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Chapter 8 : The Inevitable
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“Well, no wizard is going to do much without his wand, of course,” Dumbledore mused, examining the carved wood, “and I assure you, Ollivander will immediately know the culprit. I’ll owl him now, and don’t worry; of course I will inform you of our findings. Once again, excellent work, you two. I daresay you’d be great with the Order.”
“The what?” Lily asked.
“Oh, never mind that now. That’s another visit entirely. Go on, now, who wants to spend Hogsmede weekend with the headmaster? You must have something better to do.”
With that, James and Lily shuffled out of the office and walked silently towards Gryffindor tower.
This one was an awkward silence. One of those where thoughts hung thick in the air, and you could almost feel the words being pieced together, trying to create something intelligible. And always so perfectly followed by garbled, nonsensical language.
“Er,” James stammered, “are—you’re okay, Lily?” His face was uncertain and anxious.
Lily didn’t reply. She only stared for a moment, solemn, before turning her head back, which seemed to only baffle James further. He furrowed his brow and bowed his head in thought, looking for all the world like a cocky little child who had just been told he had the wrong answer, staring down the trampled maroon carpet as if it was at fault.
Lily was relieved when they finally came to the portrait of the Fat Lady, for the distance between Dumbledore’s office and Gryffindor tower had never seemed so great. She supplied the password and climbed into the common room, but was surprised to find that James had followed her inside.
“What are you doing, James? Aren’t you going back to Hogsmede?” Lily inquired.
“No,” he replied resignedly, beaten down by the day’s events, though it was barely four o’ clock, “I’m going to sleep.”
Lily, sitting on a couch in the otherwise deserted common room, could hear James’ weary steps up the staircase, and the door closing behind him when he reached his dormitory. She realized that she had probably hurt him profoundly, as this was so unlike the James she knew. And Lily didn’t feel liberated one bit for it.
She felt no release from him, no emancipation from whatever it was that made her keep tolerating, even liking him. Gone was the notion that she would loathe him eternally. Lily couldn’t make an empty promise to herself to hate him any longer, the repent she felt was proof of that. Clearly, something in her was changing. She did not like it, nor did she welcome it, but it was inevitable.
“James, they found out the owner of the wand!” Lily reported Sunday morning at breakfast, eyes wide with the excitement of a conviction.
He couldn’t have been more indifferent. “Oh?” he said, picking at the crust of his toast.
“Oh come on, show an inkling of interest. It’s a Hogwarts student!”
At this, the other three Marauders looked up in astonishment. “That wand belongs to a Hogwarts student?” Remus asked incredulously.
“Yes,” Lily continued keenly, “Evan Rosier, the Slytherin! The Ministry hasn’t charged him yet, but he’s been suspended from school indefinitely until then.” James nodded apathetically. “This doesn’t excite you in the least, James?” Lily queried.
“Of course not,” Sirius interposed, “it’s all in a day’s work for James here. Saving the world one Death Eater at a time is just his thing, you know. But he also has a thing for worrying about people’s wellbeing. Some think it’s quite annoying, actually—“
James thumped Sirius hard on the arm, peeved and scowling. He looked back at Lily, holding the same expression, before Lily excused herself hurriedly from the table.
The next Saturday was the always infamous Gryffindor versus Slytherin quidditch match, which had created a lot of turmoil in the hallways. Lily, Corinne, and the other volunteer nurses had busied themselves with reversing hair dying spells that had gone awry and a plethora of hexes and jinxes placed upon students of the rivaling houses.
But with the arrival of game day, the Hospital Wing was once again quiet. Lily and Corinne, a seventh year Ravenclaw, sat on the spotless white sick beds and revised their Advanced Transfiguration essays on why Apparition works. A cheer from the pitch resounded throughout the castle, and Madam Bowne came into the room with a cart of potions in all colors and sizes, ready for the influx of injured students.
“The match isn’t the reason for all the injuries,” Madam Bowne informed them, “When Gryffindor plays Slytherin, it’s always the aftermath. I just hope Slytherin wins, because Gryffindor gets much less riled up about losing.”
Not a minute later, Sirius came running into the wing, yelling, “GRYFFINDOR WON! SUCK THAT, SLYTHERIN!” making Madam Bowne cringe and straighten her apron.
The injured of the match were few and minor, the worst being a petulant Slytherin chaser’s broken arm. But it wasn’t much longer before the post-game victims came streaming in. It was quite a sight, all the rude words written on foreheads and uncontrollable hiccupping throughout the room. There were nasty bruises from fistfights and hair turned into snakes, a grand total of sixteen kids needing to be treated. While Madam Bowne ran about treating the more serious cases, Lily and Corinne lazily slapped on gobs of bruise-healing paste and measured doses of facial scribe solvent for minor incidents.
“So,” Lily asked while she smeared yellow goop on Sirius’ bruises, “how was the game?”
“Oh, definitely exciting. It was down to the wire, and Gryffindor was down by one hundred and forty points when James caught the snitch. And he did this great feint, totally confused Wilkes, you should have seen it, right before he nabbed the thing, and then the beaters started whacking the bludgers at him, but he kept dodging them—“
“I lost you at ‘snitch’, Sirius.”
“Well, that’s pathetic. Hey, have you talked to James at all this past week?”
Lily faltered and lifted her head. “No. Is he okay?”
“Well, he’s basically been going around like a manly man, acting all solemn and pretending he doesn’t have feelings. Which for James means he’s swimming blindly in the depths of despair, falling down a slippery path of dejection, consumed by the mis—“
“Shut up, Sirius. I get it, he’s upset.”
“Rightfully so.” Sirius interrupted, “He’s been doing nothing—all right, close to nothing—wrong, and then he gets yelled at and cried over for being trusted and heroic? You can’t do that to a guy, we don’t have the emotional capacity to comprehend it. Surely someone has told you that; hasn’t your mother ever told you to never confuse a man with emotions?”
“My mother,” Lily said, agitated by the uncomfortable truth Sirius spoke, “was under the impression that I thought boys had cooties when I last saw her at the train station a few months ago.”
“Is she that protective of you?” Sirius asked, incredulous.
“No, she’s just so blinded by my sister’s whorish mannerisms, along with my absence, that she still thinks of me as a prepubescent little girl who has just been informed that she’s a witch.”
“Ah, that’s what you get for going to boarding school. I’m willing to bet James knows the current you better than your own mother.”
“I’m scared to think that might be accurate,” Lily pondered aloud.
“And yet,” Sirius mused, “you won’t trust him or let him protect you. How absolutely tragic, don’t you think?” His disdain was unmistakable.
Lily glowered at Sirius for pulling such a mean trick to make her feel more guilty than she already was. “All right,” she said hastily, her remorse evident, “you’re done. You can go now.” Sirius smirked with satisfaction, thanked her, and stood up to leave.
Lily left the Hospital Wing late that evening liking herself a lot less than when she had arrived. Sirius, she decided, was a cruelly honest man, and she ascribed her current self-loathing to him. She climbed the staircases wearily , and was so consumed in thought that she did not notice that the staircase had led her to the wrong side of the sixth floor to get up to the seventh. Lily huffed and began the long walk around the sixth floor corridor to get to the right staircase.
The floor was forsaken, for everyone was in their respective house, and Lily’s footsteps echoed through the hall. But they were soon accompanied by the echoes of another set of footsteps, faster and out of sync with her own.
“Evans,” a slimy voice called from behind her, “you mudblood scum.”
Lily whirled around and saw Severus Snape swooping menacingly towards her, wand raised. She pulled out her own, but was disarmed the second she showed it. Lily scrambled to retrieve her wand, but was thrown back hard against the wall without a word from Severus, just a simple swish. He put his wand point beneath her chin, and growled through his short and pointy teeth.
“You ratted out Rosier,” he snarled. Lily felt pathetic and small without her wand, and she merely gulped. “You landed him on trial, meddling fool. How dare you? There are consequences—“ Snape prodded his wand harder, “—for tattling, rest assured. You won’t attempt to throw my friends in jail again, I’ll make sure of that. Lucky for Rosier he has a strong argument in his defense, and a good alibi—“
“A fake one,” Lily retorted, making Snape jab her again with his wand.
“Yes, but convincing nonetheless. He’ll be getting out. As for you, Evans, on the other hand…” he sneered, drawing his pallid greasy face closer to hers. Lily reached up her hand to punch him, slap him; she wasn’t sure what she was going to do, but it was halted by Snape’s hand, gripping tight to her wrist and pinning it to the wall. She lifted her other arm and swiped at Snape’s wand hand, which he grabbed and twisted cruelly, making Lily give out an involuntary cry of pain. He came still closer to her face and whispered maliciously in her ear, “As for you, you definitely won’t be getting off scotch-free.”
Realizing where this was going, Lily began to scream and thrash about, trying desperately to kick him and get him away. But her attempts were enfeebled by his body crushing her against the wall, trapping her. His face obscured her view, and she turned her head to deflect his advances. Lily’s own voice crying for Snape to get off blocked out all other noise, and in all her distress it seemed clear that no one was going to save her.
So it was a surprise to her when Severus was suddenly knocked off her and on the floor, being pummeled by a ferocious James Potter.
Lily stood still against the wall, dumbstruck and crying, while James, red-faced and roaring with fury, pounded Snape mercilessly. “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!” James cried, Severus now submitting, “WHAT THE FUCKING HELL? YOU DEPRAVED GIT! “ Snape was motionless, and James got up off him, still fuming. “You better hope I don’t catch you trying to do that to her again, or there’ll be hell to pay!” Snape stared up at him, terrified and unmoving, before getting up painfully and storming off towards the stairs to the dungeons.
James turned to Lily, his face now kind and worried. “Oh god, Lily,” James said as Lily sobbed. He stepped towards her hesitantly, not wanting to upset her further, but she slid her arms under his and held her fisted hands on his back, hugging him to her. Still uneasy, James wrapped his arms around Lily, and she muffled her crying into his shirt. All apprehension vanished then, and they stood like that for what seemed a very long time.
Sometime later, they made their way up to Gryffindor tower. It was half past nine, and the other three Marauders, as well as several other students, were inhabiting the common room, most working furiously on essays and homework, too occupied to notice or care about James and Lily’s entrance. But of course, there were people who were simply relaxing on the couches; Sirius, Remus, and Peter, to be exact, who noticed full well the solemnity of their appearance. The way Lily turned to James, smiled feebly, and managed a small “Thank you,” before walking briskly up the dormitory stairs. And the concern in James’ expression as he watched her go. There was a level of comfort between them now that nobody had seen; and nobody could explain it, either.
James sat down in one of the old armchairs by the fire and sighed. His friends stared at him for a moment, before Sirius interjected, “What in bloody hell was that about?”
“I rescued her,” James said, weary.
“Again, Prongs? It really is your thing, isn’t it?” Sirius joked.
“What from?” Remus inquired, interested more in the event than James’ relationship.
“Snivellus. The bastard was trying to take advantage of Lily. I was out on patrol and I faintly heard someone screaming, so I went down there and saw Lily trying to fight off Snape, and he had her up against the wall, pinioning her arms. Disturbing as hell.”
The other three stared incredulously at the story they were being told. “Duffed him up, did you?” Sirius asked, the one-sided fight already playing in his head.
“Pummeled the bastard. He ran away,” James admitted, trying not to sound boastful or proud.
“And then what’d Lily do?” Sirius queried.
“She was in tears, really upset, and…she sort of just hugged me, for a really long time,” James recalled, still trying to comprehend everything that had happened. His eyes had gone unfocused as he remembered what it felt like to have her cling to him so terrified, and how she relaxed in his arms, as if she felt completely safe there.
“So all this talk about not trusting you down the loo?” Sirius asked jokingly.
“Hope so,” James replied, a small smile crossing his face.
“I think Lily likes you, James,” Peter divulged in a sing-song voice, giggling. The other three gave him an impatient look, and he bowed his head slightly in embarrassment.
“Peter,” Sirius taunted, “You are a five year old girl trapped in a dumpy seventeen year old boy’s body, have you realized?”
“Piss off,” Peter mumbled, and got up from the couch, making his way to the dormitory stairs.
“Can someone really be any duller?” Sirius asked once he’d left, “Truthfully, is it possible?”
“Ah, no, there is but one exception,” Remus teased, “and he goes by Sirius Black.”
Sirius then pounced viciously on Remus and they began to fight playfully, though dangerously close to the open fireplace.
“Oy, Padfoot, watch it,” James warned as he observed, but Sirius either didn’t hear him or didn’t care, because his hair was then set alight. “Mate! Your hair’s on fire!” James yelled, fumbling for his wand and extinguishing the fire, but by then a large amount of the long hair on the back of Sirius’ head had been burned off, leaving a hilariously uneven hairstyle, which Sirius, touching the back of his head, was now painfully aware of.
“My hair!” Sirius cried, “It’s completely bollocked up!”
Remus retorted, between fits of laughter, “Who’s acting like a little girl now, Padfoot?”
A/N They hugged. That was so fun to write. And it took like 3 days. I'd love to hear what you thought!
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by Jane Webster