Lily's famous lower lip was trembling the way that only his seven-year-old friend's could.
The party was in full swing at the Burrow, and the house was heaving with raucous laughter and drunken banter. Oliver instinctively knew another cheek-pinch from an overenthusiastic great-aunt would send Lily over the edge. Keen to prevent the threatened water-works, he did the only thing he could think of.
"C'mon, Lily," he whispered. "Let's hide."
She sniffed, nodding bravely, slipping her hand into his.
Dodging through the circles of chattering adults, they slipped through the packed rooms. Keen to avoid tipsy great-aunt Trish, they nipped through the kitchen, out into the Weasleys' back garden.
The two friends stood, temporarily stunned by the eerie silence that met them. The Burrow gently pulsated behind them, and the dark and damp of the dew-laden garden filled their senses.
Lily gave a maniacal grin, looking nothing like the pouting girl from before.
"Come on, then!"
Laughing, she let his hand go and tore away across the lawn, arms outstretched, her crimson hair flowing out behind her.
Oliver followed suit. He spread his arms wide and felt the wind clawing at his hair, believing with all his being that he would take off at any moment. For a just second, only he and the many stars which looked down at him existed, and he was capable of anything.
Then the moment ended, and he found himself at the end of the garden, panting.
"Well?" Lily said impatiently. "Ready?"
"For what?" Oliver asked.
"For my secret, of course!" She smiled. Crouching down, she crawled into a nearby bush and dissapeared.
Intrigued, Oliver followed, emerging seconds later beside a sloping wooden pathway lined by foliage.
is the secret? We come here all the time!"
"But I've never invited
you here before, have I?" Lily pointed out.
Oliver shook his head.
," she said, pleased with herself. "This is our
secret. You're the only person I've ever invited here. This is our safe place, and only the two of us know that it's ours."
Oliver stared up at the kindly twinkling stars watching over them, realising just how special it was.
"Okay," he whispered.
"But you have to swear," Lily turned solemn, "that you won't tell anyone about our secret. Ever
Oliver gulped. Forever
. He nodded.
"Good, then. Til death and beyond?"
"Death and beyond
," he echoed.
"Grandad Olly! Quick! We have to hide!"
Taking his hand, Lily led her grandfather down the garden, giggling. She brought him round the hedges to the old wooden walkway, where she crouched down, putting her finger to her lips.
"Shh!" She whispered. "We're hiding from the troll."
Oliver nodded conspiratorially, bending down as far as his back would let him.
"We have to stay quiet," she instructed him. "This place has to be our secret!"
Through patches of sunlight he saw a liberating night sky.
Anything was possible.
He was keeping his promise. So had she.
Til death and beyond.