‘Everyone staying?’ Gurdan asked. ‘Good. Line up.’ Chairs scraped on the ground as the class got to their feet and lined up in the middle of the room. Gurdan waved his wand and sent the desks and chairs into the back corner of the room. ‘Right, you can put your wands away. You will not be using them in this lesson.’ Some of the Slytherins grumbled but no one challenged the instructions. ‘We’ll be starting with the Imperius Curse,’ Gurdan said. ‘I want you to fight it. I want you to try to ignore my voice in your head, and answer your voice. You first, Miss Black?’ Bellatrix nodded slowly. ‘Imperio,’ Gurdan breathed.
Bellatrix’s hooded eyes widened. A muscle jumped in her heavy jaw. ‘No,’ she squeaked, her hands fisting at her sides.
‘See, class: She’s fighting it. Ten points to Slytherin.’ That much didn’t surprise Peter. Bellatrix was stubborn. ‘Oh,’ Gurdan said, ‘no, she’s gone.’ Peter smirked as Bellatrix hoisted her robes to her knees and began to kick, all the while humming some absurd show-tune. Peter glanced over at Sirius’ delighted face, willing to bet this would be his next Patronus memory. ‘Miss Black, the second, if you would...?’
Narcissa scowled at the name then stepped forward. ‘Imperio.’ She, unsurprisingly in Peter’s opinion, didn’t fight at all and was hanging on the candle-fitting on the wall, giggling like a first-year; Narcissa was terribly easy to influence. Peter suspected she’d do what she was told all her life, without so much as questioning it.
Lockhart went next and showed signs of resisting – his face turned an odd mottled red colour – before he launched into a complicated set of back-flips. ‘Of course, I’ve always been able to do that,’ Lockhart panted, mid-flip.
‘If that’s true, I’ll eat my schoolbag,’ Peter muttered to James, who laughed. Peter then stepped up for his own turn.
Peter heard the words, heard Gurdan say “Imperio” and then a strange, dreamy feeling overtook him. ‘Sing,’ Gurdan’s voice whispered, breaking into his reverie. ‘Sing opera, like they do in plays.’
Peter nodded eagerly but then hesitated. Should he sing? ‘Sirius always said I was a terrible singer,’ he said apologetically. He heard laughter, but couldn’t find it in himself to be embarrassed.
‘Do it anyway,’ Gurdan’s voice said.
‘What song should I sing?’ Peter asked.
‘Don’t listen, Pete,’ James called. ‘Fight it.’
‘Yeah!’ he heard Sirius say. ‘Because you really are an awful singer!’
‘Quiet please,’ Gurdan said, only this time he wasn’t sure if it was in his head or spoken aloud. ‘Sing, Mr Pettigrew.’ So Peter did. ‘Very good,’ Gurdan said when Peter finished. The haziness surrounding his thoughts vanished and he stumbled, pressing a hand to his head. Remus caught him, smiling. ‘Did you watch that, everyone? Pettigrew fought. He made excuses not to do it. Very good. Ten points to Gryffindor. Potter, you’re next.’ James stepped forward, shoulders stiff.
‘Do you think he’ll be all right?’ Lily murmured.
‘He’ll be fine,’ Sirius said. ‘Prongs is the stubbornest person I know.’
‘Besides yourself,’ Peter said. Sirius winked.
‘Imperio,’ Gurdan said. James didn’t move. His face was set in a mask of concentration. ‘Potter, you’re an owl.’
‘Pardon?’ James said. His voice was strained, but it was incredulous.
‘An owl,’ Gurdan said.
‘Hoot,’ James said, his voice not strained any longer. Peter smiled; he’d done what James couldn’t do. He’d actually managed to fight it. ‘Is that good enough for you, or would you like me to flap my arms a bit?’ he asked, his voice amused.
‘Twenty points to Gryffindor!’ Gurdan said, his grizzled face alight. ‘Well done, Potter.’ James bowed to the class and took his place at the back of the line by Peter, grinning at Lily and the other two as he passed.
‘Well done,’ Peter said, beaming. ‘You were brilliant, James.’ Stupid James. He just had to be good at everything. And bowing to the class? Who did he think he was?!
‘Thanks, Pete,’ James said. ‘Once I saw you fight it, and argue I had an idea of how it needed to be done.’ Peter plastered the biggest, fakest smile on his face and turned around in time to see Sirius throw himself to the ground. ‘Merlin,’ James said. ‘Is he all right?’
‘He’s fine,’ Gurdan said, offering Sirius a hand. ‘He fought it and almost won. He didn’t, but he wasn’t giving in either. Well done, Black. Ten points.’
Snape was next and able to fight the curse off completely. That was hardly surprising, because Snape liked to get his own way and he doubted he’d give in for something as simple as quoting Romeo Montague at Bellatrix’s feet.
Remus was told to act like a dog, much to James’ annoyance: ‘He loses his mind to a wolf once a month,’ he muttered to Peter and Sirius, ‘isn’t that enough?’
Peter nodded, agreeing, but he was quite looking forward to seeing Remus, the control-obsessed one of the group lose his mind while he was in human-form. But he didn’t get to see it. Remus appeared to ignore Gurdan completely and walked to join his friends at the back of the line. That earned him ten points. ‘That was nothing,’ he said, grinning. Peter reluctantly agreed – he’d seen Remus fight to keep his sanity on full-moons.
Lee wasn’t able to fight at all, and he waltzed a very, very reluctant Lily around the classroom. James laughed to whole time. Lily was next, still red-faced from her dance.
She was told to climb onto the tables so that she could jump off and fly. She climbed onto the table without resisting, but refused to walk off the edge. ‘I won’t,’ she kept saying.
‘Fly,’ Gudran instructed.
Lily bit her lip and tried to do two things at once; she tried to jump off, but she also tried to sit down. The result was her tumbling off the desk with a yelp. She obviously wasn’t hurt, only surprised, and she laughed at herself as James picked her up off the ground.
* * *
‘It doesn’t look painful to touch,’ Sirius said hopefully, glancing at the glass ball on Gurdan’s desk.
‘Touch it,’ James said flatly. Lily put a hand on his arm, able to feel the tension through such a simple touch.
‘Prongs, I didn’t mean it like that,’ Sirius said.
‘I know,’ James sighed.
‘Whenever you’re ready,’ Gurdan told them. ‘Should anything happen, Poppy’s on hand.’ Madam Pomfrey was sitting in one of the vacant desks at the back of the room, looking disapproving of the whole idea. Lily couldn’t really blame her.
‘Right.’ Before anyone could say anything else, James placed his hand on the ball. His lips whitened but that was the only change to his facial expression.
‘James,’ Lily said, tugging his robes.
James blinked and looked down at her. He smiled – she wasn’t sure how he managed when he was obviously in so much pain – so she smiled back. He took his hand of the ball with a grimace and then, before Lily was entirely sure what was happening, he’d wrapped her in a hug so tight it rivalled one of Hagrid’s. He was trembling.
‘All right,’ Sirius said. He put his hand on the ball. ‘Ah, fuck! It’s always worse than I remember.’ He didn’t pull away though, keeping his hand on as long as James had, but not a second longer.
‘Language, Mr Black,’ Gudran said. One of the Slytherins – Lily thought it was Malfoy – laughed, as did Peter and Remus.
‘Well, that was fun,’ Sirius said, sounding tired. James rolled his eyes at Lily, who grinned. ‘Rem?’
Remus touched it without hesitation and laughed. ‘Why is he laughing?’ Peter cried shrilly. Lily stared at James, wondering if it was possible for the pain to have driven him crazy already.
James pulled Remus’ arm away, flinching at the contact, but didn’t let go. ‘Damn. You were channelling it,’ James muttered.
Gurdan nodded. ‘Contact with someone under the Cruciatus Curse is just as painful as being put under it yourself. Are you all right, Lupin?’
‘Fine, sir.’ He leaned in to talk to the Marauders and Lily. ‘It’s a little worse than what happened on Thursday night, but not by much.’ Lily’s eyes widened. Sirius put a hand on Remus’ shoulder, Peter looked awed, and James met Remus’ eyes. Lily could read the mutual understanding in both chocolate and hazel sets. She looked away, feeling like she was intruding on something private.
‘Evans?’ Gudran said briskly. ‘Yes or no?’
Lily reached for the glass and then hesitated. It would hurt, she knew that much already. Worse, what if she lost her memories, like James had? She chewed on her lip for a moment and then squared her shoulders. She was a Gryffindor. She shouldn’t be afraid of pain. She stared at the glass. One touch and she would understand what the transformation process was like for Remus, one touch and she would know what Sirius endured during his childhood, whenever he misbehaved. One touch, and she would know what James went through just last month. Lily touched it.
‘Ow!’ she whimpered, tears springing into her eyes. She bit down on her lip so hard that she tasted blood, but didn’t pull away. It hurt. It hurt more than anything she’d ever felt. It was like being pricked with a needle on every part of her body at the same time, without the pain ever fading; it still hurt just as much a second later.
‘Lily,’ she heard James say softly. ‘Lily, love, let go. Lils.’ The next moment, her hand had been prised away from the glass and was being held by James. ‘Are you all right?’ he asked, looking anxious. She nodded shakily. ‘Can you walk?’ Lily tried to take a step but found she couldn’t.
‘No,’ Lily said, embarrassed. She wiped her cheeks and allowed James and Sirius to help her over to where Madam Pomfrey was.
‘Can you feel this?’ the matron asked, pinching Lily as she sat in the seat opposite.
‘Ow, yes, I can,’ Lily said.
‘Good. Drink this.’ Lily didn’t argue and gulped down the offered bottle’s contents. Warmth spread through her, vanishing the after-effects of the pain.
‘Better?’ James asked, crouching to her level.
‘Much.’ She glanced down at her hand, unsurprised to see it was shaking. ‘Why am I so weak?’ she asked as Madam Pomfrey bustled away to treat Narcissa.
‘You aren’t weak,’ James said, kissing her cheek.
‘I’m crying,’ Lily pointed out, laughing.
‘The first time I had that curse used on me, I screamed for what seemed like hours. You get used to it pretty quickly,’ James said smiling crookedly. ‘Trust me.’
‘I’d rather not,’ Lily said, worming into his arms.
‘Good. About both things; you shouldn’t need to get used to it, and you definitely shouldn’t trust me.’
‘Oh, really?’ Lily said, kissing him.
'Really,' James said, tweaking her nose. She made a face.
‘Just look at him,’ Sirius chimed. ‘Those goofy glasses, that messy hair, why, Prongs is evil personified.’
‘Very, very scary,’ Remus said, fighting a smile.
‘Yeah,’ Peter said, smiling oddly. ‘The untrustworthy one is always the last one you’d expect.’