"Shift it, midgets!" cried an all-too-familiar voice, interrupting Lily's serene first breakfast back at Hogwarts.

Lily whipped around just in time to see James Potter split a sea of Gryffindor first-years in half with a flick of his wand, sending them sprawling to the left and right and leaving a gap in front of the last remaining platter of kippers. With no apparent sense of wrongdoing, he sat down and served himself a generous helping.

Lily took a deep breath and an eyeroll for her mental health. Then, already standing to hand out class schedules, she marched down the table to glare at Potter and his mates. She pointed wordlessly at a particularly small and feeble-looking first-year whose breakfast was now decorating her robes.

"Oops," Potter said with a grin, trying and failing to look sheepish.

"Oops," Lily said, and matched his smirk as she grabbed a pitcher of pumpkin juice and poured a generous helping down his robes. But Potter only laughed.

"Evans, if you wanted me to strip, all you had to do was ask!"

"I'd rather lick that juice off Slughorn's man-boobs."

"Hah! I knew there was something going on between you and Sluggy!" Infuriating boy, with his stupid quips and his stupid smile and his stupid, messy, terrible hair. "Pad, didn't I say she spent too much time in the Potions dungeon?"

"Leave me out of your mating ritual," Black said flatly, and Lily suddenly felt ashamed of her public display of temper. Flustered and furious, she turned on her heel and walked away. She forgot that she had planned to dock points for Potter's cruelty. She had a job to do, and inconsiderate purebloods weren't going to distract her from it.

Lily finally looked down at the first-year course schedules in her hands.

With five years at Hogwarts under her belt, Lily could spot a Muggle-born first year from a mile away. Most people thought you should look for the most terrified faces, but that was wrong. Magic, when it was new, was far too exciting to leave room for fear.

As Lily walked down the Gryffindor hall table distributing class schedules, she looked for smaller details. Had he wrinkled his nose at the pumpkin juice? Did she leave her wand on the table while she ate because no one had ever told her it was rude? Was he subtly trying to put a finger through Nearly-Headless Nick's buttock?

When she found one, she'd tap his schedule with her wand and watch her own handwriting unfurl across the front page:

TOP SECRET Selective Super-Magic Initiation Ceremony

Tonight. 8 PM. Dungeon C.

Don't be late, and don't tell anyone.

Welcome to the Mudvine.

Cheesy rubbish, sure, but she wanted to tempt eleven-year-olds. Every Muggle-born first-year at Hogwarts needed to show tonight.

When Lily finished, she sat down with her friend Mary Macdonald, a perpetually grumpy Irish Muggle-born and the best friend Lily had left at Hogwarts. Mary raised her eyebrows in question, and Lily gave her a thumbs-up.

"Pretty sure I found them all."

A moment later, Laura and Hattie Ogilby, Muggle-born twins and Prefects in Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, respectively, walked past. As they passed Lily, Hattie jostled Laura, who caught herself on the Gryffindor table with an annoyed yelp. When they walked away, still sniping at each other, there were two slips of paper on the bench next to Lily. 'Done,' read each slip, followed by two lists of names. Every Muggle-born in three houses had gotten the invite.

Mary looked at the slips, nodded. "Are you ready?"

Lily shrugged. The meeting was her idea: gather all the first-years immediately, teach them how to survive Hogwarts as Mudbloods, and, hopefully, how to fly under the radar for as long as possible. But that meant it would be Lily's fault if Avery and Mulciber's lot found out and came to break up the party. Mary understood, and she grabbed Lily's hand and squeezed.

An explosion of laughter down the table drew Lily's attention. She glanced over to see Potter and his friends, now surrounded by a fawning throng of Gryffindors, Ravenclaws, and Hufflepuffs.

"—So it's just me and this giant black dog on the roof, wandless," Potter was saying.

"Wait, I thought Sirius was there too?" a Ravenclaw bloke yelled, and Black and Potter exchanged a very suspicious grin.

"Nope! Blighter sauntered off when the going got tough, all I've got's this mangy cur—"

"Mangy cur?!" Black cried. "I seem to recall an elegant, stately, one might say noble—"

"You might, since you don't have to look at it! Very scrawny, long stringy hair—er, fur—sort of hanging in its eyes, fleas galore—"

"Reckon the dog still gets more tail than you," Sirius groused. The whole crowd laughed again, and Lily found her own lips were forming a smile. Watching them, Lily felt a pang of longing: what she wouldn't give to goof around with a crowd of students from three Houses in the middle of the Great Hall. Meanwhile, her mates needed a scheduled diversion to send a one-word message without attracting unwanted eyes.

Lily jerked her head away, only to see Mary staring at her, eyebrows sky-high.

"What?" Lily asked defensively.

"Has Potter got—?" But Lily never found out what Potter had, because the windows opened, and the first owl post of term poured into the Great Hall. Lily noticed one red envelope, bright against a sea of white, and followed it with her eyes, curious who had managed to get a Howler on the first day of term. It clattered to a halt in front of Sirius Black.

Black and Potter stopped speaking abruptly, the crowd around them backing up, and Potter's Adam's apple bobbed nervously. Black ripped the letter open, and a woman's furious shriek filled the Great Hall.

"YOU ARE A STAIN UPON THE HOUSE OF BLACK, BESMIRCHING OUR NOBLE FOREFATHERS WITH YOUR FILTHY BLOOD-TRAITORDOM! WHEN THE DARK LORD SLAUGHTERS YOU ALONGSIDE THE MUDBLOODS AND THE HALFBREEDS, DON'T EXPECT ME TO SHED A TEAR." Merlin, what an opener. Lily had been called a Mudblood enough times that it didn't really faze her anymore, but she felt a sharp ache thinking about how the little ones must feel hearing it. She glanced at the Muggle-born first-years, only to realize that the whole speech was nonsense to them. Some were even giggling, albeit nervously, at the letter yelling nonsense at the handsome, popular sixth-year.


What had he done? Lily knew Black's parents were You-Know-Who sympathizers, and that he had run away from home to live with Potter, but nothing more. She looked back at Black, whose stony face gave away nothing.


With that, the letter burst into flame, and the Great Hall was plunged into the loudest silence Lily had ever heard.

The Marauders stared at each other, white as ghosts. The crowd of admirers that had surrounded them edged farther away, suddenly very interested in their cornflakes. A few people at the Slytherin table laughed, the cackles far worse because they were the only noise in the room.

Then Potter clapped a hand on Black's shoulder and jumped to his feet. His voice rang through the Great Hall, abrupt but strangely playful: "Oy, Evans!"

Electricity shot through Lily. There was something raw and real in Potter's eyes that she had never seen there before, and she realized that he was trying to use their dynamic—loud, dramatic, guaranteed to draw a crowd—to distract the school from the Howler. Lily felt a rush of feeling so unfamiliar that she almost didn't recognize it: admiration for James Potter.

"Potter." Lily stood up, crossed her arms over her chest, projected her voice too. This was noble, and she wanted to help.

"Want to see if you can scream louder than Sirius's mum?" he leered, winking. A few people laughed, a few people muttered something and restarted conversations. It was working.

"As usual, Potter, your approach has all the sex appeal of a Splinched testicle," she answered, and more people laughed! More conversations started! She wanted to look around, to gauge the room, check the temperature at the teachers' table (she'd said "testicle" in front of Dumbledore!), but Potter's eyes had caught hers, and she couldn't look away. Their bickering felt noble, suddenly, which made it fun (it's always fun, said a small voice inside her head. Who asked you, said Lily). She couldn't wait for his next words.

"Very uncouth, Evans," he wagged a finger ruefully. "I know you've been so looking forward to our first date," she had not, since they did not have one, "but I'm just not sure I can go to Hogsmeade with such a potty mouth."

"I'll miss you like one of your Quaffle shots," she said sweetly, and he frowned, considering that, then laughed.

"You know what, Evans? I'm a goblet-half-full kind of bloke, and either way you look at it that's half a compliment."

"Half a compliment, the other half true."

"Now, now, let's not—hold up. Evans, have you done a Beautification Charm?" he sounded almost disgusted. Lily felt a twinge of hurt, then a larger twinge of annoyance at herself for being hurt. She was sixteen years old; sometimes sixteen-year-old witches used Beauts. Butt out, Potter.

"What's it to you?"

"It's not on, Evans." Potter shook his head disapprovingly, and she was suddenly angry. All thought of nobility, of teaming up to fight injustice, was gone. Excuse the hell out of James Potter: She looked good, she knew she looked good, and she hadn't asked for his opinion.

"Well, it's a good thing I didn't do it for you, isn't it?" she snapped, and he had the gall to roll his eyes.

"You know that's not what I meant." Like hell she did! Setting aside the almost human boy she'd met last night, Potter's MO was nonsense and tomfoolery; she rarely had a clue what he meant.

"Merlin, if you're about to tell me my face is perfect the way it is and Beautifiers can only tarnish my-"

"Don't be a prat, Evans!" James cried, grinning, "Of course your face isn't perfect! You've got a massive zit right there."

Lily's eyes widened and her hands flew to where he had pointed, only to realize – "No, I don't!"

"Made you look."

"GAH!" She stomped her foot like a child and tried to storm off, but before she could move, he had leapt off the bench, vaulted over the table using Peter's head – "Ow, you great twat!" – as a springpad, and landed in her path.

"I mean it, Evans. You wearing a Beaut is like … like Jocelyn Wadcock enchanting the Quaffle!"

All three of his mates groaned theatrically, but Lily was baffled. "If that's supposed to mean something to me, Potter—"

"Jocelyn Wadcock? You don't know who Jocelyn Wad…" apparently physically wounded by this revelation, he stumbled backward into the bench, landing this time on Black's lap. He turned to his best mate and grabbed his face. "Padfoot, she doesn't know…"

"I heard." For the second time in one meal, Sirius Black jerked a ruffled and blushing Lily out of her rage-bubble. The bloke had a bright future as a chaperone killing the mood at primary school dances. Not that there was a mood to kill between Lily and—never mind.

Lily barely heard a single word her professors said all day, so focused was she on the meeting that night. She and Mary met at the dungeon ten minutes before eight, and most of the kids were already lined up outside. "Please break into two lines," Lily called to them. "We need to quiz you before you go in. To test the, er, super-tude of your magic."

"Super-tude?" Mary stifled a snort, and Lily swatted at her and pulled the first kid forward.

"Hi," she said kindly, "I'm Lily Evans. And you are?"

"Westley Sherbet." The name was on Hattie's list.

"Okay Westley, let's start simple," Lily said. "What House were your parents in?"

"Er…" his eyes darted left and right. Check.

"Right answer. Can you name three things that use eckletricity?"

"I—what's—electricity?" Check.

"Very good. Who's your favorite Beatle?"

The poor kid was utterly baffled now. "I guess...Paul?" Check. She would also have accepted John, George or Ringo—anybody but the Bard.

Well, maybe not Ringo.

"Let me guess," Lily smiled, and tried to look as though this had just occurred to her, "Your parents aren't magic?"

He nodded nervously.

"Welcome to the Mudvine, Westley." Lily squeezed the little boy's shoulder. She opened the door to the dungeon and waved him inside. "Come on in."

Once fifteen children had taken seats in the classroom, Mary clapped her hands and the room fell silent. "First off," she said, "the line we fed you about why you're here was absolute horseshite." A whisper went up all around the room, and a couple of kids giggled and repeated the curse word. Lily kicked herself for ever letting Mary speak in the presence of any child, let alone speechify to fifteen of them. "I mean, 'super-magic'?!" Merlin, she was still going. "What the feck is that? Magic already makes you a super-person, what, you thought you were a super-super-person? Two months ago, you're sitting in school getting your two times-tables wrong, and now—"

"Right!" Lily interrupted loudly. "Like Mary said, unfortunately, you're not here because you have, er, super-magic. You're here because your parents are Muggles, and that will make certain people at Hogwarts want to make your life…difficult. We're here to prepare you."

Lily flicked her wand, murmuring "Wingardium Leviosa," and fifteen identical books sitting on the desk behind her floated to land on each first-year's desk.

"We call that the Mud Bible," She told the kids. "It's everything we know about surviving at this school. Read it, learn it, live by it." Over the next hour, they talked the kids through the whole book. First, the simple information about the wizarding world so you wouldn't be pegged as Muggle-born tomorrow. If you were careful, lucky, and boring, you might go a month before the Slytherins stopped assuming you were some halfblood they'd never heard of.

Next came the commandments. Keep your wand accessible at all times. Stick to your common room or the library after dinner. Never, ever walk alone.

Last was a list of every student in the school by House, year, and blood status. Each name came with a portrait and a color code; green for safe, yellow for risky, red for Stay The Fuck Away.

"But no pureblood is really safe," Lily told them. "Like, James Potter's green in that book, but that just means when he hexes your feet to stick out the top of your head, it won't be because you're Muggle-born."

Mary groaned loudly. "Setting aside Lily's rage-boner for James Potter…"

"I do not have a—What even—?!"

"Wait, you're Evans!" one of the first years (Sarah? Selma? Selena?) interrupted suddenly.

"Er…yes? Like I said, Lily Evans."

"From this morning!" Stinker crowed, giggling. "Evans and Potter!"

"Oh my God! Are you in love?" another girl piped up.

"Have you snogged him?"

"Are you gonna get married?"

"What's a Jostling Wadcock?"

"Can I come to your wedding?"

"Enough!" Lily said, blushing, "That's not—I don't—we're not here to talk about my love life, we're trying to tell you that the Wizarding World is at war and your lives are in danger every day!"

The room went silent, the tiny faces pale. One girl did a little shriek and dived under her desk.

"Hadn't actually gotten to the war bit yet, Lil," Mary said helpfully.


It took nearly half an hour to explain You-Know-Who to the trembling first-years. Lily kicked herself the whole time: she was great with the littles. She was the one who held their hands in the Hospital Wing after Slytherins hexed them, the good cop to Mary's bad in the unofficial infrastructure of Hogwarts' Muggle-born community. She never lost her temper with them. Never. This was all Potter's bloody fault.

When they had finally finished the explanation, Lily looked around at the scared faces and felt a pang. They were too young to have to hear this.

"Memorize the Mud Bible, obey it to the letter, and you should be okay." She reassured the kids. "But every so often, you do everything right, and something still…" Lily swallowed hard, touched her fingertips to her stomach, and Mary squeezed her shoulder, "goes wrong."

"So here's the optional bit, boyos," Mary took over. Lily shot her a grateful look, only to regret it when she remembered why she'd interrupted Mary in the first place. "There's a war on, you don't get a choice there. But you can bugger off now, and if you hold onto your fanny and don't act an absolute gobshite you'll probably be sound as a pond." Lily kicked her, but Mary, never much for tact, yelped, "Watch where you're putting your fecking foot, eejit."

"Or," Lily said pointedly, "if you want, you can join our group, the Mudvine. Join, and anytime anyone tries to hurt you on school grounds we'll know—that's Mary and me and about twenty others all around Hogwarts— and we'll all put our lives on the line to come save you."

"There's a catch, though." Mary said, "You'll have to do the same for us. And if you join, you take a magic oath to keep your fat gob shut about who's in and how it works. Tell a soul," she paused for dramatic effect that was not strictly necessary, "and ye die."

Audible gasps.

"You're children," Lily said heavily. "It's not fair of us to ask you to make this choice. The least we can do is give you time to think. Go home, memorize every word in the Mud Bible. When you've done that, if you want out, you never have to talk to us again. If you want in…come find us."

"Alright, Evans?" Potter found her in the library after the meeting. He was holding a Muggle Studies book upside down and looking extremely pleased with himself. Madam Pince hissed from across the room, but he was supremely unconcerned. "I've got it."

"Got what?"

"What it's like. You doing Beautification Charms, I mean." In three long strides he was standing over her, forcing her to look up at him. "It's like if David Beckham started taking steroids. Give another bird a fighting shot, eh?"

"I—" she didn't know what had flustered her most: the compliment, the amount of work that had gone into it, or the fact that she had only come to the library in the first place to look up Jocelyn Wadcock, without quite knowing why.

Thanks for reading! Big thank you to elyjayne, Dulmephistos, and guest reviewers, and please let me know your thoughts on this chapter!