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   It was October 31st of 1977 and at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the yearly Halloween Feast had just ended. Everybody, students and teachers alike, were abuzz with excitement. The reason? Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster, has just announced that Hogwarts would host a Christmas Ball on Christmas Day from 5:30 pm until midnight. Also, the Ball was to be a masked event; all attendees will be required to wear a mask that—at a bare minimum—covers the face from the nose and cheeks up to where the forehead meets the hairline.

   Lily Evans, a seventh year student at Hogwarts, was particularly excited. How she loved to dance! How she loved the holidays! It’s a good thing that Dumbledore told them about it tonight. Curious, though, that it wasn’t mentioned before! Lily pondered this wonderingly. She shook it from her mind, and noticed that there was a thick throng of students heading out of the Great Hall. Not overly eager to fight the throng, and possibly get hurt in the process, Lily decided to lurk in the Hall until the said throng had thinned out. She directed her attentions to the staff table, curious to see who all was there. Professor Dumbledore was talking casually with Professor McGonagall. On her other side was Professor Flitwick chatting with Professor Quirrell, the Muggle Studies professor. Last was Professor Sinistra chatting with Professor Slughorn.

   Lily noted that Hagrid, the gamekeeper, had somehow managed to disappear. Must have slipped out in the throng, Lily thought. She then noticed that the throng was considerably thinner than before. With a sigh, Lily got up from the Gryffindor table, and headed out. After getting out of the Hall, she quickly went up to Gryffindor Tower, then headed back out, hiding a rather big bag of home-made sweets under her cloak. She headed out into the grounds and towards Hagrid’s hut, unaware that she was being followed.

 

   Lily knocked on the door of Hagrid’s hut, and heard the booming barks of Fang, the boarhound. A moment later, the barking ceased abruptly. Then the door opened a crack, and Hagrid’s eye peeped through the crack.

  “Why, Lily! One moment,” he said.

   The door closed, and Lily heard Hagrid undoing the locks. A moment or two later, Hagrid opened the door, smiling broadly down at Lily.

   “It’s nice to see yeh, lass,” Hagrid said, letting her in.

   Lily smiled at him as she squeezed inside. Fang bounded at her excitedly, and Lily braced herself. Fang began to excitedly lick her, and Lily drew out a bone, which she threw on the ground. Fang abandoned his licking of her to pursue the bone. Lily wiped her face off with her cloak.

   “Smart thinkin’, Lily,” Hagrid remarked as Fang chewed contentedly on the bone.

   “It’s nothing, really,” Lily replied. “After seven years I know what to expect.”

   “Aye,” Hagrid agreed. “Did ye enjoy the feast?”

   “Of course I did,” Lily replied as she sat at his table. “I’ve always enjoyed the Halloween Feast. Dumbledore outdoes himself every year, it seems.”

   “Dumbledore is a great man,” Hagrid said. “He always likes to do everything different every year. You want a cuppa tea?”

   “Sure, Hagrid,” Lily said. “But I can’t stay too long. I’m hoping to get an early start tomorrow.”

   Hagrid, who had been preparing the tea, paused in surprise.

   “What ye need to get an early start for? Got a date with James tomorrow or what?” he asked, half teasing, half serious.

   “No, nothing like that!” Lilly assured him. “I’m just going to Hogsmeade and look for some things for the Christmas Ball.”

   “Ah, I see. Gettin’ yerself ready for the Ball early,” Hagrid said approvingly. “Smart thinkin’, that is, Lily. Very smart thinkin’ it is.”

   With a smile, Hagrid put the kettle over the fire to boil. Then he sat down across from Lily.

   “Lookin’ forward to the big ball, eh, Lily?” he asked, eyes twinkling.

   “Yes, actually, I am,” Lily replied. “It’ll be my first real ball. I’ve never attended such an event before!”

   “You and most, if not all, of the students here, I reckon,” Hagrid assured her. “Mind you, some of those pure-blooded kids may have attended a fancy dinner or two, but nothin’ like this!”

   “Are you looking forward to the Ball, Hagrid?” Lily asked, curious.

   “Of course I am,” Hagrid said. “Brilliant idea o’ Dumbledore’s, I say. Great way to distract everyone from the war, especially you students, me thinks.”

   The kettle began to whistle. Hagrid got up and a moment later Lily was sipping some warm tea from a very large mug. Then she remembered something.

   “Hagrid, I brought you some sweets,” Lily said. She took the bag from under her cloak and put it on the table. “My mum loves to make sweets in her spare time, and ended up making a whole bunch before she could be stopped. She sent me several bags of it, and also a note saying to make sure to give you a bag of them or else. I hope you like them.”

   “Why, thank you, Lily,” Hagrid said, smiling.

   He took the bag and opened it curiously. He then took out a piece of fudge and popped it into his mouth. A few moments of silence passed as he chewed and swallowed. Then he took a swig of his tea and smiled again.

   “That’s very good fudge,” Hagrid commented.

   “Thanks,” Lily said. “My mum has secret recipes for all of her sweets. She loves to make new recipes when she can. I’ll make sure to bring you a bag when she sends some more of her home-made sweets in a few weeks.”

   “You do that,” Hagrid said.

   Lily finished off her tea, and stood up.

   “Well, Hagrid, I’d better get back to the castle, it’s getting late,” she said, making sure her cloak was on snugly.

   “Good night, Lily,” Hagrid said. “Thank you for stopping by and giving me these treats. I’ll be sure to send yer mum an owl tomorrow afternoon, thanking her personally for sending the sweets.”

   “Okay,” Lily said, smiling. “You do that. Good night, Hagrid.”

   She made sure to close the door behind her as she left. Lily was halfway to the castle when someone grabbed her arm and spun her around. Lily, who’d been looking down to make sure she didn’t trip on anything, looked up and gasped in surprise.

   “Severus!” Lily exclaimed. “What are you doing?!”

   “I was about to ask the same of you,” Severus said. “You know you shouldn’t be out here, especially alone!”

   “Neither should you,” Lily hissed back. “Now if you would be so kind as to let me go!”

   Severus grudgingly released her. Furious, Lily stomped off, trying to get away from the boy. However, he came up beside her, easily keeping her pace. After a few minutes of silence, Lily stopped and sighed.

   “I’m sorry I scared you, Lily,” Severus said gently. “I hadn’t meant to.”

   “It’s alright,” Lily said. “You were just looking out for me. I’m sorry I snapped at you.”

   “What were you doing out there, anyway?” Severus asked, brushing his hair from his face absently.

   “I had been visiting Hagrid. I was on my way back from his hut,” Lily said shortly.

   She looked up and gazed at Severus as she leaned back against a wall.

   “Why were you outside, Severus?” Lily asked, tilting her head.

   “Star-gazing,” Severus replied, smiling slightly.

   Lily smiled back. She couldn’t help it. Before she could speak again, they heard a surprised yelp. Lily whipped out her wand from under her cloak and stood up straight. Severus whipped his wand out as well, and they headed down the hallway, towards the noise. Severus’ wand lit up as they walked, and a few moments later they came upon the culprit—or culprits.

   “James! Sirius!” Lily gasped, surprised and furious. “What are you doing here?!”

   Both boys jumped up from the ground, wands out. Lily put her wand away while James looked directly at her. Sirius looked back and forth between Lily and Severus.

   “It doesn’t matter, Lily,” James replied, glancing at Severus.

   “What I’d like to know is what you are doing out here at this hour and what were you doing with Snivellus?” Sirius asked, openly glaring at Severus.

   While Severus and Sirius had a staring contest, Lily stared at James. Suddenly, here eyes lit up with realization. She looked at Severus, then back at James in outrage.

   “You were spying, weren’t you?!” Lily accused.

   James lowered his eyes. To Lily, this just confirmed her suspicions, her accusations.

   “So what if I was?” James said defiantly.

   “We were making sure Snivellus here didn’t hurt you!” Sirius said, sparing Lily a glance. “Don’t be mad at James, lily. Be mad at me; it was my idea to spy on you, not his.”

   “I can take care of myself, you know,” Lily said, clearly ignoring the last bit of Sirius’s statement.

   “You never answered Sirius’s questions, you know,” James said, stepping closer to Lily.

   “Well, if you must know, I was at Hagrid’s. I was wishing him a Happy Halloween, chatting about the ball, and also taking him something my mother had sent,” Lily said, “and I bumped into Severus on the way back to the castle. He was accompanying me back.”

   “Well, I’m here now,” James said, “and I can walk you back to the common room.”

   He stepped up beside Lily as he spoke, and wrapped an arm around her waist in a possessive way. He gave Lily a wink, then signaled Sirius.

   “Come on, mate, let’s go,” James said.

   Lily jerked away from James and glared at him.

   “I don’t need to be escorted to the common room!” Lily snarled, her temper rising again. “I am seventeen years old, James!”

   “Indeed you are,” James said, looking her up and down appraisingly.

   Lily threw her hands up in frustration, spun around on her heels, and stomped off. She vaguely heard James yell something about meeting her in the common room later, but Lily wasn’t really paying attention. She was too angry to pay attention to details. I feel like I can curse him! Lily thought fuming.

   Only when she was several floors away from the troublesome duo did Lily slow down and realize that Severus wasn’t with her. She stopped by a window and looked outside. Severus could take care of himself, Lily thought looking across the grounds. The moon was nearly full, and was almost directly above the castle. Lily noticed that there were a lot of stars out, and the light coming from the moon and stars lit up the grounds fairly well in a silvery glow.

   Suddenly, Lily’s sharp ears picked up the unmistakable sound of footsteps. She looked to the left, and soon saw a masculine figure walking—actually somewhat staggering—in her direction. Only when the figure passed a nearby window did Lily recognize him as Severus, looking flushed and seriously pissed off. He stopped next to her, breathing very hard.

   “What happened to you?” Lily asked, already suspecting the answer.

   “Potter and Black, whom else?” Severus snarled, wiping his hair from his face.

   “What did they do now?” Lily asked with a sigh.

   “The usual,” Severus said with a shrug. “They tried to curse me into oblivion.”

   They stood side by side for a little while, looking outside at the grounds. The silence between them was peaceful. Lily looked up at Severus.

   “Well, I’d better get back to Gryffindor Tower,” Lily aid wearily, “before the duo come looking for me.”

   Severus looked down at her and smiled gently.

   “Good night, Lily,” he said.

   “Good night,” Lily replied. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

   Severus just smiled in reply. Lily smiled back affectionately then walked to Gryffindor Tower at a quick pace. She gave the Fat Lady the password, and slipped into the common room, which appeared to be empty. However, upon looking near the fireplace, she was surprised to see Sirius and James already there. When they realized she had come in, the boys stood up and faced her.

   “What took you so long?” James demanded, walking up to her.

   “Don’t touch me, James!” Lily snarled.

   She took out her wand and pointed it at him. James froze in his tracks. Sirius, who had been following James at a wary pace, also stopped short.

   “Your behavior earlier was atrocious, even for you!” Lily said, eyes glinting.

   “You know I don’t like for you to be anywhere near Snape!” James said angrily.

   “He’s my friend, James!” Lily replied, outraged. “I am not about to stop being friends with Severus just because you two don’t like him!”

   “But, Lily. . .!” James began insistently.

   “Don’t you ‘But Lily’ me! I don’t want to hear it. You’ve always pulled pranks on him, always been cruel just because you don’t like him!” Lily raged. “I am so sick of your excuses!”

   “Well, I’m sick of you hanging out with Snape all the time!” James retorted.

   “You know what, James?”

   “What?”

   “I don’t want to talk to you or Sirius! I don’t want anything to do with either of you! I don’t care if I ever see or talk to either of you ever again!” Lily raged furiously.

   Lily then turned her back to James and Sirius and stomped to up the girls’ staircase to her dorm. The boys stood for a surprised moment gazing at the staircase. Then they looked at each other.

   “I’ll give her a week before she speaks to us again,” James said.

   “I don’t know about this, mate,” Sirius said, shaking his head. “It may be awhile before she’s willing to forgive you.”

   “Fine,” James conceded, “two weeks, then, before she will speak to us.”

***

   Almost two months later, Lily had managed to keep her vow. Every time James or Sirius tried to come near her, Lily would walk away. When she could not avoid them, such as during class or during meals, she would pointedly ignore them until they gave up trying to talk to her or get her attention.

   It was Christmas Eve, and Lily was eating dinner, pointedly ignoring the Marauders and also sitting as far from them as she could while still sitting at the Gryffindor table. Mary Macdonald, a close friend who was also in Gryffindor, spoke to Lily, noticing that she glared at James and Sirius occasionally.

   “You know you can’t keep this up forever, Lily,” she said in a gentle, chiding way.

   “Watch me,” Lily said stubbornly.

   Mary just smiled gently.

   “You know, I’ve never seen James Potter look so forlorn in all of our years here!” Mary said, trying a different tactic.

   “Good! I’m glad that he’s suffering!” Lily said, faltering a little.

   “Are you looking forward to tomorrow night?” Mary asked, deciding to change the subject. It’s hopeless anyway, she thought. She won’t easily forgive them for what they did.

   “Of course I am!” Lily said, glad to change the subject.

   “Are you attending with a particular person?” Mary asked curiously.

   “No, not really,” Lily replied. “I wanted to go single.”

   “Well, I heard that you were going with that Snape boy,” Anna McFee drawled, as if trying to sound casual.

   “Of course I’m not!” Lily said quickly. “That’s just a rumor! We’re good friends, true, but nothing more than that. He did ask me out, I’ll admit that, but I turned him down.”

   “Oh, well,” Anna said with a shrug. “That’s a pity.”

   Lily smiled, then began to eat again. She really was looking forward to the Christmas Ball. She had received a nice dress and new shoes from home, which her mother had hand-made, and she had bought some make-up and a few hair-things to go with it.

   Lily finished her dinner and quickly left the Great Hall to go to Gryffindor Tower. She made it to the nearest staircase outside the Hall before a hand grabbed her forcibly and spun her around. Lily looked up into the face of the person who’d caught her, surprised and angry.

   “Lily, please forgive me,” James said pleadingly.

   “Never,” Lily snarled, tearing her arm free.

   “Please, Lily,” James pleaded, his hazel eyes very sad. “I’m truly sorry for what I’d done.”

   “Kiss my ass, James,” Lily said.

   She turned away from him and ran up the stairs as fast as she could. As soon as she got past the Fat Lady, Lily went up the girls’ staircase to her dorm and slammed the door shut. She was grateful that everyone else was still at dinner. Lily took a shower and put on a white nightgown which had small Christmas trees on it.

   Lily was sitting on her bed brushing her thick red hair when Mary Macdonald and Anna McFee came in. They were chatting animatedly, and failed to notice Lily at first.

   “. . . and Remus Lupin actually interfered!” Anna was saying.

   “I know!” Mary said. “Those two have been messing with Snape since first year! It’s about time that Remus stood up and told straightened them out!”

   Lily quirked up, interested.

   “What happened?” she asked, putting her brush down.

   “James and Sirius snuck up on that Snape boy and began to curse him. Remus disarmed all three boys before it could result in deadly blows and made them all swear to quit cursing each other,” Mary told her breathlessly, “at least until the holidays were over. Then he gave them back their wands and had to take Snape to the hospital wing.”

   “Why did Severus need to go to the hospital wing?” Lily asked, concerned.

   “James and Sirius got him pretty bad before Remus stepped in,” Anna said briefly.

   Lily raised an eyebrow, not satisfied with Anna’s answer. Mary hurried to explain in detail.

   “Snape is bleeding on the chest, his legs, and his arms,” she said. “Plus his face is swollen on the left side. There were probably more things going on as well. In fact, Remus came back just a moment ago and told me that Madam Pomfrey had told him that Snape should be fine. He should be out of the hospital wing by tomorrow afternoon. Remus wanted me to tell you if I happened to see you.”

   “Oh, thank goodness that it wasn’t worse!” Lily said, putting a hand over her heart.

   “True,” Mary said with a nonchalant shrug.

   Lily picked up her brush and brushed her hair until all of the knots were out and it was silky smooth. Then she put the brush back on the table by her bed. She turned out the lamp by her bed and god cozily under her covers.

   “Good night, girls,” Lily said.

   After Mary and Anna both replied from their beds, Lily closed her eyes and concentrated on slowing her breathing. Within minutes, she was asleep, dreaming of the ball. She was unawares of just how much would happen the next day, either. . . .

***

    Christmas Day could not have gone by quicker for the students and teachers of Hogwarts. Lily went up to the dorm at four o’clock so she could get ready for the Ball, which would begin in an hour and a half. Mary, Anna, Janet, and Marie, her dorm-mates, were close on her tail.

   Lily dug out her dress and used a simple spell to de-wrinkle it. Then she took out her shoes, hairbrush, some hair things, a little make-up,  and finally the mask she’d received from home just that morning as a present.

   “Wow! That’s a beautiful outfit, Lily!” Mary said, envy evident in her voice.

   “Thanks, Mary,” Lily said, beaming. “My mother made the dress, shoes, and mask herself. She’s wonderful at sewing, and does it as a side job.”

    Lily didn’t take long to change. The dress did not button or zip, but could be put on over the head like a t-shirt or stepped into and pulled up like a skirt. It was made of a material which was like a fusion of silk and cotton, it was soft and shiny, like silk and warm like cotton. The dress was sleeveless, loose-fitting, and to her ankles in length; it was a golden color with a green tint, and had glitter splattered all over it. The mask matched the dress in every way, only covered Lily’s face from the cheeks and the top of her nose to her hairline, and had holes in it for the eyes. The mask was magically done to fit Lily’s face and stay on her face unless she, and only she, wanted to remove it.

   Her shoes were golden green in color, made to look like the shoes of a ballerina except that they are rounded at the tip instead of squared and they were made of a similar material as the dress. They were also a little glittery. The only make-up that Lily was going to wear was a little blush, to give her cheeks a rosy color, and some glittery red lipstick to bring out her lips.

   By five o’clock, Lily and her room-mates were ready to go. Lily led the way to the common room, where she waited ten minutes so that she could see the various Gryffindors dressed up in various dresses, tuxedos, and dress-robes. Then Lily headed by herself to the main corridor in front of the Great Hall. She was surprised to see that, with fifteen minutes to go, the main corridor was already crowded with students. And more students were coming by the minute, making the corridor even more crowded and stuffy-feeling. By five thirty, the whole corridor was filled with people, and Lily was forced to stand uncomfortably against the wall. When the doors to the Great Hall opened and everyone began to crowd into the Great Hall, Lily could not help but sigh with relief.

   She waited until the corridor was nearly empty before going inside. To her great surprise, the Great Hall was transformed beyond recognition. There was a large table at the very end of the Hall, presumably for the staff. It was decorated in a white tablecloth with red and green frill and glitter. Rather than the four house tables, there were what seemed to be hundreds of smaller tables, each capable of sitting six people comfortably. Each table, it seemed, was decorated with a different tablecloth and silverware compared to the other tables near it.

   But nothing compared to the decorations of the Great Hall. There were four large pine trees, one in each corner, which were each decorated differently from the other and all lavishly done. There were streamers that went from tree to tree—red, green, and sliver in coloring—that waved as if in a gentle breeze. Rather than snow, it seemed that glitter was falling from the ceiling, disappearing before it hit the tables and students.

   Lily sat at a table occupied by two others—a boy and a girl. The boy wore red and white dress robes with a matching mask, while the girl wore a silk peacock-blue dress that had spaghetti dress. Her mask was also peacock blue, with real peacock feathers across the top and edges. The girl smiled kindly and Lily smiled back.

   “I wonder how the food will be served?” the boy wondered aloud.

   “I heard that Dumbledore managed to find trained reindeer which will cater to us,” the girl whispered, her eyes like disks.

   “That would be neat,” Lily said, giggling at the idea of a reindeer in a butler top and delivering food.

   All around her students were whispering conversations. After a few moments of chatter, it got eerily silent. Lily looked towards the staff table and saw that Dumbledore had stood up. He looked around the Hall before he spoke.

   “Good evening, and welcome to the Christmas Ball!” he said. “There is not much to say now, except that I am glad that everyone was able to attend! I must point out that menus have appeared on everyone’s plates. Use them wisely and dig in!”

   Dumbledore sat down to polite applause. Lily stopped clapping and looked down at her plate and noticed the menu where Dumbledore had said it would be. She picked up the menu and looked over the choices. Wondering where the waiters were, she looked at the staff table again, like several of the students around her. She saw Dumbledore peruse the menu, then muttered to his plate. Moments later, his plate was filled with food and there was a glass full of pumpkin juice beside him. Lily raised her eyebrows and perused the menu again. Then she looked at her silver plate dubiously.

   “Pork chops and mashed potatoes with gravy, please” she murmured, “and a pitcher of butterbeer, please.”

   After awhile, everyone got the hang of it. After about an hour, everyone had finished eating and was sipping on various drinks, chatting idly. Dumbledore stood up again and the chatter stopped abruptly.

   “If everyone would be so kind as to stand up,” Dumbledore said, “so that I might remove the tables from the dance floor.”

   Everyone stood up compliantly, varying degrees of excitement and nervousness present on each face Lily could see. With a swipe of Dumbledore’s wand, the tables either moved or disappeared altogether, clearing a very large space that extended from about the middle of the hall to the end where Gryffindor table normally stood. Dumbledore flicked his wand again, and a stage appeared against the wall, right where Gryffindor table would stand. Then, in the blink of an eye, a drum set and some microphones appeared on the stage.

   Most everyone was looking at the stage, curious. Others quietly speculated with their neighbors about the entertainment. Soon enough, the mystery of the entertainment was solved as four wizards, three of whom were carrying guitars, trooped onstage. After a few moments of awkward silence as the wizards tuned their instruments, one of the wizards with a guitar stood up in front of the central microphone. He strummed a chord on his guitar, which Lily recognized as a wizard version of a Muggle electric guitar, and everyone who had been quietly chatting quieted and looked at the stage.

   “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, his voice surprisingly pleasant, “ are you ready to dance?”

   There was a roar of approval.

   “Well, the Daemon Draigons are here to help satisfy,” he said.

   With that, the band, which lily now knew was called Daemon Draigons, began to play a fast-paced song. Lily got a good look at the band while listening to the song and noticed that this band was playing music which sounded a lot like Muggle rock music.

   Deciding to sit this song out, since she could not get into the beat of it, Lily got a butterbeer from a nearby table and sat down at an empty table. After numerous fast-paced songs, some of which Lily did get up and dance to, the band began a slower tune. Lily looked up quickly, for she recognized the tune from the many times she had visited Mary’s house and heard it. Lily liked the tune quite a bit. A moment later, it seemed, a handsome man appeared in front of her and bowed. He was clean shaven, with shoulder-length black hair worn back in a ponytail and dressed in dark green dress robes and a matching mask which covered the top half of his face.

   “Would you like to dance, my lady?” he asked, holding out a hand.

   “Of course,” Lily said, putting her hand in his.

   She stood up and followed him to the dance floor. He put a hand around her waist and pulled her close. Lily put a hand on his shoulder and they began to slowly dance to the music.

   “You are a very good dancer,” he commented.

   “Thank you,” Lily replied. “You’re not so bad yourself.”

   He just smiled in reply. As they continued to dance, it occurred to Lily that her partner seemed familiar. She couldn’t put a finger on it, but something about him was so obviously familiar that it annoyed her.

   When the song ended, Lily was still unable to figure out who her mysterious partner was. He led her to the table she had taken to haunting. He gave a bow and Lily curtsied.

   “Thank you for the dance, maiden,” he said.

   “Thank you,” Lily said with a smile.

   “Shall we dance later on?” he asked curiously.

   “I’ll be sure to save you a dance or two,” Lily replied.

   The boy bowed again and disappeared into the crowd, smiling. Lily remained unable to figure out the identity of the boy in the deep green dress robes all evening. By midnight, she had not only danced with him numerous times, but also Professors Dumbledore, Slughorn (who was quite graceful for a large man), and Quirrell, and several other students including Remus Lupin, who was quite pale.

   At midnight, everyone grudgingly began to leave the Great Hall. Lily waited for the worst of the crowd to leave the Great Hall, which took the better part of thirty minutes, before even attempting to leave. By the time she got to the door, the mysterious boy in the deep green had appeared at her side.

   “Would you like some company?” he asked her.

   “Of course,” Lily replied, smiling.

   They walked leisurely towards Gryffindor Tower. Lily suddenly froze and looked behind her. Her escort stopped as well, and gave her a curious look.

   “Is something wrong?” he asked, concerned.

   “I have the strangest feeling,” Lily said, “like I’m being watched.”

   “Really?” he asked her, seeming curious.

   “Yeah,” she said. “I’ve had the feeling on and off all evening.”

   “Hmm. . . .” the boy replied, “maybe you are just tired and jumpy.”

   “Yes, that must be it,” Lily said with relief. “I’m just tired and jumpy.”

   “Come on, you need to get to your room so you can rest,” he insisted. “That will help you feel better.”

   “True,” Lily said. “Let’s get out of here.”

   Lily followed him and they soon came to a staircase. The two stopped at the staircase and embraced. The young man then looked up and a smile graced his face. Lily looked up, curious, and saw that they were standing under one of the many branches of mistletoe hanging throughout the castle. Lily then looked at her companion, who was gazing at her. They moved to kiss, but there was a sudden ruckus from down the hall. Lily nearly jumped out of her skin and looked down the hall in time to see three of the four Marauders running towards her and her companion, who drew out his wand.

   A moment later, James, Sirius, and Peter were standing a few feet from Lily and her companion. James and Sirius had their wands out, and Peter was breathing very heavily and looking guilty and nervous at the same time.

   “James!” Lily exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”

   James ignored her and kept his wand pointed at her companion’s chest, where his heart was.

   “Step away from my girl, Snape,” James snarled.

   Lily gasped in surprise and looked at her escort, now recognizing him.

   “Why should I? I wasn’t doing anything wrong!” Severus said defensively.

   “I know what you were planning, Snivellus,” James said slyly. “Peter here overheard you and your Death Eater friends talking earlier this evening.”

   “So?” Severus said, eyebrows rose.

   “So we know that you were planning on hurting Lily!” Sirius snarled.

   Severus laughed and Lily looked wide-eyed between Severus and the Marauders. She slowly stepped away from Severus, wary.

   “Obviously you heard wrong,” Severus said, smiling as he removed his mask.

   “Oh, really?” James asked, skeptically.

   “I’d said I wanted to escort her to prevent her from being hurt!” Severus said.

   “What?” James exclaimed. “Prove it!”

   “I should not need to prove it,” Severus said. “For you should not have had Peter there eavesdropping.”

   Peter looked down, blushing furiously. Lily continued to look between the boys for several moments. Then a thought occurred to her.

   “James, why did you have Peter following her throughout the evening?” she asked, looking at him.

   He looked at Lily, surprised. It was plain that he had forgotten all about her.

   “I wanted to make sure you weren’t hurt, Lily,” James said. “You are still my girlfriend, you know.”

   Lily snorted and knew by looking his eyes that he spoke true. A slow smile spread across her face.

   “I can take care of myself, you know,” Lily said.

   “I know, but I will still keep an eye out for you,” James said, winking at her.

   Lily rolled her eyes.

   “I am not going to forgive you that easily, James,” Lily said, “no matter how flattering you are.”

   James laughed huskily. Lily looked up at Severus, who managed to tear his eyes away from Sirius long enough to look at her.

   “Let’s go, Severus,” she said.

   “Alright,” he replied.

   Both turned away from the Marauders, linked arms, and began to walk up the stairs.

   “Lily, wait!” James called.

   They stopped and Lily turned partially so she could see James.

   “Yes, James?” she asked.

   “Rumor has it that we will have a Hogsmeade visit weekend after next,” James said quickly. “Would you like to meet up and spend the day together? As friends?”

   Lily thought a moment and smiled.

   “We’ll see, James,” she said.

   With that, Lily turned and walked up to Gryffindor Tower, arm in arm with Severus. James and Sirius exchanged smiles and high-fived each other. James knew he was as good as forgiven. Then the two bets friends put a Silencing Charm on Peter and began to unmercifully curse him.

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