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The Flower and the Stag

Part 9

James stared out the window. It was a few days before Christmas, and his family was out at a party. Maybe he should go too…his old friends would be there…maybe he could somehow smuggle Sirius, Remus and Lily out of the castle. His eyes lit up and he grinned to himself, feeling extremely pleased.

Then he sat down, puzzled, trying to work out how he could make this happen. Pickles was in yet another sticky mess (literally). So he wouldn't be able to deliver a message. Floo powder might work…he jumped up, grabbed the Floo Network Directory and flipped through to the H page. He ran his finger down the line of names, searching for Hogwarts. It was right at the bottom of the page, in bright gold letters. How he could have missed it, he didn't know. James checked the clock. Nine-thirty.

Maybe he shouldn't. He'd probably end up right in Professor McGonagalls office, anyhow. He laughed, imagining her face.

With a final glance towards the fireplace, he grabbed a pinch of Floo Powder and threw it in. The fire leapt up and the golden orange and yellow flames changed to bright green.

'Gryffindor Common Room!' He yelled, after saying the password.

~*~*~*~*~

James tumbled into the common room, and, to his great delight, came face to face with Sirius as he got up.

'Prongs? I thought you were on holidays?'

Remus glanced up, but didn't look at all surprised. 'Aw, Padfoot, he couldn't do with Lily for a whole two days. What were you thinking?'

'Ha ha. Where is Lily, anyway?'

'Oh, round about. How come you're here? Did ya miss me?'

'Not really. Want to come to a party?'

'Yeah!' He glanced guiltily towards Remus, who raised his eyebrows. 'Moony. You wouldn't tell McGonagall, would you?'

'What have you done now?' James asked, looking disappointed. Not because he was disappointed in Sirius, of course, but because he'd missed out.

'Er- turned McGonagall into a bat?'

James tried to hide his laughter.

'She made a funny looking bat, too,' a new voice from behind them said.

James turned around. 'Oh, hello, Lily.'

'Hello. Couldn't stay away from us, eh?'

'Actually, I was going to take you and the others back with me.'

'We're supposed to be at school.' She pointed out.

'It's holidays!' He said, fluttering his eyelashes and grinning at her.

Lily raised her eyebrows. 'Don't do that.' She advised. 'It makes you look remarkably like Katherine McDowell.'

Sirius laughed.

'Oh, yuck, yuck, yuck,' James said, grimacing. 'That is not what I want.'

'I figured. So you want to take us to a party?'

'Yeah! How 'bout it, Moony, Padfoot?'

Lily sat down. 'Can I have a nickname? I'm sick of it being Prongs, Wormtail-' she sniggered-' Padfoot and Moony. I want one too.'

'Can't we discuss this later?' James said, looking at the clock. 'We'll be late.'

Lily crossed her arms. 'I'm not leaving till I have a nickname.'

'Okay. Bye, Lily.' Sirius jumped into the fireplace after sprinkling some powder in. 'Wait a second. How about Mud Puddle?'

'Excuuuse me?'

'It's the opposite to Lily.'

'Oh, Sirius, you're just so funny. Forget this.' She got up.

'Good. You're coming.' James said, leaning against the wall.

She glared at him, but he could tell she wasn't angry. 'If I get expelled for this, I'll kill you. Okay?'

'Okay.'

'Good.' She jumped into the fireplace. 'Aberdene!'

~*~*~*~*~

James looked around at his friends, all of whom were throwing raisins up in the air and trying to catch them in their mouths.

'Great party, Prongs,' Lily said, taking a break from raisin throwing.

"Prongs?' A girl called Tina said. 'Why Prongs?'

'He's -er- a vegetarian,' Lily explained.

'Oh. Right.' She threw a raisin up high and ran to catch it, bumping into Remus as she did so. 'Oof! Sorry.'

He picked himself up. 'S'okay.'

Lily plopped down onto the ground next to James and Sirius. 'This is fun. Where d'you know Tina and the others from? They don't go to Hogwarts.'

'They go to school at home,' he said. 'Tina's my mothers friends daughter. We've known each other since we were little kids.'

'She has an obsession with unicorns,' Sirius said, rolling his eyes. 'There are like, twenty posters of them up in her room, all of which neigh. Or make whatever sounds unicorns make.'

'How would you know this, Sirius Black?' Lily asked, grinning, and helping herself to a handful of chips.

'Mum made me go over her house once, when she had to work. She was late home, and I had to stay the night.'

Lily spat out her chips.

'Hey! I was only ten! Besides, I couldn't sleep…I don't know how she does sleep at all. They prance around all night.'

'It wasn't that,' Lily answered, in between coughs. 'It was the chips,' she spluttered.

'Are they poisonous or something?'

'Probably. They taste foul.' She punctuated this sentence by falling backwards onto the floor in a dead faint.

'Lily! Sirius, help me carry her-'

'James!'

'What? Sirius-'

'Use your wand!'

'Oh. Oh, yeah. Mobiliarcorpus.' He said, flicking his wand.

'Now what do we do?' Remus asked, wringing his hands.

'We need to get some help. Come on, we'll take her to Hogwarts. Madame Pomfrey'll never know what happened, she doesn't ask questions.'

'James, I think she'll ask questions now. We can't exactly say, we were at a party we weren't supposed to be at.'

'I know. But we have to do something, and that's our best option!'

'Okay, okay. I'll go in first, you go in second and carry her.'

'Yeah, hurry up! She's gone all white.'

Tina and a black haired girl rushed over. 'What happened?' Tina asked breathlessly, looking at Lily with concern.

'Oooh. She's all pale.' The black haired girl said this with some kind of relish.

'Shut up, Souraya. James, is she okay?'

'I don't know.' He jumped into the fire, and both he and Lily disappeared.

Souraya watched them go with a tiny smile playing about her lips.

'Tina, how'd you know that was the Lily Master was talking about?' The girl called Souraya asked curiously.

'James told me he liked some red head,' Tina answered, dropping the worried look. She sneered. 'There aren't many of them, are there?'

'Think she'll die?'

'Hopefully. What spell did you use?'

'Er- I'm not sure. I think it was that bacterial one. Where it sort of eats your insides.'

'Excellent.' She now looked most unlike the Tina James and Sirius knew.

Souraya grinned. 'That Black's pretty cute, eh? Pity he's not on our side.'

'Nothing says we can't change that,' Tina said confidently. 'Though without darling little Lily-' she spat her name out '-we might get a little further.' She glanced at Remus, who was packing up their things to go back to Hogwarts. 'For a werewolf, he isn't bad.'

'I still like Sirius,' Souraya said stubbornly. 'Think we'll be able to get him?'

'Shut up, Ray.' Tina said affectionately. Souraya looked offended. 'We'll get the whole Potter gang. Shame Pettigrew's such an idiot. We might get further.'

'True. But what about-'

'Yes, Souraya, we will try to get Black. Okay? Are you happy?'

Souraya's dark blue eyes shone. 'Yup… Are all the chips poisoned? I'm hungry.'

Tina groaned. 'How the hell should I know? You're the one who cast the spell.'

'Maybe we could sniff the chips in each bowl. I think the ones that are poisoned have a certain smell.'

'Great thinking, Sherlock. We dispose of them, idiot. We don't want people to know what we did, do we?'

Souraya's black hair fell across her eyes. 'We don't?'

'Of course we don't, twit. For gods sake, you're almost as dumb as Pettigrew.'

'Hey!'

'I said almost,' Tina said hastily. While her raven-haired friend was most definitely slow on the uptake, she was a powerful witch. 'We'd get sent to Azkaban. If Master didn't kill us first. So we get rid of them.'

'Right. A fire spell?'

'Yes.'

As Remus stepped over to the fire, he watched James's old friends. The brunette, Tina, was whispering something to her friend, who he had found to be rather stupid. He stepped into the fire, and the last thing he saw was a large bowl on fire, slowly disintegrating.

~*~*~*~*~

James and Sirius rushed to the hospital wing with Lily hovering next to them. 'She's not breathing.' James said urgently. He started to run, and they burst through the double doors breathlessly, gasping for air.

'Potter! Black! What are you doing here at this hour of the mor-' she caught sight of Lily. 'What happened?' she asked, checking the girls pulse.

'She ate something, and then- just- fainted.' Sirius explained hurriedly, as James didn't look able to talk.

'What did she eat?'

'Chips,' James answered, recovering.

'Boys, please leave. On second thoughts, get the headmaster. There's a powerful dark spell on her. If we don't have help she may die.'

They both stared at her, dumbstruck.

'Hurry!' The nurse said, not looking up. 'The password's Life Saver.'

'Life saver?' James said, panting, as they sprinted through the corridors. 'How appropriate.'

'D'you think she'll be okay?'

'I hope so. God, I hope so… Sirius, it's all my fault,' he stopped for long enough to say the password to the gargoyle, and then started to run up the stairs leading to Professor Dumbledore's study.

'Mr Potter? Mr Black? What's happened?' he added, as he caught sight of their faces in the dark.

'Lily! Ate -something! She'll die- professor- help her, Pomfrey sent us.' Sirius babbled breathlessly, not making much sense. But it was enough for Dumbledore, and he dashed out the door.

James collapsed into a chair. 'If she dies, it'll be all my fault.'

Sirius looked at his best friend sympathetically. 'No, it isn't. You didn't force the chips down her throat, did you?'

'No.' he muttered.

'And you didn't force her to come, did you?'

'No. What’s your point?'

'That it isn't your fault.'

'Whatever.'

'James, listen to me. She won't die. Dumbledore wouldn't let that happen.'

He nodded, because there was a lump in his throat he couldn't get rid of and he couldn't speak.

'She'll be okay,' Sirius repeated softly.

They sat silently for a few moments, until Sirius stood up, yawning. 'Come on. We'd better go to bed.'

'To bed? What about Lily?'

'We have to sleep, Prongs. You'll see her in the morning.'

'I'm going to see her now,' James answered stubbornly.

Sirius looked up at him, and sighed, seeing there would be no changing his mind.

'Fine. I'll walk you there, but then I'm going to bed. Okay?'

'Yeah.' James shrugged, and walked down the stairs slowly, looking absolutely exhausted.

The two friends walked in silence to the Hospital wing, partly because they didn't want to get caught by Filch, and partly because there just wasn't anything to say.

'I'll see you in the morning, then?'

'Yeah,' James answered, not listening properly. His eyes were on the door, through which he could see the Headmaster, Madame Pomfrey and Professors McGonagall and Flitwick all leaning over Lily's body, which looked so still.

Sirius left, and James entered the hospital wing, biting his nails. They didn't notice him, so he sat quietly on a bed, watching and listening.

Finally, a few hours later, Professor Dumbledore looked up, and smiled at James, whose eyelids were drooping.

'Will she be okay?' He asked.

Dumbledore's blue eyes had tears in them. 'I don't know, James. But I think she will be.'

Madame Pomfrey levitated Lily onto a bed, pulled the sheets up and tucked them under her arms. James pulled a chair over to her bed, and sat down, leaning against the mattress. Professor McGonagall didn't have the heart to tell him to go to bed, so she and Dumbledore left, closing the door behind them quietly.

Madame Pomfrey placed a drink of water on the bedside table, then retreated to her office, looking forward to a cup of hot chocolate.

James rested his elbows on the bed, and gazed at Lily sadly, too tired to do anything but raise his hand and stroke her knotted hair gently.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Lily struggled to open her eyes. It felt as though they were glued down, and as they slowly fluttered open, she caught sight of a mess of black hair spread over the blankets. She smiled, and reached over, patting James's head. He looked up. 'Lily?' he mumbled.

'No. it's Kermit the Frog.'

'Oh.' He said groggily, to sleepy to get it. 'Morning Kermit.' Then his head went back down, and he fell asleep again.

Lily saw Madame Pomfrey approaching, balancing two breakfast trays on her hands (Lily suspected she was using magic.)

'Good morning.' She placed the trays on the bed next to Lily's, and checked her pulse, only pausing for a moment to smile at James, who was still conked out.

'Shall I wake him up?' She asked.

'Nah, he looks so innocent…I'll probably never see this again.'

'True. How are you feeling?' She asked, regaining her professionalism.

Lily would have liked to say that she felt fabulous, but the ache in her head was too strong, and she muttered 'not all that great.'

'Not great?' The nurse murmured. 'Have some of this.' She pulled a spoon out of her pocket. It was full of a liquid that looked purple and green, depending on how you saw it. All in all, it didn't look very edible. Lily wrinkled her nose. Then her head throbbed, more painfully than all the times before. Reluctantly, she took the medicine, though not without pulling a face.

'Right. I'll check on you in half an hour, just buzz if you feel sick.' Madame Pomfrey left, wishing she had a camera. She could make millions if she sold that photo of James. For one of the most well known troublemakers in the entire school (along with Sirius and Remus) he looked rather adorable while he was sleeping.

Lily was thinking this as she ate her breakfast, being careful so as not to spill on his head. Then he looked up quite suddenly, knocked her hand, and they both ended up with cornflakes all over the bed (and them)

James felt his hair. 'It's wet.' He said, pointing out the obvious. Lily shook her hands, trying to get the soggy cereal off them.

'Is it really? That's because it has milk in it.'

'Eurgh. How'd it get milk in it?' He noticed the spoon Lily was holding. 'You didn't have to wake me up like that,' he said, with a wounded expression on his face.

'I didn't mean to.'

'Yeah. Right.' He looked hard at her for a moment. 'Lily!'

'Who else would I be?'

'I thought you were Kermit,' he said, looking puzzled.

She rolled her eyes, but before Lily could come up with any smart remarks, James had engulfed her in a bear hug, and her head was up against his arm. It made it quite difficult to speak.

When he let her go, Lily saw his eyes were misty. She'd never seen him cry. 'I thought you were dead,' he whispered.

'Silly deer.' She muttered, hugging him and patting his head (however wet it was).

'I thought I'd killed you,' he said, his voiced choked up with tears.

Lily pulled away and looked at him sternly. 'I am not dead, see that? And you didn't do anything to me, right?'

'Right,' he muttered feebly.

'Good. And I think you'd better get back home.'

'McGonagall's already seen me.'

'She has? Why?'

'You were really sick. You stopped breathing on the way here. Pomfrey said you might die…Don't you remember?'

'No…I remember everything going dark. Like I was asleep. And then there were all these bright lights.' She closed her eyes, remembering. 'It was all…golden, I think. And peaceful.' She opened her eyes, looking at James with an almost sad expression on her face.

'Do you think that was Heaven?'

'Yeah. I think it might have been.'

Lily lay back on her pillow, staring at the ceiling, thinking about heaven.

James grinned suddenly, his old troublemaker's grin returning in full strength.

'What?' Lily asked suspiciously, seeing this.

'I have a nickname for you.'

'Judging by the expression on your face, I don't want to hear this.'

'Probably not.'

'So what is it, then?' Lily braced herself, praying it had nothing to do with mud.

'I think I will call you Kermit from now on.'

Lily sat bolt upright and stared at him. 'You have got to be joking.'

'You're the one who brought up the subject of nicknames in the first place.' He said, brown eyes twinkling.

'Not Kermit,' she groaned putting her head in her hands.

Madame Pomfrey rushed out. 'What's wrong?' She asked, looking extremely worried.

Lily looked up. 'Kermit.' She said, a blank expression on her face.

The nurse glanced at James questioningly. 'What's this?'

'Oh, nothing. She's fine.'

Madame Pomfrey raised her eyebrows, but left, shaking her head.

'Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, Prongs and Kermit. Sounds pretty good, eh?'

Lily groaned. 'My head hurts.'

James leaned in closer, trying to see her face. 'Lily? Are you-'

She knocked him off the bed.

~*~*~*~~

James left Hogwarts later that night, after explaining matters to all his professors. Luckily, they were all relieved that Lily was okay, so none of them were in the mood to get James into too much trouble.

He arrived at home, all to aware of the trouble he was in with certain members of his family. Namely, his mother and father.

'James Potter.' Mr Potter said slowly, watching him crawl out of the fireplace. 'Where, may I ask, have you been?'

'Er- school?'

'Pardon?'

'Lily was sick. I- I wanted to see her. Dumbledore said- he said she might die.' James looked down. 'Sorry.'

His mother rushed in, and wrapped her arms around his neck, sobbing. 'My baby!' She put his cheeks in her hands. 'Oh, my baby!'

'Mum.' James pulled away. 'Lemmego!'

She looked at him. 'Where on earth have you been? I thought you were dead! You could have been killed, you could have been abducted, you could have been run over by some maniac in a car.'

James rolled his eyes. "I've already told dad. I was at Hogwarts, Lily was really sick.'

'Oh, Lily. Is she okay?' Mrs Potter forgot about maniac muggles running over her baby for a moment.

'She's fine now.'

'Oh, James, I just remembered. '

'Mmm?' James turned around to look at his father for a moment.

'Max Reilly told me that his daughter will be coming to Hogwarts for awhile. Some kind of exchange program.'

'You mean Souraya?'

'Yeah, black haired little thing. Quite clever, I gather.'

'I know her. She's mentally unbalanced.'

'James!'

'She is. I'm not saying that in a bad sort of way. She's just a bit…crazy. But she's as good in charms as Lily. And practically a genius in everything else. It's just life she has trouble with.'

'Max said she'll be there for about a month. Look after her, won't you?'

'Course I will. I'm going to bed. Night mum, dad.'

His parents watched him leave, Mrs Potter with an amused look on her face. 'Sometimes I think he's the one who's mentally unbalanced.'

'Max Reilly.' Mr Potter muttered, stroking his chin. 'There's something about him…I'm not sure what.'

'Lachlan.' His wife looked at him from behind the daily prophet. 'Mr Reilly's been a good friend to you all these years. You can't go doubting your friends. Where would that leave you? Friendless and scared. I know you're scared. But you need your friends at a time like this. James needs his friends.'

'I know. But Max. Something isn't right about him. Or it might be his girl…Souraya, isn't it?'

'Lachlan, she's the little girl who used to fall out of trees when James's friends came over to play.'

'And then levitate herself back up, even without a wand. She's damn fine witch, Luce, no denying it.'

'Another one for our side, then.'

Mr Potter said nothing.

'Lachlan! Voldemort wouldn't be recruiting schoolgirls now, would he?'

'I didn't say that. But why doesn't she go to school? She and Tina are schooled at home. Since when was that normal, Lucy?'

'Kyara Jem is one of my closest friends! There is nothing wrong with her family. Tina's a lovely girl.'

Lachlan Potter sighed. 'I better go to bed. Work starts early tomorrow.'

'It's Christmas Eve!'

He reached over and kissed his wife on the cheek. 'I'm sorry. But we can't have everyone taking a day off on Christmas. We'd get attacked for sure.'

Lucy looked at the ground. 'Goodnight,' she said softly.

~*~*~*~*~*~

James listened from his bedroom.

'Voldemort.' He muttered, hatred swelling inside him.

~*~*~*~*~*~

The next day, as he played chess with himself in the living room, the fire glowed bright green, and a few moments later, a girl with dark red hair rolled out, covered in soot.

'Ouch.' Lily looked up, wiping the soot from her eyes. 'Hullo James.'

'Kermit?'

'Oh, don't say it. You just had to tell Sirius, didn't you? Now every time I get within ten metres of him, he calls out 'Ribbit!' It's ridiculous. And he croaks.' Lily rolled her eyes.

'Er- why're you here?'

'Asked McGonagall.'

'Pardon? Why would she let you come here?'

Lily looked puzzled for a moment. 'Actually, I don't know. Maybe the Christmas spirit was getting to her.' She snickered. 'Flitwick's been singing carols at the top of his lungs for the last two days. Sirius won't admit to charming him, but-' she shrugged. 'He never admits to anything.'

James grinned. 'So, what're you doing here?'

'Visiting you.'

'Just couldn't wait for me to get back?' He teased.

'Needed to get away from Sirius, more like it. And I'm taking you out.'

'Ooh. Where?'

'Ice-skating.'

'What's that?'

'You don't know what ice-skating is? Where have you been?'

'Hey, you didn't know what Quidditch was.'

'That's different. Come with me.'

She took his hand and pulled him out the door, walking briskly along the footpath, looking for a bus stop.

'Where exactly are we going?'

'Ice-skating.'

'You still haven't told me what that is.'

'James, think about it. Ice. Skating. Skating on ice.'

'Why would anyone want to skate on ice?'

'Why would anyone want to fly? Er- dumb question. Don't answer that. Anyway, it's fun. T almost feels like you're flying. You have to remember muggles don't have brooms. Well, they do, but not flyable brooms.'

'Whatever. What are we doing now?' They had stopped, and were standing waiting by a sign.

'Waiting for a bus.'

'Why don't we just walk? Or, on second thoughts, we could fly.'

'Great idea,' Lily said absently, as the bus approached. 'Come on.'

James looked out the window. 'Everything looks much larger. I'm used to seeing it from up high.'

'See? Muggle technology does have some uses.'

James snorted. 'Some. Are we there yet?'

Lily craned her neck to see out the window. 'Er- almost. We get off at the next stop.'

'Good. This bus is cramped.' James leaned back in his seat.

Lily shook her head, and then stood up.

'Oooh. It's pretty.' James was talking about the frozen pond that lay before them.

'Yeah, I know. Petunia and I used to come here every winter. She wasn't a bad skater, actually.'

There were lots of kids gliding along the ice, some doing tricks, some struggling to stay on their feet.

'Hurry up, slowpoke,' Lily said, shoving a pair of skates on her feet.

'I don't have any skates…Where'd you get them?' Lily had pulled a pair of blue skates out of her bag, which looked just the right size. 'I'm getting better at Transfiguration,' she said with a grin.

James laced them up, and then tried to stand. 'They make it a bit difficult to walk.' He said, looking down at his feet.

Lily got up. 'You're not supposed to walk. You skate.'

'Won't it be slippery?'

'Yeah. But that's part of the fun.'

James wrinkled his nose, and looked at the ice. 'You sure about this?'

'Course I am.' She walked over to the pond, and stepped onto it.

'It doesn't look hard. ' James said.

'Just get on, James.'

So he did. And for a moment, he looked as though he might stay up. A few seconds later, however, he was sitting on the ice, looking quite unhappy.

'Ouch. That hurt.'

Lily giggled, then covered her mouth in apology. She held out her hand to help him up.

'Oof!' They sat on the ice together. 'I was trying to help you!' Lily said in between giggles.

'I didn't mean to. It was an accident. I think I'm better at flying.'

'I think you are too…My bums getting cold.'

'I can't feel mine any more.'

Lily laughed, and got up, leaning on the rail. 'Here. I'll help you.' She pulled him to his feet. 'Hold onto m hand, okay? You sort of slide along.'

'Right. Sliiiiide. Oof!'

'No, not on the ground. On your feet.'

'Ha ha. Just because you can skate.'

As they moved (very slowly) along the ice, and James fell multiple times, Lily joked and laughed.

'You need a pillow.'

'I do not!'

'You'll break your butt if you keep this up.'

'Thanks for the sympathy.'

After awhile (with Lily laughing the whole time) James topped falling down, and they skated along silently, feeling quite content.

'Hey ! know her!'

'Who?'

'That girl.'

'The one spinning round in a circle or the one on the ground?'

'The one spinning round in a circle.'

'You would know her.'

'Just remember,' Lily said, as they approached the girl. 'We go to a boarding school somewhere in England, do not mention anything about broomsticks. Got it?'

'Got it.'

'Hey Charlie!' Lily called, waving with her free hand.

'Charlie?' James muttered. 'I thought that was a girl.'

'It is a girl, dope.'

'Oh. Right.'

'Lily!' The girl skated over, grinning. She had short brown hair and dark brown, almost black eyes that shone in the daylight.

'I haven't seen you for zonks!'

'Zonks?' James said.

'That's Charlie talk.' Lily answered. 'You cut your hair!' She said, fingering Charlie's dark locks.

'Yeah. The dumbest thing I've ever done. How've you been?'

'Good. This is James.'

'Hello.' She had a different accent, almost Irish or Welsh. 'You two go to the same school?'

'Yup. James has a detention almost every night.'

'And Lily comes every second night,' James answered good-naturedly.

Charlie grinned. 'I can't believe how hard school is. Have you done Calculus? Oh, course you have. We've been doing it since the very beginning of school this year; it's so darn hard. I can't figure it out. Can you do it?'

'Er- it's okay, I guess.'

James tried to hide his confusion. He would have left, but as they were right in the middle of the ice rink, he didn't want to fall over. It might not be possible to get up.

'How bout you?' Charlie was talking to him.

'Er- I'm not very good at it.'

Charlie nodded sympathetically 'The only person in my class who's any good at it is Penelope White- remember her, Lil?' Lily nodded. 'Yeah, well, she's come, like, top in every single class.'

'She was the one who used to quote the dictionary, wasn't she?'

Charlie grimaced. 'She still does. And you know Matty Walker?'

Lily grinned. 'Yeah?'

'He's got his heart set on coming up with some world changing formula in Chemistry.' She rolled her eyes. 'Didn't he dye your hair purple once?'

'I have been trying to erase that incident from my mind.'

'Oh, yeah, I just remembered. This weirdo just moved in next door. I think her name's Tina Jem, or something. Know her?'

Lily shook her head, but James nodded, looking surprised. 'I know her.'

'Do you think she's a bit odd?'

'I guess…' he thought about the argument his parents had had the night before. 'How do you mean weird?'

'Oh, like, she's always chanting and stuff. Mum reckons she's a witch, but, like, magic doesn't exist.' She rolled her eyes. 'She's so dumb sometimes. But this Tina girl's creepy.'

'Charlotte Khife! Get over here this instant!'

Charlie turned around, looking furious 'What, Da?'

'Have you done your homework?' Her father roared.

She turned back to Lily and James. 'Sorry. Da thinks I'm a complete twit. Just because I got a D in chemistry…see you again?'

'I go back to school tomorrow,' Lily said apologetically.

'Okay. Nice seeing you, anway.' She grinned, and leaned closer to Lily's ear. 'Cute boyfriend.'

The she skated off, glaring at her Da, who looked ready to kill. As they slid past Charlie, they heard part of the conversation.

'Wha' d'you think yer doin', talkin' 'o riff-raff like tha' eh?'

'Da. That's Lily. She was my friend.'

'Well, oo's tha' boy, eh? Can' 'e even brush 'is 'air, eh?'

'Shut up, Da.'

Lily giggled. 'She got nearly as many as detentions at school as you lot. And we only had six-hour days.'

'Sirius would be head-over-heels for her.'

Lily grinned. 'And then Jo would find out and Charlie would be no more.'

'Yes. Er- Lily?'

'Mmm?'

'It's getting dark.'

'WHAT? Sorry. Oh dear…McGonagall will kill me. I said I'd be back by four…yikes.'

She let go of James's hand in her rush, and he crashed to the ground. 'Oh, sorry.'

James got up, wincing. 'Next time you want to go ice-skating, remind me to hide, okay?'

'Okay…Your pants are all wet, by the way.'

'I have noticed that.'

They arrived back at James's house late, and Lily practically leapt into the fire place- almost forgetting the floo powder. After wishing James a Merry Christmas, she left.

James walked into the kitchen after having a hot shower, and leaned on the bench, where his mother was making dinner. He watched as the carrots flew over to the stove. 'Mum?'

'Mmm?'

'You know Tina?

'Tina Jem? Yes, of course I do.'

'Do you think there's something…weird about her?'

'James, not you too.'

'I'm not saying she is. I'm just asking what you think.'

'No, I don't think there's anything strange about Tina. As I said to your father last night, I think she is a perfectly lovely girl.' The tomatoes flew rather ferociously into the pot, and water splashed everywhere. Mrs Potter waved her wand impatiently. 'You've been friends with her for ages.'

'I know, I know. Don't worry about it.' He left, thinking hard.

~*~*~*~*~*~

James stood on Platform 9 and 3/4, his trunk heavier than it had been before the holidays. In it was two bagfuls of supplies from Zonkos from Sirius and Remus, a photo album full of pictures from Lily, new quill from Jo, and a box of chocolates from Peter. The chocolate box was half-empty, and only the chocolates filled with nuts and strawberry fillings (he was allergic to strawberries) were left.

He sat on the train, eating chocolate frogs and flipping through the photo album. The best one there (of which Sirius had added a note to) was the one of all of them -not including Peter- cramming in to get in the shot together, Sirius grinning as idiotically as usual, Remus laughing, Lily grinning and elbowing Sirius in the side, and himself, glasses half falling off, hair just as messy as ever. At the bottom, on a piece of blue parchment, it said. 'Moony, Kermit, Padfoot and Prongs Forever.'

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

On the way over to the castle, he had a run in with some Slytherins.

'Oi, Potter!' He turned around.

Severus Snape was coming towards him, sneering menacingly. 'Have a good Christmas? Heard your girlfriend almost died. Pity.'

'Get a life, Snape.'

He walked up to the castle, ignoring Snape's taunts, and as he went up to the common room, he wondered how Snape could have known about Lily.

Before he reached the portrait, he was stopped by a large group of girls. A very angry looking group of girls.

The Hufflepuffs.

'So, James,' their leader, Katherine McDowell said, glaring at him. 'Going for frogs, are we?'

'We are?' She's lost her mind, he thought. Completely off her rocker.

'Heard about Cooper's new nickname. Why Kermit, eh?'

'She croaks in her sleep.' Where the hell did that come from?

'Oh, she does, does she?'

'Er- no?' He was outnumbered. Maybe he should run. James looked behind him, and, to his horror, found that he was cornered.

'Leave him alone,' a voice commanded.

The other girls spun around, revealing a petite girl with black hair.

'Whose gonna make me?' Katherine said, not in the least worried about this newcomer.

'Expelliarmus!' The girl cried. She wasn't holding a wand, and as she said the spell, it looked as though magic was coming out of her skin, making her glow.

Katherine's wand flew out of her hand, and the girl caught it.

'Don't mess with me, sweetheart. Now leave the boy alone.'

The Hufflepuffs fled, whispering about 'evil' witches.

'So, James,' Souraya Reilly said, a tiny grin on her lips. She twirled Katherine's wand in her fingers. 'What's all this about frogs?'

'Don't ask. Er- thanks for saving me.'

'S'okay. You're in Gryffindor, aren't you?'

'Yeah. You?'

'I'm staying with the Slytherins. Should be interesting.'

'It should. Look, I've got to go. See you in Potions.'

'Hey, James, wait a moment.'

'What?'

'How's that redhead? Lily, isn't it?'

'She's okay. Someone poisoned her with a dark spell. They were pretty powerful. Couldn’t have been anyone at the party, cause no one there was powerful enough.' He looked at Souraya carefully here.

She almost blew it. How dare he say she wasn't powerful enough! How rude!

'I guess not,' she managed to say calmly.

'See you later, then. Bye.' Then he jogged up to the common room, wanting to test out the tricks Sirius and Remus had bought him.

~*~*~*~*~

'Prongs is back!' Sirius said, jumping up from his chess game. 'You wouldn't believe what has happened while you've been gone!'

'He turned McGonagall into a skunk.' Remus said, trying to hide his smile.

'Pardon? I thought it was a bat.'

'That was ages ago,' Sirius said dismissively. 'Besides, she looked much better as a skunk. Why she chose to be a cat, I don't know.'

'Maybe because cats don't smell?'

'That couldn't been it. Oh, and Kermit's looking for you. She feeling a bit croaky.'

'Sirius, you are such a dork,' Remus said, laughing. 'He means she has a cold.'

'Where is she?'

'Doing something with Jo in their dorm, I think.' Sirius pulled a face, as if to say 'girls.'

'Okay. I'll be back in a moment.' James disappeared up the girl's staircase.

Jo was sitting on her bed, looking very upset, and Lily was patting her shoulder sympathetically. Neither girl looked up as the door opened. James didn't say anything, and decided to leave when he saw the tears streaming down Jo's face, which was normally so cheerful. Lily glanced up when she heard his footsteps. He smiled, then looked at Jo questioningly. Lily shook her head.

James went back downstairs, trying to remember if he'd ever seen Jo cry. He hadn't.

Sirius frowned when he saw James face. 'What's wrong?'

'Nothing,' James said quickly. Jo wouldn't want Sirius to see her now.

Sirius shrugged, but continued to glance at James throughout the evening, trying to work it out. 'Where's Kermit?'

'Upstairs,' James answered.

'Doing?'

'Stuff.'

Sirius sighed, exasperated. 'What is it, Prongs?'

'I don't know! But Jo's up there crying-' Sirius left the room barely a second after he'd finished talking.

Remus glanced up from his game of chess with Holly. 'What was that all about?'

'I'm not really sure.' James sat watching the doorway, waiting for someone to come out.

Lily walked in a moment later, looking extremely smug. James noticed dried tear streaks on her face, but she didn't look very sad at the moment.

'What happened?' James, Remus and Holly said in unison.

'The Death Eater killed her parents and her little sister. She was going to start Hogwarts next year.' Lily's green eyes were fierce.

Remus stared at her, looking upset. 'When?'

'Yesterday. The owl only came today.'

'Poor Jo,' Holly muttered.

'Yeah. Sirius is looking after her.' The smugness returned. 'Jo's almost stopped crying.'

The Slytherin dungeons weren't that bad, when she thought about it. Souraya looked around, feeling quite content. If you didn't count that horrible Snape (slimy thing, he was) trying to hit on her, it was altogether a pretty good day. The day before had been especially pleasing. Hopefully Tina wouldn't get caught. She hadn't wanted to go after the Gilles family, but master had been most insistent. Something about a girl at Hogwarts.

Souraya wondered who this girl was. If it hurt her, if she cried. What did crying feel like, she wondered. Souraya wasn't quite as evil as Tina. She didn't mind blood, and didn't feel sorrow when people died- somehow, she just couldn't. No matter how much she wanted to. So she just accepted she was evil, and went along with Masters plans. Their plans.

So, she was to get the Cooper girl, was she? Well, she had no family. No one that would cry for her. Except James. The thought of James and his friend hit her like a hammer. Master and Tina hadn't told her about them. She had thought Lily was some redhead with no real friends. But, from what she had seen so far, Lily was popular, at least, in Gryffindor.

Souraya shook her head, furious. She was there to do a job. There wasn't any time for sentimental thoughts now.

How can I kill her?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Lily went up to bed that night, tip-toeing so as not to wake up Jo. Sirius said that she fell asleep crying, and only because she was too exhausted to do anything else. Lianne, Holly and Laura had all fallen asleep hours ago, Lily had gotten caught up in a discussion about Quidditch ('it is not the best thing in the world, Sirius!' 'Yeah, well neither is James!') so now it was past eleven o'clock, and classes started tomorrow.

Before she climbed into bed, however, she saw a tiny little ball, glowing, sitting on the edge of her blankets.

'What on earth-' she whispered, and picked it up, examining it closely in her hands.

The glow dulled ever so slightly, so that the light wouldn't blind her as she pressed her face up close to its surface.

A picture swimmed before her, and then became clearer.

A small girl with black hair hanging over her shoulders stood on the edge of a cliff, staring down, as if deciding whether to jump or not. Her dark eyes, which for a moment looked black and empty, turned blue and Lily saw the tears in her eyes. But the face wasn't recognisable. Faces never were. The girl took a deep breath, and a tear spilled down her pale white cheek. It didn't seem to know where to go, as if no tears had ever slid down her cheek.

She stopped short of jumping, and pulled her wand out, writing a message in purple lettering in the sky. They snaked through the stars, lighting up the entire night.

Keep Dreaming

Then she jumped.

Lily dropped the ball, and stared at it for a moment, then picked it up again. It was now showing someone's diary- someone writing in a small book. Their hand had a small scar, shaped like a star on it. The hand was white, it almost didn't look human, and it was just so white. A tiny drop of water fell onto the page, and smudged the ink.

…maybe poetry would help me figure myself out. Before Liesal turned strange she wrote poetry. She still writes chants, and they still send shivers up my spine, but I don't think it's for the same reasons. If Master knew what I was doing, he'd kill me. Probably use one of the worst curses on me, Avada Kedavra wouldn't be painful enough.

So, here's a poem. I doubt it will help, and I'll probably just wipe it out anyway.

Damn. How the hell do you write this stuff? It's ridiculous. I'd like to swear, but I promised myself I'd be good in this book, because something inside me wants to do something good.

Stupid, stupid me! I need to cry, but I don't know how. Mum says I used to cry…used to wail. But now it's like I'm a block of ice that's frozen in eternity. I can't melt. I'm too frozen to melt.

Or maybe I'm melting now.

Maybe I'll melt once she's gone.

~*~*~*~~*~*

Lily shivered. Who wrote that? Someone on the dark side, clearly. She should tell someone.

I'll tell them in the morning, she thought tiredly. Lily fell asleep listening to Jo's ragged breathing, still choked up with tears.

~*~*~*~*~*~

'Jo? Jo, it's time to wake up.'

Jo turned around and looked at Lily with red eyes. 'Can't I just sleep for a bit longer?'

'No. You have to get up. Come on, it's okay.'

Jo swallowed. 'Okay. I'm okay.'

Lily nodded, hugging her. 'You're okay.'

~*~*~*~*~*~

'Okay. Now, we all want to get rid of her, don't we?'

'We- don't exactly want to kill her,' one Hufflepuff said nervously.

'Oh, not kill.' Souraya laughed, wondering how on earth she'd get these twits to help her. 'Just- er- expel her, maybe?'

'Oh, that'd be good!' Katherine McDowell said eagerly.

Stupid girl, Souraya thought fiercely. Can't she get it through her thick head that James is never going to fall for her, least of all if she 'accidentally' kills his girlfriend?

'Anyway, if we kind of corner James so he can't help her, and then I'll take over the Lily situation, she'll be out of our hands.'

'Really?'

'Yup. So you corner him after divination, and I'll look after the rest.'

One Hufflepuff, who had a few more brains than the rest -not that that was really saying very much- spoke up, somewhat nervously.

'But- why are you helping us? We're Hufflepuffs, you're a Slytherin exchange student' she looked at Souraya suspiciously. 'What d'you want?'

'To get rid of Lily Cooper.'

'But why? Are you after Potter as well?'

'In a manner of speaking.'

'You aren't going to kill her, are you? Because, apart from her being James Potters girlfriend, she really isn't that bad…she was actually really nice to me…' The girl trailed off.

'Be quiet, Alayna,' Katherine snapped. 'Sure. Look, Souraya, we'll help.'

'Thanks. I mean, good.' She walked away, wondering what the lump in her throat meant. She swallowed it.

~*~*~*~*~

Lily looked at the new girl standing opposite her cauldron. 'Hullo. You were at that party, weren't you?'

'Yes,' Souraya answered shortly.

'Have fun?'

'Yes.' Shut up, shut up. I'm not your friend. I have to kill you, please don't make this harder…please.

'Is it one leg or two?'

'It's three.'

'Three? Oh- oh, yeah. Sorry, my page is smudged.'

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

'Hey, James.'

Oh, God no. Not the Hufflepuffs.

'Hi Katherine. Look, I'm trying to get to my lesson on time.'

She leaned up to him. 'I'll walk you there.'

'Er- no, thanks. And Divination is that way.'

'We can go for a little walk first, can't we girls?'

'We can? Hey- someone- I'm being abducted here!'

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

'Souraya? What're you doing- Souraya- what is going on-' Lily's voice was muffled with a magical bind around her mouth. Souraya pulled her along, until they were out of the way of the castle, and within an Apparating area.

'Quiet,' she hissed. Then they apparated to a cliff-top, where the wind was blowing fiercely. Hogwarts and the countryside was visible from here, and if Lily hadn't been terrified, she would have found it beautiful.

'Souraya, what is going on?'

'I'm here to kill you.'

'But why? What have I done?'

Souraya stopped for a moment. 'I don't know. But Master will kill me if I don't. Tina will kill me.'

'Tina-'

'Oh, yeah, that's her. Voldemort's little pet. Now. Time to die.'

'Please- you don't want to do this.' Lily spoke calmly.

'How would you know what I do and what I don't want to do, eh? Course I want to kill you.'

'No. If you wanted to kill me you would have done it by now.'

'Shut up, Cooper. I can be powerful when I want to be. I'm clever. I'm just as clever as you.'

'You are…That was you diary, wasn't it?'

'My diary…' Souraya whispered.

'And- you're going to jump…Look- you're not evil! I know your not! Souraya- look at me.' She grabbed the other girl by the shoulders, and made her look her right in the eyes.

And this time, the black turned blue before she was about to jump.

'You're not evil! Just cry, Ray, cry. You aren't!'

'But-' She suddenly looked as helpless as a little girl. 'He'll kill me!'

'He won't.' Lily said furiously. 'He won't! Dumbledore will help you- you aren't evil, Souraya, listen to me.'

'But- he- he'll kill me. I don't want to die!'

'He won't kill you. I promise, he won't. But please don't jump. You can help us- we'll help you. I promise you with all my heart- we won't let you die. And wouldn't you rather die helping someone? Wouldn't you want to die knowing you'd done something good?'

The smaller girl looked up at her companion, and for the first time in years, tears filled her eyes.

'You're good,' she whispered. 'Can I ever be like you?'

Lily hugged her. 'You can. You can, I know you can.'

That night, on the top of a cliff, two girls stood silently, the taller holding the smaller close to her.

She cried.