She was seven when her parents took her and her brothers to see the Quidditch World Cup in the Patagonian Desert. Her parents had discussed about her being too young to go all the way to Argentina and just leaving her with Grandpa and Grandma Weasley, but Lily had begged and pleaded until they agreed to take her with them. After all, it wasn’t fair if Albus got to go when he was only two years older than her. If Albus got to go then she had to go and Lily had been determined in being allowed to go, causing six mugs to shatter under the force of her ire and accidental magic. Mum had tutted while Dad waved his wand, causing the mugs to fix themselves and leap back to the shelf where they belonged. (One of the pieces of the mugs had actually managed to catch Dad across the face, and Lily was certain that that was going to cause her not to be able to go but thank Merlin that wasn’t the case.)
And Lily was on her way to Argentina with the rest of the family. Everyone from the family was there, except for Grandpa and Grandma Weasley who had said they were too old to be traveling so far. Even Cousin Teddy was going to be there, even though they weren’t really cousins but Lily still called him her cousin anyways because he was as close as family and it’s the thought that counts, right?
The Quidditch World Cup was amazing! They had some of the best seats on the entire pitch, and during one of the games one of the USA chasers actually gave her a high five which was really awesome, and made-up for the fact that Dad didn’t take her along with James and Albus to meet Krum.
Of course, everything had to go sour once the championship match was over. After a very close chase for the snitch between Krum and Silva (the seeker of the Brazil team who Bulgaria faced in the finals), Bulgaria erupted victorious, beating Brazil 170-60. Lily always had a bad habit of bounding ahead of her family in her eagerness and, despite Dad chiding her and telling Lily she needed to wait with the rest of them for Mum, Lily raced in front of her family pack in hopes of seeing any of the members of either team from the match as they came by. The result was as expected; because of the thick crowds, Lily both was not able to see anything (which was partly because she was small, even for seven years old) and she was swept away by the crowd.
The crowd buffeted her further and further away from her family until Lily was separated from any crowd at all and suddenly she was off on her own in the desert, surrounded by a few plants, and no one really in sight.
Having set a long, long time ago, the sun was already gone, and it was cold, which Lily had thought was weird, because it was a desert and weren’t deserts supposed to be hot? Aunt Hermione had tried explaining it to her but Lily hadn’t paid her any attention and now she was wishing she had. Lily knew that if she got separated from her parents or any of her family members she was supposed to stay where she was and wait for someone to find her, but she heard sounds nearby, and she moved towards the sound.
Around some of the brush the sounds were louder, and wandering around the brush Lily saw a man waving a… stick (maybe?) at a puma. At least, Lily thought it was a stick. She knew it wasn’t a wand, because it was way too big to be a wand. Then again… squinting her eyes through the darkness, and tilting her head to the side made the stick look different somehow.
“Hey mister!” She called out to him, even though Mum would pitch a fit that she was talking to a stranger. “Whatcha doing playing with a puma?” The feline looked furious, like it wasn’t happy with the man.
“By the gods!” He shouted, spinning towards Lily, looking a little like Aunt Hermione’s cat, Crookshanks, whenever she’d pull his tail. The man looked at Lily like he hadn’t expected to see anyone else out in the middle of the desert. “Where in Hades did you come from?”
Lily opened her mouth to give the answer Mum always gave her when she asked, but then the puma gave a growl and… did it just breathe fire? It was wicked, though it still made Lily back up a couple of steps.
“Mister, I think that puma is a bit mad at you,” Lily abandoned her planned retort. “And why is it breathing fire? Did ya put a spell on it? Aunt Hermione says it’s cruel to put spells on animals and–” Lily had a bad habit of talking a lot when she was frightened or nervous, and while a fire-breathing puma wasn’t quite normal for Lily, what made her really nervous was the fact that each time she blinked, looking at the puma, something changed about it.
The man was looking between her and the puma like he was torn between something, sort of like Dad when Mum and Uncle Ron got in a fight, but unlike Dad this guy looked a lot more desperate and torn. Lily looked at the puma, trying to figure out what he was so nervous about with it, blinking once, twice, and–
“Mister,” Lily’s voice was drowning in fear, “Why does that puma have a goat coming outta its back?”
The man said a word Mum wouldn’t like her repeating, and Lily started rambling nervously all the magical law stuff Aunt Hermione and Grandpa had told her about how transfiguration of two animals together was really illegal and while it was alright to transfigure a rat into a glass at least the rat was able to be turned back, and a lot of other stuff Lily didn’t know she remembered before now.
“Okay, kid, shut up and get over here,” The man snapped, a light tenor voice that was still sharp, but it was in one of those tones that reminded Lily of Dad when she had gotten stuck on Grandma’s roof and was crying and rambling like she was now. Lily did as she was told, scurrying over to stand behind the man, grabbing the back of the jacket he was wearing and biting her tongue to keep herself from talking. The puma-goat thing’s tail had now revealed itself to be a snake, and as Lily kept blinking the puma-goat-snake showed itself to be a lion-goat-snake thing, smoke coming out of its nostrils. Not only that, but as the man she was hiding behind moved his arm, she blink, blink, blinked, and the stick that had once been in his hand that had been too long to be a wand shifted to show itself as a sword as dark as the night around them.
“What’s going on?” Lily couldn’t help but whine, tears budding in her eyes. “What is that thing?” The man shuffled to the side, and Lily followed, hanging onto his coat, watching as the thing started circling them, staring at them like they were dinner.
“Don’t worry about it,” He said, a little too quickly for Lily’s taste. “Say, where are you from? Viedma? Esquel? Whichever is the closest town to here?” She shook her head, and tears dropped down her cheeks slowly.
“London,” Lily wasn’t sobbing, she was not, and she heard the man say another word that Mum wouldn’t like her repeating.
“By the gods kid, how did you end up all the way in Argentina?” He was shuffling in a small circle, making sure he was between Lily and the lion-goat-snake thing at all times. “Did Hermes just decide to–” He said another bad word “–drop a kid in the middle of the desert?” Thunder rumbled lazily across the sky and the man told it to shut up.
“I’m here with my family,” Lily whimpered between tears. “We came to watch the World Cup but I got separated from Dad and my brothers and I don’t know where any of them are and I’m sorry–” She started bawling just as the lion-goat-snake thing lunged for them, clutching tighter to the man’s jacket.
“But the World Cup is in Brazil– you know what? Never mind, I don’t care.” The man swung his sword up, catching the thing’s mouth with it, and pressing it against the monster’s mouth, leaning on it, causing Lily to follow, staying as close to the man as possible. Whatever it was, it howled in pain, backing away from the man’s sword, and started circling them again.
“Don’t like the taste of Stygian Iron, do you?” Lily sniffled and clutched tighter to the man’s jacket.
“What does it want?” The man hadn’t been answering Lily’s questions, but she was terrified and she needed to talk or do something.
“Well, at first I thought it had tracked me down,” Surprisingly he answered her. “But now I’m not too sure. How old are you, kid?” Lily didn’t get a chance to answer however, because the thing leaped at them again and she let out a small shriek, practically suctioning herself to the stranger.
He muttered something that Lily didn’t catch, but she saw from the corner of her eye that he moved his sword-stick to point at the ground, and it started shaking as if a mini earthquake had started. In a circle around them, the ground split, and something started crawling out of the cracks in the ground.
“Those are Inferi!” Lily pressed herself as close to the stranger as she could, a wary eye on the corpses that had crawled out of the ground. Had the stranger raised them? “That’s Dark Magic!”
Either the man didn’t hear her, or he ignored her. He commanded the majority of the Inferi to attack the lion-goat-snake, then the others he told,
“Stay with the kid. Don’t let her get hurt.” There was a clicking sound, like the Inferi were giving the man some sort of response, and then something was trying to pull her away from the stranger– a bony, skeletal hand on her shoulder. Lily screamed like a banshee, yanking herself to the side opposite of the hand grabbing her.
“Holy Hephaestus!” The man jumped, looking down over his shoulder at Lily. “Look kid, these guys aren’t going to hurt you. Just stay back with them, okay?” Lily shook her head, and the man sighed. Before she could realize what he was doing, the man had slipped out of the jacket she was clutching to like a lifeline, and he stood in front of her in just jeans and a black t-shirt. Pulling the jacket from her grip, he draped it over her shoulders like a cape and ruffled her hair like Dad did.
“You’re going to be fine. I won’t let anything hurt you, okay? Promise.” And he gave a small smile, and Lily could only just nod, fingers curling around the edges of her coat-cape, drawing it closer. He stepped away from her, and the Inferi closed ranks around Lily as he locked into combat with the creature.
It was a sort of combat that Lily had never seen before. The way the stranger fought was nothing like any of the wizarding duels she had seen. He didn’t use any spells of any sort aside from when he had summoned his Inferi, though every so often the ground would tremble, and Lily wondered if that was his doing. She was enraptured by it, and her tears came to a stop as she watched the man battle creature.
Lily watched as finally the man stuck the creature with his sword, and then it was gone in a cloud of dust. Just, poof! It was gone, like he had popped a balloon. He stuck his sword on his belt, and made some sort of hand motion that had all the Inferi collapsing like the stranger cut the strings on a lot of puppets. That meant that he was the one that summoned all the Inferi, and that made Lily nervous and unintentionally taking a small stumbling step away from the man. If he summoned the Inferi, that meant he used Dark Magic, and Mum and Dad always told her to stay away from witches and wizards who used Dark Magic.
“Sorry,” The man had noticed her take a step back, and he crouched to her eye level. “I didn’t mean to scare you. The monster’s all gone now though, and you don’t have to worry about it.” His hands were on his knees, and he looked like he wasn’t too sure of what he was doing, like Albus did when he wasn’t sure if he wanted to go along with one of James’ schemes or not.
“Did ya really summon all those Inferi?” Lily shuffled her shoes, and was curious even though Mum would probably be beside herself. The stranger looked confused, but before he could say anything Lily had jumped into her nervous rambling. “Dad says that’s Dark Magic and he’s supposed to arrest wizards that use Dark Magic but I don’t really want him to arrest you because you were nice and you helped me out and you don’t really seem like a bad wizard but I wouldn’t know that because I’ve never met one before and-” She paused to take a breath and in that moment Lily paused, the man jumped in.
“Yes, I did summon all those, um, Inferi,” He started at the top of Lily’s rant, though he looked uncertain when he said Inferi, like he had never heard of the word before. “But like you said– I’m not a bad person. Would a bad person have protected you from that monster?” Lily shook her head because he was probably right.
“See?” He reached a hesitant hand out toward her, and when Lily didn’t shy away from it, he ruffled her hair. “Now, you mentioned you were from London? Whereabouts do you live?”
“Godric’s Hollow,” Lily told him, even though she probably shouldn’t have told a stranger where she lived. “But no one’s home because we all came to see the World Cup!”
“You’re a little far away from the World Cup, kid,” The stranger snorted softly. “Do you remember where you were staying?” Lily shook her head; she never really paid attention to it, and it had never seemed important at the time. “Do you have any family members who are home, back in London?”
“Yeah, Grandpa and Grandma are home,” Lily nodded, “They say long trips like these are too hard on their old bones, ‘specially for rough forms of transportation like Portkeys which is what we normally take for long trips like these.” She paused for a moment, before realizing that the man probably wanted to know where Grandpa and Grandma lived.
“They live somewhere near Surrey Hill,” She provided tentatively. “They have a really funny house with lots of levels. I got stuck on the roof once.” Lily fiddled with the coat that was acting as her cape for the moment.
“Okay,” The man nodded. “I can probably get you to your Grandpa and Grandma. Are you afraid of the dark?” Lily shook her head.
“Alright,” He stood up, and beckoned Lily closer to him. Lily did so, standing as close to his side as she dared. “Don’t be afraid, you’ll need to be a bit closer– do you mind if put my arm around you shoulder?” Lily shook her head as she edged closer to his side. He settled his hand uncertainly on Lily’s far shoulder, nudging her a bit closer to him as he tightened his grip on her a little.
“This may get a bit scary,” He warned her. “But I need you not to panic, alright? And don’t let go of me either, otherwise we’ll get separated.” They were going to apparate, Lily determined. He wasn’t certain if Lily had done side-along apparition before, and he was coaching her through it.
Lily had done side-along apparition before. When it had been bring your kid to work day, it had been Lily’s turn to go with Dad, and even though Mum told him not to, he took Lily through side-along apparition before winking conspiratorially to her and telling Lily that it would be their little secret.
What the stranger did was not apparition.
Lily didn’t know how to explain apparition other than being squeezed through a tube that you were bigger than, like when the Knight Bus squeezed itself between two double deckers when there wasn’t even enough room for a bike. Not only that, but when someone apparated you could tell because it let off a really loud crack like a firecracker or one of Grandpa’s muggle items exploding.
What the stranger did was different.
It was really cold, dark, and really fast. Shadows curled up around them like they had a life of their own, and then Lily and the stranger were gone, like they were moving through the shadows. It didn’t feel like they were being shoved through a tube, just like they were being pulled at high speed through the water, even though they weren’t getting wet. It was also really silent, and Lily wouldn’t have thought they had even moved, except around them was no longer the darkness of the Patagonian Desert.
Instead they were surrounded by the rays of light signaling dawn in Surrey Hill. They were standing at the top of the hill, and at the bottom of the one side Lily could see Grandpa and Grandma’s house. Lily could tell that they hadn’t made any sound with whatever trick the stranger used to move them because she was certain that someone would have come to see what had made a loud crack so early in the morning, especially Grandpa and Grandma.
Without even saying thank you or anything to the stranger (which was really rude, she would later admit), Lily was bolting down the hill towards her grandparent’s house, the arms around the coat she held tight around herself flapping like flags.
“Grandpa! Grandma!” Lily shouted as she ran, coming in too fast, and hitting the door a bit too hard when skidded into it trying to stop. Grandma was the one to open the door, and she opened it really quickly for it being so early in the morning, which Lily thought was strange. “Grandma you’d never believe what just happened to me!”
“Lily?” Grandma responded, confusion on her face at first, and then a look of intense relief. “Lily! Oh, thank Merlin you’re alright! Arthur!” Grandma threw an arm around Lily, herding her into the house.
“Arthur!” Grandma called again. “Arthur, floo Ginny! Lily’s right here– oh, you poor dear, how did you manage to get all the way here from Patagonia on your own?” The last part was directed to her, and though she was looking at Grandma, Lily could hear Grandpa shuffling around in the living room.
“I didn’t,” Lily answered honestly, because Mum had always taught her not to lie. She launched immediately into her story, gesticulating wildly. “There, there was this man! And, and, this magical creature that was a, a lion and a goat with a snake for a tail that breathed fire! This man, he beat it up and caused it to go poof!” She simulated the poof with a full body motion in order to try and convey the intensity of the monster’s poof. “And then he asked me where I lived so he could take me home, except Mum and Dad aren’t there, and I told him that and that we were there to see the World Cup! ’Cept I couldn’t remember where we were staying at the World Cup and he asked me if I had any family that was home and I told him that you were home Grandma, and he brought me here, because even though I didn’t remember your exact address I knew you lived near Surrey Hill and he brought me right to the top of the hill and– oh!” She just remembered.
“I left him at the top of the hill and I never said thank you!” Lily raced to the door before Grandma could stop her, looking out of it towards the crest of the hill.
“Lily, dear, nobody is there.” Grandma said gently, resting a hand on her shoulder, which was still covered by the man’s jacket. He didn’t even come down to retrieve his jacket. “Why don’t you come sit down and have a cup of hot chocolate while we wait for Grandpa to finish talking with your Mum? You can tell me all about the World Cup.” Lily let Grandma lead her away from the door, sitting her at the kitchen table, trying to shake the disappoint that started to sink into her bones for some reason.
She didn’t get to say goodbye to him, and Lily didn’t even learn his name.
And for some reason, that really upset her.
Lily didn’t see her mystery savior again until two years later, shortly after her ninth birthday. She was walking home from school when she saw him, standing by a fountain in the square, talking to the water, and making faces at it. Normally Lily walked home from school with Hugo, but Aunt Hermione had pulled him from class early because he had a dentist appointment to go too. Aunt Hermione was very insistent on all the kids of the family to get a ‘proper feel for the Muggle world’. As a result, all of them (‘them’ being Hugo, Rose, James, Albus, Teddy, and Lily herself) had had to go to a Muggle school until they were 10, right up until they left to go to Hogwarts.
Lily enjoyed being immersed in the Muggle world, almost as much as she liked being surrounded by all things magical. She actually often wondered what it would be like to mix muggle and magical elements. Computers, for example! If it wasn’t for computers, Lily would never have learned who ‘Hades’ or ‘Hermes’ were, or that the goat-snake-lion thing that had attacked her and her mystery savior that fateful night in the Patagonian Desert was a chimaera.
Of course, according to the librarian, they were just all part of Greek Mythology, and they weren’t real but it was still nice to see such a kid taking up such interests at such a young age. (Lily knew of course that there was the likelihood that at least chimaera’s were real, unlike the gods’ part. She had seen a chimaera with her own eyes, for example! Not that she could tell the librarian, of course.)
But none of this was the point. The point was that her mysterious savior from the Patagonian Desert was arguing with a fountain. At least, Lily was fairly certain it was her mystery savior. It had been dark when she had met him, but something told her that it was her savior.
At first, when Lily had had the stern lectures and tearful welcomes of her parents and family fawning over her being found, she had tried to tell her parents of the mysterious man who saved her, but they were dismissive of it. Said it was a product of fear from being separated from everyone and being all alone out in the desert. As for how Lily made it all the way back to England from Argentina, again her parents didn’t listen to her, and said that it had to have been the result of accidental magic. Lily had somehow managed to accidentally apparate across an entire ocean.
The one thing they couldn’t explain away was the jacket– something that Aunt Hermione told Lily was probably close to fifty years old, if not older. Lily still had it, hanging in her closet. She had tried it on, and it drowned her horrendously. Lily loved it. Her mother, not so much.
“Water you doing?” Lily laughed at her own joke; Uncle George had introduced Lily to the lovely art of making puns out of everyday words and phrases, and confided in her of a new product he was working on that would cause the recipient to speak in just puns for a set time period (undetermined as of her conversation with him on her birthday).
Her mystery man jumped like Crookshanks did last winter when Albus accidentally dropped his cup of water all over him. Laughter burbled out of the fountain, and Lily leaned over the edge of the fountain to see what the source was.
There was a picture of a man on the water’s edge. He was blond and had blue eyes and glasses, with what looked to be the start of a beard on his chin. His shirt was purple with gold writing on it, but the water caused the picture to be too blurry for Lily to actually read what it said.
“Geez Nico,” He was laughing, “What scared you so bad?” Lily had never seen anyone communicate through water before. Sure, it was normal for Mum and Dad to floo someone on business, but that was through fire and normally caused a lot of ash to be dropped on the floor. She hauled herself onto the lip of the fountain to get a closer look.
“Oh, who’s this?” Lily jumped a little when the picture moved, and the man looked at her.
“I’m Lily!” She chirped, because even though Mum said not to talk to strangers, it was mystery man’s friend and he saved her, so of course his friends should be okay, right?
“Hello Lily,” The man beamed back at her, “My name’s Jason. How old are you?”
“Nine!” She leaned closer to the water, fascinated. Lily wanted to know more of how this water-floo method worked. “My birthday was last Tuesday.”
“Almost double digits then,” Lily nodded in agreement to Jason’s statement. She was excited because when she turned ten and entered the double digits, then Lily would only have one more year to wait until she could go to Hogwarts.
“So, how do you know Nico, Miss Lily?”
“Grace, don’t change the subject,” Lily’s mystery man– Nico, apparently –growled from behind Lily. Lily, who loved talking though, answered with enthusiasm. She never needed an excuse to keep talking.
“He saved me!” A grin covered her face from ear to ear, and Jason (Grace?) had a look of rapt interest on his face, which only encouraged Lily to continue talking. “A year and a half ago Nico fought off this, this, monster and made it go poof!” She simulated its disappearance just as she had the first time she recounted the tale to her grandmother, losing her balance with the force of her motion, nearly toppling over into the fountain. It was only thanks to Nico grabbing the hook of her backpack that stopped Lily from having an impromptu bath.
“And what did this monster look like?”
“Well, I had been lost in the desert, and at first I thought it looked like a puma, because there were lots of pumas in the desert according to Aunt Hermione,” Lily rattled off, “but as I kept looking at it, and blinking at it, the puma kept changing! It started growing a goat on its back and a snake for a tail and then it was a lion and not a puma! I looked it up a while later after Nico brought me back home and I found out that it was called a–”
“Uh, it’s okay Lily!” Jason cut in sharply, a nervous look on his face, waving his hands over the picture in an apologetic manner. “I already know what it’s called, thank you though!” She pouted, but it didn’t last long as Lily recalled something and continued talking as if Jason had never interrupted her.
“That reminds me!” Lily hit her fist on her open palm like she’d seen characters on the telly do before whenever they made a realization, and she turned, pointing at Nico. “I still have your jacket!”
“So that’s where your jacket went.” There was a grin on Jason’s face when Lily shuffled so she could look at both men. Giving Lily a conspiratorial wink, he lifted his hand in the universal symbol of ‘this comment is private’, telling her, “He’d never go anywhere without that jacket. Imagine our shock when one day out of the blue he showed up without it, acting like it was nothing!” Lily laughed, because she remembered how Mum would act whenever Dad was putting around the kitchen in the morning without a cup of coffee in his hand. (She actually wanted to try coffee, but Mum told her it was for big kids. It was okay though, because Dad snuck her a sip of it when Mum wasn’t looking. Coffee actually didn’t taste very good, Lily found.)
“Fu–” Nico started to squawk, before Jason raised an eyebrow at him, and switched to, “–rick you, Grace. I wasn’t that attached to the, uh, darn thing.” Jason kept his eyebrow raised at Nico, before slowly lowering it and saying,
“So she can see through the Mist?” With a capital ‘M’. Lily wasn’t sure how she knew, but she did.
“It seems so.” Nico’s tone was in the same clipped no-nonsense tone Lily was used to hearing from her parents or aunts and uncles when there was no room for discussion when she was told to do something that she didn’t want to.
Lily looked between them, confused. She had no idea what they were talking about, and Lily didn’t really like being out of the loop.
“She should probably still be–”
“I don’t think that would be a very good idea.”
It was like watching a Quidditch match, with a chaser throwing the quaffle and the keeper breezily deflecting it like it was nothing. Just listening made Lily dizzy. And annoyed, because they were talking about her, but weren’t including her in on the conversation! Lily absolutely hated it when people did that to her.
“Nico,” Jason was using the same tone of voice Mum did when Lily ate the last of the cookies. “It’ll be safer for her at camp, especially if she’s,” he cast a surreptitious glance at Lily that she probably was not supposed to see, “a you-know-what.”
“What camp?” Lily asked, jumping back into the conversation before Nico could say anything else. “And what you-know-what am I supposed to be? I don’t know what.”
Attention was returned to Lily, and she was all right with that since that meant that they were no longer talking about her like she wasn’t there.
“A summer camp for really special kids,” Jason answered first, and Lily watched as Nico shot him a sour look. “Over in the United States. Have you ever been to the United States Lily?” Lily shook her head.
“Uh-uh,” She vocalized alongside the head motion.
“Would you want to come?” Lily cocked her head to the side thinking, but before she could reply, Nico said,
“Jason.” It drew Lily’s attention off of the question she was pondering and caused her to look up at Nico. “Now is not the time for this.”
“Nico di Angelo, you can’t hide her away forever!
“I am not hiding her!”
“Well, you sure,” But the rest of whatever Jason was saying got cut off as Nico angrily splashed his hand through the fountain water, causing Jason’s image to vanish from the fountain.
Nico had a really angry look on his face, like he was really upset about what Jason was saying.
“I’m sorry,” Lily felt compelled to say, because they had been arguing about her, so it was probably her fault, right?
Lily watched as Nico let out an angry breath, nostrils flaring, before taking a deep breath in. He looked down at her, and sat a hand on her head, ruffling her hair, smiling.
“Don’t apologize; it’s not your fault.” He removed his hand, settling it in the pocket of his pants. “Jason just likes to worry. It’s a full-time job for him.” Nico held out his other hand, helping Lily off the lip of the fountain.
“Don’t worry about returning my jacket,” Nico added. “You can keep it.” Lily frowned, and was going to protest, but before she could say anything, a voice shouted from the other side of the square,
“Lily!” She turned, looking away from Nico, to see Hugo waving at the entrance of the square on the side where Lily had been headed for. Next to him stood Aunt Hermione, hair pulled back in a bun, in the suit she wore for work.
Lily turned back to Nico to say goodbye, but he wasn’t there anymore.
(How did he do that?)
The next time that Lily actually saw Nico di Angelo again was when she was twelve years old, at King’s Cross Station. It had been three years since she had lost seen her mystery stranger and met his friend, Jason Grace. Lily prided herself on remembering Nico’s friend’s name, especially seeing as she had only met him once, and hadn’t seen Nico since that day.
That wasn’t to say she hadn’t gotten anything from Nico, however. The last time Lily had spoken to him, she had unintentionally let slip to Nico when her birthday was when she was telling Jason how old she was. As a result, when she turned ten the next year, there was a present waiting from her from him. It hadn’t been marked with a ‘From’ note to let Lily know who it was from, but Lily knew. Mum and Dad seemed surprised by it, but Dad deemed the present safe and curse free.
When she was ten, it was stuffed animal– an owl. It was grey and white, with dark brown eyes that sort of reminded Lily of Nico’s eyes. She kept it on the windowsill of her bedroom during the day, and slept with it most nights.
On her eleventh birthday, they were books– one on Greek mythology, and the other on Roman mythology. The books told her of all the different gods and goddesses in both pantheons, and the different monsters commonly associated with the pantheons. She saw a chimaera in the one, drawn just as Lily had seen it that fateful night in the Patagonian Desert.
Lily had taken the books and her stuffed owl, which she had named Maria, with her for her first year at Hogwarts. Unsurprisingly, like her siblings and all of her cousins, she had been placed into Gryffindor, and had settled for the year. She read and reread her mythology books what seemed like a hundred times, more than her own school texts.
This year, however, Nico hadn’t sent her a present. Lily did her best not to be upset about it, especially seeing as they had only met two times, and the last time had been three years ago.
It was 10:30 am, and Lily had a half an hour to get onto the platform before the train left for school without her. By all rights, Lily should have been on the platform and on the train already. However, as Lily was wont to do, she had gotten distracted and wandered away from her family.
She had a good reason for it though! Lily could have sworn she had seen her ever-elusive Nico di Angelo wandering the station, and before she had even realized it, Lily had abandoned her family in favor of seeing whether or not it really was Nico di Angelo she had spotted.
That was at ten. It was a half an hour later and Lily had managed to wander to the far end of the station and half way back, and hadn’t spotted him again. She had been just about to give up and race back down to her platform when Lily saw him disappear down a darkened hall of the station.
Not giving a thought to the repercussions, Lily raced after Nico, not wanting to lose him again.
Lily made it to the entrance to the hall, and staring down it, discovered it was a dead end of the station that just led to a utility closet. Nico was standing at the end of the hall, facing the wall, almost completely hidden by the shadows covering the rest of the hall. Before Lily could say anything to get Nico’s attention, she watched, amazed, as the shadows moved of their own free will, curling around Nico. Lily kept her eyes open, not wanting to miss anything, and witnessed as the shadows shrouded Nico like a blanket until he disappeared, as if he had melted into the shadows. Just to make sure he wasn’t hiding from her, Lily raced down to the end of the hall, feeling around the air, and knocking on the wall every way she could think of, trying to figure out if there was some sort of magic in getting the shadows to curl around Lily like they had around Nico.
Lily stomped back out of the hall, feeling sour, but that sourness turned to panic as soon as she spotted a clock. The time read 10:50 am, and Lily had only ten minutes to make it down to the platform before she missed the train. And Mum and Dad would be unbelievably furious with her if Lily missed the train.
She sprinted down towards the platform, passing through the barrier into the still bustling crowd that lurked there. Lily didn’t even look for her parents to say goodbye; looking for them meant detailing why exactly she had separated from the group, and her parents were still convinced that Nico was just a figment of Lily’s imagination. Instead, Lily hurtled onto the train, pushing her way through stragglers until she found the car her siblings were in. She took a moment to catch her breath and think of some sort of tale to tell them in case they asked, but when Lily opened the door and plopped onto the floor (because there weren’t seats enough for all of them, but Lily hadn’t thought to go look for her year-mates when she boarded) nobody spared her a second glance.
That year was when Lily made the realization that she hadn’t for the prior three, which made her feel relatively stupid, seeing as every night for the past two she had slept with a stuffed version of the answer to her problems in her bed. She made it one night, staring at Maria, wondering how she’d ever talk to Nico again. (Because Lily really wanted to talk to Nico again, because she found him fascinating, not to mention she wanted to thank him for the gifts, and figure out how he did that cool shadow trick of his.)
Owls could always find the person that they were delivering a letter to, regardless of whether or not the sender knew where the person was. Dad had always spoke fondly of sending letters to a man Lily had never known, with his old owl Hedwig and other school owls, and how the owls always found him even though Dad had never known where the letters were going. And that meant that Lily could use an owl to send a letter to Nico to talk to him.
Of course, it would have to be a school owl, because Lily doubted James would let her borrow his as he would want to know who she was sending it to, and Lily didn’t want to tell him. Because he would ask, seeing as James was nosy and felt that he had to know everything going on in his siblings’ school lives.
Lily didn’t write the letter in the dormitory either; there were quills and pieces of parchment up in the Owlery, and one night after dinner Lily diverted from the rest of the pack and hopped up to the Owlery to parse her letter to Nico.
She spent ages agonizing over what to say to Nico in the letter.
Finally, Lily had the official version that was going to be sent to Nico, wherever he was. She addressed it as ‘Dear Nico di Angelo’ (because Lily really liked Nico’s full name, and it made her feel oddly nostalgic for some reason), and made sure to introduce herself again in it. Lily talked about how she first met him, and the last time they spoke, and she made sure to put in it how she thought she saw him at King’s Cross Station and had that really been him?
Lily also made sure to thank him for the books and stuffed owl (she told him that the owl’s name was Maria), asked how he had talked to his friend through the fountain the last time they had talked, and asked really nicely if he could please write her back. She really wanted to talk to him more.
It was probably a little overbearing, or slightly creepy, but Lily really wanted to get back into contact with Nico. Lily liked him. Nico was interesting.
Watching the school owl fly off into the distance, Lily bounded back to the Gryffindor tower, hoping that Nico would give her a response soon.
Three weeks later, on a sleepy Sunday morning, a letter was dropped on the table in front of Lily, narrowly missing her bowl of porridge and the marmalade sitting on the table. She could barely contain her excitement, and Lily snatched the letter up off of the table almost as soon as it landed.
Wanting to be able to write back right away, Lily dashed off to the Owlery, and nestled against the wall by the door as she tore open the letter.
He addressed the letter to Lily as ‘Miss Lily N. Potter’, and Nico’s letters had loops coming off the ends, in a manner that was similar to cursive, but was still printing.
Nico’s response quelled Lily’s fear that he had forgotten about her– he very plainly wrote that she was “unforgettable” (Her, unforgettable! The words made her smile.), and it would take a lot to make him forget about her. He also informed her that he had not been in London recently, but was otherwise vague on that topic, neither affirming nor denying that he had been at Kings Cross at the start of September.
Her thanks for the gifts were briefly glossed over, just telling Lily that she was welcome for the gifts and that the ideas for them were more thanks to his friends. As for how he communicated with Jason (that was his friend’s name, Lily had forgotten it when she had been writing the letter, but it had come back after she had sent the owl off) through water, it was “a trade secret” and she could “learn it when she was older maybe”. (Lily knew that was fancy adult talk for never, but she didn’t let that get her down. She could hope, and hope she did.)
Lily wrote back, and continued writing Nico throughout the entirety of her second year. She wrote to him about everything that occurred. Her classes, her friends, Quidditch (which Nico had seemed confused about, and Lily had to explain it over the course of four letters), and anything else that she could think of that was happening at or about Hogwarts.
Nico, in return, told her about his daily life as well. He kept her informed about Jason, told stories about unnamed friends, and danced around the topic when Lily asked about what he did. All Nico told her was that he did work for his father, but not what sort of work it was. He didn’t talk about his father.
Lily’s second year at Hogwarts ended with a secret stash of letters from Nico hidden in her school trunk as she headed home.
The summer between second and third year was spent with Lily not so subtly borrowing James’ owl to continue chatting with Nico over the summer. When confronted by her continual use of her eldest brother’s owl, Lily gave the excuse of mailing a friend who was out of the country. Lily told her parents it was an out-of-house friend, a muggle-born, because her brothers would know she was lying if she said it was an in-house friend, and her parents would make confirmations if she said a pure-blood or half-blood name.
Still, James threw a fit about Lily’s use of his owl (even though he barely sent letters over the summer), so Dad’s solution was to get Lily one of her own. It was a little owl, and extremely gorgeous. The owl had brown and white feathers, almost like it was a chess board. It also had eyebrows, and yellow eyes that reminded her of Aunt Hermione’s cat. On a whim, Lily decided to name her (because the owl was a female, according to Dad) Bianca.
Lily adored Bianca, and made a point of introducing her to Nico the next time she wrote him. His writing seemed stiffer than normal, like something was paining him but he didn’t want to tell Lily. Nico did tell her that one of his friends, a woman named Annabeth, was highly praising her parent’s choice in owls. Apparently, not only were owls the symbol of the Goddess Athena but the specific breed Lily’s parents chose, the little owl, was the symbol of Athena.
The letter and this new information rekindled Lily’s interest in Greek and Roman mythology and sent her searching for more knowledge on the subjects. She discovered that Athena was the Greek Goddess of Wisdom (among other things, though wisdom was what she was most known for), and she leapt out of her father’s head in full battle armor. (Athena’s father was Zeus, God of Lightning, King of the Gods, and a whole lot of other things.) Athena’s Roman form was the Goddess Minerva, who wasn’t nearly as interesting as Athena herself.
Lily detailed this information back to Nico, and from then on in subsequent letters she was asked different questions about both the Greek and Roman pantheons with their Gods and Goddesses. As the summer melted into the school year, she turned toward chatting about school and her classes, and attempting to get Nico to tell her what exactly he did for his dad. Lily talked about her Care of Magical Creatures class, chatted a bit about the chimaera that had caused Nico and Lily to meet for the first time and how her teacher Professor Hagrid would react to seeing the creature, and about whether or not some of the creatures in the class could possibly be part of the Greek and Roman mythologies.
Lily also gushed about the local wizarding village near the school, Hogsmeade. As a third year, she was now permitted to take trips down to the village on weekends with friends and fellow classmates as long as she had a permission slip signed by a parent or guardian. She talked about all the different shops in the village, such as the joke shops (Zonkos, which was an older one, and then her Uncle George’s shop, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes), the Quidditch shop, the candy store, and the Three Broomsticks. There was also a book shop, and one of Lily’s favorite past times in Hogsmeade (and also in the Hogwarts library) was to scour the shelves for books on Greek and Roman topics. There weren’t many books on the Gods and Goddesses, but there were a few on Hecate and Trivia. Hecate and Trivia were two sides of the same coin; Hecate was the Greek Goddess of Magic, and Trivia was the Roman one.
She did her best to hint to Nico about coming to visit her at Hogsmeade without outright asking him to come see her. Every time she sent out a letter to Nico, Lily made sure to include the dates of the upcoming Hogsmeade trips, as she never knew how long it would take her letters to reach Nico. He constantly talked to her about the different parts of the world he was in when her letters reached him, and it seemed as if every letter Lily sent Nico reached him in a different part of the world– Hong Kong, a small town in West Bengal, Zapopan, the Patagonia Desert (again), Oslo, and various places across the United States.
Still, every letter Lily made sure to tell Nico when the next Hogmeade trips were, and she always made a point of looking for Nico every weekend that she was in the village. Unfortunately, every weekend Lily was unable to locate Nico. Every weekend, Nico did not come.
That was, however, until the last Hogsmeade trip before Christmas Break. On the Sunday prior to midterm exams, Lily ventured down into the village with friends in search of some last minute Christmas gifts for family members and to get a new quill and ink. It was looking just like every other disappointing Hogsmeade weekend until Lily noticed something out of the corner of her eye.
Stopping in the middle of the busy street, Lily looked towards the alley that she had heard led down to the Hog’s Head– a part of Hogsmeade famous for being the place where Dumbledore’s Army met for the first time during Dad’s fifth year at Hogwarts. She could have sworn that she saw what looked to be Nico in the shadows of the alley.
“Something wrong Lily?” Rose asked her, stopping beside Lily.
“I just remembered something,” Lily told her cousin. “What Mum wanted for Christmas, I completely forgot about it before. You go on down to the carriages Rosie, I’ll be there as soon as I double check if it’s here or not.”
Rose frowned at Lily, as if she didn’t believe the younger Gryffindor, but she shrugged after a moment.
“All right,” She said, tucking a fly strand of hair behind her ear. “If you say so– just make sure you don’t miss the last carriage back to the school, you’ll get in trouble if you miss curfew.”
“I know!” Lily assured Rose as her cousin pushed her way through the crowds down to the carriages. As soon as Lily was sure her cousin was out of sight, she turned back to the alley and hurried over to it.
This late in the afternoon, the path leading down to the Hog’s Head was mostly devoid of Hogwarts students, and so Lily felt safe softly calling out to her mysterious savior from Patagonia.
“Nico?” She called to the growing darkness of the path. “Is that you?” Wandering down the path further, Lily continued to call for Nico.
“Nico?” Lily repeated. “I thought I saw you. Was I right?” Shadows flickered, and it was almost as if thin tendrils curled open towards the young Potter, but immediately as Lily noticed the movement, it stopped. It was probably just a figment of her imagination, getting her hopes up about Nico. Lily associated all strange shadow movements she saw with Nico, after all.
“I guess not,” She sighed in disappointment, kicking a stray rock. The rock rolled away, bounding across the dirt until it hit the wall of a nearby building. “I… I really wish you’d come visit me, Nico. Even just once.”
There was a deep sadness in her voice, an eternal one. For an odd moment, it felt to Lily as if the words weren’t her own, and they were being said by someone hidden deep inside her. But like many other things, the feeling disappeared before Lily could think too hard about it.
Turning her back on the alley, Lily made her way back to the main street of Hogsmeade and hurried down to the carriages.
That year, on Christmas morning, there was one extra package waiting for Lily under the tree. It was in plain brown paper, like it had been dropped off that morning by a late postal owl, with no name from who it was. Cursory wand taps from Dad showed that it was safe to open, and after Lily opened he took it once more just to make extra sure that there was nothing wrong with the gift. (There wasn’t.)
It was a green hat, similar to something like a beret. It was worn looking, and as Dad checked it over for spells or potions or the like, a piece of notebook paper fluttered out of the packaging.
While her parents were busy and her siblings distracted, Lily read the note to herself. The handwriting was familiar, and even though the note wasn’t signed, Lily knew who the gift was from.
This hat once belonged to my older sister. I think she would appreciate you having it.
(Later, Lily would put the hat on along with the bomber jacket she had gotten all those years ago from Nico. She would look at herself in the full-length mirror in the bathroom, and wonder briefly why she felt such nostalgia at the appearance, and why her heart clenched with familiarity before the feeling would disappear with no explanation. Lily would file it in the back of her mind as an oddity, and promptly forget about it until much, much later.)
The summer between third and fourth year was spent in the United States. Dad got an opportunity to work in an Auror Exchange program for a year starting in June, and he had the ability to bring family if he wanted. Mum stayed in England to maintain the house, and because she couldn’t leave her own job, but she and Aunt Hermione insisted that Lily, Albus, and James spend summer vacation with Dad for the cultural experience. They’d have to return at the end of August to go to Diagon Alley and attend school, but at least they’d get to spend the summer in the United States.
The program had Dad stationed in Washington D.C., which was where the United States Ministry of Magic was located, similar to how England’s Ministry of Magic was located in London. The first weekend there, Dad took them all to explore the magic side of D.C., and explained to the three of them very seriously that if they wanted to wander around the city– either of them, muggle or magical –they needed to go with each other, or have someone with them.
Throughout the summer, just as the previous one, Lily kept in touch with Nico. She told him about Dad’s exchange program, how they were in Washington D.C., what she thought of both the muggle and magical parts of the city, and had Nico ever been to D.C.?
(He had, when he was younger, but hadn’t been back since. Nico didn’t really explain, and something in Lily told her it wouldn’t be prudent to press him.)
Like many other things before, the city of Washington D.C. gave Lily odd pangs of familiarity, and these pangs struck her at the oddest times.
Late June, walking past the muggle National Air and Space Museum (it was absolutely fascinating to Lily how muggles had made it to space without magic), Lily was abruptly overcome with a mix of nostalgia and trepidation vibrating straight to her bones. For a moment, the world around her tilted, and Lily could have sworn that she saw the skeletal form of a sabretooth tiger stalking toward her. She blinked and it was gone, but something about the scene still bothered her. Thunder rumbled and lightning crackled across the sky however, and it drew Lily’s attention briefly away from the weirdness she had experienced.
“I think we should head back now guys,” Lily started to say to her brothers before stopping.
James and Albus were nowhere in sight. Knowing those two, they probably hadn’t noticed that their sister had stopped moving and kept on walking, believing that she was right behind them. Brilliant, just brilliant.
As if sensing Lily’s displeasure, the heavens above opened up, dropping a torrential downpour of rainwater on everyone on the streets. Lily, and everyone else outside, was soaked within seconds, and she did her best not to scream in frustration. She had no way of contacting Dad, or anyone else for that matter, but if Lily remembered correctly, there was an entrance into magical D.C. around the corner, at the end of a dead-end alley.
Lily high-tailed it to the end of the block, nearly losing one of her flats in a puddle of water. Her skirt was sticking to her thighs, and she put a hand to her head to make sure the green beret hadn’t fallen off. It hadn’t, and she let out a sigh of relief for the small victories. Lily was immensely grateful that she had worn the bomber jacket today despite the heat, because it was currently protecting her arms and upper body from the rain.
Fixing her flats and prying her skirt from her legs, Lily wrung out the ends of her hair before heading into the alley. Stalking to the end, she decided she’d wait out the storm in Jada’s Ice Cream Parlor, and ask Jada if she could send a message to Dad at the Ministry about where she was. Maybe she’d make James or Albus foot the bill for whatever she got at the Parlor since they left her behind.
Reaching the end of the alley, Lily dug through the pockets of her jacket. Her fingers crossed the gold coins that had been in the jacket when Nico first gave it to her– they weren’t galleons, and Lily kept forgetting to ask Nico what they were –before finding what she was looking for, her matchbook. She started to pull it out before freezing, dread dawning over her.
In order to get into magical D.C., and other magical towns in the United States, a witch or wizard had to light symbols on the entrance on fire in order to open the path. It was homage to the Witch Trials in the 1600s, Aunt Hermione had told her when Lily had asked, when the muggles had attempted to weed out witches by burning and drowning them, and the patterns were normally marked on the entrance by way of graffiti. Lily was so stupid; she couldn’t get into magical D.C. when it was pouring like this! Any match she’d light would go out instantly, and she couldn’t conjure waterproof fire with her wand– not only did she not know the spell, but Lily would also get in trouble for underage magic.
“A little lost, are we girlie?” A man’s voice came from behind Lily, causing her to jump in surprise. Turning, Lily saw she was caged in the alley by an unkempt, unshaven middle-aged man.
“N-No,” Lily stumbled over her response, unnerved by the man. Despite the man’s appearance, she was ninety percent certain that this man was a muggle. If he was a wizard, he would have just gone ahead and opened the pathway. And be dressed a bit differently, too. Wizards dressed oddly and were a bit eccentric, but not like this man. “Just, just took a wrong turn. My brothers are waiting for me, I should get going.” Lily attempted to go around the man and exit the alley, giving as wide a berth to him as possible, but before she could make it around him he had snaked an arm out and latched onto her wrist.
She could hear Dad’s voice in her head, saying, “Never go anywhere by yourself.”
“Hey, hey, hey,” He leered at her, a lecherous grin on his face. “Why don’t I help you find your way back? Streets aren’t safe for pretty girls like yourself.”
“I’m fine,” Lily tried to pull away, but the man had a vice like grip on her. “Honest. Now please, let me go.”
“Don’t be so hasty,” He tugged her closer, and Lily did her best to dig her heels into the ground and stay where she was.
“Let go of me!” Lily shouted. This would be a really good time for some accidental magic to flare up, but it seemed that Lily’s luck was non-existent at the moment.
“What’s with all the fussing?” The man was leaning towards her, and his breath fanned over Lily’s face. It reeked, and Lily had just opened her mouth to scream when something behind him caught her eyes.
There was a shadow moving on the wall behind him. A strange anomaly, considering the fact that there weren’t any shadows at the moment because of the storm.
As the man moved closer to Lily, a black wall erupted between them, forcibly separating the man from Lily. While Lily was merely sent stumbling back a step, the man who had accosted her flew into the brick wall behind him. There was a sick sounding crack as he hit the wall, but the man still managed to pick himself up off of the ground.
“What the hell?” He cussed, stumbling as he stood. The man looked at Lily with a mix of fear and rage in his eyes. “What was that, you, you freak?!” He took a step toward Lily, hand raised in a fist, and she shrunk back to the wall, preparing to flee back to the main street when the oddest thing happened.
A thin black tendril peeled away from the ground, rising to the air, and wrapped itself around the man’s wrist, and jerked him to the side. It sent the man reeling to the side, and he nearly kissed the asphalt again.
“F-Freak!” The man shouted once more, “W-Witch! I’m going to kill you for that!” He began to move toward Lily once more, but before he could, a soft, dangerous sounding voice that was almost frighteningly familiar came from behind him.
“She’s not the one you should be calling a freak,” The male’s voice said, and while the figure was wrapped in shadows, Lily knew who it was.
“G-Get out of here!” The man retaliated nervously, ordering the newcomer, “This is between me an’ her, not you!”
“Who are you to be ordering me?” Nico retorted coldly, hands placed nonchalantly in his pockets, his black sword from Patagonia hanging at his belt. His nose was upturned as if in distaste. “A ghost does not order its King – it takes orders from its King.”
“I’m not a ghost!” The man protested, and Lily had to agree– the man’s hand had been clasped around her wrist. Ghosts could not physically touch that which was living, Lily knew that from the ghosts at Hogwarts, but the man had definitely touched her. “What the hell are you going on about?!”
“A ghost should also,” Nico continued in that cold voice of his, “not talk back to its King. Not when it is a lowly, good-for-nothing soul.” He pulled his hand out of his pocket, a skull ring glittering on his finger, and faced his palm toward the man, saying before he could give another protest, “Be gone.”
Letting out a curdling scream, all color bled out of Lily’s attacker, leaving him in monochrome colors before Nico clenched his hand into a fist, and the man burst into a cloud of smoke.
Though Lily’s heart should have jack rabbited, sent her into another panic like with her attacker, it was eerily calm. She should have been bothered by what Nico did, but she wasn’t. Lily swallowed a lump that had formed in her throat, and looked to Nico.
“What,” She started, the sound of rainfall echoing around them, “What was–?”
“Are you all right?” Nico interrupted before Lily could finish. “He didn’t hurt you?”
“N-No,” Lily shook her head, reaching up and peeling away tendrils of hair that had glued to her face due to the rain. “I’m fine.”
“That’s good,” Nico said, and Lily thought she saw a small smile of relief on his face, and heard a relieved sigh in his voice. He shook his head, muttering to himself, “Nothing good ever happens in D.C.” It was a strange comment, but Lily didn’t have much time to ponder Nico’s statement before he was addressing her once more.
“It’s dangerous to be going around a foreign place by yourself,” He told her. “Where were you headed? I’ll take you there.” He held out his hand to her. It was the same one that had the skull ring, the one that he had used to make her attacker disappear into smoke.
“I had been headed home with my brothers,” Lily told Nico, “But we got separated. I was headed to Jada’s Ice Cream Parlor in magical D.C. to wait out the storm, but I can’t get in because of the rain.”
“I think I can get us in,” Nico told Lily, raising an eyebrow. “If that’s all right with you, of course. I’ll understand if you don’t want to come with me.”
“No, it’s fine,” Lily shook her head, and grasped Nico’s hand with her own. It was warm and wet from the rain. “I trust you.”
Nico gave a sharp bark of laughter, as if Lily’s words were funny to him, before the world was engulfed in sharp speeding shadows. It was a similar experience to the one that had occurred when she was seven, being brought home from the Patagonia Desert, but much shorter. Barely seconds had passed before she was stumbling out of the shadows by the wall next to the bookstore across the street from Jada’s.
Lily felt Nico try to take his hand from hers, but she stopped him. She wasn’t letting him go quite yet.
“Thank you,” Lily told Nico, keeping a firm grasp on his hand, looking up at the older man. She wasn’t letting him go until she got to properly thank him this time. “For helping me. I really appreciate it.”
“It’s nothing,” There was a faint blush on Nico’s cheeks, and Lily felt a weird butterfly-flipping sensation in her stomach as he waved his free hand dismissively. “It’s what any decent person would have done if they’d seen someone in your situation.”
“Still, thank you,” Lily smiled, and on impulse she leaned up and kissed him on the cheek. She wasn’t sure why she did it, but it seemed right in the moment. Lily released Nico’s hand and stepped into the light, turning back briefly to wave goodbye to him. “I appreciate it. See you around Nico!”
Because Lily was sure that she’d see him again.
Nico didn’t say anything, but Lily was certain that she was not imagining the blush on his cheeks as he waved goodbye to her before vanishing into the shadows once more.
Laughing, Lily dashed across the street through the rain into Jada’s. She’d have to remember to ask Nico the next time she wrote to him how she did all those strange things of his– the shadow travel, the summoning of Inferi, how he turned her attacker into a ghost. Maybe she’d remember to ask him about the gold coins as well.
The school year, compared to how Lily’s summer turned out, started off relatively uneventful in comparison. She took to wearing the green beret that Nico gave her the past Christmas every day and, when Lily could get away with it, the bomber jacket as well. Lily continued writing Nico as well; talking about classes and asking about how whatever he had talked about in the previous letter went. She still sent him the dates for the Hogsmeade weekends, and like the year before he still did not visit on those weekends. (Lily studiously ignored the anxious flips her stomach performed each time she hoped Nico would visit.)
It was one such weekend that had a Hogsmeade trip that Nico didn’t show up to that led Lily to the small pond near the Shrieking Shack. The day was unusually warm for late October, and Lily found herself shedding her jacket and using it as a blanket on the grass. Hearing a jingle in the pockets as she set it on the ground, Lily was reminded of the strange golden coins once more. She pulled one out, holding it up to the light.
The coin glimmered in the sun, and on the side that was facing her was a realistic drawing of some sort of building. It wasn’t a building that Lily recognized, and she made a mental note to look it up over break at the muggle library. The muggle library would have it, Lily knew for sure, so it was better waiting for break rather than wasting time at the school library for information she may or may not find.
On the other side of the coin was the image of a face. Staring off it as if straight at Lily was some man’s face, with a laurel crown on his hair. Familiarity stirred in her, reminding her of something– or someone –else she had seen before, but Lily couldn’t place it.
These coins, just like the jacket and beret, were the only physical connection Lily had to Nico, other than the hundreds of letters she had stored up in Gryffindor Tower in her trunk along with her stuffed owl and the two mythology books. Which reminded her, he had yet to answer any of her questions about his mysterious magic. Every time she asked him about his shadow traveling, or the Inferi, or the guy he made disappear, Nico deflected the questions or flat out ignored them in favor of writing about something else.
“Stupid Nico,” Lily grumbled, flipping the coin over in her hands. “Stupid, mysterious Nico di Angelo – whoa!” Lily yelped the last part as she accidentally flung the coin into the pond. Scrambling for the water’s edge, intent on digging the coin out of the murky bottom of the pond, what she saw on the water made Lily pause.
There was a glimmering rainbow on the water’s surface – odd in itself as Lily was fairly certain that was not how rainbows worked – and there was some weird automated female voice echoing from the water, saying, “Please wait while your party is reached!”
“What the–?” Lily muttered more to herself, leaning closer to the water. The rainbow faded from sight, before a faint clicking sound echoed and a picture appeared on the water.
“–be right there, I have to see who’s IMing me,” The face was turned away from whatever was projecting the image (some water source, Lily guessed, because that was how hers worked), but the voice was as familiar as her family’s.
“Don’t be late, remember, you promised!” A different voice called faintly in the background.
“I know, I know,” Nico said before turning to look at Lily.
It was amazing, and Lily was tempted to touch the water. But her memory of the first time she witnessed this sort of communication, when Nico was talking with his friend Jason, and Nico had splashed his hand through the image to end it. It was probably not a good idea for her to touch the water.
“Nico?!” Lily couldn’t keep the excitement from her voice, or the grin from appearing on her face. This was amazing, and it solved one long held mystery for her.
Nico blinked, and did a sort of double-take, which was actually pretty amusing.
“Lily?” His voice was full of disbelief, a confused look adopted on his face. “How are you IMing me?”
“I don’t know what IMing is,” Lily answered Nico, “But I accidentally dropped a coin in the pond and when I went to fish it out the pond said I was trying to connect with someone.”
“IMing is – never mind, don’t worry about that,” Nico cut himself off, shaking his head. He fished through his pockets, before pulling something out of it. He held a coin up. “Did the coin look something like this?” Nico showed both sides of the coin before pulling it down.
“Yeah,” Lily affirmed, nodding. Her beret slipped a bit, and she pushed it back up as she continued speaking. “There was a different face on it, but it was pretty much the same coin.”
“You said you dropped it into the pond?” Nico asked, continuing after Lily nodded, “Do you know where you got the coins?”
“The coat you gave me,” Lily answered honestly before reiterating, “I pulled one out and accidentally dropped it into the pond. Then I got connected to you.”
Nico looked mildly distressed by the entire situation, and before Lily could stop herself, she unintentionally made it worse by asking,
“Does this have anything to do with your weird powers?” Mum was always telling her to think before she spoke, and someday Lily would learn to do that. Just not today. Nico grimaced before sighing, and Lily sort of regretted asking. Only a little though. Okay, a lot.
“Sort of,” Nico told Lily. “It’s connected, at least. Look Lily, it’s this really big secret, okay? You can’t tell anyone.”
“Don’t worry!” Lily chirped, “I’m really good at keeping secrets. I won’t tell anyone, promise!”
“Fine,” Nico leaned forward, like he was bracing himself on something. “My powers are something that are unique to me, Lily. See–”
“Lily?” Albus’s voice called out to her from behind. “What are you doing down here?”
Jumping in surprise, Lily leapt to her feet, turning towards Albus as she did so, in a meagre attempt to hide her water-talking trick with Nico from her brother. As she landed on her feet, they slid out from under her on the loose dirt of the shore and Lily pitched backwards into the pond behind her.
Letting out a terrified shriek, Lily splashed into the pond getting completely soaked. Floundering in the water, rage and embarrassment flooded through her. Rage at Albus for sneaking up on her and scaring her, causing Lily to make a fool of herself in front of Nico, and embarrassment at Nico having seen her fall into the pond. Well, sort of. Either way, it was still embarrassing and Lily didn’t want to think of how Nico saw her pathetically slipping and falling into the water.
Coughing to get the water out of her lungs, Lily snagged the beret out of the water before it could float too far away. She wouldn’t be able to bear it if she accidentally lost Nico’s sister’s beret in the pond. Mourning the wetness of the beret and her clothes, Lily thanked Merlin that at least her wand was still up on shore and she didn’t have to hunt through the bottom of the pond for it.
“Are you okay Sis?” Albus was breathless by the time he made it to where Lily was on the shore, and received an angry huff for his troubles. “What were you doing down here anyways? Oh, here, let me dry that for you.” Her brother pulled out his wand and cast a drying charm on her beret for her.
“I’m fine,” Lily huffed sourly, crossing her arms and looking anywhere but at Albus. “I had accidentally dropped something in the water, and was trying to find it. Won’t be able to find it now, thanks to someone causing me to fall into the water – the water’ll be too cloudy for me to even try to find it.” She brushed past her brother, pulling her wand out of the jacket on the ground. Waving it and muttering the incantation, Lily casted a heating charm on herself, not wanting to bother drying herself off completely. She’d need a bath anyways, after falling into the pond.
“Haven’t you guys gone over the summoning charm yet?” Albus questioned his sister as she pulled her jacket on and made a face as she dragged her wet hair from under the collar of the jacket. “Here, what did you lose, I’ll get it for you. I’m really sorry for causing you to lose it.”
“Don’t worry about,” Lily maybe spoke a bit too harshly, but she didn’t dwell on it. She was still upset with her brother, for ruining her talk with Nico, and for embarrassing her in front of him as well. “It wasn’t that important anyways.” She stalked off back towards the village, and Albus followed.
“Are you sure?” He pressed. “You seem really upset about it.”
“It’s fine!” Lily did her best not to snarl. “Just leave me alone!”
And with that, she ended the conversation, quickening her pace, headed for the carriages back to school. Once there, she dropped her jacket in her trunk and headed for the bathrooms, proceeding to spend the next hour in the baths alternating between thinking of various ways to curse her brother and ways to apologize to Nico for the monumental embarrassment that she had experienced.
Lily’s letters to Nico continued. Neither of them brought up Lily’s fiasco with her brother Albus, and her falling into the pond, and it was something that at least Lily was happy about. Their communication continued throughout the summer between Lily’s fourth and fifth years at Hogwarts, and while Nico didn’t answer any of her questions about his powers, Lily did begin looking things up at the muggle library at home.
Searching for “coins with a building on it” didn’t really narrow down her search, and neither did adding the word “golden” before it. Entering a search query about the faces on the other side of the coin got Lily a bit further, bringing up information about Romans, and from there she remembered the chimaera from Patagonia, and how it was from Greek mythology. Her next search was on Greek currency and golden coins, which gave her the jackpot she was looking for.
Drachmas. Specifically, what she had was a golden drachma; in Ancient Greece the people used mainly silver ones, but there were also golden ones as well. The coins were used as both currency and offerings to the Greek gods of the time. Of course, this didn’t explain why Nico had had thirteen (Lily had counted, and included the one she had accidentally used) golden drachmas from Greece in an American bomber jacket with him when she had met him eight years ago. Lily knew better than to ask however, as Nico would more than likely just avoid the subject.
From there, as Lily continued to write Nico, she spent her summer learning more about Greek and Roman mythology. She learned about all the different myths and interpretations, and scoured the internet for information about demigods. Everything Lily found she shared with Nico, feeling a bit of pride with what she learned. When she searched for information about demigods, she had felt that weird sting of nostalgia once more, and in the middle of penning her next letter to Nico, she added an offhand comment about it at the end, asking him if he believed in reincarnation.
It took him twice as long to respond, and his reply came just as Lily was about to send Mum’s owl out with an apology for whatever she had done to offend him. The letter seemed a bit stiffer than the last ones, and Nico told Lily that he did believe in reincarnation, asking her what prompted the question. Lily hemmed and hawed over how to respond before just honestly telling Nico that she didn’t know why, and explained more about the weird nostalgia pangs she had had to him. Nico told her not to worry about it in a speedy reply, that she was probably just experiencing deja-vu. He was very dismissive about it, and if Lily dared say, he seemed almost nervous about the topic.
She entered her fifth year at Hogwarts with strained, awkward letters from Nico, and wondered what she had done wrong. Wondered why she felt so guilty, and why her heart sank so low at the short replies from Nico, and his ever dismissive nature on some subjects.
(Fifth year marked Lily’s start into the secret study of the Dark Arts, in an attempt to learn the secrets Nico kept from her.)
Valentine’s weekend had a Hogsmeade trip, and Lily mailing a small set of sweets off to Nico. It wasn’t anything special– she had sent sweets the previous two years as well, but this year had her schoolmates teasing her about secret crushes and other stuff. As a result, Lily had hexed half her year with Mum’s Bat-Bogey hex, and stormed off to the library fuming, face flushing and unsure of why she felt so embarrassed.
Early on in the year she had discovered the Room of Requirement, a room that had been used by Dumbledore’s Army when it was first founded and as they resisted against Voldemort during the War. A well-known room in Hogwarts, yet it had switched locations in the castle, so not many people knew where it was anymore. Lily herself was lucky to have stumbled upon it, to be honest.
She normally camped out there to research on the Dark Arts, and to try and figure out the mysteries of Nico di Angelo. Most of Lily’s weekends were spent in the Room of Requirement, but she made an exception for Hogsmeade weekends. Still notifying Nico about the weekends with Hogsmeade visits, Lily ventured down to the village to spend time with friends and to see if Nico showed up.
The Hogsmeade trip was on the Saturday before Valentine’s Day, and had a lot of student couples over-filling the cafés and generally being too sappy on what they were substituting as their Valentine’s date. Most of Lily’s friends had boyfriends and girlfriends of their own, and were taking their own “date time” with the trip, which left Lily alone for the majority of it. Not that she minded, as Lily understood the situation; they had significant others and she did not, but Lily didn’t really appreciate the needling remark of how she “must feel lonely because your boyfriend doesn’t go to Hogwarts”. It incensed her for some reason, her heart going fluttery as she stuttered out that she didn’t have a boyfriend or anything, and her friends had just laughed and waved her off like she had just told a funny joke.
Lily had just been debating whether or not she should just return to Hogwarts when Lily saw a lady sitting at a table by the window on the inside of The Three Broomsticks. Normally it wasn’t something that Lily would pay attention to, but the lady wasn’t wearing normal wizarding attire, and she had golden eyes that seemed to pierce Lily when she caught her gaze. The lady inclined her head when their eyes met, and Lily took it as a silent request to come join her.
Entering the Three Broomsticks, Lily looked over once more to the table where the woman sat. Hesitant in her approach, Lily didn’t move with confidence even as she waved her over. Lily was rightfully suspicious, but as she came closer the woman was smiling.
She had a friendly vibe to her, but a no-nonsense air around her, Lily noticed, like she wanted to be Lily’s friend, but she needed to be serious at the moment. There was something off about her though. Something that warned Lily to get away, that this was a person she shouldn’t mess with.
Against her better judgment, Lily sat down opposite of the woman.
“Thank you so much for joining me, Lily Potter,” She beamed, her gold eyes glittering in the lights. Her hands were laced together primly, showing two rings on her left ring finger; one a bronze color with a turquoise gem set in it, and one that looked gold. “My name is Hazel Zhang.”
“It’s nice to meet you Missus Zhang,” Lily inclined her head, and Missus Zhang waved her hand. Lily didn’t ask how she knew her name; she vaguely recognized Missus Zhang’s herself.
“Oh, Hazel is just fine,” Missus Zhang insisted.
“It’s nice to meet you Hazel,” Lily repeated. “If you don’t mind me asking, what is it you wanted to talk to me about?” Because Lily couldn’t think of a reason as to why a stranger would want Lily to sit down with them unless they wanted to talk with her about something.
“Well,” Hazel frowned, “It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to talk to you about– I’m more of a spokesperson, so to speak.” Spokesperson? About what? Lily was curious
“See,” Hazel continued, “My father wanted to send one of his… subordinates, we’ll call them, to talk to you about your situation, but we managed to convince him to send me first.”
“What situation?” Lily was confused. She also didn’t like how Hazel took so long before settling on the term ‘subordinates’. It was suspicious to Lily. “What are you talking about?”
“Your situation,” Hazel said delicately, “With Nico, of course.”
That was when Lily could place Hazel’s name; she was Nico’s half-sister. Nico had written about her a couple of times, the most memorable being when he told Lily that Hazel had gotten married to her long-term boyfriend Frank. Nico seemed really sensitive about his family situation, so Lily took care to try and not ask him too much about his family.
“What about my situation with Nico?” Lily’s face burned red. “There’s nothing wrong with writing a friend.” She didn’t know why she was getting defensive.
“Of course not,” Hazel spoke with a reassuring tone of voice, but Lily didn’t feel very reassured.
“Then what’s there to talk about my situation with him?” Lily asked, and Hazel sighed.
“There may not be anything wrong with writing a friend Lily,” Hazel explained calmly, “But you need to know, there are more things at work here than you understand. I am here on the behalf of my father to politely request at his behest that you cease all communications with Nico.”
“No,” Lily decided immediately, digging her fingernails into her palms. “Not with an explanation like that. You can’t just tell me that there are things at work that I don’t understand, and not explain them. You can’t tell me to stop talking to my friend and not tell me why. If you think I’m going to do what you say without an explanation, you are wrong.” She glared defiantly at Hazel, challenging her to try and force Lily to do as she said.
“Lily,” Hazel reached across the table as if to touch Lily, and Lily pulled away. Hazel frowned and retreated. “You have to understand that I am not at liberty to tell you everything. It could put not only you, but Nico as well, in a lot of danger.”
“What sort of danger?” Lily challenged, not at all cowed by Hazel’s words.
“Can’t tell you,” She interrupted her snidely. “Right? You’re here to pretty much demand that I stop talking with Nico, yet you aren’t telling me why.” Lily stood up.
“You say I have to understand, but you don’t give me anything to understand,” Lily snapped, her pulse racing angrily and her heart leaping into her throat. “Do you honestly expect me to listen to what you want when you don’t explain anything? I’m not an idiot. If you want me to listen to what you say, then you need to explain why I have to stop communicating with him, not just tell me to stop.”
“All right, all right,” Hazel stood as well, sighing. “I figured you wouldn’t listen, but I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt first. Meet you, too.” Lily reached for her wand, not liking Hazel’s phrasing.
“If you try to force me,” Lily started to warn Hazel, but the older woman gave a sad, serene smile, and shook her head.
“Don’t worry Lily, I’m not going to force you to do anything.” Hazel told Lily. “But allow me to tell you something.”
“What?” Lily asked suspiciously, stiffening when Hazel placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“Nothing good will come from your love for Nico,” Hazel’s tone was sad, and Lily felt her blood freeze in her veins. “I don’t mean to sound rude, but if your communication with him continues, one of you will die. The Fates have foretold it, and they are not often wrong. Good day, Lily.”
And Hazel vanished into thin air silently, nothing like apparition, and Lily found her collapsing to her knees in shock, feeling faint.
Her? In love with Nico? It was shocking, and yet…
Lily knew it was true.
Despite Hazel’s warnings, Lily still communicated with Nico.
The beginning of October brought the schools of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang to Hogwarts’ doors for the quinquennial TriWizard tournament. It was the seventh tournament held since it was revived in Dad’s fourth year of Hogwarts. The last one held was when Lily had been a first year, at Durmstrang.
Albus and James were both insanely jealous of Lily, as they had missed the opportunity to compete in the tournament– Albus doubly so, as he had just graduated the previous year –and Lily had the opportunity to enter her name, as the tournament was open to sixth and seventh years of all participating schools. Lily had mixed feelings about competing, and didn’t want to put her name in, but she caved under pressure from schoolmates, siblings, and teachers, as well as school pride. After all, wouldn’t it look good if not only two Potters competed in the TriWizard tournament, but they both won? As the daughter of the war hero, Lily was considered the best bet for Hogwarts’ champion by almost everyone but herself.
As such, it was surprising to everyone but Lily when her name wasn’t called as the Hogwarts Champion. Instead, it was a seventh-year student from Ravenclaw, a girl that Lily hadn’t really interacted with before. Lily wasn’t all that broken-hearted about it as she hadn’t wanted to be Champion anyways, but she received a lot of condolences about it.
“So, secretly wishing you had been picked as Champion now?” Hugo teased his cousin a few weeks later, between the first and second events. “You know, seeing as the first event was all about Dark Arts know-how.”
“What?” Lily froze, in the middle of penning her next letter to Nico.
“Oh please,” Hugo rolled his eyes. “Don’t act dumb– I know that you’ve been researching the Dark Arts for some reason. Just be glad that I haven’t said anything to Uncle Harry or Dad.”
“Don’t worry about it!” Lily insisted, voice cracking, and a huge blot of ink dropping in the margin of her parchment. “Really, Hugo! Just an extra-curricular project for class.” Hugo quirked an eyebrow over his Arthrimancy homework, but didn’t say anything else. Lily sighed in relief, and mopped up the blot of ink, pondering whether or not to restart the whole thing.
She didn’t, and when Lily sent out the next one, she made sure to include the date of the Yule Ball. It was a similar tacit invitation for Nico to show up, just like when Lily included the Hogsmeade dates. Lily really, really, really wanted Nico to show up to the Yule Ball, if even just for a little while.
Still, like with the Hogsmeade invitations, Nico didn’t mention it, but Lily managed to slip subtle hints about the upcoming dance in her letters to Nico anyway she could. She tried not to be overtly obvious that she was trying to get Nico to come.
“So are you going to ask Mum if you can borrow her old dress robes?” Hugo asked two weeks before the Yule Ball. There was a conspiratorial grin on his face, and Lily knew that he knew. “I mean, she also went to the Yule Ball with a Champion, and I know how you were complaining about the red dress robes Aunt Ginny sent you.”
“And maybe you can ask Uncle Ron for his old ones,” Lily huffed in response. “They would look dashing on you.”
“Or maybe learn some French,” Hugo continued teasingly. “I hear the Beauxbaton boys love it when you–”
Lily did not regret performing a Bat-Bogey hex on her cousin, but two weeks later she was slightly regretting her agreement to attend the Yule Ball with the Champion from Beauxbaton.
Despite Hugo’s taunts, Lily had owled Aunt Hermione, asking if she could borrow her old dress robes. Despite being a Gryffindor, Lily didn’t care much for the color red; she much preferred Ravenclaw blue or even Slytherin green over it. She got enough of the red from her hair, Lily didn’t like it drowning her wardrobe as well. Lily didn’t mind the bordering and small amounts from the House uniform, but a set of completely red dress robes? No thank you.
Lily liked Aunt Hermione’s periwinkle blue dress robes much better and Lily had also sent a note asking that she not mention it to Mum, because she didn’t want to offend her. Aunt Hermione had sent the dress robes and a note promising that she wouldn’t tell unless Lily wanted her to. She was grateful, and also trying to figure out how to explain to Mum why exactly she didn’t wear the brand new dress robes that she had bought for Lily.
It wasn’t that the Beauxbaton’s Champion wasn’t nice, because he was. He was very nice, and sweet, but Lily didn’t really care for him. She couldn’t figure out why. Nice, sweet, interesting, good at Charms and very interested in Mum’s Bat-Bogey hex? Lily didn’t understand it.
Eventually, Lily had to excuse herself, and exited to the gardens near the Herbology greenhouses. She needed some fresh air, to clear her head, and to contemplate things. Stopping by one of the ornamental statues, Lily sat on a nearby stone bench. She tugged on a lock of her hair, curled for the occasion, and let the cold nighttime air and the faint pounding of the wizarding band in the background wash over her.
Suddenly, the sound of feet loudly clunking on the cobblestone path of the gardens sounded, startling Lily. Soft swearing accompanied it, and Lily bolted out of her seat as she recognized the voice. Elation rose in her heart, and she called out excitedly,
“Nico?” Her heels clicked sharply against the stones as she stepped through the shadows towards the voice. “Did you really come?” The last part was muttered more towards herself, not meant for the man in question to overhear.
“Where in Hades am I?” Nico was muttering to himself as Lily brushed through the foliage to find him.
“Nico!” Lily repeated louder, smiling.
“Lily?” Nico responded, a look of confusion momentarily adopted on his face. He sighed before mumbling, “At least it wasn’t China this time…” and something else Lily didn’t quite catch, about someone being mad at him.
“If you don’t mind my asking,” Nico asked Lily, barely glancing at her and her attire before looking at his surroundings. “Would you mind telling me where we are?”
She didn’t let it show on her face, but Lily’s heart dropped to the pit of her stomach, dismay and despair clogging her throat. Swallowing, she brought a polite smile to her face as she answered,
“It’s Hogwarts, my school.” Recognition lit up on Nico’s face, and the smile that crossed his lips made hers feel more real.
“Ah, that’s right – the magic boarding school?”
“Yeah!” Lily agreed brightly. “Tonight’s the Yule Ball. I think I told you about it in my letters.” She knew she had, and Lily had been hoping that Nico would show, but she wasn’t about to tell him that.
“I remember that,” Nico nodded. “You mentioned something about dancing lessons, and how much you hated them.”
“I-I’ve gotten better though!” Lily blustered, nearly falling over herself. “I-I only hated the lessons because I wasn’t good at them, but I’ve been practicing!” And then, before she could stop herself, “Here, I can show you!” Lily grabbed Nico’s hands before he could protest, placing one on her shoulder and positioning the other on the small of her back, as they had been taught in class.
“Lily, I don’t think this is a good idea,” Nico told her, but Lily shook her head, curled red ringlets bouncing around her cheeks.
“Yes it is!” She argued, before adding in a slightly pleading tone, “Just one dance, please?” Nico pulled a face before resigning.
“Fine,” He conceded, before allowing Lily to pull him through a dance to the song that was playing in the background.
It was silent for a period, the only sound filling the gardens the dim thumping music back in the Great Hall. Really, it was a nice moment, dancing with Nico in the gardens. Then Lily had to ruin the moment by opening her mouth.
“Why…” She started, trailing off, words catching in her throat. What did Lily want to ask? What did she want to ask first?
“Why won’t you tell me anything about yourself?” It was an extremely vague question, what finally tumbled out of her mouth, but really, how could Lily pin down what exactly it was that she wanted to ask Nico?
“There’s nothing really to tell about me,” Nico replied in a stiff manner. “I’m a boring old man– nothing interesting ever occurs around me.”
“That’s not true,” Lily retaliated automatically. “There’s a lot of interesting things about you, none of which you tell me about.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about.”
“Please,” Lily scoffed, rolling her eyes. “There are so many things I’ve asked you that you’ve never answered, so many things I’ve never asked you because I knew you wouldn’t answer.” Before Nico could deny anything, or try to talk his way out, Lily started listing things. “Those Inferi from Patagonia and how you could summon them, the way you travel through shadows, communicate through water, the way you got rid of that Muggle who was harassing me two summers ago in D.C., the golden coins in that jacket of yours you gave me – I’m pretty sure they’re called drachmas –all of these things are questions I’ve had for you, that either I’ve never asked you, or you never answered.”
“Look, Lily,” Nico sighed, “Trust me when I tell you that you don’t want to get wrapped up in everything I have in my shadow.”
“No!” Lily snapped childishly, resisting the urge to stomp her foot against the ground. “I’m sick and tired of people trying to tell me that I don’t want to know things that I do! I am not seven anymore, I’m not a little girl that needs to be protected. I’m sixteen, almost an adult according to the Ministry!” She released Nico, curling her hands into fists, digging her nails into her palms.
“Even if I wanted to tell you,” Nico responded, reaching a hand out to touch Lily’s shoulder that she retreated from, “I can’t. There are protocols for this sort of thing, and I can’t tell just anyone about this stuff.”
“Then who can you tell?” Lily demanded angrily. “Or can’t you tell me that either?”
“Lily–” Nico began, before the sound of footsteps clunked behind them. Lily whirled in the direction of the sound, dress robes billowing with the movement.
“Lily!” It was Hugo, and he rushed toward his cousin as soon as he was in view. “There you are!”
“Hugo,” Lily started, but he cut her off asking,
“Why are you crying?” He asked her, and Lily raised a hand to her cheek to discover that she was indeed crying, like her cousin had said. “I heard you arguing with someone too, was it with that Beauxbaton boy you were with?”
“No, I–” Lily turned to behind her, where Nico had been standing, only to find that he had disappeared. Like always. She gave a strained laugh, and dried her face with the back of her hand. “I’m not that obvious, am I? What am I going to do if I ever bring someone home to Mum and Dad?”
“You’ll figure something out,” Hugo told her, throwing an arm around Lily’s shoulder. “I was told someone snuck in Firewhiskey– do you wanna come with me to see if the rumor’s true?”
“Thanks,” Lily laughed, sincere and not forced, “but no thanks. I’m just going to go to bed. See you in the morning.” She gave Hugo a small nod, and then picked her way quickly through the garden back into the Great Hall.
Lily wrote several letters to Nico, apologizing for her behavior on Christmas. Told him that she was out of line, and should have been more respectful of him and his secrets. Lily must have written over a dozen letters to Nico.
None of them were answered.
A year and a half. That’s how long her letters went unanswered. From Christmas of her sixth year, right up to the day before her NEWTs in her seventh year.
The day before the exams, she was visiting the memorial by the lake. It had been erected on the shores of Hogwarts’ lake in order to honor those who died in the Battle of Hogwarts more than twenty years ago, student or otherwise. Out of all the names on the memorial, there were more than a few that Lily was familiar with, having been told stories growing up.
Great Uncle Remus and Great Aunt Tonks.
Lily touched her fingers to the cool stone, tracing the engraving of Uncle Fred’s name.
“I wish I could have met you, Uncle Fred,” Lily confessed to the memorial.
“Wish not for what could have been,” A voice appeared out of nowhere from beside Lily, “But for what may be.”
It took all the self-control Lily had not to shriek in surprise as she leapt to her feet. The man had approached her without making a sound at all. She had recognized the voice as well; it was Nico’s voice, yet not his at the same time.
The man had a similar appearance to Nico; the same hair and facial features, and the same build. He looked to be the same height as Nico, though Lily was guessing as it had been a year and a half since she had last seen– or heard –from Nico. He was wearing wizarding robes, similar to Lily’s school ones, but without any colors to signify what house he was in.
“Who are you?” Lily all but demanded, pulling out her wand and pointing it at Not-Nico. She had a plethora of spells resting on the tip of her tongue, ready to use if he tried any funny business. “And why do you look like Nico?”
“I thought it would be easier to approach you in this form,” The man answered easily, in a nonchalant manner. “As you seem to appreciate it so much, for whatever reason.”
“Who are you!” Lily repeated herself, more forcefully than before. “Don’t make me–”
“Use your mother’s Bat-Bogey Hex on me?” He finished her threat, not even mildly threatened. “You’ll find it better that you don’t, Miss Potter.”
“Stop avoiding the question!” Lily snapped. “Gods, you’re so infuriating! Why can’t you guys ever give a straight answer?!”
“Gods?” The man side-stepped Lily’s snap, and a frown found its way to his face. “Why would you say gods?”
“How should I know?” Lily retaliated angrily, tightening the grip on her wand handle until her knuckles turned white. “I can’t explain the things I do!”
“But you’ll find that you can,” He responded cryptically, the frown never leaving his face.
“Stop being so stupidly cryptic!” Lily demanded. “Who are you and why are you bothering me?”
“Who I am is not important,” Again with the cryptic responses, Lily was going to scream. “I am here to request once more that you cease your contact with Nico.”
“Ugh, not you too,” Lily groaned, remembering the conversation from two years ago with Missus Zhang. “Why does no one want me writing Nico? I mean, not that it matters, seeing as he hasn’t written me back in a year and half, but still! He’s not even responding to me now, what’s the matter with me sending letters that won’t even be answered?”
“It’s for your own safety,” The man answered, the most straight-forward he had been the entire conversation. “Yours, and Nico’s. If you continue writing him, if you continue trying to get into contact with Nico, one of you will die– I can assure you that.” Lily bristled.
“Is that a threat?” Because it sure sounded like it.
“Not at all,” He shook his head. “A premonition, more so than a threat.” The man started to walk past her, leaving, but he paused when they were side by side.
“I understand you don’t take kindly to those who try to tell you what you can and cannot know,” He said, “but I need you to understand that I am bound by some very severe rules. Just by acknowledging you today could place both of us in a lot of trouble.”
“I don’t get it,” Lily wanted to move away from him, but found that she was stuck to the spot. “How can I get you in trouble if I don’t even know you?”
“Maybe not at the moment,” There was a hint of laughter to his voice, like he himself wasn’t even taking this whole thing seriously, “But we always return to our roots–”
It was like the universe skipped a beat. One second the man was there, the next he was gone. Lily didn’t even remember catching that last bit that he said, but she felt something deep insider her painfully resonating with the words. The same feeling as those instances of deja-vu, only a hundred fold in intensity.
As soon as the man was gone and Lily was able to register that fact, she collapsed to her knees, feeling as if all the strength had been drained out of her. White as a ghost, no one would find her until after she had regained some color, and even then, those who would find her would just think that she was just some girl who collapsed crying over a family member she never even knew.
And who knew, maybe they were right.
Despite the warnings, despite the fact that she never received a response, despite everything, Lily continued to write Nico.
When summer hit, as soon as she had officially graduated from Hogwarts, Lily announced her plans to travel abroad. She spun a lie to her family about visiting a friend in the United States who attended the Salem Institute. Mum and Dad took it with smiles, and wished her a good time, told her to be careful. Lily left that evening.
In truth, there was no friend who had attended Salem Institute that Lily was visiting. Really, in a sense, there was no friend that she was even visiting. Apparating into the customs center of Magical D.C., Lily’s only intent was to find the elusive Nico di Angelo.
She didn’t have a disguise so to speak, but she was armed with her wand, the bomber jacket Nico had given her, and the green beret. The beret was affixed in her hair, and she braided her hair down the side to keep it off of her neck in the muggy weather. Contrary to her desire to stay cool, Lily wore the jacket despite it being overly warm, her wand hidden in the right sleeve, her left hand in the pocket with the gold drachmas.
Lily spent two weeks searching for Nico, apparating all over the United States from magical community to magical community trying to see if anyone had ever heard of or seen Nico di Angelo.
Unfortunately for her, it seemed that no one knew anyone named Nico di Angelo, let alone heard of him. There was no record of him having attended Salem Institute, or any of the other smaller schools across the United States. It was almost as if Nico had popped into existence in Patagonia ten years ago.
Lily had stopped at a little magical diner out in the middle of nowhere in Arizona when she found Nico. It was sheer dumb luck that she spotted him, and Lily almost hadn’t believed it when she saw him. But it was him, Lily would know Nico anywhere, and she left the diner before even getting her food in order to try and catch the wayward wizard that she kept trying to locate.
If he even was a wizard. Lily had grown up thinking that Nico was a wizard, but from the looks of things, how no one in the United States magical community knew him, it was looking like he was either some sort of Dark Wizard (and oh, how Dad would kill her if that was the case), or he was some muggle with weird abilities. It was all up in the air at the moment, and all Lily knew was that she had to chase Nico down in order to get her answers.
Lily followed Nico discreetly, trying to think of a good way to try and catch his attention. Part of her also wondered if she really was following Nico, or if it was just some look-a-like, but she stopped herself. It was Nico, Lily knew it. She couldn’t explain how she knew, but Lily was certain that it was Nico.
Nico headed out into the desert, and Lily followed.
There was no way to know how long they walked through the dry dunes of the Arizona desert, but eventually there was a shimmering spot, like a mirage, standing taller than Big Ben in front of her, in front of Nico. It made her pause, stopping to stare at it. She felt like there was something else there, and Lily blinked once, twice –
A junkyard was standing in front of them. One moment it hadn’t been there and the next it had popped into existence. It looked like a junkyard, and Lily knew it was a junkyard. She was overwhelmed by a torrent of emotions and feelings of nostalgia and remembrance staring at it, and Lily knew, she knew that she had been here before.
Despite herself, she gasped and took a step back, and she could feel blood run from her face. Lily was shaking with fear, with regrets, with emotions she could not explain and did not know why she was feeling. There was something off, very off, about this junkyard, and even though Lily wanted to follow Nico and talk to him, something warned Lily, told her that she should not go into that junkyard.
“Who’s there?” Nico demanded, turning to face Lily, drawing his Stygian Iron sword from his belt, which Lily hadn’t noticed before. He had heard Lily gasp, and as Lily hadn’t made her presence known before, startled the older man. Upon seeing Lily he lowered the sword, but only slightly. His voice was filled with suspicion. “Lily? Why are you here?”
“I wanted to talk to you,” Lily replied with more hesitance than she meant. She wanted to get closer to Nico, but her feet felt frozen, glued to the sands beneath her. “You, you just stopped answering my letters! For no reason! I want to know why, I want some explanation as to why you never answered me, even if it was to tell me you never wanted to hear from me again!”
“Lily,” Nico sighed. “It’s not that simple.”
“And I wouldn’t understand?” Lily continued crossly, and there was the sharp tang of bile rising in her throat for some reason. “Why don’t you all let me decide for myself what I will and won’t understand? I’m not twelve!”
“It’s not just that,” Nico said. “I’m bound by rules, codes of secrecy that you cannot even begin to fathom.”
“Try me!” Lily demanded, balling her hands into fists. She was feeling more nauseous by the second, dizzy from both heat and something else she wasn’t able to name. Nico scowled, but before he could respond, a choir of growls rose softly, circling the two.
“What the–?” Nico muttered in confusion instead, lifting his sword. Lily stared, dizzy beyond belief, and stared at the dogs surrounding them, knowing what they were, even though she hadn’t (she had) encountered them before.
“Hellhounds,” She breathed, just as the first one lunged at her.
Nico threw up a hand, and the dog ran into a stone wall instead of making contact with Lily. He quickly crossed the distance between them, raising his sword. The wall of stone fell, and he pulled Lily behind him.
“When I make an opening, you run,” Nico ordered her, and Lily scoffed, pulling her wand out of the sleeve of the bomber jacket.
“I’m not seven anymore,” Lily told him, eyeing one of the hellhounds circling them, thinking of combat spells that would work against them. “I don’t need protecting.”
Another leaped from behind them, and before Nico could do anything, Lily flung out her wand, shouting, “Stupefy!”
A red jet of light leaped from her wand, and made contact with the animal in the middle of its forehead. Instead of knocking the hellhound out however, like the spell was supposed to, it only knocked the creature back.
“What in Tartarus was that?” Nico barked over his shoulder, keeping one wary eye on the hellhounds as Lily muttered,
“So that doesn’t work…”
Two attacked simultaneously; Nico ran one through, causing it to burst into a swirl of shadows, and Lily cried out, “Alarte Ascendare!” The spell flung the hellhound into the air, but it didn’t take long for the creature to drop back down to the ground. Almost immediately it leaped for Lily once more, and she shrieked, but before she could cast another spell Nico had yanked her behind him, switching places, and sliced down on one of its haunches.
“Just stay back!” Nico told Lily again, grunting when a hellhound chomped down on his arm. He kicked it, before raising his other hand and summoning a spire from the ground to pierce through the creature. It didn’t kill it, and Nico pulled Lily out of the way as he dodged two more leaping for them. Blood dripped from his arm, “You’re going to get yourself hurt!”
“I can help!” Lily stomped her foot, forcing words out over the growing nausea in her throat. They were closer to the junkyard now, and the closer they got, the more hellhounds appeared, and the more nauseous and dizzy she became.
“Just leave it to me!” But Lily had already thought of a spell, and raised her wand, casting
She directed the spell at the cluster of hellhounds that were headed for them, and the explosion that rocked the ground sent the cluster disappearing into inky shadows. But the hellhounds reformed immediately, the shadows collecting back together. Then, from the side, a hellhound leaped at her, and though Lily tried to dodge it, it caught part of her wrist, and her wand was sent flying. Terrified, and in pain from the hellhound’s grip on her, Lily’s magic flared up, causing accidental sparks, singeing the hellhound’s mouth, but the creature didn’t disappear until Nico made a large slash down its back with his sword.
“You never listen to me, –!” Nico cried, clenching his fist. The name he called skipped over Lily’s ears, whether it was because of the blood pounding in them or something else, but she knew that he called her name, but didn’t. She found herself frozen in place, unable to move, but she had no way of knowing if it was from the nauseating dizziness because of how close she was to the junkyard, or from something Nico was doing, or from that name that was her name but not her name but still her name.
Nico pulled his fist upwards, and Lily felt her chest tighten. Two skeletons rose from the ground, standing on either side of her.
“Watch her,” Nico growled in Italian at the skeletons, and Lily understood him, but that made no sense because Lily had never studied Italian, she had never even heard Italian before, how would she know what Italian sounded like?
But no, she did know Italian, she was born in Italy, of course she knew it– but that wasn’t right, she was born in St. Mungo’s, that was in England, she lived there her whole life. But no, that wasn’t right either, she spent time in the United States, she lived there since she was 8. Lily hadn’t gone to the United States until she was 14 though, not 8, where was she getting these facts from?
And the junkyard, the junkyard looming behind her. It filled her with terror, why did she have to go to Gila Claw, Arizona? Lily hadn’t known she was in Gila Claw, she hadn’t had the chance to ask the people in the diner where she was, but she knew, she knew that she was in Gila Claw. She was in Gila Claw, and that was Hephaestus’s Junkyard behind them, the Junkyard of the Gods and how did she know all of this?
She hadn’t noticed it, but she had collapsed to the ground, clutching her head and clenching her teeth together. A scream was lodged in her throat, trapped with sour bile, and she was trembling, filled with fear and regret. She was shaking, barely aware of the snaps and snarls and howls of the hellhounds surrounding her and her –
He howled in pain as a hellhound caught him across the chest, digging sharp, angry, bloody lines deep across his chest. Staggering backwards, his knuckles clenched white around the sword hilt, while the other hand went to cover the afflicted area. Before he could move, a second one gouged into his sword arm, forcing him to drop the weapon, and a third slashed through his side. She screamed, in fear for him, in rage for not being able to do anything, in pain at the pressure building in her head at the scene occurring around her.
She screamed, eyes watering, and three more hellhounds attacked him. She didn’t know how, but she could feel his life force slipping away. She felt him dying, heard him dying, and wasn’t able to do anything except watch the skeletons at his command keep the hellhounds from her, protecting her like he couldn’t so many years before, like he had sworn to him and failed to do.
He fell, bleeding onto the sands, and she stood, with rage filling her entire being. Her head was pounding, she was dizzier than she ever remembered being in any of her lives, and then she was standing, filled with fury and determined to avenge the –– bleeding out behind her. One hand, flung out, commanded the wand back to her, and the other sent the two skeletons guarding her at his command against the hellhounds at hers.
One, two, four fell at their swords, but it was still too slow, taking too long, and there had to be a quicker way to get rid of them–
She froze, seizing up, but only for a moment, before she was operating under her own power once more. With knowledge she hadn’t known she had, with knowledge she had forgotten, knowledge that she had never gotten to use before, she threw both arms out, curving a wave of sand and stone up, blocking them and the hellhounds in a circle. Raising her arms, she stomped her foot and brought her hands down swiftly in unison, crashing the weight of the sand and stone down onto the creatures of the Underworld.
Black and orange smoke swirled, and for a moment she was afraid that the hellhounds would reform, but they didn’t. The black smoke drifted lazily away alongside the orange, and it left her alone with him. Remembering, she immediately turned to him, dropping to his side, almost afraid to touch his wounds.
“I, I’m sorry,” She didn’t know what else to say, hovering above him, frightened, not sure what to do about his wounds. She wasn’t a healer, she didn’t know any healing spells, she hadn’t been with the Hunters long enough to–!
His head was drooped to the side, eyes closed. She couldn’t tell if he was breathing, but there was a faint lift of his chest which was a good thing, right? And blood was still pouring (oh gods, how it was pouring, it wasn’t stopping, how could she stop it–) from his wounds, which meant his heart was still beating, right? She wasn’t too late.
“I warned you,” A voice spoke softly, and she jolted up, suddenly aware of the tears that had formed in her eyes, and the lump in her throat.
Hades was standing there, on his other side, hands clasped behind his back and very adamantly not meeting her gaze, or looking at him. She couldn’t speak over the lump in her throat, but he didn’t need her to speak to continue.
“I told you, that if you tried to contact him, continued,” He waved his hand awkwardly, “This, that one of you would die. I hated for it to be him, but–”
“You did this?” She managed to choke out in a shaking voice. Standing, with wobbling knees, wand pointed at the Greek God of the Underworld.
Hah. Hades, the Greek God of the Underworld. How did she know these things?
“I warned you,” Hades spoke with a pained voice, as if he were ashamed. “I didn’t want to do this, but there are rules. Rules, that you agreed upon, ––.”
His words hit her like slap, the name skipping over her ears again. A name that she knew was hers, but wasn’t hers. She had agreed to his rules, and yet she hadn’t at the same time. She knew what he was talking about, but she didn’t.
“No,” She forced out over the lump, shaking her head in denial. “No, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She had her wand pointed at him, but it was shaking. She was scared, scared of what she didn’t know, and didn’t understand. She had said multiple times that she wanted to understand, but now. Oh now, she was so afraid of what she didn’t understand, and didn’t want to understand, she knew that she would be terrified even more if she understood.
“It’s okay,” Hades voice was filled with a pain that clearly told her that it was not okay, and she needed to get out of there.
“He’s not dead,” She blurted out, standing over his body. Hades was convinced that he was dead, that he was right, that one of them was going to die, but he was wrong, she could feel his life still there, albeit slowly dying moment by moment, but he was still there, he was wrong, their father was wrong–
“He’s not going to last long,” He said with a sickening calm, a sickening air that was assured that he knew what would come to pass.
“You don’t know that!” She sobbed, and before she could stop herself, she had hauled him up into a standing position, supporting nearly two hundred pounds, if not more, through sheer adrenaline alone.
“Just accept the fact that he’s not going to make it,” Hades told her, but she shook her head.
“Just accept that you’re wrong!” And oh gods, she was so dead, she was talking back to one of the gods, but she had bigger things to think about, bigger things to worry about, and one of those things was dead weight that was bleeding out on her shoulder.
She needed to get him somewhere, but where? Where could she take him? Who could she trust?
Unbidden, an unfamiliar gleam of sea-foam green eyes crossed her mind. Then, disregarding the three D’s of apparition (destination, determination, deliberation), she willed them both through the airtight tube that was apparition to where those familiar-unfamiliar sea-foam eyes were.
And with a sharp crack of a gunshot, they were gone, leaving behind only a blood-soaked patch of sand to show that they had been there.
But that, too, disappeared, as the God left behind in the Arizona desert vanished in a sweep of shadows, taking with him any evidence of anything that had happened that day.
A gunshot crack heralded their exit from Arizona desert, and a gunshot crack heralded their entrance to their undetermined destination; all limbs thankfully still intact. That was a good thing– she knew there was danger doing what they had done like they had done, but she wasn’t been able to remember why. But they were there, standing in a grassy field in the center of cabins, in the center of a field that was familiar, why was it familiar?
He let out a pained groan at her shoulder, and it snapped her back to reality, snapped her back to what she was doing, and what she was supposed to be doing. With startling confidence, still hysterical but confident, she knew who she was calling to, she knew even though she didn’t, she knew, she called for the owner of the sea-foam green eyes.
“Percy!” And she didn’t know why she was calling for her uncle, her uncle wasn’t even there, but that wasn’t right, no, she wasn’t calling for her uncle, she didn’t have an uncle, they were – “Percy Jackson! Percy, help!”
Pushing through the crowd of campers (Campers? How did she know they were campers? How did she know she had gone to a camp) was a tall man with sea-foam eyes and black hair, followed closely by a blonde woman with grey eyes. It was Percy, she knew it was Percy, and Annabeth, but it was wrong, it was completely wrong, Percy and Annabeth were thirteen, she was twelve, when did they get old, what was going on–
“Shit!” Percy’s face was one of surprise and shock as he took in both of them.
“Percy, help him!” She begged him.
“Okay, just, just calm down, okay?” He approached with hands raised, but it was only him, Annabeth had disappeared, and it was just her and him, and all these kids she didn’t know, she didn’t know any of them, not even him–
“Please, help him,” Her knees were wobbling, and she didn’t know how much longer she would be able to support him, and her eyes were filled with tears that she was blinking away.
“What’s your name?” He asked slowly, acting as if she was a rabid dog, like she was going to attack him, didn’t he see that he was dying?! “What about your godly parent, know them? A little old to not know, I think.”
“Percy, please,” She shook her head, her braid bouncing, not caring about the blood getting all over his favorite bomber jacket. “Please, protect him! You promised him you’d protect me, and you didn’t and that’s fine, that was my choice, but please, protect my brother, I can’t lose him, he can’t die yet.” But Percy had frozen, like she had said something that shocked him, and she was confused and upset and betrayed, because why wasn’t he helping him, her brother, but that wasn’t right. He wasn’t her brother, where was she getting this from, what was going on?
No, that wasn’t right, he was her brother, they were the only people they had left in the world, each other, no parents, no friends, just him and her, her and him.
Before she could argue with herself any longer, a new person calmly walked through the crowd and into the open area where Percy had frozen and she was bawling her eyes out.
“Hey, hey, hey,” She was dark skinned with darker hair with feathers twined in it and kaleidoscopic eyes and she spoke with a sweetly saccharine voice. “Calm down sweetie, everything will be all right, you hear? My friends are gonna take Nico now, okay? He’s in good hands with us, trust us– he won’t be dying on our watch. Just let him go…” Soft hands were prying him away from her, and though she wanted to resist, she let go, just as the woman asked her, but she didn’t want to, she wanted to stay with him, she didn’t want him to die alone, without her, just like she had to do to him, to die alone without him– “Atta girl.”
The lady was smiling at her, crouched in front of her so all she could see was her face.
“Just take deep breaths now sweetie,” She coached her, until she was just breathing heavy, tears drying on her face in sticky salt tracks. “Great job! Now, my name’s Piper. Mind telling me what yours is, sweetie?”
“B-Bianca,” She heaved over breaths, trying to stay calm. “Bianca di Angelo.”
The rec room of the Big House was alternatively called the “war room”, as it was where all the head counselors of all the cabins met and discussed plans during war time, as well as just general business. Sitting in the rec room, Bianca was able to see first-hand why the demi-gods called the rec room the “war room”. Having been seated on one side of the pool table, on the other side of it demi-gods were arguing loudly over whether or not she was who she said she was, and, to a lesser extent, quietly whispering about Nico, and what had happened to him. Bianca didn’t appreciate that one, mainly because she was pretty sure they were insinuating that it was her fault her brother was currently dying.
(Not that it wasn’t her fault, she knew that it was, but she didn’t like them side-eyeing her like she was dangerous, she wasn’t dangerous, it wasn’t her fault, if they’d only listen to her)
“Thalia will be here soon,” Annabeth announced from the door, informing the room, her gaze locked on Bianca. Her eyes weren’t filled with suspicion or distrust, like everyone else in the room, but curiosity, like Bianca was a puzzle she wanted to figure out. “And Hazel just arrived with Frank; they’re stopping by the infirmary to see Nico, and discuss with the medics about whether he needs to be moved to New Rome or if he’s stable enough to remain here.”
“He’s going to be all right though, right?” Bianca asked, nails digging into her palms. All she was able to think of was the sight of Nico, covered in blood, being carted off by the Apollo kids, before Piper lead her off to the Big House. “He, he’s not gonna die, right? Hades said he was going to die because I didn’t, but he’s wrong, right?”
Everyone in the room collectively froze, and stared at Bianca. She shrunk down in herself, as best a twelve-year old (a seventeen-year old) could do. She averted her eyes to her hands, wringing them together, trying not to focus too much on the awkward silence that had fallen.
“When did you talk with Hades?” Jason asked, breaking the silence. Bianca remembered Jason. She had met Jason through an Iris Message when she was nine, even though she had never known about Iris Messages when she was nine and she never met Jason. Bianca didn’t look up at him, because she was afraid of the looks that everyone was giving her.
“Right before I brought Nico to camp,” Bianca spoke to her hands. “In Gila Claw, outside of Hephaestus’s junkyard.”
“And he told you that Nico was going to die because you didn’t?” Piper asked her. Her voice didn’t have any of the compelling sweetness in it like it did before, and Bianca felt less forced to answer her this time than when she first met Piper.
“I… think?” Bianca told them. She couldn’t quite remember; everything was really fuzzy. “He said something about… warning me? But I didn’t listen? And because of that, one of us had to…”
“I came as quick as I could,” A new-familiar unfamiliar voice broke through the room, and Bianca looked up to see Thalia Grace. A silver diadem was set across her forehead marking her as the first lieutenant of Artemis, which confused Bianca, because she could have sworn that Zoe Nightshade had been–
“She was,” Thalia interrupted, and it took Bianca a moment to realize that she was speaking aloud. “Until she died in battle against Atlas, what, twenty years ago? Give or take. But how would you know about her? You don’t look older than fifteen.”
“This, Thalia,” Percy informed Thalia with a strained voice, “is who brought Nico to camp. The girl one claiming to be –”
“Bianca di Angelo,” Bianca finished for Percy. “And I’m not claiming to be her, I am her. Why won’t you believe me?!”
“Hate to break it to you kid,” Thalia sighed, crossing the room, her fifteen-year old (sixteen-year old? Bianca couldn’t place it at the moment) appearance out of place in the room of adults. “But you’re not Bianca di Angelo.”
“Am so,” Bianca retorted.
“Have you even looked in a mirror?” She barked back, “You look nothing like Bianca, let alone Nico.” Thalia looked around at the others in the room. “Did any of you show her a mirror? Might have gotten this over with quicker.”
“Or given us even more questions than answers,” Annabeth said, rolling her eyes, but Piper was already rooting through her bag.
“Here,” Piper held out a small hand mirror to Bianca, who took it with slight hesitance. But, then again, she had nothing to worry about. She was Bianca di Angelo, and of course she looked like her brother.
Which is why she was completely unprepared for the sight that greeted her in the mirror.
Freckles. Freckles were a thing both her and her brother had. Her hair braided to the side was definitely something that she did, and her green beret was absolutely the hat she wore. The bomber jacket was her brother’s, but not something she was surprised to see herself wearing.
Everything else was not her.
Fiery red-orange hair and grass green eyes with barely tanned skin. That wasn’t her. Bianca had ink black hair and dark brown eyes, and her skin was a tanned olive skin tone. Not this… pasty appearance staring back at her.
Yet, she also intrinsically knew that who she was looking at in the mirror was her. Somehow. But Bianca knew deep down that this was her, even though it wasn’t.
“This… isn’t me,” She managed after a moment, and Percy was there nodding sourly across the table. But then she said, “But, at the same time… It is?” Bianca shook her head. “I can’t explain it. I know I’m Bianca di Angelo, even if I don’t look like I am.”
“Will said that Nico is going to be just fine,” Two people burst into the rec room breathlessly, the speaker the shorter of the two. “He doesn’t need to be shuttled to New Rome; just needs some rest and close attention for a while. Now, what was the situation that needed to be dealt with here?”
Bianca looked at the woman. Dark skin and hair, with golden eyes, and a painfully familiar voice. She had the aura around her that Bianca recognized as a fellow child of the Underworld, but she also knew that she had never met the woman before. However, it was another situation where Bianca had never met her, but she had met her.
And then the name hit her, though from where she wouldn’t be able to say.
“Missus Zhang?” Bianca asked, not sure how she knew the name, just as Hazel looked at her, and with a stricken face said,
“Oh Gods, Lily…”
After three hours, they had a picture painted of what had happened.
Bianca di Angelo was indeed Bianca di Angelo, but not at the present point in time. At least, that was how Bianca understood it. She was Bianca di Angelo, but she was also this other girl whose body she was in at the moment.
“Lily Nymphadora Potter,” Hazel nodded for what was the billionth time in three hours, reiterating once more what they had spent that entire time debating and arguing over. “Junior, technically, though your namesake’s middle name was different and has passed on already.”
“But she’s also Bianca di Angelo,” Percy repeated for the fifteenth time. Hazel had the patience of a saint, explaining things yet again for the son of Poseidon.
“Yes.” Hazel, while having appeared mildly distressed initially upon seeing Bianca, had composed herself spectacularly. “Specifically, it’s Bianca di Angelo’s soul inside the body of Lily Potter.” At the confused look, she began re-explaining once more.
“When a demigod dies,” Hazel explained, “Or, really, anyone who prescribes to the belief of either the Greek or Roman mythos, they get sent to the Underworld. From there, their soul is judged and is sent to one of three places– the Fields of Asphodel, the Fields of Punishment, or Elysium.” She glanced at Bianca-Lily. “When Bianca died, she was placed in Elysium. Partly because of her selfless sacrifice for how she died, and also, of course, because of her status as a Daughter of Hades.”
“Or any child of the Underworld, really,” Thalia waved a hand from her spot. “Children of Hades get perks, but you’re also considered more for Elysium despite any mistakes you make in life if you’re a child of any of the Gods and Goddesses who make their home in the Underworld.” She thought for a moment before shrugging. “Or a child of Persephone, if there are any.”
“Similar to Juno,” Hazel said shaking her head, “Proserpina doesn’t have any demigod children. The only child between her and Pluto is Melainia, the Goddess of Ghosts. She’s known as Melinoe in the Greek Pantheon. Anyway,” She leapt back to explanations, “Souls in Elysium are allowed rebirth, provided that they bathe in the River Lethe prior to their new life.”
All eyes fell on Bianca-Lily.
“Bianca di Angelo chose rebirth almost eighteen years ago,” Hazel announced, gold eyes settling unsettlingly on Bianca-Lily. “She was reborn as Lily Nymphadora Potter.”
“But I’m not Lily,” Bianca said firmly but with nervousness. She knew she was Bianca, not Lily, but there was a part of her that shouted that she was Lily, not Bianca. Bianca didn’t know how to feel. “I’m Bianca.”
“Yes, and that is quite a problem,” Hades announced irritably, appearing in the rec room between one instant and the next. “This is exactly why I wanted you and Nico to cease interactions.”
“Lord Hades,” Everyone in the room acknowledged the God of the Underworld as he appeared, aside from Hazel and Bianca.
“Father,” Hazel acknowledged with a tilt of her head, and Bianca stared at him, uncertain whether to acknowledge Hades as well, and how to refer to him.
“Souls that have been reborn are not meant to mix with living ones from their previous lives,” Hades continued speaking, focused more on Bianca than anyone else in the room. “Your initial meeting with Nico, I thought I could overlook because it was accidental, but I’ve since been proven that I was wrong to overlook it. I see now that I should have been more active in preventing communications between you two.”
“You’re,” Bianca scrambled for something to say, anything. Was it rude to talk back to a God? She couldn’t remember, but she thought it was. “You’re kidding me, right? You’re not going to try and pin this all on me for talking with Nico, are you?”
Well, she was already in a lot of trouble anyways. Might as well dig the grave too.
“Lily,” Wait, no, Lily was her, there may have been a separation at the moment but they were the same person, “I mean, Bianca,” that wasn’t right either, and Hades was just giving her a pointed look as if she was proving his point, “I had no way of knowing any of this! How was I supposed to know Nico is – er, I mean, was – my brother in my previous life!”
“Lily,” Jason spoke slowly looking between her and the God of the Underworld, “Talking back to a God is not a good idea, especially considering your situation at the moment.”
“It’s Bianca,” She snapped immediately, before clutching her head and shaking it, “I mean, it doesn’t matter who I am! I don’t care if I’m talking back to a God, or Voldemort himself!” She reached up her sleeve and pulled out her wand. A thestral tail hair core, Blackthorn wood molded to twelve inches long. She had never realized it before, but the symbolism of the make of the wand was obvious.
A thestral tail hair as the core, a hair from a creature that could only be seen by those who had witnessed death. Blackthorn wood, a tree whose legend behind it was one associated with Death. And the wand was twelve inches long, one inch for each year Bianca had lived before dying.
All the signs had been there, she was just too stupid to notice.
“All I care about,” The seventeen year old howled, “All I have ever cared about, is Nico! And I’m not going to let you, or anything, kill him! Sectumsempra!”
Flinging her wand out, a jet of light shot out of her wand aimed at Hades. Hades sighed, and waved his hand. The spell disappeared, and Lily’s wand grew burning hot in her hand, and she yelped, dropping it on the pool table.
“Unfortunately,” Hades said stiffly. “When you deal with the Goddess of Magic herself on a daily basis, you learn a few tricks about avoiding spells.”
“Lady Hecate,” Hazel murmured respectfully from her spot.
“You will have to do better than that Miss Potter, if you want to get one up on me,” Hades continued as if Hazel had never spoken. “And you’re lucky that you’re the reincarnation of one of my children, otherwise I would not be so forgiving.”
“Forgiving to me, yet you were so willing to kill either me or Nico just to keep us apart!” Lily snarled scathingly. “Death separated us once, but–”
“But you, as Bianca,” Hades interjected coolly, “Made the decision, and agreed, on the banks of the Lethe to make that separation permanent, until Nico was reincarnated as well. An agreement that you reneged on.”
“Well, she, uh, did have a point earlier,” Percy pointed out. “You know, with the whole fact that she had no way of knowing that Nico was her brother.”
“It would be vastly appreciated,” Hades glared at the demigod, “if you stayed out of this discussion, son of Poseidon.” It was phrased as a suggestion, but Hades tone made it a command. Percy raised his hands in surrender, and shuffled away from his Godly uncle.
“So, what? You’re just going to kill one of us because I broke an agreement that I don’t remember?”
“That is my intent,” Hades agreed mildly. “I would not have gone to these circumstances had you just headed your warnings, but you did force my hand.”
“Then kill me,” Bianca demanded. “The first time I died was because of a mistake I made, and this time should be no different. Nico’s dying because of a choice I made, and it should be me.”
“Wait!” Hazel interrupted, leaning over the pool father. “Father, Lord Hades, there is a way where both Lily and Nico can live, you said it yourself.”
Hades looked over at the daughter of his Roman iteration with mild confusion, and nodded for her to continue.
“The River Lethe,” Hazel elaborated. “It wipes away the memories of whoever bathes in it, you know that.” She looked over to Lily, gold eyes meeting grass ones. “Lily and Nico can both live if you wipe away Lily’s memories of Nico using the water from the Lethe.”
“The Lethe wipes away all your memories though,” Thalia commented from her seat. “That’s what happened with Iapetus when he went in.”
“But they’ll both live,” Annabeth mused aloud. “I’d say that’s better than having one of them dead.”
“Don’t I get a say in this?” Lily’s voice was petulant. “These are my memories we’re talking about, after all.”
“And?” Hades asked, his own tone sarcastic. “What do you want to say about this mess you’ve caused?”
She hesitated a moment, looking around at the familiar and unfamiliar faces in the room. “I…” She paused. Was she sure about this? She knew what the right thing to do was, but did she want to do it? Regardless, she knew what the outcome would be and her input was irrelevant, and she felt better knowing that she had made the decision herself. “I’ll do it. But,” Bianca added the contingency for her own peace of mind, “I get to see Nico one last time. Talk to him.”
Bianca surveyed the room, silently challenging anyone who would want to refuse her.
“The last time I died, I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to my brother.” She locked eyes with Hades. “I am going to get to say goodbye this time. You let me say goodbye, I’ll go quietly.”
“I don’t think you’re really in a position to be making negotiations, Lily,” Piper started to say, but Hades nodded.
“Fine,” He agreed, though it was with a degree of resignation that gave the impression that he just wanted this to be over. “I’ll allow it.”
It was a nerve wracking trek around the building to the infirmary, and the part of her soul that was the identity of Lily Potter wanted to back away, to just leave Nico, as she knew he would survive. But the part of her soul that was Bianca refused to stand down, and was resolute in her decision. They had to say goodbye to Nico. They had to.
Hazel, who had headed to the infirmary ahead of them, waved them down to the end of the room, where a curtain cordoned off the last part of it. She was standing with a vaguely familiar blond haired man with blue eyes and a face full of freckles. Bianca was sure she had seen him before, but she didn’t know his name.
“You’re in luck,” Hazel whispered as they got closer. “Will,” She gestured to the dark-skinned blond she was standing by, “says that he’s awake.” Will was sizing them up, and they felt slightly frightened and slightly threatened.
“So you’re the girl who is supposed to be his sister’s reincarnation?” He hummed, eyeing them suspiciously as if he didn’t believe it, but without malice in his voice.
“I am his sister,” Bianca glared at Will. “And you’re what to my brother?” There was a beat of silence between them before Will cracked up laughing. He didn’t answer Bianca.
“Feisty, she is,” He laughed to Hazel, before turning to them. There was a smile on his face that seemed to be permanently fixed there. “All right, you can go in and see Nico. He’s doing a lot better now, and wouldn’t have been doing as well as he is if you hadn’t had gotten him here as quick as you did. Just be gentle with him, okay?”
They nodded, not really trusting themselves to speak, and Will opened the curtain and they ran through. Hazel stood just by it, on the outside with Will, trying to give them privacy but still ready to intervene if need be, but they didn’t care about her as they rushed to Nico’s side.
“Nico,” They breathed, staring at him like he would disappear if they blinked. His shirt had been removed in order to have better access to his wounds, and his chest and arm were wrapped up in white bandages. “Thank the gods you are still alive.” It was Bianca who reached out and grabbed his hand. “I don’t know what I would’ve done if you died. I, I would never have been able to live with myself if I let my little brother die because of me.”
“Lily?” Nico was confused, giving a pained groan as he sat up in bed, staring at them like they had grown a second head. “Lily, what are you talking about.”
“I’m not Lily,” Bianca told her brother, holding his hand tightly. “It’s me, Bianca. Your sister.”
“Lily, I don’t know how you found out about my sister, but this is not funny,” Nico tried pulling his hand away from them, but they held on tighter. They were not letting Nico go any sooner than they had to.
“I’m not being funny,” Bianca insisted, strongly resisting the urge to cry. “I am Bianca, I promise.”
“And how are you my sister?” Nico demanded, staring at them. “My sister has been dead for–”
“For almost twenty years,” Bianca finished, nodding. “And you know Nico, you know how I’m Bianca.” They loosened their grip on Nico’s hand, staring at him intensely, believing that he would understand what Bianca was trying to tell him. “I stayed in Elysium for two years Nico.”
“And then you chose reincarnation.” Nico’s eyes gained a glimmer of realization in them, staring at them as he made the connection. “And Lily is seventeen years old.”
“Almost eighteen,” Lily agreed. “In August. I am the reincarnation of your sister, Nico.”
“This is insane,” Nico said in disbelief. “How did we even meet then? My father has very strict rules–”
“About reincarnations meeting people from their old life,” They answered. “We– I mean, I know. Hades has already spoken to us about that.”
“Why are you speaking as if you’re two different people?” Nico asked them, catching the mistake immediately.
“It’s a merging between her two lifetimes,” Hazel replied, slipping through the partition. “Her lifetimes are having trouble separating themselves, and while there are two parts that are distinctly ‘Lily’ and ‘Bianca’, the longer she’s aware of her previous lifetime, the more difficult it will be for them to separate from one another.” Shuffling uncomfortably under Nico’s hard glare, Hazel added, “Hades, he told me. A few years ago.”
“You knew?” Betrayal colored Nico’s voice. “You knew that she was my sister?”
“Oh Nico,” Hazel’s voice was guilty and soft, “I couldn’t. I was supposed to keep you two separate, and if I had told you that Lily was Bianca’s reincarnation, it would have done the exact opposite.”
“And why is it a problem if I hadn’t had stopped interacting with her?” Nico snarled, before coughing harshly.
“Because,” Hazel responded sadly, “This would have happened.” She waved her hand at them. “The continued interaction would have just sped up the process.”
“As it is, it happened anyway,” Hazel continued. “Because of you getting injured, and–”
“Because it’s my birthday,” Bianca interrupted, before clarifying. “I mean, Bianca’s birthday. And birthdays, death days,” They made eye contact with Hazel, “locations of death, they all have a huge significance, especially for someone’s reincarnation.”
“And today’s Bianca’s birthday,” Nico said, staring between them, “And I was with her reincarnation, at the place she died. And then I was hurt, which was a big enough blast to the current incarnation to bring the previous one back to the surface.”
“And I’m glad I could speak with you one last time,” Bianca smiled down at Nico. “I always regretted never being able to say goodbye to you. I’m glad I get the chance to say goodbye this time.” They leaned over and kissed Nico on the forehead. “So goodbye, Nico. I’m glad that I was able to see you one last time.”
“Goodbye?” Nico was shocked.
“Nico, you know the rules as well as anyone,” Hazel was moving before Nico could try and get out of bed. As they moved away from the bed, Hazel was taking their place. “She can’t stay like that, just imagine what Lily’s family would go through. She’s already agreed, and she’s going to be taken to the Lethe.”
“You can’t do that!” Nico was struggling though, and they both felt bad for the pain that they caused with wanting to be able to say goodbye.
“She’s agreed,” Hazel spoke softly, leaning her weight on Nico to keep him down. “It’s for the best, Nico. This way neither of you has to die.”
“Die?” Nico was shocked. “What do you mean, have to die?” Hazel pulled a grim face.
“I’m sorry,” Was all she whispered, and waved her hand. Against Nico’s best efforts, his eyes slid shut, and he was knocked out. Hazel called Will in.
As Will entered, they quietly left.
For some reason, it was easier than they imagined.
Standing on the stonework in front of Hades Underworld Castle, the only living among the dead, they were nervous.
“So, the River Lethe from here?” They asked, and Hades shook his head.
“While the Lethe is an effective method, I have a different one in mind,” Hades responded, waving his hand and depositing them somewhere else, near the castle by a pool.
“The Goddess Mnemosyne,” They said, looking at the crystal depths of the pool. They could stare straight down to the stone bottom of the pool.
“Mnemosyne,” Hades called out, not looking at them but at the pool. “I have a job for you.”
The water bubbled in response to Hades’ words, and an elegant figure arose in the center of the pool.
“Hades,” Mnesmosyne greeted, respectfully inclining her head at the other God. She looked towards them. While her pool was crystal clear, her skin was dark and so were her eyes and hair. “You want me to fix her memories?” She walked out of the pool, across the top of the water, never making a ripple as she made her way to Hades and them.
“I want,” Hades requested, “you to remove Bianca di Angelo’s memories from her, as well as any memories of or relating to Nico di Angelo.”
“Ah,” The Goddess smiled. “Your son. How is he doing? I heard he had a nasty run-in with some hellhounds in Arizona.”
“He’s alive,” Hades replied stiffly. “And I’ll want you to remove some memories from him as well, after you’re done here.”
“Very well,” Mnesmosyne approached them, and placed her hands on either side of their face, and stared into their eyes. It was a hypnotizing effect, and made them feel like they were falling.
“You told your parents the son of Hades was a penpal?” Mnesmosyne laughed, and they realized that she was watching their memories. “And when you went to look for him that you were staying with said penpal. You are quite interesting, aren’t you?”
Hades cleared his throat impatiently, and she got an upfront view at the goddess rolling her eyes.
“I am working as fast as I can,” She told Hades. “You are creating more work for me in one evening than I’ve had in centuries, don’t yell at me for being slow. I’m being thorough.”
“Oh, but we need a reason why your penpal no longer exists, now don’t we?” The Goddess hummed. “Accident, we’ll go with, not that you’ll remember it all.” She laughed again, as if she were enjoying this.
“Now,” She asked, removing one hand and moving the other to her chin. “What is your name?”
“Lily Potter,” Lily responded automatically, blinking hard and feeling extremely confused. “Where, where am I?”
“And who is Nico di Angelo?” The woman standing in front of her asked, ignoring Lily’s question.
“I, I don’t know!” Lily answered nervously, feeling panic start to course through her. She didn’t know where she was or how she got there. Lily couldn’t even remember what she was doing before she woke up with this woman in front of her.
“See?” The woman spoke to someone else in the room, but Lily couldn’t see them, because the woman wasn’t letting her move her head. “Stellar work. All when you are patient.”
A man scoffed and Lily felt her heart leap to her throat.
“Oh, that’s right, you had a crush on him didn’t you?” The woman laughed, still staring in Lily’s eyes. “Can’t do much about that now, but I can redirect those feelings at different memories. I’m no Aphrodite, but memories can be funny when it comes to emotions and feelings.”
“What are you doing to me?” Lily asked, frightened. “Why are you doing this?”
“Oh, for reasons you won’t remember,” The woman replied. “So, I won’t bother explaining it now. Doesn’t do to make excess work for myself, you understand don’t you?”
Lily didn’t, but she figured that the woman would disregard whatever she said.
“Are you quite done?” The man in the room sounded irritable.
“I am,” She responded. “Just the memory of us and her being here, and then you can haul her off to wherever then.”
“What’s going to happen to me?” Lily repeated herself, more insistently this time.
“Don’t worry about it darling,” The woman smiled sincerely at her. “You’ll have forgotten it all in the morning.”
She tapped a finger on Lily’s forehead, and Lily found herself suddenly sleepy, succumbing to the darkness dragging her down.
Lily woke up to the sound of rhythmic beeping, and the sight of dark blue walls dotted with yellow, as if they were simulating stars. She didn’t know where she was, and couldn’t remember where she had been before she fell asleep. All Lily knew was that she was in a lot of pain, and that her body decided to remind her of it all at once.
“Oh, that hurts,” She groaned in pain.
“You’re awake!” A voice from her bedside beamed, and Lily rolled her head to the side to see a mediwizard at her bedside. He was a young man, not much older than Lily herself, with white-blond hair. He looked familiar, but Lily couldn’t place where she knew him from. “That’s great news; we were worried that you weren’t going to wake up.” The wizard pointed his wand in her eyes, flashing light in them.
“Where am I?” She asked. “What happened?”
“You are in St. Francis’ Hospital for Magical Accidents and Mishaps,” He responded, marking something on the clipboard in his hands. “And I was hoping you could tell me what you can remember.”
Lily thought, and tried to remember, but all she got was a headache.
“Not much,” She informed the wizard. Lily thought harder. “Screams, I think. A… hippogriff? Maybe?” Something must have shown on her face, because the mediwizard started laughing at her.
“Don’t beat yourself up too much about it,” The wizard laughed, taking a seat by her bed. “You seem to have retrograde amnesia, by the sounds of things. That’s just big fancy word for you being unable to remember things that have happened to you in the past. Pretty much imagine someone using the spell obliviate on you, and that’s what’s happened.”
“Sounds fun.” Lily remarked wryly.
“Indeed,” The wizard continued. “A few more questions, so we can see the extent of it. First off, what is your name?”
“Lily Potter,” Lily answered easily.
“Middle name as well,” He requested, filling out another thing on the clipboard.
“Nymphadora,” She rolled her eyes.
“Where did you go to school?”
“Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”
“How old are you?”
“Seventeen, eighteen in August.”
“St. Mungo’s, in London.”
“Country you’re in right now.”
“United States?” It came off more as a question, but she was pretty sure.
“Do you know what part of the country you’re in now?” Lily shook her head. “That’s all right, it might come back to you. Who were you in the country with?”
Lily opened her mouth to answer, paused, snapped her mouth closed, and then reopened her mouth.
“A friend of mine,” Lily spoke slowly, as if she was uncertain of what she was saying. “A penpal from the Salem Institute. We were going on a road trip around the world to celebrate graduating. Seems like we didn’t get too far if we’re still in the United States.”
“Do you remember your friend’s name?”
“Molly Magorium,” Lily answered, studying the mediwizard. He was very familiar, down to his voice, and for the life of her she could not remember where she knew him from. “Is she all right?”
“Unfortunately Miss Potter,” The wizard frowned and took a deep breath. “Your friend, Miss Magorium, didn’t make it.” He hesitated, as if debating internally what to tell Lily, before continuing. “There was a hippogriff stampede on a ranch upstate from here. The owners don’t know how you and Miss Magorium got on the property, but you both got caught in the stampede. You came out of the stampede with a broken tibia, a fractured wrist, and a nasty concussion that the mediwizards here at St. Francis’ have already fixed, as well as been out for one week and, as we’ve discovered, some amnesia.”
“And Molly didn’t make it,” Lily repeated, frowning, feeling her heart clench at the news.
“No,” The wizard shook his head, “she didn’t. She was already gone when the ranch owners found you.”
“She saved me,” Lily blurted out, the memory flashing across her eyes. They had been walking across the property talking about some stupid thing, laughing, when they heard the hippogriffs coming. “Pushed me out of the way, or at least tried to.”
Kissed her, shouting ‘I love you’ as she pushed Lily out of the way, trying to save her. Mute with terror, Lily had been unable to tell Molly that she reciprocated the feelings, before the hippogriffs had trampled Molly. And then she had gotten caught in the stampede as well.
Lily didn’t realize she was crying until the mediwizard placed his hand on her shoulder.
“It’s all right,” He told her softly. “If it helps, she didn’t suffer long.”
“It does,” Lily sniffled, rubbing at her eyes, taking a deep breath to try and calm herself. “Merlin, I’m a mess, aren’t I?”
“I wouldn’t say that,” The mediwizard shook his head in disagreement. “You’ve been through a big trauma, I’d say that gives you permission to cry.”
“Well thanks,” Lily laughed, hiccupping through her tears, “for giving me permission to cry.”
“Any time,” The wizard quipped, standing up. “Now if you’ll pardon me, I need to go alert the mediwitch in charge of you that you’re awake, as well as your parents.”
Before Lily could say anything, the mediwizard disappeared out of the room.
Five minutes later, Mum burst into the room closely followed by Dad.
“We were so worried about you, Lily!” Mum proclaimed, giving Lily a hug as soon as she crossed the hospital room. “Going and getting yourself caught in a stampede– that sounds like something your father would have done when he was in school.”
“Hey,” Dad protested, laughing as he crossed the room. “I take offense to that.”
“You’re right.” Mum laughed too, releasing Lily and nudging her gently in the ribs instead. “He and Uncle Ron would’ve been the ones to start the stampede, and they still would’ve been caught in it.”
“We’re sorry to hear about your friend,” Dad added, sitting on the other side of her bed, “Magorium, wasn’t it? She sounded like a nice girl.”
“Yeah,” Lily answered numbly heart clenching once more with the urge to cry, but also feeling more and more like this experience wasn’t really happening to her. “Molly was.”
“Miss Potter,” A gruff looking and dark skinned mediwitch appeared in the doorway to Lily’s room. “Finally awake, I see. Have to say, I didn’t quite believe Healer Malfoy when he told me you woke up.”
“Healer Malfoy?” Lily asked, confused, but Dad nodded as if he understood.
“Scorpius Malfoy,” Dad explained to her. “He was in Albus’ year in Hogwarts. I heard he was studying to be a mediwizard, but I’m not sure why he’s here in the United States.” Lily nodded, understanding now why the mediwizard had looked so familiar. It was because he was familiar– Lily had gone to school with him, even though she never saw much of him.
“Exchange program with St. Mungo,” The mediwitch replied. “A very bright boy and a very good healer, if I do say so myself.” She looked at Lily, studying her with curiosity in her eyes. “When you were brought in, he insisted on being part of your case. I can see why now, considering that your family knows him.”
“Now,” She looked between Mum and Dad, “If you excuse us, Mr. and Mrs. Potter, I’ll need a moment alone with your daughter for one last examination before she’s cleared to go back to England with you. Understand, she’ll still need to be checked over by St. Mungo’s, but she’ll be allowed to at least leave the country.”
“Not a problem,” Dad was amicable as he stood up. He placed a hand on Lily’s head. “Thank you so much, Healer Gomez. We appreciate your work, and St. Francis’ work, in helping our daughter.”
“All in a day’s work,” Healer Gomez waved off the praise and them out the door.
Three years later, Lily found herself at her brother’s wedding as he married a girl whose name she couldn’t remember. James, getting married, Albus with a girl he truly loved, and then there was Lily, with no one. She had dated around after Molly’s death, both girls and boys, but never found someone she could really connect with.
“Is this seat taken?” A female’s voice asked, and Lily looked up to see a woman with dark skin and kaleidoscopic eyes standing by her.
“No,” Lily answered after a moment, shaking her head. The woman’s eyes were captivating, and Lily felt as if she had seen them before, but couldn’t place where.
“Weddings are such happy affairs, aren’t they?” The woman asked cheerfully, fiddling with a camera hanging around her neck. One of the wedding photographers, then. There were so many of them around that Lily couldn’t really keep track.
“I guess,” Lily shrugged, staring at her champagne glass.
“That doesn’t sound very happy,” The woman frowned at Lily. “What, were you in love with the groom and lost him to the bride? In love with the bride and lost her to the groom?”
“No,” Lily gave a laugh, shaking her head. “No, the groom’s my brother, James. I’m Lily, and you?”
“Piper,” The woman replied, shaking Lily’s hand when it was offered. “Piper Grace.”
“Sounds familiar,” Lily pondered, looking over the woman, trying to figure out where she knew her from. “Have we met before?”
“I doubt it,” Piper laughed. “Unless you’ve been to America before.”
“I was when I was fourteen.” Lily told Piper. “My dad was part of an exchange program between British and American Aurors. Lived there during the summer between school years– I was in Washington D.C.”
“Ah, I split my time between San Francisco and Long Island,” Piper hummed. “I have such a busy schedule, I don’t really have time to go places like D.C. My friend, Nico, though, he was from the D.C. area. Did you know him?” Lily hesitated, thinking over the name. It sounded familiar, like Piper’s, but she couldn’t place it.
“I don’t think so,” Lily told Piper at last, shaking her head. “Not unless he spent a lot of time in the Auror Headquarters in D.C.” Piper shook her head, but stared thoughtfully at Lily.
“So how do you know my brother?” Lily asked her, slightly unnerved by the staring, before adding, “Or his wife?”
“I’m just a wedding photographer,” Piper replied. “My boss asked me to take some pictures for her because she couldn’t make it.” She stood up, one hand brushing off her dress pants, the other holding her champagne glass, which Lily hadn’t noticed before.
“I gotta run now though,” Piper said. “Deadlines and all, you know. Here,” Piper offered Lily her glass. “Want this? I didn’t drink from it, promise.”
“Thanks,” Lily answered cautiously, taking the glass from Piper. She watched as Piper left, gave the champagne a hesitant sniff, and then drank it.
By the time she finished the glass, Lily couldn’t remember who even gave her the glass.
Thirteen years later, Lily was prepping for class in the beginning of the new school year at Hogwarts. A golden band and a bronze band glinted off her ring finger as she waved her wand to open the curtains in the classroom, and then waved it once more to open the windows, letting a fresh breeze in. Her first class that morning was with one of the groups of the brand new batch of first years that had been sorted that past Friday.
The sound of feet could be heard tramping down the hall, the slow shuffling gait Lily had grown accustomed to over the years. It spoke of nervous children, and kids unsure of where they were going. Definitely first years, Lily could tell, and she wondered how this year’s kids would turn out.
Wondering could wait until later though, because the students were filing in and it was time for her to start class.
Lily watched the students come in and choose seats. They were a sea of blue and yellow, all nervous and uncertain, but looking bright and ready to learn as well. There weren’t many faces that she recognized, but she remembered a few of them from the sorting, and others as having older siblings in the school.
There was one little boy who looked more familiar than the rest, but she brushed it off. Lily probably had one of his older siblings in class. No reason to think anything was strange about it.
Meanwhile, in a desk in the back of the room, one little muggleborn boy in yellow wondered why his professor seemed so familiar even though he had never seen her before in his life.