A week later, Marlene was taken out of the lesson by Professor McGonagall. Marlene looked suitably perplexed and rather scared; whatever it was, clearly it was serious because she did not attend any meals or lessons for the next few days, remaining shut in the Heads’ common room. Lily wondered aloud about what news Marlene had received from the headmaster and deputy headmistress.
“Apparently,” Mary whispered as they wrote the Principal Exceptions to Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration, “her dad was killed, by Death Eaters.”
There was a sharp intake of breath from Lily. “How come?” she asked, trying to push down the guilt that had just begun bubbling in her stomach.
“I don't know,” Mary replied. “I'm not even entirely sure that he’s dead — but if Dumbledore says he is, then he is, I reckon.”
When Marlene finally returned to her lessons at long last a full two weeks later, not a day passed when she did not look red-eyed, grief-stricken, and just like Lily felt, guilt-ridden. She talked to no one; what Mary told Lily about had spread through the school and the Wizarding community via some of the more talkative mothers of students.
Marlene’s mother, it transpired, had gone into hiding. She had sent Marlene an owl, telling her to remain at school, where it was safer, and not to contact her because this would give away her location.
James and Lily were at a loss at what to do. Should they break it to her about her sisters, and make her feel even more responsible for what had happened than she already felt? Or should they wait, until Marlene had accepted what had happened to her missing father, who was feared dead?
Collectively, they decided on the latter. It was far too dangerous for them to tell anyone, even their closest friends, so they kept the secret to themselves. Besides, as they found out the following day, Sirius in particular had a lot more on his plate than they had thought.
During patrol, James and Lily were walking with their wands drawn — past experience of incidents occurring during the later hours had taught them to be as vigilant as Dumbledore had urged them to be, and neither of them were taking any chances.
This was a good decision, because as they reached the fifth floor, they heard the sounds of shouting. Running in direction of the noise, James and Lily reached the sources of the yelling in seconds: Aiden Avery, Malcolm Mulciber, Regulus Black and Sirius.
The Slytherins were firing spells at Sirius, who was doing a good job deflecting them all. Even so, Lily and James entered the fray themselves, and Lily managed to Disarm Mulciber while James hit Avery with a Disarming Charm too. Without a second’s thought, Lily also Disarmed Regulus, and his and Mulciber’s wands were caught by James.
However, this did not impede Regulus in the slightest. Instead, he simply went at Sirius with his fists, pummelling his brother for all it was worth, and Sirius fought back, before being pulled off forcibly by James.
“What the hell do you think you're doing?” James hissed as he held Sirius back, his arms flailing; but before he could say anything else, they heard the sounds of heavy footsteps.
Professor Slughorn appeared. “What the devil are you doing out of bounds at this time of night?” he demanded, his moustache quivering as he took in the scene: James, holding a struggling Sirius, Regulus shooting venomous looks at his brother and Avery and Mulciber clenching their wandless fists in annoyance.
“We’re on patrol, Professor,” Lily said quickly. “James and I just came across these four and—”
“Yes, Miss Evans, that’s fine, thank you,” Slughorn said firmly. He rounded on the Slytherins. “But you three, I did not expect any of you to be wandering around after curfew. Forty points from Slytherin, boys. And Mr Black, I would appreciate that, in the future, you deal with your family politics outside school, please,” he said reprovingly to Regulus. “That’s all. Mr Black, return to your dormitory. Fifteen points from Gryffindor for fighting. Miss Evans, Mr Potter, you will receive five points apiece for attempting to break up the fight. Come on, boys; I’ll be taking you back to your common room after Miss Evans and Mr Potter return your wands to you.”
All the next day, Lily noticed that Severus kept giving her strange looks as she went about her lessons, all of which he was also in. She mentioned this to James.
“I mean, why would he even be looking at me, after months of being how he is towards me?” Lily said at break. “Do you think he knows? About us going to the Slytherin common room?”
“I don't know,” he replied. He kissed her, trying to dismiss the matter through other means. She responded for a second but then pushed him away, looking askance at him for an answer. He sighed resignedly. “I don't think Snape knows anything, to be honest with you. Anyway, I'm staying out of this one, Lily. But if something does happen and he tries something on you or whatever, let me know, and I’ll go and beat him up for you if it makes you feel better. I’ll even duel him for you if you promise to be my second.”
“Ha ha, James,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Very witty.”
“I was joking, Lily,” he said, trying to stay cheerful. “Sirius would be my second—”
However, when Lily went to her room after dinner, she halted in her steps when she spotted a letter and a small package on her bed. Fearing the worst, she dithered for several minutes, leaning against the doorframe for support while eyeing the missive fearfully, scared about what she might find. Then, gathering all her courage, she strode forwards and ripped open the envelope.
The note read:
We all know that some scars will never heal, no matter how small or insignificant it seems to be. I know you have scars that you’ve never shown anyone, so this is just a simple gift, from me to you, which will obliterate them forever. You're not alone, Lily. I hope that in time, you will realise that.
Frowning, she sat on her bed and opened the package. Inside it was a small vial filled with a potion which was clear, yet with a bluish tinge to it and purple bubbles at the top. She immediately recognised it: Sanat Vulnera. It was one of the most complex potions she had ever heard of, far more complicated than the Polyjuice Potion or even Felix Felicis. It was beyond even NEWT level, Lily knew. She wondered who on earth could’ve sent it to her.
Almost unconsciously, she rolled up her sleeve, removed the Concealment Charm on her arm and started to pull the stopper out of the bottle. Once it was open, she murmured, “Specialis revelio.” Nothing happened, which meant that the potion was certainly not a poison. However, before she could do anything more, James’ voice came out of nowhere, nearly making her drop the potion. Lily silently cursed herself for forgetting that the door was still open.
“Lily?” said James uncertainly, startled at the unusual sight before him. Without waiting for an answer, he marched towards her, kneeling in front of her and reaching out for her exposed arm. “Lily...what the hell is this?”
“Let go of me, James,” she said, trying to swallow her tears as she remembered how and when the scars were inflicted on her. If he didn’t get to see it properly, maybe she could pass it off as something else, something insignificant...but it was too late. He wouldn’t let her go, gently turning her arm around, his jaw dropping as he realised just what word was tattooed on her wrist.
“Merlin,” he breathed, finally releasing her as she tugged her hand away from him at last. “Lily, who did this to you?”
She looked at him and spoke through her eyes: them. James’ expression cleared as he understood who she meant.
“I'm going to get them, the bastards,” he muttered. “How could they have done all this to you...and you couldn’t even speak out against them?”
Lily simply shook her head.
“So what’s this?” James asked, managing to ease the potion bottle out of her grasp without her noticing.
“Nothing,” she said quickly, trying to grab it from him, but, as usual, he was too quick for her.
“Sanat Vulnera.” He raised his eyebrows at her look of surprise. “Don't look so shocked. I do pay attention in Potions sometimes, you know, Lily. So someone sent you this? Who was it?”
Lily frowned inwardly; so James hadn’t sent it. She hadn’t really expected him to, anyway. Potions was never James’ forte. Who had, then?
“I don't know,” she replied, taking the letter from behind her and slipping it into her pocket. “There wasn’t any name.”
“Who, then? The only person I know who’s better than you at Potions is Snivellus—”
“And he hates my guts, in case you’ve forgotten,” Lily interrupted. “Don't be silly, James. Of course Severus wouldn’t send me it. That implies that he knew about it in the first place — which he most certainly didn’t.”
At least, I hope not, Lily thought.
“OK, so what about Slughorn?”
She shook her head. “Professor Slughorn has favouritism, but not to that extent,” she decided. “He’d never send me something personally. The only things he sends me are invitations to his little parties — not that I attend any of them. Anyway, he doesn’t know about...” Lily trailed off.
“So are you going to use it?” he asked.
She nodded. “Why not? I've had to use spells to make sure no one sees this.” Lily jabbed an unexpectedly venomous finger towards her wrist. “James, I feel like I've been scarred for life. Do you have any idea what that feels like?”
At Lily’s question, James just stared at her, his mind forcibly jumping back to Boxing Day.
That day, when he came back from the Ministry, he hadn’t been surprised to hear his Aunt Laura crying once again. But this time, her words were different and much more life-threatening. James’ brain could only take in snippets of what she was saying as he none-too-subtly entered the room, scared at what he might find. Neither James’ father nor Aunt Laura seemed to have noticed. And then, what she said simply rooted him to the spot.
“I’m already dying...no one will know. It’s just one spell. For me?”
James’ dad’s voice at that moment was the most terrible thing James had ever heard, because it was accepting and abetting Laura’s decision.
“I’m so sorry I have to do this. Avada Kedavra.”
And then, the bolt of green light shot from Callum Potter’s borrowed wand and hit Laura squarely in the chest, and James watched, powerless — as if someone had performed a Body-Bind on him — as the life out of his aunt was sapped, by his own father.
And she had asked for it.
James was jolted back to the present as he whispered, “Lily...I think I know exactly what that’s like.”
To Lily’s surprise and relief, the potion worked exactly as described in Slughorn’s Potions lessons. The tattoo disappeared entirely merely by using a single drop on each hated letter, and Lily could not remember being more thankful in her life; the absence of the scars, not to mention forgoing her daily ritual of Concealing Charms, seemed to lighten the burden on her heart a little.
She decided to keep the almost empty vial, partly as a memento, but also in case she could ever identify who on earth could have sent it to her. It definitely wasn’t Severus. There was no way he would want to help her, not after Lily’s ultimate betrayal of him — being James Potter’s girlfriend — and besides, Lily noted bitterly, Severus was far too busy with his Death Eater friends to have time for her.
Not that she cared. She had James and Mary and Remus and most of the seventh-years in Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw as her friends. She didn’t need him.
As the weeks moved slowly on, she saw less and less of James as he and his team practised hard for the match against Hufflepuff. One team member, however, who was noticeably absent from Quidditch (as well as everything extra-curricular she had been involved in, like Charms Club) was Marlene McKinnon. Patrick Andrews from fifth year filled in her place, and while Gryffindor still won, Lily knew that it was a very narrow win, which didn’t necessarily guarantee Gryffindor an easy win for their match later on in the year.
Before they knew it, March arrived, bringing with it the first rain after three solid months of snow. It was still cold, but at least the blood in Lily’s toes no longer felt frozen the moment she stepped outside to the greenhouses. She relished this as she emerged from the greenhouse, having had a quick aside with Professor Sprout one evening about the homework set today. Lily sped up, remembering that she had patrol that night, and that she wanted to leave her cloak in her dormitory as well as do her Charms and Transfiguration homework before she patrolled.
After their rounds, James and Lily returned to the common room. As soon as they were through the portrait hole, James made immediately for the Heads’ common room; he looked quite tired, Lily knew, since he had been catching up on the homework missed when he and the Marauders went to the Whomping Willow for Remus’ transformation a couple of days ago.
That night, Lily had waited up for Sirius, James and Peter, ready with dittany and bandages if they needed them. And James had needed one, on his arm, where Remus had, apparently, clawed him. The Marauders were far too exhausted — not to mention injured — to complain, and it was with sleepy gratefulness that they allowed Lily to perform her ministrations, without comment.
Now, Lily didn't feel like sleeping. She noticed her Transfiguration homework on the table nearby and pulled it towards her; she needed to check over her essay to make sure she didn't miss anything. Now she had James to help her, Lily was doing far better in Transfiguration, but she was still insecure about her abilities and was reduced to rereading her essays lots of times to make sure she included everything she could to attain the highest possible grade.
She came across a mistake about human transfiguration. What was it that James said? Lily chewed the end of her quill, staring into the fire as she tried to remember James’ words: “A tingling sensation is felt in the part of the body which is being Transfigured...”
Lily started to scribble it down, but before she could finish, there was a shuffling sound from one of the squashy armchairs and Lily jumped as she caught Marlene McKinnon’s eye. Both girls found it impossible to look away.
“What are you doing up?” Lily finally said, her voice soft above the crackling sounds of the dying fire.
Marlene looked like she was going to ignore her, but then her jaw slackened and she said quietly, “I was just...thinking.”
Lily nodded, unable to think of anything else to say. The silence was becoming awkward, and she wasn’t sure whether or not this was the right time for her to say goodnight to Marlene and simply leave. Lily was on the verge of doing just that when Marlene asked a question which, even now, still burned Lily’s conscience more than if it was dangling over the fire.
“Where are Layla and Jenna, Lily?” There was no anger in her tone; just a sense of hopelessness mixed with guilt.
“I told you, Marlene,” Lily replied. “They did a Tongue-Tying Curse on me. I can't say anything.”
“Try,” Marlene said, and it was not an order or even a demand. In fact, it was quite close to a plea.
Lily smiled ruefully. “I can’t. I can't even say their names.”
“Try,” she repeated. “Please.”
Lily took a deep breath and prepared herself for that horrific, sick feeling she felt six months ago, on the Hogwarts Express, when she first tried to mention anything about Marlene’s sisters. “L-layla.”
Their eyes widened. “B-but,” Lily began, “that makes no sense! When we were on the Hogwarts Express—”
“Say Jenna’s name,” Marlene said excitedly.
“Jenna,” Lily said. “But the — the curse! What happened?” She racked her brain, trying to think of a possible reason why the curse had broken.
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!” Lily said triumphantly, remembering the time when she Disarmed Mulciber and Regulus a few weeks back. Nevertheless, her jubilance only lasted a second; when she realised what she would have to tell Marlene, the smile slid off her face instantly.
Half an hour later, Lily’s eyes were blurring with tears. Marlene’s voice had become thick with emotion as she asked, “L-lily...if — if what you told me is true...then where are they?”
At this point, Lily fell short. She had quite a good idea about the general direction of Layla and Jenna’s location, but she was not quite sure how to break it to her friend.
With a sound that was halfway between a sob and a sigh, Lily resigned herself to the worst and told her everything about her and James’ foray to the Slytherin common room.
Chapter End Notes:
OK, so not a cliffhanger, but I bet you're happy. Lily’s curse is now broken, so what’s her next plan? Tell me what you think by reviewing, please. It’s the only payment I get!