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Of Love Notes and Bottle Caps

Chapter Text

It was a rainy mid-morning nearing the end of June when Aunt Petunia gave Harry the shoebox. She had given up issuing household orders and his family were avoiding him. This suited Harry very much and his feet were curled up under him on his bed as he re-read The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection.

Aunt Petunia wrapped at the door whilst barging into the bedroom.

“Here—since you must be leaving soon,” she says, as she cast him a hopeful look. “You should have some rubbish I found whilst clearing out the loft.” She sniffed. “Your mother’s. I’m not sure why it was in my house.”

Harry gaped at her.

“So take it, then!” Petunia spat. She seemed jittery.

He grabbed the box from her. “Um. Thanks.”

She stormed out, slamming the door as she went.

Harry leaned down to remove the loose floorboard to retrieve the penknife Sirius had bought for him at Christmas. His stomach clenched as he slit through the layers of duct tape. He scooted up to the headboard and removed the lid.

Harry stared. Inside was a jumble of odds and ends, ticket stubs, parchment and photographs.

He was immobilised. Not knowing where to start, he upended it and picked up what was closest: an unmoving black-and-white photograph. A ginger girl sporting a gap-toothed grin stood beside a muddy, miserable girl holding a howling baby.

He flipped it over and read:

Me - 7, Archie - 6 months?, Tuney - 8

****

The dreaded day of their cousin’s christening has arrived. Lily has never been so bored in her life. No one else was even ready to leave for the epic drive.

She is in a frilly pinafore, her hair smoothed back into a plait. She swings her legs in boredom on the divan outside her mum’s room, viewing the scene playing before her with a weary expression on her face.

“Ow! You’re pulling!” Petunia screeches.

“The knots must come out, Pet. Lily was perfectly happy to keep still. Be a good girl, now.”

Lily smirks and folds her arms.

Petunia, on the other hand, is in a pair of dungarees. A snail is resident in her central front pocket, and mud cakes her socks. She must have been gardening without shoes again.

“Why is there dirt in your hair, darling? I hope you have not been rolling around outside like a swine. You know how upset it makes me when you work on the Sabbath, and there’s no time for another bath!” 

Mum looks ever so cross when she grinds her teeth together.

Lily snickers.

Petunia glares at Lily, snatches the hairbrush off her mum, and hurls it at Lily.

Whack!

Ow! That was my h-h-head!”

Mum slaps Petunia. “Awful girl! Why did you do that?”

Both girls start bawling.

Half an hour later, Lily and Petunia are bundled in the back of the car, still sniffling. They stare out their prospective windows.

Three long hours pass by, and a smug Lily stands beside a now marginally less muddy, harassed-looking Petunia. Tuney cradles what looks like a red sniffling plucked chicken in a frilly frock.

“Smile nicely for the camera, young ladies!”

FLASH!

Thankfully, Archibald is being passed around to other relatives for the photographer, so Petunia and Lily wend their way over to the biscuit table.

“I’m sorry, Lil. I didn’t mean to hurt you before.”

Lily beams up at Petunia. “That’s okay! I shouldn’t have laughed.” She elbows Tuney in the ribs. “Friends forever?”

“For life!” Petunia reaches over to get Lily two biscuits.

****

Lily hugs her knees to her chest, staring unseeingly out the window as tears run down her face. She is eighteen and staying at her dad’s in Cokeworth, before leaving tomorrow to get married.

She isn’t sure when it all went wrong. Her sister had always appeared jealous at the recognition she got for having the ability to do the impossible.

I never asked for this.

Ever since they set the date, she had called and written for a solid month, pleading for Petunia to attend the wedding. The local church was fully booked for the next six months, but luckily for them, someone had dropped out. Albus recruited them to the Order just weeks ago, and so they were eager to be married.

Her arguments—that she wanted to mend this bridge, you’re my only sister, Dad would be upset, Mum would turn in her grave, that it was important to her, if she died tomorrow she wouldn’t even care, that if she died tomorrow, she would regret not going for the rest of her miserable lifefell on deaf ears.

Petunia had quietly packed her bags for London to see her boyfriend.

Lily wipes her eyes, gets to her knees beside the bookcase, and fetches a photo album from the sixties.

She flips through the pages.

Life was simpler before Hogwarts, wars, and weddings.

There she was, playing with her sister in a paddling pool. In another, she, Tuney and Mum were all holding hands on the first day of primary school. She gazes at the toddlers on the merry-go-round at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Her younger self was grinning, and her big sister’s arms looped around her as she planted a kiss in Lily’s hair.

Just when did that sister die?

She flicks through the collection, observing her family and friends age before her eyes.

Finally, she got to the last picture.

It is in black-and-white and shows her and her sister next to their cousin Archie at his christening. He was wearing a hideous formal frilly thing and was rather red in the face. Her sister looked perturbed and grubby. Lily beamed up at the camera and was considerably cleaner than her older sister.

The photographer had captured Pet’s temperament well.

She slides it out of the album.

Chapter Text

The next thing Harry reached for was a stack of letters.

He stared at the topmost one for a while and scratched his head. It was some kind of note or poem, written on scrunched up parchment.

Lil,
I
Love
You!

He hoped it wasn’t from his dad. Harry turned it over, wondering if that was it. 

It wasn’t! There was a reply…

James, A Moron Exceedingly Sucks

Oh dear. He supposed those bad writing skills belonged to his father after all.

His heart thrummed as he looked over at a second sheet of parchment.

 

17th December 1977

Dear Lily,

I know it’s only been twenty-eight hours since I last kissed you at King’s Cross, but I miss you so much I just had to write. I didn’t think I’d get time tonight, but I managed to ditch Sirius at the pub cos he pulled a bird. We could have used you, Evans. Apparently, England didn’t qualify for the “Foot Ball World Cup”, and this is common Muggle knowledge. Oops. Not that I was hitting on anyone, I was just helping out Sirius. Obviously he needs all the help he can get. I’m practicing being able to blend in, as this is something an Auror ought to be able to manage without breaking the Statute of Secrecy!

Making small talk with girls made me want to Apparate straight to your room. Whilst it would be a superb use of my licence, I want to make a good first impression for your dad!!!

Instead, here I am, returning home alone on a Saturday night to write to you and tell you that not an hour goes by when I don’t think of you.

Just imagine, at Easter when we have to be apart, I’ll be able to Apparate to you and hold you in my arms. We can sneak off to the pictures, eat popcorn and be alone in a dark corner. I can’t put into words how desperately I want to be alone with you…how I miss you, Lily.

How’s your dad getting on? Is your sister’s boyfriend staying too?

I forgot to tell you earlier, we have a lunar issue on Christmas Day so I’m opening your present on Christmas Eve. Sirius and I are sneaking back to Hogsmeade, Wormtail can’t get away. Mum and Dad don’t mind having a belated Christmas. I’ll write to you as soon as the problem has resolved itself, prob Boxing Day morning all being well.

I don’t really have anything else to say, or any news. Just that I love you and miss you.

Sixteen days until I can see you again.

Write back as soon as you can, Evans. Wild horses couldn’t drag me away.

Forever yours,

James

****

“Padfoot, this is it. This has been going on for too long.” James flicks the last two syllables into his knee. He continues his arm waving. “I need more subtle tactics, something spontaneous, romantic even! She’s the Golden Gryffindor Snitch just out of my reach! I know I can stretch just that little bit—” James breaks off. “Are you even listening to me?”

A snore greets his ears.

“Siri-Sirius, wake up, you mongrel! I was in the middle of telling you my sob story! Or grand plans. Whichever. Same thing.”

Sirius grunts as James shakes him awake, then he yawns broadly.

“Oh, don’t have a cow. Something about Evans? What’s she done now?”

“That’s just the thing. She hasn’t done anything. I think I need to change the game plan. Get romantic.”

Sirius snorts. “Romantic? You? Ha!” James doesn’t look impressed. “I dunno, just grab her and snog her, Casanova. Can I sleep now?”

“No! You told me to do that last time, remember?”

Sirius looks perplexed. “Which time?”

“The time she kneed me in the balls!”

He grins wickedly. “Again, which time was that?”

“Er…” James casts his memory back, before shaking his head hopelessly. “Does it matter which bloody time? Help me!”

“You could write her a love letter,” Peter says. James wheels around.

“A love letter? What are you, a poofter?” James looks at Sirius, inviting him to share the joke. Sirius cackles. “Why would someone write a love note to Lily?”

“To confess my undying love for her, perhaps?”

A silence follows.

“Erm,” Pete licks his lips nervously. “I was just putting myself in your shoes. So if I were you, I’d write her a note to confess your undying love for her.” He chuckles awkwardly.

Remus looks up from his journal, sighs heavily, and pushes his hair out of his eyes. “Write her a poem.”

“Brilliant! A poem!” James says. “Be a pal and draft one for me. You’re a sappy genius.”

“Certainly not. That’s plagiarism.” Remus flings a pillow at him.

Reditus!” he casts, returning it. “I’d give you credit for it!”

Remus catches the pillow. “That’s a crap idea. She already thinks you’re conceited; you ought not add to the list.”

“You’re right.”

Remus sighs in deep relief.

“I should really get Sirius to write one.”

Remus sighs in deep exasperation.

“The best letters come from the heart. You’d be better off writing one yourself.” Remus adds as an afterthought, “If you send a note that Sirius wrote you’ll suffer the consequences. Where it hurts the most.”

The boys look at Remus in sheer puzzlement. Peter’s mouth hangs slightly open.

“…Like, in the privates?” Pete asks.

“You guys can be really thick sometimes.”

James taps his temple and says, “This is why you need to draft my love letter. Because you know things.”

Remus rolls his eyes. “You’re barking up the wrong tree.”

****

Soon the room is filled with snores (Sirius’, naturally) and heavy breathing (Peter is having a wet dream). Obviously, James is awake. Remus is secretly keeping an eye on James to see what he is up to.

Sirius! Pssst!

“Go away, Angela, I’ll have sex with you later…”

“Wake up! He snores on. “Black!”

The snoring abruptly stopped.

“Huh? Wha'?” Sirius looks up at him blearily.

“Shhh! You’ll wake Remus!”

“You're not my boyfriend, you don't get to share my bed,” Sirius says, smiling sleepily up at him.

“Shut it. I’ve been planning,” murmurs James. “I need you to promise me that you’ll write a love poem from me to Lily!”

He groans. “I’ll do it,” Sirius says, as though he is martyring himself.

“Good man. I knew I could count on you.”

****

Lily sits next to Angie, and chews her breakfast whilst trying to look interested in her story of Simon the Stalker from Salisbury.

Luckily, the post owls save her when they swoop in. She catches a letter before it falls into her cornflakes.

Lil,
I
Love
You!

She stares at it, and checks the back to see if there is a note, or a signature at the very least. There isn’t. She peers up and down the table. A messy-haired boy winks at her.

Mystery solved.

****

Tigerlily looks down the Gryffindor table, and seductively locks eyes with him. She looks so fit today. He winks at her, and receives a glare in return.

Oh dear.

“Padfoot, did you send that poem?”

“Uh-huh,” Sirius says through a mouthful of toast.

“How erm…good was it?”

He swallows and grins. “Fantastic. Very poetic—she’ll love it.”

****

James struggles to look even faintly interested as Remus drones on about Astronomy homework.

Thank Merlin for the post owls. He cranes his neck to find his, but before he can, a school owl floats gracefully down to land on his head.

“Ow! Gerroff, you’re messing up my hair!”

James extracts a letter from its beak and shoos it off.

He stares at the note.

James, A Moron Exceedingly Sucks

He has a nasty feeling stirring in his stomach.

“Uh… Sirius? You wouldn’t know anything about this, would you?”

He throws the letter to Sirius, whose face arranges itself into that of irritation. “She stole my idea!”

“Idea…? What was that poem you wrote, by the way?”

“It was like this one, but with her name instead. It was very good.”

“…What? That sounds crap! She thinks I wrote it!”

****

The next morning a handsome owl swoops down to land on James’ head.

“You!” James is positive it is the same one who had messed up his hair before.

He mutters something about blasted owls, and tugs the letter out of its unwilling beak. His face turns crimson as he reads. “This is hopeless.”

“Is it from Evans?” Peter pipes up.

“No, the Tooth Fairy,” Sirius says, as he rolls his eyes. “Lighten up, Prongs, you’ll get the girl in the end!”

For all his cheering efforts, he gets a letter thrown at his forehead in return.

Pete looks over Sirius’ elbow, and Remus cranes his neck to read:

 

Dream On  

Dear James, 

Mary thinks you’re foxy, but I’d rather snog a Doxy. Though your fanclub may disagree, your balls deserve a good knee!

I’m not confident you wouldn’t cheat, I don’t care you have the body of an athlete. There are people I care about that you mistreat, you are blinded by your conceit!

Oh James, when will you ever see? That you have overstepped the boundary? When will you get the hint—and bloody LEAVE ME BE???

Two Marauders wince. The other one had already winced, as he is a faster reader.

“Better luck next time, mate,” Sirius says.

“Yeah. Look on the bright side—at least Mary thinks you’re fit. Maybe you’ve got a chance with her?” Remus helpfully points out.

“‘I’d rather snog a Doxy?’ That wasn’t very imaginative. And she’s obviously referencing Snivellus,” Pete says.

Three of the Marauders turn around in their seats to glare at the Slytherin table.

“We must get payback. Big time.” Pete says this, so it does not sound particularly menacing.

 

****

 

James sits in the Great Hall and barely notices the post owls arriving. He stares into his goblet of pumpkin juice, considering whether it is deep enough to drown in. 

His quick reflexes catch a letter before it can fall into his drink.

Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Severus is a wonderful person. Leave him alone or face the consequences!

“Let’s see what she sent this time, then,” announces Sirius, grabbing for the letter. James lets Sirius pull the parchment out of his numb hands.

Sirius whistles. “Whoa, let it all out, Evans!”

He is hardly listening. His ears buzz.

 

****

 

Lily bends down and smooths out the scrap of parchment that someone chucked up the girls’ staircase. She is so glad boys aren’t allowed upstairs.

Her heart clenches a little as she scans down through the poems she’d sent Potter. Perhaps she was a bit mean. As much as she doesn’t want to sink to their level, it disgusts her how they treat Severus.

She wanders back to her four-poster bed and calls goodnight to her housemates. With a sigh, she slips the paper into her trunk and draws the red velvet hangings.

She dreams of how things could be different.

Chapter Text

Lily is on the edge of her seat. She can hardly look and watches through the cracks between her fingers.

The commentator continues, “Slytherin in possession—McTavish with the Quaffle—passes Watkins—passes back to McTavish—WAS THAT THE SNITCH?—Potter takes the Quaffle, pay attention—Robins is diving!—Black is in pursuit!...”

She clambers onto her chair and attempts to pull out her hair. “Come on, Robins! Do it!” she screams. “Spot that Bludger, you moron!” She ignores Greta Catchlove who is trying to elbow her out the way for a better view.

A Bludger smacked by a green and silver blur zooms towards the Gryffindor Seeker.

“No!” Lily wills with all her telepathic powers that Robins will notice it. “Behind you!”

Robins does a Sloth Grip Roll—Wham!—and the Bludger winds Black. 

Ha! That would show those stupid Slytherins! Suckers.

“She is—just stretch—and—yes! She’s done it! She’s caught the Snitch! Gryffindor win!”

“We won the cup! We won the cup!” Lily chants with the throng, wildly punching her fist into the air with every syllable.

Red and gold blurs descend on little Robins who now looks as though she needs rescuing.

Lily stamps her feet in delight, then nearly suffocates Angela with a bear hug. Angie is jumping for joy. She turns around to give Greta a massive kiss on the cheek. Soon, her sight of James—no, the team—is obstructed by the front rows pouring out onto the pitch.

“Come on—back to the common room! Party!” says a voice from the crowd.

They mill towards the pitch like sheep squeezing out of a pen, and follow everyone back up towards the castle. Her heart is bursting as if she’d won a race.

****

Harry stared blankly at the bottle cap. He was a little disappointed. He made a mental note once he was back at school to cast Specialis revelio.

****

Some Seventh Years levitate the plush scarlet armchairs away from the fireplace to line the walls. A gaggle of First Years arrange small cakes on a refreshments table, whilst the fourth-year boys make the rounds with armfuls of bottles. Greta and Jill unearth a record player and plan to teach the Minister’s son how to dance the jive.

The team strut back into common room after their showers amidst rabid cheering and whistles from the Gryffindors.

A crowd of giggling girls immediately make their way towards the topless Quidditch team and Sirius Black (who, inexplicably, is also topless).

Lily had just finished helping Remus move the tables along one wall when Peter and Sirius approach them. She eyes the Butterbeer held out to her.

Probably spiked.

“No thanks, Sirius.”

“But I spiked it for you and everything!”

Lily raises her eyebrows, and edges around the crowd that had got up to dance and went over to her books on the corner table. She clears away the notes she had left before the match, when hazel eyes on the back of her neck causes her skin to prickle.

 

****

 

She turns to find James making a beeline for her.

He nervously runs his fingers through his hair, rumpling it up. She can’t help but roll her eyes.

At her look, he stops. His breath catches in his throat, an effect only Lily can cause. It are the little things like that which make him sure they should at least make out. He tries to rearrange his face into something sexier than bashfulness.

 

****

 

Her expression relaxes in response to his gorgeous half smile. Her knees turn to jelly as he looks at her under his dark eyelashes. She prays for strength.

“Can I help you?” She hopes she said that coolly enough. 

He is very close, and very topless.

“Come to Hogsmeade with me on Saturday?”

“No. Sorry.” She shakes her head once.

Seventh time and counting…

She stares at her feet, and steps backwards.

“Look, Lil, I—”

“Save it.” She tugs at her sleeve, looking anywhere but him. Keep calm, woman!

He dithers before moving to stand amiably by her side. He pulls his wand out of the back pocket of his flared jeans. “Accio drinks!”

She can’t help herself. “You know you’ll end up losing a buttock if you keep it in your back pocket.”

He grins. “Why, I’m touched that my buttocks are so important to you.”

“I walked into that one, didn’t I.” She laughs and accepts a Butterbeer. “Who said I wanted a drink, anyway?”

“Gryffindor won the cup, of course you want a drink.” He clinks her bottle. “Cheers.”

“Cheers.” She takes a long swig of her bottle, before her face contorts in disgust and she clutches her burning throat, “Ugh!” She coughs. “What’s in that stuff?”

He looks alarmed. “Uh…don’t know, actually. I think it tastes a bit like they’ve added Firewhisky.”

Lily is still spluttering, and her eyes stream. He awkwardly pats her on the back. Soon it turns into a stroke, and slides down her robes towards her…

Her hand comes from somewhere and slaps it away.

“What the hell are you doing? I assume this is some grand design to get me drunk. Give me one good reason I shouldn’t go to McGonagall.”

He grasps her arm and stares into her eyes. “I’m sorry—I didn’t know. Forgive me?”

Heart thrumming, a ‘yes’ is on the tip of her tongue, and she glances at his lips.

She is aware of precisely how near he is. Warmth spread from his fingers on her arms like wildfire, and she is suddenly boiling hot. 

James is waiting for an answer. James, who is an incredibly attractive, intelligent, charming boy who could have anyone in Hogwarts. Or the entire world. And he wants her. She can’t recall why she doesn’t want him back. 

And he is topless. And he looks lovely today. And he can’t take a hint. 

She reflects that her reasons for not going out with him seem flimsy. Recently, he has been a perfect gentleman. She is close enough to see light from the flickering candles reflected in his hazel eyes.

 

****

 

He knows that this is the moment. The room disappears around him, the party music and background laughter mute to nothingness as a roaring sound begins in his ears. His brain caves in, and all his blood seems to rush to his tingling lips and fingertips.

Leaning down, his world narrows to her eyes, her lips, her face. He runs his hands through her lovely hair.

 

****

 

Gentle lips press against hers, teasing and nipping slightly until she is giddy with breathlessness. He brushes his tongue along her lower lip and she gasps into the kiss, rubbing her hands over the soft skin of his bare upper back.

She breaks away, winded. That did not just happen. That did not just happen. “That did not just happen.”

James’ face falls, his eyes crinkle in dismay. “What? We belong together.”

She takes a deep breath. “I don’t really know what to say. We hardly know each other. Okay, you may be a skilled kisser, but you are still a ginormous knob. And you’re only a skilled kisser because you’ve snogged half the school. It would probably be best if you went and found another girl.” With that, she turns on her heel and climbs up to her dormitory.

She doesn’t hear him say, “I don’t want anyone else.”

 

****

 

A few hours pass, and Lily is so tired. She is spending the evening on the floor of the bathroom, trying to lose herself in a book.

She tells herself it isn’t because of a boy in the common room, probably snogging some other girl, because she doesn’t care. It is because she is trapped in the loo. 

After escaping James, she’d run up to her room and almost considered returning to the party.

Angela, with whom she had made a pact with to never snog a Marauder (except for Remus) was being ravished by a (topless, thankfully otherwise dressed) Sirius on her four-poster bed. The scarlet velvet hangings were open for all to see. There were no privacy charms set up.

It is very difficult to read with her fingers in her ears. She blushes at the escalating moans, mortified that she’d walked in on them. As they increase in volume, she becomes more and more positive that their pact is well and truly broken.

Lily gives up on Challenges in Charming and leans back against the wall, closing her eyes. She imagines James’ lips on hers again, his tongue slowly sliding in…making beautiful moans… 

Stop. Stop. Stop. My best friend is out there, likely being penetrated by his best friend. Now is not the time to be fantasising.

Annoyed she hasn’t thought of it before, she pulls out her wand and put a sound-proofing charm on the door. She slides down the wall, cradling her head in her arms.

Oh, James. I wish you were here with me…

Some time later, she stirs groggily from her doze. She stretches out her back like a cat, cringing at her spine popping. She rubs at her neck, then picks up her wand and book. She pokes her head out the bathroom door, and tiptoes out.

Sirius and Angie are curled up, hangings of the four-poster bed wide open. Lily looks away, alarmed at her stark-naked mate in bed with her stark-naked possible new…boyfriend? Lover?

She averts her eyes, wondering where the rest of the girls had got to, and Banishes her book onto her bed. Spotting a broomstick, she surmises Black had flown up to avoid the Glisseo Charm that transfigures the stairs into a slide for invading boys.

She sneaks down the stairs and rubs her forehead. Sirius Black? Angela? She had to find out about that later.

Upon entering the deserted common room, her new anxieties about James surface. The room is still littered with empty bottles and discarded clothing, so it must be too early for the house-elves to start. Her dormitory mates are conspicuously absent.

She goes over to where she was stood with James earlier that day, noting the spilt drink dried into the carpet and the bottle cap lying on the rug. She picks it up, runs her thumb across the serrated edge, and pockets it.

Chapter Text

She wakes up, and the world is screaming.

Or maybe her head. Or maybe both.

She is ready to die. She accepts her demise.

Nausea presses down from the roof of her mouth and through her desperation she manages to wandlessly and wordlessly Summon a bowl to throw up into.

She has to assume she hasn’t made a mess, as it is too painful to open her eyes. Her stomach rolls, and she concentrates on breathing in and out, keeping still.

“Lil, are you awake?” came the tentative voice of someone from the bathroom.

Merlin’s balls, that’s the loudest noise she has heard in her life. 

Please. Make it stop

She clutches her hands around the bowl to stop them shaking. “Our Father, who art in Heaven,” she mumbles.

A glass vial is pressed to her lips. She clamps them shut, as she has no desire to drink anything again.

“Come on, small sips, it’ll help,” Jill coaxes.

She tentatively drinks, and the pain and nausea dulls. 

“I’ll put the kettle on,” Jill whispers.

Five minutes later, Lily was feeling her usual self, if a bit tired and gross, when Jill comes back in with a tea. 

“You angel.” She accepts the drink.

“All better? Do you remember anything from last night?” Jill laughs.

She casts her mind back. “Not a lot, no…” Her eyes widen. “Oh…cripes. My hen night! I’m getting married!”

“You don’t have to sound so happy about it. Come on, up you get. Shower. Or I’ll Mobilicorpus you.”

Her movements are stiff from sleeping on the sofa in a strange position. She wends her way around the empty bottles from last night towards the loo, rubbing sleep out of her eyes.

“Sweet Merlin! It’s my wedding day!” Her voice rings off the bathroom tiles. She can hear Jill’s distant laughter.

 

****

 

A not dissimilar scene occurs in Pete’s flat. It is the morning after four quarters of them had drunk their weight in alcohol.

Remus shakes James awake. “Hey, Prongs! Wake up!”

James’ yawn sounds like a howl. He soon stops, because it riles the temperamental state of his pounding headache.

“Oi. Wedding, remember? Come on.”

James clamps his mouth shut so he won’t be sick.

 

****

 

“Nobody panic, but we only have four hours!” Jill supplies. “What are you waiting for, Lily? Hurry up in there! I don’t think a Scourgify will do the trick for Angie,” she says, whilst ducking under a thrown cushion.

 

****

 

Harry picked up what he could only describe as a frilly…trimming.

It was round, white and edged in floral lace. As far as he could tell, it was for going around a little cake. 

Or it was conceivably an odd hair band, if you had an awful lot of hair.

He abandoned his inspection and put it in the discard pile.

 

****

 

Lily secures a blue forget-me-not into her hair: the finishing touch. She coughs as Angela squirts some perfume around her.

“I’m so excited for my first Muggle wedding! Of course I mean your wedding, obviously. Goes without saying! I know you’ve banned Sirius from bringing the bike, but what do you think the vicar will say about our robes?”

“Panic not, we told him I’m a fashion designer and want everyone to wear my fresh ideas.” She holds still as Jill reaches over to re-curl Lily’s eyelashes around her wand.

“You’re joking! That’s hilarious! Ooh, in that case, my Muggle backstory will be that I’m your apprentice, and bring you cups of tea.” Angela giggles, and gives her a hug. “You look gorgeous. If the mirror could speak I’m sure it’d agree. Isn’t it weird to have a silent mirror? Right. Sit tight while we fetch Remus!”

Lily, now alone, perches on the edge of the bed and claws at the quilt. 

This is it. 

The End. 

She closes her eyes and expels a slow breath.

“Lily?” There is a rap at the door. She doesn’t answer but stares unseeingly at herself in the mirror.

Panic rises. Her mind has gone blank.

“Are you all right?” Remus pokes his head around the door. “Are you nearly…” His words die. She looks at him. The trepidation is surely writ on her face. He offers her a sympathetic smile. 

Her stomach squirms. Perhaps she is still hungover. 

MarriedMarriageBabies.

“James is a lucky man,” he says softly, entering the room fully.

Lily bites her lip and fiddles with the corsage on her wrist. “I don’t know. Help, I can’t do this.”

He pulls her to her feet and grins. Somehow, she is a little warmer and weakly returns his smile. He looks her over, taking in his friend standing in a flowing gown with sleeves that end elegantly at the elbow. “You’ll do.” He winks. “Come on.”

Remus looks awkward in the dress robes James had bought. His tawny hair has grown out a little and he’s brushed it back like George from the Beatles. He tugs at his collar and seems ready to be back in his day robes.

“How’s James? Nervous?” She gulps. 

He chuckles. “Well. Put it this way. James is threatening to move to Wagga Wagga and Sirius is trying to calm him down. I think he’s annoyed we’re not taking him seriously.”

Her lips twitch down as she quashes a smile. “Really?”

He rolls his eyes and offers her a square of Honeydukes Best Chocolate. His soothing voice is doing wonders for her nerves.

There’s thumping on the door. “Lily? What’s going on? Tell us you’re ready!” 

They leave to find Jill, Angela and Claire crowding the corridor. 

“Giving the bride a bit of a pep talk?” Claire asks.

“None needed!”

“Well, if I were you, I’d Apparate to see if you can, er, assist James.” Even though she’s whispering into Remus’ ear, Lily can still hear her say, “Ensure the groom doesn’t get hold of his wand.” 

Remus snorts and leaves with a reassuring grin to Lily. Claire watches him go with a faraway expression.

The four of them wait in silence for a moment. Then they share several secret looks. 

There is yet another knock at the door, and Sirius barges in.

“Looking sexy there, Evans.” Alarmed for his health at the sight of their facial expressions, he says, “Don’t shoot the owl! James said I should assess the visual situation and comment appropriately.” Sirius holds up his hands. “Cheerio, then. See you in five. I must get back to greeting people I’ve never met, whilst preserving the Statute of Secrecy Act.” Sirius bows, winks and Disapparates with a pop.

Fuck.

A few seconds later Remus Side-Along Apparates her dad into the hallway downstairs.

Fuckity fuck.

The girls are just positioning her veil when he enters. “We’ll have to hold James up when he spots you.” He kisses her on the cheek.

“Morning Dad!”

“I wish your mum were here to see you. She would have loved a magical wedding!”

“She would,” she says with a nod, trying not to think of Mum or Tuney. Her thoughts flicker briefly to Severus. Remembering him is like picking at an old wound. 

She would never forget her mum. She refuses to cry over Tuney. She is stil trying to forget Sev.

“Come on then, love.” She links her arm in the crook of his elbow. Angela squeezes Lily’s hand, Claire beams and hands her the bouquet, and Jill gives her a quick hug. 

Oh, God.

Lily takes a deep breath, and walks purposefully downstairs and towards the chapel.

She takes several lengthy breaths to steady herself as first Angela, and then Claire and Jill precede her down the aisle. Feeling sick, she regrets not insisting on breakfast. 

She grips her dad’s arm harder and they step out together.

In the years to come, Lily would not remember the large crowd all standing for her, gasping as she steps down the aisle. She would not recall the flurry of murmurs at her entrance, the squeaky shoes of her dad’s steady pace, or Mrs. Potter dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief. She hadn’t noticed her cousin giving Alastor a wide berth, or the Confunded look in the vicar’s eye as Immobulus’ed fairies twinkle in between the ribs of the vaulted ceiling. She would only remember seeing James.

He waits for her at the altar, smiling gently. At the sight of him, all doubts dissolve, and she beams back at him as her dad hands her away.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate the union of James Charlus Potter and Lily Jean Evans.”

Odd. I never knew this day would come so fast, or that the man I love could be so perfect.

James glances at her nervously. She gives him a slight smile. He grins back, and her heart melts.

After eight years, they are finally doing what Sirius had predicted on that first night at Hogwarts. Sirius said, “You two fight like a married couple.” They’d thrown several things at him, and then James had announced he would stay a forever single professional Quidditch player. That hadn’t worked out when James understood the reality that the only girl for him lived in the same tower.

“Do you, James Charlus Potter, take Lily Jean Evans to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, as long as you both shall live?”

“I do.” His voice is reassuring, measured, and loving. She isn’t sure she’ll ever be able to let go of his hand.

“Do you, Lily Jean Evans, take James Charlus Potter to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, as long as you both shall live?” 

She glances out into the congregation.

She sees Remus’ encouraging face, Peter’s glowing one, Sirius’ laughing one, Jill’s expectant one, Claire’s bored one, curiously, and Angela’s nodding one. Mrs. Potter is sobbing into her dad’s shoulder.

Lily sees the weight of her vow. Tonight and for the rest of their lives, she wants nothing more than to live, fight, laugh, and die with him by her side. They will have decades together.

James’ hand tightens, and she looks back at him. His face is full of faith, and his mouth has a crooked smile just for her. For a long moment, she gazes at him, lost in the familiarity she finds in his eyes.

She’ll find her way if she has James to guide her; of that she is certain. There is no doubt in her mind that she belongs with him.

Her voice rings loudly in a calm strong voice, full of love and devotion: “I do.”

James takes a ring and places it onto her finger. The gold sparkles in the candlelight. Trembling, she takes the wedding band and puts it on his finger.

He strokes the back of her shaking hand with his thumb.

Love and happiness pour out of his face. She smiles back at him, taking in his details. She wants to remember him like this forever. His glasses, wire rimmed and askew, his black hair a little wild, tall and handsome in his dress robes, and his bright hazel eyes staring deeply into hers…

“Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Mr. and Mrs. James Potter!” 

They turn to face the crowd who stand up to receive them. She grins at their friends. They all look beautiful. Everything did. The vicar, her husband, her companions. This is their beginning.

“You may kiss the bride.”

He needs no further persuasion, and pulls her close to kiss her slowly and deeply. When they finally break apart, she remains in his embrace, James gently resting his forehead down on hers amidst the wolf whistles and applause.

 

****

 

After arriving by Continental Portkey in Athens, they spend the rest of the night strolling around the old part of the city.

As they wander down the narrow lane on their way back to their hotel, they receive some odd looks as James had long ago discarded his robe and shirt, and Lily her veil. She doesn’t care about the state of her dress and is giddy with delight. They keep pausing in the street to find each other’s lips or wedding ring.

Fifteen minutes later, it is time for bed. And she is yet again about to have another fit. This time in the bathroom.

She splays her hands out on the counter and leans on them. This is it. If tonight gets screwed up, for any reason, they will both remember it for the rest of their unhappy, failing marriage.

She takes a fortifying breath, sniffs her armpit, smooths down her hair and removes her pearl earrings.

Lily leaves the dress; James had said he wanted to rip it off her. She turns to leave but then stops. 

She bends to remove her white garter. James should’ve removed it at the ceremony and thrown it to some unmarried boy to symbolise her being ‘deflowered’ but—well—she is already deflowered and wants to keep it forever.

She slips it into her make-up case.

Chapter Text

Harry examined a carton that once held ten Rothmans King Size cigarettes. He shook the box to verify it was empty before putting it on the to-check-for-enchantments pile.

 

****

 

“I was going to have to eat your lunch as well as mine!” Lily rolls her eyes when Sev parts the willow branches of their hideout.

It is only their second week of the holidays. After Fourth Year exams, the end-of-term party, and the raucous train journey back to London, Lily is stifled and lonely. 

Cokeworth. 

With Petunia, Mum and Dad. 

So so boring.

Aged sixteen, Petunia is too cool to be seen dead with her, and Mum and Dad are at work. 

Sev is her angel of summer.

“Sorry.” He drops his bag on the grass, looking wretched. “I would’ve been here earlier if I could. You know how it gets.”

“Are you hurt? Is your mum okay?” She shuffles over on the picnic blanket to make room.

Sev sits. “He’s gone to the pub now. Reasonably sure he was already pissed before he went.” He wraps his arms around his knees. “I found the Bruisewort Balm I’d made at school, but she told me to bugger off. But it’s all right! I stole his cigarettes.”

Lily studies him, really studies the distress on his serious, intelligent face, and feels rotten. “Christ. It’s ten in the morning—what a lunatic! D’you want to come and live with us? I’m sure Mum and Dad won’t mind. They love hearing about magic and Hogwarts. Ooh, we could get an air mattress.” A smile is starting to flicker across his face, like kindling that is being set alight. “It’d be ace. You could visit your mum whenever. Summer would be such a laugh! And you could come home for Easter and Christmas.” She reclines on the blanket. “Cokeworth is such a dump without you. If it weren’t for Mum and Dad I’d stay at the castle too,” she declares.

“Thanks Lil,” he says, eyes warm. “Christmas at school is amazing, though. There’s about ten of us on Christmas Day, and last year we got mice of out the wizarding crackers. Dad would have a fit.” Lily snorts. “The grounds are perfect and it looks magical. Well, obviously. You know what I mean. I wish you could be there. You should lend me your camera so I can show you. You can walk round in peace with no Gryffindors—er, I mean, not you, you’ve never hexed me—”

“Yet,” says Lily with a smirk.

He stretches his legs out. “Oh? I’d like to see you try.”

She looks heavenward. “Obviously I’d show you mercy. I could never duel a mate.” She eyes his bag. “Give us a cigarette?”

He pops one in his mouth and hands another to her. She waits while he fumbles for a lighter in his bag. 

It’s weird that his hands tremble a bit when he lights her fag. Perhaps he’s hungry.

She takes a drag. “Perfect.”

She rummages in her bag. “I brought…” she mumbles, cigarette between her teeth, “…cheese and ham sandwiches, a Thermos of tea—obviously…an Amazin’ Raisin bar, a Twix, ooh and some bananas. I know it’s not much but Mum said she’d order an extra portion of fish and chips tonight, so you’d better be coming back to ours for tea.”  

“I obey your command, O Great Lily,” he says, bowing his head and raising his arms.

She giggles and lies down on the blanket. “Fag first, homework second, lunch, Muggle Studies, then fish and chips. Sound like a plan?”

“You’re a terrible Muggleborn.” He looks at her meaningfully. “It’s Thursday.”

“God!” She slaps her forehead. “Top of the Pops! How could I forget?”

“Alternative plan,” Sev says, "cigarette, Transfig essay, lunch, Lily Lessons, fish and chips, Top of the Pops. What are we Muggle-Studying today?” He relaxes on the ground.

Her eyes light up, and her fingers card through her ponytail. “Biology. Specifically: respiration, viruses, how wings are adapted for flight, and how limbs of mammals are adapted for locomotion. Don’t even think about writing about magical creatures if that one comes up. Then, if we have time, chemistry, looking at gases in the air, Boyle’s law, and preparation of crystals of sodium sulphate. I’m sure there’s an overlap with Potions in there.”

Sev always looks riveted. He is so fun to be around.

She takes his silence as assent. “If we can meet tomorrow, I’ve found an old English Language O-level paper we can go through. You have to compose a family quarrel! You’d ace it if that question comes up again.”

“Muggle examinations are bizarre. It’s hard to believe these are genuine qualifications.”

“You’ll do really well,” Lily declares. “Useful if you want to be an author, or one of those people who write the words that go in adverts.”

“I can’t see myself working in advertising, Muggle or otherwise.”

“Keep your options open. I don’t like the way things are going with this war.”

He hums noncommittally. “It’ll be interesting if wing adaptation has crossover with the Magical Creatures O.W.L. next year. And viruses sound useful if you ever want to go into medicinal potions, healing, or medicine.”

They survey the canopy of the tree in companionable silence, listening to the distant noises of buses, vans and cars that invade their haven.

“Sorry. I know you’ve had a shit day. Studying is our ticket out of here, eh?” she says softly, tapping the ash off her cigarette end.

“Can’t wait til I’m seventeen and shot of this place. I’m never coming back. I mean it.”

She leans her head on his shoulder. 

“If—well—this place is almost hell on earth,” he says. 

If it wasn’t for you, Lily hears. He sounds as though he might cry.

“I know. I wish things were different,” she says. “What do you want to do when you leave school?”

Severus blinks rapidly. He takes a long drag of his cigarette before answering. 

“I’ve no idea. If you become a Muggle vet, and you used magic to help people’s cats and dogs, do you think you’d get in trouble with the Ministry? Obviously because of the Statute you’d go to Azkaban if you tried magic on Muggles, but technically the animals wouldn’t know any better.”

“That’s a good point. I’ll ask Professor McGonagall in my careers appointment.” Try as she might, she cannot imagine Severus checking kittens for fleas. “You know, our world is so much smaller. Our options are much narrower—politics, teach, work for the government, invent something cool. You and I have got a foot in this world too, and we definitely will if we get good O-levels. You’ll think me mad—”

“Panic not, I already think you’re mad—”

“—but we should consider studying for A-levels after Seventh Year. That would really give us options. Did you know they’re letting a lot more girls into medical school nowadays?”

“I don’t see why they wouldn’t let you in. You’d make a brilliant doctor.”

“Thanks!” She beams. “The Muggle world can be very backwards. They treat women much more fairly in our world.”

“I agree.”

She sits up, stubs out her fag, and holds out her arms. “Come here, you.”

He’s a bit awkward about it, but he does hug her back. “I’m fine.”

“No you’re not. What are best friends for? Hey, I know what’ll cheer you up. Transfiguration homework.”

“This is a party and a half.” He chuckles weakly and withdraws. 

“You don’t want to piss me off because I’ve brought the supplies.”

“Good point. Mustn’t anger the girl with the flask of tea.” He digs out Intermediate Transfiguration, a quill, ink, and some parchment. “Right.” He clears his throat. “How far did we get?”

 

****

 

Five years earlier

 

“I do believe you that I’m magical, I’m just worried I won’t get invited to Hogwarts,” Lily says earnestly. “So I’ve really got to do well in the 11 Plus exams, just in case.”

Sunbeams filter through the branches as they sit cross-legged opposite each other on a bench by the canal. 

Severus wears his dad’s jumper, darned in several places and long enough to reach his knees, and a pair of very worn jeans. 

Lily’s socks are muddy, entirely due to the abandoned purple roller-skates nearby. As he didn’t own a pair, it was rude to use them.

“You have exams?” he says, aghast.

She counts on her fingers. “An essay, a maths exam, verbal reasoning, and logic puzzles.” Sitting up straighter, she adds, “If I do really well, I might get into Cokeworth High School for Girls.” She narrows her eyes. “Don’t you have exams? And why aren’t you at Peel Brow with us? Or do you go to Edenfield Primary?” 

Fascinated by this strange boy with dirty hair, she shuffles nearer.

He shakes his head. “I’ve never done an exam before. They sound horrible. Mum teaches me spelling and Latin, and she lets me read her schoolbooks and old essays so I can memorise the spells.”

“Wow!” gasps Lily. “That’s amazing—no school! You’re so lucky. Do you have homework? Can I see the books too? Hey—can you teach me all of it?”

“You’ve got a lot to catch up on,” he says, nodding importantly, “but I’ll do what I can.”

“Wow. Thanks so much. You’re a life saver.”

He blushes a little at his first compliment. 

Then, he leans forward conspiratorially. “I’ve just remembered—Mum has a Muggle-repelling charm on her trunk, so she can hide her magic things away from Dad. So, if you can see it, without suddenly realising you need a piss, then you’re definitely a witch. Muggles—that is, non-magical people—can’t see it.”

“What, really? That’s insane!” She laughs with glee. “Are you serious? When can I come around?”

Severus hesitates. “We’ve never had visitors before. Dad’s lost his job again, so we must wait until he gets another. Should probably take a couple of weeks.”

“Brilliant!”

Little did she know that in this moment a door opened and let the future in.

 

****

 

Three weeks later

 

Lily jogs up to their willow tree, pigtails swaying. “Sev! Hi! Phew. How are you?”

He beams up at her and spreads out his dad’s coat so she won’t get mud on her school pinafore.

“Fine! You?” 

“Great! I had such a splendid day at school! We had Science—learning the flowers of the Commonwealth, then P.E.,” she says, wrinkling her nose, “where we have to run around the assembly hall in our vest and pants, I hate it, then we had to sing folk songs in Music, and then we were learning about the Egyptians after lunch.”

“What’s P.E.?” he asks, taken aback.

“Physical Education. It’s as bad as it sounds. I don’t like running about in my knickers much. It’s a huge waste of time,” she explains. “Anyway, for homework, I still haven’t memorised my six times tables, and I need to collect some leaves for identification and use in Art on Thursday.”

“I can help you with the leaves, definitely,” he assures her. “Why do you go? Let’s spend all of tomorrow together.”

She sits back, astounded. “It’s a good job you’ve got me to explain how things work. If nobody is off sick at all for a whole week, we get an extra hour of playtime on Fridays. I absolutely cannot play truant. If Mum didn’t kill me, my classmates certainly would. Anyway. Enough about me. School is boring.” 

She upends her school bag, spilling out its contents. 

“Tell me more about magic. Oh and I bought you some Fruit Pastilles, Fruit Gums, and Smarties. You must tell me your favourite.” She eyes him sideways. “Although I’m your best friend, I don’t know much about you.”

“You didn’t have to buy me anything,” he says, face flushing, as he reaches over and carefully began to peel the wrapping of the Fruit Pastilles. “I like talking to you.”

“We’ll share them, then. Since we’re sharing your Latin, magic, arithmetic, my pastilles, and a secret den, I fully expect you to share in helping me find some leaves for my Art homework.”

“That sounds fair.” He nods enthusiastically. “So. I’ve started on a list of things to tell you. First of all, there’s this amazing ice cream parlour that my mum takes me to on my birthday. You won’t believe how many flavours you can choose from. On my next birthday, you can come too. She Side-Along Apparates me, so we won’t have to pay any money to get to London.”

Her eyes widen. “It’s in London? What is ‘Side-Along Apparate’?”

“Of course it’s in London, that’s where the magical shops are.” He separates the pastilles into piles according to their flavour. “She can disappear and reappear anywhere in Britain. We’ll get to do it too, when we’re adults with wands.”

Woah. Does it hurt? Is it safe?”

“You do feel very squashed, but only for a few seconds. Splinching hurts a lot, which is when you accidentally leave your body parts if your magic isn’t good enough. Don’t worry though—my mum’s a very good witch,” he says reassuringly.

Amazing. I can’t wait! When’s your birthday?”

“The 9th of January. When’s yours?”

“The 30th of January! All the best people have birthdays in January,” she says with a grin.

“Definitely,” he declares, his face lighting up.

 

****

 

Six weeks later

 

She drums her fingertips on her knees, and tries to avoid looking at the sweets and snacks she’d laid out. She spread out a blanket underneath her dad’s golfing umbrella to shield her from the rain thrumming on the leaves overhead. Their tree plops big fat drops onto the umbrella. 

She stares unseeingly at the blanket, attempting to overlook the worms and slugs that join her in the damp weather.

“Hullo! Sorry to keep you hanging,” Sev pants, “Dad got upset cos he found out Mum used a Warming Charm on the bathwater. I wasn’t sure you’d be here ‘cos it’s so wet.” His soaking hair hangs down like rat tails, and the pink tip of his nose reminds her of a kitten’s.

“What are you waiting for? Come in!” She pats the ground next to her. “Why would your mum warm the bath? Isn’t it already warm?”

Once he ducks in under the umbrella, he presses up against her in the small space. He looks harassed and drained. 

Sev looks at her uncertainly when she offers him a Fruit Pastille. “Promise not to laugh?” he asks, accepting the sweet.

“Of course I won’t laugh.”

He nods in acceptance of her vow. “We, er, don’t have money to pay for hot water.” He fidgets. “You need not feel sorry for me. I don’t care. It’s not a big deal, really,” he blurts.

“Oh. I see. What’s your dad’s job?”

“He’s got a new job in the coffin factory. I don’t know exactly what he does; he doesn’t like to talk to us. He gets the sack a lot because he’s drunk a lot of the time.” His voice quietens. “I don’t think he’s a very good dad.”

“He sounds terrible. Why won’t he let her do warming charms? That sounds like a splendid idea. Are there other spells that can bring down your bills?”

“There’s a spell that can conjure water, Aguamenti. I’ve memorised it for when I’m out of here. Magic can do anything, I’m sure she could mend my clothes if she tried. I don’t know why we have to pretend to be Muggles at home—not allowed to ask. She lets me read books though,” he says, brightening. “I’ve already learnt twenty-five curses.”

She leans up beside him and rubs both his upper arms. “Ooh you’re so chilly! Magic is just so amazing. It’s a real shame your mum can’t use the spells to help you.” She rests her head on his shoulder. “My parents don’t think Hogwarts is real.”

He crowds her like a cat seeking a basket of warm laundry and tentatively rests his head on top of hers.

“Just you wait,” he says, “our letters should be coming any day now.”

She grins. “Well? What are we waiting for?” She picks up a small branch and twirls it in her fingers, and his eyes sparkle. “Let’s review the wand movement for Wingardium Leviosa again.”

Chapter Text

Harry picked up an unidentified object, believing that it was safe to presume nothing that was once his mother’s would be cursed.

It was a solid blue lump of bristles. 

Don’t witches decorate with magic? Why did she keep it? 

It disheartened him that almost every item brought up new questions rather than answers. 

He put it in the To-Ask-Remus pile.

****

It is an uncharacteristically chilly Easter holiday. 

Although Lily was psyched that she passed her Apparition Licence Exam, James had only turned seventeen the Sunday before, so hadn’t yet gone to London for his test. Lily had Side-Along Apparated them to Berkshire, and Sirius had stayed on at school to ‘revise’ with Moony. Finally, they are now both of age and can shrink their trunks into their pockets.

As they stroll hand-in-hand down the country lane, birds tweet in trees, and she can spot sheep munching on grass in the distance.

A ruddy-faced man in a flat cap and tweed waistcoat ambles towards them, his collie fast approaching.

“Muggle,” James hisses in her ear.

The dog bounds up to them first. “Hello handsome!” She scratches the fur behind its ears.

“Young James!” He booms, waving his walking stick. 

James grins and shakes his hand with a firm grip. “Good to see you again, Mr Fullwood.”

“Quite right, quite right. Back from Harrow, I see. I hope you’ve been working hard.” He turns his beady eye to Lily. “And who is this?”

“This is my girlfriend, Lily. We’re just home for the holidays,” he says, beaming.

She shakes Mr Fullwood’s hand. “We didn’t meet at school,” she blurts. “It was a friend-of-a-friend situation. I’m a sister of his friend.”

James peers at her.

“Oh yes, quite right, quite right, very good, very good,” Mr Fullwood says. “Run along now and see your parents.”

They wave and wander up the lane. 

“You are dreadful at lying. What was that all about, anyway?” James asks.

“Girls don’t go to Harrow.”

“Really? How do you know?”

“It’s only the most famous school in Britain. I can’t believe your parents tell everyone you’re at Harrow!” She laughs incredulously. “It’s ridiculously posh, Winston Churchill went there. Do you know who that is?”

“Of course,” he says, rolling his eyes. “He was the Minister for Muggles.”

Her first impression of his home occurs as they round the corner. He had described it as a country house in the Berkshire countryside—on inspection, it is more like a mansion.

“Blimey. There are only three of you to fill this place?”

“Merlin, no!” He wraps his arm around her and pulls her in tight. “There are five of us here at the moment. Mum, Dad, Hibble our house-elf—and me, and you. Of course, Sirius has his own bedroom too, ‘cos his family are terrible.” He kisses the top of her head. “Come on, let’s get a cup of tea with Mum and Dad. Dad’ll want to show you his flying Jaguar, he loves Muggle cars. After, I’ll introduce you to the horses. Do you ride?”

 

****

 

“These are the stables,” James says, as he pushes the groaning door open. “Mum asked if we could repaint it. She’s no good at redecorating spells and doesn’t trust Hibble to do a decent job.”

“Sure, no problem,” she says. “It doesn’t smell like a stable.”

“Magic, Lil.” He winks and spells open a tub of paint.

“Of course. As mad as it sounds, sometimes I forget.” She lights the sconces, then waves her wand at the wall to clean it, before transfiguring her dress into floral dungarees.

“I can’t believe you don’t like horses,” he says, painting vertically along the back.

“They’re beasts! My uncle got killed by a rampaging escaped horse when he was on holiday in Cornwall.”

“Not all horses are like that. They may have hidden traits—and a side to them they don’t like to show. They like to appear rough, uncaring and cool, but they’re not like that on the inside.” He glances at her furtively. “You just have to train them up a bit. You know, encourage them, stick by them. A good handler can—er—help.” 

“Oh. I see. Do you know any that call for this ‘training’? Or a bit of tender loving care?”

“Yeah. I do. He’s a sweetie, can be gentle when he tries, and has a lot of love to give. It’s simple really, he just needs daily tender loving care,” he says. When he grins at her neither of them notice he’s dripping paint onto the floor .

“Daily?”

“For the rest of his life. I think having baby horses would help his attitude problem, too.”

He couldn’t possibly mean that.

Lily stops her meticulous painting and admires her handiwork. 

James puts his brush down. 

Out of the corner of her eye she can see him fiddling with something in his pocket. Then, he twists something around in his hands whilst looking at her feet.

Rooted to the spot, her blazing gaze meets his. She sees resolve in his eyes.

He takes a deep breath and says, “Lily, you’re perfect. I feel like I’ve known you my entire life. Before, I felt broken. Something was missing from my soul. I wanted to spend every hour that I could with you. I know I was a prat then, but you do bring out the best in me.”

Although she is frozen in disbelief, her expression is soft. She tries not to let much emotion show on her face. She’ll have to slap herself in the face if she ruins the moment.

He seems to take the silence, coupled with the fact that she isn’t slapping him, as a positive sign.

“These past few months have been the best in my life. I never want this to end—what we have. And I-I think you feel the same way. You’re the loveliest thing that will ever happen to me.” 

He comes closer and tucks a lock of hair behind her ear. “You’re pretty, clever, and have the heart of a lion. You don’t take shit from anyone, and you’re a brilliant witch. I’d do anything for you. So, er, there’s just one thing I need to ask, really…”

He bites his lip, picks up his brush, and paints on the wall without taking his eyes off her: 

MARRY ME?

She reads the question, eyes wide. 

The paintbrush drops to the floor with a thunk, and he gets down on one knee, presenting her with a ring.

Lily’s stunned gaze flickers back and forth between the two words. Then she beams and laughs softly.

She sees his solemn expression and asks, “Promise me you aren’t rushing into this because of the war?”

“Believe me, I have been waiting for this moment my entire life. I just didn’t know it.”

She wipes her palms on the insides of her pockets. “All right then, yes. Of course I’ll marry you, you berk!”

She kneels down, and his hands shake as he puts on a diamond ring.

“Oh James, it’s beautiful!” She hugs him tightly.

“I’ve never been so happy,” he says. “You make me so happy. It was my grandmother’s—I’m glad you like it,” he babbles, burying his face in her hair.

“Thank you. I love it. I love you more, though.”

“I love you too,” he says. “Don’t repeat what I said to the guys, I’ve got a reputation to uphold.”

“James!”

“Joking! Sorry.” He holds her tighter. “The truth is, there’s not much you could ask for that I would deny you. Anything you want—a house, daily sex, season tickets, children, anything.” As he strokes the back of her neck, he traces his nose down along hers. “Anything. If I ever behave badly and you want to lock me out the house—go ahead. I want you to be proud of me. So much.”

“Potter,” she says, “you’re talking out of your arse. I know you’ll always be good to me. I’m proud to have you by my side.” She kisses him on the cheek.

“I’m sorry I didn’t ask your dad first. Please don’t let him kill me.”

“I don’t plan on letting you die, you’re no good to me dead,” she says, looking down at his lips. “We’ll always be together.”

“Yes. We will,” he says huskily.

She kisses him again. In reply, he sighs in contentment and traces his tongue across her lips, dominating their embrace. When he guides her shoulders backwards, she melts. His arms are wrapped tightly around her and prop her off the ground so her dungarees won’t get dirty. 

She moans up into the kiss, and runs a hand through his hair, the other one sliding up under his shirt, feeling his flawless skin.

Yes, she could get used to this.

 

****

 

All is quiet in the house as Lily tiptoes out of their room. She watched James fall asleep before untangling herself from his grasp.

She winds her dressing gown around tighter and tries to remember the way to the front door in his maze of a home. 

Quietly letting herself out, she allows her vision to adjust to the black night. She regrets her lack of footwear, so she toes across the gravel driveway to reach the soft dew-dampened grass.

Accio paintbrush,” she whispers. 

She squints out into the darkness and breathes in the fresh scent of turf.

Five seconds later it whooshes towards her and almost hits her in the face. 

Perhaps in another life, she would’ve made a good Seeker.

She grips the brush and squeezes her eyes shut. Her life had changed so much in the last few hours.

Thinking of his hands on the handle hours before, she smiles as her heart grows warmer.

Chapter Text

It surprised Harry to discover a Honeydukes Best Chocolate wrapper. The logo and colours were different, but it touched him to know his parents’ Hogsmeade had that shop in their day.

What he wouldn’t give to wander through Hogsmeade right now.

 

****

 

Severus gasps as he reaches the top of the stairs.

He drags himself along the passageway, wincing with every step.

“You’ve knocked yourself about a bit again, young sire,” says a portrait of a knight with only half an arm, lying in a pool of his own blood.

Severus sharply looks around, feeling ridiculous that he hadn’t noticed he was being watched. It was little wonder he was such easy prey for Potter and his gang! 

After a ripple of pain jerks through his temples, he soon wishes he hadn’t moved his head.

All of a sudden, his vision upends, and he sways. He clutches at a surface that isn’t where he expects it to be, and his sight swims before his eyes.

One of his frantic hands settles on a wall and he splays his fingers on it, inhaling deeply in a bid not to be sick.

The knight uses his good arm to clutch onto the side of his picture frame. He looks quite alarmed, as though he isn’t used to things like this occurring on his corridor.

“Pomfrey, get here!” He clicks his fingers. “Woman, there’s a dying teenager outside your door!”

Severus groans.

“Sev?” calls a familiar voice.

Lily floats into view.

“Oh my God, what happened?”

Severus knows vaguely that someone has taken his arm and is urging him down the corridor. He grits his teeth against the pain.

Madam Pomfrey bursts through the swinging doors. 

“What’s all this? What in Merlin’s name have you done now, Mr. Snape?” She conjures a stretcher and magics him onto it. “And thank you, Miss Evans, for making sure he got here in one piece,” she adds, nodding to Lily.

“Well?” She levitates him through the doors that had open automatically for her.

Finding it much easier to talk when not burdened with walking, Severus says, “I fell.”

“You fell.”

She appraises him, taking in his blackened eye, the blood he has choked up, and the broken leg. She clucks her tongue.

He nods and squeezes his eyes shut. The haze of pain makes it hard for him to think, be humiliated, or wish Lily away.

He can’t believe his reflexes are so slow, and now Pomfrey thinks he’s been ‘rescued’ by a Gryffindor. 

“Tell me what really happened, young man,” she says. “I’m trying to help you.”

“It’s true! I fell…down some stairs. Peeves’ trick step,” he finishes lamely.

She raises an eyebrow. “I was born yesterday, and the Headmaster is a Squib.” 

She directs her questioning gaze to Lily, who won’t meet her eyes.

Lily hates lying.

“He fell. I saw him. That’s why I was bringing him to you; I didn’t want to just leave him. I’m—er—not very good at conjuring,” she says. “Yet. And I’m still learning the Mobilicorpus Charm. I’m rubbish at spells. I of course would have brought him straight here on a stretcher otherwise. I’m sorry.”

Perhaps she hates lying because she’s so crap at it?

Madam Pomfrey nods. “I see.” 

Does she? 

“Next time,” she says, turning to Lily, “don’t move him. You could make his injuries even worse. Let’s just hope there won’t be another little trip down the stairs.” She Summons a potion vial. “I shall of course be informing Professor Dumbledore yet again about these dangerous…situations. As if students don’t get into enough scrapes as it is, what with the obsession this school has with Quidditch.”

Lily frowns thoughtfully at Severus.

She wordlessly passes the potion to Snape. He recognises the painkiller and quaffs, and then she presses Bruisewort Paste around his black eye.

Episkey!” she says, flourishing her wand at his leg. Severus takes a deep, pain-free breath.

Whilst Madam Pomfrey’s back is turned, Severus allows Lily a slight smile to charm about his lips. She beams back. He bites the inside of his cheek when he feels himself blush.

He keeps his mouth shut about what really happened. 

If he ever got a letter sent to his parents, his home situation would worsen considerably. Dad would spontaneously combust at the sight of an owl bearing post, and Mum would bear the brunt.

The only light in Cokeworth was Lily in summer.

“Make sure you eat all of this.” Madam Pomfrey presses a great slab of Honeydukes chocolate into his palm. “How do you feel?”

“Fine, thank you.”

Before she leaves, she nods and says, “Miss Evans, please escort Mr. Snape back to his common room in case he is…unsteady on his feet.”

He sighs in relief when he hears the click of her departing heels. He snaps the enormous bar of chocolate in half and swings his legs off the stretcher.

“Here,” Severus says, giving Lily her half, “it’s not precisely a life debt. But I do owe you.”

She giggles, accepts the chocolate, and threads her elbow through his. “It was nothing.”

“Thanks. You know, for…covering for me. You didn’t have to,” he says, pushing through the doors of the Hospital Wing.

“No problem, silly.” He can feel the heat of her breath against his ear when she whispers, “Just don’t ask me to do it again, I’m rubbish at sort of thing!”

Warmth crawls up his toes, and he can’t blame it on the Honeydukes as he hasn’t eaten any yet.

She waves goodbye to the bleeding knight, and once he is out of earshot says, “If Potter or Black or any of his little mates are giving you stick—just let me know and I will jinx them all to Timbuktu.”

When they reach the bare, blank stretch of wall that signifies the Slytherin common room entrance, she hugs him, then kisses him on the cheek.

He remembers this for a very long time.

 

****

 

Lily strolls back to the Gryffindor common room, glad that at least someone was on her side. 

Angie and Jill had been badgering her to flirt back with James Shithead Potter. 

Only Severus was sane.

She wraps the chocolate in a handkerchief, and mutters a cleaning charm on the wrapper. Then, she folds it up neatly and puts it in her pocket to keep in her box.

Chapter Text

Distant barking, crying and booming music permeates Norris Green council estate. 

As she has yet to see the Dark Mark, she thinks the wailing is just a toddler. 

Rubbish bins overflowed, broken appliances litter front lawns, and a lonely dog howls. 

Lily is grateful for the beginning of drizzle which cools her sweat. 

Her thighs scream at her as she sprints as fast as her feet can carry her. 

Terraced houses with an air of neglect race by. She dodges a teenaged mum wheeling a pram. 

Five minutes feels like five hours. 

They pass through the odour of urine and a Chinese takeaway.

She follows the guys around another sharp bend, grateful that James is keeping pace with her. 

Useless ideas flit through her mind as quick as she can dismiss them.

Steal a car—without magic? Towards the football crowds—provoke more Muggle torture? Outrun the Anti-Apparition Jinx—are they even going in a straight line?

Wait for a bus. 

Call the police. 

Knock on a door. 

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

 

****

 

Harry stretches his sleeve down over his hand to pick up the bone. It was half the length of his index finger. Was it from a K.F.C? Or is it a potions ingredient?

Whatever it is, it’s revolting.

 

****

 

Despair creeps through Benjy’s bones.

Every day this war continues is a day he struggles to get out of bed. He is tired. He cannot sleep. The end is not in sight.

Their numbers are falling. 

Over the past decade his friends had been murdered, become killers or tortured to insanity. 

He cannot do this for another ten.

He can’t have friends: his friends are dead.

Cold determination steels through him. If he lags, he will stop, and if he stops, his sacrifices are for nothing.

Though Death Eaters outnumbers them twenty-to-one, he leads the Order onwards.

 

****

 

James runs as if Death himself is chasing them. As he dodges around corners, and sidesteps bursting bin bags, he pushes his anger to the back of his mind. 

He is furious that Lily had insisted on coming with them whilst their baby grows inside her. They are foolish to the extreme.

They are in an endless maze of houses in urban Liverpool. His mind never failed him. 

No time to make a Portkey before their magic is detected. 

He swigs from his Endurance Potion and passes it to Moony.

He can’t believe Moony has come with them. Only a few days since the full moon, and he is frankly a liability.

Not creating a Portkey in advance. Not insisting Lily stays behind. Not sending Remus home to bed. 

Angry. Stupid. Unbelievable. 

****

Fabian’s heart ached. 

He considers sacrificing himself to head off the Death Eaters. How many could he slaughter before they killed him? He can’t bring himself to care for self-preservation.

He admits that they have lost. Resistance is futile.

It was now more than a year since he and Ava had split up. 

Ten months ago, he stood shivering under an Invisibility Cloak at her and Dolohov’s arranged marriage. His beloved had looked so happy. He Disapparated before he would reveal himself and get himself executed. 

Dolohov required a Pureblood. 

For Ava, it was a question of survival and protection. Never mind that he was sixty and a brutal sadist.

Could he make Ava a widow? Revenge would be sweet. 

 

****

 

A boy pauses his jumping in a puddle. He cries in terror at the Death Eater masks. With a slash of a wand, he is silenced.

Their mission is clear: Lily belongs to the Dark Lord. Show no mercy to the others. Kill as many Aurors as possible.

His Mark hasn’t yet burned—Lily is safe, for now. 

There is no plan. He must find her first, and then what? Break his cover by giving her a Portkey to Spinner’s End? They can’t win against fifteen Death Eaters, so he’d sacrifice himself whilst she escaped.

He aims a wordless Confundus at Jugson who veers up a Muggle driveway.

“Where are you going?” Yaxley says.

“There’s no time! We must go!” 

 

****

 

Up ahead, she sees Remus stop by a manhole cover, and Benjy and Fabian help him heave it across.

“Strength Potion,” James gasps, clutching the stitch in his stomach, as he passes around a vial.

Lily faces away from the men, wand ready in her grip, chest heaving.

With each passing second, her anxiety heightens. Yet, she is ready.

Time inches along slowly, in contrast to her racing blood. 

“We’re in!” Remus says.

“Come on, Lily!”

“Don’t be gallant.” There’s no time to argue, so she leaps down the rungs before the others piles in after her.

Fabian and James are the strongest and come in last. They squeeze next to each other on one rung so they could push the manhole cover back in place. Balancing with a foot on a rung and another pressing against the wall, they haul it across. Remus and Benjy brace their ankles.

The light coming from above dims to blackness as the lid slides into place.

“Couldn’t have managed without your potion. Cheers,” pants Fabian.

Lily can hear the grin in James’ reply. “Always be prepared.” There’s a clap on someone’s shoulder and he laughs weakly. “Is everyone okay?”

Before anyone can answer, footsteps thunder towards them.

The five of them freeze, scarcely breathing, their bodies screaming at them from exertion. Clinging to the rungs, Lily squeezes her eyes shut and blocks out her racing heart.

Footsteps pound away from their hiding place into the distance.  

****

 

Fabian pulls back his sleeve to consult the glowing stars encircling the face of his watch. Thirty minutes has gone by since they had crept to the bottom of the shaft. As there isn’t room to sit down, they press up against each other.

Lily is reasonably sure she is standing on a skeleton of a small animal. She wishes James could hold her, but as it’s pitch black, she doesn’t know where he is. She is sure by his height that the small of Benjy’s back is pressing into her nose, and that the guy to her left with the strange aftershave must be Fabian. It would be rude to ask to swap places with the others.

“I hate not fighting,” Fabian whispers. “I feel so useless.”

There is a loud rumble from Benjy’s stomach. “How long do you think we should wait?”

“At least another three hours so we’ll have the cover of darkness. They might guess we’re still in the area,” James murmurs.

“It works to our advantage that the Anti-Apparition area is so large,” Remus says. “We could have taken refuge thousands of homes.”

“Yeah, I agree,” Lily whispers. “I don’t think they’ve got enough of a Muggle mindset to use roadblocks. Let’s count our lucky stars that they haven’t recruited Dementors to sniff us out. I still think we should avoid magic just to be safe. Then we can get a taxi or bus to somewhere we can Disapparate from.”

“Listen to my wife. She is brilliant.”

They all chuckle, and the relief from a narrow escape unfurls in their chests.

 

****

“This is fruitless!” Dolohov explodes a postbox and a lady across the road screams. “We will all be punished greatly. Where are the others?”

“The Mark has not been cast, nor have we been Summoned. We must confirm that the others have been similarly unsuccessful,” Malfoy says, his lip curling in distaste.

Dolohov eyes the back of the retreating woman. “Perhaps we should play with the Muggles. It may lessen our punishment.”

Severus’ stomach turns. “The Dark Lord will be even more displeased if we spend time on sporting activities as opposed to accomplishing his tasks,” Severus sneers. “They did not use magic. Perhaps they used brooms or have a nearby safehouse. Alternatively, they could be anywhere in this five-mile radius.”

“We should continue to search,” Brown says. She looks about stupidly, as if expecting Gryffindors to come parading out of one of the front doors.

“I highly doubt they are sitting in a Muggle pub,” Severus says. He contains his glare. “We must prepare ourselves for the Dark Lord’s wrath. We must go.” 

Dolohov sweeps up to him and prods his wand into Severus’ chest. “Who put you in charge?”

Severus raises an eyebrow. “I am not your enemy, Antonin,” he lies. “I am as anxious to detain them as you are—I am simply realistic about our prospects.”

“Lower your wand, we do not have time for this nonsense,” Malfoy hisses. 

He withdraws four shrunken books from beneath his robes and levitates them around. They appear to be bound in human skin, and Severus pretends this is a nightmare. It can’t be real. “Portkeys to my Manor. From there we will re-join the Dark Lord.”

Groups of five or six Death Eaters gather around each one.

“On my count, then.” Lucius removes a glove and stretches a finger towards a floating book.

“One, two, three.” 

They disappear. 

Chapter Text

Chapter Eleven: A Red Feather

 

There was nothing but the sound of rubber gloves and the clink of plates as Petunia and Lily were washing up after evening tea.

 

“I’ll get it!” called Lily, as the doorbell rang.

 

Petunia scowled. Trying to get out of finishing the dishes.

 

Lily wiped her damp hands on her apron and opened the door. Her eyes widened.

 

MUM! DAD!” she bellowed upstairs.

 

“Good evening,” he smiled kindly. “Please don’t be afraid. I wondered if I could come in and speak with you and your family.”

 

Her face transformed into a manic smile as she looked back over her shoulder at her parents who were descending the stairs.

 

“Who is it, Lily?” said her dad.

 

“This is Professor Dumbledore!” she exclaimed, closing the front door behind him.

 

Her parents stared at the oddly dressed man and exchanged looks. “Please, come in. Can I offer you a cup of tea?” asked Mrs Evans.

 

“That sounds marvellous,” he beamed.

 

“Do you take milk or sugar?”

 

“Both --- or neither. Today feels like a day for some milk and two sugars.”

 

She looked slightly flummoxed at this and went into the kitchen.

 

The rest of them settled down into the living room as Petunia sidled in, watching Professor Dumbledore relaxing into a plush armchair and pick up a nearby cross stitch magazine. His lemon-yellow suit clashed horribly with the glimpse of purple waistcoat that could be seen behind his voluminous beard. Lily sat down on the rug in front of the fireplace, watching him in awed silence.

 

Nobody said a word for several minutes until Mrs Evans returned with tea and biscuits.

 

“The refreshments and these remarkable magazines are a big perk of the job,” he twinkled at Mrs Evans, accepting the drink and a chocolate digestive. “I would acquaint myself, but perhaps your youngest would be kind enough to make the introductions.” He bit into a biscuit as his eyes sparkled out over the top of his glasses at Lily.

 

“Of course! Mum, dad, this is the best wizard in the world. Professor Dumbledore. He’s the Headmaster of Hogwarts where children go to learn magic, just as I said. Sir, this is my mum and my dad and my sister.”

 

Petunia’s face resembled a gaping fish. Mr and Mrs Evans’ eyebrows raised as they shared another look.

 

“Is this true?” asked Mr Evans.

 

“I certainly don’t claim to be the best wizard in the world,” he chuckled, “but I am the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I have come to explain about things and offer young Lily a place at school.”

 

“Is this some sort of joke?” Mrs Evans asked, tea paused halfway to her mouth.

 

He took out his wand, pointed it at the fireplace, and said, “Incendio”. He then pointed his wand at the plate of biscuits, and cast, “Accio Chocolate Digestive!” He chuckled happily as he caught another biscuit.

 

“Right. I see.” His dad was nodding very fast, perhaps a little hysterically. “And you’re saying Lily…?”

 

Dumbledore swallowed a bite of biscuit and replied, “Is a witch, yes.” He looked over at her over his half-moon glasses. “Miss Evans, how did you recognise me?”

 

“My best friend Severus Snape told me all about you. He said you had a long white beard, were extremely old, and would probably come and tell my parents about Hogwarts before giving me my letter.”

 

“Quite right,” he nodded. “Your name has been written in the Book of Admittance for at least 5 years.” He turned to her parents and sister, “Have you ever seen Lily do anything that seemed inexplicable, perhaps when stressed or upset?”

 

Mr Evans cleared his throat. “Well — I don’t mean to embarrass you, love — there was this time when her school tutor informed us that a school rival’s underwear had disappeared in a brawl during PE.”

 

Professor Dumbledore raised his eyebrows.

 

Dad! I didn’t touch Billy’s underpants. Ugh. As if I would!”

 

She turned to Professor Dumbledore hastily. “He was being nasty to my friend in PE. I didn’t mean it.” Remembering Severus didn’t know what PE was, she continued, “We, um, wear pants and vests at school when we’re running laps in the assembly hall, and his pants disappeared. I really can’t explain it. But it definitely wasn’t me. It’s impossible.”

 

Professor Dumbledore’s lips twitched down as he suppressed a laugh. He cleared his throat and pointed his wand at the biscuit remnants on his saucer. “Evanesco!” Lily gasped as the quarter biscuit disappeared into thin air.

 

He began gently, “My dear, I believe you vanished them accidentally—"

 

“She can fly, too,” added Petunia helpfully.

 

All eyes were on Petunia, then Lily.

 

“Excellent,” beamed Albus. “Now, let me find your admission letter and equipment list.”

 

He dug around in his pockets, which seemed much deeper than they could be. “Ah! Here we are. I saw this and thought of you,” he passed her a sugar quill, “Oh! My pet phoenix, Fawkes, dropped this and I didn’t want it to go to waste,” he handed her a small red feather and winked. He gave up with that pocket, and rummaged in his other suit pocket. “Ah! Here we are. Your letter,” he said, handing her a thick envelope which she greedily accepted.

 

He turned to face her parents. “If you would like to accept this school place, we must receive your letter by the 31st of July. I realise you won’t have a post owl, so allow me to give you the PO Box that the Royal Mail can redirect to us…” He recommenced his rummaging and resurfaced with a quill and parchment, and write down an address. “That should do the trick,” he muttered, and tore off the address to give to Mrs Evans.

 

“Now, if you accept the place at Hogwarts, you’ll need to get your spellbooks and robes. Allow me to give you the address of an excellent pub…” he trailed off, writing down another address. Mr and Mrs Evans exchanged an alarmed look, whilst Lily and Petunia looked at each other trying not to laugh.

 

“To buy school supplies, you’ll need to go to this address to find a pub named The Leaky Cauldron. You must hold Lily’s hand when you stand outside as only witches and wizards can see it. Go to the bar and inform the barman that you’re a new student and need helping to get to the shops. He’ll let you through. Then, walk to the bank — can’t miss it, really — and ask to change your money into galleons.

 

“The current exchange rate is two pounds to one galleon. We know you went decimal earlier this year, and haven’t got shillings anymore,” he beamed. “I do so enjoy the Daily Telegraph.” His face fell. “Terrible news about the Beatles, terrible. I’m in mourning, that’s why I’m wearing yellow today.

 

“Well I must be off. You are a very charming family. If you should choose to accept this place, I will expect great things from you, Miss Evans. You would fit in very well.”

 

He stood up, and everyone else did, too, as he went towards the front door. “Thank you very much for the refreshments.” He shook their hands, including Petunia’s. “Farewell!”

 

“G-Goodbye, Professor,” said Mrs Evans.

 

“Good day to you all.” They blinked and he was gone.

 

Lily rushed over to the bureau and retrieved pen and paper. She spoke aloud as she wrote at a feverish pace, “Dear Professor Dumbledore, … I would very much like … to come to your school for magic. … Thank you for visiting. … Please come again. … Yours sincerely, … Lily Evans.

 

“Oh mum, dad, can I go? Can I? Please?”

 

“This is all a bit of a shock, dear. I can’t believe this isn’t a dream,” Mrs Evans said, looking over at her dad who still looked somewhat dazed.

 

“We should at least go to wizarding London to have a look around. It’ll be fascinating. Can we go this weekend? Oh, my friend Severus should come! He’s a wizard too!”

 

“Well—” she looked over at her husband. “I don’t see why not, dear.”

 


 

Harry’s eyes found a letter sealed with the Hogwarts crest and he opened it excitedly.

 

He felt an echo of exhilaration that he shared this moment with his mum. At 11, they hadn’t known they were magical. This letter must represent the amazing feeling that this other world out there existed, learning about his incredible school, and he scanned the letter hungrily noting the differences.

 

He felt a bit surprised that in 20 years so many of the set books were the same, but thought that magic didn’t get updated very often. Given that Binns had been teaching for eternity, it wasn’t a surprise that A History of Magic was still there. Bathilda Bagshot must be very rich.

 

He pulled out his copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to remind himself what a puffskein was.

 


 

HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY

Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore

(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock, Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)

 

Dear Miss Evans,

We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.

 

Term begins on the 1st September. We await your owl by no later than the 31st July.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Minerva McGonagall

Deputy Headmistress

 

 

 

HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY

Uniform

First-year students will require:

  1. Three sets of plain work robes (black)
  2. One plain pointed hat (black) for day wear
  3. One pair of protective gloves (dragon hide or similar)
  4. One winter cloak (black, silver fastenings)
  5. Plain black shoes

 

Please note that all pupils’ clothes should carry name tags

 

Set Books

All students should have a copy of each of the following:

The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 1) by Miranda Goshawk

A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot

Charms of Defence and Deterrence by Catullus Spangle

A Beginner’s Guide to Transfiguration by Emeric Switch

So You Think You Know Herbology? by Ernest Gambol

Magical Drafts and Potions by Arsenius Jigger

The Essential Defence Against the Dark Arts by Arsenius Jigger

 

Other Equipment

1 wand

1 cauldron (pewter, standard size 2)

1 set glass phials

1 telescope

1 set brass scales

Parchment, quills and ink

 

Students may also bring an owl OR a cat OR a kneazle hybrid OR a toad OR a puffskein

 

PARENTS ARE REMINDED THAT FIRST-YEARS ARE NOT ALLOWED THEIR OWN BROOMSTICKS

 


Lily ran up to their willow tree and drew back the curtained branches. “Severus!” she shrieked, waving her letter. “Guess what?”

 

He waved his letter back in glee. “I knew it! I told you you were magical! Can we just pause a moment here? Repeat after me: ‘Severus you are always right, and I will forever believe you’.”

 

She threw back her head and laughed, joining him cross-legged on the soil. “Severus, you are always right, and I will forever believe you,” pushing him in the arm. They grinned at each other.

 

“Did a teacher come to your house?”

 

“You’ll never guess who came.” She laughed in glee, savouring the moment. Unable to hold it in any longer, she said conspiratorially, “Albus Dumbledore!

 

His jaw dropped and he leant closer. “I don’t believe it. The best wizard in the world, in your sitting room! Tell me everything.”

 

“Professor Dumbledore arrived just after tea. He was really very strange. He was wearing a yellow suit. He had a big white beard like you said. I told him you were my best friend and I think he seemed impressed I knew his name.” Severus puffed out his chest, and a pleased blush grew over his cheeks.

 

“To prove he was a wizard, he lit the fireplace with a spell, flew a biscuit over as if he was, I dunno, pulling it along with an invisible string, and after he’d eaten most of it, made the rest of his biscuit disappear! Then, he told my parents how to take me shopping in wizarding London. He convinced them I was a witch because of an embarrassing story my dad told him — I ban you from asking me about it — He also gave me a quill made of sugar, and a feather from a real phoenix which I’m going to keep forever.”

 

His eyes widened.

 

“Isn’t this amazing, Sev? We’re finally going to Hogwarts!” She brought the scarlet feather out her pocket and handed it to him.

 

He gazed down at it, twirling it in his fingers. “I am counting down the days. I’m certain it’s going to be the best day of my life.” He reached over to compare their letters. “My mum already has 5 of these books—”

 

“Yes, I recognise them!”

 

“—and dad’ll be glad I’m taking the scales, cauldron and telescope out the house—”

 

“It’s so great you already have most of this. I can’t wait to get a wand. Or a kneazle hybrid. What’s a kneazle hybrid?”

 

He shuffled round to face her fully. “I’ve read all about them in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. You need a license to own a kneazle because they can be aggressive. They’re basically very intelligent cats, that live a very long time. There’s a shop called Magical Menagerie in Diagon Alley, we can definitely go and look at them at least.”

 

“That would be so ace, Sev. This is all so amazing. It’s like a dream come true, a dream I didn’t even know I had until we met.”

 

He tucked the phoenix feather into her hair. Dark eyes met sparkling green for a few seconds. “Me too.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Nine: A Record Cover

Harry stared. This was bizarre!

In his hands was a photograph of four people, who looked like they were all in their young twenties, was mounted on a piece of flimsy card that was all torn at the edges.

He raised his eyebrows. The scene looked Christmassy, and that was all he could discern from it. He vaguely recognised the small party, but he just couldn’t place where.

Harry flipped it over. There was nothing written on the back.

He shrugged his shoulders, and placed it back on the bed. At least it wasn’t too disgusting this time.


Lily gazed unseeingly at the book she had propped open against the orange juice jug. She had never tried so hard to lose herself in a book, and had never failed so miserably.

The book itself was suitable for an incompetent first fear – but that wasn’t the reason why she couldn’t read it. Lily was an excellent reader, and was once of the regular visitors of the library at break, lunch, after school, and at the weekends.

The fact was that she had taken out this dull book for some light reading. At least, that was what she kept telling herself.

The book was entitled ‘Quidditch Through the Ages’. She refused to acknowledge that this book had anything to do with James, and that she had not decided to add a book on Quidditch to her selected Christmas holiday reading because of That Boy.

Even Lily was not unintelligent enough to deny that she was falling in love with the bane of her existence. Even with the admittance of her change of circumstances with James – it had nothing to do with the fact that she had borrowed a book from the extensive Hogwarts library on Quidditch, of all things.

She had always been fascinated by Quidditch, she mused, looking out the window at the swaying leaves on the rose bush. James would be horrified if she ever declared that she didn’t know even a sixteenth of the Quidditch rule book.

Everything was black and white in James’ world – you both loved Quidditch and knew every single rule, move, and chant in the book or you hated it, lived in a cave, and didn’t know any brands of any broomsticks.

This was the problem with James – it was the very reason he didn’t trust any Slytherin, good or bad. To him if you were in Slytherin, you were the Moste Supreme Eville being. This idea was so stupid, so ancient, that it was even worthy of You-Know-Who. James was easy to read – but surprisingly, she loved all that she saw. This annoying trait was what James believed in, and Lily was forever afraid that he’d never change.

Thankfully, James had got to the stage where he said he’d change his ways. This came at a very lucky time, as Lily was just about to give in and go out with him anyway. Obviously, she’d said she would have to see the proof with her own eyes before she would agree, or else this would delete the epitome of waiting until he caved.

She was just worried that this ridiculous trait of things being black and white was here to stay – perpetually. Lily didn’t know if he would ever stop hating Severus’ guts, or if Quidditch would ever stop being the sport of the Gods to him.

Lily realised that this might well be his undoing – if James carried on like this he would never learn to forgive and would make far too many enemies.

There were the regular enemies, such as anyone who practised the Dark Arts, and then there were real enemies, like Death Eaters. Then came the most preposterous type of enemy and of the largest numerically, the Slytherins.

This meant that he would not recognise his foes that were disguised, or in any other house, or indeed non-magical folk.

Oh, James. What are we going to do with you?

“Lil?”

Lily’s head snapped up. “Yeah?”

Lily’s mother smiled. “Good read there, love?” and picked up an overflowing laundry basket.

Lily plastered on a wide smile. “Oh, it’s fascinating!”

“Is it about magic?” Lily’s mother asked, tucking her fiery hair behind her ear, proudly grinning down at her daughter.

“Of course it is! There’s so much I still need to learn, Mum.”

James was fascinating. There wasn’t much more of him I need to learn - but his favourite hobby was hardly a bad place to start.

“I’ll leave you to it then,” she said, leaving the breakfast room.

Lily glanced guiltily down at the book she hadn’t got very far into.

This tedious book was all worth it. For James.

Think of James.


James strode confidently up the road of his house, in the rural area of Muggle Bristol.

He was clutching a large plastic carrier bag, and had a look of triumph upon his face.

James pushed upon his stiff, red, gate and crunched up the gravel to his maroon-coloured wooden door and let himself in.

The first thing he did when he got in was removing his boots and tugging off his red-and-gold scarf. Soon, he was upstairs, and was climbing on top of his bed, reaching for the top of his wardrobe, dragging out his unused record player.

James carefully removed the dust cover and slowly hopped off the bed and back down to the floor with it.

It couldn’t hurt to have a quick listen, could it…? He couldn’t believe he was doing this. He was so sad and pathetic! But he was just dying to get another taste of Lily’s personality.

He removed the object from his bag, and held it between his thumb and forefinger, scowling at it in disgust.

James examined the cover with disdain.

Two couples were gazing at him through a window, looking all lovey-dovey with their arms all over each other. It was snowing, and all four of them were all dressed up and looked ready to dance.

Oh yeah. That’s another thing I should do with Lily if she ever agrees to go out with me. Dance with her.

The four on the cover all looked far too cheerful. One day he and Lily would be like that, his arms wrapped lovingly around her waist, only far better looking and he would be a much happier man than any members of Abba.

James took a deep breath, deciding to take the plunge. He carefully removed the vinyl from its case, trying to keep it pristine for Lily.

He stuck his finger in the middle, and twirled the record round, watching the curve of light stay stationary.

James gently placed it on the record player, and plugged the machine into the wall.

He then dragged out some speakers from under his bed and plugged the trailing wires into the wall and into the back of the record player.

It came alive with a low hum.

He could not deny that he was excited as he pulled the metal arm to rest on the record, pressing the ‘start/stop’ button.

The turntable started to rotate.

James wrinkled his nose as the guitar came in, and that funny chiming noise started. This was definitely a woman’s song.

A lady started to sing. At first, James couldn’t really make out the words.

Walking through an empty house, tears in my eyes Here is where the story ends, this is goodbye’

Oh Merlin. Another break-up song.

James sat there, bored out of his mind, determined to hear the song all the way through.

Breaking up is never easy, I know but I have to go’

Lily would never break up with him, would she? It would be awful to marry her, and then have her leave him.

No. That would never happen. Stupid brain!

In these old familiar rooms children would play Now there's only emptiness, nothing to say’

Their children would be beautiful. Had she imagined their children? Had she even imagined getting together with him? Probably not. This made James feel even more ashamed. He was behaving like a woman, for Merlin’s sake! He should stop dreaming, and start doing something about it.

At last the stupid song drew to an end. He slipped it back into its card wallet and sat up at his desk, beginning to quill a note.

Dear Lily,

I really miss you. I know we aren’t even going out, and are hardly friends - so it’s not like I actually have the right or anything like that… I hope you don’t mind, but you were probably expecting that I couldn’t resist buying you a Christmas present,

I hope you like it, and I can’t wait to see you again in January.

Have fun with your family,

Love, James

James replaced his quill and attached the note to the vinyl’s cover. James just hoped she would like it. Her friend had said something to Padfoot about Abba and how it was her favourite Muggle band. The single had just come out, so he hoped she wouldn’t already have it.

He’d send it off later.


She hugged the record to her chest. How on Earth did James find out? Just how closely had he been watching her?

She had been planning on getting ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ with her Christmas money when James’ handsome owl arrived.

Lily had listened to the tune repeatedly for a while now, and decided to pack it away for the night.

She took the record off the turntable, and placed it in the wallet of a different Abba record.

Lily then ripped the window off of the front of the cover, and slid it under her bed for safekeeping.

One day, she would dance with James.