Chapter 36 part 2

There was far too much to do in this ending to keep it in one chapter, so I split it up to give it the space I thought it needed! Please let me know what you think of this ending in the reviews section. This story, in its way, means a lot to me and I would appreciate the comments - good or bad. Thanks for sticking through!

Lily Evans had never seen the Shrieking Shack so close in the dark. Yes, she remembered that time she had nearly kissed James in there, but that was during the day. At night, she could see why the villagers of Hogsmeade genuinely believed that it was haunted. Not only was falling apart, but it also looked like where a psychotic murder resided during the breaks between his murder sprees. It could've come right out of a Grimm's Fairytale.

"Fucking Hell," Marlene McKinnon gulped. She planted her feet further into the ground. "The Shack is where Remus stays during the Full Moons?"

Max McKinnon nodded, but wasn't really paying attention to his younger sister. His focus remained on finding Dorcas Meadowes, but he felt lost. His telepathic link to the student kept shifting. "She's supposed to be here," he said shortly. "She's supposed to be here."

Marlene scoffed shakily. "Well, she isn't-" her rude comment was silenced by a loud howl. It made the three of them freeze in their tracks. Once the terrible noise faded, Marlene added in a hushed voice, "Is that him?"

"Who else would it be?" Lily asked, trying to keep the mood light.

"I shouldn't have brought you two," Max said quietly. He motioned for them to follow him deeper into the woods.

"May I remind you, Brother, that we brought you here," Marlene spat.

"And I should've locked you in my office," Max replied. "I'm going to get fired."

As they moved timidly through the forest, the night returned to a quiet state. Not even the wind rustled against the leaves. For just a second, Lily considered this night to be her last night on Earth. She imagined a large wolf attacking her, ripping her to shreds and killing her. Or even worse, biting her without killing her. And even worse, the wolf would turn into her dear friend at sunrise. She banished the thoughts before they could make her shiver anymore. And she nearly jumped out of her skin when a warm human hand grabbed at her shoulder. It was a firm hand that spun her around.

"Bloody Hell, Evans, I told you to meet me by the Whomping Willow," James Potter snapped, trying to keep his voice quiet. He ruffled his hair anxiously before pulling his wand out. "You nearly gave me angina."

Once she calmed her erratic breath, Lily smiled at the boy. She wouldn't admit that she was rather amused by James' genuine concern, but this was the most inappropriate place for such a confession. In her gentlest voice, she explained, "Max had a link to Dorcas, and I didn't want him to lose it." She smiled before saying, "Sorry. How did you find us anyway?"

"None of you were on the Map," he said, patting at the folded parchment in his breast pocket. He saw his two cousins and said, "Thanks for coming out."

"Thank us after we make sure Remus doesn't kill and or turn Dorcas, or any of us for that matter," Marlene quipped. Her sharp tone was even nastier than usual, which was a clear sign that the blond was terrified.

"She's close," Max said quietly, still scanning their dark surroundings. "And she's scared…. Hm, that's interesting though."

"What is?" His younger sister asked.

"There are other minds out here," Max murmured, tilting his head a bit. "Some are a bit foggy, some are distant, and some are… wow, I've never felt this before."

"Remus?" James asked.

"Probably. It's like listening to an entirely foreign language. Like animals."

And on cue, there was a long and resonating howl coming from the north. It was so intense that the leaves shook in response. The four friends immediately stopped, as if praying that it would prevent the beast from seeing them. As if he were a T-Rex instead of a Werewolf.

"This way," Max whispered, following the noise.

James and Lily followed closely behind with Marlene in the back. She was about to comment on the hypocrisy of trailing a lycanthrope, but knew better of it. She instead chose to calm herself down by humming Stevie Wonder's Superstition. She only stopped when she heard the howl again and accompanying feet.

"That's more than one animal," Marlene said, grabbing onto James' arm.

"There she is!" Max called out in the front. He ran forward to Dorcas, who was still wrapped around a tree. She had one hand freed and the other caught onto some thick rope. Her free hand was red and tender, with blood dripping from the side of her wrist. "Holy shit, Dorcas, are you all right?" He immediately began helping Dorcas remove the ropes.

"You shouldn't be here," she said, staring up at them with wide eyes. It looked like she was talking to ghosts, not her friends. "Remus is out here!"

"We know," Lily said, helping with the untying process. "But, we also knew you were missing."

"It's more complicated than you think," the brunette insisted. "Seriously, you lot shouldn't be here."

"Who brought you out here?" James asked. He kept a viligant eye out for any bystanders or animals.

"Rosier brought me out here. I woke up tied to this tree, and then Mulciber and Parkinson came out here too," Dorcas explained. She took a deep breath before adding, "They were dressed in Death Eater cloaks."

"Fucking Hell," Marlene grumbled.

Once the ropes were off, Max helped Dorcas stand up. "Did you see where they went?" He asked.

"No, but they drank some weird potion. For some reason, I think it masks their scent from Remus."

"Weird, I've never heard of it. Either way, we need to get you out of here," Max insisted. "And the rest of you lot too."

"I need to do something," James said, backing away from the group.

"You need to bring your skinny arse back to the castle, James, and I fucking mean that. Let's go."

"I've got to help Remus," he insisted, his voice getting firmer.

"And how the fuck are you going to do that? It's not a fucking hippogriff - it's a bloody werewolf. And he ain't Remus either. That side of him is gone until the night's up-"

Dorcas let out a painful scream. She immediately tried to soften it by pressing the back of her hand into her mouth. Her other hand was clutching her head before slapping it against her forehead. The sight was horrifying, so much so that Marlene gasped at Dorcas' extreme movements. Max took her into his chest, trying to muffle her scream further.

"What's wrong?" Lily asked, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder.

"He's, He's, oh my god," moaned Dorcas, rubbing her temples. "It's true, all of it."

"What is?" Marlene asked.

"Voldemort, he's my…" she couldn't finish her sentence. It was too raw, like an open wound. But, she also had a hard time completing her thought when she saw something in the distance. Her eyes widened.

The rest of the lot followed her gaze, following it directly behind Max McKinnon. The trees rustled as if a great gust of wind occurred. The ground rumbled, and in the distance, you could see two figures running. One was large and standing on its hind legs. The other was significantly smaller, but quicker. They were coming in close.

"Get up," James insisted, grabbing Lily by the wrist to stand up. Max did the same with Dorcas. "Go, move!"

The five friends scrambled over their feet and began jog away quietly. The large of the figures running slowed its pace. Its head moved back and forth in different directions, sniffing the air. It stopped as it glared in their direction.

The smaller creature stopped running and began to bark wildly at the predator. It was egging the Wolf on.

"The hell is going on," Marlene muttered, pulling at her cousin's sleeve. She would never categorize Remus Lupin as ugly until now. She bit the inside of her cheek so hard that she nearly broke skin.

The Wolf hunched down and sprinted at the group. It moved faster than a broomstick, with its limbs stretched out and barely grazing the ground. The smaller animal, which was a the black dog, also followed after it.

"Run!" shouted James. "Go, go!" He demanded, pushing Marlene and Lily to follow Max and Dorcas. Instead of following his human friends, he turned and bolted for the Wolf.

"James!" Both of them yelled. Lily was about to run after him, but Marlene pulled her back. "Are you fucking mental!" Marlene asked.

"No, but he is!" shouted Lily. "Come back here, Potter!"

"Just go!" James shouted back without looking back. James and the beast were no more than a few meters a part. The animal let out a ferocious growl and snapped his teeth, prepping himself for his oncoming prey.

"POTTER!" Lily shouted as Marlene had to move her back physically. The blonde moved her friend closer to Max and a huddled Dorcas, who looked like a trauma patient at St. Mungo's. Marlene was in tears as she watched her cousin run towards the beast. She knew it was just a distraction, but how much could he do? He was just a seventeen year old boy.

Well, James Potter could do a lot.

When James was close enough to the beast, he bent his knees down into a deep lunge. He sprung into the air, getting more air than anyone could've expected, and while he flew, something incredible happened.

"Fucking Hell," Lily breathed as she watched her current snog-buddy's body contort into something else entirely. He grew fur, a snout, and antlers seamlessly, as if he were changing into his Quidditch uniform. As the transfiguration completed, the Stag's hind legs shifted forward, kicking the Wolf right in the snout. The lycanthrope whimpered as it fell to the floor.

Marlene's mouth blubbered like a fish out of water. She tried to form words, and luckily, Lily made them audible. "Animagi." The ginger said the term as if it solved millions of unsolved questions.

Max was the only one calm (enough) to concentrate on the larger issues at hand. "They may be animagis but we are not," he said, pulling on his sister's arm. "Get yourself up and move. We don't know how long they'll be able to distract Remus."

"We can't just leave them, Max," Marlene said softly.

"Yes, we can," her brother encouraged. "James can take care of himself. I have a feeling that dog isn't just a Black-haired mutt either. We have to trust them."

Marlene protested her brother, while Lily just stared in shock. She watched as the Stag and the Dog beat the Wolf into submission. They were doing an adequate job of taming the beast, until the Wolf shoved a lanky arm into the Dog's side, pushing the smaller animal into the side of a tree. Lily jerked in response, and without hesitation, Lily jumped into action.

However attention called elsewhere.

"Not so fast, Blood Traitors… and Mudblood," Evan Rosier said, in a subpar menacing voice. His burly frame appeared from behind a large tree with Mulciber at his side. Their wands were at the ready, and their affiliation for the Dark Lord was clear. Their masks covered their faces and muffled their words.

Lily had her wand in her hand already, ready to help the Dog. Mulciber pointed his wand at her and said in a short voice, "Don't do anything stupid, Evans."

"The only thing that's stupid is daring to threaten a Professor," Lily countered. "You'll be expelled."

"I welcome expulsion if it means serving the Dark Lord," Mulciber hissed.

Max stepped forward with his hands in front of him, as if he were surrendering himself to the two students. "Boys, this does not have to happen," he said in his calmest voice.

"She must die!" Rosier shouted, pointing his wand directly at a curled-up Dorcas. He looked at Dorcas as if she were a cockroach. "She threatens the throne of the Dark Lord."

"Just because she's Nagut's heir?" Marlene asked. "You lot need to get over this! Just because she's some psychopath's offspring doesn't mean anything. Dorcas was raised by muggles!"

Rosier let out a bark of a laugh. "She's more than that," laughed Rosier. "She's his-"

Before Rosier had a time to finish his explanation, he fell to the ground by a stream of blue light. He lay limp on the ground, groaning in pain. The small girl was surprisingly quick for someone who had just been kidnapped. She had Max's wand in her hand and a look on her face that meant pure rage. "I am nothing of his," Dorcas said in a lethal tone.

Mulciber was quick to retaliate and aimed a curse directly towards Lily, who dodged it artfully by jumping out of the way. Marlene pulled out her wand and threw a stupefying curse in Mulciber's direction, but missed just by a hair.

Max grabbed his wand out of Dorcas' hand and spun her around. "You have to get out of here," he pleaded. "They're after you, Doe."

Dorcas looked up to her mentor, tired and confused. She considered moving for a moment, but before she could make a decision, Max was on his back after being hit with a stunning spell. He lay motionless on the ground. Dorcas called out his name, bending down to wake him up. She looked up to see the attacker, Parkinson.

"Meadowes, the Dark Lord will always be coming for you," Parkinson explained in a cool tone. Although he seemed calm, he still had his wand pointing directly at her face. "He won't give up. So why not just end this now?"

Dorcas stayed down while Marlene dueled Mulciber, and while Lily dueled Rosier. Her gaze shifted to the three shifters using their bodies instead of magic. If she gave up, they'd be safe from the Usupers – a trio willing to utilize the evilest magic.

But saving them from the Usupers wouldn't save anyone from Remus.

"If Voldemort wants me dead so badly," Dorcas said, standing slowly, sliding Max's wand out of his hand, "he'll have to do it himself." She whisked the wand, producing a bombarding curse the Prefect's way. He dodged swiftly, just tilting to the side. The bang was loud, and the effect was large enough to put Mulciber and Marlene on the ground.

In the chaos, Parkinson sent a quick and stealthy curse at Dorcas. The light at the tip of his wand was a tawny brown color and hit Dorcas' wrists, turning to rope. Dorcas' wrists were already sore and tired of rubbing from earlier. Despite her fear, she still threatened, "I will break your jaw if you touch any of them."

Parkinson just scoffed as he turned around and petrified Marlene, who was crawling towards her wand. Dorcas almost screamed at the sight. "I can't waste pureblood, not even from a blood traitor. Evans, however…"

Lily, too preoccupied with Rosier's assault of spells, did not see Parkinson whipping up something nasty. Despite wandless, Dorcas did not hesitate to run and body slam Parkinson into the ground, just in the nick of time. His spell hit the adjacent tree instead of Lily. Somehow Dorcas managed straddle over Parkinson's back, and she hit me swiftly in the back of the head. It didn't stop him, but it was enough for Dorcas to reach for his wand. She struggled with the rope, and in that time, Mulciber grabbed her by the hair.

"First, your mudblood friend will die," Mulciber whispered into Dorcas' ear as she struggled. "Then, your boyfriend will rip you to shreds. It's a good night to be alive, innit, Meadowes?"

Dorcas used the force of both of her arms to elbow Mulciber in the gut. It was a good hit, but not enough to make him let go. By this time, Parkinson was already making his way up to his feet. His perfectly slicked hair was now dishelved, strays of his dark hair askew, and there was light droplets of blood dripping from the base of his head. Murder was at his fingertips.

Dorcas watched carefully as he raised his wand, hoping that her facial expression did not change. She didn't want to give him the satisfaction. He turned away from and aimed it swiftly at the Dog's legs. A bluish light hit the dog, causing him to howl in pain. It was a terrible high-pitched noise before it stopped for good. The dog was no more, but Sirius Black lay on the ground – knocked unconscious. The Stag, distracted by his friend's state, got the next hit from Parkinson, causing the animal to stagger until it fell to the ground. When the stag turned back into James Potter, the teenager had bleeding cuts along his body, like his entire body had been through a paper cuter.

"James!" Lily shouted. She held back whatever fear she had and turned it into raw power. She casted one last curse at Rosier, putting the large boy onto his back. She ran over to a limp James, but immediately stopped at the sight of the Wolf approaching her.

"Get back, Lily!" James shouted, trying his hardest to stand up.

Parkinson let out a deep sigh of relief. "I've been waiting for this moment for a very long time."

"This has nothing to do with her," Dorcas said, her voice becoming a pleading sound that she hardly recognized. "Leave them out this, Parkinson!"

The Wolf let out a vicious snarl at the sight of Lily. The saliva drooled from his mouth, and the beast smelt of death. Lily tried backing away slowly, but she was now too visible, too clearly the prey in this hunt. Her mind, due to the adrenaline pumping through her brain, began to race.

She was going to die. She was going to die a virgin. Motherfucker. Well, then she should die for a cause, right? What can she do in her final moments to make this whole moment suck less?

Lily turned around on her heel without a second thought and aimed her wand at Parkinson. "Bombarda!" She shouted, pushing the Slytherin to the ground

In this moment, things moved quickly. Dorcas elbowed Mulciber in the groin and grabbed his wand, petrifying him just before he could kick her. The Wolf ran towards Lily, causing her to bolt faster than a snitch.

"Lily!" She heard James call out. The ginger had no time to call back after him, saying that she would be okay. She was too out of breath for such romantic nonsense (even though she wanted to desparetly). She only stopped running when the Wolf let out a yelp. She finally turned her head around to see the Wolf limping after being hit with a blue light.

Dorcas, still bound with rope, held onto Mulciber's fat wand. She was bending over, clearly exhausted from the kidnapping ordeal, but still had the face of a warrior. Her eyebrows were furrowed, and her blue eyes were lit with ferocity.

"Dorcas," Lily breathed.

James had finally gotten himself up and held himself against a tree. "Meadowes, get the fuck out of here." When he realized that the brunette had no intentions of running, he muttered, "psychotic bitch" under his breath. His gaze turned towards Lily, who was equally terrified, and was making her way over to him slowly.

"Remus," Dorcas said, in her calmest voice. Despite sounding tranquil, Lily and James noticed her shaking hands. "I know you are in there. I know it's still you."

The Wolf snarled.

"It's me. It's Dorcas."

Another snarl.

"She's barking mad," Lily said quietly once she got to James. She put one of his large arms over her shoulders to support his weight, but didn't look at him. James couldn't blame her because they were about to watch their friend die. But, he was thankful, in a way, that it was not Lily in Dorcas' place.

"And I know you would never hurt me, Remus. I know this because you care about me. And I care about you."

It sounded oddly like a confession but neither James or Lily said anything.

Dorcas took another deep breath before saying, "So, pull your fucking shit together and leave this spot before you kill us."

The Wolf, just for a glimpse of a moment, looked like Remus Lupin. The expression softened from anger to guilt and confusion. Remus saw Dorcas, but it didn't last long before the Wolf let out another outrageous howl. He ran at Dorcas, who tried to conjure another stupefy curse, but did not have the time or energy. She dropped the wand and ran, but did not make it far before the beast slashed at her back.

"DORCAS!" the two gryffindors shouted.

Lily slithered out of James' side, in an attempt to run to help her friend, but James pulled her back. "She's going to die, James!" Lily shouted, tears now running down her face.

"And so will you!" shouted James, "and I'm not letting that happen!"

Lily tried to rip her wrist away from James' grasp, but she couldn't. Not with her feelings taking over her strength. She just turned back to watch as the Wolf lingered over Dorcas' limp body. It sniffed her before licking its front teeth. He moved back, preparing himself to dive into its prey.

"Oh, God," Lily cried.

Just moments before the Wolf prepared itself to taste human flesh, it was put on its back by two lightening spells. It pushed the Wolf back against the trees as Dorcas Meadowes shifted her weight onto her knees. The Wolf let out a nasty yelp as it slid down the tree

Professor Dumbledore waved his wand, using large circular motions, before casting a soft blue rain from the sky. The rain was intentional though, and it only landed around the Wolf. Once the rain stopped falling, it created a transparent dome over the Wolf. The beast tried to pound its body against the shield, but it did not work.

While Professor Dumbledore worked, Professor McGonagall and Rubeus Hagrid helped Dorcas sit up. Behind them were Professor Slughorn and Mr. Filch, both holding two different colored potions: a murky gray potion and a soft lavender one.

"You all were very lucky tonight," McGonagall said without looking at any of the beaten students. She took the gray vile from Slughorn's shaking hands. "You ought to thank Miss Kim and Miss MacDonald for getting to us so quickly. You could've been killed. Or turned for that matter."

"It wasn't our fault," James said. He wanted to raise his voice and point to his opponents, but his body was too weak.

Professor McGonagall had heard that excuse before and was tired of it. She had a good counterargument but stopped when Dumbledore put up a hand. He was watching the Beast thrash, pace, and howl. "It is a long night, Minerva," he said quietly, then looking at an unconscious Rosier and Mulciber. "It's best we let Mr. Potter and Miss Evans rest."

"Yes, Professor," McGonagall said, regarding her tired students. "I'll bring you two back to the Tower. Hagrid, you'll take care of the two unconscious ones? Bring them to the Hospital Wing? Horace, please wake the McKinnon siblings."

"Yes, of course," agreed Professor Slughorn. "Undoing petrification was always my specialty in terms of charms. Did you know that I won an award for my timely approach in Salem back in '59…"

No one listened to Slughorn ramble, but no one stopped him either. Who could blame him for his anxious need to divert the topic of conversation? Three of his students abducted their peer and tortured her with intentions of sacrificing her to the Dark Lord.

"Make sure Poppy puts restraint charms on Mulciber and Rosier, Hagrid, We have already sent word to the Ministry, and they should be here within the hour." Professor McGonagall said as she bent down beside a quiet Dorcas. "This will sting, Meadowes."

"It's fine," Dorcas said, deadpanned. The potion poured onto her wounds created a sizzling noise that made Lily cringe. However, Dorcas didn't flinch, she just stared at her hands, which were the only support she had from falling back down onto the ground. Her back was bare and covered with drying blood. The scratches that the Wolf left on her were deep, but luckily short enough not to have hit Dorcas' spinal cord. It was centered more towards her right, and it was in a diagonal motion.

"Mr. Potter, Miss Evans," Dumbledore said as he approached his students. "You did a very brave thing coming out here to find Miss Meadowes."

"She's our friend," Lily said quietly.

"She is," the Professor said with a smile. It wasn't a happy one, but one that helped the Headmaster express himself in ways words could not. It was one of guilt.

"It wasn't just Mulciber and Rosier though," James said, determined. "Parkinson was here too."

"Parkinson?" Slughorn said after undoing Marlene's petrification spell. "Oh, Merlin's beard!"

Marlene gasped deeply for air and immediately backed away from her Professor and towards a tree. Her eyes darted from side-to-side before Professor Slughorn announced, in a gentle grandfather-like voice, "It is over, Miss McKinnon."

She gulped, "Right. I just need a minute, aye? Is my brother alright? Sirius?"

"Max will need the Hospital Wing," Professor Dumbledore explained over the sizzling noise of the potion on Dorcas' back. The young witch was taking the healing very well, because it sounded ruddy awful. "Sirius is a bit beaten, but he should be fine. He'll need a night's recovery, that's all."

"And perhaps a liver donation," McGonagall muttered under her breath.

"Good," Marlene said in a short, yet clear voice. She stood up from her position against the base of the tree gingerly. One hand held herself up. "I'll kill Parkinson, no offense, Professor."

"I will send a search party for Parkinson immediately," Professor Dumbledore said.

"Get Aurors," James insisted. "Or the Hit Wizards!"

"I will, but I must ensure that all of us get back to the castle promptly. You and Miss Evans will return to the Tower while Miss Meadowes recuperates in the Hospital Wing where she and I will have a private discussion-"

"I'm not going anywhere with you," Dorcas said firmly.

"Miss Meadowes, this is the Headmaster you are speaking to," Professor Slughorn said, mildly outraged to have a student sound so disrespectful.

"I don't care," Dorcas said as she looked to Dumbledore. There were tears in her eyes, but they did not fall. "You lied to me."

"Dorcas, this might not be the time for such a discussion," Dumbledore said softly, as if he were trying to apologize.

"When will be the right time? The next time I'm abducted by his followers? Or one of my friends gets murdered because of me?" She countered. There was no inflection in her tone, but her voice was sharp and clear, like a sword.

"Do you want to do this in company?" He said, motioning towards James, Lily and Marlene. The three students stared wildly, like deer in headlights.

"They're my friends," Dorcas said shortly. "If you have something to say, you can say it in front of them. I'm tired of being lied to, and I want the truth right now."

"And you will get the truth," Dumbledore agreed. He motioned for Mr. Filch and Hagrid – the caretaker put Sirius in a wheelbarrow while the Keeper of Keys lifted the two unconscious Slytherin students. "You need rest before you absorb this information."

Dorcas' jaw locked visibly. She stood up, wobbling and looked like she was about to punch a tree or anything within her sight. After a moment of mental meditation, she asked, "Do I at least get to smoke on the way there?" She asked, pulling out her cigarette tin.

Marlene and Lily tried their best not to guffaw at the blunt question. James couldn't help but say aloud, "Can I have one?"

Dorcas threw him her tin after she picked out her own. She lit it without getting permission from the professors, but it seemed as if they did not care. She began walking, very slowly, back towards the castle. Dumbledore was not far behind her.

"Professor Dumbledore?" Lily called out.

"Yes, Miss Evans?" He asked, turning around to face his student.

"What will happen to… him?" She asked, jerking her head in the direction of the thrashing beast. In the corner of her eye, she noticed that Dorcas stopped walking but did not turn around.

"The defense charm only lasts until the sunrise," he explained. "When Remus is once again Remus, the charm will lift and I will attend to him then."

"It wasn't the full moon though," Lily said, as if it were a question. "How will you know if he will return to his normal form by night."

"The Potion used on Mr. Lupin has very intense but short-lasting effects. It is often called the New Moon potion, and it is very illegal. I will devote much of my time to figuring out which student mixed it. But first, I must attend to Miss Meadowes." The old professor walked away, following several footsteps behind Dorcas' smoke cloud.

Marlene stood up and brushed herself off. She looked at Professor Slughorn appraisingly and asked charmingly, "Do you have anything that could possibly help pain relief? Like something that could help me to sleep? I just went through a lot, Professor."

"I don't know if it's proper for me to administer medicinal potions to students, Miss McKinnon," Professor Slughorn said hesitatntly.

"Professor," Marlene said, in her best spokeswoman voice, "this night may go down in Hogwarts history. I want to remember the night accurately, and I want to be able to remember which professor un-petrified me so aptly."

Professor Slughorn rubbed his chin and let out a long hmmm, before McGonagall glared at him. She then moved over to James and Lily who were trying to figure out a decent walking pattern.

"Would you like help walking, Potter?" McGonagall offered kindly. "Or will Miss Evans do more than fine?"

James looked down at Lily. She had a bit of dirt smeared on her face and clothes, and her red hair was a tangled mess, but she still had something that made her glow about her.

"She does more than fine, Professor," James smirked.

"I will let go of you when you least expect it, Potter," Lily countered shortly.

"All right, you two," Professor McGonagall sighed, already irritated by their incessant bickering. "Go, just go." She turned towards Marlene, who was still trying to cajole her potions professor high-quality potions.

When they were out of listening range from their professors, Lily looked up at James. He was trying to figure out how to light his cigarette, with only one usable hand. "So, you're an animagi."

"I'd prefer if you never repeat that out loud," James said, once he finally lit the thing. He slid his wand back into his pocket.

Lily nodded. Her mouth shifted before saying, "It takes wizards years to master that skill."

"It took me three," he explained, letting out some smoke. He probably felt very cool in this moment. "Sirius and I spent most of our vacations and study hours figuring out the mechanics, but we managed. All bits in tact and whatnot, wouldn't you agree?"

Lily ignored the innuendo and said, rather drably, "They'll expel if they ever find out."

"So, again, never aloud would be highly appreciated."

"I won't," Lily promised with a nod. "But…"

"But what?"

"A stag, James?" She asked, slightly in disbelief. "I mean, seriously?"

"Lily, I'm king of the bloody forest."

"King of the idiots."

"Being King of anything is fine with me, thank you."

"Well as long as you're not King of Lung Cancer," Lily smirked before snatching his cigarette and tossing it on the ground. James' gasp was inaudible underneath the crushing noise of the grass.

"Dorcas rarely shares her cigarettes! That's cold, Evans. Even for you."

Lily smirked before pressing a sweet kiss the line of his jaw and smiled, "Love, don't I know."

A/N - There's going to be short epilogue, but that's pretty much it! Thanks again for sticking through with me. It's been a long project for me, and I thank all of the followers for encouraging me to push on! I will be writing a sequel, but it will be significantly shorter. I never expected this fic to be this long honestly! Let me know what you think! And thank you again everyone!