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 happy cloud somewhere; and Dad can’t do anything but smile at me knowingly. I’m slowly going mad, I think.”
“Don’t worry,” he said, rubbing her reassuringly on the back. “At least you weren’t hit on by Vernon’s mother.”
Lily nearly choked as she looked at him. “What? His mum hit on you?” she repeated, chortling.
James leaned back in his chair, messed his hair up in that way that still annoyed Lily, and affected a casual air. “Well, you see, I am so ridiculously handsome that the ladies - no matter how old they are, and no matter what their marital status is - flock to me.”
Lily rolled her eyes and sat back in her chair. “Maybe in your little dream world, Potter.”
“But it’s true, Lily. You can’t deny it. It worked on you, who professed to hate me with a furious passion, didn’t it?”
“Just keep talking, Potter.”
“I am the honey to their flies, the light to their moths-”
“Come on, Romeo. Let’s get out of here.”
James was interrupted from his imaginative analogies and looked at her curiously. “Who’s Romeo?”
“Never mind. It’s a Muggle thing,” she said, getting up from the table and looking around. She was debating whether or not she should tell her mother that she was leaving, or-
“Lily. C’mon, we can’t leave without dancing.”
Lily spun around to face James, looking incredulous. “What? You want to dance?”
“Of course I do. We didn’t get to at the last wedding we went to.”
Lily stared at him for a moment before giving in to his pleading look. “Well, I suppose you’re right.”
“As usual,” he said with a grin of triumph, taking her hand and guiding her to the dancing tent. “Afterwards we can go to Sirius’s new flat. I told him we might be stopping by.” They stepped onto the hard floor and he bowed to her. “My lady, may I have this dance?”
“Of course, my lord,” Lily said primly, curtsying in her horrible dress. He took her into his arms and they began to dance slowly, the joking expressions gradually fading from their faces. She leaned her head forward onto his shoulder.
“I love you,” he whispered into her ear after a moment of dancing silently. “I don’t feel like I say that to you enough. I love you.”
Lily felt her heart swell as she shivered with emotion. She grinned into his shoulder. “For your information, you’ve said it to me twice already today.”
“Been keeping count, have you, Evans?” he teased.
“Don’t flatter yourself, Potter,” Lily said sharply, although it was true and they both knew it. He held her tighter, swaying gently on the spot.
Lily glanced over his shoulder. Petunia was staring at them openly and had obviously been listening in. “I think we’ve an eavesdropper,” Lily said quietly to James, and nodded at her sister. He turned around and caught sight of her; she sneered at them before quickly turning and rejoining her new husband. Lily could only roll her eyes. “Always been too nosy for her own good,” she sighed.
“Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.”
“She was always spying on the neighbors and gossiping about everyone at school. It’s her hobby. She wouldn’t associate with anyone who was unpopular or even remotely connected with something odd. I sort of feel bad for her,” she added thoughtfully. “Her sister turned out to be the strangest of them all.”
James again tightened his hold on her. “Praise Merlin,” he murmured, eliciting a smile from Lily.
“Having fun, darling?” Mrs. Evans called to them, breaking Lily out of her reverie as she swept by in Mr. Evans’s arms.
“Yes, Mum,” she answered, a reluctant grin and giggle escaping her as her mother tipsily waggled her eyebrows at James, who was luckily facing the other direction. “Oh, Mum - d’you think it would be all right if James and I took off in a minute?”
Mrs. Evans frowned. “But darling-”
“That would be fine, Lily,” Mr. Evans said, speaking over his wife. They exchanged a meaningful glance, which made Lily think that they had probably discussed this beforehand, and Mrs. Evans sighed.
“Oh, all right. But don’t forget to kiss your sister and Vernon goodbye.”
Lily’s mouth tightened but she nodded, and her parents swept off. She and James danced out the rest of the song before she sighed in resignation. “Let’s get this over with.”
James rubbed his hands together. “I look forward to seeing the Walrus up close again,” he said seriously. Lily shook her head and took his hand. She spotted Petunia’s elaborate gown from across the tent and made her way over to her, forcing her face into the semblance of a smile. The bride was seated with Vernon and Mrs. Dursley.
“We’re off, Petunia,” she said, and Petunia turned to look at them, her lips pursed over her horse-like teeth. She darted a glance at her mother-in-law; it was clear that she wished to say something venomous, but didn’t dare to do so in front of Mrs. Dursley.
Mrs. Dursley, her large, flabby face stained red from too much drink, stood unsteadily and flung her arms around Lily. “Such a lovely girl, such a lovely girl! So lovely in her dress! Wouldn’t you agree, young man?” she asked, winking as she poked James in the stomach. James wheezed. Lily tried to breathe through her mouth; the scent of alcohol on Mrs. Dursley’s breath was unbearable.
Mrs. Dursley lowered her voice to what she thought was a whisper and said to Lily, “If you ever get tired of him-” she jerked her head in James’s direction “-don’t hesitate to call up my neffy-poo.” She winked at Lily and gestured to James Dursley, who was (as Lily suspected) perched at the buffet table and, judging by the amount of food dribbled down his front and four chins, had been there for a while. Then she ambled off, presumably in search of another glass of wine, and Lily turned reluctantly to her sister, trying to ignore James’s sudden coughing fit.
“Don’t attempt to contact me ever again,” Petunia said, her voice so low that Lily had to strain her ears to hear it. Her face was stretched into a very false smile. “I don’t want to hear from you or speak to you again in my life. Do you understand?”
Lily smiled back at Petunia and leaned down. She bumped her jaw against Petunia’s before whispering in her ear, “Gladly.”
Then she stood, turned on her heel, and marched out of the tent.
“Attention! May I have your attention, please?”
The noise level in the small room decreased rapidly. Lily broke off the discussion of Christopher Miller’s murder she was having with two of her yearmates from school, Jasper Kirshner (who had been in Hufflepuff) and Romulus Vane (who had been a Ravenclaw), and turned to the witch who had just entered the room.
Her appearance was startling, to say the least; she was wearing lime green robes with the crossed wand and bone emblem of the Healers. Her bright red hair was incredibly curly and fanned out around her face, sticking up on all sides like a halo. She wore lime green lipstick (presumably to match her robes), and the same shade of green decorated the top of her eyelids. She looked quite young, probably only a few years older than Lily, and evidently thought she was quite important.
She held her clipboard to her chest and looked around archly until the last person stopped speaking. She then cleared her throat. “Thank you. I am Healer Esmerelda Merryfeather, and I have the privilege of welcoming you ten as our newest Trainee Healers here at St. Mungo’s. You will please remember to wear the name tags that you were presented with upon your arrival at all times in the Hospital.” She glared at one blonde witch, who was giggling with a friend and obviously not wearing her name tag. “You there - what is your name?”
Her friend nudged her and the blonde witch turned around. “Me? I’m Autumn. Autumn Bridges.”
“Well, I would have known that if you were wearing your name tag,” Esmerelda Merryfeather said venomously. Autumn blushed and hastily pinned her name tag on. Lily stifled a snicker.
“Anyway, as I was saying,” Esmerelda continued in her self-important way, “name tags are very essential here at St. Mungo’s. There are over one hundred Healers and Trainee Healers here and it is very important that everyone be able to address everyone else properly. You need only to wear them for your first few months, until everyone gets to know you. Also in the vein of being able to identify one another, you will be required to wear your lime green robes at all times within the Hospital.” She paused and looked at the Trainee Healers’ robes carefully. “No one has the Healer’s insignia on their robes, do they?” she asked sternly. “Those are strictly forbidden to anyone but fully qualified Healers.” She tossed her head and jutted out her chest so the emblem could be seen clearly on her robes. She cleared her throat again.
“Now, as today is your first day, I shall simply take you on a tour. St. Mungo’s has five floors dedicated to the art of Healing and servicing unfortunate witches and wizards who have come afoul of some type of curse, spell, jinx, potion, magical creature, or Wizarding illness. We also, as you may know, treat Muggles when necessary - although, of course, only after administering heavy Sedation spells and potions to them; they tend to be our most unruly patients. Please follow me as we begin our tour, and do pay attention.”
Lily’s mind was reeling when her day at the hospital was over. They had toured what seemed like all of St. Mungo’s fifty wards. She had seen some gruesome sights, but all in all, she was happy. This was what she knew she wanted to do and she couldn’t wait to have a more hands-on experience.
Esmerelda informed them that when they arrived the following day they would be assigned to the Healers they would apprentice with them for their first three months. When they had been with a Healer on all five floors would make their decision as to which realm of Healing they desired to study further.
Lily arrived the next morning, excited yet apprehensive, and learned that she would be apprenticing in ward thirty-nine, the Lucille Wallace Ward for Abnormally Large Rashes, with Healer McGowan on the third floor: Potion and Plant Poisoning. That was where, the day before, she had seen someone laughing hysterically and, next to that person, someone vomiting uncontrollably.
She walked upstairs with Romulus Vane, who was headed for the fourth floor, and entered at the third floor. Ward thirty-nine was at the end of the long corridor; Lily saw many strange sights through the open ward doors, including what looked like the same young man from yesterday who was still laughing but definitely with less gusto. Autumn Bridges, name tag securely in place, was apprenticing with a Healer in his ward; she saw Lily pass and flashed her a small smile before turning back to soothing the man.
Lily continued down the hall and found Lucille Wallace Ward for Abnormally Large Rashes. A handwritten card beneath the bronze plaque read: Healer-in-Charge: Gregory McGowan, Trainee Healer: Lily Evans. Lily pushed open the door and entered the ward.
There were six beds in all and a heavyset man was standing over the one furthest from the door, humming absently as he examined a patient, his back to Lily. Lily looked at the two other occupied beds. Both patients seemed to be sleeping. The one nearest Lily was a witch with a huge green rash that stretched blotchily all over her face and presumably down the rest of her body. The bed beside hers was occupied with a man who didn’t appear to have anything wrong with him, although he scratched himself often in his sleep.
Lily walked up quietly to Healer McGowan and cleared her throat. He appeared not to hear her as he was instead occupied with spreading some type of thick purple goo on the patient before him (Lily couldn’t tell if it was a boy or girl) and humming merrily to himself.
“Er - excuse me?”
He spun around and faced her. He had squinty blue eyes and large, dark mutton chops. A pair of gold spectacles was perched halfway down his nose.
“May I help you?” he asked, frowning at her.
She shook back her long hair and gestured to her name tag. “I’m Lily Evans, sir. The Trainee Healer.”
He looked at her uncomprehendingly for a long moment before suddenly realization dawned. “Oh yes, right! Lily Evans. Right. Requested you myself. You came very highly recommended by an old friend of mine…Slughorn, Horace Slughorn. Potions professor, if I’m not mistaken.” He peered at her closely for a minute longer before suddenly returning to what he was doing. “Well, let’s hop to it then, shall we? I’ll need a Skin-Repairing Concoction as soon as you can whip it up. Ingredients and everything are in the room across the way. Share the room with the Andrew Kluttz Ward, but it should be empty now….”
His voice trailed off to a mumble and Lily took that as her dismissal. She crossed the corridor and opened a door next to the Andrew Kluttz Ward; the room was very small (she was quite sure she had seen larger broom cupboards) but looked positively miniscule as it was packed full to bursting with all sorts of ingredients. A bookshelf beneath the small, dirty window was also crammed with many tomes of potions, presumably those needed for rashes. A beat up cauldron was nestled on the only open counter space between what looked like a great deal of shredded boomslang skin and quite a few enormous dead spiders. Lily sighed, tied back her hair, and set to work browsing the bookshelf for the potion she needed.
She spent the day brewing the potion. It was nice for her; she had always loved Potions and had always excelled in it - Professor Slughorn had always been very impressed with her. She loved the need for precise measurements and getting things exactly right, and nothing was better than turning out a flawless potion.
However, it soon became clear to her that brewing potions was all Healer McGowan expected her to do as Trainee Healer in the Lucille Wallace Ward, and while Lily enjoyed the art of potions, she swiftly became bored with her work. After weeks of brewing the same potions for Healer McGowan - who often didn’t speak to her for hours on end and whom Lily thought actually forgot about her overnight (he always looked startled to see her each morning) - she longed for a change.
At the beginning of October James was accepted to the Auror training program. Lily soon discovered that this was a good thing; it placed them both in London so seeing each other was much easier. He ate lunch with her most days, and she complained about her potions as he sympathized and eagerly talked about his own lessons.
One day in mid October James and Lily were eating together in the staffroom at St. Mungo’s when suddenly an amplified voice echoed through the hall: “Will all unoccupied Healers and Trainee Healers please report to the ground floor immediately.”
The voice sounded rather distressed; Lily and James exchanged a look before cleaning up their lunches and hurrying down to the ground floor. The scene that met them was one of pure chaos. Unconscious people on stretchers were being floated hither and thither, many others were bleeding, and even more people kept arriving each second.
Lily hurried to Romulus Vane, who was nearby looking at a woman who was unconscious but bleeding heavily from the head, and asked what had happened.
“An attack on a Muggle village in Devon.”
Lily’s heartbeat quickened. Grandmummy lived in Devon. “Do you know what village, Romulus?”
He looked very distracted. “Er - Avon, I think.”
The blood drained from Lily’s face. “Avon,” she whispered faintly. She turned to James, who was looking at her curiously. “Grandmummy,” she managed to squeak out, “… Grandmummy lives in Avon.”
Without waiting to hear more, James grabbed her elbow and marched her to the designated Apparition point. He looked at her shocked face and spoke to her firmly but urgently. “Do you think you can Apparate us there?”
Lily pulled herself together and nodded. She pulled him to her side and turned around on the spot, visualizing Grandmummy’s house, which was right on the main street of Avon, and a moment later she was there with James. She barely had time to register the hectic scene or the fact that it was cold and dark before James shouted, “DUCK!” and pushed her to the ground. A jet of red light hit Grandmummy’s house behind them.
“Lily, wait here. I’ve got to go try to get some of these Death Eaters - it doesn’t look like the Order or the Aurors are here yet-”
Lily had recovered herself enough in order to stare at him incredulously. “What, you think I’ll sit here like a good little girl and let you fight everyone?” She rolled her eyes at him and started forward. James grabbed her arm and yanked her back towards him.
“Over here!” he hissed, and they darted behind the shrubbery lining the front of Grandmummy’s house. “We’re outnumbered, Lily!” James panted, turning towards her and looking thunderous. “You can’t just go rushing into the middle of the bloody street!”
“So what do we do, just sit here until the Order gets here? Sit here while Grandmummy-”
Lily broke off abruptly, unable and unwilling to finish her sentence. James put his hand on her shoulder and turned to peer through the bushes. “Aim carefully,” James murmured, raising his wand. “We’ll fight from here for now.”
“Hiding in the bush like cowards?”
“It’s smart, Lily, for Merlin’s sake! You can’t just go dashing into the thick of things, you wouldn’t last a second!” James cried angrily.
Lily folded her arms against her chest, watching as he aimed and set a spell towards a nearby Death Eater. He dropped like a stone. Lily grudgingly agreed that he was right and commenced firing her own spells. Lily had to concentrate hard but it at least took her mind off the possibility that her grandmother might be one of the bodies lying in the road.
Soon the Death Eaters began to turn in their direction but, luckily, as soon as things started to get desperate, Aurors Apparated onto the scene and instantly began firing on the crowd of hooded attackers.
Now that they had the advantage James rose and fired off several spells in quick succession. Lily envied him for his speed as she had to concentrate much harder, but together they fended off several attacks. James and Lily were still in the thick of things when the Death Eaters all came together and formed a circle around a new figure - a tall, thin man who wasn’t wearing a mask. The figure turned in the direction of Lily and James as he surveyed the damage, and Lily saw him - it - for the first time: Lord Voldemort.
She gasped involuntarily at his appearance. His face was more horrible than she could have imagined - thin and pale, with eyes that gleamed red and mere slits for a nose. Those horrible eyes alighted on Lily and James, and he pointed his wand at them and almost lazily shot off a spell; James acted before she could even blink and blocked it.
Lord Voldemort frowned and narrowed his eyes as Lily cried, “Stupefy!” while James took on another Death Eater nearby. Lord Voldemort blocked her Stunning Spell easily; he advanced towards her and raised his wand. He made a slashing movement with his wand and Lily felt a sharp stinging sensation on her chest, but she ignored it and sent another Stunning Spell at him, which he deflected again.
“Determined little thing, aren’t you?” Lord Voldemort hissed as he came closer. James, who had disposed of his opponent, turned so he and Lily were shoulder-to-shoulder, both with almost identical expressions of hatred and defiance on their faces. They acted at the same time and fired curses together, which the Dark Lord once again deflected (although with a bit more difficulty this time), before James sent a powerful Stinging Hex at him, which he didn’t manage to shield himself against in time. Angry red welts appeared on his face.
He smiled a smile so horrible that Lily thought she might vomit. “Ah, you will pay for that, my young friend,” he said to James, his voice high and cold. He raised his wand and pointed it at James. “Avada Keda-”
Horror seizing her heart, Lily screamed “Impedimenta!” with all the force she could muster. She watched, as if in slow motion, as the two brightly colored jets of light collided in midair and ricocheted off each other. Lily’s spell hit a nearby Death Eater; Voldemort’s hit a bench and splintered it into tiny pieces.
More Aurors and Order members had arrived and they were swiftly outnumbering the Death Eaters. Just as Lily was about to fire off another spell Voldemort suddenly vanished. His Death Eaters immediately followed suit and the dementors also fled into the distance, chased off by several brightly glowing Patronuses.
Lily turned and collapsed into James’s chest. His arms went around her tightly, supporting her shaking legs, and he led her to the side of a ruined fountain and helped her to sit down. “Lily - do you realize what you-”
“Shh,” she said weakly. She felt rather faint. “Let’s not discuss it now. I need to find Grandmummy. She pulled back from James and frowned at his chest; it was slick with something. She touched it and looked at her fingers - they were stained red. “Jamie, are you all right?”
James looked down at her in puzzlement before his face changed to one of horror. “Lily-”
She looked down at her front; her lime green robes were soaked brown with blood. She was confused for a moment, wondering if it was her blood, before she saw a tear in her robes. That stinging sensation - Lord Voldemort must have cut her….
“We’re going to St. Mungo’s now, Lily,” James said. His face was very pale as he stared at her.
“But James, what about Grandmummy?”
“I’m sure she’s fine. We’re going.”
Lily allowed him to help her stand as the world spun around her - she really was losing a lot of blood - and when she had regained her sight, she found herself staring straight at her grandmother’s old house. And there - on the front steps - a figure in bright green -
A strength Lily hadn’t known was in her suddenly possessed her; she ran across the street and collapsed on the steps next to the figure. Blood was streaming down the wrinkled face from a deep cut in Grandmummy’s forehead. Lily tore the sleeve from her lime green robes and used it to wipe desperately at the blood; she stopped when she uncovered Grandmummy’s open, unseeing eyes.
A sob tore at her throat. The world was spinning. Lily barely registered James trying to lift her into his arms; she clung to her grandmother and resolved, in her muddled brain, to stay there forever.
The last she saw before she went unconscious were Grandmummy’s bright green eyes - eyes that would never sparkle at her again.
The Muggles were told that Grandmummy had died in a freak accident outside of her home when a shingle fell off her roof and struck her on the head. Four people present at the funeral knew differently: Lily, Mr. Evans, Mrs. Evans, and James. No one had informed Petunia of the actual cause of death.
The priest who spoke at the funeral described Grandmummy as a “great and generous woman, who always found time to support her community even when she was at her busiest”. He went on to describe all of the committees she had chaired, all of the charities she had supported.
The Mary Stuart that Lily had known was someone completely different. Someone who told raunchy jokes, read cheesy romance novels, drove a bright red cabriolet, and wore hot pink outfits. Someone who was so dedicated to her husband that she took herself out for a solitary dinner at their favorite restaurant on their wedding anniversaries, and who stayed inside and didn’t see anyone on the anniversary of his death. Someone whose emerald eyes always sparkled at Lily with mischief and, beneath all that, immeasurable love and adoration.
Lily cried for Grandmummy; not the philanthropist Mary Stuart, but just Grandmummy.
The day after the funeral, a Saturday, the Order of the Phoenix met in its entirety for the first time since the school year. There were some changes; Lily’s Ravenclaw friend Lauren was among those not there anymore, but they had gained two people: the Aurors Frank and Alice Longbottom. James informed her with awe in his voice that they were among the most talented and respected Aurors in the office. It was a big deal that they had joined the Order.
At the meeting Dumbledore soberly recounted the events of the Avon attack and held a moment of silence for the victims. Lily was dry-eyed; she had no more tears left.
He then informed them of what was being done to curb the dementor attacks and how several known Death Eaters were being tailed.
And, most interestingly of all, he told them of a method he had created for members of the Order to communicate with one another - through their Patronuses. He showed them how to send messages and asked them to each conjure their Patronus so everyone else could see it (Lily’s was a great tiger). Sending messages that way was certainly the safest; they were impossible to duplicate.
After the meeting, and after James had himself introduced to Frank and Alice Longbottom, he, Sirius, Lily, Gwen, Dorcas, Peter, and Remus Apparated to Sirius’s flat and spent the afternoon together, catching up and reminiscing about their times at Hogwarts. Lily even cracked a smile when she remembered the fire hydrant incident the year before. They ate dinner together and Lily went home feeling better than she had in days.
Home, however, was swiftly becoming a place she tried to avoid. Her mother was really beginning to worry her. Lily knew that Mrs. Evans was devastated by Grandmummy’s death. She had been refusing food ever since she heard of her mother’s gruesome demise and was beginning to look alarmingly thin and pale. Lily went to work every day worried; making potions all day certainly helped to calm her thoughts, but once she left the hospital she couldn’t escape the fact that her mother was practically wasting away before her very eyes.
“That’s it,” Mr. Evans declared one night at the dinner table. He had watched his wife push around the food she had prepared for three weeks now, and it was beginning to scare him. He had seen enough.
Lily looked up from her own dinner, startled. Her father rarely spoke in a tone that loud.
“Chrissie Evans, if you don’t start eating I’ll force you to do it myself. Better yet, I’ll check you into hospital and have them feed you there. Through a tube in your arm, if necessary. But I won’t sit back and watch you waste away like this.”
“Oh do stop being dramatic, Bob,” Mrs. Evans snapped. “I’m not wasting away.”
The next day she caught a cold. Her body, already weakened from lack of nourishment, couldn’t protect itself from the sickness and she had to go to the hospital. She was there for a week; she began to get well only after Lily broke down and declared she wouldn’t be able to stand losing both her mother and her grandmother at the same time. Chrissie Evans returned home still very thin and pale, but with her will to live back firmly in place. Her body, however, was not quite as resolved.
And so life returned to normal - or close to it, at least - in November; Lily got through her work at the Hospital by keeping a countdown of how many more days she had until November gave way to December and she got another assignment with a different Healer.
They celebrated James’s nineteenth birthday on November twenty-second with first a family party and then a smaller celebration, just for James and Lily, which included much snogging and cake (two things they always agreed on).
And then, a week later, Gwen Watson disappeared without a trace.