You Know I'm No Good

Disclaimer: I don't own any of JKR's original characters, nor do I own or claim in any way the characters of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind they are aligned with. I'm not making any money from this, so if you've got a problem, get over it.

A/N: (First up: my apologies to the tl;dr crowd.) This story was written by me, and for me, but I've decided to share it with you.

I'm not trying to sound stuck up in this saying this, or anything; I've just grown sick of reading the same storylines and stereotypical characters seen in many (unnamed) fanfictions - I'm not even excluding my own previous story from this group, either. But I'm sure you know what I mean: the now-cliched Bookworm!Lily and Immature!Jameswho is forced to change his entire person in order to be given a chance by the girl of his dreams. It's been done. So I wanted to do something different.

Two ideas have inspired me. The first was the thought of switching Lily and James' most common archetypes: James now being the more mature, mysterious golden boy and Lily being a spoilt, slightly immature but beautiful and charming girl. This led me to draw comparisons with one of my favourite novels, Gone With the Wind, which has thus inspired (but not restricted) the premise of this fanfiction.

The second involved the idea of their physical relationship maturing before their emotional one, and the effect this would have on their characters individually. Not dissimilar to some of my favourite fanfics (I'm sure you've read them too!), I loved the potential this had for angotism, teasing and a rather hot storyline. (You get my point.)

So I've attempted to combine the two here, in this story. It's been a long time since I (finally) finished writing my first story, but to be honest, when I thought of this plotline... I just couldn't resist. I hope you can't either.

(One last thing - I've included a couple of shout-outs, or inside jokes, to the HP films and books, and also to other movies/tv shows/novels throughout the story; see if you can spot them.)

Lily Evans stared out the window of the moving car, sighing. Fiercely independent, she had despised being chauffeured anywhere ever since she had received her driver's permit. Her father had in-sis-ted that she not drive herself to the train station, despite her persistent and increasingly irate protests.

"What would you do with your car when you got there? The bloody thing'd be towed before you even started your first class," he argued, quite reasonably.

To which she'd had no answer, of course. But really, one of the house staff could've come and picked it up, couldn't they? Was that so hard? Lily frowned, still slightly angry, as the tall buildings of London whizzed past: slick, modern sky-scrapers contrasting with those edifices now centuries-old in design and make. Her father could be so unreasonable sometimes. But then, she reasoned, being one of the most wealthy and high-powered men in the country could do that to a person.

She was jolted out of her reverie by the stopping of the car.

"We have arrived, Miss Evans," came the slow, deep voice of her driver, Damien. King's Cross Station loomed to her left. She stepped out the car as Damien opened the door of the black limousine for her, one long leg after the other. She stood for a moment, steadying herself on her heeled black boots, watching as people flitted in and out of the entrance to the busy station.

"Miss Evans?" said Damien, gesturing at the LV trunk handle in his hand; the luggage had been commissioned by her father from the design house upon her acceptance to Hogwarts, and bore her name in scripted gold letters: Lily Madison Evans. She looked up at him, slightly confused, before remembering herself and taking the trunk from him, it's wheels clattering loudly over the cobblestones. He knew she insisted on entering the station herself, and had done ever since her second year at her Swiss boarding school. Damien wondered vaguely (not for the first time) why the young woman didn't prefer to fly direct - after all, her father did hold a decent stake in a major airline - but it wasn't his place to ask.

Lily still hadn't moved from her place beside him, her expression slightly clouded and somewhat apprehensive. "Are you okay, Lily?" he asked her, dropping his voice as a rowdy group of young men wearing rather peculiar hats passed by them with trunks like her own.

Lily bristled. "Of course," she stated, her expression clearing and her shoulders going back instinctively, before she softened a little. "It's just…" she hesitated. "It's my last year. It feels sort of… weird."

Damien smiled. "Just enjoy every minute of it," he told her, his voice reassuring and encouraging.

She turned and looked at him now: her expression cleared, her eyes brightened, and, slowly spreading across her face, it appeared – the smile that caused any male within vicinity to melt, give in or become entranced, depending on his age and relation to her. It was the smile that had afforded her several ponies, a small Caribbean island and, most recently, the purchase of her brand new, black Lamborghini Gallardo – her very first car. Christophé Evans could be forgiven indulging his daughter's every wish when one saw how Lily's extraordinary emerald eyes sparkled with happiness, as they did now.

"Could you ever imagine me not?" she asked him, one well-groomed eyebrow arching slightly. She laughed – almost a child's laugh; sweet, uninhibited and pleasing to the ears. Damien grinned and shook his head slightly, saying nothing. They bade each other a quick goodbye, and, after a hug and a promise to write, Lily waved and made her way toward the hubbub of King Cross' crowded platforms.

Lily felt the familiar mix of sickening apprehension and rollicking excitement as she spotted the barrier that acted as the gateway to Platform Nine & Three-Quarters. She swallowed a grin and, with a deep breath, pulled her trunk behind her as she stepped through to the magical world beyond.

Instantly, her senses were assaulted. Colours exploded in front of her eyes, children shouted from all directions, the train blew smoke everywhere. She couldn't suppress her smile this time, her eyes positively glittering.

"Lily!" She heard a shout behind her. She whirled around, only to be practically knocked to the ground by a blonde blur.

"Ally!" she choked out, grabbing at the back of her neck. The maniacal squeeze the girl had embraced her with relaxed, and a sheepish face came into view.

"Sorry," said Ally, laughing. "I just missed you – where have you been all summer?"

Lily laughed too, now able to properly breathe again. "I told you," she said, smiling and shaking her head. "We moved house. And we had a lot of stuff to move." Lily didn't feel even a tad guilty about lying to her best friend's face. When you'd had as much practice as she did, one soon lost any uncomfortable feelings about doing so.

"Yes, but you have, like, a bazillion maids to help you with stuff like that," continued Ally impatiently. "Surely it didn't take you all summer?"

"You know me, Al," smiled Lily, undaunted, "I would never let anyone touch my vintage Dior."

"Well, you have to get better at replying to my owls," insisted the blonde girl indignantly. "You're lucky I didn't send a Howler!"

"Somehow, I don't think that would have gone down too well with the house staff," giggled Lily. "I already had to tell them that your owl was taught to deliver messages by your father, who trains animals for movies professionally… then they realized that it was more than one bird delivering the mail! Luckily, Dad just fires them if anyone gets too suspicious," she stated unconcernedly.

At that moment, a tall boy slung his well-toned arm over her shoulder, dark tresses flopping over his indifferently-handsome face. "Hey girl," he said with a grin, his deep voice gruffer than she'd remembered.

"Sirius!" she cried, throwing her arms around him and smiling hugely. "How was your summer?"

"Great," he told her, now hugging Ally, "my parents kicked me out. Best thing they ever did for me."

Lily laughed. "Oh, really?"

"Of course," said Sirius, in his usual confident way. "Ended up kicking it with Pron- I mean, James, all summer, at his place."

"Huh," said Lily, musing this interesting development. "Well, it's their loss," she stated, sticking her chin out defiantly.

He grinned at her, an arm around each of the two girls. "I definitely missed you this summer, Lil," he told her, and she laughed again, pushing against his shoulder affectionately as they walked towards the train.

The students of Hogwarts gathered aboard the train as the conductor blew the whistles, shouting goodbyes to parents and siblings, grabbing last minute items and catching up with friends after a summer apart. Lily, Sirius and Ally made their way down the crowded corridors, trunks already stored in the designated luggage compartment.

"So what about your summers?" The tall boy asked them, his eyes flittering after a sixth-year brunette who walked past in a very short skirt. Lily followed his eyeline and laughed.

"Sure you're really interested?" she asked of her male – but certainly not 'boy' – friend, eyebrows raised, with a teasing smirk.

Sirius shrugged, smiling unapologetically. "Alas, as neither of you gorgeous ladies will deign to indulge me, I must look for my pleasures elsewhere."

Lily grinned as Ally scoffed knowingly beside her. Sirius was notorious around the school as the ultimate ladies' man – harder to keep than catching smoke with your bare hands.

"My summer was particularly boring," continued Ally, "as all of my supposed friends were either busy or unresponsive." She pulled a face at Lily, whose eyes widened immediately in feigned innocence, an almost instinctive reaction to such an accusation – in her case, anyway.

"I'm going to assume that was aimed at you, Lily, despite Ally's impressive subtlety," said Sirius. His eyebrows rose with curiosity. "What kept you so preoccupied?"

"We moved house," said Lily, falling back on the same excuse she had used on her best friend. "And," she said impressively, "my dad caved."

Ally's mouth fell open in shock. "You mean he actually bought it for you?" Lily nodded, eyes twinkling with amusement and the thrill of triumph. "My God, does he ever say no? I wish my dad would let me get one..."

"Bought what?" asked Sirius, confused.

"A brand new, top of the range Lamborghini Gallardo," Ally informed him.

Sirius paused, still confused. "Bought what?" he asked again.

"Picture the new RocketRacer 1000," explained Ally, "and multiply it by ten - in terms of price, danger - and general awesomeness."

Sirius considered this. "Nice," he concurred, after a moment. "I should get one of those."

"No, I see you as more of a motorcycle kind of guy," mused Lily, smiling. "Although he bought me a RocketRacer too." She grinned at the stunned look on Ally's face, who was about to burst with envy, when –

"Here we are," interrupted Sirius, as they stopped outside a door. Lily giggled at the look on Ally's face one last time before stepping inside the compartment.

She was slightly surprised to see people already sitting inside the enlarged compartment; she had felt so happy to be back in the presence of her best friends that she'd not noticed anyone missing. Now inside, glancing at the familiar faces around her, she wondered how she could've glossed over their absence.

"Remus," she said happily, as a young man with sandy brown hair and blue eyes stood to hugher. As he pulled back after their embrace, she observed him at arm's length: "You look good," she told him genuinely.

He glowed visibly at the comment, his eyes roaming her happy face. "Never as good as you, Lily dear," he said, smiling widely, "as I'm sure most of the males of the school will attest." She blushed prettily, on cue.

Behind her, a throat was cleared noisily. "May we join those of you lucky enough to be inside the compartment already?" came Sirius' dry voice, jokingly. Lily rolled her eyes, pulling the other two in behind her. Sirius and Remus slapped hands and gruffly thumped each other's backs, Ally and Remus hugged, and Lily moved over to embrace their Ravenclaw friend Frank Longbottom. Lily stepped back, out of the way, in order for Ally and Frank to hug tentatively, both blushing furiously.

"Hey, Alice," she heard Frank say quietly to her best friend, who mumbled a reply and took the seat next to him. Lily restrained herself from rolling her eyes once more –Ally could be more than a little pathetic when it came to guys, and most especially when it came to the captain of the Ravenclaw Quidditch Team, heir to the extensive Longbottom Herbologistics retail empire and most likely candidate for the position of Head Boy for their seventh and final year.

Lily began to sit down on the seat nearest the window, feeling for the arm rest behind her, when –

"Do you mind?" came a voice behind her. Lily jumped and spun around, her hand still on the arm rest. Or, what she had thought was the arm rest…

"Lily, stop feeling the boy up," chortled Sirius, indicating where her hand had come to rest on the guy's leg. She didn't even recognize him. Wrenching her hand back as though burned, she laughed uneasily along with the others as the boy in question looked at her quizzically, eyebrows raised.

"I had no idea you were quite so – er – keen, Evans," stated the boy, a tattered copy of Gone With the Wind in his hand.

"You wish, Jamesie," grinned Sirius. "Lily here was just checking you were still male. All that sitting on a broom, you know."

Of course. It was Potter. She'd never understood him, despite him being Sirius' best friend, and so – for the most part – had kept her distance. She recovered herself, straightening her shoulders and stepping away. "Unfortunately for you, Potter," she said coolly, though she surprised even herself as she heard the somewhat flirtatious tone in her voice.

Taking a seat next to Ally and diagonally across from James, she mused over the incident in her head. He'd lost those glasses he used to wear – no wonder she hadn't recognized him. He looked taller, too, she thought, now several inches taller even than her, despite Lily standing at 5'10". Other than that, however, James Potter remained a mystery to her, though she (like everyone in Hogwarts, and indeed, the wizarding world) knew of his background. Wealthy, good looking, and with a pureblood family that predated the Ministry of Magic, James Potter was wizarding royalty. His family's history rivaled that of the Kennedy's of America, in terms of tragedy and politics both. Many branches of the Potter tree had met untimely ends while others had climbed the heights of the Ministry. And now his father had been elected the new Minister for Magic over the summer, she recalled. Well. That would be interesting.

James Potter himself, though, was something of an anomaly. Though Lily's group of friends tended to be among the most well-off, well-connected and well-known students at Hogwarts – even children from all-magical families had heard of her father – James was perhaps the pinnacle. His grades frequently topped the year, though he rarely studied; he was lead chaser of his Quidditch team, but not obsessed with it in the same way Sirius (or even Frank) was; he was among the best-looking guys currently attending their school, and yet he never flaunted it, nor did he seem to treat females as disposable pleasures. Favoured by the teachers, adored by the girls, and respected by his fellow male students, James Potter was a close to perfect as it got. So what the hell was wrong with him?

If the truth was to be told, however, James and Lily were, in many ways, quite similar. Lily had always been given everything her heart desired – toys, clothes, lavish holidays, exotic animals, extravagant birthday parties and meals. Her mother's death in Lily's fourth year of life had affected her father deeply, prompting him to hold on to his daughters the only way he knew how: by granting their every wish in an attempt to buy their love. He needn't have done so, as Lily knew she'd love her father regardless of what Christophé held in his back account, but she wasn't going to pretend she didn't necessarily use it to her advantage occasionally… Like this summer, when Lily's eight-years-older sister Petunia had gotten married. Lily's father had been trying, unsuccessfully, to persuade his daughter to settle with a much-safer Range Rover for ordinary use and a Bentley Continental convertible for weekends. In the middle of a fit of his abandonment issues (somewhere between the rehearsal dinner and giving Petunia away to that fat lard, Vernon Dursley), Lily had persuaded Christophé to purchase the Lamborghini at last.

(She'd still gotten the Range Rover.)

Naturally, this sort of treatment led to the young Lily Evans becoming slightly – shall we say – spoilt. Utterly uncompromising and entirely used to getting her way (not unlike her father - when it came to anyone other than his daughters), Lily had struggled with her redhead's temper throughout primary school, until, at the age of ten, she learnt that one could typically catch more flies with honey than vinegar. (Not to mention, she finally understood the effect her smile had on all males, not just her father.) So Lily went from tiny terror to the school's sweetheart, all the while still getting exactly what she wanted.

And then she'd received her letter from Hogwarts.

Well, what a shock that had been. Her normally rather-absentee father took an entire week off work in order to adjust to the news that his baby girl was, in fact, a witch, and a rather advanced one at that. Upon arriving at the school, Lily had discovered that magic came quite easily to her, almost similar to coaxing the desired response from her father and teachers. If she asked the magic within her nicely, spells were no trouble at all. One time, however, in her first year, her frustration with a spell that absolutely refused to work for her led to her setting the entire Charms classroom ablaze: it was rather a shock for poor Professor Flitwick to see the Gryffindor wonder girl shrieking furiously at the innocent feather, which lay stubbornly on the desk in front of her, as the rest of her classmates ran from the scorching room, terrified.

Lily was not conventionally beautiful, but ever since her thirteenth birthday, something in the juxtaposition of her innocent-looking pale skin and dangerously intense green eyes had seemed to draw members of the opposite sex to her in droves. Tall and slim, Lily's looks were enhanced by the incredibly-vivid red of her long, wavy hair which fell halfway down her back. Her charm, looks and intelligence combined to make her a formidable weapon, and she was well-known for her unattainable stature.

She looked up suddenly as she noticed a pair of eyes watching her: Potter, looking at Lily somewhat interestedly. She frowned slightly, but he simply flicked his eyes back to his open book unapologetically, an amused smile playing lightly across his mouth. She tore her eyes away from his rather soft-looking lips – why was she even staring like that? She shook herself slightly – as the food trolley rolled past, clattering in the aisle. Sirius was already up and ordering half of its contents. She'd once asked him where he put it all, as Quidditch was hardly strenuous exercise, and his response, dripping with innuendo, had highlighted the epitome of Sirius Black: "Three words: extra-curricular activities."

She stood behind him, stretching onto her tiptoes to peer over his shoulder at the contents of the cart. "Get me a packet of Beans," she said, and he nodded nonchalantly, adding it to the list he was giving to the witch who wheeled the trolley.

"So Frank," said Lily, sitting back down, "did you make Head Boy? Or were those really snowflakes Sirius spotted on his last trip down to hell?"

Sirius looked up with a quick grin as he tore open a packet of Chocolate Frogs with his teeth. Frank laughed, catching a Frog with his Keeper's reflexes as Sirius pelted them around the compartment (Remus threw his back at Sirius's forehead).

"Didn't you hear?" said Frank, looking at her quizzically, tearing the foil of his chocolate. "They haven't decided on the new Heads yet."

"Of course she didn't," laughed Ally. "She hasn't been in contact with anyone all summer!" This wasn't strictly true, of course, but Lily wasn't about to correct her. "Too busy making sure the movers didn't incorrectly box her Jimmy Choos. I bet she hasn't even opened a copy of the Prophet."

"I told you, we can't have too many owls flying into the manor," argued Lily. "It looks suspicious. Not to mention weird."

"Then you can't have heard much about this Voldemort wanker," stated Sirius, looked surprised. "Why didn't you say anything?"

Lily just looked confused. The faces around her had darkened at the mention of the name. "Volde-who?" she asked, frowning. "I remember someone with a name like that was supposed to be the perpetrator of that muggle killing at the end of sixth year, wasn't he? I thought they caught him?"

"Nah, that was just a rumour," said Frank, interjecting. "Truth is, this guy's too big – too powerful – to be held in a prison – even Azkaban. They're saying he's just as powerful as Grindelwald was, if not more."

She remembered from History of Magic the name Grindelwald: the Dark wizard Dumbledore had defeated in 1945, some of whose attacks on muggles had been blamed on Hitler and the Axis' Powers during World War II. "What's he been doing?" she asked.

"More muggle killings," said Ally, more quietly than the other two. A slight haunted look flitted across her normally pretty features. "They say he does it for fun, for sport. He and his followers. To them, muggles are just like animals."

"There was a big attack on this little wizarding village further north, Ottery St. Catchpole," went on Sirius. "A bunch of fairly prominent wizarding families were hit – the Prewetts, the Weasleys, the Lovegoods…"

"Yeah, Gideon and Fabian Prewett – you know, the famous Aurors? – were killed," said Frank, looking solemn. "They were pretty good family friends of ours. My dad took it pretty hard. He says..." He paused, looking as if he were wondering if he should go on. "He says there's a war coming."

They were all silent for a moment. Suddenly, the excitement in Lily's stomach was outweighed by a growing anxiety – and fear. A war? Next year they would be on their own, out in the real world, unprotected by the high walls of Hogwarts Castle and the calm gaze of their powerful Headmaster. Lily still had no idea what she wanted to do, 'when she grew up'. And with all the turmoil that was apparently imminent in the wizarding world… she sighed quietly to herself, attempting to ignore the shiver that ran down her spine. I'll think about it later.

The time seemed to crawl by. Lily dozed in and out of the conversations in their compartment, jerking awake every now and then with the jarring movements of the train. As glad as she was to be going back to Hogwarts – to be going home – she couldn't deny the dangers currently inherent within the wizarding world, and her stomach remained a little clenched throughout the journey. Hours later, it seemed, a particularly nasty bump rattled throughout the compartment, jolting her awake. Yawning a little, she stretched and sat up, her Ramones t-shirt riding up a little underneath her trench coat. Ally and Frank were still chatting quietly, but everyone else seemed to be dozing too. She reached forward and grabbed at Sirius' wrist, checking his watch as he slept on without noticing her.

"We're almost there," announced Lily, shaking Sirius awake. "We should probably get changed."

Remus and James awoke too, yawning as they filed out of the compartment behind Frank and Sirius to let the girls change.

"Merlin, I'm tired," said Ally, fighting back a yawn with a grimace.

"Too much chatting, then?" suggested Lily with a smirk. Ally threw her just-pulled-off sweater at her, and Lily batted it down with one hand easily, grinning.

She pulled off her knee-high boots, her black jeans following quickly. As Lily reached inside her bag to grab her pleated grey school skirt, a piece of parchment came loose, fluttering to the other side of the compartment before she could grab it.

"What's this?" asked Ally, picking it up quickly and frowning at it. She seemed to notice the sender's name, for she went on, "Who's Travis? Not Travis Vance?"

"It's nothing," said Lily hastily, trying to grab it from her friend, but Ally moved it out of her reach of her prying fingers. "Give it here, Ally-"

"So you weren't too busy to write this summer," said Ally, looking angry, "just too busy to write anyone but this Travis guy?" Before Lily could stop her, she had peered into Lily's bag, where – sure enough – a particularly abundant stack of Travis' letters was stashed, his neat handwriting obvious on each slip of parchment.

Lily finally snatched his letter from the other girl, stuffing it back in her bag. She hurriedly pulled on her Gryffindor sweater and snapped, "It's none of your business, Ally!" Lily seized her bag, tugging it over her shoulder, and swept from the compartment, almost running headlong into the boys waiting impatiently outside.

"What took so long, Evans?" asked Sirius, grinning, with all of his usual tact. She forced a smile in return, gripping her bag a little tighter.

"I'd like to see you try to put on tights with the train is moving like this," she challenged him. At that moment, the door slid open and Ally entered the corridor, still glaring at Lily. The boys seemed to sense the rather prickly mood in the air, for they muttered something about their robes and hastened for the safety of the compartment.

Lily and Ally stood in silence as Lily pulled on her black robes and scarlet-and-gold tie, being extra careful to make sure that, this time, Travis' letters stayed in her bag. Ally pursed her lips as she brushed her hair, as though restraining herself from speaking.

"Why didn't you tell me about him?" she burst out, a hurt look in her eyes as Lily turned to face her best friend. "I mean…" she faltered, twirling a strand of blonde hair around her finger absentmindedly. "You didn't even say-"

"I wanted to," said Lily cautiously. "But it just felt – I don't know… sort of like, if I said it out loud, he'd stop writing." She looked up, semi-abashedly. The truth was, Lily hadn't wanted to tell anyone; she'd kept the knowledge of their correspondence a secret, hugging it to herself as though it were keeping her warm. "I really am sorry I didn't write more," she went on. "I was just so caught up in it all, I didn't even think-"

"I forgive you," said Ally, smiling. "I'm pretty sure I know what that feels like." She gestured to the compartment, to where Frank was now changing. Lily giggled and smiled back, moving forward to wrap her friend in a hug. Sirius stuck his head out of the compartment door, looking relieved at the affable scene he was greeted by.

"Oh, good," he said, opening the door fully. "We'll let you back in then."

The remainder of their journey to Hogwarts passed quickly, with the group postulating enthusiastically on what they could expect from Seventh Year.

"I've heard that you have to battle a troll for the Defence NEWT," said Remus, rather alarming Lily, just as the train began to slow down.

"No, it's a banshee," Sirius claimed, correcting him, and proceeding to perform an unfortunately rather accurate impression of the creature. Lily threw an Every-Flavour Bean at him.

"I can't wait to have first pick of the seats by the fire," said Ally, shivering a little as she reminisced about the cozy Gryffindor common room and its comfortable armchairs.

The train came to a jarring holt. Ecstatic to be back at Hogwarts, and away from the persistent rocking of the train, Lily was the first one out of the compartment and on the platform, quickly clambering into one of the horseless carriages. Ally and Sirius joined her (Lily didn't miss the forlorn look on Ally's face as Frank, James and Remus climbed into the carriage next to them), both still chattering on about the feast and how hungry they were. Lily leaned against the small window, her eyes searching hungrily for her first sight of the castle in three months. And there it was – silhouetted against the sky, dark and beautiful, the light of the moon highlighting its enigmatic presence. She smiled. She was home.

As their Headmaster got to his feet in front of them, the chatter filling the Great Hall fell into a hushed silence. "Welcome, welcome," said Dumbledore, spreading his arms wide as though embracing them all, "to another year at Hogwarts." His eyes twinkled as he surveyed them all. "Let us hope that this year will be filled once more with enthusiastic learning, delicious food and the odd bit of mischief." Lily, out of the corner of her eye, saw James and Sirius exchange quiet grins.

"Now, before we begin our most excellent feast, I have an announcement to make. In light of recent trying times…" Dumbledore seemed to hesitate, and many students swapped anxious looks, knowing exactly what he was referring to, "The school has yet to come to a decision on the appointments for Head Boy and Girl this year. As such, we will be making the announcement for these positions this coming Sunday night at dinner, so please be present." He smile broadened, and he clapped his hands together. "Now, I see no more reason to delay you from enjoying the first delightful meal of many, so let the feast begin!"

Mouth-watering piles of food appeared instantly on the golden platters in front of them: roasts, vegetables, delicious sides and tall, icy jugs of pumpkin juice. Lily couldn't help but lick her lips, thinking that Mario, their chef at the mansion, could definitely learn something from the Hogwarts house elves. Helping herself to a bit of everything, Lily almost sighed with happiness as she took her first bite of roast beef, listening as the conversation around her centered on the Head positions.

"It'll be Frank for sure," she heard Sirius tell their crowded table, "and for the Head Girl-"

"It better not be that cow, Marjorie Johnson," interjected Ally, looking appalled. "How she ever made Hufflepuff, I don't know. That girl is nastier than morning breath."

Lily giggled, catching a glimpse of Marjorie, who was smirking widely from where she sat at the yellow-and-black adorned table; other Hufflepuffs were clapping her on the back as though she'd already been appointed Head Girl. She rolled her eyes; Lily and Marjorie had had a rather hostile relationship ever since Lily had scorched the dark-haired girl's eyebrow from her face during that unfortunate Charms incident in first year. Marjorie had complained so loud, and for so long, that Lily felt no need to apologise to the other girl; thus, a mutual enmity was born.

"You're right," agreed Lily, screwing up her nose. "If she gets to be Head Girl, I'll lose all the respect I have for the teachers of Hogwarts."

"Of what little you have for them, you mean," came a quiet voice to her left; James Potter, sitting across from Ally, was staring at Lily intently, amusement clearly evident in his eyes. Lily's eyebrows rose in shock; she sat there, momentarily stunned. Didn't he know that Lily was considered one of the most courteous students in Hogwarts by the teachers, always willing to help out without being asked? She opened her mouth to make a brusque retort –

"Excellent, treacle tart!" interjected Sirius, reaching across her to grab the serving spoon as the desserts appeared on the table suddenly, and breaking Lily and James' eye contact. She seethed a second longer, before tossing her long hair over her shoulder impetuously and deciding to forget about it. This Potter obviously had her confused with someone else, that was all. He didn't know her from a bar of soap – who was he to make such damning judgments on her character?

She stayed quiet for the remainder of the feast, playing disinterestedly with the apple pie on her plate. She looked up once, catching James looking at her again. What was with this guy? She glared at him, looking quickly back down at her plate, and as soon as the feast was over, dragged Ally away from the guys in order to beat a quick path back to Gryffindor Tower.

"God, that James Potter is such a loser," she snapped viciously, as soon as they were out of earshot of the first years. Her stride remained brisk and Ally struggled to keep up.

"What?" asked Ally, panting a little and looking surprised. "I didn't think you had ever even spoken to him before!"

"I haven't," she snapped. "He's just a know-it-all prat, that's all." They had arrived at the portrait of the Fat Lady, resplendent in pink as ever. Lily couldn't help but let out a smile, and Ally looked relieved.

"Spellotape," said Lily, and the Fat Lady swung open.

The common room was noisy and excited with the greetings and gossip being exchanged. As they walked in, Lily noticed a group of tall boys who had already commandeered the best spots near the fire - boys who looked an awful lot like –

"What are you lot doing up here?" demanded Lily as she strode over to where Sirius, Remus and James sat, talking and laughing. Sirius stuffed a piece of parchment hastily in his pocket.

"Well, you know, we do live here," commented Remus, amusedly. Sirius just laughed as Lily spluttered indignantly.

"Secret passageway, Lily dear," he informed them, grinning at James as he leant back into the armchair, hands resting behind his head. She eyed the boys warily, before a reluctant smile escaped her lips.

"Fine," she said, plopping down next to Remus, "but one day, one of you is showing me these famed 'secret passageways'!" Next to her, Ally nodded, laughing too.

"One day," agreed James, looking at her. There was something in his gaze that made her shiver a little, involuntarily. Lily frowned to herself. Maybe she was more tired than she'd thought. Sirius, meanwhile, had started to tell them a story involving a cat, a swimming pool and a barrel of Dr. Filibuster's Fireworks from he and James' holidays.

"I think I might go to bed, then," she interrupted, standing and stretching.

"Okay," said Ally, barely glancing at her, "I just want to hear the end of this story and then I'll be right up…"

Lily bade them all goodnight, making the journey alone up the girl's staircase, now heading all the way to the top. The distance seemed to be a metaphor for how hard their final year of school would be, and – judging from what she'd heard from previous seventh years – it was spot on. Finally reaching the top, Lily pulled on her pyjamas, with a yawn. A piece of parchment fell from her bag as she dug around, feeling for her toothbrush, for the second time that day: another bundle of letters from Travis. Suddenly, looking at his orderly cursive, she felt wide awake.

She clambered onto her four-poster, shutting the curtains around the bed even though none of the other girls in the dorm she and Ally lived in were currently present. Illuminating her wand, she settled into her comfy bed and began to read, heart fluttering happily:

Dear Tiger-Lily,

How wonderful it is to hear from you again! I returned home on Monday evening from my travels and, Lily – it was the most extraordinary year of my life. I visited everywhere from Salem, America to Berribea, the tiny island wizarding colony in the Bahamas. The history I've learnt, the people I've meant… you should definitely think about doing to the Grand Tour upon your own graduation from Hogwarts; they say Dumbledore himself once intended to undertake such travels!

Father is having a homecoming celebration in my honour next weekend. You'll come, won't you? It will be lovely to hear all about your sixth year and see your smiling face. Father says –

She shuffled the letters along, thinking dreamily of that fabled weekend when she'd been reunited with Travis. Only her third weekend out of Hogwarts for the summer, she, Petunia, Vernon and Christophé had made their way to Vance Manor in Abergavenny, the sun beating down on the warm grounds where the party was being held. They had been greeted excitedly by Travis' little brother, a soon-to-be Hogwarts student named Jacques – affectionately known as 'Jack' by all who met him – who dragged Lily immediately over to where his older sibling stood.

"Tiger-Lily!" Travis had cried in delight when he'd seen her, using the pet name only he referred to her be. She smiled, her wide, beautiful smile, eyes sparkling as he opened his arms wide to hug her.

Every time she read one of his letters, she saw his smile, his blue eyes, his wavy blonde hair falling across his perfect face… Lily sighed to herself, picking up another letter.


How are you? I hope all is well as you prepare to head back to Hogwarts for your final year. It definitely sounds like you'll be having a good time, if those stories you told me about last year are any indication! That Sirius Black sounds like a real prankster, and your friend Ally must be a sweetheart.

This week, Emmeline and I are –

Lily felt herself draw a sharp intake of breath. Her stomach flipped as she read the other girl's name, reminding her of the feeling she'd gotten when Travis had first introduced her, at his coming-home party, to Emmeline Hamilton…

"Lily, I'd like you to meet Emmeline," said Travis, drawing a girl of his age, with light-brown hair and hazel eyes, into their conversation.

Instantly, Lily's guard was up and her jealousy spiked. She couldn't help but notice the intimacy apparent between the two; the way his hand lingered on Emmeline's back. Her eyes flicked uncertainly to Travis' smile momentarily, before she remembered herself.

Plastering a smile on her face, Lily extended her hand. "It's lovely to meet you, Emily," she said, as sweetly as possible. She couldn't help noticing that the girl's face was rather weak-looking.

Emmeline simply smiled, shaking Lily's hand politely. "It's a pleasure to meet you too, Lily," she said. "Travis has told me all about you. And it's Emmeline, actually, Emmeline Hamilton."

"He has, has he?" asked Lily, looking playfully at the boy standing between them; an attempt to mark her territory. "Well, I've always had a bit of a soft spot where Travis Vance is concerned, so I'll let that one slide. He hasn't said much about yourself, though," she couldn't resist adding. "How do the two of you know each other?"

Travis seemed to give her an odd look. "Lily," he said, glancing at the other girl, "Emmeline is my girlfriend."

"We've been together for almost a year now," smiled Emmeline, apparently not noticing anything. "It'll be our one-year anniversary on Tuesday."

"But it's nothing serious, of course," said Travis with a grin, as Emmeline elbowed him playfully.

Lily's smile faltered only temporarily, even as her stomach clenched painfully. "How lovely!" she exclaimed, a nerve twitching above her left eye. She pretended to notice something over Emmeline's shoulder. "Oh, please excuse me – I've just seen – could be important…" she backed away from the couple, a lump growing larger in her throat. "It was lovely to meet you, though!" Lily said, the sincerity all but vanished from her voice as she dashed towards the main house.

And then she'd cried in the bathroom for an hour.

She shuffled through the letters again, thinking back to that day; definitely not her finest moment. When she'd finally been able to recollect herself and emerge from the ladies, Lily had marched down to where Christophé stood, chatting to a messy, grey-haired man she didn't recognize, and demanded they leave at once. And though he later remonstrated her actions, he had nonetheless obliged. (Vernon and Petunia had remained at the party, boring several unfortunate guests - both muggle and magical - stupid with their talk of wedding plans and drills.)

Lily had, however, in the time between the party and her departure for Hogwarts, come to the conclusion that she really didn't need to feel threatened by that mousy little Emmeline Hamilton, who was quite obviously nothing more than a passing fancy to Travis. It wasn't the right time, anyway, for Lily and Travis to be involved, not when they were at opposite sides of the country. Feeling slightly happier as she remembered this, Lily tucked the letters under her pillow, smiling to herself. After all, Emmeline had only known him for a year, whereas Lily had known Travis her whole life. And what girl could possibly compete with Lily Evans?

The first week of school passed quickly. The teachers weren't kidding when they said studying for NEWTS would be tough. Lily quickly found herself immersed in Amortentia potions, Protean charms and Pufflepop Pods, with barely enough time to even think about Travis. But sure enough, every night before she fell asleep, her thoughts turned to him – what he was doing ,who he was with; his eyes, his face, his hair. How she loved to hear him speak about the importance of Rowena Ravenclaw's magical discoveries to modern wizarding healing; he was so passionate, his eyes lighting up as he spoke…

Lily fell asleep thinking of him on Wednesday night, her exhausted brain falling easily into a deep sleep…

She dreamt that she was walking along a path, deep into the darkness of the Forbidden Forrest… she came into a clearing, and Travis stood there. He had her Charms book in front of him, and as he saw her, began ripping out the pages… she tried to stop him, she needed that book, but he just laughed and laughed, the ripped pages falling down around them like confetti… Lily had an eerie feeling they were being watched… she heard footsteps behind her –


Lily awoke with a jolt, her breathing shallow. Grumpily, she grabbed her wand, laying on her bedside table, and silenced the mosquito-like buzzing coming from Ally's alarm clock with a lazy wave. She flopped back on her pillows, still feeling a little wound up. She often found dreams hard to shake, but this one… the feeling it had given her…

Lily told herself firmly to get over it. Reluctantly, she climbed out of her warm bed, shivering a little as her toes hit the cold stone floor. Walking into the bathroom, she used her wand to summon a clean towel, and flicked the magicked-radio on to her favourite Wireless Wizarding Network station, Spelling Beats. The newest tune by Wiz Fizz, a popular punk-pop band, was playing, and Lily bopped her head along to the music as she stepped into the nearest stall.

She emerged a quarter of an hour later, feeling refreshed and a good deal calmer. Maybe it would be a good day after all, she thought to herself, still humming as she picked out a shirt for the day.

"You seem to be in a good mood," commented Ally as she came over, fixing the tie around her neck.

"You know, I am in a good mood," said Lily, tying back her long locks with a thin white ribbon. "I think today might actually be a good day."

They made their way down to breakfast quite happily, bidding other students and teachers good morning as they passed.

"What have we got first?" Lily asked Ally as they took their seats at the Gryffindor table; she was still adjusting to their new schedule. Owls were fluttering down all around them, delivering mail.

"Transfiguration," said Ally, a little dejectedly, as she glanced down at their time table, "and then Herb-" She broke off, looking down the table. "I think someone's waving at you, Lily."

Lily looked to her left, instantly spotting a very enthusiastic Jack Vance, who seemed to have been trying desperately to get her attention. When he saw that she'd noticed him, he scrambled from his seat a dozen places up and ran over to where the two girls sat.

"Lily!" he said breathlessly, and she laughed at his jittery state, amused.

"Hello yourself, Jack," she said, smiling. "Are you okay?"

"I've got great news," he told her happily. "I've just got a letter from home – and Travis is getting married! To Emmeline! He asked her! And she said yes!"

Every exclamation point hit her like a thunderbolt; his words sent her reeling. "Wh-what?"

"Dad told me! Isn't wonderful, Lily?"

She didn't reply. She couldn't. Ally was watching her warily.

"Travis said that he was – say, are you okay, Lily?"

Still, she said nothing, just looked at the tiny boy in shock.

Ally came to her rescue. "I think she's just in shock, Jack," she told him, diverting his avid stare from Lily's frozen, horrified expression. "Isn't that just so exciting, though?"

"Totally," agreed Jack, nodding energetically. "I had to tell you, Lily, I knew you'd be just as excited as me! Well, I'd better go – I've got History of Magic first and Binns'll kill me if I'm late again…" He sped off, a happy grin still plastered on his face, evidently oblivious to the devastation he had left in his wake.

Lily's breathing was ragged. "Tell me," she croaked, just loud enough for Ally to hear, "tell me he didn't just say what I thought he did."

Ally let out a sigh. "Well, if you thought he said anything apart from the fact that Travis is apparently engaged-" Lily winced "-then no, he didn't."

Denial kicked in, effectively saving her from public humiliation. "He can't be engaged," she said stubbornly. "He just can't be. I don't believe it."

Ally, looking anxious, said quickly, "Maybe you should ask him, then. I mean, maybe – maybe Jack was wrong… or something…" her voice trailed off, but Lily seized on the idea to distract herself from her mounting panic.

"Yes," she said, breathlessly. "You're right! I'll just – just owl Travis, and he'll be able to tell me Jack made a mistake. Yes," she said again, her voice growing stronger. She turned to the fifth-year girl sitting next to her, whose barn owl was nibbling from the porridge bowl. "Can I borrow your owl? I just need to send a letter, not too far, only to Abergavanny… I really like your headband," she babbled.

The mousy-haired girl looked startled that Lily was even speaking to her, and (after her friend nudged her) simply nodded wordlessly, her mouth hanging slightly open.

"Thanks," said Lily, seizing her Transfiguration note book from her bag and tearing a page from it haphazardly. He quill barely inked, she began to write messily across the parchment:


I heard that -

She shook her head, scratching the words out. It was right to ask him, flat out like this, on paper; it was something she needed to ask in person. But the next Hogsmeade visit wasn't until October… Lily frowned. Suddenly, an idea occurred to her:


I need to talk to you about something. Can you arrange to speak to me tonight from the Gryffindor common room fireplace, via Floo Powder? Midnight should be late enough to guarantee we are alone. Please, it's important.

Love, Lily

She finished the letter with a flourish, rolling it carefully and placing it in the owl's grasp. Thanking the fifth year girl again, she watched, flushed with triumph and a healthy dose of skepticism at Jack's announcement, as the owl flew up, away and on to Travis.

Halfway through Transfiguration, however, it was a different story. They were working on a particularly complex enchantment that morning, one that required full concentration, but try as she might, Lily couldn't get Jack's news out of her head. Nothing about it makes sense, she thought frustratedly, as the pouffe she was supposed to be changing into a poodle remained stubbornly fur-free.

"Intranseo," she said loudly, tapping the pouffe with her wand (she was all but whacking it, really). "Intranseo. INTRANSEO." But there was no change to its awful, dusty-pink velour finish. She sank down dejectedly on it, her chin in her hand as next to her, Ally's pouffe started to smoke.

"Is there a problem, Miss Evans?" came the crisp voice of Professor McGonagall, moving over to where Lily sat, incantations sounding off around them. She stood hurriedly.

"No, Professor," she said, trying to wipe the foul look from her face.

The witch eyed her a moment longer. Professor McGonagall had never really warmed to Lily as the other teachers had. "Good," said her teacher. "Then you will demonstrate your grasp of this technique for me."

Lily drew her wand, forcing herself to concentrate. A poodle, she thought, trying to picture it in her mind, fluffy, white, short… or were they tall?... a dog… She cleared her throat. "Intranseo!" There was a pop and the pouffe instantly grew four pink legs and tail, sniffing loudly from a nose Lily couldn't see. McGonagall raised an eyebrow.

"And what will you be doing for homework, Miss Evans?"

"Practicing the spell, Professor," answered Lily dutifully, forcing a rueful smile. The teacher swept away over to where James, Sirius and Remus stood, talking quietly about something. Lily scowled. She'd be doing nothing of the sort. The pouffe-poodle yapped loudly out of its invisible mouth.

"Oh, shut up," she snapped. She watched distractedly as McGonagall, who had seemed to be telling the trio off for talking, asked them to demonstrate the spell as she had Lily. Sirius managed to almost produce a whole poodle, but it was covered in white velvet instead of fur and a tassel hung from its head (which it promptly tried to bite off). Remus' attempt left his pouffe white, furry and inanimate, aside from a snout which appeared out of its side, a long tongue slithering out the side of it.

Just as James was about to perform the spell, he looked up and saw her watching. She felt her cheeks redden, but she straightened her shoulders and didn't look away. He smirked and, eyes glittering, waved his lazily, not even bothering to speak the incantation aloud, and transfigured his pouffe into a perfect poodle. It yapped loudly, attracting the attention of the rest of the class (who, like Lily, were similarly struggling). McGonagall raised her eyebrows again, but this time, she looked impressed.

"Ten points to Gryffindor," she said. Sirius and Remus low-fived each other inconspicuously. "Was that your first attempt, Potter?"

"Yes," said James, his tone almost bored.

The bell rang, bringing the class to an end. Thank God, thought Lily, moving to leave hurriedly, but the pouffe-poodle had wound its way between her feet and she stumbled over it, almost landing flat on her face. As it was, her bag went flying, shattering ink bottles all over her books.

"Oh, perfect," she spat under her breath. She bent down, beginning to attempt to repair the damage. Feet wound their way around her, on their way to their next class; she refused several offers of help as politely as she could, telling Ally to go on ahead to the greenhouses without her.

"Are you okay, Miss Evans?" inquired Professor McGonagall, appearing at her side.

"I'm fine, Professor," Lily said, as sweetly as she could manage, "I'll just clean this up quickly and be on my way."

The Professor nodded, glancing at her watch. "Tell Professor Sprout you spoke to me about being late to class. Please lock the door on your way out."

Lily heard her footsteps fade out as the teacher merged with the crowds and noise in the corridor outside the room. She sighed, picking dejectedly through her ink-soaked schoolbooks. So much for a good day, she thought miserably.

She waited impatiently that night for the common room to empty. Midnight couldn't come quick enough; she tapped her fingernails repeatedly on the worn armrest of the squishy couch nearest the fire that she was seated on. Every once in a while, she threw a vicious glance at the third years across the room from her, who were playing a particularly violent and noisy game of Exploding Snap. Ally had left her long ago, retiring early to the seventh year Girls' dorm, as Lily's mood was exceptionally foul. Being a rather spoilt child, she had never learnt to handle rejection, impatience or refusal well, and tonight's conversation promised all three. Suffice to say, she had done some damage to the last few letters Travis had sent her – the natural reaction she'd had to the feather that refused to levitate in her first year had not dissipated as she'd (sort of) matured.

Around eleven-forty-five, the last stragglers, yawning and mumbling, went off to bed. Finally alone, Lily thought for the first real time that evening about what she was actually going to say to Travis. She couldn't just confront him about the rumour she'd heard (it was, of course, simply a rumour; there was no way it could possibly be true); that would be entirely rude, and not to mention seem completely desperate. No, she would have to be her normal, charming self, wheedle the information she needed out of him, and resist her first impulse to rip his fiery eyeballs out of his Floo-Powdered head.

Suddenly, there came a quiet pop from the fire place beside her. The ashes rose, becoming the face she so adored; its mouth fell open, and a small cough sounded.

Lily dropped to her knees in front of the fire. "Travis?" she asked, her heart thumping wildly. The ashen face seemed to smile up at her.

"Tiger-Lily," he said, looking pleased to see her. "How are you? Surviving seventh-year so far?"

"Yes," she replied uncaringly, not even hearing the question. She stared down at his face. All her planning, all her original intentions as to what to say to him when they eventually spoke, had gone out the window; now that he was here, in front of her (sort of), she could think of nothing but that she had to know.

"Are you okay?" he asked, frowning slightly. His perfect blonde hair must have fallen over his eyes on the other end; in the fire, however, it looked as though part of his face had melted off – he looked simply ridiculous.

"Yes," she said again, just as breathlessly. "Travis, I – I heard that you were engaged," she told him in a strangled sort of voice.

His expression brightened visibly, and he looked up at her, glowing eerily in the light of the fire. Her stomach clenched painfully.

"Yes," he told her simply, "Isn't it amazing? I finally got the courage to ask Emmeline. And she said yes! We're planning to marry in the spring, before I begin my second round of Healer training. You'll be there, at the wedding, won't you Tiger-Lily? My father says-"

But his voice, his words, were lost on her; she could hear nothing but her own rattled breathing, feel only her heart plummeting, as happy his smile drove the cold, cruel knife of truth deeper into her stomach.

"But," she spluttered, interrupting his discourse on he and stupid, wishy-washy, perfect Emmeline's ideas for their nuptials. "Travis… I thought…"

"Is something wrong, Lily?" Travis withdrew himself from visions of taffeta and roses, apparently noticing her rather obvious distress. "I thought you'd be happy for me. For both Emmeline and I."

She looked at him, somewhat appalled. "I thought you…" she choked back a sob, furious with herself. "I thought you and I…"

Travis looked startled, his eyes flashing wildly, like a trapped horse. "Lily," he began, his mouth opening and closing rapidly, "you can't seriously… Emmeline… we've been together for over a year…"

"You said it wasn't serious!" she exploded, tears pouring freely now. All rationality had fled from her mind. "I love you," she said, much more quietly, looking him straight in the eye.

"You don't," said Travis, beginning confidently, but faltering a little at the look on her face. This was definitely not the reaction she had envisaged receiving after proclaiming this to him. "Lily… we're friends, aren't we?" She sniffled, now suddenly captivated by the threadbare carpet beneath her bent knees. She would have been mortified at her uncharacteristic breakdown if she wasn't so heartbroken. "Just friends," he added firmly.

"No," she said. Lily couldn't believe she was going to pieces like this, right in front of him. She couldn't believe anything he had told her; voices swirled in her head… Travis is getting married!… I thought you'd be happy for me… You'll be there, at the wedding, won't you?

"No," she repeated. What was with her mono-syllabalism? She needed to tell him, tell him everything, make him change his mind. "I know you love me. All those letters-"

"Were for my dear friend," said Travis firmly. "That's all." He softened a little. "Lily, it would never have worked between us. We're so different… you're so full of life, such energy – so vivacious. Emmeline and I – we're much more similar." Her quick sob seemed to alert him to the harshness of this last statement, and he made to correct himself speedily, despite looking like her wished he were any but in that fire grate.

"You would never be happy with me," he told her gently. "You'll find someone – someone else – who shares your same energy, one day. Your perfect fit."

"No one will ever mean as much to me as – as y-you," she hiccoughed, beyond consolation.

He smiled sadly at her, almost pityingly, and her expression contorted itself into an ugly scowl – she hated pity (which, thankfully, was rarely directed her way). Travis seemed to notice the fire in which his head sat flare suddenly, for he bade her a hasty goodbye and another awkward apology, which she ignored. The second he vanished from the grate, she threw her arms around her pyjama-clad knees, fresh sobs wracking her body.

A loud, scraping noise, like a chair being pushed across the stone floor, sounded behind her; she whirled around, heart in her throat, almost blind in the comparative darkness of the room to the glow of the fire. She managed to make out a tall figure walking toward her. Lily saw his smirk first.

"I thought you made a good argument," came James Potter's deep voice, slow and quiet.

Despite her initial shock at the discovery of his presence, and her tumultuous emotions post-heartbreak, she was instantly, consumingly furious. "How dare you listen to my – my private conversations-"

"Please," he said in a bored voice, raising his hand disinterestedly. "You're the one who didn't even bother to check if the common room was empty. You really need to step up your game. Although," he said, coming closer to where she sat, still and shocked, on the carpet, "you had me going. For a moment there, I thought you actually cared about this guy."

"I do," she protested furiously, unable to stop herself. She stood abruptly, chin lifted defiantly as she looked him dead in the eye. "It's really none of your business," she said, as haughtily as she could manage with her makeup down her face; she turned on her heel and stalked away from him, before he spoke again, stopping her in her tracks.

"He's right, you know," he said, unexpectedly. Lily felt the air suddenly expell itself from her chest. She whirled around again, staring at James in shock, as he went on, "You're completely wrong for him. I can't believe you were even stupid even to fall for him in the first place."

She almost gasped, just barely stopping herself. His statement was so frank, so bald – so true. How the hell would he know that? "You don't know him," she snapped. "Not like I do. And you don't know me, at all."

He smirked again, leaning easily against the wooden ledge above the fireplace. "I wouldn't be so sure of that."

"And what is that supposed to mean?" she asked, outraged, unable to contain herself. She'd never met such an arrogant, presumptuous person in her entire life. Just who did this James Potter think he was? How could Sirius be friends with this idiot?

"Just what I said," he claimed, stepping toward her, unflinching in the face of her obvious anger. In fact, he seemed more amused by it than anything else. "I bet most of the people in your life – and definitely most of the people at this school – have no idea what you're really like. Behind that little façade you've created, I mean." He stepped closer still. She could barely breathe. How dare he – who did he think… Her brain spluttered barely-intelligible insults, but her mouth was unable to move. She swallowed as he stopped in front of her, eyes freely roaming her entire person. Lily felt naked and vulnerable in such close proximity to him; she forced her anger to the surface in order to hide her apprehension and unstuck her jaw.

"For your information, Potter," she snarled, her expression one of ugly, ferocious anger that very few people inside the castle had ever seen her wear, "you have no idea what I'm like. What I'm capable of." But the threat sounded feeble, even to her.

He laughed, right in her face, and her rage almost engulfed her; how she longed to hit him, to cause him pain. "I think I do, actually," he said slowly, self-assuredly. "You think you're so charming, with all your fake smiles and kind comments and helping the teachers without being asked… I can't believe no one else in this castle can see that almost everything you do is done entirely with regard to your own benefit. You know it's true, I can see it in your eyes. And you know, deep down, that you don't even really love that guy; you're just a child, crying for the moon, crying for what you can never have… and even if you got it, you'd just get bored and throw it away, like you do everything else-"

A vase exploded on the wall behind him, having narrowly missed his head as it was flung from its resting place on the study desk.

It was worse than if he'd actually hit her. She gaped at him, his smug face – his sickeningly handsome face – the wind knocked out of her. Her emotions were screaming at her, all for different reactions. Her breathing was ragged as he glanced behind them at the ruined vase, lying in pieces on the stone floor. A few anxious heads poked out of the girls' and boys' staircases as he twirled his wand indifferently, the vase repairing itself, whispers echoing around them in the almost-empty common room.

He looked at her, one last time. He smiled softly (Lily half-expected to see incisors sharp as a vampire's reveal themselves as he did). "I think that's enough truth-telling for one night," he said quietly, "don't you?"

She couldn't reply. Almost apoplectic with rage, she did what she should have done first; she slapped James Potter right across his beautiful face. She heard many sharp intakes of breath echo through the common room, some of the first years looking downright stunned. Her hands balled at her sides, she turned on her heel and fled from the room - but even in her rush, she couldn't miss his laughter as it followed her up the staircase, in to her dorm and to bed.