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Once Defied by pennyardelle

Format: Novel
Chapters: 33
Word Count: 161,202

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Romance, Young Adult
Characters: Lupin, Snape, Sirius, Lily, James, Pettigrew, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: James/Lily, Other Pairing

First Published: 06/01/2009
Last Chapter: 04/28/2010
Last Updated: 06/10/2014

banner by Alora at The Dark Arts

At the beginning of their seventh and final year at Hogwarts, Lily Evans and James Potter find themselves closer to one another than ever before. With darkness taking over the world around them, they discover that love—the mix of fluttering heartbeats, stolen glances, shared smiles, and squirming stomachs—is the most powerful magic of all.

:: 2012 Dobby Awards Winner for Best Canon ::

Chapter 5: Dark Corridors and Lit Offices

Chapter Five
Dark Corridors and Lit Offices

As September drew to a close, Lily felt the tight grip of seventh year relent slightly. She had managed to finish most of her start-of-the-year duties as Head Girl, which left her a more comfortable amount of time for homework, which in turn left her with slightly more free time. After weeks of feeling exhausted and irritable, she found herself merely tired and impatient, which was quite an improvement, in her opinion.

Despite James’ bizarre behaviour at Slughorn’s party, spending time with him was suddenly rather nice. If she just relaxed, he was easy to talk to, and he certainly made her laugh much more often than Mary or Anna did. Mary had been rather down lately, and it transpired that she had had a bit of a run-in with some of the Slytherins.

“Who was it?” Lily asked, praying that the answer would not be “Mulciber”. Luckily, Mary told them it had been some of the younger members of the gang, including Sirius’ brother.

Like Lily, Mary was Muggle-born, but where Lily had always been able to defend herself, Mary was much meeker and much more frightened of the Slytherins. Perhaps, having known Snape, Lily tended to think that all the rest were like him—naive, judgmental, cruel, but ultimately still human. Of course, the fact that Lily had never been cornered and attacked like Mary had helped her confidence level as well.

In any case, the younger Slytherins were fairly harmless without the older ones around, and they usually didn't throw anything more than insults at their victims, but Lily supposed that it brought back unhappy memories for Mary. Indeed, it seemed to have sparked a drawn-out bout of pessimism.

“It’s just like the Sorting Hat said,” Mary told them, “everything’s going to get so much worse, I can feel it.”

She reached out her hand and placed it on Mary’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Mary, I’m sure that was all for dramatic effect.”

“You can’t take anything a dusty old hat says seriously,” said Anna.

“What if it’s true, what if things are going to get worse?” Mary asked. “What if—what if I—?” Her voice broke and she looked at the ground.

Lily knew that she had been about to ask, “What if I die?”, but couldn’t bring herself to do it. She knew because she had wondered this very same question at times—when Muggle-borns were killed or went missing, or when large-scale attacks occurred. Being Muggle-born in the time of Lord Voldemort was like being a walking target, it seemed to Lily.

“Mary, nothing is going to happen to you,” Lily said, hoping she sounded reassuring.

“Hogwarts is really safe, with Dumbledore here and everything,” Anna added.

“Not with those Slytherins around,” Mary said miserably. “Every time I see Mulciber, all I can remember is him and...and I swear he would have killed me, if Peter hadn’t been there.”

“Mary, no one’s going to kill you inside Hogwarts,” Lily said, her hand still on Mary’s.

“What about after Hogwarts, Lily?” Mary asked, her voice suddenly stronger. She looked up, her eyes glittering. “What about when there’s no teachers, and no threat of expulsion?”

“There’s Azkaban, and the Dementors,” Anna said firmly. “I know it might not be that much comfort, but those Death Eaters are going to end up rotting away in a place worse than Hell.”

“If the Ministry manages to catch them!” Mary said. "It's not like they're getting any closer to it."

“Then it’s down to us, Mary,” Lily said. “We’ve got to protect ourselves and each other. I’m not going to let anything happen to either of you.”

“Me neither,” Anna said.

Mary sighed. “I wish I could say the same, but I’d be useless at protecting anyone,” she said.

“No, Mary,” Lily said forcefully, “you wouldn’t be useless. You are a Gryffindor, after all.”

Mary sighed and managed a small smile. “It was really lucky Remus was there, I suppose.”

Lily furrowed her brow as she tried to figure out why Mary had not mentioned this part of the story before.

“Remus was there?”

“Oh, yeah,” Mary said, apparently realizing that she had never mentioned this before. “Sorry, I forgot that part. It all happened after I was walking back from the library the other night. Remus had been in there too, and I guess he was walking back at the same time.”

Something about the way Mary was describing the story was not quite making sense to Lily.

“So...Remus was in the library? With you?”

“In a sense,” Mary said, her cheeks flushing pink. Anna snorted derisively.

“When did you and Remus become study buddies?” Anna asked.

“Well, when you went to Slughorn’s party, I went to the library, remember?,” Mary said, not making eye contact with either of them. “Remus was there too. We kept going to the library at the same time; it was a bit funny, actually. Anyway, after a while, we just started sitting together.”

Lily exchanged glances with Anna. This sounded suspiciously like when Mary had “coincidentally” gone down to the common room every time Sirius had been there, when she had liked him in fourth year.

“Okay, so, the real story is,” Anna said, “ that you and Remus were walking back from the library together when the mini-Mulcibers started bothering you.”

“I suppose so. Yes.”

“Why didn’t you tell us that in the first place?” Lily asked. Mary pressed her lips together for a few moments and then sighed resignedly.

“It was really embarrassing,” she said. “I was an absolute wreck, right in front of Remus. I didn’t want to admit it because I looked like such a fool.”

“And you care about what Remus Lupin thinks...why?” Anna asked.

“Well—it’s just—it would be embarrassing in front of anyone, not just him!”

“Right,” Anna said, sceptically.

“ like him, then?” Lily asked. She was not exactly thrilled at this prospect. She had never known Remus to date any girls in his six years at Hogwarts, but that was nothing in comparison to her other worries. Once upon a time, Snape had theorized that Remus was a werewolf, and that he went somewhere off the grounds to transform every full moon. Lily had not stayed friends with Snape long enough to find out whether he had been right, but if he was, and Remus was a werewolf, then Lily could imagine that he would have some issues carrying on a relationship.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Mary said, shaking her head. “He’s just such a gentleman.”

“Yeah, after all that studying you’ve done together, he’d probably slay a dragon for you, Mary,” Anna said.

“Be quiet,” Mary said. “Besides that, there’s something very mysterious about him.”

“Am I having a conversation with my friend or reading a cheap romance novel?” Anna asked. Mary seemed to have given up dissuading her and simply sighed.

“Personally, I don’t find the whole ‘mysterious’ thing very attractive,” Lily said, hoping to casually discourage Mary’s infatuation, which she felt would only end badly. Anna laughed, but Mary looked relieved that someone was taking an interest. “I mean, whatever he’s hiding could be very harmless, but what if it wasn’t? Then you’ve wasted your time on a lunatic who has a collection of mint-condition Goblin Rebel figurines that he values more than his own life. Or something like that.”

“Lily, don’t worry, we all know exactly what your type is,” Anna said. “Or who, rather.”

“Anna, if you don’t shut it, I’ll put a Silencing Charm on you,” Lily said crossly.

“I know what you mean, Lily,” Mary said, “but I can’t imagine that there would be anything weird going on with Remus.”

“Oh, of course,” Lily said, though she could not have disagreed more, “it’s just...he seems to be away from school quite often.” Now that she thought about it, Lily realized he was away from school at that very moment.

“Don’t you think it’s so sweet how he visits his mum?” Mary asked. “She’s been sick for so long, it must be heartbreaking for him.”

“Watch out, Mary, I’ve heard the ones with mother issues are the most demented of all,” Anna warned.

Silencio,” Lily said, flicking her wand at Anna, who looked supremely unconcerned.

“Well, Mary, I think Remus is a really great guy,” Lily said, “but I’m not sure he’d be the best boyfriend material.”

“We’ll see,” Mary said, her tone considerably brighter than it had been at the beginning of the conversation. Lily supposed all she could do was talk to Remus directly and suggest that he not be quite so nice to Mary.


James would have liked to have gotten more sleep, considering that he was about to have to spend an evening running around the grounds, but being at Quidditch practice took precedence. The captain of the team could hardly skip practice, after all, and it wasn't as if James wanted to miss out on it. Quidditch was one of his favourite things about being at school, and he was happy with the prospects that the upcoming season held.

He was pleased to see that, after only a few practices, the team had been working very well together. With any luck, they would win the Cup easily. The only concern James had was over Gareth, who suffered from a lack of confidence. He was having a hard time convincing Gareth that his small build, which had probably been a source of insecurity for years, was actually a major benefit when it came to playing Seeker.

“Excellent work, Gareth,” he said as they landed on the ground again. “I can’t wait for the first match; you’re going to outpace Regulus so easily the match’ll be over before he even kicks off the ground.”

“You’d better,” said Sirius, who was approaching with Peter. They had been sitting in the stands for about half of the practice, sending a lot of jeers and catcalls James’ way. “No pressure, Gareth, but I’m commentating the match, and if you don’t thump my brother, I’ll have to turn the crowd against you.”

“Ignore him,” James said to Gareth, who gave a nervous wave goodbye. “See you next Thursday. And what’s this about commentating?”

“I don’t know how he got McGonagall to agree to it,” Peter said, shaking his head.

“No kidding,” James said. “I had no idea you wanted to commentate.”

Sirius shrugged as they started walking back up to the castle. “Thought it might be interesting. You’re the one who was telling me I should be more participatory.”

“I was trying to get you to join the team, not become our number-one heckler,” James replied.

“I might throw in a few jabs at you, but I’m a loyal Gryffindor. I would never side with the Slytherins,” Sirius said. “Speaking of, old Snivelly’s been keeping to himself this year, hasn’t he?”

“He can’t risk getting some pigment by going outside before Christmas, I reckon,” James replied. He was rather glad that Snape had not been around to instigate duels, since he knew that sort of thing would upset Lily. It was such a relief to be something like friends with her, and he was trying very hard not to ruin it. At least, as far as he could help it.

“So, what time are we leaving tonight?” Sirius asked. James’ muscles cringed at the thought of another late night, but he knew it had to be done.

“We’ll have to wait until later than we did last night,” he replied. “We almost ran right into that first year in the common room. It’s better when there’s less people to sneak past.”

“Ah, come on, that’s half the fun,” Sirius said.

“Even if we get caught, no one’ll know where we’re going,” Peter added.

“That’s the spirit, Wormy,” said Sirius, clapping Peter on the back.

James smiled without really meaning it. It was true, of course, that no one would have guessed that they were heading to the Whomping Willow to join a werewolf, but that was not what bothered him. Dumbledore had told the entire school how dangerous it was to be sneaking off the grounds, and if anyone were to tell the Headmaster that James, Sirius, and Peter had been trying to do so, he would know where they were going. It had been extremely lucky that Dumbledore had never found out they were Animagi, and James did not want to take the risk. He did not think he could stand seeing Professor Dumbledore so disappointed again, especially since he had been the one to make James Head Boy. He desperately wanted to make it through their last year without the Headmaster finding out that the Head Boy was engaged in illegal activity.

Peter and Sirius were not so easily dissuaded. As soon as the sun went down, they were practically tearing the Invisibility Cloak from James’ hands, despite his protests.

“Stop it! No, I’m not kidding—you’re going to rip it! Sirius, don’t even try transforming, it’s not going to make a diff—”

“Why can’t we just go?” Sirius said, releasing the Cloak. James tried to think of an excuse. It was only eight o’clock, and there were likely a large number of people still in the common room.

“I—I have to go do something first,” he lied.

“Oh, really? What’s that?” Sirius asked.

“Head Boy stuff,” James said, trying to look apologetic as he inched toward the door. “You know, Lily’ll kill me if I don’t do it.”

“Can’t you do it later?” Peter asked.

“Couldn’t you have done it earlier?” said Sirius.

“I forgot until right now. I’ll be back in a bit.”

He slid out of the dormitory before they could make any further arguments, without any idea of where he was going to go. When he entered the common room, he saw that his assumption had been right: it was extremely crowded, and there was no way they would have been able to manoeuvre around all the people successfully. He was just out of the portrait hole and planning to meander around the castle for as long as possible when he nearly ran into Lily’s friend, Mary.

“Oh! Sorry,” she said. “I didn’t see you.”

“It’s all right,” he replied. Putting aside thoughts of Lily that predictably surfaced because of her friend’s presence, James studied Mary’s face. She often looked anxious, but tonight she was positively morose. After what Peter had told them about saving Mary from Mulciber in fifth year, James had always felt very bad for her. Attacks like that, on nice people, were exactly what made James hate the Slytherins so much.

“How are you?” he asked her, ignoring the fact that he and Mary had never had anything more than the briefest of conversations.

“Oh, fine,” she said, smiling. “Have you seen Lily?”

“I think you’re asking the wrong person,” James replied, and he was happy to see that she laughed.

“Right. I’ve just been in the library. I thought Remus might be there, but I haven’t seen him around much. Do you know—”

“He had to go home to visit his mother,” James said robotically. He knew Remus had been studying in the library with Mary quite often. “He didn’t mention it to you?”

“Oh, of course—no, he didn’t say—or maybe he did and I just...forgot,” said Mary, her cheeks turning pink. “Anyway, I’m going to go find Lily and Anna. It was nice to see you, though.”

She passed him and disappeared into Gryffindor Tower, but James stood still, trying to figure out their conversation. It was very unlike Remus to not make excuses for his absence. He was usually so thorough, especially after so many years of living as a werewolf. If there was anything Remus was not, it was sloppy. She must have just forgotten he told her, James thought, and he made his feet start moving again.

He had used to walk around Hogwarts like this all the time. This had been his rather casual way of probing the school’s secrets in order to create the Marauder’s Map. There was no methodical approach to discovering secret passageways, not unless you wanted to go over every square inch of the school, which would have taken years. Most of the secrets they had come upon, they had done so entirely by chance. James’ theory was that most of the hidden parts of Hogwarts wanted to be found, and it only took the right sort of attitude to get them to reveal themselves.

Take that hidden broom cupboard that he and his friends had found in second year: it had not been the first secret they had discovered, but it remained to this day the most puzzling. They had often gone on searches of the castle, trying to discover staircases concealed behind tapestries, or doors that inexplicably led to completely different floors. They often went on these searches at times of the day that they should not have been out of bed, for no other reason than that it made them much more thrilling. They usually evaded capture, largely because Peter had a talent for getting out of tricky situations, but other times they were caught and given detention. Either way, they spent many late nights running from Argus Filch, the school caretaker.

It was on a night like this that they had discovered the mysterious broom cupboard—a night near the beginning of their second year, and they were racing up a corridor on the seventh floor with Filch in not-so-hot pursuit.

“I thought he would have tried to stay in better shape over the summer,” Sirius had commented.

“He never gives up, though,” Remus replied. “He’ll chase us until he drops dead.”

“Should we go up to one of the towers?” James suggested, thinking that he would very much like a place to hide until Filch gave up.

“We’ve hidden there too many times; it’ll be the first place he checks,” Sirius said, and the four boys stopped running for a moment. “Pete, what do you think?”

“We could double back and lose him,” Peter said.

“There’s nowhere to hide while he goes past us!” James said. “I know he’s stupid, but he’ll notice us if we’re standing in the middle of the corridor.”

He took a few steps in the direction they had already come, listening for sounds of Filch approaching. He thought he might hear hurried footsteps. Where could they hide?

“Let’s just keep running,” Remus said, and everyone except for James started to break into a run.

“No, stop!” James yelled, walking after them. “We need to find somewhere to hide! We need a plan!”

There was a sound like rock shifting from his right. He immediately assumed it was Filch and started violently. When his panic had subsided, he saw that a door had appeared out of nowhere in the wall next to him. Sirius, Remus, and Peter had stopped in their tracks and were also staring at the door.

“Was that there before?” Remus asked.

“Definitely not,” said Peter. James strode forward and pulled open the door.

“Well, let’s not look a gift hippogriff in the mouth,” he said, and the four of them rushed through the door. The room inside was dark and very cramped.

“Remus, you’re squishing me,” Sirius complained.

“There’s something behind me, I can’t move back!”

“Well, I feel like we’re a second away from snogging!”

James heard Remus sigh in aggravation. The next moment, there was a loud clanging noise.


James took out his wand. “Lumos.”

The tiny space was filled with light. Remus was on his back with his foot stuck inside a metal pail.

“Thanks a lot, Sirius,” he said.

“Well, why didn’t you look where you were going?”

“I couldn't see where I was going, you git.”

“Why didn’t you just light your wand?”

“If you’re so clever, why didn’t you—?”

“Will you two shut up?” James interrupted. “Here, Remus. Accio pail.”

The pail rocketed off of Remus’ foot and James caught it with the skill of a habitual Quidditch player.

“How did you learn how to do Summoning Charms? We don’t do those until fourth year,” Remus said as he got up from the floor.

“Got bored one day,” James said, shrugging. “Anyway, where did this room come from?”

It appeared to be a fairly standard broom closet, but James had never seen one of those magically materialize before.

“What if it’s a trap?” said Peter. “Filch might know we’re here, he could be coming right now!”

“Calm down, Peter,” Sirius said. “He’s a Squib, remember? This room is definitely magical.”

“Then where did it come from?” James said. “We were looking for somewhere to hide, and it just...”

“Beats me, mate,” said Sirius. “This place is a complete maze.”

They had escaped back to Gryffindor Tower without running into Filch, but James had returned the next day to the corridor where they had found the broom closet. He had finished all his homework, anyway, and sitting in the common room got very boring. The door had disappeared, confirming that it had indeed appeared from nowhere the night before. They had not been imagining it.

Perhaps it would only appear in certain circumstances. He thought about getting his friends to come back to this spot with him, but none of them had really seemed that intrigued. Maybe James could recreate it himself. Where had they all been standing?

Sirius, Remus, and Peter had been standing at least ten feet up the corridor when the door had appeared. James had been right in front of it—no, he had been a few feet past it. He remembered walking after his friends right before the door had appeared. He tried walking past the spot where the door had been, but nothing happened. He tried walking the other direction, but there was still no change.

Did you have to be running away from someone to get it to appear? James thought it was unlikely that he would be able to fake a sense of urgency, if that was what was necessary. He thought very carefully about the previous night. With his eyes closed, he retraced his steps. He had walked past the invisible doorway once...and then back towards Filch...and then past it again after his friends...

He looked to see if there had been any change, but the wall was as blank as it had been when he arrived. He stared at the wall, frustrated. Why had they been able to call it into existence last night, and not today? It was not as if they had performed some sort of complex magic by accident; they had simply been looking for a place to hide.

Was that it? Did he have to ask for a place to hide before it would appear? He tried closing his eyes and thinking, I need a place to hide, but it made no difference.

James tried to think about it logically. He needed to do exactly what he had done last night, and if it did not work then, he would get his friends to come with him. He retraced his steps once again—one way, then the other, then back—all the while thinking, I need a place to hide.

He heard the shift of stone again and whirled around. There was the door!

“Yes!” he yelled, punching the air with his fist. He opened the door and there was the broom cupboard, just as it had been the night before. The pail he had Summoned off of Remus’ foot was even in the same spot he had left it.

He sprinted back to Gryffindor Tower to tell his friends.

“The...broom closet,” he panted, doubling over with a pain in his side. “It’s a...hiding spot.”

“Yeah, we’d noticed,” Sirius said, looking at James with slight bewilderment. James caught his breath and tried to explain more clearly.

“No, that’s what it’s there for,” he said. “All I had to do was think, ‘I need a hiding place’, when I was outside of it, and it just appeared.”

Their looks of confusion turned to ones of interest. Together, they went back to the seventh-floor corridor.

“Just walk back and forth past it and think that you need a place to hide,” James explained. Sirius, Remus, and Peter each did so in turn and stood in amazement as the door appeared. It seemed they had discovered another secret of the castle, this time all on their own.

“You have to be kind of stupid to find this, don't you?” Sirius asked. “I mean, if you’re walking back and forth like that, you can’t be the brightest, can you?”

“Still, it’s a good hiding spot, isn’t it?” James said. “Filch might never be able to get into it, since he’s a Squib. You probably have to be able to magic to get in.”

“It’s like the castle was helping us,” said Peter.

“You know what this means?” James asked. “There’s probably hundreds of secrets like this hidden around the castle, ones that even the teachers don’t know about.”

“You think so?” Sirius said, but the gleeful smile spreading across his face showed that he was already convinced.

“We could find out other ways of sneaking into Hogsmeade!” Peter said. “I really want to go to Honeydukes.”

“And Zonko’s,” said Sirius. “It won’t matter how much stuff Filch confiscates from us, because we’ll be able to go buy more whenever we want!”

“I wonder if there’s secret ways into to the other common rooms. We could really get the Slytherins,” James said. He realized that Remus had not spoken yet. “What d’you think, Remus?”

“Won’t it be dangerous?” he asked. “We almost got caught by Filch last night.”

“Come on, Remus,” Sirius said impatiently. “We’ve got the castle on our side!”

“It’s not on our side,” Remus said. “It can’t choose sides; it hasn’t got a brain—”

“Well, someone was on our side, when they made this broom closet,” Sirius countered. “Who knows how many other secrets they planted around the castle?”

“I—well—why do you care so much about secret passageways to Hogsmeade, anyway?” he asked, looking oddly flushed.

“Are you feeling all right, mate?” James asked. The only way someone could not be excited about Hogsmeade was if they were seriously ill.

“What do you mean?” Remus asked. “Why would you think I was sick?”

“Blimey, Remus,” Peter said. “Calm down. If you don’t want to do it—”

“I just think—we shouldn’t go poking around,” Remus said. “We might get more than we asked for.”

“Is that supposed to be a bad thing?” James had asked, and to this day, he wasn't entirely sure if they'd ever gotten the answer to that question.

James remembered that day fondly, especially with the benefit of hindsight. Of course Remus had been worried about them seeking out passages to Hogsmeade. They had never put the location of the secret broom closet on the Marauder’s Map; feeling that it was a test of a mischief maker’s calibre to leave it a secret.

Lost in reminiscences, he had not really been paying attention to where he was going. He looked around and realized he was on the second floor, in the corridor where the Head Boy and Girl’s office—his and Lily’s office, no matter what she might say—was located. In fact, he was quite sure that he could see a bar of light coming from the door, which was slightly ajar. He hoped no one was in there, especially since he could not remember whether he had locked it after he’d been in there the last time. He did not like the thought of the look on Lily’s face if he had allowed someone to break into the office that he had convinced her was so necessary, and that she had thought was so silly.

He walked over to the door, trying to hold himself with authority, which did not come naturally to him. Even after a month, he was still having difficulty being a disciplinarian. In fact, he had not even taken a single house point from anyone yet. Well, that was certainly going to change whenever he found out who was breaking into his office.

He pushed open the door and immediately felt like an idiot. Of course, he had never once considered the possibility that it might be Lily who was in there, especially because Mary had been trying to find her. She was sitting at the desk, a quill in her hand and papers and books in front of her. She tucked her hair behind her ear and looked up at him expectantly.


“Er...I didn’t think you’d be in here,” he said.

“Did you need something?” she asked.

“I...Mary was looking for you,” he answered, trying to find some excuse for bursting in on her like this.

“And she asked you to help her?”

“Not exactly.”

“Is she okay?” Lily asked.

“Yeah,” James replied, “although she seemed a bit...unhappy...she was asking about Remus.”

To his surprise, Lily sighed knowingly, put down her quill, and said, “Sit down.”

“Is everything okay?” he asked, taking a seat in one of the chairs across from her.

“I’m not sure,” said Lily. “I think Mary fancies Remus.”

“Do you?” James asked. He did not know whether this was a good or bad thing, but it certainly explained Mary’s bad mood.

“Well, I know she fancies Remus,” Lily corrected. James was not sure how to respond. It wasn’t as if he could say, Sorry, Lily, but Remus is a werewolf and it seems to have given him some intimacy issues, so Mary doesn’t stand a chance, even though it was the truth.

“Are you going to say something?” she asked.

“I’m not really sure what to say,” James said, hoping that levity would prompt a subject change. Lily fixed him with a firm stare.

“Listen, I’m not going to poke my nose into whatever personal issues Remus may or may not have,” she said. James swore silently. How did Lily seem to know every single secret he and his friends had? The next thing he knew, she’d probably be confronting him about being an Animagus. Stupid Snivellus. James made a mental note to find a really good curse to throw at him in their next duel.

“Remus doesn’t have personal issues,” James said. “Well, unless you count his mum being sick.”

Lily’s right eyebrow arched pointedly. “Right. Anyway, like I said, it’s none of my business. But Mary seems to think that he might like her back, and I need to know if it’s true. Or even possible.”

James hoped he would not insult Lily with his answer. “He’s never really mentioned anything. I know they study together, but that’s about it.”

“I thought so,” Lily said, nodding.

“Don’t tell her I told you,” James added. The last thing he wanted was to get pulled into hysterics over who fancied who.

“I won’t,” said Lily, “but you might want to warn Remus.”

“Thanks,” James said, eager to turn the conversation away from such a tricky subject. “What are you doing in here, anyway?”

“It’s a nice place to study,” Lily stated simply, picking up her quill again. James took this as a subtle way of shooing him from the room, and he stood up from his chair.

“Well, I’ve got to go,” he said, reaching for the door.

“You’re welcome to stay, if you like,” Lily said.

It was a dagger to James’ heart to look into her face, at her shining eyes and her perfect mouth that had just asked him to not go, to stay there, with her, and that was now curved into a small smile just for him, because he knew he could not stay. If only it had not been full moon, he would have stayed for hours. He was sorely tempted, and if there was anyone that he might have abandoned his friends for, it would have been her.

“I wish I could,” James said, “but I really do have to go.”

She shrugged and looked down at the papers in front of her, not nearly as disappointed as James had hoped.

“Okay, see you around,” she said.

“Yeah, see you,” James replied, stepping back out into the corridor.

He felt like banging his head against one of the stone walls as he walked back to Gryffindor Tower. If he was going to make it through this year with his sanity intact, he was going to have to stop mistaking politeness for anything more than what it was.