Chapter 24 : Fear and Loathing
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Fear and Loathing
Monday morning after break, Sirius arrived at breakfast with a violent hangover from an ill-advised binge drinking episode the night before. Lily and the other marauders watched in great amusement as he trudged over to them, his hair flat on one side and his face looking like death. His shoelaces were flapping about, whipping under his soles, and his Gryffindor tie hung dejectedly around his neck like a scarf.
Though they enjoyed the spectacle, Sirius’ friends were also truly worried about his self-destructive tendencies. Usually the boy had the sense to abstain on a school night, but the sight of Corinne sticking her tongue down the throat of Ravenclaw’s superstar keeper Max McLarne was enough to set him off.
Sirius, comical drunk that he was, spent the better part of the night reciting botched up Shakespearean monologues, taking James’ head in his hand in place of a skull for Hamlet. He then insisted that James and Lily act out the balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet, and when they refused, he jumped up onto the couch in an angry rage and performed it himself.
However, in transferring from the role of Juliet to Romeo at one point, he took a wrong step and tipped the couch over, landing flat on his back. He refused to attempt to sit up straight, so they let him lie on the ground for awhile until he fell asleep and had to be levitated up to bed.
“Morning, Padfoot!” James greeted cheerfully, slapping Sirius on the back as he sat down. Sirius cringed and clutched at where he’d been hit, before turning to James and staring daggers at him.
“I thought today was Sunday,” Sirius mumbled.
“I honestly doubt the notion of a school night would have stopped you,” Remus quipped.
While they all laughed and continued to make light of Sirius’ drinking habits, Lily looked up to see Snape walking to the Slytherin table, his eyes fixed on her from behind his greasy hair. She shivered involuntarily, thinking back to his shadow in the tower while she was at the lake on Saturday night. As much as she dreaded being near him, she wanted badly to understand his recent cryptic behaviors.
Snape shot her similar, shadowy looks throughout the day, which she began to find extremely disconcerting. During Transfiguration, where Lily sat between James and Sirius, the boys offered up their expert theories on why “Snivellus, Lord of the Dingy Dungeons,” as they had taken to calling him lately, kept glaring daggers in Lily’s direction.
“He’s trying out Legillimency on you to see if you have any dirty thoughts he can get off on.”
“He’s putting a curse on you to transfer the greasiness from his hair onto yours.”
“Hate to break it to you, Lily, but he’s most certainly mentally undressing me.”
“Well he just twitched a bit there; perhaps he wants to meet you in the nearest broom closet after class.”
“I know,” Sirius proclaimed, “He had a tryst with another lagoon creature last night, but y’know, things got a bit weird, and he has no one to confide in, and you remind him of her, er, it, so he’s thinking you’ll be able to relate, but he hasn’t quite worked up the courage to talk to you about it because it’s a sensitive subject.”
“What the—“ James stumbled.
“Do you mean to say I look like a lagoon creature?” Lily questioned, raising her voice to a dangerous level for such a quiet classroom.
“Miss Evans,” McGonagall announced harshly, “I believe if you spent more time on your wandwork and less time discussing beastly resemblances for the class to hear, you might have made an inch of progress.”
The day dragged on slowly and more or less uneventfully, until the end of last period Potions. After turning in her vial of Freezing Solution and packing up her book bag, Lily made her way out of the classroom and stood waiting for James. Something yanked her sideways and before she could think straight she was being led hurriedly through the curving dungeon corridors by a frantic Snape.
"Severus, what are you doing?" Lily asked half-rhetorically, hoping for but not expecting an answer. As she predicted, he didn't say a word, but dragged her into an empty dungeon and slammed the door behind him.
"What are y—" Lily tried again.
"Shut up," Snape demanded, causing Lily to tense up and move closer to the door. "Look, don't ask why, but I need you to promise me you will stay out of the seventh floor corridor after dinner tonight." Snape's eyes were pleading.
"Why should I?"
"Didn't I just say don't ask questions? Go to the library or something, I don't care, but stay away from the top floor. Please," Snape begged earnestly, approaching Lily.
Lily scooted sideways and grabbed the door handle. She frowned at him, uncertain. "Er, why are you telling me this?"
Snape expelled a deep breath and looked to the ceiling. "I—I don't want you to get hurt."
"You dont want me to get hurt? Can I ask, then, what exactly you were doing when you assaulted me a few months ago? Trying to protect me, were you?" Lily cried in outrage.
Snape frowned. "This has nothing to do with that. Just promise to stay away and don't say anything to anyone."
Snape narrowed his eyes at Lily once more, snarling. "I assume your boyfriend is looking for you."
"You probably assume right."
"Then leave," Snape demanded, continuing on cryptically. "And be in the library after dinner."
Lily pulled the door handle and began to walk quickly away, but Snape took hold of her wrist and looked her honestly in the eye.
"I'm not part of it, I swear. None of this is my fault, Lily."
James wasn't waiting for her when Lily found her way back to the Potions classroom, but Remus' familiar form was just retreating up the stairs.
" 'lo, Lily," Remus greeted cheerily. "James and Sirius had to get to quidditch practice so the Ravenclaws wouldn't steal the pitch. Glad you're all right though; Prongs couldn't figure out where you'd gone off to. ...wait, you all right?" Remus asked, noticing Lily's somewhat shaken expression.
"Yeah, thanks, long story." They had reached the ground floor, and Lily hurriedly said goodbye to Remus and ran out through the courtyards to the quidditch pitch.
James was easily swooping through an obstacle course of floating poles while Sirius and the rest of the team practiced offense and defense. He smiled as he saw her and dove down to the ground, kissing her on the cheek upon landing.
"To what do I owe the pleasure of your company, love?" he asked mawkishly.
"Something weird just happened," Lily explained vaguely.
"OY PRONGS! BACK ON YOUR BLOODY BROOM, YOU CAN SNOG HER LATER!" Sirius cried from above.
"FUCK OFF, IT'S IMPORTANT!" James retorted. "So," he said softly, turning to Lily, "what’s wrong?"
Lily recounted her conversation with Snape, watching as James’ expression changed from outrage to confusion to concern.
“Well, I guess you should stay in the library, then,” James mused.
“But what if the whole plan is to get me to the library in the first place?”
“Then it would be a truly crap plan, honestly. And as much as it pains me to say it, I think you should listen to Snape.”
“That’s the last thing I want to do. For all we know he could be plotting my own murder to take place in the restricted section this evening!”
“But on the other hand, he could be trying to save you the embarrassment of getting a 200 pound vat of deepwater lake mud emptied onto your head a second time,” James added lightheartedly.
“I never doubted it was you behind that one for a second,” Lily said, referring to a particularly mortifying incident in fourth year which required her to go to the hospital wing after a large rock hidden in the tub of mud knocked her unconscious.
“It was the only way I knew how to show my feelings for you,” James rationalized jokingly. “Although I swear, the rock was all Sirius’ work.”
Lily smiled, but her apprehension was still evident.
"Look,” James reasoned, “my mates and I’ll be up on the seventh floor after dinner anyway. We can stand watch if something bad happens. But you stay in the library and do whatever it is you geniuses do all day long.”
“No! I am not going to blindly follow orders from Snape!” Lily snapped.
“I think it’s the safest choice in this situation,” James replied calmly. “The last thing I want is for you to get hurt.”
“What is with everyone not wanting me to get hurt? What am I, a bloody flower?”
James smirked. “Well, technically, your name…”
“Oh, sod off.”
“POTTER GET BACK UP HERE THIS INSTANT OR SO HELP ME I WILL HAVE YOU REPLACED BY A HIPPOGRIFF!” Sirius roared from overhead.
“HIPPOGRIFFS CAN’T PLAY QUIDDTICH!” James retorted.
“WELL AT LEAST THEY’RE NOT OBSESSED WITH THEIR GIRLFRIENDS!”
“HIPPOGRIFFS DON’T HAVE GIRLFRIENDS!”
“HOW WOULD YOU KN…PRONGS, DO YOU WANT ME TO HURT YOU?” Sirius threatened. “GET YOUR PALE ARSE ON YOUR BROOM WHERE IT BELONGS!”
James shrugged halfheartedly at Lily, mounted his broom, and shot back up into the sky.
Dinner was nerve-racking. Lily and the boys, often stragglers, arrived perfectly on time and stared down the Slytherin tables with frightening intensity, searching carefully for those who were not present.
At most meals, the marauders were the loudest and most disruptive of the school; reaching across tables to high-five each other, creating toast pyramids held together with butter knives, and on occasion, in Sirius’ case, bursting into song and interpretive dance. But at this dinner, all five sat on one bench facing the Slytherins, barely speaking and casting furtive looks around the room.
“Dumbledore’s gone,” Peter observed, whispering across the row.
“Naturally,” Remus reasoned. “What kind of dolt would pull a potentially devastating prank within a few meters of the headmaster’s office?”
“I don’t think it’s a prank,” Lily contributed. Snape was gone. As were the rest of the seventh year Slytherin boys, and a few sixth and fifth years as well.
“That’s why you’re staying in the library, love,” James reminded her. After some extensive persuasion, Lily had accepted James’ request. Which was not to say, however, that she would adhere to it. She only told him she changed her mind and now agreed with James to get him off her back.
“I can’t eat,” Sirius informed his friends, “I’m too keyed up. What are we waiting for anyways?” Sirius swung his legs over the bench and started out the door, soon followed by the rest of the group. They scaled the first three flights of stairs with impressive speed, stopping on the fourth floor to leave Lily at the library.
“Promise me you’ll stay here,” James appealed, wrapping Lily in a hug. She nodded in reply, kissed him on the cheek, and disappeared into the dark confines of thousands of books.
Lily smiled genially at Madame Pince while pretending to peruse the pages of Magical Hieroglyphs and Logograms, and then passed through an aisle for Domestic Charms and Wand Work. After idly flipping through Enchantment In Baking for a few more minutes, Lily headed off for the seventh floor, keeping a watchful eye all the way.
As she climbed the last flight of stairs, she heard a distant rumble from below her. Looking down over the banister, she saw a knot of nearly one hundred students ascending the steps to their common rooms, laughing and talking loudly, pleasantly full from their meal. Not seeing anyone in the corridor, she looked out the window to the grounds, and a rush of fear crept through her body.
It had been a clear day, but now that night had taken over, so did the clouds. But in the sliver of moonlight not yet obscured, Lily saw ten or so shadows floating in towards the castle, by the Astronomy Tower. As they drew closer she could distinguish they were on broomsticks, and the hoods of their cloaks being pushed back by—
“Lily!” a harsh whisper called out. She spun around, but the corridor was still empty. “Lily, you bloody dolt,” the voice whispered again. Suddenly a hand reached out from an adjacent broom closet and grabbed the hem of her skirt, catching her by surprise and causing her to topple over into the arms of the anonymous voice.
The door was promptly closed and Lily found herself perched awkwardly in the lap of a guilty-looking Sirius Black. “What in the name of Merlin’s trousers are you doing?” Lily demanded, scooting off of him.
Sirius shushed her and raised an eyebrow. “Well you should talk, Miss Evans. I don’t know what kind of shit-hole libraries you have at home, but in most developed parts of the world a four-foot space with a few broomsticks, cobwebs, and an ancient pair of forgotten knickers does not constitute such an establishment.”
“Shut up? I don’t know if I feel obliged to take orders from someone as disobedient as—“ Sirius goaded.
“Do you really think James could have expected me to sit in the company of Madame Pince for hours while you lot watched all the action?” Lily reasoned.
“Cor, Lily, I’d have you inducted as a junior marauder if we hadn’t already given the honor to our…er, very favorite body parts.”
“I’m going to pretend you’re talking about your brains,” Lily cringed.
The din from the students was growing louder, and Lily estimated they were barely a few floors away. She peered through a crack in the door to see if anyone had arrived yet.
“I saw people on brooms,” Lily informed Sirius, lowering her voice.
“People, eh? Wish I had an inkling of who they could be…”Sirius teased.
“Truthfully, though, what exactly do you lot plan to do?”
“Watch,” Sirius replied. “The other three are hidden in separate closets. And if it starts to get hairy, I guess we’d have to jump in then, wouldn’t we?”
Lily nodded, watching Sirius squint into the light. Footsteps were pounding up the stairs right near them.
“Well, I imagine if you risked James’ good graces to come up here, you wouldn’t mind getting a bit of action yourself,” Sirius said, eye still pressed to the small hole in the door.
“I wouldn’t mind, no.”
“And you’ll tell Prongs I told you it wasn’t safe and that you should go back to the library?”
“Good,” Sirius asserted. Lily heard a deep voice sound, followed by several terrified cries. “Because there’s no turning back now.”
Sirius threw open the door with his wand raised, firing curses before Lily could even orient herself. She saw the first year girl with her robes on fire, then the masked, hooded figures, drowning in their borrowed Death Eater cloaks. The Ravenclaws and Gryffindors were surrounded by the Death Eater wannabes, and the edges of both mobs were already locked in fierce combat. It was after she took in all of this that she noticed James dueling his life away with the nearest Slytherin boy.
James's glance dropped off his partner for barely a second, but long enough for Lily's hair to fall under his gaze. His face contorted into something confused and hurt, even angry. He turned back to his fight not even two seconds later, but the short pause was enough for his opponent to send him flying into the wall.
Students were screaming, blindly throwing any hex they could think of towards the hoods, often missing and causing one of their own housemates to erupt in multicolored boils or something equally unpleasant. Everything was chaos. Some were fighting friends and foes alike, while others tried to make a run for it, grabbing their friends' hands and diving beneath the flying spells. Somehow, though, they always ended up wandless, scared, and shaking in the middle of the circle a moment later.
Another student's robes caught fire and Lily shot an Aguamenti Charm at the poor thing, which reduced the flames to sizzling smoke. She whipped around to undo a curse on the distressed Ravenclaw boy falling over his feet towards her, foaming at the mouth with a black froth that appeared to be growing rapidly and choking him just as quickly. Out of the corner of her eye she saw one of the hooded figures turn towards her with his wand raised, and she just barely had time to utter the Stunning Spell before she had to dive out of the way of whichever hex he had hurled at her.
The Marauders were simultaneously trying to work the attackers into a corner and mark out a path for the kids to safely escape through, and were doing a surprisingly good job from what Lily could gather between bouts. But as the cloaked figures became more desperate, so the curses grew more destructive. A student suddenly collapsed, writhing in pain under the Cruciatus Curse, while a coarse "Reducto!" toppled a column that, with the help of Lily's expert maneuvering charms, missed three girls by mere inches.
An outbreak of nosebleeds overtook a group of the scurrying crowd like a tidal wave, and as Lily yelled for someone to fix them, she was Cruciated for the second time in her life, sending her mind into a sea of white-hot cutting pain that consumed her completely. But the feeling of knives twisting into her spine quickly stopped, enabling her to see James launch the attacker forcefully into a particularly pointed and ugly-looking marble statue.
When Lily could stand up again, the area was so densely filled with colored bolts of light that it became only a matter of luck which curses hit and which missed. The brave students that joined the struggle only made things worse by shooting spells carelessly through the battleground, obscuring the already blurred line of vision. Everything was wild, and Lily began to wonder where the walls were and where the floor inevitably dropped off into stairs. Clouds of smoke from the spells had somehow worked their way into the air, and people came in and out of focus as they moved through the fog.
The Marauders, however, still miraculously, unexplainably, amazingly managed to cast their spells with deadly aim while still avoiding opposing ones. The hoods were now being forced into retreat back up the flight of stairs to the top of the North Tower, slicing their wands every which way and desperately shouting a wide variety of gruesome curses.
A scream of agony pierced the air behind Lily, but neither she nor any of the other fighters had the leisure to turn around and find the source. The attackers were almost defeated, and it was only a few more steps before they were trapped. Their brooms, Lily noticed, were not waiting in sight, and it would only take a few well-directed Stunning Spells to hold the group down until teachers arrived.
"Where're you going now, eh?" James taunted, brandishing his wand at the hoods who were being herded like sheep back against the tower side. One even made a small bleating noise from behind his mask. Peter snickered and held his wand at the ready with a spell in his mind, but in a single instant, the assailants grabbed at the air and mounted invisible brooms, then flew off like a disorderly flock of geese.
Lily stood paralyzed on the spot. The stillness outside scared her; the sky was too calm, the wind was too light, and the entire castle seemed enveloped in silence. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the slightest movement from the Astronomy tower. Lily squinted up at it, discerning the shadow for only a moment before it disappeared into the darkness. She had a reasonable idea of who it could be.
James grabbed her hand, whisking her away from the tower side. “Something’s wrong downstairs, Lily, quick,” he instructed.
Back in the wrecked corridor, there was no stillness. A small crowd had gathered in a circle, and the teachers who had now arrived were shooing distressed students away. Lily pushed her way through the crowd, still holding James’ hand, and almost fainted at the sight.
Corinne’s white shirt was stained scarlet, ripped at the chest as if a sword had slashed through it. Sirius was stooped over her, babbling incomprehensibly and holding her bloodied face in his hands. His robes were dirtied by the expanding red pool beneath her and—
Lily couldn’t breathe. She grabbed at her chest, eyes bulging, emitting pained gasps for air. James quickly took hold of her and sat her down at the top of the seventh floor staircase.
“Lily, you’re okay. Breathe,” James soothed, rubbing her back with one arm and holding her hand with the other. She nodded, tears streaming, her chest still heaving rapidly. “Deep breaths, like this,” he demonstrated. Lily managed only one before bursting out crying, unable to control the panic coming over her. She trembled violently, and James pulled her closer to him, feeling her face burning and sticky against his cheek.
Lily’s fingernails were digging grooves in the back of his hand, and James bit his lip to avoid wincing. It wouldn’t surprise him in the least if she drew blood. Her grip tightened as her cries grew more desperate and suffocating, and though this scared James stiff, he managed to keep up a façade of control and safety to comfort her, massaging her neck with his free hand and muttering nonsense in calming tones. Assuaging Lily’s anxiety attack was the perfect distraction from James’ own shock that a real, irreversible death had occurred at Hogwarts.
After a time, the shaking, gripping, and panting subsided, and Lily slackened against James with wet, flushed cheeks and eyes glazed over with terror. “You’re all right now,” James calmed, brushing her unkempt hair away from her face. She sniffed, nodding and drying her cheeks with the sleeve of her sweater. She risked a glance back towards the scene, where McGonagall was resting her hand on Sirius’ shoulder, trying to persuade him to leave Corinne’s side so they could clean up and take Corinne back to her family. Remus and Peter joined in, nodding their heads sympathetically in agreement with the Deputy Headmistress.
Finally, the boys managed to bring Sirius to his feet, stained with her blood from his face to his shoes. He looked desolate and alone as any wounded soldier retreating from the battlefield, his eyes staring unfocusedly ahead and his face blank as the night fog. Not even the cleverest Legillimens could possibly comprehend the hollowness of Sirius’ heart.
The next morning, the Great Hall was decked in sweeping black fabric, and the sky overhead was a melancholy white-grey. Lily took her usual seat beside the boys, who all appeared to have slept very little, and watched as Dumbledore rose solemnly from his chair, situating himself in the way he often did while giving a speech. His eyes swept knowingly over the hall, hands placed regally on the edge of the table, and he drew in one ample breath of air, raising his shoulders, before beginning to speak.
Dumbledore’s words about Corinne’s most unfortunate death were probably eloquent and heartrending. He probably talked about her endearing qualities, and the importance of friendship and kindness. Subtly, he would apologize for his absence the night before, and would hint at resisting the Dark Side’s allure. Surely it would be the kind of speech that could move Lily to tears, and possibly Sirius as well. But their minds were so shaken by grief and the irrevocable truth of what had happened, not one of them heard a word.
Though not all could attest to such levels of anguish, the school as a whole was greatly sympathetic. Over the next few days, the homework load was tapered down to the bare minimum for graduation requirements. Flitwick even offered to exempt Lily and the marauders from their narcotics charm analysis paper. The Slytherins’ isolation, though always present, reached new levels when the rest of the school decided to spurn them completely.
Talk of Death Eater alliances and why Severus Snape remained at Hogwarts filled the halls, all only augmented by the Daily Prophet’s over-eager portrayal of the tragedy as the scandal to prove Hogwarts was no longer a safe place for students. In the face of all this animosity, Snape retreated into shadows, transmuting into a darker, more angst-ridden version of himself. Lily desperately wanted to talk to him, but found his lurking, sneaking behaviors difficult to track.
As far as James could see, Sirius didn’t cry once the first week. He’d barely said a word, either. Oftentimes James would return to their dormitory to find the bathroom door locked, or Sirius’ bed hangings pulled taut around him. When his friend did emerge from his hiding places, he stared fixedly at nothing and trudged about, completely disheveled. Talk about the incident, and especially expressions of sympathy, caused Sirius to clench his jaw, adamantly resisting any public signs of emotion. James tried on numerous occasions to get Sirius to talk through his grief, but it seemed that his dear friend had turned into a somber brick wall.
Lily was early to Potions after lunch on Thursday. She sat down on a stone perch and began writing reminders for what little homework she had in her notebook. She had assumed she was the only student already at the dungeons, but out of the corner of her eye she spotted Snape lurking between two columns. Recognizing the opportunity, Lily left her book bag and made a beeline towards the hunched figure, but he began to quickly walk away, only detained when Lily stepped on the train of his oversized cloak and sent him reeling backwards.
“What?” Severus spat, pulling his robes out from under her foot and edging forward.
"You know full well ‘what’,” Lily seethed, eyes narrowed.
“Lily, I told you, I wasn’t part of it. I didn’t know they were planning on—“
“Bollocks,” Lily retorted. “I saw you, up at the Astronomy Tower. You conjured their brooms there and made them invisible.”
“I did n—“
“Don’t lie to me, Severus! You’re the only Slytherin at this school who could execute that escape! You stayed out of the action to keep a good reputation, so you could graduate and help You-Know-Who infiltrate the Ministry. You’re clever, knowing you couldn’t win his trust by some silly attack. He’ll just love to have you, won’t he? Cherish you as his own son?”
“That’s not true, I—I want to teach!” Snape defended firmly.
“Oh, brilliant, to turn the wizarding youth into some kind of sick army? You disgust me,” Lily snapped, her voice slowly rising to a roar.
“I said I wasn’t part of it! Look, I’m sorry your friend is dead, but it wasn’t my fault! You could have told her yourself not to go up there, I warned you! That was your own mistake!”
“My mistake?” Lily fumed, tears welling in her eyes. “Do you know how she died, Severus? Blood loss. And as much as you deny it, you and I both know the spell. Your foolish little Sectumsempra curse killed an innocent girl, and it’s your fault completely for teaching your idiot friends something so dangerous! Merlin, Severus, think about it! You were the one who murdered Corinne!” Lily slammed her fists against Snape’s chest, raging.
“Lily, I—“ Snape stammered, eyes begging.
“You what? Spit it out,” she barked.
“I love you.”
Lily took a step back, flummoxed, and then shaking her head in disapproval, she turned and rushed away.
It was the first time Lily had ever deliberately skipped a class in all her seven years at Hogwarts. She would have been late to Potions, anyway, the bell had sounded during her run-in with Snape. But right now, there was just no way she was going to spend the next hour in that hellhole of a dungeon within 20 feet of the boy she currently loathed more than anyone in the world.
Lily grabbed her book bag and took the long trek back to the common room, muttering about Severus and his absolutely appalling declaration of love. She was still fuming when she crawled through the portrait hole, and was about to let out a long-simmering scream before she spotted Sirius lounging on the couch.
“Lily Evans,” he said impassively, “cutting Potions. It’s truly the end of the world, then, isn’t it?”
“I seem to recall you’re in the class as well, Sirius. What’s your excuse?”
"Nobody expects anything of me because my ex-girlfriend is dead. And I’m taking advantage of that,” he explained matter-of-factly. “But you, Head Girl, Miss Perfect Attendance even when your own parents snuffed it, skipping Sluggy’s class? What’s the story, then?”
“I had a talk with Snape,” Lily informed him, recounting everything but the last part, “…and I just didn’t want to go to class.”
“Fair enough. Welcome to the world of underachieving, emotionally exhausted students,” Sirius greeted.
“And what is it that they do, exactly?”
“Throw bits of old parchment into the fire and watch them burn until Transfiguration starts,” he explained, tearing a graded Charms essay in half and handing Lily the parchment with a bow of his head.
Professor McGonagall was in the middle of assigning an in-class proof of the colligative properties affecting amphibian-cosmetic transfiguration when a small, flaxen third year boy entered the classroom, a small slip of paper in hand. He gave the note to McGonagall and sped off back up the isle, seemingly intimidated by the seventh years around him. McGonagall held the paper away from her face, adjusting her glasses, and then looked up at the class, one eyebrow raised.
“Misters Black, Lupin, Pettigrew, and Potter—and Miss Evans—please report to the headmaster’s office right away.” James uttered a barely-audible “yes!” as the five of them packed up their book bags and left the classroom, while the remaining students watched them go, intrigued and jealous.
Lily had never been in Dumbledore’s office with so many people before, and she found she did not like it. Instead of the usual one or two chairs facing Dumbledore’s desk, the headmaster managed to fit five full-sized seats opposite him, as if he were directing a panel of judges. His eyes twinkled mischievously as they sat down, and he laced his long, bony fingers together before beginning to speak.
"I understand," Dumbledore began in a solemn tone, "that the past few days have been very difficult for you all, but I have heard that you are handling it surprisingly well. Although it's quite uncharacteristic of you, Miss Evans, to miss Potions like you did today... I do believe this is the first time you've ever been absent from class. I wouldn't make it a habit, Head Girl that you are…" Dumbledore chuckled softly, scratching his crooked nose, but soon reverted to his somber address.
"Corinne was a wonderful girl, and it is a great tragedy to have her taken from us so early in her life, and by the cruelest means. But I would also like to commend you all for your brave and selfless behavior while protecting the students and fighting off the unfortunate young men who have decided to join Voldemort's ranks.” He sighed, rearranged his glasses, and then looked each of them in the eyes quite unlike a teacher to a student, but more of the gaze of an equal. "I have been contemplating this for awhile now, and I believe that the time has come to formally invite you five into the Order of the Phoenix."
A/N: Woohoo, I killed Corinne! I don't think anyone ever really liked her, so I hope no one is too broken up about it... As usual because of all my procrastination and generally forgetting about the story entirely (I do have a life, if you can believe it), in addition to massive writers block regarding the attack scene, this chapter is loong overdue, and I thought I might be able to make it up a little bit by giving you guys a ridiculously long chapter to tide you over until my next update :)
A HUGE, HUGE THANK YOU to Ellarose C, who beta'ed the heck out of the attack scene and the last 2 paragraphs, taking what was essentially garbage and turning it into passages that actually make sense! I am forever in debt to you, you're amazing.
I'd love to hear what you all thought of this chapter...Especially because I get notifications when you review, which remind me that I need to keep working on the story... But in all honesty, your comments, criticisms, favorite quotes and even angry rants about my update speed are gold to me. Thanks :)
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