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The Flower and the Stag

Part 7

A very skinny young woman and a rather fat young man were sitting on the back porch early during the summer, discussing extremely boring subjects, and somehow finding pleasure in it. The woman had stringy blonde hair and an abnormally long neck, which she kept craning whenever there were sounds of life in the house next door.

The mans moustache was obviously just being grown, and his two chins wobbled continually as he spoke, laughing at jokes that really weren't funny at all. They were talking about drills. Big drills, small drills, electric drills and every other kind of drill you could think of. Well, the man was. The woman was nodding politely, occasionally saying 'yes, yes,' or 'no, of course not.' She was also carefully avoiding one particular subject. Unfortunately for her, some loud noises coming from the driveway told her that the subject she was so painstakingly avoiding was approaching, and very rapidly at that.

Petunia Cooper stared at the door, waiting for it to burst open, and completely missed Vernon Dursley's question. He repeated it. 'Who's that?' He sounded mildly curious, maybe because it sounded as though a stampede was coming their way.

Petunia sighed, and was about to attempt shoving him in a cupboard (which really wouldn't have worked) when the door burst open, revealing two teenage boys, both laughing. The smaller of the two was seated on the taller one's back, gripping tightly to his neck.

The next moment, two more figures came through the door in the same fashion, only the girl who had her arms around the black haired boy's neck was shouting accusations at the other two, but didn't appear particularly threatening, probably because all four of them kept laughing.

'Sirius Black, you cheated!'

The tallest boy grinned. 'Me? Madam, you must be mistaken. The only reason you didn't win that race- that highly fair race- is because of your set of legs.'

'My legs? My legs aren't even on the ground.'

The black haired boy nodded. 'Yeah, they're suffocating me around the waist.'

The girl blushed. 'Oops. Sorry.' She loosed her grip on him, and then noticed their audience.

'Oh, hi Petunia.' She said, somewhat cheerfully.

'Hello Lily.' Petunia smiled thinly. 'This is Vernon Dursley. Vernon, this is my sister. Lily.'

He nodded to her by way of saying hello.

She grinned at him. 'Hullo. This is James Potter, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin.' She gestured to each of them in turn.

He eyed them all suspiciously, and Lily climbed down of James's back, whispering something in his ear. He nodded, and led the other two inside, shutting the door gently behind them.

'So.' Petunia said, obviously trying to keep calm. 'You brought your friends home?'

'Yeah. Where'd you two meet?'

'At a meeting.' Vernon answered, wondering how this red haired girl with such strange eyes could possibly be Petunia's sister.

'Oh. Well, James was going to help with some stuff for school. I guess Sirius and Remus were bored.'

They nodded. 'So.' Lily said, trying to make conversation. 'What were you talking about?'

'Drills.' Petunia answered shortly.

'Oh. How…fascinating.' She nodded politely, and then a loud crash from inside distracted her.

'Well, I'll leave you two to your drills. I think Sirius's broken some plates… Hopefully nothing bigger then that.' She grinned, and then dashed in, praying she wouldn't find anything too unrepairable inside.

As she entered, all three boys looked guiltily, and Sirius grinned weakly.

'What've you done?' She sighed, trying to peer around James.

'Er-' Sirius paused for a second, and turned around again to survey the damage. 'I'm not exactly sure. It looks bad…But I'm no expert. You might just be able to fix it with a little glue.'

'Great.' She came over and inspected the scene before her. 'Oh dear. It might be good if you guys went home now. That was my aunt's favourite vase.'

'It was?'

'Really?'

'Sorry.'

She grinned. 'Nah, it's okay.'

'You mean she won't mind?'

'Yeah…she will mind. She'll actually be on the warpath for several hours. But we'll be nicely hidden at James's house then, won't we?'

'Er- we will?'

'Yes.' She tugged them towards the fireplace. 'We will be there for quite awhile. Or at least until Aunt Lucy forgets.'

'So exactly how long will you be staying at my place?'

'Not that he minds,' Sirius put in.

'A few weeks…Or I might be able to slip home while mum's watching television. That could be our best option.'

'Yes. We'll try for that. We don't want you at my house for the rest of the holidays, do we?'

'We don't? I thought you-' Sirius's voice was muffled by James's hand. 'No.' He said when James had taken his hand away. 'Of course we don't want you there.'

Lily rolled her eyes, and then jumped into the fireplace, after sprinkling in the floo powder.

'Aberdene!' She disappeared.

The boys followed her, and soon all four of them were sprawled around James's living room, discussing brooms. Lily gazed at the ceiling, not paying complete attention, as she really didn't care which broom she rode, as long as it didn't hurl her right of the end of it to the ground.

'But those Silver arrows are pretty good,' Sirius insisted.

'Nah…I like that new model, the Shooting Star.'

'Yeah…those are really good. But they get a bit off-balance in really strong wind. Read it in the Daily Prophet.' Sirius seemed quite pleased with himself for attaining such fascinating information

'Did you? Show me. We haven't been getting it lately, mums been real busy.'

James rummaged around for the Daily Prophet. 'Which issue was it?' He asked Sirius.

'Um…A couple of weeks ago, I think.'

He emerged with several issues of the Prophet, and gave them to Remus to look through.

'Oh yeah.' He muttered. 'But they're still one of the best. I mean, the Silver Arrows can't climb as well as other models. They sort of slow down on the uptake.'

Sirius shrugged. Lily yawned loudly, and the other three turned to look at her. James grinned.

'Lily?'

Lily glanced up. 'Mmm?'

'You are allowed to change the subject.'

She suddenly looked quite awake. 'Oh, goody. Well. See, I've been thinking. What are you going to do when we leave Hogwarts? I don't really know what there is to do, and I want to spend the least time I possible can with Mary and Petunia.' She looked a bit downcast, and a long strand of hair fell down over her eyes, making her look very forlorn and lost.

'I dunno.' Sirius scratched his head.

All four of them lay on the carpet on their backs, each thinking the same thing in their own kind of way.

'We could be Aurors!' Sirius said. 'How 'bout it, Prongs?'

James laughed, tracing the pattern of the carpet with his finger. 'I don't know…I really don't.'

Lily sat up. 'Jo wants to be a reporter or something like that. I'm not quite sure. She's got big plans.'

James rolled over and looked at her. 'Do you?'

'Have big plans?' James nodded. '…I don't know what there is to do, really. I mean, there's teaching, there are jobs for the ministry…I just don't want to spend my whole life behind a desk, that's all. I want to help people, actually do something for them.'

James nodded, smiling. 'You'll find something. How 'bout you, Moony?'

Remus sighed. 'I haven't thought about it.'

Sirius looked at him curiously, as though he were about to say something, but then changed his mind.

'I want to be an Auror.' He said firmly. 'I'm sick of reading the Daily Prophet and hearing about more people being killed. It makes be sick.'

'That's what Frank wants to be. Maybe I'll come too…' James sat up with Lily, and for a moment all for teenagers sat looking thoughtful, thinking about everything and nothing, things that mattered and things that were just there, and there was nothing they could do about it.

Sirius broke the silence. 'Well.' He said finally. 'We can't just sit here all day. Off we go!'

'Where?' Lily said from her comfortable position on the ground, leaning against James's back.

'Where what?'

She laughed. 'Where are we going?'

'You are going to see the most amazing thing you ever did see.'

'Oh?' Remus at up and looked at his friend quizzically. 'What's that?'

'Okay, maybe not the most amazing thing. But pretty darn cool. How many brooms do have, Prongs?'

James scratched his head, thinking about it. 'Three, I think. We did have four, but one of them was ancient, and it lost its sense of direction completely. Kept crashing, even when you tried to steer it.'

Sirius nodded. 'Well, me and Remus can have a broom each, and you two love birds can share.' He glanced at his friends, then backed down as he saw the identical murderous looks in their eyes.

'Although,' he reasoned, 'you could always share with me, Lily.' He grinned cheekily. 'I wouldn't mind.'

She rolled her eyes, and edged closer to James. 'I might just stick with Prongs…' She glared at Sirius. 'Because he's a better flier.'

Sirius snorted, and Remus laughed.

'You two both know the way to my house, don't you?' He directed this question at James and Remus, who both nodded.

'Good. Come on, then. What're we waiting for?' And with his usual exuberance, he bounced off, looking for the brooms.

'Uh, Sirius?' James called.

'Yeah?'

'They're in that cupboard.'

'Oops.' He grinned, and a bit of his longish black hair fell over his forehead, making him look quite like his animagus appearance.

They collected all three brooms, one of them being James's usual broom, dusted the other two off (his parents barely used them) and then saddled them in James's backyard, after checking no one was around.

'How do we get up without anyone seeing us?' Lily wondered out loud, puzzled.

'Talent, m'dear.' Sirius flew up so quickly then, far into the clouds, until it looked at though there was very small bird flying around in circles in the clouds, far up in the sky. Remus followed, and though he wasn't quite as quick (he still hadn't completely mastered broomsticks), he too was soon out of view, and the only thing he and Sirius might come across would be aeroplanes.

James turned around to look at her, a mischievous on his face. 'Ready?'

'Er- no?' She smiled weakly.

'Hold on tight.' His grin became slightly less cheeky, and he smiled reassuringly at her. 'Don't be scared, Lily.' He patted her arm. 'I'd never let you fall.'

The next moment, before Lily could even scream, they were flying directly upwards. Lily wondered if James could breathe, and loosened her grip around his waist ever so slightly, then decided it wasn't worth it and held on for dear life.

A faint mist swept over them as clouds engulfed them, and Lily felt slightly damp. It was a pleasant feeling, and as James flew around, searching for Remus and Sirius, she felt relaxed and held on to him gently.

Sirius was showing off, doing loop the loops and scaring of innocent birds who had flown up to see what all the hullabaloo was about.

Once all four of them were together, they flew off, keeping just above the clouds or in them, but never daring to dart under them, as they couldn't afford any muggles to spot four kids flying through the air on broomsticks.

'We'd practically be sent to Azkaban,' James muttered, so quietly that only Lily heard him.

'What's that?' She asked curiously, feeling like she had during her first year, when she barely knew anything about the wizarding community.

'The Wizard Prison.' James said quietly. 'It's horrible there. Dad told me about it. There's these things, called Dementors. They're like- like- they're just evil. They've got no souls, and if they get to close to you they suck out your soul.' Lily felt him shudder, and held him tighter, trying to make him feel better. He rose out of the clouds suddenly, and a rush of sunlight hit their faces, making the whole world seem golden. She raised her face up to the sun, and felt a warm breeze blow over her cheeks.

'They suck the happiness out of a place,' James continued. 'Dad said it was awful. The worst place he'd ever been.'

'They wouldn't send us there if we got seen, would they?' She was beginning to wonder if this was such a good idea.

James laughed. 'Nah, course they wouldn't. I was just kidding before.'

Lily breathed out. 'Good.'

He turned around to face her. 'But we would be in an awful lot of trouble.' He grinned, and darted upwards, flying around in a circle.

'JAMES POTTER!' Lily shrieked, practically choking him around his neck with fear. 'TURN AROUND!' He obediently did so, probably because he would a suffocated if doing otherwise.

'Good. Never, ever do that again. Do you hear me?'

'Aye aye, Madame Lily. Just one more?'

She tightened her grip as a warning, and James coughed. 'Okay, okay. I'll be good.'

Sirius flew up beside them. 'Hello. Having fun?'

'If you call being billions of feet up in the air on a piece of wood 'fun' then, yes, I suppose we are.' Lily glanced down nervously, and Sirius and James laughed. Remus reappeared, looking slightly green. 'I agree with Lily. Are we nearly there yet?'

Sirius checked something on his wrist. 'Umm…Not quite. About another ten minutes.' He looked quite happy about this, and Lily questioned his sanity.

'How can you enjoy being this high up? Do you just block it out? Or are you just crazy?'

'Lily, have a sense of adventure.'

'I've got one. It just doesn't include being billions of feet up in the air, as I mentioned earlier.'

'We aren't billions of feet up in the air.' Remus interrupted. 'Only about- er- 20 thousand?'

'Thankyou. I now feel so much safer.'

'Good. That's what I'm here for.'

A few minutes later, they slowed down and Sirius peeked below the clouds to see if anyone was about.

'Okay…Now!' Three broomsticks rocketed downwards, so fast if any muggles had seen it would just have looked like something falling out of the sky.

James landed first, Sirius a few seconds after, and Remus plummeted to earth a couple of seconds after that, a look of terror on his face as he approached the ground as an alarming rate.

James looked worried, and Sirius muttered something that Lily could only just hear. 'D'you think he'll be able to stop?'

'Yeah…' James sounded uneasy.

Before anyone could do anything, or say anything, or even make any bets on whether or not Remus would smash into the ground and become quite flat, he straightened his broomstick and toppled onto the grass, looking very dazed and slightly amazed with his feat.

Lily leapt of the broom she was seated on and hugged Remus fiercely. She danced him around in a circle, and one of the neighbours who was putting their washing on the line was amused by seeing a teenage girl with very windblown hair skipping around in a circle with a very green looking boy, who looked as though the last thing he needed was to be danced around in a circle.

She grinned at him. 'We survived!'

'Just,' he couldn't help muttering. James laughed, and placed the broomsticks under a hedge where no one would find them.

'Where's Sirius?' Lily couldn't see him anywhere, and she craned her neck to see into the house, which looked very empty.

'Gone to get his-' James's words were drowned out by a loud roar of a machine.

'WHAT?' Lily yelled over the noise.

'HIS-' The roar grew louder, and a few seconds later, a large motorcycle appeared, chugging away happily. Sirius patted it fondly as if it were a pet dog. He turned the motor down and the large bike continued to purr, but much more softly.

Lily felt her ears, then tested them by talking to James. 'That was what he wanted to show us? A motor bike? My next door neighbour has one of them, and they're always riding off at very rude hours- like three in the morning- and I never get to sleep.'

'Lily, Lily. Anyone would think that you were a muggle. This is no ordinary motorbike. Hop on.'

She back away, shaking her head firmly.

'No. No way… Do you think I'm a complete nutcase?'

'Come on, you rode with James. I know you're a nutcase.'

'Tell me what's so special and then I might- might- consider it.'

'Er- it flies?'

'It flies? It FLIES!' NO WAY IN THE WORLD ARE YOU GETTING ME ON ONE OF THOSE THINGS IF IT FLIES!' She paused for breath, and in this brief state of helplessness, James and Sirius (more Sirius) shoved her onto the bike. 'HELP!' She turned to Remus and he back away slightly, waving with a little grin on his face.

'No. No no no no no.' She wailed as Sirius turned up the motor, and as they rose in the air she shrieked every word she knew and prayed to God at the same time.

Before she had even had time to ask for him to look after her cousins (she would only ask this during a very desperate time) the bike had slowed down and they were riding along the clouds. It was a bit more bumpy than being on a broom, but much more noisy.

Sirius turned around, grinning, looking remarkably like a Cheshire cat.

'Having fun?' He yelled over the sound the motor and the wind, which was picking up speed.

She poked her tongue out, but couldn't help laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation. He took this as a good sign, but before they went back down, he glanced at his waist, and then raised his eyebrows at Lily, who blushed, and released her grip on his t-shirt.

After a few minutes of riding around like this, he descended just as quickly, and landed very softly on the grass in his backyard. Lily hopped off, and brushed her hair down roughly with fingers.

'Fun?' James asked, laughing at the look on her face.

'It was okay…I guess.'

'Come on,' Sirius said, coming over after he'd put the bike away. 'You loved it. Just admit it, Lily Cooper. Although I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to get the fingernail marks out of my skin. You've got some set of nails there, girl.' She grinned at him, and then looked up at the sky and at the moon, which was becoming clearer as the sun set below the horizon.

'I think my aunts favourite show's on now,' she said thoughtfully. 'We might be able to go.'

'So soon?'

Lily laughed. 'Yeah. But can I just go home by floo powder? I think I've had enough of flying for one day.'

'I think we've got some left.'

'You'd better. I don't think my stomach could handle another flying trip.'

'Oh. As in, you'd throw up all over me?'

'Something like that.'

'Ohh. We have lots left, in that case.'

James rolled his eyes, and just before she stepped into the fireplace, he whispered something in her ear. She turned pink, grinned, then yelled out her address and was swallowed by the green flames.

'What'd you say?' Remus said, looking up from the hand wrestle he and Sirius were involved in.

'Nothing,' James answered loftily.

Sirius pushed Remus's hand down onto the table and grinned triumphantly.

Lily woke up on the morning of her seventeenth birthday feeling…exactly the same as she had the day before.

She pushed the blankets aside and leapt over to the mirror. She stared at herself suspiciously. She didn't look any different. At least, nothing big. She now had sunburn across her nose from her expedition with Sirius, James and Remus, but apart from that, she looked exactly the same.

Lily flopped back down onto bed, feeling disappointed. Seventeen sounded a lot more grown up than sixteen did. But if anyone saw her, they wouldn't even be able to tell the difference.

Lily walked back over to the mirror, and tried to find at least one little thing that might possibly different to the way it had the day before. Nothing. Not one little thing. She sighed, and raised a hand to brush back a stray strand of hair which had found its way into her mouth. Something on her wrist glimmered and sparkled, until she looked down at her wrist. A silver charm bracelet was hanging loosely, the clasp on it clipped up tightly.

How in the world?

That bracelet had most definitely not been there when she went to sleep. At least, she was pretty sure it hadn't. Maybe everyone got a bracelet when they turned seventeen. Some how though, this theory didn't seem very likely.

She was just inspecting it when three owls flew in the window. Two tawny brown owl, and Pickles. The famous green owl that had absolutely no sense of direction. She was amazed it had made it again, because James had fed it some weird sort of owl pellet. It had made Pickles very dizzy, until they realised he was allergic to the pellets. It had actually been very funny, seeing a bizarre looking owl fly straight into the wall.

Both the brown owls were carrying two parcels, and poor Pickles was struggling with three boxes wrapped up in brown paper, and a letter was tied to one of his wings with a (magical) gluey paste stuff.

She rescued Pickles first, and ran downstairs to get them all some water.

As all three owls sat around the water bowl, sipping at the cool drink happily, Lily was sitting cross- legged on her bed, ripping the paper off the largest of the gifts. A letter fell out onto the blue pattern of her sheet.

Dear Lily,

How's my bestest seventeen year old buddy? Geez. Soon you'll be needing a walking cane. Hope you like the present, I picked it myself (sometimes mum buys them, and gets flowery dress robes and stuff. Yuck. You're lucky I was there to help)

So. Seen lover boy? Sirius came over a few days ago, acting like…well, Sirius. Which could mean a chimp…or a very hyper dog. It's strange, don't you think, the way he seems so doggish? -Don't tell him I said that.

Anyway, I hope you have a great birthday.

Lots and lotsa love,

Jo

Lily grinned, and tipped the present out of paper that was left. A fairly large box landed softly on the bed. It opened and a soft, furry teddy bear fell out, its green eyes (which matched Lily's own) stared straight ahead, and a cute smiley mouth was stitched onto its fluffy face.

'Aww.' Lily grinned and picked it up, patting its head. 'Now what shall I call you?' She noticed a small piece of parchment tied around one of the bears' paws.

I was thinking you could call it James.

Lily rolled her eyes. As if she was going to call it James…but it did look a bit like him, now that she thought about it.

No way. She was not going to call it James. No how, no when… But it was so cute! Maybe if she just didn't tell it him about his namesake. Or anyone else, for that matter.

'Yes.' She patted James the Seconds tummy. 'You are a cute little thing, aren't-' There was a knock on the door and Lily was cut off mid sentence. Mary, Petunia, Matt and Davie entered, two grinning, the other two looked as though they would have rather said happy birthday to a vampire.

'Happy Birthday!' Matt hugged her, and looked at James the Second, who sat grinning smugly at their audience.

'Cute. Who'd you get it from?'

'My friend.' She peeked behind her cousin's back, trying to see the present he was hiding. "What'd you get me?'

'Oh, nothing. We almost forgot altogether.' He grinned at her, and Petunia yawned loudly.

'Yeah, right. Hand it over.'

Matt grinned and gave her a present, wrapped up in shiny blue and gold wrapping, which sparkled as the sun caught it. It was very lumpy, and stuck out at odd ends. Petunia was leaning against one wall, sulking.

'Ooh. What is it?'

Petunia rolled her eyes. 'Open it, dummy.'

Lily was in too good a mood to snap back at her, so she did just that. Some folds of material spilled out onto the floor, and as she ripped the last of the wrapping off and threw it into her bin, a silky blue dress slithered to the floor, the new material shining a deep blue and silver. It was beautiful.

'Thankyou!' She leapt up and hugged each of her cousins in turn, and she even gave Petunia a quick squeeze. Lily hugged Matt last of all, and danced around a tiny area of floor, squealing 'thankyou, thankyou, thankyou!'

When she had calmed down and all of her visitors except Matt had left, she plopped down onto her bed, her new dress on her lap.

'Where'd you get it?'

'Ah…Now that's a trade secret.'

Lily shrugged. 'Anyway, it's beautiful. It must have cost a fortune.'

'Nah…Got no fortune to spend. Let's just say I have a very good friend who is pretty darn good with her fingers.'

Lily grinned. 'I don't suppose that would be a girl?'

'It might be.'

She giggled. 'What's her name?'

Matt sat up and looked at the rest of her presents. 'Open these. I want to see what magical people buy as presents.'

Lily shrugged. 'Just ordinary stuff.'

'So open them.'

'Not until you tell me her name.'

'It's Emily. Happy?'

'Extremely.' She picked up the next gift and shook it. 'Hmm. I think this is from Sirius.'

'Sirius, eh? I don't think I've met him. Is he cute?'

'He was the one who broke your mums' vase. And if I said he was cute I'd be murdered by my best friend, who thinks he's the most gorgeous think after my goo. But he might come before that.'

Matt laughed. 'So open it.'

There was another box in this parcel, and when she opened it some small and silver things gleamed as the sun hit them. She opened the lid further, revealing four tiny charms, all of which were moving. There was a little itty bitty horse, which was prancing on the spot and neighing silently, a cute little rabbit which was jumping about, a horse shoe that shined rainbow, and a tiny water lily, which fluttered in an invisible breeze.

'Wow.' She murmured, amazed Sirius could pick something so nice out.

Dear Lil'

How's it going? You recovered from our little trip? The charms are to go with your bracelet. Hope you like them, there were so many to choose from and it was incredibly hard to pick. The others all wanted to strangle me for taking so long. Now Jo expects something really good for her birthday, but I'm having one slight problem. I don't know when her birthday is. So you'll have to tell me, won't you? Send back a reply with Pickles (the amazing psycho owl, I don't know why James won't turn her back) and I hope you have a great seventeenth birthday. You'd better.

Love,

Padfoot

P.S. If you have some birthday cake left over, I don't suppose you'd save me some? It's just my family has decided we're only eating healthy food from now on. I'm telling you, I haven't seen something with sugar in it for weeks. Apart from that lollipop I stole off Remus's bench. Never EVER take something off his bench. It must have been a year old.

SB

Lily rolled her eyes at this typical Sirius letter, but made a mental note to save him some birthday cake.

She placed the charms next to the teddy (with Matt goggling at them the whole time) and picked up the next gift.

It was a horseshoe from Holly, but like all magical gifts, it did something. This had miniature clocks all the way around it, telling the time in all different countries. Lily had no idea for when she'd need it, but it was pretty cool all the same.

Dear Lily,

I hope your holidays are better then mine. I won't go into details (although I'd like to, but you really don't want to know). Is the present okay? I honestly don't know what you're going to do with it, but it was the only thing I could find. Besides, if someone goes overseas you'll be able to know what they're doing. (Sort of, anyway). Do you like the bracelet? - I'll bet you do. If you don't, give it to me. I'd be glad to have it.

Anyway, have a great birthday.

Holly

Remus's present was a lot heavier, and the package contained a book (All about Charms (advanced) By Christina Starr) and another tiny charm. It was a miniature four-leaf clover, which shone green and silver, emitting a mysterious light from somewhere inside it.

Hey, Lily

I'm not really sure what you're going to do with the book (you've already got so many) but I thought it might come in useful. After all, you need to beat James in something. The charm's for the bracelet -which, by the way, I think is pretty cool. The four-leaf clover was my favourite one there. Sirius wanted to get it for you, but I beat him to it. Ha!

Have a great birthday, and don't eat too much cake.

Remus

She put the charm with the other ones she had so far, and placed the book next to the rapidly growing pile of gifts.

There were only two presents left for her to open, and a letter. Matt remembered he was running very late for soccer (yikes! The coach'll kill me!) And so she settled against her pillows comfortably as she opened a very lumpy present from Hagrid, the Gamekeeper at Hogwarts.

Dear Lily,

Just writing to wish you a very happy birthday.

From Hagrid.

Lily winced as around five of Hagrids famous rock cakes rolled around the bed-spread, and sat looking just as rocky as ever in the large crevice Lily had been sitting in. She shoved them into a plastic bag, pulling a face.

The next was from Lianne and Laura, who must have been feeling generous.

Dear Lily,

Have a great birthday. Hope all your dreams come true,

Lianne and Laura

P.S. Are you and James still together? Tell us when school starts.

She rolled her eyes, but apparently they knew about the bracelet, because they too had sent three little charms. A little cat that curled up on an invisible rug, and washed its paws. The little mouse was terrified of the cat (which didn't even see it) and it tried to hide behind the horse, who was getting very grumpy with it, and tried to kick in into the depths of James the Seconds fur. Lily separated them and took a closer look at the third charm.

It was a very, very small book, with pages made of finely cut silver. Lily wished she could use magic to enlarge it, but the stupid office for the use of magic with underage minors had banned all magic over the holidays, probably because James and Sirius had blown up some poor muggles shed.

The very last and smallest of the lot was left sitting all alone, wrapped in a pale purple tissue paper. It smelled like lavender, and she knew exactly who it was from. She thought she did, anyway.

A very, very small charm, smaller than all the others, landed on her lap. It glimmered and sparkled, and as Lily brought it closer to her face so she could see it better, she noticed it was shining different colours, like a rainbow pouring out a rock.

It was a pearl, or a diamond, or something very pretty that combined them both together. She leaned even closer, and brought the tiny jewel right up to her face. A little L was engraved on one smooth side of the rock.

Now only the letter was left. Lily picked it up and then looked towards the door, not wanting to be disturbed. Then she ripped it open carefully, and a piece of parchment with purpley blue ink scrawled across it fell neatly onto her lap.

Dear Lily,

So, now you're seventeen. Getting old, aren't we? I don't particularly feel seventeen, but mum keeps reminding me whenever I'm rude (not that I'm ever rude) or I accidentally blow something up. Or I eat with my fingers. Apparently I'm a young man- wizard, whatever. It's becoming quite hard to forget.

Do you like the bracelet? Sirius, Remus, Lianne, Laura, Holly and me all got you charms, so it should be nice. It was the best thing we could think of.

I hate writing letters. They always turn out so boring. And I can never write as fast as I want.

There's only one week left until school starts, so I'll see you then.

Happy, happy birthday

Lots of Love,

James.

P.S. Send a reply with Pickles. But it might be a good idea to let him have a rest first, because he might not be up to such a long trip straight away. He still hasn't recovered from the pellet incident. Thanks.

Lily glanced down at the bracelet that dangled from her wrist, feeling very happy, but extremely puzzled at the same time. How had he managed to get it on her wrist in the middle of the night? She was prepared to guess that he flew over on Sirius's motorbike, but it seemed a bit unlikely, partly because James hated to be woken up during the night (though he didn't mind getting others up).

Shaking her head, she placed the bracelet and the charms in a little box she owned, and put the book and James the Second on her pillow.

Then she hopped down the stairs, wondering what was for breakfast.

~*~*~*~*~

James was bored. Very, very bored. How could life possibly be so boring? He'd run out of jokes, run out ideas (not good at all) and it was raining, so flying about with Sirius wasn't an option.

He sighed, watching the droplets of rain trickles down the windowpane. Splat, splat, SPLAT!

What the hell?

He rolled his eyes as he opened the window, pulling a drenched and bewildered Pickles in from the storm. Pickles hooted weakly and then collapsed into a dead faint, creating a puddle on the desk James had dropped him on.

The ink on the reply Lily had sent him was quite smudged, and he was only just able to interpret her message.

Dear James,

How did you get the bracelet here? I can't figure it out, and it's getting very annoying.

Oh, thanks for the bracelet. I love it, lots and lots. It's really cool.

So…I don't have much else to say…see you soon.

Love,

Lily

For a moment he sat smugly, pleased with himself. Then his dilemma came back in full scale, and he gazed out the window, almost deciding to do his Potions homework, then decided he wasn't quite that desperate.