I'm sorry for the long delay. The holidays, friends, and family threw off my writing, and I had to focus on my book for a while. Thank you so much to everyone who still visits this story. I know waiting is difficult, and I really do appreciate your patience.
Thank you to my beta, sparklyscrunchies, for editing!
Chapter 118 Recap- Severus confronts Cassiopeia. It ends in an outburst, and the two part ways. Lily and the Marauders play Quidditch at night. James is still dealing with Charlus's death, but appears to be making some progress. Sirius is relieved, but Lily and Remus aren't fully convinced.
Chapter One Hundred and Nineteen- Deception
''I want an eclair."
It wasn't the first dessert Regulus had mentioned, and it certainly wasn't the first time murder had crossed Severus's mind. He glanced around the crumbling stone walls that made up the Room, which now looked more like a dungeon than a training space. It was impossible to tell how much time had passed, but Severus knew the answer: too much and not nearly enough.
"Or a treacle tart," Regulus continued, idly pacing. "I'm not picky."
Seeing Regulus's wand loose at his side, Severus suddenly slashed his own in the air. Regulus yelped and dodged the jet of red light.
"What was that for?" Regulus was breathing heavily in the corner.
At least his timing was impeccable even if his instincts were off. Severus stifled the impulse to send another Stinging Hex his way. "You weren't paying attention."
"Is that what you plan on telling Potter when he has a wand at your throat in battle?" Severus's black eyes were hard as they stared down Regulus. The younger boy shifted, and Severus finally wondered if the message was beginning to sink in.
"No, but we could at least have a break—"
"You're the one who wanted to practice," Severus interrupted, sourly thinking of the Potions book tucked away in his book bag. He could have been doing real work, but instead, he was forced to spend his evening listening to Regulus's grumbling, which was only slightly less painful than witnessing his sloppy hexes. "Your focus is abysmal."
'I'm not that bad," Regulus said defensively. "I beat Wilkes in the last meeting."
"Congratulations," Severus said. "Maybe you'll die in two days instead of one."
Regulus was silenced.
"It's war, Regulus." Severus couldn't keep the exasperated edge in his voice away. He stared at his wand, and the headlines that had haunted the Daily Prophet for years seemed to all come surging back. He felt an impatient twitch in his fingers. That should have been him out there, making headlines, making a name for himself, doing something worthwhile. "Every second counts. You can't look away."
"Ten minutes," Regulus wheedled, and Severus's head shot up in annoyance that was already bordering on murderousness when he felt himself fly backwards, landing hard against the damp stone wall. Groaning, he managed to make himself slump up, and Regulus's grinning face loomed over him.
"Every second, Severus."
His voice was mocking, and his brown eyes, still bright, were sharper than Severus had realized. Between that and the pain in his neck, Severus hissed and snatched his fallen wand. "Sectumsempra!"
Regulus slashed his wand twice and Severus's own curse came hurtling back at him. He blocked it, already on his feet. "Engorgio skullus!"
Regulus was quicker than he had been that entire evening, his wand motions swift, the spells ready on his tongue. He had improved, and even more irritating, he had managed to hide it. Severus shot another Sectumsempra his way, fuming. Much to his gratification, it grazed Regulus's cheek.
"We should go to the kitchens after this," Regulus said cheerfully, paying no mind to the blood trickling down his jaw.
Severus hurled a Knee Reversal Hex at him in response. Regulus returned the favor with a Jelly-Legs Jinx.
"I still want an eclair."
Severus's wand flashed out, but he failed to block it. His legs wobbled as he fell forward, his wand clattering to the ground. Blood boiled in his veins, but still, he couldn't manage to swallow it. Regulus. He was about to lose to Regulus.
"You owe me one," Regulus was saying, and in that moment, he looked like his brother more than ever.
Severus nearly laughed, but there wasn't time for that. There wasn't time to think. As Regulus went on chattering, Severus dove for his wand, the hex silent on his lips.
Regulus's limbs snapped together and he fell backwards, as rigid as a board. Severus almost smirked despite his rubber-like legs, and once he had freed himself from the Jelly-Legs Jinx, he took his time to stand. Waiting would only do Regulus good.
His neck was still sore from his earlier collision, but the pain was forgotten when he strode over to the fallen Black. This time, Severus did smirk, watching as Regulus's brown eyes anxiously darted back and forth. "Didn't you learn from your brother? Arrogance won't get you far."
If Regulus hadn't been frozen, he would have flinched, which was entirely deserved in Severus's opinion. He had been the fool once; he wouldn't be again. Taking a moment longer to relish Regulus's discomfort, Severus then waved his wand. "Finite."
Regulus's limbs fell apart. He sat up, gingerly rubbing his back. Severus was silent. Regulus touched the blood on his cheek, frowning at his fingertips and then frowning at Severus.
"You're cranky today."
"You're intolerable," Severus said shortly.
"I thought you would be pleased," Regulus said, and already, he was sounding cheerful again. He was like a meddlesome candle that wouldn't blow out. "I'm making progress. I'm better than Mulciber now. Maybe even Rosier."
"You're sounding a lot like Potter."
"Rosier is quick, but he doesn't pay attention," Regulus said, unperturbed. "He doesn't ever predict his opponent. He only reacts."
"Goodbye, Regulus." Severus was already heaving his book bag onto his shoulder. Regulus was at his heels, still prattling.
He really should have gone with murder.
"You can't be angry," Regulus said when they stepped into the seventh floor corridor. Severus still hadn't spoken. "Not because I did well."
"Well" still hadn't been enough to beat him, but Severus resisted the urge to point that out.
"Is it Cass?"
Severus nearly stopped walking. "Don't be stupid."
"I don't think it would be stupid," Regulus said.
Silence. Severus kept his eyes straight ahead.
"Is it... you know who."
"The Dark Lord and I are on pleasant terms these days," Severus said dryly.
Regulus rolled his eyes. "Not him. Her."
In spite of himself, Severus's eyes darted to the upcoming portrait of the Fat Lady. He could see a hint of her pink silk dress, blurred in the distance, and he was bitterly reminded of how it had looked that night, glimmering in the shadows, when Lily had refused to come out. And then she had.
"No," Severus said coldly, and even Regulus had the sense to drop it.
It was late, but the Slytherin dungeon was still full when they returned, a crowded circle by the fire and intense match of Wizard's chess on the side. Severus was in the mood for neither and went straight for the corner, pretending not to hear their laughter or Cassiopeia's low snicker among them.
He pulled out his Potions book. Regulus took the seat across from him, and at Severus's look, he only gave an innocent shrug. "I have work to do too."
Severus despised being babysat. Savagely, he turned the page.
Severus's hand froze mid-turn. Slowly, he looked up at Regulus, and much to his aggravation, the sudden panic written all over his pure-blooded features confirmed that yes, Bartemius Crouch Junior was right beside him. Severus scowled at him.
"I'm working," he said curtly.
Anyone with an ounce of knowledge on social cues would have been able to pick up that hint. Barty was no such person. He sat down on the sofa beside Severus.
"I can see that."
Severus's eyes met Regulus's briefly. Regulus made a slashing motion with his hand, a little too hopefully. Severus stifled an irritated little sigh. He couldn't very well curse Barty in a roomful of Slytherins. He was a pure blood, after all.
"You're bleeding, Regulus," Barty said after no one had spoken. He politely held out his handkerchief.
"I know," Regulus said. He didn't take the handkerchief. "Severus hexed me."
"Oh," Barty said. He blinked, his eyes too big for his scrawny body, and Severus wondered if the rest of him would ever catch up. "You have an interesting relationship."
His eyes weren't just big. They were sharp, roving between the two of them. Severus stiffened. "What do you want?'"
"Straightforward," Barty observed, and Severus thought he caught a ghost of a grin flicker across his face. "That's the Muggle part of you. Pure bloods prefer subtlety."
"Your father is a blood traitor," Severus told him coldly.
"He's also in politics." Barty was unbothered. "Do you like chess?" He nodded at the board a few tables away.
"No," Severus said.
"Too bad." Barty looked genuinely disappointed. "I'm very good."
More silence. Regulus looked pained.
"I was wondering if you had thought about our last conversation," Barty said, and this time, Regulus looked curious and slightly miffed. Severus had never told him about the strange Easter holiday encounter.
Severus remained stone-faced. "No."
"I think we could have a very useful friendship." Barty was no longer looking at him. He was looking at everyone else in the common room, his eyes lingering on those by the fireplace.
"Severus is a terrible friend," Regulus said. "He never remembers my birthday."
"January second," Severus said without a glance his way. Barty was still looking at the fireplace. And then his gaze swung back to Severus.
"You're a year above me," Barty said.
"So is the rest of sixth year."
"They don't like me."
"I don't like you."
This time, Severus was certain he saw a grin. "That's why the half-blood part is important. I could help you."
"I don't need help."
"And you could help me," Barty continued as if Severus hadn't spoken. He looked at Regulus again. "You're still bleeding."
"I'm not going anywhere," Regulus said, pointedly sinking into his sofa.
Barty looked at Severus. Severus didn't say anything. Barty leaned in, his voice dropping just below his breath. "I have information."
Severus raised an eyebrow.
"My father is going to be Minister of Magic," Barty said, and in the greenish lighting of the common room, his eyes looked unusually bright. "Everyone knows it. I could help you. I could help the cause."
"You're already a Knight," Severus said calmly, but his mind was suddenly racing.
"But I'm also a Crouch. And you're a half-blood."
"Even if you hadn't reminded me twice, I still would have remembered," Severus said icily.
"This is school. What do you think will happen when we leave?" Barty's face had hardened. "Your place isn't guaranteed. Not any more than mine. We could change that."
"Severus knows more than the seventh year Knights," Regulus interrupted. "And Lucius knows that. Everyone knows that. He's guaranteed."
"Regulus." The unspoken message in Severus's voice was clear: stop talking.
"You're a Black," Barty said, almost scornfully. "Everything is guaranteed to you."
He was right. Regulus didn't understand. He didn't know. Severus's place wasn't as secure as he thought it was, as Severus needed it to be. Barty had made his point. A little too well for Severus's liking. It was as if he was trapped in the room with a glittering-eyed cobra.
He couldn't allow himself to be bitten. But he couldn't simply grab the snake and throw him out either. No, he needed to be careful.
Severus's eyes nearly flickered to the fireplace, and he could almost hear her mocking laugh. Suddenly, it was as if they were in the courtyard again, and he was pretending not to see the Marauders with a certain red-haired Gryffindor.
"Deception, Severus," Cassiopeia said disdainfully. "That's just another one of your flaws. You've never learned how to use it."
"Stop rambling." Severus never looked up from his textbook. "I'm trying to concentrate."
"It's written all over you," Cassiopeia said, leaning over his shoulder. A breeze made her hair brush against his cheek. "You don't even try to hide it. I don't know why the others can't see it. You lusting after the Mudblood."
Severus somehow refrained from ripping her hair from her skull. Instead, he kept his eyes on his book. "I can't work with you babbling stupidity in my ear."
"Oh, Severus." Cassiopeia sounded almost pitying now, and her hair tickled him again. "You're working on the same potion you finished last week."
"Deception," Cassiopeia reminded him. The word was a single breath in his ear.
And he remembered it now. Cassiopeia and the courtyard faded from his mind, but his memory still clung to that golden word. He eyed Barty beside him, careful to keep his face and voice unaffected.
"I'll consider it."
Regulus's eyes bugged out. If Barty was surprised, he didn't show it.
"That's all I ask," Barty said, and Severus could almost see him silently congratulating himself. He kept his eyes from narrowing, and Barty stood up from the sofa. "I'll let you get back to work."
Severus had already picked up his textbook when Regulus dropped down in the vacant place beside him.
"You're not really considering it, are you? He's a Crouch. He's Barty."
"Deception, Regulus." Severus never looked up, but he felt a small smile cross his lips as he turned the page.
Walking on eggshells.
Lily had heard the phrase before, but she had never truly lived it. Not until now.
It was pointless if you asked James. After all, everything was fine.
Lily was beginning to despise that word.
Her textbook was sprawled across her lap, but her quill was forgotten on the page. Lily stared across the Gryffindor common room. James was laughing.
"You're worried about him, aren't you?"
Alice was in the chair next to her, working on her Charms project. Or at least Lily had thought she had been. Now, she was watching Lily watch James.
"He's fine," Lily said automatically, and she winced at the word. She picked up her quill again and distractedly crossed out her last sentence, only to realize she needed it after all. Slowly, she began rewriting.
"It makes sense if you are," Alice said, and Lily could still feel the weight of her eyes on her. "You're close."
Lily arched an eyebrow as she stared at her parchment. She and James didn't feel close, not with a giant, ocean-sized gap between them. It didn't matter how much he smiled or how much he talked about Quidditch. Something was still lodged there, ever since that day Sirius had come to the Evanses' house with that terrible news.
"Do you think he seems different?" Lily asked, finally looking up.
Alice tucked a lock of hair behind her ear as her eyes trailed across the common room again. James was in front of the fireplace, his hand gestures elaborate. Judging from the avid attention of the fifth years around him, he seemed to be in the midst of a wildly embellished story, and Lily knew the answer before Alice did.
Sure enough, Alice swung her eyes back at Lily again, looking almost apologetic. "I think he looks normal."
"Maybe you're right," Lily said, but she didn't believe it.
James hadn't rumpled his hair even once.
Alice saw her face. "Maybe you should talk to Sirius. Doesn't he know him best?"
Sirius, who had been grinning ever since James had joined him in pranking anyone and everyone again. Alice was right, Sirius did know him best, but Remus was the only Marauder who seemed aware that anything was different. But Remus was ill again.
Lily's eyes found Sirius by the fireplace. He was still wearing that grin, but wasn't it possible that he was secretly having his doubts too? Even a sliver would be enough.
"He does," Lily said slowly.
Alice smiled. "I told you. In the meantime..." She reached over to tap Lily's forgotten parchment, and Lily winced when she saw the mess of scribbled over words.
"Right," Lily said, picking up her quill again. "We should get to work."
They worked until late, and in the morning, Lily had bags under her eyes, and she still hadn't found a chance to talk to Sirius alone. Really, she was hoping that Remus would be released from the hospital wing, but Madam Pomfrey wouldn't even allow him to have visitors.
If he wasn't feeling better by the next day, Lily silently resolved to send him chocolate.
By the time Transfiguration had ended, Lily was aggravated. James and Sirius weren't just close; they were conjoined. As they walked together in the hall, no doubt planning more havoc because trapping a screaming Filch in his office wasn't enough, Lily resorted to more Marauder-like tactics. She took out her wand and discreetly aimed it at Sirius's book bag.
"Diffindo," she whispered.
It split, and Sirius cursed.
As he and James knelt down to gather the mess of quills and parchment rolls, Lily ran up to join them, red hair flying over her shoulders. "I'll help him," she said breathlessly, already grabbing Sirius's Herbology book from an open-mouthed James. "You can't be late to Herbology again. One more and Sprout will give you detention."
"I don't care—"
"Prefect's order," Lily said briskly, and James stared at her, still looking as if he was trying to register where she'd come from. But Lily was already pushing him down the corridor.
"Excellent," Sirius muttered as he stuffed a half-eaten bar of Honeydukes chocolate into his newly Reparo-ed bag. "I just love spending detention by myself."
"Sirius," Lily interrupted, and Sirius's head jerked up at the sudden seriousness in her voice. "I want to talk to you about James."
He stared at her for one fleeting moment and proceeded to shove his Transfiguration textbook into his book bag. "What about James?"
His voice was careless, but Lily thought she detected an edge. "I'm worried about him."
"Is that why you got him free of detention?"
He was grabbing ink bottles, and Lily felt a spark of annoyance. "Forget detention. I'm serious. You must've noticed he's been acting off—"
"Because he's hexing a few Slytherins again?" Sirius looked up sharply, and Lily flinched at the unexpected ice in his cool gray eyes. "Because he pulled some pranks and wants to have fun again? In case you haven't noticed, that's James. It's always been James."
"No," Lily said, shaking her head. "It's not that. It's—"
"James is fine." Sirius swung the book bag over his shoulder without looking at her.
Lily stifled an urge to rip it from his arm. "His dad died."
"I know," Sirius said shortly, and something flickered across his face. "I was there."
Lily was rooted to the ground as he walked past her, melting into the crowd of sleep-deprived students.
"He's moody, isn't he?"
Lily didn't have to turn her head to recognize the mocking drawl of Cassiopeia Lofthouse. She ignored her and walked on, expecting the Slytherin to do the same.
What she wasn't expecting was Cassiopeia to fall in next to her.
"But he's always been that way," Cassiopeia said. Her voice was still light. "Like Severus, don't you think?"
Lily nearly stopped in her tracks.
"On second thought," Cassiopeia said, and Lily caught the edge lurking underneath, "they're nothing alike."
This time, Lily shot her a cold look. "You do know that you're talking to a tainted Mudblood?"
"Just making conversation." Cassiopeia smiled coldly. "I'll see you in Potions."
She walked ahead, her long, dark hair swishing behind her.
Lily stared after her, suddenly more flummoxed than annoyed.
She was the last one to arrive to Herbology, and everyone else was already at work in the greenhouse, learning how to extract poisons from plants. Lily slid in between Alice and Mary, careful to avoid looking at Sirius.
"You're not being careful," Alison snapped from the front, where a selection of empty vials had been spread out. Professor Sprout had already informed them that they would be sent to Slughorn for Potions ingredients.
"Sorry," Lily overheard Sirius say without trying to sound like he meant it. With a handful of vials, he left to join James, leaving Alison fuming at the scattered ones he'd left behind.
"He can be difficult sometimes," Marlene told Alison sympathetically, who instantly warmed to anyone with a grudge against Sirius.
"Both of them are," Alison said, with a sharp look at James.
Lily suddenly felt awkward.
Evidently, Alison did not, and she sat down across from them. Lily adjusted her heavy leather gloves and stared at the hemlock leaves in front of her. She was meant to draw out the essence, but she barely registered the wand by her elbow.
"I heard about what happened," Marlene said in a now sympathetic whisper, and Lily was rigid in her chair. "With James."
She flashed a conspiratorial look towards Lily, as if to say, look at this information we'll be getting! Lily stopped fidgeting with her gloves in order to kick Marlene underneath the table.
Marlene yelped, dropping her empty vial.
"She gets foot cramps," Alice patiently explained to a baffled looking Alison. Mary was staring very hard at her hemlock, but Lily thought she saw her lips twitch.
"Well," Alison said, "I'd rather not talk about James."
Lily stifled a sigh of relief and picked up her wand.
"But," Alison was frowning, "I have to say I'm still not impressed with the way he ended things. I know he was upset, but surely he should have apologized by now..."
She was still talking, her wand and vial untouched. Lily shot Marlene a dark look, one Marlene serenely pretended not to notice.
"What do you think?"
And Lily realized Alison was looking at her. She nearly dropped her hemlock essence before she could finish capping it.
"You are close to him, aren't you?"
Lily returned to sealing the vial, but from the corner of her eye, the baneberry poison in Alison's hands shimmered a deadly scarlet. She hesitated, trying to find something that wasn't an outright lie, and managed a weak shrug. "We go to the same school."
Mary coughed. Alison was still staring, and Lily was still eyeing the poison.
"They're very good friends," Marlene said brightly, and now she pretended not to notice the thunderstorm darkening Alison's face. "I like your bracelet."
As Alison's eyes darted to the gold circlet around her wrist, Lily threw Alice a helpless look.
"Um," Alice said, "I like your bracelet too."
Lily nearly dropped her head into her hands.
"Thank you," Alison said for the third time, after they all had admired her bracelet. Her sharp blue eyes found Lily again. "Are you worried about James too?"
Too? Lily set her wand down and her eyes flickered to the other side of the greenhouse. She could only see the line of his long nose and the glint of his glasses, but she could tell he wasn't working. It was normal for James, Sirius was right, but normal was oddly normal...
Lily looked back at Alison, who was watching James too, and seeing the way her face had softened, Lily could feel her stomach knot up again.
"I suppose it would be normal if I was a little worried," Lily hedged, and for a moment, she was inexplicably tempted to tell her everything.
"More than normal," Alison agreed.
Her eyes were still sharp, studying her a little too intently. She didn't like Lily. She never had. Suddenly, Lily felt like Severus, narrow-eyed and suspicious. Years ago, she wouldn't have noticed, but now she did, and it was glaring.
"But honestly," Lily said, holding her gaze, "I think he's fine."
Alice was staring at her, Marlene and Mary too, but Lily ignored them. Her green eyes were still locked with Alison's blue ones.
"Are you sure?" Alison sounded unconvinced.
"Positive." Lily forced a smile and ignored her churning stomach. "Can you pass me that Angel's trumpet?"
Marlene reached for it before Alison could. "Liar, liar, robes on fire," she hissed as she shoved the plant into Lily's hands.
"Be quiet," Lily hissed back. Alison was talking again, and the others were still looking at her, and Lily tried her best to ignore them and focused on the Angel's trumpet in front of her. She picked up her wand again, but the chatter in the greenhouse was deafening, the swishing wands and clattering vials intolerable.
She couldn't concentrate. She couldn't think.
Lily impatiently blew the hair from her face and stared at the shiny green leaves, but her fingers were tight around her wand as the undeniable truth taunted her from the other side of the greenhouse. Suddenly, everything else seemed to dim. Even the sound of Alison's piercing voice was fading. Lily's hands didn't unclench.
James wasn't fine.
James wasn't fine at all.
And Lily couldn't do anything about it.
Marie- Thanks for the review! As for why Severus finally felt guilty over Cassiopeia, I don't think there's a simple answer I could give you. It was a combination of factors, but more than anything, I think it was the fact that there's a resemblance between them, and her losing her temper and feeling powerless in her situation finally allowed that to sink in. Between that and the realization that she really wouldn't have betrayed him, I think Severus was finally able to feel something. Also, the reminder of Lily and that friendship ending didn't help matters. And thank you so much, I'm glad you enjoyed it!
Downward Spiral- This argument has become ridiculous, and I can't be bothered to continue it.
Anon- I agree with what you said to the other reviewer. I don't believe that people simply fall into good and evil. They're too complex for that. Severus is too complex for that, and while he's done evil things, I don't believe that makes him evil. Do I see him as horrible? Yes. But I think it's an insult to his character to simply dismiss him as that.
Thatguy666777- Thanks for the review! I'm also enjoying Cassiopeia, and really, she wasn't meant to be in this chapter at all, but she slipped in twice. I don't think I'll ever write her own story because she's too similar to a character in my original work, but she'll definitely be sticking around in Always.
astateofmind- Thanks of the review! I'm glad you found Severus and Cassiopeia both sympathetic because as horrible as they seem sometimes, it's my goal to make them and all of my characters seem human. I agree, Severus does not want to be alone, yet he's incapable of admitting that and everything else to himself, and that's really what causes so many problems for him.
Tiger Flower- Thanks for the review and happy birthday!
BookLover2573- Thanks for the review! To answer your question, Lily would have learned about Quidditch by watching the matches, but in my mind, they were playing a simpler version just because they had so few people playing. I had another scene with Lily and Alison planned, but I'm not sure if I'll keep it. And the genre of my book is fantasy.
BitterWarrior- Thanks for the review! James and Alison are over, but I'm planning to have more closure with them. Sadly, the information about James's dad wasn't released until after it was written here, but I'm not-so-secretly pleased about that because I don't really like that detail. Seventh year is almost here. There's going to be 3-5 more chapters of sixth year (I'm hoping I can make it three, but even though I know what's going to happen to James, I'm waiting to see how it feels written out because don't want it to feel rushed) and a chapter or two for summer.
Guest- Thank you for the link!
SwordSeer- Thanks for the review! I'm so glad that's how you see that chapter because that's what I've wanted all along. I never thought their relationship was as simple as "Snape and Lily were best friends. Snape called her a Mudblood. The end," and I've truly enjoyed trying to portray it as something more.
Lyra- Thanks for the review! I want there to be closure, but I'm also very wary of making the ending feel too perfect. I disliked the end of HP for that very reason. I know what I want to write, but I'm not sure how it'll turn out until I do, but I think I'm hoping for something bittersweet.
Anon- Thanks for the review! I agree, Lily is not a prize to be won. In some ways, I can understand the readers' frustration. A lot of people have been bullied or have experienced feeling betrayed or powerless, and in that way, they can relate to Snape. I think that makes it easier for some of them to dislike James and think, why does HE get to have what he wants? While the character they relate to is miserable and alone. I think it's really more about justice/a happy ending/what's fair, and Lily represents that. I don't think she should, but I think it's easy for some people to see her that way just because she was so significant to both James and Severus.
Lavender- Thank you so much for all of your thoughts! They're very much appreciated. About continuity, I had a word document that kept track of everything, and I lost it. I have a new one for the second half, but all of my previous notes were lost, and as lazy as it sounds, I never felt inspired to redo it. I do try to look up previous scenes when referencing them, but sometimes, I just can't find it. As for that James line, I think I did find it and I mentioned third year in case the readers didn't remember, but it's been so long that I honestly don't remember. Another reader also mentioned the name issue, and I agree. I think my problem is that I aim for it to be canon, and sometimes I worry new names/characters will make it seem less canon. Logically, I know a bigger world and more names make more sense, but it's just a weird thing I can't really explain. I really do appreciate the critique because I want to become a better writer, and as minor as some details may seem, they can make all the difference. And I agree, I like to think that James changed for James. Lily may have played a role in making him realize that he needed to grow up, but I want him to grow up for himself, not because he hopes Lily will like him back. That's just insulting to his character. I can see what you mean about the focus being on Lily's resemblance to Harry. It's difficult because we know Harry's nature is more like Lily's, but at the same time, I feel like there should be more of James there. More than just loyalty and doing the right thing (such as keeping Pettigrew alive) because I think those can also be Lily traits. I'd like to write something that's purely James. Davey Gudgeon (sadly, I had to look this up) is a Hufflepuff, or at least he was in chapter eleven. I hope I was consistent with that. I'm glad you think the Slytherin trio seems balanced in that way because that was what I was aiming for. I'm also enjoying the contrast between Severus and Barty, and I'm looking forward to exploring that. I've never really liked Barty, but I find his character and the potential there interesting. There will definitely be more about Cassiopeia. Eventually, something significant about her will be revealed, and I think it'll say a lot about her character and what she values. You are very, very right about James. I like the idea of Lily doing something she isn't proud of, and I have a few things in mind. She has a storyline in seventh year that may have an opportunity for that, and the war is another possibility. I'll have to give it more thought. To me, James and Lily have always had an odd chemistry. Even in the beginning, when I would write their scenes, they would sort of take over and everyone else would be forgotten. I don't know exactly what it is, but I know James was first drawn to Lily because she didn't adore him like everyone else. She argued with him. She stood up to him. She flat out told him when he was being stupid. I think a part of him must have respected that, or at the very least, have been curious about it. As for Lily, even though she disapproved of his behavior early on, I think a part of her liked the fact that he was always having fun, that he simply enjoyed life. It was such a difference from Severus that I think being around James was like a breath of fresh air. And yes, she disliked him for it at the same time, but once she saw that he was capable of caring about other things and people, I think an attraction was able to form.
Dreaming Away- Thanks for the review! I agree, I really wanted the Marauders to like Lily for herself. Not just because James liked her. As for your question, I think it's possible that Lily was the first to find out about Remus. I definitely think that she was at least one of the first to know, and I like the idea of her showing him that there's hope for him, that there's people who won't judge him for it or even think about it when they see him.
Tiger Flower- Thanks for the review! There was a ceremony for Charlus behind the scenes, but I didn't write one. It just didn't feel necessary.
alps- Thanks for the review! I agree, Severus lost Lily because of himself. He's really his own worst enemy. I don't like sugarcoating characters. It makes them less interesting. Flaws and mistakes are what make humans human, and without them, the story is boring.