There are moments in time that stay with you forever, withstanding the shifting sands of time and shining like a beacon to look back on. Lily Evans had experienced exactly three of these moments in her seventeen years of life.

The first occurred on the morning of her eleventh birthday when she discovered that she was a member of an entirely new world, one filled with magic and wonder. She could still feel that first piece of parchment beneath her fingertips, smell the ink that announced her uniqueness, and see the first hint of fear in her sister's eyes.

The second incident happened at the close of her fifth year at Hogwarts when the boy she thought was her best friend revealed his true self and called her a Mudblood. The pain and humiliation still smarted.

The third occurred just as the summer holidays before her sixth year wound to a close, the day cancer took her father's life. Lily would never forget the helplessness and the long, loud, final beep which heralded the start of a life without her father. It solidified her determination to never be helpless again and propelled her into studying healing.

The moment after she told James Potter that she loved him lasted longer than all of these moment combined, and she knew with every fiber of her being that she would never forget it.


Lily Evans loved the rain. She loved to watch the raindrops splatter the windows, chasing each other as the water fell in rivulets down the glass. She loved to sit inside, wrapped up in a blanket with a cup of tea while it rained. She loved to dance in the rain during the summer. She loved to fall asleep to the sound of rain drumming on the roof and against the windows. Lily Evans loved the rain, which was why she was in a much better mood than her friends at the moment.

It was the first of September, and she was on the Hogwarts Express, excited about the start of her sixth year. She currently shared a compartment with two of the other girls from her dorm, Marlene McKinnon and Mary MacDonald. Mary, a fellow muggleborn, was reading a copy of Witch Weekly while Marlene joined Lily in looking out the window. Marlene was much more upset about the weather than Lily was.

"Blimey," Marlene complained, "can you believe how much it's raining? And on our first day back too."

"I think it's marvelous," Lily replied.

"Lily Evans only you could find such a shite day 'marvelous.'"

Lily ignored her friend and continued to watch the raindrops dance across the window. "Rain symbolizes a new beginning and it's the start of a new term," she said, enjoying the drama of the statement.

Marlene snorted. "It just means being cold and wet." To demonstrate her discomfort she gave a dramatic shiver. Mary rolled her eyes and Marlene kicked her.

"Agree to disagree," said Lily in a sing-song voice. She checked her watch and frowned. "I've got to go soon. I've got the prefect meeting."

"Ask Lupin about how his summer was for me, will you?" Marlene smoothed her hands across her skirt, feigning nonchalance after sticking her tongue out at Mary.

"You know he's actually nice. He'll talk to you if you ask him about it."

"I know, I know. But if I do that I'll ruin the whole image of a badass I've worked on for the past five years."

Mary snorted. "You're pathetic."

"Well some of us have to work a little harder than just batting our eyelashes at a bloke to make something happen."

"You should try it sometime," said Mary, turning a page in her magazine. "Hogwarts is full of people who would just die to get a date with you."

"And yet none of those people are Lupin now, are they?"

"But why do you even want him? He's so weird and-"

"Hey, I don't go around telling people how weird you are."

"Actually you do. Agnes Chisolm told me on the platform that-"

"Well Agnes Chisolm is a tart."

"That's what she said that you said about me!"

"That's-"

Lily left her two friends to their bickering and started making her way to the front of the train where the prefects were supposed to meet with the new Head Boy and Head Girl. Her stomach churned uncomfortably at the thought of having to see Sev again. She wasn't sure if she could trust herself not to cry when she saw him, which was ridiculous because the name he had called her wasn't all that important in the grand scheme of things- something that she tried to remind herself of whenever her thoughts strayed in that direction. But the venom behind his voice when he said that one hateful phrase, combined with the increased frequency of his time spent out with the other Slytherins, only added to her anxiety. They were some truly terrible people, and once again she found herself wondering when it all went wrong and what would happen when she saw him in just a few minutes before the prefect meeting and-

"Oi, Lily!" Lily turned at the sound of her name and was met with the sight of Remus Lupin, the other Gryffindor prefect. "Walk with me?"

Relieved at having her thoughts interrupted, Lily consented. "Sure." She took a deep breath and forced herself to smile.

"Have a good summer?" Remus asked, hands in his pockets. Lily noted the dark circles under his eyes and wondered if his mother had been sick again. The Hogwarts rumor mill swirled around Remus and his frequent absences but Lily always respected his (rather thin) explanation of having to take care of his chronically ill mother. Lily had met the woman briefly during a trip to Diagon Alley the summer of their Third Year and she seemed perfectly healthy. Mary MacDonald championed the theory that Remus was secretly a member of a band and left school to go on tour during term ("Honestly, Lily just look at him. What part doesn't scream lead guitarist?").

"It wasn't bad," she said vaguely. Lily was determined not to think about Petunia, about Vernon, about the impending wedding, about Severus, so close and yet unreachable. In fact she was determined not to think about anything at all. "You?"

"I spent a lot of time with my mom which was nice I suppose. Spent the rest of the time at the Potters'. James' mum loves when I visit." He wiggled his eyebrows at her.

Lily laughed. "Probably because you keep James out of trouble compared to the rest of his mates."

"Not always," he said quietly and Lily pretended not to hear him. After serving with him as prefect for a year she knew him to sometimes turn a blind eye to what his friends got up to. She thought back to Remus as he was in their First Year, quiet and skittish. He had kept to himself and always seemed so nice. Then Potter and Black had scooped him up and all of those qualities had stayed (minus, perhaps the skittishness) but an allure of mystery was added too. And a bit of popularity. After all, to be friends with the exuberant James Potter and enigmatic Sirius Black one had to have some sort of exciting talent. Lily herself favored Mary's band theory but only in jest. She genuinely liked Remus, regardless of his association with Potter, and if he wanted to claim that he always had to go visit his sickly mother, that was his business.

Marlene would love to be in her shoes, having this conversation with Remus. Instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to talk up her friend, all she could think of was how rotten it would be to see Sev at the prefects meeting.

She hadn't spoken to him since the day of the Defence Against the Dark Arts O.W.L. at the end of last term. Whenever she thought about the encounter fire filled her veins all over again, and she wanted to hex something. After the fire faded the sadness invariably followed, threatening to swallow her whole. In the span of one afternoon she had lost her first friend in the wizarding world, the one who had introduced her to the incredible world of magic.

Lily had no idea how she would react to seeing him again. Would she cry? Would she hex him? Would she do nothing at all and miraculously be over it all already? That last option was a little too much to hope for; Sev had come around her house over the holidays, trying to talk to her and Lily had stubbornly stayed inside, ignoring his pleas. It was a little dramatic, but Lily had always loved the drama of love and heartbreak.

The enchanted door to the compartment slid open and Lily took a deep breath to calm her nerves before entering, Remus following close behind her. Alice Cavanagh, the new Head Girl and her fellow Gryffindor and good friend, was already waiting in the compartment along with the two new Fifth Year prefects from Hufflepuff and the Seventh Year Ravenclaw prefects. Alice smiled brilliantly at Lily and wrapped her up in a hug.

"Congratulations on Head Girl, Alice!" said Lily, hugging her friend tightly. "I was so happy for you when I got your owl!"

"I still can't really believe it," the blonde said, shaking her head and causing her curls to bounce joyfully.

"Yeah, congrats, Cavanagh," said Remus. Alice beamed. He wandered over to stand in the corner while Lily and Alice caught up.

"So," Lily said, lowering her voice conspiratorially, "you get to work with Frank all the time now."

Alice blushed. "I know, but stuff it before I'm forced to stop being your friend."

"That boy is in love with you. I've been telling you for years."

"Hi, Frank!" Alice said loudly, trying to drown out Lily's last comment. The boy in question had just entered the compartment and strode over to join the two girls. Frank Longbottom had his shiny, new Head Boy badge pinned to his chest and a grin lit up his face.

"Hi, Alice," he said. Alice grinned back at him and the two stared at each other, smiling brightly.

Lily looked between the two of them and coughed after a few moments when it became obvious that neither one of them was going to say anything. Frank blinked rapidly, as if just noticing the second witch.

"Oh, hi Lily," he said, color creeping up his neck. Alice cleared her throat and quickly went to greet the Fifth Year Ravenclaw prefects who had just arrived, a blush staining her cheeks as well. "Have a good holiday?"

"Yeah, it was alright. How was yours?"

"Hm?" Frank stared after Alice and didn't seem to hear her. Before she could repeat herself, the door to the compartment slid open again and Severus Snape walked in. He looked just the same as he had the last time she had seen him, pale, greasy haired, and wearing clothes that didn't fit quite right. She used Frank's distraction with Alice to her advantage and edged her way over to where Remus was standing in the corner. She tried to blend in with the wall and cursed her fiery red hair. There was no way she could blend into the compartment with her curls.

You don't have to talk to him, just ignore him. Ignore him, ignore him, ignore him. He locked eyes with her from across the room and started to move toward her. She swallowed her panic and braced herself for an altercation when Sev suddenly changed direction and went to stand on the opposite side of the car. It was then that Lily noticed that Remus had taken an extra step closer to her. She was grateful but her pride made her snap at him.

"You don't have to protect me."

"Your panic was making me want to panic. I was just going to cheer you on if you slapped him."

She shot him a brief smile and then Frank called for order and the meeting started.


"Is this seat taken?"

"Go away, Potter."

"Brilliant." James Potter hopped into the carriage and as soon as he shut the door it lurched into motion, taking its occupants up the hill to Hogwarts. He situated himself next to Mary who sat up a little straighter and stuck her chest out a bit. The boy tried to dry his glasses on the sleeve of his robes but frowned when it just smeared the water across the lenses. Lily raised an eyebrow at her roommate before turning her gaze out the window.

It was still raining heavily when the train pulled into Hogsmeade Station and Lily, Marlene, and Mary had dashed into the closest empty carriage they could find. Unfortunately, the horseless carriages were bewitched to move only after their quota of four was reached. Their fourth occupant could have been someone sensible like Michael Frampton, a fellow Sixth Year Gryffindor, but no. James bloody Potter had to show up instead.

"Have a good holiday, Evans?" he asked.

Lily sniffed and ignored him, watching the water streak passed on the windowpane.

"Me, personally, I had a great holiday," Potter drawled as if she had returned his question. In the dim light she caught him running a hand through his wet hair from the corner of her eye. It stayed standing up in small spikes. "We spent a good portion of it at the main house but we also stayed at the cottage for a bit and visited the coast too."

Lily rolled her eyes. He was always doing this, always trying to show off how wealthy he was in front of her. As if she was supposed to be impressed by not just a mansion, but also a cottage in the country and one on the coast as well. Only a spoiled git would talk about their wealth so often.

When Lily remained silent the Quidditch captain asked her companions the same question. Mary fluffed her hair a bit and replied with a summary of the holiday that she had taken with her mother in Barcelona.

"Mary I can't believe you forgot to buy my cauldron cakes," Marlene complained, interrupting Mary's story about the Sagrada Familia.

"I can't believe that all you've done today is complain." Lily snapped without fulling meaning to. Being in such close proximity to Potter always made her jumpy.

"Wow that was sort of harsh, Evans," commented Potter.

"Thank you for your input, Potter. I was only joking, Mare," she said, trying to lighten the mood a little. "You know that."

"You're welcome, I do try. Are you sure you were just taking the mickey out of her? That seemed pretty vicious, and here I thought that you were friends."

"We are friends Potter, which is more than I can say for you and I. Why aren't you sitting with your friends? I didn't think Black could survive for so long without you at his side."

"Oh, I thought that I would get a bit of a change of scenery, y'know? After all," said Potter, spread his hands wide to indicate Lily, "Sirius is pretty fit but he's got nothing on the view in front of me."

Lily flushed and hoped that Potter wouldn't notice or would chalk it up to their spat. Luckily she was saved a response when Mary cut in. "Can you two stop bickering? You're ruining my first view of the castle."

Glad for an excuse to stop arguing (When did that happen? Fighting with Potter was always so satisfying) Lily joined Mary in gazing out the window as Hogwarts came into view, lit up in the rain.

Lily loved Hogwarts. She never lost that sense of wonder when she saw it at the beginning of every term with its towering heights and sprawling form lit up in the blaze of hundreds of torches. In her darkest hours, there was always the doubt, a fear that none of this was real and she would wake up one day at the house in Cokeworth. That she would find herself normal, a muggle with no magical ability at all. The sight of the Hogwarts rising out of the night assuaged those fears.

"Another year back," she smiled to herself.

When their carriage pulled up to the front steps of the Entrance Hall, Potter was the first one out into the rain. "Evans," he said with a smirk. "Always a pleasure. Oh, and you might want to stay away from the Slytherin table tonight." He gave a little salute and left, most likely to find his mates.

"What was that?" asked Marlene.

"What was what?" Lily wanted to know.

"I saw that blush."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Lily said loftily and cast an impervius charm, shielding them from the rain. "Don't be ridiculous." A few of the other older students had cast the same charm and still others had conjured large black umbrellas to protect themselves from the downpour. The younger students simply ran through the rain and mud up to the steps of the Entrance Hall.

"I wonder," said Mary, "what prank the Marauders have planned for tonight."

"Whatever it is it's a good thing none of us have any reason to go and hang out with the Slytherins," said Marlene with a significant glance in Lily's direction.

"Yes, it is a good thing," Lily responded. She did her best to push away the anxiety that cropped up again at the thought of facing Sev again.

Get a grip on yourself, Evans. You have to get over it at some point.

The girls made their way into the Great Hall. Lily was looking forward to the start of the term feast. She hadn't had anything on the train and her stomach was making its displeasure known. The ceiling was a swirling mass of grey to reflect the weather outside. As always, Lily was completely mesmerized by the complexity of the enchantment and nearly tripped over a Second Year on her way to the Gryffindor table. After that, she let Mary take her hand ("Honestly Lily, pay attention.") and lead her to a spot near the end. This spot served a dual purpose, one being that Mary could hop up and join any blokes at the other house tables if they made eye contact long enough, and two being that Lily could better usher the First Years out of the Hall after dinner.

"I swear, they get smaller and smaller every year," Marlene said, indicating the single file line of First Years following Professor McGonagall into the Hall.

"That's sort of the point, Mare," said Mary. "You get older every year."

Lily found herself thinking about her own sorting, now six years ago. It invariably came to mind every year, although now it brought unwelcome thoughts of Sev too, of the day she had found out that she was a witch.

-"You're special, Lily. Like me."-

She remembered her mother's confusion and excitement the day her Hogwarts letter came.

-"We have a witch in the family!" Her mother was absolutely floored. -

When the first boy (Henry Andrews, clearly a muggleborn with a name like that) was sorted into Ravenclaw, Lily couldn't help but remember waiting for her own turn, the words of two different boys ringing in her ears

-"I'm going to be in Gryffindor, like my dad! 'Gryffindor-where dwell the brave at heart.'" James Potter mimed holding a sword while he made his speech.

Sev had gone to change into his robes and this bespeckled boy had barged in, announcing his name and taking a seat across from Lily. He had taken one look at her and said, "Blimey, I thought I knew all of the Weasleys. Which one are you?"

"Pardon?" The boy had no manners.

He cocked his head to the side and stared intently at her. "Wait, I was right. I do know all of the Weasleys and you aren't one. What's your name?"

"My name is Lily. Lily Evans."

"Evans you say?" He looked thoughtful. "I don't know that name and my family knows everyone. That must mean that you're a muggleborn!" Lily nodded. "Wow! So you must not know anything about Hogwarts!"

"I know some things!" Lily said hotly. "I know that the best house is Slytherin. It combines the best things out of Gryffindor and Ravenclaw and puts them in one house! Brains and knowing how to apply your skills to your best advantage."

James stared at her for a beat before laughing hysterically. "And what complete tosser told you that? Slytherin is where all of the slimy gits go!"

Any goodwill that James Potter had cultivated up to that point vanished in an instant.

"My friend is who." Lily rose from her seat, crossing her arms as she did so. "Sev says it's the best house and I trust him."

"Listen, Lily, wait," James said, trying to stop her from leaving.

Doing her best imitation of her mother when she was really cross, Lily replied, "'Evans' will do."

"Evans," James-no Potter amended. "Slytherin is not where someone like...like you wants to end up."

Suddenly unsure, Lily changed her mind about leaving the compartment. "And why is that?" her curiosity about the wizarding world got the best of her. She did know next to nothing about it, and while she did trust Sev it never hurt to get a second opinion...right?

"Everyone in Slytherin," said James very seriously, "are a bunch of blood purists. They disapprove of any interaction with muggles and want to keep the wizarding world 'pure' of any non purebloods. There's no way you'll be sorted into Slytherin if you're a muggleborn and even if you are...they'll hate you."

Lily stared at him, trying to wrap her head around what Potter was saying. How people who had never even met her before could hate her just because of who and what she was. For the first time, this incredible magical world that she was discovering seemed...dangerous.

The realization hurt.

"Sev wants to be in Slytherin and he doesn't hate me," she said to cover up her discomfort.

Potter surveyed her with something close to pity. "If he wants to be in Slytherin then it's only a matter of time."

At that moment, the door to the compartment slid open. Sev was back from changing. He froze when he saw Potter and a sneer formed on his face. "Who are you?"
"Blimey, Evans. I thought for sure that a good looking bird like you would be more sensible. Just look at all of that grease in his hair! You could use it to get my grandfather Henry moving again! And he's ancient!"

"Potter was just leaving, Sev." The boy in question, however seemed to have different ideas. Rather than stand to leave he ran a hand through his hair instead and crossed his arms behind his head.

"Actually, I find I rather fancy this compartment." And he winked at her.

Lily rolled her eyes. "Fine. C'mon, Sev." She linked arms with him. Sev glanced down at where they were touching in surprise. It was the first time that she had done this, cemented their friendship with a physical connection. "Let's go find somewhere else to sit. Preferably where the air hasn't been polluted by a total prat!"

"Remember what I said, Evans!" Potter called as they left the compartment. Lily tried to ignore him but a small voice in her head kept repeating, 'if he wants to be in Slytherin then it's only a matter of time.'

"Who was that?" Sev wanted to know as they passed through to the next railcar.

"Some prat named James Potter."

"I don't like him."

"Neither do I." Lily peered into a compartment to see if it was empty.

"You won't have to deal with rubbish like that when you're sorted into Slytherin with me," he said, venom clear in his voice.

-Rubbish like people who aren't afraid to tell you the bad stuff?- But outloud Lily said, "Slytherin is where all of the clever people go, right?"

"'Clever' is Ravenclaw, 'cunning' is Slytherin."

"Right," Lily said, finding a compartment with just one girl in it. She opened the door and asked if they could sit with her, and Lily met her future roommate and best friend, Marlene McKinnon, for the first time. While they chatted and Sev sat quietly Lily felt the first pangs of doubt about being sorted into Slytherin.

Later, after the wonder of the horseless carriages, after the awe of Hogwarts lit up at night, after the shock of living in an actual castle, after an incredible first impression by Professor McGonagall (Lily couldn't wait to try her hand at human transfiguration), when the Sorting Hat was placed on her head and it asked her what she wanted, their voices echoed in her mind.

...'They'll hate you.'

'-rubbish like that,' the hatred evident in Sev's voice as he said those words about someone he didn't even know…

Lily made her choice.

"GRYFFINDOR!"

When she skipped her way over to where her new housemates were cheering for her at the Gryffindor table, she shot Sev a smile. After all, just because they would be in different houses didn't mean that they couldn't be friends.-

Lily jerked herself out of her thoughts when all four table erupted in cheers and applause, signaling the end of the sorting. Just as the food appeared an almighty bang rang out and several students screamed. Lily whirled around to see half of the Slytherins covered in a mixture of mashed potatoes and peas while the other half seemed to have boiled carrots stuck up their noses. Lily automatically scanned the table to see if Sev was okay and immediately hated herself for it. She shouldn't care if he had carrots stuffed up his nose or not. After not spotting him at once, the redhead turned back to her plate and speared some roasted chicken on her fork. Off to her right the four she suspected were the culprits were also busy spooning food onto their plates and doing a passing job at looking innocent.

"Where did they find the time to do that?" Marlene wanted to know. "I mean, James was in our carriage. There's no way he had enough time before the feast started."

"Maybe it wasn't them," said Mary, helping herself to some of the mashed potatoes (Lily was steering clear of them because you never know.).

Lily watched as Sirius Black used his spoon to try and shoot peas into the waiting mouth of Peter Pettigrew. "No, it was definitely them." Potter glanced her way and when he noticed her staring he grinned that crooked grin of his and ran a hand through his hair. She scowled at him and looked away.

When the last of the desserts vanished from the table, Lily got to her feet calling for the First Years to follow her up to the Gryffindor common room. The other Gryffindor prefects were perfectly capable of guiding the newest additions to their house up to their rooms, but Lily lived to see the awe on their faces as she showed them the castle. It reflected the same awe that she still felt about the castle. She gave the Fat Lady the password ("felix culpa") and crawled through to the common room. The prefect directed the First Years to their proper dormitories and then climbed the stairs to her own.

She was the first one to the room. Lily could tell because there was a distinct lack of Mary's clothes thrown all over the room and the general clutter that appeared when five girls lived together had yet to manifest itself. Hoping to take a stroll around the castle before curfew, Lily dug a sweater out of her trunk and sped back down the stairs. She waved at Marlene over by the fireplace before ducking out through the portrait hole.

The redhead didn't have any particular destination in mind, she just wanted to greet the castle after the summer holidays. She liked the castle best at night, just before curfew when most of the student body was either already in their common rooms for the night or hurrying there. The long, stone corridors carried a hushed sort of tranquility after the chaos of students running to a fro through them all day. Lily brushed her fingers along the wall and started to sing her favorite song.

"Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night, and wouldn't you love to love her?"

Potter had long teased her for her love of the muggle band, but Lily adored Fleetwood Mac. There was something intimately appealing about the soft, rolling melodies of their music that made Lily want to dance and sing along.

Lily continued her trek through the quiet halls of Hogwarts, singing softly to herself. She was truly enjoying herself until she rounded the corner and was met with a particularly unpleasant sight.

A couple was so thoroughly entwined around each other, mouths glued together that it was quite impossible to see where one body ended and the next began. She couldn't help the disgusted, "OH MY GOD" that forced its way out of her throat as she took in roaming hands and mussed hair. The pair broke apart just as Lily turned to leave and she recognized Potter and a pretty blonde from Ravenclaw who Lily was pretty sure that they'd had Charms with for the past five years.

"Evans, wait!" Potter called after her as she retreated back around the corner.

"James!" The Ravenclaw girl shouted in a whisper. She sounded royally miffed and Lily couldn't blame her. She was sure that she would be pissed if someone interrupted what looked like a good dusk-time snog. Not that she really went around snogging people in the corridors where anyone might happen upon her.

"Evans, wait up! Just hold on a minute!"

"Why?" Lily snapped, picking up the pace until she was practically jogging. Why did Potter want to talk to her? Shouldn't he want to go back to snogging? And why was she so mad?

It's because he's always asking you out and here he is snogging someone else.

Lily ignored the voice in her head. Who was she to care about who James Potter snogged?

The boy in question reached out and grabbed her wrist, pulling her to a stop. He dropped it quickly when he saw the look she leveled at him.

"Lemme explain," he said.

Lily blinked rapidly, trying to hide her confusion. "Explain? You don't have to explain anything."

"But I do," he insisted.

"I don't follow."

He ran a hand through his hair (Merlin how Lily hated that) before stuffing his hands in his pockets. "I'm done."

"Pardon?"

Potter took a deep breath and stared up at the ceiling. Whatever he was about to say clearly took a lot of effort. "I'm done chasing you."

"Oh." Lily stared at him. She wasn't sure what she should say. A whole five years of constantly fighting with him and turning him down and now…'done?'

"I was actually," he said, studying the ceiling, "hoping if maybe this year we could be, you know. Friends." He phrased it like a question.

"Friends," Lily echoed. She studied the boy standing in front of her (who had once gone so far as to bewitch her breakfast to talk and use it to ask her out) and chewed her bottom lip. She was suddenly struck with just how tall he was. She had to tilt her head back to look at him properly, they were standing so close. "Well, alright."

He abandoned his survey of the ceiling and his face split into a blinding grin. "Brilliant."

Lily stared at him and opened her mouth to say something, but had no idea what to say. She closed it before she looked like too much of an idiot, standing there gaping at him.

"Walk back to the common room with me?"

"Um, don't you think," Lily cast her hand over her shoulder, trying to sum up the girl that Potter had abandoned around the corner and their previous activity without actually saying any of it.

"What?"

Lily continued to gesture, cursing her sudden inability to communicate effectively.

"Oh, her?" he waved a hand. "Na, that's probably the end of it anyway." The Quidditch captain started walking away and without meaning to Lily started to follow him. She had to hurry to catch up with his long legs.

"So, um," Lily said, trying to think of something to say to break the silence between them. What did you say to someone who had spent the last five years annoying the hell out of you and now wanted to be friends? In the end she stayed silent.

"Relax, Red. Don't have a panic attack on me." He made it sound so easy. Like the last five years of him annoying her by asking her out constantly hadn't happened and they really could just suddenly become friends in less than a minute. These things took time and it was bound to be awkward.

Lily frowned at him. "Fine. You think of something to talk about."

"Why do we have to talk about anything? Can't two friends just enjoy each other's company?"

Enjoyment in Potter's company was not something that Lily was at all familiar with. Typically if they even exchanged three words that were remotely pleasant the situation spiraled out of control quicker than a niffler grabbing something shiny and the next thing she knew, the shouting had already started.

Lily was not in the mood for shouting tonight.

They continued their journey through the corridors, neither saying much. Potter asked her about her holiday and she inquired about his. Both gave rather stilted responses and when they reached the Fat Lady a wave of relief swept over Lily. She almost prefered the obnoxious James Potter over this painfully polite version. But then she remembered the time that he'd enchanted her potion ingredients to perform a synchronized dance telling her how beautiful she was. Awkward encounters with the other Gryffindor were infinitely better.

"Alright, Red. This is where I leave you." He gave the password and then bowed with one hand ushering her through the portrait hole.

"You're not coming in?"

"Na," he said, straightening. "I promised Sirius I'd nick him something from the kitchens."

"Oh."

"I couldn't have you off wandering around the castle this late at night by yourself. It's not safe these days."

"You left that girl by herself," Lily pointed out. "What's her name again? I feel awful. I can't remember."

Potter thought for a moment. "For the life of me I can't either ."

"You can't remember the name of the girl you were just snogging?"

"Yeah, well she's not…" he cut himself off before he finished. "Look, will you just go in?"

"Yes, please go in," said the Fat Lady. "Or shall I just stay open all night?" They both ignored her.

"She's not what?" Lily felt her temper kicking in, not entirely sure why. She must have said it louder than she thought though because Potter took a deep breath to yell back at her.

"She's not you!" Potter shouted.

"Merlin, you absolute prat! And here I thought you were trying to be friends because you were 'done chasing' me!" Lily's hands were in fists at her side. Of course they had reached the shouting stage. Because when had any conversation between the two of them not devolved into one?

"That's not what I meant! She's not…" he took another deep breath, and when he spoke again his voice was calmer and filled with meaning. "She's not a muggleborn like you. It's not safe anymore for you to go walking around by yourself."

That brought Lily up short. "I can take care of myself, thank you very much. You don't have to act all noble," she said sarcastically, "and rescue me."

Without waiting for a response she turned and made her way into the common room. She ignored the small crowd that had gathered around the portrait hole, clearly listening in on another famous Evans-Potter screaming match, and climbed the stairs to her dorm.