Lily wandered down to the Great Hall alone, her thoughts lingering on last night's argument. Every remembrance brought a fresh wave of emotion somewhere between regret and indignation and Lily's face burned with tumultuous feeling. She was careful not to look over at the Slytherin table and hid behind the drape of her thick, red hair. She didn't want Severus to see her blotchy face and puffy eyes, evidence of her sleepless, painful night. A surge of outrage told her she shouldn't care how Severus saw her, but with the next shaky inhalation, she wished he would come apologize just one more time. She knew he wouldn't and even though she was in the house "where dwell the brave of heart," Lily didn't have the courage to extend an olive branch of reconciliation. Sev's fascination with the Dark Arts, his prejudice toward Muggles, and his new crowd of friends hovered between them like some murky, malevolent enchantment. She snuck a glance at the Slytherin table and there he was, almost exactly mirroring her slumped, dejected pose right down to the screen of hair hiding most of his face. Lily wondered if his bacon tasted like dust too.

"Evans, mind if I sit?"

Lily looked up at James Potter. He seemed different, smaller-Lily realized that for once, he wasn't flanked by his friends. Looking into his spirited, hazel eyes, she also realized she was furious with him. Everything from his untidy hair to the hem of his Quidditch robes provoked her and she couldn't think of a hex horrible enough for him. She shoved away from the table and stood. Her wand hand shook, but her voice was steady.

"You should be ashamed of yourself, James Potter!"

She gathered her possessions in a flurry of irritation and anguish. She couldn't help but catch Sev's eye and for a moment, the scene could have been from yesterday morning—before the Incident. Fleetingly, Severus's expression betrayed his empathy for Lily and annoyance with James, but just as quickly, his dark eyes closed off all emotion and a scowl transfigured his face. He shook his sooty, lank hair to cover his eyes and turned to Mulciber. This private rejection hurt far worse than his public jeering. After all, "Mudblood" was just a word.

She turned all of her hurt on James, who stood utterly taken aback. "So you're good at chasing a ball on a broom and you've got fan clubs in every House? You're still just an arrogant low-life to me! You spend all day hexing people less clever or popular than you just because you can. You're a bully—a great, big bully and I don't like you. Not one little bit!" Red sparks flew from her wand and set her robes on fire. "Augmenti!" she yelled, still caught up in her tirade. A flood of water soaked her and she realized James had also raised his wand. She wanted to jinx

him more than ever.

"Lily, I—"

"Save it, Potter." Lily didn't spare him or Severus Snape another glance as she rushed from the hall, followed by the excited whispers of a group of first years by the door.

Lily had a hard time concentrating on anything for the rest of the day. Severus's blank expression clung to her thoughts and, for some reason, even James's surprised and hurt face plagued her conscience. She shouldn't have blown up at James—that much was clear. Lily sat in an armchair by the common room fire, seeing straight through the ocherous flames. James pointedly ignored her and she noticed that his gang was much more subdued than usual. Remus seemed to be talking very seriously to James, while plump Peter nodded sycophantically. Only Sirius's behavior was characteristic: he slouched in his chair, twirled his wand between his fingers and bore an expression of haughty apathy while several girls toyed with his hair.

Lily appreciated that James was giving it a rest, but she regretted her temper. With all her O.W.L.S. completed, she had nothing to take her mind off things and for the first time in five years, Lily wanted to write Petunia a letter. She wouldn't, since she knew very well the fate of any letter mentioning Hogwarts, but the urge didn't leave. Tuney knew so much more about boys: she was dating Vernon Dursley and things were pretty serious. Lily didn't really like Vernon, but Tuney and he got on very well—much better than Lily and Snape or Lily and James anyway. At any rate, it didn't matter. What could she say?

Dear Tuney, Sev (you know the boy you absolutely hate) and I have had a huge fight. You were right: he is a great, big git. I still want to be his friend though.

Or Dear Tuney, Sev and I are no longer friends, but this very popular, very handsome, very boorish toe rag wants to date.

Neither of these statements would garner Petunia's sympathy. If Petunia actually responded to Lily's pleas for sisterly advice, it would most certainly be with pursed lips and an I-told-you-so attitude.

What Lily really wanted to say was: Dear Tuney, You be the freak. It's not easy. Love, Lily.

But she couldn't say any of those things. She couldn't say a word to Petunia. Every time Lily entered a room at home, Petunia left or pretended that Lily wasn't there and the one time Lily sent Petunia a letter (at the beginning of first year, in an effort to describe Hogwarts), the school owl had returned with the letter and Tuney's half of their friendship bracelet attached. Five years in the Silent Treatment Triathlon required an emotional strength that Lily didn't have anymore. Eleven was too young an age to lose your best friend and find out you're radically different from every other person you know in the whole world. At the age of fifteen, Lily felt just as small and confused. The one thought that comforted her wasn't all that comforting: maybe James would take her words to heart and stop being such a brute.

"You caused quite an uproar at breakfast," Marlene McKinnon remarked happily, as she took the armchair beside Lily.

Lily pretended intense engrossment with her Potions essay.

Marlene twined a white-blonde curl around her finger. "O.W.L.S. are done already. You can't change your Potions grade now. Slughorn swears you'll get two hundred fourteen percent." Lily didn't respond. "Why are you so upset with James? He wasn't his usual charming self in Charms."

Lily continued to study her parchment with concentrated and phony fascination. Marlene sighed and flicked her wand, Vanishing the scroll.

"We didn't even have Charms today," Lily said with irritation.

"I know, but it had a nice ring to it. I considered 'his usual beastly self in Care of Magical Creatures' but that was too long and I thought about 'he didn't possess his predictably pleasant personality in Potions' but the alliteration even sickened me—" Marlene's smile wavered as Lily tucked her feet under her body and wrapped her hands around her knees. "Oh," she murmured. "Snape?"

Lily nodded miserably and felt tears prick at her eyes. She blinked them away furiously.

"Who needs him?" Marlene shrugged and smiled brightly again. "Now, cheer up or I'll be forced to do something drastic. I am rather good at Cheering Charms or maybe, you'd prefer a little Rictusempra. I remember that you're quite ticklish." Lily looked into Marlene's gray-green eyes where the firelight danced like little, flaming imps and she hadn't the heart to tell her that all she wanted was a Time-Turner, or at the very least, a small taste of the Draught of Living Death—wake her up when Snape figured out his friends were scum and that Lily had already forgiven him. Before Lily could rattle off some excuse about why she was going to bed at eight on a Friday night, a peal of laughter rent the air. She glanced over and saw Sirius and James jinxing a first year boy so that he danced uncontrollably. Her fellow prefect, Remus, sat with a book on his lap, but his eyes were on Lily. He seemed wary and alert.

"Finite Incantetem!" Lily murmured and the boy collapsed to the ground with relief. "Five points from Gryffindor." She didn't raise her voice or take her eyes from James. At Peter's grating whine, she clarified, "Each. Sirius, James, and Remus, I'll be reporting the three of you to McGonagall."

The common room was quieter than it'd ever been with so many people. James brought his hand to his hair as if to muss it, but thought better of it. He shrugged. "Fair enough, Evans, for me and Sirius. What'd poor Remus do?"

She passed a contemptuous glance over the four of them. Sirius, as usual, looked arrogant and amused, Peter's plump face was slavish and adoring, James seemed to be tiptoeing the line of belligerency, and Remus stared at his book. Lily shook her head. "Absolutely nothing."