The next day was brilliantly sunny, a perfect day for shopping in Diagon Alley. The sun was streaming through Lily’s open window and a warm summer breeze was blowing through the opening. Lily was sitting at her desk making some final corrections on the Potions essay that had been set over the summer holiday. It was the last bit of homework she had to finish. She had saved it for last since she knew it would be the easiest. Potions and Charms where her best subjects at Hogwarts, but Potions had always come more naturally to her then Charms did. Professor Slughorn, the Potions master, was always raving about how he had never taught anyone as talented as she was. She smiled as she added a final sentence to the end of the essay. Slughorn had always liked her humour when it came to potions.
Lily rolled up the essay and neatly tied it with a ribbon. Then she stood up from her desk and went over to her wardrobe, thinking that she should put her blue robe on over her grey pleated skirt and short sleeved shirt. She shook her head at the thought. It was too hot to wear a robe and she wondered for the hundredth time why wizards bothered to wear them in the first place. As she picked up her wand from her desk, she realized with a wry smile that it didn’t matter what witches and wizards wore when they could easily just cool themselves off with magic if they needed to. After putting her wand away in a pocket, she fished around in her trunk for the cloth bag that held what remained of the wizarding money that she still had left over from last year. Testing its weight she realized she would have to ask her parents for some Muggle money to exchange at Gringotts, the wizarding bank.
Her mum wasn’t home when Lily got downstairs and she was wondering where she had gone when she spied a note on the kitchen counter. Lily picked up the flower- bordered paper and read her mum’s neat script.
Went shopping at the market. There’s seventy pounds in an envelope on your father’s desk for your school things. I added a bit extra for you to get yourself something special for becoming Head Girl. We’re so proud of you!
Lily walked through the living room and into her father’s study. His desk was neatly organized. The post from that morning was piled neatly on one side and on the other there were several golf scoring cards. Her father’s scores where outlined with a red marker. A white envelope with her name written on it was lying on the centre of the desk. There were lilies sketched around her name. Lily smiled; her father had done that ever since she was little. She was glad to see that he still kept up the habit even though she was seventeen. She glanced inside the envelope. Combined with the money she earned for doing odd jobs around the neighbourhood Lily had more then enough to last her through the school year.
She dashed back upstairs to get her school list, onto which she had added everything she would need for the coming year, before closing her eyes and Apparating. Although she had passed her test at the end of last school year and had been Apparating off and on during the summer she still wasn’t quite used to the feeling of been sucked through a tube. She felt a strange kinship with dirt as it was being vacuumed up at these time.
She appeared in the small alley near the Leaky Cauldron that was set aside for witches and wizards Apparating to the establishment. The pavement was quite crowded with Muggles who walked passed the door to the Leaky Cauldron as though it wasn’t there. Lily was always amazed at how magic worked with things like this. Her parents hadn’t even been able to see it the few times that they had come with Lily. She had always had to guide then through the door.
The hubbub of noise washed over Lily as she opened the door. Tom, the old, bald and nearly toothless bartender, looked up from the table he was wiping down and nodded in greeting as Lily entered the pub. She smiled back and glanced around the dark, smoky room for Marlene. Spying her sitting on a stool at the bar, Lily picked her way through the many tables towards the short, curly-haired girl. When she reached her, Lily tapped her on the shoulder. Marlene spun around on the stool, her brown hair bouncing.
“Lily!” she exclaimed, leaping up and giving Lily a hug. Lily returned the hug with equal vigour. She hadn’t seen Marlene since they had gotten off the Express at the end of last year. Even though they had owled each other frequently, it wasn't the same as seeing her in person.
“It’s so good to see you finally,” Marlene continued. “Oh Merlin, your hair!”
Lily bit her lip to hide her grin. In all the years Marlene had known her, Lily had never let her hair grow past her shoulders, saying it was too much bother if it was any longer. Now though, she had allowed her hair to grow (with the help of a few lengthening charms) in a thick, dark red sheet to the middle of her back.
“I’ve been telling you to grow your hair out for ages and you never once listened.” Marlene said, forcing Lily to turn around so she could get a better look. “What made you decide to do it?”
“I suppose I just wanted a change.” Lily shrugged. “Are you ready to go then? We have a lot to get done today and I need to stop at Gringotts first.”
Marlene nodded and she and Lily walked over to the flaming fireplace. Lily dropped a Knut into a box that was mounted on the wall next to it. A handful of glittering Floo powder spilled into a small cup directly below. Lily poured half the powder into her hand and gave the rest to Marlene. Marlene replaced the cup and Lily threw her powder into the flames. They roared and turned emerald green. Lily stepped into the flames and shouted, “Ministry of Magic.” She spun through the flames and slid out onto a cool tiled floor.
Lily got to her feet and cleaned the soot off her robes with a wave of her wand as she looked around. This was the first time she had been to the Ministry. The atrium was huge and busy, with a peacock-blue ceiling inlaid with golden symbols that were constantly moving. Lily guessed that they were some type of magical ward or charm that protected the Ministry from collapsing since it was located underground. There were seven fireplaces along opposite walls of the hall for arrival and departure by the Floo Network, and witches and wizards where Apparating and Disapparating from all directions. Almost directly in front of her was a huge golden fountain. She moved from in front of the fireplace as the flames turned green once more. A few seconds later Marlene came tumbling out.
“I can’t wait until I have my Apparition license,” she said, coughing.
“Well, you don’t have long,” Lily smiled mischievously. “Unless you fail,” she added.
“Oh, don’t joke about it!” Marlene whined. “Come on, we have to get visitor badges.” Lily just laughed as she and Marlene weaved their way through all of the Ministry employees to the visitor’s entrance on the far side of the atrium.
“You’ll be fine. Besides, you can’t be any worse then Peter Pettigrew was.”
“True. Gosh, I wish I had been there. I can’t believe he left his clothes behind!”
“I know, I can still picture them lying there on the ground. Mr. Twycross just stood there staring at them trying to work out what happened. And then Peter reappears trying to cover his — well, you know, I didn’t know a person could blush all over like that. I guess he was so focused on the ‘destination’ and ‘determination’ parts that he forgot the ‘deliberation’ of taking everything with him.”
Marlene laughed hysterically at Lily’s play on the three words that their Apparition instructor constantly used.
They reached the visitor’s entrance, where the witch behind the glass asked them why they were at the Ministry and gave them each a rectangular, silver badge inscribed with their name and ‘Apparition Testing’. They pinned the badges to their robes where they could be easily seen.
As they made their way back across the room they passed the golden fountain situated in the middle. Lily stopped and looked at it more closely. At the centre was a tall noble-looking wizard and surrounding him were a witch, a centaur, a goblin, and a house-elf. The centaur, goblin and house-elf were looking up at the witch and wizard adoringly. Jets of sparkling water were spouting out from the two wands, the tip of the centaur’s arrow, the point of the goblin’s hat, and both of the house-elf’s ears. Galleons, Sickles, and Knuts glittered in the shallow pool of water the statues stood in. A water-splattered sign proclaimed: All proceeds from the Fountain of Magical Brethren will be given to St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. Lily fished in her money bag for a Sickle and threw it into the fountain with the rest of the coins. Marlene, standing next to her, did the same.
“If I pass my test I’ll throw in a Galleon next time I’m here,” she said.
Lily laughed and tossed in another sickle. “For luck, then,” she told Marlene.
They linked arms and chatted happily about nothing as they walked towards the golden gates, past which Marlene said were the lifts. They paused at a desk to the left of the gates behind which a young, badly shaven guard, sat sprawled in an uncomfortable looking chair, reading the Daily Prophet. He put the paper down as they approached and grunted, “Step over here” at them.
Marlene and Lily walked to the side of the desk and the wizard stood and passed a long, golden rod over the front and back of each of them. He nodded, satisfied, and then asked for each of their wands. Marlene handed hers to him first. He dropped it onto an instrument that looked like a set of scales with only one dish. It began to vibrate and a narrow strip of parchment came out of a slit in the base. The wizard tore it off. “Nine inches, unicorn-tail core, maple, has been in use six years,” he said, apparently reading what was written on the slip of parchment. “That correct?”
Marlene nodded and he handed her wand back to her and impaled the slip of parchment on a small brass spike. Lily gave him her wand and set it onto the instrument as well.
“Ten and a quarter inches, unicorn-tail core, willow, has been in use six years. That correct?” he asked her.
“Yes,” Lily answered.
“Nice wand,” he said, giving it back to her. “Quite powerful.” He smiled at her as he punctured the parchment on the brass spike on top of Marlene’s. Lily smiled back at him.
“Thanks,” Marlene said, rolling her eyes. She walked through the golden doors and Lily followed her, after a last smile and a wave for the wizard. He was surprisingly good-looking, once you got past the bad shave job.
She caught up with Marlene, who gave her an exasperated look.
“What?” Lily asked, defensively as they got into one of the twelve lifts. The gold gate rattled shut and the lift jolted to a start. A cool female voice announced each level as they passed.
“Can’t you go anywhere without some wizard flirting with you? Honestly, you’re too pretty for your own good.”
“Oh, shut up, I am not.”
Marlene raised her eyebrows at Lily. “You’re tall, curvy, your hair — now that you’ve let it grow out — is gorgeous, and even without all that, there’re your eyes.” They got off at the sixth level and followed the signs down the narrow hall and through the door with ‘Apparition Test Centre’ written on it in flowing golden script.
Lily huffed. “What about my eyes? Oh never mind. Besides, wizards flirt with you too, so I don’t want to hear it.”
Marlene laughed. “True.” The room they had entered was small. Two narrow doors were spaced out along one wall and on the adjourning wall were several threadbare chairs. Across from the chairs was a large desk covered in parchment. A squint eyed witch sat behind it reading Witch Weekly — whose cover pictured a good-looking wizard who wore black robes that were partially undone — and chewing a piece of gum. When Lily and Marlene entered, the witch looked up and put her magazine down.
“Can I help you?” she asked in a nasal voice.
“I’m here for my Apparition license,” Marlene said.
“What about you?” the witch questioned Lily.
“I already have my license,” Lily told her, “I’m just here for moral support.”
“Fine, sit down then.” The witch waited for Lily to sit down in one of the chairs before turning back to Marlene. “Fill this in,” she said handing her one of the many pieces of parchment on the desk. Marlene filled out the form and handed it back to the witch. She glanced over it and made some additional marks. The witch used her wand to make a copy and handed one of them to Marlene. “Go through there,” she said, pointing to the door on the left.
Marlene glanced nervously at Lily.
“You’ll be fine. You’ve been practicing for ages.”
Marlene shrugged and then disappeared through the door.
“It’s going to be a while,” the witch said, and then she turned back to her magazine.
Lily picked up a pamphlet off of the nearby table and relaxed back into the chair, trying to find a comfortable position, when the hall door flew open and four boys burst through. The one with a mop of messy black hair led the group. His back was towards Lily and he was pulling a sandy haired boy — who was dragging his feet — along with him while another boy, with his hair falling gracefully into his grey eyes, pushed him from behind. Last through the door was a light brown-haired boy, who was smiling broadly at the antics of the others.
“Peter,” he was saying in a reassuring tone, “Just because you failed your test the first time doesn’t mean you’ll fail this time as well.”
“But, Remus,” the boy whined, his rat like face scrunching up pitifully.
“Oh, quit your snivelling, Wormtail,” the grey-eyed boy said, smacking him in the back of the head, as the witch eyed him disapprovingly behind her magazine.
“James,” he appealed to the messy-haired boy, whose back was still towards Lily.
“They’re both right, Peter. You need to get over your fear and just do it. Besides,” he continued, choking back laughter, “the worst has already happened, hasn’t it?” James slapped Peter on the shoulder. Sirius, who had spied Lily, was grinning and nodded over James shoulder at her. James turned around.
“Evans!” he called out, a huge grin splitting his face. “Fancy meeting you here.”
“Potter, a pleasure, as always,” Lily drawled sarcastically, barely containing the desire to roll her eyes.
James walked over and sat down in the chair next to her, throwing an arm over her shoulders. Lily looked over at him, a look of disgust on her face. He was still the attractive, messy haired guy with the cocky hazel eyes that she remembered. In her year and house at Hogwarts, he was the most obnoxious person she had ever met — well, aside from Vernon Dursley of course. While they didn’t exactly hate each other, they had never got along either. He and his cronies, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew were famous at school for all the pranks they played. They had nicknamed themselves the Marauders, and had made her years at Hogwarts one catastrophe after another. James had continuously bothered Lily to go out with him until she told him off at the end of fifth year, saying that she would rather date the Giant Squid. It seemed as though he had finally taken the hint for he hadn’t asked her out since. Although, his need for her attention had seemed to increase recently and he was more annoying then ever.
James shifted his position so that he could read the pamphlet she held from over her shoulder. Lily shot him an exasperated look, threw his arm off of her and scooted her chair away from him. He made a tsking noise and moved his chair so that it was next to hers again. He put his elbow on the arm of the chair and rested his head in his hand, looking at Lily adoringly. Every now and then he let out a huge sigh. Lily ignored him until finally she couldn’t stand it anymore.
“Would you knock it off!” she exclaimed at him. “Merlin, Potter, you’re so annoying.”
“Nah, you just make it really easy.”
“Make what really easy?”
“So, you want to be a Healer?” he asked, completely ignoring her question.
He gestured to the pamphlet that was in her hand. “You’re reading about what you need to do in order to become a Healer.”
“Oh. No, I just didn’t have anything else to do while I waited for Marlene.”
“Well, now you do.”
“Now I do, what?”
“Have something else to do.”
Lily raised an eyebrow at him. “What, you mean being bothered by you? I’d as soon as…”
Sirius and Remus, who had been listening while Peter filled out his forms and went to take his test, burst out laughing. “Prongs,” Sirius said. “I think she’s trying to tell you something.”
“Yeah,” Remus chipped in, “you might want to reinvent your strategy.”
“No,” James disagreed, “this one seems to be working just fine.”
“What is it, anyway? I forget.”
“Annoying her until she gives in.”
Lily huffed. “In your dreams, Potter.”
“Lily, darling, my dreams of you are much, much, more exhilarating.” James waggled his eyebrows suggestively at her, as Lily glared, daring him to elaborate.
“Cuddling in the Common Room, shopping in Hogsmeade and then a moonlit stroll through the Hogwarts grounds.”
“What’s this about moonlight strolls?” Marlene asked, entering the room smiling happily.
“I’m just telling Evans what we’re going to be doing on our date,” James told her, smiling mischievously.
“Date!” Marlene stared at Lily in shock. “You agreed to go on a date?”
“You know very well I haven’t.” She turned to James angrily. “For the last time, Potter — I won’t go out with you!”
“Come on, Evans. One date, it won’t kill you. First Hogsmeade weekend.”
Lily opened her mouth to retort and then closed it. She seemed to be thinking seriously about it. Finally, she said slowly, “If I agree, will you promise to never ask me again?”
“Sure.” He gave a nonchalant shrug.
“Fine then, if that’s what it takes to get you to leave me alone, first Hogsmeade weekend.” She looked as though she had agreed to swallow poison. “And I don’t want to hear a word about it until then.”
“Alright,” James agreed happily, grinning at her. “Don’t forget.”
“As if,” Lily spat at him. Then she Apparated away with a pop, leaving a stunned group behind her.