Pink Green Blue

Eyes as Green as a Fresh Pickled Toad by Scrivenshaft Winnersierrachar

Rating: PG-13. Created: November 4th, 2005. Updated: December 2nd, 2006. Read Reviews (19)
Disclaimer: Characters, the magical world, etc, is property of J. K. Rowling and Warner Bros, not the owner of this fic.

Chapter Thirteen
Holding On

Molly Willow Havernaugh had never been to England, but from what she'd heard, it would be a nice place to visit. London, she imagined, would be much like New York City--large, sprawling, modern, and busy, though with a more impressive historic district. Her parents had gone there once or twice when Molly was an infant, to visit Molly's mother's sister, but they hadn't been since. The Havernaughs had other places to travel.

Molly's parents were extremely well-to-do, and sent Molly to an expensive all-girls school outside the City, where she lived for most of the year. Molly's parents lived in a very large, expensive apartment in Manhattan, when they weren't jetting off for trips to places like Bermuda or Paris. Occasionally, when they were feeling domestic, they ventured to one of their vacation homes, which they owned in Florida, Ireland, and Sweden.

It had been hard for Molly's parents to resist spoiling her as a child. They bought her a pony when she turned nine, a golden flute when she turned ten, several highly expensive and lengthy vacations between the years eleven and sixteen, a vacation and a new car when she turned sixteen, and this year had seen her so little Molly was fairly confident she could have talked them into buying her a space shuttle if she wanted them to.

She didn't want a space shuttle. She wanted a trip to London. Her parent's timing, however, was off. They were in London. Right now. Probably getting lost in Harrod's, if her mother had anything to do with it. And Molly was here. In New York. Managing her mother's boutique.

It wasn't really their fault this time. Her father had an important business conference. And her mother had marketing to do, if she ever hoped to open another boutique outside of the United States. And Molly was getting double pay for this, otherwise she would never have let her parents jet off to Europe without her during the last few weeks of summer vacation.

She thought of her cousin Lily, who lived in England. They were the same age, or thereabouts, and both went to expensive boarding schools. (At least Molly thought Lily's boarding school was expensive. She wasn't quite sure on that point. She wasn't quite sure how much Lily's parents could really afford. Not that they didn't have money, of course, but they didn't have international summer homes, either. At any rate, Molly was glad she and her cousin had something in common. She had surprisingly little in common with most of her relatives.)

She'd mailed her earlier in the year, on a whim, and Lily had written back a rather nice letter, so Molly sent one back to her, and from there they began a shaky correspondence. Lily was generally much more efficient at replying than Molly. Molly didn't know if this was a reflection of Lily's free time or her own procrastination problems, and she wasn't sure she wanted to.

However, she was quite sure she wanted to go to London. If she could make it to London, most likely she could make it to Lily's house. After all, it never hurt to have international friends.

Molly checked her watch. Almost time for closing.

"It's about freaking time," she muttered under her breath, staring around the empty store. The door didn't open. No one walked in or out. Nothing moved. Molly heard herself breathing in the desolate silence.

It was boring.

* * *

Melody Cauldwell's heart was beating fast. She clutched her bag in one hand and shoved her broomstick under her arm with the other. Perched on her shoulder was her beloved orange cat. She stared at the innocent-looking shoe sitting on her chest of drawers.

"Will it work?" she asked, hesitant to try it.

"It had better," Eve Decker replied, looking just as hesitantly at the red high-heeled wonder before her.

"Well...I'm going to miss my other Portkey," Melody declared, still staring.

"If you don't hurry," Eve agreed flatly, har gaze unwavering.

"Damn it," Melody said, with feeling. "Are you sure this will work?"

"Melody, this was part of my final last year. Just trust me."

"Yes, but what did you get on your final?"

"I did well enough. Just touch it, Melody!"

"Oh, hell," Melody said, gritting her teeth. She extended one hesitant finger and lightly tapped the back of the shoe's heel. Immediately she felt a tug at her navel, and then the whole world swirled away in a dizzying haze of color.

* * *

Peter Pettigrew had never been the most popular of students, but he intended for all of that to change. It wasn't that Peter was greedy; he just wanted attention, that was all. All the attention there was to give in the world and then some. James and Sirius got attention all the time; who was to say Peter couldn't have some, too? Hell, even Remus got more attention than Peter! Not that Remus was devilishly handsome or anything, but he did have a certain amount of mystery about him, what with that whole "disappearing-once-a-month-because-he-was-a-werewolf" thing.

Of course, most people didn't know he was a werewolf. Which was the mystery part. Naturally.

Actually, Peter sometimes wished he were a werewolf. Life might be dreadfully easier, then. He would have that air of mystery about him, and every month he'd turn into a terrifying beast that even Muggles feared. Then, at least, he might get some respect!

Of course, that brought him to the whole "social exile" issue. Wizards were not generally fond of werewolves, for reasons Peter could not quite decipher. It wasn't as though Remus was dangerous or a human, anyway. He was a perfectly nice guy. It wasn't as if he'd gone out and asked to be bitten by a werewolf. It had just...happened.

Of course, Peter didn't know how it had happened, as he'd been too afraid to ask and Remus had never volunteered the information. It was a bit of a touchy subject with him, really.

And the whole transformation process looked rather painful.

Perhaps being a werewolf wasn't the solution after all. Professor Dumbledore certainly hadn't found it humorous that Severus Snape had come close to becoming one. At least, that's what Peter had heard. Nobody had ever told him the whole story, even though it had been his idea in the first place. Not that Sirius would ever admit to that, but it was true.

They'd been sitting around MHQ, one fine spring day (without the girls, Peter might add. Peter wasn't fond of the girls--any of them. Melody took up too much of the spotlight, Lily was too controlling, and Mimi was just plain annoying. Plus, there were only three of them, and none of them looked at Peter the way they looked at the other boys. Which was also annoying.), when Sirius had decided that it was time for another round of "Torture Snape", mostly because Snape had become far too nosy about Remus's disappearances.

James had objected, as he'd been prone to do lately (all because of that stupid Lily), and then gone off to "study" in the library. Sirius had rolled his eyes and started rattling off stupid suggestions. Remus hid behind his book and pretended not to laugh at Sirius. Peter suggested that they try and get Snape to play touch-the-trunk, and Sirius told him he was stupid. Peter then suggested that they prod the secret knot at the base of the Whomping Willow and get Snape close to it just before it snapped back into action.

Sirius had then gotten an evil glint in his eye and, without another word, run off to do something. Remus, looking rather alarmed, had rushed off after him, and Peter, slow on the uptake, rushed out a minute later and was unsuccesful in finding either of them until they returned to the common room later that night.

That night the full moon came and Remus went off to hide himself in the Shrieking Shack as usual. Sirius gave himself away by standing near the window in the boys' dormitory and laughing, and James forced Sirius to tell him what he'd done.

Apparently Sirius had decided to tell Snape to prod the knot at the base of the Whomping Willow and find the secret tunnel and see where it led, or something along those lines, and Snape had decided to do it that night. Sirius, obviously, had forgotten that it was the first night of the full moon, and James hit him and rushed off to make sure that Snape didn't die. (Which, in Peter's opinion, might not have been entirely a bad thing.)

Dumbledore, of course, found out (because Dumbledore found out about everything), and James, Sirius, and Snape had all been given detentions and an hour-long talk in the Headmaster's office (a place Peter, despite all his indiscretions, had never been).

It was a good thing Lily didn't know about any of this, Peter reasoned, because she would probably have slapped all of them. She'd been aware that James had gotten another detention, of course, but she didn't actually know why.

Peter was glad to know something Lily Evans didn't. That girl knew everything. If she didn't, she certainly acted that way. How could someone get over one hundred percent on a Charms exam anyway? If Peter didn't know any better, he would have thought she was cheating. But Evans was the sort of person who considered herself "above" all that. Which Peter thought was both a contradiction and a load of shit, as she certainly wasn't above slipping Snape potions while he slept, or unfairly commentating Quidditch games, or sneaking off with James in the middle of the night--which neither of them would ever admit to, but which everybody knew perfectly well happened all the time.

She almost reminded Peter of his older brother.

Peter hated his older brother. His name was Paul. He'd been captain of the Ravenclaw Quidditch Team. And Head Boy. And President of the Dueling Club, which no longer existed. He'd been everything Peter couldn't be, and he was Mother's favorite. He was nine years older than Peter and had graduated two years before Peter entered Hogwarts.

He was perfect. Peter was just a mistake.

Peter's mother wasn't fond of mistakes.

But he'd show her, one day. One day, he'd be popular, and handsome, and smart. Or maybe just powerful. You didn't have to be handsome if you were powerful. He'd show her. He'd show everybody.

One day, Peter Pettigrew would be perfect.


* * *

Sunlight danced on the freckles splashed across Lily Evans's nose. It shimmered across the red curly locks splayed out atop a deep blue pillow, and then fell away behind the couch, where it warmed the windowsill.

A tired, early-morning noise escaped from Lily's throat as she stirred and opened up her bleary eyes.

She saw her mother's face.

At first she wondered why she was sleeping on the Potter's couch with her mother, especially when she saw Petunia curled up on the other end. Then she remembered that her mother was supposed to be dead, and just as quickly reminded herself that no, her mother was not dead, and in five seconds replayed all of last night in her mind.

Her mother had escaped the Death Eaters. She hadn't been able to explain this right away, of course, as Lily had shrieked and then sobbed and flung her arms around her mother so tightly her mother could scarcely breathe, let alone talk. Lily and her mother and Petunia had just sat and hugged and cried for so long that everyone else left them in peace. It didn't matter that Lily and Petunia despised one another; their mother was more important to them than feuding.

After the crying had subsided, however, Lily's mother explained everything that had happened.

She'd been unable to sleep that night, for one reason or another, and spent an hour unsuccessfully trying to find a good television program before deciding to do something more productive. With the fabulous logic that occurs to the energetic-yet-sleep-deprived at late hours of the night, she'd decided that she needed to expend her energy by cleaning the cellar.

Lily's house was very old-fashioned, and the cellar could only be reached by using an outside door. Lily's mother, armed with cleaning supplies, went outside and located these doors (with some difficulty, as they were completely grown over with ivy). She had to prop them open with a shovel so they wouldn't close and lock her in.

There wasn't much in the cellar. Old dusty bookshelves holding dusty, crumbling books, a few old gardening tools, and a shelf filled with several bottles of aging wine took up most of the space. The rest of the space was filled with boxes and boxes of the sort of thing you'd expect to find in an attic; old clothes, forgotten pictures, useless antiques....

Lily's mother cleaned for half an hour before the shovel gave away, and the doors closed with a decisive bang. She banged and shoved uselessly against them before giving up. Across the cellar was a small window--far too small to crawl through, but large enough to let in fresh air. Lily's mother hadn't wanted to choke on dust and die of suffocation before the night was over. After maneuvering around piles of sagging cardboard boxes, Lily's mother stumbled into a small, forgotten couch, which she stood on to open the window.

She continued to clean (because...why not?) until her eyes drooped, and curled up on the couch with a blanket that smelled faintly like moth balls. She'd been close to finding sleep when she heard the first bang above her head. At first she wasn't sure there had actually been a bang, because no other sounds followed.

Then the screaming started.

Mrs. Evans sat, trapped in the cellar, frozen on the lumpy couch in a mixture of terror and horror, while above her, her entire family was murdered. By the time she'd gotten up from the couch and scrambled across the cellar to bang against the doors, the screaming had stopped, and there was only silence.

She hurled herself against the wooden doors anyway, terrified and nauseated and furious, until the boards cracked and she fell out into the night.

The first thing she saw was a gigantic skull sparkling in the sky. A snake slithered its way out of the skull's mouth like some sort of freakish tongue. She ran around the side of the house and saw a large group of men in dark cloaks and hellish masks standing in her front yard. She dove behind a bush as one of them pointed down the street and began yelling.

All the men ran in the direction the first man had pointed, and Mrs. Evans ran over to her neighbor's hedges and peeked around the end to see what the masked men were running after. She caught a flash of distinctive red hair disappearing around the corner, and the men followed it. Mrs. Evans's knees gave away, and she became violently ill on the grass before running inside to telephone the police.

When the police arrived, they found Mrs. Evans sobbing in the upstairs hallway, where her two youngest children were lying dead.

After that came a blur of inspectors and police reports and unpleasant nights in hotels with police protection. It took a while for her to contact the wizarding world. The police had been unwilling to let her travel to London, and even then she'd been rather unsuccessful in finding the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron. Luckily, the Ministry of Magic was looking for her. The Minister himself had not known she was alive until the moment he saw her, but the wizarding detective who'd been on her case had discovered her escape from the Death Eaters quickly.

And then she'd been brought to the Minister of Magic's household, where her remaining daughters were.

They'd all cried themselves to sleep together on the couch, and Lily was the first to wake. She looked around and blinked in the early morning sunlight, and then closed her eyes and buried her face in the couch, unwilling to return to the world of the living just yet.

* * *

Eve Decker stared at the empty space where Melody had been. She let out a breath she'd been all too aware she was holding and sat down on Melody's bed in relief. The Portkey spell had been her Charms final. She'd gotten a seventy-six percent in Charms this year. However, as Melody was probably still in one piece, there was no point worrying about the solidity of the spell. After had worked.

She took another deep breath, turned around, and left the room.

What were her parents going to have to say about this?

* * *

Lily woke again not much later in the morning and sat up slowly, easing herself off the couch, careful not to disturb her mother. Yawning, she walked to the kitchen, where she discovered James having an early breakfast. He looked sleepy but smiled when he saw her.

"Morning, Lily."

"Morning, James," Lily replied, smiling at the state of his hair. She walked over and smoothed down an especially messy part in the back. "What are you eating?"

"Dunno," he replied, looking at his bowl, which was full of very colorful cereal. "Some kind of fruity cereal thing. It's good."

"Mmm...fruit. I could go for some strawberries right about now." A bowl of strawberries magically appeared at the place next to James, along with a bowl of whipped cream and a small sugar dish.

"The house-elves like you," James commented. "They're never that efficient when I want something."

"They probably have to make it all from scratch. You eat so much I'm surprised there's anything left in that kitchen," Lily teased, taking a seat. James kicked her ankle under the table and she kicked him back, taking a strawberry from the bowl and dipping it in whipped cream. James tried to kick her again but stubbed his toe against a chair leg instead.

"OW!" he cried, spitting out some of his cereal. Lily snorted at her strawberry and began giggling hysterically. "It's not funny!" James insisted, examining his foot. "That was my favorite toe..."

Lily gave him a strange look and took a bite of her strawberry. "Mmm...this would go really well with oatmeal." A bowl of oatmeal appeared next to the bowl of strawberries. "And...brown sugar?" she ventured, with the same pleasing results. "Some tea wouldn't hurt, either," she commented, and a cuppa appeared before her. "Oh, I like these house-elves," she said, grinning.

James, who was still moping over his foot, glared at her. "That's great, Lily," he said sarcastically. "I'm in severe physical and emotional pain and all you can think about is the house-elves."

Lily rolled her eyes. "James, quit being a baby." "I am not being a baby! I'm just concerned that this toe will now be deformed forever."

"I'm sure your toe is going to be fine."

"How do you know that? Are you a toe doctor?"

"A toe doctor? Do they even have toe doctors?"

"Well, they have foot doctors."

"Well, go see one of them, then," Lily suggested.

"What are they called, anyway?"

"What, foot doctors?"

"Yeah. What are they called. Pediatrists?"

"No, those are children's doctors. Feet doctors are podiatrists."

"Oh. Right. Well, I don't want a podiatrist. I want you to fix it."

"Me? Why me?"

"Do you see any other foot doctors around here?"

"James, I am not a foot doctor. Quit being ridiculous."

"Oh, come on, Lily, you know you want to," James said, wiggling his toes at her.

"No, I really just think I'd rather eat my breakfast," Lily insisted, spooning brown sugar onto her oatmeal and trying to ignore James's toes.

"Please be my podiatrist, Lily?"

"No! Stop it!"

Sirius Black walked into the kitchen just as James said, "Come on, Lily, just this once. I need you. I'll pay you!"

Sirius blinked, stared for a moment, and then turned around and left the way he came.

Lily and James stared at the door for a moment, and then at each other, and then Lily burst into hysterical laughter and James got up to run after Sirius. Lily was still laughing when both boys returned.

"Did someone slip special pills in your breakfast this morning, Lily?" Sirius asked, sitting down in the place across from James. Lily nodded gleefully, and James, whispering, replied,

"I'd watch out for that whipped cream if I were you. It looks a little shifty."

"My whipped cream is not shifty!" Lily cried indignantly. "It's the tea," she whispered conspiratorially.

"Are those special tea leaves, Lily? What did we tell you about the special tea leaves?" Sirius said in an admonishing tone. "Tut, tut. We'll just have to rid you of those toxic substances...give it to me!" Sirius lunged across the table, but Lily whisked her teacup away quickly.

"Back off. This is my drugged tea."

Sirius banged on the table in annoyance.

"Stop it! You'll disturb my porridge," Lily said, sticking her nose up into the air. James, just to be annoying, banged on the table as well, eliciting a staged shriek from Lily. "James Christopher! What would your mother say?"

James and Sirius looked at each other, and they both banged on the table together.

"Stop banging my things!" Lily shrieked, just as Mrs. Potter walked into the kitchen.

"We can bang you all day if we want to!" Sirius shouted, unaware of Mrs. Potter's presence.Lily saw her first, and her eyes bugged out. She hid behind her cup of tea. James and Sirius both turned their horrified gazes to the kitchen door.

"G--good morning, mum," James said, managing a smile. He glanced around nervously for a moment, and then plucked a strawberry from Lily's bowl. "Fruit?"

"I think I'll just go eat in the dining room, then," Mrs. Potter declared, and departed from the kitchen rather hurriedly.

"Well played, Sirius," Lily said accusingly, shooting a glare in his general direction."Me!" Sirius cried indignantly. "What about you?"

"I was the one who told you to stop banging."

"Yes, well, but--but--you're the one with the drugged tea!"

The kitchen door swung open just as Lily commented, "Well, you didn't have to come up with that whole comment about banging all day, now did you?"

"Banging? Who's banging? What'd I miss?" said the person at the door.

Lily, James, and Sirius looked up to see a tall, shapely blonde girl wearing rather revealing dress robes standing at the kitchen door.

"Melody!" Lily shrieked, jumping up so fast her chair fell to the floor. She scrambled past James and caught her best friend up in a hug. Melody hugged her back, tightly. "How did you get here?" Lily demanded.

"Portkey," Melody replied, breaking the hug. "But that's not important. Lily, your parents--"

"Let's not talk about that," Lily said hurriedly, hugging her again. "I'm just glad you're here. I didn't get a chance to owl you, and--"

"I know...I had to read about it in the Daily Prophet and--"

"Oh, Melody, there's so much to tell you! I mean, I just found out my mother's alive and--"

"--then my uncle wouldn't let me leave and--wait--what? Your mother? Your--your mother?"

Lily nodded, her eyes shining in happiness and tears. "Oh, Melody, we have to go somewhere and talk. This whole summer's just been wonderful and miserable and--oh, I have to tell you about it. Come on!" She took Melody by the hand and dragged her out of the kitchen.

* * *

James and Sirius watched as Lily and Melody disappeared in a whirl of chatter. They looked at each other across the table. James opened his mouth to speak, and then decided against it, shaking his head. Sirius stared for a moment longer, and then felt words bubbling in his throat. Just as he opened his mouth, the words died away, and he closed it again. He stared at Lily's strawberries and opened his mouth again, but lost the words. He looked at James and then back at the strawberries.

Sirius considered James's bowl of cereal. It was very colorful. It vaguely reminded him of the magical suckers Melody used to eat every week. He glanced back at Lily's strawberries and opened his mouth, hesitating for a moment. Then, "Do you think she's going to eat those?"

"Nah," James replied, and Sirius took the bowl and the whipped cream and began eating. James finished his cereal and Sirius polished off nearly all the strawberries before either of them said anything remotely close to what they'd been thinking.

"What in the bloody hell is Melody doing here?" Sirius demanded.

"I'll be damned if I know," James replied, taking the last strawberry for himself.

"Bloody...witches," Sirius muttered under his breath.

* * *

Lily stretched out in the sand and enjoyed the sensation of it sliding between her toes. Melody, who was stretched out beside her, had just begun telling her about Paolo. The girls had retreated to a corner of the indoor gardens, and Lily had just spent over an hour telling Melody everything that had happened so far that summer, with Ethan and James and Petunia and her mother and the priest and...everything. So far, it didn't sound nearly as fun-filled as Melody's summer, with shopping and parties and her uncle's fabulous house...

But of course the most exciting part was Paolo. He sounded amazing and wonderful and sexy...he was the kind of boy Lily dreamed about but very seldom got to meet. Ethan was kind of like that...only in a very English way. Paolo was amazing and wonderful and sexy in an Italian way. Not that Lily had ever seen Paolo, of course, but the way Melody was describing him, she couldn't imagine him as anything other than sexy.

"So no more Sirius?" Lily asked, intensely curious. Melody's eyes clouded over.

"Let's not talk about Sirius," she said. "Sirius is too confusing."

Lily sighed and tilted her head back toward the fake blue sky. "Like James," she agreed.

"No, not like James," Melody insisted, shaking her head. "He's not like James at all. At least with James you know where you stand."

Lily looked over at Melody, puzzled. "Sirius is crazy about you. Don't you know that?"

"Even if he is, it's not like he ever shows it. I mean...sure, we kissed at New Year's, but after that...nothing. Nothing! Not even when he knew I was going to be in America all summer. He didn't say anything! Not an, 'I'll miss you, Melody', or an 'I'll owl you, Melody' or a 'Don't forget about me, Melody'. Nothing! What am I supposed to think?"

Lily frowned. "Well, what did you tell him?"

"That I was leaving."

"What, not an, 'I'll miss you, Sirius', or an 'I'll owl, you Sirius', or--"

"Oh, shutup," Melody snapped, looking extremely annoyed. Lily smiled.

"No more complaining, then, until you at least try."

"Try? Lily, I've been trying for several years."

Lily raised an extremely skeptical eyebrow. "Oh, really? And what have you done, exactly? Changed your hair color? Thrown snowballs at him? Run off to Switzerland and Brazil and America for every vacation since the end of fifth year? Yeah, that's hot, Melody."

"I--but--you know what--I--"

Lily smirked in a most annoying fashion. "You just can't admit when I'm right."

"Yes--well--well--you can't admit you're in love with James!"

Lily shrieked. "I am not in love with James!"

"Like hell you're not! For God's sakes, Lily, every time the boy gets within ten feet of you, you get this goofy happy look on your face like you've just...I don't know, won the lottery or something."

"I do not!" Lily cried hotly, sitting up. "We...we're just...I just like him a little, that's all."

Melody let out a bark of laughter. "You're so far into denial you might as well be drowning, Lily. You are in love with James Potter."

"I am not in love with anyone!"

"Yes you are, you horrible liar! Admit it!"

"I'm too young to be in love!"

"Like hell you are!"

"Well, if I'm in love with James, then you're in love with Sirius!"

"But I don't know that anymore, Lily! You can't say that!"

Lily blinked and froze. "Wait...what?"

"I said I don't know if I'm in love with Sirius anymore," Melody repeated softly.

" you saying you were in love with Sirius?"

"Well, what else would you call it?" Melody demanded.

"I...I don't know. A crush? An infatuation? A very strong form of 'like'?"

Melody shook her head. "Lily, what is it that has you so terrified to use the word 'love'? God, I mean...I'm not talking about 'I'd lay down and die for you, let's grow old together, happily ever after' love. It's I love my mother. I love you. I love James. I love Sirius. different ways."

"Yes, but that's not in love. Being in love is all those things you just said. ...Isn't it?"

Melody shook her head and stared at the ground. "I don't know, Lily. I guess so. Maybe I don't know what I felt about Sirius. But it sure was something."

"And you don't feel that any more?"

"I don't know, Lily," she replied softly. "It's just...things with Paolo...and just confused things, you know?"

"I told you about Ethan, didn't I? Of course I know."

Melody shook her head. "It's not the same, Lily. You turned Ethan down. I wanted to be with Paolo. I...I do want to be with Paolo."

"I almost didn't turn Ethan down," Lily whispered.

"But the point is that in the end you did. That's what I mean. Lily, whether you're willing to admit it or not, you are in love with James. You don't want to be with anyone else, even if you are too afraid to tell him so."

"No," Lily insisted. "It's just not like that. It can't be."

"Why not?"

"Because," Lily replied, meeting Melody's gaze. "If I loved him, then...well...I just...I mean...if I ever lost him...I don't know what I'd do."

Melody stared into her best friend's eyes. There was something hollow there, something dark and twisted and broken. There was a hole inside her now, a part of her that had been ripped out when the Death Eaters put the Dark Mark in the sky.

Melody knew how she felt. It was exactly how she felt when she thought of her father. She covered Lily's hand with hers.

"You just have to find something else to hang on to."

"What if all that's ripped away from me, too?" Lily demanded, tears collecting in her eyes.

"Just keep holding on," Melody said fiercely, squeezing her hand. "Everything has to be made right in the end. And someone has to be around to make it right, don't they?"

"I couldn't do it alone," Lily insisted, sniffing. "I'd need him to be here."

"He's not gone yet. You should tell him that."

Lily shook her head, her tears spilling over. "If I latch on now, I'd never be able to let him go."

"I told you you loved him, you awful liar," Melody whispered.

Lily choked on her laugh. "Are you ever afraid, Melody?" she asked, allowing tears to stream down her cheeks.

"Am I ever afraid?"

Lily nodded, and the words came tumbling out of her mouth. "Are you afraid that something worse is going to happen? Are you afraid you'll wake up and have to experience all the pain over and over and over again? That you'll lose what little you have left? That you'll--"

She choked on her words then, and shook her head, crying.

"Oh, Lily," Melody said, hugging her best friend. "I'm afraid almost every damn day."

* * *

Mrs. Potter contemplated her bagel as her husband contemplated his eggs. He used to contemplate the newspaper, but he hadn't for a while now. Too much bad news, she supposed. It wasn't as though he didn't get enough of that at work; he certainly didn't need it at the breakfast table. Of course, it was a rare occurrence for him to actually be at the breakfast table, so maybe he just wanted to enjoy it.

One thing about Christopher was that when he enjoyed things, he generally preferred to enjoy them in silence. Mrs. Potter chose not to speak. She was still tired, and besides, her bagel was quite good, as it was the blueberry kind, and had very excellent cream cheese on it.Mrs. Evans walked into the dining room, still looking sleepy, trailed by her daughter Petunia. Petunia was very quiet, Mrs. Potter had noticed. She hadn't spoken to anyone except her mother since she'd arrived at the Cottage. Mrs. Potter got the distinct feeling that Petunia wasn't very fond of wizards, her sister in particular. Which was a shame, and also one of the main roadblocks in improving wizard-Muggle relations. (Bigger still was the fact that nearly all wizards did not wish for Muggles to know the wizarding community existed. But those were problems for happier times than these.)

"Good morning," she greeted pleasantly. "Have a seat anywhere you like. If you want something, just say so, and the house-elves will take care of it for you."

"Thank you," Mrs. Evans replied, and Petunia remained mute. "I'll just have tea, please," she announced uncomfortably to the silence, and smiled when the requested item appeared before her, along with sugar.

Petunia mumbled something Mrs. Potter couldn't quite decipher, but another cup of tea appeared before her, along with a plate of toast and marmalade.

At the other end of the table, Christopher wiped his mouth with his napkin and rose. "I'm off to work then, dear," he said, walking over to lay a perfunctory kiss on her forehead.

"All right," Mrs. Potter replied. "Have a good day." Christopher grunted in a manner that suggested he very much doubted this was going to happen, and Mrs. Potter sighed and ignored him. Not that she could blame him, of course, but still, he didn't have to make those kinds of noises in her presence.

Across the table, Mrs. Evans sipped her tea. She met Mrs. Potter's eyes and smiled weakly.

"I can't thank you enough for what you've done for my girls," she began, but Mrs. Potter shook her head.

"It's what any mother would do for another. I'm just glad I could help in...such a time of need. You and your girls are all welcome here for as long as you need."Mrs. Evans's face sagged in relief. "Thank you," she repeated. "Thank you so much."

"It's nothing at all. If you need anything, just let me know."

Mrs. Evans nodded, and took a cleansing drink of her tea. Mrs. Potter felt a deep swell of sorrow for her. To lose so much, and all at was not something Mrs. Potter ever wanted to experience. It was the kind of thing that took the joy from your smile and the sunlight from your day. It made you wonder why the world was still spinning.

It made you wonder how, after so much bad had happened, you could ever be happy again.

* * *

Melody had gone in search of a more appropriate garment. Lily had gone in search of inner peace.

It was a toss-up as to who was getting farther.

Of course, Lily really wasn't in search of inner peace, but it was a very nice thing to say when people decided to interrupt you when you wanted to be alone. It made you sound very...mystical, and...spritual, and...well, in Lily's case, full of crap, but that wasn't the point.

Really, she was in search of her feelings for James. Not that they were hiding or anything; when she thought of James they pretty much jumped right to the surface. But after that whole conversation with Melody, she was very confused as to how deep her affections for James were starting to run.

She'd admit that she had feelings for him, of course. That she loved him dearly as a friend and liked him very, very much as something more than that. According to Melody, she was in love with him and had admitted as much, but Lily wasn't quite sure she really felt all that.

Sure, James was wonderful, and she thought of him often, and her stomach liked to do acrobatics when she saw him, and when she kissed him everything felt wonderful, but...who was to say that all of that wasn't just silly teenage hormones and basic animal attraction? Sure, they both liked Quidditch and were smart and understood each other's senses of humor and could talk about almost anything, but that didn't have anything to do with love...did it?

All of this was far too confusing for its own good. It was awful to try and think about. Of course, it wasn't as awful as thinking about her family, but it was enough to give her a small headache.

Lily sighed and dipped her feet in the water. In front of her stretched a magical expanse of ocean. It was better than a real ocean, because it had no tides, was always the right temperature, and didn't smell like fish. Also, it was part of Lily's favorite place in the entire world, and you really couldn't go wrong when you were sitting in your favorite place in the entire world.

"Thinking?" asked a voice, and Lily craned her neck backwards to see James.

"Or something," she replied, returning her gaze to the water.

"Mind if I sit?"

Lily shook her head, and James sat down beside her, kicking off his shoes and plunging his feet into the water as well. Lily's pulse fluttered. Damn it, she thought. That's not fair. How am I supposed to tell if I'm really in love with him or not if my hormones decide to take over?

"I'm glad you came back," James said, after a minute or so.

"Did you think I wouldn't?" Lily asked, gazing up at him.

"I was afraid you might not want to."


"I don't know. Maybe because you didn't say good-bye," James admitted, turning his gaze on her.

"Usually when people don't say good-bye it's because they intend on coming back."

"I thought it was the other way around."

"Maybe," Lily conceded.

"Maybe," James agreed. Lily's pulse jumped inexplicably. He wasn't even touching her. He was just looking at her. Shit! Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. Pull it together, Lily.

He tore his gaze from hers and her heart drooped. What in the flogging hell.... He shifted and her heart jumped. I'm going psychotic.... He spoke and the fibers of his voice made goosebumps race up and down her arms. Damn it! I'm turning into a cheap romance novel!

"What are you thinking about?" James wondered, looking at her again. Lily's heart soared. Fucking hormones, she thought darkly.

"Inner peace," she replied, feeling lame and untruthful, and James's lopsided grin played hopscotch with her innards.

"Are you a Buddhist now or something?"

"Or something," Lily mumbled, staring at the sand and warring with her psychotic emotions.

"Lily?" James asked, reaching over and tipping her chin up with his finger. "Are you all right?"

The contact of James's finger on his face made her skin tingle and her stomach leap in joy like it was bloody Christmas morning.

"Oh, damn it, James!" Lily cried, and as James looked at her, very confused, she brought her hand up and pulled down his face to meet hers. There was very little resistance on James's part, and in the next few seconds not only was he kissing her, but he pulled her so close she was almost in his lap, wrapped one arm around her waist, and had one hand positioned on the right side of her face, with the ends of his fingers half-tangled in her hair.

Lily's entire body exploded in happiness and tingles and stomach acrobatics and heart flutters and waves of heat. Everything about James was so warm--his arm around her waist, his side pressed against hers, his thumb against her cheek, his lips against her own, and even occasionally his tongue mingling with hers. Everything about him felt so good Lily didn't want to let go. I don't care if my emotions are retarded, I like this, she decided, and pulled James closer.

James decided that this was the opportune moment to pull Lily into his lap, and their lips tore apart for a moment as Lily settled herself.

But the next second the kissing and the high-flying emotions were back, and both of James's arms were wrapped around Lily and both of Lily's hands were holding James's face to her own.

It was amazing the things hormones made you want, Lily reflected as the kiss became very open-mouthed. It was also amazing how good James was at kissing. Lily attempted not to reflect on just how much practice it might have required for him to get this good at kissing.

Fortunately, she didn't have much time to contemplate this, as Melody stumbled in right in the middle of their rather fantastic snog session.

Lily jumped as if she'd been jolted out of sleep and turned a rather detached, dopey gaze on Melody. Her lips were red and tingling, and her heartbeat was throbbing in her ears.

"Sorry to interrupt," Melody said, indeed sounding rather sorry, "but your mothers are looking for you."

Lily pouted and rested her head on James's shoulder. "Do we have to go now?"

"Well, they're waiting for you."

"Tell them we'll be there in a minute," James said, glancing at Melody, who rolled her eyes and left. He then fixed his gaze on Lily, and kissed her again, and again, and then several more times, quickly, just for emphasis. “We should go,” he announced, sliding her off his lap and standing, then turning to help her to her feet.

“What do you think they want?” Lily wondered as James laced his hand in hers and led her out of the gardens.

“I dunno," James replied, shrugging.

Melody was waiting for them at the entrance to the gardens. "Finished now, are we?" she asked, shooting Lily a suggestive glance that made Lily's cheeks burn. James simply looked annoyed.

"Aren't you supposed to be telling them we'll be there in a minute?"

"Yes, but I'm also supposed to make sure you two don't get 'lost' on your way there," she replied, shooting another glance at Lily, whose cheeks burned brighter, and she inched toward James, attempting to hide her face behind his shoulder.

A soft mewing sound came from somewhere by Melody's ankles, and Lily peeked out from behind James's shoulder to see Melody stoop and pick up a bow-legged, bushy-tailed orange cat with a squashed face and coo at it.

"Melody, what in the hell is that?"

Melody glared at James. "He is my cat, James, and he is purrr-fect," she declared, cooing at the animal, who seemed to enjoy the attention. "His name is Crookshanks. Crookshanks, this is my best friend in the entire world and also one of the most wonderful people in the entire world, Lily Evans."

Lily rolled her eyes but smiled at the cat anyway.

"And that's James," Melody finished, jerking her head in James's direction before turning around and walking briskly down the hallway. James stood and glared at Melody's retreating figure until Lily tugged at his hand, and then he walked and glared at Melody's not-so-retreating figure until they reached the living room, where Mrs. Evans and Mrs. Potter, Sirius, and, surprisingly, Petunia, were waiting for them. On one side of the room sat Lily's Hogwarts trunk.

"My trunk!" she cried, rushing to it to verify. "How did you get it?"

"Sit down and we'll tell you," Mrs. Evans said, and Lily plopped down on the couch next to Sirius, where James quickly joined her. Melody sat on the other side of James, still talking to her cat.

"This family meeting is now called to order," Mrs. Potter announced, which caused all teenagers present to raise their heads and stare at her, nonplussed.

"First order of business. Melody, I suggest you contact your parents and tell them you've arrived safely in England, and that you plan on staying with us for the remainder of the holidays. Unless of course you plan on returning home before the beginning of the school term?"

Melody shook her head.

"Very well, then. You may borrow one of our owls after this meeting is adjourned. And you may take any bedroom you wish for the remainder of your stay. Now Sirius," Mrs. Potter continued, "do you also plan on staying for the remainder of the holidays?"

"It's a distinct possibility," Sirius replied. "I might travel to King's Cross with my family."

"But I'm still going to have to tell the house-elves to overstock the kitchen?"

Sirius grinned. "Unless you all want to go hungry..."

Mrs. Potter nodded and turned to Mrs. Evans, who nodded and stood as Mrs. Potter sat.

"In light of recent events, I've put our house up for sale," she announced. Petunia looked horrified, but Lily, having already known this, simply nodded, looking somber for the first time that morning. "Mrs. Potter has graciously opened her home and hospitality to us, and I've decided to take her offer, at least until you girls are both settled in at school, and then...we'll see."Petunia looked as though she were about to vomit, though she didn't say anything. She'd taken to not speaking when there were other wizards in attendance. She made a strangled sort of noise, and Mrs. Evans shot her a pleading glance.

"I know it's not the best arrangement, Petunia, but's only for a little while."

Petunia shook her head at her mother in disbelief.

"We're going to be staying in adjacent bedrooms, soon as this meeting is over, Lily, you can take your trunk up."

"Did you catch that, James?" Melody asked. "As soon as we're done with the meeting, you get to carry Lily's trunk up the stairs."Both Lily and James attempted to step on Melody's feet at once and instead stepped on each other's, which, instead of invoking the proper admonishment on Melody, only made her laugh.

"I think the house-elves can take care of the trunk," Mrs. Potter suggested, looking over at the teenagers and feeling rather alarmed, as they were all now stepping on each other's feet with reckless abandon, completely ignoring the fact that this was supposed to be a serious family meeting.

"Oh. Right, the house-elves," Mrs. Evans said. "Um...well...I think that's all."

Mrs. Potter nodded in agreement. "This meeting is adjourned," she announced, and the first person up was Petunia.

Everyone stared as Petunia, furious, stalked across the room and in the direction of the back door, which they could hear slamming shut even after she disappeared from sight.

"I'd better go talk to her," Mrs. Evans decided, hurrying after her daughter.

"Oh," Mrs. Potter said softly after she'd gone. "I forgot. Lily...well, all of you, I suppose, really...the funeral is tomorrow."

* * *

Molly Havernaugh had not expected to get her wish so quickly. Even if she had, she would not have expected to receive it under such awkward circumstances. These were not the conditions under which she'd hoped to fly to London.

The sky outside Molly's tiny airplane window was dark, and most of the other passengers were sleeping. Molly could not sleep tonight. Normally, she was brilliant at sleeping on airplanes; she slept when even the heartiest travelers couldn't handle it. Had she really wanted to, Molly supposed she could have coaxed her body into sleep.

But her mind had another agenda.

She kept replaying the conversation she'd had with her mother on her cell phone. It had been just after work, and Molly had just gotten to the lobby of the apartment complex her family lived in when Beethoven's 5th exploded in her purse.

"Mom?" Molly said in confusion after flipping open her cell phone. Her mother never called her cell phone when she was overseas.

"Molly, where are you? I've called the house ten times and you haven't picked up!"

"I was at the boutique!"

"The boutique? But Molly, it's nearly...oh, never mind, I'm horrible with time changes. Where are you?"

"In the elevator going up to our apartment," Molly replied, staring at the glowing numbers that moved as the elevator slowly ascended. She was amazed she still got reception from this location; normally her cell phone quit working when she got within ten feet of an elevator.

"Well, as soon as you get home, you have to pack and meet us in London."

"What? Wait--why?"

"Oh, Molly, it's just' remember your cousin Lily, don't you?"


"She's lost her father. And two of her younger siblings. Your cousins, of course, but they were so young you wouldn't have known them...but...oh, Molly, it's so sad, and you have to come right away. Your father's booked a ticket for you at JFK. We'll meet you at the airport in London, all right, sweetie?"

"Um...sure," Molly had replied.

Several hours later, here she was, contemplating the dark sky and waiting for the sunrise. What was she supposed to say to her cousin? Were there even words for this kind of occasion? Molly hated the thought of telling Lily she was sorry. Of course she was sympathetic, but saying she was sorry wasn't going to make anything better.

Molly shifted, attempting to rekindle bloodflow to her legs, as they both seemed to have fallen asleep. Next to her a skinny old woman snored. The sleeping man behind her kicked out against Molly's chair back. In front of her a young boy with a portable book light tore through a sci-fi novel. Molly picked at the threads on her tiny pillow, too tired to otherwise function but at the same time too awake to sleep.

It was going to be a long night.

* * *

Melody stared at Mrs. Potter in disbelief as she turned and left the room. As soon as she'd gone, James, Sirius, and Melody all turned their stunned gazes on Lily, who was staring blankly across the room, looking floored.

What a way to spring it on the poor girl, right after telling her she had to move out of her house. Not that Lily really seemed to mind that idea, but still. Melody strongly suspected that Lily had forgotten about the funeral, or perhaps it had never occurred to her that there would be a funeral. Furthermore, even if she'd thought of it, Melody suspected that Lily would have assumed it was all over and done with already, as Muggles rarely waited more than a week to bury their dead.

Today, Melody reflected, thinking of her own experiences with the death of her father, had probably been the first day in many that Lily had smiled or laughed at all. Getting her mother back had probably cured some part of her that no other thing in the world would have been able to cure.

But now the reality was crashing down around her ears, and it showed. They all stared at her, feeling uncomfortable, unsure of what to say.

"I don't have anything to wear," Lily whispered.

Melody grabbed her hand and squeezed. "We'll find you something," she promised.

"Her Hogwarts trunk is sitting right there," James pointed out. "She has black dress robes."

"James, this is a Muggle funeral," Melody reminded him softly.

"Oh. Right."

"Pardon me," Lily said quickly, her voice even, but as she stood they all could see the tears in her eyes. As she left the room, James attempted to stand and follow her, but Melody and Sirius pulled him back.

"If she left I think that means she needs to be alone," Melody pointed out, clutching Crookshanks rather protectively.

"Yes, but--"

"You can be comforting and overprotective later, James."

"I am not overprotective."

"Oh, please, James, you practically--"

"Melody, why are you here?" Sirius burst out suddenly, and Melody stared at him, blinking.

"P--pardon me?"

"Why aren't you in America with your uncle?"

"I was," Melody replied. "But then I found out about Lily's family, and I came here."

"Just like that? No important parties to go to, no pressing social engagements?"

Melody stared at him, shocked. "Sirius, there are things more important to me than silly parties."

Sirius grumbled something, and Melody looked at him, eyebrows raised. James rolled his eyes, got up, and left, and neither of them attempted to restrain him. Crookshanks jumped out of Melody's arms and followed him.

"And where did you get that stupid cat?"

"My cat is not stupid," Melody informed him, glaring, "and why are you being so mean about all of this?"

"Be--because!" Sirius spat. "You leave without saying good-bye, and run around at these parties with all these--you know--boys--and--and then you go out and buy a cat--and--and you don't owl or anything until practically Lily's whole family dies, and then we get the whole bloody package of you, cat and broomstick and all! It's like--it's like we don't even exist half the time for you, and then all of a sudden we're the most important things in your life! Or...or Lily is, anyway."

"She's my best friend, Sirius," Melody reminded him angrily.

"Yes, well, and what am I? Chopped bloody liver?" Sirius yelled.

"You? You want to know what you are?" Melody demanded, and Sirius nodded. "You are the boy who broods in the corner waiting for me to 'come to my senses', to 'change back into who I used to be', because you have this insane complex where you think you know everything about everyone just because you spend hours alone thinking everything to death! Well, you know what, Sirius Black, I like who I am and I like who I've become and I like living my life outside of England, thank you very much, and if that means separating myself from my friends for a few months, then so be it. I'm not entirely sure I know what your problem is, but I'm certainly not going to change anything just because you have a broomstick shoved up your butt about it!"

Sirius paled. "Melody, I--I mean, that's not what I--"

Melody crossed her arms and stared at him, glad to have gotten the upper hand for once.

"I missed you, Melody, all right?" Sirius said finally. "You don't have to attack me."

"You attacked me first."

"That's what I mean."

"Sorry," Melody said softly, meeting his gaze. This was always dangerous, as it always confused her. There were so many things in Sirius's chocolate-brown eyes that she could latch on to, so many brilliant ideas and beautiful words and lovely promises. There were so many things in his eyes that made her want to be with him that she always wondered why she wasn't.

Except this time an image of Paolo's brown eyes jumped into Melody's head. And that was different.

"I probably won't be traveling with my uncle anymore, anyway," Melody said, taking her eyes away from Sirius's.

"What? Why?""It's kind of a long story."

"So what? Just tell it."

"I just...had some problems getting here, that's all."

"Melody," Sirius said imploringly, and Melody sighed.

"All right," she conceded, and launched into an explanation of her uncle's erratic, controlling behavior. Sirius listened with narrowed eyes.

"I knew I never liked him," Sirius said darkly when she'd finished.

"Sirius, that's not fair. He's a good person. He just--"

"Good person? Melody, are you listening to yourself? He locked you in your bloody bedroom."

"Yes, he did," Melody agreed, her lips tight, "and that's why I don't plan on traveling with him again. But I still think he's a good person. There are a few things I just don't understand about him. He never does anything without a reason, Sirius. I don't understand why he did what he did to me, that's all."

"Maybe he's just an evil power-hungry women-abusing bastard," Sirius suggested. Melody shook her head fiercely.

"I don't want to get into this right now, Sirius."

Sirius sighed but relented. "All right. But...I'm glad you'll be staying in England now." He looked at her intently, and, after a moment of hesitation, leaned over and kissed her cheek. Melody watched as he left, and after he was gone gave a cry of frustration and flung herself backward on the couch. A few moments later, Crookshanks reentered the room and joined Melody on the couch, where he curled up atop Melody's stomach, purring. Melody sat, with her cat and her confusion, until the morning stretched late into the afternoon and the rays of the sun tugged themselves into contortion trying to wrap around the earth.

* * *

Hans Cauldwell didn't have time to play games. That was exactly what his niece was doing with him, too, playing some kind of silly game, running out on him like that. She damn well knew he'd be furious she left, and he didn't know what she was thinking disobeying a direct order.

Not for the first time this summer, he wished he'd told her why he really wanted her to accompany him to all of those ridiculous parties. Not that society wasn't important, but it did sometimes lack a certain amount of...stimulation. Chitchat tended to be boring and rather superficial--either it was that or all business. Hans had been a rather successful businessman at one time, but he'd ended up spending the majority of his family's fortune investing in an extremely unsuccessful antiques store in Hogsmeade. It turned out that he had no knack for pricing valuable antiques.

At any rate, his family's fortune was dwindling, and his only hope was to get Melody tied down to a very, very wealthy man and resume his usual business dealings, however unscrupulous they might be. Hans was no fool; he knew Melody's family was constantly in financial trouble, and that Melody probably had not kept most of the garments he'd bought her in the past year. If greed had motivated her enough to exploit Hans's hospitality, who was to say she wouldn't exploit the fortune of another man in wedlock?

The plain and simple truth was that Melody owed him, and he was willing to use this fact to barter with. He had never told her that she could go and spend all of his money on frivolous things without paying him back for it. Catalina hadn't told her that, either; she'd just taken her shopping. Melody, stupidly, had assumed that all of these things were gifts.

In the end, however, her attitude worked out for the best. Hans no longer had to play the role of kind, generous benefactor; he could simply tell everything to Melody straight, and call in her debt--rather efficiently, if need be. However, Hans felt as though he'd be able to wait until Melody's graduation from Hogwarts before cashing in on any matter of wedlock Melody might engage in. He had enough to support his lifestyle for at least a year. After all, he still had some sources of income, however small they might be.

That wouldn't be the hard part. The hard part would be finding her before summer's end. He needed to speak to her about this matter before she returned to Hogwarts. He highly doubted Dumbledore would let him speak to her, as he was in no way her legal guardian and couldn't claim to be. Any owls he tried to send her had the potential to be intercepted or simply discarded. He couldn't risk waiting until Christmas to speak with her, and he had no desire to lurk in Hogsmeade waiting for the Hogwarts students to come down for a weekend.

No, he needed to find her now, before September first rolled around, and get everything set, so that when Christmas holidays came, he'd have her, and so that before Christmas holidays came, he could wear down several potential...candidates...for his niece.

But first he'd have to return to England, and that was a damned annoying task. He'd have to alert all of partners...whatever you wanted to call to his particular situation, and tell them to keep on the lookout for Melody. She'd met them all, at one point or another, whether she realized this or not, and she had a very memorable face. People generally had very sharp memories when it came to beauty.

But that wasn't important, really. What was important was that this ruined his plans for the remainder of the summer. He'd have to finish everything up in America very quickly, and that would be no easy task.

Damn nieces. They ruined everything.

* * *

The morning of the funeral dawned cold and dewy. Though other things happened that day, Lily always would remember it as the day of the funeral.

It was the darkest day yet of Lily's young life. She sobbed through it, feeling that with each wet, shaky breath she took, she was dying a little, too. At the funeral home she choked on the smell of chemical preservatives, badly cloaked by the scent of the dozens of flower bouquets that had been sent. The caskets were open and Lily's emotions went raw. She hadn't wanted to cry any more, but how could she not?

She'd gone to her great uncle's funeral in Gloucester when she was ten, but it was nothing like this. It was nothing like staring at the lifeless face of her father. Her brother. Her sister. There weren't words for the emotions that rattled Lily's body. There weren't words for the emotions that overtook her for that entire day.

Everything was a blur. In later years she'd be able to remember very few of the events of the funeral without some kind of prompting from James or Sirius or Melody or even her cousin Molly.

Meeting Molly she remembered, for some strange reason. Perhaps it was that Molly's face held vivid in Lily's memory for many years because of the events still to come. Perhaps it was because Lily finally had a face to attach to the letters she still had in her Hogwarts trunk. Perhaps it was because Molly hadn't tried to say anything to her, anything at all, but simply looked at her, crying, and hugged her as though they'd been close for years. Lily had appreciated that gesture more than all the flowers and all the cards and all the "I'm sorry"s the world had thrown at her that day.

Lily cried at the funeral home, and then at the church service, and again at the gravesite, where she felt as though her heart was being ripped out and buried along with them. She managed about fifteen minutes at the luncheon afterwards before locking herself in the bathroom, throwing up, and collapsing against the wall, sobbing. She stayed locked in the bathroom until Melody found her and dragged her away from her solitude. Lily refused to sit at any of the tables except the one tucked in the farthest corner of the room, where James and Sirius and Molly kept her awkward company until Mrs. Evans collected her daughters and, in the gathering darkness, took them all back to Potter's Cottage.

It was their home now, Lily reflected, as she stepped out of the fireplace. The wooden panels of the living room's strong oak ceiling loomed above her, and the familiar furnishings of the room beckoned to her invitingly.

James came out of the fireplace behind her, saw her looking around, a little bewildered, and caught her hand in his. She turned her head away from the furniture and looked into James's brown eyes. All of the things she'd for so long identified as James's were now partly hers. Potter's Cottage, for however short a time, was going to be her home, and she found that, with James's hand caught in hers and tears still damp in her eyes, there was no other place in the world that felt quite as much like home.

Home. Potter's Cottage was home now.

Lily liked that.

* * *

It took several days for Lily to speak again. She hadn't wanted to speak, at least not to Melody or James or Sirius, but instead spent a lot of time with her mother, talking and not talking, occasionally leaving the Cottage to do Muggle things like see movies or plays or what have you. Petunia joined them sometimes, too, though she often preferred to spend her time alone or with her mother but not Lily.

Petunia left very soon after the funeral to attend University, and after that things shifted a bit. Lily relaxed slightly. Things began to mesh. Mrs. Potter would rise early and tend to the house, and Mrs. Evans was usually next to follow, followed shortly by Lily. James and Sirius always rolled out of bed at the same time--usually around noon--and fought over the shower, even though there were dozens of other bathrooms in the house they could have used. Melody, who was a world-class sleeper, usually did not get up until mid-afternoon.

Lily found herself with a lot of free time on her hands, and had taken to spending her morning hours walking around the indoor gardens--sometimes aerobically and sometimes just lazily--and simply thinking. She had too much to contemplate these days. Usually James, still in some form of pajamas even after a brisk shower, would come and find her soon after waking, with bleary eyes and, more often than not, a bit of toast in his hand. He and Lily would spend an hour walking, or kissing, or exchanging words, or a bit of all three, before Sirius came and interrupted them. Melody joined them in late afternoon, and they all fell easily into this routine.

Melody could only take so much of a routine, however, before developing an overwhelming urge to mix things up. About a week before the start of term, she decided that they all needed to go dancing. Whether this was because she had been exchanging owls with Paolo (and Paolo made her think of dancing) or simply because she was bored she didn't really know, but she did know that she was going to get Lily looking sexy for once in her life even if she died trying.

Lily resisted this idea, but not as much as James. While James was always open for any opportunity to see Lily looking sexy, he wasn't too fond of the idea of otherguys seeing Lily looking sexy. Plus James didn't dance. He assumed he could dance, but in all honesty he'd never really tried. Of course he'd danced before--but

it was ballroom dancing and the like, not the kind of dancing Melody was talking about. Sirius was all for it, and even offered to go shopping with the girls--he wasn't really serious, of course, but he wanted to annoy James, and besides, if he got the chance to peek into the girl's dressing room...well, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world....

Melody, however, vetoed this idea immediately. She insisted on dragging Lily to shop with her alone, and she wouldn't take anybody's word against it.

In order to finance her shopping ventures, Melody sold the dress she'd worn the night she returned from America (which, despite the general lack of fabric, was twice as expensive as most normal dresses). She then changed the Galleons to pounds, and took Lily shopping in the heart of Muggle London. Although they were going to a wizarding club, the dress code was extremely casual--and besides, these days dress robes looked more like Muggle dresses than traditional wizardwear anyway.

Lily did not entirely agree with Melody's sense of style. Every other sentence became, "I am not wearing that." So while Melody found her own dress fairly quickly (a fiery red, short, strapless number with a skirt that fanned gorgeously when she twirled), she had to argue with Lily about hers for hours. Lily's tastes were far too classy for this kind of endeavor.

Lily wanted something long and elegant; Melody wanted short and flirty. Where Lily liked it high cut, Melody wanted it low. Where Lily was all about soft, comfortable fabric, Melody wanted shiny and slinky. But mostly where they disagreed involved the prominence of Lily's chest.

Lily wasn't overly endowed, but she wasn't flat, either. She had just enough to look modest but also enough to maybe lean over a bit too far and talk her way out of a traffic ticket--if she ever drove, that is. Melody was all about enhancing the assets. Mostly Lily just glared and tried to remind herself why Melody was her best friend.

The dress they finally chose was a gift from the gods. It was just the right shade of green--not too bright, not too dull, and not that disgusting 'puke' shade, either. Most importantly, it did not make Lily look like Christmas in July. (Never mind the fact that it was August. July sounds better.) It didn't cling exactly perfectly in all the right places, but it did hug Lily's butt a little more than her normal clothes and give a small suggestion of cleavage. Lily's waist wasn't perfect and tiny like Melody's, but she didn't really have a gut, either, and the dress hung nicely on her figure.

Melody, of course, wanted to lower the front, cut two inches off the skirt and pinch it in at the waist, but Lily glared at her angrily enough that she gave those ideas up rather quickly.

Even without hacking her dress down to Melody standards, Lily still managed to make James's jaw drop. Of course, that was after fighting with Melody for an hour about which make-up spells to use and shrieking hysterically when Melody accidentally made Lily's hair stick straight out like she'd been electrocuted, but still. The final product was lovely.

So lovely, in fact, that when they went out to dinner (compliments of James), Melody and Lily got catcalls and whistles when they exited the cab (also compliments of James), when they entered the restaurant, when they went to the restroom, when they left the restaurant, when they hailed a second cab (still compliments of James), when they got distracted by a record store (still James), when they insisted on getting pastries (James), when Melody wanted a necklace (Sirius), when they wanted to give money to a homeless person (James and Sirius), and when they finally got to the dance club (James again).

All of this took place on the streets of London. Every place they went before they arrived at the club was Muggle, but the club itself was magical.

The music was insane, the dancing was insane, and the price was insane, but it was absolutely wonderful. James discovered that Lily could dance. And not just dance, either, but dance. Maybe it was connected to her ridiculously fast reflexes, but that didn't make sense, as James's were just as good. The only bad thing about Lily being able to dance was that the rest of the boys in the club wanted to dance with her. However, James, despite the fact that he felt kind of like an idiot next to the gorgeous and insanely talented Lily, did not intend to let any other boys dance with Lily.

At one point in the night, this became a problem, as Lily decided to step off the dance floor and get a drink (which James was extremely grateful for). At the bar, quite a few guys hit on her, to James's extreme annoyance. Eventually he resorted to snaking and arm around Lily's waist, which took Lily quite by surprise, but she didn't at all object. After that, the awful pick-up lines were few and far between, but they did happen.

Just before they returned to the dance floor, Lily (quite literally) ran into someone, looked up to apologize, and promptly dropped her glass.

"Ethan?" she blurted out in utter shock.

Ethan looked at Lily and then did a double take. "Lily?"

They both looked at each other for a long moment, feeling confused, and then stupid. "Oh," they both said.

"That makes more sense now," Lily said, staring at Ethan, reflecting back on some of their conversations from earlier in the summer. "Durmstrang?"


"Yes," they both replied.

James, who recognized Ethan as well, was slowly but surely tightening his grip on Lily.

"Why didn't you ever--" Lily began, and then stopped and shook her head. "That's a stupid question."

"Do I know you from somewhere?" Ethan asked, looking at James curiously. James, who had been glaring at Ethan (rather sulkily, as a matter of fact, as Ethan was taking all of Lily's attention), tried to change his expression quickly, but instead of looking relaxed he ended up looking rather pained.

"Oh! Ethan, this is James. James, this is--"

"I know who he is," James muttered, shoving a hand in Ethan's general direction, which Ethan briefly shook before turning his attention back to Lily.

"Look, Lily, would you like to d--"

"JAMES! LILY! Look who I found!" Sirius said suddenly, emerging from nowhere with a complete stranger in tow.

At least for Lily she was a complete stranger, but Sirius, James, and even Ethan all seemed to know her quite well.

"There you are!" Ethan exclaimed. "I was wondering where you'd gone."

"Just off with my cousin," the girl replied, indicating Sirius.

"Hi, Andromeda," James said easily.

"Wait--how do you know this bloke?" Sirius demanded, indicating Ethan. "And--hey--wait a minute--you look really familiar--"

"Ever been to a Muggle coffee shop outside of--" Ethan began, but Sirius cut him off.

"Hey! I know you! You're the bloke who worked with Lily all summer!"

"It's a small world after all..." Andromeda sang randomly in the background.

"But how do you two know each other?" Sirius demanded again.

"He's a member of my artist's group," Andromeda explained, as though it should be obvious. "It was a shame he couldn't go 'round with us this summer, though. It would've been more fun if he hadn't been stuck in that bloody Muggle coffee shop all summer."

Lily, who still hadn't been properly introduced, was slightly miffed that Andromeda would have any kind of opinion on the coffee shop when she'd never been there. "There's nothing wrong with the coffee shop," she informed Sirius's cousin, rather indignantly.

Andromeda laughed. "Except for the coffee machine," she replied, which only served to irritate Lily further.

"Yes, well," Lily replied. "You've never had to battle with it. It works just fine if you hit it in the right place." She wasn't entirely sure why she was being so defensive. Perhaps it was because Andromeda was a bit older than her and Ethan seemed to have some sort of non-platonic interest in the girl. "Whatever happened with Bridget?" Lily demanded suddenly, and Ethan looked at her in surprise.

"It's over," he replied. "Why?""Oh...nothing," Lily said awkwardly. "Just curious. James, ow!" she shrieked, as James had just wrapped his arm around her waist rather violently.

It wasn't that she liked Ethan, or anything...not...not really...but...well...well, the truth was that Ethan did look awfully nice in a T-shirt and a pair of rather tight knickers, and...well, one simply didn't see that many insanely attractive teenage boys who looked nice in a T-shirt and a pair of tight knickers, and when that particular teenage boy happened to fancy you (or at least...fancied you at some point in time...), it was rather flattering. And girls enjoy being flattered. It's a nice feeling to be liked, even if you don't have any intention of liking that person back.

Really what Lily cared about was that Ethan still found her desirable. He didn't have to be pining away over her or anything, but he could still find her desirable. Not that James didn't find her desirable, but still...she didn't want Ethan thinking she'd shriveled up and turned into an old prude since she'd last seen him, either. Of coruse, in this particular dress it was very difficult to look like and old prude, but still, you never knew what teenage boys were thinking.

"Where's Melody?" Lily asked suddenly, hoping to distract James from his attempt to cut off the circulation to her waist.

"I'm here! I'm right here!" Melody cried, appearing suddenly behind Sirius.

Melody was looking rather disheveled. Her cheeks were flushed, her dress was on slightly crooked, and her hair was falling rather artistically out of its clip. Only Melody could manage to be disheveled and beautiful at the same time.

"What?" Melody demanded when she saw the look Lily was giving her. "I was just dancing, Lily." Lily raised one eyebrow at her. Melody rolled her eyes. "Think what you want, but you ought to look at yourself in a mirror."

Lily's hands immediately flew to her head, and she attempted to smooth out her hair--although, in all honesty, it didn't seem to be all that messy.

"Were you dancing with that crazy stalker-type again?" Sirius demanded, although not in the same way James might have. Sirius and Melody were enjoying themselves thoroughly, both together and apart. They had no qualms about switching partners in mid-song, and often got separated on the dance floor.

"He's not a stalker, Sirius. Honestly," Melody said, rolling her eyes and fixing her top a bit.

"He's got to be at least twice your age, Melody," Sirius implored.

Melody wiggled her eyebrows. "Twice the age, twice the experience."

Sirius decided to ignore this comment. He was smarter than James in that respect; James got annoyed even when he knew Lily was just deliberately trying to annoy him. But the girls were generally all smoke and no fire, and no one knew more readily than Melody just how much of a virgin she was.

Lily was about to open her mouth to make a comment, but they were interrupted by a tall, imposing wizard in a black suit. He looked vaguely like a security guard, and all of the teenagers froze.

"Pardon me, but the owner of this establishment wishes to speak with you ladies," he said, indicating Melody and Lily with subsequent nods of his head. Melody and Lily's eyes widened and they looked at each other.

"We didn't do it," they declared in unison, and the man chuckled.

"No, no, you misunderstand. You are not in trouble. He simply wishes to speak with you. Please, follow me," he invited curiously, and Melody and Lily, shrugging, moved in the general direction the guard indicated. James and Sirius attempted to follow, but the guard stopped them. "No, no," he said, kindly but firmly. "Just the ladies. Don't worry, they will be returned to you shortly," he assured them, and then ushered the girls off. Lily looked over her shoulder and shrugged at James helplessly as he watched her go.

"Well, doesn't that just bite the big one," James muttered bitterly as she walked off.

* * *

Melody and Lily were escorted to the top floor of the night club and through a maze of security offices, where some wizarding technology allowed a panel of security guards to monitor the dance floors (for there were mutiple and bi-level ones) using something that very much looked like Muggle video cameras, although that wasn't really possible. Lily imagined they were operating several highly complex Looking Glass Charms, along with some invisibility and mobility spells.

They passed through these security offices and into a larger, emptier, more elegant room, where one tall, imposing man sat in a tall, imposing chair behind a tall, imposing desk, and invited Lily and Melody to sit in the not-so-tall, not-so-imposing (yet still very comfortable) chairs on the other side of the aforementioned desk. He was bald, yet still sported a moustache, and had a look of elegant old age about him. When he spoke it was with a French accent, and rather pleasant to listen to.

"Would you care for anything?" he asked, ever so politely. Melody and Lily looked at each other nervously and shook their heads.

"We're fine, thank you," Melody said.

"Very well. Are you enjoying your evening?"

"Oh, yes," Lily assured him. "The club is fantastic."

He smiled. "Thank you. Now, I must introduce myself before I become rude. My name is Philippe Gerard--you may call me Monsieur Gerard. I am a businessman, gambler, and collector of fine jewelry. I am pleased to meet you this evening."

Melody and Lily looked at each other, uncertain. Lily, despite Monsieur Gerard's pleasant demeanor, did not quite trust him, and so blurt out, almost rudely. "I'm, Lily, that's Melody. Pleased to make your acquaintance."

Monsieur Gerard chuckled. "It's a pleasure, certainly. I can see you do not trust me. That is all right. I simply wished to make an inquiry about your magnificent necklace," he said, glancing at Lily's neck. Lily, hoping fervently that he wasn't using this as an excuse to ogle her breasts, felt her hand fly automatically to her neck, where her "L" pendant hung on a simple golden chain. She hadn't removed it since the day James had given it to her, and had no desire to do so now. Plus, she didn't see what was so magnificent about it, and she wasn't about to take it off for some creepy night club owner--and never mind if the night club owner wasn't actually creepy.

Melody's gaze slid back and forth curiously between the night club owner and Lily, but didn't voice any of her actual thoughts about the necklace's value. Instead, she began pulling things out of her ass. "I'm afraid you may be too late, Monsieur Gerard. If you intend to make an offer, it'll be the third we've had this month."

Lily had to restrain herself from shooting Melody an incredibly confused gaze. Instead, she maintained her composure and continued Melody's bluff. "Not that I intend on selling it, Monsieur Gerard, but even if you did make an offer, I doubt it would be higher than the last. I've never heard of anyone offering such an exorbitant price for a necklace."Monsieur Gerard allowed his eyebrows to shoot up in a most undignified manner. "Do you mean that there are others aware of the necklace's value?"

Melody rose one perfectly plucked eyebrow at him. "I should think anyone with half a brain and a decent education would be able to tell the value of that piece of jewelry," she said, wondering what in the bloody hell Monsieur Gerard was talking about.

"I think you might be surprised to learn, Mademoiselle Melody, that very few people understand the significance of that trinket. Not that it is merely a trinket," he added hastily. " long as you are aware of its value, I'd advise you not to sell it. There are those who would use it as more than just a jewel, if you understand my meaning."

"Of--of course, Monsieur Gerard," Lily agreed.

"However, should you ever reconsider..." Monsieur Gerard said, and pulled out a small white business card, which he sent to Lily on a small, magical coaster. "Please contact me."

Lily nodded and looked at him again, trying not to appear too befuddled.

"Now then, Monsieur Gerard," Melody said, attempting to take control as usual, "was there any particular reason you wished to see me?"

Monsieur Gerard smiled at her. "No, Mademoiselle. Only so your friend would not feel out of place."

Melody, who did not believe this for a second, nodded politely and smiled. "Well, it was a pleasure to have met you, monsieur."

"And you as well, ladies. It's been a privilege," he said, rising. "Jacques will now escort you back to the dance

floor. Enjoy the rest of your stay."

Melody and Lily nodded politely and then followed Jacques, the security guard, back to the dance floor, where they found Sirius and James waiting for them anxiously.

"There you are!" James blurted, looking relieved and agitated at the same time. "We have to go--it's almost two!"

Lily's eyes widened and she searched her wrist frantically for the time before she realized she wasn't wearing a watch.

"Just trust me," James said, taking her hand and kissing it. Lily shrugged and allowed him to lead her out of the nightclub and into the streets of London. They hailed a cab to take them to the Leaky Cauldron, and from there took the Leaping Flame Express back to Potter's Cottage.

They arrived there at quarter past two to find absolutely nobody waiting up for them. They all looked at each other in surprise and then shrugged.

"Well, I'm not tired," Melody declared. "I don't know about the rest of you , but I want to do something."

"Me too," Lily agreed, and there was a general murmur of consent from Sirius and James.

"Er...I have some Gobstones," James offered, and the other teenagers looked at him blankly. "Never mind..."

"We could play Limbo!" Sirius suggested, and Melody glared at him.

"Not in this dress we couldn't," she informed him.

"I'm not wearing a dress," Sirius reminded her. "It sounds like a perfectly wonderful idea to me."

"You know what sounds really good right now, randomly?" Lily asked.

"What?" James wanted to know, halfway hoping she was a suggesting a good snog session but knowing, somehow, that that would just be far too good to be true. She still looked stunning, even if she didn't know it, and really he just wanted to find an excuse to kiss her good and hard before the end of the night.

"Roasted marshmallows," Lily replied.

Damn. That was so not what James had been going for. did sound quite tasty. "Yeah," James agreed. "That actually does sound good."

"You know what sounds even better? S'mores. S'mores definitely sound good right now. I hope you have chocolate and marshmallows and graham crackers, James, or I just might have to hurt you," Melody declared.

"You know what we should do, James?" Sirius said, having a sudden burst of inspiration, and then he rushed on, without waiting for James to answer. "We should camp out in the indoor gardens tonight. You know...sleeping bags and a campfire and everything."

"Yeah!" James agreed. Melody and Lily exchanged wary glances. "No, really, it'll be a lot of fun," he insisted. "Sirius and I used to do it all the time when we were kids."

"You lit fires in an indoor forest unsupervised at two in the morning?" Melody asked skeptically, and James just glared at her.

"It'll be fun, Melody. Come on," Sirius said, and Melody sighed.

"All right," she agreed, "but I'm going to change out of this thing first."

"I'm going to go antagonize the house-elves!" Sirius cried happily, jogging off in the general direction of the kitchens. Melody turned and began walking up the stairs. Lily turned to follow her, but James grabbed her hand.

"What?" Lily asked, surprised.

"Just...come with me for a second," James said, leading her to the main hallway, where all the torches had been extinguished. He led her far enough so that prying eyes could not see them, and then turned to her, staring at her barely visible face in the darkness.

"James, what is this--"

"If I didn't tell you how beautiful you looked tonight, I wanted to tell you now."

"In the complete dark where you can't even see me?"

"That's not why we're in the complete dark," James replied.

"Oh, really? They why are we--" she began, but James cut her off. Lily hated being interrupted, but somehow she didn't mind it as much when it was because James was kissing her.

"That's a good reason," she decided.

* * *

A bit later, Lily and Melody, having (finally) changed out of their dresses, met Sirius and James in the indoor gardens, where they'd somehow lit a fire and conjured rocks and tree limbs to serve as seats around it. A pile of sleeping bags and pillows had been thrown on one side of their makeshift campsite, and above them the illusion of stars glittered in the sky.

James and Sirius had gathered the necessary ingredients for s'mores, and were unsuccessfully attempting to roast marshmallows. At least--James was unsuccessfully trying to roast his marshmallow; Sirius just stuck his into the fire and let it burn, then blew the flame out, removed it from his stick, and shoved it in to his mouth at once, giving a muffled yell as it burned his tongue.

Melody and Lily laughed at him before grabbing their own sticks and marshmallows and sitting down to proceed with their own marshmallow roasting. Melody appeared to be of the same class as Sirius--the "burn the hell out of it" one--and had the same strangled reaction to her first scalding marshmallow as well.

James and Lily both preferred their marshmallows toasty and golden brown, but they had some minor difficulties in obtaining them. James was horrible at roasting perfect marshmallows, and no matter how hard he tried could not prevent himself from burning one. Lily was perfectly fine at roasting golden marshmallows, but burned all of hers anwyay because Melody kept purposely banging into Lily's elbow and jolting Lily's marshmallows into the flames.

At any rate, they all ended up with burnt marshmallows on their s'mores (which were good despite the imperfections of the marshmallows), and then Lily and Melody settled back to tell James and Sirius about their strange meeting with Monsieur Gerard.

The bulk of the conversation centered around Monsieur Gerard's interest in Lily's necklace, which none of them could figure out.

"I did get it from my mum," James said at one point. "She said it had belonged to my dad's mum, so maybe it's some kind of family heirloom thing...and since I'm descended from Godric could just be something he owned."

"But that doesn't make sense," Lily argued. "If it was owned by Godric Gryffindor, it would have to be over..."

"A thousand years old," James finished. "I know. But that's the only thing I can think of."

"It's looks so new," Lily muttered."Maybe Professor Dumbledore will know," Melody suggested. It was a reasonable idea, but it didn't help any of them now--it wasn't as though Professor Dumbledore was accessible at three in the morning during the holidays.

"Maybe your dad would know, James," Sirius suggested. That was also a reasonable idea, but as James's father was rarely at home, it, too, was impractical.

Odd, also, was the fact that Monsieur Gerard had requested Melody's presence. If the necklace was as valuable as he claimed it to be, why would he invite a third party to witness his conversation with Lily about it? There had to have been some reason besides the fact that Lily and Melody were friends--and then of course, how had he even known if they were friends? It wasn't as though they'd spent much time together on the dance floor; they'd simply entered together. But then, perhaps that was enough. Who knew?At any rate, James, Sirius, Lily, and Melody had something to mull over as they curled up in their sleeping bags under the vast expanse of illusionary sky, surrendering their thoughts to nothingness and slipping silently into the realm of the subconscious.

* * *

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