The first prefect meeting of the year took place a week later than usual; it had been postponed because of the events on September the first.
The last person Lily expected to see, however, was James. He had arrived ten minutes early in the prefects’ common room, which was located on the fifth floor along with their special bathroom. It was a cosy room, with the warmness of the Gryffindor common room yet with all four houses’ hangings draping from the windows. There were sofas and chairs and pouffes, with small tables scattered here and there; squashy, chintz chairs surrounded one round table made of light brown wood in the middle of the room. It was a pleasant place to have a meeting; then again, the prefects were privileged in a lot of aspects of their lives, not just their common room.
“What’re you doing here?” asked Lily with a frown as she sat in the seat directly opposite to James across the round table. “How did you know the password? You're not a prefect.”
Hello to you too, James felt like saying to her. But he didn't, because as Head Boy, he knew he needed to exercise self-control.
“Erm…actually, Evans, I didn’t get a chance to tell you…”
“Tell me what?” Her tone was suspicious, yet wary, as if her worst fears had come true. As James stalled, wondering how best to broach the subject, Lily stamped her foot impatiently. “Tell me what?” she repeated.
“Dumbledore — Dumbledore chose me to be Head Boy.” James watched carefully for her reaction.
Lily only hesitated for a second; then she muttered, reluctantly, “Congratulations. You told your parents yet?”
James nodded. “I owled them just now, actually. But, hey, look on the bright side, Evans. You won’t have to patrol alone now. You'll have a bit of company.” He attempted a smile, and she managed a grudging half-smile back.
“I didn't expect you to get it,” she muttered, as Remus came in with Pramjeet Patel and Jacob Goldstein. “I thought Remus would be Head Boy.”
“Me as well,” James agreed.
“Of course not, Lily,” Remus said as he sat down next to James. “There was no way I’d get it. James was the one.”
“But Potter is so…”
“Mischievous? Naughty?” James suggested.
“Badly behaved?” Remus added.
Lily grinned at Remus. “All of those things, actually — and more. I just thought Dumbledore would elect someone a bit more…responsible than Potter.”
“You can’t get more responsible than Potter,” Remus reassured her, maintaining a straight face. Lily rolled her eyes in disbelief.
During the next few minutes, the room filled up, and by ten past eight, every seat was occupied except the ones on the right of Lily and the left of James.
“Is…is that everyone, then?” Lily asked the table at large, who quietened down.
The prefects looked around, checking to see who was missing, when finally, George Wilkes and Regulus Black came in. Not bothering to apologise for their lateness, Wilkes — after surveying the table for empty seats and seeing there were just two — reluctantly took the seat next to James, but Black remained standing.
“Is there a problem?” asked Lily. She pointed at the chair next to hers. “Take a seat, please. We don’t have all day, you know, Regulus.”
He wrinkled his nose at the sound of his own name being uttered by Lily. “I'm not sitting next to that Mudblood. These robes just came out of the wash. I don’t want them being dirtied by sitting beside you.”
James stood up at once, kicking back his chair in indignation. That son of a bitch! Who did he think he was, talking about Evans like she wasn’t even in the room?
He was about to cuss Regulus back when he saw the expression on Lily’s face, which was wordlessly, angrily, telling him not to say anything. There was silence in the room for a few seconds longer as James bit his tongue for so long he was sure he’d be spitting blood, until, at last, he made his way around the table and took the seat next to Lily, being careful to barge Regulus’ shoulder as hard as he could on the way. It took all of James’ self-restraint to stop himself from hexing Regulus.
“Sit there, then.”
Finally, the meeting began, after Regulus took his seat. Lily explained all the prefect duties and James assigned each role to each pair of prefects in fifth, sixth and seventh year in the four houses. It was relatively simple, yet James became bored pretty quickly, so he was relieved when Lily asked if there were any questions, because it meant they'd be going soon.
“I have a question.” The query came from Katie Montague, one of the seventh-year Slytherin prefects, but she directed it at the table generally rather than at James or Lily. James groaned inwardly. Whatever question she had was bound to have the words “Mublood” and “blood traitor” in it, James was sure. “I can barely stand the smell of this blood traitor, so how the hell d’you expect me to take orders from this Mudblood bitch?”
Once again, James stood up. But this time, he didn't look at Lily. “Why don’t you come and say that to her face?”
“Potter—” said Lily, tugging at his sleeve and succeeding in pulling him back down into his seat. The Slytherins laughed cruelly and the Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws and Gryffindors all watched, bewildered, as James shook her off.
“You’ve got the worst taste, Potter,” Wilkes sneered. “But you know, Evans, he’s just looking for a quick shag and then he’ll drop you just like that. Don’t get hopeful. It’s the most you can be to a pureblood, even if he is a filthy blood traitor.”
“It’s what she deserves, the whore,” scoffed Georgia Greengrass, a sixth-year prefect. “I think it’s brave, really, going out in public with such a heinous blood defect like that. When you cut yourself, did it shock you to see all that dirt in your blood?”
“That’s enough, Greengrass,” said Lily quietly, kicking back her own chair. She unconsciously pulled down her sleeve, even with the Concealment Charm on her skin. The snarling Slytherins and the rest of the shocked prefects looked up as she spoke. Suddenly, Lily smiled sweetly at Georgia as she said, “I think it’s brave of you to go out in public after you paid Higgs to go out with you last year. And then, when he broke up with you, he asked for more money so you would leave him alone! In public!”
“And at least Evans doesn’t need to buy my love. She gets it with pure gorgeousness,” James declared. Lily blushed, yet, for once, she didn't say anything to contradict James’ statement.
“Pure gorgeousness?” repeated Katie Montague incredulously. “Pure gorgeousness? I think your glasses need mending, Potter — you actually find that gorgeous?”
“For God’s sake, guys,” intervened Jacob Goldstein, the Ravenclaw prefect, quickly, before James could retort. “Give it a rest, will you?”
“Yeah,” added Alice Wilkes. “Listen, Greengrass, George, no one gives a shit about what you think of Lily’s blood. She’s Head Girl — you either listen to her or you resign your position. I'm sure there are plenty of others who want the job a lot more than you do.”
Lily smiled at Alice; at least she was willing to stick up for her, even if it was against Alice’s own cousin. With that, Lily announced that the meeting was over, and in twos and threes, the prefects left. Some of the Slytherins dawdled for a moment too long, eyeing Lily, James and Remus with distaste.
“You know, McCann’s replacement really isn’t much better than the man himself,” said Regulus loudly. “Blood traitor’s next to Mudblood in my book. McCann was a Mudblood, wasn’t he?”
“He was, yeah. And good riddance, too,” added Georgia Greengrass quietly.
This time, both James and Remus jumped up, but Remus got there first, drawing his wand. “Say that again,” he breathed, a furiously wolfish expression on his face as he held his wand against her throat. “Go on.”
“Ooh, did you love him, Lupin?” said Georgia, struggling under his grasp.
“Shut the fuck up,” James snarled. “Don't you dare talk about him like that.” He didn't care much that Lily was there, either.
“Watch it, Potter. That’s my friend you're talking to there. You too, Lupin — that’s a girl you're manhandling there. And if you don’t hold that blood traitor tongue of yours, Potter, I'm gonna have to do something unpleasant to you,” Katie Montague drawled. “And that slut of yours, too.”
“You're choosing to mess with me, but let me tell you, Montague, that’s going to be the worst decision you’ve ever made,” James growled through gritted teeth. He wasn’t in the mood for this, and there was no way he was going to take it lying down. No one spoke ill of the dead. Not in his book. “And if you — or any of those cronies of yours — ever threaten me again, I swear, I’ll hunt you down. The lot of you.”
“I’m scared,” said Montague in a mock-frightened voice.
“You should be,” said Lily unexpectedly from the corner. “It might seem a bit strange to you, Montague, but Potter doesn’t exactly like it when you call him a blood traitor again and again. I think it’s getting a bit old now, don't you think?”
The entire group looked at her as she spoke; the Slytherins with distaste, Remus and James in surprise.
“Now get lost,” Lily told them. “Go on, piss off. Think of a more original insult and this time, when you do eventually figure one out, say it to someone who actually gives a damn.”
Georgia looked like she wanted to carry on the dispute further; however, after a moment, it seemed that their argument had become redundant.
“C’mon, Katie, let’s leave this filth to rot,” said Wilkes, and, taking her hand, he led Katie out of the room. Regulus and Georgia followed, after casting a withering look at Remus, James and Lily.
“Thanks, Evans,” said James, the moment the Slytherins had left.
“Nothing to thank me for, Potter,” Lily replied quickly. “I had to side with one of you, didn't I? And of course I was going to side with you if the choice is between you and Montague.”
“You know something, Prongs,” said Remus later on, as the Marauders sprawled on the cosy sofas of the Gryffindor common room, a thoughtful tone in his voice, “Lily’s changed.”
“She has, hasn’t she?” James replied vaguely.
“How so?” asked Peter curiously.
“When all those Slytherins insulted Lily—”
“Wait,” interrupted Sirius, suddenly sitting up. “Has my dear brother the prefect got anything to do with this?”
Remus hesitated. There was no point trying to lie to Sirius. It never worked — he was too much of a master at it to swallow lies from anyone else. “Er…sort of.”
“Spill,” Sirius demanded. “Now. I want to know. I need to know.”
“It was nothing,” James insisted. Sirius gave his friend a scathing look and James relented, with a sense of defeat. “OK, OK, Regulus came in late with Wilkes and then he refused to sit near Lily because she’s — because she’s, you know, Muggleborn.” Sirius had a furious expression on his face and was about to interrupt again when James continued quickly, “So I got up and I—”
“Hexed him?” Peter interjected quickly. He was shocked when James shook his head. “Sorry, go on, Prongs,” Peter said at Remus’ and Sirius’ expressions.
“I got up and I sat next to Lily and he sat next to Wilkes instead.”
“How’d you manage that?” asked Sirius.
“With great difficulty,” said Remus and Peter together, as if it was obvious.
James nodded fervently. Feeling it would not do anyone good if he discussed Regulus’ further insults about William McCann, he ended the discussion about Sirius’ younger brother. “Anyway, that was it. End of story, as far as Regulus is concerned. So, Moony, what did you mean, when you said Lily’s changed?”
“Well, you’ve changed too, for that matter,” Remus commented. “That definitely played a part in Lily’s change in behaviour. For you not to jinx someone when you had the opportunity — and not just for fun, but for a proper reason — that’s not like you, James, not like you at all.
“But Lily, she's changed too. Have you seen, she's stopped hanging around with Marlene — and Lena’s started to go along with Zoey and Diana. Mary told me all of this. She says she's worried for her. She hasn’t been acting normal lately. And today was the weirdest of all. Lily actually defended you, James. That’s not something that happens often at all.”
“Yeah, the only person Lily would defend — or, maybe, the only person who needed defending — is Snape, and she stopped talking to him once fifth year was finished.” Sirius wrinkled his nose — in exactly the same way as Regulus had done when Lily had addressed him directly at the prefect’s meeting — when he said “Snape”.
“I stuck up for her too. So did Alice.”
“Yeah, but Alice has always been Lily’s friend. You…haven’t.”
“I've never wanted to be her friend, have I?” James realised this ruefully. “I've always wanted…more, I suppose.”
“If you ask me, mate, you should just give it up,” Peter advised. “Stick to being her friend. There’s no point in wishing for what will never happen.”
“And since when have you been the relationships expert?” asked Sirius.
“Since now!” Peter laughed. “Seriously, though, I do think I'm right here. It’s no use, you pining for Evans. There are plenty of other fi—”
“Yeah, yeah, plenty of other fish in the sea, whatever,” Sirius said, rolling his eyes.
“We’ve all heard it before, Wormy,” Remus told him with a smile.
“But Lily’s the only fish I want,” James reasoned. His friends all burst out laughing. “Euphemistically speaking, of course.”
“Well, she did say she’d rather go out with the giant squid,” Sirius sniggered. “That is more realistic if you imagine Evans as a fish. Anyway, I'm bored. I want to play chess.”
“You know you're going to get thrashed by me so what’s the point?” said Peter cockily.
“Piss off,” said Sirius as he got up and headed for the dormitory.
“Remus?” said James, a few minutes after Peter and Sirius had begun a game of chess.
“D’you remember what Evans said when Montague and Wilkes left?”
“D’you — d’you think she was lying? When she said she had to take a side? Like she didn't really care?”
There was a pause as Remus frowned, thinking. “Maybe. She's a difficult person to read, Lily. I can’t really say. But I've got to agree with Peter. What he said is true. You're better off as friends. God knows, she needs one right now.”
A week after the disastrous prefect’s meeting, Lily had a free period first thing after breakfast. Mary, however, had Divination, so Lily decided to spend the time in the library. There was something she needed to do.
Something had bugged her at that meeting. She couldn’t place her finger to it but she knew something wasn’t right. She had a strange feeling it had something to do with one of the Slytherins’ comments yesterday, but whatever it was, it had reminded her of that horrible Tongue-Tying Curse.
So, after quickly bolting down toast and tea, Lily headed to the library amidst the horde of students coming in the other direction for breakfast. She seemed to have got pushed and shoved quite a few times, but she dismissed this as the students’ mere hunger.
The library was nearly empty. There were just a few lonely, miserable-looking fifth-years who had already begun their OWL revision in the early morning. Lily went straight for the spellbooks, running her finger along the various spines, looking, until at last, she found the book she was looking for: Curses and Counter-Curses: (Bewitch your Friends and Befuddle your Enemies with the Latest Revenges: Hair Loss, Jelly-Legs, Tongue-Tying and much, much more) by Vindictus Viridian.
Lily carried the heavy book to a vacant table at the back of the library. There, she sat down and looked at the contents page. After a minute of searching, she located it; there it was…in black and white: The Tongue-Tying Curse.
She flicked through the book excitedly, found the correct page and began to read.
The Tongue-Tying Curse is one which forces the victim to, quite literally, tie their tongue. They will be unable to speak explicitly about a certain subject in the presence of humans — the subject being chosen by the curser, naturally — and this will continue even after the caster’s death. The Curse is ineffective while the victim is in the presence of animals, magical creatures or, indeed, while the victim is solitary. There is no existing counter-curse for the Tongue-Tying Curse — the only possible way to counteract its effects is by the victim empowering the caster.
Furthermore, it is impossible for the victim to be able to write, use sign language or otherwise communicate to humans — wizards and Muggles alike — about said forbidden subject. The main effect of the Curse, however, is to prevent one from talking about the subject although there are other side effects of the spell which, collectively, fully prevent the victim from communicating, in any way, to fellow humans. Further details about said side effects are mentioned below.
She stopped reading there. She couldn’t believe what she had got herself into. What the hell was she going to do? It was hardly likely that she would ever meet the kidnappers again, and even less likely that she would be able to empower them, however she was supposed to do that. And there was no way Lily could talk about where Layla and Jenna were — and Marlene and her mum had no idea where they were either. She was surprised, really, that her mum had not informed the authorities already. It puzzled her that no one knew nor cared about Layla and Jenna McKinnon. It was as though the sisters had vanished off the face of the earth, never to be seen again.
And no one seemed to care. It was as if they had never even existed.
“That’s the last of it,” said James to Sirius as he levitated the remainder of his belongings into his new room. He was entitled to his own bedroom as Head Boy and he decided to accept the offer simply because of the fact that he could not bear to wake up and see William’s eternally empty bed next to him, with the frosty, unfriendly look to the crisp white sheets and drawn curtains, all of which said, without words, that Will McCann would never, ever sleep there again.
“Well, I guess this is goodbye, then, roommate,” said Sirius in a theatrical tone.
“Farewell, Prongs,” added Peter mock-miserably. “We hope you enjoy your new liberties as Head Boy, even if it does mean leaving us—”
“Oh, shut up,” James snapped, ruining the effect somewhat by smiling as Remus winked at him.
“Aren't you going to miss us, dear Jamie?” asked Sirius in a dreadfully high-pitched voice.
“We’ve lived with you for six long years, dear boy…of course you'll miss us!” cried Peter, patting him on the back.
“Won’t you, Jamie?” Remus added, joining in.
“When you're all being as annoying as this?” James considered, grinning. “Nope, sorry, guys. I’ll be glad to go, trust me.”
Nevertheless, despite his words, James knew he was going to miss his friends — even though he was only going to be spending his sleeping moments away from Remus, Sirius and Peter. The rest of the time, however, he would be in and out of the dormitory as normal.
It was untoward that the same could not be said about other mundane aspects of his life, because, unfortunately, his seventh year was shaping up to be anything but normal. Never, in James’ previous six years at Hogwarts, had he ever witnessed such a vicious vendetta against the Muggleborns. There were more uses of the M word than ever before, and each time the hated name was uttered from — inevitably — a Slytherin’s lips, James was, once again, forced to hold in his anger and restrain himself from sorting the perpetrators out with a good hex.
The result had been that several Muggleborns had had enough, leaving the school, despite only being in the middle of October. Ola Peters from his year, her brother Kofi in third year, Max MacFarlane in his year, Romero Gustav in sixth year — all of them had left and, it was rumoured, gone into hiding, and it seemed that the number of Muggleborns left in the school would continue to fall rapidly as the year went on. James couldn’t turn a corridor corner without hearing the word “Mudblood” being spoken by first-years, even. Most of all, however, James found himself continually defending Lily, who was under such violent attack from the Slytherins it was a miracle she hadn’t packed her bags already and joined Ola, Max and the others.
Before this year, James could count the number of times Lily had been harassed because of her lineage on the number of fingers on one hand, without even including the thumb. On all of these occasions, James had defended her fiercely, regardless of whether she wanted him to or not. And, on all of these occasions, Lily had become so vexed at James for sticking his nose in that each insult thrown at her had become meaningless, insignificant, compared to the insults she threw at him.
However, this year, it had become worse. Not a day would go by when Lily was not told, by various people (not all of them Slytherin, either) that she would be the next victim after her ex-boyfriend, or that she had still not got over his death, or that she was a filthy Mudblood whatever or a slutty Mudblood whatever, or some other kind of slur about some aspect of her appearance or her intelligence or…something. And — as arrogant as it sounded to say aloud — James wasn’t always there to defend her and this worried him, because every time he witnessed yet another incident from afar, he saw that Lily wasn’t putting the person down with a witty comeback. No, she just stood there, her green eyes, once full of fire and life, now empty, and this just made her look more and more vulnerable and more prone to the verbal abuse the Slytherins seemed determined to subject her to.
The Head Boy’s room was situated in a lounge which was previously unknown to the Marauders in the Gryffindor common room, along with the Head Girl’s room. Although this was supposed to be for convenience more than anything — the Head Boy and Girl had to patrol the corridors three nights a week — James had had to endure a certain amount of teasing from Sirius, Remus and Peter regarding his close proximity to Lily Evans each night.
It was a handsome room, with fancy, if slightly over-ostentatious touches, such as curtains which moved without James ever having to touch them, lights which would switch off if he clapped, a dressing table which had a mirror that used the most verbose comments to compliment or insult him — hell, even the alarm clock was several notches above James’ normal expectations: it was winged and, if James did not get up immediately, it would float across the room to James’ bed and use both of its hands to beat him until he awoke.
He didn't think he deserved it. Any of it — the badge, the nice bedroom, the bathroom (although admittedly he had been using the bathroom since he’d become Quidditch Captain in fifth year) — he didn't feel he deserved it. That was why he was so reluctant to take on the role as Head Boy — James had never thought of himself as a goody-two-shoes or a model student or anything like that. No, he had always been the cause of trouble, not the solver of it. Still, he supposed there was a first time for everything…
Then he thought of Lily, of what she must be going through, enduring all those taunts simply about her non-magical descent, and he prayed that there was a last time for everything, too.
“The Hogsmeade visit has been cancelled,” Mary told Lily a few weeks later. It was ten thirty in the night and the two of them were in the Gryffindor common room, doing homework. The Gryffindors were slowly dispersing, heading up to their dormitories after they read the notice on the noticeboard which informed them that the Halloween Hogsmeade visit had been cancelled. This explained the students’ disgruntled faces as they passed Lily and Mary on their way up to bed.
“Oh well,” said Lily, stifling a yawn with her hand. “I wasn’t planning on going anyway.”
“You weren’t?” said Mary wearily. “Why not?”
“Didn't feel like it.”
“You're saying that about everything nowadays. That you don’t feel like it. What’s wrong, Lily? Why have you been acting so…distant?” Mary asked tentatively. She knew halfway through her last question that she had hit a nerve already.
“Oh, no reason,” replied Lily sarcastically. “Only, let’s think, maybe, it’s because Marlene still refuses to even look me in the eye? Or maybe because I've bloody well had enough of people telling me I should be the next one to get murdered? Or of them voicing their goddamn concern that I was Will’s final girlfriend and if I still loved him or if I ever loved him or whatever the hell they bloody well want to know. I don’t know, Mary. Which one do you think it is?”
And, without waiting for an answer, Lily got to her feet, magically gathered her parchment so it was all one neat pile and marched away to her dormitory. She said the password (“Verity”) and the door swung open before Mary, who had rushed after her, could get in.
The weeks dragged on as they moved into November, the weather becoming chillier and more irksome. But for Lily, it gave her ample reason to retreat to her bedroom, where only she was entitled to go to.
One day in the middle of November, Lily received a letter just as she was sitting down for dinner at the table, all by herself because she had got into another spat with Mary over something stupid. She was watching the owl suspiciously as it flew in, and was even more surprised when it dropped the envelope it was carrying directly on her lasagne. Lily pulled a face as she picked the envelope out of her food with her finger and thumb before siphoning off the red substance on the parchment.
Everyone was staring at her — it was unusual to receive post at dinner time unless it was really urgent. Instead of glaring back like Lily would normally do to abate unwanted looks from other people, she simply dropped her gaze to her food for a solid minute. By the time she looked up again, everyone had turned away, uninterested, as they realised that she wasn’t about to make a big display of whatever upsetting news she was receiving. Then, as she surreptitiously checked to see that absolutely no one was looking, Lily slid open the envelope. There was no greeting or signature.
We hope you’ve been holding your tongue. The little girlies are still alive, I think you'll be pleased to know. Or maybe not — if they were dead you won’t have to keep the secret for much longer, would you? Less weight on your shoulders, isn’t it?
We’d just like to let you know that your feeble little charm was far too weak for any lasting damage — which clearly shows that you Mudbloods, especially stupid, noble Gryffindors like yourselves — are far too dim-witted for even the simplest of spells. Rest assured, however, that we will find you and when we do, you're going to end up just like that other Mudblood. Speaking of which, the Dark Lord was unable to attend his funeral but he did send a nice little letter saying he approved of it. One Mudblood down, only a few dozen to go.
We’ll be meeting again soon, Mudblood. And when we do, you'll be dying a long, painful death.
“Hi guys,” said James as he sat down at the Gryffindor table for dinner with Remus, Sirius and Peter, pulling dishes towards him even before he took his seat. “God, I'm starving.”
“Good practice?” Remus enquired, registering his damp hair.
James nodded through a mouthful of pasta. “Yeah, even though the weather’s awful. I hope it’s not like that during the match — that would be a nightmare. Visibility’s not great, either, so I hope it clears up tomorrow.”
“It’s probably ‘cause it’s dark,” said Peter consolingly. “Don't worry, mate, we’ll do fine. We always do.” James grinned at him and continued to eat; it was true, they had won the Cup for the past three years, so why shouldn’t they this year?
“What’s up with Evans?” muttered Sirius, more to himself than to anyone else. Still, James immediately looked up at Lily’s name, finding her at the other end of the table, all by herself. She looked stricken about something, but James had no idea what.
“God, I feel like asking her who it was that died,” Sirius commented. He quelled at James’ look. “Sorry.”
James carried on watching Lily, all hungriness forgotten as she stood up, leaving her food untouched on her plate. He saw Slughorn approaching her from the staff table and knew that he was probably asking her to one of his little parties that he threw every once in a while. However, Lily seemed to decline his offer, and, with her head down, she walked away. James was sure that he saw tears in her eyes as she went past him on her way out of the Great Hall, and he wondered what it was that had made her so upset.
She had to get away. She didn't want to hear about some other stupid party of Slughorn’s. Lily had to bite her tongue to stop herself from telling her Potions teacher to just fuck off. As it was, she was sure Slughorn looked more than a little offended, but she was beyond caring now. All she wanted to do was leave. She wanted it to stop. All of it — the letter, the slurs at every tiny fucking aspect of her, Voldemort, Layla and Jenna, her parents, Petunia — she wanted it to end. For good. She wanted nothing better than to just die.
Yeah, that would be a big fuck-you to everyone, if she topped herself. And, at that moment, it seemed like the only way out of this bloody mess that she’d got herself into. What on earth had possessed her to offer to look after Marlene’s sisters in the first place?
As she turned the corner, she heard familiar voices before she saw the speakers, and, sure enough, she found Katie Montague and Severus Snape, arguing, in an empty corridor. Curious, she hid behind a suit of armour, listening to their quarrel with interest.
“Severus, I can't let you do this—”
“Let me? What the fuck are you talking about? Like you'd let us do anything? This is not your choice, OK? You don't have any say in this whatsoever. So stop complaining because it won’t make any difference.”
“Severus, listen to me—”
“Shut up,” Snape snarled. “Someone could hear. We’ve got orders and we’re not meant to be talking about it, d’you hear?”
“I can’t believe you’ve just done that, Sev,” said Lily suddenly, coming out from behind the suit of armour. She realised, too late, that she had given away her hiding place, but she was beyond caring now. “Seriously, I knew you were prejudiced and everything, but I never expected you, of all people, to slap a girl, even if it is Katie.”
“Get lost, Lily,” said Snape quietly. He didn't meet her eyes; instead, he focused on a spot just above her left shoulder.
“Yeah, shut up, Evans,” Katie added. “No one asked you to stick your Mudblood nose in.”
“Leave Katie alone, Severus,” said Lily resolutely, as if Katie hadn’t spoken. “I never thought you'd stoop so low, seriously—” Lily paused as she registered the pure hatred in Snape’s eyes as he forced them to meet hers. The two of them remained perfectly still for a moment, until Lily recoiled as Snape raised his hand to her. She could barely feel his palm hit her cheek, but it would’ve hurt even if Snape’s hand was feather-light.
Immediately, she turned on her heel and ran away, clutching at her cheek, trying her best to stop the tears falling down her face. She didn't know where her destination was but all she wanted, as she fled up countless flights of stairs, was to get away from it all.
“So, anyway, the Map’s finally ready,” Remus informed the other three with a grin as they stood up and prepared to leave the table a short while later.
“Really?” said Sirius loudly. Several onlookers, all of them girls, giggled at his sudden outburst and he smiled a sheepish, handsome smile at them. They rolled their eyes prettily and resumed their respective conversations.
Still, Sirius was right in voicing his surprise. Because of the added pressure of their NEWTs, none of the Marauders had had time to work on the Map much, since most of their free time was devoted to homework, revision and the occasional prank. So James was just as surprised as Sirius was that Remus had managed to put the whole thing together whilst juggling homework and transformations and prefect duties and whatever else he was doing in his free time.
“Yep,” Remus replied as they reached the Entrance Hall. “Come over here and I’ll show you.”
They gathered around Remus, who was looking rather tired as the full moon was approaching the next week.
Nevertheless, he looked — oddly enough — rather pleased with himself as he withdrew a piece of parchment from his robes. The quartet grinned excitedly as Remus placed the tip of his wand on the parchment and said, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”
At once, lines began to appear on the parchment, and after a few seconds, James, Sirius and Peter recognised their own enchanted drawings on the map. James peered at the Entrance Hall, and, sure enough, there were four labelled dots in the exact spot they were in.
“Nice one, Moony!” Peter whispered in awe. “But — how did you manage to get all the names?”
Because, as James noticed, all of the students’ names were on the Map, some of which even he hadn’t heard of. He wondered how on earth Remus managed the feat.
“Sorting Hat,” Remus replied simply. “Easy peasy. All I had to do was ask Dumbledore to borrow it, do a bit of hocus-pocus, and, hey presto. It took a bit of persuading for Dumbledore to give the Hat to me, really, but no worries — I convinced him that I was just fascinated by it and everything and he said yes in the end.”
“So it’s got everyone’s names on here?” James asked. “Even the teachers, Mr Filch, everyone?”
“It does,” Remus affirmed. “I had to add Filch’s manually, you know, because he never went to Hogwarts. But everyone else in the school, all the teachers, they all came here.”
“That’s brilliant,” said Sirius, thumping Remus on the back. “Absolutely spiffing, Moony.” James put his hand out to see the Map and Remus handed it to him as they walked across the Entrance Hall.
“So, anyway, to wipe it clean, you know, so nobody knows what it is, you just say ‘Mischief managed’ and it’ll look like a dog-eared bit of parchment again,” Remus was telling Sirius and Peter, as James continued to examine the Map with interest. They had all worked on it together but it was Remus who added the finishing touches, getting everyone’s names on there. He had to admit, his friend was a genius. James’ eyes scanned over the various classrooms until he found Lily’s name on there. For some reason, her dot seemed to be moving quickly up the stairs to the Astronomy Tower. He halted in his steps, ignoring Sirius and Peter’s whispered plans about getting Firewhiskey from Hogsmeade to celebrate.
There was something wrong. Why the hell was Evans going to the Astronomy Tower now? She didn’t even take Astronomy.
He had to get up there to see. It was the tallest tower in Hogwarts, so what if…?
No. No, there was no way Evans would do that. Not that. She wouldn’t.
Suddenly, realising what he had to do, James spun on the spot and ran off in the other direction, dropping the Map as he went.
Ten minutes later, he arrived, puffing and panting and out of breath, at the Astronomy Tower.
Tentatively he opened the heavy door and found it empty; taking a deep breath, he went out onto the ramparts where, at last, he found Lily.
She was standing on the very edge of the parapet, her knees bent as she prepared to jump from the highest tower in Hogwarts.
End Notes: Dun dun dun! This is my first cliff-hanger, I think. What d’you reckon? Will she do it? Will she not? Let me know as usual by review!
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