Pink Green Blue

Prelude to Destiny by Hourglass nomineeHourglass winnerAnotherDreamer

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Rating: PG. Created: September 14th, 2005. Updated: April 21st, 2006. Read Reviews (247)
Disclaimer: Characters, the magical world, etc, is property of J. K. Rowling and Warner Bros, not the owner of this fic.

Epilogue
The Way They Came to Be

There is an antiquity to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It is a place where students play the two thousand year old sport of Quidditch, enjoy games of chess, wear traditional black robes with pointed hats, study Potions in a dungeon and Divination in a tower. There are secret passages and merpeople and house-elves; It was every child's magical dream.

But Hogwarts never claimed to offer perfection. The school only ever offered one thing, a piece of advice that was simultaneously a warning and a threat: Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus-- never tickle the sleeping dragon.

With eyes as green as scales and hair as red as fire, everyone should have known to leave Lily Evans alone. She was not someone to trifle with, not someone to threaten, never someone to underestimate.

~*~*~

A thousand thoughts raced across Lily's mind as the Killing Curse came for her that Halloween night. She knew it was the end and she was terrified -- terrified of dying, terrified of leaving Harry to die, terrified of the threat that Voldemort still posed -- but more than that she was angry that she was to become yet another nameless, faceless dead Mudblood in the eyes of Voldemort. She had wanted to be more than that.

In those few moments of time as the curse came toward her, if she had been able to, she would have told James that eight years with him was far too few. She would have apologized for being such a fool and not saying yes to him in fifth year. She would have told Sirius not to be an idiot and that trying to kill Peter would accomplish nothing. She would have held Harry in her arms even as he struggled to get down and walk. She would have told Petunia she understood the reason why she had not been willing to be their Secret Keeper, said that protecting Dudley was reason enough to say no. She would have done a hundred thousand things in that moment, if she'd had the choice.

But she had no choice. And so, in that moment, she did what she could: she died for her son.

Voldemort stepped over Lily Potter's body and focused on the oddly silent baby on the other side of the room. The Dark Lord did not understand why the Mudblood had willingly died instead of simply letting him have her son. All of his reports claimed that she was stronger and smarter than that. But it was no matter. She was dead. He raised his wand at the green-eyed baby who was struggling to stand and toddle over to his mother.

"Mama?" the baby said as he happily grabbed a piece of his mother's hair, the hair she always before pulled out of his reach.

"Avada Kedavra."

As soon as the green light left his wand, Voldemort knew that something had gone wrong. The light was growing. Growing and coming closer.

In that last moment, if he'd had a choice, Voldemort would have picked up that child and thrown him into a wall. He would have beaten the woman's body beyond recognition. He would have slit Pettigrew's throat and tortured his loyal Death Eaters for failing to kill these Potters and forcing him to do the job himself.

But he had no choice.

And so, in that moment, Voldemort did the only thing Lily Potter would let him do: he vanished.

As the house shook in the aftermath of the spell, Harry Potter sat playing with his mother's hair until the first wall crumbled. The loud noise scared him and he cried. But his mother did not pick him up. His father did not come to him with a bottle and a story about his friends to soothe him.

Would Lily Potter have been proud of the sacrifice she made? It's impossible to tell, but the most probable answer would be no. She would be grateful beyond measure that Harry survived, but she would have been angry that Voldemort had only vanished. She would have been angry that her son still had to grow up and face an enemy from whom she felt she should have protected him.

And she would have been supremely agitated to see his cries go uncomforted for thirteen years, until he found Sirius Black as she too had found him: by sheer dumb luck. She would have liked to see Mrs. Weasley take her son in and care for him and hug him, but still felt that she should have been there too. And of Petunia? Lily would have wept bitter tears for the relationship she should have salvaged.

She wouldn't have called her death heroic; she probably would have scoffed at that term, actually. Instead, she would have said that any other mother in her position would have done the same. Like her son, Lily would not have seen the thirteen years of peace that came from her death. She would have only seen the suffering it caused, suffering she would have imagined she could have stopped.

But this is neither here nor there, for Lily Potter died the night of 31 October 1981. She died too young, too beautiful, too promising, too loving, and too everything she never thought she was.

~*~*~

You knew the moment this story began how it was destined to end, how every story from this era ended: with a bite from a werewolf; a fall behind a veil; betrayal from a brother; a heroic last stand to buy a loved one time to escape; an Unforgivable attack when they thought they were safe; a room in St. Mungo's with too many gum wrappers; or death, accepted, to save a son. Yet you crossed time, walked through a concrete post, onto a legendary train, and waited out the ride in a small, old-fashioned compartment. You rode a horseless carriage up to a castle that appeared to most to be nothing more than rubble. And you found Hogwarts.

Not the Hogwarts of Harry Potter, which seems suspiciously lacking in laughter, but rather you found the Hogwarts of Lily Evans. No, it was never the Hogwarts of James Potter. Not even the Hogwarts of the Marauders. It was hers, and she ruled the hearts of students and staff with an easy, self-deprecating smile and an honest aversion to compliments. She laughed when jokes were funny; thought every mistake was recognizable, forgivable, and forgettable; started a Friendship Appreciation Day in her sixth year; and when she was fifteen she fell in love with a bloke that earned her love at seventeen.

You came not to watch the ending you knew, but to see the beginning unfold.

~*~*~

"I need you to move," Lily said as soon as Petunia opened her door. Petunia stiffened and straightened.

"Excuse me?" Petunia asked, scornfully noting the mud her sister dragged all over her clean carpet as she walked back into Petunia's life and her home and her happily ever after. She had thought her peculiar sister was gone for good.

"I need you to move," Lily repeated, glancing around her sister's home as if a rat might scuttle across the floor at any moment. Petunia glared. "You need to run away and never mention my name again. Tell Vernon anything you want. Tell him your hatred grew out of control, that you don't want my name ever spoken again. Just don't let anyone know that you're related to a witch."

Petunia narrowed her eyes even further. "You sound insane."

"Don't let your neighbors even suspect that you have a sister. Don't mention the name Potter. Or magic. Don't mention magic ever." Lily was too immersed in her rant to even hear her sister's response.

"I don't talk about your abnormality," Petunia said, sounding offended by the thought that she would.

"I talked to a powerful wizard," Lily continued, not truly explaining. "He'll contact you, give you information. He'll probably even set up a home and a job for Vernon."

"Vernon already has a job and certainly wouldn't appreciate a freak finding him a new one."

"This isn't a choice."

Petunia, noticing that her sister was being self-centered as usual and not responding to her, decided that the fastest way to remove her sister from her home was to play along. So she asked, "Why would I want to move?"

"I know you, Petunia," Lily said, taking her sister's hands in hers. "You've read the Prophet. You know what's happening in my world."

"So it's 'your world' now," snapped Petunia, not daring to admit that she read that abominable paper. "So what's all of this? The trash you left behind."

"I didn't want to lose the Muggle part of me," Lily said, shaking her head to clear her thoughts. "I thought I could be in both worlds, but I can't. Not any more. I have to choose. And I have to keep you safe."

"What do you mean keep me safe?" Petunia asked, stepping away from her sister with her hand over her pregnant stomach.

"I mean keep you as far away from magic as possible," Lily replied. "Take down my pictures. Don't talk about me. Don't tell anyone, no matter who they are, that you know anything about wizards or Muggles or Voldemort."

"Why?" Petunia asked, not bothering to mention that she had already taken down her freakish sister's pictures. "What's happened?"

What hadn't happened? Tracy left the country to avoid the war. Sam married a suspected Death Eater and so Christine quit speaking to her. Christine and Matt married and she was pregnant now too, but they were in hiding after the attack on the McGrath home a few blocks from where Lily's parents used to live. Sirius was in the hospital in danger of losing his arm after that strike three nights before. Remus had been captured and found the day after the Full Moon beside his dead friend with no memory of what happened. Peter look any stranger in the eye after his flat was burned to the ground. And James and she were told there was a betrayer among their friends. A Judas. And they had no way of knowing who it could be.

"He's begun killing families," Lily said, deciding to be short.

"Families?" Petunia repeated, taking a step back as fear and anger washed over her.

"Muggle relations of wizards and witches," Lily said, her eyes locked on her sister.

"Me?"

"And Vernon," Lily said. It was hard to admit how much danger her sister was in because of her. "He would torture you for your connection to me."

"Then why do you have to be a witch?" spat Petunia, anger making her say the things she never wished to say, making her push away a world she did not understand, although it was her sole connection to her sister.

"I can't help it."

"You can," Petunia replied, standing. "If I should run, then you should too. Come back to the normal world."

"I can't," Lily said, not even bothering to tell her sister how irritated she was by the use of the word 'normal.'

"Why not?" Petunia demanded.

But Lily could not answer that question with words. She remembered the countless dead and tortured, the fear that ate away at her every day and led her to her sister's house in order to protect Petunia. And yes, it would seem easy to run and pretend that this war never happened, live with her sister in a quaint part of a town that knew nothing of true evil, hurt, or pain. It would be easy to run from the Unforgivables and find herself raising a child with James and without danger. Or, at least, it would have been easy for anyone else. But for Lily, it would never be possible.

"They need me," Lily said.

"They don't," Petunia returned. "Do you think that you're going to destroy all of those-- those Death Eaters? You can't. You're just one woman. One mediocre woman. Let those people handle their own problems."

"I am one of 'those people.'"

"Don't be," Petunia said, beginning to cry. Why wasn't Lily reasonable? Just this once, why couldn't she be reasonable?

"I already am. I may not be important, but I am one more brick in a wall holding back destruction," Lily said, tears in her own eyes, "and they need every brick they can get."

"If you die, I will not mourn you," Petunia spat, though tears ran down her face. "I won't care. I promise you. You have a choice and you are choosing death."

"Maybe," Lily admitted, hurt and angry and feeling empty after her sister's words, "but for you, I would choose life."

"And how am I supposed to survive Voldemort if you can't?" Fear etched itself in Petunia's words and betrayed the fact that she was keeping up with magical news, and what's more: it terrified her. "I'm normal."

"Run," Lily repeated, her own tears nipping at the side of her eyes as a dull, throbbing pain began in her left temple. "Do as the letter instructs. Move where he tells you. Take down my pictures. Make no mention of me."

"If I do this," Petunia said in a hard, steel voice, "I will do it completely. I'll never speak of you again. Not ever."

Lily nodded, hating herself and Voldemort and this entire situation. Hating that she didn't know her sister well enough to know if Petunia would keep this promise. Hating that the last letter she'd written her sister had been months ago. Hating that Petunia and her family were in danger.

"I'm sorry," Lily said.

Petunia shook her head. "Leave my home."

Lily hesitated. "Petunia, if I die--"

"Stop," Petunia said, pointing a finger at Lily.

"No, Petunia, you need to hear this," Lily said as her sister tried to move toward the front door. Lily blocked her.

Petunia shook her head. "I don't need to hear anything."

"I asked that you be the one to raise my son if Sirius can't."

"No," Petunia said quickly, shaking her head. "No. I won't."

"You won't?" Lily asked, hurt.

"If I choose to run, I won't take in a child that would put my family back in danger. That has your abnormality. I won't."

"Petunia," Lily said, her voice raw with emotion as her aching throat barely let the words pass through, "I trust no one else to do it."

"Because they may join your horrible Dark Lord?" Petunia sneered.

"Because they may be dead then too."

Petunia staggered backward, shaking her head. What had her sister gotten into? Why did she have to be a freak and make that evil world intrude upon her house? Why did she have to be selfish and keep her magic and why was everything falling apart? Petunia liked order, liked cleanliness, liked stability. Her sister, however, was full of disorder, messiness, and chaos. How dare she drag Petunia into a war that had nothing to do with her? How dare she make Voldemort her problem?

"Petunia?"

"If I were to take in your child," Petunia said cuttingly, "I wouldn't let him be unnatural. I'd keep him from that world and all of your friends."

"If this were to happen," Lily said, "it would mean our friends were also gone."

"You're not going to die!" Petunia cried. This wasn't real. This was some sort of evil prank and she would never forgive Lily for not ending the joke.

"Promise me you'll tell my son what he needs to know," Lily begged, not pushing her sister to accept the scary reality in which she lived.

"How do you even know that he'd survive? If you were dead, wouldn't he be dead too?"

"Promise me!" exclaimed Lily, refusing to have heard that question come out of her sister's mouth, refusing to listen to the truth of it.

"Fine, I promise," Petunia said derisively. "If this happens, I'll tell him what he needs to know."

The relief was weak and only made Lily more exhausted. "Thank you."

Petunia averted her eyes. "I'll leave as soon as the letter arrives."

Lily blinked at her sister. "You will?"

"I'll bring no pictures of you. I'll not mention my maiden name or the name of your husband. As far as I'm concerned, when you leave this place, you'll be dead already." The words hurt them both. They were an admission of the end: the end of the magical world in Petunia's life, the end of Petunia in Lily's life. The end.

"And my son?" Lily asked.

"I'd take the boy in if I must. But make no mistake, I'd let no one know of his abnormality. I'd keep him from that death trap. He'd know nothing of that place. Ever. He'd be normal, like Vernon and me, unlike you."

And Lily heard what her sister refused to say: Petunia cared about Lily. She cared enough to move, to lie, to hide, and to pretend. She cared enough to want to save Lily's son.

What Lily did not know was that after Albus Dumbledore moved the Dursleys to a safe, warded neighborhood and Vernon (unbeknownst to him) into a secure, steady job, Petunia wrote a scornful letter, asking for information about her sister, and Dumbledore responded with weekly updates. He told her they were going into hiding, told her that they wanted her to be their Secret Keeper, told her they understood why she said no. He told her that they were targeted and asked that she stop writing. And she agreed.

And so, when Petunia opened her door on the first of November 1981 and found little Harry Potter clutching a letter in Dumbledore's writing, she knew what it meant, and she screamed in horror. The nightmare was real. There was no more denying it. But when she read the letter, knowing that her house would keep this child alive, she scornfully agreed to protect him the way her sister refused to.

The boy was famous in his world, so Petunia made quite sure no pictures of him were ever published in the local newspaper, never mounted on her wall. She entered him in no contests and refused to let the schools give him awards. She kept the boy in a cupboard under the stairs and did not mention his name to anyone, lest they recognize it and try to bring him back into that death-filled world and put her own family in danger again. She called him boy at all times, in the house and out, to ensure that none of those freaks might overhear his name and recognize him.

If a wizard happened into her house, he would never know that another boy even lived there, let alone suspect that Petunia was related to the famous Lily Potter, who was as unDursleyish as it was possible to be. She tried to beat, yell, and terrorize the boy's dangerous freakishness out of him.

But in the end, the boy was just as stupid and stubborn as her sister. He refused her help, even tried to run away right after his godfather escaped that prison. She knew the moment she saw the news who he was, that Sirius Black. She remembered him from her wedding and from Dumbledore's letter. She knew he would come for the boy.

When they moved to Privet Drive, Dumbledore assured her that no one of ill intent could come near her home. He said no one even knew where she lived, but Petunia knew her foolish brother-in-law would have told his best friend. And she peered out her window almost constantly that summer, fear giving her worry lines. She feared for her life, for Dudley's, for Vernon's.

Petunia had told her sister that she would cut all ties to her if it meant saving Dudley, but the boy remained.

It is a funny thing, a sister's love. It is a given -- though sometimes unwillingly -- and a burden. It protects nephews and endangers sons. It tore at Petunia's heart for a decade before the boy left, and then it was the reason she asked him into her home over the summer holidays. But it ensured no love for the boy, the boy for whom she bought no gifts and made sure not to encourage, for fear of supporting his freakish ways, the boy who was the reason for her sister's death and her family's danger. Still, the lingering memory of a promise to Lily kept him in her home as she fulfilled her promise to tell him what he needed to know by telling him nothing at all.

~*~*~

You came to discover the answer to questions you could not voice: Who was Lily Evans? Why did she sacrifice herself? What made her different? What made her special? Who were the Marauders? What made their year so amazing? So different? So powerful?

~*~*~

On April 1st, 1976 Lily Evans and James Potter both agreed that they had pulled a coup: they married each other without lighting anything on fire. Admittedly, Lily had chosen the date knowing that Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew, and Remus Lupin were bound by an old Marauder's vow to never pull a prank of April Fool's Day. Sirius had been less than thrilled when he learned the date of the wedding, even going so far as to lie to Lily and say that that was the day of a Full Moon. She showed him a chart of the Moon cycles and he ran off to pester James about the date.

But it was a strange wedding, nonetheless, filled with happy faces that never got the chance to see the bruises that Lily's dress hid-- the bruises that a Death Eater had given her two weeks before as she and James had, through sheer, ridiculous luck, managed to escape an attack.

It was also an amazing wedding: old friends came with shiny gifts; Mrs. Potter sat in the front row smiling happily the whole time; the entire wedding party managed to shove together for one of the best pictures Lily had ever been a part of; everyone went to the reception and drank too much; Sirius gave a speech crediting himself with forcing Lily and James together by rejecting both of their advances and directing them at one another instead; Lily had laughed as James threw his napkin at Sirius; and then they all ate cake (though much of it ended up thrown around the room, too). But mostly, it was amazing for Lily because she married James. Married him. Finally. Forever.

With cake smashed all over her face (and a bit in her hair courtesy of Sirius who claimed food fights didn't qualify as pranks), a very tired Lily danced with her husband on the wooden floor of their reception hall and tried to memorize the moment. It wasn't often a person was perfectly happy, after all.

"May I cut in?" Sirius asked, tapping James on the shoulder. James and Lily stopped dancing, but James didn't unwrap his arms from around her.

"I don't know about letting the two of you out of my sight," James said. Lily smiled. "I wouldn't want her to go back to her old boyfriend tonight of all nights."

"Sputnik's always been threatened by the depth of our connection," Sirius said to Lily. She twisted around in James' arms so that his head was above her right shoulder.

"He's obviously forgotten that I already danced with Matt McGrath, who is the love of my life and the real threat," Lily said, shaking her head sadly as James dropped his arms from around her stomach and twisted his head to kiss her cheek.

"I still don't think that's funny," James said.

"And I doubt you ever will," Lily said, smiling and taking Sirius's hand.

"At least you're not choosing Sirius. I could never handle his gloating," James said.

"Sirius and me? That'll never happen," Lily scoffed motioning between Sirius and herself. She looked back at James. "After that one night in seventh year with the leather beds, I'm disturbed to be this close to him."

"We agreed to never talk about that," Sirius deadpanned, looking sadly at Lily.

James shook his head. "You're both lucky that I'm not the suspicious type. And that I know when you're lying."

"And you're lucky I'm not the cheating type," Lily said, putting her left hand on Sirius's shoulder. "Have you seen how well Will McGrath grew up?"

"James, can I steal a dance?" Tracy asked, coming up from behind the group. James threw his arm around her shoulders.

"Look, someone likes me," James bragged. "My very own McGrath."

"Yes. Too bad she's not the woman you just married," Sirius said, placing a hand on Lily's back and leading her away from the center of the dance floor.

"I suppose I like him well enough," Lily told Sirius as he slowed the pace of their dance.

"Don't tell him that," Sirius said. "It'll only inflate his ego."

"Well, he is the reason I have my cat."

"Then he's been good for something, isn't he?" Sirius asked. The pair spun in circles and, despite anything he might say or do to pretend to the contrary, Sirius Black was an excellent dancer.

"That was a wonderful speech you gave," Lily said, noticing the way Sirius's grey eyes went out of focus for a bit and wanting him to talk to her.

"Are you being sarcastic or honest?" Sirius asked, suspicious.

Lily tilted her head and said, smiling, "Half and half."

Sirius nodded, satisfied. "Good."

"Did you really think I was a whim?" Lily asked. He had started his speech: 'I thought James's infatuation with Lily was a whim, so I'll be the first to admit that I keep thinking this is an elaborate prank.'

"Yes," Sirius said, nodding. His dark hair fell into his eyes a bit and he shook it away. "Only then he kept talking about you. Obsessing over you, really." Lily grinned. "So I decided to make him stop."

"Good job, there," Lily said sarcastically, though the thought of that made her uncomfortable. Sirius could have done it, could have convinced James to give up on Lily and put an end to their relationship before it began.

"Then, about a week after I'd decided to find a new girl for James, I went on a very informative walk to the Slytherin common room with this girl in my year and knew that I'd found the right one for him," Sirius said.

Lily smiled. "Oh? And who was this girl you'd picked to replace me?"

"Well, she was nothing like you. You, I knew, were a rule-abiding bookworm. She, on the other hand, cursed and knew how to avoid Filch. She reeked of rule breaking, and I later learned that she was actually quite smart, which was unfortunate, but her stubbornness did much to counter that." She remembered that night, the night they walked and spoke together for the first real time.

"You, my secret best friend forever, have a talent for complimenting and insulting simultaneously," Lily said, smiling.

"McGonagall often said so," Sirius replied.

"Have you danced with her yet?" Lily asked, looking up at him.

"Who?" Sirius asked.

"McGonagall."

Sirius's eyes lit up and his smile turned a bit fiendish. "She's here?"

"Yes, I think she's in the far corner at that moment, chatting with Sam," Lily said. Sirius twirled her out. She spun back into him and asked, "How's Adrianna doing?

"She's over with some of the other Muggles you invited," Sirius said. "You didn't have to set me up, you know. I could have found myself a date to your wedding."

"I know you could have found one," Lily said, "but you wouldn't have. You never do. You're always too busy."

"I have a lot of friends that want to spend a lot of time with me. Women don't understand that," Sirius said. Sirius smiled and looked self-congratulatory as he maneuvered them past two other dancing couples into the middle of the dance floor. Lily noticed Gertrude Wrightman sitting at one of the tables, drinking champagne.

"I was happy to see that Gertrude made it. I didn't think she'd come," Lily admitted. "It's pretty public."

"She works with you," Sirius reasoned with a slight edge to his voice. "I would've been odd if she didn't accept. She's quite dedicated to her social obligations."

Lily could hear the bitterness in her friend's voice and so she said nothing in response, but let him dance her around. It reminded her of Petunia's wedding reception, which probably wasn't the best thing to think about right then since it had been an unpleasant experience.

"I'm so happy for James," Sirius said suddenly.

"Not for me?" Lily asked, her smile still in place. It hadn't left her face all day, in fact. Apparently, weddings were similar to powerful Cheering Charms.

"For you too, but mostly for James. He landed the best of the lot," Sirius said, looking down fondly at Lily, a smile of approval on his face. "You're a bit on the scrawny side and you're definitely mouthy, but overall, you're a fun person. I just feel sorry for you as you're stuck with that clod James."

Lily laughed, knowing that Sirius thought no one better than James. They were more than best friends; they were brothers. For Sirius -- who was and always had been so guarded and protective of his friendship with James -- to approve of Lily meant the world to her.

She and Sirius laughed together a lot. Often at James, but more often at themselves. Sirius claimed she gave him a piece of mind. Lily told him he calmed her, even though he himself was never calm. He made her feel funny and special. She made him feel normal.

"Thanks for coming to the hospital, by the way," Lily said, looking at him and talking about the aftermath of the attack two weeks before when James had been quarantined and Lily had been going mad trying to get in, refusing to let anyone heal her before she could see James. The healers had contacted Sirius, who was listed as emergency contact for both of them.

Sirius looked away. "You don't have to thank me for that."

"Yes, I do. I don't know if I could've made it through that night without you," Lily said, her stomach knotting with the memory of James and blood and those wizards saying only family could go in.

"You could've," Sirius said, looking over her head. "You've always been the strong one."

"No," Lily said, shaking her head and staring at his shoulder, remembering her father saying those words to her. "Being there but unable to go in and see James, I wouldn't have been able to sit there without you. I'd have gone crazy. If anything had happened to him--"

"It didn't," Sirius said, giving her a sharp look.

Lily nodded and looked out over the crowd of friends and family gathered around her. She mentally shook herself, but Sirius, noticing her inattention, tapped his hand against her back to get her focus. She flinched.

"If you could avoid poking those healer-proof bruises on my back, you'd probably help me stop thinking about it," Lily said, smiling up at him to show that she didn't care, though she did want him to know that it hurt. He immediately moved his hand further up and to her side. Lily watched James dip Tracy and almost bang her head on the floor.

Sirius followed her gaze and said, "Lily, nothing's going to happen to him while I'm alive."

Lily looked at him, confused. "What?"

" I'd die before I let anything happen to him. He's my brother and you're like my sister now."

For a brief moment, words were stolen from her. Could she really mean so much to him?

"And I'm your secret best friend forever," Lily pointed out, trying to lighten the mood as she felt close to tears with the emotion Sirius was sharing with her, the amount of himself he was sharing.

"Forever," Sirius agreed, smiling down at her in that approving way again. Lily had to blink back tears of happiness right then.

"I hope you come over and visit us as much as you can," Lily said.

"You'll regret saying that within the month," Remus said, walking up to the pair of them even though they were in the middle of the dance floor.

"More like the week," Peter amended, standing beside him. They really did travel in a pack, didn't they?

"I'm sure you'll abuse the privilege, but it'd be nice to see you lot," Lily said, looking at the three of them and feeling like they were somehow broken without James there, their fourth. "I'm not saying I'll cook for you or anything, but you can stay until I kick you out."

"It's an invitation for all of us," Peter said, wiping a fake tear from his eye as he looked at Remus. "Isn't that adorable?"

"Are you harassing my fiancé-- oh, wait, right. My wife. Wow. That's odd to say," James said, placing a hand on both Peter's and Remus's shoulder. The four of them fit together.

"Good odd or bad odd?" Sirius asked. Lily flicked him. Stupid question.

"I haven't decided yet," James said. Lily flicked him then, too. Stupid answer.

"Quite the charmer, isn't he?" Lily asked Remus and Peter, who both just grinned.

"I don't have to charm you any more," James replied, smirking as he reached out to grab her hand. "You already married me. It's all down hill from here."

"Yep," said Sirius, Peter, and Remus at the same time, nodding. Lily laughed and James told them to bugger off, and soon she was back where she belonged, where she had been since she was seventeen: with James Potter.

~*~*~

You wanted to learn more about the generation "before": before the war, before the breaking of brothers, before the Order, before the remarkable sacrifice. You could not believe that Lily and James were ever simply children, called to learn at Hogwarts by an owl-delivered letter at eleven like everyone else. You could not believe that they were actually quite normal: they were eleven and scared, twelve and growing, thirteen and nervous, fourteen and awkward, fifteen and cocky, sixteen and learning, seventeen and too old. Well, they were normal but for their exceptional ability to laugh until they hurt, and then laugh because they hurt.

~*~*~

James's house never failed to overwhelm Lily. Ever since he had first brought her there the summer after they left school, she had always managed to find something more beautiful than before. She would walk through those grand doors and stare around and wonder how many of these priceless pieces of art James had managed to destroy as a child. But at the moment she wasn't looking at the frescos or vases. Instead, she was staring at a ball of fur circling her left ankle. When she asked what it was doing, James promptly replied that it was her cat.

"What do you mean 'my cat'?" Lily asked, watching it continue to circle.

"It's yours," James replied, leaning down, picking it up, and holding it out for Lily to take. "Or rather, she's yours."

"Did you buy it for me?" Lily asked, looking shrewdly at the thing without reaching out to take it.

"No," James replied, stepping closer and placing the cat against her chest. "They just come."

"From nowhere?" Lily asked, instinctively raising her arms to prevent the cat from falling in case James was a prat and let go of it.

"From somewhere. I just don't know specifically." The cat was in her arms now, and despite herself Lily thought the little devil-thing was adorable. Damn. She was a dog person. Had been ever since her parents brought home Shooting Star.

"Will it go back there?" Lily asked. She wasn't supposed to think the cat was adorable.

"Just--"

"Lily has a cat?" Sirius interrupted, coming back from the kitchen with a roll and heading toward Lily to inspect the creature.

"No. Lily doesn't have a cat. The cat appeared out of nowhere," Lily protested, lifting the thing up to her eye-level and nearly shrieking when it began struggling to get closer and scratch her nose.

"So you're engaged, then?" Sirius asked, shoving the rest of his roll into his mouth and plucking the cat out of Lily's grasp, holding it in the crook of his arm.

"What?" Lily asked. The cat seemed to adore Sirius as he scratched behind its ears.

"You idiot," James muttered, glaring at his friend.

"We're not engaged," Lily said, more confused by James's response than the fact that Sirius had jumped to that conclusion because of a cat. His response implied that proposing was something he had planned to do.

"Haven't you asked her yet?" Sirius asked, petting the thing as he looked questioningly at his friend. Yet? No. Lily must have been hearing things.

"No, not yet," James replied. He seemed ready to curse Sirius. And there was that word 'yet' again.

"Wait. Yet? What do you mean yet? Were you--" Lily stopped trying to speak, took a deep breath, and stared at James as if willing him to laugh at the thought that they were engaged. They were young. Too young. They'd never even talked about the possibility except as a joke.

"Lily?" James asked, reaching out to grab her hand. "You okay?"

"I feel vaguely ill," she muttered, tightening her hold on his hand.

"Well, that's not exactly how I pictured this going," James said jokingly as he grinned at her in a self-mocking way.

"Pictured what going?" Lily asked, staring at him. She needed to hear him say it to know that it was true, that he had thought that they should marry each other.

"This whole proposing thing," James said, pulling a jewelry box out of his pocket, and holding it in his hand. How could he be so stupid? Didn't he know she was too neurotic and crazy and stubborn and not exactly ready to be his wife?

"Are you proposing right now?" she managed to ask through her rapidly constricting windpipe.

"Not if the idea makes you feel vaguely ill."

"Oh," Lily said, disappointed. She thought he had more resolve than that, thought that he would try to convince her. Truth be told, now that he had rescinded his invitation, she felt agitated. Did he not think that she could handle marriage? "Well, you should anyway."

She was trying not to spoil the romance of this moment, but she was pretty sure that it had died the moment Sirius opened his big old mouth.

"I should what?" James asked, a teasing grin crossing his face.

"Well, you were-- you were going to ask me to marry you, weren't you?" Lily asked, swallowing her nervousness.

"I was." He had a full-blown smile on his face now.

Lily huffed. "You're making this difficult on purpose."

"You think it was easy for me to buy the damn ring?" James asked, opening it and showing it to her. Her breath hitched. It was a silver ring with a diamond in the center -- a large diamond -- surrounded by clusters of little diamonds on the band on either side. "I thought I'd be sick several times in the store and then there was the whole planning for the actual asking, and let me tell you that wasn't pleasant either."

"So you're saying asking me to marry you was a horrible experience?" Lily asked, eyes still on that beautiful ring.

"Well, yes, to be honest," James said, shutting the jewelry box. She looked back up at him. "If it hadn't been for Peter helping out, I'd have given up on the whole thing."

Lily nodded and meant to respond smartly, but instead she began to cry a little, despite her best efforts. "I'm glad you didn't give up."

James wrapped his arms around her and kissed the side of her head. "Of course I didn't."

Lily hugged him back, letting herself cry a bit more. "I've always wanted a cat."

James actually laughed then, and leaned back to kiss her quickly on the mouth. "I love you, you know."

"I love you too," Lily said, wiping her eyes.

"Then will you marry me?" he asked, standing in front of her in a casual set of robes, hands in his pockets, glasses slightly askew.

"Are you sure?" Lily asked.

James looked surprised. "What?"

"Well, I only mean to say that I'm not exactly perfect, James. I lit your mum's cake on fire that first night--"

"Could've happened to anyone," he assured her, but his smile gave him away.

"It was fudge cake," Lily said, opening her eyes and tying to blink back her tears. "Because I would love to marry you and spend forever with you, but I work in a place where I can't tell you anything that I do all day. I'm a nervous sleeper who occasionally sleep-talks. I'm sarcastic and sometimes a bit cruel and I never tell you when I'm mad at you, I just ignore you for a time and pretend like I'm not and I know that irritates you."

"Lily--"

"No. You don't have to reassure me," Lily said. "I'm not fishing for compliments."

"No, you're being stupid," James said.

"Just what I always imagined my future husband would say to me the day he proposed," Lily muttered.

"So will you marry me?" James asked.

Lily's mouth dropped open. "You're not going to address any of the issues I just raised about why I think you might be insane to want to marry me?"

James shook his head. "No."

"Oh," Lily said, thinking that was terribly odd but sort of just accepting it as a very James thing to do. "Well, okay."

"Okay, you'll marry me or okay I don't have to talk about those issues?" James asked. "Because I certainly didn't imagine 'okay' to be the response to this question."

"Okay we don't have to talk about them," Lily said.

"And in answer to the important question?"

Lily looked at James, the bloke she had loved since she was seventeen, the one who Polyjuiced himself to look like Remus just to be able to talk to her. She thought about the way he had bear-hugged her mother and shook her father's hand. The way he had glared at Petunia and said he couldn't be cordial to her after the way she had treated Lily. She thought about kissing him for the first time and second time and all of the crazy times. She thought about how he sat with her as she cried over the deaths of two of their classmates. She thought about fighting with him and making up, and how her mother had told her she was too young to fall in love. She thought about lying under the stars with him and finding Orion and how he was the thing she most missed when she went back to the Muggle world for vacation.

All this she thought in a moment and then she said, "I've wanted to marry you since I was fifteen years old."

James smiled and looked at her with such intensity that Lily blushed. "So that's a yes then?"

"Yes, you blockhead!" Sirius called from across the room where he was playing with Lily's cat.

"Really not the time, Sirius," James called back before looking back at the grinning Lily. Was this really happening?

"That's a yes, James," Lily said. And suddenly James's lips were on Lily's. She was laughing and crying and just generally looking like a fool, she was sure, but she didn't care. Not one bit. She was going to marry James.

"You just made the biggest mistake ever," James said, holding her very close. "Now you'll never be rid of me."

"Oh shoot, and there went my big plans," Lily said, rolling her eyes as she moved her arms to wrap around her neck. She leaned in and kissed him as he wrapped his arm around her middle and lifted her off the ground. When he set her back down, she tried to catch her breath as she met his intense stare. She took a deep breath. "I'm going to marry you."

"Of course you are, you have a family cat," Sirius said, obviously deciding to rejoin the private conversation.

"Oh hush, I'm sure you have a cat," Lily said, no malice in her voice, with a smile so big her face almost hurt. She was marrying James! She leaned in to kiss James again, taking the front of his shirt in her hands and pulling him down.

"Nope," Sirius said loudly, breaking through the delirious haze of happiness that was working to consume Lily. "They're only for members of the family."

Lily pulled away from her kiss with James and looked at him, then Sirius, then the cat in his arms. "What do you mean they're only for family?"

"They're only for family," Sirius repeated.

"Thanks, Mr. Cryptic." She turned to James. "What does that mean?"

"That they're very, very smart cats." And his lips would not let her talk anymore.

~*~*~

These people chose what was right, not what was easy: they stayed to fight instead of running; they broke away from family tradition; they, despite the deaths around them and the offers of asylum in Voldemort's forces, chose to oppose him, chose to marry, chose to have children, chose to live.

~*~*~

Lily nervously knocked on the door to the Headmaster's office, holding the crumpled letter in her hand. McGonagall had given it to her with strict instructions to meet the Headmaster in his office after breakfast ended, before she even went to her first class.

"Come in, Miss Evans," said Professor Dumbledore. Lily pushed the door open and found not just Professor Dumbledore but also a man and a woman seated across from him. They all stood when she entered.

"I didn't mean to interrupt," Lily said, glancing at the guests.

"You are not interrupting, Miss Evans," the headmaster said, gesturing with his hand for Lily to come into the room and sit in a chair opposite his desk. She took a few more steps inside, but did not sit down. "These visitors are here to see you."

"Me?" Lily asked, looking first at Dumbledore and then the two people standing in front of her.

"Yes," said the man, stepping forward and offering his hand. "My name is Edmund Clark and this is Amelia Allen. You must be the Head Girl, Lily Evans."

Lily shook his hand and then the woman's proffered one. "Yes, I am. How do you do?"

"It's nice to meet you," Edmund Clark said, sitting in one of the three chairs across from Dumbledore's. "Let's sit.

And so they sat, Lily confused but relieved. She had imagined the reason for this visit to be anything from Dumbledore stripping her of her Head Girl badge to a notification of a death in the family. Two friendly people sitting in on her meeting seemed much less intimidating than either of those options.

"We're here to offer you a job," Edmund said.

Lily looked at him, shocked. She hadn't expected to hear back from any company before the end of April, at the earliest, and it was still March. "I only sent out my applications yesterday."

"No, Miss Evans," Edmund said, leaning forward. "You misunderstand. We're not offering you the sort of job people apply for. We're offering you a place as an Unspeakable in the Department of Mysteries."

"Excuse me?" Lily asked, wanting to laugh. What a silly title for a ridiculous department.

"An Unspeakable in the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic," Mr. Clark reiterated. Oh, thanks for the clarification, Lily thought.

"What sort of work does the Department of Mysteries do?" Lily asked, deciding to take the initiative in the conversation.

"We can't tell you," Edmund replied. Ha! Okay. So that was the 'mystery' part. She had to admit that that was sort of funny.

"What would I be doing?" Lily asked, smiling openly now at how silly this all sounded.

"We can't tell you," Edmund said, leaning back and putting his hands his armrests.

"Could I guess and you could tell me if I was right or not?" Lily joked.

"No," Edmund said, shaking his head.

"Okay," Lily said, realizing that he was neither joking about this nor did he have a sense of humor about it.

"Is there anything you can tell me?" Lily asked, mentally shaking her head at this strange conversation.

"Very little," Edmund admitted. This was some sort of joke. Lily looked at Dumbledore to see if this was a prank and found him popping a piece of chocolate into his mouth. Good grief.

"If I took the job could I find out what I'd be doing?" Lily asked, letting a little sarcasm leak into her words. She realized that this was a potential job interview and these people deserved respect, but if they were going to avoid all of her questions and give her no further information, then she found it impossible to take this seriously.

"Yes," Edmund said. "Though, if you ever left the job your memory would be Obliviated."

"Of course," Lily said, barely keeping herself from leaving right then. These people were crazy: asking her to accept a job they could not describe for an amount of money they wouldn't disclose, one which would cost Lily her memory if she chose to leave it. Right. Sure. She would definitely consider that job.

"Perhaps, Edmund, you ought to explain how you came to offer Miss Evans this position," Professor Dumbledore suggested. Lily looked over at him to see him still fiddling around with his candy. Curious.

"We heard about your Seventh Year project. Your work with wands and dissecting the charms inlaid in them," Edmund said. "In particular, we were interested in your use of the Tempus Cinqueso Charm on late model wands to study the aging of wands and the relationship between the wand and wizard or witch."

This did interest Lily and she stared at him. "I only began working on that aspect of my project a month ago. I haven't even had time to talk with Professor Flitwick about that."

"Nor have you had time to discuss the spell you created last week to study the relationship between time and wands," Miss Allen said, speaking up for the first time. Old as she was, her voice was sharp and clear.

Okay, this was unsettling. "How do you know about that?"

"The Department of Catalogs, specifically the New Spells, Curses, Potions, and More division, automatically logs the use of a new spell and its function," Edmund said, taking charge again. He used terms as if he had worked at the Ministry for so long (and his department specifically) that he had forgotten that other people might not know what he was talking about.

"And what? That department sends a copy of the registry to the Department of Mysteries?" Lily asked. It sounded too elaborate.

"We can't discuss that," Edmund said. If this meeting hadn't taken place in Dumbledore's office, Lily might have suspected it to be one of Sirius's pranks. At least she was only missing one of her lessons for this ridiculous meeting.

"My spell interested you?" Lily asked, trying to sidestepped the annoying 'no talking' policy of theirs.

Edmund looked at her. "We can't--"

"Discuss that. Of course," Lily muttered, interrupting him, vaguely reminded of her conversation with that Ministry Official after the Ball, the one who wouldn't tell her how Christian or Mrs. Crouch were. It was just as irritating to have censored information over a year later.

"I am at liberty to tell you that I would like to work with you, Miss. Evans," Amelia Allen said, hands clasped tightly in her lap.

"Well, thank you," Lily said sincerely, even if she was confused. She looked over at the white haired, wrinkled woman and felt disbelief at her words. Why would she want to work with Lily?

"You don't seem to be taking this very seriously," Ms Allen noted.

"It's a little difficult to take an offer seriously," Lily admitted, "when you can't tell me what I would be doing, what the department does, why you'd ever want to work with me, or even why you heard about me. Plus, for my working title to be an Unspeakable seems ridiculous."

"I understand," Ms Allen said, nodding and smiling. "Because of the nature of our work, we have very little liberty to share our findings or our work with any who do not work within our department, but where there is a will, there is a loophole."

"Excuse me?" Lily asked. Ms. Allen didn't reply, merely levitated a mirror to Lily, who instinctively grabbed it.

"We don't study conventional magic, Miss Evans," Amelia Allen said, waving her wand and muttering an incantation Lily couldn't hear, but Lily could see the effects: the mirror turn on like a telly. Lily felt more than a bit like Snow White.

The words Areas of Focus faded onto and then off of the mirror, followed by a series of pictures with words imposed on them: what looked like a lot of brains in a small pool of green water Thought; a black veil in the middle of a room filled with stone Death; a group of round objects floating Space; clocks lining the walls of a brightly lit room Time; and just as quickly, other pictures and images, including the one that really stayed with Lily which was a closed door with light glowing behind it Love.

The Department of Mysteries, Lily realized, dealt with real mysteries, things people could for work a thousand years deciphering, things neither Muggles nor magical folk could ever understand.

Lily was overwhelmed by the possibilities, but also a bit of fear: "Are you trying to harness the power of these things?"

"No," Ms Allen replied. "We are merely trying to understand these concepts as you are trying to understand time with your wand tests and invented spells."

"Why me?" Lily asked, disbelieving. If she could really make her life's work the study of love and death and time and thought-- It would be incredible. Lily had never considered the idea, but the potential of it was overwhelming. "Why would you want me to work there?"

"Because I want to work with you," Amelia Allen answered simply. "You are young to be offered this position. In fact, I can't remember the last time we offered a job to someone still in Hogwarts, but I need an assistant, someone with energy, a dedication to the abstract, a level head, and a brilliant mind. I also need someone who can easily manipulate magic. Professors Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Flitwick all separately suggested you."

"It is an opportunity many at the Ministry dream of, to be offered an Unspeakable position," Mr. Clark added before Lily had time to ask any other questions or do more than look at Dumbledore -- who was still not looking up -- in wonder.

"But I don't know what I'll be working on," Lily said, thinking of all those images, all of those rooms.

"Specifically, no," Ms Allen said, "but you have an idea, do you not?"

Lily thought of that glowing door, the door that beckoned to her.

"I'll not be able to focus on anything I thought I wanted to study," Lily said wonderingly. She had imagined desk jobs, boring jobs, working her way up through the ranks. Having a horrible first job that she quit after five years when she found something more interesting. But if she chose this, chose to become an Unspeakable, she knew that it would be a lifetime commitment.

"As an Unspeakable, you would be able to study anything," Amelia corrected her. "Everything connects through these ten rooms. Everything."

Lily didn't really understand the reference, but she didn't want to ask, either. Instead, she said, "I don't know anything about this Department."

"No one truly does," Ms Allen said, "until the reach the ninth floor for the first time."

The ninth floor. The mysteries. "Could I tell my friends what I do?"

"Your title, yes. Your department, yes," Ms Allen responded. "But of your work you could tell them nothing."

"No one?" Lily asked, thinking unexpectedly of James and what this would mean for them. But more importantly, she thought about what it would mean if she could look into these disciplines. For her entire seventh year she had felt lost in limbo, flailing about trying to find something to focus on, something to want to do when she left school. She had applied to nearly every job that was not connected with the Ministry, and even a few that were. But the Department of Mysteries, something about it sounded right, like it fit.

And while it took a month's deliberation and a lot of discussions with James, in July Lily Evans became one of the youngest Unspeakables in history.

~*~*~

Lily Evans and James Potter were not perfect people. They lied and deceived. They put distance between their friends and them. Once, they accidentally shattered the table during a prefect meeting. But they were good, fun people: to help a friend, James illegally became an Animagus and Lily left her sister's wedding reception. They lied to Filch, pretended to flog first years, found Orion's Belt, and danced in the autumn leaves. They named Lily's cat Truth, and renamed James's Dare.

No matter what else might be said about them, they loved life.

~*~*~

Lily and Christine sat in the back of Transfiguration class taking notes when James, who was at the desk next to her, leaned over and whispered, "Sickle if you leave class right now."

Lily took a moment to think about whether or not it was his turn to make a bet. It was. Then she looked at her watch. There was still an hour and some minutes left in the class. But honestly, it was October of her seventh year, she had finished the assignment they were working on, and when had Lily ever turned down a bet? Glancing at James out of the corner of her eye, Lily raised her hand.

"Yes, Miss Evans?" McGonagall asked.

"May I leave class now?" she asked.

McGonagall’s eyes narrowed in suspicion, which was only a slightly different facial expression than annoyed. "Why?"

Lily, her gaze never wavering from McGonagall, said, "James bet me a sickle that I wouldn't."

"I see." McGonagall looked at James and Sirius, and then told Lily, "Please come here, Miss Evans.”

Lily shoved everything she had out into her bag and went to the front of the room, where McGonagall walked over to meet her.

“Where is your essay?”

"Right here." Lily dug through her things for a minute and then held up the (slightly crumpled) essay.

McGonagall, looking more at James and Sirius, said, "You’re looking a bit ill, Miss Evans. You might want to go to the Hospital Wing.”

Lily’s smile couldn’t have been bigger as she thanked her professor and made for the door. There was a gasp from where Sirius and James sat. Sirius asked in a loud voice, "Then can I go?"

"No," McGonagall said.

"Why not?" Sirius demanded.

McGonagall asked, "You don’t look ill."

“Neither does Lily!”

Lily took in the room: Christine had picked up her things and moved over to sit next to Gertrude at her desk, the two blonde girls didn't say a thing, just turned to look at the scene unfolding before them; Tracy sat in the corner, not looking up at all, which saddened Lily a bit; Sirius was calling things out to McGonagall, who looked at him with amusement; and James was laughing. Lily smiled. As she left the room, Lily made a few feeble attempts at a cough and gagging sound, but James called out, “Worst fake sickness ever, Evans!”

Sirius leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. "I'm writing a strongly worded letter to someone about this."

"Maybe to the Chocolate Frog Card Company?" McGonagall said as Lily shut the door behind her. She was walking down the corridor feeling rather smug and wondering if she should do her work for her other classes, when she heard someone run up behind her and then felt an arm on her shoulders.

James was grinning madly at her.

“Did think I’d let you scive off by yourself, did you?”

“How’d you get out?”

“Told her I had to use the loo.”

She raised her eyebrows. “With your bag and all your materials?”

“That required a bit more explanation,” he agreed, “but she cut me off before I really got rolling.”

“Give me my sickle,” she said, holding out a hand expectedly. They both grinned and laughed. "You think we can do this every class?"

"Not if we want to survive the year," James said. "McGonagall won't be that nice every day."

"But she loves you."

James smiled. "It really is obvious, isn't it?"

"Besides," Lily said, choosing to ignore him, "Sirius might murder us anyway for leaving without him."

"Nah, he likes you too much. I, however, might be in trouble." James shrugged. "By the way, next time, I'm stipulating that you can't blame me."

"It's all in the details," Lily said.

~*~*~

So now you have seen them, the golden generation, turn from children into adults. You watched them find Destiny and Fate in the confines of Hogwarts and take them up as walking sticks to aid them in their long journeys into eternity.

You leave the castle, leave the echoing corridors and talking portraits who were the only witnesses to the love story of James Potter and Lily Evans. As you walk, you decide that there is a moral to this story and you try to discover it. You think about it as you walk across the grass with bare feet, loving the crunching sound, loving those giant bubble-blowers in the distance, remembering patrols and the Game and F.A.D. and cats and proposals and first kisses and the great confusion of Lily's sixth year. You think back on the moments you have seen: four friends in a room failing to transform; four friends racing through the castle; the power of a single shield; a Slytherin prefect wandering the corridors; a grinning first year; an exploding box of friendship notes; an aristocrat who gave up his hereditary rights and supported a werewolf; and a girl who would save the world handing a friend a fork during a hidden dinner. You think about the friends who look out for each other, of course, and realize how very lucky those people are to have found one another.

~*~*~

Night had fallen late, shrouding Hogwarts in a darkness that Lily Evans tried to get lost in. She hid behind a suit of armor in a far corner of the first floor, trying to breathe silently. Every part of her -- from her left middle toe to her right shoulder blade -- was poised to run at any moment. The first Game of the year had begun two hours ago and Lily had only just escaped a trap set by Tracy and Christine. She was now waiting to hear the telltale footsteps of Sam, Tracy, or Christine.

Lily readjusted her wand in her hand, the sweat making the menial task more difficult than it would otherwise have been. Actually, every part of her was damp with sweat (the night air, as it should be in on September 10th, was stifling). Her robes, which she had charmed to blend in more easily with the dark walls, clung to her body.

Another minute ticked by. Then it happened: footsteps. They were even and loud, like someone who was not worried about being caught.

Lily's heart beat three times faster. Those were the footsteps of a patrolling prefect. But shouldn't there have been two sets of steps? Lily held her breath. Being caught out after curfew the second week of school, her second week as Head Girl, was a horrifying possibility: she would have let down so many people.

The footsteps continued to move towards her. Closer and closer the feet came until finally Lily saw the light of their badge reflecting on the metal of the suit of armor. Then the person started whistling and Lily began to grin. She knew who was patrolling now. Standing behind that suit of armor, Lily readjusted herself, charmed the ground, and, just when the person came into view, she pounced.

"Student out of bounds," she called, launching herself at the patroller and tackling him, shoulder to the ground. Sweaty as she was, Lily did not move away from the person she had pinned beneath her. Instead, she grinned and said, "Hello, there."

"Student out of bounds indeed," James grunted, shifting to make himself more comfortable and wrapping his arms around her. "You're quite good at those Cushioning Charms."

"I tackle a lot of people," Lily said, smiling as tingles spread through her at their close proximity. It felt so good to be near him.

"Aw, you don't have to make me jealous, Lily," James said, looking up at her teasingly. "I know that thing between you and Filch ended months ago."

Lily laughed and said mock-seriously, "You're not on patrol tonight, you know. I really ought to report you."

"You're not on patrol either," James noted, lifting his head off the ground to kiss her right cheek. Then her left. She crossed her arms over his chest and looked down at him, happy.

"Then we find ourselves in a catch-22, don't we? If I report you I'll get into trouble too and it's the same with you," Lily said, pecking him on the mouth quickly as she dropped her elbows to either side of his head to be closer. "What are we going to do?"

"When does the Game end?" James asked, kissing her a bit longer.

Lily let the kiss sketch on a minute before answering, "About twenty minutes."

"Want to cut out early?" he asked. Lily leaned in again and loved feeling his tongue running along her lower lip. Still, Lily shifted quickly so that she could see the rankings on her arm.

"Sure, let's go," Lily agreed, kissing him once more before rolling off him and standing up.

"You're in last, aren't you?" James asked, smirking as he sat up.

"Yep," Lily said, taking his hand and helping him stand up too.

"You're horrible at this Game, you know," James said, using their connected hands to pull her as close to him as possible. "Why do you keep playing it?"

"Haven't you heard?" Lily asked, smiling up at him as she twined her arms behind his neck and leaned in for another kiss. "I'm terribly stubborn."

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