|“Ye girls … um … ye girls be careful out there, now.” Hagrid blushed
a furious red above the tangled black bristles of his beard.
“Ooh, that’s so kind of you to worry about us, Hagrid,” said Emily Fanning. She pursed her lips as if she was about to blow him a kiss, and tossed a sheaf of honey-blond hair back from her face.
He had an enormous crate of clay pots balanced on his shoulder, and in turning to watch them pass, overbalanced and nearly walked into the side of Professor Sprout’s new greenhouse.
The round little witch descended on him in a scolding flurry, rather like a hen. “For goodness’ sake, Hagrid, watch where you’re going!”
The three sixth-year Gryffindor girls continued on their way, managing to keep from bursting into giggles until they were well out of earshot.
“Emily, that was mean!” Claire Cogsworth gasped.
“But funny,” Lily Evans said. “Poor, dear Hagrid.”
“I wonder how big his wand is?”
“Emily!” cried Claire and Lily in unison.
Undeterred, eyes twinkling, Emily said, “I imagine it’s a right proper broomstick.”
“Well, you’ll never know!” Claire, who was as tall and reed-slim as Emily was short and buxom, had gone nearly as red as Hagrid.
“What’s that to mean?” Emily countered. “Got your eye on him yourself?”
“You’ve got your eye on someone, that I do know. The way you daydream in class and in the common room all the time, it’ll be a wonder if you pass any of your exams.”
“You’re a fine one to talk,” said Claire. “Lily, tell her!”
“Tell her what? That you’re madly in love with Sirius Black?”
“Oh!” The outraged squeal burst from Claire, and she went red all over again. “I’ve never said any such thing. Why, it’s preposterous! The very idea!”
“So it’s true,” Emily said.
“It is not!” Claire rounded on them, brown curls flying around her forehead and hazel eyes flashing. “He’s … he’s an arrogant … self-obsessed … vain … irritating …”
“Charming, mysterious …” added Lily.
“Handsome, sexy …” put in Emily.
“Would you both quit! Sirius Black wouldn’t look twice at me if I were the only girl at Hogwarts, and you well know it.”
“I think he looks twice or thrice at every girl at Hogwarts,” Lily said, tucking an errant auburn lock behind her ear. “Do you know, Professor McGonagall caught him once hiding in the girls’ bathroom our third year? He made some remark about seeing what made Moaning Myrtle moan, and McGonagall put him in detention for a week.”
“He can make me moan anytime,” Emily said. “Mmmm.”
“Stop it!” Claire said. “I mean it, Lily, Em, I really do.”
“You do like him, don’t you?” Lily asked, peering closely at her.
“I never said I did.”
Emily looked at Lily. “She does.”
“I’m not going to be friends with you unless you leave off,” Claire warned.
“Like to see you escape us,” Emily said. “We’re all in the same dormitory.”
“Sorry, Claire,” Lily said. “But why don’t you just talk to Sirius? He’s not so scary, is he?”
“Not so scary? Lily, you’ve got to learn more about the wizarding world. Here we are near the end of our sixth year, only one year away from graduation, and you’ve never heard of the Black family?” Claire shivered and rubbed her hands up and down her bare arms.
It was a warm and mild weekend in June, and all three of the girls had dispensed with their usual school uniforms and robes in favor of summery clothes. That, as much as anything, may have had to do with Hagrid’s discomfiture. Emily in particular had a fondness for very short skirts and very low-cut sleeveless tops. Professor McGonagall had severely forbade her from wearing them to class, but couldn’t do much about it on the weekends.
“I’d heard he has some positively awful cousins,” Lily said.
Emily scoffed. “That’s not the half of it. What I’ve heard is that Sirius Black is the first one in his family for generations and generations to not be put in Slytherin. I don’t know what the Sorting Hat was thinking. He’s sneaky enough, and he can be a right bastard.”
“Oh, Em, that won’t convince her,” Claire said. “So can James Potter, and she likes him right enough.”
“James …” Lily trailed off, thought pensively for a moment, then went on. “James can’t help being a show-off, I admit, and it is terrible the way he always bullies Severus Snape, but he’s gotten much better about it ever since I told him off last year.”
“To impress you,” Claire said. “That’s all he cares about.”
“Now, when did we switch to talking about James all of a sudden?” Lily demanded. “I thought this was about Sirius.”
“James, Sirius, Remus, Peter,” Emily chanted, flapping her hand. “They’re always together anyway, though sometimes I honestly can’t understand why.”
Claire shot her a narrow look. “There’s no accounting for friendship.”
“I mean it. Remus Lupin has been sickly and strange ever since he came to Hogwarts. He has his ‘times of the month’ worse than we do. Oh, he’s smart and all, and he’s kind of cute in a … disheveled sort of way, but I don’t know what the others see in him. And as for Peter Pettigrew, what a nasty little wanker he is!”
“Emily!” they chorused again.
“He is! If the Sorting Hat blundered with Sirius, it really botched the job with Peter. Gryffindors are supposed to be brave, noble, and loyal. Do you know, I heard that Peter once got a Ravenclaw boy to write a Defense Against the Dark Arts essay for him? Paid him a Galleon, too.”
They reached the edge of the Forbidden Forest, cool green shadows spilling from the tall, dense trees across the lush grounds. Lily glanced back at Hogwarts. The castle rose in towers and turrets, its stone walls shimmering like a mirage in the heat, its reflection cast perfectly on the surface of the lake. Here and there on the grass, groups of students sat in the shade or reclined in the sunlight, many of them either trying or pretending to study. Off to one side, occasional swift blurs of yellow could be seen as the Hufflepuff Quidditch team practiced for tomorrow’s game, the last of the school year.
On impulse, Lily’s gaze went to the beech tree where James and his friends usually relaxed. She spied Remus Lupin, head studiously bent over a thick book, and near him the pudgy form of Peter Pettigrew, munching on some treat from last weekend’s Hogsmeade visit. But no James, and no Sirius.
She did, though, see the unmistakable figure of Severus Snape. He had grown several inches in height this year but hardly gained any weight, the effect therefore being like that of a scarecrow. His robes – he always wore robes, as if hoping their voluminous cut would add bulk to his scrawny body – were faded nearly grey, the sleeves too short so that his bony wrists protruded from the cuffs, the hem reaching only the middle of his pale shins. Lank black hair fell in long draggles around his sallow, hook-nosed features. His eyes, deep-set but sharp as those of a hawk, were staring right back at her.
Lily turned quickly away. She hoped that neither of her friends had noticed, but such was not her luck.
“Your not-so-secret admirer is watching you again,” Claire said. “I think he was about to wave, before you looked away.”
“Some admirer. He calls me a Mudblood.”
“Say what you want; I think he likes you because you’re the only one who ever stuck up for him.” Emily shrugged. “God knows why. He’s such a wretched piece of work. But Saint Lily had to go and intervene on his behalf one time too many, and now he’s smitten.”
“I just couldn’t stand seeing James and Sirius be so cruel,” Lily said. “Their stupid grudge … it’s gone too far, it really has. And there’s no need for it. Severus is harmless.”
“Harmless?” Claire’s eyebrows went up. “He’s practically given himself over to the Dark Arts and you know it.”
Lily’s lower lip stuck out. “Well, I might, too, if I thought everyone was against me. He has a troubled family life.”
“Lah-de-dah, what the Muggles call a social worker,” Emily said.
“You don’t know what it’s like,” Lily said. “When I got my Hogwarts letter, someone from the Ministry of Magic had to come out and explain to my parents what being a witch was all about. They were all right with it after a while, but my sister never accepted it. She hates the whole thing. Whenever I go home for holidays, it’s the same. I think Petunia would murder me in my sleep if she wasn’t also scared to death I’d put a hex on her.”
“Maybe you should,” Claire suggested. “I know a brilliant Flat-Chested hex.”
“Is that how it happened?” Emily dropped her gaze very obviously to Claire’s scant bosom. “Bit of a misfire, love?”
“Better a misfire than a backfire!” Claire retorted, gesturing at Emily’s canyonesque cleavage.
Lily, who was blessed with a nice and shapely figure that didn’t go to one extreme or the other, stayed out of it and let them bicker as they entered the dusky overhang of the Forbidden Forest. They had special permission from Professor Kettleburn, the Care of Magical Creatures teacher, to study the mating rituals of thorn-faeries in their natural habitat.
Even with permission, the Forbidden Forest was nothing to joke about, and Emily and Claire soon grew quieter as the shadows closed around them. The twittering of birds – a sunshine sound – was replaced by the stealthy rustle of unseen things moving in the bushes.
“Wish we’d see a centaur,” whispered Emily.
“Why?” Claire looked around as if fearful of that very occurrence. “First Hagrid, now centaurs? Don’t tell me you’ve a thing for horses.”
“And I suppose you’re wishing we’d see a unicorn.”
“Personally,” said Lily, “I’ll settle for thorn-faeries.”
They followed a trail that Professor Kettleburn had led them down many times before. It was different without the teacher leading the way, limping along because half his foot had been bitten off at the start of the term by a crococampus, a rare fish-tailed reptile with a long and toothy jaw and a spiteful temper when its tank was accidentally overturned. The forest crowded in on them, and the breeze through the leaves sounded uncannily like the whispering of hundreds of students in the Great Hall, as they awaited Professor Dumbledore’s welcoming speech.
“This is a remarkably foolish thing to say and I know it,” Claire murmured, “but … do you have the feeling we’re being watched?”
Lily and Emily nodded. “We probably are,” Lily said. “Maybe by Emily’s centaurs.”
“Maybe by something worse,” Claire said. “Aren’t there werewolves?”
“That’s what they say,” Lily said, “but --”
Before she could finish, Emily seized her arm and uttered a breathless cry. “There! Oh, Lily! There between those trees!”
Grabbing her wand from the pocket of her shorts, Lily twisted in the direction that Emily’s shaking hand was pointing. Claire rushed close to them, her eyes huge in the gloom.
“What, Emily? What did you see?” hissed Claire.
“I don’t see anything,” Lily said. “What was it?”
“A … a shape,” Emily said. “A large, shaggy shape. Like a wolf. I saw the gleam of its eyes.”
Claire bit her lip. “You don’t suppose …”
“What?” Lily asked, not taking her gaze from the spot between the trees. Had she seen something? No … only the swaying of boughs in the breeze. But the breeze wasn’t that strong. Had they been disturbed by the passage of some animal? Or person? Or monster? A Slytherin girl had once told her, trying to scare her, that there were spiders in the forest as big as horses.
“Well, in Divination --” Claire said.
“Oh, God,” muttered Lily. “Aren’t there hazards enough in the Forbidden Forest without make-believe Divination phantoms?”
“It’s gone now, whatever it was,” Emily said, regaining her composure and seeming a bit abashed at her sudden fear. “Let’s go.”
A few minutes later, they reached a place where the path sloped down into a pretty little glen, bordered on two sides by thorn-hedges and on a third by a rambling brook that chuckled merrily over glistening stones. The thorn-hedges were in bloom with multitudes of fine white flowers. Among the flowers were flitting dozens of tiny beings with nut-brown bodies, dragonfly wings, faceted eyes, and curving hooks like thorns where their hands and feet should have been.
The faeries’ activity went on unabated as the girls entered the glade. At the center, the ground was a curved mossy bowl out of which rose large flattish boulders perfect for sitting upon. The tree canopy was sparse overhead, with beams of golden sunlight finding their way down through the deep green to dance upon the rippling water.
Lily, Claire and Emily sat down. Claire had brought a bag and now passed around bottles of iced pumpkin juice and packages of shortbread cookies. The cookie crumbs proved of great interest to the thorn-faeries, who showed no fear as they dipped and zoomed with the skill of any Quidditch player to retrieve the dropped morsels from the moss. Next, Claire took out rolls of parchment and quills, and the three of them began making notes and sketches.
The afternoon became very warm, and despite the patches of shade and the chilled pumpkin juice, Lily noticed that her friends’ quills were moving slower and slower. So was hers.
“You know what I’d like to do?” Emily asked.
“Besides measure Hagrid’s broomstick?” Lily replied.
“You’d get expelled,” Claire said without raising her head. “And, anyway, Em … he’s three times your size. I mean … ouch.”
“I wasn’t talking about that.”
“For once,” Lily said in an aside to Claire. “All right, Emily, what would you like to do? Assuming I’m not going to be sorry I ever asked.”
“I’d like to go swimming.”
“In the lake? With the giant squid?” Claire’s nose wrinkled. “Not even you are that --”
“No!” Emily’s exasperated shout startled the thorn-faeries, which clicked their thorns at her in a tsk-tsk motion. “It has nothing to do with the giant squid, or with tentacles … what you must think of me, honestly! I meant here. There’s a lovely pool just downstream a ways.”
“But it’s too hot to walk all the way back to the castle for our swimsuits,” Lily said. “Unless you plan to point your wand and say Accio, Bikini.”
“I plan,” said Emily, setting aside her quill and standing up, “to go skinny-dipping.”
Claire’s mouth fell open. A thorn-faerie buzzed past, paused to look inside, and went on unimpressed.
“You’re not!” Lily cried.
Emily pulled her top over her head as she stepped out of her shoes. Her bra was lace-trimmed and heroically underwired, and while both Claire and Lily had seen her undressed many times before – there was precious little privacy in a five-girl dormitory – they both gaped at her in utter scandalized shock.
“You will be expelled!” Claire said. “If anyone sees you …”
“Nobody will.” Emily shed her skirt as well, revealing skimpy panties. “Well? What do you say?”
Lily laughed. “In the Forbidden Forest? Are you mad?”
“So much for brave, daring Gryffindors,” Emily snorted. The bra went next, followed by the panties. “I’ll be cool and refreshed while you sit here, sweating and getting prickly heat. Which I’m sure boys like James Potter and Sirius Black will find oh-so-very attractive indeed.”
“Not an hour ago you thought we were being watched, and you were jumping at shadows,” Claire said.
“You thought we were being watched, dear-heart.” Emily dipped her bare toes in the water, balancing on a rock. The sunlight bathed her blonde hair and creamy skin with gold.
“It is hot,” Lily said.
Claire rolled her eyes. “You, too?”
“I’m only saying …”
Emily waded out, sighing. “It’s lovely,” she said as the water reached her thighs and she scooped up double handfuls of it to pour in rivulets over her breasts. She arched her neck and poured more on her face. It ran streaming through her hair and flowed the length of her body.
She preened and turned and made such a great show of enjoying herself that Lily found it utterly impossible to go back to her notes on the thorn-faeries. She set down her quill and looked at Claire. Claire was looking back at her.
“Race you,” Lily said.
“Go!” Claire sprang up, fingers flying to the buttons of her blouse.
Moments later, their clothes were in untidy piles on the shore. Lily won the race to the creek by the slimmest of margins – Claire’s panties had hooked around one ankle and she had to waste a precious half-second hopping to kick them free.
Water splashed up in silvery fountains and cascades as they plunged into the pool. It was only chest-deep at its deepest part, the bottom sand and smooth pebbles. Little fish darted around their legs and the current was a silky caress, exquisite on their skin.
They laughed and dashed water at each other, and wrestled all slippery and wet trying to push each others’ heads under, and finally each girl retreated to an edge of the pool and clung to the rocks there, floating idly with legs outstretched, gazing up at the shifting patches of green leaves and blue sky above.
“All right,” Claire said. “I take it back. An excellent idea, Em. As long as no one should come along and see us.”
“Could you just picture it,” said Emily. “Imagine if someone did! Lily’s secret admirer could have followed us into the woods. He could be spying on us even now.”
“That isn’t very funny,” Lily said. She wrinkled her nose.
“Or Hagrid … if he could see this, he might just explode.” Emily threw back her head, soaking her hair – this also having the effect of thrusting up her breasts like two great white islands – and giggled.
A twig gave a sudden loud snap.
Immediately, all three girls hunkered low in the water, so that the surface lapped at their chins. Lily saw her own wide green eyes mirrored in Claire’s hazel ones, and Claire’s sudden surety that the next thing they knew, a stern and humorless Professor Kettleburn would emerge into the clearing. Or, worse, Professor McGonagall, or Dumbledore.
The snap was repeated, and with it came the rustle of something large pushing its way between bushy boughs.
Realizing that teachers were the least of their worries in the Forbidden Forest, Lily threw modesty to the winds and charged out of the pool. Claire and Emily both squawked her name in astonishment. She raced to the rock where she’d been sitting, grabbed up her wand, and whirled to face the noise with her red hair flying like a banner around her body.
A shape appeared. Large and four-legged.
Her first thought was that it was a centaur after all. Then she saw the magnificent branching antlers, and the glossy brown coat, and relaxed.
It was a stag. A majestic stag, with keenly intelligent eyes and a proud carriage. It stepped lightly through the underbrush and into the clearing, and stood regarding Lily with a complete lack of fear.
“Ooh,” breathed Claire. “Isn’t he beautiful!”
Lily felt a chill, perhaps caused by the breeze on her wet skin. She was suddenly extremely conscious of her nudity and saw herself as she must look in the stag’s eyes. Naked in the woods, hair wild and unbound, in a warrior’s stance with upraised wand, breasts heaving and nipples taut, beads of water sparkling in the dark red curls of her pubic hair.
She lowered the wand. The stag blinked. Its forehoof pawed the ground lightly. She read indecision in his posture.
“It’s all right,” she said in a low, soothing voice. She wasn’t sure whom she was most trying to reassure – the stag, her friends, or herself. Slowly, she extended the hand that wasn’t holding the wand.
The stag took another step, bringing him fully into the clearing now. A twelve-point buck at least, his coat sleek with good health. His nostrils flared as he pushed his velvety nose toward her outstretched hand.
“Careful, Lil,” Emily whispered. She and Claire were still hunched in the pool, and Claire had her arms folded across her bosom for good measure.
Lily petted the stag’s nose. As if emboldened by this gesture, the stag trotted right up to her. His coat brushed against her, dusty-warm and softer than she would have expected. She stroked his head, patted his neck. The stag pranced in place and tossed his head, blowing air through his lips in a whickering sound.
She felt strangely like Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt caught bathing by Actaeon. Except, in that story, Diana had transformed the luckless Actaeon into a stag and whistled up her hounds to tear him to pieces. This was … well, rather different. For one, she didn’t have any hounds …
“Lily!” Claire squealed in warning. “Look out for the dog, look out!”
And, sure enough, when Lily turned she saw the head and shoulders of a huge black dog through the trees. It was truly a massive beast, with eyes that threw back the light in an eerie glow. The dog fixed its gaze on the stag and made a guttural woof.
Acting without thought, Lily put her arms around the stag’s neck. She wasn’t certain whether she was doing this to protect the stag, or protect herself. The stag bumped its side against her. He seemed unconcerned, and returned the dog’s gaze in a sort of lazy challenge.
Emily suddenly reared up in the water, flinging spray in all directions. She held a sizeable creek-stone in each hand. The movement drew the dog’s attention and it froze. Its eyes seemed to widen as it saw Emily there, waist deep in the pool, all long blond hair and big bare breasts, like a mermaid.
“Get!” she called fiercely. “You, dog, get away!” She made a throwing motion, which caused everything to bounce.
The dog grinned, tongue lolling.
“Quick, Lily,” Claire cried. The dog’s gaze shifted, sweeping hungrily over her trim, leggy figure as she scrambled onto dry land. “Do something!”
What Lily did, she did without conscious thought. Still hugging the stag around the neck, she swung astride his back. It was easier and far more comfortable than mounting a broomstick, though the sensation of that short, soft fur rubbing against her inner thighs and other intimate areas brought a tingle sweeping through her.
At once, the stag sprang away. Muscles flexed in smooth power beneath the stag’s hide. Lily clung to his neck, ducking her head as the antlers dipped to avoid being entangled in low-hanging boughs.
They raced through the woods, and she felt more like wild Diana than ever. Her knees hugged the stag’s sides, her breasts pushed against the back of his neck. It was exhilarating; she voiced an excited, delighted shriek as the stag gathered his haunches and propelled his body in a mighty leap that carried them sailing over a fallen log.
From behind, from the thorn-glade, she heard Claire and Emily but could not make out their words for the loud and strident barking of a dog.
The stag plunged onward, the rhythm of his stride causing Lily to rock on his back in a most disconcerting way. Thoughts of school, professors, rules, detention, House points and exams fled further from her mind with each pace. Thoughts of her parents, her spiteful sister, and the entire Muggle world were even further from her mind.
Finally, when they had gone an indeterminate distance in an unknown direction from the glade, the stag slowed to a halt. Lily stayed where she was for a moment, arms still around his neck, before she slid down from her perch.
Her hair was in tangles, and she was breathless from the thrill of the ride. Impulsively, she embraced the stag and kissed him square on the soft black skin of his nose.
The stag nuzzled her, starting with her face and then under her chin, down her neck. He exhaled a puff of warm air over her breasts. Lily trembled. She caught his head in her hands, drew back long enough to study his deep, expressive eyes, and then smiled.
He cocked his head curiously and butted his nose against her cheek.
“You are such a handsome animal,” she murmured, setting aside her wand.
His ears flicked.
She caressed his neck, then took a deep breath and tipped her head back, and guided the stag’s head to her breasts. He jumped, cloven hooves stuttering a tattoo on the forest floor, but recovered almost at once.
As a little girl on family holidays, she had sometimes held kernels of corn in the palm of her hand to feed to tame deer. She remembered the supple, flexible feel of their mouths as they’d accepted the offering. Here and now, with this stag and this offering, the feeling was familiar but magnified a thousandfold as he teased her nipples. It tickled in the most wonderful way, and she made a sound somewhere between a giggle and a sigh.
The stag pranced back from her, flinging his head around in extreme agitation. It took but a single look for Lily to divine the reason. His arousal was most prominently evident, and when the stag noticed her noticing it, his eyes took on an expression of very human embarrassment.
Lily’s lips twitched into a smile, which she hid with her hand. Perhaps it was the forest, and this unaccustomed freedom from the often-stifling rules of Hogwarts, but she had never felt more wicked and wanton in all her life.
She moved closer, stroking the stag’s flank. He quivered at her touch and tried to edge nervously away, but she’d backed him against the gnarled bole of an ancient tree and there was nowhere for him to go.
He had grown rather alarmed as well as aroused. The quivering continued as if a current ran through him. He puffed a snort from his nostrils and his eyes rolled like those of a horse frightened by a thunderstorm.
“Easy, boy,” said Lily, and leaned against him. The slightly rough but slightly silky texture of his coat on her nipples was maddening.
Her hand slid over his flank, then down the muscular leg. The quiver turned to a shudder, cloven hooves once more prancing in place. He craned his neck back to stare at her with shock.
“Shh,” she breathed. “Shh, now … there’s a good boy …”
She slipped her hand under him and found the slick and glistening length that had protruded so stiffly from its usual concealment. As her fingers curled around it, the stag jerked as if shot. His head flung back with such violence that his antlers struck the bole of the tree.
Lily gripped him gently but firmly, running her thumb in a slow exploration of his shape, applying an experimental squeeze that made the stag’s legs suddenly unhinge. He braced himself against the tree, eyes rolling with renewed fervor.
Leaning close to his ear, she whispered, “That’s about as far as I’ll go with a stag, James Potter.”
Again, with a galvanic jerk, the stag jumped. His rolling eyes fixed on her with a panicked look of discovery and guilt.
She released him and stood back, arms crossed beneath her breasts, head tipped to the side, knowing grin on her lips. “Honestly, how dumb do you think I am?”
The stag made a very good approximation of an innocent shrug.
“All of those pointed questions to Professor McGonagall about Animagi,” Lily said. “That in itself might not have tipped me to it, but then there were all those books you brought back to the common room, and that time you got in trouble for snooping in the Restricted Section.”
He still tried to look innocent.
“How many nights did I look out the window of my dormitory and couldn’t help seeing a stag racing across the grounds? The same stag, and the next morning there you’d be, half asleep in your breakfast porridge, hardly able to keep your eyes open in class.”
A scoff of snorting breath.
“Well, if that’s the way you want to play it,” she said nonchalantly. She turned away, standing hipshot with her back to him, gazing over her shoulder through a veil of auburn hair. She pressed the tip of her tongue to her upper lip. “Who knows what I might have done if you’d trusted me enough to share your secret. Who knows what I might have let you do.”
His eyes bulged and a nervous noise almost like a whinny came from his throat.
Lily heaved a heavy sigh. “But, oh well, since you don’t trust me, I should go. I left Emily and Claire at the creek, and they must be wondering where I am.”
She faced forward and began ambling slowly, with much swaying of the hips, off into the woods. Behind her, she heard a hasty scrambling noise, a cough, and then a voice.
Turning, she saw that the stag was gone. In his place she beheld a disheveled James Potter rising from his hands and knees. His black hair was more mussed than ever, and hectic pink patches blazed on his cheeks. In deference to the summer weather, he wore only satiny gym shorts.
Plenty of other boys in their year were taller, or stronger, but Lily couldn’t help admiring the lean muscles of James’ bare chest, arms, and legs. Countless hours of Quidditch practice had honed him into a wiry but eye-pleasingly athletic physique.
Too, the gym shorts clung and outlined his erection in very revealing detail.
The two of them spent a timeless moment staring at each other. His hazel eyes almost glowed as his gaze roved her body, lingering in the places she expected it would before returning in speechless amazement to her face.
“Hello, James,” she said.
He tried to speak, growled more like a bear than a stag, cleared his throat, and finally managed, “Hi, Lily.”
“So,” she said. “What was that all about? You followed us?”
His hands, normally so swift and sure when catching the tiny fluttering Golden Snitch, fumbled around awkwardly, as if he could not decide whether to cover himself, smooth his hair, or what.
“Yeah,” he admitted. “Saw you … um … going into the forest.”
Lily set her hands on her hips and thrust her chest at him. “Got an eyeful, did you?”
“More than we hoped!” James blurted, and those pink patches burned like roses set aflame.
“We?” She forgot her bold and taunting tone. “Who’s … who’s we?”
He blinked at her. “Um …”
It crashed over her in a wave of understanding. “Sirius Black! That dog was Sirius Black! I should have known.”
James nodded. His feet shuffled in the fall of leaves that covered the floor, much as the stag’s hooves had done.
Lily thought of Emily and Claire, back at the glade with the dog, but set it purposefully out of her mind.
“You spied on us,” she said, recapturing her earlier tone. “Did you like what you saw?”
Again, he nodded.
“And me riding you?” she asked. “Naked on your back, holding tight with my thighs?”
“God, Lily!” James said in a strangled voice.
She touched the tips of her breasts. “And these, James?”
He had to scrub a hand over his mouth and chin. His throat worked as he swallowed, and still, all he could do was nod.
“And …” She let her gaze drop, most deliberately, to the jutting front of his gym shorts.
“I swear, Lily,” he stammered. “I never … never thought that … I … sorry … um …”
“Would you have done it to me?” she asked.
He goggled at her.
“If I’d let you, I mean. If I’d sort of gotten down on all fours and …”
“You wouldn’t have,” James said, and uttered a wild, shaky laugh. “I mean, a stag …?”
“But I knew it was you.”
“Still, really …”
“Didn’t you want to?”
“How can you even ask?” He held a forearm against the front of his shorts. “Course I did! Rather bloody obvious, isn’t it?”
“Now, that’s not very fair,” she said. “After all, I haven’t so much as a stitch on.”
“You’re joking. If I took these off, you’d … you’d … fling them up a tree or something.”
“What are you about, Lily?” James asked. “I should say that if this is your idea of teasing a bloke, you’re the cruelest girl on the face of the earth.”
“I thought you liked me, James.”
“Love you, don’t I?” he cried in abrupt anguish. “Loved you since our first year. Thought to myself the very minute I saw you in Ollivander’s, in Diagon Alley, that you were the prettiest girl I’d ever seen. Then, when we were both sorted into Gryffindor, I thought I’d do anything to get your attention. That’s why I went out for Quidditch, isn’t it?”
“You love me?” gasped Lily.
“Except then I went and made an arse of myself,” he said. “All that stuff with Snape and everything. All right, I despise the slimy little bugger, but most of it was because I thought it’d impress you. I was wrong. It made you look at me like I was dirt, and I hated that. I’m sorry, Lily.”
“You love me,” she said, thoughtfully, almost to herself.
“Yeah, I do,” he said. He sounded like someone confessing to a horrible crime. “You’re the only girl I’ve ever been interested in.”
“Oh, James!” She rushed to him, and he actually recoiled like he was expecting her to strike him. She flung her arms around him instead, and kissed him before he could recover from the surprise.
Her breasts were pleasantly flattened against his bare chest, and something that felt very much indeed like the end of a broomstick pushed at her stomach. James, pinned against the tree, was stock-still for a moment in absolute astonishment, but then his arms went around her and the kiss turned into a hot, hungry matter of greedy lips and probing tongues.
Somehow – either his knees unhinged again or the two of them succumbed to some unspoken agreement – they slid down the tree and squirmed on the ground until their bodies fit into an earthy cradle formed by two hunching roots. Leaves crackled under them as they lay on their sides, facing each other, and Lily found that her hand had gotten caught under the waistband of James’ shorts. His hands, meanwhile, were busy with one cupping a breast and the other gripping her buttocks to hold her more firmly against him.
She yanked at the shorts. In a frenzy of kicking and thrashing, while miraculously managing without removing either of his hands from her anatomy, James freed himself from the shorts. Now, when he rolled against her again, the rigid length pressing her belly was velvety-warm skin. She worked her hand between their bodies and took hold of him.
“Lily, oh, Lily,” he groaned against her neck.
Then, with a cry of abandon, he bent his head to her breasts and did what he had done as a stag, only far more effectively. He licked and suckled until she could hardly breathe from the sheer pleasure of it.
Lily moved her hand up and down, and James rocked his hips in time with the motion in eager, helpless thrusts. He was far bigger in this form than he’d been as a stag, and Lilly suffered a momentary twinge of unease.
His fingers brushed the downy hair between her thighs. There, he hesitated, so Lily threw her unease to the winds and seized his wrist. She guided him. When he found the right spot, her back arched and she called his name.
“Wait,” he panted. “Lily, slow down, or I’m going to … it’s too soon. I don’t want to yet. Not yet. I want to … … want you to be first.”
He removed her hand from his erection, and before she fully knew what he was doing, had shifted around so that his head was between her legs. He kissed her inner thighs, first one and then the other and then again, moving steadily upward, while Lily writhed and made small, wordless whimpers. Then, just when the anticipation was such that she was sure she’d scream, or burst into flame, he reached the center and kissed her there, and his tongue delved warm and slippery into her.
Lily did scream, but in ecstasy rather than impatience. She muffled it by biting her forearm. Her other hand clawed as a fist into James’ unruly hair.
He applied himself with the singular concentration he brought to the Quidditch field, and perhaps – this thought ran crazily through her turbulent mind – his talent as a Seeker proved itself in letting him find other delicate and elusive objects as well as the Golden Snitch.
And then it happened, a thrilling explosion of release that shook her from head to tightly-curled toes. She had experienced climaxes before, solitary in her bed, but those had been nothing like this and when the shudders finally passed, she fell back weak and wrung out on the bed of earth.
James rose up from her with an awed expression, as if he was not sure what to make of such a violent passion. And, too, there was more than a little of the familiar James Potter swagger in his eyes, pride at what he’d accomplished.
She reached for him, drew him to her and gave him a fervent kiss. “James … that was …”
“So, is it safe to hope that you might like me, too?” he asked. “At least a little?”
“I love you, you idiot,” Lily said, trying to laugh while still shaking and feeling like showers of sparks were bursting all along her nerve endings. “I’ve loved you for years, even when you were being a brat.”
He rained sweet kisses over her face. She felt the prod of his erection on her leg, and reached down once more to grasp it.
“Me first, you said,” she whispered. “Now you?”
“You don’t have to,” he said with what had to be painful chivalry. “Unless you want --”
“Oh, I want,” she said, rubbing. “Though you might think me terrible …”
“I want … it inside me.”
“But … I … we … I didn’t think we’d … mmph!”
She covered his mouth with hers, silencing him, and pulled him down atop her. He made some ineffectual noises of protest. They ended quickly when her knees came up to hug his sides. Lily felt that lovely stiffness against her, the tip of it nudging.
He sank in an inch and Lily caught her breath.
“Did I hurt you? Lily, I don’t want to hurt you.”
“You won’t,” she said. “Just … slowly, James. Slowly.”
Another inch, and then another, easing in and causing a brief discomfort swiftly lost in a marvelous sensation of fullness. James, poised above her, had his brow furrowed and his eyes tightly shut.
Slowly, yes … and deeper … and there was none of the pain that Lily had expected. Just that brief discomfort, already almost forgotten as he was buried all the way inside her and their bodies were locked together there at the base of the tree.
He opened his eyes and they were swimming with rapturous amazement as he looked adoringly down at her. He mouthed her name. Then, with equal and achingly tormenting slowness, he withdrew and drove deep again.
“Oh, my God, James …” Lily clutched his shoulders.
“I don’t … know …” he said through gritted teeth as he rocked, long and steady, “how much … longer … I can go … slowly.”
“Then – ooh! – go however … oh, yes! … however you like …”
James immediately quickened his pace, and the rapid urgency of his thrusts almost did hurt, but by then Lily was heedless of any pain. Heedless of anything but the tremendous building bliss of a second climax, and of his face over hers, contorted with passion.
All at once he wailed and drove against her, drove into her, more forcefully than ever. He buried his face in the hollow of her neck and shoulder, his entire body taut as a wire and shuddering. Lily raised her voice with his, aware that there were words in her cry but barely conscious of what they were.
He sagged onto her, breath coming in uneven gulps. She hugged him, urging him to collapse altogether and crush her into the ground with his full weight.
“Lily,” he said. “Lily, Lily.”
Gradually, as the tremors that wracked their bodies subsided, other sensations intruded. They were both wringing with sweat, covered with dirt and twigs and fragments of fallen leaves, and sticky in unmentionable places.
With a final kiss, they disengaged. Lily found when she stood up that her legs wouldn’t stop trembling, and she felt sore, a little bit ashamed of herself, and at the same time better than she ever had in her entire life. A glance at James told her that he felt much the same way.
“Does this … um … does this mean that now you’ll go out with me sometime?” he asked.
Lily smiled. “As long as you’re on your best behavior.”
She retrieved her wand, and he retrieved his shorts. By now, the sun had gone behind the mountains that ringed the Hogwarts grounds, and the forest was all cool purple and dark shadow.
“We’d better get back to the castle,” James said. “It must be almost time for dinner.”
Lily gave him a peck on the cheek, and when he got an aw-shucks look, followed it with a pinch to his bottom that made him jump. He grinned at her.
“All right, Evans?” he said with a hint of the cockier James Potter of years gone by.
“All right, Potter,” she replied.
They parted ways, him melting away into the woods while Lily retraced the path the stag had taken. She reached the thorn-hedge glade and winced, wondering what she would say to Professor Kettleburn about the interrupted quality of her homework.
Her clothes were there, and to her surprise, so was Claire, sitting on a flat stone with a slightly dazed expression and a small, vague smile.
Before Claire could get a good look at her, Lily jumped straight into the pond. The water was considerably colder now, and she broke out in goose bumps as she washed off all the evidence of her encounter. The splash startled Claire, who whirled.
“Lily! You gave me such a fright!”
“What are you still doing here?” Lily asked. “And where’s Emily?”
Claire dropped her gaze. “I … I was … waiting for you. Yes. That’s what I was doing.”
“And Emily said she was going back to the castle.”
Lily frowned and eyed her friend suspiciously. “You’ve been waiting here.”
“Mm-hmm.” Claire nodded.
“What about the dog?”
Claire turned a sudden, vivid shade of red. “Well, what about the stag?” she shot back in a shrill, panicky voice. “Huh? What about that, Lily?”
“You didn’t!” cried Lily. “Claire! You and Sirius Black!”
“Don’t be absurd --”
“Me and James Potter,” confided Lily in a sly tone, and winked.
“Really?” Claire seemed overwhelmingly relieved. “I’m so glad that you know. But he made me swear not to tell. What they did, becoming Animagi without telling the Ministry or the teachers or anyone --”
“I don’t care about that,” Lily said, pulling on her clothes. “Tell me what happened!”
“You rode off on the stag, and … and Emily grabbed up her clothes and ran for it, but the dog … up close, he didn’t look so fierce … and I petted him, but then, Lily, he started licking me. All over. I was scared, but when I tried to leave, he snarled, so I didn’t dare move. I started to cry. That was when … well, he transformed. And it was Sirius Black. He kissed me. In fact, but you mustn’t tell, Lily, you mustn’t, or I won’t be your friend any more, we …”
She couldn’t say it, only waved at a spot on the ground that looked particularly matted down.
“I won’t tell, if you won’t tell about me and James. We did, too.”
They gathered their discarded quills and parchment, and headed for the edge of the forest. On the way, they shared the details, giggling and clinging to each other in paroxysm of secretive glee.
As they crossed the long, sloping lawn toward the welcoming lights of the castle, seeing the windows of the Great Hall all ablaze and knowing that they were surely late for dinner, they saw someone else walking slowly up toward the stone steps.
“Emily?” called Lily. “Is that you?”
She turned toward them. Her face was set in a very contented smile and her eyes were half-lidded, smoky. She’d drawn her blonde hair down around her neck, but it ill-concealed an enormous red mark.
“Is that a hickey?” Claire was scandalized. “Where have you been?”
“Oh,” said Emily dreamily, “just at Hagrid’s cabin …”