Disclaimer: Harry Potter is copyright JK Rowling, I am merely playing around.

Previously in Dear Lily:

The passageway was very long indeed; at some points it sloped downwards, and Lily found herself struggling to keep herself upright. And then, at times, there were stairs -- steep, slanting stairs with no railing at all. At first she was puzzled by the presence of these stairs, until she remembered that she had started on the fifth floor.

The farther she went, the colder the air became, and she clutched the Invisibility cloak against herself more for warmth than stealth.

And then she reached a dead end.

Frowning, she held her wand aloft, hoping to illuminate another passageway or a door, but there was nothing. But then something occurred to her, and she began scrutinizing the offending wall. Yes, there it was: A hole, just smaller than her fist. The hole expanded like before, and she crawled out, shivering against the harsh night's wind.

And then she gasped at the sight before her.

Chapter 5:

It was cold. Very, very cold, but Lily hardly cared. She removed the cloak, still gawking. Before her stood the very last thing she would have expected to see: A beautiful stag, at least six feet at the shoulder. Its majesty left her feeling as though she had been hit with the stunning spell five times. Speechless, she gazed.

It watched her through warm, hazel eyes. Those eyes, bright and knowing…she had seen them before.

A sign, she thought, dazed. You can't miss it.

Prongs.

The stag began to walk away, but Lily was too stunned to follow. It stopped and turned its head around to gaze at her. When she didn't come, it trotted back over to her and nudged her hand with his muzzle. And Lily began to follow as it walked off again, glancing back at her occasionally with those deep, hazel eyes.

They were heading towards the forest. The Forbidden Forest. Every bone in Lily's body screamed at her that this was a bad idea -- the forest was forbidden for a reason! -- but nonetheless her feet kept moving, following the magnificent stag, as if she was in some sort of a trance.

As they breached the forest's edge, Lily noticed that the stag's gait slowed, and he walked beside her, rather than in front of her. Lily held her breath as she stepped among the trees. Great Oaks, Pines, and Sycamores towered above her as a hazy mist hung above her feet, thick with mystery. As the wind blew, it seemed it was whispering a sort of song, pulling her along, and though Lily was not the type of girl to be easily intimidated, she found she was glad of the presence of the stag beside her. She felt -- odd as it was -- protected with him there.

The path they were following was thin and winding; an undergrowth of thorns and knotgrass snagged her feet as she gingerly stepped through.

They were moving deeper and deeper into the forest with every pace, but despite her misgivings, Lily continued, curiosity growing. The stag showed no sign of slowing, and Lily's mind began to wander like the meandering path they followed.

Where was Potter? Would he be wherever they were going? Would he even show up at all? Was it really even Potter, or had he just figured out the secret and had tried to trick her into believing it was him?

And worst of all, what if the stag was there to lead her into the forest, then disappear -- leaving her lost forever inside this dark maze of snaking paths and menacing trees?

Lily was so wrapped up in thought that she had barely noticed that the density of the forest was beginning to diminish. It was gradually becoming easier to see and step, and the extensive blanket of leaves above was slowly thinning.

And then the stag stopped. It stopped so suddenly that Lily had walked ahead a few paces before realizing that her companion had halted.

She was standing in a glade of some sort. The trees stopped almost abruptly with a defensive stance, as if guarding the circular area. The moonlight, it seemed, was creating little spinning specs of light that ricocheted off invisible barriers. The whisper she had thought was the wind had grown louder and stronger to an evident song; it bounced off the trees surrounding the small clearing -- no! It was coming from the trees. She listened in wonder. The words were indistinguishable, but it was a song no less.

"Wood Nymphs," she muttered, recalling a Care of Magical Creatures lesson from fourth year. They were tree dwellers, known for their beautiful songs, and though Lily had studied them before, she had never actually heard one.

On closer inspection, she realized that specs of light were, in fact, more. Glittering, glowing firefly-like insects fluttered upward throughout the clearing, thousands of them, so when one looked up, it appeared as if one was looking straight into the heavens.

It was positively entrancing.

Lily took a few hesitant steps forward, giving a quick glance back to the stag, who still watching her from the outskirts of the clearing. Her eyes caught his, and it was as if he was speaking to her.

And I have something I want to show you.

Tearing her gaze away from the stag, Lily returned to the spectacle, taking it all in. She spun on her feet, feeling slightly giddy at the beauty of it all. It was as if she was flying -- a sensation that even a broomstick couldn't bring to her -- flying through space and time and stars…

But then, abruptly, she came back down to earth as she remembered why, actually, she was here.

"James Potter," she said loudly. "I know you're here and I know you're behind all this!" She was glaring wildly around the clearing, as if she thought a tree would randomly transform into him.

She heard a pop behind her, not unlike a twig snapping. She spun around, expecting to see the great stag. She received quite a shock.

There, standing exactly where the stag had previously -- two feet centered between four prints -- was a rather weary looking James Potter.

A thick silence hung between the pair. Lily simply stared at him, her jaw hanging slightly, and James gazed back, an odd look in his eyes.

After several moments, when Lily showed no sign of saying anything, James spoke. "Well," he said heavily, with the defeated air of a wealthy man who had, at last, lost everything. "That wasn't exactly how I had expected this to go."

Lily didn't respond immediately. She just stared at him. Finally, she managed to get out, "How -- I mean, I knew, but -- you're 'Mr. Prongs?'"

James sighed. "Guilty."

"How?" Lily asked, still looking at him as though she had never seen him before. (Which, in a sense, she hadn't.) "I mean, Mr. Prongs was so -- so -- well, and you -- you're…"

"A total git around you?" James suggested with slumped shoulders.

Lily felt an unexpected pang of guilt. "Well, yeah," she said, not meeting his eyes.

James gave a remorseful smile. "This is the part where I come off as a total insecure prat," he said. In an attempt to change the subject, he asked, "How did you know it was me, anyway?"

"I -- overheard you and Black arguing -- and -- yeah," Lily lamely responded.

James looked at her almost incredulously. Then he let out a very forced laugh. "Who would've thought -- we got away with everything this long, only to blow it by our own stupidity."

"It's not like I was going to tell or anything," Lily said irritably, feeling compelled to point out that she was not, actually, the tale-telling swot that Black made her out to be.

James looked at her questioningly, which only irritated her further.

"Black -- he made it sound like I was some horrible little sneak who would spill your 'secret' if given half the opportunity --"

"You have to excuse him," James said solemnly. "He doesn't --"

"…Like me?" Lily offered coldly.

"It's not that. He was just worried because -- there's a lot more to these pretenses than I can say --"

"You could've told me, you know!"

"What?"

"You didn't have to be 'Mr. Prongs!' You could've told me as James Potter and then you wouldn't have had to risk your 'secret.'"

James looked at her, his expression startling. "Could I have, really?" he asked.

"Yes!" Lily said indignantly.

"But you hated James Potter. And everyone knew that Potter the Prat and Evans the Prefect hated each other." He paused. "But I didn't hate you. Far from it, actually, I -- Mr. Prongs said it, so I will too…I -- I love --"

"Don't!" Lily cried, turning away. "Not here. I won't believe you here." She turned her gaze towards the glittering sky, aglow from the phosphorescent fireflies. "I need to be somewhere where I don't feel so -- so overwhelmed."

James nodded, his hazel eyes dark. "The common room?"

"Sure," said Lily distractedly, ripping her gaze away from the spectacle above her.

"I'll meet you back there?"

"Okay."

James bent down and picked something up. He handed her the silvery invisibility cloak gently.

Lily took it. "But -- won't you need it to get back?"

James smiled. "I'm a Marauder, Lily. The cloak is merely an accessory." Another small smile. "I'll meet you back in the common room."

Lily simply nodded. Throwing the cloak over her shoulders, she began to walk away. She paused after a few steps to gaze back at him one last time, only to find James wasn't there.

A great stag stood in the clearing, staring up at the glittering heavens.

Lily was never entirely certain how she made it back to the school, for through the woods and through the passageway, her mind dwelled on one thing: James Potter was Mr. Prongs.

James Potter, who teased her, made fun of her freckles, picked on her for being a Prefect…James Potter, who secretly had feelings for her…

James Potter was Mr. Prongs.

Lily stood in front of the Fat Lady's portrait, fighting with herself. If she went in there, she'd have to face James Potter. And it would be different. Out in the woods -- it was like a dream. But here -- in this familiar place, where she had spent so many days of her life -- here it would be real. And she still wasn't sure she could handle it.

On the other hand, standing out in the corridor staring like an idiot at the sleeping portrait would do no good whatsoever.

Lily coughed, in an attempt to wake the portrait up. The Fat Lady opened one eye drowsily, but snapped it shut again quickly, when she saw Lily there. Lily narrowed her eyes and said, "Abditus Amator."

The portrait attempted to ignore her, and let out a loud snore for good measure, but Lily said more forcefully, "Abditus Amator."

"Alright, alright," the Fat Lady muttered. "You shouldn't even be out this late, I don't know what you Gryffindor lot are up to. First that boy, now you…"

But she was cut off as the portrait swung open.

First that boy? Did that mean that James had already returned? 'That boy' could be anyone, but the possibility shook her slightly. She had assumed she would return first -- having left before him and having the invisibility cloak at her aid -- and she had hoped to have time to find her bearings.

Lily held her breath as she climbed through the portrait hole. She glanced around the common room. It was mostly empty, as it usually was at this time of night -- save a student or two, studying by the fire.

At first she thought that James hadn't arrived yet, for she saw no sign of his messy-haired head anywhere -- That was, until she glanced over to the far side of the common room, away from the late-night studiers.

James was sitting on a couch by the roaring fire, with his head in his hands. Lily had rather thought that it would've been her, sitting there, waiting for him with her head in her hands.

She took a deep breath and walked over to him. His head snapped up.

"Hi," he said.

"Hi."

Silence hung between them. For someone so prolific on paper, Lily was, admittedly, surprised at his awkward brevity. However, she was getting on rather friendly terms with surprise these days, so she tried not too think much of it.

Once again the pair found themselves having a silent battle over who would speak first. Finally Lily flopped on to a chair with a sigh and said, "I just don't know what to think."

James opened his mouth to reply, but closed it again. After a moment, he said. "And I don't know what to say."

Silence again.

"I guess -- I just have a lot of questions, and I want answers. I've been in the dark for ages, and I just want to know what's going on."

James nodded. "Alright. Shoot."

Lily chewed her lip. "Right. Well…" she thought for a minute about all the questions she'd been dying to ask. Suddenly it all seemed rather silly. "How have you been delivering the letters?" she finally asked.

"Owls, naturally," James said. "Except the first time, that Halloween, I mean. That was hand-delivered. There wasn't enough time."

"But the stairs --"

James just shrugged.

"Oh right, the 'Marauder' thing," Lily said with an almost amused roll of the eyes. "Well then…well, how did you get my last letter? You can't just call that a Marauder trick."

"Sirius swiped my letters -- the letters I sent you, that is -- with a quick summoning spell when your potion exploded. As evidence of my 'crimes.' Your letter was with them."

"Git," Lily muttered underneath her breath. "So Sirius didn't know beforehand, I gather?"

"No."

As all of Lily's thoughts and questions of the last month came pouring back to her, their little 'Question and Answer' session was quickly turning into a rapid-fire interrogation.

"Who did know, then?"

"Nobody."

"For how long?"

"A couple of years, I guess. But I've been infatuated with you since first year."

"But you always picked on me," Lily reminded him, standing up now and pacing the small area.

"I was an eleven year old boy. I was an idiot."

"But even this year! Even when you were sending the letters … you still teased me and treated me just the same!"

"An idiot and a coward. I didn't want you to find out."

"But surely you intended on telling me at some point! You couldn't honestly have meant to just send the letters forever!"

"I didn't think ahead."

"Why didn't you just tell me who you were here?" she asked. "Why the Forest?"

"I thought it was beautiful, and it reminded me of you. I thought you'd like it."

"It was beautiful," Lily muttered pensively. "What did you expect to happen, though, once I got there? Throw myself romantically into your arms, tell you I'm madly in love with you -- even though I hardly know you, and Mr. Prongs defied anything I've ever known of James Potter?"

"It would've been nice," said James, cocking his head.

Lily snorted. "But honestly! What did you expect to say to me?"

"I suppose I'm not really sure. I had already said what I meant to say as Mr. Prongs. I hadn't anticipated James Potter would be so much more difficult."

"I hardly know you," Lily said.

"You know Mr. Prongs! We're the same person."

"I know that Mr. Prongs writes beautifully. I know that he's clever, and smart, and talented enough to get away with practically anything -- But I don't know anything about him that I'd want to know about James Potter. I don't know what his favorite food is, I don't know what drives him absolutely crazy, I don't know …anything!"

"Then ask me. Ask me anything, and I'll answer. Right here, right now."

"Right now?"

"Yes."

"I…well, alright then. What is your favorite food?"

"Chicken," he said, and the two exchanged tentative grins at the absurdity of the question.

"And what drives you absolutely crazy?" she asked with a small smile.

"You," he answered.

Lily laughed. "Ditto," she said. Then she thought of something. "The stag -- are you…an Animagus?"

"Yes."

Lily's jaw dropped. "But…a sixth year! It's not plausible…How could you have possibly…? Oh, right. The Marauder thing."

"No, not really. It took the best of four years before we -- I mean, I could…"

"But why? Just for kicks? Did you just randomly wake up one morning saying, 'I think I'll learn to be an Animagus today?'"

"I can't tell you that," James said quietly. "It would jeopardize a friend."

Lily was quiet for a moment. "I respect that."

"Thank you."

"I have another question," she said, walking over to him.

"Okay."

Lily looked James right in the eye. "Do you love me?"

"Yes," he answered without hesitation. He looked slightly embarrassed at his quick response.

"And do I love you?"

This question seemed to stump him. "Well," he said carefully. "You don't know yet, but you're willing to give me a chance."

"You're wrong," Lily said.

A look of dread passed quickly over James's face. "I'm wrong?"

"Yes," Lily said, leaning towards him. "I do. I do know yet…I do love you."

And then Lily Evans kissed James Potter.

Or Mr. Prongs.

Or did it really even matter?

-End-

Author's Note: It's over, Dear Lily is complete! I know, this chapter took forever. You have my apologies, but it's finally here! Though I was worried for a bit, I really like how it turned out. I'd love to here what you think! Thanks for all the support over this long period of waiting.

Much love,
Chloë