Lily leant against a marble pillar in Gringotts Bank and waited for Marlene to show up. She didn’t think it would take her too long, especially not after what Lily had done. Lily still couldn’t believe that she had just agreed to go to Hogsmeade with Potter, of all people. He had been nagging her about it constantly since third year, and she had consistently turned him down, even saying she’d rather go out with the Giant Squid. When he had suddenly stopped asking her after that, Lily was surprised — she had said worse things to him over the years.
Lily sighed and crossed her arms, staring blankly at the floor in front of her. In truth, she had kind of missed him constantly asking. It had annoyed the hell out of her, but it was a bit sweet, really. Not necessarily the way he always asked her out, but the way she knew that he would. It was nice to know that someone could like her so much that they would keep asking her practically everyday for three years, without fail.
Her gaze refocused and she saw Marlene hurrying towards her. Lily quickly adopted a ‘devil may care’ look on her face.
“Oh good, I was hoping you’d come here. You said you needed to stop here after the Ministry but seeing as how… well, I was afraid you‘d forgotten.” Marlene looked at her quizzically. “You do realize that you just agreed to a date with James Potter, don’t you?”
Lily groaned and glanced at her sulkily. “I’d rather not think about it.”
Marlene nodded in understanding. She studied Lily’s face and opened her mouth as if to say something, then shook her head, apparently deciding against it.
“What?” Lily asked her.
“Nothing...well — it’s just that — you really don’t hate him all that much, do you?”
Lily looked her in the eye. “No,” she said so quietly that Marlene almost didn’t hear her. “No, not all that much.”
Marlene nodded again as if things were finally beginning to make sense. “Well, it’s a good thing you made plans so far in advance,” she couldn’t resist teasing her, “you have loads of time to decide what to wear. You said you went shopping a few weeks ago, you can wear something you got then.”
Lily smiled reluctantly and rolled her eyes at her. “Come on, I have to exchange some money. Do you have to run down to your vault?”
“No, Mum got some Galleons out for me the other day, thank goodness. Those carts always make me ill.”
After exchanging Lily’s Muggle pounds for wizard gold, they walked out the doors of Gringotts Bank and down the many steps onto the curving streets of Diagon Alley. Witches, wizards, and a few odd Muggle relations darted back and forth between the busy shops. Happy chatter floated up into the warm air and, every so often, birds flew by in the sunny, cloudless sky.
Lily took a deep breath, arms outstretched. A huge smile broke out across her face and she laughed happily. “I love it here!” she exclaimed. “Every time I come it’s like I can forget everything else and just relax and have fun.” Her green eyes sparkled and her red hair streamed out behind her as she continued to spin. “Where should we go first?”
“Madam Malkin’s,” Marlene replied, amused by Lily’s antics. “I need new dress robes. Mum says that I have to go to the Ministry Ball with her this year seeing as I’m seventeen now.”
“Alright,” Lily agreed happily. “I need new school robes anyway. And we can go to Florean Fortescue’s afterwards.”
“Didn’t you just get robes last year?”
“Yes, but most of them are too small now. Seems I’ve grown another inch or two. And,” she added slyly, “now that I’m Head Girl, I should get some made up specially for that.”
“That’s right!” Marlene exclaimed. “I can’t believe I forgot to ask you. I meant to, really I did, it’s just with my Apparition test and everything it must have slipped my mind. When did you get the letter?”
“It came last night, like you said it would. Petunia and Vernon were over for dinner. It was quite a shock for Vernon—” Lily grinned mischievously. “—seeing as how Petunia hadn’t told him that I’m a witch.”
Lily pulled open the door to the robe shop. The owner, Madam Malkin, a squat, smiling witch who was dressed all in mauve, greeted them as they entered.
“Hello, dears,” she said. “What can I help you with today?”
“I’d like new dress robes,” Marlene told her and Madam Malkin bustled her over to the rack that held witches’ dress robes in a variety of colours.
“Just pick out the ones you like and we can get them fitted for you. Now, what about you dear?” she asked, turning to Lily.
“I need new school robes for Hogwarts,” Lily said. “I’m Head Girl this year, so I was wondering if you had any robes that are a bit more, er, official, then the ordinary ones.”
“Head Girl — oh, congratulations!” Madam Malkin clasped her hands together and gave a small jump of excitement. “I know just the thing. Come with me.” She pulled Lily with her towards the back of the shop. After asking Lily which house she was in, Madam Malkin rooted through a rack filled with black robes until she found what she was looking for.
Lily gasped when she showed them to her. “Oh, they’re perfect!”
Madam Malkin smiled. “And they’re self-ironing too, so you needn’t worry about wrinkles. Well then, hop up on the stool and we’ll get them fitted.”
Lily stepped onto the stool and Madam Malkin handed Lily the robes to try on. The robes, made from a light, silky material, seemed to dance around Lily as she pulled them on. Unlike the school robes she had gotten before, these felt as though they had been made just for her. They fastened with three gold clasps at chest level, and instead of the high necked, rounded collar, these robes had a low-cut v-neck. The best feature though, was the red border at the collar, down the opening in the front, and at the very ends of the sleeves. Lily glanced in the mirrors hanging on the walls as Madam Malkin fitted the robes to her.
“Oh, Lily, they look wonderful!” Marlene said, coming to join them with two dress robes draped over her arm.
“They do, don’t they,” Lily agreed with her. “I actually feel like a Head Girl in them.”
“Well you certainly look like one. Now which do you think I should get?” Marlene held first lavender and then mint green robes up against her.
“Hmm…” Lily thought for a moment. “The green ones, I think. The robes you have now are lavender, so you should get something different.”
“That’s what I was thinking, too.”
“All right, dear, you’re all done.” Madame Malkin folded the last robe, and handed a stack of them to Lily. She turned to Marlene. “A very good choice dear,” she said when she saw which robes she had chosen. “Up you go then.”
After getting Marlene’s dress robes fitted and purchasing their garments, the girls left the shop and crossed the wide street to Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, swinging their bags behind them. Once they had got their ice cream they sat at one of the many tables outside the shop, eating happily.
“We should probably go to Flourish and Blotts next,” Lily said, taking a huge bite of her chocolate and raspberry ripple ice cream cone.
“And the stationary shop after that. Do you need to stop at the Apothecary as well?”
“I should, I’m running low on some Potions ingredients.”
Marlene shuddered as she ate the nuts off her sundae. “I don’t understand how you can stand taking the N.E.W.T. class, what with Slughorn always going on about his favourite students and that ridiculous club of his.”
Lily laughed. “It’s not so bad.”
“You just say so because you’re in it. Besides, there’s the class itself, I never understood it.”
“It’s a bit like making a soup the Muggle way, really.” Lily paused. “Well, except the blowing up in your face if you’re not careful part, of course.”
“Although,” Lily mused, “now that I think about it, my dad did manage to do that one time when I was small. Mum just about killed him for doing it.”
Once they had finished their ice cream, they picked up their bags and went to Flourish and Blotts. The display window was piled high with school texts for first years.
“Oh, look,” Marlene said as they entered the shop. “Lockhart’s got another book out.”
Lily looked at the display Marlene was gesturing to and picked up one of the thick, purple books entitled Gadding with Ghoulsby Gilderoy Lockhart. There was a man with wavy blonde hair wearing bright yellow robes and smiling brilliantly pictured on the front. Every so often the Lockhart would toss his hair and give a roguish wink.
“Do you think this bloke really did all that?” she asked incredulously, putting the book back on the table.
“I suppose,” Marlene answered with a shrug. “Mum has his first book and he’s written a guide for household pests, too. Mum thinks he’s the best thing since self-correcting ink came out. Apparently, he single-handedly got rid of this banshee that was terrorizing a village. It looks like he’s bagged himself a ghoul this time. I wonder what’s next. A vampire, perhaps?” she mused.
“He’s too pretty to have done those things, if you ask me. I mean, if you tangled with a banshee, you’d think you’d at least have a scar to show for it.” Lily shrugged. “Ah, well. Let’s get our books, and I need parchment, quills and ink, as well.”
They purchased the school books they needed and Lily also bought a copy of The Healer’s Helpmate. Just because she didn’t want to become a Healer didn’t mean she had no interest in the subject, and besides, she had a feeling that it would be useful in the years to come when there wasn’t a Madame Pomfrey around.
Lily accidentally bumped into a tall figure as she exited Flourish and Blotts. A pair of cold, grey eyes met hers as she turned to apologize and a chill washed over her.
“Excuse me,” Lily muttered.
The man’s lip curled up into a sneer and he brushed at his pristine robes, as though wiping away something unpleasant. “Filthy Mudblood,” he whispered nastily, as he swept passed her.
She hurried to catch up to Marlene who was already next door at the stationary shop, trying to figure out why he looked familiar, not noticing the man’s gaze following her progress, a look of unwarranted hate marring his pointed face.
Lily must have looked upset, for Marlene looked at her quizzically. Lily just shook her head. “It’s nothing.”
The smell of fresh parchment and ink was overwhelming. One side of the shop featured parchment of all sorts — from each colour of the rainbow to minuscule pieces that could fit inside a very small locket. There was even scented parchment to go with the scented ink on the other side of the shop. Lily picked up two jars of black ink, one blue and some colour—changing ink along with several rolls of parchment, including some in a pretty lilac colour.
They stopped outside the stationary shop to organize their purchases and Lily counted her remaining gold to see how much she had left. She was wondering why she had more than she expected, when she remembered her mother had given her extra, with orders to get something special for becoming Head Girl.
“What are you going to get?” Marlene asked, when Lily mentioned it to her.
“I don’t’ know. I hadn’t really thought about it.”
“How about a pet? Like an owl.”
“I don’t really need an owl. I can just use the school ones.”
“But what about after Hogwarts? You won’t be able to use the school owls then.”
“No, but I can get my own owl then if I need too. Besides,” she added, “if we get a flat together, like we’ve talked about, I can just use yours.”
“True…” Marlene paused, thinking. “A cat! You can get a cat.”
“That’s no good, I’m allergic.”
“Oh, that’s right,” Marlene huffed. “Well, you’re no help. Honestly! Not to worry though,” she said smiling. “I’ll think of something before long.”
Lily laughed. “Let’s go to the Apothecary, I need Potions ingredients.”
They were passing in front of Quality Quidditch Supplies when the door shot open and James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew came tumbling out, laughing hysterically.
“Oh, no,” Lily muttered, stopping suddenly, “I thought we left them at the Ministry.”
Marlene smiled sceptically at her. “What, you expected them to stay there all day?”
“It would have been nice,” Lily pouted as they stopped in front of the young witches.
“What would have been nice?” Sirius asked.
“Oh, go away,” Lily groaned.
“But, Evans, it’s been too long since we last saw each other,” said James with a teasing grin. After six years of practice at Hogwarts, he knew just how to annoy her.
“I think you mean it hasn’t been long enough, Potter,” retorted Lily.
“Ah, Evans, you break my heart.” James put a hand to his chest faintly, got down on one knee in front of her and when he grabbed her hand, for some odd reason, Lily’s heart skipped a beat. His friends burst out laughing as he spoke in a loud voice, “Lily, flower of my desire, surely you know how you wound me. I pine away each and every day just—”
Lily rolled her eyes in disgust at him, but a closer look showed that she was fighting back a smile. “Come on, Marlene,” she said over James’ warbling. “We have more important things to do then stand here and listen to this.” She grabbed a giggling Marlene by the arm and pulled her down the street.
James stood up and called after them, “Don’t forget, Evans, first Hogsmeade weekend!”
“If you mention it again, Potter, you can forget I agreed!” Lily shouted back, over her shoulder.
“UST,” Marlene commented, shaking her head slightly. “It’s so obvious.”
“What?” Lily asked her in confusion.
“Unresolved sexual tension,” she stated matter-of-factly. “You need to snog him and get it over with.”
“I-I do not!” Lily sputtered.
“Hello again, darlings!” Sirius had snuck up behind them.
“Why are you following us?” Lily cried, as Marlene choked back laughter.
“Why to go to the Apothecary, of course,” James replied, putting his arm around Lily’s shoulder and trying to take her bags for her.
“Oh, bugger off, Potter,” Lily spat, pushing him away and hitting him with one of her bags.
“Yes, dear,” he said seriously, as Lily fumed. “So, did you get Head Girl, Evans?” asked James, changing the subject.
Lily answered grudgingly, “Yes.” This is how conversations with James always went. First he would annoy her until she snapped or stormed off, and he would either leave her alone or turn serious and continue talking as if nothing had happened. “Yes, I still have the same courses. Other than that, nothing else of importance has happened.”
“Head Girl! Uh-oh, we’d better be extra careful this year, then,” Sirius put in. “But, then again, maybe not. After all we’ve got the He-omph!” Sirius glared at James, who had elbowed him in the side. “What was that for?” he asked angrily.
“You’ve got the what?” Marlene wanted to know.
“It’s not important,” James replied hurriedly. “Look, here we are.” He opened the door to the Apothecary and Lily and Marlene entered with the boys following behind.
While Lily loved Potions, getting the ingredients was a completely different matter. The Apothecary itself was fascinating. It was brightly lit and jars of dried roots, herbs, and bright powders lined the walls from floor to ceiling, from which bundles of feathers, strings of fangs and claws hung like stalactites. There were also barrels full of slimy ingredients, such as fish eggs, frog spawn and several kinds of animal entrails, on the floor. However, even the vast display couldn’t make up for the mixed smell of bad eggs and rotten cabbages.
“Urgh!” Sirius made a face and pinched his nose as he entered. “I hate this place. It smells like my brother’s socks.”
“Have you ever gotten a whiff of your own socks?” Remus asked him. “They smell worse.” Everyone laughed, and Sirius shot Remus a dirty look.
“I may have horrid smelling socks, but at least I can brew a decent potion,” Sirius shot back.
Remus rolled his eyes. “Rub it in, why don’t you.”
Remus, while brilliant in every other subject, was positively terrible when it came to Potions. He wasn’t as bad as Peter, but he had blown up his fair share of cauldrons. Needless to say, he had declined taking the N.E.W.T. course, even though, to Lily’s surprise, he had managed to get an Exceeds Expectations on his O.W.L..
Lily, James and Sirius gathered and paid for the ingredients they needed (Lily picked out a few extras as well) and they all left the shop. They had only walked a couple of steps and were about to part ways when the shop across from the Apothecary exploded in a burst of flames.
Shards of glass and chunks of timber and bricks flew everywhere. A huge piece of brick wall soared through the air straight towards Lily. She flung herself to the side, narrowly avoiding being hit. Her bags crashed into the ground and Lily landed heavily on top of them, cushioning her fall slightly. Luckily, she had spelled all the glass bottles with an unbreakable charm so nothing shattered.
Marlene came rushing over to her. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” Lily answered, shakily, feeling a sharp sting of pain as she pushed herself off of the ground. Her clothes were torn and blackened with soot and she had cuts and scrapes all over from the flying bits of debris. She brushed her long hair out of her eyes and looked around the street, trying to see what was happening through the thick, black smoke that was obscuring the air.
Rubble covered the street and the window of the Apothecary had been broken by a piece of flying debris. Witches, wizards and creatures of all sorts stood in doorways, looking out onto the street in confusion. Those who had fallen to the ground or had been injured were quickly being tended to and several parents were trying to calm their frightened children. The luggage shop was destroyed — all that was left was a shell of the building it once had been. It was impossible to tell if anyone had been inside when it blew up, but Lily feared that some had.
“Do you have any idea what caused that?” Marlene asked Lily, mystified. “That shop couldn’t have just blown up like that on its own. Diagon Alley has loads of protection charms to prevent it from happening.”
The nervous chatter that had broken out among the crowd turned into screams of terror as a sparkling green skull began to take form over the remains of the shop. It shone clearly though the smoke. The mouth of the skull opened wide and a snake slithered out slowly, twisting itself about, mockingly. Fear filled the streets, so tangible, you could cut it with a knife.
The street was in pandemonium. Parents grabbed their crying children and Apparated away while others, who couldn’t, raced towards the Leaky Cauldron. Panicked voices and anxious shouts echoed through the smoke shrouded air. Lily was jostled from all sides by people she couldn’t see as they ran past frantically. Someone grabbed Lily by the shoulders and pulled her back, out of the way. Lily fought them wildly, trying to get to her wand, not knowing who it was or what they wanted with her.
“Calm down, it’s just me,” a voice said in her ear. Lily relaxed in James’ strong grip. Remus had a hold of Marlene, and Sirius and Peter were standing in a small alcove waiting for them. Sirius’ face was so pale it was almost colourless. He was gripping his wand tightly and the expression on his face was so fierce that Lily would have been scared of him if she wasn’t so terrified already.
“—some nerve,” Sirius was muttering, “to attack Diagon Alley like this in broad daylight.”
“What? You know who did this?” asked Lily.
“Not at first, but now there’s no question. They used his mark.”
“His mark? You mean—”
“Voldemort, yeah. Only… it’s never been in the sky before.”
Voldemort, the Dark Lord, had terrified people so much that most feared even to say his name, instead referring to him as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, or more commonly, You-Know-Who. And no one knew anything about his past life.
Ever since Lily had started at Hogwarts, he had been gaining power and supporters for his cause — to rid the world of anyone who wasn’t a pure blood — Muggles included. He had been mentioned more and more frequently in the Daily Prophet recently, but Lily hadn’t really taken him seriously – according to Marlene there was always someone around spouting pureblood nonsense, calling Muggleborns ‘Mudbloods’ and other cruel names. She never paid much attention to any of it, so why should Voldemort be any different?
However, weeks had turned into months, and then years, and still the Aurors had not managed to stop him. His attacks had become more horrifying as he began to use Muggles as examples, torturing and killing them mercilessly. He would leave their bodies in clear view; a skull with a serpent for a tongue always etched in green somewhere upon it. His name, his mark, his supporters — all became symbols of death. Everyone was afraid, terrified that he would stop using Muggles and turn to those who were magical. And then it had stopped.
This past year there hadn’t been any mention of Voldemort at all, Lily had assumed the Aurors had finally gotten hold of him and although she had questioned the lack of an announcement in the papers, she had assumed the Ministry didn’t want to draw attention to it, and so had put it behind her. The wizarding world had become calm again and everyone had felt safer. Now though, everything was becoming clear. He hadn’t been heard from because he had been quietly gathering more supporters —enough that he had now formed a small army — not because he had finally been captured.
Lily turned her head and met James’ bright hazel eyes; she knew the terror she saw in his was mirrored in her own emerald ones. His face was streaked with dirt and blood from a cut on his right cheek.
Lily turned and looked out onto the main street where the Dark Mark was still glittering menacingly in the sky. James’ arms were wrapped around her tightly, one of his hands gently brushing against her side, soothingly. Lily was stunned to realize that she felt safe, protected, as though nothing could harm her for as long as she stayed like this. She jolted away from him when she became conscious that she had leaned back against him, sternly reminder herself that it was, Potter. For a moment she had forgotten. By then, most of the crowed had disappeared and several scarlet robed Aurors had appeared at the scene. Lily breathed a sigh of relief and heard Marlene echo it.
One of the Aurors saw them as they walked back out onto the street. He eyed them from a distance, said something to his partner, and then limped over, sizing them up as he approached. Lily watched him as he neared. His brown eyes missed nothing as he glanced over the street and his greying brown hair waved in the slight breeze. His robes parted with each step and Lily saw that he had a wooden leg.
“You a Potter?” he asked James briskly.
“Yes,” James answered him.
The Auror nodded at him. “Alastor Moody, I know your father, and your mother’s fixed me up more than once.” He grinned and pointed to the scars that marred his face.
“Right, he’s mentioned you a few times,” said James. “Says you’ve put more in Azkaban than anyone else.”
Moody let out a harsh laugh. “There’s going to be even more, I guarantee it. Now,” he spoke to all of them this time. “You were here when the shop blew up?” They nodded and he continued, “What can you tell me? Notice anything out of the ordinary?”
“No, we didn’t,” Lily replied. “I know they have really powerful wards set up everywhere, though. I thought only Ministry personnel knew how to dismantle them.”
Moody turned his sharp gaze directly on her. “You’re a sharp one. Mind you keep that last thought to yourself. Don’t want it getting heard by the wrong ears.”
“You mean there’s someone in the Ministry helping Voldemort?”
Moody’s harsh laughter rang out again. “Don’t be so surprised. The Ministry isn’t what it used to be. Never was what it should be, to tell you the truth. Corrupt, that’s what it is.” He motioned for them to wait while he ambled over to his partner. They talked for a few minutes, with Moody gesturing occasionally over to where they stood. Moody walked back over to them.
“We might have more questions for you later. Can you all be in one place for the rest of today and tomorrow? Somewhere safe, just in case. It’ll save us the trouble of rounding you all up, again. And you might remember something else.”
They looked around at each other and shrugged. “I’d rather not go home like this,” Lily said. “My parents are Muggles, you see, and they tend to ask questions. Plus my sister might be there …”
Marlene snorted; she had met Petunia before and knew exactly what Lily meant. The boys looked at her questioningly, and Lily just shook her head, not wanting to go into it.
James spoke up. “We can go to my place. Sirius is already there and Remus and Peter were going to stay over. Two lovely additions won’t make a difference,” he added with a cheeky grin. “You can use my owl to get in touch with your parents.”
Moody nodded and said gruffly, “Good, we know where that is. Expect us.” He nodded again and walked away.
“Well,” James muttered. “That was interesting. Shall we go? You can go Side-Along with Sirius and me since you don’t know how to get there,” he said to Lily and Marlene.
Remus and Peter Disapparated with a pop, Peter seeming to have passed his test, this time around. Marlene grabbed hold of Sirius’ arm and they disappeared too, leaving Lily and James, alone.
“Let’s go.” James took Lily’s hand and pulled her close. He looked at her; an odd expression on his face as his free hand came up and brushed her hair out of her eyes. His fingers glanced over a small cut near her lips, and Lily felt her breath catch.
“I’m glad you didn’t get hurt,” he said softly, and, before Lily could reply, he wrapped his arm tightly around her waist and the familiar squeezing of Apparation took hold as they disappeared with a small pop.
Author's Note: Just FYI to all... the first two chapters here on PhoenixSong have been re-edited to make them fit better with the rest of the story. :-)