Disclaimer: The wonderful world, characters, places, ideas, plots all belong to J.K. Rowling. I am humbly borrowing these ideas for entertainment purposes only.
Chapter Seven: Sic erat in fatis
Someone was calling her name. The sound emanated from the sky above.
The voice sounded oddly like Professor McGonagall's. It was odd because she was currently dashing through the Forbidden Forest in pursuit of… something. Lily came to a halt unable to remember why she was running or why she was even in the Forbidden Forest.
Startled, Lily suddenly found herself not surrounded by trees, but sitting next to Tallie in Transfiguration class. McGonagall was frowning at her, her thin mouth taut in disapproval. Her classmates were watching her curiously.
"Are you with us, Miss Evans?"
"I – yes, yes, Professor." Strange how she still felt out of breath, as if she really had just stopped running. Had she been dreaming or just day-dreaming?
"Can you answer the question then, Miss Evans?"
Lily had no clue as to what the question was. She hadn't been listening or paying attention. Flushing with embarrassment, she shook her head. "No, Professor."
"See me after class, Miss Evans. Now Mr. Lupin, can you list for the class the three things you must always concentrate on carefully before attempting any sort of human transfiguration?"
Lily vowed to stay attentive for the rest of class, refusing to let one thought stray from the topic of human transfiguration. It was disgraceful enough to be apprehended once by McGonagall in class, she did not want to risk it happening again. She was usually the one telling others off for not concentrating during a lesson; not to mention as Head Girl she shouldn't be committing such minor infractions. Usually Lily had no trouble staying attentive; she sincerely found most subjects interesting, so it was bothersome that her mind had wandered for no apparent reason.
When class ended, Lily fumbled with her bag as her classmates exited the classroom. "I'll wait for you outside," Tallie whispered with an encouraging smile.
Professor McGonagall waited until the last student, which happened to be Peter Pettigrew, leave the room. The door clicked closed and McGonagall stood up. She didn't look as upset as Lily had thought. "Is everything all right with you, Miss Evans?"
"Yes, Professor. Everything is fine. I'm sorry about what happened in class. My mind just drifted."
"It happens to the best of us, and ordinarily I wouldn't be worried, except the other Professors have also noticed your inattention in class. Professor Slughorn especially was concerned with the last potion you brewed, saying it wasn't up to your usual standards."
"I've just had a lot on my plate, Professor. I've had some trouble managing my time, but I'll figure it out."
"I know sometimes it is hard to separate our social problems from school. Now don't look so shocked, Miss Evans, after all, we teachers were all students at one time. We are also all aware of the complications between Mr. Potter and yourself."
By the time McGonagall finished speaking, Lily's face was as scarlet as a tomato. She had known the teachers were generally more aware of the social behaviors of their students than most believed, but to have McGonagall actually refer directly to Potter by name, was rather mortifying.
The last time she'd spoken to Potter had been in the library. What had she been thinking that night? Asking him to accompany her back to Gryffindor Tower? What had she been hoping for? That their route would take them back to the hallway where they had their first kiss? It was for the better that Sirius Black had appeared and broken her out of those ridiculous thoughts.
"There are also other concerns, Miss Evans. The quality of your schoolwork, though still above average, has fallen from your usual standard, and it would be a shame for your grades to fall your last year. I know I don't need to remind you of the importance of N.E.W.T. year." McGonagall paused and she appeared to be debating about the best way to continue. "I have never advocated sugar-coating the truth to my students. I am sure you have noticed the Anti-Muggle-born movement in the Ministry? The rate of them hiring Muggle-borns has dropped significantly. If there is a job opening and it is between you and a pure-blood or even a half-blood, they'd take the one of purer blood. It is utter nonsense, but unfortunately that is the reality we face. It would not be wise to give them the opportunity to deny you a job you rightly deserve. The best way to ensure the Ministry takes a proper look is to receive the highest N.E.W.T. marks possible."
"Has it really gotten that awful out there, Professor?"
"It is only the beginning I'm afraid."
"I'll work harder. I do not plan on slacking on my studies."
"I know you will, Miss Evans. That is all, you are free to go."
Lily snatched up her bag eager to leave the room.
As Lily pushed the door open to leave, McGonagall called, "May I suggest you go to sleep earlier tonight. A rested mind sometimes helps put things into perspective."
"I will. Goodbye, Professor," Lily added.
Tallie was waiting and she gave Lily a smile. "So? How'd it go? Was McGonagall rough on you?"
"No." Lily frowned unsure if she should even mention to Tallie all that McGonagall had discussed. "She just gave me a warning that next time she'll take points off."
"Lucky you. I suppose it's because you never get in trouble and that you're Head Girl."
Tallie was now staring off at a group of Hufflepuff boys who were gallivanting by them. "I was thinking of asking George Porter to the next Hogsmeade visit. What do you think?"
"Porter? Well he's okay." He was a nice fellow, average in looks, grades, and personality.
"Not my first choice."
"And who was your first choice?"
"Don't laugh, but Sirius Black."
"Back on him again?" Lily asked with a smirk.
"I overheard a fourth year – a fourth year – we were never that brash – asking him. Black declined the invitation because they were planning a 'boys only' day. Sort of sweet, I suppose."
Lily nodded absentmindedly. She opened up her bag to find her lip balm only to spot a package wrapped in gold tissue paper sitting innocently on top. Lily lifted it out of the bag; it was light and soft to the touch.
"I don't know." Lily looked around the deserted hallway half expecting for the owner of the unknown package to acknowledge his or her presence. "Did you see anyone go near my bag during class or while everyone was leaving?"
"No. Go on, open it."
Lily carefully untied the red bow around the package and the tissue paper dissolved away leaving in her hand a pair of beautifully white woven mittens intertwined with gold and sliver thread. Lily couldn't believe her luck. She had forgotten to pack her mittens from home and her mum had not been able to find them to owl them over. She remembered complaining about it in the common room two nights ago and wondered if someone had overheard. Though why send it to her anonymously, if someone had an extra pair lying around, why not just offer it to her?
The mittens were as soft as a kitten's fur and they gave off a warm glow. She tried them on to find a perfect fit and her hands were instantly warmed.
"I think there's a warming spell on them, though I'm not sure what's making them glow like that…" Lily said taking them off and placing the mittens carefully in her bag.
"It might be specially treated wool. Well someone's looking out for you, Lily. Come on, we better get to History of Magic."
Lily placed her new pair of mittens into the beautifully wooden carved box, the second gift she'd received over the past three days. She felt the gifts belonged together; positive they came from the same person. The box, though it had only made of cardboard at first, had been sitting on the windowsill of the girls' dormitory. Lily had opened it and seven beautiful butterflies had fluttered out, each spiraled around her three times, leaving a trail of glittering silver. Then each had flown over to the cardboard box, landing on it; when the seventh butterfly landed on the box, it had started glowing and the butterflies had vanished, and the beautiful box that was currently in her hand had appeared.
Lily placed the box on gently her bed and headed down to the common room. The common room was half empty and none of her friends were around, scattered in different areas of the castle. Lily took a seat and decided to compose a letter to her parents who she hadn't written in awhile.
Dear Mum and Dad,
Lily stared at what she had written. At one point, a few years back, she might have added her sister's name too, but not anymore. Their relationship had been severely damaged and Lily knew it would take a miracle for them to be close again.
Lily picked up her quill, but could not put into words what had been going on with her life. She supposed she could have concentrated on school, but her parents barely understood the subjects she was taking. She most definitely did not want to mention Potter, though her parents had inquired about him.
Giving up on the letter now, she let her eyes wander around the room. Across the room from her near the windows Black, Pettigrew, and Lupin were stationed. Lily knew Potter was at Quidditch practice. Black and Pettigrew were engaged in a game of wizard chess and by the frown on Black's face, Peter was winning. Lupin was bent over an essay looking stressed and annoyed.
Not really knowing why she felt the need, Lily stood up and approached Lupin.
"Having some trouble, Remus?"
Lupin had been concentrating so hard on his work that he hadn't heard her footsteps and looked up with a start. "Hello, Lily. Yes."
Glancing over his shoulder she did not recognize the book nor subject he was writing about.
At her questioning look, he explained, "It's for extra credit. When I miss class when I'm – er – ill, Professor Slughorn lets me make it up this way. He was never keen on the idea of my coming by in the evening to actually brew the potions I've missed. I've never been exceptionally adept at it."
"You've got the properties of the moon-leaf and bear-tufts mixed up," Lily said reading over what he had written.
"Don't both ingredients essentially do the same thing? Bring heat and moisture to the potion?"
"Yes and no." She sat down flipping through his book. "Here, read this passage and this one, it will explain the differences."
She spent about fifteen minutes helping Remus finish up the essay. As he was rolling up it, Lily began to feel uncomfortable, for there was really no reason for her to continue sitting there.
"King to E6! Checkmate!"
"I swear your new chess board is rigged," Sirius grumbled. "You never used to win so often."
Peter tried not to smile too widely, but Lily could tell he was ecstatic he could beat his brighter friend at something.
"Why are you taking N.E.W.T. level Potions anyway?" Lily questioned. She wanted to delay having to return to her letter writing or any of her other obligations. Most students favored wand-waving subjects over the subtle art of potion-making. "Do you need it for the career you're interested in?"
"I don't mind the subject. I just don't have any natural instinct in it I suppose. Not like you at least."
Lily grinned, slightly embarrassed by the compliment. "So what career are you interested in?"
Remus stiffened a little at the repeat question. "Oh – I don't know." Lupin looked very uncomfortable by the innocent question and he quietly continued, "Teaching maybe…if anyone will hire me…" He began flipping through his textbook so he could avoid looking at her as he spoke.
Lily wanted to know more, but her next question never left her lips.
"I want to join the resistance!" Sirius called out from behind them.
Lily raised her eyes, her focus off Remus just as Sirius had intended.
"Against Voldemort," Sirius responded loftily, standing up and taking a seat next to Remus. Just like James, Sirius had no problem saying Voldemort's name aloud. It wasn't that Lily was frightened of using Voldemort's name; she'd just never thought it through, simply following what most of the student body did.
"Please don't use that name!" Peter said shivering slightly.
"Why not? It's only a name. What's he going to do? Apparate into Hogwarts and hunt me down."
"You're looking for trouble," Peter insisted.
"There's an organized resistance?" Lily asked skeptically, wanting to know more. The Daily Prophet had certainly been quiet about such an existence. There were lone witches and wizards here and there brave enough to take a public stance against You-Know-Who, but they were few and far between. It was understandable since most of the out-spoken people had a habit of vanishing or being killed in suspicious circumstances.
Not to say the majority agreed with it all; especially about complete purification of magical blood lines. That meant most families would have to prune some relative off their family tree. The lure of power though, the idea of being able to lord over Muggles and those of impure blood, was tempting enough that they could just ignore the reality of how they would have to achieve such a society.
Lowering his voice, Sirius explained, "Rumor is Professor Dumbledore started it. It's not large and for now the safest bet for them is to keep a low profile. The moment their identity comes to light, I'm sure the Death Eaters will start hunting them down one by one. I heard last year family members of mine complaining about some of the problems they've been causing. They've been trying to sway pure-bloods against Voldemort's doctrine, especially those high in the Ministry. As a whole, not very successful, but it's better than doing nothing. Even if all they do is slow things up, makes it harder for the Death Eaters." His dark hair falling causally over his eyes, demeanor earnest, talking about such principles, Lily barely recognized the boy in front of her.
"Professional rebel. Perfect job for Sirius, don't you think, Lily?" Remus commented dryly.
Lily nodded, laughing.
"Doubt it pays well," Peter muttered. "I don't have a family inheritance to fall back on."
"I don't either," Lily said consolingly. "I never thought things would get this far. McGonagall told me it would be near impossible as a Muggle-born to get a job in the Ministry soon…"
Sirius's gaze darted to Remus who had paled slightly. As far as Lily knew Remus was a half-blood, she couldn't understand what they were worried about.
"So do I have another recruit, Evans?"
Lily contemplated the question, twirling absentmindedly a strand of her hair.
"How can you start recruiting for something you aren't even a member of, Padfoot?" Remus said.
"I will be, as soon as I'm out of school. James will be joining as well."
Like James, Sirius had not changed completely, still having that haughty air about him, but to talk about joining a resistance, risking his life, showed a different, mature side. Knowing Sirius and James were pure-bloods and were not content with sitting back, which would have been the easier, safer choice, made their efforts all the more valiant.
"How is James's father doing?" Lily asked suddenly. She hadn't the nerve to ask Potter, but it had been something that had been on her mind. She had not expected the reaction she'd received. Sirius who'd been stretching back lazily on the couch sat up straight suddenly, Remus dropped the quill he was holding, almost knocking his ink over when he went to pick it up, and Peter stared at her, mouth slightly agape.
"What's the matter?" she asked concerned. Had something happened that she hadn't been aware?
"He told you about that?" blurted Sirius. "He told you his father was sick?"
"Well, yes," Lily responded. "He told me in the beginning of the year."
"James has never told anyone. Anyone, Lily. Just the three of us..."
They were all gazing at her differently now, as if she suddenly possessed some impressive power. Lily had always been aware that James had opened up completely to her, which made his detachment towards her all the more odd.
"How is his father then?"
Sirius frowned, gesturing into the air. "Hard to tell really…James barely even talks to us about it. Not any worse from what I can tell."
"So does anyone want to play another game of wizard chess?" Peter questioned, breaking the solemn silence. "Padfoot?"
"Only if I get to be black."
"I've been winning with black…"
"Black's my last name though!"
"Sorry, Pete. I have another essay to work on."
"I've never learned to play chess," Lily stated.
"Really?" Peter related observing her eagerly. "I'll teach you." He turned red suddenly at his boldness. "If you want, that is."
"Sure." Lily stood up taking the seat that Sirius had occupied minutes ago. "I know a little. I just can never remember what all the different chess pieces can do."
"This is Wizard chess, which is a lot more exciting than Muggle chess," Peter explained.
For the next half-an-hour Peter coached her on the rules. He explained about his boring summer where he only had his mother and crazy uncle, who was obsessed with the game, which was where he had sharpened his skills and why he was suddenly able to beat Sirius. Eventually out of boredom, Remus had begun other homework, Sirius pulled up a chair to watch the game, whispering pointers to Lily during her first match.
It was in this arrangement that James Potter found them all in, giggling at some comment that Sirius had uttered; though the moment the familiar messy- haired boy walked in, she instantly forgot the witty words. James looked weary, as did his teammates, who staggered and stumbled into the room after him. Potter didn't seem to notice her at all as he flopped onto the vacant couch across from Remus that she'd been perched on before. She noted how he closed his eyes, his body calm, relaxed and then abruptly opened them. Half sitting up, James did a double-take in the direction of her and his two mates.
"Think fast, Black!" Herlon, who was Keeper on the team, was shooting a bright circle of light directly toward Sirius. Black whipped out his wand, reflexes honed from dueling practice. On his feet he instantly caught the light with his wand and sent it flying back at Herlon. The boys circled the common room attempting to distract the other by making the light change colors, shape, or pattern as it whirled and whizzed between them.
Peter had abandoned the chess board to inch closer to the boys. All eyes in the common were on the boys, Lily included, until Potter slipped into the chair Sirius had pulled up.
"What are you doing?" he hissed. His gaze was piercing; confusion and worry in his voice.
"Pettigrew was teaching me how to play chess."
"Peter? Teaching you?"
"He knows the game quite well…"
"Why though? You've never spent anytime with them, with my friends, before."
"Do I need your permission? Do they need your permission?"
"Why?" he repeated. His hand was covering hers; his touch causing an exhilarating shiver.
"I thought it was obvious."
James looked taken aback.
"James, have you been sending me gifts?" She'd been hoping it was James…more than hoping, convinced it was just a way of slowly opening up to her again. Tallie, on the other hand, didn't feel it was very Potter-ish, saying James was usually very direct about things and had never been secretive before about his feelings for her, so why start sending anonymous gifts now. It didn't fit with his character.
Lily waited for his answer still as a statue.
"Gifts?" He took his hand away from hers. The warmth of his touch and the invisible connection vanished.
He shook his head.
Her stomach plummeted, disappointment crushing her hope.
"Prongs!" Sirius had decided to add his best friend into the game, the light now purple and heart shaped, was rushing toward James.
With reflexes so quick even at a time like this Lily couldn't help admire, James had his wand out and he caught the light. Instead of zooming the light back toward Sirius or Herlon, he swished his wand up and down, vanquishing the light. "It's too crowded in here. You'll trample the first years."
Students groaned around them, though no one dared to disobey Potter. Sirius was in shock; it was rather jarring to see James telling off someone else for showing off. Herlon pocketed his wand and pretended he hadn't just been involved. Lily was having trouble hiding her despair at Potter's attitude and comment. She didn't have to pretend for long; James was already heading to the boy's dorm having announced he was taking a shower. She was left alone again unsure why James had reacted the way he had.
Sirius glared at Lily. "What did you say to him?"
Stepping out of the bathroom, into the dormitory, James tugged on a red t-shirt, his hair still dripping wet. He didn't bother toweling his hair dry; there was something more important to deal with at the moment.
James began speaking without acknowledging the other occupants of the room. "You sent her the gifts without my permission." It was statement not a question. Before his shower, while he'd still been alone in the dormitory, he'd searched his trunk, finding the mittens and box he'd purchased missing. Lily had received them somehow and she'd thought he'd sent them.
Sirius and Peter were seated on Peter's bed and Remus was on his own bed. They all had guilty expressions.
Peter was the first to admit it. "I was the one to hide the mittens in her schoolbag at the end of Transfiguration class," Wormtail stated apologetically. "Sirius and Remus were responsible for the box though."
"You did buy them for Lily," Remus reminded James. "They were intended for Lily."
"So what?" James demanded.
"What were you waiting for?" Sirius asked.
"For the right moment. You had no right." His mind was discombobulated, not just from this, but from seeing Lily hanging out with his mates. Laughing with his mates, his friend teaching her chess... Finding them like that had disoriented him - it wasn't really jealousy- it had felt as if he'd made a wrong turn somewhere ending up in parallel universe. It was the surprise of just seeing them like that without any warning… Lily's reason was apparently 'obvious'.
"When would have been the right time? After she agreed to go on a date with Merowit?" mused Sirius.
"What?" he spluttered. "Merowit? The Hufflepuff? She's interested in him?"
"Does it matter? Merowit is interested in her, Prongs."
"She'd never say yes."
"Even when Tallie is going on date with Porter, Merowit's best friend? You don't think Lily might agree just to keep Tallie company? And who knows what could happen? Who know how many sparks will fly?"
"Ok, ok," James relented. "I've waited too long. I know."
"I don't think it's too late just yet," Remus interjected mildly.
"What was she talking to you about anyway? Why was she sitting with you all?" He tried to sound nonchalant, but he failed miserably.
"Obviously because we are such delightful company," Sirius retorted.
"Lily asked me if I sent her the gifts."
"She did?" Peter asked and they were all grinning at him in celebration.
"Unfortunately I denied it. I didn't know you lot had gone behind my back."
"That explains why she was sitting with us."
"Don't be so daft!" Sirius was gesturing with his hands to emphasize how thick he thought James was being. "Do you honestly believe it was our company Lily was interested it? She was waiting for you to show up. Not only did she guess it had been you, she wanted it to be you."
"And I acted like an idiot when I did show up."
"She's forgiven all your other idiot moments; I'm sure she can overlook this one," Sirius reasoned. "Anyway-" Sirius paused and James looked at his best friend expecting some jibe to erupt from his lips. "You told her about your father. That must mean something."
Lily was just returning from the Owlery after sending a letter to her folks. It was the same letter she had tried writing that afternoon in the common room not too long ago.
Black's interaction toward her had strangely changed after that same afternoon. Sirius had taken to saying "Hello, Evans" whenever they met, sometimes even striking up polite conversations about the weather or a test.
She was walking along her thoughts somewhere else to find her path blocked. Merowit, a seventh year from Hufflepuff, stood grinning in front of her, a bouquet of rose in his hands. "Lily!" he exclaimed delightedly. "These are for you." He bowed slightly as she uncertainly accepted the flowers.
Merowit wasn't deterred by her silence. "Will you do me the honor of accompanying me on a date to Hogsmeade, Lily?"
Lily surveyed the hallway hoping for an escape from the question in any shape or form.
A little first year came running down the hallway looking more anxious than Lily felt at the moment. She came to a halt in front of them. "Are you Lily Evans?"
"Here!" The girl thrust a folded piece of parchment into her hands and fled the scene as if she'd done something against the rules.
Merowit looked irritated by the interruption. "Well, Lily?"
Curiosity over the note was overcoming the politeness she would have usually given the boy in front of her. "It might be important. Head stuff." She returned the flowers to Merowit and opened the paper to find in elegant script:
Where dwell the brave of heart
High above, upon a Tower,
Inside your room, you'll find
Soothing sweet scent
Of your favorite flower
Confusion must have registered in her features because Merowit asked, "What does it say? Is something the matter?"
"It's nothing," Lily muttered while carefully re-reading the words. Was this some ones idea of a joke? If she was to go by the first year's demeanor, an older student could have possibly forced her to take part in it. Or was this by the mysterious lad who sent her the other gifts? The boy that was not Potter, but was acting as Lily wished James would.
"Who is that from?" Merowit asked testily. He sounded a bit jealous; it was almost if he could tell where her thoughts were leading her. Merowit did not take fondly to being ignored and swiped the note out of her hand.
"Who wrote this?" he demanded again.
"I don't know," she said back evenly
He looked the note over and guffawed. "Poetry? I can serenade you poetry if that's what you wish."
She took back possession of the note.
"You haven't already agreed to go to Hogsmeade with someone else have you?"
"No, I haven't." She hesitated and carefully said, "I'm really sorry. I can't accept a date with you."
"Why not? If it's Potter you're worried about. I can take care of him."
When she didn't make a comment, he continued this time with an angrier tone. "Everyone was saying you were over him, or is it just that he's through with you?"
"I cannot accept a date with you," she repeated and turned her heel on him. After walking swiftly away, she paused to look behind and was relieved he did not choose to follow her.
She folded the note and placed it in her robe pocket. It could still be a joke, she reasoned, but whoever had sent it had unknowingly helped her deflect Merowit's advances. She wanted to thank the person just for that.
She was on pins and needles, wondering what she would find by the time she entered Gryffindor Tower.
"Lily!" Tallie squealed rushing at her the moment she arrived in the common room. "Oh! You've got to come see our dorm!"
Tallie grabbed her by the hand and dragged her up the stairs to the seventh year dorm. Tallie pushed Lily forward so she'd be first to enter. Lily let out a gasp, her eyes widening in amazement. Her entire bed was covered in white lilies, the surface of the petals striped in red and gold to match the interior of the room. A path of white petals began at the entrance of the room leading to her bed.
"Who did this?" Lily voiced out loud, remembering the note. It hadn't been a joke after all, but what exactly was it then?
"It must be that secret admirer again," Carlie said wistfully from behind her. She, too, knew about the mittens and box.
On her pillow amongst the lilies, was another folded piece of paper. Carefully stepping toward the bed, Lily picked up the paper, unfolding it to reveal a large paw print. This note had even less clues than the first.
"Lily, look outside," Tallie called excitedly. Lily moved from the bed to the window; though they were high up in the Tower, it was possible to make out a large black dog with a sheet over him and painted on the sheet was a black paw print.
"What on earth?" Lily said. "I suppose I'm supposed to go outside to the dog?"
"The dog looks like the Grim," Carlie said. She was biting her lip and looked suddenly apprehensive about the whole thing.
"Nonsense, I've seen the dog before. He's a stray that lives in the Forest." Carlie did not look reassured. "He's harmless," Tallie insisted.
"We could go with Lily," Carlie stated, "for safety purposes."
"No, I think – er – Lily should go on her own."
"Why? What if someone is trying to harm her?"
"By sending flowers and paw print notes? Hardly seems malicious." Tallie turned to Lily. "You are going to go, right?"
Lily was so stunned by the unexpectedness of the flowers and secret notes that if she had been thinking clearly; she might have been more suspicious. After all, if this indeed was a secret admirer, how had the boy managed to get into their dorm? There was also no way to know if this was the same person who had sent the other gifts. Or if the gifts were part of a more elaborate setup to get her to trust this unknown person before springing her into some trap.
"I don't know," Lily said uncertainly. She gazed down outside. Lily was rarely impulsive about anything, but she felt if she didn't follow the notes, she'd always wonder what lay at the end of the trail. "Well I don't want that poor dog to sit there all day either."
"It's freezing outside. Don't forget your cloak and mittens, Lily," Tallie commanded having already deduced by Lily's determined expression that she was going outside.
Wrapped in her warmest cloak and the soft white mittens, Lily set off, weaving through the castle, out the door, through the courtyard, and toward where she spotted the dog. It had begun to drizzle.
Perfect, Lily thought dryly. Couldn't this mystery person have picked a warmer, dryer day?
The dog bounded toward her - the sheet with the paw print had fallen off - tail wagging and he greeted her as if he recognized her. In its mouth was another note bearing:
Snuffles, the dog
A smile formed on her lips as she pet the dog. The idea of following a treasure hunt of some sort enticed her. The dog let out a bark, asking her if she was ready, and began to lead the way when Lily nodded.
Snuffles padded along straight towards the lake; the path the dog followed never strayed far from the bank. The weather was turning for the worse; the drizzle had turned more persistent and the wind had gained strength tangling her loose hair.
The sky was a canvas of various shades of gray; with no sun, the trees, leaves, and other growth were all cast in the shadowy light; the Forbidden Forest looked more sinister than ever before. The lake water churned, waves rolled in, the froth as white as her gloves, a stark and striking contrast to the darkening water and sky around it.
Snuffles suddenly stopped; they'd reached a cove. Lily looked up and to her right. There he stood, fourteen feet from shore. The wind ruffled his hair wildly, his cloak flapped around him. He was standing on a large flat stone, a bouquet of flowers in his hands.
It was him! It had been him all along!
As James caught sight of Lily, he stiffened and hastily retrieved his wand from his pocket. With a flourish of his wand, a stream of words in white appeared on the sky above him.
"I ask just one thing, Miss Evans. One question: Me or the Giant Squid."
Lily let out a noise; it wasn't quite a laugh, but a mixture of amusement and astonishment. She hadn't noticed until now, her eyes had never left James the moment she had spotted him, but parallel to where James was, one tentacle, the others drifting idly in the water, was sticking out of the water resting on a flat stone. The lone tentacle was wrapped around a bouquet of flowers.
Lily remembered very vividly that afternoon after O.W.L.'s their fifth year. James certainly hadn't come off well in that instance, and the fact that he was assured enough to reference that day, reinforced the change, the growth, James had gone through.
Instead of just apologizing, he'd gone through all this. How on earth had he coerced the Giant Squid to cooperate? It was something worthy of the 'marauder' title James had fixed on him and his friends.
James was watching her apprehensively. He ran a hand through his damp hair – James may have changed in some ways, but that habit would stay with him forever.
Glancing backward, Lily noted Snuffles had sat down, looking like he was ready to watch some sort of play. The dog seemed to have sensed the importance of the situation. Lily's cloak was becoming saturated from the rain – she had known her choice the moment she'd read the words – yet she was having trouble moving. It was as if she didn't want to ruin the moment.
Lily took a tentative step closer to the water edge, close enough that the water lapped the soles of her shoes. Lily leaped to the first stepping stone; she took another step, then another, her pace increasing until she was standing in front of James, mere centimeters from him.
"Lily – I-"
She flung her arms around James, kissing him soundly on the lips. Lily could not describe how she was feeling without sound trite and lovesick. She almost expected the dark grey clouds to part and the sun to shine through. It was impossible for the weather to stay so miserable, when finally she felt that everything was right, in order, the way it was meant to be.
They broke apart slowly, so unlike the hasty split after their first kiss. Lily felt pleasantly tingly.
"I'm sorry for ignoring-"
Lily kissed him again, silencing his apology. She didn't need to hear it. Not now, not in this moment. His actions, the notes, flowers, said everything in a deeper way than any string of words. She mattered to him. Later they'd need to talk, to completely straighten out the mess, but now the explanations were not needed.
James responded enthusiastically, lifting her off her feet and swinging her around. Snuffles was barking excitedly from shore. Their kiss was long and drawn out and they laughed when it ended, both feeling giddy and James kept his arms around her. He turned to the Giant Squid, saying consolingly, "Sorry mate." The Giant Squid didn't look very upset.
James helped her back to shore.
"Were you worried I wouldn't choose you?" she teased.
"Not at all," James said with confidence. She swatted him playfully knowing full well he had no idea her feelings for him had stayed strong throughout their whole ordeal.
"Do you like the mittens?" he asked as he took her gloved hand.
"So it was you?"
"That would be my meddlesome mates who actually sent you the gifts. I did buy them."
He took one of her arms, twirling her around to an imaginary tune. As she whirled into his embrace, he leaned in to kiss her, then paused. "All right, Snuffles," he stated loudly, "you can leave now."
The dog barked and then lay down, making itself comfortable on the wet grass, his head in his paws and he looked up at them with big puppy dog eyes.
"We should go back inside anyway," Lily said, smiling. "This rain isn't letting up…"
Hand and hand, they walked back toward the castle. It took them much longer to reach the castle because they kept getting distracted. Lily would have gladly spent a bit more time with James, but the weather was unfortunately raging quite a battle on Hogwarts. Even James's warm and comforting embrace could not fight off the cold forever.
Still holding hands they entered the castle and into the Great Hall, where some students were milling – laughing, chatting, and gossiping. Lily felt James squeeze her hand as together they walked toward the Grand staircase. She could feel the din of the students gathered decrease and could feel their stares. Suddenly they were in front of the Portrait of the Fat Lady. She heard James speak the password and she felt herself move into the Gryffindor common room, without realizing she was moving. She couldn't stop herself from pausing at the entrance to the common room, or her instinctive reaction to release his hand.
The Gryffindor room was crowded and everyone quit talking the moment they spotted them together. Lily looked at James, noticing his frown, the disappointment he couldn't keep from showing on his handsome features.
James lifted his hand and cautiously brushed a strand of hair out of her eyes and ran his hand through her damp hair. In a low voice, low enough that no one beside Lily could hear, he said, "I need to know, Lily. We should do this properly, officially or not at all. So, Lily, will you go out with me?"
She hesitated despite herself. It all came down to nerves. "Yes, James. I will."
Despite her hesitation, the moment was not ruined; his frown turned instantly into a smile, the doubt in his eyes vanished to show his usual mischievous sparkle. The students in the common room were still watching trying to decipher exactly what had occurred or was occurring.
Lily did not wait for James to make the next move, to take her hand, to lean toward her. Before she knew fully what her actions were going to be, she kissed him fully on the mouth in front of all their house mates. Their relationship was now proper, official, and a few boys whooped at their kiss.
Tallie was the first to approach, hugging them both, looking very teary eyed and more sentimental than Lily had ever seen her. Remus and Peter patted James on the back with big grins.
Lily heard the door to the common room open behind them. She was facing the entrance; James had his back turned. Sirius entered soaked to the bone, he was not smiling; he was pale and shivering slightly.
James first noticed her face, then heard the tremor in Sirius's voice as he said, "Prongs…" She felt the warmth in James disappear, felt him turn cold; as if she could feel the dread gathering inside of him. "Your father – McGonagall-"
Sirius couldn't seem to string more than two words together.
Before her mind could completely wrap around it all; James was leaving, she was no longer in his arms, he was out the door. Sirius disappeared directly behind him. Lily turned feeling as if all the air had been pushed out of her. The silence was deafening, causing all her worries to pound in her head. She wished everyone would stop looking at her.
Sirius returned alone fifteen minutes later. Everyone had gotten back to what they were doing before, though there was a definite softer note to all the activities.
"Let's go upstairs," Sirius mouthed to Remus and Peter. She hadn't realized she'd been included in the invitation until the boys were on the stairs looking back at her expectantly.
It felt so wrong to enter James's dorm with his friends when he wasn't there. It was awkward to sit on his bed knowing this is where he slept each night.
"He's still alive. They've rushed him to St. Mungo's. He's very sick. They don't know for how long…" Sirius's voice broke. "If he'll even make it through the night."
Lily remembered how Mr. and Mrs. Potter were surrogate parents to Sirius since he'd run away.
"McGonagall wouldn't let me go…with classes tomorrow…I wouldn't even be allowed in the hospital room; family only."
"You're as good as family," Lily heard herself say without thinking.
Sirius nodded in acknowledgement, looking like he was holding back tears. Lily looked away. After a few minutes of silence and unable to think of words of comfort, Lily bade them a goodbye and headed downstairs and then up to the girls' dormitory.
"Excuse me, sorry to disturb you, Mr. Potter. Visitor time is over."
James looked up to see the nurse watching him apprehensively. She looked prepared for him to argue about it. The nurse was young, maybe on a few years out of Hogwarts, but James didn't remember her.
"Just a moment, please."
The nurse slipped out, but he could still sense her hovering by the door.
His father's condition had improved. The doctors couldn't explain it. With his father being older and the dragon pox already weakening his immune system, the respiratory infection he'd caught had made him gravely ill. The doctors had told his mum and him to prepare for the worst, and now they expected him to be allowed home in a week and a half.
During this visit, James's father had been sleeping for the most part. James had found himself speaking about Lily Evans. Both his parents had heard that name before from Sirius teasing him at home at one time or another.
James stood up and placed a light hand on his father's head. "Please get better, Dad. I really want you to meet Lily," he whispered before leaving the room.
It had taken two days of nagging, but Sirius managed to convince McGonagall and Dumbledore to give him a full day off to see James and his father. Lily handed Sirius a 'Get Well' card to give to James's father. The last news they'd heard was Mr. Potter was recovering nicely and he would returning home two days sooner than expected. He'd have to continue taking a strength potion three times a day.
Sirius didn't return until late in the afternoon the next day during the time the seventh years had a free period to use to study for N.E.W.T.'s. He wasn't alone; James had come back as well.
Lily was walking down from the girls' dormitory when James had entered the common room, so he did not immediately see her. He greeted Remus and Peter. Even though he looked worn out, there was sincere warmth to his smile as he spoke to his friends.
Lily stepped out of the shadows. She was holding her breath, fearful about how he'd react toward her. They hadn't said a word to each other since James had left the school so suddenly, only communicating through Sirius. It felt like years since she'd agreed to be his girlfriend.
James was on his feet, striding over to her, and her worries dissolved as he wrapped her in a tight embrace. She inhaled the strength of his smell. Her head resting on his shoulder, she placed her palm on his chest; hearts beating together.
"I missed you terribly," James murmured, his hand tangled in her red hair. It was all she needed to hear.
THREE YEARS LATER…
It was Halloween. Lily had always looked forward to Halloween as a child. Today, however, would be no different than any other day. Her family would not be joining in the Halloween festivities.
Lily was alone in the kitchen at Godric's Hollow preparing breakfast the Muggle way. She felt it was no longer necessary to save time by using magic – her family was in hiding – and they had too much time on their hands as it was.
James sauntered into the kitchen, Harry in his arms. He placed their son into his baby seat, walked behind her, wrapping his arms around her, and whispered in her ear, "Good morning, my love."
Lily turned to face James, wrapping her own arms around him. "Morning, Prongs." She was relieved to see his schoolboy nickname could still make him smile. Now she of course knew all the Marauders' secrets, knew the true meaning behind the names.
James sat down at the table yawning. As Lily watched him a silly smile formed on her face.
"What?" he asked, messing up his hair lazily. How that habit used to irk her younger self! Now she found it endearing, a reminder of more innocent school days.
She was thinking back to their last year at Hogwarts. It still surprised her how optimistic they had been, how many sunlit days they'd enjoyed. James had been her bright light even with the up and down health of his father looming over their daily activity. Their courtship had been exciting and wonderful, but far from perfect. Many chances arose for arguments between them, there were things they'd always disagree about, but it did not matter. Their feelings for each other were true and deep enough to get over all their bumps and mishaps.
"I wish Padfoot could come visit."
Lily looked up quickly. She'd been waiting for a statement like this from James for a few days now. Lily smiled consolingly. "I know, but we saw him a few days ago."
They'd only been under the Fidelius Charm for about a week. They'd already been in hiding for a few months before, keeping a low profile, after Dumbledore had overheard a prophecy. Through recent intelligence Dumbledore had learned Voldemort was planning on targeting the Potter family specifically. And when Voldemort wanted you dead, it was only a matter of time…you could only run for so long. Dumbledore had insisted nothing was more important than keeping them safe, alive, especially little Harry. It had taken some convincing on James's part. James hated hiding out while friends and fellow Order members were out risking their lives. Lily knew he'd only agreed to keep Harry and her protected.
Visitors had already been scarce with the dangers of gathering in groups larger than three or four people, especially if they consisted of Order Members. All their friends nowadays were Order Members. Lily had lost contact slowly with Tallie, Carlie, and her other roommates. None of them had been willing to join the resistance, and knowing she had, they had stopped inviting her to things. Her friends felt it was too dangerous to have her around. They were right on that account - the Death Eaters were picking Order members off one by one.
Now under the Fidelius charm, they were completely invisible to everyone but those few who'd been told the secret. Peter had been chosen to be their Secret Keeper at the last minute, leaving everyone, Remus and Dumbledore included, to still think it was Sirius. There had been rumors circulating for awhile about a spy amongst the Order; a spy close to the Potters. Sirius, convinced Remus was the spy, had persuaded James and her not to tell Remus about the Secret Keeper switch.
Lily had been worried that James would either do something reckless or would talk Sirius into doing something reckless. She reminded her husband gently, "Sirius is supposed to be in hiding himself. It would be unwise for him to come see us very often. Do not forget the danger he is in while everyone suspects him to be our Secret Keeper."
"I know. If only Dumbledore would return my Invisibility cloak…"
"You can't leave-"
"I'd give it to Sirius. It would make it easier for him to visit or at least he could use it to hide himself."
Lily nodded placing scrambled eggs and toast onto two plates. There was no point arguing. James and Sirius were as close as they'd been at Hogwarts, practically brothers, and Lily knew nothing would keep the two apart for long. The Invisibility cloak would be the safest way for Sirius to visit them, for who knew how long they'd have to stay in hiding.
It felt to Lily that a whole lifetime instead of a few years had passed since their days at Hogwarts. The first year out of Hogwarts had been a rollercoaster of events and emotions. It should have been an exhilarating time for them; finally out of school, out in the real world and making their own decisions. Their growth to full adulthood, however, had been accelerated that first year; at only eighteen they'd both lost their parents.
Lily lost hers first in a car crash; James's steady strong presence had given her strength to get through her grief. They'd married two months after; it had seemed so important at that time to start their own family. Half a year later James's parents passed away; a combination of illness and old age. It had been a trying time; only survivable because they now faced the world together.
With the deaths of their parents still heavy on their hearts, Dumbledore recruited them to join the resistance, which later became known as The Order of the Phoenix. Sirius, Remus, and Peter joined as well.
"Da da da!"
Lily and James both turned to Harry. Their son, oblivious to the dangers of the world, was happy to entertain them with his baby talk.
Harry had been their savior – he was a happy, rambunctious baby. He kept them sane; saved them from the inevitable boredom that plagued them day to day. Lily recalled how terrified she'd been when she had learned of her pregnancy – bringing a baby into this uncertain world was mad, irresponsible. She had been unprepared for how the news of a new life amongst all the news of death had brought hope, joy, and smiles to all the Order members. The Longbottoms had also been expecting, but because they were Aurors, they were rarely around for meetings. Her growing belly brought smiles to their downtrodden faces, relieved the tension from the room. For a few minutes everyone could forget about the terrible reality of their world, that the Death Eaters were picking them off one by one; forget the rumor there might be a spy…
Harry had been born, perfect and healthy – a blend of the two of them, James's messy hair and her green eyes. Sirius had been named Harry's godfather; she'd agreed readily, having grown close to her husband's best friend and trusting him fully with her son should the unthinkable happen.
It was another beautiful fall day and Lily wished she could take Harry for a stroll outside. Instead she had baked cookies in the shape of pumpkins, witch's hats, and Snitches that afternoon. Now it was later at night, another dull day had passed, and Lily walked into the living room. James was entertaining Harry with colored smoke spouting out of his wand. Harry was laughing, trying to grab hold of the smoke with his chubby little hands. She paused at the doorway overcome with love for her husband and son.
"James, Harry needs to go to bed," she said gently, picking up her soon. Lily glanced backward at James as she headed upstairs, her gaze lingering on him almost as if she knew this would be the last time she'd see him alive. James had flopped onto the couch, stretching out. He looked exhausted. Lily continued up the stairs murmuring sweet words to Harry, who was rubbing his eyes sleepily.
It was then, Lily heard a noise downstairs. Was it their cat trying to get inside? She turned to call down to James, to verify everything was all right. The next words turned her blood to ice: "Lily, take Harry and go! It's him! Go! Run! I'll hold him off!1"
She heard a sinister laugh, and it wasn't hearing the terrible curse (Avada Kedavra!), her mind could not process the words – it was the green light filling the hallway that made her scream. Memories danced through her mind: patrolling with James, dancing at Petunia's engagement party, James bent down on one knee in the middle of London, the tears that had filled his eyes when he first held Harry…
She had to think clearly, wishing she could Apparate, but without her wand…
Lily barricaded herself in, knowing it was useless, buying them only seconds at most. If only she could think of a way out, to save Harry. Voldemort forced the door open – she looked into his terrible red eyes – he was smirking, amused. Harry was still in her arms, he was being so good, not even whimpering. Lily dropped him in the crib.
When the man first asked her to stand aside, she'd instinctively spread her arms, stood between Voldemort and her son. All that consumed her mind was protecting Harry. She would do anything to save Harry. Her heart beat wildly; she'd never been more frightened. Not for her own death, she'd come to terms with the possibility since joining the Order, but for Harry; a child, innocent, helpless.
It was only when he asked her again to stand aside that thoughts began to slowly form in her mind. Voldemort had every intention of letting her live. Why spare her when he'd so cruelly disposed of her husband?
"Not Harry! Please…have mercy…have mercy…Not Harry! Please – I'll do anything-" The words were just spilling out of her mouth. Voldemort looked inhuman, but it did not stop her from trying to appeal to any ounce of humanity left inside the terrible man in front of her.
"Stand aside. Stand aside, girl!"
He was completely serious and she could not understand it. Voldemort expected her to stand aside; to do nothing while she watched him murder her son. Voldemort believed she would value her own life over her child's. For a wizard who claimed to have more magical knowledge than anyone alive or dead, he knew nothing about love.
Lily saw him raise his wand – she was so filled with the grief coursing through her, love pounding inside – she never spared a thought to their betrayer.
Green light was rushing toward her. A vision of Harry - he was smiling, seventeen; of age, with glasses and a scar on his forehead - surfaced in her mind. Her last thought: Not Harry.
Chapter title meaning: So it was fated…
Disclaimer: The last part of this chapter, contains bits and parts from the Chapter Seventeen: Bathilda's Secret pages 342-345 in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, American ed. A few lines were copied directly from page 343, page 344, and page 344 and are not my own writing.
Author's note: Thank you everyone for reading this story. I really hope you enjoyed the journey of how Lily and James fell in love. Now is your last chance to let me know what you think of this chapter, as well as the story as a whole, so please leave a REVIEW!