A sharp, stinging snap across her backside made Lily yelp in pain, a loud disturbance in a classroom full of students practicing silent spells. She had been sparring with Alice and her friend lowered her wand in confusion. It was understandable considering the fact that she had felt Lily deflect her last spell. The force of it had even blown her back a step.

Rubbing her smarting rear, Lily shot James a furious look, but he was far too busy offering one of his students some helpful advice to do something so unnecessary and petty. Unfortunately he was also grinning so wickedly that it left little doubt in her mind that he was, in fact, the culprit. Biting her lip, she silently cast a tickling charm at him. Catching the movement, his wand flicked up automatically to block, but he was still pretending not to be attacking her which meant he didn't see the subtle upward twitch that followed.

"Lily...?" Alice whispered curiously.

"Wait just a second," she murmured, blocking his next spell and smiling in anticipation.

Without warning, his face turned red and he spun to glare at her. "Evans!"

"Yes Professor?" she replied innocently.

"Ten points from Gryffindor for attacking a teacher," he announced as he stalked across the room.

"A bit unfair, that," Lily mused skeptically. "Especially considering the fact-"

"Keep going and it'll be detention," he warned.

He stopped directly in front of her, putting his hands on his hips to glare at her through the thick sheen of laughter in his eyes. She was sure to everyone else he looked livid. Her own eyes were sparkling with humor, but she tossed her hair over her shoulder and leveled him with a look of haughty disdain.

She raised her eyebrows at him. "Detention? That's rich since you attacked me when my back was turned!"

"It was a learning exercise, Evans," he explained impatiently. "You can't always expect an attack to come from the front-"

"Excuse me for following the rules you set up at the beginning of class!" Lily practically shouted.

"Clearly you can't even keep up with the simplest improvisation," James sneered, turning away while he rumpled his hair agitatedly. "I'll need to see you after class, Evans."

She could practically feel the pitying looks she was getting from her classmates and she knew what they were thinking without even hearing the whispers. Poor thing. Why was he so hard on her? Were they really dating? How did he expect her to perform adequately when he didn't play by the rules? She had to bite her lip against laughter as James furiously dismissed the class. He sounded so angry that no one was anxious to linger for the ensuing argument.

He waited until the last footsteps had receded before turning back to her with an incredulous look. "Really, Lily? Where did you even learn that spell?"

She grinned unrepentantly as she took a seat on the corner of his desk. "Sirius."

"Okay, I'm never leaving you alone with him again," James sighed, rumpling his hair as he took his place in front of her. After glancing down at his all too obvious erection, his eyebrows lifted and he gave her a wry smile. "Care to give me a hand with what you started?"

"What? Here?" she giggled, flushing and glancing nervously over her shoulder.

His eyes sparkled as he tried to scowl at her. Putting his hands on her knees, he said, "You need to take responsibility for your actions, love. I saw you bending over to pick up your wand earlier. That was direct provocation-"

"How else would you expect me to retrieve it?" Lily laughed, scooting obligingly forward as he moved between her legs.

"-then you insist on wearing these damned short little skirts," he accused, smoothing his hands up her thighs for emphasis.

"It's called a uniform and if you find it distracting you can take it up with the headmaster," she shot back playfully. Cupping his hands around her rear, he pulled her forward to kiss her and she turned her face away. "I am not shagging you in the Defense room, James Potter. What happens if Beetle-?"

"Fine," he sighed impatiently, releasing one hand to drag that mouldering parchment out of his back pocket. He didn't stop her as she leaned forward to look when he tapped it with his wand. He raised an eyebrow over the spidery lines before nodding. "Empty storage cupboard two corridors down should do it."

"Be still my heart," she laughed as he quickly stowed it before tossing her over his shoulder and sprinting for the hallway. "Why can't we just go to our rooms?"

"It's your fault. You're the one that made the matter all urgent," he hissed, skirting past the open door of Professor Binns' classroom before dodging into the empty cupboard. Kicking the door shut behind him, he locked it without even using his wand as he dropped her to her feet and swept her against the far wall, clattering an empty bucket in the process.

Giggling against his lips, she hushed him as she dug her fingers into his hair. "These walls aren't soundproof, you know."

"Then somebody's going to have to learn to be quiet," he teased, fumbling with his trousers as he spread a line of hot kisses over her throat. Catching her thighs, he lifted her easily and pinned her to the wall with his body before clawing her knickers out of the way.

"James! Someone's coming," she gasped in a panic when she heard a step outside the door.

"It's probably Wormtail wanking outside again," he murmured as he adjusted himself at her entrance.

"Again?" she asked in a panic, beginning to struggle.

He gave her a wry look. "It was a joke, Lily."

"It had better be," she warned him angrily. "Put me down, James. I don't want to do this here."

He frowned in disapproval, but loosened his hold on her so that she could set her feet down. "Don't give me that, Evans. You're already wet and I'm about to explode."

"Good, then you won't have any trouble finishing yourself off," she replied airily, pushing past him toward the door.

He caught her before she could take another step and dragged her back against him. His voice was so low that it sent tremors across her skin as he murmured, "What about you?"

"I'll be fine," she insisted, trying not to laugh since she was trying to be angry.

"It's dangerous to keep everything all pent up. You're liable to have an accident," he teased, combing her hair over her shoulder to nuzzle her ear more persuasively than any argument. "Don't be cross, Lily."

Against her will, she felt herself weaken. It was irritating considering the fact that it was supposed to be teenage boys with uncontrollable hormones. Dammit, she probably wanted him as much as he wanted her. Even without the spell. Her entire body throbbed as he pulled up her skirt and slipped his fingers inside her panties. After just a moment of his tender assault, she released her tense stance.

"Fine," she sighed, tugging away and bending over before giving him a wry look. "Just until the bell rings."

He lifted her skirt and slipped her knickers down in a rush before giving her a wicked grin. "You don't know how good you look from this angle, love. Yes, even when you're glaring at me."

She turned away so that he wouldn't see her smile, pressing her hands to the rough stone wall for balance as he put his hands on her hips and nudged her gingerly. Biting her lip against a moan, she shot him an irritated look. "I thought you were in a hurry."

"I am," he agreed, penetrating so suddenly that she nearly screamed. He laughed as she fought to stifle each moan elicited by a hard thrust. "It's funny, but I always figured you'd like it rough."

"Hush up, Potter," she grumbled, her cheeks rosy with embarrassment.

Even with lunch they were late to class. She blushed under Sirius' knowing grin, especially when James mimed about Peter wanking off. To cover her awkwardness, she studiously ignored them all for the rest of the period. Honestly, did he have to tell his mates everything?

"Looks like someone's got her knickers in a twist," Alice observed as the final bell blessedly released them into the hallway. "Did Professor Potter lay into you after we left?"

She shot her friend an irritated look. "How does everybody know about this already? Am I wearing a sign?"

In the face of her bad mood, Alice's grin was buoyant. "Come on, Lily. I think I know you a little better than that. Besides, the sex wouldn't be half so good if you didn't spend a few minutes screaming at each other beforehand."

"Don't-" She winced as James slipped his arm around her shoulders.

"Alright Alice?" he greeted her cheerfully.

The blonde lifted an unimpressed eyebrow at him. "'Lo James. Are you preparing to kidnap my friend?"

"Not at the moment, but I'll get back to you with a ransom demand when the time comes," he drawled, reaching up to rumple his hair. "Not to put too fine a point on it, but it'll be something to the nature of 'If you ever want to see your friend again' and an exorbitant amount of chocolate. You might want to start storing up now."

Lily couldn't make eye contact with anyone until Sirius unceremoniously slugged her in the shoulder. "I didn't teach you that spell so that you could abuse it, Lily."

"What exactly did you think she would do with it then, Padfoot?" Remus chuckled.

Sirius gave him a sour look. "Spoken like a man who has no idea how terrible it is to have a raging stiff in the middle of McGonagall's lectures. I still haven't forgiven you for that one, mate."

"And I thought we made a pact never to use it again," James shot back sternly.

"I didn't use it," Sirius insisted with an evil grin.

"What are you lot going on about now?" Alice asked innocently.

The boys exchanged a look before Remus shrugged his shoulders. "Sirius was teasing Peter about wanking one day, so I came up with a spell to get back at him. Most of the... er... arousal spells and potions don't quite work, but this one is very... effective. Drove him mad trying to figure out what was happening when he got a hard on each time he fought with Peter."

"Once he did figure it out," Peter continued, "well, it was all-out war then, wasn't it? We eventually agreed to a cease fire-"

"Pun definitely intended," Sirius interjected humorously.

"Figured the spell was too powerful to be abused," Peter concluded solemnly.

Alice frowned at the four of them before giving James a skeptical look. "Are you really complaining that your gorgeous girlfriend hit you with an arousal spell in the middle of class that was so potent you had to drag her to the nearest broom cupboard and shag her senseless?"

Rumpling his hair, James gave her an unabashed grin. "Not when you put it like that."

Her face was hot enough to melt, but she didn't resist when James dropped his arm from her shoulders to link his fingers with her own. For some reason, it made her feel better. Like he was on her side no matter what. She gave him a shy smile.

"That reminds me," Alice said suddenly, leveling him with a hard look. "What are you doing for Lily's birthday? And please do keep in mind that I'll hex you if it has anything at all to do with the Forbidden Forest or pumpkins. Not after last year-"

"Right. Birthday," James said uncomfortably. Lily couldn't help noticing that for once he didn't rumple his hair even though he sounded woefully unprepared as he avoided her gaze. "When was it again?"

She frowned at him. "The thirtieth."

"Full moon," Sirius filled in meaningfully, making Lily's stomach drop.

He wouldn't... would he? He wouldn't miss her birthday to go on a lark with his friends? Was it selfish of her to want him to give up just one full moon to stay with her? After a moment, she forced a smile. "Don't worry about it, James. I'm sure we can celebrate later if you're busy."

The complacent statement was obviously enough to make Alice's blood boil and she shot her friend a sharp look. "It's a Sunday, Lily. It's not like he'll be doing homework. What plans could he possibly have?"

"Oh, there are always... things," he said weakly. "But I should be free most of the day."

"Should be? You're planning around the girl you'd be willing to die for?" Alice sneered incredulously.

She was not nearly so magnanimous as Lily. Not to mention she hadn't forgotten the pointless hell he had put her best friend through through just to be able to hold hands with her in broad daylight. Lily didn't ask, but she knew Alice thought he wasn't worth the trouble. "It's fine, Alice. I know how busy he is."

"Don't worry, love," Sirius said cheerfully. "We'll think of something."

Clearly skeptical, Alice frowned at the lot of them before Frank arrived behind her. "Sorry I'm late. What are we talking about?"

In an instant, she smiled and slipped her arm around him. Lily couldn't help getting the feeling she was just a little smug. After all, Frank would never throw her over on her birthday to spend time with his mates. She tried not to let that fact irritate her as Alice shot James one last dark look. "Well, you had better have a ruddy brilliant gift for her, Potter, or I'll hunt you down and gut you like a newt."

"A newt?" Sirius repeated humorously.

"Present," James nodded vaguely. "Right..."

"Are you kidding me?" Alice cried. "Her birthday is in two days!"

Frank restrained her from lunging at him with a little effort and smiled apologetically. "I'm sure whatever he does will be great, Al. Have a little faith."

The blond snorted impatiently before announcing she had some homework to do and heading swiftly toward the library. Shooting them an apologetic look, Frank rushed to catch up. Once they were out of sight, James gave her a hesitant smile. "Are you really okay with me taking the night off? I mean, the lads need me around in case Moony gets out of control."

"It's fine," she said quickly, trying to ignore the fact that it didn't feel very fine at all. God, she was such a spoiled little kid. It was one birthday. It didn't matter. Especially if he spent the whole day with her. He didn't need to be there all night as well.

He grinned down into her face, stroking his fingers over her cheek. "You really are the best."

She glanced around and found his friends regarding her with similar looks of warm approval. So none of them had any problem with this either? She really was being stupid. With an effort, she pushed away her disappointment and went up on tiptoe to kiss him.

"Um, no rush or anything, but we should really be going, Prongs," Peter interrupted awkwardly.

"Right," James agreed, pulling back before she could even kiss him and giving her a warm smile. "I've gotta go, love."

She frowned in surprise. "Go where?"

His eyebrows flicked as he gave her a devilish grin and moved to join his friends, waving as he went. "It's a secret. I'll see you tonight, yeah?"

"Oh... okay," she called nervously.

She didn't see him for the rest of the evening. The next morning, she woke from a fitful sleep cold and alone on the couch in the common room. The fire had gone out and there was ice on the inside of the windows from the storm that was raging outside. She sat up slowly, frowning when she realized she had fallen asleep waiting for him. A quick check showed her what she already guessed: his room was empty. He wouldn't have left her there if he had come in anyway. Her heart began to flutter in panic as she quickly got dressed and rushed to the Great Hall.

He was there. Laughing and joking with his friends. He looked happy. Perfectly safe.

She let out the breath she hadn't realized she was holding as her legs began to shake. Dropping heavily to the closest bench, she put a hand to her racing heart and shook her head. She had thought... What? That he had gone out on some dangerous mission and something terrible had happened? That he would do something like that without telling her so that she wouldn't worry?

"Lily, are you alright?" Alice asked as she entered the Great Hall. "You look like you've seen a Dementor." She paused to take in her disheveled appearance and put a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Do you know you're wearing two different shoes?"

"I'm fine," she said automatically, feeling foolish for getting so frightened. It wasn't like he had never spent a night out with the boys before. It was just that he usually told her. And her dreams... Frowning skeptically, Alice helped her to her feet and turned to leave. "Where are we going?"

"To the infirmary," Alice said gently. "You're freezing and terribly pale."

It was useless to resist as Alice bullied her out of the room. She did feel a little fuzzy, after all. And her heart rate wasn't returning to normal. She was trembling by the time she entered the infirmary and Madame Pomfrey was quick with a potion before tucking her into one of the beds. Alice stroked her hair away from her face as the sleeping draught began to take effect.

"I don't want to sleep," she complained in a gravelly voice.

She hadn't been sleeping well lately. She'd been having nightmares about Voldemort and Megan. Dreams of losing everyone she loved. James let her sleep in his room whenever she was frightened, but she hadn't told him about it. She knew he probably guessed. He could always tell what she was thinking.

Alice tsked her impatiently. "It's the fastest way to get you better. Madame Pomfrey says you've got a cold."

"I'm fine," she insisted weakly. "I want to see James."

"You'll be asleep by the time he gets here," Alice told her reasonably.

She tried to catch her hand, but found she could barely move. Fighting furiously against the potion, she mumbled, "I want... Don't let him... leave me... Alice..."

By the time she woke up, she was alone. The sun was setting through the windows and she sat up cautiously. Taking careful stock of herself, she was pleased to find that she really felt fine now. Warm, comfortable, and totally refreshed, even if she was starving. The bed creaked as she shifted and she looked up when she heard Madame Pomfrey's heels clicking on the stone floor.

"So you decided to finally wake up, Evans?" she said pleasantly, her hands deftly moving to check her pulse. "Mr. Potter was certain I'd given you too much potion when you didn't come round at all yesterday."

"Hang on... what day is it?" Lily asked in surprise. How long had she been asleep? She hadn't had any dreams. She didn't remember anything out of the ordinary.

"Sunday, dear," the nurse replied quickly.

Lily's heart dropped as she began to scramble out of the covers. "Shit! Shit! Shit!"

"Evans, I really think you should rest," Madame Pomfrey warned vainly.

"Rested enough! I've got to go," she insisted, throwing herself out of bed and pelting toward the door. "Thank you!"

She could have cried with frustration when she got to the room and found he had already gone. The last rays of sunlight were disappearing over the hills as she looked around frantically. He hadn't even left a note. It shouldn't have upset her. There was no way for him to know when she would wake up. But it did upset her. She wanted to see him. She couldn't believe she'd lost more than a day!

"Lily?" Alice called from the common room. She met her in the hallway and gave her a relieved hug. "What's going on? Madame Pomfrey said you just ran out-"

"I slept too long," Lily explained in a soft voice. "I missed him."

"He didn't even wait around to see if you were okay?" Alice asked furiously. "Why were you so exhausted anyway? What's he been doing to you-?"

"Nothing, Alice," she insisted quickly. "It's not James. It's me. He hasn't done anything wrong. Please, just-"

Seeing that her friend was nearly dissolving into tears, Alice pulled her into a tight hug. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry, Lily. It's your birthday. You shouldn't be upset on your birthday."

She returned the embrace gratefully, glad to have someone to hold on to. Her dreams were making her crazy. James had probably guessed that they would all along. He'd tried to shield her from this paranoia. He didn't want her to be afraid like he was.

"Come on," Alice said quickly, pulling back from the hug to smile into her face. "Let's make it a party anyway. We can sneak down into the kitchens for snacks and have a whole girl's night in Gryffindor Tower. It'll be totally awesome."

She couldn't stay upset with that logic, so she shoved her fears and anxiety away and giggled as she rushed to put on her pajamas before following Alice out into the hallway. "Hang on. Since when do you know where the kitchens are?"

"Frank told me," she whispered, glancing around a corner before sneaking down the stairs.

It wasn't quite curfew, so the stealth was pointless, but it did serve to make it seem more like an adventure. Besides, Lily wasn't incredibly keen to be caught in the halls in her pajamas and slippers. They nearly sprinted across the Entrance Hall from the main staircase and dashed quickly into one of the side corridors.

"Bollocks! It's Filch," Alice swore, catching her hand and darting toward an unfamiliar hallway.

"Where?" Lily asked, glancing back in surprise. She hadn't even heard anyone nearby.

"Don't worry about it. We can go this way," Alice assured her, taking the steps to the dungeons two at a time.

Frowning, Lily was forced to jog after her, fighting the urge to shiver as the frigid dungeon air closed around them like water. "Alice, I don't think this is the way-"

"Sure it is," her friend told her cheerfully. "It's just the scenic route."

They twisted farther through the passages until Lily was nearly dizzy and completely lost. Right. Left. Left. Third door to the left. Secret passage in the back of a cupboard. "Are we going to the kitchens or Narnia? I can't tell anymore."

"Here we are!" Alice sang cheerfully, stopping short in front of an old tapestry depicting a ship of sailors in a desperate pitched battle against a sea monster.

Lily stared at it blankly. This didn't look anything like the entrance to the kitchens. She glanced curiously at her friend. "Alice-"

Ignoring her, she pulled the tapestry aside like a drape and hurried out of sight, leaving Lily no choice but to rush in after her. Stepping into the room was like walking onto a different planet. She paused quizzically as she was enveloped in a heavy shroud of steamy, warm mist. Thick plants lined the path in front of her, spiking through the haze like sentinels in a secret garden. She could hear water falling somewhere nearby.

"Alice?" she called hesitantly, her voice echoing soft and uncertain in the cavernous room. There was no response. Other than the water, it was eerily still and silent. Drawing out her wand, she stepped carefully forward. "Alice?"

She followed the trail until it opened out on a massive swimming pool. It was fed by a waterfall at the far end that seemed to descend from the soaring, vaulted ceiling. Towering above her, she could just make out the heavy drift of snow against the dark blue sky through the glass dome. The bottom of the pool was etched in a vibrant mosaic that seemed to be a copy of the tapestry at the entrance. Alice was nowhere to be seen.

"Happy birthday, Lily," James suddenly said behind her.

She let out a small, surprised scream before spinning to face him. "James? What are you-? What's going on? Where's Alice?"

He grinned at her frightened, angry look, but didn't even attempt to answer her questions. Catching her hands, he tugged her gently into his arms. She frowned when she realized he wasn't wearing a shirt, but it was so dim that she could make out little else. "Did you know that Hogwarts had a hidden swimming pool? I'd always heard rumors. Took us ages to find it."

"What about Remus?" she asked uncertainly.

"Come now," he interrupted in a teasing voice, "did you really think I'd miss your birthday?"

Tears sprang to her eyes as she looked up at him. "James, you-"

"The full moon was last night," he told her gently. "Sorry. I lied because I wanted it to be a surprise."

"Wanted what-?" she asked in hopeless confusion.

Lights sprang up around them before she could even finish the thought and she spun to find her friends emerging from hiding places in the greenery, shouting surprise and grinning like fools, all decked out in swim wear. Even Remus was there, looking pale and wan but no less cheerful. Alice rushed forward to give her an apologetic hug.

"They only just let me in on it after you left the infirmary," Alice told her sincerely. "Are you surprised?"

"We've got cake," Remus told her cheerfully.

"And enough liquor to get everyone pissed for a fortnight," Peter added with a hearty grin.

"I found you a bathing suit," Sirius added, offering her a brightly wrapped package before leaning over to kiss her cheek.

She glanced back to find James smiling proudly. Her eyes were drawn automatically to the thick bandage around his shoulder. Catching the look, he grinned and took her hand. "Let's go get you changed, then."

Of course this sort of thing caused plenty of smirks all around, but Lily didn't resist as he led her into the cover of the bushes. Once they couldn't see the others, he stopped and nodded pointedly toward the package.

"What happened to your arm?" she asked in concern.

"Moony got a little rough last night," he said simply, tugging on the bow to help her.

She gave him a pleading look, but he was avoiding her gaze. Sighing resolutely, she unwrapped the swimsuit, which she was pleased to find wasn't as scandalous as she had feared, and began to change. Instinctively, she turned her back to him.

She didn't notice him move behind her until something small and hard dropped lightly against her chest. She glanced over her shoulder to find him fastening the clasp of a necklace. His eyes flicked up to meet hers and he smiled. Biting her lip, she lifted the miniature magnifying glass that dangled at the end of the silver chain. It was wrought perfectly and set with moonstones, making it almost painfully beautiful. Frowning, she gave him a curious look.

"What's this?" she asked blankly.

"Your birthday present," he explained unnecessarily. "Well, part of it. The glass is enchanted."

Turning, she tilted her head at him. "Enchanted for what?"

"So you'll know if I'm lying to you," he said earnestly, reaching up to gingerly rub his hair. "I'm not going to keep anything from you anymore. No more secrets. You get to know everything from now on."

Fingering the pendant thoughtfully, she glanced down at the clear glass. All at once, she realized that this was what she'd been missing. She'd been so afraid of him lying to protect her. Terrified he'd just disappear one day and never come back. And he'd known exactly what to do.

Grinning, she threw her arms around him, hugging him so hard that it knocked him back a step. He chuckled, squeezing her tightly against him as he dipped his head to kiss her. She closed her eyes and gave in willingly, knowing that nothing could harm them now. They weren't alone anymore and together they were invincible. Together they would save the world.