Disclaimer: Just in case you guys didn't know, I (sadly) am not JK Rowling, and therefore I do not own anything close to Harry Potter.

Updated Disclaimer (30/10/11): Also, please bear with me with this story. I just read back through the first few chapters (at this point, 7 months after I wrote them, in the first place), and they are definitely a bit rough- as this was my first ever work of fanfiction. It's a wonder, to me, that anyone's bothered reading past the second chapter, lol. I suppose I may be my own worst critic, but even so. If you can muddle through the first few chapters, then you'll see that it definitely gets better (about halfway through chapter 4, in my opinion). If not, then I understand that, too. Cheers! :)

"Lily, dear, hurry! We need to leave soon if you want to get to the station with any time to spare!"

Lily scanned her room quickly to make sure she hadn't forgotten anything and then called down to her mum, "Coming!"

She went to her trunk and slid it off her bed, flinching slightly at the loud thud it made as it hit the floor. She grabbed a handle and dragged it over to her door, rolling her eyes in annoyance and frustration. She was 17, for Merlin's sake! She was finally allowed to do magic outside of school, but was prevented from doing so by her older sister Petunia. Tuney would have a conniption if her sister so much as lit her wand, much less if she were to levitate her trunk downstairs and out to the car. She'd call Lily a freak, and Lily didn't quite feel up to the challenge of handling her overbearing sister at the moment. Not today. She just wanted to get back to Hogwarts.

A slight smile spread on Lily's lips as she dragged her over-packed trunk down the stairs: she was finally going back. And then she remembered that it would be her last year, and her smile faltered for a moment before she reminded herself that she was also Head Girl (something she had aspired to be since she found out such a title existed). The smile grew on her face until she looked a bit goofy.

Lily made her way down to the entryway where her family was waiting to leave for Kings Cross. Her father saw that she was breathing a little heavily and looked down at her trunk.

He chuckled lightly and teased, "How do you expect to make it through the rest of this year if you can't even make it through the door?"

Lily rolled her eyes, but laughed as her mother slapped him playfully and said, "Hush, now, Robert! You're just jealous because you can't go along." Her mother winked at her.

"Aren't we all?" her father responded jokingly, but Lily noticed Petunia scoff at this comment. Lily suddenly felt awkward, and she was reminded why it was that Petunia seemed to hate her so much; she was jealous of Lily. She hadn't understood, when she was younger, why Petunia had always made fun of her and called her names. But over the years, it had become obvious to her. However, there was nothing Lily could do, no matter how much she might wish.

"Alright, then," her father said, breaking the slightly awkward silence, "ready to head out?"

"Let's go," said Lily, excitedly. She couldn't wait to be back on that train.

"I'm not coming," Petunia suddenly said, speaking for the first time that morning.

"What?" Lily said, thinking perhaps she'd heard her wrong. She couldn't not see her little sister off to school. It was the last time they'd see each other until the end of the year, since Lily had already decided to stay at school over Christmas to keep up with her schoolwork, which no doubt would be... mountainous.

Petunia stood up taller and raised her chin. "I said, I'm not coming." She crossed her arms over her chest defiantly, for emphasis.

"Oh, yes, you bloody well are!" her father exclaimed, giving Petunia a forceful look.

"Robert..." her mum trailed off, warning him about his language.

"No," Petunia said with even more force than her father, "I'm not. I don't want anything to do with that freak school of her's!"

"Petunia!" her mother exclaimed.

"Besides," Petunia continued, as if her mother hadn't said anything, "I'm going to see Vernon. We have a lunch date."

Lily couldn't believe it. Petunia was ditching her for Vernon? That... that walrus of a man she called her boyfriend?

"Tuney, you can't be serious!" Lily blurted. "He's vile!"

Lily realized her mistake instantly when she saw Petunia's eyes widen in rage.

"You will not speak about him like that, you little freak! He's the only sane person I have in my life, and you will not take that away from me!"

"Petunia!" her father broke in, now a bit red in the face. "I've heard enough! You will not speak to your sister like that. I've had enough of you calling Lily a freak, I've had enough of you talking back to me and your mother, and I've just about had enough of you!"

There was a brief moment of silence, as his words sank in.

"Robert..." their mother said again, only this time, there was a mixture of sadness and disappointment in her voice.

Lily looked over to her sister, whose eyes were now bright with unshed tears. "Tuney, please..." Lily now desperately wanted her to come with them to the station, if only to get a chance at a proper goodbye.

There was a small moment when Petunia's eyes seemed to soften, and when Lily hoped against reason that she would change her mind. And then the moment passed.

"I'm not coming," Petunia repeated, a bit quieter now, but no less defiant.

"Then you can go to your room," her father said simply. The anger had vanished from his voice, and only disappointment remained.

A single tear escaped Petunia's eyes and rolled down her cheek. She looked quickly over at her mother (who could not meet her eyes), and silently ran up the stairs and to her room, slamming her door.

Lily looked up after her, and tried to keep the tears from her own eyes. This was not how she wanted her last year at Hogwarts to start out. She didn't want to be so far away from her only sister for such a long time on such bad terms.

"I'm sorry, love," her mother said, seeing the tears in her younger daughter's eyes, and placing a comforting hand on her shoulder.

Lily looked back at her mother, and then over to her father who gave her a sheepish look. She reminded herself that she had to be strong. She was of age in the wizarding world now. An adult. A witch.

She shook off her sadness as best she could, and gave her parents the best smile she could muster. "It's fine, Mum," she said. "Let's just go. We don't want to be late."

"That, we don't," her father agreed, and clapped her on the back before picking up her trunk (with some effort, Lily was amused to note) and heading out to the car.

The drive proved to be an excellent buffer between what had happened back at the house and what was about to happen- for the last time- at the train station. Lily managed to compose herself, and she once again began to feel the familiar mixture of excitement and nerves. This year would be the best yet, she had no doubt. All of her hard work over the years was finally paying off. She was Head Girl, which meant that she had the privilege of living in the Head Dorm, along with the Head Boy (who, she was almost certain, would be her friend Remus Lupin). This was also the last year of schooling she had before she went about her training to become an Auror, something she had been looking forward to since about her fifth year. This was her last year at Hogwarts, and she planned to make the most of it in every possible way. Not only would it be amazing; it had to be. She would make sure of it.

Thanks to Petunia, they arrived at the station with only minutes to spare. Lily only had time for the quickest of goodbyes with her parents before she had to cross the barrier to Platform 9 ¾, something she wasn't sure she could forgive Petunia for. So, with a quick hug and kiss for each of her parents, Lily gave the most heartfelt goodbye she could manage under the circumstances, and ran through the brick wall (something that never failed to amaze her) and onto the Platform.

"All aboard!" the conductor was calling out. All around her, students were hurrying onto the train, waving goodbye to their families through the windows. One of the few things that still bothered Lily about being a Muggle-born was that she couldn't do this with her family, seeing as they were unable to cross the barrier.

Lily mentally shook herself, and reminded herself that she only had a couple of minutes before the train would leave. She hurriedly handed her trunk off to one of the luggage valets, and jumped onto the train with moments to spare. She looked back at all of the parents and siblings of the students on the train and, though she wasn't entirely sure why, she waved back at all of them. She lingered by the window for a moment more before making her way to the large Prefects' compartment, as she had for the past two years.

Lily stepped into the room and was quickly greeted by the other Prefects.

"Hi, Lily!" said Amelia Bones, the seventh year Hufflepuff Prefect, seeming happy to see her.

"Hi, Amelia!" Lily greeted her, smiling and sitting down next to her. "How was your summer?"

"Oh, it was fantastic! We spent a month in Italy, and it was absolutely brilliant. How about you? Did you do anything exciting over break?"

"Oh, no. Not anything as exciting as Italy, at least," Lily laughed. The truth was, she had spent her summer doing practically nothing. She didn't really have any close friends that she could visit over holiday. And the only one she ever lived close enough to to see on a regular basis was Severus Snape, and she no longer had any desire to be near him. In fact, she stayed inside most of the summer on purpose, in order to avoid seeing him. She was sure he would be lurking about somewhere, eager to try and "mend their friendship" or some other such nonsense; she, herself, had no inclination to do so. She didn't think she could ever forgive him for calling her a Mudblood back in fifth year. After all, she had only been trying to help him out; to save him, really. But, she supposed, he had never wanted anything from someone like her.

"Lily," Amelia said, interrupting her unpleasant train of thought, "are you alright?"

"Oh!" Lily realized that she must have been frowning and hurried to put on a more pleasant expression. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just tired, you know."

Amelia didn't look as if she fully believed her, but didn't press the issue. Instead, she chose to change the subject: "Congratulations on getting Head Girl, by the way! It's not very surprising, though, is it? Everyone knew you would get it."

Lily couldn't help the huge smile that spread across her face. "Thanks!" she said, simply. She knew that if she said anything more, she would start gushing.

"It's crazy about Potter, though, isn't it? Yours wasn't a surprise, but no one, not even he, could've guessed that Dumbledore would pick him!"

Lily's bright smile dimmed a bit. "What?"

"Dumbledore made James Potter Head Boy. Didn't you hear? He's only been telling it to anyone who will listen."

"But..." Lily was dumbfounded. Had the old man finally lost his mind? "But Potter's... awful. He's the biggest rule-breaker in the entire school! And his grades can't be that good; all he cares about is quidditch."

"Oh, now, don't be so hard on me, Evans," a voice said, coming from the doorway.

"Speak of the devil," Lily said, not even trying to hide her distaste. For there he was, in all his so-called "glory": Merlin's gift to the wizarding world, James Potter. Lily couldn't stand the git.

He was the most annoying, arrogant, self-absorbed twit she'd ever had the misfortune to meet. It was even worse, though, that everyone- including, apparently, the Headmaster- was in love with him. They all thought he was so charming when, in reality, he was merely in love with himself and assumed that everyone else was, as well. Lily was the only person, as far as she knew, who openly disliked him. And he disliked her for it.

James simply laughed off her hostility. "Believe me, Evans," he said for all to hear, "I could care less about your feelings for me. But," he continued, "unless I'm mistaken, we have a job to do."

Lily simply glared at him, and he dramatically held out his hand to help her out of her seat. She ignored it and stood up by herself, saying grudgingly, "Fine, Potter. You're right. So, let's just get started then, shall we?"

Now that she was standing, James finally got a good look at her. She hadn't changed into her Hogwarts robes yet, so he got a decent look at her figure. He had to admit, the view wasn't bad. She'd really filled out over the summer, and only gotten more attractive. Her fiery hair fell past her shoulders in enticing waves, and she had a few new freckles sprinkled across her nose. His gaze fell briefly to her chest, admiring its fullness, before he let his eyes roam past the curve of her hips and down the long length of her legs. There was no denying that she was beautiful; in fact, James had always known she was, since he first saw her on their first day at Hogwarts.

His eyes made their way back to hers and he saw an unusual look of discomfort there (no doubt due to how he had just blatantly sized her up in front of everyone), as well as the familiar look of indignation and annoyance. The emotions combined in her eyes to make an expression that almost made James laugh out loud. But instead he just winked at her, and enjoyed how her bright green eyes flashed back at him.

"Yes," he said, as if nothing had just happened, "let's get this over with."

"Agreed," she shot back, defiantly.

James stood there and watched as Lily explained the rules to the new Prefects and refreshed the memories of the old ones. He wasn't listening, of course. He felt little need for rules, unlike Lily.

Blimey, but she's uptight! he thought. That's why he had finally given up on the idea of Evans. He had actually been rather... infatuated with her. Ever since he first saw her until about their fifth year. How embarrassing. He had used to ask her to be his girlfriend almost every day as a sort of joke, although there was always a bit of seriousness behind the offers. And she had always shot him down, putting little effort into being nice about it. She called him arrogant and self-centered; and she was probably right. But that didn't make it any less annoying. He didn't like being called those things, true or not; especially by the girl he'd had such a fixation with. Finally, in their fifth year, he'd had enough. She had always been friends with Snivellus, who he couldn't stand. He couldn't understand how she could be friends with such an arse. He would call her awful things behind her back to try and fit in with his sodding Slytherin friends, and when James finally managed to show Lily what kind of "friend" she really had, he got no thank you. If anything, she only seemed to hate him more.

So, after that, he gave up. He'd had enough of the snob. And she called him arrogant? Fat chance. He no longer saw in her what he had before. Sure she was fit, but that was about all there was. She was a know-it-all goody two-shoes, who had an iron poker permanently rammed up her arse. He needed a girl who was a bit more relaxed, and willing to have a bit of fun every now and then. Amelia Bones, for example, seemed like she'd be a good time. She was quite fit, as well, if not as much as Evans. But he didn't mind that. She made up for it in other areas. He looked right at her until she felt his gaze and looked back. He winked at her and, to his satisfaction, she turned bright red.

Lily faltered a bit in her monologue (that twit Potter probably didn't even know the rules) when she saw that Amelia's face was a bright red color. She thought perhaps something was wrong, until she followed Amelia's gaze right to where Potter was standing on her left and saw that stupid smirk on his face. Lily simply rolled her eyes and continued explaining everything to the new-comers.

When she was done, she went back to her seat, as well as James. Thankfully, she had brought along a Muggle book to read for the duration of the train ride. She didn't much feel like listening to Amelia gush over how good-looking Potter was. A few minutes passed, though, and suddenly Lily realized something. She would be sharing the Head Dorm with Potter.

Bollocks! she thought.

She gasped out loud, taken aback that she had thought such a word. The conversations around her stopped momentarily while people looked over at her, and she could feel herself blushing as she stared determinedly down at her book.

What, with her non-goodbye to Petunia and her parents, and Potter being Head Boy, this year wasn't going at all how she'd hoped. Remus was supposed to be Head Boy, not Potter! Speaking of Remus... Lily looked around the compartment and realized for the first time that he wasn't in the Prefects' compartment at all. So, he wasn't even a Prefect? Was Dumbledore off his head?

Lily silently told herself to calm down. She tried thinking on the bright side. She would probably hardly see Potter, anyway. They would have to patrol together, of course, but other than that, she could avoid him easily. She would just stay in her room whenever they were in the dorm together. That solved that problem. And really, she couldn't have that many classes with him; she seriously doubted that he was interested in Arithmancy or Ancient Runes. Really, outside of Head duties, she would hardly see him at all.

The tight knot of anxiety that had formed in her chest loosened, and she was much more at ease as she delved back into her book.

The next thing she knew, she was being shaken awake by a pair of strong hands, and a deep voice was calling her name: "Lily."

She thought it was really a pleasant way to wake up. That is, until she opened her eyes and saw who it was.

"What's going on, Potter?" she asked, looking around the compartment to find that they were the only two occupying it. She jumped up and stepped away from him.

"Relax, Evans," James said, annoyed. Does this girl ever take a break? Just when he had been thinking how nice she looked when she was sleeping... That must be the only time she ever relaxed. "I just thought I should wake you up, since no one else did. We're back. And you'd better get changed, quick."

With that, he left the compartment. Lily panicked for a moment, before going to fetch her robes and change. She stepped off of the train and managed to catch the last carriage up to the castle with Potter and a couple of fourth years. Lily didn't speak to him the whole way up to the castle, and he didn't try to speak to her.

As the carriage pulled closer to the castle, though, all thoughts of Potter left her mind, to be replaced with familiar excitement. She was finally back. And as she stepped through the large doors of Hogwarts and into the Great Hall, she couldn't help but feel that she was finally home.

(Updated) A/N: So, like I said, a bit rough. If you made it this far, though, I'm really grateful, and I appreciate it so much. In the A/Ns for the next few updates, you'll probably see me apologizing for the "long length" of the chapters. That's probably the funniest thing to me, now, looking back. I was so paranoid about trying to keep my chapters really short, because I thought that's what most readers preferred. I learned pretty quickly, though, that that's not the case. Hahah. ;)

Also, I feel compelled to warn you guys that Arthur and Molly (Weasley, of course) make a very AU appearance in the next chapter. However, it's just a small bit of the chapter, and it's more like a cameo appearance than anything else. They haven't even been mentioned since, lol. When I first started writing this fic, I had no idea what I was doing, and I wasn't nearly concerned enough about trying to keep things somewhat canon. Anyway, I hope you guys can forgive me, seeing as their part in the chapter is basically pointless and was, at the time, mostly for my own enjoyment.

Anyway, thanks again for reading. Lol, if I haven't talked you out of continuing the story, I'd just like to assure you that it gets better, I promise! :) As always, reviews are appreciated, and they've really helped motivate and shape this story into something so much better than it would have been otherwise.

Cheers! :)