Disclaimer: Harry Potter characters, places, and ideas belong to J.K. Rowling and Warner Brothers, not me.

Coming of Age: The Lily Evans Chronicles

by Auror5

Chapter XXVI: Time

Late one night, in early February, Lily went downstairs to the common room to meet James, hidden under his Invisibility Cloak.

"Pssst, over here."

Lily quietly walked to the spot where she heard James' voice. His seemingly disembodied hand appeared before her. She took it and slipped under the cloak.

"We have to be silent as mice," James whispered. "Filch is on the prowl, and I left the map with Remus."

Then he kissed Lily on the nose.

They made slow progress through the corridors while heading toward the main castle entrance. Silently and very cautiously, they passed Peeves the Poltergeist, who cackled wickedly while painting an obscene picture on Professor McGonagall's office door. Almost to the castle's entrance hall, Filch popped out from behind a tapestry.

"Who's there? I know someone's there. Trying to hide from me, eh? Find you, I will!"

Lily and James remained still while Filch peered into the darkened portions of the corridor.

Just then, they were startled by a loud, booming crash from an adjacent corridor.

"I GOT YOU, YOU VILE WORM!" Filch ran off into the direction of the noise.

James and Lily hurriedly exited the castle.

"Where are we going?"

"To the other side of the lake. Sirius, Peter, and Remus are waiting for us."

"Oh."

Halfway to their destination, they removed the Invisibility Cloak. On the opposite side of the lake, in a secluded section under a stand of firs, James and Lily met Sirius, Peter, and Remus. All of their wands were lit. Lily and James lit theirs as well.

Peter, Sirius, and Remus smiled at Lily with secretive expressions on their faces.

Lily frowned at them. "What are you three up to?"

"Nothing," replied Sirius.

"Tiger Lily, you always wanted to know why we refer to ourselves as Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs, correct?"

"Yes," she answered slowly while still wondering what they were up to.

"Now you're going to find out," said Peter.

James walked over to stand next to Sirius.

"Presenting, Moony the Werewolf." Remus bowed.

"I already know you're a werewolf, Remus," said Lily with a half smile. "I reckoned Moony had to do with your changing into a wolf at the full moon."

Remus grinned in response.

"Wormtail at your service." Peter curtsied. As he did so, there was faint squeak and he disappeared.

Lily gasped. "Where did he go?"

Remus bent to pick up something from the sere grass. He stood and held out his cupped hands toward Lily.

"Here he is."

A plump, grey rat reposed in Remus' hand.

Incredulous, Lily exclaimed, "I didn't know Peter was an Animagus!"

Wormtail squeaked a few times.

Sirius cleared his throat to grab Lily's attention. "Lily, I promise to never knock you down and lick your face."

Then he promptly changed into a huge, shaggy, black dog with his pale, blue eyes.

Lily's mouth dropped open in surprise.

"Prongs has the immense pleasure of meeting his true love in his other form."

With a faint "pop" a large, regal appearing stag replaced James.

In awe, Lily hesitatingly reached out to touch the stag's muzzle and stroked it. Without warning, James reappeared and took Lily's hand to kiss it.

Peter and Sirius returned to their proper forms.

Still astounded over what she just witnessed, Lily said, "How come you three never told anyone you were Animagi?"

"Er, we can't," replied James.

"Why not?"

"We're unregistered Animagi," Peter responded.

"So? Just register yourselves."

"They can't," said Remus.

"Why not?"

"We're a bit illegal, Tiger Lily."

Lily frowned in confusion. "Please explain what you mean, James."

"We weren't always Animagi," replied Sirius. "We each became one to help Remus, so he wouldn't be alone when he transformed into a werewolf each month."

"How did you ever manage to do that?" Lily said, impressed. "Transformation is dangerous! It could have gone horribly wrong!"

"But it didn't," James replied, grinning.

"Jamie, how long did it take you three to work it out?"

"About three years, and another two for us to be able to transform at will."

Lily shook her head. "I just can't believe it!"

James pulled Lily to him and wrapped his arms around her. "Believe it."

"Why didn't you tell me? I wouldn't have told!"

"We weren't ready for anyone else to know our secret, yet. We each promised that we wouldn't say anything to anyone else unless we all agreed that that person was trustworthy. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs find you very trustworthy, Tiger Lily."

Lily pouted. "All four of you should have known that I was trustworthy. I never said anything about Remus being a werewolf, have I?"

"No, you haven't," said Remus, "and I thank you for that. I've always trusted you."

"We ought to go," suggested Peter. "It's getting late."

"Aye," agreed Sirius. "Let's take the Whomping Willow way back."

"What?" exclaimed Lily aghast. "Are you mad? That wretched tree will kill us!"

"No worries," James said, softly. "Peter will transform into Wormtail and prevent us from experiencing the Whomping Willow's wrath."

"How?"

"You'll see," responded Remus.

The five of them headed for the touchy tree.

***

Lily and Fiona entered Excelsior in Hogsmeade. Since the horrifying event of over a year ago, the students were accompanied by a sizable number of professors whenever they visited the village. In addition, each Hogsmeade trip was assigned to a particular year. It was the seventh years' turn to explore the only entirely magical town in existence. Lily wanted to find a unique gift for James' eighteenth birthday.

"Lily."

"Hmmm?" she replied lazily while looking at an elaborately carved sword.

"I'm going over there to look at the oak figurines."

"All right, Fi."

Lily put the sword down and proceeded to investigate a shelf farther down the aisle. A variety of wood types in embroidered or engraved frames occupied the shelf that caught her attention. She picked up a square piece of mahogany with a border engraved with delicate, gold filigree. Staring at the wood, she noticed that its surface had become lighter in colour and had acquired more depth. As she gazed upon it, the entire surface changed to a creamy alesan colour. Then a moving image appeared. Lily gasped. The motion picture showed Lily lying beside James on the banks of a lake under a full moon. As she watched, James lifted his wand and said something she could not hear. However, she knew what he uttered. "Orchideous," she whispered. In the image, a bouquet of flowers burst from James' wand. He gave them to Lily.

"Why, this happened three days ago," Lily said aloud in astonishment.

"I would strongly suggest that you would try not to talk to yourself in public, Lily."

Lily hurriedly placed the framed wood, which had returned to it original state, back onto the shelf and turned to face Snape.

"Talking to oneself is unbecoming of a Head Girl, don't you think?" Snape resumed. "You don't want anyone to think you are slightly mad, eh?"

"I don't really care what others think of me, Snape. I know, with confidence, that I am not mad or in any danger of becoming so."

"You used to call me by my first name."

"That was before, a long time ago…when you still had some decency, I might add."

Anger appeared on his face. "I apologised, didn't I? When will you ever forgive me for my stupid mistake and give me a real chance? You've never given me a real chance, have you, Lily?"

"Your stupid mistake? I wouldn't call lacing a girl's butterbeer with a Love Potion so that she could be taken advantage of a stupid mistake. I would call that conniving and twisted!"

"Then please explain to me, Hogwarts' Princess, how else would I have been able to get your undivided attention?"

"By being decent, Snape! By stop acting as if the world owes you a favour. By stop competing with James. Why must you compete? Why can't you be yourself? Show me the best that you have to offer! Stop competing with James. I know you must have something good and worthy inside to give. Competing with James only brings out the worst in you."

"So, what are you saying, Lily? If I bared my soul to you, you would come to me? Be my girl? Leave that swollen headed fool, Potter?"

Tired of Snape's ceaseless quest for her and his perpetual envy of James, Lily sighed heavily. Then she quietly said, "No, Severus. You already know that."

An ugly expression blurred his features. "I thought so. Potter, the best thing that has ever happened to Hogwarts, always gets what he wants, doesn't he? First, he becomes Hogwarts Quidditch star extraordinaire. Then he seduces the most beautiful girl in our year. No one can compete with the saintly Potter."

"He didn't seduce me!" Lily responded, hotly.

"Why didn't you ever give me a real chance, Lily? Why? Why Potter?"

"I never liked you that way! At first, I thought we could become friends, but then you changed."

"You can thank Potter for that," he snapped, coldly.

He turned swiftly on his heels and strode rapidly away.

Lily watched Snape exit the shop while shaking her head sadly. She briefly glanced at the framed, dark mahogany, and started to leave. On second thought, she returned to the shelf and grabbed the unusual wood for James' present.

***

Sirius glanced over at Lily and James for support. James nodded his head in encouragement. Lily, James, and Sirius were having tea with Hagrid.

"Erm, Hagrid," Sirius began. "We were wondering why you were expelled from Hogwarts."

Hagrid looked up sharply from his large cup of tea. "Eh?"

"Why were you expelled from Hogwarts?" said James.

"How did yeh know?"

"For one, you aren't allowed to use magic," responded Lily. "Second, James and I saw your name listed on old prefects' records. Third, a prefect by the name of Tom Riddle wrote in one of the records that you were…."

She did not have the opportunity to complete her sentence for at that moment Hagrid, face purple with rage, leapt from his chair, which toppled backward onto the floor.

"RIDDLE!" Hagrid roared. "RIDDLE! THAT…." He then called Riddle every profane word known to man.

Lily, James, and Sirius gazed at Hagrid with shock and dismay. They did not expect him to react so violently.

Eventually, Hagrid calmed down and lifted the overturned chair from the floor. After he sat down, he looked at the three friends with a thunderous expression on his face.

"Riddle, that low down, rotten dog," he muttered. "'Twas his fault I was expelled. Blamed the killin' of that girl on me, he did. Aragog would never have done such a thing. I tried ter tell 'em. No one listened ter me, except Dumbledore, but there was nothin' he could do."

Hagrid sipped his tea.

Softly James said, "Can you tell us what happened? We would like to know."

"As long as yeh three promise me that it doesn' leave this room."

"We promise, don't we?" said James turning to Lily and Sirius.

Lily and Sirius nodded their heads vigorously and chorused, "Yes."

"All righ'. In me third year, strange things began ter happen in the castle. Strange bad things. It started with this boy who was found in the corridor. His eyes were all starey and he was stiff as a broom, but he was alive. No one could explain it. Then the same thing happened to a girl while she was in a toilet. Everyone became afraid because no one knew what was causing the students ter petrify. After the girl, two more students went down. Was a real panic situation, I tell yeh!

"I was afraid meself. Wasn' sure I would be next. But, I tell yeh I had nothing ter do with it! Neither did Aragog!"

"Who's Aragog?" said Lily.

"Aragog is my friend. He's an Acromantula."

"WHAT?" exclaimed Sirius spraying tea on himself and the table. "You had an Acromantula as a pet? They are very dangerous! They eat people!"

"And I tell yeh, Sirius, Aragog wouldn' hurt a fly!"

With a puzzled expression on her face, Lily slowly said, "Hagrid, you speak of Aragog in the present. It's still alive?"

"Of course! Aragog lives in the Forbidden Forest. I visit him and his family evry chance I get."

Too flabbergasted to speak, Lily, James, and Sirius simply gaped at Hagrid.

"I tell yeh, Aragog was innocent! He and his family treat me like one of their own. Aragog is one of the best friends I've ever had."

James shook his head in disbelief. "Hagrid, how do you know it wasn't Aragog?"

"Because Aragog told me. He wouldn' lie, if that's what yeh three are thinking. Aragog was afraid of the monster that was roamin' the castle. It was a monster. Aragog was so scared he couldn' speak of it. He wanted ter leave the castle because he feared for his life. He kep' tryin ter escape, but I wouldn' let him."

Hagrid burst into tears, lowered his head to the table, and bawled loudly.

Alarmed, Lily rose from her chair and went over to the other side of the table to try to comfort him. She attempted to wrap her arms around his exceedingly wide shoulders.

"It's all right, Hagrid. We believe you." Lily's looked over at James and Sirius with an expression that stated that they better agree. "We know you wouldn't keep a pet you know would harm your fellow students."

Hagrid lifted up his head and removed a large handkerchief from his pocket. He used it to wipe his eyes and blow his nose.

Once he composed himself, Hagrid continued his narrative.

"Aragog didn' do it. Tried ter tell 'em. I shoulda let Aragog go when he wanted ter. He was so afraid of the monster. Knew what it was. Feared it like we fear You-know-Who. Couldn' say its name.

"Then a girl was killed in a toilet. Not petrified, killed. Still haunts the toilet she was killed in, from what I unnerstand."

"Moaning Myrtle?" Lily exclaimed with dawning comprehension. "Was Moaning Myrtle the one who was killed? She haunts a girls' toilet."

"I don' remember her name, Lily. It could be her. Why don't yeh ask next time yeh see her?"

Lily made a mental note to do just that.

"They planned ter shut down the school after the girl was killed. Was afraid there would be more killins, and no one still had any idea what was behind the girl's death and the petrifying.

"I was in the corridor late one night to move Aragog ter a safer place. Had hid him in an empty broom cupboard. He wasn' as big as he is now, so he could fit. While I was tryin' ter get him in the box, that bloody sneak Riddle jumped out at me. He forced open the cupboard, and Aragog made a run fer it. Riddle tried to curse Aragog, but I threw meself on the foul git and grabbed his wand. Aragog was able ter escape. Riddle got up real fast, kicked me hard in me groin, and snatched his wand from me while I was bent over in pain. Then the bloody Slytherin pointed his wand at me with a hideous grin on his face. Told me that he was takin' me ter the headmaster.

"He marched me up to Dippet's office. Riddle said that I would be punished fer killin' a student and fer attacking a prefect unprovoked. Kep' tryin ter tell him that Aragog didn' do it. We went into Dippet's office, and Riddle told him about me hiding Aragog and evrything. Next, I was bein' accused of keepin' a dangerous beast in the castle that killed a student. Dumbledore tried ter help. He tried so hard ter defend me. Said that I couldn' have done it...that I was innocent. Had ter be summat or someone else. No one listened. I was told ter leave Hogwarts. Had nowhere ter go."

Hagrid began weeping quietly.

"Oh, Hagrid," Lily said sadly, and reached across the table to grasp his large hand.

In a broken voice, Hagrid repeated, "I had nowhere ter go." He sniffed. "I was only thirteen. Me dad had died a year before. He would've bin so disappointed in me if he were alive. If it weren't fer Dumbledore, I don't know where I would be today. Dumbledore's a great man...heart full of gold. I owe him much, and would give me life fer him."

"Where is Riddle now?" said James.

"Don' know."

At that moment, the vividly coloured fwooper began to sing exuberantly and beautifully.

James and Sirius clapped their hands to their ears.

"Hagrid, you forgot to silence it!" Lily exclaimed while retrieving her wand. She pointed it at the bird and shouted, "Reticeo!"

For a few seconds, the bird's beak remained open in song. It finally dawned on the fwooper that it no longer had its voice. Then it ruffled its feathers indignantly until it resembled a fluffy, pink ball with legs, eyes, and a beak.

***

While in the library researching material for a Charms assignment, Lily was distracted by strange noises coming from between one of the rows of bookcases. She listened intently, trying to discern what could be causing them. After a few minutes, she decided to investigate. Cautiously, she walked toward the row of bookcases from where the combination sighing and pecking sounds seemed to emanate. Peering around the nearest shelf, Lily spotted...Fiona and Sirius! So busily involved with each other, they failed to notice Lily staring at them and shaking her head.

Lily cleared her throat loudly to catch Fiona and Sirius' attention. They quickly stopped their activity with faces turning an alarming shade of red.

"I think you two should find a more secluded place to become reacquainted with each other, don't you think?" Lily said with amusement.

Fiona quickly straightened her robe. Immediately afterwards, Sirius grabbed Fiona's hand.

"We're leaving," replied Sirius shamefacedly.

As they passed Lily, she exclaimed in a singsong voice, "See you two at dinner."

Shaking her head, she wondered how they could tolerate their hot and cold relationship.

***

After having an interesting and illuminating conversation with Moaning Myrtle about the circumstances surrounding her death, Lily headed toward the Gryffindor tower to meet James. Once she reached her destination, she waited in the common room chatting with two second year girls until James appeared. After a few minutes, James stepped into the room and went up to her. Lily politely dismissed the girls.

"I'm sorry for taking so long. Had a minor problem with two first year boys to settle."

"It's all right. Do you have the map?"

"Yes. Let's go through the witch's hump this time."

Ensuring that no one nearby was watching, they climbed through the witch's hump and down into an underground passage that led to the cellar of the Three Broomsticks.

In the middle of the dark corridor below, lit by their wands, Lily told James the story of Moaning Myrtle's death.

After she finished the tale, James said, "So, Hagrid was right. He and Aragog were innocent based on what Moaning Myrtle told you. I have to admit that I had my doubts about Hagrid's story."

"I did, too. That is the reason I wanted to talk to Myrtle. A big part of me didn't want to think that Hagrid would be connected with such a horrible deed. He's so lovable. It's too bad that he has a fascination for frightening beasts."

"Myrtle said that a boy entered the girl's toilet before the monster or whatever it was appeared?"

"Aye."

"Did she get a good look at him?"

"No, she meant to. She just heard his voice. She said that he was talking funny."

"Talking funny? Perhaps he was speaking another language. Did she say which one or what it sounded like?"

"Hissing."

"What?"

"The boy who was doing the funny talking was a Parselmouth, James. I sorted it out."

"A Parselmouth? But, the only known Parselmouth is…."

"Salazar Slytherin."

"That would mean that Slytherin wasn't the only Parselmouth to ever enter Hogwarts."

"Aye."

"If this boy was speaking Parseltongue, that would mean the beast who killed Myrtle was a serpent."

"A Basilisk, to be exact."

James slapped himself on the forehead. "Blimey, of course! Large yellow eye, students petrified…it all makes perfect sense. Myrtle died because she looked directly into the basilisk's eye."

"The basilisk that Riddle summoned," Lily added, quietly.

Stunned, James gazed at her. "How did you figure that one out?"

"I read the prefects, Head Boys, and Head Girls' journals very closely to find as much as I could about Riddle. It turns out that he was a Parselmouth. He mentioned it in his last entry as Head Boy. I am sure he was the one who unleashed the basilisk on the students."

"Then he framed Hagrid for it, the evil git. I wonder why he did it in the first place."

Lily shrugged. "We'll never know. But what really makes me angry is the fact that he received a Special Award for Services to the School, which I am willing to wager had everything to do with Hagrid's expulsion from Hogwarts. It was given to him the same year that Myrtle died."

"Then he became Head Boy in his seventh year. That's sickening."

They each became silent with their own thoughts.

"I wonder where Riddle is now," James mused aloud. "Perhaps he's dead. Would serve him right if he is."

"D'you think Riddle and…." Lily shook her head.

"What?"

"Never mind," Lily said as she stood and wiped the dust from her robe. "We ought to go now. Dinner will be served soon. We don't want to get caught leaving the witch's hump."

"All right."

***

The small boy, no older than two years of age, had been screaming for so long that his voice was hoarse, but he continued to cry for his mother, who remained just outside his reach. He was bound to the chair on which he sat. He could not move his arms and legs. Tears and mucous dripped into his open mouth and down his neck onto his wet shirt.

A man lay in the corner. His face was very pale and saliva trickled from the corner of his mouth. Lily recognised the man as Frank Longbottom. Sorrow filled her heart. She wanted to wake him and pick up the baby. In this dream, however, the only power she had was to impotently watch and listen.

"Tell us where our master is, witch!"

"Please," the woman begged. "I know nothing. I know nothing!"

Lily gasped. It was Diana Pheasant! In this dream, she was Mrs. Longbottom, wife and mother.

"Crucio," screamed a woman Lily recognised with horror.

Judith Owlsbuckle, Hogwarts Head Girl in Lily's first year, tortured Diana for information she did not have.

Diana shrieked with agony. Her body tried to writhe from the excruciating pain, but like her son, she was bound too tightly to the chair on which she sat. Lily noticed that the rope had bit into Diana's flesh, and was stained with her blood.

The pain ceased, and Diana's head drooped downward. Tendrils of damp hair clung to her sweaty face.

A teenager, who seemed oddly familiar to Lily, yanked Diana's head upward by the hair.

"Give us the information we need!"

Diana stared blankly at the boy-man with straw-coloured hair.

Disgusted, he slammed his fist into Diana's face. Blood spurted from her broken nose.

"Tell us where our master is, witch," shouted a thickset man Lily recognised as Lestrange. "TELL US!"

"Please, I don't know," Diana responded, weakly. "Please, no more."

"CRUCIO!"

An exceptionally loud peal of thunder awakened Lily. The dream dissolved rapidly like thin fog under a burning sun. It was forgotten.

***

Lily and James lay atop the Astronomy Tower on a mild, fragrant night in late April gazing at the sky and conversing of matters important.

"Instead of Aurors, Jamie, perhaps we should work in the Department of Mysteries as Unspeakables."

"Like my dad."

"Aye."

"But don't you wish to help track down Lord Voldemort and his supporters, Lily?"

"Yes, of course. We could do that as Unspeakables."

"But we don't know what Unspeakables do. I've lived with my dad all my life, and I still don't know what his function is as an Unspeakable. Whenever I ask, he tells me that it is classified."

"Jamie, wouldn't you think that the Unspeakables would be in the best position to help defeat Lord Voldemort? No one knows what they do, not even Lord Voldemort and his supporters. As Unspeakables, we could get information to help the Aurors track them down. No one would have any idea because our function would be classified."

"True, but I would like to know what an Unspeakable does before I commit to becoming one."

"How are we going to find out, James? The only way to find out is by becoming one!"

James sighed. "I don't know, Lily."

"Listen, James, if we don't like being Unspeakables, we can always get out of it, can't we?"

"Yes, but our memories would have to be modified. That's what my dad told me. When he retires, that's what will happen to him."

"James, I want to be an Unspeakable. I know I can help defeat the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters as an Unspeakable."

James turned onto his side, and propped his head on his elbow to peer at Lily in the darkness.

"Tiger Lily, I want you by my side. I couldn't be an Auror without you. I need your brains. You are much more perceptive than I am, and your charms put me to shame."

Lily giggled while gazing at the stars. "And which charms are you referring to?"

James leaned over and kissed her mouth. "Both."

They kissed for a few minutes, and then James pulled back. "I have an idea."

"What?"

"Let's become Aurors for a year or two, to see what it is like. During that time, we can try to find out as much as we can about Unspeakables. I'm sure that between the two of us we will discover heaps of information, if we try hard enough and are cautious. What do you say, Lily doll?"

Lily thought over his proposal for a moment. "All right."

James grinned in the dark. "Thanks for compromising."

They then kissed with increasing fervour. When James became a bit too friendly, Lily said in a mockingly deep and stern voice, "Been keeping your curious hands to yourself?"

James laughed. "It's a good thing your dad didn't see us a moment ago. I would be one thoroughly flogged wizard."

"Lucky for you, my one true love, my dad isn't a wizard and no one can apparate into Hogwarts."

"You can't imagine how much I love you, Tiger Lily."

"Erm, I think I can. I believe I love you just as much as you love me."

Stroking Lily's face lightly, he kissed her mouth as she reached up to place her hand on the back of his neck to gently pull him in closer.

High above, a shooting star streaked across the sky and winked out.

***

The owls swooped into the Great Hall bearing packages and letters. An important looking owl landed in front of Lily and knocked over Fiona's goblet of pumpkin juice in the process.

"Oy! Watch it, you," Fiona said, indignantly.

Samantha attempted to prevent the juice from staining more of the table cloth while Lily removed the morning edition of the Daily Prophet, for which she had taken out a subscription, from the owl's leg. Once accomplished, she placed three Knuts in the bag attached to the bird's leg. The owl flew off. She began to read the paper.

Fiona caught Lily wincing.

"What dreadful thing You-Know-Who and his horrid Death Eaters have done this time?"

Samantha leaned over to listen to Lily's reply.

"Crups! They unleashed crups on innocent Muggles!"

Fiona and Samantha blanched.

Then Fiona said, "That's truly evil. We all know that crups are positively vicious towards Muggles. Was anyone killed?"

"Yes! Twelve children. The crups were let loose in a park in Bristol. Scores of people were bitten or mauled. They were taken to hospitals. This article states that the Muggles thought they were a pack of wild Jack Russell terriers."

"Did the Ministry catch those who were responsible?" said Samantha stuffing a piece of fried egg into her mouth.

"No, but a few Muggles saw a number of Death Eaters at the perimeter of the park call out to the crups after they ravaged those poor people. They disapparated after the crups returned to them. Of course, the Ministry had to modify the Muggles' memories after they obtained the information."

"Too bad no one in the Ministry caught the bloody bastards," commented Fiona.

***

After a one o'clock in the morning lovers rendezvous on the far side of the lake, Lily and James sneaked back into the castle under the Invisibility Cloak. Before they returned to their house, they decided to visit the kitchen for hot chocolate and biscuits. James tickled the pear and pulled the door open. Quietly they stepped inside Hogwarts' spacious kitchen while removing the cloak.

A sleepy house-elf ran up to greet them. "What would Master James and his lady be wanting tonight?"

"Could we have hot chocolate and oatmeal raisin biscuits, please?"

"Yes, Master James. I will go get."

The house-elf scuttled away. A minute later, he returned with a tray.

"Here, sir. Sit by the fire, sir and lady."

The house-elf bowed, and disappeared into the shadows.

Lily and James made themselves comfortable by the fire to enjoy their late night snack.

"These are good," Lily said, her voice muffled.

"Oatmeal raisin is my favourite."

They finished their biscuits, and then sipped their chocolate in silence while gazing into the fire.

"Come, Tiger Lily, you're tired. Let's head back," James said softly while watching Lily's eyelids droop.

They placed their cups on the tray and prepared to leave. The house-elf reappeared as they reached the door.

"Thank you," Lily said, quietly.

"You're very welcome, Miss."

The house-elf bowed so deeply that his long nose touched the floor.

Lily stifled a giggle.

Once again, under the Invisibility Cloak, they silently crept through the corridors. Halfway to the Gryffindor common room, James, while looking at the Marauder's Map, exclaimed in a whisper, "Shite! Here comes that dreadful kitten of Filch's."

A moment later, a scrawny, grey kitten with bulging eyes so like her master's appeared before them. On the Marauder's Map, the cat was labelled as "Mrs. Norris." The tiny feline stared at them without moving. Lily and James glanced at each other under the Invisibility Cloak wondering if the kitten possessed the power of seeing through objects. They hoped that Mrs. Norris would disappear very soon.

Cautiously, Mrs. Norris moved toward the spot where James and Lily stood. As the cat approached them, they backed up silently. They continued this manoeuvre until James inadvertently tripped on his untied shoelaces. The result was disastrous. In his attempt to prevent himself from falling, James grabbed Lily and they both tumbled onto the floor. The Invisibility Cloak fell off their shoulders. The kitten arched her back and screeched loudly in fright as two humans suddenly materialized before her.

Before Lily and James could recover themselves and make an escape, Filch came flying around the corridor.

"AH HA! CAUGHT RED-HANDED, YOU SLY RUFFIANS! Sneaking around the castle up to no good, weren't you? Come, follow me."

Lily and James reluctantly followed Filch and Mrs. Norris to Filch's office. Once inside the cramped and smelly room, Filch ordered them to sit.

"Let's see, Mr. Potter. Head Boy, are you not? Well, well, well. Always breaking the rules, aren't we? You and that Mr. Black. Most of my files are filled with your transgressions. Now, let's see. Crime: Skulking around the castle after hours for the express purpose of engaging in sordid activity."

"What?" shouted James.

"Sordid activity with Miss Evans! Don't lie! Why else would you be with the comely girl at this hour?" Then he spotted the parchment in James' hand. "What's that you got there?"

"Nothing."

"Hand it over."

"It's nothing, Filch."

"If it's nothing, then why don't you want to hand it over? Now give it me!"

Reluctantly, James gave the blank Marauder's Map to Filch, who snatched it from his hand. Filch peered at it closely.

"This will be confiscated, of course."

"What? Why? It's just a piece of parchment!"

"Then you will have to get another one!"

"I want that one!"

Filch gazed at James shrewdly. "Why? You've already said that it was nothing. Personally, I think it's full of magic. So, I shall confiscate it!"

James' shoulders slumped. "Will you return it to me before I leave Hogwarts?"

"No."

"Oh come now, Filch!"

"SILENCE!"

He then muttered under his breath about how he wished that the old methods of punishment would be reinstated.

"Punishment: Dust and shine all of the banisters in the castle without magic."

"Are you joking? There are over one hundred staircases in Hogwarts, and they constantly move around!"

"You should have thought about that before you decided to engage in criminal behaviour, Mr. Brilliant Head Boy," Filch snapped.

"Miss Evans, Head Girl, crime: slinking about the castle to engage in naughty activities with Potter, Head Boy."

Too tired to argue, Lily blushed slightly and held her tongue.

"Punishment: Dust and shine all the medals in the trophy room without magic."

Lily groaned.

"Don't get pert with me, missy!"

Standing up, James yawned. "Can we go now, Filch?"

Filch glared up at James before responding. "You will carry out your punishments tomorrow, after dinner. Leave me. Don't linger in the corridors unless you want further punishment. Mrs. Norris, darling, keep an eye on them, Potter in particular."

The kitten meowed, and followed James.

***

Heidi, Lily's snowy owl, flew into the bedroom with an envelope in her beak. Lily watched Heidi land on her bed with an odd feeling of trepidation. She took the letter from Heidi and stroked the owl gently. Heidi hooted softly, nipped Lily affectionately, and left the room. With a brief hesitation, Lily opened the envelope and unfolded the letter inside.

Dear Lily,

I hate to break this to you, knowing that your exams are coming up. But I wanted you to know as soon as possible. I just learned that your mother was diagnosed with cancer. She has kept this as a secret from me since last October when she found out about it from her doctor. Honey, this is the reason your mother has been so tired. Right now, she is undergoing treatment to prevent the cancer from spreading. Your mother and I do not want for you to worry. As long as she continues the treatment, she should be all right, but there will be good and bad days. The specialist believes that she has five to ten years of life left in her.

Sweetheart, I am telling you this because you are a big girl now. You have come of age. In July, you will be eighteen. Your mother and I do not want you to worry. She is in good hands. Your mother's doctors are extremely capable. She isn't in any pain. Her only complaint is that she lacks energy, but with an increase in vitamins rich in iron, the doctors believe that she should get her old strength back.

Keep your mother in your thoughts and prayers.

Love always,

Dad

Lily crumpled up the letter and fell back onto the bed in tears.

Stretched out on her bed reading Witch Weekly, Fiona glanced up. She observed Lily's body shaking with silent sobs. Alarmed, Fiona sat up.

"Lily, what's wrong? Lily?"

She rose and went over to sit on Lily's bed.

"Lily, what's wrong?" she repeated, softly.

"My mother has cancer, Fi. She isn't expected to live beyond ten years."

Fiona gazed down at Lily with a stricken expression on her face. "I'm so sorry."

Then Fiona leaned over Lily and embraced her tight.

***

On her last ride on the Hogwarts Express, Lily gazed out the window thinking about her mother while her companions discussed their future. Lily, James, Sirius, Fiona, Remus, and Peter were crammed into one compartment.

"Tiger Lily," James whispered in her ear. "Come back to us, love."

She turned and smiled wanly at him.

"Your mother?"

Lily nodded her head.

James placed his arm around her shoulders and drew her close. He then kissed her on the forehead.

"Let's promise we will always stay in contact with each other," exclaimed Peter, "regardless of what we do, and no matter how far apart we may end up."

"Hear, hear," shouted Sirius, raising a bottle of pumpkin juice.

"Let's promise we will forever remain close friends in these dark days," Remus added.

"Hear, hear," shouted Sirius again, and then sipped his pumpkin juice.

Fiona playfully elbowed him in the ribs. "Shut up, Siri."

"I can't, pretty babe," countered Sirius with a devilish gleam in his eyes. Then he said in a serious tone, "Let's promise we will never betray one another."

Fiona giggled and shouted, "Hear, hear."

"Shut up, witch," Sirius said, and pulled Fiona close to him.

James cleared his throat. "Most important: let's promise we will always remember which side we're on. Let's promise we will help defeat Lord Voldemort and his supporters."

In unison, they solemnly said, "Hear, hear."

The End

---------

Note: Fwoopers (page 18) and crups (page 8) can be found in Fantastic Beasts & Where To find Them by J.K. Rowling as Newt Scamander (Scholastic Press, 2001).

I plan to write a sequel to this, but I cannot say when. Have to finish my Riddle/Lord Voldemort story first.

Finally, this part of the story was posted on the 16th of July, 2001. Keep this in mind if you have a strong desire to flame me for information revealed in an interview (with JKR) after this date or in a future book (Book 5 or later). Remember, flames will be used to heat my large cauldron. ^.~