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Hell Fire by jenniiiiii
Chapter 1 : Hell Fire
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 16

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A/N: So I finally broke the 10 000 word mark. This is my first Lily/James and was only intended to be a small one-shot. Somehow it just grew and grew, and now it's this 11 500 word monster! I really hope you enjoy it - I certainly had fun writing it! It's been ever so difficult to write, seeming as I'm not overly proficient with the Marauders and I had to write them at different ages all the time, so I'd really appreciate any constructive criticism you might have. There was originally supposed to be a scene with the marriage and Harry's birth, but it's already ridiculously long. Enjoy!

Hell Fire

“Lily Evans.” The small redhead looked at him fiercely whilst she spoke, her jade eyes strong even whilst her body shrunk back from him.

“James Potter.” He smiled at her and almost stopped breathing when she smiled back, tentatively but sincerely. Her lithe form stopped shrinking away from him a little and he couldn’t help but stare at her beauty. In his eleven year old mind, girls weren’t that important, but this one was different. She had hair that was almost flame red, a colour he had never seen before. Her eyes were just as startling; a bright, pure emerald so clear and deep that he thought he could see right into her soul.

“What wand do you have?” Her voice was shy, but he caught a glimpse of her eyes under down turned lashes and felt sure that this particular girl wasn’t half as shy as she pretended.

James took out his wand proudly. “Mahogany, eleven inches. I used to use another when I was little, but my parents got me a proper one for Hogwarts. What’s yours?” He regretted his words almost instantly when her little face fell slightly and her encouraging smile withdrew. What had he said?

“You – your parents are magical?” she asked carefully.

He nodded, and then realised in a flash why this seemed so awkward for her. “You’re Muggleborn?”

She nodded, bringing her chin up and giving him a defiant look. “If you’re one of those bigoted idiots who think I can’t wield a wand as well as you purebloods, then you can keep your mouth shut!”

James blinked, inching away from the girl - Lily, he reminded himself - who had erupted so suddenly. He resolved later to find out exactly what had made her so wary of purebloods. “I don’t care if you’re Muggleborn. I know better than that,” he reassured her, feeling protective in a way that he never had done about a girl before. It was true, what he said. He was an only child and his parents had often spoilt him, but the one thing he had never been allowed to do was treat Muggleborns as lower than him. He hadn’t encountered any of his age before, obviously, but he had heard the views other pureblooded children had, and he had learnt never to repeat what they said to his parents very swiftly.

“Oh,” she said, and he was rewarded with a smile again. Glad as he was to see it, James couldn’t help but feel this Lily Evans had gotten exactly the reply she wanted. “My wand is willow. Ten and a quarter inches,” she added, in reply to his earlier question.

A glistening tentacle broke the surface of the water around their boat, and Lily gasped. He looked over at her; ready to comfort her, but her gasp hadn’t been fear at all. She was now leaning over the side almost dangerously, gazing fascinated at the small part of the Giant Squid that had lived in the lake for as long as anyone could remember.

“What is it?” she breathed out, her voice barely louder than a whisper. The tentacle seemed to sense her words and in an instant was gone, hidden once more beneath the surface. Her face twisted in disappointment and she turned to look at the castle instead.

“The Giant Squid. He’s not harmful at all, the opposite actually,” James said, trying to sound knowledgeable but she barely spared him a glance.

“I knew it wasn’t harmful,” Lily said absentmindedly, now trailing her fingers through the water. She looked at him properly at last in time to catch his questioning look. “I could just tell, I suppose.”

And as the boat they were in hit land and they both climbed out, James Potter felt that this little redhead would eventually become a big part of his life. And he couldn’t say he was upset about that.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Gryffindor!” James Potter scrambled out from under the Sorting Hat haphazardly, grinning. The dark haired boy next to Lily whooped loudly for James, and she threw him an irritated look. But despite her annoyance with loud idiots, she couldn’t help but smile when James joined the dark haired boy, throwing her a shy grin as he did so. She was glad she was in his House; she didn’t know him that well, but he seemed nice so far. He obviously knew the annoying dark haired boy, though.

“Hey Lily, this is Sirius.” James brought her into the conversation easily, and the dark haired boy – who had previously been chatting constantly - stopped, turning to her. “Sirius, this is Lily Evans. We met on the boat.”

Sirius gave her a measuring look. “Evans? That’s not a pureblood name, is it?”

Lily felt as if he had slapped her. She looked at James, letting the hurt show in her eyes. Why would he introduce her to another of those pureblooded, prejudiced fools? He obviously understood her look, and swatted Sirius over the head.

“You’re not at home any more, Sirius. You’re not even a Slytherin!” James told his friend, whose face darkened.

“Thanks for reminding me, James,” he said moodily. “Mother and Regulus will never let me forget this.”

Lily kept her head down, realising correctly that she shouldn’t be listening to this. But she still heard it, storing everything away for future use.

“Hey, Evans?” Sirius said, and she knew an apology was coming. She wasn’t quite how the reminder of his family had prompted it, but she wasn’t about to reject it. She didn’t want to make enemies on her first day, and besides, James Potter wasn’t prejudiced, so his friend couldn’t be that bad.

“You don’t need to apologise. I’ll show you just how good a Muggleborn can be when we get to classes,” Lily challenged him, lifting her head and angling her green eyes so they faced his grey ones directly.

He gave her another of those measuring looks, then laughed. “You’re on, Evans. I’ve got to warn you, though. I‘m considered a wizarding prodigy.” He leant back on his chair, smiling contentedly.

“Shut up, you big-headed twit,” James said good-naturedly, interrupting the insult Lily was about to make. “You don’t want to make a bad impression already.”

Sirius sighed. “Alas, you’re right. I should hide the fact I’m a complete scoundrel until she knows me better.”

Lily laughed, and they both looked at her. “What?” she said defensively. But before they could say anything, another presence cast a shadow over the table. It was an older girl; Lily guessed maybe in her last year. She was fairly pretty, with a snubbed nose and dark hair falling loose over her shoulders.

“Welcome to the dark side, little cousin,” she said, smiling at Sirius. “Uncle Orion will not be pleased.”

Instead of getting downcast by another mention of his family, Sirius fairly leapt at the older girl. “I’m glad you’re here, Andromeda,” he said, nearly as tall as her despite their age difference.

“I’m just glad that another Black made it into Gryffindor. You always were my favourite cousin, Sirius.” She smiled, ruffling up his hair. He pushed her hands away and tried to flatten it back down again whilst she laughed.

“They’re cousins,” James whispered, and Lily resisted the urge to retort with a scathing comment. Wasn’t that obvious? Fortunately he continued, “Every other Black was sorted into Slytherin except for Andromeda and Sirius.”

Lily lifted her eyebrows. That explained a lot. “Who is Regulus?” she asked, remembering the name from earlier.

James blinked at her. “Sirius’ younger brother. I - ” He was about to say more when another girl stormed over to Sirius and Andromeda. Her hair was white blonde and very fine, and her eyes a stormy blue.

“I hope you’re prepared for your Howler, Sirius,” she said point blank. Lily guessed she was a couple of years younger than the first girl. “You too, actually, Andy. Father won’t be happy if Uncle Orion thinks you’ve corrupted his precious eldest son.” She glared at them, her eyes fairly crackling with her anger.

“Oh, Cissa, please,” Andromeda said, rolling her eyes. “You’re my sister and I love you, but you talk so much rubbish. I haven’t corrupted Sirius; he just knows what a load of claptrap all your pureblood stuff is. If anything, you’ve been corrupted by that Malfoy.”

The girl – Cissa – flared up instantly. It was only then that Lily noticed the snake badge on her robes. She was a Slytherin.

Sirius came to sit back next to her and James. “These two don't stop for anything once they get going,” he told them, but his attempt at bravado fell a bit thin.

Lily barely took her eyes of the escalating fight to respond. “The other one is your cousin as well?” she questioned.

“Yeah. That’s the wonderful Narcissa,” Sirius said bitterly. “Andromeda’s the only decent one out of those three sisters. The older one – Bellatrix, she’s left already – is the nastiest piece of work I’ve ever met, and I grew up with Regulus.” He stabbed at the food on his plate angrily.

“Who’s this little girl?” Narcissa was talking to the younger three now, her voice sweet but her smile poisonous. “Because I’m sure they called out her name as Evans, and that’s not a pureblood name, is it?”

Lily stiffened. “No, I’m a Muggleborn,” she said, trying to meet the older girl’s icy gaze without flinching.

“A Mudblood? Sirius, if you carry on hanging around with this sort, you’ll end up as dirty as her.” Narcissa laughed, a merry sound. Lily looked round at James and Sirius, who had both gone still at Narcissa’s words. Andromeda’s pretty face was screwed up in anger.

“What has that Malfoy done to you, Cissa? I don’t even know you any more.” The dark haired girl turned her back on her sister and Lily could see the tears glistening silver in the corner of her eyes. “Just go back to him, Cissa.”

The white haired girl hesitated, looking over at Sirius. But his face was stony and emotionless and she finally obeyed Andromeda’s words when she realised she had no support, turning on her heel and returning to the Slytherin table.

James was looking down, not meeting Lily’s eyes. Sirius was staring at Andromeda, and she had to wave a hand in front of his face to get his attention. “Hello? Mudblood? What does that mean?”

Andromeda looked at her. “It’s a hateful, derogative word for Muggleborns.” she said heatedly. “And if you ever use it in front of me, Sirius, I’ll make you sorry.”

He gave her an angry look, holding his head up arrogantly. “Of course I won’t.”

Lily didn’t know what to say. She had known that some wizards and witches were against Muggleborns, but she wasn’t expecting anything like this level of animosity.

“Lily?” James said softly. “You okay?”

She looked him straight in the eye. “I’m fine, I suppose.”

And she couldn’t help but feel as long as James was there, she always would be fine.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“James!” The pile of books Lily was levitating in front of her fell to the ground and she stared in shock. It was three months into their first year and although James wasn’t one of her closest friends, they still spoke regularly.

James and Sirius were standing next to each other, wands raised over a dark haired boy with a hooked nose who was lying on the floor, blood dripping from his nose. All their expressions were contorted in anger, but the dark haired boy didn’t even have a wand out.

Lily knelt down next to him, dismissing the Slytherin patch on his badges. House rivalry wasn’t important to her. “Are you okay?” she asked, a little nervously. The look in his eyes wasn’t particularly friendly.

“Evans, why are you helping him?” Sirius said distastefully. “He’s just a Slytherin.”

“Weren’t you meant to be one of them?” Lily fired back.

“Lily, Snape deserved it – “ James started, but Lily whirled on him.

“He’s unarmed, James! There’s two of you and one of him!” she cried. She couldn’t stand bullying, and to see the boy she had thought was kind a part of it hurt her deeply. But before she could rip into them any further, the boy on the floor spoke.

“I don’t need your help, Gryffindor,” he spat out, holding his head proudly.

“I’m not like those two.” Lily said, shooting the pair an angry glance. She held out her hand to the boy in a gesture of friendship. “I’m Lily Evans.”

He looked at it mistrustfully. “You’re a Muggleborn, aren’t you?” he asked.

She hesitated before answering, but the fact he had said Muggleborn instead of a ruder term encouraged her to answer. “Yes, I am.”

He looked away from her outstretched hand. “Then you’ll soon learn that Gryffindors and Slytherins don’t mix.” And with that, he stood up, putting his hand up to his nose and wincing a little. He started to walk away, but turned back just before he went round a corner. “I’m Severus Snape.” Then he was gone.

“See, Slytherins aren’t worth the trouble, Lily,” James said, in a comforting tone.

“Yeah…” she said, not really listening, still staring at the corner where the Slytherin boy named Severus had disappeared.

As they walked back to the common room, their conversation was a little more awkward than usual, and Lily couldn’t help but wish James, at least, could get over the house rivalries. She just didn’t see the point.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Welcome back, second years.” Professor Slughorn smiled down at them all. “I’m going to put you into pairs for now, but I may let you choose your own later on.”

Some of the less able students shifted uncomfortably. Lily felt a little sorry for them; Professor Slughorn tended to favour the more talented and charismatic students. She looked round at her classmates absentmindedly, noting how they’d changed since she’d last been at Hogwarts. James Potter had grown quite a lot over the summer, and not just in height. His dark hair was down to his ears now, and just as unruly as ever. Still, despite its messiness, Lily noticed a few girls already casting him interested glances.

“Miss Evans, I’m putting you with Mr Snape.” The Potions Professor had gotten to Lily by now and stood beaming down at her. She glanced quickly across to where the surly looking Severus was sat and he returned her gaze unflinchingly, his face unreadable. He was quite civil to her compared to how the other Slytherins treated her, but he never volunteered any information about himself or even started a conversation. Nevertheless, he intrigued her. She didn’t think he was like the other Slytherins.

However, as if he had heard her thoughts, he gave her a hard eyed glare. Lily flinched a little, but recovered her composure instantly and returned his stare levelly.

“Mr Snape?” Professor Slughorn prompted. “Next to Miss Evans, please.”

Severus reluctantly dragged his feet over to the spot beside her, sitting as far as away as was possible when they were using the same desk. “How was your summer?” Lily whispered, undeterred by his actions so far. Professor Slughorn was moving onto other pairs, so it was safe to talk.

“What do you care, Evans?” he replied brusquely, but she somehow felt his heart wasn’t in it.

Lily snorted. “Excuse me for asking!”

“Evans, you’re a Mudblood! I’m a Slytherin. We aren’t friends.” He turned away from her, a clear indication that he thought their conversation was over, but Lily wasn’t having that.

“I thought you might be different from the rest of your prejudiced pure blooded housemates,” she said icily. “Do you honestly think that blood makes a difference?”

He hesitated, and then his face hardened. “Yes,” he said firmly.

“Then I won’t bother you again.” Lily picked up her quill to take notes and an observer would have thought Severus’ words hadn’t affected her at all. However, a closer observer might have noticed the almost hidden pain in her clear green eyes. Severus’ eyes lingered on her for a moment, and then he started his own work just as calmly as her. They didn’t talk for the rest of the lesson.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Lily clambered through the entrance to the Gryffindor common room and collapsed straight onto the nearest couch. It had been a tiring beginning to the term.

“Lily!” James bounded over the couch and landed with a thump beside her. “Guess what?” he said, beaming.

She suppressed a groan. James had been slightly annoying of late, and he’d become a bit of a troublemaker this year. “What?” she asked dryly.

He ignored her unenthusiastic voice and answered happily. “Guess who just made the Quidditch team as a Chaser?”

“You did?” Lily couldn’t help but smile; he looked so proud. “That’s great, James.”

“Of course, I am a good player. I suppose it was only a matter of time.” He ruffled his hair up absentmindedly and she failed to hold back a giggle. His proud face and false arrogance were so funny!

“What?” he asked, looking slightly affronted. He spoke again before she could answer. “Hey, Lily?” She raised an eyebrow, indicating he should carry on. “You sit next to Snape in Potions, right?”

“Yes,” she said, wondering where he was heading with this.

“You don’t still want to be friends with him, do you? Because no offence, Lily, but he’s a Slytherin. I’ve heard him talking just like all the others; he’s really no different to them.” James spoke quickly but confidently.

Lily looked at him in disbelief. She and James were barely even friends, and yet he was trying to tell her who to be friends with. “I’ll talk to whoever I like, Potter,” she snapped back at him. If there was one thing Lily could not stand it was people telling her what to do when they had no right.

“He’s a Slytherin, Lily,” James said in the tone usually reserved for a small child. “Look, you don’t understand these things because you’re a - ”

“A Mudblood?” Lily hissed, her temper fully awakened now.

“No, I - ”

“You’ve got no right to tell me what to do, Potter,” Lily told him coldly. “And perhaps you should stop judging people by their houses. Until then, don’t bother talking to me!” She leapt up and almost ran up the stairs to her dormitory, throwing herself onto her bed. Why was there so much prejudice in this wizarding world? But then she supposed there was just as much in the Muggle world, if not more. So many wizards thought they were better than Muggles, but that mentality made them just as bad as Muggles.

Lily had encountered enough bigotry already in just one year at Hogwarts that she had sworn never to judge anyone until she had gotten to know him or her. And she didn’t know or understand Severus Snape.

“Lily?” The voice was slightly familiar but not that of one of her roommates. Lily turned towards the speaker out of sheer curiosity. It was Alice, a round-faced dimpled girl a few years above Lily. They had spoken a few times, but they’d never had occasion to become friends.

Alice came to sit next to her. “James means well, you know,” she started. Lily said nothing, but the way her mouth was set grimly suggested exactly how she felt about that statement. “He’s a good boy, but you’ve got to understand what it’s like for him. He’s grown up all his life being told about the Hogwarts houses and he’s heard all the rumours about how Slytherins can’t be trusted.”

“Can’t he think for himself? He’s just as bad as all those pureblood maniacs if he can’t see that not all Slytherins are bad,” Lily replied, brushing her hair out of her eyes in annoyance.

Alice sighed. “I know James pretty well; we’re related in some distant way and all the purebloods tend to know each other. For that reason, he knows Sirius pretty well too.”

Lily gave her a curious look, wondering where this was headed.

Alice continued, “So not only has James heard all the rumours about evil Slytherins, but he’s heard the tales his closest friend has to offer about his family and their prejudiced ways. He’s never really had occasion to see Slytherins as the same as him.”

Lily was silent, and Alice sighed again, rising to leave. “Think about it, Lily,” she said, then turned around and left the room. Lily made a frustrated noise. Now she didn’t know what to think.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Lily watched with narrowed eyes as James and his three friends laughed loudly over the other side of the common room. Since the beginning of their third year, James and Sirius’ friendship had been expanded to a foursome; Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew having been adopted by the duo. Now they were practically inseparable, and seemed set on making a nuisance of themselves.

Lily didn’t know Remus Lupin that well; for all that he was in several of her classes. He was fairly quiet and studious, as unlike James and Sirius as he could possibly be. However, he was laughing just as hard as the rest of them now at whatever mischief they were cooking up.

Peter Pettigrew was another quiet one; small and rather nervous looking. Lily felt quite sorry for him, but he would probably get along fine now he was a friend of the rather charismatic James. There was something about him that made her a little nervous, though, and she didn’t entirely trust him. He struck her as the type of person who would do anything to fit in with the popular people. Having said that, he could also be rather amusing once brought out of his shell.

Sirius was also very charismatic and although Lily loathed admitting it, he was also good looking, even at only thirteen. However, he was quite arrogant – as was James – and had a mean streak that Lily had seen more than once in the past year. James was also attractive in his own way.

He and Lily didn’t talk much any more. All through last year, he had been getting more and more overconfident, and he hadn’t stopped teasing Severus Snape. Indeed, Severus wasn’t the only one James and his friends teased. Lily couldn’t stand that sort of behaviour.

Lily herself was getting along fine at Hogwarts. In fact, she loved it there. She had a couple of close friends in her dormitory and was well liked by most of Gryffindor and the other houses, except for Slytherin. They, however, tended to steer clear of her after discovering her considerable talent for hexes and jinxes of numerous varieties.

James glanced over at her, catching the last dregs of her glare. He looked away almost immediately, unable to meet her eyes. Lily sighed. When had she gone from finding James’ arrogance amusing to finding it intolerably annoying? She had thought when she first met him those two and a half years ago that they would be friends; that he was kind and witty. Now she avoided him at all costs, finding his mischievous side a little too cruel for her liking.

“Hey, Lily.” Bertha Jorkins smiled faintly at her. “You look a little annoyed,” she said knowingly. Lily repressed a groan; Bertha wasn’t a mean girl, but she had an irritating habit of knowing all the gossip in the school and often predicting the next scandal correctly. She didn’t do particularly well in lessons, and didn’t have the slightest idea when it was best to keep her mouth shut. In short, she wasn’t Lily’s kind of person.

“How are you, Bertha?” Lily said politely. Bertha was about two years older than her, so Lily wasn’t quite sure why she had approached her.

Bertha smiled again. “I’m fine. But what about you?”

She frowned, confused. “I’m fine…” she said slowly, leaving the statement open ended.

“You had a fight with James Potter the other day,” Bertha said coolly.

“Yes, and?” Lily said a little coldly, feeling the first threads of annoyance settling over her.

“You mean you don’t know?” Bertha replied, enjoying Lily’s confusion. “Haven’t you ever wondered why James still tries to be nice to you even after all the arguments you’ve had?”

Lily didn’t know what to say. “We used to be friendly,” she said, raising an eyebrow. “That’s all there is to it, and nothing more,” she warned. She looked around desperately, not wanting to continue the conversation. To her immense relief, Alice came over and led Bertha away, shooting Lily a wink over her shoulder.

Lily slid down in her chair. She didn’t approve of any kind of teasing, but honestly, she could understand why Bertha sometimes came in for more than her fair share.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Lily walked slowly down the hall, enjoying the feeling of being alone in a quiet place for once. It was nearly time for fourth years to be back in their common rooms, so the corridors were mostly deserted. The school was an eerie place at times like this, but things had been so hectic of late, what with Davey Gudgeon losing an eye to the Whomping Willow and all the homework in preparation for OWLs next year, so she ignored the menacing shadows in favour of appreciating the peace.

But it was short-lived. Out of nowhere, a bleeding Severus Snape lurched into her path and Lily gasped, automatically reaching out to support him. She stumbled under his weight and he fumbled with her arm, trying to push her away from him, scowling all the while.

“Leave me…alone…Mudblood…” he forced out between gritted teeth, eyebrows knitted firmly over his dark eyes.

“Severus,” she said, shocked at the amount of blood. “What happened?” But already she could see it wasn’t as bad as she had feared; the blood was all pouring from one shallow laceration on the side of his head, and his stuttering speech was only due to breathlessness. He pushed away from her, leaning against the wall for a moment or two whilst he regained his breath.

“Leave me alone, Evans,” he said finally, glaring at her worried face.

“Don’t be stupid, Snape,” she spat out. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing! Will you please just go away?” He looked tired now, leaning his forehead on the stonewall and clutching his side as if he had a stitch.

Lily opened and shut her mouth in quick succession, unsure of what to say. Had that been a note of pleading in his voice? Then, down the corridor, she heard familiar voices. Her eyes narrowed.

“Where did he go – Snivellus! There you are.” Sirius Black appeared from around the corner, smiling meanly. Then he spotted Lily and his smile dropped. “Evans,” he said, nodding politely.

“Sirius,” Lily replied icily. “Where’s James?”

Sirius looked evasive. “In the common room?” he tried. Lily just fixed him with a dirty look. Then the boy in question tumbled around the corner, grinning wildly, closely followed by a worried looking Remus Lupin and a gleeful Peter Pettigrew. He skidded to a halt on seeing Lily.

“Lily! What are you doing here? It’s nearly curfew,” he asked blithely, as if Severus Snape wasn’t bleeding in between them.

Lily wasn’t impressed and advanced on him, with her fingers rested gently on her wand. “What on earth are you playing at, Potter?” she said furiously, ignoring the enraged look that the Slytherin must have been directing at her.

James swallowed. “It was just a cutting curse, Lily, it’s not dangerous.”

“Not dangerous!” Her voice rose. “He’s bleeding!”

“He deserves it,” Sirius cut in with no trace of remorse. “Are you defending him? He’s a Slytherin.”

Lily didn’t even deign that with a reply. “Four on one? Is this the famous Gryffindor bravery?” she said acidly. James shifted uncomfortably but at least he was still looking at her. Peter and Remus weren’t even meeting her eyes.

“Lily - ” James began, but she cut him off.

“Save it, James,” she replied tiredly. A quick glance behind her showed that Severus had slipped away at some point and she was thankful. All she wanted to do was be by herself. Starting to walk away, she barely even halted when Sirius spoke the final words.

“He won’t thank you for sticking up for him, you know,” he told her, not sounding completely regretful, but at least not entirely cold either.

“I know,” she said, keeping her back to them as she spoke. “But it was still the right thing to do.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Lily collapsed on the grass, arms spread wide. Her companions laughed at her unruly actions, so unlike herself. But she was so fed up of exams! The fifth years had just taken their Defence Against the Dark Arts OWL exam and although it had been relatively easy, being stuck inside doing an exam on a sunny day wasn’t exactly fun. Lily stayed lying on the ground, too relaxed to even summon up the energy to join her friends who were cooling their feet at that lakeside.

“Come on, Lily,” someone poked her foot, and she groaned, dragging herself to a seated position. But immediately upon rising, she stiffened. James Potter was looking right at her. Even as he captured and held her gaze, he opened his fist and the Snitch flew free. Lily narrowed her eyes, and he reached out and grabbed the little golden ball, his eyes on her all the while. She looked away, then glanced back again straight away, but his concentration was broken and he was smiling indulgently at Peter. She looked determinedly away again.

She sat there silently for a few more minutes, growing slowly more annoyed with the constant whoops of admiration that Peter kept letting out as James played with his Snitch. Her friends didn’t seem to even notice, chattering away happily when Lily sat there almost seething with annoyance.

When the noises stopped, Lily managed to resist the temptation to look over there for a few moments, although she really wanted to know what had stopped the little twit showing off to his friends.

“Expelliarmus!” someone shouted, and she whipped her head around, recognising the voice. At first, only the glint of sunlight on a wand sailing gracefully through the air had her attention, but another barked spell drew her gaze to where one Severus Snape was flying through the air similarly to the wand, which in retrospect she realised must have been his.

She shot up from her seat; regretting the interruption of her peace even in the midst of her anger. She stalked towards the foursome, taking in the situation as she did. James and Sirius were advancing on the fallen Snape, exchanging what looked like heated insults. Remus Lupin - a fellow Prefect, although he wasn’t acting much like it - was still under his tree with his book open. His face was turned down, giving every impression that he was still reading, completely ignoring what was happening. Peter Pettigrew was inching eagerly closer to the action.

She saw bubbles start to flow from Snape’s mouth and hurried her stride. That was a horrid curse. “Leave him alone,” she said dangerously, noticing absentmindedly how Potter’s hand nestled in his hair as soon as she spoke. She didn’t even hear his question, recognising the smarmy tone of his voice. “Leave him alone,” she repeated. “What’s he done to you?”

Potter’s reply wasn’t even worth the trouble of responding to. Lily couldn’t help but notice that Lupin didn’t laugh, but she dismissed any warm feelings towards the boy when she considered how many times he must have stood by and watched scenes like this without lifting a finger to stop them. “You think you’re funny,” she said coldly, watching his face as she threw insults further at him. “Leave him alone,” she said once again.

“I will if you go out with me, Evans,” James said rapidly, but all Lily could see was the smirk in his eyes. She ignored the rest of his pleading.

“I wouldn’t go out with you if it was a choice between you and the Giant Squid,” she said maliciously, injecting as much hatred as possible into her words. But they’d all forgotten about Snape, who was crawling towards his wand. Reaching it, he rolled over and pointed it straight at James. Lily jumped backwards in shock as blood spattered her face, coming from a slice on James’ cheek. His eyes squinted in anger, and before Lily even saw him aim, Snape was hanging upside down, underwear clearly visible.

Her mouth twitched with amusement before she could help herself, but thankfully James didn’t see and she was ashamed of herself for finding such cruelty amusing for even a second. “Let him down!” she told James furiously. He swung his attention back to her, letting Snape down almost straight away, to Lily’s immense surprise. However, his actions all became clear when Sirius took up the torment, performing a Body Bind on the helpless Slytherin. Lily’s eyes were stinging with angry tears and she shot a filthy look at James, who had fooled her into thinking he wasn’t so bad for just an instant. Even that instant had made her feel an idiot, and she pulled her own wand out, altering the dynamics drastically.

“Ah, Evans, don’t make me hex you,” James said, and Lily saw red once more. How dare he threaten her?

“Take the curse off him, then,” she said, needles lacing her every word. Again, to her surprise, James obeyed her and Snape struggled up, starting to speak. About to turn away, Lily froze when Snape’s words filtered through to her.

“ – filthy little Mudbloods like her!” That was all she heard, but it was enough, and she blinked in hurt. Severus and she weren’t exactly friends, but she thought they had gotten past such hurtful insults.

“Fine,” she said, not even blinking in case her tears fell. “I won’t bother in future.” She turned away, eyes burning. Then – to her great shame – she threw an insult of her own. “And I’d wash your pants if I were you, Snivellus.” She dropped her eyes, not wanting to look into his for fear of what she would see. Vaguely she heard James trying to defend her and she yelled something at him, but she was too tired of fighting and hurting to even pay attention to what she was saying. She couldn’t seem to stop her words tumbling out; a hurtful litany of everything that annoyed her about James. It was only when she managed to concentrate on the blank, agonised look in his eyes that she shut her mouth.

Not knowing what else to do when he looked so hurt, she turned on her heel and almost ran away, blinking back tears. She ignored James’ shouts. She was just as bad as him.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Lily rolled over in her bed, rubbing her eyes. It was still dark outside, and she frowned, wondering what had disturbed her slumber when she was usually such a deep sleeper. A tapping on the window next to her bed soon answered her question and she groaned quietly. What on earth was going on? She struggled out of her tangled sheets, clutching one around her for warmth. An owl was sitting on the outside of her window ledge.

Lily gaped at it for a few moments, then tentatively reached out to open the latch. She jumped slightly when the owl hooted lightly, and then rolled her eyes at her own nervousness. The owl waited patiently as she opened the stiff window before jumping onto her arm and settling his weight on her. It lifted its leg obediently, swivelling its head around to stare piercingly into her eyes. Lily dropped her gaze; owls often gave her the creeps with those large eyes, not to mention that it was entirely unnatural to be holding an owl anyway.

She untied the letter, blinking the haze of sleep away from her eyes.

Dear Miss Evans

It is with great regret that I inform you that you are needed at the Headmaster’s Office straight away. I apologise for the inconvenience, and of course you are not obliged to obey, but I assure you I would not ask were you not sorely needed.

Yours sincerely,
Albus Dumbledore

Lily read it again. And again. Finally, with another frown, she pulled on her robes straight over her nightclothes. Whatever was going on sounded serious, and as a Prefect, she couldn’t exactly refuse a request from the Headmaster.

She hurried through the corridors, not wanting to linger any longer than necessary in the deserted and rather spooky halls. When she reached the office, it was already open and a light burned inside.

“Miss Evans.” Dumbledore’s voice was grave, but Lily paid no attention. Sitting in front of him were James Potter, Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew.

“Sir,” she finally acknowledged him, tearing her eyes away from the three boys. James was stiff with anger and Sirius had a glint in his eye that promised fireworks soon. Peter was shrinking into his seat, trying to stay close to his two friends. “What’s going on?”

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you, Miss Evans. All you need to know is that your services are required in the Hospital Wing. Madam Pomfrey needs an assistant and you seemed the most suitable, considering her patients.” Dumbledore’s voice was still solemn, with no trace of his usual light heartedness. “But I have to insist that no one hears of what has transpired this night.”

Lily nodded. “Of course, sir,” she replied, her curiosity burning fiercely. She looked over at James, hoping subconsciously for an explanation, but he couldn’t - or wouldn’t - meet her eyes. Sirius did, but she found it difficult to hold his gaze, so filled with anger and resentment – and yes, perhaps a little guilt - was his countenance. Knowing she would get no further information just now, Lily turned on her heel and left the office.

She walked quickly to the Hospital Wing, desperate to know what was going on. Dumbledore had said something about her being suited to the patients – what did that mean?

“Miss Evans, thank heavens,” said the nurse, relieved. “Professor Dumbledore did send you along, didn’t he?”

“Y – yes.” Lily looked around, but only two cubicles were occupied and the curtains were drawn on both.

Pomfrey lowered her voice. “Try not to react too suddenly, Miss Evans. He’s not a pretty sight at the moment, and I must make sure you don’t mention this to anyone.” Lily didn’t answer, but her face showed her confused agreement well enough. Pomfrey sighed. “I need you to help me apply some Murtlap Essence, and he needs a Blood Replenishing Potion. Then I want you to sit with him whilst I attend to Mr Snape; he shouldn’t be left alone.”

Lily glanced up sharply when she heard Snape’s name. Pomfrey noticed. “Yes, I imagine that’s why Dumbledore sent for you rather than another Prefect. You know both of my patients and seem inclined to be friendly to them.”

Lily blinked. This just got stranger and stranger. Who was the other patient she knew? And why had Dumbledore sent for her when she hadn’t spoken to Snape since the incident at the end of their fifth year, when he had called her a Mudblood?

Then Madam Pomfrey pulled back the first of the curtains, and whatever Lily had been thinking flew straight out of the window. Remus Lupin lay on the pristine hospital bed, but nothing could be more of a contrast to its neatness. He was in a dreadful condition. He had slashes all over his body and his eyes were gaunt shadows in his pale face. His eyes opened with some difficulty when he heard the curtains pulled back, and he squinted at Lily.

“Lily?” he asked, his voice slightly slurred from pain and tiredness. He tried to sit up but crashed straight back down, wincing.

The nurse tutted. “Mr Lupin, please, take it easy.” She ushered Lily to the bedside, and began to unbutton Remus’ shirt. Lily blushed slightly and she could see a red flush spreading up his skin, or at least what little of it wasn’t covered in blood or grime. He was just as embarrassed as she, and neither wanted to look each other in the eye. Lily only helped with the wounds on his back and arms, leaving the other areas to Madame Pomfrey with great relief.

As more and more of his skin became visible, Lily found it increasingly difficult to hide her feelings. He was in such an awful state and she felt such immense pity for him that she was sure Remus could see every thought imprinted on her face.

“I’ll be back later, Mr Lupin. I’ve got to take care of Mr Snape there.” Madame Pomfrey cast a final critical glance over his body, which was looking far cleaner and healthier than when Lily had first seen it. Remus was still too skinny, and clearly exhausted, but at least the blood was mostly gone and the cuts were healing.

The pair sat in silence for a moment until Lily broke the silence. “Remus? What happened to you?” she asked bluntly and he attempted a laugh.

“Don’t believe in beating around the bush, do you?” he asked dryly, only faltering a little. Lily was impressed with his quick recovery and his ability to talk coherently despite the pain he must have been in.

“Remus, you looked awful – you still do, in fact. It’s barely even dawn, Snape is lying over there hurt, and your friends are holed up in Dumbledore’s office. I was woken up to come and help you; the least I’m going to do is ask questions.” Lily moved slightly, and a flaming lock fell over one jade eye.

“Snape’s hurt?” he said, eyes filled with a pain that Lily couldn’t understand. “Are the others okay?”

Lily scowled. “Yes, they’re fine. James looked like he was about to commit murder, but apart from that…” Remus flinched at her mention of James and Lily let out an exaggerated, exasperated sigh. “Can’t you tell me what’s going on?

“I can’t, Lily,” he said firmly. Before she could press the issue, a commotion rose up from behind the other curtained bed.

“Let me out of here!” A furious voice shouted, and Lily could vaguely hear Madame Pomfrey shushing him, letting out scandalised sounds all the while.

“Mr Snape, please!” she said. Lily poked her head around the side of Remus’ curtains curiously, but she soon wished she hadn’t. Severus’ dark, enraged eyes focused on her and narrowed.

“Evans,” he hissed. “Were you in on this as well? Is that – that monster in there with you?” He looked so angry that Lily was almost frightened he would physically attack her. He even took a step towards her as if he were contemplating that very act.

“Monster?” she stuttered. Her eyes were dark with fear, and she hated that it was Severus Snape who was making her so afraid. But there’s nothing scarier than someone you thought you knew acting like a complete stranger.

Severus moved closer to her, and she finally noticed that he was limping a little. He seemed relatively uninjured apart from that, although the same mud that covered Remus was all over him and his robes. “Lupin. The werewolf,” he said maliciously. “He’s been hiding his abnormalities from us for years. We could have all died!”

Lily gasped, shaking her head. It couldn’t be true, not Remus. Not the gentle, hardworking, mostly friendly Remus Lupin. Werewolves were some of the most feared and hated magical creatures; savage animals, which attacked all in their path. She took an involuntary step away from the young man on the bed, who steeled his features for the rejection and disgust that he knew would follow.

Severus drew closer still, finally spying Remus now Lily had moved slightly. “Ah, there he is. The halfbreed.” Snape’s eyes were etched with hate and his mouth was one grim line of resentment. “I’ll make sure everyone knows about you, and how you tried to kill me tonight. You’ll not last another day in this school.” Snape didn’t shout the words, merely whispered them, but chills ran down Lily’s spine at the ice-cold tone they were said in.

She glanced hesitantly at Remus. He was looking calmly at her, ignoring Severus. “Is it true?” she asked, her voice trembling slightly.

“Yes,” he answered. He didn’t try to defend himself, letting Lily make her own decisions. In a way she wished he had explained his condition; perhaps then this wouldn’t be so hard to accept.

Snape was watching with his dark eyes glinting. “Shall we go to Dumbledore, Evans? The school is in danger every second it remains here.”

She hesitated. Remus was nothing but kind and good hearted, and she was having trouble reconciling that image with the stereotypical werewolf. Even Madam Pomfrey was silent, waiting for her to speak. “I - ” But before she could finish her sentence, the door to the Hospital Wing swung open slowly, revealing Dumbledore in the doorway.

“Mr Lupin, Mr Snape, I trust you’ve been treated appropriately?” Dumbledore asked gravely.

“Professor!” Snape limped forward straight away. “Professor, you can’t let this beast stay at Hogwarts, can you? He tried to kill me tonight and what if it happens again?” He stopped for breath, having spoken his accusations without a pause.

Dumbledore took a moment to respond. “Mr Snape, I can assure you that nothing happens in this school without my knowledge. I was completely aware of Mr Lupin’s lycanthropic nature, and took the necessary measures to ensure events like last night’s would never happen.”

Severus blanched. “But – but - ” he spluttered out.

“What happened to you was beyond Mr Lupin’s control, although he will be reprimanded for not obeying restrictions put in place for situations just like this,” The Headmaster turned his gaze on Remus, who looked down, ashamed. Lily watched all the proceedings silently.

“So he gets away with this?” Snape said dangerously. “With all due respect, Professor, how can you condone letting a monster like him stay at Hogwarts?”

“Mr Snape, do you honestly think I would allow any student to come to harm if I could prevent it? As it is, you should not have been out after curfew, especially not that near to the Forest.” Dumbledore’s voice had turned to steel. “Mr Lupin has endured immense hardships and I will do anything in my power to keep this a secret, and to keep him at Hogwarts. I strongly suggest that you do the same. Last night’s events were very nearly tragic, but Mr Lupin would have been more regretful than anyone had things turned out badly. The culprits have been dealt with.”

“The culprits?” Remus said suddenly. “Oh god, please don’t tell me Sirius - ” He nearly retched, holding a hand to his mouth in horror.

“Professor?” Lily broke in. “I think I’d like an explanation, please,” she asked firmly.

“Yes, I think I’d like to know what exactly Sirius Black had to do with this,” Severus’ face was completely blank of emotion, but his eyes were so hard that Lily couldn’t even look at him.

Dumbledore sighed. “What I have to say will not leave this room, do I make myself clear?” The occupants nodded. “Remus Lupin came here under my protection and my guidance. Not one student would have ever been in any danger. Severus Snape was nearly killed last night, but only through the foolish actions of others, not anything to do with Mr Lupin, whom I know would be devastated if any harm had come to you, Mr Snape.”

Severus snorted. “So are you expelling Black and Potter for this?” he asked, a hint of smugness creeping into his tone. Remus looked up fearfully, his skeletal eyes huge.

“No.” Dumbledore looked Severus straight in the eye. “I promise you they will be severely reprimanded and if anything of this nature occurs again, they will be expelled. But for now, I refuse to send anyone away from my school when I know they regret their actions.”

“You – you - ” Snape’s voice shook with anger. “They tried to kill me and you’re standing there excusing their actions? I’m bloody lucky I’ve only got a sprained ankle!” He sat down on the nearest bed, looking incredulous. “You’ve been hiding a monster from us and even though I nearly got killed, you’re still defending him.”

“Mr Lupin has my full support.”

“No,” Remus said, breaking in. “No, he’s right. I – I’m a monster. I would have killed him, I know I would. James distracted me, but - ” He stopped. “But I wanted to sink my teeth into Snape’s body more than anything I’ve ever wanted in my life. I’m a beast.”

Lily put a hand to her mouth. Never had she been more disgusted with the world; that someone so good hearted had to bear such a burden as this. It was all perfectly clear to her; Remus was not a monster, he could never be a monster, but he had a monster inside of him that he had kept immense control over for years. It would have taken such strength that there was no way she could condemn him. Dumbledore would never let his students face any danger unknowingly and that in itself told Lily that Remus was not a danger to anyone but himself. She would keep his secret.

“I’ll keep his secret,” Snape said heatedly. “I don’t have a choice, do I? But I swear to you, Lupin, I will make sure you suffer for this. One day I’ll tell everyone your dirty secret and I hope you endure everything I’ve had to from you and your friends. Maybe then you’ll know what it’s like to be ridiculed.” With that, he drew the curtains around his bed in a flourish, hiding his whole self from view.

Lily stared at the shut curtains, her heart aching for everyone in this situation. But Potter – her heart went cold when she thought of him. She had been warming to him since the beginning of the sixth year – he wasn’t quite so arrogant, cruel and immature as before. Even when he had been at his worst, she would never have thought him capable of such an awful prank. Not only might Severus had been killed, but Remus would have been inconsolable had he killed him. No friend would do that, surely.

Sirius she could just about see doing this – he had a mean, rash streak, although he was a nice enough person – but not James. The difference between them was that she had once been friends with James. It was harder to believe this of him than of Sirius, whom she had never been particularly fond of.

“Miss Evans?” Dumbledore asked gently. “I know this must be quite a shock for you, but I think you should have a quick word with Mr Lupin.”

She nodded and Remus looked a little scared, if not resigned to his fate. Dumbledore made his goodbyes, and then left the Hospital Wing with a sweep of robes.

Madam Pomfrey gave them both a sympathetic look. “He shouldn’t be getting you all excited, but I can’t exactly refuse the Headmaster an audience,” she fussed. “Here you go, dears.” She cast a charm over the curtains so they could talk privately without Severus overhearing.

Lily moved towards the bed, unsure of how to begin. Remus sat up stiffly so he could see her face. “Lily, I’ll understand if you don’t want anything to do with me, but please, please don’t tell anyone.” His eyes were desperately huge in his pale face.

“How long?” she asked softly.

“Since I was eight,” he replied warily.

Lily swore. “You were so young.” She looked at him, trying to hide the pity from her face. “Remus…I won’t tell anyone. You have my word.” She’d read a lot of awful things about werewolves, but somehow they didn’t seem half as important when she looked at the frightened young man in front of her.

His face visibly relaxed and he gripped her hand weakly. “Thank you, Lily,” he said softly. He hesitated, and then plunged on. “Lily, James isn’t half as bad as you think. Can’t you just give him a chance?”

Lily threw Remus an incensed look, pulling her hand away. “I can’t believe you’re even asking me this, Remus. He tried to use you to kill Severus!”

Remus looked at her sadly. “James tried to save Severus,” he explained, but Lily wasn’t even listening any more, flinging open the curtains so she could leave.

“Your secret is safe with me,” she said frostily, then turned her back on him. But unfortunately, Severus had heard her final words to Remus and limped in front of her.

“You’re actually protecting that monster?” he said incredulously, his face twisting maliciously.

Yes,” Lily snarled. “If you hadn’t been breaking the rules, then you wouldn’t have been in any danger!”

“I’d heard the rumours about you and Potter, but I didn’t think you’d stoop this low, Mudblood.” Severus stared her down coldly, and she felt tears prickling in her eyes. This was more than she could deal with right now. She didn’t know why Dumbledore had sent for her of all people, she didn’t know what had happened last night, and most of all; she didn’t know what to think.

“And I didn’t think you’d stoop as low as to call me that again,” she said quietly. He looked away and Lily took her chance to scoot around him. She didn’t even look back when she left the room.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Lily shifted uncomfortably on her couch, looking over at her silent companion. A few minutes passed, and she changed position again. Still he said nothing. Lily tried to continue working but she just couldn’t concentrate whilst waiting for him to come out with one of his usual annoying questions. Finally, she threw down her quill and at last he deigned to look at her.

“Is there a problem, Lily?” he asked.

She blinked at him incredulously. “What are you playing at, Potter?”

He raised an eyebrow. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Lily.”

“You haven’t said one word to me yet,” she said defensively, suddenly realising how ridiculous she sounded.

James laughed, identifying her problem immediately. “You want to know why I haven’t asked you out?”

Lily blushed furiously. “Yes,” she muttered. “But it’s not just that! You’ve barely hexed anyone so far this year.”

“Perhaps I grew up a little over the summer,” he replied, then poised his quill to write once more, as if he deemed the conversation over.

“Yes, and pigs might fly!” Lily snorted and James looked back up at her.

“I’m Head Boy now. I’ve got to be setting an example,” he said with a completely deadpan expression. Then he winked and Lily laughed before she could help herself. James smiled widely and she couldn’t help but smile back.

The two worked in silence for a few minutes more, Lily sneaking glances at James. She had been so thrilled to be Head Girl in her last year at Hogwarts that it had barely dampened her spirits when she had found out that Potter was Head Boy. However, he had been so helpful and organised that now she was almost glad he had been chosen. Gone was the cheeky boy of last year who had made entertainment out of hexing Slytherins and had made a point of asking Lily out regularly. In his place was a young man, albeit one still prone to making mischief on occasion.

“Hey, Lily?” James said, still intent on his work. “Will you go out with me?”

Lily rolled her eyes. “Can I ask you something?” she said.

“Sure,” he replied curiously, noting the serious tone in her voice.

“What happened last year with Remus and Snape?”

James sat up straight, eyes wide open. “Er…”

“No, I shouldn’t have asked that. Don’t worry about it.” Lily cursed herself silently. She didn’t know what on earth had made her say that, but if she was honest with herself, she had been thinking about it a lot since James had turned over a new leaf.

“No, it’s okay. I meant to thank you, you know, for keeping Remus’ secret.” James ran a hand through his hair, but it wasn’t the arrogant gesture it would have been a year ago, rather just an absentminded habit. “Look, I know I’ve been an absolute bastard over the years, but I would never have tried to get Snape killed. And especially not by Remus. I mean, God, what would that have done to him? He already thinks he’s a monster.” James swiped a hand over his face moodily and Lily stayed silent, not wanting to interrupt this sudden outpouring of emotion.

“Sirius hates Snape more than anything, you know,” James continued. “I can’t tell you why, because Sirius probably wouldn’t want you to know, but he has good reason to hate all Slytherins. And all right, I know what he did was inexcusable but he’s like my brother.” James looked at Lily with worried eyes, as if waiting for approval. “Snape was listening to a conversation of ours, and God, Lily, I never would have let Sirius do it if I’d known Snape was there.” He stared through her now, face haunted. “He mentioned enough to let Snape know how to find where Remus goes on during the full moon. Snape went there – can you blame him? He thought he could finally get one up on us if he knew what we were up to, but instead…” James faltered.

“He found a werewolf ready to kill him,” Lily finished softly, seeing the horror of it reflected in James’ eyes. “I can’t believe Sirius did that,” she said, with mounting anger. All this time, she’d been fooling herself thinking it was an accident or something.

James gripped her arm tightly. “I went after them once I knew and no one got hurt, but Remus was so angry for ages after. If he’d hurt Snape in any way, he never would have forgiven himself.”

Lily frowned. “How did you stop a fully grown werewolf without getting hurt yourself?”

“Lily… Do you swear not to tell a soul?” James asked seriously.

“Of course.”

“I’m an Animagus. We all are.” He looked at her anxiously for a reaction.

Lily laughed scornfully. “You have got to be kidding.” But suddenly James was gone, and his place stood a majestic, proud stag with such wisdom in his eyes that it struck Lily breathless. She stood up and reached out a hand to his beautiful russet coloured coat, almost in a trance, but before she could lay a hand on him, he turned back into James Potter. Lily blushed furiously; her hand was just about to stroke his shoulder.

“Sirius is a dog. Peter’s a rat,” James explained. “We finally learnt back in fifth year so we could keep Remus company during the full moon. He says he feels more human with us there.” He watched her warily. “Lily, you can’t tell anyone. We’re unregistered Animagi.”

Lily was still stunned. She’d been thinking bad things of James and the others for so long and yet they’d been breaking all these laws just to help out their friend. “I – I can’t believe it,” she said at last. “I can’t believe you’d do something like that for Remus.”

James smiled sadly. “You might think badly of us, Lily, but we weren’t about to abandon a friend.”

“Thank you – for telling me all this, I mean,” Lily said, suddenly shy. He must have put such trust in her just to satisfy her stupid curiosity, and it had cost him a lot. She could ruin them all with just a quick word to anyone and that he trusted her that much scared her slightly. She was suddenly starting to see the true reality of his feelings for her and it was changing her world beyond belief.

“You deserved to know,” James replied and an awkward silence fell.

“James? Does your offer still stand?” Lily said suddenly, her palms sweating with nerves.

He looked confused. “My offer?”

“Of a date,” she replied, revelling in his shocked look.

“Y – yes, of course,” he stuttered eventually.

“Then I’d love to go out with you.” Lily smiled. “I mean, you deserve a chance.”

He just stared at her in disbelief, then grinned slowly. “I won’t let you down,” he promised, and somehow, deep down, Lily knew that he wasn’t lying.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Happy Halloween, Harry,” Lily Potter whispered softly, kissing her son on his forehead. He wriggled in her arms, letting a small gurgle of happiness out and she smiled, filled with love - as always - for this small creature whom she loved so much. She placed him carefully in his crib, tucking the blanket over his fragile body and humming a tune to him.

She had been married to James Potter for a couple of years now, and despite the horror of the war that surrounded them, she had never been happier. But at the same time, she was terrified. The prophecy haunted her every waking moment and every time she looked at her son, all she saw was a child in mortal danger.

Every day people were dying. Lily refused to let her son be one of the victims. It was for that reason that she had taken this last drastic measure of the Fidelius Charm. Not even Voldemort could find them, so Harry was safe. That was all that mattered.

Lily and Alice - now Alice Longbottom - had become very friendly since the births of their sons. The sheer terror they had both felt when Dumbledore had told them of the prophecy had bonded them in a way nothing else could. Even after everything they had been through as Aurors during this war, nothing, nothing, compared to the thought of losing their children to a madman like Voldemort. Even though Lily knew she was safe right now, she was still terrified.

She wandered down the stairs, intending to cuddle up with James’ until it was time for bed. Then she heard the front door bang open and her world fell apart. It would never be the same again.

“Lily, take Harry and go! It’s him! Go! Run! I’ll hold him off!” James yelled up the stairs to her and she froze, agonised with indecision. She had been safe just two seconds ago, how could she be in such danger now? Her husband was downstairs; perhaps if she helped him then they would both survive. But her son was upstairs and she needed to protect him too.

Lily’s mind fell apart for that moment on the stairs. Half of her wanted to run and spend the last few minutes of her life with her husband at her side, but the non-selfish side was tearing at her to go and put her body in front of Harry’s. Down the stairs, just below her, she heard Voldemort laugh his high, merciless laugh and she moaned with indecision. How could she make such a choice?

Everything had changed so quickly; who had betrayed her? Peter must be the traitor, but it made no sense, how could he be? Her mind was skipping erratically from one train of thought to the next, wildly sifting through them whilst every fibre of her being was screaming in fear. She could not make such a choice, but make one she did. If she lived through the night, she would regret it forever. Lily turned and ran away from her husband’s final battle. Harry was the most important thing now.

Tears trickled down Lily’s cheeks as she ran into Harry’s room, looking desperately around for something or someone that could save her, but there was nothing. Only James stood between her and Voldemort, and she had never been more terrified in her life. They had faced him three times, but never alone. James was such a part of her now that Lily didn’t think she could fight without him, didn’t think she could even breathe without him. He was down there alone, facing the most evil wizard of their time, and why was he going to die alone? Because Lily had abandoned him, and for that she would never forgive herself.

A green light filled the house.

For a moment everything was still and silent in Lily’s world. She could see in the mirror that her mouth was open in a scream, but still she could hear nothing. James was dead. Voldemort had killed him. And now he was coming after her child.

Lily wiped the tears from her cheeks and removed her wand from her pocket. Her hand shook slightly but she ignored it. She ignored everything, even the pain of losing James, although that was so sharp it threatened to overwhelm her. All she wanted to do was throw herself down and let herself die; for what did the world have to offer her now that James was dead?

Her son let out a low cry and Lily’s world snapped back into focus with crystal clear clarity. She must protect Harry. That was all that mattered. It didn’t matter that the body of her husband was lying below her, it didn’t matter that Peter had betrayed them, it didn’t matter that she would surely die in the next few minutes. As long as Harry still breathed whilst she was alive, she would have done all she could and more. Then she could die knowing she could have done no more to protect him.

The door to her room burst open and she placed herself in front of Harry’s cot, steeling herself for the last fight of her short life.

Voldemort was a sight to strike fear into the hearts of even the bravest man, but Lily hardened herself against the terror. You could still see how he used to be handsome, she reflected suddenly. He looked a little inhuman but still, the last vestiges of his good looks remained.

He let out a high-pitched laugh and Lily shivered, almost feeling it wash over her like some kind of physical substance. Harry fell silent, Lily only just noticing that he had been emitting hiccupping sobs for the past couple of minutes. Everything was silent for at least ten seconds, whilst the occupants of the room all looked at each other in the calm before the coming tempest.

Voldemort raised his wand.

Lily broke.

“Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!” she begged, tears falling afresh. She didn’t care that she was falling apart; pride no longer mattered when her child’s life was at stake. Lily didn’t think she’d be able to bear dying if she knew Harry would be killed straight after. She was barely handling James’ death and Harry’s would be ten times worse.

“Stand aside, you silly girl.” Voldemort sounded almost regretful, swinging his wand around to point straight at her. “Stand aside now.”

“Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead,” Lily pleaded, the words pouring from her mouth in a litany that she couldn’t stop even if she tried. It didn’t matter what she was saying, but every moment brought a little more hope that something would intervene and stop this nightmare.

Voldemort sighed, advancing towards her. Lily felt like her heart was going to break right there, and she huddled over Harry even more.

“Not Harry!” she whispered brokenly. “Please… have mercy…” Lily stared hopelessly at the Dark Lord who was still advancing towards her, knowing if James couldn’t defeat him then she didn’t have a chance in hell of doing it herself.

Voldemort laughed again, revelling in her stupidity. She could have saved herself but her life would not be worth living without her son or husband, and especially not if she had left them both to be killed so she could save herself.

The Dark Lord raised his wand and Lily screamed for the last time. It was so easy to say you would sacrifice yourself, but when the moment came, it was so terrifying. She could still stand aside even now, but she held firm.

When the green light finally came, she barely even had time to register it before it hit her, shattering her world into a thousand pieces.

Lily Potter was dead before she hit the floor.

A/N: Some of the quotes from the scene by the lake and the death scene are from the actual HP books, so I take no credit for those. Thanks so much if you got through the whole of this!

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