A/N: I’m so sorry this is so late. Sometimes, however, Real Life (curse it!) seems to like to interfere with our nice fanfiction world. I apologize again and thank y’all for sticking with me and this story. My deepest thanks go to my wonderful PS.net beta, Daily Prophet Reporting, for being so diligent with me. He hasn’t gotten a shout out in like three chapters, which I feel really bad about, so I want to thank him extra hard right now.
This is where it starts to get heavy – so be prepared.
“Lily, do stop complaining. Honestly, you’d think I was pulling out your teeth rather than taking you to a luncheon.”
Lily folded her arms stubbornly against her chest. She would have rather had her teeth pulled than this. “Mum, this is ridiculous. You know Petunia doesn’t want me there, and frankly, I can think of a whole host of other things I’d rather be doing.”
Mrs. Evans chose not to reply as she searched for a parking spot on the side of the crowded street. They were outside of Petunia’s favorite restaurant, a popular, fancy place, where Mrs. Evans had reserved a room for the lunch.
Lily was feeling quite cross for a number of reasons in addition to the silly, “girls only” luncheon. First, she hadn’t seen James since he came to their house for dinner a week ago, and secondly, there had been a huge, blatant attack on Muggles two days previously. It had taken place in the evening and had included a mass fire; the Ministry was frantically scrambling to Obliviate the memories of the traumatized Muggles who had seen the attackers. The Muggle papers were baffled at the seemingly random fire and how many of those found deceased at the site had not been killed by the flames or suffocated but rather their hearts had simply stopped. Lily, along with the rest of the Wizarding world, had been stunned that Lord Voldemort would be so bold as to risk exposing himself to the Muggle population; he obviously didn’t care.
“Lily, come on,” Mrs. Evans said as she shut the engine off and climbed out of the car. Lily heaved a great sigh before unbuckling her safety belt and getting out. She followed her mother into the restaurant and back into their reserved room.
They were the last to arrive; all the others were seated at the cheerfully decorated long table that occupied the room. Everyone was chatting loudly and excitedly. Lily’s eyes swept over the guests. In addition to Petunia and Mrs. Dursley, the three other bridesmaids were present: Cousin Sarah, fresh from her honeymoon; Marge Dursley, looking as large and hairy as ever; and Amy from Petunia’s university. And - yes - Grandmummy was seated at the lower end of the table.
Lily bypassed her sister, who was stiffly greeting their mother, with scarcely a glance and made a beeline for the empty seat next to her grandmother at the far end of the table. Lily was next to Amy and, unfortunately, directly opposite Marge. Lily didn’t care, however, as she immediately began speaking to Grandmummy and ignored everyone else for as long as she could.
Marge didn’t appreciate her cold shoulder; after the main course, she barked as Lily took a sip of her water, “Got another pup for you to meet, Lily.”
Lily put the glass down carefully as Marge hoisted her enormous handbag into her lap. Lily watched with a mixture of disgust and fascination as Marge removed her latest bulldog from the bag. “Well, come here. Don’t be shy.”
They had attracted the attention of the rest of the table. Mrs. Evans caught Lily’s eye and gave her a look that told her unmistakably to go pet the wretched dog. Lily got up and moved around Grandmummy, who was chuckling, and arrived at Marge’s ample side. “Go on,” Marge said, shaking the dog at Lily. “Give him a pat. Feel how smooth his coat is. That’s what you call good breeding. Very rare.”
The dog allowed Lily to pet him as he was more occupied with licking Marge’s plate clean than anything else. Lily hesitantly stroked his forehead once before quickly withdrawing her hand. Mrs. Dursley, meanwhile, was explaining loudly about how Marge had always carried a fascination for animals, dogs in particular.
“He’s lovely,” Lily said with what she hoped was a smile but was probably more like a grimace. Marge narrowed her eyes at Lily for a moment before returning to her dog. Lily hurried back to her seat before Marge could make her pet the animal again.
Lily sat in a sullen silence for the ride home while her mother chatted away obliviously about flower arrangements. When they pulled into their driveway Lily got out and practically ran into the house, eager to get away from her mother, and found an unfamiliar owl perched on top of the television set in the sitting room. She crossed to it and untied the official-looking envelope from its leg; the bird flew off before she could do anything else. When she turned the envelope over her heart stopped beating. The seal was that of St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.
With shaking fingers she broke the seal and withdrew the piece of parchment from within; her eyes scanned the elegant purple ink quickly: We are pleased to announce that you have been accepted to St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries’ prestigious Healing Program as a Trainee Healer…
Lily let out a shriek of joy and rushed into the kitchen. “Mum! St. Mungo’s accepted me! I’m a Healer-in-Training!”
“Lily!” her mother cried as she embraced her, “darling, how wonderful! Oh, we must have a celebratory dinner! I am so proud of you! When do you start?”
Glowing with happiness, Lily looked down at the now wrinkled parchment in her hand. “It says here to report to the hospital on 4 September for orientation. Oh, Mum, I’m just so excited! I’m going to ring Dad.”
“Of course, of course! And we’ll have a celebratory dinner. What do you feel like eating tonight? Shepherd’s pie? I know it’s your favorite.”
“Mm, yes, please!” Lily said, still grinning widely.
She Flooed James and Sirius and then Gwen to tell them about her acceptance. All three were very happy for her, and James was even happier when his acceptance to test further for the Auror training program came the following week. He apparently had met the academic requirements and passed the background check for a criminal record, but he still had to go in to the Auror office and pass a series of intense character and ability tests. Lily knew he would be fine.
Mrs. Potter, James, and Sirius came to dine at the Evanses’ house the week before Petunia’s wedding. Mrs. Evans was distracted with excitement nearly the whole time and couldn’t speak of anything but the impending nuptials. Lily watched Mrs. Potter covertly through the meal; her earlier notice at how old Mrs. Potter seemed was heightened by the shadows beneath her dark eyes. Lily made up her mind and asked James just how old his mother was later when the three friends went outside while the adults drank coffee in the sitting room.
Sirius guffawed with surprise. “What happened to your tact, Evans?” he asked, jabbing her in the ribs.
She blushed. “I just wanted to know,” she snapped defensively at him before looking at James uncertainly. “That is, if it’s all right.”
James smiled. “It’s all right. She’s quite old, actually, even by Wizarding standards. She and Dad had me when they didn’t think they would be able to.” James swallowed hard at the mention of his father but continued on. “I’m their only child. They never spared me anything, they were so thrilled to have me.”
Lily detected the worry in James’s tone when he spoke about his mother. She knew that he was anxious about Mrs. Potter’s health and now she knew why. Old by Wizarding standards… She wondered how old that actually was, but didn’t want to ask.
Lily spent the week leading up to Petunia’s wedding with what seemed like a constant headache. She was shuffled to event after event and had to deal with her mother’s excited squeals all the time, not to mention seeing much more of Marge Dursley and her family than she ever cared to in her life.
And disasters kept striking the Wizarding world. James Apparated over to her house three days before the wedding and told her that he had just received word that Christopher Miller had been found dead at his parents’ house in Stratford. Lily had been so shocked she hadn’t even known how to react for a time, before she eventually shed bitter tears for her former flame and his unfortunately short life. She hoped she hadn’t hurt him too terribly on their only outing to Hogsmeade.
James and Lily decided to attend his funeral, which was on the same day as Petunia’s marriage, before going to the wedding ceremony. The funeral was a very subduing experience for the both of them, and it was with heavy hearts that they joined in the happy festivities at the wedding. Lily put on her hideous gown with her fellow sufferers, lined up on James Dursley’s portly arm, and somehow got through the ceremony in which her sister legally bound herself to the overgrown warthog (a.k.a. Vernon Dursley) without vomiting. Everyone then traveled to the Dursleys’ home, where the reception was taking place, and after a ridiculous amount of pictures, Lily escaped the mad photographer and sought out her escort. He was standing near the buffet line charming several of Petunia’s university friends, including Cousin Sarah. Lily rolled her eyes when she arrived at his side.
“Ah, there you are, dearest,” he said, planting a loud kiss on her cheek. Lily allowed herself a smug smile as she registered the envious looks on the girls’ faces before steering James forcefully away.
“James, I don’t know how long I’m going to be able to stand this,” she muttered, finding an empty table and forcing him down beside her. She folded her arms on the table and rested her forehead on them, dimly noticing that the band was striking up a tune in the nearby dancing tent. “It’s torture,” she complained, her voice muffled. “Vernon looks at me like I’m carrying a fatal, contagious virus; Petunia doesn’t look at me at all; Mum’s off on some