Chapter 5: The Sneakoscope
Roxanne brushed soot off of her freshly pressed skirt and smoothed down her russet hair as she calmly stepped out of one of the many fireplaces in the Ministry of Magic and into the bustling crowd.
The atrium was packed with miffed witches and wizards—dressed in formal robes and carrying briefcases—who hurried to their offices at a brisk pace. Around the anxious crowd whizzed little paper planes, which served as interoffice memos, and within the crowd young boys handed out morning editions of The Daily Prophet. As people hurried into lifts, they passed by the cynosure of the atrium—a golden fountain which depicted a wizard, witch, centaur and house-elf. The magnificent structure was waxed to perfection—images of rushing wizards reflecting on its glossy golden surface—and the floors of the atrium were neatly swept.
All in all, the Ministry had a professional, haughty appearance which communicated authority.
Roxanne—smartly dressed in a black skirt that cut off below her knees and a form-fitting baby- pink blouse—clutched her leather Prada bag to her side and shuffled into a lift, feeling claustrophobic due to the close proximity of all the occupants inside. When a poised female voice tittered "Level 2: Department of Magical Law Enforcement", she stepped out and launched down the fabulously decorated hall, paying little mind to the portraits of famous Aurors watching her curiously as she strode by.
Entering the area where she had previously sat to wait for her appointment with Mr. Potter, Roxanne noticed a mahogany desk set up in front of Mr. Potter's office with a silver name plate reading "Ms. Roxanne Brady, Secretary" placed in the left hand corner, along with an empty picture frame. Behind her desk were two silver filing cabinets and a small table with a coffee machine atop it; a peculiar artifact to be found, considering its muggle origins.
Roxanne slipped her expensive purse under her new desk and took the liberty of pouring herself a cup of sweet-smelling coffee. She sat down and crossed her lengthy legs, pursing her lips together when she noticed the lack of décor in her little alcove. She surmised that a few exotic plants and portraits were needed to lighten the area up a bit.
"My my, you're terribly early this morning." a voice resounded behind Roxanne, jolting her out of her interior-design stupor and causing her to stiffen up in her chair, "Eager to begin, are we?"
"Good morning, Mr. Potter." Roxanne said smoothly, jumping from her seat and capturing her boss' hand, shaking it competently, "Let me thank you again for giving me this wonderful opportunity; I'm indeed eager to get started."
Roxanne subtly took in the appearance of her boss before he spoke again. He was dressed simply, wearing a formal pair of dress pants and an azure dress shirt buttoned down slightly at the top. His hair looked as unruly as it had been when she had last seen him, but it remained one of his sexiest features.
"You mightn't be so excited when I show you the amount of paperwork I need you to fill and file, Ms. Brady." James Potter chuckled, a thick folder full of loose parchment tucked beneath his arm, "I'll apologize to you in advance for not properly getting you settled this morning: I have a meeting with fellow strategists in about ten minutes and I don't even have my tie on…could you just usher them into my office when they arrive?"
"Of course, Mr. Potter." Roxanne agreed politely, staring at him poignantly, "Will I be filing those papers under your arm in alphabetical order?"
"Huh? Oh yes, these." James had almost forgotten about the folder and placed it on Roxanne's desk absentmindedly, "See? You're already a help to me. I can't remember half the things I need to get done this morning…but listen, your lunch break is at twelve. I expect you to take it at your desk in case someone comes searching for me and I'm stuck in my meeting; anyway, if you have any questions just ask Charlotte."
"Who is Charlotte?" Roxanne inquired quickly, Mr. Potter about to rush off into his office to fix his tie and organize his maps.
"She's in that little frame on your desk. If you ever need me, tell Charlotte and she'll relay the message to me in my office. Good luck with those papers." James Potter spoke swiftly, shutting the door to his office and closing the blinds.
Roxanne frowned: Was her boss going to be this overwhelmed everyday? She supposed his job was quite important, his strategies and maps providing the basis for all Auror-related actions. She sighed, opened the folder on her desk—which was labeled in thick black ink 'Confidential'— and took a sip of her freshly-brewed coffee. She slipped the filing cabinet open and began sorting according to title and date, a task most tedious.
Five minutes later, wizened looking men and women began showing up for the meeting. They were whisked into Mr. Potter's office and offered coffee by Roxanne, Kingsley Shacklebolt—a dark and powerful wizard—and Alastor Moody—a grizzly man with a hobble—among them.
"Hey Charlotte, are you there?" Roxanne whispered awkwardly to the empty portrait on her desk when everyone had showed up for the meeting, "I have a question for you."
"Who are you?" the portrait inquired back in a snobby, slightly French tongue, still not visible, "You're not Miranda."
"I'm Miranda's cousin, Roxanne Brady. I've taken over her position while she's on maternity leave." Roxanne explained, her lips twitching into a glower, "Are you going to help me or not?"
"I suppose I'm contracted to." Charlotte, a Victorian-looking woman with thick spectacles and a high collar retorted, walking into the muddy portrait and crossly folding her arms, "What's your inquiry?"
"I was wondering if you could fill me in on my job mandate. All I know is that I file and receive people on behalf of Mr. Potter…" Roxanne began, feeling uneasy with her current freedom; she had finished all of her filing almost a half an hour ago.
"You're to file, label, receive people and memos, schedule appointments, serve coffee, and— on special occasions—research on behalf of Mr. Potter. He's a busy man and rarely has time to scour the Ministry's library for sources." Charlotte replied curtly, seemingly unimpressed by Roxanne and her efficiency, "It is of utmost importance that Mr. Potter's appointments are marked on his schedule: He detests being caught off guard."
"I bet he does." Roxanne murmured sarcastically, deciding to shuffle through papers to pass the time.
Her job was already boring.
Enter, stranger, but take heed
of what awaits the sin of greed
for those who take, but do not earn
must pay most dearly in their turn.
So if you seek beneath our floors
a treasure that was never yours
Thief, you have been warned, beware
of finding more than treasure there
Lily Evans stood before the marble Gringotts entrance staring at the polished silver doors etched with the warning for potential robbers. Looking through to the main receiving area, Lily glimpsed hundreds of desks, a long-nosed goblin sitting behind each and grumpily exchanging transactions with wizards and witches. Flanked behind the goblins were large doors, each— according to her legitimate sources—leading in another direction underground. Lily had heard rumors that only a few of the doors actually led to vaults, while others—if used without the aid of a goblin—would lead to burglar traps.
One story told of a wizard who tried to sneak in and was met by the jaws of a dragon; another, of a witch that had wandered around the labyrinth of vaults for two weeks before dying of starvation. Lily had no concrete proof of dragons or any other creatures used in Gringotts for security purposes, nor did she wield proof of anyone ever successfully breaking in.
She smiled. I guess we'll be the first then.
"Get out of the way! Why are you standing there?" one of the two goblins at the front entrance barked tactlessly at Lily, who was carefully inspecting the door, appearing quite mistrustful.
"My apologies." Lily smiled down at the goblins in a patronizing fashion, slipping on her Chanel glasses and flashing her pearly whites, "Have a good afternoon, gentlemen."
Lily slipped back into the crowd of shoppers on the street, the goblins snorting in mock hilarity as she retreated. Lily knew she'd need to go digging for much more information before she and Roxanne could devise an acceptable plan; the question was, where to look?
"Lily…is that you?" a man called out from the crowd, shuffling up beside the petit redhead and squeezing her arm.
Lily whipped off her glasses in annoyance and squinted, "Bill? Bill Weasley?"
"It is you!" Bill Weasley, a 6'4 foot tall male with short red hair claimed in disbelief, enveloping Lily in a friendly hug as she laughed in surprise, "What are you doing in England, Lils? Last thing I heard you were in Berlin."
"Paris, actually." Lily corrected Bill, who laughed and rolled his eyes at the flashy girl.
"You would be in Paris. Still posh, aren't you, Lils?" Bill smirked, Lily mirroring his expression and waving him off, "Jetting around the world, wearing designer clothing. You're still that stuck- up Head Girl I was partnered with in seventh year, aren't you?"
"You were a terrible Head Boy—" Lily mentioned matter-of-factly, teasingly poking Bill in the chest, "—and I'll have you know I was never stuck-up. You're the proud one, farm boy."
"Just because we have chickens doesn't mean I live on a farm." Bill insisted feebly, grinning idiotically, "You haven't changed a bit!"
"Well neither have you!" Lily retorted defensively, smiling up at her long-lost friend, "It's been too long since we've spoken. What are you up to these days? Have you managed to find a job?"
"I'm working at Gringotts as a curse-breaker for the time being. I'll probably be moving out to Egypt soon and breaking curses on some of those Giza pyramids." Bill explained, his hands digging into his pockets, "On my way to work now, actually."
"That sounds fantastic! You always were good at charms…though I was always better." Lily winked teasingly, Bill rolling his eyes comically.
"I still think you slept with Flitwick." Bill mused mockingly, folding his arms.
"You're a git! How are your mum and dad? Charlie and little Percy?" Lily remembered Bill's family well, having been invited over for Christmas dinner the year her mother passed away, "I miss the lot of them!"
"You won't believe it, but my mum is expecting twins—two boys!" Bill laughed at Lily's scandalized look.
"Molly is never going to get her girl!" Lily sputtered, her eyes lighting up at the thought of his mother with two more children, "Like she doesn't have enough trouble with you and your brothers!"
"She's adamant she'll have a girl." Bill grinned, memories he and Lily had created surfacing in his mind, "Anyway, I'll let you get back to your shopping, Lils. You looked determined before I interrupted you."
"Pish-posh!" Lily shook her head in amusement, "I always have time for friends. How about you and I grab a latte next week? We need to catch up; besides, I haven't told you about my new job."
"Alright, that sounds great. I'll owl you, shall I?" Bill beamed at Lily, looking down at his watch, "Blimey! I've got to run now. See you next week sometime!"
Lily watched Bill disappear into Gringotts and sighed. She really hadn't kept in touch with any of her Hogwarts friends since she and Roxanne had began their "business". She suddenly felt guilty for never bothering to owl Bill, one of her closest friends, after graduation.
And now I'm going to be using him for information about Gringotts…such a good friend I am…
Lily frowned and looked down at her magical wrist-watch: 12:13. Roxanne had owled her earlier in the day to join her for lunch at the Ministry, making it clear in her letter that she was terribly bored and if Lily didn't show up she'd refuse to cook for a week—which, come to think of it, wasn't a dreadful threat at all.
Passing through the Leaky Cauldron and into the adjacent graffiti-stricken alley, Lily approached a bright red telephone booth and stepped inside, closing the door behind her. After picking up the receiver and dialing 6-2-4-4-2, the cool voice of a receptionist resounded, requesting the name and business of the occupant in the booth.
"Lily Evans, here to lunch with Roxanne Brady, Department of Magical Law Enforcement." Lily replied calmly, pinning a small silver badge that said 'Lily Evans, Visitor' onto her breast when it was spat out by the telephone.
Gradually, Lily descended underground into the Ministry of Magic via the telephone booth, stepping out when the door opened and admitted her into the gleaming front foyer. Lily blinked; the Ministry of Magic seemed bigger than she remembered it, not to mention busier. She was practically swept into a lift by the mob of mismatched people and goblins when she was met by yet another familiar face.
"Oi! Evans!" Sirius Black yelled out boisterously when he saw her enter the lift, almost knocking down an elderly witch when he broke into a slapdash run after her and slide into the elevator before the door closed, "Merlin, you'd think people would move out my way…"
"Hello Sirius." Lily smiled brightly, noticing the women in the elevator pleasurably sighing when he entered the lift, "I forgot you worked at the Ministry!"
"I'm really hurt." Sirius feigned, clutching at his heart comically, "After stumbling out of my vanishing cabinet and going out for breakfast with me, I thought I meant more to you!"
Lily rolled her eyes and laughed, the women in the lift looking on jealously, "Why aren't you working? You're not slacking off like usual, are you?"
"I'm on lunch, I'll have you know!" Sirius replied snappily, impishly grinning at the redhead, "And for that nasty—but true—comment, you will be having lunch with me. I'm not taking no for an answer."
"Sirius I can't, I—hey!" Lily yelped, Sirius grabbing her hand and roguishly pulling her off of the lift when it reached Level Seven, The Department of Magical Games and Sport, "I've promised my friend I'd lunch with her, you prat!"
"Plans change; I want to show you my office!" Sirius exclaimed excitably, dragging Lily down a hallway papered with Quidditch Posters and game rules, "Just in here—"
Lily stifled a laugh when she entered Sirius' office; it was in great disarray, stained parchment all over the floor, posters of famous playwizards curling on the walls, and the rubbish bin overflowing with paper coffee cups. She didn't even want to imagine what his flat looked like.
"Bullocks, looks like the cleaning hag hasn't come 'round yet!" Sirius laughed apprehensively, noticing Lily's repulsed nose-scrunch, "Nice office though, eh? You should see it when it's clean! One of the biggest on the floor—oh, hello, Mr. Bagman."
Just then a youthful man with blonde hair and startling blue eyes bounced in, his handsome stature eclipsing the doorway. He opened his mouth, about to address Sirius, when his enthusiastic eyes fell on Lily.
"Sirius I—why, I'm sorry, I didn't realize you had a visitor!" the man said charmingly, forgetting Sirius' presence in the room—which caused a blasé frown to cross his lips—and extending a hand to Lily, "I don't believe we've met. I'm Ludo Bagman, Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sport and former beater of the Wimbourne Wasps!"
Lily thought it rather pompous of the man to brag of his achievements before he even knew her name, but relented to shaking his hand, deciding to remain professional, "Lovely to meet you, Mr. Bagman. I'm Lily Evans."
Just then, Lily felt something squirm erratically in the pocket of her dress pants. She visibly showed no reaction to the odd vibration, preferring her companions to remain oblivious.
"Please, call me Ludo!" Ludo Bagman insisted charismatically, taking Lily's smooth hand and kissing the top of it, making her eyelashes flutter in surprise, "What is it you do, Ms. Evans? You mustn't work at the Ministry: I'd surely remember such a beautiful witch!"
Sirius roughly cleared his throat behind his boss, looking displeased as he leaned against his desk, but Ludo pretended not to hear him, focused on flirting with the enticing redhead.
"Oh! Er—thank you, I…I've just landed a supply teaching position at Hogwarts, actually." Lily mustered in embarrassment, retracting her hand and resisting the urge to blush in the presence of the blonde man.
"Good luck to those young wizards you're teaching, Ms. Evans! They'll be more focused on you than the lesson!" Ludo Bagman chuckled, winking, "Can't say I blame them, though, raging hormones and whatnot…"
Lily chuckled uneasily and pointedly looked down at her magical watch, eager to find an escape route, "Look at the time! I've really got to dash, Sirius: I need to meet my friend for lunch. Pop into the apartment one day and we'll catch breakfast, ok?"
Sirius half-heartedly smiled and nodded, watching Lily leave—which Bagman also did attentively—than sank into his office chair, disgruntled by the interruption still lingering in his vicinity.
"Good-bye, Ms. Evans! Do drop by again!" Ludo enthusiastically called after the redhead as she disappeared down the hall; he then turned to Sirius, who was frowning, "Isn't she a beauty! Your girlfriend, Black?"
"Good. I just might ask her out to dinner next time she pops in," Ludo Bagman flashed his pearly whites and promptly left, leaving Sirius—who still couldn't figure out why he had been interrupted in the first place— peeved.
"First day and you're already asleep at your desk?"
Roxanne jolted awake, peeling her face from her lacquer desk and blinking up at her best mate, who had both of her hands expectantly on her hips and a wry smile on her face. She wore a smart pair of pinstripe pants that flared near the bottom, a white dress shirt, and a stylish black vest that was likely from some expensive vendor in Paris.
"You're late." Roxanne mumbled, sitting up properly in her chair and rubbing her eyes, "I've been waiting all morning for a bit of entertainment, and you're it. Pull up a chair to my desk."
"Aren't we lunching down in the tea lounge?" Lily raised an eyebrow skeptically and conjured up a chair, taking a look around Roxanne's work area and scrunching up her nose.
"My boss has been in an important meeting all morning: I'm not permitted to leave my desk in case someone unexpectedly shows up." Roxanne groaned, pulling out a packed meal from her desk drawer and grumpily unwrapping it, "I've already finished all his paperwork, so I'm bored out of my bloody mind."
"Sounds like you've had a stimulating day—" Lily smirked, leaning back in her chair and eyeing the coffee machine near Roxanne's desk, "—but don't think I'll always be here to entertain you when I'm bored. I'll be starting my job soon, you know."
"Shut up. Do you want some coffee?" Roxanne demanded tiredly, pouring steaming liquid into a ceramic mud and slamming it down in front of Lily, though only due to fatigue, "What have you been up to today?"
"Many things, none of which I will discuss with you openly." Lily countered stealthily, winking at Roxanne and earning a sly grin from her, "I ran into an old friend in Diagon Alley as well. He'll be useful."
"I'm glad you've finally set your priorities straight." Roxanne calmly leaned back in her chair, a pleased smile creeping onto her pretty face, "Once the details of this job have been sorted out, I plan on arranging a meeting of my own."
"With whom?" Lily raised an eyebrow, her expression calculating.
"Severus." Roxanne whispered seriously, looking over her shoulder to ensure her boss' door was still firmly shut, "He's one of the only relatives I have that will still speak with me after being burned off the family tree so long ago."
"Severus? He doesn't seem like the type that would disobey pureblood family tradition." Lily mused disparagingly, recalling the tight-knit Slytherin gang he had been a part of during Hogwarts.
"He puts up a convincing front, but he and I have always had a…an understanding." Roxanne mentioned elusively, her eyes shifting from Lily to the floor, "He's done quite a few unconventional things, actually."
"Such as?" Lily questioned curiously, skeptical of Roxanne's ambiguity.
"Like…well, despite his rather nasty friends and staunch pureblood principles, he crushed on a muggleborn all through Hogwarts." Roxanne said, fidgeting with a box of paper clips and not meeting Lily's eye.
"You're kidding!" Lily pronounced, slightly aghast that the boy she had always regarded as silently nasty, clever and brutish—the epitome of Slytherin—could emphasize with a muggleborn, "That's quite the revelation. Who was she?"
"He never said." Roxanne quickly interjected; Lily felt the vibration in her pocket again, but decided to drop the subject.
"Why do you seek an audience with him?" Lily whispered before realizing the conversation they were having was not best had in the Ministry of Magic.
"I figure he can enlighten me on this Death Eater business going on in my family." Roxanne replied quietly through gritted teeth, "Perhaps he can give me some information that may help us."
"What is he up to these days? Have you an address?" Lily probed, wondering what had become of the young Slytherin after Hogwarts; she didn't know much about any of the Hogwarts graduates in her year…
"I've no idea, we haven't talked for years." Roxanne sighed, massaging her temple in fatigue, "I figured I'd just owl him and hope for the best…but listen, you better go. I think I can hear my boss fidgeting with the door."
Lily got up and brushed the crumbs of the biscuit she had been nibbling on off her tight vest. She grabbed her purse and bid Roxanne farewell just as the knob on the door of James Potter's office turned…
James Potter froze, his mouth becoming dry and his muscles tense as he saw Lily Evans, dressed smartly in business attire, turn the corner and disappear down the hallway. Kingsley Shacklebolt stood beside him, expectantly awaiting a handshake and a send-off.
"Potter? You alright?" Shacklebolt asked in a deep voice which always commanded immediate respect, "Potter?"
"Yes, of course. Sorry about that." James quickly grasped Kingsley's hand and shook it vigorously, flashing a distracted smile as frenzy began to build in his chest, "Until next week."
As Kingsley Shacklebolt began to leave, James pounced on his new secretary, "Roxanne! Who was that woman that just left? What was her business here?"
Roxanne, appearing startled as she glanced up from her paperwork, took in the frantic look of her boss and immediately realized she was in trouble. As she had no intention of being fired on her first day of work for simply allowing her friend to lunch with her, she quickly came up with an adequate lie.
"Uh…I believe her name was Lily…Stevens? She requested I make an appointment for her with you today, but I sent her away saying you were quite busy—"
"Bugger. I'll be right back; take down messages for me and reschedule my next appointment." James blurted out, hurrying down the hall after Lily and leaving Roxanne to drown in her newfound anxiety.
Lily stepped off of the golden lift—which was stuffed with people and parchment—into a mess of witches and wizards bustling about in the main atrium of the Ministry of Magic. She had to be careful where she walked, for people and creatures alike zigzagged about, chatting with one another absentmindedly or reading important memos. Every now and then Lily spotted someone she went to Hogwarts with, though they didn't seem to see her.
One particular wizard that stood out in the mess of people was Nobby Leach, the newly-instated Minister of Magic. He stood not far from the miraculous fountain, a cluster of wizards and witches around him engaged in rapid conversation. He was an extremely tall man with broad shoulders, thin lips and black, penetrating eyes. His dark hair was slicked back on his head suavely—making him look like he came from old money—and he wore an impeccable suit.
Lily couldn't help but stop and stare at the Minister. She'd heard stories from Roxanne of him, for he too was a pureblood and therefore attended the same parties she used to, and couldn't help but think her description of him was dead on. From what she'd heard, 'Leach' was an appropriate name for his family.
Feeling a set of eyes on him, the Minister looked up from his colleagues and matched Lily's stare—his curious and rapt—causing her to immediately look away and shrink behind the glittering fountain. Her reaction to him was odd, for her heart had crept into her throat at the mere sight of him, her spine chilled from making eye contact with him. The vibration in her pocket was erratic—the most intense she had ever felt.
"Well, well, well, look who we have here." a man behind Lily announced slyly, subtly grasping her hand and causing her to turn around in surprise.
"James?" Lily sounded skeptically, blinking as she looked up into the roguish face of the man she'd banished outside her window only a night ago, "What are you doing here?"
"I don't know if you recall, but I work here." James Potter smirked handsomely, amused when Lily blushed awkwardly and pulled her hand away, "Question is, what you are doing here? Couldn't wait to see me again?"
"You wish." Lily replied in a feisty tone, rolling her eyes as James moved in closer to her, a ferocious grin on his lips, "It's really none of your business what I'm doing here…and stop looking at me like that!"
"Like what?" James asked, intrigue alit in his chocolate orbs as he stealthily groped for Lily's hand: She ripped it away again, "I'm sure to onlookers I appear perfectly normal."
"Like you've seen me naked." Lily hissed, crossing her arms when James' grin became even larger, "Stop undressing me with your eyes before I take away your glasses."
"I have seen you naked—well, partially—so I can look at you however I want, and as for my glasses, you can take them. I still have my imagination." James announced triumphantly, earning a slap on the shoulder from the annoyed redhead, "Hey! Was that necessary?"
"Could you keep your voice down?" Lily hissed in embarrassment, colour rising in her cheeks, "We're in the middle of a busy atrium and you're yelling about seeing me naked! Honestly!"
"Right, because people are really paying attention to us." this time James rolled his eyes, but he quickly became alert when Lily grasped his upper arm and dragged him across the atrium into a busy lift, "You—Oi, where are we going?"
"Somewhere where Nubby Leach isn't watching us like a hawk." Lily whispered inconspicuously, having noticed the tall Minister observing their exchange acutely.
Lily's glare was enough to silence him. She stood in between two large wizards, one of them being a flamboyantly dressed Xenophilius Lovegood, and the other being Irish Quidditch Seeker Aidan Lynch. While she reached to push a shiny button on the lift, James engaged the Quidditch player in conversation.
"You haven't been 'round the pitch in ages!" Lynch chastised James, poking James in the chest in a friendly manner, "Why haven't I seen you and Black lately, eh? Just 'cause you're some hot-shot Auror doesn't mean you can't have a little fun!"
"I know I've been slacking, Lynch, I've just been drowning in paperwork lately. Not that a Quidditch player would know anything about real work." James laughed, challengingly grinning at the player, "What'd you say I buy you and the team drinks later this month?"
"It won't make up for it, but it's against my principles to turn down a drink." Lynch smiled comically, breaking James' gaze and turning to Lily, "Sorry I didn't introduce myself. I'm Aidan Lynch. Are you dating this idiot?"
"Yes, she is." James interjected before Lily could say anything, his grin spanning ear-to-ear due to her scandalized look, "Isn't she lucky?"
"It's nice to meet you, Aidan. I'm Lily, and no, I'm not dating this prat. Wouldn't dare attempt it, actually." Lily smiled flirtatiously, flipping her hair over her shoulder as she shook Aidan's hand, "Did I mention I prefer athletes over Aurors?"
Aidan's laughter resembled a dog's bark as he exited the lift with Mr. Lovegood, slapping James' back (and almost knocking his glasses right off his face) on his way out. James frowned down at Lily, who looked quite pleased with herself.
"You're a bitch."
"And you're a prick."
"I know that."
A robotic female voice sounded in the golden lift, coolly saying "Level Nine, Department of Mysteries", which alerted Lily of her stop. Lily casually walked off the lift, swaying her hips, followed by James Potter, who looked on enthusiastically.
The vacant corridor adjacent to the elevator was long, shadowy and cold, lit by torches mounted on the black polished walls. It was an ominous place plagued by silence and emptiness; Lily traversed the hall effortlessly, seemingly intent upon entering the door furthest from the lift.
"Where do you think you're going?" James demanded uneasily, catching up to the redhead, who seemed quite content upon ignoring him, "You're not supposed to be walking around down here. It's called the Department of Mysteries for a reason."
"Arrest me then." Lily lightly announced in an uninterested tone, secretly taking great pleasure in making the Auror squirm.
"Though I've imagined you in cuffs before, I don't believe this is the time or place." James whispered charmingly, lightly grabbing Lily's arm and spinning her around to face him, "Care to tell me why you brought me here?"
"Care to tell me why you told that bloke in the lift I was your girlfriend?" Lily retorted brashly, slipping out of James' grasp and heading toward a tall, ominous looking door, "And you didn't have to follow me off the lift."
"Well maybe if you weren't pretending to date your imaginary boyfriend, you would be my girlfriend." James interjected defensively, suddenly pinning Lily against the wall with his muscular arms, "I don't understand your resistance to me."
"Hey—I didn't make him up, I—"
"Sirius knows the entire French Department of Magical Games and Sports, as well as the German and Dane, and I had him check up on Clive for me."
"You—what?" Lily began in embarrassed exasperation, the carnal look in James' eyes beginning to excite her despite her better judgment, "You're bloody insane! I insist you stop stalking me this instant or I'll…I'll—"
"You'll stutter at me?" James inquired in amusement, impishly slipping a hand around Lily's waist as he pulled her closer to him and whispered in her ear, "I was hoping we could pick up where we left off last night…"
"Last night was a mistake." Lily replied softly, her eyes nostalgically tracing his seducing lips as he leaned in towards her, his hands inching up her back, "I…I can't…I—"
James dipped his head and aggressively captured Lily's lips with his own, causing her to gasp and relent to his muscular arms and fevered kiss. Lily's arms wrapped around his neck, deepening the kiss, and James swiftly pushed her against the wall. He propped her legs up with his arms and hips and pressed her against the wall for balance, bringing her up to eye level with him.
Lily could barely believe what she was doing, kissing a complete stranger outside of the dark and slightly spooky Department of Mysteries. She felt strangely invigorated—almost sneaky—kissing James. It was strange; she was always calm, collected, and calculated…but he seemed to bring out a wild side of her she'd forgotten she had—a side of her that was irrational and fierce.
James broke away from Lily's mouth and began trailing his tongue down her neck and chest, his hands entangled in her long hair and sliding down her lower back. Lily reveled in his touch, beginning to unbutton the top of his formal dress shirt as she nibbled on his right ear…
The lift clanged to a rusty stop, the doors clumsily beginning to open to admit people off. James immediately retracted from Lily, letting her slide down to her feet, and—with the swiftness of an Auror—pulled her behind a shadowy marble pillar. As she opened her mouth to protest, James clamped his hand over it and reached across her mid-drift to prevent her from moving.
"What do you think you're—mmm!" Lily's annoyed words became muffled as James' hand silenced her and pinned her to his strong body.
"Don't move." James breathed seriously, slightly relaxing his grip on the fragile redhead.
Two figures cautiously moved from the elevator and swept down the hall, their pace slow and deliberate. One was regal looking—having long blonde hair, piercing eyes and a serpent-headed staff in his wand hand—while the other was stout and gruff looking. They stopped before the door leading deeper into the department, the brawny wizard looking over his shoulder before slipping a rusty key in the door and admitting them.
James' eyes narrowed dangerously, the gears in his head tirelessly turning as he meditated his next move. His hand slipped from Lily's mouth, though his eyes did not waver from the door.
"What was that?" Lily demanded in annoyance, wriggling from James' grasp and buttoning up the front of her vest, "You nearly strangled me. And was that Lucius Malfoy I just saw?"
James ignored the flustered redhead and cautiously approached the door, trying the door handle and grunting when it did not open. Extracting his wand, James tapped the massive door knob whilst muttering a spell, but nothing happened.
"Having a little trouble?" Lily smirked with swollen lips, smugly folding her arms and impatiently drumming her foot, "You know, a simple spell could—"
"You better go. I've got to take care of something." James interjected suddenly, frustration evident on his face as he tried the handle again, but to no avail, "I can't have you getting in the way—"
"Getting in the way?" Lily demanded sharply, her eyes afire and her tone cutting enough to garner James' attention: He looked back at her cold look and immediately regretted what he said.
"Lily, I didn't mean—"
"So I'm just some plaything you can discard when it's convenient to you, is that it?" Lily questioned coolly, her gaze dropping from James as she pulled on her black pumps and picked up her handbag.
"No! Lily, that came out wrong, it's just Auror bus—" James began guiltily, suddenly feeling torn between following Malfoy and appeasing Lily.
"Forget it. I see you have important things to do, so I won't keep you." Lily turned on her heel—enraged—without another look at James and entered the golden lift.
"C'mon Lily, wait, I—!"
James' culpable face disappeared when the elevator doors closed, his string of curse words echoing in the empty hallway.
Roxanne was in the kitchen listening to the muggle radio and drinking wine out of a coffee mug when Lily came in a half-an-hour later, collapsing onto their grey couch with her jacket and heels still on.
"What's wrong with you?" Roxanne cocked an eyebrow and abandoned Witch Weekly, intrigued by Lily's non-response, "If you don't tell me I'll sit on you."
"Sit on me then, I don't care." Lily mumbled incoherently, her face buried in a throw pillow.
Roxanne obliged and plunked down on the redhead, making her howl in protest, "My ribs!"
"Did my boss end up catching up with you this afternoon? I think he thought you were some important client when you left; he went running after you." Roxanne asked, slightly nervous for Lily's response, "I lied and told him I didn't know who you were. I thought I might lose my job for having you 'round for lunch, as stupid as that sounds."
Who the bloody hell is her boss anyway?
"No, he never caught up to me." Lily murmured somewhat bitterly, Roxanne sighing in relief.
Wish it had been her boss that had caught up to me, and not that stupid prick...
"By the way, you got a letter. It's sitting on the kitchen counter. I think it might be from Hogwarts." Roxanne said nonchalantly, yelping when Lily pushed her onto the floor and ran into the kitchen like a child on Christmas morning.
As Roxanne had said, a beige envelope sat on the counter with the Hogwarts seal pressed in the corner. Lily immediately ripped it open, memories of the time she received her first Hogwarts letter washing over her…
Dear Ms. Evans,
Professor Flitwick will be attending an international charms conference this Friday and will be absent for the weekend. I would like you to conduct Professor Flitwick's classes on Friday and stay for the weekend. If this is convenient, please arrive at Hogwarts on Thursday so that Professor Flitwick may inform you of his lesson plan and we can get you settled in your room.
Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore
"What does it say?" Roxanne inquired, coming up behind Lily, who was beaming down at the letter.
"I'm going back to Hogwarts!"
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