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Before They Fall by Jchrissy
Chapter 12 : Hogsmeade
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 21


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Amazing CI by heartfelt. @ TDA
Chapter 12 - Hogsmeade

Lily took the handle of a red porcelain teapot and filled her mug up with the steaming liquid before averting her eyes back down to the pile of forms in front of her. She absentmindedly dumped a few scoops of sugar into the tea while skimming over the next form, and then the next.

The Great Hall was peaceful; only a few dozen students were present. Probably because it was barely seven in the morning. While most people were still buried deep in their covers, she was enjoying the sight of the bewitched ceiling transforming from a soft, hazy grey to a brilliant orange. Breakfast hadn’t even started popping up when she arrived nearly half an hour ago, though the plates were now piled high and ready to nourish.

She took a sip from her cup and then set it far enough away from her papers to avoid them from getting destroyed if it happened to get knocked over. Her eyes glanced back down at the form in front of her with Denny MacNamara bolded at the top of it. She shook her head as she looked over the place where a signature from a parent or guardian was required. Instead, his own name was written in what seemed to be purposeful sloppiness. Lily was sure that he’d assumed if it looked messy and loopy, no one would give it a second glance. But, to be on the safe side, she picked her wand up from the table and cast the nonverbal spell that Professor McGonagall had taught her for this specific task. Instead of staying the same, like an authentic parent or guardian signature would, a thick red line appeared over the letters. Well, at least she double checked.

She dipped her quill in the pot and put a neat FI (Form Invalid) next to his name which was written on a separate sheet, then slipped the form behind that parchment. She went back to the pile and continued to check the signatures, pleased when she realized how quickly the chore was going. She’d be able to get it back to her professor well before afternoon, when they’d all depart to Hogsmeade.

“Morning, Lily,” Alice greeted with a yawn as she, Frank, and Belle sat down at the Gryffindor table.

“Morning. Where’s everyone else?”

“Just wait,” Frank answered, smirking into his juice. Lily started to ask him what exactly she was waiting for, but he simply shook his head and pointed toward the door.

She turned her head just in time to see the Gryffindor Quidditch team, with James in the lead, storming into the Great Hall with voices raised.

Lily couldn’t figure out what they were saying, but she could hear Margaret’s angry tone carry across the room, followed by something that sounded like agreement from the other players. James, who seemed to be oblivious to all this, shot a smile at Lily.

“What are they arg-”

“Shhh,” Belle said, holding a hand up to Lily.

“Alright,” James shouted over the voices of the players once they got to the table. “If you all could please grab a piece of toast and some fruit, then we can be our way. Morning,” James added to his already seated friends. Sirius, Remus, and Peter came from somewhere in the bunch and plopped down around the table.

“Err.. something happen?” Lily tried not to snicker as she asked, but the angry faces looked more than humorous in contrast to James’s large grin.

“I’ll tell you what happened,” Margaret growled. “This blood git-”

“Your captain, you mean?” Sirius piped up as he shoveled sausage onto his plate.

“This bloody captain git sent a Howler into our dorm! The thing just started shrieking about it being time to wake up! Captain git said practice was at nine! Then sends a bleeding Howler before it’s even seven! The sun isn’t even all the way up yet!” Margaret pointed an angry finger up toward the foggy sunrise.

“Well,” Peter reasoned, “a Howler really is the only way James could wake them up. He can’t very well walk into the girls’ dormitories now can he?”

“And remember, this is James we’re talking about.” Remus finished chewing the rest of his bite before continuing. “He could have sent loads of other things much worse than a Howler.”

“He shouldn’t have sent anything,” Mary snapped, surprising Lily. She didn't think that she'd ever actually heard sixth year girl yell at anyone. “The stupid envelope landed on my face and if I had realized what it was, I never would have opened it!”

“At least you opened yours! The one that came into the seventh year dorm just laid there on the floor without anyone noticing it! It started smoking and crackling before it even started to yell. And why aren’t you two angry? You hate being woken up, Belle!” Margaret asked, turning to the sitting girls

“At least zis was a rather entertaining way to wake up.”

“And Lily told us last night she was heading down to breakfast early.” Lily smiled at Alice’s answer. It didn’t mean anything to Margaret, who was still too angry to even realize that. But to Lily, it meant everything.

Alice and Belle, though neither of them admitted to it, were always very careful to try and limit the amount of time Lily would be alone. When she would mention anything about needing to stay up late or wake early, they were quick to make an excuse to be with her. Lily knew they still worried that if she was given too much time with her own thoughts she’d dwell on her parents. She’d gotten so much better in the last two months, but still never refused the extra company. And, if she was being perfectly honest with herself, she knew they were right. Her nightmares had lessened, but not disappeared. And because of the extra care of her friends, the piercing pain that would strike her heart had gone from a regular occurrence to an infrequent one.

Violet cleared her throat from somewhere in the back before speaking. When she did open her mouth, her tone was as snobby as ever, forcing Lily to hold back an eye-roll. “And why didn’t the boys get a Howler in their dorm?”

“Didn’t have a problem getting into the boys’ dormitories,” James answered with a shrug.

“You three think you got the rough end? I woke up to James and his mates shooting bloody fireworks off in the dorm!” Caldwell Jasper, the fifth year Keeper, said. Still, his face didn’t hold the same hints of absolute outrage as Margaret’s.

“And what about you? Did you get a Howler too?” Alexander Blackbourne questioned as he turned to Polly, who until now had merely stood aside and listened.

“Actually, I was already in the common room waiting,” she answered, a small blush creeping into her cheeks.

“If you’ve all finished your whinging, I’d like to start practice sometime before midnight. Now, as your teammates have pointed out, it’s seven. Not nine. Our first match is a week away, and after checking last night I noticed that Slytherin has taken out a five hour block for the pitch tomorrow.”

Lily knew he was probably addressing his players, but she couldn’t help joining in. “So, since Slytherin is practicing for five hours tomorrow, you’ve decided to get the team started early so Gryffindor will be able to practice for five hours before Hogsmeade?”

“Exactly!” James beamed at Lily, clearly proud that his logic made sense to someone other than him. “Now, grab some food to go and head out to the pitch. Anyone that doesn’t beat me out there will be polishing all the brooms!”

The team scurried around, reaching for handfuls of this and that, guzzled down drinks, then rushed toward the exit. James waited until the last one was out of sight before stretching out on a seat.

“Why aren’t you trying to beat them out there?” Alice asked as she jabbed a fork into her pile of eggs.

“Well, I had the teams leave their brooms with me last night so I could run a few spells on each one. Wanted to make sure the Slytherins aren’t trying to pull anything over on us. After I was finished with that I polished them all up then shrunk them to fit into my practice equipment chest. So they’d have nothing to polish.” James patted the large box beside him before picking up a few pieces of toast.

“But I better get out there anyway, don’t want any of them falling asleep on the pitch.” He eyed Lily’s teacup for a second longer. Then, with the speedy skills of a Chaser, he snaked his hand out and grabbed the cup, gulping down at least half of the liquid inside before placing it back down. Lily rolled her eyes, but the gesture wasn’t enough to prevent the laugh that followed. He was lucky that she was usually a cheery person in the morning.

He waved a hurried goodbye to the group, then grabbed his chest of polished brooms and equipment and was out the door.

“Well, I suppose I’ll head to the library to get the Arithmancy assignment finished before Hogsmeade,” Remus said with a glance towards Lily as he picked up a napkin and dabbed the crumbs from his face.

“I’ll come too,” Lily said, slipping her papers into her rucksack. “Are you all going to join us?” she asked, already fairly certain that they would. Wasting a few hours that could be spent studying during their N.E.W.T year just wasn’t a sensible option, and they all knew that.

“I really need to go back over the Defence essay in case some of the questions come back up for the test. I mean, I scored well on it, but I don’t feel like I got it all.” Alice furrowed her eyebrows as if trying to recall what she may have missed.

“Alice, you don’t get to be stressed about the test,” Frank said, grabbing her books as they stood. Lily couldn’t help but giggle at the honesty of his words. Alice really didn’t deserve to be worried the way they were. She was the one with the photographic memory. If she was nervous about this, none of them had a prayer at passing.

She watched as Alice gave Frank her best impression of an annoyed look, but considering Alice wasn’t actually annoyed, the look was just playful. Her friends both began to walk ahead, whispering teases to one another and, to Lily’s surprise, Alice leaned over and pecked her boyfriend on the cheek. Three displays of public affection in only a few months had to be a record for those two.

Without warning, Lily felt a small burn of jealousy creep up as they all moved toward the exit of the Great Hall. Not jealousy of Alice and Frank. She loved Frank of course, he’d been part of her life for over six years, but just as a friend. And she wouldn’t want Frank and Alice to be with anyone but each other. It was a different kind of jealousy. She didn’t even know if she understood it. But she did know that it made so much of her wish James was standing there beside her, teasing her… close enough that if she wanted to she could lean over and feel the scratchy stubble on his cheek with her lips…

“Lily!” She was broken from her thoughts with Belle’s voice hissing in her ear. “I ‘ave to talk to you and Alice alone.”

Lily nodded, then raised her voice loud enough for the group to hear. “I don’t think I have my Arithmancy book. I’ll just run up and grab it and meet you guys there.” She eyed Alice as she spoke, hoping her friend got the hint.

“No, I have yours from our revision in the common room last night.”

Lily noticed Belle walk up behind Alice and whisper something as well, which was immediately followed by Alice making an excuse about needing her Charms book.

“No Alice, it’s right here,” Frank said, eying her and patting one of the books in his arms.

Lily was certain that she could feel Belle’s frustration vibrating around them. She was about to say that she needed to go get a jumper when Belle started speaking.

“I zink I need to grab a tampon.”

At that moment, Lily wished more than anything that she had a camera with her. Watching the faces of their male friends twist into some sort of disgusted panic was positively brilliant.

“Erm.. yeah. See you there then!” Sirius stuttered. Without so much as another word, the four boys turned and rushed down the hall.

“Oh God, Belle,” Alice said through her snickering as the blonde began walking toward the corridor that lead past the courtyard.

“I don’t get it. I mean, zey realize it happens, don’t zey?” Belle remarked, shaking her head and continuing past the first set of windows.

“They’re still probably traumatized from our second year,” Lily began. “In first year, Madam Pomfrey met with all the girls and did the ‘talk’ about our bodies. She did the same with the boys. Which wasn’t terrible, because most of us knew it all anyway. But then, and this is where the traumatizing part starts, in second year she met with the girls and talked with us about the boys and met with the boys and talked with them about the girls.”

“I don’t think anyone looked the opposite sex in the eye for months,” Alice added.

“Well, at least it worked to get zem to leave us alone I suppose.” Belle slowed down as she spoke and leaned against the stone wall.

For the first time that morning, Lily really looked at her friend. Despite the concealer, she could make out the dark circles surrounding Belle’s eyes.

“So, what’s up?” Alice asked, leaning next to Belle.

They were far enough down the corridor filled with only classrooms that Lily thought it would be highly unlikely for anyone to walk by on a Saturday, but just to be on the safe side she pulled out her wand and whispered Muffliato. She felt a small sense of guilt at using one of the spells Severus had invented, but she ushered that feeling away and focused on Belle.

“You remember ‘ow I left dinner early last night to get ze book on fungi from ze library? And Sirius went with me?”

Both girls nodded.

“Well, we were flipping zrough a few other books and came across zis article about Mr. Potter. It talked about ‘im being ze first wizard to ever live off of Ares’s Fingers. ‘E was stuck in a desert on a mission and too injured to apparate. ‘Is wand ‘ad been snapped in ‘alf and that cactus was ze only zing ‘e could get to. ‘E ate just enough to stay alive, but not too much to let ze poison destroy ‘im. So while we were reading zis article Sirius started talking about Mr. and Mrs. Potter. ‘E wasn’t saying much, but it was ze way ‘e was talking. It was obvious ‘ow much ‘e cares about zem, and I assume it must’ve made me emotional. Because…”

“Because?” Alice prompted after Belle stayed silent.

“Because I nearly kissed ‘im,” she finally answered in an excited whisper.

“Well, why just nearly?” Lily pushed.

“I’ve already told you. I’m not ‘ere to ‘ave a relationship. And it wouldn’t be fair for ‘im to start liking me when zere are so many zings ‘e doesn’t know.”

“Well, I think you’re too late for the ‘start liking’ part,” Alice pointed out. “And besides, we don’t know everything about you, Belle. And even when you tell us, it won’t matter. We’ll still love you, and Sirius will feel the same.”

Lily wanted to continue with the topic of them not knowing, because she really did want to understand why Belle came here. But she knew they couldn't try and push Belle into telling them, it would just close her off even more.

“So which one are you worried about?” Alice asked in a gentle voice.

“What do you mean?”

“Well,” Lily started, glancing at Alice to make sure they were on the same page. “Are you scared that he’ll think differently of you after you tell him whatever it is? Or are scared that you really like him already, and he might not keep liking you? There has to be more of a reason that you stopped yourself from snogging him last night.”

Belle was silent for a few seconds, and Lily was afraid they may have pushed her too far.

“We aren’t children anymore. If I was still attending Beauxbatons and living in France, my parents would ‘ave already started selecting appropriate young men for me to wed after graduation. And what ‘appens if I would ‘ave kissed him? Zen I would start to trust ‘im.”

“And what’s so terrible about that?” Lily could see the beginning of tears swelling behind Belle’s eyes. She wanted to know what they were really talking about, because it wasn’t just Sirius. It was so much more than the idea of starting a relationship with someone who adored her, but it was that more that Lily couldn’t figure out.

“Because ‘e would learn zat I’m not just zis person. Zat I’m not always beautiful and put together. Zat sometimes I do zings, terrible zings, and I’ve made choices zat even if I could go back on, I wouldn’t.” Belle’s exterior finally began cracking as a tear slithered down her cheek, and Lily and Alice both closed their arms around her.

“Belle, it’s okay. Whatever happens, it’s okay. You’ll always have us. And you aren’t giving Sirius enough credit. He knows that there’s more to you than what you show. That’s probably why he likes you.” The unusually fragile blonde took a shaky breath, then another.

“Zank you, both of you,” she finally whispered as she brushed her fingers under her eyes to rid them of the salty drops. “And I hope zat you mean what you said about always ‘aving you two.”

“Of course we mean it,” Alice said with a gentle smile. “You’re one of our best friends.”

“And nothing will change that,” Lily added, pulling her friend back in for another tight hug.



Lily stepped from her bathroom, running her fingers through the length of her hair. She’d had to blow it dry before removing the braid, but it was worth the extra time and she was surprisingly happy with the result: not too curly but not too straight. A wavy, relaxed sort of look.

Alice and Belle were in their dorms, still changing for Hogsmeade. As much as Lily loved her friends, she was thankful for a bit of quiet. After the Belle episode that morning, they had both decided to focus on asking has what she was going to wear, how she was going to do her hair, if she was excited… acting like it was a date instead of just a group of friends going to the Village together to have a bit fun for the afternoon.

Though it would probably be fairly awkward with the inclusion of Alrek. She couldn’t even harp on James for inviting him because, well that would just be rude. Honestly though, had James even realized how transparent his false friendliness had been? She saw through his plan right away. And as creative as it was, she still wished he’d have just let her politely refuse the transfer student's offer. Maybe James had actually believed that she wouldn’t refuse? But that couldn’t be it. She was certain she’d made it clear to him that, even if she wasn’t ready to date, she still fancied him.

What made Lily even more curious was why Alrek accepted the invitation. He seemed well liked by the Ravenclaws, so why wouldn’t he want to go with his own Housemates? He had plenty of girls making advances toward him… And during the last few months when she hadn’t accepted any of his invitations to join him for a walk or to study with him in the library, she thought she’d gotten it across that she wasn’t interested.

Alrek had to have realized there was something between her and James, didn’t he? The entire school thought they were dating, and they nearly could be. Although Lily couldn’t help but remind herself that the second they did start dating, if they did, something was bound to go wrong. They’d have a terrible fight that would ruin whatever relationship they started and then the friendship they spent years trying to build, occasionally shattering, then rebuilding. But then again, didn’t she just get done telling Belle to stop being so worried that very morning? Why could she give out sensible advice, and then not listen to it?

Because, she thought as she began rifling through her wardrobe to find something to wear under her cloak, he was one of the only things that kept me from the edge for those first few weeks. So if she lost him, if they tried it and it didn’t work, what else would keep her from that rocky cliff?

But, like she told Belle earlier, she’d always have her friends. She just wasn’t ready to take that chance yet.

Lily sighed as the bottom of her wardrobe came into view, discarded clothes surrounding her. She tried to push James from her mind while she picked up what seemed to be her last option, a thick, teal jumper. But just as her fingers closed around the cotton, she noticed a thin, cream coloured cardigan. Her thoughts drifted back to the night of the party, when she’d dissolved into a puddle of tears on her bedroom floor because of that very piece of clothing. Her stomach felt like it was being filled with lead, but she forced herself to pull the item from her wardrobe.

The smell was still as strong as it would have been if her mum had just donned it. Vanilla and Birch-wood. Her fingers were trembling as she let them explore the silky memory, and she felt her heart give a large quiver when she realized that she wasn’t going to cry. It was okay. It hurt, but it wasn’t tearing her apart.

Without pausing to give herself time to rethink the idea, she stripped off her comfortable long sleeve shirt and replaced it with a tighter, blue one. Then over it she slipped on the cardigan, and let herself drown in the feeling of being surrounded by her mum.

“Lily?”

“Come in,” Lily called after Alice’s knock.

“Are you-” Alice cut herself off as she stared at Lily. “Oh… That’s the one she always used to wear to brunch on Sundays, isn’t it?” Alice asked, her own eyes swimming.

Lily’s mum had taken the girls to brunch almost every Sunday of the summer. Although Alice’s parents had never been thrilled about their daughter spending so much time with muggles, it had been easier to allow her to go than have to deal with her. So from first year on, it became a summer tradition.

“You look beautiful,” Belle added softly.

After Lily grabbed her purse, the three girls began making their way from the dorm on the second floor down to the ground floor. Hogwarts was alive with students all scurrying to finish up whatever task they were doing before it was time to begin lining up for Hogsmeade in thirty minutes.

As they stepped from the main staircase her eyes glanced over a small group of students who were already waiting. She felt the same bubble of excitement she had five years ago. Actually, she was probably even more excited now considering she’d had such a large part in making the day happen. She and James had chosen the date, organized it, gotten it approved… quite a lot, really.

They made their way past the gathering students, mostly third years terrified of missing their first excursion, and to the double doors. Lily pulled out her own copy of the list she’d given Professor McGonagall that morning and began scanning it.

“Fancy running into you three here.” Sirius’s voice was nothing but relaxed as he and Peter joined the girls.

“Belle, I went over your History of Magic essay,” Peter said, taking a step closer to the blonde. “Everything looked good, except for a part you have about Pandora. I don’t think we know for sure that she left her husband, or if she even had a husband, to pursue her dream of creating a safe and protected colony of Sirens. It’s a good explanation as to how they began leaving the warmer waters of Greece, but…” Peter stumbled a bit over his words, as if he didn’t want to correct her but didn’t want to see her marked down for it.

“Well, every’zing we know about ze Merpeople is so boring. I just zought I would spice it up a bit.”

“You can’t spice up history,” Alice said with a laugh as Frank and Remus joined the group.

“I don’t see why not. The Blacks make up loads of things to make themselves seem more interesting,” Sirius added with a crooked smile, earning a grin from the blonde witch.

“You know, maybe if you tell Professor Binns that you understand it isn’t true, but wanted to give your essay more substance, he’d let it pass?” Remus suggested, quickly catching up to the conversation. “Hey James,” he added, causing Lily to turn around to face the doors.

She watched as the Gryffindor team, with cheeks red and wind beaten, made their way through the doors and into the warmth of the Entrance Hall. The gust of wind that came alongside the players brought a sting of chill over Lily’s skin. She almost slipped the cloak that was dangling off her arm around herself, but after the last student came in and the cold disappeared, she decided against it.

“I’m going to go get changed, then I’ll be right down,” James said to no one in particular, then maneuvered quickly through the ever growing crowed.

“So, ‘ave you decided to use your own trick lipgloss on yourself, now?” Lily turned toward Belle, confused by not only her words, but the icy tone of them. The confusion vanished instantly as Lily realized who her friend was speaking to.

Violet’s hand shot up to her red and gold scarf and tugged it over a very visible love-bite.

“Mind your own business, Isabelle,” Violet snapped before trying to push between the other players on her team who were chatting with one another.

“Well, I’ve made zis my business. So, care to tell us who you’re planing on saying gave you zat disgusting zing?” Belle asked, pointing at Violet's neck.

“Why would you care? Are you worried that someone else besides you may get some attention in this school for once?”

“Not particularly. I am rather fascinating to pay attention to.”

Lily had to force back a laugh at her friend’s casual attitude. “Belle,” she began, knowing it was her responsibility to stop this.

“What I don’t want to ‘appen,” Belle said, ignoring Lily. “Is for you to go around zis school saying zat James planted zat zing on you.”

“I apologized to James for what I did. He forgave me, so I don’t see why you care.”

Oh God, Lily thought, that was a mistake. Belle had many brilliant qualities. The ability to forgive and forget was not one of them.

“When people purposefully ‘urt one of my friends I don’t consider a fake apology worthy of any sort of forgiveness.”

Lily glanced at Alice; they needed to figure something out. She didn’t think Belle would instigate a duel, but if she did, it would be with her fingernails and not her wand.

“Belle, leave her-” Alice began before Violet interrupted her.

“Look,” the girl began with an exasperated sigh. “I understand that what I did was stupid. I apologized, but you can stay mad for as long as you like.”

With that, Violet turned and walked through the throng of students and toward the staircase. Lily darted her gaze over to Belle to see if her friend was going to go after the girl, only to see a sly smile spread into the her sharp cheekbones.

“You just had to do that, didn’t you?” Alice asked, her hand on her hip, causing Belle’s smile to reach all the way into her indigo eyes.

“Just zought I would make it clear zat I still don’t trust ‘er. No ‘arm in zat,” she answered with a bounce to her voice.

“No harm at all, I’d say,” Sirius agreed, laughing. Lily looked at her group of friends, and though she knew that she really should have done more as Head Girl to stop the altercation before it started, she was glad she didn’t. Yes, Belle’s temper had been as unnecessary as her words, but it was a humbling reminder of just how great her friends were.

She checked the dainty watch on her wrist, another one of her mum’s possessions that she hadn’t been too scared to wear that day, and noticed it was five minutes until twelve.

“Eleanor, Jackson,” Lily called as the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff Prefects made their way into the group.

“Can you both get your houses lined up from third to seventh years?” she asked once they were close enough to hear. “And Eleanor, do you have a moment?”

Jackson took his cue and turned back toward his House, then began ushering them into a single file line.

“What’s up?” Eleanor asked, following Lily as she stepped a few yards away from the rest of the group.

“I’m wondering if you can tell me anything about Alrek? He’s joining us for Hogsmeade today, and I suppose I just didn’t understand why he wants to when he has plenty of friends he seems to be close with.”

Eleanor thought for a minute before leaning closer to Lily. “He is well liked in our House. Very intelligent, and a few girls seem to fancy him.”

“But?” Lily prompted.

“But…. there always seems to be something… off about him. Like he’s too comfortable with doing whatever he pleases. He’s nice enough, though. And he’s asked about you and James, the whole group actually, before. So maybe he just wants to get to know you all?” Eleanor shrugged as she and Lily said their goodbyes, then mimicked what Jackson had done and began getting the Ravenclaw students organized.

Lily gave the same set of instructions to Briscoe when she spotted him and was just getting the Gryffindors in order when James came bounding over to her.

“Afternoon, everyone!” James said, amplifying his voice with his wand. Lily took a step away to stand next to him, their backs to the door, and motioned for him to continue.

“We all know that there have been a few rule changes this year. Let’s go over those so none of you trouble makers can pretend you forgot,” he said with that casual smile of his as a few third years giggled back at him.

Lily took that as her cue to take over, and pulled a piece of paper from out of her purse, unfolding it carefully.

“As always,” she began, “we will be escorted to Hogsmeade by Professor McGonagall. While walking you need to remain in your line. After we’re in the village you’re free to do as you wish. This year as an added security measure students are not permitted to head back whenever they please. If you’d like to leave before our allotted time is over, which is at four o’clock, you need to wait until the start of the next hour. There will be a professor waiting at the entrance to Hogsmeade to escort any students back every hour, on the hour. All the shops have their own rules, so be courteous and mindful of that. As an added precaution, upon your arrival back at Hogwarts a Sneaking Scan will be performed. That scan will show if you have in your possession any of the items on the forbidden list you received with your Hogsmeade forms.”

Lily paused and glanced at James. Even with the extra height of her winter boots, she still had to tilt her head up to meet his eyes.

“Thanks, Lily. Now, I know it’s tempting to try and enter Hogsmeade if for some reason you don’t have permission, or if you’re not at least in your third year. I’m giving anyone who is trying to slip past the rules one chance to clear out. Professor McGonagall will be here shortly and she’ll weed out anyone not permitted to join us. Then when she catches you, you’ll end up scrubbing toilets by hand with Filch all day. You’ll probably even get a Howler sent to you after your mum and dad are owled and told about the incident.”

Lily’s mouth nearly dropped open when she saw a few students rustle around, then dart to the staircase and up the marble steps as fast as their legs could carry them. She was sure there had been at least five students running away! She expected one, maybe two. But five!

“Thank you for that, Mr. Potter,” Lily turned as Professor McGonagall walked up beside them, her thin lips not quite as tightly pressed as usual. “Although I’m not sure if Mr. Filch will be pleased that you’ve deprived him of the extra help.”

James and Lily greeted their Head of House and stepped aside as the Professor took over. They stood patiently against the stone wall, just the two of them now that their friends had gotten into their proper places in line.

“Hey,” James whispered, leaning his lips close enough to Lily’s ear so only she could hear. “You look beautiful.”

She felt the heat rising in her cheeks and was sure they were bright red. She glanced out from the corner of her eyes, only to see him smiling down at her. It wasn’t a new thing for James to tell her she looked lovely, or brilliant, or even beautiful. But usually he made a big show of it… when they were in the middle of class, in a crowed hall, somewhere that he’d be able to bask in the adoring looks of the others student. This time he’d said it to just her, though. So if he wasn’t saying it to make himself the center of attention…

“You may proceed to Hogsmeade!” Minerva McGonagall’s voice jolted Lily from her speculating, and she and James immediately turned to lead the group of students to the village.




“We’ll take nine butterbeers, please,” Remus said to the barmaid as James and Sirius pushed a table next to a booth and added enough chairs for the group to sit.

Lily pulled her cloak tighter around her as she waited for the warmth of the pub to seep it her chilly body. After they'd met Alrek at the entrance of the village, they'd all but ran to the Three Broomsticks to get out of the chilly October wind. She couldn't remember it being quite so cold in the fall before, and that had to mean they were in for a brutal winter.

After James and Sirius had sorted out enough seats to accommodate all nine of them, Lily squeezed into the booth. She watched as Alrek moved to slide into the booth directly across from her, and was relieved when he noticed James and instead allowed him to go first. But she realized with the order everyone was getting in at, that would leave Alrek and Peter next to one another. And poor Peter really didn't like having to try and keep a conversation going with new people. She was just about to ask him if he wanted to switch places when Remus picked up on it and offered under the pretense of wanting to give him a chance to talk with Frank about an assignment.

"Here you lot are," rang the voice of the barmaid as she slid around their drinks.

"Vell, this will be tasting enjoyable, I'm sure. Though I vouldn't have turned down something stronger." Alrek's comment earned a laugh from both James an Sirius, and Lily found herself quite pleased with how comfortable the start of the afternoon seemed to be.

Maybe she’d worried about Alrek’s presence too much. It was still a bit awkward with how frequently he directed his questions straight to her, and looked at her with such an intensity that it made her avert her gaze, but she supposed that could be because she was the one that he knew the best. Maybe she’d been slightly full of herself when she assumed he’d only agreed to come in order to get a chance to be alone with her.

He’d even offered to pay for their second round of drinks, but then James had immediately insisted on paying for the next.

Lily let the thoughts seep from her mind and focused back on the conversation spreading around her.

“Well, he does have an owl, but Acorn is more mine anyway,” Alice said with a laugh. It took Lily a moment to catch up, but then she remembered that Alrek had asked Frank if he had any other animals besides the toad he occasionally brought to class.

“And the toad isn’t even mine! The start of sixth year the critter somehow got into my robe pocket when we were taking the carriages from the train to Hogwarts. Then I could never get rid of the thing,” Frank added. The group laughed, and even though Frank acted like he didn’t care about the amphibian, everyone knew he adored the slimy thing.

“I zink if I could ‘ave any pet it would be a dog,” Belle said absentmindedly.

“I always knew you had good taste, Leclair,” Sirius remarked as he took another swig from the brown bottle.

“What about you, Lily?” Alrek asked, turning the table’s attention to her.

“Well, I really want a cat, but I can’t get one because Petunia and my mum are allergic.” Lily lifted her glass to take another drink, and she noticed the faces of her friends dropping. She was halfway through her sip when her heart realized what her mind had just said.

Her mum was allergic… three months ago when she’d still been alive. The sister she had a strained relationship with for over a year, who moved out before Lily even began sixth year, was allergic.

“I guess, well, I suppose that doesn’t matter anymore,” she said, trying to force herself to sound okay.

“You should see my owl Beowulf. The thing barely makes a sound when it sees me, then when Lily goes into the Owlery he’s hooting himself into a fit he’s so excited,” James said, rushing to distract the table as he gently squeezed Lily’s knee under the table. She forced down a few deep breath, and reached her hand down to squeeze Belle’s.

The group followed James’s lead and managed to change the conversation, and after a few more seconds Lily felt her racing heart slow back down. Her mum had been allergic. It was okay. It was normal for her to forget, even for half a second, that her parents weren’t with her anymore. The book that Professor McGonagall had discretely given to her, The Art of Moving Forward, taught her that much.

Lily struggled to get back into the conversation just as it was seemed to be changing to their coursework.

“Lily’s really the best with Potions, though," Remus was explaining as he leaned back into the booth. "And Charms. When we took our O.W.Ls, she was the only one to get through the Charms obstacle course. You didn’t have to make it through to receive an O. The Ministry sets it up so not even most full grown wizards can handle freezing all the Muggle alarms and getting the necessary objects to move at the perfect time, and that’s just the start of it, but Lily did it,” Remus said, grinning at the redhead. Even though Lily didn’t always feel comfortable in a situation where her work was being bragged about, that instance was one that she was particularly proud of.

“Came out without a scratch on her, and earned our House fifty points,” Peter added.

“That’s not entirely true, I did break three toes,” Lily reminded them.

After just under an hour in the Three Broomsticks, the group was getting ready to go pay for their last round when the sound of shouting distracted them.

Lily turned her body around in the booth to see what was going on. Alana, a seventh year Slytherin, was locked into a heated stare with Abigail. The former’s face was red and blotchy, her hands clenched into fists on the table.

“And here’s another thing,” Abigail hissed in a more controlled voice than her previous yell. “Just because you’re stupid enough to get yourself knocked up, doesn’t mean you can run to me to help your trampy arse out of this situation.” Alana’s face paled a few more degrees, but her lips remained shut tightly. “You’ve fucked up the rest of your bloody life, fine, but I’m not going to be part of your idiotic decision.” Abigail continued, venom seeping from her words.

“I don’t care what your opinion is,” Alana began in a tone that was much stronger than she looked. “I was simply trying to be a good friend and tell you before the news got around.”

“The news won’t get around, because the moment your parents find out they’ll be sure to cover up and fix your mistake so you don’t humiliate our entire family.”

“They're cousins on Alana's mum’s side,” Sirius whispered around the table.

“My parents aren’t yours, Abagail. They don’t have the same set of outdated opinions as your stuck up mum and dad.” Abigail shot up from her chair, her wand gripped tightly into her fingers.

“How dare you, you pathetic slag!”

“Abigail,” Lily said, as she pushed her way out of the booth and walked over to the girls. Her own voice wasn’t raised, but it held a certain kind of contained anger that made it all the more intimidating.

“Professor Slughorn will be waiting at the Hogsmeade entrance in,” she glanced down at her watch, “five minutes. You will head back to the castle with him as well as explain that you’ve just drawn your wand on another student. I’ll be meeting with him this evening to be sure you actually did that, and he'll decide if this kind of poor judgement warrants the removal of your Prefect badge.”

Abigail opened her mouth to say something as Lily glanced down at her watch, then cut her off. “Now you have four minutes. I suggest you hurry up, unless you’d like me to start taking points from Slytherin.”

The girl stared at Lily, her eyes smoldering with rage, before turning and stomping from the establishment.

“Thank you,” Alana said in a weak tone. “You all won’t, well, you won’t tell anyone, will you?” Her eyes glanced over the table, which had been the only one close enough to hear what the girls were arguing about.

“No, of course not," Lily assured her. "But it would be wise to see Madam Pomfrey, and you may want to talk to the Headmaster.”

Alana nodded, then slipped her purse off of the table and hurried from The Three Broomsticks.

“Wow,” Alice said with a sigh as Lily rejoined her friends. She was about to reply when she looked around and realized the blonde of the group wasn’t there.

“Where’d Belle go?” The group seemed to notice that she was missing for the first time, as well, because they all shook their heads and shrugged.

“Let’s go see if she’s waiting outside, then we can head to Zonko’s,” Peter suggested.

“I vould think that I am needing to be going. I have made plans to join a girl from Ravenclaw at a tea shop,” Alrek said, causing the boys to shoot him a sympathetic look.

“Ah, Madam Puddifoot’s, good luck with that,” Sirius snickered.

They made their way outside after dropping some coins onto the table, and Lily smiled when she noticed Belle’s waves of blonde hair, her back turned to them.

Lily and Alice waved their friends forward after agreeing to meet them in a bit, then headed towards Belle.

“What is it?” Lily asked as they closed the distance between them. Belle’s usually sparkling eyes had a dull tint to them.

“I just needed a minute to zink.”

Alice and Lily remained silent, both of them knowing there would be more.

“Ze reason I came to Hogwarts… I zink I would like to tell you about it, but not until zis evening.”

"We can always go back now, if you'd like to talk about it right away," Alice suggested, grabbing one of Belle's shaking hands and holding it tightly.

Belle seemed to contemplate it for a moment, glancing between the both friends. The uncertainty in her eyes unnerved Lily. She wasn't used to seeing anything other than confidence in the vivid blue pools of color.

"I.." Belle paused, taking a deep breath before continuing. "I zink it will be easier to talk about later."

"It wouldn't be-"

“Lily-” Peter yelled, interrupting Alice as he came running toward them. “You better come see this.”

Lily glanced at Belle, nervous about letting the subject drop. The unusually vulnerable looking blonde gave her a small nod, and was the first of the three to begin following Peter down the cobblestone road. Lily’s feet were sweating in her winter boots after they passed a few shops, and she began slowing down, thinking Peter was about to turn into Zonko’s, when he instead crossed the street and opened the door to Hogsmeade’s Critters of all Kinds Pet Shop.

“What are we doing here?” Lily asked, stumbling through the entrance. She followed Peter’s glance, surprised to see Frank, Sirius, Remus and James all standing at the service counter. They walked past the cages of all kinds of animals, magical and muggle alike, as James handed over a few Galleons and Sickles to an older woman with blue hair piled high atop her head.

She started to turn to Peter to ask why he’d rushed them over here just to see James buy his owl a few treats, when a tiny meow came from close by.

“We told him to ask you first, Lily,” Remus said, though his voice made it sound more like an apology than anything.

“Well, Remus and I told him to ask you first. To make sure you’d want to take care of him,” Frank added, shooting a glare at Sirius.

“Told him to ask me what exactly?” Lily felt herself grow more nervous; anything that Remus and Frank both tried to talk James out of, and Sirius tired to talk him into, couldn’t be good.

James stepped away from the counter before glancing sheepishly down at her. He reached into his cloak pocket, and out of it pulled a small bundle of golden fur that couldn’t have been any larger than a Remembrall.

“He was curled up in a cage in the front window, and I thought about what you said at The Three Broomsticks..” James stuttered, petting the top of the kitten’s tiny head. “There are a few other ones to chose from, but I picked this one because his fur looks like that butterscotch candy stuff that you love...” James added, just barely meeting her eyes with a hopeful smile.

“You… You got me a kitten?” Lily usually prided herself on the amount of control she had over her reactions. She could stay calm when she needed; she could be the one to make sense out of a confusing situation.. she was a very self contained person for the most part. But just then, she lost every bit of that ability and threw her arms around James, careful not to bump the kitten.

A chorus of awws immediately followed, and as she looked around she realized it wasn’t just her friends in the shop, but a handful of other students. At that moment though, she couldn’t have cared less. She didn’t mind what they thought or how many of them went back to their friends and told them about this, further enhancing the ‘Lily and James’ rumors.

“Told you,” James mumbled to his friends as Lily slowly pulled away.

“I didn’t buy him a bed or anything. I thought you’d want to choose one yourself,” he added as Lily picked up the delicate, now purring, ball of fur.

“Here,” Lily said, reaching into her purse with her free hand. “How much was he?”

“Absolutely not,” James growled. “I wanted to get him for you.”

Lily knew the sensible thing to do would to make him take the money, not that she was under any delusion that she could make James do anything, but instead she brought the small creature up to her face and cuddled him into her neck.

“Hi Butterscotch,” she whispered as her friends gathered around her. It was silly to get so excited, but she couldn't help it. 
She had her very own kitten.

AN:

Thank you, as always, to my amazing Beta, CambAngst. Who, by the way, has started writing an awesome story that centers around Draco and Astoria post war and currently has two chapters up, and I absolutely suggest checking that, as well as his other stories, out.

And now, I'd like to dedicate this chapter to a really wonderful friend I've met here on HPFF. Athene Goodstrength (Sarah), whose birthday is Sunday the 18th! I hope that all the warm fuzzy Lily and James feels in this chapter has helped to give your birthday an awesome start, Sarah! ♥

Also, thank you to Arithmancy_Wiz for helping me work out some transition issues I was having in this,

Thank you so much for reading! ♥


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