Lily fell backwards into her bed. She was exhausted, but it was so very good to be home, in her own room, in her own bed, with her family just downstairs.
But she couldn't rest just yet. She'd promised Remus that she would write the moment she walked in the door. True to her word, she pulled out a piece of paper and a pen. She wondered if he would puzzle over the ink and stunningly white paper. She scribbled him a quick note that assured him she had gotten home safely, that her sister hadn't sabotaged her return, and that she would write more when she had more to tell. She handed the letter to Remus' owl Gabriel, which he had sent home with her for that very purpose. Giving the young owl a kiss on the top of his head, she let him out the window.
Setting up Kit's bed in the corner of the room, she kissed her once too, before running back downstairs. "Mama, I'm done!"
"Did you tell Remus that the car didn't crash?"
She giggled and nodded. "He says he doesn't trust them, but I think really he just worries about me and needs an excuse."
Daisy pulled her daughter into a one armed hug. "I'm very glad that he does. It makes me feel better that somebody does."
"Oh Mama! I want to show you all the stuff I've learned! But I can't use my wand until I come home next Christmas."
"Well you can still show us some potions can't you?"
Lily smiled. "Yeah, anything that doesn't use my wand. Remus and I have a killer ingredients collection. It's startling what we actually grow on the school grounds if you just take the time to look for it."
"Well can you make anything that will cure the poison ivy your father has?"
Lily's entire face brightened. "Actually, yeah!"
Lily knocked gently on her sister's door. "It's open!" came the reply from within. Lily pushed the door open and stepped inside.
"What do you want?" the blonde snarled, immediately going on the defense at her surprise to see her sister rather then one of her parents.
Lily took a step back at her older sister's harshness. "I go back next week you know."
"So?" Petunia questioned with a raised eyebrow.
"We've hardly spoken all summer long," Lily elaborated, hoping Petunia would draw the conclusion on her own.
"Intentional," he sister answered shortly.
"Oh," Lily said, acting surprised though she already had known that. Knowing didn't make it hurt any less. She stepped back out of the door and closed it behind her.
Lily looked around her room once more, trying to think if there was anything here she would need between now and Christmas. With a small sigh she closed her case and snapped it shut. Kit nudged her elbow, upset with being ignored.
"Sorry, love," Lily said, picking her up and taking her out of the room. "I don't want to leave either."
She moved downstairs, where her mother was busy making her favorite breakfast and her father was reading the paper. Petunia was no where to be seen, but she rarely attended meals anymore. She avoided Lily at all costs.
She swallowed hard, realizing she would be leaving them both in a few hours. But they smiled at her encouragingly and didn't talk about it. Lily was grateful. If they had told her how much they were going to miss her, she'd probably break down, lose her nerve, and refuse to go back.
Lily wandered through the compartments, looking for one with a seat left. She'd stalled getting on the train, wanting to put off leaving her parents as long as possible. She'd left her belongings somewhere near the front of the train, carrying only Kit in a handled basket.
She found the compartment with the Marauders. There were a few seats left, and when she admitted it to herself, she missed them. Sirius was the first to notice her. "Lily!" he exclaimed, jumping up from his chair and running to her. She was so shocked when he pulled her into a tight hug and kissed the top of her head that she blushed as red as her hair and stood shock still.
"You only wrote Remus all summer long," he accused.
"I'm sorry," she apologized instantly.
"Don't be," Remus said, pushing Sirius out of the way to hug her. She hugged him back with vengeance. "I missed you Lily."
"I missed you too," she returned. Kit mewed a protest because she was tipping the basket, and she pulled away.
Peter gave her a quick wave from his seat where he was furiously scribbling at a parchment, probably attempting to finish his summer homework.
"Hey Lily," James said, not looking up. Curious, she went over to see what he was so intent on.
It was a small painting of a woman's hand. She realized after a delayed moment, that James wasn't studying it he was painting it. "You painted that?" she asked.
"It's Sirius' mother's hand," he answered. He looked up with mischievous eyes. "She's so hot, Sirius wouldn't let me paint anything but her hands."
Sirius pretended to chuck a book at him. "You're a pervert."
"Tell him I'm right, guys, she's hot." Sirius glared at both Remus and Peter. Lily knew instinctively that only James would get away with it. They must have sensed it to, because Peter pretended not to hear and Remus just shook his head sadly.
"I didn't know you painted," Lily said, bringing the topic back to the point.
"I had a lot of free time as a kid," he answered.
"You're very good," she said. The painting was startlingly realistic. He was only thirteen.
James didn't respond, but she could tell he was pleased with the compliment.
"Lily," Remus called. "Come tell me about your summer."
Lily nearly collapsed into her seat. Her new classes were challenging, and after one week she really wasn't adjusted to her new schedule yet. It was hard, also, to readjust to the food served at Hogwarts, after a summer at home. But right now she was starving. She leaned against Remus and he chuckled at her.
Sirius and James ducked in across from them, keeping their heads bent low so as to not be noticed. Lily knew instantly they'd done something wrong. She waited with held breath for something to blow up.
Nothing did, and the two began to eat their meals, still bent over. After a while, she relaxed and focused on her own.
When a scream came from the Slytherin table, she knew it was their fault before she even knew what was happening. A putrid smell came across the room, causing moans of disgust and everybody to cover their noses. How convenient, that under the pretense of covering their noses, the Marauders hid their snickers.
All the food on the Slytherin table had turned rotten. Those with some in their mouth were currently being sick where they sat or running out of the room. After another moment, when the stench did not fade, everyone began to run out of the room.
"What do you think?"
James ducked out from behind his easel to give his best friend a once over. "You look exactly like you always do."
"Perfect," Sirius said, nodding at his own reflection.
"Who is she again?"
"That Ravenclaw forth year, Sarah or Sam or something."
James snickered as he washed his brushes out. "If you don't know her name, what are you going to call her?"
Sirius curled his nose. "I'll have to use one of those dumb pet names, if it comes to that."
"So I'm stuck in here alone all night?"
Sirius grinned. "Peter had detention, probably until midnight, and Madam Min won't let us see Remus."
"I hope he doesn't have whatever his mom does."
"She said it was just a highy contagious something or another."
"You're going to be late."
"She'll live," he said, walking out of the room.
Lily pocketed the small, beautifully wrapped package before her classmates could see it. Severus had this class right before her, and somehow had found out where she usually sat. As she was early, and she'd seen him leave, she ran out after him.
"Snape!" she called, gaining his full attention instantly. He turned and stopped, looking nervous and flushed.
"Yes, Lily?" he asked, slightly breathless.
Now that she had his attention, she wasn't sure what to say. "You don't, you don't have to keep buying me things, okay?" She realized a heart beat to late that sounded like rejection, and his face fell. She couldn't do that to him. "Write to me instead, all right?"
Not wanting to see him react to that, she turned and ran back to class, fighting a blush so her classmates wouldn't know.
James and Sirius stood when Remus walked into the dorm. Peter ducked behind him and shut the door, locking it. Remus looked startled at Peter, then at Sirius and James who were standing shoulder to shoulder. "What's wrong guys?"
James took a small step forward. "Remus, we know."
A shot of panic struck through his stomach, but he didn't allow it to show on his face. "Know what?" he asked, forcing calm.
"We know why you disappear every month, conveniently on the full moon. We figured out why your mom looked so healthy when she's always so sick. You're a werewolf, Remus." He took a step closer, and Remus backed up.
Silence followed the accusation. James glanced at Sirius, thinking perhaps they'd made a mistake, as shock was written across Remus' face.
Sirius shook his head, and walked toward Remus. "Look, Remus," he said, his voice demanding.
Shock transformed to panic as Sirius approached, and Remus let out a cry and turned. He pushed past Peter and struggled with the lock. As soon as he had it open he fled at a dead run.
"Catch him!" James shouted, causing Remus to whimper and run faster.
He jumped half the stair until he reached the landing that connected the girls' stair to the boys'. He didn't wait to knock on Lily's door, he could hear them coming down the steps behind him. He flung it open and slammed it behind him, locking it and sinking to the floor before Lily had even turned.
After a cursory glance to check nobody else was around, Remus dissolved into tears and hid his face. "Lily, they know. Sirius and James. They locked me in the room. They found out. They're after me."
She didn't ask any questions. She didn't think either of them were capable of hurting Remus, but she had no way of understanding how much this world feared werewolves, and she wasn't taking any chances.
"Stand up, Remus, over here," she said, grabbing his arm and leading him across the room to the far side of her bed so he wouldn't be visible from the doorway. "Did they see you come in here?" she asked, grabbing her wand off of her bed and holding it ready.
He nodded, wiping tears off his face that were replaced instantly. He was trembling, but he didn't make any noise. Nearly brought to tears herself at the fear he was displaying, Lily wrapped him in a hug. She'd kill them both before she let them touch Remus.
Three hard bangs hit the door. "Remus, come out of there!" Sirius yelled.
Lily's face hardened, as did her grip on her wand. "Just keep quiet."
She stomped over to the door and threw it open, her wand already pointed. Their eyes widened in shock. "Take one more step and I swear," she threatened. "I know more charms than the two of you put together and if you even think of touching him I'll kill you both," she growled, advancing on them. They backed away, until James shook his head.
"We're not going to hurt him!" he cried in dismay.
"We've got a plan!" Sirius defended, holding his hands up to ward her away.
"You lock him in a room, accuse him, and chase him and expect me to believe you don't mean to harm him?" She stopped advancing so she could keep both in the line of fire of her wand.
Sirius and James both looked instantly ashamed. Sirius swore loudly.
"We didn't mean to scare him," James said, moving toward her. She turned her wand solely on him, aiming right at his throat.
"Don't you dare," she said through gritted teeth.
"He's our best friend, Lily! We want to help him."
While Lily's wand was on James, Sirius rushed past her and into the room. "No!" Lily shouted, wiping around with her wand. But James reached out and grabbed her wrist, forcing her wand from her hand into his. He caught her around the waist, lifting her clean off the floor, and dragging her into the room. "No!" she shouted, fighting with all of her might to get free. She kicked at him and struggled, but he was stronger than she. Sirius stood in the middle of the empty room
James shut the door behind him, right in the face of Peter who'd finally made it to the landing. With Lily's wand he placed a silencing spell. Lily realized with dismay that nobody was going to help them. "Let me go!"
Sirius's head snapped to her bed, he must have heard something. Lily screamed, twisting her body and scratching his arm with her one free hand. James followed Sirius behind the bed.
Remus sat there, shaking violently, his face hidden in his knees. Lily felt liquid on her finger tips and knew she was drawing blood, but James held her tight. She was no match for his strength.
Sirius fell to his knees by Remus, and grabbed him instantly in a tight hug. "Remus, God, we're not going to hurt you. How could you think we would hurt you?"
Lily stopped fighting instantly, going limp in James' grasp. For a long moment, Sirius held Remus as tightly as James did Lily. Slowly, Remus' tear streaked face rose.
James walked over and sat Lily down on her bed. She stared at him dumbly now that she had been let go, and he gave her a warm smile, before joining the group hug. "We're so sorry that we scared you, Remus," he said. "We weren't thinking."
"We're asses," Sirius admitted.
Remus swallowed heavily. "You don't hate me?"
"Never," Sirius said vehemently. "We've known for a few days. James has been doing some research. We just got around to telling Peter."
"We have an idea that might help you."
Remus looked at James, then gasped. "You're bleeding."
Lily wanted to sink into the ground. James' arm was covered in angry red streaks, half of them open and bleeding.
James, however, laughed. "Lily was trying to kill us." He stood up. "We're going to go now, and we'll be in the dorm. But we're not going to hurt you. When you're ready to talk, come back." He grabbed Sirius' shoulder and pulled him toward the door. Lily marveled at the maturity that he was displaying.
When they door opened, they could hear Peter pelting them with questions. The last being 'Did he do that to you?' and James responding with a laugh 'No, Lily did,' before the door closed.
Lily crawled down onto the floor and practically into Remus' lap. "I feel like an idiot," she said, hiding her face in his knee. "I'm never going to be able to look him in the face again." Remus didn't respond and after a moment she looked up at him. "What?"
"You were going to kill them for me." His voice wasn't accusing, as if he thought she was insane, but rather of wonder.
"Yeah, well," Lily said, slightly embarrassed. "You would have done the same. And so would they."
He reached out and took her hand in his, causing her stomach to do an odd little twist. "Lily," he said seriously, "nobody's ever protected me like that before."
They stared at each other for a moment. Remus glanced at the wall, then assembled his courage to bend down and press his lips against hers.
Lily sat in charms, doodling circles and stars on her paper. She'd long finished her assignment, which was typical. Usually she brought something with her to do, but today she hadn't.
Professor Flitwick started talking again and Lily looked up. He was putting the homework up on the board. She blinked twice. He'd written vulgar words, words she didn't think he'd even know. "Professor?" came a questioning student. All at once he saw what the board said and started so badly he nearly fell off the chair.
"Oh my!" he exclaimed, reaching for the eraser. But as he touched it, the eraser shot away from his hand. Following, the chalk pulled from his grasp and went after it. They engaged in a game of tag across the board, the chalk making sure to spell out every dirty word that it could in the process.
"Potter! Back! Lupin! Pettigrew!" he shouted, jumping down off his chair and hurrying out of the room. Similar shouts down the hall told Lily that every room was having the same problem.
James closed the door behind Sirius and he walked into the dorm. "You're late," he accused.
Sirius rolled his eyes. "She started telling me about her parents, and all the problems that they have, and how the fight, and how it makes her feel." He pretended to choke himself. "Needless to say, I won't be seeing her again."
James rolled his eyes at his best friend. "Alright. I found another book that says the same thing. Animagi are immune to werewolf bites while in their animal form. All we have to do is make the potion."
"How illegal is this?" Remus asked, nervous.
"Well," James said reluctantly. "It's pretty illegal, actually. But I know how to not get caught. We have the cloak."
"Always a huge help," Sirius said with a grin.
"And," James said slowly. "I have a place to brew it, that nobody buy myself can get into."
"What do you mean, only you? What about us?"
James shook his head. "It's a family secret, it's worth more than my life to tell you it exists. But if we work together to gather the ingredients, I can make it where even Dumbledore won't know about it."
"Are you positive?" Remus insisted, terrified of the idea of them getting in trouble for his sake.
"I wouldn't lie to you, Remus. We won't get caught, I promise we won't. So, let's start the list of what we need, and where to get it."
"We should tell Lily," Remus said quickly, causing the other three to look at him. He blushed but held his ground. "She's great with plants. She can grow us ingredients. We don't have to tell her exactly which potion it is we're making."
"But she'll figure it out," James said crossing his arms.
Remus shook his head. "She hates potions. She'd never read ahead, even if curious, she'd just ask me. Trust me."
"Well, you know her best."
"Even if she did find out, she'd never betray us."
Sirius nodded. "That I can believe."
James slid down the stair into the chamber. The white washed walls were hardly an inviting entrance, and he made a mental note to start hanging some of his paintings in here rather than storing them under his bed.
He usually avoided being here, as his only memories from this place were with his father. It really was rather a waste of an opportunity, though, when he was the only person that could get in. Perhaps he could redecorate, and then it wouldn't hold as many memories.
He'd decided on the kitchen as the best area to brew the potion, as there was a fire pit beside the common Muggle stove. He grinned at the beautiful mesh of culture that the chamber had come to resemble. Not in recent generations, but usually the descendents of his blood line tended to marry Muggle born or even Muggles. He enjoyed living like a Muggle. When his father was undercover, they'd spent a lot of time in Muggle disguises.
He'd been terrified of having to spend the summer here after his father had died. Even more frightening would have been going home for summer before he'd died. But both years the Black family had taken him in the whole summer.
He dumped in the initial set of ingredients. It wasn't really that complicated of a potion, it just required about two years to make, with several sessions of boiling and freezing and simmering and letting it stand for sometimes months at a time.
Lily stepped into the common room with a grin on her face. Somehow, the Marauders had managed to convince all the paintings to wear mustaches, even the animal ones. The fat lady had worn a darker one over the shadow of one she already had, and it was very amusing.
She dropped her books beside the couch and fell down onto it. School was pleasantly tiring right now. Not enough to exhaust her but it kept her busy enough to avoid homesickness.
Sirius fell down on the couch beside her. "Hey there Lily," he said, smiling at her.
She blushed. Sirius still intimidated her. His personality was a little overwhelming. "Hey," she said softly, turning to stare into the fire.
"So," he said, trying to convince her to speak, "James' arm is healing."
Lily blushed again. "I told him I was sorry."
"You shouldn't be," he said, jumping on the opening. "What you did was very cool. That you stood up for Remus. You're a really great friend to him." There was a slight emphasis on the word friend, and if she wasn't still red Lily would have blushed again.
"Are you guys, more than friends?" he asked when she didn't offer the information.
"No," she said, almost too quickly. She knew he wouldn't believe her. "We decided it would be too weird. He's, he's my closest friend, and we just, decided not make it weird."
She didn't tell him the rest. That she was afraid of losing the only friend she had. That although she had a crush on him, it was one that fled away when confronted with the aspect of actually doing anything about it. Her crush was simply because he was the only boy in her life she felt comfortable with, besides her father.
"Hey Lily," he said after another minute. "You don't have to seclude yourself with just Remus. James and I, well, we're your friends too. We were before, but even more so now." He got flustered, something Lily had never seen before. She knew she was staring but she couldn't help it. Sirius excused himself and left the common room.
The Marauders made a point to always sit with Lily at meals, and she knew now it wasn't just Remus' prompting. She didn't always sit next to him now, but next to all of them. Slowly, she was getting to know them a little bit more.
The mail arrived, and as usual she got a letter from her mother. "What's the news from home?" Sirius asked.
Lily breezed through the letter before she answered him. "Not a lot. My sister is being difficult again."
"You have a sister?" he said with surprise. "Is she coming to school?"
Lily shook her head. "She's older. She wasn't asked to come."
"We're all only children," Remus said. "All four of us."
Lily rolled her eyes. "Oh, be glad. Having a sibling is awful."
James let his fork clatter to the plate. They turned to stare at him but he didn't look up; his eyes were glued to his plate. "Excuse me," he said, standing and leaving the room.
They waited in silence until he left the room.
"Man," Sirius said, shaking his head. "You never know what's going to make Old James show up."
"Old James?" Lily asked. It wasn't the first time they'd referred to him as that. None of them would answer her.
Lily tried managed not to laugh when Snape walked into the door. The Marauders had turned every door in the school invisible, so you would try to walk through what you thought was an open doorway only to bump your nose. They'd all been caught at least twice, and Snape's nerves at meeting her had probably caused him to forget.
He glared at the invisible door as if it was the Marauders themselves, then started to grope for the knob. Once he managed to get inside, Lily smiled at him, which caused him to go red.
"What did you need my help with?" he asked, setting his book down and getting right to the point, avoiding her eyes.
Lily sat a list down in front of him. "I need to grow these. But I don't recognize a lot of the names. I figured they have to be things we won't cover in Herbology.
Snape scanned the list. "I don't suppose you're going to tell me what you're making with these?"
She colored prettily. "I can't, I'm sorry."
"Some of these are very rare, and some are very dangerous, dark, even."
That made her eyes widen. "Really? I didn't know."
Snape looked up at her, not really convinced, but saw the honest confusion on her face. "How can a plant be dark?"
He shook his head. "Not the plant. The uses for it are usually dark, or what it can do."
"Oh," she said, slumping. "Is there anything commonly used for a substitute?"
"If you need them, I can get them," he answered. "But not until the beginning of next year."
"That's perfect," she said, perking instantly at his words. He was pleased he was able to make her happy that way. She turned her bright green eyes on him. "Thank you, Severus. It means a lot to me."
"You do realize I could probably identify what you were trying to make by this list." She paled, and he immediately wished he hadn't said it. She panicked. The Marauders hadn't even wanted her to know what they were doing. Butshe hadrefused to help until they told her. If they found out she was involving their enemy: they'd hate her. If Snape found out what they were doing he'd have horrible blackmail against all of them. "But I won't," he finished quickly, then added slyly, "if you trust me."
"Of course I trust you," she said, somewhat insulted. Severus had been writing to her for months now. He still periodically left her presents, but her conscious was somewhat eased. Sometimes she wrote him back, but more often than not she found she didn't know how to respond to his flattery.
"Then it won't be a problem."
The train ride home was rather silent without James. Somehow, despite that Sirius was usual the source of most of the noise, without James he was unable to be as lively.
The potion needed constant hourly stirring for three straight days, which just happened to fall on the first three days of summer. So James had stayed in hissecret room, sending most of his belongings home with Sirius.
"How is he going to get to your house when he's done?" Lily asked, suddenly seeing a hole in their brilliant plan.
Sirius glanced at Remus, who begged with his eyes. Sirius rolled his own. "Fine tell her. It's not like she doesn't know everything else already."
"James has an invisibility cloak."
She took a moment to process that. "So it makes him invisible?"
Remus nodded. "He kept his broom too. He'll fly to Sirius' under the cloak, so nobody will see him.
She grinned, as suddenly a lot of things made sense. "So that's how you guys get away with so much." Kit crawled out of her lap and into Sirius'. Once she'd warmed up to him, Kit made a point to remind Sirius of his softer side.
"That's the secret," Remus agreed. She realized, with shock, that she was actually going to miss being at school, now that she had friends.
(A/N: Hey there everybody. I know you're all waiting for Year Six, but I hope this can hold you off for a while. I promise I'll be more productive after January when my classes change. I just don't have a lot of time right now. And Gwen and I are having a rather dificult timefiguring out how we're going to do this Professional Quidditch thing. lol. Please stay loyal as you've always been. )