Lily watched as Severus left with the other Slytherins going up the hill on the carriages, back for sixth year. He hadn't looked at her. He was too busy with them.
She could walk up the hill later. She really didn't care if she was late. She wasn't hungry. It was the first beginning of a school year that she hadn't shared a train car with Severus. She headed off to the edge of the woods, just above Hagrid's hut, where the birch trees overhung the grass.
Severus would always be her first magical friend. He would always be the first person who recognized her gift and who told her she wasn't weird. He was dark now, but it didn't change the facts. Lily sighed. And he'd called her a Mudblood. Neither she nor Severus had room left in them for even friendship for the other now. Too much had happened. So he was only a memory. She'd once imagined . . . no, she wouldn't go there again. That single kiss he had given her during fourth year would remain the only one. She wiped the tears from her eyes.
She looked up suddenly as she heard footsteps crushing through the grass. She saw the messy black hair, the goofy grin, the glasses that never hid those big warm eyes. "You!" She stood up angrily and turned to go.
"Lily, wait, I just want to talk. You missed the sorting Sorting and the feast . . ."
"Why should I talk to you? Will you dangle me upside down and show the world my knickers if I don't?" she retorted.
"Ouch," he answered softly. "I deserved that."
"Yes, you did. I think you're the biggest reason he turned dark. He was rebelling against everything you and your gang stood for. Now he's just like them. Couldn't you have been kind to him?"
"Me? I heard what Snape called you. I've watched him skulking around you. He doesn't care about you. Why do you keep defending him?"
"He was my first magical friend, Potter." Lily fought back the tears again.
He stepped in closer to her. "Lily, I did act like a git, but I like you. I've been jealous of how much time you spend with him. I wanted it to be me."
Lily reached up and touched her hair, running her fingers quickly from scalp to where it ended at her waist. No, no feathers, just hair. She looked at it. Still auburn red. "You have been pulling pranks on me for five years. You aren't going to do it any more? Are you serious?" She was astonished.
"Yes, I'm serious." He reached up to touch her cheek, but she slapped his hand away.
"Come to Hogsmeade with me. . . " She watched as he turned the charm of his devilishly dimpled smile on her .
"No thank you. I'd sooner date the giant squid. I am asking you to prove you can be my friend. That is all," she told him.
"I will prove it. I don't know how yet, but I'll show you."
She looked at him skeptically. Then her tummy rumbled, loudly.
He grinned. "I'll start by bringing you something to eat. Come on, we need to get to the common room."
She folded her arms and walked beside him up the hill, never letting him get close enough to touch her.
Later, she sat in the common room, wishing she hadn't told him he could get her something to eat. James returned looking a bit sheepish. She understood when he pulled out half a grapefruit and a spoon. "Life... is like a grapefruit. It's orange and squishy, and has a few pips in it, and some folks have half a one for breakfast," he explained simply.
"For dinner?" she asked, disappointed. He began to take it away, but she stopped his hand, taking the grapefruit.
"Sorry, the elves had already cleaned up from the feast and there wasn't much left. They were already starting the breakfast preparations. They said I could come back for a hot cinnamon roll in two hours . . . so if you'd like to come with me . . ." he grinned suggestively.
Grapefruit wasn't going to work for dinner, but it would tide her over until she could get a cinnamon roll. But go with James? "I'll go myself. Where do you go to get inside the kitchens?"
"I'll show you. I promise I won't put any moves on you. Just friends."
She gave in reluctantly and took a spoonful of grapefruit.
. . . . .
He'd taken her to get cinnamon rolls that night, and behaved himself too. But she still wasn't sure that was enough for him to prove himself. She watched him in NEWT potions class . . . he wasn't taunting Severus. That was a change. Sirius was still a git, but James seemed to be almost polite to Severus. Not that Severus seemed to notice. He was still as careful and suspicious around James as ever. Twice she went to talk to him, to try to bring him back from his dark friends. Twice she stopped herself, knowing that while he might accept her again, he would never reject the dark magic. She could not be his friend as long as he loved dark magic more than their friendship.
At the end of January, she noticed Severus, clutching his left forearm proudly and huddled in a group of the darkest Slytherins; she knew she'd been right to stay away from him. He was one of them completely now. Did he even remember it was her birthday? She had remembered his three weeks before, but hadn't said anything to him.
Still, James behaved himself. He was consistently polite to Severus, at least in front of her. His pranks on others continued, but they took on a light-hearted and almost self-deprecating tone. It was quite charming. Not that she showed James how charming she found it.
. . .
She had finally deduced Remus's secret two years ago, but he was the kindest of the Marauders and a fellow prefect, so she didn't let him know she knew. But she could see he was getting more peaked looking, and his eyes were getting that restless quality in them. He'd be disappearing again. Tonight was the full moon. She noted the playfulness that the other three took on during the full moon. Did they think Remus's affliction was funny?
Remus was gone well before dinner. She ate her own dinner and curled up in the common room with a magical history book. If only Binns were half as interesting as the text...
She was just getting into the Goblin wars when Black, Pettigrew, and Potter came through the portrait hole. Black and Pettigrew were laughing hysterically. "You should have seen ole' Snivellus . . . wanting to know about Remus, wanting proof . . . I finally couldn't stand it anymore. I told him how to get past the Whomping Willow and told him to go find out for himself."
Peter guffawed loudly at Sirius's story.
James, however, looked horror-stricken. "You did what?"
"He'll shit his knickers . . ." Sirius laughed some more.
"He'll be killed, you idiot. Or bitten. Remus will be blamed. Dammit, do you ever think things through?" James shoved Sirius out of the way and bolted out of the portrait hole at a dead run. Sirius shrugged his shoulders and Peter copied him, grinning foolishly.
Lily already had her cloak on and was now making her own way out the portrait hole. Severus was in danger . . . he could be killed or . . . She ran harder. By the time she opened the main doors, Potter was already most of the way to the Whomping Willow, his long legs straining to hurry. She watched as he darted inside the tree . . . then watched as he returned ten minutes later with a pale and furious Severus.
He had saved him. He had saved Severus. She sighed with relief and pent up tension. She watched as Dumbledore stopped them on the lawns, talking to them. Severus agreed to whatever he said reluctantly, she could see that much. James looked relieved. She made her way back to the common room, no longer wanting to be seen. When she returned, she was just in time to see Dumbledore's angry face show up in the fire of the Floo. "Sirius Black, come to my office immediately!"
Sirius slinked off through the portrait hole, while Pettigrew disappeared into the boys' dorms. She pulled out a book, waiting for James to return. When he did return, she smiled at him. Maybe he is worth knowing, she thought. His own face broke into a big grin, and he sat next to her. She turned to her studies, waiting to see what he'd do, but he suddenly was acting shy and didn't say much. How sweet, she thought.
. . .
She went back to her room after watching the Quidditch practice. The air was fragrant as she opened the door. The cover of her bed was liberally sprinkled with orchids . . . lovely white and violet and pink tinged orchids . . . who? how? Her eyes caught sight of a small note. "For my friend, Lily"
Of course. James would have one of his house house-elf friends do it. It was quite a lovely gesture really. She turned a small red vase into a large clear glass bowl, then filled it with water and floated the orchids on the water.
When it was time for dinner, she tucked one of the smallest orchids into her pony tail and headed down stairs to the common room. James met her, giving her pony tail a tug. "So you like the lilies? I thought you might . . ."
"Lilies?" Lily asked, surprised. She thought back to her NEWT Herbology class that day . .. no Potter was NOT in it.
"Yes . . . they were from me . . . I saw them in the greenhouses and thought you might like them, so . . ." he looked puzzled. "What is it?" he asked.
"I liked the flowers. Orchids are my second favourite after Lilies. Thank you."
She hurried on to the Great Hall, leaving him dumbstruck. She ate dinner with a bemused smirk on her face, listening to James tell Sirius how stupid he was for not telling him the difference between a lily and an orchid.
Lily looked on at James indulgently and at Sirius with a touch of pity. At least Sirius had not been expelled, but dinner and in class were the only times these two had been seen together since the incident. Remus had barely acknowledged Sirius at all, but now was at least grunting to him politely when Sirius spoke directly to him. Pettigrew seemed to enjoy it all . . . like it put his own place in the Marauder hierarchy a little closer to James's.
She glanced over at Severus on the Slytherin table. He, too, was watching the four boys, but with complete malice in his face. She sighed.
James glanced at her, then followed her glance to the Slytherin table. He filled two dessert plates, then sat next to her, handing her the bigger helping. "You still care about him . . . do you have room to care about me too, maybe?" he asked softly.
"I already do," she answered so only he could hear it. His hand momentarily brushed hers, and she felt the electricity in their touch.