was even more boring than usual. He lectured them on the importance of preparation before passing out the tests he had promised them before Easter.

Lily looked at the first question.

Explain the inherent danger in counter-defensive spells.

Picking up her quill, she began to fill out the exam.

After class, Lily, James, Sirius, Remus and Peter all filed into the Great Hall for dinner. Lily pulled out her Potions notes again and started studying again.

"It's really bothering you, isn't it?" James asked.

"What is?" Lily asked. "Oh! Yes it is. I really want to get in there and try again."

James smiled, exchanged a look with Remus, Sirius and Peter and then began eating.

"What was that about?" Lily asked.

"Don't know what you mean," James responded innocently.

"I'm sure you don't," Lily responded skeptically, but was too emotionally worn out to press the issue.

"Has anyone been asking you about the Prophet article?" Remus inquired.

"No, thank God," Lily said. "Everyone's too busy." Lily herself had felt too busy to grieve, so it was little surprise to her that others were too busy to question her. She stuffed her Potions notes back into her bag. "I'm going to go to class. See you all later."

"Did you even eat anything?" James asked.

"Not hungry," she said. She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and rushed out of the hall.

After her final classes, Lily made her way to the Common Room to start on all the assignments she had been given that day. Taking a spot near the fireplace, she spread out all her papers and books and absorbed herself in working, almost totally oblivious to the housemates around her. After some time, James and his friends entered the Common Room, and without hesitation, disappeared into their dorm.

When they came back out, they appeared to have seen Lily for the first time and walked over to her. "What're you doing?" Peter asked nervously.

"Studying," Lily responded. "Lots of homework and not enough time."

"Well, don't work too fast," Peter said. "We're going to need to copy, I mean, get help from you." He smiled at his joke.

"No time like the present to start working," Lily said, returning to her Transfiguration homework.

"Much as we'd love to," James said. "We've got something else to do."

"Really?"

"We'd better hurry," Remus said, checking his watch. "We don't have much time."

"Much time for what?" Lily asked.

"Never you mind," James said cheerfully. Lily smiled slightly at him, realizing how much he had changed in the last few months and also recognizing how much she had changed as well. "See you later."

James, Sirius, Remus and Peter left without another word. Lily watched them go, wondering what they could be up to.

The following day passed very much like the previous one. They learned new spells, potions, and transfigurations that they were told might show up on their N.E.W.T.s exams. Lily managed to find some time to brew The Draught of Living Death and concocted a brew she was quite pleased with. At least, she thought, it isn't cement.

That night, she ventured up into the boys' dorms, intending to talk to them, but they were nowhere to be found. Shrugging, she went back into the Common Room. She looked around the room at the semi-familiar faces. She wasn't particularly close with anyone else in Gryffindor and wasn't sure she wanted to impose her company upon any conversation. Instead, she finished her studying, did her patrols, and went to bed.

The next morning, she found James, Sirius and Peter in the Great Hall, looking worn and sleepy. James had a rather large cut across his cheek that looked mostly healed and Sirius was poking at a bandage on his neck.

"What happened?" she asked, concerned and taking a seat next to James.

"Nothing important," James said, yawning.

"'Nothing important'?" Lily whispered, slightly hurt that he wouldn't confide in her. She touched the wound. "Does that hurt?"

"No. Madam Pomfrey sent us off straight away."

Lily's hand dropped. "If you had to go to her, then it was important. What happened?"

"Snivellus attacked them," Peter said quickly. "He jumped out at them last night."

"He got you both?" she asked looking between James and Sirius. "But where's Remus?"

"Hospital Wing," James said.

"So he was coming down with something," Lily said. "Or is he hurt like the two of you?"

""He'll be fine," Sirius responded.

Lily looked at Sirius and a thought occurred to her. This isn't the first time Sirius and James have been injured and Remus hasn't been anywhere around. And where were they last night? Working? James never even showed up for patrols.

She blinked away from Sirius and looked at James, whose eyes were transfixed upon her. He seemed not to need a reason for his pointed stare, but seemed content to gaze upon her.

And now he's got a huge gash on his face and he's saying it's nothing. She reached out and touched his face again. That's not nothing. It looks like a wild animal clawed him.

"Are you sure you're all right? It looks like you were attacked by something. And I don't mean Severus."

"I'm fine," he said, taking her hand in his and moving it away from his face. "You worry too much," he added with an amused smile.

"I do not," Lily said in mock indignation. "It just looks like-"

"Post is here," Peter announced happily.

Lily allowed herself to be distracted by the hundreds of owls flying over her head. One large owl landed gracefully in front of Peter and stretched out his leg. Peter untied the letter and Archimedes took a sip of his pumpkin juice before flying off to the owlery.

"Your parents wrote back then," Lily observed.

"Yeah," said Peter, reading the letter. "But they forgot my Potions book."

"You really look on the bright side of things, don't you, Peter?" Lily asked.

"I can't study without it," Peter said.

"Couldn't you borrow one?"

Peter looked as though he had been waiting for Lily to say this. "I wanted to use-"

"Wormtail," Sirius cut in abruptly, "just ask Poole."

"But-"

"Come on," Sirius interrupted again. "We're going to be late."

"No, we aren't. We've got-"

But Sirius was already moving away. Lily watched his retreating form, wondering if she had done something to cause his sudden change in behavior.

As if reading her mind, James said, "Come on. I'll explain."

He stood and waited for her to do the same. Lily walked alongside him, wondering what was really causing the cuts and bruises James and Sirius seemed so constantly to be receiving, what was going on with Remus, and what the catalyst was for Sirius's abruptness just a few moments before.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
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  #7  
Old June 6th, 2005, 11:11 pm
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HermioneLuna  Undisclosed.gif HermioneLuna is offline
Fifth Year
 
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Testing the Waters

Lily and James walked in silence toward Dumbledore's office. Lily was so angry at James' complete lack of regard for what they were supposed to be trying to create between the houses that she couldn't even form her anger into words, so instead she remained quiet. She didn't know what was going on in James' mind and she didn't care.

They reached the ugly stone gargoyle that marked the entrance to Dumbledore's office and stopped. Lily couldn't remember the password Dumbledore had given the night before. She didn't want to ask James if he remembered. So instead she waited, hoping Dumbledore might show or move the gargoyle from the inside.

"Fizzing Whizbee," James told the gargoyle. It moved to the side and he stepped onto the spiraling staircase without so much as a glance at Lily. Lily followed him up and to the door of the office. James knocked on the door and it swung open to grant them entry.

Dumbledore was sitting behind his desk, reading a parchment, which he set down when Lily and James came in. "Welcome Miss Evans, Mr. Potter. Please take a seat. I understand you've written a House Unity plan."

Lily and James sat across from him and James began digging in his bag for something. He produced a rolled up parchment, unrolled and skimmed it and then said, "Yes, sir. This is it." He handed it to Dumbledore.

The Headmaster read over the plans that Lily had written and James had revised. Lily didn't know the changes he had made, and was nervous about how her ideas had been altered. Dumbledore set the parchment down on his desk, steepled his fingers and looked between the two of them.

Lily's insides started twisting around. She had felt that it was a bad idea, yet she went through with it. "I-it's just an idea, sir. The first one we thought of...We can try something else, if you don't like it."

"On the contrary, Miss Evans," Dumbledore said lightly. "I think this is just what we need to break down House barriers. You and Mr. Potter have done a fine job."

Lily smiled, pleasantly surprised, and her insides began to settle. "Now what, Professor?"

Dumbledore handed the list back to them and James took it. "We will gather these students," Dumbledore said, "and they shall be briefed on this project."

Over the next few minutes, they quickly made plans for how best to approach the students with their plan, then Dumbledore dismissed James and Lily to continue on with that day's lessons. They had spent their break talking with Dumbledore and had to go right back to their classes.

Next was Transfiguration class. As soon as the students settled in, McGonagall began to speak. To nobody's surprise, she started with a lecture on the importance of N.E.W.T.s Then she began on that day’s lesson.

"Today we will learn how to transfigure one animal into another."

Lily noticed that James, Lupin, Sirius and Peter immediately looked much more interested than they had moments before. She smiled in amusement at their reaction. Their interest was squelched, though, when McGonagall spent most of the class giving detailed and complex notes on how to properly transfigure the animals.

When McGonagall finally allowed them to practice the spell, Lily wished she were still listening to the lecture. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't get her gerbil to turn into anything except a gerbil. At one point, managed to levitate her animal a few inches off her desk, but it simply landed with a thud, looking at her with boredom in its eyes. By the end of class, Lily was disappointed that she hadn't managed to successfully perform the spell, though she wasn't the only one. Only two students managed to transfigure their gerbils completely into a bird: James and Sirius. Peter was able to make his grow a beak. Emily managed both wings and a beak. But otherwise, all the students had failed as miserably as Lily.

After Transfiguration, was Defense Against the Dark Arts. The entire class was a lecture on what was to be learned that year. Lily was thoroughly uninterested as she much preferred to do hands on work.

Following Defense Against the Dark Arts was lunch where Lily and Emily were chatting animatedly about what happened at the meeting with Dumbledore.

"So Dumbledore thinks it's a good idea?"

"That's what he said," Lily responded as she took a bite of her food.

"Wow. Bet-" Her next few words were unintelligable around her food. "...happy to hear that."

"What?"

"James. He didn't seem too thrilled about it," Emily said through a mouthful. "I think he was hoping Dumbledore would be against it."

"Probably," Lily said as she chewed. "But he made some changes, so I think he's happy with it."

"Really? What changes?"

"You know, I don't know. I never looked at it before he gave it to Professor Dumbledore."

"Well, Dumbledore agreed. So it couldn’t have been too bad."

"You know what I think is odd?"

"What's that?"

"That spell we learned in Transfiguration is incredibly complicated, but some people were able to get it with no problem. It's like they've been practicing or something."

"I don't think so," Lily said, utterly unaffected by Emily's abrupt change in topic. "They can't have learned anything that advanced before today." She checked her watch. "We should go talk to McGonagall."

"Why?" Emily looked as if Lily had just suggested sneaking up on a mad hippogriff.

"To get our schedules. I only looked at Potter's schedule and our last classes are going to be different because of our N.E.W.T.s."

"Oh right."

They made their way to the staff table to talk to McGonagall. After getting the information for their classes, they left the Great Hall and went to their next lessons. which all passed by quickly. After their final class, the entire school filed into the Great Hall for dinner.

Before the food appeared, Lily and Emily were talking until the hall went quiet. They looked around to see Dumbledore standing, about to make a speech.

"To all those participating in Quidditch this year, kindly gather on the Quidditch pitch after this evening's most-delicious meal. Thank you. And now, tuck in."

Slowly, a low rumble filled the hall as the students wondered out loud what that could be about. When the food appeared, most students forgot about the announcement.

"So how much did James change?" Emily inquired.

It was then that Lily realized she hadn't asked James what changes he'd made. "I don't know. I haven't asked," she said nervously.

"You should ask. With James Potter, you can never be too cautious."

Lily had to admit Emily was right. She left her seat and walked down the table to where James was sitting with his friends. He, Sirius, Peter and Lupin were huddled close together, looking at a piece of parchment again.

"Potter, I need to talk to you," Lily stated.

James turned to face her and ran his fingers through his hair. "Sure, thing, Evans," he said. "What about?"

"The house unity project."

James rolled his eyes and Lily thought he must be in a mildly irritated mood. "Evans, if you're going to yell at me again -"

"No, I just want to see the changes you made on the plans."

"All right." James produced his bag, removed the parchment, and gave it to Lily. She read over it quickly and saw that it was almost completely different.

Lily sighed, thinking she should have expected this. "Potter, this was perfect when I finished it last night. You changed almost everything about this."

"I had to. To balance it out."

"I don't understand. I had the same amount -"

"Evans," he said, smiling cockily. "I don't mean the amount, I mean the people involved." He looked around at the people within earshot and then lowered his voice. "I'll show you." He took the parchment away, found a quill and inkbottle in his bag, and scribbled something on it before giving it back to her.

She read again before realizing what she'd done wrong. "All right, then." She gave the parchment back, slightly embarassed. "Thanks for fixing it." She turned and left before he could respond.

"Well?" Emily questioned when Lily returned.

"It's fine," Lily answered before starting on her dinner. Now we just have to convince everyone else of that, she thought.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ *~*

Six weeks had passed since Lily had pondered the cause of James and Sirius's wounds and of Sirius's sudden change in attitude. In that time, she had only gotten the answer to one of her questions. Peter had mentioned asking Lily to borrow Emily's Potions book, but the boys thought that wouldn't be the best thing to do under the circumstances, so Sirius made a point of ensuring Peter didn't ask.

She had seen Remus later that same day, looking much worse than the previous time she had seen him. She dismissed it as a result of whatever he had caught.

Lily hadn't had time to think about much besides her upcoming N.E.W.T. exams and the thought of what had hurt James and Sirius was not one that was constant in her mind. With classes, studying, and Head Girl duties, she'd barely gotten any sleep in the last few days. Adding to that was the fact that there was a strong likelihood N.E.W.T.s would cover all seven years and not just the previous two.

On Sunday, she spent the majority of the afternoon and evening in the library, hidden behind her notes and books. N.E.W.T.s began the next day, and Lily was determined to be as prepared for them as possible.

On the other side of the table, Remus was also studying while Sirius read a few sentences of his book, only to be bored by it minutes later. Peter had disappeared behind a book. James was perusing one of the shelves. No one had said a word in at least an hour.

"Lily," Remus started. "What was the incantation to make inanimate objects talk?"

"Animus," Lily responded, turning a page in her Transfiguration book.

"Animus," Remus whispered. "Animus," he tried again.

Lily looked up from her page. Remus was flicking his wand at a small, old wizard's hat and repeating the spell.

"You have to jab at it," she said.

Jabbing his wand at the hat, Remus repeated the spell. To Lily, it sounded like the hat might be saying something, but she couldn't hear it. Returning to her own work, she resumed reading her Transfiguration book.

James returned to the table, sat down and began reading the book he had found. No one spoke for a few minutes, and then Lily yawned and said, "If anyone could explain to me how to transfigure an animal into an inanimate object, that would be great."

"It's Ferraverto," James said at once. "And it's just like any other transfiguration. You just have to concentrate."

"I know the incantation," Lily said. "It doesn't work."

"How do you know?" Peter asked, looking at them from around his book.

"I think the fact that it stays an animal and doesn't change into anything might be a clue, Wormtail," Sirius remarked.

"Are you saying it right?" Peter asked, ignoring Sirius though his face went slightly pink.

"Just like James just said it. It doesn't work," she repeated exasperatedly.

"We'll help you with it later, if you want," James offered.

Lily smiled. "Perfect!" She pushed her Transfiguration book aside and pulled her Potions book and notes to her.

"Are you almost done?" Sirius asked impatiently.

"No," chorused everyone present.

Lily had two more subjects to review before she was prepared to trudge all the way back to Gryffindor Tower: Potions and Defense Against the Dark Arts.

Turning to the first page of her Potions book, she saw the first potion listed to be the Glory Potion. Her first thought upon seeing it was the class in which they learned the potion and the memories associated with it. She blinked at the page for a moment, before moving on to the next potion, deciding to review the first one early the next morning.

There wasn't much preparation to be done for Potions, other than reviewing the methods and ingredients for each one. Once Lily thought she had it all figured out, she set to work on Defense Against the Dark Arts.

This was much easier than Potions. Lily found that without Bursnell around, she was actually able to comprehend the material. Once she finished studying, she organized everything according to subject and probable importance on the exams in order to review more quickly just before each. She found that if she kept herself busy, she didn't have a chance to think too much on her parents' deaths, and without that opportunity, the pain didn't hurt as much.

Just as she finished organizing, she heard James laughing softly.

"What's funny?" she asked looking up at him.

"You are."

"I just want to be prepared."

"No one in this school is more prepared than you are. Well, except maybe Moony."

"Right. And I intend to keep it that way. How about you? Are you done?"

James looked down at the scattered parchments in front of him and sighed, distractedly messing his hair. "Not quite."

"All right," Lily responded, yawning again.

"Why don't you go to sleep?"

"It's not that late and I'm waiting. I still need to learn Ferraverto."

"Padfoot can show you that," Remus offered. "It's not as though he's studying."

"I know all this stuff already," Sirius objected.

"How is it you know everything without ever opening a book?" Remus smiled.

"Osmosis."

"Does that mean you'll show me how that spell works?" Lily asked, not to be deterred from her mission of covering every base.

"Yeah," Sirius agreed, getting to his feet and smiling cockily. "Let's go then."

Lily hurriedly collected her study materials and followed him out of the library. "Where are we going?" she asked when she caught up with him.

"Owlery," he replied.

"Erm, Sirius? Why are we going to the owlery?"

"You want to learn how to turn an animal into an inanimate object, right? Well, we need an animal first." They started climbing the first flight of stairs.

"I don't understand. How can there be wizards in this world who can transform themselves into different creatures when I can't even cast a simple transfiguration on an animal?"

Sirius remained quiet, so Lily continued.

"I know there aren't that many, but it's still quite a feat."

"It isn't that amazing," Sirius remarked. "I don't see why anyone is so interested in Animagi. Charms. That's where the interesting things are."

"You think so?"

"Absolutely," Sirius answered as they started on the next flight of stairs. "The charm to make things talk and to hide things. Those come in handy, I bet."

"But there's no charm to become an animal. I'd love to be able to do that one day."

"But the Ministry doesn't track charms like it does Animagi," Sirius countered. "You have to register as an Animagus so the Ministry knows what you're up to. No one makes you register to perform a charm."

"Charms are fun, but they can be boring sometimes. And honestly, a few of them are useless. Why do I need to know how to make a pineapple tap dance? But to have the ability an Animagus has. That's dead useful."

"That depends. Suppose you transform into an ant. Nothing useful there. Most charms are helpful."

"For instance?" Lily asked, climbing the next flight of stairs.

"Wingaurdium Leviosa," Sirius responded, with a slight glint in his eye.

"Well, maybe you have a point there."

They walked on toward the owlery, engaged in conversation about their upcoming exams and how interesting charms may or may not be. Once they arrived, Sirius called to one of the school owls, which flew down and landed on his arm. Lily pulled out her wand and pointed it at the bird.

"Careful where you aim that thing," Sirius cautioned.

"Maybe it would be better if you weren't holding it," Lily suggested.

"It won't hurt me," Sirius said. "Just be careful."

Lily aimed the wand a little to the left of where Sirius was standing, just to be certain she wouldn't accidentally catch him in the spell and then said, "Ferraverto."

A jet of orange light flew out of the tip of the wand and the owl screeched as the light engulfed it. It elevated a little off Sirius’s arm, but landed again, still very much an owl, only angrier. It scratched at Sirius before swooping up to the topmost part of the owlery.

"Merlin!" Lily exclaimed, rushing over to Sirius.

"I'm fine," he started, but Lily cut him off.

"I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to!" She grabbed hold of his arm and inspected it. The cut was barely a flesh wound.

"I'm not even bleeding," he said cheerfully. "You worry too much."

The phrase stirred something in Lily's memory. "Sirius," she began curiously, "where do you and James get all those injuries you always seem to have?"

"We told you," Sirius responded. "Snivellus attacked us."

"I know you, Sirius," Lily countered. "If that's true, why is it you never attack him?"

"I guess we're just afraid you'll come to his rescue again." Sirius smiled in what he obviously thought was a charming way. "We have to get back to the Common Room," he said suddenly. "We can't be out in the corridors this late."

He walked past her and toward the door of the owlery.

"Since when does Sirius Black care about bending the rules a bit?" she asked, following right behind him.

"Tomorrow is the first day of N.E.W.T. exams. I didn't figure you for not getting enough sleep for them. Besides, you'll want to keep practicing Ferraverto."

"Right. So you can't go yet. Not until I learn it. You have to tell me what I'm doing wrong."

Sirius hesitated for a moment before venturing back into the main part of the owlery. "First, you're just pointing your wand. Ferraverto is a lot like Wingaurdium Leviosa. You have to swish and then flick. Second, try to aim directly at what you're transfiguring. And concentrate."

"Is that it?"

"We'll find out, won't we?" Sirius said distractedly. He was trying to coax another owl down, but none seemed too eager to be the next guinea pig in Lily's experiment. Just when Lily was about to tell him to forget it, another owl flew in. It carried a dead frog in its mouth, and Lily assumed it must have been hunting.

"Perfect," Sirius said.

"Maybe you really shouldn't hold it this time," Lily said.

"I'll be fine," he insisted as the owl settled on to his outstretched arm.

Lily pointing her wand at the owl, trying to make sure it was aligned directly at it. Then she swished and flicked her wand, thought only of transfiguring the owl, and said "Ferraverto."

Another orange jet flew out of her wand, the owl took flight of its own accord, but the light encompassed it and it fell to the ground. This time, though, the owl had changed form. It was now a golden goblet.

Lily stood staring at it then shrieked in the excitement. She ran over to the place the goblet had fallen and picked it up. "I did it!" She gave Sirius a hug and he said a nearly inaudible "erm" before giving her a one-armed hug. She pulled apart to admire her work again.

"Now, to turn it back into-"

"Turn it back? I'm not turning it back. Well, I will, but not today," she said, still happily examining the goblet. She wanted to delight in her accomplishment as long as possible.

"Erm, all right?"

"Thank you."

Sirius shrugged. "Not a problem."

They left for the Common Room together. Lily didn't see James, Peter or Remus and decided to tell them the next day. She made her way up to the girls' dormitory, feeling truly prepared for N.E.W.T.s.

The next morning was a flurry of panic and nerves in Lily's dorm room as everyone scurried to accomplish any last minute studying. Despite Lily's feeling of preparedness the night before, she could not deny that she was a bit nervous that morning.

Her first exam that morning was Potions. She skimmed over the Glory Potion and grabbed her goblet before rushing out of the Tower for breakfast. The Great Hall was nearly silent. The fifth and seventh years were absorbed in their books and notes, threatening any who interrupted them with certain death.

Lily took a seat between James and Remus. James was talking to Peter, Remus was sitting with a book propped up against his goblet, immersed in whatever information it was providing him with. Sirius hadn't appeared to come down yet.

"Look!" she announced, brandishing the goblet. "Would you believe this used to be an owl?"

Peter looked around James to see what Lily was talking about. Remus finished the sentence he was reading and then looked in her direction.

James turned in his seat and smiled. "That's excellent!" he said.

"I thought so too," she said happily. "Sirius was a big help." She looked around the table. "Where is he, anyway?"

"Probably asleep," Remus said. "He'll come bounding down here with two minutes to spare and think he's made excellent time."

After breakfast, the seventh years lingered around outside the Great Hall while it was prepared for the first examination. The rest of the day passed in a blur for Lily. She sat the Theory of Potions exam in the morning and brewed a Potion that afternoon. She thought she did very well considering how nervous she had been.

The remainder of her exams passed in more or less the same way with the Theory examinations in the morning and the practical in the afternoon or late evening. She was exceedingly pleased with her performance on her Charms exams, thinking she got an O, but expecting an A or an E on her Transfiguration exams. Despite her joy at doing so well on her exams, she was saddened at the thought that her parents would never get to see her marks.

Before she had time to realize how rapidly the days were passing, the two weeks of N.E.W.T.s were over. The night of their final exam, the Gryffindors had a party in their Common Room. James volunteered to sneak down to the kitchens to nick some food and Sirius and Peter chose to go with him. As Peter had said, "Six hands are better than two."

Lily found Remus in the middle of the room looking ill again. "Did the stress of the exams really get to you?" she asked, sitting down next to him.

"No worse than O.W.L.s," he responded.

"You look like you're catching something."

"I'm just tired. I think I might turn in early." He got to his feet and Lily followed suit.

"You should celebrate with the rest of us."

"I'd love to, but I can't tonight."

"Are you sure you're all right?" she asked, eyeing him suspiciously.

"I'm fine. Just tired," he repeated.

"All right," she said, though she didn't quite believe him.

"Goodnight, Lily."

"Goodnight."

Lily watched his form retreat up the boys' dormitory staircase. She stared at the spot he disappeared at long after he vanished.

Something is going on with him and I bet James, Sirius and Peter are in on it, too, she decided. And if they won't tell me what it is, I'll figure it out myself.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

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  #8  
Old June 15th, 2005, 12:01 am
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HermioneLuna  Undisclosed.gif HermioneLuna is offline
Fifth Year
 
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Telling Thoughts


Lily pulled her jumper tighter around her to block against the chilly breeze flowing around Hogwarts grounds that night. She and James were making their way to the Qudditch Pitch. They were moments away from proposing their plan to 27 people who she was sure would be adamantly against their idea. Her stomach was full of nervous butterflies of doom and she was considering asking all the students who were soon to be assembled in front of her to hand in their wands before hearing the idea, just to be safe.

When they arrived at the pitch, they found some students already waiting for them. Lily estimated about 15 students, from all the houses which was clearly seen because they were sitting only with their fellow housemates. She sat on one of the risers to wait for the remaining ten students to turn up and James settled himself next to her.

The wind picked up and Lily pulled her jumper tighter still, and blew into her hands to warm up.

"Cold?" James asked jokingly.

"Not a bit," she responded offhandedly.

"I can warm you up," he offered, grinning.

"Touch me and pull back a stub," Lily threatened with a dangerous glint in her eyes.

James had gone into his robes and pulled out his wand. Before she could say anything, he muttered an incantation and she felt the biting cold instantly disappear. "It's a warming spell, Evans," he said mischieviously.

Lily mentally scolded herself. How could she not have thought of that? "Thanks," she said, loosening her grip on her jumper.

James replaced his wand in his robes and ran his hand through his already messy hair, making it that much untidier. Lily rolled her eyes. Why does he think that's so cool? she asked herself in irritation. She looked around again. About five more people had shown up. Her stomach jumped in fearful anticipation. Soon she'd have to deliver to these people news that would make them anything but happy.

"All right, Prongs?"

Lily turned to see Sirius, Remus, and Peter approaching them.

"We just thought we'd stop by to see what happens," Peter said, taking a seat near the couple. Sirius and Remus sat nearby as well, all three looking eager for the coming events.

Lily looked over at Remus who returned her gaze for a brief moment before he said, "I still think it's a good idea."

Lily smiled at him. "Thanks, Remus."

Her smile didn't fade as she looked at James who was watching her with a suspicious look.

"Wonder where Dumbledore is," Sirius thought aloud.

"He isn't coming, I don't think," James responded, slowly looking away from Lily and directing his comments at Sirius. "He didn't mention it when we planned this out this morning."

Peter laughed. "He's smart, Dumbledore is."

"What are you talking about, Wormtail?" Sirius asked.

"He knows it's safer to stay away from here."

"He said it would be better coming from us," Lily informed them.

"A likely story," Peter commented. "He's just watching out for himself."

"Shut it, Wormtail," Sirius said.

Remus cleared his throat. "I think everyone is here," he said.

Lily looked over her shoulder and saw that Remus was right. It appeared that everyone had arrived. She sighed and stood to walk over to the nearest group of students. James stayed behind and whispered something to his friends.

When Lily reached the group, she saw it was the Hufflepuff Quidditch team.

"Hi, everyone," she started. "We need to talk to you all as a group, so if you could gather with the rest of the teams, that'd be a great help."

The Hufflepuffs did as they were asked. Lily spoke with the other teams and soon they were all one massive group. James came over with his friends and Remus, Sirius and Peter sat behind the teams.

"This should be fun," Peter stated, a look of anticipation on his face.

Sirius leaned back on his elbows to watch, while Remus just looked interested.

Once everyone was settled, they began to tell their plan.

"Last night, Professor Dumbledore asked us to form a plan to promote unity between all of the houses," Lily started. "We came up with an idea, but we need your help. You all are pretty much the cornerstone of the plan, so we really need your cooperation."

The group before them looked at them with inquisitive curiosity.

"What is going to happen," James took over, "is we're going to combine the teams. They'll be made up of members from all houses."

The outburst was immediate. Lily couldn't understand what they were saying; it seemed like everyone was trying to drown each other out.

"Calm down!" James shouted over the raucous.

"QUIET, EVERYONE!!" Lily joined in. "EVERYONE JUST BE QUIET!"

The next few minutes were spent trying to get everyone down to a dull roar. Once that was accomplished, James spoke again.

"Now, we've sorted you all into teams. Just to make this easier for everyone, once you know your new teams, you can sit with them or something."

"Wait a minute," interrupted the Slytherin Keeper, Aidan Brown. "Why do you get to make the teams?"

James shot him an annoyed look. "Because I'm Head Boy."

"That's no reason-"

"And because Professor Dumbledore already approved it," Lily added. "So we can't make any changes."

"So, if there are no further pointless interruptions," James began, "Here are the new teams." He produced the list he had made and began reading off names. When he finished, very few people looked anything but angry over this change.

"You should all make practice plans and everything else you need to do," Lily said.

The Quidditch players grumbled as they unwillingly grouped into their new teams. James sauntered over to his new team and Lily, feeling her role in this matter was done, turned to leave.

Once inside the common room, she spotted Emily reading near the fire. She didn't call out to her, though. Instead, she walked up the stairs to her dormitory to retrieve the things she would need to complete her work. When she descended the stairs and re-entered the Common Room, she made her way over to Emily and sat down on the ground next to her.

"So..." Emily prompted.

"So what?" came Lily's distracted response as she spread her assignments in front of her.

"How did they take it?"

"They didn't Avada Kedavra us, but I think that's only because no one thought of it," she said.

Emily shrugged. "They'll get used to the idea soon enough. I mean, it's either that or no Quidditch at all. They'll take what they can get."

Lily looked up. "What's that you're reading?"

"Potions essay. I just finished it." Emily rolled her essay up.

"Lucky you. I still have to write mine." Lily took out a quill, some ink, and a blank parchment. She had just begun to write, when the portrait hole opened and James, Remus, Sirius and Peter clambered in. She looked up as they entered, but then refocused on her paper. Before she could even read the half of a sentence she had already written, however, she heard yelps of pain coming from the direction of the portrait hole. She looked again to see that the boys hadn't moved from the spot they first fell in on. Instead, they were pointing their wands at each other and attempting to articulate spells. From what Lily could see, they were shooting spells to make each other itch, though she didn't know why.

Lily looked up at Emily who shared her confused glance before returning her attention to the boys. By this time, every student in the Common Room was focused on the four.

"Get them off me! For Merlin's sake, get them off!" came Peter's voice from the middle of the bunch.

Get what off? Lily thought. She couldn't see anything on them.

"Oh!" Emily suddenly said. She slid from her seat and walked over to the panicked Gryffindors, taking out her wand as she went. Lily was still lost on what was going on. When Emily reached them, she said a spell that Lily couldn't hear and almost immediately, James, Remus, Sirius and Peter ceased their frantic scratching and spell casting.

Emily grabbed Sirius' bare arm and starting inspecting something on it. From her spot on the floor, Lily could see a red mark. She too moved over to the group to see what happened. Once she reached them, she saw that all of the boys had red burn marks on them.

"What happened?" she asked.

"Snivellus happened," Sirius said angrily, removing his arm from Emily's grasp. "He hexed us with some sort of spell to make us think we were covered in bugs."

Lily's eyebrows raised and her mouth twitched almost unnoticeably. "Covered in bugs?" she repeated, barely keeping the laughter from her voice.

"Then how did you get burned?" Emily demanded of Sirius.

"These bugs stung," Remus answered.

"And itched a lot," Peter added.

"How did Severus manage to curse all four of you?" Lily inquired.

"He had a member of his little gang of Slytherins with him," Sirius informed her.

"They got us before we could even react," Peter admitted only to be met with a glare from Sirius. It was clear to Lily that Sirius at least did not want this information to be known.

"You guys should go down to the hospital wing," Lily said.

"Definitely," Emily agreed, grabbing Sirius' arm and looking at all the burns. "Those burns could be serious."

Sirius raised his eyebrows at her and pulled his arm away again.

"They're nothing a few healing spells can't cure," James spoke for the first time.

"You should give him a detention, James," Emily advised.

"No," James said firmly. "No, I won't give him detention."

"He needs to be punished for what he did," Emily said simply.

The expression on James' face was one of pure anger and Lily started to feel that he might do something awful in revenge. She was concerned for James, but even more concerned for Severus. She had seen James' temper before and knew that he could and probably would hurt Severus very badly.

"Potter, don't you do anything stupid. You're Head Boy now. You can't go around hexing innocent students."

"Snivellus is not innocent, Evans!" James exclaimed.

"It doesn't matter. You can't just attack him in the open like you've done before."

James looked like he was going to keep arguing, but changed his mind. "Fine."

Lily had been expecting much more of a fight than that. "‘Fine?’"

"Yes. Fine. I won't attack the slimeball and I won't hex him."

Lily didn't quite believe James, but there was nothing to justify her arguing with him.

"What are you going to do, then?"

"I'll deduct house points."

Lily and Emily shared another confused look. It was obvious neither of them trusted that James wouldn't exact revenge, but they couldn't tell him not to do anything when he seemed like he wasn't planning on doing anything.

Lily nodded and went back to complete her assignments, but Lily got the distinct impression that any hope of uniting the houses, or at the very least Gryffindor and Slytherin, was rapidly flowing down the loo.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ *~*

Lily sat in her dorm room that night, thinking about what Remus could possibly be hiding. We've always been good friends. What is so bad he has to keep it from me? She thought back to how frail and weak he looked that night. Then her mind drifted to how ill he had looked two months and just a month before. His friends are obviously covering for him, or he for them. Every time Remus falls ill, they show up with cuts, scrapes and bruises, but are always very casual about them. But what does one thing have to do with the other? She couldn't piece it together.

She thought back to the first instance where Sirius appeared to be hurt. She hadn't registered it then, but what had they told her about Remus? He isn't here. Well, that was no help. Two months ago, when I went to their dorm to talk, they weren't there and showed up at breakfast the next day with mysterious injuries. They said Severus attacked them, but that just doesn't add up. I know them. If he attacked them, they wouldn't hesitate to retaliate. And Severus has been looking fine. Or as fine as he ever does. And then last month it happened again, and Severus didn't appear to have any wounds. So that meant they were lying to her.

If it isn't him, then what is it? James looked like he'd been attacked by a wild animal, but there aren't any here. Maybe they're going into the Forbidden Forest? But that can't be entertaining every single month.

Had Remus ever lied to her before? She couldn't think of a time when he had. Except now. So it must be something important. She decided to force herself to remember everything that had happened in the 24 hours surrounding the first time she noticed that the boys began to act strangely.

On the Hogwarts Express, Remus looked like he was catching something, but seemed fine otherwise. Then, when we were in the carriages, we talked about thestrals. On the way up to the castle...Nothing interesting happened then. And when we got inside, we started talking about Quidditch and - wait...On the way up to the castle, we talked about the moon. I said it was full and they all looked worried. She thought back to that conversation, and the expressions on everyone's faces. That's odd. It's just a moon. Then Remus said it wasn't full, but would be soon. He didn't know about the huge moons either. Then we talked about Quidditch, N.E.W.T.s, and the Daily Prophet.

Then at breakfast, he looked awful and said he'd go see Madam Pomfrey. He wasn't even at breakfast the next day, and that's when Sirius and James turned up with those cuts
. Another thought suddenly occured to her. Peter never has any injuries, so it must be something he doesn't know about either. What could they possibly keep from someone who is literally around them all the time?

She shook her head as if to clear it. It still wasn't making sense to her. Sighing, she pulled her notes and books to her, thinking that if she distracted herself for a while it might come to her. She had already finished exams, but it was the closest distraction she had near her. She found herself unable to concentrate on what was before her; instead of reading, she just glanced at each page, turning them almost as soon as she reached them. First, potions: how to brew fame, glory, death, on and on her notes went. Then, transfiguration: animals into inanimate objects, Animagi, gerbils into-

"Hang on," she whispered so as not to wake the others in her dorm. "Animagi."

Sirius and James know a lot about them. Didn't they correct me on it? But so what? They're not Animagi. They couldn't be. So what did that leave her with? She tried to put all she knew for certain into one cohesive thought.

Remus looked ill two months ago and last month. That much I know. They all seemed weird when I said there was a full moon. They all, or at least James, disappeared the next night and turned up the next morning looking distinctly worse than the day before. And now Remus is looking ill again.

She furrowed her brow in thought. Slowly, an idea dawned on her. "But...no," she gasped. She stood and walked over to the window in her dorm. Looking out of the window, she could see the Forbidden Forest and the Whomping Willow, but dark clouds obscured the sky. She swore under her breath and turned away.

Now what?

"Now, you wait until tomorrow," she told herself.

It was some time before her mind calmed down enough for her to drift off to sleep.

The next morning, Lily got ready as soon as she could and raced down to the Great Hall. She arrived out of breath, but was pleased to see the very person she had been looking for.

"Alice!" she called out, racing toward the seventh year Ravenclaw who appeared to have just taken her seat. Alice Clarke looked around at Lily, her round face showing nothing but confusion.

"Erm, hello, Lily," she said pleasantly as Lily took a seat.

"I'm sorry I haven't talked to you in a while," Lily began.

"Don't worry about it," Alice said. "We've all been busy the past couple months."

"I wanted to talk to you," Lily said.

"What about?"

"I remember you're very good at astronomy and stuff," she began. "And I wanted to know if you know anything about..." she paused, thinking the next words would sound strange.

Alice waited for Lily to speak again.

"I wanted to know if you know anything about the moon cycles," Lily finished.

Alice's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Well...what do you want to know?"

"I want to know when the full moons were up the past couple of months."

"I could help you with that," Alice said. "Do you mind if I ask why?"

"I'm working on a project," Lily said, thinking fast. "I need to know about the full moons because I want to see if they're regular in how they show up. You know, if they're exactly every four weeks, if there's any variation and if so, how much."

Alice smiled. "You do know we're done with school, right?"

"I know, but I just can't stop working," Lily said, forcing a laugh.

"All right," Alice said. "Let me finish my breakfast and then I'll get you the dates of the last couple full moons."

"Thank you so much!" Lily exclaimed. "Can we maybe meet in the library?"

"Sure. In about half an hour?"

"Great! See you later."

Lily made her way to the Gryffindor table and sat down. No sooner had she seated herself than James, Sirius, Remus and Peter entered and took seats near her. Remus was still looking worn and tired. He smiled at her and James said, "Morning."

"Morning," Lily said a little more coolly than she intended.

"Uh oh. Looks like Prongs is in the doghouse," Sirius remarked.

"I think you're confusing him with you," Peter said.

"I didn't do anything," James said casually. Then he turned to Lily and added, "Did I?"

Lily smiled at him, but gave no response.

"Oh no. What did I do?"

"Nothing."

"I know I've done something," James insisted. "What was it?"

"Think about it, James. When have I ever hesitated to tell you when I was angry?"

"Fair enough," James said, starting his breakfast.

Lily also started on her breakfast, partially listening to her friends talk, but she was also nervous; considering what it would mean if Alice's information confirmed her speculation.

"She's not listening to us," she head Peter announce.

"Sorry," Lily said, being pulled back to reality. "What?"

"We're talking about what to do with this summer holiday," Remus informed her.

"Oh. I'll be fine with anything. I haven't got any other plans. You know, I'm not really hungry," she said, pushing her plate from her. "Too much going on."

"What's that mean?" James asked.

"I'm nervous about N.E.W.T. results and I'm working on a project with Alice. So I'll see you guys later, all right?"

Without waiting for a response, she rose and left the Great Hall, moving out onto the grounds. She walked over toward the lake, still thinking about the possibility she was right, and hoping she was wrong. She sat down against a tree and focused on the water rippling across the surface of the lake.

Now that Lily had some time to herself, she let herself feel the pain and grief she had been shunting to the side over the past few weeks. For the past few weeks, she'd thought it was just the pain she felt at losing her parents. Now, with nothing to distract her, she realized it was that and something else, but she didn't know why she was feeling it. She was trying to pinpoint the cause when she saw James approaching her from across the grounds.

"So what's wrong?" he said as he sat down next to her.

"Sorry?"

"I know something's wrong. You've never been this quiet."

She shrugged. "I just don't have anything to say."

"Come on," he said with a small smile. "You always have something to say." When Lily didn't respond, he continued. "You can tell me anything. Please...Just tell me what's wrong."

Lily looked away from him and out across the grounds, not really focusing on anything. "I've just been thinking," she said plainly in a rush of air.

She turned back to face him, thinking. James stared at her expectantly. They both looked at each other for one long, drawn out moment before James took a breath, evidently steeling himself for something.

"You...You know you haven't talked about your parents...Er...Did you...want to?"

Lily's eyebrows shot up in surprise. She hadn't mentioned her parents in months and she hadn't expected James to know that it was them she was thinking about. She wanted to say that she was feeling an unbearable weight of guilt; guilt so heavy she didn't think she could stand it. Instead she said, "There's nothing to say. I love them and I miss them."

"Lily, I-I know you miss them, and of course you love them, but...but a really terrible thing happened. And I know you've got to be having a rough time..." He paused and then said, "I know you thought it was your fault-"

"I don't think that anymore," she cut in. "What Voldemort did was his fault and his fault alone."

"Then what's wrong?"

She took a deep breath. "I've been thinking," she began quietly, "about what happened here after Easter. When people were asking me about the attacks, you know?"

"I remember," was all James said.

"W-was I right to do that?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, I didn't want people to know, so I told them it wasn't me. But was that the right thing to do?"

"There isn't a right or wrong thing to do in a situation like that."

"It's just that I've been feeling really guilty, and I don't know why. I didn't do anything wrong."

There was an awkward silence. Lily rarely confided her feelings in anyone besides Emily and, on occasion, Remus. She doubted that James, Remus, Sirius and Peter had nightly discussions on their feelings and began to wonder if James was uncomfortable talking to her now.

"Erm, since the attack, you mean?" he said softly.

"No, that's not what I mean. This is a different guilt. It started after we came back to school. But I haven't done anything."

They both fell into silence again. After a few minutes, James' face went from appearing to be lost in thought to an expression of comprehension. "Lily," he started, "I think you feel bad for acting like it didn't happen. I mean, not that you're acting like you aren't affected. But you're telling everyone else it didn't happen."

"That's only because I wasn't ready to have the whole school asking me for details," she defended. "It is a sensitive topic, you know."

"I know," James said calmly.

Lily was just about to argue with him, but before she could get the words out, she realized that she was pretending something didn't happen. It was eating away at her. To deny what Voldemort did was to diminish her parent's memory. And she didn't want to do that.

"I-I think you're right," she said softly. "But I'm just not ready to announce at dinner that my family was killed by Voldemort."

"Then don't," he said encouragingly.

"But then how-"

"You could tell people if they ask, but you don't have to tell everyone between here and London, maybe?"

"I'd rather just tell people I know."

"That's fine. It's your personal business. Don't tell anyone you don't want to."

Lily didn't see anything else to say on the matter. They sat in silence for a while before she leaned over and gave him a gentle kiss. Surprised, he returned her show of affection, place his hand on the back of her head to bring her closer. After a moment, she pulled away. "You know how much I appreciate everything you're doing, right? Being there for me, listening to me whenever I need it. I know you sometimes don't want to."

"What makes you think that?" came James' bewildered response. "You can always talk to me. You can tell me anything."

Lily sat up and stared at him. "You can tell me anything too. You know that, right?"

James blinked. "Of course."

Lily peered at him, as if preparing herself to read his mind. "James, why is Remus always so sick?"

James ruffled his hair, appearing to be thinking of an answer to the question.

"I'm not exactly sure," he said finally. "I guess it's stress or not enough sleep or something."

Lily eyed him suspiciously, the same way she had eyed Remus the night before. "You don't know? All this time and you've never asked?"

"I've asked," James said slowly, "but he’s never told me anything."

"So you really don't know?"

"Like I said, he never told me anything," James repeated.

Lily nodded, thinking he was lying to her, but having no way to prove it. "All right." She leaned down, resting her head on his chest. "How do you think you did on your N.E.W.T.s?"

"All right," he responded, stroking her hair. "I know I got an O in Transfiguration."

"Well, that's not a surprise. If there was a grade higher than O for Transfiguration, you'd get that. I think I got an O in Charms."

"Really? Even though you aren't very good at it?" he joked.

"Well, I can dream, can't I?"

There was the crunch of dry grass beneath feet and Lily craned her neck to see Remus, Sirius and Peter standing near them.

"Hey, Lily," Peter said. "What are you doing here?"

"Erm, spending time with my-"

"I mean, we thought you were working on something with Alice."

"What?" Lily looked at each of them, and when her eyes rested on Remus, she remembered. "Right," she said, sitting up. "I promised to meet her in the library."

"Okay," James said. "See you later then."

Lily gave him a quick kiss before racing across the grounds to meet Alice. She didn't slow down until she was feet away from the library's door. There, she halted, took a deep breath to get her breathing under control, and entered. Alice was sitting at a table, with a couple rolls of parchment in front of her. Lily hurried over and sat down next to her.

"I'm sorry I'm late," she apologized.

"That's all right," Alice said. "I've got the information on the moons. I made this to show you just how the cycle works."

Unrolling a parchment on the table, she pointed at one drawing and said, "This is two months ago and this-" she pointed at another spot, "is when the moon was full. Now," she said, pulling the parchment over so another portion of it was in front of them. "This is last month and-" she pointed at a different spot, "this is where the full moon was. You wanted to know if they happened around the same time, right?"

Lily blinked at the parchment and then looked up at her. "Right."

"All right. To find the dates, let's look at one for this month."

"Hang on a moment," Lily interrupted. "You made one for this month?"

"Yes. I had to for my N.E.W.T. exam."

"Oh! Sorry. Go on."

"Well, this is the full moon for this month," she said, pointing. "And if you just follow this line," she explained, tracing a line Lily couldn't see, "you'll see it's...oh! It's tonight. Following that for last month and the month before..." Alice became immersed in her chart for a few moments and then said, "Looks like they happen within a day or so of the months before and after them."

Lily's mind began racing again. If they happen within a day of the months before and after them... She thought back to the night they arrived at Hogwarts. The dates were very near to each other. Then she thought about the previous month. The dates were again very close together. That means that-

"Lily?" Alice asked, tilting her head to one side. "Are you all right?"

"Yes," Lily said. "Yes, I am. Thank you so much! That's going to be really useful."

"Not a problem," Alice said cheerfully, rolling up her charts. She looked at Lily curiously before standing to go.

"You can stay if you want," Lily offered.

"Well, I'm meeting Frank out on the grounds, so..."

"Mind if I go with you? I'll be heading back that way anyway."

"Not at all."

Lily got to her feet and the two girls exited the library together.

"You're meeting Frank? Is that Frank Longbottom?"

"Yes," Alice answered, smiling.

"He's nice," Lily said,

"He is," Alice agreed. "He's cute, too. And he's also very smart."

"Always a good sign."

"Exactly. I'm not interested in a guy if he doesn't have any intelligence. He wants to be an Auror."

"Really? That's a lot of schooling after...school."

"I know. We're both going to be in training together. It's dangerous, but it's worth it."

"Definitely. Any job that works to stop the Death Eaters and Voldemort is worth it."

"Lots of jobs do that. There are jobs in the ministry people could do."

"What do you mean?"

"In the Ministry of Magic, there are people called Unspeakables. No one knows what they do, but I bet it's something crucial and I don't think it's unreasonable to think they are doing something for the war."

"That's interesting," was Lily's only response. The girls continued to chat about various jobs that were offered to witches and wizards, but none were any either girl had considered. When they were nearly to James and his friends, Alice broke away to find Frank, and Lily continued on her path until she was back with the boys.

"So what were you talking about?" James inquired, sliding his arm around her waist when she sat down next to him.

Lily looked at him. She knew one part of his secret now and was hurt that neither he nor Remus felt they could trust her enough to tell her. And she still wanted to know just what exactly James and Sirius were doing that gave them those marks. She decided to see if they would talk with a little prompting.

"Nothing interesting," she said. "I've got a great idea!"

"Do you?" Sirius asked. "Let's hear it then."

"I thought it might be fun to sneak around the castle a bit. There's loads of stuff we can find out and it'd be a shame to leave without discovering most of it."

All four boys broke out in huge grins.

"I like that idea," Peter said.

"Excellent," Lily said. "So, you guys already know a few of the secret passageways and if we sneak out tonight at around-"

"Tonight?" Peter interrupted.

"We can't tonight," Remus said.

"Why not?"

"We've just got other plans," Sirius said.

"Well, I don't mind coming along," Lily said enthusiastically. "Unless there's some reason I shouldn't."

"There's no reason you shouldn't," Peter started.

"Oh, I get it," Lily said in mock disappointment, but hoping it seemed genuine. "You guys were, I don't know, the Four Musketeers or something. And I've came along and everything is different. I thought you all liked me," she finished in a slightly hurt voice.

"What?!" James exclaimed, as though he could hardly believe his ears.

"Don't tell me you do when it's so obvious you don't want me around."

"We like you," Peter blurted out quickly, appearing as if he were thinking fast and speaking even faster. "That's why you can't be around tonight. You'll ruin the surprise."

"What surprise?" Lily asked.

"If we told you, it wouldn't be a surprise," Peter answered.

"Shut it, Wormtail," Sirius cut in. "You've said more than enough."

"What surprise?" Lily repeated.

"If we told you, it wouldn't be a surprise," Sirius said.

"So then it's a surprise for me?" Lily asked putting on a display of interest. She knew they were trying to distract her.

"You'll have to wait and see, won't you?"

"What were you and Alice talking about?" James asked.

"Nothing," Lily replied, suddenly serious.

"Didn't you say you were working on a project with her?" Remus inquired.

"Yeah," Lily said cautiously.

"What's the project for?"

"Well, it's not a project exactly," Lily said, trying to think fast. "I just needed her help."

"What with?" Peter asked.

Lily tried to think of the one thing sure to discourage them from prodding further. "Girl stuff," she said before she could stop herself.

"What do you mean, 'girl stuff'?" Peter persisted.

"Personal girl stuff," Lily said firmly and the looks of uncomfortableness on her friends' faces told her they got the message she was trying to send loud and clear.

There was an awkward silence before Peter said, "We really should do some exploring of this place before we leave. We might never see it again."

"I will," Remus said. "If I get all my N.E.W.T.s, I'm going to come back and teach here."

"Are you insane, Moony?" Sirius exclaimed. "You're actually going to give up your freedom to come back?"

Remus shrugged. "I’d like teaching."

"Professor Remus J. Lupin," Lily said. "It doesn't sound so bad. What would you teach?"

"Defense Against the Dark Arts, most probably."

"Why that?" Peter asked.

"Because he's good at it," Sirius answered impatiently. "Or haven't you figured that out from the thousands of times he's had to force you to understand?"

Peter turned slightly pink. "I'm all right in it," he said quietly.

"Only because you have us to help you," Sirius argued.

Lily watched the banter between the boys, wondering how they could possibly act so casually with such a huge secret hanging between them. She looked at Remus. He was saying something, but she wasn't registering the words. He had been a friend of hers for seven years and she didn't know. Why had he never trusted her enough to tell her? They knew an awful lot about her past; she had included them on the most awful event of her life. Yet, they chose to exclude her from this.

Her eyes wandered to James. With him, her feelings were a little more complex. Remus was her friend, but she and James had not always been friends. Despite that, she had at least thought...Well, the truth is, I've never thought what James would do if one of his best friends was a werewolf, she admitted.

So what now? her thoughts continued. Should I tell them I know? They obviously aren't going to tell me.

Just as she opened her mouth to confess her knowledge, another thought struck her. If they didn't tell me, and I just confront them with it...I don't want them to get defensive. But, it is obvious. They have to know I know. And James did tell me I could talk to him about anything. Her confusion about how she should handle this situation was starting to give her a headache and she decided she needed to clear her head a bit.

"We'll need it for tonight," Peter was saying.

"I know," James said thoughtfully. "But we won't have to have it for hours yet."

"Still, we've got to make sure everything is in order," Remus objected.

"Come on, Moony. How often have we done this?"

"Filch is lurking around a lot."

"He's right," Peter agreed. "I almost got caught by him."

"I'm going to go back up to the castle," Lily announced suddenly, rising to her feet.

"Are you all right?" James asked, squinting up at her because the sun was behind her.

"Fine," she said cheerfully. "I just keep thinking about a question we had on N.E.W.T.s and I won't be able to concentrate on anything else until I check on my answers. And my question sheet is up in my dorm. So that's where I need to go."

She turned and left the boys behind her as she walked silently back up to the castle, lost in thought.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

First, thank you to every single person who has reviewed my last chapters. It means more to me than I could say.

Second, please please please continue to leave feedback here.



Last edited by HermioneLuna; June 15th, 2005 at 8:39 am.
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Old June 15th, 2005, 6:43 am
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Agreeing to Disagree


The following day, Lily awoke to the sound of Emily's voice. Though she was awake, Lily kept her eyes closed, determined to fall back asleep. Her efforts failed, though, when Emily's voice seemed to become clearer and louder, though Lily thought it must just be because she was waking up.

"Garbalak the Morose."

"What?" Lily muttered sleepily.

"Oh. Morning, Lily."

"What time is it?" Lily asked, pushing herself up on her elbows and opening her eyes to see Emily. Emily was sitting cross-legged on her bed, flipping through a book. The hangings on Lily's bed were open. She'd neglected to close them the night before when she fell asleep while talking with Emily.

"I don't know," Emily responded distractedly. "Six maybe?"

"Six," Lily repeated. "Six? In the morning?!"

"Yeah," Emily said, still looking through her book. "Why?"

"Emily," Lily groaned, allowing herself to fall back on her bed. "Why are you up at six in the morning?"

"Doing homework."

"I thought you finished it last night."

"Lily, how often do I actually do my assignments on time?"

Lily rolled her eyes, sat up and drew her hangings around her bed.

"What's wrong with you?" came Emily's voice from the other side.

Lily made no response. Instead she placed her pillow firmly on top of her head, shut her eyes as tightly as she could and willed herself to go back to sleep. Seemingly minutes later, she was pulled back into the land of the conscious by sunlight invading her closed eyelids.

"Rise and shine!" Emily's voice rang out. From the other sounds in the dorm, Lily figured the other girls were already up and getting ready for their day.

Lily opened her eyes and squinted into the sunlight. By the looks of it, Emily had flung open the hangings on her bed. "I'll rise," Lily said. "But I refuse to shine."

She pulled herself out of bed and went about getting ready for lessons. She entered the Common Room and intended to pass right through the portrait when she was halted by an all too familiar voice.

"Evans! Hey, Evans! Wait a minute, will you?"

Lily stopped and sighed. She turned back to face James. "What is it, Potter?"

"Hogsmeade is this weekend."

Lily raised an eyebrow. It was unusual for Hogsmeade to happen on the first weekend of the year. "Thanks for informing me, Potter." She turned to exit the room, but James quickly moved in front of her, making himself the only obstacle between her and the portrait hole.

"I'm going. And I know how much you love Hogsmeade. Seems a shame if we don't take that opportunity to go on our long overdue first date."

Without responding, Lily attempted to step around James. He mirrored her movement, still blocking her way.

She sighed again. "No. We've been through this before. I'm not going through it again. The answer is no."

She tried to step around him again, but this time he grabbed her by the shoulders, bringing him face to face with her. Lily's stomach jumped, but she did her best to conceal it. "Will you let me out, please?"

"I will if you go out with me," he said plainly. "Come on. Go out with me, and I'll step aside."

"Potter, I'm really in no mood for games."

"I'm not playing games. I'm serious."

"If you ever want to inflict your spawn upon this world, I advise getting out of my way."

James looked her in the eye before sighing exasperatedly and moving to the side. Lily climbed out of the portrait hole and then made her way to the Great Hall.

She took an empty seat at the Gryffindor table, pushed her plate away, rested her head on her folded arms and closed her eyes. Her eyes were weighing down heavily and her body felt like she hadn't gotten any sleep at all. She dozed off and was awoken by a frantic Emily.

"Lily! Lily wake up. We're going to be late."

Brushing her hair out of her face, Lily looked at Emily in confusion. "Late?"

"For Defense Against the Dark Arts! Come on," she said urgently, pulling at Lily's arm. "If we're late Bursnell will start lecturing and I really don't want him to lecture us."

That gave Lily the burst of energy she needed. Though a lecture by Bursnell would give Lily an excellent opportunity to continue her nap, it was akin to cruel and unusual punishment to force her classmates to listen to a scolding by Bursnell and she didn't want to inflict it on them by being late.

Lily grabbed her bag and followed Emily out of the Great Hall. They had barely taken their seats when Bursnell entered. Only two seats were open. One next to someone Lily didn't know and one next to Remus. Emily slipped into the seat next to Remus and Lily figured that she was thinking if she needed help, she had a tutor right next to her. Lily sat in the other empty seat and hoped Bursnell didn't notice.

He appeared to be oblivious to their entrance and, after reminding them again of the importance of N.E.W.T.s, he started that day's lesson.

"I presume you have all completed the work delegated to you," he began in his usual no-nonsense tone. "Therefore, we will commence today's indoctrination with a compendious recapitulation."

Already the class was looking dazed. Lily slouched down in her seat and began twirling her quill between her fingers again. She saw that Emily was resting her head in her chin and had her eyes closed.

Bursnell glanced at his class sheet. "What is the veracious incantation for the spell that incapacitated Garbalak the Morose, Ms. Lowsley?"

Emily opened her eyes and looked back at him. "I can't answer that question, sir," she said simply.

"Is there a reason?" the professor inquired.

"Yes. Because the only word I understood was 'Lowsley.'"

A few chuckles escaped from a few members of the class. Emily didn't acknowledge them, opting instead to stare directly at Professor Bursnell, her expression showing nothing but seriousness.

"Silence," said Bursnell impatiently. Lily, who was covering her face to avoid being spotted laughing, sat up straight and forced herself to appear serious as well. "Five points will be deducted from Gryffindor for your impudence, Ms. Lowsley."

Lily could see Emily's outburst coming. She knew Emily wouldn't be the least bit happy about losing points for stating the truth. Just as it looked as though Emily was about to start shouting, she turned to look at Remus and seemed to have changed her mind. Lily could see Remus had placed a hand on Emily's arm, as though to calm her down. Emily slumped angrily in her chair, crossed her arms and scowled.

"Ms. Clarke, perhaps you are capable of showing the ponticulous respect and elucidate the answer."

"Erm," Alice Clarke began. "I think it's Torbulous."

"Exactly. The spell that Garbalak cast was deflected with the Torbulous spell. However, enunciation for this particular spell is crucial. Why is that, Mr. Dearborn?"

"Instead of hurting Garbalak, the spell caused him to speak in convoluted riddles no normal witch, wizard or Muggle can decipher. That's why he's morose. No one can understand him."

"Sounds like someone else we know," Sirius muttered, again drawing laughter from the class.

"Silence," Bursnell commanded. "Another five points from Gryffindor, Mr. Black."

Unlike Emily, Sirius appeared totally unaffected by Bursnell's decision. Emily smiled and looked at Sirius appreciatively.

The remainder of the class was spent taking notes on proper spell-casting for defensive spells, and then the students were allowed to practice for the final half hour. To Lily's surprise, they managed to avoid serious injury to each other.

After Defense Against the Dark Arts, Lily made her way to her next class, but was halted by someone calling her name.

"Evans!"

Not again! Lily gritted her teeth and turned to face James. During her lesson, she'd had ample time to think about what she'd said to him. She decided an apology was in order, even if she was tired and he was bothering her. She realized that even if what she'd said was justified to her, she might just have been behaving in an unnecessarily rude manner.

"About this morning," James began.

"I'm...Well, I..." Lily had no trouble apologizing when she was wrong, but apologizing to James Potter after what she'd been trying to accomplish with him seemed purposely defeating to her. She was sure it would only serve to bolster his ego, as everything always seemed to do.

"Yeah?"

"I just wanted to apologize for what I said in the Common Room."

James' usual arrogant smile spread across his face. "Apology accepted. So we should meet in the Common Room at..."

"Wait. What are you talking about?"

"Well, you're going to go to Hogsmeade with me, right?"

"No, I never said that." Lily started walking so as not to be late, and James fell in step next to her.

"What's the problem? It's a few hours on the weekend. Besides," he said cheerfully, "we have plans to make anyway. We can make them there."

"Plans? What plans?"

"We can't use the regular Quidditch robes for the new teams because they're all house robes. We have to plan out the new team robes."

"I don't play Quidditch, Potter. You can do that."

"I could. But I'll still need your help. There's more than just the robes to organize. I have a few ideas and you can help put them into action." There was a pause before James' voice adopted a rather cocky tone and he said, "I'd hate to see the house unity plan fall apart because of a mistake you could easily have caught."

Lily forced herself to refrain from shooting an insult and him. Instead, she gained control of her voice and said, "And why can't we do that in the Common Room later? Or during one of our breaks?"

"Because later I have Quidditch Practice and we both have patrols. That's no time to sit and make plans. And breaks won't be long enough."

Lily considered continuing the argument by telling him they could work after Hogsmeade, but then she remembered she had quite a bit of homework to do for her N.E.W.T. classes that would probably take the full weekend to finish.

"All right. I'll go to Hogsmeade with you. But only to work on the project."

"Great!"

James was clearly thrilled, and Lily found that she was a bit excited as well, much to her surprise.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ *~*~*~*~*~*~*

Though there had just been a party celebrating the end of exams not long before, that afternoon the Gryffindors decided to have another party celebrating the end of school. The June weather was unbearably hot, and most students seemed to have chosen to stay in the comfort of the castle rather than venture out into the blistering day.

As was usually the case, James and Sirius volunteered to sneak down to the kitchens to nick some food. Lily, who was leaning against James' shoulder on one of the couches, saw this as a perfect opportunity to talk to Remus and seized it without hesitation.

"Now, that's not fair!" she objected, sitting up straight.

"What?" Sirius asked, puzzled.

"You two always get to go. I think it's time you let us amateur rule-breakers have a chance."

"What's this?" James joined in. "Lily Evans, the perfect Head Girl, willing to risk capture by Filch just to get food?"

Lily resisted the urge to laugh, remembering how James had said something similar to her the first time they pulled a prank together. "I'll take my chances," she said, smiling. "Remus can come with me. And if you let me use your map, we can get there and back without a problem."

"It's the middle of the afternoon," Peter stated. "Why do you need the map?"

"Because students aren't supposed to be in the kitchens," Lily explained. "If Filch catches us in there or coming from there, we'd be in trouble." She turned to face James and Sirius. "So what do you guys say? One time letting me do the rule breaking instead won't kill you."

James raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Okay," he said. "If it means that much to you." He watched her with a puzzled expression.

Lily inwardly congratulated herself. She turned to face Remus. "What do you say?" she asked hopefully. "Are you up for it?"

Remus looked from her to James and Sirius and back again. "Yeah," he said. "Why not?"

Lily could barely contain her happiness at having successfully thought of a way to get to talk to Remus alone. James was still watching her carefully, and Lily thought he was trying to figure out why she suddenly seemed to think it was important that she steal food.

Remus left the Common Room and returned moments later with a blank parchment. Both he and Lily left out of the portrait hole. Once they were out in the corridor, Remus tapped the parchment and said, "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."

The familiar words, lines, and dots spread out to the edges of the parchment and Lily looked over Remus's shoulder at the Marauder's Map. "Looks like our path is pretty clear," she commented. "Filch isn't anywhere near the kitchens."

As they walked, Lily kept glancing at the Map, trying to find an area that looked entirely deserted so that they wouldn't be interrupted when she brought up the subject she was most anxious to discuss. They walked in silence for some time before they came to a place Lily thought was suitable.

She abruptly stopped walking and turned on her heel to face Remus. "I need to talk to you," she stated, her eyes boring into his.

Remus also halted in place and looked at her apprehensively.

"I know about..." she paused, looking for the words. "I know you're a werewolf," she said.

Stunned would be an understatement for the expression on Remus's face. "Wh- How?"

"I figured it out," she told him quickly. Then, her voice went up an octave. "I've been out of my mind worried about you! I can't believe you didn't trust me enough to tell me!"

"I-I didn't think...I never told anyone so it isn't-"

"Are you going to try to tell me that James, Sirius and Peter don't know?" Lily demanded skeptically.

"They know," he said carefully, "but I didn't tell them. They figured it out like you did."

"Well, why didn't you tell me?" she repeated, unable to keep the hurt from her voice. "Did you think I would turn on you?" Her voice began to crack, but she gained control of it. "Because if you did, then you don't know me at all," she finished angrily.

"Some people have misconceptions about werewolves-"

"I am not 'some people,' Remus! I am your friend and you should have known I wasn't going to treat you any differently. You know me better than that!" She was practically shouting, quite forgetting that she had chosen this location so they wouldn't be overheard. Then, another thought occurred to her. "And how are you transforming every night without someone noticing you running around the grounds?"

Remus blinked, appearing to be carefully considering his answer. "I go to the Shrieking Shack every full moon."

"That haunted place?"

"It isn't haunted. I make the sounds the villagers think they hear."

"You- but..." She paused as she processed this information. "But it's all boarded up. How do you get in there?"

"Through the Whomping Willow-"

Lily made a disgusted noise and turned away from him. "Oh, so not only have you kept a huge secret from me, you're going to lie to me now."

"I'm not lying to you," he said, his voice quiet and hurt.

"Oh no?" Lily questioned, looking at him skeptically. "You're trying to tell me you get to the Shrieking Shack by way of the Whomping Willow. No one would believe that."

"Exactly. That's why it's worked for seven years. I'm telling you the truth."

"Like you told me that you are a werewolf?" Lily asked sarcastically.

"I'm serious, Lily. There's this spot on the tree that you poke to make it stop whomping you can get through."

Lily stared at him, trying to decide if he was telling her the truth. Finally concluding that he was, she said, "This is why you couldn't visit me over the Christmas Holidays, isn't it? There was a full moon that week, wasn't there?"

"Yeah," Remus admitted, his face showing regret. "There was."

Lily paused and watched Remus. After a few silent moments, she asked another question that had been plaguing her mind. "So, you go to the shack to transform and what do James and Sirius do?"

Remus raised his eyebrows at her sudden change of topic. "What?"

"I know they've got to be doing something. They turn up with those cuts and stuff after every full moon. Why?"

Remus shifted uncomfortably. "I-I think you should ask them if you want to know why they're getting hurt."

"Just tell me," Lily said impatiently. "I've waited months to find this out."

"Then a few more minutes won't kill you," Remus said quietly. "They've been amazing friends to me. They've kept my secret. I see no reason not to do the same for them."

Lily continued to glare at him for another moment, before giving a frustrated sigh. "Fine. I'll ask them."

She turned and they continued on their way to the kitchens. After getting all the food they could carry, they returned to Gryffindor Tower. By that time, Lily's anger had subsided somewhat, but she still felt hurt and betrayed that the four boys would keep something so important from her.

She also began to feel sorry for Remus. He had to go through horribly painful changes every month. She knew from Defense Against the Dark Arts that werewolves craved human flesh and lost all sense of self in their transformed state. Looking at Remus, she saw the faded scars of where she supposed he must have bit himself with no prey to bite. And for Remus, who valued knowing who he was so much, to lose all sense of that person had to be awful.

She'd heard tale of the terrifying sounds that echoed throughout Hogsmeade from the Shrieking Shack, and it was with this thought that she realized how much pain Remus must have been in every full moon. And this was a pain he was never able to share with anyone. Lily knew full well how werewolves were maligned in the Wizarding World and once Remus left Hogwarts, things would be very difficult for him.

Just was they were about to re-enter Gryffindor Tower, Lily stopped once again.

"Remus," she said. "I'm sorry."

Remus stared at her. "What for?"

"For everything you have to go through and...and for lashing out at you like that."

"It-I understand," he said, offering a soft smile.

Lily smiled as Remus gave the password and they climbed back into the Common Room. She unloaded her armful of food onto the nearest chair and then marched determinedly over to James. Without even breaking stride, she grabbed hold of his arm, said, "I need to talk to you," and kept walking toward the boys' dorms. James let himself be pulled out of the room without argument and neither spoke until they arrived in the correct dorm.

Lily rounded on James, but before she could speak, James said, "You were gone a long time."

"Yeah. Remus and I were talking."

James started walking toward her and opened his mouth to say something, but Lily beat him to it. "Why didn't you tell me Remus is a werewolf?"

James stopped mid-step and appeared to be unable to speak for several moments. Finally, he gained control of himself and asked, "He told you that?"

"No. He didn't tell me anything. I figured it out. I don't care that he's a werewolf, though. I care that my best friends and my boyfriend kept something that crucial from me. Why didn't you tell me?"

"I-I couldn't. It's Moony's secret. It wasn't my place to tell."

"So you didn't trust me either, then."

"Of course I trust you. But-"

"You lied to me!"

"No, I didn't," James defended. "I just didn't tell you something."

"Didn't you tell me not two hours ago that you don't know what makes Remus so sick? You knew it was because he was a werewolf and you didn't tell me!"

"Well, actually, I only know that the moon makes him transform. I don't know what makes him sick."

"Stop, James," she said, glaring daggers at him. "You know exactly what I mean. And you know something? I think you've got a lot of nerve trying to make me talk to you about my life and telling me I can talk to you about anything when you won't tell me huge things like this."

"First," James started, beginning to get irritated. "I told you. It wasn't my secret to tell. And second, I thought you needed to talk about those things. I didn't need to talk about Moony."

"Where do you get all those injuries?" she demanded impatiently.

James looked around the empty room, and then looked back at her. Speaking slowly, he said, "I get them when I hang around Moony."

Lily furrowed her brow, utterly confused. Whatever she had expected to hear, it wasn't that. "Excuse me?"

"When he transforms. He doesn't know what he's doing, so he attacks-"

"Stop right there," Lily said, holding up a hand. "Are you trying to tell me that you follow him around while he's a werewolf? No one, not even you, is so desperate for excitement that they would approach a fully transformed werewolf just for the hell of it."

"A werewolf is only dangerous to humans," James began. "I-Well, I'm not exactly human when I'm around him."

There was a moments' silence in which Lily stared openly at James. "That's it!" she burst out. "I'm sick of these stupid games." She stormed toward the door, but James hadn't moved to let her through.

"Get out of my way," she said angrily.

James shook his head. "You want answers and I'm giving them to you."

"Oh yes. And 'I'm not exactly human when I'm around him' just clears everything right up. I understand it all now," she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

"Lily," he said, taking a deep breath. "I'm an Animagus." His voice was full of pride.

Lily stared at him, processing what he just told her. She fixed him with a look that told him she was disgusted with his lie. "You expect me to believe that you've mastered complex magic like that?"

"Why couldn't I?" James replied defensively, hurt at her disbelief.

"Because you're still in school, for one. You have to register to become an Animagus for another."

"You don't have to register until after you've learned it. We just never registered."

"'We'?"

"Er...yeah. Me and Padfoot and Wormtail."

Lily shook her head in disbelief. She hadn't known what she expected to hear, but this wasn't it. How could three schoolboys manage what many fully trained wizards were unable to accomplish? But why would he make it up? Now that she was actually hearing those names in connection with the term "Animagi," they began to make sense. But it was impossible, wasn't it?

"This just isn't possible," she said, more to herself than to him. She turned and walked a few feet away from him, thinking. Then she turned to face him again. "So let me get this straight. Remus is a werewolf and has been for seven years, which you knew. You-"

"Actually," James interrupted. "He was bitten before he ever came to Hogwarts."

"Fine. He's been a werewolf for years, which you knew. You, Sirius and Peter became Animagi to..." She paused. "To do what exactly?"

"To keep him company."

"'To keep him company,'" she repeated. It was a statement that said quite clearly she was waiting for an explanation.

"Werewolves are only dangerous to humans. As animals, he won't hurt us. And he needed to have people, well, animals with him."

Lily thought back to the scars she saw on Remus's face and remembered how she'd thought of how torturous it must have been for him to claw and bite at himself in the confines of the Shrieking Shack. Then she fully realized what James had just told her.

"You run around with a werewolf once a month over the grounds," she said, forcing a calm voice. "That's the- What if you hurt someone?"

"We don't run over the grounds. We stick to the village. And we haven't hurt anyone in all the time we've done this."

"Which is how long, exactly?"

"Two years."

"Of course. That's how you knew all that stuff about Animagi." She was talking to herself again. "And Sirius was acting like it isn't anything special..."

"What?"

Lily ignored his question and addressed her comments to him. "It's still really dangerous. Regardless of the fact that Remus becomes a fully grown werewolf and can hurt any person who crosses his path, he can hurt you."

"Nah, he can't. Padfoot and I are big enough that we can control him."

"Are you insane? There is no way to control a werewolf. Once he's transformed, that's it! The person he was is gone until after the moon passes!"

"You don't understand, Lily. If you were out there, you'd see."

"It's dangerous, James. I can see that plainly."

"What?"

Lily walked the few feet to him and closed the distance between them. Then, she reached out and touched the faded scar in his face. "He attacked you. You can't tell me it's perfectly safe when you and Sirius are getting hurt every single full moon."

"It's not that-"

"And if he's only a danger to humans, why is he attacking you?"

"Well," James began slowly. "Sometimes we...we've had a few close calls, so Padfoot and I had to hold Moony back."

"What?! He's almost attacked humans and you still go out?!"

"It's better than-"

"And how have you kept this from Peter?"

"Wormtail knows. I just told you that. He's Wormtail, remember?"

"But he doesn't turn up with injuries."

"He doesn't transform into anything big. He's small enough to prod the knot and stop the Whomping Willow from hurting us, but not big enough to control a werewolf."

Lily shook her head in disbelief again. "I can't believe you."

"Wha-"

"I mean," she cut him off, "you tell me I can talk to you about anything, you pester me to tell you what's bothering me, and I do. I trust you enough to let you in, and you keep this giant secret from me."

"I told you, it wasn't my secret to tell. If I told you about being an Animagus, you'd want to know why. I couldn't tell you that."

"But I included you on-"

"Do I really have to remind you that I had to practically beg you to get you to tell me anything?"

"That's not the point!" she yelled. "I told you, didn't I? And you told me you knew you could talk to me about anything and then you lied to my face!"

"Lily-"

"I know," she cut in again. "It wasn't your secret to tell. Did you think I was going to go running to Remus to tell him you told me? Do you really have that little trust and faith in me?"

"You know that isn't it. Moony was trusting me, too."

"And what other secrets are you lot keeping from me?"

"Nothing," he said quickly.

Lily said nothing, instead she eyed him skeptically.

"I mean it!" James insisted. "If they're keeping it from you, they're keeping it from me, too. I'm sorry I didn't tell you, but I couldn't. Imagine if it were Emily and not Moony. Would you have told me?"

Lily thought over what she would do if her best friend had told her she was a werewolf. Then she thought about what she'd tell James if he had asked her why Emily was so sick.

"No, I probably wouldn't have." Lily sighed in aggravation. "Fine. Fine. Can I go now?"

James stepped away from the door. "Sure, if that's what you want. I'll talk to you tomorrow."

"What? You're not going back down to the Common Room?"

"Yeah. On my way out. The sun will be down soon. Moony is probably already on his way to the Shrieking Shack. Padfoot, Wormtail and I are going to have to go down soon."

"You're still going to go out there?"

James watched her with confusion. "Of course. Why wouldn't I?"

"Because it's dangerous!" Lily exclaimed exasperatedly. "You-you can't!"

"It's no big deal," James said casually, walking over to his trunk and digging through the contents. "If something were going to go wrong, it would have happened by now."

"If that's supposed to make me feel better-"

"Trust me. We'll be perfectly fine," he assured her, pulling out his invisibility cloak.

"Trust you," Lily repeated, crossing her arms. "That's funny."

"Lily, I'll talk to you about it later," he walked over to stand next to her near the door. "Okay?"

Lily stared at him for a moment, then uncrossed her arms and said, "Sure. Okay. Fine."

He held the door open for her to exit first.

Hours later, Lily sat in her dorm room, looking down at the Whomping Willow. She expected that James and his friends were already adventuring around Hogsmeade and wondered how many "close calls" they'd had that night. Realizing she was only going to drive herself crazy with worry, she turned away from her window and walked over to her bed. Her dorm mates were absorbed in their own things. Two of them were talking and the third was reading, leaving Lily to fret in peace.

Sighing, she rested her head against one of the bed posts and closed her eyes. James said they've been doing this for two years. If there was going to be any damage, it would have happened by now, she tried to reassure herself. For the moment, it worked. She stopped worrying about the fate of those she loved and began thinking about everything she had discovered that day. The more she thought about the gift James, Sirius and Peter had given Remus, the more she came to appreciate what loyal and caring friends they really were. She couldn't honestly tell herself she'd have done the same for Emily.

She checked her watch. 1:37 AM. She looked around at the other girls in her dorm, all of whom were chatting animatedly with each other. Probably end of school excitement, she thought.

She looked at Emily's empty bed and was overcome with nostalgia. This was the first year she'd end without her best friend's presence. She remembered the fun they used to have the night before they left Hogwarts for the summer. Lily wondered what it would be like if Emily hadn't left when she did, then pushed the thought out of her mind.

Ordinarily, she'd go home with Emily for part of the summer, but after what happened, that was no longer an option. It was with immense sadness that she realized she had no place to go once school ended. She remembered the money she had been gifted months before. She still hadn't touched any of it, but now she was considering it. She knew she would need to get her own place, and that money would be very useful.

Though she knew she'd get no sleep this night, Lily also knew she had to get some rest. Wishing her dorm mates a good night, she shut the hangings around her bed.

Lily was awoken the next morning by the sounds of the other girls in her dorm preparing to leave. She grudgingly pulled her self back into the land of the conscious, not feeling like she had the energy to even walk down to the Common Room. Then she remembered what had transpired the day before and she suddenly felt a burst of energy.

She quickly dressed and then raced into the Common Room and then up to the boys' dorm. She knocked on the closed door, but got no response. Opening the door, she peered into the empty room and felt her stomach plummet in fear and her heart catch in her throat.

She turned and left, racing into the Common Room once more. She looked around desperately, but saw no sign of any of the four boys. Without hesitation, she ran to the portrait hole and out into the corridor. Her friends were nowhere in sight. What if something went wrong last night? What if they couldn't control Remus? What if Remus attacked a human? What if...

She hurried to the staircase and began descending the stairs two at a time, trying her hardest to push thoughts of everything that could have gone wrong the night before out of her mind. By the time she reached the bottom of the stairs, her heart was pounding and she was out of breath. She leaned against the wall to catch her breath before continuing on her mission. Before she could start running again, she heard voices on the stairs above her.

"Yeah," one of them was saying, "too bad he had to catch us on our last day."

"But at least Moony will be all right."

"Moony," Lily whispered. How did they get up there without me seeing them? she wondered to herself. Deciding they must have used one of the hidden passageways, she bolted up the steps again as fast as she could go.

She reached the seventh floor landing and saw three boys walking away from her, toward the portrait of the Fat Lady.

"James!" she called out, trying to catch her breath again. "James!"

All three boys spun around on the spot. Before any of them could say anything, Lily had caught up with them.

"Lily," James said, "Are you-"

He was cut off when Lily flung herself around him in a hug. "You're alive!"

"Erm, aren't I usually?" he asked, mildly amused.

"But you guys weren't in your dorm," she explained, pulling away from him, but not letting go. "Or in the Common Room and I thought...I thought something awful had happened and..." She hugged him again. "I'm so glad you're alive."

"I told you there was nothing to worry about."

Lily broke the hug again. "Easy for you to say. You weren't the one here worrying that maybe-" She looked and saw Sirius and Peter standing nearby. Sirius was looking amused and Peter appeared to be confused. "And you guys, too!" she exclaimed. "You're alive!"

She gave Sirius a hug and when she pulled away he whispered, "I know you're new to this, but generally we don't make a big deal about us being alive out in the corridors."

"Oh! Of course. I'm sorry."

They entered Gryffindor Tower and climbed up to the boys' dorm in awkward silence. Once they were inside with the door closed, Lily asked, "Where's Remus?"

"Hospital Wing," Peter said, opening his trunk and piling stuff inside.

"What? Why? Is he all right?"

"He's fine," Sirius said, flopping down casually on his bed. "He always goes there after a full moon. He'll be fine."

"So," Lily said, looking between the three of them. "You really are all right? Nothing went wrong?"

"Well," Peter started. "Filch got our Map."

"What?"

"We were coming in later than usual and he saw us," James explained. "Asked to see what we were carrying. Guess he thought it was suspicious because he took it."

"Well, yeah," Lily said. "A Map of that sort is pretty suspicious."

"We wiped it clean before he saw it," Sirius said.

"I'm going to miss being able to do this," James commented. "Full moons will never be the same again."

"Yeah," Peter agreed. "They're going to be so boring without Hogwarts."

Lily was stunned to see how casually they were handling the situation. She was so worried about them, but they were acting like transforming into animals and run about with a werewolf was as commonplace as deciding what to have for breakfast.

"You boys are mad," she said seriously, but smiling.

"That's right," James said. "And you're stuck with us."

"Lucky me," she responded flirtatiously, giving him an inviting smile.

James gave her a winning smile, the mischevious glint in his eyes all-too-familiar to her. She leaned up into a light kiss, but when she felt his hand creep low on her back, pulling her just a bit closer, she regretfully broke the kiss.

"If you two are about to crawl all over each other, please take it out of the dorm," Sirius requested sardonically.

Lily turned slightly pink and pulled away from James, finally breaking their embrace. Before either of them could say anything, Peter said, "We're leaving in an hour, you know. If we don't pack, we'll hear about it from Moony."

"That's what magic is for, Wormtail. We can do it in three seconds," Sirius said.

Lily then remembered that Wormtail was Peter's Animagus name, but she had yet to ask what animals they all turned into.

"Wormtail," Lily repeated, more to herself than to any of them.

Peter turned to look at her and, after a moment's silence, said, "What?"

"What?" Lily asked, looking around at him. "Oh. Sorry. I was just thinking. I don't know what kind of animals you all turn into."

"Why don't you tell us?" James said playfully.

"How am I supposed to know?"

"The animal chooses the wizard. Just think about our personalities."

"Erm," Lily hesitated. "All right. Sirius is....Oh! He's a horse!"

There was a hanging silence that was broken when James started to laugh. Peter immediately followed suit.

Sirius stared at her before saying, "A horse. Why would you think I'm a horse?"

"Well, James said that you transform into a big animal, and horses are big. And you're sort of...wild and untamed, and horses are that, too." Now that she was saying it out loud, she realized horses didn't really fit his personality. "Wait. I want to try again."

She remembered how Sirius was always called Padfoot. The first animals that came to mind were cats and dogs. But which one fit Sirius better? She was having a hard time thinking with James and Peter still laughing at her first guess.

Lily thought about it for a few seconds before saying, "Of course. Padfoot is a dog."

Sirius smiled, and James and Peter recovered themselves. "See? That wasn't so hard," James said.

"Well, it was either that or a cat, and dog fits him better."

"What do you mean?" Peter asked.

"Loyal, protective-"

"Housebroken," James added.

"All right. I think I can get you others now." She focused on Peter. She didn't know as much about him as she did the other boys, but she recalled that his Animagus form was small and he was called Wormtail. So what small animals have worm-like tails? "Peter is a mouse or a rat...or maybe a possum!"

"Rat is right," Peter said.

"Perfect," Lily said, quite pleased with herself. "Okay. James. You're Prongs, so whatever you turn into has to have...prongs? Erm, what has prongs? Antlers, maybe? A moose?"

"You think I'm like a moose?" James asked incredulously.

"I don't know," Lily said in defense of herself. "What sort of personality does a moose have?"

"I'm not a moose," James said.

"Okay. Not a moose. A bull?

"Why a bull?"

"Stubborn-"

"Hey now, I am not stubborn."

"Sorry! I don't like this game. Guess the animal based on personalities? You can have any number of personality traits from any number of animals."

"Try one more time."

"Well, there's only one other animal I can think of. A stag?"

"Yes!" James exclaimed excitedly. "It's a stag."

"And why couldn't you have just told me that?"

"Because it's much more fun to see you struggle to find the answer," Sirius quipped.

"Glad I could provide you with amusement," Lily said graciously.

Peter shut his trunk with a snap. "I'm done," he announced.

Lily suddenly remembered she hadn't finished her packing, and they would be leaving in less than an hour. "I'm going to go finish packing," she announced.

When she got back to her dorm, she was the only one who hadn't finished. The rest of her dorm mates had cleared out. After securing all her things into her trunk, she sighed and sat on her bed. She was finally leaving her second home for good and might not ever see it again. She wasn't sure where she was going to go from there, but thought that the Leaky Cauldron would provide suitable accommodations until she could get her own place. The money she now had would be more than enough to support her for a very long time.

She remembered, with a sad sense of nostalgia, how many times she and Emily had sat talking for hours about nothing and everything. And how many times they'd pored over their assignments together, struggling to care about History of Magic or having fun practicing Defense Against the Dark Arts.

She stood, gave a parting glance to the dorm she'd lived in for seven years and walked out, refusing to look back. Instead, she walked forward, hoping that what awaited her outside of her safe school grounds was better than what had confronted her the last time she left its protected walls. And knowing that with her friends with her, it was bound to be an easier road than the one she had trod for the past few months.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

First, thank you to every single person who has reviewed my last chapters. It means more to me than I could say.

Second, please please please continue to leave feedback here.


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  #10  
Old June 28th, 2005, 12:23 am
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HermioneLuna  Undisclosed.gif HermioneLuna is offline
Fifth Year
 
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Fights and Attacks


Lily slipped into her usual seat next to Emily, who looked between Lily and James and apparently thought the lack of tension was odd because she almost immediately leaned over to Lily and asked, "What happened out there?"

"Nothing," Lily said.

Their professor entered the room and began the lesson, ending all further discussion on the topic.

After class, Lily and Emily walked to the Great Hall together, with James, Sirius, Remus and Peter walked a few yards ahead of them.

"So...Are you going to tell me or are you taking a leaf out of Sirius' book and starting to keep intriguing secrets from me?"

"I told you. It's nothing. I'm just going to spend this weekend planning out the rest of the house unity thing with Potter."

"But, this weekend is a Hogsmeade weekend."

"Right."

Emily raised her eyebrows. "You're going to Hogsmeade with James? But I thought you were waiting until-"

"I was. I mean, I am. This is strictly business."

"Right," Emily said skeptically.

"Well, it's true," Lily insisted as they entered the Great Hall.

Emily took a seat at the house table and Lily sat next to her. "Oh! I forgot to tell you. This morning I was talking with Remus about Defense Against the Dark Arts," Emily began. "Hogsmeade came up and Sirius mentioned how it might be cool if I...spent some time with him while we were there."

Lily squealed in excitement. Then she looked around at the few people whose attention she attracted. "Emily, that's great! What happened?"

"When we were in the Common Room looking at the Hogsmeade notice, Sirius made a joke about how James was going to spend the next 24 hours trying to convince you to go. He called him Prongs, you know. I still haven't figured out what that means. It's a weird nickname. How do you get 'Prongs' from 'James'? I just don't understand. I thought it might come from his last name, but 'Potter' and 'Prongs' don't even rhyme."

"Emily!" Lily exclaimed impatiently.

"Oh, sorry," Emily said getting back on track. "So then Peter suggested that one of them could just go to Hogsmeade with me, and then James could come along with him and still get to spend time with you, which James seemed to like." Emily paused to take a breath.

Lily smiled. Despite the fact that she wasn't ready to date James, it was flattering to her that he might agree to such a plot in order to get close it her.

If Emily noticed, she didn't show it. "More importantly, Sirius seemed to take to the idea. Then you came down to the Common Room and you know what happened there. After you left, Sirius said something about how he wouldn't mind going with me even if it didn't help James. I wasn't sure if he was kidding or not, but he seemed serious, so I discreetly left and raced down here to tell you."

"Emily, that's great! So what are you going to do?"

"Well, we talked about our Hogsmeade plans and he sort of suggested it again...Sort of. Not explicitly. But you know what? I'll take it!"

"Well, personally, I think it's a great way to at least start -" Lily was stopped by the look on Emily's face. She was watching something over Lily's shoulder.

"He wouldn't," Emily said. "Not here."

Lily turned and saw James approaching the Slytherin table. And Severus Snape. She drew her attention to the staff table and relaxed. There were enough teachers that he wouldn't dare do something stupid and risk getting expelled. Severus saw James approaching and rose to his feet, fumbling in his robes for what Lily assumed was his wand. James reached Severus and Lily could see that he was saying something, but, given the distance between them, couldn't hear a word of it. Then James turned, walked back to the Gryffindor table to retrieve his belongings and, together with his friends, exited the Great Hall, leaving Lily to wonder what that had been about.

The rest of the day passed as usual; with classes and breaks and too much homework because of N.E.W.T. level classes. That night, Lily and Emily sat in the Common Room, both pouring over their Charms homework. Emily had been badgering Lily for the contents of her conversation with James, but Lily kept insisting she'd told her everything. After deciding that Lily wouldn't answer just then, Emily switched the topic to James's behavior at lunch.

"What do you suppose he said to him?"

"What?" Lily looked up from her parchment. "Who?"

"James."

"I don't know. He wasn't flipping Severus upside down or trying to scorch his skin off, so whatever it was I guess it was pretty tame."

"Well, I want to know what it was all about," Emily said stubbornly.

Lily didn't even attempt to argue. Emily was nosy, and she knew it. No amount of trying to tell her it clearly wasn't a big deal would change Emily's mind.

"So ask him," Lily said, taking up her charms essay again.

"I will. Just as soon as he comes back from practice."

Later that night, Emily sat on the edge of Lily's bed, flicking her wand at a cup, trying to get it to explode. So far, she had only managed small cracks.

"I don't get it. Peter can do this and I can't? It's just not fair."

"It isn't that hard. You just have to concentrate."

"Easy for you to say. This is nothing for you."

Lily shifted slightly. "What did Potter say when you asked about what happened in the Great Hall?" Lily tried to keep her voice casual, and while it may have worked on anyone else, Emily saw right through it.

"'I'm not going to tell you'," she said plainly.

"Tell me what he said."

"I told you. 'I'm not going to tell you'."

"Emily Lowsley, if-"

"Lily. He said he wasn't going to tell me. Probably because he knew I'd just tell you. He'd tell you, though."

"Why wouldn't he tell you if he knew you were going to tell me, but would tell me himself?"

Emily took a moment to process what Lily said and then responded, "I guess because it's different when it's you? I don't know." Emily looked at her watch. "We've only got a few hours left until we have to be up."

"What?" Lily demanded, grabbing Emily's wrist and looking at the time herself. It was indeed much later than she had first thought. She decided that if she was going to spend hours of quality time with James Potter, she'd better get some sleep.

Lily woke up the next morning with a lead weight in her stomach. She was nervous about what the day held.

When the next day dawned, Lily and Emily went into the Common Room to see James, Sirius, Remus and Peter already there and waiting for them. James was putting a few rolls of parchment into a bag he had with him.

After Filch verified that they were able to visit Hogsmeade, the five of them walked to the village. At the town's edge, they separated; Emily went with Sirius, Remus and Peter toward Honeydukes and Lily and James went to the Three Broomsticks.

Lily and James entered the Three Broomsticks and picked a table near the corner. Lily took out the list of things she thought they should talk about, and James produced a blank parchment for them to write their final decisions on.

"First," she said, "you wanted to talk about new team robes, right? What about just one color? All teams could be blue or maybe something that isn't already a house color. White?"

"And how would we tell them apart?" James asked, evidently amused at her failure to realize such a flaw.

"Oh, right. Well, white and black, then?"

"I don't like that. It's too plain. Anyway, we'd need four colors for the four different teams. How about blue, red, silver and bronze?"

When she could think of any reason not to use those colors, Lily said, "Sounds good."

"I thought so." James smiled. He glanced at the bar, then said "I'm thirsty, do you want a Butterbeer?" Before Lily could answer, James was on his feet and walking toward the bar. He returned with two mugs of Butterbeer and set one in front of her.

"Thanks," she said, sliding her mug to the side so she could see what was next on her list. "Where you guys able to work out a practice schedule everyone's happy with?"

"Yeah, we were."

"Great." Lily crossed Practice schedules off her list.

"Next," she started before she was interrupted.

"Haven't you forgotten something, Evans?"

"No. I don't think so."

"We need to figure out how we're going to get the new team robes here. And we need to make sure they're going to fit the players."

Lily looked at her list. He was right and she had forgotten that issue. "Won't Madam Malkins supply them?"

"That's in Diagon Alley. We'd have to bring her here or we'd all have to go there."

Lily thought for a minute before saying, "Maybe Dumbledore can get them here."

"Maybe."

"We can at least ask."

"Fine by me," James agreed cheerfully.

Lily took a sip of her Butterbeer. "Next," she said again. "we need to know what to call the teams."

"Do you have any ideas for that? Because I don't."

"Me either."

"We should let individual teams decide that. They're going to hate anything we come up with on their own."

"Alright. Yesterday, you said you had other ideas."

"Right. We need to re-arrange the teams. Again."

"What? Why? It's perfect."

"It was a few days ago. There are some people who are playing different positions this year."

"Can they do that?"

James laughed. "Yes they can. There's no law against it."

Lily was dreading the idea of reorganizing all 28 people again. The first time had been enough. "There should be. Can't you just tell them that they can't switch?" she asked hopefully. Then ended with a defeated, "No, I don't guess you can."

James pulled out a quill and moved his chair closer to Lily's, so that they were both looking over the same parchment. They spent the next 20 minutes working out the house teams once again. Then they spent 10 minutes checking to be sure each team had the correct amount of players for each position. Once they were satisfied that the teams not only had the right amount of players, but also incorporated members of every house in a more or less even way, they set to work on how the house points would be distributed for the winning teams.

After a good while spent on that, Emily, Sirius, Remus and Peter entered a pulled up chairs to sit with the pair. Emily placed a Honeydukes bag on top of the parchment Lily and James were working on.

"Thanks," Lily said.

"Have you been in here all this time?" Peter asked.

"Yeah. We've got a lot of planning to do."

"Well, you missed an amazing show out there," Peter told them.

"You think a ball with wings is amazing, Wormtail. It can't have been
that interesting."

"It was," Sirius confirmed.

"Well, what happened?" Lily asked.

"You both know Alice Clarke and Frank Longbottom, right?"

"Right," said Lily and James in unison.

"When we were in Honeydukes, Frank gave Alice a box of sweets," Emily explained. "And Alice cast a spell I've never seen before and all of a sudden there were mountains of candy all over the place. I think she duplicated what was already there."

"Is it all still there?" James inquired eagerly.

"No. It's all gone, but we got some before everyone else got to it."

"Do you think she was trying to do that?" Peter asked. "Because if she was, then she'd remember the spell. I want to learn it."

"Big surprise, Wormtail," Sirius remarked.

"I'm thirsty," Emily said suddenly. "I'm going to get a Butterbeer. Anyone else want one?"

"I do!" Peter exclaimed.

"I'll take one too," Sirius said.

Emily nodded and Lily thought she seemed disappointed that Sirius didn't want to go with her. Emily gave him a sweet smile and left for the bar.

"I'm going to help her bring those back," Remus said, leaving the group as well.

James was bent over the parchment once again. After a moment he gave a frustrated sigh. "This is not going to work."

Lily focused her attention on him. "What?"

"We can't combine these teams. No one wants to do it. I don't even want to do it. If all the house points are to be spread evenly, we may as well not have points for this at all. There's got to be another way to promote house unity. This isn't it."

Just then, Emily and Remus returned with four Butterbeers. Setting them down on the table, Emily regained her seat and said, "Got it all figured out now?"

"Yeah," James said. "We're not doing it."

"Yes we are, Potter! There's nothing wrong with this plan. It just needs a little...adjusting."

"What we need is to 'adjust' ourselves into a new idea."

Emily, Remus, Sirius and Peter all seemed to know what was coming; Emily sighed and took a gulp of her Butterbeer, Remus and Sirius exchanged wary looks, and Peter suddenly became very interested in inspecting his Butterbeer goblet. Lily and James took no notice.

"Dumbledore liked it," Lily challenged.

"No," James contradicted. "Dumbledore agreed to it. He wasn't about to say it was a bad idea."

"That's because it isn't!"

"It's improbable and implausible."

"Have you got a better idea? Because if you do, I'd be delighted to hear it."

"Not right now, but give me five minutes and I can think of something better than this!"

"You arrogant little git!" Lily began stuffing all her belongings into her bag. "Fine. If you think you can do it better, then go right ahead."

"I'm not doing this by myself, Evans. Dumbledore asked both of us to work on this. And honestly, I don't care if we become best buddies with the Slytherins or not."

"Do whatever you want, Potter. Think of something that'll work better than this and then we'll talk!"

Lily got to her feet hurriedly, knocking her chair over in the process, and then stormed angrily out of the Three Broomsticks and marched back up the path that would lead her to Hogwarts.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Lily, James, Sirius, Remus and Peter sat on the Hogwarts Express as it sped them away from the castle and back toward the Muggle world. Remus looked frail and his clothes looked bigger on him than they had before the full moon, but otherwise he seemed like the same person Lily saw every day.

"I knew you'd figure it out sooner or later," Sirius was saying casually, as though they were discussing the weather. He was leaning back against the wall of the compartment at his ease. "I just thought it would be a little sooner."

"Well, it's not exactly the usual conclusion to jump to, is it?" Lily said. She was sitting with her legs tucked under her and leaning against James, who was holding her hand in his. She felt the warmth of his hand and smiled as she glanced down and clasped his hand in return.

"How'd you figure it out then?" Sirius questioned.

"I just thought about it. Remus was sick every month around the same time and the full moon happens every month around the same time. You and James constantly showed up with injuries. It wasn't that difficult. It's just that my first thought wasn't ever 'Remus is sick, perhaps he's a werewolf.' Odd sort of reasoning."

"I'm surprised you figured it out so quickly," Peter said.

"'So quickly'? It was seven years," Lily told him.

"But you weren't around us all seven years," Peter countered, yawning.

Lily looked at all four of her friends and then said, "Why don't you all go to sleep or something?"

"Not tired," James said casually.

"Well, if you fall asleep in the middle of the afternoon at home, your parents are going to wonder why. Unless they already know..."

"We're teenaged boys," Remus said. "They aren't going to think twice about it."

Lily shrugged. "Up to you."

"They're going to be more concerned about you, anyway," James said.

Thinking he was talking about the fact that she was going to be living on her own so soon after leaving school, Lily said, "I'll be fine. It can't be that different from living with my parents. Only there's no supervision."

James, Sirius, Remus and Peter all exchanged confused looks. Then James turned to Lily and asked, "What are you talking about?"

"I'm..." She looked around at the four of them, all of who were still looking at her strangely. "Wait. What are you talking about?"

"My parents have been in a right state over you. I swear dad thinks you're going to collapse in a helpless heap any moment. He obviously doesn't know you very well. So they're both happy you're coming home with me."

Lily blinked in surprise. She and James hadn't spoken about their summer plans at all, and she had been unaware he was expecting her to go home with him. Apparently, she was talking a long time to respond because James said, "We were just talking about this yesterday, remember? At breakfast?"

Lily thought back to how she had tuned the conversation out and then hastily agreed to do whatever they wanted, as she had no plans. She hadn't wanted to impose on the Potters, which is why she had decided to get a place of her own. But if they wanted her, she didn't want to push them away.

"Right," she said. "Must have slipped my mind."

"This is perfect," Sirius said enthusiastically. "You can keep for us."

"'Keep'?"

"In Quidditch," Remus explained. "Wormtail always complains about having to do it."

"I don't like those things flying at me!" Peter objected.

"Quidditch?" Lily repeated. "I don't play Quidditch. I don't even like flying."

"What?" Sirius turned to face James, a look of derision on his face. "She- She's kidding, right?"

"'Fraid not, Padfoot," James said, smiling in amusement.

"How? I mean, why? I mean how could you not like to fly?"

"There's just something about being up in the air with nothing but a piece of wood to support me that's just unsettling." Lily imagined tumbling from a broomstick onto the hard ground and inwardly cringed.

"Well, you're going to have to learn," Sirius said. "I've got a broom you can use and-"

"I don't fly unless I have to. And I haven't had to since first year. I don't like it."

"But how can-"

"Give it up. She's too stubborn to listen," James said, with a mischievious glint in his eye.

"I am not stubborn."

"All right," James said midly.

"I'm not!" Lily insisted.

"You're arguing with me."

"Am not!" Lily objected, then realized what she said.

James laughed and Lily sat up straight and placed her legs on the floor. "I wouldn't mind flying," she said, trying to deflate the stubborn statement, "if I had a decent broom."

"I just told you, you can borrow mine," Sirius said, apparently offended by her unwillingness to use his broom.

"No way. That thing has a mind of its own. It'd take me way out into the middle of nowhere before I knew what was going on. It just seems like it can think for itself. I think I want the new Star Shooter," Lily said.

"The Star Shooter is all right, but the Cleansweep is a much better broom. There's more speed and agility. It balances itself and everything," Sirius said.

"I may not go riding that often, but I read about the Star Shooter and it's by far the better broom. Brooms don't need to be fast to be good," Lily pointed out.

"No, but it helps. What's the point if you can get wherever you're going faster by walking?"

"It's better than going too fast, falling off, and dying."

"But that's the beauty of the Cleansweep. The new one is excellent. It won't let you fall. Prongs and I were talking about that this morning and-"

"Unless the Cleansweep has its own parachute, the Star Shooter is better. No matter how balanced a broom is, you can still fall. The Star Shooters are easier to control, so it's less likely you'll fall."

"You can fall with either of them," Sirius said. "But the point is the Cleansweep is a better flyer."

"Am I going to be hearing this all summer?" James interjected.

Ignoring him, Lily said, "A broom is only as good as its rider. Put the worst rider on a broom like the Nimbus and it would be disastrous. At least for that person, the Star Shooter would be safe."

"If they don't know how to fly, what are they doing on a broom anyway?"

"How are they going to learn to fly unless they learn on a broom?"

"Would you two knock it off?" Remus cut in. "Just say the Cleansweep is good for some people and the Star Shooter is good for others and leave it at that."

Sirius glanced at Remus and then sat back in his chair, looking slightly disgruntled. Lily also looked around at him and fell into silence as well.

"Aw, but I was enjoying that," James pretended to whine.

"There are other things we can talk about," Lily said quickly.

"Name one that's better than brooms and Quidditch."

"Your birthday," she said, looking away from Remus and at James.

"Wow," Peter said. "She found one."

"You never told me what you wanted," Lily reminded.

"Surprise me," James answered.

"All right," Lily agreed. "I will."

"With what?" Peter asked.

"Don't know yet."

"I already know what I'm getting him," Sirius said mischievously, speaking as though James wasn't in the compartment. "Decided ages ago."

"Merlin!" Lily suddenly exclaimed. "We're out of school!"

Peter laughed, drawing the attention of everyone in the compartment. When he realized he was the center of attention, he turned pink then said, "Well, even I figured that out already."

"No!" Lily said, waving her hand in dismissal. "I mean, remember what Dumbledore said?" she asked, turning to James. "We're of age and we're out of school! How could I have forgotten? I've got to send Archimedes to him as soon as we get back to your place."

"What are you talking about?" Peter asked.

"Dumbledore's Order," James said.

"Oh," Peter responded, with an unreadable expression on his face. "Right."

"I can't wait to actually be fighting in this war," Sirius said impatiently.

"I can't wait for you to stop spitting your enthusiasm all over me," Remus responded.

"I can't believe I didn’t think of this while we were still at school," Lily continued as if she couldn't hear them. "How long 'til we get to King's Cross?" she demanded of no one in particular.

Remus checked his watch. "An hour or so."

"What! The trip has never taken that long!"

"Calm down," Remus said. "Being impatient will only make it longer."

Lily shot him an irritated look. Does he always have to be so calm? she asked herself. "Does anyone have a piece of parchment?"

"I do!" Peter said quickly, digging into his bag and pulling out a blank parchment.

"Thank you," Lily said, taking the parchment from him. "Erm, I need a quill," she said to herself, reaching for her own bag.

"You're going to write it now?" Sirius asked.

"Why not?" Lily asked, without looking at him. Instead, she produced an ink bottle, quill and a book to be used as a steady place to write. "Want me to ask for you all, too?"

"Might as well let her," James said before anyone else responded.

Setting the quill to the parchment, Lily wrote:

Professor Dumbledore,

At the start of the last term, you told me that once we left school we would be able to join the Order of the Phoenix. We didn't have an opportunity to speak with you before we left Hogwarts, but we would still very much like to join. If you could tell us how to go about doing that, we would really appreciate it. Thank you.

Lily Evans, James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew.


"Not the best," she said once she finished. "But I just want to get my point across."

"I wonder if we have to do any special training," Peter commented.

"I can't imagine what that would be," Lily said. "It's not as though Dumbledore is going to put us in a room and have us start flinging Unforgivables at each other."

"That might actually be fun," Sirius said. "You know, as long as we don't die or do anything embarrassing or end up in excruciating pain."

"So in other words," Remus translated, "it wouldn't be any fun."

"We could be spies," James said. "You know, work for Dumbledore while pretending to work for Voldemort."

"Spies?" Peter repeated. "Do you really think we could?"

"If we're subtle and tricky enough, I don't see why we couldn't," James said casually.

"That's good for you three," Lily said, indicating James, Sirius and Peter, "but Remus and I are sort of at a disadvantage when it comes to masquerading as Death Eaters."

"But he'd make an exception for you," Peter said. "Because he-" James shot him a sharp look and Peter stopped talking.

There was an awkward silence. Peter had just inadvertently broached a subject no one wanted to venture near. After a moment, Lily spoke again.

"Erm, so how long is it 'til we get back to London now?"

"Soon," Remus said, not looking at his watch.

"How soon?" Lily demanded.

"Calm down," James said.

"Yeah," Remus agreed. "You're acting like Dumbledore is going to impose an Order member limit and you're going to miss it."

"But-"

"You'd be on the train home just the same if you had talked to him," Remus pointed out.

Lily rolled her eyes. In her state of anxiety, she was annoyed with Remus for being reasonable. Even if he was right, she didn't want to hear it. The rest of the trip back to the Muggle World was spent without another reference to Dumbledore, the Order, or Voldemort.

Once the Hogwarts Express pulled into King's Cross and everyone had disembarked, they waited at the barrier to Platform 9 3/4 until they were allowed to pass through. They had barely cleared the crowd when Lily felt herself being wrapped in a tight embrace and heard a voice saying, "Lily, we've been so worried. It's so good to see you again!"

Slightly surprised, Lily said, "Thank you, Mrs. Potter."

Mrs. Potter released her hold on Lily and began hugging each of the boys in turn. Lily looked around and saw Mr. Potter talking to James, who was nodding mechanically and looking thoroughly exasperated at whatever his father was telling him. Eventually, James' eyes darted toward Lily and he appeared to have been struck with an idea.

"Hey Dad," he said loudly, "you want to talk to Lily? Lily's over there."

Mr. Potter looked around at Lily, who smiled sheepishly at him.

"Lily!" he exclaimed, striding toward her. Lily saw James use this opportunity to slip back to his friends. She directed her attention back toward Mr. Potter in time to hear him say, "Glad to see you again. How are you doing?"

"I'm fine, thank you," she said politely.

"Are you sure?" he asked, peering at her curiously. "No one is expecting you to be back to normal, again. If you need to cry or-"

"Honestly," Lily interrupted. "I'm all right."

Reluctantly accepting her answer, Mr. Potter took hold of her trunk and handed her Archimedes' cage. Once everyone had their belongings securely in hand, Lily, Sirius and the Potters made their way to the Potters' car while Remus and Peter met up with their families.

After loading everyone safely into the car, they began their journey to the Potter home. Once the car was in motion and Mr. and Mrs. Potter were engaged in conversation amongst themselves, Lily leaned over to James and whispered, "That wasn't very nice of you, you know."

James smiled mischievously, but made no response. The journey from King's Cross to Godric's Hollow passed without incident and once they had arrived, Lily's mind immediately settled on the letter she had written. She wanted to send Archimedes off straight away.

"Lily," Mrs. Potter started, "you'll be staying in the same room as last time."

Lily nodded; she had assumed that would be the case. She pulled all her things up to her room and then opened the hangings on Archimedes' cage and poked him awake.

"Come on," she told him. "You've slept all morning. Get up."

Archimedes awoke with a disgruntled hoot. Lily opened the cage door to let him out. He sat on his perch, watching her in annoyance.

Lily waved the parchment. "Come on. It's important."

Unwillingly, it seemed, Archimedes left the confines of his cage and stuck out his leg of her to attach the parchment to. Lily happily tied the letter to his leg and then took him to the window to let him out. Once Archimedes disappeared from sight, she decided to go find James and Sirius.

Just outside of her door she collided with something and stumbled backwards.

"Oh! I'm sorry, dear!" Mrs. Potter exclaimed.

"No," Lily said. "I wasn't paying attention. I'm sorry."

"I was coming to tell you that I'm going birthday shopping for James in Diagon Alley tomorrow. Did you want to come along?"

Lily still hadn't decided what she was going to buy James, but thought that maybe walking around Diagon Alley would give her some inspiration.

"Absolutely," she smiled.

"Wonderful!" Mrs. Potter exclaimed, delighted.

"Erm, do you know where James is now?" Lily asked, not wanting to walk all over the house looking for him.

"Not sure. He could really be anywhere, couldn't he?" Before Lily could respond, Mrs. Potter continued, "I'd try his room first."

"Thank you," Lily said.

"We're really glad to have you here," Mrs. Potter said.

Lily didn't know if Mrs. Potter took thanks as badly as her husband, but she knew that one was in order.

"Thank you for letting me stay here. And for being so nice and welcoming to me. It means a lot to me and-"

"Oh, it's our pleasure, dear," Mrs. Potter said.

Lily was nervously shifting her weight from foot to foot. She was trying to think of what to say next, but her mind was blank. She looked around the corridor, desperately trying to find something to talk about. She wanted to go find James and Sirius. Though James's parents were very nice people, Lily was never sure how how to behave around them. She felt much more comforable around her friends. She wanted to leave, but couldn't think of a way to make a graceful exit.

Seeming to read her mind, Mrs. Potter said, "Why don't you go find James and Sirius? I'm sure they're getting up to some sort of mischief and you might be able to talk them out of anything that might cause injury to life or limb."

Lily laughed and said, "I will," before going off to find the boys. Her first stop was the right choice. James and Sirius were in James' room talking. Lily hovered just outside the closed door, trying to eavesdrop on their conversation. However, whatever they were talking about, she couldn't hear it clearly. Giving up, she knocked on the door.

"It's open," James called.

Lily turned the knob and walked in. James was sitting on his windowsill, and Sirius was sitting in a chair, leaning it back on two legs.

"I sent the letter to Dumbledore," she told them, leaning against the doorframe.

"Great. So we've secured our membership, then?" James teased.

"Hush, you," Lily said playfully.

"We're going out first thing in the morning to practice Quidditch," Sirius said.

Seeing where he was going, Lily said, "I can't play with you guys. I told you, I don't like brooms. And besides, I haven't got one of my own so you guys wouldn’t be able to play together. And," she added quickly, "I'm going to Diagon Alley tomorrow morning."

"Well then, we'll play when you get back," Sirius said stubbornly.

"You know, Quiddtich is just a game. It's not that important that I play."

James began to chuckle and Lily looked around at him. "You are the most stubborn person I have ever known," he stated.

Before James could continue or Lily or Sirius could interrupt, there were the sounds of footsteps racing down the corridor. Lily looked out of the door and saw Mrs. Potter moving quickly toward James's room. Lily moved further into the room, where Sirius had risen to his feet. James was also on his feet near the window, looking at his mum in some concern.

"It's happened again!" Mrs. Potter exclaimed breathlessly. "He's attacking again." She held out something, which James moved quickly to take. He read it, swallowed hard, and then held it out in the general direction of Lily and Sirius. Lily caught sight of the headline and immediately felt like she was going to be sick.

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named Kills Twelve And Eludes Capture.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

I hope you all liked this update. Please post feedback here and make me very happy.

Thank you to every one of you who continue to read and review my story. It means very much to me.



Last edited by HermioneLuna; June 28th, 2005 at 12:58 am.
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  #11  
Old June 29th, 2005, 6:16 am
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HermioneLuna  Undisclosed.gif HermioneLuna is offline
Fifth Year
 
Joined: 5544 days
Posts: 777
Muggle Attack

Lily was fuming as she stormed up the trail to Hogwarts; if she'd been capable of creative thought at that moment, she might have said that her temper matched her red hair. She didn't break stride until she was all the way back in her empty dorm. All the other girls were obviously still in Hogsmeade.

By herself with time to think, Lily began to wonder if she hadn't been a bit overly sensitive about James' rejection of her idea. It was, after all, just an idea and who cares if they had to pick a new one? Why did she get so upset?

Before she had time to fully think about it, the dorm door opened and closed again. She spun around and was brought face to face with Emily. Upon seeing her friend, a new anger stirred in Lily.

"Are you okay?" Emily asked, incredulous. "Everyone in the Three Broomsticks heard that fight."

"He just makes me so angry!" Lily burst out. "Why does he have to be so argumentative and egotistical?"

"Lily-"

"How hard is it to just admit that this plan would work if we only just gave it a try?"

"Lily-"

"There's nothing wrong with it! It just needs some adjusting! Why does he have to be so arrogant all the time?"

"Lily!"

Lily stopped ranting and faced Emily, eyeing her impatiently.

"First, take a deep breath."

"I don-"

"Breathe," Emily commanded.

Lily breathed in deeply and then slowly let out her breath.

"Good. Now, don't you think you're being overly sensitive because it was your idea?"

"Don't tell me you agree with him!"

"I saw what you guys figured out. And you know what? He's right. Hear me out," she said quickly as Lily started to interrupt. "If you've divided the teams up and all you're doing is spreading the points the teams earn over all the houses, then we may as well not have Quidditch at all."

"Quidditch is more than just house points."

"It is. But where's the fun in it for the ones who don't play if they can't pick a team to support?"

"That's just it. If they don't have one to support over another, the houses won't be fighting as much."

"Lily, do you really think that Quidditch is the only reason the houses are divided? If it were as simple as that, Dumbledore wouldn't have needed you and James to work on any sort of project. He would have just cancelled Quidditch."

Lily thought about what Emily was saying. She hated to admit it, but she was right. Which means Potter is right, Lily thought and her heart sank. She'd wanted so much for her idea to work out. And now she realized what she wanted even more was for James to agree with her. I can't think about that now, Lily told herself. Emily was still waiting for her to say something.

"All right, fine," Lily conceded, begrudgingly. "You're right. I'll apologize to Potter. Do you know where he is?"

"He was still in the Three Broomsticks the last time I saw him, but he could be anywhere between there and here by now."

There was a silence and then, "Maybe it'd ease all this tension between you two if you just told him the truth."

"The truth? About what?"

"About you. Or rather, how you feel about him. I think the stress of it all is getting to you."

Lily didn't respond directly. She wasn't looking forward to the conversation she was about to have. "I can't just see it," she told Emily. "I'll apologize and James will ruffle his hair and give me that cocky, arrogant smile. Then he'll say something about how he's so smart and always knows these things and then we'll just fight again."

"Well," Emily said, smiling. "You can be a bit arrogant yourself."

"Not like Potter," she snapped defensively.

"I'd say you both were about dead even. I'm not criticizing, though. I'll go with you and pull you away before you lose your temper. Again."

They walked down into the Common Room and didn't see James although they did see Peter. Peter spotted them as they made their way over to him and said, "Prongs is really angry."

"Where is he?" Emily asked.

"In our dorm. I wouldn't go up there if I were you, though."

Lily looked at Emily, who waved her forward with her arm. "Go on."

Lily sighed and walked over to the foot of the stairs that disappeared into the boys' dormitory and then paused. "Maybe you should go first."

"Why?" Emily asked, confused.

"'Cause he's not mad at you."

Emily rolled her eyes and led the way up the stairs. When they arrived at the correct dorm, she opened the door and walked in as though she did this every day. "Hey, guys!" she said cheerfully.

"What are you doing in here?" James snapped.

"Are you insane? You don't just go walking into someone's dorm like that!" Sirius exclaimed.

"What?" Emily said, looking around. "You're all decent and clothed. Don't be so sensitive."

"What do you want?" James asked impatiently.

"Nothing. Lily, on the other hand, does want something."

Lily was standing just inside the dorm room and James looked at her with an expression that told her he had just noticed she was there. Emily and Sirius left to give them some privacy and it was a while before either James or Lily spoke. James crossed his arms and looked at Lily expectantly; waiting to see what she could have to say to him.

"I'm sorry I snapped at you. You were right. It wasn't the best plan," Lily said in one breath. And here comes the arrogant 'I told you so,' she thought.

James looked like he was struggling between remaining stubbornly angry and allowing himself to calm down. Finally, he decided the latter and uncrossed his arms. He distractedly messed up his already untidy hair and said, "I've tried thinking of another plan and it's hard work. You at least came up with something. It isn't as easy as I thought it would be."

Lily blinked and then blinked again. "Well...erm...Maybe we can come up with something together?"

He leaned against the bedpost of one of the beds. "Maybe we shouldn't," he said thoughtfully.

"What?"

"We can't force every student in this school to like each other. It just isn't possible. Maybe we should just let them work it out."

"But Dumbledore-"

"Dumbledore knows two seventh years can't do this alone. He has to."

Lily considered James' idea. "What if..." she started, but then settled into silence as she thought. What James had just said was very close to one of the ideas she'd had in Dumbledore's office their first night there.

"Yes?" James prompted.

"What if," she continued, "we just led by example. We could treat all the houses as if they were one big house."

"Okay. And we could ask the Prefects to help. If everyone is acting like everyone else isn't in a different house, that should help to ease the tension a little."

"Sounds good." To her own surprise, Lily smiled at him. He returned the smile, and to Lily's further surprise, it seemed to be missing its usual cocky edge. When he looked her in the eye, she felt her stomach jump to somewhere near her throat and decided that was the perfect time to make a rapid exit.

"So, erm, we'll have to talk to Dumbledore about this," she said quickly. "I'll, erm, talk to McGonagall and maybe she can pass the message along? How's that?"

"That's fine."

"Great. I'll see you later." She turned and walked calmly out of the dorm and when she was out of sight, she hurried down the stairs and back into the Common Room.

Emily was standing at the bottom of the stairs and Lily had barely gotten both her feet on the ground when Emily burst out with an impatient, "Well?!"

" ‘Well’ what?"

"What happened? I didn't hear any shouting."

"Is that bad?"

"Yes! When you're shouting I know what's going on. That silence...what happened?"

"Nothing. I apologized. We talked. And I think we've got something every house and Dumbledore can live with."

"Which is?"

"We treat every house like it's our own."

Emily shrugged. "Better than nothing, I guess." Before Lily could ask what that meant, Emily continued. "Those boys are so strange. Sirius and I came down here and Remus was here already. I start talking to Remus and Sirius acts like he's invaded our conversation and leaves. He just left."

Lily smiled. She hadn't told Emily that James and his friends thought she fancied Remus.

"This isn't funny, Lily," Emily scolded. "I can't figure out what's going through his head."

"I know," Lily said.

"Well, tell me, would you?"

"They think you're dating Remus."

Emily stared at her friend for a minute and then said, "No, seriously."

Lily laughed. "I'm serious. They really think you fancy him."

Emily wore a bewildered expression that amused Lily more than anything that had occurred that day. Finally Emily sighed and said, "Well, I don't know how James and Sirius are the cleverest boys in our year if they can't see how wrong they are about that."

"Tell them then," Lily said.

"Oh, yes," Emily responding with the merest hint of sarcasm. " ‘Hi Sirius. I don't fancy Remus at all. I'm much more interested in you. Thought you ought to know’."

"Well, why not?"

"Why don't you tell James how you feel about him?" Emily challenged.

"Because he's an arrogant-"

"Let's not have this conversation again," Emily said, apparently bored of hearing about James's arrogance. "When are you showing the plan to Dumbledore?"

"After I talk to McGonagall. We think she'll pass the message along, hopefully."

"I still think Dumbledore is mad if he thinks Hogwarts will ever be united the way he wants it to be," Emily stated. Lily fixed her with a "I could really use your support on this" look and Emily added, "But, anything is worth a try at a time like this."

"Yes. Much better sooner than later."

Before either girl could continue their conversation, the portrait hole burst open and three third years fought their way inside, looking as pale as death. One of them, a blond boy Lily didn't know, was waving a sheet of parchment around and trying to talk through his gasping breath. More and more Gryffindors clambered around to see what the problem was, and slowly each formerly curious face turned into panicked white as well. There was a murmur that slowly grew louder and Lily could hear what was causing all the commotion.

"How could he kill so many without anyone stopping him?" one Gryffindor pondered aloud.

"I knew it wasn't safe with him around," another declared firmly.

"You-Know-Who really won't stop at anything, will he?"

"Were they all Muggles?"

"Every one of them."

Emily and Lily shared terrified looks. Voldemort had finally launched an attack on the Muggle world. Lily's stomach filled with fear and dread, she couldn't breath and her eyes were wide with shock. She fought back the urge to be sick as she realized that the threat he posed was real.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The next few seconds lasted an eternity as Lily, Sirius and James took in the news. She could tell they were all thinking the same thing she was: It had been much too quiet the last few months. Voldemort had been biding his time, waiting until everyone's guard was down to strike again.

Finally, Sirius spoke, his voice so loud in the former silence that it made Lily jump. "Where was this?" He turned the paper over. "It doesn't say." He seemed to be panicked, but trying to keep it under control.

"It does," Mrs. Potter said, crossing to the window and peering out. "Down at the bottom, there."

Sirius re-read the last section of the article and visibly relaxed a little. "It's in London."

"London!" Lily exclaimed, snatching the paper from Sirius. Her heart caught in her throat as she tried to calm herself long enough to find out what happened. "My sister's at university there," she said, reading the article for herself.

"It was mostly wizards that got attacked," Mrs. Potter said, still looking out of the window. "No Muggle casualties as far as we know."

"Are-Are you sure?" Lily asked, looking up from the article.

"So far. We're waiting for word from Dumbledore."

Somehow this didn’t calm Lily. "Petunia blames m-, I mean, she thinks magic caused all her problems. If she-"

"The Muggles had their memories wiped," Mrs. Potter cut her off. "They won't remember anything."

"What's Dumbledore doing?" James asked.

"Taking care of the problem," Mrs. Potter replied quickly.

"Really?" Sirius asked, apparently more interested than scared now. "Is it Order stuff? Because if it is, we want to go and help."

"You can't," Mrs. Potter said simply. "You're too young-"

"We're of age," James stated, frustrated. Lily could relate; she was annoyed that they were being treated as children as well. Especially after they had already proven themselves.

"And out of school," Lily added. "We want to go and help."

"Yeah," Sirius agreed. "What good will sitting around here do?"

"You don't understand what it will be like," Mrs. Potter said.

Lily suddenly remembered her letter to Dumbledore. "Is he coming here, then?" That would make it so much easier for her to talk to him.

"No, he's going to- There it is!" Mrs. Potter exclaimed, turning away from the window.

"There what is?" James asked, confused.

"Dumbledore's signal."

"Are you sure? It might be something else entirely."

"I know Dumbledore's signal when I see it," Mrs. Potter said.

"What does it mean?"

"Just that he's handled the situation," Mrs. Potter said simply. Then she looked at James and said, "Your father will be home soon and dinner will be ready, so I suggest you all get ready."

She brushed out of the room, saying something to herself as she made her way down the corridor. Once Mrs. Potter was out of earshot, Lily turned to James and said, "How come you didn't tell me your parents were in the Order?"

"They aren't," James said. "They help, but they aren't official."

"What? Why not?"

"Dad works in the Ministry. It's part of his job to help when there are huge attacks like this. He gets the very fun job of collecting the corpses and obliviating Muggle memories."

Lily pulled a face at what Mr. Potter had to see so often. She didn't think she could handle seeing carnage like that all the time and she thought she was starting to understand why he was always so concerned and protective; he had seen what Voldemort could do and he had a very clear idea what she saw the night her parents died. He knew how that could affect someone and she now knew why he was always asking if she was all right.

Swallowing hard, she looked at James and Sirius. Before any of them could speak, Mrs. Potter's voice floated into the room. "Dinner's ready!"

"I'm not very hungry," Lily said quietly.

Sirius looked at James and Lily and left the room without a word. Lily knew Sirius wasn't one to discuss his feelings and was probably grateful for a reason to leave and grasp onto a new topic.

"I'm not going down. I don't really feel like eating," Lily said.

"Me either, but you know my parents. If we don't go down-"

"Right," Lily said, thinking of the fuss they'd make. "All right," she sighed, leaving the room and walking toward the kitchen.

Every took their seats in a different manner: Lily was tense, James and Sirius were very obviously frustrated and impatient, Mr. Potter was distracted, and Mrs. Potter seemed worried. Once they were all seated around the table and the food had been served, Sirius was the first to speak.

"This is stupid, you know. We’re sitting around here trying to act like everything is fine, when Voldemort is out there getting away with everything. We should be out there, fighting. Not in here doing nothing."

"There's nothing you can do right now, Sirius," Mr. Potter said. "The Death Eaters are scattered all over England and it's not as though we're going to find You-Know-Who having a drink at the Leaky Cauldron."

"We need to put wards up around the house," Mrs. Potter told her husband.

"Why?" Lily asked, suddenly concerned. "Do you think he's going to come here?"

"No, I don't. But there's no such thing as being too cautious."

Lily internally agreed, but said nothing. Instead, she pushed her food around on her plate, feeling thoroughly sick to her stomach.

"Lily, we'll be leaving for Diagon Alley early tomorrow, so don't stay up too late," Mrs. Potter said.

"I---what? We're still going?"

"Of course. Diagon Alley is perfectly safe."

"I don't think-" Mr. Potter began.

"Well Apparate to the Leaky Cauldron and go into Diagon Alley. There won't be any attacks there," Mrs. Potter said. "We need to put up as much protection as we can, and there are some things we can only get there."

Lily wasn't very fond of the thought of leaving the safety of the Potter home with someone she liked, but wasn't entirely comfortable with. She thought of asking James to go with them until she remembered that they were supposed to be birthday shopping for him. She didn't want to seem rude by refusing to go, so instead she offered a small smile and focused on her plate, still full with food.

"Lily, aren't you hungry?" Mr. Potter asked.

Lily was about to say she wasn't and that she'd like to be excused. But when she looked up into his worried face and remembered what James had told her, she picked up her fork and started eating. James gave her an odd look she'd rarely seen before, then turned to Sirius who was talking about the perfect present he had picked out.

Lily tried to think of the best possible present for James, but he hadn't even hinted to her what he wanted. Deciding she'd wait to see if she was struck by inspiration the next day, she watched in amusement as Sirius taunted James with the knowledge of his present, who continued to fail miserably at guessing what it was.

After dinner, Lily, James and Sirius walked up the stairs to James' room. Sirius pulled the chair he had been sitting in in front of him and sat down facing the back. Crossing his arms over the top of it, he said, "I say we Apparate to Hogwarts right now and tell Dumbledore we want to help."

"You can't Apparate inside Hogwarts," Lily said, looking out of the window.

"Then we can Apparate to Hogsmeade and walk to Hogwarts. Or we can Floo there," replied Sirius.

"Only James's parents are probably going to station an armed guard outside of our rooms to make sure we're all right," Lily responded, still focused on the darkness outside of the window.

"Probably," Sirius said, his voice both disappointed and annoyed. "What are you looking for, anyway?"

"Archimedes."

"I don't think Dumbledore is going to respond so fast," James said. "Archimedes probably isn't even there yet."

"Probably not, but owls travel fast," Lily responded, still looking out of the window.

There was a silence and then James said, "I don't think my mum's going to be too happy with you moving out, Padfoot."

Lily turned away from the window. She thought that was a random jump in conversation. "What?"

"I'm getting my own place," Sirius told her.

"But how can you have the money for that? You've been in school and your family-"

"I've got an uncle who left me a lot of money."

"Oh," Lily said, unable to think of anything else to say, her mind still on Voldemort, Dumbledore and the Order. She yawned. "I think I'll go to sleep."

Once she was back in her room, Lily began to wonder why Voldemort's attacks affected her so much more than they seemed to affect her friends. She always became scared and reclusive, while they, or more specifically Sirius, became that much more outspoken and determined to get into the middle of the nearest fight.

She concluded that they hadn't lost family members to this war and also hadn't seen those they loved murdered right in front of them. She also decided that being Muggleborn, she had more reason to be afraid of someone determined to wipe all non-purebloods from the face of the earth.

She looked out of the window once more, searching the starless sky for Archimedes. When she saw no movement outside, she decided to settle in for what was sure to be a restless night's sleep.

The next morning, she woke up and prepared to go to Diagon Alley with Mrs. Potter. After breakfast, the two of them Apparated to the Leaky Cauldron as was planned and, after tapping the bricks behind the bar, entered Diagon Alley. Their first stop was Gringotts.

Lily gave her key to the goblin that was to take them down to their respective vaults. She sometimes enjoyed these trips because they reminded her of Muggle rollercoasters. However, sometimes she wished they would just bring her money up to her so she didn't get sick darting around those tunnels. This time, she was already sick with worry over Voldemort, so one trip wasn't going to make it much worse.

After Mrs. Potter had taken money from her family's vault, they continued on to Lily's. When they arrived at her vault and the door was opened, Lily heard a surprised gasp from Mrs. Potter. Even Lily was surprised to see the contents of her own vault. She hadn't looked in since Christmas when she'd received the gift and hadn't expected it to be this much. It wasn't as much as the Potters', but it was still quite a sizable amount.

After her initial shock vanished, Lily gathered a sackful of gold galleons and boarded the car again. Mrs. Potter kept politely silent about the gold in Lily's vault, and Lily appreciated it.

"All right, dear," Mrs. Potter began, "we've got a lot to accomplish in this trip."

"Well," Lily helped. "If you wanted to shop for the things you need to put up the wards and stuff around the house, I'd be fine by myself."

"No, I don't think so. It's dangerous these days."

"But Diagon Alley is safe. I'm not sure what to get James and I don't want to stop you getting everything you need."

"Well," Mrs. Potter appeared to be thinking. "Diagon Alley is safe, so if you want to shop on your own, that's fine. But be very careful, just the same. It's hard to know who to trust these days. You're sure you'll be all right on your own?"

"Oh, it's fine," Lily said brightly, wanting time to think on her own. "I've been around here a lot, and I don't think I've got to worry about Death Eaters trying to hurt me with no one noticing."

Mrs. Potter hesitated and then said, "All right, dear. If you're sure..."

They parted ways, and Lily wandered down the main street in the Alley, looking at the different shops. She stopped at the windows of every store she came across, trying to decide if James might want something from one of them. At one shop, she loitered longer than the others, convinced James would like something from there, but unsure of what specifically he would want.

Sighing, she moved on to the next shop, before something stirred in her memory. She walked backwards, looked in the window again, and then entered the shop, happy to be buying something she knew James would love.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

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  #12  
Old July 3rd, 2005, 7:55 pm
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HermioneLuna  Undisclosed.gif HermioneLuna is offline
Fifth Year
 
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Surprises


Lily sat in Dumbledore's office again, staring at him, but not really focusing on him. If he was talking, she didn't know it. Though she was trying her best to be interested in what was going on, she couldn't bring herself to concentrate. All she could think about were the words glaring at her from that one piece of parchment and about her family. He's finally done it, she thought. Her mind wandered to her parents and she wondered if this was the time to tell them about Voldemort.

"Miss Evans?"

"Hey, Evans."

Lily blinked as she finally realized someone was calling her name. As she refocused her attention, she noticed a hand waving in front of her face. "What? Stop it, Potter," she said, grabbing his arm and pushing it away. She remembered where she was and what the meeting was about and turned to Dumbledore. "I'm sorry, sir. What were you saying?"

Dumbledore smiled kindly. “In times such as these, when Voldemort is actively pursuing the goal of his creed, it is more important than ever that the students of this school stand united against him. I assume you have heard of his recent attack?”

"Yes, sir," Lily said. "And I agree that we need to promote house unity. Potter and I thought that uniting the houses through Quidditch was a bad idea. We couldn't make it work. So now we're thinking a different method might be appropriate."

"We thought that instead we could just lead by example," James explained. "It's easier for the whole school and if the prefects did it too..."

"'It' being treating every house like there is no difference," Lily elaborated. "The Gryffindors treating the Slytherins just the same as if they were Gryffindors, we mean."

Dumbledore listened in silence and when they were finished he still did not speak immediately. Slowly, a smile spread across his face as though this were the very idea he had been waiting for.

"Your plan has the potential to be quite effective. I would like for all prefects to be informed of the new arrangement."

"All right," Lily said. "We see the Gryffindor prefects every day, so we can tell them."

"Right. We'll get right on that," James said. He looked at Lily. "We could call a prefects meeting or something."

"We don't really need to do that just for this. We could just tell them when we see them."

James looked like he was going to argue, but instead just nodded. Then he asked Dumbledore, "Is that all right?"

"That will be acceptable," he replied with a light in his eye. "Now, I would encourage you to enjoy the afternoon. Weather can be rather temperamental, and if I'm not mistaken, there will be dark clouds approaching soon enough."

Lily and James left Dumbledore's office in silence. Neither of them spoke until the stone gargoyle had moved into place behind them.

"That went well," Lily said, pleasantly surprised.

"Yeah. We work well as a team," James said, smiling. Then, "Are you all right?"

Lily furrowed her brow. "As far as I know. Why?"

"You were really distracted in there. And with the attack on the Muggles-"

"Oh, that. I'm fine," she lied. She quickly turned away and began walking. "I wonder where Emily is," she said in an attempt to change the subject.

"Find Moony and I bet we'll find her," James speculated cheerfully.

"What?"

"Oh come on, Evans. Everyone knows by now."

"Knows what, Potter?"

"That Emily fancies Moony," he told her as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.

Lily smiled, stopping herself just short of laughing.

"What's funny?"

"Nothing," Lily responded, clearing her throat and trying to force her face back into a normal expression. "Who is 'everyone', exactly? I mean, does Remus think Emily fancies him?"

"I don't know. He isn't the type to talk about that stuff, you know? But it's pretty obvious, isn't it?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Lily said innocently.

"Yes, you do. The way she gets nervous when he's around, how she always needs 'help' with something he happens to be very good at, and what are you laughing at?" he finished in exasperation.

Lily was fighting with all her might to stop herself laughing, but was close to failing miserably in the attempt. "You, Potter."

"What?"

"You're such a...such a boy!" Lily was now laughing outright. She thought it quite amusing how he could misread the signs so completely and welcomed the distraction from the news of Voldemort's attack.

"Well, yeah," he said slowly, confusion in his voice. "I tend to like it that way."

They were exiting the castle onto the grounds now. Lily looked up at the sky and saw that Dumbledore had been right. There were angry gray clouds rolling over the castle and it looked like a storm would be starting any moment.

"I hope this clears up before Quidditch," James said, eyeing the clouds with distaste.

"Is the first match soon?" Lily asked conversationally.

James looked at her with surprise. "How could you not know that?"

"I don't really follow the games that closely and I'm also not on the team. How would I know when the first match is?"

"It's in two weeks," he informed her.

"Against Slytherin, right?"

"Yeah, but they don't stand a chance against us." James smiled, and Lily noted his trademark arrogant expression.

"Bad team?"

"Well, they're Slytherins so that goes without saying, doesn't it? Gryffindor couldn't have a better team. And with me as their captain-"

"And on that humble note," Lily interrupted, "I'll be going." She turned to walk in another direction, but James followed her.

"It's true, you know. This team couldn't have such a great shot without my leadership."

Lily made a disgusted noise. "Just when it looks like you might have some common sense knocked into you, you say stuff like that."

"Nothing wrong with being confident," he said lightly.

"Would serve you right if Slytherin beat you, you know."

"Evans, are you rooting for the enemy?" James asked in a feigned shocked voice.

"You are not going to single-handedly secure a victory for Gryffindor, Potter. You're only a Chaser. Without a Seeker, it won't make a difference if you score one hundred points."

"One hundred?" James asked thoughtfully. "I could probably manage that."

"Not in one game, you couldn't."

"One hundred points? That's nothing."

"If you say so, Potter," Lily sighed, looking around the grounds. It was beginning to sprinkle. She had intended to meet up with Emily, but she knew her friend would be headed back inside the castle now that it had started raining. "I'll talk to you later," she told James distractedly, setting off toward the castle.

Again James followed her. "I could, you know."

"Could what?"

"Score one hundred points."

Deciding not to argue, Lily said, "I believe you."

"No, you don't," James contradicted.

"What difference does it make?" Lily asked in irritation.

"The difference is I can do it," James insisted. "And you're saying I can't."

"I'm not saying-"

"You watch. In the match against Slytherin, I'll score 100 points. In fact," he paused as though considering his words. "I'll score 200."

"Two hundred points, Potter? That's twenty goals. Thinking a bit much of yourself even for you, don't you think?"

"I bet I could do it long before we catch the Snitch."

"That's completely impossible."

"You think so? Well, how'd you like to make a little wager on that?" He challenged, his smile now mischievous.

"Sorry?"

"I bet I can make at least two hundred points in the match against Slytherin. And if I win..." He paused and then said, "Well, I won't tell you that just yet."

Lily scoffed. "You think I'm going to make a deal with you when I don't know what's going to happen? You're mad."

"You don't have to tell me what'll happen if I lose. That makes it fair."

"No. No, it doesn't. Because I don't trust you. There's no way I'm agreeing to that."

"How about if we just tell someone else, who can decide if it's bad or not?"

"Or we could not. I'm not betting on a Quidditch match."

"Where's the harm, Evans? It's just a bet between friends."

"Friends? Let’s not exaggerate." Though she wasn't inclined to agree to such a deal, she was interested in seeing James Potter finally being brought down a notch or two if he lost. If she agreed and he lost, she might be able to help with that. Eyeing him carefully, she asked, "Who do you have in mind?"

"Padfoot."

"Pa- Sirius?" Lily asked incredulously. "No. He's as bad as you, Potter."

James looked defeated. "Moony, then?"

Lily considered the idea. Remus was very reasonable. "And Emily," she added quickly.

James appeared to consider the suggestion. Finally, he said "Deal," and extended his hand. Lily cautiously shook it and then without a word, returned to the castle.




"You what?!"

"Emily-" Lily was sitting at the foot of Emily's bed in the Common Room that night. It was the first chance she'd gotten to explain what happened after the meeting with Dumbledore.

"Lily, you made a deal with James Potter and you don't know what happens if you lose? That's something I would do, not something you would do." Emily was lying across the width of her bed, staring at the ceiling.

"That's why you have to approve whatever it is he wants to do. And before you get any ideas, Remus has to, as well."

"Then you really have nothing to worry about. We'll never agree."

"Why not?"

"He's going to go for something conservative, like wizard's chess."

"Hmmm, maybe. But he might surprise you."

"Or worse. You."

"I'm not worried about it. Remus is pretty reasonable and smart. He's not going to agree to whatever it is Potter is planning."

"It's always the quiet ones," Emily said to no one in particular. "And he is best friends with James. After seven years there might be more Potter there than we realize. Hey!” she suddenly exclaimed as though remembering something. “Did you send Archimedes to your parents?"

"No," Lily said slowly. "I didn't have a chance to."

Emily looked at her doubtfully.

"I'm not going to make them worry for no reason." Despite the fact that Lily was worried about Voldemort, she was trying to convince herself that he had no reason to attack her family.

"No reason?!" Emily exclaimed, sitting up. "You think Voldemort killing all those Muggles is no reason?"

"But he isn't going to travel all the way to my house just to kill my parents. He isn't conducting door to door murders, you know."

"That's not the point. They need to know."

"What could they do, except worry about me?"

"Lily-" She paused. "Oh!" Leaping from her bed, Emily grabbed her wand and hurriedly made her way toward the dorm room door.

"Where are you going?"

"Never you mind," Emily said as she disappeared.

Lily looked after her in confusion before following her. "Hey! Emily, what are you up to?" She ran down to the Common Room and spotted Emily running up the staircase to the boys’ dormitory. Lily followed quickly, wondering what Emily could possibly be planning.

When she finally arrived at the correct dorm, she found that the door was closed. She tried to push it open, but it wouldn't budge. Knocking, she said, "Let me in!"

Lily could hear voices from inside. Emily was saying something, but she couldn't hear what. She stopped knocking and pressed her ear against the door. Remus was talking. She could just make out the words "idea" and "Prongs."

James started saying something. Lily pushed her ear harder against the door. She could barely make out James's words. "We'll see."

"See what?" she whispered to herself. She resumed knocking, this time more insistently. There was movement from inside, someone said "Alohamora," and the door swung open. Peter was holding the door open for her, so she walked in.

"Sorry about that," Emily said, smiling. "Had to make sure you couldn't interrupt."

"Interrupt what exactly?"

"I was just having a chat with James."

Lily looked over at James, who was leaning against his bedpost. He was also smiling. Lily started to feel a little worried. Just what had Emily told him? "And what conspiracies have you cooked up?"

Emily mocked offense. "I am simply shocked, Lily. Would I plot with someone behind your back?"

Lily raised her eyebrows, but said nothing.

"That's not what I'm doing, if that's what you're thinking."

"Really, Evans," James said, "Emily is just being...Emily. It's nothing to worry about."

"Somehow your assurance that everything is fine is not a comfort, Potter."

"Is mine?" Emily asked. "Trust me, it's nothing horrible." She looked around the room and added, "Well, thanks guys. You've been a big help." She smiled mischievously and rose from the chair she was sitting on.

Lily followed her out of the room and back to their own dorm. Once they were inside, she demanded, "What was that all about?"

"I was just asking if James might consider doing something for me if he won the bet. That's all."

"So you want him to win?"

"Of course. I want a Gryffindor victory. And if it just so happens to help me in the process, well, that makes it better."

"Help you with what?"

Emily yawned. "I think I'm going to sleep."

"I don't think it's Remus that Potter has rubbed off on," Lily remarked.

"What do you mean?" Emily asked, sitting on her bed.

"You've started keeping intriguing secrets from me, now."

"Ah. Their mysterious nicknames. Yes, one day I'll figure that out. Don't think I've given up on that."

"I wouldn't dream of it," Lily said, sitting on her own bed. "But you really should tell me-“

"'Night, Lily," Emily said, drawing her hangings shut.

"'Night," Lily called. She stared at Emily's closed hangings, wondering just what her friend was doing that she wouldn't tell her. Deciding that if it was something she really should know, Emily certainly would have told her, Lily shut the hangings on her own bed and soon drifted off to sleep.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ *

Lily left the shop with her present for James and set off to find Mrs. Potter again. She had mentioned something about getting protection supplies, but didn't know where specifically she was going. Adjusting her load under her arm so she could carry it more comfortably, Lily walked down the path Mrs. Potter had taken, looking around for any sign of her. She wove in and out of the witches and wizards darting from one place to the next as they went about their day and wondered what sort of protective items Mrs. Potter would need to buy.

Lost in her own thoughts, she almost ran into someone who was running out of a nearby store. The person saw her just in time and came to a halt, pulling his greasy black hair out of his face as he gasped in surprise.

"Watch where you're going," Severus Snape spat.

"Oh, shut it," Lily retorted. "You're the one barging out into a street full of people without looking around.

"Don't you talk to me like that, you little Mudblood," Severus warned.

"Buying new underpants?" she said lightly. "Finally decided to give the world that delightful and refreshing change?"

"I'd be careful if I were you," he said threateningly. "Otherwise, you might meet the same end as your parents."

Lily almost lost her hold on James's present, but managed to maintain her composure. "I've got a lot of people on my side who would love to make you regret that," she said, her voice deadly. "How'd you like to be flashing all of Diagon Alley?"

"Figures you'd need your boyfriend's help," he scoffed.

He was making her angrier with every word he spoke. "I can do it all by myself. And I'd get great enjoyment out of it, too." She could hear the blood pounding in her ears from her rage.

"Really?" he asked, pulling out his own wand. "Think you could get yours and hex me before I get you first?"

"You attack a Muggleborn in plain view of all these wizards," she began, looking around at everyone around them, "and they'll throw you in Azkaban as a Death Eater faster than you can say 'Snivellus.'"

Lily was satisfied to see that Snape looked unnerved at this statement. His face went, if it were possible, paler. He, too, glanced around at the crowd bustling around them, a few of which were looking curiously in their direction.

Without a word, he backed away from her and when he was apparently satisfied that the distance between them was sufficient, he put his wand away and retreated. It was only after he left her sight that she thought of hitting him on the head with the box that was holding James's gift. She turned and continued on her way up the street, resuming her search for Mrs. Potter.

Rounding a corner onto yet another street, she finally saw Mrs. Potter exiting a shop a few stores ahead. Already tired of carrying the large box around, Lily hitched it up more securely and quickened her stride to catch up.

"Hi," she breathed when she was within earshot.

"Lily, I was just about to go find you." Mrs. Potter eyed Lily's box. "I see you've found a present."

"Yes!" Lily said excitedly. "I think I found the perfect thing!"

"Wonderful," she responded, both happy and distracted. "Well, we should be getting back, dear. I want to get those barriers up as soon as possible and the most complicated ones will take ages."

They Apparated back to Godric's Hollow, into the middle of the sitting room. Lily looked around the room for James and saw he was nowhere in sight. The only person present was Sirius, who was reading a parchment and appeared totally unperturbed by their arrival. Taking this opportunity to hide James's gift, Lily muttered a quick greeting to Sirius and then darted up the stairs to her room.

She slid the box into her closet, covered it up with random things on her closet floor and shut the door. Then, she returned to the sitting room where Mr. and Mrs. Potter were talking about the protection spells they had yet to cast. Trying to act causally, she took an open spot next to Sirius and listened as James's parents spoke.

"I think we should get the basic spells up first, before moving on to the more complicated ones," Mrs. Potter was saying. "Those are going to take all night."

"All right," Mr. Potter agreed. "We can spend all of tomorrow with the serious obstacles."

"Obstacles?" Lily asked Sirius.

"I think they mean hiding spells. You know, making this place unplottable and stuff."

"Oh. Well, that's a good idea," Lily said. "Where's James?"

"Tearing the house apart looking for his presents."

"But...he's getting them in a few hours," Lily said, confused.

"Prongs is impatient," Sirius responded shortly.

"He's lucky his birthday is so close to the end of the year. His presents get bought and given to him the same day."

"I got mine at Zonko's at the last Hogsmeade weekend."

"Really?" Lily asked, suddenly interested. "What did you get him?"

Sirius looked around at James's parents, who were still talking. Then he turned back to Lily and said "A very useful, ah, book."

"You got him a book?" she repeated, not quite sure what to make of that.

"Yep," Sirius said, with a grin.

Lily decided not to pry and just wait until later to see what it was.

"We're going to go put up a few of the spells," Mrs. Potter announced, rising to her feet.

"And we're going to go hide our gifts in a place Prongs has already looked," Sirius responded, quickly with a brief glance at Lily.

Mr. Potter shook his head and laughed, exiting the sitting room with his wife.

"Come on," Sirius said, standing. "I'll show you the book I got him."

Lily followed him up the stairs. He stopped at one of the closets, opened the door, moved a few things around and then pulled out a brown book. It was secured at the top with a clasp and looked ancient. Lily was surprised to see that Sirius actually thought James would want a book that looked as if it was full of heavy reading. When she saw the title, though, she laughed out loud.

"Well, that might be interesting with my gift," she said thoughtfully.

"What did you get him?" Sirius asked as he returned the book to its spot.

"I'll show you," she said, walking toward her room.

"You could just tell me," he informed her, but he followed.

"I could, but I bet anything James is lurking around the corner trying to overhear what he's getting."

"Ah, you're probably right," Sirius agreed.

Once they had entered Lily's room, she went to the closet, set aside the things hiding the present, and pulled out the box. She sat down on a nearby chair and placed the box on her lap, with the latches holding it shut facing Sirius. Opening it carefully, she showed him its contents.

Sirius' eyes widened in surprise. "That's...How could you afford that?" He didn't even look up.

"I got a lot of money around Christmas-time," she answered. "I think he'll like it."

"I think...Can I have it?" he joked, running his hand along one side of it.

When he finished admiring the gift, Lily shut the box closed again and replaced it in her closet. She made sure it was well hidden and the door tightly shut before turning to face him again.

"I'm surprised you would get something like that, considering how you feel about them," Sirius said, still in a state of semi-awe.

She shrugged. "I detest those things, but if James likes them..."

"If you're stuck on what to get me for my birthday, or Christmas, or you know, anytime for no reason at all, you could buy me anything, anytime."

"You know I almost broke it," she said, smiling at the thought that Sirius would be happy to hear that she had bested Snape in an argument.

"Broke what? The-"

"Yeah."

"How?"

"I ran into Snape. Or rather, he almost ran into me." She told him about the exchange at Diagon Alley and finished with, "And I didn't think of hitting him over the head with it until after, but I would have."

"That slimy, foul git," Sirius said angrily. "I swear, I'm going to-"

"It's over. Just let it be over," Lily interrupted.

Sirius made no response, but from the look of anger on his face, she knew he wasn't going to let it be over. What he was going to do, or how he was going to accomplish it, she had no idea.

"Sirius," Lily started, suddenly afraid her story would do more harm than good. "Don't do anything stupid to get back at him for a couple mean comments. It doesn't mean anything." She didn't believe that, but she'd been witness to Sirius's anger in the past and was in no hurry to see it again.

"Yes it does," Sirius snapped. "Anyone promoting pureblood supremacist rubbish like that means something by it."

"You're right. He does," Lily agreed, talking fast in her attempt to calm him down. She thought arguing with him would be the exact wrong thing to do just now. "But he's harmless. Don't you go looking for him. You couldn't find him and you'd just get into trouble trying to hurt him." Lily focused on his face, trying to see if he was going to agree with her or not. "I think he got the message, anyway."

Before either of them could say anything, they heard a voice from the corridor say, "What are you two up to?"

Lily jumped. "Just talking," she said quickly, moving away from the closet door.

"About what?" James asked, leaning against the doorframe.

"About..." Lily threw her mind around for a subject.

"I was telling Evans here about the first time you rode a broom, remember?"

James pushed himself from the doorframe, looking nervously at Lily. "Erm, Padfoot. I don't think-"

"Oh you remember!" Sirius said cheerfully. "Your pants were too big and-"

"Padfoot," James said, moving into the room, looking utterly panic-stricken, "if you-"

"...And started dragging, but we hadn't learned how to stop, so they-"

"Hey, Lily!" James said loudly. "Archimedes come back yet?"

Lily looked between Sirius and James. "They what?" she asked.

Before Sirius could answer, James said, "I hope he hasn't been hurt. What if Dumbledore never got the letter?"

Lily laughed and decided to let the subject drop for that moment. There would be plenty of time to hear the rest of the story. "I never thought of that. I hope there hasn't been another attack."

"Don't think there will be," James said, visibly relieved at the change of subject. "Anyway, you shouldn't be thinking about that on a day like today."

"Today?" Lily feigned confusion. "What's today?"

"Funny," James said sarcastically. "As if I don't know you've got my present hidden somewhere in here."

"What's he talking about, Sirius?" Lily asked, still pretending to be utterly confused.

"The day he cursed the world with his presence," Sirius responded casually.

"Oh!" She allowed a look of realization to cross her face and then looked back at James. "Why would anyone buy anything to celebrate such a day?" she asked, acting as though celebrating his birthday should be punished by law.

"Seriously," James said. "I can't find them anywhere in this house, and I know it better than you do."

"What makes you think I bought you anything?" Lily asked. "Your birthday is too close to the end of the school year to give anyone enough time to buy anything decent."

"Except that you went to Diagon Alley this morning," James pointed out, smiling knowingly.

"Yeah, to help your mum get some things," Lily responded.

"Come on, Evans," James said, putting on his most charming smile. "Where is it?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Lily said innocently. Then, thinking a change of subject was in order, she said, "I'm hungry. I think I'll go make myself a snack or something."

"Not until you tell me," James said.

"I can't. It's called a 'secret.' You'll just have to wait and see. It's worth the wait."

"Is it now?" James said, interested.

"That it is. And that's as much information as you're getting from me. So will you let me out, or do I have to resort to magic?" she teased.

James pretended to consider his options before feigning reluctance and pushing away from the doorframe to let her through. She thought he might follow her, but instead he stayed behind and started to talk to Sirius. She thought for a brief moment that Sirius might tell James about Snape or his present, but then decided that if he were going to do that, he'd have done it by then. Sirius wasn't exactly subtle at times like those.

Arriving in the kitchen, she pulled open one of the cupboards and studied its contents. She sighed as she searched for something she was willing to make, but jumped when a voice called her name.

"Lily?"

Lily looked around and saw Mr. Potter entering the room.

"Hello, Mr. Potter," she said cheerfully, closing the cupboard.

"Where's everyone?" he asked, looking around the empty kitchen.

"James and Sirius are upstairs. I think James is still trying to find out what his presents are."

"Oh," Mr. Potter said, chuckling. "He gets like that every year. We usually give them to him first thing, but with everything that's been going on..."

"Well, learning to have a little patience won't kill him," Lily said.

"We'll put him out of his misery soon enough. You haven't seem any owls today have you?"

"Erm, nope," Lily responded in confusion.

"Oh, well," he said, absentmindedly scratching his head. "I guess they're just delayed."

Lily had no idea what he was talking about, but smiled politely and nodded. Seeming to see her confusion, Mr. Potter explained, "Remus and Peter usually send something along if they aren't here. But after yesterday..."

"Mr. Potter," Lily started curiously, tucking a few stray strands of hair behind her ear and bouncing uncomfortably on her feet. "Yesterday, Mrs. Potter said that Dumbledore handled the situation. What did she mean?"

"Dumbledore had to clear the scene and then help with the Muggles," Mr. Potter said.

"Oh, okay," Lily said.

"We're done out there for now, so we can actually have James's party."

"Erm, 'for now'?" Lily asked, worried.

"There are some more complex protective spells we need to add, but that'll take hours," he explained quickly.

"Oh. Well, I'm sure James will be thrilled to see what he's gotten. He was really impatient."

"Yeah," Mr. Potter said, nodding. "That sounds like my son. You know, he didn't even want a party?"

"Really?" Lily thought James would have expected a huge celebration for his birthday.

"Really. He said he'd be happy with presents, but he didn't want a party."

"I'd have taken it," Lily said. "We're not going to get that many reasons to celebrate. Might as well take them when we get them."

"I thought that too, but James is...James. So I guess we're going to give him his gifts and then...That's probably it."

"So what do you still have left to do?" Lily asked, interested in what sort of protection the Potters felt was necessary.

"We're going to make the house unplottable and possibly use the Fidelius Charm. That should secure us better than anything."

"Not that I think we shouldn't have as much protection as possible," Lily began slowly, "but Voldemort isn't going to come here, right? I mean, he's after Muggles and Muggleborns, and you're Pureblood, so-"

"He knows about us," Mr. Potter said. "Like he knew about the families he killed around Christmas. And we think he knows we help Dumbledore." He looked for a moment as though he were going to add something else, but didn't speak again.

"You know," Lily offered. "Hogwarts has anti-Apparation spells on it. That might be helpful too."

"We thought of that, but that's extremely complicated magic. And if Dumbledore were to need to come here, he might need to Apparate. If we did that, he'd have to use Portkeys, which, actually aren't all that bad."

Lily listened to Mr. Potter talk about various protective measures they were taking before he said something about needing to check one of the wards and left. Lily made herself a sandwich and then went back to her room, which was now empty, and checked to see that the box was still in her closet. It hadn't appeared to have been moved. Then, she checked the skies to see if Archimedes might be approaching, but she saw nothing. After that, she found James and Sirius and talked with them until that evening when Mr. and Mrs. Potter said they had finished for the day and could give James his presents.

Lily excused herself to grab the box holding James's present and then snuck back into the room. Once they were all in the sitting room and James's attention was elsewhere, Lily slid the box behind the sofa and then sat down next to him. The first gift James opened was from his parents.

At first glance, Lily thought it was a Remembrall, but when she looked closer, she saw it wasn't clear like a Remembrall should be. Instead, it had a silvery mist flowing inside.

Though Lily had no idea what it was, James seemed to know. "This is perfect!" he told his parents. "Now I can prove to Moony who won the game between Britain and France."

"What are you talking about?" Lily inquired.

"It's a Remmatcher. It replays the greatest Quidditch moments of all time and gives scores and stuff." He held it tightly as if it were made of gold.

Lily raised her eyebrows in surprise. She hadn't known such a thing existed.

"Mine now," Sirius said, tossing the book to James. James set his Remmatcher down carefully and then picked up Sirius' book. Lily noticed that it was wrapped now, when it hadn't been before.

James cautiously opened the book, as though afraid something were going to jump out at him. Once he finally got it unwrapped, he read the title and then started laughing.

"What is it?" Mrs. Potter asked.

"It's," he took a breath. "It's "101 Creative Ways to Use a Broomstick," James informed them.

Mr. Potter and Mrs. Potter burst into laughter while James opened to a random page and read its contents, grinning from ear to ear.

"Don't get too into that," Mrs. Potter said. "You still have to open Lily's."

"Right," Lily said, suddenly remembering. "It's behind here," she said, reaching beneath the sofa and grabbing the box. She handed him the box, and waited anxiously while he opened it. James looked at her curiously, obviously wondering what could be in such an odd shaped box. Once he got the box open, however, Lily saw his eyes widen the same way that Sirius's had.

"Whoa," he whispered, removing the broomstick from its box and holding it as if it were made of glass. Mr. and Mrs. Potter gasped in surprise.

"This is...amazing," he whispered, stunned, turning it over in his hands.

"Is that the new Cleansweep?" Mrs. Potter asked.

Before Lily could answer, James said, "Yeah, it really is." Finally seeming to move beyond his shock, he appeared to become excited. "Lily, this is...how did you..." Giving up words, he leaned over and gave her a kiss, which she returned before remembering his parents were in the room and pulled back.

"I'm glad you like it," she said, smiling and blushing slightly.

"Hey!" Sirius said as if he just realized something. "That means we've got three brooms now. You can play Quidditch with us."

"What? No, Sirius," Lily said. "I don't like brooms."

"Oh come on," Sirius said impatiently. "You can use Prongs' old one. Unless you think that one has a mind of its own, too."

"Yeah," James chimed in. "It's perfectly safe."

"Well," Lily hesitated, looking between both boys. Finally, she reluctantly conceded. "All right."

"Excellent," Sirius said happily.

"But if I die, I'm haunting you both for the rest of your lives."

"Okay, let's go now!" James said, rising to his feet.

"Oh, wait," Mrs. Potter interjected.

James's face fell. "What?"

"You three can't go flying out there."

"Why not?" Sirius asked. "We've done it loads of times."

"Right," Mrs. Potter agreed, "but it's dangerous to do that now."

"I thought you've got protective...things...out there now," James argued.

"We do, but if someone were to see you flying out there-"

"What someone?" James demanded. "There aren't any Muggles for miles."

"Just the same, I don't think you lot should be that reckless. Just wait until tomorrow."

"But, mum," James started.

"One day won't hurt you," Mrs. Potter said firmly.

"Dad?" James appealed.

"Maybe, if they-" Mr. Potter started.

"No," Mrs. Potter said firmly. "It isn't safe."

Struck suddenly by an idea, Lily said, "It's all right, guys. This way James has time to memorize Sirius's book." Both boys looked at her like she was mad, but Lily didn't mind. She had a plan, and didn't care if it temporarily made James and Sirius upset with her.

Late that night, Lily paced in her room, waiting for all sounds of activity from the rest of the house to cease. She checked her watch every few minutes and when it was well past one in the morning, she cracked her door open and looked out. She could neither see nor hear anything except deep darkness and deafening silence. Slipping out of the room and shutting the door quietly behind her, she crept silently toward James's room. Hoping the door wasn't locked, she turned the knob.

The door swung open easily and she stuck her head in. James was asleep in his bed. Trying not to make any noise, she made her way over to his bed and gently shook him awake. He muttered something and rolled over.

"Come on, James," she whispered, shaking him again. "Wake up."

James pulled his pillow over his head. "Just five more minutes, mum. Please?"

Lily picked the pillow up. "If you don't get up, I'll hit you with this," she threatened playfully.

Finally, it seemed James registered what was going on. "Lily?" he asked groggily, squinting at her. "What are you doing in here?"

"Come on. We're going to go fly your broom."

"What?" he asked, pulling himself into a sitting position and ruffling his hair.

"I don't think it's fair that you get a brand new broom and can't ride it. I'm surprised you didn't think of sneaking out. Now, come on," she repeated motioning for him to get up. "I want to see how great a flyer the Cleansweep is."

James looked at her in amazement, as though he never thought she'd think to do something like that. Then he got out of bed, grabbing his new broomstick, and they left the room and crept silently downstairs. With every step, Lily was worried the stairs might creak or they might accidentally set off some alarm system the Potters put into place, but they made it to the front door without incident. As James unlocked the door and turned the knob, Lily braced herself for any alarm that might go off. When none sounded, she followed him outside.

Lily was thoroughly unprepared for the biting cold that met her. She had expected it to be chilly, but not as cold as it was. James, however, seemed too excited to be bothered by the cold and led the way to an empty field.

Lily settled herself onto the ground, wrapping her arms around her legs to try and keep warm, while James mounted the broom and kicked off. Though Lily thought she'd never understand what was so amazing about flying, James seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself, flying across the field, and making upside down turns in mid-air.

Finally, after what seemed like ages to Lily's frozen form, he flew back down to ground level, but didn't get off the broomstick. "Hop on," he said.

"Hop- on that? No thanks."

"Come on, Lily," he pleaded.

"No. I like my feet firmly planted on solid ground, thank you very much," she responded.

"Awww, come on, Evans," James said earnestly, extending his hand. "Don't make me hex you," he teased.

Despite herself, Lily smiled. She tried to convince herself that riding a broom was perfectly safe by remembering that James and Sirius did it all the time and they were still alive. But they also run around with a werewolf once a month, so they aren't exactly safe, she reminded herself. Deciding that a broom was infinitely safer than a fully grown werewolf, Lily allowed herself to be pulled to her feet and climbed onto the broomstick behind James.

"Hang on," James said before setting off. Lily wrapped her arms tightly around his waist and shut her eyes, partly because she was trying to warm herself up and partly because she was afraid of what she'd see if she looked down. She could feel the chilly night air on her face and could tell that they were moving up and forward. The higher she thought they were going, the tighter she held on to James and the harder she shut her eyes. Finally she heard, "Lily, oxygen is becoming an issue."

"Sorry!" she apologized quickly, loosening her grip, but keeping her eyes firmly shut.

"You can see all the Muggle towns around here from up here," James told her.

Lily nodded into his back. "That's great," she squeaked. "Can we go back down now?"

"No way!" James said. "This is too much fun."

"But-"

"Just look around. Look around and if you're still scared, we'll go back to solid ground."

Lily opened her eyes slightly, so that she was squinting. The rushing air made it hard for her to see, so she was forced to open her eyes completely. Looking down, she saw they were much higher than she had thought, and tightened her hold on James once again.

James didn't ask her to loosen her grip this time. Instead, he maintained the altitude they were currently at and continued to fly. Despite her fear of falling and dying, she had to acknowledge that she had yet to even slip. Focusing her thoughts on that to calm herself down, she looked around at the ground beneath them. James had been right. Far off into the distance, she could see the lights of the Muggle towns, though Lily couldn't imagine what business the towns had so late at night. All around the Potters' house, however, it was dark. To Lily, the trees cloaked in shadow looked ominous and eerily creepy, yet she wasn't creeped out by them. And suddenly they were descending, and Lily was once again holding tightly to James. She hadn't even noticed she had practically let go of him.

When they were back on the ground and off the broom, James smiled and said, "I see you're alive and well."

"That was fun," Lily admitted, wrapping her arms around herself to again try to warm herself up. Her face now stung from the cold. "I can see why you like it so much."

"It's more fun when you're the one controlling the broom."

"I believe it," she agreed, convinced she wouldn't die from a broom alone, but not willing to brave the air alone. She looked back at the house. "We should get back inside. It's freezing out here." She turned back to face him. "And if your parents wake up or check on us, we'd be in a lot of trouble."

"Ah! That's the Evans I know!" James said triumphantly, talking hold of her hand and walking toward his house. "The girl who sticks to the rules at all times."

"Hey! If I'm not mistaken, I'm the one who thought of coming out here in the first place."

"So?" James asked playfully.

"So, I broke the rules. If it weren't for me, you'd have to wait until Merlin knows what barriers were put up before you could fly that broom."

"And you would still have an excuse not to play Quidditch with me and Padfoot."

"What are you talking about?"

"You didn't want to play because you were afraid of falling off the broom. Now you know you won't."

"You were the one flying the broom tonight, not me."

"It's exactly the same. You'll see. You can use my other broom, or Padfoot's."

"All right, all right," Lily agreed. "I see I'm not going to get off the hook. I'll play. But if I die-"

"You'll come back and haunt me," James finished. "I could think of worse possible ghosts. You should get used to flying," he added.

"And why's that?"

"What if our kids want to learn? How would you ever teach them?"

"Getting a bit ahead of yourself, aren't you, Potter?"

"Not at all. I can see the future," he said, opening the door for her.

"Is that so?" she asked as she walked past him into the house. "And what do you see?"

"You'll have to stick with me and find out, won't you?"

"Well, I just may do that."

They entered the sitting room, and when Lily felt the warmth of the room, she realized just how cold it was outside.

"Oh, it's so warm in here," she said gratefully. "I wonder what time it is."

"Sometime between the time you woke me up and dawn," James said.

"Very helpful," she responded sarcastically.

"What difference does it make?" he asked, amused. "You really do worry too much." He carefully set his broom down on the sofa.

"I'm not worried. Just curious."

"If you're cold, I'll go get something to warm you up."

Lily was about to protest, but she realized they were inside and as long as they weren't running around outside, Mr. and Mrs. Potter probably wouldn't care. "Okay," she smiled. "Yeah, that sounds good."

James disappeared down the corridor and Lily carefully removed his broomstick and set it on a nearby chair. She then walked out into one of the closets in one of the corridors and took out a rather comfortable looking blanket. Going back into the sitting room, she took a seat on the sofa, and settled under the blanket, enjoying its warmth until James returned with a steaming mug of something.

James gave her an amused look, to which she responded, "I'm cold."

He stood in front of her, so close that she could already feel the warmth oozing from the mug, and bent over until his messy fringe almost tickled her forehead. She looked up at him and wrapped her fingers around the drink, with a smile. There was a moment where the couple said nothing, both enjoying the rich mocha smell of the drink he had brought her - until James leaned forward and gave Lily a gentle kiss. He lingered a while before easing away. Content, Lily rested her forehead against James's.

"What happened the first time you rode a broom?" she asked.

James chuckled. "That's a story you won't get to hear," he answered.

James let go of the mug and slipped under the blanket beside her, wrapping his arm around her and pulling her closer. Lily leaned against him, folding her legs under her and took a sip of the hot liquid James had brought her, and smiled to herself.

"So who was right about the match between Britain and France?"

"What?"

"You said you could finally be able to prove to Remus that you were right," Lily explained.

"Oh, yeah. He was right, but I'm not going to tell him that. I saw a new Quidditch move that I want to learn, though. I just have to watch it a few more times."

"That's great! What is it?"

"It's a sort of a corkscrew move in mid-air."

"Didn't you do that outside?"

"No, that was all normal Quidditch stuff."

"Well, it sounds like you like that ball, anyway."

"It wouldn't be nearly as amazing without my new broom."

Lily smiled again. "I'm glad you like it."

"Love it," he corrected. "Didn't you think the Starshooter was safer, though?"

"Did and still do," she said. "But you think the Cleansweep is excellent, so that's what I got you."

"Have we ever talked about brooms?"

"Aside from on the way back from Hogwarts, no."

"Then how did you-"

"When Sirius and I were arguing about the brooms, he said you both thought the new Cleansweep was excellent, so-"

"I'm surprised you picked up on that."

"I'm surprised you're surprised."

"Why?"

Lily sighed. "Remember on the way to Hogwarts at the start of first term when we argued? I told you you were arrogant and Dumbledore shouldn't have made you Head boy."

James's chest moved as he laughed. "I remember."

"When we argued about Snape, I told you that you once said the reason you torment him is because he exists. At least that's what you told me in fifth year."

"Right," James agreed, clearly unsure about where she was going.

"If I could remember that, why wouldn't I remember something important?"

"Ah," James said in realization. "That's a good point."

"I thought so."

"Your birthday is coming soon," he changed the subject. "What do you want?"

Lily hadn't even considered what she'd want for her birthday. "Nothing," she said.

"No really. You have to want something."

"I really don't. But I reserve the right to change my mind."

"You think maybe Petunia will send you something?"

Lily laughed at the absurdity of that question. "She hasn't given me any sort of anything besides stress for years. The last thing she got me was a little unicorn figurine."

"Well, that was sweet, wasn't it? You like unicorns."

"Yeah," Lily said, her mind on Petunia. "Yeah, it was nice of her."

"So was what you did for my dad."

"Your- what?"

"Today. Or I guess it would be yesterday. You weren't the least bit hungry, but you said you were starving and forced down food."

"I just didn't want him to worry. He's got enough on his mind."

"That's exactly what I mean. No one else I know would have done that."

Lily realized she was still holding the mug and took another sip. Tipping her head toward James's shoulder, she looked up at him. She offered him the mug and took a drink from it and handed it back to her. They drank until bits of dark brown congealed at the bottom. Feeling warm outside and in, they cuddled closer beneath the blanket and wrapped their arms around each other.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

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  #13  
Old July 8th, 2005, 11:17 am
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HermioneLuna  Undisclosed.gif HermioneLuna is offline
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Quidditch and the Order

The next few weeks passed rather uneventfully and other than a few teasing remarks, nothing more had been said on Lily and James's deal. She'd heard from Remus that James had been practicing harder than he'd ever seen him and also heard the grumblings of the Gryffindor team members that James was suddenly being very tough on them.

Emily and Lily were sitting in the Qudditch stands, talking about the match that was minutes away from commencing.

"And Remus and I finally came to an agreement on one of James's ideas. It isn't what I wanted, but that's okay. You know, you still haven't told me what you want if you win."

"That's because I haven't decided."

"You could leave it to Snape to decide it. That'd really kill James."

"And then James would kill me. I'll pass."

"Well, you could order him to leave you alone for a month or something."

"That won't work. He's Head Boy. I have to work with him."

"So order him not to ask you out."

"You think he would?"

"I don't think he'd go back on a deal, but this is James Potter. He'd find a way around it."

Lily was silent for a moment before saying in an attempted casual voice, "So what is it that James wants?"

"Not telling," Emily teased.

"What? Again?"

"What do you mean 'again'?"

"You wouldn't tell me what you talked to him about the day we made the deal-"

"Oh that. I was trying to get him to make you write to your parents. Completely unrealistic now that I think about it. I mean, James can pick anything and he's going to waste it on an owl? I'm doubting it. Anyway, the match is in a few hours, so you better decide. Or you could let me pick."

"What would you pick?"

"Dunno yet. But if you can't decide, I will."

Lily shrugged. She knew she and Emily tended to think alike on certain things and Emily would probably choose the very thing Lily would have chosen had she thought of it. "That's fine by me."

They were distracted by sudden cheering from the entire school. Looking down, Lily saw the two teams walking out onto the pitch. Her stomach clenched in mingled anticipation and dread as Madam Hooch said something to the teams, James and Aidan shook hands, boarded their brooms and rose into the air.

Stewart Thomas was announcing the match. Lily, however, was too focused on the action of the game itself to listen.

The Quaffle was taken immediately by Susan Moon, a Slytherin Chaser. She zoomed toward the Gryffindor goal posts. Amanda Caldwell, the Gryffindor Keeper, moved to protect the side post Susan was flying toward. It looked like she might toss the Quaffle into one the post, but instead she threw it to Owen Ackerly, her fellow Chaser, who sent it soaring into an ungaurded post.

There was a wave of joy from the sea of green on the other side of the stands. After Slytherin drew first blood, the action grew faster and more difficult to pinpoint. Lily was having a hard time continuing to follow the match, so she tuned in to what Stewart was saying. However, she was still trying to watch the match, therefore she only caught the most important words.

"Moon with the Quaffle again...Intercepted by Potter...Doged that bludger hit by Zeller...Slytherin goal posts...He's going to score!" The Gryffindors, including Lily and Emily, erupted in cheers as the Quaffle went sailing into the Slytherin post.

"One down, nineteen to go," Emily said.

Lily wasn't concerned. Nineteen goals was still a lot to make in one game and, though James was an excellent Chaser, even he would find it difficult to accomplish that task. She focused back in on what Stewart was saying.

"Ackerly to Baddock... back to Ackerly... he's closing in on the Gryffindor side..."

Ackerly threw the Quaffle, but Caldwell stopped him from scoring. The Gryffindors cheered again and the Quaffle flew to Rose Turpin, a Gryffindor Chaser. She immediately passed it to James and Lily wondered if James had asked his team to give him the ball whenever possible. He zoomed toward the goal post again, getting closer than he had been the last time and threw the Quaffle through.

"Potter scores!" Stewart proclaimed. "The score is now 10-20 to Gryffindor. And it's Baddock with the Quaffle."

A bludger flew at Baddock, but he avoided it and flew straight toward the Gryffindor side. He passed it to Moon, but James intercepted it. Before he could start on his way to the Slytherin side, though, a bludger hit him in the back, knocking the Quaffle from his hands and sending him tumbling down a few feet on his broom.

There was a collective gasp from most assembled. Lily peered to see if James was all right. He regained control of his broom and flew back into the air, and she relaxed. It was Slytherin with the Quaffle again, and Moon managed to score before Caldwell refocused her attention enough to try and stop her.

"20-20," Stewart announced.

Turpin had the Quaffle again, and this time it looked as though she were going to try to score herself. James was hot on her trail, flying side by side with her. Perhaps because she was aware of the terms of their agreement, Lily mused that James was trying to get Rose to pass him the Quaffle. Rose, however, took the shot herself. Aidan blocked the shot with the tail of his broom and the Quaffle flew right past James. James dove and caught it, flying back up to score another goal for Gryffindor.


Ackerly took the Quaffle and made his way to the other side of the pitch. His attempt to score was deflected by a save from Caldwell. Andrew Domville, the third Gryffindor Chaser, took the Quaffle and soared back to the other side. He managed to score another goal for his house. Lily noted that the score now stood at 20-40. She wondered why the snitch hadn't been spotted at least once, but quickly pushed that out of her mind to watch the match.

The game became a back and forth. One team would attempt to score, the other would take the Quaffle and soar to the other side, and try their luck at scoring. Occasionally a bludger would fly in, trying to unseat different riders, but no serious injuries were sustained. Finally, with a score of 100-80 in favor of Slytherin, the two teams' Seekers went into a dive. Lily could hear Stewart commenting, but was paying more attention to the two descending figures.

The Gryffindor Seeker had a slight lead, his hand reached out to grasp the Snitch, and suddenly he flew sideways, hit by the Slytherin Seeker. By the time both had resumed their search for the Snitch, it had disappeared.

There was a collective groan of disappointment from the crowd, and Gryffindor was given a penalty shot, which went through the posts with ease. Then the game resumed much more intensely than it had progressed before. Bludgers were now flying with a vengeance and the players, including the Seekers, had to pay more attention to the heavy balls than to the game itself. Lily watched as Slytherin scored yet another goal and wondered just how aggravated James was at this point.

Her unasked question was answered when James called a timeout and both teams decending back to solid ground.

"I don't think James is going to make it," she said to Emily.

"Don't think, or just hope?" Emily smiled.

"A little of both," Lily admitted. "Especially since I don't know what's coming."

"It's perfectly innocent, Lily," Emily reassured, looking down at the teams.

"Then why won't you tell me?"

"I'm not going to ruin the surprise. Hey, they're starting again."

Sure enough, fifteen brooms were rising high into the air once more. Whatever James said to his team, they were playing harder than ever and soon they led Slytherin 110-190 and Lily realized with a sinking feeling that James only had three more goals to score to win their bet. As this thought hit her, she wondered just exactly how he'd managed to get the Quaffle so often. She thought back to her theory that he asked his team to pass it to him and decided that it was the most likely explanation.

Slytherin posessed the Quaffle now, and Moon seemed determined to score another goal. As she reached the Gryffindor goal posts, she hovered, as though hesitating and considering her options, before throwing the Quaffle into the nearest post. Caldwell passed the Quaffle to James, who took off toward the other side of the pitch. He, too, seemed to consider his options before passing it to Turpin, who scored a goal.

Ackerly took the Quaffle, passed it to Moon, who passed it to Baddock. Baddock flew forward, only to be nearly unseated by a bludger hit at him from the Gryffindor beaters. James took this opportunity to catch the Quaffle and sent it into the Slytherin posts.

"Two more," Lily whispered, hoping the snitch would be spotted before he had a chance to make the final shots.

Aidan threw the Quaffle to Ackerly, but Turpin caught it and passed it back to James. James again scored another goal for Gryffindor. The Slytherins now began to get more vicious in their playing and seemed to specifically target Jame with their bludgers now. Several more points were scored on both sides, but none were by James. His time was spent dodging successive Bludgers that flew at him whenever he attempted to get the Quaffle.

The Seekers suddenly shot upwards, focused on one specific spot in the sky. Lily breathed a sigh of relief. The game was going to end before James would score another goal. The Beaters stopped hitting Bludgers at James as they turned to watch the Seekers. The chasers for both teams, however, continued their play. The Seekers suddenly switched direction and Lily concluded that the Snitch was on the move.

Finally, Domville came into possession of the Quaffle and flew toward the Slytherin posts. James tore after him and just as it appeared Andrew would take the shot himself, he turned and passed it to James. James triumphantly scored his final goal just as the Gryffindor Seeker caught the Snitch.

There was a silence, as though everyone was processing what had just happened. Then, all at once, the stands erupted in cheers. Emily jumped and squealed in excitement and delight. Then she turned to Lily, who was staring in dislief at the teams who were now assembled again on the ground, and tugged on her arm.

"Come on," she said excitedly. "Let's go."

Lily followed Emily down to the pitch. Emily wanted to go right up to the team and congratulate them, but Lily was unwilling to push through the crowd for fear of getting trampled. Emily shrugged, announced "Coming through," and entered the throng.

Lily watched from behind most of the people, finally deciding that she would just talk to James up in the Common Room. She turned and began to make her way back up to the castle and was halted by someone calling her name.

"Lily! Hang on a moment!"

Lily looked around to see Remus running toward her and waited until he reached her.

"Some game, huh?" she asked conversationally, starting to walk again.

"Definitely. I didn't think he was going to make it."

"Me either. He must really love that game," she observed.

"I don't think it's the game he loves," Remus said with a knowing look.

Lily looked sideways at him, then cleared her throat and asked, "So what's it that you and Emily decided on? She won't tell me."

Remus chuckled. "I won't either. It was Prongs's idea. He can tell you."

Lily sighed. "I can't wait that long. He's going to be basking in his glorious win for days."

"Nah, he won't. He was already leaving when I left."

"Oh?" Lily asked casually, glancing behind them. She saw no sign of James and looked back at Remus. "The Slytherins must be furious," she realized.

"No more so than usual. They'll survive."

They ascended the stairs into the castle. "So why aren't you still celebrating back at the pitch?"

Remus looked around nervously and finally answered, "I'm not much for crowds. You know that."

"Right," Lily agreed. "Right. I forgot. Sorry."

"Don't be," Remus said cheerfully, coming to a stop in the Entrance Hall. Lily leaned against one of the walls and there was a brief silence in which Remus shifted uncomfortably. "So the attack on the Muggles...Did it scare you?"

Lily also shifted uncomfortably before saying, "Yeah. A bit. I don't know. I just didn't think he'd..."

"I know what you mean," Remus agreed somberly. "Attacking people is a lot different from just talking about it. I'm just glad no one I know was hurt."

"Definitely. Just the same, though, it isn't the most comforting thought."

"No. No, it isn't. But maybe they'll stop him before he has the chance to do anymore damage."

"Let's hope they do. Maybe they can get to him through his Death Eaters?"

"I'd think he'd have a lot of protection against that. He's mad, not stupid."

There was the sound of footsteps and Lily looked out to see James approaching.

"Great game, Prongs," Remus congratulated. "Didn't think you had it in you."

"Ah, you should have known better than that, Moony," James said happily, stopping in front of the couple. He turned his attention to Lily. "Hey there, Evans."

"Hi," she said simply.

Remus smiled, said, "I'll leave you two alone," and left up the stairs leading toward the higher floors.

"Congratulations, Potter," Lily said.

"Why, thank you, Evans," James responded with a huge grin.

"So..." She tried to think of a way to distract James from their bet. "I'll see you in the Common Room, then." She didn't know if that would work, but tried to walk past him just the same.

He caught her by the arm and pulled her back in front of him. "No no no. You're not getting away that easily. We've got a deal, remember?"

"Right." Lily took a deep breath. "So what's it going to be?"

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Lily opened her eyes, jarred awake by a sudden noise from upstairs. She took in the sitting room in confusion before she remembered why she was there. Tilting her head to look up at James, she saw that he had been watching her sleep.

"Morning," he said softly.

"Morning. Erm, James?"

"Hmmmm?"

"Nevermind," she said quickly, sitting up, causing her hair to temporarily obscure her vision. Pulling it back, she finally realized what was going on. "Oh no," she whispered, rising to her feet.

"What's wrong?"

"We have to go."

"Why?"

"Because we fell asleep out here and your parents are going to be worried if we aren't in our rooms. You know your dad. If you're missing, he'll send the entire Order after you without bothering to check the rest of the house. And-" she realized she was wasting time explaining. "Merlin, Potter, would you just cooperate?"

"All right," he relented, laughing.

Lily picked up the mug that was sitting on a nearby table and took it back into the kitchen. Returning to the sitting room, she looked around to make sure James was still the only occupant and then entered. He had returned the blanket to its closet and was picking up his broom.

"Calmed down now?"

"We still have to get back to our rooms without running into anyone."

"This isn't a covert Order mission or anything," James told her.

"No," Lily agreed. "This is much more dangerous." She looked out of the sitting room and when she didn't see anyone approaching, they walked down the corridor and to the bottom of the staircase.

"...still asleep."

Lily froze when she heard Mr. Potter's voice floating down the stairs. Her stomach was suddenly full of nervous butterflies of fear of them getting caught.

"Come on," James whispered, grabbing her arm and pulling her back in the direction they had just come from.

"But he's going to-"

"Shhh," he said, pulling her into the kitchen. "Just stay here, okay?"

James disappeared back into the corridor, but the next time she heard his voice, it was coming from the sitting room.

"Good," he was saying. "You're awake. I've been waiting all night."

"What for?" Mr. Potter asked.

"To ride my broom. I've had it for hours now and I still haven't gotten a chance to ride it. So I'll help put up the spells and everything cause I want to try it out."

Lily took this opportunity to slip out quietly into the corridor. She snuck past the sitting room door and saw Mr. Potter with his back to her. Focusing solely on not making a sound, she couldn't concentrate on what was being said. She passed the door, then turned and tiptoed quickly back to the base of the staircase.

Giving one last glance to the sitting room door, she climbed the stairs quickly, breathing a sigh of relief when she got to the next floor's landing. She looked back down the stairs, then turned to continue back to her room, but ran into something that was blocking her way. She stumbled backward and nearly lost her footing on the top step, but someone grabbed her shoulders and pulled her away from the stairs.

"Sirius," she gasped. "Hi."

"Why are you creeping around?"

"I'm not, erm, creeping. Why are you awake so early anyway?"

"Prongs and I are going to help put up those protection things so we can play Quidditch. Why are you up so early?"

"Why am I... I, erm, couldn't sleep. So you boys have fun, I'm going to...go." She turned and scurried away.

Arriving in her room, she shut the door and leaned against it, sighing. Now that she was safe in the room, she wasn't quite sure why she had been so worried. True it wasn't the best situation for Mr. and Mrs. Potter to find her and James in, but they were just sitting around and there was nothing wrong with that. She decided it might be wise for her to change her clothing. Just as she was finishing, Archimedes flew in through the window. He landed gracefully on the desk where his cage was kept and Lily noticed a scroll attached to his leg. She carefully removed it and felt a surge of excitement. This must be Dumbledore's response. She opened it, skimmed the contents, and felt her stomach drop to her feet.

Hurrying back downstairs, she hopped the last two steps into the corridor that led to the sitting room. Just as she was about to enter the room, she heard Sirius's voice and checked at the door.

"It doesn't take a Moony to figure it out. It's obvious. So stop denying it."

"What is?" Lily asked from the doorway.

With a quick glance at Sirius, James said, "Nothing."

Lily blinked. She could tell from James's attitude and the odd way Sirius was looking at her that it wasn't ‘nothing’.

"It's guy talk," Sirius said.

She shrugged, not willing to push for information when she had more urgent news in her hands. "Archimedes just got back with this," she informed them, waving the parchment. "It's the response from Dumbledore."

James seemed both interested and relieved as he and Sirius rose to their feet. Lily handed Sirius the parchment and watched in excited silence as they read.

"Says he's coming tonight," James said.

"Just like old Dumbles," Sirius commented. "Wants to talk to us. Probably going to tell us we're too young."

"If we're old enough to die in this war, we're old enough to fight in it," Lily stated.

"Guess I better tell my parents," James said. "And we should let Moony and Wormtail know."

"I could send Archimedes to one, but he's just gotten back. He'll start refusing to fly for me if I don't let him rest."

"Don't worry about it," Sirius said. "I've got an owl and so does Prongs. We've got it covered."

"Great," Lily said cheerfully before another thought occurred to her. "But the owls might take too long, now that I think of it. Maybe we could Apparate to their houses? Do you think James's parents would let us?"

Sirius smiled. "No one says we have to tell them."

Lily bit her lower lip and looked out into the empty corridor, considering if she wanted to risk it. She looked back at Sirius and nodded. "All right. Let's go then. But let's hurry so we don't get caught."

"If we don't want to get caught, we should split up."

"Okay. I'll go to Remus's since I actually know where that is. You go to Peter's."

"Fine," Sirius agreed. With a pop he vanished.

Lily gave one last look into the corridor and then Disapparated as well. She arrived in an empty corridor and took a moment to orient herself. She'd been here before, but she wasn't sure exactly what part of the house she'd Apparated to. She walked the length of the carpeted corridor and emerged into an empty kitchen. She began to wonder if maybe the Lupins weren't home. She walked to the window and looked into their backyard. It was there that she saw Remus with his parents.

Opening the door, she slipped out into the yard and began walking toward the trio. Remus spotted her before she was close to him and leapt to his feet. His parents turned to see what had caused this sudden reaction.

"Lily," he said, advancing toward her. "Is everything all right? What happened?"

"Everything is fine," Lily said, coming to a stop in front of him. "Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Lupin," she greeted his parents. Turning back to Remus, she continued, "I got a response from Dumbledore. He wants to talk to us tonight and owls would take too long. So I snuck away to tell you. Sirius is at Peter's right now. Can you get away tonight?"

"Er..." He looked over his shoulder at his parents. "Well, this is pretty important, isn't it?"

Lily looked around him at his parents who were watching on in apprehension. "Is anything wrong?" she asked him.

"No, it's just..." He trailed off. Then he said, "Yeah, I can get away. But if you snuck out, you better get back before they miss you. I'll be right there."

Lily looked at Remus in confusion, wondering if she had done something wrong, then nodded and Disapparated. She arrived in the Potters’ sitting room and froze when she heard voices out in the corridor.

"...here?"

"I don't see why it would be," Mr. Potter said as he walked in. "He probably wants to make sure you know what you're getting yourselves into. Good morning, Lily."

"Good morning, Mr. Potter."

"Have you seen Sirius this morning?"

"Yep," Lily said quickly. "I think he's in his room or something. Probably sleeping."

James, who followed his father into the room, gave Lily an odd look, but remained silent. Mr. Potter, however, nodded in acceptance and left the room.

"So where is Padfoot?" James asked once his father was out of earshot.

"Peter's house. He should be back soon."

"And why is he at Wormtail's house?"

"Telling him about Dumbledore. Owls don't fly fast enough."

"Oh. All right then. Is he going to Moony's after that?"

"No, I just came back from there. He said he'd be right along."

As if on cue, the was a loud pop and Remus Apparated on top of the Potters' coffee table. Climbing down, he smiled apologetically at the couple and said, "Sorry. I usually have better aim than that."

He tossed a package to James and Lily saw that it was wrapped in wrapping paper that looked as though it had been used many times before.

"It's about time!" James exclaimed. "I was starting to think you'd forgotten."

"Forgotten what?" Lily inquired.

"My birthday present," James responded, ripping the paper off. A small book fell out and Lily moved closer to read the title. To her surprise, it had no title at all.

"What is it?" she asked.

"It's a special sort of book," Remus explained. "You can write whatever you want in it, and it'll open a little portal."

"'A portal,'" James repeated.

"Yep. If you go into it, you'll see whatever you wrote happening. Just as real as I'm standing here."

James's face lit up. "I could have a lot of fun with this," he said happily.

"I knew you'd like it," Remus beamed. "When's Dumbledore getting here?"

There were two more successive pops and cracks and Sirius and Peter were standing in the room.

"What's going on?" Peter asked.

"Nothing, really," Lily responded. "Talking about Dumbledore."

"When's he getting here?" Peter inquired.

"A few hours," James answered.

"Then we've got lots of time," Sirius stated. "You can try out your new broom."

"New broom?" Remus and Peter chorused.

"Yeah. Lily bought it for me."

"What kind?" Remus asked.

"The new Cleansweep," James said excitedly. "It's a great flyer. We tried it last night."

"Lily flew a broom?" Sirius asked in amazement.

"No," Lily said. "James flew it."

"But you were on it," James countered.

"And you survived," Sirius pointed out.

"Barely," Lily said, starting to smile. "I almost fell off so many times I lost count. And James was doing all sorts of crazy Quidditch moves just to scare me."

"Now imagine how much easier it'll be without me trying to kill you."

"That reminds me," Peter spoke up, "I brought your present."

Lily furrowed her brow in confusion. "How does -"

Sirius mouthed "Don't ask," and Lily didn't continue, despite the fact that what they were discussing was an odd topic to remind Peter of his present. Lily's puzzlement deepened when she saw Peter's gift.

"See," he explained unnecessarily, "it's a rubber turkey." Peter appeared to be highly amused by this turkey, and Lily noticed the others giving what she was sure were sympathy laughs, but she felt like she was missing the joke. Deciding it was a Marauder in-joke, she smiled slightly.

"Okay. Quidditch now," Sirius announced.

"Not that you have a one-track mind or anything," Remus commented.

"I haven't played for days and Prongs's dad said it was safe now."

"What?" Lily asked. "When? It can't have been today because-"

"I didn't ask," Sirius cut in. "I'm just glad we can. So who's with me?"

"Sure," James said. "We've got some time to kill. Why not?"

"Not me," Peter told them. "I'll watch."

"Moony?" Sirius prompted.

"Okay."

James and Sirius disappeared into the corridor while Remus, Peter, and Lily left for the open field in the Potters' front yard.

"Peter's not good at gift giving," Remus whispered in her ear. "Gag gifts or otherwise."

"Oh!" Lily said in realization.

They arrived at the field and waited for the other boys to arrive. Once everyone was gathered and Remus, Sirius and James had their brooms, Lily and Peter sat on the ground to watch them.

"Isn't hard to play with only three people?" she asked Peter.

"It's usually the four of us," Peter explained, "but I didn't bring my broom and I don't think Moony did either. And we don't play the actual game. Just Chase and Keep. It's fun when the Bludgers aren't flying at your head."

"Do any of the others ever Keep or is it just you?"

"Well, Prongs was a Chaser on the House team, so that's what he always did. The others don't like it much either."

"So why do you get stuck doing it?"

Peter shrugged and pulled at the grass next to him. "It's all right." There was a silence before Peter asked, "How powerful do you think You-Know-Who is going to get? Really?"

"I think he's pretty powerful now. But not so powerful that he can't be stopped. They say he's scared of Dumbledore."

"So then, the Order is the right choice? Dumbledore is leading it."

"Of course it is," Lily said, wondering why there should be any doubt.

"It's just...I-"

"Oh, I get it," Lily said in comprehension.

"You- you do?"

"Yeah. You're scared. If you join the Order, then Voldemort will know." Peter cringed, but Lily carried on. "It's not like working behind everyone else or just not taking sides. It's safer that way, right? But trust me, it's worth it."

Peter nodded. "Okay. I think you're right."

They resumed watching Remus, Sirius and James playing their game of Quidditch until the boys returned to earth. James and Sirius announced they were starving and the five friends made their way back up to the house. After they had eaten, they went up to James's room to pass the afternoon. Lily didn't know how long they had been there, but before she thought it was time, James said, "We better get downstairs. Dumbledore will be here soon."

"Already?" Peter asked quietly. He looked at Lily and then said, "Great!"

There was suddenly an air of nervousness in the room. Each person left the room with their minds clearly in different places. Lily was excited and nervous about what the meeting with Dumbledore would hold, but she didn't know how the others were feeling.

They all gathered into the sitting room and were soon joined by Mr. and Mrs. Potter.

"Aren't your parents coming, boys?" Mrs. Potter asked.

"No," Peter said.

"Not mine," Remus said. "They reckon I'm old enough to choose on my own. And my mum is terrified and couldn't come even if she wanted to, so my dad is staying with her."

Lily sat in one of the chairs and lost herself in thought. She was only brought back to reality when Dumbledore arrived. She stood to greet him and once everyone had also done so, they settled into silence in anticipation of what he had to tell them.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
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  #14  
Old July 10th, 2005, 11:41 am
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HermioneLuna  Undisclosed.gif HermioneLuna is offline
Fifth Year
 
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Dealing with the Problem

"It's not that bad," Emily said reassuringly as she tried to calm Lily.

"It's like a nightmare," Lily said, burying her face in her pillow.

"It could be worse," Emily consoled. "It could always be worse."

"How?!" Lily demanded, sitting up and facing her friend. "How could this possibly be worse?"

Emily appeared to be thinking over other scenarios. "Well," she said slowly, "he made a lot of, erm, objectionable ideas. But you know, he could have wanted a kiss or something."

"That would be quick and painless, however revolting," Lily said. "This is long and drawn out. How could you agree to this?"

"Trust me, it was the best of the choices he offered. Besides, I think this'll be good for you. He's really not that bad."

"'Good for me'? Emily, are you under the Imperious or something? Nothing good can come from this. And you know why he picked this, don't you? So I'll have this looming dread over me for ages, that's why."

"Oh yes. I'm sure James spent the last few days thinking 'Hmmmm. However can I make Evans feel awful? What's the one thing she'll be sure to hate me for forever?' And again, it's not that bad."

"Easy for you to say. If this were you-"

"I wouldn't mind," Emily cut in. "I don't have a problem with him."

"You know what? I still have free will. I just won't do it. I'll go tell him right now that the deal is off." Lily stood and started on her way out of the dorm, but was halted by Emily's voice.

"You can't do that. You had a deal. It's magically binding."

"Stupid magical world with its stupid rules," Lily muttered, crossing her arms and sitting back down on her bed in aggravation.

"Oh! I know of another way it could be worse."

"Yeah? Share."

"A date. He could have dragged you to Hogsmeade with him."

Lily stared blankly at Emily. She couldn't fathom how on earth that was worse. As if reading her mind, Emily explained, "First, your last Hogsmeade date was a disaster-"

"It wasn't a date, Emily. We were working."

"Right," Emily said skeptically. "Whatever makes you feel better. The point is it went badly. And at least this way the whole school and an entire village aren't around to see it."

"Remus!" Lily suddenly exclaimed, looking inspired. "I can convince him to change his mind. He'll listen to me."

Emily laughed. "There's nothing you can do. Count your blessings. He could have asked you to marry him."

"That's it!" Lily exclaimed. "The one thing worse than this!"

Emily rolled her eyes. "You're making this into a much bigger thing than it has to be. If you want my advice, I would tell you to just wait. It's not for a while yet. If you spend all your time thinking about it, of course it's going to seem horrible. And between now and then, just act like normal. If you don't act like anything has changed, maybe he won't either."

"Are we talking about the same person? Because I'm talking about James Potter. And if there's one thing he won't do, it's act like nothing's changed."

Emily shrugged.

"Hey!" Lily said suddenly. "I can't get out of this cause it's some sort of magical contract, right?"

"Right."

"Is there a magical way out of it?" she asked, leaning forward toward Emily. "I mean, a magical retraction or something."

"Yep," Emily said cheerfully. "But you've got to die for that and can I just say please don't? We've just started our final year and it takes far too long to break in a new best friend. Actually, I suppose he could cancel it..."

"Excellent! I'll offer an exchange. If he changes his mind-"

"He's not going to. You know he's not going to."

"All right...Erm..." Lily threw her mind around for another alternative. "You could-"

"Oh no," Emily interrupted. "I'm not involved in this. I only agreed to anything because you volunteered me. And be happy you did because the stuff he was coming up with-"

"It's just exactly like a nightmare," Lily repeated.

"It could be that James has got reasons that he just hasn't told you, you know."

Lily stared at Emily, recalling how James had said something very similar to her just weeks before. "What's his reason?"

"Erm, if he hasn't told you, he hasn't told me."

"Emily," Lily began, "how long did it take Potter to get you to agree to this?"

"Few minutes," Emily said casually. "Why?"

"No reason. I just wondered if he had to convince you to agree."

"Did you tell him which one?"

"Yeah," Lily said glumly. "End."

"I probably would have picked that, too."

"I still don't like this."

"Can we talk about something else? Anything else? We've been going on about this deal for over an hour."

Lily thought about it. There wasn't really much else to say. "All right. Sure. Have you talked to Remus?"

"What do you mean?" Emily asked.

"Well, the guys all think you fancy him," Lily explained. "Have you talked to him about it?"

"Nope," Emily responded. "I still don't see how they can be thick enough to not see that it's Sirius."

"Boys are clueless on matters like this."

"That they are. You have to spell it out for them." Emily knocked on the wall. "This is stone." She knocked on the bedpost. "This is wood. Anything more complicated than that and their heads will spin around and explode in confusion."

"Sometimes I envy them," Lily said wistfully. "No difficult problems to ponder. If something gets confusing, all we'd have to do is shut our brains down for a while. And no one would notice."

"You know, I think Peter's got that down to an art. Ever notice how his eyes sometimes glaze over in lessons?"

"Yeah, but I think he can actually think for himself when he wants to. That Slytherin - what's his name? The one always around Sirius's cousin."

"His cousin?" Emily asked. "Oh, you mean that Lestrange boy. A fitting name, don't you think? It means 'the strange.' And he really is strange."

There was a loud noise from the common room. Lily assumed James had finally entered the tower and the Gryffindors were cheering him on.

"I think he's mastered the art of not thinking for himself," Lily said. "He lets her make all the choices for him."

"Really? I thought he was pretty stubborn and opinionated. But that seems to be a prerequisite to be a Slytherin."

"Not all Slytherins are awful people."

"You can't be serious. They're all pretty bad."

"Severus is all right."

"Who? Oh, you mean Snape. He's always around Lestrange and his group of friends. You can't hang around them and come away 'all right.'"

"I think he can. Even if he does have that stupid ‘pureblood is better’ mentality."

"If he's got that now and has had it for years, what makes you think he'll suddenly outgrow it in less than 10 months?"

"Peer pressure. When he's on his own, he'll realize he's wrong."

Emily looked at Lily curiously before continuing on her way without a word.

"It's not what you're thinking," Lily said hurriedly.

"I'm not thinking anything," Emily said innocently.

"Yes you are. And it isn't that. I just think he's had a rough life and once he's away from it, he'll see things differently."

Another loud cheer traveled into the dorm. Lily rolled her eyes, but Emily took no notice of either event. Instead, she continued as if there had been no interruption.

"What amazes me is that you're willing to see the good in him when he's so clearly not worthy of it, but you won't give James a chance."

"Severus needs someone to have a little faith in him. Potter has the entire school to admire him. Besides, when Potter learns to be a little less egomaniacal, I'll see the good in him much more clearly."

Emily faced away from Lily and mumbled something.

"What?" Lily asked.

"Nothing," Emily said casually.

"No, you said something. I want to know what it was."

"I just said you might see it in a way you don't expect."

They heard yet another loud cheering coming from the common room. Lily looked toward the dorm door, and Emily said, "That's it. I have to know what that's about."

Then she leapt up and headed out of the room. Both girls rushed into the common room to see what the commotion was and saw a crowd of first years as well as Sirius, Remus and Peter gathered near the window. Pushing their way through, they finally saw what was causing all the noise.

James had his wand pointed at a first year boy who was hanging upside down out of the window, while his fellow housemates cheered James on. The boy's face was pale and wind-whipped, and his mouth was gaping open. Lily watched, temporarily frozen in horror, terrified that the boy would fall any moment.

Finally regaining her senses, she marched up to James and yelled, "Let him down, Potter! Inside!"

James appeared stunned to see her and quickly brought the first year back inside, landing him safely right side up. Lily pulled the boy to her side and angrily took James's wand from him.

"Have you gone mad, Potter?"

"Evans-"

"Do you know how irresponsible you're being?"

"Will you just listen to me?"

"What if you dropped your wand? What if a teacher saw? You're supposed to be setting a good example! Instead you're torturing innocent first years that are in your own House! What's he done? Exist?" She looked down at the boy who watched her with the merest hint of fear in his eyes. "Look what you've done!" she continued angrily. "You've scared him half to death." She softly stroked the child's hair. "It's one thing when it's Snape, Potter. But this time you've really gone too far. Dumbledore will take away your Head Boyship for this!"

"It's all right. If you just listen to-"

"I don't want to hear anything you've got to say, Potter. I saw everything I need to know. Acting like a fool in front of everyone..."

"Evans!" he shouted, finally getting her to quiet down. "Maybe you can continue your rant away from impressionable and easily scared young minds?"

Lily looked around at her audience of first years. Not wanting them to think she was as insane as she was accusing James of being, she gave James a scathing glare, elegantly tossed his wand out of the window, smirked and then walked off, taking the first year boy with her. Her first instinct was to take him to Dumbledore, but realizing that James would most likely follow in order to retrieve his wand, she instead chose to go to the boys' dorms. She quickly climbed the stairs until she got to the door marked "First Years" and ushered the boy inside. Emily arrived just after her.

"The nerve of him," Lily muttered angrily, pulling up a chair and directing the boy to sit on it. She crouched down so she was on his level. "Are you all right, erm, what's your name?"

"David," the boy said quickly, "but you-"

"Are you all right?" she repeated, brushing his hair away from his face and checking for bruises.

"Yeah. But James-"

"Don't worry about him," Lily said. "We'll talk to Dumbledore about it. He's got no right to be so mean to you or anyone else. Follow my finger with your eyes," she directed, waving her hand in front of his face.

David moved her hand so he could see her. "But he wasn't being mean," he objected.

"It's all right," Lily said, "you don't have to be afraid of him."

"I'm not. I asked him to-"

"You can tell me the truth. And then we can tell Dumbledore together. Potter can't hurt you."

"Are you really going to tell Dumbledore?" David said, suddenly looking scared. "He didn't even want to do that."

Lily stared at him in confusion before asking, "What do you mean?"

"I asked him to," David said proudly.

Lily stood and looked at David, completely lost. "Why would you do that?"

"We were all talking about what a great game he played today, you know? And we'd heard he can do these...tricks...with his wand, so we asked if he would do something cool for us. And he said he didn't want to, but we could tell he did, so we kept asking. So he did a little spell, and I don't know what it was, but it was really fun. And then we asked him to just hang me out of the window as a joke. Because I remembered that my older sister who goes here told me that he hung a Slytherin upside down once, so we thought it would be funny."

Lily stared at David in shock. She looked to Emily for support. Emily rolled her eyes and said, "First years."

Lily turned back to David. "So you asked Potter to hang you upside down out of a window?" she verified.

"Right. And he acted like he wouldn't, but we kept asking so he said he would if we didn't tell a soul. But I have to tell you because you're going to get him in trouble."

"Are you sure that's what happened?" Lily asked.

"Of course I am!" David protested.

"But...You must have been scared."

"No. I wasn't scared, just excited. He's Head Boy, he wouldn't ever drop me. And I wasn't even out there that long. I was barely there for two seconds before you came in."

Lily looked between David and Emily in dumbfounded silence. Finally finding her voice, she said, "Still, that was very irresponsible of him."

"Probably," Emily said, "but the kid is fine. Maybe you can let James off the hook this once."

"Can I go now?" David asked.

"Yeah. Of course you can," Lily said kindly.

David left the room excitedly and Lily turned to face Emily.

"That's something that needs to be reported," Lily insisted. "He could have hurt the kid."

"I doubt it. He was just putting on a show. You heard David. James kept saying that he didn't want to do anything. You know what that means. He was just teasing them." She adopted a voice whose tone was an obvious mockery of James's. "Oh yes, I know I'm spectacular, but you really must stop fawning. No, I won't perform any spells. I hate to show off. Oh, who am I kidding, I love to show off. So you want to be like Snivellus? Okay then. Get ready." She returned to her own voice. "See? Perfectly harmless."

"'Harmless'? He had the poor kid hanging upside down out of a seventh floor window!"

"Well, he doesn't seem too upset by it. I say there's no lasting harm done."

Lily might have wondered if James had brainwashed Emily in their time together the last few days if Emily wasn't always so calm about such things. Emily never seemed too bothered by James's antics, but Lily thought she might have been worried about performing such a spell on an excitable first year.

"You know, if you do tell Dumbledore, David will probably just deny it happened at all. He's got a real hero worship of James. And even then, it might make the...ah...terms of your deal with James much more uncomfortable."

Lily considered Emily's words, eventually concluding that she was right. The entire ordeal was going to be awful enough, she didn't need the extra tension. More importantly, David seemed thrilled by what James did and wasn't likely to speak out against him. And in truth, Lily realized, David seemed more afraid of her temper than of James's actions.

"All right," she sighed. "We better get out of here," she said, looking around the dorm.

She and Emily retreated to the common room. Just as they entered, Emily said, "Let's not go back. I don't want to be locked up in our dorm all day. I'd rather enjoy the lack of classes."

Lily nodded and they left out of the portrait hole. They had just arrived on the sixth floor when they caught sight of James climbing back toward the tower.

"Evans! Was just coming to find you."

"Oh?"

"I was trying to tell you about David."

"He already told me. He's very strange. And I'm not telling Dumbledore."

"Couldn't resist my charm?" he asked, ruffling his hair.

Lily shrugged. "See you around, Potter." She left with Emily. Though she was willing to hold her tongue about what James did, she wasn't ready to forgive him for being so blatantly reckless with the life of another. At that point, she wasn't sure if she ever would.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Lily, James, Sirius, Remus, Peter and Mr. and Mrs. Potter sat in the deafening quiet that met Dumbledore's words. Lily had no doubt that everyone present had been expecting a lecture about how dangerous Order work was and how important it was that they were willing to take on such a responsibility. What she was sure of was that no-one had prepared themselves for what Dumbledore had actually said. Having known Dumbledore for as long she had, Lily wasn't ready for the detail he had used to explain what they would be facing.

She had seen first hand what Voldemort was capable of; therefore she hadn't thought she'd be surprised by Dumbledore's tales. She realized now that she was far beyond lucky to escape in the condition she had.

Lily looked around at the faces of everyone in the room with her. Peter was looking around as well. He appeared to be even more panic-stricken than usual. He kept fidgeting in his seat, as though trying to find a comfortable position. Remus was staring at Dumbledore, as if trying to see into his former Headmaster's mind. James was looking into nothingness and Lily couldn't tell if his mind was even with him in that room. Sirius looked even more determined than he had the past few days. It semmed that Dumbledore's descriptions and explanations had struck him as a personal attack and Lily knew there was nothing that could have stopped Sirius from entering this war now. Mr. and Mrs. Potter didn't look scared, meditative, dazed, determined, shocked or surprised. They were probably used to seeing that kind of destruction.

Dumbledore waited patiently for their response. Lily didn't know how long they'd been gathered in that room processing this new information, but she guessed it had to have been at least a good fifteen minutes. Never before had she realized the truth length of fifteen minutes.

"I still want to do this," Sirius said, causing everyone in the room to jump. "I don't care about the risks."

There was a slow murmur of assent as others began to join in his sentiment.

"Me too."

"It's worth it."

"Definitely."

"Count me in."

Dumbledore gazed upon each face in turn, finally nodding. "Voldemort," he began, continuing despite the cringes he received from a few of those present, "is planning to attack an upcoming Quidditch match. The Order will be there to prevent this from happening. In the event that Lord Voldemort overcomes our defenses and barriers, we shall do our best to keep the casualties to a minimum."

"When?" Sirius asked.

"In two days time," Dumbledore replied.

"What can we do?" Lily spoke for the first time. Her voice was quiet, yet firm.

"I ask only that you attend the Quidditch game. Remain alert and inconspicuous. You will need to watch for any suspicious activity."

"And if we see any?" Peter asked.

"Alert your fellow Order members. But do not attack preemptively. Fight only in defense."

"What counts as 'suspicious'?" James inquired.

"I trust you to use your judgment on that, Mr. Potter. My only caution is to be exceedingly aware of your surroundings. The Death Eaters themselves do not know those in their ranks. They will be well hidden among the crowd."

Dumbledore remained for a few minutes more to answer questions and finalize plans. When he had departed, Mr. and Mrs. Potter finally made their concerns known.

"You're too young to be involved in this," Mr. Potter said at once. "I don't think you should go."

"We aren't too young," Sirius objected. "Voldemort's not turning down Death Eaters because they're just out of school."

"You-Know-Who is dangerous," Mrs. Potter said as though this were new information. "You're not ready to fight him."

"We already have," Lily argued.

"And you were lucky to come away from it," Mrs. Potter said kindly. "But that doesn't mean you get to go running off to curse him at every turn. It's not time yet."

"Dumbledore thinks we're ready," Sirius pointed out. "And no one is running away."

"It's not a good idea to just rush headfirst into this," Mr. Potter told them.

"If we're old enough to die in this war, aren't we old enough to fight in it?" Remus asked politely. Lily tore her eyes away from Mr. and Mrs. Potter to glance at him, remembering how she had said the same thing hours before. Her attention was drawn back to James's parents when Mr. Potter spoke again.

"There are many people who have died in this war. That doesn't mean every one of them should have fought in it," Mr. Potter said angrily, raising his voice slightly.

"So what do you want us to do?" Sirius demanded with equal parts anger and frustration. "Be afraid and die? I won't do that."

"Neither will I," Lily said stubbornly. "Voldemort won't stop until he's destroyed everyone and everything that stands in his way or that opposes him. No one in this room will ever turn to his side, so if we're going to be attacked by him at some point, we'd better be prepared."

"You kids don't understand," Mrs. Potter said with a note of irritation in her voice. "You don't understand what's at risk."

"This isn't a game of pretend war," Mr. Potter informed them, taking a few steps toward the five kids to emphasize his words. "It is real. You are putting your very lives on the line by doing this." He looked each of them in the eye as he spoke. "The kind of carnage the Death Eaters can create is enough to rival You-Know-Who himself. I've seen it. You shouldn't have to."

"I already have," Lily pointed out quietly.

"Lily, dear," Mrs. Potter said soothingly. "No one is denying what you've been through. But that's exactly why it's important for you to not do this. You've already been through more than anyone your age ever should."

"But taking the safe way out isn't going to protect me," Lily argued, starting to raise her voice in frustration of their lack of understanding and insistance on treating them like helpless children. "It isn't going to protect any of us! Actually taking a stand is what's going to save us in the end."

"Many people are going to die," Peter said. "We should stop him before they do."

"Exactly," James agreed, moving forward toward his parents. "How many people are going to die in this war? And how many more are going to die if the people who could have fought decide they're too afraid to?"

"James," Mrs. Potter addressed her son with pleading in her voice, "you could die. I couldn't take that. I couldn't take it if it happened to any of you."

"I know, Mum. I know I could die. But if I can take just one Death Eater with me, it would be worth it. And wouldn't you be proud that your son died in such a noble way? Not like a coward hiding in his room when Voldemort came calling?"

"We heard what Dumbledore said," Remus began. "We've seen what Voldemort can do. We heard and accepted the risks. We want to do this."

"Dumbledore is powerful enough to protect us if we need it," Peter said. "And he told us how to call him if we need him."

"It's a Quidditch game," Sirius said exasperatedly. "Unless Voldemort has hundreds or possibly thousands of Death Eaters, they aren't going to do anything. They'll be outnumbered by fully trained witches and wizards along with the Ministry. They may be stupid enough to team with Voldemort, but they won't be stupid enough to do anything then."

"Mum. Dad," James started, appearing to attempt to regain his cool. "We love you both and we don't want to upset you, but this is our decision. You can't change our minds."

Mr. and Mrs. Potter looked at each other for support that neither was able to provide. Finally accepting defeat, they chose not to argue any further. Wordlessly, they exited the room, leaving Lily with a horrible weight of guilt for hurting them after everything they'd done for her.

The five friends reluctantly left the sitting room and once more crowded into James's room. James lifted himself onto the windowsill and Sirius pulled out a chair and leaned it back on two legs. Lily stood next to James, while Remus leaned against the bureau, his eyes seemingly unfocused. Peter sat cross-legged on the floor, resting his head on his fists and looking around at everyone.

Lily was grateful to be doing something other than waiting to be killed, but now that there was something official planned and decided, she felt a sense of overwhelming fear and dread. The uncertainty of the unknown was terrifying her. She wasn't sure she could wait two whole days with this hanging over her. Her discomfort was compounded by the fact that she felt she had just hurt two people in her life who where there for her no matter what.

"Enough moping," Sirius said, slamming his chair down on all four legs. "We did the right thing."

"We did the only thing we could," James said.

"Exactly!" Sirius agreed. "Now I think it's time we lifted our spirits a little."

"How?" Peter asked.

"You and Moony pop home and get your brooms. Then we'll teach Evans how to play."

Remus laughed. "Typical Padfoot. When in doubt, play Quidditch."

"I'm serious!" he insisted.

"Yeah," James chimed in. "If Lily might die in two days, we owe it to her to give her one good game of Quidditch. Your parents are probably asleep now anyway. You can get there and back in a few seconds. Off you go. Both of you."

Remus and Peter shared looks that clearly said they both thought their friends were touched in the head. Thinking that both boys would take a bit of convincing, Lily quickly excused herself and set off to find James's parents. She didn't know where they were, but she deciding to start with the ground floor and work her way up the several flights of stairs if she had to.

When she found them on their way up from the ground floor, she shifted her weight uncomfortably before saying, "Erm...Can I speak with you both for a moment?"

"Yes, dear," Mrs. Potter said. "Of course. What's wrong?"

"Is there - Can we sit and talk somewhere?"

"Sure," Mr. Potter said, ushering both girls back downstairs and into the kitchen.

Lily took her seat in anxious apprehension. She looked at the couple sitting across from her and felt another pang of guilt.

"I just...I wanted to say...I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings just before. It's the last thing in the world I ever want to do. You both have been so amazing to me and you took me in during the worst time of my life. I never wanted to upset you. But the Order is very important to me. I don't just want to take part in it. I need to. I have to fight him."

"We understand, dear," Mrs. Potter said. "We're scared for you all, though. We don't want to lose any of you."

Lily couldn't see a way to make all three of them happy. She wouldn't change her mind, but she didn't want James's parents to worry, either.

"I promise we'll be safe," she offered. "We'll be cautious and alert. Paranoid even. We won't do anything unless we know for sure what it is and why and we'll all look out for each other. And, we won't be fighting everyday. It'll be just like it is now, only whenever there's an attack we'll be doing something useful." Lily hoped this would be enough to sway the Potters. It was important to her that they agree with her. When they seemed to be taking a while to respond, she continued. "Remus is a very smart and powerful wizard. He was excellent at Defense Against the Dark Arts and that's exactly what this is. Sirius and James were top students in our entire year, not just our house. They've mastered more complex magic than I would think any person our age could. And Peter can and will learn anything if given enough time and instruction. They're all completely capable."

"What about you?" Mr. Potter asked.

"I'm good at charms. And I've held my own in a duel before." Remembering what Remus had said to her months ago, she added, "It might be that one of us is destined to defeat him. And if we walk away, we won't ever know. And, he didn't tell me this, but I think your approval is important to James."

Her last sentence seemed to have more impact than the conversation in the sitting room and this discussion combined. Both of James's parents appeared to have realized something they missed before.

"Everything okay?"

Lily looked around to see James standing in the doorway. "Yeah. Fine," she said.

"Moony and Wormtail finally got their brooms," he said. "We're heading out now."

"Oh. All right then," Lily said, rising to her feet. She gave a smile to Mr. and Mrs. Potter and then turned to leave. Just as she reached the door, she heard Mrs. Potter's voice.

"Lily?"

Lily turned to look at her.

"Thank you. And you could never upset us."

Lily smiled again and brushed past James and out the front door.

"What was that about?" James inquired when he caught up with her.

"Nothing," Lily replied. "Are the others all ready at the field?"

"Yeah," James answered.

When they arrived at the field, Sirius handed James his broom and then held out James's old broom to Lily. Lily reached out to take it, then considered that Sirius might have been insulted at her unwillingness to ride his broom before and said, "Actually, I'd like to try your broom."

Sirius pulled James's old broom back and looked at Lily, clearly shocked. "My evil devil broom of death? The broom sure to take you to Greenland before you realize you've left the country?"

"You said it was safe, but if you don't -"

"No," Sirius said. "It's fine." He handed her his broom.

"So, to fly," James instructed, "first-"

"I remember how to fly, James."

James shrugged. "All right, then." He kicked off and soared into the air. The others followed soon after. Lily hugged the broomstick and kicked off as well, thinking that no Death Eater would ever be this frightening.



The next two days passed in a haze as the reality of what they were about to do settled in. The morning after Dumbledore's arrival and assignment, Mr. and Mrs. Potter bought tickets to the Quidditch game for all seven of them and gave them to the kids along with their blessing to join the Order. The morning of the Quidditch match, the Potter home was alive with nerves, anxiety, fear, and excitement. Assuming nothing happened, it could be a very enjoyable day.

After checking their wands countless times, everyone finally decided they were prepared and Apparated to the Quidditch game grounds. There was already a crowd of people swarming around and it was a job just keeping everyone together long enough to get a place in the stands. Once they were settled, however, Lily began to watch the crowd as carefully as she could, looking for anything that might be suspicious. She noticed that she wasn't the only one who kept their wand tightly gripped in their hands.

Halfway through the game, nothing worse than a Bludger attack had caught anyone's eye. She occasionally turned to look down at the ground behind the stands, but saw nothing and no one. Even James and Sirius were failing to get excited about the various scores and blocks as their attention was directed elsewhere.

She was so unfocused on the match that she was confused when those around them began standing to leave. Deciding that whatever attack had been planned was called off, she allowed herself to relax and took James's hand. He interlocked his fingers with hers as they walked off the crowded stands and done onto the hard earth.

They had barely walked a few feet when they heard an ear-splitting scream and without hesitation, Lily spun around and pointed her wand. It was then that she saw what caused the scream. High in the air above the stadium was a skull with a snake protruding from its mouth. The Dark Mark. Lily hadn't seen the Mark in months, and the sight of it brought painful memories quickly to the surface. Once she was able to push them out of her mind, she took off after Sirius who was running to the place the Mark hovered over.

She was moving so quickly she ran into several people but didn't break stride. She kept running until she reached the edge of the stadium. Sirius was staring at something just over their heads and Lily followed his gaze. There floated three bodies, hanging in mid-air as if strung from an invisible rope. Their eyes were open, yet unseeing. They didn't look mangled or tortured, but one's face was contorted with what Lily could only conclude was pain, and she knew the Avada Kedvra didn't hurt.

"Dumbledore will be here soon," Peter panted behind her. "I signaled him as soon as I saw the Mark."

Lily looked to see that a crowd, most likely everyone who attended the match, were staring in disgust and fear at what they saw. Peter was standing near her, a fear she had never seen before evident in his eyes. A small child was peeking out from behind his mother's legs. Lily was speechless, but others were murmuring and she heard snippets of what they were saying, though she failed to process any of it. All she wanted was for Dumbledore to arrive. She turned back to the sight before her, looking on in fear and helplessness. No one seemed to be able to tear their eyes from the corpses hanging above them.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

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  #15  
Old July 14th, 2005, 11:46 pm
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HermioneLuna  Undisclosed.gif HermioneLuna is offline
Fifth Year
 
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Disagreements and Mysteries

Lily and Emily sat in the library, boredom overtaking them as they tried to force their minds to focus on the Potions essay they were supposed to be writing. Emily stared blankly at the page before her, while Lily finished the second page of her essay. She was confident about this particular potion.

"I have a great idea!" Emily exclaimed suddenly.

"Oh?" Lily asked, writing as fast as she could before she forgot what she had read.

"Yeah. Why don't you write for both of us? Or you can tell me what to write."

"You know that's not going to happen," Lily responded, pulling a book on plants toward her to double check her facts.

"All right. Why don't we ask someone to 'help,'" she used air quotes "us?"

"Like who?" Lily asked, not looking up from her passage.

"Is Remus good at this stuff?" Emily inquired.

Lily shifted uncomfortably in her chair. "Probably," she replied, still reading. "But I'm not going to ask him for help."

"Why not?" Emily demanded. "I thought you were friends."

"We are," Lily said, writing again. "I just don't want to bother him for help with something I can do on my own. I'm good at this stuff. Besides, to ask him, I'd need to talk to Potter, too. And I don't want to talk to him."

"Are you still mad about that?" Emily asked impatiently. "It was days ago."

"He put someone else's life in danger," Lily said, finally looking up from her assignment. "He shouldn't have done what he did. I don't care how magically gifted he is."

"Magically gifted?" came a voice from behind them. "You must be talking about me."

The girls turned to see James.

"Go away, Potter," Lily said, turning her back on him.

"Can't do that, Evans. We've got to start patrols."

"Now?" Emily asked. "It's still early."

"One big castle, and in about five minutes not even the seventh years can be out in the corridors. I just want to get them done. I've got holiday planning to do."

Lily slammed her book shut and said, "Fine. Let's get it over with then." She threw her stuff into her bag, told Emily she'd see her later and left the library with James. They walked the corridor in silence, and Lily intended to maintain that quiet for the whole of their patrols. Though she didn't see the point of doing this so early, she consoled herself with the fact that it meant she didn't have to spend time with James later.

"Are you going home at all this Christmas?" James asked.

Lily was silent before saying, "Yeah, I am."

"Is Emily going to spend the holiday at your house?"

"Yeah, she is," Lily responded without looking at him.

"Is she staying there the whole time?" James asked.

"No, just the first part." She paused before abruptly changing the subject. "Maybe we should split up to cover more ground," she suggested.

James took a few long steps so that he was slightly ahead of Lily, then stepped in front of her, cutting into her path. "I wasn't going to hurt him, you know."

Lily blinked at him. "All right," she said coolly.

"Why are you still angry about this?"

"I don't really feel like talking about it right now. I just want to finish this."

"You know," James said, ignoring her. "I've done worse than that. I really don't understand why you're acting like this."

Lily gave him a bored look. She had heard this several times over the last couple of days. Her anger had mostly waned, but her frustration was still present. She tried to step around him, but he mirrored her actions, his face a mask of stubbornness.

She sighed, considering if she should tell him that she was merely frustrated at this point, though she still thought his actions dangerous. "Potter, you were hanging someone upside down -"

"I've done it before."

"Out of a window - "

"That's not so bad."

"On the seventh floor."

"I wasn't going to drop him," he said exasperatedly. "I think you're taking what could have happened far too seriously. The point is it didn't."

"And what if it had?" she snapped. "Have you thought about that?"

"There's no way it could have. Not unless I let it, and I wouldn't."

"I don't care. It was dangerous. And David is a member of your own house. And-" She paused, thinking this whole discussion was futile. "I'm done talking about this." She tried to walk around him, but he stepped in front of her again.

"So you're saying that everything else I've done is forgivable because I didn't do it to a Gryffindor? Or is it forgivable because it wasn't on the seventh floor?"

Lily realized that, though it wasn't her intent to say it, it was easily interpreted that way. "That's not what I'm saying. Forget about it, Potter."

"Fine," he said in irritation, stepping out of her path and continuing on his way. "But I don't think even you know why you're having such a hard time getting over it," he added cockily.

"And I suppose you do?" she asked angrily.

"Sure do," he said, smiling.

"Enlighten me, then."

"You're upset because you're thrilled about my winning the bet. You're looking forward to-"

"No," she said firmly. "No, I'm not."

"Yes, you are. But you can't show it after such a long time of pretending to hate me."

"I'm not pretending-"

"And you're using this whole David situation as an excuse. But you forget who you're dealing with. I can see right through it."

"If you knew me as well as you like to think you do, you'd know that endangering the life of someone else is a sure fire way to upset me. Contrary to what you appear to believe, Potter, girls are not helpless to your questionable charms. I don't care if you want to show off to people, but when you cross the line into reckless stupidity, that upsets me."

"There's nothing wrong with what I did and you know it," James argued. "And you know I know you know it. And we both know the truth of this whole thing is what I just said."

After Lily's mind caught up to James's words, she stopped walking and stared at him. She couldn't believe he could miss the point so completely. "You know what, Potter? I'm not doing this anymore. I'm tired of waiting for you to grow up. I'm sick of hoping that maybe, finally, you've deflated your head. From now on, just leave me alone."

"You've said this all before, Evans," James said dismissively.

"This time I mean it. Don't talk to me. Don't look at me. Don't think about me. If you're too stupid to understand that regardless of the outcome of that pointless Quidditch match; If you're so arrogant as to think all my emotions are wrapped up in you and if you can't see that what you did was way over the line and that's the problem, then I want nothing to do with you. Just stay away from me."

She turned on her heel and took off for Gryffindor Tower, leaving a dumbfounded James behind her.




"So that's it, then?"

Emily was sitting at the foot of Lily's bed late that night. She was speaking quietly to avoid her voice traveling to the other girls who were all involved in their own activities. Lily lay width-wise across the bed, staring at the floor.

"That's it," was all she said.

"It can't be. James is far too stubborn to let it go at that."

"I just can't take it anymore, Emily. I thought that maybe this year he'd have matured at least a little. And just when I believe he's changing, he says something like that. He's never going to grow up or change."

"Well," Emily said cheerfully. "There's always Remus."

Lily turned her head so she could see Emily. "What?"

"He's nice, very not egomaniacal, and you both already get along well."

Lily smiled and shook her head. "Typical."

"Well, if you and James are definitely not a possibility anymore, why waste time moping? Upwards and onwards, I say." There was a pause before Emily continued. "Wait. You can't avoid him."

"I know," Lily sighed. "Classes. And he's Head Boy, but-"

"No, I mean, there's still the Quidditch bet."

Lily groaned. "That stupid bet is going to haunt me for the rest of my life, isn't it? It's never going to go away. Well, at least there's a bright side."

"Yeah," Emily agreed. "You two might make up."

"Erm, no," Lily responded. "He might cancel it now."

There were footsteps out in the corridor and a younger girl walked into the dorm. Lily sat up straight and Emily asked, "Are you lost?"

"N-no," the girl said timidly. "I'm supposed to talk to Lily."

"That's me," Lily said. "What's wrong?"

"There's a boy downstairs who wants to talk to you."

Emily gave Lily a smile, which slowly turned into a laugh. "Told you," she said through her giggles.

"Shut it, Emily," Lily said playfully. Then to the girl she said, "Did the boy say what he wanted?"

"No. He told me to say 'Remus would like to talk to you, so if you aren't busy, will you please come down?'"

Emily stopped laughing. "Remus!" she exclaimed triumphantly. "He's heard the way is clear for him now."

"It's probably just Potter trying to trick me," Lily said dismissively. "What did he look like?" she asked the girl.

"Tall, brown hair..."

"Oh!" Lily said, wondering what Remus wanted with her. "All right. Thank you!"

"No problem," the girl said, turning to leave.

"What's he want?" Emily asked.

"No idea," Lily said. "I'm going to find out, though." She left the room and went downstairs into the nearly empty common room. Remus was standing at the foot of the girls' dormitory staircase, waiting patiently for Lily to arrive.

"Hi, Remus."

"Hi."

"Anything wrong?"

"Depends on how you define 'wrong,' I guess. There's no emergency, though."

"So what's going on?" she inquired, her curiosity mounting.

"I know you're upset about Prongs being so reckless a few days ago. I don't think it was the safest thing either. But you shouldn't end friendships over a prank."

Lily was silent for a moment. It was then that she realized what Remus was saying. "I didn't end our friendship over it. I was talking about Potter. He and I aren't friends."

"You could be, if you give him a chance."

"'Give him a chance'." It wasn't a question. "I've given him years’ worth of chances. He's never going to change. He only thinks of himself."

"He's always there for his friends when they need him."

"Mmm and when has he been there for you?" Lily challenged, not believing him. "Or for Sirius? Or for Peter?"

Remus looked as if he was thinking something over. There was a loud silence before he answered. "He helped me with a problem I've had. Trust me when I say he's been a great friend to me. And to Sirius. And to Peter."

Lily sighed. "Did he send you down here to beg for him? Because-"

"No. Prongs didn't ask me to talk to you." He paused again. "Just think about it? Think about if you can forgive him."

"I'll think about it," she promised. "But I make no guarantees."

"Thinking is all I ask," Remus said with a smile.

When Lily had returned to her dorm and told Emily what happened, Emily said, "James probably sent him."

"He said he didn't. But maybe." She sighed. "I don't want to think about this anymore. What are you going to do for the second half of the holidays?"

Lily listened as Emily explained her plans, glad for the distraction and conversation of anything not related to James Potter.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Lily and Sirius were pacing in opposite directions while James and Peter sat on the ground and Remus peered out onto the open field. Dumbledore had arrived and removed the dead bodies. Besides the five newest Order members, few people lingered long after the Dark Mark had been shot into the air.

Lily's mind was blank. She could understand how something might escape her, how a Death Eater might have walked right in front of her and she wouldn't know because of the number of people present. What she couldn't understand what how something so huge might escape her, how a Death Eater might have killed three people and she wouldn't know regardless of the number of people present.

"Will you two stop it?" Peter requested, indicating Lily and Sirius. "You're making me motion sick."

"Sorry, Peter," Lily said, joining Remus in looking out onto the field. Dumbledore was still out there doing Merlin knew what as they waited impatiently to hear from him.

"What's taking him so long?" Sirius demanded. "How long does it take to move a few corpses and get over here?"

"Maybe he's looking for clues," Peter suggested excitedly. "Like in Muggle books, they sometimes search a crime scene for evidence of who was there and what they did."

"This would be the shortest book ever written," James said. "The Death Eaters did it by casting the killing curse."

"I meant," Peter clarified, "which specific Death Eaters."

"He's coming," Remus announced, as he and Lily moved to join the circle of friends discussing Dumbledore's actions.

"It's about time," Sirius commented. "How long have we been waiting? An hour? Two?"

"About seven minutes," James answered, checking his watch.

"Same difference," Sirius responded dismissively.

Dumbledore was now right on the fivesome and he looked from anxious face to anxious face with a grim expression.

"While I understand that you are disappointed that you were not better prepared for this attack, I urge you to reconsider your position. It is understandable that you were unable to stop such an event, given the circumstances."

"But, sir-" James began, but fell quiet when Dumbledore held up his hand for silence.

"After inspecting the scene," Dumbledore continued, "I discovered that not all the victims suffered from the killing curse. There was, in fact, one victim who suffered a broken neck. My analysis would be that a Death Eater lost his wand at one point, and resorted to Muggle combat. This would suggest that, while we could not be prepared for this battle, we need to be for the next. This will require extensive training, and in all methods of combat . . . including Muggle dueling."

"'Muggle dueling'?" Sirius repeated. "What does that mean?"

"Hand to hand combat," Remus supplied. "It can get messy."

"How are we supposed to learn that?" James asked.

"Is it complicated?" Peter inquired.

"Depends on how you're fighting," Remus answered. "But in general, no it isn't."

"Why on earth would anyone use their hands to fight when there are much better ways?" Sirius demanded.

Lily observed the conversation in disbelief. "Are you three honestly saying you don't have a clue how to fight without magic?"

"We can," James protested. "But we don't know anything 'extensive.' We never had to fight like that."

"But you can teach us, can't you?" Peter asked Lily.

"I know basic stuff. Nothing like karate or any of that."

"More than we know, probably," Peter commented. "And what's karakte?"

Lily stared at them all and wondered if this was how Emily felt their first year when Lily bombarded her with questions about the Wizarding World that were perfectly obvious to her friend. "We better get started now," Lily decided. "You have a lot to learn."

They said goodbye to Dumbledore, who gave them a few parting words of encouragement and thanks. The five kids Apparated back to the Potters' home and, after what they had witnessed, James, Sirius and Peter were eager to begin to learn how to fight like a Muggle. Mr. and Mrs. Potter allowed them to use a room that had previously been used solely for storage. Lily was still surprised, as she thought that roughhousing at the very least was a part of every person's childhood, Muggle or otherwise. Instead of participating in the brawling, however, Lily decided to try something she was sure the Death Eaters wouldn't see coming.

"I'm going to make a few potions," she announced.

Remus, who was showing Sirius the proper way to stand in order to perform an effective punch, turned to look at her. "What was that?"

"Well, if we have little bottles of engorgement potions or something, we can throw them at the Death Eaters. I did well in Potions at school, so I can make enough for all of us."

"What about the 'extensive' training Dumbledore wants us to do?" Peter asked.

"I'm Muggleborn," Lily responded dismissively. "I know all about Muggles. I can punch, kick and knee. I'm all set."

"Oh?" James began, walking toward her. "I bet you don't know as much as you think you do. A Death Eater could still get you."

"You think so?" Lily asked. "These are pureblood wizards raised to rely on magic. They won't know the first thing about what they're doing and I know how to throw a punch, so..."

"You can get away from anything then?" James challenged.

"Probably," Lily answered confidently.

James turned and smiled at his friends, who gave confused looks in response. Without turning back to Lily, and before she had time to react, James wrapped his arm around her neck and pulled her down near his waist in a headlock.

"James, let me go," she ordered.

"Nope," he responded in a teasing voice. "You're Muggleborn, remember? You're all set. This should be easy work for you."

Lily could hear the others laughing, but from her current angle, she couldn't see anything. She pulled on James's arms, but couldn't get him to loosen his admittedly not very tight grip. She tried straightening up, but that didn't work either.

"Having trouble?" he asked lightly.

Lily tried again to her him to let go, but seeing that wasn't working, she attempted a new strategy. "All right. You've made your point, Potter" she conceded, no longer attempting to fight.

James laughed, but didn't release his hold on her. "I know that trick, Evans."

Annoyed that her plan didn't work, Lily threw her weight backwards and knocked them both to the floor. The other boys gave a sympathetic "Oh" as Lily and James landed with a thud. This time, her actions caused James to let go of her and she rushed to straddle him and pin him down by the neck.

"See?" she said triumphantly. "I can handle myself." Smiling, she let go of James's neck and stood up.

"That was wicked!" Peter praised.

"It was pretty good," James agreed, getting to his feet. "But it wouldn't have been good enough if I'd really wanted to hurt you."

"Sour grapes?" Lily asked conversationally.

"If I'd been trying to break your neck, I wouldn't have waited so long to do it. Don't be so over confident."

"All right," she relented. "I need to work on some things. But I still want to make those potions. I really think a few potions will help in a fight."

"Do those later, then," Sirius directed. "Moony can't teach us all on his own."

"Okay," Lily agreed. "I guess the potions don't have to be done this instant, do they?"

She and Remus spent the next hour working with the boys to show them how Muggles typically fought. By the end of the lesson, Sirius had progressed to the point where Lily figured most people would be had they not had any formal training and grown up as Muggles. James and Peter, however, still had a while to go to reach that level and Lily wondered if Peter even wanted to; he kept complaining about magic being easier.


Later, Lily sat on her bed, an ice pack on her shoulder as Remus excitedly went on about that evening’s mock-Muggle dueling session.

"Maybe we can do this every day. We know how to duel the magical way pretty well, but this is just as important."

"Yeah, I'm really surprised this hasn't come up before. Didn't you guys ever just mess around or anything?"

"Not as much this way. We had magic at Hogwarts. We could form a sort of lesson plan, you know? And focus on different things each time. We could do that now."

"Well, I think it's a very good idea. But maybe not every day. I don't think I've ever been this sore before."

Remus lowered his voice to a whisper. "One of the advantages of being a werewolf?" he began, smiling mischievously. "You get used to injuries pretty quickly."

"It'll all be worth it in the end," Lily reasoned, thinking of the corpses at the Quidditch match.

"Right," Remus agreed. "Better to be sore now than dead later. Why don't you just heal that bruise you're nursing?"

"Huh? Oh!" She looked around for her wand. "Where's my - oh, I must have left it in James's room," she realized, standing.

"Very careless," Remus teased, smiling. "Very careless, indeed."

"Hush," Lily said playfully. "I'll be right back."

She exited and walked toward James's room. She halted just outside the open door when voices met her ears.

"Are you out of your mind, Prongs?"

"Never been saner," James said solemnly.

"This is going to change everything," Sirius said in disbelief. "Everything"

"Things will more or less be the same. Unless..." His voice trailed off.

After a moment, Sirius asked, "Who else have you told?"

"Just you. And you can't say a word about it to anyone."

"Of course not," Sirius agreed.

There was a pause and Lily considered entering in the silence, but before she did, James spoke again.

"How do you think everyone will react when they find out?"

"Wormtail is going to wet his pants. Moony will be heartbroken. Your parents will disown you. And Lily will kill you on the spot."

James sighed. "I guess if I wanted a serious answer, I should have asked Moony."

"Probably," Sirius said, sounding as though he were distracted.

"Will you at least pretend to have a heart and give me your support? It's going to be hard enough as it is."

"I think you're touched in the head for even considering trying that, but if you really want to go through with it..." He paused. "All right, all right. I'm behind you."

"Thanks. Now it's only a matter of breaking it to... Well, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it."

"Jump off it more like," Sirius said. "But it's your funeral."

"Thanks, Padfoot," James said sarcastically. "That eases my nerves so much."

"Well then I'll just add to your paranoia. Be careful. Wormtail might not figure it out if you don't make it obvious, but Moony and Lily might. You've got to be really careful if you're going to do this."

Lily couldn't take wondering what was going on anymore. She walked into the room and startled both boys.

"Hey, Evans," James said quickly.

"Hi," Sirius greeted.

Lily arched an eyebrow. "What's going on?"

"Nothing," they chorused innocently.

She tilted her head to the side as she watched them.

"Did you need something?" James asked bluntly.

Lily focused on him, noting the mild rudeness. "My wand. I think I left it in here."

"Yeah, we found it," Sirius said, pulling it off James's desk and tossing it to her. Neither boy seemed too anxious to converse with her. Both were looking at her with polite but seemingly impatient expressions.

"Erm, where's Peter?"

"Downstairs," James answered.

When it became painfully clear that they weren't going to talk to her, Lily said, "Thanks," and left.

The door closed behind her, as if they thought she might linger to eavesdrop, which she might have done had they not closed the door. She leaned against it to try and hear what was going on, but their voices didn't pass to her ears.

She reluctantly went back to her own room where Remus was still waiting.

"Great!" he said when he saw her. "I was thinking that next time we could start with-" He stopped, observing the expression on her face. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," she responded, utterly not convincing. "What were you saying?"

He watched her for a moment longer.

"I'm fine," she insisted, forcing a smile. "Go on with what you were saying."

"Well," he said slowly and hesitantly, "I thought we could start with defense rather than offense."

Lily nodded politely as Remus spoke, trying her best to take in everything he was saying. She pushed James and Sirius's conversation to the back of her mind for the time being. Preparing themselves against Voldemort and his followers was more important.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

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  #16  
Old October 13th, 2005, 12:26 am
HermioneLuna's Avatar
HermioneLuna  Undisclosed.gif HermioneLuna is offline
Fifth Year
 
Joined: 5544 days
Posts: 777
Murder and Secrets

"I hope it's nothing serious," Lily said.

"At my grandmother's age, the sniffles are serious," Emily responded.

"Is that all it is?"

Lily and Emily hurried to the Great Hall for breakfast. They didn't have long until their final classes before the Christmas Holidays started. Even with a well-deserved break in front of them, neither would put it past McGonagall to give them extra work for tardiness.

"No idea. My parents just said she was sick and that I should come home early 'just in case.' You know parents. They're paranoid."

"Mine aren't," Lily said cheerfully.

"They would be if they knew about You-Know-Who," Emily reminded.

"I told you, I'm not putting them through unnecessary worry," Lily said, but her stomach squirmed uncomfortably. She knew it wouldn't be unnecessary and that Voldemort was truly a threat. But she also figured he had more important targets than a few unimportant Muggles. Whatever he was going to do wouldn't affect her.

"You'll realize I'm right one day," Emily said as they stepped into the entrance hall. "I'm always right."

"Except when you're wrong," Lily corrected her.

"Yeah, but those don't count." Emily waved her hand dismissively.

Emily walked into the nearly empty Great Hall with Lily on her heels. "If you don't write to them and tell them, I will." Lily laughed and Emily continued, "I'm serious. They trust me more than they trust you anyway."

Lily slid into an empty seat and said, "Excuse me? Which one of us is their daughter?"

"I don't think they'd know the difference at this point," Emily remarked, piling food on her plate. "I could take Petunia's place and they wouldn't notice."

Lily bit into a piece of toast. "I think eventually they'd notice the lack of sarcasm and bitterness, actually."

The Great Hall slowly began to fill with students, and eventually the post arrived. A large, tawny owl dropped the Daily Prophet on Emily's plate and flew off. She picked up the paper and read the front page. Lily had no interest in what might be there until Emily started chocking on her food as she read.

"What?" Lily asked, alarmed, but not showing it.

"Merlin!" Emily coughed.

Another student who had received a copy of the paper let out a small scream. Other schoolmates with copies in front of them began to have similar reactions as they stared at their papers.

Fear took hold of Lily's stomach and twisted it painfully. "What?!" she demanded.

Emily was now attracting the attention of nearby students who didn't have copies of the paper. She pushed it to Lily, whose stomach took residence in her feet when she saw the headline.


DARK LORD STRIKES: MASS MUGGLE MURDERS


Beneath it was a picture of a smoking, unrecognizable building, the Dark Mark hovering in the sky above it. A few people stood outside the charred remains, looking scared. Some, Lily could tell, were crying.

Lily's eyes flew over the article, searching for the names of the Muggles. She reached the end and read over it again to be sure. No one she knew had the terrible fate of those killed in the attack, but she still felt like she was going to be sick. Just looking at her plate overflowing with food made her stomach turn.

Lily looked over at Emily, who had pushed her plate away and was sitting with her forehead cupped in her hands. Gradually, a similar silence flowed into the Hall. Lily looked around at her schoolmates, and saw that most of them were wrapped in silent grief or contemplation. However, some seemed wholly unbothered by the news. A few even looked gleeful.

Lily was focusing in particular on people she knew. James, Sirius, Peter and Remus were sitting a few places away and each was dealing with the news in their own way. James wasn't ruffling his hair as usual, instead he was sitting quite still. He swallowed hard a few times, and kept looking at the article. Lily thought he might be hoping the words were changed when he looked again. Sirius was fidgeting uncomfortably. It was as if he didn't know what to do with himself, or what reaction to the news was appropriate. Peter looked nervous, but otherwise unaffected. Remus looked like Lily felt; sick, sad, and above all, terrified.

Lily's eyes roamed over other people she knew, almost all were taking the news with the appropriate gravity. No one seemed willing to look at another person, choosing instead to stare at the floor, the wall, or the paper. Finally she rested her gaze on Severus Snape. Snape was sitting, staring at the article, but Lily couldn't read his expression because of the distance between them. She watched him for a while, and he never looked up from the paper.

She looked at the staff table. A few people were noticeably absent. In particular, she noticed that Dumbledore and McGonagall were both missing.

Lily was determined to focus on anything that would prevent her from thinking too hard on what happened, but the more she tried to distract herself with what other people were doing, the more she thought the very thoughts she was trying to close out. Everyone in her family was a Muggle. That could have as easily been them as it was the poor Muggles whose lives had been stolen from them. Her family had no protection against Voldemort or his Death Eaters, and what was worse is they didn't know to protect themselves. Lily still hadn't told them of the danger, and Memory Charms had been performed on all the Muggles who witnessed the attacks. There was no non-magical person left to tell what happened. She felt like her breakfast was rising up into her throat. She swallowed, but it kept coming.

Without warning, she stood up and left the Great Hall as fast as she could. She wanted to go to the lavatory, but she also wanted the familiarity of her own dorm. She opted for the latter and ran up the stairs, not stopping until she reached the Fat Lady. Though out of breath, she managed to pant the password. After she was safely inside the common room, Lily collapsed on the floor until she could regain her breath.

After a moment that seemed an eternity, Lily picked herself up and climbed up to her dorm. She sat down on the floor near the door and pulled her knees to her chest, resting her head on the wall behind her. She sat like that, staring into nothingness for a very long time. At some point she heard Emily's voice from far away. It was calling her name. Then the distant sounds of someone climbing the stairs to her dorm sounded. Finally, Lily saw something pass her. She looked up to focus on the new being and saw Emily looking around the room for her, though Emily's back was to her.

"Lily Evans, this is not funny! Where are you?!"

"I'm here," Lily responded quietly.

Emily whirled around to face her. "Why didn't you answer me?" she demanded. "I was worried."

"Sorry," Lily said, though she didn't feel sorry. She just felt sick and scared. She didn't know how to handle this situation. She didn't know any of the murdered Muggles, but now she knew that Voldemort was not just a distant threat. He was real. His followers were real. And they intended to do real damage to anyone who wasn't pure-blood.

"Lily," Emily began softly, slowly moving to where her friend sat. "I know you don't want to scare your parents, but maybe you should write to them. Let them know what's going on."

Lily nodded. "I will."

Emily crossed her arms and eyed her suspiciously.

"I will," Lily repeated more firmly.

Emily inclined her head in acceptance of Lily's answer. "Good. And don't think I won't be checking up on you."

Lily smiled, not doubting for a moment that Emily would take matters into her own hands if she needed to. Emily stretched out her hand. Lily took Emily's hand and was pulled to her feet.

"Help me finish packing?" Emily requested. "Strangely enough, I can't wait to get home now."

"I don't know why you're worried," Lily responded, grabbing a few of Emily's clothes and walking over to the trunk. "You're as pure-blood as they come. Voldemort isn't going to go anywhere near you or your family." Lily set Emily's clothes down and went back to retrieve more.

"No one is safe just because they're pure-blood."

Lily didn't respond. She just continued to help Emily pack her things away. When they were done, Lily said she was going to owl her parents and left Emily to her own devices.

When Lily entered the common room, she saw it was still empty, except for a boy sitting alone on a couch in the middle of the room. He held his head in his hands, elbows resting on his knees. He looked as if he was lost in thought, completely unaware of his surroundings.

"Remus?" she said timidly.

Her voice shook Remus out of his reverie. "What?" He looked up at her, his expression grim. "Oh. Hello, Lily."

She took a step toward him. "Are you all right?"

"Yes," he said somewhat hastily. She said nothing. "I mean, no. I knew...I knew some of those Muggles."

Lily felt a surge of pity, her insides twisting with fear and sympathy. "Oh, Remus," she said softly as she slowly made her way closer to him. "I'm sorry. I-I don't know what to say. This must be so awful for you." Her voice was quiet, just loud enough for him to hear her.

Remus swallowed, but gave no response. Instead he stared blankly ahead of him. Lily sat next down next to him, unsure what to do in this situation. She had never had to console anyone after a single death before, let alone a mass murder. She reached out and took his hand in hers. "Is there...Is there anything I can do?"

Remus slowly drew his attention to her. Then his eyes fell to the floor at their feet and he slowly shook his head. "No," he said almost inaudibly. "There's nothing anyone can do, is there?"

Lily decided that the best thing she could do in this circumstance was just to sit and listen in case Remus wanted to talk. Anything else she said would sound trite or cliché. So instead, she just held his hand and sat in silence.

"I wish I could leave for home now," Remus' soft voice broke the deadly quiet of the last several minutes. "My parents could be next."

Lily bit her lower lip. He was right. His family, her family, both equal targets. Her stomach gave an uncomfortable, nauseous lurch.

"How is Emily handling this?"

"She's going home later today. She got special permission from Dumbledore days ago because her grandmother is sick. She's worried, but I think she'll be okay since she'll be home in a few hours."

Remus nodded silently. Lily could tell another awkward silence was approaching and decided to avoid it.

"What about Sirius and Peter and James? Are they...?"

"They're scared. Everyone is scared. They're safe, though. They're pure-bloods. And with Sirius' family, they don't have a reason to be worried."

"That's what I told, Emily," Lily agreed, her voice still soft. "I told her she didn't have to worry because she's pure-blood." She stopped, realizing that she was shifting the focus of the conversation to herself. This isn't about you, she scolded herself. Remus just lost people. This is about him.

As if reading her mind, Remus looked into her face and almost whispered, "Aren't you worried about your family, too?"

She nodded. "Terrified."

Another silence.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Lily watched James and Sirius talking in low voices on the opposite side of the sitting room. They'd been conversing in secret a lot over the last few days and Lily found herself getting more and more irritated at their covertness. Anytime she'd asked about it, both boys insisted she was imagining things and refused to answer her. She'd finally gotten to the point where she refused to speak to either of them unless strictly necessary. Instead, she spent her time with Mrs. Potter, helping her around the house and accompanying her on errands outside of their home. Now, Mr. and Mrs. Potter were out doing something together, leaving the kids to their own devices.

Though she loved James's family, Lily sometimes wished she had people her own age to associate with. She had isolated herself over the Christmas Holidays, and intentionally pushed everyone in her life away after Easter. Luckily for her, James, Sirius, Remus and Peter would have none of that and refused to go away. But they were the only friendships she had maintained after so much tragedy and loss. Having not made any friendships outside of them, Lily's choices for companionship were limited.

The only possible contact she had was Alice Longbottom, who she felt a strange kind of bond with after getting her help to figure out Remus's secret. As Lily sat staring at the boys who were so effectively ignoring her glare, she decided she could at least try to send an owl her former classmate. Rising from her seat, she turned her steps toward the corridor that led to the staircase.

She climbed the staircase and entered her room in silence. Archimedes was asleep in his cage on her desk. To the side, a soft breeze blew into the room, lifting the curtains slightly. The only sound was the soft hooting of her owl as he slept. Sliding into the seat in front of his cage, she withdrew a parchment, quill and inkbottle from the desk's interior, cleared a space and began writing.

Alice,

I know this must seem incredibly strange, but I just had this sudden urge to write to you. How have you been doing?


She paused, trying to figure out what to write next. After a few moments of thought, she set her quill to the parchment once again.

Have you heard about the Order of the Phoenix? It's Dumbledore's group that fights against the Death Eaters. We joined pretty recently and got our first assignment. We were at the Quidditch match when those people died. It was horrifying to see.

She stopped again as the memory of the night overtook her. She could still see the image of the corpses hanging in mid-air clearly in her mind. Her stomach turned in disgust when she remembered the looks on the dead people's faces.

"Out of curiosity-"

Lily jumped and looked around. "Don't sneak up on me like that, James," she reprimanded. "You keep doing that."

"Sorry. I have a question, though."

"Wait a moment. I want to finish this."

Returning to her letter, she began writing again.

After that attack at the Quidditch match, things have been pretty tense around here. We even had a few lessons in what Dumbledore called Muggle dueling. I'm happy it's been quiet these last few days. I hope it means they're close to catching him.


A shadow fell across her parchment and she looked up.

"What're you writing?"

"A letter. Almost done."

"Who to?"

Lily opened her mouth to answer, but then considered that James was keeping secrets from her. "Nobody," she answered casually, moving the letter from view. "And can you stop hovering?"

"As soon as you tell me who you're writing to that you don't want me to know about."

"It's not important. It's just a letter."

"If it's not important, why won't you tell me?"

"For the same reason you won't tell me what you and Sirius have been talking about," she responded coolly.

"What? When?" he asked, and Lily could tell he was feigning innocence.

"For the last few days. You've been plotting something. And don't tell me I'm imagining things," she added quickly.

"I have no idea what you're talking about. And don't change the subject."

"Honestly, James. Do you think I'm writing to Snape? It's nothing. Now go away while I finish this."

He considered her for a moment, as though debating whether or not to continue arguing. "I'll figure it out, you know," he said, moving toward the door of the room. Turning back to face her, he continued, "This far enough?"

"That works," she answered, returning to the letter.

I have to get going now. Let me know how things are working out with Auror training! I've been wondering about that. Talk to you soon.

Lily.



"There, now. Did waiting kill you?" she asked him as she rolled the parchment shut. Poking Archimedes to wake him up, she said, "You said you had a question."

"Yeah. Who were you writing to?"

"Before that," she said, pulling her owl out of his cage.

"Oh. Just out of curiosity, do Muggles have any traditions for things?"

She looked at him, confused. "Erm, James? What are you talking about?"

"You know, for things like birthdays."

"Yeah," she said slowly, still confused. "The same ones you have. Parties, presents, all that stuff."

"Well, what about other things?"

"What other things?"

"Does your family..." He paused before saying, "Do you have any special traditions specific to your family?"

"For birthdays?" Lily was starting to feel like James was speaking a different language; she just couldn't follow his train of thought.

"For anything. What big things happen to Muggles?"

"You know," she started, tying the letter to Archimedes' leg, "this would be much easier if you would tell me exactly what you wanted to know. Or at least why you want to know it."

"I just want to know how different the Muggle world is from us. I mean, do you have different ways of handling births, holidays, weddings, comings of age, any other stuff they have that we don't."

"Like I said," she began, taking Archimedes to the window, "presents are pretty much standard. My family doesn't have any traditions that I know of."

"Are you sure?"

"Pretty sure, yeah." She moved away from the window and back to her chair. "Why do you ask?" she asked, regaining her seat.

"Curiosity," he answered dismissively. "I just realized I didn't know."

"Are there a lot of traditions in the Wizarding world?"

"Erm, for some things," he said cautiously. "But it isn't really that interesting."

"For what things?"

James walked into the room, saying nothing until he'd taken a seat on her windowsill. "Well, we have christenings."

"We've got those too."

"Yeah, but ours are different. See, if you pick out a godparent for your baby, the christening gives the kid a special magical protection. As long as the godparent is alive, the protection exists."

"So it's some kind of mystical bond?"

"In a way, I guess you could say that. Sometimes the godparent doubles as a guardian."

Lily's mind rested on conversations she'd had with Emily over the years. They'd never talked about being the guardians for each other's kids, because that was too unpleasant a topic to discuss. But she imagined Emily being an influence on her kids, and smiled when she thought of the attitude her kids would adopt with Emily as an example.

"What's so funny?"

"Hmmmm? Oh, nothing. I was just thinking about Emily."

"Emily?" he asked in surprise, clearly not expecting this twist in the conversation.

"Yeah. Thinking about her raising kids."

"That's...an interesting idea." He appeared unsure of how best to handle the topic since certain things concerning Emily were still unresolved.

"No, it's downright scary. I think she'd encourage her kids to be even more of an, erm, disturbance?" It wasn't the word she was looking for, but it fit well enough.

"Troublemaker?" he tried to supply. "I think that's an admirable trait in anyone."

"You would."

"I'd be disappointed if my kids didn't find out everything about the castle that I did. I'd pass along the Map, but Filch-"

"Oh, I have no doubt that anyone carrying your genes would be in his office enough times to find it."

"You think so?" he asked hopefully.

She laughed. "You can be really hopeless sometimes," she said fondly.

"Here you are."

Lily turned to see Sirius standing in the door, holding a parchment. "I got it."

"Got what?" Lily asked.

"Don't know what you're talking about, Evans," Sirius said casually. Then to James he said, "Telling her about the first time you tried to transform? Because th-"

"No," James said quickly. "And that's a story I'm not going to share."

"But it's hilarious," Sirius said. "When you first-"

"Cut it out, Padfoot," James directed. "Why are you so determined to embarrass me? Before it was the first time I rode a broom. Now this."

"Which reminds me, what did happen the first time you rode a broom?" Lily inquired.

"He was so confident he could pull it off," Sirius reminisced. "I remember-"

"Padfoot," James interrupted loudly, "shut it, would you?"

"No, don't," Lily said. "I want to hear it."

"But we were talking about something so much better," James said.

"What could be better than your first Animagus transformation?"

"Kids, actually."

"Kids," Sirius repeated, clearly unimpressed with their choice of topic. "You're talking about having kids? You two are absolutely revolting."

"Not having kids, Sirius. Just kids. In general." She thought she felt herself blushing and determinedly didn't look at James.

"Why? They're messy and slimy-"

"Slimy? You think kids are slimy?" James inquired.

"They drool, don't they?" Sirius answered. "All over everything. And they spit everything they eat back up. It's disgusting."

"I think it's cute," Lily smiled.

"You might as well dump the food on your clothes," he continued as though she hadn't spoken. "It'd save time."

"It's not that awful," Lily countered.

"No, it's just disgusting," Sirius argued, waving his wand and producing a chair for himself.

"You were never a baby?" Lily challenged.

"I was a clean, well-behaved baby," Sirius said.

"Sirius, I doubt you've ever been well-behaved a day in your life."

"Not the point," Sirius responded indifferently. "I just don't see what there is to talk about."

There was a pause before Lily asked, "What's on the parchment?"

"Stubborn, aren't you, Evans?" Sirius responded, smiling.

"Yep. Stubborn and nosy," James agreed.

Lily sighed, sick of being left out and hurt they wouldn't just tell her. She turned back toward her desk, taking hold of her wand lying on top of it. "Fine. If you won't tell me." She turned back to face Sirius and said, "Accio Parchment."

It flew from Sirius's hand and right into Lily's waiting one. Before she had a chance to read any of it, James had reached down and taken it from her. "Thanks," he said cheerfully, sharing a look of amusement with Sirius.

"You're both really getting on my nerves, you know," she told them in annoyance.

"Really? We thought you'd be used to that by now," Sirius said lightly.

"What's going on?" she demanded. "Tell me."

"What are you on about?" James asked. "Nothing is going on."

"Yes there is. I'm not thick."

"Oh, I know that," James laughed. "I'd never think otherwise. Come on, Padfoot," he added, sliding off the sill. Sirius rose and Vanished his chair.

"I'm going to figure it out, you know!" she called after them. She thought of following them, or trying to spy to figure out what was going on. Just as she began to rise from her seat, she decided a different plan might be better. It was time to fight fire with fire.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

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  #17  
Old October 16th, 2005, 7:51 am
HermioneLuna's Avatar
HermioneLuna  Undisclosed.gif HermioneLuna is offline
Fifth Year
 
Joined: 5544 days
Posts: 777
Concealment

Lily made her way to the Great Hall alone. Emily had already left to visit her parents for the holidays, and Lily was excited to be doing the same in a few days time. When she reached the Hall, she took an empty seat next to Susan, one of the other girls in her year. They had spoken a few times over the years, but Susan was very shy and their conversations never lasted very long.

"Happy for the holidays?" Lily asked cheerfully

"Definitely. You?"

"I'm excited. I miss my parents, and honestly, with everything that's going on, I can't get home fast enough."

"I know what you mean," Susan agreed.

"Where do you live, anyway?" Lily asked.

"Ottery St. Catchpole. What about you?"

"Surrey. It's a completely Muggle place as far as I know."

"How do you think we're going to top last year?" someone behind Lily said.

Lily looked around to see Peter talking to James, Sirius and Remus.

"I don't know," Sirius responded, walking beside Peter. Neither of them spared a glance in Lily's direction. "It's going to be tough. That was a prank in a million. We might not be able to."

"We can manage it," James said confidently. He, too, walked past the girls without acknowledging their presence.

Remus followed the trio. "Always the optimist, right, Prongs?" he said lightly. "Hello, Lily. Susan," he greeted as he passed them.

"Hi, Remus," Lily reciprocated. "Looking forward to the holidays?"

"Absolutely," Remus reponded.

"Hey, Moony," James said, "we're going to go find seats before the Hall fills up. See you later."

The trio continued on their way down the table. Lily watched them go, certain that James was intentially refusing to be around her longer than necessary. She knew that regardless of how "full" the Hall got, it wouldn't mean the boys couldn't sit together. After gazing after them for a few seconds, Lily focused on Remus again.

"How are your parents?" she asked.

"Scared," he said simply. "I think they're worried something will happen to me between leaving Hogwarts and boarding the train."

"Hogsmeade is probably the safest town in Britian," Lily said. "All wizards and everything."

"I know, but you know parents. They won't be convinced I'm safe until I'm sitting in a room with them. How about your parents?"

"They, erm, they don't know yet." She saw the look of disapproval on Remus's face and hurried on. "They're not like your parents, Remus. They're both Muggles and they won't understand that there's no chance of anything happening here." She paused. Remus's expression hadn't changed. "And they won't be able to protect themselves, so I'll just be making them unnecessarily paranoid." Unable to take the look in Remus's eyes, she said, "All right! Stop lecturing me." She got to her feet. "I'm going to write to them right now."

"Excellent," Remus said happily.

"I'll see you later then," Lily said, leaving the Great Hall and heading toward Gryffindor Tower.

Her stomach began to twist as she thought about the bomb she was about to drop on her parents. She knew she should have written to them long before this moment, especially after the murder of the Muggles. But after she'd seen Emily off and the shock had diminished somewhat, she started to think about the attack. It wasn't on a single Muggle home in a small town. It was in a building packed with people in a large city. Her parents didn't often leave Surrey. Naive as she knew she was being, she didn't want to believe something that awful could happen to her parents, so she convinced herself they were safe and she didn't need to write to them.

Now, after seeing that reprimanding look on Remus's face and having seen such disappointment in his eyes, she realized what she needed to do. Even if her parents were defenseless against Voldemort, they deserved to know. As long as she made sure they knew there was no safer place for her than Hogwarts, there shouldn't be any reason they would panic.

Lily reached the seventh floor, gave the password to the Fat Lady, and slipped inside to grab a parchment and a quill. She then continued on her way to the Owlery. She took her writing utensils over to the window and prepared to start. When she couldn't think of the right words to say, she rested her head in her chin and looked out across the grounds.

For reasons she couldn't understand under the circumstances, her mind wandered to James. She had told him to leave her alone. She made it perfectly clear she wanted nothing to do with him or his pranks ever again. And she meant it.

So why did she now find herself wishing that James had made some effort to gain her attention, to annoy her, to ask her out like he had done for seven years? It had been quite some time since their last interaction and, although Lily thought she still wanted nothing to do with James, she was bothered by the fact that he so quickly chose to have nothing to do with her. He spent years chasing after her, no matter what she had said. And suddenly he was perfectly willing to pretend as though she didn't exist. It made her wonder what he really had been feeling for her all those years.

Maybe he used to be genuinely attracted, but it just turned into a game for him. He probably lost real interest years ago, she thought.

Had she perhaps been too harsh? David was fine. James didn't do it because he was angry at the kid. No, she told herself. Even if nothing horrible happened, he showed a total disregard for the possible ramifications of his actions. At the very least, he should apologize.

She inwardly groaned when her mind rested on the bet they had made. She assumed she was still bound to it as he had given no word to the contrary. But with them not speaking to each other, the entire ordeal was going to be awkward to say the least. She supposed she could simply ignore him the entire time. She didn't think it would be that difficult. Sighing, she wondered if he would call it off due to recent events.

Shaking her head as if to clear it, she refocused on her parchment and began writing.

Mum and Dad,

I know it's been a while since I've written to you, but things have been happening and I wasn't sure how to tell you. I should have told you this weeks ago, but there's a wizard who is growing very powerful. He's very-


"Ms. Evans, here you are."

Lily turned to see McGonagall standing just inside the Owlery. Her stomach dropped. What had she done? Did McGonagall find out about David and come to punish Lily for not reporting the incident? Did something far worse happen? Before Lily had time to inquire as to the nature of her transgression, Mcgonagall spoke again.

"May I have a word, please?"

"Well, you see Professor, I was writing a very important-"

"It can wait," Mcgonagall interrupted. "Follow me, please," she directed, motioning for Lily to fall into step behind her.

McGonagall turned and swiftly left the Owlery. Lily hurried to catch up with her. McGonagall descended the staircase, with Lily in pursuit.

"Professor, where are we going?" Lily inquired, increasing her steps to reach her.

"To speak with the Headmaster," McGonagall stated.

"T-" Lily couldn't even find the breath to repeat the information. Fear welled like bile in her throat, and she forced herself to swallow the lump. What could possibly be so important that McGonagall would seek her out and lead her to Dumbledore's office? She tried to convince herself she was simply in trouble. Detention was much easier to handle than the other alternatives she feared. Was someone hurt? Or worse?

Neither spoke until they both found themselves face to face with the ugly stone gargoyle that guarded the entrance to Dumbledore's office. Lily figured McGonagall must have given the password, because the gargoyle leapt aside, and she was faced with the spiral staircase. She hesitated, not wanting to see Dumbledore for the first time in her life.

"Hurry, please," McGonagall instructed.

Though her legs now felt like lead, Lily stepped onto the staircase and was lifted up, twirling around until she was at Dumbledore's door. She thought she should knock, but feared what awaited her on the other side.

"Well, go in, Ms. Evans." Mcgonagall had also arrived and seemed to be in quite a hurry.

Lily bit her lower lip, took a deep breath, turned the knob and slowly peered into the room. Dumbledore was sitting behind his desk, a solemn expression on his face. She hesitantly walked inside, followed by McGonagall who shut the door with a click.

"Please take a seat, Ms. Evans," Dumbledore requested, gesturing toward an empty seat on the opposite side of his desk.

Lily slid into the indicated seat, never taking her eyes away from her Headmaster. McGonagall moved to his side and both looked at her with masks of sadness.

"What's going on?" Lily asked.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Frank and I are training together. It's a lot of lessons and tests and a lot of hard work, but so far we're keeping up with the workload."

Lily and Alice were sitting on the sofa in Alice's lounge. Alice responded to Lily's letter, inviting her over for the afternoon, and Lily had all too eagerly accepted. Remus and Peter were supposed to be popping by Godric's Hollow that day and, while Lily loved them all, it was just too much testosterone for her to continually be around.

Both girls had their legs tucked securely under them while they enjoyed snacks brought out to them by Alice's mother. They'd been talking for hours, but neither noticed it.

"That sounds great," Lily responded. "And you're getting to spend time together. It's going to be fun to work with your boyfriend, won't it?"

"I don't know," Alice responded casually. "But it'll be fun to work with my husband."

Lily, who had just been taking a sip of her drink, coughed it back up into her cup. "Your what? You're married?"

"Not yet," Alice smiled. "He proposed the day after we left Hogwarts. My family loves him. And his mum," she paused, appearing as though she were trying to find the words. "Well, she seemed respectful at the very least. I can't tell what she thinks of me."

"Why not ask her?" Lily asked, taking a bite of a biscuit.

"No, thank you," Alice said, smiling, but shaking her head. "She's a very...intimidating woman. I mean, she's nice, don't get me wrong. But she's also very...stern."

"I'm sure she likes you," Lily reassured. "What's not to like?"

Alice smiled. "Thanks. What about you?"

"Hmmm?"

"You and James. Are there wedding bells in the future?"

"Oh." Lily laughed. "No. James wouldn't be thinking about getting married with everything that's going on. He's too busy keeping secrets from me," she added with a hint of annoyance.

"Secrets?" Alice asked curiously.

"Yeah. Him and Sirius. They're plotting something. Something big from the way they're acting, but they won't tell me what's going on."

"They aren't telling you anything?"

"Nope. Not a word. Just huddling in corners and reading mysterious parchments."

Alice frowned. "Wonder what that's all about. But you know, it might not be anything you want to know."

"What do you mean?"

"It might be something harmless, but a male bonding thing. Something we wouldn't understand."

"Well, I overheard them saying that I'd kill James on the spot if I knew. And that his parents would disown him."

Alice raised her eyebrows. "That doesn't sound good."

Lily's stomach twisted; she was hoping Alice would have a more positive outlook. Alice must have seen the look on her face because she said, "They may have been kidding. When did they say that?"

"After Remus and I were trying to teach them how to duel like Muggles. Honestly, I thought they'd know more than they did," Liy added, remembering how her friends had been confused as to why anyone would engage in a physical fight when they had magic at their disposal.

"Oh, that's right. You said in your letter that Dumbledore suggested that."

"Yes!" Lily said excitedly. "Have you talked to him? I think he'd appreciate you and Frank joining. After what I saw, I'd say we need everyone willing to fight on our side."

"Frank spoke with him," Alice answered, avoiding Lily's eyes. Instead, she focused on her plate. "And then he spoke with both of us. He told us all the stuff we'd be facing. It was pretty vivid." She swallowed.

Lily nodded, remembering how Dumbledore had done the same not long ago at Godric's Hollow.

"But," Alice continued, looking back at Lily, "we both still wanted to do it. Everything's been so quiet lately, though. I don't think anyone has any leads on what's going on."

"It's really unsettling and completely unfair," Lily declared in frustration. "We're just kids and we've been tossed into this war. And it's dangerous. I've seen what he can do. More than once."

"But you can handle yourself against him," Alice said encouragingly. "You did once," she added quietly.

"I'll just be happy when this is all over," Lily admitted, hoping to steer the conversation as far away from her parents as possible. "Wouldn't it be excellent if you were the one to capture him?"

Alice's eyes widened. "That's not going to happen. But maybe I'll be part of a team that captures him. There would have to be a lot of us to distract him, you know? Half of us would probably die. I don't think I'd get away even once, but as long as he's gone, I'll be glad."

Lily wondered if there were enough Aurors to work in a group like that. "Are there a lot of people training with you and Frank?"

Alice nodded. "About three or four." She was quiet for a second before saying, "There's this Auror who's been working for ages. He's a little eccentric."

"What's his name?"

"Moody. He keeps telling us to be vigiliant all the time. Seems to think we have drinks with Death Eaters every night."

"That's not the worst advice, though," Lily reasoned.

"It's not," Alice agreed. "I like him, but I think Frank gets a little annoyed with him sometimes."

"Why's that?"

"Moody's paranoid. I mean, we get that we need to be cautious, but it's not helpful to think we're going to die every instant."

"Oh, I see. Well, he sounds like an interesting person."

"He is. There aren't two of him in the world."

There was a pause in the conversation that Lily broke by asking, "How long are you training for?"

"It lasts a few years. Lots of learning to do. At first, Frank and I were going to get married after we finished. But we're thinking of moving the date up sooner. You'll be invited if you want to come."

Lily smiled. She was starting to feel like she and Alice were truly friends and a female friend was something she needed. "That's sweet of you. Thanks."

"Just be sure to invite us when you and James get married," Alice requested nonchantly.

"We're not getting married," Lily argued. "Not anytime soon, anyway."

"But you've thought about it, haven't you?" Alice prodded. "Come on. I know you have."

"Well," Lily said slowly. "Sometimes I have."

"I knew it!" Alice said triumphantly.

"But it's just a thought, you know? He and I aren't talking about it."

"If you're thinking about it, he probably is as well."

"I don't think so. The closest we've gotten is talking about kids. Not our kids, mind you. Just kids. And his kids."

"His kids?" Alice asked, nonplussed.

"Yeah. I told him that any child carrying his genes would no doubt be in Filch's office a lot."

"And what did he say?"

Lily fell into silence, thinking back on that conversation. After a moment, she said, "He didn't really say anything. I think he was just happy that his kids might be trouble makers." There was a pause before she asked, "Are you going to have kids?"

"Definitely. I'm going to have a whole house full of kids."

"And has Frank agreed to this?"

Alice shrugged. "He will. He knows I love kids."

For a moment, Lily said nothing. Then, to break the awkward silence, she said, "James isn't interested in that stuff. Not getting married, not having kids, none of that stuff right now. I mean, he's never mentioned it. Not since we were twelve, at least," she added with a grin.

"Are you? Interested in that, I mean."

Lily shrugged. "A little. But I haven't thought about things like that in such a long time. Back then, it was just me and Emily, talking about our futures, you know? But now, I think I'd only ever consider it if I loved the person. James would make a great father. And a great husband. But I haven't really had the chance to think about it. I mean...of course I want to get married and have kids with the person I love, but-"

"'Love,'" Alice interrupted. "You love him?"

"What?" Lily asked.

"You just said you'd only consider it if you loved the person. And if you think he'd be a great husband and father, then you've considered it."

Lily raised her eyebrows in surprise. She hadn't realized she'd let that slip. After a few seconds, she looked back at her friend and said, "Yeah." Her voice sounded as though she'd only just realized this fact. "Yeah," she repeated more firmly. "I think I do."

"Why?"

"Why?" Lily repeated. It seemed like a strange question to her.

"Yeah," Alice confirmed. "Why?"

"He's a great person," Lily said slowly, looking at Alice perplexedly. "He's kind and caring. He's incredibly smart and inventive. Loyal, protective, brave, and handsome. He-"

"Okay, stop. Have you told him any of that? Any at all?"

Lily furrowed her brow. "How did we get around to analyzing my relationship with James?"

"I'm not analyzing. I'm just being nosy. I've got this theory that all men are basically the same at their core," she explained. "They aren't going to do anything unless they're sure they won't be rejected. And when I-"

"Alice," Lily interrupted. "I rejected James for six years and he-"

"Well, he's a special case," Alice conceded. "He was just far too stubborn to give up. But Frank didn't know how I felt about him, and I thought only someone really dense wouldn't know. And I know you and James are not me and Frank, but maybe the reason James hasn't mentioned anything is because he thinks you don't want that right now."

Lily fell quiet, considering Alice's words. She made sense, but something still bothered Lily. "The things is, I'm not sure if I do or don't. I don't know if I want to be getting into that, or getting that close to someone." She'd thought about this before, but rarely voiced it. Now that she'd started, Lily felt like she needed to keep going. "I mean what if something happens to him? I don't think I can go through all that again."

For a while, Alice said nothing. Instead, the girls sat quietly. Lily didn't have a clue what Alice was thinking, but her thoughts were filled with images of James lying dead on the ground, eyes open but unseeing. She swallowed hard, blinking back the tears that were threatening to spill.

"I'm sorry."

Lily jumped, having quite forgotten where she was and that there was another person in the room with her. "What? Why are you apologizing?"

"I didn't mean to make you...I didn't mean to bring that up."

"Oh, no," Lily said quickly. "Alice, it's not your fault."

The clock on the wall chimed the hour, drawing both girls' attention. "Wow," Alice said. "I hadn't realized it was getting so late."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Lily said, rising to her feet. "I didn't mean to-"

"You didn't," Alice interrupted, following suit. "It's just that I have a meeting I need to get to. And if I'm late, Moody will send out a search party and insist that I'm really a polyjuiced version of myself."

Lily allowed herself a laugh. "Okay then. Well, it was great talking to you."

"It was. We'll do this again soon."

"Yeah. Sounds good," Lily agreed.

"Okay. See you later, then." Alice leaned forward and gave Lily a quick hug. Lily smiled and then Apparated back to Godric's Hollow.

After regaining her bearings, she looked around at the empty sitting room, before turning and making her way upstairs. As soon as she reached the next floor's landing, she was distracted by the sounds of a conversation floating down the corridor.

"Hurry up, Prongs," Sirius was urging impatiently. "They'll be back any second."

"We'll hear them coming," James argued. "And don't rush me."

"You're the one who wanted to keep this secret," Sirius countered.

"I can't figure out what this says," James announced in frustration.

"Give it here," Sirius directed. Their sounds died away before Sirius continued. "You don't want to know what it says."

"What? Why not?"

"Because she's talking about how he-"

"You sure you don't need help, Wormtail?"

Lily jumped when she heard Remus and Peter ascending the staircase. Though she wanted to continue listening in on James and Sirius's conversation, she knew she'd be unable to continue doing so if anyone discovered her. She quickly slipped inside her own room, quietly closing the door behind her.

She decided not to bother trying to overhear them again. She already knew that whatever was going on, James and Sirius were excluding their other friends as well. Therefore, they wouldn't be likely to continue their conversation now that they had returned.

Sighing, she made her way over to her window and gazed out at the setting sun. What was James trying to read? Why didn't Sirius think James wanted to know? Who was the "she" Sirius was talking about? And was "she" the reason James was acting so strangely? Lily had far too many questions that needed answering. Grumbling inwardly over her boyfriend's attitude, she decided that if he was going to be a jerk, she had no reason to continue being nice to him either.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

A huge thank you to everyone who reviewed my last chapter. It means a lot to me. Please, if you've read this far, leave feedback here and tell me what you think. It only takes a moment and it will make me very happy.


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  #18  
Old November 9th, 2005, 6:56 am
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HermioneLuna  Undisclosed.gif HermioneLuna is offline
Fifth Year
 
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One Step Forward

Lily tore out of Dumbledore's office. She didn't know where she was running to or what she would do once she got there, but she knew she wanted to be away from that office and what she had just heard.

She tripped, but retained her balance and looked around. She was outside of the castle now, but had no memory of moving in this direction. Blinking into the afternoon sun, she noticed everything was blurry. She had started crying and hadn't even realized it.

The castle grounds were bustling with life and happy students. People were laughing and going about their business, and Lily didn't want to be anywhere near them. She turned her head rapidly to the side so that her hair covered her face and all she could see in her peripheral vision was a curtain of red. Choking on a sob, she walked away from most of the students.

She was moving aimlessly again, her arms wrapped around her as though she were cold. She watched her feet as she walked, not seeing any real reason to look around her. She bumped into a few people, but didn't even bother to look up to see if they were all right. Instead, she kept walking as if there were no obstacles in her way, and forced her mind to go blank. She couldn't think about what she had just been told. It was just too much.

Without even thinking about it, she sat down on the warm grass, pulled her knees to her chest and rested her head on them. She tried to keep her mind blank, focusing as hard as she could on not thinking, but the harder she tried, the more the thoughts kept coming.

Her mind was resting on what she just heard. At first, she was filled with nothing but rage, convinced they were lying to her. She had argued with Dumbledore and McGonagall about it. She'd called them cruel liars and refused to believe it was true. But no matter how hard she tried to tell herself otherwise, she knew the truth. She knew what she'd have to face in a short amount of time. And she knew she didn't want to. She knew she couldn't.

Her tears were flowing freely now, and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't stop their onset. She sat for a while, crying into her knees, not caring that she was soaking her robes, not caring about anything and feeling as though she never would again. She was starting to feel ill to her stomach and was convinced she'd be sick in a matter of moments. There was no one who could understand pain that she felt. No one who could relate to the fear and panic that had been and would continue to be a part of her everyday life. Not a single person she could confide in. Not one. Except...

Lily lifted her head and brushed the tears and hair away from her face. There was a dull throbbing in her head and she sniffled as she squinted in the light because her eyes had seen only darkness for quite some time. She knew exactly where he'd be. He and his friends were always in the same place. She began racing across the grounds as if her life depended upon it. She ran until she saw him. Wiping her nose, she hurried closer.

He was sitting by the lake as usual, though one of his friends was missing. She was almost right on the group before she saw that the missing person wasn't one of his friends, but him. She stopped almost in mid-step. Sirius was poking at a bandage on his arm, and saying something to Peter and James. But there was no sign of the boy she sought. Where is he? she thought desperately to herself.

Sirius looked up as he continued to talk, and spotted Lily. He elbowed James with his non-bandaged arm, and nodded toward her with his head. James turned to see what Sirius was motioning toward. When his eyes fell on Lily, he smiled.

"Evans! What a pleasant sur-" James stopped mid sentence. "What's wrong?" he asked, genuine concern in his voice and on his face.

"Nothing," she said as she wiped away the tears that had started to slide down her face. Her voice was hoarse and, clearing her throat, she asked, "Where's Remus?"

"He isn't here," James said cautiously as he got to his feet. He took three steps in her direction before repeating, "What's wrong?"

"I know he isn't here," Lily said, ignoring the question. "Where is he?"

"We don't know," Sirius answered.

James closed the distance between them in a few short strides. "Tell me what's wrong," he demanded.

"I told you, nothing is wrong, Potter. I'm fine."

"You are not fine," James insisted.

"Yeah," Peter joined in. "You're all puffy and your eyes are red."

Lily stared at him over James's shoulder; in disbelief he could be so insensitive. Casting a look of disgust at all three boys, she turned to walk back to the castle. A hand reached out and took hold of her right arm. She spun back around to glare at James.

"Let me go," she demanded through her tears; she was now crying as hard as she had been minutes before. "I just want to go, okay?"

"Then why did you come here?" he inquired, still holding her arm.

"That's none of your business, Potter."

"Well, considering that you just came running up to us and then started crying, I'd say I have the right to ask," James stated.

Lily looked around at the other two boys again. Peter was watching them with his chin in his hand, looking mildly interested. Sirius had gotten to his feet, but had stayed in his place, as though unsure weather he should approach the pair. Lily could tell that he, too, was concerned.

"I came to talk to Remus, but he isn't here. Can I go now?" she asked desperately, now not even bothering to wipe the tears away.

"Come on, Evans," James said quietly, his hand moving to her wrist. "Let's talk."

"I don't want to talk to you, Potter. Just leave me alone!" Lily shouted. She tried to pull her hand away, but James wouldn't let go.

"Please, just talk to me."

Lily used her left hand to try to pry his fingers off of her wrist. Can't he ever just take 'no' for an answer? she thought angrily. She just wanted to be alone now. Remus was the only person who could understand what she was going through, but he was somewhere else, unable to help her or even know that she needed him. Having no success at loosening his grip, Lily tried to yank her wrist away, using the weight of her body to give her leverage.

James was pulled forward, but didn't release her. He placed his free hand over Lily's left. "Lily, please," he pleaded quietly.

Lily stopped trying to free herself and looked up at him, surprised. She looked into his eyes, thinking he might be trying some new ploy to get close to her. After a brief moment, she decided he was serious and nodded.

James loosened his grip on her wrist, but didn't let go. Lily wiped her nose again, allowing James to lead her to an empty section of the grounds, near the Forbidden Forest. He glanced around, then sat down on the soft earth. Lily sat across from him, just a foot between them. Lily was still crying, trying to find the words to say. He watched her and patiently waited for her to start talking.

"P-Professor Dumble-Dumbledore," she started. "I was j-just in h-h-his office...and h-he said..." The rest of her words were undecipherable through her crying. "And th-then when she g-got there, they...they were st-still th-there and...The De-Death Eaters...Voldemort said..." Lily found herself unable to speak coherently again and gave in to her sobs.

James cautiously reached out his hand to her. When she didn't pull away, he pulled her into an embrace to try and comfort her.

Lily cried into him for a few minutes before speaking again. "J-just be-because...He tried...tried to c-con-convince th-them to join...And wh-when they didn't, he-he...And then they k-killed her. Like...Like she didn't even m-matter. L-like she w-wasn't e-even hu-hu-human!" She was still crying, but she sounded angry now as well.

James said nothing, and Lily supposed he was at a loss for words, but it didn't matter. She had more to say. He wouldn't understand, he couldn't relate, but now that she started, she couldn't stop.

"Th-the Lowsley's were mur-murdered be-because they...they w-were pure-pure-bloods who-who wouldn't...wouldn't side with him." Lily was taking deep, gasping breaths between every word. "If-they they ar-aren't safe...No one...I'm Mu-Muggle-born! My f-f-family...Sh-She war-war-warned m-me th-that..." She finally gave up all hope of being able to speak now. She just cried harder than she had cried so far that day.

James wrapped his arms tighter around her. "I'm sorry, Lily. I'm so terribly sorry. It's okay. Just let it all out." He rocked back and forth; comforting her like a father would his fussy child.

They sat there together for a very long time. Even after Lily stopped crying, she didn't move away. She felt emotionally exhausted and was content to never move again. She closed her eyes. James was still rocking with her, and Lily found it soothing. And so they sat in silence on the damp ground.

Lily felt like sleeping after the emotional roller coaster she had been on. She heard a gurgling and opened her eyes. She heard it again and turned her face to look at James. It seemed like they had just had breakfast, but she realized that she had to have been sitting with him for much longer than that. She thought it must be around lunch time.

"If you want to go..." Her voice was scratchy and tired.

"Don't worry about it," he said.

Lily stared up at him, considering taking his advice and not moving. Deciding she had something she really needed to do, she sat fully up and broke their contact. Her cheeks were still damp, and she brushed at them to dry them. "I'm all right now," she said. He gave her a skeptical look. "Really," she continued. "I want to go back to the castle."

"Alright," he agreed, slowly. She stood and he followed suit. They walked back to the castle in silence.

When they got to the Entrance Hall, Lily turned to James and said, "I'm going to go up to the dorm."

"You really should eat something, Lily," James advised.

"I'm not hungry. I'll be fine. Really. You go on in."

James sighed and nodded reluctantly. "Okay. I'll see you later." He turned to go into the Great Hall.

"Wait," Lily requested.

He turned back to face Lily, who threw her arms around his neck. After he recovered from his surprise, he returned the hug. She pulled away and looked him right in the eye.

"Thank you. James."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Lily?"

Lily continued to stare out at her book, intent on ignoring the boy now trying to gain her attention. She knew she was possibly over reacting because friends kept secrets all the time, but she just couldn't stop herself. When it came to him, she was often irrational and she attributed that to her feelings for him.

Whatever he and Sirius were plotting might be perfectly innocent. She'd accept that it was harmless, but Sirius had said that everyone would be upset by it.

She was sitting at her desk, her back to the door. She wasn't really reading, but she'd looked at this book so often she had it practically memorized.

"When did you get back?"

His voice was closer now and she could hear him walking toward her. Still, she gave no response. Instead she focused on the page in front of her.

"That must be a good book. What is it?" He was standing directly behind her, waiting for an answer.

She calmly continued reading, paying him no attention at all.

"'A pang of exquisite suffering -- a throe of true despair -- rent and heaved my heart. Worn out, indeed, I was; not another step could I stir.' Well, that's cheery," he remarked sarcastically. Still, she said nothing. "Utter anguish...specter of death...banishment from my kind..."

Lily looked up from her book, staring ahead of her as he continued to read fragments of the sentences over her shoulder. Finally, she snapped, "Would you stop that, Potter? It's distracting."

"Pot- Okay," he sighed, looking at her reflection in the nearby window. "What have I done?"

"Done?" she repeated, focusing again on her book. "You haven't done a thing."

"Well, erm," he began, looking slightly wrong footed, "Moony and Wormtail are gone. I was thinking that if you weren't meeting Alice again, maybe we could go somewhere tomorrow."

Lily kept her expression neutral. "Where?" she asked, turning the page.

"It's a surprise."

"What about Sirius?" she asked coolly.

"What about him?"

"You're just going to leave him here alone?"

James shrugged. "It's his house, too. He doesn't need me to be here to feel comfortable."

"Oh, but he might need you to decipher something," she offered. Then, looking up from her book and pretending to suddenly remember something, she continued, "Oh no, wait. He's not the one who needs help with that."

James frowned at her reflection, for she still refused to face him. "What are you talking about?"

"Nothing," she muttered, returning to her book.

"If you're upset about something-"

"I'm not. What's there to be upset about?"

"Erm," James started, looking more bewildered than ever. "I think he might even be catching up with his cousin while we're gone."

"His cousin? I thought he hated his family."

"Not this one. He really likes Andromeda. She wrote to him earlier. At least I think she wrote to him. I couldn't figure out anything on that parchment."

Lily blinked. Closing her book, but keeping her space marked with a finger, she turned to face him. "What did you say?"

"What? That Andromeda has horrible handwriting?"

She tilted her head to the side, observing him. Andromeda must have been the person she overheard them talking about. So it had nothing to do with her at all. Lily allowed herself a smile, though she still wondered what James wouldn't have wanted to know.

But knowing they were just talking about Sirius's older cousin made Lily feel foolish to have reacted the way she had. Turning away to hide her blush of embarrassment, she opened her book again and asked, "Did she have anything interesting to say?"

There was a pause before James said, "I don't know. Padfoot wouldn't tell me what she said. And just what is so fascinating about that book?" He reached over her shoulder and pulled it from her grasp.

Lily sighed, turned to look at him and watched as he flipped through the pages. "Can I have my book back, please?"

"'Terrible moment: full of struggle, blackness, burning!" he read melodramatically. "This may as well say 'doom' on every page."

"It's actually a very good book," Lily said calmly. "It's not all like that. It's about a woman named-"

"This is unbelievable. You're actually enjoying this? Hey, Padfoot!" he called, leaving the room in a hurry.

"Hey!" she shouted, following him out. "Potter, I want to finish reading that!"

He raced toward the sitting room with her on his heels. He jumped the last two stairs and burst into the room. Sirius, who was standing near the fireplace, spun around in surprise.

"Padfoot!" James repeated. "Look what she was reading." He shoved the book under Sirius's nose. "Have you ever seen anything more ridiculous in your life?"

Sirius read the page James had opened to, and then laughed. "What's this rubbish? 'Withdraw, then -- I consent; but remember, you leave me here in anguish.' Yeah, I'm in anguish just reading that."

"It was written over a century ago," Lily explained, trying her best not to show the amusement she felt.

"Naturally they wouldn't sound like we do."

"This is just horrible," Sirius stated. "Listen to this, Prongs.' He threw himself on his face on the sofa. Oh-'"

"What a pansy," James remarked in disgust.

Sirius grinned. "'My hope - my love - my life! broke in anguish from his lips. Then came a deep, strong sob.'"

"What he needs to do is pick himself up, look in the mirror, and say to himself, 'I am a sissy, a crybaby, and I really should go jump off a cliff.' Honestly!" James began to pretend to cry heavily, exaggerating his sobs, faking hiccups and feigning deep, rasping breaths. Reaching out to touch Sirius's face he stuttered, "How-how.." A fake hiccup. "How will I ever..." A deep breath. "Ever live without y-y-you?"

Lily snorted, then joined Sirius and James in their laughter.

"Oh, here's the best part," Sirius announced triumphantly. "'Farewell! was the cry of my heart as I left him,'" he read, placing the back of his hand to his head in a 'woe-is-me' gesture. He hugged James, then pulled away, stifled a false sob and whispered, "Farewell." He paused dramatically. "For ever!"

Lily laughed harder.

"Do we want to know what's so funny?" a voice asked from the other side of the room.

Lily looked to see Mr. and Mrs. Potter standing in the other doorway of the room. She took several breaths in an effort to calm herself.

"Nothing, Mum," James answered. "You had to be here. Are you going to cook? I'll help you."

Mrs. Potter raised an eyebrow. "Wouldn't you rather-"

"Nope," he said quickly. "I want to help."

"Your mum and I can handle it," Lily said cheerfully, having helped Mrs. Potter for the majority of the time she'd been there. "I don't mind."

"Take a break tonight," James said. "I should help out."

"All right, then," his mum said happily. "Come in whenever you're done having fun in here." Taking her husband by the arm, she pulled him out of the door.

Turning back to Lily, James said, "You never answered me."

"You never asked me anything," Lily responded.

"I did so," James protested. "About tomorrow."

"Oh, right. Well, sure, why not? I like surprises."

James beamed at her. "Perfect."

Sirius coughed, drawing the couple's attention. He gave James a look Lily couldn't read and James responded with an equally ambiguous expression. Lily arched an eyebrow, but remained silent.

"Well, I'm going to go help my mum now," he announced, following the path his parents had left.

There was a brief silence before Sirius said, "How's Alice?"

"She's doing fine. She and Frank just joined the Order and are training to be Aurors. And they're engaged."

Sirius raised his eyebrows. "Engaged?"

"Yeah, I was surprised, too. They're really young. But they're in love," she shrugged. Sirius looked as if he were about to say something, but Lily continued on. "What about Peter and Remus?"

Now it was Sirius's turn to shrug. "Same as always."

There was an awkward pause before Lily asked, "So, what did you boys get up to today?"

"Nothing interesting. I'm moving out and they're going to help."

"You're moving out?" Lily repeated. "Why?"

"Can't stay here forever. And I like the idea of being on my own. I've got my own flat."

"Well, that's great for you then," she said. "How's Andromeda?"

"What?"

"James told me she wrote to you today," she explained.

"Oh. She's fine," he said casually.

There was a scream and the sound of something crashing in the kitchen.

"Everything's fine!" James called.

Lily laughed and shook her head. "He's not really very good at domestic things, is he?"

"Not even remotely," Sirius agreed. "You really read this?" he asked, indicating the book and staring at her as if he hoped to be told otherwise.

"Quite a few times," she answered, and he looked disappointed. She smiled at him. "It's really not so bad. There's all sorts of things in there: mystery, intrigue-"

"Pompous overwriting," he continued her list. "I'd dislocate my jaw from yawning."

"I guess you don't care for Shakespeare then," she observed.

"What's a Shakespeare?" he asked.

Lily turned her impending laugh into a smile and responded, "He's was a famous playwright. He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon. You know, I've always wanted to visit there. But he wrote some great plays."

"'Great' like this-" he held up the book "-is 'great'?"

"No. That's much better."

"It's better? This guy must have been awful."

"Can I have it back, then?" she asked.

"Once you admit I'm right," he teased.

"That's never going to happen. Especially because you're always wrong." She reached for the book, but he held it over his head, out of her grasp.

"Go on, say it," he encouraged. "You know it's true."

She jumped to try to reach the book, but he took a step back and she missed. "This isn't fair," she grumbled, annoyed that he was taller than her. She knew he was just messing about, and she had no emotional attachment to the book, but she still wasn't going to say it was awful just to make him happy. Thinking fast, she smiled as sweetly as she could muster and said, "Please may I have my book back?"

"Even though it's a pointless story?" He grinned.

"Okay, Sirius. You win," Lily conceded. "It's a horrible piece of classic literature."

"Good," he said, handing her the book. "Glad we agree on that. .] I'm going to repair all the damage Prongs is creating." He turned away and began moving toward the opposite corridor.

Lily stared at her book, reminding herself of the ploy of the heroine and how her life took a desperate turn because of one secret. Before she could stop herself, she called, "Sirius?"

He was nearly out of the room, but he turned to face her again. "Yeah?"

"Why am I going to kill James?"

Sirius shifted slightly, watching her with a curious expression. "What?"

Lily's stomach started to twist, but she ignored it. "You said I was going to kill James. I want to know why."

"I haven't said that, Evans." His brow had become furrowed and he stared at her as though she suddenly began speaking a heretofore undiscovered language.

"Not to me, you haven't," she agreed. "But I heard you tell him that."

He shrugged. "I don't remember that. Sorry."

"I do. He wanted to do something and you said he was crazy for even considering it."

His expression remained politely curious, though Lily thought she saw a smile playing on his lips. "I still don't remember that. Are you feeling all right?"

"It was right after that attack at the Quidditch game," Lily prodded, hoping to get some information. "After Remus and I were teaching you lot Muggle dueling."

Sirius appeared to be thinking. Finally, he said, "I remember the attack. And I remember the Muggle dueling. But I have no idea what you're talking about. Try asking Prongs," he suggested.

Lily said nothing, and Sirius apparently took that to mean their conversation was over because he left. Sighing, Lily decided to return her book to its place and let whatever she had overheard go.

The rest of the night passed without incident. Apart from occasional shared glances between everyone except Lily at random points in the conversation, nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

Next afternoon, Lily entered the sitting room to find Mr. and Mrs. Potter talking with Sirius. Whatever conversation they were having halted as soon as she entered.

Lily looked around at each and every uncomfortable face and commented, "So have you ever walked into a room and just known that everyone was talking about you? It's really awkward."

"We weren't talking about you," Sirius countered. "We were talking about me moving." Addressing the Potters, he remarked, "Can you believe the ego on this girl?" He winked at Lily as she sat in a chair across from him.

"You know, you don't have to leave, Sirius," Mr. Potter said. "You're welcome to stay here as long as you like."

"You are two of the most patient people in the world to make an offer like that," Lily stated.

"I resent that!" Sirius objected. "I'm a joy to have in any home."

"Yeah, if you like random explosions and people attempting to prank you into a heart attack."

"Like I said," Sirius responded. "A joy."

Lily smiled, but gave up trying to out argue him and asked, "Where's James?"

"He's running an errand," Mrs. Potter answered. "He'll be back shortly."

"What's he doing? Is it safe for him to be out by himself?"

"He's safe," Mrs. Potter assured her, but Lily thought she detected more worry than the older woman would have liked to display.

"Have you spoken with your sister?" Mr. Potter inquired.

Lily took a deep breath, a pang of guilt twisting her gut. She'd neglected her promise, but she hadn't a clue how to hold to it when Petunia refused to acknowledge her existence. "Not for months now," Lily admitted. "I don't think she would talk to me if I tried. I mean, I could send her a letter, but I don't have her address. And if she saw an owl flying at her...Well, it would do more harm than good."

"But it would be funny to see her reaction," Sirius commented. "Do it just for that."

"You're so full of helpful suggestions, aren't you?" Lily remarked.

"It's why I live."

"Think about writing to her," Mrs. Potter directed.

Lily shrugged uncomfortably. "I don't really have anything to say to her."

"I expect you will soon," Mrs. Potter answered. Mr. Potter and Sirius both shot her a glance, but otherwise behaved as though she said nothing unusual.

"Why?" Lily asked, casting her mind around for any excuse to alleviate her guilt. "I can't talk to her about anything in this world."

"You can tell her what a joy it is to pack my stuff for me," Sirius suggested.

"Is that your not-so-subtle way of asking me to help you?"

"'Help,' 'Do it for me.' Same thing, really."

"Why wouldn't you just use magic?"

"That only works if everything is in one place. I've got to figure out where I put everything."

"Oh, and here I thought you were so organized," Lily remarked sarcastically. "Okay then," She agreed, getting to her feet. "I've got nothing better to do."

"Your enthusiasm is overwhelming, Evans."

"I thought so." She smiled and exited the room, Sirius right behind her.

Once in his room, she looked around at the clutter and asked, "How do you find your way around?"

"I like to call this 'Organized Chaos.' I know where everything is, more or less. It's the other stuff that I can't find."

"Isn't there a locator charm? What about Accio?"

"Only works if I know the name of what I'm looking for. And I'm not sifting through all this just to find out what isn't here."

"Okay," Lily said, pulling out her wand. "So we'll pile everything in your trunk and if you miss anything, James can send it along. Simple." She paused, considering the conclusion she'd just come to. "Why didn't you think of that?"

"Maybe you're more brilliant than you seem," Sirius offered.

"Or you're less so," Lily suggested.

"Rubbish," Sirius responded dismissively. With a wave of his wand, all his belongings flew haphazardly into his trunk. "Perfect," he observed.

"Well, that took all of two seconds. Glad I could help." She turned to leave, but Sirius stopped her.

"Hang on. Erm, your sister."

Lily stared at him in confusion. "What about her?"

"Well..." He was looking around the room quickly, finally returning his gaze to her, looking inspired. "Does she like any of those awful authors?"

"I'm not actually sure what she reads. She likes Muggle music, though." She halted, slightly confused again. "Why are we talking about her?"

"I thought you could use a new book as a reason to send post to her. Or something."

"It's sweet of you to try to help, Sirius, but there's nothing that's going to help. Not when she thinks that I'm res- I mean," she corrected herself, starting to feel sick. "Not when she hates magic so much."

"Not when she thinks what?" Sirius questioned.

"Nothing," she said quickly. "I wouldn't presume to know what she thinks."

"Right," he said, eyeing her skeptically. "Now tell me what she thinks."

"I don't remember," she responded.

"Evans, you've never forgotten anything a day in your life."

"There's a first time for everything," she said. "I'll see you later." She turned to leave again, but once more he stopped her.

"You can trust me, you know," he said calmly.

She sighed. "I know." She faced him again. "And I do."

"So then why won't-"

"Okay." She still hadn't told anyone exactly what Petunia had said. She hadn't planned on doing so, either. But Sirius was an outcast from his family and knew what it felt like to be blamed for things that weren't his fault. He could relate to being so despised by his own flesh and blood. "Fine. I'll tell you. But you have to keep your mouth shut about it."

"Sure," Sirius agreed, shrugging. "I'm good at keeping secrets. What happened?"

"I mean it, Sirius," she warned. "I haven't told anyone what she said."

"I said I'll keep it quiet, didn't I?"

Lily glanced down the corridor to ensure they were still alone, then said, "When I told Petunia about...about our parents, she told me... She said that..." Closing her eyes tightly and strengthening her resolve, she said, "She blames me for our parents' deaths. She said that if they'd listened to her and realized I was a freak, they'd still be alive. And remember, I told you that it was my fault?"

"And we told you it wasn't," he told her.

"I know that. And...And maybe it wasn't, but still, she thinks it was. And it's hardly a shock that she blames the magic. And see, I promised my mum ages ago that I would keep trying to get along with Petunia because family is important and all that, but-"

"Well, you don't think of her as family, really, do you?" Sirius pointed out. "Contrary to popular belief, you can choose your family. I'm more a Potter than a Black."

"Maybe, but she's still my sister. She's the only blood I've got left."

"Doesn't sound to me like it's a good idea to push this girl. If she thinks you single-handedly wiped out the entire Evans line, just leave her alone."

Lily clenched her jaw in aggravation; he just wasn't understanding. "I told my mum-"

"Wait until you actually have a reason to write to her," he advised. "Something about getting an "O" on your Potions N.E.W.T. will give you a better letter than apologizing for her thinking you killed your parents. If you want my advice, just forget about her. But if you really need to talk to her, waiting for a real reason is better."

Lily considered his words. It was actually a decent suggestion. She probably wouldn't write about anything concerning the wizarding world, but his general point was still a good one. "This isn't fair," she announced. "You're not supposed to be insightful."

"Don't worry. It doesn't happen that often."

"Oh believe me, I know that."

"Know what?" a voice from behind her made Lily jump.

"Nothing," Lily said quickly. "And how long have you been lurking there?"

"Could be a few minutes, could be a few seconds," he said casually.

"Well, if it was a few minutes, you'd know what I know," Lily pointed out.

"But I'm sure you want to tell me, right?" he smiled.

"Not particularly, no," she said sweetly.

"Okay." He shrugged, moving into the room to stand next to Sirius. "Padfoot will tell me."

"I would," Sirius agreed. "If I had any idea what she was on about."

Lily smiled her thanks at him, then slipped quietly from the room. She intended to return to the sitting room, but was halted by another form reaching the landing she was currently on.

"Hello, Lily."

"Good morning, Mrs. Potter," Lily said.

"You and James are going out today, right?"

"Yeah," Lily said.

"I see." She appeared to be thinking about something. "Maybe you'll want to dress up."

Lily looked at her strangely. "It's only James."

"Yes, well. It was just a suggestion, dear. It's entirely your choice." She smiled at her, then continued down the corridor.

Lily stared after her, wondering what that was all about. No one except Emily had ever seemed to have a vested interest in Lily's clothing choices. She wondered what Mrs. Potter's motives were. Looking down at her blue blouse and jeans, she shrugged, and headed toward her room. It wouldn't hurt to change into something else.

She sifted through her outfits, finally deciding on a deep purple dress with flowers embroidered around the edge. Tossing it onto her bed, she looked deeper into her closet before finding a matching cardigan in case the temperature dropped.

"I'm not sure what's going on," she told her sleeping owl, "but I really hope it isn't horrible."

Sighing, she changed into her dress, put her cardigan on, and left toward the sitting room, determined not to try to overhear anything James and Sirius were saying. Nothing good ever came from that.

She entered the room to see it was empty. The house seemed so quiet today, and she found it disconcerting. James and Sirius were not quiet people; someone was always running around and doing something, even if it was just making noise. The tranquility was uncomfortable. Sitting in the same chair she'd only recently vacated, she closed her eyes and rested her head on the top. Whatever was going on, everyone was in on it except her.

She thought about what event might be coming up. It was too early for it to be a surprise birthday party, far too early for Christmas, and she couldn't think of another reason for any surprises.

"All set?"

Lily opened her eyes and looked in the direction of the voice addressing her. She raised her eyebrows at James's attire. He was dressed in a a nice white collared shirt, unbuttoned over a colored tee and a nice pair of black trousers.

"Yeah," she responded, rising to her feet. "You look nice."

"You look better."

She smiled, sure she was blushing. "So, erm, where are we going?"

"You'll see," he answered. "Just hang on to me and I'll get us there."

"Alright," she agreed, sliding her arms snugly around his waist.

He smiled down at her. "Or, you know, we could just stay here."

She was about to respond, but before she could say anything, the familiar, immensely uncomfortable sensation of Apparating overtook her. She shut her eyes in an attempt to block it out, and didn't open them again until she smelled ocean water.

They were standing on the edge of a cliff, somewhere near the sea. Lily looked out at the waves lapping against the shore, then, releasing James, she turned and observed her quaint surroundings. There was a warm breeze blowing softly. She walked a few steps away from him, looking around in surprise.

"It's...Are we in Sidmouth?"

"Yeah," he confirmed. "You said you wanted to come here, so I-"

"This is amazing," she said, surprised he remembered that.

"There's more," he told her, sliding his hand into hers and gently pulling her in the opposite direction.

He led Lily around a group of trees and she noticed that they had Apparated just outside an outdoor restaurant on the cliffs. She remembered mentioning something like this to him months before, but hadn't thought he'd be able to recall it. This was a thoroughly Muggle place, and she wondered if he'd be able to get through the night without simpling things up by waving his wand.

They were led to a table near the edge of the cliff and away from the crowd almost immediately. It was covered with a red cloth with two tall, slender candles burning steadily atop it.

The woman who took them looked around in confusion. "That's strange."

"What is?" Lily questioned.

"This table. It's never been here before."

"Or maybe you just never noticed it?" James suggested, barely suppressing a grin.

"I guess." She looked around again. "Yeah, that's probably it." She directed them to their seats and handed them their menus.

Something glittering in the reflected candlelight caught Lily's eye. Focusing in the direction of the object, she saw it was a broach so unique Lily didn't think she'd seen anything like it before. She could tell it had an eagle on it. The bird was pressed against a strange background with words circling it that she would have had to squint to make out, and she didn't want to be rude.

"That's nice," she said, indicating the broach.

"Oh." The woman looked down. "Thank you."

"Is it new?" Lily inquired.

"No. It's actually an old thing. I'm not sure where it's from, though." Looking around again she said more to herself than anyone else, "I could have sworn there was no table here." Sighing, she left them alone.

"Having fun confusing the Muggles?" Lily asked conversationally, smiling in spite of herself.

"Well, I thought there should be a table here," James answered. "So what do we do? Tell this thing-" he held up the menu "-what we want?"

"You can try it," Lily told him, trying to appear serious.

James looked at the menu, whispered something to it, and waited. Lily fought to keep the amusement from her expression. "Maybe it's broken?"

"Funny, Evans," James answered.

"I thought so," she said brightly. "No, all you do is pick something, tell the waitress, then she brings it."

"Just like magic," James commented, looking at his menu. "Only much slower. Hey, this looks good. It's got sardines in it. Are they good?"

"Are you kidding? You've never tried them?"

"No. Should I have?"

Lily shrugged casually. "Try them." She lifted her menu over her face to hide her smile.

"Nice try," James said. "I'm not falling for that again."

"Your choice," she responded.

The waitress returned to take their orders. To Lily's surprise, James said he was brave enough to try whatever dish it was that contained sardines and ordered it for himself. Lily wasn't feeling so brave, and ordered something more common, but was looking forward to seeing James's reaction.

After a few long moments of silence, James said, "So..."

Lily waited for him to continue. When he didn't, she prompted, "So?"

"So...erm...What were you and Padfoot talking about?"

"Didn't he tell you?" Lily asked.

"He kept saying he didn't know what you were talking about."

"Oh," she responded, truly appreciating Sirius's ability to stick to his word. "I really don't remember."

"Oh," he said simply. "Okay, then."

Lily looked out over the coast. The sun was slowly setting over the horizon, casting beautiful pinks and purples over the sky. "It's so pretty," she observed.

"Gorgeous," he agreed, but when Lily looked back at him, he was staring at her. "So..." he said again.

"What with you today? Since when do you have trouble talking?"

"I'm not," he said quickly. "I'm just...enjoying the view."

Lily arched an eyebrow, but said nothing.

"And," he continued, seeing her skepticism. "Thinking."

"What about?"

"About..." He looked out at the shore. "Well, about..." Looking back at her, he answered, "That book. The one you were reading yesterday."

"The...You...What?" Lily didn't think she could be more confused than she was just then. "You were not."

"No, well, in a way...But not...Right."

Lily leaned forward slightly, peering at her boyfriend. "James, are you feeling okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Great, in fact. Hey, she's coming back."

Sure enough, the waitress was returning with two plates for the both of them. Lily blinked. More time must have past than she realized. The waitress set each down in front of the appropriate person, and then left them again.

"Don't eat the sardines," Lily advised. "Trust me."

"What?" James asked, absently, sticking a forkful of sardines in his mouth. Lily watched him carefully as his expression went from distracted to utterly repulsed. He rose from his seat, looking around almost frantically, and Lily picked up her napkin and handed it to him. He spit the fish back out, causing Lily to break out in laughter.

"I did try to warn you," she said through her giggles.

James grabbed another napkin and frantically rubbed at his extended tongue. Lily burst into full laughter, before clapping her hands over her mouth and trying to calm down. She snorted and James threw his napkin down in disgust.

"I have never tasted anything so foul in my life!" he spat.

Lily's suppressed laughter was now coming so hard that her sides began to hurt as an old couple looked over in disdain.

"I'm glad you find this amusing," he muttered.

"I do," she squeaked out. "I really, really do. You can be such a goose." She picked up his glass, rose to stand next to him, and held it out.

"But that's why you love me," he stated casually, grabbing his glass and drinking its contents.

Lily stomach squirmed slightly from nerves. "Well, part of the reason, at least," she conceded.

"So, will you marry me then?"

A ringing silence met his words. Lily stared at him for one long moment while her mind caught up to his words. Finally she said, "Sure. Why not? Let's do it now."

James cleared his throat, suddenly much more serious than he had just been. "I'm serious, Lily." He dug into his pocket and produced a small box, opening it to reveal a ring. "Will you?"

Lily felt like someone had just grabbed her insides and tried to rip them out. "You...I-I..Wh..." Her stutters dissolved into nothing as she noiselessly opened and closed her mouth.

"Wow. Who knew the secret to getting you to clam up was to propose?" he said with an obvious nervous laugh. Then bracingly, "Look, you don't-"

"Okay," she said suddenly, no longer thinking about her words.

"Okay." He was clearly waiting for an elaboration.

"I mean, yes."

His eyes widened slightly. "Yes?"

Lily beamed hugely and nodded in excitement. "Yes," she said again.

"Yes!" James shouted triumphantly. Before Lily saw it coming, James had swept her into his arms and kissed her. When they broke apart, she saw that they now had the attention of everyone present, and not all of them appeared to appreciate the disturbance.

"Come on," she whispered, blushing slightly and tugging on his arm.

"Wait," he said, indicating the table. "I have to-"

"Oh, don't worry about that," Lily said, grinning at him. "They won't even miss us. Come on," she repeated.

She led him away from the restaurant and they came to a downward sloping path that wound its way down to the beach. The sun had completely set and they were alone in total darkness. Despite the faint sounds of the people above them, Lily felt like they were secure in their own world of solitude. Standing against the smooth wall of the cliff, she happily found herself wrapped in James's arms once more, the rest of the universe meaningless and inconsequential as they celebrated their new commitment to each other. How long they stood there, she didn't know and didn't particularly care.

Minutes or hours later, a loud scream of terror descended upon them, breaking them apart like an icy wave. She turned her head to try to see what was happening above them, but saw only jets of light appearing and disappearing s though someone were turning a multi-colored flashlight on and off.

Lily felt a pang of sickness as she realized with certainty what was happening. She looked at James, saw his jaw clench, and knew that he too had figured out what was going on. Locking eyes, they moved as one, racing back up the trail leading to the top of the cliff.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

First, huge thanks to Credo Buffa, Shaggydogstail, and Nys. I appreciate it very, very much!

Second, if you've read through this, please leave feedback here.. It's very important to me and it only takes a moment.

Thanks to those of you who continue to feedback. It means a lot.


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  #19  
Old January 6th, 2006, 2:45 am
HermioneLuna's Avatar
HermioneLuna  Undisclosed.gif HermioneLuna is offline
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Re: The Affairs of a Wilting Flower

Recovering

Lily stood staring out one of the glassless windows of the Owlery. She had just sent her owl, Archimedes, to her parents. She watched him until he flew out of sight, but continued gazing long after he disappeared, hardly aware that she was staring at nothing.

The grounds below her were quiet. She was enjoying the silence, but at the same time she yearned for a distraction. With nothing to do, she was left alone with her unpleasant thoughts. She couldn't help but speculate on what Emily's last moments were like: what she thought, what she felt, what exactly happened. The thoughts, indistinct as they were, were enough to bring tears to her eyes again.

Lily was playing a possible scenario in her mind when she heard a noise behind her. She spun around, nearly losing her balance, and saw James standing at the entrance to the Owlery.

"Oh," she said, relieved and wiping her face. "Hello."

"I thought you might be hungry," he said, holding up a basket and a quilt of some sort and walking over to her.

Lily eyed the things James brought with him. "How did you know I was here?" she asked, confused.

"Just a hunch," he replied, smiling. "So are you?"

"Am I what?"

"Hungry."

Lily wasn't sure she could even stomach the sight of food at that moment. She wanted nothing more than to curl up in her dorm and be left alone. But, as she watched James's hopeful yet concerned expression, she decided it wouldn't do to make anyone more worried about her, and offered a small smile. "Yes, a little."

"Great!" he said cheerfully. He handed her the basket and then spread the quilt over the owlery floor.

Lily smiled at him. "Erm, do you think it's a good idea to try to eat with all these owls over us?"

James glanced at the rows of owls above them as he smoothed out the wrinkles of the quilt. "Ah, just makes it more interesting," he said, taking the basket from her and setting it on the quilt.

Lily tilted her head to one side, watching him. "Okay, then," she agreed, kneeling onto the quilt and sitting back on her heels.

James opened the basket and pushed it over to Lily so she could have first choice. "Who were you owling?"

"My parents," she responded, chewing on a piece of lamb chop she had bitten off.

"Are you going home for Christmas?" he inquired, leaning onto his side.

"Yes. I can't wait to see my family again and make sure they're all safe. Besides, I miss them." Lily took out a goblet that was tucked securely in a corner of the basket and looked to be full of pumpkin juice. "What about you?"

"Yeah, but I'm sure my parents are dreading it," he said jokingly.

"Dreading it?" she questioned, taking a sip of her juice.

"Padfoot and I tend to wreak havoc. Don't worry, they don't mind it."

"I suppose you're worried about them, too."

"Of course, but they're fine," he responded casually. "They've got all sorts of wards and protective spells and I get owls from them every day."

"Oh. Well, that's good then," Lily said, smiling. She swallowed, deciding she needed to ask him the foremost thing on her mind where he was concerned. "James," she said slowly.

"Hmmm?"

"I've been thinking about...about that deal we made. You know, over Quidditch?"

"Forget it," he said quickly.

"For-what?" she asked in surprise. "Really?"

"Really." He smiled a lopsided grin at her. "Did you think I'd hold you to it after everything that's happened?"

"Well, I wasn't sure. We haven't really...talked...these last few days," she finished, her stomach churning with guilt over her cold treatment of him.

"I know," James said calmly. "But I'm not that heartless."

"No. I know that. I just thought...Look, if it's because of the way I've been acting-"

"It isn't," he cut in. "It's because you have greater concerns and to make you hold to that deal would be mean. It's not important. It's just a bet."

Lily felt a rush of gratitude she couldn't find the words to express. The burst of emotion in her already fragile state was almost enough to cause Lily to start crying again. Finally, she said the only thing she could think to say at that moment. "Thank you."

He smiled at her. "You don't have to cry, you know. I'm sure the opportunity will present itself again."

"I hope so," she stated, offering him a smile smile.

He raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Really?" The question sounded more like a statement.

"Yeah," she nodded. "Sometime soon. Maybe over the summer," she added, only realizing her statement after she had made it. She didn't regret it, however. She actually felt it might not be as bad as she originally thought when he had told her what was decided upon for the deal. Now, instead of a nightmare, she began to think it might be an interesting new experience.

James eyed her curiously before pushing himself into an upright position. "Do you actually mean that?"

"Of course. Why wouldn't I?"

"Moony and-" He paused, then shrugged.

"No, tell me," Lily requested politely. "I want to know."

"You didn't seem as thrilled when I told you, that's all." Then, before Lily could respond, he continued, "But it's not really important in the end."

For a minute, neither spoke. Lily quietly watched James, who was looking around the Owlery, occasionally stealing would-be covert glances in Lily's direction.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"Always," he responded cheerfully.

An icy wind slowly began to blow in through one of the windows, but Lily ignored it. There was a brief silence before James spoke again. "I hear Honeyduke's has a new sweet or something."

No. No, he is not about to ask me out again! Not after everything that's happened, Lily thought to herself.

"You should check it out next time you go to Hogsmeade," he finished.

Lily blinked at him. She hadn't been expecting that. "Thanks, I will."

James chuckled.

"What's funny?" Lily asked casually as she reached back into the basket and pulled out what appeared to be a roast beef sandwich. Apparently she was much hungrier than she realized.

James shook his head. "Nothing."

There was a pause. Lily ran through possible topics in her mind before saying, "There's a gorgeous seaside Muggle town called Sidmouth that I've always wanted to go to."

"Oh?" he asked casually.

"Yeah. It has this restaurant up on the cliffs. I think it would be fun to sit near the edge and just enjoy the view."

"So why haven't you?"

"I haven't really had the chance."

They fell into silence. Finally, James asked, "What did you say to your parents? About..." He trailed off before saying, "I'm sorry, Lily. That was really stupid."

"It's not a problem," she assured him, and continued eating. "I told them what happened so they'd be prepared."

"You can never be too prepared for Voldemort," James agreed.

"This is true," Lily said solemnly and quietly. "They were also expecting Emily to come back with me. She's spent Christmas at my house since first year. This way it isn't a shock when she doesn't turn up."

She looked up at James who appeared to be about to attempt to comfort her again. She didn't want to spend more time dwelling on what happened, so instead she changed the subject. "So, you said you and Sirius wreak havoc. Does he usually spend the holidays with you?"

"He lives with me."

"Does he really?" she asked, surprised. "Wow. I can just imagine what your summers are like. If I'd known that-"

"Oh, but they're great," he said enthusiastically. "There's never a dull moment. Especially when Moony and Wormtail are there, too."

"Your parents must be the most patient to ever grace the Earth," Lily kidded.

James laughed. "Well, I guess they must be," he said.

The wind began to blow more persistently. Lily pulled her robes tighter around her and continued the conversation. "Crazy things don't happen much at my house. Petunia isn't one to, you know, have fun."

"Petunia?"

"My sister."

"Oh. Will she be coming to Hogwarts soon?"

Lily's mouth twitched as she tried to conceal her amused smile. Her efforts failed, though, when she burst out in laughter. She saw James's bemused expression and laughed harder.

"Why're you laughing?"

"I'm sorry," she said, taking a deep breath. "I'm sorry," she repeated once she fully calmed down. "Petunia is my older sister, and a Muggle."

"So it's funny because she's a Muggle?"

"No, it's funny because she's against magic in all forms. If she found out she was a witch...If you knew her, you'd understand."

"Well, maybe I'll get the chance to meet her one day. She might be at the platform to greet you or something."

"I wouldn't count on it. She won't show up for that. We are, after all, a school for freaks."

"Is that what she calls us?" James said, evidently amused. "Doesn't she have any better material?"

"That's exactly what I said to her!" Lily exclaimed. "I think she thinks 'freak' is the ultimate insult."

"I think she's just jealous," James commented. "You belong to a much more fascinating world than the one she does. My bet is she resents that."

Lily shrugged. "Either way, she won't be showing up to suddenly show her support."

"Does that bother you?"

"It did at first," Lily admitted. "But it doesn't anymore. I'm a witch and she's a Muggle. If she hates me because of that, it's her problem, not mine."

They finished the food James brought, but continued their conversation.

"What about your parents?"

"What about them?"

"Do they think like your sister?"

"Oh, no! They're really very proud of me. They couldn't have been happier that I got accepted here, and they're thrilled that I'm Head Girl."

Now the wind was blowing more fiercely than before, and neither Lily nor James could ignore it any longer.

"I guess we should go," Lily said suddenly.

"Yeah," James agreed, rising to his feet and holding out a hand for Lily. Lily briefly remembered how Emily had done the same just a few days before. Then she took James's hand. He didn't seem to have noticed Lily's change in attitude, subtle as it was. James pulled her to her feet so quickly that she bumped into him and almost knocked him off balance.

"Sorry," Lily apologized.

"I'm not upset," he said, smiling. But this time, Lily noticed, it wasn't his usual arrogant smile. It was a genuine, charming smile.

They collected the quilt and basket as they made ready to leave for the Common Room.

"Thanks again, James."

"The pleasure was all mine."

Lily returned to the Common Room, looking at James Potter in a whole new light.

*****************************************

Lily looked around her in disbelief. How could he have possibly been here? She stood in the midst of the destruction, two feet from the nearest corpse as a tall, stern-looking man fired question after question at her. She could hardly understand what he was saying to her; her mind was on her fiance and she wanted to be with him.

James was not far off, saying something to a portly man in a bowler, and holding his arm tightly against his chest. Lily suspected it might be broken and couldn't understand how he was taking this all so calmly.

Paul Davis, the Minister in charge of Magical Catastrophes, and his co-workers had arrived on the scene just as Voldemort and his followers were Apparating away. They'd immediately set to clearing the damage and questioning Lily and James. She hadn't had the chance to check that James was all right, and Davis was oblivious to the fact that she wasn't comprehending his words.

Lily herself had been injured, but in her shock, the pain was nearly non-existent. She knew her dress was burnt around the edges and could feel the blood oozing from the rather sizable wound on her leg, but it was as if watching it in a picture. Without thinking about her actions, Lily began to walk in James's direction, but Davis's voice halted her.

"Miss Evans, I know this is difficult for you, but you-"

She spun around on her heel to face him, furious at his presumptuousness. "Shut it with the platitudes. You didn't see what I saw."

"We have to know what happened," he said bracingly. "If-"

"You wanna know what happened?" she bit out. "Fine. He came here with two masked people. They killed these people, hurt us, and then left. I don't know what they were looking for or anything else that happened."

"Did he come here to attack you?" Davis asked. "That is to say, were you the primary target?"

"How would I know why they came here?" Lily shrieked, angry at the sheer stupidity of the question. "We weren't up here when the fight started. We heard the screams, saw the lights and came to help. Happy? Can I go now?" She looked over at James again, who was still talking to the same person, who she knew to be Cornelius Fudge, the Junior Minister in the Department of Magical Catastrophes.

"Can you tell me exactly what you saw once you got here?" Davis requested.

Lily let out a groan of frustration, realizing she was going to have to relive this if she ever hoped to get away. "We came up here and saw him and two of his Death Eaters. They killed everyone," she said, gesturing to the bodies now being removed from the site. "We fought back and got hurt. He took something from one of these people and left. That's what I saw."

"What did he take?"

"I don't know!" she burst out, tears of frustration beginning to build. "I didn't ask him."

"Who did he take it from?"

"One of the Muggle waitresses, I guess. I mean, whoever it was had long hair and was dressed in one of those uniforms."

"Alright, Miss Evans. I'll need you to look and see if you can tell which one of these women it was."

"Are you mad?" Lily practically shouted, angry at his lack of sensitivity. "There is no way I'm going to do that."

"This is important," Davis insisted. "If we know what he took, we can figure out what he intends to do now. It may be our best chance of catching him."

Lily ran both hands through her hair in aggravation, willing herself not to rip it out when she let go. "Okay. I'll do it. But I want James with me."

"Yes. Yes, of course," said Davis. "He might be able to spot something you miss. Cornelius! Mr. Potter!" he called.

James looked over at Davis, then back at Fudge. Both left to join Lily and Davis. When they arrived at the pair, Fudge and Davis became immersed in their own conversation.

As soon as James was within arm's length, Lily asked, "Are you all right? What did they-"

"I'll be fine," he responded, kissing her cheek. "Are you-"

"I'll live."

"They're preparing it for you," Davis said as Fudge left. "You may not be able to tell what's missing, but if you can, please tell me. No matter how small it seems to you. It's right over there." He gestured toward what used to be the restaurant entrance, but was now a charred heap of unrecognizable coal.

Lily's stomach churned and she felt as though she were about to be sick all over herself. All the bodies from the massacre had been cleared. All except the few Muggle women awaiting her and James's inspection, lined up like some crude assembly line.

"What's going on?" James inquired.

"He wants us to see if we know what Vold- what he took."

"How would we know?" James demanded of Davis. "We were a bit preoccupied with staying alive."

"I understand this is frustrating for you, but-"

"Rubbish!" James cut in heatedly. "There's no way you could know what happened. You've never faced him. You're asking us to study corpses we couldn't save and look for something that might not be missing, and that we wouldn't notice if it were."

"If you could just tell us which person it was, it would be immensely helpful. This isn't optional. We need to know what's going on."

"James," Lily said softly, "let's just do it. It's better if we do."

"Better?" James looked at her incredulously. "Lily-"

"That's settled then," Davis interrupted. "Right this way, if you would," he directed, making a sweeping gesture with his arm toward the row of bodies.

James sighed, then, sliding his free hand around Lily's waist, walked with her to the bodies whose faces still held expressions of shock and fear, their eyes open yet eternally unseeing. Lily recoiled from the sight, pushing closer to James.

"If you don't want to do this," James began.

"I'm fine," Lily lied, pulling away from him and moving toward the bodies. As she walked along the row, she quickly skimmed those gathered there, not seeing a familiar face until she was three quarters of the way down the line. There, her eyes rested on the vacant face of the woman who was their waitress. Just as Lily was about to move on, she saw something that drew her attention. "Something's missing," she said.

"What?" Davis asked.

"From..." She swallowed hard and tried again. "From her. She had a, erm..." She gestured toward her chest while trying to think how best to describe what the girl had been wearing. "A pin or a broach or something. It's gone now."

"Maybe it fell off?" James suggested.

"Yeah," Lily said, not tearing her eyes from the girl. "Maybe."

"What did it look like?" Davis inquired.

"Erm, it had a bird on it. And words."

"What kind of bird?"

Lily shook her head, still not looking away from the body as she began to cry again. "I don't remember," she said quietly, wiping her nose. "Just a bird."

"It was an eagle," James answered softly. "An eagle with the words around it in a circle."

"Can we go now?" Lily requested, finally looking up at Davis. "That's all we know."

"Are you sure that this bird thing is what he took?"

"Why don't you look around and see if you can find it," James cut in, sounding annoyed. "If you don't see it, then he took it."

"Mr. Potter, if it simply fell off-"

"Then we don't know what's missing. She's the only person we saw, and that's all the information we can give you."

"Mr. Pott-"

"What more could you possibly want?" Lily demanded. "I told you what we saw. I wouldn't know if anyone else was missing anything. I don't take inventory of the people around me."

"We've told you all we know, Mr. Davis," James said. "And I think you've put us through enough." He grabbed hold of Lily's hand and started pulling her away.

"We'll be in contact, Mr. Potter. If we have any more questions-"

"I'm sure you can find me," James called over his shoulder. He led Lily away from the carnage and back around the bushes to the spot they'd Apparated to. Turning to face her, he asked, "Are you all right?"

"I really don't think I am," she whispered. "I just want to go home."

"Of course," he answered, wrapping his uninjured arm around her. She slipped both arms around him, careful to avoid his arm, which he still held tightly against his chest, and together they Apparated back to the Potters' home.

They arrived in the sitting room, and Lily nearly lost her balance in fright when cheers erupted at their entrance. She released James, and spun around to see Mr. and Mrs. Potter, Sirius, Remus and Peter all gathered and apparently waiting for them. Their sounds died when they saw the state of the couple, each one looking at the both of them in obvious shock.

After one long moment of deafening silence, Sirius said, "I told you she'd try to kill you, Prongs."

"What happened?" Mrs. Potter demanded, rushing from around the sofa to reach them. "Oh my goodness." She looked at both James and Lily frantically, as though trying to decide which one had the greater injury. Finally, she reached out and took hold of James's arm and tried to pull it straight.

"Ouch! Mum, stop!"

"Is it broken? I think it's broken!" She reached into her apron pocket and pulled out her wand. She tapped her son's arm with it. A rope slithered out, wrapping itself around James's arm and neck, before expanding into what Lily recognized as a sling. "That will hold you until I get a potion to fix it," Mrs. Potter explained. Then turning to Lily, she said, "Oh, and you too, dear."

Lily looked down and her wounded leg, having quite forgotten she'd been hurt at all; the pain still hadn't begun to sink in.

"Here." Mrs. Potter tapped Lily's leg, and her injury began to heal. "Sit down, the both of you and tell us what happened."

"Mum, we don't need to sit. We're fine."

"Tell us what's going on," Mr. Potter instructed. "You look like you've been through the worst battle of your lives."

"Good guess, dad," James said, attempting a smile. Then, regaining his seriousness, "There was an attack at the restaurant. Voldemort and a couple of his followers-"

There was an instant uproar at his words as everyone present reacted to the news. They were both being bombarded with questions once more, but Lily couldn't distinguish one voice from the next. She tried to ask them to quiet down, but her words were drowned out by the sounds of the people around them.

"Did he ask again?" Remus's voice broke through the den of noise. It wasn't loud, but it caused everyone to go silent while they awaited a response.

"No," Lily answered. "He wasn't there for us, I don't think."

"When we got there, we fought him, of course," James explained. "But he was after the Muggles."

"Where was this?" Mr. Potter asked.

"At the restaurant," James answered.

"And where were you?" Mrs. Potter demanded.

"Not far off," Lily responded. "We got there just after the screams started. He took something from one of the Muggles and left. But not before he killed everyone there."

"And you two got away?" Peter asked. "Again? How?"

"Luck?" Lily offered.

"Not luck," James said. "Pure skill." He grinned and Lily smiled as she saw that James was returning to his usual self.

"So skilled you broke your arm?" Sirius asked, smiling.

"Better his arm than his neck," Mrs. Potter said. "Lily is right. You're lucky you escaped with your lives."

"Dumbledore will know about this by now," Mr. Potter realized. "You'll have to tell him what happened."

Lily's gut lurched. She really didn't want to think about this anymore. James looked at Lily, and reading the wary expression on her face, said, "Couldn't he get it from Davis or Fudge?"

"He won't," Peter answered. "He likes to get things firsthand, remember?"

Lily let out a sigh that sounded more like a hiss as she turned away from the group and walked to the nearest chair. Peter was right; Dumbledore would want the story straight from her and James. Dumbledore always seemed to be able to tell things the rest of them couldn't, just by listening to what happened.

She sank into the chair and James sat on the arm next to her. The others had started talking again, but Lily tuned them out. She felt James lightly stroking her hair, and leaned over to rest her head in his lap.

"Why does this keep happening to us?" she asked softly. "Emily, my parents, those people at the Quidditch game, and now this. It seems like everywhere we go, death and destruction follow."

He didn't say anything, but Lily didn't mind. She didn't want to hear words of cold comfort. She just wanted this awful night to end. She closed her eyes, shutting out everything but the soothing sensation of James's hand in her hair. Though she wasn't remotely sleepy, she half hoped Mrs. Potter would decide they must be worn out and usher them to bed.

As though from far away, she heard someone say, "Dumbledore is on his way."

Lily's eyes flew open and she looked up at James, who was staring back at her.

"Now?" she asked. "He's coming tonight? But I thought-"

"Of course he's coming tonight," Mr. Potter said. "He'd want to know about it immediately after it happened, wouldn't he?" he finished as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.

Lily sat back as far as she could go in her chair and waited in silence. Mrs. Potter entered the room from the kitchen corridor with a vial of purple liquid, which she handed to James.

"To heal your arm," she explained and James swallowed the vial's contents. He pulled a face, and Mrs. Potter seemed satisfied as she took the container back and bustled out of the room, talking to herself.

"I'll never get used to that stuff," he remarked, removing his sling and casting it aside.

Mrs. Potter returned and she, Remus, Sirius, Peter, and Mr. Potter all took places around the sitting room, which Lily now noticed was decorated in festive colors. She swallowed hard when she realized they were all there to congratulate her and James.

Lily looked around the room, her eyes falling on Remus, who was watching her quietly and hardly even blinking. He tilted his head slightly to the side, but did not tear his eyes away from her. They sat staring at each other until a soft pop drew everyone's attention to the tall, gray-haired wizard who just entered their midst.

Mr. and Mrs. Potter rose to meet the Order leader, and the younger members followed suit. Once everyone had uttered their greetings and regained their seats, Dumbledore sat opposite James and Lily and softly requested, "Mr. Potter, Ms. Evans, I understand you do not wish to relive the happenings of this evening. However, I must unfortunately ask you to relay the events once more."

Lily remained silent, hoping James might take up the task of explaining. When she didn't speak for a number of seconds, James seemed to get the message and responded to Dumbledore.

"We were down near the beach when the attack started. We heard the screams and saw the curses flying, so we raced back up the cliffs to help. Voldemort was there with two Death Eaters. They were looking for something on the Muggles, and when we got there we tried to stop them. I'm pretty sure we barely missed Avada Kedavra more than once."

Mrs. Potter gasped, but otherwise the room remained silent. After a moment, James continued.

"Lily got hit with something...A spell, but I don't know which one." He looked at Lily, apparently waiting to see if she knew.


"I-I don't know either," she said softly. "I got distracted and the first thing I knew..." She gestured to her burnt dress. "And James broke his arm right after that, coming to help me. We kept fighting, but I think Voldemort found what he was looking for because he took something from one of the Muggles they killed and Dissaparated just as Davis was getting there."

"Do you know what Voldemort took?" Dumbledore inquired.

"We're not sure," James answered, "but Lily said that one of the waitresses was missing a pin or something. I remember it was old-looking and had an eagle on it. I think it might have just fallen off, but that's the only idea we have about what he could have taken."

Dumbledore was watching them both cautiously, and Lily looked away at the rest of the people in the room. Everyone was focused on Dumbledore, waiting for his reaction; everyone except Remus who was once again staring silently at her.

It wasn't until Dumbledore uttered his thanks and a warning to be cautious and vigilant that Remus looked away. Like the others in the room, he rose to say goodbye to Dumbledore. After James shook their former Headmaster's hand and others were taking their turn, Lily took him by the uninjured arm and motioned with her head to the corridor. James looked around at everyone else; all were distracted by Dumbledore. He looked back at Lily, then followed her out of the room.

"I don't want to be around them right now," she explained once they were out of earshot. "I don't want to answer any more questions."

James nodded. "Alright. Let's go somewhere else, then."

"Let's go to the library."

"The...what? Have you even been there since...?"

"Once or twice," she responded, beginning to walk toward the staircase that would lead them to the correct floor. "But the important thing is nobody would ever think you'd be spending time in a room filled with books."

"Yeah," James agreed. "Good point. That's probably...Hey!"

Lily glanced over her shoulder before ascending the stairs. "And three minutes later..."

"It did not take me three minutes," he objected, following after her. "And is that any way to talk to the man you're going to marry?"

Lily felt a jolt in her gut at his words. She paused at the top of the stairs, then turned to look at him. "I guess we'll just hope our kids get my intelligence, then." She smiled, and then continued toward the library.

"But don't we want them to be smart?" he asked in mock confusion.

She stopped at the door to the library, pausing just long enough to say, "Don't think that's not coming back to haunt you," before pushing the door open.

"I don't know if that's worse than facing Voldemort or not," he said, walking in after her.

"How long do you think it'll take them to notice we're gone?" Lily wondered aloud, shutting the door and contemplating using a locking spell.

"Mum already has by now," James said, sitting on a nearby chair. "She's going to organize a search party to tear the place apart and find us."

"She's scared," Lily defended, sitting on the arm of the chair next to James. "We all are. We'd be stupid if we weren't."

"Scared is one thing. Parents are just irrational."

"She's not being irrational," Lily insisted. "Imagine you were your parents and your only son was clearly Voldemort's target. Would you be so calm about it?"

James laughed, wrapping his arms around Lily's waist and pulling her down onto his lap. "What are the chances of that happening? Besides, I'm not a target. We were just in the wrong place."

Lily sighed. "Maybe."

"What does that mean?" James asked.

"It's just a bit coincidental, isn't it?" Lily asked. "Emily, first. Then, my parents. And that wasn't because we were in the wrong place."

"Lily-"

"Do you think there's even a small chance that if you weren't a target before you are one now?" she demanded.

"What?"

"He's caught you by surprise twice now. And you've beaten him both times. If he doesn't see you as an ally, he certainly sees you as a threat. I'm not surprised your mum is afraid for you. I feel the same way."

"I didn't do it alone. You were there. And Padfoot, Moony and Wormtail. And you don't have to be afraid because-"

"I am, though. He's just one person, but he's got countless followers. Didn't you hear what Dumbledore told us before the Quidditch match? We're outnumbered twenty to one. That's no small difference. You could be out one day and they could come along and..." She broke off, unwilling to complete her thought and knowing that James understood.

James pulled her fully against him. Rubbing her back in soothing circles, he said, "Lily, I don't want you to be afraid. That's what Voldemort wants. I promise I'll be more careful."

Resting her head against his chest, she whispered, "I've lost so many people. I don't want to lose you, too."

"You won't," he assured her. "We're going to grow old together and I'll be annoying you for the next hundred years. I'm not going anywhere. You, of all people, should know I'm not easy to get rid of," he added with a slight chuckle.

"Promise me you won't be reckless, or thoughtless, or go rushing out into fights, or-"

"I promise. That's Padfoot's job." He smiled a lopsided grin clearly designed to get Lily to smile as well.

She sighed, then smiled, her worry somewhat relieved. "Okay."

"Feel better?"

"A little."

"Good." His voice dropped to a whisper. "Hey, did you lock the door?"

"No. Why?"

"Oh," he said in disappointment. "I thought we could-"

Lily smacked him playfully. Adopting her most Head Girl-like tone, she said, "James Potter, I am surprised at you."

"Don't see why," James said shrugging. "Seven years should've got you used to it."

Lily scoffed. "Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you, Mr. Potter, but I am not that type of girl."

"We'll have to work on that, won't we?" he teased, leaning over to kiss her.

The door swung open and the couple looked around to see Sirius, Remus and Peter standing in the doorway.

"Are we interrupting something?" Remus asked with a knowing grin.

"Unfortunately, no," James answered.

"Told you they'd be here," Sirius said smugly, leaning against the wall. "Evans is so predictable."

"Watch it, Sirius," Lily said in tones of faux warning. "I've taken on the darkest wizard for a century twice. You can hardly hope to best me in a duel."

Sirius laughed. "Voldemort is nothing compared to me. Honestly, I would think someone as supposedly bright as you are would know that."

"Can we not talk about him?" Peter requested, shifting nervously.

"What's the matter, Wormtail?" Sirius teased. "Afraid he might pop in here and..." He mimed blasting Peter, who cringed slightly and turned pink.

"I think he just wants us to talk about potentially pleasanter topics," Remus interjected from his spot near the window on the opposite side of the room. "Like what happened before the attack."

Peter nodded mutely, returning to a normal skin color.

"Do we have to?" Sirius whined, though he was grinning. "I get quite enough of these two being...these two as it is, thank you very much."

"Excuse him," Remus said to Lily and James. "He wouldn't know romance if it bit-"

"Are you insinuating that I have not the heart of a romantic?"

"Not at all," Remus denied. "I'm saying it."

"Is anyone interested in hearing about what happened?" Lily interjected. Looking at James, she smiled and said, "I could start with the sardines. That was probably the best part."

"Sardines?" Peter piped up. "Why would you eat-"

"I didn't," Lily interrupted, her smile growing. "But James took a forkful and-"

"Let's not bore them with those mind-numbingly dull details," James said quickly. "The upshot is, I asked and she-"

"Here you are." Lily looked around to see Mrs. Potter entering the room, Mr. Potter just behind her. Quickly, she slid from James's lap to the arm of the chair. "Just what do you think you're playing at, vanishing like that?"

"We didn't 'vanish,' Mum. We climbed a couple staircases."

"Still, I think-"

"Let's just be grateful they're safe inside," Mr. Potter cut in and Lily saw James give his father a thankful smile.

"Your son," Sirius began with a devilish grin, "was just about to nauseate us all by telling us what happened before the attack."

"Yes," Mrs. Potter said excitedly. "Tell us everything."

"I asked, she said yes."

For a moment, nobody spoke, as if expecting more; Mrs. Potter looked at them expectantly, as if James had stopped mid-sentence, while Mr. Potter simply smiled at them both. Peter seemed as if he had no idea how to respond. Remus looked at the two of them, then focused his attention on the carpet in front of him. Sirius, who appeared utterly unsurprised, was the first to react.

"Well, it's not like we all didn't see it coming," he said, pulling James into a hug.

Lily spent the next few minutes being caught up in hugs and congratulations, coming across everyone except Remus, who still remained separated from the rest near the window. She smiled and approached him.

"Something wrong?"

"No," he shrugged in a would-be casual way. "No. I just didn't want to suffocate you."

"Don't be silly. Come on." She grabbed him by the wrist and pulled him over to everyone else. "Remus is being anti-social again," she announced.

"Another huge surprise," Peter muttered.

"Well, come on then," Mr. Potter said. "We readied everything downstairs for you so..." He turned and led the way out of the library, Mrs. Potter behind him Sirius and Peter behind them.

"So what would they have done if I'd said no?" Lily asked James.

James snorted. "Everyone knew you couldn't resist my charms."

"Questionable though they may be," Lily teased.

"What's with you, Moony?"

Lily looked to see that Remus was still in the room, looking unhappy about something. He shrugged again.

"Nothing." With a pointed look at Lily, he left the library.

Lily stared after him, wondering what had gotten into her friend. Deciding to ask him about it later, she and James exited the room.

****************************
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  #20  
Old February 4th, 2006, 2:51 am
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HermioneLuna  Undisclosed.gif HermioneLuna is offline
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Re: The Affairs of a Wilting Flower

Grief and Anxiety


"Take a seat, Miss Evans."

Lily shuffled nervously from foot to foot before reluctantly sitting in the chair opposite Professor Dumbledore. She held her hands together, focusing her attention on them and not her Headmaster.

"You are no doubt wondering why I asked you here."

She half-shrugged. She wasn't wondering why Dumbledore had summoned her to his office. In fact, she was annoyed at it. She was perfectly happy isolating herself in her grief and she didn't need anyone bothering her.

Unperturbed by Lily's silence, Dumbledore continued, "I have been informed that the Lowsley family-"

Lily cringed. Emily was the last person she felt like discussing, though she knew she should have seen this coming. "Professor, I'd rather not talk about them, if you don't mind."

"Quite understandable, Miss Evans," Dumbledore said kindly. "However, I must inform you that the Lowsley family had a will that involved you."

At this, Lily looked up. "Me? You must be mistaken, professor."

"I assure you I am not," Dumbledore responded. "You see, Emily was the youngest living Lowsley."

Lily slumped back in her seat, not wanting to hear Emily referred to in the past tense. She hoped Dumbledore would see she was not ready to talk and leave her alone.

"By rights, she would have inherited everything the family possessed," Dumbledore continued. "However, her death makes this quite impossible. It seems that in their will, they indicated that those possessions were to pass to you should anything happen to Emily."

Lily blinked. Then blinked again. She stared at the edge of the desk in front of her, trying to decide if she heard Dumbledore correctly. Finally, she looked back at him. "Excuse me, sir. But why would they do that? I mean, why would they think that something would happen to Emily and why would they leave everything to me? That's very odd."

"Families like the Lowsleys prefer to cover every eventuality," Dumbledore explained. "It is preferable their possessions be in the hands of family or, in the absence of blood relatives, one who is considered family."

"But that still doesn't make sense," Lily insisted. "There are other people it can go to. Why leave all that with me?"

"I believe the Lowlseys would rather you be in control than one who might lend their services to Voldemort," Dumbledore answered.

"Oh," Lily said. "Okay."

"I assume you would like to know what you have inherited."

She shifted. This conversation was getting increasingly uncomfortable and Dumbledore's seeming obliviousness to this fact was starting to grate at her nerves. Deciding to cut to the chase so as to leave the office that much faster, she said, "I didn't...I mean, if it's everything, that would be their house and everything in it. I don't need to know every knick knack."

"Well, yes," Dumbledore agreed. "In addition to that, everything in the Lowsley vault at Gringotts has been transferred to yours."

Lily shot him a look of disgust. "I don't want their money. In fact," she continued, now growing angry. "I don't want any of it. I don't need their house, their belongings or anything else. You have it."

"I'm afraid-"

"You can't?" she cut in. "I figured as much. I don't care. This is morbid, taking all this once they've died, like a vulture." She rose to her feet, storming around his office instead. "But, oh no, wait. Let me guess. This is another one of those stupid magically binding things, so no matter what, these things are in my control. Well, they can just sit there. No one is ruining their house or their memory by moving in there. I don't need their money. And..." She crossed her arms, sick of yelling and thinking about this. "Can I please go now, professor?"

"Miss Evans, I understand this is difficult for you. You are not obligated to take up residence in the Lowsley home, nor are you required to use their gold. It is simply there should you choose to utilize it."

Lily struggled to find a reason to keep venting at him. But his response had defeated all possible counter-arguments. "Fine," she said shortly. She reluctantly uncrossed her arms. "May I go now?"

"Yes, Miss Evans. You are free to go."

Without a word, Lily turned on her heel and left. When the door shut behind her, she leaned back against it, trying to gather her thoughts. She still partially thought it didn't make sense for the Lowsleys to assume something would prevent Emily from taking on the responsibility of heir. But Dumbledore didn't lie and if he said she now owned all these things, then she owned them. Not that it mattered. She wouldn't ever be able to bring herself to use them. Sighing, she proceeded down the spiral staircase, back out into the corridor.

She was making her way back to Gryffindor Tower. She needed to finish packing so she could go home and she wanted nothing more at that moment than to be far away from the magical world.

"Lily?"

Lily stopped, not turning to see who'd called out to her. She already knew. "Potter," she answered coolly.

"You're back to that, are you?" he asked, cutting in front of her.

"I don't know what you're talking about," she lied.

"You've been avoiding me," he stated. "Ever since-"

"I haven't been avoiding you," she countered. "And I have to go." She moved around him, continuing on her way.

"See," he said, following her, "when you won't talk to, look at or acknowledge the presence of someone, that counts as avoiding."

"That's ignoring," she corrected. "And I talked to you, Potter. You're being overly sensitive."

"I know when you're avoiding me. Don't lie to me."

"I'm not lying," Lily said, reaching the portrait of the Fat Lady. She gave the password and climbed inside, nearly falling over in her haste.

"Well, then talk to me. You did before. Remember-"

"Yes," she said, spinning around to face him. "But that was different and you...I have to go." She turned toward the girls' dorms.

James reached out and grabbed her arm. "I what? I thought I was making you feel better."

"That's the problem, Potter." She tried to jerk her arm free, but he held tight. "Would you let me go? If you really want to help, that's the best thing you can do."

James didn't seem willing to release her; his hold did not slacken. They stood staring at each other for several tense moments before he finally honored her request. She turned and started on her way up the stairs, pausing when she heard James speaking.

"I don't get her," he said to Sirius. "I think she just tries to find reasons that everything I do is wrong. She's a hormone bomb of doom."

Sirius swatted James on the arm, and he looked up to see Lily staring at him. He appeared stunned for a moment, but before he could say anything, Lily hurried into the dorm.

Haphazardly throwing her things into her trunk, she silently cursed everyone who dared intrude upon the grieving process. She cursed Dumbledore for bothering her with the Lowsley's will, James for insisting on following her around like a puppy and hurting her feelings, and everyone in between. Didn't they understand she wanted to be left alone?

She remained in her room, trying and failing to sleep. Her mind was buzzing with endless thoughts, every noise seemed unnaturally loud, and she remained awake until the sun rudely shone its light and signaled that it was time to leave for the holidays. Hoping nobody would bother her, she snuck from her room down to Hogsmeade station, arriving without incident. She pushed through the crowd of students, sought out an empty compartment and took a seat by the window.

It felt an eternity until all the students had embarked the train, and the signature squeak of the trolley was rolling along the corridor. After a few minutes, the train began to move. She closed her eyes, resting her head against the window. Maybe, for a few hours at least, she'd have some peace.

Her journey to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters went undisturbed. When the train stopped, she grabbed her trunk and hurried onto the landing. She forced her way through the groups of students waiting to be allowed back through the barrier to the very front, passing through as soon as she was given permission.

She found her parents waiting on the other side, and ushered them toward the car as quickly as she could. She stowed her trunk inside, then placed Archimedes' cage in the backseat next to her. She dug in her bag for a book and, without really noticing what she was reading, opened to a random page and immersed herself in it.

Her parents appeared not to know what to say and didn't attempt to force a conversation she clearly did not want. Instead, they all rode in an awkward near silence all the way to the Evans home; the only sound being the occasional hoot from Archimedes.

When at last they pulled into the driveway of her home, Lily wasted no time exiting the car, taking hold of Archimedes' cage and her school trunk and hurrying up the walkway to the front door. She didn't even spare a glance to her sitting room as she dragged her heavy trunk upstairs in a frustrated hurry. She wanted to get away from her parents as quickly as possible; she knew they'd want to talk about Emily and that was the very last topic of conversation she'd ever choose.

Once inside her room, Lily closed the door, pulled out her out her wand, whispered "Colloportus," and, finally satisfied that she would not be disturbed, turned to face the rest of her room.

It was very much as she remembered it. Immediately to her left was a few feet of bare wall and nothing took up space on the floor. She pulled her trunk into the space, which is where it usually sat. On the next wall was a tall white wardrobe with golden knobs on the double doors, which were currently closed. Just next to it, was her bureau, which was waist high. The top had scattered knick knacks and pictures strewn across it and a few of the shinier frames twinkled as the wind blew the curtains apart and let in sunlight before quickly blocking it out again. Lily carefully avoided looking at those pictures.

The wall beside this one had a few posters of Quidditch teams. Lily had never been interested in Quidditch enough to know any professional teams, but Emily had been a huge fan and put these posters in Lily's room. Lily saw no harm in letting them stay. Underneath the posters, in the middle of the wall was her bed. The head was pressed against the wall, but the rest stuck out into the room.

Archimedes hooted again, drawing Lily's attention. It was late afternoon and Archimedes was nocturnal. She knew he didn't want to be kept awake so, picking up his cage, she took it over to the desk that stood beside her window and set it on top. Then she pulled down the hangings on his cage to block out the light. Pulling back her curtains, and letting more light into the room, Lily walked the distance to her bed and collapsed face up, staring at the ceiling.

Not feeling like talking, unpacking, or even thinking (lest her thoughts wander again to Emily's last moments), Lily stared blankly at her ceiling until she was being awoken by a persistent knock on her door.

"Lily. Come down. It's time for dinner."

"I'm not hungry!" Lily called back groggily without opening her eyes.

"You haven't eaten all day. Come down now," Mrs. Evans commanded sternly.

"I'm. Not. Hungry!" Lily shouted stubbornly.

In truth, she was starving, but she didn't want to eat. She thought she'd just wait until her parents fell asleep and then sneak down for a quick bite. The doorknob twisted and Lily was glad she had thought to magically lock it. Her parents, being Muggles, wouldn't be able to get in even if they attempted to pick the lock.

"Lily," Mrs. Evans began gently, apparently choosing to try a different tack. "Lily, your father and I are terribly worried about you. Just eat something, dear. It'll make us feel so much better."

"I'll just throw it up."

"Well," her mother seemed to be thinking. "What about Voldemort? Can you tell us more about him? All we know is the little bit you sent with Archimedes."

She had hit gold. Lily's stomach lurched with guilt at not telling them about the danger sooner, for not heeding Emily's advice.

"I'll be right down," she muttered.

As her mother's footsteps faded away, Lily groaned and forced herself into a sitting position. She finally opened her eyes and was surprised to see it was completely dark outside and in her room. Sighing, she stood up and walked to her door. She took out her wand, said "Alohomora", opened the door and walked downstairs.

Dragging her feet as she went, she eventually made it through her sitting room and the short hallway that led into her kitchen. Reluctantly, she sat down in her usual seat.

Her mother slid a plate of food in front of her and sat down. Mr. Evans was already sitting and watching his daughter in some concern. Lily picked up her fork and picked uninterestedly at her food. Mr. Evans continued to watch her, and instead of screaming her wish that he direct his attention elsewhere, she stuck a forkful of food into her mouth. That seemed to placate her father, who then turned to his own meal.

"So, who is this Voldemort exactly?" Mrs. Evans asked conversationally.

"I told you. He's a dark wizard. He's got a few followers and I hear some are just as bad as he is."

"And he killed the Lowsleys..." Mrs. Evans voice was gentle; she knew how hard this was for her daughter.

"Yes. Because they wouldn't join him." Lily decided that her parents deserved to know as much about what happened to Emily. They loved Emily, too, and they would be better prepared for any danger if they knew.

"Join him in doing what?" Mr. Evans spoke for the first time.

"Killing the Muggles, Muggle-Borns and Half-Bloods. Voldemort wants a pure wizarding race. Muggles are beneath him and Muggle-Borns and Half-Bloods are contaminants."

"I thought Emily's parents were a witch and wizard?"

"They were. That's just the thing, mum. If a Pure-Blood mixes with anyone other than a Pure-Blood, then in Voldemort's eyes, they're just as 'bad' as whoever they're mixing with. The Lowsleys were Pure-Blood, but they weren't prejudiced. They knew Voldemort was wrong and they stood against him." She paused and her voice dropped an octave. "So he killed them."

There was a prolonged silence before anyone spoke again.

"So his goal right now is just to gather as many followers as possible? He's just going from one pure-blood family to another trying to gain support? He's not going after Muggles yet, right?" Mr. Evans inquired, his voice one of someone trying to soothe their own fears.

"He has followers. But the more he has the happier he'll be, I would imagine." She took a deep breath. If she was going to tell them this much, she might as well tell them everything. "He's already killed. Muggles, Muggle-borns, Half-bloods. He's been killing them for a while now."

"Why haven't we heard anything about this?" Mrs. Evans demanded, outraged.

"The Ministry of Magic. They wipe the memories of any Muggles who witness the attacks, or the aftermath. Most Muggles have no idea Voldemort exists. He and his followers are pretty obvious about it though. The Dark Mark can be seen from miles around. Everyone knows when they attack."

Mrs. Evans was at a loss for words. Mr. Evans, however, spoke up.

"The Dark Mark?"

"It's Voldemort's sign. Once they murder someone, the Dark Mark is blasted into the sky so everyone knows what they've done. It's all about terror. Imagine coming home and seeing that, knowing what you're going to find inside."

"What does it look like?"

"A skull with a snake for a tongue, I think."

"Why haven't we heard anything about this?" Mrs. Evans asked again.

"Mum, I told you-"

"No. I mean why haven't you told us?"

Lily swallowed. "I didn't think you were in any danger," she said in a barely audible voice.

"You knew what Voldemort was planning?" Mr. Evans demanded.

"No one ever knows what he's planning," she responded evasively.

"Don't play games, Lily." Mr. Evans said impatiently. "Why didn't you tell us the instant you knew he was a threat?"

Thinking that her family couldn't be touched by Voldemort was an adequate excuse seemed stupid now. It was almost insulting to think that the Evanses were so low on Voldemort's radar he wouldn't bother with them.

"I don't know," Lily stated, looking at her barely eaten food. She would have given anything to return to her room and not come out until the end of holiday. Anything to not be sitting under the accusatory stares of her parents. Though she didn't dare look up, she knew what expressions their faces must hold. She just wanted to leave. Then she remembered she could. She could just Apparate up to her room and never come out again.

No, she thought to herself. That would make matters worse. Maybe they would just let her go?

"I don't- I don't feel well. Can I go?"

"You haven't eaten-"

"I can't hold it down." She was still staring fixedly at her plate. "I promise I'll eat in the morning."

A sigh. "Fine. You can go."

Lily stood up and left as fast as she could. She raced back into her room, closing the door and magically locking it again should her parents decide they wanted to talk more. She told them all she knew and didn't want to talk anymore.

The following morning, she still refused to go down for breakfast, waiting instead for her parents to leave the kitchen before darting quickly downstairs for a quick bite and returning before they could ever know she left her room. This was how she spent the first days of her vacation. Hardly ever leaving her room, staying inside in sullen silence, her only company being Archimedes who was out hunting.

She had gotten a few owls. She relieved the birds of their letters, but always tossed the parchments aside unopened. No doubt the correspondences would be full of empty words and stupid questions about her state of well being.

Lily sat at her desk, staring out of the window and thinking, twirling her wand absentmindedly between her fingers. Her mind drifted over the conversation with Dumbledore and McGonagall when they told her about Emily, to how she'd told James and how he'd comforted her, and to the night when he'd made sure she was all right. Her insides squirmed with guilt again and she turned away from the window, shaking her head as if to clear it.

The phone rang downstairs, but she knew it couldn't be for her. Deciding there was no reason to stay awake, Lily decided instead that sleep was more preferable. Setting her wand on the desk, she trudged over to her bed and was almost instantly asleep.

Though it seemed she had just fallen asleep, Lily suddenly awoke with a jolt. Something had fallen over. "Archimedes?" she asked, looking around to see what her owl had knocked over. But she didn't see Archimedes. Someone was standing inches from her bed, cloaked in shadow.

*********************************************

The house was quiet, the celebration of the engagement having ended hours ago. Mr. and Mrs. Potter had gone up to bed, while Sirius agreed to Floo with Peter back to his house to get something he forgot, though Peter wouldn't specify what. Lily noticed that Remus wasted no time in leaving the room after it became obvious he wasn't required to be there any longer.

She was still disappointed that she hadn't had the chance to talk to him, but as Peter was staying for the next few days, she expected Remus would as well. That would give her plenty of time to ask him about his behavior.

Lily lay curled up on the couch, her head in James' lap. He was scribbling on a parchment, but stopped suddenly.

"I think that's it," James said, skimming the parchment in front of him and jarring Lily from her thoughts. "Did we miss anyone?"

Lily read over the names on the list. "Alice."

"Alice?" he verified, writing the name down. "Really?"

"Yeah. Add Frank, too. When I visited her, she told me she wanted to be there."

"When you-" He looked up at her in puzzlement. "But that was before we were engaged."

"I know." Lily smiled. "She thought you might ask and said to be sure to invite her along. Which reminds me, we're invited to her and Frank's wedding. Sorry, I completely forgot to mention it."

James twirled his quill between his fingers. "This is what girls talk about when we're not around? Weddings and dolls and all that?"

"Yes," Lily said. "And our hair and how best to get the attention of that cute blonde hiding in the corner."

"What cute blonde have you been eyeing?" James asked, raising an eyebrow.

Lily shrugged casually. "So, is that it, then? It's rude to leave your guests alone for too long."

"What guests?"

"Peter and Remus-"

"Are not guests." He checked his watch. "And are probably asleep. And I think Padfoot is planning to try out a few new pranks he read in a Muggle book."

"Like what?"

"Not sure. Something about warm water."

Lily laughed. "It's going to be a fun night."

"What? What's he going to do?"

"I'm not telling," she answered, shaking her head.

"This keeping me in the dark thing really isn't funny anymore," he said, though he was smiling. "Not that I couldn't figure it out, mind you. I'm smarter than the two of you combined."

"Then I wouldn't dare deprive you of the pleasure of figuring it out yourself," she answered smoothly, refusing to rise to the bait.

"So," James began, branding the parchment in what Lily supposed was supposed to be a business-like manner. "We've got all the obvious people: my parents, Padfoot, Moony, Wormtail. Plus, Alice, Petunia, Frank-"

"What?" Lily cut in. "Who?"

"Frank. You said you wanted him there, didn't you?" James said innocently.

"Not funny, James. Petunia isn't going to come."

"How do you know that?"

"Because she doesn't like me, she hates you, and this being somewhat of a magical event-"

"She's still your sister," James pointed out. "She might come just to support you."

Lily shook her head and laughed. "Support the freak who murdered her entire family? No. And I think it's better not to even send her an invitation."

"The who that did what?" James asked, looking down at her in confusion.

She sighed. "My sister thinks I'm responsible for what Voldemort did. She told me that if our parents had listened to her, they'd still be alive now." Seeing that James was about to interrupt, she continued, "But I know it's not my fault and I don't blame myself. It's her problem."

He shrugged. "Your choice, then."

"Oh, sorry," said a voice from the doorway.

James turned to see who it was. "It's fine, Moony," he answered.

Lily sat up, still eager to talk to Remus. "Yeah, come and tell us what Sirius is up to."

"Wormtail's asleep and Padfoot is putting his hands in warm water."

"Oh, how mean," Lily said.

"Why is Padfoot putting his hands in warm water?" James asked.

"Not his," Lily clarified. "Peter's."

James frowned, clearly not understanding the point of such a strange prank. Remus smiled, took pity on him, and explained.

"Oh, well, I doubt Wormtail will know the difference really," James decided.

"Yeah, I wouldn't worry," Lily said, seizing the opportunity. "Unless he happens to be sleeping on your bed."

James looked concerned for a moment. "No, he wouldn't be. He shouldn't be. Is he?" he asked Remus.

Remus smiled and shrugged. "I don't know. Is he?"

James paused, looking between Lily and Remus before jumping over the couch and hurrying from the room.

"Is he?" she asked.

"Nope," Remus answered, still lingering near the door.

There was an awkward pause. Lily rose from the couch and moved to stand next to Remus. "I want to talk to you," she stated plainly.

"What about?"

"You've been acting sort of strange tonight. And you've been giving me strange looks, like just before we left the library. I want to know what's going on."

Remus looked to be struggling with what to say. After a long moment, he said, "Attacks like tonight make a lot of people act strangely."

"Maybe, but you didn't act like this last time."

"Each time can be different," he said. "They were for you."

Lily looked at him disapprovingly. "Now you know those were two entirely different circumstances."

"It's the same for-"

"Fine. Okay, that explains why you're being so weird. But you looked really upset when James told everyone I agreed to marry him."

He shifted, looking out into the corridor. "I wasn't upset."

"Everyone else was really happy for us, but you didn't even seem mildly interested." She was trying to keep the hurt from her voice, but she could hear it escaping. "We're supposed to be friends. So why don't you just tell me what's really going on?"

He reluctantly drew his attention back to her, but said nothing.

"Look," she said impatiently. "Did I get upset that you're a werewolf? No. So I'm not going to be upset with whatever you're hiding now. Just tell me."

Slowly, he said, "Okay. Remember I'm telling you this as a friend."

"Alright," she said.

"I think...I don't think you should be getting married right now."

Lily felt like something was clutching at her insides. She hadn't expected to hear that. "Why not?"

"Because you're too young. And you're only doing it because you might die, so why not. And I don't think that's a good reason."

Lily crossed her arms defensively. "I'm marrying James because I love him, Remus. Not because I have nothing better to do."

"That's not what I said. And I think that if you love him, you'll still love him once this is all over. Waiting won't hurt anything."

"If all this weren't happening, we'd still be getting married. We're not going to let Voldemort make us put off things we want to do. And I can't believe I'm hearing this from you."

"I didn't want to tell you," he reminded her. "And you don't know what you'd be doing if we weren't in this war. I hoped..."

"Hoped what?"

"I want Prongs to be happy," Remus began. "But I hoped you would have seen logic and told him to wait."

Lily stared at him, dumbfounded. She was trying to think of a response that would accurately reflect the indignation she was feeling, when James jumped the last stairs and landed in the corridor.

"Very funny, Moony," he said dryly, approaching the pair. "He's in his own bed."

Remus shifted and began wringing his hands. Lily still refused to tear her eyes from him.

"What's going on?" James asked.

Lily shook her head at Remus, pushed past James and began to ascend the staircase. She was in her room, sitting in the window and thinking before James caught up with her.

"Lily? Something wrong?"

"Yes. We need to talk."

"Oh no," he said. "Those are the four most horrible words in the English language. Nothing good ever follows them."

Lily smiled at his joke, moving over in the window to make room for him. "Well, this is important."

He took a deep breath before crossing the room to sit with her. "What's wrong?"

"If things were different, do you suppose things between us would be different?"

He frowned. "What are you talking about?"

"I mean, if there wasn't this war and we were normal kids without all the responsibility, would things be the same as they are now?"

"You mean...I don't know what you mean."

"I mean would we still be together? Would you still have asked me to marry you?"

He fell silent for longer than Lily would have expected. Finally, he looked over at her and said, "If you're having second thoughts about marrying me, I-"

"No!" she said quickly. "No, I just want to be sure we're not getting married just because we might be dead tomorrow so why not. Because if it is, then I think - I mean, I love you and that's why I want to marry you. So-"

"And I love you," he cut in, sliding from the window frame to stand in front of her. "Do we need more reason than that?"

"No," she answered. "As long as that's the reason."

"What brought this on?"

"I was just...just thinking, that's all."

He looked at her curiously, and Lily got the feeling he knew there was more to it than that. "I just wonder what Moony to earn that icy stare I've come to know so well."

"That's not important," she said dismissively.

"It's important to me," he insisted.

"Oh, honestly, James. It's Remus. What could he possibly do wrong? Anyway, we have other things to think about. Like setting a date. I was thinking maybe in a few months, to give us time to organize everything, you know? And how are wizard weddings different from Muggle ones? Cause we have traditions, too."

He squinted. "What's that?"

She raised an eyebrow. "A tradition?"

"No." He pointed out of the window. "I just saw something coming right at the house." He leaned out, inspecting the night sky. "But it's gone now."

"Probably just a falling star or something," Lily answered.

"I guess," James agreed, pulling back. "Sorry. What were you saying?"

"I said that we should probably get married in a few months. We don't want to rush into this. And how-"

The remainder of Lily's question was drowned out by the sound of Mr. Potter's voice calling the names of everyone in the house and requesting they come down to the sitting room. She gave James a quizzical look and he shrugged, clearly just as confused as she.

Lily slipped from the window and followed James out, down the flights of stairs, through the corridor and into the sitting room. Mr. and Mrs. Potter were already there with Remus. Sirius and Peter trailed in soon after, Peter muttering about something not being funny.

"I'd just like to say," Sirius announced, "that whatever it is, I didn't do it."

"We just got a message from Dumbledore," Mr. Potter explained. "There was another attack."

"What?" Lily demanded. But her outrage was lost amid the louder reactions of her friends.

"Be quiet," Mr. Potter said over the den. It took some time, but everyone eventually calmed down enough to hear the rest of his information. "Dumbledore didn't tell us what You-Know-Who was doing, but he did say that Frank Longbottom and Alice Clarke were involved."

"They- are you sure?" Lily asked urgently. "Are they okay? What happened?"

"They were training when it happened. He said they survived it, but didn't give us much more than that."

Mr. Potter was still talking, but she couldn't hear him. Lily sighed in some relief. At least they had survived it. But there was more tension and anxiety than any lightness inside of Lily. Voldemort was becoming bolder; she couldn't remember another time when he'd done two attacks in one night. And it was becoming more and more dangerous to leave one's house these days.

It wasn't until she felt a hand on her arm that she realized the conversation was over and everyone was leaving. James rushed to talk to Remus as they left the room, and Lily could hear Peter discussing charms to make water consistently cold with Sirius. She smiled, though she wondered why he wasn't more affected by this.

She imagined what might happen if Voldemort attacked Remus, or Peter or Sirius again. And if, this time, they weren't so fortunate to escape. Just as she had a few hours before, she was terrified of losing those closest to her and no thought she tried was comforting enough.

Hardly aware of what she was doing, she forced her way past Remus, cut in front of Peter and nearly bypassed James in her haste to reach him. Sirius looked at her in mild surprise, but said nothing.

"I changed my mind," she said in a rush.

"About what?" James asked.

"About the wedding. I don't want to get married in a few months."

Remus smiled his approval at her, but James didn't seem nearly as happy.

"What?" James demanded, looking incredibly upset and disappointed. "Lily, I-"

"I want to get married now."

**************************************

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