Sirius Black had been wandering the halls of Hogwarts for most of the night, and by morning he was beginning to look almost vampirish. Lack of sleep had never really agreed with him, neither had guilt. Having spent the night mulling things over - James, Lily and Regulus featuring primarily in his thoughts - he had made a decision over his relationship with Lily. He knew what was in the best interests of everyone, and he knew this was why he felt so depressed.
Passing Professor Mcgonagall’s office, he turned a corner which would lead him towards the Gryffindor common room , and was confronted with raised voices - one pleasantly familiar, the other not so pleasant. He edged further along the corridor so as to hear them better.
“To be perfectly honest, I feel like I should tell her everything.” Lily Evans was saying, her voice filled with un-characteristic venom. “You know so many people could be hurt if I don’t. If I don’t sacrifice the one – you – for the many.”
“I didn’t have you down for a Utilitarian.” muttered her companion.
“Stop trying to be clever,” snapped Lily, “And tell me what you’re planning to do about this mess.”
There was silence. Then -
“Do?” said Severus Snape, icily. “What will I do? I have told you where my allegiance lies – only to the death eaters... and to you.”
“Oh, that’s right, Death Eaters first, then your friends. You saved me maybe, but lots of people got hurt last night because of you. I know it was you that told them about the shrieking shack- Lupin told me what you know.”
Sirius, still well hidden, took an intake of breath. That slimeball! He thought. So Snivellus had led the Death Eaters to Moony, and the entrance to the castle. So much for Dumbledore’s insistence, that Snape would never tell another soul. And what was that rubbish about his ‘allegiance’ to Lily? Snape’s voice dropped lower, distracting Sirius from his own thoughts, as he strained to hear.
“Do you have no faith in me at all, Lily?” he hissed. “I didn’t tell them how to get in the confounded place. I have some brains you know. I told them there was a password –you see? If they want to use the same method of entry to the school a second time, I can explain they simply increased security on the place, and changed the password.”
“Merlin, Severus – that’s not the point!”
“I’d say.” said Sirius, stepping out from his hiding place.
“That’s right Snivellus. And you better have an explanation for me.”
“Sirius,” Lily interjected, “back off, I’m handling this.” She threw out one arm, shielding Snape, who’s eyes flashed angrily.
“And why should I explain to you?” Snape spat.
“Oh, I’ll tell you why. Because you put the lives of my friends in danger. Because you used my friend as an object in your sick plan – and because you’re filth.”
“Sirius!” Lily looked troubled, but Snape only laughed.
“And you care about your werewolf friend that much, do you? When last year you were prepared to blow his cover, and leave him open to becoming a murderer, just for your own amusement?”
This last was spoken so mockingly that Sirius felt he could have done murder himself in that moment. Snape had a hit a nerve, and the old guilt drove him on to further fury. He drew out his wand.
“Why you - ”
Snape didn’t dodge in time, and the spell grazed his cheek, leaving a deep gash, which oozed blood. And then Lily stepped in, as Sirius knew she would.
“Enough.” She said.
“But Lily - ”
“I can handle this. You could never treat Severus as a proper human being – you’re not the one to judge him.”
“And you never saw what was obvious to everyone else – that he’s a snivelling little - ”
Lily’s eyes were blazing now.
“Stop it.” She said. “Just stop it Sirius.”
Sirius balled his hands into fists, his frustration evident. Severus was staring him down, but had so far restrained from drawing his own wand. Sirius grabbed Lily’s hand.
“Lily, listen to me.” He said. “You can’t defend him this time. You’ve got to tell Mcgonagall. This is bigger than me, and – ugh – him. People could get hurt”
“But he says he didn’t tell them how to get into the shrieking shack.”
“And you believe him?”
“He wouldn’t lie to me - ”
“He’s a Death Eater! Friends don’t mean anything to them.” Sirius grabbed her roughly by the shoulders, and shook her until - BANG! Snape’s curse knocked him backwards.
“Don’t you touch her.” Snape hissed. Sirius got to his feet, wand in hand. Lily turned to Snape.
“Get out of here!” she shouted at him.
“Lily - ”
“Get out of here!”
Snape flexed his wand hand, but ultimately he followed her orders, turned tail and fled. Sirius started to follow, but Lily stopped him.
“Lily, you’re an idiot.”
Her eyes flashed.
“Don’t talk to me like that.”
“You need to be talked to like that. And you are an idiot if you let him get away with this. He’s a Death Eater – get that into your head.”
Lily looked up at him, and bit her lip. All the fight seemed to have gone out of her.
“But, if I tell Mcgonagall, it’s like I’m giving up on him. I can’t do that.”
“But he made the choice!”
“I know! I know but... but he’s not a bad person. Not really – it’s not too late...”
“It is. It is. It’s too late for Regulus, and it’s too late for him. And we have to tell Mcgonagall.”
“Then I will.”
“No!” Lily grabbed his arm, pulling him to face her. “Please Sirius, for me.”
Her eyes pleaded with him, but for some reason, this only made him angry. He pulled his arm from her grasp, and slammed his fist into the wall in frustration.
“I have to tell.” He muttered, through gritted teeth. “For Remus.”
“Remus agrees with me. He feels guilty, for the way you and James treated Severus all those years, and he never tried to intervene. I know he does. He doesn’t want to tell Mcgonagall.”
“The way we treated him?”
Lily’s answering stare was cold.
“Yes. I don’t think James would hand Severus over, either.”
Sirius laughed his bark-like laugh.
“Oh, yes he would!”
There was a moment of quiet between them, as Lily looked Sirius full in the eyes, despite his smirk.
“Not if I asked him not to.” She said. There was silence. They both knew that what she had said was out of order. They also knew that it was true.
“Lily, I can’t. I can’t let him get away with this.”
“You can, it won’t do any harm. You know that really. I‘ve got a meeting with Mcgonagall now, me and Remus. I’m going to tell her I was confounded, that I can’t remember who warned me. Severus wouldn’t dare try a trick like that again....Please.”
Sirius’s lip had set in a line, and Lily could see the battle of wills raging behind his cool, grey eyes.
“Fine.” He said, finally. Lily let out a sigh of relief. She smiled, but her smile was not returned.
“Thank you.” She said, and moving closer to Sirius, reached up to kiss him on the cheek. He turned his head away.
“See you later.” He said, curtly, as she pulled back, hurt. And with that, he turned from her, and walked sullenly in the direction of the common room.
Lupin was wonderful in the interview with Mcgonagall – as expected, and the Professor was much less thorough than she could have been. It paid to be seen as a ‘trustworthy’ student. Lily left the office feeling as if a great weight had been lifted from her, helped along by Remus’s reassuring squeeze of her hand, and his insistence that she was doing the right thing about Snape.
“Everyone deserves a second chance.” He told her. “That’s what Dumbledore’s always saying – and you’ve got to trust his judgement.”
Lily nodded. Remus was a kind thing, she thought to herself, despite what people always said about werewolves. They parted ways as they reached the first staircase, and Remus headed for the great hall, and lunch, while Lily aimed for the common room and her friends. If Sirius was there, that would be a bonus, but she realised that he probably still needed a while to calm down. Lily was still thinking about him as she climbed through the portrait hole, wondering about the avoided kiss, and just how angry he might be. Crossing the common room, eyes on the carpeted floor, she walked straight into someone taller, and apparently just as absent- minded as herself.
“Sorry! Sorry.” She stuttered, looking up.
“Well, you should look where you’re going next time.”
It was James, and he was grinning at her. She smiled back, awkwardly.
“I could give you the same advice!”
“Ah, but you weren’t the one that got head-butted. Don’t say it! – it’s my own fault for being so tall and dashing.” He laughed, and stood aside to let her past, but she didn’t walk on. She was looking instead where his navy polo shirt, open at the neck, revealed the end of a fresh and ugly-looking scar. She imagined this ran the length of his chest.
“Look James,” she said, “I’m sorry...”
“I was only joking!”
“I know!” she assured him, with half a laugh. “I mean about last night. That you got hurt, and I - well...”
He looked down at his scar.
“This?” he said. “This’ll have faded in a few hours, Madam Pomfrey says. Shame really – it looks impressive when you see the whole thing. Anyway Evans, as I remember it, you saved my life at least at one point during the evening. I don’t know why you’re apologizing – I should be thanking you!”
“It’s not like you to be so modest,” she said. “You were a real hero last night – you deserve the praise this time.”
To her astonishment , James blushed.
“Thanks.” He said. “It’s not true, but thanks.” He ran his fingers through his dark hair and looked at the ground, while Lily’s astonishment grew. She laughed, in an attempt to lighten the mood.
“Never thought you’d get that much praise out of me, did you?”
“Nope. But then last night, you said we could be friends – that’s something else I never expected.”
“I don’t find that that hard to believe. ‘friends’ was never exactly your angle.”
“Good point.” He licked his lips, whether from awkwardness or amusement she couldn’t tell. “Anyway, don’t let me keep you.” He said. “You had lunch yet?”
“Nope. Been in an interrogation with Mcgonagall all morning – and I better go and finish that essay for her too, since she hates me enough now.”
“Why?” James looked confused.
Lily mentally kicked herself. She shouldn’t have gotten into this with James.
“Oh, er – well she wanted to talk to me about last night. Wanted to know what I knew, why I ran out to warn you and Sirius. She had me and Remus up in the office this morning – he’ll give you the details.”
James raised his eyebrows.
“So, she doesn’t think you have anything to do with letting them in, does she?”
Lily shook her head.
“Of course not, but she’s suspicious. She thought I might have been tipped off.”
There was a silence, and James’s unspoken question hung in the air. Were you? Lily was careful not to break eye contact – Sirius already knew about Severus, and that was more than enough.
“I wasn’t of course.” She said, finally. “I just got a bad feeling, you know. Not like I’m into legilimency or anything, but you know. I know it sounds...oh!” she suddenly remembered the confounded story, and her suggestion that James ask Remus to find out the details. “Oh,” she said, “ I mean we told Mcgonagall i’d been confounded, and couldn’t remember who told me... you know the other story just doesn’t sound... anyway, I’m babbling. I’ll shut up.”
James’s eyes were still focused on Lily’s, and she felt her speed up, ever so slightly. James couldn’t be the cause, she reasoned with herself. It wasn’t the look in his eyes that flustered her, or the way his body leaned towards hers. It was her guilt over the lie – the cover up for Severus.
“So, you had this bad feeling, and you wanted to warn me – Sirius and me?” James asked, and Lily nodded. He didn’t push for more information, and she didn’t offer any. Then James smiled again, and Lily felt her own face mirroring his expression.
“Well, good luck with that essay anyway.” James said. “And I won’t let Mcgonagall pick on you in class tomorrow, you can count on me.” He winked at her, and she laughed.
“I know I can. And that’s very gallant of you.”
“See you later Evans.” He turned towards the portrait hole.
“James?” Lily shouted after him. He spun round, and she smiled, tentatively.
“We’re friends now aren’t we? You can use my first name you know.”
James raised an eyebrow.
“But I like calling you Evans, it’s kind of a self-preservation thing. And anyway, I know you think it’s hot - don’t lie.” He grinned wickedly.
“I don’t know what you mean.” Her eyes twinkled at him, and he laughed appreciatively, before turning again and exiting through the portrait hole. It wasn’t until he had gone, that his words sunk in properly – a self-preservation thing?