Epilogue: Graduation of Love

*When Lily awoke the next morning, despite her painful memories of her parents, she smiled brightly. The window beside her bed showed another gray and rainy day, but her heart was bursting with happiness.

"Hey Lily!" Ara greeted her uncertainly.

"Morning Ara!" Lily chirped. Ara's jaw dropped.

"Lils?"

"Yes?"

"Are you feeling alright?" Arabella asked concerned her friend had somehow gone mental overnight.

"Fine. I'm sorry I've been in such a rotten mood lately. Ara, sit." Lily asked her, her smile dropping.

"What's wrong Lils?"

"Last night when the owl came, I got word that my, my," Lily had to break and swallow hard before finishing. "I got word that my parents were killed by Voldemort." Arabella gasped. Being a pureblood she understood how terrible Voldemort truly was.

"Oh Lily! I'm so sorry!" Ara reached over and hugged Lily hard. Lily returned the hug and quickly wiped away any trace of tears that had threatened to fall. "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"No, I'm fine."

"Lily…"

"No, really. Last night I was down in the common room and James came down, and we had it out. He helped me a lot Ara. I'm doing much better than I was last night."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. I'm fine. Really. It will take me some… time… before I can start speaking about this normally without tearing up, but I'm going to be fine. I just miss them."

"I'm so sorry Lils." Ara looked at her friend. "Cheer up Lil, please don't be sad. I know it has to be hard, you must have loved them so much…"

"I did. I loved them so much…" Lily echoed. "But the way James explained it to me, they were needed by someone else as something else somewhere else, and it would be selfish of me to hoard them to myself. As much as I love them, I know they're where they are needed the most."

"Yeah." The conversation died for a moment while both girls sorted out their thoughts.

"Come on Lils, let's get dressed."

"Ok." Once they were finished dressing, they went down to the Great Hall and snagged two of their regular seats. As Ara filled her plate with scrambled eggs and toast, Lily sipped on a glass of orange juice.

"Morning lovely ladies!" Sirius boomed as he and Remus entered the Hall. They grabbed seats and Arabella stuck her tongue out at her boyfriend.

"I'm only lovely am I?" Ara pouted.

"No! I mean, you're gorgeous Ara! You have the body of a goddess and the face of an angel." Sirius covered smoothly.

"And what am I? Only lovely compared to her?" Lily asked. For a moment both Remus and Sirius were surprised by her abrupt change in mood, but Sirius quickly recovered.

"Sorry Lils. You're only lovely compared to my beauty over here!" And he winked. Lily stuck her tongue out in response.

"Oh Lils! I think we could put that tongue to better use!" A very low voice whispered into her ear quietly enough so that no one else could hear. Two strong arms wrapped around her from behind, and the voice chuckled as she blushed.

"Morning James."

"Morning Lily. Sleep well?" He asked, resting his chin atop her head. She leaned back into him, savoring his warmth.

"Yeah." She told him.

"Good." He smiled and pulled away. She looked up at his face and couldn't help but smile. He laughed and sat down beside her.

"Wow. You two are in good moods this morning." Remus noted rather dimly.

"Yeah. I'm trying to be optimistic." Lily explained. Ara and James nodded, then they went through the painstaking effort of telling Sirius and Remus what had happened to her parents. Lily and James, for some unspoken, mutual agreement, left out the part where they had discussed love- specifically their love for each other. After breakfast was over, James and Lily split from the rest of their friends and took a walk out towards Hagrid's.

"Lils? Everything alright?"

"Yeah."

"Good."

"Hey James?"

"Yeah?"

"Why didn't you mention that we were…you know."

"I was going to ask you the same question. Why didn't you?"

"I don't know."

"Neither do I. I just felt like it was our special secret, our special relationship."

"I agree." Lily nodded. James put his arm around her and she laid her head against his shoulder. "I like the thought of it being just our special secret."

"Then we're secretly in love." James laughed. Lily joined him. "But Lil?"

"Hmm?"

"Want to tell Hagrid?" She smiled.

"Let's." When they finally reached Hagrid's, rain had started and they were running to get inside. Hagrid met them at the door, laughing at their rush to get out of the rain.

"Ain't no problem with getting a little wet now and then you two!" He laughed. As they unwrapped their warm coats he handed them hot cups of tea and settled into his chair by the fire. James sat in the armchair opposite him, and then Lily plopped down in his lap. James smirked and pulled her in closer.

"You're a dangerous little girl, aren't you?" He mocked.

"I'm not a little girl." She huffed. He laughed and pecked her. She smiled.

"What's this now?" Hagrid's eyebrows went up. "When did all of this start? Lily Evans and James Potter?"

"Hagrid, I actually have some sad news first." Lily's grin became a frown and James squeezed her hand. "Last night, the owl?"

"Ah yes! That was to you?" His eyes narrowed. "Lily, Voldemort…"

"You know?" She asked loudly.

"The only owls that come at night are owls with news of death Lily. And since your parents were muggle, I doubt if they had died the normal muggle way you would have found out via owl. I assumed." Hagrid explained. "I'm sorry Lily."

"Me too." She sniffed. A few tears fell. Hagrid and James exchanged sympathetic glances, and James held Lily closer. "But I'm trying to be optimistic." She finally said.

"And she's doing a good job." James added.

"I'm glad Lily. Remember I'm here if you need me." Hagrid gave her a supportive smile.

"Thanks Hagrid. I'm fine. Really. It'll take a while, but I'll be good as new in no time." She smiled through watery eyes.

"And besides. You've got James to make you happy." Hagrid added slyly. James laughed wickedly with Hagrid and Lily blushed.

"Hagrid, you can't tell anyone." She told him. "We've decided to keep it secret."

"We only wanted you to know." James added.

"Why me?" Hagrid asked confused.

"Because you were our unofficial matchmaker!" Lily told him in a lighter voice. All three of them laughed slightly at that, but the words were more or less true. Hagrid had really introduced them, had truly made them get to know each other, had coached them in what the other was thinking. It was mostly his efforts that had lead them to being friends.

"Well Hagrid, we need to get going. The rain is letting up and we have a class soon." James told the giant man. Hagrid rubbed his bushy beard.

"Alright then James. You and Lily run along. Can't be responsible for keeping the two greatest students Hogwarts has ever seen from class, now can I?" They laughed again, then left.

)(

It had been eight weeks since everything had finally come into place. Lily and James were blissfully happy in their relationship, while their friends were blissfully ignorant of the entire thing. Over the last two and a half months Lily and James had grown closer than they had ever thought possible. Sometimes they swore they could even read each other's minds. But they always ended up laughing that off.

They were only one night from their Hogwarts graduation, and the Marauders and company were seated in their classic places in the Gryffindor common room discussing their futures.

"…So I've decided I'm going to become an auror with Jamesie boy here." Sirius was reasoning out.

"Si, sweetheart, being an auror is hard work." Ara held in her laughter.

"I know."

"Si? You haven't been in any advanced DADA classes. Aren't you a little worried you won't know what to do when you come face to face with a Death Eater?"

"Nope! Because I'll have Jamesie on my back!" Sirius grinned doggishly.

"Great. Not only do I have to watch out for my horns, but your tail!" James growled. A general chuckle went up through the group.

"Uh, James? You don't have horns." Ara laughed. The others, though they felt guilty Ara didn't know the whole secret, just laughed harder because of her ignorance.

"Well, anyway." Remus cleared up the subject. "Si, did you get a letter?"

"Letter?" Sirius asked confused.

"Sure." James took it from there. "I got a letter from the DADA department at the Ministry. They requested me for auror work."

"I didn't get one of those. But I'm sure once they see how scheming my mind is, they'll realize they need me- for planning and plotting attacks to catch and humiliate the Death Eaters you'll understand!" They laughed again.

"Remus, what will you be doing?" Ara asked.

"I've been asked by the Ministry to do some field research on vampires actually. I know it sounds like dangerous work, but I'm ready for a little action. Can't let James and Si have all the fun, now can I?" He joked. They all chuckled. "And you Ara?"

"I'm actually going to be staying here. Did you hear that the Madam Pomfrey was looking for an intern? I'm taking that job. I've always been interested in medical magic."

"Ara! You didn't tell me you were accepted! Congratulations!" Lily spoke up.

"Lady Lily, what will you be doing?" James asked, his eyes piercing hers. She blushed. Her friends attributed the blushing to the nickname, but she was blushing because of James' eyes, and he knew it.

"I'm not sure yet. I was offered a position as an auror too… but I also got offered a position in the muggle studies department, and muggles are my first passion…"

"Well, whatever you do Lily, I'm sure you'll be great at it!" Ara grinned. Then she yawned. "I'm tired. Time for bed!"

"I'm with you honey!" Sirius got up and stretched.

"I'm going too." Remus added. "James? You should get some sleep; you have to give that grad speech tomorrow. I still can't believe our class chose you, but you know what they say… bad taste spreads…" James elbowed him, but grinned.

"I'll be up in a few."

"Me too." Lily added.

"See you two in the morning then!" Their friends bade them goodnight.

"Lils, I thought I was your first passion." James pouted when he was sure their friends were out of earshot.

"I'm sorry Jamesie!" She laughed. He grabbed her and pulled her into a hug.

"I love you Lils. You know that, right?" She looked into his eyes and saw a desperation. And she loved that he loved her so much.

"I know. And I love you James." She replied, choking up. It still brought her close to tears to think of the love they shared for each other. She looked up and her lips met his in desperate need. After they had exhausted themselves, they broke apart, savoring each other's taste, warmth, and love.

"I'll see you tomorrow James."

"Night Lovely Lady Lily." She blushed, but said nothing as she went to bed.

)(

The entire Great Hall was packed with parents and siblings of the Hogwarts graduating class. They were milling about, talking, laughing, and congratulating each other on their children's achievements. There were a few Slytherin parents gathered into one corner being antisocial with the rest of the crowd, but for the most part, everyone was pleasant to one another.

The students, dressed in clean robes and their tradition Hogwarts house colors, were lined up. First the Hufflepuffs would file in, then the Ravenclaws, next the Slytherins, and finally the Gryffindors. After they were sitting, Dumbledore would give his welcoming speech, then they would be presented with their Wizarding and Witching licenses by Professor McGonagall, and finally James would speak. It was quite an elaborate event, one that the students had been looking forward to for seven long but amazing years.

"Attention. Will everyone please find a seat? We are about to begin." Professor McGonagall announced. There was a mad scrambled, but within moments everyone was seated and ready for the ceremony to begin. Silently the Hufflepuffs began walking in. When everyone was sitting, Dumbledore stood at the front of the Great Hall and began.

James droned everything else out. All he could think of was his speech. Was he ready? Did he know what he was doing? He hoped so. He hoped everything would go just as he had practiced. He hoped he was making a good speech that it would last in the student's memories for a lifetime.

Lily was nervous. She wanted to hear what James had to say, naturally, but she knew something was going on. She heard Sirius' name called. James was not normally scared of speeches- in fact; talking was one of his favorite things to do. She heard Arabella's name called. But he was nervous for this, and his nervousness was rubbing off onto her. Just then she heard her name called.

"Lily Evans." She stood and walked towards McGonagall. After receiving her license, she waited for her other friends to be called. She saw Remus go up, then Peter, and finally James. James did not come back and sit beside her again. He had purposely been called last so he could just go from accepting his license to making his speech. Lily sat, ready to listen to his words.

"And now, our student selected speaker, Mr. James Potter." McGonagall introduced him. James stepped up.

"Hey everyone. My name is James Potter, and for those of you who don't know, I'm tied with my best friend Sirius Black for the number of most Hogwarts detentions." He smiled when he got a few laughs and gained confidence. "I'm also part of the Marauders, the resident hellions here at Hogwarts. In addition to mischief making, I'm the captain and seeker of the Gryffindor quidditch team, as well as the second ranked student in the school. But all of that is not the reason I was selected to make a speech.

" I was picked because everyone thought I would be funny. Well, I'd like to be funny. But life isn't always funny. Sometimes in our lives we won't have the luxury of laughing. We'll be bogged down with boring work, or broken hearted over the loss of a loved one." He took a deep breath.

"A friend once told me that I hide behind humor when I want to avoid a problem. But, when we don't have laughter to fall back on, we have other places to look for strength. Like the friends who tell us when we aren't facing our problems. Our friends are going to be there because that's what they're our friends for. And when we don't have friends, we have family. Families to support us, to depend upon. And when we can't go to our friends or family, we can run to our girlfriends or boyfriends.

"It's funny. In all my years here at Hogwarts, I've never dated. Don't get me wrong; it's not that I haven't wanted to. I was just waiting for the right girl. You see, a significant other is someone whom you love unconditionally. Someone who can be trusted. Someone who you can fall back on when you need someone to make you laugh. Remember how I said I didn't date my seven years here at Hogwarts? I lied.

"For the last three months I've been dating a wonderful woman. She's beautiful, I'd even go so far as to say sexy, though I know she's blushing, so I won't," he paused and grinned. Lily was going to murder him. Love him, but murder him. He continued. "She's also smart, sweet, compassionate, and she makes me laugh. And I know she's going to keep making me laugh long after Hogwarts, even when I don't have the luxury of laughing.

"I suppose where I'm going with this whole laughing thing is this: As we leave Hogwarts and start out on a new path in our lives, we need to laugh as much as we can as long as we can whenever we can, because the day will come too soon when you can't laugh. Our world is full of danger and evil, but when that day does come that we've forgotten to laugh, don't despair! Your friends, family, and loved ones will be there to make you remember how to laugh again." He finished his speech with a grin, and while the applause was going on, he bowed his head. When they finished clapping, he looked up again.

"I guess my speech is over now, so I have one last thing to say. See, I love to laugh. I do it all the time. In fact, it's probably the reason I have the tied record for the most number of detentions, because I had to pull the pranks to make myself laugh." People laughed again. "Anyway." James grinned rakishly. "There is one woman in here that makes me laugh no matter how I'm feeling. And what with my addiction to laughing, I'd like to ask that she never leave my side. So in light of that request, I would ask this now: Lovely Lady Lily. Will you marry me and make me laugh the rest of my life? After all, you did catch that bouquet, and I did catch that garter, it's kind of bound to happen eventually!" He laughed nervously, but inside James' heart stopped as he asked the question. He heard the crowd roar with a buzz and Hagrid's booming voice rose above them all.

"Silence! Let's hear what the girl has to say!" People agreed and settled down, waiting to hear the answer.

Lily had been hanging on to every word James had said since the beginning of his speech and continuously growing redder as he continued. First he had quoted her. Then he had had told everyone he had been dating. Then he had called her sexy… and accused her of blushing, and then he had gone on to describe her… and… now… he was… asking her to marry him? Because he loved her and she made him laugh. Because she made him laugh… And Lily broke down, tears streaming down her face. Beside her she felt Arabella prodding her, a shocked and excited look on her face.

"Well Lils?" Ara asked in wonderment.

"Ara…" Lily whispered. Then she stopped. Time to stop hiding. She wasn't a freak. She was a woman who was smart and pretty. She had friends and she was in love. And if anyone tried to make her think otherwise, they could get lost, because she would no longer listen to them. Shaking her head clear, she wiped away the tears and stood up in the middle of the ceremony.

"Yes!" She called out, smiling broadly.

"Really Lils?" James asked in wonderment. She was standing up and telling him yes… whatever he had expected, it hadn't been this wonderful.

"Really James!" She laughed and nodded.

"I'm best man!" Sirius jumped up. The crowd burst into applause and laughter. Lily and Sirius sat down and James nodded politely to Dumbledore, who was laughing, and to McGonagall, who seemed torn between crying, laughing, and mad. James made it back to his seat, and when he did, he looked deep into Lily's shimmering emerald eyes. Brushing back her soft red hair, he leaned in and kissed her softly and sweetly.

"Love you Lily."

"Love you too James."

"Hey James?"

"Yes Lady Lily?"

"You sure you want to stick around? I have a pretty complicated life."

"I'd much rather think of it as our complicated lives." And they laughed and kissed one more time. *

THE END

~~~So there you go! C'est fini! How was it? I hope it was good enough. I know I'm not a very good writer, but I tried! Now the real question: Would you all like a sequel that tracked Lily and James until Harry? PLEASE REVIEW and tell me what you thought! This is your LAST CHANCE (another story I've written is called Last Chances… check it out!) Much love- Vixen~~~