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Nothing eventful happened during the weeks preceding the exams. Lily had dug a grave for herself in the library and was enjoying her stay in the other realm, as Amanda put it. Edgy and picky about anything that took her away from her books, the only thing that had taken her attention was a letter from home: Dear Lily, I got your letter at exactly the same time I got Professor Dumbledore's. I'm so proud of you, sweet, I could shout. Of course I'd like you to skip second year, but if you decide not to, I'll support you just the same. Petunia, I think, would support you more if you stayed, preferably over the summer holidays, as she's going to have to do a major bit of cleaning up in your room. She had lots of motivation to get as far as she has-that Howler you sent her, besides blowing out our eardrums, has made her clear about five square feet in ten hours. Please don't send any more of those. Darling, whatever you decide to do, your father and I'll support you. He wants me to add as long as it doesn't involve eloping at fourteen, but I know you have more sense than that. I love you and hope to see you this summer; actually, I'm going to see you this summer, as I'm not allowing you to stay at Hogwarts. We need to see a little bit of our favorite little witch once in a while! Love, Mother After receiving the letter, Lily had gone to Professor Dumbledore and told him that, if she passed her exams with ninety-eight percent, she would be happy to skip into third year. From that time on, she had snapped at anyone who tapped her on the shoulder to say that dinner was ready. Remus was edging away from her slowly, too. She would hardly let anyone talk to her and was getting dark rings around her eyes. The morning of exams, Lily had changed her normal schedule and was walking towards the Great Hall for breakfast, a large "Advanced Herbology XI" clamped under her arm. She found her usual seat and slid into it quickly, tearing the hem of her robes as she did so. Amanda was already there. "Three cheers for Lily! The queen hath emerged!" Lily scowled. "Shut up." "All right, all right. Listen, there are bad sides to skipping second year." "Mhm-hm." Lily was trying to look politely interested, murderous, bite into a biscuit, and absorb sixty pages of her book at the same time. "Why're you looking so odd? Anyway, one: you won't be with us, two:-" "That's not a drawback." "Gee, thanks. Two: you'll be picked on because you're the youngest, and three: you'll have a lot more classes. Good enough?" "In exchange for those classes, I get to cut out some of the ones I'm taking right now. The first one I'm dumping is flying lessons." Amanda sighed. "Oh, you're hopeless." She threw her hands into the air, knocking over a 61
milk jug. "Watch it! That almost went on my book!" Instead of answering, Amanda took the Herbology volume away from where it had been situated three inches away from Lily's face. "Hey! I need that book!" "'Advanced Herbology, Volume Eleven'? How can you need this? This is a first year exam, my friend." "I know. I'm dreadfully behind; I should be on Volume Fifteen by now. Excuse me." She pushed her chair back and left the Great Hall with several crumpets, banging into Sirius and James on her way out. "Hey, Muggle, who hit you in the eye?" "Sirius, that's two black eyes. What happened, got attacked because people got so revolted when they looked at you that it was either that or hurl?" "Nah, it was probably Snape and them. They've just been getting so sick of having a piece of muck claim to be their friend that-Hey, where're you going? Can't stand the truth?" The echoes filled the entrance hall, banging off of the walls and hitting Lily in her ears everywhere she went. Tears were slowly running down her cheeks as she headed for the dormitories. Miranda hadn't left the common room yet, so she caught a glimpse of Lily's tear-streaked face as she headed up to her dormitory. Miranda followed. "Lily! What's wrong?" "I-I'm not sure. I was leaving the Great Hall-Miranda, why're James and Sirius being so mean? I don't think I could be that heartless if I tried." "You mean you met up with them?" Lily dried her eyes. "Yeah, when I was leaving the Great Hall." "Lily, you and the boys have got to stop this. And you-" she forcefully pried the Advanced Herbology book out of Lily's arms-"you have got to stop this. This is ridiculous!" "What is? Studying?" "No, going off food for five days and not coming out of the library except to sleep. And remember, Minky had to wake you up one morning when you fell asleep in there." Lily shook herself. "I remember. I was sore all over for days." "Exactly." A bell rang through the corridors and Miranda jumped up, handing Lily a tissue. The blood had drained out of Lily's face and she resembled a fainting vampire. "A-are you sure it'll be all right?" "For the twenty-seventh time, Lily, the exam is not that hard. Trust me, I took it two years ago and studied for about an hour." "What did you make?" "Herbology? Um…I think eighty-seven percent." Lily looked a bit reassured. "Thanks, Miranda. I'll see you at lunch." "You're going to be at lunch?" "Well, I've been off food for five days and only had a few crumpets this morning. Let's go." They grabbed their bags and set off for their respective classrooms; in Lily's case: greenhouse.
The exam in Herbology was partly essay, partly pruning and repotting a Devil's-Horn Bush; one that caused you to sprout tiny pairs of horns wherever it bit you; if you managed to get fifty pairs of horns, it would knock you out for approximately thirty minutes. Points were taken off for every horn that a student had, and points were added if a student was horn-free. In addition to that, the bonus was reviving a small Flutterby bush whose wings were drooping. Amanda's Flutterby Bush didn't swell up and burst this time, but it did start flashing different colors and whistling noisily. To no one's surprise, Lily managed to prune and repot the Devil's-Horn Bush without sprouting little horns on her fingers and revive the Flutterby Bush on her first try. Amanda was flashing envious looks at her from across the greenhouse. The essay bit passed in a flash; it only included a few bits from that Advanced Herbology XI book. Lily left the greenhouse a bit disgruntled. At lunch, Miranda, to make sure that Lily came to lunch, had taken her by the sleeve and guided her to a full plate, heaped with chicken and baked potatoes and pieces of garlic bread. "Miranda, I don't think I'm going to eat all of this." "Well, don't think so much. Just eat." By the time the second exam started, Lily had managed to eat half of the mountain on her plate. For the first time in weeks, she felt alive as she walked down the stairs to Potions. Professor Cauldwell had assigned a Sleeping Solution to the first years. Lily breathed again. They were supposed to know the recipe by heart and make the potion from memory, and she knew this potion front to back. ("You should, after the hours you spent asking Cauldwell if you could fix up messed up potions in detention.") Breathing normally, Lily unsuccessfully tried to hide a large grin as Professor Groves called her to her office, with the good news that she had made a hundred and thirteen percent on the Herbology exam. Stepping into the common room, she was smiling so hard that hardly anyone failed to notice. "Hey, Muggle, what happened? Found out you're not going to be kicked out for terrible hygiene after all?" Lily ignored them, stepping on one of their firecrackers they had put in her way and causing it to explode in Sirius' face, turning him into a nice, new brush. Under cover of the laughter in the common room, Lily ran up to her dormitory and wrote a hurried letter to her family, telling them that she had definitely passed the Herbology exam and the Potions one. Alisande was grateful for the mission, as she hadn't been used in about three or four weeks. That night, the Astronomy exam was based on a meteor that had passed dangerously close to Mercury, and they were calculating the airspeed velocity, the mass, the speed, and the distance between it and Mercury. Grateful that she had looked up the formula for airspeed velocity, Lily fell into her four-poster, drifting off to sleep with a smile on her face as she remembered Sirius' face as he had the firecracker explode a half-inch away from his nose. Defense Against the Dark Arts was held that morning. The professor still refused to do the traditional obstacle course, so a roll of parchment on one of five subjects written on the board was required. In her tiny handwriting, Lily covered two rolls of parchment and got a nasty glare from her teacher. He had always had problems with her writing. With an
apologetic smile, Lily practically threw her essay down on his desk and sped out of the door. Lily was in a good mood until she entered the Great Hall, where she passed within three feet of James and Sirius, sniggering at the messy braids she had tied her hair back in. She slid into her seat, sighing. Eva looked up. "What's eating you?" "Who is eating me. Actually, I don't think they would, because I don't know if that tastes all that great-" "What are you talking about?" "James called me an electrocuted phoenix." "Ah." Amanda leaned over. "He called you a what?" "Electrocuted phoenix." "That's what I thought you said." Lily sighed. "I give up. I don't know when the last time was that I said something mean to them, but lately I've just been ignoring them. It's not making this any better, and after all they've done to me, I'm not apologizing." "But, Lil,-" "I've got to go to Charms." Lily pushed her chair back and made her way out of the Great Hall. She was the first one in the classroom. Professor Zimmermann looked up, a bit surprised, but then left her to her studying. The classroom slowly filled up, and James and Sirius still weren't there. The only empty seats were on the right and behind Lily, who suspected that Amanda had arranged that on purpose. The bell rang, and James and Sirius skidded into the classroom, panting a bit. They looked around the classroom in vain for emptier seats, then, as if resigned to their fate, started a miniature scuffle about the desk behind Lily. Sirius won. With a look on his face as if he were sitting next to a smushed and bloody corpse of a rabbit, James slid into the only free desk, his face dropping even farther as Professor Zimmermann teamed him with Lily for the exam. "Don't look like that. I don't like this any more than you do." "I'll bet you do. At least I know I like this less than you do." "James, four words, ok? Shut. Up. Or. Else." "Or else what? You'll start hitting me with a brush? Oh-sorry-I forgot-I don't think you know what that is-it's a handle with bristles on the end, and you use it to make you hair look nice-" "James, if you supposedly know what a brush is, use one yourself." "-and while you're at it, teach your boyfriend Servy how to use shampoo, if you aren't ignorant as to what that is. You are? Shampoo is a gooey substance..." Grinding her teeth, Lily made it through Transfiguration without socking him. She suspected she'd have to get her teeth fixed, though, because it felt like she'd worn away three inches of teeth she didn't know she had. Lily was sitting in the window of her dormitory that evening when the door creaked. "Lily?" She turned around. "Oh, hi, Eva." "Do you know where I've been?"
"Obviously not." "Trying to get James and Sirius to say they're sorry. I don't think I'm going to try any more." "Why not?" "It's hopeless." "I knew that. But how did you find out?" "They drew a comparison between your mentality and that of a cuckoo." "A cuckoo?" "Mm-hm. To the bird's advantage." "It's a good thing I wasn't down there with you. I'd have done his upper maxillary a spot of no good." "I guessed as much. Looking forward to Transfiguration?" Instead of answering Eva's question, Lily sighed and looked out of the window. "Eva, I'm not so sure if I want to do this." "What, skip?" Lily nodded. "Of course you do. C'mon, you need your rest." "All right." Quickly, Lily changed into a clean nightgown and pulled the curtains shut around her, though she lay awake for a long while, thinking. Downstairs, James was listening to a tirade from Miranda and John, who were getting fed up with the argument. "James, what's the point of being mean to her?" "She's not worth being nice to." "She was at the beginning of the year." Miranda grinned and winked. "Hey-I was just being nice to a new Gryffindor, that's all." "A very pretty new Gryffindor. And you were nice to her before she was Sorted." "Shut up." James turned around and curled up in his armchair, staring at the flames. John turned the armchair around. "You thought the world of her. I know how jealous you got when she started spending time with Remus." "Yeah. And now the only reason you're mad is because she said hi to Snape and Malfoy and helped them in Charms." "Well, wouldn't you be?" "No." Miranda was firm. "John?" He gave James a Look. "No." James sighed, throwing his hands into the air. "Look, she used to be my friend before she started hobnobbing with my enemies." "Oh, someone's using big words now. Hobnobbing. James, that one day after she got attacked in Transfiguration, you were so worried and anxious and mad I thought you'd hang Snape's and Malfoy's guts from the closest beam you could find. You were so mad when Sirius took her to the hospital wing that I thought you'd-" "STUFF IT!" "All right, all right. But you'd better make up with her. I met her right after she left the Great Hall for breakfast, before the first exam, and she was crying her eyes out. I mean, come on, how rude can you get?" James looked stunned. "She was crying?" "And how. You can't actually mean you're sorry for making her cry, are you?" The soft look that had entered James' eyes vanished. "That Muggle-born piece of slime?
Of course not." Miranda left, rolling her eyes. "Liar." Nervous and jittery, Lily made it through her next day's Transfiguration exam; which included turning a dictionary into a thesaurus. As an extra flourish, she had added medieval monks' script and colorful designs to the thesaurus, along with parchmentcolored paper and a soft leather jacket. Professor McGonagall was very pleased. Lily and Eva took their lunch outside, for, as if wanting to make up for the cold last year, the sun had decided to come back from her holiday. It was getting hot outside, so hot that James, Sirius, and Remus had been spotted turning Malfoy into a large boulder and tied the boulder to a contraption that swung the rock in and out of the lake, splashing the inventors with a nice, cool bit of water. They hadn't been caught yet, and no one was about to turn them in, because Malfoy provided a nice bit of refreshment. The giant squid had been rumored to have attacked Malfoy, who had managed to do something to his tentacles, and from now on the lake was safe for swimmers, since the squid had retreated to his cave about a mile down. They stretched out under the weeping willow of the last winter, which was letting in slanting bits of sunlight through its branches. As she was biting into a piece of pear, Eva prodded Lily in the side. "You know, Lily, James really isn't all that bad." "Did he tell you to say that?" "No, Eva told me to say that." Lily raised herself up on one elbow. "You are Eva." "Yeah, so?" Lily slumped back. "Never mind." "But James really isn't all that bad." "He's insulted the way I look several multiple million times, called me an electrocuted phoenix, compared my mentality with that of a cuckoo to the bird's advantage, and, well, basically treated me as if I were a rotting vampire corpse. And you're telling me he's not that bad." "Never mind. You have a point." "I know." The branches in front of Lily's face were pulled away and a raven-colored head peeked through. "Lily! I've been looking all over for you!" Lily sat up. "Why?" Miranda was out of breath. "I talked to James last night. He said that-" Lily erupted. "FOR GOD'S SAKE, STOP TRYING TO GET ME TOGETHER WITH THAT-THAT TOILET CLEANER WITH A FACE LIKE A FISH!" Miranda fell backwards as Lily stormed out of the willow, leaving Eva behind with her hands clamped over her ears. Eva removed her hands. "That didn't go so well." Miranda picked herself up, dusting off her robes. "I know." "Why don't you just give up?" "Because I swore to myself that I'd see them engaged someday." "Engaged to what?" "Well, I thought to each other-" "Lily'd rather get engaged to Professor McGonagall. This is hopeless."
Miranda shrugged. "I'm not giving up. They're only in their first and second years,-" "Both of them are going to be in third year next term." "Uh-oh. I don't have that much time, then, do I?" "You don't." It was the Saturday after exam week, hot and sticky. The common rooms, for once, were completely empty, and the students had gone outside and flopped on the grass. The teachers had permitted the students to swim in the lake, the temperatures rising to 40° Celsius, but as a safety precaution had stretched an invisible barrier that pinned all inhabitants of the lake twenty feet below the surface and kept James and Sirius near the surface. The students were making all sorts of makeshift bathing suits; the most popular one being regular school robes belted tightly at the waist. It was also among the easiest there was, since it didn't involve sewing or cutting. A group of seventh years had been the most creative, taking their extra sheets and transforming them into long, flowing skirts with separated tops. In a moment of boredom, they had attached small sparks in their respective House colors to the rims, so when they stood at the shores, they sparkled brilliantly. Most of the Hogwarts students had purchased sunglasses. Lily was dressed in the robes of a seventh year, which hung down a foot and a half below her feet, since she had no intention of letting the bottom of her robes float up. She had started wearing the elf-nymph necklace as soon as the memory of the misty pool had faded, which it had done surprisingly quickly. Still, every time Lily touched the midnightblue pendant, a vision of the silvery-green, snake-shaped eyes of the elf-nymph flew up before her eyes and she tucked the necklace away among her robes. The lake water, refreshingly cold, swirled around Lily as she dived in, deeper down until her ears started to hurt. Pushing up against the barrier, she broke the surface and threw her wet hair out of her face, breathing in the summer air, eyes closed. A splash from her left opened her eyelids in a flash. "Who was that?" Close to her, Lily saw Remus sniggering. He saw the playfully murderous look in her eyes and started to swim away, fast. Grinning a bit, Lily followed. Then, barely three feet from Remus, her foot was jerked down. Floundering helplessly and wildly in the water, she took a deep breath as she was yanked below the surface. The person's nails scratched her skin as she tried to get free, and her ankle started to bleed. Her temples throbbing for air, she caught a glimpse of gold floating above her. Lily grabbed at it mindlessly and tried to discern it; it was her necklace, which had come undone from where it had been around her neck. Knowing she could hold her breath no longer, she did the only thing possible: stared as hard as she could into the pendant's depths. Lily again felt the sensation of falling through space and again landed in the dew. She spotted the rock she had sat on before, twenty yards farther away and struck out for it, wincing as the dew melted into her bleeding foot. Lily reached the rock safely. Her foot throbbing, she pulled it out of the dew and started to rip pieces off of the bottom of the robes to tie around her ankle. "I'll have to get Mary some new ones." was her first thought. That idea was banished from her mind, however, by the almost soundless but familiar splash in the dew, although Lily had heard it only
once before. The same elf-nymph came gliding towards her. She had changed; she was wearing a shimmering deep green cloak untouched by the dew and a silky shimmering silvery tunic. She dived into the water and re-emerged inches from Lily’s face. The deep greenishsilver eyes were the same; snake-shaped, they still stood out against her white brow, but instead of distrust and surprise, they showed a faint sense of worry, pity, and anxiety as she lightly touched Lily’s bleeding ankle. Lily couldn’t have drawn away if she had wanted to; she was spellbound under the touch of the nymph, which was cold but soothing, almost like being touched by live metal. Shaking her sheet of silvery hair away from her neck, she unclasped her own silver necklace with the emerald-green pendant clasped in five silver talons. It emitted a soft green glow as she held it up to Lily’s foot. The glow escaped from around the pendant, twining and fastening itself around Lily’s small cuts and filling them with the green light. They blazed bright green, then dissolved into unscarred skin, with not even a trace of the wound remaining. The nymph smiled. She took Lily’s hand, which the girl abandoned to her, and dived down into the dew. Seventy feet down, Lily suddenly realized she had been breathing all this time, that she was absorbing the dew like oxygen. And with each flip of the nymph’s fins as they dived downward, the dew became filled almost to bursting with light; more iridescent as they descended. They rounded a corner of a deep green reef, and in front of Lily rose up a shining castle. She gave a gasp at the magnificence of the glimpse she got, and them she was falling again, falling down into space as she felt a painful tug at her arm. She shook her head several times, then realized where she found herself: being pulled out of the lake by someone. He or she was tugging her upwards by her arm, and, to her surprise and shock, Lily found that she was much deeper than she remembered ever going. She found that she could hardly move her limbs, and when she finally broke the surface, it was none too soon. Gasping for air, she let herself be pulled to shore and laid down into the hot grass. Immediately, faces crowded around her; she couldn’t discern them through her partly opened eyes. Several people were hitting her in the stomach, causing her to hiccup up several mouthfuls of water. Shaking her head, she sat up and opened her eyes. The first thing she saw were Eva, eyes wide and worried, then Sirius bending over her next to Amanda, and finally her eyes rested on James, who was kneeling near her feet. Everyone was asking what had happened, and as they were crowding around her, the ones closest to her let out several small screams and toppled backwards onto the people behind them. Puzzled, Lily was a bit frightened. “What? What happened-what’s wrong?” Eyes wide, a sixth year reached into her purse for a mirror. Lily took it from her and recognized an image she had seen once before, during the cancelled Herbology lessons of that winter. An almost surreal face blinked out at her from the mirror. She almost didn’t recognize her own face; the nose and mouth were the same, but her ears, surrounded by long, wet curls, had tiny points on the tips and her eyes-her eyes were frightening. Normally, they were a shade of forest green, but this image reflected her with a ring of silver around the green
and small silver strands twisting themselves through the pupils and the color. She slammed down the mirror, breathing hard, then, on an impulse, stood up and raced towards the castle. Lily didn’t stop till she reached her dormitory, where she threw herself onto her bed and yanked the curtains shut. Face white and bloodless, she let herself flop onto her pillow and closed her eyes. She never wanted to remember the stunned faces of her friends and schoolmates as they saw her with her eyes filled with silver thread. Lily’s thoughts drifted off, purposely, to the glimpse of the shining castle she had seen. High and towering, the silvery building rivaled Hogwarts and passed it by quite a bit. It was almost woven, so delicate did the doorway’s gates seem; as if they had been made of silver thread. But when Lily tried to look back and see the castle’s facade, the only thing she remembered was the gates and the shining silver it was made of before she was yanked away by the person that had pulled her out of the lake. The Monday after the lake incident, people were still edging away from her gaze, which by this time had returned to normal. They had received a notice, posted in the Gryffindor common room and before the Great Hall that exam results were to be mailed to the students once they were out of school. Professor McGonagall’s mother had usually done the posting and handing out of exam results, and now that she was absent, the teachers were a bit slower at it than usual and had had to stretch their time spent on it into the holidays. It was the last day of school, and, as Eva and Lily boarded the train, they were handed a small note, on parchment and in emerald green ink, reminding them not to use magic over the holidays. Lily’s face fell; she’d been hoping that the teachers would forget about these. Hoisting their trunks onto the shelves above the seats, Lily and Eva sank down into their compartment. Lily wasn’t talking much; she was still a bit frightened and the fact that people kept avoiding her didn’t help. She was moody all during the long trip home, only snapping out of it to beat Eva in a game of Exploding Snap. At the end of the ride; platform nine and three-quarters, Lily said goodbye to Eva with a hug, begging her to write over the summer. Eva’s parents were wizards, so she met them on the platform. “Mum, Dad, this is my friend that I wrote you about; this is Lily.” A tall, lanky witch wit h billowing blonde hair bent down and shook Lily’s outstretched hand with a smile on her face. “I’m Eva and Vanessa’s mother. How nice to see you. Are your parents here?” Lily shook her head. “I think they’re out on the Muggle platform. They’re Muggles, so they can’t come in here-but I can introduce you if you want!” Eva’s mother smiled. “Thank you, dear, but Colin and I have to get to a meeting.” She prodded her husband lightly in the side. Eva hugged Lily. “Lil, if I can, I’ll get Mum to let me come and visit you. I’ve never been in a Muggle house before!” Moving quickly towards the barrier, Eva’s family scooped up Vanessa and headed out. Lily sighed as Peter, who was walking towards her, scooted quickly out of her way and bumped into a rack of trolleys. “Well, so much for a good first year.” With a heavy heart, she pushed her trolley through the barrier.
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