Chapter Nineteen: In Which Lily Goes Home
"To Lily, the girl who saved Slytherin House!" Louis Weasley says, toasting his little cousin.
"To Lily!" they echo: Melanie, Anne, Vulpecula and Luther—all those who were involved in Lily's scheme.
Lily laughs happily. "I couldn't have done it without you—any of you."
"What are friends for?" Anne says, a throwaway question. Lily thinks Anne has rather enjoyed the whole thing. No one expects a Hufflepuff to pull off deceit of any kind, after all.
"How did you do it?" Melanie asks. "Really—after Tairi spiked the pumpkin juice, and you ran from Hamilton and the others—"
Lily shrugs and looks at Louis, thinking it really isn't her story to tell—not all of it, anyway.
Louis clears his throat, embarrassed—probably for breaking so many rules. He is Head Boy, after all. "Well, Vulpecula and I got down there, and set up a bit of a lightshow," he says. "Lily came running in, followed by Hamilton and some friends of his—gits, all of them—and I did the Geminio curse on Lily—got a fake body. The two girls and I hid in the next room—used to be Professor Snape's office, I heard, and honestly that might be the worst part for my family, if they ever got to hear about this."
"Which they won't," says Lily, looking quite fierce.
"Naturally," mutters Luther rebelliously, but Lily isn't worried; she knows her friends would never betray her.
"Looks like Hogwarts is no longer a Slyth-free zone," Anne says archly. "How does it feel, Lils?"
"Never better," Lily says, grinning.
There's a small contented silence.
"Wow," says Melanie after awhile. "It's been an intense couple of months, huh?"
"Try the whole year," says Vulpecula, laughing.
Lily laughs, too, thinking V is absolutely right, but that it's still an understatement. She can't remember a time in her life when things weren't this intense.
Gryffindor wins the House Cup; some things never change.
At least this year, Lily has the comfort that she may have contributed to the victory, however inadvertently; next year, she decides, Gryffindor won't have such an easy win.
In spite of everything—her parents owl her every day, and most people stare at her in the halls—Lily quite enjoys her last few days of term. She and Luther and Vulpecula spend their time lounging around outside or in the common room, where they're finally allowed again.
One afternoon, when the three of them are lounging on a blanket under a tree on the grounds, Albus comes up to them. He looks livid.
Lily waits, eyebrows arched inquiringly. Inwardly, she's running through a list of possible misdeeds: this isn't about her friendship with Vulpecula Malfoy again, is it? Or maybe Al is jealous of all the unprecedented attention she's getting from the family…
"I know what you did," Al says, voice low and angry. "I know you faked your own death. Lily, how could you? Do you know what you've done to Mom and Dad—"
"How'd you figure it out?" Lily asks, trying to sound calm.
"Wasn't that hard," Al sneers.
"Let's hope there aren't more people of your opinion," mutters Luther.
"I know you, Lily," Al says. "You're not the type to die in some stupid accident."
"Thanks," Lily says, surprised and touched. "Al," she adds, standing up and putting her hand on his sleeve, "please, please don't tell anyone. Mom and Dad—it would destroy them."
"Don't you mean it would destroy all your hard work, getting Slytherin back?" Al says shrewdly. "If you cared about the pain you put them in, you would never have done it. I can't believe you! Months of thinking you were dead—that funeral, Godric—"
"I know," Lily says, eyes down. "I know."
"You'd better," Al says savagely. He looks at his sister, green eyes narrowed in a strange mix of dislike and affection. "I won't tell," he says eventually. "I'm no sneak." Casting Vulpecula a hateful look (Al has a problem with the Malfoys), he stomps off, ignoring Lily. He's said what he came to say.
"Wow," Lily says, slumping back onto the blanket. "Does he hate me now?"
"Can you blame him?" Luther says sardonically.
"I guess not," Lily says wonderingly. She's not as upset as she would have thought; somehow, being hated for something she's actually done is almost a relief. Most of her life, people have hated her for who she is—Harry Potter's daughter, a Slytherin, almost an honorary Malfoy—now she's done something. She is more than a label.
On the whole, it's a relief.
"Think he'll ever forgive me?" she asks.
This time it's Vulpecula who answers, "Of course. He's your brother, after all."
Lily isn't sure it's that simple—nothing ever is, with Albus. Shivering slightly, she settles back to hang out with her friends, wondering how much of her life she's changed.
It's the last day before the end of term, and Lily is sitting in her own bedroom, in the Slytherin dormitories, packing all the things her parents so recently sent back to her—along with stacks of chocolate and snacks. Humming a little, she folds another set of robes.
There's a sudden tapping on the window; Lily crosses to open it, surprised again, as she always is, at how easy the owls seem to find it, flying into the holes in the ground that are called the Slytherin windows.
She lets the owl in, recognizing her at once: it's Klio, Aunt Luna's owl. There's a package attached to Klio's leg, and Lily removes it curiously, absently stroking Klio's feathers.
She pulls at the paper, and a book and a note fall out. Lily picks up the book first; it's a beautifully illustrated copy of The Boy Who Cried Hungarian Horntail. She smiles, a little uncertainly. Lily never knows the reasons for Aunt Luna's gifts. Most are lessons, hidden truths—puzzles she has to figure out.
Lily picks up the note.
My darling Lily,
For next time.
Lily swallows, getting the distinct impression that Al isn't the only one who figured out her scheme.
"I'm glad you're on my side, Aunt Luna," she whispers, and then looks up, right into Klio's eyes. Startled, she doesn't move. The owl looks back at her solemnly; then Klio flies out the window again.
Lily supposes Klio wasn't told to wait for an answer—or maybe she was. It wouldn't shock Lily to find out Aunt Luna could talk to owls. Or any animal, really.
Taking a deep breath, she sets the book and note gently inside her trunk, and heads down to the feast.
"Another year gone," Professor Beaumont says, beaming around at the four—count 'em, four—House tables in front of her. "And what a year it's been. We have much to be thankful for. Slytherin's return to us will only make us stronger. I urge you all to remember that, the more united we stand, accepting our differences and celebrating our similarities, the stronger we will be. I want to thank everyone in this Hall for their patience, and their understanding. And I want to add how overjoyed we are to have Lily Potter returned to us as well. We are so blessed. Thank you—all. For everything."
And she smiles around at them all, feeling the warm glow of having everyone in their proper place.
"See you next year!" Luther calls, on the platform. He's already walking toward his family. Lily and Vulpecula wave energetically at him.
"I just hope next year's easier," Vulpecula whispers to Lily.
"We're starting new subjects; Rose told me Arithmancy is wonderful, so we're going to be absolutely swamped," Lily says happily. "Easy? Never."
Just before Lily's family engulf her, Vulpecula yells, "Come see me this summer!"
Lily waves, and James says idly, "Of course. We'll all be spending ages at the Malfoys', planning for the wedding."
"Wedding!" Mom exclaims. "You're getting married?"
"It is Tairi, right?" Lily asks anxiously.
"'Course," James says, surprised. "She's only my soulmate."
"That pureblood brat, your soulmate?" Mom yells, outraged.
People start glancing over at them—even more than usual—and Al groans. But Lily just smiles. She's a Potter, she's a Slytherin—Lily wouldn't trade her life for anything.