A/N – This is a fairly long one. :-) Hope you like it!

Also, don't hate me.

The first week back after the holidays is not as relaxing as James had been hoping. All his professors seem to grasp that this is their last chance to impart all their knowledge on their seventh year students. Despite the piles of homework James has to do, he's excited for his Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson the following day. Professor Alvar had told them that they would be starting the practical execution of the Patronus Charm. James has always wanted to cast a patronus, ever since he was little and he'd seen his father cast one.

James sits in the common room going over his Transfiguration essay when Peter slams down his quill in frustration. "Damn Alvar and his ruddy patronus essay." Peter curses, crossing his arms over his chest angrily.

"You haven't finish that yet? It's due tomorrow mate." Sirius points out looking at his friend concerned. Alvar had given them all break to work on it and James, Lily, Sirius, Remus and Mary were all already finished.

Peter rolls his eyes at Sirius. "I didn't have time to do it over break. I had a lot going on." He explains.

"Well, it's not that bad, you're probably over thinking it." Remus says.

"What are you having trouble with?" Lily asks kindly, leaning across the table to him.

"This part here," Peter says pointing to a paragraph in his text-book. "It says that each person's patronus will take the form of something you find protection in. It goes on to say that your patronus is almost a part of you, something that you are in your very core." He says paraphrasing the text. "How does that make any sense?"

James looks at his friend puzzled. The text makes perfect sense to him. There has to be something else bugging Peter. Maybe he's just too embarrassed to admit it in front of the girls.

"I've had enough for tonight." Mary says rolling up her own Transfiguration essay, apparently not paying attention to the others conversation. "I need to go do something relaxing. Beth do you still have those old copies of Witch Weekly?" She asks.

"Of course, let's go." Beth says looking excited and packing away her Divination homework. Both girls go up to their dormitory, looking excited to do something fun and frivolous.

"Now, what's really bothering you, Wormy?" Remus asks, leaning in.

Peter looks up glancing at Lily sheepishly before answering. "Well, Alvar said in his last lesson before term ended that he published a paper on patronus'. I looked it up and it says that if you're an Animagus than your patronus will take the same form as your Animagus form." He explains and James understands.

"And you're wondering again why you turn into a rat." He surmises.

"Well, yeah. I mean what's comforting about a rat? How is that what I am at my core?" He asks looking put out.

Remus answers him slowly, as if choosing his words carefully. "As we've speculated before, your rat form represents your resourcefulness. Rats are strong and smart. They can survive almost anything. Besides, where would be without you. I'd still be scratching and biting myself and you three wouldn't be able to help because you couldn't get into the tunnel." He says placatingly.

James knows that Remus is just trying to cheer Peter up. He knows, just as well as James and Sirius, that they could easily use a tree branch just as effectively as Peter on the Whomping Willow.

"And there's always the possibility that Professor Alvar's theory is wrong. It's never been written into any text-book because there isn't enough proof. Not many Animagi exist, let alone those who can also produce corporeal patronus'. I think Professor McGonagall is the only one in the last century. So, he could be wrong. There's no way to know for sure." Lily says soothingly.

James looks at her curiously. She must just be trying to cheer him up as well. James thinks, because he knows for a fact that she had added an entire section to her essay about Alvar's theory. James lets it go because he wants Peter to feel less insecure about his animal form.

"It's time for patrol, James." Lily reminds him and they pack up their things and head out to make their rounds.

"Do you think Wormy's still confused about the essay?" She asks him as they walk, hands linked, down the sixth floor corridor.

"No, I think he's questioning the charm itself, not the essay." James says matter-of-factly. "He'll be alright once he does the practical though. He just needs to actually cast it and then he'll be fine." James assures her and she smiles.

"I wonder what form mine will take." She ponders. "I hope it's something cool and not a bull frog or something."

James laughs at this. "A bull frog? Why in Merlin's name it be a frog?"

"I don't know. Why is Peter a rat? What if mine is something strange that I don't understand too?" She says and he can hear the concern in her voice.

"It won't be." He assures her. "I bet it'll be something like a dolphin, ya know cause they are so brilliant or maybe a panther, because they're so sexy and smooth." He says smirking at her.

"And yours will be something like a baboon." She shoots back and he laughs.

"So, you really don't believe Alvar's theory then?" He asks not understanding.

"Oh no, I do. I'm sure yours will be a stag, I just wanted to tease you." James nods and smiles again.

"Just wait, you won't like it so much when I tease you." He says in a silky voice. Hopefully she understands his double meaning.

She does it seems because she smiles and places her hands on his chest backing him up into the wall. She begins to kiss his neck and ear as his hands move up and down her back. Just as he moves to deepen the kiss, she pulls back.

"You mean like that?" She whispers in his ear and smiles mischievously at him. She starts to walk away and James lets out a groan as he watches her, hips swaying enticingly.

"That's not fair!" He calls after her.

She giggles and looks back to see him coming towards her. She breaks into a run and he chases after her playfully. He catches her easily before she can turn the corner and wraps his arms around her waist. "You'll definitely pay for that." He says suggestively in her ear.

"I bet I will." She says in the same tone as he kisses her neck.

"Good evening, James, Lily."

James jumps back quickly removing his arms from around Lily and stands straight as Professor Dumbledore comes around the corner. "Uh, good evening, Sir." James says feeling the blush in his cheeks.

"Having a nice patrol I trust?" Dumbledore asks a small smile playing on his lips.

"Yes, Sir." Lily answers. "Nothing out of the ordinary." She informs him.

"Glad to hear it. Do try to not get too distracted though. We must try and stay vigilant." Dumbledore says with a miniscule wink at James.

"No, Sir. We will. Sorry." James says embarrassed.

"Have a good night's sleep now. I expect you'll want to be well rested for your lessons tomorrow." He says smiling as he continues on his way down the hall.

Once they are safely in the common room James finally speaks. "Well, nothing like running into your Headmaster to ruin the mood."

Lily chuckles. "It's for the best anyway. We should get to bed."

"I guess." James concedes. "I'll see you at breakfast." He tells her leaning in for a good night kiss.

A thought occurs to him then. He pulls her in close and kisses her tenderly as he lets his hand brush her backside. He moves his kisses to her chin then her neck then up to her ear and he whispers, "Pleasant dreams", before pulling away. He smiles as he walks away leaving her, eyes closed and lips slightly parted, still standing at the foot of the girl's staircase. He knew that would do the trick. He laughs as he climbs the stairs to his dormitory, pleased with himself.


The next morning at breakfast James sits with his fellow Marauders as the post owls come swooping in. One drops the Daily Prophet in front of him and he picks it up tentatively scanning the headlines for more news of death and destruction. "Giants attacked another Muggle village." James informs his friends and sighs. "But that's the worst of it."

"Well, I suppose that's not as bad as it could be." Sirius says softly.

This is true. Worse has happened and worse is surely to come. Voldemort is now out in the open, freely proclaiming his aims to the wizarding world, quickly gaining followers. The resistance still seems fairly strong, though and James is proud once again to think of how he will soon be joining that resistance.

"Ready to produce some patroni?" Mary says, yawning. The others laugh at the incorrect pluralization as she, Beth and Lily join them.

"As ready as I'll ever be." Peter says dejectedly not touching his sausage.

"I'm so glad I dropped the subject." Beth says happily. "All I have to worry about today is if Joba will say that my bird entrails show death." Everyone laughs again. Beth is the only Gryffindor in their year to not continue on in Defense and it's easy to see why. If it came to fight or flight, Beth would definitely flee.

"What do you predict my patronus will be?" Remus asks jokingly.

"I see…" Beth begins closing her eyes and mocks going into a trance. "A large animal."

James looks at her wonderingly. If she says wolf I'll start believing in Divination.

"It's a hippogriff!" She announces and they all laugh.

When they finish eating they head up to their Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, waving bye to Beth as she continues up to North Tower. James takes his seat next to Sirius at their desk, Lily and Mary next to them and Peter and Remus in front.

"Please put your bags up front and step away from your desks. We won't need either today." Professor Alvar says. "All you need today is your wands."

James stands in between Lily and Peter in a row waiting to begin. "I trust that everyone here knows the theory well enough now, so let's not waste any more time. If you succeed in casting a corporeal patronus it will look something like this." He says and a large giraffe bursts from his wand. A few people clap appreciatively and Alvar holds his hands up to stay them.

"Now get started. If you need help I will be walking around the room. Just raise your hand and I will get to you." He says and so they begin.

James nervously raises his wand. He knows he has to think of a happy memory for the charm to work. He picks out the memory of himself and his friends finding their first secret passageway into Hogsmeade and says. "Expecto Patronum!" He hears the same words being spoken throughout the classroom. A large cloud of silver vapor erupts from his wand and makes it hard to see for a moment. There seemed to be a haze of the silver smoke in the room as several people conjure up the same results.

Alright a happier memory this time. James decides thinking back and deciding on his and Lily's first date, how good it felt to finally have her know all his secrets and for her to accept him in spite of them. "Expecto Patronum!" If it were possible an even larger amount of silver escapes his wand.

On his third attempt, James thinks of an even happier memory. "Expecto Patronum!" He nearly shouts, thinking of the night he told Lily that he loves her for the first time and how she reciprocated that love.

A large stag bursts from his wand. James isn't surprised by this. He knew his Patronus would be a stag, but he can't help but be taken aback by its presence. It seems to warm him slightly, like a beacon of all that is good in the world placed into one shape. It gallops around him for a moment before disappearing.

"Well that was extremely impressive, Mr. Potter." Professor Alvar says coming over to stand next to James. "I have never seen someone cast a Patronus so quickly. Take twenty points for Gryffindor." James swells with pride at this. He looks over at Lily smiling and she beams at him.

"Good job." She says and then returns to her own practice.

James looks to his left to watch his friends. He sees Peter with his eyes closed determinedly still unable to even produce the vapor. Sirius looks unconcerned, almost lazy, as he says the incantation. James' eyes fall on Remus just as a large rabbit surges out of his wand. They both stare at it for a full minute before they laugh together. They seem to have realized at the same time what it means.

Remus finds solace in the lie that James and the others tell about his lycanthropy. His "furry little problem" is what he finds protection in. Sirius, Lily and Peter laugh as they realize this too and Remus also gets awarded ten points for Gryffindor. After anther half hour of work James produces the stag again and watches it parade around the room proudly.

Lily calls, "Expecto Patronum!" from next to him. What happens next James only believes because he sees it with his own eyes.

He stands stunned, watching as Lily's Patronus. The gorgeous silver doe meets his stag right in front of them and they nuzzle their noses together before disappearing into nothingness.

Most of the class hadn't noticed this, still enthralled by their own work, but others start to mutter under their breath. James doesn't care about them though. He's still paralyzed by shock. What does this mean? He wonders and his mind answers him. It means you've been right about her all along. She truly is your soul mate.

He turns to look at her, unable to keep the smile off his face. She looks up at him, matching his expression. Before he can say anything, Professor Alvar is in front of them again.

"What an extraordinary phenomenon." He says looking between Lily and James as if he were fascinated. "In all my years in studying Patronus'…" He trails off realizing that most of the class is watching him now. "Right, well twenty points to Gryffindor and would you both mind staying back after class. I would like a word." He says still looking at them intently as he walks away.

Most of the class has returned to their work now so James turns to look at Lily again. "Well, at least we can conjure patronus' now." She says in an off-hand way. James just bends down and kisses her soundly as a response. He can't think of how else to express what he's feeling.

"Oy! Some of us are still trying over here!" Peter says frustrated.

"Sorry, Wormy." Lily says pulling away from James, still smiling and both of them look over to where Peter is trying unsuccessfully to produce even a puff of smoke.

"Maybe you need to think of a happier memory." Lily suggests and this gets James thinking. What happy memory was she thinking about when she conjured up her patronus?

A few minutes later, Sirius goes on to prove Alvar's theory further by producing a massive silver dog. And by the end of the lesson they were the only four to produce corporeal patronus'. Mary created quite a lot of the vapor but was still unsuccessful and Peter had finally gotten a misty like substance out. James isn't too worried about his friend though. He knows that just like it was with their Animagus forms, Peter would get it eventually. The bell rings and everyone except Lily and James head down to lunch.

"Thank you both for staying." Alvar says as they approach his desk. "I don't think I need to express to you how very impressed I am. Four corporeal patronus' in one lesson." He says wonderingly, shaking his head. "I've never seen so many people pick it up this quickly, and I've tried to teach copious amounts of adult witches and wizards." He explains.

James just nods, unable to understand why the professor couldn't have said this in front of the rest of the class. "But the quickness in which you mastered the spell is not why I asked the two of you to stay behind. I asked you to stay because of the results the spell rendered." He says gazing between them again with the same look of fascination. James and Lily both wait with bated breath.

"As you know, this is my first year teaching in an actual school. This is largely because I prefer to observe and learn rather than teach, but I had this over whelming feeling that I should come here. Now I know exactly why I was so drawn to this place. Never, in all my years of studying this particular charm, have I ever seen such an occurrence. I have met countless couples, who have been together for varying amounts of time, that can both produce corporeal patronus'. But never have I met two people so correctly matched that even their patronus' are mated." He says wonderingly.

James shuffles his feet uncomfortably. This is a very personal topic and he doesn't feel much like discussing it with his professor. "I understand of course that you are both still young. But you must see what a gift this is. To be able to find your one true match in life at such a young age is extremely lucky indeed." Alvar seems to be talking more to himself now and James glances at Lily. Her face is red with embarrassment.

"Sir, may we go now please?" James asks, feeling as if the professor might start asking them if they've set a date yet.

"Oh yes, of course. Sorry to have kept you." Alvar says waving them to the door.

Neither Lily nor he speaks as they walk to lunch and when they reach the Great Hall, they take a seat on either side of Mary. James doesn't know why he's so relieved that he doesn't have to speak to her yet. He had felt elated at first figuring out that Lily is truly his soul mate, but after the talk with Alvar he feels nervous. As if everyone was now watching them.

Lily stands then, she has a tutoring session with some fourth years. James just smiles at her as she leaves, unable to find any words that would somehow help ease either of their minds. Her eyes held trepidation and what looked like fear. I wonder if she feels the same pressure. Is she rethinking being with me? I wish I never learned to cast a patronus. He thinks bitterly letting his gaze fall back to his lunch.

Lily's leaves the Great Hall with Remus heading to their tutoring session in silence. Lily is grateful that Remus isn't pestering her for information on why Alvar had asked her and James to stay behind after class. She isn't sure how to explain it, even to herself. Nor does she really want to. Every time she thinks about it, it sends strange rushes of fear through her. She has no idea what to feel.

She had been thinking of the night James first told her he loves her, and she him, when she cast that faithful doe. As it burst from her wand she knew immediately what it was, as if she had been expecting it. At the time it had made perfect sense to her. Then when she had seen it nuzzling James' stag, she knew right then that she and James were truly meant to be together. It had been such an exciting thought at first. But now, all she can feel is anxious.

Alvar's words make her feel like she and James are under extreme scrutiny. Now their fun and exciting relationship seems heavier and full of expectations that neither of them are ready for. Lily doesn't like feeling like this, like she is being watched. It's something else entirely, being told that you're made for someone, instead of finding it out slowly on your own.

Lily has, of course, imagined herself marrying James hundreds of times, as girls so often do when in a serious relationship. But it had never seemed as real to her as it does now. Rather like it's something she's being told she has to do, whether she wants to or not. She wonders if James is feeling this way as well. He certainly looked worried at lunch.

Nothing like having someone proclaim you are soul mates to scare a bloke off. She thinks bitterly and sighs. She hadn't meant to let the sigh out, but the day is weighing so heavily on her mind, she couldn't help herself.

"If you'd like to talk about it, I'm all ears." Remus says and Lily starts. She had almost forgotten that he is walking next to her.

"It's not something that you could possibly understand." She says, thinking of how Remus never seems to hold a girlfriend for longer than a month. She hadn't meant to sound so rude though.

She stops and turns to him. "I'm sorry, Remus. I didn't mean for it to sound like that. I'm just stressed." She's trying to apologize, but even it doesn't sound right.

"Don't apologize." Remus says. "I don't understand, you're right. It must be very confusing. But, I do know James and I know that he's probably worrying about how this is affecting you. He's probably terrified that it scared you off somehow. He waited a long time for you to come around, Lily. I'd hate to see you push him away just because of some prat of a professor."

And with that Remus opens the door to the classroom and marches in. His words were slightly harsh. Lily had never seen him like that before. She wonders if she struck a nerve by telling him he wouldn't understand. It was extremely tactless of her. But it's true. In some ways he's worse than Sirius. With Sirius at least you know what you get. But every girl Remus dates seems devastated when he breaks it off, as though they had never seen it coming.

Lily hardly pays attention to the young girl she's helping, and when the bell rings signaling dinner she has her mind made up. She will get James alone after dinner and they will figure everything out together.

"Listen Moony, I'm really sorry. It's just that, the only person I want to talk about this with is James." She explains as they walk to dinner.

"I figured." Remus says with a smile. "And I understand. I just want you to understand how badly it would hurt James if you went running off. He'd be devastated." Remus tells her.

She doesn't respond as they enter the Great Hall. Lily doesn't spot James so she sits with her friends. He comes in a moment later with Sirius and Peter and he glances at her sheepishly before taking the empty seat next to her. "Hi. How was tutoring?" He asks smiling nervously. She is glad that she isn't the only one.

"Fine. Would you like to go for a walk or maybe go to the Room of Requirement after dinner?" She asks him.

"Yeah, that sounds good. We need to talk." He replies.

What does that mean? Lily panics remembering all the movies and TV shows she and Petunia used to watch when they were kids. Whenever a boy said 'we need to talk' it always meant heartbreak for the girl. Is James about to ditch me?

Her mind is set at ease when James turns to say something to Peter and his hand reaches over and finds hers, not letting go. She relaxes then. I'm just over reacting. They do need to talk but there is no way it is the end for them. She's absolutely sure that he's the only one for her.

"Are you ready, love? You've hardly eaten." He says nodding to her still full plate.

"I'm not hungry." She says. He smiles and waves to their friends and then leads her, hands linked, up to the Room of Requirement. Lily waits as James paces back and forth in front of the bare stretch of wall and then walks through the door he holds open for her.

"Wow." She says looking around at the log cabin façade. There is a couch sitting in front of a crackling fire surrounded by a cozy wooden atmosphere. She takes a seat on the couch pulling James along with her.

"Can I ask you something about Remus before we get into anything else?" She asks, curiosity taking over.

He looks puzzled but nods. "Of course, I'm not sure I'll be able to answer though."

"Well, I think I insulted him earlier, but my question is; why doesn't he ever hold onto a girlfriend? I mean, I know it isn't them breaking it off. Is it that he just doesn't want the commitment or is it something else?" James chuckles softly.

"Dating is tricky for Moony, or at least that's what he'll have you believe. He says that he can't get close to a girl because she'd never understand him. And by that we both know that he means that he can't tell them about him being a werewolf." He explains.

Lily had guessed as much. "So, he just doesn't give them a chance?"

"Nope. Once they start asking personal questions he ends it. Says it's better to ditch them than to lie to them. In a way it makes sense, but I think it's just another way he makes life harder for himself than necessary. Why shouldn't he have a steady girlfriend? He deserves one as much as anyone."

Lily wholeheartedly agrees with this. "Is that why he never asked Beth out?"

"Yeah, he was going to, you know. He really liked her. Still does I think." James says.

"Why didn't he?"

"He doesn't like to talk about it, only brought it up once. But after Mary's party over the summer, he was saying good night to her when Stebbins and Caitlin fell out of a bush nearby. They scared her and she said something like, 'I thought it was a werewolf that was going to eat us' or some variation of that. He doesn't think she'd understand. And I doubt she would. Almost no one does. We can't know what it's like for him, the prejudices he has against him." He tells her, looking sad for his friend.

"Well, we know what a great guy he is and that's all that really matters. One day he'll be able to have what we have." She tells him, smiling.

He seems to perk up a little at this. "So, we still have what we have?" He asks smiling. "I was worried you'd get scared off."

She shakes her head at him. "I just don't like feeling like we are being pushed into something. It scares me a little." She admits.

"I'm scared too. And believe me, there's no way I'm ready for the whole wedding, kids, you cook dinner while I read the paper, thing." He says and chuckles. "I love you Lily, more that I can ever say, but 'am not ready for all that yet." She laughs too.

"I'm not either. I love you too, but that really freaks me out. I felt like my future has been decided for me and there's nothing I can do about it."

"Let's not worry about it anymore." He suggests. "We're happy and in love, so let's stay that way. You mean so much to me, let's just enjoy that feeling and not let the future loom over us anymore."

"I agree. I like us." She says smiling.

"As do I." He says leaning down and kissing her.

"I like that too." She tells him and smiles as he kisses her again.

"How about this?" He asks moving his lips to her neck.

"Mm, yes, I that very much." He leans forward guiding her head onto the arm rest as he lays half on top her. She moves her hands to tangle in his hair.

This is exactly what she wants. She wants to be here with him, not worrying about the future, or soul mates, or weddings, or kids. This is where she's meant to be.

He pulls back from her and she looks up at him puzzled. "What's wrong?" She asks concerned.

"I just realized that I haven't taken you on a proper date since we've been back." He says. She smiles at him.

Leave it to James to think of something like that now. "Very true, but now isn't the time for that."

"Oh no?" He asks smiling wryly at her. "What is it time to think about then?" He asks a slight edge of humor in his husky voice.

She pulls her hips up to meet his in answer and tries to roll him onto his back, forgetting momentarily that they aren't on a bed, but on a couch. James rolls off the couch and with a thud falls on his back before Lily lands on top of him.

"Are you ok?" She asks him but he's laughing now. We could really use a bed. She thinks wistfully.

Appearing, as if from nowhere, in the corner is a large four poster bed with white hangings. Lily gasps.

James gets to his feet pulling her up with him. "Looks like someone has a one track mind."

"It's your fault really." She explains.

"How is that?" He asks, backing her up slowly to the bed.

"You're little stunt last night, I was thinking about it all last night and most of today." She whispers.

"You started it." He accuses and leans down to whisper seductively in her ear. "But I'm finishing it."

Thoughts and words were no longer coherent. The only sounds coming from either of them are those of pleasure. Lily lays in his arms afterwards completely satisfied. She couldn't of imagined a better way for him to ease her mind. They are yet again on the same page.

Smiling she raises her wand whispering, "Expecto Patronum" and her doe leaps from her wand. A moment later James' stag is by her side and he bows his head to her. Lily and James watch the two perfectly matched patronus' as the doe nuzzles her nose into the stags and they stay like that for a moment before disappearing.

"I get it, you know." James says softly into Lily's hair.

"Get what?" She asks not following his train of thought.

"Why you produce the doe." He explains. "It perfectly represents your innocence, your independence, the enormous amount of strength you possess and of course, your beauty." Lily smiles into his chest.

"I'm glad you think I have all those characteristics, but to me the doe represents how comfortable and protected I feel just being with you." She admits. He kisses the top of her head and squeezes her tight.

There is nothing left for either of them to say. Lily can't understand how she could have possibly been so upset only a few short hours before.

The next week passes quickly for James. Lily's birthday is coming up soon and almost all of his free time is taken up by planning the day. It's a Hogsmeade weekend so James takes her into the village in the morning and follows her around as she does her shopping.

"That will be seven sickles, dear." Scrivenshaft says handing her the bag with her ink for the quill James bought her the previous Christmas. Before Lily can even get her money bag out, James had already paid the man.

"James!" Lily protests as he leads her from the shop.

"Lily, it's your Birthday. You're absolutely not allowed to pay for anything on your birthday." He insists.

She looks disgruntled but accepts this as they enter Honeydukes and he buys her a box of her favorite chocolates. They meet their friends for lunch and he smiles as he watches Lily open her gifts from their friends.

"What, Prongs? No gift?" Sirius teases when it's James' turn to give her a present.

"James already paid for everything I bought today, that's more than enough of a gift." She says smiling at him.

Does she really think I wouldn't get her a real gift?

After lunch the seven of them spend the rest of the day having fun in the freshly fallen snow.

Later that night he and Lily sit alone in the common room warming up by the fire. She tells him about how she used to celebrate birthdays before she knew she was a witch. Everything is going smashingly. After a while, they get out his cloak and walk, her arm wrapped around his, down to the kitchen for hot chocolate like old times. He tickles the pear and the kitchen door swings open for them. He motions for Lily to enter first and smiles as he hears her gasp.

He and Dinky had worked together to set up a banner that reads 'Happy Birthday Lily' above their regular spot. On the counter in front of their stools are several candles surrounding a small cake and two mugs of cocoa.

"Oh James." She whispers.

"Do you like it?" He asks her apprehensively.

"I love it." She tells him. "It's wonderful. Thank you, Dinky." She says to the bowing house elf.

"Happy Birthday, Miss Lily." Dinky says. "Will you be needing anything else, Mr. James?"

"No thank you, Dinky. You did wonderfully." And the tiny elf bows again and retreats further into the kitchens. James pulls out Lily's stool for her before taking the one next to her and lighting the candle on the small cake.

"I'm going to sing to you now, so beware." He warns her and she chuckles. He sings her happy birthday, loudly and extremely off-key, but she smiles and blows out the candle anyway. He grins as he watches her; there is something so sensual about this act.

"Would you like my gift now?" He asks her, smiling at her look of surprise.

"You mean this whole day isn't my gift?" She asks.

"Silly, Lily," he chastises, using the old joke. "You couldn't have honestly thought I wouldn't get you a real gift on your birthday."

She smiles as he pulls a long, pristinely wrapped package from his robes. "You didn't wrap this did you?" She guesses and smiles as he laughs.

"No, Sirius did. But don't tell him I told you, it's a skill he likes to pretend he doesn't possess." He watches her carefully as she pulls the paper off and opens the box.

"James." She sighs, staring at the bracelet in the box that matches the necklace he had gotten her at Christmas. But, instead of a heart pennant, in the middle of the gold ring is a doe and stag nuzzling their noses together just as their patronus' had. The doe's eye is a small emerald and the stag's a tiny topaz diamond. She smiles up at him widely.

"It's so beautiful. I love it." She says breathlessly. He pulls her as close as the stools will allow and kisses her.

"I love you, Lily. Happy birthday." She kisses him on the cheek and reaches her arm out.

"Put it on, I want to see what it looks like." She says eagerly and he chuckles as he clasps it around her wrist.

"Thank you." She says admiring the charms. "How did you get the gems to match our eyes?"

"Mr. Unlind will do anything for the Potter men." James chuckles.

"Unlind? You mean that this bracelet is also goblin made?" She asks looking shocked.

"Of course Lily, do we have to go over this again? I thought my mum talked to you about it." He says remembering her worries over the Christmas holiday.

"No, I remember, I just can't get over how wonderful you are." She says sounding awed.

James had thought his father was winding him up when he told him that witches go nuts for goblin made jewelry. But he can't doubt him now. He smiles down at her pulls the cake and forks to them. "Come on, eat your cake."

They head back to Gryffindor Tower a little while later in contented silence. Lily leads him right up the boy's staircase smiling. She always stays in his bed on the weekends and full moon nights now. When they enter the dormitory it is to find it empty.

Lily looks round at him confused. "Where is everyone?" She asks.

"They, uh, decided to give us privacy for your birthday." He says with a smile.

None of his friends have caught on to the fact that James uses muffliato every time she stays in their dormitory. They all thought he and Lily were asleep when they were not. She smiles and he knows that she too is thinking that it matters little if they're there or not, they have their privacy either way.

"Well, that's very sweet of them."

"I agree." He says wrapping his arms around her and picking her up. She squeals delightedly as he carries her the short distance and lays her gently on his bed. "So what did you wish for?"

"I can't tell you. If I do, it won't come true."

"Fair enough." He says smiling.

He makes love her on her birthday, hoping only that he'll be so lucky as to do the same on his own.

"Happy birthday, love." He whispers in her ear and they fall asleep peacefully.


February arrives bringing with it thicker snow and colder temperatures. James and Lily walk arm-in-arm down the front steps of the castle on their way to Hogsmeade.

"Mr. Potter, Miss Evans!" Professor Sprout calls to them as they pass the green houses.

"Yes, Professor?" Lily asks and they turn back to her.

"Professor Dumbledore asked me to catch you. He would like to see you in his office right away."

"Is everything alright, Ma'am?" James asks thinking of his parents.

"Yes, it's something about Head duties." She explains.

They thank her and head back up to the castle. What is so important that it couldn't wait until tomorrow? James wonders. Doesn't Dumbledore know its Valentine's weekend? He thinks bitterly.

They tell the gargoyle the password and ride the spiraling staircase up to his office. Lily knocks lightly on his door.

"Come in." Dumbledore calls to them and they enter. "Good morning, sorry to hold you back from your Valentine's date." Dumbledore begins.

"It's alright, Professor." Lily says sweetly. James wonders if she too is thinking about how they can sneak out later for an even better Valentine's date.

"I asked the two of you to stay back today because Mr. Filtch found this, this morning and we feel that it deserves looking into." Dumbledore explains holding out a small scrap of paper for Lily and James to look at. There is only one line written on it.

11 February 2pm

And next to the words is a drawing of a skull with a snake protruding from its mouth. The symbol looks sinisterly familiar. James looks up into his Headmaster's eyes. "Is this the Dark Mark, Professor? You-know-who's symbol?"

"Indeed it is, James. It is why we feel that this deserves our attention."

"I agree, Sir. How can we help?" James asks, all thoughts of his Valentine's plans gone from his mind now. He's completely focused on the issue at hand.

"Miss Evans, do you also agree to help?" Dumbledore asks Lily. James hadn't meant to speak for her, but he knows she'll want to help as well.

"Of course, Professor. What can we do?" She asks and Dumbledore beams at them.

"I would like the two of you to patrol the seventh floor for me. If you see anything suspicious or run into any trouble, send word and someone will be up to help. If nothing turns up by four, I would like for you to report to the Prefect's Lounge to await further instruction." He tells them and Lily and James leave their Headmaster's office and begin their patrol, eye's peeled and wands out.

James is pretty sure that Dumbledore knows that the seventh floor will be devoid of any suspicious activities but he's glad to be helping anyway.

"James?" Lily asks in a small voice.

James looks sideways at her. "Yes?"

"The note, the one that Filtch found.. well I - I, uh - it's Snape's handwriting on that note." She says, fumbling over her words, as if she is forcing herself to say them

James stops in his tracks and she turns around to face him. "Are you sure, Lily?"

"Positive. I've seen it a million times."

"We have to tell Dumbledore." James decides. "Why didn't you before?"

"Because I have no proof." She says and shrugs. "I can't make accusations like that without real proof. But I know he's aiming to be a Death Eater like the others." She says and James looks at her cautiously for a moment. Snape has always been such a tricky subject between them, but she doesn't look sad, she looks disgusted.

"I suppose you're right." He tells her.

"I just hope nothing terrible happens." She says sounding scared.

"Me too." James agrees and they don't talk much after that.

At four James sighs. "We better get down to the Prefect's Lounge and find out what's going on." He says and they make their way to the small room used for prefect meetings. James closes the door behind them and he and Lily take their seats at the head of the 'U' shaped table.

Nearly twenty minutes later Dumbledore arrives. "All well on the seventh floor?" He asks.

"Yes Sir, no trouble." James confirms.

"What about the rest of the castle?" Lily asks anxiously.

"All quiet. We didn't find anything suspicious at all. The note may have been old or it could even have been a joke. They might have also found out we were onto them and changed their plans, but there is nothing to be done now. We will just have to stay vigilant when we patrol." He says and both James and Lily nod their assent.

"Professor Dumbledore?" Lily asks and he turns to look at her.

"Yes, Lily?"

"I believe that Severus Snape is the person who wrote that note." She tells him. James is glad that she told him, but he's worried how their Headmaster will react.

"Any particular reason you feel this way, Lily? He asks.

"Yes, I know his handwriting extremely well. I have seen it many times before, it's unmistakable." She tells him and he nods.

"Thank you for telling me this, Lily. I will definitely take it into account. But Mr. Snape and Mr. Mulciber are serving a detention today with Professor Kettleborn." He informs her.

Personally, James feels that this is the exact reason why nothing had happened today, but he knows better than to voice his opinion. Dumbledore does not care for unfounded accusations or guess-work.

"Now, since I effectively ruined your Valentine's plans I think it is only fair that I present you with new ones." Dumbledore begins smiling benignly.

"Oh no Professor, it's really not a problem." James says but Dumbledore holds his hands up to stay him.

"Nonsense James, I heard all about your fantastic display of lilies in front of the Three Broomsticks."

James blushes at this and Lily turns to look at him beaming. It really doesn't sound that romantic when you can't see it. "Fantastic display of lilies?" She asks.

"It's nothing really." He says sheepishly and Dumbledore chuckles.

"He is being modest. Madam Rosmerta told me that it is the most romantic thing she has seen in years." Lily beams at James again. "But, as I was saying. I have arranged for the two of you to attend Madam Malkin's Valentine's Ball on Tuesday evening. I receive tickets every year and always walk away with three new sets of robes." He says chuckling.

James feels lightly uneasy about this. He has never been to a Valentine's Ball before. His parents used to go in his youth, but it never interested him.

"Thank you so much, Sir!" Lily says excitedly. "This is so very kind of you."

"Yes, thank you, Sir. You really don't have to do this."

"It is my pleasure. You both are trustworthy and dependable pupils. It makes it easy for me to know that you will display yourselves as such, even if you are away from the castle." James and Lily both nod. "I do have a few requests though, if you don't mind."

"Of course, Sir." James allows.

"I ask that you return to the castle before eleven o'clock in the evening, so as to not miss your Head duties. Also, I request that you do not consume alcohol. I know you both are of age, but I would like for you to think of this as a school function, so the same rules still apply."

"Absolutely Sir, you can trust us." Lily assures him and Dumbledore smiles.

"Well, I won't keep you then. Don't forget to have fun." He calls as he leaves the room laughing.

James swears that the old man is rooting for his and Lily's relationship to work out. He always gives James a leg up.

Tuesday evening Lily walks through the cold, arm linked with James', down the familiar path away from Hogwarts. Once outside the gates they will be able to disapparate to Diagon Alley.

Lily can't help but be excited. Mary and Beth had filled her in on what makes this ball so special. Apparently it's attended by all of the Wizarding High Society. This frightened her at first, but James assured her that it's mainly the same people who had attended the Potter's New Year's party.

James leads her through Diagon Alley to a door off Madam Malkin's. It looked to be a cellar door, but when he opens it Lily feels her mouth drop. It opens up into a large ball room decorated entirely in white, pink and red. She's exceptionally glad that she had chosen to wear Mary's black dress robes as opposed to the pink one's Beth had offered her. She would have blended right in with the table clothes.

James takes her cloak for her and she can't help but admire how handsome he looks in his silver dress robes. A dwarf dressed to look like cupid can be seen on the other end of the hall trying to stick people with his arrows and floating cherubs were placed strategically over every table. After a spectacular meal they chat with a few people who James knows and others that recognize her from the New Year's party, then he takes her out onto the floor.

As they twirl around happily Lily can't help but notice a small group of people staring at them. She vaguely recognizes them as Slytherins that graduated a few years earlier. James notices where she is looking and leans down to whisper in her ear. "Madam Malkin will allow anyone with money to attend her events. For her, it's all about making a sale." He says and she can hear the disapproval in his voice.

She rests her head on his shoulder. She doesn't want to think about things like that now, she wants to just dance and be happy. She feels him place a soft kiss in her hair and she smiles.

Around ten-thirty James leads her back to their table. "Fancy a walk before we go back?" He asks and she nods enthusiastically.

She's excited for the opportunity to snog him in private for a bit before going to back to Hogwarts. How can I ever be happier than I am now? She wonders. He leads her to one of the side streets that's not as well-lit as the main road and backs her up into the wall, pulling her tight to his body.

"Happy Valentine's Day, love." He says and before she can respond he's kissing her deeply.

"Well isn't this charming?" A very cold and sarcastic voice asks. Lily has never heard such a voice before, it sounds as if it could be a hiss.

They break apart, both turning to see who had spoken. Out of the darkness comes a hooded figure with a pale face and red eyes. James immediately pushes Lily behind him, shielding her almost entirely from view, and he pulls out his wand.

Normally Lily would be annoyed by this and remind him that she can defend herself, but she knows James would be very angry with her if she tried to step around him now. Because she realizes that this must be him in the flesh. Voldemort. Lily pulls her wand out behind James, terrified.

"What do you want?" James asks angrily.

"Now, now Potter, I come in peace." Voldemort says stepping forward with his arms raised in mock surrender, showing that his wand isn't drawn. Lily knows this means next to nothing. He could have James writhing on the ground in pain before either one of them can make a move to stop it.

"My question still remains unanswered." James points out scathingly.

"I am here Potter, because some of my loyal Death Eaters tipped me off that you escaped Dumbledore's suffocating shelter tonight. I have come to offer you what you truly want."

James laughs humorlessly. "What I want, Voldemort, is for you to disappear and be gone from this world forever. I doubt you've come to offer me that."

"You are brave, Potter. There is no denying that." Voldemort says smirking. "I'm also told you are something of a leader. Those are both qualities that Lord Voldemort admires greatly." He informs James.

Lily is trying to think of what to do. Will Voldemort let us walk away unharmed? She knows there is no possibility of that, but, it's the only hope she can see.

"I'm offering you a spot within my ranks, Potter. I can give you a better life than that fool Dumbledore ever could. You will receive the adoration you desire and the power you crave. You also wouldn't have to settle for scum like the Mudblood cowering behind you now. If you join me, you can have a woman you truly deserve. Join me Potter, and you will have the life you've always dreamed of. We need more pure blood men like you." Voldemort finishes his speech and Lily sees his confident smile through a gap in James' robes.

His words had lashed at Lily like a whip, painful and stinging. James stands up straighter seeming to grow a few inches. "You're right. You do need more men like me in your cause." James says.

Lily doesn't understand his inflection on the word 'cause'. She is too distracted by the actual words. Surely it isn't James speaking these words. Not her James, who defends her in any situation. Her James, who detests the Dark Arts. Her James, who loves her. She wishes she could see his face, make sure that he really said those words.

Voldemort is smiling triumphantly at James now. "You need more people around you who will stand up for what's right. Who will tell you that you're wrong and that you're twisted and need mental help. I don't crave your power or desire the adoration of your sycophants. I certainly do not want any other woman in the world besides the beautiful witch standing behind me." He says.

Lily understands his inflection now and her heart swells at his words. This is the James I know.

"I wouldn't join you Voldemort, even if it were a choice between that and death." He tells him defiantly.

Voldemort, whose face had fallen throughout James' pronouncement, looks murderous now and he laughs insanely. "You are being foolish boy. You don't understand how the real world works yet. There is no good or evil, Potter. There is only power."

James laughs humorlessly again. "Only someone who has never known love could say such a thing, Voldemort." James just barely has time to deflect the hex Voldemort sent his way.

Everything is a blur then. She and James duck and dodge and deflect as they shoot off every hex, jinx, curse and spell they can think of. But Voldemort keeps pace with them easily. He sends a killing curse at Lily and she barely ducks out-of-the-way in time.

The alleyway is lit with jets of light as the spells keep coming. James pushes her out-of-the-way as a jet of red flies by them and he turns quickly to deflect the next curse. From the ground Lily shoots off an impediment jinx that hits its mark.

She watches Voldemort stumble back and feels James crash into her a second later. She feels him pull her with him as he turns on the spot. But instead of the pressure she is expecting from Apparition, she feels a blinding pain shoot up her side.

She hears herself let out a scream of pain that is cut off by suppression in her lungs. Seconds later the compression in her chest is gone, but the pain in her side does not relinquish. She collapses to the ground, the world going black.

A/N – DUN, DUN, DUN! (Again)

What happened to Lily? Is she dead? Stay tuned for the next chapter of Thrice Defied to find out!
(Again, all of that was supposed to be said in a Soap Opera announcer's voice.)

Sorry to leave you on another cliff hanger, I hope you don't hate me. Don't worry though, the new chapter will be up tomorrow. :-)