A/N: Once again, thousands of thanks go to DailyProphetReporting (a.k.a. KC) for his patience and general awesomeness.
Even though James had shown an odd compassion towards her by writing her the note, it changed nothing between them. They were still at each others throats publicly and privately, and it got them in trouble a few more times. The Christmas holidays came as a complete and utter relief to Lily. She was already studying for her life-deciding N.E.W.T.s, which were a set of examinations taken by the seventh years in the spring, and she was determined to do well, even though she was exhausting herself in the process. A Healer needed top grades.
Her parents greeted her at Kings Cross with big hugs and warm smiles, all of which she accepted gladly. She bade goodbye to Dorcas and Mary Katherine, told Gwen she would see her in the next day or so, and was off, back home.
Christmas had always been her favorite time of the year. Everything smelled like gingerbread all the time as her mother baked cookies and pieces of houses. Lily and Petunia teamed up with their parents every year and "competed" for the best gingerbread house or, at least, they had. Petunia had made excuses to miss the party ever since Lilys third year, when Petunia had left college and moved out to go to university. Now she that she was engaged, the excuse to miss the celebration was easy and resignedly accepted by the three remaining family members. Petunia hated Lily, plain and simple, and there was nothing anyone could do about it anymore.
And so, this year, as it had been for the past four, Lily made her own big gingerbread house and set it up proudly on display. Her maternal grandmother (and her only surviving grandparent) joined them for Christmas Eve dinner and the eating of the gingerbread house afterwards.
Lily loved talking to her grandmother. Grandmummy, as she was known, was a sprightly old woman with Lilys sparkling, large green eyes and a delicate build. Her hair had been a most startling red when she was younger, and though Lilys hair was a much different shade of red, Grandmummy had always preferred her to Petunia because of her eyes and hair.
"So, have you got yourself a beau yet, darling?" Grandmummy asked as the two were seated on the couch. Her father and mother had disappeared into the kitchen, doing God only knew what, and left grandmother and granddaughter to enjoy the gingerbread house all by themselves.
Lily sighed. The topic of boys was still a bit raw, even though it had been more than a month since the incident with Christopher Miller. "No, Grandmummy, not yet."
"Well, you know, my dear, Id rather like to meet a grandchild before I die," she said, wiggling her white eyebrows at Lily, who giggled and tried to master her shock.
"Grandmummy, Im only seventeen!"
"I was your age when I married your grandfather. Did you know?"
"Well, Petunias getting married soon," Lily said, a bit hesitantly.
Grandmummy flapped her hand dismissively. "She wont carry on the genes, though, darling."
"The genes? Which ones?" Lily asked, her brow creasing.
Grandmummy reached a gnarled old finger up to a corner of her wrinkled eye and tapped it there. "The eyes, love," she whispered. "Our emerald eyes."
"Petunia could, though," she said cautiously. "It is possible, I think."
"But she wont," the old woman insisted, breaking off a corner of the house that was seated on the table before them. It was now nothing but a ruin, the iced roof caved in, large chunks of the walls and chimney missing. Lily felt a slight chill of foreboding and looked up into her grandmothers weathered face again.
"Itll be you," Grandmummy whispered confidently. "Itll be you."
Christmas Day was a haze of presents, family, and snow. As was the Evans family tradition, they had a small Christmas lunch and then ate a huge dinner at Lilys aunt and uncles house. Since all of her cousins were either too young or married already and because of her time away at school (they thought it was just a small, remote school way up north), no one really knew her. Petunia was there; they said a stiff hello to each other and parted ways, Petunia to show her extremely fat and ugly fiancé around and Lily to mope alone.
She sipped champagne and watched her sister suck up to everyone with Vernon Dursley glued to her side. Lily knew her sister had odd taste, but he really took the cake. She watched him eat a shrimp, the sauce dripping down his multiple chins before he wiped it away with a bloated hand, and shuddered. Unwelcome thoughts of kissing a mouth like that, having a hand like that touch her, made her feel suddenly nauseated; she turned away immediately and made to walk to the loo, and ran smack into her father.
"Oomph!" Mr. Evans said, narrowly missing spilling his wine all over his daughter. "Lily, darling, watch where youre going, please."
"Sorry, Dad," Lily apologized, though not feeling very chastised at all.
Her father looked at her shrewdly. "Youre bored to tears, arent you?"
Lily looked down and shrugged slightly. "Im fine."
"Youre not." He sighed. "I wish I could let you go, love, but I cant, not before dinner. Your mother would roast me. Why dont you go try and talk with Sarah?" Sarah was Lilys stuffy older cousin and former playmate. She thought she was queen of the world, having graduated from Oxford at the top of her class the previous year and gone on to get a very lucrative job at a law firm. It was her habit to use excruciatingly large words and then expect everyone to praise her for her cleverness which they did. Lily couldnt stand her.
Mr. Evans saw her look. "Oh, Lily, she isnt that bad."
"Well, her fiancé is." Sarah was engaged too, to the young, dashing lawyer with whom she worked also an insufferable swot. Sarah had the honor of being a bridesmaid in Petunias wedding, as Petunia did in hers.
"I dont know what to tell you," Mr. Evans said, his gaze softening as he looked at his youngest. "Just try to last it out. Itll be over soon. And the next time perhaps youll have a lad of your own, eh?"
Mr. Evans winked and walked past her, knocking into her slightly and apologizing as he went; Lily realized he was well on his way to becoming tipsy. She sighed and sat down in the nearest chair. This was sure to be a fun evening.
The next morning she went down to breakfast in high spirits once more. Christmas was over, no more spending time with rude relatives .
"Morning, Mum," she said cheerfully, coming into the kitchen. It smelled divine, and her stomach grumbled audibly.
Mrs. Evans brushed a lock of blond hair out of her face and smiled tiredly at Lily. She had indeed become more than slightly drunk the night before, and Lily knew her head must hurt. "Morning, love," she said. "How about a cup of tea? Ive made some scones."
"Mmh, sounds wonderful," Lily said, and watched as her mother poured a steaming cup of tea into a mug and then added one lump of sugar, just as she liked it. Lily accepted it from her. The steam heated her face soothingly and she sat for a moment, inhaling the comforting, familiar smell of the Earl Grey, before gently blowing on it and taking a hesitant sip.
"Did you sleep well?" Mrs. Evans asked presently, opening the oven to peek in at the scones within.
"Yes, thanks," Lily said. She set her cup down and peered out the window. "When did you finally come back in, Mum?"
Mrs. Evans shrugged wryly. "Who knows? Late."
Lily smiled. "I know a wonderful sobering potion, but unfortunately wed have to get all sorts of different ingredients."
"Like what?" Mrs. Evans asked, and then held up a hand when Lily opened her mouth to reply. "Never mind, I dont want to know."
Lily chuckled and took another sip of tea. "Has the Daily Prophet come yet?" she asked, looking around at the counter. Mrs. Evans had a supply of little copper Knuts to pay the delivery owl with, and the paper was usually waiting for Lily when she came down for breakfast.
Mrs. Evans frowned and shook her head, also peering out the open window. The sky was a clear blue, and the snow on the ground sparkled like diamonds under the suns rays. "No thats a bit strange, isnt it?"
Lily felt a slight stab of anticipation. Had anything happened? The Prophet had only been late once, and that was when an attack had broken out in Diagon Alley and the staff refused to leave their homes. The attack had been, of course, by Lord Voldemort, the fiercest Dark Lord to rise in a century. He had been steadily gaining power since last year, and was now launching attacks against Muggles and wizards that had intermarried with Muggles. Some said that this Lord Voldemorts goal was to "purify the wizarding race", like Salazar Slytherin, one of the four Hogwarts founders, had supposedly wanted. The disturbing thing was that he was not short of supporters, either.
"Oh, look theres an owl," Mrs. Evans said, spotting one through the window. Lily squinted as it came closer it was a Prophet owl, with a rolled up paper attached to its leg.
It swooped in and landed on the table; Lily quickly untied the letter as her mother offered it a dish of water and tucked a Knut into the animals little pouch. Lily scanned the front page as soon as she got the paper free and felt her stomach drop. There had been another attack but this time on a dinner party held for the Minister of Magic .
Lily swallowed and read the caption underneath the photo of a burning home, just above the relatively short article:
In attendance at the very informal gathering were members of the Potter, Watson, McKinnon, and Bones families, all known for their tireless work against the Dark side. The loss of Aurors Will Potter and Lucas Bones will be felt deeply by the wizarding community.
The blood drained from her face and Lily suddenly felt faint. The Watsons? And Will Potter? Surely that wasnt . No it couldnt be . She looked down at the article and forced her brain to process the typed words.
Late on Sunday night, writes Special Correspondent Ophelia Jones, a group of Death Eaters broke up a small Christmas dinner party held by the McKinnon family for Minister of Magic Millicent Bagnold and other influential families. This unfortunate attack resulted in the untimely deaths of Aurors Will Potter and Lucas Bones as they fought to save the Minister and the others.
According to authorities who arrived on the scene shortly after eleven oclock, the Death Eaters numbered fifteen and broke into the house simultaneously, despite the wards placed and precautions taken by the McKinnons. They assaulted the party, whichhad retired by then to the living room of the home to enjoy dessert, violently and without warning. It was several minutes before the two Aurors assigned to guarding Minister Bagnold could call for reinforcements, as they were stationed outside and were momentarily detained.
Minister Bagnold was unhurt but deeply shaken and grief-stricken by the encounter. Katharine Potter, George and Elizabeth Watson, and siblings Edgar and Amelia Bones were unhurt, though Marlene and Thomas McKinnon had to be taken to St. Mungos as a result of minor burn wounds.
Mr. Bones and Mr. Potter leave behind grieving wives and children.
"Whats wrong, Lily?" Mrs. Evans asked worriedly as Lily dropped the newspaper onto the counter, eyes wide with shock. Her mothers voice shook her from her horrible thoughts and she jumped up.
"I-Ive got to Floo Gwen!"
She felt like her brain was full of lead as she ran into the living room. Hands shaking, she grabbed a handful of Floo Powder, lit the gas fireplace, and tossed it in. "Number 300, Huckleberry Lane!" she cried, and stuck her head straight into the fire.
To her immense surprise, Gwen was sitting in front of the fireplace when Lilys head popped up. Gwen cried out and jumped, her face whiter than a sheet, and stared at her best friend as if she were a ghost.
"Oh God, Gwen! I just heard!" Lily said, her face creased with worry. "Are you oh, Gwen, are you okay?"
Gwen looked at her for a long moment, her eyes filling. She dropped her head into her hands and let out a strangled sob. Lily started; she could count on one hand the number of times she had seen Gwen cry.
"Oh oh! Okay, Im coming-"
Lily jerked her head out of the fire and stood, nearly banging her head on the mantle as she reached up for the small pot. She tossed more Powder in and stepped completely into the fireplace this time, crouching over slightly (the fireplace wasnt that large) and yelling out Gwens address. Ten dizzying seconds later, she tripped out of the grate and landed right next to her best friend.
She didnt know what to do but put her arms around Gwen. She was unresponsive for a heart-wrenching moment before turning and embracing Lily back hard. Lily could feel the tears soaking her shoulder, but she didnt move, only squeezed Gwen tighter.
Some time later, the brunette pulled back, hiccoughing slightly, and wiped her eyes. "Im s-sorry, Lily," she said, chest heaving, "but I h-had to c-cry to s-someone. Mum and Dad ." She shook her head.
Lily hugged her again. "You can always cry to me, Gwen," she whispered, and squeezed tighter before letting her go.
Gwen stared down at her hands, her hair falling to cover her face like a curtain. Lily waited, knowing she would speak when she wanted to and she did, when she got her breath back.
"I was asleep when Mrs. Crockford shes a neighbor and friend of Mums came over and said that the McKinnon party had been attacked. She told me that Mum wanted me to stay home, but both she and Dad were fine. I was scared, but happy that Mum and Dad were okay, you know? I didnt I didnt think anything was ." She trailed off and made visible effort to control herself. "Mrs. Crockford stayed with me for a bit, and then Mum and Dad got back at about one-thirty or so." Lily heard Gwen swallow hard. "I knew something was wrong because Mum was crying and Dad looked like he had been. They told me they told me Uncle Will was was "
She wiped her eyes impatiently, but the tears still fell. "They told me he was dead, Voldemort killed him. I oh, Lily . Uncle Will Mr. Potter hes my godfather, did you know? And now James and Aunt Katharine "
Lily nodded wordlessly, her own eyes filling. She had never met Mr. Potter, but her heart ached for the pain James and Mrs. Potter must be going through.
When Gwen spoke again, it was a whisper. "James...hes going to be completely torn up. And Sirius, oh God . Both of them, but James the most. Uncle Will is was his best friend, Lily." She turned slowly to face her friend, shaking her head. "Im scared, Lily. Im scared for everyone you, Mum, Dad, James, Aunt Katharine, everyone!"
She burst into tears again and fell back into Lilys arms. Lily cried with her: for the fatherless boy and his mother, for the soul of Mr. Potter, for Sirius, and for their world how it was being torn apart by a single man.
When the time to go back to school arrived two weeks later, they couldnt escape it. Mrs. Watson had firmly said that Hogwarts, under the care of Albus Dumbledore, was the best place for anyone, and she had a talk with Lilys very worried mother about it over the space of an entire afternoon two days before the Hogwarts Express would take them back. Gwen told Lily that James had tried to withdraw from school, only to be shot down by Dumbledore himself.
"I can see the difference," she confided soberly, picking at Lilys old coverlet as their mothers discussed things below in the living room. "Hes more alert now . But hes so different, Lily. You wouldnt believe it. He never smiles anymore."
When the day came to return to Hogwarts, Lily was extremely nervous to see him. Was he really that different? She didnt think she had ever seen him not smiling or joking but maybe now .Maybe he would treat her as an equal? She was sad for his loss, yes, but a horrible part of her was looking forward to the change Gwen claimed was there.
"Bye, sweetums. Well see you soon," her mum said, kissing her once more. Mrs. Evans eyes were shining with unshed tears. "Do be safe, wont you?" she whispered, holding Lily by the shoulders. Mr. Evans stood behind his wife and rubbed her arms soothingly; the gesture wasnt helping their tension at all.
Lily swallowed the lump in her throat and nodded, looking away. Her mother released her reluctantly and stepped back. She was scared for her parents terrified, actually and a small, evil voice was telling her this could be the last time she saw them.
Lily waved to them as she walked to the train. "Ill write as soon as I can," she called, and paused as she climbed up into the car. They were standing together, waving, and with one last slightly sad smile, Lily turned away and climbed up the stairs.
The prefects carriage was as rowdy and noisy as it had been on the first day, and Lily battled her way over to an empty set of seats, muttering about disrespectful subordinates. Lauren wasnt there yet, so she saved her friend a seat and drew out a new book she had received over the holidays and started to read. Her mind chose to wander, however, and she thought once again about James Potter. Was he really that different? She knew that if her father were to die, she would be a complete and utter wreck . But then, James-
"Lily! How are you? How was your Christmas?"
Lily was enveloped into a huge hug by Lauren and her thought was cut off. "It was pretty good, how was yours?"
Lauren apparently had had a wonderful break her cute neighbor had finally asked her on a date and they had hit it off very well. Lauren was in the middle of gushing about their first kiss when the compartment door opened, and Lily instantly recognized the tall form out of the corner of her eye: James Potter.
A hush fell over the compartment almost instantly. The prefects who didnt know about the attack were quickly filled in by their friends, but James seemed oblivious to the whispering. He didnt look anything like Lily remembered. His face was thinner and wan, his expression was slightly dull, and circles were just visible through the glasses that framed his dark brown eyes.
Remus Lupin was behind him, and he steered his friend through the assembled prefects with ease to the corner opposite where Lily was seated. No one spoke until James was seated, and even then it was in hushed voices.
Lily was deeply unsettled by his appearance for some odd reason, and she wanted to say something to him to make him snap out of it. Her emotions were going mad did she actually want him to go back to making her life a misery?
The feeling of extreme unease only increased during the ride to the school, in which James neither stirred from his seat nor, from what Lily could see, said anything at all to anyone except Remus. She hadnt realized how much he lit up everything and everyone around him until that day, when it didnt happen anymore. She wondered about something else that hadnt occurred to her before then: what would this mean to her Head Girl duties? Would she have to do everything from now on?
And then the question hit her would James resign?
It was possible. Possible and probable. But then they would have to replace James, and his replacement would almost certainly be either Christopher Miller or Sirius Black.
Lily would have rather kissed Vernon Dursley.
James was bad, but he wasnt that bad. She looked across the compartment he was staring out the window listlessly. Think, Evans, Lily told herself, think. You could always go to McGonagall, right? But then it wasnt as if she could do anything if James turned in his badge, right? She couldnt force him to stay Head Boy when he didnt want to, could she?
And then, quite suddenly, James was looking right at her, and she had to stifle a shriek of surprise. His eyes, formerly merry and twinkling, were dead and showed more pain and grief than Lily had ever seen before. But, just as soon as he looked, he turned away from her.
She had the very, very absurd urge to hug him.
Im going insane.
"Told you," Gwen whispered through the dark. The two best friends were having a little powwow in Gwens bed, speaking softly so as to not wake up their two other roommates.
"Lumos," Lily whispered to her wand, and instantly the tip flared to life. She closed her eyes against the sudden brightness and slowly adjusted to it. When she opened her eyes again, Gwen was sitting up against her headboard, knees drawn to her chest, her black hair spilling down her legs as she rested her chin on her knees. The pallor of her face was increased by the almost fluorescent light coming from Lilys wand.
"I told you," she repeated, looking at Lily intently. "Hes a completely different person. Him and Sirius."
Lily didnt deny it, even the bit about Sirius Black. He was indeed a changed person, almost sick with grief. She had seen him at dinner earlier he was glued to Jamess side and seemed to almost growl at those who approached them.
"I know," she said quietly. She didnt want to mention her absurd desire to comfort James; she knew it was a secret she would take to the grave.
"His mother is having a really rough time as well," Gwen continued.
"I imagine so," Lily said, and then hesitated. "Dyou dyou think hell resign?"
Gwens brow creased. "Resign?"
"The Head Boy position," Lily elaborated, looking down at the comforter and trying to keep her face hidden. She wasnt sure she wanted Gwen to know how she felt about the chance of James being replaced.
"Hes going to talk to McGonagall tomorrow," Gwen said quietly, sadly.
Lilys head shot up. "He is?"
Gwen stared at her in astonishment. "Yes," she said slowly. "And if I didnt know better, Id say you care about that."
"Is it because he doesnt think he can handle it anymore?" Lily asked, deliberately ignoring the second part of what Gwen said.
"And he doesnt want it," Gwen said, looking at Lily oddly. "Why do you care?"
"I dont," Lily said quickly. From the expression on Gwens face, Lily knew her lie hadnt passed. She could hear Christopher telling her that she was a bad actress and knew it to be true.
"Right. Lily, whats wrong?"
Lily met Gwens ice blue eyes. "I dont know," she said honestly. "I mean, youd think Id be leaping for joy right now. But I dont know. Maybe its the thought of whod take over for James?"
A small smile flickered across Gwens lips. "That would be bad."
Lily shuddered. Gwen knew all about Lilys disastrous date with Christopher and could sympathize. The thought of working the rest of the year with control-freak Christopher Miller was enough to make Lily consider turning in her own badge.
"So obviously you dont want him to resign," Gwen continued, still looking at her best friend oddly. "Right?"
"Well yeah, I suppose."
"Then talk to him."
Lilys jaw dropped. "Talk to him?"
"He likes you more than he lets on, Lily," Gwen said almost reluctantly, eyes pinned on Lilys. "Im sure it would make him think twice if you talked to him."
Lily snorted disbelievingly. "Likes me, does he? You must be blind, Gwen. Or deaf. Or both."
"Im neither," Gwen said coolly. "Take my advice and talk to him. Hell listen, I promise he will."
Lily sighed. "But when could I talk to him? Before he talks to McGonagall, I mean," she pointed out, almost desperately.
Gwen shrugged. "Weve got Transfiguration second to last tomorrow. Talk to him after lunch."
And so the next day, Lily found herself rushing to catch up with him after he left the Great Hall. She had almost missed him leaving, but Gwen had noticed and elbowed her sharply in the side. She was taking the stairs on the great marble staircase in the entrance hall two at a time.
"James!" she called, panting.
His three best friends, who had been surrounding him protectively all day like a pack of wolves, glanced backwards but kept on walking; James, however, stopped and turned. His friends came back and watched curiously as Lily hurried towards them.
Lilys hands were sweating as she drew up with them and stopped in front of James. "I was won-wondering if I could talk to you," Lily wheezed. She stole a glance upwards at his face; he was expressionless, which unnerved her, and so she instead looked at Remus Lupin, who was on Jamess right.
"What about?" Sirius Black demanded aggressively from his position on Jamess left.
"None of your business," Lily shot back, glaring at him.
He sneered at her. "Why dont you go tally House points or whatever it is you do for fun? James doesnt want to talk to you."
"Sirius," James said warningly. Lily didnt know what she had expected him to sound like, but it wasnt that. His voice was deeper, more commanding, and serious.
Lily looked up. James and Sirius, who were almost the exact same height, were having a wordless conversation with their eyes. After a few seconds, James looked down at Lily and nodded. "Go ahead," he said to his friends. They hesitated, looking between James and Lily. "Its okay," James assured them. Sirius was already walking away and the other two followed him after a moment, Remus clapping James on the back as he went.
Lily was staring down at the ground again, fingers twisted. Dear Christ, why did she have that completely, alarmingly insane urge to hug him?
He was waiting for her to speak. She cleared her throat and, still looking down, said, "I just wanted to ask if it was true if youre giving up your Head Boy position."
She snuck a look up at him; he was surprised, which, in turn, surprised her.
"I dont know," he said after a minute. "Why why do you ask?"
Lily looked back down again and took a deep breath, remembering Gwens advice to tell the truth. "Because I dont think you should," she said quietly.
She met his eyes again, feeling herself steady. "No, I dont," she repeated firmly. She struggled with an explanation, feeling helplessly inarticulate. "You youre good at it."
"Im not. You know that better than anyone." His gaze was direct and inquisitive.
Lily swallowed. "Well, youre that is, I mean to say er ." She trailed off, hoping he would catch the meaning in her stuttering. When he still looked curious, she sighed and decided to throw all caution to the winds. "I dont want you to give it up. Ill do all the work, help you lie your way out of meetings you name it, Ill do it. Just dont resign."
He blinked and pushed his glasses up farther on his nose, obviously astounded. For the first time, Lily saw the vulnerable side of James Potter, and it wasnt a sight she would forget in a hurry.
"I er, I dont know what to say," he finally said. He reached into his robe pocket and drew out his slightly tarnished Head Boy badge and ran a thumb over it meditatively. "I was going to go turn this in to McGonagall after Transfiguration-" He stopped short, realization flashing through his eyes. "Did Gwen tell you to do this?"
Lily was taken aback. He looked suddenly angry. "Well, she told me you were planning to turn it in. If you mean did she ask me to talk to you, then no. Its its just me."
"Oh," he said, carefully masking his expressions once again. "I still dont understand, though, why youre doing this."
Lily shrugged helplessly. "That makes two of us."
"I dont like being Head Boy," he persisted. "No matter what it looks like, I dont like it."
Lily shrugged again. "That doesnt matter. Ill do everything, like I said."
"But I dont want you to do everything. Thats not fair."
Lily was starting to become impatient. "Look, I dont care. Its fine, really. What do you say?"
He sighed, apparently deep in thought as he rubbed the badge. He finally slipped it back into his pocket and fixed Lily with an intent stare. "I wont resign, but Im not letting you do all the work."
Lily couldnt help but smile in relief. "Okay, it doesnt matter. Whatever you want to do." She was about to turn and walk away, but good manners kicked in. "Erm thanks."
He held her eyes for a moment. "Youre welcome."
She looked down at her feet, slightly embarrassed, and a silence descended on them. Lily was debating whether or not to say anything about his father and decided in the end that she had better just go for it.
"Im sorry," she said, breaking the silence. "About your dad, I mean."
His Adams apple bobbed in his throat as he swallowed, but his voice was even and calm when he spoke. "Thank you."
Just then, a bell rang from somewhere around them, signaling the end of lunch, and Lily started. She realized she didnt have her books for her afternoon classes. "Oh, no," she muttered. "Erm, I should go," she said, and then hesitated. "Thanks again, Pot er " She felt panicked suddenly. Should she use "Potter" or were they now friends?
"Its okay Lily," James said softly. She was absurdly pleased with how he had said her name for some odd reason. It was new coming from him and sounded almost better than it did from those who regularly called her "Lily" and not "Evans".
She smiled and dashed away before she could give away any of her foolish feelings.
Lily was more than slightly apprehensive when she hurried breathlessly to the library the following Wednesday. She had almost forgotten the meeting with James (which showed how preoccupied she had been lately) and had run from Gryffindor Tower at breakneck speed. Unfortunately, the library was a bit far from the Tower, so Lily was reduced to a gasping lope by the time she pushed open the doors and entered the huge library.
She scanned the tables eagerly James was at one in the very back, head in his hands. Lily hesitated for a split second before making her way over to his table. What if hed forgotten about the meeting too and just wanted to be alone? She quickly dismissed that notion. No way would he come to the library if he wanted to be alone.
He raised his head when he heard her approach; his eyes were bloodshot and he looked like he hadnt slept in quite a while. "Hi," Lily said, smiling a bit shyly. "Sorry about being late I, er, was held up in the Tower."
He shrugged, dropping his head back down into his hands, and she sat down slowly, almost warily, across from him. She wanted to ask him if he was all right the first idea that popped into her head but she knew that was a ridiculous question and couldnt possibly ask it. She decided on a safer topic albeit one she had no idea about.
"So hows Quidditch?"
Her question startled him into looking at her, and she blushed, knowing her strategy had been figured out. He stared at her for a moment, before shrugging again. "S all right."
"What do you er think our chances are for the Cup?"
Yet another shrug. "Dunno."
"Gwen thinks weve got a good chance. Well, I mean, that is, if Slytherin beats Ravenclaw. That should be an exciting match."
James stared at her again. "Have you ever played Quidditch?"
Lily blushed again and cleared her throat, looking down at her hands. "Erm, well, the only time Ive been on a broom was first-year flying lessons," she confessed, and then plunged on. "It didnt move when I said Up! and so I grabbed it when no one was looking. I rose two feet off the ground, fell, and that was the end of Lily and flying."
She thought she saw the trace of a smile flicker across his face. "I dont remember that."
"Yes, well, you were too good for everyone back then," Lily replied dryly. "I was so jealous of you for being such a good flyer."
A smile definitely did flicker across his face this time. "Were you?"
Lily was so ecstatic he was talking that she didnt care she was revealing her secret envy of James Potter to his face. "Oh yes. I told myself that if I had been raised as a wizard then surely I would be a good flier as well .I didnt believe it then, and I certainly dont believe it now." She smiled.
Lily detected a hint of the old sparkle back in his eyes. "You just needed a proper teacher. Madam Price was rubbish."
"A proper teacher and natural talent," Lily retorted. "Of which I had neither, so it really doesnt matter."
He opened his mouth to say something, but evidently thinking better of it, shut it and leaned back in his chair. "Were any points taken during the holidays?"
Lily regretted going back to their duties and regretted even more the points lost from Gryffindor over break. "Those two second years, Roger McKenzie and Allen Pope, stayed over the holidays. They bewitched snowballs to follow Professor Kiser around as he went on a walk." James winced. "He deducted thirty points."
"Thirty?" James repeated, incredulous, leaning forward onto the table again.
Lily nodded grimly. "They were incredibly pleased with themselves, or so McGonagall said."
"Its a good prank, but the point is not to be caught," James said reproachfully, sounding like a disappointed father.
"Coming from the master," Lily said teasingly, and for a second she was scared she had overstepped the invisible line. But James merely gave her a small but genuine smile.
"Is there anything else?"
"Nope," Lily said, trying to not look relieved. "I havent taken any this week."
"I havent either," James said quietly, looking sad again.
Lily hadnt thought he had. "And have you noticed any unease or anything?"
"No," he said, meeting her eyes. Usually he didnt answer her routine questions he deigned not to, considering them to be unimportant. It meant more to Lily than she could say that he was answering them this time.
"Right, then," she said, attempting to be business-like, "Ill tell Professor McGonagall everythings fine, then."
James nodded, stood, and then paused, looking down at her. "Are you going back up?"
He wanted to walk with her back to the Tower?
Lily shook her head for reasons unknown even to herself. "Ive er, Ive got to study a bit. Down here. In the library. With the books."
Shut UP, mouth, shut UP!
Lily was very aware of her talents, or lack thereof, in acting, and looked down at the table.
James said, "All right, then. I guess Ill see you later."