‘Dark Lord,’ Peter breathed. The wall rumbled quietly and slid across.
Peter morphed into Wormtail and scurried through the opening and into the dark, silent Common Room. Surely Lucius wouldn’t mind...? Shaking his head, Peter ran through the door by the Slytherin banner which took him into a circular room with seven doors spread over the walls. One of the doors creaked and a sleepy looking first-year boy came out, rubbing his eyes. He tottered toward the Common Room.
Peter sat gasping against the dull skirting, next to a carved message reading “Tom was here”. As soon as the boy was out of sight, Peter dashed into the seventh-year dormitory, morphing mid-step.
All of its occupants were snoring; Malfoy was sprawled on his bed, his long blonde hair in disarray, Avery was snoring, Crabbe had either not made it to bed or rolled out and was curled up next to his trunk, Goyle’s thick leg was twitching, Rosier was muttering curses under his breath and lastly, Snape was sleeping dead-still, his arms pinned to his side, his breathing almost silent.
Peter tiptoed over to Malfoy’s bed and poked his shoulder. The blonde snorted and rolled over, mumbling Narcissa’s name. Peter poked him again. ‘Malfoy? Lucius?’
Malfoy sat bolt upright, his grey eyes flying open. He yelled, pulling his wand out. The other boys – save for Crabbe and Goyle – woke up, some yelling, others, like Snape, quietly. Peter barely had time to duck before four hexes went soaring over his head. ‘Pettigrew?!’ Malfoy said in disbelief. ‘Stop! Wands down!’ He turned back to Peter. ‘What the fuck are you doing?’
‘I-I have news,’ Peter said, pushing himself up off the floor. Snape rolled his eyes and lay back down in his bed.
‘Spit it out then,’ Lucius snapped. ‘It’s two in the morning for Merlin’s sake!’
‘I know. Sorry. Well, you see, I was injured on the full-moon, and while I was in hospital-’
‘I hope for your sake, Pettigrew, that you haven’t woken us up to tell us you life-story,’ Snape said, curling his lip.
‘N-no,’ Peter squeaked.
‘Then hurry up,’ Snape said irritably. Malfoy nodded.
‘Dumbledore has invited me to join the Order of the Phoenix,’ Peter said breathlessly.
‘You’re joking,’ Malfoy said in disbelief.
‘No,’ Peter said, annoyed; why did everyone always think so little of him?
‘Dumbledore offered you a place?’ Snape sneered. ‘Why?’
‘I wasn’t actually there,’ Peter said quickly. ‘I was in the Hospital Wing. Dumbledore offered James a position and the others were listening in and managed to talk their way in. Apparently they negotiated a place for me too.’
‘Others?’ Snape asked quickly, looking almost concerned, before his usual impassive mask fell back into place.
‘Black, Lupin, Evans and Potter, of course,’ Peter answered.
‘Evans?’ Snape asked, an odd expression on his face. ‘We truly are on different sides then.’
‘There will be other girls, Sev,’ Rosier said impatiently. ‘Ones that don’t have filthy blood in their veins.’
Snape fisted his hands. Avery noticed and leered at him. ‘Poor Sevvie,’ he cooed. ‘Worried about little mudbloods.’
‘Yeah,’ Crabbe said. ‘Yeah, but don’t worry, Snape. Potter will look after her for you.’
The comment was obviously meant to bait him, but it didn’t; instead, a pained but relieved expression flickered over Snape’s features and he nodded. ‘Yes, I suppose he will,’ he murmured. He turned his cold, black eyes on Peter, who had the sudden desire to melt into the floor. ‘Be gone, Pettigrew. You’re keeping me awake.’
Peter turned to Malfoy who smiled. It was a chilling smile, and sent ice up Peter’s spine. ‘You will be useful,’ he said. ‘I’ll be in contact.’
‘Yes,’ Peter said, nodding.
‘That’s the polite way of telling you to fucking leave,’ Avery growled.
* * *
‘And did you see when I got McKew?’ Sirius exclaimed. ‘He’ll be in the Hospital Wing for a week!’
‘Merlin! Sirius,’ Lily said, stopping dead in the corridor. ‘It was brilliant that we won, and you played well, but it was two days ago. Please, please, stop talking about it.’
‘And Madam Pomfrey can fix wrists in about twenty seconds,’ Remus added. ‘Trust me.’
‘I don’t know, Moony,’ James said. Sirius nodded, clearly thinking James was going to take his side. ‘Probably about ten seconds.’ Sirius growled and smacked his best friend. Or at least, tried to smack his best friend; James laughed and danced out of reach, towing Lily with him.
‘Prat,’ Sirius said.
‘Snive- er... Snape?’ James asked, turning around in surprise. He’d recognise that voice anywhere.
‘Put your wand down, I just need a word.’ Lily’s hand tightened in his.
‘Pads, Moony,’ James said, lowering his own wand and signalling for his friends to do the same. He gave Lily’s hand a little squeeze and dropped it, following Snape’s bat-like profile down the corridor. He heard Sirius make to follow, but he tapped his pocket to let them know he had his mirror. He heard Sirius grumble, but subside.
‘Look,’ Snape said, spinning suddenly. He glanced around to makes sure they were alone and then looked back at James. ‘I don’t like you, all right.’
‘Snivvy, I had no idea you felt the same way!’
‘Potter, please, try not to be such a dunderhead! This is unpleasant enough for me without you being such a fool!’
‘Sorry,’ James said, feeling as surprised about hearing those words come out as Snape looked.
‘Thank you,’ Snape said, looking curious. James had a thousand responses to that but didn’t voice any of them. ‘I really, really don’t like you,’ Snape said. ‘In fact, it’s probably more like I loathe you. You’re arrogant and cruel and-’
‘Did you really drag me away from my friends to tell me how much you hate me?’ James interrupted.
Snape gave him a look of disgust, but then an odd twisted smile settled on his mouth. ‘No, I didn’t. You know that Lily and I were friends.’ James nodded, trying very hard not to shudder. ‘You know that that friendship ended... badly.’ James sensed this was painful for Snape to talk about, and not trusting himself to speak, nodded again. ‘I made a terrible mistake that day by the lake. I regret it every day.’
‘Let me guess: You want me to go to Lily and beg for forgiveness on your behalf.’
Snape looked tempted but shook his greasy head. ‘It wouldn’t change anything.’
‘Look, as nice as this little chat is, I need to get to Defence.’
‘I need to get there too,’ Snape said, irritated. James shrugged and made to leave. ‘Potter, wait!’ James turned to look at Snape, whose expression was more tormented than he’d ever seen. Once, he would have given all the money in Gringott’s to make Snape look that way. Now, it made him feel ill. So he waited. ‘Please, keep her safe.’
James didn’t have to ask who “her” was. ‘Of course I will.’
‘I know you’ve joined the Order,’ Snape said quietly. James was too stunned to deny it. ‘I know she has too. And just because I’m not on your side – her side – doesn’t mean I want her dead.’ It only took one look at Snape’s face to convince James he was telling the truth.
‘How did you know about the Order?’ James asked quietly.
‘There’s a spy on your side,’ Snape said, his dark eyes scanning the hallways. ‘Someone you know well. I don’t give a damn if you want to breeze through life, trusting without reason like the fool you are, but I won’t let your naivety kill her. I won’t let her die because you don’t recognise a rat when you see one.’
‘Who is it, the spy?’ James asked. His face was bleached of all colour.
Snape sneered. ‘If you’re hoping for a name, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.’
‘A name could save lives,’ James said. ‘Lily’s life! How can you not tell me?!’
‘We’re on different sides, remember?’ Snape said, smirking. ‘And even if we weren’t, I’d still hate you. Do you know what that means, Potter?’
‘It means I’m the last person you’ll say anything to,’ James sighed.
‘Very good, Potter,’ Snape said condescendingly. James’ hand twitched toward his wand but he didn’t actually pick it up. ‘Now, run along, and don’t tell anyone of this little discussion.’
‘You don’t want anyone to know that you aren’t so bad after all?’ James asked.
Snape lifted his chin and stared James straight in the eye. ‘I prefer to play the villain.’
Somehow, that didn’t surprise James at all. ‘I won’t say anything, then.’
‘Thank you, Potter. Now, hex me.’
‘Pardon?’ James asked, blinking.
‘Hex me,’ Snape said impatiently. ‘We both have to go to Defence Against the Dark Arts and if we walk through that door together looking unhurt, that’s going to make our charming classmates suspicious.’
James shook his head. ‘You hex me.’ Now it was Snape’s turn to look surprised. Truth was, James didn’t think he could bear to hex his nemesis after everything he’d just heard. ‘Don’t kill me or anything,’ James added hastily, ‘but I think it’s about time you got one up on me, don’t you?’
‘How terribly gallant of you, Potter,’ Snape said, rolling his eyes. ‘Letting me win when there’s no one to watch it.’
‘They don’t have to see the fight,’ James pointed out. ‘Only the outcome. People will believe you won and I’m not going to correct them.’
‘Right,’ Snape said, looking at James curiously. ‘How bad do you want it?’
‘Believable,’ James said conversationally. ‘But nothing that’s going to make me miss any classes and nothing that’s going to piss Sirius off enough to make him come after you.’
Snape pulled out his wand and James was suddenly struck by the realisation that this could be a trap; Snape was hardly trustworthy, and it was no secret he thought James’ life was worth little. ‘Salvasecta,’ Snape said. James felt sharp pain in his forearm, followed by warmth; he was bleeding. ‘Frangerenaso.’ James stifled a yelp as his nose broke and then looked up shocked when the pain receded a moment later; it hadn’t been bothering him, since he had high pain resistance now, but he was shocked to feel it vanish. ‘It’s still broken,’ Snape told him, ‘but you won’t feel it.’
‘Tank youb,’ James said, surprised by the rare display of kindness.
Snape smirked and waved his wand once more. ‘You have green and silver hair,’ he told James.
‘Damb. I book so buch better wib pink,’ James said, brushing blood away from his nose.
Snape smirked again. ‘Well, I can’t say this has been enjoyable, Potter, though it certainly went better than I’d hoped. Do try to find the spy, won’t you?’ James nodded and stuck out his hand. Snape hesitated and then shook it. ‘Come into Defence a minute or so after I do. Please, don’t fix anything. Let Black and Lupin do that.’ James nodded and Snape set off down the corridor, his robes billowing behind him. James watched him go, still not completely able to comprehend what had just happened.
* * *
‘Snivelly’s back,’ Sirius murmured. Remus’ head shot up in time to see Snape seat himself beside Rosier. ‘So where’s Prongs?’
‘He said he just wanted to talk,’ Sirius growled. ‘How thick are we for trusting that git?’ The classroom door swung open and a green-haired, bloodied James slipped in. In the desk in front of Remus and Sirius’, Lily slumped with relief. James slid into the empty seat between her and Peter. Sirius muttered a Healing charm under his breath and James’ nose – which appeared to broken – healed, as did the cut near the crook of his arm. Lily had fixed his hair which was back to its usual black. ‘What the hell happened, Prongs?’
‘He’d heard we joined the Order,’ James said.
‘How?’ Remus demanded. Peter paled, obviously scared.
‘There... I think there’s a spy,’ James said, frowning over at Snape, appearing deep in thought. ‘He just wanted... to tell me I’m stupid, that I’m joining the wrong side and all that. I got annoyed with him, so he hexed me to prove a point.’ Lily frowned over at Snape, but James didn’t seem annoyed at all.
‘Typical,’ Sirius snorted. It wasn’t until James relaxed that Sirius realised how tense he’d been. ‘Something wrong, Jamie?’
‘No,’ James said in an odd tone, ‘everything’s fine.’ Sirius could tell he was being honest, though he had no clue what the emotions in James’ voice were. Surprise, perhaps, but that didn’t make sense. He brushed his forearm and then his eyes widened.
‘What?’ Sirius asked, worried.
‘I have a scar,’ James said, looking over at the Slytherins curiously.
‘Where?’ Lily asked, pulling his arm toward her. ‘It looks like writing,’ she said, astonished. “Praesidio?”’
‘It’s Latin,’ James said, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.
‘Damn,’ Sirius said. James was the only one who knew Latin. He’d decided to learn it in second year so he could invent spells that would aid them in becoming Animagi. ‘What does it mean?’ Obviously, James knew what it meant or he wouldn’t be smiling like that.
James hesitated before answering, making Sirius wonder whether he was going to lie about it, or whether he was going to tell them at all. In the end, it didn’t matter. ‘Sorry I’m late,’ Professor Gurdan said, striding over to his desk. He set a large wooden crate down and turned to the class. ‘There was a Boggart in the staffroom and Filch needed my assistance-’
‘Which is the polite way of saying Filch is a Squib,’ Sirius muttered to Remus.
‘He can’t help it,’ Remus whispered back, but he grinned as he said it.
‘-we’ll be covering the first of the Unforgivables, which is the Imperius Curse,’ Gurdan was saying. ‘In the second part of this double, we’ll move onto the Cruciatus Curse. All student participation is voluntary, so if you aren’t comfortable, you can sit and watch or you can take your books and go to the library to catch up on other work.’
‘Are you staying?’ Sirius heard Lily ask James. For a long time, he didn’t move and then he nodded slowly. Sirius felt a surge of pride.
‘Everyone’s staying?’ Gurdan asked. ‘Good. Line up.’