The characters are the property of she-who-must-not-be-named who I am incredibly saddened by and so disappointed by. I continue to write for this fandom in the knowledge that Harry Potter books are problematic in some ways but I try to be very mindful of any prejudices in them and to actively write in a way that recognises and respects difference and please call me out if you notice anything in that vein at any stage!

Lily Evans stood leaning against the wall of the alcove, gazing at the peaceful scene below. The grounds of Hogwarts lay shrouded in early morning mist, the faint outline of the highlands in the distance blurred purple and blue, like a faded watercolour print. Not a single soul was outside, the silence broken by the far-off cries of the peregrine which circled the great lake, majestic and alone. Lily sighed quietly, it was the last day of the school year, and soon the place would be crawling with excited students, grabbing a hasty breakfast in the Great Hall, shoving and racing to get all their belongings down to the train station, ready for the long summer holidays.

If she was honest, unlike most people, she dreaded the summer months. Sometimes she felt like she never really belonged anywhere. To purebloods she was their muggle friend talking about incomprehensible exotic contraptions like television, cinema, dishwashers. To her parents she was the exotic witch, talking about the school House system, wands, flying lessons. They all saw her as "other". Only the muggle-born students could fully appreciate what this felt like. She had feared being ostracised for her blood status, that nobody would befriend her, when she first came to Hogwarts. She now realised this anxiety had seeped into her subconsciously, like a toxic osmosis from the way Severus had spoken about her parents being muggles. He had made it sound like an embarrassing contagious condition, something carrying a lot of stigma. He made her feel like she should be grateful to him, that he was doing her a favour and putting his own reputation on the line by agreeing to hang out with her. As inconspicuously as possible, meeting her in a corner of the library, or a quiet classroom or behind the hedge in the field. Never in full view of his housemates.

This anxiety had long since evaporated, alongside her deference and high regard of Severus. She was a popular and happy student now, as well as an extraordinarily gifted witch (according to the end of year school report she clutched in her hand). Her group of friends meant the world to her- Mary Mac Donald, Emmeline Vance and Dorcas Meadows. They loved her fiercely and she smiled absently remembering all the funny moments they had shared this year. She felt much closer to Mary and the girls following their support this year, and she knew so many more people in Gryffindor now. Being friends with Severus had made her feel separate from her house peers, had kept her more isolated (was that chance or was it intentional on his part, she mused). And she loved learning magic, she never tired of it. But there was an added reason she was dreading this summer more than usual. Her face became pensive and a small frown appeared as she recalled the incident near the lake where she had finally come to her senses and realised that her friendship with Severus was truly over. How could she have been so blind to his bigoted, pureblood fanaticism? He had tried to hide the extent of it when he was with her, somehow intimating that as she was such a gifted witch it didn't matter that she was a muggle born (but to hell with everyone else, she thought darkly). It was only when he had spat out the word, mudblood, with such venom and disgust that it had finally hit her.

Her friends were delighted that Severus was no longer Lily's friend, they had never liked him, the thin boy with the supercilious gaze, dark eyes and greasy hair, a loner for most of their early years in Hogwarts. They had rolled their eyes at Lily when she insisted he wasn't all bad, made excuses for his behaviour.

"Merlin Lily, he's now hanging around with the Averys, Mulciber, Wilkes… they're practically mini-Death Eaters, you can't possibly still defend him?" Dorcas had snorted derisively.

"Yeah I know, it's just… he's not all bad you know, there is a good side to Sev, I've seen it in him. Used to see it. Now… he's been getting more militant. The ideas he supports are… inexcusable," she had finally replied.

"Well if there is a good side to him, it's buried so deep down it's practically smothered by now!" Mary had said cheerfully. "I'm so glad you ditched him as a friend, he's a weirdo. Seriously Lily, you're too bloody kind, seeing the good in others where it's clearly absent!"

"Here, here! Let's drink to Lily moving on from her Slytherin Slimeball!" Emmeline had grinned at her.

She wouldn't be meeting up with Severus this summer, that was certain. Her sister Petunia considered her a freak, and Lily was constantly reminded what an embarrassment she was, and not allowed to meet any of Petunia's friends. She planned on spending most of the summer reading in the park, apart from the Evans summer holiday to the west of Ireland by ferry- that was something to look forward to. Petunia was a bit nicer to her in Connemara, Lily reckoned that was because she wasn't afraid of bumping into anyone she knew there. The rugged landscape, the white sandy beaches and the crashing waves, the rock pools and the pony rides on the seashore, eating fish and chips in the local pub in Roundstone, blue-lipped and freezing to death after swimming in the Atlantic, chatting to her mother's relatives, the Conneelys, and to the friendly locals who presumed she was Irish, being a redhead!

Absentmindedly walking away from the window, she found herself standing in front of Dumbledore's study and face to face with a thunderous- looking Professor Mc Gonagall and a group of students who were all clearly in deep trouble. Sirius Black was pacing the floor outside Dumbledore's office in an agitated fashion, ashen faced, an uncharacteristically tense look in his grey eyes, his fists closed. He had a slight bruise on the side of his cheekbone, like someone had punched him in the face, thought Lily.

"Fucking wanker!" Sirius muttered incoherently under his breath at times as he glared at the student sitting in the largest armchair, Severus Snape.

"Mr. Black, not another word, or I will personally transfigure you into a toad and leave you locked in the greenhouse for the entire summer!" said Professor Mc Gonagall fiercely, and Sirius retreated hastily to the opposite side of the room, but continued pacing. Severus Snape for his part looked similarly shaken, his already pallid face positively chalk-like as he sat rigidly upright, but there was something else, (was it triumph?), which crossed his face as he glanced up and caught Lily's eye.

"He won't say anything, professor!" said Peter Pettigrew anxiously from where he was standing against the wall, biting his fingernails in such a frenzy that Lily swore he would draw blood. The look of pure terror on his round face made Lily feel sorry for him, whatever the cause of their misfortune.

"Mr Lupin, you should really be with Madam Pomfrey in the hospital wing!" said Professor Mc Gonagall, her voice a mixture of exasperation and concern. Remus Lupin was similarly standing, refusing Mc Gonagall's softly spoken request that he sit down. Lily was sure he desperately needed to lie down- exhausted, sick, like someone on the verge of collapse.

"No thank you," he said quietly through gritted teeth. "I'm seriously considering killing that idiot, force feeding him to an Acromantula, or worse."

He did look positively murderous - to Lily's surprise she saw the object of his anger – one of his best friends, Sirius, who was studiously avoiding all eye-contact with him.

"Did he really just say seriously?" asked Sirius turning to James Potter, who shook his head irately and refused to engage with him, muttering "No…"

James Potter, sitting slumped in the other armchair, Lily was sure she had never witnessed him like this in all her years in Hogwarts. He looked …defeated, that was the word, he looked exhausted too. She guessed he had been in a huge fight, there were tears in his shirt and that was definitely blood seeping from his arm and chest. His black hair was even more unmanageable than usual, the left lens of his glasses was cracked. His eyes when they met hers regarded her with traces of regret, mingled with bitterness. She stared at his hazel eyes, shocked, and she was surprised at how sorry she felt for him all at once. Merlin, she didn't even like the bloke! He was forever annoying her, on purpose. He seemed to enjoy riling her up, always so cheerful and (over)confident, or downright arrogant and pretending he wanted to go out with her. Annoying. And yet, for some reason she couldn't bear to see him looking like this, so wretched, so different. She always had a soft spot for the underdog. The underdog and Potter were practically polar opposites, in her mind.

This was all very confusing, and she didn't like this new feeling that was creeping over her, it wasn't her usual Potter-is-an- arrogant-git feeling. She didn't like this I'm-confused-about-how-I-feel-about-Potter lark. She must have been staring at him for too long, as she saw him raise his eyebrows slightly and give a faint half-smile. She smiled back awkwardly, aware she was trespassing, that she wasn't meant to see any of this.

James for his part stared back at Lily and sighed. He couldn't believe what had happened in the past 12 hours, couldn't believe that they were on the verge of being expelled from Hogwarts, that Remus' secret had been betrayed. Remus would never forgive Sirius, he thought, and that bastard Snape now knew and was bound to tell the whole world. There was no way Sirius would be able to cope with being expelled, he knew it would kill him. Sirius' parents would probably be besides themselves with glee at his misfortune. And there was no way in hell he was letting that happen, despite Sirius' bloody stupidity which had caused this mess in the first place. It wasn't only Sirius' fault, thought James, shooting Snape a filthy look. No, he was not going to let Dumbledore expel Sirius and he knew what he had to do. His jaw tightened and his face took on a more determined look as he made his decision.

The door to the Headmaster's office swung open. He regarded the students in front of him wordlessly and more than anything he could have said, they all felt ashamed under his gaze. "James Potter, come in," said Dumbledore, he looked unruffled but serious, and his blue eyes had a somewhat steely quality. Fucking hell, thought James, best get this over and done with. There were numerous things that made leaving Hogwarts especially and impossibly difficult: never playing quidditch with his Gryffindor teammates again, breaking up the Marauders, disappointing Professor Mc Gonagall, and the thought of not seeing Lily Evans. He couldn't bear to think of that, not now. But he was unable to stop his eyes from turning to gaze at her one last time.

"Goodbye, Evans," he said simply, quietly, and held out his hand in an oddly formal gesture. Lily took it in hers and looked back at him, surprised and confused. His gaze was so intense, James knew it must look odd, but he was trying to burn her image into his mind, in case he didn't see her again. Her hair was such a dark, fiery shade of auburn, cascading in waves down her back, he thought he had never seen anyone with such strong-looking hair. Sometimes he marvelled at his strange thoughts, like surely if you used Lily's hair as the core in your wand, it would be the most powerful wand in the wizarding world? Her eyes were impossible to forget- they had an unusual limpid quality, like looking at clear tropical seas, or light shining through emerald glass. They were so green and so alive, he felt he could lose himself in them. Her hand, it was perfect, he thought, her slim wrists made him feel breathless (because he was a sad, pathetic idiot), the way she carried herself, her confident, graceful walk. Her cheerful vitality (apart from when she was berating the hell out of him for being a berk!). Her incredible intellect. Everything about Lily was just right. Apart from the fact that she didn't like him. Yeah, and she didn't fancy him either.

And she didn't really like him, but that didn't mean she had to be mean to him now, Lily thought. All she knew was that he seemed to like being the centre of attention, a bit of a bully at times, flirting with girls. And popular too. Fine, he was good looking, but good-looking guys who knew they were good looking were just not attractive, and especially not bullies, in her opinion! For some reason, he had asked her out three times this year. She reckoned it was probably because she was the only girl he'd ever liked who turned him down, the arrogant git. She had been cross with him when he had bullied Severus the time of the mudblood incident, but she had been cross with Severus too. Cross and hurt and humiliated and betrayed by Severus. She had cried enough about it, damn it, she wasn't going to think of that now.

"Goodbye, Potter, hope everything works out," she answered, squeezing his hand.

"Thanks," said James.

Was it pathetic that holding her hand gave him a rush of warmth which made him feel more courageous about what he had to do, thought James. Yes, it was bloody pathetic, he thought, but he didn't care, he never cared, despite all the merciless teasing from his annoying mates. He nodded, and followed Dumbledore into the Principal's office.