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The Art of Surviving. by AC_rules
Chapter 4 : Companionship.
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 26


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A/N - So this is now a very long chapter (which was actually orginally two, but there we go) and it's a super-quick update (as you asked for! Your wish is my command!). Sorry about all the flashbacky-ness at the moment. It's only because this is the beginning, and I either started here, in september, or in April. I thought this was the best way. Anyway, please review! After all... that update was verrryy fasst. Non?

 

“Lily,” Alice began on the forth night. It had been eerily quiet in the now rather small dormitory... now that there were just the three of us. Alice had made a point of discussing wedding plans with Rachel every night before we went to sleep, and so I listened to them talk about flowers and napkins and tried my very hardest to allow them to bore me to sleep. It seemed Alice, being Alice, was about ready to drop her annoyance at my comment, and I was perfectly content to let her – it hadn’t affected things much. “What’s the deal...” she began, and I supposed this was my comeuppance – say something negative about Alice’s absolutely ridiculous wedding, and have to dish the dirt about something or other.

She must have been pretty angry too, because she’d barely spoken to me for the past couple of days. Toady she’d bitten the bullet and had tried talking to me, but the awkwardness that settles over a friendship when you haven’t spoke for months meant that I almost wished she hadn’t bothered.

“I mean, what’s with you and James?” She asked, sitting up and looking towards me with an inquisitive look on her features. The beds had all moved now, and were organised in a simple straight line – with Rachel on one end, Alice in the bed where Mary’s used to be, and me as close to the door as possible – just in case I needed to make a run for it in the night.

With questions like ‘what’s with you and James’ it seemed very likely that making a run for it in the night was a highly probably action course of action.

“Yeah,” Rachel said, also sitting up in her cheque pyjamas, crossing her legs and looking at me. “I wondered about that.”

It seemed they practiced how to bring this up in conversation.

“I don’t know what you mean,” I said lightly, because I didn’t want to think about it – because it was confusing and made my head hurt.

“Well, for a start – he’s just gone ahead and sat himself next to you in most lessons,” Alice began.

“He sits next to Sirius most of the time,” I interjected.  I now sat next to a Marauder in every single lesson – like they’d picked up my new vulnerability and were trying to be around me constantly. The result being I felt like I was about to be swallowed up. As much as I loved Sirius, James and Remus (Peter didn’t sit next to me in any class – the other three had covered all lessons before he got a turn, I bet he was gutted), there was only so much of their boyishness that I could stand.

“I’d say it’s fifty-fifty,” Rachel said fairly. “But on the train he like, picked you up,”

“And several times in the past week I swear to Merlin he’s been this far away from kissing you,” Alice said holding up her fingers to gesture what a small distance it was. You’d have thought, if James Potter was approximately two millimetres away from my lips I would have noticed. “And you looked as if you were going to let him,”

“It’s not like we haven’t kissed before,” I said, also sitting up in my bedcovers and looking at the others feeling half curious, half defensive.

“You have?” Rachel asked. “When?”

“I...”

Multiple times,” Alice grinned. “New year’s last year, Peter’s seventeenth...”

“Enough,” I said, and they both laughed. I edged forward a little bit. “We’re friends now, anyway,” I said.

“You and James could never be friends,” Rachel said. I couldn’t help but almost agree. It did seem a rather strange notion, James and I – friends. But how else could you define it?

“And,” Alice said eagerly, “He stole some of your toast the other day,”

“So?” I asked.

“And you didn’t slap him! You smiled at him.”

“So I’ve mellowed.” I said, folding my arms over my chest. “That’s perfectly natural.”

“You have not mellowed, if anything – you’re angrier. We all saw that duel between you and Sarah Bones in defence, she was terrified of you – and you could tell even Professor Tyron was impressed.”

“That wasn’t anger,” I countered. “And I’ve been practicing magic over the summer,”

“And that’s another thing,” Alice lamented eagerly – clearly passionate about this particular subject. I had no doubt she’d been dying to quiz me since the moment she’d seen my new way of interacting with James Potter. “What happened over summer?”

Nothing.”

“He wrote to you!” She said, and Rachel was nodding behind her – they’d discussed this. “Or you met up or something. You must have!”

I wanted to prove them wrong so very badly, but as is normally the case – they were right.

****************

It was a hot summer. Petunia and her friends used to go down to the park and lie about in flowery skirts hopping to tan, but I stayed up in my room and practiced NEWT magic with the door shut. I’d turned of age a couple of weeks after Mary died but I hadn’t appreciated how useful it was to be able to do magic at home until mid July. Now it was late August and still things weren’t looking up.

Petunia was avoiding me completely, and Mum was too busy cooking up large fatty dishes that I couldn’t eat because everyone one of them seemed to contain tomatoes, and I couldn’t bare the fact that they weren’t my Dad’s tomatoes and never would be again. Occasionally she’d knock on my door and I’d make a big show of demonstrating what I’d taught myself that day. I’d grin at her as if I was thrilled about the whole thing and she’d smile back sadly. I came downstairs for mealtimes only, and then I talked little.

The truth was I couldn’t deal with another death when Mary’s was so prominent.

“Lily!” My mother’s voice floated up into my room. “Breakfast!”                                   

I’d been up since the first light of dawn had made it past my curtainless windows and woken me up from my fitful sleep. I had gotten dressed around seven so the idea of breakfast, hours afterwards, sounded obscure and strange.

I pulled myself up off my bed and exited my room.

I sat down in my usual seat round the tiny table and buttered my toast. When Dad was alive we never used to be able to afford real butter, and I wondered how big this insurance pay out was and how long it would last before we were even poorer that before. “Morning.” I said in the direction of mum, who was bending over the sink, and not Petunia who was sitting opposite me.

“Morning, Lily.” Mum said sounding if not cheery, upbeat and positive. She was doing well and I wished I could be slightly more useful. She wasn’t the same Mrs Evans as she had been before, but she was taking things in her stride and other than the few times I’d come downstairs to use the loo in the middle of the night and found her, with her wine glass still in her hand, crying and pressing the cool metal of her wedding ring to her face, she seemed to be fine. “I’ve been thinking, you should have one of your friends over. I’d love to meet them.”

 I had animatedly told my parents all about the people at Hogwarts and all about magic. They could probably name all my friends without ever having met them. I was always one for talk, and I loved magic so passionately that for those first few summers they couldn’t shut me up. I told them everything; a portfolio on each of my teachers and each of my subjects; the names of every single person I sat next to; the exact sleeping habits of the girls in my dorms; the names of all the boys in my years; an explanation of Quidditch; how to get around Hogwarts and a list of every spell I’d learnt... It was no wonder that Petunia ended up so insanely jealous that she started calling me names.

By third year I’d grown up a little and didn’t offer the information so freely, but my parents were as interested in magic as I was. They were good parents and kept asking me the questions... What had happened to that boy I used to sit next to in transfiguration, whether I was still top of the class at potions, the results of the Quidditch matches... So I told them everything.

My parents had always found magic just as exciting as I did and would always beg me to demonstrate to some magic to them. To hell with the rules, Dad had always said, I want to see what you can do! It saddened me to think that he’d never actually seen me do Magic. He’d been a couple of months too late.

“No, Mum, really,” I answered lamely.

“Why?”

“Does it matter?” I asked a little snappily I have to admit. I suddenly felt a little defensive – as if she was invading my own private stash of emotions. I’d never really felt the urge to conceal things from my mother before but now I didn’t want her to know how I was feeling. It wasn’t comforting or reassuring it was just... annoying.

“Well, I’ve been worried about you, with you sat up in your room all day on your own. I’m not stupid, Lily, you haven’t had much post like you normally do. You’re seventeen and beautiful, you should at least have a couple of blokes writing love letters to you or something. Your... father wouldn’t want you to be like this.” She paused for a few seconds. “Miserable.”

“Mum, I’m not.” I protested but she gave me a knowing look before turning back to her dishes. Petunia rolled her eyes in my direction before returning to her grapefruit slices.

I sighed and looked wistfully out of the window over the sink. Through it you could see Dad’s tiny vegetable patch - the seeds I’d planted in May had grown a lot in the past three months, and it looked alive again, even if it was no longer thriving like it used to be.

“There’s an owl.” Petunia said. “Hey, maybe that’s one of your admires with a love letter.” She taunted. Her brown eyes, which she’d inherited from Dad, glared at me – harsh and unwelcoming.

I ignored her and got up from my chair to open the window. I could tell from the second I saw it that it was a school owl and I was sure that Petunia knew that too. Despite her protests that she didn’t want anything to do with magic, she had an uncanny way of remembering everything I’d ever said about it. I took the letter from its leg.

“Oh no,” She said glancing at the Hogwarts crest. “Guess it’s just the school writing to you again. Funny, isn’t it Lily? How the only letter you’ve received all summer is from your freak school.”

“I told them not to write.” I said through gritted teeth.

“Girls!” Mum reprimanded. We both rolled our eyes in her direction in a moment of unity before realising out mistake and stopping mid roll. I focused on my letter. I pulled the piece of parchment out the heavy envelope and out tumbled... a badge.

For a second I wondered whether they’d sent me another prefect badge knowing that I’d lost the old one but then I turned it over in my fingers and realised something startling...

“Head Girl.” I muttered out loud. Petunia snatched it out of my hands and muttered something about me being ‘queen of the freaks’ which I barely heard. Even after the disaster that was last year, they were making me Head Girl? Really? Dumbledore was definitely one of a kind.

“Head Girl!” Mum said smiling a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Lily, that’s wonderful!”

“Look there’s another owl, probably here to take the badge right back again.” Petunia said, scowling as I passed the badge to mum so she could look at it too.

There was indeed another Owl heading for our little kitchen. An expensive proud looking owl that I didn’t recognise... for a second I thought that Petunia might have been right and the badge was going to be ripped from my mother’s fingers, but instead it landed smoothly on my left shoulder and nipped my ear with its beak affectionately.

“Hello there, what do you want?” I asked running my fingers over its beautiful head. He seemed to roll his eyes at me and stuck his leg out as if to say, I have a letter for you, obviously. I reached up and gently detached the parchment from its foot and to my surprise, it didn’t fly away immediately. It stepped down onto the table and began pecking away at my toast.

Petunia shrank away from it and turned her nose up in disgust, whilst I busied myself trying to work out where I recognised that handwriting from...

“Who’s it from?”

“James.” I said, realising. “James Potter.” Petunia’s scowl deepened.

“He must be rich to afford a bird like that,” Mum said approvingly. “I should think so too, you only deserve the best.”

“Mum.” I said. “It’s not like that.” But I was considerably more interested in opening the letter as quickly as possible than defining the platonic relationship between James and I. I breathed in deeply to fill myself with strength before I began to read.

Lily,

The other’s told me not to write like you said, but I’ve been really worried about you so I thought I’d write anyway. You can ignore this, if you want, but I’ll probably write again. I think the others are all really worried too and they’re just not writing because they think that you abandoned them. I said it wasn’t like that and that you’d have a reason, but they wouldn’t listen.

Alice and Frank are closer than ever. You don’t see them apart now a days, which I think Remus is finding tough. Sirius had brought his own apartment (his uncle died and left him some money) and only comes out when he’s being forced too, which I do – regularly. You haven’t missed much, really.

My excuse for writing to you is that I got my letter from Hogwarts this morning. I am going to assume you’re Head Girl here because really, who else could do it as well as you? I wondered if you’ve though about who’s Head Boy yet? Well, I’m ending your suspense and wonder by telling you that it’s... me (I think Dumbledore is completely mad too). I just thought you should know so you don’t get such a big shock on September 1st.

If you were wondering, it’s my family owl. His name is Harold (after my grandfather) and he’s an excellent judge of character, if a little arrogant. If he likes you it probably means you’re a good person. I’m only rambling because I really wanted to talk to you and I know you probably won’t answer this letter. I’ve missed you, Lily.

Don’t be a stranger

James

I took in the way he curved the ‘L’ of my name as if he was savouring it. It made a much greater indent on the paper than any of his other words. I rung my hands and thought about it for a good few minutes. Suddenly I needed to reply.

 “What does it say?” Mum asked but I ignored her and half sprinted up to my room to grab some parchment. I hastily scribbled my response before taking the stairs two at a time and attaching it to Harold’s leg. He flew out of the window elegantly and beautifully.

I sat back down at the table and saw that now Petunia had the letter and was scanning over it with a scowl on her face.

“He sounds like a freak.” She commented before skidding it back across the table towards me. I smiled properly for the first time in what felt like forever at the expression on her face.

She didn’t stop scowling all day especially as, twenty minutes after I had sent my response, Harold returned with another letter.

Lily,

I’m so glad you replied! I honestly didn’t think you would. Don’t think I haven’t noticed that you avoided mentioning why you’ve been uncontactable all summer, but I’ll let it pass – for now.

I think you might be right about the reason Dumbledore thought I’d be a good Head Boy candidate and of course you’re Head Girl. I’m not surprised about that at all.

You would be able to tell instantly if the owl didn’t like you, and as you managed to write the letter back without losing a finger or any blood it’s fair to say that he likes you a lot. On the subject of pets, how are Prongs and Pads? I hope you’ve been looking after them well.

Is there any chance that I get to see you before September 1st? I want to make sure you’re still alive. We could get our books together or something? I’ll be on my best behaviour – promise.

Love James

The letter induced another smile and Mum nodded at me approvingly. She’d been busy baking a large apple crumble for pudding later but came back into the room when she heard the owl’s hooting.

“I think I remember you talking about a James Potter.” She said leaning with her back against the doorway, clutching her glass of red wine and surveying me as I ran my hand over the parchment and considered my response. “Is he good looking?” She asked with a ghost of her younger self portrayed on her features.

“Mum,” I said with a roll of my eyes. It was strange. For the first time since I’d come home I felt like a real human again, and like this was a normal family. The absence of my father was still hanging over our heads, but it didn’t feel so thick that I couldn’t breathe.

“Are you going to meet up with him then?” Petunia asked in a bored voice from behind me. I was sat with my legs crossed on the floor of the living room as I poured over my potions book. I’d decided to continue Petunia bating, something which I hadn’t done for awhile, by sitting in the same room as her with my spell books muttering to myself, and occasionally setting things on fire.

Obviously she’d read the whole letter of my shoulder.

“Don’t read my letters!” I complained folding it away and slipping it between the pages of my book where I knew she’d never go hunting for it.

“He’s asked you to meet up with?” Mum questioned excitedly. With the prospect of me having a love life she seemed to have more colour in her cheeks than normal. There was a glint in her green eyes that had been missing before. Petunia must have noticed this too because her scowl deepened. “Tell me all about him then, Lily.” She urged.

“What’s there to tell?” I asked begrudgingly. James and I weren’t like that, or at least I didn’t think we were at the minute, and I didn’t need her banging on about it.

“You should invite him over!”

“Vernon’s coming over for dinner today, Mum.” Petunia said.

“Yes, dear, but I haven’t met Lily’s boyfriend, yet.”

“He’s not my boyfriend, Mum!” I protested.

“Oh! You should invite him over for dinner too!” She declared loudly, ignoring my comments.

I was about to tell her no way when there was a loud squawk and a shriek. Harold took off into the air and flapped around wildly whilst a high pitch squeal of pain was being emitted through Petunia’s lips. “OW!” She yelled holding her fingers.

“What is it Petunia dear?” Mum asked her gaze drifting back to Petunia somewhat reluctantly. She was holding her right hand in her left and a trickle of dark red blood was running down the side of her index finger.

“He bit me! That bird bit me. That beast bit me!” She yelled. I watched the blood bubble up and drip before snapping into action and pulling out my wand. “No!” She shrieked jumping backwards and tripping over the edge of the sofa. “You...! You Freak, I’m not telling you anywhere near me – I swear I -”

“I can heal it!” I protested.

“No! No! It’s all your fault! You and your stupid ugly freak friends and your freak school! I bet this James bloke doesn’t even like you! I bet he just feels sorry for you because you’re the biggest freak in the -”

I silenced her with my wand before grabbing a piece of parchment from my pile and writing my second response.

James,

Your bird is definitely a good judge of character. Is today too early to meet up?

Lily

 

****************

“So, Lily?” Alice asked, practically bouncing with excitement.

“Yes we met up over the summer – once, in the last week, he wrote to me when he was given the Head Boy position – we got our books together. It was nice.”

“And now?”

“I don’t know,” I said, bringing my knees up to my chest and hugging them around me. “I...I’m not really thinking about it,”

“Why not?” Rachel asked a shrewd expression on her face.

I considered this for a moment. I had two options – lie, or tell the truth. I thought of Mary, I thought of her lies, and I decided that considering the grief I’d given her, I had no choice but to be truthful. “It really scares me being back here,” I answered.

“Scared? Why should you be scared?” Alice asked. “We’ve only been back a few days, and already your top of every class, everyone likes you – bar the Slytherins, and we’re safe here.”

“I know,” I said, gathering the folds of my fleece pyjamas between my fingers. “It’s irrational,” I agreed, trying to find words to voice my feelings out loud. “But it’s like, so suffocating, and it reminds me... of Mary,” I said my voice stumbling over the words a little, “And with Voldermort, and with all these people which is so horrible, because I spent so much time on my own this summer, and I just feel so vulnerable.”

“Vulnerable,” Rachel repeated softly.

“Like at any moment, I could just die,” I said so quietly I wasn’t sure if they heard me, and I wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted them to have heard. “And James,” I said a little louder. “James makes me feel safe.”

Alice smiled a warm comforting smile that I realised with a jolt I had missed. Rachel grinned too, her lips twisting upwards as she let out a small sigh. “So, if he asked you out now, what would you say?”

“He wouldn’t ask me out now,” I said, remembering with a jolt the way he’d looked at me the last time I’d kissed him...

“What if he did?”

“Well he wouldn’t,” I said, before suddenly realise how bitch-like that had sounded. “Sorry,” I said, before laying back down on my bed and pulling the covers up around me.

“Lily?” Alice said as she turned out her bedside light. “Don’t be a stranger, yeah?”

I smiled into my duvet, my loneliness suddenly being halved somewhat – no matter what anyone said, I needed girl friends. “Yeah,” I replied, smiling into my covers as I shut my eyes tight.

“And Alice?” I whispered after what felt like a short time, but what could have been about twenty minutes in real terms. My head was full of sleepy drowsiness and, for once, I was utterly relaxed. “I’m sorry about the engagement thing,” I said.

“Hmm,” she replied, in just the same sleepy state that I was in. “S’okay,” She muttered.

“I’m happy for you,” I said. “Maybe a little jealous,”

“I know,” She returned.

“But,” I said, “It’s a very nice ring,” Then I dreamt of engagement rings all night, large glittering diamonds, shiny red rubies and emeralds – shinning like my mother’s eyes – framed in gold banding, in circles – round and round and round. 

 

“Lily,” James said sitting down opposite me at breakfast. I looked up from my book and realised how exhausted I felt. It may have felt like a good idea to get up when I woke at five this morning, but I definitely hadn’t thought about how this might drain me for the rest of the day, and it was only an hour further on into the day.

“James,” I returned, turning the page in my book and continuing to read. It was very early – not even seven yet – and the Great Hall was almost empty, so it was a complete wonder as to why James Potter was up or awake.

“You’re coming to the Halloween party tonight, aren’t you?” He asked.

“Sorry?” I said, looking back at him. “Halloween party...? It’s not...” then I realised with a jolt that it was Halloween, and somehow I’d drifted through two months of being at Hogwarts without really registering the time passing. I frowned. “I’m not very good with parties,” I replied.

“Diggory?” James questioned, leaning on his elbows and looking at me intently. I frowned at him a little more and returned my attention back to the book.

“We’re Heads James, we shouldn’t be attending parties.”

“Well, I organised the party.” James said.

“Well, you definitely shouldn’t have done that,” I said, turning over another page and buttering another slice of toast. “Anyway, I don’t have a costume,”

“Dress as a muggle,” James suggested.

“What are you dressing up as?”

“Sirius.” James said with a grin. “He’s being me. We tried to convince Remus to go as a werewolf, but he didn’t see the humour. Peter’s going as a house elf.”

“Frank?”

“He’s being Dumbledore apparently. Please come Lily,”

“I don’t want to,” I said, tripping over the sentence of my book and having to backtrack.

“Yes you do,” James countered, causing me to lose my place again.

“How would you know what I want?”

“I know exactly what you want.” James said with a grin. He raised his eyebrows suggestively. I rolled my eyes.

“I’m busy,” I said, pointing at my book pointedly.

“I’m not going away,”

“I’m not going to your party.”

“Why?” James asked, and I looked up at him and shut my book.

“Are you purposefully trying to annoy me?” I asked slowly, glaring directly at him and feeling my familiar annoyance at him creeping back upon me.

“Maybe,” James said, “But you have to answer my question first.”

“I don’t want to go.” I said stiffly.

“Why?” James grinned.

Because!” I exclaimed gesturing wildly.

“That’s not a reason.” James said cheerfully. I considered him for a second, then reopened my book and continued to ignore him. If he was going to focus all his energy on frustrating me then he was wasting his time – I had far much more control over my temper these days. “Honestly, I just want to know why,” James carried on. “I’ll shut up if you tell me,”

“Drinking, slutty costumes and loud music.” I said, giving up attempting to read and instead just pretending to read it – it served the same purpose, and the book was rubbish in any case.

“Precisely,”

“Well, not all of us enjoy that sort of thing,”

“What do you enjoy?”

“Reading,” I said gesturing to my book.

“What kind of books?”

“You said you’d go away,” I accused.

“Well,” James said with a grin. “I lied.” I sighed in frustration and sent him one of my best glares. “Anyway, what’s the problem – I’m just trying to get to know you.”

“You already know me.” I said through gritted teeth.

“Nope,” James said. “Because the Lily I knew did like parties and participated in drinking, moderately slutty– but still decent naturally –outfits and dancing along to loud music, so I guess I’m going to have to start over.”

“Hilarious.”

“I do my best.”

“You can’t tell.” I retorted, bending over my book a little more, and letting my hair fall between me and James, so I didn’t have to look at him. Which made it much easier to concentrate on my book.

“Nice,” James said with another grin. “There she is – the old Lily.”

“Go away James.”

“Not quite as feisty,” James said, examining me. “I expected you to yell by now.”

“If I yell, will you go away?”

“No, probably not.” James replied. “So what’s the book about?”

“I have no idea anymore,” I snapped irritably, shutting the book pointedly and shoving it in my bag.

“Can’t have been that great then,” James commented. “How come you’re up so early?”

“Couldn’t sleep,” I answered blankly.

“Why?”

“Because I couldn’t, James!” I exclaimed. “Bloody hell, why did you get up so early?”

“Why not?”

“Oh for fuck’s sake!” I snapped. “You’re such a prat!”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re bloody lucky I’m in a good mood –“

“-  This is your good mood? What’s your bad mood like then?”

“SHUT UP!”

“Why?” James asked, grinning. My blood was boiling and he was being bloody annoying. Of its own accord, I swear, my hand snatched my glass of pumpkin juice of the table and threw it at him.

It hit him in the face before he could attempt to cover it, let alone to reach for his wand and protect himself that way, which meant he got a face full. It dripped down his face, and flattened most of his hair onto his head – although, of course, it still wasn’t completely flat, he’d spent far too much time fluffing it up for it to ever reach that state –and best of all, dripped off his glasses.

He spluttered, blinking furiously behind his juice-covered glasses.

I bit my lip and watched as another drop fell off his glasses.

Then I burst out laughing.

The soaking James leant forward across the table and asked “When was the last time you laughed?” and it was the first of the questions which wasn’t so annoying that I had to resist the urge to punch him. It sobered me up a little, but I still found myself smiling at him. He didn’t expect and answer this time, and instead pulled off his glasses and began trying to wipe them on his robes.

“Here,” I said, reaching out and taking them. I pulled my wand out of my pocket and tapped them lightly – then I held them up to the light, and I had to admit it had been a great spell. His glasses had probably never been as clean as this – they glittered. “There you go,” I said, handing them back to him. He put them on his face, which looked even more bizarre with the juice that was still running down his forehead.

“Come to the party, Lily,” James implored.

“Why?” I asked, narrowing my eyes.

“I’ll make you laugh again,” He said, leaning forwards over the table. I barely realised that at some point, I’d started leaning over the table too, so that the wood of the table was digging into my stomach – and despite the great stretch of table, we were very close together. His hazel eyes really were very charming.

“Morning,” Peter said, causing me to have a mini heart attack and to move backwards so that I was simply sitting straight again.

“Do I want to know why James is, erm... soaked?” Remus asked, sitting down on James’s other side.

“Evans,” Sirius said, ruffling up my hair before taking a seat to my left. I didn’t even bother snapping at him for ruining my hair, not that he’d really achieved much – I’d given up doing anything much with it. Nowadays it was a matter of how it dried.

“He pissed me off, okay,” I said, unable to stop myself smiling. In any case – why couldn’t I smile? So I did. I smiled, in James’s direction because – even if he was a complete prick – he was right, he’d made me laugh.

“James,” Amanda Brocklehurt said, approaching the table. “Who exactly is invited to this party?”

“Sixth and seventh years from Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw,” James replied. “If a couple of fifth years slip in, that’s fine. What’s the problem?”

“Some forth year Ravenclaw boys are determined to get in, dressed as death eaters.”

“Ravenclaws?” I questioned.

“The sorting hat had a bad year,” Amanda sighed.

“I’ll sort it,” James said with a smile. Amanda nodded and turned back to the Ravenclaw table.

“Did we find out what happened to Marlene McKinnon?” I asked, leaning over the table to talk in a whisper. James shook his head.

“She’s either joined,” Remus said grimly. “Or I expect her body will turn up soon,”

“No,” I said, shaking my head – partly because I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone else being dead, but partly because it didn’t quite make sense. “She’s been gone too long, and her family are safe – what would Voldermort want with a seventeen year old girl?”

Frank wondered into the hall and sat down on Peter’s left, listening in to our conversation.

“Get the kid, control the parents.” Remus said.

“But, her Mum’s a nobody – she doesn’t have a job, from what... Mary said, I don’t think her mother was exactly straight in the head.”

“But her brother,” James said, “He’s a genius,”

“Daniel McKinnon would have done anything to get his sister back, surely,” Peter added. “If they were after him, and they’d given him the choice – he’d chose her,”

“But Peter,” James said, his forehead scrunching up adorably. “It’s not just about her, there’s loads of lives at stake...”

“I’m sure she’s fine.” Sirius said his expression stiff and humourless. “If she was dead, we’d have heard about it by now.”

“Not necessarily,” Remus said, “Look at the Jacksons; they were missing for weeks before their bodies were found,”

“But the ministry’s on high alert now,” James countered.

“The ministry can’t do jack shit,” Sirius interrupted loudly. “Alice,” He said as she approached, sitting on my left with Rachel. “How are the wedding plans coming along? This summer isn’t it?” Then I knew something was wrong, because even though Sirius hated talking about the war, he hated talking about anything to do with up and coming wedding more than anything else.

I looked at him curiously, and found James looking at him with the same intrigued expression.

Interesting.

 

 

 

“Scared, Lily?” James asked, nudging me with his shoulder.

“Not likely,” I returned, grinning at him and suddenly feeling all the more at home here, at Hogwarts. It was fine when we were joking and laughing, but things had a habit of becoming undeniably serious and solemn now. There were no more pranks, not now, because every morning more people were dead or missing. But sometimes there were jokes. “With my costume, James, you should be the one who’s scared.”

“You’re going as a muggle,” James laughed, and I laughed too – arms brushing against each other.

Then a body slammed into me. It had happened on multiple occasions since the beginning of school. Having any trace of muggle blood in you meant you were a clear target for pushing, trip jinxes and having things thrown at the back of your head in lessons time. They were little petty things – nothing too serious – but it was enough. I noticed that many of the muggle borns, like me, who’d normally been in the spotlight a lot were disappearing slightly, becoming quieter – as not to draw attention to themselves. I did my best to do the same, but given I was Head Girl and friends with the Marauders... I got a lot of it directed at me.

Given we’d been talking about muggles in the corridor it was to be expected, but it had never happened to me in front of James before and I had a suspicion that he would take it as more than just a simple push.

“Mudblood,” The pusher hissed, and the shocking familiarity of that voice changed everything.

Snape.

My head snapped up and I stared at him. I vaguely registered that James had his wand out, but that seemed unimportant now.

The thought of Snape made me feel physically sick. My whole body rejected the idea. I hadn’t caught his eye, hadn’t looked at him, barely spared a thought in his direction since we were back at school. I didn’t want to think about that moment, at the top of the stairs, with Mary, tipping backwards... over the edge.

His black eyes were staring into my green ones, and his eyes were swimming with emotions that I didn’t want to think about. He wasn’t supposed to be a human to me – I didn’t want to think of him still having emotions like he did when he was my friend.

I hadn’t even looked at him since summer.

*****************

There was a slight breeze coming in through the open window, but it wasn’t enough to reduce the stifling heat of the room. The suffocating mid June heat that refused to ebb away, it hung around like an unwanted smell and refused to disappear.

Mum had reprimanded me so much about getting burnt out in the vegetable patch, so I’d stayed in – practicing spells and brewing potions, partly to annoy Petunia but mostly because I could now.

Petunia had worked out I couldn’t practice magic in the sitting room – which was by far the nicest and biggest room of the house – when Vernon came over. So every morning over breakfast, which Mum insisted we ate together, she would declare that Vernon might pop over, at some point. He did, quite often, but not half as often as she said he would.

So I stayed in my box room, with its pale green walls and left sugar in the corners to attract the ants. Then I’d enlarge them, practicing jinxes at them until I’d perfected most of the ones in our text book.

The doorbell rang. Vernon, I suspected, glancing at the door to make sure it was shut. I re-shrunk that ant I had been stunning, and then reviving all morning just in case he decided to burst into my room unexpectedly.

“Lily!” Mum’s voice yelled from downstairs. “It’s for you!” She exclaimed.

My heart sped up. Could it be James? Or Sirius? Or Alice? Fed up of my months of silence and determined to get me out of the house. I smiled slightly – because who else would visit me? I didn’t know anyone in this crummy town, and surely – surely – they wouldn’t honestly let me spend the whole summer incommunicado. They cared about me too much, surely? They were worried about me?

Or, more likely, it was one of the beer boys deciding to take a different approach to test the dealer theory. Or the slut theory.

I shoved my wand in my pocket and made for the stairs.

The door opened the wrong way, one of the many faults of our tiny house, which meant my mystery visitor obscured by the door. I took the steps two at a time, finally side stepping my mother and the door to see...

Snape.

I was frozen on the spot. The nerve of him. The nerve.

“I’ll just be in the kitchen, Lily,” And she smiled at me as if she loved me having visitors. But Snape, Snape was probably a murderer, a death eater and a dirty blackmailer.

“Lily,” He said stepping into the house and closing the door behind him hastily, as if he was still welcome here like a friend. “Lily, I’ve just heard about...” He stopped, and looked up at me with his black eyes swimming with sympathy. “Your Dad,” He finished. His hand reached out, trying to touch my arm.

I stared at him.

He dropped his hand.

“Lily,” He said in that horrible familiar way of his. “Lily, if you need to talk or...”

“Why would I talk to you?” I demanded, my voice coming out stronger and louder than I thought it would. I was almost sure I’d lost the ability to speak. I hated him. I hated him so damn much.

“I... I... lost my father too.”

“Lost him? You probably fucking murdered him, that’s what you do to our kind, right?” There was a long ringing silence. He didn’t deny it. “What are you doing in my house?” I demanded, every inch of my body shaking. “What are you doing here!?” I yelled.

“I needed to see you,” he implored, shrinking back into a corner – the shocking little coward. My wand was already in my hand, pointing at him – at his chest.

“Lily...?” Petunia questioned, peering over the top of the stairs. Her mouth dropped.

My distraction was enough time for him to reach for his pocket, and grab his wand.

No.” I yelled, sending one of the particularly nasty jinxes I’d learnt at him. He blocked it, sending something else – an orange light – straight at me. I side stepped it, throwing something else in his direction.  Mum stepped out of the kitchen, staring. 

Then, suddenly, it was a duel. Not a ‘work in pairs to practice the spell class’ type duel, but a genuine intent of harm, on my behalf anyway. My heart was racing. My head was pounding and I had no idea what spells I was sending at him anymore. Instincts.

A spell shot over my head. My spell hit a picture, sending it crashing down. It hit the top of his head with a loud and unhealthy sounding ‘crunch.’ A vase of flowers exploded behind me. Smashing glass. Wands slashing. I’d never duelled before – not properly – and the pure anger I was feeling made me both clumsier and faster. 

We were about as good as each other and it looked like no one was going to get hurt. But I wanted to hurt him. I wanted to break his legs and make him bleed. I hated him, and I was god damn angry.

I yelled something, the words exploding from my lips. Until now we’d only used non-verbal spells. Then he yelled something back, a spell I didn’t recognise, but it was strong and I could feel its weight against my well timed shield spell.

“SECTU -!”He began. I hit him in the chest; he stumbled backwards – against the wall. Then he reached up to his arm and winced slightly.

A terrible thought suddenly occurred to me.

It made me even angrier. I was suddenly moving faster than I’d ever done before, and it was all Snape could do to ward off my jinxes and hexes, and then he was in a corner, and he pointed his wand somewhere else, somewhere unthinkable. At Petunia.

There was no doubt he’d hit her if she tried. She was half way down the stairs. Staring in horror.

I swore at him, ugly words, and I think that distracted him enough for me to finally hit him properly “IMPEDIMENTA!” And then he was frozen. I roughly pushed him against the wall and pulled up his sleeve, finding exactly what I thought I would – the dark mark, red and angry looking upon his skin. And I felt sick.

Snape breathed heavily, blood bubbling from his lip. I must have hit him before then, I vaguely thought, before my anger stopped. Numb, possibly. It was worse than I’d expected.

I stepped backwards.

“Get out.”

“Lily,” He implored. “I-”

Then I raised my wand back up to the level of his chest, and I realised something. My spell... it should have frozen him. He’d been breathing. He’d let me. He’d blocked my spell and...

It was no good. He was better, much much better, at duelling than I’d ever been. He’d hardly been trying.

“I’m glad you called me a mudblood,” I hissed – knowing it was the only way I could do any damage at all. “At least it means I saw what a little piece of shit you are. James always told me you were,” I said the words coming out like vomit. “Snivellus” I spat.

“Stop.” He replied.

My wand arm, out stretched and shaking, dropped a little. “I wish I’d never met you.”

“Stop it,” His face was emotionless.

“Your father was right,” I said, and he raised his own wand. I shot the first spell and he blocked it. From then one I was just trying to shield myself from his blows. Dodging, sidestepping, and half watching in awe at the speed and precision he was sending spells in my direction.

When did he learn that...?

Voldermort.

Then one of the spells hit me in the chest, Petunia screamed, and I hit the wall. Unconscious.

 

 

“Lily?” A voice asked, and Severus’s face was looming over me, his eyes looking shocked.  “Lily,” He said. “I thought... I thought you’d block it... I mean, I’m sorry, Lily! I’d never hurt you.”

Never hurt me? Never hurt me?

I thought of Mary and I pulled back my hand and I punched him in the face. His nose crunched, and then proceeded to start bleeding. “Get out,” I whispered, not caring if there were any side effects of the spell – side effects which no one in the vicinity could put right – and not caring how it looked to anyone outside. “Get out Sev.” I repeated, and he stood up – his robes looking even more the worse for wear than they had before much to my satisfaction. He opened the door, not very far – because I was in the way – but just enough so he could slip out.

My head spun. The corridor was a mess. There was blood running down my forehead.

“Lily,” Petunia whispered later, when she sat pressing a cold flannel to my forehead, her voice laced with poorly hidden horror. “Lily what did that mark mean – that snake thing?”

“It means,” I answered. “That’s he’s dead to me.”

*****************

Snape was still there – staring at me. James had his wand out. “Half blood,” I said in return, cocking my head to the side.

His eyes widened slightly and he glanced around to see if anyone had heard my words. “Now fuck off!” I spat, reaching out and pushing him back. He stumbled. “James,” I said pleasantly, linking my arm through his and dragging him off down the corridor.

“Lily,” James said slowly, slipping an arm round my waist. I wasn’t even in the mood to push it off, and decided that I’d be good for Severus to see it anyway. I’d push him away later.

“You need to teach me how to duel.” I said. “You can duel right?”

“You can duel, Lily,” James said slowly. “You’ve been doing great in Professor Tyron’s classes,”

“They’re not real duels,”

“What would you know about real duels?”

Nothing, that’s the point!”

“Is this to do with Snape?”

Nothing is to do with Snape.” I snapped.

“What happened?”

“Nothing!” I exclaimed, pushing his arm off from around my waist. James gave me a look. I knew it was pointless. I told him, leaving out some of the details I didn’t want him to know about.

“Oh, Lily,” James sighed when I’d finished, taking my hands from my side and squeezing them. My lip quivered. Again, it seemed, I needed James to comfort me. So much for being strong and independent.

“Then he knocked me out,” I frowned, gripping James’s hand tightly.

“What?” James snapped, his change from sympathetic and comforting to angry was almost instantaneous and caused me to jump and rip my hands out of his own.

“He revived me,” I defended. “He didn’t mean to hurt me, he -”

“Why are you defending him?”

“I don’t know!” I exclaimed, a tear leaking its way down my face of its own accord. I brushed it away angrily. “I hate him, James – I hate him.”

“I wish you did.”  James said. I wrapped my arms around his neck and hugged him briefly. “But, what did your family say about all this?”

“They were...shocked, to say the least.” I said picturing how white mum had been, and how Petunia hadn’t been able to go into the hallway long after I’d cleaned everything up and returned it to it’s rightful place. “Mum said that she was surprised I could fight so well,” I volunteered. “Petunia was horrified, because there was blood and -”

“Who’s blood?”

“Both,” I said. “Not much of it,”

“I’ll teach you,” James said, taking up my hand again.

“Really? I thought you’d say it was too dangerous or something?”

“Lily,” James said slowly, stopping in the corridor for a third time to look at me properly. “If I had my way, you would safe and out of the way when the war comes – or there just wouldn’t be a war at all, but the fact remains that you are a muggle born. Other people, like me, we choose if we fight, or if we don’t. You don’t have a choice, Lily. You fight, you hide, or you die. And if you hide you’d better be able to fight, because they will find you.”

“It’s only just beginning, isn’t it?” I asked, gripping hold of his fingers more tightly in my own and shuddering.

“Yes,” James whispered, pressing his forehead against mine for the briefest fraction of a second. “And that’s why we need a party,” 
 

 

NEXT TIME: Parties, broom cupboards and spellwork.


 A/N - Reviews are beautiful and inspiring. Just saying... ;)
 
 
 
 


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