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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 27: The Last Saturday In May

Chapter Twenty-Seven
The Last Saturday In May

James did not sleep very well on the night before the Quidditch final. Lily had told him not to worry, his friends had told him not to worry, he was even telling himself not to worry, but worry he still did as he tried to fall asleep. If they lost the next day, it was his fault—he was the captain, after all. He could not be sure that he had coached the team well enough: if he had managed to get across to Ursula the importance of teamwork, or if Gareth was going to end up stumbling because of an inflated ego. Or perhaps he had been too hard on Gareth and stripped him of the level of confidence he needed to play. And now that he thought of it, he really should have spent more time than he did training Devika and Oliver on that feigning technique he had read about in The Beaters’ Bible.

Those and a thousand other concerns bothered him until he finally slipped into sleep sometime past midnight, and even then he had strange dreams concerning Quidditch—the match had been postponed until after dinner, and Madam Hooch was asking him how to make the Quaffle, Bludgers, and Snitch glow so the players could see them, and for some reason Lily was playing Seeker for Gryffindor...

He woke up abruptly and early, getting ready while Peter, Sirius, and Remus were still fast asleep. Once he was dressed, he didn’t quite know what to do with himself. It was not even eight o’clock, and no one else would be awake at this hour on a Saturday. He decided that this was probably a good thing, though, because it meant that he could go have breakfast in relative peace.

The time between eating in the Great Hall and arriving at the Quidditch pitch was a blur. A few things stood out, like sitting with his friends at breakfast, Lily wishing him good luck, and walking into the change rooms, but the rest was fuzzy and seemed to have gone by impossibly fast. Before he knew it, the sounds of the crowd were ringing around the walls of the team room, which meant that there was little time left before the start of the match.

“Everyone ready?” he asked his team mates, who looked back at him with mingled expressions of nervousness and resignation. Gareth actually looked a little white-faced—his confidence seemed to have plummeted in the face of his first final.

Everyone picked up their brooms rather nervously, but no one made any hurried moves to head outside.

“All right, everyone just take a minute to calm down,” he said, trying to smile confidently. “You’ve all played Quidditch before, and the worst that happens is we lose. Right?”

No one looked very comforted.

“Hey,” James said, a little indignantly, “you’re not giving yourselves enough credit. Every person on this team is brilliant at what they do, and we can win this.”

He received a few rather nervous nods in response, but there wasn’t time for any further motivation—from the sound of the crowd’s chants, it was time to head out to the pitch.

James shouldered his Nimbus and walked out behind the rest of the team, feeling a strange buzzing sensation of nervous energy running through his limbs. He tried to stretch out his right hand a few times, but it still felt rubbery and uncoordinated.

He squinted under the bright sunlight, feeling very small in comparison to the towering stands. Waiting on the ground to take off was always his least favourite part of the match—once in the air and at the same level as the crowds, the feeling of insignificance lessened considerably. Before that, he felt like an insect under a magnifying glass.

While the rest of the team got into position, James went straight to the center of the pitch and shook hands with Germaine, the Ravenclaw captain, whose jaw was set like cement. He seemed to be trying to give James the ugliest look he could muster, and James was seized by an unexpected urge to laugh. Madam Hooch stood between them, ready with her whistle.

“Mount your brooms!”

James did so, resolving to release every bit of his energy into the kickoff. He waited with every muscle tensed until the whistle shrieked and the Quaffle flew up into the air in a flash of red. James flew straight for it, drawing it into his grasp and narrowly evading collision with one of the Ravenclaw Chasers.

He did not manage to keep possession of the Quaffle for long, however, as he was quickly double-teamed by two of the blue-clad Chasers, and he lobbed the ball as hard as he could towards Alison. He did not get to see whether she caught it, because he had to duck a Bludger that had been aimed at his head.

Just as he had expected, Ravenclaw was putting up an excellent fight. Every play was intense and furious, and James had never seen his team play so skilfully before. They were all on form, and could have easily won if the Ravenclaws had not also been so good.

After a few minutes of racing around the pitch, James was passed the Quaffle at midfield, and he swept off for the goalposts. He felt, rather than saw, one of the Ravenclaws draw up beside him and start driving him first sideways and then down. He knew he was going to crash into the ground in a matter of seconds, an assumption reinforced by the gasps of the crowd. He was not going to be able to pull up, and swerving sideways would only take him closer to the hard soil below—he was prepared for a very ugly end to the play.

There was a thud and strangled noise from behind him, and his pursuer fell away. James gained altitude without hesitation, not looking back for a moment to see what had happened, finally throwing the Quaffle as hard as he could at the left goalpost.

The Keeper lunged and missed by a foot, causing cheers to explode around him. He looped around enthusiastically, already waiting to dive into the next play.

Gryffindor managed to keep a lead of about thirty points as the score ratcheted up, goal by goal. The game felt even, and though James knew his team was good, it seemed the outcome could go either way. Gryffindor would score, and minutes later Ravenclaw would—then they might score again, and Gryffindor would take the next one.

It was frustrating. At least they were winning, but if Leona Ackerley, the Ravenclaw Seeker, were to catch the Snitch, Gryffindor would lose by at least a hundred points. Ideally, James wanted to get ahead by as much as they could.

He dove underneath an oncoming Bludger, keeping level with Ursula, who was driving toward the goalposts with the Quaffle, and Alison, who was on her other side. James could see Quentin Quirke, one of the Ravenclaw Chasers, slowly gaining on Ursula, and so he called out for her to pass.

There was something going on with the Seekers—James could tell from the cheers and the few words of commentary that reached him that a catch of the Snitch might be looming, and he felt a stab of panic. He called out again.

Quirke took advantage of the rest of the stadium’s distraction to grab the back of Ursula’s broom, slowing her down and pulling himself forward. James swore, frustrated that Ursula was obviously back to ignoring her team mates—but it seemed he had spoken to soon, for a second later, Ursula took one look backwards and threw the Quaffle to him, before kicking Quirke rather swiftly in the chest and causing him to fly backwards.

Everyone seemed to realize that Gryffindor was about to score—for the Ravenclaw Keeper, it was a split-second too late. The Quaffle ricocheted off the inner edge of the hoop and fell straight through it. James turned around to find out what had happened with the Snitch, and was relieved to see that it had not yet been caught—although apparently Gareth and Leona had both gone flying into the stands in their attempt to do so.

It was now one hundred and ten for Gryffindor and seventy for Ravenclaw, and suddenly the other team started to play almost exclusively on the offensive. Their attempts to block the Gryffindors from scoring were pitiful in comparison to the effort they were putting into scoring their own goals. Contrary to those efforts, though, they now started trailing further and further behind the Gryffindors.

The cheering from the Ravenclaw side became slightly discouraged, and James could tell that their team was getting flustered and disorganized. It was not long before Gryffindor was, as James had hoped, close to gaining the hundred-and-sixty point lead that would secure them the win.

Ravenclaw called a time-out on the next play, and James descended to the side of the pitch with his six red-and-gold clad team mates. He noticed that Gareth was walking bow-legged and seemed to be in some sort of pain.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I think something’s wrong with my broom,” Gareth replied. “It’s killing me to sit on it.”

A few of the girls on the team giggled surreptitiously. James couldn't say that he found the predicament very funny, if he imagined himself in the situation.

“The Cushioning Charm must have broken,” he said, “maybe when you crashed into the stands. It happens more often as the broom gets older.”

James wondered as he re-cast the charm how long they had been playing—it had been such an adrenaline-filled match so far that it might have been twenty minutes or two hours. He never wore a watch to matches, but thought that by where the sun was in the sky that it might be about...well, actually, he had no idea. He only cared because he knew Lily was going to be leaving at around four, and he really did want to see her after the match. He supposed he could have just looked up at the stands to see if she was there, but somehow the thought of it made him feel foolish—like a child waving to his parents in the crowd.

He handed Gareth’s broom back to him and had a short consultation with the team about how to get just a few more goals ahead. Madam Hooch’s whistle sounded, and they all returned to the air.

It quickly became clear that Ravenclaw had strategized and regrouped in a major way during their time-out. Scoring on them had become virtually impossible, but it seemed like they hardly cared about increasing their own score. James knew that they were trying to keep Gryffindor from getting any further ahead, biding their time until their Seeker would hopefully catch the Snitch...

There were no Snitch sightings for a good length of time, and no goals, for that matter. Ravenclaw was holding them at a lead of one-hundred-and-fifty points, and now James saw his own team members making desperate plays that ended in them fumbling the Quaffle or missing the goal posts by a mile. It was only due to Seraphina’s capable goal-tending that Ravenclaw did not gain on them, and the match turned into a frustrated stalemate.

James realized now more than ever before how badly he wanted to win. This was his last year, his last chance to win the cup, and he did not want to end his Quidditch career at Hogwarts on a disappointing note. But at the same time, he did not know what to do, and that was in itself frustrating—he should know what to do, and he could see occasional looks of confusion and helplessness sent in his direction.

After a couple more thwarted scoring attempts, he called a time-out. He did not have a plan, but he knew that they needed a break. Everyone’s faces were winded and discouraged.

“What do we do?” Alison asked, her face red from exertion.

James could not immediately think of anything to say but, “We have to get another goal.” It was stating the obvious, and he could tell that everyone felt that way. “As long as we get ten more points and don’t let them score—”

“Oh, that’ll be easy,” Seraphina muttered.

“We can do it,” James continued, “and then it won’t matter if Ackerley gets the Snitch; we’ll still win.”

“So, how do we do that?” Ursula asked.

James could see the Ravenclaw team back on the pitch, and knew he had to speak quickly.

“What time is it?” he asked.

“Time to make a plan,” Alison said pointedly. James shook his head to clear his thoughts.

“All right—Devika and Oliver, keep the Ravenclaws from getting near our end, if you can,” he said. “Alison, Ursula, and I will handle ourselves.”

The whistle sounded and they returned with a better sense of direction than before, or at least it seemed so from the way they were playing. James felt like they were much closer to scoring than before, but the Ravenclaw defence was still putting up a very good fight.

About ten minutes later, that all changed.

Quirke dropped the Quaffle a little past midfield and Alison swept it out from underneath him. James started flying up the field, and Alison passed it to him just before she was obstructed by the two other Chasers.

James felt a strange sense of déjà vu, because once again, he was streaking towards the goalposts when the crowds erupted, watching the Seekers go after the Snitch. Gareth and Leona were just a little ahead of him, and James felt a jolt in his stomach—the Snitch was fluttering in the air metres from them, and Leona was going to get to it first.

He knew if he could score first, Gryffindor would win. It was the only thought that filled his mind. Time seemed to have slowed down; he was noticing everything even though it was happening in a matter of seconds. He was almost there, nothing was in his way...

But he could see one of the Ravenclaw Beaters looping around, perhaps waiting to aim a Bludger at him, or to simply get in his way. He had only started thinking of how to get around him when he saw Gareth hesitating—instead of chasing full-tilt after the Snitch, he was looking at the Beater anxiously, and then back at James.

James was about to yell at him to keep going, but it was too late. Gareth veered off-course and the Beater had to dart upwards to avoid a collision; now James’ way was completely clear, and he raised the Quaffle, knowing that Leona was mere seconds away from catching the Snitch.

He realized too late that he had acted rashly. He should have flown just a few more feet, because the red ball was losing altitude, and was not going to make it into the hoop. The sounds of the Gryffindors’ cheers were already fading, and the Ravenclaw Keeper was barely even bothering to go after the Quaffle, so clear was it that he was not going to make the goal.

And then suddenly, what looked like a red-and-gold streak shot up from below—Ursula, who caught the Quaffle mid-descent and whipped it into the hoop. Less than a second later, Leona caught the Snitch.

James let out a yell of triumph so loud that it pained his throat, but it was completely drowned out by the celebrations around him. It was complete confusion all around—the Ravenclaws seemed to think that Leona had caught the Snitch first, and it took a moment or two for them to comprehend what had happened—Gryffindor had won, by only ten points.

He flew to the ground, which was already being flooded with celebrating Gryffindors. James was given the cup by Professor McGonagall, who looked like she was fighting back the urge to embrace him in congratulations. Everyone was hugging and laughing and jumping up and down, and James shoved Gareth good-naturedly.

“What were you doing, flying away from the Snitch?” he called over the noise. Gareth grinned sheepishly. “Now I’m going to have to tell everyone that you’re the reason we won!”

Sirius, Peter, and Remus appeared at his side moments later, clapping him on the back and cheering louder than anyone else. Remus looked on the verge of being sick, as tonight was the full moon, but he had insisted on coming to see the match nonetheless. Sirius was already yelling to everyone about a party in the common room, which was eliciting loud whoops.

Lily was there behind them, and the sight of her smiling face was the only thing that could have made James happier than he already was. He hugged her enthusiastically, lifting her feet off the ground a few inches.

“You won!” she said gleefully. James smiled and kissed her.

“You two are sickening,” Sirius’ voice said, and James broke away from Lily, who was smiling with rather flushed cheeks. “Wait until you’re alone!”

No jibe from Sirius, or anyone else, for that matter, could bother James at that moment. His team had just won the Cup, which meant that he would always be able to look back on his Quidditch career at Hogwarts with fondness and pride. And then there was Lily. For the most part, he had ceased to be in complete shock that she was his girlfriend, but it still jumped up on him from time to time—this happened to be one of those moments.

“How much time before you have to leave?” James asked her. She dug around in her pocket and pulled out his watch, which he had let her borrow before the match.

“Not long,” she said regretfully. “Probably enough time to go back up to the dormitory and change, but that’s all.”

James nodded, an amusing idea forming in his mind. “Want a ride up there?”

“We can just walk,” she said, looking a little uncertain.

“Are you scared of flying?”

Lily rolled her eyes. “No. I just don’t want to be part of you showing off for everyone.”

“What a good excuse,” James said, grinning.

She laughed. “Fine. Just to prove to you I’m not scared, though.”

Despite what she said, she did not exactly seem confident as she got on the broom behind him—she was certainly holding on to his waist rather painfully.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Sirius said.

“I’ll see you up at the castle,” James said.

“Oh, sure, just abandon us!”

“What, do you want to hang off the tail, or something?” James asked, laughing. “I could probably drag you along the ground.”

As he flew up to the castle, Lily kept completely quiet, apparently unwilling to let him show that she was the least bit afraid. It was only when he started gaining altitude that she said anything.

“What are you doing?” she said, her voice very high.

“Taking you up to Gryffindor Tower,” James replied.

“I thought you were going to drop me off at the front doors!” The higher they got, the more anxious she became. “James—oh no—oh bloody bugger—”

James laughed in shock; he had never heard Lily swear before.

“Stop laughing and pay attention to what you’re doing!” she shrieked.

When they finally reached the common room window, it was fortuitously open, and Lily climbed inside as quickly as she could, looking very relieved to be on solid ground again.

“Well, you proved me wrong,” he joked once they were both inside.

“I wasn’t expecting you to fly seven stories up!” she said, blushing. “If you’d warned me before—”

“I’m only teasing,” he said, kissing her on the forehead.

“You did that on purpose,” she said.

“Well, of course.”

“No, I mean that you did it because you were trying to remind me of all those times that you used to fly up to this window after practice, just to get everyone's attention,” Lily said.

“Actually, I didn’t,” James said, smiling, “but now that you mention it, it is kind of poignant. You’re wrong about one thing, though.”

“What’s that?” Lily asked, folding her arms across her chest.

“I only ever did that because I was hoping you’d be the one to come open the window for me.”

“And then whenever I did, you’d flip upside-down and practically kill yourself—”

“And you were so terrified that I might get hurt.”

“Well, I couldn’t have something like that on my conscience,” Lily said, but she was smiling very affectionately.

She went upstairs to change and came back down looking like a vision in sage-coloured dress robes. No one had made it up to Gryffindor Tower from the grounds yet, which allowed them to say quite a lengthy (and rather silent) goodbye. Well, silent for the most part, at least until they said their final goodbye and James lost complete control over his own speech.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Lily said, squeezing his hand.

“Have a nice time,” he told her.

“I’ll try,” she replied, and it was then that her lovely smile shot straight to his heart.

“I love you,” he said. His face felt hot enough to cook an egg on, and he was seized by a sudden urge to cower behind one of the couches. Why in Merlin’s name had he just said that? He was supposed to say it for the first time in a romantic, meaningful way, not when they were about to go off in separate directions.

Lily, for her part, was looking slightly surprised, but thankfully not terrified or displeased.

“I love you too,” she said, a smile forming. She squeezed his hand again. James couldn’t really tell whether she was saying it out of obligation or because she really meant it, but she did look fairly sincere—and besides that, how was he even supposed to know whether he really meant it or not?

It made their goodbye fairly awkward, especially since people had started climbing through the portrait hole. As soon as she had disappeared, Sirius, Remus, and Peter came through the portrait hole, ribbing him for his long face. He felt that something very significant had just happened to him, but it didn’t seem to right time to tell his friends.

“Girls,” Sirius said. “Only one of them could make someone who just won the Quidditch Cup look like Christmas was cancelled.”

“I’m fine,” James said brusquely. “What do you say we go to Honeydukes?”

“Should I go get the Cloak?” Peter asked.

“No,” James replied, grinning. “Let’s go without it. Bit of extra risk never hurt anyone.”

He thought he put on a fairly good show of being celebratory for the rest of the day. Remus went to the Hospital Wing early on, but it was not until the grounds had been dark for a few hours that James, Sirius, and Peter headed down to the Whomping Willow for what would be the last time. It felt very solemn, and everything else had happened that day was pushed out of his head as James realized that the end of Hogwarts really was near.


Apparating into the trees outside the castle where the wedding was taking place after spending the past few hours at the Quidditch match was like being transported into an entirely different world, it seemed to Lily. She had never seen a more beautiful place than the environs of Westnor Castle in Herefordshire, which was sitting on the edge of a lake amongst lush trees.

Of course, she had been to this very spot earlier that morning—it had been necessary for Anna to take her by Side-Along Apparition, since Lily would not have known where to go otherwise. She could still see what a pretty place it was on the second visit, though.

It was slightly spoiled by the fact that there were two security wizards standing nearby, since this was the official Apparition point for wedding guests—a reminder of all the unpleasant reasons that there was a need to have people inspected before entering. Once her invitation had been examined and a Secrecy Sensor had been waved around her, she was allowed to pass and walk up to the turreted stone castle.

Lily had not been to many weddings before. She didn’t have any cousins, and her sister was not much older than herself, so the only weddings she had attended were those of her parents’ acquaintances when she was a small child. She did, however, know that most weddings were not on this scale, nor were they this picturesque.

It was all exceedingly refined—white linens on the tables, gilded ceilings, softly-burning candles and floral centerpieces, everyone dressed beautifully—but somehow, Lily felt like she would rather have been back with the mud and yelling at the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch.

She spotted Anna after a few moments of looking. Her friend was sitting at an otherwise deserted table near one of the walls of the room, looking bored and even a little miserable.

“Hi,” Lily said, sitting down in the chair next to Anna. “I’m so sorry I’m late.”

Anna looked up as if breaking out of a trance. “Oh, don’t worry. Did Gryffindor win?”

Lily nodded happily. “It was a brilliant match; I wish you and Mary could have been there.”

“I would have loved to have seen Ravenclaw lose,” Anna said bitterly.

“Where is Mary, anyway?”

Anna rolled her eyes. “She’s dancing with one of Aidan’s teammates. Typical.”

Lily could not see Mary on the dance floor, but figured that she must be enjoying herself immensely if she had been asked to dance by a professional Quidditch player.

“Well, the wedding looks like it’s going well,” Lily commented, which elicited another caustic look from Anna.

“Of course it is,” she said, taking a sip of a glass of water with a few mostly-melted ice cubes floating in it.

Lily sighed; she should have expected that Anna would be in a very bad mood today. It was even more disappointing than usual, though, because part of her was dying to tell someone about the fact that James had just told her that he loved her. In view of the circumstances, though, it didn’t seem like that would be a welcome topic of conversation, so instead she spent some time telling her all about the match, spending particular time on Ravenclaw’s bad moments, and after a little while Mary returned to the table.

“Hi, Lily!” she said happily, sitting down on Anna’s other side. “When did you get here?”

“Not too long ago,” Lily replied. “You look like you’re having fun.”

“Oh, it’s just so nice to get out of Hogwarts. I can’t wait to graduate,” Mary said.

Lily didn't share the sentiment, but Mary really looked carefree and radiant in a way that she had not for years. Perhaps it was because of her dance partner, but Lily had noticed that ever since Mary had set herself on working in Magical Law Enforcement, she had seemed much lighter and happier. Lily still hated the idea, personally, but it was getting harder to keep feeling that way when her friend seemed increasingly content and optimistic. That was the Mary she had first known, the Mary who she had always felt partially at fault for destroying, and the Mary that she was happy to see back.

“You should both come and dance,” Mary said earnestly. “It’s so much fun!”

“No thanks,” Anna grumbled.

Lily felt torn for a moment, looking between her two friends. Even though Anna was in a bad mood, Lily didn’t want to abandon her. Mary seemed to be having fun enough on her own, in any case.

“Maybe a bit later,” Lily said to Mary, who shrugged.

“Suit yourselves,” she said lightly. “Come join if you feel like it, though.”

With that, she flounced off onto the dance floor again, presumably looking for her former dancing partner.

“Slughorn’s here, by the way,” Anna said after a few moments.

“I thought he might be,” Lily said, smirking. “Isn’t the point of the weekend that we don’t have to see our teachers?”

Anna smiled weakly. “I thought the point of the school year was that I don’t have to see my family very often.”

“Yeah. And then there’s the classes, too, I suppose,” Lily said. Anna smiled a little more, and she seemed a little less downcast for the next couple of hours.

It wasn’t so bad with her in a better mood. Slughorn did indeed stop by their table to chat for a while, but seemed to be so overwhelmed with trying to mingle with every important person in the room that he did not stay long. Mary returned occasionally, and neither Anna nor Lily could resist dancing for a little while when a rock song called “Swish and Flick” came on—easily the most difficult song to not dance to.

A little while later, Desdemona and Aidan cut their cake, which was something of an architectural masterpiece. Lily really thought it was a shame that it had to be eaten rather than just sitting as a decoration. While everyone was taking pictures, Lily happened to glance over at Anna and did a double take when she saw that her friend was actually smiling rather fondly in her sister’s direction.

It didn’t take long for Anna to notice Lily, who was on the verge of laughter.

“Oh, shut it,” Anna said, but even she was laughing a little.

Once Lily tasted the cake, which really was made with Butterbeer, she didn’t think it was such a shame that it was being eaten—it was delicious. If The Three Broomsticks were to serve this, she thought, they would make a killing. (Though it might have been a good thing that they didn’t, since she probably would have gained an alarming amount of weight during the school year as a result.)

Everything was going so well, and Lily was having such a nice time, that she should have expected something would spoil it. Unfortunately, she didn’t see it coming, and, surprisingly, neither did Anna.

She was initially glad when Anna’s parents came by their table so she could thank them for inviting her, and even Anna seemed like she was not bothered by it. And really, Lily had always figured that Anna was exaggerating when she talked about how hard her parents were on her. Lily had met Anna’s family briefly at the beginnings and ends of past years at Platform 9 ¾. Her mother was a buxom woman with strawberry blonde hair and a loud laugh; her father, tall with thinning brown hair. To Lily, they had always seemed like nice people, but she realized that her assumption might have been wrong as soon as the pleasantries had been exchanged.

“Someone isn’t being a very good maid-of-honour,” Mrs Richards sing-songed, and Anna flushed just slightly.

“I stood up next to her when she was getting married, didn’t I?” she replied.

“Anna,” her father said sternly, clearly rebuking his daughter for her tone of voice. Lily then had a feeling that this was definitely heading somewhere bad.

Anna opened her mouth, but apparently thought better of it, and simply scowled and started fussing with her elaborate hairdo.

“Oh, Anna, leave it alone,” her mother said, swatting her hand away. “It took hours to get your hair looking nice.” She turned to Lily. “All my children ended up with my husband’s hair—every last one of them! I suppose it doesn’t matter for the boys, but my poor girls...of course, Dess has always cared more about her appearance—”

Mum,” Anna interrupted, but her mother shrugged and continued.

“You know it’s true, darling. There’s nothing wrong with it. Although, I would have thought that all that extra time you weren’t spending on your hair or makeup would have meant that you’d at least be made Head Girl.”

“Oh, yes, at the very least,” Anna hissed, “because that’s not really difficult.”

Lily wondered whether she ought to just hide underneath the table.

“Well, look at Lily—”

Too late.

“She’s a lovely girl who probably likes to look nice for the boys, but you don’t see her settling for second best,” Mrs Richards said.

Lily could not remember a time where she had ever felt more uncomfortable.

“Well, red hair is such—it’s such a bother, really,” Lily stammered, giggling like an idiot. “You can never blend in, and everyone assumes you have a terrible temper.”

“It would fit you perfectly then, Annie, wouldn’t it?” Anna’s father said, guffawing. Lily was a little worried that Anna was going to start throwing china across the room.

“Professor Slughorn was just telling us that he could introduce you to Robena Radford, the junior undersecretary to the minister,” Mrs Richards said, changing the subject and leaning in conspiratorially. “Word is that he’s soon going to be taking Pilliwickle’s job as senior undersecretary, you know, and he’s looking for someone to replace himself—”

“Mum, are you joking?” Anna said, apparently unable to control herself any longer. “They’re never going to hire someone for that job straight out of Hogwarts, and even if they did, I wouldn’t be interested.”

“Do you think your sister or your brothers got where they were by thinking like that?” Mrs Richards asked.

“Excuse me,” Anna said, standing up and sending Lily into a minor panic at the thought of being left alone.

“Sit down,” her father said firmly. Anna looked like she might defy him for a brief moment, but finally sighed and fell back into her chair. “Let’s discuss this at another time, Martha,” he said, putting a hand on his wife’s shoulder before staring at Anna again, “and we will discuss it again.”

Lily breathed an enormous sigh of relief when they then left to go talk to some relatives, before she realized that she had no way to break the horrible tension that had remained.

“What’s wrong?” Mary suddenly sat down next to them—Lily had been so shocked that she had not even seen her approaching. When neither Lily nor Anna answered immediately, she continued, “Was it your parents? I saw them over here.”

Anna was busy pulling the pins out of her hair, so Lily nodded silently. She hoped that Mary was able to find something comforting to say; after all, she was usually good at that kind of thing.

“Don’t let them bother you,” Mary said. “Come dance some more and it’ll take your mind off of it.”

“Mary, you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t take your suggestion seriously, since you weren’t even here,” Anna snapped.

“Fine,” Mary said coolly. “I’ll come back when you’re in a better mood.”

At this point, Lily was about ready to give up. Maybe she should just head back to Hogwarts early—it would certainly be nicer to spend the rest of the evening with James than in the crossfire between Mary and Anna, or Anna and her parents.

Anna’s face was inscrutable, but finally she looked up with a slightly sickened look.

“So, I suppose I was probably wrong about Remus being Mary’s problem,” she said, which seemed completely out of nowhere. “Seeing as she doesn’t exactly seem broken-hearted.”

“, she doesn’t,” Lily replied.

Anna sighed miserably. “I make such an idiot of myself sometimes.”

Lily really didn’t know what to say to that, especially as Anna was looking uncharacteristically defeated. Even her hair was drooping down rather unhappily. Lily had never really found herself feeling bad for Anna before—it wasn’t as if she usually needed pitying—but she could not help it at the moment. How had she known that this wedding was going to go terribly?

“Anna, let’s leave,” she said suddenly, feeling that it was the only solution. “I’m sure everyone’s still in the common room celebrating. We can go get Mary and Apparate back right now.”

“I don’t know,” Anna said, shrugging. “My parents would probably be upset.”

“They aren’t already?”

Anna’s facial expression conceded that Lily was right.

“I’ll go get Mary,” Lily said, standing up. “Just wait here.”

When Lily found Mary on the dance floor, her friend was hesitant to leave, mostly because she was still offended at Anna’s rudeness, but she finally agreed. They were on their way out when some announcement was made and Mary stopped.

“What is it?” Lily asked.

“She’s about to throw her bouquet,” Mary said. “We have to stay for that.”

“No, we don’t,” Anna said.

You do; you’re the maid of honour!”

“I am not staying,” Anna said firmly.

“Let’s just go, Mary,” Lily said. “It’s not important.”

And yet, somehow, they found themselves being dragged back toward the crowd of women gathering near the front of the room.

Lily soon found out that this particular tradition was done a little differently at wizarding weddings—Mary explained (how she knew this, Lily couldn’t understand, since she too was Muggle-born) that the bride enchanted her bouquet with a special charm that somehow made the girl who caught it lucky in love for the next full day.

“How does that work, then?” Lily asked, over the sound of people chattering around them. “I mean, you’d have to have a Love Potion or Felix Felicis; you can’t do that with a charm—”

“It’s supposed to be romantic, Lily!” Mary said. “Look, she’s about to throw it!”

It took Lily a few seconds to realize that the flowers were coming straight at her, and she nearly let them fall to the floor, catching them clumsily at the last second. She felt highly uncomfortable now that everyone was staring at her and cooing about how lucky she was.

The extra attention meant that they had to delay their departure a little longer, but they managed to sneak out eventually. Lily was still carrying the flowers, but once they were outside, she didn’t really want them anymore. What was she going to go with them at Hogwarts, anyway?

She tried to give them to Mary, who she thought might like them more.

“No, you can’t give them to me!” she said. “You’re the one who caught them.”

“I don’t want them,” Lily said, “and that thing about being ‘lucky in love’ is rubbish, anyway. Like I said—”

“Oh, don’t be such a cynic,” Mary said, grinning. “Maybe it means you and James are going to get married...”

Lily felt her face flush. That was one of the reasons she didn’t want the flowers—not that she didn’t want to marry James—not that she did, either, of course—but she didn’t think that it would send a comforting message to him if she showed up having caught the bouquet at the wedding.

“I don’t think a bunch of roses is going to be able to predict that,” was all she said. She tried to hand them over to Anna, whose eyes widened.

“You think I want it? No thank you,” she said.

“You can throw them in the lake if you like,” Lily said quickly, and Anna stopped thoughtfully.

“All right, hand them here.”

“Oh, no, don’t...” Mary said, but Anna did not hesitate in chucking them unceremoniously into the dark surface of the lake, where they landed with a splash and sent ripples through the reflection of the full moon. “You two are terrible.”

Lily knew Mary was being silly, and she didn’t feel the least bit of remorse for letting Anna get rid of the bouquet. She was quite certain that she didn’t need luck to help her when it came to love—all she needed was to get back to Hogwarts.