Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters are the property of the author of this story. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any previously copyrighted material. No copyright infringement is intended. In small words - I do not own Harry Potter and I make no profit from writing this story.
A Promise of a New Beginning

Author: Mistress Ashley

Beta: Nadale aka flybbfly

Prompt: When Dumbledore announces a Yule Ball is to be held for 5th year and above in 2 weeks all of the students are excited. That is, until he announces another surprise. The sorting hat has agreed to tell each student attending the name of another student attending and then each student must get a gift for the student they are told. Between a psychotic gifter sending her a new gift every day until the ball and the mayhem in Hogsmede with all the girls (and some of the guys *cough*Sirius*cough* trying to find the perfect thing to wear to the ball, Lily is going to have a very busy 2 weeks.

Pairing: James Potter/Lily Evans

Rating: PG-13

Length: abt. 9001 words, not counting header

Warnings: het; male/female

Summary: Lily Evans returns to Hogwarts for her last year thinking it will be her best yet. She didn't take into account the unpredictability of Headmaster Dumbledore, who decides it's a good year for a Yule Ball ... with the Sorting Hat to decide partners.

Notes: This was written for the Love a Lion fest. It was also formatted with tags for posting. I believe I've gotten all italics tags but let me know if you find one I missed.

Lily Evans looked around the crowded Great Hall with a wide grin. It was good to be back at Hogwarts. Being here never stopped being amazing and magical. Lily didn't think anything could ruin this moment — that is, until Dumbledore opened his big mouth!

"Children, children, settle down. The standard announcements are still in effect. First years should note that the forest on the grounds is forbidden to all pupils, except for detentions or when accompanied by a professor. Certain students would do well to remember that."

Lily's face arranged into a scowl as Dumbledore's eyes twinkled toward the so-called Marauders. Toe-rags, the lot of them, but especially James Potter. And they looked so pleased with themselves — well, except for Remus, who shrank down slightly in his seat — not that Lily thought he was much better, as he never stopped them. Lily rolled her eyes and turned her attention back to Dumbledore as he continued his speech.

"Mr. Filch, the caretaker, has asked me to remind you all that no magic should be used in the corridors between classes.

"Quidditch trials will be held in the second week of term. Anyone interested in playing for their house teams should contact Madam Hooch.

"And finally, with the Dark becoming ever more pressing outside the walls of Hogwarts, I feel there should be something to look forward to and so the Yule Ball will be reinstated this year for fifth years and above." Dumbledore paused as noise exploded throughout the Great Hall.

The girls around Lily burst into giggles at questions of who might ask them and what they would wear. Lily pressed her lips together; though some of those girls were her friends, she felt she'd never understand them and their obsession with everything 'boy'.

"It has been decided," Dumbledore continued — Lily noticed that some of the teachers were looking pained, like maybe this hadn't been decided but that Dumbledore had overruled any objections — "that each student wishing to attend will sign the form located within their common room. Once the signing period is complete, each name will be placed into the Sorting Hat, which has agreed to pair each student with the student most compatible to him or her so that they may attend the Ball together."

There were gasps throughout the room as dreams were crushed before what Dumbledore had said registered and hope was reignited once again. Lily listened as the girls around her swooned, just knowing that they would be most compatible with their crushes. Disgust rose in Lily as spats broke out all over the Hall over who would be most compatible with James Potter and Sirius Black. They just knew that if the Hat said their names together that they would go to the Ball and make such an impression that shortly after, marriage and children would follow.

Lily gagged under her breath. It was sickening that these girls thought one forced, date would make them Mrs. Potter or Black. Who would want Potter or Black anyway?

Dumbledore cleared his throat, gaining the school's attention once more. "And of course, It is only right that gifts be exchanged between dates. Times will be set up for each year, fifth to seventh, to travel to Hogsmeade to pick up formal robes and something to present their dates with once the Hat has had time to decide. But for now, think of it no more, for it is time for sleep. Off you trot." Dumbledore clapped his hands, sending the prefects scrambling to gather the first years.

The tables cleared quickly, groups forming as they chatted and giggled over the coming Ball. Lily dropped back to the end of the group heading toward Gryffindor Tower, her mind on who she might be paired with. Maybe a Ravenclaw, seeing as she was top of her class. Maybe, she nibbled her lip, she would be paired with Severus. He was the one who introduced her to magic and they had been friends since they were children — even if he had called her a Mudblood. She was still mad at him — well, no, she was more ... disappointed. And hurt, certainly, that the first insult to come to his mind had been that hated word, but maybe the Yule Ball would allow them to move past that.

Lily's mind worked at full speed as she got ready for bed. Drifting off to sleep was hard and took too long and was certainly not relaxing, as she tossed and turned most of the night.

Gryffindor was abuzz the next day as girls pushed to be the first to sign up for the Ball. Some, even after signing up, loitered around the sign up sheet to see who else had signed up.

Lily was confused as to why Potter and Black hadn't signed up yet. She had thought they'd be one of the first. She knew they would eventually, as she'd heard them talking about robes and gifts the night before. Lily crossed her arms, a frown marring her pretty face as she watched the common room from her secluded corner. She guessed they just enjoyed getting the girls riled up over whether they would be there or not. A few of the girls in the room had taken to sending them longing looks as they, no doubt, plotted their next prank, acting as if nothing special was going on … — not that the Yule Ball was special or anything, Lily hurriedly thought to herself. She'd even thought about not signing up. That I was how un-special it was.

A group of giggling girls made their way toward Lily. As they clustered around the table, she wondered why she even called them her friends; they were just so different from her. But no, that wasn't very nice — the stress was getting to her. They weren't always giggling, hell, most of the time they were very mature. But the Yule Ball was a big deal and with the Dark Lord rising in power every day, it could very well be the last chance they had to truly let go and forget — if only for a short time.

"I haven't seen your name on the sign up sheet," Kara said nonchalantly.

Lily hummed in response, mind still lost to the thoughts circling round and round.

"Are you going to sign up, Lily?" Kara asked.

Lily snapped back to the present and the girls circled around her, girls who were watching her intently. "Huh?" The question Kara had asked registered in her mind a second later. "I don't know. I don't think so. But I might."

The girls around her exchanged exasperated looks, like this was typical of her — but, while it might have been typical of some other girls, it wasn't for Lily. Lily was usually very decided about things and, usually, very outspoken about them. But the girls that had shared a dorm with her since they had arrived at Hogwarts seemed to have set her in their minds as one of them, girls who, while not obsessed, enjoyed trying to gain the attention of the boys around them.

"It's a Ball, the Yule Ball! You have to sign up," Kara said impatiently.

Lily hummed again as she thought about this. While she did want to know who the Hat might pair her with and she did love to dance, she wasn't sure she wanted to go through the trouble of finding not only a formal robe, but a gift for her date as well.

But the excitement of her house was contagious. Lily really did want to know who she was most compatible with. If she didn't sign up for the Ball she would never know for sure. Lily felt she was girly enough to always wonder. If she graduated and married, she would likely always wonder if she had chosen the right man, if she would have worked better with someone else.

It didn't take long before her friends had wheedled and worn her down and Lily had stood, shoulders squared, and strode purposely toward the sign up sheet.

Once there, she had doubts, but they were were quickly overwhelmed. Lily grabbed the floating quill and quickly signed her name before she could talk herself out of going, releasing a quiet whimper as she read her name, a signed, and unchangeable contract, on the parchment. What was she to do now?

Time passed in a foggy haze for Lily Evans. She spent her days as she always had, in class, worrying about the latest test or newest spell, but her nights were taken up by something new, something she had never experienced before — girlish worrying. She spent her nights tossing and turning with thoughts of the upcoming Ball. Who would be her date? What would she wear? What gift would she buy for her chosen date? But she found no answers until the middle of November, when, two weeks before the Yule Ball, the Sorting Hat was placed on its stool and began calling out pairs.

"Kara Abbot and Slone Cowan," the Hat announced. This was the first pairing, and Kara, while disappointed she hadn't managed to land Potter or Black, certainly didn't look upset with the Hat's choice. Lily watched as Kara sent covert looks at the Ravenclaw Slone, who, Lily noticed, was definitely returning these looks.

Maybe Lily's fears that the Hat was wrong were untrue. Most of her dreams of late had had her paired with the worst possible people she could imagine but if Kara and Slone were the standard Lily imagined she could have been wrong.

Lily jerked out of her thoughts, blinking as she noticed that the pairings had continued without her. They were getting ever closer to her name … unless her name had been called already. Lily fretted for a bare second before realizing that her friends certainly would have been sending sharp elbows her way if she had already been called.

"Jessica Elliot and Andrew Howard."

Oh God! The next name was hers. Lily leaned forward on the Gryffindor bench, straining to hear even though seated as she had been, she would have heard perfectly.

"Lily Evans and James Potter," the Sorting Hat announced, somewhat proudly.

No! No, it couldn't be true. She thought she must have heard wrong, but the whoop from the opposite end of the Gryffindor table let her know that Potter had heard the same as she had.

iWhy/i had she signed up for this again? Oh, right. Lily focused on the Slytherin table, searching out Severus, whose face showed anguish so deep that Lily's heart broke before his face rearranged itself into the emotionless mask that was standard for him lately.

Oh, how was she going to fix this? Better yet, how was she going to survive this?

The names continued, but Lily was too busy anguishing about her date to pay any attention. Instead, James Potter's voice distracted her as he spoke loudly to anyone who would listen of how this was his chance to show her how great he was, and her own anger overwhelmed any other thoughts.

Lily followed Dumbledore's instructions to return to their rooms absentmindedly, thoughts consumed with what was quite possibly the end of the world, the end of her world.

How could this happen to her, Lily Evans, who had said no to James Potter at every turn when he had asked her for a date? How could they possibly be the most compatible individuals for each other?

The next morning, Friday, Lily woke, almost more tired than she had been when she had fallen asleep the night before. She blamed this feeling for her failure to notice the brightly wrapped gift at the edge of her bed, which dropped to the floor as she flung the covers off herself and headed blindly toward the washroom.

Coming back, freshly showered and dressed, somewhat more awake, Lily began pulling clothes on, dragging the plain, black colored robe over her head. The only redeeming factor of those robes was the Gryffindor crest the adorned her left breast.

Lily wandered closer to her bed, pushing the sheets back before pulling them into place. She knew the house elves would take care of it if she left them strewn across the floor as her roommates tended to do, but she had been raised to always make her bed and keep her room tidy.

As she pulled the covers into place, her foot scrunched upon something lying on the floor at the end of the bed. Lily bent down, grabbing the brightly wrapped package, turning it around in her hands; it showed no identifying features.

Still, the only people who could have gotten to her room were other Gryffindors, female ones at that, as the spells on the steps leading to the girls' rooms vanished the steps if a male tried to climb them.

Lily cast suspicious looks around the room at her still sleeping roommates. She knew that while they might have set the package upon her bed, they were much too boy obsessed for it to have been from them. So, what boy had conned them into placing it on Lily's bed?

Lily settled back on her bed, cradling the package delicately on her lap as she peeled the spelled paper back. A gasp escaped her lips as she revealed a beautiful quill. It was a brilliantly red feather, a cardinal if she wasn't mistaken. The red, though, was shot through with delicate threads of gold and showed a golden roaring lion's head. There was a certain familiarity about this quill that she wasn't comfortable with. Lily knew, just knew, that she should know this quill from somewhere, and while she couldn't place it, the feelings the almost memory gave her were nowhere near warm and fuzzy.

Lily frantically grabbed up the colored paper that had once wrapped the quill and stuffed it, quill and all, deep within her trunk. There was no way she was using that quill!

"Come on, Lily! We're going to miss breakfast if we don't hurry!" Mary yelled from her bed by the door.

Lily grabbed up her backpack and began pulling her books out of her trunk, stuffing her backpack full. She just hoped she had gotten all the books she would need for that day.

With a sigh, Lily flipped the bag onto her back and hurried after Mary and Kara, who seemed to be having trouble fitting a book into her own bag.

They made it to the Great Hall with only minutes to grab something to eat and make it to their first class in time. Lily barely tasted the food as she ate, quickly making another plate to eat on the way to her first class. It was just in time as the food disappeared immediately after.

Lily stood and hurried after her roommates towards Transfiguration.

The Gryffindor and Slytherin seventh years sat on opposite sides of the Transfiguration classroom listening as Professor McGonagall gave a late student a dressing down and, in her strictest voice reiterated the rules. It was then that it suddenly hit Lily that this would be the last year she would hear the Professors lay down the rules, her last year learning magic … well, learning magic at Hogwarts, anyway. Lily didn't think she'd ever stop learning magic. There were household spells to learn if she ever wanted a place of her own and she was sure that if she ever had children there were hundreds of spells for them.

With this in mind, Lily straightened in her seat and focused her eyes on Professor McGonagall as she made her way to the front of the room and went over their lesson for the day, instructing them to open their textbooks as she explained how each spell worked. Lily leaned over, pulling out parchment and quill quickly and began jotting down notes. She'd visit the library later to get a head start on this section of the book.

It wasn't until Professor McGonagall had turned to the practical side of magic and the noise level of the room rose that Lily heard a voice next to her.

"Ohhh. It's so pretty!" Kara squealed from her seat next to Lily, eyes focused on the quill in Lily's hand.

"Huh?" Lily raised her eyes to meet Kara's before dropping them to the quill in her hand. The bright red quill in her hand. She dropped the quill as though it had scalded her with a quite noise of disgust. "Oh, that." How had that gotten into her bag? She must not have buried it deep enough. Well, she'd just remedy that soon enough!

"Where did you get it? You can't have gotten it at Scribbulus. We haven't had a Hogsmeade weekend yet and I know they don't carry quills like that there. Did you get it in Diagon Alley this summer? Scrivenshaft's has started carrying the new Colour-Change Inks. I wanted to get one but Mum said they were too expensive. I'm sure something like that," she looked longingly at the Gryffindor-esque quill, "must have cost you an arm and leg."

Lily wondered for only a split second if it had been Kara who had smuggled the package into the girl's dorm before dismissing that thought.

"I didn't buy it," Lily packed as much disdain into her voice as was possible. "It was gift wrapped and sat on my bed this morning. Any idea how it got there?"

"You mean someone bought it for you? How romantic," Kara sighed, going boneless in her seat.

"It's not romantic! It's just evidence of a stalker in the making," Lily cried, gaining the sharp attention of Professor McGonagall who gave them both a swift glare.

The lesson continued after that, with no unnecessary talking.

Lily skipped lunch in the Great Hall, choosing to make a quick trip to the kitchens instead, before heading to the library. While this kept her safe from Kara's questions, it just meant dinner would be a riot as Kara was sure to tell the others of her dorm.

She had been right. As soon as Lily took her seat at the Gryffindor table that night she was bombarded on all sides with questions.

Mary and Alice wanted to see the quill for themselves but gave a hearty groan when she told them she had gotten rid of the thing.

If Lily had been looking down the table she would have seen a closely listening James Potter who slumped on the bench in disappointment at her words. She would have seen Sirius Black give him a nudge and nod back down the table. She would have seen the hope come back as their conversation continued.

"Well, do you know who it was from?" Mary asked excitedly.

"If she does, she's not telling. It's best not to ask, you'll likely just get a nasty reply like I did," Kara pointed out to the group dully.

"Oh, but you must know who! Someone gets you a gift that expensive and you have at least some idea," Alice said.

Lily piled her plate with food, forcing herself to eat faster than normal in hopes of getting away from this conversation. She remained silent as the girls began speculating, trying to draw her back into the conversation.

Thankfully, her friends were used to her mood swings and took no offense to her dreary silence.

The next morning, Lily woke to yet another present at the end of her bed. This time it was a bottle of emerald colored ink, the exact shade of her eyes, that shimmered various shades of green. A bottle of Colour-Change Ink.

Kara was from a fairly well to do pureblood family but they did not have the standard 'pureblood wealth', by any means. Still, her parents hardly ever said no when she wanted something. For her mother to say a bottle of Colour-Change Ink was too expensive made the bottle clutched delicately in Lily's hand an excessive gift. To be given the day after the quill made the gift giver pureblood wealthy in Lily's mind.

The thought that she knew who it was rose up in her mind but Lily forced it back down into the dark corner of her mind, imagined a deep trunk that locked closed with chains wrapping around it. That was a thought she never wanted to have again.

The ink joined the quill deep in the trunk at the end of her bed. There was no way she was giving her friends something else to talk about.

Except they did have more to talk about as gifts continued to arrived on her bed each morning, each just as expensive as the last.

Lily wondered where the gift giver was getting them. Hogsmeade had been canceled until after the Ball under Dumbledore's orders. Each year, and those in younger years who had been invited, had their own weekend. Lily thought Dumbledore was leaving the seventh years in a bit of a bind but figured she could owl Diagon Alley if there was an urgent need.

Lily could have smacked herself. Of course, it was so simple. Unless the gifter was a younger year, they were owling out. Whether those owls were going home for the gifts or being ordered from the many shops in Diagon Alley didn't really matter.

After the quill and ink, the gifts had taken a turn. She guessed the quill and ink were something they had already had on hand but the next gift had been a simple, yet lovely silver, double knot ring with a diamond encased in one of the knots.

Next, had been a bottle of long lasting nail polish, unique in that the witch could choose the color. It was a one-use spell, of course, no need to hinder profit but the perfect thing to give as a gift.

Lily was running out of room in her trunk to hide the gifts but it didn't matter anymore as the girls in her dorm had begun waking before her so they could see what her mystery gift giver would send next.

The next gift was a leather box just over the size of her palm. There was squealing around the room as Lily flipped the top up to reveal a beautiful necklace. A Celtic double knot with a teardrop gem hanging from it attached to a dainty chain. The gem was set in silver and a light shade of green. The green wasn't the bright emerald of her eyes but a lighter shade that she would be able to wear with almost any color. Even Lily, who tried not to show a liking of any of the gifts, felt a small attachment to this necklace.

It was for this reason that the necklace found a new home in the very bottom of her trunk. Just as every gift after that suffered the same fate.

It was almost a relief when the seventh years' Hogsmeade weekend came. It would have been more of a relief if there hadn't been a package at the end of her bed. This one turned out to be a set of tarnished gold hair combs. Each comb had pearls edging the tops with two netted flowers in a golden rust color. The flowers had small white pearls, like those used in the edging, nestled into their netted centers.

Lily's breath caught as she looked at them. They were old fashioned and looked gently used. They had to have belonged to either a mother or grandmother and they were very well taken care of. They weren't something Lily would have chosen for herself, but they were amazing. She could almost see them twined up into her auburn hair.

Lily cradled them lightly, thumb running over the pearls before she place them so very gently in her trunk, barely realizing as she closed the lid that she hadn't buried the combs; she had lain them in a place of pride atop her clothes.

If Lily had to say, she'd say that even without the other years that this was the most hectic and disorganized Hogsmeade weekend in all her seven years at Hogwarts.

Mary had immediately dragged Alice off to search for gifts for their dates, leaving Lily standing with Kara at the entrance of Hogsmeade.

"Come on, Lily, let's find the most important item first," Kara suggested, dragging Lily off to the only clothing shop in Hogsmeade, Gladrags, complaining all the way that Gladrags just didn't carry the same selection of the more upscale shops in Diagon Alley. "I just wish Dumbledore had thought to add formal wear to our shopping list. I could have had my choice of the newest and most popular robes at Twilfit and Tatting's," Kara said with an anguished sigh.

Finally, they made it to Gladrags, and upon entering the shop Lily could see what Kara had been talking about. The selection was, while not small, not huge either, and if she was correct in her thinking, they might have ordered out for a better selection. It reminded Lily of thrift or secondhand stores of the Muggle world. The quality of the materials was better and in some cases, cleaner, but Lily guessed that had something to do with the owner being a witch or wizard.

Kara made a noise of disgust, face screwed up as she looked around the store. "How are we ever going to find anything? What if all the good robes are gone?" Kara practically wailed.

Fifteen minutes into their search and they were beginning to think it was hopeless, but a glimmer of tarnished gold caught Lily's attention. Kara's whining fell from her mind as her attention focused solely on the glint of gold up the row.

Lily's hand found lace, old lace without the scratchy feel new would have carried. It reminded her of the combs she'd placed in her trunk just that morning.

Lily wrestled the dress from the rack, holding it up high where she could see the whole thing. The dress had a soft sweetheart neckline, creating an almost perfect heart top. The top was edged in what might have been satin that faded to lace, lace that would hug her body and emphasize her slim waist. The most stunning features, to Lily at least, were the four tiers that formed the dress. The top tier, which had the top of the skirt peeking out from under it, was made up completely of lace. That tier and the next three were only edged in lace detail. The skirt had only a slight flair to it. It would be perfect for dancing. It would be perfect for the Ball.

Lily swirled the dress around, searching for the dressing room and the shop attendant. She found both fairly quickly, and before long the dress was sized to fit. And boy, did it fit. It looked nothing like the formal robes of the time but like something far older; the style was somehow classic, something that Lily felt she could wear to any formal event for years to come.

"I'll take it," Lily told the attendant softly, her eyes still focused on the mirror and the image of herself in her new dress.

"Wow! You look amazing, Lily!" Kara said loudly. "I think you found the best robe in the place."

"What about you? Did you find something?" Lily asked.

Kara shook her head. "Nah, I think I'll just request the latest catalog from Twilfit and owl order one from there. Why don't you get dressed and we'll go get everything else we need. Time is running out."

"Right, be back in a second." Lily headed back into the dressing room, coming back out in her casual clothes, new dress slung over her arm. The attendant was waiting to whisk the dress away and have it wrapped up for easy carrying.

Leaving the shop a few Galleons lighter, Lily looked to Kara to see what she wanted to do next.

"This way." With that Kara lead the way back up the street and entered the hairdressing salon across from Honeydukes.

Lily was confused. They couldn't be getting their hair done, right? It surely wouldn't last until the Ball, but she followed Kara anyway, to a stand in the corner with a sign announcing that Witching Shears was the only place around to have Styling Brushes.

"What are Styling Brushes?" Lily asked.

"I saw them in Witch Weekly a few months ago. They're spelled to do certain things, like this one," Kara picked up a large comb, "straightens hair. The amount of times it works is set into the spell. The lowest price is for two uses but according to Witch Weekly you can have them spelled for up to fifty uses! They have brushes that add curls, change the color, and even ones that spell your hair longer or shorter for a certain length of time!"

Lily watched as Kara picked up a large brush with a picture of a witch with a short pixie cut on the handle with the number 2 lightly etched over. Lily raised an eyebrow.

"It's something I've always wanted to try," Kara shrugged.

Lily nodded as she moved forward to look through the brushes. Finally, she found one that looked just perfect.

Once paid, Kara and Lily moved on. Kara managed to drag Lily into Natural Witch, a shop filled with all things makeup related, things that promised to make a witch look as natural as magic allowed. While Kara stocked up, Lily browsed the aisles. Stopping when she found a very subtle gold eye shadow. She debated before picking it up. She might never use it but figured it was better to have it than not and need it.

Once out of the store, Kara turned to Lily, "Do you have shoes to go with that new robe?"

Lily thought about it briefly before she remembered the pair her mum had bought her for Christmas last year. They were the wrong shade but a spell could take care of that for a few hours. "Yeah, I'll just need to revise the Colour Change spell."

"Right then, what else is left?" Kara asked as her eyes scanned the shops.

Lily sighed before answering reluctantly. "Gifts."

Kara's eyes lit up and a smile spread across her face. "Well, what are we waiting for?"

Kara decided a specialty chocolate only found in Honeydukes was perfect for her date, Slone. That left Lily on her own as she scanned the shops. Her eyes lingered on the Quidditch shop before she shook her head. This would be the last year of Quidditch James … Potter would be playing. From the way everyone was talking, she figured he'd go on to be an Auror so there's no need for Quidditch supplies.

Finally, she decided on a little-known shop that sold magical objects, thinking that maybe she could find something in there and trudged off down the road with fingers crossed.

The inside of the store was dusty and fairly dark, as if the shopkeepers had done it on purpose to hide any flaws in their wares.

Still, Lily was a witch, the smartest of her year, so she kept her wand handy in case she found something. She would use a simple Lumos to investigate it before buying anything.

Twenty minutes later, Lily was ready to call it quits. She'd looked through nearly every shelf but had found nothing of interest. She turned to leave before finding a corner she hadn't looked in.

She wandered over and there on wooden stand was what she thought, at first glance, was a simple snow globe. Raising her wand, light bright on the tip, she stepped closer, leaning down to examine it further.

The base was a Gryffindor scarf with the clear globe settled on top. Within the globe a miniature red dragon slept peacefully in a grassy meadow surrounded by trees. There was no snow, but maybe it was spelled to simulate snow only once shaken.

Curious, Lily lifted the globe, expecting it to be heavy, and was surprised at how light it was. The force she had used to pick it up had shaken the globe and startled the sleeping dragon, who let out a wide yawn before taking to the "air." Out of nowhere, a little Gryffindor-dressed figure appeared, broom in hand, and also took to the air.

Lily watched, entranced, as the figure twirled through the air, drawing the attention of the dragon, which quickly gave chase. The tricks that were preformed to evade the dragon's snapping jaws and fierce bursts of flame amazed Lily, but the shake she had given the globe wasn't enough to keep the show going for long. The figure landed, disappearing into nothingness before the dragon landed, curling up, and slept once more.

It was silly and probably a very childish gift, but it felt like the right choice, so Lily had it packaged and wrapped in bright Gryffindor colors. She wasn't doing this because she liked James or anything, she ignored the voice that scoffed in her head, she just didn't want to get a stupid present that everyone would laugh at!

The walk back to the castle was silent — or rather, Lily was silent, as Mary, Kara, and Alice talked around her.

The next few days were hectic as classes continued but tensions rose as the Ball got ever closer. Girls scrambled to have their outfits perfect and Black wandered around looking more rumpled than was normal, even for him.

Still, even with the school working itself into a tizzy, the gifts still made their way onto her bed right up to the day before the Ball.

Waking up on the day of the Ball, Lily found no present. She quickly hid her disappointment before her roommates could see and hurried into the bathroom, closing the door behind her.

Lily never spent long in the bathroom, but wasn't sure she'd have time before the Ball, so she spent extra time washing her body and hair. She toweled herself dry and pulled on her uniform, closing her robe over it all.

Breakfast was light as the nervous excitement of Hogwarts' student body had Lily shaky and a bit nauseous, or at least, that was the reason she told herself as she ate scrambled eggs and toast with a small glass of chilled pumpkin juice.

Classes that day passed in a haze, and before she knew it, she was back in the Gryffindor dorm pulling on her dress and her shoes. Lily moved to the end of the bed where her trunk rested; flipping the top open she moved to begin digging for her eye shadow, but there on top were the combs that her anonymous gift-giver had given her.

Lily hesitated only a moment before laying the combs gently on the bed and returned to digging for her makeup, only to encounter another gift that could go with her dress, and another, and another. Lily pulled out the necklace and ring as well as the polish. She hadn't yet chosen a color so it was still a pale shimmering white.

Finally, Lily grabbed her makeup bag and the golden eye shadow, dropping onto the bed. She slipped on the ring and clasped the necklace around her neck, allowing the gem to rest in the hollow of her throat. It rested just high enough to compliment the dress and not get lost in the neckline.

Opening her makeup bag yielded not only makeup but the Styling Brush she had bought. A glance at the faded gold hair combs had her grasping the brush and running it gently through her hair. Every swipe of the brush brought an odd feeling as the hair bounced and twined into curls. In no time at all, her normally long and straight red hair was a mass of curls. A bit of trial and error finally had some of the curls pulled back with the combs, leaving the front and back to fall around her face and bare shoulders.

Time was ticking to the Ball, but thankfully Lily only had to do her nails and makeup. A thought, a tap of her wand, and a few mumbled words had the shimmering white nail polish swirling in its bottle. Taking a deep breath, Lily swiped the brush over her nails leaving behind swirls of darker, richer gold and faded antique gold that matched her dress. It was a nice effect but probably not something she'd have a chance to use again. The color was too perfectly matched to her dress. Another spell set the color dry, and she hurriedly moved on to makeup.

Lily decided to keep her makeup simple, a tiny amount of blush, a light application of her gold eye shadow and a swipe of pink tinted lip gloss. Looking at herself in the mirror had her frowning: something wasn't quite right. A look through her makeup bag had her pulling out mascara. A coat of mascara had her smiling. The black framed her eyes and almost made their green glow. It was perfect.

It was also time to go. Lily packed up anything left on her bed, just remembering to gently grab the Gryffindor wrapped package and walked down the steps into chaos. A girlish shriek drew her attention to the opposite side of the room where a half dressed Sirius Black had just run screaming down the boys' dorm steps. He grabbed something Lily hadn't managed to see and ran back up the steps, leaving Lily shaking her head at the insanity.

A body latched onto her arm and began dragging her out of the common room. Once out the door, Lily was surrounded by Mary, Alice, and Kara.

"Wow! You guys look amazing. Your robes came in okay, Kara?" Lily asked. Kara had gone through with her idea of owl ordering dress robes. "And your hair!" Lily reached out, gently touching the short pixie locks. It was so weird to see Kara's hair so short. Since coming to Hogwarts as a small eleven-year-old, Kara had kept her hair mid-back or longer. The change was dramatic and brought out the sharpness of her cheekbones that the length of before had hidden. It also drew attention to the slight up tilt of her eyes showing that Kara's line of Abbots had genes a bit more Eastern than was usually found in the pureblood circles of Europe.

Kara's hand went self-consciously to her hair. "It looks okay, right?"

The girls around her hurried to tell her how much they loved the hair and how well the short cut worked with her features.

Kara's hand smoothed down the front of her pale purple dress that, while pale, was very attention grabbing. The dress had bejeweled tank sleeves that crossed across her front and wrapped around her waist. The dress flowed from the waist and billowed around her feet. The long skirt seemed to shimmer in varying shades of purple. It was a dress that complemented Kara very well.

Mary had gone for shock factor, not just shocking because it was a brilliant red color but also because the dress she was wearing was clearly Muggle. Lily worried that her friend might be forced to change. The knee length dress would have looked very simple from the front if it didn't have such a low cut. Lily wondered if they would see Mary's bellybutton if she moved too much. There was no fear of seeing anything else though as the deep plunge was held together by tiny strands of crystals. The back, well, it was more like, what back? The dress was made halter style so it wrapped around the back of her neck and three strips of fabric connected at mid-back. The 'skirt' began at her waist but connected from the front in a small V shape. It was such a Mary dress, something so very eye catching that it worked perfectly.

Alice, silly Alice who still thought of herself as a pudgy eleven year old, had chosen a simple, flowing dress in a pale yellow color. The dress had thin spaghetti straps and a straight cut, pleated bust that had been cinched in with pale yellow roses that Lily could almost smell. It had her wondering if they were real and something Alice had grown herself. The dress flowed out from the roses in a ruffle of light cloth that swished as Alice walked. Lily would never tell Alice, but rather than hiding her body, the dress emphasized her every curve with each move of her body. It looked simply stunning on her and Lily was sure the dress was something that Alice's date Frank would truly enjoy.

The foursome continued slowly down the corridors toward the Great Hall. Lily briefly thought of turning around and making a run back to Gryffindor tower, of hiding there until the craziness that was sure to come tonight was over and done with, but decided she had too many friends. She wouldn't be able to evade all three and they'd pen her in and drag her kicking and screaming to the Great Hall. Why did she have friends again?

As they neared the Great Hall a figure stepped out of a hidden alcove, a figure that startled her but not her friends, and made her ask herself that question again.

Lily listened, glare fixed on the girls around her as they all found excuses to leave her alone with the figure, who had been revealed to be Potter.

Lily was stunned when she looked at James, Potter, he wore something that looked almost like a three-piece Muggle suit but it was so much more elaborate. There wasn't much to say about the pants, dress pants were dress pants to Lily but the quality and cut were perfectly expensive. Under a deep black vest was an ivory button up dress shirt. The style of the shirt was very Victorian. It shouldn't have worked, but with the old castle around them James just fit. It wasn't just the shirt though, he wore, not a bowtie like most of the boys striding past them but a lacy ruffled cravat elaborately tied around his throat. It wasn't the choice of a cravat that stunned Lily, as Potter had always had a need to be different, it was that the cravat was perfectly matched to the color of her dress. The splash of color at his throat drew the eye back to his vest, made her look closer, and it was then that she noticed the threads of gold within.

Someone, Lily sent a mental glare to her roommates, had helped him choose just the perfect shade to match.

"You look … stunning," James breathed.

If it wasn't for the sincerity that showed in his eyes, Lily would have let any number of scathing replies burst forth but she bit her tongue and replied politely through clenched teeth, "Thank you."

James reached out hesitantly, fingers just brushing the golden combs tangled up in her hair. "They look as beautiful as I imagined they would, like a phoenix, a hint of gold among all that flaming red. I'm glad you wore them," he said as his eyes scanned her body. "As well as the others."

Lily's eyes widened. She had known, of course she had; she had just tried not to think about it too hard. It was so much easier to think of the gift giver as a faceless nobody instead of the arrogant, pig-headed James Potter.

Her mind went back to last year, watching James show off his new quill. It was something that his father had gotten him, had it special ordered. Lily remembered it now but it was something James had never used. She had overheard him explaining to a curious Gryffindor that he loved it and the reason he didn't use it was for just that reason — used quills didn't last long, even horribly expensive, well made quills.

The memory cracked a bit of the ice she'd built around her heart in regards to James Potter.

"Thank you," Lily said more genuinely this time. "They must have been so expensive." She brushed her hand across the necklace lying in the hollow of her throat before her hand ran gently over one of the combs. "And the combs are old but so well taken care of. They must have been very special to someone."

"My grandmother. She passed them onto my mum before she died, but Mum has always enjoyed short hair so she gave them to me when I turned sixteen with instructions to give them to someone important," James explained, eyes focused solely on her face.

Lily shook her head, avoiding his eyes. "Then maybe you shouldn't have given them to me," she said sadly. She wasn't anyone important and she was sure James's mother would agree. Combs like the ones in her hair were not something that should be given on a whim. They were something that Lily could imagine getting and using the day of her wedding. They were something that should be given on that most special of days. "They should go to your wife or a child. I'll give them back as soon as the Ball is over," Lily told him decisively.

James trapped her fluttering hands in his own, drawing Lily's attention to the warmth around her chilled fingers. She hadn't realized it was that cold in the corridor but now that she had, Lily couldn't stop the shiver that traveled through her.

"They were mine and I can give them to whomever I please," James said, a light frown marring his brow. "Just like I can give you this," a package was shoved in front of her, "if I want. Go on, open it." James shook the package under her nose.

Lily took it hesitantly, slipping the paper off gently to reveal a bundle of golden fabric. It was a few shades darker than her own dress and was revealed to be a shawl when she held it up.

"It's goblin made, something only they could make, as every thread is a specially refined gold. No one works as well with precious metals and gold as the goblins."

Real gold? How much could this have possibly cost? Why was he doing this? Lily asked him just that.

"I've known that the combs were meant for you the moment I saw you. Even at eleven you were the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen." James stopped with a nostalgic grin that was tinted with sheepishness. "I also learned your temper matched your fiery red hair. You only grew more beautiful to me as we grew up. I won't ask for much. I just want you to try to enjoy the Ball with me, but even if it turns out to be a disaster, the combs are yours to keep because they've always belonged to you."

Wow! Lily never thought she'd hear something like that come out of James Potter's mouth. It was probably the most adult thing he'd ever said in her presence. The words themselves put a lump in her throat and made her blink the mist from her eyes. No one had ever said she was beautiful and to call her the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen?

"All right, I'll try to have a good time." Lily forced her voice to become stern, "but don't expect too much, Potter!"

James took the golden shawl and wrapped it gently around Lily's cold shoulders, looping the ends under her arms and tying it tight before he extended his arm in a gentlemanly manner. Lily eyed it warily for a moment before linking her own arm through his.

"Ah, you know you love me, Lily-flower," James said confidently and, in Lily's mind, arrogantly with a large smirk adorning his mouth. There was the Potter Lily knew and hated.

"You wish!" The words echoed loudly through the now empty corridor as the couple continued their journey to the Great Hall.

Lily never realized she had left a few shards of the ice around her heart melting in the corridor.

The start of the Ball had been awkward as couples milled around waiting for some sign of what they should be doing. Finally, Dumbledore stepped joyfully up to the podium with arms spread wide.

"Welcome, students, to the start of the Yule Ball. This is a night where the Dark outside these walls is forgotten. Past actions should be looked upon in a new light and accepted as being past. The gift you have brought for your partner is a promise to both them and yourselves to look upon future actions with a fair mind. You receive the gift of your partner with a promise of maturity and forethought. The presents together are a promise of a new beginning. I ask, that if you have not already done so, that you exchange your presents now."

Lily gently touched the golden shawl wrapped around her shoulders before glancing sideways at James. With a deep breath Lily hid any hint of the nervousness she was feeling. How could her present stand up to those she had received?

"Here," Lily said quietly, holding the oddly shaped package carefully in front of James. She watched as glee lit James's face as he just about snatched the package from her hands. "Careful!" Lily yelled sharply.

James's hand clutched the package more carefully as he worked the paper free. His face was blank as looked at the snow globe.

Lily nibbled her lip nervously before she spoke, "Shake it." When he continued to stare, Lily's hands fit over his, the globe shaking with each jostle of their joined hands.

As the tiny Gryffindor flyer took to the air a grin twitched James's lips. It became a full blown smile as the little rider twirled around the air. They watched, hands still joined as the dragon settled back to sleep.

"It's perfect. Thank you, Lily."

"You really like it? You're not just saying that?" Lily asked in a moment of panic. He'd given her such nice things and it had seemed like the right present at the time but what if she had been wrong? What if he hated it and was just saying he liked it to spare her feelings?

A cocky grin showed through as James leaned forward, lips brushing her cheek lightly. "I'm not just saying that. It's perfect."

Lily's cheeks were suddenly warm as blood rushed to her face. There was not a tingly feeling where James's lips had touched. Lily slapped James hard on the arm, glaring with fire in her eyes. "Don't get any ideas, Potter!"

James's grin stretched in a smirk, eyes sparkling mischievously "Ah, ah, ah, remember what Dumbledore said these presents mean. You promised me a new beginning."

Lily opened her mouth for a scathing reply but closed it silently as Dumbledore took his place back at the podium.

"Now that gifts have been exchanged we can move on to what I'm sure all of you have been waiting for." A wave of his wand had music for a slow waltz sounding throughout the Hall.

Most of the couples around the room hesitated, but not a grinning James, who held his hand out to her.

Lily let James lead her onto the dance floor. She dug her heels in after one spin to smile sweetly as James. "Keep your hands where they are and I won't have to break my promise and hex you."

Lily felt the shiver run through his body before they were once again twirling around the dance floor — hands staying firmly in one place.

Many dances later, Lily realized she was having a good time — no, she was having a great time. She was beginning to see that James had changed over the years, but the big change had happened over the summer. She wasn't sure what had happened, but this James who twirled and dipped her around the Hall could talk about something other than himself, pranks, and Quidditch. This James could hold a conversation about the combination of Charms and Transfiguration, about the war happening outside the walls of Hogwarts, and about career choices that might be open to them once they graduated.

What Lily didn't realize was that the ice around her heart was almost completely gone. Another thing she didn't realize was that the dancing had become less formal and more casual.

The end of the night startled Lily. She'd been having such a great evening and it seemed time had gotten away from them.

They walked back to Gryffindor Tower together, hands brushing against each other as they walked. A quietly spoken password got them through the portrait, but things got a bit awkward as couples tromped through the common room before splitting.

They waited, still silent, as the common room cleared before James walked her to the steps to the girls' dorms.

The silence, once comfortable, turned tense as both avoided the other's gaze. While not enemies, they had not been friends either for almost seven years but something had changed between them tonight. Neither knew what to say or what might break the fragile 'something' between them.

Finally, Lily called up every ounce of her Gryffindor courage and leaned forward quickly to lay a soft kiss on James's cheek, "Goodnight, James." What she had just done caused Lily's cheeks to warm before she turned, fleeing up the steps to the girls' dorm.

If she had waited or even looked back she would have seen the wide, goofy grin on James's face or the eyes that were practically heart-shaped. James raised a shaky hand to touch his own warmed cheek, smile growing even wider.

"Goodnight, Lily-flower."