A/N: Here it is, chapter twenty! Only about a million years after nineteen! I know, I'm the very worst, but you aren't, Liv isn't, Kristina isn't, and also oudeteron on Tumblr isn't! (He helped me out with some things I wasn't familiar with for this chapter... guess what!)
Also, this Saturday was my seventeenth birthday! I'm getting a watch, obviously.
Also also, check out my new Jily Au, Behemoth, a Beauty and the Beast retelling. I update it much faster than SA and it's going to be much shorter!
Though Lily's hair was only gently tousled after a summer breeze came through during their short walk through the Village, James' looked as though he had walked through a hurricane. To his delight, she learned.
"Perhaps you've noticed, I mess it up a lot. On purpose," he confessed to her. "I mean, it's naturally messy-" this was said with more than just a touch of pride, "but I do also make an effort to make it worse. My dad... you've heard of Sleekeazy's?"
"Of course," Lily said. "That Hair Stuff. My sister uses it sometimes. It works great. She loves it. She said it was created by some Gryffindor roy-" Lily stopped in her tracks. "That's your dad? Your dad? Your dad invented Sleekeazy's Hair Stuff?"
"Sleekeazy's Hair Stuff, invented by Crown Prince Fleamont Henry Potter of Gryffindor House, yeah."
"Oh my God," Lily said. "That's so-wait. Why do you mess your hair up, then?"
James ran his fingers through his hair. Subconsciously, she thought. He really did do it all the time.
"It's sort of like my rebellion, I guess," he says. "You know, I'm very grateful for all I have, and I know how annoying it is for the working class to hear rich people complain about, like, how we wish we had the freedom to chose whom we love, or that everyone judges us for our money, or just how obnoxious we are within ourselves. You know, for some of our distant cousins, Lily, nothing is ever enough. So even though I hate it, those things-petty as they may be-bother me too, sometimes. Of course, can't complain. I mean, there's people that can't afford medication they need to live, right? So this is what I do. I mess up my hair. My father invents a groundbreaking styling cream... and I mess up my hair. Innocent enough, right?"
"I think it's funny," Lily said. "It's so..."
"No, it just really suits you. What's Sirius' rebellion?"
"What isn't?" he said with a laugh. "Everything he's ever done has annoyed your-er, his parents and House. I'm never sure if he does things because he believes in them and on the plus side it bothers Slytherins or if he does things that bother Slytherins and on the plus side he believes in them."
"Hmm," Lily said, thinking.
"I think we all do things to prove ourself," James said. "I wish we could all just relax like you."
Lily laughed out loud. "Like me?"
"Yeah, you know, you just do things because you do them." He smiled at her. "It's actually very noble, I think."
"You think I'm so noble that I just throw weekend-long parties for orphans?"
"Well, you are," James said matter-of-factly.
Lily laughed again.
"Hear me out," he said. "Look at all you've done for people behind the camera. Look at how much you've done for your brothers."
"What on earth have I done for my brothers?" Lily wondered.
"Only everything," James scoffed. "Honestly, Lil. I can't just stand here and list everything you've done for your brothers in the short time you've known them. Besides, I feel like that's something you should do with them."
"Okay," Lily said, still not understanding what James was talking about. She didn't think about for too long, because they had reached the ice-cream parlour. Lily giggled as James held the door open for her. "Thank you!"
"You're welcome," James said, grinning (like an idiot, Sirius' voice sniggered in her head, but she ignored this).
"So... what's your go-to flavour?" Lily asked.
"Oh, Lily," James said. "Lily, Lily, Lily. You don't pick one flavour from Fortescue's."
"No, no," he said. "You don't pick any flavour."
Lily looked around the parlour, which was empty. It seemed normal. Pink and blue tiles on the floor, mint green tables and pale yellow swirly chairs. Very pastel. Very cold. "Do you just stare at the ice cream?" she said finally.
James laughed. He lead her to the countertop in between two rows of ice cream and tapped a small bell.
"Just a mo'!" called a slightly muffled voice from the back.
"Florean's absolutely brilliant," he said to Lily. "You'll see."
A tall, heavyset black man walked in then. "James!" he said, thrilled. "Good to see you." He turned to smile at Lily. "Good evening," he said pleasantly.
"Hi," Lily said. "I'm Lily."
"I know," he said, grinning. "Florean Fortescue, Princess. Please, sit down," he said, waving them to the swirly chairs at the bar. "Just make yourselves comfortable." He picked out a cone and got busy behind the counter.
"Did you order already?" Lily asked James in a low voice, confused.
"No," he said, smiling. "You don't order with Florean. He's magic. He knows what to serve."
"All right," Lily said, smiling. "So..."
"So," James said.
The silence was making her anxious. She wanted to say something but she couldn't think what.
"Seen Cokeworth lately?" James asked her.
"Few days ago," she said, nodding. "Mum's still dying to meet you."
"So are my parents," he said.
"She's coming to London for the coronation... maybe then?"
"Great," James said. "So. I'll just. Meet your mum. In two weeks."
"Ah." It seemed like a nice thing for good mates to do, but now they were on a date.
Oh, God. Were they dating? Was he her boyfriend? What if they broke up? What if they broke up in the middle of meeting with her mum?
"So," James said again.
The problem, Lily thought, with first dates between good friends was that when it got quiet, there was no small talk to fill it. She couldn't ask James how things were going at work because she knew he didn't have a job and desperately wanted to be a stay-at-home father and he couldn't ask her if she was enjoying the warm weather because he already knew that the sickening heat of August made it her favourite month and for her, the sticky humidity could not come fast enough.
It seemed strange. An hour ago, when they were sitting at the Three Broomsticks, she could think of a million things to say to him, but now she was nervous about anything that might come out her mouth.
"We haven't talked about your coronation," James said. "How are you feeling?"
"Nervous," Lily said. "I've spoken to Bethany about it, many times, but she keeps telling me I'll be fine and not to worry. We go over my lines a lot, you know, we always rehearse things I've got to say, but I'm still scared. Well, I'm not scared. Okay, that's not true, I am. I mean, I'm nervous about messing up but I'm scared of officially becoming Princess, heiress to the Slytherin throne. I mean, I know that most of the Slytherins don't like me. I know there's just so much I haven't learned yet and it'll take a long time before I do, and ugh, I'll have real responsibilities. Not just going to fundraisers like I've been doing, but actually going to important meetings and making announcements and there's something people aren't telling me about Slytherin House, James, I just know it!" Lily's voice seemed a tad hysterical toward the end of her speech. She bit her tongue and flushed red. She tried not to make eye contact with James.
"Hey," he said, grabbing her hands. He didn't make her look at him, but her eyes seemed to be drawn to his face, like opposite ends of magnets. "Hey, it's okay. Let's go through what you said. You're nervous? I understand. That makes sense. Standing up in front of everyone and talking about things you're not sure of? Yeah, that's very nerve-wrecking. But you have to trust that you're going to be fine. You're already doing a great job. Everyone thinks so. And you're not going to be alone; we're all rooting for you and we're all going to be there with you every step of the way.
"And as for what people aren't telling you about Slytherin House..." James continued. "Well. You'll find out tomorrow, won't you? I think you'll... I think you'll be a big part of it. Not that thing, I mean. The other thing."
"What you're a part of?" Lily heard herself say. She wasn't too sure why she was carrying on the conversation. There were much more important things to think about, for example, the fact that James still had not let go of her hands.
"Yeah," he said. "I'm not supposed to talk about it. Tomorrow, I expect, we can talk about it all the time. Or other things. If you want."
"Hmm," she said.
He still had not let go.
"Will you be there?" Lily said softly. "Wherever Sirius takes me?"
"I reckon I'll meet you after," he said vaguely.
"After," she repeated. "Okay."
"ALL RIGHT!" boomed Florean, slapping down two desserts in front of them. James jerked back suddenly and blushed. "Here you go, James, and you, Lily."
It was a milkshake of sorts. James had a bowl of something. "It looks delicious," Lily said, inspecting her cup. "What is it?"
"Just drink it," Florean said.
She raised it to her lips and took a sip. "Mm. Raspberry?"
"Not even a little bit," said Florean. "I think you're worse than James."
James spooned a bit of ice cream into his mouth. "Er... tiramasu?"
"Never mind," Florean said to Lily. "No one is worse than James. Enjoy, you two!"
James laughed as he left to the back room. "Love that man," he said, shaking his head. "So. Weave anything lately?"
"Did you bring your crochet stuff?"
"Of course," James said, digging into his pocket and pulling out a needle and a ball of yarn. "Working on this. It's going to be a hat for Peter. I've never done a hat before."
"How do you manage to fit that into your pocket?" Lily said. "How big are men's pockets?"
"Not generally this big. I get them tailored."
"To take my crochet stuff around, Lily, honestly. Keep up. Ever done a hat before?"
"Weaving? Yeah, of course."
James eyes lit up. "You're who I aspire to be," he said.
Lily turned a deep red. He kept talking about different weaving patterns, and she was a part of the conversation too, saying things that made him laugh and laughing at things he said in turn, but mostly, she just kept thinking how far gone she was and how this felt like it was moving much too quickly and not nearly fast enough at the same time.
Next morning, Lily was layering concealer on her face, which she had taken to doing more and more. It was eight o'clock, and she had barely slept the night before. She had gotten home at one. Florean let them stay after closing, and then they just wandered around the Village for hours.
"Good morning, Lily," said Bethany cheerfully, walking into her chambers.
"Hey, Bethany," she said, yawning. She accepted the coffee Bethany handed her. "Thanks."
"No problem. You look fabulous, but I want Jac to do a quick hairstyle, all right?"
"Why?" she asked, confused. "I'm just going out with Sirius." She wasn't sure if Bethany knew what they were doing-Lily still didn't know what they were doing, after all.
"Yes," Bethany said carefully. "I... am aware. Jac," she called over her shoulder, "the princess is ready."
"Princesse Lily!" Jacques cried, entering her chambers immediately. "So lovely to see you again." He kissed her on both cheeks. "Let's see what we have to work with today, oui?"
Half an hour later, Lily was downstairs and nearly ready to go. She was standing in the main foyer, waiting for Sirius. "Don't worry," said Bethany for the millionth time, uncharacteristically anxious.
"I'm not worrying as much as you are," Lily said. "What's wrong?"
Bethany pursed her lips. "Nothing. Just... be careful. Okay? And you don't have to do anything you don't want to. Understand?"
"No, Lily. It's imperative you understand." She looked at her with pleading eyes.
"I," said Lily, rather shocked, "I understand, yes."
Bethany nodded and looked away.
What was with her? Bethany was normally so upbeat and cheerful and so prepared. Lily had never seen her uncertain before.
Just as she opened her mouth to ask her what was wrong, she heard someone from behind her say, "And for heaven's sake, Regulus, don't-ah."
Lily turned. It was Lucius Malfoy, standing with a sickly-looking Regulus.
"Regulus," she said, ignoring Lucius' presence entirely, as she had learned to do whenever she encountered him. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," he said, too quickly.
She narrowed her eyes. She had noticed Regulus always looked ill whenever he met... certain members of Slytherin.
"Princess," Lucius said to her in his oily voice.
"Duke," she said, but she could not make her voice sound as cold as his. She wasn't too sure what he had against her, but she knew it was there.
Then Lucius said, in the iciest voice she had heard, "Benjamin."
Lily turned to see whom he was talking to, but there was no one there, only herself and Bethany.
"Lucius," Regulus said in a soft voice, "you know it's Bethany now."
Lily blinked. She glanced at Bethany, who had gone pale, and then at Lucius. "You know what, Lucius," she said, trying to keep her voice under control, "why don't you just-"
"Careful, Lily," Sirius said, walking in, "he's bugged, you know."
"I want people to hear this!"
"I know," he said, "that's why you need to be careful not to keep your voice too low. It's like this." Sirius seized Lucius by his collar and pulled him towards him, making him gasp, and said, nearly shouting, "THIS IS SIRIUS BLACK-REPORTING-THAT LUCIUS MALFOY-IS-LITERAL-TRASH." He pushed him back forcefully.
"You-assaulted me!" Lucius sputtered, unkempt for the first time.
"So? You're not a good person," said Sirius. "Plus, we're in my house," he added, as if this settled the matter. "Lily, Bethany, shall we?" And he lead them out.
"So where exactly are we going?" Lily asked Sirius fifteen minutes after they said goodbye to Bethany.
"We'll be meeting him at small place in Hogsmeade," Sirius said. "But I don't think you've ever been there before."
"Right... and who's 'him', exactly?"
Sirius hesitated. "Doctor Dumbledore," he said. "I know him from school. My old headmaster."
"The school all the royals and nobles go to," Lily said.
"Okay. Can you tell me what he's going to talk to me about?"
"Er... I don't know. I'd rather just let him do it. You'll be sitting with him alone," Sirius added, "but don't worry. It's safe."
"I wasn't really worried until you said that," Lily said.
"Right, well, pretend I didn't said that. Say that, I mean."
"You and Bethany are so anxious today," Lily said, "and even Regulus looked ill. What's with you three?"
"Nothing. What happened to Reg?"
"You haven't noticed how he looks off after seeing Lucius and Alecto and Amycus and...others?" She left out Severus.
Sirius frowned. "No, I haven't," he said. "I should pay more attention. Hmm..."
"Nothing, nothing. Just... it's a good thing, I think."
"Good that Regulus is ill?"
"Good that they make him sick," he said. "It means there's hope for him yet."
Lily said, "Hope for what?" even though she knew what he'd answer.
"I guess you'll know after today."
A little while later, Lily was sitting in a very odd restaurant in an area of Hogsmeade she had never been in. It was called the Hog's Head, which she supposed was a name that made more sense than the other places, but it did not seem to match the aesthetic of the village. It was so... dirty. And empty. Hogsmeade was normally so full of life, so bustling. This place looked to be completely coated in a layer of dust, the floor, the tables, the pictures on the wall, all of it. Everything looked faded, as if someone had drawn up the whole of Hogsmeade and half-heartedly erased this section.
The only other person inside was the bar man, who kept looking at her suspiciously. She had not ordered anything, but Lily had the strangest feeling that was not what had surprised him about her.
A bell did not go off when the door opened, and the person who entered walked in so quietly, Lily would not have noticed if he had not called her name.
"Princess Lily," he said in a quiet voice. Lily turned around to face him and stood up.
"Doctor Dumbledore," she said, stretching out her arm to shake his hand. "It's, er, an honour."
Lily wasn't sure why she said that. Or why she stood up. But the doctor looked so... in charge?
He was an old white man, and normally Lily would be wary of the type, but there was something about this man's long braided beard, his twinkling blue eyes, his shiny purple suit, and his warm smile that made her like him immediately.
"I would like first," he said, sitting down across from her, "to tell you how thrilled I am you found your brothers. Are you adjusting well to life at Slytherin Palace?"
"Yeah," she said, nodding. "I mean, yes, I am. Sirius and Regulus are a big help. Bethany, too, Bethany Bulstrode, she's our... manager, I think. Oh, and James, too. You know James, don't you?"
"I do know James," he said, smiling. "I'm very glad to hear that you're finding yourself at home. How are things with your mother and sister?"
"Things with my mother are great," she said. "My sister's, er, a little... surprised, at all this. But we're fine too."
Doctor Dumbledore seemed to know she was lying, but he did not press the matter, only smiled again. "Did Sirius tell you why I wanted to meet you?"
"No," she said. "I mean, he hinted a bit, but... no. Not really."
Doctor Dumbledore nodded thoughtfully. "Lily," he said, "have you ever heard of a man named Tom Riddle?"
"Er, no," she said, running through history books and pop culture in her mind. "Should I have?"
"He would very much like you to eventually, but as of now he is keeping himself out of the public eye. Have you heard of royal elitism, Lily?"
"Yeah, of course," Lily said.
"Do you know how it started?"
"Well... I mean, does anyone? It's just something that always has been, since there were royals. A form of racism and classism and other-isms."
"Correct," he said, "but do you know who made it more... popular?"
"Er, yeah," Lily said, a bit of shame in her voice, "Slytherin. The original Slytherin."
"Not your fault, Lily," he said, smiling at her again. "After all, you grew up far away from all this. No one seeks to blame you. If anything...
"Now, royal elitism is not limited to people feeling superior. It can have a very real and dangerous effect on British citizens, later Commonwealth citizens, and, in turn, the world. There is an alliance attempting to stop this. Do you understand up until this point?"
"Yes," she said. It sounded simple enough. Nothing she hadn't figured out on her own.
"We do... quite a lot, Lily. Tom Riddle has eyes and ears everywhere. You might have wondered why I asked a lovely young woman to spend a beautiful summer day in such a drab restaurant, no offence to you, good sir," he added to the barman, who hadn't heard him, "but that is why. Anywhere else, he might have been listening."
"Okay," Lily said, nervous suddenly.
"You did not grow up with the members of Slytherin House, Lily," he said. "They don't know you. They think they know your type, but they are curious. You can use that to your advantage-our advantage."
"Are you asking me to spy on my cousins?" Lily asked, taken aback slightly.
"Precisely," he said with a sharp nod.
Lily blinked. It seemed important... and dangerous. Did she know enough about this to make a decision? He seemed reluctant to tell her anything, and Lily guessed he wouldn't until she pledged her allegiance to him.
But James trusted him, didn't he?
"I can do whatever you need," she said firmly.
Doctor Dumbledore grinned broadly. "Excellent," he said. He passed her something that looked rather like an iPhone. "Our next meeting is in Scotland in three days. Until then, Princess," he said, rising. He extended his hand first, this time, and Lily shook it.
With one last smile, he left the Hog's Head, leaving behind only the faintest smell of lemon sweets.
Lily looked at the barman, who gave no impression he saw Dumbledore come in or leave.
She pressed the button on the phone. The dark screen turned white, and a tiny gold bird appeared in the middle, where the black apple on her phone would be.
Underneath, it read: Welcome to the Order of the Phoenix, Princess Lily.
A/N: I'd appreciate a review, if you've got the time! Especially if you're a trans reader! Oudeteron is a trans man and he said how I (re)introduced Bethany here was fine, but I'd like to know what you think!