A/N: So, this isn't actually the chapter I wanted to write . . . I WANTED to write the classic train scene, but this one sort of came out instead . . . Next chapter, Hogwarts Express. This is sort of a silly drabble in which I experiment with which way I want the story to go. Ha. Aren't I funny. As though it would ever be anything but a love/hate school story, even if it pretended to be something else. Which it won't, because I like being blatant.

Quite sorry I took so long to get it up. I just wanted to write the next chapter, not this one, so it was sort of slow. Oh well.

God. School starts Tuesday. The agony.

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Lily sat in the car, fuming. Potter was gong to go up to the house and do something idiotic, not Apparate home like he'd told her. Idiot. Blithering, driveling, moronic imbecile. He had no idea what was up there, and he was going to go in anyway. Fine. She didn't care. She glared out the window. He really did have worms for brains. It was a wonder he'd survived seventeen years.

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James would have had an easier time doing what Lily deemed 'idiotic' if there were less Muggles around and a bit more freedom and trust granted to him. No one would let him enter, or even answer any of his questions, instead frankly ignoring him. He kept trying, pestering one man until he swung around to face James.

"Do you have a media badge, son?" the law enforcer asked, directing a menacing stare at James.

"No, sir," he replied, rather taken aback.

"Then I suggest you haul yourself and your questions out of here before you get in any more trouble."

James ignored that, edging around to the other side of the house, hoping to avoid anymore policemen altogether.

That plan failed. He just ended up running into a different type.

"James Potter?" an incredulous voice sputtered as he left the thinning crowd reaching the back of the house, separated with a fence from the lawn of another house. In a small, decorative copse of trees was a collection of oddly dressed, familiar faces. The sputterer stepped forward, garbed in orange and green patterned swim trunks, and a dress coat. It was buttoned, but as far as James could see the wearer had no shirt, and held his arms stiffly away from himself as though he wasn't used to the tight sleeve confines.

"Mr. Herbertly," James said in recognition. "What are you doing here?"

Mr. Herbertly frowned. "I believe that question is coming from the wrong mouth, young man. Why are you here? Do you know anything about this?"

James blinked. "No, of course not. But I saw the Mark and came to investigate."

"Investigations should be left to those suited to them," the Head of the Muggle Department sniffed.

"But what's going on?" James pried.

"That's not information for young ears."

Meaning they didn't know, James thought wryly. "Whose house is it?"

"I'm going to summon someone to take you home straight away," Mr. Herbertly said, completely ignoring James' question. He frowned again - or maybe it was the same one as before, and he had never stopped. James wasn't sure. "Don't you live rather far away? Surely I would know if the Potters lived here."

"I was visiting Lily Evans," James said, his eyes sliding back to the house. The Muggle policemen weren't letting anyone in, and seemed to be dispersing the crowd. Maybe everyone had been told it was just a strange light show.

But with the Dark Mark there, didn't it mean someone was dead?

"Who is Lily Evans?" Mr. Herbertly said, and his impatient tone suggested he was repeating himself.

"What? Oh," James said, snapping back to the Ministry of Magic man. "A girl in my year. Muggle-born. Whose house was this?"

"Anderprout," Mr. Herbertly said, and James perked at the answer, then slouched as Mr. Herbertly beckoned the owner of the name. A short black man came up to them, his clothes mismatched as the other wizards, and eyed James. "Take young Potter home."

"I'm not going home yet," James said stubbornly. "Besides, I have to go back to Lily's."

"I suggest you contact your little friend later," Mr. Herbertly said with a huff. "Anderprout, see him home."

"Don't bother yourself," James said angrily as it became apparent that they weren't going to let him go. "I can Apparate myself."

"Out of sight," Mr. Herbertly said, his reminder more like an irritating prod.

"Obviously," James said, growing more and more angry at being treated like a child. "You should just tell me what happened," was his closing remark, lifting his head. "Because I'll find out, even without yourself."

Mr. Herbertly shook his head. "It's not fit for children's ears," he tsked.

"I will find out," James promised, and stalked off to Apparate away from Muggle eyes.

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Lily went home and called her best Muggle friend, Caro Dean, and asked, "So whose house had the weird light thing? What was up with that?"

"Mrs. Winterthrop," Caro, source of all knowledge, answered properly. "Found dead in the living room, would you believe it? Though don't tell anyone, because it's strictly confidential."

"Which is why you're telling me," Lily responded dryly.

She knew her friend well enough to hear the shrug. "You're different, Lils. We're more along the lines of the same person. What one knows, so does the other."

Lily smiled. Caro was sweet and good-hearted, but thankfully liked to share all the really good gossip - with Lily. "Then what happened?"

"We're still in the early stages of know. Mum's heard from her brother," Caro's uncle was part of the police department, "Cause, you know, he goes threw that whole anxiety thing and his shrink thinks he should talk. Anyway. The team went in there, right? Like, whatever, a light show, boo hoo. And they found old Mrs. Winterthrop dead, propped up on the sofa like she was napping, a cup of cold tea right next to her. Freaky, or what?"

"Freaky," Lily agreed faintly.

"So the coroner's looking over her, but from what Uncle Ted said, there weren't any gun wounds or anything. The method they're rooting for is poison. But I really want to know who did it. I mean, a little old lady. I'd only met her, what, twice? Three times? She's Andrew's grandma - oh, you don't know him, goes to my school - like you should, you psycho wizard goof - pretty sweet - wow, you don't think she's like you? The whole witch thing? Which explains the creepy sky-art! The skull. Freaky. Maybe it was those Death-Eaters! Wow. We're like, in the middle of a murder mystery."

"I think you've covered everything I thought of," Lily said faintly, her horror at the death tinged with bemusement at her friend's mind.

"Good, because I think so too. Want to go over this evening and do a little reconnaissance work?"

"Yeah," Lily said, looking out the window at the dreary, dripping rain. "Meet you in half an hour."

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"Mum, Dad, whose house had the Dark Mark cast over it?" James demanded the moment after he Apparated with a loud clang (he hadn't quite got the clap down yet) in the dining room.

His father looked up from where he sat at the table, reading the Daily Prophet and eating a piece of toast. James' mother had a wealth of Muggle newspapers spread out before her, and was holding a pair of scissors poised above them.

"Hello, James darling," Mrs. Potter said. "Where have you been?"

"Mum," James groaned, "No where."

"Nonsense," his father responded, putting down the newspaper. "You and Sirius went off on your camping trip a week ago and then he returned without you. Then an hour later he said, Oh, never mind, Remus found him. He's at Evans' house.'"

"If you knew where I was, why did you ask?"

"Because," his mother said patiently, "We would like to hear it from your mouth. Care to explain what you were doing there, when you apparently hate the girl?"

"What's this?" Mr. Potter said, confused. "Who do you hate, James?"

His wife rolled her eyes. "Lily Evans. Honestly, Charles, you're so absent minded sometimes."

"I thought our James was in love with that Lily girl," Mr. Potter said with a frown. "Isn't she the one Sirius is always teasing you about?"

"Dad," James groaned.

"I can't imagine her parents just let you stay there for half a week." She tsked. "They've probably a terrible opinion of you, from their daughter."

"They were charmed," James said sulkily.

"Poor things," Mr. Potter laughed.

"My point was," James said, trying to steer the conversation as he wished it, "What was the Dark Mark over?"

"Why don't you go find Sirius? I'm sure he'd love to see you," Mrs. Potter said, beginning to stack her newspapers in one pile.

"Mum!"

"It's slightly private, darling."

"Mum, I was there."

His mother frowned. "That was very dangerous, James. I don't want to see you get hurt."

James scoffed.

"Go on then, get to bed."

"I'll just read the paper tomorrow and find out," James warned.

"Not sure the Ministry will let that in the paper," Mr. Potter mumbled, then covered his face with the Daily Prophet when James turned to him.

"I'll find out," James promised, and stalked off to find Sirius.

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"Ow!"

"Shush!" Lily hushed her friend.

"But I think I got a splinter."

"Then pull it out," Lily said uncompromisingly.

"This would be so much easier if we were invisible," Caro whispered, looking at her witch-friend hopefully.

Lily shook her head. "No such luck. Come on."

The basement entrance had been left open, and the girls were able to sneak in that way. The policemen had left after carting away the body and - well, after doing whatever it was policemen do in homes of the suspiciously dead. Lily and Caro were still intent on looking at everything, and they started with the living room, where a white outline was placed on the sofa.

"That is so unnerving," Caro said, her flashlight shaking.

"Yeah," Lily agreed, scanning the room. Nothing.

"So if we think it was Death-Eaters, what was their motive?"

Lily shrugged. "They didn't need a motive. They just wanted some fun. Here, let's go to her room."

"Why?" Caro asked, shivering.

"I want to find out if she was Muggle-born or just half. She certainly wasn't pure-blood."

Flicking through albums showed a collection of still and moving pictures, which Caro pored over with delight though she had seen similar in Lily's room. Lily concentrated on finding the wedding album of Mrs. Winterthrop's parents, which she found as carefully preserved black and white pictures

"Half and half," Lily decided, watching one picture where a timid looking bride had her hand pumped energetically by a caped man. She kept glancing over at her new husband, who grinned encouragingly.

"What's this?" Caro said, and Lily leaned over to see.

"That's . . . Hogwarts," Lily said slowly. A young girl - Mrs. Winterthrop? - was waving happily, her arm hooked through another girl's. They couldn't have been more then thirteen. Behind them was the Great Hall, splendid dishes laid out, kids joking and laughing in the background. On the left edge of the photo, the teacher's could be spotted. A younger Dumbledore stood up, gesturing grandly.

"Wow, that pie looks good," Caro said.

"Yeah. It does," Lily answered, leaning back. For the first time it hit her that Mrs. Winterthrop had been a person, with friends and family, and a life. That she had been a school girl, once, just like Lily, and that her life's thread had been unfairly cut. It made her uneasy, sitting in the dead women's room, combing through her things.

"We should go," she said abruptly, standing up.

"What?" Caro said, looking up from her examination of the wizard pictures. "Ya sure? We didn't really find anything."

"I'm sure the police all ready found everything of importance. Come on, Caro."

"'Kay," her friend said agreeably. "Oh, wow," she said as she stood. "That's one fancy frame."

Lily glanced at the frame in question, sitting on the bedside table, covered in silver carvings and green jewels. "They're probably fake," she said, absently picking it up to study. Her eyes drifted to the picture held. "That her husband?" she asked. They stood together, swaying back and force slowly, so that the movement could have been a trick of the eyes. Mrs. Winterthrop was smiling, her arms wrapped around the waste of a tall, gray-headed man.

"Couldn't be," Caro said. "Mr. Winterthrop died when she was, like, forty. This picture's way too recent. Brother, do you think?"

"I hope not," Lily said dryly, which sent Caro to giggles. Lily stayed silent, then snapped the picture out of the frame and grabbed another picture to tuck in it. "Think I'll take this," she muttered, though Caro was hardly paying attention. As she wedged the replacement in, a piece of paper fell out, a folded note that Lily frowned at, then pocketed.

"Oh, great, it's starting to rain," Caro said from the window. "Let's dash before it really picked up."

"Coming," Lily said, and followed her out.

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"This is ridiculous," James complained. "It's not in the papers, Mum and Dad aren't saying anything if they even know, and people aren't even talking about it in taverns."

"Maybe it's not that important," Sirius suggested to him.

"Or maybe it is and they're all hiding it," James suggested darkly.

Padfoot laughed. "Right," he drawled. "Now, on to more important things."

"Like what?"

Sirius raised both brows. "Like Lily Evans, mate. In detail."

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Lily sat in her room, the note open in front of her. It was a fragment of a poem, scrawled in pointy, long letters, as if the writer was in a rush. She frowned as she read it.

Till his best step approaching,

We journey to the day,

And tell each other how we sung

To keep the Dark away.

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Review Responses:

Korean Pearl - Yay! I'm happy you liked it and generously left reviews. Previews are sort of on hold until I write up a big chunk of story and I'm not posting everything I have . . . Sad, but true. I'm glad you laughed, which is what you're supposed to do, though this chapter is mostly laugh-free. Tear.

Sporkucpine - Glad you like it, though I'm probably not going to make them anymore resisting to each other - they're comfortable where they are, and if they hate each other too much I'll never be able to convince them to fall in love.

Kiki - I honestly don't care if I mess up spelling or Moony's nick-name (though that's an important one.) Mostly this is just to have fun.

-ShIvErInG sMiLe- Happy you like it. I agree: Voldemort's a meanie. I usually hate when stories include him, since I just like light-hearted stuff, but somehow he stuck in. It was kinda weird, actually . . .

Pastel-Meringues - You're sweet! I love being called different. Well, I expect most people do. Props to you.

Roni - You're funny! Glad I got a strong response; I love when stories make me excited, and am very happy my story does that for you.

The Brilliant Fool - Silly. I hate Voldemort Panic. I hate that it's in my story. WHAT'S HE DOING HERE. Whee, fun with caps. Oh, Ben . . . I'm an only child! Very sad. Must go cry in a corner/um, not. So. School. Yup. School.

TajM - thanks! Sadly, this is still a bridge. They're taking an aweful long time to get to Hogwarts. I do wish they'd hurry up.

Blvd - Of course they're still at each other's throats! That'll last, oh, thirty more chapters. (Joking, joking.) Glad that you like it.

Emeraldeyez1728 - I know what you mean. I go crazy when it's like Lily/Sirius. Ahh! Completely wrong. And painful. At least there isn't any other girl character to easily pair James up with. Lily/James, love/hate. It should be left at that.

Duck-a-roo- Oh, my poor mentally deceased James . . . James' parents are only vaguely concerned. They give him a lot of freedom, and (as in chapter) were kept informed of where he was.

Julia - OHAF is on the back burner, as I'm re-editing ATSMtPS to send out with my college apps, and I'm writing a historical novel for school. Everything else just gets worked on when I have time and inclination.

Kuddls - Lol, I'm just paranoid. Sorta frowned at the message for a while and figured I'd ask. Sadly, no one we know died, which takes away drama - then again, wouldn't really want a favorite character to die, so no loss.

Larissa Potter - Yay! Happy you liked it enough to review. It's my favorite pairing to write about.

Mkiara - Yay! You made me feel special. Lily and James will keep sniping for a while, but of course, chaos is always around.

lilsakura - ooh, but I liked it. (The blackmail knife thing.) I know, a fluff-like moment is sort of the bone to the dog, isn't it? Especially as we know they're going to keep fighting for ages. Lol, we need substance!

J.E.A.R.K.Potter - Lol, I tune out violence in movies since I'm bored by it. Oh, god, I hope I can still respond. Where did you hear that? Must panic and now google to find out . . .SCARY.

Miss.Green Hat - Glad you liked my drama, especially since most of the stories just going to be bickering. Oh well, write to your talents.

Frecklednproud - Lol, no, James sucked at comforting. It's cause I get annoyed when heros always know the perfect way to comfort. God, I KNOW. (On the bosses front.) I had to go into work yesterday and pick up my last paycheck. I expected one of the head cashiers to be in the cash room, right? Which is who is usually in there. But the head boss, Store Manager, controller of like two hundred people was in there. Ahh! So awkward. But quitting's the worst. Gah. I hate it. That's why I want to be a writer; I get to work for myself.

BrittanyRose - I'm really glad you said that. I'd say mine is about eighty percent fluff, and by fluff, I mean bickering, but I also like to have a slight backbone. Makes me feel like it's going somewhere, even if I don't yet know where.

dee023 - Good, you were left with questions. Yay! Lol, hope it'll make you feel better to know I didn't have any answers either when I finished. Ha. I just sort of write and hope it turns out well.

Keliadry - Whoo! Suspense is fun. Yeah, I read . . . somewhere, prolly Mugglenet (I am so envious of Emerson) that the school years for Lily James go up to 1978. So, um, I'm writing in 1978. Weird, or what? Oh, right, Voldemort. Silly guy. Just crept in.

Also, a huge thanks to the rest: chikichiki, Alienist, ginny-rox-my-sox01, sugur-huny-bun, Scarletteyes, Son Of Evil, the-honest-liar, sdcfsdf, fsadfds, Hermione Granger63, Kristin, oasis, Heiress-To-The-Dark-Throne, Randomisation, WhiteCamellia, Amandinka