Chapter 16 : Sectumsempra
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James was finding it hard to forget about it. Nevertheless, his thoughts could not linger on kidnappings because the seventh-years were forced to revise for their exams, which seemed to be a lot nearer than any of them had anticipated.
Meanwhile, in the school, rumours were flying around about the possible closure of the school in light of the recent events.
“Rumour has it,” Mary told her and Marlene one day, “that Dumbledore’s being pressured by the Ministry to keep the school open. Give the parents hope and that.”
“But apparently, Dumbledore thinks it isn’t safe and that the students should just go home, especially after everything that’s happened. Even the Ministry can’t stop Dumbledore closing the school for the next year, at least. That is probably what’s going to happen.”
However, despite the gossip about Hogwarts closing, it remained open, and true to Mary’s words, Dumbledore did express his concern to the students in Hogwarts, urging them to be extra vigilant.
“These are dark and troubled times,” he told them gravely during dinner one day. “I implore you to remain cautious, and above all, keep to your common rooms after hours. I cannot stress enough about how important this is. It is imperative that you keep safe. The older students,” he said, peering at the fifth-, sixth- and seventh-years sitting at the Gryffindor table, “should do their utmost to protect the younger ones, particularly the first-years. Prefects, I know you have exams but the younger students are still your responsibility, especially when you are in your common rooms. So please, be careful and if you see anything strange, anything at all, report it immediately to a teacher. If possible, come to me. Thank you very much.”
It seemed that the students were taking their headmaster’s words to heart; now, when James and Lily patrolled three nights a week, there was rarely anyone out of bounds. Even the Slytherins appeared to have heeded Dumbledore’s instructions, and for that, James and Lily were grateful, because, as the exams loomed nearer, they barely had any time to spend together, let alone chase potential child abductors.
Many of the fifth- and seventh-years were now spending all of their spare time with their noses in books — they were trying to cram in as much revision as possible. Madam Pomfrey had already dealt with a dozen students who needed Calming Draughts after having panic attacks about their OWLs or NEWTs.
On the other hand, Lily — surprisingly enough — was relatively well-prepared compared to most of her fellow seventh-years. She had a revision timetable and she stuck to it; she also managed to include other commitments, like spending time with James. Often, she, James, Remus, Sirius, Peter, Marlene and Mary would revise together, and Lily found it easier to explain something to the rest of the group, especially since she also learnt from what she was saying.
The day before the exams, Lily, Mary and Marlene were heading to the library, intending to have a full-blown revision session ready for their first exam the next day: Charms. It was probably the one Lily felt most confident about, although she did not dare say this for fear of jinxing her results.
They entered the library, which was full to the brim with students; the only sounds were feverish mutterings, quills scratching, pages turning and books being dropped on the floor, followed by vehement swearing.
“This is useless,” Marlene whispered. “We won’t be able to get a table here.”
“Hold on,” Lily muttered. “Let’s go to the back — there’ll be more tables there. Don't worry.”
She led the way towards the back end of the library, just past the Restricted Section. It was already dark due to the lack of windows there but also because of the dark shadow the Restricted Section shelves cast upon the corners of the room. Nevertheless, Mary spotted a few empty tables at the very end of the library.
However, before they could reach them, there was a loud cry coming from one of the corners. Lily immediately veered to the left, where the source of the sound was, and squinted in the darkness, unable to see properly until Marlene muttered, “Lumos.” A beam of light fell on the opposite wall and Marlene pointed it directly at where the noise seemed to be coming from.
Diana Williams was there, grabbing hold of Zoey Rai, who, they saw in horror, was bleeding heavily from her head, her eyes unfocused as she lolled on Diana’s lap.
“GET HELP!” Diana screamed. Lily turned around but Mary had beaten her to it; she ran as fast as she could towards the entrance, causing many other students to drop their books. Madam Pince, who had been prowling in the Restricted Section, came up to them with a disapproving look on her face.
“Excuse me, this is a library, not a Quidditch pitch, girls, so keep your voices down. Especially you, Miss Evans — you're Head Girl — completely ignoring irresponsible and disruptive beha—”
“She’s bleeding, Madam Pince,” Marlene interrupted, as at last she found her voice.
“Merlin’s beard,” whispered Madam Pince, her tone changing immediately. She bent down next to Zoey and murmured a spell which staunched the blood flow just as they heard the sound of Madam Pomfrey’s hurried footsteps, with Mary at her heels.
As soon as the matron reached them, she conjured a stretcher and Zoey floated onto it; there was blood all over her shirt and on her hands. Without a word, Madam Pomfrey led Zoey away, completely disregarding the gasps coming from the students in the library. Diana ran after them and Marlene, Mary and Lily watched in silence. Madam Pince waved her wand and Vanished the few drops of blood which had fallen to the floor in Madam Pomfrey’s haste, shuddering as she did so.
“What’s going to happen to her?” Diana asked Madam Pomfrey tearfully. The curtains were drawn around Zoey’s bed and Madam Pomfrey refused to allow anyone to see her.
The matron shook her head. “It is impossible to tell, as of yet. Certainly, there was Dark Magic involved — I’ve had Professor Frensham look at her, and there is no doubt that the perpetrator knew exactly what he was doing. Professor Dumbledore will be arriving any minute.”
“But — that doesn’t mean that — that she’s going to—” Diana started, sobbing into her hands.
“Nothing is certain as of yet,” Madam Pomfrey insisted. “Now, Miss Williams, I advise you to leave my hospital wing now. You have an exam tomorrow, don't you?”
Diana nodded reluctantly. “Two of them, actually.”
“Then go, Diana, and catch up on some last minute revision. Oh, and while you're at it,” Madam Pomfrey added as Diana made to open the doors, “tell Miss Evans, Miss MacDonald and Miss McKinnon that they’ll be standing outside all night, because no one else is coming in here.”
Sure enough, when Diana opened the door, she found Mary, Marlene and Lily, waiting to go in.
“Miss Rai will not be having any guests!” Madam Pomfrey called to the girls, who had stepped forwards tentatively. Then, thankfully, they turned around, and Madam Pomfrey waved her wand to slam the doors shut. A moment later, and they opened again; Madam Pomfrey sighed and was about to raise her voice again when she was greeted by the kindly face of Albus Dumbledore.
“Headmaster! I'm so sorry!” she squeaked, realising that she had just shut the door in Dumbledore’s face.
“Not at all, Poppy,” replied Dumbledore courteously, waving away her apologies. “You merely wanted to ensure privacy for your patient. I understand.” Pointing his much longer wand in the direction of the door, he closed and locked it with a squelching sound. The blinds were already down and no one would be able to see or hear anything they shouldn’t. With another wave of his wand, the curtains around the bed opened and Diana, surrounded with magical wires and machines, became visible.
The headmaster peered at Diana, his expression one of pity but not revulsion. “What is the extent of her injuries?”
“They are severe, Albus,” Madam Pomfrey whispered. “The blood had flowed to her brain, even though Madam Pince staunched the bleeding quite quickly. Even without that, this was, most definitely, an act of Dark Magic. She’s in a vegetative state and I doubt she will ever come out of it.”
“Will St. Mungo’s...”
“St. Mungo’s has enough patients to deal with as it is, and in any case, Albus, I have already contacted the Healers there and told them of the situation. They said that there is nothing left to do. The girl, right now, is as good as dead. Her heart is beating, but her brain is no longer intact.”
Dumbledore sighed and Madam Pomfrey continued, “I have informed her mother — her father has never been around, but Miss Rai knew that he was a wizard from what her Muggle mother told her. What will we do next?”
“I will be at her house shortly to ask her to come to the school to see her daughter," said Dumbledore. "We will decide what to do from there. What about Miss Williams?”
“I tried asking her what had happened,” Madam Pomfrey explained, “but the poor girl was in tears and could barely talk to me properly. The only thing on her mind was what was going to happen to Zoey, and she was so distraught I thought it best not to tell her what is wrong.”
“A wise decision,” Dumbledore commended. Before he could continue, however, they were interrupted by the arrival of Professor McGonagall.
“Albus...what’s happened? Is Miss Rai all right? Perhaps she can help—” She broke off at the sight of Zoey on the bed.
“Miss Rai is not in a position to be talking to anyone right now, Minerva,” the headmaster said quickly. “She is in a coma and it is very unlikely she will come out from it.”
“Three Gryffindors,” McGonagall breathed. “That’s three of my Gryffindors who have fallen prey to this murderer! Albus, we must close the school. There is nothing else to it.”
“I agree, Albus,” Madam Pomfrey added. “I think the parents will also support you, should you choose to make that decision.”
Dumbledore nodded resignedly. “I understand,” he said. “However, I do think we owe it to our students for them to at least sit their exams before we ask them to leave. A few more weeks, surely, cannot be much harm. As well as that, the Minister has made it quite clear that he wishes for Hogwarts to remain open for what is left of the school year.”
“The Minister is You-Know-Who’s—”
“Minerva!” Dumbledore said sharply. “This is not the time or place to be discussing such things. And even if the Minister did not pass his objections to me, exams cannot possibly be rescheduled at such short notice. It is a legal magical contract — you know that, as well as I do, Minerva, having just signed the contract yourself.”
“Until the exams are over, then,” McGonagall said wearily.
The seventh-years had their first NEWT exam the day after Zoey Rai’s attack. The school was buzzing with the news of another attack, but the news did not create as much fear as the murders did because as far as they knew, Zoey’s life was not as risk. Despite this, Diana had a nervous breakdown, mere minutes before the examination, and had to be given a heavy Calming Draught in order for her to be ready for the tests that day.
Over the next two weeks, the fifth- and seventh-years settled into a regular routine: waking up, eating breakfast, doing two exams — one written, then lunch, and one practical — eating dinner and returning to their common rooms to revise for the exams the next day.
The last day of exams was greeted with relief from the OWL and NEWT students. There were just two left for some, and one for others.
During breakfast, Lily, as usual, was rereading the next exam’s textbook while she drank her tea, barely paying attention to the conversation at the table. She only looked up when James nudged her for the fourth time.
“What?” Lily asked, slightly crossly. James inclined his head in Marlene’s direction opposite them; immediately, Lily sensed something was wrong because of her friend’s expression.
Marlene was clutching a brown package; the owl that delivered it had already flown away, leaving a feather in its place.
“Lena, what’s the matter?” Lily asked, trying to sound nonchalant, as if it would soften any blows. Ignoring her, Marlene ripped open the package while her friends watched with bated breath.
Marlene was rendered completely speechless, and, after a moment, she coughed and retched violently all over her unfinished breakfast. Almost all of the students looked up from their conversations or revision and watched, their expressions a mixture of repulsion and sympathy and perplexity. The only people who ignored Marlene were the seventh-year Slytherins, but only Peter Pettigrew noticed this; James, Remus and Sirius were all on their feet, Remus already clearing up the vomit. Professor McGonagall, who had concern written all over her face, took a sobbing, bile-covered Marlene out of the Hall, Mary and Lily in her wake. Remus, Sirius and James also followed moments later, forgetting about Peter.
Peter, on the other hand, was curious to know what Marlene had seen that had made her so upset. So, after ensuring that everyone had got back to their breakfast, he surreptitiously pointed his wand at the package and muttered, “Accio package.”
It flew over to his lap; the distance it had travelled was only a few feet, and no one had seen a thing, as far as he could tell. They were far too busy gossiping at Marlene’s violent reaction, and they were speculating as to what could be so bad that she would be vomiting. Peter carefully opened the package where it had been torn by Marlene. He was surprised to see that it had no writing on it at all, not even a name.
He emptied its contents into his lap and let out an almost rat-like squeal of shock. No wonder Marlene was so upset...but whose were they?
With a flick of Peter’s wand, the two disembodied fingers vanished.
The final written exam, Transfiguration, was over at long last. The seventh-years breathed a unified sigh of relief as they filed out of the Great Hall as quickly as they possibly could without running. For some, they planned for it to be their last ever exam. For others, they knew that it was merely the beginning of far harder tests in the future ahead.
Lily caught Severus’ eye unexpectedly. Lily was surprised that he and the other seventh-year Slytherins had hung around for so long — what did examinations mean to Death Eaters like them?
“Lily?” James’ voice came out of nowhere and she turned around to feel his warm, familiar embrace. Lily just about saw the resentful look on Severus’ face, but forgot this immediately as her view of Severus was blocked by James.
“Hello,” she said into his chest.
“Hi,” he replied softly. They moved apart slightly to walk together into a corner, where James leaned against the wall. “Thank God it’s over,” James said, yawning hugely. “How did you find it?”
Severus was still eyeing them, Lily noticed. “The exam was...yeah,” she said vaguely.
“Marlene was all right when we left her in her dormitory. She’s still shaken by what happened at breakfast, though. Mary and Remus have gone to check on her.”
“Yeah, Sirius and Peter have gone too. Any news on Zoey?”
“I haven’t heard anything about Zoey yet. But anyway, erm...James, I have to tell you something.” She had no idea where that came from; all she knew was that James needed to know — now.
“What is it?” he asked, standing up straight, looking concerned.
“It was Severus,” she whispered, which was quite unnecessary judging by the increasing loudness of their fellow classmates.
“What d’you mean, Lily?”
“Severus cursed you,” Lily said, her voice only slightly stronger. “Remember? During the Quidditch match back in November, it was him who made all that blood spurt out of your chest.”
“Why?” James pressed. He looked neither surprised nor worried.
“I...I don't know,” she admitted. “All I can think of is when...when we were in the Astronomy Tower and he found us there. I — I suppose he got the wrong impression?”
“What, that me and you were together? Even though we weren’t?” As he said it, James pulled her closer to him protectively.
Lily nodded, hugging him in return. “Erm, sort of, I think. I don't know,” she repeated.
“He was jealous,” said James. “He is jealous, come to think of it.”
“So what are you going to—”
“Ah, Mr Potter, Miss Evans,” Professor McGonagall interrupted suddenly. They jumped apart at the sight of their Transfiguration teacher and Head of House. McGonagall didn't comment on Lily and James’ flustered expressions.
“Yes, Professor?” Lily and James said in unison.
“How did you find the exam?” she enquired, her nostrils flaring only a little.
“It was fine,” James replied. Lily nodded in agreement.
“I trust that you will be a responsible Head Boy and Head Girl, Potter, Evans, and ensure that the absence of exams does not equate to an absence of order in the common room. No parties, please — and certainly no illegal drinks!” Even at her stern words, James could see the corners of McGonagall’s mouth upturn slightly.
“Of course not,” said Lily smoothly. “We’ll make sure everything is in order, don't worry, Professor.”
“I'm glad I have your reassurance, Miss Evans,” said McGonagall, inclining her head at her. She checked her watch. “I must go — Potter, Evans, why don’t you relax this evening?”
“Thank you, Professor,” James told her gratefully. McGonagall hurried off up the stairs at a surprisingly fast speed.
“C’mon, James,” Lily muttered, putting her arm around his waist. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Yeah,” he said vaguely.
They went the long way up to the common room, and just before they rounded the corner of the common room entrance, Lily stopped, making James stop with her.
“Sectumsempra,” Lily said faintly.
“What?” asked James, baffled. Was this meant to be a spell?
“Sectumsempra,” she said again. “It’s the spell Severus used. He told me about it.”
“Why did you wait until now to tell me anything?”
“Because...because I was scared about what you might say,” Lily said. “More importantly, what you might do if you found out it was him.”
“What did he tell you about it?”
“He said that it doesn’t work well non-verbally, and that if you use more than one wand it can...affect the victim more than if you use one.”
“Like all spells,” said James, nodding. Before Lily could say anything further, they looked up at the sounds of footsteps. Seconds later, Peter, Remus, Sirius, Marlene and Mary came rushing down the corridor and Mary skidded to a halt in front of Lily and James.
“What’s happened?” Lily demanded, noting the colour in Marlene’s cheeks. “Lena, are you...?”
“I'm fine,” Marlene said impatiently, her brave mask slipping for a moment before she adjusted it again.
“Professor Frensham’s been...taken,” Remus panted.
“How d’you know that?” James asked.
Sirius waved the Marauder’s Map in front of him. “Map,” he added unnecessarily. “We saw Mulciber going into Professor Frensham’s office with Avery. Mulciber and Frensham just disappeared — literally, on the spot. One second they were there, the next they weren’t. But Avery’s still there.”
“What’s that meant to mean, then?” Lily said.
“It means that Mulciber’s clearly found a way out of the school or he’s used a Portkey. I doubt he used Floo Powder, because they weren’t very near to the fireplace in Professor Frensham’s office,” Remus told her.
“What do we do?”
“We follow them,” said Marlene simply. “Most likely, they’ve gone to that place that you can get to through the Slytherin common room. They would’ve gone down that route, but it looks a bit suspicious, lugging your DADA teacher through the school.”
“What about Avery?” asked Remus, grabbing the Map from Sirius. Avery’s dot was still stationary in Frensham’s office.
“There’s hardly any point in anyone going there, Remus,” Mary pointed out. “He’s probably going to hex anyone who gets in sight of him, so why bother?”
“We need a lookout, though,” James said, taking charge. He looked around them, considering. They needed Remus — his brains would get them through this alive, he was sure. Mary would, of course, stick to Remus. In case Regulus was involved, Sirius was needed, especially as a dueller. Marlene would have to come, because of her sisters. There was no way Lily was going anywhere without James, so that left...
“Wormtail,” Remus said, “can you keep watch outside Frensham’s office? Just in case Avery pulls one on us or something?”
“All right, then,” said Peter, speaking for the first time and looking relieved he would not have to be in the thick of the action.
“Take the Map,” Remus instructed. “And the Cloak. And if anything suspicious happens, Wormy, you know what to do.”
“Let’s go, guys!” Sirius said to the others. They raced down the stairs and were about to embark on the Slytherin common room corridor when Lily remembered.
“Hold on, we need Disillusionment Charms!” she reminded them. She went around and tapped each person on the head with her wand, making them almost invisible, but certainly less noticeable than normal. When she reached James last, she put her hand on his chest.
“If we’re in trouble,” she whispered, “use it. OK?” She could feel his heart beating, very fast, underneath her palm.
“I will,” he murmured, knowing exactly what she was talking about.
“Are you guys finished?” Marlene said impatiently. Lily jumped, quickly performed the charm on James and herself and started running again.
They continued to rush up the corridor. It looked like luck was on their side that day, too, because a Slytherin had just said the password, and James, Sirius, Remus, Lily, Marlene and Mary quickly entered the common room — Mary did so with difficulty.
“What the — hell!” a Slytherin cursed, trying to bang the door shut, which was proving impossible when half of Mary’s body was blocking it.
At last, he seemed to give up and Mary was finally granted entrance into the room. The group scurried towards the hidden door and James dithered for a second, wondering how on earth they were going to get in without attracting anyone’s attention. Finally, James cast a Muffliato charm so they wouldn’t hear the trapdoor opening.
Taking a deep breath, he entered the trapdoor, followed closely by the others.
Meanwhile, back in the common room, two people had noticed the door opening and closing, even though they hadn’t heard it. They followed in horror, realising that the Death Eaters’ secret location had been inadvertently revealed. There was, as Mulciber constantly said, nothing else to it.
So, exchanging a look of obvious trepidation and trying to mask it with false excitement, Regulus Black and Georgia Greengrass pursued the Gryffindors.
James, Sirius, Remus, Mary, Marlene and Lily arrived in the shack at last. They could already hear voices so they hoped it was the right place. Cautiously, Sirius stepped forwards and opened the nearest door.
Professor Frensham was sitting shackled to a chair as the Death Eaters around her, without their hoods for once, were clearly torturing her. Her wrists were bleeding from being tied so tightly, and they could actually see the bones in her ankles from where the shackles had dug through her flesh. Her screams were restrained by a Silencing Charm and James’ heart went out for his teacher as he watched her in so much unendurable pain.
One of the Death Eaters turned towards the door as it opened, but Frensham’s torturers did not cease in their pain-inflicting at the sight of their uninvited guests.
Chapter End Notes:
OK, so I had to put in a final cliffie, and here it is! Please review and tell me what you think is going to happen next — there is only one chapter left after this, as well as the epilogue, that is, so I'd love to know what you think.
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