Chapter Six – Casus Belli

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

*****

Friday afternoon, Lily found herself strolling along Hogwarts' chilly but crowded grounds with James, scribbling ideas for the Halloween Feast into a worn Muggle notebook. She hadn't bothered to replace the broken quill she clutched between her fingers, even though the nib scratched unevenly across the paper, leaving the occasional thick pool of ink that smudged the paper and her skin as she wrote.

James waved to some Ravenclaws across the yard while he continued to talk. "And the jack-o-lanterns are a must of course, but I was thinking we could carve the faces of the teachers on some, and charm them to talk."

Lily frowned. "I don't think they'd be too happy with that."

"But Dumbledore would get a good laugh out of it, and all we need is his approval, even if it isn't public."

"Fine," she sighed. "But why do I feel as if I'll end up taking responsibility?"

James grinned at her. "Be a sport, Lily! And trust me - I'll be happy to take credit for the idea."

She wrote down the idea grudgingly, swearing under her breath as the jagged edge of the quill ripped the messy page. Writing with a quill was something that she still wasn't full accustomed to, especially when she tried to scribble quickly across flimsy paper. James plucked the quill from her hand and murmured a spell under his breath, running his fingers across the stem. As his touch moved from the end to the tip, the broken and bitten feather grew into an amber-coloured quill that tapered into a fine, engraved silver nib. He handed it back to her wordlessly.

Lily looked at the quill carefully for a moment before lifting her gaze to his. "You certainly are one to demonstrate your skills. How unfortunate that I'm on the receiving end of your arbitrary displays."

James looked hesitantly at her. "I can change it back if you like… I just thought…well, it was giving you problems …"

"No, I appreciate it," she said hurriedly. "Thank you. I'm just not used to such impromptu demonstrations." She smiled to take the edge off her words.

Lily sighed inwardly when his returning smile was tentative. Evidently her repartee was a bit too serious for the likes of her generally easily intimidated classmates.

She could feel James' eyes on hers. "What it is it? Staring at my profile won't get you anywhere."

He flushed. "Well, I wanted to know, er…"

"Yes?"

"Would you like to come to Hogsmeade on Saturday?" he blurted. "We can finish up the plans there," he added quickly. "I mean, it's a lot warmer at the Three Broomsticks."

Lily glanced up at him, flattered by the invitation more than she cared to admit to herself. She frowned, though, as she remembered the conversation she'd overheard after the Prefect Meeting. "Aren't you going with Julia that day?"

James looked at her, surprised. "Well, yes, but I wanted you…thought you might want to come along," he said quickly. "I doubt she'll mind." He paused and looked at Lily curiously. "How did you know we were going?"

"Rumours," she lied smoothly. "But I don't want to infringe on your time, especially with things like obligations. And Julia probably wants you to herself -"

"I want you to be there," interrupted James. He glanced at her, something passing fleetingly through his winter-grey eyes, so briefly that Lily almost thought she had imagined it. But when she glanced at him again, his expression was dark and clouded over, gaze directed blankly towards the lake. She clutched her notebook more tightly to her chest, the nib of the quill digging into her flesh.

They walked slowly away from the crowds for a while in silence, the cold October sun doing nothing to thaw the frost-crisped leaves that crunched under their feet. Lily was at ease in the silence – she hesitated to label it companionable, but it was, at the least, comfortable.

James stopped suddenly and bent down to brush away a pile of yellowed leaves, pulling out a stone that glinted in the sunlight that sliced through the clouds. He stared at the chunk of raw stone – was it amber? – for a moment before holding it next to her hair. Lily flushed under his long gaze, and was about to open her mouth when he spoke.

"Same color," he said softly.

He took her hand and placed the rough stone in her palm, closing her fingers around it. It was surprisingly warm to the touch, as was the hand still wrapped around her fingers.

Lily turned away from him hastily and bent her head. "Where and what time shall I meet you tomorrow?" she asked abruptly.

James looked at her sideways, but granted the change of subject without mention. "How about ten o'clock outside the Great Hall? After breakfast? That's when I promised to meet Julia."

Lily nodded, suddenly eager to leave. "I should get back. I have a student to tutor." She walked forward a few paces before turning around, and said impulsively, "Thank you for the quill. It's really very beautiful."

She grinned smugly and turned away before he could reply.

***

Lily, despite her increasingly familiar encounters with James, had been left with a feeling of implacable discontent that rubbed even more abrasively at the surface of her thought whenever she happened to be in close proximity to the collection of Hufflepuffs that trailed cheerfully around that girl. That girl (otherwise hailed as Julia), whom her subconscious had hereto forth dubbed "the opposition," bothered her in ways that defied logical explanation.

She seemed suddenly to be everywhere, surrounded by friends or near James, as if purposely flaunting herself to Lily. The notion was of course ridiculous, Lily acknowledged, since Julia knew absolutely nothing about her, but that analysis did nothing to assuage her general irritability. Julia had managed with a few simple words and a kiss to charm the most charming wizard at Hogwarts himself - the wizard that Lily in particular found herself attracted to despite the best intentions of her higher brain functions.

It was, as that ubiquitous nagging voice so eloquently put it, bloody unfair. Oh, of course she knew that her shyness was something she could overcome, that she had nothing to risk, and all the utter tripe advised by the contingent of wizarding self-help gurus. Unfortunately, the very idea of attempting to flirt using the double-entendre of wands and broomsticks left her alternately snickering and pitying the poor witch or wizard who attempted to employ the technique. Besides, she thought sardonically, it seemed that successful flirtation necessitated twisting one's lips around more than just silly pick-up lines.

And now some exceptionally sadistic deity – or Professor Flitwick - had thought it appropriate to choose "Miss Julia Sanchez" as her partner for a Charms project that constituted a substantial portion of each student's grade. Lily had permitted herself a long and inventive string of expletives upon hearing Flitwick announce the pairs. The first few meetings between the two girls had been awkward and brief; twice had Julia cut short the meeting in order to watch a Quidditch practice – a Gryffindor Quidditch practice.

It was true that while Julia had done the work she had promised to do, Lily ended up working alone in the library most of the time, cross and indignant because of Julia's blatant unconcern and total lack of consideration for their project. Lily was, ironically, somewhat intimidated herself by the forceful witch, but she liked to tell herself that her politeness stopped her from confronting Julia openly about the issue - so she resorted to her usual modus operandi of coldness.

Tonight, however, Julia was an hour and a half late, and when she finally came running into the empty classroom they had agreed to meet at, arms full of crumpled parchment and an unapologetic smile on her face, Lily was furious.

After a brief, strained silence, Lily lifted her narrowed eyes to Julia's. "Do you know how long I've been waiting?" she asked, enunciating each word.

Julia dumped the parchment on a desk and smoothed back her wind-mussed hair as she sat. "Sorry. I was celebrating the Hufflepuff victory."

Lily stared at her incredulously. "You were at a party?"

"Well, it's important to my house – I mean, this puts us in the running for the Quidditch Cup -"

 "I have been sitting in this freezing classroom for nearly two hours. Are you telling me it was for nothing? That while you were drinking Ogden's and having a jolly good time, I have been working on our project?"

"I have an obligation to my House too," Julia replied defensively. "And besides, I did the work that I was supposed to." She paused and said suddenly, "Wait - why am I defending myself? The Quidditch Cup is impor-"

"I don't care about your goddamn Quidditch Cup!" she said fiercely. "You had an obligation that you simply dismissed because you wanted to celebrate! I…I'm honestly at loss for words. I simply cannot believe your selfishness. You have an atrocious sense of priorities - meaningless celebration over study… It's unfair to me, you know. I end up doing the lion's share and yet you reap the benefit. It's not acceptable," she said after a pause.

Both girls fell silent, and Julia finally looked up at her. "I'll make an effort to contribute more to this project," she mumbled uncomfortably.

Lily sighed and pushed her hair away from her face. "I suppose that's the closest I'm going to get to an apology."

Julia was quiet for another moment. "How did you know I was drinking Ogden's?" she asked curiously, looking up at Lily.

"I can smell it on your breath," she muttered, glancing down at the parchment in her hands. "Anyway, you might as well know what I've been doing in your absence. To get the sample of unicorn's blood, we'll need to go into the Forbidden Forest. There tend to be small pools of it near the edge, so it shouldn't be hard to find."

"The Forbidden Forest?"

"Is there something wrong with it?"

Julia shifted uncomfortably in her chair. "Are you sure it's worth the risk for the project? Professor Dumbledore always warns us never to go there, and my dormitory overlooks the Forest - I've heard some pretty awful howls coming from inside." At Lily's haughty look, Julia said reluctantly, "I mean, I wouldn't mind assisting with the research, but I don't want to go into the Forest itself. I'm not a Gryffindor."

Lily paused, and gave her a long look. "You may be assured that no 'assistance' of yours is required in the completion of this project in the first place. You've evidently never heard of students being assigned detention in the Forest – with proper supervision, while still menacing, it's at least fractionally less dangerous than traipsing around with a horde of fools. Besides, I've obtained permission for research in the Forest before. You've never done so, I presume?" she asked coolly.

"Well, I've researched extensively, but not in the Forbidden Forest," Julia replied edgily. "It's dangerous and I don't want to lose a limb researching for a mere project."

Lily gave her a mocking smile. "Excuse me while I applaud the institution of your – what did you promise? 'Increased contribution to the project.'"

Julia's eyes hardened as she glared at Lily. "I'll manage," she said coldly.

"Undoubtedly you will. Famous for your bravery, are you not? Oh, pardon, is that for your liaisons with the brave?" Lily responded derisively.

"How do you mean?" asked Julia cautiously. She seemed to detect she'd been insulted somehow, but was wisely not rising to the bait until she was sure of Lily's implication.

"I mean nothing," replied Lily evenly. "My words are ambiguous nonsense, really. Interpret them as you see fit. I recommend extensive analysis. Don't worry, I'll wait."

"Well, am I then to 'interpret' that you are referring to the relationship between me and James Potter?"

"It would befit the situation, wouldn't it?"

Julia looked at her through narrowed eyes. "What exactly are you trying to say? Do you disapprove or something?"

"I don't disapprove or approve of your relationship," said Lily - well, perhaps that wasn't quite the truth, but it was certainly close enough…wasn't it?

Julia's dark eyes were unkind, but behind the hard veneer there was definite uncertainty.

"I don't care one way or another," Lily continued casually. A blatant lie, of course – it was fascinating to see how Julia brought out this ugly side of her own personality: lying, goading, manipulating…and Lily found it amusing in a way. Who knew she would be victim to pettiness? Objectively, it was an intriguing revelation. Too bad she wasn't objective with regards to herself. "Surely you have a sense of humour?" 

"Well of course I have a sense of humour," sniffed Julia. "But your 'jokes' or whatever you'd like to call them are too vague for anyone to understand them."

"Anyone?" Lily gave her a disdainful smile. "That's a rather broad judgment, don't you think? Surely some can detect the humour in my words."

She suppressed a smirk as she saw Julia's hands tighten on the edge of the desk.

This was really too amusing. Leisurely provoking this girl indulged a most delicious appetite for oblique revenge…or perhaps it was passive aggressive revenge, she wondered. No matter. She knew her inevitable self-castigation would atone this brief dalliance with maliciousness. How lovely it was to have one's own private guilt complex.

Julia glared at her. "They're obviously your close friends" - Lily snorted at the irony of the statement - "and know you well enough to understand your…your… indirect references. No need for you to think you're so clever," she said angrily. "And don't bloody well patronize me!"

Lily raised an eyebrow, somewhat surprised by the heatedness of Julia's words. "I may patronize you if I wish," she said calmly. Oh, she had infuriated the other girl now. Tables have turned, mon cherie.

Julia stood up abruptly from her desk. "Think you're so high and mighty don't you? Just because you're top of our year or Head Girl – and Merlin knows why they gave you that post, of all the prefects. I expected to have it and everyone expected it to go to me. I deserved it. It's just because you have a following among the younger students and the Headmaster pities you!"

She straightened her robes with a violent tug, her Hufflepuff prefect badge glinting in the light. "All you do is study anyway. It's no wonder the teachers have fallen in love with you – you're the only one that bothers to do their meaningless work. And you do have to work, don't you?" she sneered. "A Muggleborn still not adjusted to wizarding life – the post of Head Girl should go to someone who has experience, can guide people. You lean on the crutches of the adoration of first-years! You have no real friends, no real qualifications - and you know it. You're still insecure, still feel undeserving. And you're right."

"Been observing me, have you?" said Lily softly.

"I don't need to observe you," Julia scoffed. "You're obviously unfit for the position. You barely talk during meetings. At least you have someone like James, who is competent, to do the work for you." She snorted. "Talk about hypocrisy. You yell at me for not working to your standards, and then you go and let someone else take over your duties," she spat. "Hypocrite. You're a bloody, incompetent hypocrite, and you've risen to your post by ingratiating yourself. You're just a naïve little Muggleborn."

Lily's throat tightened. "Get out," she said quietly.

"And what would you do if I didn't?

"Get out before I suspend your prefect privileges. Just go."

Julia shook her head disgustedly. "Gladly." She shoved the parchment off the desk. "You can do the project on your own for all I care. At least then you'll be doing something productive." She turned to go before spinning around again.

"And do yourself a favour – don't try to grovel to James. You're just making a fool of yourself. He thinks of you as a pity case." She gave Lily one last scornful look before turning into the corridor.

Julia's words echoed in her head long after the sharp click of her heels had disappeared. Useless… incompetent… hypocrite… pity case… the unspoken mudblood. Having someone corroborate Lily's own worst doubts – doubts that she never really even thought to be substantiated – was far more hurtful than she had ever expected it to be. She sat in that cold, silent room for a long time, neither noticing nor bothering to wipe away the wet streaks that trickled along the curves of her face. Tears, Petunia had once told her, were useless things anyway. 

***

It most certainly had not taken a great deal of deliberation to decide not to accompany James and his Jekyll-and-Hyde-esque accessory to Hogsmeade. She had barely had any sleep last night, and despite a generous helping of an ambiguous beverage the house elves had provided, the ramifications of sleep deprivation were all too evident in her mood.

Lily navigated quickly down the staircases, which seemed to sense her unwillingness to tolerate any sort of unexpected jostling. She slipped through the clusters of warmly-clad students prepared to brave the uncharacteristically chilly autumn, head held imperiously high and lips set in a thin line as James and Julia (obnoxious little coincidence of alliteration, she thought nastily) came into her line of sight.

While James looked pleased to see her, Julia's face went through several swift changes of expressions before she settled on a tight smile and a bitter look in her onyx-black eyes.

"Why, Lily – what are you doing here?" she asked frostily.

James turned to her. "I didn't tell you? I invited her to Hogsmeade with us to discuss the Halloween Feast, don't you remember?"

Julia's eyes trailed Lily's ill-fitting Muggle clothing and thick faded black cloak that had, to put it kindly, seen its share of Scottish winters. A contemptuous look tightened her pretty face. Lily tugged down on her scarf uneasily, suddenly self-conscious as she glanced at Julia's form-fitting navy robes.

"I'm not sure she's dressed for it," said Julia, pursing her irritating, perfectly painted red lips.

Lily's nails dug into her fingers as she bit back a foul comment. "I can't come anyway. I have a project to finish. You go on," she said, making sure to address only James.

"I think that would be very wise -" Julia started.

"You can finish the project later," said James, glancing sideways at the dark haired witch by his side. "Just come with us."

"Thank you, but I really do have to finish…"

"Why, my dear, I fear you're correct. For once I am in complete agreement with you," interrupted Julia, flashing her a saccharine smile.

"Must be the only time you've been correct, then," Lily replied glibly.

James looked confusedly between the two girls. "Well…I…erm…"

"If you could perhaps articulate your thoughts?" Lily interrupted dryly.

He grinned apologetically at her. "What I was trying to say was I'd appreciate it if you'd come. I don't have much time, with Quidditch practice gearing up and all. I'd love to have you…"

He trailed off when Julia pointedly removed her arm from his. "Help me organize the Feast," he finished lamely.

Lily suppressed a smirk. She wasn't about to relinquish an opportunity to taunt Julia, who seemed to have instituted an attitude of sweetness around James. How eerily like Petunia.

"I suppose the project will have to wait," acquiesced Lily.

James beamed at her. "You have marvelous judgment, my love. Excellent sense of priorities."

The pretty witch beside him stiffened nearly audibly.

***

While Julia had insistently excluded Lily from conversation on the way to Hogsmeade, she was having a more difficult time keeping James' attention at the crowded Three Broomsticks. The pub was milling with students and residents of Hogsmeade alike, the din punctuated by outbursts of raucous laughter and glasses clinked together with all the dissonance of an untrained triangle player.

The air itself seemed warm and sticky with butterbeer, but Lily continued to wrap her coat tightly around her body, trying to tell herself she would be cold with only the hand-knit Muggle jumper she wore underneath. It really was uncomfortably warm though, and she could feel the flush of her cheeks against her cold fingertips.

"So anyway, James, my father said he would arrange for a discount for students going to Gladrags so they could purchase costumes…James? Are you listening to me?" Julia looked at him with exasperation.

He grinned at her. "Sorry."

Julia folded her arms against her chest in an imitation of sternness that looked like Professor McGonagall. "Were you flirting with Madame Rosmerta again?" she asked with mock severity. "James, I need to know. Is there something between the two of you?"

"How did you know?" he exclaimed in horror. "I thought I'd been so careful. Yes, Julia darling, Rosmerta is the latest and greatest love of my life, and we are planning to elope to The Hogs Head so I can pretend I'm of age. Be gone from this table, for you wilt next to her blinding beauty!"

Julia sighed dramatically, collapsing against the worn seat, before erupting into laughter. James joined her soon enough, sliding his hand over hers as she leaned in to kiss him.

Lily stood up abruptly, muttering something to the effect of "refill" and pushed blindly through the crowds to the bar. She sat on one of the polished barstools and closed her eyes briefly, wondering why she had agreed to come. She should have known this was going to happen – there was no way she would have the upper hand in a conversation with someone like Julia, even with James in the vicinity. That probably made it worse. Nothing like being the third wheel.

"Miss Evans! What on earth are doing in a horrible place like this?"

Lily turned, surprised to see Arabella Figg, Ancient Runes professor and Slytherin Head of House, sitting next to her. She had been rather close to the professor during the few years she had taken the class, and had grown even more so in subsequent years, despite the House divisions – though the Slytherins still gave her strange looks when she walked around the dungeons. She noted with amusement that the cat-shaped brooch the professor wore on her cloak was moving, its tail swishing as it looked up at Lily.

"I was supposed to come here to work on the Halloween Feast."

"And?"

"Well, the individual with whom I was supposed to be working is currently occupied with snogging, so I made a prudent exit."

Figg regarded her carefully, and Lily could see she was scanning the pub out of her peripheral vision. "James Potter and that girl?" 

Lily made a noncommittal noise.

"Name?"

"Julia Sanchez."

"She's a Sanchez?" exclaimed Figg. "No wonder she looks familiar."

Lily frowned. "What's so unusual about being a Sanchez?"

"They're one of the wealthiest families in Spain, and among the largest too. Children go to Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, but mostly Hogwarts. Nearly all Hufflepuffs, but some would have made excellent Slytherins."

"Evidently she's one of them," said Lily unenthusiastically.

The professor kept a neutral look on her face. "Now why do you say that, dear?"

"Well, she's not exactly the kindest person I know, but she's rather good at knowing what one's weaknesses are."

The older woman tactfully refrained from asking just what those weaknesses were, Lily noted with gratitude.

 "That doesn't make her a Slytherin," said Figg. "Hufflepuffs aren't the kindest people to those outside their house, whatever that blasted Hat of Godric's says. Gryffindors have no sense of judgment." She shook her head. "Present company excluded, naturally," she added. "You would have done rather well in Slytherin, you know. My serpents would have ripped you up and built you back from the ground of course, but it's a learning process."

Lily laughed skeptically. "Me – a Slytherin? Professor, I don't even exhibit any qualities particular to my own House."

"Codswallop," she replied. "Perhaps you don't possess the idiocy of most members of your House, but you're generally brave and chivalrous and that nonsense. Mind you, I don't consider that an advantageous quality. The Potter boy isn't bad either, but his friends will be the death of him."

Lily was quiet. "Perhaps you're right." She glanced up at the other woman. "But aren't the requisite qualities of a Slytherin ambition and cunning? I don't exactly possess those either."

Figg laughed. "You actually expect me to believe that? Beneath that ridiculous predilection of yours towards self-pity, you're one of the shrewdest people I know. Being a Slytherin isn't just about blatant, bloodthirsty ambition, contrary to the sensationalist perceptions of Gryffindors. Most Slytherins are quiet, observant, and rise to the top in a dagger-between-the ribs sort of way. It's all about subtlety, my dear."

She glanced up at her professor, taken aback by the blunt candor in her eyes.

Figg wasn't finished. "I'm not supposed to say this sort of thing to you, but I've already had a few shots of firewhisky, and as far as I'm concerned, you're not one of those imbecilic children I teach. I was to one who recommended to Albus that you take the position of Head Girl. Of course, he agreed with me straightaway, but the faculty required a bit more… persuasion - to think they were contemplating the Sanchez girl." She sniffed haughtily. "Might as well have put Sirius Black in the position of Head Boy."

Lily grinned at her. "Nice to look at, but nothing special?"

"Precisely. Not that you don't share the former quality," Figg teased. She sobered though, and continued, "Albus Dumbledore has complete faith in you, Miss Evans. That's a rare thing. He told me once, and I agree, that you indeed are rare, my dear. The only thing standing in your way to greatness is doubt. Trust in your own abilities, your own power, and you would be able to prevail over He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named himself."

 They looked at each other for a long moment, the clamor around them muted and distant.

"But that's just the nonsense of an old woman," said Figg briskly, breaking the spell. She smiled. "Now tell me why you're moping. Oh, come now, you didn't think I'd notice you were moping? You've got a sullen look on that pretty face of yours."

"I told you already," said Lily, sighing with exasperation. She realized her impertinence a moment too late. "I mean – I apologize, Professor," she said hastily.

Figg smirked. "That's what I mean when I said they'd have ripped you right up. You're lucky I find you charming. Go on, though."

Lily swallowed deeply. "They're, well…engaging in activities generally limited to two persons of mutual attraction, and I'm rather – how do I say this – superfluous?"

"Do you fancy Potter?" Figg asked nonchalantly.

Lily flushed hotly. "No! How on earth did you conjecture that?"

She glanced at Lily with amusement.

She exhaled, looking hopelessly back at the woman. "From my reaction," said Lily dourly. "Never be overly vociferous in denial."

"You learn quickly," Figg said with a smile. "I'll tell you how to make him feel as guilty as possible in order to make him do the work for the Feast." The cat brooch attached to her cloak hissed enthusiastically in agreement. Figg's keen eyes regarded her for another moment. "There's something else." It was a statement, not a question.

Lily nodded.

Figg passed her the shot glass of firewhisky.

"I can't -" Lily started, but the other woman silenced her with a look. She picked up the glass and gingerly sipped from it, sputtering as it burned down her throat and into her stomach. "That's not Ogden's," she coughed out.

"Ogden's is among the cheapest malts you can buy, Miss Evans. I always know when my students have been drinking with other houses because they come back smelling like a Muggle liquor store. Most Slytherin families have the decency to purchase good alcohol, even if their children haven't yet acquired the same discrepancy of taste."

"It's good. The whisky, I mean."

"Have the rest," she said, passing the glass over.

It burned again as she swallowed it, but pleasurably. Lily licked her lips and began, "The girl James is with – Julia – is among the more well-liked students in our year. She's the type who celebrates with her house, cheers at Quidditch matches - "

"Doesn't sound unusual."

Lily sighed. "It's not, I suppose. But I was assigned to do a Charms project with her and she was invariably late to our meetings. Last night I had reached the end of my rope, and I yelled at her."

"You yelled?" Figg looked impressed.

She shrugged. "I wasn't in a normal frame of mind. Anyway, I made some veiled disparaging remarks and she retaliated…much more harshly than I had expected." Her voice fell. "Said that I was useless, a hypocrite…" she trailed off.

Figg waited patiently for her to continue. Lily took a deep breath, grateful for the uncharacteristic consideration. "She called me - " her voice broke slightly " – a naïve little Muggleborn…the implication of mudblood wasn't too hard to notice."

The professor's eyes hardened. "I didn't know the Sanchez family were teaching their children bigotry. I've come to half-expect it in my House…" She suddenly looked saddened – disappointed and much older than her years. She composed herself quickly, though, and continued, "But every Sanchez I've known has been sympathetic towards Muggleborns. How can we expect the attacks to stop when more and more people are becoming so prejudiced?"

"You talk about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named quite a bit," said Lily quietly. "Most professors are pretending he doesn't exist."

Figg looked angry for a moment. "Do they think sheltering children is going to save them? The walls of Hogwarts may be a fortress, but they're also a blindfold. Because there will be more attacks. He is growing in power, claiming new followers even within our walls. I worry for them - for the people he preys upon, and for the people he wants to make predators. Don't they realize? It's Grindelwald all over again. They can't have forgotten him - I will not believe we are deluding ourselves…We should not – cannot – ignore him."

The professor looked wearily at Lily. "And it's only just begun."

*****

(Author's Note: As my other two betas went AWOL, all the credit for this chapter goes to Shadow Fire, who is blessed enough to be both gorgeous, brilliant and a superb beta. Also, those of you who have reviewed – thank you so much. It always brightens my day to hear your opinions, whether criticism of praise. You motivate me. Along that note, sorry for the massive delay. And if you're wondering if Lily seems a bit more self-assured in this chapter, it is due to the fact that I'm editing the preceding chapters to tone down Lily's characterization. Once again, much appreciation for my reviewers and my readers.)