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Chapter Twenty-Eight
No Calm, Just Storm



James had not thought it was possible to feel much worse on the morning following a full moon, but it turned out that he had been wrong.

The day started off fairly ordinary—he woke up very late (a luxury, as full moons did not always coincide with the weekend) and went down to breakfast with Sirius and Peter, where the Gryffindors were still enthusiastic about the Quidditch Cup, and the Ravenclaws were staring daggers at anyone with a red-and-gold badge. He was looking forward to Lily returning later in the day, although a little nervous that she might have changed her mind about the love business.

The most out-of-the-ordinary thing was that he was starting to feel intensely worried and overwhelmed about his exams. There was really nothing else to think about at this point, now that Quidditch was over, nor much time to think about them—exams were in just over a week, and though he had studied aimlessly and gone through all of the revision in their classes, he had a bad feeling that it was not going to be sufficient.

Having had such an average morning, he was perhaps more surprised than usual when he returned to Gryffindor Tower and saw Lily there. He hadn’t expected her to be back for hours, which would have given him time to think up something to say in the event that he had made a mess of things yesterday.

He was relieved when she came up to hug him and say hello straight away. “You’re back early,” he remarked, stating the obvious as a form of testing the waters further. She nodded, smiling, which he took as a good sign.

“I came back last night,” she explained. James’ thoughts immediately shifted into more troubling waters—she had been here last night?

He exchanged glances with Sirius and Peter, who had been keeping themselves busy by levitating peoples’ things across the room when they weren’t looking. Apparently they had heard Lily and also felt that she must be suspicious, or even angry. And, depending on when she had come back, she might have even caught a glimpse of them running around—James didn’t remember seeing anyone while they were out on the grounds, but it was not out of the realm of possibility.

She was frowning now, and James decided to be casual and assume she knew nothing.

“I wish I hadn’t gone to bed so early,” he said. “I could barely keep my eyes open after that match, though...”

Her suspicious expression grew more pronounced. “I thought you might have been up in your dormitory, actually, but when I went to check, you weren’t there.”

Well, he’d really stepped in it now. Peter’s eyebrows were halfway up his forehead, and James would have really liked to tell Sirius where he could shove the smile he was trying to hide.

“In fact, none of you were there,” Lily said, looking between James, Sirius, and Peter.

“You know, I’m still hungry,” Sirius said quickly, not looking so pleased anymore. “Feel like visiting the kitchens, Wor—Peter?”

Peter nodded vigorously, and they disappeared so quickly, they might have Disapparated.

James tried to avoid eye contact with Lily for as long as possible.

“So?” she said finally, a very distinct edge to her voice.

James could not help himself from replying with the most pathetic thing possible. “What?”

Lily looked like she was going to laugh, but not in a particularly amused way. “If this is a joke, it’s not funny.”

He sensed that the time for feigning innocence was over. “Let’s go talk upstairs,” he suggested.

“Yes, let's,” Lily replied. The tone of her voice made James think it was probably not conducive to staying injury-free to enclose himself in a room with her—but then, the alternative was not, either. Better to be humiliated in private than in the middle of the common room.

When they had retreated upstairs, James reflected for a moment that it was not, on the whole, the ideal vision of Lily visiting his dormitory for the first time. If things had gone his way, there would have been more—

Oh Merlin, she really did not look happy. Time to go on the defensive.

“All right,” James wheedled, “first of all, I feel like you’re going into this conversation having already decided—”

“James,” Lily interrupted, “I just want you to explain why you lied to me.”

“Well, it’s—er—it’s a bit complicated,” he said.

“Luckily,” she said, sitting down, “we have loads of time.”

“Okay,” James said, very slowly. He was torn—most of him was actually eager to tell her everything, but he wasn’t sure if his friends were going to be too pleased with him if he did.

Back when they had first become Animagi (and even before, when they had found out the secret about Remus’ furry problem), they had decided that there were certain criteria to be placed on anyone whom they wanted to divulge those details to. One was that there had to be a fair amount of certainty that the person in question was not going to try and get them expelled, thrown in prison, blackmailed, or otherwise compromised by telling other people. Naturally, the person had to be very trustworthy and good at keeping things to him or herself, and everyone had to agree to them being told. There had been other requirements they had discussed, but James could not recall them all now—in any case, none of them had ever brought it up again. None of them had ever thought that there might be someone else who needed to know.

But the most important requirement was that there had to be some assurance that the person was going to be in their lives for a significant period of time—preferably permanently. This was the way to best ensure that the secret was kept, for if someone stopped being your friend at some point, they were much more likely to seek revenge or personal gain.

James did not question Lily’s trustworthiness for a moment. He knew that she would never be the type of person to gossip, or to vindictively spread something around.

He also had an inexplicable feeling, which Sirius probably would have called naive, that Lily was not about to disappear from his life anytime soon. And for once, he could say that it was not about self-aggrandizement or wishful thinking—there really just was some certainty that went straight to the core of him, a quiet confidence that she would be perpetually present. After all, she always had been, though admittedly in different forms over the years.

The hesitation that held him back was that he had never really discussed this with Sirius, Peter, or Remus, all of whom stood to lose if James turned out to be wrong. But he wasn’t; he couldn’t be, and they would probably agree with him. He knew them well enough that he could be confident of their reactions. A split-second judgment on this was not what they had planned, but he supposed that things didn’t always go according to plan.

“All right. Sit down, and I’ll explain everything,” he said.

He began from the beginning: explaining how he, Sirius, and Peter had been determined to help Remus, how they had scoured stacks of books and not found anything useful besides the efficacy of chocolate, and how they had finally figured out the answer one day in Transfiguration.

“Wait—I don’t understand why you were trying to find a way to help him when he isn’t even here on full moons,” Lily interjected.

“Er...” James said, wincing a little. “Right, I suppose I never mentioned that part—”

“Oh, brilliant, something else you’ve kept from me,” Lily said.

“I would have told you when I first told you about Remus,” James defended himself, “but we were interrupted. And you never brought it up again.”

“I didn’t think you wanted to talk about it!”

“Fine,” he said swiftly, not seeing any point in dwelling on this trivial point. “All there really is to say is that Remus doesn’t go home on full moons; he goes to the Shrieking Shack.”

He was a little pleased to have effectively stunned her into silence. When she spoke again, she sounded much less angry and much more curious.

“But—isn’t it haunted? And I thought there was no way inside?”

James shook his head. “There’s a reason there's no way in—or so it appears. No one gets in, and Remus doesn’t get out. As for it being haunted, all those sounds that people think are ghosts are actually Remus during the full moon.”

“Oh,” Lily said, her face falling. There was an uncomfortable pause.

“Anyway, like I was saying, we finally figured out how to help him,” James said. “We’d overlooked something simple.”

“What was it?” she asked. She seemed to be forgetting her anger.

“Werewolves don’t prey on animals,” James said. There was a nervous energy buzzing inside of him, now that he was getting so close to revealing it for the first time. “Even if they did, their bite only affects humans.”

He paused for effect, but Lily did not seem impressed.

“So, you got him some pets to play with?” she asked, smiling weakly.

“No,” James said. “We—”

He couldn’t form the sentence properly, for some reason. If he was honest, he had to admit that he was actually rather excited to be telling Lily—when he had been younger and slightly stupider, he had always thought it would be the kind of thing that would impress her. It turned out he hadn’t matured as much in that regard as he’d thought, and for that reason, he wanted to say it in some impressive way that didn’t sound as anticlimactic as it did in his head.

“Yes...?” Lily prompted.

“I don’t really know how to put this,” James confessed.

“Just say it,” Lily said.

James exhaled resignedly. “Well...we—er—we became Animagi.”

Lily was looking at him murderously, which was decidedly not what he had been hoping for.

“James, I thought you were going to tell me the truth,” she said, disappointment filling every syllable.

He was at a loss for words for a few moments. “I just did!” he croaked, throwing up his hands in frustration.

She stood up. “You actually made me think that you were going to be honest, and then you come up with the most absurd story—”

“Lily, you have to believe me, please,” he said. “I swear I’m telling you the truth!”

Lily covered her face with her hands in frustration. “I thought you were supposed to be good at this sneaking-around thing! Can you not hear how ridiculous you sound?”

“This figures,” James said, raking through his hair with his hand. He had never imagined that Lily would refuse to believe him, but now that he thought about it, how could he have expected anything else?

She looked at him quite seriously now. “You three aren’t even out of school, and you expect me to believe that you figured out how to become Animagi? Not to mention that there’s absolutely no way that the Ministry would have given you permission...”

James couldn’t keep the guilty look from his face, and it was this that made her trail off and sit back down.

“Well,” she said faintly, an unfocused look in her eyes. “You know, somehow it seems much more plausible now.”

He gave her a moment to think in silence. “Didn’t you ever wonder why we were so good at Transfiguration?”

To his immense relief, she exhaled a small laugh. “Well, you always maintained that it was natural talent, didn’t you?”

“You actually bought that?” he teased. Lily rolled her eyes.

“I still don’t know if I believe you,” she said, “but...if I did, I’m not exactly clear on how that would help Remus.”

James knew this part of the story was going to be the most controversial, and tried to explain the nature of their full moon excursions as evasively as possible—unfortunately, Lily was a bit too clever for much of anything to go over her head, and her expression slowly changed to one of anger again.

“Do you understand how dangerous that is?” she asked, looking appalled.

“Absolutely,” he replied. She stared at him like he was insane.

“So, you just didn’t care?”

“No,” James said. “I just cared more about my friend. You don’t know what it was like, the way he thought we were only friends with him because we felt badly, and how he came back the next day with all those injuries...”

He had lost track of his surroundings for a moment, but was brought back at the sound of Lily sighing. When she fixed her gaze on him again, she did not look angry, or disappointed, or amused, or puzzled—she actually seemed rather enamoured.

“What is it with you, that you can be reprehensible one minute and endearing the next?” she asked.

He took this as a compliment, especially considering her expression. “I’m not sure...I think it’s just a natural talent.”

She smiled and then started shaking her head in perplexity. “I’m still finding all of this really...difficult to process, but...if it is all true, and the reasons behind it are true, then...well, I’m not sure if I think it was your best idea, in some regards, but then, in other ways, I think it’s one of the nicest things you’ve ever done.”

Once James’ mind had managed to wind around that statement, he grinned at her, and seeing as she was in a much better mood, he did what any boy whose girlfriend was sitting on their bed would do: he kissed her. It was a different feeling, he found, kissing her after she had been angry with him, like he was trying to pull her close again.

After a few minutes, he propped himself up on his elbow and looked at her.

“Are you still upset?” he asked, brushing her hair behind her ear.

“I suppose not,” she answered, smiling widely.

He grinned back at her. “It’s like I always say: when in doubt, snog it out.”

“Oh, you always say that, do you?” she asked through laughter.

“Of course. It’s my life motto,” he said. They both laughed and there was a pause in which Lily fiddled a bit with the edge of his shirt sleeve.

“Just—” she said haltingly. “Just, in future...even if you think I’m going to be mad...don’t lie. It only makes things worse.”

He kissed her nose, feeling a slight wave of guilt.

“All right,” he said, which made her smile. “I wanted to tell you sooner, you know...but it’s a big thing to tell...”

“I understand,” she said.

He pulled her closer, allowing him to speak without having to look straight at her. “I love you.”

It still felt strange to say, and his face felt just as hot as it had the previous day. He supposed he would get used to it eventually—would become sure enough of her reply that he wouldn’t feel the same rush of anticipation.

“I love you too,” she said.

James was able to take a few calming breaths in the silence that followed.

“So,” she said, looking up at him, “are you going to tell me what it is you supposedly transform into?”

“You still don’t believe me?” he asked, hanging his head back in exasperation while she giggled.

“I’m kidding. Really, though, what is it?”

“A stag,” he said.

“Oh,” Lily said, “well, I’m not sure if I do believe you, then.”

“Why?”

“Well, if you turned into a fluffy little rabbit, then it would be believable,” she said, laughing again.

James shook his head. “Now you’re just being mean.”



.........




How the time had fallen away so quickly that there was less than a week before N.E.W.T.s, Lily had no idea, but she was fairly certain that her sanity wasn’t going to hold out until then, anyway. In all likelihood, she would be carted off to St. Mungo’s any day now.

It wasn’t the studying that was the problem. She had been slowly preparing for weeks now, and was as uncertainly confident about her ability to pass her exams as anyone else—perhaps even a little more, since she had always done well in school.

No, it wasn’t the studying, but rather everyone else around her. Since the wedding, Anna and Mary had both been insufferable in their own ways, and had developed an uncanny knack for finding Lily no matter where she went.

Though Lily was glad that Anna seemed to want to spend more time with her, she would have appreciated it more had Anna not been so horribly on edge about their exams. It went far beyond even Anna’s normal level of irritation, and trying to study with her was like being stuck in a lion’s cage. She had to look everything up, unable to take anyone else’s word for it, yet got extremely snippy if anyone did the same to her. Lily tried to be understanding, since she knew how much pressure Anna must be under—she was getting a multitude of letters from her parents, sometimes twice daily—but there was a limit to how tolerant she could be.

On the other hand, Mary was a complete wreck, and Lily avoided studying with her for one reason: it almost always ended with Mary in tears, discussing something completely unrelated to school. These breakdowns reinforced Lily’s firm belief that Mary’s apparent “transformation” into someone who could successfully work in Magical Law Enforcement was simply an act, which only made her worry more. Even worse, a few of these conversations seemed to center on Remus, though Mary never actually referred to him directly. Those ones were especially incomprehensible, with Mary babbling about being “taken in,” which Lily supposed was a reference to how Remus had led her on for a few months. She still hadn’t forgotten about Anna’s discovery of the notes in Mary’s book, but she never brought it up, as it would probably only lead to more tearful conversations.

Then there was James. By far, he was the easiest to be around, especially when she needed a break. But he too seemed to be getting a little unhinged, especially since he had not left much time to study properly at all. Lily had told him weeks ago to start his revision, but he hadn’t listened, typically. At least he seemed to keep his frustration silent for the most part.

She said “for the most part” because his frustration was manifesting as a severe regression in maturity; unfortunately, Sirius, Remus, and Peter were all experiencing similar symptoms. They were back to hexing people and causing general mayhem—James tried to tone it down in front of her, she could tell, but he seemed to have forgotten that he didn’t have eyes in the back of his head, and didn’t always know when she was around and when she wasn’t.

She supposed she probably would have been back to detesting him if she weren’t in love with him.

It got quite frustrating to tell them all to lay off, since they (excluding James) all seemed to think she was being an uppity bore. She didn’t relish being thought of that way, and so she avoided spending time with them in crowded areas like the common room. Sometimes she just held her tongue altogether, which left her with mixed feelings—she didn’t feel so bossy and prudish, but she also felt bad for not speaking up.

She never had an easy time deciding which of these feelings would take sway, so much so that when they managed to attach a pair of underpants on Snape’s head on their last day of Potions, knowing that he would refuse to miss class even if he couldn’t remove them, she did not immediately come to his defence, and initially tried to lightly chastise them, hoping they would cotton on. (And, all right, she still felt the sting from the way Snape had treated her in past years, so on occasion it did feel slightly satisfying to see him get his comeuppance.)

“What is this obsession you all have with seeing Snape’s underpants?” she asked at first, while they watched him walk by in one of the dungeon corridors.

“It’s not about wanting to see them, Evans,” Sirius said flippantly, “it’s about wanting to put them on display.”

“Oh, that’s much better,” she said.

“They’re not his, anyway,” Peter explained, smirking.

“Whose are they, then?” she asked, not really sure if she wanted to know.

“James’,” Remus said, with a suppressed grin.

What?” Lily said to James.

“This wasn’t my idea,” James replied, holding his hands up innocently.

“Sure it wasn’t,” Sirius said, with pointed sarcasm. “Anyway, we debated for a while whose would bother him most—eventually it came down to mine or James’, and we figured the connection with you would really get to him.”

“Excuse me—what connection?”

“Oh, come on, Evans,” Sirius said suggestively. Peter tried to turn his laugh into a cough.

“Sirius, it’s time for you to stop talking,” James said, putting his arm around Lily’s shoulders. “We’ll make arrangements for me to kill you later.”

Anna came into class and sat down next to Lily just before the bell rang. When she caught sight of Snape, who was hiding at one of the back tables rather than at the front, she raised her left eyebrow in surprise.

“Well, that’s a new look for him,” she observed briskly. “Whose underpants?”

Lily rolled her eyes darkly. “Don’t ask.”

The class was predictably frustrating and unusually boring. They were revising important material rather than learning anything new, which Lily saw the use of—but the boys (a word which she used very deliberately, in this case) in front of her seemed unable to go without whispering something to each other for more than a minute at a time, and Sirius and Peter kept taunting Snape incessantly whenever the professor’s back was turned. Beside her, Anna kept asking her questions about very small details, which caused Lily to miss more than a few things that Slughorn said—and every time she answered her, Anna would then flip furiously through Advanced Potion-Making to verify what Lily had said, which made her wonder why she was bothering to ask at all.

When class ended, Lily stuck around with Anna while she asked Professor Slughorn about the time limit for their practical exam. They emerged into the corridor outside and found James, Sirius, Peter, and Remus facing off with Snape, which Lily had assumed would happen at some point.

There was a very strange moment where she saw both James and Snape’s gaze shift to her and they seemed to be on the verge of withdrawing, but neither gave up their ground.

“You won’t think this is so funny when we’re out of this place,” Snape spat at all of them. “If you didn’t have Dumbledore on your side—”

Lily had to look away to disguise the laughter that was sprouting from her chest. Ordinarily, she would have been somewhat concerned with Snape’s threats, especially as she wasn’t sure they were empty ones, but it was impossible to take him seriously when he was looking at you wearing underpants as a hat.

“You think it’s funny, too?” Snape asked her, a sneer on his face (or what she could see of it, anyway). “Look how the high-and-mighty have fallen...”

Lily was immediately sobered by this.

“Stop being so dramatic, Snape,” Anna said.

Lily looked pointedly at James. “Take them off him,” she said. He hesitated for a moment, but raised his wand and Vanished the underpants.

“Sorry, Snivellus, it’s not much of an improvement,” Sirius said, grinning.

Snape looked at Lily, then at James, then back at her—she could tell he was trying to make some kind of point—before stalking off with an air of superiority. Lily didn’t know what he could be feeling so proud of, since he’d just spent a couple hours with someone else's drawers stuck on top of his head.

“So much for that bit of fun,” Sirius remarked as they headed up to the Great Hall for dinner.

Once they had sat down at the Gryffindor table, James apologized, but Lily wasn’t upset with him, not really. She was more upset with herself for acting in a way that was contrary to the person she had always considered herself to be.

She wanted to be alone after dinner and declined Mary and Anna’s invitation to go study in the library together, as well as James’ to study in the common room, and retreated to her dormitory, which was blessedly silent. For an hour or so, anyway.

Mary eventually came bursting into the dormitory, with the telltale signs of impending tears that Lily had gotten used to over the past few days. Lily felt a little like concussing herself with her Herbology book.

“She is the most horrible person I’ve ever known,” Mary burst out, throwing her bag down next to her bed.

“Who?” Lily asked, thinking that she might have had a run-in with some Slytherin girls.

“Anna, of course!”

Lily had definitely not been prepared for that. She stuck a folded piece of parchment in her book as a place-marker and shut it.

“What happened?”

Mary sat down on the end of Lily’s bed and wiped underneath her eye. “I told her what I was going to do after school and she went ballistic—”

Lily wished she had an Invisibility Cloak like James. This was one conversation she had hoped would not take place within a hundred miles of her.

“—she kept saying that it was too dangerous and I was going to get myself killed!” Mary said. “Nice thing to say, isn’t it? And she got us both detention from Madam Pince!”

Lily brushed her fingers through a stubborn knot she had discovered in her hair. “I’m sure she’s just concerned, Mary—”

“She can never be happy for anyone else! Just because she knows her life is going to be pathetic—”

Lily thought she ought to say something about Mary’s statement being harsh, but figured it would have fallen on deaf ears.

“She always used to tell me that I needed to be more confident and independent, and now that I am, she can’t handle it! She liked it when she could order me around, when I hung on every word she said!”

Mary was positively shrieking at this point; Lily was surprised that no one had come running, thinking she was being murdered.

“Oh, and you know what’s really rich?” Mary asked, tears streaming down her face. “She said that she thought this was all a disproportionate reaction to Remus rejecting me, and that I’m pretending to not care about him because I’m still hoping he’ll change his mind!”

This sounded like a fairly astute observation, in Lily’s opinion, but she wasn’t about to say that.

“All right—Mary, let’s just take a moment and calm down,” Lily said. “Here, you can use my jumper to wipe your eyes...”

Once Mary was taking normal breaths again, Lily set herself to sorting things out—if she was going to survive the next couple weeks, she had no other choice.

“Mary, you know Anna’s your best friend,” Lily said gently, “and we’re all under a lot of stress these days. I’m sure she’s going to come around, and I know she can’t have meant all those things.”

“You didn’t see her,” Mary said, sniffling.

“It doesn’t matter. You’ve both been friends for so long, she just can’t have meant it,” Lily stated. “And besides, have you been around her lately? She’s been in a bad mood, even by her standards.”

Mary laughed a little. “She told Madam Pince that one of the library books was wrong.”

“Now that, I would have liked to see,” Lily said, smiling. “Everything will be fine once we get through exams.”

Mary nodded, but she still looked quite glum. Lily contemplated whether she ought to say something about Remus—she didn’t want to send her back into hysterics again, but at the same time, there was something to be said for Anna’s theory. Mary’s personality switch did seem to coincide with the time that it had really looked like there was no hope between her and Remus...and Remus did seem to be actively pursuing her, now that she wasn’t haranguing him...

“Mary...are you sure that...you’re not holding on to any resentful feelings towards Remus?”

Mary’s brown eyes locked onto Lily with a speed that was almost frightening.

“You think she’s right, don’t you?”

“No, no, no, no,” Lily said hastily, knowing she would get nowhere if Mary was angry with her as well. “I just want to make sure that everything’s cleared up there, because if there’s something you feel like you need to say to him, to resolve it once and for all—”

“I don’t have anything to say to him,” Mary said firmly.

“But—” Lily tried to word her next sentence carefully. “It seems like—like he thinks there’s more to be said—”

“Did he tell you that? Or did it come through James?”

“No, neither—I just—I saw he was writing you notes—”

Mary stood up like she had received an electric shock. Her cheeks were turning fuchsia.

“Anna told you?”

“She told you?”

“So the two of you have been talking about me behind my back, then?” Mary asked shrilly.

“No, it’s not like that!” Lily said. “We were just worried—”

“I don’t need other people to worry for me! I can take care of my own life!”

“I know that!” Lily said. This was all going horribly wrong; why had she even bothered to bring it up?

“I should have known you would take her side,” Mary said viciously. “You both think you’re better than me.”

Lily sighed—she was sick of this, quite frankly. Besides that, she really needed to be studying for Herbology.

“Mary, this is ridiculous,” she said flatly. “I’m not on anyone’s side, but whatever is going on between you and Remus, I really think you need to talk and figure things out.”

There was a pause. “I figured out everything that I needed to,” Mary said. Something in the tone of her voice was very strange.

“What do you mean?”

“I know that I’m not interested in dating him,” Mary said, “and I’m really glad he never agreed to it when I did want to. I had no idea what I would have been getting into.”

It wasn’t possible that Mary knew. She couldn’t.

“Can you explain what you mean?”

“I probably shouldn’t tell you,” Mary replied. “It’s not the kind of thing he’d want other people to know about.”

Lily couldn’t believe that Mary had found out—or had Remus told her?

“I’ll tell you,” Mary said, “but only because I think you should know, since you’re going out with James. You have to promise not to tell anyone else, though.”

Lily nodded, hoping against hope that Mary was talking about something else.

“Remus’ mum is a werewolf.”

Lily’s eyes widened in surprise. “W-what?”

“All those times he disappeared?” Mary asked, looking rather satisfied with her own knowledge. “Didn’t you ever notice they were all on the full moon?”

“No,” Lily lied. “You did?”

“Well...” she went slightly pink again. “I kind of...overheard Snape talking about it a few months ago. And he was right, Lily. When Remus goes home to take care of his mum, it’s because she’s a werewolf. Sometimes I think Remus wanted me to know, he was so obvious about it.”

Lily didn’t bother to point out that this theory made no sense, as a human getting closer to a werewolf during the full moon was not exactly the most logical plan.

“Anyway, I’m so glad I didn’t get dragged into that mess,” Mary said. “I mean, him having to go back home every month, and—”

She paused, looking hesitant and a little embarrassed.

“What?” Lily asked.

“Well...” she said, shrugging slowly, “there’s a bit of a...a stigma, you know?”

Lily did not like where this conversation was going. Already disappointed with her own failure to stand up for Snape earlier, she felt an immediate urge to come to Remus’ defence.

“To some people there is,” she said. “What does that matter to you?”

Mary seemed determined not to back down. “I could stand here and pretend that I wouldn’t care, but I know that I would, if it came down to it.”

“So, you think that all those people who want to round up werewolves and separate them from us—basically put them in prisons—are right?”

“I don’t know if I’d go that far, but—”

“Oh, I understand. You just don’t want them around you,” Lily said. Mary folded her arms across her chest.

“Lily, you can stand there and be patronizing all you like, but you and I both know that you’d feel the exact same way if you were in my position.”

Lily would not have believed that the person in front of her was Mary, but there was no denying it—it was her, just a horrible version of her that had come out into the open. Where in past years Mary might have tried to conceal her feelings for the sake of avoiding confrontation, now she seemed determined to voice exactly what she felt.

“Really?” she asked, not bothering at all to hide the anger in her voice. “You think if it was one of James’ parents, I’d be heading for the hills?”

“Yes, I do,” Mary said, nodding. “And deep down, you know I’m right—”

“No, you’re completely wrong,” Lily said. “I wouldn’t care, not one bit. In fact, I would admire James for what he was doing. I’d be glad to know how compassionate he was.”

Mary flushed. “Fine. I’m the horrible person, then.”

“At the moment, yes,” Lily said, heading for the door. “I can’t talk to you right now.”

“I’m so glad we’re about to graduate,” Mary said, whirling around. Her voice was shaking, and she was clearly on the edge of tears again. “I can get away from my so-called friends who have never really cared about me at all.”

Never cared?” Lily repeated. “Mary, how many times have I listened to you and supported you in the last week alone?”

“You made it very clear how much you cared when you kept hanging around with Snape after his friend attacked me,” Mary said. “And do you know, you’ve never apologized to me for that? Not even once.”

There was a very tense moment in which they stared at one another. Lily could not shake the feeling that there was going to be no reconciling from this argument—that there never really had been a chance of it, ever since fifth year.

Lily did not know what to say, so she simply opened the door to leave. She felt like she was giving up, letting Mary win, by not saying anything, so she stopped and said the one thing that was burning in her mind.

“Just so you know, though—even if James himself was a werewolf, I would still love him.” It was a pointed statement, though how much, Mary would not know.

Mary looked mildly amused, and not a bit like she believed Lily. “I’m sure you would.”

With that, Lily left the room. She stopped halfway down the staircase, wondering whether she ought to go back and fix things. Was she being too hard on Mary? Her instinct was to forgive, but somehow she didn’t think she could, not this time. It wouldn’t make a difference, anyway—Lily knew from experience that people tended to hold on to their prejudices, no matter how much they pretended not to. And for that reason, going out of her way to apologize to Mary would only be something she regretted in the end.

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