A/N: Frank and Alice have scenes! That's right—plural! Please don't hate me for the slight amount of James, and even slighter amount of Lily-and-James! I think I promised someone a great scene with them in this chapter, but I meant to say the next chapter, I swear. There's a REALLY good one coming up soon, and a REALLY, REALLY, REALLY good one coming up shortly after that—scouts honor!

Disclaimer: Copyright Jo Ro.

Recap: An auror named Lathe is assigned to investigate the suspicious attempted "suicides" at Hogwarts. After that case is left, he is assigned to look for possible death eater Logan Harper. Lily's boyfriend, Luke, brings her to the village to aid his injured brother Logan. Sirius finds out his uncle, Professor Alphard Black, is dying, and he's furious that this information was withheld. The lovely Carlotta Meloni is responsible for breaking up Frank and Alice. Donna has a continuous "affair" with a Ravenclaw named Charlie, who happens to have a girlfriend.

Chapter 18- "March"


"You Can't Always Get What You Want"

She was going to end it.

The day after Logan Harper's departure, Lily determined to put an end to her relationship with his brother. She had been lied to, she had been manipulated, she had been used, and worst of all, she didn't think Luke really understood that he'd had a hand in any of it. And so, after another sleepless night (she was too angry to calm down), Lily walked alone to the Great Hall, emotionally and intellectually prepared to sever all romantic ties with Luke Harper.

What Lily was neither emotionally nor intellectually prepared for was the sight that met her eyes at Ravenclaw table.

Luke gazed downward, his face invisible, and several of his mates crowded around. One girl was sniffing back tears. Lily sent a questioning look towards Luke's best friend, a curly-haired seventh year.

"His father," muttered the Ravenclaw. "You know how he was ill...?"

Lily knew the rest before it was said.

Luke didn't go to the funeral. His mum didn't want for him to miss classes so close to N.E.W.T.s, and she said it wouldn't be much of a family gathering, since one brother was already forcefully absent. Luke had wanted to go, but his mother's insistence otherwise kept him away. So he stayed in school, and Lily stayed with him through some of his most miserable weeks.

February became March, the snow was all but melted, and Ravenclaw lost to Slytherin, setting up a Gryffindor verses Slytherin Quidditch Final. The sky was grey, and rain kept all but the unluckiest of Herbology students indoors, but life went on, as it is wont to do.

(I Can't Get No Satisfaction)

"Ms. Sevoy," began Alice Griffiths, her voice shaking. "You are a reasonable woman. I am a reasonable woman. All I am asking, is that you ask those obnoxious, noisy, gossiping fifteen-year-old girls to leave the library. They are not working. They are not reading. I'm not even sure they know how to read. What could they possibly be doing in the library that is in any way productive? How are they contributing to society? How?!"

"Miss Griffiths," replied the plump, grey haired librarian with a voice like sugar-laced arsenic. "Those girls are not doing anything wrong. They're whispering, and whispering is perfectly acceptable in the library." She smiled sweetly in the direction of the fifth years, and one of them smiled back, adding a small wave.

"They are not whispering!" cried Alice.

"Miss Griffiths! Volume!"

"They are not whispering!" Alice repeated in a loud, furious whisper of her own. "They are twittering. Like birds. Evil, possessed birds, hell-bent on ruining my life."

"Ruining your life?" repeated a skeptical Ms. Sevoy. Alice nodded vigorously. "How?"

Alice leaned over the librarian's desk, setting down the book ("A Deeper Look at Potion-Brewing in the Seventeenth Century") she had been clutching. "Ms. Sevoy, I need to study. I have to complete a Potions project by the end of the month that is worth a quarter of my grade. That means a ridiculous amount of research, using books that barely cover the information I need. And then, Ms. Sevoy, in ninety-seven days, I will be taking my N.E.W.T. tests. I have to score... phenomenally on those, and if I don't, I will not even be allowed to take the test that decides whether or not I can fill an application for the auror program. If I do not make it into the auror program, the dreams that I have been carefully and meticulously constructing since I was seven, will be shattered, sending me into a downward spiral of self-doubt and alcohol abuse, which will then force me into a life of prostitution... where, no doubt, I will become very well acquainted with those twittering fifteen-year-olds, who will by then, be my fellow street-walkers, and because they are younger and skinnier and stupider than I, they will steal all of my business, and I will be forced to do the unthinkable... marry one of those brainless, rich purebloods that my parents like. Ms. Sevoy, save me from that! Save me from life as a trophy wife! I beg of you!"

Ms. Sevoy, however, was neither amused nor impressed. "Miss Griffiths, those girls are doing nothing wrong." Alice flung her face down on the desk. "And furthermore, if you want my advice..."

"I don't," groaned Alice against the table.

"...You had better forget this auror nonsense and marry one of those wizards that your parents like, if they'll have you. Aren't you still single?"

"Aren't you still single?" countered Alice, earning her a look of pure hatred from the librarian; the seventh year decided that was cue enough to make her exit. She gathered her books hastily and moved to the furthest possible table from the giggling fifteen-year-olds. "Smart girls, ye be warned," she murmured to no one in particular. "The enemy is multi-lateral."

"If that Bernice Fletcher—" giggle "—gets any fatter—"giggle "—she'll collapse Hufflepuff table!"

Alice sighed, as the girls erupted in a fresh wave of shrill laughter at the expense of another. She opened one of the larger volumes at her disposal ("Progress in Potions, Vol. 13"), scanning the index for the information she needed. It took a moment to realize that this was, in fact, the wrong book: the final chapter was entitled: "A Last Look: 1586-1599." Alice needed the 1600s.

Sighing, the seventeen year old rose from her chair (a few of the fifth year girls stopped giggling long enough to watch her cross to the bookshelves) and headed towards the Potions section, trying to remember which shelf had given her Progress in Potions, Vol. 13. She found it quickly, but also found that she was not alone in the long aisle. Two wizards also scanned the shelves: one was a pimply faced Ravenclaw in her year, and the other was ("Of bloody course," she thought) the distinguished Head Boy.

"H-H-Hi, Alice," stammered the Ravenclaw.

"Hi, Terrence," replied Alice wearily. She thought she noticed Frank smirking a bit, but it was difficult to tell, as he had just buried his face in a book. Anyway, she was too tired to care.

"Are y-y-you looking for a b-book, Alice?" the boy called Terrence asked.

The witch bit her lip to keep her composure. "I sure am," she replied as sweetly as possible. And, because she thought it might stem the questions, she added: "What about you?"

"Oh, yes! I'm doing P-Potions homework! Y-y-you know, P-Professor Slughorn said I was third in our year for P-P-P-Potions!"

"Congratulations." Alice was sure she saw Frank sniggering now. "Well, if you'll excuse me, I need to... you know... book." She gestured with "Progress in Potions, Volume 13" and sidestepped the Ravenclaw to replace it on the shelf. However, as it slid into its proper place beside "Progress in Potions, Volume 12," Alice noted that its successor, Volume 14, was missing. "Of bloody course," she muttered, grabbing Volume 15 from the shelf and flipping to the index. The first chapter title read: "The 1730s: Laws and Love Potions." Alice swore under her breath and returned that book to the shelf as well. She turned to her companions in the aisle.

"I don't suppose either of you have 'Progress in Potions, Volume 14,' do you?"

They didn't. Alice might have mentally congratulated herself for how well she was handling this proximity to her ex-boyfriend, had she not been so focused on being infuriated that the book she positively needed to finish her report was nowhere to be seen.

"Of bloody course not," she said again, folding her arms. The witch crept to the end of the shelves and peaked around the corner to see Ms. Sevoy. Terrence was looking at her funny, but Alice didn't really care. She didn't dare even a peripheral glance to see what Frank thought of her strange behavior...

"What are you doing?" he asked suddenly, and he sounded a bit amused.

"I am observing the enemy," Alice replied with dignity. "Ms. Sevoy," she clarified to Frank's and Terrence's bewildered expressions. "She hates me."

"You did just suggest she was an old maid," Frank pointed out. Alice scowled.

"You heard that?"

"You shouted that."

"I did not shout."

"She didn't," Terrence loyally defended. Alice beamed. Frank shook his head and returned to his book. The Ravenclaw looked between the two. "Are you guys still dating?"

And they both blushed at that.

"I am going to ask Ms. Sevoy about that book," Alice announced, turning on her heel and heading for the desk. It testified to how awkward that situation was that she would prefer another confrontation with the librarian. She cautiously approached the desk, and the older witch did not look up from the scroll she was marking with a quill. "Ms. Sevoy?" the seventh year tentatively began.

"Mmm?" snapped the other. Considering it was but a single consonant sound, she managed to express a great deal of malice.

"Er... do you... is there a copy of 'Progress in Potions, Volume 14' here?"

Without missing a beat: "No."



"There's not?"


"But there's Volume 13."


"And Volume 15..."

` "Yes."

"But no Volume 14."


Alice waited for an explanation. Ms. Sevoy continued to mark on her scroll. "So... we just... didn't order Volume 14? Just thought... screw the 1600s... no one needs to know about them... even though there were several very important developments... such as Golpalott's Laws, upon which I am doing an assignment... an assignment worth twenty-five percent of my gr—have I already mentioned this?"

"Miss Griffiths, we don't have Volume 14," said Ms. Sevoy, looking up impatiently. "It was stolen."



Alice frowned. "Who the hell steals 'Progress in Potions?' That is literally the last thing in the world that I would ever steal!"

"Volume, Miss Griffiths!"

"Well..." Alice continued more softly, "Can I... order it or something?"

Ms. Sevoy nodded. She pulled a slip of parchment from her desk and slid it across to Alice. "This is a form to place an order. It will take three weeks."

"Three weeks? Sorry—three weeks? I could apparate to Diagon Alley and get it in about two minutes!"

"There is a process, Miss Griffiths."

Glaring at the now smirking Ms. Sevoy, Alice took the form and returned to her table, muttering disagreeable things under her breath. She sat down at her table, and scribbled answers to the questions on the paper. Hopefully Ms. Sevoy was lying about the three weeks thing... Professor Slughorn had particularly recommended the "Progress in Potions" series for her report topic...

Once the parchment was returned to Ms. Sevoy, Alice sat down to the rest of her homework. Or at least she tried.

"Did you see Sirius Black last Saturday?" giggled one troublesome fifth year girl to the others; "With the grey shirt... I know, he's dreamy, don't you think?"

"I'm more of a Potter girl myself, but I'd take Black with whipped cream any day..."

"Mmm... Sheryll, you've actually dated Black. Is it true that he's...?"

Alice endeavored to tune them out, but found her mind rebellious. Sure, she would've had the classic "Potter or Black" conversation with her girlfriends... at sleepovers where they'd all had just a bit too much to drink, but this was the library in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, and damn it, Alice had homework!

Anyway, Black and Potter were people, whipped cream or no whipped cream. If a group of blokes were overheard talking about girls that way, those fifth year birds would've been all up in arms with righteous—albeit it somewhat insincere—indignation. Alice glared down at the printed book page before her, summoning all her strength to disregard the whispers that floated across the quiet library. She might've succeeded, too, had she not suddenly caught the name of her ex-boyfriend.

"Did you see Frank Longbottom walk through a little while ago?"

Alice made a concerted effort not to look up.

"Mmm," one of the other girls replied. "He's always been a dream... easy to miss, but if you look..."

"Oh, the only reason anyone ever overlooked him was Alice Griffiths," said another. "They were together so long you kind of forgot he existed separate."

"Yes, but they've been separated for months, and he hasn't dated anyone else. I heard she slept with Sirius Black..."

Alice blushed. Damn Hogwarts Rumor Mill.

"Please, that's just a rumor." ("Thank-you," thought Alice.) "Like Black would ever look at a girl like Alice Griffiths... ("Bitch.")

"Shh," hushed one of them. "She's right over there! And that's really mean... Alice is a nice girl."

"Don't be thick, Prudence. She's reading. She's not listening. And she can't hear us all the way over there..."

"Speaking of which," chimed in another slyly, "I thought you might have a bit of a thing for Frank, Pru. You two were looking awfully cozy after the prefect's meeting."

"Oh, quiet. We're just friends." But Alice had heard that way of saying "just friends" many times before. There always seemed to be an implicit "for now" hanging on the end.

"For now," said one girl. Oh, lovely, now it wasn't even implicit. "Anyway, you'd be better matched with him then Alice Griffiths. What does he even see in a book-ish girl like her anyway?"

"I know, right?"


Alice clenched her fists, growing very red in the face as she attempted to suppress a few homicidal urges that suddenly seemed to be springing up inside of her.

"I think she wants to do something with the Ministry... that's why she's so concerned with school. I dunno—like an auror or something."

"Please. Witches hardly ever make the auror programs..."

And that was the straw that broke Alice's resolution. "I'm right bloody here you know!"


"And that's how I got banned from the library," Alice finished telling her story glumly, half an hour later. She lay on Marlene Price's bed, surrounded by four of the sixth year girls and her seventh year friend, Hestia Clearwater. "For three whole weeks! How the bloody hell am I going to get any work done now? And I've got Slughorn's project to do, and..."

"We'll check out anything you need," Lily vowed, patting her friend on the shoulder sympathetically. "Ms. Sevoy is a... horrible, horrible person."

Even Donna agreed with that. "Smarmy bitch," she muttered. Banning anyone from the library was, in her eyes, the greatest possible evil. "She once said the reason I don't have a boyfriend is because I spend too much time in the stacks. What kind of banshee librarian from hell is she?"

The other girls murmured their agreement, and Alice sat up with a troubled expression. "Lily," she began thoughtfully, "you're a prefect."


"You were at the last prefect meeting, weren't you?"


Alice frowned. "Is Frank seeing Prudence Daly?"

"Oi, I've got this one!" yelped Mary, bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet and raising her hand excitedly, as though waiting to be called on. "I heard she fancies him something mad, but there's no word on reciprocation, except that they chatted after two recent prefect meetings, and he lingered after Herbology talking to her."

"You should have a column," said Marlene thoughtfully. "Anyway," she added, this time to Alice, "would it matter if Frank was seeing Prudence Daly?"

"Matter?!" cried Alice, appalled. "Of course it would matter! He can't date first! If he has a girlfriend before I have a boyfriend, he wins!"

"What about Carlotta?" Donna wanted to know.

"No," Mary chipped in. "He went out with her once, that is, but they never 'relationshipped.'"

"That's not a word."

"You're not a word."


"Quit it," Lily refereed calmly. "Anyway, Alice, what about Sirius Black?"

"I didn't date Sirius Black," sighed the seventh year. "We talked a few times and flirted. We didn't even make out. Mother of Merlin—!" She went very pale. "What if Frank snogs before I do? Oh, if he gets action before I do, he definitely wins!"

"So get a boyfriend," suggested the ever practical Hestia Clearwater.

"But I don't want a boyfriend. I haven't got time for a boyfriend."

"Then don't get a boyfriend," said Lily.

"But what if he snogs before I do?"

Most of the others sighed, but Donna sat down on the bed. "Then snog someone," she advised. "Grab a boy, throw him in a closet, and lose your shirt."

"You will feel better," Mary agreed sagely.

Lily rolled her eyes. "You people give terrible advice. Getting a disease from some dodgy Quidditch player in a broom closet is not a good way to 'beat' your ex-boyfriend."

"I never specified a Quidditch player," Donna defended herself.

"No," said Mary. "But it was implicit."

"Yes," mused Marlene. "A Quidditch player would definitely be best."

"Yes," Hestia assented.

Lily sighed. "You lot are all barking."

(Torn and Frayed)

"Detention, Mr. Black," said McGonagall sternly, just as the bell signifying the end of class rang out.

"Fine with me," snapped Sirius. He picked up his book bag and was out of the classroom before the rest of his classmates were out of their seats. James, Remus, and Peter hurried after him.

"Padfoot!" huffed Remus, as they caught up. "What was that about?"

"What was what about?" countered Sirius moodily.

"Being an arse to McGonagall! It's one thing to get a detention for messing around, but you were just being a swot. Bloody irresponsible, too—you're lucky all she gave you was detention after swearing at her like that..."

"Are you done, Mum?" barked Sirius. "'Cause I have a free period now, and I'd rather like a cigarette." With that, he took off down the hallway. The other three Marauders might have been stunned, had such moodiness from their fourth friend not become something of a regular occurrence over the last three weeks. So, instead of offering exclamations of surprise, the three wizards remained quiet for several seconds, until James moved his forefinger to the tip of his nose and said what they were all thinking.

"Nose goes!"

"Nose goes!" echoed Remus, mirroring James's gesture only half a second before Peter could.

"Damn it!" swore Wormtail. "No fair. Do over."

"I don't think so," said James, folding his arms. "You lost. You have to go talk to him."

"But you're his best mate," Peter pointed out.

"But," James replied, "I am in the painful and complex process of quitting smoking. It would be harmful for me to join him now... I might pick it back up."

"But," Peter went on, "Moony is so much better at talking to people!"

"That hardly matters," said Remus indignantly. "The rules of 'Nose Goes' are simple and finite. You lost. You have to go."

"I say we take a vote," pressed Peter.

"Fine," said James. "I vote for Wormtail."

"Seconded," said Remus.

"Damn it," said Peter. "Fine. But you lot are carrying my books back to the Common Room." He held out his book bag and waited expectantly for one of the other two to grab it. The two Marauders eyed it wearily. Then...

"Nose goes!" said James.

"Damn it," swore Remus.

(Silver Train)

"You're distant tonight," Luke pointed out softly. He sat with his girlfriend in the library late one evening in mid-March. Lily might have considered such a comment insightful, were it not for the fact that she had been "distant" for at least a week, and this was the first time he had mentioned it.

Stacks of books formed a wall between the sixth and seventh year, as both were positively consumed with homework. Luke, of course, had N.E.W.T.s approaching, and Lily's teachers seemed to be overcompensating with their sixth year classes, as though their lack of standardized testing (O.W.L.s or N.E.W.T.s) meant they ought to have five times the amount of regular work. As a result, Lily thought she probably would have been somewhat disconnected with her boyfriend that evening, even if the circumstances had been different (even if she had no dull, reproachful feeling in the pit of her stomach in desperate need of identification).

"Just busy," she murmured, not looking up from her Transfiguration homework. Luke cleared a space in the wall of books and touched her hand (he'd been doing that—touching her—so much more lately, and she still hadn't grown used to his sudden physicality).

"Can we talk for a moment?" the Ravenclaw asked kindly.

Lily set down her quill and nodded. She looked up at her boyfriend expectantly, waiting for a renewal of their earlier conversation about Luke's father. She was therefore surprised when Luke took tighter hold of her hand and said earnestly: "Thank-you."

"You're welcome. What for?"

Luke hesitated. "I know that there are… probably some things that you would like to say to me, but you haven't. You've been there for me, and I—er—I'm grateful."


"And I suppose there's a conversation that you'd like to have, and... I'm ready to listen now."

Lily knew better than that, though. If Luke had any idea what conversation she wanted to hold, he would not have invited it so readily. As for "being ready for it," Lily guessed—accurately—that he meant another conversation all together: a discussion of all that had transpired between Luke and Lily and Logan that weekend four weeks prior. It was moderately encouraging that Luke had not expected all of that to disappear permanently, and so, instead of telling him what was really on her mind, and instead of lying completely (claiming nothing was wrong at all), Lily bluntly told him: "I overheard you talking with your brother that morning."

Luke's face became pale.

"Logan mentioned making you an offer," she continued steadily. "And he asked if you'd thought about it. You said 'no,' and he mentioned needing an extra wand." Lily waited for some kind of input, even a reprimand for eavesdropping, but none came. "What does all of that mean? What did Logan offer?"

For a brief time, the Ravenclaw remained silent. Then he spoke quite calmly: "Logan wanted my help with some kind of job in London. He's been doing work for some company there, and he asked if I'd like to make some money, that's all."

He believed it, too. Lily had never noticed how easy Luke Harper was read until she had actually started trying. His round brown eyes betrayed him every time, and now, he was undoubtedly telling the truth—that is, he was relating what he believed (albeit forcibly). So, instead of pointing out how many ways Logan Harper's lie could be interpreted, Lily asked in a soft voice: "Are you going to do it?"

Luke did not hesitate in shaking his head this time. "Logan's my brother... and I think that—I know that he is mixed up in something. It's not his fault, I'm sure of it, but Logan... Logan was always rebellious, and I don't want to be involved in that."

Lily nodded slowly.

"I want," Luke continued, "to be here with you. I want you to know that I'm not a bad person, Lily. I want you to look at me like you used to. I know I was wrong before... I was unkind to you, and you were right. Logan, he influences me, because he's my brother. He's very easy to believe, but I know I wasn't objective, and you were only trying to do what was right." He paused, then resumed: "Ever since my dad died, you have been here for me, and I've been able to consider some things. I've been able to see things from your perspective. I truly am sorry for the way things went, and I'm so grateful for how you have been here for these last weeks."

He squeezed her hand, and Lily was once again struck by the unfamiliarity of the gesture. His hands were warm and soft, but they were different somehow. They sent no thrill up Lily's arm. Her heart beat remained steady. The heat did not rise in her face. She felt nothing. As all of this occurred to her, Lily remained silent, causing Luke to prompt gently and earnestly: "Can you forgive me, Flower?"

She couldn't honestly say "no," either. She wasn't angry. She didn't feel anything; just apathy, with the slightest flavor of sympathy. Lily met his eye (nothing), and then withdrew her hand, picking up her quill to resume her school work. "Of course," she said briskly.

(Beast of Burden)

Mary had once told her that prostitutes didn't kiss on the lips.

So that was one difference, Donna gratefully reflected, tiptoeing into the girls' dormitory late one Saturday night. And she didn't get money, so there was another.

Donna closed the bathroom door and grabbed her tooth brush, running cold water over the bristles and hoping no one would wake.

Kissing or no kissing, she sort of felt like a tart, slipping out like that. Charlie was using her for... something, and she was using him for... something else. Of course, Donna imagined that if she were actually a "professional," she wouldn't feel that strange churning in the pit of her stomach whenever she caught sight of Cassidy Gilmartin—Charlie's curly-haired, freckly girlfriend.

Girls like Cassidy frustrated Donna to no end. They were the sort that cared more about lip gloss than spellwork and boys than their own futures... like Mary, except Mary sort of grew on a person, if you were forced to share a dormitory with her for six years. Anyway, Mary wasn't all together stupid like Cassidy. Mary would have guessed (or assumed) that her boyfriend was slagging around with someone else after more than a month of lame excuses and downright silly alibis. Cassidy, on the other hand, had no sodding clue.

It occurred to Donna as she finished brushing her teeth, that she had just been defending Mary Macdonald in her head. Inexcusable. She was definitely going soft. She grabbed a towel and tried to shake her mind free of that kind of nonsense.

Charlie Plex was just a boy, and Donna Shacklebolt meant as little to him as he meant to her. Probably less.

If anything, Cassidy ought to be grateful. Her boyfriend was certainly in a better mood now that he had an occasional (more than occasional) shag, and he probably found it easier when she wanted to "talk," considering he had someone on the side, who not only preferred a good shag to a soppy conversation about feelings, but actually demanded that their relationship include solely the former.

Stripping off her clothes, Donna turned on the tap and stepped under the hot water. Merlin, it felt wonderful. Donna had found over the years that you couldn't be exactly miserable about anything in a hot shower, and she had ended every day with one for weeks.

Not that Donna was miserable. Far from it. All of the stress—the pressures of being top in at least two classes so she might have a better chance at getting Head Girl, the endless Quidditch obligations, the letters from home indicating her younger brother had nearly driven away another housekeeper, the newspaper articles about dead aurors and the knowledge that any day, Kingsley might join their number—all of it melted for a short amount of time. No, melted wasn't the word. More like... burned up. Her little dramas burst into flames and she felt nothing, knew nothing, and God, what a release. Like flying or running, only better...

Surely that was worth one little stress in the very back of her mind, Donna thought, as the water made her tight curls heavy and long. Surely that was worth the strange feeling that bothered her when faced with the sight of Charlie and Cassidy (neither jealousy nor guilt, she swore). Surely she deserved that much.


The aroma of peach shampoo and soap filed the shower in the steam. For a few indeterminable moments, the entire world faded.


Donna turned off the water. It was Lily's voice, raspy from sleep.

"Er... yeah?"

Donna grabbed her towel, wrapped it around her torso, and pulled aside the curtain that veiled the shower.

"Donna, honey, it's three in the morning," croaked Lily, squinting in the alien light of the bathroom. She held a glass of water, undoubtedly the purpose of her excursion. "Did you just get in?"

"Quidditch ran late," said Donna lamely, and then realizing how little sense that excuse made (it could hardly have run till three in the morning, after all), she added: "And then I had homework."

And then I snuck out to shag this prat named Charlie.

She almost said it, too.

"Oh. Okay." Lily swallowed her water. "Make sure Ira doesn't get trapped in here." And the redhead trudged back into the dormitory. Donna glanced about for Lily's cat, Ira, and found him seated in a corner. Sighing, the witch followed her friend's footsteps out into the dorm, switching off the lights and leaving the door open behind her.

(It's All Over Now)

Halfway through her library-less sentence, Alice had received no word on the arrival of Progress in Potions, Volume 14, and she was striving to make do with every other Potions book that Lily, Hestia, or anyone else might scrounge up for her. Still, it was difficult without direct access.

She sat in the Common Room one evening with a stack of books Marlene Price had dropped off, trying to find a particular date and failing miserably.

"'Twenty-Two Things You didn't Know About Potions,' by Robard Stirlop," said a voice suddenly, causing the witch to jump. She exhaled, as Frank Longbottom dropped the book of that title atop a pre-existing stack. Off Alice's questioning look, he added: "That is the book you asked for, right?"

"It's the book I asked Remus Lupin for, yes," she replied.

"I know. He got tied up with something and asked me to drop it off. Sorry." He shrugged and started to leave.

"Wait. Frank."

The Head Boy paused. Alice set aside her books. "You—er—you want to sit down for a minute... maybe?"

"Er... okay."

He took a chair a safe distance away, closer to the fire.

"Listen," Alice began unsteadily, "I was rude to you... back when you asked to talk with me."

"That was over a month ago, Al..."

"No, I know, but... I don't always act quickly, in case you haven't noticed. Anyway, there's no reason we can't... talk about anything you might need to say. What happened with us was months ago, and I think we've both moved on, and... I mean, it's not a big deal anymore, is it?"

It was rhetorical, and he understood that, much to Alice's great relief. "Actually," he said, "to tell the truth, I don't even remember what I wanted to say to you... it was... I mean, it was late, and... anyway, I understand why you wouldn't want to talk."

"No, but I shouldn't have just snapped at you like that," she replied.

They were both quiet. "I guess," Frank finally went on, "if there was something I want to say, it would probably just... it would probably just be an apology."


"I don't suppose I ever did that... properly. I mean—that night I told you, I suppose I said the words 'I'm sorry,' but... I hadn't put you in a position to listen, so..." Frank flushed and did not quite meet her eye. "I'm really sorry, Alice. I made, y'know, mistakes, and I don't know if I ever let you know that none of it was ever about you. They were my mistakes, m-my fault—not yours."

Alice nodded slowly. "That's... thank-you. But I couldn't have been perfect, Frank. There had to be a reason..."

"Of course there was a reason! The reason was that I was an idiot. B-but, Alice, you never were anything except perfect. Really." He met her eye. Her heart skipped a beat, and her stomach flipped nervously. "And even though I got—mixed up... for a bit there... I only ever really wanted y-you."

Alice averted her eyes this time. "Maybe I'm not ready to have this conversation after all," she muttered, as much to herself as to Frank.

"Oh, I'm not trying to—I mean, I just... I just wanted to explain a little that... that nothing was your fault. And that I'm so, so, so sorry for what I put you through. And if it's any comfort, I put me through it, too."

"It... it is a little comfort," she admitted. Frank smiled.

"Alice," he began presently, "We're both going into the Auror program hopefully... and... I want to be your friend. But if you can't..."

"I don't think I can," Alice interrupted. "I mean, I wish I... but I can't."

"No, of course." He got to his feet. "You can't always get what you want, right?"


"I see you got your book after all," he said suddenly, glancing at one of the volumes on the table. Alice looked over to see a chestnut colored leather book, with gold letters emblazoned across the front. Progress in Potions, Volume 14. Her brown eyes grew very wide.

"Progress in... Where did that come from? I didn't ask anyone to bring it! It hasn't arrived in the library yet... how did...?" She picked it up. "No—there's no Hogwarts library label... and it doesn't say it belongs to anyone..." She looked incredulously up at Frank. "It was sitting here when I came down an hour ago... I didn't even notice the title, because... but... who do you think it belongs to?"

Frank shrugged (he was still smiling). "But whoever it was left it out—I doubt they'll mind if you use it, right?"

"It's brand new," breathed Alice, examining the book lovingly. "I can't believe it. And Professor Slughorn specifically recommended this series for my research, and... Agrippa, this is just..." Maybe it was the exhaustion of weeks of intense schoolwork, hours of studying, and the general stress of her existence at the moment, but Alice suddenly found herself overcome by emotion at the sight of that bloody book. She didn't cry, but she came pretty damn near it, as she realized that even with everything going so terribly wrong, this one little piece of her chaotic puzzle had fallen flawlessly into place. "...Perfect."

Remembering she wasn't alone, Alice looked up at Frank again. He was grinning. "'Glad you got what you needed," he said. "I'll—be seeing you."

(Gimme Shelter)

At seven o'clock, Sirius knew perfectly well how late he was.

After ditching Herbology, he had stopped by the kitchens for a private supper, where the house elves had been more than happy to oblige; shortly after that, he ran into Chelsea Burgought, one thing led to another and... well, now he was running late. The moon would be up in less than half an hour, and James had positively shouted through the two-way mirror for him to hurry back to the Common Room.

He was running late, and he knew perfectly well that he hadn't time for a detour if he wanted the group to make it down to the Willow before Remus made his monthly transformation, but God help him if he was going to let his git of a brother get away with talking like that.

Regulus Black hung upside down, courtesy of a well-placed levicorpus, wearing a scowl on his young face. It was nothing to the pure anger that emanated from his elder brother, however.

"What the hell is your problem?"

"My problem?" retorted Sirius viciously; "You're hanging around with Thornfinn Rowle and Roland Urquhart now? If you're after death eater wanna-bes, aren't there any around capable of rational thought?"

"Let me down, Sirius!"

The older Black obliged; Regulus crashed to the ground, landing in a heap. Pushing himself up, he turned reproachful grey eyes on his brother. "I didn't think it mattered to you, Sirius. I'm not your brother, remember? You made that very clear!" He drew his wand in anticipation of another attack. "I don't see how this is any of your business, or why you should even care!"

"I don't care about you," snapped Sirius. "I just don't care for people who keep my last name acting like they own Hogwarts just because they have an arrogant, inbred family tree."

Regulus smirked. "You can't get over it, can you? You just can't get over the guilt that you're the product of the same family I am... you have the same blood, same parents, same heritage, same history... you're as much of a pureblood as I am, Sirius. We even look alike." There was victory on his face. "'Difference is, I'm not a coward and a blood traitor... oh... and I'm not practically broke, either. I'm not relying on charity."

Sirius jabbed his wand before Regulus could defend himself; the latter fell flat on his back, and though his leer remained, it was mixed with the evident discomfort of having his hands bound behind his back.

"I'm the coward, Regulus? At least I'm not afraid to stand up to my Mummy."

"You broke her heart."

Sirius snorted. "She hasn't a heart to break."

"Well, now I know where you get it."

"Clever. It's a good thing you're around to pick up the pieces of Mum's shattered world since I went away. I bet you're a real good house elf of a lackey."

"Say what you want," murmured Regulus through gritted teeth. "You're on the losing side, Sirius. It'll get you killed one day."

"Probably," Sirius agreed, sneering. "I just hope it gets you killed first." He flicked his wand, and Regulus was released from the spell. The Slytherin did not get to his feet at once, but he sat up and glared.

"It doesn't do anyone any good being a blood traitor, Sirius," he said, and it almost sounded like a warning. "'Just look at our uncle, if you want proof. Mum always said he was too weak to..."

"Shut up," interrupted Sirius, readying his wand. "You keep your filthy, sniveling mouth shut, or I'll do it for you."

"I'm not afraid of you anymore, Sirius."

Sirius rolled his eyes. "I haven't got time for this. If I ever hear you talking like that with Urquhart and Rowle again, you'll get worse than a bruised rib."

"I haven't got a bruised rib."

"Well in that case..." Sirius waved his wand, and Regulus flew against the corridor wall with a great deal of force.

A few minutes later, Sirius arrived at the Gryffindor Common Room to see—among others—a cross James and Peter.

"Finally," said the former. "Where were...?" Noticing Sirius's expression, he broke off and changed his question and tone: "What happened?"

"Nothing," replied Sirius lightly. "Apparently I'm a coward and a blood traitor, but... you know... all in a day's work."

"Who was it?" asked James.


James nodded, frowning thoughtfully. "You know," he began, "I think that would make a nice shirt: 'Coward and Blood Traitor.' Catchy, y'know? A nice bold black print on maybe a grey background... and we could sell matching caps. 'Coward and Blood Traitor and Proud.'"

"It does have a certain ring to it," agreed Peter.

Sirius smiled weakly. "You two are idiots."

"Says you." James grinned. "You ready to go?"


"Well, I'll need a cloak. Coming?"

They followed him up the stairs into the boys' dormitory.

(Little By Little)

For better or for worse, the Marauders never ceased to amaze Lily.

For instance, how had Sirius and James, in second year, managed to convince Clinton Bagworth that he had contracted a rare disease and was only days from his death bed? Or, how, in fourth year, had the four boys removed every book, quill, shelf, and article of furniture from the library and transferred them overnight—in a perfect replica—to the room across the hallway? Or, how—in the midst of the fifth year Quidditch final—had they managed to silence every single fan of the opposition with a spell so tricky it took nearly an hour to undo?

These were mysteries indeed, but no mystery compared to that which occurred on March 27th every year.

James Potter's birthday.

How was it that though every single student in the school was buzzing about it for weeks, teachers never seemed to catch wind of it? Between loud-mouthed Hufflepuffs and conniving Slytherins and tattling prefects, how in the name of Merlin did they keep it a secret? Did the teachers know but deem it better not to interfere?

And how was it that though the event was always elaborate and extravagant, the Marauders themselves were never seen planning it? No, indeed, March 26th might have been any other day of the year for them. The wizards lounged around the Common Room, paid half attention in class, snacked on crisps and pumpkin juice throughout the day, attended Quidditch practice in the evening (where applicable), and otherwise gave no indication that the following evening would be one of chaotic revelry.

A few days before the date—a convenient Saturday—Lily privately reflected on these mysteries while walking to lunch with Donna, Mary, and Marlene. They had just overheard a few fifth year girls whispering about how they hoped they would be invited, and it struck Lily as odd that people should be clambering so. Of course, her wonder might simply be a result of the fact that the party's inevitable location—Gryffindor Common Room—insured her an invitation, while those select few of other houses had to be surreptitiously slipped the password just hours before the event. The whole thing was very mysterious.

"How do they even know there's going to be a party?" Lily mused. "The Marauders haven't breathed a word about it themselves—they're always so enigmatic about the whole business."

"There'll be a party," Mary replied confidently. "There's always a party. Lily, dear, where's the boyfriend?"

Luke's absence from the group was something of an anomaly. Of late, he had been with Lily constantly—a significant feat, considering their difference in houses and years. Yet, at the end of every class, he was standing outside her classroom door, waiting to carry her bags to the next meal or class. He had started sitting at Gryffindor table daily, too, and if Lily was anywhere in the castle other than Gryffindor Tower or the lavatory, he was by her side.

"No idea," said Lily honestly. "I didn't see him outside Charms. Maybe he got hung up after class."

"You sort of get used to having him around," Donna interjected dryly. "Like a puppy."

"Apt metaphor," agreed Marlene.

"Quiet," ordered Lily. "That's mean."

"But true," Mary chimed in.

"You don't see me making fun of your boyfriends," said Lily shortly. "Oh... that's right... haven't got any."

"Ouch, someone's in a bad mood," said Donna. Lily at once felt guilty.

"Sorry," she grumbled.

"Don't apologize," Marlene told her. "We were being cruel first. Five galleons Luke's waiting at Gryffindor table."

Fortunately for Marlene, no one took the bet, because Luke Harper was not in the Great Hall when the girls arrived. He did not turn up for about twenty minutes, actually, and when—on Lily's inquiry—he said nothing was wrong, she could tell he was lying. "I'll tell you later," he murmured, and Lily dropped it.

As it turned out, however, Lily learned for herself before Luke had any opportunity to tell her. She, Luke, and her friends were making their way out of the Great Hall, when Mary startled them with the exclamation: "Is that that dreamy auror who was here at the beginning of the year?"

It was.

The auror Lathe's unmistakable electric blue eyes were fixed upon Professor McGonagall, as the pair stood in a corner of the Entrance Hall, speaking in confidential tones. Lily looked at once to Luke, who muttered: "I'll explain later."

"Do you think he's found something else about what happened in September?" asked Marlene anxiously.

"Probably," said Luke quickly.

"I thought he was off that case," Donna vaguely contributed. She did not seem very concerned with the matter, however, as she added: "I'm off to the library for my free period. Coming, Lily?"

"Er..." Lily met Luke's eye. "I'll be along in a minute."

"We, meanwhile, have Care of Magical Creatures," grumbled Marlene. "C'mon Mary, you still haven't answered the last three questions of the homework."

"Oi—right! Thanks."

Mary and Marlene skipped off, and Lily turned to Luke. "Not here," he pleaded, before leading her out of the busy Entrance Hall and into an unused classroom.

"Was that why you were late?" Lily asked, the moment they were alone. "Did Lathe ask to talk to you?"

Luke nodded. "He wanted to ask me a few questions about Logan. It was nothing big—he just wanted to know if I had heard from Luke lately."

"And have you?" asked Lily, voicing another question that had been bothering her for some time.

"Not since Valentine's Day, I swear."

Lily nodded.

"I think he'll be gone by tomorrow," said Luke, referring to Lathe again. "I told him I hadn't seen Logan in a month, and I haven't any idea where he is now, and..."

"Wait—you told Lathe?" Lily interrupted, surprised.

"Of course. Lily, he's from the Ministry; you can't lie to someone like that."

It was the strangest thing; if Luke had told her that he had lied to Lathe, she would have been angry, because he was withholding vital information. And yet, hearing this declaration—that he had told all, because, after all, Lathe was from the Ministry—she felt the oddest, sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach, which (and she couldn't be sure) seemed to be disappointment.

Luke ignored or misinterpreted her silence, and continued with a sigh:
"It will be over with soon. I can move past this." He met her eye, but didn't take her hand. "We both can, right?"

Lily didn't answer, but instead asked: "Did Lathe say why he came here? To Hogwarts, looking?"

"To see me, apparently," replied Luke. "They traced Logan to Hogsmeade and believed I might have had contact." Lily nodded. "Listen, Flower, I should go. I have Arithmancy..."

"Right. Go on, then."

Luke left the room, and Lily took a moment to collect her scattered thoughts before following. Lathe and McGonagall were no longer in the Entrance Hall, but she had not long to wonder about their location. As she made her way to the library a few minutes later, a skinny Hufflepuff accosted the prefect with a request to pay a visit to Professor McGonagall's office at once.

A million undesirable scenarios running though her mind, Lily changed course to her head of house's office, only to find upon arrival not Professor McGonagall, but Lathe.

"Miss Evans—er—hi," the auror said uncomfortably, setting down a thick stack of parchment on the desk.

"Did you want to see me then?" asked Lily, lingering near the door. Lathe nodded, and she came further into the room. He was leaning against the front of the desk and picked up a mug of something that Lily guessed was coffee.

"You seem to be involved a lot, don't you, Evans?" Lathe observed, almost amused.

"It's my curse," replied Lily uncertainly. What did he mean 'involved?' How much did he know about her involvement with Logan Harper? "Er—was there... something in particular...?"

"Yes. I'm sorry." Lathe became very businesslike, setting down the coffee. "I don't want to keep you in suspense or scare you or anything. I just have a few words about your..." He searched for a word, and Lily offered:


Lathe nodded.

"I heard you already questioned him."

"About his brother, Logan, yes," said Lathe, then, remembering himself: "I'm sorry, Miss Evans, have a seat." Lily took the offered chair. "Luke Harper," the auror resumed presently, "informed me that the two of you saw his brother Logan last month."

Lily felt extremely guilty for the brief wave of panic that struck her. She didn't want Luke to lie (or omit), but she realized now that she had somewhat expected that he would—at least regarding her involvement—and she felt extremely cowardly for assuming that. Even still, Luke might have given her a heads up. The sixth year nodded and asked—in what she hoped was a casual, somewhat joking tone: "Am I in trouble?"

"Not really," Lathe admitted, matching her relaxed attitude. "Mr. Harper said that you met his brother on February 14th briefly, and the two of you conversed, and then that you returned to the castle." So Luke had omitted. "Is that correct?"

Lily hesitated. "Er... essentially."

"Essentially?" He raised one eyebrow, and she nodded. "What did Logan Harper discuss with you?" She was about to respond, when Lathe quickly cut her off: "This feels like an interrogation, I'm sorry. But, Miss Evans, you have to know that this is very—important, for lack of a better word. Locating Logan Harper is a top priority in my department right now, and if you have any information, it is of the utmost importance that you tell it to me."

"I don't have any idea where he is," Lily told him honestly. "And I thought you only wanted him to testify about something?"

Lathe smiled at Lily's knowing expression. "That wasn't my idea," he told her, sounding a bit annoyed. "The Minister has hired a new overseer for the auror department. This overseer—a beaurocrat if there ever was one, but that's neither here nor there—she thought it might encourage friends or relatives who had an idea of certain known death eaters' locations to come forward... if they thought they wasn't going to be arrested, just questioned."

"Then Logan Harper is a known death eater?" asked Lily. Not that she hadn't known (his visit had eradicated hopeful suspicion to the contrary), but it was encouraging to know that the Ministry had a clue, too. Lathe, however, did not respond at once. Instead, he turned to the desk and picked up the stack of parchment he had been holding before. It was packed inside a folder, which Lathe handed to Lily and indicated that she should look through.

Lily opened the front flap. Immediately, blinking up at her from a square photograph, clipped to the front of a slip of paper, were Logan Harper's dark eyes. He was younger in this picture than when Lily had seen him—this was probably taken several years before... perhaps just after his Hogwarts days—but his smug expression was familiar.

Logan's name and information occupied most of the first page. The second included the beginnings of a list of crimes for which Logan was "suspected." The use of the Imperius Curse topped the list, followed by theft, assault on Ministry workers, and transport and storage of dark and dangerous magic materials. The next page was worse.

Murder, torture, muggle-baiting...

He was directly implicated in the death of one of the three aurors reported in February, but that was far from the extent of it. A muggleborn found beaten in Diagon Alley, the torture and murder of two pro-muggle activists, a family in Dublin whose entire house was destroyed—all said to be part of his handiwork. These were stories she had read about in The Prophet, but they had always been attributed to the vague entity of death eaters... that she had saved the life of one wizard responsible...

After that, there were pictures, which Lily found herself morbidly drawn to see. Then she closed the file and handed it back to Lathe, asking: "It said he wasn't charged with anything yet. Don't you have proof?" Not because she doubted, just to be thorough...

"Part of my superior's plan to draw them out," Lathe explained, rolling his eyes. "You can't charge a person with something and then say they haven't been charged, so even though we have all of this information, it stays buried until we find them."

"How do you have all this information? These death eaters—they wear masks, and they don't leave many witnesses, do they?"

Lathe paused thoughtfully over the question, before replying: "Let's just say there's someone with a very dangerous job—and because of that person, we know things like this."

Lily leaned back in her chair, folding her arms. "I saved his life," she said quietly. "Luke brought me to him, and he was bleeding to death—Logan was, because he'd been hit with a curse. I made a potion to help him clot, and I drugged him so that Luke could take him in..." That whole meeting unfolded in Lily's mind and on her tongue—every detail of her conversation with Logan, his injuries, the excuses he had evidently made to Luke, and her own argument with her boyfriend over these excuses. Lily concluded with the conversation she had overheard the next morning: "...Logan said he would 'need an extra wand' in a few months. He wanted Luke to help, but Luke said he wasn't going to be involved. Then Luke started for the door, and I left. Logan left the house sometime that afternoon, and I haven't heard anything since. I honestly believe Luke hasn't either... he's been a little wrapped up with his dad dying and... Anyway, that's all I know." She finished with a sigh.

Lathe had listened to her story in silence, and now that it came to an end, he remained deep in thought for several moments. Finally he asked: "How did you know Harper was wounded in the incident with the three aurors?"

"Well—he said he'd been hurt twenty-four hours before... and I read the newspaper. Two and two, I suppose." Lily shrugged.

"You really are clever," Lathe observed. "And thank-you. What you told me really is... invaluable."

Lily nodded slowly, rising from her chair. She did not make to leave, however. "You know," she began seriously, "you didn't have to trick me into telling you about what happened with Logan."

Interest flashed in Lathe's eyes. "What do you mean?"

"I would have told you everything even if you didn't show me that file," she explained, a bit resentfully. "Earlier in the year I told you about the Harpers, didn't I? I'm not a liar, and you didn't need to try and trick me. You should have trusted me."

Lathe frowned. "I'm sorry. I didn't think you were a liar, but I know sometimes there's doubt or guilt in situations like these, and—I thought you should know what kind of person Logan Harper is."

Lily bit her lip and nodded; "Is there anything else?"

"You can go," said Lathe, but as she started for the door, he added: "One more thing..." She paused. "That Luke of yours... he told me he had seen his brother, that the two of them had talked about his father's sickness, and that you had met him. That's all he told me." Lily waited to see where this was going. "I showed Luke his brother's file, too."

She understood and nodded. "He's not heartless," Lily tried to explain, "He's just... he's easily influenced, and—the operating influence is often his brother. I think if Logan told him that it was all a lie, he would force himself to believe it no matter what."

"I'm not saying he's heartless," Lathe continued. "I'm saying be careful."

"Is Luke in trouble?" asked Lily.

"Not exactly," said the auror. "But we'll be keeping an eye out."

(Ruby Tuesday)

Alice was up very late Wednesday night, putting the finishing touches on her Potions term project. It wasn't due until Monday, but she would have plenty of homework on Thursday, Friday was not a day that anyone should have to do homework, and she fully intended on attending James Potter's birthday party on Saturday and nursing one hell of a hang over on Sunday, so this was her best opportunity to finish

Smiling with sleepy satisfaction, Alice flicked her wand once over the long roll of parchment, removing stray drops and smears, so that her curvy handwriting appeared neat and tidy. She was looking over the dates on the accompanying timeline she had prepared, when the portrait hole opened, admitting Carlotta Meloni.

Alone in the Common Room, the two girls stared at each other for a moment, as though each was afraid that the other might eat her. Carlotta spoke first.

"Hi." (Awkwardly).


Carlotta slowly started across the room, not breaking eye contact with the seventh year. "You're up late."

"Homework," explained Alice. "You?"

"Ravenclaw prefect."

"Of course."

They were both silent, and as Carlotta reached the staircase up to the dormitory, Alice thought that the insanely uncomfortable moment had passed. However, Carlotta did not ascend the stair, instead pausing and turning again.

"You know, I don't... typically apologize," she began.

"Because you're a heartless bitch," Alice concluded for her.

"Please, just let me finish," Carlotta asked sincerely. Alice sighed and crossed her arms expectantly. "I don't make apologies, because I don't believe in them. I don't believe in regrets or mistakes. What happens, happens, and I think that other people's inability to handle that is their problem, not mine."

"Again, heartless bitch."

"Please just wait. The—the thing is, I don't really apologize for much, because I feel like if it doesn't mean anything to me, it shouldn't mean anything to anyone else either. And I've always been sort of... opposed to monogamy and relationships and the whole... established thing, so striking relationships didn't bother me because... because I didn't believe in them in the first place." She sighed and brushed her perfect curtain of dark brown hair from her eyes. "But with Frank, I really—I really did want something with him. And I was jealous of you, and I haven't been jealous of a girl in a really, really long time. And it—it meant something to me, Frank did. It hurt me when I saw him with you, and it hurt me when I was hon—honest enough with myself to realize that Frank didn't love me. So, because it hurt me, I can under—I mean, I know it hurt you, too. And if you felt anything like I did, then—then I know that you deserve my apology. So—here it is. I'm sorry—I'm sorry for hurting you, and for trying to ruin your relationship, and for trying to convince a boy who's in love with you that he's not."

Carlotta ended her speech, and folded her hands behind her back, as though patiently awaiting her sentence. Alice wore an expression drenched with irony.

"I don't know if you've noticed, but you succeeded in all of that," said the older witch coolly. "Frank and I broke up. Months ago. Your little apology—while flattering—is more than a little late, and I'm so far beyond caring about any of what happened between you and Frank or me and Frank or... whatever, that saying 'I forgive you' would be meaningless. I don't even care anymore."

Carlotta's eyebrows shot up. "You don't care?" she asked with a scornful smile. "You don't care about any of it? How can you not care? Frank Longbottom doesn't look at me. He doesn't talk to me, or acknowledge my existence—and it's not like he's being mean, he just... he just doesn't feel anything for me, and despite all that, I—the heartless bitch—care about him. And yet he looks at you all the time, would do anything to make you happy—including staying out of your way—and couldn't be anymore obviously in love with you if he tried, and you don't care?"

"Boys who are in love don't cheat," snapped Alice.

Carlotta laughed. "Speaking as the girl boys cheat with, I can tell you with certainty that's not true. I mean, sometimes it is—never in my experience, but I've heard stories... but for the most part, blokes our age don't think with their brains." She placed one hand on the banister, as if preparing to head upstairs, but before she went, the sixth year added: "You don't have to forgive me, but I am sorry."

Then she was gone, and Alice exhaled heavily, sitting back on the sofa. She picked up the as-of-yet unclaimed Progress in Potions, Volume 14, and ran her hands over the smooth leather cover. The satisfaction of having finished her potions project had been replaced by the knowledge that another assignment was left undone.

(All Down the Line)

"I'm just saying," Lily was just saying as she walked to breakfast the morning after her meeting with Lathe, "that it would have been nice to have a heads up. You know—somewhere in between the 'he should be gone tomorrow' and 'I've got Arithmancy,' I would have been very appreciative if you'd slipped in: 'Lathe might be calling you up to McGonagall's office to question you about my brother, so—y'know—be ready for that!'"

Luke looked horrified. "He questioned you? I told him not to involve you..."

"You're a seventeen-year-old Hogwarts student who harbored a criminal—why exactly did you think you had any power over a top Ministry investigative auror?"

It was a well-known fact that Lily did not function before eight a.m. It was approximately two minutes till eight, and she was not pleased.

"I can't believe he interrogated you!" Luke continued, outraged. "I can't believe he involved you with this!"

"I was already involved," Lily pointed out.

"What did he ask you? What did you say to him?"

"The truth," she replied. "Not to be confused with 'a sketchy overview, leaving out major details,' which is what you told him."

"I left out some offensive comments and the fact that he was injured," said Luke. "Neither of those seriously hinders the Ministry."

"You also left out the fact that he has another job planned."

Luke stopped walking. "Lily, you didn't...?"

"You saw his file," said Lily sharply, also halting. "How can you possibly defend that?"

"He's not charged with anything," Luke countered. "He was just suspected. I know my brother, and I know the Ministry, and I know which one I can trust."

They reached the Great Hall. "Maybe you should sit at Ravenclaw table this morning," said Lily coolly.

"Flower," pleaded Luke, but she brushed past him to her table without a word. He didn't pursue, instead following her instructions and slumping towards his housemates at the other table. No sooner had Lily taken a seat, then she was joined by Carlotta Meloni, looking flawless and lively as ever.

"Good morning," she chirped.

"'Morning," replied Lily.

"No Harper this morning? I've noticed he's been about quite a bit lately."

"No Harper this morning," Lily confirmed dully.

"Did you two row?"

Lily glared across the table at Carlotta, whose brown eyes grew wide. "I swear I didn't shag him. He's delicious and all, but I am done with the boyfriends of my roommates. It's mad, how crazy you lot get... I don't know why Marlene was so bothered... Miles and I were both beyond drunk at the time, and we didn't even shag. Just snogged for a few minutes—half an hour at most... and anyway, she's got Adam Bloody McKinnon, who, if you ask me..."

"Carlotta, honey," interrupted Lily, wearily. "No one is angry with you for making out with Miles. No more justifications are necessary. Can we move on, and can I eat my breakfast?"

Carlotta merely shrugged.


"I can't get no... Satisfaction..."

Some muggle's (whose name she could not quite remember) voice met Alice's ears as she entered Gryffindor tower at a few minutes after five on Saturday. The room was crowded and warm, with people swaying to the music or mingling in just about every inch of the room. The smells of firewhiskey, butterbeer, and smoke prevailed, but there was a great deal of food laid out too, and—throwing down her empty book bag in a corner—Alice made for the nearest table.

"Hey, Alice!" called a voice over the blaring noise, and she turned to see Adam McKinnon approaching. He wore a Hate Potion t-shirt (now there was a band that Alice knew by name) and held a suspicious goblet. "I am about to get very drunk," he announced cheerfully, "so before I forget, Ms. Sevoy—the librarian from hell—told me to tell you that the book you ordered has arrived, and even though your banishment lasts until tomorrow, you may pick it up at any time."

Alice snorted, rolling her eyes. "Thanks, but I don't even need it anymore. I found a copy somewhere else. Where'd you get that drink?"

"Here, I'll show you."

He started to lead the way through the crowd, and Alice continued: "That reminds me—you don't happen to be missing a copy of Progress in Potions, Volume 14, do you? I found it in the Common Room, and I've asked just about everyone if its theirs, but no one's claimed it."

"What was that title again?" asked Adam, dividing a dancing couple in their trek across the room.

"Progress in Potions, Volume 14."

"That's what I thought... yeah, I think that's Frank's."

"Frank's? No, I don't think so..."

"Maybe not," said Adam with a shrug. "But he just got a copy of it last week... ordered it from somewhere, I think. It came by post—I was sitting with him at the time. I remember the title, because I was making fun of him for ordering probably the most boring book in history, and..."

Alice had stopped listening.


Sirius was well on his way towards unconsciousness before the fireworks had even started.

Grabbing another goblet of amber colored firewhiskey, he emptied its contents in a matter of seconds and moved on through the room. He spotted a pretty blond somewhere near the turntable and started in that direction, only to be intercepted by Remus, Peter, and James.

"Prongs, mate," slurred Sirius, clapping his hand on James's shoulder. "N'joyin' your party?"

"Well you clearly are," replied the other, who held a goblet himself. "Where are you headed?" Sirius pointed at the blond. "Ah... the ironically named Chastity Cristaline."

Smirking, Sirius took Peter's half empty cup and emptied it as well. "Liquid courage," he explained. "N-now if you'll s'cuse me..."

"Courage isn't your problem," Remus pointed out. "Maybe you should slow down."

"If ya can still see me, clearly I'm not goin' quick 'nuff. Gent-men..." He nodded and slipped away. James swallowed the remainder of his drink, while the other two exchanged looks. Remus cleared his throat, and James looked at them.


Remus raised his eyebrows.

"No," said James. "It's my birthday. It's a party. He's allowed to get wasted."

"It's been an hour," said Remus.

"But he's about to get lucky! We can't go all intervention on him now."


"I say we vote," said James. "I vote we let him be."

"I vote we talk to him," said Remus. They both looked at Peter.

"And I vote," he began, "that... we should... definitely... without a doubt... take the course of action that... would mean we might... not... want to... do anything that would not..."


"I'm with Prongs."

"Damn it," swore Remus, while James punched the air. "Fine, but we're talking with him tomorrow." He turned and departed.

James turned to Peter. "Like hell we are—the hangover he's going to have? We're waiting till Monday at the earliest."

Peter laughed. "I'm going to go refill," he said, indicating to the empty goblet. "Be back in a minute. Want anything?"

"Yeah, I'll have another," said James. When Peter was gone, and the other Marauder looked across the room, to where Sirius was laughing loudly with the blond girl. James sighed heavily, running a hand through his hair. He wouldn't have admitted it, but Remus was right—ignoring this problem wouldn't make it go away.

"I thought I might find you here," said Lily quietly, approaching Luke's library table and taking the vacant seat across from him. "I was looking for you in the Common Room. I gave you the password..."

"Didn't feel much like going to a party," murmured Luke.

Lily nodded. "Yeah, I know what you mean." Feeling hollow and deceitful, she reached out and placed her hand on top of his (nothing), because the pain etched on his handsome face was just too much to ignore. "I'm sorry if I've been... unresponsive for the last few days. It's just been really difficult since Lathe left. I've been doing a lot of thinking, and..." She stopped suddenly, because in Luke's eyes she noticed tears. "Luke, what's wrong?"

The Ravenclaw breathed heavily and unevenly. "I've had a letter from home. They—er—they read my dad's will." He withdrew his hand from Lily's, opening it to reveal a large ring, engraved with a crest that Lily supposed must have been the Harper family's. "It's supposed to go to the oldest son, but Dad left it to me... I don't know why... two older brothers, but he left it to me—why... why do you think he would do that, Lily?"

Lily shook her head to indicate she didn't know.

"I just don't understand it," he went on shakily. "I just—I can't..." He broke off, his shoulders beginning to shake and the tears in his eyes slipping out, and Lily once again took his hand in her own.

"BLACK! BLACK! BLACK!" dozens of people chanted, and even the Ravenclaws present did not seem to be cheering for Sirius's opponent, their housemate Gregory Shale. Sirius was drunker, but he seemed to be getting more punches in, as the two brawled in the middle of a circle of onlookers, cheering and whooping at the spectacle.

Just as Sirius gained dominance and landed a particularly good hit to Shale's nose, the Ravenclaw pushed him over Sirius tumbled onto his back, and Shale's elbow smashed with force against Sirius's eye.

Sirius was struggling against Shale's grip, when suddenly the two boys were ripped apart, the Ravenclaw flying towards one group of spectators, while Sirius only rolled over once. James appeared, wand outstretched and a furious expression on his eyes. "Break it up!" Remus could be heard shouting, and Peter went to tell a groaning Gregory Shale to leave.

James, meanwhile, pulled Sirius to his feet, threw one of his friend's arms around his shoulders, and dragged him away from the group. As the other guests resumed the party's other entertainments (fireworks, food, alcohol, and a number of Zonko's products, to name a few), James hauled Sirius all the way up to their dormitory. Practically throwing him on the bed, James drew his wand and conjured a bag of ice, which he wordlessly handed to Sirius.

Padfoot placed it on his swelling eye; his expression was bitter.

"This has to stop," snapped James, pacing. "I said I'd give you time before you had to talk to me about whatever is bothering you, but this is ridiculous. I meant a couple of days, not a month, okay? All this brooding ends now... you're drinking too much, starting fights with random Ravenclaws at my birthday party... smoking all the time, getting with every witch in sight, and being a downright pain in the ass! If you don't slow down, you're going to have more detentions than I do, and—news alert—any more detentions than me, and you get kicked out! So whatever the hell is bothering you, you're just going to have to snap out of it, because..."

"Professor Black is dying," said Sirius.

James froze. "What?"

"My uncle's dying—he's got a couple months at the most."

At that moment, Remus and Peter burst into the dormitory. Peter was laughing. "You two should have seen him—Shale was furious... I've never..." Remus—who had noticed their two friends' expressions—elbowed him in the ribs, and Peter stopped suddenly. "What's wrong?"

"You sure you would-unt rather be at ya birthday?" asked Sirius, taking another drink from the large bottle of firewhiskey, before handing it along to James. Prongs followed the suit and shook his head.

"Crowded and noisy—the Astronomy Tower is much better." James handed the bottle along to Remus.

"You know," observed Moony—thoughtful even in intoxication, "This prolly isn't the bes' of places to be drinkin... there's like... heights... and towers... and pointy-—things that we could... like… y'know... hit."

He handed the bottle to Peter, who laughed.

"I w-w-w-wonder what Jregory... no... Gregory Sh—Sh—Shale is do-doing," he slurred, with a long swig of firewhiskey. "H-h-he was hacked off..."

Wormtail returned the bottle to Remus, who also began to laugh. "Really was a laugh... h-his face was posit-iv-ively p-purple!" He swallowed another gulp, and as the liquid burned the young werewolf's throat, he gave the bottle over to James again.

"Why did-ya even start fighting?" asked James, shaking his head. "Lunatic."

He drank and gave the bottle to Sirius, who was laughing himself. "I—I really have no idea! Git said somethin'... haven't a clue what it was... set me right off, though!"

The four boys—seated and slouching against an open wall of the Astronomy Tower—laughed at this, while Sirius drank. The black sky stretched cloudless overhead, and the Marauders—unaffected by the chilly air—watched it for some time.

"Almos' a new moon," Remus pointed out. "It's a good time for me."

"Hmm," hummed Sirius. "'Wish it were that simple... knowin' how ever-ya-thing is gonna be just 'cos of the moon."

Remus snorted. "Han' me the bottle, ya prat." Sirius complied. "Yeah, dess-ined for a life of pover—poverty and i-i-isolation." He drank deeply. "Tha's simple for ya."

"Hey, I'm destinated for poverty too!" argued Sirius petulantly. "I got—was—got disowned. No... more... fortune." He grabbed the bottle back and drank.

"Well I vener—er—never had any galleons to begin with," said Peter, taking the bottle from Sirius. "I were—was borned poor."

"You're all bloody planks," said James irritably. "I'm sodding rich—ya think I'm-a let ya starve, Moony? Same with ya other two swots. Ya can live in one-o my six millions houses, s'long as I don' have to see ya too much."

"Oh, Prons," sighed Sirius, laying his head on James's shoulder. "Ya care."

"Ergh—gerroff me!"

Sirius laughed, pulling his head up and leaning it against the wall behind him instead.

"Anyway," James continued eventually; "y'know you won' be poverty...er... in poverty. 'Cos I'm rich. An' as for your 'is-o-lation,' Mr. Moony... we... are the Mar'ders. An' even though Padfoot's a lairy headcase, an' Wormtail's a soddin' lightweight, an' you get all sen-a-men-al 'bout the moon, Moony, an' I am too good for the lot o' ya—none-uv-us... is-a-ever... goin' to be... isolated. Now gimme that bottle, mate."

Peter gave him the bottle. They sat in silence, until, some time later, Wormtail began to chuckle.

"What?" asked Remus.

"P-P-Padfoot's eye," said Peter. "It's s-s-still purple!"

And for whatever reason, they all laughed at that.

"Frank Longbottom, you stop right there!"

Frank Longbottom stopped right there ("there" being a spot somewhere along the seventh floor corridor, not far from the portrait of the Fat Lady). He turned to see Alice Griffiths approaching, bright eyed and flushed.

"Did I do something wrong?" asked Frank, who—though unqualified for the term "drunk"— had consumed a goblet of firewhiskey (or two), and was consequently a little slower in thought than usual.

Alice, who was—alcoholically speaking—in a similar position, scowled as she caught up with the Head Boy. She had a book in hand (Progress in Potions, Volume 14), which she at once thrust in Frank's face.

"This is yours," she declared.

Frank cleared his throat. "N-no it's not."

"Adam McKinnon told me you ordered one and got it in the post," Alice continued. "You ordered this book, didn't you? Don't lie!"

"I'm not!"

"You are!"

"I'm not!"

"You are!"

Frank sighed. "Fine, I bought it, but I don't want it."

"Why not?" demanded Alice.

"I have no use for it."

"Then why did you buy it?"

Frank just looked at her, as if to say "I think you know the answer to that." Alice frowned, and turning, the Head Boy continued down the corridor. After a moment's deliberation, Alice skipped after him.

"Where are you going?" she asked.

"Head offices."



"You left James Potter's birthday party to work?"

"Well, James Potter left ages ago, so I reckon it's alright."

Alice huffed. "Why did you buy the book?"

He didn't respond, descending the staircase.


No reply.

"Why did you buy the book?"

"I just felt like it."

"You did not. Why did you buy it?"

"Just because."

"That's not an answer!"

"Is too."

"Why did you buy it?"

"None of your business."

"It is too my business! I've been using the book all week!"

"Well, I don't mind."

"Frank! Frank, why did you buy this book?"

"I just did."

"No, you don't just buy a book! You have to have a reason!"

"Well, I had one."

"And what was it?"

They reached the floor of the Head offices, and Frank took off down the corridor, followed by an irate Alice. He entered the room, and she did too. One wall of the office was almost completely covered by shelves, divided into little slots, tagged with labels like: "Quidditch Pitch Schedule," or "Point Docking Documentation." Frank grabbed a stack of parchment from the table that ran along the wall of the small room and began to slip papers into different slots. Alice folded her arms.

"Francis Algernon Longbottom!" she cried. He stopped, set down the parchment, and turned to face her.

"Yes, Alice Geraldine Griffiths?"

She softened. "Why did you buy that book?"

Frank sighed. "You weren't supposed to find out."

"Why did you buy it?"

"Stupid Adam McKinnon."

"Why did you buy it?"

"I didn't buy it to apologize."

"But why did you buy it?"

"For you, of course," said Frank, leaning against the table. And, of course, she had already known that.

"Why did you do it that way? All secretive?" she asked. "Why didn't you just give it to me like a normal person."

"Would you have taken it?" he replied, smiling weakly.

"Not at first," Alice admitted. "But I was getting pretty desperate. I would've taken it eventually... especially if you didn't tell me that you bought it specifically for me."

Frank nodded. "I know that, but—you wouldn't have been happy about it."


"I just..." He hesitated, not meeting her eye. "I just wanted you to have something go your way—something that made you happy. Everything's been going against you, and I haven't seen you happy a lot lately, and I—I just wanted you to be happy about something. And I didn't tell you it was me, because I thought it wouldn't make you as happy, and I—I didn't want you to think I was trying to... like... I dunno, win you back or make amends or something. 'Cause that's not what it was about. I swear."

Alice stared. She bit her lip and stared, and then she set down the book and stared some more.

"Oh, c'mon, Al," pleaded Frank, "Don't get rid of the book just because it's from me. It's just a book, and I know you needed it, and..."


"...Look, if you want to throw it off the Astronomy Tower when you're done, fine, but it's just pointless for you not to use it now..."


"...And yes, you have every right to hate me forever, but keeping the book won't change that. It won't mean your indebted to me, and if you like, I can do a memory charm so you don't even have to have it as a reminder that I exist..."

"Frank," sighed Alice, stepping right up to him. He started at their sudden proximity.


"Will you please shut up?"


"Because," she said impatiently, "you're ruining probably the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me with a lot of senseless chattering."

Whatever response he had for that died on his lips, as she pressed her own lips against them.

A/N: AGH! Okay. Chapter end. Something to think about: which apology did you like the best? Eloquent Luke, stammering but sincere Frank, or blunt Carlotta?

Xintiandi guessed the OC (Lathe). Cupcakes with sprinkles to ya...

Love to the anonymous reviewers: Amarilla Grey (there was a bit of Carlotta here! And I can tell you that she will be in competition with Lily soon-ish... but not for Luke), helene (I do my best to update every other week... sorry I can't make it more often, but these chapters are long :). I'll try to make the recaps more helpful), XD (thank you! Feedback is love!), Untitled1494 (lol, no problem about logging in—I almost never do... glad you're liking, and I hope you continue to :D), Lindsay, Madeline, FoggyMoon, anonymous, and LEJP (by the way—I love your penname... it just says it all).

I promise Lily-James-ness in Chapter 19, although it too, will most likely be very Frank-and-Alice-y, because those two are graduating soon! The second part in this little mini series, it's called "April" with more Rolling Stones music.

Reviews are brie and French bread.

Love and cookies,